By Eddy Fettig

Drama / Fantasy

Big To-Do

-170 ASC; Autumn--Lin's age: 50-

"Chief Beifong!"

Great. That weasel-snake Councilman wanted her attention. Well, he had arranged this bloated social arrangement, so Lin had some form of obligation to greet him. Containing her internal scowl, the chief approached Tarrlok, who seemed to be escorting the troublesome teenage girl to whom this party was all 'owed.'

Lin locked eyes with 'Avatar' Korra – who could barely be called as such, and who certainly did not warrant a gathering of Republic City's upper class citizenry. Uncle Aang had ended a world war at the age of twelve. He'd done this for the sake of people who conducted social events where they burned statues of his likeness – he hadn't wallowed in self-righteous celebration. What had this girl done so far? Flaunted her strength like a child wielding a sword far too heavy for its arms. Destroyed half a city street in an act of vigilantism on her first day of residence. Resisted arrest, assaulting officers. Back-talked the Chief of Police.

Oh, yes, and this so-called 'Avatar' was spending her time playing a game while Lin was dealing with multiple reports of conflict between bending and non-bending citizens, eyewitnesses claiming a masked man could take away people's bending, and a flurry of skittish gang activity, to boot.

And here was Avatar Korra, playing dress-up as Tarrlok's most recent political pawn. The stupid girl probably didn't know any better, yet in this instant, Korra had the gall to frown at the Chief of Police like an ill-tempered infant.

Tarrlok, gesturing his arm toward the party's Guest of Honor, introduced them.

"I believe you and Avatar Korra have...already met?"

Without hesitation and without breaking their mutual glare, Lin sharply spoke to the girl.

"Just because the city's throwing you this big to-do...-" She leaned forth, pushing her irritable presence directly in Korra's face. "-...don't think you're something special. You've done absolutely nothing to deserve this."

Her peace spoken, Lin stalked right off, leaving the foppishly dressed Avatar to her ego-stroking socialites. Lin couldn't help but notice the ornately dressed Tenzin struggling to keep his monstrous toddler under control. The little terror, Meelo, was prancing about the fruit punch table, his father trying to wrangle him in and keep his loosened pants up. She was a bit too far away to make out what was being said between the father and son, but she saw Tenzin's panicky mannerisms warding off a nearby party-goer from partaking in the fruit punch.

Lin made out a giddy cackle from the devil-child over the bustle of the party, and she sighed to herself. How such an ugly little caveman like Meelo could've come out of Avatar Aang's bloodline was a mystery to Lin - she wrote it off as undesirable genes from Pema's side of the family.

Speaking of which, Tenzin's bloated partner was dressed to match his acolyte-inspired garb, chit-chatting with the elderly woman who served as the Fire Nation representative in the city Council. The Councilwoman was ranting with the expected upper-class tone Lin didn't much care for.

"-very idea that some psychopath could be out there, plotting to undermine our fair city...It's reprehensible! Isn't it?" She turned to her stagnant husband.

"Yes, Dear," his whiny voice moaned back. A real prize, that man was.

"Ah. Well...-" Pema, one hand cupped cautiously at her ballooned waistline, shrugged her shoulders. She spoke her mind. "We should all probably keep our heads together until we really know what these Equalists are about, don't you think?"

Lin was intrigued as to where this conversation might go, so she lingered within earshot at a table filled with platters of light snacks. She slowly constructed a plate of various crackers, meats, and vegetables.

She watched Tenzin's two girls dash by, heading for the dessert food table.

"Don't run, kids," she sternly advised them.

They both gave her sheepish waves, slowing their pace down. Spirits. What were young children doing at a party like this, anyway? Tenzin should know better.

"They're terrorists," the Fire Nation Councilwoman insisted, bringing the Chief's attention back over to the adult conversation. "Now, I know that you and Tenzin are afraid of stirring up trouble, but surely you can understand that this situation is only going to worsen until we do something about it. Tarrlok believes this matter ought to be nipped in the bud, and I am inclined to agree."

"Maybe," Pema slowly acknowledged. "I'm...just not sure if sending in soldiers at this group we know so little about is very wise."

"Tarrlok's task force is the wisest course of action. But I suppose it would be hard for you to understand," the Councilwoman scoffed at Pema's stance, her tone carrying an air of plastic sympathy. "You don't have any bending ability to fear losing, after all."

Pema's eyebrow twitched with reproach at this remark.

"No, I...suppose not," she passively replied, adding a hint of spice to her tone.

"But you ought to consider your children, Pema," the woman sternly advised. She nudged her arm, which was lightly latched to her husband's elbow. "Shouldn't she?"

The man, who was practically sleep-walking, murmured out, "Certainly, Dear..."

"I suppose you're right," Pema let the woman's words pass, glancing across the crowded hall toward her daughters. "I really should be considering my children, so I ought to be attending to my them now. Good night."

Pema took this excuse to ditch herself of the uncomfortable social situation she'd stumbled into. Cut-and-run. Why was Lin not surprised?

As Lin watched Pema's pregnant mass slowly make its way by, she unceremoniously placed a small cube of pork-beef onto a round cracker and slipped the whole thing into her mouth. She swallowed, then spoke to the child-bearing Air Acolyte.

"Good evening, Pema," she greeted. She immediately tipped her head toward the display that Pema's girls were creating. "There's an accident waiting to happen," Lin cautioned with a hint of disdain.

"Yes," Pema grunted. "I can...see that."

Lin followed Pema, who was approaching the two airbending kids. The older, more quiet one was intently focused, swirling a tiny tornado of chocolate fondue around a strawberry. The younger, louder girl was spinning a group of red grapes around in a vertical wheel. It had been a while since Lin had seen them, and their names had slipped from memory.

Lin chewed on another snack as she slowed behind Pema. She would savor in the mother's impending embarrassment.

"Girls," Pema sighed out to them. This broke both childrens' concentrations, splattering chocolate and fruit across the stone floor of the town hall. "Oh," Pema whimpered, clamping her palm against her forehead.

"Sorry!" Jinora peeped out fretfully.

"Sorry-sorry!" Ikki joined.

Bah. Irritating little voices.

"Girls, how many times have I told you? Don't play with your food...Ugh, this is...-"

"Have no fear, Madame," squeaked out the recognizable voice of Tarrlok's council page. The skinny, four-eyed servant enthusiastically swooped around the table he'd been re-stocking and arrived at Pema's side. "I shall flag down a custodian post-haste!"

"Thank you," Pema began, then gave her daughters a raised brow. "but that won't be necessary. These two wanted some bending practice? They can put it to work - cleaning up the mess they made."

Jinora's eyes flickered with shame while Ikki whined out an, "Ohhh..."

"O-oh, I see," mumbled the page, giving the family their space. "If you...require rags, per chance, please let me know."

"We will, thank you," Pema eased him off to his duties.

Lin laughed through her nose as she chewed on a cherry tomato, surveying this strange scene, and recollecting the one moments earlier regarding Meelo and the fruit punch. She could only imagine this scene playing itself out, day after day. The idea was unbearable. She appreciated a moment of solace in the notion that this was not her life, but almost had been.

As the children began to carefully blow around the fluids and fruit chunks they had spilled into a small pile, Pema noticed Lin nearby, surveying the scene with a rare smirk about her. She waddled over to Lin.

"My girls aren't under arrest, are they?" Pema tritely joked.

"You've already given them their sentence," Lin dryly came back.

The two shared an awkward moment of silence, Lin chewing on another bite. She made the extra effort to ensure Pema saw the cube of meat enter her mouth - being married to Tenzin practically meant that the word 'meat' was forever banned from Pema's vocabulary.

"Well!" Pema breathed out with a deep breath. "Dressed for the occasion, I see," she noted, casting a unsavory glance over Lin's cold metal armor. "You really know how to cut loose," she jibed with some sarcasm.

Lin's dulled expression was unchanging in light of her old acquaintance's jest.

Lin answered, unflinching, "Technically speaking, I'm on duty. One can't be too cautious in this company." She turned her gaze toward Avatar Korra, who looked miserable despite standing amongst her teenage entourage.

"What, with Korra?" Pema wondered.

"Given how your children seem to manage," stated Lin, "I hardly expect your husband to be capable of keeping his wayward pupil in line should she get too excited for her own good."

"Oh, come, now," Pema eased. "I think you're being a little bit harsh on Korra. She's young. The poor thing's been caged up in the south pole her whole life. Give her a little bit of slack."

"Maybe I'll consider that as soon as she's helping resolve this city's problems instead of adding to them."


"When Avatar Aang was her age, he was helping build this country we call home - not basking in celebrity worship. The least his successor could do is earn her keep before welcoming cavalcades of admirers."

Pema sighed at Lin's strict, unswerving stance on the matter.

"I'm sure she will," Pema decided. "She's a good kid."

"'Kid?'" Lin puffed air through her nostrils with a slight head shake. "She may thinklike a kid, but she's seventeen - a legal adult. And supposedly the Avatar. She should start acting like it if she wants to throw parties for herself."

"Tarrlok put this together, Lin - not her. She didn't even want to come at first." Pema lightly laughed to herself as she remembered something. "I had to coordinate with a dress fitter on pretty short notice to even get her looking presentable for tonight, you should have seen it - like she'd never seen a proper dress before."

Lin did not retort back at this so suddenly, having not been aware of this detail. Korra hadn't even wanted to attend? So this was all for show, rather than self-service, was it? Hmph. Well, it would at least have explained why the young lady was looking so uncomfortable. Lin cast a cursory glance across the hall, and sure enough, the primly dressed Water Tribe girl was skulking beside Tarrlok. Having been shepherded by the Councilman into a small circle of upper class business folks, Korra appeared utterly out of her element in this social setting.

"She looks like a turtle-duck out of water. Still," Lin murmured dubiously, having taken her few seconds to formulate a counterpoint. "Someone of her social standing should be making contributions to society, not clashing horns at petty sporting events."

"My husband would agree with you there," Pema reluctantly breathed out.

"I would."

Both women were startled to see Tenzin, wearing a wild child on his shoulders. Meelo was rabidly munching on slice of papaya, its juice - and the child's saliva - dribbling down onto Tenzin's bald head. To save face, Lin had to hold back a laugh at the sheer ridiculousness of the sight.

"Frankly," said Tenzin, cautiously placing his son on the floor beside him. "I think Korra should be focused on her airbending training before she attempts to throw herself into conflict. That aside, Tarrlok has been harassing her for days now, and knowing him, something is a foot."

"It would seem we can all agree on that," Lin concluded.

"OK-OK!" the grating young voice of Ikki scratched its nails against the chalkboard of Lin's mind. "We cleaned it alll up! Mom, Mom, Mom!"

"Yes?" Pema sighed, watching her girl balanced herself a few feet off the ground in a concentrated swirl of air.

"Ikki, calm down," Jinora muttered, tugging at her little sister's robe.

"Hey," Ikki whimpered back irritably, flicking a wisp of wind at Jinora's face. This ruffled the girl's bangs, and earned Ikki a glare.

"Girls," Tenzin quipped with a stern tone. "Behave yourselves."

"Wh-?" Jinora stretched her arms out, as if to present her sister as more worth of blame, while Ikkie pouted at her father's scolding tone.

Just being amongst the entire family - being exposed to the incessant clamor of activity - was enough to make Lin's head start throbbing.

"Well, then," said Lin, speaking with a fierce intent to take her leave. "I'll leave this...happy family to enjoy the party. Good evening to you all."

"Good evening," Tenzin bid her with a nod.

"Good evening, Miss Chief Beifong," Jinora said politely. At least one of the three was well-mannered.

As the two younger ones were being coaxed by Pema to courteously offer her a farewell, Lin was all too relieved to make a hasty retreat from the lot of them. It was well and good that her old friend Tenzin was breeding airbenders like rabbits, but that didn't mean Lin had any social obligation to the pack of little creatures.

A couple of hours passed, during which Lin took some time away from the party. She visited her car to review the day's paperwork. She checked in with the station over the vehicle's radio. She smoked a bit on her old pipe. She re-entered and ate a few more light hor d'oeuvres. She socialized with a few old friends, two of whom boasted of their son's recent acceptance into a well-respected University in the Fire Nation.

It was neither energizing nor relaxing, but it was much more pleasant than other recent days she had spent toiling over the city's problems. It was occasionally welcomed to be reminded of the peace she managed to uphold amidst the chaotic country they all lived within. Just a century ago, the very site of this party would've been unbelievable. Earthbenders marrying firebenders, firebenders wedding waterbenders...All four of the world's primary cultures, congregated within a single bay, a single city. Lin was living at the dawn of a new age - one that Avatar Aang and Fire Lord Zuko had initiated. It was easy to reminisce on her upbringing, of simpler days. But at the same time, Lin was appreciative of the smaller moments which reminded her of all there was to grateful for.

Republic City, arguably the world's center of advancement, was thriving, breaking cultural and technological boundaries every year, and Lin Beifong had the privilege of being part of that - and with it, the responsibility of keeping peace in a increasingly unstable environment. When forging a fine blade, the metal was dangerously hot while it was being hammered into its new shape.

As she was dwelling on these thoughts amidst the conclusion of a jazz performance, she found herself brought back to this reality before her as she overheard a passing couple debating the validity of the Avatar's presence in the city, and what it could mean regarding the political unrest as of late. The unknown threat posed by the Equalist group had loomed over this entire evening like a cloud, accentuated by hushed gossip all evening, almost as if the party itself was just a ruse for citizens to forget their fears.

Breaking Lin from these thoughts, there was a swell of commotion at the front of the hall. The clamoring increased in volume, drawing forth Lin's attention from her place in the shade of the second floor overhang. At the top of the hall's central stairwell, Tarrlok was parading his guest, who appeared to be quite uncomfortable over the whole affair. Cameras flashed as journalists swooped to the base of the stairs. Tarrlok practically shoved the foolish girl forth, presenting her before the ravenous press like a stack of meat to a pack of wolf-bats.

"Avatar Korra," called out one of the reporters, his voice clear over the silenced hall. "You witnessed Amon take away peoples' bending first-hand. How serious a threat does he pose to the innocent citizens of Republic City?"

Ah, yes, and here it was. The buzzard-wasps flocking to their newfound baby savior, a pup in wolves' clothing. Lin and her department were more than capable of dealing with a zealot and his hypnotized, chi-blocking minions.

Avatar Korra's voice replied, lacking the entitled arrogance Lin would expect. In fact, the girl sounded downright uncertain, speaking in artificial tones.

"I think...he presents a real problem."

Another journalist followed up.

"Then why have you refused to join Tarrlok's task force? As the Avatar, shouldn't you be going after Amon?"

"W-well-...I...-" Korra was blinded by a camera flash.

Oh, geez. The girl was folding in on herself with hesitation. All that boastful talk of 'serving the city' and this half-wit Avatar still hadn't a clue what she was doing with herself.

"Why are you backing away from this fight?" the second reporter added to his previous question.

"What...?" Korra responded, brows arced with indignity. "No...I've never backed away from anything in my life!"

Camera bulbs were shining at Korra's face – said face seemed to be fluctuating between angry reproach and shuddering unease.

"You promised to serve this city!" another man called out, raising his pencil at her. "Aren't you going back on that promise now?"

The assault of questions continued, and Lin found some satisfaction in watching this fledgling Avatar crumble under the pressure that Lin knew full-well.

"Do you think probending is more important than fighting the revolution?""How do you think Avatar Aang would've handled this?""Are you afraid of Amon?"

Korra's short-fuse blew, the girl's psyche easily cracked.

"I'm not afraid of anybody!" Korra roared at the crowd, thumbing at her chest. "If the city needs me, then...-" She swung her hand out toward her party companion. "-...I'll join Tarrlok's task force, and help fight Amon!"

As Korra accentuated her statement with a clenched fist, Tarrlok closed the distance between them, thrusting up his hand to revel in the girl's snap-judgment decision.

He cried out to the crowd, "There's your headline, folks!" A rainfall of photography followed, but as Lin surveyed the girl in the spotlight, she could see a quivering uncertainty in the Avatar's eyes. Lin shook her head to herself in disapproval. That cheeky Chairman Tarrlok was tying his puppeteer's strings around the foolish girl's arms, and Lin had a suspicion that Korra would soon regret letting this transpire. Lin desired to have a word with the young woman to ensure that she understood the weight of the decision she'd just made.

After finishing her snack foods and taking a bathroom break during the flurry of cameras and inquiries from the press, Lin returned to the main hall. The place was emptier now, what-not with so many having only been here to fulfill their starstruck desires to be acquainted with the Avatar. Speaking of which, where had she gone off to? Even with a thinner crowd now, Lin didn't see Korra anywhere. Tarrlok was in plain sight, still lingering on the central stairwell and soaking up the attention and favor he so enjoyed. Knowing Tarrlok, it was absolutely no shocker that the pretentious fellow was chomping at the bit for the approval of and association with such a celebrity.

Without incident, Lin weaved around the collection of socialites, opting to find the Avatar herself rather than stoop to asking Tarrlok. She didn't want him getting suspicious as to her intentions. Lin tracked down the Councilman's page and demanded to know where Korra had went. He advised that Tarrlok had escorted the Avatar to his office for a respite from the social pressures of gala. Lin nonchalantly slipped up to the second floor.

The upper floor was quiet, but not entirely empty. Tucked in a corner of the open second floor hall, Lin could see a pair of teens hiding behind a pillar, engaged in...romantic discourse. Lin recognized the red dress one of the two was adorned in - Mr. Sato's daughter, whom Lin had seen with Korra's boy-toys earlier. She could only assume that one of said boys was locking lips with Miss Sato.

Lin saw no one else on the second floor balcony, and weaved her way around City Hall until she arrived in the Council room. An observant eye caught that the door leading to Tarrlok's private office was half open. Lin calmly made her way there. The Council room was dim, but faintly lit from the moonlight seeping in through the glass dome above.

Lin savored the moment of peace and quiet. She could see why Korra would've needed a break back here. Lin peered into the office, but it seemed empty at first glance. Curious, Lin opened the door the rest of the way and cautiously entered the room, her movement muffled by the atmospheric sound of the Chairman's intricate waterfall prop. The sturdy stone wall that rested behind Tarrlok's desk was quite a work itself, intricately carved with a depiction of the ancient koi fish spirits from the Northern Water Tribe. The large, circular emblem was fittingly shrouded by a thin veil of constantly drizzling water. It was an elegant backdrop to the office, if rather unnecessary. One would think the man, a known waterbender, simply desired some form of self-defense should he come under attack by a political coup. Feh. That, Lin would like to see.

While Lin liked to believe that Tarrlok was too prim and dainty a man for the sharp edges of combat, he had opted to organize his "task force," electing to lead the charge himself. Then again, he had also manipulated the brute of a child that was the Avatar to fall in line alongside him. Ah, yes - Korra. Lin noticed the young woman was off in the opposing corner of the room, hanging casually over a window sill. The bitter evening air was whistling gently into the room, joining the small waterfall in creating a calming background noise.

Lin approached the nearby desk, which was cleared of any paperwork. She always found Tarrlok's desk to be especially curious, as it did not have any drawers. The man instead would keep possessions under lock and key in a cabinet at the rear of the room, or elsewhere, outside of the office. Lin's conclusion to this was that the man clearly had secrets to hide. Feh, probably some embarrassing romantic affairs, or some such, if she had to guess. Something damning to his reputation, no-doubt, and to Tarrlok, reputation was everything. However, if he had allowed Korra to rest here, Lin was certain he had nothing to hide in the office itself. Still, such a starkly empty room was curious. Did he perhaps use it for personal waterbending training?

Lin noticed that the desk lamp was switched on, a small crescent moon attached to its top for decoration. Beside the light there was a wine bottle and a few glasses. Lin picked up the dark bottle, which appeared only one third full, and confirmed that it was red wine. Lin was most certainly not interested in partaking of the substance - especially not while she was in uniform, in public, and more or less on duty. Her mother might have acquired a reputation for such an embarrassing thing as partying in uniform, but Lin was not her mother and was definitely not going to be slipping back down that slope of being trapped within Toph Beifong's shadow.

Leaving the beverage aside, Lin folded her hands behind her back and approached Avatar Korra. Korra was toting half a glass of wine, which she was tilting to her mouth as as Lin drew near. The young Water Tribe woman seemed to be so mentally distant that she still didn't detect the police chief's presence until Lin spoke, catching her off guard.

"Do you have permission to be consuming that, young lady?"

Lin watched with contained amusement as the Avatar choked on her beverage, swallowing a large swig in one gulp. The clumsy girl nearly dropped the glass out the window she was leaning over.

"Fff-!" Korra sputtered, giving the cop a quick nod as she coughed on the strength of what she'd just ingested. "Tuh...-!" She pounded at her chest and cleared her burning throat. Ha, the girl didn't quite know how to drink wine, did she? "Tarrlok said I could take a break in here, and he...-" She gestured her hand lazily toward the desk behind Lin. "And I'm seventeen, by the way," Korra made sure to specify, despite Lin already being aware of this fact. Korra seemed a bit touchy in Lin's presence, but Lin was dressed in her police uniform, so Korra defending her own legality was not all to surprising, given the context.

"I meant to ensure you weren't stealing it," Lin clarified dryly.

"I'm not some kind of criminal," Korra grumbled dismissively, avoiding the Chief's gaze and staring out the window. The cool night breeze picked up briefly in the silence that fell between the two women. Korra, hunched over the windowsill, began toying with the remnants of her wine. Twirling her index finger in tight circles, Korra used her waterbending to rapidly swirl the dark liquid in her glass.

"Your record of residence thus far would say otherwise," Lin cited with a critical twitch of her eyebrows.

"Wh...what do you want, anyway?" Korra snapped defensively, letting the wine settle. "I...listened to what you said! I don't deserve this party, so...I'm going to work on Tarrlok's task force, and do my duty as the Avatar. So, can you get off my back already?"

Lin frowned at Korra's attitude. She really didn't know how to carry herself in a formal capacity at all, did she? Perhaps Tenzin ought to have spent a little less time having teaching her forms and a little more time instructing her on how to carry herself in public. As Lin dwelt on this notion, taking her sweet time to reply, Korra spat out an impatient "Tch!" and looked away from the chief, continuing to play with her drink.

Korra pinched her fingers together, lifting the last of her wine up in a levitating glob of liquid. Once it was freed from its glass prison and positioned over her hand, Korra split her fingers apart, breaking the wine into five smaller globules. She flexed her fingers in and out, watching the drops sway to and fro, synchronized with her muscles via the chi that connected body to element.

Lin explained tiredly, "Being Tarrlok's lap dog was not exactly what I had in mind when I told you that you didn't deserve this party."

"Yea?" Korra retorted dully, her expression hollow and disinterested as she stared at her liquid toy. "Well, what did you have in mind?" Korra testily inquired.

Lin sighed, rolling her eyes. What a hormonal little brat. This was why Korra's Avatar title meant very little to Lin. Just because one had a title didn't necessarily mean they had earned it. Lin had learned that lesson well enough by now.

"Frankly speaking," Lin began, folding her arms across her chest. She paused, watching as Korra refused to pay her respect, instead rotating her tiny orbs of wine in slow circles. Lin took a deep breath through her nose, and chose to continue her thought. "I don't think you're ready to wear a uniform, even if it's for Tarrlok's private army. You're hardly what I would call a proper adult, and I still haven't forgotten the stunt you pulled your first day here. Not to mention your attitude problem, which could use some adjusting." Korra gave Lin that same scowl she had earlier in the main hall when Lin said this. "I believe the term my officers would use to describe you is a...'loose cannon.' I cannot abide individuals who lack discipline, nor do I think dangerous benders who have no self-restraint should be representing our city in any kind of official capacity. Especially with tensions between benders and non-benders as tight as they are."

"Soooo...You don't think I can handle it," Korra observed in a bitter grumble, setting the empty wine glass down on the windowsill. She lifted her now free hand above the tiny tempest of wine she was spinning with the other, steadying the liquid's rotation and increasingly its speed. Lin was briefly startled by the sight. For just a moment, twirling a tight ring of liquid between her two palms, Korra reminded Lin of Uncle Aang and the many times he'd shown off such a trick.

"In a manner of speaking...No," Lin honestly replied.

"Tch, well! I'll just have to prove you wrong, then..." Korra's brows furrowed as she opened her mouth wide and flung the red wine down her gullet. Sputtering and coughing from its sting, she squinted, rubbing her hand against her collarbones. She went back to brooding over the open windowsill, her hair tussling in the chilled breeze. "Tarrlok seems to think I can handle being an officer on his task force, so...-" She shrugged up one of her broad shoulders. "I'm going to help get something done around here about the Equalists."

"You are the Avatar," Lin pointed out. "Rather than taking sides in this political affair, you could stand to try handling things with some diplomacy - with dignity - like Avatar Aang did when he was your age."

"I am not Avatar Aang," Korra growled, slapping her palm on the windowsill and glaring at Lin. "Every time I see that statue of him-" She flung her wrist out the window. "-it's a reminder of the expectations everyone has for me to live up to! I'm sure he was a wonderful man, and all, but...I'm not like him! And I wish everyone would stop acting like I'm supposed to copy all the great things he did, somehow..."

Korra irritably grabbed the wine glass she'd been using and stormed past Lin, heading right back to Tarrlok's desk. This gave Lin a moment to process what Korra had just said. While she didn't want to admit it, Lin found herself able to relate with this particular brand of frustration. It was almost like she was speaking with a younger version of herself.

Lin remained by the window, staring out over the lamp-lit city street below as the Avatar to poured herself another glass of wine.

"Ah! There you are." Tarrlok's voice poured into the room from the entrance. Lin spun round to see the Councilman approaching his desk, where Korra had just finished preparing her drink. "Oh," Tarrlok noted Lin's presence. "Chief Beifong," he greeted her with a nod. "I admit, it's...a bit of a surprise to see you here." He added with a veiled tint of irritation, "In my office."

"I was about to see my way out," Lin coldly declared, making her way across the room. "I was simply making sure the Avatar was being treated properly."

Tarrlok slapped his arm across Korra's shoulders, and she shrunk a bit at this unwanted physical contact.

"I assure you," Tarrlok insisted, "she's in good hands."

As Lin passed them by, she exchanged glances with Korra. The girl's icy blue eyes were glazed with unease, causing Lin to give pause by the doorway.

"In that case," Lin advised, "I'm sure she'll be fine going back to the main hall to humor her guests, rather than rummaging through your private wine collection."

Tarrlok chuckled at this and nodded.

"Yes, yes," Tarrlok acknowledged Lin's suggestion as he plucked Korra's recently filled glass from her hand, setting it on the desk. "As a matter of fact, there's a reporter from the United Daily Times downstairs that would like to interview the Avatar in regards to her announcement tonight."

"Th-there is?" Korra mumbled, still eying the glass of wine she feared might go to waste.

"Yes, indeed," Tarrlok confirmed. "She's a tenacious one! She's been patiently waiting all evening to speak privately with you, Korra."

"Oh..." Korra didn't look much in the mood for an interview as she was nudged to the entrance door to Tarrlok's office, where Lin was still hovering.

Out on the second floor balcony hall, Korra lingered by the guard rail, staring down anxiously at the small collection of party-goers. While he locked up his officer door, Tarrlok thanked Lin.

"As always, your constant diligence is appreciated."

A stern "Mm" was Lin's reply to this remark.

"Fear not, Chief Beifong," Tarrlok assured in his overly confident tone. "With the Avatar on our side, those Equalists will regret threatening the law and order of Republic City." Tarrlok pushed at Korra's shoulder, edging her along toward the main hall. Lin trailed behind, lost in thought as Tarrlok muttered suggestions and advice in Korra's ear regarding how to conduct herself during the interview. He wanted to make sure they 'got her good side,' or something to that effect.

As they came into the main hall overseeing the gala, Tarrlok chuckled at something naive Korra had just remarked on.

"And a sense of humor, to boot," Tarrlok kissed up. "You truly are something, Avatar Korra." He slapped her on the shoulder, and Korra's wide, exposed shoulders tensed at his grabby contact. "You've made a wise decision in choosing to cooperate with the Council, Avatar Korra. I see a bright future ahead of us."

Lin thoughtfully stared down at the town hall sprawled below. Like a hawk, her keen eyes swiftly spotted Tenzin and his family in the multicolored crowd.

A bright future? Lin had seen a bright future, once upon a time. She knew all too well how foolish it was to let arrogant self-righteousness blind one from practical realities. It was only a matter of time, Lin figured, until Avatar Korra wizened up to this harsh reality.

Republic City was not Korra's playground. It was a blazing hot blade being hammered into shape. If the young Avatar wasn't careful, she might find herself caught beneath that hammer, or singed upon the scalding metal.

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