Korra punches the wall, hard. Pain shoots up her arm, so she grits her teeth, and forces back her tears.
“So, there’s nothing?” she asks, her voice barely a whisper.
Tenzin’s expression is grave, and Jinora’s looking away.
For a week, they’ve tried everything, exhausted all avenues. Jinora did find some references at the library, but mainly literature about harmonic convergence and the ongoing battle between Raava and Vaatu. That damn owl had refused to help, either because he wouldn’t or couldn’t, nobody could say for certain… and Iroh had done nothing except look at Korra with saddened eyes, whilst shaking his head slowly.
Raava’s been unusually quiet the whole time, and Korra’s sure that it’s because there is no fix, no resolution, no bad guy to punch in the face, and no monster to slay. She clenches her fist, looks at the tiny streams of blood flowing down her knuckles.
“Korra, hurting yourself won’t help…” Pema looks at her with the same damn sad eyes that everyone else has been using, the same look that’s been driving her slowly insane.
Still, it’s not their fault. It’s nobody’s fault. She sighs, allows herself to be led to a private room, no doubt for another heart to heart with Pema that she doesn’t want to engage in.
It doesn’t happen, though. It seems the feeling of hopelessness has spread, nobody’s trying to cheer her up anymore, or tell her that things will work out. She can’t let herself wallow in misery, though. Asami needs her… she manages a weak smile as Pema brings her a bowl of water, from which she quickly water-bends her fresh wounds until the blood stops flowing. As she watches the water work it’s magic, she can’t help but wish with all the longing in her heart that she could fix Asami just as easily.
“Thanks, Pema. Sorry…”
“Nobody blames you, honey… I can’t even begin to imagine how hard this must be.” Pema sighs, takes the bowl away.
“I’m gonna go to the workshop, swap places with Dad.”
She presses her fingertips to the gap between her eyebrows, trying to massage away a headache threatening to start. She knows that it must be driving Asami crazy, but the only way they’ve been able to grant her any freedom is on the condition that they can monitor her, watch for any signs of ‘unusual behaviour’, as Tenzin had put it. Still, it’s better than the alternative, where they throw Asami into captivity as a precaution instead.
With every step she takes, she tries to force her black mood away. It won’t do to be like this around Asami, she has to be the brave one, she can’t show that they’re losing hope, that they’re finding nothing of worth. It would tear Asami apart.
Just like it had been the three years that Korra had been away, it’s her escape this time, too. Asami frowns as she tries again to tighten this damn stubborn nut. No good. More oil. She loosens it, re-aligns, and tries again. Perfect… on to the next one. At this rate she’ll be able to give this new engine a test run on the track in no time at all.
Machines make sense. She designs them from the ground up, understands every single thing about them. There’s not a single thing in the world that could go wrong, without her being able to give a reasonable, scientific explanation.
Other things, however, don’t make sense at all.
Death, for example. How a loved one can simply cease to exist, to function, to blink out of your life in an instant. She’s still haunted by flashbacks of her Father’s last moments, the finality and loudness of the click as the ejector seat button flicks open, the terror as it’s pressed right in front of her. It’s like she can still feel the belts tearing into her shoulders, the rush of air pressing against her as the chair accelerates impossibly quickly, and then the sudden jolt as the chute opens and gravity takes hold.
Then, the horrible, nightmarish sight of her father’s hummingbird, crushed like a tin can as the metal giant’s fist raises again. Kuvira’s fist. Kuvira’s giant.
It doesn’t make sense how someone like that is still alive, should even be allowed to live. She finds herself wishing that republic city had harsher laws for cases such as this. Why should a mass-murderer be allowed to live?
The screwdriver falls from her suddenly shaky hand, she realises her teeth are gritted tightly together, and she’s angry, furious to the point where her whole body is shaking.
It’s Korra. She closes her eyes, tries to calm herself as she wheels herself from beneath the satomobile.
“Hey, sweety.” She smiles, feeling more at ease once Korra’s eyes meet hers.
“What ya doing?” Korra smiles down at her, though she can see the usual hint of sadness in her eyes. They keep trying to hide it from her, the futility of it all. But she can see it, and it’s why work is so important to her right now. She’s grateful that she’s been allowed to continue, else she’s sure she would have lost her mind, caved in to anxiety and fear.
“Just finishing off this new prototype. Wanna take it for a spin later?” She forces a smirk.
“Definitely! Want a hand with anything?”
“No! No touching!” she chuckles as she winks at Korra, then wheels herself back under the car and sets to work. The last time Korra ‘helped’, the entire workshop had almost been destroyed. Since then, Korra had been more or less banned from here, though of course that rule doesn’t currently apply.
It’s been easier when Korra’s been around. When they’ve made love every night, and slept tightly wound in each other’s arms. But Korra can’t be here all the time, because Korra, being Korra, is out and about turning over every stone, researching every angle, trying to find a solution to this mess.
Korra makes idle chatter whilst she tightens the last few bolts, telling her that Tonraq and Senna will soon have to return home. She’s saddened at the thought… it’s been nice to chat to them, get to know them more, and in many ways they’ve been treating her as though she’s family.
Apparently, Tenzin and Kya will take over watching her when Korra’s not around.
She sighs. She hates the idea that people are going out of their way to watch over her, just so that she can have some freedom. And the whole time, Vaatu has been silent. In a way, she almost wishes he’d do something… anything, since not knowing what will happen next is the worse part.
She fastens the last nut into place.
“All done. Let’s give it a go!”
She wheels out to see Korra grinning like an excited child, and suddenly it feels like old times. She jumps into the car, fires up the engine and grins at the hearty, low throb rumbling through her seat. Korra hops in behind, they fasten their helmets and she eases the car out of the garage, onto the track.
She doesn’t waste any time, other than to glance back and see Korra give her a lop-sided grin and a thumbs up, then her foot’s to the floor, and they’re shooting around the track.
It’s easily the fastest car she’s built so far, handling corners with ease, and sticking to the track just like she designed it to. Korra’s whooping away in the back, which is spurring her on all the more, and in these few precious minutes all of her troubles slip away, and it’s just the two of them goofing around, having fun… like new couples are supposed to.
It’s on the fourth lap that she gets a rather harsh reminder of the situation she’s in.
“Why is mankind never satisfied?”
The voice rings in her head, clear as day. Her heart pounds in her chest.
“You seek to go faster, fly higher. You are greedy, always wanting more…”
She tries to keep focus on the track ahead, it’s a dangerous time to be distracted.
“What’s wrong with trying to improve?” she somehow keeps her cool, eases the car around the next corner.
“You were already given far more than you ever deserved.”
The words don’t make much sense, and Vaatu says nothing more as she pulls the car over to the side, panting, feeling nauseous. She rips off her helmet, paces up and down, feeling the chill air brush against her now damp face.
“Asami?” Korra looks at her wide-eyed, clearly worried.
“He… he’s awake. I think.” She clenches her fists, looks into Korra’s eyes.
“What do you mean?” Korra asks, slowly.
“I heard him. In my head…”
“Is he still there?”
“He’s gone quiet… I can’t tell.”
Korra sighs, and pulls her into an embrace. In that warmth, and with Korra’s scent, she closes her eyes, manages to relax a little.
“Let’s go home, we’ll work something out.” Korra says, somehow sounding calmer than ever, and Asami merely nods, suddenly feeling exhausted.
It’s getting fairly late, so they head straight upstairs, get changed for bed. She curls into a ball, and Korra pulls her into her embrace from behind.
“Korra… If he’s waking up, you know what we have to do,” she says the words, already resigned to her fate. She’ll sit in some glorified cell until she loses her mind, or Vaatu takes over completely.
“No.” Korra’s words surprise her, “Just because he can speak, doesn’t mean he can do a damn thing. There’s still time.”
“Time for what?” she snaps, despite herself, and feels Korra’s arms tense up around her, “I’m… I’m sorry. This is kind of terrifying.” She continues, and Korra rubs a palm up and down her arm gently.
“You don’t have to apologise. I love you… I just feel so powerless…” Korra’s voice sounds hoarse. She knows this must be tearing her up inside.
“I love you too… But for now, let’s sleep on it.” She says, with a yawn, and puts a hand atop Korra’s, weaving their fingers together.
“Okay… night, ‘Sami…” Korra mumbles the words into her back, and she smiles as the lips tickle against her skin.
Somehow, despite everything, sleep comes easily.
Her dreams are dark, filled with memories of her father, of their reconciliation, but mainly of the giant, metal hand crushing him almost instantly, except this time she can hear him scream, hear his bones crunch with a loud echo as the metal cage he’s trapped in collapses around him.
She looks up to see the metal giant isn’t metal anymore. It’s Kuvira, gigantic, menacing, and laughing as she wipes the remains of the hummingbird from her fist. Blood drops from the clenched hand, along with shards of metal, and a single, shattered pair of spectacles.
Grief is soon replaced with rage, and it’s even worse than earlier, at the workshop. She’s barely able to control her breathing, its ragged, more like a pant. She’s so angry that she feels like throwing up, like reaching up and tearing that metal-bending bitch's face clean off with her bare hands.
She snaps awake, drenched in sweat. Korra’s rolled over onto the other side of the bed, lied back and snoring loudly. She’s still angry, and finds it difficult to get back to sleep. Somehow though, she manages.
In her next dream, she positively seethes with anger, and has one singular purpose as she gets dressed, then climbs into her car and starts the engine.
She speeds towards the compound, a large prison devoid of metal and earth, built especially for metal bending prisoners. Built by Future Industries. She has little trouble convincing the guards that she’s here for a routine inspection, and needs to investigate a potential flaw in her own security system. The last guard is a young boy. Easy prey for her sultry words and purposeful hair-flip. He goes to take a toilet break, as per her suggestion, so that she can have a quiet moment with the prisoner.
She flicks his keycard around in her fingers, musing for a moment how real this all feels. Maybe she’ll wake up soon, but before then, she wants to finish her mission.
She slides the card across the plastic receptacle, and the thick-plastic door slides open, revealing the inside. White and grey plastic walls adorn the room, there’s a bed and plastic table, plastic chairs, not much else.
Kuvira’s sat cross-legged on the bed, messy-haired, almost wild-eyed, and staring at her warily.
“What do you want?” Kuvira growls the question.
“I thought I’d come see how you’re doing…” she says, walking forwards slowly.
“I remember you…” Kuvira frowns at her.
“Oh? I’m honoured.” She says, dryly. She pauses just in front of the prisoner, folds her arms, stares.
“Look… I’m sorry about your father…”
The words reignite every ounce of rage she’d felt earlier, without a moment’s thought she balls her hand into a fist and slams it into Kuvira’s face, not even feeling any pain as her knuckles connect with cheekbone.
“You’re… sorry?” she laughs at the words, finding them ridiculous. She threads her fingers into the woman’s knotted hair, pulling upwards hard so that their eyes can meet, up close.
“Sorry for my father?” she squeezes her fingers, ripping some hairs out. Kuvira winces, blood’s dripping out of her mouth. Asami grins at the sight.
“Sorry for the six-hundred and thirty-two others that you killed, or the thousands more that you injured?” She thrusts the trapped head into the wall behind, causing Kuvira to cry out as the back of her skull meets plastic with a loud bang.
“Sorry! I’m sorry…” Kuvira’s choking out the words, spits out a broken tooth.
Weird, she didn’t know she could punch that hard. She takes the woman’s neck into her hand, stands on the bed and lifts her up against the wall, pinning her by the throat, using strength she didn’t even know she had. She figures it must be the dream, some sort of super-strength. It feels good, though. Exhilarating.
She squeezes her fingers, starts to choke the life out of her prey, feeling a sense of elation, of justice, as she sees Kuvira claw against her grip, legs dangling in the air, kicking at nothing in sheer panic as the last traces of life are taken away. She stares into those eyes again, watching as they look back with nothing but terror, and start to slowly glaze over…
She’s struck with a sudden force of air, sending her flying away from Kuvira, and off the bed. She lands on the floor, and the pain of impact knocks the air right out of her lungs.
And then she realises, she isn’t dreaming. She feels a sudden clarity, like a daze is lifted, and Korra’s looking at her like she’s a monster, then tending to Kuvira, breathing life back into half-dead lungs.
She can’t stand, she’s overcome with confusion, with fear. She watches as paramedics take a still-living Kuvira outside, and then Korra slowly approaches her, bends down, puts a hand on her cheek.
“Asami… is that you?” there’s tears in Korra’s eyes.
“I… think so.” She says, though her own voice sounds strange to her.
“I… don’t know. I thought it was a dream… is… is she okay?” she starts to sob the words, finally overcome with emotion.
“Shh, it’s okay. She’ll be fine. Come on, let’s get out of here.”
She offers no resistance when Korra pulls her up, and leads her outside, back to the car. If she still had any energy left, she might be amused at Korra’s terrible driving as they headed back to the mansion.
She decides that if they ever make it through this nightmare, she’s going to try to teach Korra to drive again, and this time, she won’t give up.
She looks to the side to see Korra, wearing a very stoic expression, and as exhaustion takes over, she’s acutely aware that they’re not headed to the mansion after all…