Everyone has a breaking point. Few have someone to put them back together.
Part 3 - This M.A.D. World of Ours
Section 5: "Volatile"
Asami stared blankly at the fresh crater in the middle of her old racetrack. There were more than two thousand just like it, spaced equidistant from one another as to limit testing variables.
Test number twenty-five-zero-one.
For the two-thousand five-hundred and first time, she had failed.
It always started well enough. They'd set up the device, get it running, place a spirit bomb right next to it and set the timer. The four of them would get clear and file into the Avatar-certified bunker. The bomb would go off in a flash of loud, purple light and, for around twenty seconds, the energy would be steadily re-routed back through the spirit vine. The spirit energy would swirl into the device like water down a drain until the metaphorical pipes were clogged.
Then, it would explode, leaving a big, stupid looking crater.
Asami did not have time for big, stupid craters.
Varrick placed his hands on his hips. "Well, that was hardly surprising. Guess making the energy go in a figure-eight doesn't work either. Maybe a pentagon next time?" He shrugged. "I never thought I'd say this, but I'm starting to get sick of seeing things explode," he mused. "I know, it sounds impossible. Illogical, even! But it's the same purple boom every time, and I do sorta feel bad for blowing up all of this fancy road of yours, Asami."
Asami snapped her eyes to him, glaring lances of fire. "Are you mocking me? Mocking all of us?" She frowned intensely. "What is wrong with you? We may as well have the fate of the world on our shoulders, and you're just standing there making a joke of all our hard work!"
Varrick blinked twice. "Okay. In order: No, no, depends on who you ask, I'm fully aware of that, and also that's not what I'm doing!"
"Yes, you absolutely are! And I'm asking, and I think there's a lot wrong with you, and every day I seriously question why I even agreed to let you help me with this!"
"Then I'll remind you! We don't have time to not do this together!" Varrick flung his arms into the air and slammed his hands right on to the ceiling. He yelped in pain and shook them out, wincing. "And neither do I! Even with Zhu Li, there's no way I could have gotten this far this quickly without you! Also, the, uh, the...uhm..." He snapped his fingers and gestured toward a slightly bemused Artana.
Zhu Li continued to scribble data in her notebook. "Artana, dear."
"Thank you. Artana! Also, thank you Artana."
Artana sighed. "We've been working together, side by side, often times literally, for two weeks and you still can't remember my name."
"Thank you and sorry?"
"Oh, fine. Think nothing of it and apology accepted." Artana snorted. "You know, your eccentricities aren't as charming as you think."
"Yes, they are," added Zhu Li, her tone somehow communicating both tenderness and finality. "Levity is just as important as progress."
Asami rubbed her temples took a heavy, frustrated breath. "It's not levity. He's just being obnoxious and insensitive. How are you even a scientist?! You act like some sort of circus clown!"
Varrick narrowed his eyes at her. "That's probably because I was a clown in a circus. A great one, too! Did a lot of acrobatics. Loved that the most. Well, that and the saber-tooth moose lion taming."
Artana slowly looked at Varrick. "How are you a scientist?"
"Trial and error, mostly."
Asami opened her mouth, felt logic and reason melt through the floor, and closed it again. For several moments, she considered wrestling Varrick to the ground and strangling him for his buffoonery and outright lunacy, but decided that he wasn't worth the energy. Especially since she'd have to fight Zhu Li, too. "I'm going to go set up the next one. Artana, you'll be assisting."
Artana nodded and the two of them climbed out of the observation bunker Korra had bent into the side of the hill. It wouldn't protect them from the explosion, but rather from debris. They picked up their equipment and began walking to the next designated testing area.
Asami frowned, and she didn't know why. "How are you settling in to Republic City, Artana?"
"About as well as to be expected. The shelter I'm living in is right on the edge of some silly sounding triad's territory, but it's not that much of a problem. I don't know who's idea it was to built a homeless shelter there, but they weren't thinking too clearly when making that decision."
Asami felt her head pound and grunted. "I built those shelters, and it's not my damn fault that the triads keep changing their border lines. A few years ago those locations were nowhere near them, I assure you." Her mind came to screeching halt and she blinked. "Wait a minute, you've been living in a homeless shelter?"
"A very well made one, but yes." Artana chuckled dryly. "Republic City is still recovering, Miss Sato. Real estate is almost impossible to come by, and when it is, it's farbeyond what I can afford. Especially since the money I was paid in during Kuvira's reign was nullified…"
Asami set down her equipment at the site and began setting up the next design permutation of the generator. Reverse generator. Imploder. Whatever. "I was not aware of that." She looked up at Artana apologetically, who was methodically arming the spirit bomb like she'd done hundreds of times before. "Why didn't you tell me you had nowhere to go after I brought you into the country?"
"Miss Sato, you're my boss. That...would have been incredibly inappropriate. You have larger things, much larger things, to worry about than where I sleep." She gestured around the mostly exploded racetrack. "This, for example, is much more important."
Asami shook her head, remembering the few weeks she'd spent living in the shantytown beneath the city during the Equalist Uprising. And Mako and Bolin's childhood. Homelessness was not something to cast aside. It was why she built those shelters! "You're working with me everyday, respectfully ignoring all of the labor laws I'm breaking with the hours we've been putting in, which makes you a priority. I brought you here, I hired you, and I'm paying you a salary that...you can't even use…" She pinched her brow. "I'll fix this. I'll fix this before evening. I promise."
Artana put the finishing touches on the small spirit bomb, sans activating the timer, and offered her a small smile. "You really don't have to. It's fine. I'm no stranger to it."
Asami sighed and began fine-tuning the...imploder. How could she have been so short-sighted? Of course this would have been a problem. The fact that she'd had enough experience in it not to complain only made her feel that much worse. "No, I do have to. It would be wrong of me if I didn't." She activated the imploder and it hummed to life. "I'm not going to get into a moral debate with you on this, so don't even try. You're a citizen of the United Republic now, and you have a right to privacy and property." She rose to her feet, feeling more anger fester in her stomach. Anger at herself, at the triads. Angry at fate.
"Okay. I won't argue," she said, almost wistfully. "And...thank you. I really didn't expect this sort of kindness in Republic City. An amazing center of culture, yes, but not...well, this."
"Set the timer," she said curtly.
Artana nodded and did as she was told. The bomb started blinking and ticking. The two of them jogged back to the bunker and slipped inside.
Asami watched the testing zone intently. It had to work. By all forms of logic, Zhu Li's new design should work. Not flawlessly, as they still needed to figure out how to sendall the energy back, but redirecting it harmlessly into the sky was certainly progress.
And Asami needed progress.
The bomb exploded, as it always did, and the imploder instantly began consuming the energy that was released. Two seconds. Five seconds. Fifteen seconds. Thirtyseconds. They'd already broken their record. The purple light swirled and crackled around the imploder, and Asami was about to slam her head against the concrete wall in anger but froze when she saw it...release the energy.
It didn't explode.
It didn't explode.
It shot a giant purple beam into the sky and straight into space.
Asami's jaw dropped. "I… almost can't believe it. We sort of did it."
Varrick whooped louder than she'd ever heard him scream, which was saying a lot. He kissed Zhu Li straight on the lips and began spinning her around. "Of course we did! Who do you think you're dealing with, here?! Zhu Li, you just saved the the world!"
"Not quite yet, dear, but we're getting there," Zhu Li chuckled.
Artana just smiled extremely wide. "This is just the beginning, but we know it's possible now."
Asami was about to respond, but the phone line they'd hooked up in the bunker rang. She picked up the phone. It shouldn't have surprised her that Lin was on the other side.
"Sato, was that you just now?!"
Asami frowned. "Was what-"
"The giant purple beam of death that shot up into the sky!"
"Could you at least tell me the next time you're going to pull some crap like that? You just sent half the city into a panic! Which I now have to deal with!"
Asami groaned. "Chief, I swear, we didn't even know it was going to work. It's the first time anything actually has."
"Oh, well then congratulations."
"But from now on if you don't inform me of your testing schedule, I'm going to drag you down here and have you answer the calls from a few hundred thousand frightened citizens!"
Once again, Lin hung up the phone so hard she could almost feel it.
"Who was that?" asked Varrick.
"Lin. Apparently we just sent half the city into a panic."
"Heh, well, they can't blame me for once! I'm not in charge of this operation-"
Asami scowled and smacked him upside the head with her notebook.
"Shut up. Just shut up."
"Air Temple Island, Avatar Korra speaking."
Asami snorted into a laugh. Adorable.
"Who is this? Kuvira? This isn't funny! Everytime you call you freak out Tenzin's kids! So stop calling!"
Asami raised a brow. No longer adorable. "Korra. It's me."
"Oh. Hey, Asami! Sorry about that, but, uh, yeah, somebody gave Kuvira a telephone line. And this number is listed publicly, so…"
"Why does she keep calling?"
"I don't know. I think she has it in her head that we're friends or something because I'm not actively hating her. Which is...sad, if you think about it. Well, okay, not sad foryou, but you get...what I mean."
"Yeah, I do. Did you see the giant purple beam?"
"Yes. Please tell me that was you. Tenzin is this close sending the Air Nation into a state of alert."
Asami winced. "That was me. Sorry!"
"Nah, it's fine. No. Tenzin. Tenzin! It was Asami! Well, I'm on the phone with her right now. Yes! Actually, I don't know. Asami was that a...good purple beam or a bad one?"
"A...good one? I guess?"
"It's a good one! No, stop-I don't know, turn the ferries around or something. Airbend them back, or get some of the White Lotus waterbenders to do it! I'm on the phone, can you give me a little space? Thank you."
"Is everything okay over there?"
"Mostly. Some of the ferries are headed toward the island and they're filled with 'refugees'."
Asami covered her face with her hand. "Oh no..."
"It'll be fine! It's just a simple misunderstanding. Oh, and Naga says hi."
A polar bear dog barked through the receiver. Asami smiled.
"Hello, Naga. How'd you get Tenzin to let her in the temple?"
"She's not inside. Tenzin bought this super long extension cord for the telephone because he likes to walk around while he uses it, and it kept flying out of his hands."
"Won't...someone trip on it?"
"Hasn't happened yet, but there's a first time for everything. So, what's up?"
"A few things. One was, well, we made a big leap forward in the defense project."
"That's awesome! Except for the panic, but that'll get sorted out. Why does it involve Vaatu beams shooting into the sky, though?"
"What? It's just spirit energy. Why did you think it was part of Vaatu?"
"'Cause I got the same feeling I did when he used it on me during Harmonic Convergence. It's this sense of...detachment and chaos. It gives me the shivers. Oh, they also look exactly the same."
"They do? I had no idea." Asami raised her brows into her hairline and immediately began taking notes. "Thank you for telling me that. That actually might help a lot. Why didn't you say something about the spirit cannon?"
"We were pretty busy at the time, remember?"
"Come on, tell me there's some good news besides the spirit vine thing! How's that new engineer working out? What was her name? Arta? Arya? Aya?"
"Right, Artana. Uhhh, so...I guess she helped?"
"She's just as capable as Baatar said she was, if not more so. Polite and just generally pleasant. Honestly, she fits right in with the rest of the senior engineers on staff. It's pretty lucky."
"That's great! With four people, you can get the job done faster! And better!"
Asami chuckled. "That's the idea, yes. There is actually one problem regarding her, though, which I'm hoping you might be able to help me with"
"Asami, if she's been trying to make a move, I swear, I'm gonna shove her in Naga's mouth for a few minutes-"
"No! No, no, not that at all."
"Oh. That's good."
"Korra, wow. That was...wow. Too far."
"I don't think so. I did that to a judge once. It's how I found out my uncle was lying about everything."
"Yeah, ran him off the road and shoved his head in Naga's jaw. Worked like a charm."
"Huh. Well, I'll keep that in mind, I guess."
"Go for it. So, this problem?"
"Right. She's homeless."
"I thought you were paying her."
"I am, Korra. There's just no real estate she can afford She's been living in one of my shelters."
"That's not the half of it. Apparently, the Empire money she was paid in is no longer valid currency."
"...okay, this is the first I'm hearing of Empire money being worth nothing. Tenzin! Did you know that Empire money isn't money anymore? Asami just told me. Well, she heard it from that engineer she brought in, so that's a pretty reliable source. Yeah, I know. I was thinking that, too. Yeah, Tenzin had no idea. He's going to look into that."
"If Tenzin didn't know…"
"It can't be good. Homelessness is also bad, though. How can I help?"
"Well, I've been looking through real estate listings, and I can't find anything that isn't far too expensive for a 'special bonus' check to cover. I almost hate to ask this but-"
"Tenzin! Can Asami's new engineer stay at the Air Temple? She's homeless because I guess there aren't any homes on the market. Okay. Tenzin says he trusts you, so she can stay."
Asami smiled. "Thanks."
"It's what I do. I mean, it's not that different from the time you came...to live...with us…Sorry."
"It's okay. I was sort of thinking that, too..."
"Do you want to talk about it?"
Asami frowned. "No, Korra. For the last time, there is nothing to talk about."
"Okay. What's tomorrow, again?"
"And what time is the sun setting tonight?"
"I don't know. Around, 8:15, I think."
"And how many violent daydreams have you had today?"
"Twenty three." Asami blinked. "...how did you do that."
"It's a water tribe thing. You wouldn't get it."
"No it isn't!"
"Can you prove it's not?"
"Then there you go. Twenty three isn't a healthy number, Asami. One isn't really a healthy number. Know what? That's it. I'm coming over there."
"Korra, I don't have time for this. I'm very busy!"
"No you're not. I'll be there in a few minutes."
And then she hung up the phone. Asami threw it across the room and against the wall. It wedged itself into the plaster with a loud crack. She ran her fingers through her hair and groaned. How could she be so stubborn!? She was fine.
Asami was fine.
She was fine.
Asami didn't make any effort to leave her office. She knew Korra would just find her anyway. She waited, pacing around the room and kicking her table a few times. Eventually, Korra knocked on her window, the one with the spirit vine, and Asami briefly considered leaving her out there. Then she remembered that Korra could just break it if she wanted to, and slid the window open.
Korra hopped down into her office and tossed her glider on the couch. "I just flew across the bay and up forty stories. Are you sure you don't want to talk about anything?"
Asami frowned. "I'm fine."
Korra sighed. "No, you're really not. You really, really aren't. It's not just me, okay?" She put her hand on Asami's shoulder. "Bolin, Opal and Mako noticed it, too. EvenVarrick asked me if something was wrong. Varrick. Let that sink in."
Asami narrowed her eyes. "I'm fine. I don't know what you think you're seeing, but it isn't there."
Korra pointed to her phone that was lodged in the wall. Then she pointed to her almost barren bar. Then, the violently ripped papers that were scattered across her table. The dents in the table. The dents in her desk. The holes in her walls. The dents in the door.
"How about now?"
Asami rolled her eyes. "Okay, so I've been a little angrier than usual, lately. I'm stressed. Is it really that odd-"
Korra grabbed her wrists and shoved Asami's hands, no her fists with whitened knuckles, into her field of view. "You have been making fists at every little thing for months, and then hitting Varrick at basically every opportunity. You laughed in the President's face after he blackmailed me. Oh, and you threatened to punch me in the mouth."
Asami scowled and pulled her hands away. "I've been very stressed, and apparently so have you, because there's no way I'd threaten you like that."
"I couldn't make up something like that if I tried."
Asami sighed deeply and looked away. She leaned back against her desk and crossed her arms. "Are you done?"
Korra furrowed her brow. "Not even close. You have been walking around like you're going to snap at any moment for the last week and a half. I have never seen you this angry. No one has ever seen you this angry."
"Do you even realize how screwed up it is for you to have been happy to see Kuvira in the state she was in?" She frowned. "Bound and in pain, and you grinned."
Asami ground her teeth. "Stop it."
"You're not okay, Asami. You're holding on to all of this anger, still. It's not making you stronger. It's toxic. You have to let it out."
"Stop this! Now!"
Korra looked at her desperately. "Please. Talk to me."
"I. Am. Fine." she growled.
"Look at yourself. Your fingers are actually making holes in your desk right now. Look!"
Asami didn't move her head, but her eyes flicked down to...the holes she was making. When did she start doing that? Well, it didn't matter. Irrelevant. "There is nothing to talk about," she seethed. "I'm fine!"
"You're fine. Okay. Sure." Korra violently ran her fingers through her hair. "You are literally shaking the desk!"
Asami looked down. She was.
"I can't help you if you won't tell me why you're angry. Let me be here for you, dammit!"
Asami could only feel rage. In her stomach, in her back, in her arms, her legs, her chest, her neck. All of her. Enraged beyond recognition. Ready to snap, ready to...break. Break what?
Korra shook her head defiantly.
"Asami, I swear to you..."
"There is nothing you can say to me right now that will make me leave your side."
Asami felt that festering bile rise from her stomach once more and poison flow from her mind to her tongue. She couldn't stop it, she couldn't move or do anything. Her hands were bleeding. "IF YOU DON'T LEAVE RIGHT NOW KORRA, I SWEAR, I WILL PUT YOU RIGHT BACK IN THAT WHEELCHAIR!"
Asami slapped her palms over her mouth and instantly felt like death. She tasted copper. All of the color left her skin and her eyes shook in terror. Fear of herself. Fear of what was to come. Fear of what she'd just done to Korra. She started shaking uncontrollably and doubled over.
Korra took a few slow steps away, and tears quickly came streaming down her cheeks. She closed her eyes, centered herself, and with a few very deep breaths...the tears went away. "I'm still here," she said quietly. "I'm not going to leave. I'm not going to die right after you let me in, okay? I'm not going anywhere. Not now, not ever."
Asami felt her stomach writhe. Once. Twice. She sprinted into her private bathroom, kicking down the door, and emptied everything into the toilet. She tried to keep her hair from getting into the bowl but...Korra was already kneeling beside her, keeping it out of the way. Holding her. She sobbed between bouts of her body cleansing itself, and she lost count how many times she lurched.
Eventually, Asami collapsed against her, having nothing left to give. She was drained. Drained just...of everything. She felt hollow. Before she knew what was happening, Korra had already waterbent her clean. Asami started breathing softly and closed her eyes.
"Are you okay to move?"
"Okay, here, let me help you up."
Asami carefully got to her feet, using Korra as a crutch and her face sunk as she saw her reflection in the mirror. She looked like...she didn't know. She didn't want to know. No color, her eyes lacking any vibrancy of life. There was no kindness. No generosity, no selfless and gentle air about her. No marks of intelligence or even comprehension. Just exhaustion and defeat.
"Do you want to lie down on the couch?"
Asami nodded and bit her lip. Her mind was urging her to say something. Anything. Apologize! APOLOGIZE!
Korra helped her over to the couch and gently laid her down. She gently tucked some stray locks of her hair out of the way. "You're going to be okay." She kneeled down next to her and took her hand, entwining their fingers. "I'm here, and I'm not going anywhere."
Asami slowly sat up and stared well past her feet into nothing. "I'm sorry," she whispered. "I'm so, so sorry. I can't...I was so angry that I actually took that as a challenge." She frowned. "And I can't take it back."
"Don't think about that. You didn't mean it. I know you didn't, because I've been there before, remember?"
Asami searched her eyes. No. Korra couldn't lie. "The poison. I forgot how angry you were. Just...with me, though."
"You were the only one who understood I didn't mean anything I said, but couldn't stop."
"That was only two weeks. This has been...months."
"I thought if I gave you enough time and space, you'd figure it out on your own. I'm sorry I didn't...do something sooner. I'm sorry none of us did. We tried to clear the path for you, but I guess that wasn't enough."
"...is this why everyone was going out of their way to do things for me? I never even questioned it."
"Yup. Bolin, Opal, Mako, Varrick, Zhu Li, and I all decided that if you were going to figure this out on your own, we'd be with you every step of the way. One of us would be around, no matter what. To pick you up when you fall."
Asami's eyes widened. "Varrick wanted to...why?"
"I don't know, but he was all for it. Considering how much he put up with, he meant it."
Asami bowed her head. "He must hate me now. Zhu Li must hate me."
"No one hates you. But, I'm not going to lie. It's been painful. Not just for me. All of us. When someone you…" She bit her lip. "...care about is in this much pain, it hurts you too."
"I'm so sorry. I thought I could handle this. The spirit vines."
Korra smiled sadly. "That's not what this is about, Asami. You've got to accept that."
"What?" Asami sat up further. "What else is there?"
"Tomorrow." Korra frowned and wrapped her in tight hug, cupping her head over her shoulder. "It's tomorrow, and you forced yourself to forget. What you said to me? You can take it back by remembering. Right now."
Asami shattered. Her entire body shook from the overwhelming surge of emotion, as she simply couldn't the stop the tears from pouring down her cheeks. She held Korra as tight as her she could, bawling her eyes out like a lost child.
Asami didn't realize she'd stopped crying until her arms gave out. She let go, but Korra didn't, only holding her tighter. She'd stopped shaking and, slowly but surely, regained control of her breath.
Asami felt cleansed. As if she'd just stepped out of a fifty pound suit of armor that had been slowly breaking her back. Breathing was simple. Seeing was simple. Everything was...somehow simpler. And the truth, well, that was simpler too.
"My dad died," she whispered.
"Yes. He did."
"He's dead. He's not coming back."
"I know. I'm sorry, I know."
"He's not in jail. There's no...tiny sliver of hope that he'll come back."
"No. There isn't."
"He saved my life. I was willing to die, and he...wouldn't let me."
"He couldn't. He loved you."
"Yes. In the end, he did." Asami closed her eyes. "...you can't grieve for someone if they're not dead."
"No. No, you can't."
"I can't skip over this. I can't do this alone."
"You don't have to. You're not alone. You have me and everyone else to help you through this."
Asami pulled back and looked into Korra's eyes. Understanding. Compassion. Empathy. Why she'd fought it...it didn't matter. Korra had broken through, because no walls existed that could stop her. She smiled sadly. "I'm calling in sick tomorrow. Zhu Li is more than capable to take over for a day."
"I'll be with you. And as far as I'm concerned…" She waved her hand over Asami's head. "You are...absolved for that thing you said. Your Avatar wills it to be true."
Asami snorted into a loud, cathartic laugh and collapsed into Korra, exhausted.
"Yasuko Sato. 122 to 158 AG. Beloved wife, mother, daughter and...dancer. It looks like 'dancer' was etched in later."
Asami frowned. "I never found out why, but dad told the man who carved it to get rid of that part. I fixed it after he was convicted."
"Was it a big part of her life?"
"Not after I was born. She gave it up to be with me. That's a common thing, I suppose, but still...she was a professional. It's…" Asami chuckled dryly. "It's actually kind of funny. How they met."
"You'd think it'd be at some fancy gala or charity event, right? Well, no. Mom was heading home for the evening, and then, heh, she nearly ran him over with her satomobile. She picked him up, dusted him off, felt so terrible about it that she asked him out to dinner…"
Korra's brows raised into her hairline. "You're kidding."
"I'm not. I'm really not. I...it was the same thing. I thought it could be the same thing. Well, obviously, true love at first sight doesn't happen in the same way twice, which is more than okay. Everything turned out well enough, in the end."
Korra kneeled down beside her and kissed her shoulder. "Tell me more."
Asami nodded. "Well, the craziest part was that my mom didn't even know who he was. She didn't have the slightest idea." Asami shook her head with a tiny, wistful smile. "It took her two months to realize that he'd invented the very thing she'd almost killed him with, and they were already a couple. Dad used to say that her hitting him with the satomobile wasn't the real miracle. It was that she learned to love him for who he was, not what he was." She kneeled down in front of the grave and wiped off some of the dirt and dust.
"Why do you think he wanted this part removed?"
"I'll never know for sure, but...I think he might have done it for me. Compared to the other things on there, being a dancer isn't so important to a little girl's memory of her mother. Maybe he wanted to make it as clear as he could that she was family, and that was all that mattered." Asami sighed. "He had a tendency to overthink like that, after she died. I think he was terrified of raising me wrong."
"I don't think he could have done a better job, Asami. He may have forgotten that for a little while, but he did end up remembering."
Asami nodded slowly.
Korra inspected the gravestone. She brushed her thumb against the murky writing. "I can make this seamless. If you want."
Asami's expression softened. "I...I'd like that very much."
Korra slid her fingertips across the stone, recarving the lost words into the grave. "Dancer. I guess that explains why you're so graceful."
Asami smiled. "I guess it does."
Korra looked to the gravestone right beside it. "Hir-"
"No. I'll do it." Asami rose to her feet and shook her head. "Hiroshi Sato. 120 AG to 174 AG."
"...he didn't have a funeral."
"No one could come."
"I would. All of us would."
"For me. Not for him."
Korra looked away, and clearly had no response to that. "I couldn't help but notice your father's epitaph is blank."
"I didn't know what to put on it. I didn't even know if I wanted to have him buried next to mom. But, it was the right thing to do, even if I'm not quite sure my mother would have forgiven him, or that my father felt he deserved to be beside her again."
"I think it was the right thing to do." Korra ran her palm across Hiroshi's gravestone. "I can add something here, too. I'll need your words, though."
Asami closed her eyes and took a deep breath. In truth, she'd always known what to put there. She'd just never had the courage to do it. To say them. Make them real. "Beloved husband, father, son and inventor." She winced. "...and a quote."
Korra nodded for her to continue.
"Success is doing more for the world than the world does for you."
"That explains a lot…" Korra focused on the stone for a moment, and then there it was. Exactly the epitaph she'd wanted, in the same lettering as the one on her mother's. Sometimes, it was easy to forget how perceptive Korra was.
Asami stood silently for a long time, unsure of how to organize her thoughts. She kneeled down to her knees and bowed her head in front of his gravestone. Part of her wanted to break down and cry again, but somehow she felt that wasn't the best way to move forward. Not yet, at least.
"I can't forgive myself for all the horrible things I've done. And I never expect you to forgive me. I tore our family apart, and destroyed our good name. But in a life of regret, you're the one thing I look back on that makes me smile. I just want you to know I'm so proud of you, Asami. You are the greatest thing I ever created."
Asami pressed her palm on the stone and closed her eyes. "I love you, Dad," she whispered. "I forgive you…" She turned around and rested her back on his gravestone, wiping away the tears forming in her eyes. "I forgive you."
And that time, she truly meant it.
Korra sat down next to her, resting her back on her mother's tombstone. She took Asami's hand in hers and squeezed. "No sketching today?"
"I just want to...be. If that's okay."
"Today's about you, Asami. If it's okay with you, it's okay with me."
Asami closed her eyes and rested her head on Korra's shoulder. "Thank you."
"...because with larger aircraft, and a more powerful engine, it's entirely possible to out-do airships in terms of speed, efficiency and commercial use. Imagine if you could get on an airplane, with a bunch of other people, and fly to Omashu in a matter of hours. You land, you get out. You're in Omashu," said Asami as she opened the doors to her workshop, Artana in tow.
"That would certainly make traveling much faster, and simpler for the passengers. There's no such thing as air traffic, after all," said Artana.
Asami set her files down on her workbench and smiled. "Well, I'm not so sure about that. With enough airplanes in the air, it might become a problem. Again, thank you for accompanying me on the ferry. It's always a treat to bounce ideas off of fresh ears."
Artana shrugged and settled her cleanly organized papers next to Asami's. "Think nothing of it. We were coming from the same place, so it would have been rather odd of me to avoid you." She smiled just a little. "And, to be perfectly honest, you did just find me a home. Which is wonderful, as I'm sure I've mentioned a thousand times by now."
"I lived there for a few months myself. I know just how wonderful it is."
Artana nodded and was silent for a moment. "I don't mean to speak out of line, and let me know if I am-"
Asami snickered and held up her palm. "I'm not a tyrant, Artana. Just your boss. It's a free country. By all means, speak your mind. I wouldn't have hired you if you agreed with me on everything."
"No, that's not quite what I meant. Though, I do appreciate the reminder." She ran her fingers through her dark brown hair. "You're more approachable today. At ease. No less professional, of course, but more open."
Asami leaned against her workbench and took a deep breath. "It's that big a change, huh?"
"I haven't known you for very long, but from my perspective it's almost as if you're a different person. Almost."
"I guess it would look like that for you. My previous behavior, which I apologize for, was...I was not myself. Or, at least not completely. All you need to know, though, is that there's going to be a little less doom and gloom around here."
"That's very good to hear, Miss Sato."
"Please, call me Hiroshi."
"Please, call me Asami."
"Now, just so we're clear…" said General Iroh, holding his hand radio. "You're absolutely sure you harvested the entirety of the Foggy Swamp?"
"Yes. I'm sure. I was there for the entire operation," grunted Kuvira. "Did Raiko not send you a copy of my report? It has three years worth of campaign information and the entire structure of my old regime, not to mention training regimens, viable counters to their in-grained formations…"
General Iroh picked up the very, very thick binder. "No, I've got one and I've read it cover to cover." He set it back down on the table. "If what you're saying is true, then I either found a second swamp in the same location or…" He looked over the ridge and took another peak at the positively massive tree in the center of an infinitely thick tangle of vines and nature. "It grew back."
"I'm looking at the Banyan Grove tree right now, Kuvira. The swamp appears completely untouched."
"...they grow back. The vines grow back. No. No. General, I'm sorry, but I have to cut this conversation short. I have to write a report on what is now a very possible worst case scenario for our world."
"This scenario being what, exactly?"
"The end of everything."