The Only Winning Move...
Asami throws a party against her will, and it's just...she hates parties. This is why she hates parties.
Part 3 - This M.A.D. World of Ours
Section 8: "The Only Winning Move..."
“This really isn’t my kind of party!” Asami gripped her dress and scowled at Kuvira. “Thanks for that!”
Kuvira frowned. “I’m just as angry as you are!”
“How?! You don’t live here!”
“Human lives are worth more than---”
Korra smacked Kuvira on the back of the head. “Shut up.”
Artana tossed Asami a metalbent sword. “That’s about as sharp as it can get. Are you ready?”
Asami carefully sliced off the bottom half of her floor length dress and balled up the cloth. She handed off the red lump to Opal. She inspected the blade for a moment. It had been a few years since she’d held one, and the one she was wielding was lighter than what she was used to, but she felt her muscle memory flowing into place. “Yeah.”
Swords weren’t her weapon of choice. They were far too easy to kill with. Kyoshi Warrior fans, though? She adored those. They weren’t anywhere near as practical as her shock-glove. Asami made a mental note to get back to practicing those once everything was said and done.
Korra nodded. “Okay! On my count.” She held up three fingers. “Three.”
Asami took a small breath.
She brought up the schematics in her mind’s eye.
She bit her lip.
Korra and Opal rolled out from behind the couch and sent two powerful gusts of wind straight at the VarriMech. One to the chest, and the second to the helmet, covering it with remains of Asami’s dress. It stumbled straight into the path of Bolin, Artana and Kuvira’s barrage of marble. The mecha suit whirled around and shot a stream of fire out of its arm, which Mako charged and dissipated effortlessly.
That was her opening.
Asami vaulted over her loveseat, sliced open the access panel and smacked the emergency shutdown button. Well, all of the buttons. She couldn’t tell which was which at the moment. The mecha suit whirred to a stop and slouched. She sprinted around to the front, pried open the helmet, and helped Mako toss the pilot out her seat.
Kuvira pinned the pilot to the wall with a pair of metalbent cuffs. “Stand down.”
“Great Uniter! Why have you betrayed us!? We gave our---”
Kuvira slapped a metal strip on the woman’s mouth and grimaced. “They’re not going to stand down.”
“I figured as much.” Asami sighed. “Okay, we’ll try one more time, once we get them all into one place. If that doesn’t work, then we’ve only got one option.”
Korra raised a brow. “Which is?”
Earlier that day...
It was time.
Asami closed her eyes and took a long, deep breath. Months of work, research and fear. Translating long dead dialects from books older than time itself. Anger and bile clouding her judgement. Exhausting trial and error. Demoralizing setbacks and destruction. Weeks with little to no sleep.
An impossible task, but of course no such thing existed. Nothing was impossible. Not for her, not for anyone.
Asami’s hand rested on the miniaturized spirit cannon’s controls. Building the weapon had been frighteningly easy, but then that might have just been her team’s abundance of experience in the subject. The implosion device, ironically named the ‘Unity Defense System’, had been the true triumph of brilliance, perseverance and innovation.
Well, no, that wasn’t strictly true. It had been tested several hundred times, but the leaders of the world needed a live fire demonstration to ensure that what they’d be purchasing wasn’t simply a fluke. It was standard protocol, of course, but that didn’t stop Asami from feeling extremely nervous about accidentally assassinating Korra’s father, her cousins, Fire Lord Izumi, ‘Not Really A King, I Promise’ Wu, and President Raiko at the same time.
The mountain ranges just north of Republic City proved to be the perfect testing ground. Far away from the public eye, so as not to incite a panic, and if anything went wrong...well, the city would be safe. Still, she found herself feeling a distinct sense of dread due to the fact that their final demonstration zone had been the very same abandoned airfield her father had once tried to kill her in.
Dread in the sense that ‘bad things happened here’, as opposed to the...alternative. In her head, when planning the day, it had made so much sense to forcibly reassociate the airfield in her mind with victory and happiness, rather than grief and betrayal. She was no longer sure it was the best idea.
Asami shook her head free of those stray, foreboding thoughts and quintuple checked the cannon’s status dials. Everything, again, was in working order. Maybe she just couldn’t press the button. Artana had assembled it, since Varrick and Zhu Li had refused to go near the idea. She couldn’t force herself to do it either.
Her hands were clean, and they’d stay that way for as long as possible.
The original demonstration plan had been to detonate one bomb to show the destruction it could cause, and then show the effects of her implosion device with a second bomb. However, that plan had to be scrapped since a bomb wasn’t the iconic spirit weapon seared into the pages of history. A cannon had to be built, because that was the most ‘obvious and direct’ threat to the nations of the world, as they’d seen it before.
She looked up to at the government airship and bit her lip. She’d done it a hundred times during testing, half the time with bombs, but that was then. It wasn’t real, back then. Failure wouldn’t obliterate the leaders of the world in the blink of an eye.
“Artana, may I use your radio?” asked Asami.
“Of course.” Artana nodded, unclipped it from her belt and tossed it to her. “Is something the matter?”
“No, just covering my bases,” she said with a nervous smile. She tweaked the frequency to the one she knew Korra would have on her. Asami had planned ahead for quite nearly everything, after all. “You’re sure you can’t convince them to pull the airship out of the potential blast radius? There’s always the chance it could explode.”
“My dad has more confidence in you than he knows what to do with, which means he’s not going to budge. Even for me.”
Bolin clapped her on the back. “I’m not leaving either, if that makes you feel better. And I’m literally right next to the thing.”
“Thanks.” Asami frowned. “Korra, I have most of your family’s life in my hands, and he’s all right with that,” she deadpanned.
“Nobody is going to die today, Asami. Everyone up here knows that. Just fire the cannon and show everyone just how amazing I already know you are. Don’t think of this as a weapons test. Think of it like a fancy light show!”
Asami smiled, but only a little. “Okay, but just in case---”
“Can’t hear you, turning off the radio---”
“Korra? Korra. Korra!” Asami frowned and tossed the radio back to Artana. She looked between Varrick and Zhu Li. “Everyone ready?”
Varrick raised a brow. “We’ve been standing here like idiots for ten minutes. Of course we’re ready! Come on! Let’s show them the biggest, flashiest, most amazing light show they’ve ever seen!” He laughed and pumped his fist. “We’re gonna burn it right into the back of their eyeballs!”
Artana snickered. “I share most of his sentiment.”
Zhu Li smiled and nodded.
Bolin gave her two enthusiastic thumbs up.
Asami swallowed and looked out toward the pillar in the center of the clearing. “Okay, here we go. Firing in three, two, one…” She pulled the firing control lever and the cannon spun to life.
She held her breath.
Purple light flickered in the barrel and shot out in a tight beam. It made it halfway to the pillar before the energy exploded in a brilliant flash of light, freezing it in place. Slowly and steadily, the spirit energy swirled around the crackling pillar. It spun faster and faster until it vanished completely.
The pillar shot out a green signal flare.
Asami exhaled into a big, stupid grin. The world no longer had to live in constant fear of spirit weapons. Except for the one she was using, of course. Thankfully, Asami had planned for that too. The best part was that only three people knew about it.
Korra landed right beside her and collapsed her glider. “We’ve got maybe a minute before Raiko figures this out.” She tossed it to Asami and methodically bent the spirit cannon into a condensed metal block.
Bolin cracked his knuckles and neck. He enclosed the metal block in a cube of earth and sank it into the ground. Then, with a series of gestures she still wasn’t quite familiar with, turned the earth into lava. The molten rock flowed in time with his hands and then solidified into harmless, worthless black stone. “Aaaaaaand done.”
Varrick high-fived Bolin. “Lavatime! Haha!”
Artana sighed. “I spent a week on that, and you just melted it in all of thirty seconds.”
Bolin frowned. “Sorry.”
Varrick slung his arm around her shoulders. “Well, then do I have good news for you! The day isn’t even close to being over, because tonight---TONIGHT!” He snapped his fingers at Asami. “We’ve got ourselves a party thrown by the United Republic’s most stylish industrialist.”
Asami narrowed her eyes. “What party? I’m not throwing a party.”
“You’re not?” asked Bolin.
Korra scratched the back of her head. “I was also told that there would be a party. So were my cousins, my dad, Raiko, the Fire Lord...”
Asami smacked her forehead. “Varrick. Why did you tell them I was going to throw a party after this?”
“You can’t be serious.” Varrick stared at her incredulously. “The better question is why wouldn’t you throw the biggest, most extravagant and loudest party in history?! We just saved the world! Not celebrating that would be just as bad as failure!”
“No, it wouldn’t.”
“Well, too bad! I already planned and organized it as a surprise, specifically for you! ”
Asami pinched her brow. They hadn’t even saved the world. Not really. “All right. Where is it being held?”
“Your place. Where else would it be?”
Asami massaged her temples. “Okay. Wow.”
Korra frowned. “Varrick, you have to fix this.”
“He can’t,” sighed Asami. “Cancelling this kind of thing last minute would make it seem like I’m hiding something, specifically that the defense system doesn’t actually work. Which it does.”
“If I were you, I’d simply post a bouncer outside of your estate with a list of who is allowed to attend,” said Artana. “Treating your home like an exclusive jazz club may make the night that much easier. And I think it’d be nice to celebrate what we’ve accomplished. It’s not everyday that we can say we made the world a safer place.”
Asami slowly nodded. “That’s true. We should be celebrating a little. We’ve accomplished the impossible, and…” She smiled. “I do like the idea of my home being a trendy nightclub, if only for an evening.”
Korra smirked. “It does sound pretty fun, doesn’t it?”
“Mhmm. The only problem is that, while I can kick the press out, I’ll still have to entertain Raiko.”
Zhu Li smiled softly. “No, you don’t. He’s quite easy to drink under the table.”
“How do you know that?”
Varrick waved his hands dismissively. “Don’t ask! I’ve just learned to accept that Zhu Li knows things that are completely impossible to know---”
“Iknik and I were attending a gala with him several years ago. It was the first time he’d had...traditional water tribe alcohol.”
Korra and Bolin exchange a look and broke out into loud, boisterous belly laughter.
“....and furthermore, those spirit vines you’ve been using for research are United Republic property! You cannot simply destroy samples of them whenever you want, and that includes prototype weaponry that, by extension, belongs to the government,” ranted Raiko.
Asami frowned. Of course he and his seemingly innumerable followers had been the first to arrive. Hadn’t he ever heard of being fashionably late?
She had tried to salvage the evening in order to make it a fun and celebratory get together between close friends and family, but no. No, of course Raiko had to turn it into a political function. Asami didn’t have the slightest clue as to how he’d managed to summon the entirety of Republic City’s political and business scene to her home with less than a day’s notice, but somehow he’d done it.
For a politician, the man could be very petty.
Asami took a ‘polite’ sip of her drink. She’d started out with red wine, just to take the edge off, but once her front door had been flooded with people whom she’d spoken to less than her own shoes, she switched to liquor. Good liquor. Delicious, smooth liquor that wouldn’t stain her dress like the wine would.
They were both red, but different shades of red, so...it’d still stain. What was Raiko talking about?
“Mister President,” she cleared her throat. “I don’t care. Fine me. Send me a bill. I really just don’t care.”
“It’s far more serious than that, Miss Sato. If I wanted to, I could have you charged for treason.”
“Really.” Asami narrowed her eyes. “You’re well aware that would be political suicide. By attacking me, you’re attacking one the single largest and philanthropic conglomerates in the world, as well as the Avatar, and by extension the entire Air Nation.” She downed the rest of her drink. “Here’s a thought. Maybe instead of berating me for not being your pretty little puppet, you could ask Future Industries for assistance in addressing the rather enormous mass of refugees just outside the city limits?”
Raiko frowned. “The war isn’t over. What needs to happen for me to convince you of that?”
“An actual war might help."
“Asami! Hey! Hey, hey! How’s my favorite super lady doing?” said Wu as he hugged her in a way that was way too friendly to be described as appropriate. The second he wasn’t ‘Interim Regent’ of the Earth-Something, she was going to smack him across the face so hard his great aunt would feel it from beyond the grave. “Could I borrow the illustrious President Raiko from you for several hours? Thaaaaaaaaaank you!”
And then Wu dragged a very infuriated Raiko away from her and over somewhere else. Oh. Perhaps she should send him something nice as a thank you. Wine. Bottle of wine. Everyone loved a good bottle of wine.
“I told him that he could ride Naga if he got Raiko out of your hair for the rest of the night,” said Korra, slipping her arm around her waist. The blue dress she’d helped her pick out was...a lot of dangerously enticing words. Asami wasn’t quite so eloquent at the moment, so she decided on drop dead gorgeous and---why can’t the stupid party be over so she could properly admire it.
“You are a shrewd and beautiful negotiator.”
“I am both of those things, yes,” said Korra. “Joke’s on him, though. Naga is very particular.”
“He’s going to wet himself all over her saddle.”
“Good thing I’m a waterbender. So, are you done meeting and greeting all of the important people yet?”
“Everyone except for your dad and the Fire Lord.”
“Perfect. Oh, and look at that, you need another drink. Up for a real one this time?”
“Mhmm.” Asami raised a brow at the growing number of people flooding into her estate. The yards, all of them, were filled to capacity, and she was pretty sure that her sitting room and library were occupied too. The kitchen, oh my, the kitchen was...she wasn’t going back in there. It was insanity. “Wait, how much more real does it get than whiskey---” Her eyes widened and she slowly grinned. “No way. You found some?” she whispered.
“You bet your perfect butt I did!” Korra giggled and nuzzled her cheek. “Which I may have sampled. Maybe.”
“Maybe, huh?” she said coyly.
“I can maybe tell you that my dad is really, really, really good at brewing it.”
“Your dad made it? How did he know I was throwing a party against my will?”
Korra wrinkled her nose. “You’re not the only one who has trouble getting through one conversation with Raiko, you know. Well, that, and it’s almost impossible to find this far away from the Water Tribes. If it’s not filtered through a glacier, it’s not authentic.”
“It makes way too much sense that your breath smells like diesel right now.”
Korra wiggled her eyebrows. A lot. Cruel. Cruel, cruel, cruel.
Asami bit her lower lip. “Stop that.”
“Where’s everyone else hiding out?”
“Sitting room. Bolin and Opal started making out and everyone else just left.”
Asami laughed. “That’s fantastic. Shall we depart, then?”
Korra smiled. “We shall.”
Kuvira was very tired of Raiko’s manipulative antics.
Forcing her, by executive decree, to attend Ms. Sato’s impromptu celebration would only cause unnecessary distress and animosity between herself and everyone close to her. As if everything wasn’t bad enough, she just couldn’t shake the feeling that the estate itself was glaring at her.
The fact that Raiko hadn’t provided her with her typical escorts was also very odd and disconcerting. Were they starting to trust her? Was he testing her? She wasn’t going to run. Even if she had somewhere to go, she wouldn’t. Her job wasn’t done.
Her simple United Forces dress uniform, despite her not actually being a part of it, was all she had in terms of formal wear. It was, after all, provided for her by one of Raiko’s aides. It wasn’t entirely uncomfortable, but red was not her color.
She’d entered through the front door, past the security VarriMechs, thankfully out of Ms. Sato’s field of view for the moment, and immediately made herself scarce by staying right next to the open bar. Ms. Sato would have no need to go there, she hoped.
However, something in her gut told her that it was good fortune that she’d been dragged there that night, of all nights. It was a sense of inevitable dread, though if she were being honest, she did often get philosophically introspective when drinking, so it could’ve simply been that.
But she seriously doubted it.
Kuvira looked up from her drink and surveyed the ever growing crowd. Something was off.
She recognized too many of those people. While she had been become reasonably acquainted with many of the world’s diplomats and foreign dignitaries in the past three years, they didn’t number quite that many. There were hundreds in attendance, and Kuvira knew she’d seen the faces of nearly two-thirds of them. Not just in passing, but multiple times.
And then she noticed how they were wading through the crowd. They were searching for someone. Searching for…
Kuvira’s heart dropped into her stomach. They were all going to die because she’d gotten them too riled up. Too fanatical. That is, unless she was able to get to Korra first. If she explained the situation there was a chance they could convince them to stand down and surrender. A slim chance, but a chance all the same.
Finding Korra without drawing attention to herself, however, was going to prove quite the challenge. The Sato estate was enormous. But she couldn’t fail. Not with so many of her people’s lives on the line.
Asami Sato did not get plastered. She did not get jazzed, corked, or drunk. She did, however, learn very quickly that Southern Water Tribe mash liquor was about as strong as alcohol could possibly get.
And that it really wasn’t the time for a party. Everyone was relaxed, sure, and that was indeed a blessing, but they hadn’t really...won yet. There wasn’t enough to celebrate, and they all seemed to feel it.
Varrick leaned over the couch and rested his head between Korra and Asami. “Okay. I’ll be the first to admit that I might have gotten a little too excited with this whole ‘saving the world’ thing. But do we have to mope around?! Come on! It’s a party!”
Asami stuck out her tongue. “We’re not moping! I’m not moping. Korra, are you moping?”
Korra chuckled and moved Varrick’s head so she could lie down in her lap. “Nope. I’m actually super happy right now.”
Varrick raised a brow. “You don’t look happy. You look sleepy.”
“I’ve achieved inner peace,” she said haughtily.
Mako snickered. “Really? You want to try lightningbending again?”
“No. Shut up.”
“It’ll just blow up in your face if you’re lyinggggggggg.”
Korra threw a pillow at him and pouted. “That happened one time. One time.”
Asami ran her fingers through Korra’s hair, playing with it. “You are the cutest drunk.”
“Oh, so you’re just imbalanced?” teased Opal.
“Yea---No. Nope. Nice try!”
“Guys. You guys.” Bolin looked up from his commandeered tray of appetizers. “I just had the best idea.”
Opal shook him lightly and grinned. “What? What is it?”
“We should start a band!”
“Yeah! A band!”
Korra snorted into a laugh. “What? Why would we start a band?”
“Hm, I’m not sure, let me think about that for a second---because it’d be awesome!”
Mako snatched a skewer of meat off of his brother’s tray. “You can’t play an instrument.”
“So? I’ve got charisma and stage presence, and the rest of you can learn fast, so that’s taken care of. Oh, and Asami would be the lead singer, so we don’t even need to be talented.”
Asami bit her knuckles as she laughed. “No! No, oh, you don’t want that. I’m even worse than my mother!”
Bolin groaned and collapsed further into the other couch. “Finnnnnnne, okay, no bands. Even though ‘Asami and the Fire Ferrets---”
Opal raised a brow. “So, would that make me a Fire Ferret?”
“Okay, okay, Opal and the Fire Fe---”
Asami cleared her throat.
Bolin rolled his eyes. “Opal and the Future Industries Fire Ferrets would be---”
Varrick waved his arms around frantically. “Forgetting somebody?! Specifically me?! And Zhu Li?!”
Zhu Li chuckled.
Bolin huffed and smacked his cheeks a few times. “ALL RIGHT! Opal and the Future Industries Fire Ferrets, sponsored by Varrick Industries International! Okay?! Are we all okay with our imaginary band name now?!”
Asami shrugged. “Not really. Why would our band have two sponsor companies that are in direct competition with one another? It doesn’t make any sense, especially since I’d be a part of the band in the first place.”
Bolin buried his head in his hands. “I give up. I don’t want to make a band anymore.”
Artana whistled as she washed her hands in the ladie’s powder room. Perhaps she’d spoken too soon about celebrating, as Raiko had ruined any hope of the evening turning into anything resembling that. Exclusive club? Hardly. All of his insufferable cronies and...well, she didn’t know them personally, but Asami had complained about them enough for her to get the general idea of their...mental climate.
To put it kindly.
At the very least, though, she’d gotten the chance to become more familiar with the Sato estate, which was absolutely gorgeous, and far more practical than the Palace of Ba Sing Se ever was. It had to be. Asami had over forty people, none of whom were blood related to her, living on the grounds.
Such altruism from a woman in her position was rare, in Artana’s experience.
She idly wondered if there were any secret passageways. That would be fun.
The door opened behind her and Artana raised a brow as she saw a familiar woman’s face reflect in the mirror. Odd. “Occupied…” Artana turned around and narrowed her eyes at the woman. “Shu?”
“Sorry!” The woman’s eyes lit up. “Artana? Oh! I didn’t expect to see you here.”
“I could say the same about you,” she said, drying her hands.
Shu shrugged. “Well, it was bound to happen eventually. There aren’t many people in our line of work as there used to be, after all.”
“I suppose that’s true.” Artana blinked. “How did you know there was a bathroom up here? There are public ones outside for the party.”
“I didn’t feel like waiting in line, Artana. And you’re one to talk, since you’re also here.”
Artana wrinkled her nose. “...as one of the key engineers of the Unity Defense Grid. I’ve been working quite closely with Asami, and I don’t think she would appreciate you using her private bathroom.”
Shu studied her closely for a moment. “You’ve certainly made yourself at home here, haven’t you?”
Artana chuckled. “Of course. I’ve got full citizenship. Why, has the paperwork not gone through for you, yet? If that’s an issue, I can see about getting it expedited. For old time’s sake. Asami has a surprising amount of influence in the United Republic. More than I could have predicted.”
“What? No, we’re all here on temporary papers. You’re fully integrated, I take it?”
Artana narrowed her eyes. ‘We?’ Temporary papers? The borders were closed. They had been for months. “I’ve been here for months, Shu. It wasn’t so difficult.”
Shu cleared her throat and scratched the back of her head. “Oh! Oh, I’m sorry. I misunderstood. I thought we were here for the same reason.”
Artana gripped the hand towel just a little tighter. “So did I. You know, I wish I’d known ahead of time that you would all be in town. It would’ve been nice to have dinner with old friends.”
“Well, you know how these things go. Move fast, or don’t move at all.”
There it was. Assumptions. Misplaced trust. Amateur.
Artana snapped the towel into Shu’s eyes, causing her to stumble backward. She kicked her into the wall, cracking the wallpaper. Artana twisted her fingers with one hand, locking the door, and used the other to bind Shu to the wall with the room’s fixtures. “Why are you here, and who else is with you?”
Shu coughed and looked at her incredulously. “You---You defected?!”
Artana scoffed. “After all the blood, sweat and tears I put into the Earth Empire? Are you insane? I’m not about to write off the most productive three years of my life simply because Kuvira surrendered.”
Shu considered her for a moment. “...then why did you just kick me into the wall?”
“This isn’t a short term goal for me, Shu. It’s the long game. I can’t afford a single misstep.”
“Oh. I was not briefed on this.”
Artana tilted her head. “General Yao is still the fool, I take it. He’s fully aware of what job I’d taken while---nevermind that, what are you doing here? I didn’t even know about this party until today.”
“Neither did we, but we’ve been tracking the Great Uniter’s movements ever since she was ‘pardoned’. She follows a strict pattern, though it doesn’t seem like she’s doing so willingly.” Her eyes lit up with excitement. “She’s here tonight, and with the crowds as large as they are, it’s the best time to extract her.”
Artana’s brows vanished into her hairline. “She’s here? Why? That’s…” And then it clicked. “Oh. She’s bait. Clever.”
“Bait? For who?”
“For you. I never said I didn’t defect.” Artana punched her in the throat, collapsing her windpipe.
Shu choked, struggled to breath, and collapsed entirely. It wouldn’t take long for the rest of her body to fail.
“You never did learn the meaning of true patience.”
Artana scowled. She should have seen that coming. Raiko using Kuvira as bait to lure out loyalists. But for what purpose? How had they managed to cross the border unassisted?
And most importantly: Why was that particular loyalist faction unaccounted for?
She could answer those questions later. For the time being only one thing was important.
Kuvira walked briskly down one of the many, many halls of the Sato estate. She was keenly aware that she was being tailed by three expert metalbenders, so time, and luck, were of the essence.
Neither had been on her side for a very long time.
They wouldn’t attack her, she knew that, but she had the sinking feeling that making contact with them would be bad for everyone involved. They’d been riled up into a frenzy if they thought ‘rescuing’ her was a rational plan.
Kuvira kept her ears open, waiting and listening for a sign, something, anything, of Korra and her friends.
“...well, then we’ll find a window, and I’ll show you how much inner peace I have! How about that?!” barked Korra as she threw open a large doorway a few feet in front of her.
“Korra! Calm down, it’s just a joke!” yelled Mako from within the room.
“Yeah, well your jokes have a bad habit of pissing me off! Is knowing how to strike every nerve part of being a detective or something? Because if it is, I can see why you’re so great at it!”
“It sort of is, actually.”
“Ugh! That’s just---” Her eyes narrowed as she finally noticed Kuvira. “What are you doing here?”
Kuvira ran up to her. “Fanatical loyalists have infiltrated the estate. They’re most likely trying to extract me, by force if necessary. I need help. Please.”
Korra’s eyes widened and violently yanked her inside of the room, slamming the door shut behind her. “Okay! Party just got interestingggggg! Everybody hear that, or does the ‘Great Uniter’ have to repeat it?”
Kuvira frowned. “How much have you had to drink?”
Opal hummed. “Collectively, or individually?”
Bolin clapped his hands together. “Too much! Also, not enough!”
“I can’t believe this.” Asami rose from the couch and growled. “Another home invasion?! Well, that’s just fantastic! You know what I’m doing tomorrow?! I’m going to electrify my floors! And booby-trap everything!”
Mako slapped his cheeks a few times. “Okay, okay, okay. How many of them are there?”
Kuvira winced. “I’m not sure. If I had to guess...fifty.”
Asami’s eyes twitched. “Fifty.” She marched over and punched her square in the mouth. “This is my home! You brought terrorists into my home! How is it possible that, even after we’ve beaten you, you’re still screwing things up for us?!”
Kuvira stumbled backward and caught herself on the wall. She rubbed her throbbing jaw and bowed her head. She could have broken it if she’d wanted to, and Kuvira was having trouble thinking of a reason as to why she wouldn’t. “I---”
“It’s not her,” said Artana, slipping into the sitting room and shutting the door behind her. “It’s Raiko. He’s been using her as bait to get her loyalists to come out of hiding and make a play for her. There’s no other explanation for them being here tonight, since the party was impromptu. Unless the organizer leaked information.”
Korra stared blankly at Artana. “How can you possibly know that?”
“I didn’t study just engineering. I have a degree in Political Science from Ba Sing Se University, as well.”
“It’s true. She does,” said Kuvira and Asami, in unison.
Asami frowned and slapped Kuvira.
“Stop that!” Kuvira scowled. “You have every right to hate me, but that doesn’t mean---”
“SHUT UP!” yelled everyone.
So she did.
“Korra pinched her brow. “All right. So, we’ve got around fifty metalbenders.”
Artana cleared her throat. “It should be closer to forty-six, actually.”
Korra gave her a small nod. “Okay, forty-six. And they’re hiding. Can’t you just ask them to stand down, Kuvira?”
“I was going to attempt that yes. However, I think it might be more effective if you were there beside me. You still hold political clout in the former Empire, as you are the Avatar.”
The sitting room doors exploded inwards and smashed into the back wall. A VarriMech, without Empire markings, had punched them open. Everyone dove behind the furniture narrowly avoiding the electrified net it shot out of its arm.
Asami slammed her palm against the floor. “Varrick! How do we beat these things---”
“Without using an electromagnetic pulse! I am not rewiring my entire house!”
“Fine! Fine, fine, fine.” Varrick rolled his eyes. “There’s an emergency shutdown button behind one of the back panels! If you hit that, the power plant will shut off temporarily!”
Kuvira clenched her fists. “It’s platinum lined. We can’t bend it open.”
Bolin ripped the sleeves off his suit. Kuvira did not have the time nor patience to question that. “I can maybe melt it open. And the whole thing. I’ve never tried to lavabend drunk before.”
“Too dangerous.” Asami drummed her fists into the ground. “But we might be able to cut it open.” She snapped her fingers. “Okay, I’m more than a little tipsy, but I’m pretty sure this idea is brilliant. Here’s what we’re gonna do…”
Asami charged forward in the VarriMech and leaped off her balcony. She landed in the center of her foyer, knocking a dozen guests off of their feet, and couldn’t help but feel an odd sense of deja vu. And nausea. She’d really had too much to drink.
She was surrounded by her guests, all of them in formal wear. It was impossible to tell which of them were the loyalists just from a glance. However, they’d come up with two ways to counter that. The first was to keep using Kuvira as bait to lure them all into one place.
“Those of you in attendance that claim loyalty to the Great Uniter are urged to listen!” said Asami, putting on her best ‘not-drunk-at-all’ business voice. “For she has words for you! Important words! That you should be listening too...okay, you know what, just look at the top of the stairs.”
In the event that failed, they would just attack all of the combatants that engaged the VarriMech she was piloting. She liked the first idea better. Asami looked around her and spotted Tonraq. She waved the VarriMech’s arm, mimicking a waterbending move she’d seen Korra use a thousand times. Tonraq seemed to understand her meaning and nodded, slowly vanishing within the crowd. Hopefully, he was going to find his niece and nephew.
“Loyal subjects of the former Earth Empire!” said Kuvira, her voice booming over the foyer as if she had a microphone. Talk about stage presence. “I truly appreciate the effort, loyalty and resolve you have shown in this endeavor. But I am in no need of rescue. The war is over.” She paused folded her hands behind her back. “I surrendered willingly. I am not here under duress, nor have I have been, in my own personal opinion, treated unfairly. Please, for the sake of your lives, I urge you to stand down and surrender yourselves to the United Republic. No one needs to die today.”
The crowd was silent for a long, tense moment.
“THE AVATAR BRAINWASHED HER!”
“SHE’S A BLOODBENDER!”
“SAVE THE GREAT UNITER!”
“Wow! Look at all the political clout I have, Kuvira! It’s allllll over the place!” yelled Korra.
“Okay, you morons asked for it!” Asami smacked her head against the inside of the helmet as a flurry of metal strips and rocks began slamming into her. “Plan B!”
From the top of the stairs, Mako and Korra shot large fireballs at her curtains, setting them ablaze. The smoke immediately set the fire suppression system off, and water rained down from the ceiling. Little by little, the combatants were frozen in place by streams of water coming from every direction.
Korra, Tonraq, Eska and Desna were doing a bang up job. Probably even better than a giant magnet, if she had one. Well, one that was assembled. And not in the sub-basement.
Opal and Tenzin kept the loyalists from grounding themselves, while Bolin, Mako, Artana and Kuvira were focused on suppressing them. Kuvira managed to pin a few to the walls and floors with metalbent cuffs, but since they were fighting metalbenders it only slowed them down. Artana, on the other hand, seemed to be using their own metal against them, but with similar success.
But then something happened that Asami hadn’t foreseen.
They ran out of water.
The remaining loyalists continued to tear apart her home, destroying her marble floors again, and she launched net after net, capturing those she could, but the fight wasn’t going to end anytime soon. She was going to run out of nets, and they were going to resort to taking hostages, since not all of her guests had managed to flee quite yet---
“Eska!” yelled Tonraq.
One of the loyalists, a large man with a full beard, held Eska at knifepoint and dragged her into the center of room. Eska, to her credit, did not seem phased by it at all. “Okay! See?! Let’s trade! Your precious Water Tribe Chief for our Great Uniter!”
“I have been fighting you people for the last twenty minutes!” screamed Kuvira. “And she’s one of the Chiefs of the Northern Water Tribe!”
“We’re independent! There’s a difference!” yelled Desna, Eska, Tonraq, Varrick and Korra simultaneously.
The loyalist didn’t seem to care too much about how politically correct his hostage negotiation was. “What does it matter?! The Avatar is controlling---”
Korra groaned from the top of the stairs. “I can’t even do that! That’s so stupid! You’re so stupid! Eska, how did this even happen?!”
Eska rolled her eyes. “We ran out of water. What was I supposed to do? Scream ‘oh no I am being taken hostage, someone rescue me for I am incapable of defending myself’?”
Desna scoffed. “That would have accomplished nothing.”
The rest of the loyalists grouped up behind the Eska. All in one place. If only they’d had more water. And didn’t have to deal with this hostage situation. How was she supposed to deal with that?
Bolin stomped up to the man who seemed to be in charge, waving around a bottle of liquor. “Stop it! Stop fighting! This was supposed to be a party but noooooooooooooo you had to go and ruin it with your stupid obsession! I was enjoying a nice relaxing time with my friends and family, but now I can’t!”
“ONE MORE STEP AND---”
“SHUT UP!” screamed Bolin, right in the man’s face. “You’re going to listen to me! And listen well, fair dunderheads!” Bolin yanked the man’s blade out of his hands and tossed it to the ground. He shoved Eska away and then headbutted the metalbender. “If you metal morons don’t surrender in the next two seconds I am going to MELT EVERYONE IN THIS ROOM! ONLY LIVING LAVABENDER! COME AT ME! SEE WHAT HAPPENS!”
Asami didn’t have a response to that. No one did, as the room fell silent.
“OKAY!” The metalbender screamed and raised his hands above his head. “Okay! Okay, please don’t melt us, Nuktuk! Everyone stand down! Damnit, what the hell is wrong with you?!”
Before he had a chance to answer, Lin and two squads of RCPD metalbenders came surging through her front door. Their cables swarmed around the loyalists and subdued them.
“Sato!” yelled Lin. “How’s that for response time?”
“It’s still terrible!”
“Of course it is.”
Asami popped her hatch and hopped out of the VarriMech. She tried not to focus too much on the all too familiar sensation of wet broken marble on her bare feet. Her home was torn up again, but unlike the first time, she’d had backup. Well, more than just Mako.
Out of all of the disasters that could have ruined the party, her home transforming into a warzone again wasn’t something she’d considered.
Warzone. Asami looked over at a very frustrated Raiko arguing with an equally infuriated Lin.
“The war isn’t over. What needs to happen for me to convince you of that?”
“An actual war might help."