Repairs, Retrofits and Upgrades

Midnight

Love is everywhere, if you know where to look. So is purple.



Part 4 - Faith and Pragmatism

Section 6: "Midnight"


Tenzin looked out of his office window. There was Artana, meditating, again. Under the same tree. Again. He shook his head and turned his attention back to the mountains of paperwork he'd been stuck with. International clandestine operations, even if they were strictly charitable and benign in nature, needed the proper documentation. Ironically, when the Earth Kingdom was still a broken kingdom instead of a struggling empire, dispatching airbenders was as simple as telling them where to go and how quickly.

It didn't help matters that the Air Nation was that in name only, but that would change in time.

"Tenzin, if you're so curious, why not go over and talk to her?" whispered Pema. "It might just make her day."

"Deep, introspective meditation is a very personal spiritual practice. It's not something that I can just interrupt because I happen to be curious. Artana has sat there outside, right under that tree, every three days for months on end, for exactly one hour." He looked at her out of the corner of his eyes. "...maybe I should ask Jinora to check if she's in the Spirit World."

"Sweetie, this is clearly bothering you. You just went from respecting boundaries to crazy eavesdropping in one sentence. Though I gotta admit, it is kind of odd that she does this so much, considering her profession. Are you sure she's not sleeping?"

Tenzin raised a brow. "I suppose it's possible..." He stroked his beard.

Pema rubbed his arm. "Maybe you should just let this one go, okay? You've got lots of important things to do, and the patterns of one of our many live-ins is hardly a priority."

"That doesn't mean that---"

The telephone rang, cutting him off. He shrugged and answered it.

"Air Temple Island. Tenzin speaking."

"Hi Tenzin!"

"Korra." His face lit up. "It's wonderful to hear from you. How is everything going in the south pole?"


Korra smiled as she watched Asami, appearing much brighter than she'd been the day before, look through an old photo album with her parents. Tonraq on her left, Senna on the right. And Korra realized that it was exactly the same positioning they used with her. "Great. We...worked it out," she whispered.

Things were better. Not perfect, but better. And they'd only get better, if she had anything to say about it.

"That's wonderful news, Korra. I'm very happy for you."

"Thanks. Anyway, just checking in. How's the Air Nation?"

"The same as it was before you left."

"So...thriving?"

"Do you want to hear me say that?"

"I kinda need to. It's..." She bit her lip and wrapped her finger around the cord. "I just get really worried. Is that what being a parent feels like? You're just scared all the time that something horrible is going to happen when you're not around?"

"It can be. Before Ikki was born, Pema and I panicked about everything. Every news story in the paper was suddenly a tragedy that could happen to Jinora. We never let her out of our sight unless it was absolutely necessary."

"That's exactly how I feel with you guys. All the time. Even something so simple as flying into the city makes me nervous."

"We're doing fine, Korra. We're thriving. Believe me, you'll be the first person to know if that ever changes."

Korra nodded and turned back toward Asami, who had the biggest grin plastered on her face. "Okay. Thanks. I'll call again once we get to the Fire Nation, all right?"

"I'm looking forward to it. Goodbye."

"Bye." She hung up the phone and raised a brow. "What are you guys showing her, exactly?"

"There are so many pictures of baby Naga in here! Korra, you have to see these. They're adorable," said Asami.

Korra chuckled in relief and leaned over the couch, looking at the old photographs over her shoulder. "I'm in most of these, you know." She pointed to a large one at the top of the page. Naga, who was only half a head taller than her grinning toddler self, was itching at a tiny saddle. "Her first saddle. Took me forever to make."

"She was not very fond of that first one. Now, why was that again, Korra?" her father teased.

"...because it..." She frowned and scratched her neck. "It rode up on her."

"Which is exactly what you should have been doing in the first place."

Korra groaned and covered her face behind Asami's hair.

Asami laughed and patted her head. "Oh, come on. It's pretty funny. And hey, your craftsmanship has only improved since then. Maybe I should have you make clothes for me some time."

Senna snickered and turned to the next page. "I'd be careful with requests like that," she said, tapping the photo of a ten year old Korra in a sleeveless top. "She might get fed up with measuring her own wingspan and just tear the arms off."

Korra pouted.

Asami giggled. "I think I'll take my chances."


Artana opened her eyes and stretched out her arms against the tree. She shielded her eyes from the midday sun and got up from her usual spot. Routine was important. Routine was stability and gave rise to freedom. It was also quite comforting.

"...for the last time, I'm not having construction crews milling about the island! Do you have idea how disruptive that kind of work would be to the temple?" ranted Tenzin as he walked across the grounds, dragging a rather ludicrous telephone extension cord behind him. "The Air Nation is already militarized enough, and I will not have you, or anyone else, turning our homes into some sort of hardened bunker!"

Artana rested an arm on her leg and watched him intently. Perhaps he was talking to Varrick? Or Raiko? Either way, she had to agree with him. Air Temples were supposed to be peaceful, safe places unfettered by the rest of the word. To undo that would be to strip an integral part of Air Nation's culture away from them.

"Hi!"

Artana spun around to find a waving Ikki. "Oh! Hello, Ikki. You startled me."

"Sorry sorry sorry! I didn't mean to! Hey, wait, I thought you couldn't get scared because you're always paying attention to everything!" Ikki pouted and put her hands on her hips. "You know, the way you look around all the time everywhere like you're worried a saber tooth moose lion is going to jump out of the bushes and eat you?"

Artana blinked and cleared her throat. Odd. "Apology accepted, though I'm not sure what you mean. Everyone gets scared sometimes."

"Not me. I'm never scared. Jinora gets scared a lot because she gets kidnapped all the time, and Meelo just lies, but I'm never scared. I'm unscarable."

For a brief moment, Artana considered how she would go about scaring Ikki, but ultimately decided against continuing train of thought. Scaring a child? Ridiculous. "I'm sure you're right. Now, was there something you needed, or did you just want to stop by and say hello?"

"Uhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhmmmm, both. Did you hear from your friend yet?"

"What friend?"

"Nilani. Your friend." She poked the 'sculptor' tattoo on her arm. "That one, remember?"

Artana nodded and frowned. "No, I'm afraid I haven't." She sighed and knelt down so that they were at eye level. "Ikki, I don't think that---" There was a loud crash and she spun around to catch Tenzin tripping over the long, tangled phone cord and falling into one of the thin wooden doors. She bit back her laughter. "I was wondering how long that would take..." She jogged over to him and helped him up. "Are you all right?"

Ikki laughed and flew over to them. "Are you okay, daddy?"

Tenzin huffed and dusted himself off. "I'm fine." He looked down at the severed cord and frowned. "Though I'll have to buy another one of these, it seems."

"You should consider using a regular cord next time," said Artana. "What was that about, if you don't mind me asking?"

"Hm? Oh, Raiko was trying to get me to make the island more secure. Platinum-lining, defense pillars. I don't doubt that what you helped create works, but you have to understand that it wouldn't be right to---"

"Install them in an Air Temple. No, I completely understand. This is not a place to live in fear. Ideally, it's the opposite."

Tenzin smiled. "Yes. Exactly. Thank---"


"---you for buying the 'deluxe' Unity Defense System package," Suyin read aloud. She looked up from the letter and at the dozen or so shipping crates being offloaded from the airship. Two of Asami's newest flying machines, Satohawks, were flying in a holding pattern around the landing zone. "If you're reading this, you hereby acknowledge that your purchase was delivered as ordered and forfeit any right to seek legal action..."

The railways were no longer safe in the former Earth Kingdom, despite the Untied Republic's best efforts. Zaofu had always been self-sustaining, not to mention moderately isolationist, but being almost entirely cut off from outside trade and commerce was something different altogether. The fact that her two oldest children weren't returning home anytime soon didn't help matters.

"...as a token of our gratitude here at Varrick Industries International, enclosed is a voucher good for five free mover tickets to the upcoming release of 'The Legend of Avatar Korra', the most anticipated mover in mover history..." Suyin took the aforementioned voucher out of the envelope and inspected it. Starring Bolin as...himself? Well, she didn't have a choice. Opal would be devastated if she didn't attend.

Huan scoffed and frowned more intensely than usual. "Movers have only been around for four years! If I wanted to, I could make a mover better than that. Audiences would tremble before the raw emotion of the epic, unending cycle of violence and love!"

Wing nudged him in the ribs. "Really? So do it."

Wei did the same on the other side. "Yeah! C'mon make the mover!"

Huan rolled his eyes. "It's not meant for normal eyes! If you two watched it, your eyes would burn from simply witnessing its beauty! Its perfection and magnificence. You are incapable of understanding the enormity of the act of traveling through time itself!"

"Probably because it doesn't make any sense."

Wing and Wei high-fived.

Suyin smiled and handed the defense system's manual to her husband. "What do you make of this?"

Baatar flipped open the thick book and his eyes zipped along the pages. It never got old. Watching him read, absorbing all of that information just so...quickly. "It looks simple enough. Installing it, I mean. We just have to drill them into the ground in high population areas, then turn them on. I'd say..." He pointed to the large, domeless districts. "One in the center of each." He sighed. "We really need to rebuild the rest of the domes. I don't like seeing Zaofu like this. The rest of the city shouldn't be so exposed."

"I know. I don't like it either, but---"


"---as much as I hate to admit it..." grumbled Desna. "Raiko does have a point. We have a responsibility to our people to protect them."

Eska scoffed and tossed the pamphlet to a nearby servant. "More like mother would be furious if we didn't try. And doesn't he know how ridiculous platinum will look on all of this ice? Our entire cultural aesthetic will be ruined!"

"What if we just froze the plating over with more ice?"

"We could do that. Perhaps we should just paint it ice blue."

"The paint would freeze before it dried."

Eska nodded and clapped her hands together. "Then it's settled. Servants! Paint the tribe blue!"

"...not all of it. Just the metal parts."

"Yes. Just the---"


"---thing we'll need to combat these Red Lotus revolutionaries," said General Iroh, signing off on a rather hefty delivery of defense pillars via Satohawk airlift. He handed the clipboard back to the courier. "Please pass on my thanks to Miss Sato if you're able."

"Will do, General," said the courier.

General Iroh folded his hands behind his back and took a closer look at the pillars. Immaculate and uniform design, but bleeding edge all the same. He rolled out his map of Omashu and frowned. "Engineering Corps! I want these installed, equidistant from the palace center, by nightfall! No exceptions! The city built by the first earthbenders will not fall to the---"


"---likes of you, detective!" said Raiko, raising his voice. "Do you think that the United Republic is made of money? Do you have any idea the kind of budgetary constraints that I have to work with are? Public works may be all but repaired at this point, but what about the hundreds of thousands that lost their homes and businesses from that spirit weapon?!" He scowled and made a throwaway gesture. "You're asking me to delegate funds for humanitarian aid to an unsanctioned refugee camp just outside of our city! Those are not citizens; they are squatters!"

Mako frowned and narrowed his eyes at Raiko, glaring past his head and into the back wall of his office. "That's the same justification every other politician has used to avoid having to deal with the homelessness problem in our city. Which is worse than ever, by the way. Triad numbers are rising, even though there isn't much activity. There's nothing for them to do." He leaned forward in his chair. "And do you know what happens to a large group of angry, desperate people when they're bored? Or pushed to their limits?"

Lin crossed her arms and burned a hole into Raiko's forehead. "They get angry. They fight back. They turn into terrorists. Jingdao is nothing but one massive bomb waiting to go off, Raiko. And it keeps getting bigger. Smuggling, free trade; we're pretty sure that there's some level of human trafficking being done over that wall, but we can't do a damn thing because you keep barring us from getting involved."

Raiko scowled. "Because if you did, they'd be demanding entry into the city! Or worse, to be integrated into the United Republic!"

"They're already demanding that! Protesting! It's almost every day, now!" said Mako. "Look, the enlistment program didn't work like we wanted. We have to accept that. There are still over a hundred thousand people, and growing, over there, and we can't keep ignoring them!"

"And what would you have me do?! Cancel all plans to reinforce essential government buildings? The water mains? The new electrical grid? Because that's where the money would have to come from!"

Lin slammed her fist down on his desk. "Integrate the city! Just do it! You're worried about possible threats slipping in under our noses? Raiko, I will personally go down there with every willing officer to process each and every one of these people. You have my word on that."

"I trust you. I don't trust them."

Mako pinched his brow so hard it actually made something click in his head. "Do you trust active taxpayers? Why not focus on that? A lot of these people aren't below the poverty line if you're willing to accept Earth Empire currency. I don't think nullifying it in the United Republic even did anything to stop the loyalists."

Raiko raised a brow and leaned back in his chair. He nodded a few times. "...that could work. Yes. It most certainly could."

"Finally---"

"However." He held up one finger. "It would be best if the Air Nation were to facilitate this transition. As a neutral party, the residents of Jingdao, I see no reason as to why we can't keep that name as a district, would most likely be more amenable to our terms if we have Tenzin's backing."

Lin shrugged. "That's your department. C'mon, Mako, we've got work to do." She marched out of the office.

Mako followed close behind her and she slammed Raiko's new door shut once he cleared it. "...I think I get why people want to break this door so much."

"You're only figuring that out now?"

He shrugged. "Figure of speech."

Lin smirked. "No it's not." She patted him on the shoulder. "Good job in there, kid. I'd never have thought of pulling the taxpayer card. If I didn't like you, I'd say you have a future in politics."

"You said the same thing about tunnel hunting."

"Heh. Suppose I did. By the way, think you can convince your moron of a brother to stop stringing my niece along?"

Mako winced. "Yeaaaaaaaaaah, I don't think I'm the guy to talk to about that."

"Yes you are. You're his older brother. So act like it and kick him in the back of the leg so he can get down on one knee or however it is you people propose."

"What? I'm not doing that. I didn't---"


"---ask for this kind of bad news!" yelled Varrick, leaning over the craft services table and nearly getting his clothes covered in frosting. "I said we needed the new VarriCameras by today! Not three days from now! They just keep exploding!"

Opal crossed her arms and stared him down. "Okay." It would be so easy just to shove his face into the cake. So easy. "I don't understand why you're angry at me about this."

"Because you're distracting the talent. Or...not distracting him enough. Can't tell, don't care, just go tell the tech people that I'm angry!"

"No."

"Fine! Then I'll do it." Varrick threw up hands and stomped off of the set, ranting about giant purple beams of light and vacuums, of all things.

Bolin walked up beside her and scratched the back of his head. "Production get delayed?"

"Apparently. His fancy replacement cameras are a few days late."

"Oooh, yeah, he was really excited about those." He shrugged. "So...lunch?"

Opal turned and smiled. "I'd love to." She looked down at his jacket pockets, where his hands were fidgeting. "Something wrong?"

"Hm? What? No. Nothing. My hands are cold."

Opal raised a brow but shrugged. "Come on, then."


"What in the world are you listening to?" asked Korra, setting their food down on the table. Much to her excitement, Asami had insisted that they eat outdoors, since that was the best way to experience the Fire Nation capital.

And it truly was a sight to behold. From above, it had been surreal. An entire city built in the mouth of a dormant volcano. Skyscrapers reaching just shy of those in Republic City, yet once they'd landed, she realized that everything was so much more compacted. Shops were closer together, tiny winding alleyways could take one anywhere, performance art rounded every other corner, and she couldn't walk a block without finding some sort of historical landmark.

Also, almost everything was red. The airships, the satocycles, the buildings, the carpets; it was all red. Even the food, which was just sort of weird, if Korra thought about it.

Asami smiled and turned the radio up a little louder. "It's a radio play they only broadcast in the Fire Nation. I haven't heard it since I was a girl. I was sure they'd stopped airing it years a go, but I guess it's still going."

"I am a scientist, I have to act on my own theory. I can't let my emotions get in the way. But it's impossible to forget everything...because I've known you for longer than we've lived. This is reality. This is the world," asserted a woman

"Theories are nothing more than words! Accept what you have seen, for it is the hand of fate!" boasted a man.

"The Future Gadget Hour." Asami shrugged. "It's a never-ending love story about two scientists. I guess they took the 'never ending' part to heart."

"Only certified mad scientists drink the purple nectar of the spirits!" ranted the man.

"I can see why you like it. But the guy sounds a little..." She wiggled her hand.

"Certified is right! You can't drink that! It's not even a liquid!" responded the woman, exasperated.

"Crazy? Yeah, that's his thing." Asami wrinkled her nose and inspected the meal she'd picked out for her. "Pig-chicken, veggies and...noodles." She snorted into a light laugh and shook her head. "I just...I don't even know how to respond anymore. I can't avoid it, you seem to love it, and it is objectively cute." She took a bite out of the pig-chicken. "Sort of," she mumbled.

"It wouldn't come up so often if I didn't love noodles so much."

Asami gave her a lazy smile. "I guess you're right. Good thing I love..." She sighed and sat up in her chair. "Korra, this is-I love you, okay, but it's just-I'm not calling you hot water. It just really doesn't do it for me."

Korra snickered and kissed her on the cheek. "It's okay. It's not a big deal. Still calling you noodles, though. For now."

Asami rolled her eyes playfully. "For now, hm?"

"Could be worse." Korra gave her a crooked grin. "Aren't you glad I kept it just between you and me? And Iroh?" Naga nudged her head and licked her face. "And Naga, of course." Korra scratched Naga's chin.

"I am. Why, is that a threat to unleash it upon the world?"

"Of course not!"

"Oh, good."

"It wouldn't be cute anymore if everyone was using it."

Asami snorted into a small smile. "Makes sense." She wrinkled her nose and looked around at the slowly scattering pedestrians. "...do you hear that?"

Korra stood from her chair and looked to Naga, who was crouched down with her teeth bared. "Yeah, I think so." She peeked around the corner and raised her brows.

A huge mob of Fire Nation protestors were marching down the main road, yelling obscenities and hoisting picket signs above their heads that read everything from 'Free Fire Society' to a very cruel, albeit clever pun with the Fire Lord's name.

"We should get off the streets," she said, turning back to Asami. "There's a huge protest coming this way and it looks like it could turn violent."

Asami raised a brow and looked down the street herself. "Oh, the Free Fire Society? They're not violent. Angry, yes. But very committed to civil disobedience." She shrugged and went back to her food. "And can you really blame them? The Fire Nation is the most modernized country in the world. Their government should reflect that."

"Wait, wait, wait. You support those guys?"

"Mhmm. I've been donating to their NPO for the past few years. They want an end to the monarchy and to install a democracy in its place."

Korra looked back and forth between the mob and Asami, baffled. "I...think I'll be neutral with this one. You're making a really good point, but I can't just denounce the royal family. There's just too much history there. I'm sorry."

Asami waved her off. "You have nothing to apologize for, Korra. I understand. I'm not asking you to advocate for these people. I'm just letting you know what they're all about. Not every radical political party are cults of personality. Or like hurting people." She sighed. "Very few do, in fact."

Korra nodded and watched the mob stomp past them and toward the palace at the center of the city. Men, women and children of every kind marched side by side, raising their voices to what felt like their entire country. She still felt like something was...off. That there was violence, darkness, lurking just beneath the surface, but then again maybe she just had some bad food for breakfast.

Oh. Or...or not. It wasn't just her imagination, then. Because if Raava could sense it, then, well, something was up. And yet, she couldn't help but think that it worked both ways. Maybe Raava was just getting the side effects of the food too---Korra that's completely ridiculous. Spirits don't have digestive systems. Please focus.

"I've got a bad feeling about all of this. So does Raava, but we can't put our---my finger on it." Korra crossed her arms. "Something in the air is just...wrong."

Asami raised her brows. "Should we go back to the hotel? I know you wanted to check in on Tenzin once we got settled. Maybe you're just anxious."

Korra bit her lip and nodded. "Yeah. Yeah, that's probably it. Thanks."

"Of course."


Asami stepped out on to the balcony of their suite and looked out over the bustling city. It wasn't quite as populated as Repbulic City, but the Fire Nation capitol certainly had them beat both in light and passion. There was an astounding amount of both energy and incredibly bright lights that permeated everything. Strong reds and striking yellows bled into one another across the skyline and below. If she looked closely, she could even see the protesters milling about a few blocks over; their firebent torches a dead giveaway.

Naga rubbed up against her, and she smiled. It was impossible not to look at the giant, adorable polar bear dog and not feel...content. Happy and calm. A constant, fixed point of positivity was refreshing. And it would always be welcome.

Asami scratched Naga's cheeks and chuckled. "Lonely? That's okay. I'll keep you company while Korra takes care of a few things." She blinked. "...hey, are you all right? You look a little distracted."

Naga gently poked her forehead with her snout and panted happily.

"Oh, okay. That's good. Uhm, wait." Asami raised a brow. "Do you mean it's all in my head, or all in yours?" she asked, gesturing between them.

Naga tilted her head and huffed.

"Right. Mine. Sorry, it's just---" She smiled sadly and rubbed Naga's ears. "It's been a long time since I've felt this okay," she whispered.

"Answer the damn phone, Tenzin!" groaned Korra from the other room. "This isn't funny!"

Asami looked up at the sky and saw no stars. Too much light pollution. Just like home. It was comforting in an odd sort of way. Familiarity. Yet, on another level, she really did miss the Southern Lights. "I owe a lot of that to the both of you. Most of it, I think. But I've never felt closer to...where ever it is that I'm headed, and I'm really not sure what that is." She sighed. "I don't think I need to, though. Not when I've got you two," she whispered, kissing Naga on the forehead. "Thanks for listening."

Korra sprinted on to the balcony and dragged Asami back into the suite by the arm in a panic. "They're not answering the phone. We have to go back. Now." She started stuffing their suitcases in a mad rush, picking up things that weren't even theirs to begin with and shoving in to the bags. "Why are you just standing there? Come on, we have to move!" she said, her eyes shaking in fear.

Asami approached her slowly, a little dazed from Korra's mood swing. She could handle it, though. Letting one's mind run wild was something she was very familiar with. "Korra, they're probably just asleep. Meelo could have just disconnected the line again," she said soothingly.

"No, no, it's not that, it's not. I'd know if it was that, okay? And I already asked the operator to connect me to Mako and Bolin, but they're not answering either!"

"Korra, just take a deep breath---"

"They---the Red Lotus could have attacked! Maybe the triads! Or a tidal wave or an earthquake or maybe the loyalists invaded again!" She raked her hands through her hair. "I knew I should have gone back instead of following you here! I'm such an idiot!"

"You're not an idiot. They're fine."

Korra shivered and scratched at her arms. "They're in trouble and I'm not there and I promised I always would be and they're hurt or worse or Zaheer got out again and how am I supposed to stop him if I'm all the way in the Fire Nation!?"

Naga nuzzled her cheek, but it didn't seem to have any effect on Korra, which was incredibly troubling. Instead of calming down, she retreated inward and started hyperventilating. She fell to her knees and balled up on the floor.

Asami sat down beside her and gently helped her sit up. She rubbed her back and her mind raced forward, running for a solution. A quick fix; anything to calm her down. What if she was right, though? What if they really were in trouble? But---no. No, the swamp was wrong. It would always be wrong.

Besides, Jinora would just project her spirit to---oh. That was it.

"Korra, what's the first thing that would happen if Tenzin and his family were in trouble?"

Korra blinked several times and turned to her, flop sweat dripping down from her forehead to her chin. She was paler, almost sickly. "She...she would project her spirit to me and ask for help."

"That's right. And she hasn't done that."

Korra cringed and balled her hands into fists. "Which means she's dead."

"No! No, it means she's okay. She's fine. Everyone's fine." Asami took her hand and placed it on the floor. "Here, why don't you try the reverse. You can check on her from anywhere in the world using the vines, right?"

Korra nodded rapidly and closed her eyes. A yellow ring glowed around her flattened palm and she stopped shaking. Her lost color returned to her face, and Asami wiped off the rest of her sweat. Korra opened her eyes and flexed her hand. "She's...uhm..." She blushed.

"She's all right?"

"Well..."

Jinora flickered into existence between them, dressed in a robe, with a very frustrated expression. "Not so fun the other way around, now is it? Is it really so much to ask for some privacy? Honestly, it's bad enough with Ikki..."

Korra frowned. "Sorry. I was just worried. Nobody answered the phone."

"Dad broke it the other day, and we haven't gotten it fixed yet. Now leave me alone." And with that, she was gone.

Korra stared off into nothing for a few moments. She rubbed her arms and shook out her head. "Ugh. Hate it when this happens." She slowly got to her feet and rubbed her eye with the flat of her palm. "I haven't been away this long in over a year, and I guess it's been bothering more than I realized. Sorry."

Asami wrapped her in a fierce hug. "You have nothing to apologize for. You're just trying to protect your family, right?"

Korra smiled. "Yeah. Talk about awkward, though."

Asami snorted and kissed her on the forehead. "I think that means we're even."

Korra snickered and scratched Naga's ears. "Guess so. I think I need some fresh air for a few minutes," she said, slowing her breath.

"Come on out to the balcony. It's quite the view."


Baatar scratched his beard and narrowed his eyes at the prototype airburst suit. Designed with non-benders in mind, it was supposed to counter ranged combat with increasing the speed and agility of the wearer with compressed air, similar to airbending. Or so he'd been told by the many pages of documentation Asami had attached to the sketch. But something was off about it. He just couldn't put his finger on what that was.

Artana crossed her arms and circled it. "...it looks more than adequate to me. I'm unsure of what you're getting at."

"Something's missing, and it's going to drive me crazy if I don't figure it out."

"Perhaps you're over thinking it?"

"I doubt it. This is brand new tech. I can't afford not to over think it."

"It's almost midnight." She checked her watch. "Correction: Three minutes to midnight. Oh, my mistake, this is set to Fire Nation time..." She reset the clock to the correct time. "There we are. Three minutes to...five in the morning. I think we should call it a day, Baatar. Though morning would be more accurate."

Kuvira turned to another page in her book. "I agree---wait, why was it set to Fire Nation time?"

"I was speaking to my cousin earlier today and I didn't want intrude at a bad time."

"Hm. Well, in any case, you won't accomplish anything with an exhausted mind, Baatar."

"I'm not exhausted."

"You are. You're just not aware of it quite yet. What do you think would happen if I spent every hour of every day submerged in conspiracy theories, theoretical military doctrine and the political happenings of the day? I'd be driven mad inside of a week." She closed her book and walked over to him. "You need rest."

"I'm fine---" He yawned, completely involuntarily.

Kuvira smirked, and then yawned herself.

And then Artana yawned.

Kuvira looked between the three of them. "...that's the tenth time that's happened to me. Someone should do a study on that."

"If I recall, yawning is a social phenomenon," said Artana.

"That's ridiculous. It's a yawn. Nothing more."

"Maybe. Maybe not. It's something worth considering."

The workshop phone rang and Baatar answered it. "Future Industries, Baatar speaking. I'm sorry, but we're-" He closed his mouth and lit up with joy. "He did!? Finally!" He cleared his throat and stiffened. "What? No, I had no idea-he was-would you have rather I told you?! No, I didn't think so. Okay, did you call mom? Good. I'm so happy for you both. I'll talk to you tomorrow, okay? Goodnight." He hung up and grinned at Kuvira.

Kuvira raised a brow. "...what just happened?"

"Bolin proposed."

"That's wonderful news." Kuvira smiled. "...you know, they really are my favorite couple."

"I know."


"...which means we'll probably be meeting with the Fire Lord tomorrow," said Asami. "Which I'm looking forward to. I've only met her once, and very briefly."

"Does that count, though? You were drunk and piloting a VarriMech," said Korra.

"It counts. It wasn't the best first impression, but it still counts."

Korra chuckled. "Not in the best of ways, but I guess so, yeah. She'll like you. Probably. I don't really know her that well myself." She blinked. "But---"

"Just because I support a political party that wants positive change in their own country doesn't mean I have any disdain for the current ruling party."

"Oh. Never mind, then."

Asami opened her mouth but was cut off by the telephone ringing in the other room. "Tenzin?"

Korra shook her head as she walked over to the phone. "I doubt it. Even if he knew I was worried, he'd call in the morning."

Asami followed her inside, with Naga in tow. "Why do you say that?"

"Just a gut feeling." She picked up the phone. "Hello? Opal? What---okay, slow down. Are you in a tornado or something because I can barely hear you. I said I can barely hear you!" She covered the receiver and gave Asami a shrug. "Just---yes, hello Pabu, please put Opal back on. Now, why are---" Korra gasped and covered her mouth. She grinned and hopped up and down. "WHAT?! NO WAY! HE DIDN'T!" Korra spun in place and giggled wildly. "Asami! Bolin proposed!"

Asami grinned wide as can be sidled up next to Korra. "How did it happen?! When?! Ugh, finally but how? What did he do?"

Korra handed her the telephone and leaped over to Naga.

"Hello? Asami?"

"Yes! Opal! Congratulations! I'm so happy for you! For both of you."

"Thanks! Oh, you should have seen it was amazing it was the most romantic thing I've ever seen! Or heard of! I just---I couldn't stop spinning. I'm just so happy right now and I don't know how to contain all of it. And now I'm crying again."

"You don't have to contain it. This is your moment, Opal. It's all about you. And also, Bolin, to an extent."

"Believe me, he is utterly convinced that it has nothing to do with him. I keep trying to tell him that's ridiculous but, well, you know Bolin. Keep trying? What am I even saying? It was an hour ago! I'm engaged!"

"You're engaged!"

"I know! You guys gotta come back so I can show you the ring."

Korra stiffened and Naga's ears flattened. "Hey, Asami, do you feel that?"

"One second, Korra."

"Don't let me keep you two."

"You're not, don't worry about."

Korra furrowed her brow and approached her. "Asami, I'm serious. Something's up."

"It's probably just gas."

"Hah!"

"It's not gas! It feels like..." She shuddered. "...like...damnit, what is it?! I know this!"

Asami huffed and covered the receiver with her hand. She turned to Korra. "Look, it's okay, just take a moment---" Her heart stopped and dropped the phone. It cracked on the floor. Behind Korra, out the window, bright purple flickered.

"Oh, fuck."

The shock wave hit first, shattering the glass, along with most of the wooden panels, and sending them flying against the back wall, Naga included. Asami yelped, fell to the floor and looked up, only to be blinded by the growing blast. It surged toward her, tearing everything apart in its path, vaporizing entire city blocks. Korra rolled in front of her, her eyes brighter than the bomb, struggling, as if something wasn't working. Wasn't happening like it was supposed to.

The foundation shook, and the last thing she saw wasn't darkness. It was light.

Blinding purple light.


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