The Doll Maker
It was made of stone, earth, and what appeared to be bits of sand and metal. But it looked like what all the old paintings and drawings showed. Avatar Kiyoshi, the vanquisher of Chim the Conqueror, the founder of the Kiyoshi Warriors and the Dai Lee, and allegedly one of the most powerful warriors to ever exist.
So naturally, Tong wasted no time charging the golem, first attempting to hit it with jabs and crosses, then following with a powerful kick to its legs. The Kiyoshi golem responded with movements as fluid as any human, blocking the punches with its war fans, and then leaping into the air.
'Leaping' however, was an incorrect way of describing it. The being actually raised with a pile of earth, as if she were standing on a hill that suddenly rose. It made perfect sense, since the being needed to be connected to the earth to be controlled. From her height she descended, striking at Tong with the war fan and cutting him on the arm, causing him to wince in pain.
"My models," Dr. Ru boasted, "can fight as effectively as any human. And really, whom would most people prefer? One of the greatest warriors to ever live, or a super soldier with daddy issues?"
"She's a doll," Tong countered. "A doll I'm going to break!"
'Kiyoshi' wasted no time attacking again, but this time Tong was ready, first sending a gust of wind to slow her movement forward, followed by earth bending a pillar of stone to strike her from behind. The stone cracked the statue into pieces, which fell to the earth.
"You made an earth pit just to kill me?"
"Don't flatter yourself. Here is where I create my models, using Earth bending. There are tubes up here that connect me to the earth below and allow me to mold my creations. It's just being used for…improvising."
"Well, it's going to take more than a Kiyoshi doll to stop me."
"You're right," Dr. Ru replied. "How about this one?"
Another form emerged from the Earth, this one of a man in long flowing robes with an equally flowing beard. Next to him emerged a woman in robes,
"Avatar Roku, and his wife Ta Min. I have to get all the details correct or I go nuts. But you, you're going to fall to pieces!"
The two relentlessly attacked Tong as Dr. Ru gloated. "Two-on-one isn't exactly fair I know, but I think we're far past things like honor and respect, after you destroyed my beautifully crafted models! And as for your friend, I don't think she'll be able to help you much either."
Tong said nothing, too busy trying to hold off both golems with burst of air, fire, and earth.
"But they were such a lovely couple," Dr. Ru added. "Certainly more than some spouses the Avatars have taken throughout history. Still better than you, who will likely be forever alone."
The last remark caused Tong to grimace, landing a left hook square into what would be the ribcage of 'Roku." Normally, against stone, a regular human's hand would be broken in multiple places. But the hands of an Earth Bender instead caused the stone to crack and break apart, shattering 'Roku.' A similar fate soon befell 'Ta Min', with flame causing the statue to break apart.
"No more games!"
"But we're not even halfway done," Dr. Ru lamented.
"They may look like the originals, but they can't even bend."
"I've found ways around that."
Another two forms emerged from the sand, one of a bald man in Air Temple robes, the other of a woman, with a large whip where her left hand should be. The Air Nomad raised his hands, causing dirt to come out in a mist that blinded Tong momentarily, giving the woman time to act. The whip moved immediately, ensnaring Tong while the man drew a staff and started clubbing him in the face.
"Avatar Aang and his wife Kaatara. I think I've gotten a decent approximation of her water bending, haven't I? And his air bending for that matter."
"UGH!" 'Aang' continued to attack mercilessly as 'Kataara' held him in place, Tong struggling to stay conscious.
The rear portion of the facility didn't appear to be any different from the floor they had just left, with hallways filled with models, and a few labs that seemed empty. The whole place appeared to be more of a museum, like the one that used to stand in Omashu before it got destroyed during an Earth Kingdom/Earth Republic battle. If they had known that a creepy mad scientist was making his own version, people wouldn't have been so upset with the Omashu one being destroyed by mecha tank fire.
The problem, at least from Leena's point of view, was that while she knew what Dr. Ru was up to, she didn't know how. She didn't know how the spirits were being manipulated, how they were willing to possess statues and boxes to be released later. That and the statues of everything from political figures to celebrities to people she didn't recognize was getting…eerie. Finally, though, after walking through the hallway, she found something different.
A room that resembled a laboratory was present past the hall of statues, with the laboratory filled with cages. Inside rested spirits of various sizes and shapes, and some half completed models, but no one else. Slowly, Leena walked inside, wondering if there was anyone else here.
"RELEASE ME AT ONCE! I AM THE SLAYER OF THE MOON! RELEASE ME AT ONCE!"
The sheer noise of the man caused Leena to jump back as she realized the source of the yelling wasn't a man, but rather a spirit. He looked human enough, save for being transparent, but his dress and the constant fading of parts of his body identified him as a spirit.
"I AM ZHAO, SLAYER OF THE MOON! I DEMAND RELEASE, WOMAN! I WILL NOT BE CAGED, DO YOU HEAR ME?"
Saying nothing to the ranting spirit, Leena began looking around for something, anything that could successfully identify what they were doing with the spirits. Finally, she found something that may have given a clue; a computer in a desk in the corner, which seemed to have various logs and other pieces of information.
From a hallway emerged two men and a woman in laboratory coats. All three appeared to be unarmed, looking up at the pale skinned woman next to the computer.
"Who are you?" one of the men asked, an obvious tone of fear in their voice. Leena smiled, focusing on having a fireball appear in each hand.
The scientists all panicked and ran from the room, with a few fireballs being sent towards them to speed up the process. With the scientists fleeing for safety, she would have about five, maybe ten minutes at most before they returned with reinforcements. Placing empty cages and other materials by the door to force a barricade, she then hurriedly sat down at the computer, seeing if she could find something that would explain the things they had seen today.
The detailed logs on the experiments they were performing on spirits seemed to fit the bill. Everything from retrieval missions at the South Pole portal to obtain test samples to apparently reaching a dead end in trying to tame the more powerful spirits, hence the use of possession of models was in the logs. While the specifics were likely a fascinating read, they would have to wait.
A portable memory drive was soon plugged into the computer as she began copying materials over to it. While it did so, one particular item on the computer caught her attention.
"Merging of spirits?"
KNOCK KNOCK KNOCK.
Turning around, Leena realized that the scientists from earlier had bought help. Two more possessed models, one resembling Su Huan Fun of the 58' Ice Walkers, and a man she didn't recognize, both armed with Shockers were trying to force the door open. It figured that they'd send in the drones first. Wasting no time, she hid behind a table and waited for the pair to break in. All the while, the one spirit, Zhao or whatever his name was, kept demanding release from his confines.
The fifth blow to Tong's head was causing him to feel dizzy. It was difficult to move at this point, and the pain was taking its toll. All the while he focused on moving his right arm inside the earth prison that encompassed his body save his head while 'Aang' continued his assault. Again, he charged in, ready to attack.
The sound of two blades slicing through the earth could be heard as they found their way in the stone statue's head, the first stopping the creature, the second causing part of its head to fall off. Using the distraction, Tong moved his hand through the hole the blades had created, freeing his arm and cracking the earth prison into pieces. Shaking his head, he looked on at 'Kaatara', who tried to ensnare him with another earth whip, but this time, he was ready.
A gust of wind kept the stone back as Tong focused on the dirt and stone around him. If Dr. Ru could form these statues, he could form something less complicated. Sure enough, from the ground emerged a stone hammer, large enough to be held with two hands. Taking the hammer, he leapt into the air, continuing to use the wind gusts to hold back 'Kaatara's' attempts to ensnare him. Finally, he grabbed the hammer with both hands and used it to deliver a powerful blow to the statue, causing it to shatter. The Aang statue met the same fate as Tong threw the hammer at it, using wind to accelerate the weapon before his foe could mount any sort of defense. The strike of the hammer caused the upper body to shatter, leaving only a pair of stone legs.
"ARE WE DONE?!" he shouted. No sense of sarcasm or playfulness was present, just increased rage.
"Not just yet my overly angry friend. You have one more Avatar to face."
"Her," Tong muttered with a clear sense of anger and annoyance.
"Yes, her. The True Avatar, and the one who will guide this planet into an age of enlightenment and progress. Which is why you are unnecessary."
"She's a fake."
"Does it really matter?" Dr. Ru asked, even as a statue of Korra appeared in front of him. "She has done so much good for the world, and will do something that will unite everyone. Is your worthless tradition really worth that? Or your stupid father? Or those ignorant fools at Capital City? I think we all know the answer to that."
"The answer," Tong began, "is that I'm going to kill you. Then I'm going to kill her. And then I'm going to find out who let a Korra fake into the world and kill them."
"Then you're just a murderer. Our violence has purpose. You just miss Daddy."
"Come down here and say that."
"I think not."
Next to Korra emerged a man, wearing the cape of an Avatar Affairs member with a thin moustache. Tong had no idea who the man was.
"Well, he'd find it funny," Dr. Ru mused. The two statues again ran towards Tong, attacking with fists, feet, and stone. The male drew a sword while the Korra statue was content to attack by throwing rocks and stone from a distance, forcing Tong on the offensive and preventing him from creating another weapon.
"You see the genius present here?" Dr. Ru went on. "No more humans suffering in war! No more nations at war once we enact our plans! The world will be permanently in balance! The hell with tradition!"
"And everyone suffers," Tong answered, facing down the caped man charging in with his sword. He stood still, waiting for his target.
"You won't be the strong hand that the world needs, so the world doesn't need you!"
"Neither would the real Korra," Tong answered.
The day was growing late and there was no sign of him. Perhaps he wasn't coming after all. It was maybe a bit too optimistic to hope that Awng would be convinced to start over after a single beating, hell, even two.
"Hello, do you go to Air Temple Island? I was told the sky bison flies out."
"Yeah, we do. How come?"
The voice wasn't that of Awng, but of a young man, only 15 by Shing's estimates. He looked on at the teen that appeared confused at the sight of the stranger in the coat.
"Did I do something wrong?"
"You're headed to Air Temple Island?"
"Yeah, I want to learn Air Bending and my old instructor just closed his school. He said to bring a letter to the temple for that guy Shing, from the news. The one that helped stop all those crazy spirits. Wait," he continued, "aren't you?"
"May I see it?"
"Uh, sure." Handing the envelope off, Shing opened the letter.
I want to apologize for how stupid I acted, and the disrespect that I showed you. My anger came from the fact that I felt like all the time and money I put into the Wind Razor courses was meaningless, but that was likely because it was. But please try to understand things from my perspective. You see, there was nowhere for me to learn Air Bending outside the temple, and I had a job. I couldn't just abandon everything I ever knew to join a temple. Wind Razor courses were the only alternative I had. But I realize now that they were just as bad, since they made me assume that I was a master when I clearly wasn't.
It's too late for me at this point to re-learn everything or to abandon my life in the Fire Nation, and to become a member of the Air Nation. However, my students still have time. I've shut down my school and plan to remove my tattoos, and have informed my students to go train at the Air Temple in Republic City if they want to truly learn Air Bending. Some can go. Some cannot.
I take the full blame for acting arrogant and insulting Grandmaster Ikki. In repentance, I will have the tattoos on my body forcibly removed via cosmetic surgery. Apparently there are treatments involving lasers that do that now. Furthermore, I promise that I will never teach again.
Please don't take my arrogance and foolishness out on my students. They were just looking for a place to learn Air Bending, and there was nowhere else to go. I only ask that you give them the recommendation you were willing to give me.
Awng, AKA Cheong Zi.
"Can I have that back?"
"Yeah," Shing answered, handing the letter back to him. "Sure."
The teen nodded, then began to load his items onto a sky bison that a rider had taken out. Shing sighed. It was true, that if one did not join the Air Nation, there was nowhere to learn Air Bending, which is why Wind Razor proved attractive to so many. When he returned, he would need to discuss with Rohan his people's art. To become commercial and sell the promise of mastery via tape wasn't the way, but neither was hiding the secrets of Air Bending from the world. There had to be a balance.
But as the sky bison flew off, Shing felt some hope that his efforts in Capital City with Awng weren't in vain. It wasn't ideal, but in some way, Shing felt he had accomplished something worthwhile.
He had been fighting with nothing but anger, and it was clear that was Dr. Ru's intention. To make him so enraged that he would slip up. No, he couldn't let that happen. Let the enemy come to him.
The mustachioed statue rose its sword over Tong, who struck with his right hand. Inside the statue, a ball of wind was formed, one that tore it apart from within, leaving only its sword. Standing, he grabbed the stone blade and faced down Korra.
"No! Not this way!" Dr. Ru yelled. "You were supposed to accept your fate! We will crush you Specialist!"
The Korra statue sunk back into the dirt, replaced by an identical statue, just four times as large! Quickly, it raised its fist and prepared to smash Tong into paste. Tong did the only thing he could.
He met the giant statue fist for fist, human and earth engaging in a test of strength; one that would be decidedly one sided had the human not been an Earth bender.
"I will crush you were you stand!" Dr. Ru yelled again. "Your ignorance of what we want to do won't matter! It never did matter! Even if you survive this, I've ensured that you will never be considered the Avatar! All the more reason to let me kill you!"
Tong ignored the threats, attempting to focus. The statue in front of him was massive, but it was beatable. Like any structure, there were weaknesses in its foundation, weaknesses he could exploit.
Sure enough, his continued pushing drove into the statue further, and soon its arm began to fall and collapse, followed by the rest of its body. The remaining rocks and stone were blown away by a gust of wind as Tong stood, alone, on the pile of dirt as Dr. Ru looked on.
"You've won nothing! Do you hear! I'll just keep making more models until you tire and fall!"
Turning around, Dr. Ru found himself meeting a ball of flame which burned his arms, followed by a very hard shove into the computer terminal. A pair of strong hands restrained him as he was carried downstairs, where an exhausted Tong looked on.
"Your plan worked. I was able to sneak around, and now we've got the head of the facility in Fire Nation custody."
"I should kill him right now," Tong grimaced. Leena however, was far more reasonable.
"Do that and we'll never get the true depth of what he was up to."
"I will tell you nothing," Dr. Ru mused. "Because you have no right to hold a member of Avatar Affairs in the custody of any nation!" Leena only replied to that with a malevolent grin.
"Who said they would know?"
"It's not like it matters," Dr. Ru continued. "You will obtain no information from me, and thanks to my genius, the Spirit World is closed off to you Specialist! You've met my friend, haven't you?"
Tong was livid at the comment. "That…thing was made by you?"
"Yes, but unfortunately spirit training was a dead end. But it did its job well enough. So go ahead, kill me. The world will move forward, and it doesn't need you! We've already w…"
What followed was a hard punch to Dr. Ru's bearded face from Tong, knocking him out cold. He looked on at his partner with a snide grin.
"You said I couldn't kill him. You didn't say anything about splitting his lip open."
Leena shook her head, binding the Earth bender in platinum bonds. "Let's go."
The trip back, after the 'cleanup crew' was sent in was not the triumph Tong had hoped it to be. All he could think about was the fact that his spirit world tormentor was created, not born. But how?
"You know he was just desperate."
Looking over, Tong found the smiling face of Leena sitting next to him, and slumped forward. "Yeah, but he's right. I can't access the Spirit World without that…thing he created haunting me. I'm not the Avatar."
She looked on at him, but rather than groan at another repeated statement, placed a hand on his shoulder. "You don't need to be the Avatar right now. You just need to help stop the fake one."
"What do we do now?"
"Well I have to go back and make sure we get all the information we can out of this guy. Maybe he does know how to stop that thing he created, or at least will be willing to let us know how he was created. Meanwhile, Fire Nation Intelligence will give you some locations that should have clues towards whoever is employing our friend Dr. Ru. That should help you get closer to who killed your dad."
"So this is goodbye then?"
"You don't get rid of me that easily. I'll be around, when you need me."
He smiled at that reassurance. "Let's go back then. Whatever they're up to, the mystery won't solve itself."
Men swept the facility, finding mostly spirits, statues, and a few scientists that were detained, most noting that they were unaware as to what Dr. Ru was planning, only that he was trying to understand spirits better. The sheer amount of spirits present however, proved troubling.
"What are we going to do with all of them?"
"Drop them off at a Spirit Portal I guess."
"RELEASE ME AT ONCE! I KNOW YOU CAN HEAR ME! I AM ZHAO, THE MOON SLAYER! AND I DEMAND TO BE FREED!"
The voice continued to emanate from one of the labs long after every other scientist had been detained. None of the soldiers wanted to go inside.
"I SAID I'M ZHAO, THE SLAYER OF THE MOON! DOESN'T THAT MEAN ANYTHING TO YOU PEOPLE?!"