The onlookers were stunned as the mecha suit prepared to execute Pramuk. He silently sat and waited for a fiery end.
A lone Shocker bolt bounced off the suit, grazing it. The pilot, distracted, turned his attention to the woman who fired it, pointing a pistol right at the suit.
"And just what did you think you could do to me with a pistol?"
"Get your attention."
The two men next to her began to move rapidly, sending an air bent gust of wind right at the antique, causing it to fly well away from the threatened actor. As security and the Earth benders responsible for the effects moved in, the pilot ran off.
"We're gonna have your head unless you pay up! You hear me?"
The mecha suit continued to head off the stage until two of the Ox mecha-tanks came in to intercept. The saboteur was un-deterred however, firing his flamethrower at the two machines. Unfortunately, said flames had little effect on the war machines, which both raised their Shocker cannons to finish the job.
"Hold your fire!" Aaraluk yelled. "That thing's an antique!"
The distraction was all that the pilot needed to get away, exiting the mecha tank and running into the forest. Security gave chase on foot while the two tank pilots looked over at the director.
"Is everyone OK?"
"Who the hell was that?" an extra asked.
"I believe," Pramuk answered, "that the studio has had some unfortunate dealings with gangsters. They've shifted focus from harassing the executives to harassing me. But this…"
"Yeah," Kushina continued, "they're getting pretty bold."
"I won't let some thugs delay this mover!" Aaraluk announced. "Everyone, take an hour, get security TIGHT, but this scene needs to be filmed today! We're burning daylight as it is!"
Although flustered, the crew agreed, and the Earth benders already began setting up the landscape for the following take. Sighing as he went over to Kushina, Pramuk adjusted his hair and smiled.
"That's the second time in two days you've saved my life. I believe that I owe you another dinner."
"A second date already?" Kushina asked, wearing a coy smile. "I'm flattered." She looked over to her two bodyguards, neither showing any emotion towards the announcement save for the blush on Tong's face.
"Then how about 7? We should wrap up by then."
"Looking forward to it."
The browned haired Earth Republic man ran through the forest, finally confident he had lost his pursuers. With no one else around to follow him, the man headed for a warehouse where a group of men in sleeveless jackets were all waiting for him. A particular man, wearing a gruff demeanor to go with his graying beard and bald head, looked on at the thug.
"He's being protected!"
"We know that!"
"No, that broad from the other day! She's protecting him! Had two air benders with her!"
"Did you say…Air Benders?"
The man looked on at the leader of group and nodded. "What of it?"
"We've gotten some guys asking around about a woman travelling with two Air benders. Said they'd pay pretty well if we knew where they were."
"You think they're the ones?"
"Can't hurt to ask. The money they wanted to pay would be pretty good and the studio hasn't paid us yet, right? What did they look like?"
"I'm an adult," Tong repeated, even as Shing looked on at him.
"You're jealous that she's going out with an actor and doesn't want you there. Come on, admit it."
"No," Tong answered flatly. "I am not jealous, and if she doesn't want me to protect her, that's fine. She's an adult."
Sitting down on the seats by the set as Kushina was looking over some paperwork concerning a car TT loaned for the scene, Shing shook his head at his friend.
"You're a very bad liar, you know that?"
Tong didn't answer, instead, the sound of the rain machine for the scene echoed through the set.
Walking out of the car, he saw his brother standing alone, wearing a trench coat in the midst of the rain. The docks were a fairly isolated place at this hour, free of reporters, of paparazzi, and of the well-wishers who had followed him in the few days since the results of the election hit.
"Mako. You came."
The black haired man looked on at his brother with an expression of pure disdain. "I did. You want to rub it in my face?"
"Look, I don't want to freak you out or anything, but I'm pretty sure that my security team has snipers on the roofs of buildings by here. So please, can we talk about this like adults?"
"Adults?" Mako asked, his tone of voice filled with disgust. "That's rich coming from a manchild like you. Or should I say, 'President Manchild'?"
"How can an entire country be so stupid? I spent nearly every cent I had, called in every connection I've made, and they still, STILL voted for you. How?"
"I want to help people," Bolin answered. "I want to help you."
"You could have helped by going into a ditch and dying." Bolin was visibly taken aback by the statement, but said nothing.
"I was the hero. This should have been perfect. We save the world, I make Chief of Police, I marry the girl I love, you make everyone laugh while you do whatever, and the world is happy. Instead, I'm alone, and you're in a job you are not qualified to do." It was then that Bolin realized the truth.
"This has never been about me, has it? It's about her. Them. You never did get over them, did you?"
"Do you have any idea how it felt for them to abandon me…for each other?! To be told that anything I said to either of them was interfering with 'pure love' and that I was horrible for even thinking it?! How I felt when I tried to run her out of business, only for her to come right back and make another one? Why do you get to be happy? Why doesn't everyone look over all of your mistakes? You allied yourself with a megalomaniac for crying out loud!"
"I learned. Atoned. You never accepted that."
"I was supposed to have the happy ending! I was the hero!"
"And if you couldn't be happy, then your idiot brother couldn't be happy either, right?"
"I'm going to kill you right now, and then no one's happy," Mako answered, raising his hand in the rain.
"Mako, don't! The sniper!"
Bolin wasted no time, pushing his brother over the edge of the dock into the water. Luckily the sniper didn't fire. Looking on from inside the water, his brother shot him a death glare and then swam off. By where he stood, a picture, a drawing, likely kept inside Mako's trench coat, was lying on the ground. Looking at it, it was clear what the cause of all his rage was. He sighed heavily, and then returned to the car.
"Bolin! Are you OK?"
"I'm fine Opal," he answered, looking at the drawing in his hand.
"Something that will never be true, no matter how many drawings are made of it." Looking over, Opal saw the drawing, and understood why Mako had been so miserable all these years.
It was a drawing of a much younger Mako and Korra, each holding a child.
It was the family neither of them would ever have.
CUT! THAT WAS BRILLIANT! NOW LET'S DO SOME CLOSE UPS OF THE DRAWING!
You don't think anyone could be that miserable a human being in real life, do you?
Says the guy jealous that his girl is dating an actor.
"This time we won't be interrupted."
"I hope not," Pramuk answered, sitting in front of the table at the restaurant. Unlike the previous night, the accommodations were more modest, but also a bit friendlier, with crowds of people talking and a bright ambiance enhancing the food and drinks being served. "We were just getting to the really good part of your story when we had to leave. Now, why engineering? And how did that get you here?"
"I wanted to create something that would outlast me," she began. "Something that everyone could use. To have one of my designs for a car or a mecha-tank being used the world over, it'd be like there was a little of me in every machine. In a weird way, I'd be affecting the entire world. My creativity, out there for all to see. Sure, this is a little…detour, but it works."
"You can build, you can talk, you can fight, what can't you do?" he asked.
"Act," she answered. "Bend. I'm not much of a writer either."
The last remark caused Pramuk to suppress a laugh as he looked on at her date. "But you make up for it in presence! I'll admit I'm not much of a screenwriter either, at least not yet."
"You never wrote?"
"I can't create something that strikes that artistic chord the way some of the roles I've chosen have. Some of the real roles, not the more commercialized ones. Hopefully that changes."
"Besides, my dad isn't exactly a fan of my career path," she continued, remembering her conversation with her father the day prior.
"Mine wasn't either. He thought I wouldn't make it, wanted me to be in 'da computers' as he called it."
"Did he ever change his mind?"
Pramuk nodded. "I know when I saw him put a Nuktuk action figure in his study. He came around when he realized that I was doing what I wanted to, and that it wasn't a pipe dream. I think your father will too."
"Thank you," was her only response.
The pair continued to talk until Pramuk suggested they grab dessert at a local teashop, given the quality of their pastries as opposed to the restaurants. The pair walked out, laughing as their talk turned towards more mundane topics, like other actors in the business, the biggest jerk on set, and ideas for things that Kushina wanted to build.
They were so enamored in their conversation that neither noticed the bolas behind them, wrapping them up. Before either could scream, two powerful strikes, one to each of their heads, rendered them unconscious.
"We've got them. Bringing them back to the safe zone now."
Tong paced back and forth in the hotel room, desperately trying to convince himself of something. So far, he was failing. Dinner, television, and other distractions of the schedule all failed in keeping his mind off of her.
"She doesn't need me there. I'm not jealous. She is more than capable of taking care of herself. I am not Mako. I am not Mako. I am not Mako."
After the tenth self-assertion that Tong was in fact, not Mako, a knock on his door was heard. Opening it, he found the bellhop holding a letter.
"I was told to deliver this to this room immediately. The person downstairs said it was urgent."
Thanking the bellhop, Tong read the letter, his face filling with rage as he did so.
"Specialist, we have your woman and the actor Pramuk. Come to the warehouse on the outskirts of…dammit, I knew I should have been there!" Crumpling the letter in his hands, he ran to Shing's room, where the Air Bender was engaging in meditation. At least he was until Tong's furious knocking interrupted him. Questioning why he appeared so worried, Tong pointed out the letter, more specifically, the odd marking that was used as a signature.
"There was a pattern that those thugs from Republic City wore on their uniforms. Same one."
"The Youxia of Vaatu, right?"
"And they want me to walk into a trap, which wouldn't have happened if I was just there!" His frustration evident, Shing patted his shoulder.
"Look, I've got a plan, but we need to go back and call the studio. We're going to need to borrow one of the mecha tanks."
Tong's eyes went wide. "You're not thinking…"
"I'm not going to kill anyone if that's what you're wondering. But trust me on this one."
"What makes you think they'll say yes?"
"Easy. Tell them that the lead actor's been kidnapped and the security company is going to be blamed entirely for the failure to protect him unless they move."
Vision returned to Kushina's eyes as she realized she was tied up in metal bonds, Pramuk next to her on two metal chairs. In front of them, a bald man with a thick beard was talking to what appeared to be a masked woman.
"You think he'll take the bait?"
"He will," she answered. And as soon as he walks in, we leave nothing to chance. Your men will gang up on him while mine restrain him. Simple, right?"
"And then we get paid. I like it."
"She's waking up," a man announced, as both the man and the masked woman looked on at their prisoner.
"W…who are you?"
"Your memory is pretty poor," the woman responded. "You don't remember me?"
"Yeah," a man added, pointing to a table where her weapons were laying. "You only stole my two favorite pistols!"
She looked at the mask and suddenly recognized her captors. "Republic City!"
"Yes, and we're still after your friend. Who's probably heading here now to rescue you."
Any profanities from Kushina were muffled via the use of a gag over her mouth. Around her, men and women ran into position, prepared to deal with the impending intrusion.
"No more taking chances," the woman yelled, the other masked associates of hers hiding in the shadows. "When he goes through that door, freeze him with the water #3, while you secure him in the metal coffin #4. We'll have him back in Republic City by morning."
That was when they heard the sound of an engine rapidly approaching the building. One of the lookouts appeared absolutely terrified.
"What is it?"
"It's a freaking mecha tank! Two of them! And they're heading right for us!"
Members of the gang rang outside, throwing everything at the tanks that they could, but rocks and small arms fire were ineffective in stopping the machines running full speed into the building. They soon did the logical thing and ran as far as their legs could take them as the building was rammed, leaving two massive holes in the warehouse. From behind the two machines, Tong and Shing emerged, ready to deal with the kidnappers.
"Get them!" the woman shouted, while pointing at her men. "You two, get the hostage out of here!"
"Oh no you don't!" Tong yelled as he moved in on the woman, only for her to respond with a flurry of chi-blocking attacks, which he was barely able to dodge. He did his best to fend her off with fire and pillars of earth, all which she expertly dodged. Thankfully for him, the two tank pilots didn't stand still, firing into the crowd with the metal repeater guns on their torso, nailing several of the gangsters.
"Draw them off!" she yelled. One of the other masked man, holding a bladed staff, swung it right at the mecha tanks, creating a blade of wind that sliced the cannon of the machine in half. Undeterred however, it continued firing its smaller gun into the crowd.
"Hey!" the leader of the gangsters yelled in the midst of the violence. "I need that hostage!"
"Our partnership has been concluded," the woman answered. "We delivered the actor, it's your job to secure him!"
While dodging the mecha tank fire, Tong, in the midst of the confusion, reached both Kushina and Pramuk in the back of the room. Hurriedly, he removed the gag.
"OK, stand still, I'm going to try to remove these bonds."
The man with the bladed staff dove straight down, hoping to strike Tong dead with said blade. With seconds to spare, a massive dome of earth formed above the trio, blocking the blade and the man's descent.
"I told you before," Tong answered, even as began removing the bonds from both Kushina and Pramuk, "that I'm gonna protect you no matter what."
For a brief moment, the pair's eyes gazed into each other, as if they reached a deeper understanding of the other's struggles. The moment was over all too soon, however, as the blade of the masked man began to cut through the dome. Cutting through it, Tong quickly moved both Kushina and Pramuk out of the way, creating walls of earth to delay, if not stop the bladed staff of this new Air Bender.
"Go!" he shouted. "Get behind the tanks!" Pramuk wasted no time, following a wall earth bent up to save him, while Kushina ran in the opposite direction.
"What are you doing?"
"Getting my guns back," she answered matter-of-factly. However, one of the masked men, armed with a carbine, took aim at Kushina. Luckily for her, before he could fire, a powerful gust of wind tossed him to the side, allowing her to collect her weapons.
"Yeah I'm still here AAAH!"
A torrent of water pushed the Air Bender back into the wall of the warehouse, leaving him frozen to it by a block of ice. The woman who put him there began slashing at the two mecha with a water whip, hoping to accomplish the same effect.
Both Kushina and Tong ran towards Shing, only to be interrupted by both the chi-blocker and the man with the bladed staff, respectively. Fire drove them back temporarily, when the sudden sound of sirens blaring interrupted the battle.
"You didn't think I was going to come here outnumbered, did you?"
"Cops! Bail!" was the refrain from the gangsters, throwing down their weapons and running for the nearest exit. The masked assailants had a different plan in mind, heading outside to where a heavily armored helicopter was waiting, its engines already running. All six ran inside the passenger compartment as it took to the skies, Tong and Kushina in pursuit.
"We'll have to settle things another time Specialist," the woman declared before heading inside. "But trust me, you have NOT seen the last of us!"
To prove her point, rockets from two launchers on the side of the vehicle began firing at the warehouse, forcing the pair to run for their lives and take cover behind an earth bent wall. The distraction was successful, as the helicopter flew away well before the police arrived. Briefly, Tong thought of taking Shing's staff to pursue them, but thought better of it, instead checking on his frozen friend.
"I'm just fine," Shing announced as the pair got close. "Now get me down!"
"Sure." Placing his hand on the ice, Tong allowed the heat to slowly melt it, causing him to fall to the ground.
"Slightly," Shing answered.
"Most of the members of that gang were caught in their big retreat, including their leader," one of the security officers announced to the director. "They won't bother you again."
"Nevertheless, I want round-the-clock security on all my actors. We've suffered too many delays as it is."
"I understand Aaraluk."
On the set, Kushina looked over at Pramuk, still shaken from the ordeal in the morning. For obvious reasons, the crew elected to take the day off so everyone could settle, although the workaholic Aaraluk did use the opportunity to film the driving of TT's newest vehicle, just to get the commercial out of the way. With her film debut out of the way, she turned to the actor she had gotten to know.
"Yeah, just fine," he answered. "I'm lucky your bodyguard was there."
"So was I," she answered. "Unfortunately, this means that we're going to be on our way soon."
"It's a shame," Pramuk answered. "You're going to miss us filming the big assassination scene. And I was just getting to know you better. Such a lovely, talented young woman…"
"Please stop," Kushina interrupted. "I'm going to blush."
"But it's true. Alas, you're spoken for."
"It takes a very special kind of person to say they'll protect you no matter what. But it's just as well," he explained. "Bolin was always unlucky in love, at least at first."
"Now you're just being melodramatic."
"Blame the director." Both laughed at the joke as Pramuk handed her a card. "If you're ever around, let's meet up."
"Sounds like a plan."
Walking away with a smile, she looked at Tong and Shing, smiling.
"What was all that about?"
"I'll tell you when you grow up," she answered with a grin. Tong just shook his head.
"What's with her?" Shing asked.
"Star struck I bet."
"Not quite," Kushina answered. "Now let's get going. There's someone we need to meet close by here, right?"