Balance Through Realignment
It had taken hours of viewing the information. The group worked in shifts; some sleeping while others stood guard. Even the archivists changed their shifts, although all, young, old, or otherwise, did nothing to impede the group, merely ensuring that nothing was destroyed as the group worked. They even saw fit to bring out a meal of fruit and granola for the group (which the Air Bender trio especially appreciated). It was clear that the archivists there were more than complicit in their help.
"Many of the things here weren't in the original designs," one of the archivists reasoned. "But since no one was going to see them anyway, it wouldn't hurt to list…sensitive information, now would it?"
"Works for me," Amit reasoned as he began to compile more notes.
Finally, about a day and several shifts later, a full report was completed, concerning, head to toe what had happened over the past eighty years that now threatened the world.
"Well, I guess we need to go over it," Kushina reasoned. "Let's start from the top."
184 AG –
"Zaheer has been defeated. He will not be returning."
The council rom sat in a small retreat outside of Republic City, far removed from the city lights or human traffic. Rather, outside, cherry blossoms and a flowing river greeted anyone who would look out the window.
"Yes Quinfang," one of the men answered. "Zaheer has been defeated. But at least he's done something. What have we done in these past ten years?"
"Planned," Bu Quinfang replied. "Zaheer was as foolish as he was impatient. 'Let's cause anarchy in the Earth Kingdom with no backup plan! Let's draw attention to myself the second I get out of jail! He was a fool and he remained one to the end. Meanwhile, we have integrated ourselves into White Lotus proper as well as both the United Republic and the new Earth Kingdom. We have formed an alliance with a major technology firm. And we have the position to strike, to fully take over the world's government's through the use of the Avatar."
"And to do this we need time, correct?"
"Correct. My plan has three distinct phases. And I understand that it will take decades before they are fully realized." Knowing that however, I believe that this is the only way to actually realize our goals of a true, permanent balance."
"Phase 1," Kushina read aloud. "Eliminate any and all of Korra's personal connections so they cannot object to what we have planned."
Looking at the paper with the list of names, she began to read them to the group.
Chief Lin Beifong – Killed in the line of duty following the Triple Threat Triad/Sons of Amon gang wars. Of course no one knew that we were supplying the Sons of Amon with our new 'Shocker' weapons, but if we were to make non-benders equal citizens, we had to give them the tools to be equal. Non-benders always seemed to be more intelligent and creative anyway, so it was no surprise our non-benders created the weapons necessary for them to be equal. The gang war served as an excellent testing ground for our weapons, and was a rousing success.
"You added that bit about non-benders in," Leena stated flatly. Kushina merely shook her head.
"Nope. Makes sense when you think about it. We can't create fire with our hands, so we create tools with our minds. Not to mention, think of every major mechanical or electronic invention in the past century. Cars, modern trains, planes, mecha tanks, Shockers, computers, and countless other stuff. Every last one was created by a non-bender."
Leena could only look on at Kushina with a clear sense of annoyance. "Just go to the next part of the report."
"Spoilsport. You're just lucky I don't have a wrench and create a machine to beam all these papers into your brain."
Jinora, her husband Kai, and her brother Meelo. Assassinated by one of our contacts during a peace rally. Naturally the violence was blamed on Earth Kingdom sympathizers. This worked to our advantage, to keep the two nations apart. In order to justify military spending on both sides, the cold war had to continue. They were the major source of tension and we could not lose that for anything.
"Yudhisthir," Shing noted, remembering their battle with the master assassin all too well.
"Bolin and Opal's deaths was connected right to this," Kushina replied.
It was in our best interests to save Korra's two closest confidants for last, Asami Sato and Mako. We did not want to kill all of Korra's friends too quickly, lest an obvious pattern develop.
This in turn led to Phase 2 of our plan, the slow integration of our trusted men into White Lotus, and the expansion of our official powers through the bureau our agents created, the Spirit Human Relationship Bureau. Through these contacts, we were able to stockpile funds, build militias that can later be turned into our regular army, and increase our influence. Our hand has not been tipped. Eventually, this funding will lead to greater government influence, and a more stragetic vantage point from which to begin our coup.
Unfortunately, despite our gentle nudging, Avatar Korra seems to despise us. I thought that removing her inner circle would make her more agreeable to our plans, but instead she seems to be more resistant than ever. I don't think she ever forgave Chanming for denying both her marriage application and her adoption. But these are necessary sacrifices for peace. She unfortunately, did not realize that.
"So Korra didn't want to go along with it?" Tashi asked.
"Ikki rarely talked about Korra," Shing answered. "Maybe this is why. Maybe she did know, but with everyone else on Team Avatar dead or isolated, she had no one else to turn to."
Looking through the report, Kushina scoffed at what she was reading. "It gets weirder."
I am dying.
I knew that I would not live to see my work completed, but I was not expecting illness to be the reason. The doctors sadly, claim it is terminal.
But even in my last days, I have found the solution to our problem. Scientists that we have been working with have begun developing the ability to literally clone human cells, reproduce exact copies. It is theorized that one day we will be able to clone a full human being. Unfortunately, initial experiments seem to not allow us to clone a human with all four bending abilities without literally destroying the cells. But there are ways to…fake such things.
This technology will not be ready until after I have passed. Until such time, the rest of White Lotus and I must continue to lay the fertile ground for our plans. We must be ready for when the day comes to replace Korra that the world will not know. And once that day comes, we can begin the final phase of our plans.
"Clones?" Ulva's tone was one of sheer disbelief. "That's ludicrous."
"So is an information repository buried in the South Pole," Leena answered.
One which you were intelligent enough to find. A shame you won't be leaving!
The group turned around to face a legion of men in black masks, flanked by four mask wearing individuals, each of a various animal, a fish, a sky bison, a dragon, and a badger mole. Wasting no time, everyone drew their weapons or prepared to bend. The masked legion responded in kind, raising their hands to reveal they were fire benders.
"Drop your weapons and don't bother bending," the woman in the badger mole mask began. "You're outnumbered."
"Wanna test that theory?" Leena asked, a fireball forming in her hand as she did so.
"I am being very kind. But you are testing my patience, young one. Drop your weapons now!"
The voice came from one of the archivists, who stood between the two parties. Their hands were raised as if they were ready to battle both sides.
"There will be no bloodshed in this archive! Even you must respect those rules, Honored Petals. The same rules that you bound us to when you trapped us here for the rest of our lives."
"This is insolence!" the man in the fish mask responded. The archivist shook his head.
"The rules apply to all. Now lower your hands! And remove yourselves from this archive. Perhaps we can discuss this in peace in the conference room."
"Gonna be one hell of a conference," Amit mused.
The four masked men all agreed, the man in the dragon mask taking the lead. "Perhaps violence isn't our only option. We could offer you all a position within our esteemed organization. Perhaps, once we explain what we have done, you will find our methods…agreeable."
"And if we don't?" Ulva asked.
"You know the answer to that."
To say the mood in the conference room was tense would be a grand understatement. Everyone looked on at each other, prepared to strike, but as long as the archivists' watchful eye was on them, they dared not. Finally, after a few minutes of painfully awkward silence, Kushina raised her voice.
"Everything here indicates you're responsible for the deaths of thousands. And that your long-term plan, this 'Realignment', will result in the deaths of millions. The only way things would be worse is if you started firing spirit vine warheads."
"Rest assured that is not our intention," the man in the dragon mask began. "We want peace. But the only way to bring peace to the world is not through random anarchy, as the other sect of Red Lotus learned. Nor is it through dramatic underground rebellions that burn out as quickly as they flare up. It requires a long-term commitment to a plan, and a will, a desire to see it through to its bitter end. And the results, oh the results. Bender and non-bender equal in society's eye. No one nation trying to impose their superiority like the Fire Nation did. One world, realigned into perfect equality under the Avatar, who will rule as an absolute political and spiritual authority. With…help from a council of the wise. Namely, us and those we deem fit to bring humanity into a new age of progressive and peaceful thinking."
"And what makes you think that it won't fall apart after you're gone?" Ulva asked. "The nations of the world will be more than happy to be removed from your heel, and even Korra won't live forever, no matter how many times you clone her!"
The rather impassioned protest from a career soldier only received chuckles from the Black Petals. Raising his hand as if to tell his compatriots to stop laughing, the Dragon spoke again.
"You think we didn't plan for this? Long term planning leads to safeguards being put into play in order to ensure that things don't collapse after we leave. In this case, we ensured that there were…safeguards in place past our collapse, hence our existence as a council, the Black Petals. The true power within White Lotus."
Kushina, for her part, was shrugging off the words of the Black Petals as well. "And you came all the way out here to deal with a few Air Benders, some soldiers out of Mt. Frost Rat Hole…"
"A spy, and an engineer who had a job until she figured out she was working for freaking Evil Incorporated! You're definitely impressive, what with your armies of ninjas and top-secret mecha tanks! So impressive you had to deal with us personally!"
"Calm yourself Dragon," the woman in the badger mole mask interrupted, before addressing Kushina.
"We didn't come here for you. We came here for the man named Tong. Or rather, Avatar Tong. Where is he?"
"He's not here right now," Kushina muttered through gritted teeth. "What's it to you?"
"We were going to offer him the same agreement that his father refused. Exile, in exchange for all his wants and needs being provided for. He would retire somewhere and would have his every desire fulfilled, and in exchange we could continue our valuable work."
"Tong wouldn't agree to something like that," Kushina answered. "When he finds out you killed his father, he's going to want you all dead."
"Easier said than done," the man in the sky bison mask noted. "But since you're all here, we are willing to extend you the same courtesy. We will make you disappear, provide for your every need and want, and all you have to do is end this foolish resistance. After all, you cannot truly expect to accomplish anything, and you know it."
The group all looked on at the four masked individuals in front of them. None of them spoke, unsure of how to respond.
"Surely you realize that we command an army and you command…nothing," Badger Mole boasted. "Even as we speak, the Avatar Army is marching on the Earth Republic with the most high-tech force in the world. There is nothing they can do to stop us, nor is there anything the Fire Nation, the Air Nomads, or the Water Tribes can do. But this way, we avoid the bloodshed that we are laying the foundation to end permanently. You must see the logic of the situation."
Silence again reigned until finally, Shing spoke.
"You're the same as Ozai. The same as Chin, Amon, Kuvira, and every other dictator in history. And the Avatar is going to stop you, just like the Avatar stopped them."
"But Avatar Korra…"
"Got her ass kicked by Avatar Tong!" Shing yelled. "We have enough evidence to show the world that Korra is a fraud, and once we show that, I don't see that big army she recruited lasting very long."
"So the choice has been made," Dragon announced. "Then you must die."
The archivists kept their eyes on the Black Petals, ready to move if anyone dared strike in the conference room. That was until once broke through, looking on at the foursome.
"Honored Petals, you have a call. It's…Inquisitor Han."
"Han?!" Dragon shouted incredulously. "What does he want? Put him on."
"Who are they talking about?" Kushina asked. That was before Amit and Tashi demonstrated rather noticeable fear.
"He's the one," Tashi began, as if in a trance. "He killed Mi Hee!" Shing could only stare on at the monitor in the center of the conference table that sprung to life.
Hello Honored Petals. I have called…to say goodbye.
"What are you talking about Han?" Dragon asked.
Simple. The facility you are in is now obsolete. You see, the world doesn't need you anymore, not with our forces now publicly challenging the nations, and our rank and file soldiers believe they are under Avatar Korra's command, not the Omniscient Council of Do-Nothings! Oooh, you have no idea how long I've waited to say that.
"Han!" Sky Bison yelled. "Your career in White Lotus is over! Consider yourself under arrest!"
That's no way to talk to the Avatar's fiancée.
Kushina blushed slightly hearing this, before immediately realizing he was talking about Korra, not Tong.
Badger Mole outright laughed at this. "You asked that clone to marry you? You've always been pathetic and meek, which is why you were such a good handler!"
Well, here's the part where I gloat about MY master plan, you masked idiots.
"HOLD YOUR TONGUE!" Dragon yelled.
Make me. Anyways, the contents of the Grand Archive have now been uploaded into the Star Flower. I've also taken the liberty of installing something on the Star Flower that will ensure your ends, and no way it can be traced back to me. Those loyal to me support this, those loyal to you will never know what happened, and those loyal to Korra will be none the wiser. Goodbye.
The monitor shut off, with the Black Petals staring at Kushina and the others. It was Leena who broke the silence.
The answer to that question was a thunderous boom that radiated overhead, shaking the entire building to its core.
"What in the name of everything sacred is that?" Kushina asked. To answer her questions, more of the archivists went into the conference room.
"Something is bombarding us! From space! It looks like a spirit vine beam!"
"WHAT?!" Dragon yelled.
"Quickly! Take the visitors and evacuate them at once!"
Kushina and the others quickly ran to follow the group, but when the Petals went to leave, the archivists stood in their way.
"Stand aside, librarian!"
"No. This is our greatest work, the one you helped us build. We should all leave this world together."
"Your men have been incapacitated," one of the archivists, announced. "No one is going to help you."
"You would kill us? Knowing what Han is planning?"
"We can't stop it here anyway," one of the archivists grinned. It was the grin of a man who knew his suffering was about to end.
"This way! Hurry!"
The group ran as fast as their legs would take them, surprised (but relieved) no one was impeding their escape. Finally, they approached what appeared to be an entrance to a tunnel.
"This tunnel digs out about three miles from the actual archive. It was designed that way so no one could pinpoint the exact location. Now go!''
"What about you?" Tashi asked.
"This is our life's work. We should both leave this world together." The group paused for a moment before he yelled a forceful "Go!"
With no time to convince the archivists otherwise, and another thunderous boom shaking the complex to its core, the group ran through the narrow metal tunnel, feeling the earth quaking behind them. They ran as fast as they could, the tunnel soon finally reached a hatch, which they opened, digging through an inch of snow to arrive topside.
It was then that they saw it.
A spirit vine beam from outer space struck the Grand Archive, leaving nothing but destruction and flame in its wake. UIlva was furious.
"This is an act of war! The Water Tribes are going to have this Han's head!"
"Get in line," Amit replied.
"I don't know how we're going to prove that a giant space death beam destroyed Avatar Affair's records facility," Leena noted.
"Be that as it may," Ulva began, "we need to get back to base before whoever's shooting that thing realized someone escaped."
"But Tong!" Kushina shouted.
"If Tong is the Avatar, then he'll be just fine in the Spirit World!"
"You saw that report! They put something there to keep him out!"
"We have to go!" Shing shouted. "I'm not going to let you die!"
"Would Tong want you to die like this?"
The glare Kushina shot at Shing could pierce steel. But reluctantly, she agreed and the group ran off even as the spirit vine beam continued to pound what was left of the Grand Archive into atomized dust. As they ran, the thoughts of the conspiracy melted away, replaced by one singular antagonistic force. A man named Han, who was going to use to White Lotus to take over the world. And he had an entire army to lead his charge, as well as apparently, a death ray in space he could fire to smite his enemies.
Their enemy was known. Their objective was clear.
Cameras snapped nonstop as Korra took the podium inside Ba Sing Se, the press guaranteed safety now that the invading force had been completely annihilated. Naturally, the press was all too happy to oblige, with reporters from every major news outlet on the planet taking photos and asking questions. Flanking Korra were armed guards from the newly christened 'Avatar Army'.
"Madame Avatar! This is unprecedented military action? Why now?"
"The world has gone through too much strife for me to merely sit back and watch," Korra explained. "This is the only way to ensure true peace in the world."
"Madame Avatar? Why the Earth State Civil War?"
"Simple. Regent Xing needed our help and surrendered willingly. We are not trying to start a war. Those nations who willingly join our banner will have their governments adjusted, yes, but they will still exist, just under the Avatar's infinite wisdom and guidance. In the case of the Earth Republic, their aggression had to be halted, so a, what do you call it? An 'armed intervention' was necessary."
Cameras flashed as more questions peppered the Avatar, who took the curiosity in stride. She was after all, going to rule the world.
"What do you say to the nations that refuse to join your Avatar Nation, even as a regency?"
Korra smirked at this. "Simple. Just try and stop me. You'll end up like the Earth Republic's army outside Ba Sing Se, completely annihilated. And then when the Avatar Army is at your doorstep, you'll wish you gave up when you had the chance."