"Joon Wufei! You have innocent blood on your hands!"
The man known as Joon Wufei had just returned home from some business meetings concerning contracts with the Earth Kingdom. Now a man dressed like the old terrorist Amon was dangling him above the balcony of his Republic City penthouse. He was confused and scared at the same time.
"I…I don't know what you're talking about!"
"You were involved in the death of Dr. Mao! You silenced people who knew Avatar Korra is a fake!"
"Mao? Look, I knew a Mao, but I didn't kill him, I swear…"
"I know someone who went to his office the same time he died! Maeda! He's a real estate developer! Office in the Fire Nation! He knew him!"
Without care, 'Amon' threw the main into his furniture, bruised, but alive. Before he could ask anything else, steam rapidly began to form around the intruder, obscuring him. When it finally cleared, he was gone; a water puddle by the sink the only sign someone was there.
"He didn't know anything either."
Throwing off the mask and uniform, Tong slumped in a chair in the dormitory room Rohan was lending to him. None of the others save Rohan, Shing, and Kushina (now stuck in an Air Temple Island room for fear of her life) knew what he was doing with his late nights. With nothing else to do, he turned on the television.
Our top story, Amon strikes again! Eyewitnesses report a man dressed as the infamous Equalist terrorist leader appearing and threatening another man in the fourth such attack. The victim this time; Joon Wufei, a construction company owner with no ties to non-bender rights issues or Internet free speech claims did not report any items stolen however. When pressed for a statement, Mr. Wufei refused comment. The Avatar Affair's office released a statement today stating that quote 'If this is a joke, it is in extremely poor taste' end quote.
"No. He gave me another name, but still nothing."
"Maybe going around threatening everyone on that list is the wrong way to go. They're all associates, right? That doesn't make them all guilty by default."
"Well what the hell else am I supposed to do?" Tong lamented. "This list is the only lead we have. Whoever set up that trap at Kushina's job covered it up, and we didn't exactly stay long enough to get clues."
"Speaking of, are you gonna talk to her?"
Tong's eyes went wide for a second, but his expression became much more sullen. "Kushina? What do I tell her? 'Sorry I kinda cost you your job, forced you to stay low and possibly need to skip town, and probably ruined your life. Friends?"
"Well it's better than giving her the silent treatment."
Sighing, Tong got up from his chair and headed down the hall where Kushina had been staying. Breathing deeply, he knocked. A familiar voice answered.
Tong entered, but didn't get more than an inch past the door before the book was thrown at him. To be precise, a rather thick copy of The History of Mechanized Warfare nearly knocked him clear in the head.
"Look, this wasn't intentional. I told you that when…"
"OUT!" A copy of Secret Lives of the Earth Maidens was thrown just to hammer the point home. Luckily, the door shut just in time before it could hit someone. Sighing heavily, Tong returned to his room.
"Didn't go well?"
"What do you think?"
The Avatar Affair's office was founded ten years prior in 244 AG as a response to what was framed as 'more complicated problems that required a more organized solution.' Since that time, offices and facilities existed in both Republic City and in cities across the four nations, although the Northern Water Tribe's facility was not scheduled to open for another month.
It was here where a middle aged appearing woman, clad in a green military dress uniform, with a group of advisors, observed the firing of the a cannon attached to a mecha tank. The bright pink energy blasted through steel targets as if they were nothing.
"Impressive if I do say so myself," her host, a white haired man with narrow eyes and a white suit boasted. "While spirit vine weapons are still extremely restricted by the Spirit Portal Treaty, we have been able to simulate and downsize the result for use on our mecha tanks using alternative power sources. The result is a weapon capable of firing a beam of massive destructive power, but is precise enough to use in battle without fear of annihilating an entire city.
"It is…quite an impressive weapon Mr. Ping. Will it be ready for use for the army?"
"Of course, honored Avatar. While this model is equipped on our test bed Govarian unit, we've already begun finalizing our production model, the Skull Knight, for deployment."
"Excellent. I think that's all that needs to be seen."
"And at such a small scale, we can sneak in heavy artillery without any of the obvious issues using a stationary platform…"
"I said that's enough," the woman re-stated. "As long as it gets the job done, quickly and efficiently, the specifics are unimportant."
The woman turned away, flanked by numerous guards and advisors as Ping left towards an office. Immediately, they began to vie for her attention.
"Madame Avatar, we've gotten a report concerning another land dispute."
"Your contacts at the Northern Water Tribe want to book your hotel for the groundbreaking ceremony next month."
"Commander Nan has again asked for a formal declaration of support for the Earth Kingdom on behalf of Emperor Xing. He has noted that tension on both sides is extremely high."
"I will deal with all these things later," the woman sternly replied. "I require rest."
A car was waiting for the woman, which soon sped her to a hotel by the facility. Once there, she shut the door to her room, with only one man besides her, a black haired man with a thin mustache clad in similar military wear with a pair of dark sunglasses, almost like a visor, over his head. The only other difference was the cape he wore, a black piece of cloth reserved for the Avatar's highest-ranking advisors.
"Inquisitor Han, it's happening again."
"The déjà vu honored Avatar?"
"I remember events, names, places. Great battles. But I can't even remember my own partner. I can't remember her voice, her touch, her kiss. What would we talk about on cold winter nights? "
"Just her, honored Avatar?"
"No Han. My friends, I can't remember their sounds, the little memories we had…"
"Honored Avatar, I am aware that you outliving your friends and your ahem, partner, has been difficult. But it was expected of all the Avatars. Generally speaking, the Avatar lives a much longer life than us mere humans do. Besides, to honor their memories, we must press forward with our plans."
The woman sighed, looking over some paperwork. "I am aware Inquisitor. I will deal with the outstanding requests after some rest."
"Of course honored Avatar."
The woman's face softened, saying aloud "Thank you. Without you, I would be completely lost."
"I live to serve honored Avatar."
"You have been by my side for twenty years, since you were 25! Call me Korra. That's an order, Han."
"O…of course H…Korra."
Leaving the Avatar as is; the man named Han went to his own room, where he went in front of a computer, looking at a group at the other end.
Inquisitor, the task force you've assembled to deal with the Specialist has arrived in Republic City. How do we draw him out?
"I've heard that a man dressed as Amon has been torturing people without any set pattern. Woolong to Polar Waffles say that's the Specialist. Wait for him to strike, then capture him – alive."
He didn't want to try this again, but considering that striking fear into random associates of his father as Amon was proving fruitless, and Kushina was likely a week away from wanting to hear anything out of him, he didn't have much of a choice.
Now he stood in front of the entrance to the "Forest of the Spirits" the site of the old Republic City downtown, now a nature preserve for spirits and human tourists. At the center, the spirit portal he would need. All he needed to do was deal with the standard disclaimer, delivered by a bored guard.
"Sir, please be advised before entering the Forest of the Spirits that Republic City is not responsible for any injuries, possessions, or other unpleasant effects you may suffer while inside. Be advised that spirit vines are restricted under the Spirit Portal Treaty of 174 AG, and illegal possession of such is considered to be a Class 3 offense punishable by up to 25 years in prison or a 250,000 woolong fine."
"I am aware."
"Thank you, enjoy your stay. Please consider making a donation to the Spirit Preservation Fund on the way out and don't forget to stop at the gift shop."
With the bored guard placated by reciting his mantra, Tong journeyed into the forest towards the spirit portal. The various creatures around him paid him no mind, nor did the tourists. A few buzzed past him, but other than stopping to pet a creature that resembled a cat with a flower on its head, he pressed forward. Finally, he crossed through the portal, recognizing the alien surroundings. It was time to move forward.
A cracking blow sent the man to the ground as he looked up next to the entrance of the portal, a being with a shape of a man in thick armor, but no form, as if the area where he was supposed to be was composed entirely of fog.
YOU ARE NOT WELCOME AMONG THE SPIRITS WHELP! LEAVE!
Gathering himself from the ground, Tong wiped the slight trace of blood from his face. "I must speak with Korra."
KORRA IS A MURDERER! NONE MAY SPEAK WITH HER! ALL IN HER LINE ARE ACCESSORIES TO HER CRIME!
"I'm not the Avatar, but I must speak with the past…"
DO NOT LIE! the being shouted, his voice echoing throughout the plain, scaring away other spirits. YOU ARE THE AVATAR, AND THE AVATAR IS UN-NEEDED HERE! LEAVE NOW!
Tong had heard enough. Immediately he had charged forward, using Fire Nation style boxing in an attempt to knock some sense into his tormentor. Unfortunately, the blows proved fruitless, passing through him as if they didn't exist.
MERE FISTS? IS THIS WHAT THE AVATAR IS REDUCED TO?
"I can't bend here," Tong shouted, "but I can still kick your…"
NO, YOU CANNOT, was all the being said before disappearing. His voice however, echoed in the air.
YOU BORE ME. LEAVE THIS PLACE AND YOU MAY LIVE TO RUIN THE LIVES OF OTHER HUMANS, THE WAY YOU DID OURS. STAY AND YOUR LIFE IS FOREFIT.
THERE IS NO KORRA TO SPEAK TO. THERE ARE NO PAST LIVES TO SPEAK TO. THERE IS ONLY YOUR PRESENCE. A PRESENCE THAT RUINS THE LIVES OF ALL AROUND YOU.
Dejected, Tong turned back. Physical might was not able to win the day, as much as he wanted it to. Tong needed to work off this frustration somehow.
He didn't offer a donation, earning some sneers on the way out.
The food was technically good, spices were used properly, but it was…wrong. Being there was wrong. And it had been infuriating.
"I'm going home."
"What?" Shing couldn't believe what he was hearing. He was expecting the anger, the frustration, but not this level of what could only be described as sheer fearlessness. There was no fear, no concern, and no attempt to try and sound forceful, just a very calm statement.
"I can't stay here. I have to go home, get my stuff."
"And you don't think that creep in the mask that tried to kill us is going to have your place scouted out?"
"I quit my job. I figured they'd fire me anyway, but anyone who wants to kill someone as part of a conspiracy? Not exactly someone I want to work for. They don't need me now."
"True. About Tong…"
"Don't," she flatly replied. "I'll deal with him…eventually."
"He feels terrible," Shing continued. "You have to know the last thing he wanted to do after meeting you again for two days was to ruin your job."
"I said don't worry about it. I get it. After all," she added, "I did save you two idiots, didn't I?"
"At least tell the Grandmaster before you go."
The flattening of two tires unceremoniously derailed the car carrying Minister Qin. Before anyone realized what was happening, a hole was burned through the roof of the vehicle, and a powerful hand dragged the minister out.
"A…Amon! What do you want with me?"
"YOU HAVE BLOOD ON YOUR HANDS!" the masked man answered as he leapt, impossibly high for a non-bender, towards the roof of a building.
"I…I don't know what you're talking about!"
"The government of Republic City had elements responsible for the death of Dr. Mao. Who ordered the hit?"
Still blubbering in fear, the minster was on the verge of tears looking into the mask of his captor. Finally, he began to form coherent sentences.
"There was a joint United Republic/Avatar Affair's operation to deal with a Dr. Mao, over restricted goods! Orders came from the top!"
"The Avatar! It was spirit related! All those issues go through Avatar Affairs!"
It all made sense to Tong at that point. Any sort of hit to kill his father and silence rumors of a second Avatar would come from the fake. Clearly he was wasting time thinking the Avatar was a pawn. He didn't need to kill Korra last, no; he needed to kill her first!
"Where is Avatar Korra?"
"She's going to be in town in two days for some meetings! But it's not like you can get near her!"
Turning around to see the source of the voice, the masked Tong dropped his prey and looked behind. Six men, or rather, four men and two women judging by their uniforms; all dressed in black suits with a distinct red pattern on the front of their uniforms. Each seemed to have holsters for varying weapons. One of the women stepped forward.
"We have orders to bring you in, Amon. Put the minister down and come with us."
"And you are?"
"The Youxia of Vatuu, a taskforce specifically designed to hunt down criminals like yourself."
"Cute name for a bunch of kids show heroes."
"Says the man dressed like the Equalist terrorist."
Each of the members of the Youxia drew a weapon, one a metal bola that began spinning rapidly, one two Shocker pistols, colored black and white, a third drew a staff with a long blade at the end, the fourth, the other woman of the group, opened a water sack as the water formed into a whip around her right arm. The fifth drew a small piece of wood, seemingly pathetic compared to his compatriots, until it burst into flame, revealing a literal sword of fire.
However, the woman in the front drew no weapon. She only assumed a fighting stance reminiscent of a chi-blocker. Despite this, her voice was fearless.
"Last chance. Dead or alive, you're coming with us." The masked man offered a one-word reply.
Steam began to form around the masked figure when the man wielding the staff made his move. With a rapid motion, a powerful gust of air swept the steam away as the woman with the whip and the man with the bola moved in. Undeterred, the masked man struck the ground, causing it to collapse and throw the group off balance as he leapt away, flames assisting in his jumps.
"Agent two, see to the minister. The rest of you, after him!"
Even with one of their agents seeing to the minister, the remaining five were relentless. Any time he touched solid ground, Tong was forced to dodge either swings of a water whip, shocker bolts, or air currents. While only one was a metal bender, they all seemed to use grappling hooks of some kind to move from roof to roof, swinging to the top with the aid of their own bending skills. All he could do was dodge, duck, and turn to the side, as each of his pursuers attempted to capture him or take him out.
Going to the streets wasn't an option. There were civilians down there, and he was pretty sure these people didn't care who got caught in the crossfire.
The trip back to Kushina's apartment seemed normal enough, the same route she had used countless times after coming home from work, or seeing friends at a club, or the occasional date from someone who inevitably never seemed to gel with her. Give all those dates credit; none of them had her foil bank robberies.
Still, as much as she wanted to, Kushina found herself unable to stay completely mad at Tong, as least not as much as he did confuse her. The Earth Republic man seemed like he was trying to be two different people, one the overly enthusiastic kid from her youth, the guy that chased off bullies and never saw a competition he could say 'no' to. The second was a dark, brooding figure that tried to stay angry all the time and insisted that he was going to kill Korra. The problem was that the hate seemed…forced, as if he had to actively try to stay angry because it wouldn't last otherwise.
"Enough of that," she thought. It was time to go home, and then tomorrow look into seeing if Varrick Industries was hiring for that new Fire Nation facility. It would get her further away from her father, and that would cut down on his requests to get her to take a teaching job at the dojo.
That reminded her, she needed to make sure the place Varrick's offices were had a chi blocking dojo nearby.
Still, she had connections, a strong resume, and experience in a field that wasn't exactly brimming with qualified applicants. She could easily land on her feet. In fact, she was sure that getting away from a company involved in a conspiracy to control the world was probably a good thing.
Reassuring herself that her life was going to be just fine despite the notable setback of quitting a job with a murderous conspirator as a CEO, Kushina walked home with her head held high.
Only to gasp and cringe as she saw an explosion on a nearby rooftop.
"Oh no, not again."
Jumping from rooftop to rooftop was becoming too risky. His only chance of escape was heading down to the streets below. The Youxia were relentless, taking a chance to fire upon him every second he tried to pause. Seeing his opening after dodging two Shocker bolts, Tong took his chance and landed in an alleyway, hoping to lose his pursuers in the small crowd that formed. It was then he saw the last person he hoped to see that night.
"Raava, did this happen to the others?"
Raava didn't answer, yet another reason Tong didn't consider himself to be the Avatar. What did answer were his pursuers, all six landing on the ground as he rang towards her. Their leader's voice rang out, her orders ominous.
"Do not let him escape! Take out anyone who gets in the way!"
He knew what he had to do. Without wasting any time, he picked up Kushina and leapt back towards the tops of the buildings.
"What are you doing?!"
"Keeping you safe, I swear! Look!"
On the streets below, people were knocked aside and objects destroyed as their pursuers searched for their quarry. One noticed and with the assistance of a grappling hook attached to his wrist, gave pursuit.
The windows of the office building were blown aside by the gust of wind, but the pair still crashed rather forcefully into a cubicle. Luckily for Kushina, Tong took the brunt of the fall, getting up to his feet.
"Everyone's home for the day. Let's AAAARGH!"
"What a shame. I was aiming for the head."
Clutching his leg, the scorch of the bolt clearly visible, Tong, still masked, looked down the barrel of the two pistols his pursuer was wielding.
"We told you. Now surrender."
Another second and it was likely the man would have fired. Instead, a blur of fists and feet emerged from behind the cubicle, scissoring the assailant's legs and taking him to the ground, where he soon met a flurry of elbows pointed at his head. After the fifth, the man lost consciousness, the woman taking his two guns from their wire holders.
"I think I'll keep these. And you, what are you thinking?"
"Hold it right there!" Both Tong and Kushina grimaced, looking at their pursuers. Kushina wasted no time raising her newly acquired pistols in defense, only for the water whip wielder to swat them aside. As the man with the flaming sword advanced on her, another voice interrupted.
"Leave her alone!"
"Or else what?" their leader asked.
From beneath his mask, Tong smiled at the presence of a chair with metal legs. Quickly, one was bent around the fallen assailant's neck, wrapping around with the intention of choking him.
"I propose a trade."
"Do tell," the woman replied, her voice genuinely curious.
"This woman is a civilian I tried to get out of harm's way. And the damage you'll cause to the city would likely be unacceptable. I'll give you back your man in exchange for your withdrawal."
While the other members of the Youxia of Vattu raised their weapons, presumably to fight to the death, their leader raised her hand.
"Lower your weapons."
"But Number 1?"
"I said lower your weapons!"
The woman stepped forward, picking up the injured man and holding him over her shoulder. "Withdraw."
The group turned towards the window, vanishing into the night. However, before the woman left, she turned back to face her opponents one last time.
"This isn't over. Next time we meet, Specialist, I will flay you alive!" Kushina only had one word to reply.
An hour later, in Kushina's former apartment, Tong sat, unmasked drinking a glass of tea and pondering what he had to do. She had been quite insistent on NOT being carried off in Tong's arms from rooftop to rooftop, so the pair (after depositing the Amon costume in a nearby trash can), took the elevator down to the first floor and explained they were civilians that ran for cover. The security guard waved them off once he was sure that the pair had nothing on them related to the business. Once home, and sure they weren't being followed, Kushina put on a pot of tea as Tong sat on the couch.
"This has been the worst possible way to re-unite with someone I can think of," he lamented.
"Hey," she answered, "at least it's not boring."
"So you're not mad?" Her cross expression suggested otherwise.
"No, I'm mad. But the evil company, the conspiracy to kill people, that's not your fault. You just kinda dragged me along for the ride."
"I didn't mean to."
"I know. But you were kinda always like that."
Tong could only look on confused as she continued. "You were always trying to help people out, keep people safe from bullies, go into competitions and races, all of it. Except now instead of fighting that jerk Mei Mei, you're fighting conspirators."
"I still want to make it up to you. Maybe I could try and get you a new job over in testing."
"How are you gonna do that?"
"My dad," Tong continued, "knew a lot of businessmen. I figure the ones that don't want to kill us could probably help you."
"I appreciate it."
"I wanted to tell you earlier, but the whole book at head thing convinced me not to."
"Yeah, can you blame me? I needed some time."
He nodded, looking at his friend hold up the two pistols she took from their assailant earlier in the evening. He was still wondering how she got them past that guard.
"This kinda sums it up."
"You gave me two pistols. You're never boring to be around, I give you that. So, when are you going to knock it off with this dark avenger bit?"
Tong shook his head, even as he looked on at the teacup. "Not till I get to the bottom of it all."
"She comes to town in a few days. And I'm going to kill her."