The cafes and restaurants that lined the main street of New Teilong were bustling on your average Sunday, and this was no different. The presence of the military patrolling the city was not enough to prevent the more affluent members of the city from relaxing in a café, as men and women discussed the news and their lives even as mecha tanks and solders would occasionally pass through certain streets. Today however, one conversation was on everyone's mind.
"Someone who can bend all four elements? And he tried to kill the Avatar?"
"Is it about the Earth Republic?"
A group of friends looked on at the café, ready to have a relaxing brunch. That was until they saw the flash in the sky.
A rocket zoomed towards a nearby building and collided with it, causing an explosion that leveled the upper floors, raining debris in the street and forcing civilians to flee in panic. Soldiers and vehicles quickly zoomed towards the scene as a second rocket struck a second building three blocks away, leading to a duplicate scene. From overhead, two helicopters buzzed through the skies, blaring an audio message.
The Earth Kingdom army has brazenly attacked Earth Republic cities yet still believes they can hide military structures behind civilians without punishment. We are here to inform them they are mistaken. Several Earth Republic artillery and mecha tank regiments are approaching your city, and we will reduce it to rubble to drive all Earth Kingdom forces. But we are not butchers. Your leaders have six hours to surrender unconditionally before we commence a full-scale assault on the city, regardless of who is still here. Any attack on our waiting forces and we will begin leveling the city with enough firepower to leave it unusable for the Earth Kingdom military. You have been warned.
Most citizens panicked. Soldiers did their best to maintain order even as people ran for their vehicles, for public transport, or for some exit to the city. Amidst the chaos, no one noticed the four teenage delinquents heading towards where the Earth Republic forces were positioned.
178 AG. Republic City Courtroom.
The crowd in the courtroom stood silent as everyone began to prepare for the judge to open the session. In front of the seats with the crowd were two tables, on the left, four men in suits. On the right, Avatar Korra and her partner of four years, Asami Sato, with a female attorney. Press, friends of the Avatar, and government officials all looked on, their curiosity piqued. The mood was tense and full of anger. The judge, a middle aged man in formal robes, banged a gavel to signify that the session was now open.
"What do you think?" Korra asked her attorney. The woman shook her head.
"If we don't convince them today I don't know where we go from here. The Fire Nation and Earth Kingdom refused to even hear our case, and the Water Tribe and Earth Republic both officially said that they'd honor whatever decision the UR court makes. You should be proud Avatar. You're about to set a legal precedent."
"Let's hope it's in our favor."
"We are now ready to hear the closing arguments in the civil suit of The Spirit/Human Relationship Bureau vs. Avatar Korra concerning the injunction for adoption of Te Chau, current age 1. We will hear from the defense first.
"Thank you Your Honor," the attorney next to Korra began as she stood up. "We contest that Avatar Korra and her partner should have every right to adopt, as we've shown numerous character witnesses vouching for their ability to do so, as well as Korra's own monumental contributions to the world at large. Both Korra and Ms. Sato are exemplary human beings and should not be denied the right to raise a child. Furthermore, the child in question deserves to have a family, and we can think of no better family than that of a spiritual leader and a successful businesswoman who have both shown responsibility, courage, and compassion, three things necessary to be a parent. We contend that the Bureau's objection to this marriage is based solely on bias…
"OBJECTION!" one of the men shouted from the other table. "At no point in our argument was the fact that Korra and Asami are a same-sex couple ever mentioned, and it is completely irrelevant to our argument!"
"Sustained," the judge acknowledged. "We have established that the defense's attempt to paint the prosecution's suit as homophobic in nature is without merit. That comment is to be stricken from the record."
"Understood Your Honor," the attorney replied, before sitting down. "But let it be known that Avatar Aang was never denied the right to raise a family. In fact, the children of said family testified on Korra's behalf during earlier proceedings. We would have had his late wife testify had she not passed away earlier in the year."
"And the prosecution? What is your closing statement?"
Rising to address the crowd, the suited man smiled as he looked on at the judge. "Times have changed. And as such, we contend that the Avatar's responsibilities to the world at large would make her incapable of raising a family. A family requires two parents, and with Korra gone at all times, the child would never be able to have the proper family that she deserves, a father and a mother, because one of those figures would be off on a near constant basis. We therefore, in good conscience, cannot allow the adoption to go through, and as our numerous expert witnesses and government officials have noted, and request that the Avatar's request for adoption be denied at this and all points in the future so long as the situation remains the same."
"And what would cause the situation to change?" the judge asked.
"The situation will only change when the Avatar is relieved of her duties," the attorney replied, "which given the nature of being the Avatar, is contingent upon her death."
"I understand. I will make my decision after a 30-minute recess. "
Banging the gavel again, the onlookers filed out, followed by Korra, Asami, and her attorney. Both looked at their representative with an obvious question.
"I don't know. They've done an amazing job of portraying anti-gay sentiment as a matter of global security. If the judge buys Chanming's argument, we won't win."
Korra couldn't help but groan. Chanming, ever since the United Republic appointed him the head of the Spirit/Human Relations bureau following the creation of the new spirit portal, had made no secret of how much he hated Asami Sato. He had done everything he could to deny Korra privacy in the name of having the Avatar ready to answer any challenge. Unfortunately, those noble sentiments also included having paparazzi harass Asami, negatively influence Future Industries stockholders to the point the company was sold to Varrick Industries for about 2/3rds of its actual value, and now a lawsuit designed to keep Korra from adopting a child. He had even gone out of his way to hire an extremely experienced legal team to drag the case out as a matter of national security. As far as Chanming was concerned, Korra's public perception was to be that of a career minded workaholic who was single and focused more on the world than on any personal relationships. And if he had to ruin all those relationships, that was fine.
Korra couldn't help but think of the child in the middle of all this. Chau was a newborn belonging to a couple that had angered the local Triad. In retaliation for an unknown slight, the parents were killed. Naturally, Asami and Korra couldn't have a child via normal means, but when the news of the baby was made, everything fell into place. Or rather, it would have if not for Chanming.
"I'm sorry," Asami stated solemnly. "It's my fault Chanming has been on this warpath."
"It's bias and nothing else!" Korra shouted to her attorney. "If Mako was standing here instead of Asami, this would never have happened!"
Both Korra and Asami turned around and immediately blushed as the sight of their ex, who waved to the pair.
"M…Mako!" Asami shouted. "I'm so sorry, I didn't…"
Mako shook his head as he reached to embrace both. "I told you, I'd follow you into battle anywhere. That included a legal battle."
Korra nodded. Chanming had grilled Mako when he spoke on behalf of his ex, trying to portray her as incapable of love and he as heartbroken. Instead, Mako portrayed the two as merely incompatible through no fault of their own, and their eventual split amicable, rather than the heated bait for the press he wanted it to be.
"You'd be great parents, and all of us know it," Mako continued. "I just know the court is going to see it that way too."
Before the trio could continue to converse, Korra's attorney interrupted.
The judge looked on a statement he typed out as the room sat hushed. With no one interrupting, he began to read.
"The court sympathized with the defendant's desire to start a family, as it is the right of any human under United Republic borders. Furthermore, we understand that the amount that Korra has done for the world and all nations, including the United Republic, cannot be placed into mere words."
Korra sighed. Maybe this would finally…
"However?" Korra asked, only for the judge to continue.
"The responsibilities held by the Avatar in these modern times would result in any family that she attempted to adopt missing a parent. In fact, we would argue that any hypothetical family that Korra and her partner tried to make would have horribly underserved children, and is for the sake of those children, that we sustain the lawsuit filed by the SHRB and deny the application for adoption. Furthermore, as long as Korra's domestic situation remains the same, all future applications shall also be denied. The Avatar's service is to the world, and to allow the adoption to go through would put either the world or any adopted child in danger."
The gavel banged as Korra, in a fit of anger, screamed at the judge.
"YOU CAN'T DO THIS! I HAVE THE RIGHT TO START A FAMILY!"
"Well as far as the court is concerned," Chanming answered as he walked out, "you can't." With that remark, Korra ran towards Chanming, prepared to strike him.
She's coming too!
Her vitals are stabilizing. Hyper mode really took a lot out of her.
Check her pulse and blood pressure.
"NO!" Korra shouted as she stood up from the bed. Her breath was heavy, her brow covered in sweat. However, she was fully conscious.
"Hono…Korra, are you alright?"
Turning to the side, Korra saw Han, as well as two bodyguards. She looked at her hands, which were trembling.
"W…what happened? I was…dreaming. Before that, there was someone who tried to kill me at the art gala."
"Yes, an assailant attacked you," Han explained "but you were able to drive him off using the power of the Avatar state. He fled into the night, and then you fell unconscious, presumably from the strain of such. Avatar Affairs members took you here, where you've been for about three days. Once I heard the news, I rushed over immediately."
Korra smiled at the thought of her faithful assistant the Inquisitor running to her side, but lamented her battle. "I guess I'm not as strong as I thought," she said.
"Nonsense! You were able to fight the assassin off."
"If he was driven off but I fell, it was a draw. Who was the assassin?" Korra asked. However, the man shook his head.
"We intend to fully debrief you when you're released from the hospital. But the doctor informs me you should rest for at least another day."
"Will that be OK?" Korra asked. Han nodded.
"The world doesn't need the Avatar every waking second of the day. She's entitled to have her own life, is she not?"
Korra nodded. "Can I be left alone?"
The doctors and the like filed out of the room, leaving Korra alone with her thoughts, the pain that was seemingly left behind decades ago now resurfaced. She was never allowed to have a family, a decision lauded by the press and upheld by every nation. The Avatar, after all, must be ready at all times.
Korra looked around, realizing that she was alone. She then looked at her hands, and wept bitterly.
"Minor burns, abrasions, and other bruises, including the ribs. Small cut to the arm, but a fairly decent size cut by the abdomen, closed up with stitches and some help from the water healers. Luckily the cuts weren't deep enough to penetrate anything important. My recommendation is three days rest, particularly for the ribs and cut."
"May I see him?"
"Of course Grandmaster."
The Grandmaster walked into the room where Tong slept, his face still. Immediately, he placed a finger by the abdomen, right on the stitched cut.
"OW! What the hell?!"
"The fruits of your grand quest for revenge," the Grandmaster noted, pressing into his cut a bit further before letting it go. "People knowing you exist, and you being no closer to the mastermind behind the false Avatar."
Tong clutched his body in pain as Rohan added "And it would have been a lot worse if I hadn't sent people to look after you."
"Thank you," was all Tong mustered. The Grandmaster shook his head.
"We'll talk after you feel better. I don't think you're in the proper shape for a lecture. At least you can appreciate our care."
The Grandmaster left as Tong sighed heavily, only for another form to enter the room, a young brown haired woman in a nurse's uniform. Her pale skin only served to accent her grin, present even as she look at the bed laden Tong.
"So, how's the patient doing? You know, after getting himself into a scrape on TV?"
Tong sighed even as the woman glared at him. "Fine."
"Oh, don't be that way," the nurse cooed. "You're going to be under my care for the next three days, and I'd hate to let something…happen to you." Her patient glared at the nurse, which caused her to reply "Kidding! Jeez, you're uptight."
"Can you blame me?"
"Lighten up. After all, I can think of worse places you'd be. Now let's make sure all your vitals are OK. If you're a good patient, I might even give you a sponge bath and clean off all that sweat." The last line was full with teasing, to which Tong smiled, the first time he did since the car drove away.
"Go ahead Nurse."
"That's better. I think a few days off will do you some good."
Her patient nodded as she began to check his blood pressure. After all, what was the worst that could happen?
Four teens looked on outside the city at a row of Earth Republic soldiers, some wielding Shocker rifles, some obvious benders. The sight was an intrusion that even a group of young street punks couldn't stand for. It made sense given how Earth Kingdom schools portrayed the Earth Republic as a vicious group of rebels that wanted to usurp the throne in the name of a few corporations. The message of the evils of the Earth Republic government were drilled into history lessons since birth, and even a bunch of delinquents weren't going to stand for it.
With that thought in mind, the teenage Earth benders threw the soldiers' vehicle into the air, where it landed with a thud, nearly crushing two. The panicked men immediately ran for cover as one spoke into a radio.
"Captain! We're under attack from Earth Kingdom troops! Commence attack! Repeat, COMMENCE ATTACK!"
Several miles away, the primary force of the Earth Republic received the panicked message from their scouts. Immediately, the order was given, and artillery mounted to vehicles began firing, raining down on strategic targets in the city.
"Enemy units are approaching our position sir!"
"Artillery, keep firing until we've confirmed every single Earth Kingdom installation is out of commission! Ox units, move in and make sure that the enemy MT's don't leave the city!"
To the right of the line of vehicles and soldiers, a squadron of mecha tanks sped forward, bipedal legs skating through the concrete roads leading to New Teilong. Their desert camouflage only served to make them appear more visible among the silver and grey buildings, as the two eyes of a horned ox that was the mecha's head looked on.
You heard our orders! Take out all the Royals MT's and make sure our boys can finish the shelling before they move in!
YATTE YARUZE! Was the reply of the entire squadron in unison. Mecha tanks sped into the city, noticing both civilians and military units in disarray.
They didn't even bother evacuations! Look at these guys!
We gave them six hours! Try to minimize civilian casualties, and keep an eye out for road bunkers!
As soon as that was said, one of the roads between buildings rose up to reveal a ramp heading underground. Emerging from the ramps were the domed mecha of the Earth Kingdom, firing Shocker cannons at their waiting foes. One machine was destroyed instantly as the remaining units went for cover by the buildings.
"Don't let them advance!" Even as artillery fire smashed skyscrapers and smaller buildings, revealing the locations of Earth Kingdom installations, the city had descended into full-blown chaos. Benders from both sides had joined the fray as well, using debris from the destroyed structures as weapons against enemy mecha tanks, while others created defensive positions for their forces. Weapons fired, rocks were thrown, and neither side refused to give an inch, even as man and machine were destroyed in the crossfire.
When the Grandmaster walked in on Tong's room this time, the young man appeared a bit more relaxed.
"I'd feel better if the nurse was in here instead of you," Tong replied sarcastically.
"Just keep your hands to yourself," Rohan answered snidely, before his tone of voice changed to a more somber one. "And let us be serious for a moment, master and student."
"Korra can wield all four elements. She has the Avatar state," Tong noted.
"Yes, and whoever could make an impostor capable of that is very good at covering their tracks. There's a very good reason we didn't announce you were the new Avatar. Whoever is keeping Korra where she is extremely powerful, and odds are we all would have been dead."
"How do you know she isn't the ringleader?" Tong asked.
"Simple. Ever since Korra was replaced, she began working very closely with a select group of advisors, and you can see the lower ranking ones with her at all times. The real Korra HATED the idea of having a bodyguard following her everywhere, and wasn't exactly the biggest fan of bureaucrats."
"So I'm right back to square one?" Tong asked. Rohan shook his head.
"Nonsense! You did get a name during your little escapade as Amon, and you have a location too." Tong nodded.
"The Fire Nation. Well, I need to OWWW!"
The "ow" emerged as Rohan put his finger by Tong's cut again. "Not until you've healed properly. I can't let Nurse Sung let you go until you've gotten proper care.
What remained of New Teilong was debris and destroyed machines. Although civilians were spared the brunt of the violence, the same could not be said for the city itself. Earth Republic forces moved into the remains of the city, benders clearing the roads while Ox MT's moved through the remaining streets, passing by demolished Duck Bats and destroyed walls Earth benders used for cover. An officer in a truck going through the roads lamented the sight as another spoke next to him.
"The Earth Kingdom doesn't seem to care much for the armistice details, do they?"
"They think they can do whatever they want. Well if the Avatar won't end this war, we will."