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Offline wherewulf

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Bonds XII: Set in Stone [K+] (8/14)
« on: February 06, 2015, 12:40:08 PM »
In 2012 while Season 1 of Legend of Korra was still on the air, I wrote a fic about the relationship and ties Lin had with her officers called Bonds.  A wihle after that, I wrote a follow-on chapter called Bonds II: Ties, which explored just what Lin would do to protect Aang's legacy, in particular Tenzin and his family.  Bonds III: Legacy picked up the action just after the end of Season 1, with Lin having her bending back but facing a Republic City that still had fresh wounds from the Equalist War.  I wanted to start to connect the dots between Seasons 1 and 2, trying to come up with some explanation as to how the Equalist divide was resolved, how President Raiko came to power... a few things.

I didn't get very far.  :D  At least, I got as far as how things might have started, but not much further than that.  I meant to explore it further, but I couldn't keep the story from falling apart.  I needed something to hold it together, and I finally found it.  Two years after I started.  Better late than never, I suppose.

If you're interested, you can find Bonds I, II, and III here, here, and here; I thought that was better than reposting here.  So, with the explanation done... here's where I wandered off to.

This is the first of a series; I'll be posting every Friday for a few weeks til we're done.  Please tell me what you think, especially if I'm off the mark. I'd like to remember for next time.

Regardless, thanks for reading.

Bonds IV: In Plain Sight

On the outside, it looked as if Republic City was recovering well from the Equalist war.  All the rubble and wreckage had been cleared from the streets and the harbor, and buildings damaged in the fighting were either under repair or already fixed.  Traffic, both Satomobiles in the streets and ships in the harbor, was near what it was before the war.  The massive Equalist mask that had been hung on the statue of Avatar Aang in the bay had been dragged away and demolished.  All the signs that there had been a war in Republic City were rapidly disappearing.  Things looked normal again.

There were a lot of people in Republic City that preferred it that way.

“So all told, our trade levels are at their highest level since the end of the war,” said the Northern Water Tribe Councilwoman, smiling at the others in the Republic City Council Chamber.  “Excellent.”

Lin Bei Fong, sitting on one of the front benches in the Chamber, found it all she could do to keep her mouth shut.

 “Good,” said the Southern Water Tribe Councilman amid appreciative murmurs.  “Another step closer to normal.”

None of those happy sounds came from Tenzin.  He cleared his throat.  “In the spirit of the desire to return things to normal, I wanted to know what you thought of my repatriation plan.”

That brought a confused quiet to the Council chamber.  “Re…patriation plan?” asked the Fire Councilwoman.

“Yes,” said Tenzin.  “A week ago I sent you all a copy of the plan as I currently have it.  I think you’ve now had sufficient time to look at it and tell me what you think.”  He held out his hand to the side.  “Of course, ‘repatriation’ may not be the best word to describe it, as no one will be entering or leaving the Republic, but—”

“What… exactly is this plan?” asked the Northern Water Tribe Councilwoman.

Tenzin raised an eyebrow.  “So you haven’t read it, then.”

“No.  I think I know where it is in my office, but I haven’t read it yet.”

Lin had a vision of Tenzin’s plan being under a potted plant in the Councilwoman’s office.  Lin had her reservations about the plan, but at least she had taken the time to read it.

The look on Tenzin’s face said he was thinking the same thing.  After a brief moment of reaction, he visibly made himself more cordial.  “The plan simply is to evaluate the prisoners within our jurisdiction and set up a process by which some of them, if they continue to exhibit good behavior, can obtain an early release from prison.”

That was met with silence.

The Northern Water Tribe Councilwoman gathered herself.  “So that I fully understand the intent of your plan, Councilman Tenzin… are you talking about letting the Equalists go?!?

“Only some of them, Councilwoman,” said Tenzin.  “And only the ones that have shown they are ready to return to society.  I am not talking about letting the entire—”

“But all the same, you are talking about letting some of them go!”  The Water Tribe Councilwoman turned slightly red.  “These are not people who can simply pay their debt to society and walk away!  They fought a war against us!”

“Every war must end, Councilwoman!  And this war ended months ago!  If we are going to speak of normalcy, it is not just a matter of trade!  We have to talk about healing the rift between benders and nonbenders!  They’re just as much citizens of Republic City as we are!”

“They forfeited that when they took up arms against us!” said the Fire Councilwoman.  “Not to mention kidnapping us!  And everything else!”

“They are prisoners of war and should stay prisoners!” the Earth Councilman barked.  “Just like your father and Fire Lord Zuko did at the end of the Great War!”

“That is not true, Councilman!”  Now Tenzin was turning red.  “My father did not imprison entire armies of Fire Nation soldiers!  That wasn’t even possible!  Only the worst offenders were thrown in jail, the rest were let go!”  He turned to the Fire Councilwoman.  “And if we do not want to repeat the past and start a whole new war in Republic City, then we had better do something about the people we have jailed!”

“Even if we could, Tenzin,” said the Southern Water Tribe Councilman, somewhat placatingly, “just how would we go about it?  How could you know that the people you release aren’t going to start up where they left off?”

“I agree, it won’t be an easy process,” said Tenzin, glad for the chance to explain rather than defend, “but my plan does deal with those specifics.  I agree, we would have to see.  We would need proof that they wouldn’t turn against us again.  At the same time, there are hundreds of people from the Dragon Flats district in jail right now whose only crime was to come out into the street the night power was cut to their district.  They were accused of being Equalists and convicted on the spot by one man—Tarrlok.  What kind of justice is that?”

“But how would you get that proof?” said the Fire Councilwoman, heavily skeptical.  “They could promise you anything to your face, and then the moment you turn your back, poof!  They’re Equalists again!”

“Their leader has been unmasked and discredited.  Amon himself was a bender.  All of Republic City now knows it!  Now is the time to try and make peace with the rest of the Equalists.”  Tenzin spread his hands.  “If we don’t offer the Equalists and their supporters some way to come back and join us, they will find some way of coming back and attacking us.  Their cause is still unaddressed.  It is a bleeding sore on the City itself.  We must find some way of dealing with it!”

Their leader is still unaccounted for,” said the Northern Water Tribe Councilwoman.  “Discredited or not, he could still come back to lead the Equalists.  And I think we have found some way of dealing with it—and that way is leaving them in prison, where they belong!”


There were enough murmurs from the others to tell Tenzin that his efforts weren’t going anywhere… today, at least.

Lin looked away from the Council, disappointed.  Again.

o o o

Lin took a walk down by the harbor to clear her head.  The harbor certainly was busier than it had been a few months ago, during the crisis.  Spices, lumber, and ores from the Earth Kingdom, machines and metalware from the Fire Nation, oil-fats, furs, and preserved seafood from the Water Tribes… trade continued.  The almighty yuan was still exerting its pull.  Business was business.

She still had to chuckle looking out at the harbor now, compared with how it had been before, full of Hiroshi Sato’s mines.  Avatar Korra had taken care of clearing the mines personally.  So overjoyed she had been at getting her bending back and so angry at having been duped again and again by Amon, slamming explosives together out in the harbor had been visibly therapeutic.  Lin wished that she could have done it, too, Korra was having so much angry fun, but alas, Lin wasn’t a Waterbender.

Lin had been present at the City Council meeting to give her weekly police report on the state of the City.  Crime was lower across the board compared with a few months ago, but then again, many of the bending crime triads, the Triple-Threats, the Red Monsoons, the Agni Kais, and others, were all but completely knocked out of action by—who else?—the Equalists.  (Not that she really liked the gangsters, but having had her own essence messed with by Amon, she could sympathize.)

After the war, too, people tended to go out, do their business, and go home—and hunker down until they had to do it again.  Distrust hung and stank in the air; you stuck with who you knew, and you made it clear you didn’t want to be messed with.  If people got together at all, they did so in highly visible, highly protected places.  Criminals that operated there were either bold… or discreet.  Still, the numbers and facts Lin had to report to the Council at present were definitely a case where they didn’t tell the whole truth.  Not surprisingly, most of the Council preferred those particular facts and figures.

Pro-Bending announcer and one-time newsman Shin Shinobi was still working his contacts, as Lin had asked him to do, but so far none of them had been willing to come forward and talk to her.  That was understandable; Shinobi’s contacts had no reason to trust her.  For all they knew, she might try to lock them up.  She had tried looking around herself with what time she had, but no one had spoken up.  No one had been willing to say anything about the Equalists.

Across the water, construction blimps were hovering over the Pro-Bending Arena, delivering glass plates and steel girders to rebuild the roof.  Lin remembered when the Arena was first being built—and the distaste she had felt that bending could be reduced to just a sport, even given the hand that her dear mother had had in the sport’s creation in the first place.  She also remembered the pride she had felt, though, how in a way it was a symbol of everything that Avatar Aang and Fire Lord Zuko had worked for that had now come to pass.  Benders of all nations now came to compete, not just Water against Fire or Fire against Earth, but as teams… teams of all the nations.  Water fought with Fire and Earth on each side.

Lin’s expression grew lighter.  Actually, she thought, that young blockhead Bolin came closer than he knew when he talked about benders bashing away at each other “in peace”.

Then she grew sad again.  Who knew that that new unity would come to create a brand new rift… one that separated bender from non-bender?

Maybe the Equalist mask had been taken down from the face of Avatar Aang’s statue in the harbor… but the Pro-Bending Arena, repaired or no, was still Amon’s symbol of a divided Republic City.

Lin sighed.  To think we have several hundred of our own people locked away in prison because one of ‘us’ accused them of being Equalists, and they might very well become Equalists if we leave them where they are—and with every right to do just that!

She shook her head.  And we still don’t know who the Equalists were or all the reasons why they wanted to fight us.  Even after all this time.  And without knowing that, how can we reach out to them?

We still don’t know w—

Lin looked up.

The prison.

Hundreds of suspected “Equalists”.

We don’t know why.

Lin growled at herself.

Well, if you don’t know why, then who do you ask, blockhead?

o o o

In one of the interrogation rooms at the Republic City prison, a middle-aged man sat at the table.  He was slumped in the chair; his head rested on his chest, and his hands were loose in his lap, doing nothing.  A teapot and two cups were on the table.  A thread of steam came from the teapot, but the man hadn’t touched any of it.

Lin came into the room and closed the wooden door behind her.  “Good afternoon…” she said in a cordial, business-like voice.

The man stirred.  “Is it?  I’ve lost track of time in here.”

“Do you know why you’re here?”

“No.”  The man returned to his slump.  “No, I don’t.”

Lin looked at her clipboard.  “It says here that you were arrested the night of the riot in the Dragon Flats District—”

“That’s a lie.”  One eye glowered at her.

“What’s a lie?”  Lin looked at him.  “You’re here—clearly you were arrested.”

“It’s a lie there was a riot in the Dragon Flats District that night.”  The man slowly sat upright.  “I came out of my house because somebody cut off the power.  I was trying to find out what was going on, like everybody else was.  Then your police came and accused everyone of being Equalists—arrested all of us.”

Lin looked at him evenly.  “I didn’t accuse you of being anything,” she said, slight annoyance in her voice.  “You’re the one who’s in here—you tell me what happened.”

“That’s what happened!  Exactly what I told you!”  Anger flooded his face.  “I’m no more an Equalist than you are!  But for what I went through, I might as well be!”

“What happened?”

“Are you kidding me?”  The man’s face was a study in disbelief.  “Summary justice?  Accused and arrested on the spot?  I didn’t do anything, and this is what I get?  My family at home, wondering what happened, and I get strung up by a bunch of benders?  For doing nothing?  And even before that, laws saying I can’t go out after dark.  Why?  Because I’m not a bender.  Police combing our neighborhood day and night.  Why?  Because we’re not benders.  People asking all sort of questions the moment they find out you’re not a bender.  Why?  I don’t know—you tell me!  My family and I were living here in Republic City before this whole Equalist business got started, loyal as the day is long, and this is what we get?”  The man glared at her and stab-pointed at the wall for emphasis.  “There’s no proof that I—was doing anything, except that I—was out there when the police came!  So I—get arrested!  For doing what?  Tell me, Chief, for doing what?!?”

Lin quietly sat down at the table; she kept her voice quiet.  “What would you change?”

“What would I change?”  The man looked at her, even more incredulous.  “Pfah!  What would I change?  I’m in here, arrested for nothing by a bunch of benders, and you ask me what I would change?  How about getting out of here, for one thing?  Huh?  What do you think I would change?  My word means nothing to you!  Why?  Because I’m not a bender!  I can’t get a job in a lot of places!  Why?  ’Cause I’m not a bender!  You can’t make me a bender!”  He laughed.  “What do you think I want changed?”

Lin had had a feeling that things would be getting loud; she was glad she had ordered everyone she could out of earshot.  “There are some things I want to tell you.”

The man leaned back in the chair.  “Yeah, sure, go ahead!”  He draped an arm over the back.  “Fine lot of good it’ll do me!”

“First… I was not in charge when Tarrlok had you arrested.”  The man looked away, dismissive.  “I know that’s a flimsy excuse, but I wasn’t behind the mass arrests.  Had I been in charge, that wouldn’t have happened.”

“Yeah, sure that wouldn’t’ve.”

“Second… I can’t offer you anything right now for working with me—”

Then why are you doing this?  This is pointless!”

“—but I am working to get you and your fellow citizens home.  I don’t like this any more than you do.”

“What?”  The man looked at her in disbelief, then laughed.  “How?”

Lin shook her head, much as she wanted to do otherwise.  “I can’t tell you.”

Another laugh.  “Oh, of course, you can’t tell me.  Some big, secret plan that doesn’t exist.”  He went on chuckling, and Lin went on just looking at him.

Which he noticed.  He stopped laughing.  Lin met his look with an even stare.

The man didn’t break off his own stare, still not believing what he heard… and Lin, during the silence, hoped that her reputation of being tough but fair and above else not a liar was still held to be true.

Apparently it did; the man sat down normally again and put his hands on the table.  “All right—why not.  It’s not like I can do anything anyway.  Just what do you want?”

Lin relaxed slightly.  “I… am a bender.  I can’t help being that.  I don’t know what it’s like to live as a non-bender, here in Republic City.  I want to know what you don’t like and what you would change, if you had the chance.”

The man thought about it for a moment, then threw up his hands.  “All right.  Why not?”  The man nodded.  “You really want the straight dope?  You’re gonna get it.”

o o o

Unfortunately, not every interview went like that.  A good number of the inmates sat there in terrified silence, afraid to say anything to the fearsome Chief of Police.  Others simply sat there and glared at her.  That was unfortunate; their input would have been enlightening.

Some of them, though, did warm to the tea that Lin offered them, as she had hoped, and some of them did talk.  What she heard, and tried to be dispassionate about in their presence, were tales that had little to do with the harmony that Avatar Aang had sought.  The Equalists had been a symptom of a problem that had gone on for far too long… possibly even to the end of Aang’s time.  A lot could happen in seventeen years.

There was one more prisoner that Lin wanted to interview.  She didn’t think of interviewing him until she was almost done with the others, but the more she thought about it, the more it made sense.  It would be very well worth the time to interview him.

If he would cooperate.
« Last Edit: August 14, 2015, 11:54:31 AM by wherewulf »

Offline Av

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Re: Bonds IV: In Plain Sight [K+] (2/6)
« Reply #1 on: February 08, 2015, 02:54:01 AM »
I like the concept, it's an interesting intermediary point in the story ripe with interesting commentary. However, I think that the second segment has a lot of telling as opposed to showing, and it feels that it's there simply to serve as exposition in a story that's not really about the details being mentioned. It's the kind of worldbuilding that's there because it gives the impression that a lot of time was spent thinking through the effects of certain events, but isn't integrated into the story in a way that lends itself to being brought up organically. If Lin had spent part of her day getting involved in a conflict which would've brought to light a lot of the information given to the reader in that segment about the gangs, with her using Shin as a contact, finding criminals in a public area, it could've worked well, but it feels like extraneous filler with regards to what the through-line of the plot appears to be.

Some people have different writing styles, but to me dialogue that pushes the story forward is always a swifter and more effective read, as we are almost immediately drawn into what's happening and we can infer expository information from there. But I think that the segment's relaying of information isn't necessarily the big problem, from what I've seen so far, so much as it feels like it could be cut out entirely and the story wouldn't suffer. And if that segment is giving important information that will become relevant later, I don't feel all that compelled to read it.

As for nitpicking details which are overall more inconsequential, the line "I can’t get a job in a lot of places!" feels kind of empty because 'in a lot of places' is more vague, with different sentences all telling bits and pieces of a story, where a single sentence like "I can't get a job anywhere in the upper-east side, and then I get arrested for living in a poor, nonbender area!" would hit like a brick. Also, "What would I change" is repeated often for the sake of naturalistic dialogue, but by the fourth time it begins to lose meaning and even sound kind of ridiculous, and not in the way that it's supposed to.

If this feels particularly critical, it's because you're obviously skilled and have a solid storytelling ability. This feels ready for one more final draft. The conflict and tension at the council-table was palpable and interesting, the frank look at the nonbender's perspective was frank in a unique and uncommon way, and overall it's an interesting story that is worthy of carrying a full story if it goes somewhere with it.

Offline wherewulf

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Re: Bonds V: Captive Audience [K+] (2/13)
« Reply #2 on: February 13, 2015, 12:59:58 PM »
Thanks, Av.  I really appreciate your opinion, of both the story and me.  :D

And I agree.  Sometimes when I write a story, I write until I mentally put myself in the place where I want to tell the story; sometimes I leave a lot of that in, and this time, it could have been cleaned up and tightened up in several places.  I left a lot of my tool marks behind, I'm afraid.  I could have had Shin Shinobi reporting back to Lin on the mood of the city so that he's telling the story instead of me.  I did a lot more narration than I really had to--like you said, a lot more telling than showing.

I hope the rest of the story meets up to the challenge.  And if I know you, you probably know who's coming next.  :D

Thanks again, everybody, for reading.

Bonds V: Captive Audience

Lin entered the interrogation room in the Republic City Prison, clipboard in hand.  Again she affected a mood of wanting to do business, just as she had with the others.  “Good morning…”

“Good morning,” said a man at the table.  “And thank you for the tea.”

Lin had thought through how she would respond—respond, not react—to how the man played things.  Before he had been unmasked he had been proud, intelligent, seemingly open and cooperative, the model businessman and citizen.  In combat his genius had proved far more infernal, resulting in the destruction of General Iroh’s fleet, the routing of the City’s police, and the capture and loss of the City itself.  Sitting here now, his hair wasn’t as well-styled, his clothes now prison tans instead of the stylish business suits he had worn before, but he was still neat, clean, and very much in order.  His face was calm, and he wore a small smile.

Hiroshi Sato.

Your move, his eyes said.

“You’re welcome,” she replied just as calmly.  She pulled the chair back near her and started to sit down.  “I wanted to ask you some questions—”

“I’m sure you do.”  Lin stopped, half-seated.  Hiroshi went on.  “Who are the Equalists, what do they want, what would they change if they had the chance…”  Hiroshi’s smile grew, and not in a pretty way.  “I’m sure you have lots of questions.”

“I do.”  Lin finished sitting down.  “I think those questions are understandable, given circumstances.”

“Tell me why.”

Lin raised an eyebrow.  “Why what?”

A pause.

“Why I should help you.”  A wily look gleamed in Hiroshi’s eye.  “I think that question is understandable, too—given circumstances.”

“I don’t suppose offering you better conditions would help you cooperate.”

“Hardly.”  A cynical sneer came to his face.  “I am a convicted prisoner.  My cell, my clothes, everything I have is searched every day at random intervals to see if I am hiding something from you.”  His expression lightened.  “It’s almost as if you fear me.”

“Given everything you’ve invented, Mister Sato, the Republic City Prison has every right to be careful.”  Lin couldn’t help that from coming out, but she couldn’t leave that statement unanswered.  “You are kept from the others so no one can give you something to help you escape.  You and your cell are searched so you cannot build something to help you escape or cause other mayhem.  I would think that would be quite clear.”

“As I said… a convicted war criminal.  Condemned for life, for ‘crimes against the Republic’.”  The hardened cynicism returned.  “So why should I help you?”

“You’re right.  By all rights, you shouldn’t.”  Hiroshi leaned back, smiling, his point made. “But I am more interested in who you are, Mister Sato,”  Lin continued.  “And how you got that way.”


“You aren’t a bender, Mister Sato, which is like most of the people kept here.  Unlike most of the people here, however, you are an Equalist.  Why?”  Now Lin leaned forward.  “What made you change?”

Hiroshi couldn’t believe his ears.  “What?”

“Yes.  With all your wealth, your improved position… you started with nothing and built Future Industries from nothing.  You were successful.  Respected.  A leader in our community, by any measure.  What made you—”

What made me change??

Lin remained calm.  “Yes, that’s what I asked.”

The anger in Hiroshi’s glance was almost physical; for a moment, it looked like he would explode.  And then he did explode—in laughter.  “Are you serious?  My traitor of a daughter could tell you why!  Why don’t you ask her?”

“Perhaps… but I’m asking you.  Why did you change?”

The laughter faded quickly, Hiroshi looking at Lin in disbelief. “I’m suspecting you know part of the answer already, or at least you should.  Unless the intelligence-gathering part of your police is still so un-intelligent that you have no clue whatsoever.”

“Yes… we do know some of the answer.”  Lin looked uneasy.  “Your wife.”

“Yes.”  His face turned into cold metal. “My wife.  And even for someone as married to your job as you are, you should realize what that means.”

Lin let that pass.  “But why would you turn on everyone?  Why would you turn on the City?  On everyone that tried to help you?”

“When there was no one that helped me?”  Hiroshi gritted his teeth.  “Who helped me, Chief Bei Fong?  Who?  Not your investigators.  They saw only another gang crime, with a murder in the middle of it.  They barely did anything to find out who did it.”

“We knew from the start that it was the Agni Kais—”

“Oh, yes, the Agni Kais.  Firebenders robbed our house.  Firebenders killed my wife.  It was the Agni Kais.  Elementary deduction.  But what did you do?  Really?  What did any of you do?”  He leaned in toward her.  “Never mind the fact that we weren’t benders ourselves.  Natural prey for the Firebending Triad, wouldn’t you say?  Poor Fire Nation nationals, just starting to make good?  Just starting to make some money in this ‘town of opportunity’?  The perfect targets for extortion.”

“But why didn’t you say something?”  Lin broke in.  “Surely someone—”

“We—did.”  The glare returned.  “We did say something, and we were dutifully told the police would investigate.”  Hiroshi glared even harder.  “You did nothing.”

“We were doing something, Mister Sato,” Lin said crisply, feeling prepared.  “We were investigating the Agni Kais during that time.”

“Were you?  Then did you investigate how the Agni Kais were shaking down people in the Dragon Flats Borough?  Did you investigate how they were demanding extortion money from nearly every business there?”  Hiroshi waved away Lin’s answer.  “No, don’t bother.  I do know.  I know because I investigated.”

Lin glared.  “With help from Amon, no doubt.”

“No.”  Another hard look.  “That was long before Amon revealed his existence.  But I learned then that it pays to know more about your enemy.  I thought my enemy was the Agni Kais.  I didn’t expect to include the police.”

“So you investigated us.

“Yes.  And the more I learned, the more I found I was right to do so.”  Hiroshi leaned closer.  “Why didn’t you go after the Triads, Chief Bei Fong?  Was it that benders mattered so much more to you?  Were you afraid of them?”

“I’ll ask the questions, thank you,” Lin said stiffly.  “And for your information, we have always gone after the Triads.  When criminals cause trouble in the City, we are inclined to go after them.  Believe it or not.”

“Oh, really?”  Hiroshi’s lip turned up.  “The last time I remember your police going after the Triads, it was when your mother went after Yakone, forty-three years ago—in cooperation with the Avatar, no less.”  Lin started to interrupt, but Hiroshi interrupted her.  “No, no, wait a minute—I tell a lie.”

“Well, that’s a surprise.”  Lin folded her arms.

“It was when the new Avatar, Avatar Korra, came to town, and did your work for you by stopping up a Triple Threat gang.”  Hiroshi laughed.  “The only difference being that with Yakone, Avatar Aang helped with the arrest—but with Avatar Korra, your men turned and arrested her!  For doing what should be your job!”  He laughed some more.  “One of the few times in recent memory that benders have arrested benders!”

Lin brought her arms back down to her sides.  “I’m sorry I don’t have the full catalog with me of all the times Republic City Police have gone after the Triads, Mister Sato.  The fact is—”

“I’m sorry you didn’t bring your catalog of facts, too.”  Hiroshi smiled.  “You bring your facts, I’ll bring mine.  For example: Why did the Equalists find such a following so easily if indeed you were pursuing the Triads?”

“That’s a good question.”  Lin smiled at him.  “Why don’t you tell me the answer?”

“Do you mean to say you need me to?”  He matched her smile.  “Don’t the facts speak for themselves?”

“What facts, Mister Sato?”

“The fact that the people of this city found no justice in your justice system.  The fact that they no longer felt protected by you, no longer felt that your law protected them, no longer felt your system was fair.  No longer felt that benders could peaceably live side by side with them, that the law and you would always discriminate against them!”

 “So instead of working alongside us to fix the problems you saw, as any loyal citizen would have done, you decided to become a vigilante.  Working outside the law.”

“When the law was written by benders, for benders, and worked to protect benders?  Wouldn’t you?”  Hiroshi brought his hands together on the table.  “Tell me, Chief, I’d like to know: isn’t Triad activity lower now, much lower, now that the Equalists have done what they have?”

“It is—at the price of innocent people’s lives being disrupted, their livelihoods being lost, or even losing their lives, yes.”

Hiroshi’s eyes narrowed.  “How innocent were my wife and I?  How innocent were all the other people who came here, all the other non-benders?  What about them?”

Lin had no answer.

She really wished this had come up earlier, somehow, so that it could be discussed rather than debated, but right now, she was tired, irritable, her emotions were roiled, her pride enflamed, and she didn’t feel or see any way of walking things back at this point to try and talk about it.  Anything she said now would indeed be used against her.  It was time to end this.

I need to think.  She threw another frown at Hiroshi.  Away from him.

“I don’t know,” she said.  She pushed back the chair and stood.  “Thank you, Mister Sato.  I may have more questions for you later.  Enjoy your ‘retirement’.”  She turned to leave.

Just before she reached the door, Hiroshi called out, “Say, Chief, one last question.  About all the other non-benders from the Dragon Flats Borough, the night they cut the power: if you know they’re not Equalists, why do you keep them locked up here?  You could let them go—you have the authority.”

Lin stopped.  Then turned.

“Because to do so would undercut the authority of the Republic City Council.  And that is something I am not prepared to do.”

Silence.  Only a smirk in reply.

She again turned for the door.

“What would your beloved Avatar Aang think of that?”

One more time she turned back, knowing full well that was what he wanted.  She didn’t bother coming back to the table.  “Given that I have devoted my life to this city, to its people, and to the work that Avatar Aang started,” she said coolly, “and that you chose to turn your back on this city and attack it and its people, I think I know full well what he would think of it.  And you.”

Hiroshi’s smile was cruel.

“If this oppression is what you’ve devoted your life to, Chief Bei Fong…then I think I know what Avatar Aang would think of that.  And that you’ve gotten exactly what you deserve.”

o o o

Lin went back to her office feeling tired, bruised, and disappointed.  I went into that meeting meaning to talk with him, and in the end I wind up drawn into a fight with him. She shook her head.  Lin, you blockhead.

The blocks went by in a slow panorama as she drove back to police headquarters.  She was actually glad for the traffic; it gave her a quiet space to think.  And to regret, out of Hiroshi’s sight.  So much of what he said… it’s not just Equalist propaganda.  It’s true.  Not that I could admit it to him…  She grimaced.  Not that I could admit it to him the way things unfolded.  Or could I ever?  Admit it to that arrogant… manipulating… corrosive…uhhhh!

The traffic lights changed just in front of her; she barely caught it, and she brought her Satomobile to a screeching halt.  Thankfully the drivers behind her were paying better attention and avoided a collision, but it still brought her a chorus of honking horns—which cut out quickly when the drivers saw her car’s police markings and lights.

Another grimace.  I probably deserved that.

When she reached her office, though, it offered no solace; the quiet left a vacuum for accusations.

I can’t get a job, Chief!  Why?  ’Cause I’m not a bender!  I can’t go out anymore without getting questioned by police!  Why?  ’Cause I’m not a bender!  My family and I were living here in Republic City before this whole Equalist business got started, loyal as the day is long, and this is what we get?  What did I do to deserve this?  Really, Chief?  Why?

You bring your facts, I’ll bring mine, Chief.  For example: Why did the Equalists find such a following so easily if indeed you were pursuing the Triads?

How am I supposed to make a living without a job, Chief?  How can I get a job if people won’t trust me?  And why won’t people trust me because I’m not a bender?  I’m honest as you are, Chief!  Why?  And all we did that night was speak our minds.  Isn’t that what this city is supposed to be about?  And now we can’t do that because of something we never had in the first place?  And never will?

I’m not even an Equalist!  I never was!  I never will be!  Not my friends, not my family, none of us!  And this is how we get treated for being loyal?

If this oppression is what you’ve devoted your life to, Chief Bei Fong…then I think I know what Avatar Aang would think of
that.  And that you’ve gotten exactly what you deserve.



Lin, sitting at her desk, rubbed her face… then picked up the phone and dialed.

“Councilman Tenzin, please… yes, I’ll hold.”

She sat there for a moment, waiting, trying to gather together what she was going to ask.

“Tenzin?  It’s Lin.  You had made an offer recently… I’d like to take advantage of it.  …Yes.  …Yes.  I need some time—thank you.  I’ll see you shortly.”

She hung up the phone.  On her way out she stopped by her secretary’s desk.  “Cancel my appointments for the day.  I’ll be back tomorrow.”

The officer nodded.  “Understood, Chief.  We’ll see you tomorrow.”

With that, it was back to the Satomobile, and then to the docks.  She took the Air Acolytes’ junk across the bay to Air Temple Island.

She had thought about taking one of the police motor launches across—the motor’s rumble would have thrown up a screen of white noise between her and everything else—but right now, all she wanted to hear was the wind.  The sounds of the City itself frustrated Lin’s hopes somewhat, but they diminished as they drew closer to the Island.  It was a return to an earlier time.  A more peaceful, more… ordered time.

She sighed.

Avatar Aang… Fire Lord Zuko… Toph, her mother… all their friends… all of them had fought to end the Hundred Year War, to bring peace to the world… and far more than that, to heal wounds that had been decades in the making.  Lin had been a part of that later on, had been witness to it.  The peace that the Avatar and his followers had sought was peace for the Four Nations—not just for the benders of the four peoples.

Hiroshi Sato, in his prison, had indicted her of treason against her own ideals, and the jury of the people from the Dragon Flats Borough had rendered a clear verdict.

The junk docked at Air Temple Island.  Lin nodded her thanks to the Air Acolytes and went ashore.

How fair had Republic City been to Hiroshi Sato and his wife?  Not to mention how many countless, nameless others, even now?

Lin came across Korra practicing her newfound Airbending skills with Jinora and Ikki.  The children waved and greeted her.  “Hey, Bei Fong!”  Korra yelled.  “Ya gonna teach me Metalbending one of these days?”  Korra… brash as ever.

Lin looked over her way.  “As soon as you master Earthbending, kid.”

Korra screwed up her face in a frown, and one hand went on her hip.  “Whaddaya mean, master Earthbending?  I mastered it even younger than you did!”

Lin kept walking and turned away.  “Whatever, kid.”  That stunned Korra; she didn’t know what to say to that.  For once.

Tenzin met her soon after.

“Would you like any company?” he asked.

“No,” she replied.  “If you don’t mind… just some time alone.”

“Of course.”

They walked to a wilder, less-visited place on the island, on one of the shorelines facing the city.  There was a little hillock there with tall tan coastal grasses that had been allowed to grow wild, and at the top of the hillock was a plain white four-sided pole.

“If you need anything, let me know,” Tenzin said.

“I will.”

Tenzin touched her hand, then walked away.

Lin came closer.  Written on the white post in simple black ideograms was “Aang, friend of Gyatso, husband of Katara, father of Bumi, Kya, and Tenzin.”  The post was off-center from the top of the hillock, suggesting that there was room for one more, when the time came.

There was a certain irony in Aang being buried here, in land that had once belonged to the very nation that had all but exterminated his people.  That too, though, was part of the Great Reconciliation: Aang allowing his ashes to be buried here, not cast on the winds of one of the four great Air Temples but here, in peace, and honor, in land that had once belonged to the Earth Kingdom, had been taken by force by the Fire Nation, and now belonged to all in the form of the United Republic of Nations.

A country whose very name now seemed to contradict itself.

Lin went to her knees.  Tears welled up in her eyes and flowed freely, spilling down her cheeks.

As she’d grown up, Aang had been one of two men who had been an uncle to her, someone who had looked out for her, led her, cared for her.  His dreams had been hers, in many ways.  Now, in the wake of Sato’s accusations, she felt helpless, lost… ashamed.

Oh, uncle… what have we done?

Her head drooped.

What do I do now?

Offline Av

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Re: Bonds V: Captive Audience [K+] (2/13)
« Reply #3 on: February 13, 2015, 09:40:31 PM »
I'm really liking where this is going. What with his reveal in season 4, this scene with Hiroshi only felt odd for the first few lines, but it almost immediately placed me back where I was supposed to be contextually, and the underlying humanity did eventually surface well enough that you can see the bridge between this man and the man we see in the final season. The internal narration works well here as it does its job of conveying personal reactions with regards to the previous scenes, and it all acts to push the story forward while providing a level of insight not usually seen for Lin. It really is an interesting look at a subject that's often ignored, and it's a truly compelling read.

Offline Autumn

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Re: Bonds V: Captive Audience [K+] (2/13)
« Reply #4 on: February 13, 2015, 10:25:32 PM »
Hey. I know you sent me that message asking for my input DAYS ago, but I kinda forgot till now. Sorry!

Anyway, wow. Very powerful stuff. Almost wanted Lin to slap Hiroshi just to get him to STFU. He does make a few good points though. But we don't know what happened after Hiroshi's wife was killed. But that's a good theory.

ATLA Keeps (click to show/hide)
-Aang’s tattoos
-Kataang’s fluffiness
-Toph’s earthbending sight

LOK Keeps (click to show/hide)
-The Kataang Family Portrait
-Tenzin’s Tattoos
-Toph’s Statue
-Korra's Appa Plushie
-Pokey the Lemur

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Re: Bonds VI: Small Rocks [K+] (2/27)
« Reply #5 on: February 27, 2015, 12:58:01 PM »
Thanks, Av, thanks, Autumn!

I have to admit I really enjoyed writing that part, and I took it back to the workshop more than once for reworking; I have the file saved on my computer as "Captive Audience - Take 3", to give you an idea.  I had Lin and Hiroshi shouting at each other in the first "take", which really wasn't the way I wanted to go with this.  I wanted it to feel more like a chess match than a shouting match.  I also felt like Hiroshi had a lot to say and not much to lose at this point, plus if Lin was going to sit in his sights for him, well, there it is.  I'm glad it worked.  It was fun writing about two passionate people on opposite sides.  I really wish--if you couldn't tell--that Mike and Bryan had gone back and explored that a bit more, the whole post-Equalist War angle and its, well, denouement if not resolution.

And to spur a response where you want Lin to slap Hiroshi, Autumn, well, gee.  :D  I think my work is done.

I'm sorry I didn't get this part out last week, but I had a family emergency that definitely took precedence.  At the very least, thank goodness, here we are today.  Hope this part goes over just as well, especially the--heh--blasts from the past.  :D  Thanks again for reading!

Bonds VI: Small Rocks

What do you do when you discover that a major part of how you’ve lived your life is wrong?

For Lin, there was the small matter of physically recovering from having made that discovery.  She wound up having to spend the night on Air Temple Island.

Long past sunset, Tenzin found her still at Aang’s graveside; he carried her, armor and all, to the women’s dormitory.  The following morning at Tenzin’s insistence she broke her fast with him and his family.  She dimly remembered the look on Pema’s face when Tenzin had asked if Lin could join them, but she wasn’t in any shape to appreciate the humor in the situation.  Pema’s expression didn’t remain long, however; it was clear something had happened to her old rival.  It was a quiet breakfast.  Even Jinora, Ikki, and Meelo were subdued.

Lin spent another day on the island getting herself back together, somewhat despite her wishes.  Tenzin said that the peace of the island would do her good and insisted she stay.  “It has been a while since you had a vacation,” he said.  “Surely no one would begrudge you that.”

“Vacation?  Try never.”  The corner of Lin’s lips turned up in a sad smile.  “I never wanted it, or needed it.  But thank you—old friend.”

“Stay as long as you like.”  Tenzin laid a hand on her shoulder.  “I’ll let people know.”

Lin spent the day walking around the island in yellow and orange robes borrowed from the Air Acolytes, leaving her armor and cable harness behind in her room.  It did feel good to be free of their weight; odd, but good.  She had considered them a part of her life for so long.  She was restless.  Sometimes she would gaze across the water at the bustling city, other times out at the mouth of the bay, toward the open ocean.  The problem with that, though, was she knew the city was still there.  Along with all of its problems.

That night she headed back to the city.

The following morning she went back to work, hoping for regularity to beget regularity and figuring it was as good a place to start as anywhere.  Lots of people asked how she was, asked if she was all right, especially the newer officers.  She assured them all she was fine, as she always did, she had just needed some rest.  And now, she was back.

She was gratified at all the people asking after her, though.

She settled into her office and looked at the reports and whatnot that had accumulated—Just—one—day! she thought.  Prioritizing and dealing with things most on fire occupied her for a while, but…

Even the highest-priority, most-on-fire, absolutely-demanding-her-attention-right-now issue was… minor.  Almost beside the point.

She exhaled.  All of this is just…  She waved at the pile of papers on her desk.  Irrelevant.

What do you do when a major part of how you’ve lived your life is wrong?

Lin looked at her desk again.  All the reports, problems, priorities, stuff… small things.  All these small things.  She leaned back in her chair and closed her eyes, then brought a hand up to her face and started massaging the bridge of her nose.  How can I deal with such a huge thing with all these small things in the way?

That’s simple,
said a voice.  You move the small things.

Lin’s eyes flew open.  Her hand came down, and she looked around.  No one was there, but she knew that voice.  She knew that voice.

She closed her eyes again, and without much effort she saw the owner of that voice—Avatar Aang, in his prime in his forties, back when she was a child.  That took her back to a few memories.

“I can’t.  I just can’t do it,” child Lin pouted.  “Mama’s mad.”

“Aw, really?”  Aang stooped and put a hand on the seated Lin’s back.  “How come?”

“I can’t move big rocks like she wants me to.”

“But you can move small rocks, right?”

“Yeah.”  Lin looked down at the ground.  “Real small ones.”

Aang sat down next to her.  “You know what real big rocks are made up of?”

“No,” she said dejectedly.  “What?”

“Well, real big rocks are made up of lots and lots of real small rocks.  You can move all the small rocks, right?”


“So if you think about all the big rocks just being lots of small ones…” he gestured outward, “you can move the big ones, too.”

Little Lin thought about that.  Hard.  Then she shook her head.  “I don’t get it.”

“Okay.”  Another warm, patient smile.  “Let me show you.”

And he had.  It had taken a while for her to grasp what he was getting at, but by the end of the week she was moving big rocks, just like her mother wanted.  Lin was very happy.

Uncle Aang had done it again.

Lin opened her eyes.

Back in her paper-filled office, she wondered about what she had seen.  So what are you trying to teach me now, uncle?  Small things…

Small things…

Small things make up big ones.

Small things.

Then it came to her.

Small changes.

We start from here.

Small changes.  Yes.

She smiled—then frowned.

But change what?

Lin sat there and thought about that.  They say they want equality, but that can never happen—not the way some of them want it, at least.  I’m not about to give my Earthbending up.  Certainly I can never make them benders.  But…

But that wasn’t really it.

Uncle Sokka…

Great Sokka… while he lived, Great Sokka had been a member of the City’s Council.  He was part of Avatar Aang’s first group of friends.  He was one of them, as well-respected as any of them.  And he was not a bender.

Unbidden, that night came back to Lin’s mind, the night when Tarrlok had had command of both his Task Force and her Metalbending Police.  The night he had taken them into the Dragon Flats Borough when the power had failed and accused hundreds of people en masse of being Equalists other than—

Other than people who had dared to react, dared to protest, and who were not benders.  Just like the Equalists.

One great mass of people suddenly powerless before the law, without rights, simply because a bender in a position of power had accused them.  Blindly?  Deliberately?  Did it matter, all things considered?

But now…

Lin’s lip curled up.   Now because Tarrlok broke the law about Bloodbending, he’s on the run himself.  She laughed once, without humor.  Equal before the law.

Her eyes widened.

She sat up straight, shocked.  She didn’t know where that phrase had come from, but that was it.  “Equal before the law,” she said out loud.

Her mission—what was always supposed to be her mission—was to maintain the rule of law in Republic City so that all would be and were shown to be equal before the law.  That was her angle.

Lin shook her head.  How did we ever get away from that?

The clock out in the hall struck three—three in the afternoon.  Coming out of her thoughts, she looked around.  The remains of her lunch, mainly picked at, were spread across her desk; she didn’t remember eating it or even getting it.  There was also at least one new pile of papers on the credenza.  She chuckled guiltily.

I think I’d better tend to some of this, or else my own officers might lose their respect for me.  Then where will I be?

She disposed of her lunch and started in on the closest pile of papers.  Her other problems she put on a slow simmer in the back of her mind.

o o o

Not that Lin forgot about those problems, either; one thing or another would bring them to mind.  When a new thought on her problems appeared, she would try to seize it, examine it, see if it would be of any use—seize hold of it, that is, before other, less urgent but more pressing matters pushed the thought out of her mind.  Eventually she took to writing notes.  She made a lot of notes.  She just needed the time to adequately consider them.

One day a watch officer popped his head into her office.  “You have a visitor, Chief.”

“A visitor?  Who?”

“He didn’t say.  Only that he wants to meet with you.”

That was odd.  She frowned.  “Do you have any idea who he is?”

The watch officer looked embarrassed for not thinking to ask.  “No, ma’am.  Just someone in a wheelchair.”

She checked her schedule and found she had nothing pressing.  That was a surprise.  “Very well.  Where is he?”

The officer motioned with his head.  “In Interrogation Room 2.  He wanted to meet you in your office, but I thought that was a better place.”

Lin’s face soured.  “Very well.  I’ll meet him there.”  She stood.  “Next time, though, have them wait in the waiting room.  I appreciate your concern, but we’re still trying to build trust.”  The officer flinched.  “The interrogation rooms are not the friendliest of places.”

A sharp nod.  “Yes, Chief.”

She made her way to the interrogation room, escorted by the watch officer.  She could understand why he had acted as he had; the City was still recovering from the Equalists’ war, her police department in particular.  She suppressed a sigh.  Yet another barrier to overcome.

She entered the dark metal-clad room and was a little surprised.  There was the man in a wheelchair, as described, but there was another man with him, dressed in a chauffeur’s uniform, a personal assistant perhaps. The man in the wheelchair wore a hooded cloak and had trouble straightening up; he stayed bent over, possibly in pain.  The assistant could have been any one of thousands of people in Republic City—laborers, mechanics, artists, delivery people—yet the man’s thin, wiry frame radiated a discipline that seemed out of place for a mere chauffeur.  That made Lin wary.  Now she understood why the watch officer thought the interrogation room was a better place to meet these people.

She turned to the assistant.  “Unless you’re needed here, you can wait for your friend in the lobby.”  The man turned to the man in the wheelchair, and the cloaked head nodded.  The assistant left with the watch officer behind him, who closed the door.

Lin turned to the man in the wheelchair. “So… how can I help you, Mister…?”

With pain, the man drew back the hood back from his thin face, and his long, drooping, pencil-thin mustache came into view.  Lin found herself looking into the face of Amon’s Lieutenant.

Involuntarily, she started.  “You!  Korra said Amon killed you!”

“In case it hadn’t occurred to you, Chief Bei Fong,” the Lieutenant whispered dryly, “that is one more thing the Avatar said that’s wrong.”

I’ll have to remember thatto tell her.  Lin tilted her head.  “Very well.  So why shouldn’t I arrest you right now?”

His lips barely smiled.  “That would be unwise.”

Given how often and how badly the Equalists had had her police at a disadvantage during the war, she didn’t doubt that for a moment.  She folded her arms.  “You survived about as well as your cause, it seems.”  She couldn’t help herself, seeing this enemy, now, face to face.  “Especially since Amon betrayed you—bender that he is.”

The Lieutenant lurched upward in his wheelchair.  “Amon is beside the—”  He collapsed in a fit of coughing.  After a long period of diminishing heaves, he glared at Lin.  “Amon is… beside the point,” he wheezed out.  “He only demonstrated… why the war was necessary.”

Whether it was the Lieutenant’s words or the apparent fact that he had suffered from the war just as she had, she quickly realized she was going about this all wrong. Of all the ways to set the wrong tone… Why am I baiting him? Another golden chance to talk, and I’m saying this?  Lin sat down in a chair opposite him, shaking her head at herself.  “Amon took my bending away,” she said gently.  “He took more than that away from you.  He took your health, he took your body—he tried to take your life.  I did eventually get my bending back, thanks to Avatar Korra… but you’re still here.  Broken.  Why are you here?  Your war is over.”

For a moment the Lieutenant was speechless.  He shook his head, open-mouthed.  “After all of this… after all that has happened, all that we’ve done… you still don’t know?”

Maybe we can still get this going in the right direction, she hoped.  “We still don’t know what?”

“Amon’s treatment of me is more proof of what’s wrong,” the Lieutenant whispered harshly.  “Your Avatar will tell you what Amon did with me—how he crushed me and threw me aside when he revealed himself as a Bloodbender.  When he could no longer maintain his fiction of what he was.”  His eyes met Lin’s, and more strength came into his voice.  “How many times have non-benders suffered at the hands of benders?  How often do they still suffer?  Today?  This week?  This month?  This year?  That is not—”

More coughing cut him off.  Lin winced as the coughs grew deeper and more liquid-filled.  Again the Lieutenant slowly dominated his body.  He swallowed.  “That is not over,” he said in a painful whisper.

“And as for now,” he hissed out before she could get a word in, “how did we know how to attack you before?  How did we know how to reduce your vaunted Metalbending Police to a flailing, ineffective joke?”

Feeling another coughing fit coming, he stopped—then took his time with his words when he felt he could go on.  “How did we know where you were?”  A pause.  “How you would react?  How to attack and neutralize your own headquarters?”  Another pause.  “How did we know that today—at this exact time—I could meet with you?”

Lin remembered the one empty spot in a schedule full of meetings and everything else, her own private schedule.  She jerked back.

“The answer,” the Lieutenant said, “is that people told us.  People you don’t even see in your arrogance.  We know you as well as you know yourselves—if not better.  And when we are ready, we’ll tell you again.”  The glare returned.  “You’re right, Chief Bei Fong.  This war is over.  This one… is.  But there will be another war—when we are ready.  When you are least prepared.  As it was bef—

Another fit of coughing interrupted him.  After he willed it to stop, he paused to gather strength.  He continued again in a fierce whisper.  “We know you ‘interviewed’ the prisoners from the Dragon Flats Borough.  We know that you ‘interviewed’ Hiroshi Sato.  Whatever advantages you sought from them will be useless.  You said you were doing this to help free them.  Your lack of actions betray your words.

“I came here to tell you that we know.  I leave here telling you this: we’re watching.”

Painfully he raised his hand.  At that moment the metal panels parted, showing his assistant standing there—and the watch officer.  The assistant came in and stood behind his wheelchair-bound charge.  They made to leave.

 “If you know that I interviewed Hiroshi Sato,” Lin said, standing, “and the prisoners from the Dragon Flats Borough, then you should know the kind of questions I asked, too.  I wasn’t looking for weaknesses.”  The Lieutenant raised his hand, and his assistant stopped the wheelchair.  She gestured toward the Lieutenant.  “Yes, I was seeking information.  I was trying to learn from them who they were and what they would change, so that I could help bring about that change.  I am still learning—we all are.”

She held both hands out to him.  “Switch places with me for a moment.  If you were me, what would you do?  What would you change?  Would you stand there and let things happen all over again?  I know we can’t go on like we did before.”

Irritated, the Lieutenant motioned in Lin’s direction, and his assistant turned his chair to face her.  “What I would do… is I would stop the persecution of the nonbenders by your people.  I would think that would be obvious.”  His glare hardened.  “And I didn’t come here to be interrogated.”

“Yes.  I know.  You came here to warn us.  I understand.”  She lowered her arms, and her hands clenched into fists.  “I don’t want another war.”  After a moment, she exhaled.  Her hands loosened, and her head drooped slightly.  “In spite of what the City Council says or does.”

There was silence for a moment.

“In spite of what you want, Chief Bei Fong,” the Lieutenant said in his harsh whisper, “you may get one.”

He motioned.  His assistant turned the chair, and they left.

Offline Av

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Re: Bonds VI: Small Rocks [K+] (2/27)
« Reply #6 on: February 27, 2015, 04:01:49 PM »
This is how you know there's good storytelling involved. Interesting concepts and ideas are being explored, and a plot is starting up and will likely be ongoing. I'm genuinely excited to see where this goes.

Offline wherewulf

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Re: Bonds VII: Rules [K+] (3/6)
« Reply #7 on: March 06, 2015, 12:51:50 PM »
Oh my gosh, I hope the rest of this doesn't belly-flop.  :D  Thanks, Av.  I appreciate that.

The more I think about it, the more I want to write about villains, to be honest, like the Lieutenant.  He was fun to write for.

Okay, so we've seen Hiroshi Sato, we've seen the Lieutenant--so it's time for me to bring out someone else who actually inspired this story.  Another--heh--old friend.  :D  Hope this matches up well with what we know from Season 4; I'm pretty sure you'll tell me if it doesn't, and please do.  Thanks again for reading, everyone, and especially for commenting.

Bonds VII: Rules

So there it was.

Not that Lin really needed confirmation of the Equalists’ existence or their intentions, but the Lieutenant’s words were a promise.  Nothing had been forgotten, everything was still on the table, and when the time came, the Equalists would return—to a city that was just as vulnerable as before.  And, if the current makeup of the City Council said anything, it was just about as clueless.

On top of which, even without the advantages of Amon’s Bloodbending and Hiroshi Sato’s technological genius, the Equalists had had the uncanny knack of appearing where they were least expected and attacking in ways that couldn’t be stopped.  Their intelligence on the City and its police had been peerless.  The Lieutenant’s bold foray into her own headquarters now strongly implied that nothing had changed.

No pressure.

Lin spent the afternoon after her encounter with the Lieutenant in her office, massaging the bridge of her nose and contemplating her recent life choices—which basically meant she grumbled at herself.

I had a tailor-made golden opportunity to talk with a real—live—Equalist.  And not just any Equalist, but Amon’s Lieutenant himself.  Someone that had fought and planned and plotted against us, that had been a part of their revolution from the beginning.  I could have picked his brains, given him every opportunity to tell me and us what he really felt and wanted us to change, the very thing I’ve been trying to accomplish for months.

And what do I do?  I start off by bringing up the war.  The war.  The war.  And I didn’t get around to talking about what
I was trying to do until it was too late and too much had been said.  She closed her eyes.  Oh, Lin, you blockhead.

 More bridge-of-the-nose rubbing.  Six months ago I would have gone to the Council with this, but now?  If they hear the Equalists are back in any form, I know exactly what’s going to happen.  More “loyalty tests”.  More fear.  More hatred.  On both sides.  More people put in jail that don’t belong there.  More of the very explosives that blew up this whole mess the last time.  And they are just as deadset against making any change to improve things as the Equalists are fanatic to make that change.  Forcibly.  Again.   She threw a hand up.  It’s like they’re all just convinced that we have to do this all over again!

She exhaled.  If I go to the Council with this, that will just light the fuse.

Just sitting there for hours seemed like a logical response to the situation.

The clock in the hall struck three o’clock.  She heard that, looked at the clock, looked at her schedule—and smiled.

There is something to be said about keeping a schedule.  I’m glad I planned that in.

“That” was one of her several-times-a-week workout at the multi-story gym at police headquarters.  Swinging around from the rafters and lashing out with her metal cables at targets was just the thing to blow off some steam.  It felt good.  Very good.

One thing she noticed, though, was that the exercise areas down below were empty; the weights were undisturbed in their racks, the practice mats for martial arts unused, the medicine balls and all the rest of the gym’s non-Metalbending equipment was all in place, untouched.  She looked around.  Everyone else in the gym she knew to be a Metalbender.  That observation didn’t feel good.

She landed and came up to an officer that was just finishing up.  “Officer Shen?”

The man turned.  “Yeah, Chief?”

“This time slot isn’t slotted for just Metalbenders, is it?”

He shook his head.  “Not that I know of.  It’s usually… just us around this time.  Nobody else.”

“Ah.  So non-Metalbenders could come in if they want to.”

A shrug.  “Sure.  We’re not tryin’ to keep ’em out—they just don’t come in usually.  Not now, anyway.”

“All right.  Thank you.”

He nodded.  “Cert’nly.”

Lin stood there a moment as the officer left.  I’ll have to think of some ways to integrate the department.  This might be a way.

The feeling of actually addressing some of her problems was a good one, and it lasted her a while—until something else reared its head.

Lin received a phone call the following morning.  “Chief Bei Fong.”

“Hey, Chief, it’s Shiro Shinobi.”

“Mister Shinobi.  It’s good to hear from you.”  Lin was pleased.  Maybe one of his contacts wants to talk after all.  That would be a nice change.  “What can I do for you?”

“I was calling to say congratulations.  I heard the Equalists made contact with you.”

She paused, scrambling to think.  “Really!”  She put a smile on her face.  “And who did you hear that from?”

“Aw, c’mon, Chief, you know I can’t tell you that.

“Perhaps.  But I must say it’s an interesting rumor.  Maybe I should meet with this person.”

Shinobi laughed.  “I don’t think they’d want that kind of response.  So really?  Nobody visited you?”

“I can neither confirm nor deny,” she said archly.

“Aw, c’mon!”

“No.  Not at this time.”

“All right.  It’s too bad, though; it sounded like what you were looking for.”

She rolled her eyes.  “I know.”

“Okay.  Goodbye, Chief.”

“Goodbye.”  She hung up the phone, then sat there a moment.  I hope that didn’t ruin things with him.  I don’t want to ruin my relationship because of this.

Then a worse thought.  What if the Equalists are spreading the word that we did meet?  Or rather that the Lieutenant came here?  An exasperated look at the ceiling.  Oh, that’s the last thing I need.

Then another thought struck her.  She looked at her phone.  What if they were listening in, too?

She stared at her phone a moment longer, then snorted.  So now I’m accusing the phone company of being Equalists as well?  That’s just wonderful.  I’m sounding like the Council now.

Lin looked at the clock, nodded, and gathered her things for the Council meeting—then stopped.  Although actually…

o o o

The Council meeting proved to be its usual weekly exercise in frustration: four of the Council members trying to look satisfied with the current state of things, Tenzin trying to poke holes in their cloud of complacency and getting slapped down or put off, and Lin wondering why she didn’t send an aide to attend instead of coming personally.  Still, Lin wished that the Equalists could have seen what Tenzin was doing; certainly he was fighting for the nonbenders.

Everyone left the meeting looking like they were glad it was over, the other four Council members looking almost as sour as Tenzin, which Lin thought was some small victory.  As Lin made her way out, though, Tenzin called to her.  “Lin!  How are you feeling?”

“Well enough, thank you.”  She smiled slightly.  “I suppose I did need a vacation after all.”

“I’m glad to hear that.  And glad to see you’re doing better.”  Tenzin looked around in the empty Council Chamber, then turned back to Lin.  He lowered his voice.  “I heard a rumor…”

Lin wanted to roll her eyes; Tenzin acting shifty wasn’t something she needed.  “Yes?”

“I heard a rumor that the Equalists were planning to visit you.”

She frowned.  “Visit me?  That’s interesting.”

Again Tenzin looked around.  Satisfied, he came closer and lowered his voice even more.  “I know you were trying to reach out to the City’s nonbenders.  It made sense to me that if you were successful, the Equalists might get involved.”

Lin folded her arms.  “And mentioning this inside City Hall is a good idea.”

What?  Well, it… seemed like a good time to talk to you about—”

“Listen.”  Lin lowered her own voice.  “I’m not in a position to tell you anything right now—especially given this position.  Also: if anything happens, it’s better that you don’t know so the blame falls on me.”

So… you won’t tell me anything that’s going on, so I can help.”

I wish I could.  “I can’t.  Not right now.”

“Very well.”  Tenzin’s look was complex; not exactly understanding, not exactly hurt.  “Let me know when I can do something.”

She nodded.  “I will.  The very moment that I can.”

He nodded as well, and walked off.

Lin watched him go… then looked around at the now-truly empty City Hall: the place where the Council sat to meet, the long columns of empty benches, the high vaulted ceiling overhead.  Years ago, during Great Sokka’s time, it had been the heart and mind of the City.  Now…

She turned her back and left.

o o o

It was hard for Lin to keep her mind on her work that afternoon, between the Lieutenant showing up in her office one day and the Council showing its incompetence the next.  Eventually she set her work aside and set in on her other work, assembling the notes she’d been making into some kind of coherence—or at least that’s what she had intended to do.  What it wound up becoming was moving the small pieces of paper around on her desk and discovering how little coherence she had there.

All these are good ideas.  They really are. She looked to the wall opposite her desk and sighed.  But I don’t know if we have the time.  Certainly I don’t know what the Equalists new timetable is—or if efforts like these will be enough to make them hold.

She shook her head.  I don’t know.  I just don’t—know.

The clock struck four out in the hall.  She looked at her notes, then shook her head again.  She arranged the notes in neat coordinated piles, then put the piles in a box in one of her desk drawers.  If I am going to do this, I think I need coherence myself before I try to bring that to this.

She signed out one of the department’s Satomobiles, clocked out for the day, and drove—to visit the monument to her mother.  It had been a while.

The monument to Toph Bei Fong was situated on the side of a hill near what had once been the outskirts of the city.  It was still a relatively quiet place, one Lin came to now and then to rest or to think.  The monument was simple, like Avatar Aang’s was, but it also loudly proclaimed who it was for.  Set into the side of the hill was a great blackened plaque, wider than Lin’s spread arms and twice as tall.  To the left of Toph’s full-size bronze likeness were the ideograms of her name, also bright bronze against the black; to the right, smaller ideograms that proclaimed, “Greatest Earthbender in the World”.  The title wasn’t Lin’s idea, but her mother probably would have liked it.

Right now, though, Lin’s eyes were drawn to the white Equalist mask that had been stuck to the statue’s face.

Furiously she threw her Earthbending down, sprung into the air just enough to reach the mask, and anchored herself on the hillside.  She then tore the mask off and let go of the hill, landing lightly on her feet.  How dare they!  My mother isn’t here!  She may well be dead!  She’s no threat to them!  She threw the mask down.  Why did no one tell me?

She stood there boiling at the insult, to someone who had done more than her share as one of the city’s founders, while the breeze blew through the cypress trees and her mother’s ever-confident gaze continued to beam down on her thoroughly indignant daughter.

Eventually Lin came to realize that.  She smiled ruefully, sheepishly.  She looked at the statue.

I’m sorry.  We all had more important things to do when the war broke out.  She looked at the mask on the ground.  We all did.  Then again to the statue.  I suppose what matters most is that it was eventually tended to.

She looked at the bottom of the plaque.  There at the base was another long blackened bronze rectangle, as long as the plaque was wide with a gilt edge.  People had laid flowers there; some had left lit candles.  The Metalbenders had done something else.

The edge of the rectangle was crenellated with small ridges.  On the day that the monument was dedicated, the Metalbenders of the Department had come and gently pressed their fingers into the metal, leaving a mark as testament to how Toph had marked them.  It had become a tradition for every newly-trained Metalbending officer to do the same.  Lin never had, though; not that she considered herself better than the rest, she had just felt… that she shouldn’t, for some reason.

She folded her hands in her lap.  We all mark each other, I think.  A soft smile.  Certainly I wouldn’t be who I am without her.  I only hope…  A small shrug.  Well, I know you’ve told me I do, but still…

It was during school one day, over forty years ago.  A bully had been picking on a friend of hers, and she had stood up to him.  Naturally the teacher only saw her going after the bully, not what the bully did, so it was Lin who had been hauled before the school’s proctor.  She had protested; not wanting any guff, the proctor had sent her to detention—and had sent for her mother.  When Toph arrived, the proctor dragged Lin through the whole thing all over again, accusing Lin of disorderly conduct.

“All right”, said Toph, grim-faced.  “Leave her to me.  I’ll take care of it.”

Lin couldn’t believe it.  “But Mother!”

“Quiet, Lin.  We’re going home.”

Lin couldn’t help herself.  She pointed at the playground where the bully had been.  “That’s not fair!  He’s the one that started it!  He’s the one who should be here, not—”

“I said can it!”  Toph glared straight ahead, not in Lin’s direction.  “We’re going—home.  Now move it!”

On the way home Lin was boiling full of emotions.  She was ashamed that this had happened, and she was furiously, righteously indignant that that little gerbil rat of a bully had gotten off unscathed while she had had to take his punishment.  She was also more than a little afraid of her mother.  In the nine years of Lin’s life, Toph had been tough, but she had never been like this.  Toph was so incredibly stonefaced on the way home, barely showing any expression at all.

Toph had barely closed the door to their apartment when Lin had let it all go.  “Mother I’m sorry you had to come and get me but it wasn’t my fault there was a bully that picked on my friend and I stood up to him but the teacher saw me instead and took me to the proctor instead and that bully should have gone to the proctor not me and I tried to tell the proctor that and the teacher but neither of them would listen—”

“So lemme get this straight,” said Toph, not even out of her police armor harness.  “You expect me to believe that you stood up to some bully and that you got caught instead, so the proctor and teacher don’t know what they’re talking about?”

Getting stared at by someone who can’t see was bad enough.  When that someone is your mother and can feel what you’re doing instead, it was even worse.  Lin, quavering slightly, still stood her ground.  “Yes.”

Toph said nothing.  She went to her room and started taking off her harness and armor.  Lin didn’t know if she should follow and plead her case or just stay put and wait.

It was safer to wait—even if the only sound was her mother’s armor coming off.  She stood there, and waited.  Nervously.

A while later, her mother came back dressed in a loose belted green robe, her face still the same stone cliff as before.  She folded her arms.

One more moment passed, then Lin couldn’t bear it any longer.  She threw her arms out toward Toph.  “Mother, it was wrong!  That bully should have been caught, not me!  He got away with it!”

Then a slow smile appeared on Toph’s face.  “Good.”

Lin was confused.  “What?”

“Nugget.  I know you.  I had a feeling that’s what happened—but I wanted to be sure.  That and the school brass got involved, so we had to put on a good show.”

“So why did you do what you did?”

Toph smiled wider.  “Did I ever tell you how your Uncle Sokka and Auntie Katara pretended to be your Uncle Aang’s parents in the Fire Nation, during the war?  And how your Uncle Sokka promised to punish your Uncle Aang ‘something fierce’ because he was ‘misbehaving?”


“Well, that’s partly why.  I know you, Nugget, and I had a feeling you were standing up for something right.  But we can’t show disrespect to the teachers, even if ‘they’re in authority’,” Toph finished in a sing-song voice.

“So if they’re wrong, then why can’t we just tell ’em they are?”

Toph sighed.  “Boy, I really opened up a can of ant-worms, didn’t I?”

Lin frowned.  “Ant-worms?

“Okay, look.  It’s complicated.”

Lin rolled her eyes.  “That’s what you always say.”

“Well, it is.  You’ll know more when you’re older.”  Before Lin could say anything, Toph put a finger on her lips.  “And I know I always say that, too.”

“Well, you do,” Lin said, throwing in another eyeroll for good measure.  Her mother couldn’t see that.

“I know.  And there’s a good reason for it.”  Toph brought them over by the kitchen table.  “Now, I want you to know you did something really special today.  You stood up to four people today—including three people you shouldn’t do that to ordinarily.  You stood up to that bully.  You stood up to your teacher.  You stood up to your proctor.  And just now, you even stood up to me.  You’ve got stuff, kid.”  Toph smiled proudly.  “Just like your Uncle Aang.”

“But you’re not gonna let me tell my teacher that,” Lin said, moping.  “Or the proctor.”


“Oh, foo.”

“That’s why I said it’s complicated.  I know I said a lot about ‘people in authority’—and done a lot—and talked a lot about rules and stuff like that.  I think you did the right thing—but I can’t tell them that without making them look bad.”

“Can’t you do it quietly?  You know, privately?”

“Yeah, I could—but then that’d make it look like I’m trying to run things.”

Lin shrugged.  “Well, you do.”

“No.”  Toph slashed her hand to the side.  “I run the police department.  I don’t run the school.  They do.  And for things to work right, it’s gotta stay that way.  The teachers have to stand up for themselves, and believe they’re doing the right thing.  Otherwise they don’t teach you right.”

“But they’re not!”  Lin was frustrated; she felt tears forming.  “They’re not doing what’s right!  That bully got away with this!”

“He only thinks he did.”  Toph came close, and put an arm around Lin’s shoulders.  “Listen.  The teacher went off of what she saw.  The proctor went off of what the teacher said.”  She squeezed Lin’s shoulder.  “You know what’s right.  You have to make the teacher see that.  You have to stand for what’s right—but sometimes you gotta be more clever about it—so other people can see what you’re doing.”

Lin thought she could be clever—sometimes—but all this was as clear as a bunch of mist.  Perplexity filled her young face.  “You say so.”

“I do say so.  Listen, Nugget—you’d better get this through your head, ’cause this is gonna come up again and again during your life, believe me.  There’s a time for rules.”  Toph didn’t wait for Lin to start making faces.  “Yes, I know what I said before—what I said.  Listen.  There is a time for rules—but there’s also a time when people are gonna use rules against you, and claim they’re doing the right thing.  Rules exist to help people get along; that’s what laws are for.  But you gotta think about what the rules are there for.  If they’re not helping people, or if somebody’s using ’em to hurt people, then that’s when you gotta think about breaking ’em.”  She smiled.  “And a lot of the time… ya gotta be smart about it.”

Lin stood there trying to process everything her mother said, and didn’t do very well.  She shook her head.  “I don’t get it.”

“I know, sweetie.  I know.  You will.”  Toph gave her a one-armed hug.  “I’m still real proud of what you did today.  I want you to know that.”

The perplexity then mixed with a warm flood of gratefulness.  “Thanks, Mother.”  Lin turned and hugged Toph with both arms.”

o o o

Lin found herself looking at her mother’s statue once more.  You did tell me, back then.  I suppose you’d tell me I have to stand for what’s right now, too—and be clever about it so others can see.

More thoughtfulness.  I never was good about that part.  Sheepishness.  Lin’s smile returned.  But maybe there’s still time.

She sat there a moment longer.

Thanks… Chief.

She walked away.

A/N: By the way, I have some things coming up this weekend and next that I have to get done (like taxes--ugh) so I'm not sure if I'll get the next chapter out next Friday, but I'll do my best.  Promise.

Offline Av

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Re: Bonds VII: Rules [K+] (3/6)
« Reply #8 on: March 07, 2015, 12:05:37 AM »
Lin's relationship with her mother always struck me as incredibly complicated, so seeing the early developmental stages is kind of interesting. Lin always struck me as super tightly wound, more so than Toph was, possibly because that's what her mother most projected and Lin wanted to earn her approval so much. So the feeling of intense indignation at her statue's vandalization makes sense, it's the lack of the more complicated emotions that's sort of puzzling. "Thanks... Chief" feels like it would be better served after a period of tension where Lin's more sour feelings towards her mother surfaced, then were tempered by the fondness and wisdom she had been given in her youth.

On a more technical note, some of the dialogue was missing the opening or closing quotation mark. Petty typo stuff.

Can't wait for the next chapter!

Offline wherewulf

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Re: Bonds VIII: Sparks [K+] (7/3)
« Reply #9 on: July 03, 2015, 10:57:55 AM »
I'd like to apologize for the ridiculously long hiatus, and Av, I'm sorry you had to wait so long for the next chapter.  I did have taxes to get done, but I also thought about how where this story was going and how parts of it didn't fit.  Then plotbunnies bit, and the story was in parts all over the floor, and... well, here we are.  July.


That last part, Av, I completely agree I could have written better; at least the ending of it.  It doesn't really reflect what Lin revealed to us in Season 4 about her relationship with Toph.  That part could have used a bit more work, and I'm sorry I didn't do it.  Too much of a rush to get this out the door.

About the missing quotation mark: maybe I'm wrong, but but if it's the one I'm thinking of, I've seen usage where if a character is still speaking, the author used just open quotation marks until the character was finally done, then used a close-quotation mark.  I stopped using that, though, because it... does feel a little sloppy.

So, now that I've waited four months to bring out the next part, I hope it goes over well.  Thanks again for reading, everyone.

Bonds VIII: Sparks

Trying to be clever when you’ve had trouble doing that your entire life was a challenge.

Trying to do that when your home was in danger of imminent attack was ridiculous.

Lin felt like banging her head on her desk.

I’m about as clever as a box of rocks.  And about as subtle, too.

She slowly looked across the landscape of her desk at all the notes she had made, not seeing very many connections between them all.  She felt exasperated.  I suppose Uncle Aang or Great Sokka could compose a great sweeping master plan out of this, but not me.

So how did they do it?  How did
he do it?

She thought back.

He used to have these grand, elaborate plans, Great Sokka did—which someone always made him trim back.  A slight smile.  Auntie Katara, mainly.  And the plans came from all over, too: some formed from his experience, others… forged from sudden bolts of revelation and genius.  Just out of the blue.

Another scowl at her notes.

So what would he do with all this?

She sat there a moment—then looked to the side at the wastepaper basket.

It was tempting.

Yes—he did a lot of that, too.

o o o

In the middle of another Republic City Council meeting, the Fire Nation Councilwoman sighed.  “Tenzin, why are you foisting this ‘prisoner rehabilitation’ program of yours on us again?”

“Prisoner repatriation program, Councilwoman,” Tenzin answered matter-of-factly.  “And the answer is because the problem is still there.  The people from the Dragon Flats Borough are still in jail, and nothing’s been done about—”

“On the contrary, Councilman.”  The Northern Water Tribe Councilwoman looked at him coolly.  “Something was done about them, several months ago: they were incarcerated.  This matter has been disposed of.”

Disposed of?  First of all, Councilwoman, this matter has hardly been disposed of as they are still there and nothing’s been done about them.”  Disbelief fueled Tenzin’s disgust.  “And second, did you really hear what you just said?  The main crime the vast majority of these people are guilty of is coming out of their houses when the power went out and raising their voices about it—something all of us would have done had we been in their place.  To say that these people are disposed of—”

They—are—Equalists and they’re in the place where they belong!” said the Councilwoman angrily.  “They broke the law!  Where else are they supposed to be besides jail?”

“They broke a law that was specifically designed to keep nonbenders from coming into the streets,” Tenzin said intensely.  “A law, I remind you,” he held a finger up to them all in turn,” that was written by Councilman Tarrlok, that was prosecuted by Tarrlok, and that produced the result that Tarrlok wanted: making nonbenders look like they were in revolt, when all they really wanted was—”

“To protest the power being cut, yes, I know.  You’ve said that.”

Tenzin spread his arms.  “And how is protesting an illegal offense?  That is something that goes to the very heart of our traditions in this—”

“It’s an illegal offense, Tenzin, when they come out to protest after curfew and in violation of the law!

“Which Tarrlok wrote to create that very result!”

“Tenzin, really.”  The Fire Councilwoman leaned forward, trying to placate him.  “They could have just stayed in their homes.”

“Would you, Councilwoman?”  Lin wished she had a camera; the disdain in Tenzin’s answering look was that withering.  “Would you have sat there and taken it, when you knew something was wrong?  Isn’t that what we’re asking them to do?  To sit there and trust us because we know better?  Isn’t that patronizing at best?”

“But we do know better, Tenzin,” said the Fire Councilwoman.  “We sit on this council as representatives of the Four Nations in Republic City.  We are as well-informed as we can be, and much better than the average citizen.  They should let us do what is best for them.”

“I can’t believe you just said that.  So they should trust us to do what is best for them?

“Well, yes.”

“Then why aren’t we doing something to help the citizens of Republic City that we have inadvertently stuck in jail because of something that a clearly corrupt Councilman has done?”

A collective sigh went up from the others.  The Earth Councilman raised his hands to Tenzin.  “Tenzin, you do understand that they fought a war against us.”

Tenzin was still righteously burning.  “Do we have to go through that again, Councilman?  I thought I’d explained…”

Lin drifted out of the meeting at about that point.  The others kept going around and around and around and around about the issues, and Tenzin could make no headway or gain any sympathy from any of them.  Every logical point he tried to make was denied, any spark of empathy he tried to create was smothered.  Yet to his everlasting credit, he wouldn’t give up.

“How can we claim this is fair?” he exclaimed.  “Where is the justice in this situation?  When we won’t look back and examine what happened when the war is over, and with clear eyes honestly look at what we’ve done?”

“These criminals fought a war against us,” said the Northern Water Tribeswoman, more quietly but no less intently.  “There is no justice in this situation because it doesn’t apply.  They decided benders were bad, they decided they wanted to fight a war, and this is where it got them.  I have no qualms about condemning enemies.”

“But they’re not our enemies, Councilwoman,” said Tenzin.  “That’s what I’ve been trying to tell you!  They don’t want to be.  They’ve been locked up by an unjust law, and they don’t want to be where they are.  They don’t want to fight us.”

“It’s understandable they don’t want to be where they are,” the Fire Councilwoman said, laughing.  “What criminal wants to be in jail?”

“But they’re not—criminals.”  Tenzin straightened.  “By the definition of Tarrlok’s law, yes, they are.  But look at the situation!  All they did was come outside.  Someone cut the power to spark all this, and then they’re responsible for doing what any normal person would do?  Come outside in response?  Where’s the justice in that?”

“If they had not come out as a mob, we wouldn’t be having this discussion,” the Northern Water Tribeswoman said coolly.  “And who’s to say the Equalists didn’t cut the power?  Wouldn’t that benefit them?”

Now it was Tenzin’s turn to sigh.  He rubbed his face, then looked at them all.  “I will tell all of you now: if we do not do something about this situation, then the Equalists, assuming they’re still out there, will turn this to their advantage.  If the people of the Dragon Flats Borough do not receive justice, then there will be no peace.”

The Northern Water Tribeswoman laughed.  “So let’s do this because the Equalists will attack if we don’t!  Wonderful!  Isn’t that just what they want us to do?”

Tenzin’s face went volcanic red, marking the start of another few rounds of the political merry-go-round—which by now Lin was thoroughly sick of.

o o o

Lin walked back to her office with a heavy heart.  It wasn’t just that watching the meeting first-hand like this was pointless—it was also knowing that any action in Council to help the nonbenders of the city could and would be turned into one more fear-filled brouhaha.  As well as the fact that the Equalists were indeed out there.

Tenzin said it right, though, she thought to herself.  I know it myself for a fact: if the people of the Dragon Flats Borough don’t receive justice, the Equalists will give us no peace.

The voice of the Northern Water Tribe Councilwoman rang in her ears, too. “So let’s let all the prisoners go because the Equalists will attack if we don’t!  Wonderful!  Isn’t that just what they want us to do?”

Lin screwed up her face at that.  Never mind that Tenzin wants to process all the prisoners and let only those go that we know won’t come back at us, no… we’re still doing what the Equalists want us to do, according to her.  Never mind the fact that they were all made guilty by Tarrlok’s law, friend or foe.  And somehow that’s justice to her.

That word kept ringing out, though.  Justice.

Lin sat at her desk once more.  And thought.


And scowled.

This situation is as unjust as they come.  It is not the fault of those people that they’re in prison right now; it’s Tarrlok’s.  He deliberately wrote this law so that any nonbender who was out after dark would be in violation of it, regardless of circumstance.  And, naturally, when the power went out, he just happened to be on the spot with his Task Force and my Metalbenders to enforce the law.  Not the least bit suspicious at all.

That, however, sparked a thought.

She crossed her arms and tapped her lip with a finger.

Now, who would know how the power had been cut?  And what if that, too, happens to be… suspicious?  What would the logical result be?

A small, predatory smile.

I think I just found a lead.

o o o

Unfortunately the lead quickly resulted in a dead end.  Lin checked the records at the power company and found nothing.  There were no records that clearly indicated what had happened, only that power had been lost shortly before the incident in the Dragon Flats Borough and that it had been restored soon after.  The people responsible for creating those records and for reporting and repairing any power outage that night were nowhere to be found; they were either killed during the Equalist attacks or were no longer in the City.  Tarrlok had been very thorough.

Combined with the other facts involved, it still was very suspicious—not clear-cut enough to allow for immediate action, but still enough to cast reasonable doubt on the situation for any normal, reasonable person.

Normal, reasonable people not influenced by the Council’s nonbender paranoia, anyway.

Lin stood there at the power company’s offices and seethed with frustration.

And then, unbidden…

Say, Chief?  About the non-benders from the Dragon Flats Borough, the night they cut the power: if you know they’re not Equalists, why do you keep them locked up here?  You could let them go—you have the authority!

Lin growled.  Sato!  Where did that thought come from?  Because I don’t want to undercut the Council, that’s why!  Because if I did that—

Her usual mental answer about Equalists, anarchy, and all the other dangers of not standing with the Council slipped into place.  And then fell out.

If I don’t stand with the Council—

When the Council is clearly in the wrong—

When they were wrong to put the people from Dragon Flats in jail in the first place—

When the corruption of the man who led that effort is so clear—in addition to the fact that he’s
gone and fled, more evidence that something’s not right—

When the Council is wrong to continue to keep them there—

Tenzin’s righteous, furious, futile assault on the Council’s conscience came to Lin’s mind.

When it’s clear the Council will never let them go, no matter how much it’s demonstrated to them in cold, hard fact that this is wrong—

—Do I have the authority?

To accept Sato’s say-so on the subject without question would have been foolish, so Lin went to the City’s main law library and checked the codes and the law herself.  And after a good amount of dusty research…

I can.

She straightened at the desk where she had been examining the law books.

At the very least there are several instances where the arresting officer’s warrant has been countermanded with reasonable proof.  And there’s certainly plenty of that.

Then a new thought struck her.  Lin looked up from the dusty tomes on the research desk in front of her, concerned.

But if I did this, by myself, it would be just me proclaiming to the City what I thought.  The Council could easily just brand me an Equalist conspirator, kick me out, and keep the Dragon Flats people in prison.  But who else would help me?

Sitting there with the weight of Republic City law and history around her and no company except for the lawbooks and the motes in the air, she felt very alone.

Who else could help me?

Then… almost if the motes in the air themselves were talking…

Have you thought about asking your friends, silly?

Lin, still alone, relaxed and smiled.  Uncle Sokka.

She listened, wondering if her memory would suggest more of what he had said… but no specific event came to mind.

She did remember, though, how often what Uncle Sokka did caused things to be better—for herself.  For others.  For the City itself.

So Uncle Sokka thinks I should ask my friends.

Tenzin’s already involved.  Korra…
  She shook her head briskly.  Not in a million years.


She closed her eyes.  A slow headshake.  I would have asked.  Once.

So who else…

She thought.

Then she smiled.

I think I know who to ask.

She left the law library.

Offline Av

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Re: Bonds VIII: Sparks [K+] (7/3)
« Reply #10 on: July 04, 2015, 10:16:45 PM »
It's been months, yet the instant I started the chapter the entire story flooded back into my mind. That's a great sign. The writing is strong, crisp, and easy to read through at a brisk and engaging pace. I'm intrigued to see who her friend is. I'm also still wondering where this is all going, and I'm hoping you won't let me down!

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Re: Bonds IX: Trust [K+] (7/10)
« Reply #11 on: July 10, 2015, 01:39:52 PM »
I hope I don’t let you down, too!  XD

Thank you very much, Av.  I really appreciate that.  I’m very glad the story came back to you after so many months just sitting there; sounds like I did my job in that respect.

This next chapter is, um, a bit bigger than my usual, but I hope it goes over well.  I’ve also included a couple of “guest stars”; I’ll be interested in knowing if you can figure out who they are.

So, here we go.  Thanks again for reading, everyone.

Bonds IX: Trust

It had finally occurred to Lin what she needed: allies.  Or rather, co-conspirators.

She had a few old cronies in the Department that had come up through the ranks with her.  They had trained with her under her mother, and they knew her as well as anybody in the City did; if anyone would be receptive to her new ideas, they would be.  There were also several younger officers in the Force who she felt would be open to her way of thinking.  Hopefully.

She thought about meeting with them separately, feeling them out about the elements of her plan, but rather than run the risk of one of them spilling the beans to the rest of the world, she decided to meet with them all at once, in one of the conference rooms at headquarters.

“Are you nuts?!?

Only to realize she had just concentrated whatever opposition she might face.

One of her cronies was beside himself.  “We just get done fighting a war with these jokers, and now you wanna let ’em go?  Just like that?”

One of the others laid her hand on his arm.  “Now, Yao, I’m sure that’s not what the Chief had in mind.”

Lin, standing with her hands on the back of a chair, looked a little sour.  “Actually, it is.”

Yao threw his hands up.  “ ‘Actually, it is!’  Beautiful!  You got a reason for doing this?”

“I do.  And it’s going to sound flimsy, but I want you to hear me out.”

“All right.”  He put his hands back on the table and scowled.  “Let’s have it.”

A younger officer with twin cone-like ponytails on the back of her head leaned forward.  “Captain Yao, in case it hasn’t crossed your mind, the Chief didn’t have to get us together like this.  She could have simply gone forward with her plans.  She wants to know what we think.”

Yao’s scowl only grew.  “In case it hasn’t crossed your mind, Lieutenant Meng, letting several hundred of the prison population go at the drop of a hat isn’t something you just ‘go forward with’.”

“It has.” Meng remained composed.  “And with that in mind, I look forward to hearing the Chief’s reasoning.”

“Thank you, Lieutenant.”  Lin said.  I suppose that’s enough of an opening.  “You may know that I have been meeting with some of the prisoners from the Dragon Flats Borough, interviewing them to sound out their views.  I have also met with Hiroshi Sato to see if he had anything new to say, but also to sound him out as well.”

Sato?”  “No, I didn’t know that.”  “Why?  We already know what he thinks!”

“Because I believe the people from Dragon Flats were wrongly arrested,” Lin replied.

Silence.  Along with several pairs of now-wide open eyes.

“They were falsely accused of being Equalists by Councilman Tarrlok,” Lin said, “when in fact there is not a single Equalist among them.  They were merely doing what anyone else would have done in their situation, reacting to the power going out—a situation intentionally created by Tarrlok for political purposes.”

An older officer with a gray-flecked black walrus mustache cleared his throat.  “Speaking of political purposes, Chief… we all know how things were between you and Councilman Tarrlok.  This sounds like payback.”

“I admit I hadn’t thought of that, Captain Sun.  And yes, Councilman Tarrlok and I didn’t get along, to put it mildly.  This, however, is different.”  Lin let go of the chair and straightened.  “The only crime these people are guilty of is violating curfew.  They did so, all at once, because the power went out.  And when I checked the records at the power company last week, there were no records indicating what caused the power outage.”

Sun was little moved.  “That could be described as coincidental.”

“Yes—but when I went to question the workers who filed those reports, I was told they were gone.  Either killed during the war, or no longer in the City.”

That led to some murmuring.  “And this leads you to believe this was a set up?” asked Sun.

“Yes, in addition to speaking with the prisoners personally.  None of them had any records of consequence.”

“Neither did any of the ones who later proved to be Equalists.  Hiroshi Sato, for example.”

“True, and absence of a record does not necessarily equate to absence of intent.  I also agree that one interview doesn’t equal a life story.”  Lin shifted her stance.  “But I did speak with several of them—or rather, I gave them the chance to talk to me, about whatever they wanted.  If they’re liars, they’re pretty good ones.”

Sun smiled sardonically.  “Hiroshi Sato, for example.”

Lin matched it.  “Point taken.  But these people were here in Republic City because they wanted a better life, either born here and stayed or immigrated here, and everything we could discover about them checks out on that point.  What they got was Tarrlok’s law—along with a lot of other anti-nonbender policy.”

A lifted eyebrow from Sun.  “And you believe them when they tell you this.”

“I do.”

Meng’s eyes narrowed. “Chief, this sounds like far more than a prisoner release.”

“Yes,” growled Yao.  “Far more.  This sounds like you’ve gone over to the Equalists.  Do you really mean to tell me that because of what a handful of prisoners said, you’re going to let them all go?  In addition to making the entire Force look like it was duped or worse?”

Lin met Yao’s accusatory look head on.  “Yes.”

“So the fact that we are in effect admitting we were wrong about the entire war means nothing?

“On the contrary, Captain, it means a great deal to me.”

“Really.  It certainly doesn’t look like it!”

That put a sour look on Lin’s face.  I knew there were going to be some problems with this.  She drew in a breath.  Very well.  Let’s begin.  “Captain Yao, who are we the police of?”

“Republic City.  And?”

“Are we the police for everyone in Republic City?”

“Yes—everyone is subject to the law.  We are the ones that enforce the law.”

“So we are all equal before the law, correct?”

More dark clouds grew on Yao’s brow.  “Yes again.  If you break the law, you go to jail.  Period.”

“Look around this room.  Who do you see?”

“I see my fellow officers.”  Yao grew even more irritated.  “Where are you going with this, Chief?”

“What is one thing that we all have in common?”

“I can think of several things.  Which one do you mean?”

“Very well—let me clarify.  Do you see any nonbenders?”

“No.  We’re all Metalbenders.  And?

“Wouldn’t that suggest a certain bias to our attitudes?  To our opinions?”

“Given that you’re the one that put most of us in these posts, Chief, why don’t you answer that yourself?”

“If you wish.”  Lin leaned over the table.  “Yes.  It does.”

Yao leaned back, looking smug.  “Then since you’ve admitted you’re biased, Chief,” he said, gesturing to her, “why are we having this conversation?”

“Because I only realized that over the past few months, Yao.  That I’ve come to admit it to myself.  That I realized that the founders of this City sought to end divisions between the Bending Nations, not create new ones between bender and nonbender.”

Inside, Lin grimaced.  That felt corny coming out of her mouth, however true it was… but that was indeed how she felt.  She pressed on.  “That I realized that I was wrong.”

Suspicion washed away the smugness on Yao’s face.  The scowl returned.  “So now that you’ve admitted you’re wrong—Chief—why are you sharing this with us?  With us in particular?”

“Because I aim to right that wrong—and I need your help to do it.  Avatar Aang and Fire Lord Zuko would have never tolerated this.”  More corn, but it struck to the heart of things.

Yao sat there a moment, processing what he had heard, then his expression hardened.  “Then you can do it without me.”  His chair scraped on the floor as he stood.  “What you’re talking about smacks of a crusade—another anti-bender crusade—and how you came to this conclusion I don’t know and I don’t care, because I want nothing to do with it.”  He looked at the others.  “You can trust me to keep quiet about this; I don’t want any of this being spread.”



Yao turned, Metalbent the dark panels of the wall into their slots, stepped through the doorway, and slammed the panels shut.  Lin suppressed a sigh.

There was quiet for a moment.

Sun looked at where Yao had left.  “Notwithstanding Yao’s dramatics, the charge he makes is a good one.”  He turned to Lin.  “You are talking about changing the direction of this Department—to the point where, as Yao said, we are admitting that we were wrong.  There will be a lot of officers, especially those that were on duty with Councilman Tarrlok that night, who will want to know why.”

“Several reasons.  Some of which I’ve already mentioned.”  Lin drew the chair out from the table and sat.  “One is that we’re all citizens of Republic City, bender and nonbender alike, that we ought to start acting that way—treating everyone as equal before the law, regardless of whether or not they’re benders.  Since we didn’t do that, we lost the faith and trust of parts of the City.  We lost credibility through our own actions.”  Lin looked at each of them in turn.  “Another is that in order to regain that credibility, making an admission of what we’ve done is a good place to start, to start making things the way they should be.”  She looked at her hands.  “I think it’s even harder to admit that someone else was right—that maybe we should have been listening to them all along.”

Again Sun’s expression was unchanged.  “The Equalists, you mean.”

“In some ways, yes.”  Lin looked at him.  “I think we became too interested in maintaining order, and as a result we didn’t think about maintaining justice.  The people of this City could accuse us of choosing sides long before the Equalists appeared.  The people from the Dragon Flats Borough came out that night because the power went out.  Our view of that night is that they broke the law, twice: first because they were out after curfew, and second because they disobeyed a lawful order to disperse by an officer in authority.  Because they broke that law, we have branded them Equalists.”

Lin held out a hand to Sun.  “If the power had gone out in a bender neighborhood and people had come out in the same manner, would they have been accused of breaking the law?  Would they have been accused of being Equalists?  No, because the law specifically states any nonbender out after curfew is breaking the law.  By our definition, all the Equalists were nonbenders—except for Amon himself, who of course just happened to be a Bloodbender.”  Lin held up a hand to forestall a response.  “Yes, we know that now, after the fact—if we want to be fair to ourselves.  But I think the only way we can be fair to ourselves is if we’re fair to everyone.”

She ticked off facts on her fingers.  “The nonbender curfew law was written by a bender: Tarrlok.  The law was enforced that night by a bender: Tarrlok.  The one who accused those people of being Equalists?  Tarrlok.  But who are the ones who now hold those people in jail?”  She closed her hand into a fist.  “Us.”

She looked around the table again.  “We bear that responsibility now, not Tarrlok.  From what we know now, not one of the people from the Dragon Flats Borough had any thought of rebelling or joining the Equalists, and hopefully they still don’t, despite how we’ve treated them.  If we hold ourselves to the standard that the City’s founders had—that Avatar Aang had, that Fire Lord Zuko had, that my mother had—they all would consider this an injustice.  And they wouldn’t have stood for it.”

Lin exhaled.  “I don’t blame our people who were with Tarrlok that night for what happened.  They did follow lawful authority; they were correct in following Tarrlok’s orders, even though those orders were wrong. I don’t think much of myself for allowing Tarrlok to maneuver me into that situation, either, where he would have control of our Department.”  She clenched a fist.  “I can’t do anything about the past; I can only do something about right now.  And right now, having made those mistakes, I want to put things right.”

There was quiet at the table.  Deep down Lin wondered if she’d made a fool of herself, but this was where she had to make her case.

After a long silence, Sun spoke, looking at his hands on the table.

“If you really are bent on doing this, Lin, then simply releasing the prisoners without doing any groundwork in advance would be a mistake.”  He turned from looking at the table to looking at her.  “You are inviting a revolt in your own ranks if you don’t provide a proper explanation.”

Lin looked relieved.  “So you’re with me, then.”

“I think there are going to be a lot of hard feelings about this regardless.  But yes.”  Sun’s mustache moved up in a smile.  “I am with you.  I think you’re right.  But as I said, without an explanation,” he sought her eye, “one that will be hard to take for a lot of people regardless, you are inviting revolt.  You need to move carefully.”

There was a long uncomfortable silence.

Lin turned to Meng.

“Lieutenant,” she said quietly.  “You said you looked to hearing my reasoning.  Have I explained myself well enough?”

Meng was quiet for a moment longer, then spoke.

“Chief, what you propose has the potential to tear the City apart, creating the very thing you say you hoped to avoid.  I agree with Captain Sun when he says that you face a revolt from the Force itself if you decide to do this now, without any preparation.  When the Equalists attacked, there may have been some doubts as to who was loyal and who wasn’t, but we faced those attacks as a united Force, bender and nonbender together.  For us to be divided now would be a terrible thing.”

She paused.

“That also is something that could be used to unify the Force in this situation: that when the City tore itself apart, we stayed together.  As you said, that is something Avatar Aang and Fire Lord Zuko would have wanted.  As well as Chief Toph Bei Fong.  And that that’s what they would have wanted now.”

“But you keep saying ‘if’,” said Lin.  ‘If’ we go forward with this.  How do you feel about it?  Is this something we should do?”

Meng nodded.  “I do.”

Lin looked at two male officers present that had said nothing yet through the entire meeting; they looked like they wanted to say something, but couldn’t find the right words—and also that those words wouldn’t be in support of the current feeling.

“I realize we are taking a great risk,” she said to them.  “I know that not everyone in the Department is going to agree with this, let alone within the City.  I am open to suggestions on how to proceed.”

“I think it’s a given that the City Council will be in opposition to this,” said Sun.

“Most of the City Council,” corrected Meng.  “Councilman Tenzin has been trying to push a motion through the Council to do what we’re planning to—obviously without success.”

Lin smiled to herself.  Nice to know I’m not the only one keeping tabs on the Council.

Sun tapped the table.  “I’d reiterate that support within the Department is key.  You must build support within the Department for this to succeed.”

“I agree,” said Lin.  “Any thoughts on how to do that?”

“By explanation,” said Meng.  “We talk to key officers within each command, explaining our side of the story.  They in turn will spread the explanation and knowledge about it when the time comes.  You yourself, Chief, should go around to various parts of the Department, talking to them in small groups, explaining and preparing for what’s to come.  When we do this, we have to emphasize that we are doing it—we, the Police together.”  A slight shrug.  “It wouldn’t hurt to add that this is what the City’s founders would have wanted as well.”

“Chief,” another female officer said, “I think it’d be good to look to our own house, too.”  She motioned to Lin.  “You said it yourself—we’re all benders here in this room.  Most if not all of the senior leadership of the Force is like that.  We should make sure we are being ‘equal before the law’ before we tell others they should be.”

Lin nodded.  “I agree, Captain Zheng.  Please look into that.”

“Yes, Chief.”

“And if you feel that way, maybe others in the Force do too.  I know I did.”  She chuckled at herself.  “I was the one who said the benders of this City should show some backbone when the Equalists threatened to attack the Pro-bending Finals.  I needed to adjust my thinking.”

“And if we refuse to go along with this?” said one of the previously-quiet officers.  “What happens then?”

Lin turned to face the officer in the awkward silence.

“Nothing,” she replied.  “Nothing happens.  Not for a while.  That is part of the temptation: to deny… to delay… and to do nothing in the meantime.  I don’t think we can do that anymore.”  She pointed to the wall.  “You can, if you want, follow Captain Yao out that door.  I won’t think any less of you.  I did ask for your opinions.”

She lowered her arm, and her voice grew harder as she spoke.  “If we do nothing, the Force will continue on as it is.  The Council, the City will both continue on as they are.  However: you all have been around the City.”  She shifted her gaze to each officer.  “You all know what conditions are like now.  You all know that the conditions that sparked our war with the Equalists still exist.  If we do nothing, our injustice against the people of the Dragon Flats Borough will remain too.”

“Someday, the Equalists or someone like them will come again.  They will call us to account for our behavior.  They will point out to the City what we have and have not done, just as the Equalists did.  And just as the Equalists did, they will either call the citizens to action or manipulate them into doing their bidding, as Amon did.  And between them and the City Council they will tear this City apart all over again.

“Our people, bender and nonbender, will be hurt.  Our people, bender and nonbender, will die.”

Lin let that sit in their minds for a moment.

“I will keep trying to convince you,” she said more quietly.  “You, and the rest of the Force.  I can understand why you need time to think about this; I have had the benefit of months to think about it, while you have only had a few minutes.  But this time I will not sit and do nothing.  I cannot.”


“And if people accuse you of having sold out to the Equalists?” asked the officer.

“I’ve thought about that,” Lin said.


“And that people will probably do that anyway.”  Lin motioned her head slightly toward the metal panel door.  “Yao already has.  And if the Equalists or their successors never appear and that’s what people say about me, so be it.  I’ll be content with that.  I’ll have done my job.”

o o o

Now that Lin had allies, she and they set to work.  The weeks that followed were busy, and anxious.

Sun, Zheng, and Meng worked as an advance guard, determining whom to meet with and where.  Lin did the talking—a lot of it.  As Sun and Meng had predicted, there was a lot of explaining to do.  Some officers were dead-set against what Lin proposed; others were full of hurt over the war.  Others, though, were in favor of the plan, sometimes enthusiastically so—they had only been wanting a plan to act on.  Slowly, unit by unit, district by district, Lin and her conspirators worked the Force, talking, explaining, explaining some more.  Things began to take shape.

All throughout, Lin wondered why no one blabbed to the press.  It would have been an excellent way for someone who disagreed to shift the conversation in their favor, and it would have thoroughly embarrassed her.  Somehow, though, no one did.  The Force was indeed together in that sense, and Lin gave thanks for it.

She did wonder, though, if Amon himself had ever had any anxious moments in his pre-plan phase.

Finally, when the conspirators felt they had planned, prepared, and done as much as they could and felt they could reliably move forward, they announced to the press that the Republic City Police Department would hold a press conference.  The commanders of the City’s districts filed in first, among them an unhappy Captain Yao.  Lin followed them in and went to the podium.

“For the past several months, the Police Department of Republic City has been conducting a special investigation,” she began.  “I am here today to announce changes in the Department that will take place as a result.”

“The charge has been made against the Department, at various times and by various people, that the people of this City have been treated unfairly and unequally by its officers.  That is a charge that strikes at the very heart of why this Department, why this City, exists, a city founded on the premise—on the promise—that all are welcome here.  That all are equal before the law.”

Lin looked down at her notes for a moment, then back again at the assembled press corps.  “The people of this City have suffered terribly during the past year.  Some have lost their homes.  Others have lost their bending.  Still others… have lost their lives.  The war that caused these things is over.  The circumstances that caused the war are not.  The divisions between the peoples of the Fire Nation, the Water Tribes, and the Earth Kingdom have been mended, but now it is clear there is a new division in our midst.  One that the founders of this city would have never permitted.”  That sparked some murmurs among the press.  “It is in their name and in that spirit that we act today.”

She lifted her head.  “Effective immediately, all bending officers will be accompanied in the field by nonbending officers.  Both a bending officer and a nonbending one must concur on the need for an arrest when an arrest is necessary.”

“In addition, examination of records has shown a bias toward promoting benders within the Department over nonbenders. Over the next month, a committee of officers will reexamine our personnel and elevate nonbenders that qualify to higher ranks, based on length and quality of service.”

She looked briefly at the reporters in the room.  Some of them were bored; others looked cynical, ready to pounce on the latest bit of juicy scandal.  A handful, though, were paying attention.

She smiled to herself.

“Finally…”  Lin gathered herself.  “Several months ago, a mass arrest was made in the Dragon Flats Borough; all those arrested were charged with being Equalists.  This mass arrest was the primary focus of this special investigation.”

“This incident drew the attention of the Department for several reasons,” she continued.  “While the suspects involved were out on the street in violation of the Council-mandated curfew and did not disperse when given a lawful order to do so, electrical power to the Dragon Flats Borough had indeed been cut, as the suspects have maintained.  Records for when power was lost and the condition of the generators when the power outage was declared have gone missing.  Under ordinary circumstances that would seem suspicious.”  Lin looked up from her notes.  “These are not ordinary circumstances.”

She paused.  Now she met a room full of attentive eyes.  Pencils hovered above notebooks.

“Further, other than misdemeanors and minor felonies, the vast majority of the suspects arrested that night had no major crimes of record, and no records of sedition or any other treasonous behavior.  While it is true that before and during the war there were many people who revealed themselves as loyal to the Equalists, none of the suspects arrested that night showed signs before or after that they were ready to join them.”

Some of the reporters’ mouths had dropped open.  Others talked to each other in incredulous whispers.

“Lastly, the chief officer on the scene, Councilman Tarrlok, later revealed himself to be a Bloodbender, as we now know Amon, the leader of the Equalists, also was.  As the main charge against the suspects arrested that night was that they were Equalists, the fact that the officer in charge on the night in question shared such a trait with the leader of the Equalists throws more doubt onto the circumstances of that night.”

Now the whispers in the room became a hum.

“Given this review of all the facts of the night in question, it is hereby ordered that all charges concerning the incident are dropped, and all suspects involved are to be released immediately.”

Silence.  A full two-thirds of the jaws in the room had dropped.

Then there was a storm of questions, punctuated by the lightning of camera flashbulbs.

A/N: About our guest stars: Lieutenant Meng was part of Korra’s Earthbending Trial in my Bringing Up Korra series, and in my head, at least, Captain Sun here was “voiced” by our old Korra friend J.K. Simmons, the voice of Tenzin.  :D

Offline Av

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Re: Bonds IX: Trust [K+] (7/10)
« Reply #12 on: July 11, 2015, 07:40:45 AM »
Well handled, I'm enjoying this thoroughly. The press conference was so well-captured I could hear and see the flashbulbs before the text even wrote they were there. It's one of those special things where it's good enough I don't feel I have much to say other "I can't wait to see where this goes."

Quick things, in response to "Is this something we should do?" Meng said "I do." I assume this is a leftover from the editing process where the structure of the question was changed. And on the topic of quotations, when one character shifts into a different paragraph in their dialogue, the end-quote isn't put into place until their dialogue stops, as putting end-quotes on the ends of each pararaph often gives the impression the next paragraph is spoken by a different, unspecified person. The paragraph breaks for Lin's speech felt appropriate, but the end-quotes made it confusing for a moment. And the two people in the room calling out "Yao" and "Captain" respectively as he left made it slightly confusing as to what was happening, as when quotes are given without names attached, it's assumed the previous two people talking are still the ones involved, so I was wondering who was saying what, assuming the first was Lin and confused as to why Yao would call the Chief 'Captain'. Unless that was him reaffirming his title as opposed to allowing usage of his name? But that wouldn't make sense, as it's indicated the line of dialogue is being cut off. So I'm now assuming it's two other, unrelated people in the room calling out to him trying to make him stay. That's a few more leaps than should be necessary. It's all little things.
« Last Edit: July 11, 2015, 07:42:50 AM by Av »

Offline wherewulf

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Re: Bonds X: Alliance [K+] (8/3)
« Reply #13 on: August 03, 2015, 11:49:22 AM »
Thanks, Av.  :D  And you’re right.  Originally I had Lin’s question to Meng as “Do you think this is something we should do”, and I missed that part.  I should have corrected that.  Also, in the scene where Yao left the room, I did sacrifice who was saying what for speed.  I didn’t want the “nametags” to cause any drag on what was being said; I wanted the two speakers to speak as close together as possible in the reader’s mind. Lin was the one who spoke first, one of the others after that—I didn’t have anyone in particular in mind.

Well, hopefully the rest of this will go over well.  On to the finish, then.  Thanks again for reading, and especially for commenting.  :D

Bonds X: Alliance

Lin’s order to release all the Dragon Flats prisoners, carried on the radio, spread across the city like wildfire.

All of the members of the City Council were apoplectic—all, that is, except for Tenzin, whom Lin had told advance so that he wouldn’t have a heart attack.  (Although when Lin had told him, watching his face proceed through the colors of a stoplight had been entertaining.)

The other Council members shouted and threatened all sorts of things, but they eventually simmered down to a grumbling boil under Tenzin’s reasoned, unperturbed argument (which he very much enjoyed giving).  Lin had laid out her case in public, and the reasons she had given were hard to refute.  If the Council claimed her actions were illegal, especially given now-ex-Councilman Tarrlok’s behavior, what basis could the Council give?  And did they really want to charge Lin Bei Fong with treason?  Possibly the whole of the Republic City Police Department?  Did they really want to call in the United Forces to arrest the police?

“No,” said the Northern Water Tribe Councilwoman, her face an unhealthy shade of red that looked even more sickly against her light blue robes.  She pointed shakily at Tenzin.  “But mark my words, Tenzin: this… isn’t over.”

“No, Councilwoman.”  Tenzin folded his hands up into the arms of his robes.  “I know very well it isn’t.”

o o o

“What do we want?”


“Where do we want ’em?”


“What do we want?”


“Where do we want ’em?”


Disturbances broke out across Republic City soon after the end of Lin’s broadcast, few of them in nonbender neighborhoods.  They didn’t offer much of a problem; the police quickly restored order, and no one was hurt.  Within the week, however, the dissenters got organized.  Protests and marches formed, including the delivery of a petition to City Hall to have the people from the Dragon Flats Borough re-arrested.  That almost turned ugly as nonbenders got wind of what was happening and formed counterprotests.  The police had their hands full keeping the two sides from meeting—but they managed.  Lin couldn’t have been more proud of them, or more grateful.

Not that there wasn’t grumbling in the ranks.

“This is only going to get worse,” one of the older lieutenants said at the police command staff meeting a few days later.  “What we’re seeing right now is only disorganized stuff.  When they get organized—look out.”

Meng innocently propped her head on her chin.  “The drive to present that petition seemed pretty organized to me, Lieutenant.”

That earned her a scowl.  “You know what I mean, Lieutenant.  This is only the beginning.  They’ve only started to think about what they might do.  When they do, there’ll be more of them, and they’ll do more than wave pieces of paper at us.”

“I agree with your point, Lieutenant, but I also wonder how many of them can afford to do that.”  Sun scratched his mustache.  “Assuming these are benders that are upset, the average bender has far more to lose by offending the police.  Most of them have jobs, some of them high-profile ones.  If they get thrown in jail, it could cost them—their jobs, maybe more.”

“I have to agree with Lieutenant Asano,” said Lin.  Sun turned his head, surprised.  “We haven’t seen the last of these demonstrations.”

“Didn’t count on that, did you, Chief?” sniped Yao.

Lin frowned at him, then continued.  “They do have the right to demonstrate, to speak their minds; we’d be hypocrites if we said otherwise.  What we need to do is keep things from getting out of control.  I am open to suggestions.”

After a moment of chatter among the officers, Yao smiled and shrugged.  “We could put the Dragon Flats people back in jail.”  There were a few quiet chuckles.

Irritated, Lin was about to say what she thought of that when Meng broke in.  “I have a suggestion.”

“Oh?”  Yao leaned back.  “This should be interesting.”  Lin was tempted to tell him what she thought of that, too.

Meng was far more composed.  “In order to smother a fire, you have to deprive it of one of three things: fuel, air, or heat.”  She raised a finger for each item she ticked off, then drew her fingers back into a loose fist.  “I think we should deprive these demonstrations of fuel.”

“We aren’t dealing with Firebenders, Lieutenant,” Asano said snidely.

“Aren’t we?”  Meng’s face was calm, but there was a merry glint in her eyes.

Yao sat up.  “All right.  How?”

“We need supporters, out among the populace.  People who may agree with the Department’s stance, but haven’t been willing to come out in public and say so.  We need spokespeople, to carry our message and spread it.  We need to share our story with them.”

Yao’s face screwed up with skepticism.  “What is ‘our story’, Lieutenant?  And who exactly do we tell it to?”

“Our story, Captain, is to explain why the Department came to this decision: why we had to free the people from the Dragon Flats Borough.  We need to tell our story to people who will catch fire with the idea when they hear it.”

Zheng chuckled.  “It sounds like you’re depriving their fire of fuel by fighting fire with fire,” she said.

“How exactly do people ‘catch fire’ when we tell them that?” asked Yao.

“And as far as that is concerned,” Asano said brusquely,” do you realize what will happen if we do present our spokesperson, or people, or whatever, to that mob?  Do you really think they’re going to listen?  Or will they just try to shout them down?  These people are acting out of fear—and we just let several hundred of their worst nightmares loose!”

There was more grumbling at that.  Meng remained resolute.  “That’s a good point, Lieutenant.  I was just coming to that.”  She turned back to Lin and the rest.  “The ones who carried that petition are already on fire, with their own idea.  They’re not going to listen until they hear someone besides us tell them why they’re wrong, why they don’t have to be afraid.  We can’t take them on directly.”  She turned to Asano.  “Not unless, as you said, Lieutenant, we want to get into a shouting match or worse.  And that won’t serve our purpose at all.”

Lin kept her tone cool.  “So what do you propose?”

“We need to speak to specific groups of people, under more controlled circumstances—people who are more apt to agree with our side of the story.  They’ll have their chance to question, but it won’t be out in the open, with an uncontrolled mob situation.  We’ll have a better chance to answer their questions and convince them.”

“So now it’s our side of the story?” Yao scoffed.

Lin ignored him.  “And who do you think should do the talking?”

Meng just smiled at her.”

Lin gave her a sour look.  “I had a feeling you’d say that.”

o o o

Bright and early one morning, some political science majors of Republic City University found themselves face to face with a guest speaker: the black armor-clad Chief of Police.

Lin had thought about presenting her argument much the same way she had with her group of conspirators: fact-based, staying focused on what she had discovered, why the actions of the police had been wrong, and what they were going to do about it.  She also remembered what had struck her to her core about the situation, and felt like that might be a better way to connect with her audience.

“I think some of you are old enough to remember when Avatar Aang was still with us,” she said.  “What he did, what he said, what he believed in and what he stood for.  Any professor or book or scroll can tell you about Avatar Aang—but only you yourself can know what it felt like.  I was fortunate enough to have grown up with Avatar Aang as one of my teachers, one of my guides, so I know first-hand what he stood for.  That makes what I will tell you now hurt all the more.”

Lin shifted her glance from student to student, trying to reach them.  “I was so concerned about keeping order in Republic City that somehow I forgot about what Avatar Aang really wanted... what he had always worked for.  He helped the Four Bending Nations find peace—not just for the benders of the Four Nations, but for all of us.  He and his companions, including my mother, would never have allowed a new break to happen between bender and nonbender.  But somehow, we did.  Somehow I did.”

“So does that make the Equalists right?  No, because the Equalists made it their mission to take things away from people, things that are innately part of them: their bending.  What we did, however, was to allow bending to become more than a talent that people have; we turned it into a matter of identity, just like the Four Nations had been.  Our actions created two new nations out of the four: bender, and non-bender.  Slowly we benders came to think that bending was better… and somehow nonbending was worse.”

Lin held her hands out to her sides.  “If you could bend, you were trustworthy—if you couldn’t, then you weren’t.  If you could bend, that makes you better than those that couldn’t.  If you could bend, you moved up in the world.  You became a leader.  That, somehow, got changed into the right to lead—why you should be the leader.”  Lin shook her head.  “Avatar Aang never once felt that was the case.  But we did.  We paid no attention to the discrimination that happened—and when people protested that that was wrong, that only fueled our belief that we were right.  That you couldn’t trust nonbenders.”

“The night the people of the Dragon Flats Borough were arrested, they were arrested because a bender said so.”  Lin grew regretful.  “All through the troubles with the Equalists, these people from Dragon Flats, all nonbenders, were kept in prison because no one questioned the law that put them there.  According to that law, those nonbenders were wrong.  But who wrote the law?  Benders.”

“Who enforced it?  Benders.”

“And they were kept in prison by… benders.”  Some of the class said the word with her.  “Yes.  We kept them there.  On another bender’s say-so.  And yet not one of the people from the Dragon Flats Borough arrested that night, despite everything that we did to them, became an Equalist.  But we kept them in prison because that’s what the law said.  Because that’s what a bender said.  Avatar Aang would never have done that.”

“What did Avatar Aang do?  Where there was injustice out in the world, he faced it.  Where there was brokenness, he helped heal it.  If there was something he could do, he did it.”

“But why are you making this all about Avatar Aang now?” a young woman interrupted.  “What about Avatar Korra, the new Avatar?  Why can’t you ask her for help?”  Some murmured agreement.

“That’s a good question,” Lin answered.  “Yes, I am focusing on what Avatar Aang did.  Yes, we could ask Avatar Korra for help.  She is, after all, the Avatar; keeping balance in the world is her job.”  Lin hoped no snideness made its way through, in her expression or in her response.  “But I can’t ask Avatar Korra to assume responsibility for what I did.  Avatar Korra can lead us—but it’s up to me to fix my problems.”

“Then why don’t you?” asked the woman.  “Why don’t you follow her lead?”

“I am.  Or more to the point, I am now.  Avatar Korra objected to Councilman Tarrlok arresting those people that night.  She was correct then.  I wasn’t.  I now am trying to fix what I did wrong.”


“Look.”  Lin bore down on the woman.  She added a slight smile, trying to sweeten things.  “I agree—but please listen to the point I’m trying to make.  Yes, Avatar Korra could help us, as she tried to do the night the Dragon Flats people were arrested… but it is still up to us.”

“Yes, we have Avatar Korra as an example, but this new division between us is something Avatar Aang would have worked to heal and reconcile, not merely confront and combat,” Lin said.  “He helped found Republic City so that all who came here would have a fair chance.  Earth Kingdom, Water Tribe, Fire Nation, bender and nonbender alike, Avatar Aang saw one—world.  We can fight, as we fought with the Equalists—but fighting alone won’t solve our problems.  Avatar Aang fought during his life, but more often than not, he worked to bring people that fought together to compromise and reconcile.”

A pleading look came to Lin’s eyes.  “Avatar Korra will fight.  There is no question about that.  But right now, we need healing far more than fighting.  We set the people of Dragon Flats Borough free to start to right the wrongs we created—to set the balance straight.  To begin to put this city back to rights.  My question to myself, looking at the problems we have now, problems I helped create, is not ‘What would Avatar Korra do?’  It’s ‘What would Avatar Aang do?’ ”

The bell rang.  The more bored of the class lurched into motion first, on their way to their next class or at least trying to escape this one.  The rest followed, gathering their books and notes and heading for the exits.  Lin watched them go, hoping she’d made some impression.

She suppressed a sigh.

“Chief Bei Fong?”

Lin turned.  It was the young woman who had interrupted her earlier.  “Can I ask you some more questions?” she asked.

Lin wasn’t sure if she was glad to leave or not.  She smiled slightly.  “Not now, I’m afraid.  I have another class to speak to in five minutes.”

“Can I talk to you later, then?  I’d really like to ask about some things.”

The old habit of pleading busyness immediately came to Lin’s mind, especially since she felt vulnerable right now, exposed, afraid of saying the wrong thing to the wrong people.  And yet...

She smiled to herself.  What would Avatar Aang do?

“All right,” she said.  She turned over one of her notes and wrote on the back of it with a pencil.  “This is where I’m giving my last talk today.  You can meet me then.”

“Great.  Thanks!”  The student took the note and walked off at a brisk pace.  Lin headed out herself; it wouldn’t do to be late for her own talk.

o o o

That was how Lin wound up lecturing to a bunch of college students.  The command group had thought about groups of people to talk to—civic groups, companies’ boards of directors, screened public gatherings—but this was the one they had wanted to try first.

At every talk she gave after that, there was at least one person who had wanted to know more; she told them too where to meet her after her last talk.  By her count, she figured she’d meet with a handful of people.

Instead, she found about twenty.  She felt ambushed, as when Hiroshi Sato had sprung his platinum wall-Mechatank trap on her.

Part of her would have rather faced the Mechatanks again.

Still, instead of staying behind the lectern, Lin pulled up a chair and joined them.  (She thought about Metalbending it to her, but… well.  As this was about bridging gaps, that didn’t seem wise.)  These twenty-some bright minds thoroughly interrogated her, asking about everything from the Department’s command structure and how bending was related, to how her opinion about benders and nonbenders had changed over time, to what Avatar Aang had been like, how she and he had gotten along, to how she thought Avatar Aang and his companions might have handled present-day problems, to just about anything she could think of regarding the Gaang.  She answered them all as openly as she could, trying to convey and convince as much as she could.  After a few hours of questions, they thanked her and left.

Lin felt exhausted by the whole thing—but she felt like she had at least explained herself.

o o o

Since Republic City University had seemed fruitful, Lin continued on to the other universities and colleges of Republic City.  After visiting the next one, Republic State College, she noticed something interesting happening: despite the fact that she had told no one about which college she was visiting next or when she would be giving talks, more people started showing up to them, including faculty.  Question-and-answer sessions became routine, and the questions being asked grew more inquisitive in nature rather than interrogatory.  People wanted to know what they could do to help.

“Pay it forward,” she answered.  “Rethink how you treat others, bender or nonbender.  Don’t hesitate to ask questions.”  She shrugged, then let her arms fall to her sides.  “Keep asking yourself, ‘What would Avatar Aang do?”  That drew a small cheer, which surprised Lin.  “He would want this rift healed.  I do too.”

Lin left that meeting feeling pretty good about things, feeling a momentum of sorts that came from actually doing something about her problems.  Confidence grew where doubt had been before.

One thing Lin hadn’t counted on, however, was the law of unintended consequences.

Offline Av

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Re: Bonds X: Alliance [K+] (8/3)
« Reply #14 on: August 03, 2015, 10:56:56 PM »
Man, I was getting to the end of the chapter feeling it in my gut than the other shoe was bound to drop, then in one sentence it was confirmed and now I'm excited to see where this goes.

Offline wherewulf

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Re: Bonds XI: What Would Avatar Aang Do? [K+] (8/7)
« Reply #15 on: August 07, 2015, 11:49:06 AM »
Well, here comes the other shoe, Av.  And I dearly hope it doesn’t look like Bozo’s.  XD

Bonds XI, everyone.  Thanks for reading.  And for commenting.  Av.  XD

Bonds XI: What Would Avatar Aang Do?

Lin was meeting with the police command group toward the end of her series of college talks when one of the duty officers interrupted the meeting.  “Chief, there’s a demonstration marching toward Headquarters.”

“There’s a what?”  Lin pushed back her chair and stood, as did the others. They left the room, following the duty officer.

“Do we have anyone in position?” she asked.

“Yes, Chief.  They’re out front and ready.”

She nodded.  “Good.  The usual procedure: they can come near, they can say what they want, but they can’t come in.”

“Yes, Chief.”

As they drew near the front of the building, the chanting outside could be heard more and more clearly.  Lin was anxious about going out there; the crowd out there had to be huge to be heard that far inside Police Headquarters.  She also wanted to know why they had had no word of this demonstration, given that Headquarters was their target.

Lin reached an open window.  There were the protesters, all right, hundreds of them, but their signs bore ideograms that she never would have believed: “Equality by Heart—Not Just By Law!”  “I’m Not a Bender or a Nonbender, I’m a CITIZEN!”  “Benders and Nonbenders are Friends, Not Foes!”  And now that she could make out what the crowd was chanting, she couldn’t believe her ears.

“WHAT would AVatar AANG DO?”

“WHAT would AVatar AANG DO?”

“WHAT would AVatar AANG DO?”

“WHAT would AVatar AANG DO?”

Over and over and over again.  Lin was dumbfounded.

Captain Sun came and stood beside her, a dry expression on his face.  “It would appear that your talks have been well-received, Chief.”

Lin came out of her amazement enough to turn and answer.  A disbelieving smile.  “Yes.” She went back to watching the march.

The protesters kept marching, going right by Police Headquarters, on down the street, and to the front of City Hall.  There they stopped.  They drew out pieces of paper and spoke together.  Loudly.



There was a pause as the stragglers finished reading their statement, then the chant began again.  Now that the protesters were all in one spot, their chant was more forceful than before, and it echoed off of the buildings.





The protesters then let out a long concerted cheer that rattled the windows of the surrounding buildings; people all throughout downtown could hear it.  After that, the protesters broke up, each group going their own way, leaving the City Hall guards stunned, City Hall itself shaken, and the rest of the city wondering what in the world had just happened.

Later that day the City Council issued a statement to the press.

“The Republic City Council—” said the Council Page in a high reedy voice, wincing at feedback from the mike.   “The Republic City Council wants the people involved in today’s demonstration to know that they have been heard.  The Council will issue a full statement in due time.”  The Page then turned and left, despite all the shouted questions from reporters and flashes from camera flashbulbs.

That sort of response, of course, wasn’t about to stave off the press.

“STUDENTS DISRUPT CITY CENTER”, blared one newspaper headline.  “COLLEGE KIDS TEACH LESSON TO CITY COUNCIL”, proclaimed another.    “STUDENTS MARCH DOWNTOWN—WHY?” demanded a third.

On the heels of that headline, other reporters took things a step further, wanting to know what the ‘why’ was.  “That many students developing a conscience all of a sudden?” asked an editor.  “In this day and age?  That just doesn’t happen!  Find out why!”

The reporters starting asking the students questions.  Even with the natural reticence of the students, the reporters got enough of a picture as to who was saying what, and that brought them back to Police Headquarters.

Lin met them with open arms.  Sort of.

“Yes, I did give a series of talks at the universities explaining our position,” she replied, thoroughly composed.  “Why?  The Department felt it would be better to offer more explanation to those who might be willing to hear it.”  Lin spread her hands.  “There was no secret agenda involved, other than I was the only one giving the talks.  Anyone was free to attend them—including the faculty of the colleges, some of whom did attend, as a matter of fact.  Have you asked them about what they thought?”

“Did I have anything to do with the march?”  She chuckled, and enjoyed it.  “No.  While I greatly appreciate the statement of support, I can tell you for certain that the Police Department of Republic City had nothing to do with that whatsoever.”

Naturally that set the conspiracy theorists abuzz, and there were a couple of protests about that to boot.  Other reporters, though, decided to probe deeper.  Why did the students decide to march?  Especially when the police publicly said they had nothing to do with it?

Lin’s joviality, though, was indeed hiding something: unease.  After the protest march had passed Police Headquarters, the command group went back to their meeting, but with a change in agenda.  Now that a group of the City had “caught fire” with their idea, how would they prevent the City from catching fire itself in the process?

In that regard, the City Council actually helped.

“Due time” turned out to be a while; no word came from the Council for two full weeks.  As the students had been “recognized” but not responded to, representatives from the City’s colleges met to plan new protest marches, this time reaching out to people from the Dragon Flats Borough and elsewhere within the City.  The reporters learned about that, too, and nervous paragraphs started to fill the newspapers; what would another student march do to the City?  Especially with no response coming from the City Council?  The question continued to grow, not just “What would Avatar Aang do?” but what would the Council do in response.

During that time, though, something strange happened.

There were still protests against nonbenders—especially in the wake of the huge pro-nonbender rally at City Hall that no one had seen coming—but the numbers of protesters dwindled.  Each demonstration drew fewer and fewer protesters.  Those that came were still virulently anti-Equalist, but it almost looked like they were looking for an audience to shout with.  And pro-nonbender protests seemed to… find places where the anti-Equalists weren’t, deliberately.

Lin and her police remained poised, but still tense.

“Is this a calm, or is a storm gathering?” Lin wondered at another meeting.  “This is weird.”

Meng simply smiled beatifically.  That really made Lin wonder what was going on.

Then new questions arose among the students, then out in the Boroughs, and they got the press involved.  This City Council was the body that passed the anti-nonbender laws in the first place, its makeup changed by just one person since Tarrlok’s departure.  Why would this Council repeal its own law?  And if it never did, what then?  Did this Council really represent the whole City?

The press, honoring their ancient practice of “if it bleeds, it leads”, was unable to resist.  They furthered what the students had begun, and put those questions and others in print and on air in front of the entire City.

City Hall was not a happy place.

“I have gotten several letters and a dozen phone calls asking me why we are letting a band of college kids lecture this Council on bender morality!” the Northern Water Tribe Councilwoman declared indignantly.  “What are we going to do about this?  We cannot allow this to continue!”

Tenzin started to say something, but was interrupted.  “Maybe that’s because they have.”

All eyes went to the Southern Water Tribe Councilman.


“I said, maybe that’s because they have.  They have lectured this Council.  And the City.”

The Northern Water Tribeswoman glowered at him.  “Please explain that, Councilman.”

“I have been getting those calls too.  And that’s not the only thing those calls have been asking.”  The Southern Water Tribesman looked steadily at his Northern counterpart.  “Some of my constituents say they didn’t know about the origin of the curfew law, or its content.  They say they didn’t know it only pertained to nonbenders.  Some of them even asked me if I thought Avatar Aang would want such a thing.”

“Avatar Aang was not with us when this City was threatened by the Equalists, and so he didn’t have to make that decision.”  Her eyes bored into him.  “You know that!”

“I do,” he replied coolly.  “But apparently they don’t.  In fact, one caller told me that if we had been doing what Avatar Aang had wanted, there wouldn’t have been any Equalists to threaten the City.”

“That is absolutely preposterous!!  Do they honestly think Avatar Aang would want his own city torn apart?”

“I have to report the same,” said the Earth Councilman reluctantly.

Heads snapped around.  “The same what?

“I too have been getting calls and letters asking about the curfew law, among other things,” said the Earth Councilman.  “How we could write laws specifically against nonbenders.  I have also gotten some rather pointed letters from business owners asking why we let this war happen, and, to quote one letter I received, why their businesses were destroyed because of our ineptitude.”

“What are they talking about?” the Fire Councilwoman indignantly asked.  “They were around when these laws was passed!  They know we were worried about Equalists!  We did it to make the City safer!  To restrict the Equalists’ movements!”

“And they also wanted to know why this Council did nothing,” said the Southern Water Tribesman, “when it was made clear that Tarrlok ordered the power cut to the Dragon Flats District.”

The Fire Councilwoman’s face was a whirl of emotions.  “We were never told that.”

“Yes, and they said we have been told that now.”

“By whom?” the Northern Water Tribeswoman asked derisively.  “Chief Bei Fong alone?”


“So they’re going to believe this sudden bit of proof which no one has seen before?”  The Water Tribeswoman laughed.  “And who’s to say Bei Fong didn’t manufacture it herself?”

Again Tenzin was about to speak, now indignantly in Lin’s defense, but again the Southern Water Tribesman spoke first.  “Have you ever known Lin Bei Fong to lie?”

“No, but this ‘proof’ of hers is her opinion of what—”

“Is it?”  The Water Tribesman looked suitably skeptical.  “Her facts can easily be checked.  She made that declaration regarding Tarrlok to all of Republic City.  If she is lying, she just lied to the entire city and threw away her entire argument.  So let me ask you again: have you ever known Chief Lin Bei Fong to lie?”

The Water Tribeswoman said nothing.  The faint echoes of the Water Tribesman’s words died away in the vaulted hall.

Then the Water Tribeswoman tried another tack.

“We cannot be held responsible for the actions of one rogue Councilman, who himself is on the run from the law!”

“Except for the fact that we are being held responsible.”  The Water Tribesman brought his hands together in front of him.  “In reference to which, another constituent of mine told me that if I couldn’t find an answer to her questions, she would find someone who could.”

“Meaning what?

“Meaning I may be facing a recall vote, Councilwoman.  Unless I am able to provide an answer for a growing number of people in my district who all of a sudden want a change in the way things are and have been done.”

The Water Tribeswoman’s face relaxed.  A recall vote.  She almost smiled.  She waved a hand dismissively.  “Then answer them yourself, Councilman.  I know where my conscience lies.”

“Then here is my answer.”  He pushed back his chair and stood.  “I move that the nonbender curfew law be repealed.”

Silence.  Even from Tenzin.  All of them were stupified.

The Earth Councilman made to stand, then hesitated and considered.  Then he sighed and stood.  “I second the motion.”

The Fire and Water Councilwomen were incredulous.  And angry.  “What are you doing?”  “Have you lost your minds?

Tenzin, tempted to smile, somehow kept his face still as he stood.  “I too vote for the motion.”

The Northern Water Tribeswoman now looked like she was from the Fire Nation; lava threatened to flow and erupt from her eyes.  She came to her feet.  “You… two-faced… self-serving… weak-spined… hypocritical hogmonkeys!”  She abruptly turned and marched out of the room.  The Fire Councilwoman sat there still, angry, stunned… and outvoted.

Tenzin turned to the Water Tribesman, the flesh around his eyes crinkling.  “I believe the motion carries.”

o o o

Like the river in the Fire Nation that Avatar Aang and his friends helped to clean years ago, the atmosphere in Republic City slowly began to change.

Nonbender jubilation at the repeal of the curfew law led to bender fears manifesting themselves afresh at City Hall, and protest numbers swelled.  Again Lin and the police went to high alert, poised to act if something should happen.  She took command in the field herself when new protests appeared.

“Remember,” she said as she walked the line, “they cannot strike, but they can speak.  They are citizens too—the same as you!  You will hold—you will show them respect—and you will show them how to be a citizen of this City!”

Nothing came of the protests.  And as days turned into weeks, and the “dreaded inevitable nonbender attack” never appeared, tensions bled away again.  So did the protester numbers.

Slow-moving plans started to take hold.  Logistically, Lin’s directive regarding the ratio of bender to nonbender officers was impossible; there simply weren’t enough qualified nonbenders in the Police Force to have a nonbender accompany every bender in the field.  After careful study of all personnel rosters, Lin and her team went forward with what they had; as a one-to-one ratio was not possible, four-to-one and five-to-one had to do for the time being.  Some nonbender officers started training in new roles, moving from administration and support to patrol.  The Department also started hiring from nonbender neighborhoods.

It played out in how the officers treated the citizens.  In turn, as the new rule of law began to establish itself, the citizens of Republic City started to pay it forward to each other.  The cynical, hard-nosed, fast-playing, sink-or-swim, love-it-or-leave-it citizens of Republic City wouldn’t have ever come out and said it publicly, but they really did care about each other.  Not that they ever would have admitted it.

The stink of distrust was slowly giving way.  It was slow work; there was lots of cynicism on both sides, lots of hard feelings, and in many ways, lots of things stayed the same.  But there was change.

Aided and abetted by the press, the people of Republic City kept talking about the questions raised by the students.  Changes could be made to the Council that voted in the anti-“Equalist” laws that had sparked the war… but the Council could be changed back just as easily.  In greater and greater numbers, the people began to ask: if such a Council could approve such laws, what would prevent them from doing it again?

Maybe it was time for Republic City to consider an even bigger change… perhaps even a nonbender to rule over the Council itself.

There was an air of thankful disbelief in some parts of the City; people were thankful that peace had been restored, but they still marveled that the City had not blown up.  They wondered how it was possible.  Some of them did so publicly.  And some cast about for reasons why.

“I think what happened was that the students called the people of this City to account,” a woman said on a radio show shortly after things seemed to quiet down.

“They what?”  The host guffawed.  “You gotta be kidding me.”

“I’m serious.  The kids of this City did something no one else could do—not the police, not the Equalists, not the Avatar, nobody.  They pricked the conscience of this City.”

“Soong, this is live radio here.  You realize how corny that is?”

“Well, think about it. ‘What Would Avatar Aang Do?’  This City was founded, just like Chief Bei Fong said, by Avatar Aang and Fire Lord Zuko to bring people together.  You really wanna tell Avatar Aang that you’re marching ’cause you don’t like somebody here?  What would he say to you if he were here?  Those words made a lotta people think.”

“It sure took the wind out of the sails of the anti-nonbender bunch,” a man grudgingly agreed.

Welllllll, I think we’d better move on,” the host said.  “Moving on to sports—can the Wolfbats recover after what happened to them at the end of last season?  What do you think?”

Later historians pondered how so much change had happened so peacefully in so short a time after so much violence; the ponderings became a popular question on college exams.  The consensus they reached, incredible as it was, was that after all the fear, all the cynicism, the citizens of Republic City were thirsty for something that reminded them of why and how the city was founded, even though they hadn’t realized it at the time.  Lin’s actions, her reversal of Tarrlok’s mass arrest, her speaking to the students of Republic City and in turn what the City’s students had to say, sparked an idealism that had not been felt in years.

The citizens of Republic City had found themselves thirsting for hope.

And the Equalists—save one—were never seen again.

o o o

Shiro Shinobi met Lin for lunch one day, at his request.

“So can you confirm or deny meeting with Hiroshi Sato yet?” he asked with a twinkle in his eye.

She answered that with a small smug smile.  “I think you know already.”

“So you took things into your own hands.”

“I felt I had to.  If I hadn’t…” Still unsure if the ears around were safe, she closed that thought off with a shrug.  “Things had to change.  They weren’t changing.”

“They certainly are now.”  The twinkle was still there.  “Were you still interested in my contacts?”

Lin’s eyes lit in surprise.  “Yes, if any of them will talk to me.”

“They won’t.”  A grin.  “I’m still working on that.”

She frown-smiled at him.  “You old fraud.”

“But they like the way things are going.”

“Ha!  I’m glad for that.”

The noises of the restaurant took over the conversation for a while.

“There’s still something I have to laugh at, though,” said Shinobi.


“How you, the chief layer-down of the law and the greatest rule-follower of all, turned out to be the greatest rule-breaker of all.”

A long pause, filled with the clinking of dishes and neighboring conversation.

“You realize my mother is now laughing her head off someplace.”

Another grin.  “Yes.”

Offline Av

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Re: Bonds XI: What Would Avatar Aang Do? [K+] (8/7)
« Reply #16 on: August 08, 2015, 06:15:45 PM »
A surprisingly pleasant conclusion, and a more plausible one than many that could be considered when looking at the political gaps between seasons one and two. Kudos, Wulf. I quite enjoyed this story.

Unless, of course, that's not the ending and more remains to be seen.

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Re: Bonds XII: Set in Stone [K+] (8/14)
« Reply #17 on: August 14, 2015, 11:55:06 AM »
Thanks, Av. :D  I really appreciate that.  So did things wind up where you thought I was going?

I have some more to say about that, but I do have one more piece to put out there.  Hope I don’t break anything.  XD

Bonds XII: Set in Stone

Years later, after Avatar Aang’s statue was knocked down in the harbor by the Dark Avatar Unavaatu and restored to its pedestal, after a statue of Avatar Korra was put in one of the City’s parks, chopped off at the knees by Kuvira’s spirit gun, and put back together again, another statue was erected, this one on the grounds of Future Industries.

Although the statue had been privately erected on private land, a host of public dignitaries came to the statue’s dedication, including Chief of Police Lin Bei Fong.  She had even been invited to speak at the event.

Not the wisest of choices, Lin thought wryly.

President Raiko was there, as was Avatar Korra, of course.  Tenzin and Asami Sato were on the stand with them, although neither were there in a speaking capacity.  Lin didn’t blame Asami at all for not speaking today; given what Asami had been through with her father over the past few months, giving a speech about her father was the last thing she needed.

Besides which, Lin thought to herself, this statue is statement enough as to how she feels.

Then it was Lin’s turn to speak.  From the podium, she looked out at the assembled crowd.

“A year ago, if anyone had suggested I’d be here honoring the person I am today, I’d have asked them if they were seeing any friendly mushrooms.”  The obligatory laugh from the crowd.  She wouldn’t have asked for much more.  She glanced at her notes and began.

“Hiroshi Sato was a self-made man,” she said.  “He came to Republic City with little more than what he could carry, and from mere ideas, he built a company that everyone in Republic City, if not the world, knows.  From those ideas, he created ground-breaking technologies.  He built an empire.  He became a captain of industry.  A well-respected man.  But when this City needed him, not only did he stand with the enemy, he made their weapons and helped conceive their strategy.  He revealed himself to be one of them.  And in the end, after Avatar Korra defeated Amon, Hiroshi Sato went to prison.”

Lin saw confusion in the crowd at what she was saying, puzzlement at what she could mean by this, anger at why she was saying this now, of all times.  As Asami Sato was on the dais nearby, she couldn’t see her face, but she could well imagine.  She did hear Korra rustling behind her.

“That, of course, isn’t the end of this story,” Lin continued.  “When Kuvira and her army came to attack this city, Hiroshi Sato chose to help.  He devised a new technology to breach the platinum armor of Kuvira’s colossal Mechatank.  He found a way to fit it onto the flyer that his daughter Asami Sato had designed.  He flew one of those flyers with his daughter to attack Kuvira’s machine.  And when it became clear that the only way to cut through Kuvira’s armor was for his flyer to stay in place far longer than it was safe, he did so without hesitation, and sacrificed himself.  His actions led to the downfall of Kuvira’s Mechatank and, ultimately, her plans as a whole.  Hiroshi Sato saved this city.”

Lin put her notes down, breathed, and looked up again.

“It would be easy to argue that Hiroshi Sato ‘learned his lesson’ during those four years in prison.  It would be easy to assume that’s why he did what he did.  In hindsight, as with so many things, I think that is an incorrect assumption.  When we brought him out of prison during Kuvira’s assault, he spoke four words that told us why he had decided to help us: ‘I love this city.’ ”

“ ‘I love this city.’ ”

Lin gestured to the side.  “It would be easy to focus on the end of this story and ignore how we got here… how Hiroshi Sato got into prison in the first place.  How he felt so strongly about bender/nonbender inequality that he chose to stand with the Equalists instead of the police—with ‘them’, instead of ‘us’.  We could go back to the circumstances of his life and sift through them to find out why he did what he did.  They’re not too hard to find… now.  Now that he’s dead and gone.”

Lin heard another rustle behind her.  She didn’t hear any crying, but she would bet Korra was trying to comfort Asami.  That gave her added focus for what she wanted to talk about.

“What I think about now are the wasted opportunities we had to talk,” Lin said. “To focus on anger and pride and right and wrong so much that there’s no room for anything else.”  She sought out her sister, Su Yin, who was also in the crowd.  “So much so that there’s no room to think of alternatives.  To think of why someone might be doing what they are.  To give no thought as to how to reconcile.”  Su smiled and nodded.

Lin took in the whole crowd again.  “Hiroshi Sato, despite the anger he still must have felt at all of ‘us’, chose to set that anger aside in favor of helping this city.  In spite of how he may have felt, he gave everything he had—his mind, his inspirations, his ideas, his service, his life—to defeat this new enemy.  And as with so many other things in his life, he was successful at what he did.”

A simple smile.  “Sometimes after things are over, you learn the things you should have done.  The questions you should have asked, the people you should have talked to.  Certainly that is the case now, for me.  I didn’t take the time to talk with him before, and now I wish I had.”  A shrug.  “Of course, at the time I didn’t know how he felt—until it was too late.  That’s something I’ll try to remember, for the future.”

“I do know one thing, though, that I want to say right now.”  She looked at the statue.  “Thank you, Mister Sato.  Thank you for saving us, despite everything.”

She turned from the podium and returned to her seat to applause, some polite, some heartfelt.  She was glad for it, but it didn’t matter too much.  She had said what she had wanted to say.

She looked over at Asami.  The makeup around Asami’s eyes was smudged slightly, but she gave Lin a warm smile and nodded, which Lin returned.  Korra, seated between them, squeezed Asami’s hand, then let go and leaned over to Lin.  “Nice work, Chief,” she said quietly.  She smiled.  “You had me worried for a moment there.”

Lin gave her a raised eyebrow.  “Have you ever known me not to speak my mind?”

Korra gave her a wry look of her own.  “That’s what worried me.”

Lin smiled in acknowledgement, then turned back to politely listen to President Raiko’s closing remarks.  Her eyes and attention, though, kept returning to the statue.  All those years in prison… and I never talked to you.  Or for that matter even before.  Before this entire mess started—if I had known that maybe I should.  And now, obviously… I can’t.

Raiko’s words continued to wash over her as just words.  She was sad.

Then a rueful smile.  I wonder what you’d have to say about that—Mister Sato?

Her eyes wandered, coming back to where she knew Su was.

Maybe you’d say that the best thing to do was to learn from your mistakes and prevent them from happening again.

Another look at the statue.  And a smile.


The End

Offline Av

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Re: Bonds XII: Set in Stone [K+] (8/14)
« Reply #18 on: August 14, 2015, 01:03:43 PM »
The perfect seal that brought a smile to my face. Thanks for writing this, Wulf. It was well worth the effort.



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