"What happened?" Bolin asked frantically, "Where is Master Jet?"
"I'm not sure," Korra answered, "I didn't have time to go back for him. I'm afraid there's nothing we can do for him now. Let's just make sure his sacrifice isn't in vain. We gotta stop Amon."
"Right," Bolin nodded, following close behind Korra's rapid pace, "Watch out, Amon! You're about to get toasted by the Fire Ferrets!"
Bolin half yelped when he was grabbed from one side, one hand covering his mouth and wrenching his neck by his chin and the other restraining his arm.
"This mission has no hope for success if you cannot keep that loud mouth of your's shut!" Lin whispered in his ear, releasing him when he relaxed and realized who she was.
"Lin!" Korra exclaimed, "Why aren't you with Tenzin?"
"We figured you ran into trouble when you didn't make the checkpoint," Lin answered, "Tenzin and I decided I would be more useful helping you here. Where is Master Jet?"
"He fell behind," Korra answered sadly.
"I understand. We have to move on without him. Come on! Tenzin will be in position soon and we MUST be there when he is."
The three of them ran down the hallways and corridors as fast and as quietly as they could, navigating the maze with the map Master Jet had left in their hands. As they approached a corner, Lin stopped and checked around and signaled for them to stop.
"... So what do we do with the Firebender?" One of the Equalists asked the Lieutenant.
"Take him down to the holding cell. Amon has a something special planned for him," The Lieutenant answered.
"Yes, sir," The Equalist responded, and turned to carry out his orders. He was heading their way, so Korra shoved Bolin through an empty doorway and then Lin squeezed in and partially closed the door behind them. They were fairly close in the closet as the Equalist boot steps passed by and, for a moment, Bolin was lost in the smell of Korra's breaths. When the coast had cleared, Korra whispered, "Did you hear that? They're holding Mako downstairs somewhere!"
"Korra," Lin said, "We don't have time. We have to make it to the rendezvous point before Tenzin is left fighting Amon's forces alone."
"But what if Mako loses his bending before we get to Amon?" Bolin demanded, "You heard him! Amon has something special planned for him!"
"Amon plans to take away every bender's bending," Lin growled, "That is hardly a 'special' fate. Besides, Amon will not be able to take away your brother's bending if we help Tenzin arrest him before then."
"Lin," Korra replied, "We're significantly outnumbered here. Don't you think we could use all the help we can get? We need Mako!"
"We don't have time for this-" Lin scolded.
"Then we split up," Bolin answered, "You and Korra go help Tenzin, I'll rescue my brother."
"There's no way you're going alone, Bolin," Korra told him, "I'm not losing you too."
"Korra, the plan hinges on you being there when Tenzin confronts Amon," Lin reminded her.
"I'll be fine, Korra," Bolin told her, smiling and taking her hand to reassure her, "I promise!"
Korra looked at Bolin, eyes furrowed with concern and sadness. For a moment, she was indecisive, wanting to help Bolin save Mako, but she knew what she had to do. She had to let go of her Earthly Attachments. She had to let go of Mako. It was the only way to save him, but the pain of doing so brought tears to her eyes. Bolin saw her struggle and reached out to comfort her, but Lin, rolling her eyes, grabbed Korra's wrist and said, "Come on, we don't have time for this."
"Good luck, Bolin," Korra cried behind her as she and Lin took off after the Lieutenant.
"No worries!" Bolin waved, taking off after the guard to find out where Mako was being held.
"Amon!" Tenzin called over the enormous throne room, "By the Authority of the Council and the State of Republic City, I hereby place you under arrest for terrorism, kidnapping, illegal experiments on unwilling, living subjects, destruction of public property, and breaking and entering."
"High Councilman Tenzin," Amon answered, not turning away from the large map marked with hundreds of flags and pieces outlining the progress of his plans, "I was wondering when you'd finally come to pay me a visit. But where is your prodigious pupil? Don't tell me you didn't bring her with you."
"If you choose to cooperate," Tenzin continued, "tell your forces to stand down and allow us to take you to stand trial for your crimes, your army, minus the officers and political insurgents, will be granted amnesty and be allowed to return peacefully to their homes. I would also personally see to it that your sentence is granted leniency. If you resist, your holdings will be forcefully seized and your followers will be hunted down and incarcerated."
"Ah ha ha ha ha ha ha!" Amon cackled, "My army outnumbers your's a hundred to one and your bending will not help you against them. No, I do not think I will allow you to arrest me. But you are a respectable man of great integrity and esteem. Allow me to offer you the opportunity to surrender your bending freely and save yourself the disgrace of having it forcefully stripped from you, kneeling at my feet. Such a position ill-fits a man of your stature."
"Tarrlok," Tenzin called out.
Metalbenders appeared out of thin air, leaping out from the shadows and surrounding the throne room, chains at the ready. Tarrlok stepped into view, smiling arrogantly as he said, "Take them."
The Metalbenders moved as one and without hesitation. They took Tenzin's men by surprise and quickly tied them up, restraining them from fighting back.
"A shame," Amon told him, walking around Tenzin as he struggled against his bonds, "If only you had allies you could rely on. Oh, and if you think sending the Avatar in the back way to rescue you was a good idea, I'm afraid there's a little problem with that plan."
A door opened and the Lieutenant came through it, dragging a paralyzed Korra by the collar. Locking her neck with one arm and leveling an electrified rod at her head with the other, the Lieutenant silently awaited for the command.
"And now," Amon told him, walking again in front of Tenzin to look him in the eye, as he held out his hand towards Tenzin's forehead, "After I take away your bending, you'll get to watch your savior lose her's."
But Amon's eyes suddenly bulged open, his back wrenched his head back in pain and he cried out as the electrified rod sent terrible currents of electric power through his body. He fell to his knees when the rod retracted and flew back, attached to a metal chain, to Lin's hand, who had released Korra and taken off the Lieutenant's helmet.
"I don't think so, Amon," Korra jeered, taking a stance to ready herself for the confrontation. Lin fired the Lieutenant's electric rods on the ends of her chains, taking down the corrupt metalbenders holding Tenzin.
"You're late," Tenzin noted, taking a fighting stance with his back to Lin.
"If you had taught your student a proper sense of punctuality..."
An Equalist jumped in next to Lin, fists seeking her chi points out until she parried with an electric rod, stunning his arm. Tenzin blew him back off his feet. A second Equalist dropped in behind Tenzin as he turned, aiming for the chi points along his spine, but Tenzin rolled out of his way, leaving the Equalist overextended as Lin brought the electric rod into contact with his chest. The Equalist fell helplessly to the ground.
"I could get used to these," Lin remarked, a hint of a smile like her mother's on her face.
An Equalist threw a bolas at Tenzin, but Tenzin simply snatched the rope with one hand, kept the bolas spinning, pivoted on one foot and launched the weapon back at its thrower, tying his feet together while he was in the air, landing the attacker on his face.
"Would you mind spending less time fascinated by those things and more time helping me stop Amon and Tarrlok from taking over Republic City?"
Amon stood, staggering a little from the shock and twisting his back to help it overcome the pain. He was slapped in the back of the head and felt his hood soak. He turned and saw the Avatar confident smirk on her face and forefinger beckoning him to rise to her challenge. Turning to face her, his arms at his sides, he twisted his wrist to allow a smoke pellet to drop through his sleeve into his palm before dashing off to one side. Korra pursued with a fiery punch that blocked off his path, but he leaped over the flames, throwing his pellet to blind her for a moment. She pulled her arms up high and then bended the air around her outward to rapidly disperse the smoke. She caught a glimpse of him sneaking off down a passage on the far side of the fighting.
'Oh, no! He's not getting away this time!' She thought angrily. She started running after him, 'If he wants to take this someplace more private, that's fine with me!'
"Korra, wait!" Tenzin called out, trying to free himself from combat, but unable to entangle himself from dodging a metalbender's attacks. An Equalist took advantage of his distraction and landed beside him, readied to strike.
"Tenzin!" Lin cried out, "Watch out!" She swung at the Equalist, grazing his shoulder and stunning his arm, forcing the opponent to withdraw. She threw a rod at him with her metal chain, but the attack was blocked with a sudden flood of water, which hit her, connecting the rod with the metal chain, causing the water and the metal chain to become electrified. Lin cried out in pain as the electricity stunned her. When the water had evaporated from the heat, an Equalist moved in to finish her off, but Tenzin hit her legs before she could properly land and he took a defensive stance over Lin's unconscious body.
"Give up Tenzin," Tarrlok taunted, drawing more water at the ready as Tenzin quickly became surrounded by Equalists and their metalbending allies, "You're completely outnumbered. You always have been. You just never realized it."
"Oh, I knew Tarrlok," Tenzin replied, "I knew about you for a long time."
"Did you now?" Tarrlok asked mockingly, "And so why didn't you do anything about it?"
"Because," Tenzin answered coolly, "I've always had you completely outmatched."
A darkness clouded Tarrlok's arrogant glint and he growled, "We'll just see about that."
"Okay, Korra," She whispered to herself, "Now would be a great time to get your Avatar State on. THINK! Let go of your Earthly Attachments...."
Mako appeared in her mind, his dreamy golden eyes shone like the sun as his lips curled into a cute little smirk just before his eyes started to drift close and his face was pulled magnetically towards-
"NO!" She growled at herself, "That's exactly what you have to NOT think about, Korra! Ugh, I'll never get this thing figured out."
'It's no use, Master Tenzin!' she thought, 'There's no WAY I can let him go. I'll just have to forget about him and just fight Amon without the Avatar State. That's it, just forget about-'
She froze, shock filled her body as she turned and saw Mako carrying Bolin with his arm around Mako's neck.
"Mako!" She cried, momentarily forgetting everything but her joy at seeing that Mako was alright. She ran up and hugged him around the neck, her heart soaring at the touch of his cheek to her's. After the moment passed, she realized that Bolin wasn't greeting her as well and she asked, "Bolin! What happened?"
"He's fine," Mako replied, "The Equalists did a number on him though. He'll be out of it for a while. Let's get out of here while we can."
"No, Mako," Korra told him, "This is it, our last chance to stop Amon and I'm not letting him get away this time."
"We can't take Bolin," Mako said. He kicked open a door and carefully laid Bolin down on the floor inside, "Stay here, buddy. I'll be back for you later." He closed the door and then turned to Korra and nodded. She could barely stand to see the purplish-yellow bruises on his pale skin, reaching out to his cheek and feeling her chi fill her fingertips with healing light, but he pushed away her hand.
"We gotta get going."
She sighed, letting the moment pass, "Yeah."
Then they both took off down the hallway.
Tenzin took a breath. The people all around him changed in his mind into spinning boards. He felt himself drift to one side as a metal chain flew at him and then to another as an Equalist fist tried to sap his strength. Then he exhaled. The overextended Equalist was blown through the air into a far wall. He inhaled. A fist. A chain. He grabbed the chain and twisted to wrap himself in it, drawing himself closer to the metalbender wielding it. He exhaled, spinning his arms in a circular motion to create his father's air scooter and slamming it into the metalbender's chest when he was close enough. The metalbender became for a short time Tenzin's own personal living kite. Then Tenzin simply pulled on the chain and slammed the metalbender into the ground. He inhaled. Backtracing his previous steps, he freed himself from the chain slowly by dancing around Equalists trying to get on all sides of him. He exhaled, blowing a mighty wind from his mouth to clear a path in front of him. He grabbed the end of the chain and inhaled. A few short steps and the Equalists he had danced around became entangled in the chain he had recently wrapped around them, tying them together and anchoring them with the unconscious metalbender. He exhaled. A current of wind circled round him to deflect bolas, chains, and smoke which were launched at him. He inhaled. Leaping high into the air, he intercepted a pair of Equalists mid-flight, kicking them back to the ground. He exhaled. A gust of wind redirected his trajectory and landed him in the midst of a group of unprepared opponents. He inhaled. He ducked sweeping for their legs and catching one opponent off guard. The other jumped over his attack and retaliated. He exhaled, propelling him back and away from the attacker while he extended his leg into the opponent behind himself. He inhaled. Dancing around the nest of angry vulture-hornets he had stirred, he pivoted on one leg while rotating about his hip so that his head swung below their attacks and his other leg lifted to sock one of them in the back of the head. He exhaled. An Equalist was trying to land next to him and only got a face full of wind, spinning them in mid-air before they could make the landing. The others, caught off-guard by their ally's tumble, were knocked back by a gust from Tenzin's palms. He inhaled.
Amon flipped switches and levers, the dirigible before him nearly ready for takeoff. He was reaching for the last lever when he heard a voice call out across the dock, "AMON!"
He turned and saw Korra and Mako with arms leveled for a fight.
"Going somewhere?" Korra asked.
"Ah, the Avatar. I was hoping you would join me."
Her eyes bulged and she felt a sharp pain in her arms spreading through her body, point by point, until she fell to the ground, barely able to move. She looked up and saw Mako standing over her. He gently turned her head with the toe of her boot and he said, "She's secure."
"Excellent work, Mako," Amon told him, "Bring her aboard. I want her to see what I've got prepared for her."
"Yes, sir," He answered, picking up Korra, who could only feebly try to resist, her eyes flooded with angry, confused tears.
"Mako, what are you-?"
"I'm helping you, Korra," He answered, interrupting her, "I'm helping you just like I helped my brother. You've got to see the truth about bending."
"The truth?!" She mumbled at the top of her lungs, boots scraping on the floor as he carried her with her arm over his neck, "Mako, how could you?"
"Don't you see, Korra? Master Jet was right. Amon is right. This world, the benders sit on top and abuse and oppress everyone else around them, benders and non-benders. The only way to restore the balance is to get rid of bending."
"Master Jet didn't say that!" Korra protested, "He said that only the Avatar could restore balance to the world!"
"And you will, Korra," Mako told her, "Once you have been cleansed of your impurity and see how much it's been corrupting you, you'll be free to help Amon to bring balance to every part of the world."
"Mako, please, you don't believe this," She pleaded, "You've been brainwashed! Snap out of it!"
"Brainwashed?!" He shouted, eyes glaring at her furiously, "Brainwashed? Why would Amon need to brainwash me to see the truth? Do you think when my parents were murdered it was all just an illusion brought about by Amon to make me believe that benders have abused the power they have? Tell me, Korra, do you think the series of wars the world has seen for the last few thousand years have all been made up by the Equalists to convince the world that their cause is just?! Look around, Korra! Bending is tearing this world apart!"
Mako stumbled, nearly dropping Korra. He felt at the back of his head and found some blood on his hand so he turned around, allowing Korra to look and see a large, dark figure standing at the far side of the dock.
"Put Korra down, Mako!" a muffled and wrathful, yet painfully familiar voice called from within the crude metal armor.
Mako gently put Korra down and said, "Bolin, how did you escape that room I locked you in?"
"I'm wearing the door, Mako," Bolin replied.
"Ha ha ha," Mako laughed, "Really? I'm impressed. Never figured you for a metalbender."
"It doesn't have to end this way, Mako," Bolin cried out, his voice cracking from the pain of sorrow and anger edging into madness coursing through his vocal chords.
"Ah, you never did get it, Bolin," Mako answered, "There was only one way this ever could end."
"You can't chi-block me now, Mako," Bolin told him, "You can't punch through my armor, and since you've already let your precious Amon cleanse you of your firebending, you can't burn me out of it either."
"I've never needed either of those things to beat you, Bolin," Mako taunted.
From the shadows, a mecha the size of a tank flew through the air and almost landed on Bolin. From the cockpit, Amon said, "Game over, little Earthbender."
Tenzin finished tying up the last Equalist in metal chain and asked, "Are you alright, Lin?"
"I think so," She mumbled, "but I'm not going to be much help from here on. Where is Korra?"
"She went after Amon," He answered.
"Alone?!" Lin demanded, but her pain forced her to restrain herself.
"I'm afraid so," another voice called out to them. Tenzin's face twisted and became perplexed as he turned to see face the familiar voice, "Bumi?"
"Tenzin!" Lin warned, but she was too late. Bumi stabbed Tenzin in the stomach, saying, "I believe, Miss Bei Fong, that I'll be taking my uniform and weapons back from you now, if you don't mind."
Tenzin slumped to the ground, pained in more than one way, "Bumi...."
As Bumi finished putting back on his Lieutenant's uniform, he said, "Hello, Tenzin. I regret this is the way we had our reunion, but... goodbye."
The fist of the mecha slammed into the wall, but Bolin had shifted to the side. Strangely enough, it felt a lot like probending, dodging the attacks. Except he knew if he failed to dodge one of these attacks, he wouldn't get thrown safely into a pool. He would become a pool of Bolin Pudding. He tried punching the mecha's knees a couple times because they were the only possible vulnerable points he could reach, but his blows didn't seem to have much effect. While the mecha was having trouble finding the speed enough to hit him, it didn't matter much if Bolin couldn't damage the mecha. Eventually, Amon would hit him and then the fight would be over.
'Well, Bolin, it's now or never....'
He sauntered off to one side, provoking Amon into striking. He felt the mecha graze his side and he heard the scraping of metal, 'A little too close there, buddy.'
He took the chance and jumped in close, between the mecha's legs and punched in as deep as he could, peeling back his armor to metalbend the mecha's outer hull. It was slow going; the metal was denser than the door and he didn't quite expect to find the resistance, but he eventually scraped through, cutting his fingers on the sharp metal edges in his haste. Reaching inside, he grabbed the closest pipes he could find and squeezed, crushing the hydraulic pump with his hand and pulling his hand out fast before the steam and hot water exploded, tearing the leg mechanism apart. The mecha stumbled, unable to stand on that leg anymore. He stepped around behind the mecha reaching for the critical components on the back and started the process of tearing through the protective outer hull again when the lumbering hulk suddenly kicked back with it's still operational foot, crushing Bolin beneath the mecha and nearly tearing off his hand caught inside the mecha. Bolin started bending the metal to pull himself out, but his armor was pinched tight around his legs such that he couldn't feel them very well and his hand caught in the mecha began to tingle as he felt his blood trickle down his arm and pool near his elbow. Blinking the tears of defeat from his eyes, he willed himself to keep digging his way out of his metal prison when a shadow fell over the slot he had made to see through. Amon loomed above him, curiously watching the helpless earthbender squirming beneath him.
"Easy now," Mako cooed, "Easy, Korra. It's okay. It'll all be over soon."
She shook her head, which was drenched with sweat and tears.
"Don't be afraid. This is what is best for everyone. Just relax. You don't have to be the hero anymore. Soon, Amon will open your eyes and-"
Her eyes opened, glowing like lightning and shining like the sun.
"... Oh," Mako said.
Bumi entered the dock. Noticing Amon kneeling over a wrecked mecha, he approached and knelt.
"I'm sorry, sir, for my failure."
"Not to worry, Lieutenant," Amon answered, standing and turning away from the wreckage, "No damage was done. Our plan couldn't have gone more smoothly."
Looking beyond Amon towards the dirigible, Bumi replied, "I'm not exactly sure about that, sir."
Amon turned and saw Mako, flying back into the dock and landing ungracefully on the floor, followed swiftly by Korra, who was floating in a sphere of air which allowed her to levitate freely, her eyes glowing blue from her connection to her past lives.
"At last," Amon said, "The moment of destiny has come."
Avatar Korra stretched out her hand and stone tore through the metal floors, orbiting around her. She crushed them into tiny pebbles and fired them at Amon, who quickly ran to one side, looking for cover, as did Bumi. The building began to sag and shift from the structural damage. Fire enveloped the space around which Amon was hiding and Korra continued to flood the space with intense heat and flame.
Bumi woke Mako with a shake, "Get up, boy. It's time for your last hat trick."
When Amon could no longer stand the heat and lack of oxygen around him and she relented, allowing him to stagger out for a moment, his clothes smoking. A tendril of water wound its way around Amon's neck and lifted him up to Korra's height, allowing her to glare at him furiously.
"Do it!" Amon choked, "Kill me! Prove that benders know nothing about justice... ah-heh!" he struggled to breathe, "...but live to spread violence and pain to those who cross them!"
Tears fell from Korra's glowing eyes. Her resolve weakened. Amon's words had cut deeply enough she closed her eyes, extinguishing her fury with tears. The sphere began to dissipate and both she and Amon drifted back to the ground. Then, her eyes widened with surprise as Mako's lightning bolt struck her in the back. The light in her eyes blinked out and she and Amon fell to the ground, darkness overtaking her.
Amon rose to his feet and brushed the dust and burned fabric from his clothing. "Now, young firebender," He said, "We find out if you were worthy of the honor you've been given."
He knelt down next to Korra and touched her neck with his finger, searching for any signs of life within her. After a moment had passed, he turned to Mako and said, "Congratulations, boy. You've done your part to bringing peace to this world."
Korra, on her knees, head hung in defeat, remained motionless in the darkness around her. A light in front of her seemed to beckon to her gently, but she could not bring herself to look at it. She fought against the lump in her throat for several minutes, tears slipping past her waning defenses out of her eyelids just as sobs squeezed in irregular clumps out of her throat. Her hole frame shook with her effort to resist what could not be contained. But she felt no comfort until a hand reached out to touch her shoulder. Then along with the sobs, barely comprehensible words broke free from their restraints in her mind and spilled out her mouth.
"I- can't- I've failed-" She desperately sucked in a breath, "Everyone- I- I just-"
"Korra," A warm, familiar voice cooed, "You can't give up. We still need you, Korra."
"I can't!" She protested, "It's over! Amon won. I'm dead and the cycle is broken!"
"You aren't dead yet, Korra," The voice informed her.
Her sobs were cut short as the smallest of hopes sprung to life, illuminating her heart and lifting her eyes to see Aang's compassionate gaze staring back at her.
"But-" She choked, unable yet to freely speak.
"Amon doesn't want you dead," Aang told her, "You're still the bridge between our world and the Spirit World, Korra. He doesn't want to destroy you. Only to take away your bending."
A chill ran down her spine.
"You mean-" She started.
"Yes," Aang interrupted, "He is going to take away your ability to bend while you are paralyzed. He won't take the chance that you'll best him in one-to-one combat."
A little upset by this, she countered, "But Amon said that we were going to have to confront each other-"
"And so you have," Aang answered remorsefully, "But you have to understand that Amon views combat like a game of Pai Sho. To him, the confrontation began the moment you entered this base, not the moment you engaged him in physical combat."
Korra's face twisted in frustration, "But there must be something we can do to stop him!" She demanded, "Why else would you be here?"
"Korra, you are completely paralyzed and there is nothing I can do to change that," Aang told her.
Despair clouded her features and she said, "Then why do you show up now of all times? Why couldn't you warn me of what he was going to do BEFORE I got paralyzed?"
"Don't think I didn't try, Korra," Aang retorted rather tersely.
She opened her mouth to fire back, but found herself unable to reply. She closed her mouth and hung her head again.
"But you're right," Aang conceded after her temper had cooled, "that I am here to help you... if you will let me."
"Help?" She asked, "Wait a second, now you're going to help me? I thought you said there was nothing we could do to stop Amon?"
"That's right," He replied.
"Then how are you going to help me?" She pleaded, finding herself terribly confused.
For the first time, Korra sensed some uncertainty or conflict within Aang. He took a moment to compose himself, making the moment seem almost like it never happened with his subtle self-control, and said, "You know the basics and fundamental teachings of Chakras and Chi?"
"Yes, I know how to access the Avatar State," She responded impatiently, "That didn't work out so well."
"Korra, your spiritual energy is the key to accessing the Avatar State, but more importantly, it is the exclusive means by which all of life is possible. A person's soul determines who they are and what they are capable of and we can unlock our fullest potential only by seeking the truth within ourselves and opening our mind and body to the energy of the universe around us."
"I've heard all this before," Korra told him.
"You've heard it alright, but have you listened to it and understood it?"
She sighed and waited in silence for a moment before he continued, "When I was young, I had to master and unlock the chakras just as you did."
The darkness around them melted away into an abandoned air temple. There was an air bison she somehow felt familiar with there as well as an old man. She saw a young boy with Airbending tattoos and it took her a moment to realize that it was Aang.
"Oh, weren't you just the cutest little thing?" She teased.
"Pay attention," He chided softly, "But yes, Katara used to say as much herself at one time."
Korra's pleasure turned to uneasy disgust as she pictured the aged woman from her childhood cuddling with the older Avatar standing next to her. She watched as the old man introduced himself as Guru Pathik. The Guru taught Aang many of the same things Korra had learned, but the memory seemed to slow and pause on the second to last chakra, the Light chakra. The old memory echoed teachings about separation and illusion and informed the young Aang that each of the four elements were not actually distinct, but were in reality each part of one whole. Suddenly, the old man was fat, and despite his meager clothing, some of his clothes had faded into little more than a few sparse leaves. His face and the temple had changed and now they were standing high in a very large tree overlooking a thick swamp. The swamp guru spoke of how all life is actually one organism and how separation is nothing more than an illusion. She saw images of flying pigs and laughing girls and wondered if Aang was still coming through to her clearly when everything faded once again to black, leaving the two of them alone.
She looked at Aang, waiting for him to make his point and he seemed to wait for her response, so eventually she said, "So... what? You were taught by some old, stinky, kinda creepy men who needed to learn how to wear pants?"
Again, she was suddenly elsewhere. She turned and found herself standing on the paw of a giant Lion-Turtle, which looked down at her with eyes more ancient and old than she could believe was possible. It spoke to her about the time before the Avatar and about bending the energies within ourselves just before reaching out and touching her forehead and heart with its claws, flooding her in a green light just before leaving her again in darkness.
Aang turned her with a hand on her shoulder and wiped the tear from her cheek she had hardly felt escape her eyes.
"So, what? I already knew you learned to take away someone's bending. That was how you defeated Ozai and brought an end to the war."
"There's more, Korra," He told her. Suddenly, he was sitting in the courtroom, his hand outstretched, but unable to reach her. She looked around and saw Yakone, walking out and laughing as she had seen before. Aang chased him down again and took his bending.
"After that day," Aang told her, "I knew the day would come when I would no longer be around to protect the world and that when that day came, the knowledge of energybending would be lost with me for another countless number of generations. Possibly forever."
He paused again to recompose himself, "There was only one way to ensure that you would be able to learn how to energybend when the time came for you to take on the responsibilities of the world. I couldn't leave you helpless before the power of another Yakone...."
"At last," Amon said, "The world will know peace."
Mako held one of Korra's shoulders while Bumi held the other, but they held her up more than they worked to restrain her. Her unconscious form drooped helplessly in their arms until a blast of air bowled them all over. Lin slid the bay doors closed with her metalbending to close the trap as Tenzin continued to press the advantage, never relenting in his onslaught. Bumi and Mako split off to flank Tenzin while Amon circled in the background from the shadows, but Lin caught Mako with her chain cuffs and drew him off his pursuit, allowing Tenzin to focus on keeping Bumi's shock batons at a safe distance.
"How could you do this, Bumi?" Tenzin demanded.
"I'd rather ask you the same thing, Tenzin," He replied, "That wound went pretty deep, I was sure...."
Mako pressed hard against his opponent, yelling and letting off a fierce battery of attacks honed to deadly accuracy from his probending training, but as his foot struck the floor, Lin felt the vibrations carry through to her feet and she shifted slightly to dodge his attacks before her chain reached out like a finger to snatch his collar. With a sharp tug, she had him off balance and with the crack of her fingers she had the hand he wanted to pull himself free with tied to his neck. She reeled him in for a sudden headbutt which knocked him hard enough to stun him and he fell limp to the floor.
"I've been dying to do that."
"Lin, look out!" Tenzin cried, but he was too late. Amon had stepped in during those moments she was disoriented from the headbutt and quickly blocked the chi in most of her body. With Tenzin distracted, Bumi lunged for the kill and struck Tenzin in the sides with his batons, but Tenzin, growling and clenching under the shock, managed to turn around and seize his brother by the wrists, pinching around the insulated clothing where the glove met the sleeve. Both brothers were stunned to unconsciousness with the shock until they fell to the floor. Amon stood above them all, towering in triumph, but suddenly, unable to move. He struggled and worked against it, but to no avail as Tarrlok stepped into view.
"Hn-ha ha ha ha!" Tarrlok laughed menacingly, walking forward to face Amon personally in his helpless state, "Game over, Amon. This world is mine."
"You!" Korra exclaimed, outraged, "You taught Amon how to take away bending? How could you do that?!"
"No, Korra!" Aang answered firmly, "I taught a trusted friend and disciple how to energybend, not the man Amon has become. He was meant to teach it to you when you were old enough and after you had mastered all four elements."
"And this trusted friend taught it to Amon, then? Some great friend you had there."
"Yes," Aang answered, "I did."
There was a moment of silence between them before Korra continued, "Tenzin told me that only the Avatar had the ability to take away people's bending."
"I never told Tenzin everything. I couldn't even tell Katara. No one would have understood-"
"You mean no one would have agreed that it was a good idea."
The words cut like a blade, but resounded with enough truth that Aang's stoney face relaxed into one of regret, "I don't deny that I made mistakes, or even that I shouldn't have seen this coming. But, as you know so well, being the Avatar has a way of blinding us to our own mistakes. Sometimes we never see the full damage of our choices until we see them through the eyes of another life. Such was the wisdom of the Spirits of long ago to give us this most bittersweet gift."
Memories from even more ancient past lives flowed past her. Roku and Sozin. Kyoshi and the Dai Li at Lake Laogi. Kuruk and Koh. Fire sages falling into the control of corrupt firelords. There were thousands more flowing past her to the point that she could hardly bear it.
"Was it wrong to lift up Amon out of the pain of his shattered childhood and teach him the peace of nomadic life at Air Temple Island?" Aang asked, "Or to have him train with Ty Lee to learn to defend himself without harming others? Was it wrong to trust a friend I had known and helped for dozens of years since he was a young boy? Was it wrong to confide in anyone the secret I had intended to be passed down exclusively to you?"
Without much hesitation and very little empathy, Korra said, "Yes."
After an awkward moment realizing what she had just implied, she said, "Well, to the last part at least."
To her surprise, Aang only nodded, "I agree."
"All that," Tarrlok gloated, "For nothing. You brought the world to it's knees, taking away all bending in the world, except that of a few people lying helpless in this room. You've handed me this world on a silver platter, and now, at my mercy, you will receive your-"
Amon suddenly reached out when Tarrlok stepped in range, touching his forehead with his hand. Tarrlok, in utter shock twitched once before falling to the ground, struggling to move.
"Now you understand that nothing can stop my destiny," Amon answered.
Still a bit surprised, Korra rubbed the back of her neck as she took in all the new information. The only thing she could really think of at this point was the question, "Well, why are you telling me all this now? Weren't you trying to help me?"
"You have to try to see things another way," He explained.
"Ugh," Korra groaned, "More Airbending? It won't help if Amon takes my bending away and we can't stop him."
"This is more than Airbending, Korra," He told her, "As an old friend of mine used to say, 'you have to open your mind to the possibilities.'"
"Think about it, Korra. What did the Lion-Turtle say about taking away bending?"
"He said your heart had to be pure and incorruptible."
"No," Aang corrected firmly. She waited, but he didn't continue so she prompted him, "No?"
"No," He repeated calmly.
She struggled and finally said, "Then what, exactly did he say?"
"Nothing," Aang answered, "He said nothing about taking away bending, Korra. He only said, 'to bend the energy in another.'"
She thought about it a moment and began to see what Aang was saying, "So Amon isn't actually taking away bending? Just bending the other person?"
"Well, yes and no," Aang told her, "He actually is taking away their bending, but that wasn't what the Lion-Turtle taught me. The Lion-Turtle taught me how to bend Ozai's spiritual energy, not how to take away his bending."
"So you figured out how to take away someone's bending through energybending?" She concluded for him, "And then you taught Amon how to do the same. How does that help me?"
"You're not seeing the bigger picture yet," Aang told her, the brakes on her axle present in his tone, "Remember what Tho taught me in the swamp."
The smelly old man smiled at her and she said, "... We're all connected. All life."
"... but more importantly, all life and all death," Aang corrected her again, "Death is an illusion. It only has the power to separate when we believe it and allow it to blind us to the truth."
Guru Pathik once again entered her mind, teaching her about the Light chakra and how it is blocked by illusions. Then she remembered how important it was to unlock chakras to allow chi to flow. A picture formed in her mind of water flowing down a creek through pools and she imagined Amon building a dam in the first pool at the top of the creek, stopping its flow through the rest of the creek.
When she saw Aang again, he was smiling. He walked right into her imagination, alongside Amon, and pulled the dam apart with his hands, allowing the water to flow again.
"But how can I energybend if Amon takes away my bending?" She asked desperately.
"How does anyone unblock their chakra, Korra?" He asked her, her memories bobbed to the surface of her consciousness. Pathik taught that the Light Chakra was located in the forehead, where she saw Amon touching her to take away her bending. Tho reminded her that all life was connected, separation was an illusion, and the pools and streams of chi in her imagination transformed into a large tree stretching into miles of swamp, which was her body. Pathik added that the greatest illusion was the idea of separation, that the elements were only parts of a whole and that individuals were actually connected. She heard her question echo in her mind, but the words had changed, "But how can I energybend if I'm separated from my bending?"
Suddenly, the darkness around her was shattered with a flood of light and the tree of chi in her mind which was her body transformed into a body of people, comprised of every nationality and bending capacity, including non-benders. The light continued to increase until she heard the voices of all her past lives speaking in unison.
"I'll always be with you, Korra."
To be concluded in Part III. I kinda ran way over the amount of time I intended to spend on this for this evening.
Korra's vision blurred in and out for a moment. She struggled to clear her head by shaking it and found herself completely restrained. Ahead of her, Amon piloted the dirigible towards the sunrise.
"And now, Avatar, it is time for the moment of our destiny."
'Yes,' She thought, but kept her mouth shut, 'I think it is....'
"Nothing to say?" He remarked, "Maybe that lightning bolt took it out of you more than I thought. Don't worry. You'll recover just fine. You'll live a long, normal life after this day."
Tenzin woke to Lin shaking him.
"Korra!" He exclaimed.
"Amon already took her," Lin replied, "And our bending," she added painfully.
"Where's Tarrlok?" He asked.
"Amon took his bending and he ran away. Tenzin, Tarrlok was a bloodbender."
Tenzin's eyes bulged and he said, "WHAT? How? How did Amon take his bending if he could bloodbend?"
"I don't know," She answered, "Amon just, broke free from it somehow."
He sighed in disgust and said, "Nevermind him, then. Where did Amon take Korra?"
"He dragged her onto the dirigible and flew away. I have no idea where they are now."
"East," A voice behind them told them. They turned to see Tarrlok carrying a piece of paper, "I saw Amon charting his course on this earlier. He took the complete course with him in the dirigible, but he scratched out a lot of his details on this for his Lieutenant. They're headed East."
"Stay back!" Lin growled, "You power hungry traitor!"
"Traitor?" Tenzin asked, even more confused, "Tarrlok explain yourself!"
He opened his mouth, but closed it a moment later. It took him a while to master himself, "I think... there's something you should know about Amon...."
Amon's thumb rested on Korra's forehead. He relaxed and stepped back, saying, "It is finished. The world is finally free of the tyranny of bending forever."
Korra took a deep breath and held it for a moment. A smirk touched her lips and her eyes opened, glowing with her full Avatar power.
"Wait, we can't just go running after him now!" Lin said, "We don't have our bending! And how will we even catch up to Amon in time?"
"Leave that to me," Tenzin told her, reaching into the folds of his robes, "Tarrlok, you said he was heading East?"
Out of his robes, he produced a small, bison shaped whistle his mother had given him after his father had died.
Avatar Korra easily tore free of the metal bonds and hovered a few feet off the ground, breathing smoke from her nostrils. Amon threw his arms out to protect himself, but the earth around him shifted and enveloped him so that he could not move.
"So what now, Avatar?" Amon spat, "You take my bending and think that will stop me? You can't stop me! You'll NEVER! STOP ME!"
She raised a hand over her head, orbited by four elements, "No, Amon," She replied, speaking with the voices of all the Avatars in the hush of a whisper, "Amon, you have devastated the balance of this world. Now you will pay the ultimate price."
Mako woke to find himself in a dark hanger. Last thing he could remember was Lin Bei Fong's burning gaze. He lit a small fire in the palm of his hand to help him see. He was alone in the hanger, except for the mess of the remnants of the battle. The dirigible had taken off, so he assumed that Amon had taken Korra as planned. Getting to his feet, he started to walk out. He would need to find the Lieutenant before he would know the next step in the plan.
That's when he saw him.
"Bolin?" He asked, unable to believe his eyes, "BOLIN!"
He crouched down over his brother's broken and bloody body, screaming in pain and fury, face swelling red from the contortion of his face and emotions.
"Korra!" Tenzin called out, leaping off of Oogie and racing over to Korra, who was standing above Noatok. He was nearly to her when his footsteps fell short.
"Korra," He started, "what-"
"It's finished," She told him firmly, wiping tears from her eyes. She turned and held his sad gaze with complete calm and resolution, "It's over."
3 months later
Barely breaking out of her meditative state, Korra replied, "What is it, Tarrlok?"
"We found him."
Deep underground in the Equalist bunker, a map of Republic City lay stretched out over a wall with the Equalist leader surveying it. He nodded approvingly just before he heard a commotion outside his door. He lowered his head in concentration, twisting his neck to pop it just right while he waited.
The door collapsed inward and a team of intruders poured into the room.
"Mako!" Korra called out to him, suddenly finding herself unsure what to say, "It's over. Don't make this more difficult than it needs to be."
"Oh, this is far from over; I warned you, Avatar. You'll never be able to stop me."
"You're not Amon, Mako!" Korra declared, "Amon is dead!"
"Oh, but you're so wrong," Amon told her, his golden eyes flashing, "Because Amon is more than just a man. Amon is an idea. And you can't kill an idea, Avatar Korra."