World 19: Avatar, Book 2

MANIFEST INFESTATION

Previously: Destiny Manifest

Themesong: In House of Stone & Light by Martin Page

Sixty-five years later, the flow of time slowed back to its old familiar pattern. Words scrolled across the Pillars “And the Adventure Continues” and below that

Location: Spirit World

Origin: 16, Fire Nation, Civilian [50]

Hard Worker (Free)

Money [50]

Firebender [100]

Utility Bender [100]

Lightning [100]

Origin Spirit [200]

Jump Clan [400]

Firebending Genius [600]

Collectors [+100]

Equalists Forever [+200]

Lotus Eaters [+300]

Of course, very little of that made sense to me, but I suspected there was now a Hall of the Firebender right next to the Hall of the Waterbender. I was very much now the Manifestation. I could remember my previous incarnation all too clearly… but at least I could see again. I asked “Atura? You there?”

“I am here. That was most… intriguing. So much I do not understand. Do all mortals have to spend choices at the beginning of their lives? And what about that small stage where you cry a lot?”

“No. I’m not the same as other mortals. I’m a… Jumper. I travel from world to world, often while they’re in crisis… or just about to fall into crisis. Then I often try and Balance them.”

“All alone?”

“Not usually, no. I have a dozen or so companions. Mostly for comic relief, but sometimes for actual assistance.”

“I was watching you for quite some time… I don’t remember anyone who seemed too companiony.”

“They were on vacation. I was… reexamining myself. Letting them reexamine themselves as well.”

“To what end?”

“I cannot say. Some of them came with me out of loyalty, others came with me for adventure, others because they had no place to go back to. But this world is about connecting to who you are, who you were, and who you will be. I felt it important that each of my friends be able to do that… or at least have the chance.”

“But why alone?”

“Because with me, they would have spent the time exploring the story, not… exploring the world.”

“Sounds lonely.”

“I met you.”

“Only in the final moments.”

“Or sixty-five years ago.”

“There is that… yes. What did the words mean?”

“To find the answer to that, we must step inside.”

“Inside? Into the building within your mind?”

“Yes. The Palace of my Mind.”

“Are we not within it now?”

“Of course, but our gaze is fixed without. We must turn our gaze with.”

“Will you guide me?”

“I will.”

I slipped inside myself, bringing Atura along. The place had taken on the glow of Magic Hour, the feel of twilight, neither dawn nor dusk, but something in between. I had been wrong. There was no Hall of the Firebender. There was also longer a Hall of the Waterbender. Instead, there was the Hall of the Manifestation. I entered it, appreciating the way everything was in harmony, in balance. “Your work, I presume?”

“Perhaps more my Influence.”

“Ah.”

I beheld the chambers of my new self, of the Firebending I now could claim in honesty. I entered the Hall of Incarnation, exploring the sixteen years that had passed since the old me had apparently died… that experience, one I was somehow certain was across the hall, waiting for me, scared me a little, so I put off visiting and focused on the new life instead of the end of the old. This me had lived a life of effort, of work in a blacksmith’s shop, learning to bend the furnace flames, to keep the fire at a constant temperature, to keep the heat within the metal contained. I was named Jai, a quiet girl, hardworking, able to complete any menial job with a smile on her… my face, unfazed by boredom when I was working, always finding something to keep my mind occupied and time flowing fast as I worked even the most repetitive tasks. I was an orphan, no memory of parents.

It was a serviceable life, but not one that would entertain or register on the world stage. But then again, Jai had just awakened to her Manifest Destiny. According to my memories I had a fair amount of funds, and a list of names and locations. That was curious. I still had my ice axes and my water bottles. And my body was apparently still covered in ancient scars, something I’d been born with it seems. I wondered idly if the future Manifestations would bear similar markings.

Venturing across across the hall, I found a lifetime’s worth of experience practicing Firebending, shaping, molding, working with the element itself. If my previous self had mastered Waterbending as a weapon of war, my new self had similarly mastered Firebending as a tool of production. Not only could I weld with my flames, but apparently I could cook with them… and a thousand other little things.

And I’d mastered Lightning Bending, which apparently was much more common now than it had been 7 decades earlier. It was a good skill for me, since it relied on separating positive and negative energies, then releasing them in opposed directions… it also relied on peace of mind and emotional control, which suited me to a tee.

I could feel my genius over the art expanding across my consciousness, examining the power from every angle, and then the two masteries began to blend, examining ways to combine the effects as only an Avatar could… and seldom did except in the Avatar state.

“Well, that’s apparently who we are.”

“What is this list?”

“I don’t know. Also only vaguely know that Republic City is a new city where people from all tribes mix and mingle. I think Aang founded it. Korra… the new Avatar, will be there… in a year or so. I think we should go there… now where are we?”

“The Spirit World.”

I laughed. “Yes, I gathered that. But where in it? I assume the Spirit World is as vast as the Mortal World.”

“Mmmm… That I do not know… but this is the Sands of Time.”

“Sounds portentous.”

“Perhaps. They say there is a grain of sand upon this beach for every second since the world’s inception.”

“Big beach.”

“It is only as big as you imagine a second to be.”

“Is it?”

“It is.”

I looked down the beach in each direction. The beach stretched on as far as I could see in either direction. “Which way to the Earth Kingdoms?” I asked as I imagined seconds as merely infinitely small sections of a millennia then an eon, then an epoch, and the beach shrank to a small sandy patch on the shores of eternity.

We emerged into the world of men on the same shore where Aang had sealed away Ozai’s power long ago. It was still a place of shattered rock and fused glass and held a profound sense of wrongness slowly mending. I examined the area, seeing it with working eyes for the first time.

There was a monument, a black glass stele that said “Upon this spot, the Avatar and the Manifestation defeated Lord Ozai and brought the Hundred Years War to an end.” I felt a little shame at that, for claiming glory that wasn’t originally mine, but I had fought in the war, interloper or not. Hopefully I’d made things better by my presence… but now it was time for me to learn the lay of the land and the state of the world.

I considered transporting around the world, learning the news in each location, but my memories of this world told me I was standing on land that belonged to the United Republic and only a few hours travel to Republic City. I crossed the Mo Ce Sea on jets of fire, laughing the entire way. Flying for the first time had felt incredible, but 70mph was nothing with the power of fire propelling me.

The colossus that was the statue of Aang and I made me gape in appalled horror. It was braggadocio on an epic scale, even though I’d had nothing to do with it. I had to wonder what Aang had made of it… or any of Aang’s friends… or what Korra would think of it when she came to the city. There was an Air temple on the other small island in the harbor and I landed on it. My memories of this lifetime told me that this was the home of Tenzin, son of Aang and the leader of the Air Nomads reborn.

The man himself, looking every inch the Air Monk, looked up from where he was instructing two little girls in airbending. “Hello?” he said, apparently unused to firebenders landing on his little island… or seeing a firebender able to actually fly on jets of flame rather than merely use them to wall run or jump higher.

“You look like your father,” I said.

He seemed wary of me, but nodded slowly, subtly positioning himself between me and his children.

“Oh don’t worry. I’m not here to cause trouble. I think your mother would kill me if I hurt you or your kids… if she’s still alive. She’d be… in her 80s. Zuko’s still alive… Aang died young. Sorry to hear that. So many of my old friends are gone… “

“Who are you?” he asked, clearly assuming he was dealing with a crazy person.

“I could answer that in words… but I think it will be easier to show you.” And I bent water and fire at the same time. “Hint. I’m not the Avatar.”

He blinked, but didn’t lose his calm. “We were unsure if you would return or not.”

“I cannot say I was at all certain I would return either.”

“You told my parents you came when the world was out of balance. Does that mean…?”

“Ummm… almost certainly yes. Unfortunately, I have no idea what’s coming. Something about Equalists, Collectors, and Lotus Eaters is all the warning I have. The Equalists are-”

“Anti-Bending agitators, yes. And the Lotus Eaters could mean an organization opposed to the White Lotuses. But I don’t know about the Collectors.”

“That makes two of us. How is Korra coming along in her training? I’m looking forward to sparring with her. Did your mother train her in water bending?”

“Yes. We actually thought Korra might be the next Manifestation because she developed water and fire so quickly… but when she developed Earth… You… mother said you trained her.”

“I did. Katara was my best student. Better healer than me to be honest. So… tell me everything you can about the state of the world.”

Tenzin was a font of information about geopolitics, about the growing tensions between Northern and Southern Water Tribes, about unrest in the Earth Kingdoms, especially in the areas where my supporters had been strongest, centered on Omashu… and about a group of total psychopaths who called themselves the Red Lotus. They’d attempted to kidnap Korra when she was a kid and had been imprisoned thereafter by the White Lotus. And that Korra would be coming to Republic City soon to receive training in Airbending from the only master around.

I figured that the Equalists would wait until Korra showed up… they had in the show, and if they moved against me I could take care of myself. So I used the year or so I had… I wasn’t sure of the dates… until then, getting to know the city and its movers and shakers. I also pulled some strings with Zuko, now Grand Lotus of the White Lotuses, to find out where the Red Lotuses were imprisoned. But first I had prove myself to him. He’d grown very skilled over the last 65 years, looking every inch the refined individual his uncle had been. But I’d learned new skills as well. “You’ve changed,” he commented.

“New body. New life. How’s your sister?”

“She’s well. Taken to be a grandmother with strange aplomb. She misses Sokka.”

“Yes, I’d heard they married. He was good for her.”

As pleasant as catching up was, meeting the Red Lotus leaders was not. They were insane, brutal, and felt that both the Manifestation and the Avatar were the source of all the world’s imbalances. They dreamed of a world without governments, without nations, where spirits and man shared the world in “harmony”. I was tempted to dispatch each of them, but I trusted the White Lotus and their decision to spare them years ago… though I did wonder what purpose the prison holding Zaheer (their leader and a non-bender) served. It was isolated at the top of a freestanding stone pillar with a retractable bridge connecting to the next. It was overkill for an airbender… insane overkill for a non-airbender. Of course… all that would change. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

My first major annoyance was the gang known as The Triple-Triads… who wanted their money back. I hadn’t thought about how a humble blacksmith’s apprentice had managed to come by quite so much cash… and it was probably enough to live quite well on for at least five years… but they were low level thugs and second-rate benders and bringing them to justice could only serve to enhance my standing in the community. Plus, it was good practice. But the debt collectors soon gave way to the Equalists.

Amon, leader of the Equalists, was a jackass of colossal proportions, an anti-mutant fucktard who had it in for Korra and me from the moment each of us arrived in the city. His people, armed with the latest in high tech equipment, were formidable… against normal benders. But they were out of their league when they came after me. Their lightning gloves and shockrods were useless against me, the knockout gas they used similarly without effect, and even their weapons were barely more than pinpricks to my massively reinforced skin.

That was, until one of them attacked me with a pitch black jian. I gaped as it plunged through my chest, both at the bright flare of pain and at recognition. Someone had found Sokka’s Space Sword! And then used it to try and assassinate me. Unfortunately for him he’d missed my heart… not that I was at all certain a blow there would have killed me, and my backhand shattered his grip on the sword… and half the bones on the left side of his body.

I drew the blade from my chest, groaning, then smiled. “Good to see you, old friend.” and I strapped it on. I didn’t go after Amon personally, but I did speak out against his rhetoric, using my charisma and political skills to try and bring peace to the city. I was not here to play vigilante. I was Balance incarnate… but I did rejoice in annoying Lin Beifong by regaling her with tales of the antics I’d gotten up to with her mother… who had not, unfortunately, turned out to be a lesbian or even bisexual, but was still one of the most snarky people I’d ever met. I missed her. Missed Sokka. Missed the old Bumi. Leaving a world for good meant saying goodbye forever… but it was me leaving… not my friends dieing of old age while I lived on, eternally young… except this time I’d apparently lived to the ripe old age of 60.

By the time Korra revealed that the fiercely anti-Bending Amon was actually a waterbender (using bloodbending, an illegal and depraved technique that was normally used to puppeteer others (although it could be used to augment healing as well) to strip away a bender’s powers) his organization was ready to fall apart anyway… and I absorbed those willing to actually work towards reform and not just gripe about things into my growing Reform Party. By the time the Council stepped down and allowed for the election of a democratic government, I pushed for a new council with shared executive power instead of a single elected potentate. Each would have a different purview, but only limited ability to act unilaterally. The people called for Korra and I to assume positions in the new government, but it wasn’t the time.

Civil War broke out between the North and South while we were visiting Katara to see if she could do anything to restore the three elements that Amon had stripped from Korra (incidentally allowing her to unleash the fourth for the first time). Although Katara could do little, Korra managed to commune with her Avatar state and Aang taught her a new trick for Energybending. Between the two of us, we managed to restore all those striped of their bending. That done, we spent time with the family… Korra’s uncle, this cold fish named Unalaq, was a Mussolini wannabe if I’ve ever seen one, and his schemes were to get us into no end of trouble.

After allowing herself to be tricked into opening the Portal to the Spirit World at the South Pole, Korra disappeared for several weeks, leaving me to try and explain to the Northern Tribal Admirals that they really didn’t want to deal with me. Unalaq, however, was more than happy to sic his creepy ass twin kids on me, and throw what would have been metric fucktons of spirits at me if spirits weighed anything. I don’t know how Korra dealt with him, but I seriously wanted to murderize him… unfortunately I was becoming progressively more and more aware of my status as a holy figure and assassinating the leader of a Nation just because he was annoying me seemed… unwise.

That didn’t stop me from driving the Northern Battleships out of southern waters… and picking up Spiritbending in the process by watching Unalaq turn spirits dark. Turning them light again was no easy task, and often little more than a stopgap. Still, by the time Korra returned from wherever she’d been, the South was, essentially free, in all but name.

We discovered that Unalaq had planned to free Vaatu, the spirit of Darkness and Chaos and merge with him to make himself into a Dark Avatar. Stopping him wasn’t easy, but we did… still… I had a growing sense of disquiet. As Harmonic Convergence, a once in 10,000 year celestial alignment, drew close, I meditated in front of the Tree of Time, a wasted, withered husk of a tree in the center of the Yin-Yang that contained the portals to the normal and south poles.

“What is this place?” I asked Atura. “It feels… different from all the rest of the Spirit World.”

“This is my home. This is Twilight.”

I nodded. “But it is not balanced. I can feel it. Wan perverted the natural order 10,000 years ago when he sealed the gates… but something was wrong even before that.” I did something I hadn’t done since back on Gaia. I opened myself up to the world, feeling the surge and pulse of it all. It was out of Balance. Vaatu and Raava had feuded for eons, neither one ever able to completely destroy the other, for each contained the seed of the other… they were Yin and Yang… but their struggle was not in Harmony. It was Destruction, fueled by anger on both sides. No… this could not be allowed to continue.

As Harmonic Convergence began, I turned my power against the Northern Portal’s seal. Wan had made them with all four elements, and it had taken Korra to open one of them. But I had three elements, including one Wan had never had… and I had power far in excess of anything any Avatar had ever had… and I had Atura. I wrenched the seal open, allowing Harmonic Convergence to wash across the world… and then had to deal with an enraged Avatar.

“How could you do that?” she demanded, in the voice of ten thousand years. “I thought you were my friend!”

“You are a bridge between the Spirit World and the Mortal World… but a mistake was made ten thousand years ago. The two worlds are meant to be together, for good or ill. And there is more.”

“More? More!? What? What more could there be?”

“We must free Vaatu.”

“But he’s evil!”

“No. He is part of the balance. Dark and Light can exist without each other, but they are meaningless without the other to define them. Look around you, Korra. This is the Tree of Time. Behold that it is withered, bearing no fruit, possessed of no leaves. Is it not how it was 10,000 years ago? This is the time of the greatest spiritual energy… the tree should be in full bloom. Yet it looks like the darkest part of Winter.”

“But Vaatu will destroy the world if we free him!”

“That is Raava within you speaking. Raava, who has raged against Vaatu for time out of mind. She is biased. Look within yourself, Korra. Darkness is not evil, Light is not good. Peace and Chaos are two sides of the same coin. And all of them are illusions, meaningless outside of perspective. You must take Vaatu into yourself… and I will seal the rift between Raava and Vaatu.”

Vaatu… did not like the plan. Tenzin did not like the plan. Korra… agreed reluctantly to give it a try. As one, we touched the celestial arch that held all the power of Harmonic Convergence and drew it in. We held hands, and freed Vaatu from his prison. His darkness blasted out across the worlds, grown strong over his ten thousand years of imprisonment.

He was full of certainty and rage, we were unsure and it showed. We chased him across the Mortal World, finally fighting him, back to back like I had fought with Aang, in the harbor of Republic City while the others guarded our bodies from the waves of dark spirits. Raava and Vaatu were equally matched, but Vaatu was angrier by far and had nothing left to lose. Yet he could not fight both of us and together we wove the water of the bay into a great Spiritbending, trapping him.

“Korra… you must release Raava. They must be together for this.” I could tell she was afraid… this had never been done before, might not work, might destroy the Avatar forever. But… I have a way with words… and I believed this was the right thing to do. Raava flowed out of Korra’s mouth, flowing into the spiral of our Spirit Bending, and then, as the surge reached its apex, they fused, into the entity that they must have been once upon a time, long before the coming of man. The rejoined spirit was bright, suffused with all the colors that existed, a restored spirit of Harmony and Flow. If Balance was the moment between… this was the cycle entire, the wheel in motion. Korra’s eyes flashed a rainbow hue as she absorbed the spirit of Harmony.

When we returned to the Tree, we found ourselves nearly overwhelmed, with Harmonic Convergence nearly at an end. Tenzin yelled “Quickly, seal the portals!” But Korra and I just looked at each other, then we wove the waters of that place into a working possible only with two celestially empowered water-energy-benders. We healed the rift in the Tree of Time. It might take another Ten-Thousand years to bear fruit… but I could already feel the world drifting back into harmony.

As it turns out, Harmonic Convergence had an unforeseen consequence… New Airbenders started popping up… all over the place… including Bumi (Not the original, but his namesake, Avatar Aang & Katara’s non-bending, exmilitary son). And the new Airbenders were causing nothing but trouble. It was resolved we had to collect them and bring them to Tenzin at the Northern Air Temple so they could play X-Men to Tenzin’s Professor X.

Our first major stop was the capital of the Earth Kingdoms. Where, to our dismay, we discovered that the Earth Queen was bonkers. And the Dai Li was still a bunch of manipulative bastards… and Ba Sing Se had not changed for the better in 65 years. The outer ring of the city was an industrial slum that went on forever, and the Queen taxed the people to an insane degree as she wasted their money on endless palaces.

While Korra and the others searched the city for the Airbenders, I worked my magic upon the people. This was ridiculous. Change was needed… but it could not be violent. I would not sanction the outrage and horrors of open rebellion. Too many would die as ancient grudges ripped apart the nation. Instead, I took a page from Ghandi’s book and preached a doctrine of passive resistance. It would take millions to be effective… but if there was one thing Ba Sing Se had in abundance, it was people.

But this was when the Red Lotus began to make their move. Zaheer, their leader, had become an airbender and not only did he escape his prison, but he freed the others from their own prisons and from then on they were hell bent on killing me and capturing Korra… for some obscure reason. Zaheer was some serious OP bullshit though. Tenzin’s brother, Bumi, a soldier with decades of experience and personal training from the son of Avatar Aang had not even come close to competent in the few weeks that had passed after Harmonic Convergence… But Zaheer was, in the same time, completely untrained, a master Airbender able to go toe to toe with benders with combat training and years of experience… like Zuko, or Korra’s father Tonraq. Really? Was he this OP in the show? Because wow, plot powerup!

The first time they hit us was in Zaofu, The Metal City. Zaofu was… fabulous. It was… everything that Rapture (from Bioshock) had aspired to be, without all the built in racism, elitism, and rampant genetic engineering. Playing Andrew Ryan to Zaofu was Suyin (Toph’s younger daughter) who was everything that Lin wasn’t, adventurous, open, kind… though both were passionate and hardworking. She was also compassionate, supportive, and honest… despite having a bit of a wild past. I liked her immediately. I also liked the lotus shaped domes that opened and closed, making the city nearly impregnable… or so we thought.

I’d met Ghazan, P’Li, and Ming-Hua in prison, but this was the first time I’d seen them in action. P’Li, a Combustor, once again being an idiot and giving everyone with a rock and some way of aiming it a target to aim for, but still deadly. Ming-Hua, an armless waterbender who used water tentacles in their stead. She was as vicious as they came. And Ghazan, an Earthbender who could generate and control Lava. I would have been terrified, had I not had two rival bending abilities both simultaneously going Ping! In my mind.

If an Earthbender could bend metal by shaping the impurities, or generate Lava by heating the rocks… and if a firebender could control lightning… what could a water bender do? But that was for later. I remembered the magnetic suit of armor I’d seen demonstrated at dinner… and laughed. Electricity was electromagnetism, as this world had just discovered… I sucked the heat out of the lava… all of it, wrenching it up to craft a shield of electromagnetic force. It was polarized, a cage, allowing anything in… and nothing out… save photons. I wasn’t certain I could control those yet. The process was incredibly draining and I wobbled, the shield dropping, and the Red Lotus fled into the night.

We tracked them, hot on their heels… but they turned the tables on us and while they did their best to kill me, the Earth Queen’s forces captured Asami and Korra. With the four of them against me… I went down, expecting death… but Zaheer apparently wanted Korra more than he wanted me dead, so he traded me to the Earth Queen, me, the great Rebel leader, in exchange for Korra. Only she escaped and Zaheer lost his cool and killed the Queen… then went on the citywide broadcast to announce her death.

I could feel the chaos mounting as Ghazan brought down the walls between the poor and the rich… I could feel the deaths looming High… and as I rushed to the top of the Earth Palace, I called upon Atura, called upon the Manifestation within me. I entered the Manifest state and broadcast my face across the sky, bringing to life all the billions of water droplets across the firmament, to speak in a voice like thunder… and I beseeched the people of the city, of that great city of the Earth, not to lose sight of the fact that they were children of civilization, that to strike down another human in anger was not the way. That a just society could not be built on the ashes of injustice.

I was defenseless in that state, unable to protect myself as Zaheer stole my sword and plunged the meteoric steel into my back, right through my heart… and I fell from that high place, my manifestation collapsing as I dropped back into myself, the water droplets I’d possessed cooled and coalesced to bring rain down upon the city. I knew I had not stopped the looting, but hopefully, the fires of chaos would spare some of the ancient city. If only I’d had more time.

And speaking of time… I could feel the rolling counter ticking down as my survival instincts slowed time. I TK’d the sword out of my back, hardening my skin and slowing my fall enough to merely smash into the stones below. Darkness claimed me.

By the time I came to, the city was in chaos… as I’d known it would be, but there were districts of calm, places held by my forces, and they were slowly growing, their light like seeds as it spread… but it wasn’t enough. I went out among the people, calming them, calling upon them to remember their humanity, soaking up their anger and pushing them to work together. If water could heal the body… maybe fire could heal the mind. I did not know, but I had to try.

I sought the fire within them, feeling the heat of life, the heat passion, the heats of anger and hatred… and I stoked their opposites as I dampened them. Yet there were millions of people in the city and I could not be everywhere. It was like fighting the tide… and yet some tides must be fought. For five days, I spoke to the people, working my ways upon them. I had no sleep save when I collapsed from fatigue.

It was as I roused myself from the darkness on the sixth day that one of my acolytes found me, bringing me news. Zaheer, believing me dead, had captured the Northern Air Temple and demanded Korra as ransom. I had had enough. This was no longer acceptable. Bad people were doing terrible things and I was letting them live.

No more. I had tried not killing… but this was not a god damned kid’s show. Sometimes the Balance requires corrective surgery. I apparated to the Northern Air Temple. I hadn’t been there for decades, but i still remembered the location. I brought with me a special present for Red Lotus.

I dropped out of the sky into the midst of the temple, striking without warning, a swarm of tiny droplets surrounding me. I flashed the air to mist around us, then lashed out with the first set of beads… they were pure nickel droplets, teardrops of one of the most magnetic elements I could find… and they were travelling at a speed that made sound look slow. “RAIL GUN YOU FUCKERS” I proclaimed, as the cavitation shock of 8 hypersonic flechettes obliterated the head of P’Li before she could use her Combustion upon an innocent target ever again.

Ming-hua faced the second set, tiny crimson-white droplets of silica… sandglass in liquid form, warmed by the motion of the water within… They burned through her icy arms like a laser through butter, transformed from liquid into crystal by their passage… and exploding out the far side as a shower of razor sharp fragments. She wasn’t dead, but I doubted she’d be able to target anything through the ruins of her eyes.

Ghazan’s lavabending was nothing to me, a source of heat and nothing more and I cooked him to ash as he screamed. Last, I turned on Zaheer, drawing my sword, advancing slowly as my telekinetic shields deflected everything he could throw at me.

“Why are you fighting, Zaheer? This is the world you wanted, isn’t it? A world of natural order, where the strong take whatever they want while the weak suffer and die?”

“No! I want to free the people from their oppressors!”

“Nature is the ultimate oppressor, Zaheer. Civilization is the only path to freedom for all. You can’t get that by mob rule! You can only get that through cooperation! Through respect! Through focusing the chaos into progress!”

“Lies! You and the Avatar know nothing of Balance!”

“The Avatar and I are creatures of Balance. And I shall restore the Balance…” I drew back my sword… and Zaheer flew.

“Nice trick,” I commented. Airbenders couldn’t fly. “How’d you manage that?”

“I have released my earthly tethers. I have become the void.”

“Cool,” I said, dryly… as I followed him.

He gaped. “How?”

“I have released my earthly tethers. I am sending you to the void.” My sword made nary a sound as it sliced the anarchist’s head from his shoulders, and his body fell, fell, fell, into the mists below. I waved away the clouds I’d cloudbent around the temple and landed in the half ruins, extending my senses to find the others. They were scared, and several of them were hurt. I looked to where Ming-Hua knelt, screaming and flailing blindly with water in the courtyard.

“I should have pity for you. I should heal your wounds and hope you have learned the error of your ways.” I knelt in front of her, letting the water of her limbs slap against me with all the effectiveness of hitting a rock with a facial tissue. “I should have killed you all when I had the chance… now… are there more of you?” And I dived into her mind. What I left behind as I ransacked her memory was not pretty, but I took pity on her and gave her a quick death. I was Balance. I was in between. I could not always be in the light.

I went inside and healed those injured. I did not explain what had happened to the Red Lotus, instead telling Tenzin and the others of the chaos slowly sweeping the Earth Kingdoms. “I could use your help… the people of the Earth Kingdom could use your help. There is much that needs to be done and there will be so very many bandits. Even an army of Avatars and Manifestations could not stop the disaster that is about to descend upon the largest, most populous nation of this world. But someone has to try.”

And so that is what we did. For the remainder of my time in that world, we rebuilt the Earth Kingdoms. This idiot Wu tried to claim he was the rightful heir. I would have none of it. “You can rule as a figurehead… but the people will make the laws. No more Dai Li. No more Imperial Taxes. You will declare your full support for the formation of a new Earth Republic.”

“Or what?”

“Or Else.” I said, in the voice of the Manifestation. It wasn’t the Avatar voice… but it carried with it far more menace.

I did take the time to track down the names on that list. Three Earthbenders, two Airbenders, two Waterbenders, and a Firebender, and several others, including four spirits and one very nice cherry tree. I knew each of them as soon as we met. They were my companions. Some had grown quite old over the course of 80 years. Some were on their second or… in Ziggy’s case, 8th, lives in this world. They knew me too, of course, but only as the Manifestation. Though Ziggy the fire-ferret claimed my shoulder the moment I found him scampering through Vivian the tree’s branches. Victoria had lived in that house for a hundred years she said, and never left the valley she lived in. It was a tiny shangri-la, the warehouse given form for this one jump. Of course I could not have accessed it. It wasn’t there… it was here. I left them there, not wishing to disturb their lives, thanking them for the tea.

I also tracked down Toph, at last. After stepping down as the head of Republic City’s police force, she’d vanished into the Earth Kingdom, and finding her wasn’t easy. Still, she was the last of my friends still unaccounted for, and I wanted to find her. And I did. She was living in the Foggy Swamp, 90 years old, and still the same old Toph.

She greeted me like an old friend and I asked her how she’d been. We made small talk as only the oldest of compatriots can, and I asked her to come with me. She wanted to know where, to which I said “First, to see what your daughters have built. They’re fine women and you really should see. Beyond that? To worlds beyond this one. I cannot say where, or when, or why… and I don’t extend this offer to just anyone, but you have the soul of a voyager and the feet to match. Will you join me?”

It was with some sorrow I said goodbye to this world. In some ways I’d spent even more time here than I had in Metal Gear… and it had touched me far more deeply than the often banal world of supersoldiers and machine monstrosities. The Avatar is Buddhism for kids, and if the show had moved me, living it had been transcendent. “Will you come with me as well, Atura?” I asked in the closing months of the decade.

“We are one now.”

“What will happen to this world, once we are gone?”

“It will keep on spinning.”

“And the Manifestation? Will we fade into legend, never to rise once more?”

“I do not know. But we are part of this world, you and I. I think, if we are needed, we’ll return.”

“Well, that’s something to consider.”

“All things in their time.”

And it was time… and it was good.

Next: World 20 – The Magi Wore Flipflops

Resources: Build, Document

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Notes: Universal Import

  • AJ: “Ah Ji”, the Grass Spirit of the Savannah of the Earth Kingdom. Takes the form of a Gazelle lion, except when angered, at which point he becomes a quick moving flame.
  • Francy: “Fee Shi”, one of the Knowledge Seekers of the Great Library, a fox-like spirit.
  • Ziggy: “Zhi Gi” Several generations of Fire-Ferret
  • Petra: “Wu” A small Lion Turtle
  • Dyna: “Kan Shan” a Spirit of Battle, taking the form of an eye surrounded by ribbons.
  • RayRay: “Ahz” a Dragon
  • Victoria: The Maid of the House of the Cherry Blossom
  • Vivian: A Cherry Tree
  • Victor: a Phantom Riverboat
  • Fliagor: an Ostrich Horse

Notes: JUMP CLAN

  • Ryoga: Northern Water Tribe, Wanderer [0], Common Face [150], Tough [150], Waterbender [100], Mobile Bender [100], Quick Learner [300], Canteen [F]
  • Yoiko: Northern Water Tribe, Wanderer [0], Common Face [150], Tough [150], Waterbender [100], Mobile Bender [100], Quick Learner [300], Canteen [F]
  • Zane: Earth Kingdom, Wanderer [0], Earthbender [100], Combat Bender [200], Metalbending [300], Mobile Bender [100], Seismic Sense [100], Marbles [F]
  • Kendra: Fire Nation, Wanderer [0], Firebender [100], Expert Fighter [100], Lightning [100], Combustion [500]
  • Bao: Earth Kingdom, Civilian [50], Hard Worker [F], Creature Tamer [300], Tall [50], Strong [100], Earthbender [100], Utilitarian Bender [100], Seismic Sense [100], Marbles [F]
  • Uriel: Air Nomad, Inventor [100], Future Industrialist [F], Lovable Madman [150], Deus Ex Mecha [300], Chi Manipulation [150], Air-Bender [100], Money [F]
  • Joy: Air Nomad, Wanderer [0], Chi Manipulation [150], Acrobatics [50], Airbender [100], Spiritual Projection [300], Pressure Bending [100], Mobile Bender [100]
  • Ahab: Earth Kingdom, Peacekeeper [100], Fighting Lessons [F], The Great Recruiter [300], Earthbender [100], Combat Bender [100], Strong [200], Personal Weapon [F], Marbles [F]

Notes: Bending Techniques & Martial Arts Learned

  • Chi Blocking – Learned from Ty Lee.
  • Waterbending Basic Techniques: Breath of Ice, Iceblades, Ice Bullets, Ice Claws, Ice Creeper, Ice Disc, Ice Gauntlet, Ice Hook, Ice Shield, Ice Spear, Iceberg Spike, Phase Change, Steaming the water, Water Bullet, Water Cloak, Water Filtering, Water Jet, Water Knife, Water Manipulation, Water Pressure manipulation, Water Wall, Water Shield, Water Whip, Wave, Ice Shackles
  • Waterbending Master Techniques: Bubble, Ice Dagger, Ice Dome, Ice Drill, Ice Floor, Ice Prison, Ice Ramp, Ice Tunneling, Maelstrom, Multiple Water Whips, Octopus Form, Partial Ice Whip, Razor Rings, Water Ball, Water Boxing, Water Dome, Water Drill, Water Gimbal, Water Pinwheel, Water Ring, Water Spout / Vortex
  • Entity Level Waterbending: Ice Fissure, Remote waterbending, Tsunami, Water Compression
  • Waterbending Special techniques: Bloodbending, Cloud Bending, Condensation, Healing, Plantbending, Spirit Bending, Solutions Bending, Steam Bending, Water Run,
  • Firebending Abilities: Blazing Rings, Blazing Arcs, Blocking Fire, Fire Blade, Fire Bomb, Fire Circle, Fire Daggers, Fire Lash, Fire Streams, Fire Whip, Fireballs, Firejabs, Flame Redirection, Shield of Fire, The Dancing Dragon,
  • Master Level Firebending: Charged Attacks, Fire Augmentation, Fire Comet, Fire Missiles, Fire Pinwheel, Intertwined Fire Stream, Jet Propulsion, Pressurized Fire Stream, Wall of Flames
  • Entity Level Firebending: Long Range Multiple Fire Whips.
  • Special Firebending Techniques: Blue Fire, Breath of Fire, Combustion Bending, Dragon Fire, Energy Reading, Heat Control, Lightning Bending, Lightning Redirection
  • Energybending: Astral Projection, Granting Bending, Removing bending, Spirit Energy Manipulation.
  • Invented techniques: Glass Bending (possible by using the high thermal viscosity of glass to trap water vapor inside the glass), Thermobaric Blast (ice version of Combustion, caused by ripping thermal energy out of the system to the degree that the sudden drop in air pressure causes an explosion), Tornado (caused by simultaneous manipulation of heat and cold to produce cyclonic, uncontrolled winds), Magnetic Shield, Coil / Rail Gun, Magnetization, Magnetic Attraction, Magnetic Repulsion, Magnetic Levitation, Cloud walking, Ice Flyer (standing on ice and using it to fly), Plasma Bending (The ability to generate plasma, made possible only through waterbending’s thermal cooling effects), Soulfire (Energybending combined with Firebending), Infusion (Grants regeneration for a time by combining Energybending with Healing), HyperIce (Superheated Ultrahigh pressure ice), Life Scanning (reading the lifesigns), Hydrosonar (mapping an area using water droplets), Ice Golem, Wall of Ice Knives, Ice Titan (Power Armor made of Ice), White Fire, Hydro-telescope, Emotional Healing (Rage Bending)
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