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Chapter 10- The Robber Baron of Ba Seng Se, The Suitor, and The White DemonEdit
Three Days After Kuro's Attack In Ba Seng SeEdit
Asami smiled, "Hello Mr. Varrick, Zhu Li. How are you this morning?" "Terrible!" Varrick exclaimed, throwing his hands in the air dramatically, "Someone blew up one of my factories three nights ago! They killed four of my guards and I had to have Zhu Li write down the number of workers!" "One hundred and sixty seven killed or injured sir," Zhu Li said helpfully as she pushed her glasses back up her nose.
"Exactly!" Varrick exclaimed, "I have to have more guards! I'll be happy to pay them but I need more guards! These attacks are liable to ruin me! And what's more, they're getting worse! It's never taken us three days to take stock of the damage before!" Asami smiled politely, "Well I'm sure if you go tell General McLaren he'll be happy to send you some more troops." "Right!" He turned to Zhu Li, "Zhu Li! To General McLaren's office! Let's go!" He turned and sprinted off, Zhu Li hurrying along behind him.
Asami shook her head and watched him go. Varrick's factories produced a lot of valuable parts for the War Mechs, and assembled a great many of the more common ones, but that was the only good thing Asami could say about him. He also owned a great deal of land in the city's lower ring, including apartment complexes which while cheap, where also terribly cramped and usually squalid living quarters. He housed many of his own workers, at a price.
Varrick did nothing to improve the living quarters of his workers, which considering how little he charged wasn't just terrible. Unfortunately, he also controlled most of the city's supply lines, and that did cost a lot. It was reasoned that because the farmers in the outer ring were closer to the outside, and with the Death Bringer Sanctuary right across the lake, they were at extremely high risk to be attacked, and therefore should be paid more for daring to work in such a dangerous area. This also was not bad, except that Varrick charged a hefty toll to move the farmer's produce, and a percentage to sell it.
He also claimed to cut the military a deal on the parts and mechs his factories churned out, but they were still very expensive to produce, and he always had to turn a profit, which of course meant taxes went up and the people had less to pay him with. Asami wondered if it were even possible to count how many people Varrick Industries had left in squalor. Little wonder people called him "The Robber Baron of Ba Seng Se."
Asami shook her head in slight disgust and headed for her father's office. She passed Jet, who had been rather depressed since the death of Sneers. He had wanted to go for revenge, and gotten himself, and his whole unit, forced to take indefinite leave from the force. Asami was quietly glad, Jet would have gotten himself killed trying to get revenge on Marrow. Without access to a mech though, even he wouldn't dare challenge the Guardian of Full Moon Bay.
Jet said hello but his eyes said kill me. Asami paused and watched him go. He paused a few steps past her, "Asami." Asami raised an eyebrow, "Yes?" "I want you to do me a favor," Jet said, looking to the ceiling. Asami frowned, this couldn't be good, "What?" "If you ever get a chance, kill that damn Bone-Monger for what he did to Sneers." Asami snorted, "Of course. You didn't have to ask me that as a favor. Anyone in the army would be happy to kill him for you. We're just worried you'll do something reckless and get yourself..." She stopped before she could say "killed".
Jet hung his head, "Yeah. I guess that's why I'm being reassigned." Asami turned to look fully at him, "What?" Jet didn't turn around, "My unit is scheduled to switch posts with Unit 39 at new year. We'll be all the way in Melaf." Asami's eyes widened, Melaf was half way around the world! She started to protest, "But..." Jet raised a hand, "Your dad says I'll do better hammering away at the Death Touch than Marrow, for me to take it out on them." He sighed and the hand dropped, "That's my assignment, that's what I'll do. But please,"
He looked over his shoulder, "You and Teo are the only pilots good enough to kill him. Please, kill him for me." Asami nodded, "We will." Jet smiled for the first time since Sneers's death, "Thanks Asami."
Jet trudged on down the hallway, and then General McLaren barked at him from his office, "Captain Jet!" Jet's head snapped up and he looked, quickly stepping into the General's office, "Yes sir?" General McLaren, a large beefy man with a beet red mustache a bald patch and a cigar screwed into the corner of his mouth gestured, "Captain, this is Mr. Varrick, of Varrick Industries." Jet turned, smiled and touched his hat by way of salute, "Nice to meet you sir."
Varrick grinned and said loudly and quickly, "General McLaren says you and your unit can hunt down the people who've been attacking my factories!" McLaren nodded, "It'll give you and your unit something to do until your transfer, and what's more as you know, Mr. Varrick's factories produce many important parts of our War Mechs, along with nearly all of the quick replaceable parts. They even build most of the mechs you and your unit go through so many of. If his factories stop churning out parts, the military will be crippled."
Varrick draped an arm around Jet's shoulders, "You pilot my mechs? Which one's your favorite?" Jet blinked, "Um, I can pilot anything, but I usually grab a Mantis mech if one's available." Varrick nodded, "I love the Mantis line! Those blades! You'll have to tell me how they handle in the field! We can't improve without feedback!" He suddenly turned to the slightly chunky woman in glasses sitting behind him, filing papers away into a stack she was carrying, "Zhu Li! I'll need you to take notes!" Zhu Li nodded, "Of course Mr. Varrick."
"Wonderful!" Varrick exclaimed, "I'll let you gather up your posse and you can meet me at the front gate! We'll go to my office and you can look over all the details." Jet blinked as Varrick strode out smiling broadly, Zhu Li hot on his heels, fiddling with her papers as she walked. "Gather my what?" Jet asked in confusion. "Unit," General McLaren said without looking up, "It means unit."
The night the Emperor's Entourage arrived at the Southern Sanctuary, Azula stormed into the foyer of her parents' apartments dragging a desiccated corpse, "What is the meaning of this?!" She demanded as she threw the body at her father's feet. The young man he was talking to leapt back to avoid it and Ozai winced, "I take it you didn't like his proposal?" "You have been considering suitors without consulting me?!" Azula shrieked. She turned to the young man who had some truly impressive sideburns and a startled and slightly befuddled expression as she stuck a finger that flickered with purple light in his face, "Is that what you're here for?!"
The young man raised his hands peacefully, "Well your highness, any man would be delighted to court you, I can hardly count myself different. I apologize if my attention displeases you, I can go if you'd like and never mention this again." Azula retracted the finger and appeared to have calmed down until she turned and hurled a death bolt into the back of Ozai's chair. Ozai started and then looked at her, "Azula!"
"Shut it Dad. I'll talk to this one, but you and I need to have a serious talk about boundaries after this." She turned to the young man, "And if you have any thoughts about groping me like this idiot tried to do because he thought he could, you'll look even worse than he does!" She caught him by the kerchief and pulled him along as she stormed toward the door. He stumbled along behind her, confused and not altogether unpleased.
A few moments later, a low feminine voice said from behind a curtain, "Well, she actually took that a lot better than I thought she would." Ozai looked at the curtain as his wife, Princess Ursa stepped out from behind the curtain. Ursa was very beautiful, even after two children. Of course Ozai, thought, she had always been beautiful to him, and he still marveled that he had managed to catch her.
Everyone had thought that the great-granddaughter of Emperor Roku, a powerful Death Touch in her own right, would go for Iroh, and Iroh for her. Through some strange quirk of fate though, neither sought the other's attention, and Ursa had wound up with Ozai. He marveled still more that she had stayed with him after Zuko had crippled him when their plan to put Ozai on the throne had failed. She was far too beautiful for a cripple he thought.
He smiled and set his head in his hand, laughing slightly, "Really? I thought that went horribly." Ursa smiled and sat in his lap, wrapping her arms around him before pulling him into a kiss, "Hey, if my parents had been offering my hand to suitors and not told me about it, I would have killed them both on the spot." She kissed him again and he smiled up at her, "You're so bad." She smiled at him, "You know you love it." Ozai nodded, "Yes, I do."
Meanwhile, outside under a covered walkway across a courtyard, Azula finally released the young man's collar and propped against a column, giving him a cold glare, "Start talking. Who are you and what's so special about you that my father would consider you as a potential suitor for me?" The young man tried to restrain an angry flush at being talked so far down to, "My name is Zhao. I am a commander in the royal navy. My family has considerable lands in the south and I'm considered a skilled tactician and Death Touch."
Azula raised an eyebrow unimpressed, "Does your family have farmland?" Zhao nodded, "Yes your highness, we have a great deal of farmland." "And what manner of livestock do you have?" "We have hippo-cows, chickows, and bull-sheep." Azula smiled sweetly, "Well maybe you should go give those mutton chops back to the poor sheep you stole them from. He'll have terribly cold cheeks in the winter." Zhao's hand went to his immense sideburns immediately and he blushed, "Of course princess, can't have our sheep having cold cheeks."
Azula howled with laughter, and Zhao flushed even more furiously. Azula smiled and waved him away, "Well go on! That sheep needs his sideburns back! Winter will be here soon!" Zhao flushed crimson furiously, turned and stormed off. Ty Lee suddenly dropped from the roof behind Azula, "Wow, that was kinda mean Azula." Azula looked over at her shoulder at her, "I'm sorry Ty Lee, did you want him?" Ty Lee flinched back, "No!" Azula smiled, "then don't criticize how I turned him down."
A dry voice said, "Well, at least you didn't fry him like you did the last one." Ty Lee leapt away in fright as Mei appeared as if from nowhere, looking demurely after Zhao's rapidly retreating form. Azula smiled at Mei, "Mei, don't scare Ty Lee like that." Mei looked at Ty Lee inquisitively, "I thought I made plenty of noise coming up." Ty Lee pointed at her, "The only person who makes less noise than you is Lu-Ten."
Lu-Ten suddenly appeared behind them, "Did somebody say my name?" All three jumped away as though electrocuted while Lu-Ten laughed.
The White DemonEdit
The same night, in Full-Moon Bay, Marrow read over the report from Kuro and his partner Shiroi before looking at the plans Shiroi had expertly pilfered while the Republic's forces rushed to extinguish Kuro's diversion. Marrow grinned, "I don't know how they trained you people Lefko, but whatever they do, tell 'em to keep it up." Lefko smiled, he had shed his white mask when he entered his friend's sitting room, "Oh there are a great many things they do to train us. Most of them unpleasant and rather painful until one learns to ignore the pain."
Lefko Daimonas, also known as the White Demon, was one of the most powerful Spirit Callers alive, and known for never removing his fearsome white demon mask in public, even keeping it on when he ate by removing the lower half. Very few people knew what the upper half of his face even looked like. Marrow laughed, "Oh I don't doubt it. Sylvie's told me horror stories." A beautiful young woman draped her arms around Marrow's shoulders and kissed him on the cheek, "scared ya too didn't they?"
She had white blonde hair tied in a braid and spectral energy green eyes. She wore a light green sleeveless gi like a Spirit Caller and had a small gold arm band that marked her as a slave. Most slaves had steel shackles, but Sylvie was far more than a slave to Marrow. In actuality, as far as he was concerned, she owned the immense manor they were sitting in. Through an unfortunate mishap of fate, she had not inherited the gift of her father, a master Spirit Caller of great renown. She had been his only child, and raised as though she were a full-fledged Death-Bringer even though without a gift, she was technically a slave.
This had not been a problem until her father's death two years ago, at which point having had no heir other than Sylvie, his immense estate and holdings had been up for grabs. His estate would have been torn apart and Sylvie undoubtedly snatched up by the sanctuary's opportunistic inhabitants. This undoubtedly would have been the case had not Marrow vocally staked claim to his estate and all his holdings.
Marrow had made it clear to Sylvie when he did it that as far as he was concerned, gift or not, she was the owner of her father's estate, and she was to run it as her own. They had become quite smitten with each other not long after meeting prior to her father's death, and Marrow had caught her heart firmly by saving her father's estate. She was officially his house manager, the woman in charge of making sure his estate was kept in order, but she was effectively his wife. They couldn't marry because of her status, but it didn't hinder their torrid romance in the slightest.
Sylvie straightened up and looked at the dark skinned slave girl with the long curly hair and blue eyes who was currently dusting the shelves. Sylvie raised an eyebrow and slapped her on the butt, "Smile a little more Korra, there are worse places you could be." Korra jumped and immediately smiled brightly, "Yes Miss Sylvie." Korra internally swore at her, but she smiled as brightly as she could and continued to do so, even humming to keep up the facade of complacency while she dusted as Sylvie turned back to looking over Marrow's shoulder at the plans his spies had retrieved from Ba Seng Se. Korra knew from experience that Sylvie and Marrow spoke with one mind and if Sylvie gave an order, Marrow would back it up without the slightest hesitation.
As soon as she was certain nobody was looking at her, she rolled her eyes, Why why had she been caught by Marrow and not Lefko? Lefko's house manager Jin, who was currently cuddled under his arm, didn't have a story like Sylvie. She had just charmed her way into the position and now she had Lefko about wrapped around her little finger, living a nice cushy life as his house manager.
Korra had given up her freedom to save her little desert tribe from obliteration at Marrow's hands, and now she dusted the skeletons of exotic creatures Marrow kept littered around the mansion, cleaned fireplaces and all manner of other unpleasant chores like any other slave. She had been the daughter of her tribe's chief she thought indignantly!
Still though, she had to admit, it was a lot better than what happened to most slaves. Marrow's elite warriors, the Beinstyrke, who kept the peace in Full Moon Bay and also helped regulate the slave trade, had developed a technique that could remove a person's personality, turning them into mindless zombies that would do anything they were instructed. She shuddered to think what would have happened had she fallen into the Beinstyrke's hands first instead of directly into Marrow's.
Lefko smiled at Marrow, "I hear your sister's going to be marrying age soon. How's your grandfather taking that?" Marrow looked up and his gaze was cold, "Beg ya pardon?" Lefko laughed loudly, "Calm down Graveren, I was only kidding. I know she'll find a good guy! Lord knows if she gets one that's not she'll stomp him straight in no time!" Marrow smiled thinly, "True, very true. Little sister always did have a way with stomping. Must have gotten it from Grandpa, she shakes all of Omashu when she puts her foot down."
Lefko smiled, "Will she be joining us here? I've heard so much about her I'm rather curious to meet her!" Marrow shrugged, "I don't know. She might. You never know with her, but one thing's for certain, when she does make a decision, she's like an avalanche, there's no stopping her once she's made up her mind. So if she does come here, I guess we'll have to budge over and make room. She'll kick us both out if we don't."
Lefko and Jin laughed, "Graveren I don't think anybody could drag you out of Full Moon Bay, let alone kick you!" Marrow tilted his head to the side and grinned, "Oh I don't know. If the Emperor were to return and enlist my aid, I might have to leave things here in your hands." Lefko sobered at that, "The Emperor...I would take your burden as guardian here for a thousand years if it would bring him back and reunite the Empire." Marrow snorted lightly, "As would I old friend, as would I. Cheer up though, I think I felt a change in the wind a few days ago. Who knows? Maybe our luck has already begun to change for the better!"