One thing was clear: they were not dealing with the Equalists.
That should have been obvious, thought Korra, the moment she’d discovered Asami in the alley. Hindsight’s 20/20, of course. But the blue, almost metallic-looking fabric that had coated her friend from nose-to-foot - leaving her to squirm helplessly on the ground under the streetlamp while Korra stared on, dumbstruck at this strange predicament - was like nothing she’d ever seen Amon or his henchmen use to bind prisoners before. That alone should have tipped her off to the fact that she was about to encounter something new.
Again, hindsight: she should’ve returned to the tea house for backup. She should never have engaged this strange enemy. But she was the Avatar. She’d faced down the most powerful warriors in Republic City and come out on top. And - naturally - she was angry. Positively miffed. Whoever had done this to her friend was going to pay…
“If you’ve come to fight, show yourself!” she shouted, stepping out from beneath the eve of the tea-house (wherein sat Bolin and Mako, still celebrating after their latest victory in the arena, clueless as to the ambush taking place mere feet away) and into the night of the alley beyond. “Otherwise, it’s not too late to run…”
She could see Asami’s eyes widen as she sat motionless against the brick wall, shaking her head and trying to speak through whatever material was currently covering her mouth. Katara raised one hand to pacify her. Relax, she thought. I know it’s a trap...
Unfortunately, Korra now realized, she’d already taken the bait. It was at that very moment that she became aware of a high-pitched whizzing noise in her ear - and, an instant later, the first coils of that insidiously sticky material began to coat her wrists.
“What the…” Those were her last words spoken, for no sooner had they left her mouth than her lips were sealed shut by a thick ribbon of tape. Tape - that’s what it was. But it was like no tape she’d ever seen. This stuff painted to her skin completely, smooth yet firm, almost liquid in its texture but impossibly strong. She strained to open her mouth, but found it wouldn’t budge.
“Mmmph!” In the same instant the strands binding her wrists yanked down on them, locking her arms to her sides as more of the stuff encircled her ankles, binding them together lightning-quick. She saw now that the tape was being led by several round, puck-like objects (pink - nice contrast with the blue tape, some corner of her brain concluded sardonically), flying through the air apparently of their own accord, circling her body, wrapping her in layers of tape the same way they’d apparently done to Asami!
She squirmed and strained futilely as the little machines did their work, effectively mummifying her from the ankles up to her nose (they seemed to have taken special care in wrapping her mouth and jaw up, devilish little things). Maybe thirty seconds later, she stood totally encased in the middle of the alley, struggling as hard as she could, hopping lightly to keep from falling over. She screamed through her gag, hoping to alert her friends inside the bar… but if they hadn’t been able to hear Asami’s mewing, doubtless hers were ineffectual as well.
Meanwhile those little tape-dispensers had whizzed back off into the darkness behind them. Korra - hoping to meet their master head one - hopped around to peer into the gloom.
“Mm mmph!” she called after them… it was the best challenge she could muster with her lips sealed shut. In answer, there followed the unmistakable sound of heels clicking against the concrete. Click, click, click. Slowly, ominously, the owner of those heels was approaching.
“Mmmph?” said Asami from her seat against the wall, squinting into the darkness. Gradually a silhouette was resolving itself in the faint light of the streetlamp… not Amon, clearly. Not one of his henchmen, either. A woman!
Unmistakable, with those long legs and hourglass figure. So that was strange enough on its face. But then there was the matter of her headgear - she appeared to be wearing some sort of strange, oblong hat…
It got stranger.
It was a woman alright - but she was like no woman Korra had ever seen. Her skin was pale; but not pale white. Pale blue. Pale blue skin and dark blue hair! And her eyes were stranger still: bright red. Bright, glowing red. Almost electric, if Korra didn’t know better. Maybe some strange side-effect of fire bending? She’d seen stranger things, after all…
But then there was the matter of her get-up: shorts, some kind of frilly, short-sleeved top, gloves, thigh-high stockings and six-inch heels (those do NOT look comfortable, thought Korra). All metallic grey and silver, all made of a strange, shimmery material. And her head-gear - not a hat. Not at all. Some kind of metal appendage springing right out of her blue hair. It looked, Korra thought, like the missiles used by Republic City airships. If it weren’t for the gag, Korra’s first question would almost certainly have been: Lady, do you have a bomb coming out of your head?
At present, she settled for a series of loud Mmmphs, her best attempt at telling this strange captor to let them both go, lest she call down the full wrath of the Avatar (an empty threat, obviously - her bending was all but useless in her current, mummified state).
“Shh, don’t fuss, sweetie,” said the blue woman, placing her hands on Korra’s waist, as if to steady her. The woman’s voice was impossibly girlish, high-pitched - she could fairly be said to coo. And Korra certainly did not like the way that she was eyeing her… something between a leer and the way you look at a newly-born kitty-pup. Korra could almost see the hearts blooming in those glowing red eyes of hers.
“I’m Nomoko, by the way! Now: ready to go on your big adventure?” said “Nomoko”, fluttering her long, blue eyelashes threateningly. Korra shook her head frantically and set in with a new series of defiant mmmphs, which her captor promptly ignored and - with one smooth motion - scooped her up and placed her under her arm, cradling her by the waist.
“Mmmph?” Korra let out an exclamation of surprise at this strange woman’s strength - clearly she was dealing with a new kind of enemy. Still, she was not at all enthused at being carried like an over-zealously wrapped package by this weirdo, and commenced growling and gnashing her teeth behind the layers of tape that sealed her lips. No use. Moments later Nomoko repeated the maneuver with Asami; both women had time to exchange looks of fear and confusion with one another before Nomoko interrupted once again:
“Hold tight, lovelies - this could be a bumpy ride….” With that, Korra felt the queesy sensation of seeing the ground swiftly receding as she - well, Nomoko, with her as passenger - blasted off into thin air at an astonishing speed. The tea-house and surrounding neighborhood was quickly turning replica-sized in the distance, and Korra had the brief satisfaction of having apparently figured things out…
So, she ruminated as Republic City grew further and further away, she’s a fire bender. That, at least, made some amount of sense… but that supposed epiphany was immediately extinguished upon inspection of the source of the flames that had apparently sprouted from Nomoko’s feet: tiny, shiny, rocket-like protrusions had sprouted from those uncomfortable-looking heels of hers, the blue flame of which was apparently enough to propel them high above the city. Things just keep getting weirder, thought Korra.
Presently, their ascent had slowed, first to a crawl and then to a stand-still: they now lay suspended in their captor’s arms far above the rooftops of Republic City, hovering ominously. Korra stared down into the twinkling lights below, realizing that, if suddenly dropped, it’d be nothing but a long trip down and a sudden stop. She felt like her lunch might repeat on her. She didn’t dare move a muscle, now hoping that the same strong grip she’d so recently been fighting against held firm.
For her part, Nomoko was apparently annoyed by something. “Where is that thing?” she said with clear agitation. “Pardon my reach, cutie,” she said, as she angled Korra’s body further into the crook of her arm (to her great shame, Korra audibly squealed as she was being jostled) to bring the watch at her wrist closer to her face. “Jane, darling, could you bring the Launch around? Pretty please?”
There was a pregnant beat of silence as Korra and Asami both waited to discover whatever-the-hell “the Launch” was. A moment later, they had their answer. A loud, low hum filled the air, getting louder as though approaching from somewhere out of sight. Now it was directly above them, though strain as they might neither Korra nor Asami could see just what the source of the sound was.
And then came the light: purple. Blinding. Sparkly, almost. Slowly, they started to rise again. The hum became deafening. From her less-than-advantageous perch under Nomoko’s arm, Korra became aware that they were below a massive airship - the dark edges of its metal hull were plainly visible. She’d been in airships before, of course. Airships are mobile. They go places. Which meant - she now realized with dull horror - that this Nomoko wasn’t just abducting them. She was taking them somewhere.
“Mmmph.” Oh crap.
They were inside, now. It was dark all around them, except for the city and sky below. Then, slowly, this view was eclipsed by a set of doors, sliding in from each side. Gradually, the distant lights of Republic City turned to a sliver, then nothing at all. Total darkness.
“Lights!” called Nomoko, making both women jump in her arms. They blinked at the sudden brightness, straining to take in their surroundings. They were in a large room now, some kind of giant metal hanger, with a multitude of glowing panels on the walls and corridors snaking off on every side. Nomoko did them the kindness of standing them both up side by side, surveying them with apparent glee. She was actually clasping her hands together by her cheek…
“Ooooh, I could just eat you two up!” she said, jumping up and down slightly (apparently in an effort to contain herself from doing just that). Korra didn’t bother trying to speak, but she did shoot her the very best glare she could muster. Translation: When I get out of here…
“Goodness, where are my manners… Rex! Bucky!”
Rex? thought Korra. Bucky? Is she going to introduce us to her dogs or something?
Worse, it turned out: out from the corridor on their left zoomed two large, flying black objects - to Korra’s eyes, floating saucers of metal-paneling with arms, the ends of which were topped with claw like appendages. Oh great - one for each of us… They took their stations, hovering beside their mistress.
“Boys, I’m going to go freshen up - please see that our guests are well attended to…” With that, she gave Korra and Asami both an affectionate kiss on the cheek (here Korra - not one for public displays of affection - couldn’t hold back, letting out a loud, angry mmmph!) and minced off down the right-hand corridor. “And make sure they each get a nice bath in!”
Korra’s eyes widened. She turned to Asami, who appeared to be mouthing the same syllable into the tape: Bath?
It was a mixed experience, to say the least. After being once more unceremoniously scooped up in the clawed arms of their new best friends (Korra made sure Rex or Bucky - she wasn’t sure which was which - got an earful in protest), they were whisked down the corridor to another large, be-paneled room, this one containing several circular platforms. Woman-sized, Korra noted with dread.
Sure enough, both ladies were placed on a platform and instructed - via repeated corrections and light pinching - to stand still. In a flash, glass-like, cylindrical walls descended on each of the platforms; a moment later, a disk of light began to scan down the length of the cylinder. Korra had a few seconds to wonder what this strange light was before it descended to her shoulders. Then she found out:
For some reason, it had done nothing to the tape at her mouth. But every centimeter of the material that it touched beyond that was instantly vaporized - hooray! - as were the articles of clothing under said material (crap!). Instinctually, Korra used her hands to try and cover her most sensitive areas from the prying eyes (did they have eyes?) of Rex and Bucky. She turned to see that Asami was doing exactly the same thing in the next cylinder, blushing with embarrassment (and, Korra had time to note, looking lovely while doing so).
And then, naturally, came the bath. Warm water began to rain down through several jets in the top of the cylinder. This was, Korra had to admit, not a totally uncomfortable sensation. But then came the arms. Several of them - not dissimilar to the ones sported by Rex and Bucky - outfitted now with various loofah’s and brushes. They made short work of Korra, not missing an inch of her, gently restraining her by the wrist whenever she tried to cover herself or swat them off. She cursed and grunted into her gag at the ignominy of it all: her, the Avatar, most powerful bender in the world, being bathed and loofah’d like a child. She could’ve screamed.
She hazarded a glance over at Asami - her friend wasn’t resisting at all. On the contrary, she looked quite relaxed, eyes closed, arching her back to let one of the arms get to a hard-to-reach place while another gently shampooed her hair. Korra, sighing, did likewise, only partially hating it as one of her attendant arms applied lavender conditioner to her raven locks.
A brisk towling and blow-dry later, there came the dressing. Another disk of light, this time with the opposite effect: the tape at Korra’s mouth disappeared, and she was clothed once again. Given the choice of fashion, she’d probably have preferred to remain naked:
It was blue, which was nice. It was also impossibly tight and made of latex, which was less than nice. Apparently Nomoko’s idea of proper captive attire consisted of a skin-tight mock-up of Korra’s former outfit: blue tank top (this one with a healthy cut-out at her bust), dark blue ultra-miniskirt, and, in place of pants, blue latex-leggings, complete with garters. Her hair was done up in her customary ponytail, which she appreciated; she was also outfitted with some kind of frilly head-dress, which she did not appreciate at all. Completing the ensemble were brown high-heels (designed in apparent mockery of her mukluks) something akin to a brown leather apron, and arm-length, blue latex gloves.
“Seriously?” said Korra, looking down at her new attire. “This?” Her blood was positively boiling - here’s where she would have gone full-Avatar mode, if not for the final light-disk that had once again restrained her, glowing, elastic-y blue bonds now binding her legs together at the ankle and thighs and locking her arms behind her. At present, she had to content herself with fuming. “You’re not even going to give us our old clothes back?”
Rex and Bucky floated mutely in response.
“I dunno,” said Asami from the next cylinder over. Korra watched as she surveyed her new outfit; it was much the same as her own, albeit black with red accents. “I think these are kind of cute.”
Korra regarded her with icy eyes. “Cute? Really, Asami?” She does have a point, though, she thought to herself. She wouldn’t mind seeing Asami dress like that more often..
Thus dressed and restrained once again, the glass cylinders that had encased them retreated, allowing their faithful flying-orbs to once again scoop them up and ferry them down the corridor to whatever strange fate Nomoko had in store for them.
That fate? Light housework, apparently.
Nomoko’s jaw actually dropped as Rex and Bucky set them down on the carpet of what could only be described as a “lounge”: three leather sofas and multitudes of chairs facing a fireplace in one corner, a wooden bar in another. Plushy light fixtures, a bookcase. Oh, and in another corner, a metal pole rose from a slightly elevated platform. Korra could only guess what that was for…
On one end of the room, a petite Asian woman, her hair done up in a bun, sat at a console, reading something on some sort of glowing screen. She did not appear to be relaxing: she was dressed in the same type of latex outfit they were, this one a shade of dark green. Her hands were bound at the wrists, allowing her to manipulate a series of buttons in front of her. A band of shiny green material covered her mouth tightly, her lips clearly visible beneath. Another prisoner?
“You. Look. Great!” Nomoko immediately enveloped Asami in a tight hug (apparently she looked more receptive to it), actively nuzzling her face against Asami’s latex-encased bust. Korra looked at Asami aghast; for her part, Asami accepted Nomoko’s ministrations with grace, smirking at Korra and shrugging her shoulders. Clearly she’d adopted an attitude of If you can’t beat em, join em…
Korra wasn’t quite there yet.
“Where are you taking us?!” she screamed, caused Nomoko to jump back, a puzzled expression on her face. “What do you want?!”
Nomoko looked at her quizzically for half a moment, before smiling and smacking her head with her palm. “Duh! Just a second, sweetie…” she said, walking over to fiddle around behind the bar.
“Do you know who you’re messing with right now? You’ve just kidnapped the Avatar! There’s going to be hell to paymmmph!”
Korra’s loud remonstrations came to a halt with the swift insertion of a sponge-ball into her open mouth.
“Shh,” said Nomoko, tying a length of soft white cloth tightly between Korra’s teeth. “I have a little policy with my guests, cutie-pie,” she said, before fastening one final, wide cloth over her lower face, from under her jaw to the bridge of her nose, muffling her completely. “It’s called, Seen and not heard. Best for everyone, don’t you agree?”
“Mmmph, mmph mmmph!” said Korra, not agreeing at all. At that, Nomoko merely giggled, placing her finger under Korra’s chin and planting a quick kiss on her gagged lips. She then approached Asami, doubtless to perform the same maneuver.
“Say ‘aahhh,’ darling.” Asami did so without protest; when the job was complete, Korra half-thought she could see her friend smiling from beneath her gag. Looks like their escape was going to depend on her ingenuity alone…
“Now,” said Nomoko, stepping back to survey her bound-and-gagged charges. “We’ve got a bit of a trip ahead of us,” she said, pressing a button on one of those glowing panels; at that, the far wall (beside the quiet lady in green) parted in the middle, its edges receding into the floor and ceiling to reveal a giant bay-window, beyond which was nothing. Nothing, Korra, noted, but darkness and the twinkle of distant stars. Oooooh crap. Is that? That can’t be..
“It’s a few light-years to Earth 258B, and I’m afraid passage on the SS Nomoko isn’t free.” She grinned mischievously at this pronouncement. “As payment for your room and board, you’ll each be expected to perform various duties…” She strode over to the lady in green at her console, cupping the young woman’s chin delicately and rubbing her thumb over her sealed lips. “Janey here assists with navigation,” said Nomoko. “But to start, I think we’ll have you two on housekeeping.”
With that, she produced two small feather-dusters. Feather. Dusters. So we’re going to be maids, then? That’s what this is all about? She felt like she was going to explode…
“Just, you know, keep the place looking ship-shape,” cooed Nomoko, placing a duster in each of their bound hands. “I know, I know, it takes some time, dusting with tied hands and all, but you’ll get used to it real quick…”
That was the sound of Korra’s duster being thrown unceremoniously against the metal paneling of the nearest wall (no mean feat with bound hands, but she’d managed it). She growled into her gag, glaring daggers at her captor. She would not be made to do housework. They’d have to kill her first…
Nomoko stared at her, dumbfounded - she looked almost hurt - before the red glow of her eyes took on a darker cast. She clenched her fists, glaring right back at her captive. “Korra, dear,” she said, her voice positively crackling with held-back anger, “there are strict penalties for insubordination, you know…”
Before she could commence said punishment, though, the air was broken by another sound: heels clicking. This time, though, those heels were coming to Korra’s rescue. The owner of those heels, appearing through another corridor at the other end of the bar, was a tall, elegant-looking dark-skinned woman in a long, purple dress (stylish, albeit impossibly tight). She wore her voluminous hair down, and her wrists gleamed with bracelets. Her bearing and expression were regal - the only sign of her captivity the purple band of tape across her lips.
“Hmmph!” she said, taking up her position behind Nomoko and crossing her arms. If it were possible to tisk while gagged, Korra imagined she’d be doing it. She appeared to have some kind of power over Nomoko… though what the nature of that power was, she couldn’t tell.
Nomoko’s expression softened. She smiled sheepishly as she turned to face this new character. “Shakti, baby, I was just, em, welcoming our new guests…” It looked to Korra’s eyes like she was blushing.
“Shakti” simply turned her head away at that. “Mm-mm,” she said, apparently gag-speak for I’m not buying it.
Nomoko merely pawed at her and whined. “Aw, c’mon… I’ll be on my best behavior! I promise, ok?”
Finally, Shakti seemed to give in. Striding over to Korra, she bent at the hips to retrieve the feather duster, placing it once again in Korra’s hands. That accomplished, she stood in front of her, placing one hand on Korra’s face in a way that she found somehow comforting, and giving her a soft, sympathetic look that Korra took to mean, Please, do as she says. It’ll go easier for you.
With that, she draped an arm over Nomoko’s shoulders, guiding her to a seat by the fire, where the two sat together, Nomoko nuzzling up against her breasts, and Shakti stroking Nomoko’s hair in a way that suggested genuine affection.
Well, thought Korra, this is fucking weird.
And so commenced the dusting. There didn’t actually seem to be any dust to clean in the place; Korra quickly surmised their role to be merely decorative, a suspicion confirmed by the fact that Nomoko would periodically open one eye to survey them at their work, particularly when one of them bent low to get at tricky, imaginary dust-bunny.
At length, Korra took the opportunity to shuffle across the lounge, allegedly to dust the window but really hoping to secretly confer with “Jane” at her console. The woman in green seemed completely cowed by Nomoko’s treatment of her, so the idea that she’d assist in their escape seemed slim. Still, Korra figured it was worth a try.
“Mmmph?” said Korra quietly as she dusted, testing the waters.
“Mmm mmph,” replied Jane. Korra couldn’t understand her, but she got the gist: You get used to it.