Air Nomads emblem Airbending emblem
Yangchen airbending By H-Man Havoc Part of the Legendary Spy:The Tales of Malu continuity.

Bolin realizes
Juji's fine. He comes back to life in the end when the doomsday device shifts the polarity of the Earth. Oops. Spoiler. Sorry.

Warning! This page contains spoilers for Legendary Spy:The Tales of Malu.

"Out of sight, out of mind, to tail one who blew away in the wind"
— Malu, reciting the motto of the Air Nomad Intelligence Agency in Liberation.

The Air Nomad Intelligence Agency (ANIA), is the sole espionage service of the Air Nomads. Created in response to multiple attacks against them hundreds of years ago, ANIA acts as the first line of defense against future enemy incursions. The third-oldest intelligence operation in the world, after the much older Water Tribe Security Advisory (WTSA) and the Earth Kingdom Espionage Bureau (EKEB), the ANIA is a multidisciplinary agency and a source of employment for close to half the Air Nomad population, easily the largest proportion out of any other nations' spy organizations.

Due to their desperate origins, brutal effectiveness and a willingness to use violence to accomplish their goals, the ANIA is both widely respected and greatly feared by the rest of the world.


In 25,300 BG the Fire Nation and Earth Kingdom started launching attacks against Air Nomad territories, which were repelled with little difficulty by the Air Nomads. That changed two years later when the two aforementioned nations invaded the same lands, catching the Nomads somewhat off-guard and resulting in the deaths of hundreds. The Nomads counterattacked a few years later, lasting for a five-year period, causing 2,000 combined deaths as well as displacing over 20,000 others when the Nomads occupied some of the land in both nations.

Many years later, after countless diplomatic resolutions, status quo antebellum was restored, and peace was made with the Earth Kingdom, anti-Fire Nation sentiment was running high. The mentality forced a shift in hospitality as well as Air Nomad behaviour towards outsiders.

In autumn, 25,263 BG (27 years after the ceasefire agreement ending the war), a middle-aged monk named Kamatak officially founded the ANIA with the Council's approval. Kamatak was one of many Air Nomads who shared the deep anti-outsider mentality as he himself not only fought in the conflict but also lost two of his sons on the battleground as well. ANIA was initially established at the Western Air Temple, but the organization relocated a few months later to the Northern Air Temple due to the close proximity of the western territory to the Fire Nation, as well as the recent peace agreement with the Earth Kingdom. Kamatak became the first Executive Director of the Agency. Among his accomplishments were the creation of both the Counterintelligence division and Foreign Relations branch, as well as his decrees of mandatory 20-year terms for EDs and mandatory retirement for all operatives at age 75; ironically he died during his last day in office so his successor became the only ED to have a term longer than exactly 20 years. Successive EDs formatted the organization to what it resembles in the present day.

The ANIA's first mandate was to conduct intelligence operations primarily against Fire Nation targets but successive mandates expanded their scope to observation missions within the other nations.

The ANIA, in conjunction with the WTSA foiled a major plot by the Fire Nation Secret Service (FNSS) in 25,230 BG and after much condemnation by the International Diplomatic Council (IDC) the Fire Nation backed off, still denying any wrongdoing. In turn, the FNSS foiled an operation by the ANIA 55 years later, and the result was an intelligence war that lasted nearly 75 years, by which point ANIA had established its Counterterrorism division and relocated its Foreign Relations branch back to the Western Air Temple.

By 25,000 BG, the ANIA remained as busy as ever, deploying agents to the far corners of the planet. They've even focused more on gathering intelligence from within their own people, just to ensure that the system's checks and balances are still functioning properly and appropriately.


The ANIA screens and selects potential recruits between ages 16-30, since those years are deemed by the organization to be the best years to train and mold their philosophies to match that of the agency. The low-end age of 16 (which applicants must be within the recruiting year) is also important as it is the age that most airbenders become masters of their element. The potential candidates are then subject to observation via intense training and participation in airbending competitions. As for testing academics, aptitude is tested and gauged using a series of standardized examinations. The whole recruitment process is a means to weed out unsuitable candidates until the right amount, if any in that particular batch of applicants, are found. Otherwise, the recruiters wait for the next year's candidates.

Chosen candidates aren't given their airbending mastery tattoos and aren't to shave their heads (both to better fit their prospective assignments and so that their real identities can't easily be determined); candidates who've already received tattoos have to get them permanently removed or covered over, and grow out their hair if shaven. In lieu of the tattoos, they receive blue arrow compass tattoos on their persons in a place where it isn't easy to spot, but easy enough to reveal in case. These types of arrow tattoos are common in the rest of the world, primarily though in the Fire Nation, the only difference being the paint used emanates a faint glow during nighttime. Lastly they're placed together in groups of two to four and given the entry-level rank of Observer (they remain in groups for the first few months, and then are split up in order to grant them field experience).

The new recruits must learn quickly and efficiently, for the ANIA maintains a strict quota of 50 operatives working for the agency at any given time (not including other professions in the organization).


ANIA has three different classes of employment, with several ranks each. This is to maintain the diversity the organization's known for.


The main profession of the agency. There are four spy ranks: Observer, Field Operative, Deep Cover Operative, and Special Agent.

Observer: The entry-level rank for all ANIA recruits. Their job largely entails studying the histories and current situations of the Air Nomads as well as the other three nations. Most of the agent training is learned at this stage, such as basic drills and the use of intelligence tools, etc. Observers are paired and live together in a communal housing facility adjacent to ANIA's headquarters. Most who are Observers maintain their rank for a period of 1-3 years, at which point they wash out or are promoted to Field Operatives. The rank is viewed as a last-chance measure to eliminate undesirables. Once they're deemed ready by their teachers, the Observers undertake an observation mission on home soil. If they pass then the final test is a short mission abroad, where they're expected to apply as many skills as possible to do successfully. If an Observer passes yet again, (s)he's promoted to the next rank.

Field Operative (FiO): The secondary rank for ANIA recruits, and the one position sporting the most "graduated" operatives. They're the ones who really run the entire operation, as most of the intelligence assignments are undertaken by them. FiOs receive specialized training in offensive airbending, mission logistics analysis, and in learning how to wield other nations' weapons in combat. Eventually they're taught to kill. Most Field Operatives live alone (usually in the same communal housing facility but sometimes in ANIA's living quarters), but gain access to better accommodations almost immediately upon their promotion. The promoted recruits are assigned a specialty (either General Intelligence [the headquarters], Counterintelligence, Foreign Relations, or Counterterrorism), depending on necessity and the opinions of the individual recruits. Depending on the selected assignment, one either stays at the Northern Air Temple or relocates hundreds of kilometres westward to the Western Air Temple's bureau. To prepare the agents in the event of being captured, each agent is arrested by security officials roughly 5-6 times without prior notice during the typical 2-5 year period of one being a FiO. They're then interrogated for several hours at a time to gauge their resistance to suggestion and any injuries which may arise over the course of their imprisonment. FiOs need to pass at least one of the first two interrogation sessions to be cleared for international missions, otherwise they'll be forced to remain home and run domestic operations until such a test is excelled. After serving 2-5 years as a FiO and exhibiting stellar results on intelligence missions, an agent would be promoted to the next rank.

Deep Cover Operative (DCO): The tertiary rank at the ANIA, but also easily the most stressful and challenging position in the hierarchy. DCOs operate abroad under orders from their assigned department heads. Most DCO missions involve reconnaissance of the intended targets but sometimes also include infiltration of an opposing agency/group and taking part in the mark's everyday activities, even if illegal. DCOs are on a specific mission anywhere from 6 consecutive months to as much as 5-10 years for a large operation. Operatives who are captured while on mission will be officially disavowed by the agency, but will still clandestinely receive some assistance where possible. The intentional lack of contact between an operative and his/her department while on mission (save for emergencies or scheduled updates) is capable of severely testing the agent's wits and mental state. While the majority of DCOs complete their missions without serious issues, some can break down or become burned out due to the at times extreme stress. Suicide and defection rates among ANIA DCOs are the highest in the agency, thus the organization has taken steps to ensure that such a stressful position is countered by good benefits. While not on assignment, Deep Cover Operatives are given private housing accommodations (though not as luxurious as those conferred to Special Agents), vacation and personal leave days (a month/year for every year serving as a DCO, doubled if the operative was involved in a long and particularly strenuous assignment; this time off can be banked up to a maximum of two years), as well as being granted a priority for counseling services. Because a DCO must learn to live in a given area as well as adapt to his/her surroundings, the freshly-promoted operative is instructed to live in an isolated area (usually within the Air Nomad territory they're based in) for three months without contact or assistance before being given such extended missions. A DCO must serve for 10-12 years before (s)he is considered for a promotion to the next rank, and most end up remaining Deep Cover Operatives for the remainder of their careers due to the limited quota of Special Agents that there can actively be at any given point.

Special Agent (SA): The fourth and final intelligence rank at the ANIA, it consists exclusively of the most experienced and powerful operatives. Although the ANIA's policy on the 50 total agents being employed at any given time has some leeway between the other three ranks, there is a mandatory constant of five SAs working for the agency. Except in very rare cases, all Special Agents are former DCOs with at least 10-12 years of experience at the tertiary level. If there is a need for new SAs, prospective candidates are examined using strict guidelines. Firstly, two tests, one written and the other oral (both focusing on subjects learned during their time in the lower three ranks), have to be passed with the marks above a certain threshold. Secondly, they've to master the Flying Bison airbending form; a slow, lumbering airbending style focusing primarily on heavy attacks and charged airbending moves which can be easily countered, but if used properly and effectively it can be one of an SA's greatest assets. Thirdly, a candidate must be able to hold his/her own against multiple opponents of similar skill and prowess. The fourth and final test is also the most violent and traumatic. It involves an unarmed fight to the death between two candidates, and the use of airbending during the melee is expressly forbidden; such use automatically disqualifies the perpetrator and thus results in the opponent passing the test. The two contenders are chosen via lottery, and thus it is a possibility that two friends could be matched up against each other. The latter situation is where the emotional trauma really settles in as a candidate may forfeit the match to avoid the other's death. However a forfeit isn't treated as a victory for the other contender; rather (s)he will simply be matched up against a different candidate and the one who forfeited will be removed from the testing and not be considered again for a minimum of five years.

The victors are then evaluated individually and it's up to the Executive Director (or the deputy, in the event of a potential conflict of interest) to decide which one will be promoted. The newly-selected SA would be given a cryptonym and within days will be deployed on a mission. As the most elite intelligence operatives in the ANIA, they're endowed with unique abilities, benefits and responsibilities. In terms of abilities, Special Agents can abort a mission at any time, provided their mission logistics analyses are close to falling below agency tolerance levels. In addition they can requisition extra supplies and partially modify objectives (i.e. timing and strategy to fulfill them). They also regularly work with DCOs on similar missions and oftentimes are the latter's sole contacts in times of suspended communications. In terms of benefits, they're given bigger and more private housing than DCOs are entitled to as well as better wages and time off (though not as much as DCOs). Perhaps the most crucial benefit of SAs is that only they can be considered for the more senior executive positions (Operation Coordinator and above), and such consideration can be given at any point within the duration of one's SA career. One typically works as a Special Agent for roughly 25-30 years, although working for up to and in excess of 40 years isn't unheard of. Those who make it to the agency's mandatory retirement age of 75 are given a pension and an option to continue working for ANIA in an advisory capacity. Upon death, former SAs are given state funerals and a statue is erected in their honour on the grounds of the temple they originated from, as well as a memorial at the ANIA bureau where (s)he mostly worked at. Burial must commence within 24 hours of their passing, in accordance with Air Nomad tradition at the time. In the event an agent is killed in action (KIA) and the agency is unsuccessful in obtaining the corpse, the funeral is performed in absentia.


This segment makes up the administrative division of the ANIA. It consists of six positions: Agency Recruiter, Equipment Manager, Operation Coordinator, Mission Superintendent, Deputy Executive Director, and Executive Director. The latter four ranks are only initially open to Special Agents, however one can attain one of these ranks via promotion from one of the first two (however this is rare for security reasons). Observers are ineligible to apply for any executive position. Unlike the intelligence profession, executive employees are required to adorn the airbending mastery tattoos as well as keeping shaven heads. Also unlike the intelligence profession, there is no quota for executive employees (with the exception of the latter four positions).

Agency Recruiter: The lowest ranked executive position, they're in charge of selecting and testing candidates as well as determining if any of the year's applicants are good enough to take and pass the required entrance examinations in order to become ANIA Observers, based on the allotted agency quota. Each recruiter is in charge of six candidates and must observe each individual's bending abilities and aptitude. Using agreed upon criteria, the recruiter must choose up to a maximum of two candidates to advance (or none at all). The position is open to FiOs with at least one years' service time, DCOs and SAs.

Equipment Manager: They're in charge of supplying agents with the necessary intelligence tools to complete their missions, in addition to organizing covert resupply convoys to agents currently on mission. In some cases they may get assigned to individual agents if an operative submits such a request. Due to the job requiring international mission experience, the position is only open to DCOs with a minimum of three years' service time, and SAs.

Operation Coordinator: Arguably the most important lifeline to the agency's operatives, they're tasked with planning out mission objectives, directing the Equipment Manager on what needs to be supplied, as well as coordinating and communicating with the agents before, during, and after their missions. Additionally, they write and decode the encrypted messages sent to and from the agents they're in charge of. In rare cases they'll meet with individual agents at a neutral rendezvous point to personally relay sensitive communiques from the higher echelons, and discuss unplanned secondary objectives. Typically there are 10 OCs at any given point, with one in charge of five agents' missions (due to the 50-agent mandate). The more experienced OCs usually handle DCOs and SAs. Because of the personal nature of their work, Operation Coordinators have to deal with a lot more stress, especially if an agent they manage is wounded, missing, or killed on mission. The stressful nature of the job is why the position is only open to SAs with a minimum of two years' service time. However a DCO is sometimes promoted to OC from the EM position provided (s)he has enough experience at both the prior position and rank (and can handle the large amount of stress comparable to and sometimes exceeding their own experience with it while they were on mission), as well as if there are no suitable SA candidates for the job (i.e. SAs with less than two years' experience or the declination of the job offer by the more experienced SAs).

Mission Superintendent: The boss of the OCs, they're responsible for hiring and firing them as well as writing reports on their conduct during their operatives' intelligence missions. Superintendents report directly to the Executive Director, and as the intermediary between the ED and OCs, they're personally liable for any incompetence and gross negligence displayed by the Operation Coordinators during the regular course of their occupation. Superintendents also serve as judges during tribunals and inquiries. There are two Mission Superintendents employed by the agency; one at each of the two bureaus at the Northern and Western Air Temples. The position is only open to Special Agents with more than 10 years' service time.

Deputy Executive Director (DED): Considered the "Vice President" of the ANIA, (s)he regularly collaborates with the Executive Director and is often the one dictating the ED's orders to the rest of the agency. The position was created in the wake of Monk Kamatak's premature death just a day before his term as ED was to have ended, by Kamatak's own handpicked successor in order to eliminate future succession uncertainties. In times of diplomatic crisis, it's the DED who's summoned to the IDC to work with the Air Nomad ambassador as well as explain the agency's actions to the other national ambassadors without revealing classified information. The DED is also in charge of hiring the Agency Recruiters and Equipment Managers. In the event of an ED's death or incapacitation (temporary or otherwise), the deputy assumes the position in an acting capacity until either the Executive Director returns or in the event of death, until the ED's term expires (whichever comes first). If the latter situation exists (via death or extended incapacitation), the DED must elect a successive deputy via an agency-wide election with the choices limited to Mission Superintendents, Operation Coordinators, and Special Agents. If a DED resigns, the position is then refilled via an election as well. As implied above, the position is only filled through an electoral vote of the most senior executive and intelligence staff.

Executive Director (ED): The Executive Director is the boss of the entire agency. The ED controls every aspect, profession, and direction of the ANIA using factors such as the political climate and international tensions. Executive Directors serve 20-year terms as mandated by ANIA's founder Monk Kamatak, after which they retire but still remain on the payroll in an advisory capacity until and optionally after the mandatory retirement age of 75. The maximum initial age for potential EDs is 55 years old, in line with the retirement age at the conclusion of the 20-year term limits. For the first 60 years of the organization, Executive Directors were omnipotent in their responsibilities and decisions, until the fourth holder of the position decided to limit its power (and increase accountability) by appointing a six-person Board of Administration. The BOA consists of the ED, DED, both MSs and the two most senior OCs. Nowadays, the Executive Director can't enact major policy shifts without a 2/3 majority, but can still control every other aspect. In times of war or diplomatic crisis, the ED's powers increase exponentially, enabling him/her to override the BOA's judgment to implement major changes. Both the ED and DED are elected from the aforementioned eligible candidates in an election enacted by the outgoing Executive Director exactly one year before the term ends. The candidate with the highest overall vote total will be the next ED and thus the second-highest vote-getter becomes the next DED. The current ED's barred from participating in the election nor can (s)he vote. With the exception of one ED, all Executive Directors have been male.


Consisting of over 400 employees, the civilian profession makes up the largest employment sector in the agency. Like the executive profession, these employees are also required to keep their airbending mastery tattoos and shaven heads. Four ranks make up the civilian profession's distribution: Secretary, Spokesperson, Agency Liaison, and Aide to the Air Nomad Ambassador, the latter of which is the only limited profession. Despite not being spies, they're still sworn to secrecy about the day-to-day agency operations just as every one in the intelligence and executive branches are.

Secretary: The default civilian rank. Secretaries are assigned to members of the intelligence and executive professions. Simply put, they remind the employees in charge of their daily schedules, any important communiques and do remedial administrative work. In the event of a security alert, secretaries are tasked with concealing sensitive information and destroying any incriminating evidence that may have eventually been discovered and tracked by members of the other agencies. Roughly 30%-40% of civilian employees are employed as secretaries.

Spokesperson: This secondary civilian rank has employees with good public relations skills acting as the collective voice of the agency. They're briefed by members of the executive staff with between slightly higher to substantially increased levels of information restricted from secretaries, depending on the agency area they're assigned to. If the situation demands it, spokespeople are authorized to speak with news makers on certain issues, with the understanding that they can't discuss classified information.

Agency Liaison: Civilian employees with diplomatic flair can be appointed to this rank, which entails traveling abroad in the name of the ANIA and forging relationships with merchants, officials, and other liaisons. Imbued with some diplomatic immunity and armed with knowledge comparable to an FiO, they're able to negotiate supply contracts external to what can be procured by the Air Nomad theocracy, as well as work with Air Nomad embassy staff (provided the nation in question has one). The immunity is beneficial when in hostile territory like the Fire Nation, as it grants them some leeway and some freedom of unobserved movement in the area; such protection, limited as it is can aid a liaison in sensitive diplomatic matters as well as contacting ANIA operatives working nearby without detection. An important function of the liaison is to assist would-be defectors in leaving hostile countries for safer ground. Air Nomad policy regarding outsiders dictates that no outsiders can immigrate to their territories but they can stay for a period of time until emigrants can secure the proper papers to emigrate elsewhere. However, liaisons need clearance from ANIA's executive staff before they can assist in a defection. To avoid problems with Fire Nation port officials, the defector is either given a temporary diplomatic passport or stuffed inside a diplomatic crate, which by international law can't be opened unless strong evidence can be gathered and proven. Operatives sometimes perform extraction work when it comes to higher-profile targets, as a liaison's level of diplomatic protection doesn't cover such defections.

Operatives working for ANIA's Foreign Relations branch are sometimes given cover identities of Agency Liaisons to better gather intelligence and to be able to operative covertly in higher risk areas without much difficulty, given the diplomatic protection provided (so long as the agent isn't discovered outside of the cover identity).

Aide of the Air Nomad Ambassador (AANA): The most senior civilian rank, it by far has the longest name and is sometimes referred to by an even lengthier formal name: Aide of the Air Nomad Ambassador to the International Diplomatic Council (AANAIDC). What a headscratcher! Also imbued with diplomatic immunity, albeit more than that granted to an Agency Liaison but less than an ambassador, they accompany and act as glorified secretaries to the latter. AANAs are in charge of relaying information between the agency and the ambassador as well as transcribing diplomatic council sessions for the ambassador's personal records (as the IDC's official transcriber doesn't supply facsimiles). Aides are appointed by the ambassador from a list of approved candidates, with a maximum of three being chosen.

Encryption Codes

Although the ANIA refuses to divulge the numerous encryption codes sent to and from agents by the agency due to security concerns, it will reveal its message-sending protocols, as they're more or less universal save for a few variations.

With regards to missing agents, other operatives are deployed to try and track down their whereabouts. If a definitive result is reached, the second agent sends a message back with the operative's name (or code name if an SA), bound by a ribbon. The colour of the ribbon reveals the fate of the original agent.

  • Blue: Original agent has been found safe and sound. No further action needed.
  • Orange: Agent is wounded; coloured stripes on the ribbon itself dictate how badly (Green: Lightly injured - on site treatment possible; Yellow: Moderately injured - on site treatment can have mixed effects but it's better to evacuate the agent; Red: Seriously wounded - agent must be returned to base immediately for treatment; Black: Fatally wounded - agent must be returned for an autopsy and burial as soon as possible).
  • Red: Agent has been confirmed KIA. Second agent must return the corpse for an autopsy and burial.
  • Purple: Agent is probably missing, but a trail is evident. Second agent lingers until either the agent is found or confirmed MIA.
  • Black: Agent is confirmed MIA. Second agent is to return to base.


The ANIA has a number of commendations that can be bestowed on its employees.

  • Air Badge of Honour
  • Custard Pie Medal for Bravery
  • Sky Marshal's Cross for Efficiency
  • Black Arrow Medallion (awarded posthumously for sacrifices made to maintain the ANIA)
  • Winged Lemur Wing (awarded to operatives injured on mission)
  • Order of Kamatak (awarded to the agency's most outstanding operative; awarded every five years)
  • White Lotus Flower Medallion (awarded to retiring employees)
  • Air Temple Medallion (awarded to retiring Special Agents)
  • World Medal (awarded to retiring Executive Directors)

Notable Members

  • Malu
  • Monk Qindaq
  • Monk Taisoh
  • Brother Tarris
  • Karth
  • Monk Kamatak †

See more

For the collective works of the author, go here.

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