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March 13, 2013
None; starts here
Memories and Predictions (Work in progress)
Liberation is the premiere chapter of the fanon, by .
"Orzah. That's my name. My name is ORZAH!"
"That isn't what I'm led to believe. Reveal your true identity." a Fire Nation interrogator commands to a woman sitting in a wrought-iron chair, arms and legs shackled to the structure.
"I told you moments ago that my name is Orzah. I'm a Fire Nation entrepreneur living in the Xhu Wong quarter of the capital, married to the industrialist Kei Zhu. I run a business selling... UGH". The woman attempted to finish her statement when she was interrupted by an uppercut to her stomach.
"Quit your babbling. I've reasons to believe you aren't who you say you are." the interrogator sternly replied after his punch. "Firstly, there is no record of a woman by your name and occupation living in the Xhu Wong quarter. Secondly, although Kei Zhu is married and owns the house you allegedly occupy, he's been at sea for the past five years and his wife's name doesn't even come close to matching yours. Thirdly, what is that?" pointing to a four-pointed blue arrow tattoo on the woman's left shoulder.
"This?" the woman asked. "This is a compass arrow tattoo. Blue arrow tattoos are fairly common in the Fire Nation and are potentially attainable for everyone except members of the Royal Family."
"And why is that restriction imposed on them?" asked the interrogator.
"It is there because the Royal Family believes that any unnatural markings on a royal will bring them bad luck and sully the family's divine reputation."
"I see you know your history, and your claim about the tattoos being common is hard to deny. Even I have one of my own. However it doesn't change the fact that you aren't who you allegedly claim to be. I'm still not convinced!" the interrogator aggressively stated as he hit the woman's cheek with a fire-enhanced left hook. The woman kept her head down for a few seconds before turning her head to the side, spitting some blood onto the floor, and with a chuckle, focused her attention on the interrogator.
"Is that really the best you can do?"
"SILENCE!" the officer shouted before hitting her again. "You've experienced torture before eh? I want to keep you detained, but all the evidence I have against you is relatively circumstantial. The worst we could do is have you charged with possession of false identification papers but unfortunately the courts are quite impeded by these cases that they won't accept anymore for several years. I've no choice but to have you released." The interrogator motioned to a guard to unshackle the woman and the latter escorted her to the front desk where she had the majority of her personal effects returned to her.
As the woman walked out of the police station, she took a breath of fresh air; a far cry from the stale oxygen she had to inhale for almost 12 hours previously. She headed northwest towards her home and mumbled to herself some distance away from the station "That was a close one. Good thing they didn't discover my real identity: Malu."
At the same time as Malu's departure, the interrogator ordered two policemen to come to him. "Follow her" he said. "I don't trust her and I want to know where she goes, what she eats, how she conducts her business, and any other pertinent information. Keep a reasonable distance however, as I don't want her knowing we're secretly watching her every move. If her withstanding of torture is any indication, she may be dangerous."
"Will do, sir." one of the policemen replied. "We'll provide reports for any abnormal activities if they arise."
Remain Seen But Unnoticed
As a Field Operative working for the Air Nomad Intelligence Agency (ANIA), Malu's current task is to infiltrate the Fire Nation elite, and eventually to discover and dismantle any heavy armaments found in hidden caches throughout the capital. To be able to execute the mission, Malu had to remain seen but unnoticed. Being arrested for possessing false identification papers certainly placed a damper in the plan, but she believed her cover wasn't compromised and that the objectives could still be salvaged if she was incognito. Harkening back to her endless perceptive awareness training, Malu knew that she wasn't truly free from observation, and noticed the two policemen sent by the interrogator following her from afar. Following established protocol, Malu was to act normally for her cover identity; in this case eating at proper restaurants, attending sporting events and plays, and most importantly not doing anything abnormal for someone of her cover's class and stature.
After several days of playing her role normally and likewise typical reports by the policemen to the interrogator, the latter surmised that Malu (in her guise as Orzah) wasn't a threat and told them off. One of the policemen was still suspicious and against orders continued to tail "Orzah". Malu sensed this and led him on a trail around the city, ending at a secluded alley in the southeast of the capital. Once she was certain that no probability of detection was possible, she ran towards the wall and up it, then backflipped behind the policeman and fired an air blast at him, sending him crashing into the brick wall. The impact killed him instantly. Malu disposed of the officer's corpse in an abandoned warehouse near the crime scene, tucked out of view.
"He should've listened and obeyed his orders" Malu quipped to herself as she left the warehouse and headed back to her cover's house.
With her status secured and tails removed, Malu was ready to continue her mission of finding and dismantling weapons. After speaking with several informants, she determined the exact locations of the six hidden weapon caches placed around the capital; one in each quadrant, another located underground, and the last one's heavily guarded as it's the largest stash. The plan was to find and disassemble one set of weapons each day to avoid arousing suspicion, by removing the explosive components and substituting them for useless materials of equal or similar weight. If this couldn't be done, the weapon in question would be detonated inside an air sphere, nullifying the sound and preventing any shrapnel from flying away, to be disposed of afterwards.
After disposing of four of the caches and detonating another, the time came to infiltrate the last weapons supply, which was located in a building near an enormous foundry manufacturing iron swords, spears and shields. From extracting information through her informants, Malu knew that there were 30 elite firebending guards responsible for safeguarding 5,000 lbs of armaments, ranging from simple explosives to cannonballs and shells. The security detachment changed their positions every ten minutes; not enough time to break in and defuse the bombs nor dispatch enough guards to do the job safely, as the absence would easily be noticed. Additionally, a further 60 officers were stationed at the foundry in the event something happened to either property.
"It appears I can't execute this as easily as I thought." mulled a cautious Malu. "Perhaps some airbending will assist in the matter, but my cover could be compromised if I'm discovered at any time during the mission or in the immediate aftermath. A few air diversions and spheres should be perfect for the task at hand. As for the escape, I'll be hampered by several factors, the first of which is the weather. The fresh, terrifying thunderstorm encompassing the vicinity of the capital is dampening the air with a high percentage of humidity, making an attempt to flee via my glider not only impractical but dangerous. Although the firebender guards' ability to firebend will also be reduced, I'd rather not take the chance. The second factor is the agglomeration of confined spaces and small alleyways in the area; attempting air-enhanced super speed in such a zone is futile. I could also run along the rooftops if I pleased, but the idea is to draw as little attention to myself for as long as possible. The last, and perhaps most obvious disadvantage is being outnumbered. Even a skilled airbender like me can't hope to overcome close to 90 firebending elite guards simultaneously in such a small area without means to effectively flee" (unlike a certain black-clothed character who fights hundreds of other, suited opponents at once in an alternate and dystopian future).
Despite a low probability derived from her operational analysis, the end result was still within ANIA's preset parameters. Because Malu wasn't a Secret Agent but rather a Field Operative, she didn't have the ability to abort an objective at will... (but she will eventually, thirteen years from now).
"Who was that?" asked the narrator after losing his train of thought. No response greeted him.
Anyways, Malu decided to carry on with this final task, and lept from her perch overlooking the supply building to a shady alley adjacent to the structure.
Not. Finished. Yet.
Timing the shifting guard positions carefully, Malu stealthily advanced on the building, dispatching the newly-arrived guard and concealing him in a nearby hay bale. After gracefully eluding another pair, she arrived at the target area; a 40 ft x 40 ft pit dug 300 ft deep, the bottom of which contained the armaments. As time was lacking in abundance, Malu couldn't defuse the weapons safely, nor could she generate an air sphere large enough let alone durable enough to contain the magnitude of a forced detonation (no airbender could, except perhaps, the Avatar).
"Thanks, whoever you are. I was just about to divulge that fact." retorted the narrator in a sarcastic fashion.
There was only one option available to the intelligence agent, which was to set a timed fuse to blow the explosives up, and get the hell out of the premises. Malu opened a pouch on her person and brought out several matches as well as a piece of parchment. She folded the parchment into a small book and placed a match in each fold, with the one remaining match placed horizontally opposite the first fold, creating a time-delay fuse. Malu estimated that she would have no more than thirty seconds before the matches ignited the explosives, and placed the matchbook in such a way that the horizontal match faced away from the ordnance to avoid premature ignition.
As she retreated from the building, her hood caught in an errant spike near the door. With a guard approaching she yanked her garment, freeing herself, but ripping the hood cleanly off the stitching as it was designed to do in such a situation. Malu could only hope it would be destroyed in the blast. With roughly ten seconds to spare, the view shifted from the dark interior to the equally inky and stormy exterior. 45 metres from the property Malu was almost home free, but then...
"HALT!" a guard shouted at the silhouette that was her. Rather than stop, she kept on running, prompting him to give chase. Five seconds later, the building was obliterated by a massive shockwave emanating from a powerful, earth-shattering fireball. The explosion was so fast and persistent, that it was as if the extinct volcano housing the capital had erupted, at least in that part of the city. The luminosity of the blaze lit up the skies over the city; its blast radius could be felt for miles and its shockwave could be heard from even further away. The fireball rose to a few hundred metres in height, making it visible as far as 120 miles away. The explosion would've caused catastrophic damage to the capital if not for the very design of the pit, which funneled the majority of the blast further underground through secondary tunnels using negative pressure to guide the flames away.
While the guard continued to give chase, another rung a nearby bell to alert the foundry guards of the intruder. The lead guard launched a fire blast at Malu's rear, which she countered with an air barrier, inadvertently blowing her cover. "The assailant's an airbender. Surround her and fire at will!" another guard ordered.
Malu was chased to the alleyways just as she feared might happen. She maneuvered through the dark and wet corridors, anticipating the labyrinthine layout; not dissimilar to the sewer networks she had to navigate as part of her training. What she didn't anticipate was being surrounded in all directions by the guards she thought she eluded just moments ago. With nowhere to run, Malu readied her stance and twirled her staff into position while observing her inevitable opponents.
"Time to fight."
Encircled by a near platoon of Fire Nation guards (much like a certain waterbender was 25,000 years later), Malu could've given up and surrendered peacefully. In the grand scheme of things, none would be the wiser; one Air Nomad fighting that many firebenders simultaneously would never be expected to reign victorious. But she was an ANIA operative, and they rarely ran from a fight, as Air Nomad honour is on the line during each mission.
Even during these tumultuous times and despite their use of offensive airbending, Air Nomads rarely strike first. Sure enough, a naive guard charged towards Malu, jumping into the air and firing a volley of fireballs at the airbender. With a quick rotation of her staff and a swift movement of her free arm, Malu parried the salvo and used an air swipe to swat down the airborne firebender before resting her weapon upon his neck.
With both hands on the staff, the firebender was trying to free himself but the pressure Malu put on his throat nearly made him choke. The lack of oxygen made it impossible to firebend as well. Malu viewed her target with impunity, then shifted her gaze to her surroundings. At that moment a pungent odour moved in the wet, humid air; the guard had urinated out of fear, further soaking his already drenched undergarments. Expressing disbelief and disgust towards the guard, Malu switched her attention to the rest of the guards and berated them "If I managed to make one of you piss himself, what's to say I wouldn't do the same if you dare to attack me?". Immediately afterwards, she launched the guard skywards with an air column and waited for him to descend to a proper elevation before blasting him into several of the remaining guards, knocking them over.
After a few seconds of calm, another of the firebender elite force declared "CHARGE!", and the rest of them swarmed towards Malu, fireballs activated and ready.
The charge felt like an eternity for Malu, who took the time to whisper ANIA's motto "Out of sight, out of mind, to tail one who blew away in the wind" for strength. By the time she finished, she readied her staff and struck the first firebender who approached. Two others charged from behind executing fire blasts which Malu reflected back towards them with a charged air bomb. Then a group of 15 others launched fire blades in close proximity to create a ring-like attack. Malu generated an air shield and used her enhanced speed to manipulate the shield into a sphere, enabling her to blow it away, neutralizing the fiery ring and sending the group sprawling.
After collecting her breath while staring down the commander of the squad, Malu deployed her glider but then split her staff in half (A design feature of the early Air Nomad glider staff enabled a separation from the weapon's centre, provided the wings and tail assembly have been fully deployed. The staff could then be quickly reassembled provided it was split properly.). Wielding the activated halves in each arm with the wings and tail exposed outward, she readied her position once again. The crimson-orange wing/tail fabric nicely complemented her blood-red and yellow Air Nomad attire (freshly exposed during the initial skirmish after her operation-specific clothing was sheared off by her intense airbending) but even more beautifully contrasted the changing skyline; the thunderstorms have moved on, the heavy rain reduced to a drizzle and the sun rising in the distance creating a vivid rainbow behind Malu.
After air-blasting the ground to generate an opaque, soupy haze, Malu started an opening salvo of air punches and kicks, breaking a multitude of bones and crushing several guards into unconsciousness. This long into the fight, it's an amazing coincidence that no one has yet d... (Dare you spoke too soon. I must apologize for what the narrator was about to say; he can be quite spoiler-happy when enjoying his storytelling).
"Gah! I can narrate the story in any way I see f..." (Can you? Then get on with it without attempting to spoil anymore unless I grant you my authorization to do so).
"Hmph... well at least I got my voice back".
Anyways, some of the guards circled around the haze until they found a transparent blind spot and charged ahead. By the time Malu detected it they were too close for her to airbend effectively, so she fought them using her two staff halves. A punch parried here, a spear broken there, and a few fisticuffs later she gained enough distance to bend again. Unbeknownst to her the commander joined the fray and launched a fire whip. The blows disarmed her and she used air mirages and barriers until she regained her footing. Malu expended a lot of energy bending the most dynamic element on the planet, and the fatigue started to set in, with blurred vision and reduced coordination. Despite her years of training, even she couldn't prepare for such a lopsided brawl like this particular matchup. Regardless, the commander was one opponent she had to overcome, even though hand-to-hand combat wasn't her strongest suit.
Malu fired a few jabs which were blocked and then a right cross which was caught and converted into a powerslam by the commander. She pushed him off enough to stand, only to have to bend backwards to dodge a front kick. She was too fatigued to right herself and fell to the ground, then barely avoided getting stomped in the face by parrying the guard's axe kick. As soon as that was stopped, she delivered a haymaker to his knee, partially fracturing it. Regaining some strength and her footing, she attempted a clothesline which didn't even cause the guard commander to flinch because of her lack of strength and his large frame. Malu executed a flying kick which was caught and she was taken to the ground again. Before he could finish her off, Malu palm-struck his face and fired an air blast directly into his lungs before launching him into the air and retrieving a dagger from nearby. Malu jumped up after him and with one single, air-enhanced slice, beheaded the man. All that extra air she blasted into him only had one exit point and blew the corpse up, showering her in blood. She landed in a crouched position, soaked and with weapon in hand, fixing her gaze on the remaining guards.
The fight went on long enough that more guards joined the fray. Malu assessed the situation given the increase in manpower and her rapidly draining reserves, coming to the conclusion that she had to flee. Using airbending, she drew the staff halves toward her and reconnected them, attempting to deploy her glider and fly away. Unfortunately her fatigue was too difficult to overcome, and she only managed to get 100 metres away before she plummeted to the ground. Seeing the guards advance, she tried to lift her head up, but was kicked in her now-empty stomach and knocked unconscious by a cross to her chin.
After two days of unconsciousness, she awoke to find herself in a jail cell and bound hand and foot so she couldn't bend. Obscured by the bright light in the hallway and her need to adjust her pupils to accommodate, the Fire Nation interrogator approached the bars.
"So, we meet again, Kei Orzah. Or should I call you... Malu?"
"Who is this Malu you keep addressing me as? I told you who I was just a week ago."
"Not very truthful are we, ANIA swine? Perhaps a little burning will make you more cooperative." With that, the interrogator generated a small fireball and lobbed it into Malu's cell. She may have been bound, but Malu was still mobile enough to avoid the flame and extinguish it with an oral air blast, inadvertently exposing her true status as an airbender. Both individuals glared at one another for a moment.
"So you're an Air Nomad after all. My suspicions over the past week have been confirmed." the interrogator commented, breaking the tense silence.
"Wait until the IDC (International Diplomatic Council) hears about your violation of international law regarding the treatment of prisoners in non-interrogative situations, like what happened moments ago."
The interrogator replied with a rueful chuckle. "And how do you plan on springing yourself out of here and traveling across territorial waters southeast to the Council's neutral location to complain to the ambassadors there?"
"I don't plan to do so myself" Malu countered. "I sent a lengthy letter to my agency via messenger hawk explaining the events of the previous week and that they should contact the Air Nomad Ambassador to the Council if I didn't report within 48 hours. If my ability to tell the time is still true, then it's clearly been longer than that, and that means my salvation is at hand."
The interrogator had no comment, but the impact of her counter was acknowledged.
"Even yourself, who likes to think you're educated on these matters, couldn't have possibly deduced everything about me, even with those policemen you tasked towards trailing myself, one of which I killed."
"That makes two then" he surmised, not knowing that officer's fate until Malu told him of it. "That guard commander you decapitated? He was a distant cousin of mine. Not that I'm grieving his death due to personal reasons, but it still doesn't change the fact that you're a murderer and killed two valued citizens of the Fire Nation."
"A killer, maybe, but a murderer?" Malu responded. Immediately after, she started to giggle, which then increased to a chuckle, then a laugh, followed by hysterical renditions of what the interrogator claimed her to be (Malu is known at times to possess a cold, dark, and usually vengeful personality; this and her next passage are a testament to that). Her humorous expressions quickly subsided, substituted by an icy stare and grumblings of revenge "I can kill ten, twenty, maybe more of your countrymen, but that still pales in comparison to the hundreds of lives your people eviscerated when the Fire Nation and Earth Kingdom invaded Air Nomad territory several times over a five-year period 300 years ago. Even less so than the successive five-year Air Nomad counterattack against both nations which resulted in 2,000 deaths and displaced a combined 20,000 people from the resultant Air-Nomad-occupied territories."
The interrogator never had a chance to reply; he was too cross to think. Additionally a hawk arrived at the windowsill outside Malu's cell, carrying a message from the Fire Nation Chief of Security stating that the interrogator was under orders to release her from prison the next morning and escort her to a small island just outside territorial waters for a prisoner swap with the Air Nomads.
"Looks like your agency won your release" the interrogator stated after taking a minute to collect himself. "I'm under orders to release you from your cell tomorrow morning and escort you under guard to Snaketooth Island where a prisoner swap will be made."
Malu grinned at the news. Snaketooth Island, wedged directly between Fire Nation and Air Nomad territorial waters in the international zone, is indeed a small, uninhabited island. Deriving its name due to resembling the jagged profile of a dragonboa fang, it was the source of intense debate between the two nations for decades; the Fire Nation laid claim on the island while the Air Nomads declared it should remain a neutral zone. At the outset of the Air Nomad counterattack, it was used as a launching point for the westward invasion, and later it was one of the ANIA's earliest training grounds before the agency relocated to the Northern Air Temple.
"I can't wait to be free of these bindings and confines".
As ordered, the interrogator released Malu that next morning and took her to the neutral Snaketooth Island, where they awaited the Air Nomads who were just over the horizon.
After a half-hour, the Air Nomad ship arrived and weighed anchor. The boat was rather small. The Nomads (and by extension ANIA) didn't like to have large, cumbersome watercraft at their disposal as it contradicted their longtime philosophy of being quick and nimble; rather, the agency maintained a fleet of skiffs and patrol boats for naval operations.
The first figure to surface from the skiff's small deck was a slenderly-built Air Nomad; Monk Taisoh, who served as an ANIA Operation Coordinator and whose assistance proved invaluable to Malu over the previous year she's worked for the agency. After he reached ground, he motioned for three others to leave the boat; two acolytes carrying the prisoner: a disheveled man in his mid-thirties with chiseled facial features and a wild (wolverine-like) head of dark brown hair.
Upon fully disembarking, the two prisoners were unbound before being handed off to their respective handlers; Taisoh for Malu and the interrogator for the male prisoner. Malu quickly gave her friend a hug, stating "It's good to be back in safe hands."
The other prisoner turned his head as he was being marched away and stared at his freed counterpart with a calculated grin, before chuckling in her direction and resuming his march.
Malu glanced briefly at him, before embarking the boat.
"Come. Your mentor's waiting to debrief you."
- This is my first finished fanon chapter for either work since The Forged Friendships, Part 1 was published and released a little less than 1 1/2 years ago (has it really been that long?).
- Which character in either series has a "wolverine-like" hairstyle? Who is the mysterious character and who could he possibly be based on? If you've seen Avatar: The Abridged Series you'll know, otherwise wait for the next installment of LSTTOM.
- When the Author describes a black-clothed character fighting multiple suited opponents simultaneously, the presence is referring to Neo, but more specifically his park fight against the Agent-turned-Virus Smith and his seemingly endless copies in "The Matrix Reloaded".
- The story subheading of "Not. Finished. Yet." relates to my struggles with working on the fourth chapter of my previous fanon, . The chapter itself is in development hell right now, as no new additions have been made in months and may never see the light of day.
- The penultimate subheading, "Captured", alludes to ATLA's Book 1 episode, Imprisoned.
- A second parallel to that episode is that the Fire Nation interrogator is modeled after the Warden, although the former is far more cunning and sinister than his counterpart.
- How the interrogator addressed Malu in her cover identity the second time they met, Kei Orzah, is similar to how the naming order is used in Japanese, Korean and Chinese culture to name a few. These are cultures where the surname is stated first, followed by the person's given name.
- In her second conversation with the interrogator, Malu seems to display a few traces of insanity similar to another psychologically-twisted character from either series. How she deals with these tendencies is one of the supporting themes in the fanon.
For the collective works of the author, go here.