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|More from Sep0815||Adventure||PG-13||None yet|
|Beneath the Surface|
1 (of Book 2, 16 overall)
Air. Water. Earth. Fire.
After a long, fulfilled and yet exhausting life, Avatar Korra passed, being succeeded by Sari of the Earth Kingdom, who died early and didn't play a role in history.
The current Avatar is Asura of the Fire Nation, who mastered the elements quickly.
Although she thought she would never play an important role in history, she was proven wrong when the black ships arrived. The first one came in peace, but all the following carried a deadly load: WAR.
A war even the Avatar and her allies can barely end, one that threatens to consume the worlds involved.
And the question everyone asks is: Will there still be a world, a mankind to save?
Previously in Avatar: The War of the Worlds
The Four Nations' Legion finishes the Fourth Reich's 6th Shock Army off south of Full Moon Bay, as well as the Reich's 2nd Fleet (in the Eastern Lake north of it), in both cases being inferior in numbers and technology.
Not one single Step backwards?
It was the coldest day this winter, even Full Moon Bay was completely frozen, except for the docks. Most of the capital ships, actually all of the vessels - that weren't submarines - were in or on their way to Ba Sing Se, to the northern coastline of the Eastern Lake. The temperatures were around forty degrees Celsius below zero, and that made every form of travelling difficult. The two-seated and twin engine aeroplane kept flying nonetheless. Manning it were a young, female, auburn-haired and grey-eyed Air Nomad and a European officer of about the same age, blue eyes and black hair. Both of them could resist low temperatures, but this brought them to their limits, especially because of the even lower temperatures up in the sky. The European, not daring to touch the rear gun because of its cold, observed the ground below while rubbing his hands, stating to break the silence, "Kiruya will have to look at this later... I mean, I'm used to cold winters, but this...! We're not in Siberia. Oh, wait, you've never been there... "
The pilot asked casually, "And? What's it like in... Siberia?"
"Cold. And big... The amount of space, I mean."
Malu nodded, concentrating on flying the aircraft without letting its engines freeze. A few minutes passed slowly, and Mike began to open and close his Webley Revolver, which caused annoying "click"-sounds. After two minutes the bored Air Nomad's patience was at its end, and Malu turned around to face Mike and shout annoyed, "Stop it already!"
In this short moment of inattention, the aircraft decided to near the ground with rising velocity, and as she returned to control it again, her will was met with pure stubbornness. Mike turned around to get hold of the control stick, which he pulled towards him, which, being aided by Malu, changed the aeroplane's course and let them fly them just metres over a small ridge atop which the Legion had battled a month ago. However, what laid behind the ridge was much more astounding than the task the two had completed: an entire Shock Army equipped with winter gear, marching and failing to shoot the aircraft down. Mike returned to his proper position and let Malu steer, or rather race, the aeroplane back to their base, which they had reached within half an hour. Mike raced for the next radio unit with which the military headquarters in Ba Sind Se could be reached, while Malu went to the others. After five minutes of a kind of quest, Mike began to speak to a general of the Council Five, who apparently was a Legion's supporter.
"What can I do for you, Grand Admiral?"
"General... Gao, was it? I witnessed the approach of another enemy Shock Army, the 8th, as it appears, and to evacuate our Legion, I request the transfer of several more cargo submarines to the bases around Full Moon Bay."
A short silence followed, being ended by the General, "Hm... This Shock Army... You can't do anything about it because they expect you, eh? However, request permitted, Grand Admiral. They shall arrive in half a day's time, since I send them immediately."
Mike thanked the General, before ending his conversation to inform the Legion, "Lads, today, I and Commander Malu witnessed the approach of the 8th Shock Army, which we cannot defeat as we did with the 6th one. It is prepared and will arrive soon, but not if we evacuate to the impenetrable city earlier. I know I ordered you not to make a single step backwards, but now, there is no retreating - only advancing into another direction. We will go there by... submarine. The Earth Kingdom and the URN left us enough to transport two divisions of our infantry, and with the Earth Kingdom's arriving in twelve hours, the third infantry division will fit in, too. The aerial forces will, of course, fly there, and request to land somewhere in the Outer Ring. Now, pack stuff. Be ready to fit in cargo subs."
With his little speech, a mere order, finished, the first aircraft were being loaded with equipment and wounded ones. He and Malu went down the secret passage to Full Moon Bay itself, where they went straight for the central tent to pack their stuff as well, and to wait the hours until the Earth Kingdom's submarines' arrival.
While the sun had merely risen during Malu's and Mike's aerial reconnaissance mission, it was dusk when the submarines had arrived. Tired, but confident nonetheless, Mike stood up and spoke, "Alright, listen up! Divide yourselves into your respective platoons! Now, five platoons per submarine! It won't be comfortable, but it will be for the maximum of a day. Now be careful, as soon as one sub leaves, the next one's here already! Alright, let's go!"
The six of them went to an ordinary submarine, which was about to be the leading one.
The submarine cut through the waters like a knife through butter, even when submerged, which it now was. Mike and Zolu were discussing, Mike leaning onto the periscope and Zolu leaning against the nearby ladder, about who would lead this mission.
"Come on Mike, you're the de facto leader of the Team, why can't any of us ever lead anything?"
"Because you barely have experience! And, besides, you're the only one so far to ask for it... "
Asura, coming from the stern sections, interrupted annoyed, "I'm not sorry to interrupt, but Zolu's got a point, Mike, can't one of us ever lead a mission? Besides, you've never been aboard a sub before, and Zolu's even commanded one. So... Yeah, you know."
The two young men fell silent, before Mike decided to let Zolu have the position and try to get some sleep. Zolu stayed and observed the map in front of him, where a navigator showed him the route they were about to take, which wasn't the direct one, in fact it followed Serpent's Pass in ten kilometres distance. The reason was a blockade the Fire Nation and the Fourth Reich were setting up following New Year's Battle, which the other vessels, which already had taken their tank division with them, had just barely escaped. The soldier hailing from the Fire Nation first eyed the map, before his attention turned to the sonar controller, whom he asked if he had noticed anything but the other submarines. As the latter's answer was no, Zolu ordered to arise to periscope depth. After a minute, the leading one of the huge fleet of submarines was visible from the air, but ready to submerge any second. Almost every higher officer slept, and at the surface, it was a cold and dark night, while Zolu operated the periscope, from where he could spot any enemy ship a few kilometres away. The sea was calm, but Zolu couldn't decide if it was their or their enemy's advantage. However, the sight of an approaching flotilla of destroyers accompanying a cruiser cut his thoughts off, and he just screamed, "Down to one-hundred fifty metres! Enemy destroyers and cruiser coming our way!"
Within a few seconds, the entire submarine fleet streamed the ordered one-hundred fifty metres beneath the surface and kept moving forward as fast as it was possible, while the enemy flotilla dropped depth charges, which mostly, in the Legion's favour, either exploded too above or beneath the submarines. However, their detonations still had a clear effect on the fleet, as reports of dozens of minor damages kept coming in as the attack continued for almost an hour. When the enemy ships veered to the east, Zolu ordered all the ordinary, armed submarines to emerge and load torpedoes. After another hour of streaming, in which all of the submarines emerged to exchange their air, as Mike, who had awoken during the attack, called it, a flotilla of enemy ships came into sight. The crews prepared every weapon their vessels were equipped with, even the AA-guns, to be fired at this flotilla, which consisted of six destroyers, four corvettes and two frigates. Faster than normally possible, the armed submarines raced to aim at any of the approaching ships, before they shot their deck guns, as well as two torpedoes each. The latter hit three of the destroyers and one of the corvettes, before the submarines submerged again before being hit by the enemy. Again, the depth charges detonated all around them, but they decided just to go deeper. When the submarines had reached the depth of two hundred metres below the surface, where the bottom of the Eastern Lake was very close, in fact just a few metres below them. This enemy seemed to be more confident to bring them down, as they followed the huge fleet for almost an hour, when the latter were trapped between the enemy above and behind, and a rock formation in before, to the left and to the right side. Zolu decided to try to find a way through the underwater canyon before them, no matter how difficult and risky it was. Their submarine streamed through in the gap between two huge, natural columns, untouched by the detonations all around them. With great difficulties, the rest followed, forming a long, vulnerable but undetected line.
Not just a canyon
A second enemy flotilla had joined the first one in their now desperate search for the submarines. The pings resonated through the water a few times every second, letting the subs' sonar operators get a clear image of the landscape, as well as about the enemy's position.
"A constriction coming up ahead... Keep course, and we'll get through.", the sonar operator told Zolu silently, careful not to make a noise.
"We're evading them... like a sea serpent... ", the latter commented, a little chuckle escaping him afterwards. The sonar operator didn't find it funny, as his eyes widened as he spotted something huge and alive in front of them, crying out, "Speaking of which... "
Chills followed the sound of the sonar operator's voice, knowing all those old stories about Serpent's Pass were true - or at least the serpent was. A shock wave ran through the water, catapulting the submarines out of the canyon, which, in fact, was the serpent's lair, and making them visible to the enemy. Depth charges released an underwater inferno, which angered the serpent, who began to attack the enemy ships, even more and gave the Legion a chance to escape. Knowing it could be their only one, Zolu hurried to the radio unit, where he sent a message to the other subs, "This is our chance! Stay as agile as before, just speed up! We must move like the serpent, or else... dinner will be ready. So move already! Follow our first sub!"
Zolu seated himself halfway between the navigation and the sonar operator, who tried to make a sense from the sounds of motors, a sea serpent and depth charges detonating. Finally, he ordered directly, "Down! Fast!"
The submarine's bow tilted downwards and directed a sleep-deprived Mike right back into the direction he had just come. Cursing could be hear all over the vessel, but everyone fell silent when the sonar operator gave orders again.
"Serpent straight ahead"
"Uh, up again! Starboard if possible!"
It all ended up with the enemy, which was, by the way, the Fire Nation, fighting the serpent and the Legion silently racing through the canyon again. Behind, the battle raged as all kinds of weapons the ships possessed were fired at the serpent, who evaded the most and got hold of one of the frigates, which it pulled underwater with brute strength. Above, in the vast sky, the full moon shined brightly as gunships descended from a Fourth Reich's transport ship, transporting the newly founded 11th Shock Army directly to the frontline. The two flotillas retreated as fast as they could and left the frigate's crew for dead, which was answered by a gasp of relief in the entire submarine fleet, which now emerged again.
"That was some canyon... ", the sonar operator stated relieved, putting off his headphones and walking to his bed to finally get some sleep. Mike climbed out of the section he had slept in, asking, "Did I miss something?"
Rather smooth sailing
Mike stood atop the submarine's fin, observing the slowly lightening surroundings, Serpent's Pass visible in the west, as Asura came up to enjoy the relatively peaceful sight. Minutes of silence passed until Mike casually stated, "I thought the Fire Navy was a mightier enemy...Just some depth charges, I'm really disappointed... "
"My father's an Admiral in the Fire Navy... Admiral Fusu... ", Asura told him, other than him completely awake.
"Oh? And... What kind of person is he then?"
"I thought he would've taken action already, against Fire Lord Olizon, or at least conspire against him... I just don't know at the moment, the last time I've met him was a year ago... "
She paused for a while, processing what she just had said and continuing afterwards, "You never told me about your parents, relatives... "
The Grand Admiral froze and fell completely silent, as if he even had stopped to breathe, which made Asura realise this was nothing Mike wanted to talk about, as he asked, barely a whisper, "And about you?"
All of sudden, Zolu popped in through the open hatchway, babbling, "Dad's an Admiral, mum's a - well, was trained by the - Kyoshi Warriors, kind of at least, then there's mum's dad, a Fire Sage, and -"
"Shut up.", his sister cut him off, snickering a little. Zolu obviously wasn't pleased at this, and went into the vessel's belly again, which Asura followed after a few minutes, which hindered Kiruya to climb the ladder upwards. When she finally had arrived beside Mike, she leapt off the fin and into the water, which barely was realised by the latter, who just muttered, "I hope she knows what she's doing... "
Down in the salty water of the Eastern Lake, she exhibited the strength the fading full moon and the winter gave her, for example by using the "iceboard" technique. Before she returned to the fin after almost half an hour of "iceboarding", she propelled herself up to the fin using, just to show her level of mastery, a water vortex. When she landed two metres behind Mike, she stated joyfully, "This just reminds me so much of home... Where my father's ruling... How do you think does the war affect him, down in the south?"
"Uh, don't know, how cold is it down there?"
"Hm... Around thirty degrees below zero, sometimes up to ten degrees warmer or colder... "
"No chance the Fourth Reich succeeds down there... Almost every piece of machinery would freeze... And I believe that, if the stories about the wolf armours are true, Johnston's soldiers would be pretty scared... "
She took one last breath of fresh air before sliding the ladder down, crashing into Luo in the process. The latter complained and wanted to get up the ladder again, but Malu, who came speeding through half of the submarine, was faster and rather flew the ladder upwards. When the Air Nomad arrived atop the fin, she first inhaled as much of fresh air as she could get, before she took off with her glider, as the sun rose at the horizon, which dipped the entire scenery into reddish light. As her far relative and close friend before, she used the time they had to display their mastery of their respective bending art. Mike, now following Malu with the binoculars, shouted, "Seriously? Does just everyone have to do this?"
As when he had been talking to Asura, Zolu came up through the hatchway, answering his question immediately with a clear "No.", while the Air Nomad vanished into the clouds the one time and came out again above Serpent's Pass before she flew back to the first of the many submarines, breathing heavily, but rather from enjoyment than from exhaustion. When she had calmed down, she cleared her throat like before a speech and asked Mike in a very serious voice, "Hey... Do you remember that... evening, when we still were travelling with the rest of my people, and, after we'd taken that bunker out, they headed for the Southern Air Temple? I recently have received a message from my parents, whom we've thought dead... They're there as well... Are they save?"
Mike looked into nothingness, processing what he just had heard, before he wanted to assure himself by asking Malu, "This Air Temple... Is atop a mountain, right?"
"Considering we're fighting a very destructive war that rages among a quarter of the Galaxy... I'm not sure. I believe they are fighting to defend themselves, therefore, I'd say... They've taught you, didn't they? They're pretty good, then, so... They're safe as long as they are as good as you."
Malu smiled at both the compliment and the assurance of her parent's safety. Satisfied, she took off another time, letting Luo come up through the hatchway, who cursed about Zolu and Kiruya knocking him off the ladder, before he greeted Mike and assured the European, "Believe me... If I'd express my joy in bending, I'd be ripping the sub apart, and considering I'm no waterbender, I won't do this... "
The two stood there, watching Malu fly and, after half an hour, Luo pointed to the north, where the police officer had spotted something. Something big, not to say immense: the Outer Wall of the impenetrable city, Ba Sing Se.
"Here we go... my turn to be the Team's leader... ", Luo stated, rubbing his hands as the rest of the Team came up the ladder.
Notes and Trivia
- As some may have noticed, this entire chapter is a reference to the German war film Das Boot. Near the end of Book 2, there will be another entire chapter being a Das Boot reference.
For the collective works of the author, go here.