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|More from Sep0815||Adventure||PG-13||None yet||~weekly|
|The Final Test|
The Final Test is the fifth chapter of
Previously in A Tale of Rebels
In Ba Sing Se, Zoruka accepts Yi Ming's offer and becomes the Grand Secretariat of the Earth Empire, thus his second-in-command and commander over the Empire's secret service.
In Omashu, Skado and Senqok present their crossbow to Generals Wei and Anyang, however, are interrupted by Shizon, who brings news of the Armoury burning. As a reward for the extinguishing of the fire there, Wei invites them to dinner, and tells them of the history of the Liberation Alliance.
Chapter 5: The Final Test
Time had passed since Senqok had joined the Alliance, much time had passed, that was proven by the fact he laid in his bed just his in underpants - or however the piece of cloth covering his privates was called - and no one objected. To be exact, he had been in the Alliance for about a year, and during this time, his unit - Kabura, Shizon, Skado, Noki and Ranju - simply had ceased to care. He was reading a recently arrived order from the main base - they were not Omashu, and though the room was almost identical to theirs there, this one - and the whole network, which was considerably smaller - were dug into dried mud, which was equal to the rock in terms of hardness.
"Senqok, you may cloth yourself. It's our turn to keep watch, and it's rained for the past hours." Kabura's words were met with grumbling, and thus she decided to take a look on what the waterbender was reading. "New directions? Dammit, Anyang surely could've waited with signing us up for the final test. Then we would've had time to train our sense of orientation... "
Senqok then handed the message to Noki, the de facto commander of the squad, who rolled her blind eyes, before the Water Tribal decided to search his trousers. While he did so, Skado had received the orders and switched his attention from the letter to the map he had laid on the table beneath him, before looking up to the letter and back to the map repeatedly.
"If we are to arrive on time, we have to move out immediately. We've only got two days to travel and heavy rain. We've lost too much time," he concluded, comparing the map with the sent instructions. Senqok had found his trousers buried beneath the rest of his uniform, took it on, and looked up to Skado briefly, stating, "I'll pack my stuff right away... "
In a matter of minutes, the waterbender was ready for marching off, as was Kabura, who followed him outside. Then came Skado and Noki, afterwards - and last - Shizon and Ranju, a few minutes between each pair's leaving. The went through a narrow corridor, in which Skado repeatedly got stuck, and then climbed up a ladder, at whose top a wooden cover laid. Hesitantly, Senqok pushed it up, peeking out between the camouflaging leaves, and then threw the wooden plate upwards, and ran outside to take cover near a tree, the others following, before Skado had to close the chute again. Everything around them was soaked wet, and the many and densely-standing trees of the deciduous forest they were in provided little to no cover. Skado gestured into a direction, screaming through the heavy rain, "THIS WAY! WE NEED TO GO THIS WAY!"
Moving as one, the six of them quickly made their way through a trail partially covered in mud, the rest being flooded. The weather was unforgiving, after only half an hour of marching towards their destination, Senqok couldn't find a single dry part of his body.
"Rain's so heavy, it's like fog and flood combined... " Ranju's comment was only partially audible through the heavy rainfall, through the constant sound of drops of water colliding with some surface, but Senqok still understood enough of it to fully agree. They waded through the more and more fluid mud, until they came to a point where four stone foundations rose from beneath the brown waves, where a rive flowed. Skado climbed up on one of them, and announced, "There's supposed to be a bridge over this river. Well, no other choice than to arrive on the wrong side of the river, eh?"
The group agreed, until Skado revealed their destination to lie upstream. Cursing, Senqok decided to take the lead and bent most of the flowing water out of the way, creating a short and narrow path to walk, barely enough for the others to at. They continued to follow the river's course for a few hours, until it - slowly but steadily - started getting dark. The rain slowly - almost unnoticeable - decreased in strength, and the water - or mud - flowing around them also started getting shallower, thus easier for the exhausted Senqok to bend. That was, until they found that the - seemingly paved - path they went was rising, and, after another hour, when the surroundings became almost invisible due to the setting darkness and the heavy rain, Senqok noticed, as the first, that they had reached non-flooded area. The waterbender, grateful for being able to touch relatively dry ground again, simply collapsed on the pavement, while Shizon made it his mission to find an actually dry place to spend the night at, the others aiding him. The others, that was, except for Noki, who walked up to the lying waterbender, kneeled down and laid a hand on his shoulder.
"Don't worry, tomorrow, if necessary, I'll bend the mud outta the way... " She smiled speaking the words, her blind eyes somewhat shining, only to shine brighter when Shizon declared himself successful.
"Senqok, dammit, get up from the damn road! We've found an uninhabited house that's in a far better condition when it comes to humidity!"
The small village before them was silent, just as it was expected to be. Down the hill, by the river, were the village's rice fields, while the village itself was built on the hill on a kind of terrace, which also functioned as a kind of fortification - nothing unusual or even suspicious about this village, at least not for the region.
"Ma'am, are you indeed sure this is the right village? Around here, this is just a common type of settlement." The agent's voice was doubtful as he cowered behind a tree just by the only road leading to - and through - the village.
"Of course I am! This is the exact position our agents gave us. Just take a look on the tree down there. It bears the marks of repeated battles, don't you think?" Zoruka's voice was confident but silent as she gestured towards the sole tree in the rice fields below. "This has to be the training facility we were informed about. The Rebels' greatest training facility."
Some of the agents, who were predominantly male, exchanged doubtful glances, until one of them, clearly a woman, rose her voice from the constant murmuring. "Ma'am, with all due respect, the whole village could be soldiers of theirs, and we've received information that one of their five generals - all masters of their art, may I add! - is said to have arrived in the past few hours, and we're just a dozen of- "
"Are you the elite of the elite or not?" Zoruka cut her off. "We'll sneak in, eliminate any resistance by the principle divide and conquer and in the morning, our fastest one will head off to get army reinforcements. Understood?"
The agents refused to cease the exchange of worried glances, but at their superior's command, they indeed did - for a few seconds - only to answer, "Yes ma'am!" and continue afterwards. Then, however, Zoruka shushed their murmurs and commanded, "Alright now, let's go!"
The Fire Nation Princess, covered in her robes, stealthily slid across the dirt road and up to the miniature - yet deep - gorge that separated the village from them. Over the small brook's course lead a simple ramshackle bridge made from wood, one which was towered by two small watchtowers on the other side. Attempting to start climbing through the gorge to reach the other side unnoticed, Zoruka managed to slide off at her first step, but managed to catch herself and climb up without difficulties, she immediately took advantage of her gaucheness and sped across the bridge and up the left watchtower - which by the way was built from clay - to find what she expected there - a soldier leaning over the tower's parapet, looking into the gorge - her improvisation of drawing attention had worked flawlessly. Having crept up to the soldier, she gagged him with a piece of rope she took out of her robes' inside pockets and then, taking him by his collar and his bottom, she threw him down into the gorge within a matter of seconds. Having again created an distraction, she made it possible for the agents to sneak in over the bridge and take out the other watchtower. As she went down to meet her subordinates, she found a piece of paper - a letter. Taking it with her after skimming over it, she immediately faced the agents of hers.
"Change of plans," she announced. "There are enemy units on the way here, we need our reinforcements as soon as possible! Li, you're the fastest, go get some soldiers, about a platoon ought to be enough. Now, onwards!"
A single agent emerged from the crowd of others and approached Zoruka. "Uh, ma'am, I can't without the Imperial sea- " He would've continued, but he was gagged by some seal of a kind. As he managed to take it out of his mouth, he realised which one it was, briefly saluted before Zoruka and, alike her, bolted off, although into a different direction. Meanwhile, the agents advanced following the dirt road, always moving as a single unit, that was, except for Zoruka. She leapt into the first alleyway she could find and, from there, jumped up to the nearest house's roof, which she then climbed with ease. Creeping up on the rooftops, jumping from roof to roof, Zoruka made her way through the village and took out anyone she noticed wearing the Alliance's uniform with a powerful, precise fire-jab to the heart. As she decided to visit the main road again, she could see why she hadn't seen any of her own subordinates. The Alliance's garrison had concentrated one and a half dozen of their soldiers, all nonbenders, to hold up the advancing agents, and another half dozen was on the way. Other than the agents of hers, who moved as one, as a unit, the Alliance's soldiers all moved individually, and also fought individually. But other than she had expected, what she presumed to be a weakness was a strength in the heat of battle, and what she had thought of as efficient disappointed her, being a failure, not that the agents were sloppy, but they simply couldn't react properly to being attacked from almost all sides. Two of them already were lying on the battlefield, wounded, while of the defenders five had fallen. As she noticed her agents would not emerge victorious from this fight, Zoruka decided to make use of the last firebending techniques she had been taught. Leaping upwards with tucked-up legs, she extended them again, shooting a stream of fire from her feet, repeating it with her arms as well. Like an arrow, she shot upwards until she decided it was enough, and then remained floating in the air. Looking at the clouded sky briefly, she concluded it would rain soon and it could delay the reinforcements' arrival, thus she had to act fast to safe her unit.
"Alright now, you've played enough. Surrender, rebels, and we might have mercy!" Her voice was cold and commanding, and made the agents smile relieved. The soldiers, on the other hand seemed rather intimidated by the display of prowess, and, no matter where from, fled towards a single place. Not that Zoruka didn't find the feeling of intimidating appealing, but something inside her told her that it certainly wasn't as good as she thought it was. Shaking her head, she redirected her thoughts to her mission. The enemy soldiers fled to another watchtower, one that was carved and made from stone and looked more like a small fortress than like a watchtower, standing on a rock needle, the only connection to the village being a ramshackle bridge. Whatever, she thought, what matters is they don't annoy us with their resistance anymore.
In the moment the first rays of sunlight hit the sleeping commanders' face, she awoke to hear the
tunes of nearing marching music, and, in time with the music, heavy boots hitting the dirt. After a minute or two, she opened her eyes unwillingly and glanced outside of her makeshift tent, only to hit an ostrich horse in its face, and toppling over following that. As she got to her feet again, the man mounted on the beast saluted before her and handed her the flag he had been carrying.
"Your excellency, the platoon of mine now is yours to command, as am I. We- " The platoon leader's speech was cut off by Zoruka's sleepy voice. "Shut up. Get the flag up the watchtower there... " She gestured towards another watchtower the village possessed, one that faced the river below and looked more like a house built higher than usual, before she continued. "...get some thirty men to that bridge there to hold our side, twenty men to watch both entries of that road and let the other fourteen and my agents patrol the village in pairs. Dismissed."
The baffled officer did as told, until Zoruka noticed another ten soldiers not being part of the platoon, ten soldiers who surrounded two carriages loaded with barrels and strange devices. Pulling the by-walking agent who organised the reinforcements close to her, she hissed, "And who would those morons be?"
"Department of Experimental Weaponry, m'lady." It seemed she had not been as quiet as she had thought she was, as the answer came from one of the strangely-uniformed soldiers.
"...and what experimental weaponry have you specialised in...?" Zoruka rose an eyebrow at the sight of the devices, which seemed to be strange catapults, and the barrels as well.
"Chemical weaponry, y'know, m'lady, Greek fire, various toxins to poison wells with, but this, oh, this's poison gas. Nowhere to hide from that once the projector's propelled it to its target, 'cept above it, of course." The soldier's explanation somewhat intrigued Zoruka. "Well, position your... projectors over there, by that watchtower with the flag, or somewhere hidden in the woods, just somewhere so that the rice fields are in range... we're expecting to be attacked today, and I'd like to see your poison gas in action..."
Anyang rose from the spartan bed of his, and then, upon hearing immense noise from the outside, immediately climbed the tower's platform. The sight presenting itself shocked him - the entire village crawling with Imperial soldiers and agents, thirty of whom were positioned on the other side of the bridge connecting Anyang's watchtower with the village. Upon having to redirect a few arrows fired at him, Anyang decided to retreat back into the tower, where half of the village's soldiers had gathered, spread over all floors of the defensive structure. He went to a little chamber he used as his office, and immediately wrote a short letter, before he then put it into a small tube for use with messenger hawks. Fortunately, one single hawk had remained at the tower, and now was attached the message.
"Sending a distress call?" a curious soldier asked from behind.
"Not directly. It's a warning to the unit who were supposed to finish their training here today." Anyang sped up to the platform again, where he then released the bird. As expected, the falcon ascended into the air with a beat of its wings, and headed off to the river, before something stopped it mid-air - an arrow, one that struck the bird into its wing. Anyang only found one word fit for describing his situation. "Fuck."
Other than the previous day, on this one, the merry band of about-to-become soldiers had nothing in their way to the final test of their fighting abilities, not heavy rainfall nor sudden floods.
"It says the hut by the boat will contain the rest of the necessary equipment, helmets and stuff... According to this one, we've got to walk some five hundred metres more..." Skado explained, reading from the instruction letter and the map at the same time.
"Maybe the flood took the hut and... y'know... and stuff... " Shizon didn't need to say what he meant, after the previous day, his comrades knew what he meant. "Or, maybe, that up there is the hut... "
Skado looked down from the map only to catch sight of the rice fields, the rock needle with the watchtower, and the high-situated village immediately, before looking to the paved road again, at whose right side - at the left, the river was situated - a simple hut stood, to which the six now bolted, and stormed into. There laid six helmets, all of a type designed to more or less abut on the head but yet protect it as much as possible. Below laid gas masks, and just by each helmet's - except one's, which was Noki's - side was a crossbow, and a quiver to be strapped to the soldier's belt full of crossbow bolts. Within a minute, the six stood ready at the hut's entrance, until Senqok decided it to be time to start. He crossed the road, the others following hesitantly, and walked out onto the marshy land between the road and the river. That was when the first shards of earth began to bang in around him, which made the others even more hesitant. When he had reached a relatively low damn just by the river, he took cover, gesturing the others to follow swiftly. While all others crossed the distance within half a minute, Noki struggled, not being able to see all too well. Thus, Senqok hurried over to her and carried her as fast as he could to the dam. There, shards of compressed earth started to perforate the already damaged dam, and after a bombardment of about a minute, it was weakened enough at her position for Noki to break through the dyke.
"Noki! Hold out, I'm gonna get ya!" Senqok dove through the hole Noki had created and into the water, while the others had somehow found the boat they were meant to use for crossing the river. The waterbender dove into the muddy water, and almost instantly got hold of the slowly sinking Noki. Emerging again, he noticed the bombardment had increased in strength - and now also included arrows, thus he rose a shield of ice from the water, and also froze a bit of the water to a slab of ice to stand on. There, he dried himself and the shivering and coughing Noki. Seeing they were not the main target, the Water Tribal took a glance at those who were. The boat was rowed by Kabura and Skado, Shizon and Ranju were the ones retorting the enemy fire, quite literally in Shizon's case. Then, Senqok was proven of just how wrong he had been about their safety - his shield of ice shattered, and, surprised, he fell off the slab he had been kneeling on. Still holding Noki, he ordered, "Breathe in, we're diving again!"
Noki did as told in the few seconds available for doing so, then she was pulled underwater again. Senqok tightened his grasp of Noki's relatively small body, and then propelled himself forward through the water. Arrows and chunks of earth of constantly increasing size penetrated the water surface, only to miss them - the currents of their forward motion were too strong. Of all that Noki could only feel the currents of projectiles almost coming too close, and the dull sound of them entering the water. However, it all was over faster than she would've expected it, and, again, they were using a dyke for cover. Again, Senqok dried the two of them again, and immediately filled his two water skins with the liquid, as the others landed only four metres distant from them. Being relatively safe, as Noki could harness her powers again, the six moved closer to each other to discuss a plan for advancing over open field under heavy fire.
"We need to stick together, we'll form a little target, so that way we can prevent losses of any kind, I'm sure of it!" The somewhat hoarse voice belonged to Shizon - he had commanded the boat before, and screamed at the top of his lungs.
"No, that way, if one falls, we all do. We need to spread over the whole field, so they can't pin us all at once down." Skado's plan was met with equal acceptance like Shizon's, but not nearly with as much as Ranju's proposal was. "How about we advance spread over the field in pairs? Sounds like a plan doesn't it?"
The others nodded, accepting the proposal, and, peeking over their cover, Kabura announced, "Take cover behind that tree over there again, shall we?"
The six then climbed over the dam and immediately formed pairs, Noki and Senqok were one, Ranju and Skado another, and the last was formed by Kabura and Shizon. Shards of rock and arrows had ceased to rain, it now was more of a drizzle compared to the situation before, and so, they advanced over the barren field swiftly and without difficulties, gathering again behind the knaggy tree in the fields' centre Kabura had mentioned before. Lying in the ditch between two fields and the tree, they were relatively safe from whatever projectile was to be shot from the village, but not from what Senqok noticed approaching. In a high arc, containers of some kind emerged from the village and the woods to the right, only to land around them in radius of approximately twenty metres. Upon impact, the containers cracked open and spread their deadly content.
"Watch out! Gas! We need the gas masks, and to get outta here, fast!" What Senqok thought to be nothing more than a hasty order to his comrades was more of a stressed cry. Each of the about-to-become soldiers took off their helmets, brushed their hair out of their respective faces and then adjusted their gas masks to fit perfectly, with which no one seemed to have problems, not even Noki. However, that was before she had found out she carried no filters for the mask. The poisonous gas crept closer as she trembled heavier by the second, about to die not from the gas but from stress. Noticing this, Senqok quickly grabbed his reserve filter and screwed it into Noki's mask. As she noticed this, she immediately calmed, and shouted, as she noticed the bombardment had increased again, "Quick, to the wall's base!"
Where their sight failed the others throughout the sickly yellow gas, Noki was the only one to rely on, as she lead them through the even intensifying fog of poison gas, more resolute than any other of them could've in the situation. Then, the terrain began ascending, and slowly, metre per metre, the poisonous mist cleared again. Before even noticing it, they had escaped the cloud, and after a few dozens of metres more, the had reached the wall's base. The wall was essential for the village, it prevented landslides from simply sweeping the village off the slope, and from their current position, rose up some twenty metres. From above, boulders began their descent, boulders whose path downwards Noki altered just enough for them not to strike her five comrades. With Noki keeping them safe for the next few minutes, Senqok found it safe to take off the gas mask and it to be time for another briefing.
"All right now, what IS our objective, actually?" The waterbender's question was frank and honest, which quite surprised the others.
"You really don't remember it? Ugh... Three words: Capture. The. Flag. See that flag on the tower? That's the flag. We need to capture it, and if possible, loose none of ours. Get it?" Shizon was annoyed to even have to explain it to his comrade, who then surprised everyone by simply latched onto the gaps between the massive rocks forming the wall. After taking a solid minute for the first two metres, Senqok had quite understood how he had to grab into what kind of gap, and crawled up like a Canyon Crawler, Shizon and Kabura following him, Noki racing up on an earth platform, taking Skado with her, and Ranju making use of her airbending. Within a matter of minutes, the squad had reached the village, and without hesitation, Senqok unsheathed his sword and used it to push away the nearest soldier between himself and the tower. As the others arrived around him, he rushed to the tower only to ascend it the very same way he just had climbed the wall, and upon arriving atop the watchtower's roof, he took the flag he found there, and swung it, shouting, "We're victorious, we're victorious!" that was, until he noticed the masses of soldiers in the village. "We're vic-to... rious?"
"Senqok, get down from there, this is -" Skado had realised the gravity of the situation when he had shot an enemy soldier into the stomach, and he hadn't inched back.
"I know, a real battle, thanks for the information, Skado!" Senqok's reply was rather sarcastic, and said just before the Water Tribal leapt down from the rooftop, drawn sword coated with bent water, and lashed down on the nearest enemy he could find. The head rolling wouldn't be the last one that would roll that day. Soon enough, soldiers came streaming into the alleyways the six strolled through, always approaching in pairs. The first ones they confronted were met with a volley of crossbow bolts, which was enough to permanently strike them down. As the six reloaded, the next ones approached them, two pairs this time. Senqok drew his sword and planned on quickly impaling the foe he was facing, but the soldier was more prepared than the waterbender had believed, so he formed ice claws with his water and shot them into his adversary's shoulder, distracting him. Then, he pulled away the enemy's other hand with his remaining water, and leapt at him, kicking the soldier's last ditch effort of defending himself, a boulder risen from the ground, aside, proceeding with impaling the man.
Meanwhile, Noki also faced an enemy soldier, one whom she shot a boulder at. The boulder he crushed, still being blown back, but anticipate the small rock to stumble over at, he did not. Thus, he stumbled over the small rock Noki had placed there, only to have his head crushed by the boulder Senqok kicked aside. Ranju, however, had little of a match - Skado had finished reloading a little earlier than she could strike, while Shizon faced the worst enemy of all. A crossbow bolt stuck in deep in his chest, the man refused to show even hints of weakness. All he did was to launch rocks at the firebender, who could do nothing else than to duck under the projectiles, to evade them, until Kabura, who had shot him once already, fired another time, striking the soldier's face. That was when Skado had decided to fight from the roofs rather than on the ground, all others except Noki - for resulting complete blindness - following. While Senqok followed Noki as to cover her, the others stuck together in their journey atop the rooftops. Taking out enemy soldiers occasionally, Senqok and Noki, somehow, got a good view on the watchtower on the rock needle. It was a small fort, actually, and- "Noki! I know you're never gonna believe me, but on that watchtower, there's Anyang! I think I just saw him!"
At the word 'saw', Noki rolled her eyes, but then decided, "We better tell the others!"
The two headed off, this time Noki having to follow Senqok, as she was unable to see on the rooftops. In the meantime, the others too had inflicted losses on the enemy, even though not as many as Noki and Senqok had managed. They were heading towards one entry of the village, where a gorge separated it from the woods on the other side, when all of sudden, a woman in Earth Imperial robes leapt on the roof as well. She had pale skin, and amber eyes, something known to only occur in the Fire Nation. The stance she assumed upon catching sight of the group proved their presumptions on her origin, as did the spinning movements of hers to lash an arc of fire at them. Stepping forth, Shizon dissipated it with relative ease and launched a few fireballs with the intention of making his opponent slip and fall from the roof, but he failed. Just as she intended to launch another attack, a clicking sound was heard, as if someone had reloaded one of Skado's crossbows. What then followed was the unexpected voice of a Water Tribal. "Cease your attacks or the bolt I've loaded will have the honour of penetrating your skull." It was Senqok who spoke. The woman spun around, only to hear the same clicking noise behind her - twice. With three crossbows being aimed at her from different directions, she found herself relatively powerless. "So, whoever you may be- "
"If you want to know, I'm Zoruka, Princess of the Fire Nation and Grand Secretariat of the Earth Empire. You'll get familiar with the name." The cold smirk the woman had worn to the sentence was enough to make some of the group tremble. "Oh, please continue."
"So, Zoruka, with all due respect, if you don't want your head pierced by several crossbow bolts, order your soldiers back. Leave this village, and never come back." Senqok's voice had at first been insecure, but by the end of his demand, he spoke utterly resolute.
Zoruka sighed. "I'm not sure about that 'never come back', but- "
"THEN LEAVE DAMMIT!" Other than Senqok, Shizon slowly lost his patience. Instead of his crossbow, he wielded his dual Dao swords, and had his hands coated in flames, gritting his teeth all the time. The expression he wore was enough to scare Zoruka off. Agile as she was, she jumped off and gracefully landed, then calling out to her soldiers and agents, calling them back. Senqok smiled at his success.
"Congratulations, my friends, congratulations! You, Noki, Senqok, Kabura, Skado, Ranju and Shizon, you have been admitted into the Liberation Alliance, but after your extraordinary results in your test, which, at first without your knowledge, was an actual battle, we have decided not to allow you into the ordinary forces, but instead to form a commando unit from you." Anyang's words made the six feel proud of themselves and of one another, before he continued, "Without your courage, without your boldness in battle, I myself and a handful of our best soldiers would've been lost. For your exceptional display of courage, of capability, we have decided to award you - all of you, for only together you could accomplish what you accomplished - the Medal of Valour," Some soldier, likely Anyang's - or, given the airbender's despise for such posts, Wei's - adjutant, handed him medal after medal, which the General attached to the new soldier's uniforms, before continuing. "and the Medal of Merit. Keep in mind that those normally are awarded to experienced soldiers, who have served for decades. Wear them with pride."
Anyang then, as everyone had received their medals, let them retire to their room, but before anyone of them could open the door, the General spoke, "No, but seriously, what you did... was most honourable. You forced them to withdraw, but it happened peacefully afterwards, and thus without bloodshed. I am proud of you, not for the men you killed before, but for what you did afterwards. For your greatness not to murder her like anyone else would've. Now, you may retire. Good night."
Notes and Trivia
- The helmets are meant to be a simple variant of the Zunari Kabuto, just for its (somewhat) resemblance with the German World War-era Stahlhelm.
- The gas masks were inspired, at least from the looks, by Mempo, a kind facial armour worn by the Samurai. That, and of course some of the rather frightening real-life Gas masks, those using round filters, to be exact.
- The "final test" itself was inspired by the training of clone soldiers in some episode Star Wars: The Clone Wars, of which I have forgotten the title.
For the collective works of the author, go here.