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Tala-Book3Title8
The Airfield
Chapter information
Series

The Journey of Tala

Book

3

Chronicle

Pyres and Storms

Chapter

8

Written by

Kuir

Editor(s)

Decca03

Release date

February 13, 2013

Chronology
Last chapter

Chapter 7: The Exiles

Next chapter

Chapter 9: Roots of the Past

The world is engulfed in war. Blood has spilled as the Nations contest a balance of power. Avatar Tala must guide the world in order to bring stability back, but must deal with resistance and ancient threats that risk to change the course of the world forever.

Chapter 8: The Airfield

Tala stood in the open square flustered. She hadn't felt this inept since she had first started airbending three years ago. It took her weeks to even bend air, let alone do anything advanced. Now she was doing that again with an element she had learned before, fire. It wouldn't have been so bad if it was air or water, but fire was like breathing to her. Her birth during Sozin's Comet accelerated her firebending so that it progressed at the same rate as her earthbending, which was how her family knew she was the Avatar all along.

She had learned firebending after mastering earthbending with Suun. Now she was relearning it under Rishu and looked like a new student. Somehow she felt that she should be shorter, have a voice that cracks and have no boobs or hips.

"Focus!" Rishu yelled as she punched forward with all her strength, tensing her muscles as flames burned her target. She had been in Republic City for a week and Rishu had her to the grindstone learning firebending from the start.

"No. You're making the same mistake every firebender of Urban and Traditional Forms make. Firebending comes from the stomach, hunger. You must let the hunger consume and breathe, ready yourself to attack."

"I know where firebending's power comes from," she spoke in a confrontational tone. He was patronizing her as if she knew nothing about firebending.

"Really? So if I were to strike," a hit lurched her stomach with the precision of Chi-Blocking, she doubled over in pain, "-at your stomach, could you still firebend effectively?"

She held her stomach as it was raw from the strike that had neutralized her firebending. Rishu stood over her, "Never take anything for granted, even trust. There are many, even within my own ranks who would love nothing more than to kill you or worst. It is important to reserve trust for those who earn it."

"If that's the case, then why do you trust Ralyn so much? You relied on her to turn me over, you couldn't trust just any mercenary to do that."

"Ralyn is different from most mercenaries, we have history."

Tala eyed him, "Are you saying that you two used to-?"

"Long ago, yes. But that time has passed."

"Why?" Tala was always inquisitive. She may be restrained about answering questions, but not about asking them.

"Her line of work was the principle issue and that is all I'll say about that. Back to your lessons."

Tala was able to firebend again and began her exercises again, focusing on her breathing like she would airbending. Rishu encouraged her new approach though he corrected her stance from time to time. They were just about done when a messenger arrived.

He bowed to the two, "Sir, Grand Marshal Toz has sent word. They have found it."

"Ah. At last, we have the location."

"Location of what?" Tala didn't know what they were talking about.

"The location of the United Forces headquarters in the mountains beyond Republic City."

A Necessary Action

Tala stood in a corner as a convening of some of the most important leaders in the Fire Nation's Air Force was present. Grand Marshal Rishu, Dragon Commander Taron, Dragon Lieutenants Seyyah and Lira, and Captain Liam were just a few of those present.

On the other half were the critical pieces of the Fire Nation's Army. Grand Marshal Toz and his own retinue including the legendary Dust Dragons were present. The security and secrecy to this meeting was vital. The situation in Republic City was still tense and was fraught with dangers in such a large metropolis.

Toz finished briefing everyone present. "In short, it sucks no matter what we do. The weather is so bad right now that to attack is going to be bad and to wait will be worse."

Rishu responded, "Which is why the Sky Dragons are needed. To open the door with a little havoc."

Toz answered begrudgingly, "Yes," obviously there was some rivalry between the Grand Marshals, "but I must wonder how it is that you will get in there unnoticed when we cannot?"

"That is for you to wonder and for us to know," Rishu pointed at the map continuing past infiltration. "Depending on whether we are noticed or not upon arrival will decide our targets."

He pointed at a far corner of the map, an isolated spot of the base. "If unnoticed, we will start from here and make our way to the communications of the facility and then power. The Dust Dragons will move in from the blind spot they already located. Between the two of us, this base is doomed."

Commander Razul crossed his arms skeptically, "And what if the plan fails, sir?"

Rishu smiled, "Then we start without you. The Sky Dragons will split up into three teams and hit for three objectives. We will strike communications and power simultaneously while a third party tries to draw away the enemy by destroying as much as we can. This scenario will have enough havoc that no one will notice your arrival until its too late."

Commander Taron inquired, "What are our options and contingencies for pulling back once we have completed the mission, sir?"

Rishu answered firmly, "That will be dealt with by the Dust Dragons and Grand General Toz. The key to surviving this mission is in their hands."

Emerald

Tala sat in the room with Lira and Taron as they discussed tactics. Tala couldn't resist knowing how exactly they would get in, they only talked about once they were in. The two looked at each other hesitantly. Another voice allowed them, "Its alright, she can know," Rishu entered the tactical room.

Taron elaborated on the secret that made the Sky Dragons so successful, "With the advent of technology, we have vehicles capable of travel high above the earth and at speeds too fast for the human eye to trace for long."

"We have made these special jets to take us as high into the atmosphere as possible. We then jump out and glide down to our location, in what we call a Deadfall Drop. We land in our location, usually unseen and ready to do the mission. This way we get behind enemy lines with little to no enemy notice."

Tala sat there stunned. The sheer concept of it, let alone the practice of it. Lira resumed, "Rest assured that this is no easy thing. The armor alone required is very expensive in resources and must be meticulously made and inspected."

"Which is why it took some time before I could present you your own suit," Rishu pulled out a large case that was the height of a man and just wider than her.

Taron and Lira spoke at the same time, "Sir?"

"I think on a mission this dangerous, that both the Avatar and I will be needed as well."

"Sir, while none of the Sky Dragons have any worry about you joining the mission, you did make this technique after all, but I'm not sure bringing an untrained warrior is smart, Avatar or not."

"I will decide that, Commander Taron. You forget that the Avatar is a master airbender and can likely best us in the air with that advantage, combined with our equipment, she will be an asset on the field."

The two officers quieted after the retort while Rishu undid the locks to the case. Tala saw a magnificent set of Emerald Armor. It bore a striking resemblance to the armor of the Sea Dragons, though perhaps leaner. The helms differed, looking more like a dragon than those of the Sea Dragons.

She had seen the Sky Dragons' armor only in parts and so only knew the general color, black and red. The officers had gold. But Tala's was different, it was emerald green as the base with black fabric. Lining it all was gold like the officers.

"This is beautiful," Tala spoke in a stunned manner. She slid her hand down it and noticed the soft feel of the fabric that held the plates together, "Is this Dragon Silk?"

"Yes, it can be very strong when treated right, which is why I own all the rights to this fabric, even if someone has a dress of it, such as you do."

Taron spoke on a related matter to her armor, "On the battlefield, we go by code-names in our units. If you are to join us as Grand Marshal Rishu commands, then you will need a code name. The enemy would not like to hear your name in battle."

Lira gave an option, "I say we call her 'Emerald', after her armor. Its unique to our corp for a green dragon."

Tala nodded, "I like it. Emerald."

A High Flight

Tala sat strapped into the seat like an insane prisoner. She held her dragon-helm before her while her staff was locked in beside her.

"Hey, Emerald!" One of the Dragons called out over the engines and turbulence of their high altitude flight, "You ever run into someone while flying?"

Tala looked over at Box, a soldier who never shut up even when his friend and partner was sleeping in the strapped up chair. She answered, "Yeah, your boss. Knocked me off an airship and then tackled me while I was regaining my balance."

"No fun, is it?" Box laughed.

"That's rich coming from you, Box," Lira spoke up to be heard as she sat across from Tala, "You ran into three people in one jump!"

"How did he manage that?"

"He flew to the side, lost control and ran into one man and lost control completely. He didn't stop until the third man grabbed hold of him and steadied him out. We should have called him 'Cartwheel'!"

Tala laughed with Lira as Box started talking to someone else. Tala was surprised how aloof these men could be. Some were even sleeping while Box was talking to anyone who didn't ignore him.

Others were eating or chewing gum and betting on who got hit, Box seemed to be the favorite for first target.

However, others were much more serious, including Dragon Commander Taron, Dragon Lieutenant Seyyah and Sergeant 'Toss'. Their corner was not so light of heart but rather very serious.

Rishu emerged from the cockpit, "Alright, boys! You know the drill, get ready!"

Everyone moved, placing on their helmets as the men who were eating or chewing spit out what was in their mouth and placed on their helmets. Tala did likewise. The field of vision in the helmet was impressive, slightly impaired on the periphery, the visor made things slightly darker, probably for sunlight.

Rishu, or 'Ebon' placed his own helm on and punched a button. She heard gears rolled as a large ramp opened up in the back of the jet. She was glad she was strapped in when the pressure change hit her like a rock. She looked to see Rishu unfazed.

"Remember, no fire-breathing!"

Tala was a little uncomfortable at the story that inspired this reminder. In the early runs that formed the Sky Dragons, one of the soldier had jumped and used his fire-breath in mid-jump. No one knew why, but they knew what happened next. Because of the design of the Dragon-Helm and its air supply, the fire went two ways. Into his lungs, incinerating them while also trailing back to the air tank on his back. The resulting explosion just ensured the death he already suffered from his burnt lungs. 'Smoke', as they called him, crashed into the earth like a comet.

Everyone unclasped the chairs that strapped them in and stood up. She followed their actions though she bumped her head on the rails a little clumsily.

The men lined up, facing the opened ramp. Rishu stepped off, letting gravity take him. Taron, or 'Boss', followed and jumped out as the two columns followed. Tala and Lira, 'Noble' were the last.

"Welcome to the Sky Dragons!" Noble ran out and leapt off the ramp.

Tala waited a moment as she pulled her staff and attached it to her back. She then followed them.


Dead Fall

It was the ultimate rush for Rishu, to fall in near limitless sky. To let gravity work while not fearing the fateful crash. He had harnessed the thrill and hunger for this, and taught the select few that made the Sky Dragons how to do this.

They plummeted through the sky as they prepared to steer for their target. The highest mountain peak would be used as their compass and follow it till they could see the airbase below.

The dove fast enough that they could already see mountains beneath the clouds of the harsh weather. His body could feel the pressure beyond his suit as they passed through a storm cloud. As they finally made it through, the mountain was right where it was supposed to be. The line of jumpers dove after their black and gold armored Grand Marshal.

As he kept diving, things went wrong. Rishu saw a fast movement past him, he thought it was a rock and had that confirmed when he heard the grunt of one of his soldiers get clipped.

Boss could be heard yelling through their comms, "Scouts! Take them out!"

Tala answered with a swing of her staff, removing it from her back in one fluid motion. A massive blade of air hit the mountain causing the source of the attack to explode with snow and stone.

"Scouts are taken care of."

"Good work, Emerald."

Box piped in, "Alright, Toss got hit, not me. Who had bets on the sarge?"

"Cut the chatter, Box! Did anyone see them send a message?"

"It doesn't matter if they did, everyone would have seen that small avalanche," Noble's voice was assured that it had just gone bad, "Toss, you okay?"

"I'm fine, I was just clipped," she answered reassuringly.

Ebon took over, "The contingency is in now! Head," he spoke to Seyyah, "take your men and follow me! Boss, hit power! Noble, take Emerald with your team and hit communications fast! Command will be right there, you're going to be in for a fight!"

"Copy that, Ebon."

Rishu dove faster and bent flames from his fists. Speeding down even faster, he heard Seyyah's team follow. He left the path of diving with the mountain and cut across the airbase that he barely looked at. He found his target, a set of planes out in the open.

The United Forces was going to risk flying in the storm now, now it would just be wreckage. Rishu skimmed across the airfield now just a foot from the ground as he slowly got closer while speeding to his target.

Men sprinted out to meet the white flames that were charging them, a fatal mistake. Rishu's feet hit the ground while still going fast enough to run with an airbender. He focused his firebending forward now, momentum would keep pushing him forward.

His sent blistering waves of fire out, consuming the defenders while he rushed past them, he now focused his firebending onto the planes they had attempted to protect from him. He created a heaping pile of melted ruins as the flames licked at the planes, a food for their growth.

As Rishu was rushing headlong into the last plane, he pushed all his firebending forward, to halt his speed and destroy the plane with a withering attack. As Rishu's feet walked the ground at a normal pace again, Head's men had landed and begun attacking.

Head called to him, "Ebon, where do you want us to hit?"

"Hit the hangars, Head. They'll have to defend them, that'll draw them away from Boss and Noble's objectives."

"Yes, sir."

Unbreakable

Tala watched as Ebon and Head's Team wreaked havoc on the airfield. Men seemed to pour out from the buildings. She saw that Boss and his team glide ahead while Noble's team kept diving.

"Communications is below us. Hit fast and don't let them get back up. Emerald, stay up in the air and keep overwatch for us, cover the air."

Tala didn't want to stay up in the clouds while the rest fought, but she understood she was the only one that could maintain her elevation, "Copy that, Noble."

She expanded her staff into the glider and hovered over the communications outpost. It was built into the mountain with a circular room with windows out. It was easily identifiable that it was the hub of communications due to the dishes and antennae that crowded the top.

Two of the Sky Dragons let loose, attacking the equipment with firebending as they flew by. The Dragons split into two groups. One landed on the ground and entered through the front door. The other group took a much more impressive entrance, using the command room as their entrance, blasting through the windows.

Tala could hear fighting through the radio attachment to her Dragon Helm. The door-kickers were having an easy time of cutting through. The window breakers had split in two, one part had taken control of the communications room while the other attacked Command.

It seemed that Noble and her team had trouble in command. She heard Noble giving orders to work together, apparently someone incredibly tough was fighting back.

She got a look of who when she saw Noble thrown out the window of the communications. He wore the uniform of a high-ranking officer like a Commander or General. The man was massive, almost as big as Kuir.

Noble was not doing well against him, he was pushing her back with earthbending, regardless of her powerful firebending. She didn't wait to see if she could recover. She dove in, collapsing her staff and stabbing it into the earth. The collision created a shockwave of both earthbending and airbending the blasted the attacker back and out of sight.

Tala looked to Noble, "You alright?"

Noble sat up and looked to her. He neck tensed in alarm, "Emerald, look out!"

She turned around to see the attacker was leaping forward. How did he recover so fast? He hit the ground creating a powerful wave of earth that narrowly targeted one person, her. She barely was able to block the hit before it catapulted her down the hillside of the mountain peak.


Chaos

248Ukitake fires

Ebon's flames

Ebon kept up the ripping flames, taking down anyone who stopped for a moment or tried to face him. The dozen men who were the distraction had the most dangerous job, fighting an army. Four men were given the job of incinerating any planes in the hangar, which would bring in more defenders. The rest would fight them and take them down and draw more out.

Ebon sped through the airfield, using propulsion to skate across at speeds faster than a running man. Three men followed him while Head had the other three doing the same thing on the other side of the hangar.

The United Forces was not prepared for a surprise attack of such a small scale within their base. But Ebon knew he couldn't let that cloud the danger. If they made a mistake, they would be surrounded and slaughtered.

Some of the soldiers he was fighting got brave, using earthbending to prevent him from jetting forward. He turned in a circle, splashing white flames on the brave defenders. A pity they served the wrong master.

He landed down and faced the oncoming charge of unprepared guerrillas. He grabbed the first man by the shoulders and head-butted him, knocking him out cold. There was enough space between them that he could charge a large bolt of white lightning to incinerate the wave of assailants. The men covered him and did likewise.

More men kept coming. He hoped Boss and Noble's Teams were doing well enough. He looked around hoping to see friendly units. Where in the blazes was Razul and the Dust Dragons?

The General

Emerald leapt back as another attack came for her from this massive earthbender. He struck confidently and with precision. She countered with speed, relying on her Dai Li training, he preemptively struck, and neutralized her strike.

He rushed in and punched at the wall she made like it was butter. She only met one man with this talent in earthbending.

"You're gonna have to earthbend better than that, Avatar!" The man yelled as he destroyed the wall, "I made Prince Kuir the monster he is."

Before he could come in for the kill, a white fire cut between them. Noble's voice spoke out, "Then why are you here with traitors, Colonel Quru?"

"Its General, now. I saw what a monster I made the Prince and had to stop it one way or another."

He stomped the ground, four boulders rose from the stone hillside and leapt out for the two women. Noble spun and landed in the splits while Emerald leapt back. Noble let loose a flurry of fire jabs while Emerald spun blades of air discs after the General.

He created two slabs of stone that met at the corner, blocking both of the attacks. When he stepped out, he swung out with a wide strike, catching Noble from the far side. Emerald jumped, rolled and punched the earth, sending a slide of earth after the United Forces leader.

He stomped the ground with a strong stance, nulling her attack and punched up, a small mountain broke from the ground after her. She strafed to the side of the attack, Quru had used his bending to catapult himself forward.

She rolled back deftly, dodging his downward strike. He kept charging. She spun her staff in multiple circular and spherical motions. Quru was only slightly surprised that she had used the staff to earthbend a sphere of stone to protect her.

Emerald had even finished making the shield when he broke through and tackled her. He grabbed her and threw her further down the hillside. She was spared a beat down when Noble returned to the fray with a bolt of lightning. Quru ducked under and sent a flurry of rocks after the firebender.

She agilely jumped, dodged and ducked past the attacks and came in close. The General rolled across the ground while smirking. Stones covered him in an armor of rock. Noble let loose flames without prejudice but he came forward unfazed.

He sent punch after punch for her but she was able to avoid most, those that did connect were stopped by her armor. She felt a twinge panic when she heard the crunch of one of her plates buckle to the pressure. How did he hit so hard to break this armor? An uppercut caught her off guard and sent her back onto the floor.

The stone behemoth was struck in the back of the head by a small boulder. Anger seethed through him as he turned to face the green armored enemy.

Discovery

Ebon stood over the last hangar his men would hit. Head and his team were in while the other eight, including himself would hold off the defenders. While the men at ground level held the steady stream of warriors off, he charred them to bone and ash with unforgiving bolts of lightning.

Dozens fell to the wrath of the Sky Dragons. Ebon was proud of their success so far but knew that they were going to hit a peak they couldn't climb, the other teams needed to finish quick.

One of Head's men ran out of the Hangar and looked up to him, "Ebon!" The solider called to him on the radio, "Sir, Head found something he wants you to see."

"Alright, join these men in holding the hangar," he leapt down from the hangar, using his bending slow his descent, "Men, hold this position!" He turned and ran in, he didn't want to leave the men short for too long.

He saw one of Head's men up in the front, "Its all clear, sir! Head's in the far back."

Ebon ran though the dark hangar, a few lights were still on overhead, creating an overshadowed environment where he could see wreckage just out of sight.

He kept running through the straight path that had remained intact. He saw Head and another soldier in the rear of the hangar, this one went further back than he thought. He stopped as he reached the Lieutenant, "What's the situation, Head?"

"Ebon, sir, we found something in here that requires your knowledge," Head turned to the other soldier, "Go and reinforce the other men. Tell Coat to get back here too."

Head went further back into the dark and turned a corner he couldn't see. When Ebon followed he saw a sight he did not expect.

A trio of vehicles sat before him. Their wings hung over like a menacing falcon. Ebon walked closer to inspect the closest one. It was built like a bird, fast and agile. He saw the signs of jet engines in the back, in the foundation of the wings. The back of the vehicles had open sides with a turret on each side. The same kinds that the Sea Dragons' Mongooses had. Ebon took a second look at the wings and was shocked to fined they weren't solid. A circular area was open and had a contraption he was unfamiliar with. It was like a large dull shuriken.

Head spoke out loud, "I had no idea the United Forces had anything this advanced. And to keep it secret must have been the highest priority."

"Can they fly?"

"I think so. I saw full tanks of gas. I think these things were operational, they were just waiting for the storm like we were."

A radio beep caught both of their attentions, one of the sergeants yelled out, "Sir, we're pinned down in the hangar! They're dropping artillery and mortars on us! They have us outnumbered good too."

Head started heading for the entrance as Coat arrived, Ebon stopped him, "We won't beat artillery. But these can," he motioned to the vehicles.

Head nodded, "Coat, can you fly this?"

Coat looked the vehicle over and entered the two seated cabin, "Looks like it has the standard controls. But I don't know how this lifts."

"We'll just have to figure out along the way," he spoke on the radio, "Men, get in the hangar and join us in the back. We may have another way out of here."

Ebon looked up to see the roof was high up above, upon better notice, it was artificial, it could open. He beckoned to Head, "That'll be our way out."


Getting Out

Emerald was on the run. This General Quru was winning, she was facing an experienced version of Kuir. Noble had recovered and was the only reason neither of them was getting killed, two-to-one.

Their deadly fight was interrupted as explosions ripped through the base. Emerald saw that they were coming from many directions. The communications area was in flames with Sky Dragons retreating from it. Another area where she knew Boss and his team at power was covered in wreckage.

Quru looked back at the enemy, "You'll pay for the lives lost today."

More explosions went off. The ground shook at the sheer amount of them as they were spread out across the base. She saw outpost and towers go down in rubble and a specific hangar get blown to shreds. Quru seemed to focus on that hangar, "No, they can't know," he muttered out loud.

Noble took the distraction and capitalized on it. She clashed the energy around her to make a powerfully charged bolt of lightning to kill the earthbender.

Quru returned and a massive mountain of stone between him and the attack. The bolt cut through as he kept trying to raise the stone in defense, all the while being repelled. Noble kept up the white bolt, determined to finish him.

Quru continued to slide back as the lightning persisted. It kept pushing him to the drop of the cliff behind him. The lightning ended in a powerful explosion as Quru was at the end of the cliff and knocked back into the abyss.

Emerald ran forward to see what happened. The storm was too much to see past ten feet. Noble joined her at the side of the cliff, "I can't see him."

Noble answered confidently, "Doesn't matter, he's dead. Come on, those bombs were the signal. The Dust Dragons have finally gotten into the fray."


Emerald and Noble joined their team as they were combining with Boss' team. They had come to the rendezvous point. Half of the Dust Dragons were there while the other half were about setting off other explosions.

Noble looked to Boss, "Where is Ebon and Head?"

"I don't know! We haven't heard from them."

Noble kept calm but Emerald felt the worry and fear in her. Boss reassured the men, "Ebon and Head can take care of themselves, don't worry."

As if an answer to the fear, their radio lit up, "BBzzzzzT! -oss! Tzzzbzzt me?!"

"Say again!?"

"BzzOss! We are pinned in the hangarzzz!"

"We'll come to you!"

"NO! Go with the Duzzt bzzzRagons." The radio call's attention went to another, "Razzzul! Hit the mortars before you and your men fall back!"

"Copy that!"

"Good, go now! We have our own ticket out!"


The radio cut out with a sharp buzz of sound as Emerald grabbed at her ears. Razul looked to his men, "You heard them, they're getting pounded by artillery, hit and save those flyers!"

The Dust Dragons moved for the source of the mortars and set ablaze with fire and lightning. They returned soon after. Razul spoke to Boss, "We need to get out quick before this base recovers!"

"Lead the way!"

The large group of elite soldiers went through the broken fortification as wild fire broke out and soldiers randomly dispersed attacked them.

They had enough rubble and back up to be protected and kept fleeing the site of disaster. They then heard a great engine, as if a mountain was spinning. They looked for the source and saw one of the peaks was breaking apart. Snow and rocks cascaded down to cover and block the hangar Rishu and his men called for support of. Were they in there?

They heard a great rushing of air from the broken peak and snow flew wildly in the air in all direction as three object emerged. Emerald and the others were shocked to see the vehicles that emerged.

They looked like small jets, like they had jumped out of. Box voiced their surprise, "Oh, we're so screwed."

The three jets did not stay in place long, the rushed forward, looking more like gliding birds when they opened fire. Their fire turrets rained hell on the men that had surround the rubble crushed hangar.

The radio came alive with exclamation, "Whoo!! This is Coat, we are live and kicking!"

The Dragons on the ground yelled in excitement and cheering as the three jets opened up on the remaining emplacements and soldiers fighting, wreaking as much havoc as they had over the course of an hour, and passing it in seconds.

Razul got their attention, "Alright, lets get out of here!"

Escalation

The Republic City United Forces base was large and expansive at a mountain shadowed it. It served as the Fire Nation occupation forces' headquarters while the Earth Kingdom used the rebuilt Taku as their military installation.

The Dragons all surround the three vehicles that had returned with them to the city. They were marvels of technology rivaling the High Flyers of the Fire Nation in level but differing greatly in function. These amazing jets could hover in place thanks to the new blade built into the wings.

The engineers inspected the vehicles closely and expressed that they were impressed. They continued their inspection in a secure hangar away from prying eyes.

Rishu was a little incensed, "I was under the impression that the United Forces didn't have this level of technology? How did they make this?"

The lead engineer who was on a slider rolled out from underneath the vehicle, "They didn't. This is NorFort tech."

Rishu clenched his jaw, as Tala asked blankly, "What is NorFort?"

Lira answered, "NorFort is the nick name for the Northern Fortress."

The Engineer continued, "Its not surprising that NorFort made this, they don't have the wide open spaces to accommodate our style of jets."

Rishu scoffed, "Great, all we needed was proof that the North was still supplying the United Forces."

"What do we do now?" Tala knew this was just as much a political weapon as a real one. It held leverage on the Northern Fortress.

"Nothing for now," he looked at the engineers, "I want to know everything about this. The alloys used and even the maker."

The engineers nodded and continued on while the Dragons left. Rishu may have been in a bad mood over the discovery of these vehicles, but everyone else was excited at the success of the mission while Box was elated that he won the pot for who got hit first.

The Dragons decided to go out on the town. In the numbers they were going, no guerrillas would dare to hurt them.

Box was most vocal, "I say we hit the Blue Phoenix, they got some good girls!"

Some supported that while Lira rolled her eyes. Tala questioned after her, "You joining us?"

"No. I have some news my dear husband needs to know."

Lira left while Tala joined the Sky Dragons as they went to the Blue Phoenix. Box was the first to enter, the first to drink and the first to start dancing with a girl he found. The mood was overall light while a few corners of watchers were serious.

Toss danced with Razul. Her surprising smile from her usually mean demeanor got some of her men to laugh and yell, "You're fraternizing with the army, Sarge!"

Tala laughed with everyone, enjoying success and survival. They all took a glass and Razul and Taron gave toasts, "To an op that had no man go down."

They all cheered and drank. A few more began dancing. Tala noticed there were more women amongst the Dust Dragons, and the Sky Dragons took that opportunity to dance with them.

"Would you like to dance?" A voice from behind her spoke. She turned to see Liam there.

She extended her hand as he led her to the dance floor, joining the Dragons in their celebration. He held her hand with his while the other held her waist, guiding her across the floor.

"Who taught you to dance?"

Liam chuckled, "Swordsmanship is not so different, except the level of danger."

Tala laughed, she was in a good mood. She was with soldier who had trusted their lives to her and had sweat with her and were celebrating with her. "You know, I expected something very different when I joined Rishu. I wasn't expecting people on the other side."

Liam smirked as he twirled her, "That's natural. Just the way people work."

"So instead, I found soldiers who would bleed for each other. And a gentleman who showed persistence in the face of rejection."

"Call it stubborn genes."

Tala leaned in close as the song took a slower beat and the dancing's mood went with it. She looked up into the eyes of the swordsman who didn't look away. She leaned in closer as the two kissed slowly with the dance.

Notes

  • Tala was originally going to be attracted to Rishu and it would be training sessions, like in this chapter, where that relationship would grow. It would stem from the fact that Rishu was one of the few men that could dominate her, something she respected. However, this was dropped because of the age difference between the two being significant enough.
  • Tala's codename 'Emerald' is due to her eye color and the fact she is the Avatar of the Earth Kingdom. Her dragon armor was made to reflect this.
  • Rishu and Ralyn used to be together before Ralyn became a mercenary, something that broke the two apart.
  • Rishu's codename among the Sky Dragons is 'Ebon', relating to ebony which goes to being the black dragon.
  • As a nod to Valentine's Day (which is the next day, give or take), Tala and Liam began their relationship in this chapter, as opposed to the end of the series.
  • Box was purposely named so that it would meet with 'chatter' in a phrase so it could be 'chatterbox'.

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