Chapter Five
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Trust Yourself When All Men Doubt You




Ty Lee



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Chapter Five

Ty Lee walked down the torchlit stone corridor of the Boiling Rock, the smoky smell from the torches tickling her nostrils as her feet and the feet of her traveling companion echoed off the walls. The little girl, all of seven years old, clutched tight at the hand of the young woman on her right as the two of them walked down the corridor, fear gripping the little girl. The woman, with black hair and brown eyes, looked straight ahead at the door in front of her. She looked over at the one on her left. The brown-haired, green-eyed woman ignored her as well, looking straight ahead as they rounded a corner and approached a nondescript brown metal door. The two women looked at each other, and Shiga, the one on the right opened the door. The moment the door squeaked open, there was a flash of blinding white light, and she found herself standing in a circular room. She cast about. The room was torchlit, the orange flickering light casting the bare room in ominous dancing shadows. She felt fear tear into her gut, her entire body numb as she broke free of Shiga and Kelula and ran to the back of the room, hitting the wall and sliding down it as she locked her arms around herself and trembled.

The door on the other side of the room opened, and in walked another woman, older than her friends. This one was in the pure black trousers and tunics of Ozai's elite guard, a sword with a pommel in the shape of a skull belted in the lanyard running down her chest. She was slender, with black hair and golden eyes. Medora, the name coming to her through the fog of her fear, surveyed her friends with a contemptuous glance, and the little girl pushed herself back.

"You are both such stupid idiots," the woman's harsh voice, said, cutting through the air like a knife. "Did you honestly think that a bunch of Earth Kingdom hicks and one traitor could stand up to me?" She walked up to the woman and stared her dead in the eyes. "Well, you stupid whore? Did you?

Shiga opened her mouth and Medora responded with a vicious backhand slap across the face. Shiga's head bent with the slap and she looked right back. Medora grabbed Shiga's collar and pulled her towards her. The little girl's eyes began to water as she watched. "I'm not the incompetent old fool I replaced. In my prison, I don't suffer anyone who breaks discipline." Medora bent Shiga's head back by her hair, exposing her neck. Those who do so, will be dealt with severely. Do you understand me?"

There was a loud pthut sound as Shiga ejected a huge wad of saliva into Medora's eye. Medora, saliva dripping down her face, gave one final glare before her foot lashed out with a savage kick that took Shiga in the gut. Ty Lee squeezed her eyes shut as she heard a blade slide into clothing and flesh. She opened her eyes and saw Kelula shout as she rushed forward only to hear her shout turn into an anguished scream as a burst of fire caught in her clothing, hair and flesh. All Ty Lee could do was watch, terrified, tears streaming uncontrollably down her face as Medora stepped over her friend's burning, stinking corpse and walked over to her. Medora picked the little girl up by her shoulders and shoved her against the wall.

"I have no reason to kill you," she said snidely. Unable to control herself, she screamed, and the scream carried her awake.

Ty Lee broke awake, her scream filling the air of the cabin, dimly lit in the rising sun. The young woman's body was numb as she collapsed back into her bed, wrapping herself in the covers and curling into a ball. Maybe having that long chat with Mai wasn't the best idea in the world. She sighed mentally as she thought about that nightmare. Whenever it came up, she was always a little girl. Always. The nightmares had differences with what actually happened: there had been guards escorting them to Medora's interrogation room, and she'd been a young woman, not a child.

I might as well have been a child, she thought, the urge to cry coming over her like water on rocks. A woman wouldn't have frozen in shock and watched two friends die without doing something about it. That was what killed her constantly. She'd just stood there, stunned into useless inaction by that first savage kick before Medora stabbed Shiga. The guards had tackled her to the ground a second later to keep her from helping Kelula.

Then why didn't I strike the moment the guards let me up to let Medora have a look at me? She thought, as she curled into an even tighter ball. I could've killed them all in ten seconds. Why didn't I?

Her bleak thoughts changed as she heard a metallic rapping sound on the door. Her sense of duty rose to the fore, giving her the strength to pull herself out of the ball of anger and rage she'd curled herself into. As she walked, the urge to yawn overpowered her as her body realized it was still tired. She walked to the door and pulled it open to reveal First Sergeant Nalas standing there. The older woman came to attention.

"Captain," her twenty-one year old First Sergeant said, her normally boisterous voice set to a low whisper. "Can I come in?"

She nodded somewhat tiredly and motioned her senior noncom inside. The instant the door was closed behind her she turned and said. "I found something that I think reveals who tried to off you yesterday."

"What do you mean?" she asked, fully awake as she sat down on the floor and crossed her legs before motioning Nala to sit down across from her.

"Well, sir," she said with surprising reluctance as she sat down. Her top kick had always shown herself to be blunt and aggressive almost to a fault. "This ship's master gave us the authority to investigate what happened yesterday, correct?"

"The ship's captain told me to do that," Ty Lee said pointedly. "What did you do, Sergeant?"

"I had a hunch when I woke up a few minutes ago so I broke into the storeroom to get a good look at the knife."

"You bro-," Ty Lee began but she cut herself off, shaking her head in dismay. "You broke in?" Then her eyes widened as the other problem with that situation reared its head. "There were marines guarding that storeroom. What happened to them?"

Nala shook her head. "They'll be fine in half an hour," she said nonchalantly before cracking her knuckles.

Ty Lee sighed. Like all good noncoms she naturally took the initiative. It was something she excelled at, which is why she was her company's top kick. Unfortunately, outside the field that attitude was enough to get her into trouble and not enough to get her out of it, as the frequent reports of her starting bar fights could attest to.

She does so love to pick fights, she thought to herself. The damage was done, though, and she'd take the heat from Nara when the time came. "What was your hunch?"

"I went in and took a look at the knife," she said, as she reached into her pocket. She reached into her pocket and withdrew a simple knife. She handed it over to Ty Lee, who took it gingerly. It had a brown wooden hilt and a two-inch steel blade that glinted in the light of the sun filtering through the porthole.

"Look at the hilt."

Ty Lee did so, looking at the side she was on then turning it over. The moment her eyes alighted upon what Nala was getting at, her eyes widened in shock and surprise and she almost dropped it out of sheer shock alone as she struggled to understand the full implications of what she was looking at. Sitting on the hilt were two dark black lightning bolts.

Captain Nara sat back and looked at the knife in her hands, a look of apprehension in her green eyes. "The Kempeitai. This is bad."

"Ozai's elite guard," Ty Lee pointed out, "one of the many vestiges of the old regime that Zuko can't seem to get rid of."

"When the Firelord bade us to use all necessary force to wipe the Kempeitai out," Nara said, shaking her head. "We were tripping all over each other to get at them. We hate those bastards so fucking much. We always did. The Army wiped out a few units, but most of them went to ground."

"I know, Sir," she said, shaking her head. It had been the regular army's attack on the Rock that had sprung them at long last from the grip of the Kempeitai, which had taken over from the regular military after Zuko's attack.

"They were a stain on the honor of the Fire Nation military," Nara said, shaking her head. "Not that the Regular Military is blameless, though. The Kempeitai took spur of the moment crimes against civilians and turned it into an art form. All in the name of 'protecting our empire' of course." She saw instantly that the older woman's eyes were drifting off into space.

She instantly sensed that the woman before her was hurt and angry, and she had taken on a dingy gray aura that spoke of intense sadness. "Who did they take from you?"

"My mother," she said. "Seven years ago I was a young Commander on leave from the Indomitable. I was asleep in my old room when they suddenly burst into our house, dragged my mother from her bed and dragged her away before I could intervene. Tell me, how is the Fire Nation protected by dragging away and murdering an idealistic old woman who simply wanted to speak her mind?"

"It isn't," Ty Lee said as she remembered her angry rant that she would die happy if the Fire Nation was burned to the ground as she, not for the first time, felt burning shame cut through her. Her people were victims as much of the rest of the world.

"Well," Nara said. "They're not 'protecting the empire' anymore."

"True," Ty Lee said nodding. "The intelligence service is still in disarray, but we do know that the former Kempetai's control of the major organized crime syndicates is complete. For the first time all seven of them are now a unified front, essentially the same organization"

"It doesn't explain why they would want to kill you, though, Major."

Ty Lee sighed. "Actually, sir," and she began to explain her mission for Zuko. She still wasn't sure why they would be interested in her mission, but still, she had nothing else to go on at this point.

Ty Lee knocked on the door to Michiko's quarters, she sighed. The revelation of the Kempetai connection to the attempt on her life, coupled with her nightmare had caused a roil of emotions to go through her. All that meant was that she needed a stiff drink and fast.

She heard the tumblers in Ty Lee's door unlock as the door opened to reveal Michiko standing there in her service uniform.

"I figured you'd be coming by," Michiko said as she beckoned her inside. "Nala filled me in on what went down. The Kempeitai aren't someone anyone wants to screw with."

"I don't want to talk about that now," she said. "I came to have a drink and talk to my friend."

"What about Mai?" Michiko talked. "Do you want to invite her to this, so you can tell her about the Kempetai?"

Ty Lee shook her head. "An hour won't make a huge difference, if she doesn't know already. I just really need a drink."

Michiko cocked her head, and walked over to her cabinet and pulled out two bottles of rice wine and shoved one in Ty Lee's hands. "Yeah, we do need a drink don't we, sir?" Ty Lee had uncorked the bottle when a loud blast like a bomb had gone off right next to her exploded into the room. She felt the deck tip and she found herself pitching face first into the deck as the ship rocked on her side.

"Action stations, actions stations," the officer of the deck's voice said over the communication's system. "Set Condition One throughout the ship. Repeat set Condition One throughout the ship. This is not a drill, I repeat this is no drill."

The two women looked at each other, and left, running down the corridor to the barracks where the Kyoshi Warriors were being housed. As they ran through the sailors and marines running through the ship to their assigned battle stations, the officer of the deck's voice rang out again. "All hands, boarders inbound."

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