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|Fire Nation Pirates|
Previously on Energy Saga
Migo and Katara and Aang's family visit Omashu where things aren't quite as they planned. Toph is now in a coma. As Aang plots his next course of action, Tenzin approaches him and tells him he wants to fight by his side. Aang refuses out of concern for his son's safety and Tenzin runs away.
Chapter Nineteen: Fire Nation Pirates
New Air Nomad Airship, 120 AG
Three days and two nights after Tenzin ran away, Aang was aboard an airship bound for the Fire Nation with the other airbenders. He had instructed Katara to take Kaddo and Vameira back to the South Pole with her. He had expected Katara to object, but she must have thought that his team were more than enough to handle a simple rowdy pirate gang. With little to do to pass time in the next few hours, Aang sat with the Tinley, Shao, Nola, Feng Qu, Rensa and Icarus just outside the cockpit where they took turns sparring against one another with their airbending.
"Why are we taking an airship to the Fire Nation?" Shao asked, sweating, as he concluded his sparring with Rensa. "We're airbenders. We don't need an airship."
"Well, its too far for us to all take our gliders the whole way," said Aang simply. "And Appa can't carry everyone we have with us today. So this is the best option – we use technology. We can save our airbending for the pirates."
"If only we had more than one sky bison," Feng Qu muttered wishfully.
"That would be nice," Aang responded regretfully. "But the sky bison are all but extinct. Appa is the last of his kind. We ought to enjoy his company while we can."
"I heard a rumor once about a lost breed of sky bison," Rensa commented. "They supposedly have more stripes than a normal flying bison – and they're thinner, too."
"I've heard of them, too!" exclaimed Shao.
"Yes, so have I," Aang said solemnly. "The elders told of them when I was growing up. But no one has claimed to have seen them in generations. I think they're just a myth."
"You never know," Trinley countered. "Is it really so absurd that they could be real? Think of all you've done. It would seem absurd that you – the Avatar – emerged from a hundred years in an iceberg to save the world from Fire Lord Ozai when most of everybody thought you dead or having left the world forever. And you brought back the Air Nomads from the brink of extinction. In a world that where you can do all that I could easily see a lost breed of sky bison existing somewhere."
"Look, there was no sign of this supposed 'lost breed' when I was growing up," Aang told him in a raised voice. "And that was well over a hundred years ago. Even if they were around then, they're most definitely not around now."
"Isn't it at least worth looking into," Nola asked him boldly, while grasping her staff. "You could use Appa to help locate them. 'Read' him – like you always do – as the Avatar. He may not be the same type, but he shares some kinship with them."
"In order to use Appa's commonality to seek out others like him, I would have to try and bend his energy. I never tried bending an animal's energy before and I don't intend to start now. Energybending is a curious and complex discipline and I don't want to use it for anything ambiguous or unnecessary. Using it the wrong way can be very dangerous. Besides, I wouldn't want to put Appa through that."
"Right," Shao agreed. "Besides, Nola, energybending is very complex, though I know little of it. It has done more than merely give each of us airbending. It also means that we can pass airbending to each of our offspring. Airbending will spread once again."
"Correct, Shao," said Aang. "Energybending is very powerful. It even influenced genetics so whatever children any of you have may have the same airbending abilities I gave to you."
"How did you do that, by the way?" Trinley inquired curiously.
"I didn't have to do anything different. It just happened automatically. Even though I was not thinking about that specifically at the time, I believe it happened on its own. Energies work in mysterious ways. They can even surprise those who bend them."
"Nevertheless, it would be nice for the airbenders to have sky bison once more," Rensa pointed out.
"I've grown our population and reconstructed our society to the best of my ability," said Aang impatiently. "It may not be perfect, but its progress."
"Progress would be quicker if the population was refurbished more efficiently," Nola countered.
"Let's think of future airbenders as well," added Feng Qu.
"I do," stated Aang.
"Well, right now, we're just relying on you to bestow airbending one person at a time," Nola continued. "If there were multiple people doing that, there would be many more airbenders."
"In order to do that I would require another energybender. There are no energybenders alive today. There haven't been for ages. I can only do it because I'm the Avatar." Aang had never thought much of it before, but it might not have to be that way. He had already proven that energybending could be used to grant or take away bending arts. Could it be used to grant energybending? If he did give energybending to someone else, they could not be an elemental bender since only the Avatar could harness more than one bending technique. They would have to fully devote themselves to energybending. Nevertheless, it would be interesting to have another energybender to be by his side and perhaps practice with. But of course, energybending was quite a responsibility. If it was used incorrectly, the consequences could be disastrous. No, it was best that Aang keep this lost technique to himself. There was a reason the Avatar had powers no one else possessed.
"Well, hopefully your energybending power is enough for us today," Icarus scowled. "Since I'm not allowed to use my move anymore."
"What is your new move?" asked Nola.
"It's called Asphyxiation. It's a real breakthrough. I think its a higher level of airbending – just like bloodbending is for waterbending, metalbending is for earthbending and lightning is for firebending."
"I do not like that analogy," Aang said coolly.
"You could always try that Shuten Shogai move you've talked about," Nola advised him. "I doubt the pirates would be able to withstand, from what you've said."
"I doubt that'll be necessary," Aang said dismissively. "Anyway, I would need another person to perform it with."
"You could just do it with Trinley, Shao or Rensa. They're all powerful enough," Nola countered.
"It's not a question of power. I promised my teacher that I would never use it unless absolutely necessary. And I doubt that will be the case today." Aang took to staring out the window of the airship. He was not in the mood to continue conversing. He looked down upon the lush green grassland that lay beneath him. They were still over the Earth Kingdom – but not for much longer. Soon they would be over the sea and further along their way to the Fire Nation. But Aang was uneasy and had trouble staying focused on the task coming up. His mind was still dwelling wherever it was that Tenzin might be now.
Ba Sing Se's Inner Wall
General Fong had set up a military camp on the outer side of Ba Sing Se's Inner Wall, just beyond the main city. When General How allowed him the mandate to recruit a strike team to go to the Fire Nation, he promptly sought out the most talented earthbenders and fiercest warriors he could find. After just a week-in-a-half of prep and training, they would be ready. Fong had hoped to take a full-scale army, but he found himself quite satisfied with the crop that he was able to bring. Recruiting had been quite an easy task. Fong barely got the word out about a "mission to attack the Fire Nation" before he had more able volunteers than he could take. Among them were some of the toughest fighters in Ba Sing Se, as well as a handful from other parts of the Earth Kingdom, such as a young lad by the name of Migo, who had come all the way from Omashu.
As Fong surveyed his troops – both the benders and non-benders alike – he gave them a quick speech. "Friends, countrymen, I speak before you today as we prepare to battle one of our most well-known enemies – the Fire Nation! Many of you are too young to remember, but our last war against their kind was one of the worst this world has ever seen. Your fathers and grandfathers would remember it quite well – and probably fought in it. This time, however, is different. First off, it is not a full-scale war like last time. That is why we are merely sending one unit abroad. Secondly, not all of the people of the Fire Nation are our enemies." At this point, Fong seemed to be holding back, as though he himself did not fully believe what he was saying. "Some of them will be – not necessarily our friends – but our allies. As we send ourselves into their civil war, we must protect the faction that would be in our best interests and preserve the armistice we have been fortunate enough to enjoy. And we must eliminate and destroy the faction that would threaten our people if given the chance. They would come for your families, your wives and your children if they had their way and seized power in the Fire Nation. As you fight in another nation's civil war, make no mistake, it is the Earth Kingdom that you represent. It is the Earth Kingdom that you protect. On that note, I dismiss you. Get geared up – then report immediately to your Sergeants. They will give you your training assignments for the day."
The formation of soldiers dispersed at Fong's command. Migo began marching toward the locker area to change when he spotted a familiar face – the most feminine one in sight. It was Hope, the waitress from Xi Wang Shizhen whom had given him and his friends fruit pies. What was she doing here though? Migo was supposed to be busy, but surely he had enough time to go over and say hi.
"Hello," Migo waved to her timidly. "Remember me?"
"Yeah, I remember you. You're the Avatar's friend - I saw you the day before I left my village."
"You left your village? Well, I suppose that's pretty obvious, given that you're here. But yeah, you left your village?"
"Seeing the Avatar again made me think. I was planning on saving up some more money before coming to Ba Sing Se. Then I decided there was no reason to wait and that I shouldn't waste any time. I'm here to become a dancer, at last!"
Migo acknowledged her, but he was somewhat confused. "So – what are you doing here then? Are you becoming a dancer by becoming a soldier first?"
"Haha, very funny. No, I volunteered to do a performance for you guys later. Before you leave and all."
"I see," said Migo. "That's very good of you."
"Thanks," Hope said with a roll of her eyes. "But I'm starting to regret it. You're the first one who hasn't stared at my legs today."
"That's because they think you're hot."
Hope stared blankly.
"Not that I don't think you're hot – you are. But I'm not attracted to you."
"Ummm...thanks, I guess," Hope replied unsurely.
"Well, I might be attracted to you. Its just...there's somebody else."
Hope was relieved. Migo had an odd way of expressing himself. "Well...good for you then. I'm sure she's just taken away by a strong earthbender like you."
"Thanks, but I don't think she likes me that much."
"Plus she's kind of – in a coma."
"That stinks too."
"Well, I got to get going. I need to get ready for the day. I'll talk to you later."
"Nice seeing you again," Hope reciprocated with a sheepish wave.
As Migo and his fellow earthbenders changed by their lockers into their Earth Kingdom uniforms, they began chatting with one another.
"When we get to the Fire Nation, everyone remember to just stay back and leave the toughest firebenders to me!" one called out to the rest of them. "I fought off some of them when they came to my village years ago, so I've seen more action than y'all combined."
'Whatever, Cid," one of his comrades responded while pulling on his undershirt. "I've never seen you bend anything larger than a pebble the whole time I've known you."
Migo was socially awkward. But as inept as Migo could be, he was not completely oblivious. He knew that even though they were insulting one another, they were still on friendly terms. He had grown up in a tiny village with little-to-no contact with persons his own age. Thus he had never properly engaged in this sort of bonding before. Once they saw his earthbending, they would respect him for that. But he still felt like making a good first impression, so he figured he would have to jump right in and play along.
"Well, I'm not really the bragging type," Migo announced, projecting his voice to be sure that all present could here him clearly. "But my mother was Ratana of Gaipan. It's in my blood. So I'm clearly the best earthbender here."
At Migo's outspoken comment, the whole room fell silent. All eyes were now on him. For a few long seconds, the other earthbenders stared at Migo, in sheer disbelief at the comment that he had just made.
Then they attacked.
Upon consulting with the downtrodden townsfolk of a coastal settlement in the Eastern Fire Nation, Aang and the other airbenders discovered that the pirates had been there just the day before and were now sailing Northwards. They traveled in three ships and had taken hordes of loot from the war-torn area. Aang hoped to himself that he had brought enough airbenders to stop them. He ordered that the Air Nomad airship fly low over the water toward clear sky so that he and his fellow airbenders could make a quick jump when the time came.
"So we're going to jump from here onto the pirate ships when we spot them?" Feng Qu asked Aang from the rail as they looked toward the horizon.
"Nah, that would give them too much time to react if we wait until our airship is just above them," Aang clarified.
"So we're gliding to them then?" Feng Qu asked.
"No, we don't want to be seen in the sky. They might shoot arrows at us or use their catapults."
"What exactly are we doing then?"
"As soon as we see their ships in the distance, we jump out. Then, as we hit the water, we run across and jump aboard."
"Run across the water?!" Feng Qu said in disbelief.
"Yes, we run across the water. We're airbenders. We can do that. And we can run on water faster than a normal person can run on land. We can enhance our speed when we control the air currents around our bodies."
"Oh, I see. I'm not sure if I can run on the ocean. I've never tried it before..."
"You're a master airbender – which is why I brought you on this mission. You should be able to pick it up pretty quick."
"Okay..." Feng Qu said reluctantly while looking down at the waters below.
"Once we're aboard, what then?" came the voice of Rensa from Aang's opposite side.
"Well, first I'll give them a chance to surrender and return everything they've stolen to their proper owners..."
"Waste of time," scoffed Icarus.
"...then if they don't comply, we fight until they are all incapacitated and unable to fight back," Aang continued as though he hadn't heard the interruption. "I would like to avoid any deaths if possible."
"Avoid any deaths?" Icarus repeated with skepticism. "This is a battle! Of course there will be deaths. If we hold back against them that only puts our benders at further risk. They won't hesitate to kill us."
"That is because we are Air Nomads and follow a certain code. They do not have the same code, but that is no excuse for us to disregard it. That would make us no better than them."
"There they are!" Nola declared with her arm pointing dead ahead to where three unmistakable ships traced the horizon.
"Okay, prepare yourselves..." Aang began.
"Maybe we should wait until we're closer." Feng Qu suggested hopefully. "We're still fairly far away..."
At Aang's command, a few dozen figures adorned in yellow and orange leaped from the front of the airship toward the sun-glazed waves. The vast majority slowed themselves down as they neared the end of their descent. A few exceptions to this were Avatar Aang along with the calm Trinley and the confident Nola, who lunged forward before touching the water, knowing full-well that the impact would be reduced if they were already heading forward at a high speed. As soon as their feet made contact with the waves, Aang, Trinley and Nola dashed forward swifter than a pygmy puma. By the time the others started running, the three of them were already way ahead. Some – such as Feng Qu – struggled frantically. Aang was proud that his students Trinley and Nola were able to keep up with him.
As he raced forward as fast as his legs would carry him with the reduced air resistance and make a splash with every step, Aang tried to stay focused on the moment. Thoughts of Tenzin, his family and the remainder of the war kept forcing their way back into his head. Aang brushed these distractions aside as though he were meditating. There was nothing he could do to help them now and all they were doing was distracting him from his duty today.
As Aang, Trinley and Nola leaped aboard the closest ship the pirates were caught off guard. Whatever they expected today would have in store for them, airbenders jumping onto their ship in the middle of the ocean was not on the list. The closest pirate drew his dagger and slashed toward Aang's head. Aang almost effortlessly deflected his arm and knocked his opponent over. Then he sent him sliding across the floor and into the wall with an air blast.
Trinley had gone in the opposite direction when he landed. He pulled his glider from within his tunic and swung forward, sending gusts of air at a pair of crew members. Nola had not touched down yet. She levitated about four feet above the deck with a spiraling air spout and sent air blasts towards pirates left and right. Aang smirked. Nola always showed the aptitude and skill to be a good bender.
Shortly, the rest of the airbenders came on board the first ship and began engaging the pirates, one-on-one. Most of the pirates were not benders, so the speed, and power of the airbenders proved a great asset. A couple of the pirates were revealed to be firebenders when they sent waves of flame toward the unsuspecting airbenders, but they managed to dodge in the nick of time. The regular agility exercises Aang put them through paid off. Curiously, there was one pirate who was a waterbender. Rensa discovered this when he sent a miniature tidal wave at her as she boarded the ship. How he got involved with pirates in the Fire Nation would remain a mystery. Then again, a band of pirates generally does not retain strong attachments to whatever nationality they may hold.
The calm and peaceful weather of earlier had given way as storm clouds had gathered and began showering the scene and tumultuous waves knocked the vessels about. This was similar to the storm over Omashu when Tenzin ran away. Two of the pirate ships were now secured under Air Nomad control. But the third – which was the largest one which the captain was on – was gradually pulling away from the others. Unfortunately it seemed that the worn-out airbenders would not be able to subdue it as easily. This ship was making a break for it. If that vessel managed to escape, the rest of their effort today would seem for naught. As long as they had their captain and most of their resources at their disposal, the pirates would soon recover from the setback of today and continue terrorizing the coastal villagers.
Instinctively, Aang tried to grab a hold of his glider, but the howling wind pushed him back and he grasped the side of the ship instead, his clothes drenched and his mouth swallowing rain every time it opened. It was certainly not the time to be flying across. Even though he was the Avatar, he would still have to preserve enough strength for taking down the remaining pirates once he reached the third ship. And the Air Nomads, even with their bending mastery and the momentum on their side, would not be able to fly over and take it without being held back by the storm and suffering losses of their own.
Faced with these difficult circumstances, Aang resolved that it was at last time for him to use the move Yue had instructed him to use sparsely, if at all. It was time for Shuten Shogai. He would need someone else with him. Looking around and feeling the hard drizzle of unkindly drops of water in his face, Aang found Nola, clutching the side of the ship just a yard from him.
"Nola! Its time to use Shuten Shogai. Come perform it with me."
Nola looked over at him with surprise, her hair drizzling with rain drops and covering her left eye. "I can't. This wind is holding me back."
"You're an airbender, you can handle it."
"No. I'm wounded from an encounter I had earlier."
"I didn't know you were hurt. Fine." Aang spotted Trinley poised on Nola's opposite side. "Trinley – come here! I need you for something."
Trinley marched forward. "What is it?"
"I need you to help me do an energybending move," Aang instructed. "Grab my hand like so and align the center of your chi with mine."
Although Aang had never performed Shuten Shogai, he still had the move committed well-to-memory. He had just begun to show Trinley the beginning stance when Rensa came running up behind them. She had been on the other ship but had glided over to where they stood. "Aang! Trinley! Thank goodness I found you."
"Not now, Rensa," Aang cut her off. "Trinley and I are in the middle of something."
"The pirate captain has surrendered."
"What? But his final ship is holding strong."
"That's what I thought, too. Apparently the flagship is more damaged than we thought."
Aang let go of Trinley and beamed. "Well, that is good news. Send word to the local Fire Nation authorities. Tell them we have some captives who are ready to face justice." Aang noticed Nola behind him. "What's wrong Nola? You seem disappointed."
"I was just curious to see your most powerful move. That's all."
After the ships anchored and Aang was aboard the flagship, the storm began to clear out. While there was still a blanket of thundering clouds in the sky, the sun was now clearly visible and the downpour had simmered considerably. The Air Nomads now had full control of all three of the pirates' ships and were tending to their wounded – as well as the wounded of the defeated pirates now that they had surrendered. Several figures lay flat on the deck, recovering. Nola had gone to the front of the ship and was helping plot the next course, as well as planning the rendez-vous with the airship. She seemed to have recovered with remarkable quickness from her supposed injury.
"Where's the captain?" Aang asked Feng Qu as he surveyed the scene.
"In his cabin still. Icarus went to see him."
"He wouldn't say."
Suddenly, a desperate, gasping yell came from the interior of the captain's cabin. Aang immediately ran and flung open the door. The captain of the pirates was sprawled across the floor – without a pulse. He had died from lack of breath. Icarus was standing above him, looking pleased with himself. Aang on the other hand, was horrified.
"Icarus, if you ever do that again, I'll take your airbending away."
Ba Sing Se's Inner Wall
Migo's fellow earthbenders had him pinned to the ground. "What should we do with him?" one of them asked the others. "Take him to the top of the Outer Wall and throw him off?"
"Okay, I'm sorry about what I said," Migo yelled to them frantically. "Blood doesn't really matter all that much. I'm sure you guys are good earthbenders too. I didn't mean to offend anyone – I was just trying to fit in."
Migo's attempt at an apology went ignored. "Nah, then we would have to hide the body somehow. I know – we'll tie a weight to his foot and throw him into Lake Laogai. He doesn't look like he can metalbend."
"Whatever we do, we better be thorough about it. I'm not marching into battle alongside scum like him."
"Yeah, he'll sell us out, just like she did," said the one called Cid.
Migo stuttered, unsure of himself. "Its just – I was too young to remember her and I heard all these stories about her growing up. I know she was a pretty talented earthbender and I'm told I'm like her in a lot of ways."
Cid, who was one of the ones pinning Migo turned and looked down at him. "Apparently you haven't heard all the stories about her."
"What do you mean?"
"Did anyone ever tell you how she died? Ratana – your mum – was caught giving vital information to Fire Nation soldiers during the Siege of Ba Sing Se. She was executed for her treachery. Your mother was a traitor."
TO BE CONTINUED...
- The "lost sky bison" that Rensa mentions are the new herd that Aang comes across before Legend of Korra. They will appear in a later chapter.
- This goes to show that even Avatars are often not right about things. Aang said in Chapter 5 that it was impossible to use energybending to grant airbending just like he said Appa was the final sky bison now in Chapter 19.
For the collective works of the author, go here.