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Avatar Day of the Dead
First Response is the first chapter of Book One- The Day of the Dead, in theseries.
Aang, Sokka, and Toph travel as part of an Earth Kingdom National Guard unit responding to a mysterious disease affecting tenants of an apartment building in Gaoling. On the way there, they meet Zuko, whose rough interrogation methods and willingness to resort to violence conflict with Aang's pacifism.
Aang, Sokka, and Toph sat quietly as their Earthbending-powered assault vehicle raced through downtown Gaoling. They were part of the Earth Kingdom National Guard unit that was being called in to contain a mysterious outbreak which was being reported in an apartment building in the poor neighborhood.
"So tell me again," Toph asked, "why would the send us to handle a disease?"
"They're probably worried about it spreading," Aang said.
"I know that, but I didn't join the National Guard to quarantine apartment buildings. I joined it to beat up bad guys."
"Tell you what, Toph," Sokka said, "if any of the sick people start acting up, you can beat them up."
"Sokka, we're supposed to be helping these people," Aang reminded him.
"She's right though. When are we gonna see some real action."
"Quiet, all of you," someone said as Aang opened his mouth to respond. They turned towards the speaker, a dark-haired young man sitting near the back of the vehicle. "You think this is some kind of game? They wouldn't have called us in to handle a couple of old folks with a cold. Whatever this is, its serious."
"I'm sorry," Toph said, "but who are you?" The stranger turned to face the group and they saw a horrible burn scar over most of the left side of his face.
"Zuko." The team remained in silence for the remainder of the trip. At last the assault vehicle reached the apartment building. The building's inhabitants were all crowded into one apartment for interrogation on the ground floor. Zuko immediately sensed there was something wrong. "There's something wrong." Aang was the first to see what he meant.
"These people all seem perfectly healthy." Zuko grabbed the nearest tenant by the shirt threateningly.
"Where are the sick at?"
"They're- they're in the basement. They all died relatively quickly."
"He's telling the truth," Toph said. "But I can sense people moving around down there."
"Who else is down there?" Zuko asked the man. The man was sweating heavily.
"I don't believe it, he's still telling the truth," Toph confirmed.
"I think your lie detector might be broke," Sokka said. "How can he be telling the truth if you can sense people moving down around there."
"Maybe they thought the people were dead, but they weren't."
"Only one way to find out," Zuko said, unhanding the man, "take us to the basement." The man shook his head, looking as though Zuko had just asked him to saw off his own arm. "Now!"
"Guys," Aang called from out in the hall, "you might want to see this."
Zuko, Toph, and Sokka went out to see Aang standing in front of a door that had been hastily boarded shut.
"I'm guessing this is the basement," Sokka said.
"Toph, I want that guy brought in for questioning," Zuko said. Toph went back into the apartment and forcibly shackled the man Zuko had interrogated. Meanwhile, Zuko started forcibly kicking the door down, boards and all. Aang used his Airbending to assist him and the door gave way. Almost immediately, a horrible stench overwhelmed them.
"What is that?" Sokka said, nearly gagging. "It smells like rotting meat." Zuko began heading down the stairs, holding a fireball in his hands for light, closely followed by Aang and Sokka. They reached the bottom of the stairs and looked around.
The basement was silent as the grave and seemingly empty. Zuko tensed up, feeling once again that something was seriously wrong. He lead the others away from the stairs, looking for the sick and dead supposed to be down there. To Aang, the silence was a little too eerie. Someone placed a hand on Sokka's shoulder, causing him to scream and jump up. Aang and Zuko whipped around but it was just Toph and the man she'd arrested.
"Don't do that!" Sokka said. Toph just laughed while Aang breathed a sigh of relief. Zuko, however, was angrier than Sokka.
"Quiet! I think we're being watched." The man strained against his shackles, desperate to get out of the basement. Just then, they heard a scream come from the upstairs apartment. "Toph, Sokka, go check that out." They hurried upstairs, leaving Aang, Zuko, and the man in the basement.
"Maybe we should go too," Aang suggested. The man tried to make a run for it while Aang and Zuko were distracted, but tripped over his shackles. Before Aang and Zuko knew it, several people appeared from behind one of the columns supporting the ceiling.
"Well, we found the sick people," Zuko said. Suddenly, more people came from every nook and cranny in the basement and started walking toward them. "Okay, if everyone could just hold still for a moment, the doctors will be here in a moment." The people showed no response to his words, they just kept coming. "That's close enough," he added, holding up his fist threateningly.
"Zuko, I really think we should get out of here," Aang said, turning around only to find that several people were standing between them and the exit. "Zuko..." Zuko grabbed the man by his shirt again.
"What's wrong with these people?"
"They were dead an hour ago! THAT'S WHAT'S WRONG WITH THEM!"
"All right, I'm going to give everyone three seconds, exactly three seconds to stop moving. Anyone who doesn't is going to be treated for third-degree burns once the medics show up. One. Two..." The people kept coming, completely oblivious to Zuko's threat. "THREE!" Zuko shot a fireball at the feet of the oncoming horde, who all stopped, dumbfounded. "Let's get the Hell out of here!"
Aang shot a blast of air at the people blocking the exit, knocking them down but not hurting him. The man hurried forward, trying not to trip, while Aang raced past him, with Zuko holding them off with fireballs. Aang reached the stairs and hurried up, reaching the hallway first. Zuko came running out of the basement a few seconds later.
"Wait, where's that guy you had Toph arrest?" Aang and Zuko went back downstairs until they saw him, lying on the bottom stairs, with the sick people pulling him apart and eating him alive. Enraged and disgusted, Zuko shot a jet of fire at them, killing them. Aang was shocked by Zuko's savagery, but was even more shocked by what he'd seen beforehand. The two of them left the basement and Aang used Earthbending to block the doorway to keep them contained.
Meanwhile, Toph and Sokka had investigated the cause of the screaming. People were running around, pushing each other out of the way in their desperation. They found several people, pale and bloody, gorging themselves on a living person, who was screaming bloody murder for help. Sokka threw up while Toph, unable to see the gruesome spectacle, Earthbent several rock pillars to send the fiends into the air. Their victim was as good as dead, since he'd literally been ripped in two at the waist.
Toph helped the still nauseous Sokka out of the building where they found pure pandemonium. Everyone was fleeing the apartment building as fast as their legs could carry them.
"What was wrong with those people?" Sokka asked.
"The one's running or the one's eating the runners?"
"Who do you think? What kind of sick monster eats another person alive?"
"One who's not alive," Toph responded.
"The people who were eating that guy had no pulse, they weren't breathing, they'd be dead if they weren't still moving around."
"You mean their dead but also alive."
"Basically," Toph said.
"Great," Sokka replied sarcastically. "Living dead guys crawling out of a basement and eating people. That's just what we... oh no. Aang and Zuko are still inside!"
"I can't sense them with all these people running around," Toph said. "We need to get these people organized." Sokka and Toph tried in vain to calm down the hysterical people running around panicking. Just then, the man they had left for dead came out of the apartment, pulling himself along with his arms. Toph sensed him coming and quickly bent the ground around herself and Sokka, turning it to loose sand to stop the corpse.
"What, now the people they kill come back to life too?" Sokka shouted. He started beating the monster's head with his club as it tried to grab him and bite him. "How do we kill something that's already dead!?" His question was answered when his club shattered the dead man's skull, causing him to fall limp. Sokka hit him a few more times for good measure. "Good thing that's over." Several more dead people came out of the building and headed towards Sokka. "Of course."
"There's too many of them and their making more," Toph said, pointing to people being preyed upon in the distance. "We need to get everybody out of here."
"What about Aang and Zuko?"
"They'll be fine, I know they will," Toph assured him, though she couldn't help feeling that they wouldn't.
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