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7 January 2012
Last Preparations is chapter thirteen of.
The Fire Nation Rebellion continues to capture towns and place pressure on Zorro, while Team Avatar arrives at General Fong's base, and receive their last pieces of Weatherbending training before splitting up. The Southern Water Tribe, meanwhile, falls to its last legs.
Fire Nation, 10 September, 13:00
Early that late summer morning, the Rebel Army landed at the shores of another town, and quickly charged it, setting up a battle between them and its police force.
The battle was swift and decisive; the defenders never truly stood a chance, as for the first time since their formation, the rebels proved overwhelming, racing to the Mayor's palace within hours.
Near the mayor's office, three rebel soldiers took the last three officers out. One rebel drew his sword and knocked the sword of an officer away, forcing said officer to surrender. A second one was defeated when his face was burned off by a close-range fireball from a rebel, and the third was forced to surrender when surrounded by these soldiers.
One of them then kicked the door to the mayor's office open, and then they threatened him. The mayor tried to attack with Firebending, but found himself quickly overwhelmed. Two rebels cornered him, while the third locked and guarded the door.
"All right...I surrender!" The mayor exclaimed.
"Take him away," a soldier said to the other soldier who was guarding the door. The guard rebel placed him in handcuffs he stole from a defeated guard, and led him towards a prison.
The leader of the three rebels stepped outside to other forces who were outside the office. "This town is now ours!". The remainder of the soldiers cheered. It was the third town to fall in just thirty-six hours. Now, the recruitment of soldiers got back underway.
"This should get us to near 800 men," Tizou remarked. "We are getting closer and closer to the desired manpower to attack the Fire Nation Capital."
"The clock is working against us," Azai advised. "Let's gather up our forces, appoint the next set of soldiers, and get out of here. We need to stop Zorro before he can take the Southern Water Tribe down."
"That could be just three days away," Bujing remarked. "I agree with Azai. No need to stay here for long. Get these new forces into training as soon as possible. Where shall we go next?"
Tizou looked over a Fire Nation map. "We have these three towns under our control." The general placed an asterisk over the town they just captured, which was about thirty miles south of the Capital. "Let's take one more on the south side today, take a couple on the north side, and we'll be ready. Some of these towns can give us hundreds of men...possibly enough to total 1,500 when all is said and done."
"Are you sure we'll need that much manpower?" Azai asked.
"We don't want to take too many chances," Bujing replied. "Tizou is right, let's get all these towns taken, our forces increased, and get a move-on."
The commanding general walked out to the edge of the boat, standing over the rail. He looked to the north, and said clearly, "Zorro, your reign will come to an end. The era for evil is long over."
Southern Water Tribe, 17:00
Admiral Xian's post
The old admiral sat at his desk, over a map of the Southern Water Tribe, with his ships surrounding it. His siege plan was going exactly as planned, and soon his final attack would begin. As far as he knew, it was still just the Fire Nation and the fading Southern forces.
However, he didn't feel right. The admiral had been having second thoughts, pondering every so often if this was supposed to be done. When Zorro took over the Fire Nation, Xian initially found himself as happy, as he too was a non-believer in Zuko's peaceful ways. But, over the last week, as he watched more and more people of the Southern Tribe become ill with starvation, he didn't feel the same way. He wondered if peace was meant to be instead of a senseless war by a disgruntled Ozai loyalist. However, he was to follow orders, and he knew that if he pulled out, he would likely be executed by the current Fire Lord.
A young colonel knocked at Xian's door and was given clearance to enter. "Admiral Xian?"
"Yes, Colonel Maozan?" Xian asked.
"I just got word from the Capital. Zorro is ordering us to launch our assault of this place by the 14th," the Colonel explained. "He also says he is demanding daily updates from this point forward."
Admiral Xian simply sighed. "Something wrong?" Maozan asked.
"I don't know what's right anymore," Xian replied. "I mean, should we really be doing this? We already did this, and its results were devastating. I feel like I am seeing this more in me lately; I'm not the warhawk I once was. Seeing all these families weakened, people dying from starvation...no one deserves this. Especially a place like the Southern Water Tribe. These people were rampaged to the point of their last Waterbender. I know I have to carry out Zorro's orders, but...I don't know."
Maozan shook his head. "Admiral, we're doing Sozin's original work. What Azulon tried and what Ozai tried as well...spreading our prosperity to the rest of the nations!"
Xian also shook his head. "Is this really prosperity? These people are starving, and we're going to assault them within three days' time...I don't think I'd call that prosperity."
Maozan sighed. "Then leave, Admiral. You don't have to be here. Desert and get yourself killed by Fire Lord Zorro."
"I will still carry out orders," Xian replied. "I won't desert my own family in the process."
"Very well," the Colonel said, and then he left, but not before peeking back in to say one more thing. "You're lucky I consider you a great leader...or I would report you back to the Fire Lord."
Xian didn't respond. He knew he had to keep his family safe and not become a traitor. Regardless of his misgivings, he prepared for the attack, drawing up various strategies and preparing a speech for his forces.
Chief Hakoda's home
The Chief sat himself at his kitchen table, a cup of tea in his hand. It was the last of a tea shipment he had ordered from the Jasmine Dragon before the current struggle started. It was one of Iroh's specialties; calming jasmine tea. However, even as Hakoda sipped at it, he couldn't feel himself calming. For the second time in his reign, the tribe was collapsing to nothingness. It was happening years ago, when his first and so far only wife was killed by the Southern Raiders, and now it was happening all over again. He rested his elbow on the table, his other hand over his cheek, and gave a tired sigh.
Hiyoki entered the house, along with Sokura. There they saw the chief who looked like he had been down the beaten path several times. "Hakoda, we need to speak with you," Hiyoki said.
"Very well, take a seat," Hakoda instructed his advisers, and the two men sat opposite of him.
"Sir," Hiyoki began. "We have a leak that the Fire Nation might assault the tribe within three days. Their siege continues, and there's no doubt they want more. They want to take our tribe down."
Hakoda again sighed. "Is there anything that we have good to report?"
"Some good news," Hiyoki replied. "The Northern Tribe slipped in some reinforcements via the Earth Kingdom. Further, the Earth Kingdom has said they will provide support as needed. We might have a chance at a counter-offensive after all. It's better than nothing."
Hakoda idly nodded. "I just hope support can come with us in time. Knowing Zorro, he will want to come as fast as possible, and as hard as possible. It will be a heavy assault...also, the Earth Kingdom forces may be compromised if they send Earthbenders."
"The generals are aware of that," Hiyoki said. "They will send mostly non-benders down, and their benders will be supplied with Earth."
"That was the good news," Sokura said. "Sadly, I must now bring bad news, regarding our shrinking supplies."
The chief did not reply, simply gesturing his second adviser to continue.
"Our supplies are wearing thin," Sokura warned. "We have enough to maybe feed all our current troops and families for three to four more days. Already many people are ill or deceased from starvation. Things are getting critical. The Fire Nation is waiting to strike, and once we hit that critical point, they will. That's not long from now, hence this leak of three days to attack. Time is running short."
Once again, the chief gave an exhausted sigh. "If we can't get supplies in, we'll have to hold out. Everyone will have to fight as hard as they can. We'll likely have to join in. Myself, Bato, Hiyoki...every capable body. It's a hard sacrifice, but we need everything."
"Now would be a darn good time to have your children down here," Hiyoki said. "Where are they?"
"I haven't heard from Katara or Sokka in a while," Hakoda informed his adviser. "I believe in them though...they are my children. They showed up when they were needed during the War, and I have no doubt they will do so again."
"I hope so," the military adviser replied. "We don't have much time."
Almost as if on cue, a messenger came in with a letter to the chief. Hakoda took it and began to read. Indeed, it was the news they were hoping for. It read as follows:
We are still traveling across the Earth Kingdom. Today, we're on the way to General Fong's base to help mobilize for the counter-attack against Zorro's Fire Nation. We understand there is a chance of all three nations being involved, and we're planning on splitting ourselves up. Training is going well, and we're pretty much almost ready. The good news? When the time comes, we will be coming back to the South Pole to help you fight. We love you Dad, and we're not going to let you go this alone. These people must be dealt with. They took one from us, we're not going to let them take any more. We will see you soon. --Sokka & Katara"
Hakoda simply smiled. "I think we just got what we were hoping for, men," he then addressed his advisers. "Let's gather up our forces. It's time to bring the Fire Nation Navy down."
Western Earth Kingdom, 11 September, 10:00
The team had left their campsite late night on the ninth, and settled at a camp for the overnight on the 10th just short of their destination. They woke up early that morning to resume their flight aboard Appa, and closed in on the base. Katara and Sokka had sent a letter to their father on the ninth that arrived at the South Pole the previous day.
"I still don't trust this guy as far as I could throw a boulder," Sokka said.
"Want some help with that?" Toph joked around.
"It's not funny," Sokka snapped back. "This guy tried to force Aang into the Avatar State and buried my sister alive to do so!"
"Sokka, it's over now," Aang replied. "I know he was a big jerk when we first met him, but I don't think he'll do that again. It's been two years, we have to let go. Fong's now also a key part of this attack. If we don't have his support, we won't be able to save the world."
"I spoke with Fong during our distribution of the colonies," Zuko remarked. "He seems like less of that jerk nowadays. I don't think we'll have anything to worry about."
"Not that I don't trust you Zuko," the Southern Prince stated, "I just don't know if we can trust him."
"I still am not sure about Fong either," Katara said to her brother, "but we have to trust Aang here. Who better to trust?"
The team's flight continued over the Earth Kingdom towards the general's base. Reeaki looked out over the open air and then saw the circular structure which Fong's base appeared to look like when he first saw it. "Is that the place we're looking for?" The Weatherbending instructor asked.
"Indeed," Aang answered, looking down. "General Fong's base is right there." The Avatar directed his sky bison down to the ground in a gradual descent. Sokka still was not highly in favor, giving a somewhat angry look as they landed.
"You know Sokka, if you're going to be Dad's successor, you'll have to learn to trust our allies," Katara remarked.
"All I know is that this guy had better not try anything again," Sokka snapped. "If he does..." he drew his sword. "I'll be ready." He then put his sword back after they all hopped off Appa.
Team Avatar was welcomed into the base with no interference. "General Fong is up at the top of his fortress," one of officers present said.
They looked up at the tall fortress before them. Aang shuddered slightly, thinking about when the general attacked him for not accepting the offer to go into the Avatar State. Katara placed her arm around his back, wrapped around his shoulders. However, Aang knew he had to keep moving. Reeaki looked ahead in amazement, his chance to see such a structure in person. The base had been long since repaired after Aang's Avatar State-induced destruction of it, complete with more protected walls.
Slowly but surely, they all made their way up the fortress stairwell, before reaching Fong's war room. There, he sat at his desk, the large world map off to his left. He looked up and saw the team, his first encounter with them since they were just the original three two years ago. Soon, he rose from his chair.
Everyone took a look at the Earth Kingdom general, but no one's look stuck out more than Sokka's disgruntled one. Fong surveyed the team for a moment, not sure what to say. Finally, he stood up and fell on his knees, bowing before the team.
"Avatar Aang," he elected to address the young savior first. "I would like to apologize for my actions during our meeting two years ago. My actions were selfish and strict. I tried to force you to do something you clearly were not ready for, and it caused you and your friends to lose your trust in me. My actions were unjust and I was not thinking of your position. I only desired your power instead of working with you. I hope you can forgive me for what I did." He then turned to the Avatar's girlfriend. "Mighty Katara, I also apologize to you for burying you. This was a byproduct of my desire for the Avatar's power. I made a silly move, and threatened your life. If you weren't a part, the world would not have been saved. Once again, it was my foolish thoughts that nearly killed you."
Sokka looked down at the general, his angry look sort of faded. "You seem honest..."
"I am honest," Fong assured him. "Sokka, I realized after the War that what I did was silly. Aang was not ready to use that power back then, I see that now! I just ask for your forgiveness and trust. This is a critical time, and I hope we can be at an understanding." Fong's look showed great regret. He looked at the Southern Prince with an upset look, as if trying to say "please forgive me".
Aang and Katara nodded, giving him forgiving looks.They then looked at Sokka. He finally released his anger. "All right, you are forgiven."
Fong smiled. "I promise, I won't let you down. Now, let's get to work, discuss our strategies, because mobilization is coming soon."
The team sat down in front of Fong's desk, on a couple of couches that had been added recently. Fong stood up to the right of his map. "So, here we are. On the verge of a showdown with the world's fate on the line once more," the general started. "Here is the breakdown. There is a rebellion ongoing in the Fire Nation, being led by three of your advisers, Zuko. They tried to attack the Capital but were driven back; however, as we speak, they have shifted to a more successful strategy...capturing small towns near the Capital. They are building their forces quickly."
Zuko nodded. "I knew some form of rebellion would be done. I just hope they can get to Zorro before they're too late. Myself and Aang volunteered to go to the Fire Nation and assist them.
Fong turned around and stroked his beard. "How do you plan on getting there? It's not an easy ride."
"We could use Appa," Aang began, "Thing of it is, however, it's a further distance to the Southern Water Tribe, where Katara and Sokka are headed. They might want to get there sooner, so I was thinking of letting them use Appa."
"My boat is still docked not far from here," Reeaki suggested. "You and Zuko could use that, Aang."
"It's a good idea," Fong said, "But with one issue. Not far from the Capital are the Great Gates of Azulon, and you know full well Zorro will utilize those to stop advances in if the rebellion grows. That's the shortest way into the Capital, however."
"We'll have to risk it," Aang said. "There's no other way to get through."
"Aang," Katara said. "If you need to use Appa, you can use him. He is your sky bison, after all."
"Another solution," Fong added, "We have been working on new submarines, using the original Waterbending-powered machines from the War. If we can have one of those operational, you could use that instead. I'll check with our engineers after this meeting."
Aang and Zuko nodded.
"That said," Fong continued. "As for the rest of the world...obviously, you are aware of the situation at the South Pole. The Fire Navy may attack there within a few days. They have done an effective job of sieging them to the point of severe strain. I don't know how accurate this is, but a leak from the Fire Nation has told me that Kianna and Baktan might go there to take power when the Fire Nation conquers it in an assault."
"Oh no," Sokka declared, standing up. "General Fong, Katara and I will assure that doesn't happen. We will take them. We refuse to let our home fall."
"I am sure you will fight hard, as the children of the chief," Fong addressed the Water Tribe siblings. "However, the manpower of your home tribe is small. I might send some reinforcements down with you, if that's not a problem."
"We'll take any help we can get," Katara replied.
"I'm sure our father will be happy if that's the case," Sokka added.
"I should add I was a general who was in contact with Chief Hakoda about reinforcements for the South Pole," the general continued. "It's a tough route to get to the Southern Water Tribe with the way things are structured. They have to basically cut to the east of Whale Tail Island, and swing around the continent."
Sokka stopped for a second to think. "Hmmm...I got an idea! Let me come up to the map for a second."
Fong stepped aside, and Sokka surveyed the map. There, he caught a weakness in the Fire Navy's positioning. "Check this out, general. They only blocked off the north coast of the continent, failing to swing to the west. All you have to do is come around the west of Whale Tail, and then slip southwesterly, and you will get around the Fire Navy. Then you just have to shift to an easterly course, and there you go." His finger moved around the map with his proposed trail, ending at the South Pole village. "It's a key weakness that seems to have been missed."
"Yes, it turns out that Zorro isn't so smart after all," Fong replied after surveying Sokka's proposed path. "Great pickup, Sokka. It's a good way to get our reinforcements in to the Southern Tribe."
Sokka gave a nod and returned to his seat.
"Now that we have that plan settled, it is time to talk domestically," Fong explained. "Right now, the Council of Five has orders out for mobilization with Zorro's attack a short time off. Some troops are currently traveling across our kingdom to the west coast, with the rest due here tomorrow. The Fire Nation is expected to arrive here by the fourteenth. There is a rumor going around, however, that Zorro might pull some forces back home because of the growing rebellion. Regardless, since I know where four of you are going, I presume the rest will stay here.
"I've got no problem bashing some Fire Army tanks," Toph declared with a tone of confidence.
"Go ahead, bring them on," Suki said. "A couple jabs and they're down."
"I have to say, I love the tone of confidence," Fong responded. "You girls are more confident than some of my men are. It will be nice to have some inspiration within the lines. Miss Bei Fong, your skills will be needed the most, as a master Earthbender."
"I'll be ready," the blind Earthbender replied.
"Look, we have about three days left before the Fire Nation arrives," the general resumed. "Whatever more training you need to do...complete it. Time is short."
"As their Weatherbending master," Reeaki said, "I can assure you the capable members are about done. However...there might be one more move I have to teach. I would have to check."
Fong nodded. "Very well. Now then, I will allow all of you lodging for the remainder of your time here, as we are where this whole fight is launching from. The forces from Ba Sing Se will combine with my men here. From here, we will move to the immediate western shores and fight. They will be looking to take the villages first, such as Senlin and then this mining village, which are in either direction of my base."
"Those are villages we were at early in our travels," Aang observed. "I remember the mining village, when we met Haru, and Senlin was where I first learned of the Spirit World."
"Yeah, the Spirit World," Sokka said. "Not my favorite place..."
"Funny you should mention Haru," Fong said, turning back from his map to the team. "He trained here before the invasion during the War. Guy's a pretty good Earthbender. Maybe him and his father will come back around again before you all take off."
"It'd be cool to see them again," Katara remarked.
"Right now, take some time to get settled," Fong advised. "Going to be a long three days." With that, Team Avatar took off to their rooms to prepare for the days ahead.
Ba Sing Se, 12 September, 07:30
There they were all positioned, thousands of soldiers, a host of tanks, all gathered at the outer wall of the mighty Earth Kingdom capital. Once again, they were all ready to go off and defend their nation.
Families came to say goodbye to their departing, hopefully not for the last time. They were departing husbands, fathers, brothers, some even grandfathers...relatives were all there.
At the front of the entire mobilization, the young Earth King Kuei stood. After spending most of the hundred years' War suppressed by the Dai Li or in exile, he was making all the decisions now. He had approved this mobilization which had been crafted by the Council of Five. The five generals were inspecting every soldier, making sure they were in shape. When completed, they stood along each side of the Earth King.
"At this time, we will need the families to depart," General How commanded. The families said their final goodbyes to their soldiers, showing whatever affection along the way. They then took their leave from the outer wall. This was a process that would not occur today just at Ba Sing Se, but at other bases across the nation.
"Men," Earth King Kuei started. "I can not thank you enough for making the decision to serve your country once again. I know that peace has been our desire since the end of the War, however, we once again face the threat of the Fire Nation knocking at our kingdom's door. You will be headed to the western shores of the Earth Kingdom, to General Fong's base. There, you will take further instruction from him, and prepare for the attack of the armies of Fire Lord Zorro. Regardless of if you come back, I know you will do your country proud, and these people proud. You are already doing so just by stepping up and serving them. Some of you will also serve two peoples at once, by being directed to the Southern Water Tribe, where a siege has strained them. Within moments, you will depart. I wish you the best of luck, and my blessing, as you proudly serve your nation. I am looking forward to your victorious return."
General How took over. "Men, we have assembled several of these trains for most of you to transport in." He then pointed out the trains which looked similar to those used in the Day of Black Sun attack; however, they had been enhanced and were able to carry more soldiers, yet also, thanks to enhancements from the Northern Air Temple mechanist, they could achieve higher speeds to get to their destination faster. "You will travel in these across the Kingdom in these twenty trains. I will need any loose soldiers to board these upon the end of my speech; all of you have a number 1 - 20, designating the train you will board. Also, because of the danger of the Serpent's Pass, we have constructed a bridge across the West Lake. Other than that, the path to Fong's base will be normal. Like the Earth King, you have the best wishes from the Council of Five, for you, those who will proudly serve this nation."
After this, in an organized process, the rest of the soldiers boarded the trains, and prepared for their departure. Kuei, the Council of Five, and the present Royal Guards departed from the defense force, and with that, the trains left.
"May the spirits watch over us all," Kuei said.
"They will," How responded. "We've come too far from the end of the War to fall now."
An important move
Just outside the base, Reeaki invited Aang and Zuko out for one last meeting. The day was sort of cloudy, but no rain was falling. Reeaki had just one scroll with him, and it was just one move he needed to cover, but this move was a big one.
The three young men sat in a small pagoda, and Reeaki opened the scroll. "Avatar Aang, Zuko...you guys have made it far with all your training. You have essentially mastered temperature control. However, there is this move I want to cover with you. It's a powerful move, but it is very risky."
"Risky?" Aang asked.
"Yes," Reeaki answered. "This is a move that hasn't been performed in almost 2,800 years. It is basically instead of simply absorbing the heat energy, you convert it into an attack. You have the extra energy, but, the risk is you can take all your energy with it. Allow me to demonstrate...simply demonstrate, no performance."
With that said, the instructor got up and began performing the same steps he used for temperature control. However, after relaxing the stance, he quickly jumped to an attack position, and shot fire out of his fingertips. "That's all there is to it. The heat energy becomes a Firebending attack, or for you, Aang, any other bending attack. However, you have to be fast; within two seconds after releasing your heat absorption stance. The enhancement from the temperature absorption will give you a powerful Firebending attack. However, you need all your energy for the attack....going too powerful could possibly drain all the energy from your body...leaving you an unconscious shell."
Aang shuddered at the thought, while it didn't seem to phase Zuko too much. "If those are the risks...so be it," the ex-Fire Lord declared.
"I hope you don't have to use it," Reeaki said, going over to a pillar and placing his hand against it, adding a deep sigh. "But if Zorro is as powerful as advertised...you'll have to."
"Reeaki?" The Avatar asked. "Have you...used it before? You seem regretful."
"I did," Reeaki responded. "I tested it out while I was on my own...it worked. But...I was close to a forest...and I mistakenly set part of it on fire. I was able to put it out as the forest was at the shores...so I used the seawater to extinguish it. Still...it's powerful. Be very careful with how you use it. Don't go to it unless it's a last resort."
"That's rough, buddy," Zuko added.
"You should have seen it...well, you're better off that you didn't," their instructor said. "It was the most horrifying thing I had seen...and it was of my doing."
"It was a mistake," Aang assured him. "Not your fault."
"In any event," Reeaki continued. "That attack is severe...and once more, do not go to it unless it is a last resort. I can't emphasize that enough."
"We promise," Aang added with a nod.
"Does Zorro know it?" The former Fire Lord asked.
"Maybe...maybe not," Reeaki answered. "I guess you'll just have to find out. With that said...that's all I needed you two for today."
Declaration of a march, 08:00, 13 September
Two more towns fell on the north end of the Capital throughout the previous two days, granting the Rebel Army a total of six towns, and another surge in troops.
"1,582," Tizou reported as the official headcount. "This has to be more than enough to attack the Fire Nation Capital! I mean, the Day of Black Sun invasion force was smaller than this, and they almost took the city!"
"They did have the advantage of a solar eclipse," Bujing reminded them. "However, I will not lie...this is an impressive army now. Almost 1,600 men...it depends how much Zorro will call back to the Capital now."
"We also have these towns' resources if we need them," Azai said. "The fall of this town was critical; we have several tanks we can proceed with."
"I think it's time to march," Tizou declared. "They will be assaulting the South Pole and Earth Kingdom soon. Remember, there's a navy base on the eastern islands. The eastern tip of our island chain is not very far from the Earth Kingdom. It's not a pleasant situation. Time is too short to try other towns. With that said, General Bujing, your strategy has paid off."
Bujing nodded and said, "Let's gather everyone up. We are marching to the Capital today. We only have, by my estimation, forty miles to march."
Fire Nation Royal Palace, 08:30
Zorro's flames were low; he was in an upbeat mood. Tomorrow, the Fire Nation would invade the Southern Water Tribe and the Earth Kingdom. A large mobilization had taken place over the last thirty-six hours, and they were set to go at any time. Zorro had told Kianna and Baktan they would be sailing southbound tomorrow, and had sent them to a navy base. With them, the surrender of the South Pole would be handled.
At that time, General Fuang walked into the throne room. "Sir, I have some news you might not like," he said, falling on his knees but looking up to the Fire Lord.
"I'm sure I can handle it right now," Zorro said.
"Well...the Rebel Army bounced back," Fuang explained. "As of local sunset last night, they had taken five towns in forty-eight hours."
Zorro's flames shot upward. "What?! What is wrong with our domestic forces? FIVE towns!? This is absurd!"
"I'm afraid they are also on their way towards the Capital," Fuang continued.
Zorro placed his palm over his face. "This is sickeningly bad. I can not believe the failures of the internal army. Five towns...this can only mean one thing. We'll have to take some of the Earth Kingdom invading forces and bring them back here to defend the Capital. I can't believe this has happened."
"Don't blame me!" Fuang urged.
"You are not responsible," Zorro responded. "It's the idiots who lead the domestic forces in those towns. Unbelievable how ill-prepared they could all be, so as to let those generals who served under that brat Zuko take over. Now, we're talking a possible attack against us!"
"We have about 400 men who can defend against the Rebellion," the general told him.
"Very well...call in about one thousand of the Earth Kingdom invaders," Zorro replied. "We will make sure no one takes this city. We came here, and here we shall stay."
"I'll send a messenger hawk to General Shang as soon as possible," Fuang said.
"How about NOW!?" Zorro yelled back. "Don't wait a second longer, time is of the essence!"
"Very well sir," Fuang said, and left the room quickly.
Zorro's look was stinging. "If any of those brat's men think they can take the Capital...they're fools...and that coward Zuko won't even show up and fight for himself...how weak. Hiding behind his generals. I promise this to you, Zuko, wherever you are...once I stop this nonsense rebellion...I will find you...and end you."
General Fong's base, 09:00
The troops rolled across the countryside, closing in on the general's base as fast as they left Ba Sing Se the day before. They were the thousands who would join Team Avatar in their mission.
Outside the base, Team Avatar stood alongside General Fong, with Aang closest to the center.
The trains stopped out in front of the mighty base, which was, save for Aang's Avatar State attack, not affected by the War, as had been advertised. Slowly, the multitude of men that had been arranged for this mission stepped out of the tanks. Whether they were simply warriors or Earthbenders didn't matter much in that moment; they were there to serve.
"Men," General Fong began. "It is my pleasure to welcome you to my military base, from where we will launch our attack against Zorro's Fire Nation! I am glad to announce that the Avatar, the Southern Water Tribe royalty, the former Fire Lord and his girlfriend, the Bei Fong child, the head of the Kyoshi Warriors, and their instructor of Weatherbending all have joined our mission, and will be helping against the Fire Nation in all ways! This day is important; you all need to understand your assignments before we attack! As it appears to me, there are twenty trains here and they are all numbered. Per the assignments I have been given by the Council of Five and the Earth King," he looked down at a message he had been given days earlier regarding the plans. "It appears that those of you who arrived on trains four, seven, nine, fifteen, and eighteen...you will be headed to the Southern Water Tribe to help the depleted forces there against the siege! Joining you will be the Tribal Prince and Princess, Sokka and Katara! At this time, you will now join Prince Sokka and General Gala for further instruction."
Sokka led the assigned troops away, and there he would discuss the strategy with his eventual allies. He was nervous after he struggled with the same idea before the Day of Black Sun. Katara gave him a quick hug and an assuring smile. "Don't worry, big bro," she told him. "I know you're ready for this."
"I hope so, little sis," Sokka replied, and he led the troops on their way to see General Gala.
"As for the rest of you," Fong resumed. "It is up to you to defend our homeland. You will be divided to the west and east of the base. The Fire Nation intends on taking Senlin Village and the nearby mining village first, then use them as bases to take this base. It is up to all of you to be in position for this fight. The village leaders have already agreed to allow you to quarter in homes over there for the overnight. Be prepared to rise early! The Fire Nation will come early; they have a base just a short distance from here. Now then, the Avatar wishes to speak."
Aang stepped up; he was biologically younger than pretty much every soldier there, yet he would be the one to address him. "I can't thank all of you enough for joining the cause to retain our world's balance. This is not going to be an easy fight; the military under Fire Lord Zorro is just as tough as it was under Ozai and his ancestors. However, you all have already done a great job by just being willing to serve not just the Earth Kingdom, but the entire world. I know that together, we can do this. I may not be along side all of you, as I will join Zuko in the Fire Nation to restore his rightful place on the throne. However, all of you have a role in this; by stopping Zorro's Fire Nation from overwhelming your land and colonizing it once again. I know you will do the job well. I know the spirits will watch over us. I know we will all have restored balance to the world when this is over. Once again, thank you all for your bravery."
The Avatar then stepped back. Katara was smiling at him brightly, and she walked over to give him a kiss on the cheek. "Great speech," she murmured. Aang blushed and sheepishly smiled at the show of love in front of the soldiers, but didn't mind it at all.
"I have nothing more to say beyond what Avatar Aang just said," Fong said. "Now, take some time to head over to the towns to get settled. We will see you all again later today. Trains 1 - 10 will head to Senlin when their men return. 11 - 20, the mining village with the same circumstances." The general, the Avatar and his friends all walked away.
The team enjoyed their last dinner together before they split up tomorrow to join the fight. The dinner was prepared by staff of General Fong's base, as had been their previous two as well. Tomorrow would be the day they separated.
"I just thought of something," Toph said after taking the last sip of a soup. "When this is over, where are we all going to meet back?"
"Good point," Reeaki responded to the Earthbender.
The team took a few seconds to think before Zuko came up with something. "Well, some of us are taking trips to our locations, and others are staying here. Maybe we could all just come together back here."
"It's a good point, Zuko," Sokka replied, "But when you and Aang win, you're going to become Fire Lord again, so why don't we just all go back to the Capital?"
"You sure about that?" Mai asked. "I don't know about you, but the only thing we have left is Reeaki's boat. Even if we win, there will still be a bunch of ships crossing the oceans. I don't want to deal fire coming at us from all directions. I vote for Zuko's plan."
"I can see where each of us are coming from," Aang said. "But, Sokka...I'm sorry. When I think about it, Zuko's plan makes more sense...even if it does seem weird to leave the Fire Nation before he becomes Fire Lord again."
"Politically," Zuko pointed out, "As the generals are leaders of the Rebel Army; when the Capital falls, they would be the leaders. They would have to appoint me as the Fire Lord. Because Zorro is the leader of the Meteorologists, he became the ruler of the nation. So, whoever's truly in charge of the Rebel Army becomes Fire Lord, and then they would transfer power to myself."
"All right," Sokka said. "I see where this is coming from. So, we will all meet here once we are done."
The rest of the team nodded in agreement.
"There's one last thing I wanted to show you all," Reeaki said. "Before I get it...Aang, do you remember a few days ago before dinner, when I went into that town?"
Aang nodded, and Reeaki got up. He then came back with a small bag in his hand. Reaching into this bag, he pulled out an object within. It was a black wristband. "This is a proper tribute to the one who has fallen."
On the wristband, the letters "TL" appeared, and on each side appeared a fan, similar to the ones the Kyoshi Warriors used. An inscription on the back read as "WHY WE FIGHT".
"We fight not just to save the world," Reeaki said, "but also to avenge our fallen." He drew out several more and left them on the table where they were dining. "I want everyone to wear one of these for the final battle...to serve as a reminder."
One by one, the members of Team Avatar took a wristband, and placed it on themselves. Katara and Suki each looked at theirs with a more sort of upset but stronger feeling. "You know...this is a really cool idea," Katara then addressed Reeaki.
"It's an idea I got from my world, in sports," Reeaki stated. "When a teammate or significant figure to a team died, the rest of the team would always do some tribute to them. This is the idea I got for a tribute to Ty Lee."
"I like it," Aang simply spoke. "It is a good reminder."
Fong then walked into the dinner. "Aang, Zuko, I have some good news. Those submarines we have do work; however, they are not at the best speed. You will have to leave by midnight tonight."
Zuko and Aang weren't overly thrilled with the idea, but they simply nodded.
"Katara, Sokka," Fong continued. "The assault against your home will take place around 8:00 tomorrow morning. Given you are using Appa as your transportation, you should leave here by around 4:00. It's early, but it's the best bet for you two."
"Reminds me of when Dad would get me up by sunrise to help him fish and whatnot," Sokka said. "We'll be ready."
"The last thing...the Fire Nation's assault against us should begin by midday," Fong finished. "I assume I can trust the rest of you to be ready."
"You can," Reeaki stated.
"Not be ready to kick Fire Nation butt?" Toph declared with a chuckle. "Yeah, tell me another one that makes me laugh."
General Fong left them behind with that, trusting they would be prepared. Team Avatar looked around at one another, and despite some weird timing in effect, they all seemed ready to go.
This would be the team's final meeting before the separation. The couples stood next to one another.
"I guess I won't see you tomorrow," Katara whispered to Aang, taking his hands within hers. "You have to leave in about two hours."
"I know," Aang replied. "I'm going to miss you. I know you'll make us all proud though....though I really wish I could come."
"I do too," the Avatar's girl added. "However, you just need to know where you're needed the most...and that's the Fire Nation. I know you and Zuko will make a great team...you are the Avatar and the Fire Lord after all. I look forward to your safe return...home."
"I'll be homeward bound before you know it," the Tribal Princess' boyfriend responded. He then moved in and gave her a light, affectionate kiss.
Katara absorbed the kiss, and smiled brightly, looking into his eyes. She then drew a heart in his hand, and closed his hand with hers. "That's where my heart is...I'm leaving it with you...so I'm always with you."
"Thank you," was all Aang could get out.
The two then embraced tightly, and exchanged another soft kiss.
Mai looked at her boyfriend with worry. "I don't want you to be harmed," she addressed Zuko.
Zuko gave her a kiss on the cheek. "I may get wounded...I promise you, I won't lose though. I've let myself fail as Fire Lord once...I won't do it again. You stay safe...their military is dangerous."
"I've got a good enough base by my side, in addition to some good weapons," Mai chuckled. "I'll be fine. I just can't wait to see you again...and boss around more of your servants," she proceeded to laugh again.
"Careful, power corrupts," Zuko laughed back.
Him and Mai then kissed, and hugged as well. "Good luck, love," Mai said.
"You too," Zuko responded.
Sokka and Suki were hoping for the best for one another.
"If I'm late," he told her. "Don't get worried. You know Katara and myself might take a while."
Suki kissed him lightly. "I won't ever give up on you, Sokka. You managed to break into the Fire Nation's most secure prison to get me out. Don't worry."
The two kissed again, and soon everyone began giving their allies shows of friendship, whether it be hugs or handshakes.
Katara and Suki met, and it wasn't long before they had each other in a hug. They had a common pain that united them in a better friendship.
"We'll win this for her," Suki said.
"Absolutely," Katara added, breaking from the embrace afterwards. "Stay safe."
"I will," Suki nodded. "Kick Kianna's butt."
This was it.
Team Avatar would split.
It was now...or never.
For the world.
Around the world, they were ready. The Fire Nation Rebel Army spread to the entrance to the Capital, ready to attack at dawn. The Fire Nation Navy was still surrounding the South Pole, and the soldiers were braced for attack. At a navy base on the eastern islands, there were several ships still left, despite the fact that some reversed course and returned to the Fire Nation to defend their capital. At the western coast of the Earth Kingdom, thousands of men were set to defend their home.
Only time would tell who would win.
One thing was for sure...every fighter was in for a wild battle.
This chapter turned out about as long as chapter nine.
Zuko's line "I've let myself fail as Fire Lord once...I won't do it again" recalls Aang's saying from The Day of Black Sun, Part 1.
Another Zuko quote, "That's rough, buddy", is a line he also said to Sokka in The Boiling Rock, Part 1.
The closure section I felt was the definitive way to wrap this chapter up, to serve as a true bridge into the final showdown.
Ready? Set? In two chapters or so you will see who rules the world.
For the collective works of the author, go here.
Changing Weather - Not Your Typical Days - Regathering the Team - Into the Fire Nation - The Masters of Weather - The Meteorologists Attack - Recovery and Disasters - Searching for Instruction - Reeaki's Arrival - Training - Reverberations - A Dire Warning - Can We Hold Together? - Last Preparations - The Final Showdown, Part 1 - The Final Showdown, Part 2 - Survivors of the Conflict - Moving Forward
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