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|Old Spirit, New Face|
A man walked in through the magnificent temple doorway. He wore an orange stiff collar shirt and grey mandarin collared jacket, fastened at the waist with a belt. He stood beside a greying woman, staring out the window. In their field of view, a large wall spanned the entire coastline of the island. Primitive cannons were positioned along certain points of the wall, some of which lay in pieces. Smouldering wreckages littered Yue Bay and began sinking.
The man removed his peaked cap and grey gloves, revealing a mop of slightly grey hair, shaved at the sides. "Jinora," the man sighed, "looks like we have held off another attack."
Jinora stood erect with her arms behind her back. Without turning to look him in the eye, she muttered, "Yes, it would appear so, Kai. Yet another, and another... and another..." Her voice faded away. "Will it never end?"
Kai placed his hand on her shoulder. "Don't worry, Jin, everything will go okay."
Jinora tried to smile but was unable.
Below them, three men stood in a lookout tower, with a large turret and telescope. The men were all dressed in orange shirts and grey jackets, two of them wearing them unbuttoned. The man looking through the telescope, however, was dressed in his full uniform, complete with gloves and peaked cap. He squinted his eyes and focused on a small object in the distance. "Alright, Lee, get the cannon ready."
Lee, the man with his jacket on the floor swirled a large ball of air and rotated it quickly. "On your order, sir." He moved the ball near the canon's funnel.
"Hold on, that's no triad plane," the commander realised. "False alarm, disperse your air."
Lee dispersed his ball and looked up to his commander. "Sir?"
"That's no triad, Private, we have a special visitor, one we have been waiting for for a long time," the captain grinned. "Have a telegram sent immediately to the matriarch." The remaining men rushed down the fortress stairs to greet the visitor. They stood by the runway of the island. When the plane skidded to a halt, a young man threw off his goggles and jumped from the back seat. He straightened his green shirt and ran his fingers through his brown hair.
The men, this time all of them in full uniform, some looking as if they were thrown on in a rush, saluted the new arrival, placing their fingers to their caps with their palms facing down. Each of them carried a large staff, looking similar to the gliders of old. One man, Kai, stood at the edge of the tunnel of men. "Pleased to see you, Tero, we trust you are the relief Republic City needs. Come with me, my wife has been dying to see you!" Kai beckoned Tero and guided him up the staircase into the dining room of Air Temple Island. The same, greying woman finally turned from the window, to face the stranger.
Before her very eyes, Tero's face faded into that of a woman's with brilliant blue eyes, a soft blue reflecting passion, determination and rage. His hair grew into a large ponytail. Very quickly, it reverted to the original, masculine form. Tero extended his hand. "Pleased to meet you. I'm Tero. Avatar Tero."
Jinora placed her fists together and bowed, Tero returning the gesture. "Pleased to meet you again, Avatar," Jinora shed a tear. "I haven't seen you in fifteen years."
Tero shifted his eyes from side to side. "Well, uh, I'm sorry about that."
Jinora shook her head. "No, no. Hardly your fault. A lot has changed since Korra's time, Republic City was never like this."
"Why do these men look like they are in the army? I thought the Air Nation was supposed to be peaceful. And why is there a wall? What happened to all your ports?"
"As I said, a lot has changed. The triads have carved up Republic City between them, the only pockets of resistance remaining are here, Future Industries Tower and the police station. They are all still fighting, but none are as lucky as us, being an island and all. We have had no choice but to create a professional army."
"Why haven't the police or military gotten involved?" Tero asked.
Jinora leant on the window sill. "The police are tied down in the station and cannot leave their territory. Yue Bay is pretty much blockaded by triad boats. They raid any ship that comes close, merchant or war. We are cut off from everyone. We have managed to fly in some supplies and volunteers from the Fire Nation. Iroh is a very generous Fire Lord."
Tero paced around the room. "Oh no, this is bad. What are we going to do? What is the plan? Some sort of strike, a landing?"
Jinora shook her head. "No, that would be suicide. And we barely have enough men to defend this island, let alone if half our men are attacking the ports. Don't worry, General Kai has the long term plan, you should ask him about it."
"Triads!" a man shouted from below. "There are two dozen ships, mostly speed boats but a few transport ships."
Kai rushed to Tero. "Come with me," he said. He then turned to the window and shouted, "Concentrate your heavy fire on the transport ships. If any of them have canons, shoot them first. Scramble the biplanes!" Tero ran down the stairs, following Kai. He ascended a staircase and reached a lookout post. Looking out, they saw their biplanes descending on the transport ships, dropping their payloads from above. Kai turned to Tero and touched the turret. "Have you ever used an air cannon before?"
Tero shook his head. "No, sir."
"Do you know airbending yet?"
"Yes, I actually learnt that before fire."
"Just form a ball of air and force it through the turret, it's not difficult. Try to aim at that medium transport ship for me, not the speedboats, the other."
Tero formed a large ball of air swirled it around. He forced it into the turret and an extremely concentrated blast of wind erupted from the nozzle. The large, compressed gust kicked up a massive wave but overshot the target.
"That's okay," Kai said, "try again. Don't worry."
Tero tried again, this time attempting to use less power. "This is quite slow to reload, isn't it, General?" He compressed his ball through the turret and finally struck the ship, tearing open the hull. "Awfully crude."
Kai nodded. "It's the best we have. We ran out of explosives a while ago. It will take another week for Asami to resupply us." Kai looked through the telescope intently. "Ah, they're fleeing, good!" He picked up the radio transmitter. "All men, fire upon the retreating ships."
Tero examined the scenery, the chaos in Yue Bay reverted to an eerie calm, many would liken it to the silence after a storm, although a more appropriate comparison would be the trenches of Ypres at 11 AM on the 11th of the 11th, 1918. The wall seemed intact all over, except for a few sections which seemed to be patched up from mismatching bricks and stones, like an old jacket patched with rags. Parts of the outer courtyard seemed jagged and destroyed, forming a line ending metres away from the central building. "You see that?" Kai pointed. "That was from their 20th attempt a few years ago, they almost made it."
The two walked off silently to the dining room area and met Jinora. "What a horrific scene," Tero exclaimed.
Jinora shrugged it off. "Yeah, it's terrible but you get used to it."
Tero's voice became higher pitched. "Get used to it? How could you get used to that?"
Jinora frowned and cracked her back. "Tero, I know you're not ready for this, but Republic City needs you. We have small skirmishes with the triads every week and have almost monthly invasion attempts. Mako and Asami face an attempt every three days. Will you help us?"
Tero frowned. "I have no choice, do I? If I refuse, I neglect my Avatar duties. I'm in."
Kai put his fists together and bowed. "Welcome to the Front."
Tero placed his fists together and bowed to Kai and Jinora.
Jinora straightened her hand and tucked away her thumb. With her hand pointing upwards, she placed her thumb below her lip, perfectly dividing her face. "Live for the Front, die for the Front!" Tero repeated the action.
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