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|The Dimension Jumper: Realization|
"Wait, hold on. So you're from a different universe?" The bubbly boy's voice echoed, bouncing off the glaciers and icebergs.
"No way!" Aang waved his arms with excitement.
The four unexpected guests rowed slowly in the small canoe, moving slower than before due to the extra weight. The warm sun shined down upon them and gave the surrounding ice a brilliant shine, almost blinding. Small waves lapped up against the hull of the canoe, lacking the aggressiveness so commonly present in the artic seas. Everything was calm, for the moment.
Katara reached forward, from her position at the back, and touched Aang on the shoulder, "We'll take you and Chet back to our tribe. Everyone will be so excited to me you two."
"What about your "flying" bison, Aang?" Sokka asked, his voice dripping with sarcasm.
All four of them turned around to see the large sky bison following them in the water, its six legs propelling it through the water.
"Keep it up Buddy, I know you're tired. We're almost there," reassured Aang. "You can have some hay when we arrive."
The two siblings turned to look at each other. Aang caught the movement in the corner of his eyes. "You do have hay, right?"
"If by hay, you mean sea prunes, then sure. What do you think this is, the Earth Kingdom?" Sokka frowned and continued paddling.
As Sokka continued to mumble under his breath, Katara looked at Chet. He had been oddly quiet this trip...
At long last, the canoe came in contact with the shore of the ice and the four got out and stretched their legs. Appa trailed behind them and crawled ashore, shaking himself dry.
"Ah! Aang tell your pet to stop it!" Sokka yelled before the wave of freezing cold water shut him up.
Aang walked over and patted Appa on the side, "You're gonna have to stop that, buddy. Sorry."
"G-Great, I'm s-s-soaked. And-d my extra clothes are d-d-dirty," stuttered Sokka, wringing his sleeves of water.
"Well, I guess you'll have to ask your sister to get rid of it, like I did," Chet turned and walked past the group. He climbed a mound of ice and looked out at the horizon, black hair waving in the light breeze.
Sokka looked up at the newcomer, barely articulate. "W-What's on your mind, Ch-Ch-Ch....?"
A pause followed as Katara, chuckling, proceeded to dry her brother, and Chet fumbled for words, "I've been thinking lately, about what Roku said. He said I can firebend now, but I don't know if that is a blessing or a curse... I don't even know what it is, really. How do I do it? I mean, the whole world is against the Fire Nation. What will people think when they find out I can firebend?"
Sokka, no longer wet and freezing, walked up to Chet, "I know what you mean. All we can do is go on and hope that people understand your... interesting situation."
Sokka's words evoked a memory in Katara. "Oh, and speaking of interesting things, Sokka and I saw some strange things a couple of days ago when we went out for driftwood," she piped up.
"Oh, yeah, I remember that. There was this giant, fluffy creature, but it had fangs and horns that wrapped around its mouth, and claws that were like knives." As Sokka explained, his face became whiter and whiter until he wore the expression of a little girl who had just seen a ghost.
"Was it a teddy bear?" Chet mused.
"What? No! It had a large bloodstain around its jaws as if it lived on raw flesh. Katara froze it in ice miraculously; it's right over there," Sokka pointed to a column that jutted awkwardly out of the icy landscape, a mere silhouette against the darkening sky.
"Let's go check it out. Maybe I can identify it for you." Chet led the group to the spot Sokka pointed out, wary for crevasses and gaps in the sea ice. Upon reaching the creature, Chet walked around to its front to inspect it closely. He barely turned the corner before letting out a bark of laughter.
"Yeah, I know what this thing is, it's a wampa from Star Wars. I used to watch those movies when I was a kid. I guess that means the universes really are breaking; these creatures are dangerous. One almost killed Luke Skywalker."
Sokka, scratched his head, "Wampa wha-? Ah, never mind. But yes, that thing almost killed me!"
"We should probably get back to the tribe, before something else walks in from a different universe. Because, I can think of ten things right now that would be worse than that." Chet gestured to Sokka and Katara to lead the way, and then fell in behind them and walked next to Aang.
He saw that Aang was looking down at the ground, seemingly ignorant of the environment around him. It was a posture that Chet was all too aware of.
"Aang, what's on your mind?" asked Chet.
"Nothing," came the distracted reply.
"Come on Aang. I am the epitome of a deep thinker. If there's one thing that I can do, it's spot other deep thinkers. Tell me, what's up?"
He sighed, deeply, thinking about how best to tell his new friend. "Roku said a war has been going on for a hundred years. People are suffering, and it's all because I wasn't there." Aang let out a long sigh and kicked some snow around.
"The key is that your back now, Aang. You can make a difference. Don't get down on yourself. That's practically what I've done my whole life, and that's what Roku wants me to change. I don't want you to become me. Promise me that you let the past be the past, and look to the future."
Aang looked up at Chet, "I promise."
Katara's voice carried back to the two boys. "And we're here! Aang, Chet, welcome to the Southern Water Tribe."
"Captain, we're drawing near the Southern Water Tribe."
Prince Zuko turned from the bow of his ship and faced the Fire Nation soldier, "Ready the men to fight. And make sure to tell them: the Avatar is mine."
"Yes sir." The soldier about faced and marched back down below decks. Walking back to the bow of the ship, Zuko looked out at the frozen seas and scanned the ice for the tribe. The weather was still clear and the warmth of the sun gave him a little consolation from the thought of frigid water. He stifled a shiver at the thought of being alone here in the cold, but he could not suppress the anxiety from the upcoming encounter.
"It's been three long years of searching, and it can all come to an end, here," he whispered to himself. "I can return home and regain my honor."
Iroh walked up next to his nephew, "Zuko, do not forget what we have practiced. The Avatar has had one hundred long years to perfect the elements. You would be no match for him alone."
"I know, Uncle. I have been thinking, meditiating, practicing the advanced sets. This is my chance to finally go home. I can't fail now," Zuko placed his hands on the railings, and looked out once again. This time, his eyes widened to a small cluster of tents and igloos surrounded by a tiny ice wall.
He breathed in and closed his eyes. "Let's go home."
Chet looked out at the mass of women and children. They all wore thick jackets and heavy snow boots which kept them warm and protected from the weather. Not only did they wear heavy clothes but heavy faces; faces that looked like they have not seen happiness for months, even years. Behind them was a shamble of tents and igloos, with a small wall of hard-packed snow for protection.
Katara stepped in between the two parties, "Aang, Chet, this is the Southern Water Tribe. Southern Water Tribe, this is Aang the Avatar, and Chet who comes from a different universe."
In unison, the tribe members gave their greetings and politely walked out to assimilate with the newcomers, although they where a little wary of Chet. They surrounded the two guests and beckoned them to come inside their tents for hot beverages and food. They were a transformed people. The sight of the Avatar seemed to rekindle their lost hope and, like a flower opening its silky petals to the radiant sun, the Southern Water Tribe became a vibrant community. Likewise, the idea of an "out-of-universe" visitor intrigued them and led to many questions for Chet as to what "Planet Earth" was like.
"Do you eat blubbered seal jerky?" asked a young Water Tribe boy.
Looking at all the eager faces beaming at him, Chet crossed his arms and said, "No, no I don't eat that. Mostly it's.. it's instant noodles, and hamburgers." Waves of "oohs" and "ahhs" followed his response, and cued a second wave of questions. Time passed, and from a stranger's perspective, one could hardly tell that the Tribe was suffering from a war at all.
"...and therefore, the purpose of a clutch in a manual transmission engine is to provide for the transmission of power from one component to another when engaged, but can be dis—" Chet was distracted midsentence by the fall of soot from the sky.
Aang looked up from his fan group as well, "Hey, Katara, this is weird colored snow!"
"That's not snow Aang." Katara's expression became grave, and the color drained from her face.
"It's the Fire Nation!" screamed a woman. The fleeting aura of bliss dissipated like a sputtering flame being extinguished. The whole Tribe fell into disarray. Mothers ran around frantically, corralling their children and herding them into their homes. Just as quickly as the Tribe came to life, it became a ghost town. Everyone was gone except for Chet, Aang, Sokka, Katara, and a small, elderly woman.
"Katara, you led the Fire Nation here by bringing those two home with you," exclaimed the old woman.
"They haven't done anything, Gran Gran! These two can help us protect the Tribe," said Katara.
Gran Gran pointed at the newcomers, "By bringing those two here, you have endangered the entire tribe!"
"But with them, we can fight back!" Katara yelled
Walking over to Katara and looking her square in the face, Gran Gran said, "Katara, I hope you remembered what happened last time the Fire Nation came and we fought back."
She looked away from her guardian, burning with grief and anger, "I will never forget."
The group hastily prepared for the fight that could very possibly change their lives forever. Katara and Sokka went around making sure the rest of the tribe was safe. All the tents were closed shut, and the entrances to the igloos were blocked off. The wind began to pick up and a high pitched whistling began to play through everyone's ears. The day had grown cold and clammy and dark clouds churned uneasily, blotting out the sun. Aang and Chet stood there, stunned by the sudden change of events.
Turning to Aang, Chet said, "Aang, I know I haven't known you for very long, but I do know that you are the Avatar, and if anyone can defeat the Fire Nation, it's you. It sure won't be me."
"Chet, you've given me some great advice today, but as Roku said, you are meant to be here. You may not know your purpose yet, but I think you will realize it very soon," Aang replied wisely.
With a nod, Chet hurried over to Sokka and Katara to ask what he could help with. Sokka had donned his battle garb and wielded a spear as well as his boomerang. Aang followed along and after checking the perimeter of the tribe, the four climbed the wall to look out at the choppy seas. An eerie mist slithered its way inland and clouded everything from view, bringing with it a wave of malevolence. In the distance, a rushing sound grew steadily louder, as if a long, sleek ship was cutting through the water. Looking down at the shore, the group could see the wake from the Fire Navy ship lap against the ice before they could see the ship itself. Sokka let out an audible yelp.
Hearing the discharge of steam from the hydraulic loading ramp before they could see it, the four didn't know to get out of the way until it was too late. Cutting through the mist was a long, thick piece of black metal accelerating towards them. At the last second, Aang clapped his hands together and shot a gust of air upwards, rebounding off the ramp and in turn, knocking the group off the wall. With an earth-shaking crash, the ramp tore down the wall and hit the ground. Chet could feel the cold soft ground beneath him, but if he didn't act now, it would get hot very soon. He looked around, searching for his friends; he was the only one who had maintained consciousness, having landed on a particularly soft area of snow. He had to get up. Looking up from the wreckage, Chet saw a group of Fire Nation soldiers led by a young man, emerge from the steam.
"Where are you keeping the Avatar?"
Dismayed to see that no one else had come to, Chet stared down the invading group and charged up the ramp at them; winding up his fist for a punch. Zuko effortlessly deflected the attack and countered with a sweep to the feet, sending Chet flipping off the side of the ramp, back into the snow. Driven like a pack animal, his eyes wide with anger, Chet pounced back onto the ramp for a second attack. Once again, he was beaten down and humiliated by Zuko's superior training. The banished Prince had been living a harsh lifestyle; Chet had grown flabby from office work and take-out. Propping himself up with his arms, Chet looked up at Zuko for another attack; but before he could make his move, a blade of air cut across the soldiers and knocked them off the plank and into the snow. Chet turned to see Aang standing up, but swaying rather dramatically.
"There you are," Zuko whispered, recovering from the fall.
Chet looked over and saw that Sokka and Katara had gotten up as well and were charging to fight. The group soon became preoccupied in their own small scuffles. Sokka fended off scores of soldiers at once with his spear but there seemed to be an endless stream of them emerging from the ship. One by one, the soldiers became too much and Sokka was overwhelmed. They brought him to his knees and bound both his arms and legs. The same fate befell Aang as well. No matter how much air he shot, taking down one soldier only spawned two to take the soldier's place. A sea of hands groped for any purchase of Aang they could get, tearing his garments to shreads. In only a few moments, two members of the group were incapacitated. That left Katara and Chet. Stepping out of the mass of warriors, Zuko leveled his arms and aimed a fire blast at Katara.
Seeing what Zuko planned to do, Chet ran in between the two, his face full of rage, his chest heaving up and down, and sweat pouring down his furrowed brow.
"You look angry... I know that face very well. You've been scarred." Zuko pointed to his face, and continued, "I'm scarred too, on the outside, however. Step down and come join me, and we can both have glory in capturing the Avatar. You and I seem very much alike."
Yelling in anger, Chet shot two wild, searing fire blasts that danced among Zuko and his men, licking their faces. Crying in surprise and pain, the soldiers fell to the ground, rolling in the snow in agony. Zuko parried the attack and stared at Chet, eyes wide in disbelief.
Chet resumed his fighting stance. "You're right. We are alike."
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