|More from AvatarAang7||Action/Adventure||PG-13||None yet||No update page|
|The United Fleet|
The United Fleet
Sai woke up with a headache the likes of which he had never felt before. He shot upright, but soon regretted that decision. So did Yang.
"Sai! You're awake!" She ran over from the corner as he tried to sit instead of lie down, and she pushed him back. "You've been out for quite a while, you need to take it easy."
"Yang... What happened?" But it all came flashing back to him. How Captain Lee killed Sozu. How he chased Captain Lee through the mountains, and murdered him on the spot. "Sozu is really..."
The airbender nodded cautiously. "Yeah. And you got Lee, you got him good." She fell silent for a while, as he was forced to face the fact that it hadn't all been a nightmare, but the cold, hard, truth. He gently sat up, and this time the dizziness didn't get the better of him.
"How long have I been out exactly?"
-"Nearly three days. After what happened in the Yincang Caves, Juji and I didn't know how much longer it would still be standing. You blew out the entire back wall on your way out, and it was going to collapse at some point. So I got Maya, and Juji and I took Sozu with us and flew after you. You weren't very difficult to follow: we saw spikes of every element rise up from the air, and you brought them all down on Lee. By the time we had fully caught up to you, you were unconscious and Lee was dead. We put you on Maya as well, and decided to fly to the Northern Air Temple, as it was the closest safe haven, but by the time we got there, it had been abandoned. Only a few lemurs remained, everything else was gone. Since neither you or Juji were in any state to make a call, I decided to continue flying north, to the Northern Water Tribe, as it seemed like our best bet. But we soon came across the first fleet of the United Forces, and we landed on this ship. You've been asleep here ever since."
Sai just let it all come over him. He didn't care about any of the technicals. All that really mattered to him was that Sozu, his firebending teacher, his friend, was dead. "Is Sozu on board this ship?"
-"Yes. We put him in the mortuary."
"Can you take me to him?"
Yang apologetically shook her head. "Not just yet. You need to rest, and drink something."
But Sai wouldn't have it. "I don't need rest, I've been asleep for three days. It's past time I do something more productive."
-"There is another reason. As soon as you set foot out that door, there are four soldiers waiting for you, all with orders to take you to the guy running this joint. You're not going anywhere until you talk to him. So my advice is that you take it easy, and drink something."
He sighed. "Fine. Do you have something in here?"
Yang walked over the place she had been sitting, and pulled out a can of fizzy soft drink. "Here. It has a buttload of sugar in it, to get you back up to strength. You're going to feel very faint at first."
She handed him the open can, and he took a few sips. It was disgustingly sweet, but he forced himself to drink it anyway.
Once he had finished the can, Yang helped him to his feet, and he walked to the door. Cautiously, he opened it, half expecting four blasts of fire to come his way. That didn't happen, but there were four massive soldiers waiting for him. The one with the most brass on his shoulders spoke first. "Avatar Sai, we have orders to take you to the officer in command as soon as you woke up. Are you strong enough to walk?"
Sai decided that he was, and nodded once.
-"Good. Follow us." The first two started walking, and when Yang joined him, they followed the two, while the remaining soldiers brought up the rear. They walked to an elevator, which took them to a higher level, but not quite on the bridge. Once they got out of the elevator, the soldiers led them into a spacious office, which only had small windows, but that was probably a good thing. The walls were covered in pictures of ships, airplanes, newspaper reports of battles, decorations and medals with their descriptions. Behind a desk on the far side of the room, a man who was about sixty stood up. He was wearing a simple blue uniform, but it left no doubt about his rank. His parting was drawn past a top notch ruler, and a pair of golden reading spectacles bridged his nose, which he removed as soon as he noticed the group entering.
-"General, the Avatar and his friend," one of the soldiers said. The general nodded, and the soldiers left the room.
-"Avatar Sai," he began, and extended a hand. Sai shook it, albeit weakly. "I'm sorry about what happened to your friend."
"Yeah, I'm sure you are." Sai didn't mean to sound callous, but he was in no condition to precisely control his tone. "Who are you, and what do you want with me?"
-"I am General Valka. What I want with you is a bit of a longer story."
"What do you mean with that?"
-"The attack on the Southern Air Temple got out. I had orders to call it in as soon as I got solid confirmation. And I did."
Sai turned to Yang. "You told him?"
She slowly nodded. "I didn't have a choice. I was stuck with an unconscious Avatar, and Sozu..." She sighed. "Even the most seasoned liar couldn't have talked his way out of a situation like that."
-"It wasn't only her," Valka continued. "You killed the captain of the elite army of the Earth Federation. They were furious, and demanded your head, but you were missing until you showed up on my ship. When Yang told me about what happened at the Southern Air Temple and in the Yincang caves, I relayed the message to President Lei, as he ordered me to. Fire Lord Kazuo was equally as furious when he heard about what happened to the son of a high nobleman. I imagine Suke Serizawa pressured him, but coupled with the attack on Ember Island half a year ago, he agreed to support all war efforts of the United Republic."
"The Republic declared war."
Valka nodded. "Our forces are mobilizing as we speak. I was ordered to return the first fleet to Republic City, to defend it at all costs. But we have to sail around the tip of the Federation, unless we want to take an enormous risk to save maybe half a day."
"Where do the other nations stand?"
-"The Water Tribes have declared neutrality, and the Air Nation will defend the United Republic, but they will not fight as the main force. The five leaders of the Air Temples stand behind the Republic, but they won't seek out a fight. We also have several states of the Federation behind us, the most important one being Zaofu. It's a stronghold, and we can mount an invasion from there, if we can hold it."
"So where do I fit into the picture?" Sai asked.
-"The President is gathering all his allies in the city. He wants to draw up a political message, and if the Avatar is with him, he has extra leverage over the Earth Federation."
"Really? He values the political influence of fifteen year-old?"
Valka and Yang smiled at the realization that Sai hadn't lost his sense of humor when he was out. "We can agree that you're not just any fifteen year-old. Even if it is just your title, it carries weight. From what Yang told me, you have come a long way with earth and fire, and were just starting with air."
Sai nodded. "Yes, but I wasn't done with fire or air, and I haven't even started with water. Plus, I'm kind of stuck for a teacher on all three."
Yang spoke up. "Jinora said that I could go up for my tattoos if I wanted to. I have pretty much mastered airbending, I could teach you everything you need to know."
But Valka brushed off this statement. "All of this can be tabled for a later discussion. The important thing now is that I get you to Republic City."
"Alright. But first, I want to see my friend."
-"I understand." Valka called for one of the soldiers to escort the two to the morgue. Once they got there, the soldier quickly left, and Sai hesitated to open the door.
-"Juji is in there," Yang said. "She hasn't left since we brought her here." She hesitated for a little bit. "You get in there now. She'll want to see you."
He turned the wheel of the door, and it opened. Juji was sitting in the far corner of the dimly lit room, staring at a particular lid in the wall.
"Hey," he managed softly.
She looked up. "Hey." Sai saw that there was something off about her face, but he couldn't quite make out what from the far side of the room. Juji leant back into the dark corner, and Sai made a small flame in his hand to see her better.
What he saw was shocking. The left side of her face had been badly bruised, but it had been healing poorly. It left a horrible yellow-ish green mark on her otherwise cute face. Sai's eyes grew wide. "What happened to you?"
She sighed. "You did." It fell silent as Sai stumbled back a few steps, but he couldn't think of anything to say. "How much do you remember from what you did that day?" She asked as she saw how puzzled he was.
He sighed. "Just bits and pieces." Sai hesitated. "Fear. In everything I remember, there is fear. Sozu, you, Yang, even Lee. There is nothing but fear in all of you."
Juji nodded. "We were all terrified of you. I tried to stop you, and then you hit me. You were beside yourself with rage. After you slapped me out of the way, you went after Lee, and there was nothing we could do to stop you."
Sai could hardly process it. He had actually hit her, and he couldn't remember a damn thing about it. What's worse, he hadn't been on control of himself when he did. "Juji, I... I am so sorry."
She nodded. "Yeah. I'm sure you are."
"I didn't know Lee was going to do this. He said that if I would turn myself over, he would let you two go. He blindsided me, and Sozu had to pay the price." He fell silent for a bit. "And then he did as well."
She stood up. "Well, if you're feeling pleased with yourself, think again. You have single handedly started a war, Sai. Exactly what we have been trying to prevent."
"I'm not here to fight with you, I'm here to see how you were doing. Whatever people in fancy suits high up the food chain have thought up, I don't care right now. All I want to hear is how you are feeling right now."
Juji sighed again. "I'm falling apart. I just lost my brother, my boyfriend can't control his temper, and my father is ensuring a world war is going to happen. Yang seems to be the last one who can keep a cool head in all this."
-"Look, I just want to get Sozu back home. He deserves a Fire Nation funeral. My parents must be there, and I don't want to have it in the United Republic. I want it on Ember Island."
Sai nodded. "You're right. I'll talk to the general, he seems to be reasonable. I'll get him home." He walked to the door, when Yang was still waiting for him on the other side.
-"Sai?" Juji sounded a little more hopeful. He turned around to hear her out again. But she just smiled. "Thank you."
For the collective works of the author, go here.