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February 8, 2013
This is the twenty-third chapter of the series,.
"Can't you hurry up? We'd be there by now if you didn't stop to sniff every tree." Tahno says as Naga finishes peeing on a tree. The two had been heading north at a brisk pace for the last two days following the trail inland, Tahno knowing full well the ship would be sticking close to the coast to reach the Earth Kingdom straits. Naga then walks back over as the water-bender hops back on and they head off again. After a few miles travel Naga reaches the top of a hill. Over the other side the two see the ocean and ride down to the beach. "Well I hope you're up for a swim." he says as the polar-bear dog howls then rushes forward into the water as they begin the next leg of their journey.
On board one of Sakyu's ships, Hokori walks the deck with Yoroi. As she walks she bumps into a barrel as she sees some strange green liquid seep out. She looks down strangely at it. She'd assumed all the barrels on deck were filled with sand for the sand-benders to use. She keeps walking giving it little attention afterward, waiting patiently for the moment her uncle and Avatar Korra mentioned to her. "Not really sure what I'm supposed to be waiting for you guys." she says to herself.
"Don't worry, we'll be home soon enough." Dochu says walking over to her.
"Hey, Dochu right? We've still got a ways to go huh?"
"Yeah, I know these trips on the sea can be boring."
"Yeah, but it's not so bad when you have someone to talk to. Can I ask you some questions?"
"You've known my brother for a long time right?"
"He's great, one of the boldest people I've ever met. I owe him my life."
"In the desert I was one of the few non-benders in my clan. Our entire caste system is based on what you can contribute, and to my tribe I obviously didn't contribute enough. We we're set upon by a rival tribe one day. My tribe fled and deigned me unnecessary enough to be left behind. I wondered the desert for days just waiting to die. But your brother found me and allowed me to join your tribe. Even more than that, he made me his second in command and allowed me to help him in uniting the tribes."
"So you believe in what he is doing?"
"Yes, he wants to end the bloody fighting in the desert so that all can share in the wealth peace will bring. He considers all of us to be of worth; even a weakling like me he considers a brother. It is a noble goal."
Although still not trusting her brother, Hokori has found respect in his second in command. "Indeed it is. My brother was wise in choosing you, and I would be honored to call you my brother as well."
"Thank you Avatar Hokori." he says as the two continue to talk.
On the bridge of the ship Sakyu and Quan discuss their next move. "If you're sure that will settle all of this unrest." Quan replies with the sand-bender's plan.
"It will, if it's necessary at all." just then a messenger from one of the other ships comes aboard and rushes to the bridge.
"Sir, we've spotted a Republic Navy vessel ahead, it seems to be moving on an intercept path coming out of the straits." this alarms the two as they look over to each other.
"Those blasted commandoes must have gotten a message out. Only a few hours more." Quan says as he looks up at the sky. "Well, nows as good a time as any to put your plan into action."
"Agreed, signal the other ships and bring them within docking distance. We don't have much time." Sakyu says as the general alarm is sounded. The three ships link up their platforms as Hokori sees her brother ordering his men to move the barrels on the deck she saw earlier over to another ship. She also notices that he is rearranging the crews, assigning a new captain and crew to the ship where the barrels are being carried below deck.
"What's going on Dochu?" she asks as he is hurrying across the deck.
"We've got an incoming enemy vessel and we've been ordered to switch a lot of our supplies over to Jaggi's ship."
"Is there anything I can do?"
"No, we're almost done here." he says attempting to lift one of the barrels.
"Here let me help." she says as she lifts it with relative eases, helping to move it over to the other ship. "There you go."
"Thanks." he says as she walks back over to the deck where Sakari is waiting with a large smile.
"Hey, where've you been? Sakyu told me to keep an eye on you."
"Just helping out that's all." she says as she looks down at her hands and sees the sticky green gel on them. "What is this stuff?" Sakari leans over and pulls some of it between her fingers, smelling it.
"Yup, that's blasting gel. Serious explosives."
"Why would he be moving all those over to a single ship?"
"Beats me, but he must have his reasons. Just trust him." Hokori begins to walk as Sakari follows with Yoroi in tow. Sakyu returns to the ship and he signals the ship on the starboard side to move ahead at full speed as he signals to the ship on the port side, where he has split all the water-benders between the two remaining ships. The water-benders, Sakari included, begin to motion their arms in a strange motion as the Avatar looks on curiously.
In the sky Meelo and the rest of the group make their way north as they prepare. "Alright everyone, we don't know what to expect when we get there so be ready for anything." Mako states as the group agree.
"Don't worry we'll be ready. You've got two kids of the eight year pro-bending champs on your side." Dogu says confidently. "Just wake me when we get there." he says as he jumps back on a pile of blankets.
"Ow!" he jumps up as he hears the sound coming from the pile and pulls the blankets away to see Taki hiding underneath.
"Uh, hi?" she says with an embarrassed smile.
"What are you doing here?" Mako asks.
"I just wanted to help out anyway I could. I figured I owed Tahno at least that much. Also if I stayed back it's just me and the cat-gator, and that wasn't working out too well."
The fire-bending officer lets out a short sigh. "Alright, since we don't have time to drop you off anywhere, you're in. Just make sure you watch your back."
"Oh don't worry about me." she looks into the sky to see the moon slowly rising. "I've got everything under control."
On board the patrol ship, Nilak and Honshi are seated in the mess hall eating lunch, discussing what they will do when they arrive on shore. "This is going to be great, you'll love it, there's all kinds of food and entertainment. And when you see that full moon tonight as it lights up the sky over the festival; beautiful. It's so weird how the ship just happened to have engine trouble so close to the North just in time for the festival."
"Yeah, I guess the world works in mysterious ways."
"Go figure." as they finish their meal the two are approached by one of the crews female earth-benders.
"Honshi, the captain wants you on deck." she says
"On my way. Let's go." as the two reach the deck, Hathi and Adi are already waiting. "Sir."
"We've spotted another ship just west of us. We've attempted to hail it several times but no answer and we can't seem to make out the model. Climb up to the crow's nest and take a look." Honshi and Nilak comply and the two make their way up where Raza is already perched. Honshi reaches first and uses his telescope.
"What?" Nilak asks.
"That ship's an old Fire Navy design from the last war. They stopped making that model almost seventy years ago. No wonder it's not in the logs."
"So who would be sailing a seventy year old ship?"
"Pirates, they get them for cheap and though they're not pretty they get the job done." he says as he folds up the telescope. "Pirate ship, it's a pirate ship!" he shouts down to the captain.
Hathi gives Adi the go ahead and she rushes to the bridge and turns on the intercom. "All hands man your stations, this is not a drill. I repeat, this is not a drill." the crew scramble to their stations as they close the distance on the lone vessel. The crews seven fire-benders, Adi included man the three cannons, two on the bow and one on the stern. The four water-benders and earth-benders get to the platforms and domes respectively as the ships get closer to one another. Just as they enter firing distance the enemy ship flies the white flag.
"That was easier then expected." Nilak says as he stands in the nest with Honshi. "I was hoping for some action."
"Eh, maybe next time." the two look on as Hathi and Adi communicate with the crew of the ship, as Nilak notices several of them dress similarly to Hokori's sand-bender clothing. He watches as the two ships dock and Hathi and a team of about twelve board the ship as the pirate crew surrender. He takes the leader aside and address him.
"What's your name son?" he asks as Adi and the team watch the crew.
"Jaggi. I am the leader of these men." the lanky sand-bender says.
"Your a long way from home aren't you?"
"I find there are far more opportunities open on the high seas."
"You seemed pretty eager to surrender your vessel and crew."
"Didn't see much of a point in fighting to the death over my employer's cargo. Don't even know what we're carrying."
"I'd like to see for myself just what it is you've got. Adi, you three, come with me. The rest of you keep an eye out up here." Hathi says as his team head below, Jaggi leading the way. He leads them down into the hold of the ship where a large section holds dozens of unmarked barrels. Hathi moves forward and begins to pry one of the barrels open.
"Do you smell something burning?" Adi asks as Hathi finally cracks the barrel.
"Blasting gel?" he says as Jaggi finally puts two and two together.
"That dirty...everyone get out now! The ships gonna blow!" he shouts as the group scramble up the stairs. Seconds later the blast rips through the ship. Hathi turns to block the flames to protect the others, but even with his fire-bending can't hold it for long. Adi turns and shields her group, Jaggi included, but the powerful blast tears the ship in two, causing severe damage to the scout ship as well, as the fire-bender and the others are blasted out of the ship. Adi is fortunate enough to crash back onto the deck as those still standing rush over to her. Nilak and Honshi are almost thrown from the nest by the huge explosion as they make their way down.
"Are you alright Ma'am?" Nilak asks as they help her up.
"Yeah I'll be fine." she says as the group see an amazingly frightful sight. Two more pirate ships rise from the ocean on either side of them, encased in an air bubble created by the crew's water-benders. She then looks up and sees the full moon in the night sky. "But we won't be for long."
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