Author’s Note: In which Aang finds out something, there are separations, Ozai’s Angels make a comeback and team names are discussed.
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As soon as the ship docked Katara, Sokka and Toph walked out hurriedly. The port had two exits: one that led outside the outer wall and one that lead inside Ba Sing Se. At Toph’s request they decided to walk around for a while before entering the city itself. The little earthbender didn’t seem at all enthusiastic about entering the huge city. As they returned to the port, Katara saw Aang’s glider in the distance. The airbender landed in front of them.
“Aang, what are you doing here?” she asked him surprised. “I thought you were looking for Appa.”
“I was; but something stopped me,” he answered worried. “Something big.”
“What’s so big that Appa has to wait?” Sokka asked surprised.
“You’ll see,” Aang said, leading them to the base of the outer wall. There he and Toph earthbended everyone on top of it. As they climbed up, a Fire Nation drill came into view. “That is,” Aang said, pointing at it.
“What are you people doing here?” a voice called from behind them as soon as they reached the top. “Civilians aren’t allowed on the wall,” the same soldier continued. Aang stepped forward.
“I’m the Avatar,” he introduced himself. “Take me to whoever’s in charge.”
They were immediately taken to the General, an old man who – Sokka was willing to bet – had never been in battle. He looked at his young visitors good naturedly.
“It is an honor to welcome you to the outer wall young Avatar,” he addressed Aang, “but your help is not needed.”
“Not needed?” Aang repeated shocked. They had a Fire Nation drill closing in on their wall and still thought they were safe!
“Not needed,” the General confirmed. “I have the situation under control,” he continued as he stood up. “I assure you, the Fire Nation cannot penetrate this wall.” The teens followed him out of the room in quiet disbelief. “Many have tried to break through it, but none have succeeded,” the man said proudly.
“What about the Dragon of the West?” Toph chimed in. “He got in.”
“Well…technically yes…” the General stammered. “But he was quickly expunged.” Toph seemed unfazed. “Nevertheless, that’s why the city is called Ba Sing Se. It’s the impenetrable city. They don’t call it Na Sing Se,” he laughed. “That means penetrable city,” he added sobering.
“Yeah, thanks for the tour,” Toph said sarcastically. “But we’ve still got the drill problem.”
“Not for long!” he assured them. “To stop it, I’ve sent an elite platoon of earthbenders called the Terra Team.”
“That’s a good group name,” Sokka said admirably. “Very catchy!”
They watched the Team as it was attacked and taken down by two very familiar petite figures. The General looked up from his spyglass.
“We’re doomed!” he cried. Sokka slapped him.
“Get a hold of yourself man!” he yelled.
“You’re right,” the General said, rubbing his check. “I’m sorry.”
“Maybe you’d like the Avatar’s help now?” Toph asked smugly.
“Yes please,” he said on a small voice. The four teens turned to study the drill. It was slowly but steadily approaching the wall.
“So the question is: how are we going to stop that thing?” Aang voiced everyone’s thoughts. Everyone turned expectantly to Sokka.
“Why are you all looking at me?” he asked uneasily.
“You’re the idea-guy,” Aang explained.
“So I’m the only one who can ever come up with a plan?” he whined. “That’s a lot of pressure.”
“And also the complaining-guy,” his sister added.
“That part I don’t mind.”
Meanwhile, at the port, Zuko, Lia and Iroh were almost done with the procedurals.
“So,” the terrifying lady at the booth said, “miss Lia, mister Lee and mister Mashi, is it?”
“It’s pronounced Mushi,” Iroh corrected her. She glared at him.
“You telling me how to do my job?” she asked.
“Uh, no, no!” he hastily amended approaching her. “But may I just say that you are like a flower in bloom. Your beauty is intoxicating.” She looked at him flattered.
“You’re pretty easy on the eyes yourself handsome,” she purred before stamping their passports. “Welcome to Ba Sing Se,” she added. Iroh turned to see both Zuko and Lia face-palming. Zuko snatched his passport from his uncle’s hand.
“I’m gonna forget I saw that,” he grumbled as they left for the station to catch a train that would take them inside the city.
Back at the infirmary of the outer wall Katara was using her bending to heal the men of the Terra Team. It didn’t seem to work.
“What’s wrong with him?” the General wondered. “He doesn’t look injured.” Katara bended the water away.
“His chi is blocked,” she explained. “Who did this to you?” she asked the soldier.
“Two girls ambushed us,” the man managed to say. Taking a few shaky breaths he continued. “One of them hit me with a bunch of quick jabs and suddenly I couldn’t earthbend and I could barely move. And then she cart-wheeled away.” Katara’s eyes widened.
“Tai Li,” she said under her breath. “She doesn’t look dangerous but she knows the human body and its weak points. It’s like she takes you down from the inside.”
“Ohohohohoh!” Sokka yelled suddenly.
“Yes?” his sister asked him unimpressed.
“What you just said. That’s how we’re gonna take down the drill! The same way Tai Li took down all these big earthbenders.”
“By hitting its pressure points!” Toph completed. They approached the window.
“We’re going to take down from the inside.” Aang summarised.
They moved out of the wall and as near to the drill as they could go unnoticed. Toph turned to the others.
“Once I’ll pop up some cover you won’t be able to see, so stay close to me,” She warned them. She made the earth erupt around them, creating a dust cloud. They ran inside it. Soon they were next to the drill. Toph created a hole on the ground in front of her.
“Everyone into the hole,” she ordered them. She jumped in last, closing the ground behind her. Underground it was pitch-black.
“It’s so dark in here, I can’t see a thing,” Sokka complained.
“Oh no! What a nightmare!” Toph said from behind him.
“Sorry,” he apologized awkwardly. They came again above ground and now they were right under the metal monster. Sokka pointed at an opening, probably left there for easy maintenance.
“There!” he said. He, Aang and Katara jumped inside. Toph though, didn’t follow them. “Toph come on!” Sokka called her impatiently.
“No way am I going into that metal monster,” she said decisively. “I can’t bend in there. I’ll try to slow it down out here.”
“Okay,” Sokka nodded. “Good luck.” Then he and Aang disappeared inside the machine, following Katara.
Inside pipes were crossing each other everywhere, with no apparent pattern. Sokka looked around.
“I need a plan of this machine. Some schematics that show what it looks like. Then we can find its weak points.”
“Where are we going to get something like that?” Aang asked him. Sokka smiled taking out his sword. He broke a pip, letting the steam come out and create a cloud.
“What are you doing?” Aang exclaimed worried. “Someone’s gonna hear us!”
“That’s the point!” Sokka explained. “I figured a machine this big needs engineers to run it. And when something breaks…”
“They come to fix it,” Katara completed. Indeed, soon a mechanic appeared, looking rather bored. Katara sneaked behind him and bended the steam, turning it into ice and freezing the man. Sokka snatched the blueprints out of his hand.
“This will do,” he said cheerfully. “Thanks!”
They moved to another engine-room, at a safe distance from the main corridors and opened the papers. Sokka studied them for a few moments.
“It looks like the drill is made of two main structures,” he concluded. “There’s the inner mechanism where we are now, and the outer shell. The inner part and the outer part are connected by these braces. If we cut through them, the entire thing collapses.” They nodded satisfied. That would do.
The train station was packed. Lia let her eyes wonder around, bored out of her mind. Normally she would do a few tricks with fire, just to pass her time, but even she wasn’t so reckless to do so here. So she refrained, sitting between Iroh and Zuko and scanning the crowd. Jet appeared through it suddenly. Lia felt Zuko tense next to her. She squeezed his arm warningly. He gave the tiniest nod as an answer.
“So, you guys got plans once you get inside the city?” Jet asked interested.
“Get your hot tea here! Finest tea in Ba Sing Se!” a merchant called. Lia shot to her feet.
“Jasmine, right uncle?” she asked, grateful for the distraction. The old man nodded delighted. “You Lee?” she asked Zuko.
“I don’t want any, thanks,” he answered absentmindedly.
“Suit yourself.” She shrugged, before going over the stall to get a cup of tea. She returned with the cup on her hand. Iroh took a sip and his expression turned from dreamy to insulted.
“Coldest tea in Ba Sing Se more like it!” He glared at the merchant’s direction. “What a disgrace!”
“Hey, can I talk to you for a second?” Jet asked Zuko. The prince sighed before following the other boy a little further. What did he want now?
Once they were out of earshot Jet turned to him.
“You and I have a much better chance of making it into the city if we stick together. You wonna join the Freedom Fighters?” he offered.
“Does the invitation include my sister and uncle too?” Zuko asked carefully.
“No,” Jet shook his head. “We need warriors and neither of them struck me as one. However, I don’t think you have to worry about the old man. I bet your sister can take care of him.”
“Then thanks,” Zuko said, “but I don’t think so. Besides you don’t want me in your gang.”
“Come on!” Jet tried to convince him. “We made a good team smuggling that captain’s food. Think of all the good things we could do for these refuges.” Yeah, like flooding cities, Zuko thought bitterly. He turned to leave.
“I said no.”
He returned to where Iroh was sitting. Lia had moved away and was talking to some people lightly. Zuko turned to see what Jet was doing and caught him glaring wide-eyed at Iroh. The Freedom Fighter turned and left, trying to look indifferent. Zuko tuned to his uncle, to see what the big deal was. The cup the old man was holding was steaming now. Zuko felt some of his old anger flair again. He knocked the cup out of Iroh’s hands.
“Hey!” Iroh exclaimed.
“What are you doing firebending your tea?” Zuko hissed. “For a wise old man that was a pretty stupid move.”
“I know you’re not supposed to cry over spilled tea…” Iroh sobbed. “But it’s just so sad.” Lia came back to them, fare welling some kids over her shoulder.
“What happened here?” she asked surprised noticing the spilled tea.
“I thought you’d watch over him,” Zuko told her angrily. “Now we’ll have to watch our backs even inside Ba Sing Se.” Lia rolled her eyes.
“Do you have any idea how huge this city is? And anyway, Iroh is an adult.” She gave a meaningful stare at the old man. “We shouldn’t be supposed to babysit him.” The old General just chuckled awkwardly.
Outside the ignorant city the huge drill was still approaching. Inside it, Katara, Sokka and Aang had just found the in-between section of the machine. Not that it was hard to miss… Sokka looked around awed.
“Wow!” he said. “It looks a lot bigger in person than it does on the plan. We’re gonna have to work pretty hard to cut through them.” He looked at the pillars supporting the construction.
“What’s this we-stuff?” Katara asked him annoyed. “Aang and I are gonna have to do the whole job.”
“Look, I’m the plan guy,” Sokka argued, “you two are the cut-through-stuff-with-waterbending guys. Together we’re team Avatar!” he concluded. Grumbling the two benders began working. Halfway through the pillar they paused, breathing heavily. The metal was obviously top quality, thick enough to exhaust even them quickly.
“Come on team! Don’t quit now!” Sokka called them from the side-lines. “We’re…” Katara almost waterwhipped him. “I mean…you’re almost there,” Sokka corrected hastily. Without any more distractions they cut through the pillar. It seemed to give way at first, but then the two pieces stuck.
“At this rate we won’t do enough damage before the drill reaches the wall.” Katara sighed.
“I don’t know how many more of those I have in me.” Aang said tired.
Suddenly a strange rumble was heard. The whole construction started to tremble.
“Did you hear that?” Sokka said excited. “We took it down. We’d better get out of here fast.” They rushed to the door. As they exited, a voice was heard.
“Congratulations crew,” a man’s smug voice was heard. “The drill has made contact with the wall of Ba Sing Se. Start the countdown to victory!” The three teens shared a disappointed look. Sokka run back to the cut pillar. He started pushing it.
“Come on, budge!” he commanded the metal desperately.
“This is bad, really bad,” Katara muttered.
“We put everything we had on cutting these braces but it won’t budge!” Sokka glared furiously at the pillar. “It’s taking too long!”
“Maybe we needn’t cut all the way through!” Aang exclaimed suddenly. He sprung to his feet. “Toph has been teaching me that you shouldn’t give a hundred per cent of your energy into any one strike,” he explained. “Sokka take a fighting stance. You’ve got to be quick and accurate. Hit a series of points and break your opponent’s stance. And when he’s riling back you deliver the final blow. His own weight becomes his downfall, literally.” Katara nodded in understanding, even as Sokka fell on his back after Aang’s quick demonstration.
“So we just need to weaken the braces instead of cutting all the way through.”
“Then I’ll go to the top of that thing and deliver the final blow,” Aang completed.
“And boom! It all comes crushing down!” Sokka said excited again.
“Everyone inside that wall, the whole world! They’re counting on us,” Aang said.
“The whole world minus the Fire Nation,” Sokka corrected him.
They went through pillar after pillar, cutting them halfway through. They had reached the last one and were almost done with it when suddenly Sokka yelled:
“Duck!” Aang did so just in time to avoid a blue flame that came towards him. They looked up to see Azula and her two friends. Azula shot another flame towards Aang. He ducked it again.
“Wow Azula you were right!” Tai Li said enthusiastic. “It is the Avatar! And friends.” She winked at Sokka.
“Hey!” he said smiling stupidly. Katara wordlessly dragged him away. Aang sent an air current against the three Fire Nation girls, distracting them enough for him and his friends to make an escape. When they reached a two-way corridor Aang halted.
“Guys get out of here.” He told Sokka and Katara urgently. “I know what I need to do.”
“Wait!” Katara threw him her pouch. “You need this water more than I do.” Aang nodded and took off.
The two Water Tribe siblings ran to a dead end. In front of them was a huge pipe.
“Slurry Pipe Line?” Katara read. “What does that mean?” Sokka managed to open it. Inside there was a mix of water and rocks.
“It means our way out,” he said satisfied. Mai and Tai Li appeared at the corridor on the other end of the corridor. Sokka and Katara slid inside the pipe in time to avoid the incoming darts and let the current drag them.
It led them on the back side of the drill; literally spitting them out, half-covered with slurry mud. Katara looked up in time to see Tai Li almost out of the drill too. Hurriedly she bended the water, preventing the slurry – and the pink-dressed girl – from exiting.
“Why don’t you try blocking my chi now circus freak?” she asked spitefully.
“Katara keep that up!” Sokka said excited. “The pressure will build up in the drill. Then when Aang delivers the final blow it will be ready to pop!”
Aang was standing on top of the head of the drill. He ran near the wall, halting on a safe distance.
“This looks like a good place Momo,” he told the lemur, perched on his shoulder. A rock landed on that spot. More followed as he jumped around to avoid them.
“General Shong, tell your soldiers to stop shooting rocks down here,” Aang yelled. More rocks came falling; the General had either not heard him or was ignoring him. Aang took out the water and started weakening the metal on the spot he had chosen.
At the other end of the drill Sokka continued “encouraging” his sister.
“Good technique little sister,” he said enthusiastically. “Keep it up. Don’t forget to breathe!”
“You know I am just sick and tired of you telling me what to do all day,” Katara snapped. “You’re like a chattering hog-monkey.”
“Just bend the slurry woman!” he yelled back. Katara wordlessly used her other hand to bend a slurry wave on her brother.
“You guys need some help?” Toph’s voice was heard.
“Toph, help me plug this drain,” Katara ordered. Together the two girls forced the slurry back inside.
Aang was exhausted. “What I’d give to be a metalbender,” he sighed. Momo suddenly screeched. Aang turned, just in time to deflect a wave of blue flames. Azula attacked again and again, and even though Aang used air, water and earth combined he was eventually knocked to the wall. The princess set him standing on the wall, preparing to deliver the final blow. Aang gained consciousness just then and hastily formed an earth glove, blocking Azula’s attack and pushing her back. She charged against him again, to be knocked off her balance by a wave of slurry. She fell on Aang, making both them slide off the drill. Momo rushed where Aang was sliding and grabbed him from the collar trying to make him fly. Aang used it to airbend himself back on the drill.
“Thanks Momo. I owe you one.” He patted the animal’s head, before rushing back to the small hole he had made. “Now all I need is…” a rock landed next to him. “Actually that’s what I need,” he said satisfied. He earthbended it to the shape of a spike and fitted it on the hole. Then he took off running, using the air-scooter to climb half-way up the wall, before running back down. Azula had just climbed back on the drill and tried to shoot him, but he avoided her by inches, instead sending her flying because of the impact created by the drill falling apart. Toph felt the tremble of the machine as it collapsed.
“Here it comes!” she yelled earthbending them to safety.
At the port the last train for the inner city of Ba Sing Se was ready to leave. Zuko, Lia and Iroh found seats near Yeng’s family. Iroh immediately started playing with little Hope. Zuko on the other hand was brooding, a deep frown etched on his face. Lia was waiting patiently for him to open up.
“Do you ever have a feeling that something bad is happening?” he finally asked her.
“Sometimes,” Lia admitted.
“What about now?” he insisted. The Spirit closed her eyes for a few moments, as if resting them.
“If anything happened it’s no danger anymore,” she said finally. “Don’t worry. Everything is going to be fine.” Zuko nodded, relaxing a bit. She was probably right.
On the outer wall four teens were watching the sunset. Sokka looked around excited.
“I just want to say, good job everyone today Team Avatar!”
“Enough with the Team Avatar stuff! No matter how many times you say it, it’s not going to catch on,” Katara said annoyed.
“How about… the Boomerang Squad!” he offered then. “See it’s good because it’s got Aang in it. Boomer-Aang,” he explained.
“I kind of like that one.” Aang admitted sheepishly.
“Let’s talk about this on our way into the city,” Katara said, turning to leave. Aang and Toph followed her.
“The Aang-Gang?” Sokka continued proposing names.
“Sokka…” his sister sighed.
“You’re crazy!” Toph decided.
“Why? We’re fearsome!” Sokka insisted, running to catch up with them.