Dawn of the Phoenix
The pitch black of the sky, save a few stars, hung overhead as an unmasked trooper finished his call. He smiled, looking on at the bridge of the ship, his co-conspirators and the pile of bodies that were incapacitated sailors. However, next to him, someone was less pleased.
"You're not making a public threat? We have the firepower to reduce Capital City to rubble! In the name of the Phoenix King, we should use it!"
"We also are in the middle of an enemy fleet, which although depleted and booby trapped, is not defenseless. Not to mention the jets that are still flying over Capital City from this carrier. If we are overaggressive, we lose everything. Let us take our prize and plot for another day."
"Just because you're hot stuff in the bending ring doesn't mean I take orders from you! I answer to the ideal of the Phoenix King!"
"Yes," the lithe, black haired man replied. "You answer to a dead man. Your zealotry is so blinding I think the sun is out."
"Are you going to listen to this man?" he asked of the others on the bridge. None answered as the unmasked man approached him.
"It's alright. If you don't want to listen, you can meet Ozai personally."
A blade of fire ran the man through, dropping him to the ground. As someone picked the body up and placed it with the others, he addressed his subordinates.
"Get ready to move this ship on my signal. And get ready to shoot down any aircraft that get in range. We need to prepare to leave while we still have darkness to work with. The rest of you go down to the deck and confirm everything there is dead, human and spirit. We have no need for hostages where we're going."
The men saluted, and then ran to their respective assignments.
"This whole thing was a diversion?!"
Even as General Old Iron loomed above them, while the spirit speakers looked on at the fruits of their work, the soldiers in the area were in full-blown panic mode. The confusion was so great that no one noticed the Earth bender that organized the spirit speakers slip away towards the shore. Nor did they notice the Air bender that followed.
"You heard the big scary spirit," Tong replied. "There are tainted spirits on those boats. Which means that White Lotus' real target was the Fire Nation fleet, not the city. And if General Old Iron is going to go away, I need to honor our agreement and lure those things back here."
"By yourself. You're going to go board an AIRCRAFT CARRIER, and reclaim it from terrorists, AND purify all the spirits that are there?"
"No, I'm going to direct them to the shore, where all of you are going to purify them. Then I'm going to find the guy who organized this attack and make him pay for it."
Taking his staff, Tong flicked it, revealing the glider hidden within, as he prepared to set off.
"Hey, genius, you Earth bent in front of everybody! You want people to know how many elements you can bend?"
"That's why I snuck away. Anyone asks," Tong continued as he took to the air with his glider, "I took a boat."
Shing attempted to protest, but at that point, Tong was already in the night sky. He didn't want to do that, but at the end, he made a promise, and lest more people get hurt, he had to keep it.
YOU CAN FEEL THEIR PRESENCE CAN'T YOU?
Tong looked around, seeing where the source of the voice was, but none was apparent.
WE HAVE A TEMPORARY BOND DUE TO OUR INTERACTIONS IN THE SPIRIT WORLD, AND OUR THOUGHTS ALIGN IN A WAY YOU WOULD DESCRIBE AS A VOICE IN YOUR HEAD. IT WAS INTENDED TO MAKE SURE YOU KEPT YOUR PROMISE, BUT PERHAPS I CAN USE IT TO HELP US ACHIEVE OUR COMMON GOAL.
"Well don't go poking around too deeply," Tong replied with a sense of annoyance. "There's stuff in here I don't need people seeing."
SUCH AN ARROGANT ASSUMPTION. I ASSURE YOU I HAVE NO INTEREST IN THE PERSONAL THOUGHTS OF HUMANS. JUST THAT MY KIN ARE RESCUED.
Tong didn't answer that, but instead looked out towards the ships, all of which, save two, were strangely still. The faint presence of the spirits could be felt, whether this was an inherent power of the Not-Avatar, or a result of his connection with Old Iron, he didn't know. All he knew was that they were on board two ships.
"OK, now what?"
FIND MY KIN. OUR LINK WILL ALLOW ME TO DIRECT THEM HERE. YOUR HUMANS ARE WAITING ON THE SHORE TO REMOVE THEIR TAINT, ARE THEY NOT?
"Yeah. So I don't need to act as bait?"
YOU NEED TO MAKE SURE THAT I CAN DIRECT THEM THROUGH YOU. FIND THE LARGEST GROUP OF SPIRITS. THE REST WILL FOLLOW.
With his goal clear, under the cover of darkness, Tong headed for the aircraft carrier, hoping no one noticed him.
The area by the shore was a continued flurry of activity. Once Shing had explained that the spirits on board the carrier would be heading towards land, preparations were made to meet them, both with the spirit purifiers, as well as soldiers and artillery, just in case. The line of men, women and weapons by the area was disconcerting to say the least. All the while, General Old Iron just looked on at the group, not moving, not saying a word. It was eerie to say the least.
"What's with him?" someone asked. Another soldier shook his head.
"Dunno. Where's the idiot that organized all this?"
"About that, he ran off to find the rest of the spirits."
"He WHAT?!" the soldier shouted. "Do you have any idea how…"
"Hey, last I checked he wasn't Fire Nation military," Shing answered defensively. "Besides, I think the big guy put him up to it."
Both stared at the still monolith that was General Old Iron before resuming their preparations.
While he had hoped to make a stealthy landing on board the ship, the sounds of flame and weapons being fired quickly dispelled that notion. But when he finally reached the deck, he realized those sounds had nothing to do with him.
Below the main deck, three fire benders and someone with a Shocker were shooting at a group of both dark spirits and masked men. Luckily for him, the hallways were surrounded with metal, which made separating the spirits and both sides of the firefight relatively simple.
Two of the masked assailants were quickly dispatched with well-timed air pushing them into the metal surroundings, while one was just hit upside his head by Tong's staff. As he retracted the metal that sealed them in, he wasn't greeted with thanks, but balls of fire and Shocker blasts.
"HOLD YOUR FIRE!" he shouted, running for cover. "I'M ON YOUR SIDE!" The flame stopped, only for a woman in the same skintight black uniform as the saboteurs to leap towards Tong and attack. The pair exchanged blows for a few moments, neither able to hit the other, before coming face to face.
"You!" the black haired woman replied with pure shock in her voice. "You idiot! What are you doing here now?!"
"What are you talking about? Why are you here? What's going on?"
"This is your fault," she began, lowering her fists. "I saw you and Shing making idiots out of yourselves at the arena, and you're following me!"
"No, I'm here to stop the spirits that took over the ship!"
The next reply wasn't from the confused and upset woman in front of him, but the men in Fire Nation uniforms that were behind her. "Who the hell are you supposed to be? And how can you help with those spirits?"
The explanation from both sides was brief, Tong noting what happened on the shore, and Kushina describing how she followed the saboteurs to the carrier. The sailors, with no reason to disbelieve the woman who was trying to save the crew or the man who saved them both, nodded in affirmation. To prove his goal, Tong faced down the spirits that were in the hall, and touched them even as they lashed out. Instead of attacking them, they headed for the shore.
"OK, how are you doing that?"
"I have help," the Earth bender answered. "Now let's see what we can do about helping out the rest of your men."
"They're holed up in a lot of the common areas down there. Hopefully they can hold out till we get there."
"Then let's move!"
"I don't take orders from civilians!" one of the sailors shouted, before looking around and going "OK, let's move!"
"Any word from the Firelord?"
"No sir. Complete radio silence. But no effort to impede our movement either. We should be able to slip away with relative ease."
"Excellent. How are our men doing below deck?"
"They haven't reported in."
From the bridge of the carrier, Funaki looked and saw droves of dark spirits leaving not only the carrier, but the battleship they had commandeered as well. Something had driven the spirits away, and with them gone, they could be outnumbered, even dealing with a skeleton crew. Then he turned his attention to the deck, and saw a lone figure waiting for him.
"Grr…he's challenging me! Get down there and kill anyone the spirits didn't! And if anyone tries to take the bridge, detonate the mines!"
"How can we move this thing if we all leave?" one man asked.
"This computer will operate the ship by itself. Now get moving!"
"Yes sir!" As the men ran off, Funaki reached for a communication device on his ear and pressed a button.
"Do we have control of the hangar?"
Hangar 1 and 2 sir. No words from the other scouts yet on hangar 3 through 5.
"Then listen carefully. I need you to help me out with something."
Tong knew that he had gotten the ringleader's attention when he saw the man leaping towards him, using flame from his hands to slow his descent. It was nothing if not flashy. As he looked on, the reason for his showmanship was made clear.
"I should have put the pieces together when I saw your demonstration after that night in Republic City."
"Failure is made of 'should-have's, Specialist," Funaki replied, drawing his fire blade. "Although I didn't expect you to come here, and I don't know how you got rid of the spirits, it matters not. I'm going to kill you, leave with this ship, and watch as Avatar Korra reshapes the world."
"Over my dead body," Tong answered, readying his staff.
"That's the idea," Funaki answered. "Let's end this quickly."
"You'll find me a little tougher than those cans you trotted out to fight." Both prepared to face each other, when suddenly the noise of whirring gears was heard. Arriving next to Funaki was a mecha tank raised into position by elevator, and armed.
"Oh come now, " Funaki taunted as the tank raised its cannon to fire. "You didn't really think I was going to play fair, did you?"
The pilot said nothing but instead fired upon Tong, who had nowhere to run for cover. The blast missed but the impact was enough to send him flying. On the ground, he looked up at the machine ready to finish him off when he heard the sound of another elevator rising to the surface. A second mecha tank stood on the deck, and fired on Tong's assailant, who moved out of the way, but not before getting left arm damaged.
"What in the…" His confusion was soon cleared by a familiar voice.
"I thought you could use some help, little guy. The survivors have all organized and are retaking the ship. It's over."
Smiling, Tong stood to his feet, facing down his enemies. "Well, this is a bit more fair, isn't it?"
"You may have retaken the ship," Funaki began, "but the rest of the fleet is still mined, and I can still kill you, Specialist!"
"They're coming this way. Spirits. A lot of them."
They approached, an eerie light in the otherwise dark sky. Spirits were encroaching upon the area, and everyone at the shore was ready. At least they were until a few began buzzing towards them, prepared to attack.
"Prepare to fire!"
"No!" Shing shouted. "If we fire, the big one will start attacking immediately! We need to stick to the plan!" Turning to the group of spirit purifiers, he went "Everyone together!" as they began their ritual.
The abilities of the Fire Blade to deflect attacks were not exaggerated. Flame, metal, and wind were brushed aside by Funaki's sword as he moved in for the kill, while Tong did his best to defend. Knowing that fire would easily incinerate wood, he made sure not to block the blade, but to dodge and avoid it.
"You can't approach the flame without being burned, can you? The true Avatar could extinguish it, but you, Specialist, are helpless!"
The battle between mecha tanks was much more straightforward. Both units fired upon each other until Kushina scored a hit on the enemy's cannon, destroying it, but not to be outdone, the enemy dashed forward and cleaved Kushina's cannon in two with its sword, forcing her back. Although Kushina had considerable experience with mecha tanks, the Sun Fang had notable differences from the Duck Bat's she was used to testing, most notably, using a superheated sword instead of the bayonet punch. This made it uncomfortable for her to engage the enemy up close, a disadvantage her opponent was more than happy to exploit.
"Give it up girlie," the man blared over his speaker as he began to back Kushina up with a combination of sword slashes and flame. "Some punk newbie that fell into a cockpit could never compete with a real pilot!"
She quickly realized that as large as the carrier was, she was beginning to approach the edge. It was now or never to do something!
"It's working!" someone shouted as the spirits seemed to brighten in color, the crowd gasping in shock as whatever darkness seemed to affect the creatures was cast out. And yet they still approached, one prepared to bite the head of the purifier. The soldiers were set to act, when finally in one bright flash, the spirits had vanished.
"IT IS DONE."
The monolith that called itself General Old Iron stood, but instead of attacking, began walking out to sea. Everyone present was clearly confused.
"YOUR FRIEND FULFILLED HIS END OF OUR BARGAIN," Old Iron answered even as he continued to walk out to sea, his pace unrelenting. "MY KIN ARE SAFE. AS PROMISED I WILL RETURN TO THE SPIRIT WORLD. I HAVE NO DESIRE TO REMAIN AMONG HUMANS."
"Well you're welcome," Shing mouthed to himself, annoyed at the haughty tone of the spirit.
"Well, that's one problem down," a soldier remarked, looking at the spirit heading into the sea. "Now what about the fleet?"
At opposite ends of the deck, two fights were taking place. One between two mecha tanks and the second between two benders. Each combatant was focused solely on their fight, ignoring anything else that could distract them.
In Kushina's case, she saw her enemy charge forward, flame throwers at the ready, and prepared to counter.
"Time to show you what a professional can do, brat!"
"I'm an engineer," Kushina answered as her unit drew its sword and charged forward, "and you know the difference between us and grunts?"
"We're smarter!" With that last line, the sword slashed not at the torso, but at the legs, cutting them off and causing the top of the mecha tank to sputter and fall. Still attached to the main unit however, its flame continued to spread into sensitive equipment, causing the entire machine to catch fire and its pilot to eject in a mad frenzy, only to get knocked down and out by a strike from the mechanical arm of Kushina's mecha.
As she looked around, taking in her victory, she soon realized that both Tong and Funaki were fighting right in front of her. Unfortunately, so did Funaki, who leapt onto her mecha tank and began to sink his blade inside the cockpit. Desperately, she began to move out of the way inside the cramped machine, but realized there was almost nowhere to hide.
"No one will interrupt my cause, least of all some worthless wage slave!"
"LEAVE HER ALONE!"
Funaki's turn was the entire opening Tong needed. A powerful wind gust sent him flying into the air before a blow to his chest sent him flying down to the deck. Quickly, he drew his blade, only to find the wood he was using knocked out of his hands.
"And here's the final blow!"
From the ocean emerged a massive stream of water, which rammed Funaki, extinguishing any fire he could create, and knocking him to the ground. When it cleared, he realized that he was encased in ice, save his head.
"My cause is just! Don't you see what we can do?" Funaki shouted, only to be knocked unconscious by a blow from Tong's staff.
Turning to the mecha tank, he saw Kushina emerge, thankfully unharmed save some scrapes from the battle. She looked on at the man, who was unsure of what was planned for her friend/perceived tormentor.
She slapped him clean across the face.
Then she embraced him, an embrace he returned.
"Listen Nuktuk," she began, not letting him free from her embrace, "If you put me in a situation like this again, and you're not around to help, when I'm done, I really am going to kill you, got it?"
"If you got hurt because of me, you could do whatever you wanted to me," he answered.
"You really do need me around. I'm saving you as much as you are me."
"You don't hate me for it, do you?"
"No. Just remember our promise."
The pair remained in the embrace for a good minute. They were oblivious to the sun rising over the carrier, or the sailors who emerged from the deck, victorious over the White Lotus saboteurs. Luckily for them, their commander saw fit to ensure that the pair's moment wasn't interrupted. They had helped to save the carrier after all, and kept the saboteurs at bay long enough to reclaim the ship and destroy the computer steering it. A similar, if less dramatic version of the story was playing out on Zuko's Fury, with the sailors routing the hijackers after the spirits were drawn away, preventing the mines from being detonated by the remote detonator on board.
Finally, Tong and Kushina let their embrace go, with the woman asking "What do we do now?" Her friend had an idea of what to do, but the sound of helicopter blades whirring prevented him from acting on that instinct, however faint it was.
"I think we need to let them know we're OK. And that we need a ride back to town."
Smiling at each other, then their rescuers, the pair waved to the trio of helicopters as the sun continued to rise.
The trio of scout helicopters had launched as soon as the ordeal with the spirits on the mainland was dealt with. None of the pilots were sure of what they were going to encounter. One however, did notice the pair on the deck, waving towards them.
"Hey, Wufei, it's that idiot who made the spirits disappear! How the hell did he get on the ship?"
"No clue, but I don't think he's a bad guy Trowa. Call in the base."
"Base, this Owl 1. The Shield is back under Fire Nation control. We're coming in to pick up survivors."
Against the rising sun, the helicopters approached the waving pair, descending to the carrier to bring them all back to shore. Whoever they were, they and the sailors that turned back the hijackers deserved a hero's welcome.