A War Large and Small
Tong struggled against the multiple arms trying to drag him into the snow. He thrashed and bucked against the force, but there were simply too many to struggle against. Luckily for him, Tashi and Amit didn't ignore his peril.
"Tashi! Wind tunnel!"
A powerful gust of wind shot by Tong, sending him and the men trying to drag him beneath the snow into the air, struggling to regain their balance. Unfortunately for the assailants, they were easy pickings for a grinning Amit.
Forceful gusts of wind hammered each water bender, sending them flying. One however, dodged, only for Tong to hammer him with an air current of his own, sending the grey and blue clad warrior crashing to the ground. He soon followed, using air currents to lower his descent. This did not go unnoticed by Ulva.
"What the hell? How can you air bend? You're an Earth bender!"
"Yes," Tong answered. "And an air bender, and a water bender, and a fire bender."
"It was need-to-know," Leena interrupted. "Just don't use the 'A' word."
"You mean that's he's the Ava…"
"I'm not," Tong insisted, not noticing Shing's grimace behind them. Instead, he turned to Amit and Tashi, bowing slightly. "You guys saved me. Thanks."
"No problem," Amit answered with a chuckle. "We've been working that one for a while. Right Tashi?" The tattooed woman smiled, nodding in affirmation.
"They're still alive," one of the soldiers shot back. "You didn't kill them." Amit's response was short and curt.
"Air Nomads don't kill."
"Well, at least everyone is OK," Ulva reasoned, interrupting any potential argument between Amit and his men. "This is definitely an usual situation, but the fact is, we need all the firepower we can get forward. Now, we need to reach our goal before more of those idiots come back. Considering the area we need to cover, I suggest we split into two teams. Leena, you, the woman in the mecha tank and my unit will form up one team. Tong, you and your Air Bender friends will form up the second."
Tong's objection was immediate. "I'd rather go with Kushina, and make sure nothing happens." Ulva shook his head at the suggestion.
"We need the Polar Warrior's instruments to guide us. You have that earth bending sonar. I need to look after my generously loaned property," Ulva noted with a snicker, "and it makes no sense to put all our trackers on one team."
"It'll be fine," Kushina interrupted, the mechanical arm of her mecha tank waving towards Tong. "I think I'm pretty safe in this thing against a bunch of water benders hiding underneath the snow. I didn't even get a chance to use the flamethrower yet."
Although he was still upset with the idea, Tong reluctantly agreed to lead a separate team. Ulva nodded, handing him a small yellow and black communicator.
"Short range communicator. Should work just fine even with the Spirit Portal interference. Just let us know when you find something. Given the cold, I'm sure you'll want to head inside sooner rather than later."
"I'll be alright," Tong answered. "It's about as bad as it was back in college."
"Northern Water Tribe, right?" Ulva asked.
"Yeah, Eska University of Higher Arts."
"Eska U eh?" Ulva asked with a bit of surprise in his voice. "Had some friends who went there. Can't imagine there were a ton of Earth State students."
"You'd be surprised," Tong answered, even as he was putting the communicator away and preparing to set out. "When I first got there, my senior was from the Earth Republic. I think he went to the army after he graduated to pay off his tuition."
"Sorry guys", a brown haired man answered as he quickly blew his nose inside the cockpit of his Ox. "Sniffles, you know?"
Just don't get it on the monitor Girial, a voice shot over the intercom. Last thing we need is you out of commission right as we're about to move on the wall.
"It's fine," Girial responded. "We're going on another adventure, right?"
Truth be told, Girial was absolutely sick of the 'adventures' that he and his squadron, the Green Shoulders, had been in over the past six months since Emperor Xing and the Earth Kingdom invaded the Earth Republic as part of his 'One Earth Kingdom' plan.. There was the border village that guerillas were using as a base while disguising themselves as ordinary townsfolk, there was the Earth Kingdom's attempt to arm a missile with a Spirit Vine warhead, and there was the prototype mobile weapon that was a cross between a tank and a spider. And who could forget the trek through the desert being pursued by Tay Youngrui, the Fox Antelope of the desert?
But this was the end. This would be the last battle. The war would be won if they could complete this mission.
"OK kids," Girial announced into his PA. "We're part of the advanced vanguard on the ground. The Stone Hawks are going to pound the wall of Ba Sing Se with an initial barrage, and that's when we move in. Expect HEAVY resistance. You can bet Earth benders are going to try to drop boulders on us from the top of the wall, and the majority Xing's elite forces will be guarding the wall itself. We need to hold off the enemy advance while our artillery gets into position. Any questions?"
Two, a voice shot back through the intercom. First, where do you get off calling us kids? You're the same age as half the squad! Second, when do we get started?
From the back of a carrier truck, a dozen Ox mecha tanks in desert camouflage sped away from the main force. They were soon be joined by numerous other squadrons, all racing towards the impossibly high walls of Ba Sing Se. The walls themselves were impossibly high, a hundred meters tall, solid stone and metal with dozens if not hundreds of missile batteries and gun emplacements on top of the walls themselves, capable of repelling any intruder. Or so the theory went.
The sight of jets falling back from their initial bombing run was visible overhead, but no one paid it any mind. What they did pay mind to were the squadrons of domed Duck Bat mecha emerging from the walls of Ba Sing Se to intercept them.
"5 seconds to enemy contact! 4, 3, 2, 1, engage at will!"
Pressing a button, Girial went to work immediately, firing off anti MT missiles as the legion of enemies in front of him advanced towards their allies. Other members of his squadron chose to move in closer towards the enemy, blasting them with Shocker cannon fire. The enemy of course, didn't just stand still, returning fire and nailing several allied units' dead center, destroying them.
"Keep tight!" Girial yelled. "Artillery needs to get into position!"
The members of his squadron kept tight, doing their best to make sure that not a single mecha or soldier got past them. It seemed simple enough as they continued to press forward, their machines standing in the shadow of the Great Wall.
Then from out of nowhere a massive boulder landed on a mecha tank, flattening the machine completely. Looking up, Garial saw the cause.
"They're dropping boulders! Scatter!"
We can't aim that high!
"Leave the benders to the air team! We need to stop their ground advance until the artillery is ready!"
More rocks began to drop from the top of the wall like hail as the mecha tanks on both sides did their best to get out of the line of fire. The end result was a chaotic storm of violence, pilots taking shots whenever a free moment was available to do so. A Duck Bat approached Garial from behind only to have its head knocked off by a punch from a nearby ally.
That's one, Hau replied over the intercom, right before speeding towards another batch of advancing mecha tanks. The remaining units followed suit, pursuing the enemy. Overhead, some relief from the hail of boulders came when six Earth Republic jet fighters dropped bombs directly on the Earth Bender's fortified positions on top of the wall, allowing the ground units to focus on halting the onslaught of enemy mecha. The action was not without consequence, as a barrage of missiles from the undamaged sections of the wall careened towards the enemy fighters, destroying four as the remaining two scuttled away.
Our line is holding for now boss!
"Then let's keep it that way!" Garial replied, even as he fired his cannon at an errant mecha tank. More however, soon moved in to replace their fallen friend as the Green Shoulders fired as fast as their weapons allowed, hoping to stem the advance.
The wind had thankfully died down, allowing the two teams to move forward, only concerning themselves with the presence of enemies waiting to ambush them. Shing, Tong, Amit and Tashi were heading towards the portal while Kushina, Leena, Ulva and his men were heading west of it. Little was said in either group, until finally Tashi broke the silence.
"Is there anyone out here?"
Most of the settlements in both the Northern and Southern Water tribes are located close to the ocean. Dates from the times when the only way to get over was by ship. Living out here, even now, is both lonely and dangerous, not a combination many want to endure.
"I see," Tashi replied into the communicator, her voice muted.
SPEAK UP. I can't hear you over the intercom if you mumble. Ulva's voice was clearly annoyed by the girl's quiet tone.
Tashi spoke again, her voice much more assertive. "I said, 'I see'".
And what about you? You're a long way from the Air Temples.
Shing contemplated interrupting with a snarky remark about the Air Temples, but decided not to. When not thinking about how to make Tong embrace the role of the Avatar, he focused on the isolation of his people. More importantly, he had a plan to spread the teachings of his people, to spread their techniques. He just hoped that he survived the ensuing battles to actually execute that plan.
"Air Nomads are often sent on missions to the outside world as a rite of passage or to protect our interests," Tashi answered. "It's a bit different from how things used to be according to the old books. Back then, all Air Benders were part of the Air Nation. Today, that's not the case. We need to go out into the world when we can to learn about it and how it affects us."
"That and the whole 'no-killing' thing limits the amount of people who want to hire us for spy work," Amit added.
I'll admit, this is my first time running into Air Nomads out here. I've acted as a liaison for the UR and the Fire Nation, but never the Air Nomads. You been at this long?
"This is only my…"
"This is only my second mission. The first was…my right of passage. In Ba Sing Se."
It was obvious from the louder but harsher tone of her words that the incident in Ba Sing Se still haunted Tashi. Amit offered his partner a pat on a shoulder, which she smiled at. Ulva however, in the hopes of keeping the conversation going to avoid traveling in complete silence, tried to shift the topic.
Anyone waiting for you back home? Boy? Girl?
"No, no one like that," she replied. She breathed heavily, thankful that Ulva couldn't see her blush through the communicator. "Working for the Air Nation has been my primary focus."
Ah. Well, let's keep moving. I'm going into radio silence for now. Call if you find something concrete. I'll do the same.
"He didn't even talk to me," Amit noted, sulking all the while. Tashi and Tong both offered a laugh at the irritated Air Nomad, but he thankfully took it good-naturedly. All the while, Shing smiled, but was lost in his own thoughts even as they approached the spirit portal.
Their trek continued uninterrupted for several minutes until they saw a single man, standing in front of them. Unlike the earlier assailants, he wore no mask. His black hair and white skin identified him as a member of the Earth State. That and the two boulders that floated next to him, proof he was an Earth bender.
"Tong! I know it's you!"
Tong's initial reaction was more of confusion than fear. "Who are you? How do you know my name?"
"You killed my father! By the name of the Black Bull Bird, I will have my revenge on you!"
"Black…Bull Bird?! Yudhisthir?"
"I'm his son!" the man yelled. "My name is Sudhir! And I'm going to kill you!"
"Anything?" Leena asked.
"The UV scans are picking up a massive heat signature in the middle of the area," Kushina noted. "Whatever it is, the amount of snow on top of it would indicate it's been here for decades."
Ulva was confused by the assumption. "Decades? Then why did we never notice it before? Why would they keep it out here for so long?"
"Dunno. Either way, whatever it is, it's resting underground. The Spirit Portal is still messing with the radar though, so I can't confirm just how big it is."
Leena nodded. "We should go in for a closer look then, see if this is what we're looking for."
"Well it's our best lead by a mile," Ulva responded, only to hear the sound of icicles whizzing through the air.
"Another ambush! Get down!"
Kushina took the initiative immediately, charging forward in front of the group, using the mecha tank as a shield for the team. The sharpened pieces of ice cracked harmlessly against the reinforced metal of the Polar Warrior. With the team safe, the three remaining soldiers emerged from behind the unit and began firing into the snow. Kushina joined in until Ulva put his hand up.
"It's pointless if we can't see the enemy!"
The weapons ceased with that command as the group began looking around for their target. Soon afterwards, they found them.
Two men leapt from the snow to attack, only for the mecha tank and Leena to meet them with a concentrated burst of flame. Both fell, their unmoving bodies buried underneath the snow. Kushina grunted, still not exactly comfortable with the idea of killing. Like in Capital City, she kept telling herself that it was self-defense, which relieved her nerves.
"There's definitely more than two out here!" one of the soldiers yelled. Another body leaping from the ground confirmed that suspicion, as another of the assassins emerged from the snow, holding what appeared to be a rocket launcher and aiming it right at the group.
"Oh you have got to be kidding me!" Leena groaned.
"I didn't kill your father!" Tong shouted, looking on at his opponent standing in front of the Spirit Portal. "I sent him to jail so he could answer for his crimes! He died in prison!"
"Yes, I had to end his life after you took his honor," Sudhir answered. "I am the third Black Bull Bird, and I won't let our legacy be tarnished! Besides, we're the same, you and I, so don't even think about being self-righteous in front of me!"
"I didn't kill him!" Tong re-stated. "You did! You just said you did!"
"You may as well have! You left my father a husk and I had to end his life mercifully! And since Korra couldn't defeat you, I will!"
"If Korra couldn't beat him, what chance do you have?" taunted Amit.
"Years of experience under a great teacher have given me more than a chance!" Sudhir boasted. "A teacher you took from me! Now I'll kill you the same way I killed Dr. Mao!"
The wind howled as Tong heard the words "The same way I killed Dr. Mao." They echoed in his mind with a blank expression until he screamed into the sky a cry of rage, his yell echoing through the tundra as he ran forward towards Sudhir. The words kept echoing through his mind all the while.
The same way I killed Dr. Mao!
"YOU! YOU KILLED MY DAD!"
"What of it? I told you, we're the same! You and I both fight for our families!"
"I'M GOING TO KILL YOU!"
"That's my line!" Sudhir yelled, tossing the two boulders at Tong, who batted them aside. A barrage of fireballs soon approached the new Black Bull Bird, who avoided them by sinking into the snow and earth.
"COWARD!" Tong yelled. "COME OUT AND FIGHT!"
"Tong," Shing yelled to his partner. "Don't be an idiot! This guy's a sniper, remember? He's taking his time to scout us out!"
Actually you're wrong. I want to kill you as soon as possible.
Turning around, Shing noticed a black barrel pointing at his head, Sudhir's snow covered face wearing a sinister grin. The Air Nomad trembled at what he faced.
"For my father, DIE!"
The battle in front of the great walls of Ba Sing Se was relentless and without mercy. Casualties on both sides were beginning to mount as debris littered the battlefield. Knocking down a unit in front of him with a bayonet punch, Girial gritted his teeth, until finally word came through his radio.
Artillery units are in place. Advanced vanguard, fall back to point B!
"Everyone, fall back while firing! We're about to break down the doors!"
The mecha tanks began speeding backwards, firing all the while until they saw the first volley. Powerful shells of explosives smashed into the wall, leaving massive dents in the wall. A second volley widened the cracks until finally the wall of stone and metal gave way under the force of the explosions, an enormous chunk of it collapsing into dust along with the various defense emplacements on top of it. Cheering rang out through the army, until the dust cleared from the wall.
A massive purple mecha with a white face and thick armor began walking out of the artillery created hole, moving forward towards the invading army. The machine dwarfed everything else present on the battlefield, Earth Kingdom and Earth Republic alike.
"What in the name of everything sacred is that thing?!"
"It's the size of the Colossus!"
"Who cares?!" Destroy it!"
The order was to be given from the command vehicles in the center of the armada to train all artillery onto the new enemy, when a stern warning was heard from behind.
"Commander! New readings from behind our force! Rear vanguard is getting annihilated!"
Chaos soon reigned supreme as powerful beams of purple energy ripped through the mecha tanks in the rear while a legion of black mecha tanks began advancing on the Earth Republic's main force. The purple mecha meanwhile, raised its arms as it continued to advance towards the frontal vanguard. A powerful voice echoed through its speakers.
ATTENTION ALL MEMBERS OF THE EARTH STATE. THIS IS AVATAR KORRA. THE EARTH KINGDOM HAS AGREED TO A HISTORIC DEAL WHERE THE ENTIRE EARTH STATE WILL BE UNITED. THEY WILL BE UNITED AS THE EARTH REGENCY UNDER MY NEW GOVERNMENT, THE AVATAR NATION. THE REGENCY WILL BE GOVERNED UNDER THE CONTROL OF REGENT XING, WHO WILL ANSWER TO ME.
"Who died and made you Queen Bitch?!" asked a random pilot, but of course Korra didn't hear it.
YOU HAVE ONE CHANCE TO SURRENDER UNCONDITIONALLY, OR FACE TOTAL ANNIHILATION. YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED.
"Sir, we need a decision now!" someone yelled inside the command center. The commander looked at the video feed of the massive mecha and slammed his fist on the table in front of him.
"Destroy that thing and engage those new units immediately! I don't care who's piloting it!"
Jet fighters began charging towards Korra's mecha, only for her to smile. From the head of the unit, repeater cannon fire blasted apart two of the approaching jets while small gusts of wind easily swatted aside the missiles they fired, sending them crashing harmlessly towards the ground.
"Well ladies and gentlemen," she ordered through an internal PA system, "it seems that the Earth Republic needs to be disciplined into knowing who the true rulers of the world are. I hope everyone is ready to show these brats what we can do."
The colossal mecha arms pointed forward as two fans started up on them. From the fans emerged hurricane force winds that sent the smaller mecha tanks and vehicles flying. Men and their machines braced themselves against the gales that swept from the mecha, even as the legion of black mecha tanks advanced from the rear. From inside his Ox, which dug itself into the ground to avoid being flipped over, Girial grimaced at the super robot that appeared more powerful than an entire army of Air Benders.
"Korra's our last enemy? How do we fight that…thing?!"