The Place Under the Shining Star
It looked so peaceful from the observation room. The planet, observed through a massive clear wall, seemed so quiet and quaint. Han had taken the liberty of modifying the room with a central throne that faced the observation window so he could see and survey the whole of his domain. And what he saw was a planet that looked peaceful, but deep within, was full of strife and conflict.
He would guide it to a peaceful future. No matter how many he had to kill.
There had still been no word from the other nations regarding his terms of surrender. It was definitely a lot for the world's leaders to take in, but he was patient. He knew that they had no alternative.
"From here it seems so minute," Han mused aloud to no one in particular, the observation echoing through the room. "So pathetic in the grand scheme of things. It may be a mote of dust, but it's MY mote of dust, and I will reign over it as king before the week is over."
He continued to look over his prize, thinking about what he would do when he had control of it. Eliminate government inefficiency, promote tolerance, kill every last Air Nomad and burn their temples and texts to ash; all long term projects but definitely doable. It would all happen soon.
SIR! Blared a voice through the speakers in the room. Report to the bridge immediately!
Jumping from his seat and running towards the central bridge, Han wondered what could have possibly required him so urgently. Once he arrived, he saw the reason on a monitor.
"We're detecting a launch from a field in the Si Wong desert! It appears to be a missile!"
"Then shoot it down!" Han ordered.
The sounds of machinery in the station moving could be heard as the spirit vine cannon adjusted its range to take out its target. Soon afterwards, cameras showed the beam from the cannon annihilating the errant rocket.
"Confirmed kill sir."
"With two more launches!" interrupted another officer.
"Make that three! No, four! No, five!"
"Shoot them down! All of them!" Han ordered!"
"We're not fast enough! Some are getting through!"
A dozen tiny blips appeared on the monitors, each representing a missile launch. Knowing the threat he gave, Han could only wonder the obvious.
"Why are they attacking when they know what damaging this station will do? That they can't hope to completely destroy it? What is their plan?"
Are you ready?
Looking in front of him, Tong saw the smiling face of Korra, the real Korra, looking back. She appeared to be standing…somehow, despite the fact that the shuttle had been moved vertically so it could launch.
"You know, I've never seen outer space. I just…wanted to get a good look."
"I'm not going there for the view," Tong answered, causing Korra to laugh.
"Doesn't mean you can't enjoy it."
"I think I'll enjoy it more on the way back," Tong answered. He then added, "By the way, you might want to buckle up."
"Buckle? Why wAHHHHHH!"
Everyone on the shuttle gritted their teeth as the velocity of the rocket flung them forward, detaching and letting the ship rise into space on its own power. Everyone except Korra, who bounced around like a ping pong ball from wall to wall, screaming all the while. The sky ahead of them turned from blue to black as they ascended, the stars twinkling in the sky, millions of twinkling lights that illuminated their path.
"Let's not do that again," Shing gasped, breathing heavily as the shuttle went to a vertical axis.
"It wasn't so bad," Amit protested. "Just…fast. Right Tashi? Tashi?"
Looking over, Tashi appeared to be breathing heavily, her eyes closed until Amit tapped her on the shoulder. Looking outside, she saw it all, and was awestruck. Viewing the outside of the shuttle, after rubbing her head, Korra had an equally awestruck reaction.
Tong was stunned silent as he looked out the window, seeing the planet. If the experiences of the past few weeks hadn't convinced him just how petty his quest for vengeance seemed in comparison to the responsibility of protecting the world, then seeing the entire world in front of him, every nation, every landmass, spelled it out in a way that a lecture never could. His hand reached for his head, only for the glass helmet to block it.
"What am I doing?"
Korra's hand reached for Tong's shoulder, the woman smiling.
"You were all ready to go before. Don't wuss out on me now."
"I...no. It's just so humbling. It's awe inspiring."
"You'll be fine. Just keep focused."
With those words, Korra left again, leaving the group to focus on the task at hand. Outside, other shuttles joined the main force, mecha tanks detaching from each. In total, there appeared to be only 30 mecha tanks outside, spilt between the nations and the United Republic. They all appeared to be heavily modified from their land based counterparts, jet engines all over the units to allow them to move through the weightless void of space. Over the monitor, a voice spoke.
This is Commander Zuko II of the United Republic forces. The UR is taking point on this operation, as discussed with our initial planning. I need all squadrons to report in.
United Republic Squadron reporting in, reported the familiar voice of Kushina as her unit moved ahead of the shuttlecraft. The dark blue mecha tanks shone oddly in the light from the shuttles. These Star Barons move way faster than anything I've seen on the ground.
Don't get too giddy pilot, Zuko shot back. Keep in mind that EVERYTHING we know about space warfare at this point is theoretical! Be prepared to adjust for anything!
A third voice soon interrupted the conversation. Fire Nation squadron reporting in.
Earth Kingdom squadron reporting in.
Earth Republic squadron reporting in.
Water Tribe squadron reporting in.
Allied squadrons, prepare to move in. Your primary objective is to clear entrance for the shuttles with our commando teams. Once there, you have two objectives – Disable the Spirit Vine Cannon, and capture or kill Grand Lotus Han. Meanwhile our squadrons need to disable any sensory equipment so they cannot fire their primary weapon. We know Han will start attacking major cities the second he has a clear shot.
Here comes the crossfire! Shouted a voice from the Water Tribe squadron. Sure enough, beams of light flashed through space attempting to strike their targets, but without a single sound accompanying them. The pilot of the shuttle was rather blunt about what was going to happen next.
"EVERYONE HOLD ON TIGHT! WE'RE GOING IN!"
"It was a diversion. They didn't plan to destroy this space station, they want to capture it with an assault force."
The space station shook from cannon fire as the units raced around, the legion of modified Skull Knights defending the Star Flower racing to attack their enemies.
"Scanning probes for the spirit vine cannon are down! It's going to take a bit before we can properly aim at planetary targets!"
"Orders, Grand Lotus?"
"Have our mecha tanks form a defensive perimeter. All soldiers should head for the loading bays and prepare to repel boarders. We cannot let the spirit cannon be compromised."
"And you Grand Lotus?"
"I'm going to the observation deck."
"They've come for me, and I intend to fight them somewhere where equipment will not be damaged. Besides, I suspect the Avatar himself is on one of those shuttles, and I have no doubt he wants to face me. Our battle is inevitable, and I'd rather sensitive equipment not be damaged when it occurs."
"Of course Grand Lotus."
The lights of cannon fire and explosions lit up the black void of space, but no sound accompanied the firing. From her position, Kushina saw the enemy units race towards her, coming in from all angles, above, below, and both sides. Any amount of test pilot work she had done in those underwater tanks seemed pitifully insufficient to prepare her for this.
Easy for you to AAAARGH!
The bright light of a destroyed Earth Republic mecha signaled that the battle was already starting. The units raced through the battlefield in an attempt to corral their opponents, keeping them from the shuttles advancing on the Star Flower itself.
One errant mecha tank flew through space, pursuing the Fire Nation shuttle, only to fall victim to an attack from above and below, while another enemy mecha tank was shot down by three pursuers. Not to be outdone, an Earth Republic mecha took a blast from cannons on the side of the Star Flower, exploding into a fiery heap of metal.
Why did no one object to the space station being armed with cannons?
White Lotus hid them, duh! Stay focused!
The shuttles zoomed in closer to the entrance; dodging cannon fire as quickly as they could. Noticing the increasing barrage, one of the United Republic's Star Baron's zoomed off from the squadron, heading towards the shuttle.
Take over the battle at the perimeter! I'm going to cover those shuttles!
Understood Kushina. Don't let them get scratched!
The mecha raced ahead of the shuttles, firing at the cannons and then backing out too quickly for them to get a clear lock on her. After the sixth cannon explosion, a narrow route was cleared for the shuttles to enter the stronghold.
"This is UR 2. Shuttles are go for landing…wha?"
A dark purple mecha tank belonging to Han's forces zoomed in from above Kushina, its cannon fire ripping off the right leg of her machine and sending her bouncing to and fro inside the cockpit. Her opponent moved in for the kill, the damaged machine too slow to run off.
At the last second however, Shocker fire from three other units drove off the errant machine, damaging but not destroying it as the enemy flew off. Two of the machines, modified Sun Fang's from Kushina's perspective, moved next to her.
"Thanks for the assist, but this thing isn't much good in a dogfight."
Not bad for an engineer. Go and retreat back to the defensive line.
"No way!" Kushina shouted. "I'm going to go board the Star Flower with the others. At least there I can be of some use."
Fine. Just be careful.
The group of mecha split off, the Fire Nation units returning to the fight while Kushina's Star Baron raced as best it could to catch up with the shuttles.
With the cannon fire cleared out of the way, the shuttles of the various nations began to enter the dock of the Star Flower. The first thing all the passengers realized was that the dock itself was quite large, able to hold all six of the shuttles with relative ease.
The second thing they realized is that they weren't alone, Shocker fire rattling the shuttles as soon as they landed. Two Earth benders on the Earth Kingdom shuttle attempted to raise the ground to defend the shuttles, but it was to no avail.
"What gives?" One of his compatriots, a non-bender holding a rifle, responded by pushing a weapon into the metal bender's hands.
"The whole space station is treated with anti-metal bending chemicals! Your bending is useless!"
"Then what do we do?" he asked, looking at the rifle.
"You were taught how to use that in basic training, right? Time to dust off those lessons! Besides," the man added as he opened the door, laying down covering fire for the group, "there might be some boxes and the like you can bend. Just don't expect to manipulate the ground!" Looking around, the man noticed a small group of men and women with the tattoos of the Air Nomads on them as well.
"You guys need weapons too?"
"We'll be fine," one of the Nomads responded. "Trust us."
The other groups of benders and their escorts leapt out of the shuttles, opening fire on the group of defenders by the door as they continued to look for an opening. Luckily, the other elements weren't impeded the way, flame, wind, and water from sacs being exchanged by both sides. Soon they had reached a stalemate with White Lotus' forces guarding the door, unable to progress forward.
"This is no good!" Tashi exclaimed, looking on at her compatriots from the Northern temple.
"Agreed! Let's try the ball bounce maneuver!"
Rising out of cover, the Air Nomads began moving the thin air in the hangar. While it was unable to send them into the wall as fast as they wanted, it did raise them into plain view. Immediately, a group of water benders took advantage, water whips smacking the enemies to the ground unconscious but alive.
"Glad you guys came," a Water Tribe soldier replied. The celebration was short lived as a pair of soldiers wielding rockets moved in, aiming for the shuttles.
"That's our ride!" a soldier gasped, realizing they would have no way back if they blew up the shuttles.
EVERYBODY GET OUT OF THE WAY!
The noise went through the communicators of the units as a one-legged Star Baron began firing at the group of errant soldiers, annihilating them as it careened into the hangar, luckily missing the shuttles. From the wrecked machine emerged Kushina, who smiled at the group.
"What did I miss?"
"You OK?" Shing asked.
"Yeah, but my ride will never be the same."
The Fire Nation soldiers emerged from cover, looking on at the group and the destroyed machine. Tong and Shing recognized the tall woman serving as their leader immediately.
"Well boys, we know what we're looking for. Let's get inside!"
Panic spread throughout the interior of the Star Flower as the group of invaders began moving towards the center of the station. While the air and gravity had returned to relatively normal levels, the danger had only increased the deeper they went into the space station. The further they went, the more they encountered resistance, with members of each nation choosing to stay and deal with the resistance while allowing the rest of the group to look for another way in. This pattern occupied both the Water Tribe and Earth Kingdom troops, while the remaining forces moved forward, until they found a single man, clad in heavy silver armor with what appeared to be two cannons on his shoulders and a helmet with a clear visor. He grimaced at the men and women in front of him.
"He was right. You are here Avatar Tong!"
"Do I know you?" Tong asked. The man nodded.
"My name is Tsu Gan-Lan, and this battle has been fated for generations!"
"What are you babbling about?"
"The Avatar has caused my bloodline nothing but grief for generations! Ever since Avatar Aang destroyed my great-great grandfather's cabbage stand. Since Avatar Korra's actions drove my grandfather out of business! The battle between my clan and the Avatar ends here."
"Is this guy serious?" a soldier asked, moving forward, only for the armor clad man to reach for two triggers next to his hands.
"Don't move! I'm going to blast the walls of this space station wide open! When that happens, the entire hallway will de-pressurize, and send us all into the icy void of space. You can guess what happens next."
"I don't know you!" Tong shouted.
"I do!" Kushina shouted. "You were all angry I took your guns!"
"Well it ends here! Die Ava…"
A forceful jolt of air rocked Tsu to the wall and knocked him out before he could carry out his threat. Looking on at the group, Tashi could only respond with a confused "What?" Amit snickered.
The group all moved to one side as a lone figure, moving like a blur, disarmed two of the Fire Nation soldiers and struck an Air Nomad multiple times, causing him to convulse, unable to move. The woman moved forward to attack again, only for Kushina to move in on the blur and deflect her blows with chi blocking strikes of her own.
"Go! I'll handle this one!"
"Pretty bold little girl," the woman scoffed, her fiery red hair flowing behind her. "But it won't save you!"
As the group ran off, the red haired woman attempted to strike Kushina, only for her to block and counter perfectly. Unfortunately, the woman was also able to block and counter Kushina's strikes with equal accuracy. Breaking away, the two stood several steps away from each other. Both women smirked.
"Chun style chi-blocking?" the red headed woman asked. Kushina nodded.
"Am I supposed to know you?"
"No," the woman answered, "but it's always fun to test my style against other ones. Especially when I know mine is superior."
"Arrogant," Kushina answered, only to face a hail of fists and feet from the redheaded woman.
"It's not arrogance if you can back it up!"
Kushina saw a brief opening, throwing a kick toward's the woman's head, but it was immediately blocked, the woman smirking all the while.
"Flexible. But not too smart."
Tossing the leg aside, Kushina fell to the ground, moving quickly so as not to get hit while she was down. She stumbled slightly, but saw an opening, landing a straight punch to her opponent's torso, causing her to fall back a foot. Grimacing slightly, the redhead still offered a smile at her opponent.
"This is going to be fun."
Deeper and deeper into the fortress the group moved, the resistance they faced growing heavier as they continued their journey. The group soon found themselves by a room labeled "Observation Deck." Tong stared at it, clicking a button on a nearby panel that caused it to open.
"Tong!" Shing shouted. "What are you doing?"
"Someone's in here." The group went to follow, but the door soon closed behind Tong, with a second steel door falling into place in front of the standard one. Tong looked on, banging on the door, unsure of what kind of trap was set.
"Go on ahead!" he shouted. "I'll catch up!"
It's beautiful, isn't it?
Turning around, Tong saw what the voice was referring to. The clear window was in place of an entire wall, offering an unobstructed view of the entire planet. By it, standing in front of a golden throne, stood the man he was looking for, the man in a blue and white military uniform, his black cape flowing behind him as he rubbed his mustache slightly.
"Grand Lotus Han to you, Avatar Tong," Han replied. "We meet at last."
"It's over Han!" Tong shouted. "You're coming with me to face judgment for your crimes!"
"Is it?" Han asked, looking out at the observation window. "It was all figured out. Korra would unite the world in eternal balance. One nation, one people, no more wars, no more strife, no more want. Everything would be fixed. And then you had to make an appearance and ruin it!" With an accusatory tone, he pointed at Tong and yelled "You killed my fiancé!"
"And your organization killed my father," Tong shot back. "White Lotus ordered him killed, along with countless others. Jinora, Meelo, Bolin, Opal…"
"Don't…mention the name 'Opal' around me," Han grimaced, turning back to the window. "You've seen the world. Heard about the wars. Seen the way people limit true genius, especially the Air Nomads. I can fix it! This is my last chance to fix it all! Join me Avatar," Han began, extending his hand to Tong, "and together we can rule the world! You can have everything you want, money, power, women, and no longer do you need to hide yourself from others. You can rule over these simpletons and we can fix everything!"
Han extended his hand to Tong, who slapped it to one side, grimacing and causing Han to descend into a fighting stance, causing Tong to match it in kind.
"You really think this is what Korra would want. You think this is what I would want. Hell, you think this is what any Avatar would want?"
"You can't see my genius!" Han exclaimed. "And if you won't see it, then I'll smear this space station with your blood!" Tong however, appeared unimpressed by the threat.
"This is how it works with people like you, isn't it?" Tong asked. "You're the genius but the second anyone disagrees, you automatically descend into violence. You really think someone like you could run the entire world without it collapsing in on itself?"
"Accusations from a simple minded man who just wants vengeance without seeing the big picture!" Han shot back.
Tong shook his head. "I have seen the big picture. It takes a lot more than wanting revenge to fix the world, and it's going to take a lot more than murder to rule it!"
"You're right about one of those," Han answered. "But not even the mighty Avatar can defeat my genius!"
"This ends today Han!" Tong exclaimed as he moved forward to attack. "One way or another, THIS ENDS TODAY!"