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07 April 2009 @ 11:42 pm
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This is a vague, loosely-expressed collection of ideas for a Book 3 rewrite that will probably never actually become a fic because I'm too lazy to actually write stories. :/ If you don't read Part 1 first, you won't know what's going on.

Hopefully, this thing makes sense.

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Roku contacts Aang through his dreams to tell him to meet him on his home island on the day of the summer solstice (like at the beginning of The Avatar And the Firelord). Then Aang sees images of himself being struck down by Azula and floating away while Katara's trying to heal him. He sees the Lower Ring being ingulfed in dust and debris. Then he finds himself looking over his own unconscious body. He calls out to Roku but Roku's gone...

He watches on as Katara sits, alone, holding his hand, crying silent tears, begging him to wake up. "The world needs you, Aang. I need you. You have to wake up. If you don't wake up...I don't know what I'll do..."

He can't bare to watch. He calls out to Roku again because he doesn't want to be alone.



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Mai goes to Macmu-Ling's and enters into a Haiku throwdown with her. *lol* Mai and Haikus. <3 I have to think of some good haikus for Mai to recite.



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On their way to Ba Sing Se, Fat asks Piandao about one of the correspondences he received before they left home. Piandao doesn't answer his questions but instead asks Fat if he thinks he can sneak them into the palace . . .



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When Mai leaves the 5-7-5- Club, Ty Lee is there waiting for her. Mai asks if Azula sent her? Ty Lee says no. She just wanted to get out of the palace. Mai's not sure if she believes her since Ty Lee seems jumpy, though her jumpiness could be due to the situation. Macmu-Ling asks Mai who Ty Lee is. Mai says she's a friend. Macmu-Ling asks if Ty Lee is coming to the next poetry reading. Ty Lee says "Yes." Mai says nothing and gives Macmu-Ling a strange look since she knows that these recitals aren't just about reading and reciting haikus. She doesn't know if she should tell Ty Lee what's really going on. She remembers how Iroh referred to Ty Lee as "a drowning victim" and decides that anything she tells Ty Lee will probably get back to Azula one way or another. Then they'll both be in hot water. Macmu-Ling seems to understand that Ty Lee's not here for the same reason Mai's here.



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Unable to sleep, Mai goes to check in on Zuko. She finds him pacing in his room tearing his hair out. He DEMANDS to know where she's been. She tells him that she went to a haiku reading because, as boring as doing that was, it was probably still more fun than listening to them discuss things she doesn't care about. Zuko starts ranting about Azula bringing down the wall--the entire inner wall--with some drills (no I don't think there was just one of those things) and other large weapons and explosives in a few days. He goes on and on about how much useless destruction that that would cause--there wouldn't be anything left to rule in the Lower Ring. Mai reminds Zuko that he's in command; if he hates the idea, then he needs to take control and put a stop to it before they start setting up the blasting jelly and positioning the tanks and drills. That's what a leader does. Mai wonders if Zuko even cares about leading. She confronts him about it. He says he just wants to go home . . . He'll do whatever it takes to get home.



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Everyone gathers at dinner. Hakoda gives Sokka a few words of encouragement before he speaks to everyone. Sokka tells Hakoda that their situation is so bleak... "How are we even going to do everything we need to do to end this war?" Hakoda apologized for not having the answers.

Sokka decides to go with the plan to find and attack important targets--transportation routes, outposts, and so forth--in an attempt to cripple the Fire Nation's military and fracture their resolve and, hopefully, retake some cities, towns, and territories. Hakoda and the men will gather up allies while Katara, Toph, and Sokka take Aang to the North Pole. On their way to the Northern Water Tribe, they'll drop Sokka's schematics off to the mechanist so he can begin his work. Once they've assessed Aang's situation, they'll leave for the Fire Nation so they can gather intelligence OR at least get some better maps. Hakoda recommends they meet up a few days before the eclipse so they can exchange information and plot a course of action as to what target(s) they'll hit on the Day of Black Sun.

When Sokka's done, Kuei speaks up. He asks "What about the Water Tribes?" At first, no one understands his question. After a few awkward moments, he says that he thought they'd have some kind of plan to protect themselves from the Fire Nation. Sokka says that their navy was crippled during the siege at the North Pole and he doubts the Fire nation will see the south as a threat since the Southern Water tribe is made up of women and children and nearly extinct anyway.

Kuei points out that if the Fire Nation thinks Aang is dead, they might use the comet's power to exterminate the Water Tribes in an effort to try to kill the next Waterbending Avatar. Kuei gets scared when everyone starts looking at him, startled, and Bosco hides under the table. Kuei says "I just assumed it was commonly thought that the Fire Nation would start targeting your people since they think Aang's dead. That is why they killed the Air Nomads...isn't it?" (Remember, Kuei didn't even know there was a war and I doubt he would have known about the Air Nomad extinction until they told him about it. That guy didn't even know what a train waas!. I mean, I'm sure they would have spent some time filling this guy in on what's really been going on in the world.)

Kuei's interrupted by the thumping sound of Sokka lightly banging his forehead against the table's top. Toph suggests that they give Sokka a few minutes . . . Without even looking up, Sokka mumbles that they were so focused on the eclipse and what to do now that everything's gone so horribly wrong, that it never even crossed his mind to consider what the Fire Nation might do to their tribes when the comet comes back around now that they think Aang is dead.

Everyone blinks and stares at each other when Sokka collects himself and calmly walks out of the meeting. He ignores Katara when she asks him if he's okay as he's leaving.



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Azula finds herself staring at her reflection, noticing that she's starting to look more and more like her mother with each passing day... She asks herself what she's looking at and slams her hair brush down onto the vanity. Wen she hears footsteps from across the room, she calls out while turning to greet her unwanted visitor only to discover that she's alone...



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Piandao and Co. search for a good place between the inner and outer walls to set up a makeshift encampment for Order members who need a meeting place to coordinate and plan in the days leading up to the liberation of Ba Sing Se. Che shows Piandao a place on the map that's heavy with trees and thick vegetation and hidden in a deep valley between two small mountains. He tells Piandao that Jeong Jeong chose this place because there is a blind spot that would hide him from both the Fire Nation and the Earth Kingdom. Jeong Jeong was going to move here. He called it his retirement place.

After Piandao determines that the nearby stream is clean and the food sources of berries, nuts, and animals will be abundant and plentiful, he begins carving the Order's trademark lotus symbol into the bark of nearby trees, marking the would be camp's parameter, and providing a landmark for Order members. "Now Jeong Jeong has a base camp. Thanks, Che." Che says "No problem. Like I said, I just wanna be useful." Che smiles when Piandao tells him that he'll make sure Jeong Jeong knows that it was he who founded their base camp.



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Katara takes Toph up on her offer to sit with Aang so she can briefly talk with Sokka. Aang watches while Toph enters into a one-sided conversation with him. She can't help but think she isn't alone. When Aang's spirit walks over to her, she looks right at his spirit and says his name. But she can't hear him when he calls back to her and when he touches her, she doesn't move. When he starts backing away, though, Toph flinches and follows the path he takes around the room with her eyes. He deduces that Toph's bending is so refined and she has such a fundamental understanding of the whole Everything Is Connected concept without even realizing it. She's completely tapped in to the spiritual energy of the earth. When he stomps his foot on the ground, Toph gets scared and leaves the room.



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Katara finds Sokka standing at the ship's prow, looking out over the bay. He says it was stupid to leave the meeting and not come back but he felt like he couldn't breathe and he had a dull pain in his chest. He just had to get out of there. She said it sounds like he was having a panic attack, probably because of all the stress and then worrying about Suki and trying to come up with plans... She says she has a plan and would like to know if he wants to hear it? He simply shakes his head.

She says that whatever Sokka comes up with for the Black Sun invasion, they need to leave because it's just a matter of time before the place is crawling with Fire Nation ships. He agrees but says he doesn't even know what course they should set. Katara says that they should go to the Northern Water Tribe, take Aang for a swim in the Oasis pond, and tell Chief Arnook about their suspicions so he can make a decision about what he wants to do for his tribe while Dad sends word down south so they can evacuate the Southern Water Tribe and head for the swamp where Hue and the other Swampbenders can hopefully give them refuge during the comet's passing. That way, they'll at least be among other tribal people, some of whom are waterbenders, in a place that fiercely protects it's own from all attacks from outsiders.

She expects Sokka to put up a fight because her plan is too simple and boring while his plans are always over-the-top with strategies and maps... So when he shrugs and says "Okay", she's a little stunned by it and can't even muster up a response. As he leaves to relay this information to Hakoda, he puts his hand on her shoulder and tells her "Good work" when Toph runs out and says that there's something weird going on...



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After they've set up camp in the spot that will eventually become Jeong Jeong's base camp, Piandao gives Che the lowdown on Ba Sing Se, mainly about the Dai Li and the White Rose Society, a group of highly educated wealthy women who keep tabs on the Dai Li and feed information back to high ranking members of the Order. Piandao says this is important because the Order has business in Ba Sing Se and the Dai Li are the secret police organization who control everything that goes on in Ba Sing Se. Piandao tells Che that the Dai Li climb walls and hang from ceilings and skulk in the shadows. If Che finds this unsettling, he can wait back here at the camp while he and Fat go into the city and Piandao will pick him up on his way back through. Che just shrugs. After years of running with Jeong Jeong and getting screamed at by Lin Yi and the other clansmen all day long, nothing bothers him.

Piandao says that the idea is to meet up with an old friend who lives in the Lower Ring, sneak in, take care of a simple matter at the palace, and meet with the head of the White Rose Society, a woman named Lady Macmu-Ling. She's a former student of his and a patron of the arts and a member of Ba Sing Se's elite society.

Fat says that the problem isn't moving around in Ba Sing Se because it's easy enough to get lost in the crowds; it's getting into the city that'll be the real problem. Piandao tells Fat that he has that covered. Che says he doesn't have a passport. Piandao tells him he doesn't need one. Fat and Che just look at each other and shrug as Piandao climbs into his sleeping bag. He tells them to get some rest. They'll need to get up in a few hours, long before sunrise.



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Toph, Sokka, and Katara stand around Aang. Toph says "He's gone. He was here a few minutes ago but now she can't feel him." Sokka asks her "Who's gone?" so she says that, even though Aang's body wasn't moving, she's sure that she felt him. He was there with her in the room walking around. She couldn't hear him but she could feel his presence. It felt like a little tremor and she's sure it was Aang because she knows his footsteps anywhere. Sokka says that if Aang's body wasn't moving, then there were no footsteps. Toph says she can't explain it, but she knows that it was Aang she felt. She only ran out when she felt a strong tremor that frightened her. But now that she thinks about it, she thinks that maybe Aang was trying to get her attention. Toph says that she's going to camp out there in case he returns. Sokka says outright that that doesn't make any sense and walks out of the room. Katara says nothing. When Toph asks her about it, Katara just says "I don't know..." She tells Toph that she'll be back in a little while but she needs to take care of something. After Katara leaves, Toph says "I know it was you, Twinkle Toes. I'm sorry I ran away..."

Momo parks himself on Toph's lap and they wait...



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Bato, Hakoda, and some of the other men are sitting around in one of the large crew cabins talking when Katara enters. Everyone leaves when she DEMANDS to speak with him in private.

Then she goes off, mainly because what Toph just told her has her completely on edge and because she's worried about everything. She yells that he should not keep pushing Sokka so hard. He blames Hakoda for giving Sokka a panic attack because he's putting too much pressure on him at a time when he already has way too much to worry about--the loss of his girlfriends and Aang, making plans, leading the team... She says that he's the leader, not Sokka. He needs to step up and lead and quit making Sokka do all the work. Hakoda says that he had no idea that Sokka had lost two girlfriends. He never mentioned it. Katara said that Hakoda knows nothing about them or what they've been through because he's been away for so long and then she storms out.

When she returns to Aang's room, Toph tells her that Hakoda isn't crazy like her dad is and that maybe she should give the guy a break. Katara tells her to mind her own business. Toph says that she could hear Katara yelling from two decks up so their conversation is totally her business and the business of anyone who was in earshot of it. Katara says nothing, just flops down in the chair next to Aang and broods while Momo picks Toph's toes.



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The Duke and Pipsqueak are kickin' it with Appa on deck when Sokka approaches them and asks them if they know any place nearby that sells Fire Nation merchandise. They ask Sokka why he just doesn't take what he wants from the ship but Sokka says the ship doesn't have everything he needs. Plus, he wants to go into town and see if word of the Fire Nation's takeover has spread beyond the walls yet. They said there are a couple of small towns along the western lake that are controlled by the Fire Nation so he should find what he needs there. Sokka asks them if they want to go on a little shopping trip with him once they make dock? They're pleased to join him.

While they're marking up one of Sokka's maps, Hakoda approaches and asks if he can "barrow" Sokka for a minute.

When he pulls Sokka aside, Sokka starts jumping into the conversation with excited news of a new plan Katara came up with. Hakoda stops him by quickly placing a hand on his shoulder. He asks Sokka why he didn't tell him that he had lost two girlfriends since they left home? Sokka says it's not the kind of thing he likes to talk about. He didn't want their reunion to be a sad one. But Hakoda says that that's the kind of thing he wants Sokka to talk to him about, and if he had known that Sokka was facing all of that grief, he would have never put so much pressure on him. Then Hakoda says that he didn't know Sokka had panic attacks. Sokka says, "Neither did I until about an hour ago."

Sokka says that it was pretty stupid to leave the meeting and not return, that it was a silly mistake. Hakoda says that it's okay. No one's going to hold it against him. They're all feeling the pressure. Men with more experience than Sokka has would have completely buckled under it by now. Sokka says "Yeah but you aren't one of them. Mom died and you stepped up and maintained your composure." Hakoda tells Sokka that he was a wreck when their mom died. If it weren't for the support of his men, he would have been a complete basket case. It was at that time that Bato started taking on some of the leadership responsibilities so Hakoda could have a mourning period. Sokka was too young to notice just how messed up he was over their mother's death. "I'm glad you don't remember, Sokka. I wasn't in a good place. I should have filled the void left by your mother, not Katara, but I was too weak to take on both roles."

Sokka doesn't say anything. Hakoda laughs and tells Sokka that Katara's still acting like his mother. "She just chewed me out but good. She's looking out for you. I should be the person who's looking out for you. She's just a teenage girl..."

Sokka's a little overwhelmed. He wants to talk plans and Hakoda wants to talk about dead people and unhappy memories. This is not a good conversation at all. Sokka doesn't want to be baited into a conversation about Yue or Suki so he just cuts in with, "So, uh...do you wanna hear our new plan?" Hakoda smiles and nods.

He tells Hakoda about the Waterbenders living in a remote swamp in the Earth Kingdom. Hakoda says that he didn't know there were Waterbenders living outside of the poles. Sokka says that they didn't know, either, until some weird tornado forced them to crash land in the swamp. He tells them that the swamp is a mystical place and it will protect itself from danger meaning it'll protect anyone who lives there from danger. If the Fire Nation tries to enter the swamp, they'll probably get hammered by the spirits who protect it. Sokka says that he and Katara feel that the polar Waterbenders should make the swamp their home, at least until everyone feels it's safe to return to the poles. Hakoda smiles and says that that sounds like a working plan and days that he's heading to bed. "Get some sleep tonight," he tells Sokka. Sokka promises that he'll try after he's done talking with Pipsqueak and The Duke.



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Hakoda looks at Katara with a raised brow after he sees Toph's metal tent in the corner of the room. "She knows not to bend the hull, right?" Katara responds with an "Of course, Dad. She's blind, not stupid." Toph pops out and says "Yeah, Dad. I'm blind not stupid,", snickers, then disappears behind her tent's metal front door. Hakoda says "Uh, sorry..."

Katara snaps at him when she asks him what he wants. When he praises her for her quick thinking when coming up with the plan to send the Waterbenders to the swamp, she grouses, "Don't bother being nice to me. I'm still mad."

Hakoda tells her that she was right and that he apologized to Sokka. Katara says "Fine" and waves him off. He sighs and leaves, unhappy that Katara keeps shutting him out.



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Macmu-Ling is disappointed to see that Mai had not returned to the next poetry reading. Instead she sees her friend, Ty Lee, there instead. She only knows a few things about these girls based off of the information she received from a couple of palace servants who were expelled by Zuko a couple of days ago. She senses that both girls are "on the fence" and thinks that Mai, who went to see the Grand Lotus, is the closest to crossing over to their side. She's uncertain about this Ty Lee girl and really doesn't want to chance blowing her cover by reaching out to her after Iroh had sent word that only the girl named Mai should be taken into the Order's care.

After the reading, Macmu-Ling asks Ty Lee, who looks sad, where her friend is? Ty Lee shrugs: "I thought she was here but I guess she didn't come tonight." Macmu-Ling, who wants to get a feel for this girl, invites Ty lee to another reading and encourages her to actually read an original haiku of her own. Ty Lee politely refuses and tells her that she won't be coming back then thanks her for her hospitality, bows, then leaves.

Macmu-Ling sighs then shakes her head as Ty Lee shuffles away.



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Zuko enters the throne room and makes a snarky comment about Azula spending most of her time on the throne. "What's the matter, Azula? Afraid someone's gonna sit in your seat if you get up?" Azula smirks and runs a quick glance across the Dai Li and says there's absolutely no fear of that happening. Zuko just shrugs and asks Azula if he's seen Mai. She says she hasn't. She thought Mai was with him.

Zuko says that they're scrapping the plan to take down the entire inner wall. Azula goes into a speech about how taking the wall down is symbolic since the wall is the very thing that's been keeping the Fire Nation from the city all these years. Zuko points out that if that were the case, they wouldn't be in control of it now.

Zuko tells the Dai Li who have been flanking Azula all day long to "Get lost". After they've left, Zuko tells Azula that she's not even thinking straight and he wants to know what her problem is? "It's not like you to be this stupid, Azula." She makes a crack about how Zuko calling her stupid is like the pot calling the kettle black and laughs. Zuko rubs his temples and cracks his neck while she grins back at him. "Whatever. Taking down the wall completely overshadows the brilliance and finesse of your whole plan. You just proved that the wall is irrelevant. Now you're going to take it down and destroy the Lower Ring which, by the way, is our territory now, and houses most of Ba Sing Se's population--our subjects. It's a pointless waste of time, energy, and raw area. Who's going to clean up the mess, Azula? We are because it's our mess." Azula is quick to point out that the Fire Nation can't bring tanks or other armored vehicles into the city to secure it unless there are entry points in both the outer and inner walls. Zuko tells her that they will take the walls down in a few key locations so that the Fire Nation can come through, but that the rest of the wall is staying up. The holes they create are enough of a statement without destroying their property throughout half of the city. Zuko says that he will work with members of the Dai Li to go over the structural plans of the walls and find their weak spots, and if she even thinks about telling the Dai Li to bring down the whole wall, he will make sure that taking down the entire wall is the last thing the Dai Li ever do. Azula says "We'll see about that," and she smirks when Zuko turns his back to her. He responds with "Yeah, we will."

As he's leaving, she tells him that he's starting to act more and more like Father with each passing moment as he becomes more decisive and calculating. This stops him in his tracks but he doesn't turn to look at her. He considers this a backhanded compliment but doesn't understand why he feels this way. Either it's a backhanded compliment because it's coming from Azula, or it's a backhanded compliment because Zuko wants his father to love him, but he doesn't really want to be like him. She tells him to "Sleep well" as he's leaving. Zuko's temper amuses her. Plus, she knows that saying things like that makes him squeamish because Zuko's confidence and self-image are completely shattered. She figures her tooling will either toughen him up or tear him down. Either way, he'll be better off than he is right now. Or at least he'll be more fun to be around.



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Macmu-Ling hears a whoosh and makes her way to her feet from her sleeping position, drawing her sword. She finds Mai, arms crossed, standing in front of her. She refuses to lower her sword when she asks Mai why she broke into her home. Mai responds that she didn't break anything. The window was open so she just flew right in. Macmu-Ling scolds Mai for her rudeness and tells her that she'll only tolerate this behavior because she has received word from Master Iroh that Mai is to be welcomed by her. Mai's brow goes up at the mention of Iroh's name but she says nothing, only wonders how Iroh got a message to this woman. It's then that she realizes that there must be at least one Dai Li who's playing for the other team, whoever that other team is.

Macmu-Ling tells Mai that the recommendation to come back to the 5-7-5 Club was more of an order than a simple request and that by coming straight to her home, she's put her and others at risk. She tells Mai to "Get with the program" or get lost because she doesn't want to put up with some bratty Fire Nation girl who sneaks around like the Dai Li and shows no respect to the Master.

Mai tells her that this isn't such a good idea then says she won't bother her again. Macmu-Ling tells Mai to come to the 5-7-5 Club tomorrow during the reading if she's serious about making some changes. "You need to make some serious changes or you're as good as dead," she finishes as Mai is leaving through the open window.

Mai says she'll think about it then leaps out the open window into the night.



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Everyone's awakened by the sound of frantic bell ringing. They make their way on deck to find Sokka. Katara complains that it's not even dawn yet and that Sokka really needs to go to bed and leave everyone alone or she'll hurt him. When he asks where Toph is, Katara says that she's below deck in Aang's room and dares him to go wake her up. He makes a bitter face and marches down there to get her up. "Everyone needs to be here for the meeting," he snaps as he stomps off.

Yelling echoes up from below deck as Toph tells Sokka to "Get out of her face" while Sokka insists that he needs her to be up there because they all can't fit in Aang's room. There's a long silence then a loud smack which Katara assumes is Toph punching Sokka for being obnoxious. Sokka drags himself back on deck, rubbing a bruise on his arm, then tells them all to go out into the hallway outside of Aang's room for the meeting. When Katara snickers he tells her to "Shut up."

As many of them pile up into Aang's room as possible while the rest stand out in the hallway, looking on.

Sokka says he has a theory that he's been thinking about all night long. He thinks that Toph's bending is so refined, so well mastered, that she can sense Aang's spiritual presence in the Physical World. Bending is spiritual so, in theory, the most powerful bending masters should be able to have a special connection to the Avatar's spirit. Of course he points out that it's just a guess and that he has no real understanding of anything having to do with the Avatar State but, until they find out otherwise, it's the only working theory they have to go on.

Toph says that's great but what how does this help us and why did everyone have to get up before dawn to find this out? Sokka says that when Aang returns, and he believes Aang will return to try to contact Toph again, then maybe they can somehow send messages back and forth to Aang so they can get a sense of what's going on with him. He also says that he thinks it would be wise to take Aang to the Guru at the Eastern Air Temple. If it's an Avatar State thing, the Guru might be able to help or at least tell them what their next course of action should be. If the Guru can awaken Aang, that puts them back in business. They all agree that this sounds like a good plan. Sokka tells them they should set their course of a town that Pipsqueak and The Duke picked out on the map. It's a Fire Nation colony. They need supplies for their trip. Once they're done with their shopping, they'll leave for the Eastern Air Temple then return in a few days with a status update. Sokka points out a good place to meet up on the map--a bay on the western lake that has a wooded inlet where they can drop anchor and hide out while making their final arrangements before they split up for good.

Before he dismisses everyone so they can go back to bed, he apologizes for walking out of the previous strategy meeting the night before and vows that it won't happen again. He admits to feeling terrible about the whole thing and understands if everyone's disappointed in him. Bato tells him not to worry about it. Everyone makes mistakes. Hakoda puts in that it's best for him to make mistakes here where he's among family and friends--people who love him and won't judge him for being human.

After Sokka dismisses everyone, he asks Katara if he can speak with Toph alone. Toph says she's not leaving Aang so that means Katara needs to get out. Rather than put up a fight, Katara looks at Sokka then shrugs and follows Hakoda out of the room. Before he speaks, he pokes his head out the door to make sure Katara's out of earshot.

"What?" Toph groans. "And hurry up. I got a couple more hours of sleep before The Duke comes down here and starts pestering me."

"Yeah, right. You can stand it when The Duke bothers you. That's why you spent all day yesterday laughing at his jokes."

"Don't change the subject!"

Sokka says sorry. "It's about what Aang said to us on the way back to Ba Sing Se..." Sokka reminds Toph that Aang said he had mastered the Avatar State then Sokka tells her that he thinks Aang was lying. If it's true that Toph can sense Aang's spirit during an out-of-body experience, then that means that Aang is probably okay but can't figure out how to return to his body. He tells Toph that this has happened before during spiritual times or in a spiritual place. But he says that if Aang had mastered the Avatar State, then he should be able to control his metaphysical spirit and move freely in and out of his physical body.

Toph says that "That's creepy" then asks Sokka why he didn't say this at the meeting. He says that there's no way anyone else would even understand this stuff since they have no idea what the Avatar State is or what Aang's capable of. He says that he'll tell Katara later but, before he does that, he wants to make sure that he and Toph are on the same page. When Toph asks, "Same page about what?" Sokka says, "About the lie." Sokka tells Toph that Katara doesn't know Aang lied and he doesn't want her to find out. "Just don't bring it up to her." Toph says that's fine with her. Then Sokka asks that, when Aang wakes up, that they not bring it up to him, either. "Just pretend he never told the lie. He already has a lot of guilt and sadness over the Avatar State, which is probably why he told us the lie in the first place. He was too ashamed to admit that he hadn't mastered the Avatar State..." Toph says that it'll be their little secret then punches Sokka and tells him to get out so she can get some sleep.



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After gathering everyone in the throne room, Zuko tells them of his and Azula's (yes he gives her credit) plan to take down the inner wall at strategic places so the Fire Nation can begin securing the city. He passes out copies of schematics that mark off the places where they want Dai Li agents to bring the wall down.

One Dai Li speaks out by saying that he has family who lives in the neighborhood next to one of these locations and asks if he can at least evacuate his family. Azula says "No" before Zuko can open his mouth. Zuko hesitates, glances back and forth to Azula, Mai, Ty Lee, the Dai Li, and then back to Azula. It's this hesitation that bothers Mai.

After a drawn-out silence, Zuko asks the Dai Li how many of them have loved ones living in the Lower Ring? A few hands go up. Zuko says they have two full days to evacuate their loved ones from these critical areas. Azula says nothing, just smirks. This whole bit was just another way for her to test Zuko. He knows it. So do Mai and Ty Lee. He turns to look at her and says, "It's no fun ruling over dead people, Azula."

Mai's still upset. She doesn't know if Zuko's being compassionate and trying to hide it or if he's just that callous. Well, he did turn on his uncle. She supposes that anything's possible.

Another Dai Li speaks up and says that they didn't think they would actually have to take down the walls. Zuko addresses the man as if he's a complete moron. "Why wouldn't we get you to take down the walls? You've got one foot in bed with the Fire Nation already, you might as well climb the rest of the way in."

Before Azula can add anything to his remark, he dismisses the Dai Li with a reminder that they only have two full days to get their loved ones out of the danger zones.

He offers up a hard glare and starts in on her. "You're not the scariest thing in the universe, Azula. Once something scarier comes along, the Dai Li will turn on you faster than they turned on Long Feng. Nothing scares most people more than the thought of losing their loved ones. Of course, I wouldn't expect someone like you--someone who doesn't care about her family--to understand this. You want the Dai Li to remain loyal to you through the invasion, I suggest you try not to give them reasons to turn on you--to turn on us."

Azula's brow goes up at Zuko's mention of the invasion.

"Yeah, I know about the eclipse and the invasion, Azula, so if you were thinking about setting me up on the Day of Black Sun, think again. You'll have to find some other way to turn the knife in my back."

"I was going to tell you, Zuko, but with everything that's been happening, it just slipped my mind. You would have found out when I told father. I'm sure you had a similar problem when you failed to tell me that you ordered all of the palace servants to go home."

"No, it didn't slip my mind. That order didn't place you in any danger so it was really none of your business. Let's not pretend it's the same thing. If you're so upset that there's no one around to service your every need, then you should go back to your tank with Li and Lo or bring them here to the palace."

"I know what I'm doing here, Zuko. I've had military successes and you've only known failure. You're not in a position to tell me how to handle this operation or the Dai Li. You're only involved in this operation because I've allowed you to be involved in it. You only get to return home because I've given you that opportunity. You're in charge because I've allowed it. Let's not forget who the brains of this operation is, Zuko."

"I'm involved in it because you needed me to fight with you so let's not get ahead of ourselves. If I hadn't shown up in the nick of time, Katara and the Avatar would have beaten you senseless."

"Who?"

"Katara. The Waterbender who nearly literally tore you in half, Azula."

"As for my failures, you should have thought about that before you turned command of the operation over to me. If this does turn out to be another one of my failures, that's just as much on you as it is on me. Good luck explaining that brainy move to Father. Then you can find out how messy things can get for someone who's less than perfect."

Mai and Ty Lee are stunned at Zuko's remarks. Azula is too, actually, but she's also impressed. His brash, unedited honesty and total lack of fear of Azula are the things that have drawn Mai to Zuko for as long as she's known him.

"Really?," Mai cuts in. "Don't try to get along on our account."

"We Won't" Zuko and Azula snap.

Mai and Ty Lee shrug then Ty Lee says it's just like old times.

Mai sighs. "Whatever. While you two continue to tear each other down, I'll try to keep track of the Dai Li while they're out evacuating the danger zones and possibly have secret meetings about us behind our backs. At least then I'll be useful."

When Mai and Ty Lee make it outside, Ty Lee tells Mai that she shouldn't go off alone. Mai says that the Dai Li creep her out, but not nearly as much as moody Azula and Angry Zuko do. She'll take her chances. She'd rather ba alone, anyway.



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The Duke and Pipsqueak meet Sokka on deck with a large jar of Fire Nation money in hand. "This is what we found in the pockets of all the pants on the ship," pipsqueak says. "You can buy a lot of supplies with this." Sokka asks them how they know this and they say that the people who lived in the village they use to live near only used Fire Nation currency. The few times they actually went into town to buy stuff, they had to have Fire Nation money, usually money they stole from soldiers after they ambushed them in the woods. To even use Earth Kingdom money would have gotten them arrested.

It's at this time that they hear a loud clank and a groan coming from below deck. Down in the storage hanger, they find Kuei covered in coins and liquor that's spilling out from busted barrels. "I found the ship's loot!" he beams. "It took me a while. I had to bust open every barrel just to find it.

When he tries to stand up, Sokka asks him if he's drunk. He's says "Maybe...just a little," he giggles. Bosco tips over and Kuei falls down next to him. Sokka just shakes his head.

He asks Kuei how he knew the ship's money was hidden down here. Kuei says it was a lucky guess. The obvious place, the large safe in the Captain's quarters, would have been the last place to put the ship's money.

"Earth Kingdom ships always have a large amount of ready money on hand so they can buy emergency supplies on long hauls. He just figured, Fire Nation ships would have large amounts of money on hand for the same reason. This is probably what makes these ships so appealing to pirates," he finishes before passing out on Bosco while Momo starts guzzling down ale that's pouring from a hole in the side of a nearby barrel.

Sokka grabs him by the ears, "Not you, too", then drags him above deck and tells Appa to keep an eye on him. Appa just goes back to sleep. Pipsqueak and The Duke ask Sokka what to do with Kuei and his bear. He tells them to let them sleep it off in the storage hanger since they aren't in anyone's way.

Sokka asks Toph and Katara if they're going into town. They both say they're staying with Aang. Sokka groans when Katara gives him a shopping list and tells him not to come back with a bunch of useless junk.



FIVE HOURS LATER . . .



"Sokka... You bought a bird?"

Sokka says his name's Hawky and he's a messenger hawk. In a few weeks, the skies will be filled with them now that the Fire Nation has control of the Earth Kingdom. No one will notice one more flying around and he says it'll be a great way for them to send messages back and forth to Hakoda.

Katara says that makes sense but what about the sword? Toph grabs it and says that Sokka bought that thing so she could practice her metalbending. Then she bends the blade. Sokka Screams like a girl while Katara laughs. Toph bends the blade back to it's original state.

Sokka snatches it from Toph and claims that he needs more weapons.

Everyone quickly moves out of the way while Sokka flings the sword around in dramatic fashion then tips over because the weight of it is heavier than he expected. He grunts when his butt hits the metal deck. Hakoda recommends that he buy a few scrolls to teach himself how to handle the thing properly on his next shopping trip. Bato says "The sooner, the better," when Sokka's next move causes the sword to fly out of his hand, past Bato's head, and overboard.

Sokka gulps and apologizes and Pipsqueak comments that the sword was a cheap piece of junk anyway. Sokka asks him why didn't he tell him that when he was buying it? The Duke tells Sokka that he was so attached to it that they didn't have the nerve to break his heart.

Sokka's indignant. "Hey! It was a handsome weapon," he says.

Katara laughs when Toph says "It sure was," but Katara's nice enough to fish it out of the water for Sokka. Toph tells him to try not to kill himself with it when Katara hands it back to him because she's not sure but she thinks she might actually miss him. Her comment causes him to smile just a little bit.



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When Macmu-Ling emerges from her bathroom, she finds Mai occupying the same spot she had occupied one night earlier. She makes a bitter face and takes a seat at her vanity. She tells Mai that they missed her at the club tonight. Mai shrugs while Macmu-Ling brushes her hair.

"Here," Mai says, putting a rolled-up piece of parchment into Macmu-Ling's hand. Macmu-Ling doesn't understand why she's giving her a copy of the drawings of the wall. Mai tells her that the marked places on the map are places where the Prince and Princess have ordered the Dai Li to take the wall down in less than two days and that Macmu-Ling should warn anyone loved ones she has living in those neighborhoods in the Lower Ring. When Macmu-Ling asks Mai how long she's had this information, Mai tells her that she's know about this for over a day. Macmu-Ling asks her why she didn't tell her this last night. Mai says that she thought that Prince Zuko--her boyfriend--would decide that taking down the inner wall was a bad idea. She thought he'd come up with another, less destructive way to bring the Fire Nation's troops into the city since he seemed to have such a problem with the plan in the first place. But in the end, he went along with his sister's recommendation.

Macmu-Ling complains that she hopes that telling her the plan now isn't "too little, too late to help those living in the Lower Ring". Mai sighs and tells her that it's the best she can do. Macmu-Ling thanks her for the heads-up and asks if she would like to help get the word out to those living in in endangered neighborhoods? Mai says that she's going back. If she's gone too long, Azula will freak out and send the Dai Li out to look for her. Macmu-Ling warns her that she can't continue to play "both sides".

Mai says, "I know."



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END NOTS:

So, I'm not sure how tall the inner-wall is. I've read it's 600 feet tall (I think). I believe that's comparable to a 50 to 60 story building (where each story is approximately 10 to 12 ft high by modern standards). That's pretty tall, and it spans the parameter of the entire city. If you think about the demolition of a sky scraper--how much dust and debris is kicked up and about how the area around it has to be cleared beforehand--then you can imagine that there would be a tremendous amount of dust created when a portion of the wall collapses, and the wave of energy that would be generated the second it collapses would be very powerful. They brought a portion of the wall down in 3.01 and showed no damage to surrounding buildings. That's nonsense. At the very least, the buildings closest to the destruction would have been covered in debris, windows would have been blown out, people would have been crushed or cut to ribbons with flying glass or pummeled to death with flying debris and falling rocks... The air would be thick with dust and nearly impossible to breathe. It would have been a disaster for anyone in the vicinity of the collapse. The shockwave from the impact of huge portions of a 600 foot rock wall slamming into the ground would be so great it would knock people off their feet as they're trying to run away.

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