Elven Enclave (b)
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Somewhere within the Elven Enclave, in a small but lavish room, a High Elf was seated in what looked to be a throne. He was dressed in black Mage Robes that were adorned with amazingly intricate and beautiful High Elf design. The Robes themselves were of exquisite make, and his long grey beard hung down low, as did his similarly coloured hair. Next to his throne was a second one that looked as though it had never been sat in even once. Despite that, the throne was constantly cleaned and maintained, and was in absolutely immaculate condition. A series of loud bangs and crashes alerted the old man of the arrival of something which seemed to be approaching at rapid speed. Soon enough, the door to where he was seated burst open, and in walked a High Elf dressed in a black three piece suit. His hair was short and immaculately cut, while his face was clean shaven. He approached the man old man with both hands in his pockets and as he got closer, the red glow behind his eyes became more prominent. There was also something of a red hue surrounding his body; however it quickly disappeared as the sound of heels clacking on the floor got closer to where he and the old man were. Said old man looked up at this man with a look of recognition in his eyes.

“What are you doing here?” He said in his old man voice.

“Come now Faelaon; is that really how you greet me after such a long time without seeing one another?”

“What are you doing here Erathell, and what do you want?”

“Good grief, you’re an awful person. I came all this way to see you and you’re talking to me like I’m some a piece of shit on the street.”

The old man who had been revealed as being the Elven Elder snorted as he continued looking at the High Elf before him.

“What do you want, Erathell?”

“To catch up with my older brother, you fucking asswipe!” Erathell snapped as he pulled his hands out from his pockets. “What kind of person has to fight through guards to visit his own flesh and blood?”

“Hmph.” The Elder snorted before looking away. “Leave this place.”

“I’m not going anywhere, so you may as well organise some snacks and drinks.”

“No. Get out.”

“Fuck you.”

“What did you say to me?”

“You heard me.”

The Elder glared at Erathell as untold amounts of Mana were drawn out by Faelaon – so much so that it began to physically affect the other Mages that served as his guards. Erathell however appeared to be unfazed by this display and glared right back at his brother, his eyes glowing brightly once more as the faint hue from before came back, only far more pronounced and far darker this time around.

“You seem to think that because you were removed a few seconds before me, that you are somehow special.” Erathell growled.

“Get out of here, before I turn you to dust.” Faelaon retorted.

Just as things seemed like they were about to escalate past the point of no return, some Elven servants entered the small throne room with platters of food and drink. Directed by an Elven woman who was walking behind them all, they set everything down between the raging brothers with shaking hands. The moment everything was set down, the servants ran out of the room before the sounds of retching and pained moans and groans could be heard. The woman walked right up to the two men and scowled at both.

“Would you two pipe down already?! Why must you always bicker like this?! You two are probably the oldest people in this city, yet you fight like children! What is wrong with you?!”

The woman continued to tear into the two men, who both looked at her and seemed to calm down as she went on. They eventually glanced towards each other, and the glance turned to a stare.

“Erathell… control your subordinate.”

“Stop speaking like this has nothing to do with you. You’re the one who started this.”

“Whatever; just get her to stop. Only one woman is allowed to scold me.”

“Stop telling me what to do.”

“Stop being a brat.”

“What in the Hells are you two bickering about now?!”

“Nothing! Absolutely nothing, so calm down, Catherine!”

It took a minute or two for Erathell to calm Catherine down, however after she did, he sat down on a chair that had been brought in by a servant and looked at his brother.

“What are you looking at?”

“Really? That again?” Erathell asked. “Look, are you going to eat and drink with me or not?”

“You’re the one who came barging into my tower… so you will be eating and drinking with me.” Faelaon snorted.

“I’m going to kill you two.” Catherine muttered under her breath.

Both men quickly started eating and drinking in silence, and Catherine remained silent herself as they did. These men, despite being silent and incompatible, seemed to actually enjoy being in each other’s company. This was written on their slightly smiling faces, despite being silent.

“So tell me, brother.” Erathell said, prompting Catherine to look at them with concern on her face. “Your people are down there battling with one another. They kill each other for ridiculous things while you sit up here and pine for a woman who—”

“Do not speak as if you are any better… do you think I haven’t gotten word of the situation beyond the barrier? Do you think I don’t know that you have been sacrificing your own people to push your vendetta and war with the Humans?”

“Please, there are absolutely no similarities between our situations.”

“Oh really?”

“You are letting your people kill each other as you do nothing but sit in this room waiting. I on the other hand am letting that mixed filth partake in our crusade for freedom and to rid ourselves of Human rule.”

“Hmph.” Faelaon snorted. “Even now you continue to refer to those mixed with Elven blood as ‘filth’…”

“Theirs is blood that mixed with that of filth, and that makes them filth.” Erathell virtually spat. “They should feel honoured to assist our Association.”

“You think like that, yet have the gall to come in here and criticise me?”

“Those are my feelings towards the filth. Not towards the superior Non-Human races with pure blood.”

“Any that are not of High Elf heritage are all filth to me.” Faelaon said with a sneer. “I care little for them, and even if they were to eradicate each other during their squabbles, I would care very little.”

“Says the one who has been in love with a woman who isn’t a High Elf Elder his entire life.”

“That is different!” The Elder boomed defensively. “Di’ithra is not a regular Elf – she is a demigoddess.”

“That doesn’t matter, you idiot. She still is not a damn High Elf.”

“Insolent!” Faelaon roared, before Erathell started laughing.

“When it comes to her, you become so defensive… how pathetic.”

Another argument started, and the two held nothing back as they tore into each other. Meanwhile, back on street level, things were heating up even more as Zuko and Sam were still caught right in the middle of a skirmish. They had ducked behind a massive vehicle that was by and large the same size as the Transporter Zuko had been traveling in the previous day; only this one was on fire. Sometime during the fighting, Sam had ducked behind it and called for Zuko to do the same, which he found himself doing. They watched as a group of the golden armoured Elves confronted the elves in the black armour. The golden soldiers were spraying the heavier, more damaging rounds however the limber, agile black armoured Elves displayed unbelievable reflexes as they actually twisted and turned to avoid the incoming bullets, before seeking cover. They retaliated from behind cover; however their opponents produced shields akin to those that Order Knights used, materialising from their forearms to block the rounds. Unlike the Knight’s shields however, these shields were created from condensed Mana, and had a symbol on them. As they blocked the bullets with these shields, more Elves in black emerged from the darkness, however unlike their gun wielding brethren; they had wrist blades that extended as they charged the ones in gold armour. All of a sudden, a massive energy ball was fired from one of the two-man guns and flew towards the group that was fighting. They weren’t the intended target; however they were fighting in the line of fire. The group was surprised by the shot, and while a few were able to move, the majority of them were wiped out by it as it ploughed through them and turned them to ooze. As the energy ball hit its target, the massive primitive looking Elves that were targeted had already moved out of the way. The energy shot then zoomed past Zuko and Sam and melted its way through a building, before continuing on its course through even more buildings. As the giant Elves started charging the other ones in the armoured vehicle, Zuko looked at Sam, who was looking somewhat flustered.

“So… are we picking a side and joining in the fight?”

“Absolutely not!” Sam protested as she shot Zuko a defiant look. “We are not here for the squabbles; we are here to see the one responsible for them!”

Sam looked around a bit and signaled for Zuko to follow her before standing up and quickly running. Zuko just shrugged and followed after her however for some reason, bullets seemed to follow after them as if they had been targeted by someone as well. The pair ducked down an alleyway, and that didn’t seem to help matters as projectiles were still being shot at them. These projectiles weren’t hitting them, but at the same time, they were still dangerous. Zuko looked back behind them and immediately noticed something, before looking back at Sam.

“Sam…”

“Yes, I know, Munsai.” She replied. “Please jump when I give the signal.”

Immediately after saying this, Sam pulled her cigarette holder out from within her robe and popped the still lit cigarette into her mouth. After a particularly deep drag, she suddenly turned around to face Zuko and leapt backwards. Zuko kept waiting for a signal as she pulled the cigarette out from her mouth and raised her free hand to her pursed lips. She snapped her fingers as she simultaneously blew smoke out from her mouth. At least, it was supposed to be smoke, however a massive cone of flames burst out from her lips and flew towards Zuko, who just barely managed to jump out of the way in time. The alley was illuminated with the light of the flames, and the longer Sam exhaled, the larger the flame cone became. Only when she ran out of breath did the flames stop, and as soon as they did, they revealed an Elf that was still standing, however whatever he was wearing had been burned to a crisp. There looked to be small circuits and other things on the bits that weren’t badly burned that suggested whatever it was he was wearing, it had a technological aspect to it. Just then, the Elf fell limp but didn’t hit the ground as he was braced and supported by something that was nigh on invisible, and was suddenly carried off, floating into the air before disappearing into the sky.

“What the fuck is going on with the Elves in this place?” Zuko asked as he shook his head slowly, before shooting Sam a dirty look. “Where the fuck was my signal?!”

“Y-You didn’t see it, Munsai?” Sam asked as she looked off to the side.

“What exactly was I looking for? Were you trying to burn me even more?!”

“We do not have time for this, Munsai… we must find a place where I can explain things.”

“About the signal?” Zuko asked.

“About the Enclave!” Sam retorted

“Hmph.” Zuko snorted. “Do you have a place in mind?”

“Please follow me, Munsai.” Sam said with a nod before turning around.

They started running once again, however not so fast that Zuko would alert the entire Enclave of their presence. Sam navigated the dark streets without so much as a light or anything – as if she was doing so from memory. As they moved further and further away from the battle zone, the slower Sam seemed to run, however that was not because of a sense of safety or security. Just as they were approaching a main road, Sam suddenly darted towards a building and pressed her back against. Zuko did the same and almost smashed right through it, prompting Sam to look at him and press her forefinger against her lips.

“Shhhhhhh!!”

Just as she said that, an armoured vehicle that was flanked on all sides by armed and armoured men and women slowly drove past as a light flashed down the small road that the sneaking pair were running down just moments ago. A few seconds later, the patrol continued along its merry way and Zuko just looked at Sam, looking increasingly confused and frustrated.

“What the fuck is going on with Elves in this place?!”

“Let’s move, Munsai.” Sam said, totally ignoring Zuko’s question.

They ran for the majority of the night like this, stopping to let patrols past, taking alternate routes to avoid blockades and taking obscure back routes. Zuko had absolutely no idea where they were going, but he knew that wherever it was, it must have been some kind of fortress if the current situation within the Enclave was anything to go by. The dashing and running lasted for about an hour or so, before they reached a manhole cover. They stood looking at it in silence, before Sam looked at Zuko.

“We’re here, Munsai.”

“Where?”

“A place where we can talk safely, without fear of discover.”

“I was not afraid of being discovered.”

“Maybe not, but I was Munsai.”

Sam then pulled that Skeleton Key out again and much like the previous instances of its use, it glowed as did the manhole cover. The cover then popped open, and both Sam and Zuko stared at it once more. Sam gestured to Zuko to jump down, but he just looked at both her and the open manhole.

“It stinks.”

“I’m sorry?”

“It stinks down there, Sam. I do not want to go down there.”

“Please Munsai; we need go in before we are discovered.”

“I do not want to.”

Zuko couldn’t protest any further before he was pushed into the open manhole, before Sam jumped in after him and the manhole cover popped back onto it, closing it up completely. Zuko, who expected to fall into a pool of sewage and sludge found himself landing on solid ground. The smell that had wafted out before had disappeared and instead, it was replaced by the smell of plants and herbs. Sam snapped her fingers and lights came on, revealing a lab that looked very similar to the one under her shop in the city. She looked towards the ceiling of the lab, as if waiting for something or somebody to come. When nothing did, she breathed a slight sigh of relief, and then looked around for some chairs. She pulled them out and set them down before Zuko, before sitting down on one of them and taking a deep breath. Zuko, who had been quiet since being kicked into the open manhole.

“First of all, allow me to apologise for doing that Munsai; however I knew that we weren’t actually going to land in sewage and had no choice.”

“I understand.” Zuko said with a glare. “I actually do not care about that, I just want to know—”

“What the fuck is going on with the Elves in this place?”

“Yes!”

“Of course.” Sam said with a bit of a chuckle. “Munsai, to put it simply, Elves in the Enclave have been… abandoned.”

“Abandoned?”

“Yes Munsai, abandoned. Once the Emperor declared that Magic use was to be controlled and regulated, he created Enclaves to serve as Non-Human centres of power. He then consulted with the various races, deciding which Non-Humans would be based in which city, and such. This city was given to the Orcs and us, and the positions of War Chief and Elder were given to war heroes from the Great War. While the Orcs have gone through multiple War Chiefs over the generations, the Elves have had the exact same Elder since then.”

“What?”

“You heard me, Munsai… Elder Faelaon is the first and only Elder the Enclave has ever had.”

“No wonder he has grown to be one of the most powerful beings alive – he’s an Ancient, not an Elder.”

“Precisely, Munsai. As you know, the older we grow more powerful with each passing year and as years turn to decades, and decades to centuries, the Elf in question experiences increasing returns.”

“And with Faelaon apparently being so gifted with Magic…”

“Yes, he is an absolute monster, Munsai.”

“So what does that have to do with the rest of the Elves becoming so… technologically biased?”

“Well, that’s just the thing… the first thing the Elder did was prohibit all Elves with the exception of High Elves from practicing Magic. This was actually enforced with a Spell, and the Spell eventually turned to genetics.”

“Turned to genetics?” Zuko said as his brow furrowed with deep though. “Wait, does that not mean that…”

“Elves within the Enclave… can’t use Magic, not because they have been barred from doing so but rather, because they are unable to. In this Enclave, there isn’t a single Elf that is not a High Elf that can cast a Spell.”

Zuko looked at Sam with golf ball sized eyes. This was the last thing that he was expecting to hear, and it most certainly came as a shock. The surprises didn’t end there however, and Sam continued speaking.

“Despite being unable to use Magic, the Elves in here still have Mana affinities and the like, so Contracts were still formed with Mana Sources. The Mana was used as a power source to fuel the armour and weapons you saw earlier. The bullets that are shot are all made from or filled with Mana, the shields you saw were made from Mana – absolutely everything has been designed to feed off of Mana. The items have been developed around the specific Traits and innate talents of the various Elven races – which have also changed.

“What? Even the races have changed?!”

“Sun Elves have now become the Golden Soldiers, Night Elves are the Shadow Kin, Moon Elves are the Unseen… the Dune Elves haven’t changed because they were non-Magic using brutes in the first place. The High Elves are the only other ones who have managed to remain the same, because they have been allowed to.”

“I… I see.” Zuko said simply as he tried to digest and make sense of what Sam had just told him. “If the Elves have now become something different, what has changed?”

“The Golden Soldiers are all round soldiers, with the ability to use heavy artillery, their vehicles, weapons and technology is probably at the highest level. They also have the highest numbers, and the largest territory. Next are the Shadow Kin who are nimble Duelists who are skilled in close quarters combat as well as gunplay. You saw their armour – completely lightweight to allow them to move freely. The Unseen, who were once the Moon Elves are seldom seen. We roughly know where the boundaries of their territory are, and that’s about it. We can’t see where their base is, where their residential areas are or even where they patrol – we mostly end up seeing bodies of those who encroach or get too close. As effective as they are, this is only in the shadows and they are terribly weak. One hit is usually enough to take them out, which is probably why they are always cloaked.”

“And what is all this about territory?” Zuko asked, his brow still furrowed.

“Yes well, war has always been in the blood of Elves.”

“This is true. Before the war with the Orcs, Elves fought amongst themselves almost perpetually.”

“Exactly Munsai, and with no war or contact with Orcs whilst being inside here, it was only a matter of time before the infighting started up again. Even within these ‘new’ races, there are feuding clans vying for supremacy. If you noticed, there were Golden Soldiers that were taken out by other Golden Soldiers without batting an eye.”

“They were from rival clans?”

“Absolutely. The Elves in here are completely fractured – even to the point of families being torn in half and forming rival clans.”

“But why? This simply cannot be due squabbles and friction alone.”

“Resources, Munsai. This barrier, this dome has sealed those within these walls off from the rest of the city. There are multiple points of entry for smugglers, that much is certain. However the only form currency that the Elves in here have are the relics and artifacts of the past which are used to trade for the materials to build and create the munitions. They use our history to fund their war efforts and because of how scarce those relics have become, clans brutally attack and kill each other for whatever relics they have.

“Wow… the situation is rather dire, is it not?”

“It is Munsai, and it is also why I was so reluctant to bring you in here to see how far we have fallen. In the city, we are held in high regard as these Magical fairies that excrete fairy dust. Half-Elves look to the Elves in the city as vaults of knowledge and tradition, while the Elves out there hold the Elves in here in similar esteem. Only a select few of us know of the truth of this place, and try our absolute hardest to maintain the façade out there. This is a fucking mess, Munsai.”

Sam sounded rather exasperated; sighing hard as he she looked down at the ground. She then looked at him, and noticed that his brow was no longer furrowed. It appeared he had quickly come to terms with everything she had said, and was looking extremely composed now.

“Alright… so what is the current plan?”

“The plan… Munsai, there is an area within the Enclave known as the Null Zone. The Null Zone is a completely neutral area where any sort of conflict is strictly prohibited. All the races signed an agreement, stating that any race and eventually any clan that so much as started an argument within the boundaries of the Null Zone was to be eliminated by the others, and their assets divided amongst them all. I believe that our best bet is to go there for now as the Alchemist Guild is there, and I have a few contacts and allies there. If we get there, I think we will be able to properly come up with a plan as to how to go and see the Elder.”

“That sounds like a plan. When do we leave?”

“I suggest we spend the night within this bunker of mine and leave in the morning.”

“What about the cover of darkness and all that? You know, remaining unseen and all that?”

“You are still recovering from your wounds, Munsai. I also have a few things that I would like to prepare, so I think it would be better to wait until morning. Unless you wish to leave now, Munsai.”

“We are currently in territory familiar to you, Sam. We leave when you say we leave.”

“You honour me, Munsai.”

Sam then pulled two bedrolls out from nowhere, and after she rustled up some food for dinner, they settled down for the night. Conversation was dry, and it didn’t take long for Sam to fall asleep. Zuko remained awake for a while longer and stood guard so to speak. Even if it had been established that nobody followed them into the bunker, it still remained awake. Well only for a little while longer because after a short while, he too was fast asleep and slept right through until the following morning.

Elsewhere in the morning, there were three unconscious bodies within a small throne room. Catherine was doubled over on the Elder’s throne, with her stomach on the top of the seat back. The floor had suffered immense damage, as did the walls, drapes and other fittings in shreds. There were also a few large holes in the floor, and both Erathell and Faelaon were laying face first in the middle of the room with both of their clothes in tatters. The only things that weren’t completely wrecked were the empty bottles of beer that the two had been drinking as if their lives depended on it. Erathell was the first to stir, rolling onto his back and groaning.

“Ugh. Catherine? Catherine??”

“I’m here, my Lord.” An extremely groggy sounding Catherine responded.

“Okay, good. Is Faelaon awake?”

“Why ask me? He’s right next to you.”

“Yeah, but I’m not talking to him. Ask him if he’s awake?”

“Stop being an idiot, Erathell.” Faelaon said as he rolled over as well. “Of course I am awake. What do you want?”

“Catherine, tell the Elder that—”

“Talk to me directly!” Faelaon barked, before groaning and holding his head. “…talk to me directly. What do you want? I know you didn’t come here just to drink and fight.”

“Well…”

Erathell, who had actually yet to open his eyes, took a deep breath and spoke to his older brother.

“I want your Elves, Faelaon.”

“My Elves?”

“Yes… these war mongering Elves that have been in constant battles over the centuries and have gained combat experience. The filth will probably no longer be effective when going up against the Order. They are bakers and brick layers… sending them in to fight against the Agents a third time… they are essentially bombs, but the Agents figured that out relatively quickly and came up with strategies to contain them. I feel like we need to use them in tandem with experienced fighters, and these Elves of yours are perfect. Give them to me.”

“You want to use those warring fools?”

“Yeah.”

“I don’t care about them at all… but at the same time, I care even less about your crusade, Erathell. Why should I release them?”

“I knew you would say that.” Erathell said with a sigh. “Look, you miss her right? We know where she’s sleeping, so why don’t I just wake her up and bring her here?”

“What?!” Faelaon asked as his eyes shot open and he sat up. “What are you talking about?”

“Listen, all Di’ithra needs is a strong enough jolt to wake her, so I am offering to provide that jolt. If I do that, then how about you release the Elves into my command?”

“If you can truly wake her up Erathell, I will give you every single one of these fools if you bring my love to me.”

All of a sudden, Erathell sat up with a grin on his face and extended his hand.

“Deal!”

The two shook hands with a strange type of secret handshake that was clearly something that had been developed when they were kids. They both shot up to and with smiles on their faces.

“Catherine!” Erathell boomed. “Get up and go find Momoh – you two have things to do!”

“Ugghhhhh….” Catherine replied as she fell onto the floor.

Meanwhile back at the bunker, both Zuko and Sam were up and getting ready to leave. She held up the Skeleton Key and smiled at Zuko.

“Munsai.”

“Yes?”

“Please jump up.”

“Up where?”

“Anywhere, really. Even a little leap.”

Zuko looked at her and after a bit of hesitation, he jumped up. It was just a tiny jump, but he found himself on the street, with Sam appearing next to him. They looked around – Sam to get her bearings and Zuko to see what the area looked like.

“We are in Golden Soldier territory, Munsai.”

“I see.” Zuko said as he looked at the tall buildings with golden tints in the windows, and what looked like giant armour plates on the building.

The smaller buildings were in absolutely horrendous condition, as were the roads. The legacy of the constant fighting was dilapidated buildings, roads that were barely usable, and tall buildings with the armour plating and gold windows.

“This area belongs to the Gold Leaf Clan. They are a smaller clan, but are one of the most powerful because of how advanced their weaponry is. They are able to hold their own against the larger Golden Aegis Clan, due to their competence, Munsai.”

“Will they not try to kill us if we walk through their territory?”

“There are certain Clans and groups that I have an understanding with, Munsai. If we stick to the paths that go through their territories, we should be able to move without incident. The reason we didn’t do that last night was that tensions were already high and in the darkness, we easily could have been mistaken for enemy clan members.”

“I understand.” Zuko said with a nod.

“Shall we get going?”

“I do not see why not.” Zuko said with a nod.

The two set off, and the deeper they went into Gold Leaf territory, the worse the condition of the infrastructure became. That said, the deeper they went, the more ‘lived in’ the areas felt, before they actually came across their first live people within the territory. A small patrol detail was walking through the streets, completely covered in heavy armour and weaponry big enough to likely to destroy a small city. They were speaking amongst themselves when they noticed Zuko and Sam. Sam’s ears were pointy and that put them on high alert, however when they saw Zuko it was as if they all felt the same chill or same gut feel as they all suddenly pointed their guns at him. Sam moved quickly, raising her hands in a non-threatening manner.

“We are not here to cause trouble… My name is Sam, and I represent—”

“We know who you are, woman. We don’t know who he is, and that’s the problem.” One of the Golden Soldiers said as he continued to point the gun at Zuko.

Zuko just looked at them all from behind the hood and the soldiers appeared to point their guns with extra verve. Zuko then looked at Sam and sighed.

“Do something about this before I start a new skirmish.”

Sam shot Zuko a desperate look that just screamed of her pleading with him to let her do things her way, before looking back at the Golden Soldiers.

“I am permitted to walk through your territory, and am also willing to vouch for this man. He is my companion, and we are on an important mission.”

“An important mission, huh? With this guy?”

“Yes, with this guy. We’re on an important mission, aren’t we?”

“…yes we are.” Zuko said through gritted teeth as he looked down at Sam.

“See? So seeing as you already know who I am, you can let us go through.”

There was a prolonged moment in which Sam feared that what she had said wouldn’t work, but then they lowered all lowered their guards. Soon after they did, a large and battered looking vehicle started driving down the road. It stopped just behind the group of Golden Soldiers, and the pair of companions watched as the giant cannon on the roof pointed at them, and a bunch of armed men and women poured out from it, before joining the other ones and pointing their guns at them. Sam and Zuko watched as the number of guns pointed at them at least trebled in number. Zuko looked at all of the guns, before slowly turning his head to look at her.

“It is still so early in the morning, and your plan has already failed.” He said once more through gritted teeth.

“Please Munsai, no violence. I’m sure that I’ll be able to talk them down.”

Around ten minutes later, the vehicle was driving down the road, continuing down its usual patrol course. Inside however, Zuko and Sam were sitting next to each other in the cramped and hot cabin of the vehicle. There were handcuffs on their wrists on which lightning streaks frequently danced upon the surface, as if threatening to shock them at any moment. Zuko looked down at Sam, who was trying her best not to meet his gaze.

“…talk them down, huh?” Zuko said with a shake of the head.

“Shut up!” One of the soldiers boomed as ALL of the soldiers in there pointed their guns at Zuko.

Zuko silently glared at Sam throughout the entire patrol, and she spent the entire time not only ignoring his gaze as well as his Telepathic communication. The patrol itself lasted for hours, and Zuko and Sam were detained in the large vehicle the entire time. The heat and smell were almost unbearable by the time the vehicle came to stop. They were roughly ushered out from the back and found themselves within the heart of the Gold Leaf territory. Tall and insanely thick walls that were adorned with shields bearing the Emblem of the clan surrounded them completely and there were gold accents everywhere. The buildings surprisingly weren’t as tall as the ones beyond the walls of this base, but the main building within it was all angles, edges and reflective glass mixed in with armour plating. Zuko wasn’t able to see much else because he was quickly blindfolded along with Sam, and dragged somewhere. It didn’t take all that long, however once the blindfold was removed, he found that he was now in a prison holding cell, with Sam in the opposite one. He looked over into her cell and scowled so hard, Sam found herself cowering.

“Get your affairs in order woman, because I am going to kill you.” Zuko snarled grumpily.

“Forgive me, Munsai… I was sure that—”

“Silence.”

That alone worked as Sam quieted down.

“I cannot believe I went along with this plan! What kind of idiot gets arrested twice in a matter of days? How is it that I have been arrested in both Enclaves?!”

Zuko boomed all this rhetorically, or at least Sam hoped that he was, because she had no answer for him. He quickly composed himself however, and fell silent as well. They sat in their respective cells for what felt like hours, until the sound of a door opening echoed throughout the prison hallway. The sound of hurried steps thundered through the building, and Sam perked up immediately, as if recognising who the steps belonged to.

“Oh no…” She said as she rolled her eyes and groaned audibly.

The steps got quicker as they got closer, and by the time they reached Sam’s cell, the person in question was practically sprinting. A person dressed in heavy armour that was battered and worn slid into view, before grabbing hold of the bars in order to stop.

“Saaaaaaaaaaaaaaam!!!” A female sounding voice boomed angrily. “You bitch, you finally came back!”

“…Alex.” Sam responded as she looked at the Golden Soldier on the other side of the bars. “So you were behind this?”

“Detain on sight was the order that I gave my soldiers if they were to see you, and they did just that, bitch.”

“Why? What possible reason did you have to give such an order?!”

“Last time you were here… after the game of cards we played. Remember?”

“What are you talking about?!”

Just as Sam boomed her question, her eyes grew wide as she remembered exactly what this Alex was talking about. There was a moment of grim silence as Sam quickly tried to figure out a way to resolve this.

“Alex… I need you to undo my handcuffs so I can give you something.”

“Shut it, bitch! There’s nothing you can give me to—”

“It still burns, doesn’t it?”

This seemed to shut Alex up completely as she stared at Sam, before nodding.

“Unlock this door and get these cuffs off, and I can make the burning stop.”

There wasn’t even a moment’s hesitation as Alex took a key out from a small compartment in her armour and quickly unlocked the door. She flew into the cell and unlocked the cuffs around Sam’s wrists and ankles, before staring at the Sun Elf impatiently. Sam opened her robe and pulled out a small jar with some kind of ointment in it, but held off giving it to Alex.

“Go over there and release Munsai as well.”

“Munsai? Who the fuck is—”

Alex suddenly felt a truly terrifying gaze burning the back of her armour. She suddenly found herself reaching for her weapons, but she had so many that her hands moved from one weapon to the other, as if undecided on which one to grab hold of. She quickly swiveled around to see Zuko standing in the opposite cell, smoldering as if he was ready to turn the entire Elven Enclave to ash with his rage alone.

“You see that rage filled man over there? T-That… that is Munsai.”

“What the fuck?” Alex asked as she lowered her hands from her weapons. “I had no idea you were traveling with somebody.”

“What do you mean?! I told your soldiers that he was my companion, you drunken whore! Go over there and free him!”

“Do you think that fuckin’ dude is gonna let me just walk in there? Look at him! He’s pissed!”

“Of course he’s pissed! You were directly responsible for having him detained, being forced on a patrol as a detainee and then sitting in one of your dingy cells for half a day!”

“Is this guy strong?” Alex asked.

“You who are no longer an Elf by nature can surely still listen to your blood. Take a moment to look at him and just listen carefully.”

Alex looked at Zuko in silence for a moment and Sam did the same. It wasn’t long before they both had to look away. Sam felt a chill run down her spine and goose bumps cover her skin and Alex went as far as taking off her helmet and shaking her head slowly in slight disbelief. She looked at Sam who looked up at her with something of a smirk on her face.

“So… what does your blood tell you?” Sam asked.

“That dude is all fuckin’ power.” Alex said with a slight nod.

“And rage.” Sam added. “Munsai is pissed.”

“So what now?”

“Now, you let me out of this fucking cage, woman!” Zuko roared.

Sam recoiled just a bit, before holding out her hand and signaling for Alex to give her the key – which she did. She then walked out of her cell, up to Zuko’s and unlocked the door. She walked in and first unlocked the handcuffs, before kneeling down before Zuko and unlocking the shackles around his ankles. She remained in that position for what seemed like forever, as if she was prostrating herself before him.

“Munsai, please forgive me; things did not go as planned.”

“Shut up.” Zuko said with a grunt. “From now on, you are off the planning committee. You have had your planning privileges completely revoked. Now stand aside while I go kill that woman.”

“Please wait Munsai!” Sam said as she shot up to her feet. “She may be stupid, annoying and crass, but she’s my friend! Please let it go for now… she might be able to help us get to where we are going.”

“Yo, Mumbai, I get that you’re pissed.” Alex said with a dismissive wave. “Let me make it up to you by providing food, drink and friendly Golden Soldier hospitality!”

“M-Mumbai?”

“That’s Munsai!” Sam barked. “Don’t be disrespectful – especially after you got him thrown in prison!”

“Actually, you got me thrown in here. I would have gotten rid of those guys with the guns if you had not pleaded for us to do things your way…”

“Sorry to interrupt, but… Sam… you know, you made a promise.”

“Oh right.” Sam said as she tossed the small jar towards the woman.

Her face was covered by some kind of cloth balaclava type thing however the joy on her face was apparent to anybody with eyes as she nodded her appreciation.

“Thanks, bitch! Follow me – both of you!”

Alex turned around and stomped her way out of the prison, with the pair from the city in tow. Zuko was quiet and visibly grumpy, however he figured that losing his temper and actually doing something to this Alex woman would only cause complications that would hinder his mission. They all emerged to a still bright and sunny fortress.

“What time is it?” Zuko asked Sam as he shielded his eyes.

“Alex?”

“It’s well after five in the evening. You wonderin’ why it’s so fuckin’ bright at this time of day?”

“Yes.” Zuko answered simply.

“The sun never sets here, Munsai.” Sam responded as they walked through the gate of the prison and to a giant armed and armoured four wheeler that had all manner of automatic gun turret fitted onto it.

“Hop on!” Alex boomed as she leapt up onto the strange four wheeler with first Sam and then eventually Zuko following suit.

A few seconds and a loud boom later, they were off, tyres squealing as the four wheeler shot off from the spot. Zuko eyed the scenery carefully this time, just noting how there were more soldiers, more men and women on the streets and within the Enclave so far than there were children. In fact, he had yet to see an Elf child since arriving. What he was seeing however were multiple outdoor workshops in which things were being tested, repaired and built. Whilst not as technologically advanced as Humans, they weren’t exactly slouches either. There were quite a high number of guards and such on foot and in vehicles roaming the streets, and some fifteen odd minutes later, the trio came to a screeching halt in front of the impressive building that Zuko had seen earlier that day. It also had an insanely high number of men and women standing guard outside of it. As the trio hopped down from the four wheeled bike, they made their way inside with everybody rigidly saluting Alex as she walked past. She reciprocated with a nod and this lasted as they navigated their way through the building. Armour and Weapon Sets were on display in the hallways and corridors, and within the building were the Research and Development Divisions and teams that were responsible for developing new weapons and technology to be used in those weapons. Alex didn’t even bother explaining any of this to Zuko as they made their way through the building, and eventually, they reached what was labeled as the ‘Captains Office’ – Alex’s office. It was an almost unbearably filthy and stuffy room that caused both Zuko and Sam to start coughing the moment they entered it. From there, the pair was directed up onto the roof and Sam actually knew the way rather intimately. There was some kind of bulletproof glass structure on roof of the building which had something of an outdoor lounge feel to it, with a couch or two, a table and some other household furniture in it. Sam and Zuko sat down with something of a tired sigh escaping Sam’s lips. Zuko sat with his arms crossed and still looked as though he was rather grumpy.

“Alex has been a friend of mine for years, Munsai.” Sam said without Zuko having asked her anything. “What happened today was just a prank that you unfortunately were caught up in. Please don’t think too badly of her.”

“I have not known her for enough time to care about her enough to have an opinion on her.”

“I understand. Again, I apologise, Munsai.”

“Just forget about it. If she really can help us get to this Null Zone thing, all will be forgotten.”

“Is that what you two are aiming to do?” Alex said as she emerged from her office and walked onto the roof.

Sam looked at her and her eyes baulked, before being closed with a sigh.

“Is that really how you dress around company?”

“This is my house, you bitch. I’ll dress however the fuck I want!”

Zuko looked back to see Alex in a pair of skin tight shorts and a loose top. Her long, slightly curly hair flowed down her back, and despite the mop of hair being long and voluminous, the tips of her ears still poked out from beyond them. Her golden skin had the sheen of moisture on it, and as she plopped down on the couch next to Sam, she eyed Zuko from behind her hair.

“Do you ever put that fuckin hood down, Mumbai?”

Zuko snorted as he looked at her, but suddenly remembered what the Archmage had said about hoods in a person’s home, and flipped it back through gritted teeth. Alex looked at his head for just a second before her eyes shot over to look at Sam who just glanced at her and nodded.

“Damn.” Alex said as she put her feet on the table in front of her. “Those are some serious fuckin’ scars you’ve got there.”

“We all have a scar or two, do we not?” Zuko said as he eyed the scars that adorned the exposed parts of Alex’s skin.

“We do, Munsai.” Sam said with a nod.

“Anyway I’ve left word with those downstairs to bring up some food and drink.” Alex said.

“Alex, we are not drinking tonight! The last time we had something to drink when we hung out…”

“I know, I know… besides, that shit you gave me killed the burn pretty much right away. Man, my shit hasn’t felt so good in months.”

As if to make what she was talking about obvious, Alex spread her legs for just a second. Zuko wasn’t even paying attention as he looked around, taking note of how most of the exceptionally tall buildings he had seen earlier with the golden windows and plating were all at an angle and faced the glass house. As he was looking at all this, Alex started speaking.

“That is our early warning system.” She said as she moved hair away from her eyes. “This really is my house, and messages are sent to me via a secret light language we developed. So I can be told of attacks or invasions or whatever, as well as which direction they’re coming from.”

“Impressive.” Zuko said with a nod.

“I know. Thanks!” Alex said with an exaggerated nod.

“So.” Zuko said, before looking at Sam. “Who came up with that system?”

“Why the fuck are you asking her?!”

“Her predecessor, Munsai.” Sam asked without missing a beat.

“Ah… of course.” Zuko replied with a nod.

“What the? You two make it sound like I couldn’t have come up with this stupid fuckin’ system!’

“Nobody said that, Alex.” Sam said with a sigh and a roll of the eyes.

Alex kicked up a fuss that included death threats as well as her signaling her intention to throw them back in prison. The aggressive but light hearted banter continued until some soldiers entered the house, carrying platters of food. Zuko watched on in silence as the most basic of meals was set down in front of him, Sam and Alex. He looked at the food in front of him, and a few moments later Alex broke the silence.

“Sorry we don’t have fuckin’ steak and caviar!” She virtually spat.

“Do you even know what those are?” Zuko asked as he glanced up at her.

“She knows what they are, even if she has never eaten them, Munsai.” Sam answered.

“Would ya stop answering question for me?!” Alex roared as she looked at Sam.

Zuko opened a split the bandage covering his mouth and began eating with the cutlery that was provided. Alex noticed this mid shout, and just looked at him suspiciously.

“I know what it feels like to starve.” Zuko said without being asked anything. “Only a fool would turn away food that was presented to him… especially if the one providing it was too stupid and straightforward to poison it.”

Alex looked at Zuko with mixed emotions as she watched him eat. She looked at Sam who had also started eating, before looking back at him.

“I still can’t fuckin’ tell if that was a compliment or not.”

“Just take it as a compliment and move on, Alex.” Sam said with a smile.

They ate in relative silence which was only disturbed by Alex getting up and opening a large refrigerator that was absolutely PACKED with beer. There was less space in that fridge than there was in the back of the vehicle Sam and Zuko were detained in earlier, and thinking about that made Zuko grumpy again. Alex sat down with her feet on the table again.

“So what the fuck are ya?” Alex asked Zuko as she cracked open one of the many beers she had brought back with her.

“What am I?” Zuko replied as he looked up at her.

“Yeah, what are ya? You got those fuckin’ bandages covering your face and ears.”

“Don’t be rude, Alex! Ask Munsai questions respectfully!” Sam barked at Alex.

“It is a fair question, I suppose.” Zuko said before continuing to eat.

Alex looked at him, awaiting a response that she eventually realised was not forthcoming.

“Does it really matter what Munsai is, Alex?” Sam asked as she looked up from her food.

“I just wanna know, if that’s okay with you, your Highness!” Alex responded as she started eating herself. “Why are you running so much fuckin’ interference over there?” Alex grumbled under her breath.

“Because I know what you’re playing at!” Sam snapped.

Zuko continued eating in silence until he finished his food. The two continued their spirited discussion until Zuko actually interrupted them.

“Water.” Zuko said as he looked at Alex.

“Huh?”

“Some water would be greatly appreciated.”

“What the fuck do ya need water for, Mumbai? We got beer, man.”

“Well I happen to prefer water after a meal – not beer.”

“Well we don’t got fuckin’ water – we got beer!”

“I do not need beer.”

“Well that’s all we fuckin’ got!” Alex snorted.

“I know where the water is, Munsai. Do you prefer it with ice, or as is?”

“I like it wet.” Zuko said with a simple shrug.

“Understood.” Sam said with a nod and a smile. “Coming right up.”

“You two keep doing that shit!” Alex growled through gritted teeth.

Sam just smirked as she made her way out of Alex’s ‘house’, leaving her alone with Zuko. Alex just looked at Zuko without blinking, as if trying to ‘see’ with her blood again. This failed however and caused her to grunt with annoyance.

“What is it?” Zuko asked as he looked back at her.

“Nothin’.” Alex said as she took a huge swig of beer. In fact, that swig decimated the entire bottle of beer.

She tossed the bottle behind her and opened up the next one with her teeth, before gulping down its entire contents without even taking a breath. A belch and toss later, Alex was reaching for her third bottle. She opened it, but this time, only took a small sip before placing it on the table.

“How well do ya know Sam, Mumbai?” Alex asked with beer breath that reached Zuko sitting opposite her.

“Not well at all.” Zuko answered honestly. “Why?”

“I’m just asking, man.” Alex said before taking another sip. She then looked at Zuko with unblinking eyes. “Don’t be fooled by the whole submissive ‘Mumbai, Mumbai’ business, man. Sam is not the obedient little Elf she pretends to be around you.’

“Is that so?”

Alex reached up with one hand and twisted her hair around it before pulling it away from her face, revealing a horrendous looking scar around the entire circumference of her neck, as well as another one running down from beneath her left eye down to her jawline. Her face was fully exposed for the first time and it revealed the scars that often remained hidden from the rest of the world.

“Your precious little Elf woman did this to me the last time we fought.”

“Well, you are annoying so I do not blame her.” Zuko said with a disinterested shrug.

Just as Alex was about to give him a piece of her mind, Sam returned with a jug of water and some glasses. The water wasn’t perfectly clear, and the glassware was somewhat cracked. She poured Zuko some water and placed it before him before doing the same for herself and sitting down. Alex had already hidden the scars of her past battle with her Alchemist friend, and looked at her.

“So what are you two even doing here? What’s the fuckin’ purpose of this visit?”

“We need to get to the Null Zone.” Sam said.

“What the fuck for?”

“The Guild is there, remember?”

“Oh yeah, that’s right.” Alex said as she guzzled some more beer.

“That was why we were walking through your territory – because I thought I was on good terms with you.”

“I can’t believe that you’re still on that.” Alex said as she guiltily looked away.

“Don’t even give me that!” Sam warned as she stared at Alex.

“Okay, okay… what route were ya gonna take?”

“We were going to go through here to get to J.K’s territory, and then—”

“And then cut through there to get to the Null spot?”

“Yeah, that’s right.”

“Alright…” Alex said ass her brow furrowed in thought.

Sam looked in Zuko’s direction and spoke in a whisper so loud, she was practically shouting.

“Munsai, the face she is making is extremely rare. That is how Alex looks when she’s deep in thought, and she never has that expression on her face!”

“I fuckin’ heard that, you bitch!”

Sam giggled just a tad, before quickly stopping and looking back at her friend. Alex glared at Sam, before letting out a breath and looking at Zuko.

“Yo Mumbai, ya got caught up in my bullshit with Sam over here so to make amends, I’ll take both of yous directly into J.K’s area.”

“You will take us there?”

“That’s fuckin’ right. Tomorrow morning, I’ll round up some of my boys and we’ll drive ya to your destination as an apology for arresting ya and shit. Sound good?”

“It sounds better than going on foot, that’s for sure.”

“Probably because your dumb ass was planning on sneaking through Dark Crescent territory.”

“I was… but Munsai here is… well, he isn’t as stealthy as one would like.”

“Are you saying I cannot sneak?”

“Forgive me Munsai, but that is exactly what I am saying.”

“Hmph.” Zuko snorted as he drank some more water. “Sneaking is for those who cannot crush their enemies with power. I do not need it.”

“Of course, Munsai.” Sam said with barely contained sarcasm, before sniggering to herself.

Alex, who had polished off two further beers, eyed the pair quietly as she opened another one.

“Hey, Sam.” She hollered.

“What is it?”

“Are you and Mumbai fuckin’?”

Sam just stared at Alex with a deadpan stare, not saying a word for the longest time. Eventually, she sighed and shook her head.

“Of course not, you crass woman.”

“That so?”

“It is.”

Alex then looked at Zuko with a glint in her eye, then placed her beer down and grinned at him.

“Then how about you and me have a nice fuck, Mumbai?” Alex said with a nod. “It’ll be the greatest fuck ya ever had.”

“No thank you.” Zuko answered, rejecting Alex so quickly Sam didn’t even have time to react.

“Why the fuck not? Your crispy ass would be fuckin’ lucky to get some of me!”

“Sam just gave you some ointment to help ease the burning sensation you had been suffering from. Who in their right mind would do you knowing that things down there are not up to scratch?”

“What?! Are ya telling me you are gonna pass up a Grade A lay cuz you’re scared of a little burning when ya piss?”

“You have been burning even when not pissing, have you not? I repeat no thank you.”

“Your loss, Mumbai.”

“A loss that I am content with. Anyway, I need to shower. Where is it?”

“Let me show you where it is, Munsai.” Sam said with a cheerful looking face.

“What are you so happy about? Sit your ass down and stop showing somebody around my house! I’ll show him the shower my fuckin’ self!”

Alex got up and stomped towards the door Sam had been using the whole time.

“Well? Come the fuck on already, Mumbai!”

“Oi!” Sam boomed. “Show some respect!”

“Shut up!’ Alex boomed back.

Zuko just stood up and walked over to the Golden Soldier. She looked up at him, and realised that he was not only tall, but broad as well. She just looked at him for a second, before catching herself staring and quickly looking away and stomping off again. Zuko just sighed and followed after her until they reached a shower and he received grunt to denote that they had reached their destination. Alex then disappeared and went back up to the roof to join Sam and as Zuko figured out how to use the new and unnecessarily complicated shower the women sat in silence while looking out over the base.

“How much do you know about that dude, Sam?” Alex asked, sounding rather serious.

“Enough.” Sam said as she closed her eyes.

“I’m being serious, Synae.” Alex said as she looked at Sam.

“Wow… you used the name from my former life. You must be serious.”

“You’re bending over backwards for this fuckin’ dude, and I don’t know why.”

“I don’t know much about him, Alex. However that which I do know is more than enough.”

Alex looked at Sam for the longest time in silence, before sighing and walking over to the fridge.

“I trust your eyes and that stupid blood of yours more than anything, so I have two questions for ya… what and who did you see when you looked at him? Like truly looked at him.”

Sam, who still had her eyes closed smiled ever so slightly before answering the questions.

“What I saw was the chance at fixing things and revenge. As to who I saw? A deity whose image is still engrained on the back of my eyelids. I feel as though that man isn’t meant to walk on this Plane with the rest of us.”

Alex looked at Sam and sighed as she slammed beers down on the table in between them both. She cracked a bottle open an downed it like a glass of water again, before wiping her mouth with her forehand and looking at Sam.

“…and you’re sure you two ain’t fuckin’?”

“Positive.” Sam said with another roll of the eyes.

“Tomorrow morning, I’ll take you two into J.K’s spot.” Alex said as she smiled at Sam. “On condition that you don’t make me drink alone.”

Sam sighed, but did so with a smile as she reached for a beer, opened it and took a sip. By the time Zuko was all showered and had found his way back to the roof, Sam was out cold, snoring loudly as she lay on her back while Alex was holding two automatic pistols in her hands he had never seen before and was shooting at empty beer bottles on the roof of the structure that was built on a roof.

“What the fuck happened to Elves in this place?” He said to himself as he shook his head slowly.

The following morning, Zuko watched as Sam’s eyes fluttered open and she groggily sat up. When she noticed that Zuko was sitting on a couch and staring directly at her, she tried to greet him, but her head immediately began throbbing and before she knew it, she was holding her head between her hands and practically rolling on the floor.

“Everybody I know in this city has an alcohol problem.” Zuko said as he watched Sam suffer.

Alex suddenly burst out from beneath a pile of empty beer bottles and as they crashed all over the place, she stretched and yawned. The yawn was so animated, she looked like a yawning lioness and once she was done, she looked over at Zuko with barely open eyes.

“Mumbai… why are you up so early?” She asked in an incredibly hoarse voice.

“We are going to that Null Zone this morning, are we not? This never setting sun made falling asleep a little annoying, so I have been awake for some time.”

“Oh shit, I said I’d get y’all to J.K’s spot last night, didn’t I? Fuck… I’ve got to stop making promises when drinking.”

“You could also stop drinking all together.” A slightly less groggy sounding Sam said as she sat up and started rummaging through her bag.

“Is that really something somebody who was rolling around in pain a second ago should be saying?”

“It’s all her fault, Munsai. Alex manipulated me into drinking.”

Sam said this just as she pulled a small box out from her bag, opened it and after a brief search, popped a small pill into her mouth. It only took moments for whatever she swallowed to work, as she was finally able to shuffle to her knees and greet Zuko with a bow.

“Good morning, Munsai. Being able to see you in the morning blesses me beyond belief.”

“Holy fuck!” Alex boomed as she watched this display. “You didn’t do or say shit like this back when you were—”

Alex couldn’t finish what she was saying as Sam shot her a look that immediately made her shut her mouth. She even grinned immediately after seeing that look in her eyes, and had fought the instinct to reach for her guns.

“You were about to bring out the old you, weren’t you Sam?” Alex asked as her fingers subconsciously down the scar on her face.

Zuko watched this little exchange before looking down at Sam who was still glaring at Alex.

“Would you two get ready so we can leave?” He said somewhat impatiently.

“Why do you keep switching up the way you speak, Mumbai?” Alex asked, moving on from what just happened very quickly.

“My throat was injured recently, so I had to speak like this. It has only been the last few days in which I have been able to speak using my mouth, so I am phasing the use of my actual voice back into my speech.”

“What the fuck happened that your fuckin’ throat was injured like that?”

“My entire body was burned – internally and externally.”

“I shall go ahead and bathe first.” Sam said as she interrupted the discussion.

“Nah, let’s go together.” Alex said with another yawn and stretch. “Mumbai, you can go and wait for us downstairs.”

“I will wait here.” Zuko said, seemingly refusing to get off the couch.

“I will come back to get you, Munsai.” Sam said with a nod before finally getting up off her knees and walking off with Alex.

It didn’t actually take all that long for Sam to return to the roof to fetch Zuko, and the two then made their way down to the ground floor of the building.

“What is this place?” Zuko asked as they walked towards the exit.

“These are the Gold Leaf barracks and base of operations, Munsai. In case you had yet to figure it out, Alex is the Commander in Chief of the Gold Leaf Clan.”

“I had my suspicions, however…”

“You were wondering how this smaller clan was able to hold its own against the bigger Golden Aegis Clan with Alex at the helm.”

“Something like that.” Zuko admitted.

“She may be stupid, impulsive and lack tact in every other facet of life, but when it comes to warfare, she may just be a genius. She has the instincts of the wildest of wild beasts, and the reflexes of one as well, so she can sense things and she can react accordingly. She can feel the flow of a battle, and knows when to change strategies or launch surprise attacks or even pull out. She just goes with her gut, and it is seldom wrong, Munsai. She may not inspire much confidence out of battle, but once the fighting starts, there’s no one better to have on your side.”

Just as Sam said this, the automatic doors opened to reveal a small convoy of military vehicles parked outside with Alex suited up in her armour and waiting for them. She had two assault rifles crisscrossed on her back with what looked like a sniper rifle hanging from between her shoulder blades. She had the two automatic pistols from last night hanging from her left hip, while a horrific looking serrated blade hung from her right. She was armed to the teeth, and when she turned around, she saw both Sam and Zuko and waved them over.

“We’re waiting on the two of yous. Let’s get going already.”

Zuko and Sam approached the convoy, before Alex gave Zuko a head bob.

“Mumbai, you and I are riding on the Bullfrog. Sam, you’re with the rest of the guys on the Armadillo.”

“Why am I being split from Munsai?” Sam asked with a perplexed look on her face.

“Because I fuckin’ said so! You got any issues with that?!” Alex asked as she looked at Zuko.

“So long as we get where we are going, I have no issues.”

“And there ya fuckin’ have it!” Alex said as she looked at Sam. “Let’s GO!” She boomed to everybody else.

She moved and gestured for Zuko to hop onto the Bullfrog first – which he did. He leapt up with one jump and landed on the seat directly, before she did the same. The four wheeler came to life with a loud and earth shaking rumble, and no sooner had it been started was Alex tearing down the street. The Armadillo – one of the Transporter like vehicles with a cannon mounted on the roof – followed after Alex and Zuko and kept up surprisingly well. Close to fifteen minutes into the silent journey, Zuko took a breath and spoke.

“So.” He said, speaking with his mouth. “What is the reason behind you splitting us up and having you and I traveling alone?”

“So ya didn’t buy the reason I gave Sam?”

“Not at all.” Zuko said with a shake of the head.

“Sam and I agreed on a path to take last night that would involve us taking the longer, but more peaceful route through my territory to place yous on the edge of J.K’s territory. That would take hours, and then it would take ya hours to get to J and K. Fuck that. So when Sam passed out, I decided to change things a little bit.”

“Change them how?”

“We’re gonna drive right fuckin’ through Aegis land and then into J.K land.” Alex said with a simple grunt and a grin.

As she said this, more Armadillos suddenly turned in from other roads and joined the small convoy, turning it into a medium sized convoy. In the one directly behind Zuko and Alex, Sam could be heard asking what was going on, but quickly quieted down as she realised what was happening.

“Get ready, Mumbai!” Alex roared. “We’re about to enter the battlefield.”

“We are not entering a battlefield, we are about to create one!” Zuko corrected as the vehicles entered the Golden Aegis territory.

As soon as they did so, gun turrets that were mounted on the walls and street corners started going off, shooting at the group. Mana Shields activated and the bullets all hit the shields.

“Don’t even think of slowing down!” Alex boomed. “We’re riding out the gunfire and going straight through!!”

There was a cheer that emanated from the vehicles behind Alex as they all picked up the pace, essentially ignoring the hail of bullets that was hitting their shields. Alex glanced back to see if Zuko was surprised or flustered by what had happened, but it was almost impossible to make out any emotion on his face. He sat on the back seat with his arms crossed and just watched on to see what would happen. The Mana Shields were absorbing all of the damage caused by the gunfire; however there seemed to be an indicator on the aftermarket console on the Bullfrog with a gauge showing the damage the Shields were taking as well as how much longer they were going to hold up. Alex was also sitting with her arms crossed, looking about as bullish and confident as she could. Her helmet was off and her hair was blowing lavishly behind her as the giant four-wheeler powered through the hail of bullets. The Armadillos behind were also subjected to the same treatment although it appeared as though their shields were superior to Alex’s and her grin grew wider as she roared with laughter.

“Is this all your pathetic guns can do, you fuckin’ Aegis bastards?! Bring it on!”

The laughter continued, however as it became louder, the gauge indicating the status of the shield rose to increasingly worrying levels. Zuko had figured out what it was for, and was keeping an eye on the gauge. His eyes would occasionally look up towards the laughing woman, and while she was still laughing, it was nowhere near as confident or assured as it was when she started. The convoy was approaching the final row of gun turrets and Alex was secretly hoping against all hope that the shield would hold up. A few agonisingly tense moments later, the wheels of the Bullfrog smashed through a makeshift barricade that had been set up to try and stop whatever vehicle or group that was trying to enter. As it did this, Alex’s laugh, which was filled with nerves, bellowed out some more before she wiped away some sweat from her brow with her forearm.

“That was fuckin’ close, eh Mumbai?” She said as she looked back at him.

“I was looking forward to seeing what you were going to do if the shield was penetrated.” Zuko said as he nodded at Alex.

“Ya do know that we both would have been fucked if that happened, right?”

“You would have gotten it first and watching you get blown to bits would have been satisfying.”

“What? Come on, man. Are ya still mad about what happened yesterday?”

Before Zuko could say anything, a projectile flew past not only the Bullfrog, but all the other vehicles as flew into a building behind them and exploding. The projectile in question was actually a missile, and a group of enemy soldiers stood ready and waiting for the oncoming enemies.

“REALLY?!” Alex boomed. “If this really is the best that Deckard can do, this is gonna be easy as the first level of Hell!”

Alex said this as she reached for both of the rifles on her back. She held them up as they approached the enemy group and she preempted them, pointing the large guns in their direction and pulling the respective triggers with a maniacal laugh. Bullets flew from the flashing muzzle, and found their marks with unnerving accuracy – even from a distance. Surprisingly, the target was the busted up tarmac in front of the Aegis soldiers and after firing the warning shots, she reached for a radio receiver.

“Hey there, Aegis weaklings!” She boomed as megaphones on the Bullfrog carried her voice to the soldiers “This is the situation; we are traveling through this part of your territory. We ain’t looking for trouble or to fight, right? So if ya let us go through peacefully, we will leave peacefully too! But ya get any fuckin’ ideas and think we will let that shit slide, we will fill ya with holes and decorate the streets with blood! So choose! Get outta the way and live, and try to stop us and die!”

The answer Alex received was simple and straight forward as another missile was fired directly towards them. The Bullfrog swerved on its own to avoid the missile and as it did, Alex aimed her guns at the group and pulled the triggers again. This time, her targets were the heads of the Aegis soldiers. The sound of helmets being penetrated could be heard as blood sprayed all over the torn up roads below. Alex held the recoiling rifles up as if they were toy guns, and they didn’t seem to be running out of bullets. More and more foot soldiers poured out from the nooks and crannies along their chosen route which meant the other vehicles also participated in the battle. Bullets flew in from both sides; however those on foot stood no chance against those riding in and on the armoured behemoths. The Mana Shields blocked the bullets, and the multitude of guns placed on and sticking out of the Armadillos turned them all to crimson sludge. None of the vehicles even had to slow down as they made light work of the attackers, much to Alex’s obvious delight as she cackled.

“You see this, Mumbai? Huh?! This shit is gunna be easy!”

“If we continue moving at this speed, how long will it take us to get to our destination?”

“If we keep going down this road, it’ll take too fuckin’ long, cuz there is a border post run by the Golden Aegis Clan. So… we gotta turn onto the highway, fight through that, and then turn onto a road that leads to a J.K run border patrol.”

“If we do all that?”

“I couldn’t be sure, man. Probably no more than an hour or some shit.”

“Alright.” Zuko said with a nod.

For the next ten or so minutes, the convoy continued down the road, fending off small numbers of foot soldiers as they did. The Armadillo behind Alex and Zuko wasn’t quite close enough for Sam to leap across from and no matter how much she barked at the driver to go faster for some reason; they never were quite able to do so. The sudden turn to the right came without warning, and as the wheels of the Bullfrog squealed and it drifted just a tad while the Armadillos followed without any qualms and kept up. The screeching wheels of all the vehicles served as an announcement of sorts of their presence and Alex had her guns at the ready as they approached an onramp to the highway.

“Things are about to get hairy, Mumbai…” Alex said without looking back at him.

No sooner had she said that did they find themselves in a bit of a pickle. Once they had descended onto the highway, Golden Aegis soldiers who were posted on the roads above and on either side of the highway stood with their missile launchers ready and aimed at the Gold Leaf vehicles. They simultaneously fired their weapons and while the shields absorbed the damage, the hit they took was far greater when compared to the one caused by the earlier bullets.

“We can’t take direct hits from these fuckers all willy-nilly! Fire back and take them all out!” Alex boomed into a different radio receiver before thrusting her arms out to her sides.

She pointed her weapons at their enemies and started firing her weapons, hitting her targets with the kind of deadly accuracy that actually caused Zuko to feel somewhat impressed. Those behind her were also doing a good job at taking care of the enemies that popped up after Alex had driven past them. They took care of the enemies on foot without much incident, and the hairy situation Alex had predicted had yet to make an appearance. Zuko looked up towards the elevated roads alongside them in silence as it looked like he was contemplating something.

“They’re still coming, Mumbai.” Alex said as she rolled her neck slowly. “I dunno how heavy a force they’re gonna send, but shit’s gonna get real.”

“We are far too exposed for the enemy not to try something.”

“Exactly… Sam is probably back there thinking about how she’s gonna burn me alive if we survive this.”

“If?”

“Depends on the size of the force they send us.” Alex said as she glanced back at Zuko. “If we want to win big, we have’ta risk big.”

Just then, the ground shook even more than it had been which caused the conversation to stop. Alex and Zuko looked behind the Bullfrog and as they did, one of the fighters Alex had brought along spoke through the radio.

“Captain, we’ve got Centipedes incoming.”

“From?!” Alex responded.

“Both fucking sides!”

“I knew it… place extra emphasis on the shields for now – when those fuckers reach us, we need to ride out their attacks!”

“Yes Ma’am!”

Soon after the communication ended, the shaking of the ground became more and more pronounced until the causes of said shaking came into proper view. Two HUGE eighteen wheeled behemoths were absolutely tearing down the roads on either side of the highway, kicking up dust and debris as they did. The massive wheels seemed to be ripping the tarmac to shreds as they belted it down the road. Alex quickly grabbed the receiver on the Bullfrog.

“How far are we from the next set of on ramps?”

“Approximately five kilometers, Captain.” A soldier quickly responded.

“Alright! Here’s the plan: we focus everything we have on defense and divert all available energy to our shields. Then, we survive that shit because we have no choice but to survive. They think that having superior numbers, more cannons and crazy levels of firepower will be enough to stop us… let’s show those motherfuckers why we’re the strongest Golden Soldier Clan in this motherfucker!!”

“YES MA’AM!!!” Everybody boomed into their respective receivers.

The Armadillos suddenly pointed their own two-man cannons to the sides as if waiting for the Centipedes to catch up. Alex looked at Zuko with a serious expression on her face which threatened to break into a grin.

“Those damn trucks… things are taking a turn for the worse, Mumbai. But dontcha worry… I’ll get you and Sam to the promised land, no matter what!”

Alex said this as she readied her assault rifles once more and there was a moment of quiet within the convoy, in spite of the sound of the engines and wheels on the road being as loud as they could be. They all watched as the Centipedes got closer and closer, until they were driving alongside them. Four Centipedes – two on each side – were actually long enough to cover the entire length of the Gold Leaf convoy. Long, tall, heavily fortified with thick gold and black armour plates, the Centipedes did a damn near perfect job of blotting out the sun. This was in no small part due to the number of cannons that ran along the length of the roof of each trailer connected to the head of the trucks. Those cannons were also manned by two men, and once they were driving alongside the convoy and had matched their respective speeds, the Centipedes on both sides started charging their cannons.

“Things are about to get rough!” Alex boomed into her receiver.

Just as Alex bellowed out her warning, the first wave of cannon fire came their way, shooting beams of condensed Mana directly at them. The convoy’s Mana Shields got to work big time, with the bright gold beams smashing into them and actually causing the vehicles to shake a little. The Bullfrog’s shields were surprisingly resilient, and Zuko looked up at the cannon that was firing at them directly.

“These guys really do milk the gold theme, huh?”

“I know right?! I mean some of us use it simply as a way to denote what race or clan we belong to. But these dudes… I bet they even put stuff in their food to make them shit gold!”

Alex quickly reached down and started punching something into a small keyboard which gave colour to the Mana Shield – causing it to glow momentarily. The Armadillos behind them did the same, and once again, they played the waiting game; hoping that the cannons would run out of juice and have to recharge before their shields were depleted. Zuko watched on from behind Alex as the gauges and indicators on the dashboard displayed energy levels of both the shield and the vehicle’s power plant. Alex was visibly worried as she kept her eyes fixed firmly on the indicators, and after close to a minute or so of sustained attack from the cannons, the Mana Shields on the convoy reached breaking point as they shattered like glass. Shards of Mana hit the road below however thankfully for the group; the cannons seemed to run out of juice at the same time.

“HOLY FUCK!!!!” Alex boomed as she looked straight up at the sky, before turning back and looking at Zuko with a massive smile.

“Doesn’t shit like this just make you feel alive, Mumbai?!”

“Being alive makes me feel alive.” Zuko answered plainly. “This makes me feel as though you are thrill seeking while using our lives as some form of collateral.”

“Don’t be like that, man! We… oh shit.”

Alex, who had glanced down at her console realised that the shields were recharging somewhat slower than she would have liked. She then looked up at the cannons on the Centipedes and as she did, she felt her skin crawl as if it was telling her that the cannons would be ready before the shields.

“What’s the status on your fuckin’ shields!?” She roared into the receiver.

“Not good.” One of the soldiers answered. “We seem to be recharging slightly slower than usual.”

“In that case, brace for impact and pray to whatever Gods you worship that the plating is enough!”

The cannons, which had been completely recharged, were fired once more, and the beams flew directly towards the convoy. The beams hit the armour plating of the Armadillos with quite the flourish, immediately digging into the plating. Alex wasn’t too worried about the Armadillos though, as she was confident that their plating would hold out long enough for the shields to recharge. She was more worried about the Bullfrog, as she had consciously chosen something more nimble and agile as her personal vehicle. At the cost of power and durability, she opted for something that would allow her to get up close and personal in combat. As a result, her plating was a lot less thick and durable as on the other vehicles, and this meant that that Zuko and her would be exposed to cannon fire a lot quicker than the other passengers.

“Mumbai.” She said seriously.

“What is it?”

“We may have a problem…”

Alex went on to explain things as quickly as she could, at which point Zuko immediately stood and hopped onto the back seat. His upper torso was completely exposed, and all it would have taken for him to become ooze was a slight change in direction of the cannon. He suddenly started drawing out Mana, his cloak fluttering about as a result of his being exposed as well as Mana pouring out of his body. As he drew out more and more Mana, what looked like gusts of wind started snaking and circling around his forearms and open hands until he clenched his fists. The moment he did that, two walls of swirling wind appeared on either side of the Bullfrog and acted like wind shields of sorts. They actually managed to shield the vehicle from the beams, and Alex looked at Zuko with her mouth agape. Zuko looked at Alex as all this happened, and spoke.

“Alex, tell me… do those Centipedes have shields like yours?”

“Y-Yeah, they do?” She replied, still slightly shocked.

“Can your cannons break those shields like theirs did ours?”

“Probably… why?”

“I can extend this technique and shield the rest of the group for a time. If I am able to keep my shields up until the cannons are exhausted, then—”

“I understand!” Alex said as her eyes grew wide as did the grin on her face. “If ya can do that, we will actually be able to take care of those fuckers manning the guns! Can ya do it, though?”

Zuko didn’t say anything further as he drew out more Mana while simultaneously extending the wind shields all the way to the back of the convoy. By this time, the gusts swirling around his forearms had extending up the entire length of his arms, and his eyes had begun to glow as well.

“Attention you bastards, there’s been a change of plans. Do not activate the shields! I repeat, do not activate them! As you can see, we have somebody providing protection for us, so divert all available energy to the cannons! Once theirs run out of juice, we fire ours and destroy their shields. The second that happens, we shoot their gunners to shit! Understood?!”

“Yes Ma’am!”

Zuko began to let out something of a roar as he drew out even more Mana in an effort to ensure that the shield would be sufficient. Close to a minute later, the cannons were depleted and stopped firing. Immediately afterwards, the Gold Leaf convoy fired off their own cannons at full blast. The Armadillos split their fire evenly, with four focused on the Centipedes on one side, and four on those on the other side. Zuko, who had immediately stopped with the wind shields was seated once again and taking deep breaths. He watched on in keen interest as the Armadillos did their thing, hoping that they too would shatter the shields as theirs had been previously. Gold Leaf soldiers had actually popped out of openings on the roof of the Armadillos, waiting for the moment to start shooting and soon enough, it arrived. With a loud shatter, the shields broke apart just like the convoys. The very next instant, Alex was aiming her guns at the two-man teams manning the guns and was firing at them. As per normal, her accuracy was unnerving and she made short work of those that were on either side of her. She then hopped up onto her seat and landed with both feet before springing up and turning a hundred and eighty degrees, facing the opposite direction and aiming at the remaining pairs. Zuko quickly reached forward and grabbed her ankles with each hand, holding her up so as to allow her to shoot without fear of falling off the Bullfrog. As if this was a planned and staged routine, Alex started shooting at the men, an assault rifle for each set of Centipedes. Her accurate shooting was being used in tandem with the shooting of the men under her command which meant that those who were still pulling out their own weapons were gunned down before they could do anything. Alex then tossed the rifles down onto the front seat of the Bullfrog and grabbed the sniper rifle off of her back. She quickly held it up as her core visibly tensed and she gritted her teeth.

“Hold on tight, Mumbai!” She boomed as she lined up the sight.

The sound produced by the sniper rifle was insane as it drowned out every other bit of ambient noise that there was. The shot wiped out those who were situated towards the back of the second truck on her right, before quickly recovering and firing off the second shot to finish off those on the other trailer. This all took a matter of moments and there was a brief moment of celebration and relaxation as those who had popped their heads out to shoot popped back in again. Zuko let go of Alex’s ankles and she landed on the seat, crouching down as she did.

“Fuck me…” She said as she slung all her guns on her back again. “Appreciate the assistance.”

Zuko remained quiet as he stood on the seat, both of his arms crossed as he stared straight ahead.

“Captain, we are approaching the on ramps!” A soldier boomed on the radio.

The Centipedes neither signaled nor made their intentions to join the highway clear, however they didn’t have to as without even slowing down slightly, they turned onto the on ramps and barreled down them with phenomenal speed. The tyres squealed as they joined the highway, adjusting their steering as they closed in on either side of the convoy. The trucks on the opposite side of the highway had to turn around as they had been driving on the wrong side of the road. This took a bit of time, but they were eventually able to catch up. Once they did, they drove closer and closer to the convoy, until they were so close they were practically swapping paint. Zuko, who was still standing, looked at Alex who was now seated and facing forwards again.

“Alex.”

“Mumbai?”

“How much further?”

“I’m concerned about how close these bastards are to us.” Alex answered as she looked at the trucks on either side of them.

“They appear to be boxing us in.”

“I fuckin’ know that, but why?”

“Clearly, it is to keep up from changing direction.”

“Fuck!” Alex roared as she looked back at Zuko. “There is a bridge ahead of us… well, three bridges actually, all next to each other. If the plan is to keep us boxed in like this, then they could be preparing to take us out from above.”

“That makes sense.” Zuko said with a nod, sounding rather unconcerned. “So what is the plan?”

“All we can do is go forward, right? We don’t really have a fuckin’ choice.”

“What about shooting through the shields again and then targeting the vehicles directly.”

“No can do. We can fuck up the shields, but our guns don’t have the firepower to do damage. If we split our cannons and have them shot in turns, it will take too long to penetrate that damn armour. The shields will reactivate and we’ll go around in damn circles. The only choice is to withstand whatever the fuck might be waiting for us on the bridges and push through.”

Zuko remained quiet as they both looked dead ahead. It didn’t take long for the bridges to come into view and when they did, five mobile cannons that were at least three times larger and more potent than the cannons on the vehicles could be seen. They were placed next to one another, and appeared to have been charging their shots for longer than was ideal for Zuko and co.

“Well fuck.” Alex said as she eyed the setup of cannons. “This is gonna be fucking rough, Mumbai.”

“Alex, do you have any explosives or the like that could send both of the vehicles next to us flying?”

“Send them flying? What do ya mean?”

“Any sort of lift would do – so long as they are airborne for a second or two.”

“Shit, I might… but why?”

“I have a plan. These vehicles are boxing us in so we cannot evade those cannons. I might be able to do something about both those vehicles as well as the cannons up there, but I need you to assist me by lifting the trucks in the air slightly.”

“How will my doing that shit help?”

“Can you lift them or not?”

“I can fuckin’ try, okay. Shit, okay… when do we need to do this?”

“When I give the signal. I need them both to fly at the same time.”

“Fuck.” Alex whined as she grabbed her assault rifles off her back. “Mumbai, if this plan of yours works, then the next time we see each other, we’re fuckin’ like rabbits!”

“Wait, what?”

Alex said nothing in reply afterwards as she looked up at the first bridge and saw that the cannons were preparing to fire. She bent down and pressed the button on her receiver with her nose.

“INCOMING CANNON FIRE!!!”

All five cannons were fired, and they all seemed to form giant golden beam that hit their shields and started melting them away as if they were made from butter. The beam was actually big enough to affect the shields of the entire convoy; however those belonging to the Bullfrog and the first three Armadillos were particularly affected.

“When the fuck are we doing this?!” Alex boomed as she stood with her at the ready. “We barely have fifteen seconds before we’re fuckin’ vapourised!”

Zuko didn’t say a thing as he too was waiting for the perfect timing. He had his arms bent at the elbow, and palms facing the sky and fingers bent slightly as he just watched and waited. The shield gauge was going haywire, and the Bullfrog felt as though it was about to explode.

“Mumbai… uh, Mumbai?” Alex tentatively asked before snapping. “MUMBAI!!!

“NOWWW!!” Zuko boomed.

Alex then pulled the triggers hard, shooting a multitude of grenades into the path of either truck. As they hit the ground, she switched from grenades to bullets, and started shooting the grenades. As they started exploding, the trucks drove right over them without any fear as they were armoured underneath so as shrug off mine damage. The explosions caused by the grenades did not damage them either, but caused them to lift off the ground by a centimeter or two, yet that was enough for Zuko who let out an absolutely thunderous roar. The trucks suddenly found themselves being lifted, becoming airborne and flying further into the sky by multitudes of small twisters. As the twisters forced the Centipedes further into the air, the cannons broke through the shields and hit one of the Armadillos. The plating began melting almost immediately, and as that happened, the two airborne trucks crashed directly into the first bridge, causing the cannons to lose balance and for the one giant beam to split into five smaller beams. As this happened, Zuko let out another roar as he thrust his hands forwards, creating more twisters and having them prop up the backs of the flying Centipedes, forcing them through the first bridge and then into the second one. The gusts swirling around his forearms also returned and then spread up his arms and through sheer brute force, propelled the trucks through the third bridge as well. The convoy drove through the flames of the explosions and underneath the crumbling bridges and debris and chunks of bridge fell directly onto them. The Bullfrog with Alex and Zuko on it was swerving in order avoid being squished by giant bits of falling concrete and after successfully navigating through the hazardous little stretch of road, it punched out from the smoke and dust cloud, with two flying and twisting black and gold trucks in the air on either side. Alex had grabbed hold of the wheel after disabling autopilot and her face was picture of stress and disbelief. Her eyes were the size of saucers as she gritted her teeth; her hair flowing like a long river from her head, sweat drenched face completely exposed.

Sam and the rest had quickly ducked inside the Armadillos moments before the shields had been penetrated, and thankfully, the large beam split before serious damage could be done to them. That said, there was actually a hole in the roof of the Armadillo Sam was in, exposing them all. Luckily for them, none of the falling debris had actually squashed them, and they too burst out of the dust behind Zuko and Alex. As the second and third Armadillos emerged, the flying Centipedes crashed into the ground and slid on their sides. The ones that had been following after them then crashed into the back of those sliding on the road, and came crashing to a halt themselves as the final Armadillo emerged. There were large chunks of bridge on the roof of the rugged six-wheeled vehicles, but they seemed to make no difference as the convoy continued to drive down the highway. As they moved further from the scene of smoldering destruction, Alex looked back at Zuko with complete and utter disbelief. She had reactivated autopilot and just spent the next few minutes in silence. Zuko had let out a deep breath before settling back down on the rear seat. He looked back at Alex and nodded slightly, before looking behind to see if everybody else was okay. Sam had popped her head out of the hole in the roof, covered in dust and such and looked visibly relieved at the sight of Zuko looking alright.

The Bullfrog then made a right turn onto an off-ramp while followed by the rest of them, and after some time, they made a left turn which would turn out to be the final change in direction. As they approached the border to J.K’s territory, the sun in the sky seemed to become dimmer and dimmer until it suddenly became dark as night. Alex had been absolutely silent as they approached a group of soldiers clad in that black armour Zuko had seen the night he entered the Elven Enclave. As they drew closer, she raised her hand and started to slow down, with the rest of the vehicles following suit until they came to a complete halt. The Shadow Kin soldiers quickly came out in their numbers and surrounded the Bullfrog, having done so even though they recognised who it belonged to.

“Captain of the Gold Leaf.” One of the Shadow Kin said as he approached. “What are you doing here looking as though you were just in a fight?”

“That’s because we fuckin’ were.” Alex said as she stood up and hopped down from the Bullfrog. “We bring precious cargo that is to be presented to J and K.”

“Precious cargo? What are you talking about?”

“Do not speak of me as though I am an object, Alex.” Sam scolded as she hopped down from the open roof, drawing a number of gasps.

“Sam!” A different soldier boomed. “You’re back!”

“Yes, but I don’t have time to catch up. We need to get to the Null Zone quickly.”

“Wait, let me notify the Generals.” The Shadow Kin that was speaking to Alex said, before pressing an earpiece and speaking. “Excuse me, Generals? Sam is here. Yes, here at the third post on the Eastern Border. Understood.” The guard then looked at Sam and nodded. “The Generals are on their way, Sam. They told me to ask you to wait for a few minutes.”

Sam nodded at the guard, before looking at Alex with a deep scowl on her face. Alex smiled nervously before looking up at Zuko who was still seated on the Bullfrog. She then looked at Sam who looked as though she was about to give her a piece of her mind and then smiled.

“Did you see what this dude back there, Sam?” Alex asked, sounding a lot less brash than she usually did.

“…I did.” Sam said grumpily. “Munsai wouldn’t have had to do all that if you followed the route we charted out last night.”

“I fuckin’ know, Sam. I just figured you two would want to get to the Null Zone quicker because of the delay yous two suffered cuz of me.”

“So to apologise for delaying us, you almost got us killed instead?”

“I know, I know. My bad. But it was kinda fun, wasn’t it?”

“NO IT WASN’T!!”

“Let it go, Sam.” Zuko said as he hopped down from the Bullfrog. “It all worked out in the end.”

“But she put your life in jeopardy, Munsai!”

“I said let it go.”

There was something in Zuko’s voice that made Sam keep quiet, and just then, one of the Shadow Kin looked at him.

“So who in the Hells are you supposed to be? I don’t think I’ve ever seen you before.”

“He is my companion.” Sam said as she looked him. “He is the one I am taking to the Null Zone.”

“I see.” The soldier said.

The sound of incoming motorcycles echoed through the dark streets. Two or so minutes later, two jet engine propelled motorbikes appeared, before coming to a screeching halt before the group of Gold Leaf Clan vehicles. Two Shadow Kin hopped off of the bikes and ran towards Sam before swamping her with hugs and affection – completely ignoring everybody else. Alex looked at them before looking at Zuko and scoffing.

“They’re like a pair of fuckin’ cats.” She said to him with a slight shake of the head.

“You are just mad that they are not greeting you like that…” Zuko said with a scoff himself.

“As if.” Alex said with a shrug. “Been there and fuckin’ done that.”

“Really?” Zuko said, sounding amused. “Both of them?”

“Yeah, both of ‘em.” Alex said with a shrug.

“Separately or together?”

Before Alex could answer the question Sam interrupted the discussion, approaching Zuko with the two Shadow Kin who pulled their helmets off.

“Munsai, forgive me for interrupting but I would like to introduce you to J and K – the Generals of the Midnight Shadow Kin Clan.”

“Greetings.” Zuko said with a nod.

“Sup?” J said with a head bob.

“Hey.” K said.

“I quickly explained that we need to get to the Null Zone as quickly as possible, and they have agreed to take us there now.”

“How long will that take?” Zuko asked.

“Not too long at all, Munsai.” Sam with a slight nod, before looking at the two Shadow Kin. “These two are probably the quickest riders around.”

“Ain’t that the fuckin’ truth?” Alex mumbled under her breath, causing Zuko to actually cackle.

He then looked at them both and nodded having quickly stifled the laughter.

“We are in your hands then, gentlemen. What is the plan of action?”

“You two get on our bikes, and we ride until we get to the Null Zone.” J said with a grin.

“Works for me.” Zuko said with a nod before starting to walk towards one of the bikes.

“I don’t like that dude.” Both J and K said as at the same time they looked at Sam.

“What? Why?!” Sam asked looking troubled by the revelation.

“Don’t like the way he talks to you.” They said simultaneously again.

“Munsai has barely said five words to me!”

“Don’t care. Don’t like him.” They grunted together.

“Ugh… you don’t have to like him, but if you disrespect him, you’ll have to deal with me, understood?”

“Understood…” They both said before looking at each other. “So who’s taking Sam, and who’s taking the giant.”

As they started to play Rock, Paper, Scissors to decide, Alex looked at Sam and smiled before waving goodbye to her.

“I’m gunna go, Sam. That bastard Axel will probably come looking for us, so we’re actually gunna go back the long way around to avoid getting into another fight.”

“Okay…” Sam said, trying to stay grumpy but finding that it was melting away. “Be safe.”

“Of course.” Alex said with a grin before taking a few steps towards her vehicle.

She stopped and looked towards Zuko who was just standing by a randomly selected bike; not knowing who it belonged to. She was about to call to him and yell her farewell, but something inside her screamed at her to actually walk up to him and speak to him properly. She did just that, approaching him and the closer she got closer to him, the more vivid images of his abilities became in her mind. She stood before him in silence, and he just looked at her, wondering what she was doing.

“Alex.” He said as he looked at her.

“H-Huh? Yeah?”

“What is it? You just came over here and said nothing.”

“Oh, yeah… I just came to say goodbye. I’m heading back to my place.”

“Oh? You are leaving?”

“Yeah, man. I’ve done my fuckin’ bit, so…”

“I see. You should come through if Sam and I are still around.”

“…sure thing.” Alex said as she just looked up at him.

She stared at Zuko in silence and after a few moments, she suddenly pressed her feet together as she stood at attention and lowered her head as far as she could without bending over, bowing it and just holding the position. She stood like that for the longest time, before standing straight and running to her Bullfrog and jumping up on it before grabbing the receiver.

“Follow me, ya fuckin’ bastards!!” She boomed before looking at J and K. “I’ll be driving through your area for a bit. Let your skinny Shadow dudes know so we don’t shoot them! Later!”

The Gold Leaf vehicles all started with a loud boom, before quickly driving off and disappearing into the territory. Sam and the rest all sighed at just how rude Alex was, before looking at each other once more. They then nodded at walked towards the bikes, J having seemingly lost the game and having been stuck with Zuko. Moments later, they were all on their respective jet-propelled motorcycles and after the blue flames pulsed out from the engines and the rear wheels screeched on the tar below, they shot off and disappeared into the darkness.

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