Long Feng and Dai Li agents
This is nothing more than ... a construction project.

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The sun is high in the sky as the scene opens on Toph, Penga, Ho Tun, and The Dark One; the four stand in the snow around Malina and Maliq's factory. They are working, all of them using metalbending: Toph, in the background, lifts a heavy steel girder into place on the bare skeleton of a building under construction; Penga and The Dark One are repairing a forklift, a number of its engine's parts floating in the air in front of them as they stand over it; and Ho Tun, wielding a scoop-shaped piece of metal, is shoveling snow into a pile nearby. Holding the scoop over his head, he looks over his shoulder at Penga and The Dark One.
Ho Tun Penga! The Dark One! Give me a hand here, will you?
They come to his aid, lifting the scoop filled with snow up in the air, and dump its load on top of what is quickly becoming a mountain of snow. Moving the scoop back to the ground, they stare up at the mountain.
Penga Boy, that's a whole lotta snow!
Ho Tun We're in the South Pole! There's nothing but "a whole lotta snow"!
The Dark One [Raising his arms and enunciating theatrically.] O brilliant, icy tower of wintry whiteness, must you smother me beneath your frigid shadow?
Ho Tun [Turning his attention back to the two next to him.] Now that we've cleared that out of the way, why don't you guys help me with --
An ominous creak fills the air, cutting him off. It quickly becomes a loud rumble as the tower of snow, unable to hold its own weight, begins to collapse on top of them.
Ho Tun Avalanche!
Penga Run for your lives, metalbenders!
Despite the warning, the snow descends on them before they can move out from under it. Before the snow can bury them, however, a number of steel girders, which have been thrown by Toph, glide swiftly between the snow and the metalbenders, forming a protective shelter of sorts. As the snow settles, Toph runs over to them.
Toph Beifong Everybody okay?!
Penga [Face-down in the snow, arms sprawled out in front of her.] Ugh. I-I think so ...
Ho Tun [Staring straight ahead, his eyes wide with residual terror.] I-I just saw my life flash before my eyes!
The Dark One [Rising to his feet and facing Toph.] That's the third time I almost got buried alive! Sifu Toph --
Toph [Arms crossed.] While we're here, you will call me executive partner!
The Dark One Executive Partner Toph, we're students, not construction workers! Why are we doing this?!
Ho Tun [Having also risen to his feet, looking around with a newfound sense of existential dread.] The Dark One's right! I look around, and all I see is doom! A whole lotta fluffy, white doom! We've never trained to do this kind of stuff!
Penga [To The Dark One.] What happened to your poetry?
The Dark One [Looking away from her, a hand on his head.] Like I told you before, poetry and being totally freaked out of your mind don't mix!
Toph Ah, quit your bellyaching! You guys are students of the Beifong Metalbending Academy, the most prestigious metalbending school in the world!
Ho Tun Aren't we the only metalbending school?
Toph Exactly! [Crossing her arms.] We specialize in the impossible! So what if we've never used metalbending like this before?! We weren't supposed to be able to metalbend in the first place! Come on! Are you metalbenders or lily livers?!
Ho Tun [Twiddling his fingers nervously.] Wellll ....
Toph Ho Tun --!
Ho Tun Metalbenders. [Quieter.] I guess.
Penga But even you gotta admit, Sifu -- I mean, Executive Partner Toph, constructing something this big in the middle of all this snow, without any waterbenders around to help? Kinda crazy.
Toph [Scratching the back of her head, somewhat disheartened.] I know, I know. But the only Southern waterbender in the whole world isn't interested in helping. And for the time being, at least, we can't have any Northerners working here. Politics are dumb, but they're still a part of business.
Ho Tun [Pointing off to his side.] But isn't that lady from the North?
Toph Yeah, well ... She's the exception, and even she's gotta keep a low profile.
As they both glance in the direction Ho Tun is pointing, the frame pulls back a short way. Malina and Sokka are talking, the former with a heavily uncertain and downcast expression.
Malina [Looking down.] I should leave, Sokka. My presence is causing tension.
Sokka Malina, you're the only one who knows the plans from beginning to end. If we're gonna do this, we need you here. And besides, my dad's gotten most of the Southerners on board with the project.
Malina [Walking away from him.] Then what about --
Sokka The folks outside the gate? Once they see how this will benefit the whole tribe, they'll come around.
The frame has moved behind them, showing a crowd of angry protesters gathered at the fence around the factory. In addition to the signs they carry, their chant of "Foreigners out" carries easily through the air. As the frame zooms on them, Malina answers Sokka's reassurance.
Malina I hope you're right.
The scene moves to Pakku's waterbending school, starting with a brief shot of the building's exterior.
Pakku [His voice heard through the closed doors.] Pay attention, Sura and Siku! Imitate the motions of my hands exactly! [Shot moves inside the studio, showing Pakku, Sura, and Siku standing in front of barrels of water; Pakku bends a stream of water in a ring above his barrel.] Think of the energy in your body as a river. You must direct --
He stops, returning his water to its basin. The girls, standing to his left, have ignored him, continuing to stand with their heads bowed, eyes closed, and hands behind their backs.
Pakku You're not imitating me, children. [Adding, frankly.] You're not doing anything.
Siku [Without turning around.] There's no point! We've told you so many times already!
Sura We're not waterbenders!
Pakku raises a hand to his face in moderate despair, sighing as he does.
Pakku [Muttering.] Three weeks of this ... [To the girls.] Well, if you won't listen to me, maybe you'll listen to our guest.
As he finishes his sentence, the door behind him opens, and Aang and Katara enter the room. As the girls watch, Aang takes up a waterbending stance and duplicates the move Pakku displayed for them moments before, making the ring of water considerably larger.
Pakku Sura and Siku, I'd like you to meet the Avatar.
Aang Hey, kids! You can call me Aang.
Siku and Sura [Stunned.] Wow! No way!
Sura [As Katara joins Aang, the two of them spinning the ring of water around themselves.] You're really the Avatar?!
Aang Yep.
Their reluctance forgotten, the two girls readily approach Aang and Katara. Aang gives the water to Katara, who continues as Aang steps back a bit to watch with Siku and Sura.
Siku [To Katara.] And you're his friend?!
Aang Katara helped me end the war!
Sura How come you didn't tell us that when we met you at the festival?
With a single move over her right shoulder and without looking, Katara bends the water in a sweeping arc, returning it to a basin.
Katara Would it have made a difference?
Siku We would've been nicer.
Sura A lot nicer.
Katara [Dropping to one knee in front of them with a smile.] So now will you tell us the truth? Are you actually waterbenders?
These words do not sit well with the girls. They look away from Katara, the apprehension they feel written on their faces. As Siku answers, with panic rising in her face, she raises her hands in front of her, as if to keep Katara away from her.
Siku Look, ever since we were little, Mommy gave us one super-important rule we had to always follow!
Sura Always!
Siku We couldn't ever let anybody know about the real us!
Sura [Clasping her hands over her mouth.] Ever!
Siku [As Sura dashes to her, hugging her tightly, she looks up at the others, fear evident in her eyes.] If we did, monsters from the Fire Nation would take us away!
Sura Or worse!
Siku [Sura, her panic passing, lets go of Siku.] But then three weeks ago, that cranky old man shows up in our village!
Pakku Hey! Who're you calling cranky?!
Sura He does a few waterbending tricks and yammers on and on, and somehow that convinces Mom to send us with him!
Pakku I don't "yammer"! Who says I "yammer"?!
To Katara's shock, the two suddenly turn on their heels and run away from her.
Siku We don't care if you're the Avatar!
Sura Or the Avatar's friend! You're not making us do anything we don't wanna do!
Katara extends a hand toward them but lets them go. As the two run from the room, Aang walks over to her, being just as surprised by their reactions as her.
Aang Well, that didn't go the way I thought it would.
Katara Maybe they're just not ready, Aang. This is a big change, and they're so young. Maybe we shouldn't be pushing all this onto them.
Aang You're probably right.
Hakoda Teaching is hard. Take it from me.
Hearing Hakoda's voice, they all turn their attention to the door behind them, where the chief stands, smiling at them; his midsection is bandaged, and he leans on a cane in his right hand.
Hakoda You should've seen how hard it was to teach proper boomerang technique to Sokka.
Katara Dad!
Pakku Probably just as hard as it was to teach a certain Avatar to pay attention during his waterbending class. [Glancing over at Aang, who has a hand on the back of his head, smiling sheepishly.] Not to name any names. [Turning to Hakoda, arms extended in greeting.] Head Chieftain Hakoda! Welcome to Master Pakku's Waterbending School!
Hakoda [Bowing respectfully.] Thank you for all you're doing for the South Pole, Master Pakku!
Pakku You mean, building an empty school and then frustrating a couple of children? You're welcome.
Katara What are you doing here?
Hakoda I was out on my morning walk. Wanted to see what you two were up to.
Katara But you're still in pain!
Pakku Thank you for the help, Katara and Aang. Why don't you accompany Head Chieftain Hakoda the rest of the way? I'll keep trying with the kids.
The scene moves outside, to a large portico spanning the front of a building; having taken Pakku's suggestion, Katara and Aang walk with Hakoda down the building's covered façade.
Katara Dad, you should've waited until we got back to Gran Gran's!
Hakoda I woke up this morning feeling good, stronger than I've felt in a long while. Figured I ought to try going out on my own.
As Aang walks a little behind the other two, Momo flies up to him with a fruit clutched in his paws. Aang extends an arm to him, and the lemur lands on it before climbing to his usual place on Aang's shoulder.
Aang Hey, Momo! You found some breakfast?
Hakoda You've become quite the healer, Katara. I wouldn't be up on my feet if it weren't for you. Actually, without you and your friends, I'm not sure I'd be here at all. What was it you call yourselves again?
Katara Team Avatar.
Hakoda [Chuckling a little.] That's right. Well, thank you for saving me, Team Avatar. Thank you for saving the city.
Aang [Now walking alongside Hakoda, Aang bows his head.] It was an honor, Head Chieftain Hakoda, sir!
Hakoda After getting an up-close view of Team Avatar working together to defeat Gilak, I'm convinced more than ever that the Southern Water Tribe has to collaborate with the other nations to move forward. It took people from all four nations to save the world. It will take the same to reconstruct the South.
Katara Dad ... don't you think you're being a little naive? Aang and Toph are friends. I know I can trust them. But there are people like Maliq out there, people who don't have our tribe's best interests at heart! Invite them in, and they'll make the South into a cheap imitation of themselves ... or worse!
Aang Katara has a point. Outside of the Air Nomads, the Southern Water Tribe was probably hit the hardest by the war.
Hakoda [Eyes shut, no longer walking forward.] The risk you describe is real, I must admit. [Glancing behind himself.] But Katara, think about what you were all trying to do back there in Master Pakku's school. A Northerner, a Southerner, and an Air Nomad, all working together to recover a tradition that was almost lost. [Beginning to walk again.] That's the kind of collaboration we need.
Katara Well, maybe after we've recovered more fully on our own. Maybe after you've recovered more fully, Dad.
Hakoda Katara, we can't wait on this. I've already sent invitations to the Fire Nation and Earth Kingdom. [Turning to look at both of them; they regard him with stunned, unsure looks.] We're having a conference this evening. I'd like you both to be there.
The scene cuts to the evening; as the sunset paints the sky in shades of orange and darkening blue, two airships, one from the Fire Nation and the other from the Earth Kingdom, descend from the sky into the fenced-off landing area close to the city. Around the fence, a crowd of protesters has gathered, as they did around the fence at the factory site.
The airships come to a stop on the ground. When Zuko and Kuei have disembarked from their respective airships, along with a few escorts (and, in Kuei's case, Bosco the bear), a Southern Water Tribe soldier raises his voice.
Soldier Announcing the arrival of Earth King Kuei and Fire Lord Zuko!
Kuei [Talking to the bear, who walks alongside him.] We're here! We're finally here! I've been wanting to visit the South Pole for years now, ever since meeting Katara and Sokka! Isn't that right, Bosco? [Bosco roars in apparent approval.] My goodness! It's everything I'd imagined it'd be! It's ... it's -- [Suddenly clasping his arms around himself as his face contorts in discomfort.] -- freezing!
Zuko Well, it is the South Pole, Your Majesty.
Kuei [Noticing the protesters.] Are those p-p-people protesting the c-c-cold?
Zuko I'm afraid not. They're protesting us. And after what the Fire Nation has put them through, I can't blame them.
Kuei Bosco? W-w-would you mind?
The bear lets out a cheerful roar and stands up on its hind legs, wrapping its front legs around Kuei.
Kuei [Letting out a relaxed sigh as he turns to Zuko.] Much better! Everyone should have a bear for a best friend! Zuko, if you'd like to join me, I'm sure there's enough room in Bosco's hug!
Zuko [Smiling awkwardly while stepping backward, hands extended in front of him.] That's very, um, generous of you, but no thanks.
Behind them, Sokka can be seen running up to them, waving happily and smiling.
Sokka Fire Lord Zuko! Earth King Kuei! [Reaching them and hugging Zuko.] Thanks so much for coming!
Zuko Sokka! Good to see you, buddy!
Kuei [Waving with a free hand, still wrapped up by Bosco.] Hello, friend!
As Zuko and Sokka break off the hug, Zuko glances back at the mob behind the fence, still chanting.
Zuko You sure we should be here? I don't want to cause the South any more trouble.
Sokka Don't worry about them. [He leads them toward the fence and through the gate, still smiling as he ignores the chanting.] They just need to see what we're trying to do. Then they'll get it.
Protester [Yelling from Sokka's left.] Protecting foreigners, Sokka?! You've been away for too long! You've forgotten where you belong!
Sokka does not break his stride, continuing through the crowd and onward toward the city without so much as a backward glance.
Sokka Come on.
The scene changes. Night has fallen over the prison. A shot of the façade cuts to its interior, where a soldier guards Gilak's cell and Gilak stands at the bars separating them.
Gilak Officer, I heard a rumor that Hakoda invited foreigners from the Earth Kingdom and the Fire Nation into our homeland for some sort of conference. Is this true?
Officer They arrived about an hour ago.
Gilak Hm. [Pausing briefly.] Were you at the festival? Did you hear my message?
Officer [Unnerved; still looking straight ahead.] Yes.
Gilak Then you heard the evidence. You know Hakoda's a traitor. How can you continue to serve in his government?
The guard, much younger than Gilak, turns his face toward Gilak.
Officer Because you're wrong. Hakoda isn't a traitor. He has a vision for the future.
A brief shot of Gilak's hand, fingers holding the key to his cell, cuts to a shot of the two talking face to face. The bars of the cell are seen from the side, appearing to cut the frame neatly in half and separate the two, who stare each other down.
Gilak And what if the choice were between the South and Hakoda's so-called "future"? Which would you choose?
Officer I believe we can have both.
Gilak [Smiling as he unlocks his cell and strides out into the hallway.] Wrong answer.
Officer [Reeling backward, trying to draw his club.] How --?!
The single word is the only part of the thought he can form before Gilak punches him in the face. He falls to the floor, unconscious. The next frame shows Thod sleeping in his cell as Gilak speaks.
Gilak Thank you for the "meal" you served me the other night. And I'm sorry about what I had to do to your fellow officer just now.
Lirin Oh, I completely understand, Gilak. [Frame cuts to Lirin and Gilak talking outside the cell, the frame looking at the cell bars.] Many of us still refuse to see the truth about Hakoda.
Gilak You're absolutely right, Officer Lirin! [Turning to the sleeping Thod.] Thod! Time to leave, brother!
Thod awakens, glances at Gilak through the bars, and rises to his feet. Gilak opens the door of the cell, and as Thod steps through, the two shake hands, smiling.
Gilak For the tribe.
Thod For the tribe!
The scene changes. In a meeting room in City Hall, Aang, Toph, Zuko, Sokka, Katara, and Kuei sit at a table. At its end stands Hakoda, pointing at a diagram of the harbor. As Malina stands off to his right, he continues with his explanation of the plans.
Hakoda ... A modernized harbor would not only give the world access to our tribe, but also our tribe access to the world. And finally, we would like to establish embassies in both of your nations. We, of course, invite you to do the same. And that, my friends, is our vision for the future of the Southern Water Tribe.
Sokka [Jumping to his feet and clapping enthusiastically.] Here, here! Here, here!
Katara [Sitting next to him, she whispers sternly to him.] Sit down, Sokka! Didn't you say you weren't a big fan of meetings?!
Sokka Normally, no. But this one's been amazing!
Katara I don't see what's so amazing about changing everything we've ever loved about home!
Hakoda [Continuing, not having heard Katara; Malina moves to his side.] As I'm sure you can imagine, the Southern Water Tribe's economy has been -- how should I put this? -- under extreme duress for the last century. We don't have the proper resources to make this vision a reality. And that's why we're asking for your partnership.
Zuko You can count the Fire Nation in, Head Chieftain Hakoda. Your people have suffered so much destruction at our hands. We are grateful for the opportunity to help you rebuild.
Kuei [Sweating a bit while looking down at the table.] I'm sorry that the Earth Kingdom can't offer our support so readily. We have so many of our own needs back home. [Talking almost as if to himself, rather than the others.] But if I could show my advisers that the Southern Water Tribe is going to make measurable, concrete progress toward civilization --
Katara [Sitting to Kuei's left, she rounds on him, glaring bitingly at him.] Excuse me?!
Kuei Oh dear. Please, forgive the clumsiness of my words, Katara! I should have phrased it differently. Of course, what you already have here is a form of civilization. We would simply want you to achieve a higher form!
The minor change in verbatim has only stunned Katara further, she stares at him, mouth slightly open, as he pleasantly turns away from her to talk to Hakoda.
Kuei In fact, we'd be honored to help the Southern Water Tribe develop into a cleaner, safer place! [In a smaller voice.] And perhaps warmer, too.
Katara With all due respect, Your Majesty, compared to the Outer Ring of Ba Sing Se, the South Pole is --
With great suddenness, the door to the room bursts open, and a guard rushes into the room.
Guard Head Chieftain Hakoda! We've just received an alert from the prison! Gilak and his army --
His words are cut short by a boomerang that comes flying through the open doorway behind him; it strikes him in the back, and he sprawls to the floor. In the same moment, Gilak, Lirin, and a few hulking soldiers, all of them armed, step through the door, bringing those seated at the table to their feet.
Gilak -- Are here. [The boomerang he threw returns, and he catches it without breaking his eye contact with Hakoda.] Look at you, "Head Chieftain" Hakoda! So eager to sell out your tribe to foreign masters!
Hakoda [As he pushes Malina behind himself.] Officer Lirin?! You're with them?!
Lirin I'm sorry, but Gilak is right about our tribe. We're in terrible danger and you're too blind to see it!
Gilak Don't you hear the cry of your people, Hakoda?!
Soldiers Foreigners out!
Yelling the words as a war cry, the two soldiers who loosed the cry rush at Zuko.
Zuko Stay back!
Immediately, he sends a blast of flame at them; it hits the floor in front of them and splashes upward, and they recoil backward. As they do, Aang leaps across the room, hurling blasts of air from a hand and foot.
Aang Get down, Your Majesty!
Kuei [Raising his hands in front of his face, eyes closed.] Oh, dear!
Gilak rushes at Zuko, his large bone-blade drawn. Zuko dashes out of the way of the swinging blow, which lands on the edge of the table and splits it in half, sending the cups and jugs of water sitting on it flying to the floor.
Gilak Ash maker!
Zuko Whoa!
As this elapses, Lirin, wielding a guandao, and one of the bulky soldiers, holding a simple shortsword, attack Katara and Sokka, respectively.
Bulky soldier [Weapon raised above his head, towering over Sokka.] YAAAH!
Katara counters by pulling water from the shards of one of the broken jugs, which sits near her feet. She fashions it into a tendril, and in a matter of seconds, she tears the guandao from Lirin's hands and binds her hands with the water.
Katara [To the panicked Lirin.] You swore an oath to my father, Officer! Remember?!
The bulky soldier brings his weapon down on Sokka, who draws his own club in defense, though the blow knocks his club from his hand.
Sokka Hey!
Sokka scrambles a few steps backward from the soldier and regains his composure, reaching over his shoulder and removing his boomerang from its sheath.
Bulky soldier It's over, kid.
Sokka Not yet!
He throws the boomerang, and the bulky soldier ducks as it passes harmlessly over his head.
Bulky soldier Ha! You missed!
Sokka [Pointing up at the ceiling with a markedly sassy expression on his face.] Did I, though?
As the soldier turns his gaze upward, he sees the boomerang cut through the chain of the chandelier hanging directly over his head.
Bulky soldier [In a much smaller voice, eyes wide.] Oh no.
As the chandelier shatters as it falls onto him, Sokka jumps into the air, catching the returning boomerang.
Sokka Ha ha! Captain Boomerang does it again!
In the meantime, another burly soldier advances on Toph while wielding a large, blunt, sickle-shaped club and, as did the others, yelling ferociously. In response, Toph moves the left sleeve of her outer jacket upward to reveal a small, black bracelet wrapped around her bicep. She metalbends the meteorite bracelet from her arm, floating it between her hands and morphing it into a spiral shape.
Toph Stop! Stop, stop! [The man, somewhat taken aback, obeys, holding a pose somewhere in the middle of his swinging motion.] You don't want to fight me, big guy. Trust me. I have this.
Burly soldier [Snickering as he lowers his weapon.] You seriously think I'm afraid of a little pebble?!
Toph It's not just any pebble.
As she holds the rock in her open hand, it stirs, instantly morphing into the shape of an open hand itself. With a swing of her own hand, the metal hand slaps the soldier in the face; the force of the blow shatters the side of his helmet and sends him tumbling backward, stunned.
Toph It's my space rock!
The frame returns its focus to Hakoda. Along with a few of his own guards, he stands in front of Kuei and Malina, separating them from a number of Gilak's soldiers.
Hakoda Do everything in your power to protect our guests, officers!
One of the officers Hakoda is standing with glances at Aang and Zuko, who, between the two of them, have created a wall of flame to separate the other soldiers from themselves. He glances back at Hakoda.
Officer They, uh, seem just fine on their own, Head Chieftain.
Hakoda Not all of them! Get the Earth King and Malina someplace safe!
Malina [As an officer tries to usher her backward.] Hakoda, I want to stay and help!
Hakoda No, Malina! You're one of Gilak's targets!
The officer pushes her out of sight but quickly yells back to Hakoda.
Officer The doorway's blocked!
Hakoda [Gesturing at the windows with his cane.] Then let's get them out through the windows!
In that moment, the windows explode inward; Thod and the two children who stole Maliq's briefcase crash through the glass, sending it flying, with a number of soldiers close behind.
Officer [Drawing his sword.] There are too many of them!
In a matter of seconds, Thod and his two disciples have disabled the officers in their way with chi-blocking; uttering muffled groans of pain, the soldiers fall to the floor, unable to move. With no one left between them, Hakoda, with Kuei and Malina still standing behind him, brandishes his club at Gilak.
Hakoda If you want to get to them, you'll have to go through me!
Gilak [The frame zooms on his glaring eyes.] You think I came here for the foreigners? No, Hakoda. I'm here for the real enemy: You!
Gilak attacks, swinging his sword downward at Hakoda, who blocks it by extending his own club and cane in an "X" shape. As the two struggle to hold each other at bay, Gilak continues.
Gilak My stay in prison gave me time to ponder all that's happened, "brother"! I realized that you are the root of our problems! You're too weak to lead us! The Southern Water Tribe needs a leader who's strong --
Gilak forces his sword sideways, knocking the cane and club from Hakoda's hands and staggering him.
Gilak A leader who won't betray his people -- A leader like me!
Gilak punches Hakoda in the face. He goes limp and falls. Katara and Malina react in horror at the same time.
Katara Dad!
Malina Hakoda!
Immediately, Gilak lifts Hakoda's unconscious body over his shoulder, yelling to his troops.
Gilak Let's go! We got what we came for! For the tribe!
Soldiers [As Gilak runs for the door, his forces following, they yell in one voice.] FOR THE TRIBE!
Katara Stop him!
Both Aang and Katara waterbend at the same time, but the stream of water reaches the doorway too late; the soldiers have already gone.
Aang Monkey feathers! He's moving too fast!
Sokka, Zuko, and Toph take off on foot after them.
Sokka Dad!
But they are met in the hall by a wall of soldiers.
Zuko He's almost at the door!
Toph Too many dunderheads in the way!
Katara Aang! He's gone!
Aang [Furious.] No he's not! Hang on!
Aang takes her in his arms and, with a blast of airbending, blows past the guards, clearing the hallway as he flies outside into the cold night air. Cut to Gilak, still carrying Hakoda over his shoulder, as Aang and Katara fly over the top of the city gates in pursuit of him.
Gilak [Glancing over his shoulder and seeing them.] What --?!
Katara Drop me here!
As Zuko, Toph, and Sokka run through the gate behind them, catching up to them, Aang lets Katara fall to the snow. Landing, she immediately throws a closed fist into the snow, and the snow beneath Gilak abruptly rises sharply, a dense chuck of ice throwing him and Hakoda through the air. Aang swoops in, catching Hakoda's body in midair while Gilak hits the snow and gets to his feet again.
Aang Gotcha, Head Chieftain!
Gilak glares at Aang before resuming his getaway, and Aang lands softly in the snow, cradling Hakoda.
Katara [Running up to them.] Is my dad --?
Aang [Urgently.] He's tough, Katara. He's been through a lot worse than this! Go after Gilak, quick!
Katara gives chase, running after him. Seconds later, she crests a ridge, where the panorama of continuing snow and night-darkened trees beyond reveals that Gilak is nowhere in sight.
Katara [Disappointed, to herself.] He's gone!
Sokka runs up behind her, joining her in staring into the emptiness.
Katara Gilak got away.
Sokka We saved Dad, Katara. That's what counts.
Cut to several minutes later, as Katara and Sokka, carrying Hakoda over their shoulders as Aang, Toph, and Zuko walk with them, return to City Hall. Malina is there to greet them, rushing to Hakoda.
Hakoda [Speaking with difficulty.] Malina ... ?
Malina Thank heavens you're okay!
Hakoda Never thought ... city politics ... would be so rough.
While Hakoda stays with Malina, Zuko, Aang, and Toph head inside. At the open doors to the conference room, Zuko is shocked and upset to find the room empty. He looks around, panicked.
Zuko Where --?! No!
Toph What's wrong, Zuko?
Zuko [Turning to look at them.] They took Earth King Kuei!
The scene changes to a shot of Kuei, bound and gagged, as he is led away by Thod, his two disciples, and two of Gilak's soldiers. The scene subsequently switches to Hakoda's office at City Hall; Hakoda, with his legs covered by a blanket, lies on a couch as Malina tends to him and Bosco paces around nearby.
Malina Hakoda, rest.
Hakoda I don't think I can, dear. Not until we find the Earth King.
Malina [Glancing at Bosco.] I don't think he can either. Poor thing is worried about his master.
Hakoda Not his master. His best friend.
Aang enters the office, followed by Katara, Toph, Sokka, Zuko, and Momo, the latter holding a piece of dried fish. Hakoda, Malina, and Bosco turn to look at them, Bosco giving a curious growl.
Hakoda Team Avatar! Any progress?
Aang I'm afraid not.
Katara Thod and his crew left footprints, but they lead into a maze of underground tunnels.
Toph Tunnels that go on for miles and miles ... I could feel them.
Sokka It'll take us days to search through all of them.
Zuko Maybe weeks.
Aang We came back to check on you guys.
Katara And on Bosco. [Petting his back as she talks to him.] Look what we brought you buddy! Some yummy dried fish! You want some fish?
Bosco [Staring, his mouth watering, at the piece of fish Momo is waving in front of his face.] Raaar.
Aang Listen, team. We'll rest for a little bit, but we need to get back out there as soon as we can!
Sokka [A bit nervous.] Yeah. No disrespect to the Earth King, but that guy won't last long in a freezing tunnel!
A noise suddenly enters the room from through the closed windows over Hakoda's shoulder. Turning his head to regard the source of the noise, a harsh "KAW!", he rises and opens the window, letting a red messenger hawk land on the sill.
Hakoda A message!
He takes the message from its back and, as it flies away, opens and reads the note. As the group watches him, his face grows stern.
Katara What is it?
Hakoda It's from Gilak. [Looking up at the others.] He wants to make an exchange. The Earth King's life for mine.
Sokka Can I see it?
Hakoda obliges, handing Sokka the note. He reads it himself for a moment before speaking.
Sokka Gilak wants to meet at the Bridge of No Return.
Toph "The Bridge of No Return"?
Katara An old rope bridge up in the mountains, not far from here.
Sokka Supposedly, the bridge was how the tribe used to deal with our criminals.
Katara If you did something really bad, the tribe would make you walk across and then make sure you never, ever came back.
Sokka The terrain on the other side is the most treacherous in the entire South Pole. Nothing stays alive there for long.
Aang [Visibly cringing.] Yikes.
Sokka So Gilak wants to meet at the bridge -- [The shot becomes an imagining of the meeting, colored in sepia tones.] -- him and his army on one side, Dad and Team Avatar on the other. [A head-on shot of Thod and the two children who stole the briefcase, walking across the bridge.] He'll send Thod and a couple of his disciples over. We'll have to willingly allow them to chi block all of our benders.
Toph [A quick return to the present, where Toph wears an expression of distaste.] What?!
Zuko [A hand on his chin, thinking.] Makes sense. They know we can easily overpower them otherwise. They're essentially asking us to lay down our weapons.
Sokka [As the shot returns to the sepia scene, a shot of Gilak forcing Kuei over the bridge at the edge of a guandao, while Hakoda walks toward them from the other side.] Then, as soon as Dad starts over, Gilak will send Earth King Kuei over. [Shot returns to the present, as Sokka finishes his explanation, looking up.] Any funny business, and Gilak cuts the bridge.
Zuko [Glancing around at the others, unimpressed.] You know he's going to cut the bridge no matter what, right? Even if we give in to all of his demands. No way Gilak's going to pass up the opportunity to get rid of two of his enemies at once.
Hearing this, Aang and Katara both glance at each other, outraged.
Aang Zuko, that's so ... cheat-y!
Katara Not just cheat-y. Evil.
Zuko [Shrugging nonchalantly.] I used to be a bad guy. I know how bad guys think.
Toph I can't believe that gasbag has the gall to think we'd actually agree to this!
Sokka He has all the leverage!
Zuko That's right. He knows that if anything happens to the Earth King, the Earth Kingdom is likely to start a new war.
Hakoda Kids, I can't let you go through with this! Getting chi blocked would leave you vulnerable to who knows what!
Malina It's an impossible situation.
Aang Nothing's ever impossible! We'll come up with something! [Turning to Sokka, more cheerfully, as the rest of Team Avatar does the same.] So what's the something we're gonna come up with, planner guy?
Sokka [Punching a fist into his own hand, an expression of utter enthusiasm on his face.] I thought you'd never ask!
The scene changes to The Bridge of No Return, a rope bridge spanning a wide chasm up in the mountains. Two lit torches can be seen on the opposite side of the chasm to where Team Avatar and Hakoda are gathered.
Katara [Quietly, looking nervous, her eyes staring ahead vacantly.] The Bridge of No Return.
Sokka Everything in place?
Aang [Giving him a thumbs-up] All according to plan, planner guy!
Aang heads over to Katara, giving her a kiss on the cheek as he tries to reassure her.
Aang Don't worry, sweetie. Sokka's plan is perfect! Everything's gonna work out just fine!
Katara [Looking over at Hakoda, Toph, and Zuko.] I know it will, sweetie.
Despite Aang's reassurance, Katara still appears despondent, and Sokka walks over to her.
Sokka Sis ... you okay?
Katara This isn't how I imagined our trip back home. [Looking down.] I always assumed that once we defeated Fire Lord Ozai, the South Pole would go back to the way it was supposed to be. Our lives would go back to the way they're supposed to be. [Looking at Sokka.] But with Gilak and those protesters and all the unrest and now this whole thing ... Like I said, it's not what I imagined.
Sokka Katara, I get what you're saying. But you and I have no actual idea of what things were like here before the war. Nobody alive does, not even Gran Gran. What if the South Pole you're imagining -- the one where everything's how it's "supposed to be" -- never actually existed?
Aang Heads up, guys! Gilak's here!
The shot cuts to the far end of the bridge. Gilak, Thod and a chained Kuei, and a small number of troops including the two chi-blocking children, are waiting. A zoom on Kuei, peering back at the fairly aggressive-looking Gilak, shows that the Earth King, out of his element, is not comfortable at all.
Sokka [With determination.] We ready to do this, team?
Aang We better be. Here come the chi blockers!
With his two young disciples leading the way, Thod comes to the other side of the bridge. The three immediately go to work.
Thod [Advancing on Aang.] Hold still, Avatar.
Aang [Wincing, bracing himself as Thod begins jabbing him.] Just get it over with!
Thod This won't hurt. Much.
Chi blocker girl [Advancing on Katara and doing the same.] Remember when you chased me and my brother through the woods, waterbender? Then put us in jail? This is payback.
Chi blocker boy [Blocking Toph's chi, his expression betraying his delight.] Regret setting foor on Water Tribe turf yet, dirt girl?
Toph [Falling to the snow,.] Stop asking dumb questions, kid.
Chi blocker boy Why don't you make me? Oh wait, you can't. [Laughs at his own joke.]
Thod [Moving on to Zuko.] I must confess, I'm going to enjoy this, ash maker! [As Zuko falls.] After all the despair you and your people have caused, I can't believe Hakoda let you set foot in our land!
Having finished with Katara, the girl suddenly moves on Sokka, blocking his chi as well. He seems surprised.
Sokka Hey, what are you doing?! I'm not a bender!
Chi blocker girl You're still a threat.
Sokka [As he falls, grunting, an exuberant smile on his face.] Oof! Gotta admit, I'm kind of flattered.
All of the team, except Hakoda, now lie on the snow, paralyzed. Thod and his disciples look down on them, satisfied.
Thod That's all of them.
Hakoda Kids! You're not hurt, are you?
Sokka [Lying on his side.] We're fine, Dad. Good thing the snow's so soft.
Thod Go on, Hakoda.
On the other side of the bridge, Gilak sees Hakoda begin his slow march toward them. He pokes at Kuei with the guandao.
Gilak You're up, dirt king. Get moving.
Kuei [Stepping hastily onto the bridge.] OW!
It only takes a few rushed steps for Kuei to realize his position, hanging over a vast, empty space. He continues forward, stopping every few feet to grasp the rope rail unsteadily and look out into the void.
Kuei Oh ... heavens ...!
Hakoda [Closing in on Kuei.] Don't look down, Your Majesty!
Kuei [Looking up at Hakoda.] I-I don't know if I can do th-this!
Hakoda Keep your eyes on me! And think about Bosco!
Kuei B-Bosco! Is h-he all right?
Hakoda He's fine. He's waiting for you. That's it, Earth King Kuei. One foot in front of the other.
As he talks, the frame begins pulling back from them; the view then cuts to the view from Gilak's side of the chasm, looking toward the two on the bridge. One of Gilak's soldiers points at them.
Soldier They've reached the middle, Gilak.
Gilak Then it's time to say goodbye!
A dark smile on his face, Gilak puts his war axe to the bridge's rope and begins to saw through it. A fraction of a second later, before he can make any progress, a limb of ice shoots out of the ground beneath him, sharply hitting his hand and knocking the axe away from him.
Gilak What --?!
When he looks around to see what has happened, he finds Malina standing a few steps behind him in a waterbending pose.
Malina That's no way to treat your Head Chieftain, Gilak!
Gilak Malina!
Malina I'm a builder, not a fighter, so I don't really know how to use my bending for combat. [The view changes to reveal that Ho Tun, the Dark One, and Penga are standing behind her.] Good thing my friends here do.
Gilak Who are you?!
The Dark One Revealing to you the ephemeral labels laid upon us by our families -- nay, by society itself! -- would be for naught! They'd be rattled away by the impending battle, like so many marbles in an open hand!
Gilak [Confused.] Huh?
Ho Tun What the Dark One's trying to say is, we'd tell you our names, but what would be the point?
Penga We're about to beat you senseless, so you'll probably forget!
Penga, Ho Tun, and The Dark One quickly use their metalbending to bend and twist the weapons of Gilak's soldiers out of shape, while Malina uses her waterbending to knock the lone remaining soldier off his feet with a wave of snow from beneath him. On the other side of the valley, Sokka and Toph look up at the battle from their positions on the floor.
Sokka Malina and the metalbenders have come out of hiding!
Toph Our turn!
Suddenly, Aang and Katara are back on their feet and using airbending and waterbending to encase Thod in ice.
Thod [Disbelieving.What is this trickery?!
Aang I think you should apologize to my friend for calling him an ash maker. It's not polite to use slurs like that, you know?
Toph [Encasing the chi blocker boy in earth.] What'd you dunderheads say this was?
Katara [Encasing the chi blocker girl in ice, looking smug as she does so.] I remember, Toph! Payback.
Thod How--?!
In response, Sokka pulls open his jacket, revealing a shirt of metallic armor underneath.
Sokka Check out this chain mail armor. Pretty slick, right? Designed by me and made by the students of the Beifong Metalbending Academy!
On the other side of the chasm, Malina and Toph's students advance on Gilak, the unconscious bodies of his men, tied up with their own weapons, lying behind them,
Malina Take a cold, hard look at yourself, Gilak. Your entire army's been taken down. Surrender and I'll ask the Head Chieftain to give you more mercy than you deserve!
Gilak [Enraged.] To scum like you?! Never! [Turning suddenly and dashing back over the bridge, torch and blade still in hand.] For the tribe!
Malina [Running after him, panicked.] Gilak! What do you think you're doing?!
It does not take long for Gilak to reach the center of the span, a short distance from Hakoda and Kuei, where he blocks their escape.
Gilak You won't win today, Hakoda! Even if I have to lose, you won't win!
Gilak holds the burning torch to the rope on his right, setting it aflame. It begins to burn through.
Hakoda What are you --?! Are you mad?!
Catching up to him, Malina grabs Gilak's arm, grunting as she forces his arm away from the burning rope.
Gilak How dare you touch me, Northern scum!
Katara [From the near side of the bridge, pointing at the scuffle.] Zuko --!
Zuko [Running onto the bridge.] I got this!
Gilak [Still fighting with Malina.] Let go!
In that moment, the fire on the rope abruptly goes out. As the two stare at it in surprise, the frame swivels to Zuko, who has siphoned the heat from the fire, extinguishing it.
Zuko Just in time.
However, the outer layers of the rope, singed by the heat, begin to fray and separate, leaving just a single, thin core of rope to support the whole of the bridge's weight. After a short moment, with a sharp snap, it fails, and the other rope fails with it. The frame cuts to a side view of the halves of the bridge as they fall away from each other; pieces of the bridge fall downward, while the five who were on the bridge when it fell cling to their half as it swings toward the wall of ice from which it hangs. Watching from opposite sides of the gorge, the metalbenders and Team Avatar share the same expressions of unadulterated horror and disbelief.
Ho Tun NO!
Katara DAD!
As the severed half of the bridge slams into the ice wall, now becoming a ladder, all five of the people on it maintain their grips on it. The two highest people on the ladder are Zuko and Kuei; the former reaches down and grabs the hand of the latter.
Zuko Grab my hand, Your Majesty!
Zuko leaps off the ladder, firing blasts of flame from his feet; he rises through the air, holding Kuei, until the two of them reach the top of the cliff, landing safely.
Kuei [Not enthused by what has just happene.] Oh, thank heavens! Thank heavens!
Zuko [Immediately turning back to the edge.] One down, three to go!
Sokka [Taking Kuei's hand to pull him away from the edge.] Don't go back there, Zuko! [Pointing to the bridge's now unstable supports.] That bridge isn't going to hold for very long! Your weight will only make things worse!
Toph [Earthbending more support into the two piles from which the ropes hang.] I'm gonna try to buy us some time, but you guys have to figure out a way to rescue them!
Katara [Waterbending a ladder of ice next to the one made of rope.] Come on, sweetie! We'll climb down this way.
The two begin the precarious climb down, while Toph continues to actively hold the failing piles in place, struggling.
Toph [Grimacing.] Hurry! I can't hold it much longer!
Katara [Having descended to the level of Hakoda and Malina.] We're here! Don't worry, okay?
As Aang, opening his glider, reaches over to grab Hakoda, the piles give way. This results in Malina grabbing onto Hakoda's ankle to save herself, and Gilak doing the same to Malina's arm. Aang falls into the air, his glider open, struggling to support the added weight of three more people.
Aang Gotcha! [Groaning under the weight.] Try not to ... move ... too much! I can barely ... hang on to you ... as it is!
Hakoda [Looking down at the two below him, particularly Gilak.] Gilak! Stop moving! You heard what the Avatar said!
Gilak I told you, Hakoda -- [Gilak pulls down on Malina, attempting to put all his effort into an upward jab at Malina and Hakoda with his sword.] -- Even if I have to lose --
Gilak's hand slips out of Malina's. As he begins to fall, mid-sentence, the reality of what is happening dawns on him; he lets go of the sword, reaching into the empty air as the darkness swallows him, his horrified face disappearing for the last time. His final exclamation echoes off the walls of the chasm.
Gilak -- You won't -- WIIIN!
Hakoda and Malina watch with heartbroken expressions as Gilak falls away.
Aang [Still struggling to hold on to the others.] I ... told you guys ... not to move so much! [The hand that holds Hakoda's starts to shake.] I'm losing ... my grip!
Malina Hakoda, the two of us are too much weight for the Avatar!
Hakoda Hang on for just a little longer, Malina!
Malina Then all three of us will die. [The frame cuts to a view of their entwined hands, before Malina lets go and begins to fall.] Goodbye, Hakoda.
Hakoda No ... no ... NO!
Malina I LOVE YOU!
As Malina falls away, Katara watches with horror, tears in the corner of her eyes. As her mother's betrothal necklace shines in the light, a determined expression appears on her face, and she leaps from the ladder, bending a stream of ice for herself to slide on. She manages to get beneath Malina, catching her as she falls, but the impact causes the ice stream to shatter under Katara's feet. She quickly bends a new stream, heading straight for the side of the chasm.
Malina Whoa!
Both women slide down the stream and crash into the side of the chasm with grunts of pain but are otherwise unharmed.
Malina I -- I'm alive! Katara ... thank you.
Katara [Smiling.] ... Yeah, don't mention it.
Elsewhere, Aang and Hakoda fly up to the side of the chasm, as Sokka, watching the scene with Toph and Zuko, waves to his sister.

The scene skips forward in time to the next morning, where Katara and Sokka are stood in a deserted area of the south pole.

Sokka Go on, sis. Say what you need to say.
Katara [After a few moments of silence.] You know, when Sokka and I finally came back, I was hoping to find a home where everything's how it's supposed to be. But I realize now, that just isn't possible. Because a home where everything's how its supposed to be -- [The frame moves around to reveal that Katara and Sokka are standing at Kya's grave.] -- is a home with you still in it, Mom. Yesterday, I had to save this woman named Malina. You've never met her. She's different from you -- really different -- but I have a feeling you would have liked her. When I saved her, I felt a courage deep inside, a familiar sort of courage. I'd felt it before when I fought Azula. And when I saved Aang as we left the crystal catacombs. And when Admiral Zhao killed the moon spirit and we had to bring it back. That was your courage, Mom. The courage you passed onto me. [The frame moves behind her and Sokka.] Things are still changing here. I haven't yet convinced Dad and Malina to not build that oil refinery. And the protesters haven't gone away. [The frame moves out to show Aang, Siku, and Sura standing a short distance away from Katara and Sokka.] But through it all, I don't have to keep hoping for what's "supposed to be"...because you've been with me all along.
As he listens to Katara's speech, Aang looks at her from behind with a warm smile. Sokka looks around and notices him and the other two, and gives them a smile before waving them over.
Sokka Guys, come over!
Aang You sure? We don't want to intrude.
Katara You're not intruding!
Aang jogs over, while Siku and Sura follow behind him at a slower pace. Once the group is all together, Katara turns to Siku and Sura.
Katara Sura, Siku, I want you to meet my mom.
Siku [Downcast.] Wait, so she's ...?
Katara No longer with us.
Siku That's so sad! We're so sorry, Katara!
Sura So sorry!
Katara [Kneeling in front of the two.] My mom was a brave and beautiful woman. Just like your mom, she wanted to keep her children safe. You see, when I was little, the Fire Nation invaded our village. I still remember it ... they really were like monsters. They came to wipe southern-style waterbending off the face of the earth, and I was the south pole's last waterbender. [The frame centers on Katara's face, set in sad expression.] My mom sacrificed herself to keep me alive. And not just me. [Standing up and looking into the distance with a hopeful smile.] She died to make sure our way of bending has a chance to survive into the future. Sura and Siku, I think that's why your mom sent you here. She wants you to be a part of this tradition that my mom helped save.
Having heard her words, Siku and Sura clench their fists and turn to look at each other with eager expressions.
Siku Well if that's the case ...
Sura ... then let's show her what we can do!
Siku and Sura bend two rings of water that surround a large ball of water above Kya's grave. Katara clasps her hands together and watches the display with a look of joy, while Aang and Sokka look at it with smiles.

The next panel shows the outside of Gran-Gran's hut, as her voice can be heard from inside.

Gran-Gran I'm telling you Pakku, this isn't right!
The scene moves inside the hut, where we see Gran-Gran, Pakku, Hakoda, Malina, Bosco, and Kuei sitting around a cooking fire in the center of the hut. Gran-Gran is looking annoyed at the proceedings.
Gran-Gran I'm just not used to having other people in my kitchen!
Pakku Oh, for just one meal, relax and enjoy yourself!
Hakoda He's right, Gran-Gran. The kids want to serve you. Let them serve you!
Bosco lets out a growl, and Kuei turns to look at him.
Kuei Yes, Bosco, I very much agree. The warmth and care of the folks down here? This is just about the highest form of civilization there is!
Sokka, Aang, Katara, Toph, and Zuko enter the room, each of the latter four carrying a food dish from their respective culture.
Aang Hope you're all hungry, because we've put together quite a feast!
Over the next four panels, Aang, Katara, Toph, and Zuko each present their dishes.
Aang Steamed tofu!
Katara Northern-style seaweed stew!
Toph Braised turtle-duck!
Zuko Extra-spicy fire noodles!
Sokka [Licking his lips in anticipation.] Mmm, this all smells so good! Less talking, more eating!
The final panel shows the group all eating and enjoying the meal together, while interacting with one another: Malina laughs while looking at a smiling Hakoda; Katara feeds Aang tofu; Pakku bends a stream of tea into his cup as Gran-Gran watches him fondly; Sokka attempts to steal food from Toph, who holds her plate out of his reach with a toothy grin; Kuei cuddles Bosco, who looks at Zuko, who looks back slightly nervously.



"North and South Part Two"

"North and South Part Three"

"Imbalance Part One"

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See also