Author's Notes: Hey every, I am so sorry that it has been so long since I updated. I hope that this will make up for it. As always I own nothing.
"Crying is all right in its way while it lasts. But you have to stop sooner or later, and then you still have to decide what to do." ― C.S. Lewis, The Silver Chair
Akemi turned from announcing the abandonment of Lu Ten and stared at the remaining members of the party which had come with her. On their faces were looks which Akemi was sure matched her own; a mixture of anger, regret and weariness. She turned to one of the naval officers, the one who appeared to be the most senior of the group and the one most likely to be able to answer her question.
"Can we make it to the Song of Fire?" The man moved to the view port and gazed out the shattered glass, gauging the distance to the other Fire Nation ship. After a moment he shook his head in a despondent fashion.
"I fear not ma'am. The damage is slowing us and the enemy ships will be able to get between us and the Song of Fire." Akemi nodded glumly. It would be in accordance with the ill fortune which they had been experiencing since the battle had begun. After a moment she shook her head and attempted to shake off the gloom which threatened to engulf her. She remembered what her great-uncle Iroh had once said.
"One can never find the end of a difficult road if one refuses to walk it." At the time she had not really been paying attention, it was just one more of his numerous sayings which sounded wise but did not really seem relevant, or even understandable. Now; however, it seemed quite applicable and highly unwelcome. A difficult decision had to be made and it was up to her, as the most senior officer still capable of leading, to make it. She turned back to the crewmembers, who stood awaiting her commands and fixed her gaze on the officer she had been speaking to and two petty officers who appeared to be the next highest-ranking survivors.
"Take some men and collect as many wounded as possible and get them to the lifeboats. Ten minutes, no more." Both of them nodded, they understood what that meant. There was no way that they could search the entire ship in ten minutes and it was death for those who they failed to locate. One of the crew looked uncomfortable, clearly wanting to speak, but afraid to. Akemi nodded towards the woman, signaling that she had permission to speak.
"What of the dead?" Akemi knew the answer to that and she suspected that the others knew the answer as well, but that did not mean that they were comfortable with it.
In the Fire Nation the dead were burned on funeral pyres, freeing their souls to ascend to Agni. Failure to burn the bodies would hinder that ascension. To cover the bodies with water, their opposite element was unthinkable in normal circumstances. Some said that to do so would deny the dead any chance to reach Agni. Akemi was not sure that that last one was true, but she had to admit it made her uneasy. However; she knew that she had to say something that would reassure them or there was the possibility that some would refuse to leave the dead behind.
"It cannot be helped, there is no time. But I swear to you all my father, Fire Lord and Agni incarnate, shall, on the anniversary of this day every year, offer prayers for their souls and when I ascend the throne I shall do so as well." This seemed to satisfy them, or at least pacify them for the time being, as they departed to carry out the orders that they had been given.
Akemi went to the speaking tubes and repeated her orders and pledge, all the while praying that the rest of the crew heard and obeyed her orders. That done and not being able to do anything else she began to make her way to the lifeboats herself. She joined a group of the crew, including the ship's doctor, as they made their way towards the lifeboats. Spirits streaked towards them, but Akemi drove them off, her new flames as strong as before. However; the initial joy was now gone, replaced by the knowledge that the ship was lost and the steps that she had taken to save those that she could. During the first attack these negative feelings had affected her bending and the first wave of spirits nearly got to the wounded and they were only beaten back by the efforts of several members of the crew and the ship's marine contingent.
That incident embarrassed and enraged Akemi found herself using more and more of her anger to fuel her bending. She knew that her parents would not approve of what she was doing, but they were not here and it was working, that was all that mattered at the moment. It also, strangely, made her feel better. She felt the guilt at the decisions she had made curl inside her and she felt anger and yes, even hatred, both for the spirits and those who served them. Even for herself, for leaving both the bodies and souls of those under her command to death and peril. Wrapped around it all was the half-belief that she could have somehow done better. By giving into her rage and lashing out at her enemies she was able, at least temporarily, to drive those feelings of guilt and uncertainty away.
At last they made it to the lifeboats and she tried to hide her dismay at how many were missing from the ship's complement. She turned to one of the petty officers. To her chagrin she found that she did not know the man's name. An officer and a future monarch should know the names of those who serve them, her father had always said so. Still, there was no time for that now.
"Get these boats lowered! Wounded in first, divided them up and make sure each boat has enough able bodies to man them. Have a bender in each boat to use their abilities to act as propulsion for them."
"Ma'am," one of the marines interposed; "We could put the wounded in some of the boats and use the rest to attack the enemy ships." There were some mutterings of agreement from those present.
She wanted to agree, by Agni she wanted to, but she had to look at the bigger picture. Any efforts against warships, or even regular ships, with just boats was risky in the extreme. They would be under attack the whole time from both benders and missile troops and the boats were not designed to take the kind of damage which could result. Even if they were to make to the ships they no means to climb up the sides of the ships and finally there was the fact that they would be outnumbered. So, reluctantly, she shook her head.
"We are not in a position to conduct such an operation. We need to regroup with the rest of the fleet if we are to be able to face the enemy effectively. Now get into the boats." She stood aside and she and the other senior survivors supervised the others as they loaded the wounded into the boats and then got on themselves. She pointedly ignored the surreptitious looks that the more belligerent crewmembers were giving her, but she saw them and knew their meaning. Coward.
At last they were all loaded and the boats were lowered. They were able to load them all despite the fact that many of the boats had been destroyed or damaged. Unfortunately that meant that they had less than half the crew with them. They got away just in time, as they began to pull away from the ship it finally began to slip beneath the waves. As it did so sounds drifted over the water which tore at all their souls.
It's just the sounds of the ship sinking. Akemi told herself, not being able to look and hating herself for it. It's just the sounds of the ship sinking. But she knew the truth, they all did.
It was the cries of those they could not save.
Author's Notes: Hey everyone, well that got dark. I did not intend for it to turn out like this, but there it is. I wanted to show the difference between her and Zokar. Zokar is a soldier and can be seen as a hero, while Akemi has to make difficult decisions, including restraining the more violent impulses of her people, and live with the consequences. You can also see some of the negative consequences illustrated in this chapter. Till next time, please pray for the victims of the London mosque attack and all who need prayer. Bye and may Jesus bless you.