The Line

Quick Note: This story is completely AU. I will however be taking some facts from the new episodes of Avatar as they come out. For those of you wondering, this story was inspired by the music of Gundam Wing and The Thin Red Line.

Training had been boring, monotonous, almost useless in Toro's mind. Once it had been discovered that he like most every other Fire Nation soldier was not a "prodigy", they were shipped off to basic training.

There they were given just that, the basics. Basic fire bending, basic attacks, basic stances, basic attitudes. Shut your mouth and soldier on! Basic.

Toro was a lanky thing, built like a withered tree come winter time. His hair was dead flat and had hung over his eyes before the Fire Nation Army recruiters demanded he slit it off. Now possessing nothing but a fuzzy lair of black hair, Toro had only his wily and constantly shifting eyes to light his face.

While true, he had bulked up a bit due to the training and lack of eating, Toro was still scrawnier than most of his fellow soldiers. But he was taller than average and so avoided the requisite bullying that new recruits usually received based solely on his height and "don't give no damn" attitude.

At the recruiters office for the Fire Nation Army, when Toro was in line behind a particularly nationalistic recruit, he heard this:

"Why do you want to be recruited for the Fire Nation Army?" the recruiter asked, as if no one with half a brain realized that "recruitment" was code for "draft" just as "Army" was slang for "meat to be crushed by rocks and drowned at sea".

"To serve the Fire Nation, the Greatest Nation on the face of the planet! And to perpetuate that greatness for history and all time to come!" the new recruit said. He was built well, muscular, handsome, looked like a younger Firelord Ozai, he would be a fine soldier. Toro considered stabbing him right there with the dagger he carried.

"Good solider, good," the recruiter said with a satisfied yet firm look on his face. "Next!"

Toro sauntered up. Immediately the recruiter took a visible dislike to him. His dirty and ragged clothes were a dead giveaway as to his class, as in he had none. Toro's father was a blade smith and not a particularly good one, in fact Toro suspected that the knife he had hitched to his belt (that his father had fashioned for him) would break the second he used it.

"Why are you here?" the recruiter spat out as he looked up from his seating position into Toro's face. Toro blinked and looked around at the scads and scads of future soldiers each giving their own individual but all patriotic answers to the question.

"I want to set some people on fire, a lot of people." Toro said, dead serious. The recruiter smirked.

"Good luck." he said as he handed Toro his recruitment scroll. Though the way he said good luck sounded more like an insult than anything else.

So, Toro had proceeded into basic training, had made no friends, but was witness to the stunning rise of one solider. Ishi Yamanaka. A man as old as he was, yet so much more than he was. Ishi had everything: prodigal fire bending talents, a noble lineage that stretched back thousands of years, money, a rumor that he would possibly be in line to marry into the Fire Nation Royal Family. Toro felt nothing towards him. Not hate, not jealously. Honestly, Toro just wanted to screw something, why couldn't these training camps be uni-gender?

Toro had just completed his basic training for the day and was sitting on a simple bench. Drenched in sweat, he removed the requisite masked helmet that all low ranking Fire Nation soldiers were ordered to wear. Sitting there, he was content to pant in solitude as his weak body began to recover from the training, but this was not to be.

"Hello!" came a voice.

Toro weakly looked up. It was the nationalist. The man who had stood in front of him in the recruitment line.

"…hello?" Toro asked more as a question than as any kind of greeting.

"How does the day greet you soldier?" he asked, a broad smile crossed across his face as he puffed his chest out. Toro could quickly see why. He had just been promoted.

"It greets me well…sir." Toro said, too tired to stand. He didn't have to as he then sat down.

"Please, call me Hiro," the nationalist said as he sat down next to Toro. "Hey, I recognize you…you were with me in the recruitment line weren't you?" he asked.

"Uh…yes I guess I was." Toro responded. As he did he also wondered how in the hell this man could be so chipper and energetic after such a rigorous fire bending training session. He was barely sweating!

"You had…quite the interesting response to the question if I recall…" Hiro said.

"Uh, thank you sir, uh, Hiro." Toro responded.

"Listen to me…" Hiro paused.

"Toro." Toro said.

"Toro, I've just been made squad leader, and we're about to go out on task, on assignment, you know?" Hiro said.

Toro couldn't begin to imagine where this was going.

"Yes, sir?" Toro asked.

"We're going to the Southern Earth Kingdom jungles, going to get the drop on a few old strongholds that the Fire Lord doesn't want giving our troops any trouble in the future," Hiro paused for breath. "The reason I'm telling you this is because I want you to be there with me."

Toro blinked. What could this possibly mean? This nationalist was inviting him, a scum sucking private (not even a PFC!) to go out on assignment with him.

"Uh, sir…"

"You're different Toro, and I like that, I need that. Say you'll come?" Hiro asked, looking straight into his eyes.

Toro was a grunt. Yet another in a long line of faceless fire benders who had enough mind to summon fire to kill and take simple orders that included just that. His life expectancy in the field was zero. His only hope for a legacy would be to have screwed a woman before hand and gotten her pregnant with his inferior seed. Toro knew what awaited him. Death by earth or death by water.

"Yes sir." Toro responded. He would embrace death in whatever form it would take.

"Good, with you and Ishe on my squad, we can-" Hiro was interrupted by the sounding of a gong.

All of the sudden, fire nation grunts and career soldiers were dropping whatever they were doing and running in the same direction.

"What's going on, you soldier?" Hiro asked a passing grunt.

"It's the Avatar sir, we just got word, he's dead!" at this, Hiro got to his feet. Toro could only stare up at him.

"For the fire nation," Hiro muttered with a patriots' smile augmenting the sun shining down on his face. Stuck in the accompanying shadow, Toro stared blankly. Then, with little inclination, he snapped his fingers together and lit a small flame.

"Death." he whispered, squelching the flame in his fist.

-To Be Continued.