Disclaimer: Avatar: The Last Airbender is the brainchild of Michael Dante DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko and is owned by Viacom. I own none of the characters in this story. If I did, I wouldn't be posting it on a fanfiction site, after all . . . they are all lovingly used without permission. This story is written solely for my personal amusement (and posted for the amusement of others) and to keep the crazy idea from boring a hole in my head, so I can get on with my life. I make no profit from this other than peace of mind!
Forgotten Ones: Lieutenant Jee
"Lieutenant Jee, you stand accused of conspiracy, desertion in the face of the enemy, disobedience to your commanding officer, dereliction of duty, aiding and abetting a known exile and criminal of the Fire Nation, aiding and abetting a known traitor to the Fire Nation, sedition, and treason. How do you plead?"
The grey-haired, stone-faced lieutenant stood and appraised the crowd of his court-martial. It was presided over by a panel of nine superior officers, the highest ranked serving as a judge. The audience behind him was mostly composed of junior officers and conscripts. This was a monkey-trial meant to scare the rest, presenting an example. The charges were trumped up, and the punishment would be even worse. Jee hated being made an example of, but he wouldn't dishonor himself further by lying about it.
"Do you realize your error and vow to serve the Firelord in all aspects of your life once more, lieutenant?" the commanding officer, a new admiral addressed him again.
Were they really going to let him off that easy? Vow allegiance to the Firelord once again and all is forgiven? Perhaps this trial wasn't meant as just a scare-tactic. That was surprising, but Jee supposed the Fire Navy was a little tight for officers after the admiral's devastating failure at the North Pole a month ago. It was Jee's very actions that made sure he was alive for this offer, after all.
The lieutenant took a deep, steadying breath, schooling his features with hard-earned control. "I made no error, sir. The decisions I made in turning my ship away from the invasion saved the lives of my crew and shipmates when the battle was already lost. I stand by my actions in that regard. As for the other matter," Jee paused and made eye contact with the current admiral, the current judge and ten years his junior, yet filling the space of the late Zhao. He wanted to punch the man for being a fool, but his words would have to do, "When I accepted my previous assignment over three years ago, I also accepted exile alongside the Fire Prince. He since earned my deepest respect and highest regard, and there is only one man I will serve now. My allegiance remains with Prince Zuko of the Fire Nation . . . sir."
The entire room went silent for a few seconds in the same shock apparent on the panel's faces, and then the murmuring erupted. It turned deafening before the admiral recovered enough to bang his polished metal gavel on the desk in front of him. "Order, order!"
The room quieted again, but Jee's eyes had never left the face of the admiral. He was studying him, waiting for the ultimate reaction to his public defiance, even though the statement would likely never officially leave this room. He hoped Zuko would eventually hear about it, though, and know that somewhere, someone could still be loyal to a good man, and that that man was Zuko himself.
"Your defiant words only underline your treason, lieutenant. The prince is a wanted man, in exile and rejected from the line of succession. You do yourself no favors by declaring loyalty to an outcast," warned the admiral. Wow, he was trying to give Jee every chance he could, wasn't he?
"There is no substitute for the truth, admiral, and it would be wrong to answer in any other fashion."
The admiral closed his eyes, as if to berate Jee for being an idiot. He looked around at his fellows on the panel, some of which were shaking their heads. "Then this court has no alternative but to find Lieutenant Jee guilty on all counts. He will be dishonorably discharged and imprisoned until this court determines a proper sentence. This court is now adjourned."
The mumbling arose again, and Jee let out another calming breath as he was escorted from the courtroom. His was only the first of several trials that day, all of soldiers who had fled the defeat at the North Pole, whether it was before or after the ocean spirit had arrived in his glowing blue glory, aided by the Avatar. When the moon had gone black, dread had overwhelmed him, and he'd ordered the ship to turn around. By the time the ocean spirit capsized the rest of the fleet, Jee's ship was well out of reach of the main onslaught. His only regret was not being able to wait for the landing party to return before they retreated.
Out of thousands of ships, the surviving vessels numbered in the double digits. Everyone who survived was either prisoner of the Northern Water Tribe by now or facing court-martial from the Fire Nation. One thing had been made perfectly clear to Jee: Zhao had been a power-mad imbecile and anyone who trusted him had to be insane or stupid.
And that included Firelord Ozai.
Unfortunately, he'd said as much, as well, gaining him the dubious honor of treason added to his laundry list of offences. The rest of the survivors would probably just get a slap on the wrist and be sent on their way to the navy outside the Earth Kingdom, judging by the hand extended to Jee. He'd have none of it, though. He was tired of fighting, tired of this war, tired of orders from people he didn't respect. Now the only two superiors he did respect were rumored to be on the run through the Earth Kingdom. At least they were alive, so there was hope.
How he wished he could join them.
Seven months later . . .
There was some commotion through the prison, that much Jee could tell. The middle-aged but still steel-gray haired old soldier stood in his cell as the warden approached. "The day of your formal sentencing has come, former Lieutenant Jee," the snively little man sneered as he peered through the bars.
"It's about time," Jee shot back, "I know there's a war going on, and all, but why make a man wait so long for his punishment? The court-martial was over half a year ago!"
The warden's face contorted in confusion for a little bit, but he quickly regained his composure as a sly look crossed his face, "Oh, I see, you don't know."
"Don't know what?" the former officer asked suspiciously.
"I guess you wouldn't be up to date on current events being stuck in this hole, would you?"
"What current events?" Jee could tell that the warden had figured out some other sick little game to torment him. The little man seemed to take a sadistic pleasure from taunting his charges, especially when they were usually as stoic as Jee.
"Well, for starters, there was a shift in command just after your trial. The new admiral in command of this fleet decided that sentencing for dishonorable officers and traitors wasn't worth his time, so he promptly forgot about it, shuffling it to the bottom of his duties," the warden stated, matter-of-factly. His tone was too smug, though, and Jee could tell there was more to it than that. When the man didn't immediately let the other shoe drop and just stood there smirking, Jee finally prompted him.
"And? What made the admiral remember?"
"Oh, just a visit from the Firelord himself."
Jee's blood ran cold, "The Firelord?" he blurted in disbelief, "Visiting here?"
"My, you're a fast one, Jee."
"But this is a base in occupied Earth Kingdom lands! The Firelord wouldn't come here unless . . ." the man stopped himself, not sure whether to be elated or fearful of the answer.
"The war is over, Jee," the warden finished, "It ended over a month ago, and the Firelord is coming to oversee the sentencing of derelicts such as yourself."
This news certainly didn't bode well. Firelord Ozai was not known for his understanding or mercy. Quite the opposite, in fact. Jee had been expecting to eventually hear that he'd be moved to a larger facility for his incarceration (though he doubted his "crimes" were serious enough to warrant a place like the Boiling Rock), but with the Firelord overseeing the sentencing, probably the best he could hope for was a swift death.
"His ship is due to arrive later this morning. You've got an appointment with the barber right now," said the warden as his key turned in the lock of Jee's cell, "Can't have you looking like a wooly rhino-eel for the Firelord, can we?"