Zuko scanned through the data base for what felt like the zillionth time since he had first been given the information.
"They're calling it the Avatar." The researcher had said as he traded the small drive for the galaxy credits Zuko offered, over half the allowance given to him every year for supplies and crew wages. His ship had not been well maintained that cycle, and his men and he had lived off sparse barely edible rations. He had given them the best of it, as well as scarcely docked pay, if only to keep from mutiny.
"What, you mean like somebody possessed by a god?" he had asked, incredulous, the man gave him a look that said he was an idiot and left. Zuko had no answer to his questions but for the hope that the disc held the information he needed.
The mathematical calculations from the Cyberdroid's home world was erratic, no matter how narrowed the field was the options were always in the millions. They could factor in everything from planetary alignments to meteor showers, but they just couldn't put a number on chance. It would take several lifetimes to search every probably path and destination.
He had needed some kind of help, nothing in the moon colonies had given them any indication of coordinates, he needed witnesses, more he needed witnesses who would talk to him.
Not easy considering the thing stretched across the sky a hundred years ago, more or less if you go by a planets personal timeline, and when he asked all he got were cold glares and frightened faces. One time he was even spat at! So he decided to hire an interplanetary detective, a real scholarly type, to pose as a world traveler researching this flying object.
And found a path drawn through the stars.
The Avatar, it was like some sign from their primitive gods. Of course these barbarians wouldn't understand a space ship unless it landed, they looked to the heavens for guidance and out of nowhere this bright light crosses their sky.
So when the stories traveled that the evil conquerors were looking for an object that may have flown by, they were curious. Why would the devils want to destroy something unless it could be used against them? Rumors flew, the truth was discovered and then distorted, until finally there came the conclusion that this thing, this Avatar, would be their savior.
It had landed on a planet, but nobody knew which, and some even claimed to have seen it when it had not traveled anywhere near that solar system. Generations passed, and the rumor became legend, became prophecy, became hope. The Avatar became more than just their savior, it became their god. Images of the Cyberdroids were copied from wanted posters that his people had tacked up in every sector, statues were built of these mysterious mechanical creatures, worshipers flocked to places said to have been visited by these deities.
And everybody waited for the day the last of them would return.
Zuko traced a finger through the map of the stars, outlining his course. He had hoped to have encountered the crash site years ago, and had prayed that it had not landed in a sun, he needed evidence of his discovery to bring back. He believed, truly believed the Cyberdroids were so advanced that they would have had no problem picking a course that would save their little pod and carry it to safety, but gravitational pulls and electrical interference were so wildly erratic between the systems and stars that even he had trouble steering his well manned ship along this path. It was hard not to have some doubts.
The Avatar was a fitting name in the end, because an avatar is one that embodies an idea, an impression, a reason. The Avatar was their hope, and he was Zuko's as well.
So Zuko studied the charts and data, the Cyberdroid's blueprints and motorized makeup, and prepared for the day he would have to take this creature, or creatures down.
And prayed the day would come, because if it didn't, he just didn't know what to do.
"Tea?" Iroh settled down next to his nephew with a pot and two cups. Zuko glanced at it, but lifted a mug of strong coffee in his hand as rejection. His uncle scrunched his nose at the cup in disproval, but didn't say anything. He had exhausted all his arguments against Zuko swallowing down that tar, and no matter what the boy claimed he could never find the taste appealing.
To him, it was like drinking mud. No matter what 'flavors' Zuko claimed to have in his possession.
They sat in silence for a time, each enjoying the fading burn of the exercise they had done only a few minutes ago. Iroh had found that after such rigorous training Zuko didn't mind a quiet moment of relaxation, and the crew felt content to laze around as well knowing the prince wouldn't snap at them for doing nothing when there was nothing to do.
He had a habit of finding detail work when he was frustrated and edgy. The last time he had caught someone taking a nap after completing his duties and before he was off shift Zuko had made the crewmen shut down the waste disposal pipes and sent the man out to scrub the sewage from the conduits.
They made sure to look busy at all times, and retired to the center of the ship when they were off duty.
Unlike most older ships that had to have the command center at the bow with enormous windows to see the space around them the Old Soldier was a retired war ship with the heart of operations buried in the belly behind yards of thick armor and machinery. It was almost a ship in itself, and though it couldn't be ejected it had a forty percent chance of surviving when the rest of the ship blew up, even a self destruct.
Aside from the escape pods, this was possibly the safest place to be if you wanted to stay alive, and had become the hangout for the crew when there was nothing to do. Which was frequent on this journey.
Zuko was pulled from his internal musings by an intelligible shout, glancing up from the charts he stared across the main viewing area.
"Sir!" the man who had 'eeped' addressed him, fingers flying across the display before him as words scrolled by too fast for the prince to read from the distance he was. He jumped and was halfway across the room in moments, others had also risen and looked over the man's shoulder. "There is a disturbance in the water, almost looks like seismic activity."
"But the nearest underwater peak is on the other side of the planet, and much deeper down then that." Came the planetary expert's reply.
"Well, maybe you wanna tell the huge geyser that just shot up outta the water that." Retorted another crewman who had taken over monitoring the view screen when the person assigned had darted over to see the data.
Zuko pushed his way over to the screen and watched as a twenty foot rocket of water shot into the air below them. "Is there any explanation for this?" he demanded and the two crew members in charge of these things, the bioscan monitor, and the planetary expert, looked at their data, then at each other, then turned back to him and shook their heads.
"It must be him." He said firmly, hoping against all odds that he was right. He HAD to be right. His hands pressed against the sides of the images twitched and turned white from the pressure.
Sokka was trembling. He had his weapon out, a collapsible spear with a large sharpened scale at the tip, and was pointing it out towards the monstrosity in front of him. His sister stood behind him, fingers on his shoulders and eyes peeking out to watch the creature. She didn't seem to be as scared as he was, but she was behind the fleshy shield that was his body so Sokka didn't feel shame in his constant need to suppress an undignified scream.
It was difficult to really take in everything about the creature in front of them. It seemed at a loss now that it was out of the berg, as if it were wondering what to do. It moved around itself and the water like an eel but with more moving appendages that an octoshrimp. It picked at the water and shoved its front legs into its mouth, there had to be a dozen of them, like it was tasting the particles.
When it had seemed to find the immediate area thoroughly experienced it moved, and he found him and his sister once again shoved around by the force of the current its movement caused. It was HUGE! It picked at the ice of the shattered outer walls of its prison, shoveling invisible things into its mandibles, an array of gears and lights and things they just couldn't name. They had never seen anything like it. Even the insides of the sunken ships they had explored as children weren't so advanced looking.
"It must be something from 'them'" Sokka snarled, his spear moving in the water as he spoke. Katara knew who he referred to, but she didn't think she agreed with him.
"I don't know Sokka." She told her brother.
"What do you mean?" he voice cracked in a fashion she was used to, "They're back, and now this THING is here. Where else could it have come from?"
"It looks…too animal." She reasoned, slipping out from behind her brother to swim forward.
"Katara!" Sokka yelled and grabbed his sister's arm.
The sound of his shout vibrated in the liquid around them and caused the creature to turn from its scratching at the ice. Both siblings let out gasps of fright as, in seconds, the thing was in front of them, water pushing at and swirling around them.
Sokka's eye twitched and a whimper choked in his vocals but Katara, though fearful, stayed still and silent in front of the machine.
It studied her through large eyes she had not noticed before and reached out with a single metal appendage to touch at her hair, Sokka clenched his spear and tensed to fight but his sister's hand in his squeezed in warning, he was prepared but stayed still. If this thing tried to hurt his sister…
Almost too quick to see, it yanked back its extended arm and brought it up to the opening she had assumed was its mouth. A light sting told her one of her hairs had been pulled and she opened her mouth is wonder as it set the strand on a device that pulled it into the insides of the creature. Was it…tasting her?
A few tense moments and the thing moved to the back of them. Like a shark circling the two it swam three times, sometimes climbing onto the ice to the side of them. They were too frightened, too apprehensive, to move, but turned and followed it with their eyes. It settled behind Sokka and he let out a yipe, shoulders bunched and fingers digging into his sister's arm. Several metal limbs went out to touch at some of the weapons he had strapped to his back, it removed an L shaved item and he spun, hand reaching out to snatch it back.
"HEY! That's mine!" it paused with the item right in front of the opening, considering him with illuminated eyes. It pulled the item back from the conveyor belt that would have picked the thing apart down to its molecular structure for analyzation and regarded it with its outer senses.
It was worn, with scratches and abrasions, made of the bone of some type of native animal. It's programming hummed with the want to know; the why's and how's, and most importantly the knowledge of the species the article came from. It could pick out the information from its databanks and add whatever new facts it unearthed.
But the image points his sensors were picking up from the male native in front of it was contradicting his programming, telling him that proceeding with the processing of the item would cause distress to this creature, psychological and emotional changes that would hinder it in future data gathering. Magnification of his facial features, changes in his body stance, spikes in scent and internal readings told it every second the object remained in its possession the being's anxiety leapt.
Resolving to find a different way to satisfy its programming it returned the item to the boy who, after a startled moment of terror, snatched the thing back and hugged it to his chest. The machine watched this display of love towards an inanimate object with curiosity and reconciled that destroying the object would not have been the best course and made note to take care around personal effects in the future.
"It gave it back." Katara said, and Sokka nodded. "I don't think it's something they made." They glanced at each other.
"You think maybe they're looking for it?" Sokka asked, suddenly not wanting to leave the creature alone to its little scavenger hunt.
"I think whatever brought those aliens back here, we have to keep them from finding this. Whether they're looking for it or not."
Cautiously they moved towards the being who was gazing as them with unblinking eyes.
He had regained cognitive functions but his internals had been flooded with salt water and ice crystals were beginning to form. His outer shell, his ship, had been built to specifics allowing it to survive submerged and in any temperature, however his manufacture had been more delicate, more intricate, and more vulnerable. He flailed an appendage but found with all his efforts he could only move inches. The weight of millions, perhaps billions, of water weighed down his compressed body. His gears were jamming, he couldn't shift, his psycotronics struggled to function, only his central was completely protected in its watertight armor, slowly filtering sparse data still functioning extremities sent.
He tried to give commands to his limbs, sent messages to his core, but the damage previously sustained on impact won't allow complete control. He feels the water inside him and it is cold, he wishes he could access the terminal but trying to brute force had resulted in a blackout and the need to reboot.
His personal memories are inadequate, as he is only recently activated, running purely on programs that have long since been corrupted by evolved coding. Had he access to his people's knowledge he could fix the problems and better himself, but he needed to be at full capacity to adequately hack the security, and if he were at full capacity he would be able to simply enter a proper command and the security would open for him. He was like a serpent devouring his own tail, probing and initiating internal commands to try and keep his central functioning while the rest of his shell fell into an involuntary stasis.
Weightless and immobile he settled onto the seafloor, scaring away many marine creatures who had not noticed his descent to the blackened depths. Gears in his central whirred and whined as they tried to shift lenses to view the outer world in the darkness, but ice crystals and seawater silt jammed the cogs. He was left in murky night.
One hundred years of fighting to initiate the revival of his psycotronics and regain the life he had nearly lost in the crash, and this was how he would live on in the universe? Stationary beneath miles and miles of waves?
Somehow it didn't seem fair.
The water that had been disturbed by the geyser began to still, ripples still lapped at fractured ice and airbubbles still broke the surface. The color was greenish black, indicating a depth the crew didn't want to think about. They had a submersible that could travel to the bottom of the deepest trench in this and many other planets provided no living organism sensitive to heavy pressure was inside, but it was in poor repair and in no way a match for a struggle with a Cyberdroid.
"The coast is too rocky to land close sir." His planetary expert warned, it was true, with high tides that flung smaller ice-blocks onto the frozen peaks. Zuko would rather it be made of rock, at least then he would have been able to simply drop a team and set up the submersible.
The indicators labeled the temperature at minus thirty-seven degrees Celsius, they would already have to gear up heavily, and large crevices made from lateral forces where ice moved several inches a day could swallow a person whole. Being so far below zero meant any exposed skin would get frostbite in a minute, and a high temperature species like theirs needed to remain at at-least ten above zero, five minutes in the exposure and they were in danger of losing anatomy.
Miles after miles of grey ice stretched out in every direction and there was nowhere to land, he was so close!
"Remember, there isn't a lot of oxygen here." His expert had told him when he was readying himself to leave the ship before they even had a place to set down. Everybody knew he'd be in a bad mood when he was impatient, and so let him to his preparations, those off duty at the moment began prepping other gear for those chosen to go inland, whether it was them or not. "And the gravity is a bit heavier. But the insulation in your suit should be enough to keep you alive and as long as you breathe through your mask and not the air directly there is little chance of your lunges freezing."
"I found a clearing!" a crewman shouted from near the screen. "And it's close to the source of activity!"
Zuko was going to triple that man's wages.
"Why is that area clear of sheers and debris?" he uncle wondered.
"Probably from another ship. Some of those older models ride super heated air beneath their hulls from boosters, I've seen some areas where rock has been completely fused together from the landing." The man explained as he checked data. "It's compressed too, so it probably was a very heavy ship, maybe a research team here to collect more specimens for dissection, I also heard there was going to be a zoo of some kind back home where you could see the aliens without paying some hideous fee to a travel agent."
"Taking all those people from their home worlds could be dangerous." Iroh mused.
"I heard they have great security, not likely any would escape and hurt the cities near the zoos." The general looked at the crewman, but didn't continue the conversation further. It wouldn't do to point out that his presumption was false.
Iroh just knew what it was like to miss a home world was all.
"Set her down." Zuko ordered the helmsman, "And you," he pointed to the planetary expert, "Round up whoever's best in shape for this mission, we need our top if we're going to drag that thing up."
Having given his orders, he marched off to ready the submersible, already feeling the shift and settling of the Old Soldier as it was steered over the area for landing.
"They set down a while ago." The child said, wiping his arm across his face where the scope had irritated his facial scales. Sokka took the optic and gazed through; watching as a team of bulky aliens surrounded a large object, like a smaller ship, that was slowly making its way over the ramp to the grey ice of the walrus-crab's nesting area.
"Those monsters don't even realize they're in the middle of the most dangerous terrain on this glacier." Sokka commented. The slab of melted ice had always been there, since before his grandmother's birth, and the walrus-crabs, a large portion of his people's diet, had long since made it their nursery, though they did migrate to other food sources this area was their frequent home.
"Guess it's lucky their out feeding on the sculptures to the south huh?" Katara said behind him and the following groan of noise echoing her words made everybody jump.
"Katara!" Sokka yelled, his pubescent voice cracking halfway through to make a screech. "I thought you two were going to wait in the caves with Grandma and the other girls?" the other person besides herself being the large mechanized creature shifting from foot to foot behind her, nose, at least they assumed it was a nose, to the ground to find every bit of information in the ground around them.
Katara fumed at the girl comment but let it slide. "It was getting restless with nothing but the caves to study, and I figured the ice cliffs were large enough and thick enough that we could hide." One of the kids laughed as it 'nibbled' at his hair and picked out a few tiny parasites. "and it's fast enough to get under water if we're spotted."
She was right, for its bulk the thing was very fast, even with the water slowing it, it out swam them.
Sokka's eye twitched as the thing moved on to another child, finding no organism's on this specimen's head it settled for cataloging it's differing shade of eye color and the strange patter it's scales followed. "Okay, but keep it away from my scouts, you're interrupting delicate reconnaissance."
Katara snorted, one of his 'scouts' lowered his telescope to pick his nose. Noticing her attention he quickly dropped his hands and hid them behind his back, a trail of snot connecting his nostril to his chin
"Come on big guy," she pat the flank of the enormous automaton and led it over to a mineral deposit she figured might keep it still for a time.
Sokka watched them move then settled back into the snow and watched the enemy. They had begun melting the ice and were heading in the direction of the water. "They're almost right where we were earlier." Sokka mused. "maybe they are looking for that thing."
If they were, it would be dangerous to hide it, but it may also be more dangerous to hand it over. Who knew what it was capable of, what they wanted it for.
Sokka settled down to observe, it may take hours before the aliens in their strange costumes moved on to another area, this section of the ocean was very deep, but that didn't matter. He was a natural hunter, an expert stalker, and his men were very well trained. They would dig themselves down and keep watch for as long as it takes. They were tireless.
"Sokka sir," one of the kids tugged on his arm, "I have to go potty."
Zuko had directed a line of four men to begin work on the ice blocking their way to the water. With enhanced mechanical gloves they were easily able to summon from their spark of life the essence of their power. In an inferno of reds and golds the ice bowed as though they were volcanic deities and it was a gaggle of faithful worshipers, folding to the ground in liquid obedience.
In the frigid air the pool of water soon cooled and became ice once more and behind the line of men Zuko and the rest of his chosen workmen pushed forward with the submersible. He always left a skeleton crew behind, even during moments like this where as many men as plausible were needed, if for no other reason than to protect his ship.
The truth, which he would deny no matter the situation, was that he wanted at least some of his crewmembers to survive, and if that be the ones with him, or the ones at his ship, he didn't care. He was never comfortable with so many people under his command so suddenly, and even though the past four years had stripped him of his unease and forced him into a leadership role he still bore the guilt of keeping those assigned to the Old Soldier away from their homes and families for so long.
He had to know some of them would make it home. For his own peace of mind.
Zuko had insisted his uncle stay behind until he was needed, Iroh and many of the crew looked tense in restrained argument but he was the prince, and this was his ship. Iroh remain and Zuko went off with the majority of his men to what could be all their deaths.
They had reached the water's edge and began setting up the equipment. The submersible was going to go in unmanned, controlled by Zuko's best mechanical pilot. With careful steps and more careful hands they maneuvered the large pod into the water where it bobbed with the ice chips, causing waves to curl and lap, before emitting a high pitched signal and slipping beneath the choppy water.
From the portable screen they see into the underwater world, aquatic mammals move quickly away from their machine and into hideouts carved into the ice, some slip even farther into the depths in the hop of eluding this new thing invading their home. The bioscan turned the surrounding life forms into red and green blurs, but no blue.
They delved deeper.
Yellow dots, green dots, red dots, and tiny black smears where an animal became prey to another, but again the blue trace of bio-technical engineering evaded them. Zuko was griping the sides of the screen so hard his gloves began to cut his skin, but the pain was nothing to the anticipation. He…it.. they, whatever was down there, it had to be. It had to be down there somewhere.
It got darker on the bottom panel of the screen where actual images from the dive were being shown. "Switching to night vision." Said his operator who flipped a switch on the control panel to the submersible and the image flickered. Black and green and white filled the screen and the bioscan continued to pulse with yellows and reds. The green of mammals were rare now, many unable to survive so deep.
They counted the distance, so deep. His planetary expert said they'd hit the bottom soon. The bioscan ran a full kilometer wide, if it wasn't there, if he couldn't find it.
No, it was here, on this planet. If it eluded him in this spot, he'd just have to search for it elsewhere. He was close now, he could actually taste it!
"We have blue!" he was so busy watching the strange colors of the bottom screen he failed to see the sudden blip of blue on the screen. It was faint, bordering on black, the bio part of the technology was fading.
It was dying. Weak and helpless. Too easy. A smirk tugged at his lips and he didn't even feel the need to sear the hand of the soldier that clapped him on the shoulder. They had it. The means to head home, the end of their journey, the end of his banishment.
'Father.' He thought. 'I'll earn back your respect.'
They had done the impossible, the improbable. They had found the needle in the hayfield. The feather in the sandstorm. They had found the Avatar.
Watching the footage carefully the prince caught the glint of artificial light on metal.. He could barely see it in the foggy water and darkness but he knew what he would se. Warped and deranged looking, like the photographs from centuries ago.
"Pick it up." He instructed and the pilot grabbed at some controls that activated arms he could control. After they retrieved it, after they had it abord ship, they could go home.
His uncle would be so proud he caught it without endangering his crew. Of course he knew how, and as a last resort he did carry the portable EMP but that would have knocked out his ship as well. He was very glad he hadn't had to fight.
They could all go home.
Zuko watched and shivered, feeling the dry tang of fear on the back of his throat. It was bitter, and reminded him of the time four years ago when he faced off against his father, so sure of his cause but unwilling to raise his hand against his sire, in both definitions of the word.
He shook the thought away.
He saw lights and was completely unprepared for the flare of hope that ripped through him like warm water on frost-nipped skin. It was almost painful, this sudden realization that he wasn't going to die.
His central couldn't reach the rest of his body, his core programming was going wild, his internal net shutting down bit by bit. If he didn't get out of this water soon he was going to completely shut down.
Already power had been cut off to limbs and appendages that his processors deemed 'lost' in an effort to preserve his existence, the damaged part keeping him from giving it a direct order contrary. He was like a small child protégé in a bustling city, he knew what to do but nobody would stop to listen to him. He kept shouting at his receptors and sending signals and probes but they were ignored for programmed impulses and chemical communications.
The lights were too bright, gears across the lenses that were his eyes tried to turn, to constrict the shades and prevent damage to artificial receptors, but they were near frozen in place.
Mechanized appendages reached out to him and he felt a hopelessness lace through his optimism when his external touch sensors didn't catalog anything with his central. Had those been cut off as well, to assure he didn't feel pain?
Or perhaps they were too damaged to function.
Far too fast to be safe, especially if an organism was within the pod that had lifted him, his rescuer ascended to the surface. He was still so cold, still so desperately damaged from ice and deposits and the malfunctioning parts broken in the crash. He tried to scream at his programming that he was being saved, but all it registered was the danger the water and the cold were to his wellbeing. It shut down his power source, and like with the temporary virus he was once again left in the darkness of unconsciousness.
Zuko couldn't believe it, it was really happening. He could go home, could see his father. He swallowed past the anxiety that thought fed into him, he had no reason to fear his father, he was just punishing him, it was his fault.
He repeated the phrase a moment then forced his thoughts on track. They were trying to get the thing up in time to preserve whatever amount of life it had in it, but a dead body was just as good. They were the only beings in the universe capable of creating living machinery, so there was no way to forge a body to fool his father with. Even a dead Cyberdroid would guarantee his reinstatement.
But a living one would be far more satisfying.
The submersible broke the surface with enough force to exit the water entirely. Jets activated and rockets burst forth in blue and white and allowed it to hover atop hot air currents. In mechanical extension arms it held a immobile hunk of twisted metal and wires and gears.
"Bring it down!" Zuko barked and they all watched anxiously as it flew over the icey outcroppings to the side of them, rivulets of water melting off them under the intense heat. Everybody was edgy, sure at any instant the creature could lash out.
"Gently," rasped his pilot repeatedly. It hovered past and they followed, three left with the pilot at the controls to pack up gear when it had been set down.
Zuko was ahead of them all, he would be running on the slick surface if his spiked shoes would have allowed. He stayed a yard behind, just in case something went wrong and the submersible crashed or the Cyberdroid became violent.
The pod touched down in a self made pool of melted ice. Everybody let out a bit of tension in audible sighs, but the worst was not over.
Not pausing in the least Zuko left the trail they made through the maze of icy heaps onto the jagged malformed circle of flat ice towards the machines. He didn't falter when he reached the edge of the pool, didn't think about it at all, just stepped into the ankle deep warm water and waded to the limp scrap of robotic life.
It didn't respond to his movements, didn't react to his close proximity, didn't acknowledge him at all. It must be dead. He felt a twinge of regret that he would not be able to show a living captive to his people, but the true prize was in the body itself.
His scientists would adore the idea of picking apart it's mechanized corpse. The possible advances in their already unmatched technology made even him gleam with hopeful interest, and he didn't even have the slightest idea of what any of the cogs and wires and parts in his exercise equipment did.
He paused then, right in front of his prize. Its eyes were open, glassy lenses with circular retractable shields like the covers to cameras when they took a picture. The stare was so void of anything living he'd ever seen, more like windows then eyes and the thought that these things could actually be considered alive perplexed him. Animals, fish, even insects had eyes that showed some sort of humanity.
Once, when they were children, he and his sister had been playing in the royal gardens and he was watching dragonflies dip their tails into water while Azula had been trying to capture butterflies to stick in webs and feed to the fish.
Suddenly something moved and he turned to see a small spider had jumped from the tree but missed its landing and now swung from its tether beside him. Terrified of being bitten he ran to hide behind his mother, who looked up at where he was pointing.
"It's just a harmless spider." Ursa cajoled and shifted to extend her hand to the arachnid, still struggling to climb back up the line of silk to its place in the leaves. The spider halted in its scramble when her fingers grazed the web centimeters in front of it, then decided to climb aboard. "Here," she brought her hand close to him.
Zuko tensed and gazed at the tiny thing, frozen in his fear, the spider gazed right back with its multiple eyes. Finally he outstretched his hand and the arachnid leaned back a ways, front legs coming up in a defensive posture. "ah." He sputtered in alarm and almost snatched his hand back but his mother had placed gentle fingers on his spine and kept him still.
"Relax." She whispered. "It won't hurt you."
Forcing his shoulders lax he watched as the spider scuttled along his mothers palm, always watching him, regarding his hand with a wary uncertainty and in his eyes Zuko thought he spotted a kind of curiosity. Like a squirrel about to take a seed from your grasp.
It lunged and landed in perfect form on his hand. Zuko let out an 'eep' and stumbled back, his mother letting out a soft laugh and allowing him to land on his bottom on the grass.
It moved across his hand in excitement before turning its large eyes back to his face, front legs up in greeting. As if saying 'look, I did it! I'm here." And Zuko brightened in a smile.
"Ewww! Kill it!" his sister's voice startled him, there was a stinging slap. Before he could even register what had happened his sister had smacked his hand, crushing the spider beneath her palm and sending its squished carcass to the ground.
"Azula!' his mother scolded and pulled her by the hand towards her to lecture, Zuko hadn't been listening, could only gaze at a greenish yellow smear left on his hand. Could almost imagine that he still saw tiny eyes alight with curiosity and a cheery accomplishment.
He recoiled from the memory, uncertain of what exactly brought it to mind. He had forgotten about that spider, so young that the event had been buried behind thousands of other personal torments his sister inflicted on him, and then his cousin died…
Shaking away the thoughts he reached a gloved hand out to touch the exposed wiring along what he assumed was the creature's face. Something tingled through the contact, the metal of his advanced glove suddenly warming on its own, as if it possessed its own body heat. As if it were alive.
He pulled back having read that the Cyberdroids could bring other machines to life for a time, inserting their own essence into metals, though it was always short lived. Already the warmth was fading.
Did this mean the thing was still alive?
"Sir?" Zuko turned, hearing ice crack beneath him. He swore, he was standing in the water and didn't realize it was refreezing.
"Get the sub back on the ship before it's stuck here." He ordered. "and someone help me pick this thing up."
Two men waded in to grab, assumed, legs and waist, and lifted.
"Holly shit!" shouted one as all three toppled backwards, landing in the water with the Cyberdroid in their laps.
"It's so, light." Zuko mused, lifting it and getting his legs under him. He picked it all the way up on his own. "No heavier than a child." It was small too, the size of a young teen of his people. He has always read that they were tall, towering beings. This was…weird.
"What kind of metal is it made of that it weighs so little." His men were pushing the sub out of its little pool and towards the ship. "Can you imagine the prosthetics we can make if we figue it out?"
It sparked an excited conversation. "So many people loose limbs in the wars, and the mechanized replacements are so heavy."
"If we can crack that tech, can you think of all the lives we'd help?"
Zuko watched them, feeling a stir of pride at the accomplishments they could already imagine. Simply erasing the last threat to their planet was enough for him to return home, but with the knowledge this body offered his scientists, they wouldn't just return, they would return heros.
"Zuko." His uncle descended the platforms and he almost allowed a smile to spread his lips, but kept his face neutral.
"Pull out our best rations Uncle." He said with just a hint of joy in his words. "We're going home." Everyone outside, and the men standing behind Iroh, cheered.
There was a high pitched whirring sound that struck through their sudden burst of noise, causing everybody to slap hands over their ears. Zuko almost dropped his captive but ignored the pain in his hears when he felt movement in his arms.
The eyes that were previously so dead were now illuminated, the visors around them jerking in an attempt to blink. A limb, presumably the arm though it could have been a part of its mandibles for all Zuko knew, rose a little to grip at his shoulder.
Then there was an entirely different sound, coming from the ice around them.
"What the hell is that?" Zuko demanded of his planetary expert as a giant furry thing skittered and scuttled over the ice towards them
"It looks like some kind of crustacean." A crewmember noted as the expert scanned through his database for an image. "Which is rather strange as its exoskeleton shouldn't be able to hold up that much weight and—"
He was cut off as Zuko dived into him, slamming him to the ground a yard away at the exact moment a huge pair of claws the size of his head hit the ice. There had been one behind them too.
"Well, now we know why this area was abnormally compressed." The crewman said rather shakily.
"Back to the ship!" Zuko cried, scooping the Cyberdroid into his arms and hauling it towards the ramp where his uncle and other members were watching. "Leave the equipment, get back to the ship and get us out of here.
The Cyberdroid gave a startled "Oof" but otherwise didn't put up a struggle, eyes wide as those brown crab-like monsters scuttled after them, claws raised like some kind of army banner.
I hope the descriptions sufficiently illustrated the confusing state the Cyberdroids are in appearance. If not, take apart a Furby, VCR, and lift the hood of a car and imagine them all combined in some kind of humanoid or animalistic form and then try and find out what is what.
Combined the idea of Sozen's Comet with the pod jettisoning off to parts unknown. *shrug* hope you don't mind. Also I'm intrigued by this anomaly of a giant crab that disputes the size/mass ratio. Hahaha.
Update comes so terribly late because of comics and the need to read them. Blame the jerks who bought me two boxes full of old The Amazing Spider-Man and The Incredible Hulk issues, as well as a couple of Star Trek and Deadpool. My nerdy fan-girlishness is at an all time high. All that's left if for Captain American and Bruce Wane to come back to life and Peter and Flash to get horribly drunk and have a very censored one night stand.
Not difficult for Flash, as he's an alcoholic, but Pete is a bit trickier, yet with all his girl troubles would it really be inconsiderable that (true to typical Parker luck) he ends up in such a compromising situation? I mean he did bang his roommate in a lapse of good judgment and memory loss after eleven glasses of apple cider.
Ignore me, as previously stated my fan-girlish nature is a bit over-sugared at the moment. And with this stupid thing with Electro going down in the Spidey universe I'll probably be withdrawing from the world to find my 'happy place' for a while.
Kind of like I did with Civil War :D