Title: Ayo Technology

Disclaimer: I do not own Avatar: The Last Airbender.

AN: This is (obviously) an AU story and takes place in a world geographically similar to the real A:tLA world but does not have bending. Sections of the story consist of emails or chat transcripts but the majority will be in prose. The date and time parts of the emails may seem arbitrary but they're not.


To: Zuko
Subject: Senior Project
Date: 15 September, 2012 1:41:02 PM
From: Katara

Hello, my name is Katara. I'm a sophomore Peace Studies major, and I don't believe we've shared any classes thus far. Our mutual adviser, Professor Iroh, gave me your email address in the hopes that I might be of some assistance to you in completing your senior project. Unfortunately, he was a bit vague on the details so I don't know what the extent of my involvement would be. Regardless, I would greatly appreciate the opportunity to work with you.
Thanks,
Katara

To: Katara
Subject: Re: Senior Project
Date: 16 September, 2012 6:14:25 AM
From: Zuko

I don't know who you are or what project you're referring to, so please don't contact me again.

To: Zuko
Subject: Possible confusion
Date: 16 September, 2012 12:34:05 AM
From: Katara

Hello again,
I apologize for any misunderstanding my previous email may have elicited. Are you not Zuko, fourth year International Studies major? Or perhaps did Professor Iroh give me the wrong email address?
Thanks,
Katara

To: Katara
Subject: Re: Possible confusion
Date: 18 September, 2012 7:15:44 AM
From: Zuko

I don't know and I don't care. Stop emailing me.

To: Zuko
Subject: Cooperation
Date: 18 September, 2012 4:38:27 AM
From: Katara

Hello again,
I met with Professor Iroh to discuss the difficulties I've been having in my attempts to work with you. He explained that you're his nephew and told me about your chronic shyness and interpersonal problems. Please don't be embarrassed! I just want to help you with the project. I'm very passionate about humanitarian causes.
Hoping to hear from you soon,
Katara

To: Katara
Subject: Re: Cooperation
Date: 18 September, 2012 6:52:11 AM
From: Zuko

My uncle lied to you. I'm not shy and I don't have interpersonal problems, but you obviously do. Take a hint. I don't need any help and I don't want to work with you.

To: Zuko
Subject: Rudeness
Date: 20 September, 2012 12:37:19 AM
From: Katara

Professor Iroh didn't lie to me, he just sugarcoated the truth. I've asked around and it seems like everyone who's met you thinks you're a whiney jerk. You didn't have to be rude to me. I'm just trying to help.

To: Katara
Subject: Re: Rudeness
Date: 23 September, 2012 3:29:55 PM
From: Zuko

I've asked around about you too. Apparently you're a preachy crybaby. If you really care that much about orphans and the rainforest do your own project and stop bothering me.

To: Zuko
Subject: Guilt
Date: 23 September, 2012 1:33:08 AM
From: Katara

So you're admitting that you were rude?

To: Katara
Subject: Re: Guilt
Date: 23 September, 2012 6:45:16 AM
From: Zuko

When did I say that?

To: Zuko
Subject: Re: Re: Guilt
Date: 23 September, 2012 11:47:11 AM
From: Katara

You didn't deny it…

To: Katara
Subject: Re: Re: Re Guilt
Date: 23 September, 2012 4:18:33 PM
From: Zuko

Admission by omission? Are you sure you're cut out for higher education?

To: Zuko
Subject: (No subject)
Date: 24 September, 2012 3:20:51 AM
From: Katara

Okay, look. I'm going to level with you. I was kicked out of History of Military Conquests because Professor Zhao is a bigoted narcissist who deserves to be fired. He is without a doubt the worst professor at this school and the vilest human being I've ever met. Professor Iroh arranged for me to make up the credits by helping you with your senior project. If you don't let me work with you I'll be forced to beg Zhao to let me back into his class.

To: Katara
Subject: Re: (No subject)
Date: 27 September, 2012 6:10:43 AM
From: Zuko

I haven't had the time to give this project much thought. Did you have a specific cause in mind?

To: Zuko
Subject: Re: Re: (No subject)
Date: 27 September, 2012 8:37:12 PM
From: Katara

I think so. Have you heard about the pollution problem in Jang Hui river? Apparently runoff from nearby Sozin Industries factory plants have been killing wildlife and making people ill. The problem hasn't gotten a lot of press because no one wants to go up against Sozin Industries.
I'm not delusional enough to believe that there's anything we can do to stop the polluting, but it might be good to give the people a voice or raise some money to help them buy the medicine they need.
Let me know what you think!
Katara

To: Zuko
Subject: ?
Date: 01 October, 2012 8:00:43 PM
From: Katara

Your last email left me with the impression that you're okay with working together. Was I wrong or did you change your mind?

To: Zuko
Subject: Seriously?
Date: 03 October, 2012 4:27:30 AM
From: Katara

Tomorrow's the deadline for dropping classes. Just tell me what's going on so I know whether or not I have to deal with Zhao. Please.

To: Katara
Subject: Re: Seriously?
Date: 04 October, 2012 7:29:02 AM
From: Zuko

Don't bother with Zhao. He's a creep. Where did you read about the pollution problem? Do you have more information?

To: Zuko
Subject: As requested…
Date: 05 October, 2012 12:40:21 AM
From: Katara
12 Attachments#

There's not a lot of information out there, and I had to dig pretty deep to find it.

To: Katara
Subject: Re: As requested…
Date: 05 October, 2012 8:08:23 AM
From: Zuko

What was up with those pictures? They were kind of graphic.

To: Zuko
Subject: Re: Re: As requested…
Date: 05 October, 2012 6:38:29 PM
From: Katara

There's been a serious outbreak of Pentapox in the Jang Hui islands. My best friend is there doing missionary work and he sent me photographs of the disease in action. About one fifth of the people who contract the disease will die from it, and that's mostly children and the elderly.

To: Katara
Subject: (No subject)
Date: 05 October, 2012 7:20:09 PM
From: Zuko

Are you sure that the factories are to blame for it? Has Sozin Industries acknowledged the disease?

To: Zuko
Subject: Re: (No subject)
Date: 06 October, 2012 12:42:12 AM
From: Katara

Did you even bother to read the articles I sent you?

To: Katara
Subject: (No subject)
Date: 08 October, 2012 2:21:58 PM
From: Zuko

There was a lot of jargon. Meet me in the library on Thursday afternoon?

To: Zuko
Subject: Re: (No subject)
Date: 09 October, 2012 12:52:28 AM
From: Katara

Sure, I usually sit at the table on the far left corner of the fourth floor. I'll be there from 2 until 4:30 and I'll be wearing blue.
See you soon,
Katara


Zuko wonders if he's making a huge mistake. What good could possibly come from investigating the company that he someday hopes to own? Ozai has already made it clear that he considers Zuko to be the less remarkable of his two children. Azula is the obvious favorite, whereas Zuko is an embarrassment. Ozai brags about Azula's accomplishments and tells his partners that she brings honor to the family. Zuko has no honor and only brings shame to Sozin's legacy.

And even if his father decides to pass over Zuko and give Sozin Industries to Azula, Zuko will still be a major shareholder, and come April, on his twenty-first birthday, he'll assume a position on the board of trustees. It's insane to even entertain the idea of doing anything to jeopardize that future.

But those pictures… all of those children covered in those ugly, purple rashes, just waiting to die…

It's difficult to ignore that degree of suffering, and it's weighing on his conscience more and more every day.

Zuko's never ventured to the fourth floor before now, and he's pleasantly surprised by what he finds; it's almost completely empty. Empty means that he won't be forced to deal with people staring and whispering, either about his family or his scar.

He's surprised that this girl, this Katara, hasn't made the connection yet. He would have thought that with all the research she's been doing into his family's company, she would have somewhere come across his name and put two and two together. The first thing he did when she sent him her sources was scan through and see if he's mentioned anywhere, and to his relief, he is not.

In her email she said that she had asked around about him, so he wonders if she already knows about the scar. Chan claimed to have had a class with her, and according to him, the girl is a sanctimonious killjoy who can't take a joke. It's obvious that she has a personal grudge against his family so Zuko doesn't plan on revealing his association if he can help it. He already gets enough grief from his uncle, and the only reason he tolerates those lectures is because he loves the old man. Zuko doubts he'll be able to muster any patience for a snotty sophomore.

Katara is sitting exactly where she said she would be, and for that Zuko is grateful. He's already anxious about this meeting and doesn't need another reason to blow it off. The location also suits his needs. This corner of the library is spacious and the table she sits at is plenty big enough for two students. Her head is partially obscured by her laptop, and she seems to be too intently focused on whatever it is that she's looking at to notice Zuko's approach.

"Hey," he whispers, gently placing his messenger bag on the empty end of the table.

"Oh!" she jumps, startled by his arrival, quickly slamming her laptop shut. "I'm sorry, I was just…" her voice trails off when she looks up at his face.

"I'm Zuko," he says, refusing to allow for an awkward silence. It's apparent that she hasn't been warned about his scar. "You're Katara, right?" he asks.

Katara blushes and clears her throat. "Yes, that's me," she says, rising to her feet and gesturing towards the empty chair across from where she stands. "Please, have a seat."

"I can't stay long," he tells her, sitting anyway. "I have a research paper due tomorrow." It's a lie. He doesn't have any other plans for the afternoon or evening, but he feels better knowing that he has a reason to leave if he needs one.

"You do seem like the type to procrastinate," says Katara.

Zuko's ready to breathe fire with an angry retort until he sees her smile and realizes that she's trying to lighten the mood and didn't intend for him to interpret her remarks as ridicule. But while he doesn't feel the need to lash out, he can't bring himself to play along.

"This lame project isn't high up on my things to do list," he says flatly. "Can we just get this over with?"

"Sure," she replies, smiling fading. "You said you had some difficulty understanding some of the articles I sent you?"

"No, I didn't," says Zuko, immediately on the defensive again. He doesn't know where this girl gets off insulting his intelligence so casually.

"Well, you mentioned that they were jargon heavy so I just assumed that they were too advanced for you."

Zuko makes sure to hide his hands under the table so she can't see how tightly his fists are clenched. The girl doesn't even know him and she's already calling him stupid. She and Azula would get along swimmingly.

"Maybe you should stop assuming," he counters. "I did read those dumb articles. Nowhere does it say that Sozin's is responsible for the pollution or that the pollution is responsible for the disease. You're just seeing what you want to see and making the rest up as you go along."

"Excuse me?" she gasps, evidently outraged. "Do you have any idea how much money it costs to do this kind of research? Who do you think is going to shell out to take on a company that has essentially militant business practices?"

"So, because no one is willing to fund a baseless witch hunt, Sozin's must be responsible, is that really what you're saying?"

"Are you defending Sozin Industries?" she asks, blue eyes widening in disbelief.

"And what if I am?" he demands, shouting now, library rules be damned. "You can't just go around pointing fingers at people without any proof to back up your argument."

"Wow," she laughs humorlessly. "I never though I'd meet someone who manages to make Zhao look honorable and compassionate."

In an instant the blood drains from Zuko's face, making his pink scar contrast even more starkly with his pale skin. His stomach churns at the mere mention of that man's name.

"Don't ever compare me to Zhao," Zuko says, shaking in anger. He tries to remain composed as he stands to retrieve his bag and stalk off in an angry huff, but the look of disgust marring Katara's otherwise pretty face breaks his resolve.

Acutely aware of her eyes watching and judging his every move, Zuko turns and violently kicks his chair, sending it flying. He felt no pain when his foot made contact with the wooden leg, and feels only satisfaction when he watches the chair break as it hits the wall. Katara is probably speaking, but Zuko can't hear any words – his ears are ringing and he's seeing red.

When he walks away he doesn't look back.


This is my first ever fic so thank you for reading and I hope you enjoyed this first chapter! Feel free to leave a review if you're so inclined!