Maikka Fortnight 2012: Long Distance

Part 1 of the Time Is an Illusion series

Mai's posture was straight, her chest out and her hands tucked into her sleeves, the way Mother had taught her. She stood to the right of the Avatar and his companions.

Katara took stepped forward on the wooden platform.

"My brother and I grew up in a tiny village in the Southern Water Tribe." Her confident voice carried over the five thousand settlers in the audience. "We had never met anyone from the Earth Kingdom, and we met people from the Fire Nation only in battle. We couldn't have imagined meeting an Air Nomad. But against all odds, we found the last one frozen in an iceberg. Not just an airbender, but the legendary Avatar himself."

Mai had heard this story before, but Katara told it with a fresh perspective. For the first time, Mai as able to imagine what it would be like to grow up in a refugee camp, never seeing gardens or stone houses or even so much as an ostrich-horse. And then, to have your world turned upside-down, to discover the legendary living weapon, the last hope of ending the threat to your family.

"We learned that good friends can come from the most unlikely places," continued Katara, smiling graciously at Zuko, "and that some friendships last longer than a lifetime. Fire Lord Zuko has earned our trust, but it took time and patience on both sides. And it will take time to build trust between the nations, but I believe it will happen in our generation."

The audience applauded, and Zuko stepped forward to take his turn to speak. He was eloquent, but not as inspiring as Katara. But Mai figured public speaking came more naturally to some people, while others needed to work at it. And Mai was certain that Zuko was a better speaker than she was, so she couldn't be too critical.

"This city will be home to all who wish for a new start, as long as they obey the law. It will be a republic, governed by a code of laws instead of the whims of a king or lord," Zuko explained frankly. "Each person will be equal under this law."

Sokka stepped forward then, taking a few fast, deep breaths as waited for the crowd to finish clapping. He seemed just shy of hyperventilating.

"The city will bring together all the cultures of the world," he began, speaking quickly, probably eager to get his speech over with-

-And suddenly the world changed around Mai.

One instant, she was on the wooden platform in front of the crowd. They were all in a recently cleared area, edged by forested hills.

The next instant, the crowd disappeared; a cultivated park appeared where there had been dry, trampled ground. Pearly clouds abruptly covered the once-sunny sky. Even the air smelled different: less like the rural Earth Kingdom and more like the outskirts of the Fire Nation Capital. Beyond the park rose elegant towers, taller than the great Impenetrable Wall of Ba Sing Se. Several airships floated high above them.

"What just happened?" asked Sokka, sounding surprised and annoyed. "How did we get here?"

Mai spun 360 degrees, looking carefully. There was no one besides Sokka and herself.

"Maybe we were drugged," she offered.

Sokka dismissed this idea with a wave. "No, my head's too clear for that."

"And you would know?" asked Mai, raising her eyebrow (although she doubted that Sokka noticed with her bangs hanging down to her eyelids).

"Let's just say that I have a natural curiosity."

Mai snorted. It was the closest she would ever come to laughing. Sokka on drugs? What must that be like?

Then Mai noticed that she and Sokka weren't completely alone. A man stepped out from behind a bush and ambled toward them. He had the appearance of one of the homeless people in the Lower Ring of Ba Sing Se.

"Do you kids need any help?" he asked. "You look lost."

Sokka rubbed his neck. "Yeah, I guess we are. We don't know how we got here."

The bum shrugged. "I can't tell you that, but maybe I can help you figure out where to go."

Sokka and Mai looked at each other uncertainly.

"This is Republic City, isn't it?" ventured Mai.

"Sure is!" replied the man with a chuckle.

Sokka gazed upward. "How long have these towers been here?"

"Most of the high-rises went up within the last twenty years."

Mai's eyes widened, and Sokka's jaw dropped.

"That's not possible." Sokka looked at Mai. "We haven't aged, have we?"

"No," replied Mai. "And I don't feel like I was frozen in an iceberg."

Sokka laughed nervously, while the ragged man's expression grew concerned.

"Are you two feeling all right?" asked the man. "Maybe I should take you to a healer."

There was a pause as Mai and Sokka considered this. "We're not getting any answers standing around here," said Sokka.

"No, but I doubt a healer can help us either," said Mai. She turned to the strange man. "I don't suppose you would know where Fire Lord Zuko is."

The man smiled. "Fire Lord Zuko? Of course I know where he is. I can give you directions."

A/N: This time travel AU was inspired by the science-fantasy show Eureka, particularly the fourth season. I had fun imagining what would happen if a teenage Sokka traveled to the future Republic City. I wanted another character from ATLA to go with Sokka, but didn't settle on Mai until Maikka Fortnight began to approach. So I turned the idea into a series of oneshots for Maikka Fortnight.

Mai and Sokka will probably stay friends in this story, but they'll definitely grow closer and get to know each other better.

My eventual explanation for the time travel will make about as much sense as the one in Eureka…That is to say, not much at all.

The hardest part of this fanfic was writing speeches for Katara and Zuko. Dialogue comes naturally to me, but speeches are a chore. You can see why I pulled Sokka out at the beginning of his speech.

I have one and a half more parts written for this story so far; hopefully I'll get at least as far as meeting the Fire Ferrets plus one (as I like to call the "Krew")