Chapter 9 – And You Were Going To Tell Me This When?

[A/N: Sorry for the delay posting this chapter, had a bad case of writer's block]

"She did what?" Zuko exclaimed in horror.

"Released your sister." Jack repeated wearily. "Look, I told Senator Wen it was a bad idea, but she outranks me. As far as she's concerned we don't have any proof you guys are telling the truth and Azula's lying. Azula's explanation was plausible—I guess—and on the bright side Andy's babysitting her. She's got a really short leash at least."

"And now Senator Wen wants to meet us?" Katara asked. "It would have been nice to talk to us first, don't you think?"

"Hey, I agree with you. You guys didn't blow up anything and aside from that unfortunate misunderstanding in GD none of you has been violent in any way, so I'm on your side." Jack rubbed his forehead, trying to ease the headache he'd been nursing since releasing Azula.

"Bad day, huh?" Sokka asked, eyeing the way the Sheriff was slumped over.

"Goes with the job." Jack sighed and straightened up. "Guys, Senator Wen is a really important person around here, she controls the funding for Eureka, which means she's basically the boss. So be on your best behavior, all right?"

"That means don't tick off the moose-lion Sokka." Toph said with a smirk.

"Good advice, Toph. You should follow it." Sokka said. "I'm not the one with the short temper, remember?"

"Ha." She retorted. "I'm used to dealing with people like this. I know how to handle them. Watch and learn, Sokka."

Grumbling Sokka followed the group to Jack's SUV for the short trip to Café Diem.

ooOoo

"Welcome, everyone. My name is Senator Wen and I'd like to welcome you to Eureka. This is just an informal get together so I can meet all of you. I understand you arrived here by accident, and that Doctor Deacon is working on a way to send you home. As I am the ranking member of the Senate Finance Committee and responsible for Eureka and the work that goes on here I thought it was important for me to get to know you."

Senator Wen was, to the eyes of the Avatar and his friends, a rather pleasant but ordinary looking woman who (except for her clothing) wouldn't have gotten a second glance in their world. She was the first person they had met here who actually looked normal.

"Why did you release Azula?" Katara demanded, leaning forward.

Senator Wen blinked as she focused on the water bender.

"Your name is Katara isn't it?" The Senator asked. Katara nodded impatiently. "Well, Katara after talking to Azula I decided that her explanation of events warranted extending her the benefit of the doubt. From her point of view Zuko and his uncle are traitors to the crown. It's my understanding she is now heir to the throne, given that Zuko has been banished, and that technically that means attacking her was an act of treason. I'm also given to understand that it was six against one, and you were trying to kill her. Or have I been misinformed?"

"No." Iroh spoke up. "That is correct—as far as it goes, madam."

"As far as it goes?" She asked, tilting her head. "I would be interested to hear more, General Iroh."

"My niece left out the part where she had surrendered to us and then attacked when I regrettably let down my guard for an instant. I was unconscious during the rest of the battle, so strictly speaking it was only five to one when my companions tried to kill her. Furthermore my niece has always been ruthless and without compassion for those who stood in her way. It is rude of me to say this, but Azula is dangerously insane."

Senator Wen settled back in her chair.

"The United States does not have any treaties with the Fire Nation, General Iroh. As such I can't pass judgment on its internal affairs. Your status as traitors to the crown whether true or not has no bearing on your treatment here. Sheriff Carter tells me your behavior as our guests has been exemplary and frankly that's all I care about."

"I have no reason to believe your group represents a threat to Eureka or the work conducted here, so you may continue to enjoy the freedoms extended you. To put your minds at rest about Azula she hasn't been granted the same level of freedom as you have. Andy has been assigned as her guard while she remains in Eureka. I assure you he is very capable."

"Azula has been given the same warning I'm about to give you. We will not tolerate any violence here. If Azula attacks you, Andy will subdue her. If he fails to do so you are permitted to defend yourselves until help can be summoned. That does not mean you can kill her, it means you can take actions to allow you to survive until she can be dealt with."

"Katara, Sherriff Carter tells me there is a great deal of personal enmity between you and Zuko, yet the two of you manage to live in the same house without fighting each other. I want you to show the same restraint when dealing with Azula."

"She's going to be living in our house?" Katara asked, appalled.

Senator Wen chuckled.

"No, dear. Give us a little credit. Azula will be living with Andy at his home. However you will be sharing the same town with her. If you encounter her on the street my advice would be to ignore her."

"That is reasonable." Iroh nodded slowly. "However, I must warn you, Senator. My niece is very cunning. If there is a way for her to gain power here she will seek to do so. Do not become complacent."

"We are not fools, General Iroh." Senator Wen said sharply. "Andy will be with Azula at all times. He is capable of recording and transmitting everything that he sees and hears. Any conversations she has we'll know about. If she attempts espionage or to usurp control she will be severely dealt with."

Zuko recognized the cold anger the Senator was displaying, he'd seen it often enough in his own father.

"My apologies, Senator." Iroh said mildly. "It is a poor guest who does warn his hosts when they bring a viper into their home."

The anger passed as quickly as it had come. Senator Wen smiled.

"I appreciate the warning, General. Unfortunately, in my profession untrustworthy strangers are a fact of life. All necessary precautions have been taken, I assure you. I understand being wary of Azula but you have my assurances she poses no danger to either yourselves or Eureka."

"For both our sakes, let us hope that you are correct." Iroh said solemnly.

ooOoo

"So, tin man." Azula said irritably. "What now?"

"You are free to travel anywhere you like within the city limits." Andy said, smiling. "If you'd like to go into the countryside you will need Sheriff Carter's permission. Given your unfortunate interactions with us I suspect you should plan to stay within Eureka's city limits for now."

Azula raised an eyebrow.

"How long until I can go home? This city of yours is fascinating, but it will soon grow tiresome."

"Henry thinks it will only take a couple of weeks to build a new generator, Azula." Andy said.

"That's good. Now, I'm hungry. Fetch me something to eat."

Andy shook his head. "I'm sorry, Azula, I can't leave you unattended. However, I can take you to Cafe Diem for dinner. On the way back we'll need to stop at the grocery to pick up food for you while you stay with me. I have none at my house.

"You don't keep any food at your house? No wait, of course not. You aren't human, are you? Just a clock-work toy." Azula sneered.

"Actually, my internal components are largely solid state, and my muscles are carbon nano-tube aero-gels. I have no mechanical gears." Andy said helpfully.

Azula sighed.

"As long as you were built and not born you're a clockwork man as far as I'm concerned. A clever machine, not a person. Not even a peasant."

"That is actually a troublesome philosophical point, you know. My IQ is higher than that of many humans, and I am capable of feeling emotions. If I am nothing but a clever machine what does that make you?"

"A princess of the blood!" Azula retorted sharply.

"How does that make you different from me? Our bodies may be made of different materials they are both machines that serve exactly the same purpose. They transport our minds from one place to another and allow us to manipulate our environment. I might also point out that my body is in many ways far superior to yours. It is stronger, faster, and much more resistant to damage. In addition, given adequate repair facilities it is also theoretically immortal."

"A clockwork man is still just a clockwork man." Azula sniffed. "You may be made of metal but don't think for a moment you have any worth. You were built to serve humans were you not? A slave."

"Actually, I was built as an experiment to see how far artificial intelligence might develop." Andy corrected her calmly. "To answer any number of questions concerning what artificial life is capable of, how far I might evolve. I am a person in every way that matters, a valuable member of this community, with friends and colleagues that respect me. Thus my existence has been one of great worth, both to my builders and myself. Can you say the same, Azula?"

"I am a princess, tin man! Born to rule over the Fire Nation by divine right! I am the Heir Apparent, first in line to the throne. You are nothing compared to me! Less than nothing!"

"Your logic is suspect." Andy noted. "In your own land you may be a princess, but here you are a criminal, and a prisoner, currently on parole. You have caused a great deal of destruction and attempted to kill two people, and possibly a third. No one trusts you. From what I can see it is you who lack worth, Azula."

"How dare you speak to me that way, you—thing!" Azula snarled, raising a hand that was suddenly engulfed in flame.

"You are about to violate your parole, Azula. Do you want to go back to your cell?" Andy asked placidly. He grabbed her wrist in a vice-like grip that made her grit her teeth in pain. She hadn't even seen a blur as his arm moved, it was just suddenly there.

He stared at her with a friendly smile, and his grip tightened the slightest bit. "Wouldn't you rather go to Carpe Diem for dinner, Your Highness?"

She let the fire die and relaxed.

"You win this round, tin man." She said lightly. "But I won't forget your insult. One day the tables will turn." Her eyes narrowed.

"Perhaps." He said while smiling that same eerie smile he always wore. "But that day has not yet come. In the meantime I suggest you relax and abide by your parole, Your Highness. In a couple of weeks the generator will be finished and you can return to your own world. Take advantage of the opportunity offered you."

Azula smiled suddenly, her anger seemingly evaporating.

"You know, tin man, that's actually not a bad idea. Not a bad idea at all…"