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[Unknown time/unknown location]

 

For the longest time, humanity had thought we were alone in the galaxy. At no point had we thought that something crept at the edges of our civilization, foreboding, beyond the scale of human understanding.

And we definitely didn’t expect to find it in our own solar system. Coming for us.

He hadn’t seen it coming until it was too late. The ship out of the darkness. The light that drew them in. He was bound and alone, a mechanical Voice resounding above him. And nothing he’d done had protected his team; they were shuffled away to an uncertain future and he was useless .

‘Species: Human. Young adult. Male. Condition: Adequate, no permanent damage. Cleared for decontamination.’

The Voice droned, somewhere above in the darkness, cold and uncaring. He wasn’t how he understood it, except maybe through the chip tagged into his collar when they first grabbed him.

The prisoner jerked at his bonds, choking as cloying vapor filled the air, only to be filtered away moments later.

He’d stood to try to be peaceful when they were first caught, to puzzle the aliens out and attempt to reason with them. But after being ignored and outright derided, now his patience was at its end, “Where’s my team, you goddamn monsters? What did you do to them?”

The Voice ignored him.

‘Alert. Physical condition is fit. Redirection to the interrogation chamber.’

Whatever that meant.

“So what am I dealing with here? ‘War of the Worlds’ or ‘Encounters of the Third Kind’ type?” The prisoner growled, “Also, if you’re gonna kill me, I’d appreciate vaporization and not yanking out my guts or brains if that’s fine by you, disembodied voice.”

Another silence, and he was beginning to suspect nothing he said would make them react.

Whatever he might have said next was cut off when light exploded into the room as doorway opened up in the wall to his right. The mechanical drones who entered were both faceless and unreceptive to his anger, unlatching him from his post without a word and dragging him out into the hall. Nothing moved them.

Where was his team?

He was supposed to protect them--he couldn’t protect them.

He would remember that day later, when the guilt and shame of everything he tried to be started to fester inside him. He’d trained for so long for this, and now rendered low made every training exercise feel almost pointless, childishly small in how little he’d been able to resist being broken down for some uncaring alien race. And this was only the beginning.

And yet, he couldn't bring himself to give in. Not yet.

But it wouldn’t take long for him to find himself in worse. And the first glance of a familiar face at the ‘arena’ made his protective urges well up again.

The empire didn’t know it then, but they wouldn’t be able to hold this particular prisoner for very long. He had somewhere he needed to go, and someone would provide the way. Humanity was as yet an enigma, and it was them who would reawaken the ultimate weapon.

 


 

[One Year Later]

-

The official story was that pilot error caused the destruction of the Kerberos mission craft, canceling the progress for any prospective pilots and setting the space program back by years. No word was ever found on three missing scouting crew members, and after months of silence with no sign to the contrary, they were officially listed as ‘killed in action.’ Desperate to move on from what was perceived to be both a high security risk and an embarrassment on the the good name of the Galaxy Garrison, detailed records of the incident were promptly swept under the rug and out of the public eye. And there they would stay, until the ship came…

 


 

[Simulation Failed]

 

The flashing red text was a wake-up call for the three cadets in the day’s round of flight training, metaphorically crashing their ship before being booted out of the simulator to stand at attention for their instructor to yell at. The three of them were trapped in varying levels of nervousness and anxious energy, waiting for the expected tongue-lashing to run its course.

The pilot was a young man with unruly black hair, seething in silence while his failures were rattled off. His lip was curled indignantly, twisting his features alongside the series of mottled, claw-like scars that mangled his left eye and half his face. With a famously unstable temper, Zuko ended fights as sure as he started them, and most of the Academy sans the instructors generally knew better than to pointlessly antagonize him.

Their mechanic was a slight girl with a rough, stubborn attitude and milky white eyes that indicated her blindness. Despite her stature and disability, no one knew metal and machinery better than Toph and commanded respect from other builders for it. But keeping her in the Academy was a heavy burden, and her upper class parents would demand her immediate expulsion to be returned home to their plans if she failed to maintain grades.

And the last was their tech, a boy around Toph’s age with a head shaved bare and a wooden amulet perpetually hung around his neck. Aang had been sent to the Academy as an ambassador of sorts between his buddhist community and the Academy’s technological achievements to stay connected to the world’s progress. Out of the three of them, he was the only one of them who was openly polite and friendly to other students and instructors in the Academy, and people tried to maintain that for the most part.

Until the simulation that day, of course.

Between Zuko’s temper, Toph’s intimidating presence, and Aang’s situation, most people avoided making problems for them. But being put on the spot after a failure made people braver, and voices from the group of other cadets pointed out flaws: ‘The pilot was distracted arguing with his team and crashed the ship.’ ‘The mechanic failed to respond in a timely manner to an emergency situation.’ ‘The tech panicked and lost composure instead of observing and recording ship readings.’ As the complaints rang out, the instructor stared them down challengingly, as though daring any one of them to object to the accusations. Mostly, it was Zuko that he was harrying day by day, always waiting for the excuse to dismiss or kick him out entirely when his temper snapped, though the teen remained silent this time.

At least, until the man went on to say that their team was a perfect example of failed teamwork, and that they would eventually be the cause of another incident in the Academy. “I would extend an additional warning to your pilot as well. The only reason he’s here is because the actual pilot couldn’t curb her poor behavior,” The entire team stiffened in response to this reprisal, cringing at the insensitive dig at the original reason why Zuko jumped rank in the first place. “These are the kind of results we need to avoid at all costs, least we produce the same kind of reckless, irresponsible flight team that resulted in the Kerberos failure.”

“That’s not true-!” Zuko burst out, hands clenched into fists.

But as eyes swiveled around to rest on him, Toph turned and kicked him in the back of the knee, causing the young man to double over with a curse. Aang made a surprised noise and stepped over to where Zuko was rubbing at his leg. The girl stepped in front of both of them defensively, crossing her arms and stared the whole room down, “Ignore him, Zuko reads too many conspiracy theories. I think we all get the idea, more teamwork, got it. Can we leave now, sir?” Toph phrased it more like a blunt statement than a question, but was accepted anyway.

The rest of the day was spent quietly licking their wounds while the rest of the flight teams went to work on their own simulations. Zuko, content not show his face outside of his room for the rest of the evening, retreated to the dorm he shared with Aang. Toph had separated from them earlier, brushing off any concern and saying that there was something she needed to check on before they let her go.

Aang had quickly gone to his side of the room and pulled a curtain across for privacy, a silent message that he wanted some quiet to meditate. Zuko decided to study the maneuvers to avoid making the same kind of mistakes, infuriated by being chewed out so thoroughly. Almost an hour passed like that before Aang reappeared from his solitude and back over to Zuko’s side of the room. “Hey Zuko, you want to go outside again tonight?”

“You want to see Katara, after what happened today?” Zuko muttered, having given up on his study material and was just glaring at the ceiling instead.

He didn’t really like talking about her that much.

Katara was the previous pilot, the one he replaced by virtue of the girl being dropped from the team after her reaction to the Kerberos mission. It wasn’t hard to know why; her older brother was the lead and pilot for that mission after all, and everyone knew him. The exact details of what she did to be thrown out was wildly speculated on, but only Aang (who was present at the time and wasn’t interested in talking) and the instructors knew the full story. But even after losing her position, Katara refused to stray far from the Academy or go home, and set up a camp a few miles away, seemingly to keep an eye on the organization that allegedly slandered her brother.

Aang and Toph were her partners before they were Zuko’s, so they were still close to her and snuck out to visit whenever they got the chance to. As such, he still felt out of place around them, even though Aang always insisted otherwise and that they were friends.

It didn’t really help matters that she didn’t seem to like him at all. It made their encounters tense.

Still, he didn’t know why Aang wanted to regale her with the tale of their failure.

“Well, I...promised to tell her when we did the official flight sim,” Aang flushed, pressing his fingers together and looking away. Zuko frowned; it was almost funny how obvious Aang was about his intentions. Well, it wasn’t like Katara hated him, so what was the harm in the guy getting her attention anyway? “Besides, we did at least get practice, right?”

“I don’t know about that….” He couldn’t in all honestly call that much of a ‘practice.’

At his hesitance, the young teen clasped his hands together and pulled the sad puppy face that not a soul associated with him ever had the heart to deny. “Please, Zuko, I don’t want to break my promise! I’ll do my best to convince her to not say anything bad to you!”

“Alright, but we should pick up Toph first. At least Katara seems to enjoy arguing with her.”

The two of them left the dorm late in the evening, at a time when everyone else should have been either in late classes or getting ready for bed, carefully circumnavigating the halls and avoiding the sight of any authority who could punish them for sneaking out late. The sneaky approach really wasn’t Aang’s style from the start; it was only through repeated outings that he was able to pull it off and not sound the alarm, and coaching from Zuko. He used to ditch curfew without a specific reason before striking up a friendship with Aang, just to rebel. It was only recently that he started using those abilities to some other purpose. “I heard Toph saying that she would probably be up on the roof again,” Aang whispered, leading Zuko to the upper access while he wondered how someone so rebellious managed to avoid so much scrutiny. Unlike him, higher ups tended to look the other way when Toph said or did something that wasn't entirely allowed. Probably to avoid incurring her parents' attention. 

When they breached the roof, sure enough, Toph was sitting near the edge overlooking (metaphorically at least) the surrounding desert crags and cliffs. She was wearing a pair of headphones connected to a small recording device that she was currently listening intently to and rewinding back with a few taps of her fingers. She seemed totally absorbed in whatever she was listening to but immediately perked up, pushed her headphones down around her neck, and turned in their direction the moment the two of them approached, giving a lazy wave.

“How does she do that?” Zuko asked under his breath.

Only for Toph to smirk and shoot back, “You have some of the loudest, sulkiest footsteps in the whole Academy, and you’re foolin’ if you think I’ll mistake Twinkletoes here for anyone else.” She tapped one of her ears with a finger, “These don’t lie.”

“So, what were you doing all the way up here tonight?” Aang asked, coming to sit down next to her, “We were going to go see Katara. Wanna come with?” Zuko just shrugged tiredly and moved over to join him.

“In a minute. I was trying to figure this out,” The young girl lifted up the recorder in her hand. “After that terrible-ass sim, I got reminded of something, so I took down some of the listening devices I set up to catch audio recordings from the outer solar system.” Without even turning her head, Toph pointed at Zuko’s confused face and continued, “And before you ask, this was a favor from Katara. We were looking for clues that explained what happened on Kerberos, since at this point, our little group were really the only ones who seem to give a shit about finding anything new.”

There was no way the Academy would allow this if they knew about it.

Toph couldn’t have been given permission to take the parts that a project like this would need. Zuko was momentarily dumbfounded, before he shook himself together. “Aang, were you in on this too?”

He paused, looking a little sheepish, “Well, to be honest...she didn’t tell me where she got them, but I did agree to put the audio Toph found through an analysis or two.” Of course, knowing Aang, he knew exactly where it was from. Aang wasn't really the type to commit massive rule-breaking on his own, but Toph brought out the enabler in him when they worked together. 

“And we did find some odd things….”

“Toph, we found some weird engine sounds and a random data string that translated to ‘voltron.’ That doesn’t really point to anything!” Aang deflated quickly, looking upset. “I’m not happy about it, but I don’t think that it’s really enough information to go on.”

Toph shook her head stubbornly, “My ears don’t lie. Whatever we found in that recording sounded nothing like any spacecraft known on Earth. Which means, it’s not from Earth.”

For a moment the three of them went silent, except for the hushed whisper of ‘are you serious?’ that came from Zuko.

There was a few minutes of silence between the three of them. The implication that whatever was responsible to the team was extraterrestrial life beyond the bounds of what they knew and understood only made the full mystery behind the Kerberos incident more daunting. And, at the moment, there was no way to respond to that.

Zuko wasn't sure he wanted to deal with the fallout that would come from acknowledging the idea that an alien encounter was plausible. Let alone what that meant for the team. 

However, before they could move on from that pronouncement, Toph suddenly raised her hand and gestured for them to wait. Her head was turned toward the sky, but before Aang or Zuko could ask her what happened, they heard a sound like a rumbling cry that one would normally associate with a jet plane passing by overhead.

A ringing signal sounded from the Academy, one that they only recognized from the handbook.

An ‘unknown’ proximity warning.

The rumbling grew louder, until they could see an object plummeting downward through the air, burning orange from reentry into the atmosphere, until the air was rent with a scream of cascading metal. In a moment, Zuko could see from his gaze it resembled some form of craft, but it was difficult to make out amid the flames. It fell almost too fast to track, flashing past their vision and crashing with a earthshaking bang not even a mile from the Academy’s front gates. It wasn’t until covered trucks came rushing out of the Academy grounds to cordon off the crash site that the three of them recovered enough from their shock of what just happened.

Aang was pulling a pair of binoculars out of his jacket within moments, narrating the gathering of vehicles and tents being raised up in the distance for Toph, who could only observe from the rumbling. It was hard to see from so far off, but from the clustering of Academy staff surrounding the fallen ship, it seemed like they were prying it open.

“I wish I could get one good moment inside there,” Zuko grumbled, knowing that he probably wouldn’t. The others wordlessly agreed. For a while there was nothing else that escaped the obscuration of the tents and trucks, and Zuko was coming to the conclusion that they wouldn’t know anything else for a while.

At least, if they didn’t choose to cover it up like everything else.

But before any of them could say anything else, there was another rumble as an explosion sounded from somewhere else, drawing the attention of a good number of the security detail. Just when Zuko was about to plan to move somewhere where he might get a better view, Aang straightened up and adjusted his binoculars, “Wait, someone else is coming!” He paused, moving the lenses in a different direction to the east and perked up. “That’s Katara!”

“What? What is she doing there?!” Zuko hunched over Aang’s shoulder to get a better view, while Toph’s position stiffened at his side. Sure enough, his gaze fell on the girl launching herself from the driver’s seat of a patched truck into the tented circle, and the sparks from an electrical discharge that may have come from a taser gun. “Where did she get that?”

“I’m going down after her, Katara’s gotta be here for something important and she might need some help,” Aang announced, and he was gone, even going so far as to try scaling the building in his haste. Zuko didn’t even get a chance to shout after him before he was gone down the side. Thankfully, Zuko already knew the other boy had the natural climbing skills of a monkey. He was certain to be fine and they all knew it.

“I can't believe she really used those charges," Toph said, crossing her arms. "Looks like she's not as uptight as I thought she was. Anyway, we shouldn’t let him go alone,” The girl spoke up louder, turning in Zuko's direction. Besides, with Sweetness working her magic with those bombs, we could sneak inside to find out what’s what,” She said, getting to her feet. Zuko was momentarily reeling with the thought that a teen their age just used bombs to get where she needed to. But, despite all the mixed thoughts he had about Katara and her odd new rebellion, Zuko agreed to make tracks while they still could.

It wasn’t like he didn’t also want to know exactly what was going on.

 


 

Katara had been monitoring the Galaxy Garrison for too long.

Even though she stayed in touch with Aang and Toph as often as possible, and gleaned information through what connections they actually had there, it was never really enough. There was so much that the place buried once they got their hands on it, but Katara could never really ask her friends to risk too much for her. She couldn’t get enough to bust the garrison for what they did to her, but she couldn’t stand the idea of giving up and going home either.

The day that the (fake/wrong) story of the Kerberos mission was officially publicized was the most the most humiliating day for her family’s reputation ever, spitting on the tragedy that day entailed. Her parents were completely heartbroken by the news, the strain on her mother’s heart almost too much to bear. Because, in an effort to move on from what happened, Sokka was used by the organization as a scapegoat. In no time at all, her brother went from being seen as one of the most intelligent, respected pilots, to being painted as the foolish screw-up who got his entire team killed. No one in the whole family believed the slanderous information for a moment, and even people from the Garrison itself who were familiar with his reputation tried to defend him, to no avail. It didn’t stop the talk from spreading and they couldn’t do a thing to stop the story.

Katara couldn’t let their insults stand, and it didn’t take long before her anger reached its peak. She lashed out and was punished for it, locked out by the Garrison so that they could wash their hands of her as well. Her pain went unanswered.

Who knew what kind of stories they were spreading about her now too.

Nothing good at any rate.

But Katara didn’t lose her determination. Through the bits and pieces that Aang and Toph found out, and their talks together, the three of them hoped to find proof that whatever happened on the Kerberos mission wasn’t a result of pilot error. Clearing her brother’s name was her most important mission, however long it took to get done. Even if it meant putting up with her friends’ newfound bonding with the Garrison’s resident hot-tempered delinquent.

The only reason why she didn’t shut Zuko out was because he technically was in a very similar position. Aang was the one who pointed that out after the first time they argued. That, as much as Katara would rather keep their activities a secret, it did directly concern him too. It wouldn't be fair.

That didn’t mean she had to like him or get along though. As their scant, tense encounters readily pointed out.

But that night, Katara found that everything had changed, unhinging all of her expectations in a moment. Because that was the night that the proximity warning went off, alerting everyone to the light on the horizon. The young woman was outside and was lucky enough to see it first, trying to fix the loose window on her ramshackle home, impossible to miss. Not the sun, but something smaller, burning with heat and energy as it approached the atmosphere.

But it wasn’t the object itself that really shocked her into motion, but the signal receiver Toph helped her install on the shack that suddenly came to life, beeping rapidly. She rushed to the control panel and fitted the headphones over her ears, parsing the morse code signal as fast as she could. Within moments the familiarity of the code stuck out to her. Katara remembered the pattern from her lessons and recognized the message in moments: an SOS.

With an identification code that only the Galaxy Garrison used.

“No, it couldn’t be…” She breathed, feeling the dull hope creeping up her spine. Katara didn’t get much time to consider the idea in her head as the incoming object–that she now recognized as some kind of ship–burned through the atmosphere, crashing into the earth in the distance with an intense rumble. Somehow, uninterrupted, the signal repeated its message several more times before the Garrison’s jammer kicked in and blocked it before anyone else could pick up on what just happened.

Katara dropped the headphones, running into her shack. She didn’t have much time to waste.

There wasn’t much she could take with her that would help, but for a few things. After she grabbed the taser, the girl’s hand paused over the shapes of several cylindrical objects that Toph built for her one day, for ‘just in case’: seismic charges. She remembered Toph making them as a ill-conceived joke–one the older girl criticized her for. But now… Katara’s expression hardened, and she pulled the bombs from their resting place. Not daring to second-guess herself, Katara stuffed all she needed into a duffel bag and ran out to her truck.

She would need a distraction, and the bombs she had on hand would work perfectly.

Sure enough, when she drove out a distance and set them to the north to be detonated when she was in position, security splintered off from their temporary base and was sent to check out the disturbance. Katara had her pathway inside.

When she bolted from her truck, taser in hand, into that circle of tents, Katara had nothing more than a suspicion in mind of what she would find. But after shocking into unconsciousness the doctors that were on duty and pacing over to the examination table they stood near, she had no way of preparing for the truth. Because the man lying out cold on the surface was one that Katara recognized all too well.

“Sokka?” Katara whispered, her eyes tracing over the face of her long-lost brother.

He looked rougher, his bare left arm crossed with small scars. Most noticeably was the larger pale pink scar that curved up across his neck and over his jawline, curved as though some creature had tried and failed to take his head off. His hair was loose and wild, longer and more tangled than he ever let it get before.

But more strangely than anything, was the unusual state of Sokka’s right arm. His skin across the arm and hand was lined with curving, pearlescent white lines that–bizarrely enough–almost looked to resemble seams, and when she investigated closer, Katara found that they were actually physically indented into his flesh. As if that was odd enough, everything from the shoulder down smoothly transitioned into a dull gray color, and uniform as if painted. And, as though to contrast with his scarred left arm, his right was smooth and unlined.

But she didn’t have time to investigate any further, not if Katara didn’t want for the guards to come back and find her there. She wound a hand around Sokka’s side and hooked his arm over her shoulder, dragging more than pulling him off the table.

“Katara, wait!” Katara straightened up as Aang burst into the tent, out of breath. When the boy’s eyes alighted on Sokka, he froze in surprise, “Is...is that…?”

He didn’t get the chance to continue as two more cadets followed Aang inside. Zuko and Toph, the former leading the latter by the arm. Katara felt her mood sour immediately; she didn’t need him to tag along as well. She noticed how his eyes widened when he recognized Sokka. No sooner had she acknowledged this, Katara attempted to take a step backwards as the hothead in question tried to move to her side to help support her brother, snapping at him in annoyance “Back off, Zuko. I can handle him myself.”

“No, actually, you can’t,” Zuko said bluntly, pointing out how Sokka’s taller, heavier form slumped over her. “Just admit it, you need help to get him out of here.”

“Not from you,” She shot back.

“You two really need to make up your minds, like, right now,” Toph spoke up. She gestured at the opening they came through with a jerk of her thumb. “In case we all forgot, the Garrison guards are on their way back and we don’t have time to be standing around talking.”

Katara withered under Toph’s declaration, and the imploring, puppy-dog look Aang was giving her. Sighing, she nodded in assent, letting the older boy step up to Sokka’s other side to support him, “Fine, if you insist.” Together, the rag-tag group hobbled out quickly and went directly to the waiting truck. The group had barely piled into the truck bed when the sound of the pursuit could be heard getting closer and closer. “I hope you all are holding on to something!” Katara shouted, not waiting for a response before flooring the accelerator.

The roar of the fleeing truck was eventually taken by the distance, along with its passengers.

 


 

Sokka didn’t remember much from the crash. Lots of shouting, his own drug-addled babbling, and explosions from somewhere in the distance. Nothing he could form an actual picture of.

Afterwards, he had woken up on a mussed plaid bed, next to a person he had been half-convinced he’d never see again. Katara was collapsed at his side, had likely fallen asleep watching over him. His expression softened just seeing her again. But even in her sleep, he could see the signs that stress had left on her. That was...never his intention.

The hour was still dim and undisturbed. The young man could hear the sounds of snoring from elsewhere in the little building. Whoever else had helped him. He wished he could stay there longer but… His arm was aching again.

Sokka carefully pulled back the covers on bed and crept out without waking his sister.

He needed some air.

Outside, the beginnings of sunlight was peeking over the horizon, just before dawn. Sokka’s eyes strayed to the beat-up truck that Katara had made their getaway in. He recognized the thing: It was the old patch job his Dad put together so long ago. He must know Katara was out here if she had a hold of his truck but...seeing it there brought out a sharp pang in his gut. And if she was living in a shack like this, happened to her position at the Garrison? The young man wandered over to it and sat down next to the truck, leaning on it for support.

What were his parents going through all this time, especially with Katara staying out here instead of going home? Though, he was thankful that she was around to save him when she did.

Other people weren’t so lucky.

Speaking of which…

Sokka looked over his shoulder at the soft sound of footfalls, seeing another one of the cadets step into view, and straightened up when seeing who it was. He remembered Zuko before he disappeared as the guy with the troubled family, who the other adults either seemed to not bother with enough, or too much. Sokka initially met him through the mutual rivalry he struck up with Zuko’s sister in the Garrison's flight simulator, and sympathized with him enough to want to do something to help, in his own way. In the end, though, Sokka realized he was probably about to lose all the goodwill he may have previously earned.

“Thought I’d run into you sooner or later, Zuko,” Sokka said, flashing a weak smile. “In spite of the rocky landing, it’s still good to be back on Earth.”

“It...it is good to have you back, Sokka,” The other boy continued, looking both curious and impatient all at once. Sokka could hazard a guess as to what he was about to say. “You want to tell me what exactly happened to you on Kerberos after all this time?”

Sokka’s response was blunt and to the point, “Well, more or less... aliens happened.”

Zuko’s eyes widened staring at him in surprise, “You’re just gonna come out and say it?!”

“I didn’t see the point in beating around the bush,” Sokka said, unconsciously rubbing at his arm again. “Besides, I get the feeling it was already a possibility you were aware of?”

Zuko admitted it with a hesitant nod of his head. “Toph suspected it. I wasn’t sure.”

“That sounds right, I’m not too surprised she caught on early…” Sokka shook his head, thinking back to the no-nonsense builder that he remembered before changing the subject back. “Yeah, well...back on the mission, when we first encountered them, we were picked up by a ship belonging to a race called the Galra. And it was incredible; something far beyond any tech I’ve ever seen on Earth by a long shot. I’ll fill you in on the whole story as I remember when the others wake up but, suffice it to say, they aren’t friendly to humans. I was...imprisoned all that time, as far as I can remember,” He finished, closing his eyes.

Zuko shifted back on his heels, unable to hold back the question he must have been itching to say from the start, “And...what happened to the rest of the crew?”

Sokka paused, bringing one hand up to his temple as if bracing himself. He lowered his voice, paranoid of anyone else but Zuko hearing what he had to say, “I’m sorry Zuko, I wish I could give you good news… But the truth is...I don’t know what happened to Azula and your uncle. It wasn’t too long after Kerberos that we were separated from each other. I don’t know where they are or how they are...I’m sorry.”

Zuko was strangely silent. For a moment, Sokka thought he might have been taking it better than he expected.

Then he cringed as a loud yell split the air. When he turned to look, saw Zuko tearing at his scalp, furious and confused, and got to his feet. Under normal circumstances, Sokka would have asked for quiet for the sake of the others sleeping inside, but his guilty conscience stopped him. “Why?” The other boy asked him, “Why did this happen, Sokka?”

It was a rhetorical question, but what made it worse was that Sokka knew the answer.

“I don’t know if it’ll help any, but I actually can answer that question,” Zuko’s gaze shot back to him the instant the words left his mouth, his expression a clear demand. Sokka continued before it was made into a verbal one, “But this concerns everyone else too, ok? I think it’s only fair to wake them up first.”

Zuko’s face twisted into a frown before he acquiesced, “Alright, fine, I can agree to that.”

Sokka sighed with relief as Zuko turned around to march back inside. He was impatient and torn; anyone could see that. Zuko would probably be making enough noise to wake them up even indirectly, if his outburst from earlier didn’t do the job. But Sokka didn’t want to tell this twice. He paid a heavy price for learning about the Galra’s plans, but it had to be worth it in the end. Otherwise, Sokka wouldn’t know what to do.

The Galra had been combing the galaxies when they found his team, looking for a particular object of great power. And, after everything he’d seen, Sokka couldn’t let them get ahold of it.

It was a very special brand of super-weapon.

A weapon named Voltron.