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Chapter Three: Proceedings Begin

His name was Colonel Ryu Iwata, a man who had served his entire adult life as an Army prison officer and was now the warden of the dungeons of the Supreme Court of the Fire Nation. He was a tall, imposing man with sharp features, fierce golden eyes, and a thick, full black beard with a few streaks of gray. Over the years he had served in the dungeons, he had seen hundreds of innocent men and women spend no more than a two weeks in the cellblock before facing a mock trial where they would be summarily sentenced to death for whatever trumped-up charge the two previous Firelords and the rabble of yes men in their cabinets and General Staff thought of. To an outsider, hundreds would seem like a horrendous amount of people, but compared to the countless victims of the Old Regime over the past century who had been enslaved and executed by the thousands (if not by the millions) without trial, it was truly a meager number. Iwata was never proud to work for men like Azulon, Ozai, former War Minister Qin, or former Justice Minister Takahashi (the arrogant bloated prick of an opportunist that he was). Just referring to them as men give him a choking sensation in his throat. The fact that Ozai's reign in and of itself was rumored to have been illegal under the old and new Fire Nation law made it even worse. However, the Colonel could say with a clear conscience that neither he nor the men under his command had ever harmed an inmate in any way. He would give the same treatment for his new set of prisoners who ironically, were once the ones issuing his orders.

Iwata stood in the unoccupied cellblock before the guards under his command. There were fifty men and women in full combat gear from all the surviving nations standing at attention; one guard per cell one could say, even if there would be less than half that amount of inmates arriving that day. Iwata himself was clad in full armor, but nixed the mask that Firebenders would generally wear on duty. In his right hand, he carried a ceremonial baton, which was common among high-ranking officers. "Soldiers," he announced as he paced in front of his subordinates, his baton resting over his shoulder, "welcome to the Supreme Court of the Fire Nation. My name is Colonel Ryu Iwata, and I'll be your commanding officer. We're going to be guarding the defendants in the upcoming military tribunal for the duration of the trial and in any further legal proceedings held here by the International Military Tribunal. This trial's hopefully going to be the first of many from what the prosecutor tells me. Now, as you all know, these defendants were until recently, the most important men in the Fire Nation. Obviously, ex-Firelord Ozai is the number one defendant in this case." There were a few angry hisses from the guards, but Iwata cleared his throat to silence them. "All of you from every nation have every right to hate these bastards for what they did to our countries... for the millions of innocent men, women, and children who were brutally slaughtered, raped, or enslaved. Many of you soldiers from the Earth Republic and the Water Tribes lost good friends and family in battle to defend your homelands from the Old Regime's aggression." He paused for a moment and turned to some of his own countrymen who were also shaking with barely suppressed anger. "My fellow Fire Nation citizens, I empathize completely with your resentment and hatred towards these tyrants who persecuted our people, murdered and enslaved our troops and civilians... they poisoned our minds as children and then did the same to our children, our grandchildren, and great-grandchildren, many of whom are still children today. These wretched tyrants put an eternal stain of shame and dishonor on our country. One the other hand, some of you, unfortunately, may still have some loyalty left to these men because of the positions they once held. This too is understandable. You're still Fire Nation soldiers after all.

"However, despite any personal feelings you soldiers may have, no harm is to come to these prisoners in any way! History is gonna be made in this building, and I want this to be a textbook example of our joint forces working together to ensure international cooperation in a just cause. What is this cause, you may be thinking? To ensure that justice is served for the entire world. Our job is to make sure these men stay safe and healthy enough to face the world's justice for their crimes against civilization, and they're gonna face justice in a fair trial! As guards, you will not harm these men except in self-defense in which case you'll only restrain, not kill or severely injure. On top of that, you'll all ensure that they don't try to harm themselves!" Noting the outraged look on a young Earth Republic guard's face, he said, "Believe me, uh... what's your name, son?" He had to have been no older than twenty with rugged handsome features. A jian hung from his belt in a green, emerald-encrusted sheath.

"Sergeant Sensu* Wong, sir," he said, "from Tongxiao Village. Previously served in the Earth Republic Eighth Army. Permission to speak, sir?"

"Granted," said Iwata.

"Sir, you're right. We've lost good friends in this war. My best friend since early childhood was killed in the Battle of Tokdong in the west. I've seen Fire Nation troops pillaging villages and killing defenseless women, children, and the elderly. I myself was wounded there and got separated from my unit in the carnage. Do you know who it was commanding the Fire Nation troops there, Colonel?"

Iwata had a pretty good idea. "It was Nguyen, wasn't it?"

"Yes," Wong spat with deep loathing, and several other soldiers cursed at the former Grand General's name. "Though I do have to thank that bastard for one thing." Some of the other Earth Republic troops looked at him incredulously. A slight smile crossed the Sergeant's face. "If he hadn't wounded me, I would never have been found by nearby villagers, and I would never have met the love of my life, Song*, who nursed me back to health. Well... we got close over those three months, began dating, and now she's my fiancée. Yeah, this monster brought me together with the sweetest, most beautiful, amazing woman in the world. I'm staying with Song, her mother, and my family in the city." His smile suddenly vanished. "All the same, Colonel Iwata, over two hundred million of my people were killed in this war. Two hundred million - more than a quarter of them in last twenty years alone and more than half were civilians! Sir, this was about a quarter of the whole population of my country! Are you saying we have to make this place a comfy resort for these monsters? These bastards... these sick heartless bastards! They need to be lined up against a wall and have stones, flames, and icicles shot at them! They have no right to go into a courtroom and stand before a council of judges, and say they're not guilty!"

"Hear, hear!" a few other guards responded fervently.

"Silence!" the Colonel shouted. "Yes, they do have that right, and they're going to get a fair trial because our morals are superior to theirs. I'm not saying to make this place a resort, this is still a jail after all." He then turned to Sensu. "Believe me, Sergeant Wong, I want to see these bastards die as much as anyone, and there'll be no greater honor for me as a Fire Nation soldier than to preside over any executions that may take place." He paused for a moment, his eyes narrowing sternly. "However, an execution will only happen if these prisoners are sentenced to death by the tribunal and with indisputable proof of their crimes against the world. This is a court of law, soldiers, not the battlefield. Justice is going to be served here for the first time in over a century, and we are the guardians of that justice." He then added with a slight grin, "Oh, one more thing, Sergeant: Anymore sappy tales of love and romance from you, and I'll have no choice but to punch you."

"Yes, sir," said Sensu. "But you'll all understand if you'd meet her."

With a sigh, Iwata raise his fist and launched a right hook to the Sergeant's shoulder, earning laughs from the soldiers. "Yeah, I'm sure most of us have wives or girlfriends, but let's keep our private lives private." When Iwata spoke again, his voice began rising. "One more thing, soldiers: None of you are to exchange any military courtesies or signs of respect with these inmates no matter what position they may have held, or allow them to exchange them with each other. I want this to be very clear right now: These inmates have no rank or title!" Iwata spelled out each word, his gaze mostly on the Fire Nation guards. "You won't bow to them or salute them, and we're forbidding them to do it amongst each other as well. You won't even address them by their previously held titles or ranks. If any title must be given, you'll address them as 'Prisoner' or 'Defendant'. Is this all clear, soldiers?"

"Yes, sir!" the guards responded.

"All right, they'll be arriving soon, so let's get to work!"

***

Not even a week ago, Ozai would have given anything to be let out of his cell at the Agnishima Prison. He was alone in that cell for days on end, only having to endure that idiot warden bringing him food and mocking him for his downfall. "I always told my wife," Ozai barely held back a snort. Wife? The only woman who'd see a good quality in that man was his mother, if even. "That you were the worst thing that ever happened to this country. A lesser son of greater ancestors. Now look at you… defeated by a thirteen-year-old pacifist monk and your Firebending's gone. You're a disgrace."

The ex-Firelord was sure that the warden would not be singing that tune had he been face-to-face with him in any other situation. Ozai only responded, "You think you're clever, huh? But one of these days you'll also be standing on a platform in front of Supreme Court in front a crowd of the lowliest of peasants and then beheaded if you're lucky. A lesser form of life like you would probably be hanged." Hanging was considered the most dishonorable method of execution in the Fire Nation. It was reserved almost exclusively for traitors or insubordinate soldiers so nobody would see them as martyrs. The only others hanged were the pettiest of criminals. His words seemed to affect the warden, because he just left the cell in rage.

One day, in comes the Almighty Firelord Zuko on a particularly frustrating morning. Ozai had only one visit from his son and that was to know where Ursa was. As to that, the former Firelord did not know. He only knew that he had banished her from the Fire Nation the night before his coronation. She had taken a ship out to the Earth kingdom colonies and was never heard from again.

However, this time his son came on official business. Zuko was a much younger version of Ozai. The only difference lay in the scar that the older man had marked him with all those years ago. "What do you want?" Ozai demanded shortly. "I told you I don't know where your mother is!"

"That's not why I'm here!" his son snapped back at him. "I'm here to inform you that the International Military Tribunal demands you stand trial!"

At this, Ozai stood up and clutched the bars. "Trial?" he repeated. "For what?"

Zuko regarded him coldly. "You've been charged with conspiracy to commit and the commission of crimes against peace, war crimes, and crimes against humanity. You and seventeen others will be moved to the dungeons of the Supreme Court."

He was moved that very day with the other seventeen defendants, and looking at his situation now, he would take his cell in the prison over this any time. They were dragged through the streets of Agnishima, where the citizens jeered at them and threw garbage and other objects at them while hurling insults. Once they had arrived in the Supreme Court dungeons, they were lined up in front of the cellblock door and greeted by a detail of guards from every nation with a Fire Nation Colonel leading them. "Prisoners, you're now in the dungeons of the Supreme Court of the Fire Nation," he announced, as if they didn't already know that. "I'm your warden, my name's Colonel Iwata. New arrivals, identify yourselves!"

"You there, Colonel!" General Itagaki replied harshly. "How dare you address your superiors in such a fashion? You will show the proper respect for rank and nobility, especially to your Phoenix King, you lowly peasant!"

The warden turned to the General sharply, handed his baton to a Northern Water Tribe guard, and marched over to the inmate. Iwata surveyed Itagaki's uniform for a moment, then with a swift movement, snatched the rank insignias from his shoulders. He then proceeded to do the same with the other Generals and Admirals. "Now you're no longer Generals," he said coldly, "you're no longer Admirals, you're no longer Ministers, and you, Prisoner Ozai, are no longer royalty!" He ended his last statement with a sharp glare at the deposed Firelord. "You're all nothing but war criminals! War criminals who sullied the honor and integrity of the Fire Nation, its people, its throne, and its armed forces for the next thousand years, if not more! I personally believe ten thousand years will pass and still, the guilt and dishonor brought upon the Fire Nation as a whole by you 'gentlemen' and your ancestors will not be erased! But, it's not my job to convict you, that's up to the court! However, as long as you're in this cellblock, the library, in the recreation room, the exercise yard, or the mess hall, you will do as we say or face dire consequences! Now, I said identify yourselves, so do it!"

After scowling at Iwata for a few seconds, Itagaki said, "General Yasuno Itagaki."

"Ex-General," Iwata retorted. "And when you talk to me or any other guard, you'll address us by rank or as 'sir' or 'ma'am'."

He resumed his pacing. "Jian Han, former Heritage and Cultural Preservation Minister, sir." Ozai turned his gaze to Han. If possible, he was even more furious than Ozai himself about the situation. "Colonel, I respectfully demand to know why I've been arrested, I have that right! What exactly do you people mean by 'crimes against humanity'? I've done nothing wrong! I didn't harm a single citizen of Omashu, and neither did my troops, nor did I write the race laws or educational curriculum! My ministry has barely involved in the war effort!"

The warden stopped in his track, his eyes narrowing as he surveyed Han in disdain. "I'm your jailer, Prisoner Han, not your lawyer. You will meet him in due time and be advised on your indictments. And if you're thinking of writing your future son in law for help, then you don't know our Firelord. He's not above the law, and he knows it-"

"What?" Ozai cut in outraged. "The Firelord is the absolute ruler of this nation, Colonel! If you're not going to respect us, at least respect the throne you swore to serve!"

Several of the guards laughed. "Oh, didn't you hear, Prisoner Ozai?" a Fire Nation Lieutenant inquired, and the former Firelord flinched at being addressed in such a fashion, especially by a low-ranking female officer "His Lordship is ending all your tyrannical policies. There's word that he and his cabinet are working on a constitution outlining the role of government and ensuring the rights of the people. Yeah, things are going to change around here with Firelord Zuko on the throne." Ozai's jaw dropped in outrage! This was disgraceful. Less than one year on the throne and his worthless son was already destroying the nation.

"Name?" Iwata stopped in front of Nguyen. He was tall and lanky with a rather unusual appearance. His dark hair was cut short and his face was clean-shaven. The only difference now than when Ozai had last seen Nguyen was that his golden eyes did not hold their usual maniac blaze. Also dispensed was his very well used sword. However, he still donned his formal black uniform with gold trimmings.

"Grand General Thanh An Nguyen... Colonel."

"Ex-Grand General," Iwata shot back and spat in his face, a gesture that would have resulted in his immediate execution under any other circumstances. "And you wipe that look off your face, you murdering piece of garbage. You're not intimidating anybody here." He then stopped in front of the next defendant, a large, rotund man with salt and pepper gray hair and beard.

"Raijin Takahashi, Justice-"

"Former Justice Minister," the warden finished hatefully. "Architect of the slaughterhouses and slave camps that you called prison facilities. You inspected our little facility not too long ago; seemed to think we were 'too soft' on the few poor souls who managed to get their day in the rabaroo court you ran here. And if I'm not mistaken, the thought police were your creation too. Well, well, well... how ironic it is that you're a prisoner here now, only you're facing an impartial judicial council and you have the chance to be acquitted, slim as that chance is. Soon, the Fire Nation's going to have its own justices appointed here to truly uphold the honor of the law, both civil and military." He paused to give Takahashi the once over. "You're as fat a pregnant hippo cow! I'm putting you on a strict diet starting right now!" The guards and other defendants laughed as the former Justice Minister flinched in outrage. Even Ozai couldn't help but laugh at his former Minister's expense. "You'll be mentally and physically fit to stand trial," Iwata added.

As the warden continued to collect names, Ozai glanced around the cell block. There were fifty cells - twenty-five on each side - and a solitary cell at the end of the corridor. Each one was meant for one person, but unlike the cages in the Agnishima Prison, these cells were small and narrow with a mattress, a toilet, a sink, and a desk. Ozai doubted he would even be able to stretch out his arms in there. To make matters worse, the cells were completely exposed with sliding bars for a door. "Colonel, am I to understand that I have to be housed in that closet of a cell?"

The warden stopped short and strode over to the former Firelord. "Oh, are these accommodations not to your liking, Prisoner Ozai? Perhaps we can arrange that you spend the duration of the trial in solitary confinement. That'll of course mean no mess hall, no recreation room, no library, and no exercise. Don't want that? I didn't think so." Satisfied at putting Ozai in his place, Iwata continued collecting the last of the names. "Right, that's everybody. Now, your time in these dungeons can be easy or hard, that all depends on your cooperation. You'll each be allowed up to three books in your possession at a time along with ink and papers for writing letters, memoirs, or whatever. Personal items will be confiscated. You'll get them back if the court acquits you or after you've paid your dues to society if convicted. Firebending is strictly prohibited and will result in solitary confinement. Acknowledging of previously held rank or title - either verbally or by bowing or saluting is also prohibited. You have no ranks or titles anymore, is this all clear?" Nobody answered. "I thought I made it clear that when I or any other guard ask you a direct question or gives you an order, you answer immediately with 'sir' or 'ma'am'. Are we clear?"

"Yes, sir!"

"Outstanding," said Iwata. "Guards, process these tyrants."

The next few hours were among the most humiliating of Ozai's life. The guards flanked him and the other inmates into the shower room, where they were all forced to strip naked and bathe together. Then they had to change into a sleeveless red prison uniform, which was the standard in all Fire Nation prisons and concentration camps. Despite the indignity of the situation, Ozai was grateful for the haircut and shave. His beard had grown unkempt during his time in the Agnishima Prison, but now he had his goatee back and his hair tied in a dignified topknot. After lunch, the defendants were finally placed in their cells.

Nearly a week had passed since the transfer, and Ozai would give anything to go back to his old prison. While the cells were solitary, they were by no means private. He was completely exposed to the guards and his fellow defendants. Sure, the latter were loyal to him during his time on the throne, and remained so to this day, but that did not make him anymore comfortable, being under their constant gaze.

While Ozai lay in his bunk that evening, he heard Qin say from the cell next door, "Heard they chose a prosecutor." Ozai heard footsteps approaching his right wall. "A man from the Earth Kingdom – or Republic – as they're calling it now."

"What in Agni's name is a Republic?" demanded Nguyen from the cell across the hall.

"It's the type of savagery you'd expect out of the Earth peoples," Ozai responded in contempt. "It gives commoners say in government affairs. Any uneducated cabbage merchant could choose who leads him." Nguyen snickered in response. "What?"

"When I was Governor of Ba Sing Se, my troops were conducting a raid of the slums. There was one neurotic cabbage merchant who accidentally had his cart overturned in the search." He screwed up his face and made his voice higher and whiny. "'My cabbages!' They didn't have the heart to deal with him."

"But you did, of course?" said Justice Minister Takahashi from the cell next door to the left. Nguyen rolled his eyes. This wasn't even worth the time acknowledging.

"Look at our situation now," said Ozai, coldly. "That prosecutor they chose is going to do everything he can to bury us. It won't matter who they choose to defend us."

Nguyen gazed up at his former Firelord. "You're not just giving up are you, my Liege? You are the Phoenix King." Ozai turned his head to him, expression blank.

"Believe me, I have no intention of pleading guilty and neither will any of you. They don't want this to be a show trial, so we'll put them into disarray and maybe some of us will get off."

Just then, the doors to the cells slid open and a detail of guards thundered into the corridor. "Everyone, let's go!" a young Earth Republic soldier who's name, Ozai learned was Wong, said shortly. Knowing it was pointless to argue, Ozai climbed off their bunks and made his way out into the corridor. "Just a second, you," snapped the guard at Nguyen, who turned to him, looking at him as though he'd love nothing more than to burn him to ashes. "Turn around, face the wall!" He did so cursing under his breath. Without another word, the guard cuffed the Grand General's hands behind his back and shackled his ankles.

"Why am I the only one being chained... Sergeant?" Nguyen spat the last word.

The soldier smirked back mockingly. "Oh, don't blame me, I'm just following orders." He tightened the handcuffs, making the former Grand General wince.

After making their way through the dank corridors of cell, the prisoners were herded up a flight of stairs into a large meeting room. Three men waited for them in there. The civilian and oldest of the lot had to have been their lawyer. "Everyone, against the wall!" a guard ordered.

Once they were standing against the wall, the older civilian stepped forward. "My name is Hideo Tanaka, I have been selected by the Firelord to represent you in the coming trials," he announced, earning hisses at the mention of Zuko. "I am a professor of law and dean of the law department at Firelord Shinji University." He pointed at the younger men. "These are my legal assistant, Captain Goshiro Suijin and Lieutenant Dai Vanh Minh.

Drawing in a breath, the lawyer continued, "The Fire Nation faces a difficult time in the years ahead. This is the first time a government of a Nation is put on trial, so I ask that you tell the truth and remember your oaths to your country."

Hearing enough, Nguyen stepped forward and faced the rest of the defendants. "Long live the Phoenix King!" His glare became more pronounced, crying, "Banzai!"

The other men apart from Ozai responded in turn. "Banzai! Banzai! Banzai!"

With a sneer, Ozai followed Tanaka to a private office within the meeting room. "So you teach at Shinji?"

"Yes," the lawyer responded, opening the door. "About sixteen years now."

***

The Royal Villa on Ember Island had been refurbished and was once again fit for regular dwelling, though Firelord Zuko seldom visited there. Instead, he granted it as a house for his friends when they stayed in the Fire Nation. Setsuko and Tuktu had finally found what Zheng Yi would consider to be among his star witnesses with only three weeks to go before the arraignment.

"I don't understand why I couldn't just go myself," complained Tuktu, trailing behind Setsuko who sighed in exasperation. "It's my job to interview the witnesses."

"You're not well acquainted with women are you?" she said.

"What does that mean?" Tuktu demanded forcefully. Setsuko stopped in her tracks and looked at him seriously.

"When women have gone through a trauma like Suki or Katara had and they have to be interviewed for it, they would feel a lot more comfortable talking to a woman stranger than they would a man. I don't need to remind you of the Southern Raiders' last attack on the Southern Water Tribe?"

"No…"

"And Suki, she was a prisoner of war. The Spirits only know what she went through during her captivity... especially under Azula's watch."

Tuktu bent his head, ashamed of his earlier attitude. "I see." Without another word, he knocked on the villa door.

A servant opened it and showed them in. "Good evening," she said bowing. "May I help you?" Setsuko stepped forward.

"I'm Setsuko Miyamoto."

"And I'm Associate Justice Elder Tuktu of the Northern Water Tribe," Tuktu announced. "We are the assistants to the prosecution in the International Military Tribunal of Major War Criminals. Are the Avatar and his friends available?" The woman looked in awe at first to be in the company of people who would almost certainly be recorded in the post-war history, but she shook it off and showed them to the living room.

"-can't accept that I'm not a frail little girl, so who needs them?" they heard Toph say, laughing derisively. "And it looks like we got company." The crimson door swung open. The team was seated on sofas and armchairs, the Avatar and the Master Katara sitting rather close together, his arm around her waist.

Setsuko and Tuktu both bowed. "Avatar Aang, Master Katara, Master Sokka, Lady Bei-Fong, and Master Suki," the Fire Nation woman began.

"Master Suki?" Suki repeated with a smug smile. "I like that," she said as she rested her head on Sokka's shoulder.

Sitting down on one of the available chairs, Setsuko spoke again. "I'm Setsuko Miyamoto and this is Elder Tuktu of the Northern Water Tribe. We represent the prosecution in the case against the highest-ranking members of the Old Regime."

"Mr. Yi, the prosecutor, is asking that you all testify on our behalf, considering that you were all directly… involved," Tuktu explained and Suki shifted uncomfortably her boyfriend.

Sokka held Suki's hand as Aang asked, "What do you want us to testify to?"

"Maybe you, as the last Airbender and the Avatar, can give us a clue as to how the war started and the rest of you can testify as to what you saw after the Avatar emerged from the iceberg." Tuktu focused on the Water Tribe siblings, his brow furrowing. "You two were present in the last Fire Nation raid on the Southern Tribe. The two of you can give us an account as to what happened."

"We lost our mother in that raid," Katara replied thickly, turning a sharp gaze to Tuktu. "Is Yon Rha one of the people you're prosecuting, because if he is, I'm more than willing to testify!" Aang turned to Katara with a commiserating sigh and slowly stroked her hair. She closed her eyes for a few seconds and regained composure, burrowing her face in the crook of Aang's arm.

Tuktu turned to Setsuko and growled, "We're going to speak to Yi and Chief Hakoda about this Yon Rha. If he's only commanded the Southern Raiders then he's not high ranked enough to be tried by the tribunal. We'll let the Southern Water Tribe deal with him."

"Sounds good to me," said Sokka, glaring like his sister.

Tuktu turned to Toph. "You've probably seen - sorry, heard what the Fire Nation did in its occupation of the Earth Kingdom. Particularly after you left home."

"All I can tell you is what me and my friends experienced on our journey. I can tell you about the refugees, the invasion of Ba Sing Se, and how things were here in the Fire Nation under Ozai." Tuktu nodded in understanding and turned to finally to Suki.

"Suki," he hoped his tone was comforting. "After the Avatar, Katara, and Sokka left Kyoshi Island, you and the other Kyoshi Warriors left to do your part in the war. You can tell us what you've seen in the former Earth King-"

"I know what you really want me to testify to," the warrior said quietly, lowering her head. "I don't think I can. I - I h-haven't even fully told my friends yet." Sokka wrapped an arm around her shoulders as Setsuko looked Suki in the eyes.

"Suki, please…" something about the woman's tone seemed to have an effect on the Kyoshi Warrior. It was almost motherly. "I know it's hard. My own brother was imprisoned, tortured, and finally hanged as a deserter and they faced the same treatment as prisoners of war. His death was the only act of mercy he'd received. We need you; the world needs to hear from you who have suffered at the hands of the Old Regime. Do not feel compelled… Mr. Yi will understand, but you will be doing yourself and other former prisoners of war a great justice if you testify against those responsible."

Suki's face began to pale and Setsuko immediately regretted trying to make her agree. Sokka held the warrior tighter kissed the top of her head as she leaned into his chest, tears filling her eyes.

Katara said, "She will need time before making a decision, and I'm sure others will too."

"I know," said Setsuko. "Thank you for your cooperation just the same."

As the lawyers made their way out of the villa, Tuktu snapped, "Well, that went well!" Setsuko chose not to answer.

***

The main courtroom was a vast circular chamber with a double tiered mezzanine for the spectators above the court, surrounding it on all sides. The bench was placed on dais at the end of the chamber. In most cases, the defendant would usually have to sit in a chair on the platform in the center for the trials, but as there were many defendants in this particular case, they were to sit in the dock behind the desks of the prosecution and defense teams. Either Zheng or Tanaka would stand on the platform when addressing the court or questioning a witness. A podium was constructed there for the coming proceedings. Each desk had a bell on top. If one wished to object to a question or answer, they'd ring the bell, but the judges made it clear that they each had to wait until the opposing lawyer finished his question or witness finished answering.

As of today, the courtroom was empty, but Zheng knew that once the trial began, there would not be a single seat available. The prosecution team sat on the right side of the room facing the bench and Tanaka sat on the left with his assistants. The only sound came from the muttering of the defendants behind them. Finally, the bailiff, Lee rapped his staff on the marble floor and defendants fell silent.

"All rise for the honorable judicial council, Justice Elder Kuruko, Chief Oyaji, General Kurosawa, Defense Elder Nanuk, General Hao, Master Piandao, Master Pakku, and the President of the Tribunal, Justice Consul Amak." Everyone in the room stood up as the eight judges made their way from an adjacent chamber to the bench. Once they took their seats, the rest of the court followed suit. Amak, who sat at the center of the bench, rapped his gavel three times.

"I hereby convene the International Military Tribunal for Major War Criminals in Agnishima; hereafter officially documented as the World versus the Old Regime of the Fire Nation," he announced, lifting up a stack of paper. "The accused are charged under any or all of the following indictments, specific charges detailed in the indictments served to each defendant in meetings with their defense counsel. This tribunal has been informed by the defense counsel that the accused fully understand the charges against them. The first indictment: General conspiracy to commit any or all of the crimes under the other indictments. The second indictment: Crimes against peace. The third indictment: War crimes. The fourth indictment: Crimes against humanity. How do you plead?"

Ozai stood up. "I wish to have Professor Tanaka speak on our behalf."

The judges muttered among themselves for a short moment and then Amak turned back to the former Firelord sternly. "Request denied, you have to state your name, your role in the Old Regime, and tell this tribunal yourself whether you're guilty or not guilty."

Ozai rolled his eyes. "Phoenix King Ozai, not guilty," he snapped and sat back down.

The First Minister arose from his seat. "First Minister Jiang Yu, not guilty."

"War Minister Sun Qin, not guilty."

"Justice Minister Raijin Takahashi, not guilty."

"Education and Information Minister Hiroshi Matsumoto, not guilty."

"Treasury Minister Soichiro Hanada, not guilty."

"Heritage and Cultural Preservation Minister Jian Han, not guilty."

"Interior Minister Hyuga Koizumi, not guilty."

"Industry Minister Tetsuo Abe, not guilty!"

"Foreign Minister Akihiro Motoyama," said a man with a sour glare on his face. "Not guilty."

The next defendant was a tall, lanky, clean-shaven man with glasses. "Health and Scientific Research Minister Mifune Ishii, not guilty and I protest my-"

Amak rapped his gavel. "The accused are not permitted to make a speech, they are to only enter their pleas."

A man in his late sixties stood up next and he looked nothing short of petrified. "No," he muttered, making the judges survey him closely. "No..."

"What's wrong with him?" Master Piandao inquired, turning to Professor Tanaka.

"He's a worthless old drunk," Ozai said, glaring disdainfully at his fellow defendant. "His addiction finally caught up with him. He has sake running through his veins, not blood."

"Shut up, Defendant Ozai!" Amak shouted, his eyes flashing.

"The defendant is former Transportation Minister Goro Hashimoto, your Honor," said Professor Tanaka.

"Then enter his plea as not guilty," said Amak. "Next defendant."

Nguyen did not even stand up. He sat in the dock as if it were a throne, a haughty expression in his golden eyes. "Grand General Thanh An Nguyen, not guilty."

An equally arrogant looking defendant stood up glaring daggers at the judges. "Grand Admiral Shigeyoshi Suzuki, not guilty."

"General Kousuke Shinu, not guilty."

"General Yasuno Itagaki," the next man hissed. "Not guilty."

"Admiral Xiaoding Chan, Eastern Fleet, not guilty."

"Admiral Yao Liang, Western Fleet, not guilty."

"Do the accused fully understand the charges against them and what they will face if convicted?" Amak inquired.

"Yes, your Honor," said Professor Tanaka.

"Then enter a plea of not guilty for each of the accused. This tribunal will adjourn until September the eighteenth at which time we will hear opening statements and the prosecution shall begin its case." Amak banged his gavel once.

"All rise!" said Lee.

The courtroom cleared quickly, leaving behind the prosecution team. "Right," said Zheng firmly. "We got the collective not-guilty pleas that we expected so that means we've got a lot of work to do. The requests for previously gathered witnesses are now subpoenas and we will be detailing the dates and times for each of them to appear." Tuktu and Setsuko nodded though the latter looked uncomfortable. She had told Zheng about Suki but the prosecutor was resolute about having her as well as others like her who were mentally fit to testify on the stand. "You two are to gather as many witnesses and documents as you can. Whatever you find may be of help. We'll meet twice a week at my house to discuss our progress. Remember, we may have months but we are to-"

"Spend every waking hour working to collect evidence." Tuktu and Setsuko cut together. "We know," assured Tuktu. "But as of now, I'm hungry."

"I know a good place," said Setsuko smiling. "Come on, you two. My treat." Zheng couldn't help but laugh. He had been under a lot of pressure since arriving in the Fire Nation. Maybe a few hours relaxing would help him a little.

A/N: Well, the trial's about to begin. I had the idea to make Suki a victim or torture as well as other...atrocities since I first started writing Avatar fanfiction. Some torture victims can keep their experiences and feeling bottled up well but would find it hard to actually talk about it, let alone in detail.

* Sensu and Song are canon characters. Sensu was the older brother of Lee, the kid from Zuko Alone. He was in the Army at the time. Song is the girl from Cave of Two Lovers, the one who healed Iroh after drinking the White Jade "tea".
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That little clash between Zheng and Tanaka was a nice taste of what's to come.  It'll be interesting to see how the tribunal mushes Water Tribe and Earth Kingdom law together to determine what objections to sustain or overrule.  :D  On that, I think it's quite an irony that Fire Nation law is not part of the legal stew here because, per your above, it is weighted against the defendants.  So much for home court advantage, as such.

As to the patriarchal nature of the Water Tribes, I agree, but I think the Southern Tribe's delegates sit there by choice of Chief Hakoda, and I think he's a bit more progressive than his Northern counterpart, especially given his treatment of Katara.  I still think you could have Kanna on the tribunal in place of Amak or Pakku and suffer no loss of authority.  With Kanna in place, I don't think the tribunal would run amok without Amak.  :D

Mrs. Han's opinion of Grand General Nguyen was rather choice, too.  Admittedly we didn't hear much from her in the show, but I wonder if she held the same opinion of the good General when the Fire Nation held Omashu.  It was nice to see a bit of Tom-Tom's home life,  too.  I like the idea of Zuko spending some time playing with him.

Question: does Zheng have the authority to make or accept deals?  From the first chapter, it seemed like he was just the lead prosecutor.  I thought that kind of authority would come from the tribunal, if it came from anywhere.

I do have to say, though, that I'm seeing some things that feel like they belong to our world rather than the Avatar's.  Ex post facto is Latin; "after the fact" would do just as well.  The Han mansion has a butler rather than a servant, and people sit on sofas in rooms decorated with wallpaper.  Zheng and Tanaka shake hands; granted Sokka offers a Water Tribe handclasp, but it's a hand-clasp rather than a hand-shake.  Also, there could have been comfort women and reparations made after the War in the Avatar world, but it feels very... World War II-ish.  I feel like those things and those people could be described with words that could fit into Mike and Bryan's world a bit more seamlessly.  They fit--those things probably did happen--but the words feel out of place to me.
3
My local comic book shop doesn't participate in FBCD :( However, another store celebrates FBCD online so they allow customers to get one for free online! It's only for the first 200 customers so I guess I must be quick :) I will definitely try to get the Korra comic, that's for sure ;)
4
According to Dark Horse Comics, they will announce the release date for the first Korra comic at SDCC this July. I asked them on Twitter ( I'm @Avatar_Rei) and that's what they told me. :)

Anyone here going to their local comic book store next Saturday (May 7) for Free Comic Book Day? There'll be a free Korra comic available. :)

5
Avatar Books and Merchandise / Re: Legend of Korra the game
« Last post by bearboymcg on April 30, 2016, 05:11:32 PM »
I kinda remember this game.I think I liked it:) It was fun and challenging,especially the mecha tanks:) Though,I did get stuck on that snow level with the mecha tank and haven't played it since.

I hope that you enjoy playing the game sis:D
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Avatar Books and Merchandise / Legend of Korra the game
« Last post by Tiger on April 30, 2016, 04:04:35 PM »
http://store.steampowered.com/app/281690/

It's heavily discounted right now on Steam so I'M BUYING IT AND I'LL TELL YOU WHAT I THINK LATER-
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Really looking forward to this comic and the Korrasami :) But what do you think the story will be about? Will it just be about Korra and Asami dating and hanging out (which I certainly wouldn't mind ;)) or will it be more like how The Promise was, with a non-romantic main plot?

Personally, I think it will focus relatively much on their relationship, much more than the TV series has focused on any relationship. But I have no idea how they will interweave that with some kind of main plot, nor what the main plot would be. I'm really curious about it! What do you think?

Edit:

It's great we know approximately when it will be released. It makes the wait a little easier...
8
Central City Station / Re: Hello!
« Last post by bearboymcg on April 30, 2016, 04:37:17 AM »
Welcome to TKC:) I hope that you'll have fun here:)

Kataang and Korrasami are good ships:)
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Central City Station / Hello!
« Last post by boolboolean on April 29, 2016, 07:50:21 PM »
Hello everybody!

I've been visiting TKC for some time now but I haven't posted anything yet. That will change now ;) I'm 19 years old and live in Sweden. Currently I study computer science (first year will be done in a few weeks!) but in my spare time I enjoy, besides Avatar, reading and driving with trailers. I'm relatively shy, but I like to laugh and try my best to be kind to everyone I meet.

I got into Avatar by catching a few random episodes on TV. Ever since then I've been a huge fan of Avatar, and more recently, Korra too. It was actually not until the complete set of Korra was released that I started watching it. I really love Korra too! In case you wonder, I ship Kataang and Korrasami!

The Korra Connection seems like a very nice place to be and I love to visit the forum. Seluna has done a great job of making this a friendly and cozy place! Hopefully my posts will contribute to this atmospehere.

See you around!
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Avatar Books and Merchandise / Re: Korra complete DVD/Blu-ray set cover! :D
« Last post by boolboolean on April 29, 2016, 05:45:32 PM »
Maybe I should've posted this earlier, but here we go anyway...

I bought the complete set only a couple of days after it was released! The only online store where I could find it was JB hi-fi (in Australia), so that's where I bought. Somehow the cost ended up being quite low anyway, including shipping all the way to Europe. If you wonder what the set looks like in real life:



As you can see it's just a paper box around the four individual blu-ray covers. Since I hadn't watched any Korra before, this complete set was the perfect opportunity for me to watch it!
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