(A small Fire Nation boat arrives at Ember Island. Jumping off the front of the boat, Zuko lands on the sandy beach and looks ahead of him before turning to Suki and Ty Lee.)
ZUKO: I’m going in.
SUKI: You sure you should go in alone? You know we’re always willing to lend a hand.
ZUKO: I know. It’s just…I need to see this for myself first. A wild dragon sighted here on Ember Island? I only know of two dragons in the world at all, and they reside with the Sun Warriors. I can’t help thinking something else is going on here. If I’m not back in twenty minutes, then come in after me.
SUKI: You got it.
TY LEE: And afterwards, do you think we could all just relax together here at the beach? It’d be fun.
(Zuko turns to Ty Lee, who chuckles nervously before Zuko shakes his head in amusement.)
ZUKO: Sure, why not?
SUKI: Wait, look! Up there!
(Zuko looks up and sees a small red dragon flying overhead and landing on the other side of the beach.)
ZUKO: Stay here!
(Zuko races down the beach and sees the dragon, who is in reality a young boy named Jake Long, turn to him. When he sees the red attire Zuko is wearing, Jake’s eyes widen in surprise.)
JAKE: Whoa! Get away from me, dude!
(Zuko hears him and comes to an abrupt halt.)
ZUKO: You…you can talk?
JAKE: That’s right I can, and I’ve run into too many people in red. All they did was shoot fire at me and try to kill me! One of them even shot lightning at me! I’ve got enough on my plate, man!
ZUKO: You mean…you’ve run into my sister Azula?
JAKE: You’re related to that crazy chick? Okay, I’m not going to have any qualms scorching you!
(Knowing he has only seconds before Jake attacks, Zuko shoots out two jets of fire at him in quick succession. Jake takes to the skies and avoids the fire and retaliates by breathing fire from his mouth. However, Zuko waves a hand and deflects the fire into the water. Just as he turns back to confront the dragon, Jake rams into him and takes to the skies, clutching Zuko’s wrists. Gritting his teeth in frustration, Zuko struggles to free himself from Jake’s grasp, but to no avail. After half a minute’s futile effort, he changes tactics and kicks out at Jake. Not expecting the move, Jake loosens his hold on Zuko. The Fire Lord falls to the sandy floor but he covers himself in a ball of fire.)
JAKE: Um…what just happened? These fire guys are crazy.
(The ball of fire dissipates once it reaches the ground, revealing Zuko to be completely unharmed. When he sees Jake looking down at him in surprise, Zuko conjures up a fire whip and swings it at Jake, prompting him to fly and evade it. When he dives down at Zuko, the Firebender breaks off his attack and rolls to the left. Before Jake can turn around in time, Zuko jumps onto his back and tries to wrestle him to the ground.)
ZUKO: I don’t want to fight you. Just surrender.
JAKE: No way!
(Jake flaps his wings in desperation, throwing Zuko off him. Zuko falls on his back but jumps back up in an instant, just as Jake lunges and lands in front of the Fire Lord. He flicks his tail at Zuko, only for his attack to get kicked aside by Zuko. Seeing an opening, Zuko shoulder slams Jake in the face, making him double backward. Before he can recover, Zuko jumps over Jake’s head and grabs his horns, flipping Jake into the beach floor on purpose. However, Jake turns around and blasts more fire at Zuko, but he simply raises a wall of fire to block the attack before redirecting it back at Jake. The fire engulfs Jake, but when it vanishes, he is still standing in the exact same spot without a single injury.)
ZUKO: What? How?
(Then something clicks in his mind.)
ZUKO: Of course. You’re a dragon, so fire won’t hurt you.
JAKE: Hey, you figured that out pretty quickly.
ZUKO: But how is it you can talk?
JAKE: Sorry, but I’m not in the mood for Twenty Questions. You want the answer? You’ll have to beat it out of me!
ZUKO: Have it your way.
JAKE: I will, thank you very much.
(Zuko is all set to strike again, but before he can, Jake suddenly closes his eyes and four copies of him appear and they move side by side the original in a V formation.)
JAKE: Now let’s get this over with!
(Zuko goes on the evasive, trying to keep out of the reach of Jake and his doppelgängers. They all swoop down at him and attack from multiple directions, keeping Zuko off his game. Eventually, he falls to the ground, Suki and Ty Lee watching in shock. Zuko groans as he tries to prevent the five Jakes from overwhelming him, using his Firebending to keep them at bay. None of his attacks have any effect, but after a while, the real Jake suddenly rubs his head. Looking around, Zuko notices the clones vanish around him. Once more, a realization clicks in his mind.)
ZUKO: Crating those copies had to be a tiring feat. I’m not much better off right now, but I have to focus. If I can hold out just long enough, I might be able to subdue him.
(Waiting for Jake to make the first move, Zuko rises to his feet. Knowing he is running out of energy himself, Jake breathes fire from his mouth, aiming it at Zuko. The fire completely surrounds him, but it suddenly disperses around the beach, stopping ten yards away from Suki and Ty Lee, who both jump back out of danger. The redirected attack hits Jake full force, and although it doesn’t harm him, his vision becomes clouded with smoke. Meanwhile, Zuko bends the smoke directly in front of him and charges forward in Jake’s direction, drawing his dual swords. Just when the smoke dissipates is the second Zuko clashes with Jake, who remains temporarily disoriented by the smoke. However, his hearing remains sharp as ever and he avoids Zuko’s first attack at the last second. Zuko whirls around just as quickly and comes at Jake again, kicking out a jet of fire at his face, successfully blinding his vision. Using the precious seconds he has to turn the tide in his favor, Zuko dives under Jake’s legs, slicing his swords at his ankles. Although he is not cut, Jake still winces and loses his bearings. Just when he starts to recover, Zuko rolls behind him. He avoids a swing from Jake’s tail and swings his swords at the dragon’s back. Jake winces some more before Zuko jumps toward him and slams his shoulder into the back of Jake’s head, his elbow hitting Jake squarely in the ear.)
(Jake falls forward and slumps down in the sand, lying unconscious. Now defeated, he reverts from his dragon form to his human form. Zuko looks down at the sight before him.)
ZUKO: What the…
(He suddenly turns around to see Suki and Ty Lee running over to him.)
SUKI: Zuko, are you okay?
ZUKO: Yeah, I’ll be fine. But now we have a lot of questions and not enough answers. Look.
(He gestures at Jake’s unconscious form.)
TY LEE: What does this mean?
ZUKO: All I know is he’s not really an enemy. He was just scared and confused. We have to find out what he’s been through and help him as best we can. We also need to make sense of how a human could turn himself into a dragon. For that, I think our best course of action is to consult the Avatar.
Now before I get on with the final verdict, I’d like to start off saying this was an incredibly difficult fight to write, mostly because I wasn’t sure how to have it start. When I decided that escaping from a confrontation with Azula would be good incentive for Jake to attack another fire user, I knew I had to have this established with Zuko, to also keep him a little off his game and keep the fight as fair as I could. Now that I got that all out of the way, another thing that made this fight a challenge was figuring out who would win after decided powers weren’t going to be of much use to either Zuko or Jake. On the one hand, Jake’s dragon physiology would protect him from Zuko’s Firebending. On the other hand, Jake couldn’t really hurt Zuko by breathing fire at him either. And nothing else they could do would help them fare any better, since Zuko didn’t have any lightning to redirect, and Jake’s Doppelganger would leave him tired out after a certain amount of time. So it all came down to one question: Jake’s superior physicality, or Zuko’s greater combat skills and experience, and although it wouldn’t be an easy fight, I still found the odds playing in higher favor to Zuko. Jake might be tougher and stronger, but not by significant margins. Meanwhile, Zuko completely outmatches him as far as overall martial arts is concerned, as Zuko has won many fights without having to rely on his bending at all, so when he realized that was his best way to win, he’d ultimately be ready to fight hand-to-hand when required to do so. On the other hand, Jake would quickly find himself very stumped when his main dragon powers failed to win the day for him, leaving him with almost nothing to fall back on. Once this inevitably happened, the tide would turn in favor of Zuko, and the Fire Lord would waste no time landing the enough hits to beat the American Dragon. Jake was just going to crash and burn, no matter hard he tried to wing it.The winner is Zuko.