Iroh sat back in his chair around the table, listening as the Council of Five planned out their attack on the Fire Nation. He found he was having mixed feelings about this situation. On the one hand, his presence here boded well for making peace between the nations after the war was over. On the other, here he was helping plan an invasion of his own homeland. While he agreed with Zuko's plan to depose Ozai and place him on the throne, he couldn't escape the divided loyalties in his own heart. He was being forced to choose between his brother and his nephew, and while he knew his choice was the right one, it wasn't any less unpleasant.
Sitting directly across from him was the young Water Tribesman, Sokka. He was paying rather close attention to everything the Council was discussing, but he seemed to grow more and more put out with the direction of the discussion. At the same time, he seemed too intimidated by the Council to speak up. Iroh couldn't blame the boy: he was just barely on the verge of manhood, thrown into all of this before he was ready.
Remembering how Zuko was when he first started learning politics and tactics, Iroh decided to speak up on the boy's behalf. "Did you have something to add to the discussion, Sokka?" he asked. "Considering how well your plans have done in thwarting Azula in the past, who was certainly one of the Fire Nation's greatest modern tacticians, I am certain your input would be of great value."
Iroh did his best not to laugh aloud at the look of absolute terror on the boy's face as all eyes turned to him. To his credit, Sokka didn't back down. Swallowing convulsively, he stood up and began to speak, even if his voice was uncertain. "Well, it's just...all these plans of a full scale invasion...I mean, it just doesn't..."
Taking pity on the boy, Iroh leaned forward. "Explain your idea to me, Sokka," he instructed softly. "I'm sure Toph's told you I'm always happy to listen."
Nodding, Sokka focused his attention on Iroh, his voice becoming a bit more certain as Iroh's expression showed no sinecure or judgement, only support...and slowly growing admiration as Sokka went on. "Well, I don't think a full scale invasion of the Fire Nation is such a good idea," Sokka explained. "Our goal here isn't conquest, but a coup. Since our end goal is to use the Day of Black Sun to get Zuko inside Fire Nation borders so he can challenge Ozai to the Agni Kai once the Eclipse ends, our efforts should be focused on getting the Fire Nation's forces out of the way, rather than eradicating them. A full scale invasion would take too long, and we won't have enough time in the eclipse for the infiltration. All this current plan would accomplish is annihilation...and I'm pretty sure that's not our goal here.
"Our first task should be to mount major assaults on several points of tactical significance to the Fire Nation," Sokka continued, growing more confident as even the Generals began to listen with less judgement and more interest. "But we won't be trying to take those points. The goal is to make the Fire Nation think our attack is serious enough that they send out their fleets and reserve forces to counter us...at which point a specially selected force led by Zuko will slip past the weakened defenses to target the Royal Compound, and Ozai specifically."
"Specially selected force?" General Sung asked, locking his beady eyes on Sokka. "Why such a special force?"
"Because whatever defenses will be left will be built around conventional ideas of warfare and conventional assaults," Sokka countered. "So if we want to make it past them without too many casualties, the assault force needs to be unconventional." He grinned widely as he leaned back. "I've already got a plan of just who to send in, and the time the diversionary assaults will take to set up and initiate will be plenty of time to gather them."
"Not a bad plan," General How confirmed, stroking his strong chin as he looked Sokka over. "I assume you also have ideas of what particular places we should attack?"
Sokka swallowed nervously as he scratched the back of his head. "Well...I don't actually know much about the overall Fire Nation war strategy to guess what points would be good targets..." Seeing Iroh's supportive smile, he grinned widely. "But we do happen to have someone here who does!"
Iroh chuckled as all eyes turned to him. "Indeed I do know of several such locations that would bring immediate reinforcements should we attack," he stated firmly. "And, if what I see of current force placement for both sides is accurate, those locations are open to assault." He began marking the points on the map, placing flags at each location he was discussing. "Although we shouldn't actually try to take those locations. The cost in time, resources, and lives would be prohibitive. We should engage in a siege postion until reinforcements are sighted, then pull back. With one exception."
Iroh carefully placed the last few flags. "These are prisons run by the Fire Nation. Here they keep prisoners of war, traitors, and other criminal elements. If we can take these locations, we can swell our forces by a great deal, and many we liberate there can be added to the special assault force. One place in particular, where we know from Mai and Ty Lee the Kyoshi Warriors were sent."
"Their particular skills would be most useful in infiltrating the Fire Nation capitol," General How agreed. "Where would they be?"
"Here," Iroh proclaimed, pointing to the location in question. "The Boiling Rock."