Josh/Avatar opens his eyes, and looks around with amazed awareness. He blinks, the strange hues of the alien vision flooding his brain. He moves awkwardly, sitting up. He takes a deep breath and smells the air. His nostrils flare with the flood of new alien smells. He looks at his hand, staring at it, working the fingers. He looks down and stares at his body, then touches it with one hand. Feels the skin. Smooth. Warm.
A tech tells him over the PA to check his motor control. Try to touch his fingertips together. He does, missing like a drunk at a sobriety checkpoint. He tries again, face screwed up in concentration. His fingertips touch clumsily, shaking slightly. Can he see, the voice asks. He nods yes. Breathing okay? Yes. Speech check. Try to talk.
Josh/Avatar's throat works, and an inarticulate croak emerges. He tries again, and it sounds like a baby trying to imitate speech. The tech tells him to try crawling. He rolls to his stomach. Pushing up with his arms, he gets his knees under him. He is unsteady as a newborn antelope, his arms and body shaking as muscles clench and nerves fire spasmodically. He crawls clumsily, like a baby, to a plastic chair nearby. Josh/Avatar gets one hand on the chair and tries to pull himself up. After a lot of effort, he is almost standing... hunched over like an ancient man.
Finally, he is standing on shaking legs. He lets go of the chair. Swaying, he stands free. He grins, baring slightly pointy teeth. Then falls right on his ass. Hearing laughter, he looks up. A statuesque female avatar walks up, standing over him. The first female he has seen. She is magnificent, with powerful panther thighs, a flat muscular stomach and small but firm athlete's breasts. She is wearing shorts and a T-shirt, and in human years would be about 25. Her face looks somewhat familiar... Josh manages to croak out his first sentence.
JOSH/AVATAR: Whooo... are... yu-you?
FEMALE AVATAR: Who do you think, dumbshit? How quickly they forget.
The voice is very recognizable. It is Grace. Now that we know, we see her face in the alien features. She grins at him, and cocks one hip.
GRACE/AVATAR: Ain't I a babe?
Grace/Avatar helps him to his feet, and supports his weight while he tries to walk, just like a mom holding a baby's hands. She faces him, holding his hands, and steps backward. Josh, the toddler, takes his first steps. She slowly lets go of his fingers, letting him balance himself. He takes another step. Josh stares down in amazement at his feet. His face holds a childlike wonder.
JOSH/AVATAR: I'm walking.
GRACE/AVATAR: You sure are, kid.
Josh's eyes fill with tears. Grace sees one running down the blue skin of his cheek.
GRACE/AVATAR: Yup, looks like everything's working just fine.
CUT TO Josh being interviewed by Marcia de Los Santos, the Freemedia Officer. Josh is explaining how his training is going. He's walking fine, and has started running and climbing exercises. His coordination is already equal to a human five year old. She asks him a question she has asked all of them... what it's like to wake up in another body. Josh tries to tell her, but he can't. Just that it is a wonder. And in his case, a great gift. He says the air smells like cinnamon.
JOSH, under the link. In CU we see his eyes tracking, like he is dreaming.
JOSH/AVATAR runs to catch a ball thrown by one of the other trainee avatars, Norm Cheeseman. We barely recognize skinny Norm, since his avatar body, like all of them, is powerfully muscled.
MONTAGE: Josh/Avatar taking a drink of some green liquid, which spills down his chin. By his expression it obviously tastes great. Norm/Avatar showing off to the techs, using the window like a mirror to shoot bodybuilder poses. Josh doing a running cartwheel, jumping up and catching the monkey bars, and pulling himself rapidly across hand-over-hand. Grace/Avatar, taking a picture of him with an instamatic camera as he eats an unfamiliar Pandoran fruit, getting the juice all over himself. Josh/Avatar drawing and firing a large pistol, blowing big holes in paper targets.
Josh/Avatar lies down to sleep for the night on a futon in the training compound. Some of the other avatars are already asleep nearby. We can see their bioluminescent spot patterns glowing in the dark. Josh/Avatar stares up at the alien sky, seeing mighty Polyphemis rise against the stars. His catlike eyes are wide with the wonder of this new world. He hears the chatters and shrieks from the forest, that black wall out beyond the compound. The sentry guns fire and there is a piercing scream, shortlived. Soon he will be out there. His eyes close, as sleep takes him.
The human Josh opens his eyes in the linkroom a moment later. He climbs stiffly from his chair, pushing himself across to his wheelchair. He sits rubbing his temples with fatigue. Even in the lesser gravity of Pandora, his human body feels like a deadweight after his exhilarating hours in the other body. Grace, looking tired and rumpled, climbs out of her seat nearby. She looks down at her doughy body.
GRACE: At midnight I always turn back into a pumpkin. Come on, let me buy you a drink.
IN SELFRIDGE'S OFFICE, Quaritch is complaining that he doesn't have enough men to escort all the scientific sorties, cover the mine, the base and also the new construction. Selfridge tells him he will cut the escorts on the scientific teams back to one man per sortie. Quaritch nods, but says that the number of major predator attacks on the perimeter has steadily increased, and there have been five major breaches of the outer fence this year. One of his men was killed by a SLINGER last Tuesday, and two are on medical report because of HELLFIRE WASPS. One of his gunships was attacked by a LEONOPTERYX near the deuterium plant, and almost crashed.
He's lost six people already this year, twice the number for the same time last year, and is already over his ammo budget. It's getting worse, not better. Selfridge says he will order more men and weapons on the next starship, and cut back on the scientific package. They just have to make it to then. He orders Quaritch to clearcut a wider safety zone around the new construction.
CUT TO the clearcutting operation, out at the edge of the safety zone. Massive tractors and bulldozers are ripping into the treeline, toppling the huge trees. Now we see why the equipment is so big... the trees are enormous. The dozers have plasma cutters which rip into the trees, slashing through their gargantuan bases in a spray of fierce light and burning wood-shrapnel. The larger trees are blasted with high explosives, raining kindling down for hundreds of yards. The tractor drivers are safe in armored cages, and Scorpion gunships prowl over the tree-line, looking for large predators which might be approaching.
ANGLE FROM INSIDE THE RAINFOREST, as the tractors relentlessly approach. It is the POV of somebody or something watching.
REVERSE, tight on a pair of eyes. The catlike eyes of one of the humanoid PANDORANS, FILLING FRAME.
A GLIMPSE of figures moving through the foliage, their skin-markings acting as almost perfect camouflage. We can barely see them. Just an impression of graceful, lithe forms. Then nothing.