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AVATAR: PAGE 9






Lyle squawks and pleads with her not to. She disgustedly gets off him. She is already walking away, toward the felled creatures, as Lyle gets up. Josh sees him going for his sidearm. Lyle has it aimed at Grace's back and is about to pull the trigger when Josh hits him like a freight train. He slams the trooper against the cowl of the ship, twists the pistol out of his hand in one lightning move, and then picks him up bodily. Josh is amazed at how easy it is to hurl the human twenty feet away, even weighted down by his full battle dress. Lyle crashes in a heap, breaking his arm, and lies there moaning. Josh picks him up with one hand and leans close to his mask.

JOSH: Lyle, look at me. Lyle! You looking? You do that again, I'll bite your throat out.

Josh bares his pointy teeth in a vicious snarl. Lyle's eyes go wide with primal fear.

JOSH: Understand?

Lyle nods, and Josh shoves him into the Samson. Grace is staring at her new assistant. He is a fighter. There's hope for him yet.

Meanwhile, N'deh has gone to the bodies of the direhorses. A foal, only a few days old, has been hiding in the ferns nearby. It emerges and honks for its mother to get up. It licks her face and honks again, pitifully. N'deh pulls something from the tube across his back. It is a piece of gut-twine with something on the end... a carved wooden cylinder. He starts to whirl it round and round, above his head and as it builds speed, it emits a powerful ululating wail, like a siren. It works like the "bullroarer" of the Australian aborigines, though the pitch is different and N'deh is somehow able to modulate it into a more complex sound.

The sound of the bullroarer echoes off through the trees for miles.

CUT TO THE SAMSON lifting, banking away above the treeline. Its turbofan roar fades. Then there is only the sound of the forest. We see shapes among the trees... figures which blend with the foliage. The banded patterns on their bodies make them hard to see in the dappled light.

Close on one of the dead direhorses. A blue hand enters frame, stroking its face. The foal is lifted, still honking feebly, and carried away on strong blue shoulders.

BACK AT HELL'S GATE Brantley Giese is on the carpet in Selfridge's office. The incident with trooper Wainfleet couldn't have come at a worse time. The Avatar Program is on shaky enough ground, without this sort of thing. Now Quaritch is out for blood, and Carter Selfridge is considering restricting the number of scientific sorties he approves, and confining the avatars to base. Giese is barely able to get him to loosen up, reminding him of all the things they've learned about Pandora from the Na'vi, and how much money there is to be made from the drugs and biochemical compounds as yet undiscovered in the forest. He reminds him of the money the Consortium has made from the countervirus.

Think how great it would be if they could get the Na'vi back to the table, trusting us again. And how it's the troopers running around blasting everything in sight that caused the rift with them in the first place. Selfridge and Quaritch don't understand a primitive culture which lives close to the soil, close to the daily cycle of birth and death. They don't understand, and they don't want to. Quaritch thinks the natives are lazy and stupid. You give them a gun so they can hunt better, and they give it back. How smart is that?

Giese tried to explain that the Na'vi consider it unfair and obscene to hunt with a gun... a dishonor to the spirit of the animal and its purpose for existence. They believe that everything has a purpose, and sometimes the animal's purpose is to feed the Na'vi, and sometimes the Na'vi's purpose is to feed the animal, and determining which is which is what makes them both strong, fast and perfect. They don't want to change.

Selfridge says that if that is true, the Na'vi will never help them build factories and strip-mine their own planet. They are useless to us. And Giese knows he has said too much. He is trapped in his own argument. He tries to buy time, saying he can get the Na'vi to cooperate.

NEXT WE SEE Giese raking (human) Grace and Josh over the coals in her lab. Josh says he had to do something, that jarhead was going to blow Grace's avatar away. Giese holds his head in his hands. Would any court, anywhere, let him get away with equating a human life to that of a genetic construct... a living artifact created in a lab? Giese says he knows what it feels like... he's spent enough hours in the bush, in avatar form. It's intoxicating, it's the greatest experience imaginable... but they have to remember what they are here for.





And what is that? Grace yells, challenging him. To get the Na'vi to trust us? So we can use them? So we can harness them to the yoke? So we can make them slaves, and teach them to participate in the rape of their own home planet? You're an anthropologist, Brantley! How did it turn into this? You're no better than Selfridge and his goon squad. Are you getting a nice fat payoff like Parrish?

Giese is furious. He tells them both he doesn't want them around the base for a while, until things cool down. He wants them to go out to SITE 26. They can spend a couple of weeks in the boonies collecting, up in the Hallelujah Mountains, while he tries to get things patched up. He warns Grace that she is "going native" and dragging her assistant into it as well. And that way can lie madness. Look what happened to Hegner.

A SAMSON roars high above the rainforest, climbing into the mountains. Josh and Grace are sitting up front with the pilot, TRUDY CHACON. N'deh rides in the open back compartment with a single trooper, CORPORAL BILL ONOZUKI, and the unconscious avatars of Josh and his boss.

JOSH: So what happened to Hegner?

Grace tells him that Hegner's avatar was not just killed by a slinth. He let the slinth take him. Suicide. He was dying of a broken heart, and being in the avatar body without his loved one was just too painful. He managed to fall in love with a Na'vi girl, some say they were married... and she was killed. She was one of the five killed by the SECFOR troopers in the incident which caused the big rift between the two species. And Hegner went crazy. Her name was Li Na. There are many dangers on Pandora, Grace says, and one of the subtlest is that you may come to love it too much.

JOSH: Not so far.

CUT TO SITE 26, a remote research station. It consists of a "shack"... a single air-lift module, about the size of a Winnebago, which is perched on the flank of a mountain, near the Montes Volans. Here the trees are gnarly and much shorter, their roots gripping the rocks like arthritic hands. In the clear space around the shack are packing cases and instrument packages left by previous research groups. The station is uninhabited. A few of the nearer flying mountains are visible a few miles off, among the clouds.

A Samson lands near the shack. Grace and the pilot get out, wearing masks and rebreathers. They get Josh's chair out of the back, then help him out of the ship and into it. Their trooper escort does nothing to help unload, merely scans the area, his gun held at the ready. N'deh stays in the back compartment of the aircraft with the unconscious avatars of Josh and Grace. They enter the shack, which is dark and musty. Grace starts the genny and turns on the lights and equipment. There are bunkbeds, a cramped clutter of scientific gear, and two link chairs.

Trudy jokes about being alone in the mountains for a couple of weeks with two men in such cramped quarters. Josh says the only threat he poses is body odor, indicating his useless lower body. Once Grace has checked out the link transmitters, she and Josh go straight to the chairs. Outside, at the ship, their avatars blink and sit up. They get out of the Samson and stand, breathing the cold mountain air. Streamers of cloud wreath the nearby mesa-tops, and partially obscure the floating mountains nearby.



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