He jumps to his feet and scrambles away from beneath the medusa. Panting, he looks up at it. It's still dead. He finds his machete and stands surveying the gloomy forest around him. Alone in the bush, miles from nowhere. Great. He feels an overwhelming sense of doom. Josh backs away from the medusa, then turns to look behind him. CHOMP!! The striking head of a snake-tree snaps its jaws shut inches from him. He jumps back as several of the other heads lunge. CHOMP! CHOMP! CHOMP! He stands there panting, just out of range of the hydra heads.
JOSH: This place is like a goddamned Roadrunner cartoon.
At the downed Samson Trudy has called the base. She tells Grace that they can't send a ship for a couple of hours, everything's committed. And Quaritch won't send one of his gunships to pick up civilians. Prick. Grace picks up Onozuki's rifle and tells Trudy to get back to the ship. Josh is walking through the forest, moving in and out of patches of sunlight. He slaps at bugs. He finds the plant Grace used for insect repellent and cuts it open,
smearing it on himself.
POV FROM NEARBY. Something is watching him from behind a curtain of leaves.
REVERSE... TWO EYES watch from the dappled shadows. Na'vi eyes. Piercing gaze, FILLING FRAME. A soundless motion, the eyes are gone.
Josh walks on through the forest, skittish and hyperalert. He keeps his machete gripped tightly. Something small rustles away through the ferns near him. He hears distant
shrieks, chirps, grunts. There is a crash and an explosion of splintered wood and flying leaves.
A BULL HAMMERHEAD TITANOTHERE emerges into the clearing ahead of him in a shower of foliage. Its baleful eyes lock onto him. Josh is frozen. The titanothere bellows and lowers its ten foot wide sledgehammer of a head. It charges. The ground shakes. Josh, in desperation, screams at the top of his lungs, spreads his arms wide and runs straight at the thing. It stops its charge abruptly, with an oversized bleat.
ANGLE ON JOSH. He is amazed the gambit worked. He grins. Makes a face at the titanothere. Something rises up behind him out of focus...
RACK FOCUS to it, revealing... A MANTICORE. This is what really stopped the Titanothere's charge.
The manticore is the most fearsome of Pandoran predators, and by the look of it might be the toughest carnivore in the known universe. This thing could eat a T-rex and have the Alien for desert. It is a black six-limbed panther from Hell, the size of a tractor trailer, with an armored head, a venomous striking tail, and massive distensible armored jaws. Its shiny black skin looks like polished leather, and is banded with thin stripes of yellow and scarlet.
It has four powerful legs forming a base for a torso which angles up, centaur-like, to a powerful shoulder girdle. Folded against its chest are two long forearms like the striking limbs of a praying mantis. Curving up over the back is a muscular scorpion tail which ends in a scythe- like stinger, over a foot long. The locals call it "Palulukan", which translates as "Dry Mouth Bringer of Fear".
Josh, still unaware of the silently advancing manticore, yells "boo!" to the Titanothere. It wheels around, trumpeting in fear, and thunders off down the trail. Imagine Josh's surprise when there is an earsplitting snarl behind him and seven tons of rippling manticore launches over him, landing between him and the titanothere. The hammerhead is shaking the ground at a full gallop, but the manticore runs it down in half a dozen powerful bounds.
It leaps to the titanothere's shoulder, seizing it in the powerful front limbs, and then the muscular tail arches over, slamming the foot long stinger through the beast's armored neck. The neurotoxin venom is pumped in with one contraction of the muscular tail, and the titanothere topples to the ground with a crash, shaking the forest. Josh gapes as the manticore rips into its prey with massive jaws lined with distending fangs 9 inches long. Josh backs slowly away, trying to be invisible. He slips behind some foliage, then runs like hell.
CUT TO JOSH chopping at a sapling he has cut down, fashioning it into a long spear. He hacks at the end, forming a crude but sharp tip. His motions are jerky and manic with fear. He sticks the machete through his belt and carries the spear two-handed as he moves through the forest like it's a minefield.
THE POV AGAIN, through the leaves. And the eyes, bright in a slash of sunlight. Golden irises like a cat, in a feral blue face. They duck away as Josh approaches.
Josh passes a tree, and on our side of the tree we see a figure, standing utterly still, listening to him pass. A NA'VI WOMAN. She is young, and lithe as a cat, with a long, slender neck, muscular shoulders, and nubile breasts... a statuesque vision. Let's not mince words here... she is devastatingly beautiful. For a girl with a tail. In human age she would be in her late teens. In the sun dappled shadows, her banded markings make her invisible. Josh passes less than a meter from her and never knows she is there. She watches him, frozen, only her eyes moving.
CLOSEUP on the Na'vi girl. She sniffs the scent Josh has left behind him in the air.
AT THE CRASH SITE the rescue ship as arrived. Trudy climbs aboard the hovering Samson, but Grace and N'deh say there are going to look for Josh. The VTOL craft banks away. Grace looks to the west as she walks to the treeline. The twin suns are setting behind a black wall of alien trees.
DUSK IN THE RAINFOREST. Josh, moving through the quickly darkening forest, has got problems. In the deepening gloom he sees black shapes moving with liquid grace among the shadows behind him. He is being stalked by a pack of VIPERWOLVES. Josh catches movement out of the corner of his eye and realizes one of the things is moving up to a flanking position. He sees a glint of eyes, a slinking black movement... then nothing. Darkness. And behind him more glints... pairs of eyes. Then a hideous sound, more like a hyena's maniacal laugh than a dog growl.
Josh starts to run along a game trail he has been following. He catches glimpses of the viperwolves bounding through the woods, staying with him. His running has made them bolder. They sense his fear and they are closing in. He sees another on his opposite flank now.
The forest has come alive with bioluminescence as the day fades. Spots and patterns, ghosts and galaxies of blue- green light dance before his eyes, disorienting him... seeming to surround him with the glowing cat-eyes of the viperwolves. Their psychotic laughing barks become more intense as they signal each other, getting excited. He can see the shadows of the viperwolves moving through the undergrowth, leaving a tell-tale trail of flashes as they brush against the sensitive plants.
Finally one makes a run at him. He senses it angling in on his legs from behind and he whirls, whopping it with the flat of the spear. It yips and goes past him, but instantly another moves in. He jabs it with the business end of the spear and it yelps, retreating, baring its fangs. Josh realizes that he is making his final stand. The viperwolves circle and Josh gets his first good look at them. He doesn't like what he sees. They are like wolves painted by Francis Bacon...
Hairless, with shiny skin that looks like overlapped leather armor. They are mostly black, banded with vermilion and thin lines of iridescent blue. Earless low- slung heads, with chitinous neck shields like a triceratops. Bright, intelligent eyes. And the same distending, snake-like jaws as the bansheerays, glistening with fangs that look like they are made of glass. Most disturbing are the creature's paws, which are like leathery black hands... almost human in shape, with a thumb for gripping. These things can hunt in the trees as well as on the ground.
There are half a dozen of them, maybe more in the shadows. Josh feels a rush of adrenaline, or whatever does the same thing in his avatar body, like he has never felt in his life. It goes through him like a lightning bolt and the fear is gone.
JOSH: (shouting) You want me? Come on! Come and get some!
With sharp snarls and a blur of motion they attack. Josh plants the spear in one, striking true, but the speed of its attack wrenches it from his hands. He draws the machete and chops at another, just as a third sinks its teeth into his arm. He yells in pain and fury, slashing across with the machete. It cuts deep into the throat of the one on his arm, and it lets go.
He sprints, trying to escape, but one of the viperwolves grabs him by the ankle with its powerful fore-hand. Josh tears away, but goes sprawling. He looks up in time to see four viperwolves lunging toward him. The nearest leaps at his throat. THUNK!! An arrow appears in its chest. It lands on him, already a dead weight. He pushes it off in time to see a blue figure wade in among the remaining wolves. It is the Na'vi girl.