AT SITE 26, a Scorpion gunship lands and four troopers in full armor jump out, led by Corporal Lyle Wainfleet. TSU TE wades in with a series of short, sharp blows. Josh swings with equal fury. They are both fighting from the
INSIDE THE SHACK at Site 26 the door bangs open and the troopers clomp inside. They cross to the link chairs and Lyle jerks the helmet off Grace's head. In the village, standing next to N'deh, Grace/Avatar's eyes roll back and she keels over. N'deh barely catches her before she hits the ground. Josh, in the heat of battle doesn't see it. He stands, panting, facing Tsu Te. Tsu Te leaps forward and-- Josh's eyes go blank. They roll back and K-RACK!! Tsu Te puts one alongside his head. Josh sprawls, completely inert.
Tsu Te approaches, staring at the still figure. Zuleika rushes in, shoving him back, screaming at him. She goes to Josh and cradles his head. Tsu Te is afraid now that he might have killed Josh. His rage is gone, replaced by remorse. He drops his stick and runs into the forest. Zuleika strokes Josh's head. HUMAN JOSH come out of the link in a rage. Coming from the fight, he is amped to the max. This added to the outrage of the troopers interrupting a link in progress (which is potentially lethal to the avatar if it is in the middle of something dangerous). He lunges at Lyle, forgetting he has no legs in this world. He falls onto the floor. Lyle laughs and kicks him in the stomach.
LYLE: Aren't you gonna bite my throat out?
Lyle kicks him again. The troopers grab Josh and he struggles. They twist his arms behind him and cuff him, roughly throw him in his chair and slap a mask over his face. They drag Josh and Grace out to the Scorpion.
AT HELL'S GATE the two wayward controllers confront Selfridge and Quaritch. Giese can't help them. They've stepped over the line.
Josh yells that we are going to destroy these people before we even understand them. Selfridge accuses Josh of "going native". Says he has forgotten who he works for. Why he is here. Josh says he never knew why he was here until now. Selfridge doesn't get what that might mean. Grace says the irony is that the greatest treasure on this planet is not the precious minerals to be ripped out of the earth. Not the Big Rock Candy Mountain. It's the bio-diversity in the forest. There are things in that forest of value they cannot imagine. But they will bulldoze it before they know.
There are mysteries here... like how the Na'vi communicate over long distances. Like why their language if the same all over the planet. How is that possible? Like how the cold and flu viruses were wiped out. Selfridge is not impressed. Sure they've made a lot of money off the Pandoran counter-viruses. What's that got to do with clearing a construction site in one spot on a virgin planet? They have to get a foothold here. It's vital.
And he's not about to let a few bleeding hearts and a bunch of primitive mud-men stand in his way. It's a big planet. The Na'vi can move. Giese tries to explain that what happens to one Na'vi clan is somehow know soon by all of them, and if they destroy this opportunity for cultural contact, they may destroy it for all time, planet-wide.
Selfridge says he'll take that chance. He wants Josh and Grace suspended, without pay, and returned to Earth on Prometheus, which leaves in a few days as soon as it is done fueling. And the other controllers are to cease all contact between their avatars and the aboriginal population.If the locals won't cooperate, he'll just have to breed his own workforce population here from among the avatars. It'll take longer, but at least we can raise them with our language and some values that make sense. Safer and more reliable in the long run.
God help you, Grace says.
THE TRACTORS AND BULLDOZERS crush the forest before them. Trees are slashed down by the plasma cutters, or dynamited into kindling. Terrified animals flee before the onslaught. Troopers in powersuits stride through the ravaged forest, blasting anything that moves. Now we see what the machines are doing... cutting a firebreak. When the swath of destruction reaches full circle, the forest in the center is ignited. The animals have no place to go. The black smoke spreads cancerously over the rainforest. The Na'vi watch in horror from a hillside as the flames burn like a funeral pyre below.
AT HELL'S GATE Josh goes to the linkroom and makes an impassioned speech to the controllers when their shift ends. He says that they know the truth, in their hearts if not in their minds... that Pandora is not Hell, it is Eden. And Eden is being bulldozed and stripmined and raped. We have no right. We are the aliens here. We are the space monsters.
The Na'vi don't understand what is happening. They trusted us and we betrayed them. And people like Selfridge, with their corruption and deceit, are going to turn this place into another Earth. Suck the life out of it, and kill it like a cancer. We blew it on Earth. We lost the most precious thing we had. And now we want to take that precious thing away from someone else. The controllers won't meet his eyes. They know he's right. But they're making good money here, and it's going to happen anyway, with of without them. What does he expect them to do?
TRACTOR YARD, NIGHT. In the newly clearcut zone, amidst the blackened stubble, the tractors stand in the moonlight like idols to harsh gods. The troopers have returned to Hell's Gate, far down the gravel road.
Out of the treeline come ghostlike figures on horseback. Led by Tsu Te, the Na'vi hunters ride among the giant tractors, tiny amongst the giant hulking shapes. From skin bags slung over their direhorses, the Na'vi raiding party pours something over the tires and engines of the machines. It is the sap they use for torches... highly flammable and long burning. Tsu Te pulls a match- stone from a pouch on the surcingle of his horse. He strikes it fiercely, and it blazes like thermite. It arcs through the air.
WHOOSH. Flames roar up around the vehicles, engulfing them. The tires burn, and within seconds one fuel tank explodes. Then others. Silhouettes of men and direhorses cross against the wall of fire, back toward the blackness of the forest.
THE NEXT DAY the human base reacts to the destruction of the tractors. Selfridge is furious. This is going to look bad in his next report. They're going to be behind schedule now. Goddamnit!
QUARITCH finally has the opportunity he has been looking for. Selfridge authorizes a retaliatory raid against the Na'vi. There are millions of Na'vi around the planet, and the signal must be sent immediately and clearly that human property is not to be messed with. Marcia De Los Santos comes to Josh's room. She has some important information. Some big SECFOR operation is under way and when she asked permission to ride along, she was denied. Since she and Trudy Chacon have gotten to be friends, she asked the pilot what was going on. Apparently Quaritch is conducting a raid on the Na'vi village. When?
Now. It's happening right now! Josh tells Marcia to find Grace and meet him in the linkroom. He pumps the wheels of his chair, racing down the corridor. SCORPION GUNSHIPS darken the sky as they come over the tops of the trees. At the head of the formation is one much larger ship, a monster over a hundred feet long which seems to block out the suns. The GENERAL DYNAMICS C-21 DRAGON gunship looks like a giant predatory insect, with multiple canopies at the front for pilots and gunners. Quaritch, next to the pilot of the Dragon, surveys the world below like Napoleon astride his horse overlooking the battlefield. Josh wheels into the linkroom.
The FLOOR SUPERVISOR protests, but he pushes past him, yelling that it's an emergency. Josh goes to a link chair and starts to get in. The supervisor runs up with a SECFOR trooper who grabs Josh. Josh surprises the guy by grabbing his lapels and jerking him down into a vicious head-butt. The guy reels back with a broken nose, and Josh grabs his sidearm out of its holster. He fires three rounds into the ceiling. All movement stops. Josh sweeps the gun in an arc, covering everyone in the room. Marcia and Grace run in, taking in the situation. Marcia starts videoing the proceedings.
GRACE: What are we doing, Josh?
JOSH: I'm not sure. (yelling) Uh... okay!! Everyone out, now. Move!
The trooper and all the technicians clear out, leaving the room empty except for the controllers who are under the link, tranced out. At Josh's instructions Marcia locks the heavy steel firedoor.
GRACE: Not exactly the impartial journalist any more, are you?
MARCIA Screw it. Josh and Grace go under the link, leaving Marcia to guard the door. JOSH/AVATAR waked up inside the central tree of the village. His head is bandaged. Zuleika comes to him. Seeing that he is alright, she embraces him. He runs to Mato'a and Mo'at, to warn them about the impending raid. Before he can finish the roar of turbofans shakes the jungle. They look up as the Dragon and its escort of Scorpion gunships come over the trees. The downblast from their engines beats the foliage, turning the space below into a maelstrom of flying leaves and debris.
Josh yells at them all to run, but can't be heard over the thunder of the jets. The Na'vi bravely fire at the gunships with their longbows and spears, which bounce harmlessly off the armored ships. Quaritch laughs, then fires an incendiary rocket into the roots of the central tree. It explodes with a fireball, setting the interior on fire. The Na'vi flee into the forest.
The gunships fire more incendiary rounds, setting the whole village on fire. When the Na'vi have cleared the village center, Quaritch fires high-explosives into the base of the central tree. The massive roots explode into matchsticks, and the tree topples slowly, crashing down with a thunderous sound.
The Na'vi watch from a distance as the other two enormous trees which made up their home are blown up and felled. A number of Na'vi have been wounded... burned by the incendiary bombs, or hit by flying debris. Three are dead. Mato'a, the Patriarch, is one of them. From the aft bay of the Dragon, six powersuits leap out, using steel cables to rappel down through the trees to ground level. The troopers detach from the cables, and stomp hydraulically toward the village.
Lyle Wainfleet leads the powersuit squad. The powersuit troopers spread out, and on command from Quaritch, open fire with flamethrowers, sweeping them back and forth through the woods, systematically setting the forest on fire. The downblast from the gunships fans the flames through the trees like a firestorm. The Na'vi retreat as a wall of fire moves toward them. Josh, running with Grace and N'deh through the smoke and sparks, finds the body of a child, killed by one of the explosions.
The powersuits stride unimpeded and unchallenged through the trees, turning the forest into an inferno. In the burning wreckage of the village Zuleika finds her father's body. She collapses over him sobbing. She hears clomping footsteps and looks up. Trooper Lyle Wainfleet, 14 feet tall in his powersuit, stands over her. He reaches down and grabs her by the queue with one hydraulic hand, which causes her to scream with shock. He jerks her to her feet and walks her toward his rendezvous point. Josh, Grace and N'deh are running through the inferno, trying to find Zuleika.
IN THE LINKROOM Marcia leaps back as an explosive charge shatters the lock and the door is kicked in from the other side. Armored SECFOR troopers pour inside, with guns leveled. They grab Marcia and the lead trooper moves to the control console and pulls the master breaker to the link system.