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AVATAR: PAGE 20






THE WELL OF SOULS. All the clans are gathered, filling the place, and spilling out into the forest surrounding it. They sit cross legged, in concentric circles... like growth rings in a tree. From the great convoluted brain of twisted roots beneath them, silken tendrils reach up, seeking the ends of the long queues hanging down the backs of the Na'vi. Josh sits with Mo'at under the central willow. The entire congregation is chanting slowly, and somebody is beating a drum in a steady rhythm. Soon they are all connected and plugged into the Gaia mind. Josh feels it... like falling into a vast radiant sea. He starts to talk.

AT HELL'S GATE there is a total mobilization. Selfridge and Quaritch have gone to a state of full emergency martial law. The shuttles have been called down from the starship in orbit, and are being used as troop carriers. The Samsons are being fitted with cannons, and all Scorpions are fully loaded... maximum weapons payload. They cannot wait for an attack by an organized enemy, led by a renegade controller who is giving them inside information.

They must take the fight to the rebels, and route them in their mountain stronghold. They were caught by surprise last time, but they won't underestimate the enemy this time. Quaritch is determined to blast the forest to kindling, if necessary, to reclaim the planet. The Scorpions are lined up, ready to fly. Behind them a squadron of Samsons, and two Valkyrie shuttles... 30 armored powersuits... 100 regular SECFOR troopers... 100 volunteers from amongst the construction and mining crews. And Quaritch in his Dragon command ship.

AT THE WELL OF SOULS the people wait in silence for Gaia's answer. Then, slowly, the trees around them begin to pulse with a faint radiant energy. The bioluminescence spreads throughout the roots, until they glow like a vast system of fiberoptics. They blaze white hot in the night. The Na'vi respond, their own bioluminescent spots growing brighter, until they are radiant beings in a sea of white light.

WIDE SHOT as the glow spreads through the forest like a vast nervous system. In an aerial shot, it almost looks like a city at night, with arteries of light like freeways. The wave of luminosity spreads to the horizon in all directions.

FROM THE PROMETHEUS in orbit, we see the night side of the planet transformed into a vast reticulated lacework of faint luminosity. The continent... then the whole planet... is united in one vast energy field... terrifying in its scale as Gaia marshals her strength.

AT DAWN THE GUNSHIPS fill the sky like bloated death beetles. They sweep toward the Hallelujah mountains in a thundering wave. The Valkyrie shuttles are the heavy transports of the operation, packed with troops, volunteers, and powersuits. The ships enter the shadow of Mons Veritatis. The Mountain of Truth. The Valkyries land on Quaritch's order, disgorging their troops into the forest. The powersuits spread out and advance in a cordon, with the armored troopers behind.

They scan the forest with infrared. Lyle Wainfleet, walking point in his hydraulic suit, sees movement on his FLIR display, and reports it to Quaritch. Na'vi horsemen, advancing on them through the trees, 200 meters out. The Na'vi attack, mounted on direhorses. The battle, which historians of two planets will call, in their separate tongues, THE BATTLE OF BIG ROCK-CANDY MOUNTAIN, has begun.

The troopers target the horsemen on infrared, and they fire through the foliage. The direhorses are cut down even before they get within bow range. Quaritch orders the gunships to rocket the jungle. Advancing in formation, the gunships fire streamers of fire ahead of them. The jungle explodes with fire bursts. The pounding is merciless. Enormous trees topple, and acres of rainforest are left burning. The troopers advance, firing flamethrowers and GAU 90 gatling guns. The Na'vi are scattered or cut down. It seems a total route when-- Quaritch glances up.

Out of the sun come winged shapes. A whole squadron of them. The bansheerays, invisible on radar, dive out of the morning glare like birds of prey. Leading the dive is one winged shape three times the size of the others. A GREAT LEONOPTERYX, a demon straight from Hell, blazing with scarlet, yellow and black stripes backlit by the morning sun. On its back, reining it by neural link, is Josh.

The rayriders slam into the gunships and Samsons like falcons hitting fat turkeys. The air battle is joined. The Scorpions are not seriously damaged by the bansheeray strikes. They separate out of formation to pursue individual rayriders, trying to hit them with cannons and rockets.

The Scorpions bank after the rays as they head for cover among the floating mountains, or dive down into the trees. Banking and jinking furiously, the rays use obstacles like the flanks of the floating mountains to slow the gunships, which are faster than they are. A gunship, in a tight bank, fires its cannon. The rounds rip along a cliff face as the targeted ray swoops across it.

Two rays in full delta dives slam into a Samson, shattering the canopy. The Samson spins out of control. A Scorpion gunship gets on the tail of a ray. They wank and bank together, threading the needle between two floating islands. The gunship fires an air-to-air missile and the ray vanishes in an explosion. Another rayrider takes to the sheltering forest, zipping between the treetrunks as a pursuing Scorpion rockets the jungle from above. The ray is hit by flying chunks of wood from an exploding tree, and the rider cartwheels off. The Scorpion, having scored a hit, pulls around looking for another mark.

K-WHAM!!





A huge red shape slams down on it, knocking it tumbling. The Great Leonopteryx coils around it, slashing furiously, as the ship tries to right itself. Josh can barely hang on, all his avatar muscles strained to the limit gripping the gyrating creature. The pilot of the Scorpion sees nothing but the jaws of the king predator of the air slamming into his lexan canopy. Josh releases the gunship moments before they careen into a cliff. The pilot can't recover.

His ship hits the face of the floating mountain and skids along it, crippling the lifting turbines. The craft plummets toward the rainforest below, and there is a satisfying fireball. The cliff face near Josh explodes with cannon rounds and he tucks and dives. Screaming down on him is another Scorpion. They spiral downward, and Josh can feel the rounds splitting the air around him.

He rolls inverted and dives under the edge of Mons Veritatis, then rolls out and zig zags through the dangling vines. The gunship stays on him. It rips through the vines, and tracers light the darkness under the floating mountain. Josh jinks the leonopteryx around a thundering waterfall. The gunship explodes right through the curtain of water. It launches an air-to-air missile.

Josh jinks hard, diving. The missile hits a rock outcropping. The gunship follows Josh through a narrow slit between Mons Veritatis and a smaller floating island. They run this slot rolled up on their sides to make the clearance. The gunship comes around a tight corner and breaks into the clear. The pilot has lost sight of the giant ray. A shadow crosses his canopy. Out of the sun comes a crimson demon, shrieking over the roar of his own turbines.

K-WHAMMM!!

The Leo slams the canopy of the ship. The Scorpion is driven downward in a dive. The leonopteryx lashes at it, keeping a grip with claws and teeth. They spiral out of control. The powerful jaws rip open the canopy, breaking the latching mechanism. The pilot gags on Pandoran air. Josh kicks the gunship loose and it falls like a brick, breaking its back on a rocky promontory and exploding.

Two bansheeray riders fall in beside Josh. He signals, pointing to a target, and they bank together out of shot. Trudy Chacon flies the stolen Samson over the battle zone while Marcia De Los Santos videos the action with her stereocam. She is sending a live feed to the human base... pirate video journalism. In the lab complex, the controllers watch the battle on a large screen, complete with Marcia's breathless narration. Freemedia forever!

Back in the battle the gunships and the rays are still corkscrewing all over the sky. A volunteer gunner fires his doorgun out the side of a Samson. There is a CRASH and the ship is driven downward. The head of a bansheeray lunges into the open door from above, grabbing the gunner in its fanged mouth and jerking him out.

Another Samson dives after a ray. The pilot is a hotdog, following the ray down into the trees, under the canopy. They slalom through the treetrunks at high speed. The gunners hang half out the doors, firing their machine guns. Bark and leaves explode around the ray as it jinks through the jungle. The ray dives under a huge tree limb, and the pilot follows. He looks up at the last second, catching a glimpse of blue-skinned figures. The Na'vi hunters on the bough drop a net of woven vines after the rayrider has gone through.

The Samson hits it. The net fouls the ship, causing it to flip over backwards. It crashes upside down to the forest floor. KABOOM!! The Na'vi cheer. A moment later they scatter as cannon fire rips into the tree around them. Powersuit troopers advance across the forest floor, firing their cannons and flamethrowers. The GAU 90s rip the forest to shreds. Hydraulic feet pass the bodies of direhorses and Na'vi hunters. The troopers easily track the Na'vi through the brush on infrared. Running Pandorans are cut down, disappearing in gouts of earth and splintering wood.

The trooper on the far right of the firing line yells something. Out of the woods next to him a monstrous shape explodes in a shower of broken branches. As the troopers pivot, a WALL OF CHARGING HAMMERHEAD TITANOTHERES crashes out of the foliage beside them. Charging in from the flank, the titanotheres scatter the troopers like bowling pins. Only a couple even have time to fire.

Several are pounded under the stampeding giants. The treetrunk-like feet shatter the powersuit cockpits, and the troopers are crushed or asphyxiated. The stampede thunders past, leaving the powersuits scattered and disorganized. They are left in a murky cloud of dust and floating leaf confetti. Lyle is yelling orders, trying to get some control back. He tells them to spread out.

Two powersuits are charging together through the dusty, sun-dappled gloom, pursuing some running Na'vi hunters. Something slams into one of the suits, tackling it out of frame. The other trooper whirls and sees-- The most awesome land predator the universe has ever conceived. The MANTICORE crouches over the fallen powersuit, growling like a panther the size of a switch engine. Its mantis-like front limbs grip the struggling powersuit trooper like a vice.

The standing trooper can't fire with out hitting his buddy. He can only stare. And so he has time to see the figure on the back of the beast. A blueskinned woman. The manticore rips the powersuit's gun arm off with its massive distensible jaws. Then the scorpion tail arcs through the air, driving the stinger down like a piledriver. It punches through the canopy. The struggling suit goes still.

The standing trooper raises his cannon but-- The manticore leaps, blindingly fast... impossibly fast for something that size and-- WHAM!! It has him in its mantis grip. He is face to face with its nightmare jaws, right outside his canopy-- The tail rises, poising to strike-- K-CRACK!!

Zuleika drops the powersuit like a pile of junk and turns her demon mount. The manticore bounds into the foliage to stalk the other powersuits. Nearby the armored footsoldiers see living shadows flow out of the gloom around them.



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