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AVATAR: PAGE 21






The VIPERWOLVES race among them with flashing jaws. The troopers fire wildly as they go down, hitting each other. The survivors break and run as more viperwolves come out of the shadows after them.

THE AIR BATTLE RAGES.

Quaritch, directing operations from the Dragon, has lost track of a lot of his ships among the floating mountains. The Na'vi are fighting a dirty guerrilla war, luring his ships into single combat and ambushing them. He snaps the targeting system down over his eyes and takes over the gun system of the Dragon. He tracks a banking rayrider and blows him out of the sky. Targets another. P-POOM! Josh, flying his demon mount, looks around to see-- A FLOTILLA OF MEDUSAE emerging around the flank of Mons Prometheus. The enormous gas-jellyfish glitter in the sun, big as ships.

CLOSER ON THE MEDUSAE.

A second leonopteryx sweeps into view, ridden by Tsu Te. He signals to a Na'vi hunter who rides the top of the lead medusa. The female hunter has her queue plugged into a nervecenter at top dead center of the thing's huge bell. She directs it to turn, and it pulses, coming slowly around. The other medusae are not ridden, but they follow mindlessly.

A Scorpion, banking around the flank of the Big Rock-Candy Mountain, finds itself tangled in a curtain of rubbery tentacles a hundred meters long. The pilot tries to pull free as he looks up-- In time to see more of the gas-bags converging, their bells pulsing vigorously. More stringy tentacles wind over the Scorpion. It twists and turns, trying to get free. Tsu Te rides up near the unmanned medusas which are gripping the Scorpion. He waits until the tentacles have drawn it up near the gas bags, then fires a flaming arrow into the middle of them.

KA-BOOM!!

They go up like the Hindenburg in an enormous fireball which engulfs the Scorpion. The gunship drops, bathed in fire and giant-jellyfish parts. It hits the rocks below and the fuel explodes. A pair of Samsons pursue half a dozen rayriders through the intermittent clouds which wreath Big Rock-Candy Mountain. They suddenly find themselves in a swarm of medusae. The Samsons slow down, looking for a way out of the pack of giant balloons. The rays peel away, disappearing.

The pilots see a flash of red wings, an arc of fire, and then the balloons around them explode... each detonating the one next to it. The Samsons are consumed in an inferno of exploding hydrogen.

IN THE LAB back at base, the controllers watch in amazement as the medusae explode. They see the Samsons fall like burning toys. A SECFOR trooper strides in, shutting down the big monitor. He tells them to go to quarters until the emergency is over. Hegner clubs him from behind with a computer keyboard. The other controllers jump in, wrestling him down. Spindly Norm Cheeseman grabs the guy's gun and runs for the door, yelling.

THE LINKROOM door is hurled open and the controllers charge in, led by Cheeseman. Hegner barricades the door at the end of the connecting corridor, then falls back to the linkroom. He seals the door there, and pushes lab equipment against it. The controllers scramble into their link chairs, pulling the helmets down. THE FOREST IS A SMOKY HELL. Fires seem to burn all around. The troopers are separated and disorganized. Shooting at shadows.

Na'vi run along massive tree boughs, like walkways through the canopy. They fire arrows down at two powersuits walking below. The arrows are tipped with bladders of sticky liquid, which break over the powersuits. A beat, while the troopers inside try to figure out what's going on. Then a flock of stingbats descend on them, drawn to the attractant. They swarm so thickly around the bubble canopies that the troopers are blinded. One of them blunders into a ravine. The other fires around him wildly, panicking.

SPLAT!!

Bladders of attractant burst among a squad of regular troopers and volunteers. Within seconds a swarm of HELLFIRE WASPS, big as sparrows, is zipping around them. The squad scatters, screaming. A couple of them fall and don't get up.

Lyle, nearby, is yelling on his intercom for a report. Who's screaming? What's going on. A regular trooper near him jerks back as a SLINGER DART appears in his chest, piercing his ballistic armor. A scream on his left and another man is taken down by a leaping SLINTH. Lyle sees its striking head snap forward into the man's chest and knows he is dead. Lyle fires his cannon. The slinth flips convulsively amid flying earth and splintered bark.

Lyle stands there panting, looking around wildly, wondering what's going to come out of the jungle next. AT THE BASE Norm Cheeseman's avatar sprints with powerful strides across the compound. Inside, a SECFOR security squad blasts open the door to the corridor connecting to the linkroom. They enter the corridor, advancing warily with their guns aimed. K-RUNCH!! A bulldozer blade rips through the wall from outside. The corridor is flooded with lethal Pandoran air. The SECFOR guards are overcome, hacking and coughing. They retreat, staggering back the way they came.





OUTSIDE Norm pivots his bulldozer and advances on the SECFOR offices. He revs the giant machine and crashes straight into the wall. The SECFOR OPERATIONS CENTER, from which the battle was being coordinated, is breached. Selfridge gapes as toxic air swirls in. Alarms go off. The technicians flee their stations, abandoning the radar and communication equipment. They all make it out, sealing the door behind them. Selfridge stands in the corridor, gasping. His world unraveling. Norm, really enjoying this, gives it the gas and drives right into the Ops Center, turning the equipment to rubble.

IN THE JUNGLE regular troopers and volunteers run to the ramp of the Valkyrie shuttle which was their landing craft. They are pursued by viperwolves, some of which follow the last men into the ship.

The pilot hears screaming and yelling from the back compartment. He panics, and starts an emergency takeoff. The huge ship rises into a hover and accelerates forward. Out of the trees comes a shiny black shape which leaps onto the nose of the shuttle. The Manticore fills the ship's front windows. The pilot screams as the tail slams right through the canopy, shattering it. OUTSIDE we see Zuleika and the manticore drop off the accelerating ship from a height of 20 meters. The manticore crashes down through foliage and lands agilely. The shuttle accelerates out of control-- It climbs out of the forest--

Inside, the pilot is dead at the controls, the co-pilot gagging on the poisonous air. The shuttle hits the underside of Mons Veritatis. It explodes, and hundreds of tons of flaming debris drop back into the forest. Quaritch watches the wreckage falling. He orders the other shuttle to get out of the battle area. It is their only way of getting back to Prometheus... the ticket home. And then he turns back to the battle. And you see in his face that he is over the edge. There is no logic in his brain now. Only death.

Tsu Te glides his leonopteryx just beneath the cliffwall of the Big Rock-Candy Mountain. He passes a broad waterfall... a shimmering curtain. The Dragon gunship explodes out of the veil of water, bearing down on Tsu Te with thundering turbines. Quaritch opens up with the cannon as Tsu Te banks his mount. The rounds rip across the leo's wing, and the dying animal flutters like a broken kite down into drifting clouds. Josh, circling above, sees Tsu Te get shot down. The dying leonopteryx crashes down through the trees, lodging in branches high above the ground. Tsu Te falls the rest of the way, clutching at vines as he tries to break his fall. He hits the ground, and lies there... badly injured.

Josh's leonopteryx drops like a Mig 29, slamming into the Dragon with an earsplitting screech. The Dragon lurches, but is not toppled like the Scorpions. It shakes off the stunned leonopteryx, and banks around to fire. Josh dives and the chase is on. They jink and turn, dive and climb. Josh dodges a fusillade of cannon fire and air-to-air missiles, more by luck than skill. He dives for the sheltering trees. They zigzag through the obstacle course under the canopy of foliage. Josh leads the Dragon into a net-trap. The Na'vi drop the net after he passes-- And the Dragon rips right through it like lace.

Josh looks back. Uh oh. He climbs hard, and the Dragon follows, ripping up the jungle around him. Josh pushes the leo hard, climbing into a cloud bank. The Dragon follows. They bank along a cliff wall, almost brushing the rock. The pilot of the Dragon loses sight of Josh amongst a set of rocky spires. Quaritch is scanning, looking for his target. Josh finishes his tight bank above the gunship and dives toward its broad back. He pulls out, skimming over the ship. Uncoupling his neural link, he rolls backward off the leonopteryx's back. Josh hits, skidding, on the hull of the Dragon.

Quaritch sees the leonopteryx zoom overhead and flap away from them. He sends a missile after it and the scarlet demon vanishes in a fireball. The huge gunship hovers, pivoting slowly as it scans for another target. Josh runs along the back of the thing, pulling two grenades from the bandolier. He pulls the pins with his teeth. Then hurls them into the intakes.

BOOM! BOOM!

The explosions rip through the gunship's guts. It drops like an elevator. Josh clings to a gunturret.Out the side of the bubble canopy, Quaritch sees Josh clinging to the ship ten feet from him. The pilot tries in vain to regain control.

The gunship blunders down through the treetops. Josh runs, diving out into space with everything he has-- Grabbing an armful of lianas-- He plunges down, ripping painfully along the vines as-- The gunship crashes down through the trees and-- Josh breaks his fall, hanging in a tangle of vines as-- The gunship slams down into a small lake with a white explosion of water far below. BACK AT THE BASE Selfridge is at the end of his rope. He orders his ragged SECFOR guards to blow up the linkroom. Rob Parrish puts a gun to Selfridge's head and tells them all to drop their weapons.

Selfridge can't believe Parrish has suddenly decided to become a man of principle. Why start now? But Parrish has had enough of feeling sick at heart, and Selfridge has gone way too far. He tells him to keep his money. The guards lower their guns on Selfridge's orders. AT THE JUNGLE LAKE the Dragon gunship lies half submerged. Out of the water in the foreground. a shape rises. It is Quaritch, wearing a powersuit.

He strides up out of the water, covered with mud. His face, behind the canopy, is bloody and his eyes burn. Quaritch strides into the forest, looking for something to kill. He opens fire with the GAU 90, blasting the trees around him into kindling. He starts literally cutting a swath through the jungle in a killing rage. TSU TE lies in a gasping heap. He has some broken bones. He looks up, grimacing, as a powersuit looms over him. It is Lyle.



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