Sunday, January 16, 2011

An Avatar Story

Corporal Aiden Johnson had arrived on Pandora only a few days ago and was now sitting in a gunship on his way to his first field mission.  He and his platoon were to get to a newly discovered unobtainium deposit and secure it for the excavation team.  He looked around at his platoon which consisted of new recruits and people that he had saw getting off the transport shuttle along with him.  It was made up of people of all ages and different ranks and specialty’s.  Aiden himself was the platoons communication’s officer, which meant for the most part he stayed around the ship and let the others do the hard part.  Chasing out any stray unfortunate Na’vi that found themselves in the excavation zone.  Aiden didn’t really want any part of this portion of the mission he didn’t necessarily believe in the cause against the Na’vi.  Of course he would never show it, it might cost him his job with the RDA, the company that paid him a six figure income to do what he did for six years and leave the planet like it never existed.  Like most of the other people there he was only there for the money with peace on earth there was really not much need for soldiers of any kind anymore.  Twenty-six now, Aiden had joined the military when he was eighteen when the fifth world war was well into its course.  He didn’t really know how to do anything else and his skill wasn’t really useful outside of the military unless he wanted to work at an airport and he didn’t.  He looked out through the window to the gunship at the lush forest below them that was Pandora, all this planet was, was jungle and habitat.  It was like one big safari except you had a gun and almost everything wanted to kill you.  He could see a large bird flying off in the distance.  He had done some reading up on the fauna of the planet and it looked like a Great Leonuptrix, as far as he knew the largest animal in the sky, and the most dangerous.  The ship shook slightly from a wind change as they got closer to their destination.   Across from him sat the platoon commander Officer Rodriguez, a stern older man his dark skin covered like most of them in a slick wet film from the hot air of the planet.  The humidity was always high on Pandora, you were going to sweat so if you were going out into a field mission there was no point in being prissy about it.  Aiden’s bunk mate told him not to bother wearing deodorant because no one else would be and it would only attract the animals.  Aiden had on his exo-pack, the air on Pandora was not safe for human consumption, without the exo-pack you would be unconscious in twenty seconds and dead in four minutes.  Something terra-forming experts were working on was trying to make the air breathable for people without harming the planet’s life-forms.  Aiden wasn’t a scientist but didn’t see how it would be possible due to the physiology being so different.  The only thing the same about the Na’vi and humans was the fact that they stood up right and a few social similarities.  Their biology was completely different based on what Aiden had read.  Suddenly the ship started to shake violently.
“Guy’s were going down, I’ll try to make it smooth but hang on,” said Vickers the pilot. 
“What is it?” asked Rodriguez bracing himself. 
“It’s a G. Leo sir, came at us from above,” Aiden could hear the strain in Vickers voice, “Haannnggg ooonnn!”  Aiden grabbed the handle beside his head as he realized that the ship was falling.  He could hear the sound of the Great Leonuptrix screaming as the ship crashed to the ground and through the trees.  He couldn’t help but think how unlucky he was, his first field mission and they were going down.  He could hear the trees whipping by the ship as it went down along with the sounds of the hull creeping.  Instinctively Aiden unbuckled his belt but continued to hold on ready to be thrown from the ship but hoping he wouldn’t land on a randomly spiked piece of wood.  He could smell the smoke from the engine starting to filter into the cab of the gunship.  There was another heavy jolt as the ship hit the ground and Aiden was thrown what must have been thirty feet away hitting the ground with a thud knocking him out.  The gunship exploded in a burst of flames engulfing most of the vehicle.

                Aiden opened his eyes and jumped up not sure what to expect.  The forest was illuminated and the sky was dark.  He felt the fear begin to rise in his stomach as he looked around.  He checked his exo-pack to make sure it was okay then realizing he was awake and alive and several hours had passed concluding it was working.  Aiden looked over at the gunship and un-holstered his assault rifle.  The gunship had black smoke spewing from it with several small fires burning around it.  He approached the ship cautiously examining as close as he could visually trying to determine if anything else was going to explode on it.  He got in range of the cabin and looked inside, he could see the charred bodies of his entire platoon.  He tried to get close to them to check for life-signs but the masks we’re charred off and melted to their faces upon closure inspection.  If they had survived the crash they were definitely dead from the fire.  He stepped up inside the cabin and checked the munitions cache to see if he could find any extra ammunition.  He had hoped that they would realize once they did not come back or report in, someone would come looking for him.  All he would have to do was survive the night and stay close to the crash site and he’d be fine.  Surviving the night was all he worried about, since under the base commanders order’s they didn’t run night operations he had a feeling it would be a long night.  He was in luck he opened the munitions box and there were several rounds that he could fit into his pack.  He had a few means of defending himself right now, his assault rifle, his standard issue handguns and his training.  Without the training the other two were useless, as long as he kept cool he would be fine.  He heard something spark behind him and looked back at a bunch of burned wires hanging from the ceiling, he figured at this point all of the fuel would have been burned off by now so he began gathering up the ammunition.   He stood up to leave and looked down at his platoon mates saying a silent prayer for them.  He looked down at Rodriguez and began to check for his extra handgun clips in a sticky situation he didn’t want to be caught trying to fumble with bullets.
                “Sorry, sir,” whispered Aiden, “But I know you’d do the same.”  Aiden grabbed the clips for the guns and jumped out of the ship he looked around again.  He had noticed it but they seemed to have crashed into a hut, most likely built by the Na’vi.  He didn’t see the harm in examining it, he might even find something to take back to the scientists.  He took one last quick look around and ran into the small hut.  For the most part it was crushed under the gunship only half of it remained intact.  He holstered his gun on his back again and took out a flashlight, he turned it on and looked around at where the gunship had crashed in.  He could see the bodies of two adult Na’vi partially sticking out from under the face of the gunship, he raised his flashlight up and shone it in the cockpit seeing the body of the pilot that had been pierced with several tree branches.  Suddenly Aiden heard something move behind him, he quickly grabbed his assault rifle and swung around pointing the rifle at the noise.  He swung around to see a Na’vi child trying to sneak out of the hut.  He could tell it was a child, the adults were ten feet tall, this one was still shorter then he was and Aiden stood six feet tall himself.  His first instinct was to fire at the disturbance but he held back knowing that the child must have been frightened.  Aiden lowered his gun and the child cried out at him.  “Calm down, I’m not going to hurt you.”  Aiden raised his hand toward the child and he threw a wooden bowl at him.  Aiden shielded his face and the child ran outside.  Aiden quickly followed not sure why but he was worried about it.  It’s parents were presumably dead and it wasn’t old enough to be able to take care of itself yet judging by its size.  Aiden jumped out of the hut and looked around not seeing anything.  “Hello?  I’m not going to hurt you!”  Aiden called out realizing the mistake he made when he heard a familiar yipping sound and looked around.  The sound meant that a pack of viperwolves were closing in on them.  He heard the child scream out as it ran back into the clearing.  With a viperwolf chasing it, Aiden opened fire and hit the pursuer, it yipped and fell to the ground motionless.  The child looked at him seemingly realizing that he was it’s only hope of survival they could hear several more viperwolves approaching their position.  He had read that they usually travelled in packs of up to eight but sometimes as many as fifteen had been spotted together, Aiden hoped on the lesser.  Suddenly several viperwolves emerged from the foliage surrounding the clearing and there were surrounded.  Aiden could see their reptile like, black skin and three toed, six legs quickly moving as they circled around them.  “All right kids, let’s play.”  Aiden raised his assault rifle and began shooting several of them as quickly as he could trying not to overshoot so he didn’t waste any ammunition.   He had counted nine of them so far but had managed to kill two of them.  The child let out a cry as one of them jumped at Aiden.  Aiden dived out of the way and opened fire on two more of the creatures killing them.  He had managed to kill just under half of the pack, he wondered when they were going to get the hint when one of them grabbed him by the foot.  “Shit!”  The viperwolf drug him a few feet before the child jumped on it driving a crudely crafted knife into the animals torso.  The viperwolf let out a yelp as it let go of him and ran off injured.  They let out several more yipping noises before taking off into the forest.  Aiden let out a sigh of relief as he checked himself over making sure he hadn’t lost anything.  The bioluminescence of the forest was now shining at full light.  It would have been beautiful, had Aiden had the time to sit back and look around but he had to focus too much on his survival.  The child was still clearly scared, Aiden watched as it looked around worried their attackers might return.  Aiden stood up and lowered his gun, he took a step toward the child slowly visually examining it.  It was mostly naked except for a loin cloth draped around its waste telling him it was a boy.  The female’s would often wear decorative neck pieces to symbolize their spirituality.  “Thanks.”  Aiden smiled at him hoping he would clue in to what he was saying but the child just looked at him.  Aiden could see the streaks on his face from crying confirming his suspicions about the bodies.  “What’s your name?”  After asking Aiden felt stupid the child clearly did not understand him.   “Me,” Aiden pointed to himself, “Aiden.  You,” he pointed the child who just looked at him with doe eyes.  Aiden let out a sigh and pointed to himself again, “Me, Aiden.  You?”  Aiden repeated the motions .  The child seemed to be paying attention.  The child put his hand on his chest and looked down. 
“Ai-den,” said the child in a timid voice.  
“Yes,” Aiden pointed to himself, “Aiden.”  Aiden walked over to the child slowly and put his hand on his chest, the child flinched and backed off still timid.  “You?”  The child was starting to come around to him.  Considering they had just saved each other.  The child sat down on the ground and looked up at Aiden. 
“Tri’uk.” [Tryook] The child looked over at what used to be his home and started to cry.  Aiden couldn’t help but feel sorry for him he lost his family.  He had a younger brother back home on earth and didn’t want to imagine him with no family. 
“Tri’uk, where is your family?”  Aiden still knew that the child couldn’t fully understand him, but he would do his best to take him to his people.  He didn’t want him to be left alone out here.  Tri’uk looked up at him with tear streaked eyes, the spots on his face shining brightly along with the night sky.  Aiden bent down and looked him in the eye.  “I’ll help you, show me where to take you.”  They could hear a distant yip beyond the forest signalling the imminent return of the viperwolves.  Aiden looked around.   “Damn it.”  Tri’uk stood up and looked around as well.  He spoke a word in his language and pointed at a tree.  The Na’vi were lithe and agile and built for the forest but Aiden wasn’t.  They walked over to the tree and Tri’uk easily propelled himself up the tree and looked down at Aiden expectantly.   Aiden let out a sigh of frustration.  “Okay then.”  He strapped the gun to his back, the tree would be safe if he could climb it.  Aiden jumped up and grabbed onto a protruding lump on the tree’s side trying to hoist himself up.  “Shit.”  Aiden pulled himself up a bit but couldn’t get himself up.  Tri’uk looked down at him and smiled then grabbed him pulling him up over the edge.  Aiden looked around they were sitting in a small cubby hole in the tree, it looked lived in almost but it was closed at all sides so if something wanted at them it would have to come in from the front.  Tri’uk laid down and closed his eyes clearly exhausted.  Aiden was surprised he had trusted him so quickly but he was feeling tired himself but decided he would sit up against the wall and watch for any signs of trouble.  He sat against the wall and held his gun facing the opening.  “Gonna be a long night.”  Tri’uk opened his eye big yellow eyes and stared at Aiden, he pat the space beside him as if to signal Aiden to lay down.  “I’m alright bud, you lay down, I’ll keep guard.”  Tri’uk closed his eyes and went to sleep and Aiden stared out into the night that he could see from his position against the wall. 

Tri’uk opened his eyes to the sound of an angry palulukan screaming just outside of their hidden sanctuary.  It was most likely the one that his father had chased off many times.  Coming back to investigate the smoke and burning metal that had killed his family as they ate their second meal.  Tri’uk fortunately or unfortunately had been outside playing in his favourite tree while it had happened.  He had only been alive for eight summers and was now forced to be on his own, he was terrified.  If it weren’t for the sky person that now sat asleep against the wall of the tree he would already be dead.  He would have been an easy meal for the pack of nantang that attacked them.  The sky person called “Aiden” didn’t seem to be like the others he was sure when he saw it walk in that he would be joining his family with Eywa [Ehwah] shortly.  But greatfully he was wrong and the sky person saved him from the nantang without even seemingly questioning it.  Aiden was different he could feel something in him.  The palulukan let out another fierce scream jolting Aiden from his sleep.  Tri’uk got up quickly not wanting Aiden to draw attention to them and pushed him against the wall holding him there. 
“He will hear you,” warned Tri’uk.  Both of them spoke their own language and neither of them understood the other but Tri’uk looked into Aiden’s eyes through the clear shield he wore on his face and knew he understood him.  Tri’uk was terrified if the palulukan wanted it could jump up and kill them both with ease they would never be able to escape it.  He couldn’t help but breath heavily as he looked out into the bioluminescent night knowing that death was only a few feet away from him.  At a time like this his mother would hold him and comfort him letting him know everything would be okay and his father would go out and fight the beast off.  As Tri’uk looked out over the night he felt a hand on his back, he looked back at the sky person who motioned for him to get closer. He spoke something in his language that Tri’uk could not understand but the tone was comforting.  Right now Tri’uk had no option other then Aiden for survival and no reason not to trust him, he huddled up into him and watched as Aiden pointed the screaming metal at the doorway and waited.  They could hear the creature thrashing about and sniffing around the area clearly able to smell them but not able to figure out where they had gone.  Terrified Tri’uk edged in closer to Aiden and huddled up into a ball, he felt Aiden put his small arm around him and he felt safer.  The two of them sat for what seemed like hours as the palulukan searched for them when all was finally quiet, it seemed to have given up and left.  Tri’uk could hear it’s footsteps as it headed back into the underbrush to look for an easier meal.  Tri’uk looked up at Aiden who was still focused on the doorway with his weapon.  He reached up and touched his neck caught off guard Aiden looked down at him with a surprised look on his face the surprised turned into a smile.  He lowered the weapon realising the threat had passed for now, he sat the gun on the ground beside him and spoke something softly then laid down next to him.

The night passed and Aiden got what sleep he could.  He was awakened by the sun shining into the tree on his face.  It was still very early he could tell because the heat and humidity was still more like a normal summer day on Earth.  He sat up and looked around getting his bearings he checked his watch.  Six A.M it read and Aiden knew that the team would be there soon to rescue him.  But now he was faced with a new problem, Tri’uk, he couldn’t leave this child here to die which is what would surely happen if he was left alone.  Aiden wanted to take him back to his people.  He knew that if the rescue team showed up they would either kill him or he would end up in an oversized Petri-dish with the science department under observation or as a test subject.  Aiden couldn’t bear the thought of harming a child of any kind so he had made his decision remembering he had a map of the area in his pack that showed the nearest known Na’vi settlement.  He took his pack off and sat it in front of him, unzipping it he began to look through it and pulled out his map and laid it out.  He moved his finger along the map judging by the coordinates they were at when they went down Aiden was able to determine where they were, within a few kilometres, the nearest Na’vi settlement was only twenty kilometres east of them opposite the way to the dig site.  Aiden put his hand on Tri’uk’s arm and shook him lightly.  He opened his eyes and panicked for a few seconds realizing where he was. 
“We have to get you back to your people,” Aiden said slowly.  Aiden pointed to the map then made a motion with his arms hoping Tri’uk would understand.  “We are here.”  He said motioning to the both of them.  “You, here.”  He pointed to Tri’uk then to the spot of the Na’vi settlement.  He had hoped that Tri’uk would be familiar with these lands, the settlement wasn’t that far.  They might even run into some other Na’vi that could take him the rest of the way.   “You, here,” Aiden repeated both the words and the motion.  Tri’uk nodded his head signalling he agreed with him.  “Good.”  Aiden folded up the map and stuffed it in his backpack, he slid the pack on and stood up.  He un-holstered the assault rifle and looked outside to make sure the coast was clear.  All signs were clear and he jumped out of the tree landing on his feet, doing a sweep with his weapon.  He signalled Tri’uk who was looking down at him to follow him and he jumped down and landed beside him.  Aiden checked his compass and they started to walk keeping a decent pace. 

The Pandoran sun was high in the sky and the heat was beating down on their heads as they walked.  Aiden was tired from the heat and humidity and it was starting to beat away at his stamina.  He was tired thirsty and hungry, the last time he ate was breakfast before they left on the mission and his stomach was growling at him.  Aiden leaned against a tree and checked his gun, Tri’uk had been walking behind him and stopped beside him.  Aiden had been watching Tri’uk as they walked, the child was curious like any other.  He had been running away at random points on their journey to investigate something or rather.  Aiden didn’t blame him, Pandora was a beautiful place, there had been a couple things Aiden wouldn’t have minded getting a closer look at himself, but he couldn’t stop he had to get this done before he could contact his team.  Aiden put his head back, placing his hand on his stomach the hunger pains were really getting to him he wasn’t sure how much longer he’d be able to last.  Tri’uk knelt over by him and looked at his hand on his stomach then stood up. 
“Yeah I’m hungry.”  Aiden smiled at him if he was going to go on he would at least need a little bit of water.  Even if he was to eat something then he would have to remove his mask and it could be dangerous, he’d just have to hold his breath.  Tri’uk looked at him then pat his stomach and looked around.  Staying silent he ran about twenty feet away and jumped up into a tree, even at this age the Na’vi agility was impressive.  “Hey what are you doing?” yelled Aiden jogging over to the tree.  Aiden kept his eyes peeled having realized how loud he had been.  “Tri’uk come on we don’t have the time to play around.”  As Aiden finished speaking several fruit fell out of the tree beside him and Tri’uk jumped down beside him.  Aiden watched as Tri’uk picked up several of the purple grapefruit sized fruit and held one up to him.  Aiden took one last look around securing the area then put his assault rifle on his back and took the fruit in both hands.  Aiden was sure that he had seen the fruit before in the gardens at Hell’s Gate outpost.  Tri’uk sat down on the ground with him and took a bite out of one of the fruit.  Aiden joined him sitting down and examined the fruit closely looking for any signs that it wasn’t the plant he thought it was.  He was also pondering how it would be possible for him to eat it he would have to take off his exo-pack and hold his breath between bites.  “Here goes,” said Aiden sitting the fruit down.  He placed his hand on the base of his exo-pack and taking a deep breath he released the clamp letting it down of his face.  As it released there was a hissing sound as the air escaped the compressed, air tight environment.  Aiden picked up the fruit and took two full bites.  The taste was sweet and the fruit itself was extremely juicy just as he had thought it would be, enough so he wouldn’t have to search out water.  The texture of the fruit wasn’t unlike that of an orange without the sinewy pulp and fibres.  Aiden put the mask up as he chewed and turned it on again taking a breath as he swallowed what he had taken.  Tri’uk smiled at him as they ate and took several bites himself quickly downing one or two of the fruit.  Aiden had removed his exo-pack again several times before finishing one of the fruit.  He had had enough for now and it was time to get moving again but before that Aiden decided now was a good time to check his map again.  He pulled his map out of his pack and spread it out on the forest floor.  Aiden drew a line to where he thought they were if he was right they would be crossing a river soon, he quickly packed the map away and took his rifle off of his back.  “Tri’uk let’s go.”  Aiden could see that Tri’uk was starting to understand what he was saying to him when it was important as they continued on their way.
                Tri’uk was starting to get tired of walking, they had been walking long enough for him to watch the sun walk all the way across the sky along with them.  He knew that Aiden was trying to get him back to the Omaticaya settlement that was nearby but what he didn’t know was that they were going to be passing by an area known for Feral Na’vi.  They were people that had been cast out by their tribes and become extremely dangerous from living in the wild and relying only on themselves.  Tri’uk had been trying to keep his ears open for any sign of being followed but he was not yet trained as a hunter so he may not hear everything.  They had eaten several hours ago but Tri’uk still held a Bon’dah fruit in his hand for when they decided to stop for the night.  They had come to a river which meant they were probably half way there, Tri’uk’s father had told him never to go near the river alone because animals would often gather there to drink and it could be dangerous.
                “Stop,” Tri’uk spoke in Na’vi and grabbed Aiden by the arm.  Aiden looked back at him and said something with a questioning inflection.  Tri’uk pulled Aiden into the heavy underbrush and peered through the leaves at the river, he didn’t see anything at first.  But he then heard some splashing around and looked in the general direction of the noise.  He could see a family of Talioang crossing the river.  They were normally not aggressive but they had their young around them and Tri’uk didn’t like the thought of being impaled on their large horn.  They would have to stay out of sight. 
                Aiden watched as the sturmbeest crossed the river, they were basically a large blue single horned cow that were known for charging when provoked and they were easily agitated while they were around their young.   Aiden checked his gun making sure it was ready to fire if he had to when he heard a roaring sound the largest sturmbeest raised its head and looked around.  The family shortly began to run into the underbrush as Aiden looked around the roar was the same most likely the same Thanator that had been searching the crash site.  Tri’uk looked at Aiden with terror in his eyes, they could not see the Thanator and the roar seemed to be all around them.  Aiden knew that if it came to a confrontation with it then it would most likely be over for them both if he couldn’t kill it before it got within jaws reach of them. 
                “It’s okay,” whispered Aiden trying to use a comforting inflection.  Aiden pointed up into a nearby tree signalling for them to climb up the tree.  Tri’uk sprung into the tree and quickly climbed up looking down at Aiden then looking around to see if he could see the Thanator.  Aiden took one last look around then threw his gun on his back and jumped into the tree climbing up as fast as he could.  The large tree stump came to an arch that stretched over the edge of the river.  “Go, go,” Aiden urged giving Tri’uk a hand signal as well.  Tri’uk and Aiden scurried across the tree arch as fast as they could before the Thanator came into view.  Tri’uk and Aiden both instinctively ducked hugging the base of the tree.  Tri’uk looked back at Aiden with tears in his eye.  Aiden began to wonder if there wasn’t some kind of history with this Thanator having first seen it right in the vicinity of Tri’uk’s home at first.  Aiden reached up his free arm and placed it on the back of Tri’uk’s leg knowing that he couldn’t bring much comfort.  He put his free hand on his hand gun knowing if he reached for his assault rifle the creature could see him.  The Thanator was on the side of the river they were heading away from, they had a clear view of it, both of them sitting as still as they could to avoid detection.  Aiden stared intently at the creature hoping it would leave but ready to spring into action if it saw them.  He half wanted to just jump up and open fire at it now so he could get the jump on it.  The Thanator let out another horrid screech and ran into the forest presumably after the herd of sturmbeest.  Sweat ran down Aiden’s forehead as he let out a sigh of relief at watching the creature leave.  He looked up at Tri’uk and smiled at him but he was still crying.  Aiden stood up and walked over to help him up.  He bent down and put his hand on his arm and tried to pull him up.  Tri’uk was literally scared stiff and Aiden couldn’t get him to move.  “Tri’uk,” Aiden rested his hand on Tri’uk’s forehead.  “Come on buddy it’s gone now, you’re okay.”  Aiden wished that he had taken the Na’vi language course before he left for Pandora, it would certainly have made things easier.  The night would be there shortly and Aiden didn’t want to be sitting in the middle of the tree all night like a sitting duck.  “All right we can stay for a few minutes, just let me know when you’re ready.”  Aiden’s feet were tired from the walking and would appreciate the rest for a few minutes but they would need to find a safe haven before night fall.  Aiden holstered his gun and sat on the trunk of the tree with his legs dangling over the edge.  He looked down at the water even the underwater plants were bioluminescent.  The sights on this planet were beautiful Aiden had wished that he could just take a day for sightseeing before but now he was certainly getting his fill of the life on Pandora and didn’t care if he had gotten a look at another plant.  He had made up his mind that once he dropped off Tri’uk he would just use his radio equipment to get an air lift out.  He was pretty sure that he was already pronounced dead at this point but he knew with a few tweaks his radio would reach all the way to base camp via the multiple receivers that had been placed in different areas so the gunships could communicate.  Aiden looked down at Tri’uk who was still laying down on the trunk.  He touched the side of Tri’uk’s face with his hand and remembered his younger brother after almost being attacked by the neighbour’s dog.   He had laid in his bed all day after words scared the dog would get him again.  “It’s dangerous if we stay here buddy.” Aiden made up his mind they had to find a place to sleep for the night now before the night came in full.  Most of the predators of this planet hunted at night.  Aiden stood up and pulled on Tri’uk who cried out as he got him to his feet.  Tri’uk suddenly put his arms around Aiden and the two of them stood their awkwardly.  Caught off guard Aiden put his arms around him slowly and started to pat him on the back.  “It’s okay, we’re safe now,” he whispered.  Aiden grabbed Tri’uk by the wrist and led him down off the log and started looking for a place to sleep.  He looked around to see if there were any trees with a hollowed out spot for them to sleep in for the night.  If they couldn’t find a shelter they could at least get to a high place above all the ground hunters.  Aiden still held Tri’uk by the wrist and walked further away from the river he didn’t want to be too close to it as he figured that most animals would be around it.  He couldn’t see anything for shelter so he just picked the tree that looked like it would be hardest to climb for an animal with six legs.  Aiden pointed up the tree and Tri’uk immediately climbed up.  Aiden followed him they went as far up the tree as they could get without getting into the thinner branches.  They came to a point in the tree where the trunk separated into a V and each of them sat on a side.  Aiden was pretty sure they were high enough up that they would be safe from anything dangerous, anything flying wouldn’t come this close to the trees.  Aiden sat his gun on his lap and laid his head back feeling like he was finally able to relax.  As he closed his eyes he felt Tri’uk lay his head down beside him.  Tri’uk took his hand and placed it on his forehead.  After the long day they had, had it didn’t take long for either of them to fall asleep.

                Aiden opened his eyes to a few drops of water landing on his face he sat forward and realized that it was starting to rain heavy.  The rain on Pandora was frequent and heavy it wouldn’t be long before they were soaked.  There was a sudden crash of thunder and the clouds opened up like a waterfall.  Aiden let out a sigh of frustration it was bad enough that he had to traipse through the Pandoran jungles but now he had to do it wet.  At least the water would dull their smell for anything that might try to track them.  Aiden checked his gun making sure that the key elements weren’t exposed to the rain the last thing he needed was to be defenceless on top of everything else.  Tri’uk sat before him eating away at the fruit that he had left over from the day before.  It had to be somewhere around five in the morning but even now the air was thick and humid.  Aiden sat and waited for Tri’uk to be finished eating.  Tri’uk had finished half of it and extended what was left toward Aiden offering him what was left.  Aiden could probably stand to eat something but was worried what too much of the fruit might do to his physiology.  Aiden nodded giving the signal for Tri’uk to go ahead.  Aiden stood up and looked down over the edge of the tree making sure there was nothing there before starting down.   Tri’uk had just finished the fruit and stood up.  Aiden looked at him motioning with his hand that it was time to go as Tri’uk nodded, Aiden jumped down to the nearest branch almost slipping on the wet wood.  He got his balance just a Tri’uk swooped passed him and hit the ground.  Aiden looked down at him to see him looking up at him with a smile on his face. 
                “Show off,” said Aiden.  Aiden smiled and jumped the rest of the way down and they started to walk.  The two of them started back on the trail moving through the jungle keeping pace.  They had only been going for a few minutes when Aiden heard his radio going off from his side.  At the sound of the static Tri’uk looked back at Aiden with panic in his eyes.  They stopped walking and Aiden took his radio off his side.  “It’s okay buddy.”  Aiden motioned with his hand as he raised the radio to his mouth.  “This is Corporal Aiden Johnson come in head quarters can you hear me?”  Aiden could hear a voice on the other side but not full words he played with the buttons and switches on the radio and it began to come in clearly. 
                “Corporal Johnson, this is headquarters can you hear me corporal?  Respond,” said a female voice from the other side. 
                “I can hear you headquarters, go ahead.”
                “What do you mean go ahead?  Where are you corporal you didn’t follow standard crash procedure?  What are your approximate coordinates?”  The female voice was Lieutenant Alicia Hargraves his commanding officer and for the most part the chief of communications at the base, her and Aiden hadn’t really gotten off on a good start him having outshined her in front of the military operations commander his first day out of stasis. 
                “I’m uh... on my way to the Na’vi settlement right now, I’m less than a day away.”
                “Na’vi settlement?  What the hell are you on your way there for?  Your orders are to head to the river and await pick up.”  Aiden was already frustrated he much preferred the company of Tri’uk than listening to this his C.O. 
                “Lieutenant, I can’t do that.”
                “What do you mean you can’t do that?” she screamed not giving Aiden a chance to explain. 
                “When our gunship crashed it landed into a Na’vi hut and killed an entire family.  Except for one, it’s a child Lieutenant, I am taking him back to his people.  He would have died if I left him alone out here,” explained Aiden.  Tri’uk still stared at him intrigued at the radio Aiden smiled at him keeping an eye out on their surroundings.  All was quiet for a few moments waiting for the backlash of his decision to come through the radio at him in the form of a screaming angry woman.
                “Aiden we have to come get you, if you want we can take the child back to the settlement in the gunship.”  The pause told Aiden that someone was whispering over her shoulder thus why she was so calm.  There was no way he was going to let Tri’uk end up in the hands of the RDA scientists.  He had heard talk that they had been planning on possibly developing a neurotoxin and other biological weapons to use against the Na’vi people.  He wanted no part in any such development. 
                “I’m almost there I’ll contact you again when I drop the child off.” 
                “Corporal wait it’s danger...”  Aiden flicked the radio off and put it on his side. 
                “Let’s go Tri’uk.”  Aiden took his assault rifle off his back again and walked ahead of Tri’uk who followed closely behind him.  They continued on through the jungle Aiden was positive he would have Tri’uk home by 5 PM that evening.  As they continued they came to a clearing, an open field full of nothing but grass.  There was a herd of sturmbeest to the far right of the clearing grazing on the grass in the rain.  It was too big to go around Aiden didn’t want to take any more time then he had to so they started across the field almost at a running pace Aiden keeping his gun focused on almost anything that moved.  “Come on go go go,” said Aiden talking to himself.  They had made it halfway across the clearing when they heard a roar off in the distance behind them.  Aiden quickly turned to face the noise seeing what he had hoped he wouldn’t.  The Thanator was standing at the edge of the forest it had finally tracked them down.  Aiden could feel his heart pounding in his chest not sure how he was going to get out of this with both of them alive.  “Tri’uk run and hide.”  Aiden motioned with his free hand as he raised his gun for Tri’uk to run to the cover of the jungle but he stayed.  He looked over at Aiden and swallowed hard with terror in his eyes.
                Tri’uk watched the palulukan as it put on its display letting the rest of the animals in the area know that it had found its prey.  Aiden had told him to run and hide but he knew that there was no where he would be able to go.  Once the creature was finished with Aiden it would come find him.  Tri’uk didn’t know what to do, his father had never been able to kill it how could they hope to?  The palulukan started running across the field at them and there was a loud banging in his ears as Aiden opened up his screaming metal at the attacker.  The creature kept running at them but shook it’s head the bullets obviously penetrating the armour on its face but weren’t stopping it.
                As Aiden opened fire on the Thanator it shook its head but didn’t slow its approach any it looked like Aiden was actually going to have to engage the creature in close combat something he knew was going to be difficult if it was even possible.  The creature stood several meters in height and was incredibly quick and agile.  He kept firing and as the Thanator approached them when it took to the air.  Aiden pushed Tri’uk to one side and rolled to the other the Thanator landing right where they would have been standing.  He turned back to face the creature and opened fire on it again but it had already moved toward him.  Tri’uk had managed to take off into the forest finally getting the point, so for now Aiden didn’t have to worry about him.  He kept firing on the creature as it jumped at him again he kept his weapon and eyes trained on it as he dodged in the opposite direction.  The Thanator knocked him down with its tail then jumped at him, it now stood over him ready to bite down on him.  Thinking quickly, as it bit toward him Aiden shoved his gun in its mouth lengthwise and pulled the trigger.  The Thanator let out a blood curdling scream in pain and violently shook its head unfortunately throwing Aiden’s assault rifle away in the process.  Aiden grabbed for his assault dagger a standard issue melee weapon and rammed it into one of the Thanator’s eye sockets and twisted.  As he did the Thanator swiped at him with its large clawed paw swiping across his chest.  The pain was excruciating unlike anything Aiden had ever felt before, he quickly got himself together and rolled back onto his feet and jumped out of its range reaching for his handguns.  He drew the two small weapons as they were all he had left and opened fire unloading half a clip from each before the creature leaped at him again knocking him down.  As it swept at him with its clawed paw he rolled away but the creature grabbed him by the pack in its mouth and shook him around violently.  Aiden started to see his life flashing before his eyes literally feeling like he was in the last few seconds of his life.  The strap that he wore holding his pack on came loose and he started to fall.  Aiden hit the ground with a thud a few feet away snapping him back to reality.  The creature was hovered over the pack ripping at the contents Aiden saw his chance drawing his weapons again he opened fire aiming for the creatures eyes.  He was a mere communications officer but guns were something he had gotten good at through all of his training, he had even won awards for being a good shot.  Each of the twenty bullets landed their targets and the Thanator let out another scream it jumped at him landing at his feet dead.  Aiden fell to his knees in disbelief as he looked at the guns he held in his hands.  He had emptied the clips of both weapons.  He pulled the spare’s he had taken from the others, from his pocket and reloaded both of the guns then stood up.  He walked over to his pack and looked down at it, the pack had been completely shredded and its contents were now blowing around in the wind and soaking up water.  He decided to cut his losses and looked around there was no sign of Tri’uk or his assault rifle anywhere.
                “Tri’uk!”  He called getting no response.  He was starting to feel light headed and looked down at the wound across his chest.  No human had ever been attacked by a Thanator before and lived to tell about it, so there was no telling what was going to happen to him now.  There was clearly some kind of venom in the claws of the Thanator and he was losing blood.  “Tri’uk.”  Aiden called again feeling like he was going to pass out.  Aiden ran to the edge of the jungle and walked quickly inward.  “Tri’uk!  It’s safe now!”  Aiden leaned against a tree feeling extremely sick to his stomach he vomited and passed out.

                Aiden opened his eyes and sat up slowly feeling a pain in his chest where the Thanator had gotten him.  It was quiet but he could hear the hum of soft voices speaking in Na’vi beyond the walls.  He looked to be in a hollowed out tree laying on a large wooden surface on a bed of leaves.  Tri’uk suddenly came to his mind with a slight panic following, had he made it out alive with him?  He heard something else breathing in the hut somewhere near to him and he sat up, with his feet dangling over the edge of the bed nearly three feet off the ground.  Tri’uk was sleeping beside the bed, he must have found him and brought him the rest of the way to the Na’vi village on his own.   He had none of his equipment on and his shirt was gone as well.  He looked down at the wound on his chest, they had wrapped some kind of plant around him, it appeared to be stuck to him via some kind of natural adhesive, he could see blue ooze running down his stomach from the wound.  He assumed it was the plant drawing out the venom.  He jumped down off the bed away from Tri’uk hitting the ground with a soft thud.  He walked out of the hut, it was dark out telling him he had been out for awhile, and the rain had stopped.  There was a fire going in the middle of the village they were under a large system of roots, he assumed this was the Home Tree for these people, but it wasn’t a large settlement so this couldn’t be “The” Home Tree he had heard the scientists talking about.  Several of the Na’vi noticed him and stood up there was mostly adults.  Some were decorated in different types of attire and clothing, most likely signalling their stand in the village hierarchy.  He was approached by a female who was wearing a red drape on the upper part of her body, she also wore a red loincloth, her hair was done back in large braids covering her queue. 
                “The young one has told us much about you, Aiden.”  Her ability to speak English caught him off guard he was almost unable to speak.  “Well, what can you say for yourself?”  The female smiled.
                “Hopefully good things,” Aiden smiled.  “How did I get here?”
                “Tri’uk drug you here after you passed out from the venom of the Palulukan.  Not many can say that they bested the beast in battle.”  The women now stood only a few feet from him, he only came to her waist as he looked up at her. 
                “I need to get back to my people now, can I get my equipment back?” he asked knowing that every moment he spent there was another moment that he pissed off his C.O.  “What is your name?”
                “Of course you are not a prisoner here.  And you may call me Mo’at.  I am the saihik of the Omaticaya people, I am here from our home tree visiting the elder of this village.”  Mo’at pointed to a plant where his equipment was being stored. 
                “Ah, thanks.  Nice to meet you.”  Aiden held out his hand to her, she tilted her head back and looked down at him.  “Right.”  Aiden smiled and put his head down as he walked over to the plant.  As he approached it opened up and he took his two handguns, radio and his shirt from the plant.  He put his shirt on and strapped on his utility belt.  He checked his weapons and holstered them then removed his radio and turned it on.  “Corporal Aiden Johnson here, come in HQ, do you read me?”  The radio was fuzzy with static for a few seconds then.
                “Go ahead Corporal,” said a female voice he didn’t recognise.
                “Tell the Lieutenant I’m ready for pick up,” Aiden paused, “Whose this?”  The voice sounded familiar but Aiden couldn’t place the face.
                “This is Dr. Augustine, the head of the Avatar department.”
                “With all due respect Doctor aren’t you a little out of place there in the Comm. Tower?”
                “Don’t worry about that, is the child safe?”
                “Yes he’s sleeping I’m at the settlement, the Na’vi here have been hospitable to say the least,” he explained.
                “Why didn’t you contact us sooner?”
                “Listen Doc, that’ll all be in my report I just wanna get the hell back to my quarters eat a hot meal and shower.  Can ya help me out here?” he laughed.
                “Yeah Corporal, gunships on route’ to get you now they will meet you outside south of the village,” laughed Dr. Augustine.
                “Aye.”  Aiden put the radio on his belt and stood up he walked back in the hut, Mo’at followed him.  “Where did you learn to speak English?” he asked staring at Tri’uk asleep on the floor. 
                “Our leaders learned the language of the sky people from Dr. Augustine at her school.”
                “I see.”  Aiden knelt down by Tri’uk who was clearly exhausted and touched his face.  “What’s going to happen to him?”
                “He will be protected by the people, then he will grow up and become a warrior like any other,” explained Mo’at softly.  Aiden looked at Tri’uk he didn’t feel it was right to leave without saying goodbye after what they had done for each other.
                “Do you mind if I wake him?”
                “Not at all.”
                “Thanks.”  Aiden put his hand on Tri’uk’s shoulder and shook him lightly.  “Tri’uk.”   Aiden spoke softly so he wouldn’t startle him.  Tri’uk slowly opened his eyes and looked up and smiled at him.  “Hey buddy.”  Tri’uk quickly sat up and threw his arms around him.  Aiden hugged him back and looked up at Mo’at who smiled down at them.  “Do you mind, we’ve never really spoke to each other so we could understand fully?”
                “Of course.”  Aiden pulled back out of the hug and looked at Tri’uk they smiled at each other.
                “Tri’uk, I have to go now okay.”  Mo’at repeated his words in Na’vi as he spoke.  “I’m not sure if we’ll ever see each other again, but these guys are going to take care of you.”  Tri’uk’s expression turned from a smile to a frown and his eyes became teary.  “Hey buddy come on now, don’t cry, you’re gonna get me goin’ here.”  Aiden sniffled and wiped his eyes then smiled at Tri’uk as he stood up.  Tri’uk jumped to his feet as Aiden turned to walk away.
                “Can I go with you?” Mo’at translated.  Tri’uk didn’t want to see Aiden leave.  This sky person had defeated a palulukan, and a pack of nantang all to protect him and get him back to his people.
                “No you can’t come with me, it’d be dangerous for you with my people.  Not all of my people are like me.  You know that.”  Aiden looked down at his chest and removed his dog tags.  “Here keep these to remember me by.”  Aiden walked over to Tri’uk and placed the dog tags around his neck Tri’uk took them in his hand and smiled at him.  They could hear the gunship off in the distance Aiden knew he had to leave now.  “Thank you again Mo’at, for your kindness and for keeping him.  But I have to be there when they land otherwise they might come looking for me.”
                “Go, I will have the hunters shadow you, to make sure you are safe.”  Aiden nodded and headed out the door and into the jungle heading south.  He could hear the gunship getting closer and closer it was coming up quick.  He knew that they didn’t like to run night operations because they couldn’t see things coming to defend themselves for the most part but they were clearly making an exception.  Aiden had made up his mind as he ran through the jungle that he would speak with Dr. Augustine when he got back about joining the Avatar program.  He wanted to get more involved with the dealings with the Na’vi, if he could.  The gunship now hovered overhead and the wind from the engines were blowing the trees around the air was refreshing.  He couldn’t wait to get home and have a hot meal and get his mask off.  The ship began to descend and landed a few meters from him.  Aiden quickly ran over to him there were two men in the back and an Avatar. 
                “Man am I glad to see you,” said Aiden to one of the soldiers.
                “Yeah you lucky son of a bitch,” he called back to him, “ get in, we need to get you back to get you debriefed.”
                “Will do.”  Aiden looked over at the Avatar women.
                “You know, I expected you to be taller.”  The Avatar was Dr. Augustine she smiled at him and signalled for him to sat next her.
                “Just the tall blue women I was looking for.  You and I have a lot to discuss.”

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