“What is the meaning of this?” the old Na’vi asked, looking down upon the alien within their midst.
Neytiri moved closer to her father, trying to placate him before he made any decisions that could be considered final.
“Please Father, he is of the Sky People…“
“Anyone could tell that, his alien smell fills my nose,” he said harshly, to a chorus of laughs and jeers from the assembled crowd. Neytiri felt her resolve waver at such hate, but pushed past it quickly.
“I saw a sign from Eywa, she has seen this dreamwalker,” Neytiri pleaded. “He knows the forest unlike any of the Sky People.“
Her father stepped forwards, standing before the intruder.
“It is an honour to meet you Sir,” Tom said respectfully amazed that Neytiri held such a high position within the clan, he managed to catch the Elders eyes for a moment before he turned away sharply. A new Na’vi had appeared, slowly walking down the spiral roots, taking in the scene playing out before her. The colourful beads and patterns made Tom think more of an old shaman and his suspicions were soon proved correct.
“Mother, please,” Neytiri pleaded.
Mother and Father as high members of the Clan? Tom had either made a very wise choice or royally screwed himself. The old woman circled him much like Tsu’Tey had earlier. Pulling a thin bone from her neckbrace she pricked his skin and quickly tasted his blood, evidently deeming it to be worthy. Tom stood still resolutely, unfamiliar at such a practice but feeling it best to let events play out without him making a fool of himself.
“What is your name?” she finally asked.
“Thomsully,” she repeated, a definite purr to the voice. “And why are you here Thomsully?”
“To learn about you and your people,” he replied quickly.
“We have tried to teach Sky People. It is hard to fill a cup that is already full.”
“How can you know if a cup is full unless you attempt to fill it some more?” Tom remarked.
The old woman turned to look at him, her piercing oval eyes gazing deeply into his own. He felt as if she were staring into his very heart, attempting to pass judgement upon his soul.
“You speak wisely Thomsully. Neytiri,” the aged woman said, summoning her daughter. “You will take this dreamwalker and see if his words are indeed true. Teach him our ways and we shall decide if he is worthy to walk amongst our People.“
“Mother please, why must I…” Neytiri began to protest but her mother cut her off with a wave of her hand, eliciting an angry snarl from the young Na’vi.
“You will learn to be a Na’vi Thomsully, then we shall see if you are worthy of Eywa’s favour.”
“Thank you,” Tom said, grateful at receiving such an opportunity. As the assembled crowd dispersed Tom was left standing before Neytiri who had taken on a decidedly less friendly persona.
“Come,” she finally commanded, ascending the spiral roots to a wide open common area. Many Na’vi were seated around a central fire, obviously enjoying an evening meal, but all eyes instantly turned to fix on Tom as he followed Neytiri through the masses. Treading carefully between rows he took his seat beside Neytiri, accepting a simple clay pot with a thick paste inside. Deeming it to be better than some meals he had eaten in his time he ate happily in silence until a small child cautiously entered his field of vision.
“You Sky Person?” he asked shyly, obviously having trouble with the alien language.
“Yes,” Tom replied, setting his bowl aside. “What’s your name?” he asked.
“I am Ralu,” the boy said proudly, placing a small fist against his chest.
“And I am Tom,” Tom said, mimicking the gesture to the delight of the small boy.
“I see you now,” the child said before running off back to his parents who quickly ran hands over his small form to ensure his brief encounter with a hybrid had not left any lasting traces.
“What does that mean,” Tom asked Neytiri quietly as they finished eating. “They’ve seen me; is it a greeting?“
She just shook her head in exasperation, set her empty bowl down and walked towards the higher branches. Tom followed quickly, taking a last scoopful of goop from his bowl. He caught up with her and she seemed more willing to talk without so many eyes watching them.
“It mean to see into person, see their spirit,” she attempted, obviously unused at having to explain such simple concepts. “Come,” she ordered, a familiar human word for her to say now.
Lying down in a hammock, suspended high above the forest floor, Tom felt at peace finally. This was how he was used to spending his nights back on Earth, not cooped up inside some metal coffin that was the only thing keeping the poisonous atmosphere out of his lungs.
As his thoughts drifted back to the Company and what they planned to do Tom made a decision to tell Neytiri as soon as he felt he had earned her trust. He would be hated for it, most likely executed as a spy of the Sky People, but he had seen what happened when large corporations decided they wanted something as badly as Earth needed Unobtanium. He couldn’t let that happen here, not to a people of such pure heart.
“Good night,” he murmured, leaving his Avatar body safe in the high branches of the Hometree.
Neytiri lay awake for a long time after hearing the dreamwalker slip into a peaceful slumber beside her. Her mother was right in her actions of course, if they had kicked the hybrid out into the wild he would definitely be hunted down by one of the other clan members before he could make it back to the humans, not to mention any of the other creatures that hunted during the twilight hours.
As her eyes drooped slowly she couldn’t help but think back to the warnings her father had given her long ago, that all Sky People eventually betray those they seek to help. Would Thom be the same, would he just use them like all the others of his kind or was he truly different?
Did Eywa truly know what was best any more with these aliens now poisoning the land? Sleep came finally, but it was not restful for the young Na’vi princess.
Tom lay in the link pod for the longest time, just staring upwards in the incandescent light. Eventually finding the energy to heave the lid open he sat up awkwardly, his body having barely moved in the past god-knows how many hours.
Grabbing a ration bar from a shelf he sat in front of the sole workstation in the outpost and began composing his log report. Staring into the camera’s lens he debated at length what to actually say.
“This is mission report number 2, time is 23:20 and I am now stationed in the middle of nowhere in the Hallelujah mountains. I made contact today with the Na’vi known as Neytiri but… lost her amongst the denser forest areas. I have also encountered several other forms of native wildlife and unfortunately lost my primary camera in one such case.”
Not all of it was a lie he told himself, just an omission of sorts. As he was so far away they wouldn’t be able to check the full telemetry logs and see he was lying, it was a risk, but a necessary one.
“Tomorrow I’ll attempt to get closer to the Na’vi, see if I can’t learn something from them. Fnu upxare.”
He hoped Grace got the message and that Quaritch would ignore the alien gibberish. Sending it back to the ops centre, Tom lay down on the small bunk and let himself fall into a deep sleep. Tomorrow would be a long day he sighed.
Watching the latest log from Site 26 Grace smirked at the signoff, instantly translating the words in her mind. “Quiet message,” she whispered to herself, typing the English translation into her pad. Instantly a second video file appeared, hidden behind the first and obviously meant for her eyes only.
“If you’re watching this then I assume you got my little code,” Tom said on the screen, scratching at the stubble that had started to grow on his chin. “I met Neytiri again but didn’t lose her; my Avatar is sleeping in a hammock suspended in the Hometree next to hers. I have been invited in by the Clan leaders to learn their ways and intend to help as much as I can. Quaritch is going to do whatever it takes to get these people to leave and I don’t intend to give them any false hope about what will happen.
“I’m sorry I couldn’t tell you this before I left but it was too risky. I need you to trust me to do the right thing Doctor, I don’t want to see bloodshed anymore than you do. Sully out,” the video concluded.
Grace felt her anger at having being robbed by Selfridge fade as she realised she now had a mole within Quaritch’s ranks. He would be relying on the intel Tom sent back, and if he was as smart as he’d already demonstrated, the closest he’d get would be a nice chunk of disinformation to send them on completely the wrong track.
“Good luck Tom,” she said, wiping the hidden recording from all memory banks. “You’ll need it,” Grace murmured, thinking about her time with Neytiri and what that nimble fox could do.