Author Topic: City of Paradise [Story]  (Read 1814 times)

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Offline ToktorGrace

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City of Paradise [Story]
« on: September 26, 2010, 05:04:48 pm »

City of Paradise
The life of Dr. Grace Augustine and her journey on Earth and Pandora as she bore witness to the entire sequence of events leading to her choices and her death.

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Miracles are not contrary to nature, but only contrary to what we know about nature.  - St. Augustine

 



I speak Na'vi with a French accent...

Offline ToktorGrace

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Re: City of Paradise [Story]
« Reply #1 on: September 26, 2010, 05:05:35 pm »
Prologue:

I am with her Jake...she's real



Night falls earlier than it did in our time. The sky, coated in the darkness of so much waste, the gutted earth's substance littered on the ground and in the atmosphere creates looming clouds, black and gray, keeping the entire planet under an almost constant state of overcast. The third Great Recession has hit nearly everyone, including the corporate giants, and relative success stories in the 21st century. For every medical advance, another plague descends. For every new innovation, another obstacle. The planet's population swells, then fights, reduing its number just enough to eke a living, scrabbling to get by, and yet ever-expanding. The pessimists say that man will soon outnumber the rats.

A little girl, an innocent with a shock of bright red hair, sits fixated before the projection screen. She is one of hundreds, as every man, woman, and child has all eyes on the mission that promises to find something to redeem them from their suffering and stagnation. The mission, made after observing the magnetic fields generated by this odd little moon, seeks to find something to replace all that was used as fuel in the last two hundred years.

The girl watches in awe, as across the screen flickers green plants, towering trees; the probe makes its first contact with life on an alien planet– the grainy images flashing, flickering with obscure foliage, with tantalizing glimpses of creatures unknown to any on earth – gleaming eyes, frighting jaws, and the most curious of all – the blue-skinned natives, who seemed to be equally curious as the little girl so many light-years away of the strange, robotic creature that had arrived to their home.

"Gracie – turn that thing off!"

The magic is not broken.

"In a minute mom!" The little girl shouts back, but doesn't move an inch, meeting the gaze of the being on screen, its yellow gaze locked with hers. The transmission goes blank, the girl stands up, and joins her mother in the other room. The screen blazes on, a woman's voice continuing through the speakers.

"... of extra-terrestrial life, as well as the presence of highly conductible metals that have a high potential to serve as an energy source..."

"Turn it off Gracie!"

"... feasible there will soon consider the means to form a manned mission to the moon..."

The little girl, full of energy, scampers back to the room, standing on her tiptoes to reach the control pad on the wall.

"...Pandora."

click.
Miracles are not contrary to nature, but only contrary to what we know about nature.  - St. Augustine

 



I speak Na'vi with a French accent...

Offline ToktorGrace

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Re: City of Paradise [Story]
« Reply #2 on: September 26, 2010, 05:08:40 pm »
Chapter 1: Na'vi


June, 2128

Stanford University

Resources Development Administration (RDA) Laboratories



Grace watched the projection screen, engaged fully by the new transmissions from the alien planet. All these years later, the young girl never lost that flame, burning desire to learn more about the strange creatures of the alien planet. That first transmission had let to many more, and every step of the way Grace was there to witness it. Even though it cost an arm and a leg, she had managed to be one of the few students to earn the right to study the few remaining Terran creatures in captivity that had once been wild throughout the continents. Now even many of those animals were dying, leaving only DNA samples behind, forgotten in cryogenic cellars by all but a few, a scientific elite who managed to rise above the ever-growing masses, the few who still wondered at what the world had been before their own time.

But now, the opportunity to study new things, an explosion of new creatures to observe, new chemicals, new genetic themes. That humble moon – Pandora was slowly opening up, and spilling her secrets to the hungering, eager inhabitants of Earth. None more eager to see these creatures in person than a young female student, who now sat in a professor's lab, leaving samples in their slides, beneath the lens of a new hydro-power microscope, to watch the latest visual feeds.

Grace felt most at home here, surrounded by frozen, cryogenic pieces of plant life from the planet, specimens of some of the smaller animals, and many images of other things collected – these samples had been gathered while Grace was still a young girl – and were nothing compared to the most valuable of the materials obtained from the moon's surface, despite the low quantity thus far gained: Unobtanium. But Grace Augustine had little interest in the energy properties and financial value of the metal – she would rather study how it interacted with the life native to Pandora.

She checked the clock, blinking as the digital blue numbers let her know that she had been awake for nearly thirty-six hours. The transmission she had been watching went blank, the recorded feed ended. Despite the fact that her professor and boss worked for the RDA, Grace was unsurprised by the fact that they would not have constant live feed. She was sure that a lot of the footage they had taken was edited, pared down to hide some of the actions of the first explorers of Pandora, and the animals as dangerous, albeit beautiful. From her own observations the small number specimens brought back to Earth after each expedition, she could see that many had sustained very brutal treatment, especially those of the natives. It was remarkable how little information they seemed to have on the culture of the planet's inhabitants, and possibly the only other intelligent life in the universe.

Thus far, very few of the creatures brought from the moon had survived the journey; but today, Grace was desperately hoping, and would have been praying had she believed in any divinity, that one of the creatures on its way to her professor's lab would make it, and live beyond the average alien life expectancy on Earth. True, several of the animals had survived for a short amount of time after arrival, but despite perfect recreation of the atmosphere and plants the creatures died within days.

Grace jumped at the sound of a door opening.

"They're coming in early Grace..."

Dr. Mani let the door slam behind him, an oddity for the usually quiet, mild-mannered professor. His clothes and hair were askew – evidence that he had just been roused, and excitedly grabbed papers and other materials, and the faintest trace of the Persian accent of his heritage slipping in from his excitement.

"They're almost here?" Grace's voice raised in excitement, bordering on alarm – they environment simulations was not quite ready yet, "there's so much to do! They weren't supposed to arrive for another week!"

"I know, Augustine, but now we have to be ready by the time they get here – I'd give it three hours until landing, and I have to be there to receive her."

The doctor's excitement shone in his eyes, quickly mirrored in Grace's expression.

"Her?" Grace murmured.

He smiled, white teeth gleaming, eyes squinting. "Yes, they have captured a female native. She is coming out of cryo as of 0:00 – alive and kicking."

Grace felt herself smiling broadly, a fluttering feeling overcoming her, her head was spinning. This would be the first live native, homo pandorus, to grace Earth's surface. And she would be here to witness it. Study it.

"Grace, I need you to prepare for her arrival – can you make the habitat ready by the time I am back?"

Dr. Mani pulled his tie tight, trying to quickly smooth his ruffled appearance, as he threw a white lab coat over his shirt.

"I'll do my best, doctor." She nodded, meticulously replacing the microscope slides in their place. They could wait.

"I know you will, Grace."

Even from far away Grace could hear the sounds of distress, in a voice not unlike that of a human, crying out with abandon. The men wheeled in several long boxes, like coffins, but almost twice the height of a man each of them. Several other cryo cells followed, similarly large and likely holding other beasts and flora of the distant moon, still to be released from the flash freeze of cryo. But these specimens could wait as the live native, surrounded by manufactured plexi-plastic glass substance was wheeled into the chamber, and the female was released into the pre-made enclosure, with simulated air pressure, gravity and other environmental factors of Pandora to perfection.

" Zong ta oe Eywa fay ayvrrtep!"

Grace watched the creature, who completely ignored her spacious, zoo-like enclosure, and walked up the to glass panel hitting it with closed fists. The glass shook, but did not break – it never would. She cried, hissed, her tall body already appearing to be frail, hands bleeding from beating the walls of the enclosure. Dr. Mani rejoined his student and intern, as both bore witness to the broken creature before them. Grace's excitement had dampened considerably, and she maintained a strained, tight-faced expression. Her professor on the other hand clapped, gleeful at their luck, procuring the first specimen ever to reach their planet alive.

"The other students will be here soon, along with doctors, other scientists. We'll be on the news within twelve hours!" He hugged Grace, a rare expression from the stolid scientist that she was so well-acquainted with. "And we have done it! I am counting on you, Grace, to help me. You're my brightest, ever since you first took my xenobiology class a few years ago. If any one of my students could keep her alive, I know it will be you."

They moved to the other room, and Dr. Mani pulled out his cigarette case, fumbling as he put it in his mouth and lit the end. He handed one to Grace, smiling as he blew out a puff of white smoke.

"Have one on me, Grace, to celebrate!" He handed the box and lighter to her, and cheerfully began to re-evaluate their supplies, figuring out what to demand of the RDA for keeping a specimen of such shape alive and well with his laboratory. Grace placed the cigarette in-between her lips, lit the end and breathed in, coughing almost immediately. She shook her head, about to throw the cigarette away, and felt herself relax just a touch. She inhaled again, slowly this time, and blew away the smoke, feeling more comfortable already.

"Why don't you go take the rest of the night off, doctor." Grace returned the cigarette case to Dr. Mani, who graciously accepted it.

"How very kind of you Grace – have you had any sleep at all in the last day, though?"

"You'll need to be at your best for the press tomorrow."

"Thank you, Grace. I'll grab a few more hours of sleep, and have John relieve you before I come in. I want you be there for this as well." Dr. Mani put on his black coat, and nodded farewell. "I'll see you in the morning."

The young student returned to her earlier work, checking periodically on the biosphere's status, to ensure that there was no change in the artificial atmosphere. The lab had mostly returned to normalcy now, the whirring of machines, a faint sounds of the computers and other electronic tools going about their business, neat and tidy in the sterile environment. But behind the order, Grace could still hear a faint sound, like weeping, coming from the other room. The sound barrier could not contain the grief that the alien released.

Grace turned toward the door, and unable to ignore it any longer, let herself into the room, walking right up to the window to see the creature crouching, holding herself in a ball, tail wrapped around her ankles. Grace had seen one specimen before this, from far away, but up close, alive, this creature was so different than the preserved bodies she had studied in her large classes several years ago. Those large yellow eyes had detected Grace's presence, and peered at her with a crushing loneliness that Grace could not fathom.

" Kehe! Tawtutee!" The creature hissed, attacking the glass where Grace stood watching. Grace backed away, but slowly realized the pattern to the creature's voice.

" Eywa! Oe lu ni'awtu! Tìkawng oe pxaw fratseng!"

Its a language. Grace's eyes widened. It was believed until now that the inhabitants had only a rudimentary ability to communicate with each other, in the same manner as the animals that used to exist on Earth may have had, or early humans. This creature, obviously dressed in a unique style of well-crafted clothing, and donning simple but elegant jewelry was clearly speaking a developed language, sharing every characteristic with humans that Grace had not expected, but many had dreamed of.

The creature's tear-streaked face, watching her with obvious loathing, caused Grace to wince. But she approached the glass again, trying to speak.

" Oel ni'awtu hum." The creature spat.

Grace felt guilt overcoming her, at her eagerness for the creature's being here, and still watched in shame and awe, the alien's beautiful blue physique, and what evidence there was of a once very vibrant, healthy body. "I know you don't understand me. But I am sorry you were brought here. We want to learn."

The creature's eyes narrowed, but she did not attack the glass again. Grace cautiously came a step closer to the glass. She pointed to herself, indicating her name.

"Grace."

The creature gave her a look that spoke she was uninterested in making friends, body mostly limp. But she did speak, pointing accusingly with one finger at her.

"Ketuwong tìkawng! "

She pointed back to herself, with her last vestiges of pride.

" Oe lu - Na'vi."
« Last Edit: September 26, 2010, 05:13:31 pm by Truro the Lost »
Miracles are not contrary to nature, but only contrary to what we know about nature.  - St. Augustine

 



I speak Na'vi with a French accent...

Offline ToktorGrace

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Re: City of Paradise [Story]
« Reply #3 on: September 26, 2010, 05:12:24 pm »
Chapter 2: Ketuwong


She lifted the fern away from her face, to move forward, gingerly walking along mossy ground, feet bare, absorbing the senses assaulting her; the slight moisture of the earth, the wet wood, the firm, somewhat prickly surface of the plant she pushed out of her way, trying to make out the scene before her, sunlight shining into her eyes. Hushed buzzing of insects, a familiar sensation, coupled with a foreign, but instinctual knowledge as the chirping and squealing of other animals in the bush.

A brief interlude...


"Grace, there's someone I'd like you meet."

Grace, only just shaken from her stupor, a fleeting moment in which she felt the native, the Na'vi, had imparted on her, still staring at the door which led to the creature's containing room.

"Grace?"

Her professor's voice finally broke through, shattering the tingling sensations of her illusions. She turned around, meeting the gaze of two men. Dr. Mani appeared as cheerful as could be, and she could see why upon the arrival of his guest. The man's dark hair and fair features did little to set her at ease. Even worse, this man was not at all unknown to her. She instantly recognized the man's voice, as he introduced himself, that placating tone that spoke regularly on the mainstream news and RDA scientific broadcasts, as well as many scientific journals. Dr. Cordell Lovecraft was perhaps one of the most controversial men in history.

"Pleased to meet you, Miss Augustine, is it?"

Grace cordially shook hands with him, maintaining a tight grip.

"I've been following your work for a long time, doctor." She nodded in an obligated respect. Although she was not partial to the way that many of Dr. Lovecraft's subject had been treated, or what had resulted of several experiments, the results had indeed been astounding, and offered rare opportunities for further exploration. Like many others, she rationalized it as a necessary evil for the bounty that could be brought from it.

"So you are familiar with the plans that are currently in the works?"

Dr. Mani laughed, interjecting, "I challenge you to name a competent scientist who is not!"

Grace nodded in agreement, cordially, without actually smiling. "Dark Dreamer is quite renowned in the scientific community, and as it pertains to this lab, I'm certain you're here to study the specimens?"

"Dr. Lovecraft is going to be working closely with our team, Grace. We're hoping that the creatures will respond better to something with a similar phenotype. I don't know if it's truly a necessity for the purposes of the RDA, but the International Faith Council along with other groups do have an interest in the savages."

"I've heard about the theory. I think learning their language might serve us as well." Grace folded her arms across her chest, trying to keep from grabbing a cigarette.

Dr. Mani beamed with pride. "Our Miss Augustine was the first to begin initial tracing and recording of the creatures' language. Apparently they call themselves the 'Na'vi' – it's quite fascinating!"

"As wonderful a discovery as that is, Miss Augustine, I'm afraid my work lies in genetics." Dr. Lovecraft gave a brief, forced smile. "Now if you'd show me to the specimens?"

Dr. Mani nodded, "Yes, right this way."

Grace watched the two men walk away, and finally succumbed, pulling a cigarette out of the pack, inhaling sharply after lighting the end. In the last two weeks, the female Na'vi's condition had gradually declined. Grace did everything she could think of to try to bring her solace, but still unable to really understand the language, Grace could only pick up on a sense of what the Na'vi was saying. She had begun to decode a small amount of what was spoken; however, she had not managed to successfully in engage in true two-way conversation. She made a point to record every sound that came from the enclosure, and with every word, every action that accompanied the sounds she watched, trying to piece together the meaning behind it all. Although several other scientists, and others, including the few lingering Terran anthropologists and linguists had stopped by to observe as well, Grace had perhaps the clearest understanding with the creature due to the sheer amount of time she was spending recording and re-evaluating the alien's movements and speech.

As if on cue, the Na'vi female started screaming in the other room. Grace shoved barely-used cigarette into an ashtray and ran to see what was wrong, hoping that she, as the primary communicator with the native, could ease the situation. Upon seeing what was taking place inside of the room, Grace felt an overwhelming sense of guilt. One of the dead male Na'vi that had been brought with them earlier was being pulled out of cryo, and the female, fully aware of her dead companion, wailed, sobbing uncontrollably.

"Ma tsmukan..."

She knelt, her body nearly pressed against the glass, hands trying to reach through, as tears streamed down her face. The glass there was already covered with dozens of handprints, with each time the Na'vi had struck the wall of her prison, angry and fearful. Her odd, four-fingered hand now pressed against it, as if she was reaching for the dead Na'vi, beyond exhaustion.

Grace quietly shut off the microphone, effectively cutting the sound feed from the enclosure to the rest of the lab, and walked up to the dead Na'vi male, unsure of how to breach the subject with Dr. Mani and Lovecraft.. Upon the sight of the great creature in front of her, Grace was momentarily in a measure of awe. The sheer size of the Na'vi was incredible – like many of Pandora's creatures, such large animals no longer existed on Earth, making most scientists who encountered real specimens feel dwarfed. Grace also couldn't help but notice the markings on the Na'vi's body, which was riddled with bullets. He was decorated in elaborate war-paint, streaked whites, reds and blues across his face and chest, almost as in-tact as the minute he was placed in cryo, six years prior. The creature's hair was elaborately braided, part of his hair (what appeared to humans as hair, at least) was shaved, or gathered away from his skull, giving him a mo-hawk of twisting braids, elegantly accented with beads of all shapes and colors, while one very long braid lay to his side, a faint, white, feathered tendrils peeping out from the strands of hair. The long braid lay to his side, and looked heavier than the rest of the hair – almost a different organ altogether.

"Grace, look at him! Isn't he incredible?" Dr. Mani looked over the creature in wonder, the female still howling, unheard by the scientists, now crumpled on the floor of her enclosure.

Grace nodded in agreement, and knelt down next to Dr. Mani. She kept her voice low, whispering urgently.

"Professor, I think that the female is upset about the male specimen– could you move the specimen to another room?"

Dr. Lovecraft glanced to the silently heaving alien, and back to the dead specimen before him. "We're not going to dissect him here anyhow; get over to that side and help us move him if you want to, or stay out of the way."

Grace moved to the back of the extra-long gurney, and followed the other scientists into the room beyond, the weeping female's cries seeming to carry through the hallways, echoing through Grace's perception. She watched, feeling sick now, as Dr Mani prepared his tools, unwrapping a series of needles and tubes, and Lovecraft so callously examining the specimen.

"After you get initial samples, I want to get a look inside its head," Lovecraft pulled out a pair of calipers, and already was measuring dimensions, proportion and other aspects of the cranium. "Do you think we can shave him with a razor? Or will we need to use some other method?"

"All in good time, doctor." Dr. Mani nodded. "We've got a number of tests to run first."

"The sooner I get this under way the sooner we can begin the next phase of the project..." Lovecraft argued.

"I know you want to crack him open, but you'll need to wait."

Grace stood and watched as Dr. Mani carefully began to prod the creature with syringe after syringe, getting basic readings, and extracting several biological materials. Grace watched, unable to assist him in her state, as he gathered the Na'vi's equivalent to blood, vials of skin scrapings and different samples from the various parts of the body. He handed a few tiny vials to Grace, still grinning with enthusiasm.

"Start some initial decoding on these, I want to see what we come up with. And once John gets in send him over."

"I'll get on that."

She grabbed the materials and returned to the analysis lab, setting the computers to sequence the chemical arrangement of the Na'vi's genetic material. She quietly continued her work, in exploring chemical compounds of a rare sample of some of the foliage of Pandora. As the computers hummed, whining with the efforts to compose the newly named "NVTranscriptase" for the specimen in the other room, Grace found herself distracted by the female Na'vi's voice, which still carried to the monitor in the laboratory, albeit very quietly – though the screaming had ceased, this new sound was painful to hear, but different than anything Grace had heard from the monitors before during the span of her shifts.

The young scientist quietly made her way into the room, and saw the Na'vi was now kneeling, still wailing, but with a cadence that made a detectable melody ring throughout the room.

"... peyä tìtxur mì hinam awngeyä

Na aysangek afkeu..."


As the Na'vi continued, Grace could tell that she was singing, perhaps mourning the death of the Na'vi in the other room. Grace just stayed silent, not wanting to disturb the Na'vi. and tried to quietly inch to the recording controls, amplifying the microphones to pick up on every last nuance of the Na'vi's chant; a high pitched wheedling, just a glimpse of what a Na'vi in full-health could be capable of.

The young Terran scientist stayed in the room with the alien, kneeling near the enclosure, just within the shadows, where she could see the Na'vi trying to speak to any sort of nature that might exist in this place. Grace stared solemnly at the sterile steel plating on the walls, the plain floor, sealed concrete, and realized that not a single thing in this room, except for herself and the Na'vi, was truly alive.

Grace bowed her head, feeling herself overcome with guilt for the first time. She had dissected cadavers, bodies of animals both Terran and Pandoran, but this interaction with the living made her doubt herself for the first time as a scientist. She suddenly recalled, long ago, sitting in a classroom with hundreds of other young students, as the aged professor, with drooping features, and a hacking cough, pleaded with the students to not forget the world he remembered; where Robert Frost's woods and Kipling's Jungle, still existed; and, where the scent of pine-trees was more than a manufactured odor-control device.

"I'm so sorry..." Grace murmured to herself, the Na'vi continuing her incantations.

"...Utralä a Nawm ayrina' lu ayoeng,

A peyä tìrol mì awnga."


The Na'vi came to a finish speaking faintly, though the sounds still echoed in the room due to the amplified recording equipment. The Na'vi's ragged breathing echoed over the sound system, giving an illusion that the room itself could be alive. It somehow intensified the creeping feeling Grace was getting, the feeling of being trapped, the longing for fresh air.

"Eywa ngahu, ma tsmukan..."

Grace finally began to understand what the Na'vi was saying with more clarity – a gist, but enough to finally attempt communication. She took a step toward the enclosure, the Na'vi finally, in an angrily, weary response yelled at her.

"Ftang nga!" Stop!

She froze, halting her progress, meeting the alien's fading eyes, and tear-stained face.

"Rutxe..." Please...

The young scientist pressed her own mic to speak with the Na'vi, trying to use a quiet tone of voice. The Na'vi watched almost passively, the spirit obviously diminished from when she had first arrived. Grace did not doubt that the alien would die, soon. This sudden realization sank in, and she felt an awful, overwhelmed feeling of helplessness. There was nothing she could do for the alien now, except to learn from her, and try to prevent the RDA from bringing more Na'vi to Earth.

Grace did not approach, but put up a hand, mimicking the way the Na'vi had acted on several occasions, touching her fingers to her forehead. She then tried again to engage the alien, gently coaxing in a soft voice, pointing to herself.

"Grace..."

The alien gave her a blank stare, her eyes flickering only momentarily with understanding.

"Ketuwong kakrel..." stupid alien..

The alien muttered to herself, pretending to ignore her, before finally glancing over. Grace pressed the mic again, opening her voice to the Na'vi's.

"Ketuwong, Grace." Alien, Grace...

She tried to used the Na'vi's words, and watched as the alien's attention was drawn back to her. She pointed at herself, then back to the alien.

"Na'vi ?"

The Na'vi glanced at her direct address, and finally pointed to herself again, glaring with as much pride as she could muster.

"Oeru Na'vi – Oeru syaw fko Atanäie."

Grace tried to make sense of it, and the Na'vi, picking up on Grace's confusion, pointed with emphasis.

"Atanäie!"

"Atanäie." Grace repeated, and the Na'vi curled her lip, likely at the bad pronunciation, but the ability to speak, in her own language, and be understood, kept her from completely giving up on communication. The alien's eyes pleaded with the scientist, now desperate to be understood.

"Rutxe... srung sivi oer." Please...

Grace could tell the alien was asking her for something, but was unsure what..

"Srung sivi oer!"

The Na'vi begged, her voice cracking as she pressed herself against the window. The plea echoed through the room.

"I don't know what you want... how?"

Grace became more agitated, along with the alien. The Na'vi scowled, her nose wrinkling in disgust at the idiocy of the human, and she began to weep again, no longer facing Grace, and retreated to another part of the enclosure.

"Skxawng ketuwong..." The words echoed from the sound booth.

Grace, now defeated, returned to the other room of the lab, and surveyed the computers' progress in decoding the genetic codes. It looked like it would be an incredible challenge to successfully complete Dr. Lovecraft's intentions, and at this point, the young scientist doubted very much that her being blue and ten feet tall would make any difference at all in how the creatures of Pandora would interact with her. But there were other factors, of course, to be considered – especially the mining operation investment, and the possibility of efficient mining by native hybrids, since it was evident that the natives themselves could not be tamed or bought into doing the work – unless of course, the RDA probably considered, they had real interaction.

Weary and feeling let-down, Grace grudgingly brought the information to Dr. Mani in the other room, typing the in the room's access code without a second though, keeping her eyes scanning the info-card, before seeing before her, the digital imaging done on the Na'vi anatomy, projected onto the wall. She nearly dropped the papers she was carrying, eyes wide.

"Grace, you're never going to believe what we've found..."
« Last Edit: October 14, 2010, 10:09:41 pm by Truro (Tìvawm'ia) »
Miracles are not contrary to nature, but only contrary to what we know about nature.  - St. Augustine

 



I speak Na'vi with a French accent...

Offline ToktorGrace

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Re: City of Paradise [Story]
« Reply #4 on: December 11, 2010, 04:54:05 pm »
Chapter 3: Tìkawng

Here is the rock where, yet a simple child,
I caught with bended pin my earliest fish,
Much triumphing,--and these the fields
Over whose flowers I chased the butterfly,
A blooming hunter of a fairy fine.
And hark! where overhead the ancient crows
Hold their sour conversation in the sky:--
These are the same, but I am not the same,
But wiser than I was, and wise enough
Not to regret the changes, tho' they cost
Me many a sigh. Oh, call not Nature dumb;
These trees and stones are audible to me,
These idle flowers, that tremble in the wind,
I understand their faery syllables,
And all their sad significance.


--------

“Poetry, Grace?”

She instinctively closed the small volume, a padded thudding sound in its wake.  John, her fellow student-intern working for Dr. Mani gave her a sarcastic, skeptical look.

“It was my mother's. She loved Emerson.” 

He smirked. “You might want to get that out of the lab before it contaminates anything.”

Grace did her best to ignore him “Your range of depth and empathy never ceases to amaze me John.”

“We're scientists, Grace. We aren't paid to feel things.” He put on his lab coat, and goggles, patting her on the shoulder. “You should go home and rest while you're off-duty. I want to take a closer look at Mani's projections...”

Grace watched him leave the room, and stared at the monitor, which depicted the Na'vi female as she slept. She had been losing weight at an alarming rate, to the point where Grace could see the faint outlines of bone – and her speaking had changed to almost incoherent mumbling, as she had thrown herself at the walls of the enclosure as if possessed.

Kehe...

Grace shivered, and saw the female watching the camera, eyes sunken, a defeated, hollow expression staring back, conveying nothing but deafened emotion, raw and withered. Grace couldn't bring herself to keep her watch longer, and finally switched the transmission screen, to take one last quick look at the numerous tests Dr. Mani had been running.  Thus far, with even just a scraping small sampling, the biology behind the creatures was incredible. The Na'vi were built for the Pandoran landscape – high density bones, to make up for low gravity, and elegantly muscled well-proportioned forms that lent itself to a lifestyle of constant movement and energy. The most astonishing of the recent discoveries, as had been observed in the few other Pandoran fauna that had been studied, was the presence of neural fibers protruding from a point on the back of the skull, protected by both a skin sheath and braid the Na'vi had evidently woven themselves.  Samples revealed an elegant infrastructure – nerve endings that not only were sensitive to touch and temperature, but also capable of connection to itself, or possibly (as theorized from observation notes from the Moon itself) as a way to connect to a mount.

It was this feature that intrigued Dr. Lovecraft to no end. Grace watched with uneasily as he mulled over his own test results from other experimentation with inmates, and cloned apes – as he eyed the specimens, especially the broken female.

Grace shoved the small, weathered volume in her bag, and replaced her lab coat with a light jacket. Only John would be there tonight, and she would be sure to return by the time either of her superiors had started their shift the following morning. She glanced once more at the monitor, and whispered. “Good night...”




Grace watched the scans multi-layer scans shifting, slowly through each slide, exposing the Na'vi's musculature and skeletal systems, in digital, multi-colored layers. The CTX machine, a progeny of the ancient CT-Scan, could essentially re-create the creature from the inside out, revealing with each new layer a different dynamic of tissue, generating possible physiological functions, projections, and capturing different parts of genetic code used that encrypted the specific tissue in question.

“Look at this Grace!” Dr. Mani  brimmed with enthusiasm, “Astounding!” 

Grace watched the digital model of the molecule slowly appear on the screen, watching with mixed awe and a nagging feeling of emptiness. She took a long drag on her cigarette, before pressing it irritably into the tray. Grace pulled her hair away from her face, tying it behind her head, and entered her observations into the touch-screen pad at her disposal. The door opened, with its customary beep of recognition of authorized lab employees. Without even looking away from the screen display, Grace could tell the heavy footfalls belonged to Lovecraft.

“Augustine – you might want to check on your specimen.” 

She turned to look at him. “Atanäie was stable through the night, I got no notice otherwise.”

“I ran a few preliminary tests last night, she did not seem to respond too well to them.”

Grace closed her eyes, opened them, and felt her blood run cold, as she tried to maintain a stoic expression. She   looked to Dr. Mani, who gave her a nod, and she scooted her stool away from the lab bench, to stand and check the monitor on the Na'vi. Atanäie was pressed against the side of the enclosure, huddled in a ball. Grace slowly turned on the audio feed, and could make out very clearly, the alien calling for help.

“Eywa … srung sivi oer!”

The young scientist nearly dropped her cigarette, and dashed the the other room, leaving the audio feed on in the main room. She quickly turned on the mic feed to the alien's enclosure, and approached the glass, where she could see Atanäie sunken against the floor.

“Atanäie! Oe Grace.”

The Na'vi shot a look toward where Grace stood, quietly enunciating her wishes.

“Rutxe... tspivang oet.”

As it to emphasize the female mimicked a knife drawn out of its sheath, and plunged into her side.

Please, kill me.

Grace took a step back, swallowing back a sudden onset of emotion, trying her best not to lose her carefully maintained professional appearance, as her fists clenched in rage. She could make out that the Na'vi's queue had been tampered with, and left somewhat damaged, as nerve fibers were exposed to the open environment, some of them severed. The Na'vi was beyond pain, her eyes pleading.

“Rutxe, Grace.”

Grace bit her lip, failing in her attempts to keep back tears, as the indignation finally overtook her. She placed her hand against the glass, and tried to convey a sense of compassion toward the alien. The Na'vi began to weep silently, unwilling or unable to move. Grace glanced over to the rebreather mask hanging on the wall, and fit it over her head, before opening the airlock to the enclosure, and stepped through.

“Grace! Don't! She isn't sedated!” Dr. Mani's voice echoed over the audio feed.

Grace ignored him, and shut the airlock behind her, crawling toward the Na'vi, hand outstretched. Grace suddenly stopped in her tracks, feeling the humidity, the fake energy in the biome.  It hearkened to a distant, primal expression she had once felt while watching the night sky and seeing only a speckling of stars for a few moments while the sky was clear. But there was also something just wrong here, that she couldn't quite put her finger on. Grace seemed to open her eyes again, and saw the Na'vi was crouching, fear and loathing clearly expressed and directed at her.

“Grace! You need to get out NOW!”

The young scientist carefully took a few steps backwards, still facing the alien. Atanäie hissed, her ears back like an angry cat.

“Oe Grace...”

“Ketuwong vrrtep!”


Grace only had time to let it pass through her mind that the Na'vi was acting unusual, even insane, before she felt the creature's weight override her, and hit the floor of the enclosure harshly. Despite having withered to only a shadow of her former self, Atanäie still easily overpowered Grace's frail human body.

“Stop! Atanaie!”

The Na'vi wailed, still grasping Grace's arms with force, but not doing further harm.

“Kehe!”
Grace shouted.

“Kawkrr keplltxe nga oeru nìNa'vi! Ftang nga!”

“Stop! Kehe! Rutxe!” Grace stumbled through the words, trying to calm her.

Atanäie released her arms, and began rocking back and forth, her body heaving. Grace stumbled backward, and as she made her wait to the airlock, saw the Na'vi sink to the floor, now under sedation.



“They're too complex to be treated like animals!”

She stood before Lovecraft, eyes livid, enraged. The doctor's own stoicism as he answered stung even more.

“Complex? Miss Augustine, reports from the moon depict them as savage creatures-”

“Torturing her was not necessary!” Grace interrupted him, seething.

“ Miss Augustine, you yourself, the first human to approach her while she was not sedated, were just attacked by the alien. It is incredible that you are not more grievously injured – these are dangerous creatures. This is not a petting zoo, this is a research facility.”

“But she never would have attacked me if you hadn't -”

“Grace!” Dr. Mani grasped her shoulder, stopping her mid-sentence. “Grace, please. You should see the medical office, and take the rest of the day off. I'll make sure you will get your credit hours.”

Grace gave Lovecraft a cold glare, but stayed silent, and grabbed her things. She walked out the door, and before it shut behind her, she could hear Dr. Mani trying to reconcile with Lovecraft.

“She may have suffered a concussion, she's really a bright girl...”

Grace rubbed her arm where it was sore, and could feel tenderness where a bruise would soon form. She glanced toward the direction of the medical outpost, but decided to forgo the trip. Atanäie would not last much longer – that much she could tell. What Lovecraft had done was equivalent to the practice of lobotomy practiced over a century ago. The neural fibers were likely an extension of the Na'vi's brain, and Grace was positive that Lovecraft knew that even better than she did.

As she walked a message appeared on her Mobile-Communication-Device from Dr. Mani. Her shift wouldn't start again until two days from now – giving Lovecraft plenty of time to finish his experimentation on Atanäie.

Rutxe...

And she wouldn't last long.

...tspivang oet..

-

The screen flickered slightly as Grace passed by, an advertisement for Resources Development Agency, showing dangerous and beautiful landscapes. Mining operations would soon begin, and the call for hard-working, enthusiastic individuals was loud and clear.  The images that played across the animated billboard, Grace knew were fabricated at least in part, selected so carefully, so as to not expose mankind too readily to the beauty of Pandora. Of course, Grace herself did not know this in truth, only as a deep feeling within her, that some day, she would need to see for herself beyond the limited scope of the corporate press releases.

As she entered the lab for the first time since her outburst, she felt a pit forming in her stomach.  The lab itself was mostly empty, but well-lit; evidence that someone was around, just not in the room. Grace signed into the programs, and tentatively signed on to the monitor for the biome. A red error report popped up and disappeared, before swiftly returning her to the home screen.

“s***...”

She scooted the stool back, and stood, throwing the lab coat over her clothing, before hurrying to the room where she had last seen the alien. Grace pressed the audio feed, but couldn't hear anything. She pulled out her MCD to page Dr. Mani, before hearing John's voice at the door.

“It's gone Grace – didn't Mani tell you?” 

Her heart sunk, and she felt herself about to come to tears, but answered forcefully.

“No, John. No one told me anything. It was my job to monitor her.”

John leaned against the wall, arms folded across his chest.

“They've transferred it to another facility. Lovecraft wanted some tools we don't have.”

“Oh.” Grace stared into the empty enclosure space, a large dent in the dirt where she had been thrown several days earlier still visible. But the room was silent – ambiance had been turned off. John sauntered over to her, standing close behind her, as if to console her. Grace felt heat rising in her body, her face flushed with quelled rage.

“Don't worry Grace, we still are going to play a big part in all of this – I mean, hey, we've got the entire genetic code for at least a dozen of these guys, right?”

As his hand touched her shoulder, she brushed it away. Grace answered coldly, her eyes clearly stating she was in no mood for any sort of conversation.

“I'll take it from here John. Go home.”

John backed off, and left Grace alone in the room. In the dim light, amidst the humming machines, Grace closed her eyes and sank to her knees, trying to recall words of comfort, and for the first time, attempting to pray to a higher being – for an alien soul lost on planet Earth.

-

“I'm going to change my focus,” Grace handed Dr. Mani a small stack of papers. “I think my work would be more appropriate in the botany department.”

“But Grace, you've already contributed so much for this project -”

Grace shook her head, and he stopped. “I feel like it would be a better fit.”

Dr. Mani nodded, and he gave a sigh. “I'll miss my star student – are you sure you don't just want to take some time off?”

Grace nodded. “I'm sure about it. I'm sorry...”

“Well, I'll put in a good word for you.” He gave a half-smile, and nodded. “We can discuss things whenever we have the next Xeno conference, eh?”

She smiled half-heartedly, “I guess I'll see you there.”

They shook hands, and Grace walked through the lab one last time, leaving behind hours of documentation, attempted language translations, footage, audio, and dozens of other tests. Beyond the laboratory and campus, downtown the advertisements still bombarded the public, proclaiming the beauties of the untouched wild landscapes and the immense opportunities.

“Join today! Talk to your local RDA consultant -”

Grace waited at an intersection, pulling a scarf over her mouth and nose to block the musty air. The sky was dark, like most days, and a foul odor lingered from an alleyway. Sirens sounded in the distance, as the light changed and Grace caught the last words of the commercial.

“Pandora Awaits...”

-------

They are not of our race, they seem to say,
And yet have knowledge of our moral race,
And somewhat of majestic sympathy,
Something of pity for the puny clay,
That holds and boasts the immeasurable mind.
I feel as I were welcome to these trees
After long months of weary wandering,
Acknowledged by their hospitable boughs;
They know me as their son, for side by side,
They were coeval with my ancestors,
Adorned with them my country's primitive times,
And soon may give my dust their funeral shade.
Miracles are not contrary to nature, but only contrary to what we know about nature.  - St. Augustine

 



I speak Na'vi with a French accent...

Offline ToktorGrace

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Re: City of Paradise [Story]
« Reply #5 on: February 23, 2011, 07:21:04 pm »
Chapter 4: Tsap'alute

December 2130
Silicon Valley, CA
RDA Laboratories: Xenobotany Dept.


“The taxonomy of these plants is ridiculous...They need to start bringing real scientists out there.”

Dr. Li, Grace's professor since her transition to botany, cursed and grudgingly typed the name decided on by  RDA personnel as new specimens arrived. Grace nodded and gave an audible agreement, but didn't look up from her microscope. Over two years later, Grace had gained an incredible understanding of the flora of Pandora, as she had personally made herself involved with every specimen that was brought from the distant moon. Her attitudes and work patterns had changed little since her days with Dr. Mani and she usually logged more than twice the number of research hours that were required for her specialty. Even though she still had a number of months left to go before gaining her degree she had already written an extensive thesis on the so called “cat-eared” plant that had survived for several days, and which seemed to respond to touch with as much sensitivity as many animals. This bridge between flora and fauna was fascinating. Throughout her work, she couldn't help but notice the similarity to the tendrils protruding from the flowers and the Na'vi queue. Despite the short months during which she had known the Na'vi, Atanäie, Grace still found it difficult to sleep soundly, as she researched this possible link between the living things on the moon.

The first shipments of Unobtanium had reached Earth, and it permeated the markets at an alarming rate. It was increasingly difficult to keep up with demand for the precious metal and recruitment operations by the RDA were again underway – casualties on Pandora were by no means uncommon for the delicate human physiology – which is why the cold-hearted scientist she hoped to never see again appeared daily in scientific newsletters and on the RDA's feed announcing the continuing progress of Dark Dreamer – the grand success of perfecting a neural-link to cloned hybrids of the Na'vi – possibly allowing workers to limit exposure to the poisonous environment of the Moon. What most of the public was not aware of, and Grace could barely stomach, were the methods by which this grand feat had been achieved.

“Augustine!”

Grace turned to Dr. Li, who gave her an impatient look. The woman, a short, but spry old Chinese woman had graduated top of her class from the Peking University School of Life Sciences around the time of Pandora's discovery, and was among the first scientists to really become involved in studying the moon's plant life.

“I'll only ask once more – can you please record the phyllotaxy and information on the vascular tissue of these specimens before closing up?”

“Of course. Sorry doctor, I'll get right to it.”

Grace typed up the data on the newest plant specimen, a plant similar to the cyacad family, that had once been found commonly on Earth, then set about reading the results of the chemical and biological tests being run. It was hours past sunset by the time she left the lab for the smog-filled streets of Palo-Alto.

Grace stumbled wearily into her apartment, a small, closet-like space that cost more than it was worth – the sheer number of people living in the area raised rent prices to ridiculous rates, making it especially difficult for students who had not yet started to earn a real salary.  She fell into a broken armchair, too old and stained to still have a discernible pattern or color, and motioned to turn on the holo-screen, which illuminated the dim room as the world news filled the entire wall beside her.

She sat in mute disgust as she saw the headline.

“I cannot possibly express my gratitude for being considered yet again by the Nobel committee. This accomplishment did not come without incredible obstacles, and to see the efforts of my team and I recognized is such an incredible honor...”

Grace let out a breath, and emphatically turned off the holo-screen, throwing her controller piece where Dr. Lovecraft's face had just been. She sat in the bleak darkness, as soft music played on stand-by mode, and she held her head in her hands, feeling the odd emptiness she had not been able to shake from herself ever since her encounter with the alien.

-------------------------------------------

Grace lay awake in her bed and reached for a new cigarette. As she felt the slow settling of the chemicals relax her body,  her MCD made a small sound, and lit up, the modest room softly radiated with blue-white light. Grace grasped for the device, and clicked the message to open.

Grace - 

I know it's been a long time, but we need to talk. Come meet me at my office at your earliest convenience.

- M.


She read the message to herself silently a few times, unsure exactly what to make of it. It had been years since she had last spoken one-on-one to Dr. Mani, and to receive a call at this hour was even more unusual. In her half-awake state of mind she decided to visit during his work hours in the next day or so – although the lab would technically be closed she was sure she would find him there.

Grace turned the screen off, and forced her eyes closed, willing herself to sleep for a few hours before beginning her early shift. Instead, she sat awake, reliving her memories of the Na'vi speaking to her, weeping, and singing for dead male, a flood of memories that she'd been repressing for so long. Such beauty, utterly destroyed; and Grace came to realize that even without the Na'vi being tampered with, captivity itself would have ended her.

Eywa... Srung sivi oer...

Grace tried to shake this notion, shrinking away from ideas that she could not explore with science or rationality, and something beyond herself, beyond the world. Frustrated, Grace sat up in the dark room, arms supporting her, palms spread on the lumpy mattress and wondered about what could be waiting on Pandora – and developed a solid idea that she would be the one to find what it was, while the corporation bumbled around, lost in the dark by their search for fuel, a substitute for the life-blood that the Earth had already been drained of.

Eywa...” Grace whispered to herself, like the word was a forbidden treasure, a key to unlock the mystical moon . She felt a new, hardened resolve to go to Pandora to fill the emptiness, to find the answers to all that was wrong within herself, and with her dying home.

------------------------------------------

Grace could hardly keep her eyes open, as the screen flickered with numbers and letter codes, deciphering the processes of Pandoran flora. Exhaustion distracted her from her work.

“Grace, would you like to take a little time off?”

Grace jumped as she woke from her stupor and shook her head vehemently. “No, doctor, I'm fine, just need to get more sleep is all.”

“You're not doing anyone any favors by overworking yourself.” Dr. Li gave her a look, and smiled. “Also, I've got some good news for you. They need a xenobotanist on the next ship out – it won't be for another few months at least, but I put in a good word for you. I'd go myself but I'm too damn old. You could be the first botanist on the planet!”

Grace's eyes widened and she felt lightheaded. “Do you know when they'll announce their team?”

“Should be very soon – only a matter of weeks.”

“Thank you so much..”

“Please get some rest, Grace. Take a few days to get yourself together. You need to be at full capacity to compete for a spot in the program, so Im going to insist you get at least a little rest. I'll see you Tuesday, okay?” 

Grace would have hugged her if it had been Dr. Mani, but Li was not of the same ilk, and she graciously shook her supervisor's hand and headed out of the office, feeling rather cheerful despite her sleepless state.

----------------------------------------------------

Grace woke early, as usual, Saturday morning, and set off to visit Dr. Mani, excited to tell him the news of her  likely promotion, to travel to Pandora. Her fears and wakefulness from receiving the odd message mostly forgotten crept back into her mind as she saw the site that greeted her.

Mani, usually smiling and cheerful despite working too hard for the first time appeared to her, burnt out. His usual bright demeanor sullied with dark circles beneath his eyes and a wraith-like expression as he saw her walk in.

“Thanks for coming in Grace, I hope I'm not keeping you from your work.”

“I actually have the day off for once-” her smile had faded and she pulled the chair across from his desk out to sit.

“There is something I need to tell you about in person – and even here I feel it is not entirely safe, but I can't think of anywhere else we could meet.”

“What are you talking about?”

His eyes darkened, and he seemed pained as he spoke. “Dark Dreamer... our lab was less connected around the time you left, but since that experience I've been unable to shake the idea that we, no – that I took part in something horribly, terribly wrong.”

Grace bit her tongue, not wanting to impede and the memories came flooding again.

“I recently was contacted by a few members of a group that is trying to debunk Dr. Lovecraft's Nobel nomination – apparently they have evidence of him torturing inmates and committing severe animal abuse. The man is a genius, but I just know something is wrong now.”

“What did they want from your lab?”

“Although they are under my name, Grace, they were technically all of your notes. Your observations. I know why you left now.. I reviewed all of the tapes and recordings you took, and I don't know how I missed it before. I'm considering presenting it as evidence to the committee and I wanted to warn you ahead of time, given that you could be connected to it. I would have called in John as well but he's since moved on to work with Lovecraft himself so I doubt he'll choose to become involved.”

She opened her mouth about to speak and Mani motioned her silent.

“I've already heard about your potential to be on the first real scientific expedition – and that you'd be involved in Dark Dreamer because of it. If you want to keep your job, you should make sure you stay away from this case as much as possible. I won't judge you for it; most scientist's would give an arm and a leg for that experience. I hope you do go – so that someone up there can make sure this doesn't happen again.”

Dr. Mani rubbed temples and sighed. “I'm sorry to drag you into this Grace.”

Grace let out a breath, unsure of what to say and feeling even more torn. The news was overwhelming. An uncomfortable silence between them lasted for a few minutes.

“Thank you for the warning...” Grace finally whispered.

“I do wish you the best – I hope you find something out there that makes it worth all...this. I hope we can meet again next week some time. I may be leaving the country soon. If I go through with this I will lose my job, and very likely my green-card.”

Grace restrained herself from embracing her old teacher, and as shook his hand, lingered, feeling as if the parting was more serious than words expressed.

“I'll come by on Monday.” She promised.

Dr Mani smiled weakly. “Thank you Grace, I have missed my brightest student.”

---------------------------------------------------------

Grace rolled out of bed, going through the motions as she slowly emerged from her morning stupor on Monday. It was the first time in a long while she'd managed to sleep in so late and she felt almost like she'd slept in too long – groggy and exhausted. She hurriedly got dressed as she realized how late it was, and hoped Mani wouldn't feel like she'd kept him waiting.

As she arrived at the headquarters, she noticed a distinct silence, and lack of people. Usually, on a Monday morning, there were younger students and grad students huddling around in the hallways  or next to whirring machines. Today the building was practically empty. As she approached the office door, she could see it was still dark.

Checking her MCD she saw no new messages and looked up to see a member of the custodial staff.

“Hey! Do you know where Dr. Mani is?”

The man's haggard face, and lazy expression seemed to turn sour. “Haven't ya heard? He was killed when he got mugged just the other day. It's been happening more and more you know? Crime's been going rampant!”

Grace stood paralyzed, unable to speak for a moment, shocked by the news, and dropped the unlit cigarette on the floor. She scrambled to retrieve it.

“Are you one of his students?”

“Yes.” She lied. “Can you let me into his office?”  She managed to say it before her voice faded.
He nodded and walked over “And y'know who to blame for all this? This here government's doing nothing, while they keep us up to our neck in taxes!”

Grace tuned him out as he continued to rant and the automatic lights flooded the room. Grace found herself feeling very uncomfortable as she saw the desk and floor were littered with papers.  Mani may not have been as organized as Dr. Li was, but he never would have left his office in such disarray.

“Lock up when yer done.” The man muttered and whistled an incoherent tune as he shuffled away.

 Grace made her way through the room, peeking at the document titles, trying to make sense of it all, and searching for any of her old records on Atanäie. She lit the cigarette, and after burning through it, had to light up another as she searched, trying to keep herself emotionally distant from what the custodian had just told her. She began to wonder if indeed Mani had been victim to a random mugging. Although it was a common occurrence, the state of his office indicated that there could be something else going on.

She pushed those thoughts to the back of her mind and looked carefully through the electronic files before coming on the folder labeled Homo pandorus - “Na'vi”  and scanned through, downloading whatever contents remained to her MCD before shutting it down. She then tried her best to fix up the office, feeling guilty to leave such a mess behind.

---------------------------------------------------

“...recent leaks in official files from the Resources Development Agency laboratories – indicating illegal testing on prison inmates for a renowned scientist's Dark Dreamer project”–

Grace watched the broadcast warily, and could not help but feel a small touch of satisfaction as she watched Lovecraft trying to wave off a wall of reporters. The broadcast shifted to a slight man representing the UN-Pan-Faith Council, who spoke from a podium.

“– unacceptable to treat our fellow man with such indignity! That he be given the prize for his work is rewarding Frankenstein for perfecting a monster!” 

The MCD buzzed and lit up the room, indicating a forwarded message from Dr. Li. Grace momentarily tuned out the angry words of the speaker on screen and read over the message in mixed disbelief, fear and joy.

You've been approved for the next envoy to Pandora, Miss Augustine. Please report on Friday for a brief orientation to the address attached.

RDA HR


The holo-screen continued blaring: “-egregious misuse of the bounty of genetic knowledge and embryonic research and devastating harm to the few and precious remaining captive apes-”

Grace shut it off, and took a long, deep drag on her cigarette, pondering what to do. She had received notification that she was requested to stand at the trial, as witness to an aspect of Lovecraft's work that was not otherwise recorded. As her fellow students had declined and Mani was now deceased, there was no one else to speak up.

And no one else would be able to do what she could do on the moon itself.

Miracles are not contrary to nature, but only contrary to what we know about nature.  - St. Augustine

 



I speak Na'vi with a French accent...

Offline ToktorGrace

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Re: City of Paradise [Story]
« Reply #6 on: April 01, 2011, 03:27:33 am »
Chapter 5: Tìhum

June, 2131
RDA Laboratories
Silicon Valley, CA


The front of the massive building that made up RDA Laboratories main headquarters loomed over Grace as she walked, its shadow blocking the little sun that permeated the smog-laden clouds, which remained as cold and indifferent as the demeanor she fought to maintain as she worked in her professional life in these last few months. Despite her anonymous efforts to subvert Dr. Lovecraft's work, her fear of retribution held her back from formally opposing one of the RDA's prodigies. Of course it was a given that taking action would force her to relinquish her opportunity to fulfill the job of her dreams, but the odd coincidence of Mani's death set her on edge, and caused her to doubt her own safety should she try to publicly renounce the doctor.

Her eyes narrowed, and with pursed lips she strode through the automatic doorway, past a small army of security guards and through entrance to the lab where the infamous Dark Dreamer project was still in progress.

“Welcome. Miss Grace Augustine?” The clerk, a female with black hair, gave a fake-looking smile as she entered.

“Actually, it's Doctor now.” Grace's expression didn't change.

“Oh.” The clerk nodded as if to brush the information aside. “Right this way. Through the doors and to your right.”  

Grace nodded, and made her way through to the hallway. Soon, the mission would be set, but first, she would have to take part in the project she'd intentionally sabotaged and personally detested.

“Good to see you again Miss Augustine.” Lovecraft smiled, but it didn't reach his eyes. “It has been too long.”

"Dr. Augustine.” She responded, and shook his hand as briefly as she could manage.

“My deepest sympathies for Dr. Mani's passing. I hadn't been working with him for a while, but it was a shame to lose such a valuable member of the scientific community.”

“Enough pleasantries, Cordell.” Grace intentionally refused to call him by his full name. “I know you received a sample of my DNA throughout my application process. What did you want to show me today?”

"I thought you would have already deduced that yourself. It was decided that you and your old colleague, John, among others, are to be the first functional Avatars to set foot on Pandora, with the ability to go where humans cannot. You were chosen due to the botany skills required for the corporation's needs and you are perhaps the only person on Earth who has interacted with and spoken the language of the natives. What do they call themselves-?”

“Na'vi. They're called Na'vi.” She interjected.

He waved his hand dismissively. “Anyhow, I thought you'd like to see how it has been coming along before you ship out. Regardless of how you may approve or disapprove of my methods, I think you will find this to be a magnificent feat of science, Grace. You know that we have more in common with garden slugs than with the natives of Pandora.”

“So you have said in a number of your publications.” Grace replied, as if to emphasize her lack of enthusiasm.

He removed his glasses, polishing them, before abruptly turning around and walking forward. “Right this way, Grace.”

Lovecraft's led her into a room filled with machines, and could see a number of screens showing data from everything recording heartbeat to brain activity to muscle tone.

“Eventually we hope to have them grow the whole way as they make the trip to Pandora, but for the test run we're starting them off here.” Lovecraft gestured to a large tank a ways down. “Yours is in there – it's got quite a ways to go yet, but you can already see a faint resemblance to yourself. It's incredible to see your face on another body.”

Grace peered into the murky tank, as Lovecraft flipped a switch that flooded it with light. The creature was still small, the size of a child, and still clearly undeveloped, but Grace felt a shiver run through her.

“Uncanny isn't it?”

“Yes,” There was no mocking tone in her voice now. “Incredible.”

Grace couldn't help but stare at the tank, and the creature housed within, its tail curled around the ankles. Grace did not see just herself in this creation. She felt her heart sink, realizing that she saw not only evidence of her own genes in the creature before her, but also the evidence of the phenotype of the Na'vi, Atanäie. Atanäie had supplied the genetic material for this project – making it possible for Grace to do what she had dreamed of since her earliest memories. She placed her open palm against the glass, feeling the warmth of the tank and its fluids, kept at a steady temperature for incubation.

“You made the right move, Grace.”

Lovecraft's voice interrupted her thoughts. “What are you talking about?”

“I know you were asked to stand trial. It was a very wise decision you made.”

Grace glared silently for a few moments, and closed her eyes, willing herself to remain calm and collected.
 
“Just email me the paperwork and I'll get it back to you as soon as I can. Do you need me for anything else?”

He shook his head, “No. You may go if you like.”

He extended his hand to her, and she coldly turned away, to leave the lab, the image of the developing hybrid burned into her mind's eye. She clenched her hand closed, feeling a persistent pseudo-sensation of the heat of the tank.


August, 2131
NASA/RDA Launch Site
Sector 14 – Los Angeles


Grace made her way through the crowd of uniformed men and women, a large duffel bag on her back, which she balanced with difficulty. She clumsily made her way to the entrance of the ship that would take them to the interstellar ship, which sat docked at RDA's space station. While most people stopped on the boarding ramp, to stare back at the planet they had for so long called home, she found herself looking to the skies, trying to see the scant stars that she could through the haze. There was nothing left on Earth for her. The answers she sought lay elsewhere in the universe, beyond her native planet.  

Grace took her last few steps on the surface of Earth in stride, keeping her eyes skyward, as she entered the shuttle.


ENTR'ACTE
« Last Edit: April 01, 2011, 03:30:17 am by Tìvawm'ia »
Miracles are not contrary to nature, but only contrary to what we know about nature.  - St. Augustine

 



I speak Na'vi with a French accent...

Offline ToktorGrace

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Re: City of Paradise [Story]
« Reply #7 on: July 31, 2011, 07:58:59 pm »
Chapter 6: Tìpähem

The able-bodied youths darted through the trees, agile as cats, leaping between the branches and limbs of the forest as they followed the signs of the incoming sky creatures. From the Tipani clan, they had heard tales of large, metal beasts, and their appetite for everything from the sky to the earth itself. The fires from so far away could just barely be visible some morning from the top of Kelutral, and now it seemed they were coming to the lands of the Omaticaya. The small group gathered at the edge of the forest, where it would drop off as a sheer cliff, to gain a clear vantage point of the incoming aliens, now but a speck in the sky.

The smallest of the group, a tiny female, caught up with the rest of the group, a knife as long as her arm in its sheath. She scurried up to the outcropping of the cliff, and balanced herself along the outstretched root of the tree, mimicking the crouch of her elder sister as they kept their eyes sky-ward. Tiny beads in minute braids rattled against each other in the wind up high on the drop-off, which created a sort of wind tunnel, and superior vantage point over the dense jungle of the valley below, as well as the open sky. As they scanned the clouds, they could clearly see a small object, slowly growing larger in size. The young huntress, and even younger sister watched the metal sky-beast, as it descended, just as the Tipani clan had shown them through the power of Eywa. The Tipani clan's stories were not far from the young hunters' thoughts.

"Tsahay! ayKetuwong..." the eldest hissed.

“Fayvrrtep!” one of the males shot back, flicking his tail with agitation. “Ayoeng peng zeme Eytukan.”

The little one's eyes widened, in awe and fear, to see the massive thing coming ever closer, the stench of fuels, metal and foreign materials already apparent.

------
October 2139
Hell's Gate
Sector 5, Pandora



Grace craned her neck to see out the tiny port-hole window, past the larger man on her left. The blur of fog, treetops and sky made it impossible to discern anything specific. The shuttle violently lurched, with turbulence, and Grace gripped the arm of the seat she was in. The men on either side of her laughed, obviously used to the kind of transportation. She gave them a glare, and released her grip on the seats as the vehicle dropped in altitude, fast-approaching the newly constructed center of RDA operations on Pandora, appropriately-named Hell's Gate. Grace hadn't bothered asking why it was called that.

She felt her stomach lurch uncomfortably, jarred at the harsh landing of the shuttle as it hit the tarmac. Between cryo and the shaky descent, she had a little trouble standing as they began the unloading procedure. She did as she was told, while the man instructing them played the drill sergeant routine, lining them up with their bags to march to the safety of the facilities. Glancing around Grace could tell she was in the minority here in many ways, but she was not deterred.

In the brief minutes marching in, Grace watched, in awe, as a creature soared overhead. As she kept her eyes toward the creature, someone behind her gave her a quick shove, and she shuffled along in line, keeping the swooping creature in her line of sight until the concrete of the building had swallowed them in fluorescent light and gray, lifeless shadows. 

–---------------

“My name is Lt. Allistair.” A man stood before the new crowd, muscled arms clearly displayed as he wore his camo shirt with the sleeves rolled up. “Welcome, gentlemen...” He paused, “...and lady, to Pandora. This, my friends, is not a place for the weak of heart. We are in the wildest place man has ever known. Even our sad little ancestors, living next to the dinosaurs, would find that life to be a pleasant stroll compared to the hell-hole you'll find here.”

Grace stifled her critique of his choice of description, and dutifully listened to the remainder of his safety speech. The other soldiers in the unit seemed to listen with about as much care as she did – laughing at the little inside jokes that the female doctorate in xenobotany would never understand.  As they were dismissed, the lieutenant  approached her, a gentle, but cajoling grin on his face.

“Hey there little miss, not so fast.”

She stuck out her hand, trying to act professionally, and maintained a stoic countenance . “Dr. Grace Augustine, Sir.”

“Well, uh, doctor – just so you know these rules, even though primarily for security and manual personnel, you still must abide by them. You're one of the first gals to come out to these parts, so let me know if any of the men get rowdy, hear?”

Grace softened her expression, “Thank you, Sir. I'll be sure to review the procedures.”

“See you around doctor.” He nodded and went about his way. Grace lugged her things to the lab, balancing the duffel with some difficulty. As she set them down, John, her old rival and co-lab worker appeared.

“Hey Augustine – long time, no see.” He unceremoniously dropped his own baggage, and stretched. “Feel a little strange coming out of cryo. Isn't it crazy, we've been on the move for almost a decade and we look no different than when we left.”

“Yeah, John, it's been a trip.” Grace surveyed the lab, and noticed several large glass cylinders, at least three meters in length. “What'd you end up getting your degree in?”

John shrugged with feigned indifference, but the tone of his voice spoke volumes. “I ended up switching from regular Xeno to XenoNeuro. It's a pretty new field, but a lot of money and potential, as you can see.”

“Yeah, I heard you are working with Lovecraft now.” Grace didn't look at him, still carefully inspecting the room. It was a decent size, but easily dwarfed by the large areas of the rest of the compound. The layout was somewhat lacking, and the distance from administration, as she could see on her map, gave her small cause for concern.

“Yeah, you really missed out.” He shrugged. “I got sent up here to do operations for the Avatar program – and be a driver.”

“Oh, how nice.” Grace honed in on a mini-electron microscope.

“Yeah, Avatars are-”

“-remotely controlled bodies with DNA from ourselves and the Na'vi. Our nervous systems must be identical genetically and line up with that of our Avatar, allowing our minds to operate these bodies.” She stood up straight, and looked at him directly. “I did all the reading on it, John. I know what you guys have accomplished. I even have a fair grasp of how it was done, and to be frank, I do not approve of Cordell's methods.”

John looked at her with a touch of anger. “Grace, you obviously don't understand how valuable this is. You said it yourself you're being a part of this – don't demonize the very technology that is going to let you play in all the pretty Pandora flowers.”

Grace clenched her fists but kept her eyes neutral. “John, you may be running this part of the show, but I got here of my own merit, just as you did. Do not belittle me.”

They stared at each other frigidly for a few moments, before being joined by two more men, both obviously not on the security team. One was a touch shorter than Grace, and rather scrawny, but seemed to be rather enthusiastic to be there. The other, a large, dark man who stool sullenly in the doorway, watched unamused as the first genially greeted Grace and John.

“So nice to meet you!” he shook Grace's hand quickly, grinning from ear to ear. “Name's Finn! I'm the local IT guy – so if anything but a brain needs rewiring, I'm your man!”

“Dr. Grace Augustine.” she smiled, a little flustered by his greeting. “Xenobotanist and Avatar driver.”

The other man, now obviously the largest of the group, approached them. “Dr. Andrei Volynski, Biologist.” He said quietly, in an obvious, yet slight Russian accent. He shook Grace's hand firmly.

“Dr. John Bredych. Avatar driver and Xeno-Neuro specialist.” John kept his eyes directed at the other men as he greeted them, avoiding Grace's gaze. Andrei seemed to notice the tension in the room, but made no comment as Finn kept chattering, oblivious.

“I graduated from the Engineering program over at MIT – I know the two of you were both Stanford grads though, man what a place. I did my internship there that summer -”

Andrei, obviously a few years older than these new graduates, began his own examination of the room, while the other new PhD's were held captive as Finn explained his way through the last few years of his life one Earth. A captive John stood a little bewildered as Grace and Andrei continued inspecting the room. Grace was impressed by the design – it was obvious that RDA did not want to allot a large amount of space to the Avatar Program but the people they'd hired to make use of the space had done their job well.

“When do you start testing?” Andrei glanced at Grace. “The vehicles – they have arrived two hours ago.”

“I'm not entirely sure-” Grace paused. “Do you know who is running the AVTR program?”

“I was led to believe it was to be you and Dr. Bredych – which of you has worked with Dr. Lovecraft?” His face grew dark with concern. “Were you not briefed on this information?”

Grace turned to John. “What were Cordell's last orders to you?”

John looked back, a little peeved. “Dr. Lovecraft instructed me to teach you, and future AVTR drivers. I'm the only one who has any level of experience with this, so I am supposed to be in charge.”

Grace sighed inwardly, but didn't express her irritation. She wasn't going to make this into some schoolyard argument about who got to be in charge, so she let it go. She figured that administration would eventually step in and set him straight. After all – Grace had undergone many months of training herself. Although she did not have quite as intimate an understanding of the neural link as John may have, she did possess detailed knowledge of how the operations were supposed to work. And what to do if something went wrong. Her head ached. She didn't want to deal with John's little complex right now. Grace dug the squashed cigarette box out of her pocket, lighting up and taking a long drag – she felt better already.

“Grace – no smoking in the lab.” John admonished.

Grace rolled her eyes. “I'm going to have my goddamn cigarette, John. You'll just have to deal with that.”

Andrei eyed her. “You spare a smoke?”

Grace handed one off to him, and smiled to herself. “Want one John?”

“No. Thanks.” he grasped his duffel and began lugging it out of the lab. “Meet back here at 06:00 tomorrow. We'll begin the testing then.”

Grace watched him leave and continued to take inventory with Andrei. Finn had settled down a little, his energy all but expended, and in too many words excused himself to the dining commons. Andrei loomed behind her, almost like a shadow.

“What are you here for?” she asked him between drags on the cigarette.

“I studied disease pathology and xenobiology at university in Bejing.” He laughed, a rich, hearty sound. “I speak better Mandarin than English, apologies.”

Grace mulled over that for a moment, as Andrei took another drag on his own cigarette. “Did they tell you why they asked for someone who studies disease?”

Andrei shrugged. “To study disease of the native. I also know microbiology well. Perhaps that.” he sighed, almost happily, enjoying the smoke. “These are good – American made?”

Grace nodded, and crushed the butt of her own cigarette into an ashtray. “I am going to get some rest – see you in the morning.”

He nodded. “Good night, Augustine.”

–-------------

Grace reviewed the new discoveries of Pandora on her laptop – since she had been in cryo for years, she figured much had been done while she had made the trip. She was curious to see if they had indeed found any diseases of the planet – particularly those affecting humans- that would explain further why Andrei's focus had been a necessary one to add to the team.

Thus far, little progress had been made in science, but much in the construction and other projects on Pandora. Hell's Gate's completion marked an incredible feat as many of the materials had been shipped from Earth to arrive. Full scale mining operations were soon to be underway, and new shipments of manual laborers would be increasing in number soon. In only a few months, Grace saw they could expect more scientists, and the progress made on Dark Dreamer had increased significantly. Little progress was being made on the Planet itself. Grace decided she would see to it that more was done. She couldn't wait to get her hands on the flora, still living, in its natural environment.

Curious, Grace checked to see if further research on the Na'vi had been done – Grace was relieved to see no more specimens had been brought to Earth, but did see several articles authored by Lovecraft and his associates regarding very detailed physiology of their neurological tissues. Grace was pained as she read the articles, but unable to turn away, as she realized that she had, indeed, missed out on an amazing research opportunity – and learned an incredible amount from reviewing their findings.

She was felt torn – though it had long been over and done with. There was nothing to be done at this point but more forward. Grace sat in the cot for another moment before taking a stroll to the floor below the command center, one of the few places where large, panoramic windows looked onto the tarmac. Grace stood for a moment, in awe as she could see the night simply glowing beyond SecOps stationary vehicles. Polyphemus was also visible, the light reflecting from it illuminating the moon further, with an iridescent violet glow. It looked so alive, so magical – so unlike the planet of her own origin.

Grace felt right at home.
Miracles are not contrary to nature, but only contrary to what we know about nature.  - St. Augustine

 



I speak Na'vi with a French accent...

Offline ToktorGrace

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Re: City of Paradise [Story]
« Reply #8 on: June 29, 2012, 03:46:22 am »
Chapter 7: Unliltirontokx

Grace watched them lay the unconscious bodies of the Avatars onto the enormous gurneys. All of the equipment seemed to dwarf the humans, working like hive creatures, busily preparing them. Grace couldn't keep her eyes off of her Avatar, amazed at how similar the creature looked to her, and likewise, how its markings resembled Atanäie.

“You ready, Grace?” John leaned against the wall, with a smug expression. “You look like you're going to be sick.”

Grace held back from giving him a glare, and clenched her fist against the plexiglass window. “I've been ready for years, just like you.”

The two looked at each other in cold silence until their colleague broke the tension.

“Links are fired up!” Finn shouted, his eyes wide with excitement. “Who's in?”

“Ladies first.” John motioned to the machine, which had begun to whir somewhat loudly. It was much like the machines she had practiced in, but now it wouldn't be a simulation – this would be possibly dangerous, if anything malfunctioned. She knew from reading over the awful results of the experiments what could happen should things go wrong; however, Grace was not apprehensive, and took one last drag on her cigarette, before shoving it into the impromptu ashtray on the nearby lab table.

“Gladly.” She pulled her shock of red hair out of its ponytail, as she walked up to her link, settling into the soft material.

Finn came to assist, pulling the head and torso sensors over her body. “See you on the flip-side!” He gave her a thumbs-up and closed the lid of the chamber, like the lid of a coffin, to shatter any old ideas she had ever maintained about being human. She swallowed uneasily in the dark until she saw the machine light up around her, and clenched her eyes shut, breathing deeply. With each inspiration she felt her body become slightly more calmed, and she felt her mind reaching away from her, spiraling out, seeking the new source that synched with her body. In a rush she felt herself – old or new she could not say – jolt.

She opened her eyes, squinting under the brightness of the room, blinking, her ear flicked. She squinted in the bright light, taken aback by the suddenly foreign environment, trying not to let it get to her.  She slowly began to move her digits.

“You hear me Grace?” Andrei's voice seemed amplified, even through his breathing apparatus.

“Yeah, I hear you.” Grace answered, suddenly noticing the harsh scents of the sterile lab setting, like she had never before. She felt a sense of being cooped up, almost claustrophobic. She sat up, her ears back, still squinting a little.

“Your coordination looks good Grace,” he checked the machine to his right, still hooked up to her, testing levels. “You feel light of head?”

Grace noticed as John's Avatar began to stir, and Andrei quickly finished up his examination of Grace, to assist with John. She turned her body to watch John struggle to sit up, and lay back down again. She stretched, and waited for a moment. She carefully extracted herself from the sensors after analyzing her own vitals and statistics. All seemed to be perfectly normal.

“Andrei, I'm going to walk outside. I won't go far.”

“Grace – it would be best if not – John! Don't sit up!” He redirected his attention to John's Avatar, who was again attempting to move.

Grace couldn't stand the little white room any longer, as if something deep within her rebelled against this closed, small space, devoid of life. She stood, enjoying the point of view. She was tall for a woman, even as a human, but this was incredible. She gingerly took a few steps, feeling odd as her queue touched against her back, long hair trailing down around it. They hadn't bothered to braid around the length of the organ, as she had recommended, and felt somewhat vulnerable as the queue nakedly tapped against her back with each step. She bundled her hair around it, pulling it over her shoulder, as she approached the latch door and opened the enormous thing with ease, blinking as she stepped into the sunlight.

Freed from a breathing apparatus, Pandora assaulted her senses, the sounds, smells, and colors so much more vibrant than her human perception. The sky was overcast, but the rich, earthy smell of the promise of rain made her breath deeply, almost joyfully. She watched as creatures passed overhead, in awe, and as the first few drops of rain fell, she smiled. This clean rain, so different than the acidic, poisonous precipitation on Earth. The water seemed to taste sweet on the tip of her tongue.

From afar some of the military men had stopped in their tracks, unsure of what to do. Not wanting to appear as a threat, she approached them, palms spread. “Calm down boys, it's just me.”

One of them shook his head. “It looks like you, but you look like them.”

“Grace!” A voice shouted from behind her.

“Looks like one of your people needs some help.” The soldier laughed at the flailing figure.

Andrei reached Grace, panting and grasped her hand. “We need you back at the lab. Now.”

Grace nodded, but felt reluctant to return to the small room. From the urgency in his voice, she could tell something had gone amiss.

“Is John okay?”

“I can not know.” Andrei's accent seemed thicker, as his usual calm demeanor had vanished. He held onto her hand tightly, pulling her back to the lab. She wanted to wrench free of him, and take off sprinting through the base, beyond the gates and join the trees, her heart sang to it, but duty overtook her, and she could not leave John to be without help. “You know more about the system than either Finn or I do.” His gruff voice panted, as he worked to keep up with her brisk walk.

“How are his vitals?”

Andrei shook his head, exasperated. “What kind of vitals are these hybrids supposed to have? We have no baseline! Just the readings of when they're unconscious. We tried to pull him out flip-side--”

“s***.” Grace grumbled under her breath. “You can't pull them out that way usually – sometimes if there's no other way, but it should be a last resort.”

By the time they had returned John's Avatar lay on the table, unmoving, but in a splayed position – so unlike the sleep-like state in which it had been before he had entered it's mind. According to Finn, John himself was not much better, and seemed disoriented, speaking incoherently.

“BP is low, and I am getting reduced activity in most of his cerebral cortex...” Finn was for once speaking with a slow, serious tone. “He has been like this for a few minutes.”

Grace stayed by the gurney, still in her Avatar. She kept an eye on the prone body beside her, and checked those vitals herself. “Similar here, I wonder if the missing spots correlate.”

“Should we send him through again?”

“We could wait for him to sleep, wake up naturally.” Andrei suggested, trying to get a response from the Avatar, which still was not moving.

“Leave him in the machine.” Grace told Finn. “Don't start up the link yet, and when you do, do so gradually.”

Finn gave a verbal confirmation and hurriedly did as instructed. Grace helped Andrei re-situate John's Avatar on the gurney,  and they together gingerly allowed John's human self to re-enter the Avatar's mind. After a somewhat agonizing stretch of time, minutes or seconds no one could say, John's Avatar slowly opened its eyes.

“Stay still.” Grace said quietly. For once, John did not argue with her. After another few moments he finally seemed to understand where he was, and lifted his head.

“Just stay where you are. ” Andrei kept referring to the improving vitals, before grabbing a heavily loaded syringe, and plunging the medication into the meat of  John's Avatar's thigh. The body jolted and Grace could hear John, rising from he link, yelling over the intercom. “WHAT THE HELL!?”

Grace and Andrei exchanged glances and Grace reluctantly laid back down on the gurney. “Mind if I stick myself?”

“If you have the nerve...” Andrei handed her a fresh syringe, and she quickly shoved it into her own leg, and found herself waking up suddenly in the darkness of the link chamber.

“What the hell was that for!?” John scowled at her the moment she'd emerged.

“What do you mean? I saved your life!... at least your ability to be conscious!” Grace shot back at him.

“John, she's right – you were half-way split, somehow the link didn't transfer correctly-”

“Dammit Grace – I needed to test that unit-” He stumbled toward her, tripping over himself.

Grace eyed him, as she got out of her own link. “I think you may have sustained permanent damage from being separated from yourself. Some of your motor-abilities seem to have been affected.”

John's face turned red, his mouth curled into a snarl “They wouldn't be if you--”

Andrei grabbed John by the shoulders roughly. “Enough.” John finally let himself relax in Andrei's grip. “Finn and I did not know what to do to bring you back, you are just lucky you have not suffered further impairment. You might have remained a vegetable.”

John shrugged himself away and left the laboratory hastily, accidentally knocking things off of the table with a shatter. Grace cringed. “He needs to see medical personnel, and be evaluated if he is fit to continue with the AVTR program.”

A silence followed, and Grace let her eyes linger toward her Avatar. Quietly, she spoke again, breaking the tension in the air. “Do either of you two know how to braid hair?”



Grace stood before the gate, fidgeting a little, as it opened before her.  She had never anticipated that she would be going on this first mission essentially alone. The commander had suggested that only the Avatar bodies go to seek the Na'vi, who had been causing havoc at the current mine site, and try to forge a deal with them. John had been seen by several medics and his condition had worsened considerably since. His cognitive abilities remained, but his disorientation prevented him from being able to perform the regimen necessary to stay in shape for the low-gravity region, and he was unable to co-ordinate his Avatar well enough to complete AVTR program training protocols. While messages were relayed to Earth to get Dr. Lovecraft's opinions on that matter, Grace had come to her own conclusion, but had kept it to herself. She doubted John could stand a chance to complete his full mission, and already found herself as the head of the science program, with Finn and Andrei speaking praises to her good work.

A soldier to her left adjusted his breathing apparatus, and craned is neck to look up at her. She attempted a smile and he seemed perturbed. Grace wondered to herself why the soldiers had been reluctant to speak to her about the savages in the cafeterias. It always made them a tad uneasy.

“Let's go.”

Her modest entourage got into various vehicles, one of which was an AMP-suit, though disarmed to promote the gesture of peace.  The force, though small, was still formidable enough that Grace was unsure if the Na'vi would be willing to come out of hiding.  When she expressed her concerns, one of the soldiers looked her seriously in the eye.

“They won't feel threatened by this at all. We're all banking on your presence to pacify them.”

She began to feel her palms sweat as she awkwardly climbed into a topless rover, her legs too large for the seat she occupied, but the open space above her head permitting her to fit. The rover roared to life, and the little fleet made its way slowly across the pitted landscape where the forest had already been destroyed, to make way for construction.

As the vehicle went over a pot-hole, Grace clutched her bag, clumsily. After an indeterminate amount of time, they finally stopped. The forest seemed to be growing toward them – tree-limbs reaching out, ready to reclaim the land that had been taken from it by the invaders.  Grace uneasily stepped down onto the packed earth, her legs trembling slightly as she walked toward the trees.

The scents and sounds assaulted her, as her senses were no longer muffled by the roar of engines or the smell of burning fuel. Her entourage made no move, though the officer on duty pointed to a faint path between the trees, already obscured by overgrowth. Grace nodded wordlessly, and took the lead, traipsing into the bush.  She became suddenly aware of how loudly she and the troops behind her were, wincing from the sounds they made as they broke small twigs underfoot. With the Na'vi's acute hearing, she was certain that any present in the area would be well-aware of their presence.

“How did you decide to meet them here?” Grace asked under her breath, speaking quietly as she touched her fingers to the communication device around her neck.

“This is the last place we saw them...”

After another few moments, one of the men cried out “Movement at ten o'clock!”

Grace realized then, she too could sense it, as the earth beneath her feet began to tremble ever so slightly.  Her tail twitched, and she clutched her bag, unsure why it seemed to give her small comfort, as she could sense something coming toward them.

“God, I hope it's nothing bad...” One of the men said, with almost a whimper.
Grace's ears perked as she saw movement from afar through the trees, like great horses galloping toward them. As her focus remained on the land-mounted Na'vi, she did not see the banshee plunge from the sky swooping over the band.  The men gathered around Grace, almost like frightened children, hoping that she could protect them.

The banshee screeched, and clung to a nearby tree-branch as it's rider, a tall, feminine figure, dismounted, pushing what looked almost like goggles away from her eyes. She clicked her tongue a few times, and drew her bow, waiting until her comrades joined her. The other Na'vi, another female and two males, stayed mounted.

The female relaxed her bow, as the others pointed the tips of their spears toward Grace and the soldiers.

“Lu nga pesu?” Who are you?

The voice was harsh, demanding.

Grace answered, trying to keep the tremor out of her voice.

Oe lu Doctor Grace”
Miracles are not contrary to nature, but only contrary to what we know about nature.  - St. Augustine

 



I speak Na'vi with a French accent...

 

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