Storm over Pandora- In Eywa's Shadow

Started by Lehrrap Uniltìranyu, February 06, 2010, 09:01:40 AM

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El Jacko

Hallelujah Mountains – Site 26

  As the four contra-rotating props spun up, the rumbling of the Dragon's turbines rose to a deafening roar, shaking Shep awake and damn near out of the tree. Pulling his senses together, he scanned through the dimly glowing forest to watch the Dragon heave itself into the air and over the cliff. For a few seconds, he stayed completely still until the distant rolling thunder had faded completely, then seized his chance. Silently, he lowered himself down onto the ground and began to pick his way towards the Site. The industrial building looked completely alien, perched on the cliff looking over acres, no miles, of blank mist. The view was a sight to behold – vague chunks of other mountains drifted lazily amongst the swirling haze, appearing and disappearing from view in mere seconds.

  In the foreground, the unguarded Site resonated with a constant hum of powerful electronics, while intermittent thumps and voices pierced the otherwise calm atmosphere. Shep edged his way around it cautiously, WASP drawn, avoiding the field of view of the windows and heading for the confused mass of plumbing and wiring that comprised the Site's utilities. Once there, he took a pair of smoke grenades and wedged them deep inside the mass of metal, pins hastily tied to thin vines. The other end of these vines he trailed along the ground and knotted them firmly around an exposed root. It was a very simple device, but hopefully at least one of them would go off.

  A distant rumbling was his cue, and he bolted for the safety of the forest. Taking cover within a large buttress root, Shep quickly checked his rifle and adopted a firing stance, watching the Site through the scope and keeping a close eye on his little present.

- - - - - - - - - -

Hallelujah Mountains – Site 26

  For a few moments after the Dragon landed, nothing much happened. Shep's assumption that they had been organising something inside was confirmed when two female Avatars disembarked, and the behemoth pulled itself back into the air above the Site. Eyes fixed on the Site, his hands rifled through the pictures of the targets he'd been assigned. He matched one of the Avatars to one Ariel Dauphanes, the other he couldn't pin down – possibly a driver who'd made a break from Hell's Gate, or even another operative. Out of caution, he decided against shooting the new Avatar, for fear of friendly fire.

  He re-focused upon Ariel just as she disappeared around the side of the Site. If his suspicions were correct, they were going to try and move the Site to another location, so hasty action would be better than deadly action. In the sliver of light underneath the pod, he could see Ariel's feet, silhouetted against the glowing flora. Hastily, he lined up the illuminated crosshairs and steadied his breathing. A miss would be far too costly.


  Shep fired as soon as an opportunity presented itself. The shot flew true, blasting a dark hole in the glowing moss. A fraction of a second later, a piercing scream reached his ears, bringing a grim smile to his face. A short while and a few hasty shouts later, the screaming ceased, only to resume from inside the shack almost instantly. Evidently, the shock of the incident had disconnected the user rather abruptly.
Excellent, thought Shep, a spot of chaos...if I can't stop them, I'll at least make it diff-
A burst of fire from the Dragon cut short his thoughts, turning the root adjacent to him into something resembling Swiss cheese. He followed his instinctive reaction and dropped flat to the floor, just as another burst of fire drilled a pattern into the space previously occupied by his head. Anticipating further fire, he lay motionless for a few moments until the Dragon banked away slightly. He rose to his feet and sprinted about a hundred yards along the treeline, then prepared his next present.

  Expert hands immediately seized a Flashbang and removed the pin, then Shep drop-kicked the timed explosive out, over the dragon, down to where Ariel's Avatar now lay unconscious. A very loud bang echoed over the cliff, and the shouts of pain gave Shep renewed faith in his abilities as the regiment fly-half. Once again, he sprinted a few hundred yards around the clearing, ignoring the increasing protest from his injured leg.

- - - - - - -

  He slid to a halt behind another large tree, gaining in confidence, and brought the rifle to bear again. The rebels, now able to see again, had redoubled their efforts and had now managed to attach the cables securing the site to the Dragon, which in turn was spooling up to lift. He dropped to one knee and brought the rifle round to bear again, this time sinking a round into the bearing of the chain gun which had, earlier, tried to kill him. Hearing the shot ring out, the rebels (human and avatar alike) had vanished, and the Dragon continued to take up the slack. Time, it seemed, was running out.

   Shep hesitated, still hidden from view as the cables and linkages creaked ominously, then the entire Site assembly drifted off the ground. He watched with dismay as the vines, supposed to trigger his smoke bomb, snapped harmlessly. At the same time, something buried deep inside his mind snapped as well.

  All pretence of stealth and self-preservation suddenly drained away, and with a primal shout Shep exploded into the clearing, reaching into a small pocket in the ghillie suit. Delicately, he gripped the Dead Man's Handle, then leapt spectacularly and bowled the live grenade straight at the plumbing containing his smoke-bombs. The grenade detonated prematurely, flinging a cloud of dirt up into the air which momentarily obscured the Site. He stared clean through the screen of debris, waiting...


  Painfully slowly, the dust cleared, revealing a rapidly expanding cloud of white smoke just as the Dragon banked away. In a final farewell gift, Shep brought his rifle to bear and began to fire indiscriminately at the looming hulk, shattering portholes and generally causing a nuisance. Even after the rifle had expended its last round, Shep kept pulling the trigger.

  The Dragon had departed. And with it, so had the rebels. Shep stood motionless as the colossal gunship dwindled to a speck, and vanished into the mist. He quickly noted the vector of the smoke plume on the datapad, then collapsed to his knees. His mind ran in turmoil, running through everything that had happened out here and how it could have worked, how he could have succeeded...

  He had failed in his mission. Not only had he failed to actually kill any of the rebels, he had barely achieved any major in-roads into disabling their activities. Coupled to that, every last one of them had escaped. Vanished. He had a vague hope of finding them, but even that was unlikely. All it would take is a change of direction and the chances of finding their site would be virtually nil.

"Come in, Hell's Gate," he growled into the communicator.

Hell's Gate tower copies. Communicator recognised as Sergeant Sheppard. Please confirm identification and state your intentions. Over, came the garbled response, warped by the flux vortex.

"Sergeant Sheppard, 028432, Hell's Guard," he said, pausing a second, "Requesting evac from Mobile Site 26, asap. Landing site will be marked with white smoke, I repeat, WHITE smoke. And while you're at it, go find the Colonel."

Affirmative, dispatching SA-2 Greyhound to your location, ETA 75 minutes. Marker instructions confirmed, pilot will circle twice upon sighting white smoke. Out.

"Ta mush," he muttered to nothing in particular. He limped over to the edge of the cliff and took up position on the sheer edge, absently twirling the communicator in one hand.
'Look at that dot. That's here. That's home. That's us...on a mote of dust, suspended in a sunbeam' - Carl Sagan

Ikranä mokri

Hells Gate Tarmac
2152 hrs

James slipped his flight helmet over his head, it made the straps keeping his exo-pack on uncomfortable, but he didn't have to live with it for long so it was bearable. He had just been met by a runner who had been sent from the tower who had had urgent orders. "But its a night flight!, were all grounded at night, not even the Colonel could take off if he wanted to" said James crossing his arms in an unbelieving fashion.
"No, just listen, this come from higher than the Colonel" said the runner
"Higher than the Colonel, but Childs doesn't have any prominence over us, he cant issue orders, can he?" said James
"well looks like he can" replied the marine handing over a datapad with the orders on.

James looked at the orders and the crew accompanying him. Two medics and 4 combat veterans, were they doing some sort of night attack? He scanned the datapad again and didn't see anything that would have suggested attack, the only words that jumped out at him were Site 26 and white smoke. White smoke was normally used in search and rescue missions to indicate the landing zone for the medi-vac. Walking past other SA-2s and SA-1s, he walked up to his beloved "Greyhound", there were tiny cracks in the windows where it had been hit by flying debris, but nothing major. He opened the pilot side door and threw the datapad onto the co-pilots seat. He climbed up into the seat and moved the stick left right forward and backwards, checking the tilt of the rotors.

From between two SA-2s came his crew. The medics were carrying a fold up stretcher and a in the field surgery kit, closely behind them were the four veterans, chatting quietly to themselves, when they saw that James was already ready they ran to the Sampson narrowly avoiding the medics, two climbed up and removed the air intake covers whilst the other two mounted the weapons they were holding.

Flicking the right switches in quick succession and within 2 minutes all checks had been completed and they were ready for take off. Closing the door and removing his flight helmet and exo-pack James radioed the tower, but the voice that answered him wasn't that of the tower, it was an unknown to James "James "peregrine" kestrel, call sign Greyhound, I want you to listen to me closely, you will go to the co-ordinates that have been set for you and you will pick up the man that is there, I want no questions asked, and this mission never, I repeat, never happened, If you tell someone about it it will be more than your ability to fly that you will lose" The mans voice was stern and cold, James didn't question the voice and replied "Call sign Greyhound Lifting off now sir".

James had done his fare share of no-questions-asked missions, and his 2 missions with the Black wing had been top-secret and so apparently was this one, he knew when to keep his mouth shut. He pulled back on the stick and the Sampson rose gracefully into the air. James banked right heading SSW towards the co-ordinates given.

100feet above the Pandoran rainforest

James had been kicking the arse out his Sampson, He had been travelling flat out for nearly the full journey. He could only just about see the canopy below him, he had recently hit the vortex and was flying by sight alone.
"White smoke, bank right, we have white smoke to the right" came a voice over the communicators. Pressing his right foot down and pushing the stick right he swung the Sampson around. He could now see the white some dead ahead. Slowing to landing speed he dropped lower and came into land right next to the ghillie-suited man sitting next to a smoke grenade.

Tirea Tskoyä has a new look see it[url=



Night fell like a quiet blanket over the forest. Occasionally you could hear a Nangtang howl or an Ikran screech in the distance, but in the clearing around Hometree, it was utterly calm and quiet. Chris reclined on a low tree branch near the edge of the clearing, contemplating the trip that would be undertaken soon. He was eager to be active again, to find some sense of purpose instead of sitting around and making small talk. But there was his Marine side that showed through, urging him to take caution and overlook nothing. It was quite a gap in feelings, one that if he didn't figure out soon would cause some repercussions later. He closed his eyes and focused on his breathing, careful not to fall asleep in his tired state. Quietly he lost himself to sight and let his other senses do the work. Each sound, scent and feeling that filtered in he focused on for a second before moving on to the next. This was peace. This was home.


((This was my big 800, for the record.))

Lehrrap Uniltìranyu


It was strange, how use he was to bioillumi... however you pronouced that, the glow of the forest. Jax sighed as he let himself walk, looking around slightly as he wandered, just a short way from Kelutral, Hometree.

He let the word roll out of his mouth and pondered it's sounds. It was strange to hear them coming from his mouth. Jax was filled with curiousity and what he felt was wisdom. The knife-training had went well, and he had learned a lot, which was suprising due to that he thought he had already known everything he needed to know about knife-fighting. The Na'vi added a whole new level to it. Which made sense to him, considering that his 'Knife' was more like a sword at the moment, due to his small stature as a 'child'.

Jax took another deep breath and closed his eyes, trying to check yet again that it wasn't all just a dream and he was going to awaken, bewiledered, in one of the Avatar Drive pods that the scientists had modified as part of a pratical joke and that it was all just a simulation, an elaborate joke.

He knew that he was lieing to himself, but that was ok. Jax remembered what his instructors had told him back at Boot, which felt like ages ago now. "If you don't lie to yourself, you're dead. You don't just need to believe that you're the baddess motherf@#$er in the sky, you have to BE the baddess motherf@#$er in the sky, both in mental and physical. If you don't learn that, you're dead."

Jax chuckled and started back towards Kelutral, wondering if Chris or someone had decided to come back. Jax probobly wasn't going to get any sleep... again.

"Ta'em 'eko!!!"
"Better to have fought and died then never to have fought at all"
Bionic Arms and Pandora, The most read FanFic on! Read it here! -Shameless self promotion-

El Jacko

Hallelujah Mountains – Former Site 26

  Shep casually tossed the smoke grenade onto the ground, and sat next to it. He watched the dimmed lights of the Samson loop around several times, before it dropped steeply and came to a perfect landing about 20 feet ahead of him.

"Evening gents," he said, limping towards the waiting aircraft.
"Hold on! We'll give you a hand!" Seeing his discomfort, 2 green-suited medics jumped out to help him up, stretcher in hand. He waved away the stretcher, preferring to walk back with the support of the other medic. In no time at all, he was seated in the back of the SA-2, being grilled by one of the medics as to the extent of his injuries, as the pilot made the necessary checks and took off back to base.

" you twisted it back yourself?" asked the lead Medic, whom had introduced himself as one John Phillips.

"For the third time, YES," he snapped, "and before you ask again, yes, it did hurt."

"Have you made any attempt to brace it?"

"Aye," replied Shep, pulling the leg of his suit back, "Turns out some of the plants here are pretty useful."

John carefully unwrapped the sinewy leaf, dumbstruck by its effects as Shep described what it had done.

"Well, its damn good luck you decided not to chew it," said John, now poking at Shep's numb knee, "On contact, it works like anaesthetic; ingest it and you get a real good light show before your respiratory system shuts down"

"Sounds delightful...remind me to try it someday..."

"How does that feel?" he asked, now pressing at the tendon behind the knee.

"Effin painful. How's it supposed to feel?" Shep replied.

"Hmm...looks like you have some pretty major ligament damage--"
"--oh joy...--" Shep cut in.
"--and you've probably roughed up the cartilage pretty badly aswell," John ploughed on, "but we'll have a better look back at Hell's Gate. Have you got any other injuries?"

"Let me think...cuts, lacerations, small stab wound," he said, counting them off on his fingers, "probably some broken fingers, dented pride, bruised ego and..." he trailed off, staring off into the space next to John's head.
"And what?"
"Nothing," Shep replied, "That's my lot."

"Alright then, we'll see to those back at Hell's Gate," said John, now wrapping a bandage tightly around Shep's knee.

The flight continued on in silence for a few moments; Shep too tired to bother saying anything, and the marines too on-edge to do likewise. Eventually, a loud beeping broke the tension, and the screen ahead of Shep lit up with a familiar, scarred face.

" Sheppard! What's going on?" growled the slightly annoyed Colonel.

"Site 26 is gone, along with the Dragon," he replied, shooting a glance at the others in the cabin, "I'll explain more back at base."

"Not right away you don't, we need to check you over in the Medical wing," John said sternly, "make sure you haven't damaged any--"

"That can wait, Corporal. Sheppard, I want you to come straight to my office when you land. Have a nice flight..." said Quaritch, and the screen promptly clicked off.

"What was that about?" asked John.
"Don't you worry," Shep replied, "I'm sure it'll filter through eventually."

"It better had," shouted one of the Marines over the whine of the propellers, "I don't wanna have to go through all this for nothin'."

- - - - - - - - - -

Hell's Gate, Hangar Area

  The rest of the flight rattled on in silence. Even with the amount of noise it made, the Samson didn't attract any unwanted attention, and in a short while the Samson had set down inside the Hangar and unloaded it's cargo of personnel. Once everyone was clear, James expertly drifted over to his designated bay and powered down, before heading off with his crew of Marines for a hasty debrief. The medics, however, stayed with Shep.

"Once you're finished debriefing, I need you to come STRAIGHT to the medical wing to get checked over," said John hurriedly, "Don't want anything getting infected or doing any more damage."

"Look, Corporal, I'm perfectly capable of managing myself. I'll get this seen to eventually; I just have some business to sort out first," replied Shep.
"Well at least let me he--"
"I can walk myself," Shep snapped, "now shift. I'll be along later."

The medic and his assistant said nothing more, and offered an offended glance before bustling away. Shep watched as they hurried off, then, using his staff as a crutch, limped off in the direction of the office of the Head of Security, Col. Quaritch.

- - - - - - - - - -

Hell's Gate Command

Colonel Quaritch glanced up angrily from his paperwork as the door opened, but relaxed when a large plant walked in. Well, limped.

"Morning, sir" said Shep as he dumped himself unceremoniously into the chair opposite the Colonel.

"Good to see you're still in one piece, Sheppard," Quaritch said, glancing down, "well, mostly. Here, have a drink," he continued, reaching into a drawer in his desk and pulling out a particularly good bottle of Scotch and two tumblers. He poured one for himself, then poured Shep a more generous slug and offered the glass. Shep gladly accepted it, but found himself staring fixedly at the bottle.

A moment passed before Quaritch broke the silence, "Something the matter, Sheppard? You look like you have something on your mind--"

"How did you get past the padlock?" Shep asked, "and what did you do with the other five?"

"Not much gets past you, does it?" replied Quaritch.

"Especially when it concerns my best scotch. Where's the other 5 bottles?" Shep pressed. He'd had to jump through a fair few hoops to get them shipped out, and had taken great care to keep them under lock and key.

"The rest are still in the locker, safe and sound. The lock isn't so safe any more; I'll get supply to send you a new one" said Quaritch.

"Good...anyway, to business," he said, downing most of the 15-year old Scotch, "Site 26 is gone, airlifted away by the Dragon. And in that mist, the chances of someone seeing them go are virtually nil."

"Brilliant. Childs is gonna love this." said Quaritch, massaging his temple, "Any idea where they could've gone?"

"Well, the way I see it they've got 2 options. First, they can dig 'emselves further into the Vortex, prevent us from going looking for them," replied Shep, "which could leave them vulnerable to covert attack from us, providing we can find their little party."
"Right...and the other option?" asked Quaritch.
"The other option is they feck off in the opposite direction, get as far away from us as possible, and hope we go looking in the Flux Vortex," Shep pondered for a moment, "either way, it's a big forest out there, and you can't see through the trees."

Quaritch said nothing for a few moments, trying to think of the best way to break the news to the good Doctor. At least he had a good few hours to think of something.

"At any rate, I managed to stir up some unrest amongst the natives," Shep interjected, breaking Quaritch's pause, "Met an angry one in the forest, roughed him up pretty badly."
"Nah, mentally. He tried to stab me," Shep pulled back the suit, exposing the Kevlar vest. A large, frayed gash ran down one side, "and he damn nearly succeeded. Broke my knee, too. Hence the limp."

"I don't see how that would mess with their heads..." Quaritch pointed out.

"That's cause I haven't finished yet. I collapsed, so he thought he'd killed me. So imagine how he felt when a dead man got up, walked over, gave him a message and lamped him" Shep continued, face splitting into a smile.

"I like it, Sheppard, I really like it," said Quaritch, "how bout the avatars?"

"Well, after taking a shot at Augustine I didn't get much by way of contact with the rest of the rebels; I think they may have been hiding in plain sight, disguised as the natives. Shot Ariel Dauphanes' Avatar in the foot though. Unfortunately, by the time I got to Site 26 they'd already packed up and left" Shep looked slightly dejected on the last sentence – he'd been hoping for some fun, rather than a few quick shots.

"I'm impressed you achieved what you did. Not many of the soldiers here could do something like that; even fewer would live to tell the tale." Quaritch said, stern-faced, "I'm going to put you in for promotion. And since you aren't your average mercenary, I'll do it according to your old regiment's conditions. Which would be...?"

"Royal Army, 22nd regiment, sir." Shep said, back to usual discipline.

"Very good, Sergeant. Go get yourself checked over, then get rested up."

"Thank you, sir. Goodnight" Shep got up to leave, but Quaritch called out just as he got to the door.

"What exactly did you say to the native, before you KO'd him?"
"Who dares, wins, sir." Shep shouted over his shoulder, then limped off down the corridor to medical.
'Look at that dot. That's here. That's home. That's us...on a mote of dust, suspended in a sunbeam' - Carl Sagan

Lehrrap Uniltìranyu


Jax slowly cracked his neck as his continued to twist his knife, looking at the stars from outside of hometree, just under it's branches. He was right in being unable to sleep, and had slipped away from his 'hammock' to see if walking around could cool him off.

He looked up and streched, enjoying watching the moonlight and the shadows it cast from hometree's branches play across his body. He hummed to himself as he found a good spot to sit and reclined, again drawing his 'knife' and twirling it around his hand for a moment before sheathing it again with a sigh.

The tree was acually pretty comfortable, all things considered. He looked up at the stars and sighed, closing his eyes for a moment to see if he could fall asleep before a rustling of foliage snapped him into focus, up on his feet and knife drawn. "Who's there?" He called out, his eyes searching for the creater of the noise.

The foliage in front of him rusled again and he was suprised to see Nef'tys, fire in her eyes as she walked out of the foliage.

"Ta'em 'eko!!!"
"Better to have fought and died then never to have fought at all"
Bionic Arms and Pandora, The most read FanFic on! Read it here! -Shameless self promotion-


Tseylian remained awake long after the others were asleep, as best as she could tell.  Nef'Tys' breathing had all but disappeared into the stillness of the forest, and Arik was-- was he snoring?  Tseylian cracked a little smile.  Does he dream of his orange-tree kelutral?  She paused, looking up at the other moons crossing the sky.  No, they are uniltìranyu, dream-walkers.  This is their dream.  She snorted softly.  Perhaps that is why they take our rocks.  To them, this is only a dream.  If any of them ever are allowed to go on uniltaron, we shall see what they think of dreams then.

Soon the rest of her thoughts faded as she thought of the task in front of her.  Ray'iun, she mused.  Why did you come for me?  What is going on?  How do you-- what will it be like, when we see each other again after so long, and after so much?

Only the soft sounds of the People's breathing answered her.

Slowly, softly, Tseylian pulled back the leaf hammock and stood, slinging her tsko swizaw across her back and swinging herself up onto the nearest branch.  Her silent feet padded across the bark, leaving behind bioluminescent footprints that slowly faded into the night.  Lost in thought, moving as if in a trance, she did not stop until she heard a soft cry.  She looked up suddenly and saw a familiar shape.  "Ma Kinä?" she asked softly.

Kinä, her ikran, lowered her head and touched the Na'vi's forehead with her own.

"Tam tam, Kinä," Tseylian whispered, patting the white creature's head.  Kinä tipped her head curiously, as if in disbelief.

"Srane, Kinä," Tseylian conceded, resting her head against the strong neck of her ikran.  "Eyawr nga lu.  Ke tam lu.  Ray'iun fìtseng lu.  Tse, tsengo sim."

Kinä hooted softly, nudging Tseylian with her beak.

"Zerok srak, tsakrr oeng nì'awve tsaheyl sami?  Txan wew lamu!  Zerok oeng tswamayaon ngim, 'amefu tsun 'ivampi tanhìt."  She sighed softly and lowered her voice to the slightest whisper.  "Ma Kinä, kempe leru?  Zene rivun Ray'iunìt."

Swiftly, in one fluid motion, Tseylian made tsaheylu with Kinä, leaped up on her back, and the pair took off into the sky.

No one ever said a white ikran would be inconspicuous in the tropics of Eywa'eveng, but they flew quite a distance without being seen, in bigger and bigger circles around Kelutral, before there was a rustling from the forest floor.  The pair drew closer, and Tseylian peered through the tree branches.  Her eyes fell on another pale ikran, the subtlest grey with off-white stripes, standing uneasily on the forest floor beside a stand of faywll

Tseylian shrugged off the chill that threatened to course through her veins, and urged Kinä to a clearing a short way away.  "Ma Kinä, 'ì'awn," she said softly but firmly.  The ikran shifted her weight uneasily, but stayed.

The Na'vi climbed up into the canopy and slipped over nearer pongo Ray'iun.  Of course, he has scouts in the trees, she thought as she spotted a Sengtsil Na'vi, trying not to look uneasy, but not quite succeeding.  But not many.  She slipped around her tribemate, staying close to the trunks, until she spotted Ray'iun.

There was a soft hoot, and all the heads in pongo Ray'iun turned in the direction of the sound.  A nearby patch of
aylorayu skittered into their pods, affording pongo Ray'iun a clear view of Kinä, who looked momentarily startled.

Tseylian jumped down as if by instinct.  She landed softly on the forest floor, one leg bent beneath her and the other splayed out to the side, as she had seen the Omatikaya do so many times.

"Oel ngati kameie," she said to Ray'iun, straightening to her full height.

Ray'iun's hand made the greeting gesture as if by rote, for his eyes were stunned and fixed on Tseylian.

He has never seen me wear so little, the corner of Tseylian's mind chuckled.  The rest of her mind was occupied with trying to keep her calm.  I did not expect this, she thought.  To be so nervous.  But look at him, he is more so than I, for I have been in this forest for several mooncycles.

And he looks as if he is roasting from the heat!

"Ma Tseylian?" Ray'iun finally managed.

"Srane, ma Ray'iun," she replied, as Kinä finally shook off her shock and moved to stand behind her.  "Oeru fko syaw fo Tseylian."

Ray'iun finally found his voice.  "Kempe lamen?" he demanded.  Tseylian stood still, letting him rage at her, knowing from childhood experience that he would soon come to his senses.  "Ngal tìsraw seykami ayoer!  Ngal nì'awtu kamä alìm!  Peu fpalmìm?"  Ray'iun's voice grew less and less angry as his initial fury burned out.   "Ayoel fpamìm 'e'ala lamen," he concluded, in a pained whisper.

"Tireafya'o lu," she answered softly.  Kinä gave a low rumble of concern.  "Eywal syamaw oer.  Oel tamìng mikyun ulte eltu sami.  Kamä."

"Ma Tseylian," Ray'iun continued whispering, "kawnga ayu lamen.  Zene ayoehu tivätxaw nga.  Rutxe," he pleaded.
Fitseng lu oe, tìftia kìfkeyä seri.



Aniuket turned, watching, looking at Arik as his dreamwalker body slept in the night. Even withou it's Dreamwalker spirit in him, it snored slightly, softly... more of a rhytmic buzz every few moment...

Whare are you, now? she wondered, And what is it like...?

***   ***   ***

Site 26

"Sweet merciful--!" Arik hollered over the howl of the Dragons engines and whirling blades. "We're taking fire!" he yelled as Ariel's Avatar fell to the ground, howling in pain, blood gushing form a nasty leg wound. He pounced on her, dragging her down, out of the line of fire --or at least what seemed to be the line of fire-- and tried ot staunch th ebleeding.

"Get down! Get down!" he yelled, but the Dragon rhythmically thumping blades and turbine screech made it hard to communicate. And I came out here without my weapon, he chided himself. Stupid, stupid!

He bound Ariel's leg, but the Avatar was dead weight-- inside, the human woman had woken, shrieking in shock and pain that had momentarily transmitted itself to her human body. Arik saw Grace, inside, rush to her aide; Grace knew what it was like to survive a shooting wound to the Avatar and comforted the younger woman.

Chris and the others were rushing for cover, but Arik waved for their attention. "Help get her inside!" he yelled, and between himself, Chris, Blake, and his sister Na'ama they strained to get the Avatar secured in a section of the base with the window left open and depressurized.

"We gotta do something 'bout that sniper--!" Chris called, but overhead, Trudy already was. With a low whine of electronic servos, a chaingun swung into action and loosed a burst in the direction of the incoming fire. Arik was almost relieved that it was over but then remembered that without instruments, there was no way Trudy could have gotten a lock on the enemy-- it had been a "spray-and-pray" burst rather than a pinpoint elimination of a target. 

Still, whatever had happened had happened for their benefit. The sniper quieted --killed or wounded, or just keeping his head down?-- and they scrambled aboard the Dragon, which lurched under the load.

"Did we get 'im?" Chris called to Esme, on the gun station, but she was too intently looking through the sight screen, scanning for the target. A couple of ping and pop noises against the hull assured them thay had not, in fact, "got 'im" but he was quickly being left behind.

Finally, Esme backed out of the gun station, and shook her head. "I got some shots off, but I don't think he's dead," she said in frustration. "I think he messed upone of the turrets, too. Okay, look guys, we're gonna land, set up a new place, and you guys take care of the wounded. Did her bleeding get stopped?"

"Yeah," Arik said, with nods of agreement from Blake and Grace.

"OKay, once that's done we're going to go look for some more pods to steal. Gonna be a long night. But we're running out of room with just the two pods we have, 'kay? And while we're out and about, I'm going to train some of you on these guns. There is no reason for idle passengers to be on this tub! We should have all been laying fire on that guy, and if Childs's goons come in here we're going to need every trigger finger gainfully employed."

Chris and Arik shared a sheepish look-- of all people who should have leapt into action, they should have been doing so. But they had never been helo crews, and they'd always been in situations where there were sufficient helo crews already available.

"You got it, Esme," Arik agreed.
"Alright," she said, smiling, "Now that that is settled... we think we have a place picked out. A big huge floating mountain. It's got a thick forest on it, so we can hide among the trees as well as just in the vortex in general. Got a river and a small pond nearby so we can siphon and filter water, much as we need."

"Sounds like paradise," Na'ama said.
"That's 'cause you ain't flying in and out of it," Esme said, "The mountain top is in the cloud cover, so the air is pretty much foggy all the time. It is hard and dangerous to fly in and out of, but Trudy thinks it's worthwhile for security."

"If it's in a forest," Grace said, "How are we going to get more containers fastened to the one we have now?"
"We probably won't," Esme said, "We'll get at least two more containers, but what will most likely end up happening is there'll be one set of containers for living quarters, and another set with drivepods and a small lab. They'll probably have to be a few meters apart, otherwise we'd have to cut down a bunch of trees to put them all together."

"Which mean we'd lose camouflage," Chris said.

"Alright," Arik said, "Then once we land, maybe Blake and Grace can help Ariel's Avatar, and the rest of us will go grab some containers and get comfortable. I have a feeling we'll be at this new site for awhile."

"We may have to settle in for a couple years," Grace said. "That's when the Venture Star arrives, and hopefully they can get rid of Childs for us."

"We can only hope..."

Renegades escape, leaving Shep behind for his pick-up.
OOC: More to come later as we get caught up.

In Libertarianism, there is no Government, so the Bosses are free to exploit the Workers.
In Communism, there is no Government, so the Workers are free to exploit the Bosses.
So in Libertarianism, man exploits man, but in Communism, its the other way around!

Attempted to pee on Viperwolf to test reaction. Please see attached medical file.
WARNING: Attached medical file exceeds gigabyte limit. System failure.


Kelutral, That Night

Nef'Tys was startled-- before her was Jax, the very same Jax whom she'd seen talking with Arik earlier. What was on the mind of this one, who now wore Hun'Nar's body like his own clothes?

Jax looked back at Nef'Tys. Great, bet she's going to run away again...
But Nef'Tys stood. Her eyes flickered, looking at him, her face an unreadable knot of emotions. Suddenly, she gave a sort of snort --a laugh? A display of dislike? "You talk to Ah-rik," she said. "I know. I hear," she said, looking at him straight on. "You not want me to come along on journey north? Who are you to say what I can and can not do?"

"You mean Eavesdropped." Jax said with a snort. "That was a private conversation. You know, two talking and only they talk?"
"You make decisions for others in the People? We are affected by your wishes; but you have no voice here!"

"Well gee, no offence, but don't you have training to do? Things that need to be done here?" Jax fired back. This little girl was seriously starting to annoy him. "Frankly, I think this whole trip is a stupid idea, and that none of us should go."

"Then stay here, and take no more from us!" she shouted. She held up her hand in a gesture of refusal. "You people come here, take, take... order us around! But what right you have? We give you food, shelter, protection from Arr-Dee-Ay, you give thank by ordering around. You are selfish, like a spoiled child!" she said, getting visibly upset. "WHY YOU TAKE HUN'NAR TOO!?"

"Well excuse me if I wasn't quite given a choice!" Jax growled back, standing up. "Frankly, I'm not happy with this!?! Do I seem like I'm glad that you have to give food, shelter, and all of that? I didn't want this!" Jax shook his head, his tail whipping from side to side. "I'm stuck like this! Stuck here! Not even a Uniltìranyu! Forever! I don't get to leave, to go home to my Hometree, to my family, to my people!"

"Then you better learn more about how to leave among the People," she hissed, a feral cat hiss that exposed her prominent canines. It was an unexpected reminder to Jax just how alien his new home was. "You treat me with disrespect; this is not the way of the People. This is like to..." she waved her arm in frustration, "To... make... you know..." she pointed to her hind end. "To make... on where you... eat" She paused, suddenly embarrassed at what she'd said, but still seriously annoyed. "I am tired of this disrespect. It is all I have to go on voyage, make show I am good hunter, warrior."

"A good warrior doesn't go off on the handle over a few choice words." Jax gorwled, his tail still flicking around. "I'm not the best example of that, but if you want to see some prime example of disrespect, how do you Imagine I've felt over the last few days?" Jax turned away, taking a few steps towards the forest. "At least you CAN remove your disrespect. I do not belong here, and I am definetly not one of your people. I'm a Tawtute that got in way over his head, plain and simple."

Nef'Tys was silent. She was still smoldering, but the force of her anger had passed; now she was just in a state of confrontational brooding. "So, we both have reasons to be angry. Fine," she said, "But do not make your anger at me. You follow your path; I will follow mine."

Jax hissed at her, one last bit of fire in him to let off at her before they stalked off, "Fine by me. Just remember who's fault it is that I am still here anyway."

"You mean this man... Wah-ren Shilds?" she asked. "If you are angry, blame him, then. Not me. I can help on journey. I am good hunter." Inside, Jax knew this to be true-- or at least suspected. He'd seen her move through the trees with more grace than a dozen cats combined. But he began to suspect that one reason that the Omatikaya had not yet allowed her to climb Iknimaya was not ability issues, but issues of maturity instead. There was no reason for the Na'vi to put an arbitrary age cap on climbing Iknimaya --it wasn't a drinking age, after all, Jax knew-- but a judgement call from the elders.

"Bah. Childs is a temporary problem. I mean being stuck here. In the forest, outside of my body, my life, in Hun'nar's body, forced to stay on the ground." Jax hissed. "I remember being told who aruged to bring us back to Hometree. You should have left me to die, but no, you're the only reason why I'm still here, still stuck in the fryingpan, as a old Tawtute saying goes."

Nef'Tys was silent. She had argued to save them... but in the time since then, she had forgotten the dreamlike quality of the atokirina's selection. What had happened since then? she wondered. She looked at Jax but saw Hun'nar... her old friend, Hun'nar, with whom she used to play with, they had a treehouse where they pretended to be Tsahik and Olo'eytkan... She knew now why her initial good feelings had dissipated-- she had expected her old Hun'nar back. But it was not to be, and now she knew it never was to be. "Come with me," she said, suddenly calm. "I will show you something."

Jax followed her, quietly, but hearing his own feet crash through brush she had moved through silently. He saw her mild disapproving look over her shoulder, but continued to follow her until they reached a small, dark clearing, surrounded by tall trees.

"There," she said, pointing up. "Look to there." Jax looked. It was a hollowed area in a crook of tree branches. "You can climb, yes?" she asked, and leapt up onto the tree, latching her fingers into the rough bark and bracing her feet against it by pulling herself against the tree itself. "Come on," she said as she climbed.

Jax tried to climb as she did, but gave up, and climbed the tree human-style. Like a damn monkey, he thought to himself.
Once they reached the branch crook, she stopped and crouched. Inside, were signs of habitation, and a pair of toy Ikrans. "You recognize?" she asked, looking at him with some spark of hope left in her eyes.

Jax blinked, and realised what she was looking for, why she brought him over here. "No." He said plainly, avoiding looking at her. He wasn't Hun'nar, and he knew that quite clearly. Her friend was dead, replaced by him.

Nef'Tys looked away, out away from the treehouse. Out to the woods, where creatures called and hooted and hissed. In her posture, Jax saw final resignation, and acceptance. "I think you are good people," she said plainly, her voice hard. "You, even, yes. Arik, nice to Aniuket. Na'ama, clumsy in thought but well-meaning. Chris, fight hard for People. You hate Arr-Dee-Ay and they hate you, you try to do right thing..."

She paused and swallowed, "But... I am not sorry I ask for help for you. I want you all to be welcome... but not all things are as I had hoped. I will... be with that, in peace." She sighed. "Just... you have to make peace with life here. I not make explode kunsip. I am going to go with Tseylian. If you don't like me, then stay away. I will not talk to you. Will be... ohh-kay," she said. She looked over at him. "I... sorry... to bring you here, but... you can climb down? I will stay."

"... I'll go." Jax said, starting off. "I'll stick to the tree-tops for now. I need some practice anyway." He took a few steps before he looked back at her, the smallist glints of sunlight just starting to peek up, signaling the end of the night as the dawn came. He thought for a moment before he said, "For the record, I don't hate you. I'm just... confused. We'll talk, maybe."

She nodded, almost imperceptibly, her eyes glistening with moisture, her face stony.

Jax took a few more steps and leaped, grabbing a close by branch to get a few more leaps before he made his way down to the forest floor, heading for Hometree. The day was starting, which ment that the journey was just beginning.

For a lot of them, and in more ways than one.

Nef'Tys and Jax finally confront.
Tensions and motivations are exposed; both agree to avoid the other.

***   ***   ***   ***   ***   ***

New Hidden Campsite

The human forms of Arik, Chris, and Na'ama staggered back into the containers that made up the original "Site 26". The gratefully removed their breather masks as the rhythmic whup-whup- pounding of the Dragon faded into the background, and finally stopped. An odd silence overwhelmed them; the sounds of machines had faded, giving the impression of surreal isolation, but the sounds of nature --running, crashing water over rocks, wildlife, trees swaying in the breeze-- continued.

With a flick of a switch, yet without moving, it was as if they were transported from one reality to another.

"How'd it go?" Grace asked.
"Pretty good," Arik said, "Got us two more containers to use."

"What types?" Blake asked.
"Trudy took us to Site 28; she said it was closest," Na'ama said.
Grace nodded. "Yeah, Site 28-- almost a copy of Site 26, but only two drivepods. It's more of a lab and living area."

"Why'd you guys plop down so many drive pod rooms all over in the same area?" Arik asked. "These things seem to have some serious range on them."

"It's the satellite links," Blake answered. "Pandora is blanketed with RDA commsats. You could be in a drivepod anywhere on the planet and run normal Avatar operations on the other side with no delay."
"However," Grace said, "When we first started putting drivepods up here, in the Hallelujah Mountains, we were worried that the vortex effect would interfere with signals like they did everything else. So we hedged our bets, and used multiple pods. Turned out to be un-necessary."

"Well, then," Chris said, "Someone else's over-planning an' redundancy is our plate o' crackers," he said. "So. We put the containers down over there--" he pointed out the window towards a clump of trees, where a glint of silver could barely be seen "--so it's just a short walk with a breather to get there. Once we have a regular trail between them, you could probably get there just holding your breath."

"Which you're not going to try," Grace warned.
They were interrupted by the cycling of the airlock, and Trudy and Esme came in as well. "Dragon's secured," Trudy said.
"How are we on fuel?" Arik asked.
"We're still okay," Trudy replied, "We've not actually done that much flying, and what we have done hasn't been too far. It's just that it's all been in the last few days so it seems like a lot more than it really is. We're at two-thirds capacity."

"So we'll have to limit our use of the Dragon to emergencies," Arik said.
"Unless we can find some fuel lying around somewhere," Esme said.
"An' that's not bloody likely," Chris muttered.

"In truth, most of what we've used got burned up on our escape from Hell's Gate," Trudy informed them. "That was our longest voyage so far. But, yeah-- if we can avoid using the helo, we should."

"Ikrans," Na'ama said. "Once we get trained up, and pass the tests, we'll have Ikrans."
"Yeah," Grace said, "That'll be easy for you to fly to us and back, but we won't be able to fly to you."

The group wa ssilent for awhile, as each contemplate dtheir options in their own way.
"How's Ariel?" Na'ama finally asked.

"She's fine," Grace said, "She's asleep; the poor girl was terrified, in shock... I finally got her to rest. Her Avatar is unconscious, but she'll make it. It wasn't a life-threatening injury like mine was." The group was relieved to hear it; no one wante dto lose an Avatar. A sense of anger at the sniper burned in their eyes; the person --whoever it was-- was stalking them like game, and was a tenacious and resourceful foe. That he had failed to actually kill anyone, at least so far, was th eonly thing that mitigated a sense for immediate vengeance.

"Look," Grace said, "You guys need to eat, clean up, do whatever. Your Avatars wake up in a few hours, and you need to get moving."

"But aren't we, kinda... sleeping, you know, when we're linked in?" Arik asked. "I mean, our human bodies are resting."
"Yes," Grace said, "But your mind needs to get some real sleep too. Your bodies may be rested, but your mental acuity will be lower. And you can't afford that. Food and sleep, all of you."

"Yes, ma'am," they replied instinctively.
"So what should we call this place?" Chris asked as they reached for microwave dinners in the refridgerator.
"It's a hidden rebel base," Arik said, "So I say we call it 'Yavin'."
"Wha--?" the Australian asked, looking at him, perplexed.

"You and your old movies," Na'ama said with a roll of her eyes.
"It's still popular!" Arik said.
"In geek circles," she responded. "It wasn't even in 3D," she said. "How about 'el Dorado'. It was the mythical lost city of the Aztecs that the Conquistadores were always looking for."

"An apt comparison," Blake admitted.
"We'll think of something," Grace said. "But for now, eat! Sleep!"

Avatar drivers work into the night to relocate and steal new containers.
New site now has four containers (2 groups of 2) with more space and drivepods.
Now... what to call it.

***   ***   ***   ***   ***   ***

That Morning

"Coffee," Arik said, rubbing his eyes. "I will miss coffee. That is a given." He looked up at the bright sun, battling Polyphemus in the sky for dominance. "Why is it everywhere in the universe, mornings are brutal?"

"Brutal?" Aniuket asked. "What is it?"
"Mean," Arik said. "Like the RDA."

"What really twists the knife," Na'ama said, walking up to them, "Is that you know Blake and Ariel and the rest of them not going on this are sleeping in right now."
"The swine," Arik muttered in mock anger. "Where'd you sack out last night?" he asked his sister.

"Visitor's platform," she replied, "Jax, I think, is still on the visitor's platform, too, but he was already up and gone when I woke."
"You should make ki'sey na'vi to sleep in," Aniuket said.
Na'ama nodded. "Yeah, actually I bet that'll be one of my projects while you guys are gone," she replied. They were sharing a breakfast near Aniuket's family, but slightly apart from them.

"Where's Nef'Tys?" Arik asked, looking around.
"She is troubled," Aniuket said. "She did not sleep among the People last night; she look for alone time."
"She alright?" Na'ama asked.
"She will be ohh-kay," Aniuket replied, clearly trying to avoid the subject. It would be awkward to have to face the tension between Nef'Tys and Jax so early in the morning, especially when they were all going to be travelling together.

"Your arm good?" Arik asked, reading her emotions and changing the subject.
"Is good," Aniuket responded, waving her arm easily. "Na'vi heal fast. A bit... um, soft? To touch?"
"Tender," Arik said.
"Srane. Ten-der."

"You know, someone else who isn't around?" Na'ama said, "The star of the show. Tseylian."

They looked around. Tseylian, indeed, was nowhere to be seen.

"She wouldn't leave without us... would she?" Arik asked, perplexed.
"Your answer will come, I think," Aniuket said as the dark shadow of a white ikran crossed the ground...

Morning at Kelutral.
Voyagers get ready, and Tseylian and Ray'iun --with his search party-- will be met.

In Libertarianism, there is no Government, so the Bosses are free to exploit the Workers.
In Communism, there is no Government, so the Workers are free to exploit the Bosses.
So in Libertarianism, man exploits man, but in Communism, its the other way around!

Attempted to pee on Viperwolf to test reaction. Please see attached medical file.
WARNING: Attached medical file exceeds gigabyte limit. System failure.

El Jacko

Hell's Gate Command

   After the sound of Sheppard's footsteps faded away, Quaritch quickly pulled up the holoscreen and tapped straight into the crew files. His eyes stayed fixed on the blinking message as it retrieved the one he was looking for

Accessing Hell's Guard database...done
ISV Nova Cruiser crew files...retrieved
Searching for 028432...Sheppard, Alan




   He stared with mild disbelief at the file ahead of him. Under 'military history', all it had was 22 regiment, Royal Army. Nothing else; no battlegroup, no combat history, nothing. Just 8 years served in 22 regiment, then 'discharged for personal reasons' right before he joined the RDA. Something about this didn't strike a chord with the Colonel. He liked to have a good idea of where his men had come from, or at any rate, a bit more than length of service and regiment. Flicking that item onto a datapad, he used the holoscreen to search through the Hell's Gate databanks, aiming to find a bit of background over 22 regiment. After some time, the search came up with a blank screen. Apparently, such a regiment doesn't exist.

   With an annoyed grunt, Quaritch slid the Holoscreen back into the desk and set off towards the Medical wing, datapad in hand

- - - - - - - - - -

Hell's Gate Medical Facility


   Shep's hand stopped an inch from the door handle as he heard a shout from the staircase behind, and he turned to find Quaritch striding up to him, gripping a datapad so tightly the image was distorting.

"22 regiment doesn't exist, Sheppard," growled Quaritch, "now I know you've done us all a favour, but I won't have my soldiers lying to me"

   Shep stood still for a moment, hand still hovering over the door handle, while his tired brain slowly put the pieces together.

"You're right, sir, it doesn't exist" he said, finally.
"So what regiment do you belong to, then?" pressed Quaritch.
"Royal Army, 22 regiment," replied Shep, pausing for a moment to enjoy the bemused expression on the colonel's scarred face, "Special Air Service."

"bulls***," Quaritch snapped, "They don't exist."
"We do. We always have." Shep countered, "I suggest you go and consider it, sir."

   Without saying another word, he opened the door and stepped into the medical wing, leaving the battle-hardened Colonel stood blankly outside.

- - - - - - -

"Told you I'd turn up," Shep called to the waiting doctors, "Now what?"
John virtually jumped out of his chair when he heard the shout, and within seconds he and his assistant had bowled Shep onto a gurney and rolled him into the MRI scanner.

"There's nothing visibly torn or broken, but you've definitely roughed up the cartilage something awful," came a voice through the speaker above. Around the giant white curve of the machine, Shep could just make out the shadows of the two medics, poring over a huge bank of holoscreens. Very soon, and to Shep's surprise, they hauled the gurney back out and turfed Shep out onto an examination table.

"I was enjoying that." Shep stated bluntly.
"Yeah, well you'll enjoy this more," John returned, carrying a complicated-looking contraption, "Fresh out of our Litho' machine"
"Ri-ight...what is it?" Shep asked.
"Knee brace!" said John, expertly attaching it to Shep's bruised leg, "Should take most of the strain off your knee, allow it to heal up properly. And yes, you can walk on it."
"Nice. Mind if I run back to my quarters in slow-motion?" mused Shep.
"Not tonight you won't," said John, more firm now, "We're gonna keep you here overnight, make sure we haven't missed something serious."

   Shep sat silently for a few seconds, then slid off the table and gingerly put his weight on the 'bionic' knee. To his surprise, it took his full weight without complaint, even flexing comfortably.
"Alright, fair enough," Shep submitted,  "Where do I sleep?"
"We got you the window suite. Sleep tight, leafy"
"Thanks, doc..."
'Look at that dot. That's here. That's home. That's us...on a mote of dust, suspended in a sunbeam' - Carl Sagan

El Jacko

Unknown location
Indeterminate time

   Crouched inside an air vent on a wind-blasted rooftop, Shep silently slid the magazine of tungsten-carbide tipped rounds into the suppressed rifle. He carefully laid this to one side, then, pistol drawn, scanned the remainder of the rooftop. A service door had been planted with a breach charge, rigged to blow if opened. At the near edge, an ultra-fine titanium cable was ready and waiting for the rappel down. Everything was in place; all that remained was the target.

   Switching back to the long-range rifle, Shep focused the scope downrange at the target building. The building itself was almost a mile away, and the target was known to use an office on the 3rd floor. Referring briefly to a floor plan, he quickly picked out the most likely room. In plain view of the window was a large leather chair and excessively large desk, glowing in the flickering light of what he presumed were monitors. This was the office of Bolanle Chiwatel, a prominent commander of the guerrilla forces in the area. A man whom the allied coalition would rather wish didn't exist.

   The target area, however, was missing a critical component, so Shep waited, unmoving. Minutes passed. Then minutes trickled into hours, and the office remained empty. Hours gave way to the fall of night, which promptly drifted past into a blistering Nigerian dawn. Finally, Shep noticed movement within the shadows of the office, and a large man took his place in the extravagant chair. Quickly confirming the identity to the best of his ability, he steadied his breathing and took careful aim.

   An ear-splitting crack rent the air, echoing off other buildings in the crowded district. Panicked locals bolted for cover, running from what sounded like an armed assault. Inside the air vent, Shep maintained his view of the target, hoping the shot had flown true. Some seconds passed and he began to doubt the accuracy, when suddenly, the armoured office window burst into a red spiders web of cracks; Mr Chiwatel was no more.

   Knowing his cover would very soon be blown (quite literally), Shep sprang out of the vent, grabbed the waiting cable and dropped into the morning market below. Dressed in traditional nomadic garb – currently the preferred uniform of the insurgency – he vanished into the startled crowd.

   Suddenly, the scene changed. The city buildings and crowded streets melted away, replaced by rolling sand dunes, blasted by the howling desert winds.

   Mind wholly set on his objective, Shep dashed forwards and took up position amongst a few stunted shrubs, hidden under a large camouflage blanket. At the foot of the dune ran a heavily potholed track, known to be of use to the insurgency. A rising cloud of dust on the horizon signalled the approach of a convoy, so Shep quickly checked his rifle and followed the cloud with the scope; when the lead vehicle came into view, he took careful aim at the narrow driver's window. With practiced efficiency, he traced the vehicles movements up and down as it traversed the battered road, and fired at the soonest opportunity. The resounding crack of the rifle merged with a ringing ricochet as the bullet clipped the edge of the viewing slot, and the heavily armed half-track drifted lazily to a stall, holding up the rest of the convoy.

   His mission accomplished, Shep turned and slid down the far side of the dune, radioing the co-ordinates to waiting BAE 'Osprey' VTOL jets; then sprinted off in the opposite direction. Minutes later, the ground shook as the jets rocketed overhead, shortly followed by a bone-shaking boom as they accelerated to supercruise.

   The air fell silent once more, but Shep kept running as fast as possible. His reasoning quickly became clear, as timed seismic charges dropped by the Ospreys tore through the convoy, sending shockwaves visibly tearing through the ground. As the shock hit Shep lost his footing, falling flat on his face in the hot sand, ears whistling from the bang.

   The whistling slowly faded, giving way to a distant rattle of small-arms fire. Shep's senses recovered inhumanly quickly, and he crawled forwards to get a better view of the combat. A stricken, Russian-built tank in the rebel insignia was besieged by a small foot patrol of allied soldiers, and slowly winning. The tank itself was not important; the personnel inside, however, were relatively high-ranking and had been labelled as 'Targets of opportunity' by the Brass.

   Seeing that the foot soldiers were being beaten, Shep decided to intervene. He swung round the camouflaged rifle and loaded a magazine of tungsten-carbide rounds, intending to punch a hole straight through the slightly weaker armour around the engine. The shot flew true, striking the radiator grille hard enough to strike out a small cloud of sand from the tracks below. Then silence fell over the dunes; evidently, the tank crew had heard the shot, as had the allied soldiers. Slowly, menacingly, the turret revolved to face Shep, and the main gun scrolled up to aim at his position. Dreading the worst, he lay completely still and awaited the swift retribution.

   The resultant explosion was spectacular, to say the least.

   Several ounces of high-density alloy had smashed into circuitry regulating the plasma turbine – as a result, the flare had destabilised and melted the magnetic bottle keeping it under control, effectively detonating a small nuke inside the tank. All that now remained was a large, glass crater, smouldering slightly in the blasted land.

   Again, the scene changed. Shep found himself back in a city, efficiently redecorating a public square with the contents of another general's head from a safe distance. Then he turned and ran, and everything changed once again. He was in another part of the city, doing what he did best. Then another change, and another, on and on, following a grisly pattern.

   Every man he had killed, every soul destroyed, played back to him one after the other, excruciating in detail and lifelike in quality. It was as if he was doing it all again, living each second all over again. With each subsequent vision, he felt part of himself being torn out, a fraction of humanity slipping away with each extra life.

   The stream of visions continued, on and on, and Shep found himself more and more aware of himself but at the same time, less able to affect it. He was rapidly becoming a passenger to his own thoughts – a prisoner in his own mind.

- - - - - - -

   The blur of images began to slow; the passage of events became less predictable, more unknown. These were the ones he had run from, the events he had tried to forget. Now, he had to relive the pain he had caused, the hardship endured, and the relentless fatigue on his soul.

- - - - - - -

   The vision cleared, and Shep found himself in hand-to-hand combat with 3 soldiers, battling in some tribal building. 'Soldiers' would be a loose term – they were conscripts, barely trained and unarmed, dredged up from the sticks to fight a losing battle. Each was dressed head to toe in the black robes of a desert nomad, faces hidden from view, but their fear all too present.

   Shep dropped the first with a strike to the neck, sending him spluttering down, and immediately spun away from a poorly aimed kick. The third backed off, and ran at him screaming with rage. With practised precision, Shep grabbed him just before he struck and flipped him into the dusty floor, dropping his boot into the back of his attacker's head with a dull crunch.

   The last assailant lost all morale at seeing his comrades eliminated so efficiently, and dropped to his knees, head bowed. Shep took the hint, and dropped to a more relaxed stance, drawing his knife. Eager to see his attacker, he stepped forwards and seized the hood shrouding his face to reveal... adolescent!?! These weren't troops, not soldiers by any length of the word...just boys, called up to serve the cause. And Shep had...he had murdered them, an efficient, cold-blooded killer. Shocked, he dropped to his knees, adopting the same stance as the child before him. His vision blurred as he felt himself wracked by guilt, his humanity flooding back in an overwhelming self-loathing...when a blunt object struck him about the temple.

   Shep crumpled sideways, landing sprawled in the hot dust. He felt himself slowly slip into the realm of unconsciousness, a cold darkness spreading through his soul.

   Then the scene changed again. The cold darkness remained, soaking through every fibre of Shep's being. Gloved hands seized him by the ankles, and pulled him up to hang upside down. A voice in the background shouted something at him, to which he replied – what he replied, however, he couldn't determine. Everything, slightly, as if heard through a wall. Regardless, it can't have been preferable, as a boot quickly struck him about the side of the head. The cold, black sack did nothing to soften the blow, but it knocked some sense into him. The unseen interrogator began talking again, this time quieter.

   Nothing seemed to fit for Shep; he couldn't make out a single word this man was saying, but he knew exactly what to say in return. The exchange continued on for some time, to Shep it felt like hours.
   Eventually, the interrogator fell silent. Gloved hands untied his ankles, and he dropped painfully to the floor. Almost immediately, the interrogator removed the sack from his head, leaving him blinded by the fluorescent lights. In the dazzling white, he heard a few metallic noises before a piercing gunshot, then the slump of a body before him.

   Fatigued, he fell limp and let the light wash over him. Soon, he felt the dull warmth of sun-baked sand, and pulled his gaze away from the blistering sun to oversee an armoured convoy, rolling past in the distance. Zooming in, he picked out the flag flown from the lead tank, suddenly feeling a colossal pang of dread.
   The darkness intensified as the characteristic howl of three F-42 Gryphon jets roared over head, and then he watched on in horror as their chain guns ripped through the convoy. No sooner had they struck, they had departed, leaving nothing but ruined vehicles and rising smoke as a sign of their presence. Stunned, he found himself immobile, locked by grief. In the distance, the thrum of a Samson SA-2 was drowned out by a sudden gust of wind, whipping up the sand around him.

   When the sand settled, he found himself scanning the skies with an RPG...the target became available, and he fired with murderous conviction. The vision seemed to blur past, as Shep rushed headlong towards the crash site. His next moments played out in slow motion, as he watched the sparkle of an exposed watch explode into glittering fragments. Physically drained, and mentally hollow, he rolled onto his back and let the light overcome what remained of him...falling through the void of his own mind.

- - - - - - - - - -

Hell's Gate Medical Facility
0330 hrs

"Sheppard! SHEPPARD!!" John shouted, horrified as the soldier before him screamed with terror, "Steve, what the f*** is wrong with this guy!?!"

"I don't know sir, I just don't know," replied his assistant, ever calm under pressure, "whatever it is, it ain't good."

"Well get me some sedative or something, he's gonna wake up half the-" said John, cut off abruptly as Shep suddenly fell quiet.

   The two medics looked on anxiously as Shep stared blankly ahead, face devoid of emotion and eyes wild. With frightening speed, Shep's hand shot out and seized the pistol-shaped temperature scanner off John's belt – they had removed his assorted weaponry earlier, as a precaution – and raised it to the side of his head.

"s***..." John said, breaking the silence, "Sedate him. Now."

"Yes boss..."

- - - - - - - - - -

Unknown location
Indeterminate time

   Shep suddenly found himself seated at a blank table, with an annoyingly bright light shining in his face. A four-fingered, striped blue hand placed a loaded pistol on the table before him, before a familiar voice spoke up.

"Your turn, Sheppard."

   Slowly, he picked up the revolver and raised it to his temple, pulling back the firing hammer with a dull click. For a few moments he sat completely still, finger hovering over the trigger. Without warning, a seeping happiness began to flow through him, thickening his senses and darkening the vision.

"No," he stated, replacing the gun on the table, "Not yet."

   The hidden form said nothing, looking on as darkness overcame Sheppard; like falling through treacle, Shep fell off the chair and into the endless dark.
'Look at that dot. That's here. That's home. That's us...on a mote of dust, suspended in a sunbeam' - Carl Sagan


Ray'iun's camp

Tseylian and Ray'iun spoke until the sky grew light with the sun.  Ray'iun's warriors had given the two some space, and they had taken full advantage of it.  Ray'iun found that the conversation came easily to him, and he was soon reliving old memories, adventures that they had had as children, and songs that they had made up on the days when the snows had blown too fiercely for any of the younger Sengtsil to be outside.

But when the rays of the sun began to filter through the leafy canopy, Tseylian's obligations came back to her, and she leaped up and swung herself up onto the back of Kinä.  "Makto ko!" she cried, making tsaheylu with the white creature and taking to the sky.  Ray'iun called to his pongo and soon they, too, were in the sky, racing to catch up to Tseylian.

As Kinä flew, Tseylian found herself distracted by the thought of facing the Omatikaya.  Surely they were awake by now.  Did they wonder if she had simply disappeared?  She urged the ikran to fly faster, just in case.


And it was not long until Kinä's shadow fell on the large root network of Kelutral.  They wheeled and swooped and came to a landing not far from the gathering place.

Breaking their bond, Tseylian stroked the head of her ikran, and scanned the skies.  Soon, pongo Ray'iun landed nearby, their ikrans shaking their heads as the last bits of apprehension flowed across the bonds before their riders broke tsaheylu.

Tseylian took a deep breath and walked into the heart of the Omatikaya camp, her head held high.  Oeyä eylan oehu lu, she thought.  <Whatever is happening back at home, they will come, and we will face it together.>

"Ma oeyä eylan," she addressed them, her voice ringing through the clearing, drawing the attention of the Omatikaya.  "Oel pxiset kä nekelku Sengtsilä.  Pesu oehu kä?"

Nef'Tys had been running towards the Sengtsil woman since the first tones of her voice hit the young Omatikaya's ears.  "Oel kä!" she shouted in reply, raising a fist into the air.  More voices joined hers, as all who Tseylian had chosen to accompany her began to rise and come forward.

Tseylian reached out a hand to clasp Nef'Tys' arm in a gesture of solidarity.  "Makto ko!" screamed Nef'Tys eagerly, lost for the moment in the excitement.  Tseylian simply nodded, watching the others join them.  She took a deep breath, steeling herself for whatever may come.
Fitseng lu oe, tìftia kìfkeyä seri.

Tsamsiyu Atsteu


(many apologies for not being active! School evil!)

Tsamsiyu had been up early, making preparations with the others that were set to accompany Tseylian. Now, they were moving out. She had wanted to say goodbye to Oscar, but there hadn't been time for that, something the young warrior-healer found herself regretting. Odd. Well, he was her charge, and she his healer. She only hoped he would be smart enough to remember her instructions and the salve. If not, Tsamsiyu would have much work to do indeed when she came back.

"Makto ko!" she heard Nef'Tys cry out.

It was time to go.
To live in the past is to die in the present.

Lehrrap Uniltìranyu


Jax knew it was time to go.

His mind was spinning. There were so many questions yet unanswered, so much that had been done, undone, broken, and fixed. The whole world was spinning like a top, and no matter what happened next, it would keep spinning.

Nef'tys' shout rang out across Hometree, and he made his way down from the top branch that he had started to come to again and again, his little escape from the rest of the world, from the rest of the People. It was time to leave.

"Funny... everywhere I go it seems I just can't stay and settle down." Jax muttered to himself, looking back at the sky before he leaped down hometree, reaching the bottom as quick as he could as everyone packed up to leave. He grabbed his little set of gear and took a deep breath.

It was time to go.

-Chapter End-

"Ta'em 'eko!!!"
"Better to have fought and died then never to have fought at all"
Bionic Arms and Pandora, The most read FanFic on! Read it here! -Shameless self promotion-