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Old 06-03-2010, 12:00 AM
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Default My Time On Pandora.

My time on Pandora

Part 1

I sit here with a serious decision.

How I got here is fairly straightforward; all my choices.

It started when I was in college. I had always been interested in plants, probably from my mom and her flower garden. I inheirited her love of plants, if not her green thumb, and followed that with my major study in botany.

I didn't want just a job; I wanted to do something, to make a difference. I know, every naive idealist does. But I thought I could. With our ecological problems, I thought plant innovations were a real possibility.

My ideas jelled for my Master's thesis. Since some plants had higher tolerences for the chemicals and toxins in the air and water, if we spliced the genes for tolerence into cereals, we could increase the arable land, and harvests, to fight the famines.

The unique methods I suggested got the attention of industry, and I even had a job offer with one agrotech firm, before they filed bankruptcy.

With the economy squeezing the job market, and some money left in my grant, I hedged my bets, gong back to school to work on a teaching degree. My intention became to stay in the collegiate world, get a fellowship, and teach botany while continuing my research.

Teaching botany todays is as much science as it is history, what with so many plants threatened or extinct. Some plants are only found in conservatories.

Sad.

A word to the wise; in the collegiate world, the old saying "Publish or perish." is really true. With my research yielding little results, and money drying up, I had to consider a new direction.

I remember the day very well. A noted professor had just died. Some fifty years earlier he had made some dire predictions concerning the environment, and was roundly criticized as alarmist and anti-capitalist. The wealthy corporations paid for a blistering p.r. campaign to discredit him, and most people bought it. Except everything he predicted came to pass.

Funny how nothing's a problem until it's a catastrophe.

A commemoration of him was interrupted by right-wing nuts and corporate shills, all claiming things were better than we were told. Or could see. No man more blind, etc. Whatever. It was too depressing and frustrating to sit through, so I headed off to the union.

A corporate recruiting day was going on, and when the RDA guys found out that I had a botany degree, plus some genetics and education, they came after me hard. Wanted me to go to Pandora. Some new avatar program.

HAH!

I had read the news. Many people on Pandora, both scientist and soldier, came home in bags. As dangerous a place as known, and a six year trip.

But, they said, this new program made thing safer, and showed real potential. Imagine all to be discovered on a new world. Plus. the pay was beyond anything I could get elsewhere.

Now, I'm from earth, had always been there, and still had aims on improving it. But, after weighing the opportunities, and listening to some very persuasive arguements, I bit.

They explained the whole Avatar concept, which intrigued me greatly. I was to be the vanguard of a whole new "winning hearts and minds campaign". As a step halfway between Humans and Na'vi, we could help cultivate better relations by interacting at their level. They drew some blood, and some marrow stem cells (ouch), and started growing my Na'vi body. It was some fascinating, cutting edge science, and I was there at the beginning, just as they were pefecting the link. I spent a few months as guinea pig to prove the stability of the link, and tweak the performance of the link chamber. We were ready.

Off to Pandora.

It was all very exciting, even thrilling, until I got there.

It took about five seconds to conclude I had made a horrible mistake. Swap a polluted atmosphere for a toxic one, and rude humans for hostile Na'vi, with the added plus of vicious wildlife.

I was ready to ship home until I saw the Avatar lab, and saw my boy, my...me.

Wow.

This might be interesting.

And the compamy had to get something out of the investment it made in me.

My intrigue was tempered with dubiousness over how it wold work, and any long term effects on my brain. I was told that by coming to Pandora, I had already shown some brain damage.

All of the link testing and simulations do not prepare you for for how it is to inhabit your avatar; you are submerged in a 360 full sensory virtual reality. But not virtual; really real. It's like a dream that exists. It is bizarre and fantastic. You wake up, and you are 3 meters tall. With a tail! And BLUE!

I don't get the queue.

Stepping outside was a new experience; the air was fresh, not acrid, the sky was blue, not brown, and the trees were green. Most trees on Earth were a sickly grey from the pollution.

Just breathing was novel, as the company made sure everyone knew to never go outside without a breathing mask. And here I stood, with no gear.

We were going to be part of a two-pronged approach to Na'vi diplomacy: avatars in the schools, and working with humans in the field.

The RDA base has a large garden to maintain a supply of fresh food; Earth plants though. There are many native plants that could potentially be new crops, but most haven't been tested. Only a few large fruits are know safe.

As a botanist, I expected to be in charge of the garden, but that was left to the horticulturalists; my job was to help catalog the native flora.

As a field avatar, my part of my task was to be seen by the natives, working with humans, and hopefully easing their hostile attitude, as the teaching avatars tried to win over the younger generations.

Much of the plantlife on Pandora looks familiar; apparently, chlorophyll is chlorophyll no matter what planet. But the scale is stunning; five times or more what one would expect. Small ferns look like Gunnera, and large ferns look like palmettos. Flowers 2-3 meters in size. Trees 750 meters tall and up! Most things are startlingly colored. And a lot of blue. This planet (moon, really) looks like a real life version of Earth during it's Jurrassic or Cretaceous period.

An effect I should mention is that the Na'vi physiology differs greatly for humans. Their bone and muscle density is substantially more than humans, along the lines of a chimpanzee. And just as the spindly looking arms of a chimp are times stronger than a humans, so are the spindly looking arms of the Na'vi times stronger than ours. This causes the problem in that when a driver links into his avatar, he wakes up bigger and much stronger. Yes, one has to be careful not to break things, but more troubling is the feeling of invincibility. The Na'vi grow up like this, and know their limits, but we don't.

This arrogance led us to go on expeditions with fewer guards, allowing more to guard the mining efforts. The early success emboldened us to greater distances, and eventually to night expeditions.

Pandora is a different planet whenever you step outside, but just as you get used to it you go out at night, and it's a whole different world all over again.

Night on Pandora isn't really dark, like Earth night. Because of the multiple suns, and the angle between them and the primary planet, light is always being reflected onto Pandora. Dark is more like dusk, with a constant blue glow. And somewhere in Pandora's distant past, maybe because of the lack of truly dark nights, plants developed bioluminescence. On Earth, bioluminescence is limited to animals; some insects and deep water fish. But here, nearly everything glows at night.

It is awe-inspiring. Stunning.

And also distracting.

Which is how I got killed. Well, my avatar. While I was linked.

My arrogance in my new strength caused me to lower my guard, and the awe of the planet distracted me from the threat of nocturnal hunters.

Like the viperwolves.

They bear no relation to Earth wolves, other than they hunt in packs. And they are pretty good at it.

I was set upon by a pack of them, and was completely unprepared. They tore into me, tore being the optimal word. Claws like razors, and teeth like daggers.

And I felt it all.

Back at the station, all they knew was that every sensory and stress monitor pegged off the chart.

I didn't even think to break link.

I was screaming like anything when they pulled me out of the chamber. The dream-like state of the link beacame a living nightmare, as I was being devoured. "They're eating me!!" And they were.

I became the first avatar to die.

A dubious record.

About that whole living nightmare; when one has a real nightmare, the images quickly fade upon waking, but these weren't images, they were memories. And I can't shake them, even thought they didn't happen to me, but I lived them. I would wake up in a cold sweat all the time after that, reliving the whole attack, and grabbing for wounds I don't have.

It was three days before I could leave my bunk, and months of therapy have me functional again.

I would have left Pandora forever right then, but it was a few weeks before the next shuttle, so I had to deal there.

My six-year gig over in three-and-a-half months.

However, this fatality opened up a number of opportunities.

Primary is that we had the first chance to dissect a Na'vi, if only a partial one. No real Na'vi had been dissected, only non-invasive scans like CTs, MRIs and such. Blood and biopsy samples had been taken. They would not let us touch their dead. It's strange; the Na'vi are very spiritual people, and the bodies spirit goes to Eywa, when the borrowed 'energy' is returned. But, despite the body being seen as an empty vessel, the funeral is wrapped up in much ceremony and ritual that won't be changed.

We have since had dead Na'vi bodies to investigate after relations soured. But this was the first.
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  #2  
Old 06-03-2010, 12:01 AM
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EywaBlessMe Disillusioned Tawtute (but you can call me Vawmpay)
 
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Part 2

After the attack, the support security killed or drove off the viperwolves, and recovered the avatar. They asked me if I wanted to watch the dissection, but I refused. It was kinda like if a vet asked you if you wanted to watch your dog's necropsy. Assuming you lived in your dog.

Since I had no more role, I asked what I was supposed to do, and Dr. Augustine said, with my teaching background, I should work in the school, with the youngest Na'vi, until decisions were made. I could barely speak Na'vi, but at their age, they didn't speak it any better.

The situation was this: they could grow a new avatar for me, but that would mean another 6 years of cooling my heels on Pandora; if I left, it would be a 6 year trip home in cryo; sort of a 6 of one, half-dozen of the other. The former meant doubling RDA's investment in me, and the latter meant little return on the present investment.

I felt like a fifth wheel, useless. I was wondering what I would do for another 6 years, when shortly thereafter, my role revealed itself: substitute for fallen comrades. Pandora is a dangerous place, and people get killed often. Now, I knew that, but because I was so wrapped up in my job, I didnt pay attention to the daily logs. When I had the free time, I became aware of how regular our losses were. So, I would spend a few hours at the school, and a few hours covering for people who had been killed, people I knew.

I developed a new respect for Pandora.

Not necessarily a good one. Living with a siege mentality is fatiguing.

But this place is truly fascinating, with new discoveries practically under every rock. New pages yet to be turned.

So I chose to stay.

One thing I learned while working in the school is that the avatar program, for all its intentions, may have been a misstep. The Na'vi saw the avatars as 'false people'. They call them "dreamwalkers", understanding how they are empty shells, linked to humas. Some even saw them as demons in fake form, part of a strategy of deception. The may have looked upon the humans with derision and suspicion, but they looked upon the avatars with hatred. Only the young in the schools seemed to be accepting of them.

They were amused with me. I fear I wasn't a good teacher.

But we tried.

Our hope was to form some relationship with the children, and then with the adults through their children.

And at best, we balanced out the damage done by the miners, and their security.

Mining is never an easy industry; there is no clean and safe was to get to things under the surface. And there are some very interesting things under Pardora's surface. The mineral wealth is staggering, and it pays for all the science we're doing here. It's a destructive necessity. But whereas we humans understand and accept mining, the Na'vi are deeply offended by the damage we do. I think this gulf is part of the divergent cultures, and a mutual antagonism. We see them as backwards, and they see us as destructive.

Much of this antagonism is linked to the religious vies of the Na'vi, and the complete dismissal of it by most humans. I never bought ito it, but I also never tried to push my views on them. If you don't respect other peoples views, then why should they respect yours? And they treat the land itself as an aspect of Eywa.

The more the Na'vi fought against the mining operations, the more RDA brought in security to push back against the Na'vi. The Na'vi are hard to kill, and humans are easy, but we have big guns.

And the bodies started falling.

If we had any positive effect from the school, I'm afraid I didn't see it. It seemed negligible, and relations retreated with every death. Fewer and fewer children began attending, and more and more teachers began cancelling their classes when a few were killed.

Eventually the schools were closed. They were deemed unsafe, as no security could be spared to protect the teachers, and all humans were restricted to base when off mission.

Spending so much more time on base allowed me to interact with the other people outside of my job, and that was not a good thing. The humans were really broken into four cliques: the scientists, security, miners, and RDA administration. The security were all ex-military mercenaries; they viewed us as pointy-headed wimpy nerds, and we viewed them as trigger-happy morons. We had a mutual condescension. The only time we agreed was how we both disliked the greedy and heartless micromanagers from RDA.

The RDA has the typical corporate monoculture, where the bottom line is the only line. Maintain a profit oriented groupthink. I dislike using the word 'realpolitik', but after seeing the attitude towards the Na'vi, well.... results over ethics.

This headlong attitude that rocks trump natives living in trees, and the total inconsideration for their sacred sites, lead directly to the conflict.

So the Na'vis fighting back was no real surprise.

I took no part in the uprising. I am no soldier. I'll leave war to the warriors. I know that so humans chose to support the Na'vi's cause, and if they believed they were right, good for them.

I didn't expect it to end well, and while it didn't, I didn't expect them to win. When the whole planet turned against the humans, I began to reconsider this whole Eywa thing.

Eywa was done having the planet despoiled. No more mining, no more soldiers, no more RDA. The victorious Na'vi chose to evict all the humans.

Well, almost all. A select few were chosen to stay.

And I am one.

Which is where I am now, with a difficult choice. I'm human, and my home is Earth. No matter what shape. Pandora is beautiful, but dangerous, and not my home. And what about a relationship, or a family. My only companionship has been other Lab Rats, and none of that has long term potential. I can stay, and study, and be lonely, or return to a populated but dying world I will not have seen for 19 years.

I've got a lot to think about.
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  #3  
Old 06-03-2010, 12:23 AM
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Epic so far.
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"You know what, World? You got me cornered again,
I'm gonna role another joint."
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  #4  
Old 06-07-2010, 10:05 PM
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EywaBlessMe Disillusioned Tawtute (but you can call me Vawmpay)
 
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I'm glad you like it, I just wish more people would read it, and leave their comments.
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  #5  
Old 06-08-2010, 06:38 PM
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post deleted
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  #6  
Old 06-09-2010, 06:11 AM
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Pretty good
Are you going to continue with the story?
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Old 06-09-2010, 03:17 PM
Eylan
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I just finished reading this last night, and I must say...Wow. You've really put things in a different perspective. I really like the ending. The characterization is really something.
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  #8  
Old 06-10-2010, 09:41 PM
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EywaBlessMe Disillusioned Tawtute (but you can call me Vawmpay)
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Helicoradian View Post
Pretty good
Are you going to continue with the story?
Since the story ends just before where the movie ends, I'd have to say that the story is complete, and any continuation would be forging ground that may be wrong and non-cannonical
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  #9  
Old 06-18-2010, 05:02 AM
Hapxtu
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So what? If the next movie (which is a long way away) contradicts your stuff, just consider it AU. Really, all the post movie stuff is about guessing which way it will go, fleshing out the possible futures.

Go on with the story, please.

Last edited by joeylovesgaia; 07-31-2010 at 05:38 PM.
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