Part 2 - горький Reflection

    The день after it happened, the bright light of morning was the only thing that made all of it real. Burying her hadn't made it real. Explaining it to my son hadn't made it real. Waking up without her made it real. And nothing anyone сказал(-а) to me made it okay. I had no one else to blame but myself. There was no enemy to strike. There was no revenge to be had, no message to be sent. I had been the culprit this time, and I ended up paying for it in еще ways than anyone can possibly imagine. Least of all me.

    I couldn't concentrate anymore. I couldn't think anymore. I was the leader of one of the strongest clans to survive a alien invasion, but I wasn't strong enough to face this. It felt insanely backward, like I was still dreaming, and the dream had become a nightmare. Mo'at was much еще resilient than I'd дана her credit, and she was able to advise within the hours that had followed. But I was a wreck. I didn't want to do anything. And no one could coax me out of my hole. Not even my own son.

    "We have to hunt now, Ma sempul," he сказал(-а) to me, his English getting better every day. That was something Neytiri had insisted upon. With Humans still nearby, friendly или not, we'd wanted our child to know their ways. She called it Fya ka, which loosely meant The Way Across. A Bridge.

    But I didn't feel like hunting. I didn't feel like standing или walking, breathing and crawling. I felt useless. After ten years, I'd learned to live with her so fiercely that living without her seemed impossible, cruel, unreal. Unfair. And I didn't care who else got hurt in the process.

    "Ma sempul," he сказал(-а) softly, laying his hand over my shoulder. He was comforting me, and it made me feel even worse. His mother had just died, and he was trying to make me feel better. We'd both had her in our lives for pretty much the same amount of time. I had no right thinking my pain was greater than his.

    He touched my face, and I looked up into his face — a face that so greatly reminded me of her. I wasn't like the others in the clan. I hadn't grown up here, and though I'd carried their burdens for the last ten years, I still felt . . . Human. I was expected to pick myself up and go on, but I also wanted to grieve.

    Slowly, he lifted my hand to his, his five fingers mirroring mine as only his could, and gently, our fingers intertwined. I realized it was now my responsibility to care for him and teach him and protect him until he could protect himself. He was only nine, but in Na'vi physiology, he was practically a teenager now. And he was almost two-thirds my size.

    I felt tears flow freely from my eyes for the first time in over ten years, and with a deep breath, I allowed him to pull me to my feet. We embraced, and then we stepped out into the light of dawn together. We were always going to be a team now, even when there were times when I had to be away from him. It was just going to be me and him, and that meant I couldn't wallow any more. I had to be strong, for my son.

    Mo'at, an imposing figure despite being almost a foot shorter than me, was waiting for me and my son, Thomas, as we both exited the base of what had become our new Главная ten years earlier. Time flows different here. Three months can feel like three years. Trust me. I know from experience. But despite the tragedy of losing her daughter, she was happy to see me.

    "Jakesully," she said, her deep voice hauntingly calming. "Oel ngati kameie."

    I bowed my head respectfully. After ten years, she, like Neytiri, had grown accustomed to my "Human" mannerisms. But after yesterday, I was mostly grateful she wasn't shooting огонь at me with her eyes — eyes that were, again, much like Neytiri's.

    "Do not mourn, Jakesully," she whispered to me, laying her hands over my shoulders gently. "She is with Eywa now. She is at peace."

    Though I still didn't want to accept it, I knew it was true. And there was no reason to dwell on it. With Mo'at speaking English to me now, it meant she was in a better mood than she had been the night before. She knew I tended to slip into a lot of old habits when I was distressed, and even after ten years, the Na'vi language was still a little difficult to stick with when I was distracted.

    "You are going hunting with your son?" she asked, turning her wise eyes to Thomas as he stood beside me.

    "As he insists we must," I began, turning my eyes to him as well, "then we will."

    Thomas bowed his head, but I could see a small smile ease across his face.

    Mo'at also bowed her head, grinning at him. "You will take hunters with you?" she asked me.

    "Of course," I agreed.

    "Then I will leave you."

    She released us to the forest, where three или four others were already pulling together a morning hunting party. Even though I was Olo'eyktan, I could still hunt, and I did have a, uh, student to teach. The hunting party was able to accommodate us quite nicely with a Pa'li of our own, and with little else, the six of us set off for a morning of hunting for that night's meal.

    With Thomas being so young, I'd left the flying to every other день scouting with older clan members. So for his sake, I rode with him and taught him what I knew, which wasn't as much as most everyone else in the clan. But it was enough for him. I wasn't much of a horse-man myself, but it was easier to hunt on the ground this way.

    The forest was still this morning, and for some reason, that put me on edge. I instinctively heard, saw and felt еще intensely when I couldn't even hear the birds and bugs in the trees around me. With our rides remaining behind so we could forge ahead toward our prey, I felt my body slide into auto. No thinking. Only feeling. Neytiri had taught me that. I would've never guessed it would have saved my life that day. But it did.

    I wasn't at my вверх game. I'll admit that. I was still distracted, and every little movement set me off. I made sure Thomas stayed within my senses, but far enough away so that I wouldn't unintentionally hurt him. The other hunters saw my behavior, but they сказал(-а) nothing. That's probably why they kept their distance as well. I was a wounded man, and I could see they didn't want me to get pissed off at the slightest noise made by the smallest creature.

    But it was this distraction . . . this off-feeling that allowed me to see something I wouldn't have seen otherwise. In the forest, many things glow and shimmer in the light, in ways no human eye could possibly see. Norm told me from experience that his Аватар body had been capable of hundreds еще things than his Human body. So it's possible I saw this because of my unique vantage point. But it was my Human memories that allowed me to see what I saw, because I was pretty sure there wasn't anything shiny in the forest. Not in the daytime.

    And it wasn't the usual shine of a blade или a machine gun. This shine could only come from one thing. Silver. And it caught my eye immediately. I called to the others, motioning for them to spread out away from the east where I'd seen the shine, and I beckoned Thomas to my side.

    "Stay close," I told him.

    I wasn't sure what I'd seen, but it felt strangely familiar. And I wanted my son to be безопасно, сейф while I investigated. The only way I could do that was to have him within arm's length. As soon as I felt him at my back, I advanced, holding my bow with both hands and crawling along the forest floor.

    The shine caught my eyes again, moving northeast, and I stayed on it, feeling a sudden flash of memories from less than a день earlier when Neytiri and I had been scouting away from Home. Suddenly, I realized why I'd become distracted. I'd seen this shine before. It had drawn my attention from my mate and allowed my entire world to be ripped apart.

    The rage I felt inside was enough to cause a growl to explode from my chest, and I ran toward the shine. I didn't care about my son anymore. I didn't care about the hunt anymore. I only wanted revenge. Whatever this shine belonged to, it deserved to die for the imbalance it had caused in my life. And it was going to pay.

    The forest drifted away as I tunneled in on my prey, and it flashed again, this time closer than it had been before.

    "Ma sempul!"

    My son's voice drifted away, and I forgot I wasn't alone. I forgot about everything but this. Everything else could wait.

    I raced вперед as fast as I could, arriving in a small clearing and becoming confused. I'd seen it come this way, and there was no way it could have gotten away. I turned three-hundred-sixty degrees, seeing my son at the edge of the clearing as he watched me with wide eyes. I realized that I'd scared him, and I felt embarrassment only a Human who'd just made a fool of himself could. But I wasn't Human, and that made it even worse. I moved toward him slowly, my hands out to Показать him I wasn't angry anymore, but I was less than three meters from him when I heard sticks and foliage break under light pressure.

    I stopped immediately, bringing my fingers to my lips so my son would know to be quiet. From what I could tell, the sounds had come from the north. I moved slowly, inhaling deep and feeling my body slip back into hunting mode. I had to be quiet and still if I was going to catch this thing. Whether it was an animal или something else, I was going to find it. After that, I wasn't sure anymore.

    Movement caused me to change course slightly, and Thomas joined me slowly until we were a pair again. I pulled my knife, inching вперед toward the movement, and I was sure it was close. I glanced at Thomas, but before I could speak, the brush in front of me exploded, and a blur of color shot out toward me, separating me from my son as I attempted to grab what had grabbed me. Ground and sky tumbled around me as green and blue and brown engulfed me, and as I came to rest with my back to the forest floor, I was immediately faced with the strangest looking creature.

    I overpowered it, grabbing limbs and pulling it away as it shrieked loud. My eyes adjusted to the fall, and I realized I was holding arms and pinning down legs that belonged to the body of a girl. But she wasn't like any girl I'd ever seen before — Human или Na'vi.

    She screamed, clawing at my face and pushing me away. But I was stronger than she was, and I caught her again, getting a closer look at her. She was probably two или two and half meters long from head to toe, easy. But what shocked me the most was her skin. She looked so strange.

    "Ma sempul!"

    Thomas appeared out of the brush with the others, but I held them off, ordering them to remain where they were. That's when I noticed the silver chain around her neck. She dug her fingernails into my wrists, and despite the pain, I held on, hissing in her face and thrashing her from left to right.

    She screamed again, her legs kicking at me and drawing my attention to her body. She was muscular, that was for sure. Then I saw her feet, noticing her five toes and then looking at her hands to see five fingers. This wasn't possible. She was no Avatar. She didn't look like the Na'vi. Her skin was the strangest thing. My Human memories kicked in at the worst time, and I was immediately thinking of what she looked like. The way her skin was, it made me think of a white tiger — black stripes and all. She wasn't completely blue like I was, but she wasn't completely розовый the way Humans were. And her eyes weren't topaz или sapphire, but glimmering emeralds.

    And then she yelled. "Away! Get away!"

    I was so shocked by her voice that I reflexively dropped her, and she fell to her hands and feet. She glared up at me, hissing back as she remained crouched to the ground. I couldn't speak, but the others with me rushed forward, immediately taking her captive. She screamed again, fighting them and punching one of them in the face before she shot off in the opposite direction.

    "Faketuan!" one of them yelled, retrieving his bow and pulling it taut. He was about to release it on her when I stopped him.

    "No! Don't!"

    I could see they were surprised by my reaction, but in several short minutes, my senses had changed directions. I had to find out еще about this creature. What was she? Why was she here? How was it possible for her to be here? There were parts of her that looked Human, and there were parts of her that looked Na'vi. As far as I knew and remembered, only Avatars had been grown by the program for racial interaction.

    "Thomas," I сказал(-а) to my son, and he was at my side instantly. "You will accompany me?"

    He looked at the others, hesitating before he stood up straight. "Yes."

    I turned my attention to the other hunters. "Makto kelku," I told them, gesturing back to the herd as it waited.

    They hesitated, as Thomas had, but after a minute, they turned and left without arguing. I was unsure what I was feeling или thinking, but I could handle this myself. In fact, I had to do this myself. No one else was capable of it.