Author's Notes: This is just an epilogue, so you can consider it optional, but I figure some will want to know how things played out in the end.
Corrosion lined the worn halls of Hope Station, lack of maintenance finally taking its toll on the old base. Lights flickered in Ops, most of the stations long dead. Only the holographic display still worked, tracing the outline of the ancient Hometree, destroyed so long ago. Every detail was there in shimmering light just as it was thirty years before, a monument in time hovering in the air. Vines grew just outside the window, the metal and glass unable to hold back the relentless advance of the forest beyond.
Trudy's footfalls echoed across the command deck, every step seeming to disturb the ghosts of this place, the faces of those long-dead, the memories of a people light-years away. Her fingers slid along the railing of the holo-projector, recounting its surface by memory alone. Her eyes caught every detail of the floating tree she had refused to destroy so long ago. A smile crossed her weathered features, satisfaction at a job well done, another mission completed. As she stood over the ops console, she reached for her knife, carving the name of her new people in the metal. It was appropriate.
For a moment her eyes lingered on the outline of her Samson, and a single tear worked its way down her cheek, lingering for a moment before falling to the worn metal deck below. She remembered everything that happened, the wave of memory coming at he all at once like a tidal wave. She never would have allowed anyone else to see her like this, but alone at last, she could let her fearsome guard down. Trudy had prepared for this day for some time, setting up her own little camp with exopack filters and air-tight off-site containers among the Omaticaya, the first human accepted in to the tribe as an equal. She had returned here less frequently over the years, mostly to just raid for supplies, but there was nothing else she needed. She would not be coming back. Yet even then, she knew she would return here in her dreams, even as these halls rusted away to nothingness, rejoining the soil and life it had helped to destroy and preserve.
"Goodbye." She whispered, turning on her heels. A worn and faded sign advised personnel to watch power usage and shutdown unnecessary systems. And she did so. Hope Station died for the final time, her lights dimming, her systems shutting down one at a time, finally as lifeless as the dirt upon which she rested. The hologram flickered, the tree within shifting, wavering in the air before vanishing forever. But the former pilot was already gone, heading towards her new life, out there, in the wild in which part of her had always dwelt.
Years turned into decades, and finally to over a century, by the ancient Earth reckoning. RDA never returned to Pandora, falling into bankruptcy shortly after ISV Capital Star arrived home. It was the largest single bankruptcy filing in human history, a record which has not been broken since. Her great starships were broken up for the unobtainium held within their antimatter cores, the structurally deficient Capital Star being the first to reach the scrapper's torch. Ultimately her sisters shared her fate, never sailing the stars again.
It was the end of humanity's first foray beyond her home, but it wouldn't be her last. The incredible expense, the envelope that was pushed to its ultimate limit, had produced the mammoth starships at the very earliest moment they were within technological reach. Mankind had spared no expense on the great monsters, it had poured every resource, every grand idea into the project, some calling it Earth's last hope. After RDA fell apart, there was no one to expend such amounts of capital, and humanity confined itself to the solar system for nearly a century. There was talk of returning to Pandora, rumors of the lost colony of humanity out there in the stars, but that was all that came of it. Earth's fragile economy crashed, most of her factories closing their doors, her population living on the brink of starvation, her biosphere a radioactive and chemical waste. Many governments collapsed, and even the most powerful corporations felt the terrible squeeze.
Somehow, Pandoran trees began sprouting in the contaminated soil, ideally suited to such a toxic environment, coming as they did from a planet with equally deadly things in its atmosphere. At first there were only a few and botanists suggested that some trooper had probably accidentally brought the seeds on the heel of his boot. After awhile, it became apparent that the plantings were deliberate, but no one ever found out who had done the deed. After a century of growth, the plants bred rapidly and had spread across the globe, measurably decreasing the toxins in the atmosphere and the soil, cleaning a planet soiled by her own children's petty squabbles. The global economy began to recover as crops sprouted again in the bread basket of the world. Surviving animals in the wild, once pressed to the brink of extinction, began to recover. No one could explain these things, but they happened nonetheless.
Factories reopened, but this time humanity was prepared, miniaturization greatly reducing the scale of resource consumption. Eventually, methods were invented to synthesize room temperature superconductors, obviating the need for unobtainium mining. Ships began reaching for the stars once again. Pandora was the logical first destination and Earth's people worked hard to built the first new starship in a century. The Nautilus sailed forth from her recovering homeworld, reaching the Alpha Centauri system in 2261. It was the dawn of a new era in space exploration for mankind.
Nautilus managed to locate the ruins of extrasolar colony 01, finding the place an abandoned, lifeless hulk of decaying metal. Archaeologists poured over the wreckage, concluding that about thirty years after Venture Star had quit the planet, the colony had failed. There was much debate among scientific circles as to exactly what caused the failure. Some thought the exopack masks were inherently flawed and had failed with time. Others thought the base's power source had fallen out of alignment, forcing the survivors out among the Na'vi natives. The only clue to support that theory was the carved name of a local tribe, the "Omaticaya," in the administration complex. Computer data had long since degraded, but forensic data analysts managed to salvage a few video logs from the infamous Jake Sully.
The log data had caused an instant uproar on Earth. Textbooks were rewritten, history was undeniably altered. Mankind's first failed colony had long since ascended into myth and legend, conspiracy theorists and amateur historians concocting wild theories about Jake Sully's rebellion against RDA. Writers began to treat the so-called race-traitor in a more sympathetic light, as a man who had fought against corruption of the RDA mega-corporation at the highest levels, trying to save an innocent people from the exploitation of an entrenched bureaucracy.
As for the Na'vi themselves, they were very wary of the so-called "Sky People," giving them a wide berth at first. But some were found to speak a curious dialect of English. Somehow, they had maintained some proficiency in the language long after the colony had vanished. After a time, a few came forward, helping mankind build its second permanent settlement on the planet, this one far more successful. Extrasolar Colony 02 was a highly profitable trading post for native art and medicine. Of all things, the local population was fascinated with Earth music and paid well in art and new plant and chemical samples for the simple musical instruments shipped there. It was an unusual but highly profitable venture and the Extrasolar Colony Company thrived, diversifying into advanced pharmaceuticals and collectable Na'vi art.
The natives became very respectful of the newcomers over time, but always watched them carefully. Some xenobiologists suggested that some of the Na'vi looked rather too human-like, that perhaps some of the colony Avatars had been bred with them, but most considered this far-fetched and ridiculous. The mystery of Colony 01 would never be conclusively solved to anyone's satisfaction. They called it the riddle of the Omaticaya, it was almost as mysterious as the old English colony of Roanoke back on old Earth.
Susan Dravis rode her hovercraft further, wind tossing her long brown hair all around her, tugging at her air mask. She was following the directions on the ancient, yellowed map passed on from generation to generation. As a child, she never had faith in the family legends, but in accordance with the will of her great-grandfather, the last man to leave Pandora, she carried the ceremonial knife with her. The Extrasolar Colony Company had granted her the honor of taking the first step onto Pandoran soil and as her craft flew onwards, she began to believe those old tales. A single tree, much larger than the descriptions, loomed in front of her, reaching for the heavens. Impossibly tall, blue-skinned natives were everywhere, watching her suspiciously, warding her away, threatening her with their bows.
"I have come to return this." She stated in English, bowing low, offering the knife.
Warriors skittered aside in shock, clearing a path forward. A truly ancient Na'vi stood before her, leaning heavily on a long wooden cane, the others watching him with barely restrained awe. Lines criss-crossed the alien's face, folds of blue skin looking as if it would simply fall away from the bones underneath. Somehow the weathered, craggy face looked familiar.
"Thanks, friend." The alien said simply in her language, with no strange accent at all. He reached for the knife, placing it within a scabbard shaped perfectly for it, just as if it had never left at all.
Jake Sully lay down in his hammock, smiling broadly as he drifted off to sleep. Memories of Neytiri stirred in his foggy mind, of her beautiful form, her smiling face, so much like their daughter's. She was calling to him again, accusing him of being a skxawng, laughing at him, teaching him the ways of the forest. His old friends were there too, beckoning him onward, explaining that his mission was complete, that he could come home, to them and to Eywa. All around him, he felt Eywa's comfort and her gratitude. Yes, he thought, it is time to come home.
There were a few questions & concerns from some readers along the way, and I have addressed a few of them here.
1. Why would Jake want to destroy the railgun, rather that keep it as an anti-ship defensive weapon?
Jake is looking at this from a Na'vi perspective. He wouldn't want the weapon or responsibility for it. Besides which, though Capital Star can fire a mass-round down into the planet, it is a very different matter to shoot one up into orbit. The former only requires a round capable of withstanding reentry, where the latter requires a railgun powerful enough to lob projectiles over escape velocity. Such weapons are theoretically possible, but the implication is that this is a smaller-scale railgun, used more like a traditional mortar, simply with much greater range and accuracy.
2. Why is Norm so hesitant to transfer to his avatar body permanently?
Jake had an easy decision when it came to this. Being a cripple in love with a Na'vi princess makes the decision an exceptionally simple one. But for Norm, in a perfectly decent human body with no such mate, it is a thing he has to come to terms with more gradually. Obviously he does, eventually, but it makes sense for this process to take longer with him. For that matter, it would probably happen with most of the Avatar drivers left behind on Pandora sooner or later.
3. How can Na'vi breath inside Capital Star and the Ops complex?
Humans lungs can't deal with the toxins in the Pandoran atmosphere. The reverse is not necessarily true. I have taken the view that Na'vi breathe oxygen just like we do, it is only that their bodies are adapted to handling the other gasses in Pandora's atmosphere. They don't NEED those gasses to survive, they just have the ability to withstand them. Earth's atmosphere is actually predominantly Nitrogen, but we don't need it to breathe. We just need the oxygen. Same concept.
4. Why is Trudy so sadistic in some scenes?
She isn't. I take the view that Trudy intentionally projects a tough/crazy-bitch/sadistic attitude as a defensive mechanism. At heart, she's quite the softy, obviously unwilling to slaughter Na'vi in the movie, and willing to sacrifice much to defend them in this story. She does, however, enjoy sticking it to the man. And with Major Edmund's taunting, it is certainly easy to understand her satisfaction at eliminating him. Maybe it's just me, but I think calling her a "chica" is a thing one would probably regret sooner rather than later.
5. Why are the humans able to injure Neytiri so easily on board Capital Star?
Zero-G combat would be very different than anything on the ground. Na'vi are stronger and faster, but their muscle density is actually lighter than that of a human due to Pandora's lower gravity. Pound-for-pound, Na'vi are probably weaker than man, but of course they more than make up for this with sheer size, ending up far stronger overall. Unfortunately for them, size is not necessarily an asset in zero gravity. That said, Neytiri is still an experienced hunter and possesses a certain natural grace. Though injured in the process, she still dispatches her human opponent, more through ability than physical strength.
6. Why does Capital Star show up so early?
The implication here is that RDA executive management wanted to smuggle in the railgun and took advantage of the first available opportunity to do so, shipping out Capital Star ahead of schedule. Incidentally, this is also why there is an executive on board in the first place. Someone has to deal with the possible political ramifications of disobeying major Earth treaties.
7. Why didn't Trudy just ram the railgun earlier to begin with?
Because it was shooting at her. Trudy figured (correctly) that with Carlson busy trying to negotiate with and/or kill Jake, he wouldn't be watching the gun. At any time up until the moment she crashed into it he could have flipped on the weapon and blown her and the shuttle to space. Part of this is due to the fact that the weapon was rigged onto the ship to begin with. A proper warship might have some sort of automatic warning that an enemy is trying to do this, or some computer control that automatically fires at a hostile target within a certain range. Of course, Capital Star is anything but a proper warship.
PM me with any other questions and I might post the answers here.
8. The Story ends abruptly, what of Norm & Pey'lal's child? What of the future of Jake & Neytiri? What happened during those 100 years anyway?
I may write a sequel addressing, but it will be a vastly different kind of story. I introduced a few original characters here, mostly as antagonists, but the crucial OC is Captain Dravis. Though he assists our protagonists in the battle, his real contribution is bringing the story (and the seeds) home to Earth. One can almost imagine him telling the story to his grandchildren.
Despite all of the internal descriptions, this is a story told from the perspective of Earth. Thus when Capital Star breaks orbit and heads home, the story as we know it mostly comes to an end. Because of the subsequent recolonization a century later, Earth understands scattered glimmerings, through the archaeological record, like Trudy's carving of "Omaticaya" in Ops. So the Epilogue is an Earth-centric thing, describing the story of Pandora as THEY know it. Once the new colony ship reaches Pandora, the perspective resumes, but Earth has only guesses as to what happened during those intervening years.
Essentially, I purposely modeled this story on the Lost Colony of Roanoke. To me, Avatar is a modern throwback to the earliest days of the Colonial Era, when North America might as well have been an alien planet to the peoples of Europe. Norm & Pey'lal's child is not so different from Virgina Dare. Does anyone truly know what happened to her? I'm a fan of future-history stories, and it reflects in my work.
9. How is Jake still alive a century later?
His body was relatively new, grown in a laboratory environment. It's like resetting your biological clock, so to speak. The age of Jake's mind might be something like 130 years, but his body was that of, say, a 105 year old. It is implied that Na'vi lifespans are similar to humans, and though 105 is an extreme age for a human, it's not an unreachable one, there are many documented cases of people reaching that age. One might also suspect Eywa has a hand in this, keeping him alive to guide the Na'vi until the return of the Sky People, to prepare them for a more peaceful coexistence.
Think of it like this. The Na'vi remain the Na'vi, but with just a little bit of human influence, between Jake's immense clout and the fusion of the survivors with the Omaticaya. Genetically, a tiny piece of human DNA (from the hybrid Avatars) would have mixed in. A tiny bit of human cultural influence would mix in too, along with the language.
Conversely, Earth is restored by the actions of Eywa, manifesting in the growth of a Pandoran tree-network there. Earth is cleansed somewhat and Humanity gains just a little bit of influence from Pandora. There is the appreciation of their art (from the epilogue), the growth of the restored ecosystem, Dravis' influence after returning home and the lessons learned from RDA's failure.
In other words, in the movie, Man and Na'vi have almost no common ground. But by the time the Extrasolar Colony Company arrives a century later, there is just enough common ground to get along, to trade and coexist. Maybe it is coincidence, maybe it is the design of Eywa (as I imply), but in any case, it solves a great many problems.