Part 22, Andrei's path begins to converge with that of Jake Sully's
Andrei's mapping expedition was wound up two weeks after he bade farewell to Shodan. He had spent the fourteen days mapping the Hallelujah mountains, yet staying away from the epicenter of the flux vortex, as apparently that place was holy to the Na'vi, and that meant the planet had a vested interest in protecting it, so a direct reconnaissance there would be suicide. He had had his men explore mountains along the periphery, to the point that the mountains were known but not the ground. Andrei in his concluding report had marked it as 'likely extremely hostile, use utmost caution, if any path is to cleared for mining this region eventually the entire flux vortex should be expunged.' He did not like to take chances. He would have been sentimental about Pandora, if everything on it and possibly in it were not trying to kill him all the time. This had been on July 14th when he finally called it done, in accordance with the Colonel's orders. All the French employees had been celebrating Bastille day, and so there had been an agreeable dinner to go to when he was done. He had taken advantage of his three day furlough by sleeping a lot, playing computer games, and reading, in all how he wished he could spend his life. Andrei Semyonov did not like to work, but his job was one he liked, and he had comfortably settled back into his old desk job, working for the Colonel. To make matters even better, he learned the day he got back to his desk that the Colonel was grateful for the intelligence Andrei and his men had provided.
Andrei had been called in around midday on July 18th to the Colonel's office. The Colonel had been sitting at his desk, finishing some work, before he looked up at Andrei and smiled lightly "Relax, you do not have to be at attention all the time." Andrei had obeyed, but having his feet together was his natural posture. The Colonel had finished and looked up "In addition to what Jake has given us Lieutenant, your information has not only corroborated it, but even in many cases provided more than Jake. I would say that while he was busy learning to be one of them, you instead tried to understand them, and tried to make one of them understand us. The fact is that even though you succeeded in the latter, since your girl was held in such low regard by her people it makes no difference. We have a war ahead of us son." Andrei knew that the Colonel wanted to get to something else than a summary of his activities. "However your mapping expedition tells us a lot we need to know about our upcoming campaign. You will have to once again make the transition from bureaucrat to soldier Andrei. However I have every confidence you will manage the transition. You showed originality, courage, and skill in your mission, so did every one of your squad." Suddenly the Colonel beamed, something Andrei had never seen him do before "So in recognition of your services…" he then reached into a drawer, and pulled out nine separate plastic bags. "…I have decided to promote you all by one rank. Congratulations, Captain Semyonov." Andrei was surprised, and nearly overcome with joy, he had not expected this. Before he could stop himself he was shaking the Colonel's hand and said "Thank you sir, I request permission to immediately pass these promotions on to my men in person sir." Andrei let go of the Colonel's hand and the other man nodded his head, and gestured to the door "By all means, but be as quick as you can, there is still much work to be done." Andrei had come to attention "Yes sir", then he had turned and left, his heart soaring. All the men had been happy about being promoted, and were even happy to see Andrei had been promoted, congratulating him on his Captain's bars. It also meant his pay had gotten better. People on Pandora earned six times the pay of their earth counterparts. Whereas on Earth he would be earning $40,000 a year, at the end of this month he would draw $20,000 in pay. So that was another positive aspect. After this euphoric day, he settled back in his bureaucratic life, and ran his day the same way he had before he had been given the mapping expedition. In all everything had turned out all right, but he was conscious of the gathering Storm clouds of war, and wondered who would set off that storm first, the humans or the Na'vi. War came sooner than anyone on the base wanted. Nobody wanted a war, not really. But it came, and it came in a way both Quaritch and Andrei had feared.
It was August when the news came. Quaritch had expected that Jake was losing his grip on what his task was, as to whose side he was on. He was absorbing himself too much in the Na'vi world without spending enough time in the human world. Quaritch watched the video log every night. Sully's appearance had deteriorated, he was not eating as much, his hair had grown longer. It looked like he no longer even showered. He was too focused on impressing the Omaticaya, and in the process forgetting himself.
However it was here for the first time that Andrei noticed the darker side of the Colonel.
The Colonel had every reason to hate the planet. The Na'vi had attacked, and nearly killed him on his first day. He had watched his compatriots brutally slaughtered by nature. Over the years he had seen many men killed, maimed and wounded. Often the Na'vi expected to get away with it, and were all outraged when they did not. The scientists were intransigent and more concerned with how they were going to become Na'vi rather than figuring out how to move them. To make matters worse although the administrator was often sympathetic to the Military, his first priority was the mining operation. He also had to balance between Augustine and the Colonel. The result was both resented him on some level, and neither felt that he was doing good enough a job. Andrei sympathized with Selfridge's difficulties, and the attitude of the Colonel.
However the tipping point came not from the Na'vi, not from the Colonel, not through any rash act, but from Earth itself.
One day Selfridge was called before the Board of Directors. He had to go to the facility that communicated explicitly with the Board. He had sat there, waiting. These meetings were scheduled a year in advance. All the way stations on the route from Pandora to Earth had to be turned on, so that communication was almost instant, only ten seconds delay. "Incoming SATCOM from Washington D.C. RDA Corporate headquarters" said the same dispassionate female voice. A giant room, that had a pleasing dark green as the color of the wallpaper, polished wooden walls, and large windows with shut curtains. In it around a beautiful table sat 21 middle aged or old men and women, the men slightly outnumbering the women. All were dressed in the very best suits, yet unlike some, the suits did not shine. The suits were noticeable not because they shone, or were extravagant, but because they were of very high quality fabric. At the head of the table sat the CEO of the RDA, Patrick Bateman (author note: ha ha). "We need an update from you Parker, what is going on down there, have you moved the Na'vi."
Selfridge shifted uncomfortably in his chair and was conscious that he was probably wearing a pained look. "We're on it Director, but um uh, look even the Colonel wishes we had more men. Doctor Augustine is totally against starting a war, and I am not sure that it even needs to happen. We have made progress with the local tribe. We even had one of the SecOps guys establish contact with a native without needing an Avatar. As for the Avatars themselves, one of them, Jake Sully, has gotten farther than ever before in ingratiating himself with the local tribe. He is near to being completely accepted, we hope that once that is done in another six months or so, we will be able to persuade them to leave their home."
There was a collective groan from the room. The CFO announced "We keep hearing you defending that Augustine woman Parker and her tired programs. Do you know how much money it costs us to run that operation of her that gets nowhere?"
Selfridge was about to defend the Avatar program when the Director of Manufacturing spoke "We have the chance to make a lot of money if you and Colonel Quaritch would be more descisive. Think about it, everybody benefits, but you always procrastinate!"
"Um look" said Selfridge, "I never said the Avatar program was perfect, or that I have done the best job, but I defy anyone to do a better job than we have been doing here. I am reluctant to start a war unless I am absolutely sure of success. We need to put in measures to pacify the local tribe before anything else happens."
Bateman spoke again "How many troops does Colonel Quaritch estimate we need?"
Selfridge consulted the summary page of the report written by the Colonel "He says, conservatively, you would need to send a General, as he estimates we need another 4,000 troops here, before we can be absolutely certain of starting a war."
"4,000 TROOPS!" screamed the Director of Security, General Bushing, "That's ridiculous! Why can't the Colonel use what he had got?"
"Calm down" said Bateman softly and then turned back to Selfridge "Parker. You're out of time. I am here to tell you that now. When we hear from you in four months, we expect those people to have been moved, one way or another. So tell Colonel Quaritch that he will get no more troops. Tell Doctor Augustine that if she cannot be more than 50% certain of moving those people in the allotted time, that she has no more of it. That means you are to terminate the Avatar program if it is no longer convenient. If either you or the Colonel fail in your tasks, we will replace both of you, immediately. Bateman out." The screen blanked, and Selfridge was left there looking bitterly at the screen. He was also surprised at how brief the meeting had been, and how expensive it was to set one up. Evidently someone had decided, Bateman probably, before they even called him that either he had gotten the blue monkeys out of their tree, or if he had not, he had orders to move the operation ahead. Nobody could have foreseen the effect all this would have on Colonel Quaritch.
Andrei had been taking notes when the Administrator had marched in to the Colonel's office, and when Andrei saw Selfridge in a suit, it could only mean he had had a meeting with the board of directors, and it could only mean trouble given the way the man cast around glances nervously. "The Colonel is in his office sir" said Andrei, and he unlocked the outside lock allowing the administrator in without asking the Colonel permission. But then again Selfridge was who he was.
In his office Quartich was signing off the forms to rotate soldiers out from Field to Hell's Gate duty. Then the door was opened and Selfridge walked in looking perturbed. Uh oh. "What is it sir?" he asked.
The administrator sighed in the way he did when something disagreeable was about to happen, had happened, or was about to be said. "The Board says we're out of time. Your request for more troops has been flatly rejected. If Jake cannot get the Omaticaya to move in 4 months, we are to start a war immediately."
Quaritch was not shocked or too scared. He had known war and violence for a long time, and he was expecting something like this to happen. Truth be told he was quite happy to be rid of the waiting, he wanted to get this over with. The way he saw things it was the only way anything would ever get done to solving the situation. "Well we'll give them the four months then we'll go to war" he said shrugging his shoulders.
"Yeah but we need more time" said the administrator "I am not so sure we should be doing this. I mean what if we lose, what if it means we are at constant war with the natives, then how many troops will we need?"
"If that happens they will give us more troops. Just allow me to do my job sir, and I can guarantee you they will not bother us. They are not afraid because we have not shown them what we can do."
"As I recall Colonel that argument was used by Military men before America invaded Iraq, that did not turn out so well."
The remark stung Quartich, did this man not think he was competent? Did he intend to only know step down from supporting him at the last moment? Did he want a half-assed conflict in the hopes that everything would be okay? "I am not General Franks sir" he swallowed, realizing he was angry at Selfridge "I'll get it down, Me and the boys can do it sir. Don't worry its just one tribe, we outnumber them."
Selfridge had a look of doubt on his face "I don't know Colonel. Anyway I had better get back to my office. Tell me how much more stuff you need and I will see what I can do." With that he walked out without letting the colonel reply.
That by itself would not have been enough to bring out Quaritch's darker side. What followed did as it put him under a lot of pressure. Suddenly in his inbox he had an e-mail from General Bushing. Quaritch opened it, hoping it might actually be a message saying more troops were on the way. It did, but not in the way Quaritch expected. The message read
Over this long period you have done excellent service as Security Chief on Pandora. Casualties are lower than they were under Peng, equipment is less prone to be damaged by indigenous forces and all the employees there say they feel safe. For this you are to be congratulated. It has come to the attention of us and the Board however that in your persistent demands for troops, you are attempting in effect to displace Administrator Selfridge. There are accusations floating around here that your desire is to turn Pandora into an armed camp so you can take command for yourself and establish yourself as the ruler of humanity on another world. We dismiss the claim that you want to have your own independent dictatorship out of hand. We do not dismiss the armed camp theory. It seems that despite all your protestations about believing in decisive action, you have been singularly indecisive in your dealings with the indigenous. Not only have you hesitated before attacking the Na'vi in an all out war, but you have not even decided whether or not to retaliate fully or simply let outrages against the company go unpunished. Your adoption of a middling stance is the worst possible choice, serving only to exacerbate the situation. You must choose one or the other and soon. If you do not, you will be replaced, and there are plenty of people there whom we can choose from. Make the right decision Colonel, and get on with it!
General and commanding Officer of Resource Development Administration Security Operations Corps
Quaritch sat back stunned. So Selfridge to his face said he trusted him. He reassured him all day long 'Don't worry Miles, I am on your side.' All the while though he saw Quaritch's efforts to protect the civilians and his own people as Quaritch maneuvering to displace him. No wonder he and Major Darwin got along so well, no wonder they were always talking. They were planning too get rid of him! He, who had done so much, unuseful! Quaritch snarled and banged his fist down on the metal table. He stared with contempt and rage at the screen. He would show them, he would solve these problems. So he had not been doing enough? He had been going too soft on the Natives? He would most certainly show all of them he meant business.
Of course what was going through his head at this moment was wrong. Selfridge did think that Quaritch was getting too old. Selfridge thought he should rotate home in about three or four years to a less stressful post for his retirement. He could be the one choosing people for Pandora. He saw Darwin as a potential replacement, three or four years from now. He trusted Colonel Quaritch and his competence. He saw that he was doing an excellent job at keeping people safe, and was thankful that he had him as Security chief. But Colonel Quaritch did not know any of this and assumed the worst, this was to have deadly consequences in a few days time. Jake was coming back on August 14th to deliver a report to him. He saw from the video logs that Jake was becoming more and more sympathetic to the Na'vi. Jake had passed the point where he was concerned on gathering intel, and more concerned about intergrating with the clan. So maybe he was making a good impression, maybe given time he could use this to make them move. However the problem was that Jake clearly wanted to be one of them. No, there was nothing for it, he had to be pulled from the mission.
Quaritch swore "Shit" and clicked on the reply button to the message he had received.
I am sorry that you think I have not done enough. I will try harder to resolve this situation within the next six months. In the meantime we have gathered large amounts of intel on the local Na'vi tribe and the terrain they inhabit. We also have identified key sacred spots to them and areas that would need to be pacified before the miners could safely move in. One recent arrival, Jake Sully, has proven very useful to me. He is an Avatar driver and also a paraplegic. I promised him that if he did this for me, over the head of Doctor Augustine that I would get him the approval for an operation to fix his spinal chord so he could walk again. I beg you sir to get the corporate approval for this. He has been courageous, and made huge leaps in improving relations with the locals and providing excellent intelligence on the enemy. I will make plans immediately for a conflict if the need should arise for us to become embroiled in one
Yours respectfully, Colonel Miles Quaritch
Head of Security Resource Development Administration Hell's Gate Facility.
He clicked send and exhaled, not realizing he had been holding his breath. He then keyed in his on the comm unit to Andrei outside "Contact all the Senior Officers, we need to have a little get together to discuss our blue friends."
"Yes sir" responded Andrei. Quaritch keyed off.
The next morning, just as Jake was landing Quaritch saw a cold letter telling him that Jake had corporate approval for a spinal restoration operation. That was good news, it might bring Jake back. But by then it was too late.