This story is written for entertainment purposes only. All copyrights belong to their respective owners.

Keep in mind that English is not my first language and so I do not claim to have corrected every mistake yet. As the story keeps getting bigger, it is possible that inconsistencies may appear. If they do, let me know and I will correct them.

Another chapter has arrived at last. I would also like to announce that the remaining plot and ending have been determined. All I have to do now is write the full chapters. I estimate that there are about 4 to 5 left. On top of that, I have plans for a sequel that will take a somewhat different direction. A hint has been given in one of the more recent chapters.

Chapter 27: Over the edge

Aboard the shuttle, John and Ney'ite were looking through the windows of the cockpit to admire the view of a bright blue and green colored sphere. Ney'ite had never seen her home like this before in her life. It was a strange thought to her that up until recently her entire life had taken place on this sphere. When she had listened to John talk about other worlds back in their village, she had believed that she understood what he was talking about. However, now that she had had first-hand experience in visiting such a world, she realized that it was nothing like she had imagined it to be. Despite John being with her, she felt kind of lonely. She just wanted to go back to her familiar surroundings as soon as possible. After a few minutes of silence, she remembered something. She said to John that there was something he had promised to explain to her when they would have time available. She was referring to the strange names John and his human friend had for each other. John smiled and agreed to tell her the story behind them.

Many years ago, Martin and he, together with a handful of other humans had traveled to a remote moon, named Titan. They had gone to this place in order to gather a material that was useful for many things. However, this moon was located far beyond colonized areas in the Solar System, so they were basically on their own. Since they were all so tightly packed together in the small base, they started developing a comradeship with each other. This included calling each other by new names. Each member got his or her nickname because of something they had said or done that amused the rest. For example, John earned the nickname 'Buddy' because he, foolishly, once mentioned that some annoying fellow back on Earth kept referring to him by this name for no reason and that he hated that. What happened next was to be expected.

Martin, on the other hand, earned his nickname 'Pinball' in quite a different way. During their time on Titan, Martin was known to be someone who liked to entertain people and joke around. Quite randomly, he came up with the idea to build a pinball machine, since they had no such thing at the base. John quickly explained to Ney'ite what pinball was. However, Martin couldn't really reproduce something as complicated as that with the materials they had available at the base. Nevertheless, he managed to find a few metal balls and make a cabinet with a spring to launch them into the game. Despite the fact that there wasn't anything in the game yet, he decided to launch a ball anyway. Normally, the cabinet would have a glass plate covering it so that the ball couldn't get out, but Martin didn't have such a thing. When launching the ball at maximum velocity, he failed to remember that the gravity on Titan was much lower than on Earth. The result was that the ball escaped the game and was sent flying into the room. So far, it appeared to be a small accident, though it wasn't over just yet. The ball flew all the way to the other side of the room and ended up breaking the favorite coffee mug of their base commander. After that, Martin was placed on toilet cleaning duty for a month. Despite this, it was amazing that the nickname bestowed upon him was actually not that bad.

John was still laughing when he finished the story, remembering all the good times they had had together. He could see that Ney'ite didn't get what was so funny about it and told her to forget about the silly story, since they were almost home now. They decided to return to the cargo hold to strap themselves in for the final part of the journey. Ney'ite held onto John as he attempted to steer himself out of the cockpit and into the cargo hold. She had gotten somewhat more used to the strange sensation of weightlessness, though she still had a dizzy feeling.

Once seated again, they readied themselves for the reentry into the atmosphere. Joseph was not seated beside them, but in the cockpit instead. As planned he would disable the flight computer once they were in the atmosphere, and manually fly the shuttle to an ocean to crash it into the water. John and Ney'ite however, would jump out before this would happen. Joseph would then follow them shortly thereafter. John had had a short conversation with Joseph about the impact the crash of the shuttle would have on the Pandoran biosphere. According to Joseph the damage would be minimal as long as the shuttle would crash far away from the coast. John supposed this was better than letting it fall into MT-NET's hands again.

A loud thundering sound could be heard as the shuttle entered the atmosphere for the last time. John and Ney'ite could feel the g-forces increase. It was a somewhat more intense feeling compared to last time. Several minutes later, after the conditions were normalized again, they detached themselves from the chairs and remained at the main cargo door until Joseph told them to open it. Once he had done so and once John had pressed the button, the door opened and the air inside the shuttle was rapidly replaced with the fresh air of Pandora. John and Ney'ite could now see the green of hundreds of treetops. Joseph shouted that they were approaching a coast line and recommended they prepare to jump, while he would lower the altitude of the shuttle. The two of them removed their helmets and air tanks, while John strapped Martin's mushroom shaped helmet to his belt. All they had to do now was to wait for the right moment. John estimated they were at about 50 meters and dropping. Seconds later, they could see that the shuttle had passed over the beach. The altitude of the shuttle had dropped to about 15 meters. John shouted to Joseph that they were going to jump. Before Joseph could respond, both John and Ney'ite ran down the ramp and leapt off the edge. They landed feet first in the water, while the shuttle continued flying its intended course. Ney'ite was the first one to resurface, quickly followed by John. It took them several minutes to swim back to the beach.

Once they were there out of the water, Ney'ite let herself slowly drop down flat on the ground, while John dropped to his knees. It was hard to believe that they had actually completed the journey. It seemed as if they had been gone from Pandora for ages. John turned around and looked towards the horizon. The shuttle was nowhere to be seen. He was sure he had heard a splash in the distance not long after they had landed in the water. Back on the shuttle, Joseph had told him that it might take him several hours to return to the coast, since he could not swim and had to walk across the seabed. Ney'ite was now removing the remainder of her pressure suit and John followed her example. It took him a little longer, since he still experienced a pain in his chest, which was probably caused by one or more broken ribs. Nevertheless, the knowledge of Ney'ite being apparently alright and sight of her beautiful striped body as she discarded the suit caused the pain to almost disappear…

Olo'eyktan Ranu'ut was watching the center of the village from a nearby ridge. At the same time, he was sharpening his specialized dual knife staff, which he had constructed during the last few weeks. It was made of two giant knives that the humans had once used while wearing their metal armor. Of course, the weapon was meant to be used against the invaders. Nearly the entire clan had now gathered in the center of the village. They were there to attend a performance of the best singers of the clan. Ranu'ut knew this, but he had chosen not to attend, because he had other matters on his mind. According to his scouts, and to the stories that had spread from other clans and villages, the invaders were growing in numbers, were becoming more efficient, and were striking further away from their main base than ever. Apparently, the leaders of the Tipani clan and the Omaticaya clan had had a meeting to discuss the forming of an alliance. The leader of the Omaticaya clan had even suggested it was time that he became Toruk Makto once again. Despite this, Ranu'ut had a feeling the other clans couldn't help them and that the Uvora clan had to help itself. Right now, it looked like all was well, but this could be just an illusion. Danger was certainly lurking out there. That was why Ranu'ut had instructed his warriors and hunters to keep a watch on the edges of the village at all times. He had also made the weaknesses of the invaders public knowledge. Aside from that, he had sent a group of hunters to deliver this valuable information to the other clans.

Selyat was one of the warriors, who had been assigned the guard duty. She had just taken over one of the posts so that her predecessor could rest for a while. This post was high up in a tree, but not above the jungle canopy. From here, she had a reasonable view of the surrounding area. While the singing could still be heard in the background, several figures drew closer and closer to the village. They were small of stature, painted with camouflage patterns, and moved swiftly from behind one tree trunk to the next one. Selyat thought she had just seen something move in the corner of her eye. She turned to face it and could see a few plants still moving as if something had gone past them. Seconds later, she could hear some strange noises coming from directly below her. She quickly looked down and could see several stick-headed figures standing near the trunk. Immediately, she grabbed an arrow and aimed her bow, almost instantly hitting one of them in the torso. She didn't recognize this type and as far as she remembered, its weaknesses had not been described by the one who called himself Joseph. Although they were carrying weapons, they did not open fire. They began pouring a liquid all around the tree, while ignoring the one that had gotten hit. Selyat now threw down a spear, which decapitated one of them, and caused its body to fall to the ground. She deduced that they were definitely not warriors. What happened next caught her by surprise, however. The stick-heads created a fire out of nowhere and quickly dispersed back into the jungle. Selyat leapt to another tree and could see that the fire started to grow rapidly. She now shouted as loud as she could that the invaders had arrived.

Soon, the entire village knew it. Ranu'ut raced towards the center of the village and told everyone to follow the plan they had made. Some hunters climbed up the trees, while the rest of them helped the elders and children escape the village. The few Ikran Maktos mounted their Ikrans, while the rest of the warriors mounted their Pa'li to prepare to go around the village and flank the invaders. Everything went as planned, until something fell out of the sky and exploded in the middle of the village. Several Na'vi fell down and didn't get back up again. Wukan was thrown off his Pa'li by the blast, but got back up again. Instead of joining the other warriors on foot, which would make death a certainty, he decided to lift up two frightened young children and carry them to safety. After the first explosion, countless more followed.

Amidst the chaos, Ranu'ut remained as calm as he could. It didn't take long for the explosions to stop. After the final one, he looked around and his eyes suddenly met the red eyes of a monster. It was hanging upside down from one of the lower branches and was simply staring at him. Its body was covered by a green and brown colored cloak and it stank like a dead animal. Ranu'ut held his weapon staff ready as the creature leapt from the branch to the ground and threw off its cloak, revealing its skeletal body. The creature then took something from its hip and lifted it up for Ranu'ut to see. It was the skull of a Na'vi. The creature now opened its mouth, but didn't speak. Instead, Ranu'ut could hear various voices and background noises. He heard several voices shouting that they were fighting for the Uvora clan. He now heard the voice of his father. When the voices and the background noises stopped, the creature closed its mouth and fastened the skull back on his hip. It became clear to Ranu'ut that this creature had been there the day the invaders had attacked the Uvora clan's other village where his father had resided. He even considered it to be highly likely that this creature was personally responsible for the death of his father and that the skull it was carrying was in fact his father's. Ranu'ut let out a war cry, but instead of flying into a blind rage, he waited steadily for the creature to make the first move.

The first Type 400 machines were now popping up out of the jungle. They began firing at everything that hadn't left the village and was still alive, but they all ignored Ranu'ut. One particularly gruesome Type 400 that was covered in dried blood of a previous battle ruthlessly pursued some of the fleeing members of the clan. Wukan, who was still carrying the two children, could hear shots being fired behind him. Several of the elders beside him were hit as he ran into the jungle. Ranu'ut's plan was that when they were forced to abandon the village, they would spread out over the jungle so that the invaders would have a hard time following them. They would then rendezvous at a predetermined location, which was quite a distance from the village. Wukan intended to do exactly that.

When the attack had first commenced, not every member of the Uvora clan had been in the village. Hatuyo and his friends, under the guidance of one of the elders, Onorak, had been exploring an underground cavern about half a kilometer outside of the village. When they had heard the first explosions, Onorak had told them to hide themselves behind the rocks and remain absolutely silent. The children had had no problem with that as they had been too scared to do anything else.

After the Type 1000 had leapt towards him, Ranu'ut had made a roll on the ground and had stabbed one end of his knife staff between its metal ribs. After that, he had been locked in a tight staff versus claws fight with the most monstrous invader of them all. Ranu'ut had managed to parry or dodge most of its attacks up until now, but was suddenly slashed across his left arm. In retaliation, he stuck this staff right in the middle of its neck, between two hydraulic pistons. After pulling it out again, the machine seemed to be dazed for just a second, before resuming the fight. It hadn't been enough time for Ranu'ut to strike again. Nevertheless, he was determined to try again. The machine became a lot more protective of that area than before, though. Ranu'ut had to find another way to damage his opponent.

A Type 400 now carelessly marched right through the middle of their fight, temporarily halting it. The Type 1000 became agitated and pushed the machine aside. Ranu'ut had taken the opportunity to quickly survey his surroundings in an attempt to locate something he could use as a weapon. He had found just the right thing. What he had to do was lure his opponent into the right position. One of the explosions had damaged the trunk of one of the trees nearby, and it looked like it was about to fall over. While Ranu'ut kept dodging and parrying most of the claw slashes that were aimed at him, he carefully made a step backwards each time, so that the machine followed him. However, it would occasionally make a sudden leap forward in an attempt to bury its claws in his abdomen. Ranu'ut was forced to make a dodge each time, which would lead them off the correct path again. Eventually, when Ranu'ut was beginning to tire, they were in the correct position. He figured the tree would need a little push in order to fall, but there was no-one nearby to help him. Ranu'ut knew that this thing would never stop until he was dead and if he didn't kill it, it would just continue to hunt other Na'vi. It would continue to hunt his people, and he could not bear to live with that. When he realized this, he threw his knife staff into the weak spot of the trunk. The Type 1000 seized the opportunity and buried its claws into his abdomen. But before it could move them in order to take his head, the tree fell down, with the heavy trunk right on top of the machine. Ranu'ut managed not to suffer the same fate and while clutching his abdomen with his left hand, he climbed over the trunk to the other side. He could now see the head of the monster sticking out from under the trunk. It was lying in a strange position compared to its body and it didn't move at all. Ranu'ut pulled it as hard as he could and managed to remove it. He held it up in the air with his right hand, while still clutching his abdomen with the other hand and let out a cry of victory. The monster was dead and his father was avenged. But now it was time to go. Blood was gushing from him. He knew that with him the bloodline of the Uvora clan leaders had ended. This did not mean that it would be the end of the entire clan. They were strong. They were going to make it without him. With this thought on his mind, he finally succumbed to his injuries and collapsed to the ground…