AUTHOR'S NOTES: I would like to say that without the encoragement from writer WarriorDarkAngel it would probably have been much longer before this story got updated. Hopefully I'll have more with this story soon.
Also, I'm aware that the blending of the movie 'Avatar' and the TV show 'NCIS' is unconventional at best. But hopefully I can do a good job of writing it.
Kelly had been in hellholes in Iraq, had actually been forced to spend three whole days stuck up a tree in Tabriz in Iran, and been caught in a bombing raid in Afghanistan.
But walking towards the main compound, she could tell that this was like nothing she'd ever seen before. Seeing the huge arrows stuck in the sides of the tires of a transport vehicles, she could just imagine how large the shooters had to be.
"If you want to get out of here now," Jake said as he and Kelly headed inside, taking off their exo-packs and heading to the security briefing.
Kelly smiled and said, "Jake, I have never ducked out of anything. Except once at the Marine Corps Birthday Ball."
"Well, that was about 3months ago so you're safe on that," Jake replied with a grin. He liked Kelly. She didn't ask about the wheelchair and she didn't seem to see him as a pity case. When they sat in the back of the room, Jake looked at the case Kelly set down on the table next to her. He knew what it was and wondered why she'd bring it here.
Listening to the security briefing, Kelly knew she should be afraid. Hell, she was the only woman in the room. But as she put a hand on the rifle case, she didn't feel afraid. Just like any mission, the first step was to scope out the lay of the land, figure out how things worked.
When the briefing ended, Jake started to back up as Kelly grabbed her gear. "So any idea what you're doing here?" Jake asked as he and Kelly headed for the lab.
"Your guess is as good as mine, Corporal," Kelly replied with a shrug. "I'm making it up as I go along."
"You know, you can call me 'Jake' if you want," Jake replied, looking up at Kelly.
Kelly nodded and was about to reply when she heard someone shouting Jake's name—and hers—behind them. Slowing down to let the other person catch up, Kelly recognized the nerdy looking guy who had been at the briefing. "Hi," Kelly said, looking the new comer over. Definitely a science guy.
"Hi. I'm Norm Spellman," he said with a smile. After shaking Kelly's hand he turned to Jake. "You're Jake, right? Tom's brother. You look just like him. I went through Avatar training with him."
"Nice to meet ya," Jake said and the three of them headed to the biolab.
"So…" Kelly started, not sure of how to broach the subject that she was… a little out of place. But as she stepped into the lab, she caught a glimpse of three huge containment units and as Norm started talking, Kelly headed over to the units, Jake behind her.
There were three huge creatures, one in each unit, Kelly stopped by the middle one while Norm and Jake went over to look at the unit at the end. Avatar… Kelly studied what must have been hers and she could see the facial similarities.
As Jake studied his own Avatar, he didn't see the resemblance to himself. All he could see was his brother. "It looks like him," Jake said as he stared at the large creature.
"No," Norm said, looking at Jake. "It looks like you. This is your Avatar now, Jake."
Jake nodded. "Yeah. Right."
After the tour of the biolab and link room, Kelly surreptitiously watched as Jake made his first video log. After a moment, she felt someone behind her and turned to see Norm. "So… how did you know who I was?"
Norm looked surprised at the question and shrugged. "When I checked in I saw your name on the roster. And you were the only woman, so I figured it was a safe bet who you were. Why?"
Kelly smiled and shrugged. "Let's just say… I'm a little out of touch with this whole thing."
"Not a scientist, huh?" Norm asked with a grin.
"Well, not like this," Kelly said, defensively. "I'm brilliant with a mass spectrometer."
Norm's smile faded as he looked at Kelly in surprise. No one had worked with that kind of equipment for almost 40 years. Something seemed off about her… but deciding to file the thought for later, he changed topic. "So where were you stationed before?"
"Iraq," Kelly replied, easily. "Have to admit… this humidity actually makes me miss the desert."
When he was done with his log, Jake went over to Norm and Kelly. Maybe it was wanting to protect a fellow Marine or maybe it was understanding feeling completely out of place. Either way, he wanted to keep an eye on Kelly. At least until she started to find her footing.
When Norm, Jake, and Kelly followed Dr. Max Patel into the link room, Jake was hardly surprised when Dr. Grace Augustine wouldn't look at him. She was more interested in Norm who started speaking in Na'vi.
"He gave her a traditional greeting," Kelly whispered to him as quietly as she could. "She… I think she said… something much less formal."
"And how do you know that?" Grace asked, studying Kelly. The younger woman certainly didn't look like a scientist but she clearly had a knack for languages.
"Norm's body language and tone of voice was formal… elegant," Kelly replied. "Yours was casual."
"Uh, Grace," Max said, looking at her as he indicated Jake. "This is Jake Sully."
Grace looked annoyed and put out as she snapped at Jake, "Yeah, yeah. I know who you are. And I don't need you. I need your brother." Looking at Max, she added, "You know… the PhD who trained for 3 years on this mission."
"He's dead," Jake said, sounding pissed. "Sorry it's such an inconvenience for everyone." Oh, how he wished his legs worked. He hated this. No one wanted him around and everyone else looked at him like he didn't belong here. Everyone wanted Tom. No one gave a crap about—Looking up when he felt a hand on his shoulder, Jake saw Kelly give him an 'I'm with you' look.
Max looked apologetic as he said, "Be here 0800 tomorrow morning."
"You got it," Kelly said with a nod. Looking at Norm, she asked, "So where can I get a cup of coffee?"
"That was uncalled-for," Kelly said as she and Jake sat in the mess hall. "Dr. Augustine had no right to act like that."
"Yeah, whatever," Jake muttered. He wished he wasn't here. That Tom was here instead. But his brother was gone. And when Jake was really honest with himself, he knew that a paralyzed Marine had no business being in a place like this.
"You're not useless, Jake," Kelly said, giving him a look. "And you can either be useful or just meet everyone's expectations which at this point are really low so it shouldn't be that difficult to do."
"You know, it's easy for you to say," Jake snapped, his anger rising. "You still have full use of your legs."
Kelly smiled, almost as if she'd been waiting for the opening, and moved so Jake could see her left leg. Rolling up the leg of her pants, she made sure Jake could see the prosthetic. "And before you start thinking it happened while I was fighting, let me correct that notion."
"Happened on leave?" Jake guessed. He knew a few Marines who'd ended up injured when they were home.
"When I was 8," Kelly replied, tucking her pants leg back into her boot. "Car accident. When I first started basic training there were only a few other recruits who thought I had what it took. Everyone kept telling me I shouldn't be there. That I should get a job in the mess hall." Giving Jake a look, she said, "Sound familiar?"
"Not exactly the same thing," Jake pointed out. He knew Kelly was trying to make him feel better but it didn't change the facts.
Kelly sighed as she leaned on the table, arms folded. "No, it's not. I'm just saying that I know what it's like to have to seriously prove myself."
The next morning, Kelly was up at 0500 and got dressed in her favorite sweatpants, tank top, and sneakers. She wished she could get outside for a run first. But maybe there was a workout room where she could get some exercise in. Heading out of the bunk area, she headed down the hallways past the biolab and finally headed towards the mess hall which was surprisingly empty.
Except for Dr. Grace Augustine who was sitting at one of the tables, sipping a cup of coffee. Hearing footsteps, she looked up, a bit surprised to see Kelly standing there. "Early riser, huh?"
"I usually get up early and go for a run," Kelly replied as she sat across from the scientist. "Helps calm my mind."
Grace studied Kelly for a while, not sure what to make of the younger woman. She'd done some background the previous night and the only Kelly Anne Gibbs that had shown up twhose picture matched the young woman she was now looking at had died exactly 100 years ago. Grace Augustine had never put stock in divine intervention but there was something about the young woman sitting across from her that just seemed… off. "Hmm," was all she said before returning to her coffee.
"Is there a work-out room, by chance?" Kelly asked, practically feeling the older woman sizing her up.
"Down the hall," Grace replied, pointing. When Kelly had left, Grace watched her leave, noting with interest the ever so slight limp.
After an hour on the treadmill—hardly ideal, but acceptable in a pinch—Kelly felt more ready to face what was sure to be an interesting day. After a quick shower and changing into a pair of track pants and a t-shirt, she headed to the biolab where various scientists were transferring the Avatars from the tanks to what appeared to be some sort of operating theater.
"Good morning," Max Patel said, cheerfully when he noticed her.
"Morning," Kelly replied, still feeling overwhelmed by everything. "So… uh… Any chance I can get started on… whatever, or…?"
Max took a moment to understand what Kelly had meant and nodded. "Uh, yeah. Sure. This way. Actually, your Avatar was the first removed, so…"
Kelly followed Max over to the link bed but as she sat down and raised her right leg she stopped.
"Something wrong?" Max asked, concerned.
Kelly didn't answer right away but after a moment she shook her head before grabbing the left leg of her pants and pulling her left leg up, slightly exposing the titanium prosthetic.
"You know, you can take that off if you want," Max offered, gently.
Kelly stared at the prosthetic for a moment. There were a lot of times she didn't think about it. It was something she'd lived with almost her whole life but every now and then something called attention to the fact that she was missing a leg and an artificial one—no matter how well constructed—just wasn't the same thing. Looking at Max who was being extrememly patient, she asked, "This isn't going to mess with the, uh... the Avatar body, is it?"
Max gave her a smile and shook his head. "No, the Avatar's motor function is independent of yours." Giving Kelly a concerned look, he asked, "Are you okay?"
Kelly nodded and after a moment, she removed the prosthetic, handing it to Max who set it aside. "So what now?"
"Lay back," Max instructed, simply. When Kelly was lying down, he lowered the frame that registered heart rate, respiration, and neural activity. "Just let your mind go blank."
Kelly nodded and closed her eyes as the top of the link bed closed. Focusing on her breathing, she let her mind drift. Soon, she felt as though she was being sucked into a tunnel of lights and finally, she finally blinked at the bright lights suddenly appearing before her eyes.
Kelly blinked as her vision focused. After a few minutes she was able to sit up, the other techs making notes of her progress. But what surprised her was when she was able to wiggle her toes on both feet. 'Been a long time since I could do that,' she thought. "Wow," she said, under her breath.
"You okay, Kelly?" one of the techs asked, looking concerned.
"Uh…" Kelly shook her head, smiling as she moved both legs over the edge of the bed. "No, just, uh… Haven't had a left leg for more than 16 years." She whirled around suddenly, looking a little surprised at her tail. "Whoa! Okay…"
"It's okay," another tech said, calmly. "Don't worry. The tail's for balance."
"O-okay," Kelly replied, hesitantly.
By the time Kelly had gone through the whole rigmarole of tests—making sure she was in complete control of the Avatar body—Jake and Norm had linked with theirs, but while Norm was following the directions from the techs, Jake was jumping the gun and before anyone could stop him, he'd gone outside, Norm trying to keep up.
Kelly wasn't far behind, quickly overtaking Norm in the footrace and when Jake finally stopped by some bushes, she halted quickly. It was only when she noticed Jake burrowing his toes into the dirt, that Kelly did the same with her left foot. It felt suddenly strange being in a body that was whole.
Both Jake and Kelly looked up when another Avatar came towards them wearing a Stanford tanktop.
"Grace?" Jake asked, amazed.
"Well, who'd you expect, numbnuts?" Grace replied with a smile. Grabbing two fruits off a nearby bush, she tossed one each to Kelly and Jake. When they caught the projectiles, Grace seemed pleased. "Motor control's looking good."
Kelly bit into the strange fruit and while the interior was similar to a passion fruit, the taste was a mix of strawberry, mango, and lime. "Man, that's good," she said, juice running down her face.
After getting dressed in actual clothes, Grace had Jake, Norm, and Kelly run through the obstacle course to test out how the team moved. It was amazing to watch Jake. For someone who'd been paralyzed in their human body, he was remarkably swift and agile.
Norm was hesitant, making sure of his footing and balance rather than trying to increase his speed. He was a good kid and an excellent scientist, but Grace had the sneaking suspicion that the boy hadn't spent much time out of the lab. Grace would have to keep an eye on Norm in case he got into trouble.
Grace had stopped short when she'd noticed the prosthetic leg next to Kelly's link inside. And once Jake and Norm were loaded, Grace couldn't help studying the worn metal of Kelly's artificial leg. What must have been smooth, unblemished metal once was now rough and pitted. She couldn't blame Kelly for hiding the disability, considering how Grace had treated Jake.
Thinking on what Jake had said to her back in the lab, Grace understood wanting to prove yourself—to defy given limitations. Hell, even in this day and age not many people believed that girls could excel to as high a level as she'd had. Grace's expectations of Jake had been practically subterranean when she'd first seen him but maybe there was more to this broken Marine than she'd originally assumed.
At the end of the day, Kelly felt only slightly tired, but more than that, she felt strangely exhilarated. It was the feeling she always had when she'd be dropped somewhere different. She had no idea what she was getting into and she loved the thrill of the unknown.
But coming out of the link, Kelly sat up and reality came crashing back as she saw the empty leg of her track pants. Sitting on the edge of the link bed, she managed to get the prosthetic back on but when she stood up, she had to take a moment to regain her balance. Glancing over at Jake, she saw him move from the link bed to his wheelchair.
Remembering the look of joy on Jake's face while in the Avatar body, Kelly thought that the young Marine now looked even more dejected than he had the last night. After a while, Kelly followed Jake and Norm to the mess hall, her limp more pronounced now than it had been in ages.