Day Away From Hell

Norm exited the airlock of the link trailer and squinted in the morning sunlight seeping through the trees. He looked around for any signs of fighting. The rattle of gunfire in the distance caught his attention and he set off into the jungle in the direction of the sound.

The adrenaline coursing through his human body after he was forcefully ejected from the link had caused him to thoughtlessly grab an assault rifle and head out. His avatar had just been killed – at least he presumed as much given the throbbing pain he still felt in his shoulder and chest – but in the haze of killing, he actually felt lucky to have another go.

The battle on the ground hadn't been going well when he was shot. In fact, the heavy infantry had dispersed the Na'vi cavalry like dust. He had hoped that they would stand at least a little chance – by their sheer numbers, if nothing else – but it was a massacre. They did manage to take out a few troopers here and there, but the unflagging gunfire mowed down the riders off their horses at a rate that made him sick. Very soon, there was no option other than retreat.

What was that for an idea anyway? Instead of the full frontal attack, they should have concealed themselves in the trees throughout the entire area and ambush the enemy one by one. Hit and run, change locations, remain hidden. Turn it into a hunt, employ the Na'vi harmony with the forest. Confuse the enemy, let them slowly bleed and lose morale.

But there had been so little time to plan and prepare, and the threat from the air was considered much more serious. Norm hoped the ikran riders up there had better luck. He shuddered. At least he had a second chance. With all the people dying around him, he almost felt guilty about it.

He knew with dead certainty that if they lost, he would be done for, even if he survived the fighting itself. He didn't delude himself; Quaritch surely had bullets with each of their names on them. So there he was, heading back into the battle. He had nothing to lose, and everything to win. And frankly, he didn't expect to survive anyway. Might as well do some more damage – and avenge Trudy.

The last few radio transmissions he had picked up – her saying she was going down and Jake's vain attempts to raise her later – were as clear as daylight. Deep down, he had known this would happen. Her chances had been laughable at best and they had both known it. Even so, he had kept hoping for a miracle. Well, no miracle was coming. At least they had said their goodbyes, both realising what they were heading into. His throat tightened, and he sniffed and clutched the rifle harder, his resolve to put down a few more grunts before going himself strengthened. He would avenge Trudy, even if it meant joining her shortly thereafter. Especially if it meant joining her shortly thereafter.

Norm worked his way through the jungle, following the distant sounds of gunfire. The brush was thick and the progress was slow, his feet catching on vines and stumbling upon treacherous terrain. It quickly began frustrating him, especially when the sounds died down. Even so, he stubbornly kept heading forward.

Eventually, he made his way into a place that felt like a clearing. All the undergrowth was trampled to the ground and he could move with greater ease. He looked around and realised that he found himself in the wake of a stampede.

Then he noticed the bodies.

There were mercenaries strewn all around, each and every one of them obviously dead. Some had been trampled upon. Most of them were mauled to death. There were no sounds of fighting anywhere close; even the ever-present distant rumble of cannons and explosions seemed to have subsided, landing the grisly scene almost choking intensity.

Norm blanched and he felt his stomach churn. Grasping the rifle with white knuckles, he walked slowly along the path of carnage, his hair standing on end. He came upon an AMP suit sprawled on its back with a crushed canopy and he dared to look inside. He immediately wished he hadn't. Turning away and breathing heavily, he waited for his stomach to settle, ready to lift the exopack mask if necessary.

What happened here? This wasn't the Na'vi's doing. It looked like the wildlife itself had gone berserk. Indeed, there was an occasional viperwolf carcass here and there, riddled with bullet holes.

Further uneasiness filled Norm as he realised his own defencelessness against Pandoran predators. Maybe his heading out wasn't such a good idea. He had encountered no living enemy so far, and now he felt like prey being stalked from the gloomy shadows. He decided to head back to the shack. Laying one's life down in battle was one thing, being torn apart by a pack of viperwolves another.

He made it just a few steps back when he saw a flash of light out of the corner of his eye. His head swivelled towards the source, but he couldn't discern anything through the trees. As he frowned into the distance, a loud thunder of a far-away explosion boomed and the ground shook.

The Tree of Souls! Norm immediately started fearing the worst. He turned on his radio and pushed the transmission button, never realising this might not be the best time. "Jake! Jake, do you copy?"


"Jake! Come in!"

No response.

This wasn't good. Norm switched to another channel and tried, "Mo'at?" They had left one hand-held unit with the Tsahìk at the Tree, to help them coordinate things after the battle was over. Norm wasn't sure she knew how to use it, but they had tried to explain it to her earlier and the Na'vi understood surprisingly fast.

There was a click from the radio and after a pause, as if the speaker at the other end hesitated with what to do next, Mo'at's voice said in English, "Hello?"

Oh, thank God! Norm let out a breath he had held and smiled, partly from relief and partly at the word Mo'at had used. She must have remembered it from when they had showed the Na'vi how the communicators worked. He raised the unit to his lips. "This is Norm Spellman. There was a big explosion and I was worried that the enemy had hit the Tree. Are you ok?"

"We are well, Normspellman," came the reply. "Toruk Makto has destroyed the biggest enemy machine and it has fallen from the sky."

Yes! Norm pumped his fist in the air, elated at the news. But he quickly reminded himself that he couldn't enjoy any victory while being feasted upon by a predator, and resumed walking to the shack.

He was slowly and cautiously making his way back through the brush when he heard a flapping of wings somewhere from the trees above. He looked up to see an ikran exploding through the canopy in a flurry of leaves and landing some hundred meters away. The rider jumped off the beast, which immediately took flight again, and ran towards something on the ground. When he reached it, he let out a howl of grief and sank to his knees.

Norm couldn't see what the rider had knelt before, but the wail filled him with a dark sense of foreboding. He slowly edged towards the scene to know more, carefully trying to remain hidden in the undergrowth. When he was close enough to finally see what was going on, his heart froze.

The rider, a male Na'vi warrior, was sitting on his heels. In his arms, he held another Na'vi, a female. He clutched her head to his chest and wept. The female's back was covered in blood and Norm saw to his horror that her queue had been cut off at the base. The man stroked her head with trembling fingers and murmured sob-broken words to her, too silent to be overheard. Aghast, Norm realised the woman was still alive, responding in a weak, pain-filled voice.

He watched their heart-wrenching encounter for several minutes, completely frozen to the spot, transfixed in morbid fascination. Eventually, the male kissed the female on the lips and pulled out a knife. Norm tensed and held his breath. With words the tone of which sounded like a prayer, the man drove the blade into the woman's heart. His other hand never stopped caressing her face and hair. When she finally went limp in his arms, he let loose another mournful howl and carefully eased her onto the ground. He bent down to kiss her on the forehead and removed the knife from her chest. Straightening his back, he remained on his heels next to her, head bowed low, silent. Norm could occasionally see a glint of a tear falling down from the man's downcast face.

He was thoroughly disturbed and moved by what he had just witnessed. From what he understood, severing one's braid like this resulted in a slow and excruciatingly painful death. He knew some of the mercs could turn into animals when facing a helpless enemy, but this was a little much for him to comprehend.

He realised it would probably be best to leave the grieving Na'vi alone and he slowly backed away. Unfortunately, his retreat wasn't as quiet as he hoped – some dead twigs crunched under the hard sole of his boot. He stood stock still and looked warily at the male, only to find him staring directly into his eyes.

Norm noticed the look of pure hatred on the man's tear-encrusted face and the world swayed under his legs. With utter dread he realised he was practically indistinguishable from the enemy in his human body.

The Na'vi slowly stood up, deathly silent, eyes never ceasing to pierce Norm and bloodied knife gripped tightly in his hand. Once again, Norm found himself frozen to the spot, this time by pure fear. He had never really expected to survive this day, but being killed by an angry Na'vi certainly wasn't the way to go he had envisioned, especially now when it seemed the battle was over.

"You tawtute monster!" the Na'vi snarled and bared his teeth at Norm, slowly and menacingly closing the distance between them. The way he clenched the blade left little doubt about his intentions. He ignored his bow lying at the female's body, obviously deciding to deal with this very intimately.

Norm started backing away and his mind raced for some – any – Na'vi words. He had been fluent at dawn when the Na'vi rallied for battle, but now, all his knowledge seemed to have abandoned him and he couldn't form a simple sentence. He had never realised just how damn frightening the natives could appear, with their towering stature, canines bared in a fierce snarl, and bloodied knife ready to spill his guts out. Eventually, he somehow managed to find his voice and stuttered in Na'vi, "Wait, I'm a friend!"

The native faltered the tiniest bit when he heard this ugly and unscrupulous creature speak his tongue, but he quickly resumed his advance and growled, "How dare you call yourself a friend!"

Norm regained his wits. "I am Norm Spellman! I fought beside the People in my uniltìranyu body! But it was shot and I could not walk in it anymore, so I came to help you in my tawtute body! Please!" He looked up at the approaching figure with a hint of hope. As the Na'vi took in what probably must have sounded like a frightened babbling, Norm noticed to his horror that he didn't recognise the warrior's garb and markings at all. His clan had to come from far away. If he had arrived at the camp just this night, he wouldn't be familiar with the concept of dreamwalkers and he wouldn't have seen Norm even in his avatar body.

And sure enough, the male stopped a few meters from Norm, already towering over him, and spat, "Liar! Instead of facing your enemy honourably, you try to weasel your way out with fabled stories. Why should I show you mercy? You showed none to Atanvi!"

"Please! I didn't kill her!"

"You mutilated her and left her to slow death in agony! You deserve the same!"

"No! It wasn't me!" At this point, Norm realised he still had his assault rifle slung over his shoulder, but trying to use it would probably only seal his fate, not to mention that he desperately didn't want to shoot the grief-stricken Na'vi. But, if it came to it, he valued his own life much more. His hands crept for the weapon.

"It was your kind!" the male replied.

"I don't belong to them! I'm a friend of Toruk Makto –"

"Liar!" the Na'vi bellowed and lunged forward.

Norm grabbed his rifle, aimed and pulled the trigger, but nothing happened; he had left the safety on. Immediately recognising his mistake, he managed to hold the sturdy weapon high, using its bulk to block the male's vicious swing aimed at his throat. The rifle collided with the native's hand and the force of the blow sent Norm tumbling to the side. He landed a few feet away and quickly rolled onto his back, the weapon firmly in his hands.

The Na'vi came to a halt and turned to face Norm, who promptly trained his rifle on him, locating the fire selector and flicking it to full-auto. The knife was no longer in the giant male's hand, probably having been knocked out by the impact.

They stared at each other. "Please, I don't want to hurt you," Norm pleaded desperately, but in vain. The native lunged again. Failing to see any other option, Norm pulled the trigger. A sharp burst barked through the jungle and the last thing he saw was the male's bulk colliding with him. Then, blackness.

It was the burning sensation in his nose and lungs that roused Norm back into consciousness. When he opened his eyes, they started itching, and he immediately noticed the strong smell of rotten eggs. He wanted to check his breathing mask, but as he tried to shoot his hands to his head, he found them unable to move. His slowly waking mind informed him that his wrists were tightly tied behind his back by some harsh restraints that painfully cut into his skin and wouldn't budge, no matter how hard he tried to wriggle his hands free. The exopack mask was still on his face, although the impact must have dislodged it enough to impair the seal and let Pandoran atmosphere in.

He found himself lying on the ground, so he rolled onto his stomach and pressed the mask against the grassy bed, taking a few deep breaths to clear his lungs of the alien air. He fumbled with the mask to put it on properly, which was a strenuous task to do using only his head, but it seemed to have worked; at the very least, he could no longer smell the irritating stench of sulfane, which was usually a good enough indicator of a leak.

He rolled to his side, trying to observe his surroundings, and he winced, realising he was aching all over. He would probably sport a nice set of bruises – that is, if he survived long enough. It was a wonder that he had no broken ribs, at least none he would be painfully aware of.

Norm tried to assess his situation. He was still alive, a good thing. He was bound, a bad thing. Who had tied him? The Na'vi male had looked mad enough to disembowel him without ceremony. He lifted his head and looked at his torso. His shirt was smeared with blood. So he had hit him, but the Na'vi was nowhere around, not at the first glance, anyway. Also a good thing.

Then he heard voices, Na'vi voices, from somewhere nearby behind him. He went still and pricked up his ears.

"That should be enough," a female voice said.

Another voice, male, asked, "Will he live?"

"Yes. The tawtute arrows only hit flesh and came out, and I have stopped the bleeding."

They must be talking about the Na'vi whom Norm had wounded. He felt relieved that he hadn't killed him, but the fact that he was bound and that there were two other natives, both speaking in the same weird accent as the Na'vi he had shot, allowed for very little additional comfort indeed.

"What will we do with it?" the female queried after a moment's pause, spitting out the last word as if it were a particularly offensive morsel.

"Toruk Makto's orders are to take prisoners if possible, and bring them to the camp."

"But it killed Atanvi and wounded Tsawkitan!"

"Toruk Makto said if possible."

A thoughtful silence, then, "I see." Norm could swear he had heard the evil grin that had accompanied the answer, much to his ongoing dismay. The female continued, "Can it hear us?"

"Probably. I saw it moving a while ago. I doubt it understands, though."

Norm chose this moment to roll over to face the voices' owners, hissing in pain from the movement. Two Na'vi squatted over a third, the male he had faced earlier. He was unconscious and had his thigh and torso wrapped in bloodstained makeshift bandages. The pair wore the same outlandish garb and markings as the wounded male and they both looked at Norm sharply, abruptly ceasing their conversation.

Norm hesitated for a moment. "I hear you," he said in Na'vi, and suddenly burst out chuckling. There was a distinct hysterical tinge to it.

The couple exchanged confused glances. "Then you should know your fate is sealed," spat the female.

For some reason, Norm started to feel oddly light-headed. "Oh yeah? And why is that?" he heard himself saying merrily, the words bypassing his brain completely.

"You will pay in blood for what you have done to my sister and her mate!" the female shouted, irked at the tawtute's tone.

The part of Norm's consciousness that still retained some sanity listened in horror to his own voice. "And what exactly have I done to your sister? I don't recall doing anything to her. Him," he motioned his head to the wounded male, "him I do remember. I shot him in self-defence. I didn't want to, but he wouldn't listen and attacked me. But your sister?" Norm shook his head and shrugged dismissively, while congratulating himself on committing suicide.

The female snarled and suddenly, there was a knife in her hand. Just as her body tensed for a charge, her companion grabbed her arm and when she looked at him angrily, he shook his head. She gave Norm a lengthy glowering look and replaced the blade into its sheath.

"Norm, come in."

The two Na'vi jumped to their feet at the sudden loud voice, bows ready in their hands, looking around in confusion. The English words shot through Norm's mind, clearing it instantly of the haze that had threatened to occlude it. Jake was raising him over the radio! But just as he was getting his hopes up, he realised that with his hands tied firmly behind his back, there was no way he could reach the device hanging around his neck and answer.

"Norm, do you copy?" There was a hint of worry in Jake's voice.

The eyes and arrows of the Na'vi pointed at Norm. "What is this?" the male asked mistrustfully.

Norm forced himself to remain calm. "It is Toruk Makto calling me over the radio."

"What? What is radio?"

"The thing hanging from my neck. It allows us to speak to one another over long distances."

The couple frowned and looked at the device just as it went off again, giving them both a start. "Norm, please, come in!" The voice was urgent now.

"Er... I know this may sound crazy, but... could you perhaps untie my hands so that I could answer it?" Well, it was worth a try, wasn't it?

The female almost snorted. "Do you think we are skxawng, demon?"

"But that is Toruk Makto wanting me to answer!"

Now, the female did laugh. "That was a tawtute voice. Toruk Makto is no tawtute. You would just ask your people to help you."

Yes, that was exactly what he would do! Norm groaned in frustration. That's what you get for briefing newcomers in a hurry. "Alright, as I was trying to explain to your friend over there before he decided to skewer me, I am a friend of Toruk Makto and I was fighting at your side, for your blue asses, dammit! This whole thing is a misunderstanding! Now if you just let me answer the fucking radio, he would confirm it himself and this shit would be over with." The Na'vi expletives that somehow managed to stick in his head definitely surprised him, but the female looked unimpressed.

"Oh, do you not worry, tawtute, it will be over soon enough."

Ugh! Why did he have to run into a bunch of bloodthirsty overgrown smurf-monkeys that didn't see an inch beyond their greed for revenge? Ha, they saw squat! Was this who he had been fighting for? That prick Selfridge was right, they were savages, nothing more. Vicious savages that –

His line of thought was interrupted when the female drew her knife again and walked up to him, looming over and blocking any sunrays that punched their way through the thick treetops. He shot a quick hopeful glance to the male, but there seemed to be no objection this time. As the female squatted next to Norm and noticed his blanching, terrified face, an amused wicked grin spread over hers and she played with the knife, studying it lingeringly. Then she placed the blade to Norm's neck, invitingly bare in his sweat-drenched muscle shirt. She looked into his eyes to find them firmly closed, his lips quietly stammering words unknown to her. She rolled her eyes and cut.

When Norm could feel the sunlight on his face again, he opened his eyes and saw the female walking away, the radio in her hand. He had never been a believer, but he had managed to recall the whole of Our Father in his panic and now he thanked God. He let out the breath he had held, becoming painfully aware of the droplets of cold sweat slowly trickling down his face.

The female threw the radio to the ground in front of the male, where it clinked against the assault rifle that had already lain there. It was silent; Jake's calls had ceased after the three attempts. She also removed her bow and then walked back to Norm, her expression unreadable, and commanded curtly, "Stand up."

Norm grunted and slowly obliged, his bruises and bound hands making it no easy task. The female walked around him and cut his bonds. He started massaging his aching wrists right away, noticing they must have used razor palm leaves to tie them. Although the velcro-like fronds made good improvised restraints, the damn plant was worthy of its name, the edges leaving several bloody gashes on his wrists. Better not think what the scars might look like.

A knife landed in front of him. He looked up at the female, who was now several paces before him, another in her hand. The male stood by Norm's gear and the unconscious Na'vi, bow and arrow at ready. He seemed relaxed, but something in his posture warned Norm that everything could change in a split second, should the need arise.

"Pick it up." Another blunt command.

Norm didn't like where this was headed, but his mind was already numb enough from all he had been through today. Resignedly, he picked up the knife and studied it. The haft was impossibly big for a comfortable grip and the crooked bone blade was better suited for a sabre rather than a knife. He doubted he could use it in a fight, even if he knew how.

"Now, I shall avenge the death of my sister," the Na'vi announced and assumed a fighting stance. She towered over Norm, even though he was tall for a human and she was short for a Na'vi. The self-assured smirk on her face told him that she well knew he stood no chance, and his opportunity to defend himself was a mere formality.

Norm stared at her, the reality of what was about to happen finally dawning on him. He opened his mouth to say something, but the female let out a cry and pounced. Norm jumped out of her way at the last moment, failing to evade the swing of her knife. The blade hit his head, leaving a scratch along the exopack mask and grazing his temple. She snarled in irritation, her sensitive ears protesting at the scraping sound the knife had made in contact with the faceplate.

The sudden rush of adrenaline made Norm oblivious to his bruises and the sharp pain. Yet, he felt his bleeding temple with his free hand, suddenly thankful for the usually bothersome mask. The female used his moment of inattention to attack again, running straight at him, raising her hand for a sweeping slash across his chest. He looked up from his bloodied hand in the nick of time and ducked instinctively, the blade swishing an inch above his head with a violent hiss. The Na'vi jumped to avoid tripping over him, turned around in mid-air, and took a few steps backwards before coming to a halt.

Rising to his feet, Norm faced his adversary again and found her grinning widely. She was playing with him! She must know very well she could finish this with one well-placed blow, but she obviously wanted to enjoy hurting Norm before butchering him for good.

"Come on, fight back!" the Na'vi taunted and lunged at him again. Norm was forced to make another feeble attempt to dodge the flurry of blue, a new gash sprouting on his chest and left arm. He hissed in pain and tripped over his own legs, landing sprawled on his back.

The fall knocked the wind out of him and he struggled to breathe. Luckily, the female seemed to wait for him to right himself, maybe wanting to have some more fun out of him. When he finally caught his breath and took a lungful of air, he immediately felt the irritating effects of Pandoran atmosphere again. Holding his starved breath some more to avoid inhaling the toxic air, he examined the exopack mask, only to find it holding firmly to his head. Starting to panic, he checked the rest of the device and to his utter horror, he found the hose to the filter severed just above his newest slash wound.

He stared at the open tubes dumbly, the pain in his lungs demanding to breathe quickly growing unbearable. With trembling hands, he put the two cleanly cut ends back together and held them tightly in his sweaty fist, finally letting go and gasping for air in heaving breaths.

Just as the pain in his lungs began to abate begrudgingly, a shadow loomed over him. He looked up into the face of his opponent and knew that play time was over.

"You tawtute do not even know how to fight properly, without your machines and thunder bows," she said contemptuously as she placed one knee on Norm's chest, pinning him firmly to the ground and forcing the precious air out of him again. He struggled to break loose of her hold, but he might as well have been nailed down. The oversized knife lay by his right and he tried to reach it, only to have his hand immobilised too. His left hand clutched at the severed hose, holding to it as if it were a lifeline, and his breath came in shallow gasps.

The female brought her knife to Norm's chest, the tip just above where his heart thumped furiously. The world beyond the two of them faded as he stared hypnotised into her eyes, locked with his, intense and definitive and filled with hatred and disdain.

"May your spirit no longer poison the embrace of Eywa, demon, and may it forever wander in darkness," she said with finality in her voice and Norm closed his eyes, knowing this was the end.

Here I come, Trudy. He wondered what death was like and if he would feel any more pain; none came so far. Instead, there was a sharp swish of air followed by a thump and a startled yelp, and the weight pressing him down vanished.

Norm's eyes opened in bewilderment and he found his executioner next to him, spitting curses and trying to untangle herself from the bola that was wrapped around her upper torso. Angry voices caught his attention next and he looked to see Neytiri and the male aiming their drawn bows at each other and shouting. The male eventually relaxed his bow, ever so reluctantly, and trotted over to the female to help her get free from the bolas. Norm staggered frantically as far away from them as he could and slumped his back against a tree next to Neytiri, hardly believing that he might yet live through this day.

"Oel ngati kameie, Normspellman. Are you hurt?" Neytiri asked with concern in her voice, watching the pair with an unreadable expression.

"No... yes... I don't know," he stuttered as his shaking hand examined the slashes on his chest and left arm. They were bleeding, but not very vigorously, thank God. He started feeling light-headed again and his vision faded, his waking mind, relieved of the built-up stress, ready to finally let go. The faint scent of Pandoran air reminded him at the very last moment that his grip on the tubes was loosening. Forcing his brain to cooperate just one more minute, he asked Neytiri to give him her knife. Using its sharp tip, he incised one end of the hose, squeezed it and wedged it into the other, as deep as the elastic material permitted. Then, he knew no more.

Jake drummed his fingers impatiently on the lid of the link chamber. He desperately needed to get back inside and in the picture again – the battle might be over, but the war sure wasn't, not quite yet. The confined room of the link bed didn't allow for an exopack, though. The atmosphere needed to be restored first, and to do that, the smashed window had to be sealed tight with an emergency air-proof tarp. Unfortunately, that was no job for a wheel-chaired guy, or for that matter a Na'vi who had never done such a thing. He needed Norm. While he was positive Neytiri could eventually manage the task, she wasn't used to handling tiny human tools and the job needed to be thorough. Not to mention that he was concerned about his friend.

What came over him, leaving the shack like this and heading out in his fragile form? Although Jake was somewhat thankful Norm hadn't been here while he fought Quaritch, now, when he couldn't raise him over the radio, he was worried sick about him. That was why Neytiri had set out into the jungle to find him. Human passage always left obvious trail for Na'vi eyes, and he hoped they would return soon, safe and sound.

He looked at his avatar lying sprawled unceremoniously on the furthermost link bed, and winced internally again at its awkward and undoubtedly uncomfortable posture. The giant figure, a body he now considered his own more than his native human shell, seemed oddly out of place here. It had been a pain to drag it inside through the window, especially when he couldn't offer Neytiri much help in his unfortunate state, but they wouldn't risk letting it lie in the jungle unprotected. They would need to get it back out of here before sealing the window and re-engaging the air filters, though.

Just as he lost his patience and reached for the radio to check on Neytiri, sounds of footsteps came from the outside. He could swear he felt his ears twitch to listen intently, and he shook his head, amused at the sentiment. He moved his chair to the empty window, the wheels crunching the shattered glass littered on the floor, and he grabbed the assault rifle resting on his lap, just in case.

Letting out a relieved sigh and even chuckling a little at the spectacle that was presented to him outside, Jake watched as Neytiri came trotting to the trailer with Norm clinging to her back like child getting a piggyback ride. His smile froze a little when she let him down near the airlock stairs and he staggered unsteadily inside. No gas exchange took place, but the mechanical interlock still insisted that the outer door be closed before the inner one could open.

"Norm! What the hell happened to you?" Jake asked, eyeing him with growing concern as he limped into the trailer. After taking in his pallor, bruises and bloody gashes, Jake immediately began to rummage through the piled boxes in search for a trauma kit. "Did you get lost in the woods?"

Norm snorted. "You don't wanna know," he answered wearily. Looking around, he added, "What happened here?" The fallen AMP outside with Quaritch sprouting two arrows could hardly escape his attention, nor did the thanator carcass and Jake's avatar keeled over nearby. And, of course, the crumpled link unit and the smashed window, through which Neytiri now curiously peered inside. "It looks like some sort of final showdown took place here," he observed.

"Yeah... kind of. Where were you, anyway? You missed all the fun," Jake teased.

Norm flopped down onto one of the stacks of boxes and let out a sigh. "I wouldn't say that, Jake. I really wouldn't say that."

~ Author's notes ~

Sorry if the story was a bit dark. I just had this idea that Norm's heading out was pretty irresponsible of him given the circumstances, and one thing led to another...

I would like to thank liferefined for proofreading the story for me. And although it has been run by a native speaker, if you do find any glaring errors or oddities that were missed, please PM me and I will be happy to discuss them, correct them, and hopefully learn from them in the future. Come on, half of the reason I wrote this was to practise some English.

Of course, any feedback is greatly appreciated.