The next few months were busy ones. Jake did as much as he could to get Woruo up to speed; as he'd half-feared, the former Olo'eyktan hadn't passed much – if any – information gleaned from the War Council meetings on to his clan members. Only what suited him to, Jake thought.
With just about two years left to go until the Venture Comet was to show up, Jake was getting busier. I'm going to have to call in the nantang-ball, ikran-, and pali-team leaders for strategy training, starting at the next gathering, he mused as he sat down in his customary spot for this morning's hunters-meeting. He looked up, sensing motion, and waved at Sir'tey as the senior hunter arrived. The Olo'eyktan waved a greeting.
Sir'tey lifted his chin in acknowledgment of the gesture and had just about gotten into comfortable speaking distance when an overexcited Omatikaya came around the corner, running for them full tilt. Everyone present jumped up and their hands reflexively went to their weapons in reaction to the scout, who ran at them yelling, "Jake! Jake! It has been found!"
The marine strode forward as the scout came to a screeching halt in front of him. "What is it? What's been found?"
The man was panting hard, still wildly excited, "The Tree! The new Tree of Voices! I was out patrolling and I heard crashing noises. I followed them and found a lone wandering angtsik. He ran away as soon as he saw me, but as soon as he left he revealed the Tree growing right behind him!"
Jake's head whipped around. Mo'at was moving up behind him. Judging by her wide eyes and the ears laid flat against her head she'd heard every word. He turned to the scout, breaking into his hunting-stride as he ordered, "Take us there!"
The new Utral Aymokriäwasn't very far, less than a half hour's march from Hometree at a quick trot. Jake had just started thinking about calling for a rest – the poor scout had run all the way back to New Hometree and then turned around and come right back again – when they stumbled into a small clearing that was like any other of dozens that he'd seen in the past four years.
The slim tree was as tall as two Na'vi, and already sported quite a number of finger-thick softly glowing purple strands. For a few long seconds the group just stood still, staring in astonishment. Then Mo'at stepped forward. Everyone respectfully made way for the Clan Tsahik as she approached the Tree.
Jake watched his mother-in-law raise a trembling hand to gently caress the nearest glowing frond and saw it brighten at her touch. The Tsahik went slowly to her knees, still cradling the branch. Everyone in the group caught their breath as Mo'at reached for her queue with her free hand. She closed her eyes as the tendrils of her queue joyously connected to the Utral Aymokriä. She gasped.
The Olo'eyktan saw tears begin pouring from the closed eyes and heard Neytiri's mother whisper, "Eytukan..."
Jake turned to the rest of the party, spread his hands wide, and gestured with his chin to indicate to the others to withdraw to give the Tsahik some privacy. They retreated a dozen meters back the way they had come. He gestured to five Na'vi in the group, "Set up a perimeter around the Tree," he instructed in a low voice. "You've got first watch. I'll send a party on pa'li to spell you in a few hours. We'll work out a rotation as soon as we get back." He gestured to two hunters who had their weapons with them, "Scout the area. I don't think anything really dangerous will be this close to New Hometree, but let's make sure." The two nodded and melted into the jungle without a word. Jake looked over the remaining members of the group and gestured to the two that seemed least winded, "As soon as you're rested, head back to New Hometree and spread the word. Tell Neytiri. Everyone will want to come see the new Tree of Voices; she'll know who to send first."
Sir'tey added, "And tell A'tey! There will be a celebration tonight such as we have not seen since Eywa gave us New Hometree."
The master hunter waited until the two had gone and the remaining members of the party had made themselves comfortable, then clapped the Olo'eyktan on the shoulder. "This is a joyous day, my friend. The new home of the Omatikaya is now complete. Eywa smiles on us this day." He spoke in a tone full of satisfaction and relief.
Jake nodded, equally relieved. The three times he'd made tsaheylu with one of the Sacred Trees – four, if you counted the spirit-transfer – had been more than enough to convince him that this connection to Eywa was vital to the well-being of his people. He had an uncomfortable feeling that it would also be playing a huge part when the RDA returned to Pandora too. How, he had no idea. It was just a gut feeling that he had. And my guts have been pretty damned accurate since I came here, he thought to himself.
The former corporal decided to look around a bit when Sir'tey went to sit and wait with the remainder of the party. This spot was about to become Grand Central Station for the Omatikaya, and he wanted to be familiar with it. He prowled around the edges of the area, noting the markers the sentries had set up – a feather lodged in the bark of a tree, a vine with a particular loose knot in it – things that the untrained eye would dismiss. He located and signaled approval to each sentry as he passed.
When he'd marked the third and was almost halfway around the area, he started wondering why it had taken so long to find the new Utral Aymokriä. Well, of course we weren't going to find it until Eywa wanted us to, but why now? I know the Omatikaya seriously need it anyway, even without a war hanging over our heads, but why now? It's two years until the next ship shows up, so everyone will be able to connect to the Tree before then. Is that the only reason?
His thinking was slow and deliberate, his mind largely paying attention to the area around him. Out in the jungle, awareness of what was around you was the foremost thing in the thoughts of anyone who intended to survive. This was all to the good for Jake; being on hunter-alert sharpened his awareness and forced his mind to consider secondary issues in a slower, more organized fashion.
He mentally shook his head as he considered that last question. Eywa's timing was exquisite, almost millisecond-perfect. Look how close She called it when the wild ikran showed up! Two more minutes and we'd have been toast. And Neytiri with the angtsik! He shuddered and shook his head again, remembering how she'd been seconds away from death when the great hammerhead titanotheres had plowed past her into the SecOps forces. No, this isn't coincidental. There's a reason Eywa's revealed the Tree now. But what the hell is it?
Jake passed the fifth sentry. He came within view of Sir'tey and the group of hunters. He could see Mo'at off to his right. His mother-in-law was still in communion with the Tree. The Olo'eyktan started scanning the clearing itself, just to become familiar with the place. A ray of sunlight coming down through the jungle canopy illuminated a patch of ground to Mo'at's left. Something about the size of his fist was reflecting the sunbeam and it caught his attention. He moved a little further forward, and the item revealed itself to be a graphite-gray rock. A very particular type of gray rock.
His jaw dropped as recognition hit. In shock, he scanned the clearing, now looking with purpose. Much of the area was covered with moss and plants, but in spots where they were absent he saw it. Saw it everywhere. Holy shit! was his immediate reaction. Unobtanium! The floor of this clearing is covered with unobtanium! A memory slammed into his head with enough force to make him stumble, and he had to grab a tree trunk to keep himself upright. He remembered himself in his human body, in his wheelchair in CNC back at Hell's Gate, listening to Parker Selfridge saying gleefully, "Look at all that cheddar!"
Jake had to sit down before he fell down as realization hit. Oh my God! They're all like that! All the Trees! Utral Aymokriä, Vitraya Ramunong, the Hometrees, they're all sitting in unobtanium deposits! It's the unobtanium that makes them grow the way they do! He thought of all the Clans, each with their own Sacred Tree, many with Hometrees, how all clans held the Tree of Souls to be the center of Eywa's presence on Pandora. In his mind he heard Grace Augustine explaining to the head of the Hell's Gate installation, "It's a network!"
He leaned back and looked up to the sky, mouth open in shock as the final piece of this puzzle fell into place. They're connected. They're all connected. Oh my God, the unobtanium is Eywa's power grid! It's a power and communications grid, and it's all feeding into the Tree of Souls!
Mo'at was absorbed in listening to the sound of Eytukan's laughter. It sounded like children were laughing with him, and she was focusing with all her strength on her mate's familiar voice when someone else's laughter 'appeared' right next to his.
She had no idea why she was hearing Grace Augustine laughing.