Important notice to rights owners: I respect and enjoy these worlds. If you object to any of my work within a world you legally control, please contact me and I will remove it.
by J. Stanton
A thought from days ago floated back into Jake’s consciousness, and he allowed it to open because he was resting in their new Hometree—and though there was much work left to do, it was the work of generations, not of hours or days, so he looked at it again.
The thought wasn’t well-formed yet, but it had a familiar shape. He thought about being Na’vi, and what that meant, and how he was absolutely sure that everyone on Earth would choose the transformation he had if they had a choice, and how he was also absolutely sure that such a transformation would be painful and pointless without Eywa’s presence, since the Na’vi themselves were only one very small part of her, which wasn’t enough.
Maybe it’s the other way around, he thought. Maybe Eywa has to come to Earth first, because she sure isn’t there now. And he wondered about that for a while: which came first on Pandora, Eywa or the Na’vi? Did she create us, or did we create her?
In that, Jake realized, was the solution to Earth’s problems, if he could somehow learn the answer. But the question was too smooth and slippery for him just then; he couldn’t even get a fingerhold on it, couldn’t find anywhere to start, so he let it go for now and drifted off into a light, restful half-sleep.
The question irritated his mind like a grain of sand in his eye. Even Neytiri noticed.
“Jake, you are thinking about something and it bothers you.”
“Yet you have not asked me.” She looked hurt.
“I don’t even know where to start looking for the answer. And if I tell you why I want to know, you will think I’m silly.”
“I know you’re silly, Jake. I see you.” She stroked his cheek, smiling. He grinned and gently nipped her fingers with his teeth.
“I’m serious, Neytiri. It’s about Eywa and the Na’vi. Which one came first? Was Eywa always there and she made us? Or did the Na’vi make Eywa?”
She laughed. “I have life-bonded with a child! Of course Eywa came first, silly. Eywa has always been here.”
“How do you know that?”
“Because there were others here, before the Na’vi. We find their bones and their things sometimes.”
Jake’s jaw dropped. “What?”
Neytiri shook her head, smiling ruefully. “Maybe I take you to teacher tomorrow. You sit with little children, learn child things.” She giggled. “Olo’eyctan!”
“I’ve only been a Na’vi for a few months, Neytiri,” Jake said bemusedly. “Tell me about these others.”
“I will tell you like we tell the children,” she said. “We know so little about them, really. They were shorter, heavier, had no tails. Like humans, maybe, but thicker, more powerful.”
“Could I see one sometime? I’d like to know.”
“All we have is bones, Jake.”
“Real bones?” he asked. “Or bones turned to stone?”
She laughed at him again. “Bones turned to stone? Jake, how can you be so smart about hunting and battle, and so stupid about everything else?”
“Because I was a human warrior, before. You know that.” He smiled, but he was already thinking. His brother had lectured him about fossils, once, and he didn’t remember much—but he knew that real bones didn’t last all that long, and they either got buried in mud and turned into stone, or they disappeared. Especially in a Pandoran jungle, he thought.
“Neytiri. Did they live with the Na’vi, ever?”
“Not together, I know that. What I mean is, at the same time. Were there Na’vi on Pandora at the same time these others lived?”
Neytiri paused, thinking. “I don’t know. We think they went away before us, because otherwise Eywa would have the memory of a great, great battle, even so long ago.” She paused. “But that is not a silly question, Jake,” she said, smiling, “so let us remember to ask it,” and that made Jake happy because he knew there was an answer, somewhere. And he thought of Norm in his laboratory back at Hellgate, and he knew that Norm was part of that answer too, even though neither of them knew how yet.
So much to learn, he thought, and suddenly he knew one more thing: the Na’vi knew how to live on Pandora, and they didn’t need his help, as their leader or anything else. What they didn’t know was how to live anywhere else, or how to go anywhere else, or even that there was anywhere else until humans showed up. I don’t have to do everything myself, Jake thought, as if I could anyway, but my responsibility is to move it forward far enough that it doesn’t just sink back into memory and legend when I die. And that, he thought, with a certainty he had never felt before, is why Eywa sent those little sacred glowing spores to land on me and keep Neytiri from leaving me to die: because, like everything else, she wants to reproduce.
And I want nothing more than to help her, Jake thought, because she has given me and the Na’vi so much happiness, and one of his brother’s words floated into his mind: symbiosis. Two living things, each giving the other something they needed to live, and stronger together than as two individuals. And over time, he remembered, sometimes things got so symbiotic that you couldn’t separate them anymore, and that was the Na’vi with Eywa, who was really just everything on Pandora, including the Na’vi.
Jake laughed, because Grace and Norm were so surprised when they started to figure that out, when any Na’vi old enough to speak could tell you the same thing. But he remembered that Grace and Norm were scientists, which means they couldn’t take anyone’s word for anything and couldn’t believe anything they didn’t understand. And that was important, Jake thought, because Eywa needed their help, and they were the part that was missing before—because being a Na’vi meant you knew everything without having to understand it, and that wasn’t enough.
And he laughed again, because he realized that a lot of science was about being stupid in the right way, deciding you were going to understand something everyone else just knew, and he probably wasn’t so different from his twin brother after all.
“What’s funny, Jake?” Neytiri asked him, eyes twinkling.
“Sometimes it’s important to be stupid,” he said, still smiling.
“I hope so,” she said mischievously.
Continue to Part V.
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