Disclaimer: Avatar and all related concepts belong to James Cameron. I own nothing save this plot and my characters, Aliane Chacon, Jonathan Selfridge, Juliana Stanford, and Lena.


Crippled Wings
A Trudy Chacon & Norm Spellman Novel

Chapter II
Trouble in the Two Worlds

By Shadow Countess

~.~.~.~

Sometimes, nightmares don't stay nightmares. They come true. For Aliane, she would soon learn this horrifying fact.

Sometimes, dreams don't stay dreams. They are realized. For Norm, he would soon learn this blissful truth. Only to have it crashing down on him mere seconds later.

~.~.~.~

A soft moan of discomfort tumbled from her dry and cracked lips. Tiny drops of blood dotted, adding a hint of vibrancy to the otherwise ghastly pale face. Restless fingers clutched at the damp pillowcase. Ebony black hair clung to her fevered forehead and plastered to her perspiration soaked back. The sheer nightgown covering her frame was drenched in sweat as she tossed and turned in an uneasy slumber.

Footsteps sounded, echoing down the ghostly corridors. The rhythmic thumping increased in volume with each step taken before stopping outside the opened doors. Norm turned to cast the visitor a weary smile; emerald green eyes taking in Max's rumpled scientist garb. Lips tucked into a smirk. From the looks of it, he had been up all night as well.

"She's still asleep?" came Max's question.

Norm nodded a reply, and dug the heels of his palms into his sore thumb, rubbing to rid them of the dull ache. A sigh of pure exhaustion heaved. Worried by Trudy's sudden fever, he had spent the entire night watching over her.

"Any find of the Aliane girl?" Max queried, dragging a chair over to join Norm in his vigil.

"I wish I did," was the almost inaudible reply.

Aliane...It was the name Trudy had been muttering in her sleep over and over again. They, and Lena, had tried to find out who she was, but to no avail. All questions targeted at Trudy was answered with silence.

"But, it sounds really familiar. I know I've heard of her before...only where?" Norm muttered in annoyance.

A nip of sheer frustration crossed his thin features. He pressed his fingers to his knitted forehead, slowly and steadily rotating to massage the headache away. For once, the cool and composed Norm Spellman was irked. It really annoyed him to have the information so close at hand, resting on the tip of his tongue, yet stubbornly refusing to roll off. The answer to their worries seemed so far away, out of reach, when it was right next to them.

Just who was this Aliane? Why did she hold the powers to haunt the dreams...nightmares...of Trudy Chacon, the bravest woman he had ever encountered?

"It'll come to you once you stop torturing yourself over it. It always does," Max assured quietly, comfortingly, and laid a hand on Norm's shoulder.

A shrug. "Will Trudy ever be the same again?" Norm's voice, laced with deep sorrow, was unusually gruff as he questioned. Keeping himself under control had gotten progressively harder after the numerous times he had seen Trudy not just physically broken, but mentally as well. "She had seen wars before. Heck, she's even killed before, so why the hell is she so traumatized?"

"I too wish I know." There was a hint of solemn gravity as Max handed his fellow scientist a small drive. "Lena found this in her room this morning." Lena was a pilot and Trudy's roommate.

With a slight frown of surprise and puzzlement, Norm rolled the silvery device between his fingers. "Why is this addressed to me?"

~.~.~.~

Moonlight, tender and eerie, flooded into the room. Those pearly moonbeams were the only sources of illumination offered to the otherwise inky space. Back on Earth, the office the two figures resided in was not only huge; it too was magnificently furnished. Expensive decorations adorned the room; intricate statues and paintings lined every wall and shelf.

"They're getting restless."

A low, rough growl sounded from the burly man who was draped over a couch in a miserable excuse of a sitting stance. His counterpart, a shorter and trimmer man, stood up from his seat and paced around the room like a caged tiger, his expression undistinguishable in the shadows. Owing to the lighting, or lack thereof, they were merely silhouettes.

"I know, I know. Weren't they ever so eager to devour us during that damn meeting?" Stark displeasure and annoyance tinged the answer.

"We just need one more shot. If Miles hadn't royally screwed up, Pandora would now be in our hands!" A colossal fist slammed down on the wooden table. The ice cubes suspended in the glass of water chinked as the cup rattled.

A tired sounding statement followed. "Greg, get a grip. Miles gave his all, including his life. We can't blame him for something that isn't his fault." He paused as his partner uttered a feral snarl, and continued. "If we have to take our anger out on someone, let it be Jake Sully. Or that bitch Chacon for freeing him."

Muffled footfall halted as he stopped to survey the city of lights past the closed windows. A hand stretched and freed the catch; the glass swung open. A mild gust of breeze flounced in.

"The air-conditioner's on," Greg reminded grouchily.

"Ah, yes." Window closed; windowpane latched onto the metal sill once more. Nature gave way to artifice as the machine whirred, regaining its task of cooling the air.

"If we don't get Pandora, R.D.A. will be ruined." Greg shifted uneasily in his seat, his growl low with suppressed anger. "Another attack will solve all our problems: the Na'vis can't stand up to us a second time. Their manpower must have diminished greatly from the last battle."

Parker strode over to the glowing display on the other end of the room and snagged the tiny shard of gray rock from its stand. Unobtanium, the solution and cause of their many problems. Was it really worth it all? Brows crinkled; he offered himself a mental slap. What was he thinking? Of course it was worth it.

"Yet we lack the fundings we need."

His partner's thundering voice jolted him from his stupor. Deep eyes of cobalt rolled. Yeah, they needed funds but didn't have them. Like he didn't know. "I have a plan, a plan that only needs a person trusted by those on Pandora, and a pilot to ferry her to that monkey-infested planet."

"And who is this wonderful person?" Dry humor was apparent in the inquiry.

Nonetheless, Parker Selfridge replied, "My son's little girlfriend."

~.~.~.~

"Aliane, your phone!"

At the whisper of tense urgency, said girl flinched in her seat, shock jerking her from her daze. Eyes the coloration of thick honey glanced at her classmate, cast a wary glance at her lecturer, and fished her cellphone out from her pocket. A delicate brow arched at the unknown number on the screen. Fingers flittered and ended the insistent buzzing.

"Who is it?" the girl across the aisle questioned curiously, her body slanted towards Aliane's seat. Aliane shrugged and, with a soft mumble of 'Wrong number', returned to her book. Yet, she kept her phone under the table, fingers fluttered as she searched the number on the net. She had seen it before, somewhere...

Her head bowed, eyes lowering for a quick scan of the screen...

A quiet gasp escaped from her lips, creeps of dread slithering down her spine. An empty feeling of nothingness pooled and weighed at the pit of her stomach and dragged at her heart, making her sick. Fear and worry gripped her.

Why did R.D.A. call?

Sucking in her lower lip and nibbling on the soft flesh, she raised a hand into the air. A shaky inhale, and she called out. "Professor, I'm not feeling well. May I be excused?"

It wasn't a hard lie to believe: everyone knew she was sickly, and she did feel unwell, though not from an illness. Her classmates threw disdainful glares at her; she returned them with stony ones of her own.

Up shot the thin eyebrows of her professor. Sharp orbs of smoky gray pierced into Aliane's solemn ones before she offered her a nod of consent.

"Thank you." With that, Aliane hastily gathered her books within her arms and darted out of the room, heading for her dormitory to return the call. Aliane Chacon, you calm down right now. Her inner voice was harsh, severe, as it chastised. Jon would have told you if something's wrong.

"Damn." Her phone vibrated again in her school skirt's pocket. With a sigh of absolute exasperation, she slipped her hand in and drew out the white handset. Frame leaned against the wall. "Aliane Chacon speaking." Eyes closed; she gulped for air to calm her quaking nerves.

"Miss Chacon, this is—"

The girl didn't know, but, from a bend around the corridor, someone was watching as she uttered a low cry of sheer terror and shock, paled, and slid down along the wall onto the ground.

~.~.~.~

A thumb drive from Trudy...Norm's mind, the intellectually brilliant one that was rivaled to Albert Einstein's, swum as he headed for his room. Why did she leave it for him?

Norm Spellman was a brilliant scientist—even the late Grace Augustine had admitted that he had potential, the best compliment one could wrestle out of the gruff woman—but when things touched areas outside the perimeters of science and technology, the brilliant guy was at a complete loss. When things touched areas concerning Trudy Chacon, the woman he had come to like and realize that she was out of his reach, his mind went into hibernation mode.

Entering the room he shared with Max, the room of pristine cleanliness—he was sure it was clean compared to the one Trudy shared with Lena and a few others—he pulled out his laptop and balanced it on his knees. The drive was inserted into its side, its contents loaded with a few presses of keys. There were two videos, one addressed to him and the other to Aliane. Curbing the call of curiosity, he played the one for him.

Norm gasped. Trudy's uncharacteristically sober face stared at him.

~.~.~.~

Heels of shoes clacked against the floor of polished marble as Jonathan leisurely strolled down the corridor. Eyes roved, taking in the paintings of famous personnels that lined the walls. Lips tucked into an amused smile when he visualized Aliane's impish grin if she spotted him outside her classroom.

He didn't have to go there. Most of his year mates spent their free period chilling out before facing the remaining lessons, yet he always headed for whatever class Aliane was having, wave to her through the opened door, and do something silly before leaving for the library. All done for the sake of seeing her laugh. Especially now, when she needed more cheering up than ever.

"Chacon, Aliane." Her lecturer's voice was strong, confident, as it drifted into the corridor. A pregnant pause followed. Jonathan halted before the open doors, waiting for an answer.

None came.

"Chacon, Aliane?" This time, a hint of confusion tinged the call: Aliane never missed his classes. Still, there was no reply. Jonathan frowned and pressed a palm to the wall. For the final time, her voice sounded. "Chacon, Aliane."

A muffled curse of worriment rolled off Jonathan's lips as he fished a palm-sized device from his pocket. He slumped against the wall. Dark sapphire eyes watched the screen as he loaded the copy of Aliane's timetable he had with him.

Fingers tapped on the thin glass, sliding to scroll through her packed schedule to read the words: Psychology, 16:30. She was supposed to be there. Heels knocked against the ground; he dialed her number, only to find her ignoring her phone. Brows furrowed.

Where the hell was that girl?

~.~.~.~

"This is Trudy Chacon speaking...reporting...however you start one of these things."

Norm let an amused smile cross his features at the discontent etched into the pilot's countenance. Those orbs of pure brown blinked, narrowed at the camera, and fluttered close.

"Now, Norm, you know these things are beyond me, but I think it's on and running. I think," she emphasized once more.

"If you're watching this, you'll know that I'm either alive and unable to talk, or I'm dead. Honestly, I prefer the latter, but God never gives you a choice, no?" She paused and sighed. "Let's get the proper stuff down first, else I'll forget. If there's no chance whatsoever of me waking up, I want you to let me die. There's no point lying in an eternal coma with my brains fried and being a burden to everyone. I've always preferred euthanasia to life support." She shook her head and smiled. "There, done. That wasn't too hard, right?

"Now, let's get this over and then with. Aliane will die laughing if she knows I'm doing something this sentimental."

Norm's heart skipped a beat at the mention of Aliane's name. Yes...He was finally getting closer to the solution of that confounded mystery.

"Yes, she will, that damn girl. Now, don't tell her I said this else she'll scold my ears off." The grin she offered Norm was easy and relaxed. "And dontcha dare work your brains off, trying to figure out who Aly is. I'll tell you in due time. Which is..." She canted her head. Norm leaned forward. "Later." Trudy smirked.

"Anyways, Norm, I'll have you know that this is—" She pointed a finger at the general direction of the date and time on the screen. "—moments before the greatest war in the Na'vis' history. The war started by humans and will hopefully, end with our defeat. Our, as in R.D.A.'s." Her smile faltered.

"I'm not like you, Norm. I didn't come here to discover new species or anything like that. And I didn't want to come. Not at first, at least. I wasn't interested in nature and whatnot. I just needed money—call me practical if you want to, 'cause I am—and I wanted to fly. No other company needed a pilot. R.D.A. did and offered a good deal, so here I am.

"When I first landed here, I hated it. Everything sucked. I had no friends, there was no familiar faces...I was downright lonely. Then, I met you and Grace and Max and Lena. You four are the best things that've happened to me on this damn planet.

"You guys breathed life into my existence. Grace was always so forward looking, so optimistic, so passionate. Sure, she could be a bitch at times, especially when her samples are ruined by God knows what, but that's human. I can be a mean bitch if anyone screws around with my baby."

Norm chuckled. Trudy had landed a guy in the infirmary for touching her Samson.

"Grace really was a mother bear at heart. Overlording, but protective. She didn't deserve to die.

"Max and Lena really are a class of their own. Experts of their own lil' world but totally sweet, loving, and kind. They deserve to get together one day; they'll make a lovely couple. And, yes, you can tell them what I said.

"And you. You're my polar opposite—geeky, weak, and a total failure at anything physical." She shook her head. "Which is probably why you've got more brains than I ever had. Yet, I like you. You're kind, goodhearted, and a little too naïve at times." A smirk; she couldn't resist the jibe.

"But hey, that's what makes you real and adorable. Norm, when I'm with you, I feel safe. Not the hey-I-won't-get-shot-down kind of safe, but rather, the steady kind, the kind that goes deep into the heart. And I really appreciate that.

"Which..." She blinked and looked away. To Norm's amazement, a pale screen of pink colored her cheeks. Trudy Chacon was embarrassed. "Norm, I know I'm selfish telling you this, but I have to. I can't die without anyone knowing what I feel. Only now do I understand what Aly's meant about protecting the heart. I'm just being a selfish bitch and protecting mine...and probably hurting yours. But I really have to say this, else I can't rest in peace whenever I am. Forgive me."

She reached a hand towards the screen, reaching for him, and drew a deep breath. "Norm, I like you. I was too much of a coward to tell you when I was alive, but here it is. I really like you, and I wish we had more time together, but there's no point regretting, is there?" A soft, amused smile lit her eyes past the tears that had gathered. "Seems like I'm eternally doomed to care for my polar opposites...

"You made my heart heal, made the pain of leaving Earth go away. You're like the sun in a heavy downpour. I really needed you to help me forget." Tears were tumbling past her closed eyelids and down the contours of her features. "You see, when I first came, I was hurting. My heart was in tatters, but you patched it up. So...Thank you."

"I like you too..." Norm mumbled to the screen, strangely exhilarated by her confession. No, she didn't hurt his heart. She had healed it and sent it soaring to the skies, made it beater harder, faster, than it ever did. She was still talking, but he ignored her and clutched his laptop, shaking the device as he repeated hoarsely. "I like you too."

"Norm!" The sudden shout of his name sped up his heart. And the words that followed stopped it. "Trudy's not gonna make it!"

~.~.~.~

"Hey, Jon!" greeted an impossibly cheery voice as the class filed out at the ringing of the bell.

Said guy tipped his bowed head upwards and bit back a groan. Of all places, Juliana just had to use this corridor. Though it was his fault. He had always known that she had drama classes next door: Aliane had complained about hearing Juliana's voice whenever her classes ended late, yet had chosen to stay outside Aliane's classroom for the entire hour, hoping against hope that she would appear with a flustered apology.

She never came.

And now, he was stuck with Juliana Stanford.

"Hi, Juliana." He had known her since infancy for their fathers were business partners and their mothers were childhood friends themselves, but that didn't mean he liked her. Even as a child, he had found her commanding personality irksome, and it was a trait that had not changed till that day. Which was why he tried to avoid her as much as possible.

"Juli," she rectified with a mega-watt smile.

Jonathan sighed. He had to admit that yes, Juliana was beautiful the way Aliane would never be. Whatever quiet charm the latter possessed was dimmed by Juliana's beauty; the two girls were stark opposites, like the sun and the moon.

"Juli," he repeated wearily when a thought struck him. "Have you seen Aliane?"

The blond lifted a perfectly trimmed eyebrow, powdery blue eyes narrowing at the mention of her roommate. Pale locks swayed as she shook her head. "No, she wasn't in the dorm when I went back during lunch..." She hesitated, debating whether to release the precious bit of information she had or not.

A sigh. Never once could she resist Jonathan, especially when he turned those deep, inquiring eyes of his towards her. "But I heard her receive a call regarding a certain...Trudy's...death."


Summary for Chapter III

For Norm Spellman, one moment brought him heaven, one second brought him hell. The woman he could finally confess his undying love to was slipping away from his grasp. For Aliane Chacon, one call made her worst nightmare come true. The one who had promised her eternal company was gone for eternity. Or was it all a lie?


Authoress' Note: Thanks to all for your reviews and compliments! They made me one happy little authoress and fed my needy mentality. To those who logged in when reviewing, I'll reply via the message thingy. For the others, your replies will be at the bottom of the following chapter.


Messages

To pip: Thank you for being my first reviewer! I'm glad you've enjoyed the first chapter and I hope you like this one too!

To HowlingVampire05: Nice screen name! I really like it. Anyways, thanks for reviewing. I hope you like this chapter as well.