There was a moment of complete silence, in which Jake and Neytiri just stared at the Doctor, hoping the situation would suddenly become clear in their minds. Then they both started speaking at once, in different languages, and in such raised tones that their voices reverberated throughout the forest.
"How do you know about that?" Jake demanded. "What are you hiding? You think a few nice words and a handshake is going to make up for everything that's happened? You really think you can just pick up again where you left off?"
At the same time, in Na'vi, Neytiri shouted, "What do you know about Eywa? Are you mocking us? You think she isn't real, don't you? You think she's just rock and soil!"
The Doctor held out his hands. "Woah, woah, woah! One at a time." He turned to Neytiri. "Right. Neytiri first. Well, to answer your questions in order: basically everything, not intentionally, and of course she's real. Who do you think I've been talking to since I got here?"
He spun around, coattails flying, and faced Jake. "And as for your questions. Met Eywa about… what is it? Mid twenty second century? Must be seven million years ago, now. Few nice words and a handshake never did anyone any harm. And as for picking up where I left off…" a shadow crossed his face. "Couldn't if I wanted to," he said. "So I suppose that answers that."
"Seven million years ago?" Jake asked.
"Bout that long," mused the Doctor. "Fairly young for a planet. She's still just a child in so many ways." He paused, then chuckled. "I heard that, young lady. Don't you go denying it."
"You can't do that," insisted Neytiri. "You can't just hear her like that. Eywa doesn't do that."
The Doctor pointed at his head. "Wireless connection," he said. He looked at the blank expressions on Jake and Neytiri's faces. "Right. 22nd century. Never mind." He reached into his pocket and produced a thin metal tube. He pressed a few buttons, and the tip lit up blue. He beamed. "That-a-way, I think," he said, darting off into the distance. "Keep up!"
Jake and Neytiri looked at one another, then ran after him, trying to keep up.
"That tree branch," said Jake, "I knew that wasn't an accident. That was Eywa, wasn't it? She was trying to save his life."
"Eywa doesn't pick sides," Neytiri informed him. "She can't just do things like that, and she wouldn't—not to save one life." She scanned the way ahead, spotted the tan coat to her right, and dragged Jake along the correct course. "I don't understand what he is," she said.
"He's just… some guy from that ship," said Jake.
"He's not tawtute," said Neytiri.
"But he looks human."
"And the dreamwalkers looked like the Na'vi."
Jake blinked. "What, you think he's an avatar?"
"No," said Neytiri. She frowned. "But he's different. There's something about him. I feel like I should remember him from somewhere…"
But before Jake could ask her to explain, they nearly collided with the back of a tan trench coat. Just beyond him, Jake could make out the large clearing of dust and ash that was once Hometree, along with a few destroyed pieces of mining machinery.
He could still smell the death that lingered in the air.
The sight of that area stirred up such vivid memories, it took Jake a while to realize that the Doctor was talking—muttering something so quietly that his words were nearly lost in the wind.
"No," he was saying. "No, no, no, no, no."
He took a few steps forward, his metal wand humming in his hand. He stopped, stood amongst the ashy ground, a cold wind winding through his hair. He looked down and examined the metal tube in his hand.
"Hairline fracture," he said. "I suppose that's how they got through."
He put away the metal tube, and Jake could see his hands shaking by his side. He was still muttering something under his breath, something that sounded like, "should have been able to stop this," and "shouldn't even be possible."
"I was there," said Jake. "When it happened. We both were." He looked over at Neytiri, into her beautiful golden eyes that shone with unshed tears. "There was nothing we could do."
The Doctor turned on Jake. "Who did this?" he demanded.
"The tawtute," Neytiri said.
The Doctor ignored her. "Who did this, Jake?"
"Like she said, humans," Jake told him.
The Doctor took a step forward, and Jake found himself instinctively taking a step back. Neytiri was right—the Doctor really did remind him of a Turok.
"Which humans, Jake?" asked the Doctor.
"The RDA," said Jake. "It's a mining corporation… back on Earth."
The Doctor looked at Jake, the cold fury still in his eyes. Then he looked back over his shoulder—at the remains of the mining equipment that still lay amongst the ashy ground, and took a long, shaky breath.
"I trusted you," said the Doctor, very softly.
The forest around them seemed to quiver slightly, tree branches swaying, animals scurrying off in the distance, the rumble of the distant river hesitating in its cacophony.
The Doctor stared up at the trees. "I said I trusted you!" he shouted. "You hear me? I trusted you to keep them out. Do you have any idea what's been happening out there? Do you know what you've done?" His entire body was shaking now with barely suppressed fury. "You could have stopped this. You could have stopped this all from happening. You could have saved Donna!"
"Stop it, stop it, stop it!" Neytiri shouted. She grabbed his shoulders, and shook him. "I don't know who you are, but you can't speak to her like that. You don't speak to her like that!" She looked into his deep, furious eyes. "You say you know Eywa, but you don't. She isn't some child you can scold. She is the balance, the life force, the spiritual center. She does not interfere."
The Doctor's anger melted into confusion, and his eyebrows raised. "Since when?"
"Since always," said Neytiri. "Since the dawn of time."
The Doctor blinked. "That's not right," he said, extricating himself from Neytiri's hold. "No, no, no, that's not right at all." He ran a hand through his hair. "Something's gone wrong—been going wrong—for longer than Neytiri's people can remember. She's not usually this quiet or passive. Not when she knows what's at stake."
"How can you know?" said Neytiri. "You, who claim you speak with Eywa, even though you have not connected with her. Who are you to say what Eywa is like?"
The Doctor waved his hand in the air. "And all this is natural, then, is it? The products of a natural evolutionary cycle? Every biosphere on this planet is radically different, and yet somehow, the plants and wildlife are consistent. Does that sound like survival of the fittest to you?" He surveyed Neytiri carefully. "And you. Your entire genetic makeup. Your skeletal structure, the molecular resonance patterns in your nervous system. The Na'vi are the only race in the universe who can be shot point blank by a Dalek and walk away unscathed. Do you really think that Eywa had no part in that?"
"What's a Dalek?" asked Jake.
The entire forest seemed to shudder at the word, and even Neytiri felt a shiver go up her spine, although she couldn't explain why. Jake and Neytiri looked around in bewilderment.
The Doctor didn't answer, just stuck his hands in his pockets. All the tension in his body was gone, all the anger and rage seemed to have disappeared. But the newfound ease did not seem to reach his eyes. "Right! Well, then! A hairline fracture in the outer layer of temporal shielding to mend, a state of grace circuit to repair, a mining company to destroy, a universe to save. Allons-y!"
He turned and started to head off, but stopped when he noticed that Neytiri and Jake were not following him. "Right," he said. "Translation circuits are blocked here. Keep forgetting that. Come on!"
"Where are we going?" asked Neytiri.
"Main Psychic Control Center," said the Doctor. He must have noticed the blank looks on their faces. "You know. Big, tall. Looks sort of like a tree with shiny, glowy bits coming out the top."
"The Tree of Souls?" asked Neytiri.
The Doctor gave her a large, manic grin. "Aw, you lot call it the Tree of Souls?" he said. "That's brilliant is what it is." He turned again, his coat swishing out around his legs. "Come on!"
"I think you might be a bit turned around," said Jake. "The Tree of Souls is…" He stopped when he caught the expression on Neytiri's face. They both knew they weren't heading in the right direction, and Neytiri was clearly hoping that it stayed that way. Jake remembered how long it took to build up enough trust with the Omaticayan clan that he was allowed to visit. He was sure that, if Neytiri had her way, this Doctor would never make it within two miles of the sacred tree.
The Doctor was skimming the edge of the devastated wilderness, examining the local flora and fauna with an intensity that even Grace had not exhibited. Every so often, he would stop, lick his index finger, raise it into the air, and then dart off in some new direction.
"Idiot," muttered Neytiri. "He has no idea where he's going."
"Bit tricky to find your way around when the secondary control conduit is in ashes," came the Doctor's voice. He stopped, right in front of a rather squat Dandetiger tree. He beamed. "Oh, there you are!" He gestured towards Jake and Neytiri. "Come on, come on. Bunch up. It doesn't have that large a range."
Jake and Neytiri looked at one another, but stepped forward, humoring the man. He winked up at them, and pulled out the metal tube from his pocket. "Hold on tight," he said, although he never said to what.
"What are you...?" Jake began, but before he could continue, he was surrounded by a sudden blinding light, and the world seemed to spin around him.