The Storyline for the
TeamTNT Total Conversion
The Search for Aasgard
Coming eventually
The project that
wouldn't die...

Chapter Two - Transmission Begins

After an evening of pacing more than progress, Steve fell asleep on the couch, exhausted from trying to figure out what to pack. Didn't really matter, probably. A toothbrush was as complex a piece of equipment as they had led him to believe he could take with him.

The alarm clock sputtered at 4AM. Steve really should tune in a station on that clock radio, but static seemed to wake him up, so there it was. Never expend energy where not necessary. Words to live by, in Steve's opinion. Not that he was lazy, mind you. Get a real reason to move, like someone about to kick his butt, and he'd be full of fire. It was just those little incidentals like clock radios, dishes and clean underwear that he couldn't bring himself to care about.

So, responding to the static, he smacked the radio's snooze button, knowing full well that he wasn't going to be there in 9 minutes when it came back to life. He needed to get a quick jog in before showering and heading to the lab. Nothing like three hours of sleep and an early morning jog to get your brain in gear. Strapping on the latest in strange footwear, he stepped outside, stopping to turn on the coffeemaker. Now, that was something that Steve cared about.

Steve's usual run took him down the street to a park, where he would alternate casual jogging with some quick sprints for about a half hour. He was used to seeing a few folks at the usual time, but that was after daybreak and the park was strangely quiet this morning. He could hear an echo from his feet hitting the dew-moistened pavement, and it gave him a slight edgy feeling that someone was following him, matching his rhythm to Steve's.

He did one of his quick sprints after looking over one shoulder, and the echoes seemed to keep pace, so he relaxed a bit. Slowing again, he padded around a corner and nearly ran into something that wasn't there. Well, it was there when he turned the corner (he'd swear to that) but it wasn't there when he focused his gaze on it. Sort of a tall thin thing like a pole, he thought.

Stopping at the place he thought he saw it, he saw that the sidewalk was dry in a circle about 2 feet across. But there definitely wasn't anything there. Must have been a hot spot from an underground vent. Probably just saw some steam. Yeah, that was it. Steve decided that sprinting speed was the best speed from this point on and made it back home in record time. But he didn't run so fast that he wasn't able to check the sidewalk along the way back, and there were definitely other dry circles, each one right in the center of the pavement.

Panting a bit from the unusual exertion, he tooled up the steps to his front door and let himself in. The sound of the coffeemaker finishing its steamy gurgle drowned out the static from the reawakened radio, and the fulfilling aroma of coffee filled the apartment. Pouring himself a hot cup, he started toward the shower, forgetting all about his little discovery in the park.

An hour and two more cups of coffee later, Steve arrived at the PDARC lab, uncharacteristically 20 minutes early. He felt some jitters this morning, hopefully because of the lack of sleep. As he walked into the lab door he realized that it was more than that.

The lab was a 24-hour environment, so the busy bustle wasn't the issue. It was more likely the added guards at the door, and the fact that they waved Steve in as if they knew him, all the while talking earnestly to someone in a lab coat they had detained, who obviously belonged there more than Steve did. One of the guards walked through the automatic doors with Steve, apparently intent on escorting him.

"This way, sir," beckoned the guard. "You're going to prep room D right after a quick visit with Dr. Todson. I'll be your escort."

Well, it had to happen. Todson was going to give him a ration of crap, no doubt, and treat him like scum again. Ah, the trials and tribulations of being physically fit. They were almost at the door, which Steve could see was already open. Through the doorway, his eyes met Todson's. Hers weren't sparkling.

"Thank you, Sergeant," Dr. Todson said to Steve's escort as she shut the door. "I hope you're ready for this," she continued, looking intently at Steve.

"I think so," Steve managed to mumble. Like it or not, he was still intimidated by Todson, and hoped it didn't show.

"You'll be briefed on the actual details of the ITP by the control staff, but I'd like to tell you a few things in total confidence first. This can't even get to the others on the project. You and I are the only ones who know this conversation is taking place."

Yeah, right. Of course everyone in the building saw him come in here and saw her shut the door, so it was just vaguely possible that they knew she was talking to him, but he decided not to point that out. He'd grant her that they probably wouldn't know the content anyway.

"I understand."

"There is, as you know, a lot of confusion about exactly what's going on here." Todson pointed out into the lab as she continued, "Some would have us believe that there are mythical gods at work, but I am much more convinced that someone from this time period or even the future is out making a mess of things in the past. I think you'll find that your enemy is much more down to earth."

"We do have some additional facilities at our disposal that aren't known to PDARC, and I'll be working with them to ensure that we do a bit more for you than we originally outlined. For one thing," she announced, "we should be able to get some advanced weapons to you more quickly than we thought."

"Now that's the kind of thing I like to hear," said Steve, beginning to like the direction this was headed.

"You'll probably still have to use the materials at hand, but I think we can give you energy-conversion equipment that will make your weapons pretty impressive." Her voice dropped a bit. "These are experimental, of course, and there are those within PDARC who would scream bloody murder if they knew you might be getting them. Something about them being dangerous to use, but I think they're just wusses."

Steve wondered if anyone would actually impress this woman, but decided not to mention it. Instead, since the conversation seemed to be over, he looked toward the door.

"Yes, we're done here and you need to get over to the prep room. Now go out there and kick some butt."

That's what Steve had in mind, so without further ado he bolted for the door and stopped cold, realizing that he had no idea where the prep rooms were. "Over here, Riker," came the Sergeant's voice, from the opposite direction that Steve was planning to try first. Two pairs of automatic doors later they were at a row of glassed-in rooms, each proudly announcing that it was a Humanoid Experiment Prep Room. They went to the second one on the right, "D".

Steve was surrounded by a half dozen people in lab coats, and was pretty quickly stripped down and ushered into what looked like a shower stall. Before having time to object that he just took a shower, jets of a strange green steam began to fill the container. It invaded every pore, and all the larger orifices, but didn't seem to cause any burning or unpleasantness, and was breathable. No more than 15 seconds later, there was a great whoosh as an exhaust fan emptied the green stuff out and Steve felt dry again.

Plain ordinary clothes would have been nice, but Steve found himself in fairly normal undergarments covered by a coarse hooded robe. The staffers in the prep room said nothing and Steve wasn't able to get them to respond to his questions, so he figured he just might as well endure and see what he could learn from observation.

The robe did seem to be well-woven, and didn't quite seem like cotton or wool. Maybe they figured out how to merge Kevlar with burlap, he thought. That would be a Good Thing. The shoes were like heavy high-top moccasins, but had an acceptable sole and felt like they'd grip any surface pretty well. A wrist strap of leather was an addition he didn't quite understand, but there was no doubt a reason for it. Maybe it had to do with weaponry.

Prep completed, and looking like an oversized monk, he moved smoothly in his new footwear, following his escort to the actual area where stuff happened, the ITP Control Area. It was pretty obvious where he was supposed to go; everyone in this room was either surrounding a pod in the center of the room, or staring at Steve. Or both.

"Right this way," directed someone that Steve sort of remembered meeting yesterday. Funny, he seemed to not be able to think all that clearly. Probably needed coffee, but he might as well get used to not having any of that for a while. What did they drink back then, whenever then was? What was wrong with this brain thing of his?

"You'll probably be getting a bit disoriented from the empathic vapor treatment during prep, so we'll try to get you what you need to know quickly," explained what looked like a head somebody. He took Steve's hand and led him to the pod, which opened as they approached. Steve sat in the only seat, and looked dully at the crowd.

"Everything is going to be automatic, Steve," began the explanations. "You're being placed in a semi-meditative state to aid in the transformation of your physical self to an energy pattern that we can direct across time-space. This will be a bit different from your earlier ITP experience, since at that time we didn't realize how closely connected the transfer was to normal dream and meditative states. If nothing else, this way shouldn't hurt."

"You'll go almost to sleep in a few minutes, and be just vaguely aware of what's happening around you. In about 15 minutes from now, we'll begin the transfer." Steve felt vaguely aware now, but it sounded kind of nice.

"The thing that you'll sense first when you get there will be the change in smells. The olfactory senses are some of the most intense anyway, and this experience will even enhance that. Of course, we can't tell you what you're going to smell; that depends on exactly where you land. We'll try to avoid dropping you in a dung heap." Whoever was talking began to laugh at his own joke, and there was a murmur of chuckling in response. Must be the boss.

"Anyway, once you begin to be aware of those smells, you should come out of the meditative state pretty quickly, and we expect you to feel nicely refreshed and ready to go. Hopefully you won't encounter any challenges right away, because you'll need to find your weapons and supplies, which have already been sent on ahead of you in an IOITP." Steve remembered that the IO stood for Inanimate Objects, but was having trouble with ITP now, except that he was about to be in one.

"Good luck," said the voice, and obediently a chorus of "Good luck!" answered his call. Steve managed to squeak out a smile and a bit of a nod and began to drift into a skimming semi-sleep. Very nice.

As Steve lost his connection with the lab around him, the dozen or so people most involved in the ITP control went to work. They strapped sensors around Steve's chest and arms, another set was strapped to his forehead, and a pair of complex goggles were put in place over his eyes. "Where else?" would have been Steve's quip, but Steve wasn't quipping.

The doors to the pod were swung shut, and a hum began to fill the room. Steve could be seen through full-length window slits in the pod, and he seemed very relaxed. In fact it was good that the chair had swiveled back earlier, or he'd have fallen out. A counter over the pod was counting down, currently showing 2:10.

"ITP engagement in two minutes," came the announcement over a loudspeaker as the clock hit 2:00. Everyone seemed more animated suddenly, but more sure of what was next, too. This was what they had practiced, and it was going well. "ITP Engagement in one minute."

The hum became more of a whine, and the lights were dimmed except over the pod itself. Everyone was either staring at a computer screen or the pod itself, as the countdown reached 15 seconds. "This is it, folks," came the leader's voice, and everything became incredibly quiet except for the solitary whine of the pod.

5 seconds. The whine changed pitch, now joined by a rumbling harmonic that was both irritating and somehow pleasant. One second left, and then... The seat in the pod was empty, the straps were hanging down loosely in the seat, and Steve was gone.

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Story by Ty Halderman
(c) 1997, 1998, 1999 Ty Halderman and TeamTNT, all rights reserved
No duplication in any medium without written permission