|The Storyline for the
TeamTNT Total Conversion
The Search for Aasgard
The project that
Chapter Three - Fjords
|Salty sea air.
There was a tingling sensation as if every nerve had been tweaked with a pair of pliers. That feeling was mixed with dizziness, clammy cold and a roaring in Steve's ears. Not quite the smooth transition he'd been banking on, but he felt alive-ish anyway.
Humid breezes. High pitched squawking and shrieking. And that roaring, seemingly endless.
Steve pried an eye open and looked directly into the beak of a large seagull. The bird seemed taken aback and darted away over the cliff edge. Steve pried the other eye open and, with some depth perception now restored, realized that he was about two feet from a nearly perpendicular cliff dropping down hundreds of feet to where surf was crashing mercilessly on the rocks below. He decided not to stand up until his sense of balance was more predictable..
Crawling around a bit, he found himself on a rocky plateau, with the same sheer cliff face on two sides and others visible in the distance across a bay. The bay focused to an inlet further toward land, and the cliffs became less sheer. A forest was visible further up, but the cold wind howled furiously. A gray mist fell between Steve and the ocean horizon, obscuring the view only a few hundred feet out. There wasn't anything else but dirt, rock and bits of grass for hundreds of feet around.
Steve gathered his cloak around himself and with head down, began to struggle toward what must be the interior of whatever land he was on. He supposed it was daytime, but that wasn't very obvious. A dim gray pallor fell over everything, and the sky hung low above his head. It wasn't raining, but it didn't seem to be far from it. Colors were muted and the land was stark.
Gradually, Steve discovered that his feet had found a path on the rocky grass, though it wasn't clear whether that path had been formed by man or beast. Scrubby vegetation seemed to be scattered about, but it was at least five miles to the nearest real tree, over where the land seemed to rise again from the flatness of this plain. Checking direction from shadows seemed impossible, so Steve began hiking "that way."
After an uneventful hour or so, he began to notice that the trees ahead were clustered together in small copses, with open areas between that had pools of water evident even at this distance. As he got closer, the water pools, gray from reflecting the sullen sky, seemed to shimmer as the wind touched them, making eerie reflections of the larger trees around.
Steve couldn't tell how deep they were from looking at them, partly because the edges seemed carved out of solid rock rather than gradual slopes from the surrounding ground. Occasional bubbles broke the surface, indicating that it was likely a long way down. Tossing a rock in, the ripples moved slowly across the surface, almost as if the water was somehow thicker than usual, more like a syrup. Steve chose not to learn more and skirted between the pools, making his way to the darker forested area beyond.
o o o
Dr. Todson came into the control room and asked Professor Hendrickson how things were going. Hendrickson smiled and explained that they had put Steve exactly where they had intended, right in the middle of the forests outside where Egersund is today. Had he realized that Steve had in fact landed 5 miles from there, one dizzy move from certain death in the crashing surf, he might not have smiled. But he didn't know that, and his assurances that they were in control put a look of smug satisfaction on Todson's face.
"So, the initial weapons and supplies made it in good shape too, then?" she continued.
"Yes, Steve couldn't have missed them. They were within a couple of feet of where he landed. He'll be fine."
"Good. I don't mind him having some trouble, but the least we can do is give him what we have. When is our first checkpoint?"
Hendrickson consulted a log book. "That would be in 18 hours. It'll be mid-morning there, so he'll have a chance to get a good rest tonight."
"Excellent. Let me know if anything unusual happens. Meanwhile we can let the rest of the teams get back to normal."
o o o
Steve began to feel hunger pangs. He had thought there would be supplies launched ahead of his arrival, but there certainly hadn't been anything yet. As he examined the brush, he noticed some small bushes that seemed to contain berries. Never one to allow common sense to get in the way of satiating his hunger, Steve plucked a bunch and tried them out. "Tastes like chicken," he joked to himself, but found them to be quite refreshing and somewhat stimulating. He decided to name them "Coffee Berries" in mourning for his long lost companion. He didn't know what year this was, but he'd just bet it was pre-Starbucks.
As it got darker, it got colder, but somehow Steve's robe was doing a better job than he expected of keeping him warm. Possibly it was the Coffee Berries, but more likely the guys back in Lab 3 had developed a good alternative material and had made the robe from it. The only problem was the breeze up the skirt, so Steve decided to find a place to settle in for the night and tuck himself into the robe. With the hood up and covering his face, he was well protected, so the only issue was finding a place that seemed safer than bare ground.
Some of the trees were fuller than others, and one in particular seemed to be hugging a rocky outcropping. Being up in a tree seemed more logical than down on the ground, so Steve shimmied up the trunk and snuggled into the crook of a branch, up under the outcropping. No sleepwalking tonight, but it would do nicely. Gathering his robe around himself and putting his head down like that of a bird under its wing, he fell asleep almost immediately, never noticing if anything was watching him.
That night wasn't so much dark as just drearier. There was still light in the sky, showing a dull grayness near the horizon, but it didn't look like it was going to get completely dark. The wind died down, and unheard by Steve, the sounds of the next shift of animal life began. Scurrying sounds of small rodents, followed by the flapping of wings and a small squeak, punctuated the night and gave it its character. It was a cruel and purposeful period, where feeding was the main goal and being food was evidence of failure.
A scraping sound was heard across the rocky ground, and the smaller activities seemed to cease. Slowly the scraping came, in a direct line for Steve's tree. The tree shuddered a bit, certainly from the wind and not out of fear, and the scraping sound continued. Steve squirmed a bit but didn't wake up. A clicking could now be heard in addition to the scraping. It was like the sound of rock against rock, dirt against dirt.
Then it stopped. The silence was deafening--nothing would move or announce its presence. For minutes on end the only sound was the soft snoring of one Steve Riker, unaware. Then, in as excruciatingly slow a pace as before, the thing dragged itself on past Steve's tree, and the night sounds were heard again.
Morning came, and the sound of birds in the trees woke up Steve, who found he was stiff, cramped and hungry again. The stiff and cramped was taken care of with a quick set of calisthenics and a brisk jog around the area, and some more Coffee Berries did wonders for the hunger. Good thing they were all over the place--he probably wouldn't need to store any. Since all he had was the hood of his cape to carry things in, that was fine with him. It wasn't meat, which Steve was really fond of, but it did curb the hunger, and he rather liked that stimulating effect.
Looking up at his tree one last time, Steve felt something under his foot. He looked down and for the first time noticed a scar on the ground that looked like something heavy had been dragged across it. It seemed to come from the open plain and continued through the woods, in the same direction as Steve had planned to go. Well, he just had to hope it was way ahead by now, because with nothing to fight with except bare fists, he really didn't want to pick a fight. Maybe a big stick would be a good thing to have.
Looking around, there certainly were some large sticks, but nothing that looked like it wasn't already dead and deteriorating. And Steve didn't have anything to cut with, so he wasn't likely to be able to cut a good green limb from a tree. Oh, well, something to keep in mind anyway. Necessity is a mother, said the inventor.
The weather, though still gray and overcast, seemed to have improved a bit, and so Steve decided to continue into the interior of the area. He didn't know what to expect, exactly, but he wasn't going to find it here. He really wished he could have found his supplies though. Without any way to communicate with PDARC, he couldn't ask directions either. He'd just have to wait until he could find evidence of something that had been sent down.
Heading into the woods, the path became less distinct, except for that scrape down the center. Steve figured that if he followed that, he at least would be going in some particular direction. Maybe it was a good thing, like someone with a broken wagon who had come by. There would be food there, and he wasn't an enemy of these people. He just was here to help them out with a little problem they might not know they have.
Turning a corner, he saw that this scar apparently had been caused by someone dragging a big boulder down the path, for there it was, about two and a half feet across, sitting right in the middle of the path at the end of the freshly dug scar. Steve didn't see anything that great about the rock, and looked around briefly to see if someone was in the area.
Satisfied that no one was there, he took a closer look at the rock. There was a huge chunk taken out of the top, and small rocky shards lay around on the ground by it. It was as if something harder and bigger had hit it, breaking the top off. There wasn't much evidence of what had done that, but it was as if the rock had been dragged all this way and then broken. Strange.
Steve decided to pick up some of the rock pieces and carry them with him. They were unusually sharp, and he found that he needed to form a pouch in his robe to carry them, by tying one hem up into his belt. It wasn't the most modest arrangement, but it worked, and those rocks were sharp. In fact, he mused, he'd be able to use one as a knife to cut that staff he had been thinking of. Maybe this was a good discovery.
Steve started out again, leaving the boulder behind. He didn't notice the blood beginning to seep into the ground, and certainly didn't see that it was oozing from the damaged rock.
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Story by Ty Halderman
(c) 1997, 1998, 1999 Ty Halderman and TeamTNT, all rights reserved
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