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Transformers: Human in Disguise

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Old 11-13-2012, 04:06 AM   #1
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Transformers: Human in Disguise

A fanfic idea I had a while ago when I was considering how a Transformers live-action movie could have been with the action not set on Earth (at least mostly) while still featuring a human lead. So here's what I came up with. I'm trying to write a story that would fit into the length of a movie, but it's in prose form, of course, not in script form. I'm up to chapter 6 right now and I'll be posting more as it develops. Hope you like it and I'm always up for constructive criticism.

Oh, and not set in any specific continuity, though strong influences from Generation 1 and the WfC / FoC games.

--------------------------------------


Prologue: New Posting

*****

Office of General Sven Eisenhardt
NATO Base near Tromso, Norway
October 12, 2005


“Captain Marissa Fairborn reporting as ordered, sir!”

General Eisenhardt of the Norwegian military, currently assigned to a joint NATO task force, looked up from the seemingly never-ending mountain of paperwork that always cluttered his desk to look at the new arrival. A crisp and spotless United States Air Force uniform was the first thing he saw, the rank insignia of a captain along with several ribbons decorating the chest. Further up he saw the face of a good-looking woman in her mid-thirties, red-brown hair cut to regulation length. Her salute was text book perfect and didn’t waver in the slightest as she waited for his acknowledgment.

“At ease, Captain”, he said, speaking English with but the faintest trace of a Scandinavian accent. “Please sit down.”

She took the seat in front of him and waited as he rummaged through one of the piles on his desk until he finally found her file. Opening it, he gave the contents another glance, though it was more for show than anything else. He had long since memorized the important parts.

“So, Captain,” he began, “degrees in advanced engineering and aeronautics, certified for several types of combat aircraft, saw some aerial combat in Afghanistan, and recently applied for the United States space program.”

Looking up, he smiled. “I’m certain you are wondering why you’ve been assigned to the middle of frozen nowhere instead, and in a foreign country to boot.”

“The thought crossed my mind, sir,” she replied evenly.

Tromso in Norway was about as far north as you could get in Europe while still having solid land under your feet instead of just ice. The official reason for having a NATO base here at all was to serve as a training ground for joint combat operations in subzero conditions. Of course polar combat wasn’t rated nearly as important as it had been before the collapse of the Soviet Union, but there were still the occasional joint forces exercises in these parts.

It wasn’t the real reason for this base’s existence, of course.

“Then I don’t want to keep you in suspense any longer than necessary, Captain,” the general said, rising. “Now there will be a rather lengthy briefing where you’ll get all the important and not so important details regarding your new posting and the responsibilities that go with it, but it has been my experience that the best and fastest way of bringing new personnel up to speed is a simple... how do you Americans call it... show and tell. Please follow me.”

Captain Fairborn dutifully rose and followed the general as they left his office behind and walked down several flights of stairs into a large subbasement. Eisenhardt couldn’t quite suppress a smirk as he saw Fairborn unconsciously rub her arms. Even the best heating couldn’t quite keep out the chill of the permafrost this far north. Most Norwegian officers were used to it to certain degrees, but Captain Fairborn was, as he knew from her file, from the American Mid-West. Certainly not her kind of climate.

“This here is one of the longest running joint NATO operations you’ll ever hear conspiracy theories about, Captain”, he told her as they walked. “It was first put together in 1978 and has been in operation ever since. We don’t have an official name as such, only a very long file number, but most of the people here like to refer to us as Project: Utgard.”

“Utgard?” Fairborn asked.

“Home of the Ice Giants in Norse mythology. Literally it means ‘Outside the World’, everything that is not part of the lands populated by men and gods. Which is quite fitting, all things considered.”

They arrived in front of a huge set of armoured gates and the general stopped. He’d done this a few times since taking over command of this place and he did like to draw out the suspense at least a little bit. Being the commanding officer of a base in a place where the sun was mostly conspicuous by its absence, he had to appreciate the small pleasures.

“What you’re about to see, Captain Fairborn, was found in 1977 several hundred kilometres north of here, frozen inside a piece of glacier that had broken off from the polar ice shelf. The Norwegian military originally believed it to be some kind of new Soviet weapon system, so they called in NATO for a joint analysis. As it turned out, though, the Soviets had had nothing to do with it.”

“It?” Fairborn asked.

The general smiled and entered the necessary combination into the wall-mounted keypad. The gates began to open. Behind it was a huge room, the ceiling at least ten meters above them, and its centre stood... something huge.

“Captain Fairborn, allow me to introduce you to your new best buddy. His official designation is N.B.E. 1, but we like to call him... Thrymir, our very own Ice Giant.”

Captain Fairborn just looked up... and up... and further up. Her mouth fell open.

End Prologue
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Old 11-13-2012, 04:58 AM   #2
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Chapter 1: When Marissa met Thrymir

*****

Underground Briefing Room
NATO Base near Tromso, Norway
October 12, 2005


Marissa Fairborn leaned against the glass window and couldn’t tear her eyes away from the giant object situated in the cavernous room behind it. Thrymir, General Eisenhardt had called it. An Ice Giant of Norse myth. Well, this particular Ice Giant certainly didn’t look all that mythological, but that didn’t hamper its impressiveness in the least.

The giant figure stood roughly ten meters tall, she estimated. It was humanoid in appearance. Two arms, two legs, a torso with a head on top. The head even had something resembling a face, though instead of eyes there was a single visor that glinted in the flood lights that lit the room. The gargantuan figure was made from gleaming metal and something that looked like wings were fastened to its back.

Marissa’s thoughts were racing. She would really have liked to believe that this was some kind of prop, that someone was playing a very elaborate joke on her. Certainly this metal giant had been built in some laboratory somewhere. She knew there were ongoing experiments with robotic soldiers. She knew that something very much like this could probably be built in any number of laboratories around the world.

The details were wrong, though. Such as the way the metal, despite being polished and gleaming, just looked... old. Worn. More like the hull of an ancient battle ship in a Naval museum somewhere rather than something fresh of the assembly line. Then there was the face, if it could be called that. It seemed humanoid, but not quite. The proportions were slightly off. The same went for the rest of the body.

Marissa had been assigned here by people that weren’t in the habit of playing elaborate pranks on their subordinates. This entire setup was much too big to be here simply for fun’s sake. General Eisenhardt had said this thing had been found in 1977 and while Marissa wasn’t a historian, she was pretty certain that no nation on Earth had possessed the capabilities to build something like this back then. Hell, they probably didn’t today. Which really left but one possible explanation.

“It’s alien, isn’t it?” she asked, turning around to face General Eisenhardt.

The big Norwegian had obviously waited for her to overcome her shock, something she was grateful for. She really hadn’t wanted to begin her first day at her new post by blabbering incoherently or something like that. Now he motioned for her to sit down at the briefing room’s table.

“Very good, Captain. Most of the people who see our friend Thrymir for the first time take a while to arrive at that conclusion.”

“I don’t know what else it could be,” she replied.

“You’d be surprised at the number of theories I’ve heard over the years, but yes, our friend here is of alien origin. All doubt about that has been erased over the last two and a half decades. He’s built from alloys we don’t even have names for, he comprises elements that aren’t in our periodic table and the technology housed in that big frame is centuries ahead of anything currently in development on Earth. Carbon dating doesn’t work on the stuff he’s made from, so we have no idea how old he is.”

He tapped a key on the laptop in front of him and the big screen on the far side of the room lit up, showing a photograph with the characteristic red-brown tint of the 1970s. It showed a huge chunk of ice floating in the ocean. A big, humanoid shadow could just barely be seen inside it.

“This is what those sailors found in 1977. Thankfully someone had the presence of mind to preserve some of the ice he was packed in, so we’ve managed to date that, at least. The innermost layer of that huge ice cube was formed about 12,000 years ago, so he’s been here at least that long.”

A click on the laptop and a different picture appeared, showing a thawed-out Thrymir lying on his back in what appeared to be some kind of airplane hangar.

“That picture was taken a few weeks later, after they’d towed the big chunk here and melted it down with flame throwers. As you can see, our buddy was in pretty bad shape back then.”

Marissa nodded, her eyes taking in the detail. While the present-day Thrymir in the room beyond looked whole and gleaming, the figure in the photo had obviously gone through quite an ordeal. Metal plates were torn, internals exposed. A decent-sized portion of the head appeared to be missing and numerous other damages littered the body.

“Like I said, the original belief was that the Soviets had created some kind of super robot tank, so NATO was called in. Still, the Norwegian government claimed full salvage rights and has maintained the lead on the joint investigation ever since. It was determined rather quickly, though, that this thing here was most definitely not of Soviet origin. Or human origin at that.”

He cycled through quite a few more pictures, showing Thrymir in changing locations with different people working on different sections of him. There seemed to be a steady rate of repair done to the huge figure, but little else changed.

“Over the years there was a lot of discussion about what Thrymir actually is, of course. A remote-controlled weapon? Some kind of probe droid? The real answer, as best as we can determine it anyway, was found only about five years ago, though.”

The picture changed again, showing some kind of half-destroyed, orb-like apparatus lying on a laboratory table in front of several scientists. It was about the size of a bowling ball and had clearly seen better days.

“What is that?” she asked.

“That, my dear Captain, is – or better, was – Thrymir’s brain.”

Marissa blinked, staring at him.

“Are you trying to say that this thing was... alive?”

“Basically, yes. We’ve had several experts for artificial intelligence research go over that thing and they all agree that this bowling ball there was, and I quote: ‘an electronic processing unit that nearly perfectly mimics the function, layout and general setup of an organic brain’, end quote. The gist of which is, that thing was at least a thousand times as complex and smart as the best supercomputer we can build today. I’ll leave the question of whether that made it just a super-smart toaster or an actual sentient being for the philosophers to decide, but it was certainly operating independently and almost certainly capable of making its own decisions.”

He shrugged. “As you saw on that first picture, though, whatever our friend went through, it caved in a good portion of his head and damaged his brain module beyond repair. Almost everything in his head was trashed, including what we believe to be his memory banks. So basically he’s been lobotomized, no chance of bringing him back online. Not that we were in any way certain that’d be a good idea anyway, but it’s a moot point. Whatever he was like when he was still ticking, we’ll never know. Which brings us to the major problem we’re facing.”

He clicked again and Marissa watched various pictures of what were quite obviously weapons.

“Our friend Thrymir was loaded for bear... or more likely mammoth, given the timeframe he was frozen. We have identified at least five different weapon systems on his body. Now we’ve got a pretty good idea what they do, if not how. Hand a soldier from Napoleon’s army a modern-day firearm and he’ll have no clue how it works, but if he’s got any brains he’ll quickly figure out the whole ‘point-and-pull-the-trigger’ thing. Same here. Only problem is, we had a very hard time finding the triggers.”

Marissa was not surprised, of course, that the reverse-engineering of the alien’s weapons was obviously a major focus for this operation. It would have been even more of a priority during the cold war, of course.

“I assume you did eventually find them then?” she asked.

“In a way, yes.”

Another click, a new picture. This time it showed a stylized picture of Thrymir’s entire body with something that very much looked like a human nervous system highlighted.

“Thrymir here didn’t need any triggers. His weapon systems were hardwired directly into his body and connected to his nervous system. The scientists tell me it’s not really like a human nervous system and functions very differently, but in terms of what it does, it’s the same. So basically Thrymir just had to think about it and the weapons fired. Which, considering the state of his brain module, left us at a bit of a loss.

“A lot of effort has gone into finding some sort of alternate method of actually using these weapons, but the long and short of it is, they require a neurological impulse in order to work. Or to put it simply, we need a new brain for Thrymir.”

Marissa was feeling somewhat uneasy at that comment.

“Sir, ...” she began.

“Now don’t worry, Captain,” the General said, “you’re not here to have your skull cut open and your brain extracted. No one except a few of our more... eccentric scientists ever really considered such an option.”

Marissa gave a nearly imperceptible sigh of relief.

“But the problem remains that Thrymir is but a brainless husk right now. We’re still a long way away from understanding his systems well enough to build our own versions, along with more conventional means of using them. So in order to get some use out of this guy, a parallel branch of research and development has come up with this.”

Yet another new picture showed on the screen and Marissa needed a moment to recognize the object on it as Thrymir’s head. The ‘face’, for lack of a better word, was flipped upwards, exposing... a cockpit?

The General smiled, seeing the understanding dawning on Captain Fairborn’s face.

“Yes, Captain. That’s why we need a hotshot pilot, who also happens to be a top-notch engineer. We’re just about at the point were the eggheads feel confident that we can give old Thrymir a test drive and after going through long lists of candidates from pretty much every NATO country, the top guys decided that you’re the best woman for the job. So what do you say, Captain? Interested?”

It was all Marissa could do not to drool on the table in front of her. She’d always loved flying, loved feeling huge machines respond to the motions of a control stick. The thought of sitting inside that huge machine and making it obey her commands, making it move...

“Just one question, General,” she finally said.

“Yes?”

“Given that it has wings, that thing can fly, too, right?”

The General smiled broadly. “Welcome aboard, Captain!”


End Chapter 1
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Old 11-13-2012, 10:01 AM   #3
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it's very good in literature form! but trying to translate that into something more animated, can be a logistical nightmare! & only showing the human story side, without Transformers in it....may not go down too well with everyone within the TF Fandom.
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Old 11-13-2012, 10:11 AM   #4
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There will be Transformers in it, don't worry. This is just part 1. And I didn't say I'd only show the human side, just that the story will center on a human lead.
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Old 11-13-2012, 10:17 AM   #5
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ah right, by what means at your disposal have you got, to portray those TF characters onscreen? stop-motion? modelwork? CG? or a combination of all of those?
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Old 11-13-2012, 10:20 AM   #6
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Eh, none? This is a prose story. Just with the underlying thought that the story should be such that it would be possible to tell it in movie-form as well.
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Old 11-13-2012, 10:30 AM   #7
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ah right, so basically it's a script waiting for a movie to happen! let's hope that Michael Bay is perusing this thread. btw..maybe you should get it copywrited, in case someone else tries to nick your ideas
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Old 11-15-2012, 03:42 AM   #8
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Chapter 2: Test Drive

*****

N.B.E.-1 Hangar
NATO Base near Tromso, Norway
October 26, 2005


“Okay, try it now!”

The voice hailing from inside an open panel near Thrymir’s shoulder, where nothing but a pair of legs remained visible of the engineer currently crawling through the giant’s guts, was muffled almost to the point of unintelligibility, but Marissa got the gist of it. Taking a deep breath, she slipped her right hand back into the gauntlet that was part of the cockpit’s control harness. She’d done this more than a few times these past two weeks, but still felt a bit uneasy every single time.

Like General Eisenhardt had told her, Thrymir had been a living being, or at least close enough that it didn’t really make a practical difference. His body required nerve impulses from a brain in order to respond. Marissa was to replace the wrecked module that had originally served that purpose.

Thankfully nerve impulses were really nothing but electricity and they either fired or they didn’t, so in essence it was the most basic of binary systems imaginable. Ones and zeros. Of course the sheer number of nerve impulses required to operate a human (or giant, near-humanoid) body, not to mention the coordination required, went far beyond the capabilities of any computer ever built by humans, so only a real brain would do. The hard part, of course, was the interface.

It started with small things, such as the fact that a human body had five fingers, while Thrymir only had three, one thumb and two longer, almost claw-like digits. The translation software included in the binary interface the resident scientists had constructed had to bridge such inconsistencies. In this case, Marissa would control Thrymir’s fingers with her thumb, index and middle finger. The remaining two fingers, on the other hand, would be required to control body parts that Thrymir had that humans didn’t. Such as the big ray guns strapped to each upper arm.

Marissa snapped the gauntlet shut around her arm and activated the interface. It was limited so far, seeing as they were still in the test phases. If everything worked she’d do nothing today but move her arm and...

“Watch out!” someone yelled as Thrymir’s giant right arm shot out to the side, knocking over part of the scaffold that had been erected around him. The movement caused the man who’d been halfway inside Thrymir’s shoulder to topple fully inside, a yelled curse hailing from inside a second later. Marissa quickly deactivated that gauntlet again, afraid that another movement on her part would crush the man.

“You all right in there?” she asked, leaning out of the cockpit inside Thrymir’s head.

Still muttering curses in his native German, Harald Walde, chief engineer of the Thrymir project, emerged from the open panel. His face was smeared with grease and a bruise was quickly developing on his right temple.

“I assume you did not intend to punch an invisible opponent somewhere on your right, Captain?” he asked.

“Not as such, no. I only twisted my wrist.”

“Scheisse! I thought the computer geeks had fixed those interface translation problems by now.”

Seeing as nerve impulse patterns were as different per individual as finger prints or DNA, the project’s computer experts had spent several days measuring Marissa’s nervous system, made her jump through all sorts of hoops, and had her go through just about the full range of human movements. In theory a simple mapping should have followed, basically saying “if Marissa’s nervous system says ‘A’ then Thrymir does ‘B’”. In practice, though, the process was still very much prone to error.

“Maybe during the next test you shouldn’t be halfway inside his shoulder,” Marissa told the engineer, with whom she’d quickly formed a friendship during the past 14 days. Despite their difference in age, Harald being nearly sixty years old, they had a similar mindset. Both liked to get their hands dirty when it came to the machines they built or operated. He actually reminded Marissa of her first engineering teacher, who’d told her that it might be the big-head scientists who came up with the ideas, but it was the engineers that figured out how to make them work in the real world.

As if summoned by magic a young man in a white lab coat appeared right next to the laptop that was connected to Marissa’s control harness and started hacking away.

“Sorry about that,” he muttered, fully focused on the screen in front of him. “There was still a glitch in the... ah, here it is. There. That should do it. Try it now!”

Marissa and Harald shared a look and the older engineer quickly walked across the scaffold over to Thrymir’s left side, as far away from the right arm as possible. Marissa waited a moment, then reactivated the gauntlet on her right arm, careful to keep it completely still for the moment. Then she slowly raised her arm and flexed her fingers.

Wide-eyed, she saw Thrymir’s huge arm mirror the movement exactly.

“That’s more like it,” she said, smiling.

*****

N.B.E.-1 Hangar
NATO Base near Tromso, Norway
October 28, 2005


“I feel like a fly in a spider’s web,” Marissa complained.

Today was to be the first real test drive for Thrymir and its new brain, Marissa Fairborn. After having spent the last few days testing the control harness in a limited way – arms, hands, legs – it was now time to put the whole body to work. And as a result, Marissa found herself in her current situation. For Thrymir’s cockpit had very little resemblance to that of a jet fighter or anything else she’d ever piloted and while it did have a seat, she wouldn’t be sitting in it much.

Pretty much her entire body was encased by the control harness, the only thing not covered was her lower face. She hung suspended in the middle of the cockpit, the contraption allowing her to move her body as if she was walking in an open space. Myriad cables connected the full-body harness to the walls of the cockpit, transmitting her nerve impulses into the much larger frame. The visor across her eyes was currently transparent, but would connect to the outside sensors built into Thrymir’s head once the harness was fully activated.

An almost tangible air of nervousness surrounded the entire huge hangar. After all, nearly thirty years of work would culminate today. For the first time ever Thrymir was fully functional (or as close as human science and engineering could make him) and would be brought to full power. So far they had only ever energized the parts of him they were currently working on, never the whole thing. And even though every perceivable precaution had been taken and everyone kept assuring her that nothing could possibly go wrong, Marissa was the one actually strapped into the alien machine. So yes, she was nervous. But also excited. Very, very excited.

“Okay, girl, everything is ready,” Harald said from the still-open cockpit. “Anything seems even slightly wrong, you press that big red button in your palm and Thrymir shuts down.”

“I know, you told me that ten times already. Now get out and fire me up!”

“Brat,” he muttered good-naturedly and stepped outside. Moments later the cockpit canopy, really Thrymir’s face, slid down and locked into place, leaving Marissa with only the faint glow of an emergency light. Static crackled in the speaker near her ear and she could hear General Eisenhardt’s voice.

“Everything’s ready on this end, Captain Fairborn,” he said. “Last chance to bug out.”

“I think the people who spent the last two weeks fine-tuning everything to my nervous system would be slightly offended if I jumped ship now, sir” she replied. “Ready as can be in here, too.”

“Okay then, we’re turning him on... now!”

Much like in a human body, a pump-like mechanism near the centre of Thrymir’s torso distributed fuel through a system of arteries, very much like blood. Seeing as this fuel-blood, what little had been left in Thrymir’s system by the time he’d been found, defied all analysis, the matter of powering up Thrymir could very well have turned out to be an insolvable problem. Thankfully someone – be it Thrymir himself or whoever had built him – had apparently foreseen the difficulty of finding compatible fuel in an alien environment and equipped the giant robot with a kind of universal converter. The scientists were nowhere close to figuring out how it worked, but whatever energy source was put into this converter – a cube-shaped opening near Thrymir’s belly – was turned into a kind of substitute fuel sufficient to keep the giant running.

Right now three different generators pumped raw current into this converter and all around Marissa the giant’s systems began to come to life. Her visor lit up, showing her the hangar outside as if she was seeing it with her own eyes. Slowly turning her head, she could feel Thrymir responding, his head turning as well.

“Optics are working,” she reported, “neck controls responding.”

Next she carefully began moving her arms, once again feeling the metal cocoon around her moving with her. Concentrating, she moved her arms through a simple Tai Chi movement she’d learned in basic training.

“Looking very good, Marissa,” Harald’s voice said in her ear. “Thrymir’s arms are moving fluidly. No sing of any hic-ups so far.”

“Understood!”

Next she moved her legs. It took a certain measure of training to produce a natural walking movement when you were basically suspended in mid-air, but she had it down by now. The floor of the hangar shook slightly as one titanic foot was set before the other, Thrymir moving under his own power for the first time in at least 12,000 years. Through the external audio pickups Marissa could hear a cheer going up from the assembled project team.

“Everything looks good so far,” Harald said, keeping a close on everything. “Ready to take our buddy out for a spin beyond the hangar doors?”

“You think I got all prettied up just to take two baby steps, old man?” she asked teasingly.

“Okay, Captain,” General Eisenhardt cut in. “Take Thrymir into the freight elevator. We got nice cloud cover topside, so no one should be able to take any unauthorized peeks. Let’s see how our boy handles outside the womb.”

Excitement running through her body, Marissa quickly moved the colossal robot towards the far side of the hangar, where the doors of a massive freight elevator cycled open. Two minutes later she was standing under an open sky – for the first time in two weeks, even – and looked out across the barren landscape.

“Very well, Captain,” Eisenhardt said. “Don’t overdo it, but put our boy through a light workout. It’s been a while since he was able to stretch his legs.”

“Will do, sir!”

A moment later the Earth shook as Marissa put Thrymir into a run. Humongous legs ate up the distance as the robot easily reached a running speed of more than 100 kph. Marissa barely managed to suppress a manic laugh, the feeling of this giant metal body under her control was almost intoxicating. Not even flying an F-16 gave one this level of direct control over a powerful machine.

She could barely wait to take this boy flying.

“Still looking good, Captain,” Eisenhardt was on the channel once again. “How about a nice little loop around the base before you take our boy back home.”

“Yes, sir!”

Her body almost humming, her mind flush with excitement, Marissa failed to notice something very important. Not that she would have had much chance to notice it anyway. A single, autonomous system that had lain dormant since the robot called Thrymir had first arrived on this world however many years ago had just become active. It was, in essence, little more than a transmitter, though operating on a frequency human scientists had never even imagined.

Unnoticed by anyone, the tiny little transmitter sent a single transmission burst skyward before turning off again. Its work was done.


End Chapter 2
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Old 11-16-2012, 03:32 AM   #9
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Chapter 3: Fantastic Voyage

*****

Outside NATO Base near Tromso, Norway
October 29, 2005


After having successfully tested many of Thrymir’s basic systems yesterday, the second day would finally see two things that Marissa was even more excited about than running around inside a huge metal giant. More specifically today she would not run, but fly around inside a huge metal giant. That, and blow stuff up with Thrymir’s onboard weaponry.

While there had been numerous tests done with Thrymir’s weapons, no one yet knew how effective they would really be, as they hadn’t yet been able to actually fire them. Seeing as it required nerve impulses to do so, it would only work now that the Ice Giant once again had a working brain, though it had taken the form of a human being. As for his flight capabilities, so far the scientists only knew that, yes, he had once been able to fly and, yes, as all systems were more or less restored, he should be able to do it now, too. Testing it, of course, fell to Marissa.

“Okay, Captain,” General Eisenhardt’s voice once again sounded through her ear piece. “Don’t pull any Top Gun moves on me today! Just try to get our boy airborne a bit and take him back down. No fancy flying on the first try, understood?”

“Yes, sir,” Marissa replied, though she wanted nothing more than to put Thrymir through his paces right now. She understood, of course, that taking a completely untested aircraft – though it was shaped very differently than any jet she’d ever flown – to its limits on the very first test flight was sheer stupidity. So she would take it easy today... grudgingly.

“Skies are clear of aircraft, cloud cover is holding. Whenever you’re ready, Captain!”

Seeing as human beings had no in-built rocket boosters, the scientists had wired the controls of Thrymir’s jets to respond to Marissa’s toe movements. How the actual steering was going to work was a bit of an unknown quantity yet, as Thrymir apparently had nothing in the way of control surfaces. Marissa would have to literally wing it here and she could barely wait.

Slowly flexing her toes, she felt Thrymir begin to rumble as the boosters built into his feet and back begin to activate. A moment later the giant robot began to lift off the ground on plumes of fire. Marissa had never flown a VTOL aircraft before, but she imagined it might feel very much like this.

“Looking good, Marissa,” Harald’s voice came over the com. “Now try if you can get our boy to float sideways a bit.”

“Understood!”

Given the placement of the jets, Marissa kept her legs extended straight toward the ground, while tilting her upper body to the side. Thrymir wobbled, but obediently moved sideways while maintaining his current altitude about ten meters off the ground.

“Very good, Captain! Now one more test before we end this flight. Try to attain forward movement!”

This would be the hardest part, Marissa knew, because it would require trading her uplift for horizontal thrust. Deciding to go at it like Superman, she tilted Thrymir’s body forward, extended her arms above her heads and finally levelled out her legs. The result was instantaneous.

“Whoooo!” Marissa couldn’t quite suppress her exhilaration as the giant robot shot forward, parallel to the ground. She had no idea what speed she was travelling at, but it was certainly more than enough to negate gravitational pull and keep her on a level flight path. A strange feeling tingled across her back and she realized the wings on Thrymir’s back were responding, somehow stretching sideways to increase updraft. At the same time a buzzing went across her forearms and with a start Marissa realized that Thrymir’s arms were... changing?

“What are you doing, Captain? Thrymir’s arms are reconfiguring in some way.”

Steering fins, Marissa realized. Thrymir was growing steering fins on his arms and – she double-checked – on her legs, too.

“It seems to be some kind of automatic reconfiguration when in flight mode,” she replied. “Something akin to reflexive movements in an organic body, Thrymir’s body knows how to handle flight without conscious input from the brain.”

“Amazing,” Harald whispered. “They really managed to build all the complexities of an organic being into a machine.”

Marissa carefully tried her hand – or arms, more precisely – at steering. Moving her arms and legs caused the steering fins to shift as well, giving her flight control. Steering left and right, as well as up and down, was almost intuitive. Oh, she wouldn’t be up for complex flight manoeuvres or dog fights anytime soon, but she could fly.

Damn, she could fly!

“Okay, Captain, take him for one loop around the base, then bring him in for a landing. I don’t think the people here can restrain themselves much longer from taking a look at those transforming arms and legs of Thrymir, we’ll handle the weapon tests later.”

“Understood, sir!”

She carefully manoeuvred Thrymir into a gentle curve and made him fly a wide arc around the base. Damn, this was fun. She hoped she’d get the chance to really put this guy through his paces soon. That, and fire off the big guns, too. While all this careful testing was no doubt necessary and sensible, she really longed for some more actions.

Captain Marissa Fairborn of the United States Airforce really should have remembered the old adage of being careful what you wish for.

A buzzing sound drew her attention and a display screen opened in her field of vision. Thrymir was equipped with a full range of sensory equipment, much of which the various scientists of Project: Udgard didn’t fully understand yet. Something similar to radar was present, as well as thermal and motion sensors. It was not one of these, though, which called for Marissa’s attention, but rather one of the still-unknown sensor apparatuses. The interface built into her visor translated it as a bright dot directly in front of her, coming closer.

“Some kind of bogey in front of me,” she called in. “I’m taking evasive action.”

“Radar shows nothing, Captain! Are you certain?”

“Thrymir seems certain. No sense taking chances!”

She put the flying robot into a steep descent and took him to the right, trying to evade whatever it was by a wide margin. The attempt was not successful, though.

“Bogey is still coming toward me!”

“Radar is still empty, but we’re picking up some kind of weird radiation reading. Bring Thrymir down to the ground right now, Captain!”

Marissa quickly cut all forward motion and made Thrymir drop earthward, bring the robot’s legs down so the boosters in the feet could decelerate her. The display screen in front of her screamed a warning, the whatever-it-was coming closer at high speed.

“It’s going to hit me! I’ll attempt to...”

Much faster than she could react the universe suddenly went mad around her. There was a flash, almost like some kind of explosive hitting her, but no feeling of impact. All motion stopped, she was no longer dropping down to earth, but felt weightless. Her visor went dead, showing nothing but static. Marissa tried to move, but everything felt remote and distant, as if she (or Thrymir, rather) was wrapped up in cotton.

There was a beam of light in front of her, shining directly before her eyes. Some instinct made her focus on it, as the inky blackness on either side of it seemed threatening and deadly. There was a pulling sensation, as if she was being hauled in by an invisible fisherman’s line, and nothing existed but the beam of the light and the blackness around it.

Marissa wasn’t sure how much time had past. Maybe just seconds, maybe hours. The sense of discontinuity faded and she felt able to move again. Her visor flickered and once again showed a picture of the world outside Thrymir’s head. Only it wasn’t the picture of cloudy skies and permafrost landscape she’d seen earlier. Instead she seemed to be inside some sort of building, there were metal walls all around her.

For a moment she wondered if she’d blacked out and they’d towed her back into the hangar, but she quickly banished that notion. After the last few weeks she was very familiar with Thrymir’s hangar and this wasn’t it. No, she was most definitely somewhere else.

She briefly considered her options. She could exit Thrymir and have a look around on foot, but without the scaffolding she’d not only be forced to make the rather hazardous climb down the robot’s huge body without any aid, she would also not be able to plug herself back into the cockpit without help. It had taken three members of the support staff to fit her into the control harness; no way could she do it by her lonesome. So if she left the robot, she wouldn’t be able to get back in.

Okay, so the best bet was to remain inside for the moment and take a look around from the dubious safety of her cockpit. A quick check showed that whatever might have happened, it hadn’t damaged the control harness any. Thrymir still responded to her body’s movements, so without further ado she got the giant robot moving toward what appeared to be the exit of the huge room she was in.

It was a door built to Thrymir’s scale, an automatic one at that. It slid open before her and Marissa made Thrymir step outside.


End Chapter 3
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Old 11-17-2012, 04:23 PM   #10
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Chapter 4: Brave New World

*****

Location: Unkown
October 29, 2005


For almost a full minute, possibly more, Captain Marissa Fairborn of the United States Air Force could do nothing but stare straight ahead, her brain refusing to compute. The entire landscape before her was metal, stretching from horizon to horizon. Metal walkways stretched across vast canyons, part of the sky was blotted out by yet more metal structures that arched out high above her. Even the ground under her feet (or Thrymir’s, rather) was nothing but a seemingly endless pattern of metal plates.

Her brain refused the inescapable conclusion for quite some time until disbelief finally surrendered to common sense. This place... it wasn’t home. It wasn’t Earth. Wherever she was, however she had gotten here, she was certainly not in Kansas anymore. Nor Norway, for that matter. Looking up, Thrymir’s eyes showed her patches of dark sky visible through the metallic jigsaw and while Marissa was no astronomer, she was fairly certain that none of the constellations she could see had any place in Earth’s skies.

Fighting down the rising panic she could feel in her chest, she tried to approach things rationally. Okay, first thing first. She was obviously in an alien environment. Short term survival? Thrymir’s cockpit was hermetically sealed with its own air supply and heating. A quick check showed that both were working. Her air supply would last the better part of a day, at least. Second, the outside. Temperature gauges showed that it was cold, but not lethally so. Not really that different from a chilly Norway afternoon. Sadly no one had thought it necessary to install anything to check the breathability of the atmosphere. Leaving Earth hadn’t really factored into the plans of Project Utgard. So for the moment she had no way of knowing whether or not she would be able to breathe here once her air ran out. When the time came that her air supply was empty, she’d just have to hope for the best.

Medium term food would become a problem. She had taken along two bottles of water, as exercising the full body movements to control Thrymir were exhausting, but no food. She’d fully expected to be back in the base mess hall for lunch. Well, if and when she survived the lack of stored air, she’d worry about food.

Fascination at being in an alien world aside, her first priority had to be to return home. Turning around, she looked at the building she’d just stepped out of. It seemed to be a huge tower, shaped somewhat like a flower with a long ‘stem’ and a huge, roughly circular construct on top. Some kind of antenna or focusing device? As best as she could say she had arrived here by some form of mass transit or teleportation, so it stood to reason that some kind of energy broadcast was involved.

Looking closer, the building seemed old and abandoned. There were no lights on and the metal walls looked dirty and dull. She also saw what appeared to be scorch marks on the surface. Traces of an explosion? Weapons fire? She had no way of knowing. Well, the outside seemed to hold no answers for her, so she decided to head back inside. With any luck there’d be a big red button somewhere labelled ‘automatic return’ or something. A girl could hope, couldn’t she?

Before she could put that thought into action, though, Thrymir’s automatic system opened up a new display in her field of vision, showing the equivalent of a radar screen. Three objects were rapidly approaching her position. Marissa turned around, searching the skies for the bogeys, and finally spotted them. Two were clearly fighter craft of some kind, though their design reminded her more of some kind of flying pyramid than any Earth-style aircraft. A close-up clearly showed weapon barrels of some kind.

Between these two fighter craft was something utterly alien. It flew and was somewhat aerodynamic in shape, but the thing it most resembled in Marissa’s mind was a huge gun barrel with wings. Some kind of flying artillery module? She wasn’t sure. The only thing she was sure of was the fact that all three bogeys came directly towards her.

Uncertain what to do, Marissa slowly backed up towards the door she’d come out of. It was clearly too late to hide, as these things were zeroing in on her with unerring accuracy and if her sensors had seen them, odds were theirs had seen her, too. She was still debating what course of action to take when she experienced yet another moment of shock.

Roughly 200 meters away from her, still at least 50 meters up, the three flying objects suddenly contorted in mid-air. Their outer shapes seemed to fall apart and rearrange in a way Marissa had never even imagined and less than two seconds later three giant robots struck the ground ahead of her, knees slightly bending to cushion the impact. Three giant robots, her stumped mind kept repeating. Three flying craft had suddenly... transformed... into three giant robots.

The two robots that had been fighter craft moments ago superficially resembled Thrymir, Marissa noted. Did that mean... no time to think about that now. The middle robot, the one that had been that huge flying gun thing, stepped toward her. It was at least a full head taller than the other two and more heavily built. One of its arms ended not in a hand, but rather in a huge, really huge gun. Its head was featureless expect for a single cyclopean eye that seemed to pulse with some kind of purple light.

Thrymir’s audio pick-up came online and broadcast a gargle of alien noises into the cockpit, making Marissa wince. She needed a moment to process, finally guessing that the alien robot things were trying to communicate with her. Was this some kind of language? Computer code? A simple “Hi, how are you doing?”. She had no way of knowing and no way of answering, either. While Thrymir did have speakers capable of transmitting her voice outside the confines of the robot’s shell, she doubted anyone here spoke English.

After a few seconds the alien noises were repeated and the big thing with the gun arm looked distinctly impatient. Hoping that she wasn’t about to do something really foolish, Marissa made Thrymir raise his arms and show his empty hands, hoping that the gesture for “I mean no harm” was at least somewhat universal. The big guy seemed confused for a moment, then stepped closer, practically getting into her – or Thrymir’s, rather – face, once again repeating his alien address.

Seeing no other option, Marissa activated the speakers and spoke. “I am very sorry, but I can’t understand you!”

The big guy stepped back, clearly surprised at the – to him – alien words. Despite not having anything resembling facial features it seemed puzzled and cocked its head. A moment later its hand – not the one with the gun – came up and some kind of light ray skimmed across Thrymir’s body. Was he... scanning her, somehow?

Whatever he had just done, the big guy didn’t seem happy. He motioned to the two Thrymir look-alikes by his side and they spread out, clearly intending to surround her. The big guy’s gun arm also came up, pointing towards her. An eerie glow emerged from the muzzle.

“Please, I mean you no harm,” she stated, making Thrymir raise his arms even further in a basic “I surrender” gesture. Even if she had any idea what Thrymir’s weapons were capable of, she had no intention of starting a fire fight with the very first aliens the human race had ever met. Besides, if she wanted to return home, these guys were probably her best bet.

She couldn’t say whether the big guy understood her intentions or not. He came closer again, his weapon arm still pointed at her, and his single cyclopean eye was focused on her, or rather Thrymir’s head. Had his scans, if that was what they’d been, revealed that an alien creature was hidden inside the robot’s head? If so, she certainly expected him to be surprised, but was unsure what other reactions to expect. Angry? Curious? Deeply offended? There was no way to know. Though she didn’t like how he flexed those very claw-like fingers on his non-gun-hand in her direction.

Suddenly one of the Thrymir-clones flanking her was violently taken off his feet by the explosive impact of what appeared to be artillery shells. The robot was propelled into the side of the tower and slid down, a hole blown clean right through his torso. Marissa involuntarily ducked, which was a good thing as more shells whistled through the air close by.

The big guy screamed something in his alien language and his gun arm moved away from Marissa. She had half a second to spot some shapes half-hidden among some lower buildings close by before she was nearly blinded. The big guy’s weapon arm lit up in a flash of purple and something that Marissa could only call a huge laser beam arced across the distance, blowing up one of the smaller buildings.

Marissa was frantic, no idea what to do. She was clearly in some sort of conflict zone here, but she didn’t know the players or the stakes. Considering that the robot she was inside was a dead ringer for the one that had just been blown to bits, she had to assume that the other side, whoever they were, would be shooting at her, too. Big gun guy and his goons hadn’t shot her yet, but they hadn’t seemed too friendly, either. And she had no way to tell anyone that she was just here by accident and not interested in fighting.

Ideas flashed through her head in quick succession. Get out of Thrymir, as he was clearly a target. Stay inside, so she wouldn’t be stepped on. Run away, or better yet, fly away. Stay close, as the building was her most probable way home. Marissa was a veteran of combat, but right now she was so far out of her depth that she was completely frozen.

The choice was taken from her. The second Thrymir-clone zigged when he should have zagged and was riddled by some kind of blaster fire, exploding in a shower of sparks and flame. The big gun guy, while still firing those devastating blasts toward what appeared to be the enemy line, apparently decided that discretion was the better part of valor. His body contorted again and moments later he took off in his flying gun mode, quickly putting some distance between himself and the melee.

Marissa carefully straightened, careful to keep Thrymir’s hands up in the hopes that no one would be shooting at her as long as she kept passive. Several shapes were detaching from the nearby buildings, some as huge as the big guy with his gun arm, while several others were a good deal smaller. All of them kept weapons trained on her, but so far no one was shooting.

One of the new robots, a really big guy in red and blue with a huge black rifle in one hand, approached her cautiously. There was that alien noise again, though it did sound a whole lot friendlier somehow.

“I’m sorry, but I can’t understand you, either,” Marissa said, hoping against hope that these guys might just be a bit friendlier than the others had turned out to be.

A somewhat smaller robot in white stood next to the big red guy and gestured toward her with some kind of gizmo in hand, talking excitedly – or so it sounded to her. He and the big red guy apparently got into some kind of argument or discussion. Marissa really wished she understood what they were saying.

What happened next went down so fast that Marissa reacted completely by instinct, no conscious thought involved. A display popped up, showing the flying gun thing again, rapidly coming towards them. Apparently it had circled around and was now heading right towards the big red guy’s back. The muzzle of the gun lit up and Marissa moved instinctively. Weapons were raised, alien voices shouted, and Marissa propelled Thrymir forward, right into the big red guy, who fell to the ground.

A moment later a huge purple flash of energy enveloped Thrymir. Marrisa heard the sound of screaming metal, felt the heat of an explosion, and then her world drowned in darkness and pain.


End Chapter 4
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