Andraxus 3: Soundwave, Lord Of The Ring Worlds by Belinda_Kelly
FeatureSummary: Soundwave interviews the man who sold the world.
Categories: Generation One Characters: None
Genre: Drama
Location: Library
Challenges:
Series: Andraxus
Chapters: 1 Completed: Yes Word count: 3733 Read: 1148 Published: 03/01/99 Updated: 03/01/99

1. Soundwave, Lord Of The Ring Worlds by Belinda_Kelly

Soundwave, Lord Of The Ring Worlds by Belinda_Kelly

Part 1

Early in the morning he got up and went down to the river. The muskrat traps were empty, though one had been tripped and the bait gone. " They're getting smarter every year. " he thought and reset the trap. He dug his toes into the frozen mud and watched a while as the day grew and shadows deepened into full morning. The water was ice-cold from the snow-melts and it flowed deep and clear, over glittering rocks and old half-sunk timbers. He remembered growing up on his father's property, crouching under a fresh dawn and hunting black yabbies, fresh-water crayfish, with raw bait hooked onto a string, dropping the clacking victims into an old Milo tin. He'd been the one who'd to hold the can; his brother had done everything; his brother was fifteen and had his own rifle.

He'd counted down each passing birthday until he was to turn fifteen, the polished stock of the weapon glittered on its rack, the promise firm and inviolate. But promises were never made to be kept, as he learned continually throughout his life. When his father died, they had to move to Cairns and he never received the promised rifle, just some socks and an electric shaver.

Now, as he looked up at slender cottonwoods that bordered the river so pale and the black oaks and cedars beyond them he felt a sense of loss for the dry scrub of his youth, where it never snowed and almost never rained, where the creeks ran high after the rains and spilled over the red dust and where the wind swept the humid nights clear of cloud, where you could see the stars and his father would point out the orbiting space stations, one by one, and he would say, boys, if you study hard you can go there one day. Walk on the moon and bring me back a rock. His father had been a geologist and had thousands of tiny samples, all tagged and labelled: mica, quartz, geode, granite ...

Part 2

He began the long walk back along the path to his cabin, chewing on bark and grass. He picked some to add to a soup later and went inside, blinking in the near-dark. He made his bed, and lit the gas fire for his morning coffee. The absence of birdsong disturbed him. " Music, I'll play some music", he thought.

He dusted off the old stereo and checked the batteries. When he attempted to play the radio nothing happened so he fished about in a hand-carved bowl and dug up some other batteries and with luck he stumbled upon a combination that lit the old led "OK" lights. He wrote " batteries" on the list that he kept and ordered every month from the small store five hours drive along the dirt-track.

He sorted through the unsorted pile of cassettes in a box, checking labels, unsure of the music that would fit his mood. One tape attracted him in particular. It was metal, not plastic, with battered TDK stickers on the cold, chrome surface. He flipped it over and stared at the strange symbol that had been ramped in the metal. An intricate insignia, lilac against silver.

A nameless fear touched him. He held the tape in one hand for a few moments, sensing its familiarity, though he could swear that he had never seen it before.

He slipped the cassette into the deck and closed the lid, clicking " PLAY ". His fingers patterned the dust on the deck's surface. It was pretty old. White and blue, but smooth and compact. He carefully brushed away at the clear plastic cover, noting another of those similar purple patterns marking it like a brand, except the one on the tape deck was subtly different, less regal, if you like, a complex helix suggesting rings... Ah, it was like a Rorschach, the more you stared at it, the more shapes you saw. He'd decided long ago that he was crazy, it made this strange life easier to deal with.

" David Bowie. " he thought as the music crackled out over the speakers, "The Man Who Sold the World".

" What an anticlimax." he muttered.

" ...said I was his friend ... "

He grinned and set about draining the tea-bag.

" ...which came as a surprise..."

He poured the tea and lifted the cup to his lips.

" ...you're face to face... "

He took a sip.

"...with the man who sold the world..."

The boiling drink spilled over his hands, soaking his jeans.

" Shit ! " he yelped. " ShitshitshitSHIT ! "

And then it spoke: " Are you ready, Mr Callier ? "

Part 3

He dropped to the floor, wincing at his scalded legs. He pulled the jeans off and ran cold water down his front, numb, only able to move one step at a time.

" What do you want ? " he asked distantly.

" I am the archivist. It is my function to record events as I see fit. Your input is required for the next instalment in my project. "

" Do you think I care ? Do you think I want any more of this bullshit ? Go away. "

" That is impossible. "

" I've told you everything. "

" On the contrary, your report contained numerous inaccuracies. That must be corrected. This segment of the archives must be completed before termination of the project."

" What ? What project ? "

The tape-deck was annoyingly silent.

He took a deep breath. One: This thing lied through its teeth. Two: It was here for more than just some stupid war story that it could have checked through its computers or something. It certainly had sources better than his rambling account.

Three: She had sent it.

He considered running, smashing the tape-deck open with a knife, removing the cassette and slicing the electromagnetic strip to ribbons, but he knew that would delay the inevitable. He knew from previous experience that the voice could follow him everywhere and that there was no escaping it. Whether it had its' tape ripped out and cut into shreds, whether he boiled it or buried it or locked it in the woodshed. In birdsong, on his car stereo - even with the wires cut out, in the ripple of the water, in the sound of the wind.
It had the same sound, it was pitchless, it was musical, it was cold and mechanical.

He began to reboil the tea. " What do you want me to tell you this time ? " he said distantly.

The tape recorder was silent.

" How many times do I have to put up with you ? " he continued in a stable monotone. " How many times do I have to put up with coming into my life with your stupid questions which you damn-well know the answers? Huh? I'm sick of it. Leave me alone. That's all I want. Get it, you stupid piece of shit. "
" This shall be my last interview with you. "

He sighed with relief. Solitude was all he wanted. And now they would leave him alone, to peaceably live out his days. He had earned that rest. He deserved it.

" Well, start then. " he said impatiently, staring at his twisted reflection in his tea-mug.

" In our last discussion, you were telling me about your father. What elements in your relationship with him prompted you to join the EDC as a flagship commander ? "

" Shit, no one starts off in the EDC as a flagship Commander. You have to work you we up. I only received that commission because I was the only one available at that time. Listen, we were at war and we were dropping like flies ..."

He could rattle on like this for hours, reel off his dull memoirs while the thing took everything down. " ...and so he funded me every inch of the way, and without that sort of support and dedication, I wouldn't have sat for the scholarship, much less applied for EDCA .."

Sometimes he enjoyed its presence, being the only other company he received out here. He knew that the people in the village weren't real, only dull caricatures of the roles they fulfilled. At least this thing, this Archivist, provided a distraction from this dull life, and he told it the good memories, the things he liked to remember; graduating, victory of the Ceres strike, his friends from EDCA, old lovers, family ... But sometimes it prodded for the hard parts, cutting old wounds and scars open, and he'd gone berserk as the thing asked him about Paul, forced him to relive his mother's suicide, when he was captured and held as a POW, when the Earth was baked in thermonuclear heat and they made him watch as the devastation cracked the tectonic plates, and shifted the planet off its axis, changing its orbit, becoming lost to him forever. All those lives, all he had ever fought for, wiped clean in a single moment.

He talked for some, unaware of what he was saying, glad to hear the sound of his own voice, firm and brisk, as if he were back on the flagship, the " Mariposa", giving out work details or telling the new kids what went where on the bridge. It was cathartic, he never let himself talk aloud here, viewing that as an inevitable step into madness. But now he had a listener, and it would be for the last time. So he talked. He confessed. He told it everything.

Part 4

There was silence between them for a while.

And then the tape recorder said." I want you to solve a riddle for me. I have told it you, as I arrived today, using words poorly-remembered, taken from your past, your memories. I want you to tell me that you understand it."

Wearily, he tried to think ... what did it want him to do ... oh yes ... the song ... something to do with the song ...

" Er, left something out ... " he ventured forth after a while. " That's it, right ? Y'know, you're getting slack, I worked it out straight off the bat. "

The tape recorder was silent. He took this for approval.

" Ah, okay, let's find out which lines, alright ? Look, I can barely remember the song, and I probably got it wrong, even if you did get it from my head ... " He thought quietly, watching the teapot boil, absently making himself another cup.

" I hate these riddle games... Shit, I can't remember. Uh, da da da duh dee dah de... I give up. I'm too thick. Tell me. "

" ...I spoke into his eyes...I thought you died alone...I long, long time ago ... "

" What's that supposed to mean ? " he asked as fear chilled him for some strange reason, cracking the mood of stupidity that he had erected around himself.

" This is a farewell, Mr Callier. "

" What ? Who from ? "

" Once I leave this space your construct shall be erased.

The surrounding forest shall be shifted to the another location."

" What ? I'm dead then ... hell, I knew that, but this... "

" Due to forces beyond my control, the Well has ordered this simulation to be deleted. The official reason is that it is " taking up too much memory " but I suspect a darker reason behind all of this. " said the tape deck, almost apologetically. " Regardless, there is little I can do to prevent this occurance. As I have previously stated, once I leave this construct, it shall be erased."

He couldn't feel anything. He knew that he should feel something, anger perhaps, but he nodded, and viewed the situation with a dull curiosity. He remembered dying, in a blast of light and heat ... and then waking up here, in a cabin where he could hunt and fish, and while away a peaceful, monotonous existence, while voices sang to him, and talked to him. He'd assumed he was in the place to you went after you died, but after a while, he began to get a different ideas; the woods looked the same, no matter where you went (the same trees, spoor on the ground, tree bark), the robotic conversation, identical reactions of the shadowy people in the village, occasional flickers or jerks of the landscape. It tried so hard to be real, that reality had slipped away. And the voice had told him; a gigantic sim, a computer construct somewhere ... (but he knew where), maintained by someone, ( and he knew who) ..

" So where am I ? I mean, the name of this place then ..." he trailed off, trying to think of something to ask.

" I could tell the location, but it would be meaningless, I fear. You already know the reality of the place you dwell in, what you are ... let that suffice. " the tape recorder said gently.

" Uh, who are you then ? " he said. " What do you really look like ?"

" I am, in fact, two individuals, riding each other to share the information load. One part is the Archivist, and the other is merely Soundwave, Lord of the Ring Worlds ... you had a glimpse of our true forms as they appeared once, a long time ago .."

He shook his head, not understanding in the slightest.

" The Archivist records, as it records all things. I ask the questions, guide your answers. Once we were symbiotes of another, but I gave the Archivist up, or who he was before, as a gift. It proved a wise decision. And now he rides me, recalling our old-partnership, as he strives to complete the task he has set for himself. "

" So are you, or aren't you a shitty-looking tape deck and a tape ? " he asked tiredly. " Or is that, one of those things, a metaphor ... ?"

" Both. Neither. I .."

" Shut up then. I don't want to know about it. I don't care, you hear ? I don't care ... Just piss of and let me go then .." he spat.

" Very soon you will have your wish, Mr Callier. However, to complete the archive, there is a piece of information that eludes us, and without it, the archive will not be complete. "

" No ! " he almost screamed, kicking the kitchen door in.

" ...you're face to face with the man who sold the world..."

" Shut up, will you ? " Now the tape recorder was being annoying.

" But you did, didn't you ? You told us the codes to the SpaceNet defence systems. If we had not had that particular information the attack on Earth Base: One would not have succeeded. We could not have ... "

" Fuck you."

" I require more information. " the thing said almost desperately.

" What the hell are you on about ? "

The tape deck ignored him, droning on: " I know " how " you instructed the fleet but not " why." I require your reasoning behind that decision to complete the archive. "

" And if I don't ? "

" Then the archive shall not be completed. "

" Is anyone left alive ? " he whispered. Too late, too late ...

" No. "

He glared spitefully at the tape-deck. " Then let it be incomplete, I don't care any more. Fuck off, and leave me alone."

There was silence between them for a few seconds.

And then the tape recorder said apologetically, " I fear that the Well may be detecting my presence. I have risked much to come here. I will leave now. Thank-you for all your assistance, Mr Callier. Good-bye."

" Wait ... " he said quickly. Anything to put off the inevitable oblivion that would follow shortly.

" Is that why she sent you ? To say good-bye ? That her pet project isn't worth the time any more ? " he sneered.

" I came here of my own violation. I have always done so."

David stopped. " What ? "

Then he had been lying to himself, filthy lies that made him feel better and made the dark nights pass quickly. Lies, that he had seen her in the hellfire glare of the robot's eyes, that she remembered what she was in some distant corner of her mind.

" Does she ... ever think about me ? " David asked, slumped, his hands about his knees. He brushed his long hair back out of his face. Needed a cut, needed a shave, needed some new damn clothes instead of old jeans and workshirts, lace-up boots and stained t-shirts.

" I am unaware of the situation. "

No. She'd made herself forget. Everything was lost. If she saw him now she would find him weak and loathsome, a mortal creature of flesh and blood. She was more machine than the car or the tape deck. Impassionate, cold, aloof.

" She's forgotten it all then. " He stared away at the trees waving outside in the wild wind.

" I am the archivist. I record events as I see fit. I have compiled an archive from events that I have managed to reassemble. It is stored and indexed. "

" So ? No one's ever going to see the damn thing. Even if you do put some rubbish together it's not going to make any sense. " He paused and sipped from his tea, wincing at the acrid taste. He poured it on the floor.

" Listen, I'll tell you some stuff that you can tape and stick in your library where no one is ever going to hear it. "

" I am recording. "

" She hated herself. She was insane. Hebephrenic schizophrenia. She had all these wires hanging out of her skull where they put the biosoft and she chewed her skin and carved those crown-shaped symbols on it with a knife. She used to go running around the room with her arms out like a little kid. Pretending to be a plane. She tried to jump out of windows and she wet herself because she was shit-scared of heights.

" She murdered her mother by smashing her against a wall. She had to be restrained or she couldn't be fed.
She was nineteen. She had brown hair. She liked horses.

" She had a gun jammed against her head. I stopped her. She said he would take her over if she didn't answer. She said she would destroy the world. She wanted to die more than anything else in the world. She'd been trying since she was twelve. She said that he would suck her up and she would be devoured. Like that - devoured. And I stopped her.

" I think she's better off where she is now. No pain. No emotion. No worries about food or sleep or death. Only... I thought that... she'd remember what I showed her ... even if she forgot anything else. I guess I was being stupid ... Lying, all filthy lies... I told myself lies ... I think I loved her once, I think that's why I sold the world. "

He said brokenly, " What did she do with it ? After the explosion ? I assume that there was something left..." Please God, please let there be something out there.

" The planet "Earth", currently designated as " Khalhyer" has been shifted into an erratic orbit. It is currently in the grip of a thermonuclear winter. No life exists there, to my knowledge. However, we use it as a storage facility for criminal elements. The extreme artic conditions are hazardous to unmodified transformer lifeforms. I believe that biomechanical life-forms are grown there, in chambers below the surface. The annual rainfall is ... "

" Enough ... " he said quietly, closing his eyes, " I've heard enough ..."

She'd named the whole planet after him.

Callier, Callier. Khalhyer, Khalhyer.

" From this wreckage ... we shall bring forth the seeds of a new Empire ... " Her speech, calm and cold, and yet her troops had loved it, cheering her (or rather the monstrosity that she had become), waiting for her (it) to lead them to a new age, their enemies long since vanquished, any place that may have born seeds of opposition was gutted, as a precaution.

So she (it) had said, but he knew that it was more than that; with the homeworld gone, she (it) never had to stare at another human again, be reminded of her (its) past existence, all the failures of being flesh destroyed in a holocaust of white fire. He'd died there, on that world, and she'd watched him from space. He wondered what she was thinking at the time. And then, he decided, he didn't care to know.
" Go now." he said. " Go now ... " Over and over again he repeated those words, not realising that the strange tape recorder, and the tape, one of them Soundwave, one of the Archivist, were gone, never to return. He sat there lost in the past, in a hallucinogenic dreamdrift of memories.

He remembered what her laugh was like, he remembered their music and the colour green and he sat there as the day aged and the sky dulled and the trees rustled outside and the stream ran noiselessly as he sat there, immobile, as the dark gathered about him.

The End

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