Author: Koi Lungfish
Disclaimer: Based on characters and situations from The Transformers ((c) 1986 Hasbro, Ltd). Used without permission. Text (c) 2008, Koi Lung Fish (Mark of Lung. All Rights Reserved.)
Continuity: G1 cartoon, Season 2.
Soundwave sat back in his seat, the screens before him dim and the command chamber quiet. Behind him Megatron stood glowering over a map, deep in thought. On Soundwave's right Rumble was loaded into the computer, spooling through three days' worth of recorded television in search of anything useful.
Soundwave sat back and listened.
Seven cables ran from Soundwave's workstation into his data jacks. Four carried human radio signals, monitoring vast swathes of frequencies - long wave, short wave, medium and satellite. The other three carried signals from the patrolling jets: Skywarp, roaming the North Atlantic on the fringes of the Arctic; Dirge, scanning the west coast of Africa; Starscream, combing the Gulf of Mexico.
(M one nine to V one,) Skywarp called softly, voice inflectionless in automatic report, (Position two three five by one three seven by forty-three. Zero zero, weather to follow.) All clear, sensor readings transmitted in a quick flicker of code. Soundwave dumped the data to his workstation and let the base computer add it its model of Earth's resources and weather-systems.
(S one to V one,) Starscream called, flat, bored, transmitting on deep automatic well below conscious thought. (Position nine eight two by eight seven seven by fifty-nine. Zero zero, weather to follow.) Soundwave glanced into Starscream's data, plunging himself into clear blue skies over clear blue water, into a mesh of wind and the smell of salt water.
(M three eight to V one,) Dirge called, full voice, bored and morose. (West of Angola, just passing Luanda on my way south. Nothing to report.) His communication closed.
Soundwave moved, flicked keys to single out Dirge and to transmit to him. (V one calling M three eight, transmit weather.)
(There's nothing to report,) Dirge complained. (No wind, no waves, sun's going down. It's dead sky.)
(Transmit weather,) Soundwave ordered. Dirge complied, overloading his transmitter to hit Soundwave with a squeal of data. Soundwave ignored it and dumped the data to his workstation.
On his right Rumble ejected from the computer. "Man, these flesh-germs watch a lot of rubbish," he said, sprawling across his seat. "Can I take a break, Soundwave? I think my processor's going to melt from boredom."
"Operation status?" Soundwave asked, human transmissions singing away in one side of his brain.
"I'm about three-quarters of the way through. Gimme a breem off and it'll be done by the time my shift's over, I swear," Rumble said, his voice pleading.
"Request allowed," Soundwave said, fine-tuning a few stations. "One breem."
"Thanks boss! You won't notice I'm gone," Rumble said, jumping down from his seat and leaving the room quickly. Soundwave tilted his head a little, listening for any reaction from Megatron, but the tyrant was silent, off in some far tower of thought.
Soundwave lifted his hands from the keyboard and began to cycle through the human stations playing in his head. They washed over him like soft brushes, tickling his mind with odd chords and fragments of words - the jangle of adverts, the precise tones of announcers, the patter of a disk-jockey on speed, the chatter and effects of radio plays, and all between the endless, limitless music.
Soundwave heard guitars strum and squeal across the ether, drums thumping dimly amongst static and interference, low throbs of bass pressing against his senses like heavy velvet. Human voices shrieked and crooned and - too often, Soundwave thought - wheedled off-key. He sloshed through repeats of Top 40 hits, through muddled radio plays mushed into pirate radio, the occasional snap and buzz of an ambulance or police car and the plainchant of the shipping forecast.
Audio salad, Soundwave thought, snatching the phrase out of the jungle of signals. Jambalaya signals. The words meant less than the rhythm of their sounds. Jalambalaya balamalamam lalalama ... Soundwave hummed in his mind, idly tapping his fingers on the keyboard.
(M one nine to V one,) Skywarp interrupted him. Soundwave's hands stopped, the beat lost. (Position two three five by one three eight by forty-four. Zero zero, weather to follow.)
Soundwave dumped the data straight into the terminal and slumped in his chair, head back, faintly annoyed at losing his new beat, waiting until the other two Seekers reported in and he could go back to sound-surfing. Reminder; recommend fewer patrol sweeps to Megatron.
Silence on the Decepticon radio. Soundwave raised his head. Starscream had missed his check-in.
(M three eight to V one,) Dirge said, forestalling a call on Starscream. (West of Angola, just passing Lobito, heading south, blah blah blah. Nothing to report. This is so boring I might just crash myself for entertainment. Weather to follow,) he finished in grumpy tones. Soundwave dumped the data to the workstation automatically, ignoring Dirge.
The Decepticon channels went silent.
Soundwave waited, marking off seconds in his head. Starscream was thirty seconds overdue, an ice age for someone transmitting on automatic.
Soundwave put his hands on the keyboard. (V one calling S one, report.)
Forty seconds overdue.
(V one calling S one, report.)
(V one calling, report signal.)
(V one, this is M one nine. Receiving strength twelve.)
(Soundwave, this is Dirge. I hear you fine.)
(M three eight, maintain radio silence until notified,) Soundwave ordered. Dirge's channel went sullenly dormant. (V one to M one nine. Unable to raise Starscream.)
(He's outta my range,) Skywarp replied. (I'm over Greenland, he's in the Bahamas.)
One hundred seconds.
(V one calling S one, report or be reported!)
(- oundwave?) came a voice loaded with static. The normally crystal-clear Decepticon channel buzzed, the black-and-white fuzz of sound pouring into Soundwave's head and smothering Starscream's voice. (- use - I've got - channel one by - ) Starscream's transmission cut, vanishing under the waves of static.
Soundwave sat up, tapped at the keyboard. "Alert level four," he said, hearing Megatron turn at the sound of his voice. "Radio contact with Starscream disturbed."
"Starscream is always disturbed," Megatron said. "What are the Autobots doing this time?"
Soundwave put his call to Starscream on automatic, repeating every twelve seconds, and checked on the Autobots. Their jamming station in New York was still online, deafening Soundwave to anything in the northern half of the USA and most of Canada. He could dimly pick up echoes of the Ark's transmitters, tail ends of signals bounced off human satellites. (V one calling, report Autobot signals.)
(Negative,) replied Dirge instantly.
(I got nothing,) Skywarp said, (except ice on my tailfins.)
(- V one, V one, answer, answer - ) Starscream's signal blurted over the radio, fizzling with static, his voice a hard edge amongst a mess of points.
(V one receiving, signal distorted. S one, S one, signal bad, signal bad.)
(- unclear - repeat, repeat,) Starscream's irritation was the most audible part of his signal, the rest a crashing wave of random noise.
Soundwave adjusted the tuning, rotating the docking tower to point its better transceiver towards the south. (S one, S one, make channel eight-three-eight, channel eight-three-eight.) Soundwave set the message to keep repeating and put all his receivers on channel eight-three-eight.
Five minutes now. Soundwave felt the prickling of unease spreading across his chest-door like cracks. Rumble sauntered back in, late, and jumped into his chair. The Infocon was about to transform and load himself into the computer when he glanced at Soundwave and stopped still.
(- V one, V one, distress, distress - )
The signal boomed out of the ether through a roar of static, straight into Soundwave's head, automatically broadcast over of the command chamber's speakers. Soundwave heard Megatron stand up and walk over, heard Rumble climb onto the console and run along the keyboard to his side.
(S one, S one, transmit position, transmit position)
"What's going on?" Megatron asked, laying a hand on the back of Soundwave's seat. "Is he under attack?"
(- V one, V -) The signal vanished, overrun by static.
"Soundwave, get through to him," Megatron ordered.
"Rumble, raise docking tower," Soundwave said, hoping the extra elevation would aid reception. (S one, S one, signal broken, signal broken.)
"Docking tower's up," Rumble said. "Diverting auxiliary power to receivers."
(- V one, V one, distress, distress.) Starscream's signal cleared. His voice was loud, anxious, confused, muddled with static.
"What's causing that interference?" Megatron asked. "Rumble, sweep the radio for counter-signals."
(S one, S one, receiving strength three,) Soundwave replied.
(- ving strength two - ) Starscream said, words lost in static. (- can't find nor - interference on all inst - lost heading - got my marker?)
(S one, S one, no marker heard, repeat no marker,) Soundwave replied.
Starscream's reply was a crack of static, possibly a curse. (- V one, no heading - no - can't see - )
Static. The sound rose up like a wall of sighs.
(- altimeter - last posi - malfunctioning - ) Starscream shouted, buried behind the mutter and moan of radio ghosts.
The hiss and whine filled the command chamber. Soundwave heard Megatron's low, grating hiss of frustration, the tap of Rumble's hands on the keyboard. "No counter-signals, boss," the Infocon said. Soundwave almost jumped at his voice. "Want me to sent Astrotrain up with the communications relay?"
"Negative," Megatron said, frowning at the readouts on Soundwave's console. "Starscream is barely a thousand miles from here."
A red light began to flash on Soundwave's console. "Starscream's emergency beacon activated," Soundwave reported, hesitating.
"Lock position and scramble the Seekers," Megatron ordered.
Soundwave's fingers brushed over the keys, the emergency beacon echoing in his head. "Unable to resolve signal," he reported, a tremor in his fingers. "Emergency beacon received via satellite relay."
The static whistled, keening in the bodiless realm. Soundwave wanted to turn it off. Decepticon radio didn't get static, ever.
"Rumble, trace that beacon," Megatron said. "Soundwave, keep signalling Starscream. If this isn't the Autobots then it's probably nothing Starscream can't deal with on his own."
(V one calling S one, V one calling S one, receive? Receive?)
(- ne, S one, rece - strength two, stre -)
(Starscream,) came an unexpected voice. (This is Optimus Prime. Can you hear me?)
(- obots! Signal's ba - clear the air!)
(V one to Ark, V one to Ark, clear air, clear air.)
(Ark to Soundwave, received. We will continue to monitor. Sound off.)
(- one, sky is - horizon is curved! - flying in circles? Chronome - magnetic re - )
"Magnetic interference?" Megatron said, wondering aloud. He stepped aside, taking over the workstation between Soundwave and Rumble. Soundwave heard him calling up the mapping data of the Bahamas, reviewing the magnetic data.
(Seventy two,) said a voice on the radio. (Seventy one. Seventy.)
Soundwave stopped dead still. Rumble stopped, looked up at the speakers. Megatron looked at Soundwave. "Who is that?" the tyrant demanded.
"Unknown," Soundwave replied. The voice was low, smooth, entirely untouched by static. It was a human voice, speaking in English. "Transmitting on Cybertronian channels."
"The humans do not possess such a capacity!" Megatron said. "Which Autobot is this?"
(Sixty five. Sixty four,) the voice continued in calm, clear monotone.
"None known," Soundwave replied.
(- one, V one, repeat, six five six four what?) Starscream asked, the static on his signal deafening.
(Sixty one,) said the voice, faceless, breaking through the static like a bullet through tinfoil. (Sixty. Fifty-nine.)
(Ark to Soundwave,) came the voice of Optimus Prime. (That counting - it's not us.)
"Megatron," Soundwave said. "Request orders."
"Get Starscream's position, and get Prime off the air," Megatron said, voice grating. "Rumble, status?"
"Can't trace nothing," Rumble replied. "Got a - a wall of interference between us and the Bahamas. I can't clear anything."
(- V one, stop - what are these numbers?) Starscream shrieked, immediately blotted out.
(Fifty. Forty-nine. Forty-eight.)
(- stop it, stop it - can't tell whi - up or down - )
Megatron's fists tightened. "Soundwave, jam that counting."
Soundwave compared channels and frequencies. "Enemy signal broadcasting on Starscream's frequency." (V one to S one, V one to S one, make emergency channel, emergency channel.)
(- emergency chan - ) Starscream replied, jumping from channel eight-three-eight to two-seven-four. (- V-one - now?)
"There's no way the Autobots could know what channel he's on!" Rumble protested.
(Twenty-eight. Twenty-seven.) The voice was flat, without resonance, without the soft shadings of sound caused by the air-spaces in the human head, Soundwave realised. The voice was not Autobot, not Decepticon, not human.
"That is no Autobot," Megatron said, frowning like murder. "Soundwave, get-"
(- one, one, one, one!) Starscream's voice suddenly shouted, echoing over the radio. His voice wobbled back and forth, first one speaker then another, signal scattering, volume increasing.
"He's coming from all over the place," Rumble said, pointing at his screen, the traced signal bouncing across thousands of miles of empty ocean. "Even he can't move that fast!"
The dopplering screaming rose, overlapping, blurring into a loud squeal of feedback that climbed up and up until Soundwave had to mute his audios even though he could feel the sound beating on his chest until with a horrible rip of jagged noise the signal broke -
The counting stopped.
(- S one calling, signal clear?) Starscream said, exhausted, frightened. (Blown a bank of - get my posit - isit - counting?)
(V one to S one, signal breaking,) Soundwave replied. (Unable to resolve your beacon.)
Starscream screamed. Soundwave trembled.
Megatron leant over Soundwave shoulders and hit the transmit button. (Starscream, get down! Get down on the ground!)
(- tron? - hear you! - o ground, no ground, just water - should have seen - where - islands all gone?) His voice was panicked, shaking, almost pleading. (- istress, distress, can an - )
(Climb, you fool!) Megatron shouted over a thousand miles.
(- p. Can't find up -)
(- sky is turning -)
The static stopped.
The air deadened to utter silence. The counting was gone. There was no transmission, not even the slightest whisper of a signal. On the console, the red light of Starscream's emergency beacon faded and went out.
(Starscream?) Megatron called. (Starscream, answer me!)
Silence. Not even a hiss of static.
(Starscream!) Megatron roared, and Soundwave had to lean away slightly. (Starscream, you coward, answer me!) The tyrant stood up, scowling, violence held back for a lack of target.
(V one calling, V one calling. Report, report.)
(Starscream, this is Dirge. What's going on?)
(Optimus Prime calling Starscream, do you receive?)
(Skywarp calling, Skywarp calling Starscream, answer!)
(V one calling S one, V one calling S one, respond, respond.)
(V one calling S one, respond.)
Not even the whine of the ghosts of static.
(V one calling S one, are you there?)
Author's notes & addenda: Feedback always welcomed.