The Archive

Warplanes screamed overhead, missiles stabbing from them on bright plumes of smoke. The concussion of the missile impacts was so loud as to seem to drain all noise from the scene. Flashes of light rippled from defensive positions but seemed ineffective as the aerial offense peeled away into the clouds to prepare for another turn. Suddenly two huge vertical red neon bars appeared in the sky above the word PAUSE in a plain non-serif font, and everything went still.

Debris hung motionless in the air, framed by fire blossoms and ugly black smoke. Combatants and civilians alike were held in poses in defiance of gravity that were in turn heroic and humorous depending on context and whim of the viewer. A shiny silver orb descended from the cloud cover. It was perhaps the size of a basketball and had three vertical slits in the front – or a least in the portion of it facing its direction of travel. It moved quickly, darting smoothly from place to place in complete disregard of the laws of physics. What could only be described as a nonchalant hum emanated from it, but it was anyone’s guess whether it was a poor attempt at carrying a tune or simply smugness.

Another sphere popped into view and sped over to where the first had paused to regard a pair of disembodied human arms clutching a rifle. The arms hung in the air like so many other objects, but didn’t seem to have been detached from anything else by trauma.

“I don’t understand their purpose,” the first sphere said. “These limbs match the patterning of some of the bipeds, but not all. Events seem keyed to their presence and rate of advance across the simulation, and there seems to be a cube coded around them to simulate presence – but there’s not sign of behaviour programming or intelligence.”

The second sphere seemed to regard the first, before bobbing up in the air. “Perhaps there is a hint of their identity in the name of the archive. Such a detailed historical narrative must bear the name of its subject. What did the script on the media translate as?”

“Hmmm.” The first sphere stopped moving for a moment as if distracted. “They would appear to be named ‘Call’ and to hail from somewhere known as ‘Duty’ though I have yet to find a reference on the various survey maps outside this simulation.”

“Well there you go – obviously so well known a being that this race assumed everyone knew what they looked like.”

“How vexing.”

“Agreed. They were an odd race from what we’ve been able to excavate.”

“They were certainly very thorough in dismantling their own civilisation.”

“Well, keep running the simulation, see what we can learn.” The second orb disappeared, leaving its colleague alone among the simulated carnage. The first sphere sighed, looked around, and went back up to a higher vantage point. The sign in the sky disappeared and the game resumed.

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