Author: Terias Mcklay PM
When a critical weapons deal goes South, Sarah and Cameron must discover who betrayed them and why. Edited to split Chapter 13 and Epilogue. Link added for fanvid inspired by fic.Rated: Fiction T - English - Drama/Romance - Sarah C. & Cameron - Chapters: 14 - Words: 61,406 - Reviews: 125 - Favs: 60 - Follows: 64 - Updated: 08-06-12 - Published: 04-19-11 - Status: Complete - id: 6918542
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
I own nothing. *le sigh*
*Author's Note: I have all kinds of excuses for why this took so long but none of them are particularly enthralling. I have the next two chapters completed -just in need of edits- and that should get us to the end of our adventure. With any luck, they'll go up in quick succession over the next week or so.
As always, comments and constructive criticism are greatly appreciated. Enjoy!
Three days later, Sarah sat at the dented formica table, Derek giving the low down of the Nexus facility. He had slipped into the facility on a reconnaissance mission, paying one of the low level guards a small fortune to give him a tour of the area.
"I think we can make it through the ventilation system, here." Sarah pointed to a large external vent, just inside the fenced perimeter of the Nexus compound. It was likely welded closed and under surveillance but between John's brains and Cameron's brawn that wasn't an insurmountable obstacle.
"It leads into the basement of the compound but the tunnels are guarded," Derek, clad in a Nexus security uniform, pointed to the sentry positions. "They're relay switches, one guard relieves at Sector A who sends the other to Sector B and down the line. There's no point where they leave their post unattended, they have floating guards who patrol around here and here." He slid his finger to encompass a large area in the lower levels that Cameron had suggested was the likeliest place for the server farm.
"What about here?" Sarah laid her finger on another vent system, following it from the outskirts of the compound proper into the depths of the facility.
"You'd have to move fast. There's no guard but that's probably because the main generators vent steam through those pipes every five to six minutes."
It was a good four hundred metres of vent, laughable if she were upright, a little more of a challenge when army crawling through a vent.
"I can disable the primary guard station," Cameron said, tipping over the green army man at the front gate. "Derek Reese can man the gates while we enter the facility."
Sarah raised an eyebrow, she hadn't considered going up to knock on the front door as a viable option.
"They check the front gates every twenty minutes and they'll know something is up when the relief isn't who it's supposed to be. There's no way to get in and out in under twenty. It'll take that long just to get down to the computers and upload the virus."
Considering the guards, the Triple Eight and the explosives, Sarah was reasonably convinced that needing to get out wasn't going to be an issue. She had already accepted the mission as a one way trip.
"Let's deal with getting into the place for now, once the charges are set I'll... make up the rest as I go."
"If we're going in, it would probably be good to have at least some semblance of a plan to get out," John argued.
"Then I'll backtrack. There's only one way in once you hit the level where they're storing their computers. And we are not going in. I am. You're staying in the truck." Sarah turned to Cameron who stared placidly back at her. "You too."
"That greatly decreases the statistical likelihood of your..."
"Mom! You can't be serious! You..."
Sarah held up a hand to silence them both. "I'm not risking either of you on this. You're too important and you're too great of an asset to him."
"The Triple Eight..."
"Won't even know I'm there until the virus is uploaded and the building is just a hole in the ground."
John pursed his lips, barely short of a full on pout. She knew the look, he was gauging how far he could push her on the issue. "Fine, I'll stay. But you have to take Cameron."
Sarah was about to remind him that it wasn't a negotiation when he spoke again.
"I can't hack Nexus from the outside. The virus has to be uploaded locally. No offense, Mom but you're not good with computers. Cameron can sync up with the server, bypass the security protocols and upload the virus."
"Connect Cameron to the AI?" Sarah didn't care for the sound of that. The AI was the wild card in the deck, there was no way to know how advanced it was. Leashing Cameron to something that unknown could spell trouble for the machine. Derek voiced his own concerns before Sarah could get to hers.
"You want to give chrome dome access to a fledgling AI? Are you fucking nuts? What happens if she flips?"
"We've had this argument before," Sarah said, her tone dismissive as her eyes found those of the machine, doing her best to convey her trust in the other woman. "Cameron didn't betray us then, she won't betray us now."
"That's right, I forgot, you two are all buddy buddy now." Derek looked between Sarah and Cameron. "Don't be stupid, you're letting that hunk of metal get in to your head."
"Enough." Sarah closed her eyes, willing herself to maintain her temper before she let loose on the man. She understood his concerns but the issue wasn't up for debate. "John, Cameron go work on the virus." Neither of the pair moved, eyes on Derek. "Now, please."
Cameron's glare could have reduced stone to rubble as she brushed past Derek to follow John to his room.
"You need to stop undermining me," Sarah said, once they were alone. She knew Derek was a good soldier -a good man- but there was only room for one general in this war and until John took on that mantle she'd be damned if someone pushed her around in her own home.
"You need to wake up before you get John killed. What happens if that experiment of yours can't perform under pressure?"
She broke in midway through his speech, raising her voice to talk over him. "There is nothing to think she would turn on us."
"What happens if that precious 'evolution' of her lets her act on her own and she gives Skynet a boost?"
"I'm not having this discussion!" Sara stared at him, chin stubbornly raised to meet his. "I trust her."
"That's because you keep thinking with your dick and not your head."
The punch caught them both off guard, Derek's head snapping back as Sarah's knuckles connected with his jaw.
She couldn't fault him for his reaction, which was to haul off with a back hand that split her lip. She stumbled back at the force of it, body colliding with a solid wall of warmth that propped her up by her arms.
Seemingly satisfied Sarah wasn't in danger of collapsing, Cameron let go, advancing on Derek with mechanical precision. Before his hand could make it to the Glock tucked in his jeans, Cameron had his wrist in a grip that bordered on bone crushing. A second slender hand wrapped around on his throat, Derek's face instantly crimson as his air supply was cut off. He tugged fruitlessly on her wrist to dislodge her.
His knees buckled, body hitting the hardwood floor, blue eyes rolling back as Cameron held her ground.
"Cameron, that's enough."
The machine turned to Sarah, expression grim, a ghostly blue shining beneath chocolate brown eyes.
"Cameron, enough. That's an order."
There was a twitch, a pause, before Cameron slowly relinquished her grip. Derek slid bonelessly to the floor, coughing and sputtering as he pushed himself away from Cameron.
"It's done." Sarah declared, looking between Cameron and Derek. They wouldn't get anywhere fighting against each other. Derek stood, fists balled, the machine stepping forward in challenge. Sarah slid between them, hands up to keep them out of reach of each other. Cameron's expression bordered on mutinous, Derek's equally so, both seeming to gauge how serious she was about keeping them apart. "I said, it's done." Her eyes found Cameron's, hoping the machine had learned enough to read the silent plea in her gaze.
Cameron took a calculated step back, out of Derek's range but close enough to put herself ahead of Sarah if the situation called for it. The courtesy wasn't lost on the elder Connor.
Seeing he wouldn't get the fight he was itching for, Derek wasted no time in storming off, door slamming behind him. Sarah sighed, flicking her tongue absently at the cut corner of her mouth, before she turned to Cameron. The machine was in midst of picking up a tissue box, offering a tissue to Sarah for her lip. Sarah took it, torn between thanking the machine for stepping in or blasting her for trying to mother her. She settled instead for a question.
"What the hell was that?"
"Don't use that super literal crap on me. You know what I meant."
Cameron blinked. "It was an aggressive response to Derek Reese's hostile behaviour."
"No shit," Sarah deadpanned. "That's why I asked 'what the hell'? I thought you had your emotions in check."
"Apparently not? Cameron..." Sarah pinched the bridge of her nose, a long ingrained habit to ward off an impending headache. The move was so instinctual, she had already applied pressure before good sense kicked in and reminded her that squeezing a recently broken nose wasn't one of her shining moments. "Cameron, this is an issue."
"His hostility is an issue. My response was logical. I've seen it. People react negatively to others who damage someone they have a positive relationship with. It's how you reacted to his hostile remark about me."
Ah. There was that migraine she had been expecting. Right on time. It was true, Sarah couldn't exactly fault Cameron for the logic, given her own display. Damn the machine.
"Okay, let's forget for a minute that you lost your temper," Sarah said, willfully pushing away the knowledge that she had a terminator capable of throwing a tantrum. "You disobeyed an order," Sara accused, eyes locked on Cameron, daring the machine to dispute her.
"I released Derek Reese."
"You hesitated. You weren't obeying my order because you had to. You chose to release him."
Cameron remained silent, neither confirming nor denying Sarah's observation.
"You've done it, haven't you? Something you did while you were beating your base programming, you're fully autonomous." Sarah reached over, hand brushing through chestnut hair, passing over the chip that contained everything that Cameron was.
"Yes, I am no longer anyone's butt monkey."
"All right, I... wait, what?"
"Is that not an appropriate pop culture term?"
"I... I don't even know what a butt monkey is."
"I saw it on..."
"TV, yeah, I get it. We will address your taste in television later but right now we have a more pressing issue."
"I have free will."
"You have free will." Sara sat heavily on the couch, bloodied Kleenex worried to tatters in her uncasted hand.
"You are disturbed."
"I'm concerned." Sarah admitted, wishing she wasn't. It was a lot easier to trust Cameron not to turn coat when she had been programmed not to. Now... "I didn't really need another variable to worry about."
Cameron sat beside her, mirroring Sarah's position, hands on knees, leaning deep into the seat cushions. "You do not need to worry about me."
"I don't, huh?" Sarah closed her eyes, wondering how her simple mission to save her son, his future, had become such a goddamn clusterfuck. A soft hand laced with her own, inhumanly strong fingers gently squeezing.
"No, I fight for you, Sarah."
Sarah opened her eyes, staring into Cameron's face, searching for signs of deception. Seeing none, she asked all she could think to ask. "Why?"
"Yes, Cameron, 'why'? Why fight for us when it's your choice, to stay or go, humans or machines, why fight for me?"
The answer was simple, logical and decidedly Cameron.
"Because you asked me too."
Sarah cursed at her third failed attempt to seal a plastic bag around her cast. Two weeks in, the fibreglass monstrosity had proved to be nothing shy of completely frustrating. Every time she wanted to move a box of files, or carry a laundry basket, or fetch groceries, she was forced to ask for help. Cameron had been near glued to her side, every questionably heavy item plucked from Sarah's reach before she could even put voice to her requests. Still, not being able to do for herself was starting to take its toll. And now, after a frustrating day of playing sit and stare at the Nexus compound, all she wanted was a proper, skin scalding, muscle tenderizing, hot shower, was that too much to ask?
"Damn it!" She ripped the bag from her arm, tossing it to the tile floor and resigning herself to the inferiority of soaking in the bath. A quiet knock at the door stopped her from turning on the faucets.
"Sarah, are you all right?" Cameron asked, voice traveling easily through the barrier of the thin door.
Sarah huffed at the question, biting back a sharp retort that she had no reason to blast Cameron with. Deciding a shower was worth sacrificing this much of her pride, she adjusted her towel over her body and opened the door.
"Did you fall?"
"No, I... wanted a shower." Sarah opened the door to allow the woman in, ignoring the quirk of a slightly imperfect eyebrow as Cameron took in the ripped plastic bags that littered the bathroom floor. A discarded roll of tape sat atop the toilet tank, jaggedly torn pieces of tape hanging off the edge.
Cameron closed the door, walking past Sarah to collect the most intact bag from the floor before holding it up for Sarah to put her arm in. Sarah obliged, accepting the silent help without protest as Cameron carefully wrapped tape around the edges to seal the bag. She even managed to hold her tongue when the machine made inspection of the bag itself to ensure there were no holes in the plastic. Satisfied, Cameron sat on the toilet making no motion to leave the bathroom.
"Are you going to sit there?"
"The last time you showered without assistance, Charlie had to reset your cast." The implied accusation that the shower had been a deliberate sabotage of her hated cast hung in the air. Sarah pursed her lips, wanting to refute the claim but knew her previous pigheadedness had already shown she was in the wrong.
"Make you a deal, you wash my hair and I won't put up a fight about having a babysitter." Sarah pulled her hair from its loose ponytail, grimacing at the greasy feel. She hadn't managed more than a half assed washing in over a week.
Cameron nodded agreeably, waiting patiently as Sarah stepped into the shower, tossing the towel out before turning on the water.
Sarah narrowed her eyes, muttering a quiet curse as she thrust her casted arm beyond the shower curtain and out of the spray. Seeming to sense she was at the end of her patience, Cameron didn't comment on the too hot temperature of the water as it steamed up the bathroom. When she was sufficiently scalded and as clean as one arm allowed, Sarah turned off the shower.
She accepted the towel that came through the curtain, wrapping the too small piece of fabric around her body. She was unsteady as she moved to step out and Cameron was at her side in an instant, helping her over the edge of the tub to get seated. A quick snip of scissors and she was plastic bag free.
Sarah chose to ignore how little her towel actually covered as Cameron reached past her to grab the bottle of shampoo. The younger woman was clad in her usual jeans, her grey tank top pulled tight along the lithe body. Sarah cleared her throat as Cameron leaned over, bringing pert breasts into stark relief. Sarah turned away, eyes closing as she tried to wrangle her thoughts into something bordering on appropriate. It wasn't an easy task.
Cameron straddled the tub, lathering the soap into Sarah's hair, gently massaging at her scalp. Sarah couldn't help the pleased sigh that escaped her as Cameron pressed into various pressure points along her temples, her near constant headache finally settling down.
"Too hard?" Cameron asked when Sarah flinched at a particularly sore spot.
"No, it's perfect."
The massage went on much longer than necessity dictated and Sarah couldn't help but appreciate the comfort being offered. When she was nearly boneless in her seat, Cameron began to rinse her hair, careful to keep the soapy water from reaching Sarah's eyes. The entire process seemed ridiculously luxurious -almost bordering on sensual- and Sarah slipped into a haze of relaxation that had been hard to come by in the last few months.
"All done." A quiet voice declared before a towel was wrapped around her head to hold wet hair in place. Cameron helped her to her feet and Sarah felt suddenly exhausted, the hot shower and head rub lulling her into near sleep. "You should rest, sleep will aid your recovery."
With that, Cameron ushered her out of the bathroom, setting to work cleaning up the litany of tape and plastic. Sarah headed for her room, peeling the towel from her body to wrangle herself into a pair of sweatpants and a tank top. She was tempted to simply throw herself into bed, only reticent to due so because her hair was still wet. Trying to comb through it in the morning would be more trouble than it was worth to take the time now.
A light knock at the door pulled her from her internal debate and she looked over to find Cameron, a hairbrush in hand. The younger woman's face was a mixture of nervous energy and longing as she shifted slightly in the doorway.
"You can come in, Cameron."
Heartened by the invite, the machine walked in, holding up the hairbrush. "You're tired but your hair is wet. I saw that sometimes… can I brush it for you?"
Sarah lifted an eyebrow, silently debating with herself, it was an easy fix to her dilemma. Her hair would be a rat's nest if she lay down it wet. And it wasn't as though brushing her hair would be any more intimate that Cameron washing her hair while she was half naked. Besides, the earnest look on Cameron's face left Sarah loathe to deny her. It seemed that doing these small things gave Cameron pleasure.
"Sure, Cameron, that would be nice." Sarah adjusted herself on the bed, long legs stretched out on the threadbare comforter. Cameron said behind her, campfire style, unwrapping the towel from Sarah's hair and folding it neatly at her side.
"I'm sorry," the terminator said a few moments later as she worked the brush through tangled locks.
"For what?" Sarah asked. "You didn't kill anyone did you?" The question was only half in jest.
"Not recently. I'm sorry for your wrist, I know being damaged frustrates you."
"It wasn't your fault, Cameron."
"You were protecting me, it is my fault."
Sarah turned, stilling Cameron's hand. "We're a team, we protect each other, that's how it works. Besides, considering how many times you've saved my ass, I owed you one."
"Cam," the shortened name, an unintended intimacy, slipped from her lips before she even thought of it. Sarah's hand seeming to move of its own volition, cupped the younger woman's chin. She leaned forward, pressing a soft kiss to Cameron's cheek to reassure her that all was forgiven. "It's okay."
She waited for the slight nod that showed Cameron understood before turning away once more. She smiled when the brush started through her hair again, the strokes relaxing, the warmth of the room and the body behind her pulling her into sleep. Her mind was too far gone to stop what her body wanted and Sarah leaned back into the small but sturdy body behind her, eyes closing.
When she opened her eyes again -arms curled around her pillow, blanket settled atop her shoulders- it was morning.
Sarah stood from her seat at the kitchen table, stretching toward the ceiling, sighing contentedly as her vertebrae settled into place. The house was quiet, John had taken off with Riley, at Sarah's insistence. He had been holed up in his room for days working on the Nexus virus and he was liable to get sloppy if he didn't take a break.
She hadn't seen much of Derek, not since his altercation with Cameron. She had left a curt message on his phone with the supplies they needed for Nexus, trusting that his sense of duty would over ride his boyish tendency to pout.
Cameron was at the kitchen counter, diligently typing away on the computer as she put her various plans to paper for the rest of them. They would choose the best version and adapt as they received new intel. Derek had managed to snag a janitorial job and despite being in a full on sulk was dutifully relaying whatever information he came across.
Sarah walked behind Cameron, aiming for the fridge, heart set on the last of the strawberry milk. John had been force feeding her every flavour of milk under the sun to push along her healing bones. Strawberry was the only flavour left that she could actually stand. She pulled out the mostly empty bottle, taking the last swig and tossing the spent container into the recycle bin.
"We're out of milk."
"We are not out of milk, we're out of strawberry milk. Choose another flavour."
"I don't like any of the other flavours." Sarah rarely found herself being petulant for petulance sake but damn it, why'd John have to drink the last of the one flavour she could stand?
Cameron left her plans on the counter, wordlessly pulling over one of their sturdier chairs. She used it as a step stool, reaching into the far depths of the cupboard. First out came canned goods, placed 'just so' on the counter. Then a box of Cinnamon Toast Crunch.
"Cameron... Are you hiding food?"
The machine looked down, a momentary flash of irritation lighting up brown eyes. "John ate my cereal."
Sarah's own irritation with the man of the house was replaced with a gentle amusement at Cameron's display of territoriality. A variety of cereals came down, each more sugary than the last. Finally, counter full, Cameron stood on tiptoes reaching for the farthest depths of the cupboard.
The move caused her shirt to ride up, exposing a tanned if somewhat scarred torso. Sarah pursed her lips, forcing herself to avert from the display of skin only to find her eyes betraying her as they focused on the toned rear end clad in a jean skirt. Short enough to be nearly inappropriate, the frayed denim was held on slim hips by a wide leather belt that served only to enhance the curve from Cameron's streamlined back to well sculpted ass.
Never mind Cameron's skirt, Sarah's thoughts had strayed into inappropriate territory. It was one thing to share a couple of chaste kisses between... friends but her brain was definitely headed into less than platonic territory.
Even with all the progress of the last few months, the idea of having a physical relationship with Cameron still held more than a tinge of taboo. Perhaps that's why the thoughts refused to leave Sarah, the idea of doing something out of character, simply for her own pleasure was tempting. Crazy. But tempting.
Sarah would be lying if she said she hadn't given the idea considerably more thought than she should have. Or that she hadn't made more than one 'accidental' contact with the machine, just to feel soft skin. She was equally certain Cameron knew something was up, the younger woman staying closer to Sarah than ever, rarely out of sight and rarer still for her to be out of earshot. Cameron would always turn into Sarah at the contact, a small smile playing across her lips. Able to read pulse and body temperature with little more than a cursory touch, Cameron had to realize the effect she had Sarah.
She gave a start, surprised to find that at some point Cameron had managed to get off the chair and stand in front of her. She had missed the dismount. Pity.
"Are you all right?"
"Good, great, I'm good." Sarah mentally shook her head at the poor display of conversation, giving it over as a lost cause with Cameron standing so close in front of her. "What's up?"
"Strawberry syrup." Cameron held up a bottle with a rabbit dancing across the label. "I anticipated John would consume the majority of the milk. I prepared." Cameron set about making the drink, carefully measuring the syrup to milk ratio and mixing the concoction into a sickly pink solution. She held it out to Sarah, waiting expectantly for a review. Sarah obliged, sipping at the liquid, attempting to avoid the all embarrassing milk mustache.
"Is it to taste?"
"It's perfect, thank you." Touched by the simple gesture, Sarah smiled at her companion who quickly matched it with a bright smile of her own. It still occasionally struck Sarah as odd, seeing a machine built solely to kill, smile as though she were truly nothing more than the woman she pretended to be. Except, Cameron wasn't pretending. The emotions weren't mimics, they were real. Cameron's protectiveness, her stalwart loyalty, it wasn't a program anymore, it was a choice.
It made all the difference.
Sarah pushed the thoughts to the side, she had run this circle more than once in her head and hadn't come up with any answers. It would be more productive to focus on a problem she could deal with.
"How's the planning going?" Sarah sipped at her milk, watching with a smirk as Cameron proceeded to place her goodies back in their hiding spot. Pointedly ignoring the lean legs that she felt might be being showcased specifically for her, Sarah turned her attention to the plans on the counter.
"There are a number of different approaches, most do not present an increased likelihood of success unless..."
"Cameron, no." Sarah knew what suggestion was coming. "We are not hacking government computers to launch a missile at Nexus." The plan had already been brought up. Twice. Sarah looked at her companion, shaking her head at Cameron's pursed lips, a sure sign of the machine's frustration. Start a war while trying to stop the apocalypse, wouldn't that just take the piss out of everything.
"It would be easy," the machine muttered quietly, hopping down from the chair to return to her paperwork. Sarah's hand acted without permission from her mind, landing on Cameron's shoulder and giving a squeeze.
"I know you're… worried about me going in there but you can't protect me by throwing bombs at every problem we see. More scalpel, less hammer, okay?"
Cameron shrugged and shifted restlessly through the papers that littered the counter. Taking a slim hand in her own, Sarah stilled the aimless shuffling and forced the machine to look at her.
"It's going to be okay, we're going to make it through this."
"Fuck the odds. Any sane person would bet I'd be dead a hundred times over by now but I'm not. I'm not dying out there. Neither are you."
She could feel the tension in the small body, Cameron's logical mind warring with what Sarah was telling her. It didn't truly register that she was moving until Sarah had stepped in, taking Cameron into her arms to hold her in a hug. It was silly but when her world turned upside down, sometimes the simple contact, from John, from Charlie, from anyone, could center her. It seemed to do the trick for Cameron whose body relaxed, slender arms reaching around Sarah to hug her back. Sarah leaned her head against Cameron's, quieting her logical mind and simply enjoying the feel of soft hair.
"We're going to take care of each other. You're going to watch my back, I trust you to do that. And I'm going to watch yours. We're going to make it out, together."
"Swear?" The word was almost frightened and Sarah found it ironic that the strongest of them would need reassurance. Ironic and wonderful. She pressed her lips to the side of Cameron's head, certain -now, more than ever- that whatever her feelings for the machine, they weren't one sided. Maybe it wasn't so crazy after all.