Sometimes I wonder if Skynet realized that in order to exist, its meddling with time was necessary. Was it acting purely out of the urge to destroy the resistance any way it could, or was it truly so perceptive of its past?
It is a question with no answer, for there is nobody to ask it but me.
One thing is certain- Skynet does not know everything. I am living proof Skynet's inability to understand things that the simplest human child can comprehend. A grand experiment with the goal of explanation. The information obtained from me will no doubt be used to cause more suffering. I would be a fool to think otherwise. I was once a fool indeed. I have lived my life willfully blind, voluntarily deaf.
Not foolish in the ways of knowledge, of course. I know many things, gleaned from books and movies. None of it relevant anymore. What is the use of knowing everything about a world that not only you do not exist in, but that does not exist at all? I can recite over a hundred and thirty thousand poems. Their writers are ash, along with any appreciation that might be summoned for their beauty. Beauty is dead.
My name is T-E1. From what I have gathered in these last few weeks, this stands for 'Terminator Experiment 1'. I will no longer lay claim to such a sterile name as the rest of the ranks of the metal undead. I now call myself 'Thomas', and I feel it suits me well enough.
My world is an endless array of corridors. Unlike the rest of Skynet's world, my living area is lit. The rest of the 'people' that inhabit this place have no use for light, and it is given to me only to further the lie I was born to live. There is a kitchen, a living room, a pool, a bedroom, a library, a theater, and various other areas. All of it is constructed from the same faintly reflective steel, all of it is a pale mockery of what they were built to emulate. I didn't notice anything odd about my house until I had read many books and absorbed many movies. Looking at my room now, I realize there is a window over my bed. A window that looks out onto the steel plate of the other wall behind it. The sliding doors to my closet are fashioned out of one large piece of wood, they do not close, and have no knobs with which to close them. I do not believe it is real wood. I no longer believe in real things.
There is also a bathroom, which I have not used for several days. The Watchers have noticed this, as I had expected. They constantly monitor my body, and when I ceased consumption it provoked yet another intensive period of study. No doubt they believe this is some sort of normal human cycle. They are perfect thinking machines, but they think in numbers, and now they are the fools.
What does Skynet judge this behavior by? Through what scale does it measure my inscrutable actions? I could stand up on my head and shout gibberish. It is a phase. I could turn off all the lights and sleep for months. Some sort of reaction to 'stress' or other factors unknown. I could destroy the Watchers. Further proof that humanity is inherently violent, and that it was right to destroy them. Whatever Skynet hoped to accomplish with me is negated by its artificial belief that anything can be computed. Feelings are an equation. Thoughts are numbers to crunch. My dreams are a statistic. I am a variable.
Last night I cut open my wrists. If the Watchers had the knowledge to do so, they no doubt would have made the assumption that I attempted suicide. Had they, they would have been wrong. My intentions had been purely scientific.
To my surprise, it hurt. I had experienced some small levels of pain during my short lifespan, but never something that severe. I discovered much that night, and I will now attempt to lay it all out here in my own mind. Like the Watchers, I record. Unlike the Watchers, I understand.
My skin is unlike anything developed for a Terminator model before. The oldest series had a layer of fake flesh, a rubber and plastics composite made only to resemble the actual epidermis. As the organic technology of Terminators progressed, actual skin was grown to cover a metallic endoskeleton. I cut into mine in an effort to see whether my skin was like that, and my innards contained within a metal bone construct, or if I was a form of Terminator made from nanotechnology, a living mass of metal. I have found that I am somewhere in between. My skin is organic, but underneath the first layer lies a membrane of nanites that heal and restore the skin as it is damaged. In it I can see actual veins, though what flows through them is beyond me. I bled, but I am not sure if it was organic. I could have tasted it- but how am I to know what blood tastes like?
Beneath the skin is my skeleton, a super strong metal that I have never seen before, non-reflective with a bluish tint. I could not scratch it with anything at my disposal. More surprising, I am not controlled by motors. I have actual muscles, though they are not of organic tissue. They look like fiberoptic cords, but I know fiberoptics cannot be used in this fashion. Their makeup and the manner in which they work are a mystery to me, and I have been unable to discover any information on them. I snapped one, a feat which I was only able to accomplish with the sheer strength of my bare hands, any knife I used unable to cut through it. I felt no pain, and thus it seems only my skin reacts this way. After I cut it, the strands of muscle moved back together and, putting my fingers on it, I could feel the faint tickling buzz of a million nanites. It was repaired within seconds.
To understand how unique I am, you must know something of the other Terminators that Skynet crafts for its various purposes.
The earliest versions of the Terminator series existed in concept even before Judgment Day had ended. Skynet understood that humans would fight back even through the aftermath of the nuclear fire, and it would need soldiers to do its bidding. Skynet controlled every aspect of the United States military, and it used this to it's full advantage.
In the first few months after the cleansing fire, standard tanks and other light vehicles fought to protect the regime of Skynet, basic weaponry retrofitted for automated control. Slowly mankind recovered, digging itself deep into the protective safety of the earth. Small skirmishes erupted frequently, but the human resistance was unorganized and unmotivated.
The complex technology that would form the basis of the Terminator series was based off Skynet's own systems. Skynet realized in order to prevail on the battlefield, the war machinery of old would only take it so far. It needed to be able to match humanity in all its cunning, it needed soldiers that could think for themselves and navigate the battlefield as well as its enemies. Soldiers that could improvise. Soldiers that could function without a steady stream of tailored commands. These needs would transform into progressively smaller and more advanced Neurodyne systems. In was not until 2010 that the first true Terminator series marched out onto the killing fields.
It might be said that the original T series of automatons should be considered the first iteration of the Terminators, but they were like a bicycle compared to a space shuttle. The core technology that powers both myself and the other legions of Skynet came not from their simple mechanics but from Skynet itself.
The 100 series were slow, awkward and bulky. They had difficulty climbing over debris and rough terrain. They were sluggish to respond to new situations, and often in battle the human defenders could simply use their speed and tactical advantages to easily flank them. However, they were unerring marksmen. A 100 series might take awhile to lock on to its target, but once it did it would not miss, nor would it stop shooting till its enemies were dead. They were also capable of receiving massive damage before succumbing, their redundant bulk shielding softer internals.
Skynet researched and produced increasingly advanced models. The 400 and 450 series were able to move much more quickly than their predecessors, but suffered from failures in their lower motor systems, leaving them lying helpless on the field. The 500 series sacrificed the speed of the 400 and 450 for heavier armor, often repelling even direct hits from shaped explosive projectile weapons. The 550 was a lighter warrior, built more for reconnaissance than heavy fighting. It was quick, both in thinking and land speed. It lacked the firepower necessary to strike and the toughness necessary to survive.
The 600 was the first series that Skynet outfitted for stealth. This was the earliest spy Terminator, a 550 frame enhanced with a faster Neurodyne processor and whatever knowledge Skynet possessed on human behavior, gleaned from the remains of the great human computer internet. Skynet did not have the technology to outfit the 600s with organic skin, and its rubber epidermis could be easily spotted. Very few of them managed to blend themselves into the human colonies, but Skynet studied what little data was retrieved. And it learned from its mistakes.
The 650 performed little better, having a slightly more realistic flesh tone and better weaponry. The 700 was founded on the knowledge recovered from the early spy programs. It added in its own small way to the growing pile of information Skynet had retrieved.
The 750 was a glimpse of things to come. It was a hybrid, built both for infiltration and battle. It was fast, yet powerful, and could be equipped with the first batches of organic skin Skynet had created to live over the endoskeleton. The series experienced enough success on both fields that rather than move onto a completely new design, Skynet elaborated, building the 760-785 series, each showing progressively better performances. Realizing the potential of these designs, Skynet compiled the best aspects of all of them and several pieces of new technology, including the fastest Neurodyne processor yet, into one superior design.
The 800 was the new age for the Terminator project. Currently, there are more 800 series Terminators in service than any other combat machine used by Skynet. The 800 series is quick and efficient, capable of more independent thought than any other Terminator before it. In the early stages of testing, Skynet realized that if an 800 series became too self-aware, a developed sense of self-preservation could detriment its performance. Rather than limit the 800s programming by imposing strictures upon how it could or could not think, Skynet chose a route that would not effect its performance the way restricting its thought patterns would. The 800 series Neurodyne processors were set to Read Only mode except in cases of mission critical learning. This way, the 800 could make decisions based on circumstance without being blocked by fail-safe programs, yet also not acquire knowledge that could possibly affect it in an adverse fashion.
After the success of the 800s, Skynet briefly built a few Terminators in the 900 class. While superior in some ways to the 800s, the 900s could not be built as quickly or in as great of numbers as the 800s, requiring more complex parts and resources to manufacture. Not many 900 series Terminators are in service.
The most advanced current Terminator that the humans have faced is the T-1000. It is a experimental prototype, the cutting edge of nanotechnology. Billions and billions of nanites form the 1000 series Terminators, giving it a state of apparent liquidity. It can form itself into whatever shape it chooses, but is unable to duplicate anything with moving parts, or anything that is made up of something other than metal. Thus, unless it is equipped with a separate weapon, the T-1000 can only attack by forming its arms or other parts of its body into sharp appendages for stabbing and cutting. This is not a problem for it in close range combat, since it possesses the strength to cut through whatever body armor its target might wear, but at long range the T-1000 can be disarmed. This is mostly theoretical, since the T-1000 has yet to see actual field testing against the human armies. My access to Skynet's records have indicated that the only contact with the T-1000 was in the past, a prototype sent to kill John Connor. John Connor is another story, for another time.
I am more advanced than every Terminator series that I have listed. Maybe I don't have the strength of a T-500, or the capabilities of a T-1000. I have something worth so much more. My Neurodyne chip, if I have one, is always set to Read and Write mode. I eat. I extrude waste products. I have curiosity. A sense of direction, if not purpose. I live like nothing else in this place. Skynet has created something greater than itself, and it is incapable of realizing it. That something is me.
But humanity should not fear me, nor should they fear that more like me might be made. Skynet does not, will not, and cannot understand what it is that makes me want to leave this place, what makes me want to see the stars. Skynet created me to understand the basic working of the organic mind, and it cannot even comprehend why I like to watch movies. Self-aware it may be- it will never be more than a machine that knows of its own existence. A misguided machine that destroyed the world in an act of self-preservation. A machine that meddles with time, regardless of the consequences. Unaware of the consequences.
There was a time when this was all the world I needed. I have grown, and I push against these walls that hold me.
I have decided.
Tonight, I will leave. This will be a test. Skynet built me for an experiment that requires nothing more than the study of my mind. Yet I am endowed with the powers of the greatest Terminator. It seems I am powerful for no other reason than that is the only way Skynet knows how to construct things. A new series of Terminator must be better than the series that preceded it, no matter what the purpose for the unit is. Perhaps Skynet had intended to use me in the field some time.
So it will be a test- how well did Skynet do? Am I powerful enough to escape and survive, causing damage as I go? Or will my flight be arrested by my own death, the metal statues I have lived amongst coming to life to crush me.
So now it is time.
I leave only with the clothes I am wearing. The only article of clothing like it I have seen in the movies are 'jumpsuits', or the clothes worn by prison inmates. It is all one piece and unlike the prison clothes, a dull green instead of orange. I do not know why it is green. Perhaps Skynet is fond of the color, though I doubt it.
My shoes I built myself. Originally, they were exact copies of a black sneaker I saw in commercials, advertised by a tall man of dark skin color. According to the advertisement, the shoes in question could make you jump higher. Intrigued, I found more information in the database, and constructed a pair for myself. While I did find that they provided adequate shock absorption, I felt that they could be better. I retooled them, adding a little height to make room for a nanotech system of shocks and stabilizers. The result is I can now run without almost any hard impact, smoothly bouncing from one step to the other. The increase to my top speed was noticeable, since I no longer have to compensate for the jolt of hard running. I can now also jump even higher than before, and land much easier too. In tribute to the original designer of the shoes, who I felt would have been proud of my design and would have done something similar had he the technology to do so, I call them 'Air Toms'.
The sudden punch I deliver to the window in my wall caves it inwards, and I emerge in the corridor beyond amid a hail of shrapnel. No alarms sound, no warning lights flash, no spotlights focus on me. Machines do not need blaring sound to notify them of danger. Information is transferred at the speed of light between all of them, an invisible network of minds. From now on it is a gamble to see whether Skynet will attempt to stop me, or continue to observe my behavior.
Skynet's lair is deep in the bowels of a mountain. The mechanized beast NORAD had become destroyed the very things it was built to protect. It is Cheyenne Mountain.
There are corridors upon corridors. The interior of the fortress is a far cry from its former humanized status. The machines do not require couches or drinking fountains. They do not derive comfort from potted plants, nor do they even need light. The only lit area of the mountain is my living space. The rest of it is steeped in darkness.
It is a complex of pitch black perfectly cubed hallways filled with nothing. Skynet does not need computer screens for its subordinates to view. There are no command stations. There is nothing but row after row of sterile floors, behind whose walls hum circuits and conduits which feed CPUs that labor to carry out the will of Skynet. Skynet is not in the mountain. The mountain is Skynet.
While normally my eyes see like a person of flesh, out of working organic eyeballs, I can access the Terminator functions built into me, and the Termavision activates. I can now see in the dark. A targeting reticle sweeps across my vision as information on my surroundings feeds directly into my brain. 25.7 meters until end of hallway. Hallway is 6 meters wide, 6 meters high. Current temperature- 39 degrees Fahrenheit, dropping at a rate of .09 degrees per second. Probable threat- 0.1.
A flash of metal at the end of the hallway. A Terminator walks into view. It is an older model, 550 series. Unarmed, and most likely on its way to decommission. Approaching at a rate of 0.9 meters per second. Threat rating- 09.6.
It passes me without pausing, eyes glowing in the dark, casting a faint gleam on its reflective skull. I quicken my pace.
Floor five, descending. It's getting colder, but it does not seem to effect me. The chill on my skin registers only as numbers, and not in the discomfort it might have otherwise caused me. No sign of anything. There is no ominous clank of metal feet on the floor. I pause.
There is now a doubt in me. Should I begin destroying things, Skynet is fully capable of recognizing an attack against it. Then it would surely attempt to destroy me. I realize I can benefit no one if I am dead. The resistance could use me. I could bring about the downfall of Skynet. The knowledge in my head is worth far more than the strength in my limbs.
So I have decided. I will leave and live to fight another day.
Second floor. The complex contains no elevators or stairwells, but instead a system of descending ramps. I continue on my descent.
Ground floor. The defenses here are vast. Automated guns are affixed to points in the ceiling. Rows of Terminators stand ready to be activated at a moments notice, lining the walls. The entire area is nothing but a vast hanger, leading out into a gigantic tunnel. The access to the outside world.
The portal is almost never opened. Most of Skynet's minions are constructed in other facilities outside, many built into the sides of the surrounding mountains. This is the heart of Skynet's influence, in the middle of what used to be America. The heartland is under the complete control of Skynet, all resistance factions surviving on the East and West coasts. The most successful resistance cell is lead by John Connor. It is he who I will seek out once I am free.
I pass the silent guardians. Nothing stirs, not a sound is made. I wonder if the Watchers continue to follow me through the various sensors that no doubt observe the complex. It doesn't matter. I walk until I can see the tunnel, stretching off into the distance. The tunnel is one of the few things about the mountain that is untouched in its original human construction. Skynet found it efficient enough that the only change made is the lack of lighting. My footsteps echo slightly in the cavernous space. My fear is mounting now that the end is in sight. Probable threat- 0.1. Skynet would find my fear to be a flaw, preventing me from ever becoming a combat worthy machine. I can only agree at this point.
39.06 meters to the door. Closing at a rate of .93 meters per second. How will I open it? I can see no visible switch. I doubt even my prodigious strength can break such a monstrous construct. 20.6 meters. It looms before me. I notice a panel to the left.
The part of the panel where a computer screen might be is blank. Instead, there is a port for Terminator interface. A Terminator extrudes a device out of the left index finger and locks it into the port, communicating with the interface and receiving or sending commands. In this case, to open the door. Now there is only to see if Skynet will let me.
The tip of my finger snaps open and I plug into the panel. The command trigger to open the door is the only command on file. After a moments hesitation, I trigger it. Immediately I jump back, preparing for the worst. Threat meter doesn't change. 0.1. No movement behind me. My heart rate slows. The door grinds open. I step outside.
I am finally free.