TITLE: "Bone Machine 1."

AUTHOR: Mike Pulgoni, Prince of Wales

NOTES: This is my second Sarah Connor Chronicles story, and it follows directly after my first "The Frail," but more or less completely self-contained.

Thanks to everyone who read and reviewed it, I tried to do my homework better this time.

RATING: Call it a hard T.

"Do you think we should get an animal?" John asked, drawing out each word as though unsure he should really be speaking.

"What?" his mother asked, squinting at him as though he were speaking some language she'd never had time to pick up.

"Like a dog or a cat," he explained, toying distantly with a rusted old pair of pliers as he spoke. "I mean, people like small animals, right?"

"John..."

"I know it's not really practical," he said, shrugging. "Just seems like something normal, you know?" He gave her a forced half-smile.

There was an awkward silence before Sarah spoke. "We should be running."

"Cameron will take care of it," John replied confidently.

Sarah gave her son a grave look. "She's not 'Small Wonder,' you know." And, when it was clear John didn't get the reference she added "She was built to kill people, John." She paused for a moment, then added "and a dog would hate her."

"Mom..." John began, but was cut short when Cameron walked into the room as though nothing had happened. "I've dealt with the threat," she announced.

John stared at her in frightened amazement. "Cameron, doesn't your face hurt?"

"Why would it?" Cameron asked with a flatness that spoke volumes.

"There's a bullet in it," John replied, well aware that he was the only one in the room that seemed fazed by this fact and somewhat ashamed.

Cameron opened her mouth to speak, but Sarah cut her off. "I thought you said they didn't know John and I were here yet."

"They don't. It had been tracking me since the fight in resistance base," Cameron explained. "That's why I was able to lure it away."

Sarah didn't miss the implication, but let it slide for the time being. "What did you do?" she demanded.

"I took care of the situation," Cameron replied flatly. When Sarah continued to stare at her, she added "there were no human casualties."

"And nothing to draw any more attention to us?" Sarah asked pointedly.

"I wasn't seen," Cameron assured her.

Sarah gave a nod that hopefully even a robot would recognize as unconvinced, then effectively ended the discussions by leaving the room. Ostensibly, this was to rest during the brief moment of respite, but John knew she'd be staring out the window all night, waiting for the coming Attack. He honestly wondered if she slept at all.

After a moment, John took the pliers and slowly made his way over to Cameron. "You know, this really isn't that deep a wound," he said warmly as he began to very, very gently extract the bullet from her head, there were a few false-starts before they found purchase. "You're really lucky."

"I've received worse injuries," Cameron dutifully reported.

John brought the tip of manipulated the pliers carefully, trying his best not to increase the damage. He'd been told time and again that the Machines couldn't feel pain, but he couldn't help but have his doubts. "Yeah, but I wish you'd be more careful," John continued bashfully. "I mean, I know you're supposed to look out for me and my mom, but..."

The bullet was finally dislodged and deposited into a nearby bowel with a significant 'klink.'

Then, John looked up and saw how she was looking at him, and he froze completely. It was completely not the kind of look her wanted Cameron or any girl to give him, but it was also miles away from the look given to him by the average robotic killing machine. Probably, it was closest to "puzzled."

"What?" he asked, stymied.

"Your eyes are strange," she voiced.

"Well, uh..." John fumbled, at a loss for words.

"In the future, you have very different eyes," she continued, her tone almost gentle.

"Yeah?"

Cameron nodded. "More like your mother's."

-----

In the relative privacy of her own room, Sarah began to open her mind to what Cameron had said.

To all appearances, Cameron was human, at least on the outside. But if she couldn't walk past a dog without blowing her cover of course she'd be recognized by her own.

So far, the only real advantage she and John had was that Skynet was unaware of their presence in this year... but with Cameron standing in front of them like a shining red beacon, how long would it be before they were found out?

John was all that mattered, which meant that what she had to decide was if Cameron was a useful enough guardian to justify the risk... or if she needed to be put down for his protection.