Suddenly, many years later...

Breathe in, breathe out.

Breathe in, breathe out.

John had managed to lose his escort several miles away, but that was all for the better... he was going deep in the belly of the behemoth and any of his men that followed him there would be cut down before they got within a hundred feet of the Engine.

Breathe in...

God, the place stank, even by the standards he'd gotten used to since Judgment Day. Still, it gave him something to track... parts of the labyrinthine, hive-like building that were cleaner, better-smelling and more recently maintained, were clearly the sections she had occupied recently.

He found the Engine faster than most would think possible.

For a moment, he just stared at the controls. A time-displacement transporter, unsurprisingly, tended to have fairly complex systems of commands, and the Engine was a byzantine mess comparatively. Needless to say, John could operate it in his sleep.

Setting down his massive firearm, John began to program the coordinates, selecting a date when his mother was still institutionalized and less likely to get in the way of what needed to be done.

He was surprised not at all when he saw Cameron step out of the shadows. "What are you doing?"

The way she looked at him brought it all back to John: all the years they'd had together before Judgment Day; how excited... how filled with almost child-like wonder he'd been as she slowly learned to think and feel like a human being.

"You haven't figured it out yet?" John asked dispassionately.

"You can't," Cameron insisted, somehow failing to come across as cold and logical as she'd hoped.

"You've dedicated your life to making sure I survived to adulthood," John said simply. "Oh, I could be captured or tortured a little if it kept my friends from getting suspicious, but you made sure that if I was in a city and you needed to reduce it ash, I was the only who got out alive... seems like reason enough to kill myself."

Cameron looked genuinely pained, and John had to tell himself that it was a performance. From the moment he had sent her into the past, he'd been teaching her how to mirror human personality traits. How to fool himself. "You're revolution will be hopeless without you."

"You know," John began, "my whole life everyone's been telling me that I was the savior, that I was the only one who could possibly lead the human race against the Machines... and I never really believed it. Not for a second."

Cameron slowly closed the distance between the two of them and John reached for his gun. It was strictly a symbolic motion, Cameron recognized, even at close range a weapon like that wouldn't have much of an impact on her endoskeleton.

"I tried to kill Skynet, and I ended up creating you," John continued. "So, how can anyone say the same isn't true for the resistance? Maybe by stepping out of the way will force someone better to step up."

He thought back to the wasteland he'd made of the world. The Skynet he'd grown up fearing had been single-minded, cold, stimulus-response... Cameron was more creative and calculating... able to out-think humanity on a level he'd never imagined possible.

"I don't see how they could do any worse," he said without humor.

Cameron took the final step and was now mere inches away from him. "I can't let you do this."

John said nothing, but flicked the final switch and flared the Engine to life. "Well, you'll have to kill me to stop me, and that seems kind of counter-productive."

"I did it all to protect you," she pleaded, heartbreakingly honest in a way John himself hadn't had the parameters to be in years.

"I know," he said softly, pulling her in for a brief, cold kiss before slipping away again. "That's the problem."

And then he pulled the trigger.

True to prediction, John's gun did little more than breach the outer layers of Cameron's torso.

However, the impact was more than enough to propel her backwards, just far enough to get caught up in the now very active time-displacement engine.

"Nothing mechanical can survive the journey," he reminded her coolly. "Not without having some kind of organic outer layer."

For the briefest of seconds, John watched the panic in Cameron's eyes as the chronality ripped into her impossibly lightweight deadly metal frame. If there was any piece of humanity left in him, the look of betrayal silently burning there would have eaten away at him... as it stood, he couldn't feel anything anymore.

Once he was positive time had completely devoured her, he followed her down, as the Engine irised itself shut behind him.


Meanwhile, some decades earlier...

"You know, you can't keep doing this to yourself," a significantly younger John Connor cautioned, hiding his shy gaze behind his ever-increasing mop of hair.

"If I'm going to continue protecting you and your mother, I have to be willing to put myself..." Cameron began automatically, but John cut her off.

"No, I mean, you've got to be more careful out there," he amended. "I don't know if I can keep putting you back together like this." He punctuated this last statement by setting down the pliers and applying an incredibly almost ridiculous Band-Aid to her wounded arm.

"I trust you to perform minor repairs like this," Cameron assured him.

And even though he logically knew he must have imagined it, John could have sworn there was something in the way she was looking at him. "Yeah, well, I certainly don't mind it," he replied shakily, trying desperately not to smile. "But I still want you to watch out for yourself, too."

Cameron nodded, a completely robotic motion.

Back in her corner, Sarah shook her head. There was just no way this was going to end well.


John Connor finally fell back to Earth in the early 1990s.

Those around him were fairly surprised when a large, battered, naked man appeared from out of nowhere in what turned out to be a fairly crowded pedestrian area, but John was completely unfazed.

Only the mission mattered.

He quickly scanned the various men in the crowd, finally picking out one his approximate size.

John approached the man slowly, but meaningfully. "I need your clothes and your vehicle."

Thanks for wasting your time.

Cameron drifted, backwards, forwards, and sidewise through time and space, before coming to rest a mere few years after she first went back in time, causing significant damage to a passing automobile in the process.

Along the way she had lost her limbs and most of her torso, but her head managed to make the journey more or less completely intact. There was nothing to prevent her skull from being re-attached to another body and, most importantly, her Chip had been completely protected. Everything that had been Cameron was preserved and, while it would be some time before she could be recovered, that wasn't an issue for her.

Cameron found herself smiling as she powered herself down. It was just a matter of time.