Disclaimer -- My thanks to James Cameron, Gale Ann Hurd, Jonathan Mostow, Mario Kassar and Andrew Vanja for creating the sandbox and letting me play in it.
A/N -- A note about the timing of this story. This entire story unfolds during the events of Episodes 2 and 3, from when Jordan jumps to the night after Sarah burns the Turk. I think the show right now is little bit too serious and dark. Also, I'm trying to reconcile the very human seeming Cameron we met at the beginning of Episode 1 with the very clunky and robotic Cameron we saw in Episodes 2 - 5. Think of this story as the moments of humor and closeness that would have been included in Episodes 2 and 3 if they had been 90 min or 2 hr episodes instead of 1 TV hour.
My name is John. John Reese. John Thomson. John Clark. John Connor. John Rousseau. John Welch.
I have had many last names, in my life. John Connor. That's the one I just can't get away from. The great fearless leader of the human resistance against 'The Machines.' My mom told me all about it. Some big guy with an Austrian accent and a shot gun who turned out not to be a guy at all but actually one of 'The Machines,' he told me about it.
I've heard about it my whole life.
I've heard about it until I'm almost sick of it. I'm just a kid who's been on the run half of his life: through Mexico as a young kid, in Foster care in LA during Junior High, leaving Charlie back in 1999. Or at least that's what it feels like. How can I be the great fearless leader of the human race when I barely know them, us?
My birth certificate, the original real one – I saw it once – says John Reese. My name was almost John Dixon, back in 1999 when my mom was engaged to a paramedic in New Mexico named Charlie Dixon.
Now my drivers' license says John Baum. Some days I wish it was John Cunningham, younger brother of Richie, pal of the Fonz. Some days I wish it was Juan Flores. You see, the Flores family down in Mexico, from grandpa Flores all the way down to the youngest of twenty-one first cousins, they had nothing (dirt floors and out door plumbing), but they loved each other. Right now, I'd settle for John Brown, older brother of Charlie, as long as I got to play flying aces with the dog.
I look back down at my notes from World History class. I'm supposed to be studying for a quiz tomorrow… Reconstruction, Jim Crow, Carpetbaggers, literacy tests…and what was going on in Europe after the American Civil War? Industrialization! Nationalism! The seeds of nationalism were being sown.
I can't quite focus on that, even knowing that I have a quiz tomorrow. My mind throws up the image of that girl on the roof, the one that jumped. What about her? Could I have stopped her? Why did she jump? Rumors said she was sleeping with a teacher. Mom would say, 'It's not your problem; keep your head down.' But if we're on this big quest to change the future and stop Skynet, then we have to investigate and uncover its origins. So, I think a little research is in order here, to begin to sharpen my investigative skills. Like Bruce Wayne, only without the wealth. John Wayne. Ha. Heh, heh. No, that definitely sounds wrong. John Grayson then. John Grayson, Amateur Detective. I look over my history notes one more time, finish my algebra homework, and turn out the light. In the dark I look across my room,, through window, up at the sky and smile.
The next day at lunch, Cameron asks, "Where were you?" in a casual tone, as I drop my lunch tray across from her. We eat in the courtyard outside the actual cafeteria. It's less crowded and there are more exits, just in case. Besides, I like the sun.
I start to answer, "I was…" But she rolls right over me, this time in a hushed tone, "You only have four minutes and fifty-one seconds left to consume your meal." So I scarf down my vegetables, while she continues, "How will you consume enough nutrition?"
I devour the mystery meat while she glares at me.
"Happy?" I ask. "You sound like my mother." She looks bright until I say 'my mother.' Then she looks slightly downcast. As though by saying 'my mother', instead of saying 'Mom,' I'm somehow excluding her, putting her on the outside. For a Machine, she sure is moody. "Let's try that again from the top, 'Hi, John! Whazzup?'"
"Okay," she says. "Hi, John! What's up?"
"I stopped by the school newspaper at the beginning of lunch." I reply, "I got us an assignment writing a memorial story for the girl who jumped."
Cameron's eyes narrow. "You're going to investigate, after she died." She states flatly.
"Inductive reasoning, very impressive." I smile, genuinely impressed. She may be my protector, but I'm the one who's got to teach her to fit in, to pass for human. It's not like Mom's going to try.
"But she is dead already. You are too late to help her." She doesn't respond to my complement, but I can tell from her expression that she's filed it away for later. She'll probably bring it up between classes, or on the way home from school. Right now, she's trying to talk me out of the memorial story. It's like verbal chess, but I'm usually playing this with my mom.
I gulp down an extra milk. "What if she was pushed?" I ask, maneuvering another of my pieces in this verbal chess match.
"But you are not a part of the School Newspaper." She moves one of her verbal chess pieces.
"We are now." Check. I stand up with my lunch tray.
"Wait, you said us." Check mate. She walked into it herself.
"Look, I don't know if anything happened. I don't know what happened," I make a partial concession. "But I need to develop my investigating skills and I'm starting with this. If you're going to protect me you'll have to help." I start walking toward the trash barrels and the door back into school.
"What is this?" she calls after me, just loud enough for me to hear. "Are you being like Amidala in Star Wars-Attack of the Clones, when she went to the planet Geonosis to help Obi-Wan Kenobi?"
"No, I'm being like Dick Grayson in All-Star Batman and Robin." I look back in her direction. "I'm investigating to find out what really happened" so that we can keep it from happening again. I didn't actually say that last part out loud. But with my face set like flit and determination in my stride, I'm sure my body language said it loud and clear.
On the way to class, we each introduce ourselves to a couple of other students as reporters with the school newspaper writing a memorial for Dana Griffith, the girl that died, and ask if they knew her or want to say anything about it. I make notes on a pad.
Cameron doesn't. She doesn't need to take notes, she has perfect recording and recall. One of the first girls she talks to asks, "Like, aren't you gonna write down these quotes?"
"No," Cameron points to her forehead, "I've got it all up here." She smiles excitedly. The other girls look at her as if antennas just grew out of her forehead. Cameron glances over at me and sees my pad and pencil. She unzips her bag and takes out a notepad and a pen before talking to the next student. I look over and flash her an encouraging smile.
She's catching on.
But I have to wonder…back in 1999 when I first met her, I wouldn't have known she wasn't human until she drove over that Terminator with the pick up truck. Even after that she acted more relaxed and natural. When we got to 2007, suddenly she was all robotic, like the big guy with the Austrian accent. I write down the name and some thoughts from the student I was talking with close the notepad and walk to class.
After school, I go to the registrar's office and ask for Jordan's parents' phone numbers and home address, so I can contact them for the story. It's amazing how this reporter cover is just opening up doors for me. I haven't learned much but people are talking to me. No wonder Superman picked this for his cover job. I also saw the filing cabinet, locked of course, with the teachers' records in the principal's office next door.
I need some insight into a suicidal teenaged girl's mind. I can't tell Mom about this, or she'll freak. And Cameron, well naturally we'll talk about it, but she needs more insight into the mind of the American teenage girl than I do. I resolve to contact Charlie. He's been a paramedic for something like fifteen years now. Surely, he's recovered a few attempted suicides of teenaged girls.
Before calling Charlie, I call Jordan's parents. Turns out they're both at home going over final preparations for the funeral. They're thrilled with the memorial article. Her mom cries on the phone and her father says that we can drop by for few minutes and talk with them, even look through her room. They're just finishing up with the Pastor and the Funeral Director, and they will have a few minutes for us before dinner.
I know that my Mom won't be home from her shift at the Diner until after five so we've got some time available to see the Griffiths. "Thank you so much for seeing us on short notice. The paper goes to press on Thursday, so we have to get the article turned in by Wednesday."
"We just so much appreciate that you and the school want to honor Jordan this way." Her mother breaks into tears again and her father gives me directions, using the city buses.
After I end the call, I turn to Cameron and start to explain what I've planned. She cuts me off turns and starts walking toward the bus stop. "I heard both sides of the conversation."
While we wait for the bus, I call Charlie.
"Hi, Charlie, it's John," I say a little bit nervously. "I'm sorry I slugged you the other day, man. I was in a weird place emotionally."
"Don't sweat it, John," He says with genuine warmth and compassion in his voice. "I'm just glad you called. You were gone so long. But how, man?"
"I can't talk about that on the phone, okay?" I say very abruptly. Man, this was a terrible idea, but I press on because I've got no one else to turn to. I steady my voice as much as I can, "Look, I need some help."
"Sure, son, anything." He sounds paternal. Or at least how I think a father would sound.
"We had a girl at our school kill herself last Friday." I try to sound broken up about it. But after the things I've seen… "I need to talk to you about that."
"Okay, sure." I can hear the wheels turning in his head as he thinks a loud, "My wife is on second shift and I'm on third this week, so I can see you around ten. I have to be headed for work by ten-thirty though. Can I come by and pick you up?"
"No, Charlie, I'm not sure what Mom would think about that." I actually envision a huge shouting match. "So, I'm not telling you where we live, but I remember the way to your house."
"Okay, John. I'll see you at ten."
We end the call as the bus comes up.
Cameron and I get on the bus. I start to pull out some cash for bus fare, but the driver holds up a hand and asks if we have student IDs for the High School. I start to pull mine out.
"No that's okay." the driver says, "You can both ride for free."
We move back and sit together. I'm lost in thought about Charlie. Suddenly Cameron's voice breaks me out of my reverie, "Aren't you going to ask me about my quiz?" Cameron looks over at me, slightly hurt. "Don't you care how I did? Some brother you are."
"Hey, whoa!" I turn to look at her with a puzzled expression on my face, and then I lean closer and say in a very soft tone, "You've got perfect recall of everything the teacher said in class and everything you read in the textbook. You got whatever grade you wanted to. Why would I ask about that?"
She leans closer, too. Our noses are about an inch apart. She's looking me straight in the eyes and she speaks softly, "Because it's what a normal person would do, right?" Cameron's face brightens, she's trying to show me that she's beginning to catch on to this act normal stuff. "How am I supposed to learn to act normal, if you won't treat me normal?"
I'm thinking that she can bend steel and hear the other side of my phone calls from two feet away, how can I possibly treat her normal. I'm feeling like everyone in the bus must be watching us. We pass through the shadow of a building. I look at reflections in the window glass around the buss. No body pays a bit of attention to us. "By watching everyone else." I say, like it's obvious.
And then her face goes all robotic and empty and she says, "Fooled you." She turns and looks around the bus and smiles, the confident pretty girl smile at everyone and no one. But it doesn't quite reach her eyes. I can tell that she's scanning everyone on the bus and in the street around the bus accessing threats. I wonder where she learned that smile. When she's done with her smile/scan she asks, "Was that good?"
I reply quietly, leaning toward her ear this time, "The smile and scan was great. It works as long as you look pretty. If you're banged up, just look mean when you scan. And the conversation was convincing, too."
She leans back and looks me in they eyes for emphasis and whispers, "I rehearsed it 38, 327 times silently, while you were on the phone. With Charlie." Then she leans over and says into my ear, "Why are you sneaking out to see him?"
"You can come with me, if you want. But I need some insight into whether the rumors and spray painted doors at school would have pushed her to jump. I need to figure out if someone was … mistreating her." I needed other things, too, like closure and so I did Charlie. But I wasn't sure how to put any of it into words for myself, much less for my protector.
"We have to change busses soon. How do I stop this bus?" Cameron stands up and reaches for the emergency stop lever.
"Hold on." I stand up next to her, reach out and gently pull her arm away from the emergency lever. She gently moves it away along with me. This is very good, because if she hadn't moved it herself, even a world champion body builder, like the Governor of our Great State of California couldn't have moved it. I lean over to the cord. "Just pull the cord, like this." I tug on the cord and a bell up by the driver goes, 'Ding.'
This time everyone is looking at us. I turn and say, "Sorry folks, she just got back from a school exchange program in China." The other passengers went back to their conversations and iPods.
The driver slowed. Out the back window I could see a bus slowing down behind us. Cameron looked as well. I turned toward her and opened my hands with a questioning expression on my face. She just turned toward the exit and hurried off. I guessed that I had my answer and hurried after her.
We got on the next bus. I went first and flashed my ID to the driver before making my way back. Cameron did the same, right down to the facial expression. It was uncanny watching her copy me.
We sat down together and she said with a blank look on her face "So, we are going to Jordan's house, and Charlie's house and talking to all these people to figure out if someone was mistreating Jordan?"
"Right," I replied. "Good reasoning."
"And if we find that someone was mistreating her," she continued with the blank expression, "then we kill him?"
"No." I said emphatically. I continued honestly, "I don't know what we'll do, but it won't be that."
"What about the article?" She asked. It sounded like a genuine question.
"Oh, we'll write something flowery and warm that makes everyone feel good, regardless of what we find." I replied, trying to sound wise beyond my years.
"What about journalistic integrity, don't news people get fired for that?" she asked, again sounding completely sincere, "Like Dan Rather?"
"Him?" I said shocked. Of course I hadn't watched the news since before Cromartie tried to shot me. "When?"
"While we were gone." She said simply.
"How did you know that?" I held up a hand. "Wait. Let me guess." We said it together, "I don't sleep."
"Well, if you keep spending all this time with people, then you're going to have to figure out a way to de-fragment, re-compile, analyze and try to make sense of it all." I said very matter-of- fact-ly. John Jung, robot psychologist. "I suggest you learn how to sleep."
"I could sleep in Mr. Saint Thomas's math class." We both laughed at that. The guy showed film clips and tried to tell jokes to make the class interesting. Half those that paid attention, just wanted to see what he would do next. One day when someone popped a balloon, he fell over like he'd been shot. That got everyone's attention.
"So, about the article…" I began, and then paused to think of the right way to phrase it, "a memorial article is supposed to say nice things about the person who died, it's a bonus if it's true. Everything else… 'Believe half of what you see, none of what you hear, but everything you write.'
"H. L. Menkin." She said attributing the quote.
"I thought it was Perry White." I said, half joking. "Seriously, at Jordan's house, let me talk to the parents. You look through the room. Try not to disturb anything, but find her journal if you can."
My name is John Connor. I'm going to find out why Jordan Griffith jumped off the roof of the gym. And who ever is responsible, well they're in for life changing experience.
A/N--If you like this, check out my other stuff over on the Movies/ Superman page. And send me a review. If you didn't like it send me a reivew. That's one of they main ways I get better at writing.