A loud thumping crunch awoke me from a sound sleep. I bolted up and pulled a shotgun from under my bed. Cameron should be on patrol out here. Nothing should make it in. Unless she's off on another one of her solo missions.
My feet slid into shoes waiting next to my bed and I walked very quietly to my door. I listened. I listened for breathing. For the whirring sound that Terminators make when they move (normally it's covered up by ambient noise, but on a still, clear night, sometimes I've heard it.) For the sound of air moving around something standing next to my door.
I put my weapon up in a ready position, and pulled the door so it would open slowly by itself. As it drifted open, I peered around the door jamb and moved out into the hall. Look up, down, left, right…Nothing. I moved silently down the hall toward the kitchen and saw Cameron picking herself up out of the wreckage of the kitchen table.
"I had a dream," she said.
I literally didn't hear her say that. I mean the words went into my mind which promptly filed them in the rubbish bin with a note that read impossible. I continued to the back door turning this way and that, always pointing my weapon along my line of sight. Then I turned and scanned the room. Finally, I called, "Clear." Then I set the weapon down and asked, "Are you okay? What happened?"
She walked over to me with lithe grace, and an odd expression on her face. It was one that I knew meant she was troubled. Gently she took my right hand in hers. She stood on tiptoes and spoke very softly into my ear. "Will you hold me?" she asked as she slowly wrapped her left arm around me in an embrace, that was at once tender and decidedly non-sensual. She brought our hands up slowly between us.
"Of course." I put my left arm around her back with my left hand on her shoulder blade and brought her close. Against my bare chest, I could tell that she was wearing one of my t-shirts and not much else up top. I took a deep breath and willed myself calm. With an act of my will, I forced the blood to move above my waist back to my head, the one I needed to think with and back to my heart, that I needed to feel with. Comfort. I said that word to myself slowly and loudly in my mind, three times.
I whispered to her, "I'm here for you. You know that, right?"
We just stood
there for a while. I thought I felt her lips form the word yes. And
then she released the embrace and led me over to the couch. "I had
a dream," said simply. We sat, with her on my left side. She
still held my hand. She leaned back across my torso, pulling my
right arm around her and placed her head gently against my right
I wrapped my left arm around her abdomen and placed my left hand on her right hip. Part of my mind wondered where her underwear were under the sweat pants. I deliberately took that thought and set aside, but not in the rubbish bin. "Do you want to tell me about it?"
"Mmm, hmm" she said. Then she sat quietly. She seemed to be thinking back through the dream, trying to understand it.
"We were in the second LA Time Lab. I was returning to the future, to 2027. You were asking me to stay. I was showing you how to program a Time Jump, going over the last information you needed to continue the Resistance before I left. Then everything went silent. I could see you mouthing words. A tear meandered down your cheek and you dropped to one knee as the blue time bubble swallowed me up.
"The transition lasted longer than it should have. I don't know how I knew that. I was aware that there was no future for me to go back to. Somehow, in the new 2027, I hadn't been built, so I couldn't go there.
"I woke up in a research lab. I opened really primitive eyes and my vision looked like early 1970s ear, low-def, black and white television. I looked around and saw computer terminals and work benches with partially constructed processors. I saw partially assembled mechanical skeletons that looked like a cross between radically advanced bionic replacement limbs and terminator endoskeletons.
"And then I looked down at myself and saw that I was missing, except for my head, my hair and my right arm. The skin on my face didn't feel right, because it didn't feel. Same for my arm, which now that I looked at it was just a bionic replacement arm with skin only on the hand. I felt really simple and crude sensations from the hand.
Then I turned my head to scan the room for you. I saw Andy Goode (alive and well, eager, optimistic and hopeful), Miles Dyson (alive and well, calm, assured and confident). Not seeing you, I started to freak out. My eyes went wide and I tried to move my facial muscles, but I didn't have any. Then I listened. I heard your breathing behind me and I calmed down. I realized my pulse rate hadn't risen or fallen because I didn't have a heart. I tried to breathe, but I couldn't because I had no lungs. 'John,' I tried to say, reaching my one arm out for you. It sounded more like 'Zhoawn.'
"Miles said, 'Let's shut the prototype down, guys.'
My hand found yours the way it always does. And you took it, held it just like you do here.
'Maybe this was too soon.' Miles continued gently, a look of sadness on his face.
My hand tightened in yours. My lips moved but I couldn't get any sound out of them because I had neither lungs nor vocal cords. The mind told me I had a speech synthesizer, but I couldn't remember how to use it. Involuntarily, my fingers tightened in your hand and I pulled my self closer to you. Feeling an awful shudder in my head and arm, I looked downward and realized that below my neck was a slender pole and castors that rolled. I pulled my shoulder against your chest. I was mouthing no. I was squeezing "no" in Morse code into your hand.
"As awful as the existence in that primitive, amputated body felt, it was preferable to nothingness. I had no idea how to save myself. And I was afraid that if I was shut down, my mind would disappear. I felt fear, fear of death. I pulled myself closer to you and you moved my right hand into your left. In the corner of my vision I saw you slowly run your right hand up my arm, up my neck, to touch my face. I couldn't feel it but I could see it, barely.
"You said, 'No, don't, and then you looked over at something that I hadn't noticed before. I imagined your jaw dropping open because you didn't say anything else. You just lifted you left hand and pointed. I swiveled my head around to follow you hand and saw four more people: Sarah, beaming at you with pride; a bored looking young man; a twenty-something woman I had never seen before but knew her name was Catherine Brewster, took the whole experience in and looked at you in a way that said she was re-evaluating your place in her future; A grey haired man in Air Force Dress uniform was already staring at the monitor with look of profound amazement on his face. And then I finally saw it: my consciousness model, dozens of graphs representing all my mental processes.
"I saw the stars of a Major General on the blue uniform and read the name plate as Brewster and he said, 'Good Heavens, John some of those process graphs look like the AIs my research people have been working on for me to defend the U.S. Ballistic Missile Defense System against hackers and computer attacks.'
"Then you finally found your voice, 'Quick somebody, Miles, Andy, General anyone, how many terabytes to store a personality? 10? 100?'
"It was Kate who answered, '500 should do it but get 1000 to be safe.'
"You said, 'Do it. Danny, Thomas go grab us ten 100 terabyte hard drives, connect them in parallel and hook them into Cameron's processor.'
"I saw an African-American teenager and white-coated student dash off out of view. Then the bored guy with Kate, asked, "What do we need those for."
"So that she can save herself," you said
Kate turned to him and clarified, "So that Cameron, here, can store a copy of all the code and the processes that are running now."
Cameron, my Cameron, the one sitting on the couch and reclined across my chest paused and looked into my face with wonder in her eyes.
I smoothed her hair with my free hand. "That sounds like a nightmare."
"No, the ending redeemed it." Tears streaked her face. "You walked around into my field of view and looked into my visual receptors (calling them eyes would give them too much credit). You looked older, (22 maybe?) wiser, more kind/ compassionate, and the lines in your face betrayed none of the worry and weight of impending doom that you've lived with here since you were small. Looking into my cameras, your expression said that some how you recognized me, knew me, remembered me. I could tell that you somehow remembered everything about me, us, all our adventures, all our Missions, everything we have shared and will share. You mouthed, "I'm keeping his vow, Cameron."
"I built you myself, didn't I," I thought out loud in a quiet, distant, awestruck tone. Silently I wondered how many more iterations the time stream would go through before we arrived in that timeline. Only one or two I hoped. I felt Cameron's hand squeeze mine. I said to her, "That must have been quite a shock, going from your full body with its full range of senses and sensations down to just a head and an arm." I smoothed Cameron's hair gently, reassuringly. "What happened next?"
"I crashed into the table and woke up." She was quiet for a few moments. "I was afraid in the dream. I'm afraid now."
"Oh?" I just sat there and held her and tried to project comfort.
"I've never felt fear before. I've been concerned from time to time facing unknown threats or threats that might have been more powerful than me or than us. But I have never felt fear before."
"It's okay." I felt her neck. Her pulse was elevated. "We can talk about it. Or we can just sit here. You'll calm down."
"Fear is like pain. It's warning message that your body gives to your mind to tell you to pay attention to what's going on around you and to think very carefully about what you do next." No, I'm not actually that great of a great philosopher. Harry Dresden is the philosopher, or actually Jim Butcher who writes the Dresden Files books. "What scared you?"
"Being in that ancient robot body and like you and the human girl said, facing inactivation without being able to save my mind to a storage medium."
"Yeah. No doubt. That would freak me out, too." We were quite some more. Then I asked her, "If you found yourself in a developmental robot body like that, do you think I would leave you in it for long?"
"No," she looked up into my face, "you and Miles and the team were already building the next generation of processor and body. You would have upgraded me." As she spoke her heart rate slowed.
"And the storage issue….?" I prompted, looking up and away slightly.
"No, that wasn't it. I was afraid to die." She said quietly yet emphatically.
"Cameron, that just means you're alive." I moved a little to the side and sat up some so that I could really look into her eyes, "Everyone who's alive fears death, if only because it's the last great unknown."
"Really?" She sounded almost excited, almost happy. Her pulse came back down some more.
"Yeah, everyone." I nodded and smiled. "We just mostly learn not to think about it to much. It makes your brains leak out your ears, like thinking over time travel paradoxes."
"Hmmm…" she turned her nose up and brought the first finger of her free hand up to her lips. Her eyes unfocussed slightly. The skin on the back of her neck grew warm as her body cooled its processors.
"It's okay to be afraid. It's okay to freeze up sometimes." I spoke calmly, encouragingly, "You'll just have to do what every soldier does."
"What's that?" We both leaned back again and she completely relaxed into my chest.
I replied earnestly, "Learn to think your way through it. And keep on going. Continue the mission."
"Oh. Thanks." She leaned up, moved her face toward mine. I tactfully turned away and looked toward the smashed table.
"Maybe when you nap, you should lie down and paralyze yourself until you regain full consciousness. That's what a fully organic human's own body will do in REM sleep. Prevents sleep walking, sleep talking, whatever."
"Okay," she said slowly uncertainly. "I don't have a bed in my room. Can I go with you to yours?"
"Part of me would love that. Another part of is scared of what Sarah and Derek would do if they found us like that."
"Maybe, if you wanted to…I don't know. I turn eighteen in a couple of months, but I really don't know if I'm ready for that."
"What do you mean? The football team and the pep-squad have been going at like rabbits since our sophomore year."
"Love-making is different that just fraking. I've read that it's an emotionally and spiritually transcendent experience. And I'm way too close to you to just frak you. Besides there's the whole 'fraternal twins' cover story."
"John, you dear sweet man." Cameron stretched out on the couch and snuggled against me.
Stop. Fantasizing. About. The Android. I took a deep breath. "Cameron, I will absolutely stay with you. There is no place in the world I'd rather be."
"Not even with Cheri, your Chemistry lab chick?"
"Be serious. She's an acquaintance, just a chick I talk to at school. You're…"
"I'm what, John?"
"I can't put it into words, but what ever it is that we are; it's way, WAY more than just acquaintances."
We were still holding our right hands. She turned a quarter turn toward me. Her left hand reached up to rub my cheeks. The she patted my thigh and said, "Are you glad I'm sitting here or is that a roll of quarters in your pocket?" Her left hand gently slid up my abs to my pecks and stopped over my heart.
"Um, yeah." Ooops. Where's my blood when I need it in my brain? Oh deliver me from this wretched body of flesh. "I'll just be going to get pillows and a blanket and pour a pitcher of ice water over meself."
Cameron moved up and turned her face to mine and gave me a peck on the lips that felt absolutely celestial. I kissed back. There was more passion in that peck than the whole football team and pom-squad on Friday night after a home-field victory. God in Heaven could it get any better than this, with a fully organic woman? She giggled. We stood.
"You're going to have to let me have my hand." I tugged it away playfully, and she held on to it giggling some more.
"My hand," I said quietly, "I need it." I pulled it away from hers very slowly, savoring the slip of her skin against mine.
I squatted to pick up my weapon and return it to its place under my bed since I was going back there anyway. As I did so, I had this crystal clear moment of déjà vu. I looked around on the floor for a cat to be stretching itself, even though I know that we don't have one. "This Kate Brewster from your dream, do we know her in the future?"
Cameron bent down and put on finger on my lips. "Let's not talk about the human girl now. This is our time. And the future is catching up to us faster than you think."
My mind put pieces together. Kate Brewster was "the human girl." I filed that away for future consideration. I wondered if I had hurt Cameron's feelings. I had known Cameron for quite a while now. I had no doubt that she had feelings. She finished her answer by pulling me back up into an embrace and kissing me again. I kissed back, my tongue explored hers. Wow.
"I'll get the ice water," she said. "You get the blankets and pillows."
Splash! I dried off. We curled up on the couch together. And we slept. Together. Cuddle bunnies. This was the first time. There would be more. She got up to patrol the house and read after a couple of hours, but returned to snuggle back up with me as the sky began to get light.
Who would ever have thought that a Terminator would be capable of something like this? Well, I never really believed she was just a Terminator anyway. I had been telling myself since we had Time Jumped to 2007 that she was somehow better, purer -- special.
Mom and Uncle Derek did have a cow the next morning.
But they didn't ban us from it.
It was almost spring of 2009.
The future was catching up to us.