Judge, Jurry, and Executioner
John paced back and forth in the small confines of his ready room. He knew every step, every inch. How far to every hidden and displayed weapon, how far to the alarm, and how far to the hidden exit. His mother taught him that. To always be prepared. She taught him to think strategically and to sacrifice when needed, to be a leader. She taught him how to be the judge, always looking for the facts and angles at hand.
Every now and again he would pause to stare at the bottle of rock gut liquor on his table. He would wait though, until Kyle got here. After what seemed like an eternity, Cameron knocked on his door, "he's here," she stated simply, John waved them both in.
"That you Cameron, that's all I need right now." He never took his eyes off of Kyle.
"Are you certain, John, your blood pressure and cortisol levels are high? You are stressed."
"I'm always stressed, but I'll be fine, just leave us and no interruptions."
"No interruptions," her eyes flashed to acknowledge the command. "Sit down, Kyle. Do you need a medic, are you hurt?"
"No, I'm fine but," John stopped him before he could continue.
"Have a drink," he poured two glasses and shot his own quickly, Kyle never had been able to drink like John or his brother. "Look, Kyle."
"Sir, I have to get back out there, I have to,"
"No 'sirs' in here, not now, not after what I'm about to tell you."
"John, I have to go find, Derek, I am not leaving him in some Skynet prison."
John took a deep breath, a long drink, and tried not to hate himself anymore. "He left you in Century for nearly 6 years."
"Don't!" Kyle barked, slamming his fist on the table. Never before had he snapped at John. Derek had loudly, frequently, and often rightly yelled at John but not Kyle. "I spent five years convincing him that wasn't his fault, I'm not going to waste time telling you the same thing when we have to get out there and find him." John had often wondered who held more of Kyle's loyalty, himself or his brother. He wouldn't lie to himself he had always resented how attached Kyle was to Derek but also envied it. He was jealous that no matter what was happening, they could always make the other laugh or smile. That they could communicate without words and never felt like they had to put on airs for each other. But mostly he wanted that sense of belonging to a family again, to never feel alone or isolated.
"No, we don't." He took another deep breath and had to remind himself he was going to start hyperventilating if he didn't stop. "We already found him and others," he looked away from the hope in his father's eyes. He steeled himself for the lie that would set it all in motion. The lie that would kill Kyle, create him, force his mother into hiding, and irrevocably shatter his uncle's heart. "He's dead Kyle."
"No," he gasped, "he can't be."
"He is. You saw that he was captured, you know he was targeted for termination since 2025. There is no way they would let him live long enough to be a prisoner, much less rescued." He could see the truth sinking in and he hated that it wasn't. But he knew, deep down, that no matter how much Kyle might conceptually love his mother, he wouldn't abandon Derek. The only way to convince him to go, was to take his brother out of the picture. "I'm sorry."
"No," Kyle slowly shook his head back and forth, tears filling his eyes and every muscle tensed. "Not like this, not in some stinking Skynet prison, not alone."
"You know him, he always carried your father's pistol and those hollow point bullets. He probably killed himself before they could." He knelt down in front of his father, "and even if he didn't, they wanted him dead, they would terminate him quickly. They wouldn't torture him, only another human would do that." He whispered, almost condemning himself. The thought seemed to break Kyle at that point and he began to shutter with sobs. John wasted no time gathering the distraught man to him. Among soldiers there was no shame in weeping for a fallen comrade, a fallen brother. So John also felt no shame in his own tears as they fell from his eyes.
Kyle pulled himself together faster than John did. He hid his lapse behind fumbling for another drink. Kyle actually drank his this time. "I just never thought," he stuttered. "He was always so strong, so tough. He was always," he closed his eyes and two more tears slipped out.
"I know. I felt the same way when my mother finally died. It just seemed wrong that anything could stop them, either of them." It had taken her own body turn on her to finally take her out.
"I don't know what I'm going to do. He and I, we have always had each other, you know. Even after the bombs fell and we lost everyone, I still had Derek. I would have died without him. He was the smart one, he was the tough one, the one that could make me feel safe even stuck in cramped tunnels. He was,"
"He was your older brother, that's what they do." John smiled, remembering the two of them together. The teasing and playing with each other that always had the under current of affection. How Derek could get Kyle to stay still and have shrapnel dug out of his innards just by sitting and talking to him. Or how Derek would come back from blowing up fetuses at an Infiltrators factory and Kyle would sit beside him and allow his brother to lean his head against him until enough of the horror passed for him to sleep. "You meant everything to him. You know he wouldn't want you to give up. To lie down and quit."
"He'd want me to keep fighting," he sniffled then smiled, "actually he would want me to hide at the base wrapped in cotton so nothing could happen to me." John felt his own lips tug up at the corners. He hated that the last real chance he would have to talk to his father and friend had to be like this. A lie causing grief and sorrow so deep it could never heal, even if Kyle lived. "The thought of me getting hurt always bothered him worse than anything happening to himself."
"He loved you, he wanted to protect you." John could understand that.
"I know, and he always tried, even when we were young. I remember once, I was playing ball in the house with the dog and knocked water all over my mom's papers. She was furious. Derek said he did it so I didn't get in trouble." John smiled again, those were the things he missed having no siblings. "But he was always like that. He sucked a guy's dick for three weeks to get us food right after the bombs. He didn't want me know, but I figured it out. The guy tried something on me and Derek shot him in the head."
"I didn't know that." It didn't surprise him at all, though.
"It's not the sort of thing you tell someone. Besides, I wanted Derek to think I never knew. I didn't want him to feel guilty for what he did. Neither of us would have made it, if it weren't for him. I was too young, I wouldn't have known what to do. I thought the missiles were fireworks." His breath hitched and John felt like he was going to throw up. "He was my best friend, my hero." He buried his face in his hands and fought to control himself.
"I wish there was something I could do or say to make this easier for you."
"It's not your fault, I appreciate that you told me personally. It means a lot." Don't thank him, for the love of god John didn't deserve anyone's thanks for this.
"But I know how you can honor his memory; make sure that we beat them once and for all." John wanted to crawl out of his own skin as he explained the time displacement equipment and the idea of traveling to the past to protect Sarah. He paused at the end, judging Kyle's response. "I'm not going to order you to go or even give me an answer right now."
"I'll go," Kyle stopped him. "I'll volunteer; I have nothing to stay here for anyway."
"If you are sure about this?"
"I am." Kyle sat up straighter, looking far more composed than John felt.
"Excellent, get some rest. We leave tomorrow at night fall." Kyle rose to leave but John stopped him, pulling him in one more time for a strong hug. It was the last time he would be able to, one of the last times he would talk to the man. The last time he had a chance to embrace his father. "I really am sorry."
"I know. I know you loved him too." Kyle whispered and John's eyes again flooded with tears. From his father he learned to be loyal, to love, to be human, and to be flawed. He learned to be the jury, to weigh the facts and decide what needed to be done.
John sat by himself for a long time after Kyle left. He was quite drunk by the time Dyson bothered him.
"We found them, John, they are in a research facility about six miles out. Not that heavily guarded. It looks like there are about 15 prisoners, we can get them all out tomorrow night." Dyson said proudly. His second in command was always happy when he could give John good news.
"What do you mean no? The risk isn't that high and that is one of your best SOCs in there along with one of your best techs. Admittedly, Reese will probably find a way to free himself any minute now, but he still might appreciate some help." Dyson fumed.
"I said no. I need Derek away from here until we get back from the Skynet base." He offered no more explanation.
"Why exactly would you want your best sharp shooter and the leader of your best recon team not at one of the biggest battles we have fought in a long time? That's just stupid."
"I need Kyle to keep thinking that Derek is dead so he will go back," John slurred.
"Why would he think Derek is dead? That guy is like the 21st century MacGyver. He can take down a Terminator factory with a paper clip, a stick of gum, and an old ration can."
"Because I told him." John ran his hand through his hair, "I told him his brother was dead."
"Because he wouldn't go back if Derek were still alive. He wouldn't leave his brother to Skynet if there was a chance he could be freed."
"So free him and send Derek and Kyle back."
"No. Kyle goes back alone."
Dyson sat down beside him and took the bottle, drinking from it himself but not giving it back to John. "Connor, you and me have been friends for a long time. I love you like a brother and you are the best leader anyone could ask for but part of the reason you keep me around is to let you know when you are about to go off the deep end. You are making a bad decision, with this." John started to protest, but Dyson stopped him, "Think about it. Kyle is good, he is very good, but one on one against a Terminator, my money, all my money, is on Derek to win and survive."
"You always liked Derek better." John accused, completely ignoring Dyson's logic.
"Sure I like the guy, he's tough as terminator, and mean as pit dog, and smarter than the average tech but that has nothing to do with it. I like Kyle too. If I had to go drinking with one to spend the time I'd pick Kyle. But I'm talking about training. Kyle is good, he is very good at what he does, which is lead men at the squadron level. He is an inspiration to those around him but he is not a solo fighter. He is not trained to fight a machine alone, not like his brother. Rescue Derek and send him."
"You really think that Derek would be that much better than Kyle?"
Dyson sighed, realizing that the argument was pointless. There was no moving John once he made up his mind about something like this, even if he were signing Kyle's and possibly his own (once Derek found out) death warrant. "It isn't a matter of one being better than the other. They are different with different strengths and weaknesses. Kyle's biggest strength is that he is a good soldier and always follows orders but his greatest weakness is that he always follows orders. Derek is the opposite. He is so good at being special ops because he thinks for himself but he is a lousy soldier because he ignores orders and thinks for himself. Derek doesn't have the patience to lead or teach men that don't know what they are doing. But Kyle doesn't have the training, the skill to fight a terminator by himself and win. Not to mention how demoralized the men will be with both 'Reeses' gone. Those two are like the guys everyone wants to grow up to be
"And do you honestly think Derek is going to keep following you after this? You keep him under control through his brother alone. If he rabbits a lot of other men will too. We can't afford that."
"I'm not sending Derek back, not now."
"John, send Sumner then."
"Stop questioning me and second guessing me!" he snapped, alcohol making his tongue loose.
"The fact that I question and second guess you is why you keep me close. Now cut the crap and tell me what is going on. Why does it have to be Kyle?"
"He's my father." John almost yelled, then quieted as his own voice echoed back at him. "He's my father and he beats the Terminator but is killed by his own pipe bomb." He put his throbbing head down on the table. "It has to be him."
Dyson paused to digest the information. "That's pretty messed up, man."
"I know. I have to send him to his death."
"I don't envy you in the least."
"I've known I've had to do it, since I was five years old. Doesn't make it easier, though."
"I meant having to tell Derek what happened to his brother." John screwed his eyes shut, not relishing dealing with more hot headed and way more violent of the two. "I suggest having him frisked and hand cuffed, standing behind bullet proof glass, and putting about 40 T-888 between you two." Dyson joked, also familiar with the elder Reese's rather volatile temper and ability to hold grudges.
"He'll understand. Trust me, he'll hate me and probably break my jaw but he'll understand." John sighed and relaxed his face, but kept his eyes shut, hoping to fall asleep. From his uncle he learned single minded devotion to a cause, that morals were sometimes flexible, and how to be a heartless, stone cold bastard. From Derek he learned to be the executioner.