Legal Disclaimer: No ownership of terminators franchise. And please excuse any historical and/or geographical inaccuracies.
"-the break-in at the factory reportedly resulted in one fatality. The victim was an as yet unidentified man who had recently escaped police custody." The small TV screen showed footage of the outside of the robotics factory where the crashed truck was now merely dying embers with half a dozen fire trucks and police cars around it.
As Sarah lay in the hospital bed, the sight of the Terminator, stripped of all vestiges of humanness and rising from the fires of the burning truck like a demon from hell, played over and over again in front of her mind's eye. Meanwhile, on the television propped in the ceiling corner of her hospital room, the news anchor, a middle-aged man with hair that was patently fake and a smile with too many teeth in it, moved on: "The entire international community is still buzzing over the fact we Los Angelians will not be hosting any Ruskies in our fair city as the Communists are holding fast to their recent announcement of their intention to boycott this summer's Olympic Games. The mayor of Los Angeles released a statement expressing his disappointment that the games this summer will not bring about any sort of new dialogue with those behind the Iron Curtain."
Sarah closed her eyes and tried to block out the noise as well. She was having a hard time adjusting to the fact that her earth shattering experience of the past two days was being reduced to a mere news blip. The police station massacre had been given top of the hour converge, although her name hadn't come up at all.
The 'Sarah Connor killings' as the media dubbed it, might be mentioned once or twice more on the news, but when time went on and nothing further happened and there were no new developments on the why behind it, it would no doubt soon fade to nothing, she was sure.
As for Kyle Reese… well, 'unidentified man' was probably all he would ever be in the record. That, and 'crazy as a loon.' Sarah resolved that if she ever happened to cross paths with that Dr. Silberman again, she'd punch in the mouth. Or possibly stab him in the kneecap, as Ginger had always advised as a non-lethal way to threaten people who crossed her.
Sarah wondered what on earth she could say to Ginger's parents. Sorry? Christ, had they even been notified yet? It was insane that just two days ago the two of them had been joking about how to treat boyfriends and now Sarah lay in a hospital bed being treated for numerous bruises and lacerations and Ginger lay dead in the morgue, along with almost all of the police officers from the station, and God only knew how many people who had been at TechNoir.
The police in charge of the investigation had already come and gone that morning, not long after she had been admitted to Cedars-Sinai Medical Center. They had spoken with her briefly, but with an air of not expecting her to know anything. It was obvious they were just going through the motions.
Right before they left they advised her not to say anything to any reporters who might call on her, explaining any leaked information might compromise the investigation. However, Sarah realized the more politic reason as she heard one of them mutter as they walked out: "last thing we need is the goddamned media hyping some serial killer when we got the Olympics coming to town."
She got the impression that everyone involved had already come to their own conclusions about what had really happened, drawing on nice and safe and perfectly plausible explanations involving drugs and delusions and possibly rival gangs. Doctors and nurses kept telling her how lucky she was to be 'ok.' As if things could ever possibly be ok again.
She had overheard a doctor in the hallway outside her room telling one of the officers that she was suffering from intense truamatization. The trauma of witnessing the police station shoot out, he had said in a patronizing voice that made her want to leap from her bed and scream that she could hear him, meant that she was probably going to suffer amnesia about the past two days; her mind would wipe out the memory of the events as a coping mechanism. The cop had muttered 'poor kid,' in a tone that implied he had almost meant what he said, gave the doctor a piece of paper to sign, and left.
Sarah had to bite back hysterical laughter and sobs, not wanting a nurse to come and give her any more of the sedatives that left her almost incapable of movement while her mind raced furiously. Amnesia? The events of those two days were burned into her brain like fire. How could she possibly forget a single second?
The hospital insisted that she stay overnight 'for observation,' although she couldn't get any of the nurse's aides to explain what, exactly, they were observing for.
The next day – Monday – as the rest of the world went about their beginning of the week routines, Sarah checked herself out of the hospital and began picking up the pieces. There was no going back, she knew that; it was less putting the pieces of something back together and more sweeping up the shards of a broken window, all to be thrown away.
The first thing she did was quit her job at the diner, walking in just long enough to tell her boss there was a family emergency and she wouldn't be back. She didn't bother to stay long enough to even say hello to any of her fellow waitresses, much less say goodbye. She walked out without a backward glance; ignoring the questions and looks of surprise cast her way.
She felt incredibly calm. She was pretty sure it was a false, unhealthy calm of shock, but she knew it was better right now than the hysterical break down she kept expecting to happen.
The next few weeks passed in a haze. Sarah went through the daily tasks on autopilot without any thought at all. She ate food without tasting it, took showers without feeling the water, went to sleep because that was what one did at night, and got up in the morning because that was what was done when the sun rose. Every now and then she would startle herself as she realized she had put her nightgown on with no memory of changing out of her clothes, or had arrived somewhere without realizing she had even picked up her keys.
In between the ordinary tasks of waking, sleeping, eating, and everything else she had done everyday for nineteen years, she arranged for her mother's funeral and went about systemically cutting off all cords that had connected her to her old life. She was mildly surprised at how easy it was.
She felt as though she was waking up from one long dream the morning of her mother's burial. She found herself stumbling out of the bed and running towards where the bathroom should have been, but wasn't.
Disorientated, it took her a few moments to remember she was in a hotel. She had gotten a hotel room because her apartment was a crime scene, and then even after it had been cleared by the police, she had only gone back to grab a few things and stayed on at the hotel because she didn't want to stay anywhere associated with her own name nor where her best friend had died.
In the tiny bathroom of the hotel room she managed to get to the toilet before heaving up the remains of some soup from the night before. When she finished she stood up and washed her mouth out in the sink.
She looked at herself in the mirror. She looked as tired as she felt, as well as older. She felt the cold tile leeching the warmth from her bare feet and shivered - and then winced as her breasts were unexpectedly sore to the touch as she hugged herself for warmth. She glanced at the toilet, and then down at herself. "No…" she said softly, even though inside she knew the truth with a certainty as if an angel of God had just screamed in her ear.
"Jesus," she swore softly with no sense of irony. She tentatively put her hand on her still flat stomach. "Thank you Kyle," she whispered as the first tears finally spilled.
She spent a long, long time crying in the tiny bathroom.
That afternoon she watched her mother's coffin buried with red rimmed eyes but with a sense of relief. Crying for the first time since Kyle's death, along with the realization that he was the father of the son he had told her about with such hero worship had made her feel suddenly free. Not so much as if a heavy burden had been lifted, but more as if she had suddenly become stronger, strong with the knowledge that she was going to succeed because she already had.
The funeral was simple and short because that was what she had insisted on. The funeral director, with the ease of long practice, had quietly but efficiently helped her arrange the obituary, the grave and the internment, and all of the other details that came up when someone had to be buried. She was sure that her mother's friends and the family minister would be upset she hadn't planned anything more elaborate, but she couldn't work up the ability to care.
The rest of her mother's affairs had been depressingly simple to put to rest. A few documents to sign, a couple of meetings with a lawyer about her late mother's will, some phone calls to arrange the sale of her mother's furniture, an appointment with a real estate agent to sell the house and cabin, and soon all that remained of Mrs. Anna Connor was a small white gravestone in Desert Lawn Cemetery and a tidy pile of cash in Sarah's bank account.
Out of everything she had consolidated, the only thing she thought she might miss was the cabin. Anna Connor had spent a brief period in the mid 1960's going by the name of Peaceful Willow, leading a toddler Sarah by the hand through the optimistically named Forever Summer Farm, a small and relatively unnoticed commune in California's hippie culture. Sarah had vague memories of lots of open fields and smiling people playing guitars. The commune had dismantled after a few years as most of the members decided they liked electricity and plumbing and having money to buy things, trickling back to suburbia, most of them all too eager to forget their experience of failed idealism.
The only reminder of Mrs. Connor's brief foray into experimental socialism (and all the experiments that went with it) were occasional camping trips in the mountains and the nickname 'Sunshine Child' that Sarah had been given by one of the grower's of less than legal crops. Sarah loved both the name and the camping. She loved exploring the woods during the day and watching the stars at night.
As Sarah now went though her things and her mother's things, she kept some of the camping gear, telling herself it was for practical reasons and not for the sentiment. She knew, she knew she had to let go of mementos, trinkets, and everything else that was going to be only so much ash in the wind and keep only what would help her survive.
But that didn't stop her from bursting into tears as she boxed up an assortment of childhood memorabilia, knowing she was never going to see any of her or her mother's things again, from the toy elephant that she had cut her teeth on to the fine bone china tea set that had been in the family three generations. Furiously wiping the tears away, she reopened the cardboard box labeled 'Stuffed Animals,' stuck her hand in, and drew a toy out at random; it was a stuffed cat, black with white ears and white paws and slightly worn out. It's name had been Mr. Mack. Sarah stuffed it in a backpack and told herself it would be a toy for the baby.
A small grin formed on her face at the thought of what was happening inside, secretly, deep, safe inside. The home pregnancy test she had used had been like a operating a chemistry set, but it had confirmed what she was already sure of. A child. The child. Her son. Kyle's son. The knowledge made it easier to let go. She kept placing her hand on her stomach, even though she knew it was still too early to feel anything.
She went through one last box of papers, to see if there was anything else unexpected. She had been surprised to learn that her mother had a life insurance policy; her mother had never been big on looking to the future. The lawyer had explained the death benefit to her, and gave her several more forms to sign to add the lump sum to her savings.
She walked through the house one last time, double checking for anything she'd missed, but also saying goodbye. As she walked out of the house she half expected lightening to strike or a rainbow to appear – something to signify the moment of an end and a beginning. She felt this should have been a bigger deal than just another thing she was ticking off her mental to do list.
She was even more surprised to learn how easy it was to arrange for Kyle's burial.
The coroner seemed almost grateful that someone was claiming a John Doe. She got the impression he didn't talk to a lot of live people. He babbled about lack of storage space and the bureaucratic red tape he was constantly drowning in and the complete and utter lack of funding and manpower and space his department suffered from while Sarah nodded absently as she filled out yet another form, boldly signing this one "Sarah Reese" as she claimed next of kin.
She paid the fee for the already performed cremation in cash. She brushed aside his further babbled apologies about that, as he again citied storage issues and government regulations about preservation that were in a direct Catch-22 regarding government rules about safety regulations. She didn't mind. She knew where she wanted him buried, and she wanted to carry and place him there without any help.
She drove her motorcycle out to the farm. It was warm and sunny and everything was in full bloom, a perfect day for a ride. She was already resigned to the fact that she would have to trade it in for something more manageable to drive while pregnant, but she was reluctant to part with the bike just yet. She had bought it as soon as she had her license in hand and promptly named it 'Val,' short for Valkyrie. Her father had left years ago, and died not long after in a barroom brawl, but when he had been around Sarah remembered he had been really into old myths, and told Sarah many of the ancient stories, including those of the Norse warrior maidens who had served Odin and his men of Valhalha.
As she rode her bike, first along busy highways, then main roads, then less and less busy streets as she got closer, she replayed every moment she had been with Kyle. She wanted to remember every look, every touch, every word, even the words that scared her, as he described what the future held.
When she got to the tiny town of New Cuyama she had to ask directions, but soon found herself making her way without a problem as she saw familiar roads and sights that she had thought long forgotten.
She pulled up in front of a large red barn where someone was working on an old Volkswagen, two long jean clad legs sticking out from underneath. She kicked down the stand of her bike and walked over. "I thought this place was abandoned," she called out without preamble.
There was a clang of a dropped wrench and an exclamation of surprise. The person on the mechanic's creeper pushed himself out and sat up to stare at the unexpected visitor. "Not abandoned," he said gruffly. He stood up and elaborately stretched out his back with audible pops. "Not yet anyways." He looked at her curiously.
"Mountain Mover?" she asked in surprise, suddenly placing the weatherworn and white haired man to memories of a man with wild red hair and a laugh like thunder.
He smiled ruefully. "It's been back to Dan for a while now," he said as he wiped his hands on an oilcloth. "Do I know you?" he asked inquisitively. "Or are you some reporter digging up ancient history to do a story on the days when hippie's roamed the earth?" He smiled, showing no bitterness that his time had passed.
"My mom used to live here," said Sarah awkwardly. "She went by Peaceful Willow then, before she went back to being-"
"Anna!" he interrupted excitedly. "Of course! Then you must be Sunshine Child! Wow, a little Flower Baby all grown up! Look at you! Good to see you kid! Man, this takes me back. What brings you to this neck of the woods?"
Sarah bit her lip, suddenly nervous. "I want to bury someone here. I… I have his ashes," she nodded at her backpack strapped to the back of the bike.
His face became somber at that, but he nodded with understanding. "Wanna bring someone back to Nature, huh kid? Wait here a sec." He disappeared into the barn and came out a minute later with a small garden spade. He pointed with it at a wooded area beyond a slightly ramshackle fence before handing it to her. "Beyond the fence is all in trust, so even if some capitalist kid gets his hands on the farm and paves it once I'm gone, that'll still be there."
"Thank you," said Sarah as she took the spade and untied her backpack from the bike.
"No problem," he said easily. "Oh, and tell your mom hi for me, will ya? Tell her she should come up for a visit and-"
"She's dead," blurted out Sarah.
"Dead?" His eyes went round and he became very still.
Sarah nodded sadly.
His shoulders slumped. "Christ," he said, rubbing at his face tiredly. "I'm sorry to hear that. Man, now I feel old. She was younger than me. When'd it happen?"
"A few weeks ago. She was murdered."
His eyebrows shot up at that. "Who-" he began, then stopped himself and said, "No, take care of what you came up here to do first. Then we'll talk."
"I-" Sarah started to protest.
"Stay for dinner," he cajoled. He spread his arms out. "I don't get much company up here. And if you don't mind, I want to hear what happened. But it's cool if you don't want to talk about it..." he trailed off.
Sarah could see he wanted to know what happened to his old friend, but was determined not to intrude on her daughter's grief. She hesitated. There was no need to rush back… "It's a long story," she temporized.
"Time is one thing I've got around here," he joked sadly. "If I could bottle it I would make a fortune."
"Ok," she agreed. "I'll just…" but the rest of the words stuck in her throat.
"Take all the time you need," he told her, then turned back to his Volkswagen.
Sarah hefted up the backpack and made her way into the forest, grassy, wild area that was a miles and years away from anything to do with the dark future.
The sun was setting when Sarah finally emerged back from the wild fields, a feeling of contentment that she had been to both give Kyle the green that the machines had taken from his life, and also that she had been able to say what needed to be said.
She and Dan sat down in the little farmhouse kitchen to a dinner of homemade noodles and a sauce he bragged he had made with a new breed of tomatoes he was cultivating. He offered her a glass of home brewed cider as well. "It's got a kick like a mule, but it tastes like apples from Eden," he promised.
Sarah smiled as she held a hand up. "I'm pregnant."
He repeated the gesture from earlier of raising his eyebrows high. "Well, well. The Flower Baby having a baby! Then," he held his own glass high, "to the old tree falling and the new leaf budding," and he took a large swallow from his own glass. "Now, what happened?"
"Have you seen the news at all?"
He chuckled bitterly, "I gave up on the idiot box years ago."
"Ok, well, a few weeks back I was waitressing at this restaurant in LA when there was a news report on TV of the murder of a woman had had the same name as me…" she began.
About the time that she got to the police station massacre, Dan switched from his homemade cider to a dusty bottle of Tequila. He had drunk most it down like water when she reached the part where she put Kyle's remains in the grass, where he deserved to rest.
She ended and the two of them sat in silence as he contemplated the near empty bottle. When he finally looked up his eyes were shinning with unshed tears. "I wish I could say I was surprised," he finally said. "But I have seen things…" he trailed off, and then glanced sharply at Sarah. "I was at Hiroshima, did you mom ever tell you that?"
Sarah shook her head silently.
He laughed without mirth, his eyes looking at something in the past. "Oh yeah, they needed infantry grunts like me to go in afterward and bring back damage reports. There is nothing we poor humans can't make, even – no, especially our own deaths."
There was silence in the little kitchen.
He cleared his throat self consciously and asked, "So, what is your plan?"
"I'm going to try and drop off the face of the earth," she said succinctly.
He nodded. "Good plan." He took another swig of the Tequila. "I wish I could offer you safety here, but it's best if you avoid any American infrastructure. And you're going to need training."
"I know," she said earnestly.
"I turned my spear into a plowshare too long ago to be of any use, but I still advise you look up someone ex-military, just more recent than me. The more dishonorable their discharge the better, since they'll be more willing then to let you in on all the dirty tricks you learn in the armed forces."
"What can you teach me?" she asked with intensity.
He laughed. It was just like the rolling thunder noise that she remembered. "Keep up that approach and you'll do fine. People love to show off what they can do. As for me," he got up and went into the living room, and picked a book off a shelf. "Here, take it," he said, tossing the small dog eared paperback on the table.
She picked it up. Steal This Book, the cover proclaimed in stenciled lettering.
"Most of the specifics, phone number and such, are outdated, but I've made a few general annotations about how to live the off the beaten path lifestyle."
Sarah flipped through the book - every single page had handwritten notes. She raised her own eyebrows as she looked at him.
He modestly waved a hand, "And people over the years have contributed their own notes and such. It'll be a good introduction for you."
She leafed thought the book as she lay in the guest bed that night. When she finally fell asleep she dreamt of a rainstorm of flowers and bombs.