Disclaimer I dont own. I dont earn. They dont sue.
A/N -- Contains a couple of continuity fixes for errors pointed out by reviewers who saw ep 6 Dungeons and Dragons
Two went up. One came back.
Five minutes after The End is the Beginning is the End. In spring of next year.
Under my breath I say it again, "John and Cameron, Best Friends Forever." My cheeks are wet. "John and Cameron, Best Friends Forever." I miss her. She's gone now for all of about a minute and already I miss her terribly. Something told me that this aching feeling of being without a part of myself wouldn't stop until she was back in my life. I whispered it once more slowly, "John and Cameron, Best Friends Forever." Then I opened my grip the Army-style ID-tag she'd given me. I opened my eyes to look at it.
I note the strange social security number and blood type. Given what she had told me about Skynet's failed invasion of Israel, and reverence she expressed toward the Power that protected Israel, I half expected to see Jewish at the bottom in the place where declared religion goes. I put its chain around my own neck and figure that I'll add one of my own with my own info in it.
I look around. I'm down on one knee just outside the outer circle painted on the floor in the backup Time Travel Lab, in a Parking Garage in older neighborhood in suburban LA.
My last words to Cameron still echo in my mind. The resolve with which I had spoken them firmed. "I swear to God, Cameron. I vow that I will see you again, even if I have to build you myself." I knew that I could not allow this to become my single driving obsession, so I cleared aside a special place for it in my heart, where it could serve as a call to arms and a beacon for navigating through to my future.
I set about powering down the Time Displacement gear. Then I go back through all the controls in the Time Lab and rehearse all the procedures for setting up and programming a Time Jump.
While rehearsing the procedures, I find a manila folder with a sheaf of papers in it tucked behind one of the panels of equipment. I set the folder aside for later. When I feel certain that I have the procedures committed to memory, I begin to close everything back up. Before leaving I look at the papers in the folder. The folder actually contains maps of San Diego, LA, Chicago and Atlanta. I glance at the LA map quickly and note that the location of the bank where we had Jumped from 1997 was circled. I tuck maps and folder back behind the panel and check to make sure everything else was the same way I found it. On the way out, I switch off the lights and lock the door.
I stride briskly out of the parking structure and across the street to where Cameron and I had parked the beat up old Mustang that we used for Resistance stakeouts as well as our own Bailey and Olivaw investigations. I wonder if the sense of loss I feel as I drive away is in any way akin to what Abraham felt when he came down off the Mountain following his encounter with the Angelic Voice.
On the drive home I replay my last conversation with Cameron and start to tear up again. Then I remember she had mentioned Three Keys to the next Phase of the Project. I went back over those in my head. I would have to brief Sarah and Derek on this as well.
Somehow I doubted that I would be getting Cameron back any time soon. For now we could say that Cameron had run away or gotten sick, but at some point we might have to set up a fake death for her.
If we were going to come up with a plausible explanation for Cameron's disappearance, I knew that we could count on Charley Dixon for help. He could help me fake a car accident or something and maybe fill out a death certificate.
But first I would have to make my case for the next phase of the project to Sarah and Derek. During the rest of the drive I planned different ways to try to explain it and convince them.
They're back at the house when I get in. Mom and Uncle Derek have moved right into typical post-Mission activities: dressing wounds, cleaning weapons and talking back over the Mission to see if there were any learning points or anything they could do better next time. Derek's already got a couple of wounds dressed and he's now cleaning a wound on my mom's leg.
I walk into the kitchen to make myself a snack. Typical teenage mid afternoon activity, minding my own business…
My uncle sees me and looks up from Mom's leg, "Yo! Squirt! Where's Machine-girl?"
Sarah looks up as well, "Is she out another one of her solo missions?"
I take a deep breath and tell myself that I don't care. It doesn't matter that she Cameron's gone. I'll be okay. I try to project some certainty about that or at least a good stoic face. "No. She went back uptime. She said something about she had to be Aunt Cameron for my kids." I can only put up so brave of a front for so long.
My uncle picks up on my cracking façade of confidence, "Hey kid, she told you something before she left; didn't she? What are you holding out on us?" Evidently he thinks I'm just pondering some new revelation of the future.
"John, if it's important," Sarah speaks with a firm tone, but also a hint of compassion, "we'll need you tell us about it."
Maybe showing a bit of sadness isn't such a bad thing, if they interpreted it as my holding out on important info, rather than feeling sentimental for my missing pal. "Okay." I take a breath, "Remember those Russian speaking Terminators we fought off a while back?"
Derek goes back to tending to my mother's wounded leg, "Yeah, we figured they were for infiltrating the Russian Mafia or something." My mother grits her teeth.
"Cameron said that up in the future we find out that they're actually from Russia."
"So what? Everyone knows that Skynet conquered Russia, just like the rest of the world" Derek blows the info off like a typical grunt, not seeing the big picture. I may just be eighteen but the future is catching up with all of us and I've got to start thinking and acting strategically. My uncle continues, "So, Skynet set up a Terminator factory over there, so what? We all know you lead us to victory, right Nephew?"
"No, Derek, hear him out." My mother has that look of careful deliberation on her face. I've seen it since I was five. She's thinking, seeing the big picture. "I think you're missing something."
I'll try giving them the info and the guide the discussion toward a course of action. They're my elders, so I have to lead cautiously. I continue, "Cameron said that they were not Skynet Terminators. She said that these Russian killing machines were built by a separate Russian AI that is not part of Skynet. She also said that Skynet found Arab killing machines built by a separate Arab AI when it invaded the Middle East."
Derek puts the finishing touch on my mom's stitches, "You've got to be kidding. Are you saying that there's more than one self-aware electronic intelligence in the future that's bent on killing and enslaving the human race?"
"That's exactly what he's saying," my mother interjects, wincing. "And that's the logical conclusion. Remember the processor wafers that Cameron took out of their heads?"
"Terminator brains. We smashed them." Derek says, still not seeing. He packs up the medical kit.
My mother takes a careful step on her leg and walks over to grab the weapons cleaning kit. She unpacks the kit and starts breaking down some of the Kalashnikovs.
"Yeah," I try to paint the picture a little clearer, "but they were larger, cruder and made with less precision." Like you Uncle Derek, a blunt instrument, I thought but did not say.
"And the writing on their craniums was in Russian, Cyrillic alphabet." My mother recalls. She hands a weapon over to Derek and one to me. I'm not getting out of clean up just because I've got new intel.
Derek considers the points Mom and I have just made for a moment, while brushing the carbon of the bolt of the AK-47. He offers a summation, "So now we've got to find a way to not only stop Skynet from forming, but now we also have to travel to Russia where we don't speak the language and stop some Russian computer system from gaining self awareness. But to top it off we also have to travel to the Middle East where we not only don't speak the language, but we also don't look like anyone else and try to fit into the culture, find the computer researchers and blow up their AI before it can become self-aware?"
"Derek's right, John; that's what it amounts to." Sarah confirms while running a cleaning patch down the barrel of her weapon. "And that's not possible, John. How can you expect us," she gestures to the three of us, "to do that?"
Derek jumps to the next fear based conclusion, "Just tell me that these other AIs don't have Time Displacement technology."
"As far as we know, up in the future Skynet and the Resistance are the only ones with Time Displacement." I tell him calmly. I break down the bolt of the AR-15 my mom handed me. Pausing before I reply. I have to lead them to the next logical step in this chain of reasoning.
"It is impossible." I say after giving each of us a few moments alone with our thoughts. "The Singularity is coming; Artificial Intelligence will be a reality in a few short years. There is nothing short of going back to a pre-industrial society that we or anyone else can do to stop it."
Sarah looks up from the weapon she's cleaning with a shocked expression, "So, what do we do; put our heads in the sand?"
Derek pumps a fist in the air, throws his head back a shouts, "No, we par-tay, like it's 1999!!"
"Seriously, you guys," I say trying to steer the conversation back into constructive territory, "we need to think this through."
My mother goes back to cleaning her weapon and says, "Okay. I can't believe that it's an eighteen year old kid telling us, his thirty-three and twenty-seven year old mother and uncle respectively to slow down and think, but okay."
"No, Sarah," Derek says, back in the moment, "John does this kind of thing uptime, in my present."
"Okay, first point we need to consider," I am so far off script here its not even funny. I did not come up with a single scenario on the way home even remotely like this. But it seems to be working, even though I feel completely out of my depth. But what the hey, I jump into the deep end to see if I can swim. "How do you think it's going to affect a developing AI if we keep trying to kill it?"
Derek considers for a moment, putting his AK-47 back together, "If its mind works anything like a human mind, that would make it scared, fearful, insecure."
Sarah finishes the functions check on her first weapon and grabs a second. "If we do it often enough it would get paranoid."
I'm putting the bolt back together on my AR-15. "We know that Skynet will be developed by the U.S. Military, and the Arab AI will be developed by terrorists. It's a pretty good bet that the Russian AI will be developed by the Red Army."
Mom adds, "Or the KGB."
Derek chimes in, "All of these were organizational environments heavily influenced by paranoia, fear and hatred."
"So, if we've got an AI growing up influenced by paranoia, fear and hate," I've got my AR-15 back together and I perform a functions check on it, "what's going to happen to it if we keep trying to kill it over and over?"
Sarah has her weapon broken down and she begins scratch the carbon out of the pieces, "The two patterns will reinforce on another and make it grow up to kill and enslave the whole human race."
"Oh. My. God." I hit myself on the forehead like a V-8 commercial. "It's like the Joker and Batman in the first Burton-Keaton Batman movie. 'You made me.' 'Oh yeah, well you made me first.' "
Derek stops in the middle of breaking down his second weapon, "What the heck are you talking about??"
I'm on a roll here. I don't stop for questions, "It's the ultimate time paradox! Skynet sends a Terminator back to kill Mom." I point to Mom
Mom adds the next part, "So Future John sends Derek's brother Kyle back to protect me, and Kyle ends up becoming John's father."
I continue, "Skynet tries again when I'm twelve and I send back Uncle Bob--"
Derek is lost again. I guess I never mentioned my nickname for that particular Terminator model up in the future. "You sent back who?"
Sarah clarifies, "Terminator 800 Series looks like a big strong guy with a Austrian accent and likes to use shotguns."
Clued in, Derek comments, "Oh, yeah, that one. We had a different nick name for it back in my present."
I continue recounting events, "So when I'm twelve, me, Mom and Uncle Bob blow up Cyberdyne trying to kill Skynet. Miles Dyson dies along the way.
Sarah picks up next, "Then Skynet sends another T-800 Series after you in 1997 and you send Cameron back to help. Once again we start plotting to kill Skynet. Andy Goode dies along the way.
I complete the analogy, "Skynet made us what we are and we return the favor by helping to make it what it becomes.
"Who are these guys, Miles and Andy?" Let's hear it for the blunt instrument! Derek actually points us onto something important that we might have missed.
I field the question first, "They're computer science geeks who worked on designing the processors and code for the Skynet AI."
Derek knows he's onto something. He seems to be responding not just to me and Mom telling the story but to a kind of problem solving dynamic that he's familiar with from the future. "Okay, but what kind of people were they?"
Sarah fields this one, "Miles was a decent guy, family man, an…honorable man. His wife and kid adored him. Andy was hopeful, optimistic, excited about the future."
I now posit a rhetorical question based on the facts we've just posited, "What if Miles and Andy had lived and worked together to build an AI? They might have tried to create it in an optimistic, hopeful, decent, honorable environment, eh?"
Sarah goes back to the main point, "So if Skynet, Russnet and Akhmednet are inevitable and us trying to kill them every other year just reinforces the fear, paranoia and hatred based environment they were created in, then how do we stop them?"
I think back to the first case Cameron and I worked, the Case of the Falling Girl, and the Coltan Mission that came the following weekend. I decided that I had had enough of running and hiding. I wanted to dig in fight back. I wanted to change the paradigm. "We change the paradigm."
"What do you mean?" asks Derek. "How would we do that?"
I answer, "We stop reinforcing the existing pattern and introduce a new pattern to override it."
"I know what changing the paradigm means." Derek says with a touch of sarcasm in his voice. Then his face brightens. I can almost see the light bulb over his head. Derek continues, "Wait a minute. Are we saying what I think we're saying? We stop trying to kill Skynet and instead devote ourselves to growing a different kind of AI?
I pick the thought up, "We make it like the Six Million Dollar Man: Stronger, faster, better, friendlier …"
Sarah follows it farther, "If it develops in environment of respect and understanding it would be like Cameron and John. These last six months or so, I've noticed their vibe change key. They started of with John teaching Cameron to be human, treating her like she already was a person. Cameron would alternate giving John a glimpse of who he was in the future and getting me off John's back long enough for him to grow up and spread his wings. It ended up with them doing everything together, palling around in all their off time, and Machine-girl stopped offering up 'kill them' as her first suggestion. She would say 'interrogate them.' Or, 'turn them to our side.' She wasn't a Terminator any more
I add, "I don't really think she was truly a Terminator, even at the beginning."
Derek chides me, "I bet you didn't loverboy."
Sarah keeps the idea growing, "So, if we somehow construct an AI in an environment of trust and hope and respect, if it is treated like a friend, it will grow up to help us fight Skynet and the other AIs."
I extend it farther again, "If we make it strong enough and fast enough it could hack Russnet and Akhmednet and turn them to our side. We could have a shorter war and end up with 'good' AI Machines as our allies. That could make rebuilding the World go much faster.
Derek picks his weapon back up, "So where do we find optimistic, friendly, honorable Computer programmers and AI designers in 2009? Do we put an ad up on the internet?"
"No, we don't have to find them in 2009. Cameron showed me how to program a Time Jump before she left this time. We go back and get Miles and Andy."
"Hold the phone for just a sec there, Squirt. I didn't put a bullet in that corksucker Andy Goode's head just so you could turn around and tell us to go back and save him." Derek Reese spoke with venom in his voice and controlled fury in his face.
All three of us stopped what we were doing. The tension around the kitchen table jumped from zero to sixty faster than a Mustang Shelby GT with turbo charged V8 engine. No one pretended to still be cleaning weapons. All three of us just looked at each other.
Talk about bombshells. This one threatened to crack the foundations of our family.
Mom recovered herself first and managed to ask a question. "What are you talking about, Derek? You. Killed. Andy…?" She paused for a few moments to let that sink in and collect her thoughts, "I don't get it. A year and a half ago when I talked to you in LAPD lockup, you said that Andy was already dead when you got to him. You even asked me if I had shot him. Why would you do that? Why would you lie to us like that?"
Derek looked at Mom and said sullenly, "I didn't think you would have broken me out of lockup if I had told you that I killed Andy."
Mom continued with a note of dismay in her voice, "You couldn't let me make my own decision about that, about you? You had to lie and manipulate like a small-minded coward? You're better than that. Aren't you?"
Derek spoke forcefully with anger in his tone, desperately defending himself, attempting to justify his actions, "That motherfraker built Skynet. I had to kill him; just like you took out Miles Dyson, Sarah."
I don't know where she got it, but Mom threw a knife at Derek that just barely missed his left ear and stuck through the wood-grained paneling on the wall. "Don't ever say that. Miles Dyson died a hero. When John and I showed him what his work would become, he gave up his research. He sacrificed his life for our cause, for the Resistance."
While that exchange took place between Mom and Uncle Derek, wheels were turning in my head. I thought back to something Cameron told me before we took the Jeep to head off the prison transfer truck that had carried my uncle. 'Andy Goode wasn't his mission.' Cameron had said. 'You sent Derek's team back to work with us.' I turned to my uncle and asked slowly and deliberately, "What was your mission, Derek?"
Derek tried to act innocent, but I could see in his eyes that he felt the noose being slipped over his head. "What are you talking about, Squirt?"
I asked him again, "What did I sent you back here to do?"
My uncle got into my face and said very softly, trying to intimidate me, "Don't get all high and mighty with me young man, I am your uncle and you will respect your elders."
I stood up and leaned over toward him placing my hands on the table between us. "I'm not asking you as your punk, kid nephew. What was your mission?"
He answered simply and directly, "Return to LA and stop Skynet from forming."
I respond firmly and directly, speaking soft, distinct and slow, "Did I tell you to kill anyone?"
Derek changed tacks to defend himself, "Come on man, I had to. Up in the future some of us got captured by Terminators and held in an underground room. Andy Goode confessed that he designed a computer system that evolved into Skynet. I had to."
I stepped away from the table a couple of paces and turned around. I took a deep breath and changed tacks as well, "Derek, let me tell you a bit more about Miles Dyson. Miles was a gifted Research and Development guy. He was way out in front on the development of neural networks and learning machines. He had no idea that what he was building would one day declare war on the world. He just wanted to construct a massively parallel processor that could learn. But when Mom and I showed him what the Uncle Bob Terminator actually was and the Terminator told him about Judgment Day, he decided to give up his research. He got us into the Cyberdyne research facility, helped us set the explosives to blow the place up. He took a bullet during the battle with the T1000. He gave his life for the Resistance."
My mother had a distant look in her eyes like she was a thousand miles away or a decade in the past. "At first I wanted to kill him. I took an AR-15 with a 100 power scope and laid in wait on hill across from the back of his house. I put two rounds through a plate glass window at the back of his house. Missed him, hit his home computer. John showed up with the big guy with the Austrian accent and forced me to let Miles live. John persuaded me to give Miles a chance. He made Miles see the consequences of his work and offered him the chance to help the Resistance. Miles took it. In a heart beat.
I took the conversation baton again, "Look, Uncle Derek, work with me a moment, let's try to see the best in Andy, see him for who he can be, not just who he was in that moment in the basement in the future. I did that with Mom, with Miles, And I've even brought out the best, the underlying humanity in not just one, but two Terminators. So, even if Sarah had wanted to kill Andy, which she didn't, even if Cameron had calculated it was necessary, there is no way future me would have approved it. Andy was a good soul. We could have brought him over to our side, with just little bit of effort. Skynet is our enemy. No person is our enemy. We do not kill people. We make them our allies. Do you see?"
"No. I don't, but I'll accept it." Derek stated somewhat reluctantly. And then he popped a distraction grenade with a little flattery, "You've got the fire in you, nephew. You'll be him one day. You can lead the Resistance to victory."
Undeterred by his flattery, I pressed on. It's not enough for my officers to just follow orders literally and blindly. They must understand the reasons why and the intent behind the plan. "With Miles Dyson dead and Cyberdyne blown up, all we managed to do was to push Judgment Day back from 1999 to 2011. Now Andy Goode has been dead for a year and a half. Maybe we pushed the date off a little further, I don't know. But here's what I do know: Look around us, we're all still here."
Derek looked puzzled, "What do you mean we're still here? Where else would we be? Wait a minute you're talking about causality."
"Right. Andy has been dead for year and a half ago and I'm still here. That means Skynet still sends the first Terminator back for Mom and I still have to send your brother Kyle back to his death to save her."
"Yeah, I follow you." Derek said. "And I'm still here, too so whatever reason you had to send me back hasn't been undone either."
Mom chimed in again, "Miles and Andy are both dead and Skynet still becomes self-aware. Judgment Day still comes. And even if there were no Skynet, we can't forget the Russian killing machines."
"Right," I say, "RussiaNet still goes on line some time and will no doubt nuke the World in Skynet's place." I slowed down as my heart caught up to my brain and my words. "We still fight the War." A single tear formed in my right eye, "Killing them didn't make anything better." The tear meandered down my cheek.
Now I was just thinking out loud, "We have to change the paradigm. We need a stronger faster AI that is our ally." I looked over at Derek again. "Help us figure out how to save Andy and Miles, please."
Then I turned to my mother, "Mom, do you think we still have the hotel corridor surveillance video from Andy Goode's disappearance? We need to work out exactly when we'll have a time window to Jump back and get him."