Title: Duality, Chapter 1
Author: C. Isaac
Character/Pairing: Various ensemble (Morris, Derek, Sarah, John, and Cameron all included.)
Rating: T for Teen
Warnings: This mentions events through the full season 1 of T:TSCC, and is the sequel to my story "Paradigm Shift" and mentions events in that short story.
Summary: This is the first chapter of the 'Second Episode' of my hypothetical second season. John and Cameron get back to school, Sarah keeps a promise to Derek, and the machinations of the enemy continue.
Disclaimer: I do not own anything involved with Terminator or the Sarah Connor Chronicles. All rights belong to their respective owners, and I am making no profit from this.
Author Notes: Thank you to Metroid13 of of the TWoP forums for providing a beta read for this outside of my normal betas. It's been a great pleasure to talk to you about writing.
Duality, Chapter 1
The old metal gate guarded an overgrown path through a wild tangle of bushes and grass. It had been years since anyone had bothered pruning or tending to the undergrowth. Beyond the gate was a green hill, a single tree dominating its crest. Decaying wood markers stood at awkward angles in haphazard rows around the tree.
The lock of the old gate broke open easily enough, metal failing after years of silent vigil. It swung aside, metal and hinges protesting against moving one last time, admitting two figures into mid-afternoon sunlight that covered the hill beyond.
Derek Reese walked behind Sarah Connor, pausing only to prop the old gate shut. He kept his hands deep in the pockets of his green army jacket. "He's here?"
Sarah said, "Yes. There's no marker, don't bother looking for one."
He squatted down in front of a marker anyways, trying to read the name. "Why not?"
"They burned him. Down to ash and dust. Didn't have any money and they called him a transient."
"Then how is he here?"
She walked to the tree at the hill's crest. "I put the ashes here. Between the roots of this tree."
Derek followed her and looked up at the tree. It was a plum tree, with small purple leaves and widely spaced branches. Scratched into the bark were two letters: KR. He reached out and traced the letters with his fingertips. Fingernails caught in the bark pulling splinters away from the sole monument to his brother's existence.
Sarah watched him in silence, letting him have his thoughts, while she went through her own time with Kyle Reese. His words etched into her soul that she would never forget. His face, though, was a fading memory that only looking at John could strengthen. She knew it was recent for Derek, fresh and painful, and more than just the dull ache she now felt.
Derek pressed his forehead against the tree's trunk, hands flat against the bark. He railed against his brother. "You're an idiot, you know? Running off to the past to get yourself killed? How was I supposed to be able to protect you?"
Sarah took a tentative step forward. She did not know if she wanted to comfort him or reassure him or what she wanted to do.
"You made me a liar! I made a promise, and you made me a liar!" He pounded his fists into the tree, scourging himself against the tree as flesh from the knuckles shredded. Again and again he struck, until bloody gems slid down over flesh and tree.
He shoved himself away from the tree, ruby drops falling from his knuckles to land amongst the grass. He wiped at his eyes, leaving a crimson smear on his cheek. "I'm fine."
"Really? Didn't look that way." She fell in next to him as he walked towards the gate.
"Yes! He's always trying to be an idiot hero. Always rushing off."
"You talk about him like he's still here, Derek. He's not. He's gone." Her tone was soft, trying to be as gentle as she could.
He stopped walking and turned, gaze lingering on the tall plum tree. The branches waved to him, a final farewell that he had not been able to give himself. "He's…"
Tears began to flood from Derek's eyes, mixing with blood to leave swirls of red in on his stubbly cheeks. He gritted his teeth to hold back the emotions, but the sobs came. First one, then another, then a banshee's wail of grief.
He trembled as he knelt on the ground, fingers grasping at the grass, leaving smears of red. His body shuddered with the force of his sorrow, formless sound echoing forth with the power of his grief.
Sarah knelt next to him, her own tears joining his upon the grass.
Morris searched the lunch tables outside as he had every day since John and Cameron had started missing school. He thought he would be disappointed one more time, until he saw them both sitting at a table at the far end of those available. Morris jogged up to the cafeteria table that John and Cameron sat at.
He smiled as he sat down next to Cameron. "Hey, guys. Thought you'd moved away or something."
"We were sick. Very sick," said Cameron.
"Measles," John mumbled around a mouthful of sandwich.
"Man, that sucks. I like your haircut. Like a tomboy, but… not."
Cameron smiled at Morris. "Thank you! I'm going let it grow back out, though."
"Hey, whatever works for you. I'm not going to complain either way. What's with the gloves?"
She looked down at the leather gloves, long sleeves pulled down to the point they almost disappeared inside. "Bad manicure. Very not tight."
"Well, um, hopefully you'll have it fixed before prom."
"Yes, everything should be fine by that date." She looked down at her left hand with apparent thoughtfulness.
"So, you were serious about that?" John said to Morris.
"Hell yeah. The prettiest girl in school just said yes to me when I asked. Of course I'm going! You'd have to kill me to keep me away."
John choked loudly on his sandwich as Morris looked on with an uncomprehending smile. After several loud coughs, John said, "Let's hope that doesn't happen." He looked directly at Cameron as he spoke.
She gave Morris an odd smile. "I don't see any reason that it should."
Morris laughed, trying not to sound nervous as he did so. "Yeah, um, same sense of humor as always. Very funny."
"Yeah, my sister's a real cut-up."
"So, John, who're you taking to the prom?"
John stopped eating and set the sandwich down. He had not even thought about it himself, and found himself searching for an answer. "I… uh…"
"Hadn't thought about it, huh?"
"I could ask Cheri…" He saw Cameron's expression narrow at the name.
Morris shook his head. "No way, man. That can only end badly. Don't you know any other girls in school?"
"Well, try to meet someone. Or I guess you can go alone and try to meet someone there." Morris stood. "Listen, I'm going to get some food from the cafeteria line. Want anything, Cameron?"
"No, I'm on a diet."
He grinned. "Like you need it."
As Morris left, Cameron leaned in towards John. "I still do not understand prom."
"Didn't you find the definition when you read the dictionary?"
"Yes. A formal dance held by a high school or college class at the end of an academic year." She recited before tilting her head and saying, "There is apparently a large production around how human teenagers choose partners."
John chuckled. "It's a big deal because you're supposed to ask the partner you like. Like a girlfriend or boyfriend."
"Like a mate?"
"Yeah. Like an early version of that. Someone you, well, like a lot in that way."
"Oh." She turned to look towards where Morris had walked off to. "Oh!"
"I hope that means you understand."
"Yes, thank you for explaining."
"Ok, we'll go over all the details about it later." He watched as one of the office assistants approached with a slip of paper.
Cameron looked up. "Yes?"
"Mr. Harris would like to see you in his office." The assistant handed Cameron the note.
John scowled. "Again?"
Cameron collected her book bag as she stood. "I should be back for Chemistry." She headed towards the counselor's office.
Mr. Harris waited for Cameron in his office, browsing through her records and grades to pass the time. He had selected his best tie, favorite aftershave, and even gotten his hair trimmed the day before. The best looking teacher on campus knew how good he looked.
Cameron slipped into the office, holding the note up. "You wanted to see me?"
Putting the folder down, Harris motioned to the seat in front of the desk. "Have a seat, Cameron. It's good to see you again."
"Is it?" She asked as she sat down.
"Yes, I think so." He gave her his most charming smile.
"Why did you want to see me?"
Harris stood and walked around his desk. He positioned himself near Cameron, then leaned back against the desk. "Cameron, I understand you currently do not have a father figure in your life. That your dad passed on some time ago."
He received a nod as his answer, so continued speaking. "I've helped students like yourself take advantage of their gifts. With all the things that have happened in your life recently, I feel a mentor would be to your advantage."
"I don't understand. How would you mentor me?"
"I'm glad you asked that, actually." He stood and paced around the room as he spoke, always staying near Cameron's chair. "I want to help assist you with finding extracurricular activities. Also to help you fit in with the other kids in school. It can be nice to have someone to hang on to and to help you keep an even keel. Someone that can help teach you about life, not just books."
"My brother teaches me things." Her brows were furrowed in apparent confusion.
"I'm sure he does. We learn from everyone around us, but a young person needs the steady influence of a father figure." He stopped pacing and stepped up behind her, then leaned forward and placed his hands on her shoulders.
"I should ask my mom."
He leaned down, close to her, with his hands still on her shoulders. "Of course, but part of growing up is making your own decisions. Just let her know you'll be working after school."
"You have mentored others before?"
"Yes, I have."
"Did you mentor Jordan?"
He pulled back, unsure of how to take her mention of that name. "I, uh, no. We did not have occasion to speak much."
The look Cameron gave him had an intensity that drove him back another step from her. Harris felt a suddenly cold, suppressing a shiver as he tried to hold her gaze.
"You're lying." She stated it flatly, without any doubt.
"Jordan was a very troubled girl, Cameron."
She stood. "My answer to your proposal is no, Mr. Harris."
"Well, then." Anger flared as he reached out and gripped her by the elbow. "I think you need to understand that this chat was private, Miss Baum."
"You should let go."
"Private, Miss Baum. Do you understand me?"
She pushed him then. Hard. He flailed as he flew backwards and into the wall, causing shelves full of awards, books, and binders to collapse and spill all around him. He sprawled on the ground. Bright spots flared in front of his eyes, and he shook his head to try to clear them.
"Yes, Mr. Harris, I understand. This conversation is completely private."
She walked out, leaving the stunned counselor sitting on the floor amongst the ruin of his office.
Cameron Phillips stared at her reflection in the compact mirror. After a moment's consideration, she added a bit of extra eyeliner, doing everything she could to try to make herself seem older.
She could pass for her mid-twenties, maybe. Shoulder blade length brown hair. Manicured nails. Even her dark business suit with slacks lended a more mature air. The restaurant they sat in had been selected for having just the right atmosphere, even the wine was pre-selected.
She turned to the person next to her, closing her eyes for a moment to allow for a better view of the color choice. "How do I look?"
Gerald Metzger looked uncomfortable wearing a blue suit with monochromatic tie. "Acceptable for the planned meeting."
She opened her eyes and gave him a playful smile. "You have no concept of flattery, Gerry. None at all."
"It is unnecessary in your case."
"Well, you could humor me…" She went silent at the approach of a young black male wearing khaki slacks, a button up shirt, and a tie with a micro circuitry pattern on it.
"Mr. Metzger? Miss Coleman?" he asked as he came to stand next to their table.
Cameron slid away the compact and gave the young man her most dazzling smile. "Yes! Danny, it's so good to finally meet you in person." She stood, shook his hand, and then sat back down.
Metzger also shook Danny's hand, leaving the young man wincing as he said. "It is a pleasure to meet you, Daniel."
"Quite a grip." Danny chuckled nervously as he sat. "I've read your proposal, but… I'm still in school. I don't really see how I could do what you need. There could be any number…"
"… but none like you." She interrupted him. "Your professor let me read your dissertation, and its brilliance is equal to your father's."
"Call me Jessica."
"Ok, Jessica. I would love to help you, but I really want to finish my schooling. Once I have my degree—"
She interrupted again. "—which is just a scrap of paper. This is an opportunity that only comes once, Danny. A lab. Assistants. Funding. A first gen platform to build from. Patent exclusivity. More than we offered your father the first time."
"Again, I have to ask why me?"
She leaned forward, lowering her voice to convey intimacy. "Because, Danny, the paper I read – by you – is the closest thing to a real possible A.I. that I've seen in the last five years. Because your father was a genius and I have no doubt you've gleaned something there. And because our families belong together."
"And you know it'd work how?"
"Trust me, I know good A.I. theory when I see it. There's more than just a pretty face beneath this hair." She smiled at him again.
The smile mesmerized. He wanted to say no, to finish school, but the offer was so generous. The beautiful woman across from him was not helping make it easier to do so. "Ok. Yes. I'll do it."
She clapped her hands together with glee. "Excellent. Gerry has the papers for you to sign."
"Yes," said Metzger, speaking for the first time in several minutes. He pulled a briefcase out from beneath the table.
Jessica, as she called herself, extended a hand. "Daniel Dyson, it is with the greatest pleasure that I welcome you and yours back to the CyberDyne family."