Disclaimer: I make no profit. Yet. You agree not to sue. Right, James? Right, Gale? Right, Andrew?
A/N - A series of interludes showing how some things worked out differently since Derek, Charlie and Cameron TimeJumped back to 1997 to keep Miles Dyson alive.
West Fork, Nebraska
August 24th, 1999
"Hey." His voice was kind, confident, compassionate. Charley Dixon sat up part way in bed and reached for Sarah's shoulder. "Did you scream or something?"
"Scream? No." Sarah Connor turned to the left and set her feet on the floor, breathing erratically. Bare arms suddenly cold, the white tank top suddenly not enough, she hugged herself and looked away from Charley. Eyes still wide, she worked to get her breathing under control. She spoke quietly, "Go back to sleep."
Charley closed his eyes, reached up and pinched the bridge of his nose. Great Scott. It's happening. Again. He opened his eyes and took a breath. He'd known this day would come, if he handled it right maybe he wouldn't lose her and John. Again. "I can't. I've got early shift."
He reached for her and wrapped his arms around her. "Are you all right?"
Sarah forced a smile "I'm good." She rubbed a finger around the engagement ring and the Wattage turned up on the smile. It was genuine now. "I'm great."
Charley smiled, too."You'd damn well better be. The guy down at the store told me any woman would be luck to have a ring like that.
"He doesn't know the giver like I do." She leaned in and kissed her fiancé. Gently at first, then with the beginnings of passion.
Charley pulled away and took a deep breath. He willed the blood up into his brain where he needed it, instead of below the belt where it wanted to be. "Sarah, let's move."
"What?" Sarah was clearly taken by surprise and slightly sheepish. She looked like she'd been caught with her hand in the cookie jar. She'd been thinking of leaving. Already planning which clothes and which weapons to take.
"No hear me out." Charley looked sincere and reached out to take her hand.
"Why would you want to move? You have a good job here."
"I'm a paramedic, Sarah. It's like being a math teacher. I can get work anywhere."
"What about that position you applied for with the State Emergency Response Team?"
"Yeah, that's exactly the problem."
"I don't get it."
"Well, I filled out the paper work and then we both started having nightmares. Something's coming and we're not ready for it here."
"What do you mean, Charley?"
In for a penny, in for a pound. "I haven't had dreams like these since the summer of 1997. And I didn't believe them then. But I do now."
"What kind of dreams?"
"Vivid ones. The kind where you wonder if you're awake. The kind where you try to wake up but you can't. What about you?"
"I always dream the end of the world."
"Does it go with a bang or a whimper?"
"With a bang." And oh what a bang. She turned to face the window and hugged herself against the cold dread she felt crawling up her spine into her skull. The big heavily muscled Machine with the Austrian accent had been back in this one. It was the first one, with long hair and a green jacket. It found John at school. And then the warheads fell. Big badda-bang!
Sarah turned back and looked into the eyes of the first man she'd loved since Kyle. Oh John had been right when he told the second Terminator that she'd shacked up with plenty of guys. She'd shacked up with guys she thought could teach John something: explosives, weapons, engines. But she hadn't loved any of them. Not really. And they hadn't really been good for John, either. Useful perhaps, but if she sized up a Terminator-turned-protector and found that 'in an insane world, it was the sanest choice...' Well, what did that say about her choices in role models for John?
"Charley, you should just let me go. Let me go and forget about me."
"I can't do that, Sarah, and you know it. I'm part of this."
"No you aren't. Not yet. You can still choose a normal life."
"I'm a former Marine who turned paramedic, Sarah. I run into burning buildings with firefighters and treat gunshot victims while police chase down the shooters. Nothing about my life is 'normal.'" Charley held up his fingers to make quote marks in the air.
He took a breath and continued, "I remember the big one with the Austrian accent. We all stood there transfixed as it jabbed a knife into it's forearm revealing metal control wires where tendons belonged and shiny rods in place of the bones of his forearm. Then he pulled the skin off and showed us a complete mechanical hand."
"How could you know that? You told me you were in Okinawa with the Third Marines that summer."
"I was. I dreamed it. I dreamed it but I didn't believe it until now."
"Why?" Sarah looked genuinely curious and a little puzzled.
"When I met you at the Halloween party in 97, you seemed so different from how I dreamed you. You were so calm and kind. So much more in control and rational than the woman who ranted about 'the men who built the H-bomb.' And you were wearing pink at the party, Sarah, pink. In my dreams that summer you wore all blacks and greys."
"Okay, I get that's why you didn't believe it then, but why do you believe it now?"
"Because as soon as I filled out the background check form, I started having nightmares. And so did you."
"Yeah. It's required for all state jobs. I had to put down the names of my family. I listed you and John."
Sarah bolted upright and the muscles in her arms tightened, "You did what?"
Charley continued hoping his calm tone would help her relax. "I told you I didn't believe what I had dreamed. It was too far out. Machines from the future helping us commit industrial sabotage? And before that it was me and some guy named Derek with curly hair and a five o'clock shadow who acted like a mercenary or a special operations soldier. Oh and the girl! She was a slender peroxide blonde with green eyes. We hung out with the Dysons for two weeks. Watching ball games, cooking burgers and steaks on the grill. We all swam in their pool and the girl watched their son."
Telling her about the dreams wasn't helping any, "What have you done Charley?" Sarah got out of bed and started pulling clothes out of her drawers. "You filled out our names on a background check form and now..."
"...as soon as they put it in the computer, the cops making you will be the least of our worries. Something worse than U.S. Marshall James Ellison, fugitive recover section, will be on our trail again."
"What will, Mom. What's going on?" John stood there in the doorway to Sarah and Charley's room. Neither of them had heard him walk up.
"The Machines will, John." Sarah had relaxed slightly when Charley began to talk like he took the situation as seriously as she did. But that just left her on autopilot. "The Machines will."
"Then I guess we have to run." John didn't sound to enthusiastic about life on the run again. The last 22 months with Charley had been a healing time for him and his mother. And Charley had become...well no one could compete with the man who died saving a guy's mother. Yet, John had grown to trust and rely on Charley.
"Where?" Sarah asked just to be saying something.
"To LA." Charley looked into Sarah's eyes through the mirror on her dresser. "That's where it all happens isn't it?"
"No. I'm not going back there. Not yet." Sarah choked back emotion in her voice. Now she was paying attention
"How about Arizona?" John suggested.
"Arizona, then." Sarah said and breathed a little easier.
"And Charley's coming with us." John stated.
"No. It's not his fight."
"I want to help Sarah."
"Come on Mom. You love him. He loves us."
"I don't think he should, John." Sarah turned to face them. "He's not part of this."
"Yes he is. Did you think I'd never figure out that he's the guy who patched up Miles Dyson's shoulder in his garage next to the John Deere riding lawn mower? He's got no crow's feet, fewer lines on his face and his hair's darker than it was two years ago, but it's him. We will trust him enough to send him back in time to help us with Cyberdyne and to keep Miles Dyson alive. I trust him now. I'm not going, unless Charley comes with us."
Red Valley, New Mexico
His mother was painting in the house in Arizona when John walked in through the side door, book bag slung over his shoulder. Brushing his bangs out of his eyes, John tried sounding excited, "Hi, Mom! Is Charley home yet?" He tried looking forward to things like football season, Charley coming home from work, every day that his mother didn't make pancakes for breakfast. But some kind of ominous foreboding hung over the three of them, like they were all living on borrowed time.
"He's on swing shift." She still hadn't looked at him. She squatted down, pushed the roller back and forth in the paint pan. Ever alert, she checked the doors and windows, seemed to look everywhere in the room except at him. "He won't be home till after the late news." Finally she looked at him and forced a smile, "Did you meet any pretty girls?"
"Yeah. There was one." John looked kind of dreamy for a moment. Her father sold tractors, or was it insurance? She was slender and she had a great smile. A smile that somehow seemed familiar. Like a half remembered fragment of a dream.
Sarah grabbed another roller off the counter and held it out for him to join her, "Come on, tell. What's her name?"
Splat. Sarah's face turned as white as her tank top. She looked down at her now open hand. She looked farther down past her grey sweat pants and bare feet to the linoleum floor and saw the paint roller.
"Don't worry, Mom. It can't be her. This girl had brown hair and brown eyes. The one from the future had blonde hair and green eyes. Besides, Cameron Phillips has a pulse."
"How do you know?" she asked, a haunted look in her eyes.
"Health class, Mom. She was my work partner in Health Class. We checked each other's pulses, on our forearms, right next to that bone in our wrists. Her pulse was weak and erratic, but it was there." John saw the gears spinning furiously in his mother's eyes. The conflict they'd been dreading was coming. It was already here. They just couldn't see it yet. "Have we ever had a Terminator with a pulse? Did Dad tell you about any models that actually had a pulse?"
"Not actually, no."
"So, don't worry. It's not happening yet."
"Okay, but I'm going to line the backs of the living room furniture with Kevlar anyway."
Cromartie struck. Again. Cameron took three bullets meant for John. Again. The pretty, petite, brunette android ran the tall, lean T-810 down in a huge pickup truck. Again.
The Connors were on the run again. Again.
The sun was setting when they pulled off the I-10 into the LA suburbs and wound their way into the Dysons's neighborhood.
A remote control car zipped out the front door and bumped into Cameron's feet. The android stooped over to pick it up and looked right into the face of Danny Dyson.
Danny's face instantly lit up. "Cameron!" Not fooled by eye color or hair color, the seven year old instantly recognized her. He tucked his remote control carefully into the loop on his pants and hugged her. "Thank you for saving my Daddy."
"You're welcome." the fembot smiled awkwardly, "Do I know you?"