A/N -- Dragonlots is on holiday, so everyone give Metropolis Kid a hand for bravely standing for her and giving this piece a pre-read. Any mistakes are my own.
Approaching storm clouds marred an otherwise glorious sunset of pinks, maroons and golds. The somber mood of the sky matched the tension within the big Ford pickup truck as Sarah Connor and Charley Dixon had swapped of driving duties throughout the day.
They found their exit in silence and wound their way through shockingly normal suburbia to find the Dysons' neighborhood. The driveway was longer than John remembered it. The retaining wall was still in place where the neighborhood's developer had cut the street and the driveway at the front of the house right into the slop of the gentle hill to one side of the Miles and Terissa's house.
"Hi, Sarah, Charley, John come on in." Terissa smiled warmly and started to give Sarah a hug. Sarah stood rigid and stuffed her hands deep into the pockets of her raincoat. Terissa turned an ear to the back of the house and stepped away to tend to the child only she could hear.
The whirring sound of a remote control truck bounced through the house as Miles chimed into the greeting, "Yes, it's good to see you. I love the work and the teaching at UCLA and I have you to thank for it." The tiny truck dodged between the feet of adults and teenagers. "Who's your new friend?" Miles gestured toward the pretty, petite brunette.
Danny Dyson walked up next to his father and leaned against his khakis, controller firmly gripped in both hands. The the truck bumped the brunette's foot. Miles started to apologize for his son.
The petite brunette smiled and stooped over to pick up the car. She looked right into the face of seven-year-old Danny Dyson.
"Cameron!" Danny exclaimed happily. "I've missed you." He slid his controller carefully through the loop on his pants. The lad adjusted his ball cap and gave Cameron a big hug. "Thank you for saving my Daddy."
"You're welcome." Cameron stepped back smiling broadly and handed the truck to Danny. "Do I know you?"
"Yeah, I've known you since two years ago when..." the boy trailed off when his father put a hand on his shoulder.
Miles looked toward the back of his house. "Terissa!" He turned back to Sarah and Charley, "This isn't a social call is it."
"No." It was actually John who answered.
Terissa walked up with one-year-old Sarah held against her shoulder. A burp cloth rested under the baby's head to protect the striped blouse under her. Mother tenderly rubbed daughter's back. She looked slightly confused. "What is it Miles?" Her mind hadn't caught up with the present moment yet.
Miles turned toward her and opened his mouth as though to explain. He stopped and said, "Take the children and drive down toward your father's place in San Diego."
"But why, Miles? Our friends have just come to visit, and it's almost Danny's bed time..." she trailed off as Cameron glared at her.
"We're back." the Machine said as she allowed the blue lights at the back of her eyeballs to glow brightly for a moment.
"Radical!" exclaimed Danny. "Do it again."
"Oh! My! Gawd!" Terissa's mouth fell open and Miles reached over to take Sarah.
He turned back to the Connors. "Help yourselves to some water and wait in the kitchen."
Miles led Terissa and the kids to the garage.
The Connor Clan clustered around the island in the center of the kitchen as Sarah and John had done two years before, as Charley and Cameron would do ten years into their own futures.
The whirring and clacking sound of an automatic garage door opener drifted through the house . A performance car's engine roared to life. The car pulled out of the garage and the door came back down.
Miles walked back into the kitchen. "I would protest that we destroyed my work and I started the friendly AI project with Andy like you asked, but obviously she's here." He gestured to Cameron, "So, what we did before still wasn't enough. Is there another one after you, too?"
"Yes." Sarah replied tersely. She managed to looked both determined and on the verge of tears.
"Do you still have the explosives we left?" Charley asked.
"Terissa thinks I turned them over to the police, but I kept them in a shed behind the house."
"Good." Sarah laid 40,000 worth of Google and Yahoo stock on the island.
"What's this?" The scientist asked.
"We'd like to by your old Lincoln SUV" Charley started walking through the house toward the back yard. Even though this was the first time he had physically set foot here, he remembered it clearly from his dreams of two summers before. "Come on John. We need to rig the old Ford pickup we drove out here in."
John followed Charley and Cameron followed John. Almost like a puppy.
The AI researcher stayed in the kitchen with Sarah. "I knew I held on to it for a reason. I just didn't know what it was until right now."
"Look, you have to get out of here tonight, too." Sarah said trying to sound hard. "John is the thing's primary target, but you could be a secondary target."
"Okay, but only after you guys are out of here safely."
"No one is ever safe." Sarah had said that a thousand times as John grew up.
She had wanted to believe that they had been safe with Charley. He was a good man. He was kind and firm with John. He treated her with love and courtesy. He was her knight. His armor was his paramedic's uniform; he sword and shield, his kit bag and defibrillator; his horse, an ambulance.
And now the Machines had returned again. One to protect. One to destroy. Her valiant knight had chosen to fight at her side. She wished they would all just be gone from her life. But part of her knew that without the Machines she wouldn't have John or Kyle. And she wasn't at all sure how she felt about that.
"Sarah?" Miles said waving a hand in front of her thousand yard stare.
"What else do you need?"
"Who could have followed your work? Is there anyone at Cyberdyne who could have? Was the scrap sold?"
"I saw pictures in the news papers." Miles adjusted the collar of his button down shirt. "The scrap was a fused mound of metal alloys and scorched plastic insulation. No one could have done anything with it."
The researcher removed a small notebook and a pen from his pocket. He began to write, "These are the names of the top researchers in the field. None of them are at Cyberdyne anymore."
Sarah took the paper and started to fold it up. She thought better of it and began to whisper the names under her breath, committing them to memory.
Later Miles Dyson stood in the second floor window next to the intercom and watched the driveway. A ragged Terminator ran up the driveway of the Dyson's house wearing a red and black flannel shirt, carrying an AR-15 rifle in one hand and an MP-5 in the other. Dyson keyed the intercom, "Now!" he shouted. Every time these people come over I have to get a new garage door. Dyson stayed up there watching as the action unfolded below.
In the three-car garage the old Lincoln SUV sat next to a new black Lexus SUV. Sarah cranked the Lincoln and threw it in gear. The white truck burst out through the garage door and slammed into the Terminator. It's weapons were knocked out of its hands. It flipped over twice and rolled up on its feet.
The T-810 that had called itself Cromartie in the John's Chemistry class the day before, dashed down the driveway and caught up to the SUV. It leaped and grabbed on to the luggage rack on the roof with one hand. It's feet landed on the running board on the side of the vehicle. The Machine ripped the front passenger side door off the hinges and threw it down on the ground. Charley was sitting there and Cameron held a detonator in the back with John who had already taken refuge in the floor boards.
Charley kicked at the destroyer Machine trying to knock it off the side of the vehicle. Cromartie grabbed one of Charley's legs, broke it and threw him out of the vehicle into the driveway. Sarah swerved a wide left out of the driveway and zipped past the rigged Ford pick up with about an inch to spare. Her heart screamed at her to go back for Charley, but her head stayed in the game as the deadly Machine slammed into the bed of the pick up and got knocked off the side of the SUV. Cameron watched the distance grow between new SUV and the old pick up.
Cameron put as much of her body as she could between the back of the SUV and John. The 810 forced itself relentlessly up off the ground and started to run after the Connors again. As soon as it was on its feet, Cameron hit the detonator. The old Ford pickup exploded throwing Cromartie across the street into the retaining wall of the Dyson's yard. The impact threw it offline. A piece of shrapnel from the explosion jabbed into Sarah's back.
While the Terminator rebooted, Charley gritted his teeth and attempted to set the fracture in his right tibia, the large bone in the shin. It hurt like hell, but he felt it slip into place. He tried to stand, but the pain was too great.
Rain began to fall as, Charley tried to crawl back up to Dyson's house and the one remaining vehicle, but the Terminator was already standing back up and striding over to him. "Where are they going?"
"I don't know. We left without a plan."
The Machine stood over him now. One ear hanging off the side of its head, flesh charred away from its right forearm and hand. Flannel shirt fused into the skin that was left behind on that arm. "Based on your pupil dilation and heart beat --"
"Which are caused by the broken leg you gave me and the shock of seeing something like you. I'm a paramedic. I know." It was all true. Except the part about not knowing where Sarah and John were headed. Somehow Charley knew they were headed for a TimeJump.
The Machine reached down and bent Charley's left little finger back sharply, straight up in the air. Charley heard a scream and realized it was his own. The Terminator reached up with its left hand, whose flesh was still in tact and slapped the side of Charley's face to shut him up. "I have interrogated dozens and dozens of your kind. Hundreds. Three hundred sixty-two, counting you. And in the course of those interrogations I have developed my own algorithms for determining when a subject is lying. These algorithms are based on perspiration, dilation, heart rate, and forty-seven other non-verbal cues."
"I don't know where they're headed!!" Charley screamed. Rain water stung his eyes. He remembered something he'd learned in the Marines. Once a Marine, always a Marine. This was a war. A war for all humanity. Charley had volunteered for it. Dyson up the hill there, he'd been drafted.
Another one of Charley's fingers snapped back in the Machine's hand. He inhaled to inhibit his scream. He took several breaths, while the thing that looked like a man but wasn't repeated the question. "Where did Sarah Connor take her son."
"My name is Sergeant Charles Dixon. My service number is D0766421. I was born on February 29, 1968. I am an American fighting in the forces which guard my country and our way of life. I am prepared to give my life in their defense."
The Machine computed that it would take longer to extract the information from Sergeant Charles Dixon than the time it would gain by going straight to where ever Sarah Connor and the unknown cyborg would take John Connor. It's difference engine satisfied, it stood and began to run down the street. It's footfalls splashed on the rain soaked pavement
When it was gone, Dyson ran down the drive way with the medic bag Charley had left behind two years before. Terissa had wanted to hold on to that. Charley told Miles which pain reliever to use and how much.
Twelve hours later, the Emergency Room discharged Charley with three fingers splinted and taped and his right leg in a cast below the knee. Miles gave him a ride to the bus station and on the way shared the news about what had taken place at Security Trust of Los Angeles earlier that morning. Sarah, Cameron and John had broken into the bank and blown up the vault. No bodies had been recovered from the rubble. No one else had been injured. The vault had just imploded into a pile of rubble and twisted metal. Miles knew from his own memories of 1997 that they must have survived to send Derek and future Cameron and future Charley back. Charley knew the same from his dreams. The two men reasoned it out that the Connors had used a Time Displacement Field hidden in the bank vault and rigged to explode after one use.
Charley called in sick for work from a pay phone at the bus terminal. It was a two day bus ride back to Red Valley, Arizona. The bus stopped in every single, little, tiny town along the way.
Six weeks later, Charley's fingers and leg were healed and he took a couple of days' vacation from the Rescue Squad. He rode back to LA on his motor cycle. From his dreams he remembered the parking garage where the Time Lab was hidden in the extra electrical room.
Charley stood before the door marked 'Electrical – Authorized Personnel Only.' He remembered the code for the mechanical lock. He remembered that Derek Reese had scanned his iris prints into the Time Displacement Field's control computer during the summer of 1997. Even though that had been the Charley from ten years uptime, his iris print would still be the same. He wondered if he would remember enough from his dreams to program a Time Jump. Charley knew that he was about to make the biggest decision of his life.
Charley Dixon stood before the door of his destiny.