Okay ladies and gentlemen, here's the final (really, this time) chapter of Liberation Day. I'd appreciate plenty of reviews both for this chapter and for the story as a whole, as I like to know what people think of my little brainchild. Anyway, on with the show.
"Not Cameron, then," John said as the Terminator strode slowly towards him. He picked up his flashlight and kept its light on the machine while backing away from the chrome demon and grasped around for something, anything, he could use as a weapon. His hand finally brushed against a metal pipe connected to the wall. He yanked hard at it until it finally broke away and he was grasping a three foot section of pipe, heavier than he'd thought it would be. He put the flashlight on the ground, its light still pointing at the machine, and gripped the pipe with both hands.
John couldn't tell very well in the darkness, but it looked like the machine had taken damage at some point, probably from a fight. Right now he hoped Cameron wasn't here; she'd been injured during the fight with the T850, and if this one had seen her and was still standing, it meant it had most likely killed her.
"Where's Cameron?" he shouted at the cyborg.
"John Connor, you have been targeted for termination." It raised its arm and threw a lightning fast punch at John's head. His training – from his mother, Cameron, and Derek- kicked in and he barely dodged the blow, striking the side of the machine's head with the pipe.
"You're a bit late, aren't you? Skynet's only been dead a month." He brought the pipe down again, striking a solid blow but not even phasing the machine. He'd doubted it would, he had next to no chance of beating it. He flew into a frenzied attack, striking the skull repeatedly and knocking the head around on its shoulders like a pinball, all to no effect. The machine calculated the speed and path of his next blow, blocked the pipe with its left arm and swiped out with its right, backhanding him in the side of the face and sending him sprawling.
He managed to keep a hold of the pipe as he fell and rolled backwards, getting back up onto his feet in an instant. He spat out blood and a pair of broken teeth on to the floor. He was pretty sure the blow had broken his cheek as well; he could feel the side of his face swelling rapidly. The Terminator punched him in the chest, hard, and kicked him in the gut. He felt several ribs snap as he fell back down again on to his back. It was toying with him, John realised. It could have killed him with that first blow, but it seemed to be drawing it out as if it was savouring the fight.
John coughed up more blood as he rolled out of the way of the Terminator's rapidly descending foot. He narrowly avoided his head being crushed by its stamping limb. He swung the pipe at its leg, catching the end between the pistons in its calf and twisting, trying to break something and topple it over. No such luck; it pulled him off the ground and threw him into the wall. John nearly blacked out as his head smacked against the stainless steel wall and he slid to the ground. Out of some sheer miracle, he'd still managed to keep hold of the pipe; useless as it was, it was still better than his bare hands.
He slowly got up again, trembling in shock and pain as he did so, his body threatening to fall apart. The back of his head was killing him and there was a faint ringing in his ears, his vision was starting to blur and he could tell he was concussed. He knew he wouldn't last another round against it; he'd be dead in a matter of seconds. He wasn't afraid of dying; Death had become almost as close a companion to him as Cameron had been all these years, like a sinister second shadow.
"Last stand, eh?" He grinned malevolently at the machine as he brought the pipe up, holding it above his head like a sword as he advanced. "Well, let's dance."
"Any word from General Connor yet?" Ellison asked Byrne as Charlie Dixon appeared.
"Not a peep," Byrne replied, "that complex buggers up your comm though; spent the whole bloody afternoon in there wiring up the C4 and couldn't talk to the guy in the next room. Creepy as hell down there too, scared the shite out of me."
"I don't like it," Ellison said. "He's been gone over half an hour and we've heard nothing; what if it was a Terminator got in there? Not Cameron, but an actual Terminator? He could need our help. Byrne, grab some men and follow me. We'll find him."
"Too bloody right," Byrne primed the charge on his plasma rifle, eager for a fight, and waved four of his men over from one of the drinks stalls.
"Hang on," Charlie interrupted, "if it is Cameron down there, they'll have some talking to do, in private. I say we wait. Just because we haven't heard from him, doesn't mean he's in trouble." Ellison mulled over Charlie's words; torn between risking John's life if he was in trouble, or running in on him and Cameron if it was her down there.
"Byrne, hold on that. Keep your team sober for now; we might have to go in there." He'd give John ten minutes; after that, he'd get a team in there and go in to pull him out, with or without Cameron. He hated sitting on his hands, waiting, he realised, wasn't what he was good at.
"Let's go down there and get some food from the stalls," Charlie suggested to Ellison. "At least down there we'll be closer to the complex if we do need to rush in." Ellison reluctantly agreed and told Byrne to keep his ears open on the radio in case he did hear something. He could have used Derek here; the man would have rushed into the complex guns blazing and shot everything that wasn't John. Unfortunately he had no idea where John's uncle was.
He was stopped mid swing as the Terminator caught his pipe and flung it away. Lifting him up by his throat, it stared at him curiously as it began to squeeze the life out of him. He kicked and struggled against the obscene strength of its grip, to no avail. As he started to black out, a blur of familiar glowing blue in the darkness rapidly appeared from behind the Terminator and slammed its head into the steel wall with such force that one side of its head was crushed, one eye stopped glowing as it popped out of the socket and shattered. It released its grip on John and he fell to the floor, clutching his throat and gasping for air. John looked on, bewildered, as the Terminator's head was brought away from the wall and rammed back, shattering the side of its already damaged skull and sending ragged shards of metal flying in all directions. The Terminator fell to the floor, head looking up; its one good eye still focussed on John as its hand reached towards him. Cameron picked the pipe up off the ground and thrust it with everything she had into the top of its head, impaling the skull and crushing the CPU inside its port. The Terminator stopped moving.
John threw himself at her, holding her so tightly that if she'd been human, he would have crushed the air out of her. He ignored the searing pain in his broken ribs. She stiffened at first, and then melted into his embrace.
"Cam, what the hell are you doing here?" he asked when he'd regained his breath.
"I can't stay with you, John. I'll get us both killed."
"So why come here?"
"My life without you has no meaning," she answered. "I cant self terminate; no matter how much I've evolved, that command is hard wired into me. I found a way around it."
"You were going to sit here and let yourself get blown up with Skynet," John said, catching on. As if by way of an answer, she turned away from John and walked down the corridor, going through a door into the system core. John staggered after her and was nearly blinded by the lights inside. Somehow the lights in the core room had remained lit even after Skynet had been destroyed. She sat down against the ruined pyramid of the system core, directly underneath a large block of C4, and started blankly into space.
She wished John hadn't come. John didn't seem to realise – or care- that people would do whatever it took to get rid of her, and he could be killed in the process. He'd nearly been killed trying to find her here. For the first time since she'd developed emotions, she was truly ashamed of what she was; of being less than human, but still burdened with human feelings. John had always told her that she was unique, special. And he'd made her feel special, too. But she'd come to realise she wasn't special at all; she was a freak, stuck in limbo somewhere between machinery and humanity.
"Cam, why are you doing this?"
"You're better off without me, John. I'm just a machine. I don't have a soul and I never will."
"Cameron," he snapped, "don't ever say that. We both know that's not true."
"I can't allow you to die because of me. Please, just go." John sat down next to her and took her hands in his.
"I won't let you die down here alone Cam. I'm staying put right here with you."
"No, John. I won't allow myself to risk your life."
"Life," John snorted, "I've never had a life, Cam. I've always been the 'future saviour', or 'the Great General Connor'. You're the only one who's ever seen me as just John." She looked up at him, meeting his eyes with hers. She squeezed his hand lightly.
"You're saying you don't care about your life?"
"Not if you're not in it, no," he replied. He looked at her face and realised her wounds from fighting two days ago hadn't healed properly; he could see large gashes of metal beneath her cheek and on her forehead, the only giveaway that she was a cyborg. He wondered if she was somehow consciously suppressing her healing process as some kind of punishment or reminder for what she was.
"Cam, I nearly drank myself to death last night because I thought you were never coming back."
"Unlikely," she replied, "your tolerance to alcohol is much less than the average TechCom soldier, and less than fifty percent of the future you who sent me back. You would have passed out long before you drank a lethal amount of alcohol." A slight smile appeared on her lips; it was the first time in over twenty years, she realised, that she'd mentioned Future John. As far as she was concerned, her John – this John- was the only one that mattered.
"Yeah, Cam, I know. I bet the other me drank like a fish. The point is I tried to; I really didn't care if I died. And the reason I don't drink much," he said between coughing fits as his ribs pressed harder into his lungs, "is because I've never needed to drink before. I've always had you to comfort me, I never needed a bottle." He leaned over and kissed her, trying to show her exactly how much he cared for her.
"Cam, promise me you'll never do anything like this again, please." She looked at him but said nothing. "Cam, promise me!"
"John, please, there's less than five minutes before Major Byrne and his team are scheduled to detonate the C4, please go. I don't want you to die because of me." John groaned inwardly; he'd hoped he was making some progress with her. He had no idea how those police negotiators before Judgement Day had managed their jobs, talking people down from suicide; he felt like he was simply banging his head against a brick wall.
"I'm not going anywhere, Cam, even if I was in any state to make it out of here on my own. And the C4 won't blow; I told Byrne not to set it off without my order. I'm not leaving here without you."
"They'll never accept us together, John." John realised she was right; they'd never accept that their glorious commander was married to a cyborg. A few people here and there would warm up to her, but for the most part they'd refuse to accept it. It was upsetting for them that the great General Connor put all of his trust and love into a machine, and they mainly feared her being in a position of power that being married to mankind's leader afforded her. No matter how hard he fought for her acceptance, it was a battle he'd never win. There's ways around that, he realised. His mom had always told him if he was out of options, he was using the wrong tactics.
"You're right, Cam," they won't. They don't want you married to 'The Great General'. We'll be okay, though. I've got an idea." She looked at him sceptically. "Come on, Cam, you believe in me, don't you?"
"Yes John, always."
"Come on then," he struggled up to his feet, hiding a grimace as he felt his broken ribs digging into him even deeper. She fought with herself for what felt like an eternity; she wanted, so badly, to go with John. But she wouldn't allow herself to put him at risk; she loved him too much to let anything happen to him. She hadn't lied to him; she had absolute faith in him, as always. It took 0.07 seconds to decide. She'd give his idea - whatever it was - a chance. Slowly, she took his hand and stood up.
"Thank you for coming for me John."
"Anytime, Cam. Let's get the hell out of here now; this place is really starting to freak me out."
John and Cameron left the Skynet complex – John leaning heavily on Cameron for most of the trip back up to the surface, his injuries starting to take their toll. She could have carried him, but knew the other humans wouldn't have looked kindly on it, not to mention denting John's pride. Before they'd made a hundred metres out of the complex, John collapsed on the ground. Charlie and Ellison spotted him and came running up to him, along with Major Byrne. None of them could believe what they saw; John looked like he'd been put through a meat grinder.
"I found her," John grinned through the pain.
"Jesus, John," Ellison said, "what the hell happened to you down there?" He was seriously regretting not sending Byrne and his team down now, even though John had made it back out.
"Just a little Terminator trouble, no big deal," John answered before he started to cough up more blood. Cameron stared at him; the concern in her eyes was clear, even to Ellison and Charlie. Charlie ran towards one of the vehicles at the top of the hill to get a medical kit.
"He was attacked by a T900. I failed to detect it before it engaged John," Cameron elaborated as she knelt by him. She doubted his injuries were fatal, but she could tell without scanning him that he was in serious pain, and in a bad way. He needed to get back to the base where he could be treated properly. Charlie returned with the med kit and started to treat his injuries.
"John, I need to get you back to the infirmary," he said, echoing Cameron's thoughts. "Your sternum's fractured, your broken ribs are constricting your right lung, and you're suffering from a major concussion. I think there's some internal bleeding as well. I'm surprised you managed to walk away from that fight."
"Hey, I held my own okay," John said groggily as Charlie started to inject him with a shot of morphine. "Stop, Charlie, I need to stay on my feet." He struggled to get up, but Charlie and James pushed him back down.
"No, John." Ellison replied. "Listen to Charlie. We need to get you on a stretcher and back to base." John pushed against them, grabbing Cameron's hand; she helped him struggle back to his feet.
"Sure, we'll go back to base," he said. "But I've got to do something first."
"Yes Connor," a stern, hard voice called out. John turned to see Perry and three others approaching, all armed with plasma rifles aimed squarely at Cameron. John said nothing, but moved himself into their line of fire, shielding Cameron. Ellison and Charlie stood still, not wanting to provoke them into shooting. Byrne had his own rifle aimed at Perry's head, finger itching to pull the trigger. "You do have something left to do," Perry continued, "move out of the way so we can destroy your metal whore."
"Hold your fire," Ellison ordered the major, knowing even if he dropped Perry, the others would open up on John and Cameron in an instant.
"Get out of the way," Perry commanded, voice dripping with contempt. "I'll shoot through you if I have to, Connor."
"No you won't," John replied coldly. "If you want Cameron, then yes you will have to shoot through me, because I'm not moving. And the second you do that, they'll hear it and rip you apart." John gestured to the crowd further up the hill, as yet oblivious to what was going on. Cameron tried to move away from John to give Perry a clear shot at her; she calculated only a small chance that Perry would actually shoot through John, but it was a chance she wasn't willing to take. This was exactly why she'd left John.
"No, Cam," John reached back and stopped her before she could move away, keeping himself between them and her.
"Connor, you're insane. You'd die for a machine?"
"Yeah Perry, I would," John replied. Perry just snorted in disgust.
"I can't believe you're actually in love with it. You know more than anyone what they're capable of." Yes, John thought. He knew exactly what the Terminators could do. Cameron wasn't a Terminator anymore; she hadn't been for a long time. Since Judgement Day she'd never laid a finger on a single human, she'd been nothing but an ally to all of them. He'd never get the likes of Perry to see that, though. Perry had no idea about the Terminators; he'd spent most of the war behind the safety of a desk, while John had led from the front.
"Connor, move! I won't let you put us all in danger with this ridiculous sham of a marriage. We're going to put the Terminators down; all of them, your pet first."
For the first time in years, John didn't know what to do. Only Byrne was armed, and he couldn't take them all before they shot either him or Cameron. Perry was too far away for John to attack; even if he was in any fit state to, it would leave Cameron exposed for the others to shoot. If he stayed where he was much longer, the last of his strength would soon give out and he'd collapse; again, leaving her exposed. He was in a no win situation.
"You're not fit to lead, Connor," Perry shouted out, taking careful aim at John and tensing his finger on the trigger.
John heard the loud double crack of gunfire. He instantly closed his eyes, bracing himself for the plasma shot to boil its way through him, when he realised the sound hadn't come from a plasma rifle. Perry fell to his knees, a pair of bright crimson holes in his chest spurted with blood. Derek stood twenty feet behind Perry, a smoking pistol in his hand. Perry's men turned and pointed their weapons at Derek, forgetting about Byrne. Byrne shot the nearest man to him in the back as he turned; the plasma bolt punched through him like he was made of wet tissue paper and boiled his heart away inside the chest. He was dead before he hit the ground.
The remaining two were unsure who to aim at, and their indecision cost them. Byrne and Derek took advantage of their slow reactions and cut them down with a hail of plasma fire and pistol rounds. John nodded his thanks to Derek and staggered over to Perry, watching the man cough up dark arterial blood and writhe in agony. Derek stared coldly at Perry's dying form, pointing his gun at him to finish him off, but decided instead to holster it. Bleed to death; you're not worth the extra bullet.
"You're right, Perry," John said to his former executive officer, now lying in an ever widening pool of his own blood. "I can't lead anymore, I don't even want to."
With Cameron's help, John limped up to the top of the hill. John ordered Byrne to cut the music off from the speakers, gathering the attention of everyone on the hill. It took every ounce of strength he had left just to stand up straight and face the crowd on his feet. Derek, Charlie, and Ellison were to his left, behind him; Cameron at his side, as always; her hand in his. John didn't feel the least bit self conscious about the fact; everyone could like it or lump it, as far as he was concerned.
He'd promised Cameron they'd be okay together, and now was his chance to make good on that.
"Tonight, I'm announcing my retirement."It's been an honour to serve with you all, but my time is over. It's with great pride, however, that I announce the promotion and appointment of your new commanders, Lieutenant Generals Ellison, Baum, and Dixon." Between the three of them, he thought, they'd do a pretty good job leading in his place; he didn't trust anyone else to do it, that was for sure.
"I plan to go home and spend some time with my wife," John squeezed Cameron's hand. "I know many of you have a problem with her. I only ask, now that I'm retiring, that whatever your opinions, you leave us be and give us a chance to be happy together. She's no threat to you." He felt a wave of nausea come over him suddenly, nearly knocking him over. His concussion was coming back with a vengeance. John turned his back to them and towards Ellison, Derek, and Charlie; his arm around Cameron for support.
"Have a good night, the three of you. That's my final order."
"Seriously, John, retired? What the hell are you going to do now?" Derek asked, not quite believing John had just quit like that.
"Right now," John said, his vision blurring again as another wave of nausea hit him like a sledgehammer. "I think I'm going to pass out."
John awoke to find his splitting headache replaced by a mere dull throbbing, no doubt eased by the copious amounts of morphine now coursing through his veins. Other than that, he felt great, as if the weight of the world had been lifted from his shoulders. He supposed that in a way, it had. For the first time in his life, he was his own man; nobody - apart from Cameron – would depend on him for anything anymore. He opened his eyes and saw he wasn't in the infirmary, like he'd expected. He was in his and Cameron's bed, in their new house. Cameron lay next to him on her side, her right arm and leg draped over him, carefully avoiding his ribs. Her eyes were wide open and staring up at him, a smile on her face.
"Hey," he smiled back. "How long was I out for?"
"Sixteen hours, twenty two minutes and seven seconds," she replied with a crooked grin. "Major Byrne detonated Skynet; then Charlie Dixon brought us here after treating your injuries. Everyone else got drunk." He slowly pulled himself up into a sitting position so he could face Cameron, wincing as his ribs dug into him. He'd not noticed the bandages around his chest until now, but it was helping, ever so slightly.
"Did you stay at my side the whole time?" he asked.
"Not quite," she answered as she got up off the bed and left the room, returning a moment later with a large mess tray, placing it carefully down on his lap. "I made you breakfast."
"Oh wow, pancakes!" John looked down at the plate in sheer delight, mouth already watering heavily. He'd forgotten that he hadn't eaten anything since the last day of their honeymoon, nearly three days ago. He eagerly dug in, pausing to savour the taste; very much like the ones his mom used to make. Cameron took one off his plate and ate delicately, compared to John's ravenous shovelling.
"Why did you retire?" She asked him when he'd finished them off. "You didn't have to give everything up for me."
"Cam, you remember before Judgement Day? We tried everything to prevent the war. I just wanted a normal life, I never wanted to be the great general; I just wanted to be regular old John Connor, now that's exactly what I am. I did it for us."
"People will still be against us, John."
"Yeah, some people will never accept us; Perry thought you were a threat, thought you'd have their leader wrapped around your finger. Now I'm nobody; hopefully even if people don't like us together, they won't care so much."
He could tell she still had doubts; so did he, in fact. All they could do was hope that he was right, that people would leave them alone. He stared into her eyes and pulled her close to him; holding her face in his hands, he kissed her, a long, deep kiss, pouring all his love into it; letting her know that no matter what anyone or anything threw at them from now on, they'd face it together.
A/N: I'd like to thank everyone who took the time to review this fic: Miguel Artardi, Flatlander, Greywolf D'ancanto, Myaxle, Tpolich, and everyone else who posted a review. This was my first T:SCC fic, it wont be the last. I've got some ideas for more fics, both related and unrelated to this one. But I probably wont write anything related to Liberation Day unless people review and give me their thoughts/ideas on the subject. To everyone who's read but not reviewed, I strongly encourage you to do so, I like to know people's opinons so I can improve on future work. I hope you all enjoyed reading Liberation Day; I certainly enjoyed writing it.