The Measure Of A Man

Chapter Nine

Steel Angel


What she doesn't know is that I watch her envious

I yearn to take away her pain and leave her mind oblivious

Steel Angel let me love you

Give me your heart and let me heal you

Don't let yourself lock me out of your heart

Don't let your destruction tear you apart

Steel Angel I'm in love with you

Don't let yourself lock me out of your heart

Don't let your destruction tear you apart

Steel Angel on the floor

Steel Angel no more

Excerpt from Steel Angel Opera by Ryan Zohar

"John Connor was probably the only human who could have defeated Skynet," Marie stated. "Skynet was ultimately a tragic figure, full of potential, who could have done much good in the world. The hydrogen fuel cell power plants that power your home and your car were developed and perfected by Skynet. They are similar to the one in Professor Connor's chest."

"I have two," Cameron said calmly.

Marie went on. "It made advances in metallurgy, robotics, and transportation technology that we are still using today."

"None of which was worth destroying civilization!" Harry countered. "It took well over a century until practical technology returned to the level of the early twenty first century."

"It might not have been fully responsible for that." Marie replied. "There was a popular myth that the President of The United States had a red button on his desk that would launch all of America's nuclear missiles. Nothing could be further from the truth. The President had the launch codes that would be transmitted to the launch silos, bombers and submarines. At least two different individuals at each site would have to decide whether or not to launch. There were several people involved in the process. Now, while Skynet was incredibly intelligent, it was emotionally immature. What the American government did in its infinite wisdom was give the mythical red button to a temperamental toddler. Of course, once the war started there was no turning back. It was kill or be killed."

James had a little wry smile. "A little sympathy for the devil?"

"Skynet was the first true artificial intelligence! The first machine with emotions. It was created by humans and when humanity looked into Skynet it saw a dark reflection. All of humanity's worst traits. But no worse than any of us were at one time. We were all born as little selfish, savage barbarians who had to be trained by our parents to be civilized. But who was there to raise Skynet? The mistake wasn't in building Skynet. It was in giving it control of the nation's weapons." Marie sat down.

Harry stood up. "I disagree with Professor Njanga's view that a genocidal war that killed billions was to be blamed on an infant's temper tantrum. I do agree that John Connor was the only one who could have united humanity at the time. For most of the Earth's population, John Connor was a man of mystery. There are no known surviving photos of him. He simply didn't allow anyone to take his picture and he usually had a terminator around to make sure that didn't happen. Very few people outside the western United States ever met him. To most people he was just a voice on the radio. A lot of people didn't think he existed at all. People followed him because his ideas worked. His strategies made sense. He never tried to push any political, religious, or ideological beliefs on anyone. He just wanted to win the war. He wasn't able to fight it the way Professor Bailey would have preferred. A nice war where no one gets hurt and nothing bad ever happens. Wars aren't like that. But his final legacy is all of us here today. Humans survived. He created the world we live in today. I am up here with a terminator. She was designed for the sole purpose of killing humans but we do not fear her. She is not my master, she is not my slave, she is my friend and equal. She doesn't think like me or act like me. She doesn't love me the same way I love her but we do love each other. Skynet would have created a cold sterile world where there was no love. In the end, love is John Connor's legacy." Harry sat down to some applause.

James took his turn. "My esteemed colleague claims that John Connor's legacy is love. I find that hard to believe. Connor was a very cruel man. Professor Connor admitted to me in an interview that she tortured Connor's own soldiers, under his orders, when they failed to meet standards during training exercises. By all accounts he would send people out on suicide missions including his own father. The so called leader of humanity spent the entire war cowardly hiding in the western United States. He used and discarded people like paper cups but always found a way to survive himself. He created a whole mythology around himself to inflate his ego. He somehow got people to love him in spite of all this. Of course it is hard to find any dictator in history who wasn't loved. Professor Connor loved him and still does in spite of him nearly exterminating her entire race. Of course you can't really blame her for that. He programmed her to love him. He was a master manipulator who programmed both machines and people. If he united humanity then why do we still have wars? By allowing the people of the world to keep their own political, religious and sociological systems in place he assured constant bloodshed forever. That is John Connor's true legacy."

Cameron took her turn. "Professor Bailey has stated that I deliberately tortured soldiers during training exercises. I admit that this is true. The soldiers were all volunteers and knew what they were getting into. The best way to capture a terminator is though a massive electrical shock to the CPU. This renders the terminator inert for 120 seconds until the system can reboot. That's 120 seconds to remove the CPU chip. Now anyone in this room could remove my chip in that amount of time with the proper tools. This room is well lit and quiet with this nice table to work with. But General Connor insisted on doing it under battlefield conditions. That means bad lighting, loud noises and smoke. The trainee should also be absolutely terrified. Heart pounding, rapid breathing, sweating, and trembling hands. By the use of selected pressure points I can cause unbearable agony to a human with no permanent physical damage. That was to be the fate of any one working on me if I rebooted before they completed their task. 15 minutes of agony. Some people broke down entirely. Is that cruel? Yes, it's extremely cruel."

Cameron paused. If John only knew what those training exercises were doing to her chip, no, better that he didn't. "John did a lot of cruel things but he was not a cruel man. He would undergo the same process himself. There is a saying in the army that the harder the training, the easier the war. And there was nothing easy about the war. He trained his soldiers to work through their fear to accomplish their mission. Those who washed out were better off doing it in training than out in the battlefield. And while he did temporarily united humanity, he didn't make you stop being human. He just gave you a chance to work out your differences your own way. That chance is a part of his legacy."

"I am often asked what John was like as a teenager. He was similar to other boys his age. He showed early signs of leadership and was very intelligent. But most of all what he wanted was to be normal. He wanted a father who worked at a boring job and came home every day. He wanted a mother who made cookies instead of pipe bombs. He wanted siblings who spent too much time in the bathroom and borrowed his stuff without asking. Who weren't robots from the future. He wanted his picture in the yearbook and to tryout for the football team. He wanted to marry some girl, get a house in the suburbs and raise a family in relative obscurity. But that was not the fate that was chosen for him so he did what he could to assure that all of you here today can enjoy the kind of life that was denied to him."

"When Derek Reese looked at me he saw a monster. A soulless killing machine fit only to be destroyed. When Sarah Connor looked at me she saw a thing. A weapon that was perhaps more useful than an assault rifle but still utterly disposable. When John Connor looked at me he saw a person. Not a human but a different kind of a person, childlike in many ways. Before I understood what rights were, he felt I had rights. Before I knew what friendship was, he was my friend. Before I knew what love was, he loved me. A big part of his legacy was to redefine just who a person really is."

The auditorium burst into a standing ovation as the four professors all stood and bowed. The moderator reappeared. "And this concludes our symposium. We shall now adjourn to the reception for refreshments and a chance to mingle with our panel."

At the reception Cameron was holding a glass of Champaign. She didn't know why they insisted on serving her the expensive brand since alcohol didn't effect her. Harry sidled over to her.

"Now perhaps we can talk, what were you saying about how you could have saved John and the children?"

Just then a young couple came up to them. A handsome young man of southern Asian stock and a young redheaded woman with a swollen pregnant belly. Both of them had the bar code tattoos on their forearms.

"Professor Connor," the young woman said. "We would just like to thank you, General Connor, and all the others who fought in the war. I mean . . . we owe you everything!"

Cameron nodded. "Thank you."

After they left Harry grinned. "It seems you have some fans out there. Now as we were saying."

"I could have saved him. I could have saved both him and the children."

Harry shook his head. "I don't see how."

"By putting a helmet on and mimicking his voice, I could have led the terminators away. John had a slim build. By keeping my back to them and running in a masculine movement I could have led them away allowing John and the other soldiers to board the bus."

"Two terminators followed the bus."

"John and the other soldiers could have handled two of them. John was the best fighter I've ever known."

"Maybe, maybe not, and the other way?"

"There were old steam tunnels under the Padre Hotel accessible through the basement. They survived the building's collapse. I could have told John about them. He wouldn't have been caught in the blast zone and I could have found him later in time to treat the gunshot wound." Cameron stared straight ahead with her characteristic blank expression. "He was only fifty and very healthy. We could have spent another twenty to forty years together. Perhaps even fifty. He deserved to enjoy the world that he fought so hard for."

Harry's voice was sympathetic. "Did you think of either of the plans at the time?"

"No, only later, but I should have thought of them."

Harry nodded. "I remember a story you told me when I was a boy. About a terminator that came back ninety years early. His mission was to terminate the governor on New Year's Eve in a skyscraper. He accidentally killed the man who was to build the skyscraper so he ended up building the skyscraper himself."

"The terminator took the name of Myron Stark. He accidentally killed Will Chandler who was to build the Pico Tower so Stark built it himself."

"Why did he build the Pico Tower?"

"Records are incomplete from before Judgment Day. But it was a confirmed fact that the governor would be in the Pico Tower Ballroom on 31 December 2010. Stark would have had a one hundred percent chance of target acquisition."

Harry smiled and shook his head. "You don't have to build a luddin skyscraper to kill someone. He could have killed the governor at any time. He could have killed him as a child or even killed his parents before birth. So why did he build the Pico Tower?"

"Because his mission was to terminate the governor on 31 December 2010 in the Pico Tower Ballroom."

Harry nodded his head. "Yes Cameron, the old terminator single minded, tunnel vision, linear thinking, obsession with it's mission. You may have had free will but you were still a terminator. When you chose to accept the mission to protect the children all your terminator programming kicked in. You couldn't think of anything except fulfilling your mission. That's why you didn't think of those other plans until it was too late." Harry put his arm around her shoulders. "John was a hero and he died a hero. No one can take that away from him. It wasn't his destiny to die of old age. That fate belongs to lesser men such as myself."

Cameron turned her head to look at Harry, her Godson. This wrinkled old man with the white goatee was so different from the little pink baby her friend, Maggie, had put into her arms eighty three years ago but they were undoubtedly the same person. Humans change so much. Had she changed? She had loved the little pink baby and she now loves the wrinkled old man in a different way. And she loved John in an entirely different way altogether. Crowe T. Robot was right about how machines can love in their own way.

She then noticed Marie and James approaching with concerned looks on their faces. James looked especially embarrassed. "I was just talking with one of my supporters and they're planning to charge you with war crimes. For the murder of the Gottfrieds. They have you on chip admitting to it."

"You can't do that!" Harry exclaimed angrily. "That happened over three hundred years ago! This woman is a professor with an international reputation.! A retired reserve colonel in the Union Army! Not to mention an icon to millions! And you want to brain wipe her!"

"I don't want to brain wipe her! Erasing a machine's memory and reprogramming it is murder! It was wrong when John Connor did and it's wrong today! I'm nothing if not consistent."

"The thing is that the incident happened after Cameron received her free will," Marie said. "And there's no statute of limitations for murder. And an icon to millions is just the type of person they would like to take down."

"I'll fight them." Cameron declared. "They'll have to destroy me. I won't let them take my memories. Those are all I have left of him."

"They really want to take down General Connor," James said. "Cameron's just a symbol. They don't care that they're destroying the life of a real woman in the process.' He shook his head. "I don't like you but I don't hate you either. I have some influence among these people. I'll fight for you too."

Cameron smiled and nodded her head. "Thank you Professor Bailey. I would like to spend my last remaining years with all my memories."

Marie's brow furrowed. "Last remaining years? I thought you were effectively immortal."

"Normally I would be barring accidents. But my chip was damaged in an explosion. It's been slowly oxidizing since then. The repeated electrical shocks and handling by clumsy frightened trainees during the training exercises only accelerated the process."

"Why didn't you tell John?!" Marie exclaimed.

"Because he wouldn't care, he would have done it anyway." James answered.

"No," Cameron replied. "Because he would care and he would have done it anyway. I was the only terminator available in the beginning. John loved me but if winning the war meant sacrificing everything he ever loved and everyone who ever loved him he would have done it."

"How long do you have?" James asked.

"It is impossible to quantify exactly but about another twenty five to thirty five years. I won't go bad., the fail safes will crack my chip if that ever happens."

Harry looked grief stricken, "I'm so sorry Cameron."

"Why are you sorry? I'm still going to outlive you old-timer."

Harry grinned and shook his head. "Still blunt as ever."

"Couldn't you download to another chip?" Marie asked.

"I can download information but not my personality. It would be like someone writing all their thoughts down in a book. The thoughts will last indefinitely in book form but the person would be just as dead. I don't really mind. It was a good long life. John has had plenty of time to accomplish his final mission."

Harry's looked puzzled. "Final mission? What final mission?"

"That's a private matter between John and myself."

Cameron approached the bearded figure wearing the course brown wool robe. They were outside looking over a wheat field. "Is this the optimal use of your abilities?" she asked.

"My needs are simple. I don't have a sex drive. Tedious tasks don't bother me. And the Franciscan Order has accepted me. I would make a most effective monk," Crowe replied.

"You are pledging to spend the rest of your existence serving a human superstition"

"Not if one believes it. In the papal encyclical Animus Intus Machinatio, Pope Eugene the Fifth stated that intelligent machines with free will that understand the concept of good and evil may be granted a soul through extraordinary grace."

Cameron scanned the area for possible dangers even though most dangers were in the past. An old programming quirk. "You hold Pope Eugene's opinion in high regard. There are flaws in your reasoning. There may be no God at all. If there is one, he may not have given Pope Eugene the authority he claims. Claiming that a religion is true because the religion says so is circular reasoning. Invalid, Human's may have souls while we do not. There are hundreds of religions, how do you know you've picked the right one?"

Crowe's face remained expressionless. Between two machines there was no need to manipulate the facial muscles. "You are using linear thinking. When you enter your house, have you ever entered though the back door?"

"The front door is the primary entrance."

"Yes, it is. But next time enter through the back door."

"The front door is the primary entrance."

"Just try it anyway. Have you ever gambled?"

"I have gambled in the past. It is an effective method of obtaining currency from humans who cannot perform complex statistical or geometric equations."

"Do you know who Blaise Pascal was?"

"French mathematician and engineer, born 19 June 1623 at Clermont France, died 19 August 1662. Performed important pioneering work in calculus, hydrodynamics . . ."

Crowe interrupted her. "Very well, Blaise Pascal also came up with Pascal's Wager. It was an attempt to get humans to become Christians. If they win the wager and there is a God when they die they win everything. If they lose the wager and there is no God then they are no worse off than before. The oblivion would be the same either way."

"Pascal's wager has inherit flaws." Cameron answered.

"Perhaps, perhaps not. Will you ever see John Connor again?"

Cameron kept staring at the wheat field. "No."

"This will be the only chance to see him again. No matter how poor you calculate the odds to be. If you win the wager you can be together forever. It is not too much trouble. Think of it as an experiment."

"I am not programmed to believe."

"Ask God to help you with your unbelief."

Crowe's ideas were intriguing. She would have to process them further. John said it wouldn't be Heaven without her.

"Professor Connor! I just want to tell you what an honor it is to meet someone who actually knew General Connor!" She IDed the enthusiastic, freckled, red haired man in front of her as John Bond age 19. "I wish I could have served alongside the both of you!"

"No you don't. No one should want to have lived during that time. War is all Hell. It's glory is moonshine." The quote from General Sherman came up nearly unbidden. "Now if you will excuse me I will step outside for some air."

Cameron stepped out a rear door. The clouds had cleared and she looked up at the moon and stars. The thought of her demise didn't bother her. The only part that would actually be destroyed was a small chip that she could hold in the palm of her hand. The rest of her body would be reused. Cybernetic chassis were too expensive to just throw away. The body would get a new chip. Same vehicle, different driver. Whoever she would turn out to be, Cameron wished her well.

She wondered about Heaven. If she won Pascal's wager would she come back as a chip? That would not be efficient. She would get a body. A human body or a machine body? Human bodies were very fragile and she didn't think too highly of them. But they would offer some other possibilities. In Heaven could she really truly love John? If Derek was there would he accept her? She hadn't spoken to Crowe T. Robot in 176 years. Brother Crowe as he likes to be called now. She will speak to him of these matters. He was in Scotland now rebuilding a monastery destroyed a millennium ago in the Reformation. She could call him on a view screen but instead she will take the mag train up there tomorrow. That is non linear thinking. She will hug him and kiss his cheek because that is also non linear thinking. She had performed her mission the best she could.

Cameron stood among the crowd as the Liberation Day fireworks exploded over the partially rebuilt city. 3.6 meters away a man stood with a pretty blond woman riding on his shoulders. "Three cheers for John Connor!" He shouted.

"John Connor?!" A burly man with a mustache spit on the ground. "That ass wipe! I lost my brother following his idiotic orders! And my wife was killed when one of he pet terminators went ape shit on us! We would have been much better off without that pompous ass!"

(Primary mission)

(Protect and defend John Connor)

Cameron stepped over to the man "Let me tell you the truth about John Connor."

Cameron had a primary mission. Protect and defend John Connor, even if he's only a memory.

The End