CHAPTER TEN: Commitment
John just stared at the blood that was dripping down Cameron's dress and slowly turned around to see Morris standing to the right of him, holding a drink. Everyone had gone silent, even the music had stopped, or maybe John had gone deaf. He couldn't tell. The only one of his senses that still worked was his sight, and he wished that would go as well. The wound was small and had cauterized almost instantly, a result of the thermite. But it made it no less horrifying. Morris continued to hold the drink out for John to take, his eyes as wide as saucers. Then he slumped forward into John's arms and suddenly the sound was turned back on and everybody was screaming. John lowered him to the floor as chaos reigned above.
Derek was stunned. He couldn't believe what he'd just done. He had a perfect shot of Cameron's chest, but just as he let loose the bullet a boy stepped in his site. The bullet had penetrated his shoulder, mere inches away from his neck. I killed him.
Derek couldn't be sure if it was him who said it or somebody else, but all he knew next was a fist cracking him in the face. Sarah followed up with a sharp kick to the face that sent Derek staggering backwards; she then took the opportunity to grab the rifle and unload it, but was struck from behind by Derek, a brick in hand. He then took up the rifle and took aim, determined to finish what he'd started.
Carter used Cameron's exclamation as an indicator that he'd found his target. He took out a pistol he kept concealed in his trousers, several students noticed the weapon and the screaming increased ten fold, they all bolted for the exits, frantically trying to escape. Carter stopped short of John, who was tending to the wounded boy, and aimed his weapon, poised to shoot. Suddenly, his vision was blotted by a table and his gun went flying across the dance floor. Cameron pressed the attack, furiously driving the triple-8 away from her charge. Several bullets came from no where; riddling the chair Cameron had ducked behind while two struck Carter in the mid-section. This is going to complicate matters, Carter thought, as he analysed the burning damage of the bullets.
Cromartie could hear the commotion above him. Carter must have done his job then. But it was odd, if he'd killed Connor, then why would he be firing multiple shots like that. He didn't have that many bullets in his gun, just the standard nine, and Cromartie counted at least thirteen shots. Come to think of it, they sounded like high calibre rounds, not 9mms. Cromartie decided his immediate presence was necessary and began his slow ascent to the roof.
Cameron threw Carter into the buffet, scattering food and cutlery everywhere. She picked up a particularly vicious-looking steak knife and jabbed it into Carter's head, determined to get at his CPU port. As she cut a jagged circle around the triple-8's head, another spay of bullets ricocheted around her, one of them striking her cutting arm, rendering it useless. Carter used this to his advantage and kicked her off of him. He then grabbed her by the hair and dunked her head into the punch bowl. Carter reached out and ripped an electrical wire from the wall and put it in the bowl, electrocuting Cameron, rendering her off-line. With her neutralized, Carter strode towards John, armed with the steak knife.
Derek had the perfect shot, he'd riddle her with bullets, take out her power cell. But as he began applying pressure to the trigger a blonde girl suddenly stepped in his sight, forcing him to remove his finger. Not again. Move girl, give me a clean shot. But the girl grabbed Cameron and dragged her behind some cover. Derek let out a cry of frustration. He decided to turn his attention to the triple-8, but before he could blast a hole through its skull, Sarah jumped Derek from behind and dragged him to the floor.
Cameron was down, and that sniper had ceased his salvo. That left John alone with Carter, who advanced on him with a nasty-looking knife. John wasn't going to wait for the inevitable; every inch of him was burning with rage. He threw himself across the dance floor and grabbed the triple-8's gun. He was going to die fighting.
Sarah punched every inch of Derek she could find, but he was tough. Derek grabbed Sarah by the throat and threw her off of him, followed by a kick to the face, which he hoped would keep her down. But she was determined to stop him, and refused to go down so easily. The two exchanged blows, all thoughts of friendship cast aside.
John unloaded the weapon into the Terminator, but he might as well have been firing spit balls. He dropped the gun and looked around for something else he could use as a weapon. On the table next to him lay several bottles of Champaign, he grabbed a few and hurled them at the triple-8, dousing it in alcohol. John picked up a lighter from the floor and flicked it on, the small flame causing Carter to pause. John flicked the lighter at the triple-8, setting it ablaze. Carter was unimpressed, however, and delivered a crushing punch that sent John flying across the plateau, landing in a heap near the entrance.
Riley frantically tried to resuscitate Cameron, who showed no sign of life. Suddenly, as Riley began performing CPR, Cameron rebooted, and was very confused as to why another girl was kissing her. Cameron quickly realised what Riley was trying to do, and gave a convincing revival. She then got to her feet and analysed her surroundings, seeing John slumped on the floor and a burning Carter approaching him. Despite Riley's protests, Cameron grabbed Carter from behind, determined not to let him touch John.
Derek delivered one final kick, just to be sure, then returned to his position and grabbed the rifle. He could see her; she was tackling the triple-8 from behind. Perfect, he thought, I can get both in one go. But as he squeezed the trigger, Sarah struck him from behind with the same brick he'd used on her. Derek fell backwards, his shots going awry. But he was down, and not likely to get up any time soon. Sarah let out a sigh of relief and then took up the rifle.
Cameron counted three shots. Three burning holes in her body. One penetrated her left leg, another struck her left hip, and the other struck her left shoulder. The last one passed right through her and obliterated Carter's power cell, effectively killing him. She let the triple-8 drop to the floor and collapsed to her knees, she needed a minute. John stirred and opened his eyes, he saw Cameron sitting awkwardly a foot or so away. She seemed to be taking slow, deep breaths. He noticed the three glowing wounds and gave out a strangled cry. He forced his aching body to crawl over to Cameron and take her hand. She smiled slightly and eyed her dress with a mingled look of regret and relief.
"I look a total mess, don't I?"
John smiled a little and squeezed her hand.
"You're still beautiful. Even with your hair dripping with punch."
Cameron looked ready to laugh when the double doors behind John suddenly flew off their hinges, and a damaged Terminator limped forwards, a gun in his mangled hand.
Primary Target: John Connor
Before Cromartie could pull the trigger, however, a single well-placed thermite round struck his temple, destroying his chip. Cromartie froze and, after what seemed like an eternity, fell forward and crashed to the floor. Cameron slowly relinquished her grip on John's shoulder once she realised the danger had passed. John looked at her for a moment, as if considering something, then he remembered Morris and struggled to his feet.
He was still, a small sliver of blood dripped from his mouth. John didn't need Cameron to conduct a scan to tell him Morris was dead. He dropped to his knees, not knowing what to do with himself. Morris was his friend, and he'd gotten him killed. It was entirely his fault, and nothing Cameron or Riley told him would make it any less so. He cried out in frustration and rage at the injustice of it all, and not even Cameron's soothing words were enough to stop the tears from leaving his eyes.
It was raining. Everyone was dressed in black. The coffin was being lowered into the grave.
Cameron was not accustomed to such proceedings. In the future, when someone died he was just covered with a blanket and taken to one of the rooms used for the storage of the recently deceased. This was entirely different, and infinitely more complex. There were speeches from every member of the family, from close friends like John. In the middle of his speech, John locked his eyes with hers, desperately trying to draw on her strength. Cameron was upset by Morris' death, but kept a brave face for John's sake. He needed someone to be strong for him, and with Sarah elsewhere, it had to be Cameron.
The funeral reached its end and Cameron, along with everyone else, silently placed a white rose on Morris' coffin, whispering a final goodbye.
Sarah made a final adjustment to the chains, making sure that they were securely screwed into the wall. Once satisfied, she put the power-tool away and gathered several screwdrivers. She then picked up a tray with a sandwich and glass of water on it. She slid it over the chalk line and took a step back as Derek reached out to take the water. He was chained to the shed wall, unable to move more than a few inches forward. Sarah had entertained many ideas about how she should deal with him, but ended up choosing the lesser option of chaining him up away from the house.
"So, how long are you gonna keep me like this?"
"For as long as it takes for you to get your sanity back."
Derek put the empty glass down and tore into the sandwich.
"I'm as sane as you are. More so, even. At least I'm not letting my son sleep with a machine."
"You killed a boy. 16 years-old. You shot him dead, and now John blames himself. I don't want this to ruin what's left of his life before Judgment Day, and if Cameron can help in that regard…"
Sarah considered her feelings for a moment. Did she hate Cameron? No. Did she think her relationship with John was wrong? Yes. In the end it boiled down to just one question: Did she trust her son? Yes, and that was all that mattered.
"…then more power to her."
Derek scoffed at her statement. He knew he deserved this, to be chained up like an animal. He had cried for that boy, prayed for forgiveness when alone. But he remained true to his conviction.
"The machine HAS TO GO."
"No, she stays, and that's the last we speak about this. I'll bring you some blankets later."
Sarah turned to go, but Derek needed to know something.
"Sarah. What was his name? The boy I killed. What was his name?"
"His name was Morris. Remember it."
John was silent on the way home. He had taken Morris' death very hard. Worst of all, he blamed himself. Cameron found this illogical, as it was Derek who fired the bullet that killed his friend. But she also knew how John reached such a conclusion, and it caused her utter misery to think he was in so much pain.
Sarah was waiting for them when they entered the house. She immediately gave John a hug and asked if he was alright, to which he said 'yes'. A stupid answer to a stupid question, Cameron thought. Of course he's not alright, just look at him. But Cameron realised the true meaning behind the question. Sarah wasn't asking if he was alright, she was telling him how much she cared. John pried himself from his mother and slouched to his bedroom. Cameron decided he needed a moment, so she didn't follow.
Sarah gave Cameron a calculating look, as if she were considering something. Cameron simply stared at her, waiting.
"How was he?"
It wasn't the question Cameron had expected, but she answered readily.
"He didn't cry. I thought that was strange. But his voice cracked mid-way through his speech."
Sarah nodded slowly, her eyes glassed with tears.
"John handles grief very well, and as for crying, well. Men don't cry."
"John has cried before."
"A couple of nights ago, before we…"
Cameron trailed off; she was too close to revealing their relationship. Though she suspected that Sarah knew any way, she wasn't going to confirm it. Sarah glared at Cameron and took a step towards her.
"Derek took a picture of you two together, he left it for me to find. That's how I knew what he was going to do."
"What did you do with it?"
"I burned it."
Cameron feared what was coming next. Sarah was going to tell her to stay away from her son. That if she so much as looks at him again, she'll turn her into scrap.
"Is that what you're going to do to me? Burn me away?"
Sarah eyes softened, she looked at her feet and nodded silently to herself. Cameron was tense, what should I do? Sarah looked up again and ran her hand through her hair. Cameron could tell she was wrestling with a decision.
"You're different. I know that now. But you're still a machine. A Terminator built to kill. By rights I should destroy you where you stand, but John needs you. And as much as I might disagree with his choice…"
Cameron watched her apprehensively, that emphasis on the word choice had shaken her a bit.
"…he is my son. I trust him. So I'm trusting you too. Don't you ever take that for granted, cos' your living on borrowed time here. Do you understand?"
"I do. Thank you for explaining."
Sarah then opened a cupboard and took out a couple of old blankets. For Derek I assume, thought Cameron.
Once Sarah was outside tending to the psychopath, Cameron entered John's room to find him kicking the side of his bed. All evidence points towards an uncontrollable fit of rage… proceed with caution.
John stopped kicking the bed, but his breathing was still heavy. He turned around to face her, his face set with anger and frustration. He needed to vent, Cameron knew this, so she was prepared for anything hurtful he might say.
"I was thinking about changing my name. Maybe then another John will take up the glorified mantle of 'Saviour of Mankind'."
"No other John could do what you did?"
John was incredulous.
"What I did! What did I do, Cameron? I'll tell you what I did, I got a guy killed, that's what your glorious Messiah did."
Cameron was referring to what he'd do in the future, but her use of the past tense had the opposite effect to what she intended.
"That wasn't your fault. It was Derek who shot Morris."
"Because of ME, and my being with you. I did this, all of it. If I'd just kept to myself you and I would never have… we'd never… none of this would've happened."
That hurt. Cameron knew he had too much hate in him to just keep it to himself. Being a generous person, John decided to share it with her.
"So everything we've been through. You and me, all the things we've done… you'd just throw it all away?"
Cameron dreaded John's response. Would he end it? Quite possibly, at least Sarah and Derek would be happy, she thought. John clenched his fists and paced back and forth for a few excruciating seconds. Finally he stopped and looked her in the eyes.
"I don't know. I don't know anything anymore. Who am I Cameron?"
"You're John Connor. You're the man who will save the human race."
"And how am I going to do that? How can I save three billion lives when I can't save just one?"
Cameron was losing control. She was on the verge of bursting into tears, and when she answered his question she finally let go.
"You saved me."
John froze, the look of pain on his face softened slightly as tears ran down her face.
"I was lost. Angry and confused. But you found me, and you saved me. You showed me what it means to be human. You showed me what it means to love."
John's hate and rage evaporated in an instant. He embraced Cameron and held her as she cried onto his shoulder, just as she did the day he reached her. The day he saved her. It was in this moment that John realised the truth. He brought her face to his and kissed her, and she kissed him.
"I love you, Cam."
"I love you too, John."
The truth: that if a machine could achieve redemption, then maybe one day, so could he.