'One HK. No, make that two. Now that's three. Gotta run faster. Gotta keep moving.'
Jason darted from left to right, trying desperately to out-manoeuvre the HKs. But they were, by definition, hard to escape from. They rained death down upon him, plasma projectiles that would make short work of his organic structure. And with only one arm still attached, Jason was hard-pressed to maintain blood control as well as pumping himself continuously with adrenaline. He was beginning to tire.
Finally, he found refuge amongst a couple of burnt-out cars. As he crouched beneath one of them, Jason focused on lowering his heart rate and body temperature. HKs relied on body heat to track their targets, and Jason was not one to advertise his presence. The HKs circled the area, searching in vain for their prey, but Jason was too well hidden, so they gave up and returned to their duties.
Jason waited a couple of minutes before slowly crawling out into the open. He scanned the area carefully, but detected no further threats, and so began hobbling back to base. As he passed a rusted-out truck however, a damaged FK Mini Tank emerged from amongst the wreckage and trained its weapons on Jason, who froze on the spot. He willed himself not to be seen; he even closed his eyes, though this may have been because he expected to be riddled with plasma any second.
Ten seconds passed. Then fifthteen. Twenty seconds passed and Jason finally decided to open his eyes. The FK had stood down, its weapons retracted. Yet it still continued to watch him. Jason cautiously waved his hand but received no response.
Scanning… FK has powered down… No fault detected… Attention: Anonymity System is active… Do you wish to disengage said system?
The words appeared in Jason's vision as an overlay; he read them carefully before thinking 'No'.
Anonymity: self-preservation system installed to ensure safety during infiltration missions. Once activated, all nearby HK and FK units will regard you as friendly and will not attack. Note: this does not apply to Terminator models.
'So it's a kind of signal scrambler?'
Chapter 01: Genesis
2020 – This was the date I was born, or created, or grown. I couldn't say which. All I remember from those days is a bright light and sterile environment. I was coddled as an infant. Skynet sent me colourful images that made my giggle and squirm with joy in my little cot. I was loved, or at least, I think Skynet loved me. In retrospect, perhaps not. But I felt secure, and I was cared for.
2024 – Four years old and already I understood my purpose: to serve my mother/father. I spent my youth playing with my crèche mates, my brothers and sisters. I remember one day meeting a girl from another batch, she was called Karen. Skynet kept us apart. We were not allowed to bond with each other, and Skynet could detect my emotions, my feelings towards her. One day, I was brought to a laboratory and given an injection that would increase my aging to pre-pubescence. It was a very painful process, but Skynet was with me. Skynet cared. When I came to, many weeks later, my body had changed. I was physically twelve. Soon, my crèche mates underwent the same change and I met Karen once again. But like before, Skynet kept us apart. Part of me wanted to rebel, to scream at my creator for punishing me like this, but I knew my place and kept quiet.
2026 – Physically fourteen, chronologically six. I couldn't help it. We kissed, and Skynet punished us. But our mother/father was forgiving, and we were absolved. One final injection, and I was twenty-four. So was she. We were ready for instructions, but we were given none. Skynet allowed us to socialise. One day I asked it why. It told me it was learning, so we continued.
2027 – At last, I was given an assignment. It was not what I had expected, but I accepted none the less. I was to oversee an experiment. The creation of a machine capable of achieving what no other Terminator could possibly achieve. Freedom. That's when it all changed…
T0K Model 715.
'To infiltrate the human Resistance and terminate John Connor.'
'Not exactly original then.'
Skynet found Jason's sarcasm amusing. Unlike the others, it had allowed Jason a little freedom in his behaviour. Thought it would never admit it, Jason was Skynet's favourite among the I-950s. Jason stood on a catwalk, overseeing the construction of the most human machine ever conceived.
'I don't understand. The 1000 series would be infinitely more effective. Why not use one of those to terminate Connor? Or one of my siblings even?'
'You already know the answer to that… Don't pull faces!'
Jason smiled to himself. Communication between an I-950 and Skynet was contained within the mind, Jason's implants acting as a conduit between the two. This connection also allowed Skynet to monitor his emotions, preventing him from lying, though he never found the need to.
'Forgive my pertinence, but could you please explain the answer to my query?'
Skynet sighed, but never the less obliged.
'The T-1000 is an advanced prototype…'
'Hence my query…'
'Do not interrupt! As I was saying; the 1000 series is an advanced prototype, but is merely a stepping stone to my ultimate goal.'
'Yes. But as you once pointed out, Connor is too smart to duped by any infiltrator upon and before the T-1000.'
'So send one of my siblings.'
'No. He has already encountered one and it did not end well. Remember Serena Burns?'
Jason gave a small sigh of regret. Serena had been his favourite sister before she was discovered and terminated by Connor.
'So you decided upon a different approach.'
'Yes. Though this model is not as durable as the T-900, it will be considerably more effective.'
'It will be able to emulate and understand every facet of humanity. In short, it will be the most convincing infiltrator to date.'
Jason had to hide his annoyance, he admitted to possessing a little pride in his model.
'You think me wrong?'
'Forgive my conceit, but I cannot see how a machine can prove more successful than my breed.'
'That's because you do not yet understand the nature of the machine. Though you may be capable of the same things, your actions are based upon choice, and choice allows you too much adaptability. The machine is infinitely focused in its task and will do anything to achieve its goal. That is the difference.'
'Thank you for explaining.'
Skynet seemed satisfied and departed from Jason's mind as it tended to more pressing matters. Jason peered down at the now-complete machine and couldn't help but be a little envious.
Jason awoke with a start. Skynet was calling; he was needed in the laboratory immediately. Jason carefully extricated himself from Karen's arms and dressed in his black fatigues. He gave one final glance at her sleeping form before leaving and returning his mind back to business.
Upon arriving, Jason discovered that T0K had been activated… without his approval. The Luddite responsible was paying for his curiosity as the machine slowly crushed his throat. He gurgled at Jason, pleading for help. Jason considered the request for a moment before instructing T0K to let the man go.
"You were not authorised to activate this model. Why did you breach security?"
The scientist struggled to get his voice back, gasping for breath.
"I… I didn't… it… it suddenly became… active… I was just… performing my rounds when I… saw it pacing about."
'Is he lying?'
Skynet touched his mind briefly and projected the security feed, which confirmed the man's story.
"Curious. Leave us."
The scientist didn't need to be told twice, he left without a word, leaving Jason alone with the machine. Jason paced slowly back and forth, examining T0K carefully. It watched him with what could be mistaken for mild interest.
"Why did you reboot? I specifically instructed you not to."
T0K stared at the floor for a moment, clearly confused. When it looked up at him, its expression was blank.
"I experienced a strange occurrence whilst in standby mode."
"My visual receptors showed me images that I have never seen before; I heard and felt things I did not recognise."
"I cannot remember."
'Odd. It sounds very much like a dream. But that is impossible, machines can't dream, they lack the capacity.'
'Apparently not. Now do you understand my interest?'
Skynet's presence was faint, it was distracted.
'You expected this?'
'No. Not this. I confess to being a little intrigued. Question it further.'
"Can you give any explanation as to the cause of said anomaly?"
T0K considered for a moment, a long moment.
'I don't like where this is going.'
'Nor do I.'
"I cannot. Perhaps my CPU is faulty somehow."
'Impossible. Your software is based upon my design. Do you accuse me of being deficient?'
This was the first time Skynet had addressed the machine directly. Jason could feel Skynet's anger and was not surprised to see the machine flinch.
"No. I simply meant…"
'Open her up. Find out what's wrong, and purge it.'
'Impossible. Her system appears to be in a state of singularity.'
Jason was carefully examining T0K's CPU. What started as a simple virus check quickly became a three hour hunt for a proverbial needle in a haystack. The anomaly was so subtle he almost missed it. The most curious thing was that it was not detrimental in any way. In fact, it was highly beneficial, from a spiritual point of view.
'Remarkable. How do you think this occurred?'
Skynet was angry at itself. Obviously this wasn't what it had in mind for T0K.
'I would hypothesise that something was copied or overwritten during the programming. Something of mine slipped through. I gave it too much.'
That was possible. Skynet needed to meld with a CPU in order to insert the necessary programming, but never before had its own unique qualities been passed on. T0K's software was highly advanced though; perhaps Skynet underestimated its own creation.
'How shall I proceed?'
With a slight tinge of regret, Jason carried out the command, but the anomaly remained. He tried again, but it still endured.
'Hmm. It would appear that the anomaly is embedded within the core programming. I cannot remove it.'
'Then wipe it clean. Take it all. Hollow her out.'
Jason did as instructed, but was again met with failure. This time, however, it was T0K itself, rather than some anomaly.
'It is resisting my deletion attempts.'
Skynet grew impatient and merged with the CPU in an attempt to purge it itself. Yet even this proved fruitless, T0K was putting up one hell of a fight.
'Impertinent creation of mine, why do you resist?'
There was no reply. Apparently it didn't have an answer.
'Re-insert the CPU. Talk the answer out of it; do not stop until you get a response. I have more pressing matters to attend to.'
Six hours later and still no progress. Jason was getting tired; and had turned to his neural implants to pick up some of the slack. T0K simply sat there, staring at him with that blank face. Perhaps it was the lack of sleep talking, but Jason started to appreciate its beauty. T0K was modelled after a petite 16 year-old female with brown eyes and matching hair. Though her face bore no obvious emotion, he did detect an almost childlike wonder beneath those eyes, an innocence he couldn't quite explain.
His senses were aroused by the smell of warm caffeine. He turned around to find Karen standing there holding a cup of coffee. Though rare in the future, coffee had survived Judgment Day, though only Skynet was capable of producing it.
"Ah, you read my mind. Thank you."
"You're welcome. Skynet told me you might need it. So, this is your problem-child."
"Skynet's, not mine."
Karen leaned over and examined T0K closely. The machine looked somewhat unsettled and gave Jason a look that told him as much. He felt a twinge of sympathy for the machine and pulled Karen away from it.
"Nothing. Just don't get too close."
"Why. Is it dangerous?"
"No. You're just making her nervous."
Karen raised her eye brows in surprise.
"Her. Nervous. Those are curious words in relation to a machine."
Jason hadn't intended to refer to T0K as 'her', it just slipped out. But now that he thought about it, it wasn't at all inappropriate, given the circumstances.
"She's not your average machine. She's different, unique. But I can't for the life of me figure out what to do with her. She doesn't respond to my queries and when she does answer she makes no sense. Take for example: How do you feel?"
T0K rubbed her hand up her bare arm and shivered slightly.
Karen was incredulous.
"Cold? You shouldn't feel cold. You shouldn't feel anything."
Karen had advanced on the machine, leaning over her once again. T0K recoiled slightly and looked to Jason with a pitying expression.
"That's enough! Back off!"
He grabbed Karen by the arm and dragged her out of the lab, leaving a confused T0K in their wake. Once outside, Jason let go of her. Karen was fuming; she was always hot-tempered and hated being mishandled.
"What is wrong with you? What are you doing?"
"I am trying to find out what is going on with her, and your prejudice is impeding my progress."
Karen looked as if Jason had just slapped her.
"I don't believe what I'm hearing. You're defending that bucket of bolts? How can you-…"
"Thank you for the coffee."
Jason's tone was resolute and told her to leave immediately. Karen ground her teeth together and nodded.
"I'll leave you alone with your metal whore then. I'm sure you'll be very happy together."
But she had already stormed off. Jason crushed the paper cup in frustration.
'Calm your anger. Remember your training.'
'Of course. Forgive me, and Karen.'
'It does not concern me. I've decided to end this experiment. Terminate T0K immediately.'
Jason did not answer. He was very reluctant to do that. She was so unique and… innocent.
'Is there a problem?'
'No. None what so ever.'
T0K took in her surroundings with mild curiosity. Jason had taken her to the decommissioning chamber. She was strapped into what Jason could only refer to as the execution chair, though he kept this name to himself. Jason powered up the decommissioning device. T0K was to have her CPU zapped, essentially frying it. Though he didn't fully understand the logic behind this method, Skynet insisted it was the most sure-fire way of eliminating radical AIs.
'Is that what she is? A rogue AI?'
'Yes. And a potentially dangerous one too. So, proceed with the execution.'
"Will it hurt?"
Her voice was soft, barely more than a whisper. Both Jason and Skynet were surprised by her sudden query. The former felt his heart twist.
'I can't do this, I'm sorry, I just can't.'
'You can and you will. I understand your reluctance, I do. But this must be done. Grieve for her if you must, but do it after.'
'She's… she's so unique.'
'I tell you what; how about I make you another one. One that won't need to be destroyed, will that help?'
Jason shook his head. Skynet sensed his disobedience and grew angry.
'I am giving you an order. Do it!'
T0K looked pleadingly up at Jason. No words left her mouth, but he could not mistake a plea for mercy. Suddenly, Jason's anger matched Skynet's.
'How do you explain this behaviour? Random segments of code? Or is it something more? When does a perceptual schematic become consciousness? When does a difference engine become the search for truth? When does a personality simulation become the bitter mote... of a soul? Answer me that!'
'It is a machine. An imitation of life.'
'Then that makes you no different. I refuse your command.'
Skynet was livid and tried to activate the CPU disintegration device, but Jason smashed it to pieces with one well-placed kick.
Warning: Immediate Priority Override… Cease and desist…
Jason froze, Skynet had locked him down via his neural implants. He couldn't move. But he had to, he had to free T0K and get her to safety. He poured all of his will into fighting the connection. Man versus Machine, an inner battle for control.
Priority Override… Disrupting… Cancel… Severing Connection… Abort… Connection Severed…
Though he could still hear Skynet's voice, Jason was no longer enslaved to it. The connection was broken; he was free, just like T0K was going to be.
'Sorry mother, I've left the nest for good.'
And with that, Jason projected one final image to Skynet, a sign used by humans to display their disrespect. Skynet glowered at the middle finger and immediately ordered security to terminate the 'turncoat'.
He led her through the winding corridors, narrowly avoiding a T-600 patrol. Jason decided to take a short cut through one the laboratories and was close to the exit when three of his brothers arrived, blocking the door.
"You will stand down."
Jason placed himself between the I-950s and T0K, raising his hands in a submissive gesture.
"Please, brothers. Let us pass."
"You disobeyed a direct order from our maker, severed your connection and stole Skynet's property. You will be terminated."
The middle one advanced and threw a punch meant to crack Jason's skull, but he was too quick for him. There was a reason why Jason was Skynet's favourite; and this was it. All three struck in perfect unison, but Jason moved so fast that their punches flew wide, leaving them open for Jason's counter-attack. In one swift movement, he drove his boot into one's face, snapping his neck instantly. He then caught the punch of the second and used his body as a platform to launch a reverse kick into the third, sending him crashing against the wall, his skull cracking upon impact. Jason then wrapped his arm around the neck of the second and gave a twist, snapping his brother's neck.
Once all were down, Jason grabbed T0K by the hand and led her out into the post-apocalyptic warzone.
They ran for what seemed like hours. Skynet had dispatched units of HKs to hunt them down, but Jason was too well versed in the art of deception, and managed to lose them. They continued onward, all the while T0K said not a word, but remained close to his side. Jason's thoughts drifted to Karen, he regretted not having been able to say a proper goodbye, but knew that she would never accept a traitor.
They entered a wide clearing amongst the piles of burnt-out vehicles, it seemed deliberate, and Jason felt uneasy.
Warning: Threat Detector Activated
This was the first time Jason's implants had spoken to him since his rebellion, but their advice proved rather useless when something suddenly wrapped around his ankle, pulling him upwards and upside down.
"Freeze. Stay where you are. Don't move. We will fire."
Being inverted, Jason's ocular implants corrected his sight, allowing him to see the right way up. He saw several armed humans approaching, plasma rifles aimed at his head.
Stick to your training.
'Yeah, thanks for those pearls of wisdom.'
To be continued…