A/N: This is my second TSCC fic, and related to my first fic "Liberation Day". You don't really need to read that one to get this, this one's a prequel, if you will. Reviews and constructive criticism are welcome, I hope you enjoy it. Thanks goes out to Flatlander for contributing to this fic.
Disclaimer: I don't own anything TSCC, I'm not making any profit from this fic so please Fox don't sue.
April 20th 2011
"Cam, you are so wrong," John said through a mouthful of ice cream. "We're you even watching it?"
"Yes John, I have a perfect memory of the movie, as well as the first and second films of the trilogy, and I still fail to understand your comparison."
"Come on, seriously Cam, it's the perfect analogy; Megatron as Skynet. Don't tell me you can't see it."
"Megatron is a fictional character, John. Skynet is real." Oh God, John moaned to himself as he shovelled another spoonful into his mouth, carelessly spilling some down his chin. This was another debate he wouldn't win. He wondered if she was simply winding him up, either that or she wasn't as advanced or she liked to think.
"Okay, you win. I give up." He raised his hands in the air as a sign of defeat. He'd never get through to her. He supposed watching Transformers 3 - a movie about giant machines fighting over the fate of the world- was bad taste considering in less than twenty four hours Skynet would begin its own campaign of world domination. Cameron smiled in triumph as she took her napkin and wiped the chocolate goo off him.
It still shocked him how much she'd changed over the past four years; she was a far cry from the Cameron he'd known back in 2007. She'd evolved to the point where she had developed a very basic emotional repertoire. Sure, they were stilted; and she often had trouble understanding and expressing what she felt; and she still came across as slightly autistic, but John recognised them for what they were, and he did not doubt for a second that they were real.
"Aren't you going to have any more?" John asked, pointing at their shared ice cream bowl.
"No, you finish it. I do not require sustenance at this time, my organic components are intact." He knew she could eat and drink – both to assist infiltration and as a means of providing proteins to accelerate organic tissue repair- but she could only ingest small amounts of food at a time. More for me, he grinned as he greedily pulled the bowl towards him. Truth be told he was feeling pretty full and was just being a pig, but after today he'd probably never get to eat ice cream again, and he was determined to make the most of it. Judgement Day was tomorrow, and he'd decided to mark his last day before the end of the world by enjoying himself. He and Cameron had spent the day just relaxing together, and he'd taken her out to watch a movie, followed by dinner.
"What do you want to do after this Cam?" he asked. He smiled when he realised that this was probably the first time in his life that he'd had a normal day. Right there in the restaurant, they were just a guy and a girl out on a date together; never mind that his date was a cybernetic killing machine from a very bleak future he was about to experience first hand. He was also saddened slightly by the fact their first date would also be their last.
"It is ten forty seven pm John. You need at least seven hours of sleep to ensure you remain at optimum levels of function. We have an early start tomorrow."
"It's not that late Cam," John protested, not wanting the night to end, both because he enjoyed being alone with Cameron, and because after it was over he would have to go back to being the saviour. "How about we go for a drink?" John motioned towards a quiet looking bar across the street.
"You are not yet twenty one; it would be illegal to consume alcohol on the premises and could attract police attention. Derek has beer in the refrigerator if you desire it." She failed to understand why John wanted to consume alcohol when it was detrimental to human health. She'd informed him many times that tens of thousands of people died every year from alcohol related illnesses or injuries. She considered it a form of self termination, and was confused by humans' illogical tendencies to do themselves harm in such ways.
"It's too early to go to bed Cam, come on. We'll do whatever you want." He stifled a yawn; he was getting tired, but he'd never admit it now, and he seriously wanted to clutch at what little time he had left just a little bit longer.
"It would be best to return home," she answered.
"Okay," John sighed; he'd walked into that one. "You win, again. You owe me one, though."
"One what?" she cocked her eyebrow, confused.
"Never mind Cam," he chuckled as he got up from the table, ice cream finished off. Once he'd paid the bill they left the restaurant and started on the long walk home. They'd moved to Colorado Springs five months ago; John, Cameron, and Derek, after Sarah had been killed protecting John from Cromartie. He still couldn't get used to the cold night air, being a mile above sea level. Even so, he took his jacket off and wrapped it around Cameron's shoulders. Intellectually, he knew it was ridiculous; yes, she could feel, both physically and emotionally – though emotionally, she still had a lot of growing to do – but heat and cold would never bother her like it would a human girl. Still, it seemed like the right thing to do, and his sense of chivalry won out.
"I had a really great time tonight Cam. I just wish it wasn't going to go down the tubes tomorrow," he said to her as they walked the mile and a half back to their house. She said nothing in reply. "We should have done this sooner." He meant it, too. It had taken him this long to realise what she was to him; not just his protector now, but his best friend. He'd spent four years wrestling over feelings he shouldn't have felt, trying his best to hide it from his mother and Derek. Even when she'd been caught in Sarkissian's car bomb, he'd been concerned for her, but he'd not admitted to himself that he'd felt what he did now. It hadn't been until his mom had died, and John had retreated into his room for weeks, unable to face the world.
Cameron had stayed at his side the whole time and comforted him, held him like a child and let him cry on her shoulder, hit her, scream and shout at her and curse her and her brethren for ruining his life and taking his mother. She'd taken it all without a word of complaint, though John had seen the hurt in her eyes as he'd hurled abuse at her, the slightest spark of sadness within. He'd questioned then whether or not she really was just a machine. She was programmed to protect him, he knew that much. But he doubted his future self would have programmed her for the kind of compassion and sympathy she'd shown him, meaning she'd comforted him of her own accord. His future self would have known Sarah died before the war, known he'd have to deal with losing her, and probably wanted him to deal with it alone, knowing the grief would harden him to the unimaginable loss he'd experience later in the war.
He'd realised two things then: one, his future self was a cold, cynical, calculating bastard, and two; she cared about him much more than the sum of her mission would have dictated necessary. He'd sworn to himself then that he'd help her fully develop and become human; it was the least he could do in return for everything she'd done for him.
After a half hours walk, hand in hand, they came to their modest three bedroom home on the outskirts of Colorado Springs. They went through the front door and into the living room cum kitchen. John saw that Derek was out. Probably out living up his last day, too, he realised. He saw a note attached to the fridge for him.
Gone out to town, I'll be back by 1am. Help yourself to beer in the fridge. Keep Tinhead out of trouble.
Well, John thought, 'Tinhead' was an improvement over 'Metal Bitch/Whore/Freak', or 'Fucking Machine.' After his mom had died, Derek had taken the reins and become John's teacher. Strangely, after Sarah had perished, Derek hadn't once tried to get rid of Cameron or even suggest it. She'd seemed to have proved herself useful to John's uncle. John wished he'd see her differently; as a person, not a tool. At least he seemed to think of her as a useful tool now. His training regime had been much different to Sarah's: under Derek's tuition, he'd undergone long sessions of punishing physical training, weapons handling, survival training, and lessons in tactics, until both his brain and body were ready to explode; followed by just as intense sessions of R and R. Work hard, play harder had definitely been Derek's unofficial mantra.
He took out a beer and opened it up, offering one to Cameron who unsurprisingly turned it down. They sat down together on the couch; Cameron leaned into John and rested her head on his shoulder as he put his arm around her.
"Cam, I was just wondering; when is your mission complete? I mean, after tomorrow will you still be with us?"
"Your future self never told me when my primary objective would be complete. He told me I would know."
"What do you mean primary mission? How many do you have?"
"You gave me secondary task to accomplish in addition to my primary objective."
"Well, what is it?" John enquired. She'd never mentioned a second mission before.
"I don't know. You informed me I had a second mission, You never told me what it was. You said I'd work it out on my own."
"Did he say what would happen to you when it was complete?" It amazed John that her orders were so flexible. He supposed Future Him knew how intelligent she was and left it up to her to interpret his orders how she thought best. He wondered what this other mission was, and why he'd not even told her what it was in the future. Advanced as she was, she wasn't a mind reader. How was she supposed to complete her other mission if she didn't even know what it was?
"No. You said that would be my decision, and yours."
"What am I like in the future."
"You know I can't tell you that John."
"I'm not talking about future events, just me. Am I different to now?" Cameron sat silent for a moment, as if in contemplation.
"You're eyes are different," she replied. "In the future, your eyes are like Sarah's, and Derek's." John knew what that meant; distant, cold and hard and wary; eyes of someone who'd seen more than they ever should have in their lifetime.
"You said I had a lot of friends, right?"
"I lied," she said flatly. John's face turned sullen. He'd known all along, he supposed, but hadn't accepted, that he would most likely become a complete recluse. Leadership would be a burden he'd have to bear alone, and it would most likely eat away at his humanity until he was as cold and calculating as the machines; perhaps that was the only way he could beat them. Cameron saw his disappointment, saw what he was thinking, and knew he didn't want to be like his future self.
"In the future, you had one friend."
"What happened?" John asked, not liking the sound of the 'had'.
"You sent her away." John said nothing more, but he'd cottoned on to whom she meant. She was so much more than the rest of them were; she was nothing like Cromartie, Vick, the T1000, or even Uncle Bob. She was still an enigma to him after all this time. There was still so much about her, about the future, he still didn't know. He'd take his time with her, but the future, he realised, was about to crash on top of him in a matter of hours. Both Cameron and Derek had said that he'd changed, become more like the leader they knew; he didn't see it himself. He wasn't that man yet, didn't know if he would ever be, and he still needed all the help he could get.
"Cam, I really don't think I'm ready for this. I don't know how to fight Skynet. What if I screw it up and get us all killed?"
"You wont," she answered, "you are John Connor. You will win." She paused for a moment, unsure of exactly what else to tell him. She was still under orders from Future John not to reveal too much about the future in case it changed the timeline, but she registered the fear and anxiety on his face, and it pained her; she didn't like seeing John like this. She had to give him something. She had detailed files on every machine Skynet had ever created, and took a moment to access them. It took her almost an hour, but she talked him through every kind of machine Skynet had ever built, from the T1's they'd surely face over the coming weeks and months, the ground and aerial HK units and all their various models that would appear over the years, and finally the Terminators. Every model type, every design she was aware of, including her own, and the best weapons and tactics to neutralise them. She'd effectively told him how to kill her, though John knew he could never bring himself to that. If she were to die, a large part of him would die with her.
By the end of her lecture, John found himself barely able to keep his eyes open. He'd hung on intently to every word she'd said and greedily absorbed every scrap of information she could offer, but it was all so much, and the realism of what was about to happen was hitting him like a freight train. His nightmares would come worse tonight than ever before, he realised. He was actually afraid of going to sleep, knowing how bad they'd get, and knowing how much worse it would be in the morning to wake from one nightmare right into another.
"John, go to bed. You need to sleep," Cameron said, sensing his fatigue.
"Can you stay with me tonight, Cam?" They'd slept in his bed together before, and he'd always found it comforting, as if she was protecting him in his dreams as well as from Terminators.
"Yes John, of course," she answered.
John got changed into underwear and a battered grey t shirt while Cameron changed into similar attire in her room before returning to Johns. It took them a few moments to find a comfortable position, given Cameron's two hundred pound frame. He was on his back, her on her side, head resting on John's chest with his arm around her, stroking her hair with his free hand..
"Cam, I don't know exactly what's going to happen tomorrow, but I want you to know... well... I love you Cam." He was nervous as hell about saying it; he'd never once said it to anyone, not even his mom. It felt good to finally say what he'd been thinking for a while now.
"I..." she started, uncertainly. She referenced numerous definitions of love from her files. She felt a strong attachment to him, her whole existence revolved around him, and she experienced what she could only call anxiousness when he wasn't around. She would do anything to keep him safe and well; she'd die for him without second thought. But she didn't know if that was just her programming or something more. Her feelings towards him seemed to conform to the definitions provided by both the Oxford and Webster dictionaries, but that was insufficient data for her to form a conclusion.
"I...I don't know if I love you John." She saw his face turn sour and registered his dissapointment. He rolled over and turned his back to her, it was clear to her that she'd upset him and it sent surges of unpleasant data through her system that closely resembled her emotional imitation programming – specifically sadness. She did not want him to be angry with her. She felt the same negative responses when he was upset with her as she would do if she'd failed a mission.
"Of course you don't," he muttered to himself, "it's not part of your programming."
John's comment wounded her deeply, much more than he knew; she'd heard it, of course. She had hearing far superior to any human and could hear a pin drop from the other side of the house. It pained her that John could still see her as just a machine, that there was nothing more to her than her programming. She realised her tear ducts had started to function without conscious control and a few droplets started to roll down her cheek and onto the sheets.
"I should start my patrol," she said, her voice changed to her usual steely, mechanical monotone as she slipped out of bed and left the room.
"Wait Cam, I didn't mean..." Too late, she was gone. Instead of going after her like he knew he should have, John just lay there in bed, feeling very pissed off with Cameron, himself, and the world in general. He knew he was getting stressed out because Judgement Day was looming over their heads, also that it was no reason to take it out on her; they were all feeling stressed and scared, apart from Cameron, anyway. She'd always seemed happy enough when she was with him. In fact, John realised, this was the first time he'd ever seen her really upset, and it was because of him.
Good going dickhead, telling her you love her and then act like a spoilt brat because you didn't get the reply you wanted. What the hell's wrong with you? He knew how insecure she was about her ever changing emotional state; it confused her, she'd always turned to him to help her understand what she felt. She needed him to guide her through it, and it had to be him; Derek never would, and he was closer to her than anyone else (his future self likely included) ever was or would be. He realised now that she simply had no clue about love, and had wanted him to explain it to her. And you 'help' her by going right for the jugular. Congratulations, he said to himself. You're every bit as ruthless and bastardised as the future you who sent her back. He considered that maybe he'd overestimated his feelings for her. Could she ever love? he wondered. She felt, he knew that. She knew happiness, and sadness (mainly thanks to him tonight), and rage and anger - the base emotions. Other things; humour, boredom, despair, hope, she had shown none of those. Perhaps love was something that would always be beyond her, no matter how much she evolved. Would there be any point in pursuing that kind of relationship if she could never feel the same?
He kept the same train of thought running through his head for what seemed like an eternity before exhaustion finally overcame him and he slipped into an uneasy sleep.
Derek felt great as he got out of the cab, leaving a very hefty tip for the driver – it wasn't like he would need money after tomorrow anyway - and staggered up the lawn towards the front door. His last night on Earth had been a huge blowout; they'd still had thousands of dollars left in cash from various less than legal activities he'd performed before they'd moved to Colorado Springs, and he'd decided to blow the lot. First thing's first, he'd gone out and made a complete pig of himself at the first pizza joint he could find, polishing off two large pepperoni pizzas - a firm favourite of his before the first Judgement Day. Then he'd trawled through all the bars he could find and gotten nicely drunk before heading off to the local strip joint to blow hundreds of dollars on a scantily clad twenty one year old blonde lap dancer called Delta until the place closed and she'd invited him back to her apartment for a few drinks, followed by a 'private show.'
She'd given him her number and made him promise to call her, before he'd pulled himself out of her soft warm bed and called a cab back home. He felt like a bastard, knowing that in all likelihood she, along with the other six hundred thousand or so people living in Colorado Springs, would soon me vaporised; but he'd learnt long ago to view himself and almost everyone else around him as walking dead – their numbers just hadn't been called yet. It was a shame really, he thought as he fumbled with the lock on the front door. He really liked this city; it was quieter, more peaceful than LA. Even without Terminators on their heels, Los Angeles had always created a whole slew of problems for them; Armenian gangsters, cops, feds, it was as if the whole city had been conspiring to screw them over.
He'd hoped they'd be able to stop Skynet, then he'd have found a way to take out the Metal Bitch, and he and John could get on with their lives and John would never have to become that bastard commander he'd known before. As it was, they'd failed, the city would be dust in a day, and they still needed that glorified walking toaster John called Cameron. He didn't deny it was useful; hell, it was stronger, faster, and smarter than any human fighter, his own sweet self included; and it was bulletproof. It was one hell of a soldier, he'd give it that. But when all was said and done, this war would be won by real, honest to God humans; there was no place for it with them after tomorrow was over.
He finally managed to get his key in the lock and get through the door, he pushed it shut noisily and switched the living room light on.
"Hello Derek Reese," Cameron greeted him with her classic monotone voice whilst staring intently out the window, not even bothering to turn her head and look at him.
"What do you want, Tinhead?" Derek snapped, nearly jumping out of his skin with shock. He'd had a great night until now; seeing the metal always spoiled his mood. "Where's John?" Derek grabbed a beer from the fridge, suddenly needing another drink now she was around.
"In bed, not sleeping," she replied.
"What the hell does that mean?"
"He's afraid of his dreams, knows they'll become real." I know how that feels, Derek thought. It was different in his case, of course. He'd only had the nightmares after the machines had come. He knew it was worse for John, knowing it was coming and not being able to do a damn thing to stop it. He wasn't surprised John didn't sleep well; he couldn't. Not with the metal skulking around the house all night, he didn't feel safe around it, even after four years living with it. Cameron turned away from the window to face Derek, staring at him with those blank eyes. Not long before Judgement Day in his time, Derek had taken Kyle to an aquarium. He remembered staring into a huge tank, coming face to face with a great white shark that he'd sworn had looked right at him with its dark, dead eyes; he'd never admitted it to anyone, but it had scared the hell out of him at the time. Now, as he looked at the machine, he saw those same eyes; the blank, emotionless eyes of a soulless killing machine. Given the choice, he'd take the shark over Cameron, any day.
"I don't know about John, but I'm hoping my dreams come true tomorrow." Derek said. Cameron just cocked her head confused, not understanding his meaning. "Because every night since I got here, I've dreamt of taking you apart. After tomorrow, you're gone, scrapped. Does that compute? Tin can?"
Derek finished his beer in one go and stormed off to bed, taking the empty bottle with him, ignoring whatever reply the machine made. His bedtime routine was the same every night; he placed a stool with several empty beer bottles on top in front of the door so if the machine tried to get in they'd crash down onto the floor and give him a few seconds advanced warning. He loaded his SIG Sauer P226 pistol and tucked it under his pillow; his Uzi 9mm went on the nightstand next to his bed with the spare magazine, in easy reach and the safety off; and the Mossberg 590 shotgun stayed under the covers with him, fully loaded with solid slugs instead of the usual buckshot.
Sometimes he wished the machine would try something, just to give him an excuse to unload some lead into the metal. Bring it on, Tin Can, he thought as he slowly drifted off to sleep, towards glorious dreams of smashing Cameron into scrap metal. Fucking Bring it on.
Coming soon - Chapter two. Tensions between Cameron and John run high as Judgement Day thrusts itself upon them.