"Cam, can I ask you a question?" John asked as he bandaged the cyborg up for the umpteenth time. Once again, she had been forced to go toe-to-toe with a Terminator nearly twice her size, risking her life to save his, and though she would probably point out that she was not technically alive and therefore could not actually risk her "life," it didn't mean he couldn't show her the gratitude her actions deserved.
"I do not understand why you would ask me whether you can ask me a question. Your query constitutes a question in and of itself, so clearly you do not need my permission to ask a question, as you just did so without my consent," she replied, cocking her head to the side.
"Uh …" John said, thrown off by her response.
"Did you have another question for me?" she asked sweetly, a flash of—was that a smirk? John wondered—something flitting across her face.
Refusing to believe the cyborg had just intentionally been a smartass to him, John fought to bring thoughts back to their original track. "I've noticed something when you … engage other Terminators. And before I go any further, I want you to know I'm not questioning you or criticizing your performance, and it's not that I'm ungrateful or anything …"
Cameron stared at him with her wide brown eyes unblinking, focused entirely on him.
"Ahem, well, I was wondering. It seems like you only ever have one tactic against the Terminators – a full frontal assault. And it seems like you take a lot of collateral damage because of that, because usually you're going up against a model that's bigger, heavier and stronger, and I was wondering why you didn't … evade or defend more?" he asked, blushing as he realized that it basically sounded like he was trying to teach someone who could kick his ass in less than three seconds without disturbing a single hair on her perfect head.
"Disabling any threat as quickly as possible reduces the likelihood that you will suffer an injury or be killed. Since the best defense is a good offense, my combat algorithms are written only to attack, with defensive tactics coming on line only in event of critical damage to my exoskeleton," Cameron explained.
"Yeah, I figured that," said John. "But it seems to me that you always take damage in this fights, and I really don't want you to get hurt because of me if we can help it," John explained.
"I do not feel pain the same way you do, John," Cameron said, expression softening as she unconsciously took his hand and stroked it reassuringly. "And thus far, we have been able to repair any resulting damage without problem."
"OK, well, yeah, OK, that might be true, but it doesn't mean I have to like it, and besides, uh, that doesn't make sense from an overall strategic standpoint. I mean, yeah, we want to take out any threats as fast as possible, but we also want to minimize damage to you so that you can be ready to face anything else that might come up the next day," John reasoned. "I mean, that'd be like a pyrrhic victory if you had taken so much damage today that you couldn't take on something we encountered tomorrow, right?"
"A Pyrrhic victory. A victory that comes with such devastating cost that the result is defeat in the overall war," Cameron recited. "Refers to one of a series of battles in ancient Roman era of human history in which …"
"Right, I know what it means, Cam. But you get it, right?" John asked.
"Yes, I get it. What you say makes sense. Do you have an alternative strategy to suggest?" Cameron asked.
"Well, I've actually given this some thought, and it occurs to me that the way you fight the way you do is that Skynet created you to destroy humans, and your superior strength and ability to take damage are enough to handle any human or group of humans. But your combat systems aren't designed to take on something as big or bigger and stronger, like other Terminators," John said. "But there are human methods of combat that might help. You can analyze some tapes and maybe get some ideas?"
And so it was that John spent the next few days gathering footage that he thought would be helpful. And so it was that that Sunday, he, Sarah, and Derek were awakened by:
"FLOAT LIKE A BUMBLEBEE STING LIKE A BEE!"
Fumbling and batting at his alarm clock, it took a few minutes before jolting awake and realizing that it wasn't his alarm clock, which read 4:56 a.m.
Running out into the living room, he found Derek and Sarah there already, staring openmouthed as Cameron did an eerily accurate impression of Muhammad Ali dancing and shadowboxing, all the while bellowing—with a perfect digital reproduction of the champ's voice—"YOUR HANDS CAN'T HIT WHAT YOUR EYES CAN'T SEE!"
Seeing as how his mom and uncle were too shocked to respond, he said, "Hey Cam … Cam!!"
Dancing toward him in a perfect imitation of Ali's famous shuffle, flicking the air with inhumanly fast jabs, she told him, "I'M A BAAAAD MAN! AND I'M PRETTY! "
"She's not that pretty," muttered Sarah.
"I MUST BE THE GREATEST!" insisted Cameron.
"Stop that, Cam, what the hell?" John said
"She's lost it," Derek said, partly disgusted and partly fascinated and awed. "The tinhead's gone stark raving mad!"
"YOU UGLY BEAR! YOU AIN'T NEVER FOUGHT NOBODY BUT TRAMPS AND HAS-BEENS! I BET YOU SCARE YOURSELF TO DEATH STARIN' IN A MIRROR!" Cam responded, skipping close to him and hopping nimbly away as Derek growled and swiped at her head ineffectually.
"Cam!" John cried grabbing her arms, and going into a clinch, trying to get her to stop dancing around. That was a mistake: to her hyperalloy superstrong combat chassis, John's added weight had about as much of an effect on her movements as breadcrumb and in the few seconds that it took her to stop, John bounced up and down like a rag doll.
Looking at him, her face still close to his due to their clinch, she cocked her head. "I am attempting assimilate the unorthodox techniques and rhythms of Muhammad Ali, the greatest boxer of all time," she informed him.
"Yeah, but did you have to do his shtick as well? I mean, you don't have to recite his lines while you do it, that's not part of it," he said quizzically.
"Ali's rhythms and techniques represent an unfamiliar, but apparently efficient way of body movement. I find it useful to imitate every aspect of his fighting to get a better sense of its core principles," she said. "I apologize for waking you," she said. "Thank you for assembling this material for me," she added. "It is very helpful."
Sarah grabbed her son by the T-shirt, still grumpy over having been awakened. She had been planning on sleeping in, for once. "What. Did. You. Do?"
"John felt it would be useful for me to study the techniques and strategies of the finest human hand-to-hand fighters as a possible way to improve my ability to avoid damage to my critical structures while engaging Terminators in head-on combat," she explained.
"Ah," Derek said, giving his nephew a dirty look. "And uh, what else did John give you to watch?"
"I have finished watching the great boxers of the 20th century, including Julio Cesar Chavez, Joe Louis, Joe Frasier, Jack Dempsey, Sugar Ray Leonard, and Muhammad Ali. I will next assimilate the skills of masters of Asian martial arts such as Jet Li, Morihei Ueshiba, Jigoro Kano and Bruce Lee. Interestingly enough, I have analyzed and established distinct similarities between the styles of Muhammad Ali and the one you call 'Bruce Lee,'" she said. "Let me demonstr--"
"No. No. No no no no no," Sarah growled, turning around and stomping off. "I don't want to see it. I'm going to bed. And YOU!" she snarled at her son, jabbing her finger at his chest, as Derek turned, pinching his nose and heading back to his room. "If Little Miss Bruce Lee over there breaks any furniture practicing her kicks, YOU get to fix it and clean it up."
"Yes'm," John said, even as out of the corner of his eye, he saw Cameron drop gracefully into a characteristic cat stance.
"Woooooahh! Hiyaaa! You have offended my family, and you have offended a Shaolin temple!"
"Oh God, what have I done," John moaned as he too walked away. The last thing he heard ...
"DON'T THINK! FEEEEEEEEEL!"
Author's Note: As a bit of trivia, Bruce Lee did in fact study the movements of Muhammad Ali closely when he was striving to develop a more efficient and practical martial art that would come to be known as Jeet Kune Do. And in coming full circle, Sugar Ray Leonard has said that when he was a teen, he in turn strove to imitate Lee's rhythm and footwork. Apologies to Messrs. Ali and Lee. The comical vision of Cameron/Summer Glau doing an Ali impression popped into my head, don't ask me why. This is the result.