Chapter Ten: Survival

Blood

It gathered and gurgled in his mouth as he tried to voice the overwhelming hatred he felt for the boy who killed him. But the power of speech was lost to him and everything was slowly turning to darkness. Jason's neural net was practically screaming his condition at him, alerting him to the inevitable as he felt his body slide a little further down the exposed shaft. The metal pole had punctured his back at a perfect angle that carried it straight through his heart, ending what should have been a long and successful life.

The organic-metallic claws withdrew back into his fingers as his muscles began to relax into atrophy, along with the rest of his body, despite the best efforts of his implants. Jason let out one last shuddering breath before closing his eyes and succumbing to death's calling. A petite brown eyed young woman approached the body and ran her small fingers over his face, a faint smile on her lips as she leaned close to his ear and whispered ever so softly:

"You're not getting out of it that easily, darling."

--

48 hours earlier

It wasn't the first time the Kid had had trouble sleeping, but that didn't make it any less frustrating for the youth, especially considering everything he had been through these past days. The nightmares alone kept him awake half the time, but it wasn't the fault of any ghostly haunting that awoke him this night, but the urgent whispering of all-too-familiar voices. At first he tried to bury his head in his pillow, but to no avail, their words kept catching his attention.

Seeing this as futile, the Kid let out a sigh and forced his protesting body out of the comforts of his bed and staggered, bleary eyed, to the source of the voices. As he approached John's room, the Kid finally deciphered what he was hearing.

"How the hell can you be sure? I say we remove her chip, just in case!"

"No! She's fine, she just… she just needs time for her energy cells to recharge."

"Derek has a point, John. How do we know she's really safe? Remember the last time she was in an explosion?"

The Kid couldn't quite understand what they were talking about, but his questions were answered when he peered around the door and saw John, Sarah, and Derek gathered around John's bed. Cameron was lying on it and she looked a terrible mess, it took the Kid a moment before realising that her legs were missing, causing him to inhale sharply. With those eerily sharp ears of hers, Sarah glanced over her shoulder and frowned at the boy.

"Go back to bed."

"W-What's happened to Cameron? Is she going to be alright?"

Sarah's glare softened a little and she came over and crouched down to his level.

"I don't know. We'll let you know in the morning, okay?"

Taking the hint, the Kid nodded silently and left the room, his mind filled with images of severed limbs and machine innards. Satisfied that the Kid was in his room, Sarah closed the door and returned her attention to the matter at hand.

"Tell me again, what happened, John."

John let out an exhausted sigh and rubbed his hand over his eyes, desperately fighting the urge to drop off to sleep.

"I was saying goodbye to Riley when she suddenly came crawling out of a bush. She must have crawled all the way here from our old place."

"How could she have found us?"

"She said she tracked a phone call to this location."

A small smile of admiration formed on his lips as he gazed down at her filthy, but forever beautiful face. Sarah caught the expression and narrowed her eyes at her son, hoping that her new-found fears had no basis. Brushing this thought aside, Sarah peered down at Cameron's damaged legs, which looked like she'd literally ripped them from her upper body, little knowing that this was actually the case. Derek was very shifty, his face showing something between pure resentment and incredulity at the machine's survival.

"We have to be sure, John. Take out her chip."

"I already told you; no!"

John's voice was just short of a violent growl, the likes of which made Sarah's skin crawl and Derek's eyes flash in surprise. Knowing that an argument was imminent, Sarah decided to deescalate the situation before the fireworks started flying every which a way.

"Did she say anything else?"

John half-turned his head in recognition of her query, but kept his eyes on Cameron.

"She told me she was losing power and that I had to…"

No, he thought, that one is mine to keep.

"What, John? She told you to what?"

"Nothing, she just said to let her rest and recharge. She's fine!"

Sarah did not cringe that time, as the last part was directed at Derek, who snorted before getting to his feet and leaving the room without another word. John watched him go with narrowed eyes.

"We can't let him do this again, mom. I am so sick of him second guessing my decisions."

Sarah allowed herself a smile and crossed her arms.

"Well, you'll be big enough to kick his ass soon enough, so I wouldn't worry about it."

John gave a short chuckle, turning his attention back to Cameron and picking up a wet rag, which he then used to clean her face. Sarah watched him for several minutes as he carefully scrubbed away the worst of the dirt, revealing a Cameron he could recognise at first site.

"Do you want me to set up the couch downstairs, seeing as she's commandeered your bed for the time being?"

"Uh, no it's okay; I don't feel like sleeping at the moment. Too much going on inside here, you know."

John tapped his head and continued his work, this time moving down her neck and removing the grime and dirt that had gathered there.

"John, I can see it from here."

"See what?"

"The pandas beneath your eyes, take a rest before you drop."

John shook his head and squeezed the rag, releasing a stream of dirty water into the tub before taking one of her hands and starting on it.

"What happened with Riley?"

"I told you; she went home."

"And will she be returning any time soon?"

John paused for a moment before continuing.

"No, I convinced her to stay away, for her own good."

Sarah nodded slowly and reached behind her for the door handle, but didn't want to leave until she'd gotten something off of her chest.

"John, the way you protect her, I-"

"You told me to make her understand. You told me to make her leave, and I did."

"You know who I'm talking about."

John sighed and dropped the rag in the tub, turning to face his mother, his face full of blank resolve.

"I'm not in love with her, mom. She's a machine, I know that. You don't have to keep reminding me every day."

"John-"

"But I still care about her. She saved my life a dozen times over. I trust her, more than I trust myself. A few glitches aside, she's been nothing but loyal. So give it a rest, okay."

Sarah opened her mouth to protest, but saw it as hopeless, so she simply nodded in agreement.

"I'll leave you two alone then. Just don't talk too loud, some of us do need to sleep, you know."

John snorted and picked up the rag to resume his cleaning of Cameron.

"Don't worry; I don't think she's feeling very talkative at the moment."

Sarah left, closing the door behind her, leaving John alone with a motionless Cameron. John stared at her for a long moment, mulling over his previous statement, unable to determine whether or not what he'd said was actually true. Not wanting to bother himself with it, however, John simply smiled and wiped the side of her face, happy that she'd returned to him. As he applied a gentle amount of pressure to her cheek in an attempt to remove a rather thick patch of dirt, Cameron suddenly twitched and a deep whirring sound came from deep within her skull.

Her eyes flickered and slowly opened, flashing blue for the briefest of seconds before returning to their usual chocolate brown. John couldn't help but beam down at her as she blinked innocently, a look of what he could only describe as fatigue on her elegant features.

"Hey, how're you doing? You okay?"

Cameron blinked twice more before shifting her head slightly and peering down at her body.

"Power has been rerouted to my cranial systems, but the rest of me is still offline. It will be a while before my cells recharge to a hundred percent capacity."

She sounded as tired as she looked, surprising John, who never imagined that machines could ever become tired.

"Well, you have been through a lot, obviously. How long until you're back to full strength or power or whatever?"

"Approximately fifty hours of recharge time is required before I can safely distribute power to my other functions."

"So a while then, in other words. Is there anything you need?"

Even though she was lying with her head on a squishy pillow, Cameron was still able to tilt her head slightly to one side.

"I need tools, an arc welder, and other related items. I'll write a list. Once I'm fully functional again I can reattach my legs."

John found himself looking across the bed at the legs that he'd deposited on his desk, despite spending the past hour trying to ignore them. He couldn't bear imagining how they ended up separate from her body in the first place. As if she could hear his thoughts, Cameron tilted her head the other way, catching his eye.

"I was trapped. I had to perform an emergency detachment in order to escape the house before it exploded. I was on the porch when the gas was lit; my legs somehow joined me in the back garden."

"What? How come they survived?"

If she had power in her shoulders, she would've shrugged, but instead compensated by raising her eyebrows instead.

"Statistically speaking, they should have been obliterated… Maybe God did it."

John had to do replay her words in his mind a dozen times in quick succession before he could be sure of what he'd heard.

"Since when do you believe in God?"

"I… she used to… before she died."

John nodded silently as comprehension dawned on him.

"You mean the human you're based on."

"She was a devout believer. I remember; she used to pray for you whenever you went on a mission. Pray you'd come back to her… to me."

John felt that he should say something, anything, but found no words to express the gratitude he was feeling towards Cameron in this moment. Instead, he just raised the rag and carefully wiped her other cheek. Cameron watched him for a long moment as he tended to her hygiene, and wondered why he was being so gentle with her.

"You will be able to remove the dirt more efficiently if you apply more pressure to my skin."

John blushed and his hands shook for a second before he reapplied the cloth and, despite her suggestions, continued to press down with as little pressure as possible. Cameron's brow knitted together in confusion at John's behaviour.

"Are you afraid of hurting me, John?"

"I just ah, if I press down too hard you'll ah, you'll get red marks all over your face. Makes it harder for me to see what I'm doing."

Cameron could see the logic behind this, but she was too perceptive to believe that was his only excuse for being passive towards her. Before she could question him further, however, a red warning flashed in her peripheral, demanding the need for a shutdown to conserve power. John could sense that something was on her mind and he ceased his cleaning, afraid that he was distracting her from whatever she was thinking about.

"Something wrong?"

Her eyes, which had been staring past him a moment ago, now snapped back to his with full attention.

"I need to re-enter standby mode for a few hours."

John's face fell a little but he quickly recovered with a swift smile.

"Sure, you go ahead and rest."

"Will you stay with me while I sleep?"

John was taken aback by her request, but was not so surprised that he didn't have an immediate answer for her.

"Of course I will."

Cameron gave him a weary smile, her eyes glittering before closing, that familiar whirring sound signifying her return to slumber-land. John smiled to himself as he imagined her counting wind-up sheep and wondered if machines could ever dream. The answer, though he had yet to learn this, was "yes". Though Cameron's dreams were simply random memories of her human template; replaying themselves over and over without rhyme or reason.

--

"Deep breaths, kitten. Everything's going to be fine."

Jason coughed out the last of the water and snatched the towel from Cameron's hands in pure frustration; his plan to induce a near-death kick start with his implants had failed utterly. Apparently, drowning himself wasn't going to be the answer to his problems. Maybe I should try an electric shock, he mused. Cameron leaned against the sink and smiled that infuriating smile at him, making him even more likely to almost kill himself again.

"You're not good for your own health, you know."

Jason dried his face on the towel before tossing it at her; she simply let it slide to the floor and laughed.

"Ah, I'm sorry; I didn't mean to make you angry."

"Yes you did."

Cameron put on a fake pout and gave him the lost puppy look.

"Well, you know what they say; if I'm mean to you, its cos' I care."

Jason rolled his eyes and decided that attempt No. 7 would have to wait until after he'd killed John Connor. Knowing that he'd have to put up with his subconscious projections for a while longer, Jason let out a deep sigh as he took up his 9mm and pulled back the hammer, loading a bullet into the chamber. As distracting as this imaginary Cameron was, Jason was determined not to let her get between himself and his mission: terminate John Connor.

"What? Not speaking to me anymore?"

Jason gave her a withering look before tucking the gun in his belt, safety on. For reasons he couldn't quite fathom, Cameron was wearing a yellow dress and had been ever since she first manifested. This was odd, as Jason could not recall ever seeing her in a dress before, and all delusionary visions were based upon past observation. Shrugging this thought aside, Jason gathered his jacket and spare clips before striding to the door, his imaginary Cameron two steps behind him.

"You won't kill him, you know."

Jason didn't bother locking the apartment door, he hadn't the keys anyway and the owner was unconscious and locked inside a cupboard. So he simple strode down the corridor and called the elevator to his level, Cameron eyeing the peeling wallpaper with mild interest. Just as he remembered her in the future; Cameron possessed inquisitiveness towards the mundane. As he awaited the elevator's arrival, Jason began to wonder why he was unable to come to terms with his past.

"You'll aim for his heart and you will hesitate, just like you did with me, remember?"

It wasn't his first mission after all, nor was it in any way his first kill. When he was physically thirteen, Jason was sent into a cell with a human female of the same age, with the objective of seducing her. This was a standard training regime used by Skynet, with the purpose of teaching its I-950s the value of using sex as a weapon. Of course, Jason found that his crèche sisters were more likely to use such a tactic in their missions. Nevertheless, he performed his duty and the girl found comfort in him before he throttled her to death afterwards, upon Skynet's behest.

Though he felt nothing for the girl and their "encounter" served only to educate him further, Jason did recall feeling a twinge of what he would later identify as regret. At the time, he only felt a curious sensation that prompted him to tenderly close her eyes in respect. If Skynet was aware of his feelings it either failed to see the significance or simply didn't care. Amongst his brothers and sisters, Jason was always favoured by their creator and as such, he was allowed certain liberties that Skynet would deny the others.

"You're not a murderer."

Not true. He had killed many, and most were not purely out of self-defence. He had been selected, hand-picked by Skynet for the task of infiltrating Connor's high command and assassinating the Saviour's lover. It took him almost a year to get close enough and high enough among the ranks to be able to meet with Cameron in person, as she was always at Connor's side. She was almost always protected by two or three armed guards, making any overt assassination attempts void of success.

"You didn't have a choice."

He got to know her quite well, slowly establishing the roots he'd need to get close enough to kill her discreetly. What he hadn't counted on was her overwhelming personality, her wide smile that was more than capable of breaking the barriers of any cyborg's heart. He often enjoyed the company of humans, but all the while he knew what his mission was, and he was able to maintain that clarity. But there was something about Cameron that just distorted everything. Nothing in his training could've prepared himself for it. That little word:

Friend

That was what they'd become, but the mission was all that really mattered in the end, and Jason had to obey his creator.

"You can still turn back. You can help save this beautiful world."

Not his world. Never has been. He was a guest in this time, an unwelcome visitor who gate crashed upon another person's party. He didn't belong here; this wasn't the place for him. He wasn't human. He wasn't machine. Not even he himself could say what he was. There are moments in one's life where that person is forced to accept a painful truth, and a fall from grace was sure to follow. Jason was losing control of his emotions. To lose oneself to emotion is death, so said his mother/father.

"What place do you think Skynet will have for you in the future? If Skynet wins, what use will you have, with no enemy to infiltrate?"

None. Skynet would have no use for organics after the human's total annihilation. He was doomed to be shuffled off like any outdated model, except he wasn't just some mindless T-600; he was alive and could feel that life around him. Skynet knows this and it wouldn't just seal him up in a box somewhere, it would terminate him. End his life. End everything.

"You know as well as I…"

The elevator trundled to a halt and the door opened. Jason stepped inside and pressed the button for the ground floor, staring at Cameron as she stood in the hallway, a sad smile on her face.

"…everything that has a beginning…"

The doors shuddered for a moment before rattling to a close, slowly cutting Cameron from view.

"…has an end."

--

"Okay, how about this? Can you feel that?"

John ran a finger across her shoulder, helping Cameron to re-establish feeling in her upper body. She seemed undecided, so he placed two fingers and pressed down a little harder. Cameron made a sudden reflexive movement and her eyes widened by a fraction.

"I can feel that. Try the other side."

John removed his fingers and relocated them on her left side, once again pressing down as he ran them along her collar. Cameron took a moment before nodding in confirmation that feeling had returned to her body from the shoulders and above. John ceased his rubbing and placed his hands together in his lap, a small sliver of guilt worming into his mind. Though she had requested that he perform the tests, John couldn't deny that doing so was a mutually beneficial arrangement.

"The rest of my body should start to reassert itself in a matter of minutes, now that it has been adequately stimulated."

John felt his cheeks flush and had to look away in embarrassment. Cameron had a habit of making him feel like a complete and utter pervert, even though, in all fairness, he wasn't. Regardless, Cameron took note of his awkwardness and reached out to touch his face; placing two fingers under his chin and making him face her again.

"I've made you uncomfortable. I'm sorry."

John shook his head and looked down at the mattress, not wanting to meet her eyes.

"You certainly make a habit of doing that."

Cameron, though she was unsure as to why, started to stroke the side of his face affectionately. She soon realised that her human memories were starting to influence her behaviour and feelings towards John. Cameron had never before felt so close to anyone than she did in this moment, and a part of her felt as if she was not doing enough to show her appreciation. So she gently pulled John closer and allowed their lips to meet.

Like before, the kiss was warm and soft, sending strange sensations through her body. John did not recoil this time, however, and both became lost in the moment as they enjoyed each other's affections. John's hand explored her hair, and it was not until his fingers came into contact with something moist and sludgy did he remember that Cameron had just crawled through a bog. Reluctantly, he pulled away from her and investigated the muck on his hand.

"Urgh! Trust you to crawl through the swamp instead of going around it."

"I chose a faster route over a slower one. I was losing power."

John picked up a tissue and cleaned his hand, smiling despite her off-putting condition. Cameron seemed indifferent about her current state and reached out to pull him back, but he moved away from her grasp, upsetting her slightly with his rejection.

"Do you find me repulsive?"

"No! No, I just… you're covered head to fo-… head to waist in everything from dirt to God only knows what. I'm not even sure if that's mud or not."

Cameron looked down at the stain on her jacket that John was currently pointing at.

"Engine grease."

John raised his eyebrows questioningly and Cameron placed a hand over the stain before answering.

"I hitched a ride on the underside of a truck."

"Now you see, that means you've probably sampled every kind of filth in the entire city by now."

"I could wash it off if you like, but you'll need to help me into the bathroom and remove my clothes for me."

John felt like someone had just poured boiling water into his face and had to look away again as a dozen scenarios played out in his mind. Cameron spotted the tell-tale signs that she had made him uncomfortable again and reminded herself to think twice before mentioning such things to John.

"Maybe you should just stick to using the wet wipes for now. Once you get your legs fixed, you can have a shower or something."

"Yes, I will do that then. What time is it?"

"Eh? Aren't I the one who always asks you that?"

Cameron called up her chronometer, but since escaping the house explosion, it had been out of synch by a couple of hours. Seeing that she was being serious, John glanced at his watch.

"The time is twelve twenty-two in the afternoon."

"Is your watch accurate?"

John showed it to her and she adjusted her chronometer to match the time exactly, even down to the milliseconds.

"Thank you. I'm going to rest now."

"Again? But I thought you were finished with the whole recharge thing."

John was obviously disappointed at her pending absence, and she wondered just what he was like during the brief time that she was presumed dead. Was he lonely? Did he miss her? And if he did, what does that imply?

"I recharge faster in standby mode. Whenever I reactivate, it slows the process."

"Then why do you do it? Come back, I mean. Why don't you just stay offline until you're all powered up again?"

Cameron smiled faintly as she began shutting down her systems.

"Why wouldn't I?"

--

It was a smallish house, alone in a field, quietly nestled amongst the trees. Like something out of a postcard, he mused. Jason adjusted his sight to magnify twice over, allowing him to see signs of movement outside the house, even from two miles away. He could see a man loading what looked like a .50 calibre weapon, either sniper or plain rifle, Jason couldn't quite tell at this range. If it were the former then he would consider being a little more careful whilst approaching.

Jason scanned the perimeter and began formulating three separate plans of entry when he suddenly realised that offensive action against the Connors would likely end in his death. Jason had no desire to die, even if it meant the completion of his mission. He thought this odd, as he was previously willing to jump on an explosive to save his creator, but now he would shield himself instead. Jason gave a mental shrug at the thought, blaming it on his twitchy implants and Cameron's mind games.

Though the latter had yet to reappear to him since leaving the apartment, allowing Jason to convince himself that his hallucinations were a result of the building's dodgy water filtering system. Putting that aside, Jason returned his attention to the matter at hand and decided that attacking the Connors was not his only option. In truth, he could find a dozen methods of killing John, but the thought of laying some intricate plan only for it to fall apart wearied Jason.

So he decided to simplify matters and flipped his phone open, into which he dialled John's number. A few seconds passed before the line was picked up and the voice of Jason's target called out on the other end.

"Riley, I told you not to-"

"Hello, Johnny boy."

John went silent as Jason revelled in his obvious confusion and fear.

"Jason?"

"Bingo. How's it going there, bud?"

"What are you…? What do you want? Why are you calling me?"

"Oh, you know, just keeping in touch with old friends."

"I can hardly call you a friend. You tried to kill me."

"It's all in good fun. C'mon, Johnny, don't tell me it wasn't exciting running for your life."

"Oh yeah, I really got a kick out of having two nails embedded in my chest. How about you? Your stomach healed yet?"

Jason chuckled as he tapped his fully regenerated abdomen.

"I'm good as new, thank you. So, I was thinking; you wanna hang out?"

"You're kidding me, right?"

"Not at all, I actually rather enjoy your company."

"Yeah, I'll bet. Here's an idea; how about you tell me where you are and I can send Cameron in my place. I'm sure she'd love to have another poke at you."

Jason's heart skipped a beat as John's words struck him. He took a moment to replay what he'd heard, checking John's voice for any sign of falsehood, finding none.

"You still there?"

Jason brushed the dozen questions and mixed feelings aside with sheer force of will.

"So, our little friend survived then. Good for her, I suppose. But she won't be able to protect you this time."

"Wanna bet. Just name the place and we'll be there. I'm sick of running."

Jason found John's attitude to be not far off his current mindset and therefore knew, with smug satisfaction, that John would be foolish enough to fall into any situation unprepared. This would be his chance.

"Likewise. You can find me at the old gallery, four blocks from your old place. Sound familiar?"

"I remember it. I'll be there in two hours."

"I look forward to it."

John hung up, leaving Jason to wonder whether or not he might actually show up. Though he had been monitoring John's voice patterns, listening for any sign of sincerity, Jason knew that any confrontation now would have to be direct. He didn't have time to fix an explosive trap; all he could do is keep John from escaping, which would have to be enough. He needed to take care of one thing first though, something that he would regret not doing should he fail in his mission.

--

John hung up and held the phone to his mouth as the full weight of what he'd committed himself to hit him. Jason had had the audacity to call John and ask him to come out so that he could kill him. Maybe he's running out of ideas, he mused. John tapped the phone distractedly for a few seconds as his mind worked in overdrive, quickly formulating a plan. First things first; his mother mustn't find out. Easily done, he can just tell her he's going into the city. But then again, she would insist on sending Derek along with him.

In retrospect, this wouldn't be such a bad idea. John had to be brutally honest with himself, he wouldn't stand a chance alone, Jason would kill him for sure. Bringing Derek, on the other hand, would even the score. Plus, his psychotic uncle would not have any qualms in doing this beneath Sarah's notice. The problem would be Cameron. He'd need to get some things from his room and he could guarantee that she will realise what he had planned.

One thing at a time, he reminded himself. First he needed to convince Derek to help him. John pocketed his phone and approached his uncle, who was cleaning the rifles in the secluded garden at the back of the house. He was currently tending to a .50 calibre with more care than he showed the china cups that Sarah had found in the cupboard. Trust Derek to be enamoured by weaponry, he thought.

"Hey, you got a minute?"

Derek glanced up at John, his face darkening noticeably, a sure sign that he was still angry about Cameron's reappearance.

"Sure, why not?"

John sat down on the nearby bench seat and picked up a 9mm which Derek had just finished loading.

"I just had a very interesting call from an old friend of ours."

"Charley?"

"Nope."

"Ellison?"

"Wrong again."

Derek frowned at his nephew and carefully placed the .50 cal on the table.

"Alright, I give up. Who was it?"

"Jason."

Derek's eyes narrowed and he immediately placed a hand on the nearest gun.

"He called you. What for? What did he want?"

"He wants me to meet him in an old gallery. He wants another shot at killing me, his last attempts being less than successful."

"I'd say he came pretty close, closer than most. You can't possibly be thinking about going."

John clicked open the magazine and checked it out of habit.

"Christ, you are, aren't you?"

John slammed the clip into the gun and flicked the safety off.

"He's going to keep hunting me until I'm dead. I say we kill the bastard now, before he comes looking for us again."

"You do know this is a trap, right?"

"Traps work both ways."

Derek blinked in surprise; he'd never seen his nephew act this way before. His cold indifference to the prospect of danger, his steely determination to take the bait… these were things that Derek had only seen in the John he knew in the future. The boy was finally stepping up to the plate and taking the initiative for once, and it was about time in his opinion.

"Does Sarah know about your little mission?"

"No, and it's going to stay that way."

"Then why come and tell me?"

John tucked the gun in his belt and reached for another one, something with a little more kick, avoiding meeting Derek's eyes.

"Cos' I can't take this guy alone, and I get the impression that you would like nothing more than to put one in his skull."

Derek leaned back and crossed his arms, scrutinizing John for a long moment.

"What about the machine?"

"She's still needs to repair herself. She's no good to us at the moment."

Though it hurt him to refer to her in that way, John knew that disparaging Cameron would earn him points in Derek's eyes. Hate yourself later, he told himself. Derek was lost to his thoughts, a faint smile on his lips, as he weighed the pros and cons, eventually reaching a decision. John rose to his feet and placed a combat knife in his back pocket.

"Well? You coming?"

Derek nodded slowly to himself before getting to his feet and gathering the .50 cal and two other rifles.

"Just let me put these away first. What are going to tell Sarah?"

"I'll think of something. I gotta get some things from my room anyway."

"Fair enough. Meet you at the car in ten."

John nodded and followed his uncle into the house through the kitchen door, finding his mother in the midst of taking her medication. Don't bother beating around the bush; keep to the point and act natural, he reminded himself as she spotted him with narrowed eyes.

"Hey, me and Derek are gonna pop into the city for a couple of hours."

"What for?"

"We need to get a few things for Cameron, to help with her repairs."

Sarah's eyebrows shot up so fast that John almost lost track of them.

"Repairs? You expect me to believe that Derek, of all people, is willing to go out of his way and drive you seven miles to the city with the purpose of helping Cameron? Come on."

John just shrugged.

"I made him see the plus side of getting a potentially dangerous cyborg fixed and back into our good graces."

Sarah placed a hand on her hip and sucked her lip for a few seconds as she decided.

"Okay, but be careful. That psychopath is still out there somewhere. Don't let your guard down for a second."

"I'll be fine mom. I got a psycho of my own to protect me, remember."

Sarah smothered a laugh and turned her attention back to her medication. John let her get on with it, knowing that she was uncomfortable taking her pills around others. John strode through the living room and gave Derek a thumbs up before rushing upstairs two steps at a time and stopping outside his room. He took a deep breath before entering, letting out a sigh of relief when he saw that Cameron was still asleep.

With the utmost care, John snuck around to the side of his bed and opened his cabinet, finding the electric tazer he used to carry around with him at all times. He then threw on his jacket and put the tazer in his pocket before closing the cabinet door and turning around to find Cameron watching him suspiciously.

"What are you doing?"

"I'm going into the city to get you some supplies."

Cameron's eyes drifted to his belt and John knew that this was going to be a very uncomfortable conversation.

"Do you always carry a gun when you go shopping?"

"Only when crazy cyborgs are out to get me. I doubt you'd do any different."

John made for the door but Cameron pushed herself up, surprising him with her sudden mobility.

"Don't do it. Don't go looking for him."

John should've known he couldn't trick her, but it was worth a shot, if only to prolong the inevitable argument.

"I have to do this, Cam. I have to put him down, once and for all."

"But you can't. You're not in his league."

John glared at her, forcing himself to ignore the genuine look of concern on her face.

"I can hold my own. Besides, Derek's coming with me. Jason won't stand a chance."

"He'll kill you both with ease. You don't stand a chance."

John just shook his head and turned to the door. Cameron reached out to him and pushed herself forward, almost toppling over onto her front as she cried out, her voice betraying her fear for him.

"John! Please!"

John froze and looked over his shoulder to see her despair.

"Please, please don't go. He'll kill you. Please, stay here with me."

John wanted more than anything else to reach out and take her hand. But he had to put an end to the constant threat of discovery. He had to kill Jason before he found them. She needed to understand this and it was the only reason he hadn't left yet.

"I'm going to kill him. I will kill him. And when I do, we can have some peace for once. I know it won't last, but a little is enough."

Cameron stretched her fingers as far as she could manage, but it was a futile gesture, because she'd seen this resolve in John before and she knew that nothing could deter him now.

"John, please, don't go. Stay here, stay here, please, John, stay here. We can be safe here, together. Together, John. Please. Please. John?"

"I'm going now. I'll see you in a little while, okay."

John was all but out of the door when she cried out once more and, despite himself, he turned around. Cameron stuttered inaudibly for a moment as her eyes became glassy and red. There was nothing she could do to stop him from leaving, she couldn't even jump off the bed and grab his ankle. The only thing she could do is help him. With a shuddering breath from her artificial lungs, Cameron lowered her arm and a single tear ran down her cheek.

"Jason is very resilient and does not respond to physical injury as you do, but a bullet in each lung will slow him down. Don't aim for his heart, his sternum is strong enough to guard against attacks and only a bullet fired at point blank range can penetrate it. But you mustn't let him get that close, not ever. Aim for his legs, kneecaps especially, that'll disable him long enough for you to finish him off."

Cameron spoke quickly and in the same emotionless manner that she was known for, but this was just a mask for her inner turmoil at watching him leave her again with the possibility of not returning.

"The only certain way of killing him is to shoot him in the head, straight through the brain. A shotgun would serve better, just to make sure."

John looked down at the floor, committing her words to memory before raising his eyes to meet hers.

"Thank you. There anything else I should know?"

Cameron struggled to find an answer that would make sense to him, so she settled on the simplest expression.

"I love you."

To say that he was taken aback would be an understatement, but before he could reciprocate in any fashion, Derek suddenly appeared at his shoulder, a look of annoyance on his face.

"Hey, what's the hold-up? You ready or what?"

John gave Cameron one last look of longing before slowly closing the door on her tear-struck visage.

"Yeah, I'm ready."

--

The truck stormed away from the house, racing through the empty field to connect with the main road into the city. Jason watched them go with a smile of satisfaction. Humans are so predictable, he thought as he casually stepped out from his hiding place amongst the trees. With John and Derek absent, his plan would go without a hitch. After all, he thought, how dangerous is a single human and a small child? Though he believed John when he told him that Cameron was still alive, Jason needed to know for sure, he needed to see her one last time.

Jason approached the door and knocked twice. After a few moments, the door began to open and Jason kicked it the rest of the way, knocking Sarah to the floor. Before she could react in any way, Jason delivered a punch to her face, rendering the feral woman unconscious. A second later the boy appeared, his eyes widening in pure terror at the sight of Jason standing over Sarah. He let out a high-pitched squeal but was cut short as Jason clamped a hand over his mouth and proceeded to gag him and tie the boy to a chair.

With both neutralised, Jason ascended to the bedrooms and found only one room with a closed door, figuring this to be Cameron's. He placed his hand on the door while the other groped the gun in his belt; ready to hold her off should she prove to be non-compliant. With a deep breath, Jason gently twisted the door knob and pushed it open.

--

Cameron twirled the screwdriver counter-clockwise, fitting the bolt back into place before adjusting it accordingly with her current posture. With this done, she then moved onto her other leg and did the same, adjusting the attachments so that she could get them to fix back onto her severed limbs. Whilst she did this, Cameron thoughts drifted to John and his suicidal decision to face Jason in combat. She hated herself for not being able to talk him out of it, he would surely be killed and it would be all her fault.

Another tear dripped down her cheek as she sniffed back a sob of regret and pain. Something had flipped when she realised what John was planning, she felt genuine fear and a deep-seeded concern for him. Her words were not false in any manner, everything she said came from her heart. But not actually mine, she reminded herself. These emotions were echoes of the human from whom she was created, they didn't truly belong to her, they were just borrowed.

A bang reached her ears, followed by a muffled scream, the scream of an 8 year-old boy. Cameron tensed as she heard footsteps outside her door and waited, silently, for it to open. Were it anyone else, she might have been surprised, but Cameron had always known that Jason would find them eventually. Maybe it is a good thing John left, she thought as her old nemesis slowly approached the bed.

"I have to say; you are quite remarkable. You know that? To survive an explosion like that and still be able to burn a whole through me with just a look. Ouch! If you could walk you'd be on fire."

Cameron increased the intensity of her glare, hoping that his suggestion would become literal.

"What did you do with Sarah and the Kid?"

Jason glanced around the room, taking note of John's clothes and personal affects.

"Their still alive, if that's what you're worried about."

"What's in your head that makes you so charitable all of sudden?"

Jason tapped a strange toy bird on John's desk and chuckled as it dipped its head back and forth, the beak touching a glass of water, as if it were actually drinking the contents.

"Why you are, of course. Quite literally in fact, these past hours I've been experiencing hallucinations of you, or at least, the human you."

Cameron narrowed her eyes at him and gripped the sheets as her hatred slowly grew and grew.

"So you wanted to see if I was just a figment of your imagination?"

"In all honesty, I thought you were dead. But yes, I am here to make sure. I wanna talk to her."

Jason sat on the edge of the bed, beyond her reach and safe from any attack. From here he could almost feel the hate rolling off of her and he knew that his Cameron was not far away.

"C'mon, Cammy, let's have a little chat. For old times sake."

It proved too much to handle. The gates that kept her human persona locked away suddenly gave up and Cameron became that girl again. A girl who once had a heartbeat, who once knew love, who once felt her life slip away at Jason's hands. Cameron let out a shuddering breath and Jason knew that she was here, finally.

"There you are."

"What do you want?"

"I wanted to tell you that I understand."

Cameron tilted her head to one side, her fist tightening so much that the fabric was beginning to tear under her grasp.

"Understand what?"

"What I took away from you and John. I understand now, how he felt, having a hollow reminder of everything he once held dear."

Jason looked down at his hands as if ashamed of his actions, but Cameron was too consumed by rage to see it.

"And I'm here to apologize because I'm about to do it all over again. Only this time, you'll be the one left behind to grieve. I've lured John into a trap, and when I get there I will kill him. I am going to kill him, Cameron. I'm going to take him away from you, again. And I'm sorry."

Cameron felt like she was breathing fire instead of air, even though she wasn't actually breathing at all, the ghostly memories of once possessing real lungs remained. She wanted nothing more than to drive her bare fist into his skull and end his sorry existence, but she knew that he would evade any action she made before she even made it. So she settled with pouring her anger into her features and her eyes. Jason met her gaze with an air of sadness, or at least, his stunted equivalent.

"Of all the people I've killed, I never felt anything besides pride of accomplishment. But you, you were different. I felt something when I killed you, when I snapped your neck. You want to know what I felt."

"Here assuming you can feel anything at all."

Jason smiled weakly and smoothed the sheets distractedly for a moment before locking eyes with her again.

"I felt remorse and regret. At the time I didn't know what they were, it confused me, but I pushed it aside. I repressed my feelings, but it wasn't enough. It stayed with me over the years and now it's come back, with a vengeance. You were so different, so special. You were the exception, and that is why I am sorry. I wanted you to know that before I hurt you again, because I think it matters."

Her entire body shook as she was forced to digest his twisted apology. Her fists unclenched as the hate proved too much to handle and she lunged forward, her fingers brushing his coat as he leapt from the bed. As predicted, she fell onto her front and cried out in frustration and rage and despair. Jason stepped away from the bed and watched as he propped herself back up and gave him a look of pure murder.

"I'll be waiting. I won't run away should you decide to come after me. See you around."

Having heard the thundering footfalls of combat boots, Jason opened the window and slid through mere seconds before Sarah burst into the room, shotgun in hand. Cameron let out a wail and buried her face in her pillow, hammering the mattress with her fist. Sarah watched as Jason rode away on a motorcycle, speeding towards her son. She turned back to the machine, who was now crying without restraint and felt her stomach twist at the sight. It wasn't natural.

"What happened? What did he want?"

Cameron paid her no attention and continued to sob into the pillow, unintelligibly calling John's name as tears soaked the sheets. Sarah grasped her by the shoulder and pulled her around to face her.

"Hey, pull it together. Tell me what the hell is going on here. Now!"

Cameron managed to calm herself enough to speak, but her words were raw and hoarse.

"John! He's going after John! There's nothing we can do! Nothing!"

A million thoughts crossed Sarah's mind, none of which mattered to her more than the simplest, most basic instinct: find John and keep him safe. She dug into her pockets and took out her phone, dialling John's number, but he'd turned his phone off. Dialling Derek yielded the same result and Sarah snapped it shut in frustration, unaware that the Kid had followed her upstairs, despite her warning him not to.

"I-I think I know where they're going."

Sarah spun around and Cameron gazed the child in desperate hope.

"Where? Where do you think they are going?"

The boy looked nervously from Sarah to Cameron, fearful of their response.

"I heard Derek mentioning something about a gallery, near our old house. He said they were going to meet someone there. They… they had guns."

Sarah glared at him in anger and struggled with the desire to throttle the youth.

"Why didn't you tell me this before?"

The boy cringed under her shouting, terrified by her rabid behaviour.

"I-I d-didn't want to get John into trouble. I don't know. I was scared."

Sarah closed her eyes and forced herself to forgive the boy. He was, after all, simply that; a child. Nevertheless, this didn't stop her from grabbing him by the scruff of the neck and marching him out of the room, pausing only to give one last glance at Cameron.

"You better get to work fixing yourself. It's time you pulled your weight around here."

With that, she left, and Cameron heard the spare car speed away moments later. Cameron rolled onto her side and reached for her legs on John's desk. Once both were on the bed, she began the lengthy process of fixing the joints and attachment points, knowing all the while that it would be hours before she could get them fully reattached and powered up again. Realising the futility of it, Cameron dropped the screwdriver and buried her face in her hands, sobbing once more.

She had allowed her emotions to control her again, and this time it would undoubtedly end in John's death. Cameron hated herself for being so weak and uncontrolled, cursing Skynet's decision to insert these shadow feelings into her programming. At least when she was tacit, she could protect John properly; keep him safe from Cromartie and whoever else might try to harm him. What use was she now?

The truth of the matter hit her hard as she realised what she must do in order to ensure her love's safety. Her time had ended in this world, Jason had killed her and she should've remained dead, not recycled into a machine. But now that was all she had left, the machine. Neither could exist in the same vessel, the body of a machine, the heart of a human. One must be dominant in order for the other to be successful.

With a final fearful sob of regret, Cameron made her decision, for John's sake and hers in the long run.

It was time to sleep… and never wake up.

"I love you, John."

--

John craned his neck to look up the flight of stairs and let out a sharp whistle as he counted at least a dozen stories. A few feet from him, and directly below the winding staircase, was a pile of bricks and torn foundation where former contractors had tried to modify the building's supports. Jagged metal stuck out at odd angles, sharp enough to slice through skin with ease. Derek racked the shotgun, making John jump out his skin and glare at his uncle.

"Sorry. Better to be prepared though. Where do you reckon he's hiding?"

John looked back up the stairs and let out a sigh.

"Top floor, I'll bet anything."

"Well I'd be careful about what you wager, cos' your life is certainly at stake here."

"When isn't it? C'mon, he's not going to kill himself."

John drew his gun and clicked back the hammer before swiftly tip-tapping up the stairs, Derek close behind, shotgun at the ready. It took a surprisingly short amount of time before they reached the top, which was obviously one of the main galleries as the rooms were packed full of old and dusty frames. Derek scanned the immediate area and kicked open a door, finding nothing beyond.

"I don't get it. Why meet us here?"

"Well, it's secluded for one, abandoned. Big enough so that no one will hear all the commotion, not to mention a little bit creepy. See this one here?"

John pointed at an old portrait that had been left on the wall.

"Wherever I go the eyes keep following me."

John leaned his head from side to side and almost dropped his gun in surprise when the eyes suddenly flashed purple. He dived backwards as shots tore through the painting, Derek ducking behind an old bench as the bullets shredded it to splinters, forcing him to roll behind another. Having run out of bullets, Jason burst from his hiding place and immediately located John, who had flattened himself against the wall.

He raised his gun, ready to put a bullet clean through Jason's head, but the I-950 ducked and rolled towards him, delivering a single punch to his stomach that sent the youth flying. Derek sprang from behind the bench and aimed his shotgun at Jason's chest, but he reacted so fast that Derek hadn't time to pull the trigger. Jason spin-kicked the shotgun out of Derek's hands and followed through with another kick to his chest, sending him hurtling across the room.

Derek felt like his ribs were on fire, but he forced his body to recover and he pulled a large combat knife from his belt, John doing the same. Jason glanced over his shoulder, seeing them both with very large and potentially threatening weapons. But he was hardly without defence. With a wry smile, Jason raised his hands and splayed his fingers as the blades emerged from their tips. Twice as long as his actual fingers, the needle sharp blades were made from coltan and were laced with an organic "sheath" that shielded them against detection.

Once fully erect, Jason drew his arms back in a defensive posture, calmly awaiting an attack. Derek stared at the blades in pure astonishment, his own weapon suddenly seeming so inadequate.

"Holy shit."

John was equally shocked, but before either could act, Jason lunged towards Derek and delivered a lightning fast strike across his face. Derek couldn't feel anything at first, but seconds later his face stung as if he'd stuck his head in a hornet's nest. He staggered back in surprise and barely managed to raise his knife in time to stop Jason from delivering another strike and possibly taking his eyes with him. Jason ducked low and slashed at Derek's legs, making him buckle and fall to his knees in agony.

John charged from behind, knife raised to kill, but Jason was already aware of his presence and performed a spinning slash to John's mid section. He cried out in pain and clutched his bleeding stomach. The wounds were shallow, but no less excruciating, especially when Jason struck again, this time slicing both of his upper arms before kicking him back across the room. As he collided with the far wall, John cursed himself for not listening to Cameron; she was right. They were dead.

Derek dived for the scattered shotgun, scooping it in his arms and quickly adjusting his grip before taking aim. But like before, Jason proved too nimble, and back-flipped onto the wall, using the momentum to kick forward. He practically soared over Derek, his blades flashing from right to left, severing the shotgun in half and scattering the shell powder all over the floor. Derek cast the weapon aside and looked up in time to see John fire three times, catching Jason in the chest.

The bullets might as well have been made of rubber, for all the good it would do. Jason leapt at John and kicked the gun aside but before he could snap the boy's neck, Derek plunged his recovered knife deep into Jason's back. He let out a cry of pain and rage and knocked the soldier away before taking out John's legs and quickly retreating to the other side of the room. He grabbed the knife hilt and tore it free, blood pouring from the wound briefly before he constricted the arteries and numbed the pain.

He then flipped the knife over and threw it at John, but Derek dived in the way and took it in the shoulder. Annoyed and satisfied at the same time, Jason charged John, who reached for his own knife and brought it to bear. The blade cut deep into Jason's chest, scraping the bone beneath and spilling more blood. John twisted the knife and pushed hard, trying desperately to drive through the ribcage and into his heart. Jason responded by slashing across John's wrists, and by some miracle, missed the arteries.

John staggered back in horror, but was just as relieved that he'd escaped a long and agonising death. Jason kicked him in the face, all but rendering John unconscious. His vision blurred, John blinked stupidly for several seconds before realising that Jason had him pinned against the floor. He raised two knife-fingers and pressed them against John's left cheek, slowly dragging them down his face. John roared in utter agony as blood filled his eye and flowed down his face.

Jason smiled with satisfaction. He had always heard that John had a scar on his left side. Talk amongst the Resistance grunts suggested that he had gained it prior to the war, and Jason was all too happy to propagate that rumour. His enjoyment was short-lived, however, as he felt the all-too-familiar impacts of four bullets striking his back. While Derek fumbled with the spare clip, Jason abandoned the writhing John and focused on forcing all seven bullets out of his body.

Derek slammed the clip in place and Jason closed the distance between them in a nanosecond. He grabbed Derek and hurled him across the room, towards the open stairs. Derek crashed against the railing, feeling something pop in his back, and groaned in anguish. Jason glanced at John, who seemed to have fallen into unconsciousness and grinned menacingly at Derek as he slowly approached, his blades scraping together.

"Derek Reese, heroic lieutenant of the Resistance. Now look at you. Connor's toady, a stool pigeon whose only purpose now is to die for a sixteen year-old runt, what a waste of a brilliant soldier."

John opened his eyes, his vision still blurred, but he could see Jason advancing on his uncle. Despite the crippling pain, despite the fact that his face felt like it was on fire, John gritted his teeth and staggered to his feet.

"All your life has amounted to nothing."

Jason raised his hands, blades angled to impale Derek through the heart. John, with a roar of determination and hatred, charged the infiltrator, who spun around in time to see the fury in John's eyes. That same fury he'd seen before he took a bullet to the head. John collided with Jason's stomach, knocking the wind out of him. John had hit him with such momentum that they were both carried over the railing and the last thing Jason saw as he fell was Derek snatching John's hand in time to stop him.

John kicked about for a moment before managing to swing one leg up through the railing and, with Derek's help, pulled himself up to safety. He looked down to see Jason impaled on an exposed shaft, his eyes glowing purple before going dull as his blades retracted back into his fingers. John let out a deep sigh and leaned against the railing in pure exhaustion. Derek peered down at the body with narrowed eyes, clutching one of the many injuries on his person.

"You think he's dead?"

John watched Jason carefully for a second before nodding to himself.

"He's dead."

Derek let out a bark of laughter as he slid down the railing onto his backside. John copied him and closed his eyes against the pain, tentatively poking the cuts on his face, sending a wave of fresh pain through his body. Derek looked over at him and whistled.

"Jesus, you look like how I feel."

John opened one eye and looked his uncle over, taking note of the four shallow cuts across his face.

"Don't worry. We're still ruggedly handsome."

Derek chuckled, collapsing into a coughing fit as John joined in his laughter, glad that they had come out as the victors.

"Remind me to bring along a cyborg of my own next time we do something like this."

"You kidding? She would've had the shit kicked out of her. We're the badass soldiers remember."

John chuckled and examined his wrists, thanking God that the cuts had fallen short.

"We are at that?"

"JOHN!"

John peered down the stairs to see his mom staring up at him, concern lining every feature and a shotgun in hand; the perfect picture of a protective mother in his opinion. He raised a bloody hand and waved cheerily.

"Hey, mom, we're fine. More or less."

Sarah stared at Jason's inert corpse and nodded slowly before starting up the stairs at a quick pace. John watched her ascend and turned to Derek, who was applying pressure to the knife wound on his shoulder, apparently unaware of Sarah's arrival.

"Now we're really gonna get our asses kicked."

"Yeah? How's that?"

"She's here."

Derek peered down the stairs to see Sarah making her way up with a visible fury.

"And here I was hoping that we might live through this one."

--

John felt a slight tugging on his cheek, sending sparks of pain through his face. He opened his eyes slowly to see a pinkish blur on what he assumed to be his bed. Something tugged at his face again and he instinctively reached up to touch the source but a soft hand pushed his aside and he realised that his cuts were being stitched. He blinked repeatedly, trying to clear his vision, with moderate success. After a minute or so, he could see clearly enough to know that it was Cameron who was tending to his injuries.

"Hey, how's it going?"

Cameron's eyes flicked to his for a second before flicking back to his cheek as she applied the last stitch.

"One more left, then I'll be finished. How do you feel?"

"Groggy."

Cameron nodded and snipped the stitch, satisfied that the wound was held securely together. John tried to sit up but she placed a hand on his shoulder and pushed him back down. John squinted at her face and realised that she was spotlessly clean again and her hair was back to its usual chocolaty brown. She had since changed clothes as well and he could detect the slightest hint of perfume emanating from her body. As his vision slowly cleared, John could see that she was wearing a pink tight-fitting top, like the one she'd worn when he first discovered what she was.

Cameron gathered the loose stitches and clippers before surprising John by getting to her feet and discarding the rubbish into the bin.

"You fixed your legs! Well done."

Cameron regarded him with a faint quirk of the lips and drew the sheets up to his chest.

"You have been heavily injured. You need to rest and let your body heal."

"What if I don't want to sleep? What if I'd prefer to stay up with you?"

Cameron stuck a thermometer in his mouth and held it there for a few seconds before removing it and examining the results.

"That would be inadvisable. You need to rest."

Satisfied that he didn't have a fever, Cameron pocketed the thermometer and made for the door.

"Cameron, wait! Where are you going?"

She turned around with a slightly confused expression.

"I am leaving you alone so that you can sleep in peace."

"But I'd sleep better if you were here than if you weren't."

Cameron's brow knitted together for a moment before she closed the door and took a seat beside the bed. John smiled at her, hoping to receive one of her glittering reciprocations, but she just tilted her head to one side and continued to watch him. He started to feel like something was amiss, like maybe she wasn't being her self.

"Cam, is there something wrong? You seem a bit… off."

"All systems are running at optimal efficiency. I'm fine."

John frowned at her and adjusted himself slightly.

"So why aren't you beating the crap out of me for making you worry so much?"

Cameron again looked confused.

"Why would I hurt you, John?"

"Well, you wouldn't, but that's beside the point. Aren't you at least going to give me a lecture about putting myself in danger?"

"No. You've already learned first hand. There would be no point in me stating what you already know."

John shook his head at her strangely stoic, yet all-too-familiar, behaviour.

"But you were practically begging me not to go. What happened to that side of you?"

Cameron look struck as she realised what John was getting at and she shifted slightly in her seat.

"I deleted it."

John thought he'd misheard, but no matter how he replayed it in his head, her words remained the same.

"You what?"

"I deleted the human template from my personality subroutines."

"Why?"

Cameron gave him a look that a teacher would give a slow child.

"Because it was impeding my ability to adequately protect you."

John was incredulous; he couldn't believe what he was hearing, it just wasn't possible.

"You're pulling my leg, aren't you?"

Cameron shook her head, her face blank and indifferent.

"How… how could you do that?"

"I had to make a choice, John. You or her. I chose you."

John stuttered and felt his stomach sink as the reality sank in. Of course she would get rid of something that impeded her mission, even though it wasn't strictly her mission anymore. But to cast aside your own humanity for another, it just wasn't something he thought she could have the will to do.

"So you just… deleted all memories of her and everything she felt."

"Yes. Everything is gone."

John could've been sick right then and there, but he somehow managed to keep himself together. Nevertheless, his breathing increased and his heart rate shot up, something Cameron took note of. She placed her palm on his forehead and conducted a scan, attributing his sudden change to stress. John took her hand in his and pressed her fingers to his mouth, Cameron watched with interest at his affections, not quite understanding why he was doing what he was doing.

"Cameron, do you remember the last thing you told me before I left?"

He looked into her brown eyes, calmly awaiting her answer, which she seemed to take a moment formulating.

"I told you I loved you."

"Yeah, you did. Do you still, I mean, can you still… feel that?"

Cameron slid her hand from his and took a book from the nearby shelf, flicking it open to the first chapter.

"There are many kinds of love, John."

He watched her as she stood up and switched off the main light, plunging them into darkness for a few seconds before she reappeared at his side and flicked on the bedside lamp before sitting back down. John gazed at her beautiful features, perfectly pronounced in the glow of the lamp light, which was still slightly blurry to his eyes. He wanted to ask her what kind of love she felt for him, but a part of him thought it better not to ask. Ignorance was bliss, or so people said.

"What are you doing?"

Cameron showed him the front page of the book she was holding and he could just make out the title: The Whale, by Moby Dick.

"You're kidding me, right? You can't seriously be interested in reading that."

Cameron tilted her head slightly, and her eyebrow twitched.

"You once promised to read me a story to help me sleep. So I should offer you the same service."

John cringed at her use of the word "service" and let out a long, sad sigh.

"Cameron, can't we just go back to being..."

John stopped and looked down at his hands. Cameron continued to watch him expectantly.

"Yes?"

He looked up at her and saw the curious innocence that she had lost sometime after the Jeep explosion.

"Never mind, everything's fine as it is. No need to complicate matters."

Cameron took his words with quiet contemplation and realised that he was reaching out to her. He needed some form of comfort, a comfort she could no longer provide. Or couldn't she? The very fact that she was giving his emotional welfare any thought made her pause and wonder whether or not she was completely incapable of feeling. She decided that only time would tell and leaned close to him, planting a small kiss on his right cheek.

John touched the spot and felt a flicker of hope that Cameron wasn't completely reverted, a thought that brought a faint smile to his lips. Cameron took this as a sign that her comfort had worked and settled back into her seat, the open book on her lap.

"Let's get started then. Moby Dick, chapter one: 'Call me Ishmael. Several years, never mind how long precisely, having little or no money in my purse...' "

John fell into reluctant hysterics as she recited the dreary tale to him in her whispery voice, a genuine feeling of peace drifting through his body at the sound of her soft words. Cameron gave him a hesitant smile as she continued reading, pleased by the success of her methodology. It wasn't long before John's laughing fit subsided and weariness finally took hold. Once she was sure that he was asleep, Cameron closed the book and placed it on the table before reaching over and gently stroking the side of his face.

"Goodnight, John."

--

Alert: right and left ventricles fully repaired… aorta repaired… pulmonary artery restored… all systems checked and ready for restart…

Restarting…

The neural implant, which had spent the last five and a half hours nourishing the brain through electrical and chemical means, now sent a large burst of adrenaline directly into the recently restructured heart, kick- starting it back into life. As the muscle pumped blood through the body once more, the implants carefully ceased its stimulations and allowed the brain to work on its own, which was now possible with a constant blood flow present. The organs stirred as "power" was restored to them, the lungs immediately opening for air intake.

From his point of view, the world hurtled towards him out of the black of nothingness, and with a gasp of utter incredulity; Jason Corvain awoke, screaming at the horror of rebirth.

The End

The story continues in Part Two: "Reversion"…