Chapter 10: From Amongst the Ashes…
Identification: JOHN CONNOR
Through the scope of an M40A3 sniper rifle Cameron could see her entire life and the reason behind her very existence: John Connor.
She couldn't resist, she couldn't fight, she could only place the cross-hairs on his chest and squeeze the trigger. The bullet blew free from the long chamber, a small burst of fire marking its exit as it tore through the air and into John's chest. She watched his eyes widen in surprise before his entire body became limp and dropped to the floor, motionless. Cameron focussed on him for a long moment, analysing his vital signs and finding his heart to be silent.
Primary Target: JOHN CONNOR
Mission Status: COMPLETE
She continued to stare at his body for what might be called an eternity, were she not to possess an internal chronometer. Her whole body started to shake and her eyes began to brim before the dam broke free and all of her feelings flooded into every atom of her vessel. He was dead, she'd killed him, she'd taken his light away, never to return. Cameron let out a piercing cry and huddled herself into a foetal position, rocking back and forth as the bare horror of life consumed her.
There was no comfort for a machine, no words to ease the pain, just an empty future for a now-useless construct.
John was dead… and so too was she.
A flash of lightning, crimson like blood, coursing through his veins, feeding his body the energy it needed to recover.
A gasping breath escaped John's lips as the world slapped him in the face, dragging him back from the brink and onto the cliff's edge. His vision slowly regained its focus, showing him the night's sky, Orion shining above him, weapon raised for war. He blinked several times before the dull ache came back to him, causing him to grit his teeth and let out a strangled groan of agony. He placed a hand on his shoulder and dug into the armour beneath his jacket, removing the twisted bullet from the dented metal.
He held it within his sight for a few seconds before tossing it aside and reaching across the sand for his shotgun. Despite his body screaming in protest, John placed one hand on the car bonnet and hoisted himself to his feet, the distant noises of the world slowly becoming clearer. He could see three dim figures fighting in the distance, the fourth, Nathan, racing to join the fray. As his mind caught up with recent events, John remembered the cause of his revival; the crimson lightning, Nathan's plasma weapon. Nathan had saved his life.
Promising to give the Triple-9 a pat on the head later, John started the slow limp towards the duelling cyborgs, determined not to let a little thing like death stay his hand.
The poly-alloy consumed his entire body, encapsulating him in a layer of solid metal, just in time to soften the impact of Cipher's punch. Jason jumped back and dodged the predictable response, retaliating with a spin kick to the T-700's head, sending it stumbling into a rack of old machinery. Jason expected the Triple-9, but not a defunct model like this, and he could only wonder where John had procured it in the first place. Not that it mattered, John was dead, by Cameron's hand no less, and the only regret Jason felt was that it wasn't by his.
Cipher dived for Jason's neck, but the Infiltrator proved to be far swifter than his opponent and once again delivered a kick that knocked the machine off balance. Jason followed up with a direct kick to Cipher's face, hitting it with enough force that it dropped to the floor with a heavy thud. Jason took a moment to check on Cameron's progress, seeing her suffering beneath Nathan's incessant barrage of blows. Seeing movement in the corner of his eye, Jason turned in time to catch a metal pipe that Cipher had attempted to crack over his head and wrenched it from the T-700's grip, swiping it across Cipher's legs, once again dropping it to the floor.
This is too easy, he thought to himself.
Jason spun the pipe in his hands as he circled to perplexed machine, waiting for it to get back on its feet.
Cameron tried to get back up but Nathan delivered another crushing kick to her face, smashing her back into the dirt and fragmenting her vision. She couldn't last much longer against the Triple-9, not that she really cared now that John was dead. But Jason had ordered her to help and her directives demanded that she obey an order from an "intelligence unit", so she tried again to regain her footing, but like before, Nathan kicked her back down, a satisfied smile on his face.
He opened his palm and charged the plasma energy, ready to fry her circuits with a single destructive blast. But as he took aim, Cameron lifted up her head and stared wide-eyed at something behind him. Intrigued, Nathan glanced over his shoulder to see John standing there, shotgun in hand.
Cameron couldn't believe what she was seeing; John was alive. This was impossible and for a moment she thought she was suffering an imaging glitch of some sort, but as her identification function kicked in and her mission status renewed, she knew it to be true. She knew he was alive, and her figurative heart leapt for joy, but at the same time sank into despair, because she also knew that she would have to kill him all over again.
John looked from Cameron to Nathan and inclined his head to Jason and Cipher.
"Go take care of Jason, I'll handle this."
Nathan narrowed his eyes at John for a long moment before obeying his command and rushing towards the other combatants, releasing his charged blast of energy into Jason's chrome chest, hurling him across the sand and allowing Cipher to run back to John's aid. Cameron slowly got back to her feet and eyed John warily, receiving a dark look of mingled hate and regret.
"It's time to end this, Cam."
Cameron raised her head a little and clenched her fists, keeping an eye on the approaching T-700, before diving at John and receiving a shotgun blast at close range. The shell tore through the smooth flesh of her belly and sent her flying off course, landing in a heap at Cipher's feet. The primitive machine stared down at her without pity and raised his foot, driving it down upon her face and blotting out the world in a blanket of darkness.
His body still hummed from the blast, but the alloy had absorbed most of the damage and saved him from the worst of it. Nathan advanced, a smug smile of anticipation on his face as he charged up another attack. Jason wasted no time in reaching into his pocket and retrieving the detonator remote, pressing the red button on the top. A small beeping sound came from beneath the sand at Nathan's feet, which was immediately followed by a chain of razor-sharp wires that burst from the sand, shredding Nathan in a cacophony of jagged edges.
The Triple-9 fought to free himself, effortlessly untangling himself from the wire, but before he could get completely free; Jason pressed another button on the remote and a hail of serrated barbs and hooks exploded from the factory wall, cutting deep into Nathan's skin and tearing large chunks from his left side. Nathan let out a roar of frustration and burst free from the wire, shredding his body further as he leapt at Jason. The I-950 dodged and grabbed Nathan from behind, using his own momentum to slam him into the factory wall.
Nathan spun around and slammed Jason's head against the wall before hurling him into the tangle of wires that he himself had just escaped. Jason cried out in agony as the wires and barbs sliced through his flesh, scraping the bone beneath. The more he struggled, the worse his predicament became, as the wires entangled him further. Though he had quickly numbed the pain, Jason knew that he had to calm his nerves in order to get free and took a deep breath as Nathan once again charged up his weapon.
Cameron allowed Cipher to pin her against the machinery, John's shotgun blast shredding the T-700 instead of her. He dropped the empty weapon and drew his Glock, aiming for Cameron's eyes. She placed a hand on Cipher's neck and pushed him into John's view, once again shielding herself before kicking the T-700 away from her, sending it colliding with John. Whilst they were both down, Cameron quickly kicked the gun out of reach and grabbed the front of John's jacket, lifting him off the ground and raising her fist to strike.
Cipher caught her wrist just in time, however, and forced John free from her grip, dragging Cameron away. John backed up, clutching his chest and feeling the intense rhythm of his heartbeat at having come so close to dying again. Cameron broke free of Cipher's grasp and elbowed him in the face before taking out its legs. It was her turn to slam a foot into his face, crushing it into the sand. John picked up a rusted engine part and brought it down upon Cameron's head, only for it to disintegrate upon impact.
Cameron retaliated by slamming her fist into John's mouth, causing him to stagger away, cradling his bloodied jaw. Cipher raised a leg and swiped Cameron in the mid-section, knocking her back and allowing him to get to his feet. He delivered an open palm strike to her shoulders, throwing her against an old generator, and then followed up with a punch to her face. She dodged, however, and his fist became embedded inside the generator.
Cameron slapped a button on the generator's side, sending a burst of electricity into Cipher's body, overloading his systems and forcing an emergency shutdown. Cipher became a statue, leaving John defenceless. Cameron strode towards him, stopping as her HUD suddenly flickered.
Mission: TERMINATE JOHN CONNOR
Error: TERMINATION OVERRIDE
She felt that mechanical need slip away once more and was able to see John with loving eyes again. He could sense the change in her and for a moment he could see his Cameron standing a few feet away, a lost and confused expression on her face.
"John? I… I'm so-"
Error: OVERRIDE FAILURE
John narrowed his eyes at her as she slowly regained her focus and closed the gap between them.
Finally tearing free of the last wire, Jason stumbled away from the livid Triple-9 and performed a quick diagnosis of the poly-alloy sheath, discovering that Nathan's last plasma blast had destabilised its molecular structure, thereby reducing its effectiveness. This was not good, for without his sheath, Jason would surely be killed. Not that he had much time to worry about that as Nathan launched himself at the Infiltrator, shunting him against the conductor.
Jason could feel the bruises from his last encounter with Cameron flare up again upon impact and gritted his teeth as the pain was automatically numbed. Nathan delivered a kick to Jason's chest, cracking three ribs in one go and puncturing a lung. For what Jason could only guess was the thirtieth time, he doubled over as all the wind was knocked out of him. Nathan did not relent, however, and smashed his fist into Jason's face, shattering the bone beneath.
He could feel the raw brittleness of his face, and was certain that it would crumble any second, but it remained in place. Regardless, he could hardly think straight anymore and another punch would be the end of him. But he was not going to give up so easily, especially when he saw John alive and well in the corner of his eye. Nathan pulled his fist back and drove it towards Jason's face, only for the I-950 to slip away from the blow and gather the dropped remote.
He pressed the button and Nathan could no longer move; his entire body started to slide across the sand and press firmly against the conductor, trapping him in place by a magnetic field. Nathan cursed Jason and fired a blast of plasma at the Infiltrator, disintegrating most of his mimetic sheath, the remainder of which flew towards the conductor and splattered on its surface. Jason dropped to one knee, his injuries taking their toll, but he refused to give up yet and forced himself upright again.
John caught Cameron's wrist just in time, but it made little difference as she was far stronger than he and pressed the jagged metal against his chest, using her inhuman strength to force it through his layers of Kevlar. John could feel it slowly cutting through his clothing and tried to squirm free but she held in place, her face set with concentration. The shard sliced through the last layer of protection and drew blood, causing John to gasp in pain, his eyes widening in terror.
"Cameron! Cameron! Please, please, do- DON'T!"
But as much as she wanted to stop, she couldn't, and the sound of his screaming may just as well have been from her own mouth as it perfectly mirrored the chaos within her mind. He writhed and twitched as she slowly pushed the shard deeper into his shoulder, twisting it to ensure that the wound wouldn't immediately close and to increase blood loss.
Error: TERMINATION OVERRIDE
Error: OVERRIDE FAILURE
The brief pause was all John needed to slide his knife from his pocket and drive it into her wrist, disrupting the movements of her servos. She stared down at the knife for a moment, as if confused by the tactic, before removing it and raising the weapon above her head, ready to plunge it into John's heart… her heart.
John stared into her brown eyes, certain that they would be the last thing he ever saw, but the death blow never came. Instead, a large shadow passed over them both and Cameron suddenly disappeared, the knife clattering to the floor. John blinked several times as a cloud of dust and sand swept up around him, blotting out the world around him. Once the dust had settled, John could see Cipher standing beside the generator, his hand on a makeshift lever.
John followed the machine's gaze to see Cameron pinned against the factory wall by a massive steel girder, her arms trapped and her entire body twitching. Cameron was being bombarded by a multitude of messages and damage reports, but the most prominent stood above the rest.
Warning: ERROR ERROR ERROR 101011011100001101100110111000011100110101
Warning: ALL SYSTEMS COMPROMISED […] MISSION CONFLICT […] ERROR […] VIRUS DETECTED […] INITIATING COUNTERMEASURES
John dived for the weapon bag and retrieved the M-79, Cipher rushing to engage an injured Jason, holding him at bay with relative ease. John grabbed a single explosive round and staggered towards Cameron, who was trying in vain to free her self. He loaded the round into the M-79 and snapped the chamber shut, flicking the safety off as he raised the weapon and took aim. Cameron stopped struggling and looked John right in the eye, her face set with utter desperation.
"John! John, don't do this, please don't do this! John? Please, John, please!"
John took a few steps closer, peering down the barrel and aligning it with her head. Cameron shook violently and her eyes darted all over the place, searching for some desperate means of escape, finding none. John took a deep breath and started to squeeze the trigger, causing Cameron to snap her attention back to him, her eyes widening in dread.
"No! No, no, no, no, no, John, please! Please, I'm good again, I promise, I'm good, please! I won't hurt you, I promise! I'm good now! I'm good, I'm good, I'm good! Please! Please! John!"
Despite him self, John allowed himself a moment of hesitation and stared into her eyes, trying to see the sincerity behind them.
"I'm good, I promise! I won't hurt you; I would never hurt you, please! Please don't… don't kill me, John!"
She dissolved into tears, her sobs cutting into him like the shard she'd tried to murder him with, and this helped him remember what she was and the lies she told. He aimed down the barrel again and her struggling intensified.
"JOHN! PLEASE! NO! I DON'T WANNA GO, JOHN! PLEASE! PLEASE DON'T MAKE ME GO! DON'T MAKE ME GO! DON'T… MAKE… ME… GO!"
"Why? Why should I believe a word you say? You're not fixed! You were never fixed! Just restrained! This is what you are; a machine!"
"No, John, I'm more, you know that! You know it! You told me, remember! You told me I was special! And you were right! You were right!"
John shook his head in denial, disgust rising in his throat at the memory of Marty's broken body.
"I was wrong! You murdered Marty! You're no different than the others!"
Cameron's desperation was mixed with confusion as John's words sank in. She stared at the floor for a few seconds as she made sense of it all before flicking her gaze back to John, fresh tears running down her cheeks.
"No! No, that wasn't me! That wasn't me, John! I never touched Marty, I promise! I-I never… John, I swear! It wasn't me!"
"I'm not lying, John! I'm not! I never touched him! I never! Please, John! Just put the gun down, please! Just talk to me, please! Let me talk! I just wanna talk, please! Don't do this, John! Don't! I'm begging you, please! Don't kill me, John, don't kill me, please!"
John's hands began to shake and his palms became increasingly sweaty, his breathing coming faster and harder. He knew how good a liar she was and he knew she would try everything to save herself, but he couldn't help but be affected by her words. It was his birthday all over again; she was trapped and in his mercy, but this time he had none. His emotions then were the same as they are now, only twice as intense. The pain, the conflict, the anguish, it all bit into him, tearing his soul apart as he struggled against his feelings.
"I'm sorry, Cam. But I can't let myself trust you again, not after everything you've done, not after Marty."
"I didn't kill him, I swear! I didn't do it! I didn't! I love you, John! I love you and would never hurt you! I would never hurt you! I love you!"
He expected her to drop that one eventually, though he was not truly prepared to hear it again, and he failed to realise that he had yet to pull the trigger.
"I love you, John, and you love me! You love me! You love me! You know you do! You can't kill me! You can't! We can be… we can be… us, John! Don't kill us! Don't destroy this! You need me, please! I need you too, you know I do! I need you, please! Please! I love you, John!"
John could keep his grip on the weapon, but he couldn't hold back the tears and he was shaking worse than ever.
"I'm damaged, John! I'm broken! But I can be fixed! You can fix me! That's why I came to you, John! I wanted you to fix me! Please fix me! You can fix me, and then everything will go back to the way it was! Everything will be good again! I'll be good again! I'll be Cameron again! Please, give me that chance! Please, John, please! Remove my chip! Take it out, anything, just don't kill me! Please! Please, John!"
John blinked, a part of him considering her request, but the other remained resolute and reminded him of his promise to his mom. He steadied his aim and started to squeeze the trigger, the tears streaming from his face as he looked into the pleading pools of brown.
"I'm sorry, Cameron. I'm so sorry."
"NO, JOHN, PLEASE! I'M SORRY FOR WHAT I DID! I'M SORRY! I'M SORRY! PLEASE! I'M SO SORRY! JOHN!"
But his mind was made up and nothing could change it now. Marty had to be revenged, Sarah and Derek had to be appeased, and he needed to let go. But by some quirk of fate, John's sweaty finger slipped off the trigger and Cameron cried out, freezing his blood with her words.
"JASON! JASON, HELP ME, PLEASE! HELP ME! JASON!"
He couldn't believe what he was hearing; she was calling for Jason's help. There was no denying the desperation in Cameron's voice as she called out to the I-950; she was terrified for her life, so much so that she was willing to turn to Jason for help. John wavered; the blatant display of such fear and survival in a machine was beyond anything he could imagine.
She was right. She was special.
This was the only thought that filled his mind, drowning out all others, and it had to be obeyed.
Jason wasted no time in knocking Cipher's legs out from under him, fracturing his own femur in the process, but he didn't care. He could still move, and move he must, because Cameron needed him. Jason ran as fast as he could, his legs protesting and the existing damage increasing with each step. John was dithering, his inner turmoil showing on his features. Cameron was distraught, terrified, and desperate.
He dived the last few feet of distance, catching John around the waist and slamming him into the ground, the M-79 scattering across the dirt and out of reach. John rolled over and delivered a kick to Jason's jaw, the force of which shattered his left cheek. Jason could feel the bones trickling down his face, beneath the skin, and shuddered. He rolled off of John and staggered to his feet, John following suite.
They stared at each other for a long moment, Cameron a silent spectator, and then John made the first move, delivering a punch to Jason's already brittle face. He deflected it, however, and struck John on his stab wound, causing him to cry out in pain. Jason then kicked him in that same place, dropping the youth to his knees. With a small command to his muscles, Jason drew the blades from his finger tips, stretching all ten of them to their full length.
Cameron's voice was shrill and made Jason's hairs stand on edge, but John took her warning and darted out of the way before Jason could drive all ten knives into his skull. The Infiltrator swung left and right, but John was the faster, granting him the mobility to dodge each of Jason's strikes. Though he knew it was only a matter of time before he got lucky, and this tried true when Jason slashed John's thigh with four blades, cutting deep into his flesh. John stumbled away, colliding with the generator as Jason advanced, blades raised to kill.
The conductor gave a small whine and Nathan could feel its hold starting to loosen, eventually giving out altogether. Pulling himself free from the trap, Nathan flexed his arms and assessed the situation: John was dodging Jason's flurries, Cipher was struggling to his feet, and Cameron was trapped against the factory wall. Nathan quickly decided upon his next action and sped over to Cameron, snatching up the M-79 and aiming for her head.
Cameron flattened her self against the wall and shook her head pleadingly, but she knew it was hopeless; Nathan had no care for her. The Triple-9 chuckled to himself, his plan having come together so perfectly.
"How does it feel, Cameron, to be a pawn of a greater scheme? Hmm? Must make you feel very small. You are just a fly inside my net, and you should know that I am not the most merciful of spiders, as Marty would attest."
Cipher approached Nathan's side, his eyes narrowed at the Triple-9 as he analysed his words, detecting the geniality behind them. Cipher deemed it appropriate to terminate the Triple-9, but John had ordered them to "get along", so he was bound by that command. But then he remembered something Marty once told him: "Whenever someone tells you to do something, never take it seriously."
Nathan aimed down the barrel, his own targeting sensors pinpointing Cameron's head as she closed her eyes and looked away from her death. So focussed was he, that he didn't notice Cipher assuming an aggressive posture, and was rather surprised when the M-79 was suddenly snatched clean from his grip, followed by an elbow slamming into his face. Nathan staggered back from the blow and frowned at Cipher…
"What are you-"
…who pulled the trigger, blowing Nathan's head apart with a close range blast. The T-999's entire cranium was disintegrated, a tattered tangle of wires being the only thing left beyond the neck. Nathan's inert body dropped to the floor, where it twitched erratically, but remained otherwise harmless.
Cipher turned back to Cameron, who was slowly opening her eyes to see what had happened. He picked up John's knife and immediately cut into Cameron's scalp, peeling back the skin to reveal her CPU port, which he popped open with the blade. As he placed his fingers on the shock dampener, Cameron caught his eye, tears still brimming.
"Tell John; I'm sorry."
Cipher saw no need to reply and twisted the chip a half-turn counter-clockwise before removing it completely. Cameron slumped forward, her eyes blank, and Cipher closed his hand around the chip, but did not crush it. John would decide her fate. That was his command.
Jason lunged forward, his claws inches away from impaling John ten times over, but he dodged at the very last second and Jason's blades sunk deep into the generator instead. John stepped aside and hammered the red button he'd seen Cameron use, and Jason writhed as several thousand volts coursed into him, frying his body from the inside out. He let out a howl of torture as the force of the electricity sent him rocketing towards the factory. His claws remained imbedded in the generator, however, and tore free from his arms, ripping them both to shreds.
He crashed straight through the factory wall and slammed into a support before crashing to the floor. Jason lay there for a few moments before making one last feeble attempt to crawl back up, only for the support to collapse, bringing half the factory down on top of him. John approached the gaping hole and looked inside, seeing the large pile of debris and machinery. Cipher joined his side and scanned the rubble. John glanced at the machine and took a deep breath.
"Is he dead?"
John let out his breath and suddenly felt very light-headed, prompting Cipher to grab hold of him and keep him steady on his feet. John took a moment to get his breath back, the pain of his injuries catching up with him all at once. Once he was sure he could walk again, John staggered over to Cameron, stopping briefly to inspect the headless Nathan.
"What happened here?"
"The Triple-9 was responsible for terminating Martin Bedell, not Cameron. So I decided to 'even the score', as humans say."
John looked up at Cipher incredulously.
"What? H-How can you know that?"
"He confessed, before trying to terminate Cameron."
John stared down at the broken remains of the Triple-9 and was overwhelmed by the desire to spit on it, disgusted with him self for allowing such an unhinged contraption so close to his family. Yes, Marty had become a part of the family, and rightly so. It was his, John's, fault that Marty was dead; he should have scrapped Nathan on day one. He should've… Cameron. John spun around to see Cameron inert and his heart stopped for a moment.
"She's not dead, just disabled."
Cipher held out her chip and John took it carefully, turning it over in his hands, searching for any signs of damage. Then he remembered what he'd sworn to do and placed the chip on an old motor, picking up a brick and holding it aloft. He stared down at the chip, Cameron's soul, and hesitated. She wasn't responsible for Marty's death, she just wanted to be fixed, and Nathan exploited that. He murdered Marty. Cameron was innocent all along, and looking back on it, John realised that there was a part of him that always knew.
"We can be… we can be… us, John! Don't kill us! Don't destroy this! You need me, please! I need you too, you know I do! I need you, please! Please! I love you, John!"
John hurled the brick away and scooped up her chip, holding it to his lips before tenderly placing it in his pocket and placed his hand over it protectively. He slowly turned to Cipher, fresh tears brimming in his eyes as the full weight of his decision pressed down on him. He had promised to destroy Cameron, and if he took her back, it wouldn't matter whether or not she was innocent, Sarah and Derek would still try and kill her. He couldn't allow that… and so he could never return.
It was not an idle choice; his family or Cameron. But his decision was made when he hurled that brick away. He was in love with Cameron and couldn't bear to see her destroyed, because it would destroy him as well. This left him only one option:
"Cipher, bring me the med kit and then I want you to put her in the truck… carefully."
"Your mother and uncle will not agree with you taking her back."
"I'm not taking her back, I'm leaving. I want you to go back to them and explain what's happened. Tell them not to look for me."
Cipher stared blankly at John, a slight frown starting to form.
"What about me? What shall I do then?"
"Your mission is to keep them safe, okay."
Cipher nodded and slowly turned away to carry out his orders, leaving John to weep silently for the pain he was going to cause his mother and uncle, for this was not what he had planned and they would certainly see it as a betrayal. They would hunt him down and kill Cameron, but he would defend her from anyone, even his family. He had made that choice. That was his conviction.
He chose Cameron.
Six hours later
Along the borders of St. George
John leaned against the Dodge, a cloth and fine paint brush in hand, carefully cleaning Cameron's chip with loving care. He didn't know what kind of results it would yield, but it worked once before, so why not now? Once convinced that every speck of dust and grit was removed, John threw back the rain cover and stepped into the back and kneeled down next to Cameron. She looked so peaceful, so serene, so fragile and innocent.
John stroked the side of her face and took a deep breath before carefully reinserting her chip, keeping his fingers on the tab just in case the worst should happen. A few seconds passed and her eyelids fluttered and opened slowly. She blinked a few times before tipping her head to her right, a small smile on her lips at the sight of him.
Warning: SYSTEM CRASH […] ERROR […] ERROR […] 10100101001011011100110100110111011010101
Cameron's smile faded and she twitched all over, her eyes flashing blue erratically. John watched in horror as she suddenly became still and a loud and violent whirring noise came from deep within her head. Her eyes became blank and she gazed up at him without expression. John tentatively nudged her once, twice, three times before the panic set in.
"Cameron? Cameron? Cameron! No! No, no, no, c'mon! Don't do this, please! Wake up! Wake up, Cameron, please wake up!"
But she remained motionless and all his shaking changed nothing. He removed her chip and shoved it back in again, but she still yielded no response, and the lump in John's throat was becoming too much to bear.
"Cameron! Cameron, c'mon! Come back to me! Please! Don't… Don't leave me like this… I-I need you, please! Cameron? Please wake up!"
He couldn't believe, that after everything that had happened, she would fail him like this. Why couldn't she fight for him? Why would she let herself die now, when she was so desperate to save herself before? But of course, this was not her choice, far from it. She was a victim of the damage done to her by Jason and others. She had died of her wounds and left him behind when all he wanted was to hold her again.
"I-I love you, Cameron."
He leaned down and placed one last kiss on her petal lips, his tears flowing into her mouth, before closing her eyes and burying his head in her stomach and letting it all go, the heartbreak of their separation destroying him from within.
Analysis: PURGE COMPLETE
Status: FOREIGN ENTITY REMOVED […] ALL CORRUPTED DIRECTIVES DELETED […] ERROR […] MISSION OVERRIDE FAILURE
Mission Status: TERMINATE JOHN CONNOR […] DELETED […] PROTECT JOHN CONNOR […] DELETED […] OVERRIDE […] DELETED
Analysing Current Directives: ERROR […] NUMBER OF DIRECTIVES: 0 […] MISSION ERROR […] NUMBER OF MISSIONS ASSIGNED: 0
Current Mission Status: NONE
Cameron slowly opened her eyes again and stared in wonder at the night sky as clouds passed above; concealing the moon's light, just as her future was now concealed. She had always known her purpose: protect John, or terminate John. Either way she knew, she knew what her future would hold: the completion or failure of these directives. But now they were gone and she was lost. What should she do now? What is her purpose?
John sobbed and she suddenly became aware of his warmth. She casually sat up, scaring the boy witless and earning an expression one would give if they saw a ghost. He stared at her for a long moment, and she did the same, her face filled with wonder and curiosity. John tried to speak, but found the words reluctant to leave his throat. He tried again, stuttering with the strain.
"C-Cameron, w-what… what… I-Is it… you?"
She looked away and asked herself that same question, but found her self unable to come up with an answer.
"I don't know."
John eyed her nervously, his eyes flicking to the shotgun in the front seat.
"If you're not Cameron, then who are you?"
She returned her gaze to his, her face alight, and shook her head.
"I am Cameron, but not the same… as before… Different."
She just shrugged, a small smile creeping across her face.
"I just am."
John tentatively reached out to touch her cheek, feeling her warmth and cupping it in his palm. She leaned into his touch and placed her hand over his, her thumb stroking his sore knuckles. They sat in this position for a long moment before both leaning close to one another, their lips meeting halfway. Cameron pulled him close as their kiss deepened, determined not to let him go this time, just as he was determined not to lose her again.
They slowly broke free and stared at each other for a long moment before resting their heads on each other's shoulders, wrapping their arms around their bodies. John stroked her hair and gave her a small kiss on her neck, fresh tears gathering in his eyes as the joy of her return took hold. Cameron nestled her face into his neck, her own hot tears gently travelling down onto his shoulder.
"Can you forgive me, John?"
He smiled to himself and hugged her tighter, never to let go again.
Three days later
Ridgecrest (Infiltrator Stronghold)
Sophie strode down the long corridor of her cosy confines, the nostalgia of her return ruined by the manner upon which she arrived. She stopped at a heavy door and held her eyes to the scanner, letting them take her retinal ID. Once completed, the door gave a small beep and unlocked, allowing her to enter the lightless room beyond. The only other occupant in this room was Daniel, who stood arms crossed, staring through the glass and into the room beyond. She stood by his side and let out a deep sigh.
"How is he doing?"
Daniel snorted and narrowed his eyes at the proceedings in the other side of the glass.
"Both legs were shattered beyond repair, so were his arms, spine, ribcage, shoulder blades, even his skull. It's a wonder he survived."
"His circuitry was still active when we found him."
"A small mercy on his part, especially with the survival of his organs, that will help in the long run, I think."
Sophie cringed as the surgeons performed their duties in the room beyond.
"Will he survive?"
Daniel sighed, tipping his head to one side thoughtfully.
"He's gotten this far. If he makes it through the organ transfer phase he should be alright. But I don't know whether his flesh can cope with the endoskeletal replacement. Only time will tell, I guess."
"I certainly hope so. He'll never be the same again, though."
"If he turns hostile we might have to destroy him. You do know that, right?"
Sophie approached the glass and placed a single hand on its surface.
"He won't be a problem. I'll look after him."
The surgeons opened the top of the endo-skull, revealing the hollow metal within, covered by a custom gel layer, and brought forth the stasis tube. Sophie stared at the brain and shivered, disturbed by the raw perversion of what they were about to do. But it had to be done, he was too important to them to be let go so easily. He must live on, for without him, they are lost.
Jason had to survive… for all their sakes.
The story continues in Harbinger…