Three Ways Sarah Connor Was the Leader of the Resistance

by Amy L. Hull amilynh at comcast dot net

written for Nestra in the Yuletide 2008 Challenge

Thanks to Merlin Missy, Triciabyrne and Seldear for betas and reassurance.

~One~

Everything John knew he learned from her. His methods, his weapons, his tactics, his compassion, his coldness, his relentlessness. The others looked to him to be General, but they didn't know that the true General was the Five-Star Sarah Connor in his head.

It was Sarah's voice he heard in his head. When Derek Reese torn into him, shouting, swearing, accusing, demanding to know what "the Great John Connor" had done to his little brother, he stood silently, then walked away as Derek cursed him and his entire ancestry. John registered the irony as he listened to his mental recording of long-destroyed tapes, "If you don't send Kyle, you can never be." She was right, too: he did get headaches thinking about it.

He saw her hands in his as he showed a group of kids no more than twelve how to make pipe bombs from supplies found in abandoned markets. It was like she was teaching them, just as she'd taught him; he was merely parroting, "Make sure you wipe the threads carefully."

When he led the escape from Century Work Camp, he shouted Sarah's long-standing orders, "Run!" It was only when he saw Kyle that he used family code phrase, as familiar as the date of Judgment Day, heard in Sarah's stories of his father and from every protector sent back throughout his life. Reaching out a hand, he said urgently, "Come with me if you want to live."

It was General Sarah Connor he channeled when he ordered Derek and his three men to go back through time, knowing Derek would try to stop Skynet, knowing the other three would get killed, knowing that this was how it had been, forcing himself not to think about their fate. "The only fate is the fate we make for ourselves." Who had said that first? Sarah or him? The two of them had made and unmade fate more times than he could count, and still he'd watched the world burn, just as Derek-in-his-past had said it would.

He knew it was really Sarah chewing out the remaining members of a squad that had tried to save a group of prisoners. "What we're doing is too important. You can't risk yourselves, even for them!" Hours after he stalked off, the lost members of the squad returned with thirteen former prisoners, now thirteen new recruits, and he heard himself again echoing Sarah's rebuke after he'd gotten her out of Pescadero.

A slip of a girl, her familiar face dirt-smeared, hair pulled back and secured under a cap just like every other ragtag human in the resistance, looked him in the eyes. "We couldn't let them die. Every one of us matters, otherwise we're no better than them." She stepped toe to toe with him and shoved his chest with a hand clad in a fingerless glove, "None of us is too important to risk ourselves."

John felt the crease of his first smile in months. "Yeah. I may have oversold that one. Allison, right?"

She nodded.

"Good work, lieutenant."

At the last word she looked scared for the first time.

"Get going, then. You've got thirteen new recruits to train."

Encouraging the troops. That was a skill his mom had never believed she had, but it was her voice again, giving orders, expecting more and more from everyone, and speaking with the certainty that it would happen because the alternative was unthinkable.

~Two~

He would make the request, the demand, over and over. She would demand it of the machines, of herself.

Stop Skynet.

Sometimes she would remember that it was her idea first, that she was the first to try to blow them up, the one to decide to assassinate Miles Dyson. Sometimes those memories didn't stick in the fragmented landscape that was her life.

The clearest memories were of 7-year-old John frowning over a chessboard, of 10-year-old John helping to plant explosives, of 15-year old John begging her to stop Skynet, of newly-16-year-old John shaking after throttling the life out of an enemy.

It was his eyes that haunted her. The adoring eyes of the baby she'd nursed, the compassionate eyes of the 10-year-old who'd stopped her from committing murder, the steely coldness of the eyes of the 18-year-old who nodded approval to his uncle's suicide mission.

Then the battle-hardened, desperate eyes of a scarred 38-year-old--her son, barely recognizable and older than her in that moment--scanning the room from behind the sights of a gun.

"John?"

"Is she here?"

"Who?"

"Cameron. IS SHE HERE, Mom?"

"She went out. It's okay. Shhhh." Sarah stepped forward and placed a hand on his arm. "She's not here right now. She'll be back."

John slowly lowered the gun and his eyes frantic motion slowed and focused on her face. One hand came up to her cheek and tears filled his eyes. She touched his face in return and was suddenly encased in a bear hug. John shuddered as he held her.

"Shhh." She patted his back. "Shhh."

"Sorry. Sorry," he said. "I haven't done that..." His eyes finally softened a bit. "God, I've missed you. You should have been the one. You'd have been better at it. Lost fewer people. Ended it sooner." He looked away. "You'd have made the right sacrifices."

"John, it's never that simple and--"

"When I leave, take me--John--and go to Crystal Peak. You need to start gathering an army."

"Why?"

"Just in case. Crystal Peak. You got that?" There was urgency in his desperation now.

"Crystal Peak, yes."

There was the sound of light voices engaged in friendly banter.

John ducked behind the wall, "Shh!"

Sarah stepped back as the front door opened.

John stepped out and raised his gun. "Cameron. Stand down."

Cameron froze, her eyes dead, inactive.

"Mom?" said the other John, looking among the three in the room. "What's going on here?"

"I'm not sure," she answered, stepping between the Johns and placing a hand on her sidearm. "Ready to explain?" She tilted her head at the older John, who was removing Cameron's chip.

"We've won and lost a dozen times. The timeline is tangled like the Gordian Knot at this point. This is the only way we haven't tried.

In the blink of an eye, he had the chip out, set it on the stone fireplace and, with the butt of his gun, bashed it into shards then ground it into so much powder.

Sarah held her John back as tears streamed down his face and he screamed, "What are you doing? NO!"

The older John held his gun on them again. "I'm sorry. She was Skynet. We believe... She...becomes Skynet somehow. She fooled us too. I'm not even sure she knew herself. You know what to do with the parts. I have to go back before the timeline re-writes. I'm sure if it doesn't work, we'll know." The gun still trained on them, he attached a device on his wrist to an electrical outlet and pressed a series of buttons.

"Good luck," he said as static flew and energy built.

"You too," Sarah called. "I love you!" Turning, she grabbed John's hand and turned to the door. "Run!"

The next day they were hundreds of miles northeast of the ruins of that era of their lives, John's eyes cold, accusatory, avoiding her.

They would regroup, find a clue to the current lay of the land, of the timeline. But Sarah's vision remained clear as she adjusted her grip on the steering wheel and stared down the highway.

Stop Skynet.

~Three~

Sarah came home from a routine trip to the grocery store to find Cameron deactivated on the sofa, her fingers wrapped gently around her chip. Later she would blame Derek for her decision to investigate before reactivating the machine.

After three hours with no word from John and no responses to her increasingly frantic calls to him and every monitoring system she knew, Sarah picked up the pliers from the table by Cameron.

"Are you sure this isn't a trap?"

Derek was silenced by Sarah's piercing glare and armed himself as Sarah reinserted the chip.

180 seconds. She came back online screaming, a sound Sarah had heard only once before.

"No, John! You don't want to do this! It won't change things!" She looked around the room, then from Sarah to Derek and back again. "We have to stop him."

Sarah held out a hand as if to stop her. "Tell us what is going on. Right now."

"John wants to stop Judgment Day. He's decided to take himself out of the equation."

There was a moment of silence, then two voices, screaming.

"John!"

"Kyle!"

They slammed their way out of the house.

It was nearly a day later when Sarah returned to find Cameron still on the couch, eyes staring. The news endlessly ran the story of how 5-year-old Kyle Reese was found dead near his house, a baseball in his hand.

Nothing Sarah did could elicit a single sign of power or activity from Cameron.

Derek never returned.

After a month, Sarah destroyed Cameron and all traces of the future, including John's laptop. She set fire to the house and headed south.

If John came back--if John still existed--he'd know where to find her and the army she would be building.

~ooo~