Note: This story is based on events in the movie Terminator Salvation, using some ambiguities in the story line. While I've been a fan of the Terminator movies since 1984 (I think going to see it in the theater was date # five or six with the ex), I haven't read any of the Terminator Salvation novels, so some characterizations or details in this story may contradict what was written there. I suppose it's a slight AU, a "what-if?" - but mostly it's my attempt to exorcise a demon plotbunny.


One

Exhaustion had turned Kate Connor's voice into a flat monotone. "This isn't going to work."

Something stirred deep within Blair Williams. She had spent so many years trying to blank her emotions, to perfect the mask of efficiency she presented to the world, that at first she wasn't quite sure what she was feeling. Was it hope? Maybe. Hope, overlaid with a nagging sense of guilt. How could she hope for Marcus to live, when his survival meant John Connor's inevitable death?

Both men lay on gurneys within a field hospital tent. IV drips ran into both their right arms, although Blair wondered how much good an anesthetic would do for Marcus, who was more machine than flesh and blood. But his eyes were closed, his face slack and oddly peaceful. Not the same for John Connor, who even in induced unconsciousness looked troubled, mouth pressed into a firm line, a deep furrow showing between his brows.

"What do you mean, it's not going to work?" Blair asked, after she forced herself to look away from Marcus. If she stared too long at his mouth, she'd only think again about what those lips had felt like when pressed against hers.

If she had anything left of a sense of humor, she might have been amused by the fact that it was a machine who'd given her the best kiss in…how many years? All right, probably the best kiss she'd ever had, if she were going to be perfectly honest.

Kate ran an abstracted hand over the curve of her stomach. Only a few months to go, Blair estimated, and no guarantee the father would be around to see his son. Or daughter, as the case may be.

"Well, aside from the obvious insanity of attempting an organ transplant in a field hospital, their types don't match," Kate replied. "I'd hoped that Cyberdyne would have used a universal donor for its prototype. But I guess beggars couldn't be choosers." She paused, staring down at her husband's still face. "John's A-positive. Marcus is B-positive. If I put Marcus's heart into John, he dies."

Again Blair felt that flutter of terrible hope. "There nothing you can do to make it work?"

A quick head shake, and then Kate looked away from John, off into the gathering dusk. Night would be here soon, and although Blair knew intellectually that Skynet's local base had been destroyed, and that she could sleep safely tonight for the first time in too many years to count, a chill still moved down her spine. The machines had always taken advantage of the coming of darkness. It made their prey that much easier to hunt.

"Science has come far, but not that far," Kate said, after a long pause. "The transplant alone would be a horrendous shock to his system. But transplanting a non-compatible organ? He'll suffer an acute hemolytic reaction. That in combination with the transplant would certainly kill him."

Her tone was still dull, expressionless. Only the pallor of her face and the barely visible tremor in her hands gave the lie to her apparent calm.

"How long?" Blair asked. The question was probably just more salt on Kate Connor's wounds, but she had to know. Maybe they could still do something, given enough time.

"He's strong," Kate replied, and her voice shook at last. "Five or six hours, I think." Then her gaze seemed to sharpen, her blue eyes focusing on Blair as if really seeing her for the first time. "Why?"

An idea had begun to take shape in Blair's mind. A horrible one, she was forced to admit, but if God even existed, then he was a cruel master. After all the death and pain and suffering he had inflicted, what difference would a bit more make?

She stared down at Marcus and tried to see him only as something that could aid in the success of her plan. Anything else would be stupid. Maybe he couldn't save John Connor's life by donating a heart, but Marcus still might be able to ensure that the Resistance had a leader come morning.


Light filtered through his eyelids. Marcus could feel himself frown. Wasn't he supposed to be dead? How could he achieve the absolution he sought if he still lived?

Something dark blocked the light, and he blinked. The blurry darkness resolved itself into a face, one he recognized. Blair. She had been the last thing he remembered before he lay down on the operating table. If he had somehow made it to heaven, he supposed it was only fitting that her face would be the first thing he saw.

Her words, however, were anything but heavenly. "Get up, Marcus. We've got a job to do."

His brain didn't seem to be working quite as well as it used to. No wonder, with the hack job Skynet had done on him…not to mention the chip he had yanked out of the back of his head. "What?"

In response, she dumped a heavy bundle on top of him.

His reflexes seemed to be functioning a bit better than his brain. He grabbed the bundle, and saw that it consisted of a camo jumpsuit, underwear, and a pair of combat boots. No wonder it weighed so much.

"We're moving out, soldier," she said. "Five minutes."

And with that she turned and left, disappearing into the darkness.

He sat up cautiously and looked around. They'd obviously moved him while he was unconscious; this was a much smaller tent than the medical facility where he'd been placed under anesthesia. For now he was the only occupant, although several other cots filled the space.

Not heaven, then, but the Resistance camp John Connor called home base.

What the hell had happened? Marcus laid a hand against his chest and felt his heart beating away there, just as it always had. Of course, his perception of it was now forever altered. It wasn't a cage of bone that protected the fragile organ, but an endoskeleton of unknown metal. For whatever reason, the medics seemed to have left his heart there for the time being.

Frowning, he pulled off the papery gown he'd been wearing and tossed it on the ground. Then he drew on the clothing Blair had given him. Somehow the simple actions of putting on the jumpsuit and boots made him feel a little more human. Then he felt an ironic smile twist his lips.

You're no more human than that grenade launcher, he thought, and gave the M-79 someone had left propped up against one of the cots a sour look.

Well, maybe that was exaggerating things just a little. He was pretty sure Blair wouldn't have been quite so enthusiastic about kissing a grenade launcher.

His memory could be playing tricks on him, but he could almost feel the touch of her mouth on his even now. That kiss couldn't have been a dream, or a hallucination brought on by the anesthetic.

Even if it had been real, it didn't seem as if there were going to be any repeats of that tender interlude in the near future. The Blair he had just seen was all business.

He wouldn't allow himself to sigh. Instead, he gave the laces on his boots one last tug, then stood. Maybe he wasn't strictly a man, but he knew he'd go out and take on this mission like one. And maybe somewhere along the line, Blair would explain to him just what the hell was going on.


Despite herself, Blair felt the breath catch in her throat as Marcus approached, his tall silhouette clearly outlined under the harsh glare of the camp's LED lighting. No hiding in darkness tonight - Skynet had suffered a crushing blow. The Resistance had a little grace, a precious space of time before the machines began encroaching from their out-of-state bases.

Marcus looked rested and healthy. No way to tell that he'd been through punishing combat that would have killed a normal man. Kate had mentioned something about his tissue being engineered to heal more quickly than a regular human's, but Blair hadn't really understood what that meant until she gazed up at a man who appeared to have done nothing more taxing than lie in bed for a few days.

Of course, thinking about Marcus and bed at the same time probably wasn't the world's greatest idea. She crossed her arms and said, "According to Kate Connor, we have five hours. So let's get moving." Without looking to see if he followed her, Blair turned and headed for the Jeep she'd already had outfitted with the necessities: weapons, ammunition, a spare fuel container, a bag of medical implements that Kate had put together, a cooler stocked with precious ice.

That last item wasn't usual for a nighttime foray, but absolutely necessary for her plan to work.

She climbed into the driver's seat, noting as she did so that Marcus took his place on the passenger side without comment or complaint. Good. This was going to be difficult enough without bickering over who had more right to drive the Jeep.

The first few miles passed by in silence. She knew the terrain around here so well she could probably navigate it in her sleep if necessary, but driving by moonlight was always chancy. The earth slept uneasily, and it could shift at any time, tumbling boulders across her regular routes, or even bringing down entire hillsides. She would rather have flown, but her A-10 wasn't going anywhere, and she was grounded until the Resistance scouts could find a replacement.

After they had emerged from a ravine and started down what used to be Interstate 15, Marcus stirred in his seat and shifted to look at her. "You going to tell me where we're going?"

"We're going to pay a visit to some old friends."

He said nothing, but only stared at her. She couldn't take her eyes off the broken asphalt before them, but she still felt the weight of that gaze, heavy with unspoken questions.

"Connor can't use your heart," she said shortly. "Wrong blood type. So we're going on a hunting trip."

More silence.

"Those charming individuals back at the race track? Very accommodating of you to just knock them out and not kill them. I'm hoping that one of them will come in useful."

Marcus didn't pretend to misunderstand. "You'd kill three men on the chance that one of them has a compatible blood type?"

Concern over human life from a Skynet spy? That was rich.

He wasn't really a spy, a small, quiet part of her mind told her. At least, not wittingly.

That may have been the truth. However, at the moment Blair wasn't sure she wanted to examine the implications of a cyborg who seemed to have more issue with cold-blooded killing than she did.

"I'd kill three hundred men if it meant saving John Connor," she said. "Without him, the Resistance is finished."

To her surprise, Marcus gave a grim chuckle. "Sounds like that's one thing you and Skynet can agree on."

She didn't bother to reply. She didn't think the situation was funny at all. He hadn't seen the stricken expression on Kate Connor's face, or the way John Connor's features had begun to look waxy and pale, sunken and gray. Blair had watched too many people die not to know what that meant. He had hours at best. If some scumbags had to give up their lives so John could live, so be it.

Several retorts came to mind, but she settled for saying, "Guess I'm smarter than I look, then."

The Jeep hit a particularly deep pothole, and she had to direct her attention away from Marcus, back to the treacherous road before them. After slowing a bit and downshifting to get better traction, she added, "You going to give me any problems?"

He stared straight ahead. The moonlight glinted in his short-cropped fair hair. "No. Only reason I didn't finish them off before was because I didn't think they were worth the effort."

It might have been the truth. At the moment, she didn't much care. All that mattered now was that Marcus seemed prepared to cooperate. Then again, why wouldn't he? Killing in cold blood came naturally to Terminators, didn't it?

She wasn't sure she wanted to admit that Marcus Wright was a Terminator. If she stopped to think about it, she knew the reason for her reticence. She just didn't like it all that much. It was crazy to think that he could be anything more to her than an ally.

And an ally was all that she needed right now.

Keep telling yourself that a thousand times, and maybe you'll believe it, she thought.

Her jaw set, she pressed her foot down on the accelerator, speeding through the desolation that used to be a well-traveled highway, rocketing them toward the men who might, by dying, allow future generations to live.


He might have tried arguing with her. From the expression on her face - or rather, the lack thereof - he sort of got the feeling that any arguments would have been a waste of time.

His memories hadn't died along with the rest of his past. He could remember everything from his life. More than he wanted to, actually. But all those memories didn't help him much in dealing with Blair Williams. He'd never known a woman like her, even though there had been plenty of women back in those days when the world had careened blithely forward in a haze of self-absorption and excess, never dreaming that it would all end in a blaze of nuclear light.

In a way, he was glad they drove through the darkness now. The moon and stars overhead hadn't changed. The cold, dry desert air brought back memories of camping trips, of times before his mother died and the world had gone to hell. During the day the sunlight had a washed-out, dirty hue to it, like something wrung out and robbed of all energy. It only served to illuminate what a wasteland the world had become.

He thought of John Connor, who somehow had managed to avoid death so far. Did his life truly count for more than the lives of the men Blair planned to kill?

Blair seemed to think so, which to Marcus was the only thing that mattered. He'd thrown in his lot with humanity. The mad scientists at Cyberdyne had tried to turn him into a machine. Now he was being offered another chance to prove how badly they had failed.

The Jeep slowed. Off in the distance Marcus spotted the bulk of the abandoned race track, its outlines stark black in the harsh moonlight. A fire burned near the entrance, but other than that he saw no sign of life.

Which meant absolutely nothing. Anyone still alive this many years after Judgment Day had both a strong instinct for survival and a lucky streak a mile wide.

Luck's about to run out, he thought, then asked, "So what's the plan?"

She didn't look at him as she replied, "I spotted an abandoned semi about a quarter-mile from the track. I figured we'd hide the Jeep there and then go in by foot. We'll split up - you take the north side, and I'll take the south. Shoot to kill. Just make sure you aim for the head. We can't risk a shot anywhere in the thorax."

It probably would have worked. Marcus paused for a moment, waiting while she maneuvered the Jeep off the highway and into the shelter of a ruined Mayflower moving truck. She'd turned off the headlights a few miles back. With the moon so bright overhead, they weren't necessary and would have given their quarry advance notice of their presence.

He asked, "You ever kill anyone?"

At last she turned and met his gaze straight on. He tried not to admire her tip-tilted almond eyes and full mouth, and failed miserably.

"What's that got to do with anything?" she demanded.

"Have you?"

Her lashes dropped, and she glanced away. "No." Then her chin went up, and she added, "I've been on more missions than I count. I've shot up HKs, T-600s, and an assload of scouts. I think I can handle a few sleazebags."

She probably could. They'd only gotten the drop on her before because she'd been wounded and unarmed. That wasn't the point.

"Killing a person takes something out of you," Marcus said, choosing his words with care. He'd never been the type for navel-gazing, but sitting on Death Row gave a person plenty of time for contemplation. "I don't care whether you think it's for a good cause or not. Just the knowledge that you were the one to take someone's life - it changes you. Sure, you're a fighter, but you've been fighting machines, not men."

No answer. She just sat there, tension in every line of her slender body. Still she wouldn't look at him.

"Let me do it," he said.

Finally she spoke. "Take on all three of them at once?"

"Think I can't handle it?"

She gave a short laugh. "Oh, I'm pretty sure you can handle it. I guess I just don't like the idea of sitting here like a stupid female in one of those romance novels my mother used to read. Can't get my hands dirty - I might break a nail!"

He thought he understood. Sometimes sitting and waiting could be far worse than plowing into the heart of the action. That didn't mean he was going to let her get within fifty feet of the lowlifes who'd made the race track their home. But he also knew that telling her he wanted to protect her would only anger her more.

A different tack might work. "Did Dr. Connor tell you how to remove their hearts?"

Blair shot him a suspicious glance, but she answered readily enough. "Yes. Drew me a little diagram and everything." She patted the breast pocket of her leather flight jacket. "Told me I was insane first, of course. Then she wanted to know why we couldn't just knock them unconscious and bring them back to base to be operated on. But that would have made her or her assistants the killer. This was my plan. I should take the responsibility."

"I understand that," he replied, then made sure to push on before she could take his words as agreement. "But if anything happens to you, then we're really shit out of luck, aren't we? I can't perform that procedure."

"Nothing is going to happen."

Jesus Christ, she was stubborn. Marcus fought off the desire to grab her by the shoulders and shake some sense into her. A least, he told himself that was why he had to resist the impulse to take hold of her.

"You don't know for sure," he said. "Things go wrong all the time. You of all people should know that, considering how we met."

A scowl puckered her brow in response to that remark. No, she probably didn't appreciate him reminding her of how she'd lost her plane, but he wasn't going to scruple at bringing up painful issues if it helped him to drive his point home.

"I don't like it," she said.

"You don't have to like it." Surprising himself, he reached out and took her hands in his. Her fingers were rough and callused, but the bones underneath felt fragile as a hummingbird's wing. "Let me do this."

He didn't bother to say that, unlike her, he had no humanity to lose. It had been given up long ago, on an operating table at Cyberdyne. Or maybe even earlier, as he'd gunned down his backstabbing brother and the two cops who'd been called to break up the fight.

For a moment she held herself still, gazing down at their intertwined fingers. She made no move to pull away. Marcus didn't know her well enough to be able to read her expression, but it seemed that she wrestled with her own thoughts. Then, very gently, she unlaced her fingers from his.

"There's a Glock and extra clips in the back," she said. "I'd advise against the shotgun."

It was the only capitulation he'd get, but he didn't need her to tell him he was right and she was wrong. It was enough that she'd stopped arguing. Anyway, they'd wasted enough time already.

He said only, "Thanks," and reached into the back seat to retrieve the handgun and two clips. He doubted he'd need that much - the race track trio hadn't struck him as particularly cunning or resourceful - but, as he'd told Blair, you never knew. It was conceivable that they could get the drop on him if he weren't careful.

As he reached for the door handle, she leaned across the gear shift and tucked a radio unit into the breast pocket of his jumpsuit. "Call me when it's done. I can be there in a minute."

He nodded. His own heart had begun to beat a little faster - at the thought of the confrontation ahead, he told himself. It couldn't have been the feel of her hand sliding across his chest as she secured the radio in his pocket.

Then he let himself out of the Jeep and forced himself not to look back. She'd wait for his call. All he had to do was get this over with as quickly as possible.

The bright moonlight was both blessing and curse, for while it helped smooth his journey across the quarter-mile or so that separated the abandoned rig and the race track, it also made him far too visible. Some cover was afforded by other derelict vehicles, and he did his best to zigzag among them while moving ever closer to his destination.

If he were very lucky, he might be able to catch them off-guard. The news of the Resistance victory against Skynet's San Francisco base had been broadcast on all available frequencies; if the men at the race track had a radio, then maybe they would think this was one night where they wouldn't have to be vigilant.

A man could hope, anyway.

His last jog had brought him within ten yards of the fire that crackled away at the entrance to the race track. It seemed to come from a broken pipe rather than a fire deliberately built. He'd seen fires like this all over Los Angeles. You'd think any sources of natural gas would have burned themselves out by now, but apparently not.

Marcus paused in the shelter of a broken-down structure that had probably once been a guard shack. The only sound was the soft hissing of the fire, and an occasional rustle in the scrubby vegetation that surrounded the track. Just some nocturnal animal, he decided, after a moment in which he held himself completely still and listened intently. The sounds were too light to have been made by a full-grown man.

When the men had attacked Blair, she'd said it looked as if they'd come from the interior of the race track. Made sense, he supposed - their camp would be hidden to the outside observer, and the passageways under the stands would make it easy for them to move around without being seen. So far the place seemed deserted, but he hoped that just meant they were shacked up somewhere inside. It would be a hell of a thing for him and Blair to have come all this way, just to find the men had departed for places unknown. He didn't want to think what he'd do if all or even one of them had died of the injuries he'd doled out during their last encounter. Maybe a concussion or two and some sprains or even a dislocated shoulder, but that wasn't the sort of thing that would kill a man.

He chambered a round and moved through the front entrance, hugging the wall and staying in the shadows. Something rustled at his feet, and he started before he realized it was a discarded program, the ink bleached by the ruthless California sun. It didn't matter that he couldn't read the date on the paper. He knew what it said.

At the far end of the track he spotted the uneasy flicker of a campfire. Dark shapes huddled around it, unmoving. Even in the moonlight it was difficult to be sure, but Marcus thought he could count three. Didn't look as if they'd posted a guard.

Stupid of them. Lucky for him.

Still, it wouldn't do to take chances. He continued his circuit of the track, staying close to the wall that separated the outfield dirt from the first row of bleachers. A tumbleweed drifted across the broken asphalt of the track, skeletal in the bleached light.

If something seems too easy, it's usually because it is. Marcus was approximately ten feet away from his quarry when an alarm began to shriek. At once the trio began to move, their guns quick gleams as they were drawn from their hiding places within the sleeping bags.

Shit.

He didn't stop to think. Thinking could get you killed. Instead he aimed the Glock at the man closest to him, sighting on his scruffy, bearded head. A quick squeeze of the trigger, and he went down, a neat black hole centered in his forehead.

By then the first victim's companions had gotten to their feet. Marcus found himself looking down the barrel of a riot shotgun and decided he actually would prefer to live after all. He dropped to the ground, shooting at the man's kneecap as he did so. A scream of pain signaled that he'd hit his target, and he aimed once more and fired.

Blood bubbled up from the man's throat, black in the moonlight. Not quite as clean as the first shot, but death by exsanguination was still dead.

A bullet whistled past his shoulder, and Marcus shifted his attention from the throat-shot man to his lone surviving companion. The man held a silver-plated revolver, probably stolen from someone's collection. Of course, where he got it didn't really matter.

"We let her go!" the man blurted. His speech sounded slurred; quite probably they'd been sleeping off a good drunk. The revolver wobbled in his hand.

As if to confirm Marcus' suspicions, glass clinked as the man's booted foot struck a bottle hidden somewhere inside the ratty sleeping bag.

"You did," Marcus agreed. "So I'll make this quick."

The last shot echoed off the concrete walls that enclosed the track. The man dropped at once, blood beginning to ooze from a forehead wound nearly identical to his dead companion's.

Marcus gave the place a quick scan, just in case they had a fourth friend stashed away somewhere, but he saw no one else. He fished the radio out of his pocket. "Marcus here."

Blair's voice came to him almost immediately. "You got 'em?"

"Like fish in a barrel. Bring the meat truck on over."

"Got it."

The radio crackled into silence, and Marcus returned it to his pocket. While he waited for Blair, he performed a quick, methodical search of the three men and their belongings. The Resistance survived on what it could scavenge; he wasn't about to leave anything valuable behind.

He had stacked up three shotguns, an assortment of handguns, and two rocket launchers, along with a decent supply of freeze-dried camping food, by the time she arrived. The sleeping bags weren't fit for use, and neither was the men's clothing, but at least he felt he'd been able to find something worthwhile.

"Been shopping, I see," Blair remarked, after she'd retrieved the ice chest and small bag of medical instruments from the cargo area in the back of the Jeep.

"Someone should be able to use this stuff."

She nodded, but moved past him to kneel next to the man who had been shot in the throat. "We'd better do this one first."

"We?"

In reply, she pulled a piece of paper out of her pocket and shoved it in his hand. "You've just been promoted to attending nurse."


She'd refused to let herself worry. Maybe he wasn't exactly a Terminator, but Marcus could take more punishment than any living man, and she'd seen what he could do in action. Those three scumbags wouldn't know what hit them.

Still, a wash of relief so great that it made her briefly queasy came over her when she heard Marcus' voice on the radio, telling her it was safe to come and retrieve the hearts. Analyzing that relief would require mental energies she couldn't spare at the moment, so instead she just kicked the Jeep into gear and roared off for the race track.

Marcus' strike had been almost surgical in precision. She quickly assessed the situation after she got out of her vehicle and decided it would be best to work on the man with the wound in his throat first. He'd lost an awful lot of blood.

Kate Connor had made up the field kit for her. Blair had some fairly extensive first aid training - most people in the formal Resistance did - but it was a far cry from learning how to extract a bullet or knock a dislocated shoulder back into place to opening a man's chest cavity in order to retrieve a major internal organ. No time for squeamishness, though. She drew out the scalpel.

"Show me the diagram."

Marcus spread open the instructions Kate had written, turning the sheet to take full advantage of the moonlight. His fingers left dirty smudges of gunpowder against the paper.

There were actually two diagrams - a quick sketch showing where to make the initial incision, and another, more detailed one with the cuts to sever the pulmonary artery and the left atrium marked in red. Blair bit her lip, then cut into the man's clammy flesh.

Kate hadn't warned her about the blood. It pooled up, dark and viscous as tar in the moonlight, and Blair choked back the bile that rose in her throat. No time for puking like a teenager after her first real drunk.

"The syringe," she said. "Next to the clamps."

Quickly he reached into the medical bag and handed the syringe to her. As she plunged it into the man's heart, Marcus asked, "What's that for?"

"Potassium chloride. Keeps the heart from trying to beat."

And it seemed to work. She hadn't realized that the muscle would continue to pulse after its host was dead, but Kate had assured her the shot was necessary. The heart now lay quiescent. Time to make the real incisions.

The moonlight, bright as it was, still didn't make a very good substitute for the harsh lights of an operating theater. But she couldn't wait until daylight. She stared at the sketch again, memorizing the pattern of muscles and veins. Just a few quick cuts, and she'd be done.

Easy enough to say. Tougher to do.

She shifted slightly so that the opening in the man's chest was a little more clearly illuminated. Then she picked up the scalpel and set to work.

It actually went faster than she had thought it would. Or maybe it was simply that she refused to really think about what she was doing, and focused instead on the instructions Kate had given her. Within a few minutes, the heart was free of its connective tissue.

"Ice chest," she said shortly, and Marcus lifted the lid for her. With exaggerated care she laid the heart on its bed of ice.

She began to sit back on her heels and breathe a sigh of relief, but then realized she still had two more to go.

Easy peasy, she told herself, reciting the old rhyme her mother had used back when she was coaxing Blair to do her chores. Nothing to it.

The next two did go faster. Even so, she kept glancing at the chronometer strapped to her wrist. They'd already been out for almost three hours. The return trip should take around two. They'd be cutting it close.

You just had to mention cut, didn't you? she thought, and stifled a wild laugh. Marcus would really think she had lost it if she started cackling like a madwoman.

"That's it," she said, after she tamped down the lid of the ice chest. The bloody instruments she tossed back into the medical bag. A proper cleaning for them would have to wait until they were back at base camp.

Marcus took the ice chest and strapped it into the rear seat of the Jeep. Then he motioned to the guns and other items he'd looted from their three victims' camp. "I'll take care of that. You get in."

She wanted to argue with him, but realized suddenly how tired she really was, how her hands seemed to be shaking with reaction. What the hell? She'd run strafing missions over Skynet facilities, had her damn engine shot off, navigated mine fields, and yet it was cutting the hearts out of three men that finally laid her low?

Well, when she put it that way -

"And I'll drive," he added.

"Whatever," she said, and climbed into the passenger seat. At that point she was more than happy to let him dodge potholes all the way back to camp.

He moved with a quick efficiency that would have been pleasing to watch if she hadn't been so damn tired. Instead she waited in her seat, glad of the chance to let someone else do the work for once.

Loading the Jeep only took a few minutes. Then he got in next to her, noted that she'd already put the key in the ignition, and gave her a quick nod of approval.

They took off at a speed she wasn't sure she would have attempted. But he had a cyborg's reflexes, slaloming over the rough road, avoiding the worst patches in a show of skill she had to grudgingly admit was better than hers.

But get me up in the sky, and I'll kick your ass, she reflected, and smiled a little.

She hadn't thought he could watch her and the treacherous highway at the same time, but he asked, "What's so funny?"

There was no real way to explain. She lifted her shoulders. "Everything."

"Right."

He sounded so like a - well, like a guy. Hard to believe that under that coating of hard muscle and those pretty blue eyes he was a machine just like all the rest. Not exactly like the rest, she supposed. Somehow he'd been able to reject his programming and throw his lot in with the humans. John Connor had baldly stated that he would never have gotten out of Skynet's facility without Marcus' help. That had to count for something.

It counted for a lot, actually. And now he was assisting in a very different kind of rescue. But would it be enough?

She wasn't sure she wanted to know the answer to that question.


Kate Connor was waiting for them, her face ghostly in the glaring lights of the medical tent. But white as she was, her husband looked even more pale, as if every drop of spare blood had somehow been leached out of him in the hours since Marcus and Blair had left the camp.

"You've got them?" Kate asked, as she watched Marcus undo the straps that had held the ice chest securely in place during the bumpy ride.

"Yes," Blair assured her. As difficult as acquiring those hearts had been, she would still rather have done that than sit back at camp, waiting and watching her husband die.

Kate nodded. "Set them on that table. I'll need to type them."

Marcus did as she instructed and then stepped aside. Feeling a bit helpless, Blair looked on as Kate drew blood samples from each heart and did something complicated with slides and a microscope.

"First one is O-positive," she said. "We can use that if necessary. But I'll check the other two in case there's a direct match, which of course would be better."

Her tone sounded calm, matter-of-fact. Maybe the realization that at least one of the hearts would work had helped to relieve some of the terrible worry which must have been preying on her. Blair didn't know if she could have been quite that composed if it had been someone she loved lying on a gurney, his life slowly slipping away. Hell, she'd risked everything to bust Marcus out of detention, and she barely even knew him.

"No go on the second," Kate announced. "B-negative. Checking the last sample now."

Someone must have announced their arrival in camp, because two more medics slipped into the tent, pushing past Blair and Marcus.

"And we have a winner," said Kate. "A-positive. Let's get to work, people."

Marcus bent down to whisper in Blair's ear. "We'd better get out of the way."

He was right. They'd done their job; now it was time for the medical staff to do theirs.

She followed him outside. The moon that had lit their way earlier was now slipping down toward the hills to the west, and the air felt cold against her face. Funny how she'd hardly noticed the chill earlier.

The memory came to her of how she had rested her cheek against Marcus' chest and pulled herself close to him after they had fled the abandoned race track. She'd told him she only wanted to share their body heat as protection against the cold night. Maybe it had been the truth. She wasn't sure anymore.

He stopped under a California live oak tree, far enough away from the bright lights of the med tent that they provided only a comforting background glow. "Think he'll live?"

She had no words of comfort to give. "I don't know."

Something touched her hand, and she started before she paused and realized it was Marcus' fingers curling around hers. His calluses felt rough against her skin. Warm and real. Human.

"Will you wait with me?"

The question had been asked casually enough, but somehow Blair knew her answer meant more to him than he was willing to say. She glanced up into his face, at the taut lines of his mouth. Time to decide, she realized. He had been torn between worlds, and had made his choice. Now she had to let him know it had been the right one.

"Yes," she said, her voice firm. "Yes, I'll stay with you."