AN: I have some author's notes at the bottom of the page.


||||||||||==Baja California, Mexico, (1 November 2008) ==||||||||||

Being John Connor meant one had to always be on alert, always watching. Even when sitting down, trying to eat tacos with a pretty girl, John Connor was assessing the situation; potential exits, potential enemies, who around him looked like to jump in on a fight, who had a concealed firearm? All these things John Connor worried about.

Eight hours ago John Connor had failed being John Connor.

Returning to the small, quiet Mexican town he and his mom had spent part of their life in had not been something John Connor would have done. If his uncle were with him all he would do is look at him, disappointment in his hazy green eyes piercing into the young man, and utter that this was something John Baum would have done.

Right now John Connor would have given anything to have his uncle or his mom with him… he remembered his uncle didn't even call him John Baum anymore… the bitter disappointment his uncle viewed him as didn't even need to be said anymore.

Being John Connor means a lot more than being lonely, John thought as he pretended to sleep. It means being a liar, he concluded. He wasn't exactly sure what he was referring to when he told himself he was a 'liar', but he knew it involved someone he didn't much want to think about. Not right now, at least.

He dared himself to crack open his eyes just a little, just enough to see the prison guard talking with Riley, his eye lashes obscuring his vision. Struggling to keep his eyelid, in its unnatural half-open, half-closed state from going into spasm, he carefully watched the guard and begun to tense for his attack.

The smell of stale urine, caked in the corner of the cell forced him to wrinkle his nose, almost breaking the carefully crafted lie he and Riley had devised.

"This guy's a real… creep," he heard Riley say as she put her hands on the old and cracking cell bars. "He's been trying to put the moves on me all night," she said under her breath, pleading for the police officer to empathize with her.

John knew that was a lie. Right now, sitting in the jail cell with his eyes half closed, pretending to sleep, he knew he was in this situation because of one problem he wouldn't bring himself to admit he had.

"But you two came in together," John heard the Mexican guard respond in accented English. He then refocused back on the current situation. Any problem John had, he resolved he'd figure it out later.

Riley leaned in and whispered something else, and John had to smile. It was a mental smile, of course. He had to play like he was sleeping. His hearing was focused on the sound he wanted to hear… and there it was, a jingle of the keys and then a metal click of the key going in and the lock turning.

It was time to be John Connor.

His felt his heart rate increase, the thumping in his chest accelerating as adrenaline surged through his body. His breaths were deep and he felt a serene calm wash over him. John's body began rising, his training and instincts taking over. He felt light, fast, precise. John Connor opened his eyes, the dark green orbs locked on his target and his body acted.

His hand shot out and formed into a claw around the leather sash the officer wore. One pump, two, then three pumps of his arm and the officer was smashed, head first, three times into the jail cell bars.

A splash of blood flew onto John's forehead as the guard collapsed, his eyes having rolled back in his head, the injured man was moaning, his breath rapid and shallow.

John Connor saw his girlfriend not even flinch at the violence and the savagery in which he had attacked the helpless officer; a man only doing his job, a man who had only been so close to the jail cell to help Riley. John had coached Riley into playing the man, using the empathy and compassion John had picked up on when they'd been locked in the grimy, disgusting cell, as a weapon against that man.

"Lo siento, Senor," he said, a wave of guilt washing over him like a wave. He knew that any apology would be inadequate. It made him feel something for the guard, it made him believe he had only acted because he had been forced to act to protect himself and Riley. This was his fault and his responsibility and he accepted that.

What did Cameron say to me? Being John Connor means I care? John snorted, feeling the puff of air on his lip.

He fumbled quickly for the guard's handcuffs and his head shot up, fear flashing across his face as he heard the crack of gunshots. With the call from earlier he'd known his mom may have been in trouble… capture. Now everything fit; Cromartie was here. His head flicked towards a second set of gunshots, the cracks growing in intensity as Cromartie began his trek through the prison in his search for John Connor.

He heard a clink and the handcuffs were secured to the guard and the prison cell. Now he needed to concentrate and get Riley out of here.

John wouldn't let anything happen to her. He cared about her.

"Riley… RILEY… listen to me. If you see daylight, you, you run. Understand? You run if you see daylight!" he yelled at her, grabbing her wrist. He ignored the guard pleading to be freed. Undeniable guilt washed over John as he left the man at the mercy of the killing machine stalking and killing its way through the Mexican police station.

He ran out and jumped over a guard slumped against a door frame, maybe dead, maybe alive. He wasn't sure. It was the same police officer who'd gotten Riley last night at the restaurant.

He saw a dark blur and then someone grabbed him. John spun around, his fists already starting to move.

"John, John, JOHN! I'm here to help!"

It was Ellison, former Special Agent James Ellison.

John didn't even bother to question him or stop running. He saw the man was scared, he flinched when he heard a series of gunshot, and John knew the former FBI man had no idea just what he was getting into. That didn't matter, not there, not now. John needed allies and Ellison was here to help.

Against his better judgment, against his fear he would bring death to another man today he nodded furiously, waving for Ellison to come with him.

"Let's go," John said, his voice sounding calm but his body anything but.

He and Ellison ran outside, his pupils constricted as he came into the hot, bright orange-yellow Mexican sun. His hands shot up to shield his eyes and the young man frantically searched for Riley.

He couldn't let anything happen to her… he couldn't find her. He pushed a fleeing man out his way, almost to run into a woman dressed in her Day of the Dead costume. John stumbled on a discarded skeleton someone had tossed to the side as dozens around him ran for their lives.

There, he saw her, running scared, her arms flailing by her side as she ran and staggered away at the same time.

"Riley!" He shouted. She couldn't hear him. There were still cracks of gunfire from the jail. He heard a crack-crack. The killer was close.

"Riley!" He yelled louder. He breathed out when he saw her slow down. She heard him. "Riley! Get in the card! Get in the car!" Somehow he had closed the distance to her and now he was yelling right in her ear and shoving her forward. He reached out and grabbed her by the waist and his large strides forced him to pull and drag her towards the convertible.

He jumped in after her into the passenger seat, his heart racing. He hadn't been this scared, not with Cromartie, since he shot at him at school in 1999; not even the pier attack had frightened him this much. But then he had had Cameron with him to protect him, even if he hadn't known it.

"Oh God!" He heard Riley scream, the piercing screech loud enough to shatter glass.

John didn't have time to comfort her; he had to stay focused on getting himself, Riley, and now an in-over-his-head FBI agent out of danger.

Ellison expertly shot the car in reverse as Cromartie came out of the police station, a nine mm Glock in one hand and in the other an MP5. Firearms akimbo he began firing bullet after bullet at John Connor, using his firearms as an expression of his murderous intent towards the young, frightened man

"Stay down!" Ellison yelled as he continued driving the car in reverse. The bumps and potholes in the dirt road kept jumping the car.

The terminator-precision aiming was thrown off as Cromartie began running forward, the terminator itself having to contend with the bumps and potholes of the road, throwing off its aiming. Bullets met for John or Ellison seemed to miss as if only due to divine intervention. Neither were meant to die this day.

The two heard the windshield splinter and Ellisons from shards of glass rain down and cut his bald cranium as he ducked, trying to bury his head as far as he could in his body. John bent and ducked under the dash, his left hand and arm holding Riley down.

John felt himself thrown into the side of the door as Ellison twisted and spun the wheel, trying to keep his attention split between the machine aiming to kill them all, and the buildings behind him. He felt a searing, thumping pain shoot through his ribs and up his back and around his shoulders from the impact.

The dirt and dust, being kicked up from the dry, hot road started getting in Ellison's eyes and into his lungs. Coughing, he spun the wheel and the car slid ninety degrees behind a building.

"Are you okay? Are you okay?!" John frantically yelled to Riley, who he had been cover in the back seat. He was half scrambling over the seat before she revealed herself. She nodded quickly. He could see the fear in her face. "Damnit, why did I bring you hear?" John asked himself under his breath as he turned back around.

Being John Connor meant you blamed yourself when others were put in danger.

You bring danger into her life, Cameron had told him less than twelve hours ago.

In that instant as glass rained down on him- shimmied loose from the windshield by the jumping car, dirt covering his face, and sweat mixing the dirt into a light mud and stinging his eyes, he understood why Future John was so lonely. There were less people to get killed if you never had anyone.

He jumped back into the front see and his eyes glazed over as he saw a shotgun laying on the floor, begging for him to take it and fight, do what John Connor did and fight. Ellison jammed the stick into drive, the gears whirring, and hit the gas. Unfortunately, they drove right pass Cromartie, who now shot up the side of the car. Ping-ping-ping-ping was all John could hear. He thanked God all Cromartie had was a pistol and MP5 and nothing heavier. He tried to use what he'd been taught; focus out the noises and the distractions around him and concentrate.

There was the horrendously bad music blaring from the radio, screams from townspeople, and Ellison saying something, and Riley still screaming, and his heart pounding so loud he could hear it in his ear.

"Hand me the shells!" He yelled to Riley when he saw her with a box. They were slugs, so they might slow down the homicidal robot chasing him. Might, he repeated… maybe... not likely, he corrected himself.

Riley began handing him shotgun shells when she yelped, jumping forward, spilling the box of slugs, and told him frantically there was something in the back seat.

"Stop the car, stop the car!" He yelled, pounding on the seat back excitedly. He grabbed onto Ellison's arm when the man kept ignoring. "I said stop the car!" he hissed.

John then looked back, extending his hand to Riley to grab hers and tell her everything would be alright. He didn't know what they'd find in the trunk… some person Cromartie had kidnapped? He was hoping that 'person' would be his mom, but he couldn't let himself hold onto false hope. John pushed that back, gripping the shotgun until his knuckles turned white and his hand ached. He had to be ready.

"Alright," the former special agent growled, his tone making it clear he thought this was a bad idea. Ellison shot John a contemptuous look, but the teen was concentrating on his girlfriend, completely ignoring the former agent now. He turned the wheel to a side street, which ended up being a dead-end. Then he slammed on the breaks.

John shoved open the passenger door, ignoring the dust clogging his lungs and starting to burn his eyes.

He cocked the shotgun, and hearing the click of a shotgun shell loaded into the chamber, pressed the gun in tight to his shoulder. He took a staggered breath and looked over his shoulder to make sure his girlfriend was safe.

Riley was standing behind him, fidgeting with her hands.

Ellison stood to the right side of the trunk, his finger on the release. John, taking command, nodded to Ellison to open the trunk.

The person who was in there, holding a torn Coke can as some crude, pathetic weapon, or a testament to this person's will to fight, blood gushing down their arm and wetting their shirt, surprised them all.

"Sarah Connor… James Ellison. I'm here to help," he said, reaching down.

He rented the honeymoon suite? Sarah asked herself, smirking, when she, John, Ellison, and Riley fell into the room, exhausted. Inspecting the room, it was a bit… dirty, and Sarah told herself that was being generous. Even with a killer robot down the road she had to give herself a moment to take in the ridiculous scene in front of her… the honeymoon suite?

She and Ellison went to one corner of the room, where the hot tub was (Sarah observed it was fairly grimy and dirty… not safe) and John and Riley were in the other room, separated by half a tattered curtain.

"It was following me… watching me," James Ellison said absently, like he was revealing a deep, hidden secret. He stared at his hands and breathed in and out slowly. Years with the FBI, the massacre of the HRT, and this was the closest he felt to death. The machine had spared his life, had professed to 'believe' in him, and hoped he could lead the death dealer to the Connors. "It was watching me…" he repeated again, quietly.

Sarah stood unabashed and focused in front of the FBI G-man, staring him down. The left side of her mouth flicked into a utterly condescending half-smile.

"And you thought it would be a good idea to come down here, to Mexico? What if you led him to John?"

James looked up, keeping the anger inside from boiling over. He'd come to help them. He didn't believe she could seriously ask that question, not after they found her in the trunks of Cromartie's car. He had no idea what her motivations were for asking him that question, and if it were not for his FBI training, he would have obsessed over it and let her question distract him.

He snorted, too low for her to hear. He'd been out of practice for almost a year, but taking a moment he knew the tactic. He wasn't going to play.

"I wasn't the one in the trunk." He managed to say. It was short and to the point. He wanted to say more, his lungs and heart burnt to say more, but he didn't.

He couldn't believe the… pride of the woman standing in front of her, but he couldn't judge her. Her son had been shot at, she had been kidnapped. God taught forgiveness and silently he gave it to her. He'd tried to understand her for years now… and he saw how wrong he'd been about everything concerning this woman.

Ellison looked at her. He didn't see a crazy domestic terrorist who had escaped Pescadaro mental hospital but a woman fighting against something which would make hardened warriors break down. And she'd done it while raising a son and protecting him and training him.

Ellison looked up, catching Sarah giving her soon a look. It was remarkable. It was love he saw in her eyes, love for her son and a devotion to do anything, anything to protect him. He'd seen so much in his career as an FBI agent, but... he'd never seen this type of devotion. A mother who would sacrifice everything for him.

Everything she had said… that was the difference between man and machine, that was why she fought; he saw the love she had for her son.

Sarah had looked at her son, then quickly moved her eyes then her head back to face Ellison, knowing he was judging her. The Skynet hunter sneered and turned again, presenting her side to the FBI man who had hunted her. She turned and watched John as he explained what to do to Riley.

The way the sunlight was coming in from the windows gave her a silhouette as she faced the two teenagers; one the future leader of Mankind, the other a helpless young girl, a girl who said she didn't want to leave and run from John. Sarah almost, almost admired her dedication. But if it weren't for the ill-mannered, blond-haired foster kid, her son wouldn't be here now.

For a moment she hated the girl before feeling sorry for her.

Sarah had been looking over at the two young teenagers. Her son's life had been marked by loss and danger. And now he'd brought Riley in on it.

She would always love and protect her son no matter what, but she couldn't ignore his childish, selfish behavior over the last few months. He'd neglected his training shortly after returning from Presidio Alto, and the last time he'd been to the range shooting or out training with Derek and… Cameron… he hadn't even helped her track down the thieves who had broken into their house. He could have used his computer skills to help find them, but instead… Sarah stopped her introspection, branding it counter-productive and inane concerning the situation they were in.

Her son was alive. That was all that mattered for now.

They'd find a way past Cromartie. They'd finish him here.

Sarah's thoughts drifted back to Riley, who was holding John's hand, still begging him to allow her to stay and fight. The more she watched the girl, the angrier she became. She felt he arms, back, and legs tense… as the four took refuge in the honeymoon sweet she saw the two people responsible for them being here. Before she could yell she looked down, away from half the cause of her anger.

She kept her eyes glued on the dirty floorboards and steadily let her eye drift up and out through a crack in the window shade. She could see people still running, a pair of cars gunning away from the village. She heard Riley's weak, tired, scared voice as she pleaded over something else… and Sarah gritted her teeth. Because of carelessness three young men were dead, boys… and she knew the fourth she had spared had been captured… killed by Cromartie.

Four deaths. Four needless, senseless deaths at the hands of killing machines. Sarah took a staggered, forced breath in through her nose and coughed. She quickly brought her hand up and wiped away the dirt and dust which was caked on her nostrils.

The Skynet hunter moved forward and extended her hand to the blinds and moved them away. She saw banners and skeletons… the Day of the Dead. It was fitting.

She did look on at John, and for a fleeting second a smile washed over his lips. She was proud of how he was handling the situation, handling Riley. He told her to head east, to the bus stop. Comartie, the it which had attack them, wouldn't follow her there. It wasn't what they did.

But as much as things stayed the same, the more they changed. The terminator was out there, hunting them. It was time they stopped running.

Riley Dawson, sixteen years old, blond haired, light green eyes, tunnel rat from the future, and whose favorite smoothie was peachy keen, stalked away from the Connors and the FBI man. She hadn't waited for Derek and Cameron to meet the three others in the honeymoon suite.

She didn't care now that the wind had kicked up, and that the blazing afternoon sun was beating down on her. She didn't really care that her blond hair was dirty with the orange-red dust of the town, or that her clothes smelled of… whatever it was gunpowder smelled like. Phosphorous, it smelled like phosphorous.

It's just, it didn't have the usual smell of death and garbage and human shit to accompany the smell like in the tunnels. That's why she didn't recognize it at first.

I've been through worse, she told herself. And she had. Living off rats and trash, having to do… horrible things for others, to others, just to get a meal. Or what passed for a meal in the future. Those unlucky enough to be stuck in the tunnels, a meal was either rats, bugs, and trash. Anything except eating the dead was acceptable. That was still taboo. It was desecration.

She put her hand in her pocket and fingered the cash. About $250, in small bills no less, and that was plenty to get her home. I feel like a cheap hooker… he gives me cash to go away. Screw him.

She bit down on her teeth and clenched her fist around the wrinkled wads of bills still in her pocket. She wanted to go back and curse at the Great General Connor for treating her like some cheap… he could just toss her aside… he didn't trust her with the truth.

He'd just explain to her that it was some crazy guy, maybe his dead dad got into some shady business, the guy was a hitman or something. Something crazy, ridiculous, and somewhat believable to the average girl… what some average blond bimbo would think is the truth.

An old van with a family speed by her on the road, bouncing and jumping as it hit potholes and bumps. She considered that they were probably running from the metal monster in town. She snorted at their race to flee. They couldn't even stop to help her.

She breathed in, letting the warm air bathe her lungs. Bad decision. The dust forced her into a coughing fit, which forced her to keel over and put her hands on her knees.

Two pairs of brown, worn leather cowboy boots were on the edge of her vision, which kicked up more dust and grime into her eyes. She blinked her eyes rapidly as they began to tear up and with a quick motion wiped her eyes and stood up, throwing her disheveled hair out of her face with a flick of her head.

In the future, one had a sixth sense about dying. It was a feeling one got in the gut… when it wasn't poisoning from radiation or chemicals. This was that feeling. This was that sense of impeding dread, unmistakable doom and assured death.

The T-888 cocked its head, looking into the sky. Its head shot back towards the earth when it heard a person yelp in fear and slide on the dirt, landing on their back. Its head cocked slightly to the left and a creepy smile snuck onto it face as it tried to assure the frightened woman it would not kill her.

She screamed and clawed her way backwards, disappearing behind an old, mango-painted building.

The machine concentrated, listening, watching for movement. It took half a dozen steps forwards and moved its head methodically from side to side, scanning. The damage from the bank vault and years in a junkyard had damaged the machine's most sophisticated sensors beyond self-repair, forcing it to rely only on sight and sound.

Its left eye twitched.

In the distance he saw a flicker of movement and zoomed in. Its left eye narrowed, closing slightly as the creepy smile formed on the left side of his lips. Quickly, the machine jogged towards its target.

The figure bent down and stepped in front of the young woman. Cromartie recognized her.

"You lied to me," its monotone voice declared.

Its hand shot out, grasping the weak, meaty throat of the human girl. It could feel the sweat, the chemicals of the human girl's excited body leaking through her pores. The machine could hear and feel the racing, pounding heart in the girl's chest. It tightened its grip until it was sure the girl could not escape.

"Riley Dawson," the man, the machine, who had tried to kill John maybe a mere thirty minutes before stated factually, evenly, like it had not already determined it would kill her. "Where is he?"

It knew the question was pointless, but the question demanded to be asked… refusal to answer a justification for its actions.

"I'll never help you," she sneered, narrowing her eyes defiantly. "I'll never help you get near him."

It lifted her slowly off the ground. Her hands shot at his forearms, her finger nails digging into the flesh, making him bleed. It felt nothing.

The machine smiled. With the sun beating down, the white from its perfect teeth glittered back at her. It was an evil smile. It was iconic. The smile was the same which was pasted mockingly on the skulls of the foot soldiers of Skynet. It was the smile of demons.

Cromartie brought her in closer and closer until it couldn't stand the dirty smell of the human, its sweat and odor forcing its olfactory receptors into overdrive. It wrinkled its nose unapologetic.

With a look of what would only be disgust the machine extended its arm, shooting Riley out, the girl screaming in pain. It tightened its grip even more until it felt the girl's heart rate and blood pressure spike from the pressure in which he squeezed her neck.

"We'll see," it sneered coldly.

The town was deserted. Even in the hands of a murderous machine from the future, Riley thought how appropriate it would be for some tumbleweed to come rolling down the street in front of her.

Riley saw, out of the corner of her hopeless eye, a few people looking on from their windows; frightened and afraid for their own lives. They didn't know the man stalking, hunting through the center of their village, a predator, a killer, was a machine from the future designed for the sole purpose of exterminating human life.

It didn't matter what the thing was. What mattered was its mission.

A half dozen bullet holes were carved diagonally into the side of a car in front of her, only one of the many marks of death she saw. The girl looked around, seeing the trash, the overturned carts, lost clothing, and a handful of dead bodies from Cromartie's rampage.

In this secluded enclave on the Baja California peninsula the police lay dead in their station, not that they could do anything, and the people hid in fear. The machine had destroyed the only telephone pole running into town and the poverty of the village meant few had cell phones.

No one would come. Not in time to make a difference at least.

Except for a few either too devoted or stubborn to leave their homes or too frightened and frozen to flee, the town, it was a ghost town. Fitting, for what day it was. The Day of the Dead. Riley didn't know how many police officers had died. She saw four, maybe five. And she didn't know how many others had died in the T-888's shooting spree.

Jesse had told her, after Derek had told Jesse, about Cromartie.

Riley's thoughts drifted to Jesse and how much she had just wanted to run away with her, to somewhere nice, somewhere where it would have just been Jesse and Riley, Riley and Jesse… but she was a 'soldier', conscripted into this war with the promise of paradise. The young girl knew she would soon be cast out of this paradise.

Feeling the cold, hard hands of the machine around the back of her neck she remembered how brave she'd been not so long ago in standing up to the machine and fooling it into leaving. She had felt proud… her 'spooky ninja' skills had saver her, saved John. Saved him.

Now she was in the center of the dusty, deserted street, lined with abandoned cars, with Cromartie's hand on the back of her neck, pushing her forward. He had a pistol tucked into his pants, and an MP5K in his left hand, pointing at the sky.

Looking over at him, Riley didn't understand why the machine was squinting. It wasn't like sunlight affected their vision.

"You are very brave," it said to her. He stopped and tightened his grip on the back of her neck. Flexing, he brought her around to face him. "The polite response is 'thank you', Ms. Dawson."

"Go to hell," the defiant teenager from the future screeched.

She swore she saw the machine sneer at her before it resumed walking, pushing her along.

Looking ahead, pushing Riley forward the machine began explaining its observations to her.

"John Connor… is not so brave. He sends people to die for him. He sent you to die. He sent you to die while he runs away."

"He said you wouldn't… you wouldn't go after me…"

The machine halted and turned her around. A mockingly condescending look appeared on its face, asking Riley how she could believe that.

Riley didn't answer.

"He's good at that, you understand? Sending others to die" The machine observed. "You would lead me to him. He sent you to distract me while he hides."

The machine considered if the human girl would understand he was lying to her. Skynet had downloaded extensive psychological files relating to John Connor to the T-888 known as 'Cromartie'. However, this John Connor had contradicted the conclusions of 2027 Skynet on how the young general would behave.

The machine stopped again and again made Riley face him. A look of disgust washed over his face before returning back to its blank, expressionless, default stare. Any sort of life… bastardization of life, Riley saw in that momentary flash from the machine's face were gone now.

It cocked its head left, then right. "There is something about you Ms. Dawson. I know now he was in the house when I came. The pictures in the house were not of you- you were not taking them. You were protecting him."

The machine stopped in its tracks. Riley stared at it in disbelief, as if it had frozen.

"Yeah? So?" She hissed through her teeth at him. The it. Her tone dared him to answer.

"You're not afraid." He declared with a vicious smile. He looked her over slowly, very slowly. "You're different." He tightened his grip on the back of her neck. Any more pressure and he'd break the vertebrae. "Your behavior is irrational. I went to your home before I came here. You have foster parents. I accessed the LA County school system servers… you're file lists two parents as deceased but your family records ended there- there was no record of your parents ever having existed. No Social Security number, no IRS receipts, no voter registration or DMV records." The man brought her up to his face. "You're not who you say you are."

The machine holding Riley struggled to smile at her, the young girl watching on, disgusting at the machine's actions.

Cromartie flashed his eyes. She stared at him, unblinking, the wind nipping at her drying orbs.

"You are from the future."

She didn't respond. But she saw a smile on the machine's face, a glare of pride in its otherwise dark, glassy, lifeless eyes.

Again, it cocked its head. "You are from the future," it stated. It was a fact now.

Riley closed her eyes. Jesse had told her this would be paradise but this wasn't paradise. It was another bitter disappointment in a life marked with horror and punctuated by death.

The sun glittered on its white teeth again, and it smiled that evil smirk at her.

The wind blew through Riley's dirty and matted hair and she could feel the hot breath of the terminator on her face.

"It's doubtful John Connor knows of your origins. Let's see if John Connor comes to rescue you."

It sounded like it was almost taking… enjoyment out of taunting Riley like this. She knew it could have just killed her and mimicked her voice. Why was it doing this?

They walked through town. Like the outskirts, it was deserted. She and the machine saw James Ellison, and she wanted to scream. But she held herself back. This had to be a trick. No way Ellison would just walk through the street like that, so casual, get a medical kit, and walk back to the church. They had to be planning something.

Forward, the machine walked, pushing the girl in front of him as her heels dug into the hard earth, trying to slow the killer down. This was the closest and longest she'd ever gotten to a machine. There was the obvious exception at John's house. And this was the closest since 2026 when a squad of T-600s had killed her friends.

They opened the doors, and Ellison was there, praying under the cross. Cromartie saw him stand up and leave through a side door. The damage from the bank vault prevented the terminator from tracking him on motion scanners once he left.

"Ms. Dawson, call to him," it commanded as it tightened it grip. She remained defiantly quiet. "Ms. Dawson, your services are no longer required. Thank you for your time…" Cromartie said quietly. He spun her around and grabbed her neck. He pressed his pistol into her stomach and saw her eyes lock with his. A muffled crack, Riley's body flinched and Cromartie stared into the soon-to-be lifeless eyes of Riley Dawson and for some odd reason Cromartie wasn't even sure of, laid her down slowly on the dusty, creaking floorboards of the old church.

"Riley? Riley!"

She looked up. She saw a line of blood on John Connor's cheek. Squinting, she could tell it wasn't his. It… was hers?

Oh… she realized.

She felt a dull pain in her abdomen, with a warm, viscous liquid rushing down both her flanks.

She felt her head slip to the side and she could see the Cromartie's body splayed in front of the altar, half of its face missing as the sun's light beat down on its head through the dusty church.

Riley felt John's hands on her cheeks, and a blink of her eyes she was looking up at him.

John… I… she wanted to tell him something. She felt her lips moving. Her eyelids were getting heavier and heavier. John was shaking her now. She felt that. She wanted him to keep touching her. The machine was touching her. She didn't want that.

She pushed Cameron away and Riley's eyes widened when she saw her own hand covered in blood, smeared now across the machine girl's jacket and hand.. She saw John snarl something at his machine protector who merely looked at him, stood, and took a step back, remaining rigid and stiff.

Riley felt her lips moving, the afternoon sun fading, casting a myriad of reds and blues and greens from the stained glass windows over her body. She felt a tear drop from John's eyes onto her cheek. She smiled.

She knew he was sensing her death was imminent, and she was trying to mumble something. She could see him shaking. And he leaned down.

"John…" she said quietly. But she wasn't sure if she said it. "I know… I did this for you." She felt the world slipping. She knew how cliché she would sound, laying here, dying, but she had one more thing to say.

She wasn't sure if she said it, and she was even less sure if he heard it. His ear was still by her mouth and she knew her lips had moved, just not if anything more than a whimper had come out.

She wanted to know if John Connor, the great General, had heard her, had even loved her.

She saw his lips move, but she didn't hear anything. If even for a minute, the savior of Mankind had been hers- she didn't need to hear anything from him. She only wondered if he had heard her.

AN: I thought after Cromartie was dispatched season 2 didn't really have a bad guy to focus on until Kaliba came up. In this story I am going to be introducing new Skynet terminators and others who will be working against the Connors to hasten Judgment Day. Future John also sends back additional Resistance members to aide his past self, Cameron, Sarah, and Derek in the fight against Skynet and all the malevolent entities working to destroy the world.

A preview of Chapter 2 and 3: Chapter Two will introduce the scientists, their abduction spurring the Connors to San Diego to investigate, and a little bit on how John is dealing with Riley's death. Chapter Three will focus on John sort of rekindling his relationship with Cameron.

I hope you all enjoyed the first chapter (or the firs three) and please leave reviews and let me know what you think.