Terminator: Searching for Serenity
Disclaimer: I do not own anything Terminator or Firefly/Serenity except my copy of the DVDs.
setting: TSCC future; Serenity timeframe
warning: Major Spoilers for Serenity and TSCC if for some horrible reason you have not seen them yet
summary: After destroying Skynet, John and Cameron time-travel into the future where a war is still being waged, not against the machines, but against a totalitarian regime known as the Alliance. A mistaken identity brings John and Cameron face to face with the crew of Serenity…and the dangerous passenger on board. Set during the events of Serenity.
Nee mun doh shr sagwa – Idiots, all of you
Searching for Serenity
Spacelings Welcome Here
U.S. Air Force Cyber Research System
April 19, 2011
John Connor felt as if he was moving in slow motion, his entire body numb. He saw the command on the computer screen, the request to activate Skynet. He saw his mother, Sarah Connor, move towards it, to prevent the apocalypse from being initiated. And he saw the TX stalk forward, as if from nowhere, saw his mother stabbed straight through the chest with its liquid metal appendage.
His mouth opened in a scream.
Twenty Minutes Ago…
Everything had been moving quickly for John Connor. An unforeseen chain of events had started with Riley's death and things hadn't stopped escalating from there. Charley's death, Derek's death… too much death. And finally, they'd reached this point – him, his mother, and Cameron – the only three survivors, on their way to the U.S. Air Force's Cyber Research System to destroy Skynet once and for all. Weaver, John Henry, Ellison, Danny Dyson, even the Turk and Kaliba, had all played a part to figure out exactly where and when Skynet started. And they had traced it to this day, this hour, inside CRS at the hands of General Robert Brewster.
It had been a long road, filled with pain and loss and death, but the end was finally in sight. "If this works, it's all over," he whispered, more to himself. "We'll have stopped Judgment Day."
"Don't celebrate yet, John," Sarah cautioned. "You know what's at stake."
John couldn't help the bitter scowl that came over his face. "I know," he said stonily. "I've already sacrificed everything else. Charley…. Riley… I know what we have to lose. I know the cost."
Sarah looked back at her son. His words hadn't been the whining complaint of a child, though she wouldn't have blamed him. Instead, they'd been firm, but full of loss. John was growing up, she knew. Faster than a boy his age should. He'd become a leader.
Sarah parked around the back of the CRS building, out of sight, and John hopped out, quickly grabbing his weapons belt from the backseat and strapping it on. He was already wearing a bulletproof vest and shrugged on a trenchcoat over top, covering his weapons.
Sarah had a vest on as well, slinging her Mp5 over her shoulder and chambering a round in her Glock. Cameron, of course, wore no vest at all. Seeing her take bullets without flinching always caused John to wince but he'd more than gotten used to it.
Sarah nodded at Cameron's 9mm. "You going to take out all the guards with that?"
"That's the plan," Cameron replied evenly.
John frowned as he looked over. He'd spent the last three years trying to teach Cameron how to be human – and that included a respect for human life. She still didn't completely understand his order not to kill anyone. "These people aren't evil. They don't understand what they're creating. They're not the monster that Skynet is. Remember what I told you."
"You said I couldn't kill anyone," Cameron replied. "You never said anything about kneecaps."
If the situation ahead wasn't so serious, John was sure he would have grinned. Instead, he merely turned his head to look at the entrance and the two guards at the door.
"I'll go first," John said. He didn't even wait for Sarah's okay before heading toward the entrance. Two CRS guards stopped him by the entrance, rifles in hand.
"Halt," the guard ordered. "This is a restricted area, what are you doing here?"
John didn't have time to play games, not with Skynet on the verge of being unleashed. He opened his trenchcoat wide, revealing the array of weapons strapped to his chest.
The guard's eyes widened. "Holy-."
Two shots rang out and both guards were suddenly on the ground, clutching their kneecaps and howling in anguish. Cameron came up behind John, lowering her pistol and looking satisfied.
John stepped forward, took the blunt end of his rifle and smashed it against both guard's heads, knocking them unconscious. He then reached down and grabbed a headset, sticking it on his ear.
They moved into the building, with Cameron leading the way – having internal images of the blueprints of the facility. They ventured down a long hall, passing by a room where John saw a row of machines lined inside.
"T-1's," Cameron reported.
John spun his gun over, but the T-1's appeared to be deactivated. He knew that would change if they failed to stop Brewster from activating Skynet.
"Tell me you brought the grenades, John," Sarah muttered. John slipped a grenade off his belt and tossed it into the room, closing the door again and covering his ears.
"Now they know we're here," he said, his tone not accusatory but merely resigned.
"Good," Cameron replied. "The distraction will hopefully delay Brewster from activating Skynet."
John gripped his gun tightly, glancing back down the hallway. "Where is he?"
"Just ahead," Cameron replied.
John followed her directions until they reached the heart of CRS. He burst into the door, guns in both hands, following behind Cameron as she took out several guards who foolishly reached for weapons. He surveyed the scene quickly, seeing the large computer systems in the room, the many scientists and engineers gathered, the computer screen demanding one query:
Activate Skynet. Y/N
General Brewster's hand was hovering over the keyboard.
"Don't!" John screamed.
Brewster's hand froze and he turned toward John with a look of alarm. John saw a flash of white from behind Brewster – a scientist, he realized. The scientist moved forward with deadly intent toward Brewster's back and by the time John recognized the danger, it was too late to shout a warning.
A liquid metal spike shoved through the General's back and John felt his heart catch in his throat. The scientist's skin rippled, revealing a female form in a red jumpsuit that John didn't recognize.
"TX," Cameron reported, ever calm in the face of danger. "She's here to ensure Skynet's creation."
Of course. It was just like Skynet to have a backup plan.
In the split second after the General was attacked, chaos broke out inside the room. Officers went for their guns, firing repeatedly – not at the Connors but at the metal monster that had just murdered their commanding officer.
John quickly went for a heavier weapon, whipping out his grenade launcher and popping in a grenade. He took aim at the TX and fired. The blast was enough to knock it backwards through the air, but it was on its feet again in an instant, seemingly undamaged. All the weapons of the officers in the rooms were ineffective against the machine and it paid them the same attention a human would give a gnat.
Out of the corner of his eye, John saw his mother lift her MP5, letting loose a flurry of bullets that the liquid metal absorbed. The TX lifted its arm and John saw the liquid metal ripple into some kind of cannon device. An instant later, a blast of plasma shot out of the TX's arm. Sarah sidestepped but the blast still managed to graze the end of her MP5, melting the barrel and rendering it useless.
Then the TX switched to its secondary weapon – which John soon found out was a flamethrower. The TX unleashed the fire, scorching everyone within ten feet. John shielded himself from the heat, feeling it blistering at his back.
In the next instant, Cameron snatched his grenade launcher from his hands, plunked a grenade inside and fired. Her aim was perfect, blowing the flamethrower to pieces. Having destroyed its weapon, Cameron thrust the grenade launcher back in John's arms and started forward to engage the TX in hand to hand combat.
"Everyone move!" John ordered. The hoard of scientists all fled to the doors, evacuating the room until only John, Sarah, Cameron, and the TX were left – along with the dead.
The TX shoved Cameron backwards, right into John, knocking him down and pinning him momentarily. John groaned and tried to move, but Cameron's deadweight was impossible to budge.
From his position on the floor beneath her, John strained to see what was happening. The TX, with two of her opponents out of the way, turned toward the computer with the command still on the screen:
Activate Skynet. Y/N.
Before the machine could reach it, John saw his mother fly in, smashing the computer console with her ruined MP5. The TX never faltered, never stopped advancing.
By now, John had rolled to his knees but he was too far away to be of any help. He felt as if he was moving in slow motion.
"Mom, no! Look out!"
He saw her turn around but it was too late to dodge. The TX pierced its metal appendage through her chest.
John's mouth opened in a scream.
He watched in utter shock and horror as the TX withdrew its hand, and Sarah crumpled to the floor. Then it turned toward him, having heard his scream. It started toward him but Cameron stepped between, ready to defend him.
At that point, the door burst open and a familiar flame-haired form appeared in the doorway.
The TX turned toward the new threat just in time to see Weaver extend her liquid metal arm to its max, spearing through the TX's chest and – as Weaver had calculated – its power cell as well.
The TX dropped to the ground, deactivated. John didn't even register it. Instead, he rushed to his mother's side, clutching her hand desperately.
"It's… okay, John," she murmured weakly. "You're…safe now."
John shook his head, tears running down his face. "Listen to me!" he pleaded. "You can't die. You can't die, I need you!"
Sarah's eyes closed. "I'm sorry, John…"
He knew. Some part of him, deep down, knew that – as tough as she was – this was one wound his mother wasn't walking away from. But neither was he willing to accept her fate.
"You can't give up!" he ordered, his voice strained. "You have to fight! There is no fate but what we make. Mom… mom, no…"
He could do nothing – nothing except watch as the last breath left her body. And with it came a numbness he'd never felt before. He'd seen death before, both with Riley and Derek. But he'd never felt as a great a loss as now.
He saw the display flashing on another screen, the Skynet command still waiting. John stood up stonily, stalked over to the computer and pressed the button to delete Skynet from the system. He should have felt relief, victory, peace. But all he felt was an empty hole in his chest.
Cameron came up to his side, looking sympathetic. "It'll be okay, John. It's not your fault."
"No," he agreed, his voice dull. His eyes flashed over to Weaver. "It's not." Weaver looked up, her face expressionless as always. He couldn't keep the contempt from his voice. "You should have been here sooner…"
One minute sooner and he wouldn't have had to witness his mother die in his arms.
Weaver simply responded, "You should be happy I arrived at all."
John curled his lip and stormed aside, ignoring both Weaver and Cameron's attempts to help console him. But neither of them understood, not truly. Both were machines, as much as John so badly wanted to believe otherwise. Not even Cameron could heal the hole in his heart left by his mother.
There's always a price to pay.It was always true. This time, the cost had been his mother's life. Such a steep price. And for what?
To prevent Skynet from being activated.
At least for now.
But had it actually changed anything? Had it made that much of a difference? Or had they merely postponed it again? Was there ever any stopping it?
Or had all those deaths made no difference at all. Had Riley, Jesse, Charley, Derek, Sarah… all died in vain? In a fruitless quest to prevent Skynet?
He turned around, all the anger drained from his posture and his face. Instead, there was only sorrow, only pain. He glanced from Cameron to Weaver. "Was it worth it?" he whispered. "Did we do it? Did we change the future?"
"I don't know," Weaver responded. "But there's only one way to find out."
John entered the basement, instantly spotting some computer equipment that resembled the first TDE he'd ever seen – the one in the bank vault in 1999.
"You have your own time machine," John stated, his voice slightly accusatory. He still didn't completely trust Weaver, even if she had created John Henry to counter Skynet.
Slowly his thoughts turned from Weaver to the TDE itself. If she had a time machine, he could go back in time, prevent his mother's death. But what if they had stopped Skynet this time? Could he take that risk? What if the next time he tried to change the future, something went wrong and Skynet won?
"What will you do?"
"What do you mean?" John retorted bitterly.
"If her sacrifice stopped Skynet," Cameron stated. "Will you still go back and prevent her death?"
John opened his mouth and shut it quickly. "I don't know."
Neither Cameron nor Weaver attempted to entice any further conversation out of him. Instead, Weaver went over to the machine and started programming it.
"What date?" Cameron asked.
"2027," John said. "That's the year you're from. We'll be able to tell right away if Skynet's still in control."
Weaver started the machine and stepped backwards as the time bubble grew. John stood close to Cameron inside the circle, taking a deep breath, trying to prepare for what he would find when they arrived.
It felt like the last time he had time jumped, back in 1999. Brilliant white light, an intense wave of pain, and suddenly he felt the cold ground beneath him.
The brightness faded and John found himself kneeling on the ground in the dark. He struggled to his feet, wincing and shivering. He glanced over at Cameron who was still crouched on the ground, showing no signs of pain or cold. Must be nice, he thought grimly.
He glanced around, barely recognizing the interior of Zeira Corp. Cameron was right, John thought. Same where, different when. He quickly grabbed a pair of clothes and shrugged them on, with Cameron following suit.
There was only one way to know if Skynet had in fact been defeated. He had to get to the surface, see if the nuclear war had occurred, see if Judgment Day had happened.
He scrambled up the stairs to the main level and burst through the front doors of Zeira Corp…
And stopped in his tracks.
Everything was bare – dry and brown, as if nothing living had grown there in a long time. He half-expected a tumbleweed to blow by. Wasn't this LA? What was this?
John's lips parted. "Cameron… wha-."
"It's not nuclear," she reported, answering his unspoken question.
John stared across the landscape. If Judgment Day hadn't happened, then what had caused this? Why was everything dead? And where were all the people?
"Do you see anyone?" he asked.
Cameron was silent for a moment, no doubt running thermal scans, searching for any living creature. "No," she replied. "Nothing. Not even plants or animals."
"What happened here?" John whispered.
"Everything appears to be dead."
"So… Skynet won? It destroyed all life?"
Before she could reply, John heard a low whine, then a steady roar of an aircraft.
"Not all life," Cameron replied eerily.
John listened closely. "Is that an airport?" There hadn't been one in this area before, but if this was the future…
He and Cameron made their way in that direction, following the sound of the roaring engine. The airport in question was much smaller than John had anticipated. This was still California for crying out loud. As they approached, John's breath caught in his throat. Those weren't airplanes
In fact, they looked more like spaceships.
John swallowed hard and glanced around. Across the way, a squad of what looked like soldiers were being transported on some kind of roofless craft. And it was hovering above the ground. Stretching across the windows were holograms that kept flipping to different screens. If John hadn't known better, he would have thought he'd stepped into a sci-fi movie.
"Cameron…" he breathed. "How far into the future did we travel?"
Cameron, too, seemed puzzled by the superior technology. "It should have been only twenty years, though there could have been a temporal error."
"Temporal error?" John repeated.
"We could have arrived at the wrong point in the timeline."
"The wrong time?" John questioned. "Or the wrong future?"
The squad of soldiers on the hovercraft seemed to be looking over at John and Cameron, and John instinctively averted his gaze, trying to appear innocent. He cast a quick glance back over to see one of the soldiers speaking frantically into his communicator.
"Let's go," John hissed at Cameron. Maybe inside they could find out what was going on here.
As he turned to leave, another small squad of soldiers appeared around the other corner, aiming their guns at both John and Cameron.
"River Tam, surrender!" the lead soldier ordered.
John's brow furrowed. "What?" What the heck was River Tam? Was that a name? Some kind of code?
It was then he realized that the guards were mostly speaking to Cameron. "Put your hands up!" the soldier ordered. "You are under arrest!" He hit a button on his communicator. "We have River Tam and her brother, sir. What's the order?"
John was about to protest that they had the wrong people but the soldier nodded and signaled to his squad. "Take 'em alive!"
Cameron moved faster than John had, placing herself between him and the soldiers and charged forward. The first officer swung his rifle but Cameron grabbed it and snapped it out of his grip, tossing it back to John.
He lifted the weapon, staring at it hesitantly. It was unlike anything he'd ever seen or used before. It was clearly a gun but he could never have said what kind. Hoping for the best, he aimed and fired at the squad.
A laser bolt shot out, knocking one soldier to the ground. John grinned and aimed for the next.
Cameron, meanwhile, was making short work of the squad up close. She managed to avoid most of the laser blasts, and what bolts did hit merely seared her clothes and skin, not affecting her in the slightest. Even when the soldiers from the hovercraft came to help, Cameron was still able to drop them all without much exertion.
When only one soldier remained standing, Cameron grabbed him by the collar and slammed him into the wall, pinning him there. John stepped up, staring at the soldier with his eyes burning.
"Who are you?" he demanded.
"Alliance," the soldier replied. "You are a fugitive of the-."
"Save it," John growled. Cameron's hand tightened on the soldier's collar, cutting off his sentence. "What day is it? What year?"
The man seemed confused. "2518."
John felt the air leave his lungs. "Twenty…" They'd jumped over five hundred years into the future? "Wh-where are we?"
The soldier was now looking at John like he was delusional. "Earth-That-Was."
"Earth that what?" John repeated.
"Was what? What are you talking about?"
The soldier scowled and muttered under his breath. "Nee mun doh shr sagwa."
John swung his commandeered rifle, smashing the guard in the side of the head. The man dropped hard to the ground, and John stared down, gritting his teeth. "Not sure what he said but I'm guessing it wasn't nice."
"It was Chinese," Cameron reported. "And you're right."
"It wasn't nice."
The Operative stared silently into space, awaiting word. An Alliance officer entered nervously, no doubt bringing less than joyous news. "Sir, we have word from our station on Earth-That-Was."
Normally such news would be dismissed or taken to one of a lesser position to take care of. But if the Alliance officer was bothering him with this – knowing how important his true assignment was – it had to have some sort of significance.
"Yes, what about it?" the Operative asked.
"It's about River Tam, sir."
The Operative gave a long pause, calculating that information. "River Tam is on Earth-That-Was?" What would her purpose be in going there? Earth-That-Was was a wasteland, a desolate place of death and destruction, its once thriving empire gone, its life extinguished and its waters turned brown.
"She was with a young man," the Alliance officer continued. "We lost them."
Ah, a young man. "Her brother, no doubt," the Operative mused.
"She took out twenty of our men."
At this the Operative stopped and slowly turned to face the Alliance officer, his face deadly serious. "She killed them? Has the code been broadwaved to trigger her?"
The man shook his head. "No sir."
The Operative remained silent for a long moment. "Then she has become more dangerous than I'd first imagined. Broadwave the code now. I want her found."
As the officer departed, the Operative picked up a picture from the desk – the picture of his target, the fugitive River Tam. Then he looked down at his computer screen as it showed a movie image of Earth-That-Was. Not for the first time, the Operative wondered aloud.
"What are you doing there, little girl?"
author's note: Well, here's the debut chapter. :) I hope you enjoyed it and, as always, I'd love to hear what you think!