Really sorry this chapter took so long, to be honest I found this one the toughest to write by far. I hope the wait is worth it :-)
Scorching sunlight beat down on the arid desert plains, casting a punishing heat that forced every living thing underground to hide in the shade. Nothing moved over the rocky landscape except the shimmering of the air. Not even the slight breeze of the wind had any effect on the searing heat. A few sparse scrub bushes were the only visible signs of life for miles in every direction; any and all animal life had taken shelter underground, hiding to survive the blistering triple-digit temperatures.
A single road bisected the otherwise seemingly endless stretch of desert. The only manmade feature for miles to interfere with what otherwise would have appeared to be an unspoilt wilderness. On said road a single 4x4 rolled onwards, alone in the vastness of its surroundings.
Ellison stared out of the windscreen as John drove the Suburban along the desert road. A sign appeared and grew larger as they approached. "Maguire Gunnery Range," he read aloud, frowning. "What're we doing here?"
"Mopping up," John answered. They passed another sign informing them to turn off their air conditioning between eleven am and five pm to prevent their engines from overheating. He promptly ignored the advice; the thermometer read one-hundred-and-eleven degrees and there was no way he was going to roast to death.
"Anything more specific?" Ellison asked.
"A while ago Cameron, mom and me came here to stop a Triple-Eight named Carter from stockpiling a truckload of coltan and sealing it away for the future."
Ellison didn't get it. "Coltan?"
"It's one of the metals that make up their endoskeletons; it makes them more heat resistant. Carter stole the coltan, drove it into a fallout bunker on this range and sealed it tight. We took it back and sealed the machine inside behind thick blast doors. It's still there. That's what this is for," he patted the M-32 on the seat behind them.
"If it's sealed away then what's the harm?" Ellison asked. If it was trapped behind blast doors in the middle of nowhere then it wasn't going anywhere anytime soon. "They can't break down blast doors."
John shook his head. "I'm not worried about Carter breaking out; I'm worried about someone letting him out."
"Greys?" Ellison asked.
"Or the army if they decide one day to open up Depot 37." John didn't like to imagine that scene; some poor soldiers just doing their job opening up the blast doors to be slaughtered by a very pissed off terminator. He carried on driving down the narrow road and looked out for signs he was on the right track. He had a map that Cameron had marked out; she of course could remember its exact location from the last time when she and his mom had come to rescue him. He hadn't seen anything en route last time, having been stuck in the back of the truck when he'd arrived.
Finally they arrived at a turning and saw a sign indicating Depot 37 up ahead, two miles away. He veered right onto the new road and continued on, following the sign. He sped up and created a large cloud of dust in their wake, pressing harder on the gas as the depot came into sight in the distance and grew larger, filling up the windscreen as they drew nearer. John parked up just outside, feeling a sense of déjà vu, the scene feeling to him much like when he'd approached John Henry's hangar in the future. He wondered how far away that facility and this depot were from each other; the distances had seemed larger in 2027.
As Ellison opened the door and got out the passenger side, John picked up the grenade launcher from the back seat and readied it before he exited the car. The heat instantly struck him hard as he stepped into the direct sunlight.
"I vote we do this job quickly," Ellison commented, feeling the heat almost as much as John as he transitioned from air conditioned, climate controlled car to the full force of the sun. The former future-saviour looked at the ex agent and suddenly found himself very glad he wasn't the only one who felt it.
He led the way into the front of the depot, finding it as empty as when they'd been there before. Inside the large hangar was empty, just wide open space the width of a football field. Cleary the depot wasn't in use at the moment and probably hadn't been since they were last here. If there had been, John knew he'd be looking at an open set of blast doors, shell casings scattered on the ground and bodies of dead soldiers strewn about. There was none of that, no sign of a struggle. "He should still be in there," he told Ellison. He opened up the box for the door controls, left unlocked by them the last time they'd been here.
He stepped away from it and walked towards the middle of the blast door, standing several paces back from the entrance. "Press the green button to open it," he told Ellison, shouldering the M-32. He took aim through the sights and tensed up, ready, as Ellison went over to the door controls and pressed the open button. A klaxon sounded as the doors rolled outwards slowly, loudly, and revealed the interior of the bunker.
John stared as hard as he could inside, searching for Carter. He saw nothing; the inside was pitch black barring the little bit of light that came through from behind him; there were plenty of places to hide inside the bunker and clearly the T-888 had chosen to remain out of immediate sight, or at least John hoped.
"Do you see him?" Ellison asked, keeping his voice just above a whisper.
"Nothing," John replied softly. He started to sweat nervously under his t-shirt. He'd expected to see Carter stood like a statue right behind the door and now he wasn't there. Clearly Carter had learnt his lesson from before and was hiding inside somewhere, probably already awakened from standby mode and waiting to spring a trap.
"Do we go in?" Ellison asked.
"That's a death sentence," John muttered. "He's waiting in there."
"How'd you know?"
John shrugged. "It's what I'd do." He wasn't going to walk in there, in the dark, and expose himself to a terminator that could be hiding anywhere in the massive space inside, behind anything, out of sight. It could see in the dark and he couldn't. Even with the grenade launcher he didn't like those odds. Cameron had wanted him to wait until she was fixed up so she could go with him but after she'd told him about Coleman's emails and phone calls to Colonel Schiff and to Dakara Systems, he hadn't wanted to give them a chance to find new allies. If they knew about Carter or even just the coltan – and he had to assume they did – then another T-888 on their side was the last thing John needed.
Ellison pulled a 9mm from his waistband, walked closer to John and fired three shots through the bunker entrance. The rounds barked loudly in the confined space and he heard them ricochet off of something metal, the sound echoed throughout the interior. They waited for several seconds but there was no sound or movement in reply to his shots. Disappointing, he thought. He'd hoped gunfire might've caught the machine's attention. "Now what do we do?" he asked.
"Draw it out," John decided.
"If shooting into the bunker didn't do it, what will?"
John smiled as he realised exactly what would. "Hey, it's John Connor: come and get me! I'm right here, come on!" He kept the M-32 tight into his shoulder and waited.
Carter surged forward, facial and voice recognition software identifying him as the intruder who'd locked him into the bunker and also the owner of the voice claiming to be John Connor. In the blink of an eye his primary mission, previously deemed a failure, was overridden by the standing orders to terminate John Connor on sight. The T-888 sprinted towards John out of the darkness with murderous intent at his prey.
John shifted his aim towards the short haired, BDU-clad cyborg and quickly fired twice before the machine made it out through the doors. Two grenades shot out from the launcher and smashed into Carter's chest with double-flash of fire and two loud explosions reverberated through the air, knocking the T-888 onto its back.
Before the sound had even died down John slowly advanced on the downed machine, keeping the launcher aimed squarely at Carter as the smoke and dust dissipated. He couldn't tell what the damage was in the dim light but he could see Carter slowly moving, trying to get up.
"Not going to happen," John said to it as he fired again, hammering Carter's back with a third round. His arms gave out from the force of the blast and he was smashed against the floor. John didn't bother hesitating. He fired the last three grenades methodically, taking aim each time and squeezing the trigger, resulting in three more explosions that shook the ground beneath them slightly. When the dust and smoke cleared John moved closer to inspect what was left.
A devastated wreck of twisted, snapped, and burnt metal lay unmoving on the ground. Half of its head was missing and a single glowing red eye flickered faintly before it faded into dull blackness. All its limbs had been torn off and smashed beyond repair; John was satisfied there was nothing to be salvaged from the remains of Carter, besides one thing. He walked up to the smashed wreck and saw two thirds of a chip lodged in what was left of the skull, exposed and within easy reach. He pulled it out, dropped it on the floor and crushed it under the sole of his boot. John dropped the M-32 to the ground; it was out of ammo and besides, he wouldn't need it anymore.
"Should we bury it, burn it or something?" Ellison asked, looking at the smoking ruins of what had once been one of the world's most formidable killing machines. It seemed wrong to just leave it out where someone – especially the army – could find it.
"No one's going to build Skynet from that," John gestured at the scrap metal on the ground. He went over to the door controls and pressed close. Slowly the doors rolled shut and sealed themselves, entombing the remains of Carter inside. "Let's get out of here," he said, turning away from the blast doors and heading out of the depot. He'd just obliterated one cyborg; now to make whole another.
To a man, the inside of Room 19 of the motel in Palm Springs was a gruesome scene right out of a horror movie. Blood stained the king size bed's white sheets, creating dark crimson patches throughout. Sharp tools dripped droplets of dark red onto one of the two bedside cabinets. A body lay on the ground, separated from the carpet only by the shower curtain, which had been carefully removed from the bathroom.
What had once been a pretty girl had been carved up like a Christmas turkey, her flesh cut and the body splayed open for anyone present to see inside of her. Any innocent bystander, any ignorant person who'd stumbled across the body would have screamed in abject horror at the sight of it. The corpse was nude; her body split from groin to gullet and peeled wide open, her wrists the same from the crooks of the elbows all the way up to the palms of her hands, and her legs ended at the knees, amputated, leaving torn strips of flesh dangling and dripping blood into small pools on the shower curtain beneath her. Her eyes had been gouged out, leaving a pair of gaping, empty holes where they had once been.
To a man, or woman, who may have opened the door – perhaps the housekeeper come to clean and tidy the room and replace bedding and towels – the scene would appear the most bizarre, heinous, grizzly, sadistic ritual killing imaginable: a slaughter worse than anything the minds of Bundy, Gacey or Dahmer could have even imagined. To the occupants of the room, nothing could have been further from the truth.
John held the electric screwdriver carefully against Cameron's right knee, slotting the flat head into a notch in one of the locking cylinders in her new limb. "Ready?" he asked, looking up at her, meeting her gaze. They'd already done the hard work now; taking out her ruined cybernetic eye and replacing it with one from her other body had been the most difficult. Compared to that this was a cinch, but still he was nervous he'd make a mistake.
"Ready," she replied. Cameron reached down and wrapped her hand around his – the one holding the screwdriver, holding his grip steady. It was to reassure him more than anything else.
"Here goes," he breathed. Not so much nervous anymore; they'd spent the last eight hours on the bed, taking apart the spare body he and Ellison had dug out of the ground, harvesting the spare parts she needed, and replacing her damaged components with them. He started the screwdriver and pressed it against her knee as the head whirred loudly as it spun faster than even Cameron could track, turning the locking cylinder with it and tightening it. He loosened his grip on the trigger and slowed the rotation; unconsciously not wanting to damage her despite the fact that intellectually he knew even an assault rifle would barely scratch the hyperalloy.
"That's good," Cameron said softly and smiled as the cylinder locked into place, securing the new knee into place. This leg had been the easiest to repair; her left leg had been so badly damaged that they'd had to disconnect the entire limb from the hip joint and replace it. The right one had been a clean slice just below the knee and had only required removal of the joint – a simpler matter. Terminators, being the most valuable assets Skynet had in its arsenal, had been built not only to be able to repair themselves but to make said repair and maintenance easy. Repairing a badly damaged limb required only to release the locking mechanisms securing the limb or joint in place and replacing with an intact part. Replacing her eye had been more difficult, requiring a steady hand from John and her patient, deliberate instructions. He'd been afraid of damaging it and leaving her half blind until she reminded him if he did go wrong her body double had a spare eye remaining.
The screwdriver stopped as the cylinder locked fully in place, preventing the power tool from spinning anymore. John pulled it away and placed it onto the bedside cabinet with the head facing away from them, then stood up, looking down at her sat on the edge of the bed. He held both her bloodstained hands in his equally crimson ones and squeezed. "You feel better?" he asked.
"Yes," Cameron answered honestly. Her diagnostic systems indicated that everything was fully repaired.
"A hundred percent?" He didn't want her to be anything less; if there was the slightest thing wrong with her, anything she needed, he'd do whatever it took to fix. And he knew she was aware of it.
"I think so." She stood up off the bed and put all her weight onto her two new feet. They held, as she knew they would, but she knew John wanted to see for himself. She jogged on the spot for several seconds and made a show of flexing and extending her knees, hips and ankles to show they were in working order.
"Good," he smiled, relieved. He couldn't help but look at her eyes; the contrast between chocolate and brightly glowing blue kept his gaze on her, especially the cybernetic eye. The fact it glowed reassured him it was working and she could see out of it. He sat back down on the bed and looked at the remains of her other body on the ground.
"What do you want to do with the rest of... you?" he asked her. Cameron sat down next to him, her arm brushed against his and their shoulders and hips pressed together. John knew that six months ago he would have been uncomfortable at her being so close, but not now.
"Harvest any spare parts I might need in future, and burn the rest," she said. It didn't need saying that they needed to destroy any evidence of the truth, anything that could start it all over again. They both knew.
John took out the sewing kit they'd procured. He looped a length of thread through the eye of a needle and gently pierced the skin around Cameron's knee with it. He threaded the thin strand through skin and muscle, and did the same to the skin on her lower leg. "Will this heal up okay?" he asked her. He knew her skin would regenerate in ordinary cases – it had already started to grow back over her exposed cheek and around the eye – but this was different – it was grafting one leg onto another and connecting two pieces of skin together.
"I'll have to keep my legs still," Cameron replied as John continued his sewing. He tried to be as delicate as he could but his stitches were clumsy and haphazard. "Here," Cameron reached forward to take the needle from him.
John pulled away, keeping it out of her reach. "I can do it." He wanted to do it for her; he knew she could do it better but that wasn't the point.
"Okay," Cameron relented. John held the needle against her skin again and pushed the sharp tip through. "OW!" she cried out and jolted in place, pulling away and looking at John with a pained expression on her face.
"Shit! I'm sorry Cameron, I..." John looked up and saw her head cocked slightly, a small, sly smile on her face; he realised exactly what was going on.
"Fooled you," her smile grew fractionally wider.
John shook his head but couldn't help smiling back. "Did Savannah put you up to that?" he asked.
"You two are gonna be trouble," he mock-sighed. At least until Savannah was up and around again. He'd never been that badly hurt before but he imagined how bored she must be, sat in a wheelchair and unable to do even the most basic things he'd always taken for granted.
"It does hurt though, right?" he asked. "A little bit?" She said she could feel but he wanted to understand exactly how, how it was different to the way he felt.
"I feel the needle pierce the skin and I know it's damaged. But it's different to how you feel."
That piqued his curiosity now and he couldn't resist quizzing her further. There was still a lot he didn't know about how she worked. "How's it different?"
"I sense damage but there's no reflex to stop it like with you. It just makes me aware of injuries."
"So..." John started, thinking he had the gist of what she meant. "Pain doesn't hurt, like it does with us?"
She didn't know if he'd be able to understand it fully; organic beings felt pain for a reason, to make them averse to harming themselves accidentally or to force them to remove themselves from danger, in a similar way to fear. It wasn't the same for her. "In a way," she replied. She thought up an analogy she thought was more accurate. "You've been in fist fights before," she said, knowing the answer.
"Yeah, plenty," John had gotten in fights every day in Garberville with the hippy kids; the fact they were new age lefty weirdo types had made most of them fairly one-sided but there'd been a few big guys who knew how to throw and take a punch, not exactly in the spirit of their parents' ideals.
"When you're in a fight and someone hits you, you don't notice the pain because of the adrenaline. It's similar to how I sense it; I'm aware of it but it doesn't affect me." She knew it was a very basic explanation and not precise but she'd learnt that simple was always better.
Cameron let John continue sewing the skin of her upper and lower leg together and patiently sat in place as he stitched up the lengthy incision along the outside of her thigh on the other leg, where she'd cut all the way down from her hip and peeled it open to remove the entire leg joint. Pistons and servos had been reconnected and all that was left to do was the skin. John worked slowly, carefully; he was doing it for her so he wanted to do it right.
Once he'd finished, her body was a mass of burnt skin and stitches. Cameron had cut away most of the blackened skin and already new flesh had started to grow through. Her face was still burnt bright red but most of the blisters had started to shrink. She knew her eye would grow back within a week, but for the meantime Sarah had bought her a pair of sunglasses to wear if they went out in public. None of it mattered to her, or to John, though. He was just glad she was okay again.
He lay down on his back on the bed and a moment later she leaned back and joined him. Months ago when they'd laid on a bed together he'd been uncomfortable with her so close, their bodies touching on the small single mattress he'd had back then. Now it was a double bed in their motel room and they had plenty of space, but they still remained in contact in the centre. It didn't just feel comfortable now; it felt natural to John.
He reached down his side until he found her hand, and entwined his fingers with hers. Their palms pressed together lightly and he leaned his head towards her, Cameron did the same until they faced each other. "They're still out there, aren't they," he said to her. "The Greys, the guys who hired Danny and Knowles and built Skynet: they could start it all up again, couldn't they?"
"It's possible," Cameron replied. It wasn't likely, however; before erasing all the data pertaining to Kaliba she'd memorised details of accounts and facilities tied to the company, as well as personal bank accounts in the names of the surviving Greys. She'd emptied all the accounts, both personal and business. They had nothing left. "I'm looking for them," she added as she rolled her head slightly towards him, inching their faces closer together. "I'll find them."
John looked up at the ceiling as he felt the warmth of her forehead against his. He leaned into her slightly and closed his eyes. He breathed in slowly and felt himself starting to relax just a little bit. There were still Greys out there, still loose ends that needed to be taken care of, but for now they could take a little time to rest and recover, to let their wounds heal before they moved on.
While John rested Cameron's mind was hard at work. After reducing Kaliba's assets to crippled, debt-ridden disasters, she turned her attention to locating the Greys. She'd learnt all of their names from Skynet's database in the Kaliba complex, but she knew that after the attack it was likely the surviving founders of the company were in hiding. She operated under the assumption that they had assets she didn't know about, potentially even new identities, but that they would continue their mission to create Skynet. Their best chance to do so would be through the US military, and Colonel Schiff was in charge of the air force's AI acquisition project: he was her lead.
She scoured his emails and saw one to Coleman's address, and smiled slightly. Good; he was still contacting the Greys. But there had been no online reply. Instead she perused through all the data she could find regarding the colonel until she found his cell number. She scoured through his records of sent and received calls, and concentrated on those made after the email he'd sent to Coleman's address. She found seven received calls since the time and date of the email and traced their owners, identifying all but one of them, which was an unregistered cell phone on a pay and go contract.
"I have them," Cameron announced. John's eyes instantly snapped open and he immediately turned onto his side and propped himself up on one elbow, looking down at her with the same determined stare she recognised when he'd resolved to rescue Sarah and Little-Savannah.
"Where are they?"
"I'm trying to locate it," she said. She had the number and the phone was on, meaning she could trace it, but she needed to triangulate its exact position. The same as she'd done in Regent-Burke's office, Cameron accessed satellites in orbit and used them to interrogate cellular towers throughout the United States. Within seconds she'd narrowed it down to California as she locked onto the first cell tower, then Los Angeles County as she got the second.
"They're in Compton," she told John. "I have the address." Cameron also traced the number's activities by hacking into the cell provider and discovered something interesting. "They're in contact with Dakara Systems."
"Son of a bitch," John sat upright and punched the mattress. They were at it again; they just wouldn't give up, ever. "This has to stop," he growled, a new resolve flowing through him, steeling him. He turned to Cameron with a calm, detached look on his face, hiding the anger that simmered beneath the skin at Coleman and the other Greys. It couldn't go on anymore. Cameron got up to her feet – happier now she was whole again – and stood facing him.
"It will," she promised him, catching his eyes with her own calm, even stare. John held out a bag with a clean set of clothes in it; jeans, a black t-shirt, and black boots.
"Get dressed," he said, handing the bag to her. He moved over to the door and pulled it open a crack, stepping in the way so nobody looking in would see Cameron with more stitches in her than Frankenstein's monster, or the remains of her spare body. "Bring the car around and put everything in the trunk; I'll tell mom, Ellison and Savannah we've found Coleman."
Tonight it would all end. He'd killed people before and always regretted it: Sarkissian, the tunnel rat in the future, the mercenaries they'd fought against; but Coleman and his cronies: no chance. He wasn't going to lose a minute's sleep over them once they were gone.
He left Cameron to clear up the room and moved to the door next to their one. He and Cameron had taken a room to themselves, and he'd noticed his mom's look as they'd done so. She clearly still wasn't too happy about it but she'd said nothing. She needn't be worried; sex was the last thing on John's mind right now.
As he and Cameron had one room to themselves, Ellison, Sarah, and the two Savannahs had shared another with two king-sized beds between the four of them. One between three, he corrected himself; Savannah's injuries meant she needed the space of one bed to herself; anyone accidentally rolling on her leg or arm would be sheer agony for her. Whatever arrangements they'd made in the room, he knew they were all cramped and impatient, and eager to get the hell out.
He knocked twice and in seconds it opened up. He stepped through, past Ellison and walked into the room. Sarah sat on a chair and both Savannahs, little and big, were on one of the two double beds, the latter still in plaster cast. The wheelchair was folded up against the wall and unless someone got it out for her and brought it to the bed she was immobile.
"Cameron found the Greys," he said as Ellison closed the door and shut them all in the motel room. "We're going after them."
"Where are they?" Sarah asked, already getting up out of her chair. She couldn't help but wince as the movement pulled on her stitches and made the wound burn.
"Compton. We're moving out now, should be able to get there in a few hours, then we'll deal with them."
"Got a plan?" Ellison enquired.
John just shrugged. "We kill them."
That earned a small grin from Savannah. "Simple," she said. "I like it."
"We're not killing anyone," Ellison protested suddenly, causing three pairs of eyes to glance at him in confusion.
"They deserve it," Savannah growled.
"We can't let them live," Sarah added. "They won't stop; they'll keep trying." She thought back to Winston; she had to kill him twice to stop him, and he'd just been a hired gun for Kaliba: the top guys from the future, Coleman and co, would be even worse.
Ellison just shook his head adamantly. "Nobody is going to die," he flicked his eyes towards Little-Savannah before he turned to her. "Nobody," he repeated. She'd not long been told she'd lost her mother, only months after her dad had been killed in a helicopter crash. He didn't want her exposed to any more death.
Savannah caught on to what he meant and instantly regretted saying anything, knowing she'd probably just added another item to the pile of things that could make the little girl as fucked up later in life as she was.
"We don't really mean kill, kill," she said to her past self. "You know when your mom and day say they're going to kill someone, but they don't really mean it."
"Right," John added, also understanding. "When you've been bad they might say it out of anger. These guys are really bad. We're just going to have a... chat with them about all the bad things they've done, make sure they're not going to do it again."
"Leave us here," the elder Weaver suggested, gesturing to her and Little-Savannah. "I can't help you in Compton: leave us here and pick us up when you're done."
"You're sure?" John asked. He knew she was injured but still, she'd never been one to back out of a fight. He could see where she was coming from though; she'd just be a passenger in the car, taking up space. She couldn't help them and she wouldn't even see anything. Sarah was still wounded but she could drive at least. Right now, as much as both he – and he knew her – hated to admit it, she'd be little more than a fifth wheel on this mission.
"Yeah," Savannah said. "She can keep me company."
Sarah couldn't help but smile a little at the thought of Savannah hanging out with... herself. "Let's go," she said, echoing John's feelings on the subject. Ellison led the way out of the room, followed by Sarah.
"Come here," Savannah said to John, beckoning him with her good hand. John stepped across the room until he was standing at the edge of her bed. "We need to talk," she turned to her miniature self. "Give us a minute," she said. The smaller redhead looked at them for a moment before she too headed out the door, leaving John alone with Savannah. As soon as the door clicked shut the redhead looked up at John.
"Coleman's the guy who made Skynet in my time, right?" she asked. Sometimes she couldn't get her head around all this different timeline crap, it was pretty confusing.
John nodded. "Yeah, this is the same timeline; in your future they built Skynet."
"Means they killed Ellison as much as that HK did," she said flatly. She reached for a combat knife with her good hand and held it up to John by the blade, offering him the handle as their eyes locked together, both sporting serious, intense expressions on their faces. "Make it slow," she said, pushing the knife into his grip. "Make him suffer." She felt all the pain, the loss and the anger returning to her again.
Coleman was the cause of it all. The HK had killed Ellison, and Skynet had created and programmed the HK. Skynet was gone now but not its creator. Back in the future, camped out in an OP a mile from Serrano, she remembered making plans with Ellison; what she'd do with her new life once she'd made it back. She'd assumed through the whole thing that he'd be there with her. And although he was in a fashion, it wasn't the same. This Ellison wasn't the Ellison she'd grown up with – he was the same man but he hadn't gone through seventeen years of hell with her. Her past self needed him, her Ellison was gone; hopes for a bright and shining future were now dulled with his loss, and she regretted that she couldn't be there to personally avenge him.
"I will," John nodded solemnly and wrapped his fingers around the handle, taking the knife from her. He could see the pain beneath the surface. He'd seen Savannah change since they came back; she'd grown, let go of most of the anger that had eaten away at her over Weaver and of course, losing Ellison, but he could see some was still there. She wanted to move on, but clearly the fact that the bastards ultimately responsible were still alive meant she couldn't do that. When he thought about it he wasn't sure he'd be able to either. Derek – both his and the future one – Kyle, Allison, Mac and everyone else in their camp had died for him, had died because of Skynet and the Greys. It wasn't enough that they'd stopped it from happening, they needed closure, retribution; he realised he needed it as much as Savannah did.
A light blue Chevrolet pulled into the parking lot of the Los Angeles Theatre, narrowly missing the fender of another car as it swung into the turning. Schiff pressed down on the brake as he swung the car between the white lines of a bay and turned the engine off once he was in position. Despite only wearing jeans and a shirt, and the temperature outside only hitting seventy-five, he realised he was sweating profusely, and he knew exactly why.
He hadn't yet filed his report of the incident. The AI project obliterated, billions of dollars of tech down the drain, twenty-two UCAVs destroyed as well as four Raptors shot down by the state-of-the-art drones, which had crashed somewhere in the vast Sierra Crest. He'd left the live machine out of his report; even with a dozen airmen there who'd seen the same thing, there was no hard evidence. The dead machine had just been an empty metal shell, nothing worth studying and not enough to prove what he'd seen. They'd think he was crazy and he'd be out on a medical discharge and sectioned in the nuthouse so fast his head would spin.
Deep down though, he knew that wasn't the entire truth. Yes, he'd be labelled as crazy by everyone, lose his career and his pension if he'd told them what had really happened, but there was more to it than that. The android: just thinking back to the ravaged face of the machine, dark grey, bloodstained metal exposed beneath the skin. The remaining eye staring at him as the Dragonflies had hovered menacingly above. The mental image of the machine and its glowing blue eye still chilled him to the core.
'Do you have any idea the damage you've done?'
'I can do a lot more.'
He'd barely slept in days since coming back from the complex; the android and the Connors had taken out a top secret facility and fought their way through a highly trained, heavily armed security force; it wouldn't take much for them to find him, and the thought of it scared him shitless.
Because of his sleepless nights and dreams of a brunette machine with glowing eyes and an angry John Connor bursting into his room at night and executing him, it had almost come to him as a relief when the Joint Chiefs had seen the cost of the Connors' attack and decided immediately to terminate the AI program – with billions of dollars down the drain they weren't about to throw good money after bad – because now the project had been abandoned he hoped he might be able to stop going to bed with a gun on his bedside cabinet every night.
Even with the AI project shelved indefinitely, he wanted to see Coleman again. John and Sarah Connor, the AI, the machine remains he'd found, and the android girl: something had been going on and he wanted answers, and he wanted to hear them from Coleman himself. He wanted to make sense of the catastrophe that would probably cost him his career.
Schiff got out of the car, closed the door behind him and walked across the parking lot towards the front of the theatre, all the time watching out for Coleman or his associates to appear. There was nothing big on at the theatre, nothing to draw a crowd at least. A few people milled about outside, some smoking, others talking on cell phones.
He stood on his own next to the front wall, ignoring the smokers and the chatting groups, and swept his head from left to right, again looking for any sign of them.
"Where the hell are you?" he muttered. He had no idea what they were playing at, why Coleman was being so secretive, but it wasn't a good sign. He was hiding from something, probably from the Connors and their android. The group had attacked, very successfully, their facility and he reckoned they would probably come to mop up what was left. Schiff decided he didn't particularly care what happened to Coleman now; he just wanted some answers, some kind of reasoning behind everything he couldn't piece together. He wanted the truth.
Computers were a mystery to Savannah Weaver. She'd used them before of course, long, long ago when she was a child. She remembered the games online she'd played and that she'd used them at school. The last time she remembered being on a computer she'd been caught by her teacher, chatting to John Henry. After the bombs fell there was no power, no internet, and so no computers – except maybe in government facilities before they'd either been overrun or simply ran out of electricity to run them.
The last time she'd used a computer had been with Ellison, weeks before they'd found John. Though ripping the insides out and lighting a small bonfire within the confines of the casing probably wasn't what its designers had had in mind when they'd manufactured the thing.
Now she sat in an internet cafe adjacent to the motel they were staying in, seated at a desk with a flat screen in front of her, a mouse, and a keyboard, and little idea of what to do. She glanced from the corner of her left eye at her younger self, taking up the seat next to her and looking intently at the screen. Of course, when she was a kid she, like other children, had taken to computers like a duck to water. Now they were foreign to her.
"Do you want me to help?" Little-Savannah asked.
For a moment she found it tempting to let her miniature give her a hand. "I'll be okay. Have you got the money?" she asked.
"Sure," the little redhead pulled out a twenty-dollar bill from her pocket that Ellison had given them just before they'd left.
"Go and pay for a couple hours on this thing, can you?"
"Can I have a coke?" the younger asked.
"Only if you get me a coffee – large," Savannah replied. She watched her younger self go up to the counter and hand the guy manning the desk the money and ask for their drinks. "We'll need chocolate to go with that!" she shouted out to her double. One thing she remembered well from the past, one thing she'd looked forward to ever since the possibility of coming back had entered hers and Ellison's mind, was eating all the things she hadn't done in years, one of them being chocolate.
She turned to the computer and with her good arm worked the mouse. It didn't help that she had to use her left to control it and she was right handed; it made what was already an awkward task even more difficult. It didn't matter, she thought, she'd adapt. She hadn't survived nuclear war and global genocide against people, brought John back and prevented the birth of Skynet, just to be beaten by a PC. She was a survivor, and a great part of that was being able to adapt. And she knew that she'd have to adapt again, learn to live in this new world, and that meant learning how to use a computer.
Within a minute the screen flashed, became brighter, and dialogue box opened up to inform her she had two hours' worth of credit on the computer, starting now. She clumsily manoeuvred the mouse until the cursor was on the cross icon on the corner of the box and clicked it, making it disappear and revealing the blank white background with the Google logo and a single small box to type in.
"I remember this," she said, feeling a little more encouraged. She thought back to her discussion with Ellison, laid on their bellies beneath a tarp, overlooking Serrano Point and being pelted with constant rain. He'd been afraid for her in this new world, what she'd do with herself. She recalled her telling him her ideas for what she might do with the rest of her new life, and slowly, using only the forefinger of her plaster encased hand and arm, typed, one key at a time. Police careers.
The screen changed and revealed a long list of results, causing Savannah to blink and sit back slightly in her wheelchair. "Over one-hundred-million results," she muttered, taken aback at the multitude of sites there was. A hundred million: how the hell did Cameron do this so quickly? She'd seen Cameron search for and find what she wanted online in only seconds and wondered how she could do it.
Unperturbed, she skimmed over the results on the first page and saw plenty of articles about police recruitment, and an official LAPD recruitment site. She shook her head; not what she wanted. She'd spent most of her life post J-Day out in Mexico, in the countryside, the desert, and out in the open, isolated and away from civilisation. She'd also spent plenty of time in cities though; Cancun, San Diego and Lo Angeles among them, and she'd decided a long time ago that she much preferred small towns in the country to big cities. She wasn't comfortable in LA; she hated the size, how crowded and busy it was. She could see why Sarah liked it; it offered anonymity to a person who just wanted to keep their heads down and blend into a crowd. But now they didn't have to live like that and she wouldn't.
She scrolled down and found a number of other police recruitment sites as well as news articles and newspaper columns on careers in the police. None of it was what she wanted.
Little-Savannah returned with a can of coke for herself and held out a large cup of steaming coffee to her. She took it with her good hand and put it on the desk, it was too hot to drink right now. "Thanks," she said as the smaller Weaver sat on the swivel chair next to her. "What did you get?"
She held two orange packets in her hand, put one on the table and tore open the other before giving it to her older counterpart.
Big-Savannah took it and pulled out one of the three small chocolate pieces held in a paper cup. With her good hand she brought one of them to her nose, sniffed the chocolate and caught a whiff of something she couldn't quite put her finger on. The orange wrapping was familiar but she couldn't quite put her finger on it.
"Try it," Little Savannah looked up at her expectantly. She'd bought it especially for her. Big-Savannah put it to her lips and sucked it out of the cup, bit into it and held fast as the small treat rested on her tongue and for the first time in as long as she could remember, she tasted chocolate. The rich, sweet sensation washed over her taste buds and she couldn't help but moan a little in delight. It took a few seconds for her to realise this wasn't normal chocolate. There was something else mixed in with it; rich, sticky, not as sweet as the chocolate...
"Peanut butter cups?" she looked at Little Savannah as it finally came back to her. The diminutive Weaver nodded enthusiastically as she opened up her own packet and ate one, enjoying the taste but clearly not quite as much as her elder self. Big-Savannah continued. "I loved these when I was a kid," she smiled, remembering how her mom – her real mom had bought her one a week as a treat.
"I know," Little Savannah said, with a glint in her eye that wasn't lost on her older self.
Does she know? Big-Savannah started to feel slightly uncomfortable now; she'd never wanted the kid to know about it, she wanted to keep the future a secret, protect her from all that shit now they'd nipped it in the bud. Skynet wouldn't ever wage war on the world and there was no need for Little Savannah Weaver to know the horrors of the future she'd faced, the things she'd seen and done, and had done to her, there was no reason to tell her anything more about the machines than she already knew.
"Mommy used to buy me one every Saturday," Little-Savannah said. "Then she stopped after daddy died," she added sadly. "She said chocolate's bad for you, she made me eat vegetables."
That'll be the liquid metal bitch, Big-Savannah thought wistfully, her good fist unconsciously clenching. She remembered that well; one of her weekly treats had been taken away only days after her father had been killed, coinciding with her 'mom' turning cold and emotionless.
"What're you looking at?" Little-Savannah gazed at the screen and read the different headings for each result. "You wanna join the police?"
"I'm thinking about it," she said. "Want to help?"
Little-Savannah took the mouse and clicked onto one of the headings for San Diego PD, opening up onto their recruitment site. She looked at the options and then pressed for information for joining. A list of requirements for applicants came up and Big-Savannah winced as she read it. "Try another one," she said. Little-Savannah went back to the search results and clicked onto another site, this one for LAPD. Future-Savannah had no intention of joining the LAPD or any forces in the state, even, but it gave her a feel for what they'd all be looking for. The same list of requirements came up: qualifications she didn't have, a impeccable personal record – that one was a problem as she didn't even exist other than as the seven year old girl sat next to her; and references to prove character, as well as employment records that she didn't have.
"I never graduated from high school," she said, starting to feel dejected. "Or any of that other stuff." Ellison had mentioned putting her through school, giving her a shot at a better life, but now she realised that might well have been a pipe dream. He'd made sure she could read even after J-Day by finding her books, he'd kept her on the ball and she knew she was far from stupid, but without any real qualifications and her only experience being in fighting, she wasn't sure what she could really do.
Her smaller self saw the disappointment on her face and she felt bad as well. She wanted to help but she didn't know what to do. Mommy would have known; she was really smart, she'd always known what to do. Then she remembered someone else who was really smart, too. "Ask Cameron," she offered. "She's really smart." She was a robot; she could do anything, right? Little-Savannah was sure Cameron could help."
"You're not just a pretty face, are you?" Savannah grinned, looking down at her smaller self. Little-Savannah had a good point, she realised: they'd need to get new IDs anyway and she reckoned Cameron would be the best person for the job; why not throw in a few fake high school diplomas in as well?
"When you and Sarah were taken," she changed the subject. Sarah hadn't said what they'd done to her in there but it couldn't have been pretty. "Did they do anything to you?"
Her face fell as Little-Savannah nodded, a look of sadness and pain coming over her face as she remembered it all. "They hurt us," she said quietly, her eyes starting lowering to the ground. The blank face of the big bald man staring down at her still scared her. "I don't want to talk about it," she added meekly.
Future-Savannah grit her teeth and clenched her fist again, angry at what they'd done to a child she saw almost as her little sister now. Assholes; how the fuck could anyone torture a little kid? "Do me a favour," she said, lifting her good leg up out of the chair slightly and twisting her body so her thigh was facing Little-Savannah. "Get the phone out of there." Without a word of reply, the smaller Savannah complied and pulled the phone out of her thigh pocket. "Get yours out, too." She did just that and handed them both to her elder counterpart.
"What now?" she asked.
"You put my number into your phone and then put yours into mine: if you need to talk about it or anything else, just call me."
Taking both phones, Little-Savannah typed on the keys with a speed that the elder one had never seen before and thought there was no way she could do it herself. She felt like an old woman confronted with technology too modern for her – though it was the opposite case for her. "You don't have to worry about them anymore though," she added reassuringly. "They won't hurt you again." She knew John and Cameron would see to that.
When Little-Savannah was done she handed the cell phone back to her future self, who took it in her casted hand and used the good one to drink her coffee and took a sip as she looked down at the very short contact list. Mini Me. She choked on her coffee in shock and forced herself to swallow it down, very nearly spraying it across the computer screen. "What the hell?" she stared down at the cell phone again, completely taken aback by the two-word name on the contact list. She put down her coffee and grabbed Little-Savannah's phone to check what she'd put on her own. The words Big Me stood out, next to a number she guessed belonged to her phone. "You know who I am?"
She was answered by Little-Savannah nodding emphatically. "John went to the future and came back with Cameron and you. You look like me." She'd watched her older self and had seen the freckles on their faces were the same. Their hair was the same, and their teeth were the same. And they both loved peanut butter cups.
"Why didn't you say anything?"
"I don't know," Little-Savannah shrugged sheepishly.
"Don't ever tell anyone," Future-Savannah told her seriously. "Ellison, John, Cameron and Sarah know, and that's it. Promise me you won't tell anyone. Or about Cameron either; no one can know she's a cyborg."
"I promise," she replied. She didn't know what a cyborg was; she thought it must be another word for robot. "Cross my heart."
Future-Savannah looked down at her and smiled, patting her on the shoulder. "Good girl; it'll be our secret."
The younger Weaver girl looked up to her older self nervously. She was keeping a secret for the bigger Savannah. "Does that make us friends?" she asked. The question touched Future-Savannah, she hadn't been expecting that. Really they were family, she thought; an insane, messed up family, but still. They didn't really have too many people to depend on. She wasn't sure what to say at first, or what she'd be to the kid in future.
"Yeah," she said. "We're friends." She knew her little self needed more than just a friend, needed family more than anything but she wasn't the best one for the job. She swore she'd be there for the kid though, whatever happened she'd be make sure that Little Savannah Weaver was okay, and she knew the best person for the job.
Ellison stepped towards the entrance to the apartment building and held the door open for Cameron, following after her and stepping inside the foyer. Despite it being dark outside and the fact they were now indoors she wore a pair of sunglasses to hide her machine eye. Straight in front of them was a corridor, with front doors to apartments on either side. Strewn across the floor were discarded cigarette butts, dropped by people who clearly didn't give a shit about their surroundings and had no pride in where they lived. Chances were, Ellison thought, that people just saw the state of it and thought their own mess couldn't make it any worse. The smell of stale liquor spilt on the ground and the pungent scent of weed filled his nostrils.
"Nice place," Ellison commented sardonically. "Why would they hide here?" If they had millions if not billions of dollars in accounts all over the world, why were they sitting in such squalor?
"We'd never think to look for them here," Cameron replied. "They sided with Skynet to survive and for an easier life; we'd expect them to keep some luxuries." Coleman was clearly a strategic thinker: he'd anticipated what people looking for him would think and had done the opposite of what anyone would expect.
She looked around at the squalid building as they walked towards the elevator. Whitewashed walls peeled plaster and were covered in graffiti. She could smell overcooked vegetables and she heard noises from various apartments on their floor. Most were sounds from televisions but a few were people talking in their homes. A baby in one of the apartments cried loudly and she heard the mother trying to calm it down.
"People lived in worse than this in the future," she told Ellison. "Many people lived underground in the dark." She thought it likely that Derek, Kyle and Allison would have eagerly accepted living in one of these apartments.
The pair of them marched through the passageway towards the elevator. To one side of it, at the right hand side wall, were steps leading upwards and disappearing behind the shaft sticking out from the wall. Two teenagers sat on the ground and passed a large joint between them, laughing and chattering about something Ellison didn't bother to listen to. Cameron pressed the ground floor button for the elevator and waited.
"I wish we didn't have to kill them," he said to Cameron, already regretting what they came here to do.
She understood how he felt. He valued others' lives even more than most humans did. "They're too dangerous: if we let them go they'll build Skynet again." She'd learnt over the past few months that people's lives weren't expendable assets – the value of human life, as John would have said. But she'd also learnt that some were more valuable than others, and cold hard machine logic was still a part of her: three men dead to prevent billions was an obvious choice to her. Probably even to most humans, she thought, if they had all the information she, John and Ellison possessed regarding their targets; if they knew what the three Greys had been planning.
She pressed the button again, noticing that the LED light was broken, and continued to wait. The two teenagers laughed louder and stared at the Cameron and Ellison.
"Is something funny?" Ellison asked, looking straight at them.
"Elevator's broken," one of the kids chuckled, blowing out a puff of smoke towards them. His attention turned to Cameron and he eyed her up and down. She was pretty, minus the scars that lined her face. And why is she wearing sunglasses at night? "What happened to you?" he asked.
"Car accident," Cameron said. She stepped towards the teenager. "There are three men living in one of these apartments, which one?"
"What're you, cops?" the other one eyed her suspiciously.
"We don't know any men," the first one said cockily, taking another drag from the joint.
Ellison frowned in disgust at the weed the kid was smoking. "We didn't even tell you what they look like."
"We don't care," he replied, stepping up to Ellison and exhaling a puff of smoke straight into his face. Ellison coughed and spluttered uncomfortably, causing both kids to laugh until Cameron gripped the smoker by the neck and picked him up off the ground.
"What the fuck?" the kid cried out in horror and dropped his joint to the ground. The other one ran to his aid but Cameron snapped up a side kick and caught him in the gut, knocking the wind out of him and doubling him over. He groaned in agony and staggered backwards, clutching at his stomach.
Cameron glared at the first kid through her sunglasses and squeezed his throat slightly, not enough to cut off his air, just to scare him further. "There are three white males who arrived here in the past two days, mid forties to mid fifties. Where are they?"
The one bent over took a step towards them. Cameron clenched her fist, ready to strike him again but he immediately put up his hands in surrender. He looked scared, so she hesitated. "There's three guys on the fourth floor," he said. "Ain't ever seen them before."
"What room?" Ellison asked.
"Don't know," he replied. Cameron let go of the kid she was holding and he dropped to the ground on his ass. Without a word of thanks she turned from them and started up the stairs. Ellison noticed the joint on the ground was still smoking from the lit end and crushed it under his shoe. Filthy habit.
"That was my last joint," the teenager mumbled. Now what was he meant to do for the rest of the night? "Assholes!"
Both Cameron and Ellison ignored his angered shout as they made their way up the staircase. Cameron pulled out her cell phone as they ascended past the first floor and up towards the second and selected 1 on her speed dial. It rang twice before he answered.
"Cameron?" John's voice sounded in her ear.
"Fourth floor," she told him. "We don't know which apartment yet, I'll find out soon."
"Keep me posted." He hung up and the phone went dead. She wasn't alarmed by his abruptness; they were on a mission, there was no time for niceties and both knew it. They continued up the flights of stairs up to the fourth storey. There were eight apartments on this floor – four either side of the corridor, with the stairs and elevator shaft in the middle. Any one of them could be their target. Cameron slowly walked down one half of the hallway and listened intently, then turned around when she reached the end and did the same to the other side.
"I can't hear them," she said to Ellison. There was noise coming from four apartments on the floor but she heard nothing to distinguish them from anyone else. In the past she'd have simply kicked every door down until she found them but that wasn't an option; they couldn't afford any witnesses.
"What now?" he asked. "If we start knocking on doors it'll give them warning."
"I have a better idea," Cameron told him. She pulled out her phone again and dialled the number she'd isolated from Colonel Schiff's records. She listened carefully and waited for the sounds of a ringtone. Moments later she heard an electronic Nokia tone beeping from last room to their right, at the rear of the building. Instantly she hung up before anyone could answer and her fingers flew rapidly over the keys of her cell as she fired a rapid text to John.
Apartment 408, rear of the building at the corner. Cameron and Ellison then stalked silently to the door of the apartment and stood just aside from the entrance, in case anyone inside looked through the glass peephole. "No guns," Cameron reminded him. She didn't think he needed to be told again but she was nothing if not thorough.
"I know," he nodded. They needed this to be a quiet job and they didn't have silenced weapons. Shooting would attract attention and bring the cops down on them; they couldn't risk that, not now.
"Ten seconds," Cameron whispered to him, taking position closer to the door and preparing to go first. She knew she was bulletproof, Ellison was not. Her hip touched the wall slightly, not enough to make a sound, but enough to press the cold steel of her sidearm against her. Despite what she'd told Ellison she'd brought a pistol with her in case anything went wrong. She stood directly in front of the door as the ten second time she'd announced to Ellison reached its halfway point. Five... four... three... two...one...
With three men inhabiting the apartment the small domicile was uncomfortably crowded. There was only one bedroom and one couch, meaning one of them had had to sleep on the floor at night. The bathroom had never been in good condition since Coleman had bought the place from the landlord, although its one consolation was the hot water in the shower worked like a charm. Even so, with three men regularly using it for all their ablutions the place had started to develop a musky odour that hadn't been there before. The kitchen's trash can was overflowing and needed emptying but one thing Coleman had forgotten was extra black bags.
Opened food cans were stacked neatly on the sink as well as a pile of plates, and steam rose up to the ceiling from the hob, where Pearce stood stirring two saucepans, one full of boiling spaghetti and the other with a red sauce that was supposedly Bolognese, according to the jar it had come from. He awkwardly stirred with a spoon, not knowing how long to keep both pans on for. In the future before he'd been recruited by Skynet he'd survived like any other member of the Resistance; scavenging, stealing and foraging for food. Once he'd made his choice the machines had provided for him and the others, and since coming back in time they'd lived at first on takeout, then after they'd made the fortunes required, had lived in luxury and had people to cook for them, leaving even a simple spaghetti Bolognese a real challenge to him.
As he worked on their meal, Townsend typed away at the computer and Coleman sat next to him with a lit cigarette in his hand, watching as the former worked.
"Just got a reply from Dakara," Townsend said happily. "Looks like the Akagis are as desperate as they were the last time we spoke; they said they're free to meet anytime this week."
"Excellent," Coleman smiled as he stubbed out his cigarette into an ashtray and immediately took out a pack of Lucky Strikes with his good arm, pulled one out and lit it, blowing a puff of smoke out, unintentionally in Townsend's direction.
"Do you have to keep smoking in here?" Townsend snapped irritably. "It's disgusting!"
"It's my apartment," Coleman said, uncaring. "I can smoke in here if I want." His comment earned him a glare from Townsend, who was starting to feel really pissed off at his colleague's habits. In the future he'd briefly worked with Coleman but hadn't really known the man. He'd never met any of the other Greys prior to their being handpicked and assembled for the mission to the past, and after they'd made their money they'd all decided to live separately. Now he wished they could still do so; living with Coleman for even a couple of days was driving him insane. He knew they were all on edge after the attack in the Sierra Crest, which made it all the worse, but still he didn't think he could stand being around the man for much longer.
"Fine," he said through clenched teeth. "Can you at least sit by the window or something?"
Sighing, Coleman got up, making it seem like more of an effort than it was, and went over to the window. He opened it up and let the warm night air inside, as well as the sounds of traffic nearby. His pocket vibrated suddenly and the piano key Nokia tune sounded from within.
"Who's that?" Townsend looked up from the laptop as Coleman's cell phone started ringing. They weren't due to leave to meet with Colonel Schiff for another hour, so it shouldn't be him, he thought. Coleman struggled with his good arm to get the phone out, managed it with some discomfort, and looked down at the illuminated screen as the ringtone beeped out and the phone vibrated in his hand. The caller ID displayed the number but it wasn't one he'd ever seen before.
"I don't know," he said. He pressed to answer and put the phone to his ear. "Hello?" Nothing. The call disconnected with no reply.
"Well..." Pearce asked, still stirring the spaghetti that had been on the boil for far too long.
"They hung up," Coleman said.
Townsend turned to him with clear concern on his face. "I thought you said no one knows that number."
"Nobody does," he confirmed nervously. "The only person I've called is Schiff and that wasn't his number."
The hob clanged as Pearce put the saucepan down on the hob. "Are you sure nobody else has it?" he asked.
"Of course I am!" Coleman snapped irritably. "I set this place up years ago and I've never once made a call on that phone."
"I don't like it," Townsend grumbled. "Tomorrow we're getting out of here and checking into a hotel until we've hammered out a deal with Dakara." He didn't like how it was going here and he didn't want to spend too long in one place. "Or better yet, leave the country and lie low for a while."
The door exploded open with a loud crack and Cameron burst through the entrance to face them, Ellison just behind her. Pearce, Townsend and Coleman stared at her in horror, all of them recognising her as the TOK model reprogrammed by Connor and sent back to protect his younger self; third on their priority target list after John Connor himself and the Zeiracorp AI. They all froze to the spot in fear as she emerged into the apartment, her eyes covered by shades. She positively identified all three Greys from Skynet's records and immediately rushed towards the nearest Grey – Townsend.
"Fuck!" he managed to cry out as Cameron punched him in the forehead, shattering his skull beneath the skin and crushing the frontal lobes of his brain, killing him instantly. His body fell to the ground and blood pooled from his eyes and ears, soaking into the carpet. In the same instant Coleman tried to climb out through the open window and Pearce made a dive for a pistol on the sofa. Ellison rushed to intercept but he was too slow. So was Pearce. Cameron kicked him in the side and sent him flying against the oven he'd been at moments ago, knocking the saucepans off the hob and straight onto him.
Boiling water and spaghetti poured onto his face and he screamed in blinding agony on the floor, kicking wildly and clutching at his devastated features until Cameron picked him up by the throat and crushed his larynx, silencing him. He clawed at his red, burning face, the pain of his burns too much for him to even register the pain from what she'd done to his throat. Blisters already started to form where the skin had boiled loose from the muscle. He screamed silently as she grabbed both sides of his head and snapped it around to the right with a sickening crunch as his head neck broke and severed the spinal column.
Coleman used the valuable seconds she'd spent on his two companions to manouevre his leg out over the windowsill in time to see another figure appear from the darkness and shove him back inside. Instinctively he put his hands out to break his fall and the impact on his broken arm sent the two broken, previously realigned halves of the bone smashing against each other, sharp edges tearing through the muscle.
He cried out in pain and grabbed his arm in agony as John emerged through the window from hiding outside on the fire escape. While Cameron and Ellison had taken the front door he'd climbed up the fire escape on the exterior of the building to prevent any escape, and waited for her to confirm their targets' position. He stared down at the Grey in contempt as Coleman tried to back away. "Please..." he struggled to his feet and stared in almost blind fear at John. He barely noticed the warm trickle that ran down the inside his trouser leg and formed a small puddle on the floor. John did, however, and felt nothing more than disgust for the man. He'd done a deal with the devil and killed the entire world; he'd do the same in a heartbeat just to save his own skin. He deserved what he was going to get.
"Please," the wounded, surrounded Grey raised his hands in surrender. Cameron started towards Coleman, ready to finish him off, but one look from John stopped her in her tracks. He grabbed his quarry from behind, clamped his hand down over the man's mouth to silence him and pulled his head back to expose more of his neck. John pulled out Savannah's knife and plunged the blade slowly into Coleman's throat, sending searing, burning agony tearing through the Grey and causing him to kick and writhe beneath John's grip. His eyes bulged with fear as he struggled against the inevitable. John held the knife in place and twisted it slightly, raking the serrated edges against sinews and nerves and doubling his already excruciating pain.
He'd asked Cameron earlier to show him exactly how to kill a man slowly with a knife, to make him suffer, and despite her telling him they needed to do the job quickly and leave as little trace, she'd told him how to increase pain without making a mess. He'd greedily absorbed the information she'd given him like a sponge and now he put it to good use. He pushed the knife in deeper, cutting though his carotid artery and puncturing his windpipe. He pulled the knife back ever so slightly until the tip came back out of the windpipe and blood flowed out of the nicked artery, down the blade and poured into his windpipe. Coleman coughed and retched as blood flowed down his throat and pooled in his lungs, he struggled as hard as he could to fight back but he was much older than John, accustomed to a cushy life behind a desk; in a physical match there was no contest between the two and with every passing second his strength ebbed away.
Coleman coughed and tried to suck down air but only ended up inhaling more oxygenated blood that frothed inside his lungs and came out his mouth in spurts against the palm of John's hand. His eyes rolled back in his head as he started shaking in John's grasp and clutched weakly at his assailant, fighting hopelessly for life.
"You don't have much time," John said to Coleman, sensing his victim was getting weaker and would probably lose consciousness soon; before that happened he wanted the bastard to hear something important. "So listen to me very carefully. James Ellison, Derek Reese, Kyle Reese, Allison Young, Sergeant Andrew Knowles, Danny Dyson, Charley Dixon... you killed them." There were countless others; everyone in Derek's group who he'd only known for a brief time, and the billions of others who'd suffered and died in the future. They might have prevented it in this timeline but to him, to Cameron and to Savannah it still happened. She'd had her childhood, her family ripped away from her indirectly because of Coleman – if they'd never come back then Weaver's ruse wouldn't have been necessary.
"I'm going to have to see their faces when I close my eyes for the rest of my life," he muttered to the older man. "I watched them die and I have to live with that in my head. I want you to think about that for a moment, for your last moments. Think about the people who died, afraid, starving, and screaming, because you only cared about number one.
"I hope it was worth it," John ripped the knife out as hard as he could and tore Coleman's throat out with it. The Grey tried to scream but all that came out was a sickening liquid gurgle. He dropped to the floor and convulsed for several seconds as more and more blood erupted from his wide open neck and now completely severed carotid. The pool of crimson grew wider and wider, too thick to be soaked into the carpet all at once. Finally he stopped convulsing, twitched once, twice, and stopped moving altogether. Mike Coleman, human leader of the Greys and the man behind the Kaliba Group – indirect murderer of untold millions, was dead, and with him the last trace to Skynet.
"Check this out," Ellison held up a clear plastic folder filled with documents. He opened it up and pulled out bank account statements, forged passports, credit cards, technical data, and memory sticks he assumed held more data regarding to Skynet. "This has got to be the last little bits of Kaliba," he said. He perused some more and found details pertaining to a company called Dakara Systems. Cameron glanced at it, took it out and held it out to John, who took it with bloody hands. He also took the laptop and saw on one of the windows they had up was the CNN website, highlighting an article on the increased tensions between the US and Russia, debating how far it would go.
"Not far," Cameron answered the online question, reading over his shoulder.
"How'd you know that?" Ellison asked.
"I'm working on it," Cameron replied cryptically. Skynet started the crisis between the US and Russia; she determined to end it. She noticed a cell phone on the sofa and picked it up. She unlocked the keypad and scrolled through the small list of contacts, noting Dakara Systems and Colonel Schiff were among them. She selected the latter's number and pressed to call.
"Coleman?" Schiff's voice sounded in the earpiece, sounding slightly distorted by the phone.
"Coleman can't come to the phone right now," she said ominously.
"Jesus... it's you! What do you want?"
Cameron saw John looking at her questioningly and she silently mouthed 'Colonel Schiff.' He nodded and left her to it, trusting she knew what she was doing. "You've spoken to Coleman again," she said, adding a slight edge of scorn in her voice very deliberately. "You're trying to resurrect the Skynet project, that's strike one; you won't get another chance." She heard him breathing down the phone and she couldn't be positive but she thought he sounded nervous.
"I don't need one," he shot back at her. "The Skynet project's a bust; no more AI program, you and the Connors killed it – check the news if you don't believe me."
Cameron already knew the project had been shelved by the Joint Chiefs but she wanted to make sure it remained that way. Using her ability to peruse the worldwide web at will she'd easily found a great deal of information about Schiff, information she decided to use to her advantage. "How are Dianna and Elizabeth?" She asked him, citing the names of his wife and daughter. "Does Dianna enjoy teaching English at Burbank High School?" She ensured the tone of her voice conveyed her meaning. She knew his family; who they were and what they did, and she could find and get to them whenever she chose.
"Stay away from my family," Schiff snarled. "If you touch them I'll..."
"You can't stop me," Cameron interrupted him. "You know what I am, what I can do."
"What do you want?" he asked with a resigned sigh.
"Have you filed your report to your superiors yet?"
Cameron smiled in satisfaction. "Good. Don't mention me or any other machines in your report; I'll know if you do." She paused for a moment before adding, "I don't want to hurt your family but I'll do whatever it takes to protect mine." She hung up and put the phone in her pocket to dispose of later, then took the folder from Ellison, the laptop from the table, and checked around the apartment for anything else significant. She'd check the contents of the computer just to determine there were no more links to Skynet left. Finding nothing else in the domicile she turned to John. "We should leave," she told him. "Sarah's waiting downstairs." John nodded, put Savannah's bloodied knife back into its sheath on his belt, and followed her and Ellison out of the apartment. He took a moment to close the front door, concealing the carnage within from view of any passers by and running down the stairs to catch up with the other two.
They left the building and turned left, headed for the corner of the block where their Suburban sat idle. John pulled the door open and Sarah immediately looked right to him. Her eyes opened wide and she stared in shock at the sight of his bloodstained shirt.
"Are you hurt?" she asked, unable to look away from the blood and fearing the worst.
"It's not my blood," John replied as he slipped into the front seat. Ellison and Cameron took the seats behind. Sarah breathed out in relief and switched the engine on, pulled out from the kerb and sped up, driving away from the scene.
"We're okay too," Cameron chipped in. Sarah almost rolled her eyes but stopped herself.
"I'm glad to hear it," she said sincerely. She'd made a promise to John she'd try and accept how things had gone between him and Cameron; after all he'd been through he deserved some happiness and although she didn't like it, he seemed to get that from Cameron, and after what John had told her about Cameron allowing Skynet to erase a large part of her to keep him safe, to beat it, she realised she could hardly begrudge them. Did Cameron really love John like he did her, could she, even? She knew that to do what John wanted, to try and accept their relationship, she had to give Cameron the benefit of the doubt.
She took the next right and continued north, back to the motel to pick up the two Savannahs. "We need to get out of LA as soon as possible," she said. "The FBI and the police will still be searching for us. We need new IDs and find somewhere to hide."
"No," John straightened up in his seat. He'd had enough of it, and he hadn't done all of this just to have to live under the radar again. "I don't want to spend the rest of my life looking over my shoulder."
"We shouldn't have to," Ellison agreed. It wasn't right that after all they'd fought for they should still be on the run forever. He and Savannah – both little and large – could probably live okay; the feds would be all over him like a rash but they had nothing solid against him so eventually they'd leave him alone.
"I can delete all records from the police and FBI database but they'll have files on paper," Cameron said. "We should leave the country."
"They'll be expecting us to cross into Mexico," Sarah disagreed. "And there's no way we'd get through airport security."
"North then," John said. He looked back to Cameron and remembered something she'd said a long time ago. "Canada?"
Cameron smiled, surprised John remembered her recommendation to move to Canada. He hadn't listened to her back then, or he hadn't seemed to be. "It's supposed to be nice this time of year."
This is it, Schiff took a deep, apprehensive breath in and held it as he knocked sharply on the office door in front of him. He clutched tightly onto a white envelope in his hand, his nervous sweat starting to transfer onto the paper.
He'd waited for hours by the LA theatre, stood around awkwardly until midnight, and tried to call Coleman half a dozen times before he'd given up and gone home. He'd wanted answers, to find out the truth behind everything, to find out exactly what these androids were and where they came from. It had been three days since then, and even more phone calls and four emails later he'd still heard nothing. He'd visited Coleman's home but his housekeeper had said she hadn't seen or heard from him in nearly a week. Coleman and the other Kaliba execs had disappeared off the map. None of the people they'd airlifted from the Sierra Crest knew a thing either. He hadn't got his answers, and now he knew he had to face the consequences.
"Come," the expectant voice of his commander, Brigadier- General Remfree, sounded from the other side. Exhaling, Schiff opened the door and passed through the threshold. General Remfree was a small man, thin looking, not the kind of picture that Joe Public imagined when they thought of when they imagined military top brass. Being inside, he had no covering on his head and his shiny, balding pate was in full view; a victim of the unstoppable male pattern baldness.
"Schiff; sit down," he gestured to the chair in front of his desk. Without a word of reply, the colonel did just that. "I've read your report," Remfree started. "Kaliba's AI was wiped out by Sarah and John Connor, the unidentified female brunette accomplice on the news, and a number of other terrorists. That these half dozen or so hacked into the defence net, took control of almost two dozen Reapers and X-45Cs to attack Kaliba's R&D facility while at the same time launched a successful assault on the complex, and then disappeared into the sunset with one of our helicopters. I've gotta say, colonel," he chuckled. "That's a hell of a story."
"It's all true," Schiff said defensively.
"I believe you," Remfree reassured him. "A dozen airmen corroborated your account." He picked up a handful of reports all written by his airmen, testimonies confirming Schiff's story. "In fact, they all said the exact same thing, word for word practically." He was surprised to receive such identical accounts of what happened. Normally there were some discrepancies, but these were so similar it was hard to believe they were written by twelve different people. "You didn't influence their reports in any way, did you? Because it seems to me there's something missing."
Schiff shook his head and looked calmly at Brigadier General Remfree straight in the eye. "No sir," he lied. "I told them to say exactly what happened." He had, however, expressly forbidden the mention of any android or other AI in their reports. The Skynet Project was now public knowledge but the details of it were still classified and he'd taken full advantage of that. He'd briefed the airmen prior to the mission on a need to know basis, and told them to forget they'd ever seen any android. He only wished he could do the same himself.
"I think it's time for me to retire," Schiff concluded, placing the letter on Remfree's desk. "It's my resignation; I've done twenty-five years, I think it's time I started to take it easy." Or at least not have to worry about John Connor and his android coming after me anymore.
"This isn't you trying to duck a possible court martial, is it?" The amount of money and assets lost over this incident; someone had to be held accountable.
"No sir," Schiff said honestly. The thought had crossed his mind briefly; retire now and his pension would remain intact. But in truth he didn't want to look over his shoulder and see long brown hair and glowing blue eyes everywhere he went. He'd resigned himself to the fact he'd probably never find out the truth, so he didn't want to play anymore. He didn't know what was going on but he'd worked out that whatever it was between the Connors, their android, and Kaliba, it was way over his head, and maybe ignorance was bliss.
"Very well, colonel," Remfree nodded. "I'll get the necessary paperwork done and you'll be a civilian before you know it."
"Thank you sir," Schiff stood up and snapped off a sharp salute before turning around and leaving Remfree's office. His life or his career: it was no contest. No, he thought, he wasn't going to tempt fate when it came to that android; he fully believed it could and would carry out its threats to him, without hesitation. No, he thought to himself, having already made up his mind the instant the android had hung up the phone on him. What happened in the Sierra Crest would stay in the Sierra Crest, forever.
Mackenzie, British Columbia
John stirred and smiled as he came to. He hadn't dreamt, or at least he didn't remember it. For him, where every dream was inevitably a nightmare, filled with glowing eyed metal demons come to kill him and everyone he knew, a dreamless sleep was something he appreciated. He knew why, of course: Cameron. She'd stayed in bed with him every night for the past three months, since they'd moved into their new home, and ever since then he hadn't had a single bad dream.
They'd left LA very quickly after taking out Coleman and the other Greys, and driven north, as they'd discussed. They started their new lives in Canada as illegal immigrants, sneaking in without passports, until Cameron had hacked into numerous Canadian government sites and inserted herself, John, Sarah and Future-Savannah into the system, officially making them all Canadian citizens since birth.
Ellison and Little-Savannah had applied for citizenship the honest way and gotten it. He'd taken up the role as her legal guardian and resigned from Zeiracorp, which had gotten back up and running, under new management, whose goals weren't quite as ambitious as Weaver's, and would be Little-Savannah's when she turned eighteen, if she wanted it. A large trust fund set up by the real Catherine Weaver provided her with all the money she'd ever need. Ellison and Little-Savannah lived in a house closer to town while the rest of them lived on the more rural outskirts, enjoying the privacy it offered.
Since then John had been happy for the first time in years; he'd not had to worry about the future, machines, or even the police anymore. He still couldn't help but check out the exits whenever he walked into a new room and found himself looking over his shoulder sometimes, but he hoped he'd get used to being normal someday.
He rolled over and reached for Cameron but his hand touched empty space. He opened his eyes to see that she was gone. His bedroom door was open and Cameron was gone. It didn't take long for him to work out where she'd gone; sounds emanated from the kitchen and the scent of something cooking wafted into his nostrils.
She's making breakfast! Instantly and with a sense of urgency he hadn't had in three months, he shot out of bed, pulled on jeans and a t-shirt, and padded down the hallway, down the stairs and turned into the kitchen to see Cameron at work cooking.
"Sit down," she told him without looking up from what she was doing. John obediently went to the kitchen table and sat down, the legs of his chair scuffing loudly against the floor as he pulled it in. He cleared a space, seeing – and smelling – that she was nearly finished, and pushed a stack of papers and textbooks to one side.
Moments later Cameron came over and placed a large plate in front of him. Bacon, sausage, baked beans, hash browns, eggs, tomatoes, and two pieces of toast, filled the plate almost to the edges, and John's eyes bulged, his stomach rumbled eagerly as he took in the sight and smell of it. Topping it all off was Cameron's coup de grace; a small sirloin steak on the edge of the plate. "What's all this in aid of?" he asked. She'd made him breakfast before but nothing this elaborate.
"I thought you'd prefer it to pancakes," she said.
"I love my cyborg," he grinned as Cameron placed a cup of coffee next to the plate and sat down beside him. They turned towards each other and kissed softly. Cameron pulled away first.
"Eat it before it gets cold," she said. She watched as he picked up his knife and fork and cut into the steak. John put a piece of the meat into his mouth and a burst of flavour immediately hit his taste buds. It was medium rare, pink in the middle but not fleshy, and as he chewed juices from the steak flowed forth from the meat and into his mouth. He didn't know what kind of seasoning she'd put on it but he didn't really care; it was sheer gastronomic bliss.
"You like it," she said with a satisfied smile as she stated the fact. She didn't need to ask him if he approved; his reaction would have been obvious even if she wasn't a cyborg.
"I love it," he said after he swallowed the first piece. He tucked into the rest of the meal, eating slowly and savouring it – something both he and Savannah had started doing after they'd both gotten used to the abundance of food again. Food was something to be enjoyed, to take pleasure in, not just the mandatory refuelling of their bodies or staving off the permanent hunger pangs they'd felt in the future. And when Cameron cooked like this, he reflected, it was very easy to savour and enjoy every morsel.
"What're we doing today?" he asked her with a mouth full of sausage and egg. Without having to hunt for machines and worrying about the end of the world, he found he had a lot more free time on his hands now.
"Studying," Cameron reached across the far end of the table and picked up several notebooks and textbooks. "English, chemistry and history."
"Great," John murmured, sounding less enthusiastic than he really was. It had been his choice and deep down he knew he'd made the right one. After everything he'd gone through after his birthday, after living in the future for three months to find Cameron and fighting to prevent the end of the world, he'd started to think about his future – his new future. He didn't want to squander it. But at the same time, after all that, going back to high school seemed pointless. He was never very good at making friends, never went to dances or joined afterschool clubs. He'd never fit it there, he'd always be the loner weirdo. Still, with Cameron's help he was ahead of schedule with his work and the assignments he'd done at home and sent off so far had been returned with solid A-grades.
Misreading John, Cameron took his murmuring as a sign he perhaps regretted his decision to take up home schooling. "I could forge your certificates like I did for Savannah," she offered.
John shook his head. "No, I want to do this properly. And you've already done enough forgery to last us a while," he said. Some online tampering had resulted in Canadian passports and birth certificates, driver's licenses for him, herself and for Sarah, as well as bank accounts that wouldn't go short of cash anytime soon. Cameron had refused to issue Savannah with a forged license however, and told her she'd have to take lessons, for her own safety.
"More than you think," Cameron said as she took yesterday's newspaper from the far edge of the table and placed it on the other side of John's plate. She opened it to a page displaying a photo of Obama and Medvedev shaking hands and signing a document. He skimmed over the headline and the first few lines of text enough to see it was an article regarding them signing an agreement to limit the number of nuclear weapons each country possessed.
The tensions between the US and Russia had abated, fizzled out almost as quickly as they'd started, with a large payment from the US Treasury to the Russian Federation and the families of the deceased and wounded sailors, followed by a humbled apology. Both had been completely out of the blue amid all the grandstanding and refusals to apologise – which John figured was justified as neither side was really at fault.
"Did you have something to do with this?" John asked, cocking an eyebrow suspiciously. Cameron had done some serious hacking in the past and it wasn't long after they'd killed Coleman that all the talk of conflict had died down without further incident. In the photo he saw Obama hiding a look of strain; the man didn't appear very comfortable at all in the picture.
"Obama didn't make the apology or pay any compensation," she admitted.
"You did," John realised, more forgery on her part. He looked at the photo of the ill at ease president and couldn't help but shake his head and chuckle. She'd said she'd sort it out. "No wonder he doesn't look happy."
She heard noise from outside and in microseconds she identified the source of it. Two people approaching the house. "Eat quickly," she warned him. "They're coming."
Too late, the back door opened up loudly and Savannah burst through into the kitchen, clad in running shoes, shorts and shirt and sweating profusely. Her face was bright red and she panted hard, sucking in as much air as she could. Moments later Sarah appeared, dressed much the same and looking even more exhausted than Savannah.
"How was the run?" Cameron asked them.
"Bad," Sarah gasped. She went to one of the cupboards, took a glass out and filled it up with water from the faucet. She gulped half of it down in one and splashed the rest on her face, which was so red that John half expected the water to hiss and evaporate into steam.
"Savannah kicked your ass again?" John smirked.
"She's a freak," Sarah panted as she refilled her glass again. "She just doesn't get tired."
Savannah shrugged noncommittally. "You're just old," she said, recalling how she'd said something similar to Knowles on the mountain plateau. She nimbly ducked a wet dishcloth that flew at her a moment later and missed her by an inch, instead hitting the refrigerator.
"No more age jokes," she said, pointing a finger at Savannah.
"She's got a point, mom," John said. "Savannah's ten years younger and she's from the future." She was used to pushing herself past normal limits of her endurance; running for her life was the norm for her so it was no big thing for her to go all out she was running for sport. John knew his mother had always been obsessive about keeping fighting fit and she'd worked out relentlessly almost every day for as long as he could remember, but Savannah was something else.
"I will beat you one day," Sarah said to Savannah. Once they'd set themselves up in Mackenzie, Savannah had – with her miniature self's help – fulfilled her promise to her Ellison and started to make a life for herself. She'd put in an application to join the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and weeks later, barely five minutes after the plaster casts had been removed from her arm and leg, had she started training to get fit again. She'd taken up running with Sarah almost every morning and it had quickly turned into a daily competition, at least in Sarah's eyes it was.
"If you say so," Savannah shrugged. Sarah had come close a few times but close was no cigar. No matter who won she found it a good workout and their contests had been part of the reason that only a few weeks ago she'd outrun all the other candidates on the RCMP fitness tests, putting even one of the instructors to shame.
Savannah raided the fridge and opened up a carton of orange juice, not bothering with a glass and gulping it straight down. Sarah had gotten used to that when Derek was with them so it didn't really bother her too much that Savannah had no table manners either. She turned her attention to John as he happily munched on his oversized breakfast.
"What are you doing up so early, anyway?" she asked her son. John's mouth was full so he simply pointed to his breakfast.
"I see," she said warily. Cameron indulged him a bit too much sometimes, she thought. What made it worse was that, although she'd never say it aloud, Sarah had to privately admit that Cameron was a better cook. John never said anything about her cooking but she'd noticed how his face lit up when Cameron said she was making dinner. Still, she thought, at least there's one worse cook than me. Savannah had tried a few times and nearly burnt the house down; so Sarah could take solace in the fact that even though she feared she might never outrun the future survivor, she was still the best human cook in the house.
"I'm gonna grab a shower and head to work," she said, heading out of the kitchen and out of their sight.
"You have a letter," Cameron said to Savannah and handed her an envelope. "The mail arrived when you were running."
Savannah took it from her and tore it open. She pulled the note out and read quickly, her eyes darting from left to right across the page and a smile spreading across her lips as she did. "It's from the Mounted Police: I got in," she said happily. "I start training at the end of the month."
"Congratulations," Cameron said. She liked Savannah and was glad she was happy, knowing the loss she'd suffered in the future. She'd of course overheard the conversation between Ellison and Savannah the night they'd infiltrated Serrano Point and knew they'd discussed her future. She knew Savannah sometimes still went off alone to grieve and think about him. Succeeding in fulfilling her promise to Ellison would help her cope with the loss.
"Who'd have thought we'd have a cop living with 'terrorists'?" John said ironically. If anyone had said it before he'd have laughed himself half to death.
"Nobody would look for us in a police officer's house," Cameron added. It was unlikely anyone would ever find them after all her creative forgeries but Savannah's choice of career did offer some extra benefits to them. If someone figured out who they were she might be able to give them advanced warning.
"We should do something to celebrate," John said. "How about we all go out for dinner tonight? We'll get Ellison and your twin out, too." That is - he thought - if I'll even be hungry by then. He was barely halfway through the breakfast Cameron had made him, it was so big it could probably last him the whole day.
Savannah nodded her approval as she approached the table. "Good idea," she replied. "But until then..." with lightning quickness she shot out a hand and swiped a sausage from John's plate, and ate it in two bites before he could react.
"Hey!" protested John. He held his fork up defensively to fend off any other attacks on his breakfast.
"Old habit," she shrugged. It wasn't the first time she'd had to steal food in her life; the Mexican soldiers she'd shacked up with hadn't fed her much and when the moonshine and the drugs had worn off and she'd sobered up enough to feel hungry she'd been forced to swipe their rations. The first attempts had earned her a few black eyes and bloodied noses until she'd learnt how to do it without being caught.
John looked to Cameron and saw she was simply watching with a hint of amusement on her face. He turned his attention back to what was left of the steak and quickly finished it off before she could even think about having any; it was just too good to share. Once he'd polished off the slab of juicy meat he pushed the plate away, still half full of beans, egg and half a slice of toast. "Finish it off if you like," he offered to Savannah as he got up from the table.
"You're not hungry?" Cameron asked him. He'd never left any of her food behind before. In fact, she recalled every meal he'd eaten in her presence – which was almost every meal he'd eaten, period – since arriving in 2009, and he'd never failed to eat everything on the plate, in the first weeks he'd even licked the plate clean of sauce or gravy. She touched his forehead with her fingertips and scanned him to make sure he wasn't ill.
"I'm good," he said.
"You sure?" Savannah asked, sitting down where he'd just been.
"Go ahead," John told her. Barely had the words gotten out of his mouth when she attacked the breakfast with the same ferocity he'd seen from her, and that he'd shared, during their first meal in the safe house. He'd gotten used to having food in abundance again whereas a lifetime of being hungry had had its effect on Savannah and she still sometimes gorged until she felt ill.
"You should join up with me," Savannah said to Cameron, between mouthfuls of food. "Give you something else to do."
"John keeps me busy," she replied. She understood Savannah meant it as more than simply something to keep her occupied but as an offer to keep her company. Neither of them had any other friends. She saw Savannah's face fall slightly as she declined the offer. "If you need a running partner who can keep up with you, I'll join you in the mornings," she added. "I run faster than Sarah."
"And every other human who ever lived," John added. He had a feeling that Cameron would drag him into these runs quite quickly. He wouldn't mind that apart from the fact he'd just seen Savannah kick his mom's ass and the thought of running against her – as well as Cameron – was pretty daunting. Not to mention the fact that even if he could beat his mother he wasn't sure if he'd dare do so.
"Tomorrow morning," Cameron offered Savannah. Seven a.m.; John will come too."
"I'll hold you to it," the redhead said, pointing at them both with her fork. She hadn't really expected Cameron to take it up but she'd wanted to offer, both to have a friend with her and to give Cameron some variety in her life.
Leaving Savannah to finish off his breakfast, John led Cameron to the living room before they signed him up for any more training sessions that might actually kill him, and sat down on the sofa – and for the first time in years it wasn't lined with Kevlar inside it. Cameron sat down beside him and leaned back, having learnt that the others preferred it when she sat like they did and not bolt upright.
John sank into the sofa and put his feet up on the coffee table in front of them. He leaned a little to his side, into Cameron, and she reciprocated the motion, resting the side of her head against his. Neither of them reacted to the sound of Sarah coming down the staircase. Her hair was still damp from the shower and she wore a pale blue uniform similar to many she'd worn in the past. She put a piece of paper on the table, beside John's feet.
"Shopping list," she said to him and handed him fifty dollars with it. She still didn't like to use cards if she could help it; a force of habit she reckoned she might never break out of. "Get something for dinner tonight."
"We're going out for dinner tonight," Cameron told her. "We all are: Savannah's been accepted into the Mounted Police."
"Fair enough," Sarah shrugged. She knew she didn't sound overjoyed for Savannah but then she was hardly surprised the young woman had been accepted. She looked to Cameron. "Keep him out of trouble – and no funny business."
"Funny business?" Cameron asked as John swallowed nervously and started to turn slightly red, wishing Cameron hadn't asked a follow up question.
His discomfort wasn't lost on Sarah in the least and inside she grinned evilly. "No hiding the sausage, jumping each others' bones, swinging from the chandeliers..."
"God, mom," John groaned, turning beet red and pretty sure he was going to die of embarrassment any minute. He really didn't want to have this talk with his mother.
The former mother of the future smirked at the sight of her son squirming. She knew she couldn't stop them and she wasn't going to try. She didn't like it that John and Cameron had fallen for each other so completely but she was getting used to it, learning to live with it. And to their credit she hadn't heard or seen anything physical between them since the safe house – though she knew it still happened. But that didn't mean she couldn't have a little fun at his expense, she grinned. Cameron simply stared at her as if she'd gone mad. She didn't get it, Sarah realised. "No sex while I'm out," she elaborated, making it abundantly clear for the cyborg.
Cameron saw Sarah was enjoying embarrassing John and decided two could play. "Would you prefer we have sex when you're here?" she asked, deliberately misinterpreting what she'd said.
"I... no..." Sarah found herself completely dumbstruck by Cameron's question. What the hell kind of thing was that to ask? She had no idea how to even answer that, and finally settled for "I'm off to work," deciding she didn't want to carry on this discussion.
"Check mate," Cameron winked at John. "Have fun," she politely said to Sarah.
"Oh, I'm sure I will," Sarah rolled her eyes as she made her way to the front door. She'd taken on a part time waitressing job to get her out of the house and give her something to do. Savannah would soon be the most hard-assed cop British Columbia would ever see, John was studying with Cameron's help, and she'd wanted something to do and waitressing was what she knew. It'd do for now, she thought. She disappeared out the front door and John and Cameron listened as her car switched on and pulled out of the driveway.
After a moment John wrapped his arm around Cameron and they nestled closer to each other. The TV was off and they sat there, not saying a word, in comfortable silence, just content to be in one another's company. His thoughts drifted to what Savannah had said, and unknowingly, to what Sarah had been considering too. "Have you thought about what you want to do?" he'd never asked her before but now he wondered. "You don't have to be around me twenty-four-seven."
Cameron turned to look at him, confused. "You want me to leave you alone?" she asked. He'd wanted that in the past but since following her to the future he'd been uncomfortable away from her, a feeling she fully reciprocated.
"No," John shook his head, realising he'd worded it wrong and afraid he'd upset her. He tried to explain it better. "What I mean is; Skynet's gone now, there's no mission. Mom's got a job, I'm studying, Savannah's about to become the Canadian Judge Dredd; if there's anything you'd like to do with your life I want you to do it."
"Like what?" she asked.
"Well, you're turning out to be an amazing cook; have you thought about doing that for a living?"
Cameron looked at him strangely. "You want me to be a chef?"
"Only if you want to," John replied. "I want you to be happy; if there's something you want to do, I want you to do it."
She leaned back into him and nodded deliberately so he could feel it, silently telling him she understood his meaning. "I want to be with you," she said simply. She'd told him before because she was a machine she couldn't be happy. Now she knew that wasn't accurate. She was satisfied and content when she was with John. That was what she wanted, all she wanted.
John turned his face towards her, leaned forward and closed his eyes as he lightly kissed her. He sighed contentedly, feeling her smile against his lips as she returned the kiss. He didn't need to say he loved her, nor she to him; it wasn't required to say it in words, though he often did to her and vice versa. "I want that too," he murmured back against her lips. They'd beaten Skynet together, fought the future and won, and now they had a new one to look forward to. He felt strange, not having a destiny, a fate mapped out for him anymore, but it felt good. He was free now; free to do whatever he wanted with his life. They had a whole lifetime to figure out what to do with themselves; no matter what he did with his life or she hers, they now had a bright, shining future to look forward to together.
That's all folks!
Hope you enjoyed it, I certainly enjoyed writing it. Thanks to everyone who's read and given feedback, it's been great to get your opinions and I'm glad the story seems to be so popular. I'd like to give particular thanks to Kaotic2 for beta reading and listening to me go on and on over the past few months!
I do have another idea for an unrelated TSCC fic, though for now I'm going to take a break from writing for a little bit as I went from finishing Century almost straight into working on this fic, so I think a rest is due. Please do let me know your thoughts on this final chapter and the fic as a whole!