Disclaimer: Don't own them. *sigh*

Author's Note: The biggest trouble with the original way this was posted seemed to be the not quite happy ending. I might argue differently but I still aim to please. I've gone back and split Chapter 13 from the Epilogue. If you want to Moulin Rouge it and stop the DVD at chapter 23 for a flat out happy ending, I'd recommend you don't read the Epilogue. For the original ending, read on….

Author's 2nd Note: For a really nifty vid inspired by Arming Pasadena, check out youtube video Tornado_TSCC by 71prowler

Epilogue

2019: Battle of Pasadena

"Tempest, bring the others this way!" Connor called out. The Sergeant -a burly man with more guts than brains- complied, motioning with thick hands for his men to follow him. Tempest would go through the fence first, his group of seasoned soldiers clearing the way. No way the squad of newbies under Connor's command would manage the two T-200's on their own.

As Tempest distracted the metallic sentries, firing curses and bullets in equal measure, Connor slipped below the electric wire perimeter. His men had dug out the gap not two hours ago, under the cover of darkness and rain. His body -made lean over nearly a decade of guerilla warfare- wriggled easily through the muddy hole. He had sent a scout through first, to alert the others in the camp that Resistance Fighters were on their way to free them. Hopefully two hours had been time enough to spread the word and have the camp prepped to make their dash for freedom.

Not all the prisoners would make it. They never did. Of the thousands he had rescued over the years, there were hundreds more lying across every battlefield he had ever commanded. But he knew this battle from inside out, Derek's detailed first hand account etched firmly in his mind. He knew what had worked, what hadn't. Connor had planned the attack as thoroughly as he could, knowing that new problems would arise the moment he engaged the enemy. His mother had taught him that. No battle plan survived the first encounter.

Connor looked to the right, eyes finding those of his uncle, now barely a man. He had toyed with the idea of keeping Derek and his father behind the lines on this one, concerned about risking men who meant so much to his past. But, as Derek had once told him about the boy in the military school, the Reese brothers in a bunker somewhere were as useless as them being dead. The skills Derek and Kyle learned at Connor's hand would be the skills they would teach him and his mother when he sent them back to himself, some ten years from now.

The circles Connor ran in his head never ended, every action he made was always a calculation, not just for his future but for his past. Could he ready himself better? His mother?

"Sir, Tempest's put the guards down. He's drawing fire."

Connor knew Tempest died, Derek had told him so. But his sacrifice would give them opportunity to rescue nearly seven thousand people. He knew Tempest would think the sacrifice was worth it. It would be a good death.

"Move in, groups of three. Stay out of sight as long as possible, we don't want to draw attention until we're sure air cavalry has made it across the perimeter."

"Yes, Sir."

"Reese, both of you, with me." Just because he couldn't keep them out of the battle didn't mean he couldn't try to keep them out of trouble. They sprinted across the muddy ground, dodging lights and laser scans to slide to the door of a metal hut. A quick flick of bolt cutters snapped the lock from the door and they opened it to find dozens of people tightly packed into the dark space.

"Listen up, we're getting you out of here. I need everyone to stand up and stay calm. Reese." He motioned with his head to the brothers who nodded, slipping off their packs. Each of the Resistance Fighters had been loaded with a cache of weapons, taken from a small storehouse in the desert that had lain untouched for almost a decade. They passed the weapons around, handguns, rifles, the odd shotgun.

The whirr of helicopters overhead signaled they were set to move. Tempest had Skynet's attention at the front gates and the resistance helicopters would delay the HK's from getting in the air. A better window to run wasn't going to present itself anytime soon.

"All right, Derek, Kyle, you're point. I'll bring up the rear."

"But, Sir…"

Rear guard was the worst position. The machines would be on the verge of regrouping by the tail end of their human convoy. Of the three of them, Connor was the most likely to be captured.

"No arguments. Keep them safe, I'll be right behind you."

A blast outside indicated his engineers had opened a hole in the containment wall. On his signal, hell broke loose. The hut full of prisoners herded for the newly blasted exit, melding into the groups of other freed huts to be lost amongst the masses. Connor left them to their fate, ducking in to the shadows to head for a two storey turret, two hundred metres ahead. Derek said the turret had busted down hundreds of people before air cavalry had blown it to hell.

Not this time.

Pulling the one shot rocket launcher from its sling on his back, Connor took a knee, boots sinking deep in the waterlogged ground. Aim steadied from years of combat, he sited the turret, concentrating on the gun itself rather than the machine operating it. Machines could be replaced, it would take longer for them to remount a weapon. He fired, sending the rocket on its course. It was a small payload but was more than enough to destroy the gun, the explosion tossing the T-200 over the side to the ground below.

He gave in to the boyish urge to pump his fist in a show of victory, crushing the tube of the rocket launcher before tossing it to the side. Tempest's men were down, the burly Sergeant the last man standing in his squad as he fired a machine gun most wouldn't have been able to lift. How much could Connor tempt fate? How much could he risk changing?

To keep his fellow safe, anything.

Connor ran for Tempest, unhooking a grenade from his waist to launch at an approaching T-200. The small weapon only succeeded in blowing off a leg but that was enough to keep the machine out of the immediate skirmish.

"Tempest! This way!"

Either the big man couldn't hear over the sound of his weapon or was intentionally ignoring him. He turned away from Connor, walking deeper into the Skynet fortifications without regard for the machines that bore down on him.

"Tempest! What the hell are you doing?" And then Connor saw it, the reason for the soldier's one man war. A child, tucked against one of the work huts, hands squeezed tightly to her ears as gunshots rang out around them, trying to block out the screams as soldier and prisoners alike were cut down. Connor ripped two grenades from his bandolier, lobbing one under the track of a mechanized vehicle and tossing the other just over Tempest's head to take out a skinjob.

Tempest spared a nod for Connor, nothing but respect and acceptance in his eyes as he continued firing at the enemy. They were all dead. It was a reality they had to accept before walking onto a battlefield. Assume you were dead, then, if you weren't, you were pleasantly surprised. Connor wasn't sure either of them would be pleasantly surprised today. It wouldn't stop him from trying.

His mother never had.

Sarah Connor had fought to the bitter end. Digging at Skynet until her body was too weak to defend itself from the cancer that had done what no machine could. Killed Sarah Connor. His mother had lived for him, fought for him, given her all, knowing it would be her own body to betray her in the end. She had kept that burden from his shoulders until the very last. And though he knew Cameron's soul had died with his mother, she had never once wavered in her mission to protect him, dying at Skynet's hands to save Kyle and Derek. To protect their future, to protect his past.

Neither his mother, nor the machine she had come to love, had ever given up on him or humanity. Connor could do no less.

An explosion rocked against his body and Connor instinctively dove, sliding through the mud to end up beside the dirt covered child. He lifted her easily in his arms, shielding her small body with his own as he sprinted back the way he had come, body low.

He heard Tempest following behind him, the combined weight of the man and his weapon making for heavy footsteps. The steps were all the more noticeable when they stopped, the rat-tat-tat of the machine gun dying with its owner as Tempest hit the dirt. John looked back to see the man on his knees, blood pouring through his hands as he pressed them to his chest, his weapon at his side.

"Tempest!"

"Run, Connor! Run!"

All too aware of the fragility of the package in his hands, John nodded once, a thank you for Tempest's service. For his bravery. He ripped his bandolier of grenades from his waist, sliding them across the ground to his fellow. Through the darkness, through the mud and blood, Connor saw a feral smile cross the Sergeant's lips as he pulled the pin.

He didn't wait for the explosion, turning to follow after the others, running pell mell through the camp. The girl kept her head tucked deep against his chest, her sobs quieting as they crossed the shattered wall of the work camp. It was ten minutes of hard running before he caught up to the tail end of the evacuees, another twenty before they reached the rendezvous point to begin shuttling them to the various shelters around the area.

It took some effort but he eventually pried the young girl from his neck, sitting her on the remnants of a rusted out Jeep. Watery eyes stared at him, the already shed tears leaving streaks of clean skin down her mud encrusted face. He smiled at her, untucking his shirt to brush the worst of the dirt from her face.

"You okay? You're not hurt?" He asked, his voice hoarse from yelling orders across the battlefield. She nodded her head, dark locks slicked tightly to her head by the ceaseless rain. "You sure?" He brushed at her forehead, chapped lips pursing when he cleared the area around her eyes, attention caught by the small imperfection on her eyebrow.

And suddenly it made sense, why the machines had gone through so much trouble all those years ago. It hadn't been about killing him. It had been about keeping her.

Dark eyes stared up at him, full of an innocence he had never seen in them in his own childhood. And he knew he would give all to protect her, as she would one day do for him. Cameron had prepared him for this, that he would one day meet her. That he would be responsible for protecting her but eventually need to let her go. But that wouldn't be for another decade. For now, for today, she was a scared child who needed a friend, a protector. John remembered that feeling. He would put himself between her and danger for as long as he was able.

"It's going to be okay, Allison." He saw the surprise in her eyes, that he knew her name, that he knew her at all. "My name is John. John Connor. I'm going to take you somewhere safe, okay?"

A small hand reached up to his, tiny pinkie outstretched as trembling lips fought to speak. "Swear?"

He locked his finger with hers, nodding at the child whose life, like his, would become a story like no other.

"Swear."

~Finis~