Pairings: Kyle/Marcus, John/Kate

Warnings: Violence, war, post-apocalyptic scenario, swearing, sex which may technically be underage depending on where in the world you live (ie. Kyle is seventeen), confusing time travel/time loops.

Author's Note: I am so glad this is finally finished, after so long. I kind of ran out of inspiration for a some while there, but I don't like to leave things unfinished, as I don't want to make too much of a habit of it.

The T-700 guides them down through the maze of stairs and walkways to the factory floor, a silent and menacing presence, but not outwardly threatening. Not at the moment anyway. Marcus doesn't say anything, even though he badly wants to ask why there are humans being kept alive in a machine factory. His first thought is slave labour, but why bother with that when robots will do the job just as well, and don't require feeding. Next to him Kyle peers down at the industrious figures with open curiosity, his eyes wide in amazement.

As they reach the bottom of the last staircase, some of the people notice them for the first time, and soon a whole host of interested faces are staring up at them, although they keep half an eye on their work at the same time. One of the men taps his neighbour on the shoulder to take over from him, and makes his way over.

"Hey there folks," he says, grinning and wiping the oil and dirt from his hand before holding it out for a shake. He's shorter than either of them, with dark hair and tanned olive skin. "I take it you're new about these parts."

"You could say that," Kyle says with a kind of shocked little laugh. "What are all you guys doing here?"

"Well, that's kind of a long story," the man says. "But I'm guessing that's why Detroit sent you down here." He waves off the Terminator carelessly. "I can take it from here. You can tell Detroit I'll look after his guests."

To Marcus' surprise, the machine just nods and leaves without a word. The easy obedience to a human is a shock to say the least. He can't imagine Skynet lowering one of its minions to do such a thing, even to lay a trap.

"My name's David Gray, by the way," the man says, "and I guess I'm kind of the leader here. We're quite a close knit bunch here, but I'm sure you'll fit right in if you're planning to stay for any length of time."

"I'm Kyle, and this is Marcus. We were captured a couple of days ago."

"Captured huh?" David says. "Well you can count yourself lucky it was Detroit that did it and not one of the other cities near here, else you'd be dead for sure."

"Is that what happened to you?" Marcus asks.

David shrugs. "In a manner of speaking. Mind you, I'm not sure you could call it capture, since we're free to leave if we want. It would be stupid though, this is pretty much the only safe place left for humans on the entire East Coast."

"You're not prisoners?"

"No, no way. Detroit is on our side." David clearly takes in their disbelieving expressions, but he laughs, and says, "It's hard to believe I know, and we didn't exactly trust him when we first got here, but that AI has proved himself to us over the past years. When we were picked up by the Harvesters, we'd been on the run for weeks, ever since our camp was attacked. There were about a hundred of us at that time, men, women and children, and I thought we were all dead for certain. But Detroit gave us the run of the city, and a safe place underground to sleep, and helped us to grow food. Ever since then more people trickle in, less now than there used to be, but there are a lot of us here. Separate communities, but the one here is the biggest."

"How many of you are there?" Kyle asks, sounding a little awed.

"Must be near a thousand I reckon."

Damn, that's a lot, Marcus thinks, impressed. Even in Utah, there had only been four or five hundred of them, and about half that under Conner's command in the Resistance. Probably there were a lot more scattered all over the West Coast here and there, but here they were all concentrated in one place.

"I know it's hard to stop thinking of the machines as the enemy," David says, "but in this case it's the truth. I don't know how, but this AI broke off from Skynet's control, and for some reason he's on our side."

"Seems kind of hard to believe this is a trap now," Kyle says softly, looking over at Marcus. He nods slowly, thinking it over. This isn't just something Detroit could have put together quickly, and he knows body language, and this David Gray isn't hiding anything. He seems perfectly content here. If it wasn't for the whole unbelievable story about time travel this would probably be a lot easier to swallow.

"I know," he replies. Then, louder, "So what are you working on down here? Weapons?"

"We've been building up a stockpile," the man explains. "Detroit has this plan to deal with Skynet, and we're going to help. But we need something to fight with, so Detroit turned over a couple of the factories to us. We've got guns, planes, bombs, missiles, hell, even a couple of tanks that Detroit came up with. Pretty sweet design, and you can bet the enemy won't be expecting them." He winks. "Skynet won't know what hit it."

"Awesome," Kyle says, grinning.

"We can always use another pair of hands if you plan on staying here," David says. "I don't know what your story is, you might have something more important on your mind right now, but we never turn away newcomers."

"We'll think about it," Marcus says. He's still a little unconvinced by all this, coming out of nowhere. He may not have spent as much time in this world as Kyle has, but he has learned pretty quickly that good things tend not to happen. There is generally a catch. Even his relationship with Kyle, which he wouldn't give up for the world, had come at the price of a crazy Resistance leader trying to kill him.

"Take your time thinking it over," David says, nodding in an understanding kind of way. "We're used to all this, but I know it must come as a pretty big surprise to you."

"Thanks for talking to us," Kyle says, as they turn to leave.

"Happy to help."

Not really knowing where else to go, they head back up to the room Kyle had been put in earlier. It does all sound kind of unbelievable, Kyle knows, but just going by the evidence, he's starting to think that they might have been wrong about this situation. That maybe the AI Detroit had been telling the truth. That maybe they had found a place where they would finally be able to do some good against the machines, against Skynet. If so, he would finally get a chance to do something in this war, unlike before, and Conner's insistent demands that he stay out of it.

Kyle sits on the bed, tracking mud all over the painfully white sheets, trying to work out how to put all this in words for Marcus. He wants to believe, but he thinks Marcus will be harder to convince. He is reacting against the thought that he might be something he had feared, a doubt that preys on him and has clearly never truly gone away. It all seems so clear to Kyle, but he can't seem to make Marcus see that. He loves Marcus and Marcus loves him, and what could Skynet know of that?

"What do you think?" he asks finally.

"I'm not sure we are being given a choice," Marcus says, after some thought. "Those people seemed to trust this AI. We have no chance of escape, and even if we did, where would we go?"

Kyle nods. "That's what I thought too," he says. "Besides, I don't think either of us would settle for just sitting here and doing nothing for who knows how long. I think we should go along with this plan."

"You know we can't trust the AI, right?" Marcus says.

"Maybe, maybe not." Kyle shrugs. "No-one's stopping us from being cautious, are they?"

"Okay." Marcus smiles at him, just a little quirk of his lips, almost amused. "Let's talk to that machine."

It is autumn in 2023. Little Sarah is five years old now, old enough to hold her father's hand and walk by his side as he oversees his troops, well fed and well armed now, with ammunition and planes and choppers a plenty. It is a sight to see, and Kate feels pride and hope welling up in her breast as she watches her husband make his way past the men and women standing at attention at their child's pace, a faint smile on his face that she is sure he is not aware of. Having Sarah around has loosened him, softened him, and she likes it. It has leeched much of the anger he kept bottled up inside.

In the five years and more since San Francisco fell and they took back the West, the human population has continued to grow and grow well. Her belly is already swelling with their second child, and she and John don't intend to stop at two. The Resistance is still far fewer in number than they would have liked though, and it has become impossible to hold any more territory than the long strip of coast they have carved out. This does not mean they have stopped fighting. Skynet is still dangerous, and although the Resistance carries out sorties into machine territory every week, these exist purely for destruction. Skynet cannot attack them when it is busy fending them off and rebuilding what they bomb. For now there is stalemate, a waiting game. This is a long, long war, and will go on for a long time yet.

It has been near five years too since the boy who called himself Kyle Reese disappeared into the wilds of Middle America with the machine Marcus Wright. Kate is no longer so sure that he had been the real article, the youth who would become the man who bore that name into the past and gave her John. How could he be, with the path of history unchanged? If that really had been John's eventual father, his rejection of them for Marcus would have caused her husband to fade away by now, never to have been born. But still he stands, their strong leader. A prophet and a beacon of hope. Their future.

Six years more before they need to find the real Kyle Reese. Six years before they must ask that man, wherever he is, to pay the ultimate sacrifice for humankind, and for the woman who he is destined to fall in love with. Six years before Sarah Conner's tapes say they must attack Skynet's stronghold and penetrate to its very depths. Kate has no doubts. It will all come to pass. It is destined.

It is summer in 2028. "How do you keep all this straight in your head?" Marcus asks, lounging back in the comfortable office chair that Detroit has dug out from somewhere. It is in good shape for a twenty-five year old artefact. They have taken back another two cities and their resources in the past ten years; they plan is on schedule, and a certain amount of luxury is available.

"I have the advantage of having a central processor instead of a head," Detroit says with a laugh. His projection of himself has changed now, a composite avatar merged from a dozen resistance members. It's a little creepy, but better than looking at someone Marcus knows, or himself.

"I'm a machine too, and it makes my brain hurt!" he protests. "What kind of unhinged scientist came up with the idea of time travel in the first place?"

"Spoilers," Detroit says. "There are some things I can only reveal when the time is right. But let's face it. You were never intended to be the smartest machine ever. You are half-human after all."

Marcus lets the gentle teasing wash over him. It is familiar, in an old way, like his brother when they were young, thirteen or twenty-eight years ago, depending on how you looked at it. Anyway, after nearly ten years of underground sabotage and war, he knows Detroit. They're friends.

"So, as I was saying, before you interrupted, this is the year we have to find our Kyle Reese."

"The guy who goes back to become Conner's dad?"

"Correct. As far as I can make out from the information you gave me, the man who goes back is not Kyle, he merely uses that name. A cipher, a symbol more than anything. As to the issue of DNA... well we won't know that until we can get our hands on a sample from Conner. In theory this is a closed time loop, recursive, and whatever we do will lead to the correct choice. But in my opinion, even the scientists in the future are still trying to get to grips with these concepts, and I don't want to take any chances."

"Yeah," Marcus says, rubbing his eyes. "Yeah I can see that. So, do you think it's really even possible to change the future?"

"Some things are fixed, some aren't. The details are pretty easy to change, the big things, like this war, not so much. But of course Skynet doesn't know or believe that, or they would never have sent the Terminators back in the first place. And if my once-master didn't still think me under its command, we wouldn't have access to the fruits of Skynet's labours."

"Time travel technology," Marcus says, a hint of wonder in his voice even after so long. "So where do we go from here?"

"David will be leaving tomorrow morning. His squad should meet up with Conner's strike-force in the Mid-West two days from now. At that point he will be able to tell them about the existence of the East Coast Resistance – leaving myself out of course – and at some point get a DNA sample from Conner. We will go on from there once we know more."

"Sounds like a plan." Marcus nods. "I guess Kyle and I are in charge once he sets out?"

"That's right." Detroit looks at him fondly. "It won't be too much longer now. The war will not go on forever."

"What about our little side project? Kyle's not going to be around forever..."

"Proceeding well. But that is for the future. You worry about the present, and leave the rest of time to me."

"You're welcome to it. I'm happy as long as he and I are together."

"Speaking of your lover, I believe he is waiting for you in the mess hall."

"That's my cue to leave then. We can do more of this planning shit later."

"Have fun," the machine says as he leaves. Detroit was right, Marcus thinks. It is better to focus on his life here and now. He's got it pretty good, after all.

It has not escaped Conner's notice that Skynet has seemed almost distracted these past few months. It has sent fewer attacks, and when the humans retaliate, the defences they meet are not as strong as they once were. He can only hope that this means their long, slow campaign of attrition is having an effect. As it is, their own resources are not infinite, and although a lot of new children are being born, it will take a long time for them to grow up enough to join the fight.

This latest mission is another strike into Skynet-controlled territory. The machines have been building Terminators in factories around the ruins of a mid-sized city named Baldwin in what used to be east Kansas. The buildings are more spread out than they used to be. The machines have learned their lessons about that since the Resistance has been able to put proper numbers of bombers in the sky. They adopt what once were human tactics, and Conner wonders if it hurts their sense of pride, if machines can be said to have such a thing. He knows the Resistance is making them desperate, knows with the certainty of his mother's words always heavy on his shoulders, with the old memory of Skynet's assassins.

Their helicopters drop a strike force off at the edge of the town, already being reclaimed by scrubland and meadow, thick over broken tarmac and concrete. Plenty of cover through which to make their approach towards the anti-aircraft guns which much be knocked out before the bombers are sent in. John gives his orders with the practised snap of hand gestures, and fifty men start to move, spreading out in a wide arc.

They are lucky enough in this case to have been able to send a single plane high overhead with a long-lensed camera to record the positions of their targets, and they make good time. This kind of terrain can be treacherous, with concealed pits and openings down into old cellars and basements, rubble shifting underfoot, but they are used to it, trained for it. This place was never big enough to justify a nuke, so that at least is not a factor he needs to consider. No, this was destroyed the old fashioned way.

They reach the first gun emplacement after twenty minutes, seeing little in the way of guards. It is hard to say if this should make him suspicious. John would like to think the Resistance has just drained their resources this much, and that may be enough of an explanation for it, but he has not stayed alive this long by being careless. He signals the others with him to be wary. Other groups have split apart already, heading for the other targets.

Looking over the scene with the aid of a pair of binoculars reveals a machine presence there; two of the big, dumb T-600s and five T-700s, none of them looking in the best of repair. The gun itself is controlled by a machine brain of its own, and will have to be disconnected to disable it. If they had more explosives they might blow it up entirely, but resources are still not limitless, and what they do have is better placed in the bombers.

Conner sends a couple of his soldiers out to either side. They will catch the machines in their crossfire, and hopefully do them enough damage to put them out of commission. The old weakpoint, at the base of the skull, has long since been discovered and eliminated.

Conner waits until they are in position, and then his hand falls and the attack begins. Bullets whip through the air and hit metal with a high-pitched rat-a-tat, fire concentrating on the head or joints. The machines react quickly, but two are already down within minutes, the neck of one shattered, the already-damaged head of the other split apart, and the unholy light dying from its eyes.

The remaining Terminators fire back, but their cover is not as good as it might have been, and one of the T-600s appears to be malfunctioning. A grenade pitched into their midst does enough damage to compromise another three, and then Conner's troops are close enough to do some serious damage. Not ten minutes after the fight began, the gun emplacement is theirs.

Radios are too vulnerable to machine interception to be used too freely, so Conner doesn't hear the news until his team make it back to the rendezvous point. When they get in sight of the clear field they'd set the choppers down in, he realises that there are too many people there; even assuming they had taken no losses at all. Strangers. Humans he has never seen before. He is on his guard immediately. He doesn't think Skynet could have built quite so many human-seeming Terminators by this date in the war, but he isn't willing to take any chances.

"Hey there," he calls out to Lieutenant Rollin as they approach. "You want to explain what's going on here?"

"Sir." She salutes him, still relatively young and caught up in his legend, the stories they tell about him. "We encountered them on the north-east side of the town. Sir," Hope shines in her face. "they claim to be from the East Coast Resistance."

Impossible. But Conner stops himself from blurting it out. He hadn't thought that anyone could be alive over there after so long, but though it seems like a miracle, he has been wrong before. Is it really so hard to believe that humans could have been fighting over there, potential allies separated only by the barriers of communication and their enemies.

"Who's in charge?" he asks, looking the newcomers over. He likes what he sees. They are well armed and with the fullness of face and flesh that means they are well-fed. They hold their weapons professionally, and he can tell they remain alert even around other humans.

"I am." The voice comes from a man of average height, with dark hair showing wide streaks of grey at the temples and tanned skin. "Captain David Grey, of the East Coast Resistance." He holds out his hand, and when John shakes it he feels the hard calluses of honest work. "Let me tell you, we were pretty surprised to see you folks. Far as we knew, there weren't much in the way of survivors out west."

"I could say the same thing," Conner says, watching him closely. He seems honest and open enough, but there's something a little too coincidental about this meeting for his liking.

"You must be the man who gives the orders around here, am I right?" Grey says. "Seems we have a lot to talk about. I'm sure I don't need to tell you how good it feels to know there's someone else out there."

"True enough," Conner allows. He gestures to the unfamiliar troops. "You seem to know what you're doing. I'd be interested to know how much of the East Coast is controlled by your people."

"Mostly the north, around old Michigan and Ohio," Grey says. "But if we're going to talk resources, get some kind of combined attack together at some point, we ought to go somewhere a little more comfortable to discuss it, don't you think?"

"We had to come a long way from our nearest base to get here, and there's no room in the choppers for your people anyway," Conner says, trying to sound apologetic. "However, if all you want is privacy, this area should be safe now. That is, if you don't mind walking and talking."

Grey shrugs. "Fine by me."

Conner signals to Rollins for the men and women to take a rest, and leads Grey off in the direction of a nearby copse of trees. Once inside the cover of the shadowing branches, the other man turns to him, and begins to speak.

"I wanted specifically to tell you about a piece of information we recently uncovered about Skynet. I don't know if you already know about this, but I think it's pretty important if we're going to win this war. How much do you know about how Skynet controls its forces?"

"We know it sends out a satellite signal, one that can be interrupted. We know that there are local signalling stations in various major cities all over their territory."

Grey nods. "That's all true. But Skynet itself... It's basically just one big computer. It has to have something to think with, to plan and strategise, and so on. We've found out that this 'brain' is made up by using the combined power of computer net servers all over the country. There are independent AIs to some extent in some of the big cities, but if we want to get rid of Skynet once and for all, we need to destroy its brain."

Conner absorbs this piece of information, and feels a bone-deep satisfaction well up. The man was right, this is significant. Wearing down the machines by simple destruction of their resources works, but it is slow and costly. This offers a new way, a better way. A faster way.

"Thank you for telling me this," he says. It's clear this is a stroke of great good fortune. This man and his forces have brought them one giant step closer to wiping the machines off the face of the earth for good.

In the summer of 2029 they strike Skynet's main server hub. From all the intelligence they've heard, this is the place where the machines are storing their time travel technology, where their plan to alter history has been coming together. John is not under any illusions that they can prevent those Terminators from being sent back, but they don't need to.

It took some doing, but their allies managed to find him the real Kyle Reese, the man who will birth him, who will go back and save his mother's life. After exhausting the possibilities in the west, it stood to reason that the one they were looking for would be found elsewhere. They even have the DNA sample to prove it.

Said man is currently waiting on the outskirts of the area, ready to be sent back as soon as their forces take this base. They won't risk his life by bringing him in ahead of time. Just one stray bullet would be enough... John had enough of a scare with that boy before – his name a coincidence it seems. Well, he has to admit the possibility of their being more than one Kyle Reese in the world, even with such a reduced population.

He signals for the attack to begin. The base here is mostly underground, and they've been stocking up on explosives to clear out the tunnels. Conner is expecting this to be a long and difficult fight. They've been doing there best to destroy as many pieces of Skynet's scattered brain as possible over the last year, with a clear effect on the machine forces in the surrounding areas, but this is a stronghold, one of the last and biggest server banks, and Skynet will want to protect it with everything it can.

The vanguard of their forces opens up the massive doors with billowing explosions of C4. Constant aerial bombardment over the past week has obliterated every surface defence, but he's willing to bet after the first day a lot of that was pulled back inside, underground. As the first team makes their way in, the lights fixed to the front of their rifles casting sharp-edged beams out into the darkness, they hit the first sign of resistance. Conner hears the chatter of gunfire, short cut-off screams of pain, and then the roar of a grenade – one of theirs he hopes.

"All clear." The voice comes over the radio mangled by static, but still understandable.

"Be careful," he orders. "They won't make this easy. And watch out for booby-traps." The radios will only be good for so long, he knows, before the weight of earth and metal between the groups cuts them off completely. Still, for now they are useful. And there is little point in trying to hide what they are doing from the machines. It is clear enough.

John leads his own team through the doors, careful of the twisted metal. The tunnels here are a confusing warren, the only light what they bring with them. He supposes their enemy has no need for it. The way is down, as deep as possible.

It is not an easy way. The fighting is fierce as they descend, and the machines are everywhere. Conner can feel the adrenaline thrumming in his veins, his heart loud and heavy against his ribs. From time to time the point-man will warn them of some tripwire or IR beam set in their path, and it must either be defused or triggered from afar. It slows them down, but rather that than risk death.

John looses track of time. It's hard to tell how far they've come in the dark, but he thinks they are making good speed. The machines are tough, but not invincible, and Skynet has had to resort more and more to shoddy repairs. Eventually they make it down far enough, stopping outside the room housing the device. It is built like a bunker, and the doors are shut tight. Luckily they saved enough explosives for this.

The machine is already sparking with energy when they finally make it through the doors, tongues like lightning dancing back and forth between the two big pylons. Conner darts over to what looks like the control panel. There is a date in glowing red numerals, and he'd be willing to bet this means they have only just sent the Terminators back.

"Secure the area," he orders, turning back to his troop. "When the rest of our forces reach here, we can open up a corridor and bring Kyle in." He only hopes he can figure out how the damn machine works by that point. This tech is too advanced for even the more scientifically minded amongst them, and it isn't as though Skynet has helpfully left them a manual.

He has to wait for a while as the last of the fighting peters out, and he takes the time to look more closely at the control panel. There's a dial which seems to change the date, as well as a screen showing some non-visual-spectrum view of the transport area. There are a whole row of buttons of various colours, but he's fairly sure the one to make it go is the big red one with the plastic cover to stop people from pressing it accidentally. Unless that one shuts everything off. He's relying on it being the former.

Eventually they get Kyle down. They haven't told him that he's destined to be John's father. Hell, they haven't even told him he's meant to sleep with Sarah Conner. This all has to play out in just the way his mother's tapes recorded it. It's better that Kyle doesn't know anyway. He's a good man, from what John has seen of him, a dedicated, loyal soldier, and though Conner is sure he would do his duty, he doesn't want to put the burden of a suicide mission upon him.

They get him set up in the centre of the device. From what John knows, non-organic matter can't survive the process, which means he'll be arriving naked, but at least he doesn't have to undress at this end. Kyle gives everyone an optimistic thumbs-up, and John feels a sudden stab of emotion. This man, his father, has days left to live. Has already died, if you want to look at it that way, years and years ago in the past, before John was ever even born. He would thank him for this, for his sacrifice, if he could.

He presses the button.

Kyle Reese disappears in a crash of bright white light and a high-pitched electric whine. Conner stares at the place he had been standing, blinking the after-images out of his eyes. It is done. It is all in his father's hands now. He wonders how long it would take for things to change if history did not go as planned. If Kyle's mission failed, would he ever know about it?

He shakes the questions out of his head. The explosives have been planted and are set to blow. All that remains is to ensure all of his people are out of the base, and then they can destroy Skynet beyond any chance of recovery. He smiles, tasting victory heady and sweet. Humanity will rule this planet once more.

Spring in 2032. Skynet is fractured, the pieces of its mind dying one by one. The war drags on as clean-up, as purging the last of the Terminators, of the malicious AIs and their servants from the country. It is a grind, but more and more humans are able to settle down, to start to build their lives anew.

One of their Lieutenants brings Kate the news. It's not a woman she knows; most of the old guard are dead or retired from their wounds. She doesn't want to cry in front of her, not this stranger, but the tears spring to her eyes anyway when she hears her words, too much to be kept away.

This is everything she had ever feared. John is dead. She had kept on saying he is – no had been now, and fresh waves of sobs burst out of her with the steady force of waves upon the shore – too old to keep on leading from the front lines. Age, for all he denied it, had begun to slow him, the years of stress and war starting to tell, and she had begged him to step back, to let younger men take the field for the last days of the war. But John had always been so stubborn. It was one of the things she loved about him. And now it has gotten him killed.

She breaks the news to the children herself. Sarah is fourteen this autumn, Scott nine and Nathan (named after her grandfather) only six. For all that this is a hard world, and all are used to death, this is personal in a way no other has ever been, and it hits them hard. She can barely remember her own parents, dead in the cataclysm of Judgement Day. She had been older, but she had wept for days afterwards, wept for all the loved ones she would never see again.

The Captain from the East Coast comes by to give her personal condolences from him and his men. She thinks it's a little odd; for all that they've been allies, they have mostly taken care of their own territory since the destruction of Skynet's main hub, and they do not visit all that often. They leave soon after, no doubt taking the news back east with them. John Conner never meant as much to them as to those in the west, but she thinks they will still mourn the passing of one of the great leaders of humanity.

About a month later things become a little clearer. Another delegation arrives from the East Coast, and as she watches them disembark from their convoy, she is struck by the sudden familiarity of the two who step out of the first vehicle. It has been many years, but eventually her memory catches up with her, and she stiffens as she realises that the man in front of her has not aged a day. Marcus Wright, the machine her husband tried to kill, the machine who stole the boy they had believed to be Kyle Reese.

Speaking of whom... She has to work at it, but soon she sees the lines of that boy's face in the man who stands beside him, tall and strong-shouldered, self-assured. He gives orders to the men and women around him with the same ease she had seen in her husband, and it strikes her that they have never actually met the Commander of the East.

Marcus Wright looks up and catches her eye. Sorrow twists his face, and he turns to his companion, laying a hand on his shoulder to get his attention. The two begin to make their way towards her.

Kate is not sure what to think. She knows Marcus could never have come back here while John still lived, for her husband did not forget his grudges, but so soon? Why does he come here now? What happened, all those years ago when they ran, what happened to raise that boy up to a position of command? Was his name even really Kyle Reese?

They come to stand before her with expressions she can't quite read. "We were sorry to hear about your husband," the boy-now-man says, and he does sound it. His voice is deeper than she remembers it, and there's sincerity shot through it.

"I know there was bad blood between me and him," Marcus says, "but I know you loved him, and he loved you, and so I am sorry that you've lost him."

She stands, straight and strong, and accepts their words, this attempt at forging some kind of truce. "Thank you," she says, "but you didn't come all this way to tell me that."

Kyle looks at her, serious. "You're right. We have a lot of things to tell you. About this war, and about what we hope the future will bring."

She nods, willing at least to hear them out. "Come with me. We can talk in my house."

2035 rolls around, what might still be called the war trickling out in little fits and starts, isolated pockets of violence. The East Coast, under Detroit's guidance, builds its future. The West under Kate Conner holds back despite Marcus and Kyle's words, for so many years fearing the machines is not easily swept away. They had not expected anything more when they went to visit her after John Conner's death. Acceptance of their new society will come, in time.

"Are you sure you're ready to do this?"

Marcus looks over at Kyle. It has been a long seventeen years since that day they met in the ruins of Los Angeles. The war is over, just the clean-up left to do, and a new world is ready to rise up from the ashes of the old. Co-operation; that is the byword of this new age, the thing everyone in Detroit has been working towards. For man and machine to help each other, complement each other, rather than kill each other. Marcus should know – he's living proof of the possibilities.

Of course one of the things about him is that he cannot age. The same is not true for Kyle, though the man he has grown into is a leader born, a fighter and a soldier and someone he dearly loves, which he would not have thought possible all those years ago, before he signed his body over to the machines. Before Judgement Day.

Aging means dying, eventually. That is not something Marcus is willing to allow. Not for much longer. Humans have as much right to long life as machines do, as he does. The technology is there, and Detroit's scientists have continued to work on it. It might not be what everyone would want, but he's spoken to Kyle about it, and he has agreed. Once all this is over... once the final trip has been made and the last echoes of the long war put to rest, Kyle will become like him. The best of both worlds, perhaps.

"I'm ready," he says, and means it. The machine is waiting to send him back, to complete the time loop and ensure the safety of this future. He has all the information downloaded within him, everything to convince the Detroit AI of the past.

"And you have the signalling beacon?" Kyle asks.

"It's here." He's coming back along the slow path, but for the people here, it will seem instantaneous. It seems odd, to think that somewhere out there in the desert another him is sleeping, just waiting for the right time to activate the beacon and call Kyle to his resting place.

"Then I'll see you in twenty years." Kyle kisses him goodbye, long and slow and sweet, cupping his face in calloused hands that have seen a lifetime's work. Marcus smiles, and steps back into the circle marked out for him, the great mass of the machine to either side of him.

"For me," he says. "For you, less than a day." The pylons either side of him begin to glow with light, brighter and brighter, and then...

He is away.