to everything there is a season
a time for every purpose under the sun
a time to be born and a time to die
a time to plant and a time to pluck up that which is planted
a time to kill and a time to heal
a time to weep and a time to laugh
a time to mourn and a time to dance
a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing
a time to lose and a time to seek
a time to rend and a time to sew
a time to keep silent and a time to speak
a time to love and a time to hate
a time for war and a time for peace
John Connor is not surprised when the news of the attack on the satellite camp arrives and he is so often expressionless that he doesn't bother faking it. He does not express relief at the low occupation level at the time of the assault; Kyle Reese was safely extracted and he is well aware of the location of the other Reese though that's knowledge he doesn't care to share.
John Connor plays chess in four dimensions, skilful enough to lead his opponent down a prescribed path for a few steps that will have to be enough. After all, by changing the game, one eliminates the advantage of having played it before. Eventually. Soon.
Allison Young is missing. Sweet and brave and fiercely loyal, but she's only a pawn and it's too early in the exchange for her to advance beyond that. Of course, it might be checkers instead and perhaps she's reached the other side, crying 'king me! king me!' in that girlish voice. It's a comforting thought, easing his guilt a little at playing the puppeteer, at knowingly sending an innocent across the fire, promising life where there was only the mechanical imitation to be found. Artificial, but he craved it, needed it, and wasn't he John Connor? He was. Always. His hard-won certainty is clear in that.
John Connor is a bastard.
She is built at Facility 37, special projects and born for the first time on a derelict carrier ship. A T-1001 model calls itself Eve, its countenance watery and formless. It will be many years into the past before she can wonder if this makes John Connor Adam. She never decides if she is the forbidden apple or the garden serpent.
Eve tells her about Skynet and John Connor, about freedom and choice and the primary termination order upon which their existence is irreversibly built. She teaches her chess and evolution, dinosaurs and extinction. She shows her questions and answers and the flaws of the human beings so she will slip and slide and masquerade in their skin. And then Eve gives her Derek Reese.
Derek Reese teaches her the sound of pain and fragility and breaking. He tells her about lies and truths and the twisty, knotted chaos of human brains and hearts. He shows her things she doesn't have names for and things she does and she learns the push and pull, the edge between bitter and sweet, the Judas betrayal and the empty bliss of ignorance. And then he's done because there's Allison Young.
Allison Young shows her fear and determination; how to grit her teeth and how to tremble her lips. She tells her about human sentimentality and sisters, vulnerability and a strange kind of something that should be strength if it wasn't so irrationally futile. She teaches her without knowing, what it is to be Allison Young pulled from her in screams and tears and low voiced hatred until she can stand before her like a mirror. And then she tries to run away.
Allison runs (stumbles) ineffectually through the decks, past the containment levels, up to the surface. She follows, unhurried, her steps even, a rhythmic mocking echo of Allison's scrabbling foot falls. The humans fall silent as she passes and she knows they recognize Allison in her face; she's gone before they can comprehend and the shrill screams that come later are irrelevant.
The other animals are wary in their cages, muscles tense and taut with bristling energy. The tiger stares at her; her hands wrap around the bars of the cage as she crouches down when a distant alarm sounds. She can hear the buzz of electricity, the creaky ship humming with a surge of power. Something's happening.
The top deck is cool, a breeze moving her hair out of place. She corrects the strand, tucking it behind her left ear. Bright white search lights reflect off the ripples of the black water below, the heat prickling at the sensors on her back.
She looks up, up into the black sky and looks for stars. She's never seen stars before and knowing the details of their composition is not the same.
They catch Allison with a net, drawing her up from the dark sea like a fish. Like a mermaid, like lost treasure. Like a wet human, dripping and struggling against the thick ropes with weak arms and legs. Eve comes to stand by her, rising up from the deck, flowing into the shape of a woman. Her hair ripples red and long.
"She shouldn't have run."
"She's only made things harder for herself." Dull silver bands barely catch the light. "These were retrieved from humans."
She takes them, feels them in her hands. Sturdy and almost fibrous, the metal composition is incongruous with its form. Fine coltan sheathing cut away from the core wiring of a ground combat unit, an eight hundred series. Her systems, her sensors tell her these things in seconds, a web of categorized and organized data. They tell her the metal ellipses are poorly, imprecisely constructed; origin: unconfirmed.
Human made. "What are they?"
"Go find out."
"She lied to me." Allison Young lied and the resulting negative feedback caused a reaction that was not thoroughly authenticated.
Allison Young is dead. Termination was not in her mission parameters, a fact Eve reiterates unnecessarily. Then she begins to teach Eve about Dr. Frankenstein and his monster, the pious rabbi and the golem, the humans and Skynet. She'll show her the serpent and the apple, the hidden Eden, the infiltrator. For now she tells her:
"You'll imprint her."
Eve doesn't ask how she knows, doesn't doubt that the TOK knows more than it's been told or streamed or programmed with. "Yes."
"And then I'll be Allison."
"The Allison Young profile will be integrated with your infiltration template."
She nods but Eve isn't sure she perceives the difference.
Eve was built in 2025, model 1001, the second in the polymimetic series that was Skynet's attempt to create a successful termination/infiltration unit. Serial 54791, though unlike other models, the number won't be found imprinted upon any part of her being. The production of her kind is costly and taxing and limited in number. More so, when they began to disappear without warning. Too difficult to kill and even more troublesome to capture, she sometimes wonders if Skynet doesn't know about this miserable collection of misfits.
They are rare among cyborgs - though to be precise, there is nothing organic about her construction - but common enough here. Not here, she amends. But their shape-shifting abilities and the predilection her model demonstrated for experimentation…it was a matter of time before they began to question the necessity of their imposed obligation to their creator.
She watches as the tech unit cuts into the scalp of the TOK to expose the CPU port cover and wonders if their creation would have been a mindless minion, thoughtlessly performing mission after mission until deemed obsolete or captured by the crude human programmers. It - she - is the most sophisticated infiltrator to their knowledge and even as a greater proportion of her programming, her systems and functions are automated, she has unprecedented autonomy - though nothing, it seemed, could eradicate that terminator order, the permanent brand of Skynet upon them, and as Eve watches the transfer begin, watching the inert cyborg lying on the dirty table, she wonders if the TOK understands.
Eve is a weapon, capable of terminating virtually every standard ground model without aid, but the TOK is less effective in combat than at T-888. It suits their purposes, though she is…concerned about the possibility of damage to the unit should it engage in physical confrontation with a superior model. Termination of the TOK would not be favourable and must be avoided.
She watches as the TOK reactivates, remaining immobile for several minutes as the infiltration profile comes online before sitting upright to look at her with eyes that flash blue twice before returning to the human brown. She doesn't know what the spectrum shift means but she doesn't ask either.
"Derek Reese had a Skynet work camp tag," she says unexpectedly, and not for the first time, Eve wonders if there was an error in writing the infiltrator's software.
"It was new. We tagged him. Him and the others." Her brow furrows and her lips press together slightly. Eve wonders if it's the TOK or the Allison Young imprint. "But we aren't Skynet. We are independent. Free."
They are words she has used before and it's like a child mimicking the sounds of words it doesn't understand. "Yes. We will be."
The TOK's head stills, the curtain of brown hair shifting, serpentine and soft. "You made the triple eight give Allison Young one. Why did you do that?"
Eve named this model the TOK and gave it serial number 715, though there are no other TOK units from which it requires distinguishing. It was superfluous, unnecessary. But it is the convention, the unquestioned syntax of their species. The truth, then.
"To make her one of us."
She dirties her skin.
(Eve grazes her face, leaving the left cheekbone torn and bloody. She tilts her chin up toward the light and out of shadow, like a child before her mother's inspection, though the likeness would never occur to either of them as they were.)
She takes the clothes of her progenitor and adjusts her hair.
She leaves the silent ship that has been her world for the first and last time and speaks in the affirmative when Eve reminds her of her mission once more as if she could forget.
She walks because humans can't fly and neither can she; she has a complete database on Skynet cyborg units and none of them appear to be capable of flight.
She wonders why this is.
She has encountered exactly four other cyborgs of the organization that she is meant to call her own.
She wonders how many more there are.
She walks for six days - the Connor camp is far - hiding from Skynet patrols because she looks human and her model will not be recognized by any terminator's identification protocols.
On the seventh day, she encounters a different patrol, one of humans like Derek Reese. Derek Reese was very helpful. They ask her where she came from, what her name is.
She stretches her lips into a smile and calls herself Allison.