John's Story, Part One.
The raised point of land thrust out into the Pacific north of San Francisco. Once it had been know as Conestoga Point but now by special decree of the Restored United States Congress and the universal acclimation of the people of California, it was Connor Point. Lest anyone claim ignorance of the name change, a polished bronze plaque attached to the front gate of the estate bore the inscription
RESIDENCE OF GENERAL JOHN CONNOR
A GIFT FROM A GRATEFUL NATION
John had fallen in love with the land when he had first seen it just after the war ended. Against all odds it had escaped the destruction of that terrible conflict. He had envisioned a small house or cabin where he, Cameron and the girls could live and watch the ocean in the bright sunlight-a pleasure so long denied.
The citizens of the Restored State of California would not, however, allow the First Soldier of the Resistance to live so humbly. So a great house had arisen-a soaring physical symphony of wood, stone, and glass surrounded by an elaborately carved stone wall to protect the General's privacy.
John had watched the early construction with a growing sense of bemused wonder. Once, at dinner, he had suggested that he might just tear the "whole damn thing" down. That off-hand remark provoked an immediate response in the form of a united front. Cameron, Marissa, and Allison took turns explaining all the reasons why he could never be so ungrateful.
"Besides Dad," Marissa had said slyly, "it will give your grandchildren a place to play."
John had looked up in thunderstruck amazement, unaware until that moment that his elder daughter was pregnant. From Cameron's studied disinterest to Allison's conspiratorial wink at her sister to his new son-in-law's nervously intense interest in his plate, John realized that he was the last to know. Where was John Henry's intelligence unit when he needed it?
His doubts about the new house collapsed and nothing more was ever said about not living on the Point. Now more than fifteen years later it was their home, their sanctuary.
The accomplished grown women that John still lovingly called his "girls," of course, no longer lived at home. Marissa worked with her best friend, Savannah Weaver, at the Bio/Cyber Research Center of Weaver Enterprises in Corvallis. Allison operated an increasingly famous dance academy in Colorado. They visited regularly and called even more often but John continued to miss them terribly. It was difficult, however, to be too lonely in a house that rarely felt entirely empty. Guests had become a routine part of life. Old comrades from the war, new friends, and the inevitable dignitaries wishing to be seen in the presence of General John Connor were always at the door.
Despite numerous attempts to change his mind, John had resolutely turned down all attempts to lure him into public office. His response was invariably the same. "I'm a soldier and my war is over. I want to enjoy my family in peace." Despite this entreaty it soon became evident that John Connor would never be allowed to escape into some self-created obscurity. No major political figure anywhere in the world felt comfortable with an element of policy unless he or she had first made the "pilgrimage" to Connor Point and received at least the tacit approval of General Connor. Ever the hospitable host, John rarely turned anyone away. No matter who the guest, however, there was always one special part of the estate that remained off-limits to visitors. On the outer edge of the patio two chairs had been placed close together and carefully positioned so the occupants could enjoy an unobstructed view of the sea. No one used those chairs except John and Cameron. This evening they sat, as always, hand in hand watching the sky burst into a glittering spectrum of color as the sun slipped toward the western horizon.
To the casual or uninformed observer they might have appeared to be father and daughter or even grandfather and granddaughter. John's gun-metal gray hair and care-worn face revealed the painful passage of time while Cameron looked no more than eighteen. Her long brown hair still tumbled down her slender back. Her dark brown eyes still illuminated the pristine beauty of her face.
In their bedroom Cameron maintained an expansive supply of wigs and makeup. In public moments she could craft an illusion of a mature woman closer to her husband's age. John preferred, however, that when they had the house to themselves she remain "his Cameron," the young woman he had met in New Mexico so long ago. Sometimes to tease him she suggested that he just wanted to feel like a 'dirty old man.'
'With you-always,' he would reply.
"Gorgeous sunset tonight, isn't it Cam?"
"There is still a significant amount of dust in the atmosphere from the war. It diffuses the light and helps create the multiple colors."
"Cameron." John sounded exasperated. "Must you be so literal?"
As he turned toward her John realized that there was a sly smile on her face. Gotcha. Once again he had stumbled headlong into one Cameron's subtle jokes. He found it hard to recall that there had ever been a time when she had not understood ironic humor because she certainly did now.
"Yes, John, it truly is a beautiful sunset."
John raised her hand to his lips and kissed her fingers. Turning his face back toward the horizon he spoke in a soft, intimate voice. "Cameron, do you think there has ever been a time when we weren't in love?"
Cameron smiled inwardly while maintaining an expression of pensive concentration. John routinely asked her this exact question-not because he was unsure of her response but because it thrilled him to hear her answer. "No John, I do not. There may have been times when we did not understand our feelings," Cameron thought back to those early days before her programing had grown and evolved in ways she had never anticipated. "There may have been times when we struggled against it," Especially you John, she thought. "But through it all, I believe you and I have loved each other from first sight."
John leaned over and brushed his lips against hers. "I couldn't agree more my darling." As he spoke, John's memories conjured up a disjointed series of images from their past. One moment he was twenty again and they were making love for the first time in their bedroom in the San Francisco house trying with little success to muffle their passion enough so Sarah wouldn't hear. Then it was the war. His command post had been under fire for what had seemed like an eternity. Cameron had reluctantly left his side to go check on the girls in the bomb shelter. When the shelling finally stopped and he went to their quarters he found Cameron lying on the bed softly humming a lullaby as she cradled both girls in her arms. He had looked down at them and experienced a sense of joy that was almost more than his body could contain. Memories could hurt. Memories could heal. To John Connor as long as the memories included her they sustained him.
The sun had gradually eased below the western horizon leaving only a faint pink glow in the sky. Evening shadows were lengthening and the soft outside lights that illuminated the grounds came on. The end of the day at Connor Point.
"Cameron, let's go for a walk. I'd like to say goodnight to Mom."
"I thought you might," Cameron softly replied as she rose from her chair. She watched with quickly concealed dismay as John struggled to his feet. A grimace of pain flashed across his face as he tried to straighten his right leg. The twice rebuilt knee was hurting him again.
"Would you like your cane?" she asked.
John immediately looked offended. "No, I do NOT want my cane."
In that moment he drew himself upright and gave her a look of stern displeasure that once terrified any number of junior officers. It was wasted on Cameron. For a prolonged instant John held his stoney expression before the facade disintegrated. He laughed and put his arm around her. "You have been talking to Lauren again."
Cameron responded with a look of complete innocence. "Of course I talk to Lauren. She is my friend."
"Yes, and she is my doctor. I suspect that my dear wife is plotting with my doctor to treat me like some kind of invalid. Which I am not."
"Of course you are not," Cameron whispered. She didn't deny plotting, John thought. She stepped up to his right and gently put her left arm around his waist. As they started down the long walkway that encircled the estate, John immediately realized what she was doing. By walking with him in that fashion she could use her strength to take some of the pressure off of his leg. Cameron always had an alternative plan ready.
John was correct. Cameron and Lauren were conspiring. It had begun in earnest after his recent physical in October. Lauren had long since given up on trying to persuade John to come to her office. Whenever she believed it was time she simply appeared at the house with two of her nurses in tow and demanded his attention. Despite grumbling and complaining John always acquiesced. Doctor Lauren Fields Delgado was far more than just his physician. She was a comrade, his chief medical officer for most of the war, and a treasured friend. Such people were not to be denied.
Lauren had conducted her examination upstairs in their bedroom. When she came back down to the lower level of the house, Cameron sat waiting. Her impassive cyborg-like patience masked the turmoil of her inner concerns. "You don't look happy Lauren."
Lauren slowly shook her head as she sat down opposite Cameron. She still wore her hair in the same pixie style she had favored as a teenager when Cameron had helped save her life the first time. The kind, compassionate face that had given comfort to countless wounded resistance fighters was only slightly obscured by her large horn-rimmed glasses.
"You know you can tell me," Cameron said.
"I know, Cammie." Lauren was one of the very few people outside the family who could address Cameron with such casual informality.
Lauren reached out and took her friend's hand. "Cammie, there is nothing specifically wrong but he has made too many demands on his body. He has asked too much. He has given too much. He isn't that old but it's as if every part of his body is wearing out. Pulmonary function, circulation, muscular strength, there is measurable deterioration every time I examine him."
"I thought so," Cameron whispered. Lauren looked momentarily startled as if she had forgotten who she was speaking to. She quickly remembered, though. "I should realize that with your sensory ability you are probably a better diagnostician than I am."
"Not really. But I could tell that there have been changes. I could also sense that the rate of change was accelerating."
Cameron paused and then asked the question she did not want to ask and Lauren did not wish to answer. "How long?"
"It is difficult to say. Conditions might change. I can't be precise."
Cameron lightly squeezed Lauren's hand. "Tell me, Lauren, tell me. How long?"
As Lauren responded, a tear ran down her left cheek. "One to two years. If I can find a way to slow the process, if you can get him to rest more, to avoid unnecessary exertion, we might be able to buy some more time. But we have to cherish every minute we have with him."
Cameron looked up as she heard the upstairs bedroom door open. John was coming down. She heard him whistle-off key as usual.
"I always have. I always will."