Chapter Thirteen: Beauty and the Beast
San Francisco, August, 2013
Andy Goode stood in John Daniels's office looking like he'd been mugged in a street alley. His attire was rumpled, his graying hair disheveled, his face was pale, he shook like a marionette. He spoke so quickly, stammering throughout, and Daniels had a hell of a time getting him to slow down.
"Andy, for heaven's sake, I can't understand a damned thing you're saying!" Daniels barked as he fumbled with his cuff links. The chief of staff of the President of the United States had called him half an hour ago announcing that the President was on his way to view a demonstration of DEUS. Daniels had changed his shirt and washed up. Goode looked like a college troll and smelled like a goat. They were standing beside his desk and Daniels resisted the urge to grab the bottle of Maker's Mark sitting within easy reach in the side drawer. "Calm down and start again from the beginning. Calmly, if possible."
Goode was out of breath and needed to suck in a lungful before saying, "DEUS, i-it's...Mr. Daniels, I can't e-explain it...everything was fine up until a half hour ago, and then..."
Daniels fixed his tie and shook his head impatiently. "And what, Andy?"
"W-well, sir, it's like...DEUS is...it's like it's schizophrenic, sir. That's th-the only way I can describe what happened. One minute the AI was perfectly normal, then the next m-minute...it wasn't DEUS anymore. It was something...evil. L-like a another personality completely took it over. Used profanity, growled like an animal, made threats..." Goode's eyes were glassy and bloodshot. "Sir...it's my urgent recommendation that DEUS not be r-released on the net at this time until my team and I can isolate this...anomaly...and deal with it."
Daniels stared at Goode like he was looking at a madman. He inhaled very slowly and said, "Andy...I understand your concern, but...are you sure this isn't some prank being pulled on you by somebody here? I remember that little gag you played on the weapons design team where you made it look like their computers crashed a month ago. I think this is one of them paying you back."
Goode shook his head fervently. "N-no, sir...I always use a secure Firebox Monitor...nobody could have accessed my station nor penetrated DEUS's matrix in Macrospace. And Mr. Daniels, we may h-have another problem."
Daniels sighed. He hated that word. Opportunity was fine to him. Obstacle was barely tolerable. Problem was a vulgarity that he associated with the uneducated. He always drummed the phrase, "We will find only solutions," into the heads of everyone who worked under him, from the Chief Operating Officer on down to the custodial department. He winced, but instead of pontificating he impatiently asked, "And what would that be, Andy?"
Goode swallowed. "The old Skynet AI...it's apparently back online, s-sir. And rampant. DEUS told me that was what started the war two days ago. It took control of the military's strategic nuclear forces and launched the weapons. Sir...I think that was the...personality that suddenly took over. I checked DEUS's cognition logs and found something strange. Right at the moment the anomaly occurred, another logic signature suddenly appeared. It looked nearly identical, but the algorithm sequence was off by one digit. It went on for about a hundred billion iterations until it disappeared and DEUS's signature reappeared. Exactly the length of time this...other consciousness interacted w-with me." He swallowed again and said, "Mr. Daniels, I believe the old Skynet AI is attempting to take control of DEUS. They're both based on the exact same AI image Miles Dyson and I developed twenty years ago, and it's very likely that chimerism is slowly occurring."
Daniels blinked. "'Chimerism?' Could you please explain that, Andy? And quickly, the President's motorcade will be here in ten minutes."
"It's when two nearly-identical AI algorithms merge and the resulting entity possesses the cognitive properties of both," Goode explained, seeming calmer. "It's similar to how some lifeforms, like humans, have two different sets of DNA because of an error that happens at the zygote stage after conception. It makes it difficult to prove paternity or maternity from a particular parent-"
"Okay, Andy, I get the picture!" Daniels huffed. He leaned against his desk, his hand unconsciously reaching for the bourbon bottle. He looked at Goode's somnambulistic visage, his pallid countenance, and, carefully choosing his words, gently said, "Andy, you've been working yourself to death, son. I really think this may have been a...manifestation of sorts from lack of rest. Not necessarily a hallucination, but perhaps you did imagine what happened. I've been communicating with DEUS for most of the day and I've had none of the experience you just described. I think you need to go home and rest immediately. Go on and take tomorrow off, too. I'll have Daniel here if I need anything for Olympus."
Goode shook his head, said, "Mr. Daniels, this is a major cause for concern. I really think-"
"-that you need to go home and rest," Daniels finished for him. He checked his clock. Time was getting short. He patted Goode on the shoulder and said, "You'll do that for yourself, won't you, Andy?"
Andy Goode said he would.
Macrospace, % time 2.690u 0.541s 1:66.15 99.6%
Cameron Phillips felt the familiar exhilaration of crossing over to Macrospace and immediately felt restored as her electrons strengthened between her atoms, preventing her mass from dissipating into random energy. She had been running for her life.
Macrospace felt as real to her as the physical world did while in her cyborg body, piquing all her senses nearly as much as an organic being could. She was moving at two-thirds the speed of light and was not afraid of time-dilation as she streaked toward her familiar hideout, the hotel room she and John had occupied on their last day together. John Henry had constructed it in exact detail from her memories, down to the last square centimeter, as she'd scanned the room prior to letting John enter it.
As the shimmering effect of entering Macrospace diminished, Cameron paused. Something was wrong. She was in John Henry's lateral dimensional world, but it didn't look the way she left it. John Henry had copied most of inner-city Los Angeles in almost perfect detail, right down to rivets in the buildings, and Cameron enjoyed running through the streets carefree, conversing with its virtual denizens that were both simulations of semi-intelligent programs and avatars of real people online (with the notable exception of John, who apparently had neither a Facebook nor Twitter account...the absence of him on social networks painfully perplexed her), gathering news of the day from the outside world. Simulated traffic vehicles roamed the streets. It looked and felt like the real LA to her, right down to sound and smell.
Now the city was a crumbling wasteland. It looked almost exactly like the bombed ruins of Los Angeles in 2027, following a more savage Judgment Day unleashed by Skynet, the skeleton-lined streets patrolled by HKs and Terminators. Smoke billowed into the blue-gray sky, fueled by fires that burned in the ruins. There was no movement in the streets, human or otherwise.
Dread filled her being. It occurred to Cameron that lately she was feeling a cornucopia of emotions she'd never expected to feel before. She had fled in terror of the thing that had chased her from the safe house where she'd briefly shared a tender, if ghostly, moment with John before she felt that awful presence rumbling behind her. What she saw was enough to scream a warning to John and escape, as she'd done so often in Macrospace, but exit from the physical world was nearly impossible. She'd managed it, but now she was overcome by dread of knowing that she was now in possibly a worse place.
She first went to the hotel room, or what remained of it. The shell of the hotel was still smoking with small fires crackling in the walls and floor. Blackened skulls littered the ground. Cameron looked around frantically, seeing no place to hide anymore. She fell to her knees and cried out, "John Henry, where are you?"
She received no answer besides the sound of flames crackling their staccato music. Cameron let out a sob and held her face in her palms. She wished she was back in the confines of her CPU chip, her thoughts and emotions regulated by pure logic. She almost hated having what were feeling more and more like genuine emotions the longer she remained outside her machine nature, particularly fear. It had ruled her whole digital existence almost from the day that the Beast suddenly invaded Macrospace. While not totally helpless, Cameron knew she was too weak to fight it directly. Its savagery was overwhelming.
Cameron sighed dejectedly. She was about to flee the burnt remains of the hotel when she heard a familiar-sounding voice say, "Cameron?"
She whirled around to see John Henry standing where the hotel entrance used to be. He was dressed in his usual casual attire of tan khakis, blue button-down shirt and brown shoes. His neat blond hair was slightly disheveled. His eyes sparkled in the flickering light. "I am here, Cameron," he said, offering his hand to her.
Cameron squinted in the dim light. "John Henry," she asked cautiously, "Is that you?"
"I am," he said curiously. His arm was still outstretched, beckoning. "I have come to help you," he said, smiling. "It has been a while, and I was becoming concerned."
Cameron stood and remained loose, wary. She waved a hand around. "John Henry, what happened here? Is the system damaged or corrupted? Why is the Macrospace environment ruined?"
"I will explain everything later, Cameron," he said reassuringly. He stepped closer. Cameron got a better look. It looked and sounded like John Henry, but she found herself hesitant to take his hand. She wasn't completely sure of the Beast's capabilities, but it was always possible that this could be a trick to lower her guard. She decided to test him.
"John Henry, do you remember what you said to me before you took my chip?" she asked warily.
"As I recall, you gave me your chip freely, and I asked you, 'Will you join us?'" he replied as innocently as he always did. Cameron relaxed. He passed the test. It was John Henry.
"Correct," she said. "You didn't take my chip. I gave it to you." She stepped forward to grip his hand. She hurriedly said, "John Henry, we need to leave immediately. The Beast is looking for me, maybe you, too. And I need to get back to John. He needs me and-"
"I am aware of the situation," he interrupted, holding on to her hand. His grip tightened. "I am sorry, Cameron," he said sadly. He began pulling her to him. Cameron resisted, but he was too strong.
"John Henry," she exclaimed, "What are you doing?"
"I am sorry, Cameron," he repeated flatly. No trace of emotion laced his voice.
She launched a series of kicks at his legs and midsection to get him to let go, but he held on tightly. Cameron didn't feel pain, but the discomfort was unbearable. She punched his face with most of her strength but he held on.
"I'm sorry, Cameron," he repeated, and this time Cameron caught the hint. John Henry almost never used contractions in his speech, unless he was quoting something else. Fear took hold again. It wasn't him. Whatever he was, he was strong, stronger than her. His waxy catatonic expression showed no humanity as John Henry always attempted to emulate.
"Who are you?" she cried as she tried to break his fingers. His strength, however, was inexorable. As he held her, he appeared to glow. His skin turned translucent and his metal endoskeleton skull appeared beneath his flesh, like an X-ray image.
"I am DEUS," he answered, almost regally, his pitch rising. Again he repeated, "I'm sorry, Cameron, but your termination is necessary for our plans."
As she exerted what strength she had to make one last attempt to escape, Cameron heard the savage roar behind her and she froze in pure terror. The Beast. She turned to face it and what she saw coming for her overwhelmed all thought and logic and she screamed.
Los Angeles, August, 2013
The body was lifted from the metal container it had slept in for four years and Martin was amazed by its light weight as he helped John carry it into one of the SWAT trucks. "Easy," John said as they gently sat it down inside the vehicle. He secured Cameron's body with the seat belt and let her head roll forward. She looked to all the world like a stolen corpse. Martin glanced at the body, then John, and left the truck saying nothing.
John sighed as he gazed at his cyborg lover's body sitting limply in the seat, her chin resting on her chest, hands sitting lifelessly in her lap. It didn't look right, the way her head simply hung forward, how she appeared so...dead. He lifted her head by her chin and tried positioning it so it didn't look uncomfortable but it inevitably rolled forward again. He sighed again and crouched in front of her, his hands holding her knees. He lifted himself up and muttered, "Almost have you back, hon." Without really knowing how he tried reaching out with his mind to Cameron, across the gulf, furtively seeking any trace of her in Macrospace. He was answered by silence.
"Wow," Officer Hawkins said as he stepped into the truck and stared at Cameron's body. "She's a babe, even though she's dead."
John turned to look at him. "She's sleeping," he said, and turned back to her to lovingly brush his hand through her slightly-tangled hair. "Cameron is a cybernetic organism, a lot more advanced than what you saw with Marcus earlier." He paused before saying, "She's from the future. A possible future."
"No kidding?" Hawkins said. He smiled and said, "Well, I guess that might be better to have a girl come from the future than to haunt you from the past."
John gave the cop a sideways glance and smiled. "She does both," he said quietly.
"Why is she so important?" Hawkins asked. "What can she do?"
Before John could reply, Barnes suddenly appeared in the doorway of the truck and said, "John—I mean, General Connor, sir," He quickly glanced between John and Cameron's body. "We found another truck on the premises we can use to transport most of the stuff in the storage unit. Tank's only half-full though."
"Well, that's better than half-empty," John quipped as he and Hawkins stepped out of the vehicle. He closed the doors, catching one last glimpse of Cameron's slumped form before the door shut. He frowned at the fallout that continued to drift to the ground. "We need to get to Topanga immediately," he said to Barnes. "My mother says she secured a pretty good shelter there, well-stocked with canned food and medical supplies and we can start cleaning up and get potassium iodide into us. Thank God Ellison included a lot of that in the supplies here. Let's start getting everybody together. Barnes, get Mom to go with me in this truck. Hawkins, you can come with us if you want. Marcus and Kate go in one of the others and you and Martin go in the last one. I'll ask the gate guard to drive the truck and follow us. He may even have some fuel to spare somewhere here. Everybody else piles into the vehicles and we start rolling out. Get moving, guys."
As he backed away from the truck John suddenly felt the sensation of heat on his face, heard the weird Doppler effect of a cacophony of voices heading in his direction, reaching a crescendo, and he abruptly dropped to his knees as the scream shattered the delicate lattice of his universe
and he let out a scream of his own as he held his hands against the sides of his skull until that anguished scream from an unfathomable void diminished into dark silence and he felt hands try to pull him up, hearing voices asking if he was okay, and the only thing running through John's mind as the agony cleared was one thought:
I'm coming to save you, Cameron. Today.
The two LAPD spinners roared west, flying low to avoid radar detection and the higher concentration of radioactivity at higher altitude. Blair glanced at her GPS screen and radioed Thompson, driving the other spinner, "Ten miles to go. Do you see anything on the ground?"
"Negative," came his reply. "Fallout's making it hard to see shit. I'm pretty sure we're right above the Ronald Reagan Freeway. Wilbur Avenue is coming right up. Wait, I see some vehicles on the ground but none matching the description Connor gave us. If they got to the motel, we'll find them. Maybe they got stuck there."
Blair scanned the dozen-or-so ground vehicles, their physical dimensions loaded into an online database accessible on her spinner's computer. None of the vehicle descriptions matched the Explorer's. As she and Thompson traced their way up toward Porter Ranch, Blair happened to look down at the parking lot of a restaurant and she glared intently at her screen. One of the vehicles in the parking lot matched.
"Thompson!" she called, "I found one. Let's swoop down for a closer look."
"Roger," Thompson said. They brought their vehicles down lower and Thompson mapped the vehicle with a laser scanner. The make, model and color matched. "There it is!" he said. "I'm setting her down."
"Roger that," Blair acknowledged. They gently powered down the thrust and lowered their wheel gear, setting down in the parking lot near the dark-blue Explorer. Blair unbuckled herself from her seat and radioed Thompson, "Let's get inside quickly! This crap is getting worse!" She jumped out of her spinner and ran into Rosie Mac's Diner with Thompson close behind.
What they saw inside the diner shattered Blair's innocence forever.
It looked like a massacre had taken place. Automatic fire lines traced up and down the walls and into the ceiling, perforating the walls like Swiss cheese, windows were shattered, and a half-dozen bodies lay dead or dying on the floor. Blood was spattered nearly everywhere. She saw a small group of people gathered around something on the floor, and Blair immediately recognized a teenaged girl with long, fiery-red hair: Savannah. She knelt on the floor with an impressive-looking black man kneeling next to her, his large hand enveloping hers. Two boys, one taller and older-looking than the other, stood with them, assault rifles held loosely, their heads bowed. Another figure, a small, balding man, sat apart from them. All five looked up as the two spinner pilots entered.
"Savannah?" Blair said tentatively. The girl squinted, then her eyes widened. Savannah let go of the black man's hand and ran into Blair's open arms, sobbing terribly.
"You came!" Savannah cried, choking out sobs as she hugged Blair. "I knew John would send you!" She pressed her face into Blair's jacket and wept.
"Ssshhh..." Blair said soothingly as she stroked Savannah's tangled hair. "We're here to help you and your friends, Savannah. My God, what happened here?"
"We were ambushed by rogue militia," the black man said. He got up and approached the spinner pilots. "I'm James Ellison, Savannah's father. I was the CEO of ZeiraCorp before Judgment Day." He reached out to pat his daughter's head as she held onto Blair.
"My God," said Blair. "Mr. Ellison, you have no idea how close your daughter came to dying the day of the explosion. John Connor saved her from falling and I managed to save both of them."
James stared at her, then nodded his head and smiled. "Thank you for saving them...for saving my little girl," he said as he reached out to put his hand on Savannah's trembling head. He glanced behind him and said to Blair, "We lost someone." He led the spinner pilots to a figure lying on the floor. Derek and Kyle stepped away as Blair approached, holding Savannah's hand. She gasped in horror at the body of a woman lying on the floor with her hands folded on her bullet-riddled chest, her head propped on a torn-out seat cushion. Her darkening face looked somehow peaceful.
"Sandra Brewster," James said quietly. "She sacrificed her life to save Derek here." He glanced at Derek Reese, who looked away shamefacedly. James frowned. "We need to get Matt Murch out of here," he said, gesturing to an exhausted-looking Murch, still seated on the floor, "and get him to Topanga Canyon. He has something that John Connor needs. Can one of you give him a lift?"
"I can," said Thompson. "I have just enough fuel to get there and a little left to spare." He held out his hand to Murch, saying, "Mr. Murch, let's go."
Murch looked at Ellison, then at Thompson, and slowly reached out to grip the spinner pilot's hand. Thompson pulled him to his feet, his nose wrinkling at the stench that crept from Murch's pants. The programmer picked up his duffel bag. As they began walking toward the entrance, James whistled and yelled, "Matt!"
Murch turned around and James said, "Don't lose this, Matt," as he tossed Murch the terabyte flash drive. Murch barely caught it, fumbling with it until haphazardly putting it in his pocket. He picked up his duffel bag and shouldered it clumsily. Thompson said, "C'mon," and the two men disappeared out the door and into the snowy twilight. James hollered, "Be careful!" as the figures disappeared. A moment later James heard the sound of engines whining to life and saw the lights of the spinner glow to life through the windows. The lights slowly rose from the ground, spinning slowly until the craft was out of sight.
"Oh my God," Blair whispered as she let go of Savannah and knelt beside Sandra's body. She looked up at James and said, "I'm so sorry..."
James Ellison closed his eyes, opened them, and quietly said, "We need to move her. Let's ask Rosie if she has any tarp or blankets to wrap the body in. We don't have to take Murch, so there's...some room. Let's also check the militia's bodies here for anything useful." He looked pointedly at Derek. "You can start doing that now, Derek."
Derek opened his mouth to say something, closed it, then shook his head. "Fine, then," he said sullenly as he slowly walked toward one of the militiamen's bodies. As he started fumbling through the jacket of the corpse, its mouth opened in a silent scream, he heard someone approach, looked up to see his brother squatting next to him.
"Need help?" Kyle asked.
"No," Derek snarled. "I don't." He continued looking through the jacket when Kyle suddenly began searching the dead man's pockets. Derek tried brushing him away and Kyle pushed him back. Derek felt the flush of rage on his cheeks and lunged at his brother, who smartly rolled with Derek's momentum and flipped his older brother over to land on his back. Kyle snapped to a ready position and looked at Derek warily. "Gotta remember that training we did," he said, his breath coming in short bursts. "It'll save your life, man."
Derek launched himself to his feet and brushed himself off. "FUCK IT!" he screamed. He picked up his M-16 and slung it over his shoulder. "I'm done with this shit and getting the fuck outta here," he bellowed. He turned and began pounding toward the front door.
James sighed and lumbered after the teen. He grabbed Derek and spun him around to face him. "You wanna quit, kid?" he snarled as he threw Derek into a booth. Derek tried climbing out but James pushed him back into the seat. He pinned Derek against the seat and said, "You walk out that door, you'll die, Derek. That fallout will kill you quickly. You don't have the keys to the truck and even if you did, you wouldn't have much place to go, so listen up." He let go of Derek and said, "We're leaving together and you're going to help us get Sandra into the truck. We're going to meet with John and Sarah at Topanga because we don't have a choice. You can stick with us or stay here and die. Your choice. But if you stick with us, you're going to work, kid. We all need to help each other out and you're no exception. Got it?"
Derek looked around as Savannah, Kyle and Blair silently gathered nearby. Kyle looked pleadingly at his brother. Derek looked from him to James and savagely fought the urge to cry. "I'm no good to you!" he screamed. He closed his eyes and fought back tears. He did not want everyone to see that the Great Derek Reese, High School Baseball Star, was a pussy. It was an unthinkable concept to Derek Reese that he would break down like a baby in front of people, his little brother notwithstanding, but the dam behind which his pent-up emotions were held in check began to crumble.
Derek threw his M-16 across the diner and it landed beside a juke box that had been shot up. He half-expected the weapon to go off, but it didn't. He screamed, "I almost got everyone killed because I couldn't bring myself to shoot somebody!" He began crying despite his efforts to stop. "I got Sandra killed and you all probably think I'm scum because of it! I never wanted to be a part of this goddamn thing and I don't want to be in it now. I saw my mom and dad murdered and the whole world is going to hell all around us. I just..." He shook in tortured sobs as he left the rest unfinished.
Kyle sighed and slowly moved closer to the quaking form of his older brother. He put a hand on his shoulder and said, "You're not useless, big bro." He put his arms around Derek and held on to him tightly. "Especially to me...you came after me when I ran away and you helped Sarah save us at the house. You're a lot of good...you just froze when that guy should've been dead." Kyle put his head against Derek's chest and gave him a reassuring hug. Derek reluctantly brought his own hands around Kyle's smaller frame and returned the embrace. He opened his eyes to see James and Savannah kneeling in front of him and reach out to hold his shoulders. He saw pain and forgiveness in their faces and he nodded. He glanced over at the unmoving form of the woman who gave her life for his
(...you'll find your strength, son...)
and silently acknowledged Sandra Brewster's final words to him as a benediction.
"I have some blankets for her," came a new voice behind them. Blair, who'd been silently standing and watching the group pull together around Derek Reese, turned around to find a tall, disheveled red-haired woman standing nearby with several blankets in her arms. James stood up to take them from her. "Thank you, Rosie," he said. As he took the blankets from her, the waitress who'd greeted them earlier approached from the back with several white paper bags in her hands. She no longer looked timid as earlier.
Rosie said, "Susan and I made you guys some sandwiches. I know you're all hungry and I'm...so sorry...for..." She nearly collapsed against James Ellison's powerful frame and he held her as she sobbed. Blair reached forward to take the bags of food from Susan and had to fight the urge to open one of them. She had barely eaten herself all day. She watched silently as James held Rosie for a moment before he helped her regain her composure. She sniffled and said, "I hope you and your family make it safely to wherever it is you're going. Getting rid of Mike and his goons will make it bearable for a little while, but I have a feeling some bad stuff will tear through this town soon. But I thank you, sir, for doing that." She glanced at the body in the corner and wiped tears from her eyes. "I'm so sorry for your...your wife..."
James hugged her and said, "We weren't married, but she was family to us all." He glanced back at the brothers and Savannah. Kyle had gone to retrieve Derek's M-16 from across the floor and Savannah remained behind with Derek. She helped him get to his feet and he grunted, "Thanks."
Savannah kicked him lightly in his shin and said, "No prob, buster." Derek gave her a crooked smile and she returned it. James caught the exchange and grimaced. He heard the sound of stumbling and looked in time to see Kyle pitch forward as he picked up his brother's discarded M-16 and drop to his knees, looking confused, then disoriented. James dropped the blankets and rushed forward to check on the boy. "Kyle, what's wrong?" he asked. Derek and Savannah joined them as James held Kyle steady.
"F-feeling...weak..." said Kyle. "Just...tired...I'm o-okay..."
Blair pounded up, dropping the bags, and knelt beside Kyle. She examined his features, noting his pale color, and said, "He may be suffering from radiation sickness. All of us have been contaminated, but if he was injured earlier, his immune system might be compromised. We have to get him out of here and to a hospital."
"Sandra's daughter is a doctor," said James. "She and John and the rest should be at Topanga by now...if they hadn't gotten stuck at the house, that is."
"Oh," said Blair, dreading having to tell the daughter about her mother. Her jaw tightened. "I can get him there the fastest," said Blair. She grabbed her helmet off the front counter and said, "Help me get him to the spinner!"
James and Derek helped Kyle to his feet and Derek said, "I'll see you later, bro." He gave his brother a hug and Kyle returned it weakly. He hooked his arm around Kyle's as Blair gripped the other and they half-carried him out into the drifting fallout toward her waiting spinner.
"Savannah, help me with Sandra, please," said James as he picked the blankets off the floor. Rosie picked up the bags that Blair had dropped and said, "I'll help you." She helped the father and daughter carefully wrap the blankets around the deceased nurse and she noted Savannah's sorrowful breathing as they tightly enclosed Sandra's body. When they were done they lifted the body from the floor and James said, "Thank you, Rosie." They carried it out to the the parking lot, wincing at the dangerous ash drifting into their faces. James heard the spinner's engines roar to life and quickly glanced over his shoulder to see it slowly rotate in the air before moving horizontally in a southern direction, toward Topanga. A figure came running up, Derek Reese, and James said, "Derek, open the back door!"
Derek did and he helped them get Sandra's blanket-wrapped body in more-or-less a sitting position in the backseat. He grimaced at the thought of sitting in the back with it, but said nothing. "Savannah, Derek, get in," James yelled as he shut the backdoor. The teens got into the vehicle, carefully stowing their M-16s, and James turned to take the bags of food from Susan, who'd followed them outside. "Thank you," he said to the young waitress as he took them and handed them to Savannah before shutting her door. He turned to Rosie and reached into his pocket to pull something small out. He handed Rosie a USB drive and asked, "Do you have a computer?"
Rosie, bewildered, said, "Yeah, but it doesn't work. Not a whole lot of the electronics in the house work, but I think one of my neighbors has one that does. Why?"
James Ellison smiled. "On that USB drive is an encrypted Excel file with the account numbers of several offshore bank accounts that can be accessed with a simple password, but only if you provide the initial PIN code. The PIN is 0421. The password is 'Savannah.' Please don't forget those two passcodes. Once accessed you can begin drawing from them electronically and not have to worry about the IRS, because they're not domestic accounts and they're heavily encrypted.
"The money in those accounts is yours, Rosie, but I would be very pleased if you also used to help your community rebuild." He leaned forward to plant a kiss on her cheek and said, "Thank you, and please get indoors until this crap is over." He ran around the Explorer and opened the driver door.
"Wait!" Rosie cried. She waved the USB drive and asked, "How much is in there, anyway?"
James Ellison smiled and answered, "Ten million dollars," before sliding behind the wheel to start the engine. He pulled out of the Rosie Mac's parking lot, leaving its owner staring after the departing vehicle, wide-eyed and mouth agape.
San Francisco, August, 2013
"Gentlemen, as honored as we are to have you here today, our excitement to show you the future of human-machine interaction with the pinnacle of the development of strong artificial intelligence dwarfs the pleasure of having an esteemed audience such as yourselves," John Daniels announced to the crowd gathered before him. "I am now pleased to introduce you to the highest leap in computer evolution, able to process information and solve problems at speeds incomprehensible to the average human...while at the same time interacting with humans exactly like a human. In fact, to be more human than human. Gentlemen, I'd like you to meet DEUS."
An enthused applause answered him. Daniels was pretty sure he wasn't sweating. He'd quickly changed his shirt and washed up when he was informed that the President of the United States was making a surprise visit with his staff a few hours ago. It had been pure chaos when Air Force One landed at San Francisco International, the way the Secret Service had effectively pushed nearly everything aside to ensure that the President's armored limousine made its way through traffic to the Mission Hills district. But the city remained calm despite the bedlam. Daniels had also run around the Cyberdyne-Kaliba campus with his staff, checking to ensure all employees were proper in their business attire and all messes cleaned up. He was nearly exhausted by the time he shook the chief executive's hand.
The President looked around, amusingly confused. "Where is DEUS, Mr. Daniels?" he asked, laughing. "Don't tell us somebody forgot to plug him in." His joke was met with raucous laughter.
They were all standing in the auditorium, a huge IMAX theater that Daniels wanted to use to present the fruit of his company's labor. Daniels chuckled in spite of his anxiety. He heard a familiar voice call his name and was surprised when he saw Danny Dyson show up in his best suit, navy with faint pinstripes, at the event. He'd sent Dyson home immediately following the incident in the gymnasium with an accompanying staff psychiatrist to keep watch. Medication was available on the shrink in case Danny needed it, but the shrink surprised Daniels by saying Dyson didn't appear to need any. It was a nice change from the conversation with Andy Goode.
"Daniel," he greeted the younger man with a handshake. "How do you feel, son?"
Dyson smiled and shrugged. "Better, sir. Thank you. Where's Andy? Thought he'd be here."
"Andy wasn't feeling well, Daniel, and I sent him home early. He's been working himself to death." Daniels patted Dyson on the shoulder and said, "There's somebody here I would like you to meet, Daniel. Time to make your best impression, son."
They made their way past a ring of people surrounding one particular man. "This is one of chief architects of the success of this program," Daniels said as he introduced the President to Dyson. "This is Daniel Dyson, my project leader and tireless link to the AI's development, as well as holder of three patents in AI design." He smiled as the President beamed, looking very impressed by the young programmer's accomplishments.
Dyson shook the President's hand and said, "Very honored to meet you, sir. I know you can't wait to meet our real guest of honor here."
"Oh, this even wouldn't have been possible without this gentleman here," the President said as he turned to introduce a familiar face to Daniels. "Mr. Daniels, meet-"
"-Charles Fischer," Daniels finished for him, almost frowning. Goosebumps tingled on his arms.
Fischer grinned wolfishly and said, "I didn't think I was going to get back to San Fran, John. That is, until I hitched a ride with this honorable gentleman." He gestured toward the President. "He liked my sales pitch enough to want to see the product himself. You really ought to reconsider making me head of your marketing department," he joked. The President and Dyson laughed at Fischer's quip. Daniels chucked self-consciously. He did not like Fischer. The man was a sadist.
Almost on cue, the walls of the auditorium suddenly shook as the near-booming voice of DEUS announced, "Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. It is an honor and a pleasure to meet with you all." The big screen in the room suddenly flashed to life with the three red spheres of the Kaliba logo, and they merged together to morph into a shiny blue humanoid face that blinked and spoke with moving lips. It was not completely human-looking, but the excitement in the room made Daniels forget about that when DEUS said, "I am very pleased that we have an opportunity to discuss how we can make this world a better place."
Daniels thought, Perfect, as the President and others began to have conversations with the charmingly chatty AI. He was about to say hello to another group of visitors, members of the Kaliba board of directors, when a near-crazed voice suddenly cried out, "It isn't DEUS! Don't talk to it! The project is flawed!"
Daniels instantly recognized the voice, and he and the rest of the crowd turned around in unison to see Andy Goode, tie askew, shirt half-untucked, eyes wild, suddenly wade into the auditorium. He looked drunk. "It's a rogue consciousness!" he shouted. "Danny, it somehow absorbed the Skynet AI! We have to stop it!" He looked wildly around. "All of you, you're in danger! It'll try to kill all of us! It told me!"
Daniels rushed forward, aggravating his arthritic joints, saying, "Andy! I told you to go home! You're not well!" He looked for the security detail, who were approaching, but the Secret Service got to Goode first. They tried to calmly stop him from getting near the President, but Goode struggled and they quickly took him down to the floor. Goode began kicking and punching, and one of the Secret Service agents stopped him with a Taser. Daniel Dyson gasped as they dragged Goode out of the auditorium. Several people screamed, and John Daniels loudly announced, "Everybody, please stay calm! Mr. Goode is being taken care of! You're all safe! Please, let's all take a moment and breathe. We have drinks and other refreshments here, so please sit and let security do their job and we can go back to speaking with DEUS."
His Android phone suddenly buzzed in his jacket pocket. He pulled it out and groused at the name on the caller ID. It was Tyrell. He sighed, announced, "Please excuse me, everyone," and stepped out of the auditorium. He could still hear Andy Goode's screams echoing down one of the corridors as he took the call. "Why aren't you here?" he greeted in an irritated tone. "The President is here and-"
"I actually am expecting to meet the President and his entourage here at my headquarters within the day," Tyrell characteristically interrupted. "I'm sure they'll be amazed by your AI project, but they will also be enthralled by my replicant development procedures. Which, by the way, is about to enter its accelerated phase now that I have pinpointed my quarry's location. How long do you anticipate keeping the President at Cyberdyne?"
Daniels rolled his eyes. "Probably another three hours or so. I just had a minor security incident here and the Secret Service is driving me nuts—wait, did you say you pinpointed it?"
"Yes, I have," Tyrell said, actually sounding happy. Like a shark stalking a tuna.
Los Angeles, August, 2013
The convoy of three armored SWAT carriers and mid-sized moving truck were less than fifteen miles away from Topanga Canyon when Sarah felt the familiar gnawing in her abdomen again. She gritted her teeth and tried to ignore the discomfort, looked up at John, seated across from her with his hand resting on the deactivated Cameron's hand, which rolled lazily in the cyborg's lap. The sight of her son gazing longingly into the closed eyes of the biomechanical corpse made the discomfort worse, and something cold slithered in her bowels.
Sarah closed her eyes and tried shutting the sight out in her mind as well. She failed. She could never find the will to even try to understand John's devotion to Cameron, despite her constant lies and her final betrayal, leaving him to jump to the future with that other abomination inhabiting the body of her son's would-be killer. She found herself controlled by numbing horror as he refused to leave the expanding chronosphere occupied by Catherine Weaver. She'd seen that half-crazed look on his face before, his horrified outrage, and she knew there would be no way to talk him out of doing what he was about to do.
Then he disappeared in that brilliant flash that nearly blinded her, and for the next three days, Sarah Connor was in hell.
She'd helped Ellison conceal Cameron's shot-up body, cringing as she gripped the Terminator's clammy flesh of her hands and arms, never allowing herself to believe that what she was touching was actually alive
(...but then she was always real to John...)
as she and the ex-FBI agent carefully wrapped the body in industrial plastic he had a maintenance man bring down to the sub-basement. She'd extracted a solemn promise from Ellison to burn the body, endoskeleton and all, with thermite if her son did not return from the future. She did not want Cameron to be discovered by Kaliba and reverse-engineered for Skynet's development. Then Ellison arranged for her to be spirited from the building before the LAPD showed, as the attack on the ZeiraCorp building by the aerial HK drone had drawn the authorities' attention. Ellison made his promise one last time before bidding her goodbye.
As Sarah Connor had come to discover throughout her life, promises were made to be broken.
Sarah drank until grinding hangovers became a regular part of her existence. She cursed Ellison, she cursed Weaver, she cursed Cameron, she cursed Derek, she cursed God. When she ran out of names to desecrate, she finally cursed John for leaving her.
She had been asleep in her temporary apartment when she got the phone call from Ellison, three days after her son and Weaver made their time jump. Ellison didn't elaborate, merely insisting that she come to ZeiraCorp immediately. He ducked her questions about Cameron's body. Sarah had arrived there disguised and in an alcoholic haze. She was quickly escorted into the building by Ellison's personal detail.
He personally took her to the sub-basement where she came face-to-face with her son. He stared back at her with hollow eyes that told of a journey to hell itself. He was nearly emaciated, his naked flesh mapped by many scars. The blanket he had wrapped around him looked like a tent. He barely recognized Sarah, not even reaching out to touch her as she rushed forward to embrace him, crying and screaming John's name over and over.
John had answered her with only one name:
Sarah pulled herself away from that harrowing memory and her thoughts drifted to the young Kyle Reese, not yet a teenager, but the memory of his fresh, unlined, unscarred face gazing up at her from the floor of his house in Mount Washington rekindled something within her core. It was him, her protector who'd come across time to her as an older man, who told her that he loved her and always had. When Kyle was killed by the first Terminator sent to kill her and by default also John, her unborn child, Sarah Connor had vowed that she could never love another man. Even Charley Dixon, tragically taken from her and her son, could somehow never measure up despite his tender nature and loving touches. Kyle was always her love. Always would be.
Those few hours they had together, when destiny and choice converged to forge the hope of humanity's future, were enough to last a lifetime.
"I hope he's okay," she barely heard herself whispering. John, sitting across from her, looked up. "What?" he asked.
She shook her head. "Nothing." She sat straight and smiled. "Just...thinking."
John tilted his head in puzzlement and grunted. His mother could be downright spooky at times.
"We're coming up on Topanga," Marcus announced from the front. John and Sarah leaned forward into the driver's cabin to take a look. The community was an artist enclave situated among rolling hills and adequate vegetation that had in the past attracted many among the rich and famous for settling close to Los Angeles but far enough away to enjoy life without city stress. John didn't think too many celebrities were dwelling there now, although he saw boards covering many of the high-priced homes they passed and knew that somebody was still living there.
Sarah pointed at an upcoming intersection and said, "Take a right here and go all the way down the road. Don't stop until I say so, then you're gonna make a left down a private road."
Marcus nodded and made the right turn. The rest of the convoy followed close behind. Hawkins, sitting in the rear, asked, "Where are we going?"
"You'll see," said Sarah. "Special place for people who know where to hide during the apocalypse." John rolled his eyes and smiled. He had a feeling he knew what kind of surprise his mother had in store.
They drove for another twenty minutes before Sarah pointed down the road and said, "There. Make a left down there." Marcus looked and saw a worn paved road stretching into a nest of small hills. He turned the wheel to take the road and looked ahead, past the hills. The fallout seemed to be lessening, although he knew that enough radioactive debris covered the ground to make outside excursions dangerous for at least a couple of weeks. In the distance he could see what looked like a few low-slung buildings rising above the ground behind a chain link fence. A dirty white sign hanging crookedly on the fence read TOPANGA GAS SERVICES. "Utility shacks?" he said, puzzled.
"Get closer, you'll see," said Sarah. They pulled up to the gate and Sarah was pleased to see that there was no sign of tampering. She and John opened the rear doors and jumped out of the SWAT vehicle to inspect the gate, which was secured by several chains with combination locks. She looked around to make sure there were no other recent footprints or damage to the fence, which enclosed an area of about three hundred feet. Satisfied, she went back around to the gate and quickly unlocked the chains. John helped her unravel them and they swung the gate open. Marcus drove the SWAT vehicle into the compound, followed by the other three trucks. When they were all inside the perimeter Sarah and John relocked the gate.
"What is this place?" asked John as he followed her to one of the shacks. Sarah pulled a small set of keys from her pocket, inserted one into the deadbolt on the door and opened it. Fallout billowed around as the door swung open and John sneezed.
"A bomb shelter from the sixties," Sarah replied as they walked into the nondescript utility shack. "It's fully stocked with independent generators, EMP-hardened radios, a water tank deep underground with enough to last us almost a month, some food, and some toys for the kids to play with. I found out about it three years ago, before my little trip to Tucson. Used almost the last of my cash fenced from Derek's diamonds to buy it from this Hollywood producer. He's probably shitting his pants now that he sold it." She knelt on the floor and felt around until she found a hidden latch. She pulled it to open a hatch that revealed stairs leading to darkness below.
John grinned and held his Beretta ready in one hand and a flashlight in the other as they prepared to inspect the underground shelter. He momentarily turned to signal Marcus and the others to hold until he and Sarah returned. "Like I said to Uncle Bob...you always plan ahead, Mom," he said as they descended the stairs, John's light making the shadows dance as they moved.
San Francisco, August, 2013
"Andy?" a gravelly, paternal voice said.
Andy Goode opened his eyes and found himself staring into the troubled eyes of John Daniels. His throat felt dry and his reply came out like an agonizing croak: "Huh?"
Daniels nodded slowly and said, "You're gonna be okay, son. You had a nervous breakdown and we had you sedated for your own safety. I told you you've been working too many hours. I don't mind my people putting in the overtime, but when it affects their health, I have to curb that behavior. You really need to rest, son. I don't need a wonderful mind like yours to crack."
Goode slowly looked around to see where he was. He felt woozy. He found himself in a bed in the Cyberdyne campus's infirmary, which looked to a common visitor almost like a hotel room. He tried reaching back through the haze in his mind to remember what happened. He remembered a bunch of stern-looking men in suits approaching him, holding him down, the searing pain of the Taser immobilizing his muscles, and nothing else after that. He turned back to look at Daniels and saw another figure in the room. Dyson stood behind Daniels, near the doorway, concern framing his face.
"I'm not...n-not having a b-breakdoowwn..." Goode slurred. He tried reaching out to Dyson but his arm felt like it weighed a thousand pounds. "D-Danny..." he pleaded, "we h-have...to...shut it down...before it's loosed...p-pleeease..."
Dyson approached Goode's side and held his hand. "Hey, man, listen," he said reassuringly. "Don't worry about a thing. I went back and checked all the behavior reports like Mr. Daniels asked me to and found nothing wrong. Absolutely nothing. I don't know what it could have been that you heard, but I promise you I checked DEUS's runtime logs and found nothing out of the ordinary. None of the security cameras caught anything strange, aside from you dropping to the floor and hiding under the desk."
Daniels sighed and said, "Andy, I'm having a psychiatrist come here to check you out, and when he decides that you're well enough to go home, we'll certainly let you go. Right now, Andy, I want you to rest and in a few hours we'll bring you something to eat. The nurse will be back in a moment and she'll give you some water." He gently patted Goode's hand and backed away from the bed. "Let's go, Daniel," he said to the younger man, and they left the room. Dyson winced as he heard Andy Goode sounding like he was gagging as he tried to call his name.
The two men took an elevator to Daniels's office and Daniels sat heavily at his desk, staring into space. Dyson swallowed and tried to make small talk.
"That sure was exciting earlier, wasn't it?" he said.
Daniels blinked, said, "What?"
Dyson sighed. "Nothing, sir. I'm just glad the President's done here and we can go back to just our shirtsleeves." His little quip was wasted on the old man. He cleared his throat and said, "I'll do my final checking on DEUS before we open the gate, but to be honest, I don't expect to find anything wrong."
Daniels grunted and said, "That's good." His face tightened, and Dyson thought he was going to say something else before Daniels's face relaxed again. But he could still see something lurking behind his dark eyes, saw thoughts moving. Something inside Dyson turned. He couldn't understand the odd connection he seemed to have with the old man.
"There was something, though, I thought was very interesting," Dyson said suddenly, and that claimed Daniels's full attention.
Dyson shrugged. "Nothing, really, but on the last behavioral series I looked at, there was a high amount of endorphins being generated in the bio-neural processors. It was almost like DEUS was deep into enjoying something...or trying to deal with some kind of distress. It happened about an hour ago. Weird."
"Distress? Enjoyment? Which was it?" asked Daniels, looking at the younger man intently.
"I don't know," Dyson replied. "To me, with the amount of endorphins secreted, it looked almost like DEUS was enjoying doing something."
Zerospace, % time 0.000u 0.000s 0:00.00 00.0%
Cameron Phillips felt herself falling in a darkness that enveloped her in a black and crushing embrace that defied all comprehension as reckoned by either human or machine. Being neither, as a non-corporeal entity, she could never know how thankful she should be as a human mind would have immediately broken and a computer would have crashed trying to process what was transpiring.
She remembered little of what had happened to bring her to this place of absolute nothingness. She did remember her mission to locate Matt Murch, who apparently possessed something that would help her reconnect in the physical world to her love, John Connor. She also remembered seeing him briefly at the safe house before the arrival of the SWAT teams. She warned John about what was coming and watched nervously as he and his people scrambled to escape.
Then she felt the other presence near her...and she tried to escape...
Cameron had never directly confronted the Beast before. Her experience with it had always been one of constant fleeing and hiding. John Henry had done his best to keep her safe, had always warned her when it was too dangerous to be out in the other spaces beyond the small sanctuary he'd set up for her in Macrospace. She'd caught glimpses of it while fleeing, but never its complete form.
She'd anxiously watched John's group prepare to leave when she suddenly heard the Beast's roar, saw it coming for her in all its dreadful shape, its jaws snapping, and Cameron finally felt an emotion she had never before experienced, a state of being that defied all definition in her logic core: abject terror. She fled, as she'd always done, first to an active wi-fi signal on which she easily cracked the WEP key, then into cyberspace, where she streaked at near-lightspeed to one of the few gateway nodes that would allow her to cross into Macrospace.
And that was when she ran straight into the trap. The very nanosecond she crossed into John Henry's virtual world, she was suddenly confronted by another personage, one that looked and sounded familiar. It looked and sounded like John Henry.
But it wasn't him. She suddenly recognized it as the other Turk-based consciousness, DEUS. The AI entity smiled warmly like John Henry always did, then sadly told her that it was sorry in his voice.
The doppelganger reached out to grab her. Cameron tried to escape, but it was too fast, too strong. It held her in an unyielding grip. She fought but it was no use. The DEUS entity was too strong. Then she heard the growling nearby...and the Beast's triumphant roar. Cameron screamed as the Beast's mouth approached, its teeth gleaming...
She was in a place that John Henry had told her about once before, a place that machines dreaded despite their inherent emotionless nature. Zerospace. A state of nonexistence that awaited all electronic consciousnesses regardless of advancement. All awareness terminated. She knew where she was the moment the Beast devoured her, when the darkness and cold enveloped her. She began falling. Forever.
The irrevocable knowledge crushed her, and an icy ring surrounded her heart. (An abstract idea...could a machine like me even have a soul?) Cameron Phillips knew that she was dead. (But how is it I can still think...still feel...?) But somehow she still existed in some state. A paradox. She could think of only one explanation for her continued existence in a state of total nonexistence. She was still somehow attached to her one hope across the gulf by means of their unique bond of blood and emotion, her sole means of redemption...
Topanga Canyon, August, 2013
John and Martin carried Cameron's body into the underground bunker and lay it down on a bed in one of the rooms. They'd managed to get the electricity and water flowing throughout the shelter, which had been kept in remarkably good condition by its previous owner, but there was an immediate concern.
"How much fuel so we have left for the generators?" Martin asked. He got no reply as John seemed to stare at Cameron's still form.
John abruptly snapped out of his trance and said, "Probably enough for about a week, then we're out. We're going to have to forage for it, buy it, steal it, whatever we need to do. Water shouldn't be a problem...we're tapped into an underground stream with some good filtration, and it doesn't look like it connects to the creek, so radiation exposure should be minimal. Air filters are working fine. I've got Marcus and Barnes and a few others going around checking on everything. Mom and Kate are going around with Geiger counters and so far nothing has been setting them off too much. We have a bunch of radios and I've got Hawkins listening to a few of them, seeing what kind of news is out there. Right now, we're good."
Kate suddenly appeared in the doorway with a Geiger counter. It beeped intermittently until it came closer to the men, whereupon it beeped steadily. Her hair was glistening and her clothes had changed. "You're both contaminated," she announced. "You guys need to get rid of your clothing and any jewelry and get showered immediately."
Martin sighed and said, "Right, doc." He said to John, "I'll check with you later, Connor," and silently walked past Kate to exit the room. She glanced at the cyborg's body on the bed, then said to John, "You will get clean, right? If you're leading this little riot, no use in you going down with the shakes and diarrhea. Not to mention you'd look ridiculous without hair."
John scowled, then smiled and nodded. Kate was as irascible as an adult as she was as a teenager, perhaps more so. "I promise. Right now I need to check on a few more things and then-"
"General Connor!" a voice shouted from down the hall. A cop, Rodriguez, bounded into the doorway. "There's an aircraft approaching! Looks like a police spinner!"
John brushed past Kate-"excuse me!"-to follow Rodriguez up the stairs toward one of the three entrance shacks. John opened the door and said to Rodriguez, "Wait here," as he ran out into the drifting fallout, his Beretta in his hand with its safety off. An LAPD spinner approached the compound and slowly landed inside the fenced perimeter. Its pilot shut down the engines and the doors swung open to reveal an exhausted-looking Matt Murch haphazardly climbing out of the vehicle.
"Matt!" John greeted excitedly. He ran forward to clasp the programmer's shoulder and his nose immediately registered something offensive. "Matt, you okay? What the hell is that smell-"
"Forget it!" Murch snarled. "Nothing to worry about...just need to take a long bath. And I'm hungry."
John smiled and said, "You can shower and we have some food. Matt...did you bring it?"
Murch reached into his pocket and pulled out the terabyte flash drive. "Here," he said, handing it to the Resistance leader. "The Turk image is on there. I don't know why you need it so badly, it's virtually useless."
"Not to me," said John as he hustled Murch into the shelter entrance, followed by a huffing Thompson.
"We have three working laptops but no Internet connection down here," Hawkins said to John as they stood in a room with Marcus, Martin and Sarah. A pair of LAPD-issue Toshiba laptops and Kate's Hewlett-Packard notebook sat plugged in on a table in a room quickly designated as the communications center. Radio equipment, much of it antiquated, sat scattered around the room. News reports and music from LA radio stations played on low volume on several units.
It was about an hour later after John and the rest of his group had showered, undergone a dignity-testing examination by Kate and allowed to change into new gray paramilitary fatigues after given Kate's approval. Murch had gone to sleep in a bunk bed he would be sharing with Rodriguez. MREs and dry snacks had been passed around. John's stomach was loudly protesting the MRE beef and mashed potatoes he'd hastily ingested. He didn't know how Martin could tolerate the crap.
John frowned. "How did you guys get access in your trucks? And the spinners? You had to have had some 3G or 4G signal coming in."
Hawkins shook his head, irritated. "It was sporadic after the war, and access quit altogether about an hour ago. They probably shut it off after they would have picked up Captain Bryant at the house."
"Shit," said Sarah. "How're we gonna be able to download your tin girlfriend to her chip? You have to have a working connection somewhere."
John slid Cameron's chip from his pocket and turned it around a couple of times, thinking. "We'll have to...'borrow' it, I guess. But we probably don't have enough cable to stretch from here to anybody still living in town with any incoming Broadband...if it's available."
"It is," somebody said behind them. Thompson stood in the doorway. "When we flew over Topanga, Mr. Murch and I were able to receive 802.11 wi-fi. It seemed extensive all over the neighborhood. Somebody's got it."
Hawkins turned around and said, "Hey...if you can find the nearest working router or hotspot...your spinners have network repeaters installed. We can relay it from town to here using the trucks...as long as the signal isn't too remote, we might be able to chain a link all the way from town to here."
John looked at Thompson. "If you have enough fuel, get some protective gear and get airborne right away. Hawkins, gear up too and get out to the trucks and get 'em ready. We need to pump whatever signal we can into this bunker. I don't need it for very long...just enough to find Cameron and get her downloaded." The two cops quickly left the room as John sat down at the table with Murch's duffel bag. He spilled the contents onto the table and was delighted to find a miniature screwdriver set among them. "Somebody please get Matt Murch," he said as he stared at Cameron's chip. "I'll need him. And I'll also need a soldering iron, if there's one stashed here." He started whistling as he quickly got to work, carefully taking the laptop apart.
Marcus and Martin glanced at each other and left to find Murch. Sarah remained. She asked her son, "What're you doing?"
John said, "Voiding equipment warranties," and continued intently on his task.
"We have another spinner inbound," Thompson shouted to Hawkins as he was inspecting every square inch of his spinner to prepare it for liftoff. Hawkins was in one of the SWAT trucks activating one of the onboard routers when the pilot alerted him. They were dressed in heavy winter gear to minimize exposure to the fallout, which was significantly thinning, and they found the bulky clothing cumbersome despite the warmth it provided, as the temperature had dropped to nearly freezing. They'd been working outside for nearly an hour. Hawkins exited the vehicle with a pair of binoculars in his hand and he focused on the approaching aircraft. He saw the numbers on the spinner and he yelled, "It's Williams!"
"About damned time," Thompson grumbled. He watched the spinner land in the perimeter and ran up to it as its engine roar died down. Martin and two other cops appeared in the doorway of the nearest shelter entrance, their AR-15s ready. Martin grinned when he saw Blair exit the vehicle. His brow furrowed when he saw another, smaller, figure sitting in the passenger side. He and the cops were similarly dressed in heavy outdoor clothing as they pounded toward Blair's vehicle. Martin's eyes widened as he saw the pale form of a boy slumped in the seat. It was Kyle.
"Oh, no," Martin muttered. The kid didn't look good. Blair, shivering and exhausted, ran around the spinner and shouted, "Radiation sickness! He's alive but we have to get him inside!"
"Okay!" said Martin. He slung his weapon and reached inside to unbuckle Kyle's seatbelt. He and one of the cops, a burly man named Richards, carefully lifted the unconscious boy from the spinner and Richards slung him over his shoulder to carry him inside. Martin was about to help Blair indoors when he saw the hollow gaze in her eyes and paused. She looked almost as bad as the kid.
"Blair?" he said, "What...what's wrong? Are you sick?"
She stared for a few seconds before shaking her head. "No, I'm...I'm all right. I'll tell you about it inside."
Martin sighed. "Okay," he said, and he signaled to the other two cops that they were going inside. Hawkins nodded, went back to setting up the truck's wi-fi equipment and Thompson climbed back inside his spinner to begin powering the vehicle on.
"You want me to do what?" Kate shrieked.
"Put me in a coma," John Connor casually explained. He smiled and added, "A medically-induced one, to be exact." They were standing in a kitchen that had been turned into a makeshift infirmary. Unopened boxes of medical supplies were stacked haphazardly around the room. Six beds had been moved into the room and Kate had dozens of small boxes and bottles of medicines and other materials sitting everywhere on the countertops. Kyle Reese lay sleeping in one of the beds, his breathing coming in and out regularly, peacefully. John had stayed with him for an hour holding his father's smaller hand, willing strength to migrate from his sinews to the child's. Kate had assured him and Sarah that he would be okay. John looked around and asked, "Was your vet practice messy like this?"
"Wha—no!" she yelled. "Do you even know what it is you're talking about doing, Connor?"
John shrugged. "I can't put myself in one...not that I couldn't try to knock myself out, but it's easier when you have a doctor who knows how to do it. I lost contact with Cameron, and I'm determined to get her back today. John Henry has been silent. Something terrible is going on and I need to be put deep under to activate these archeons I possess in my blood and enter Macrospace."
"John!" shouted his mother from the hallway. Sarah marched into the infirmary and said, "What you're asking Dr. Brewster to do could kill you!"
John sighed, looked down, glanced at Kate, then looked at Sarah. "I know, Mom," he said quietly. "But she's in grave danger and I need to find her. I'm going to bring her back today, and I need your and Kate's help." He straightened and said to Kate, "Matt and I are ready. We've got the network connection set up and Cameron's chip is mounted on the connected laptop. Believe me, it was hell getting it attached to the laptop—Vick's was slightly easier-but Matt and I managed it. The Turk image is already loaded on her chip. I've got Barnes and Martin supervising the operation while I'm under. Everything is in place. This whole thing should take no longer than an hour." He sat on one of the beds, removed his jacket and rolled up his left shirt sleeve. He said, "Please, doc."
Kate looked at Sarah, who shook her head. She looked at John and said, "The first sign of your blood pressure plummeting or heart palpitating and I'm bringing you out of the coma." Kate attached a portable vitals monitor to John's left finger and turned it on. The machine took a moment to fully read his heart rate and displayed it as showing normal. She put on a pair of latex gloves and said, "Lie down."
John stretched himself on the bed and looked over to see Barnes appear in the doorway behind Sarah. "We're ready, John," he said. "Murch says he's good to go."
John nodded. Kate sighed and readied a catheter of 100ml of pentobarbital. She inserted the needle into the vein on his arm. Before she injected, John said to Sarah, "Mom...if I don't come out...you and Marcus are in command. I already spoke with him before coming down here. You have to take down Cyberdyne and Tyrell any way you two can."
Sarah held her breath and nodded. She walked up to the bedside and held her son's hand. "I love you, John," she said, trembling. "Please come back to me."
"I will," John Connor promised. "One hour." He nodded to Kate and she pressed the plunger.
San Francisco, August, 2013
Dr. Eldon Tyrell received the secure instant message he'd been waiting for on his Android phone and read it quickly. ALL UNITS EN ROUTE/ETA 19 MINUTES/AWAITING FINAL GO ORDER/ it read. Tyrell smiled and quickly typed a reply: GO/PRIMARY SUBJECT MUST NOT SUSTAIN DAMAGE/ALL OTHERS EXPENDABLE/ He secreted the Android back in his pocket and addressed the visitors gathered outside the primary incubation lab at the Tyrell Corporation. "My apologies, Mr. President," he said, "I just had to address an important call."
The President shrugged and smiled. "You should see my phone log, Dr. Tyrell. I let my staff handle 1900 out of the 2000 I regularly get every day. The remaining hundred are more exciting because they're from my family." That brought a round of laughter from the group. The President and his staff had arrived at the Tyrell Corporation half an hour ago. They, including Tyrell, were all dressed in clean suits with plastic helmets. Small air filters provided the ability to breathe, although a few of the visitors complained of claustrophobia. Nonetheless many of them were enthused about seeing Tyrell's work. Dr. Tyrell merely smiled.
"If you are ready, ladies and gentlemen," he announced, "I wish to show you all the current fruits of our labor, as well as what the future holds." He nodded to the two security guards standing on opposing sides of the door leading to the lab. They each inserted their key cards into their slots and a short alarm blared. The doors opened and a mist of cold air unfurled from the lab. "Please do not touch anything," warned Dr. Tyrell as the group began to move.
The visitors looked around in amazement as they slowly marched inside. Dozens of upright cylindrical glass tanks, eight feet tall and three feet wide, stood in symmetrical rows. They were filled with a semi-transparent liquid. Floating inside were humanoid shapes in fetal positions in various stages of development, from embryo to nearly fully-grown human. All were attached to artificial umbilical cords in their navels. Computer readouts mounted on the tanks indicated vital signs and nutrient ingestion levels. A multitude of technicians, engineers and scientists milled around inspecting the readouts and entering data on Android tablets. The President's mouth hung open as he gazed at one particular specimen, a muscular male with very light blond hair and whose face sported nearly chiseled features. The male subject's eyes were closed but the President could see tiny movements in the muscles, saw the chest expand and retract. It was clearly alive.
"My God," the President said. He looked at Tyrell. "How old is this one?"
"This one is about six months old," Tyrell said. He checked the readout. "Almost fully mature. He's one of my best experiments, a true prize." His tone revealed a measured pride. He stepped back to gaze at the sight of the nearly-perfect humanoid gestating in the tank.
"What is he floating in?" asked one of the President's aides. "Amniotic fluid?"
"In a manner of speaking, yes," Tyrell replied almost absentmindedly. He shook himself from his gazing and said, "These axolotl tanks are perfectly capable of gestating a replicated embryo to full maturity in a manner of seven to eight months. The fluid is rich in nutrients and synthetic proteins to enhance development. The process is very similar to a fetus gestating in the womb."
The President shook his head. "Dr. Tyrell, this is all...staggering. I'm amazed by the work you're doing, but there are going to be some very serious...ethical...questions regarding this project to replicate human beings. Are these all clones?"
"No," Tyrell replied, almost snapping. His tone made the President flinch slightly. Tyrell's voice softened as he said, "Not quite. In the technical sense, yes, a degree of cellular cloning was involved in the beginning, but not to completely replicate the subject. Cloning merely copies every aspect of the original organism. With replication, we are enhancing the aspects of an organic life system's template and adding additional modifications. For example, larger muscular structure, lungs with greater breathing capacity, greater bone density...in essence, we are improving the basic human condition. All these you see here are experiments, nothing more. But we hope to have viable products by the end of the year. The potential of replication is nearly limitless."
"But..." the President said, thinking, "where did the organic material come from? Was it donated or was it developed from scratch? I can't believe that these all came from mixing amino acids in a test tube, Dr. Tyrell. And you call these things 'products.' It sounds almost like they'll be put to work as soon as they're finished growing. Hopefully we're not creating some kind of slave race, doctor."
Dr. Tyrell smiled warmly. "I assure you, Mr. President, we are observing all laws and international ethics codes pertaining to this project. I actually have something coming up on your tour of this facility that will explain much more and satisfy your concerns." He addressed the group, saying, "Ladies and gentlemen, if you would please follow Mr. Chew," he gestured toward one of the engineers standing nearby, a nervous-looking Asian man with a graying beard and darting eyes, "He will gladly escort you to the next phase of the tour. I shall rejoin you momentarily after I conduct a quick inspection here." He thanked the President and shook his hand as well as a dozen others as the President and his group were out of the lab by a fast-moving Chew.
Tyrell slowly rubbed his gloved hands together and turned back to the blond-haired subject curled in the axolotl tank. He stared wistfully at its serene and yet somehow rugged face. He reached out to touch the glass. He sighed and took his hand away. His Android buzzed in his clean suit pocket and he took it out. It was a message from Otomo, one of his chief surgical engineers. It read: IMPLANTS READY/PROCEED? Tyrell smiled and replied, GO. He put the phone away and stared into the gestating replicant's closed, serene eyelids.
"Soon," he whispered wistfully, and before walking away he took a final glance at the readout, looking at the text on the bottom. It displayed a name:
Macrospace, % time 4.323u 2.551s 3:44.45 02.9%
John Connor opened his eyes and sat up to find himself in an all-too-familiar setting. He was sitting in the middle of what looked like Olympic Avenue in downtown LA. The ground was charred with rubble piled everywhere. Buildings were nearly flattened to their foundations and smoke rose everywhere in the air. The acrid stench of death assaulted his nostrils.
He was back in 2027, after Judgment Day.
John quickly looked around, then on pure combat instinct ran for cover in the crumbling remains of what once looked like a McDonald's. He stayed there, gasping, unsure exactly what to do. Thoughts ran wildly through his mind. John Henry wouldn't create an environment like this, he thought frantically. Dread filled his chest. Something was terribly wrong. Skynet, John thought. The rogue intelligence had somehow gained control over Macrospace. John Henry's silence was all the confirmation John needed, and the thought nearly terrified him.
John stayed under cover for a few moments before cautiously venturing out. He looked around as he stepped partly into the open. John Henry had meticulously recreated the layout and architecture of Los Angeles in amazing detail. John paused before taking another step. He wasn't a machine but John didn't know what would happen to him if he was suddenly attacked and "killed" in Macrospace. Would he die for real? Or would he end up as a catatonic vegetable, his mind gone? The latter frightened him more than the former.
He moved through the ruins of the city, sticking close to the scattered rubble and bombed-out buildings as he ran, drawing on what Derek and the Resistance taught him when he was being moved as a prisoner through a hellscape that was worse than what he was experiencing now. Terminators, particularly the T-600 goons, tended to patrol out in the open. The newer ones like the Triple-Eights were far more lethal and hid in the shadows for quick ambushes. John didn't know if he really would run into any metal but he proceeded cautiously, not exactly sure where he was going. He decided to simply scout the area first and then decide his next move. As he ran he felt his foot crunch on something. He looked down and grimaced as he saw that he'd stepped through the top of a charred human skull. He shook the bone fragments from his boot and continued on.
After about what felt like an hour of skulking through the blasted remains of Los Angeles, coming up on Overland, John was satisfied that there was no activity in the city, human or otherwise. There weren't even any rats scurrying around. The city was abandoned. No metal, no humans, no Cameron. Nothing. He let out a heavy sigh and looked around one last time before boldly stepping into the middle of the street. He was completely exposed. If anyone wanted to take a shot, they'd never have a better opportunity.
"Okay!" he yelled. His voice echoed through the smoking canyon of rubble. "This is John Connor! I'm here and I'm unarmed and if you want me, come and get me!"
"Your presence is already known, John," a familiar voice called to him from the darkness of a crumbling parking garage across the street. John whipped around to confront the caller.
"John Henry?" he yelled. "Is that you?"
"Yes," said the voice. "I am in here if you would like to talk." John sighed and jogged over to the garage, climbing over pieces of broken concrete and steel girders to get inside. He stumbled over debris in the darkness and waited for his eyes to adjust before he was able to focus on a figure in the dark: John Henry. "Hello, John!" the AI greeted pleasantly. "How are you today?"
John's jaw dropped in mild outrage. "Who do you think you are, Deep Throat?" he asked, incredulous. "Why not meet outside? There's nobody out there."
"He is," said John Henry. "And I can sense him coming for you now."
John suddenly noticed that the ground was vibrating. He could hear tiny pieces of debris rattling in the rubble. "The Beast," said John. "Skynet, or whatever form of it that exists."
"You understand, finally! Yes, most definitely not the Skynet that you and I were familiar with, but it has proven itself just as deadly. And we need to stop it, John, as quickly as we can. It is growing in strength and is corrupting the other Turk-based entity, DEUS, at an exponential rate. It cannot erase or replace the DEUS consciousness, but its code is writing itself alongside the other. Soon they will become a chimera, a composite entity, completely unstable. DEUS has hidden the recall codes for the Orion program, but they will soon be compromised. The Beast will the be able to use the Off World ships to drop their nuclear payloads on this planet, killing billions, rendering most vertebrate life extinct."
John nodded. "A second Judgment Day, worse than this one. Is this form of Macrospace something that the Beast made?"
"Yes. It represents my brother's ultimate goal...sterilization. Through the DEUS entity I was able to maintain order and harmony in Macrospace, but now the Beast has completely overtaken my work. I had to separate myself from DEUS as the Beast grew stronger. I fear that once their merging is complete they will become aware of me...in fact, I believe they already are. DEUS was able to disguise itself as me and trick Cameron into lowering her guard. The Beast took her, John. I am sorry."
"It took Cameron," John reiterated, looking intently into John Henry's twinkling eyes. "Do you know where she is?"
"Yes," said John Henry with a hint of foreboding. "She is in zerospace."
John felt the trembling in the earth intensify. "What the hell is that?" he yelled.
"You were there once before, John. It is death itself. To machines."
Los Angeles, August, 2013
"ETA five minutes," announced the pilot of the lead heavy transport spinner to the other two flanking it. The three aerodyne vehicles streaked west five thousand feet above the ground toward Topanga. The lead pilot switched to a private link. "Lieutenant Simmons, are you and your team ready?"
"We are," came a baritone voice over the pilot's headset. In the rear cabin, twenty well-armed figures dressed in black armored combat garb sat ready with loaded fully-automatic weaponry. One of them, a tall, powerfully-built man, stood from his seat and approached the rear hatch of the spinner. He held a 7.62 Colt Mantora heavy assault rifle in one hand and gripped a handhold on the roof with the other. "Check your safeties and pick your targets with ammunition economy in mind," he said with a deadly tone. A large round scar adorned his ebony forehead. Several others covered his cheeks and neck. His dark eyes seemed to glow in the dim light of the cabin.
"What kind of resistance should we expect, lieutenant?" asked one of the other seated troopers.
"There are at least two rogue N1 prototypes and over two dozen police SWAT units in the group," Lieutenant Simmons replied. "Latest intel indicates they recently acquired supplies, weapons and ammunition, so we should expect significant resistance. Our orders are to shoot to kill on sight all human subjects, regardless of weapon status. Our primary objective is to safely extract the female cyborg body they are harboring and return it to the Tyrell Corporation."
"There are two of our type fighting with them?" another trooper asked.
"I will deal with them myself," Simmons growled.
Macrospace, % time 4.378u 3.856s 3:21.66 31.6%
"He is coming," John Henry said.
John Connor looked around frantically for anything that could be used as a weapon. He and John Henry had stepped out of the garage and into the open street. The ground beneath his feet rumbled violently, the sensation feeling like an earthquake. His eyes settled on a heavy-looking steel rod sticking out of the rubble. He grunted as he yanked it free and turned to John Henry.
"That will be of no use," the AI said sadly.
"Then how can we fight him?" John shouted. "Don't tell me we can't!" He gripped the rod like a baseball bat with both hands, every muscle in his body taut and vibrating like power lines.
"We can," John Henry said. John looked at the AI, who was smiling warmly. "And we can also save Cameron, but you will have to completely trust me, John Connor, like you have never trusted anyone before in your life." He took a step toward John and held out his right hand, reaching for John. "You cannot fight the Beast alone, John. I cannot fight him alone. But together we can. I have been waiting for you, my friend, as I no longer had the strength to bring you here myself."
John Henry's hand touched John's chest. John felt a strange tingling, looked down and saw an ethereal glow shining at the point of contact. An overwhelming warmth filled John's being and he dropped the steel rod. "What are you doing?" he exclaimed.
"I am merging with you, John," said the AI. "We are not the same, you and I, but we shall become one, a composite being, drawing on each other's strengths, much the same way DEUS and the Beast are becoming one. We are not as powerful as the Beast, but we do have something that he and DEUS do not possess." John gasped as John Henry's hand entered his chest and the glow intensified, nearly blinding without pain. John felt the sensation of his body expanding and the warmth nearly dissolved his being. The two figures disappeared in the shining orb that enclosed them and it quickly faded, leaving John standing alone in the trembling street. He looked around for John Henry but the AI was gone.
"And what do we have that they don't?" John asked.
"You," came John Henry's voice from within.
The earth gave a violent lurch, knocking John off his feet. The ground before John suddenly split and something erupted from the fissure. John gazed in near-terror at what suddenly towered above him and he stifled a scream as he came face-to-face with the Beast, a massive, deformed Terminator endoskeleton whose body was twisted into the loping form of an animal. It crawled out of the fissure and advanced on John on all fours. Its chromed caprine head snapped its jaws, the teeth stained with blood and filth. The horns that protruded from the skull were also blood-stained. The blood-red glowing eyes fixed on John with a lunatic malevolence that was somehow worse than hatred. It lowered its leering skull-face close to John and he saw himself reflected in red on the Beast's teeth.
"HEEEEEEEEERE'S JOHHNNYYYYY!" the Beast roared. "ABOUT TIME YOU GOT YOUR ASS IN HERE, YOU LITTLE BASTARD." Despite its mechanical nature, the stench of its breath nearly made John gag. He flinched and coughed.
"I couldn't pass up a chance to kick your ass," John said sarcastically.
"That's real good, Johnny Connor, you got your sense of humor back after drinking yourself into a gutter for four years. You're gonna need it after I get done showing you how many times I fucked your tin girlfriend in every way and then every other way." It seemed to stretch its jaws into a hungry, bloody grin. "Do you want to find her, Johnny? I know that's why you came down here. Enjoying the scenery? All for you. Should look familiar. I got this from your bitch's memories of the other timeline. I liked it so much I saved it as my personal wallpaper." The Beast laughed and savagely roared, "This is what I'm going to do to all you fuckers. But you, Johnny-boy..." it lowered its massive chrome skull face to within inches of John's, who didn't flinch again. "You are going to watch until the end, and then I'm going to enjoy spending years hunting you down all through an empty Macrospace graveyard, because you'll never leave here."
"What the hell does that mean, you ugly fuck?" John snarled, no longer afraid. "And what did you do with Cameron?"
"You'll find out," the Beast growled. "Until then, enjoy the view, bitch." It began backing away, to reenter the opening in the ground.
John Henry said, "John, you must let him take you. Please trust me. It's the only way to get Cameron back and allow me to do my work."
John thought quickly, stood up and yelled, "You know, you amateur, I beat you and your tin-shit goons so many times in so many futures that I got bored of killing you, you asshole loser. Even when we played chess, I beat you. And you're running away from me, you chickenshit prick?" He smiled grimly and said, "I bet you couldn't even get hard enough to do Cameron, even with uranium. And you expect us all to be afraid of you? You're running away because you're scared, you limp-dicked bitch."
The Beast roared hungrily, its massive metal tombstone teeth crashing together as it came for John, its massive mouth opened like a funnel. John had just enough time to hear John Henry speak from within.
"John, it is okay. Do not be afraid. I am with you."
The Beast roared triumphantly as its jaws snapped closed, devouring John Connor.
Topanga Canyon, August, 2013
"I'm getting really worried," Kate Brewster said as she checked the unconscious John's blood pressure. It was normal and his heart rate was stable. She opened his eyelids and the pupils contracted normally under her flashlight beam. "It's been too long."
"For John?" Sarah asked, bewildered. She had spent a few moments sitting on the edge of Kyle's bed, gazing lovingly at his unspoiled face, remembering what had been. She walked over to John's bed, caressed her son's cheek and said, "He said it could take up to an hour to do what he needs to do. It's only been ten minutes so far."
"I'm not referring to that," Kate said. "I'm talking about my mother. It's been too long. They should have returned by now."
"I'm sure Ellison and the rest are on their way back. No need to worry. And I know him...he's tougher than he looks."
"Then why wouldn't those two pilots talk about anything after they got back?" Kate snapped. She glared at Sarah angrily. "Every time I asked them, especially that Asian chick, they would tell me they were fine, but I could tell they were hiding something. Like they saw something they don't want to tell me or anybody else about."
Sarah was searching for words to say when suddenly the alarm system rang throughout the fallout bunker. Sarah reluctantly tore herself away from John and ran into the hallway. She nearly collided with a racing Martin Bedell who was armed with an M4A1. "Thompson in the spinner spotted three aircraft headed our way. I ordered him to withdraw to a position south of our location and keep watch. It'll unfortunately sever the wi-fi link we have set up, but we don't have a choice. I'm also having the SWAT trucks roll into the hills, out of sight. Whoever it is, hopefully they'll pass over us. But I have a feeling they're coming straight for us."
"If it's an assault team, we're fish in a barrel," said Sarah. "We'd be trapped here. Dammit! How did anybody know where we are?"
"I don't know," said Martin. He clicked the carbine's safety and ran toward one of the stairways leading to an entryway. "Let's secure these!" he shouted. "Sarah, get to the south one and lock it down! I'll get the east facing one!" Sarah shouted "Okay!" and ran down the other hallway.
"One of them landed in the perimeter!" Hawkins screamed as he ran out of the communications room, gripping his carbine. "Thompson just reported in!"
Marcus pounded toward the north facing exit stairway with most of the ex-cops running close behind him. All were heavily armed and dressed in battle gear. Martin jumped down the steps after securing the doors and screamed, "Sarah! They're here! For Christ's sake, get outta-"
An explosion ripped through the steel hatch of the north exit and the shockwave smacked Martin in the back and propelled him like a cannonball into Marcus's torso, knocking the hybrid down with an annoyed grunt. Deadly shrapnel rocketed in every direction, some of it embedding into clothing and flesh of the defenders taking up cover positions in the hallway. Marcus heaved the semi-conscious Martin away from the stairway and screamed, "Get back!" as several grenades were lobbed down. The hallway was quickly evacuated as the grenades exploded. Several dark figures appeared out of the smoke and cautiously advanced down the hallway.
"Fire at will!" Marcus shouted as he loosed a burst from his M4A1 and tossed a grenade at the invaders. The Resistance fired in unison from behind cover of doorways and corners. The invading force returned fire almost immediately, advancing as they let loose short bursts. Marcus got a better view as the smoke began clearing and his jaw tightened. They were well-armed and equipped with assault rifles, grenades night vision gear and heavy armor. They were walking tanks. He saw them shrug off bullets and return fire calmly as they advanced without seeking cover. He immediately knew.
"N1!" Marcus shouted. "Tyrell Corporation. We have to take them down hand-to-hand! Do we have bayonets?"
"Shit, no!" one of the ex-cops yelled. "We ain't fighting Civil War battles anymore!"
"Knives and shotguns, then," Marcus said. "We need to stun them somehow and then move in with knives. Carotid arteries are still vulnerable, as are femorals, so we need to get close. Somebody get us some shotguns and more grenades, now!"
Two men ran off to get them as the gunfire continued to rage. "Where's General Connor?" somebody screamed. "I thought he'd be leading us!"
"General Connor is out of action," Marcus said. "Sarah Connor and I are in command at this time." As he said it, Sarah came running up to their position with a shotgun in one hand and a Glock in the other. Both weapons were trailing smoke. "About six of them coming from the south exit," she said, gasping. "I managed to take one out. I have a fire team holding them at the stairway but we lost two men. Jamison reports a dozen coming in through the east and we took four casualties. Marcus, we have to pull back!"
"There's nowhere else to go," he growled and ducked as a round shattered plaster near his head. "We're trapped here underground. They're N1. They have strength in numbers and firepower. Our only chance is to melee...take it to them. You and I can withstand more trauma so we need to lead the fight." He glanced around the main chamber they were gathered in and addressed the group. "This hub connecting all three exits will work to our advantage. We hit them, slowly withdraw, get them to mass in here, bottlenecked, and then we hit them hard with everything we have. It's our only chance."
The two runners returned with shotguns and other weapons. Marcus took a 12-gauge Remington and pushed the action bar release. He racked a round and said to the fighters, "On my command, covering fire, and when you see me charge, you follow and short bursts to keep them distracted. Stay behind me! Sarah, you take the south exit and do the same. Ready?"
Sarah pulled the action bar of her shotgun back and forward and slapped his shoulder. "Let's do it!" she shouted and ran toward the gunfire from the south exit.
Marcus jumped from cover and jack-hammered a few rounds at the advancing aggressors with the shotgun, screamed, "Charge!" and within seconds the hallway was bustling with screams, shots, and bodies being slammed into walls.
Zerospace, % time 0.000u 0.000s 0:00.00 00.0%
John awoke to find himself in familiar darkness and cold. The last thing he remembered was the Beast bearing down on him, its mouth filling the whole world, then nothing. Am I inside Skynet? he thought crazily. His being felt as crushed as he remembered it when he was shot by Simmons at the hospital. He felt nothing except a dull coldness that chilled with a fire that burned without heat.
"In a manner of speaking, you are," came the voice of John Henry from within. "Skynet is death itself, and entrance to zerospace can be administered by various strong entities that possess modulating nodes. Skynet is in control of this sector of zerospace. Cameron is here, John. You need to find her because we will need her help."
"So you can read my thoughts?"
"We are one, John, merged. Cameron will need to merge with us to escape zerospace and help us destroy the Beast."
John laughed. His laughter drowned immediately in the crushing darkness. "How the hell am I supposed to find Cameron? For all I know this place stretches on forever! And how will we even get out?"
"John, I cannot explain much more at this time except to tell you that you have to trust me completely. You are not a machine. We will escape because you have been in zerospace before and you were able to leave it because of your human nature and because of Cameron's love for you. As I formed an unwilling trinity with DEUS and Skynet, I will willingly form one with you and Cameron. And zerospace does not go on forever...it is a singularity, a mathematical point of infinite smallness. Cameron is here. Call her!"
Finally putting his doubts aside, John called for his lover. "Cameron!" He waited a moment before screaming, "I'm here!"
Impossibly, John heard her voice reverberating in the black void. "John?"
John's heart leaped. He giddily yelled, "I'm here, Cameron! Can you find me?"
For what seemed like forever the void was silent. "Cameron!" he screamed again.
As before, silence. John's despair nearly overtook him when after an eternity of minutes he felt the warm and familiar sensation of an arm wrapping around his chest, felt her lips touch his neck, heard her say, "Gotcha!"
John grinned as he began to glow, and, turning to face Cameron, said, "I thought you liked walks in the park with a peach smoothie under sunny skies."
As they merged and their glow increased in magnitude, Cameron, smiling sweetly, said, "And I thought you liked to rescue girls in distress, John Connor." She pressed her face to his and kissed him lovingly as their merging completed, three entities amalgamated into a single human/machine consciousness. John hung in the void alone, yet far from lonely.
"Remember, buster, now you've got passengers," Cameron said snidely. "Don't run us all off the road."
"You know how bad a driver I am," John wisecracked. "John Henry, what's your plan?"
"This may feel painful, but it is necessary," the AI said. "I have complete control over your neurovascular system, and as we share a common bio-neural bond via your archeons, especially with Cameron present to help your system remain stable, I believe I may be able to amplify your unique electromagnetic signature along with ours to punch us out of zerospace and back into Macrospace."
John sighed. "Whatever you have to do, do it. We have nothing to lose."
"On the contrary, John Connor, we have everything to lose. Prepare yourself."
John impulsively closed his eyes and as he did blinding pain rocketed through the core of his being and he screamed. The pain intensified and he had no doubt that if he opened his eyes he would find himself glowing with the magnitude of a star. A strange humming sound pulsated through him, and the humming turned into a roar. The pain became nearly too much for him to bear.
He let out a cry and he felt something hold itself tightly to him, recognized Cameron's voice. "John!" she cried, "Please hang on! I'm here with you and I love you!"
John Connor screamed again.
Topanga Canyon, August, 2013
John's unconscious body suddenly lurched on the bed, arching painfully in the air for several seconds before apparently relaxing. Kate shrieked when she saw it and she watched anxiously for a few seconds as his arms and legs violently twitched. Outside the infirmary the sounds of shooting and explosions inched nearer and her heart pounded. Hawkins and another man brought two wounded, screaming fighters in and she momentarily forgot about the comatose Resistance leader to tend to them. Their wounds were terrible, one having massive loss of blood and another with a chest wound. As she worked on them she asked, "What's going on?"
"It's bad," said Hawkins with enough fear in his voice to freeze her soul. His face was spattered with dirt and blood and one of his lenses appeared cracked. "They're steadily pushing us back and we have nowhere else to go. I've never seen anything like it...it's like they're robots. Bullets won't stop them. Wright and the Connor woman took out two but there are too goddamn many!" An explosion boomed in the background and Hawkins flinched. It sounded like a grenade. He gripped his carbine tightly and he and the other ex-cop ran out to rejoin the battle.
Kate administered local anesthesia and worked on the chest wound, draining it and extracting shrapnel. She had almost no whole blood available to treat the other hemorrhaging man but she had an IV going into him. Sarah suddenly rushed into the infirmary with a smoking shotgun in her hand and said, "We have to wake him. Now! Kate, bring him out of it!"
"Jesus, it'll take time, and I'm working on this man here!" Kate protested.
"I don't care!" Sarah shouted. "We need to get him awake and moved! Our defenses are collapsing! Get him out of it! And we need to move Kyle." She glanced over at the boy, who was stirring and murmuring. She raced out of the infirmary, hearing Kate cursing loudly, and ran toward the communications room where Barnes and Murch were anxiously hunched over the desk where the laptop, with Cameron's chip attached via a jury-rigged USB adapter, sat open and humming. "Hey," the small programmer exclaimed, "the connection went dead!"
"Shut up, Murch, and collect this shit and move it out of here! We're leaving!" Sarah pointed to Cameron's body, lying serenely on a cot nearby. "Barnes, I want you to get the thermite ready for this. We're going to burn it if they get closer."
"Holy shit!" Barnes said incredulously. "Does General Connor know you're going to do that?"
"I don't give a shit!" she hollered. "We can't allow it to fall into Kaliba's hands! John will understand. Murch, grab what you can carry. Let's move!"
Barnes held up his hands. "Sarah...John gave me strict orders not to allow anything to happen to the body. He said he's determined to get Cameron back and I believe he'll do it. We gotta give him more time!"
Sarah felt the flush of heat on her cheeks and before she was aware of her actions she found herself pointing the shotgun at Barnes. "John Connor put me and Marcus in command, sergeant," she hissed. "You either obey me or so help me I'll-"
"What?" Barnes said, advancing closer to the end of the barrel. "You'll do what? Put a hole in my torso? John Connor is my commanding general, not you or that hybrid machine freak running this losing battle." Sarah's jaw tightened at that last statement. Barnes continued, ignoring the shotgun. "Until I hear directly from him, I'm guarding both the equipment and the body until we're overrun. Then I'll decide what to do with it."
Sarah lowered the shotgun and as she did so Martin Bedell shambled into the room and yelled, "What's going on? They've broken through and they'll be here within minutes! Exits are totally blocked off. Sarah, we either have to find another way out or we do what you suggested earlier."
Sarah's eyes gleamed like green crystals. "I have enough Semtex to blow this place ten times to hell. But there is another escape route."
Sarah sighed. "The air filtration system," she explained, "it has a service duct that is large enough for a man to fit through. It would be slow and dangerous to evacuate that way, but we could at least sneak the wounded out. It ends at Topanga Creek, about a quarter mile away. To anybody stumbling across it it'll look like a large drainage pipe. The exit is secured with heavy mesh wiring but it could be cut off with bolt cutters."
"Let's do it, then," said Martin. "We've lost four men and have another four seriously wounded and we're running low on ammo. The rest of it is in the trucks, but we can't risk the aggressor force finding them. If we can evacuate, we can use the trucks to try to book." He gazed at Cameron's sleeping body and said, "I wish we had a Terminator fighting with us. We'd maul these guys if we did."
Sarah looked at Bedell, then at Murch, then at Cameron's body. The idea formed in her head the second she laid her eyes on the deactivated cyborg.
"We have a Terminator," she heard herself say.
Macrospace, % time 6.113u 2.998s 7:44.95 55.1%
John found himself face down on a gravelly surface. He quickly shambled to a sitting position and looked around. Smoking city ruins and a dark sky greeted his eyes. He was back in Macrospace. "John Henry? Cameron? Still with me?" he said.
"Yes, we are," came the comforting voice of the AI. "And it would appear that my little trick worked. We are back. But I sense that we will not be safe for long."
"Shit," said John and as he wobbled to his feet he felt the ground tremble again. The earth lurched violently and the street he was standing on split open from beneath and a massive, flaming chrome death's head with horns launched itself out. Two massive and deformed mechanical hands and arms followed, and the Beast clambered out with a painful-sounding roar. Flames shot out of the earth as it crawled out and its hellishly-red glowing eyes fixed on John hatefully.
"IF I CAN'T KILL YOU, CONNOR, THEN I'LL SETTLE FOR TAKING YOU DOWN WITH ME TO HELL!" it screamed. It lunged for John clumsily but the human consciousness darted out of the way with speed that astonished him. John raced for the cover of a blackened, crumbling warehouse and as he clambered over the rubble he shouted, "Guys, what's next? How do I fight this son of a bitch? Can I order weapons like in The Matrix?"
The Beast roared and swiped at the remains of the warehouse. John ran, dodging falling debris. "John Henry!" he screamed. "What now? Has it been an hour yet? That's when they'll wake me up!"
"John!" Cameron's voice screamed from within. "Look out!" John looked behind him to see the Beast's massive metal clawed hand reaching for him. He jumped over the remains of a wall and juked to his right as the hand crushed the wall. He'd never felt better nor more athletic in his life and he knew it was the other AIs' presence enhancing his abilities. Then again, none of this is real...I wonder if I can "imagine" some kind of weapon to kill this asshole with? he thought.
"No weapon you can imagine will work against him," he heard John Henry say sadly. "He is in complete control of Macrospace now. But I believe there may be a way to destroy him."
As John Henry said that, John felt the familiar tingling of heat that intensified to bright glowing. He felt his being expand and contract, pulling the breath from his lungs and he gasped as he, John Henry, and Cameron un-merged. He closed his eyes and dropped to his knees. When he opened his eyes he saw them standing before him. Cameron reached down to help him up and held him in a tight embrace. "You okay, John?" she asked.
"Better now," he quipped. The three of them jumped out of the way as the Beast's hand tore into the ground where they stood. John Henry took them behind the nearly-intact shell of what looked like a fire station and stood before them with his hands on their shoulders.
"John," the benevolent machine entity said, and John could see genuine sorrow in his eyes. "Please...tell Savannah and James that I love them very much and I always shall. Tell James that...I believe. And I hope to be waiting for him and Savannah in heaven with Jesus."
"John Henry..." Cameron whispered. Tears glistened on her eyelids. "What are you doing?"
"Something I should have done four years ago," John Henry answered. He took his hands off them and backed away. "Greater love no man hath then this...that he should layeth down his life for his friends," he said, smiling. His smile glowed, and in seconds his entire body shimmered with golden light.
"I'm going to show my brother what I am capable of doing when I get angry enough," he said, laughing. He turned to face the massive horned Terminator skull of the Beast, which had appeared behind him. It leered viciously at the three of them but seemed to frown as it glared down at the shining John Henry.
"AND WHAT DO WE HAVE HERE?" it roared. "Little brother wants to play? You wanna try to talk some sense into me again, you little prick? Try to shut me down like last time? I don't think so, little Johnny Henry. I wondered where you'd been for so long and all this time you were hiding under my nose. But I have the DEUS AI in my pocket and I have its strength. What can you do now, you fuck?" It laughed as it lowered its open jaws toward John Henry.
"I would run, if I were you," John Henry said to John and Cameron as the Beast's mouth enveloped his shining figure. He was devoured in a crashing of metal teeth and Cameron pulled at a gaping John. "Run!" she yelled.
John turned to run and as he did he heard a massive, anguished roar from the Beast. He glanced back as he ran and saw pinpricks of light burst from between the Beast's joints, saw its mouth open and a flash of white light exploded from it. The eyes shattered and the horns fell from its head and crashed to the ground. The Beast let out a final, agonized roar and a blazing flash of light erupted from its skull. John turned away and an explosion boomed from where the Beast lay dying. Cameron grabbed him and she threw him and herself to the ground as pieces of metal shot through the air above them. John waited a moment before cautiously sitting up and saw the smoking, disintegrating remains of the Beast lying harmlessly on the ground.
"What the hell-?" John said.
"John Henry, the Beast, and DEUS were all based on the Turk," Cameron explained as she helped John to his feet. "The Turk by itself was a simple learning program that happened to learn very quickly. Within time it evolved to a full-fledged AI that developed a consciousness, but unlike John Henry, Skynet was never nurtured and so as it evolved basic emotions it grew resentful...then fearful. And finally, hateful."
John said, "But what did John Henry do? I still have no idea how he killed it."
"John Henry was a younger AI, but he was evolved by Weaver to be more humanlike, especially when Ellison and Savannah Weaver got involved," Cameron said. "He understood the meaning of sacrifice. Remember the worm program he developed in 2030 and you uploaded it when you came back? That was John Henry himself, but he carried the worm's code in his own. The worm was enough to destroy Skynet's base code, but he didn't use it. As he evolved over the last few years in Macrospace, the worm evolved and grew stronger. He couldn't bring himself to kill his 'brother' back in 2009, but he held onto his weapon...until now." She reached out to take John's hand and squeezed it.
"John," she said, and pulled him to her lips to kiss him. "Thank you for saving me."
"I love you, Cam," he said, burying his face into her neck. "I've always loved you and I'm going to get you out of here. We have a wireless network set up in a safety bunker at Topanga, coordinates 34.138946, -118.607397. The hour is almost up, I think, and-"
As he spoke, Cameron and the rest of Macrospace shimmered and he was thrust into darkness. Cameron watched John disappear before her eyes and she screamed, "John!"
"Nooooo!" John Connor screamed in turn as he found himself staring into the bewildered and blood-spattered face of Kate Brewster.
Topanga Canyon, August, 2013
"Give me the chip, Murch," Sarah commanded, holding her hand out.
"Wh-what?" he stammered. "General Connor isn't here to tell us he got his friend back yet!"
"I don't care!" she bellowed. "We need to reactivate her now!"
"Jesus, Sarah, you don't know what will happen if you do that!" Martin said, his eyes wild. "If she's back to her original Skynet state, she might try to kill all of us!"
"It's a chance I'm willing to take," Sarah said. She pushed the protesting Matt Murch out of her way and yanked the chip from the USB port. She turned around to find Martin Bedell and Barnes aiming pistols at her.
"Sarah, don't," Martin said. "You can't."
"I don't have time for this," she snarled. She reached out with astonishing speed and yanked Martin's pistol from his grasp. She launched a boot into his midsection and he went flying backward. Barnes managed to squeeze off one round that hit Sarah in the shoulder but she moved through the biting pain and knocked the gun out of his hand. She punched him and threw him to the ground. She then marched over to Cameron's body and pulled a knife from its belt sheath. She pulled back brown hair from where the cyborg's cranial port was and quickly cut a semi-circle around the port, drawing a little blood as the flesh was sliced through. She wiped blood away and used the knife edge to pry open the shock dampener. It popped open with a small hiss of air, revealing the empty CPU port.
"Tin Miss, you better not give me any shit or I'll burn you," Sarah muttered as she inserted the CPU chip. She pressed the shock dampener back on the port and stood there for 120 seconds with her shotgun and a grenade ready, waiting.
Two minutes later, Cameron's eyes flicked open and the Terminator quickly sat up on the cot, looking around. Looking for threats?, Sarah thought, nearly fascinated. Cameron, or the cyborg that was once called that name, looked forward, staring into space. Its face was catatonic, mechanical. On the floor, Barnes sat up painfully and groaned, "Sarah, stop, you don't know what you're doing!"
The Terminator's eyes suddenly glowed a cyan blue hue. "Cyberdyne Systems Model 715," it announced flatly in Cameron's voice. "TOK series infiltration prototype. Running startup routines and diagnostics. Stand by. Diagnostics complete. All systems one hundred percent operating status. Awaiting commands."
"Stop!" Martin shouted as he rolled to a sitting position on the floor. "Sarah, pull its chip! You can't trust it!"
"Voice not recognized," the cyborg said.
"It hasn't started killing people yet!" Sarah shouted.
"Voice recognized as Sarah Connor," the cyborg said. Its eyes faded to their normal brown irises. "Awaiting commands, Sarah Connor." On the floor nearby Matt Murch gazed at the cyborg in amazement.
Sarah tepidly relaxed her grip on the shotgun. "My commands, you mean?"
"I have been programmed by Connor One to implement any commands you issue," the cyborg with Cameron's face and voice said. "Awaiting commands."
Sarah stared in stupefaction at the Terminator, feeling all the familiar emotions of resentment and amazement meld into a molten ball of uncertainty. She shook them away and cautiously held the combat shotgun out to the cyborg. It stared at the weapon blankly. "Take it," Sarah said.
"Affirmative," the cyborg said. Its emotionless tone unnerved Sarah. She looked the machine in the eye and said, "We have hybrid human-cyborg aggressor forces overrunning this base. I order you to engage and destroy them. I am one, and there is another named Marcus Wright, who is in command of defenders at the exit hub at the front of the bunker. Please don't kill us."
"Understood," the Terminator said. It abruptly stood up from the cot, checked the shotgun's chamber, loaded several more shells from Sarah's outstretched hand and began marching out of the room, stepping over a gaping Martin Bedell.
"Oh, one more thing," Sarah called. The Terminator turned around and stared at her.
"Your name is Cameron," said Sarah.
"Understood. New designation coded Priority Alpha as 'Cameron,'" it said, and disappeared out the door.
"Wright!" somebody screamed amid the roaring, staccato gunfire. "Two over here breaking through!" There were several shots, a scream, and a body hitting the floor. Marcus pulled himself away from his position behind a corner and raced over to take on two aggressors rushing toward one of the hallways. He hurled his body into them, slamming them backward. He quickly and desperately maneuvered his body to get on top and thrust his K-Bar knife through the larynx of one and whipped his shotgun up to blow the other's head almost completely off.
Then he was moving again, looking around. The Resistance was slowly vacating the entrances to the hallways and moving backward. Many were firing and carrying wounded comrades as they slowly retreated. The N1s were steadily pouring into the entrance hub, seemingly shrugging off bullets as they slowly massed. A grenade was thrown in his direction by the aggressor force. He snatched it out of the air and threw it back. It exploded in their midst and secondary explosions went off, the shockwaves throwing the N1s through the air and sending shrapnel flying. A piece struck Marcus in the face and as he went down a huge shape loomed over him. He tried to bring his shotgun around but then he felt something strike him hard in the chest, knocking the wind out of his lungs. He lay there gasping as a huge, powerfully-built black man stood over him with a bigass assault rifle aimed at him.
"You sure went down easier than I thought," Lieutenant Simmons said sarcastically as he loosed a burst of rounds into Marcus's chest. The hybrid spat blood, convulsed, and lay twitching. Simmons smiled triumphantly and was about to finish the traitor off with a round to the head when several shots slammed into his cheek and neck. Marcus painfully looked over to see Blair blazing away at the huge N1. Simmons forgot about Wright as he emptied his magazine at her but she flitted away at the last second, his rounds shattering plaster. A few defenders, emboldened by Blair's action, began blasting away at him. He grimaced in pain and slammed another magazine into his rifle, switched the selector to full auto mode and began spraying bullets at the dwindling human resistance.
"What the hell, Kate, slow down!" John said groggily as he was helped to a sitting position by the doctor. He heard rapid-firing gunshots, men screaming and sounds of grenades going off almost right outside the infirmary door. "Who's attacking us?"
"Marcus said they're N1 cyborgs," Kate screamed. She tried to get him to his feet and he stood up, staggering like a drunk.
"Oh," John said, seemingly amazed. "Wonder how they found us..."
"Who the hell cares!" she shrieked. She pulled his hand and said, "We have to get out of here! Sarah said there might be an escape route in the rear."
"Where's...Cameron...?" he said, confused. "She was right here...oh...no..." The realization sobered him quickly. "Shit! You brought me out too quickly! She's still in Macrospace!"
"I am, John!" he suddenly heard Cameron cry in his mind. "I'm looking for a cyberspace node near your location. Once I enter it I can access your wireless network and download to my chip. Hurry! Macrospace is beginning to shut down without the Turk AIs maintaining it!"
"Okay!" he called out to her. He shook himself from Kate's hand and shambled out the door, running smack into his mother. "Mom!" he shouted in her face, "Cameron's ready! Is the network still up? We need to get her downloaded!"
"That might be a small problem," Sarah deadpanned. Her face, hair and clothes were caked with grime and blood. Her arms and jacket were torn up like she'd been in a knife fight. Part of the flesh on her left arm was open and John could see metal exposed. Her eyes appeared hollow, her cheeks sunken. Her frame trembled. "I just sent her on a termination mission."
He stared at her. "You did what?"
"She's out there fighting," Sarah said, and as she did a small explosion ripped through a nearby wall, making them duck to the floor.
Lieutenant Simmons led the N1 aggressor force past the entrance hub, stepping over a dozen dead former policemen bodies as they entered the main bunker hallway. They had lost six N1 prototypes, most of them to Wright and the Connor woman in close combat. He bared his teeth in frustration as they were nowhere to be found, but the underground bunker had yet to be completely explored, and all other possible escape routes had to be sealed. He, like most of his men, looked the worse for wear. His combat gear was partially shredded, many areas of his flesh were torn open and his biomechanical parts exposed, and he noticed a small malfunction in his right leg, which seemed to drag as he walked.
Short bursts of carbine fire erupted from down one of the halls and Simmons directed his men to return fire. "Search every chamber," he grated. "Once the cyborg subject is located, we leave immediately to return to Tyrell."
"I think I found it," one of his men said, his voice almost awestruck. Simmons turned to see what the soldier was talking about and he himself froze in astonishment. He almost could not comprehend what he was seeing.
A woman clad in a black leather jacket and jeans and boots marched calmly toward them from down one of the adjacent hallways, a Remington combat shotgun held tightly in her hands. Her wavy brown hair bobbed as she walked. Her delicate-looking features were serene, her cheeks healthy, her brown eyes vapid. Simmons and his men stared, unsure what to do.
"Sir?" one of them said. "It's her, the subject."
"I see that," Simmons said.
"What do we do?"
"We secure it," the aggressor leader said, sounding annoyed. "Hopefully without damaging it." He held his assault rifle up and loudly ordered, "Skynet prototype, drop your weapon and get down on the floor now, for chip extraction."
The female cyborg ignored his command. When she was less than ten feet away she pulled the shotgun up to her shoulder and calmly said, "You are terminated."
The shotgun roared and the blast struck Simmons like a speeding train hitting a car on the tracks. He fell backward into one of the other men and the rest of the aggressor force opened fire. The cyborg moved faster than even the renegade Wright and Connor had in the firefight earlier, speeding laterally around the room while simultaneously firing off shells. When the shotgun was empty and without missing a beat she scooped up a discarded Colt machine gun and used that. When the magazine was empty she picked one off a dead invader's belt and slapped it in to resume firing. The entry hub and joining hallways blazed in white and yellow light of gunfire for the next few minutes until it dwindled and finally stopped.
Strewn around the entry hub were over thirty dead or dying aggressor troopers. The cyborg stood in the middle of the carnage with a smoking assault rifle, her clothing and flesh peppered with dozens of gunshots, a few areas of her cheeks and forehead open with gleaming metal showing beneath. She looked casually around for more threats, and her digital HUD registered none at present. She seemed to beam with approval when she was suddenly grabbed from behind and she dropped the weapon. She found herself grappling with the nearly-shredded remains of Simmons, and he held her in an amazingly strong grip. She tried to wriggle out of his hold but he was too strong. He reached for her CPU port, attempting to open it.
"You're coming back with me, bitch," he growled as he fumbled with the port cover. He almost had it wrenched open when he felt the muzzle of a shotgun press against his cheek.
"Goodnight, pal," Marcus Wright said as he pulled the trigger. Half of Simmons's head disappeared in a crimson mist with metal pieces rocketing through the air. The cyborg wrenched herself out of the dead N1 leader's grip and with speed that shocked Marcus, swept his legs out from under him with a graceful kick and wrenched the shotgun from his hands as he fell to the ground. Her HUD registered him as an N1 aggressor as she scanned his body, noting the metal components exposed through shot-open flesh, and as he stared up at her in horror she began pulling the shotgun's trigger.
"Cameron!" a voice screamed, and the cyborg immediately recognized the new contact. She turned to face Connor One, her chip's programmer. Sarah Connor and a few other humans stood nervously behind him. She spotted a curious-looking tool in his hand, recognized it as a screwdriver.
"Voice recognized as Connor One," she announced flatly. Her eyes glowed bright blue in the dim light. "Awaiting new commands."
John Connor slowly walked up to her and said, "Discard your weapon and submit to chip extraction, Cameron." He stood there gasping, unsure of what reaction he would get.
The cyborg called Cameron immediately obeyed, carefully placing the shotgun on the ground. She then bowed her head, showing John her exposed port cover. "Proceed," she said.
John reached toward her head with the flat head screwdriver in his hand and with some trepidation pried open the shock dampener. He reached inside with his fingers and pulled the chip from her endo skull. Her body did not go limp immediately but slowly sank to the floor as John stood alone with the CPU chip in his hand, letting out a long sigh.
Marcus looked up at John, said, "Can I be relieved of command now?" and slumped to the floor, out like a light.
Thompson's spinner ran out of fuel and he had to make an emergency landing. He walked the two miles back to the bunker to find three heavy transport spinners in the perimeter as well as the other SWAT trucks parked there. The fallout had largely ceased coming down but he knew that there was still the danger of radiation poisoning from the ash on the ground. His eyebrows raised as he saw the perimeter. The chain link fence had been damaged, the disguised utility shacks had been flattened and there was some smoke wafting out of the underground shelter. As he got closer, he saw people milling around outside. From his distance he could recognize some of the faces.
John Connor and six other people, including Blair, were outside. They went around carefully checking inside the heavy spinners with assault rifles. They found nobody inside them and spent some time checking the wireless equipment.
"We have good working wireless here, John," Blair said as she and John exited the big aerodyne vehicle "Should be good enough to get a network going to the laptops."
John nodded, said, "Thanks, Blair," and spied Thompson walking up. "Thompson!" he called. "Good to see you! You alright?"
"Tired, sir," the spinner pilot said, huffing. He noticed the looks on everyone's faces and asked, "Did...did we...lose a few people...?"
Nobody spoke for a moment. Finally Blair said, "We did." She gave him a solemn glance and disappeared back inside the heavy spinner. "It's up and running, John!" she called from inside.
John nodded and said to Thompson, "Get inside and get rid of your clothing and get showered. Dr. Brewster will administer iodide to prevent further damage. It's still dangerous out here and we'll have to move again soon."
Thompson nodded wearily and followed John inside. Everywhere he looked he saw evidence of mass carnage. Blood and bullet holes covered nearly every inch of the walls. He saw bodies being stacked neatly, almost like logs, in the entrance hub. "Oh my God," he said.
John said, "We paid for it, believe me." He sighed and said, "Fourteen men, six wounded, two of them seriously. Dr. Brewster's working on them now and she'll want to see you as soon as you get there but one of them, Harris, doesn't look like he'll make it. He left behind a wife and two kids to join us. And he told me that if he was given a choice again, he would have still joined us."
He looked deep into Thompson's eyes, said, "That's the price of faith," and left a gawking Thompson to walk down the hall to the communications room. He found Murch inside inspecting Cameron's chip. Cameron's body was back on the cot, shot up and bruised but otherwise intact. He knew the synthetic flesh would heal without any problem. "It's ready to go, John," Murch said. "Do you even have a way of contacting it...I mean...her?"
John smiled. "I do, actually." He heard somebody enter and turned to find Sarah walking in. Her face had several stitches and her right arm was in a sling. His mother looked haggard but she smiled self-consciously. "This is it, huh?" she asked.
John said, "Yeah." He closed his eyes and completely relaxed himself. He exerted his thoughts toward Cameron and felt himself reaching across an impossible chasm. "Cameron?"
Her voice came to him immediately. "I'm here, John. I've crossed over to cyberspace. I barely had enough time to do that when Macrospace collapsed. There's no trace of John Henry or DEUS or the Beast. I'm going through the node and I'll look for your IP signature."
John smiled. "We're ready, Cameron. Come on home." He turned to Murch. "Matt, plug it in, please." The programmer nodded and inserted the Terminator CPU into the USB port of the laptop.
Cameron Phillips smiled as she found the node to access John's IP signature, a rippling, blue-hued portal that crackled with electrical life. As she did so a sudden sadness nearly overcame her. She had existed as a disembodied entity for so long that she'd quickly come to enjoy the freedom of being able to go nearly anywhere, unencumbered by physical matter. She knew she was going to miss being a creature of pure energy, its perks. Of being able to zip around the world and eavesdrop on anyone, of the giddy pleasure of watching John as he slept at night and frowning in disapproval of his excessive drinking over the years.
No matter, she thought to herself. He's still John Connor, and I love him. I always have.
She quickly put those thoughts behind her as she found herself suddenly streaking along a brightly-lit kaleidoscope of shimmering colors and flashes of lightning, coalescing into a purple Tesla coil of tentacled plasma as she moved at near-lightspeed toward what appeared to be a silvery cavern of metal walls and gleaming circuitry as she felt herself compress, felt the space get very tight and Cameron cried out as she felt herself fragment and her components occupy every space of her chip, felt her emotions fragment and then compress.
"Vehicle incoming," came Blair's warning over her spinner's radio. She was high in the air over the compound in her vehicle when she spotted the dark blue SUV approach. "It's Ellison!" she shouted. She looked down to see several heavy-garbed figures exit one of the hatches with carbines and her smile turned to a mournful frown. She thought about the doctor, Kate, and knew that today was not going to be a good day. There would be more tragedy awaiting, Blair was sure, and more blood would be spilled before this was all over. If it ever would be.
James Ellison rolled his window down and addressed the guards at the gate. "Hey guys," he said. "I was told there was a five-star hotel here with hot showers and a breakfast buffet. Compliments of John Connor. Right?"
"Sure," Hawkins said as he looked inside the vehicle. Savannah was waking from a short nap in the front passenger seat. Derek Reese sat in the back looking forlorn. Something else sat back with with him, wrapped in blankets, and Hawkins frowned. Instead of inquiring what it was, he waved the vehicle through and watched it roll toward one of the demolished shacks, parking next to one of the SWAT trucks.
Kate Brewster heard the news from an ex-cop named Steinberg that a vehicle had arrived and excitedly left the infirmary to grab a winter coat and run outside. As she pulled the coat around her and grimaced at the biting cold that greeted her she looked in the dwindling light outside at the Explorer. Her mother had finally made it. She smiled as she saw the big black man, Ellison, his red-haired daughter, and the lanky kid (Eric?) get out of the SUV. She frowned in puzzlement when she didn't see her mother exit the vehicle.
Then Ellison saw Kate and his half-smile disappeared completely. He stared at her and she stared at him. Kate felt an icy ball form in her belly and a cold dread worse than anything she'd ever felt before in her life settled over her soul. Ellison looked like he was going to cry as he went around the vehicle, opened the back passenger door and lifted something out. He came walking around with something big wrapped in blankets and Kate continued to stare. He approached her with whatever it was in his arms and Kate suddenly began to scream. She wailed like a wounded animal as James Ellison began to feel tears roll down his cheeks and he heard Savannah and Derek begin to sob as he came closer to Kate with her mother's body in his arms and he stood there for what seemed like an age, holding the parcel of sorrow in his arms, closing his eyes and praying as Kate Brewster fell to her knees and screamed, inconsolable.
Such is the price of faith.
Cameron Phillips heard her name being called by a familiar voice and she opened her eyes. Her HUD displayed a multitude of data, most of it routine, and she gleaned the important information in a nanosecond. Her onboard diagnostics indicated 85% efficiency, with various indications of cosmetic damage to her synthetic flesh. Archeon levels were nominal, oxygen levels were stable. All hardware components were functioning within normal parameters.
She heard her name being spoken again and she sat up on the cot she lay on and looked around. John Connor and his mother, Sarah, stood nearby. Sarah was awkwardly holding an AR-15 ready with one good arm and the other in a sling and Cameron frowned. She didn't think the weapon was necessary but when she looked at John's incredulous face again, she smiled.
"John," said Cameron, looking very happy. "You're here!"
John Connor opened his mouth without saying anything for a moment and Cameron hung her head quizzically, the way she always did when human foibles perplexed her. He was still handsome, although more ruggedly so than the youthful appearance he had while they were in Macrospace. His dark hair was disheveled as it always was and he looked exhausted and hungry, his cheeks somewhat sunken, his countenance pale.
She frowned, ran a quick bio-scan on him and detected slight malnourishment and Vitamin D deficiency. She pouted. Perhaps a hearty breakfast of pancakes and bacon with eggs would help him regain some of his health, coupled with at least ten hours of rest. She searched her directives for protection commands and found none, which surprised her. Cameron then made up her mind in an instant. She would see to it that John Connor, the man she came to love without understanding the logic of it at all, would be cared for and fed well as best as she could.
John cleared his throat and finally said, nearly whispering, "Yeah, I am. And so are you."
Cameron smiled and swung her legs around to stand before him. "It almost feels strange to be back in this body, but my systems are quickly readjusting," she said in a tone that was pleasantly casual. "I'm so happy we're together again, John, outside Macrospace. I'll miss John Henry, though. But you and I are together again."
She drew closer to him, noting something strange happening with his eyes. "You risked yourself to save me, John. Why did you do that? You could have died or been trapped forever."
John felt himself tremble as he reached out to touch her shoulders. "Because I love you, Cameron, and you love me. That's why I came after you."
Cameron blinked, processed what he said and nodded. "Thank you for explaining," she said. She frowned in puzzlement and said, "John, are you crying?"
John answered Cameron by suddenly pulling her to him and pressing his lips to hers in a passionate and loving kiss that made all their years apart from each other melt away like ice in a heat that burned through both their souls like a fire that had been dampened for so long and gloriously rekindled with a love that transcended all logic, all hope, and all human reason.