Lay Across the World and Explode Everything

by Amy L. Hull

ooo

Written for smercy in the Yuletide 2012 Exchange, who wanted to see how Sarah sets up her network and got her supplies between T1 and T2. Title and section divides from "[Long Time Ago]" by Leslie Marmon Silko (from her novel Ceremony, available as last poem listed on this page: http www dot angelfire dot com md LittleFlute first dot html). Thanks to Mecha for the read-through, Marley for the line-edit, and Merlin Missy for the thorough and insightful beta-read with exactly the right suggestions.

ooo

ooo

What I have is a story,

but as I tell the story

it will begin to happen

ooo

The flicker of the yellow center line had been hypnotic, certain. There are no lines on these roads that lead deeper into mountains and deserts and jungles. Nothing is certain. Nothing but the date that overlays everything, the one I'm racing away from as time races toward it. August 29, 1997. Judgment Day.

Enrique Salceda.

He was the one.

Sarah knew, from the moment she heard him mentioned, that he was the key. She knew it like she'd known she was pregnant even before she was released from the hospital after Kyle's death. His name was whispered, with reverence, caution, and a glance back over the speaker's shoulder like he might be there.

Anyone who inspired that kind of respect and fear, that was the person to learn from.

There was so much to learn.

The men at the gun stores were gruff but protective. They sized up her cast, her crutches, her youth, her boobs. Always her boobs and the brilliant smile she'd used to get good tips. They stood against her as they coached her on stance, grip, different weapons, and she got them to talk about their lives, wives, home defense, hunting, the government. If they tensed, she leaned into them and fired whatever weapon she was holding. They always kept talking.

She carefully recorded the names of the people most mentioned as "off the grid," the ones most "prepared," as the guys put it.

She'd sought them out, listened, reminded herself not to dismiss the parts of what they said that sounded crazy. Crazy was a relative term, re-defined by the fact that what she knew to be true was far beyond everyone else's definition of crazy.

So she listened, planned, made lists of the kinds of things the most "prepared" people had stored, where they stored them, how they'd use them.

Meanwhile, the thirty-six hours that changed her life replayed in the back of her mind on a continuous loop. Running, defensive driving, cooking plastique, making pipe bombs, making love, running, running, running from a machine that couldn't be stopped. Sometimes she questioned, doubted, but every dream reminded her, the pain in her body reminded her. A robot from the future had come, had tried to kill her, would annihilate the human race, except the few her son would save.

It sounded crazy.

She wished it was crazy.

She reviewed every crazy word Kyle Reese had said, every detail. She committed them to memory, recorded them onto a little tape recorder from Radio Shack.

"A nuclear war. A few years from now, all this, this whole place, everything, it's gone.

It was the machines, Sarah. Defense network computers. New... powerful... hooked into everything, trusted to run it all. ...One man who taught us to fight. Your son, Sarah."

She recorded Kyle's words from John, "Thank you, Sarah, for your courage through the dark years. I can't help you with what you must soon face, except to say that the future is not set. You must be stronger than you imagine you can be."

Strong. She gripped the steering wheel. Strong would happen later.

For now, she had to learn how to fight, how to survive. Hell, she had to learn what to do to survive, and to survive she needed resources. She remembered heading into Mexico three months ago, wryly remembering how she'd once declared she'd never go there again. She and Mom had gone to Acapulco when she was sixteen, and they both got so sick they were two days late going home. They'd sworn it would never be worth risking that again.

But Mom was dead, and she was driving through the Chihuahua desert alone. A chuckle escaped her. She should be scared, and scared of more than throwing up. But she wasn't scared. Maybe this was what the beginning of "strong" felt like.

She'd made a start. Before she left L.A., the hardest-core gun shop guy had slipped an address into the back pocket of her jeans, copping a feel at the same time. The address was good, though, and Sarah spent her first three months in Mexico with a man who'd improved her shooting, taught her the beginnings of knife throwing, and, most important, gotten her enough contacts to get close to Enrique.

The desert streaked past, dry and monotonous. Behind her was the gas station, a little boy with a Polaroid, a storm. The unmarked road passed under her tires, hypnotic in its sameness. Midday found her turning onto a road that would not have been discernible from the rest of the desert were it not for the fence row lined with rattlesnake heads. The place screamed, "Warning! Keep out!"

While Sarah of Before would have screamed at the display, the snake heads made this seem exactly the kind of place she belonged.

Before she was even out of the car, four guns were leveled at her and the dog. She put her hands up, head down, and waited.

Hands slapped up and down her back, arms, legs, under her hair. The tallest man grasped her belly and wiggled it. He laughed. "She's clean," he called.

One of the men held up her .357, waggled it.

Salceda raised an eyebrow.

Sarah lowered her hands slowly, then reached out to the man in front of her. "Enrique Salceda?" His eyes narrowed. "I'm Sarah Connor, and I've come to learn from the best."

ooo

Caves across the ocean

in caves of dark hills

ooo

Her heart raced when the helicopter lifted off the ground. As the pilot dodged treetops and skimmed the ground where the land was flat, Sarah swallowed and swallowed. She would not throw up. She would not.

Enrique trusted her, as much because he and Jolanda loved John as anything else. But this...this was a test, and Sarah knew it. A test of her loyalty. A test to see if she could hack it.

She had to.

For John, for the future.

The chopper banked and she suppressed a gasp and gripped the seat.

The moment the skids touched down, Enrique's cousin, the head of this raid, waved them out.

"Ándale! Ándale! Rapido!"

They spread in pairs in formation, as they'd practiced, returned three times with wooden crates stamped "Property of the United States," and were back in the air in six and a half minutes.

After they'd stashed their haul in a cave high up the cliffs on the Gulf side of Baja, they recounted the raid, leaning against the rocks and plants, laughing and passing a bottle of tequila as sweat poured off of them.

Sarah jolted awake when a boot shoved her shoulder. At least she'd not slept to the point in the dream where the blinding light and blast wave atomized everything. Out the window of the chopper, she watched the fleeting beauty of the cliffs and ocean and countryside. Barely twenty years and this would all be gone.

By the time she gathered John from Jolanda's arms, her breasts were aching. She curled up around John as he nursed. The men outside cheered in raucous drunkenness. Sarah smiled against John's peach-fuzz hair, kissed his head, and sang softly.

"Hush, little baby, don't say a word, Mama's gonna take you in a whirly-bird..."

ooo

When they look

they see only objects.

The world is a dead thing for them

ooo

"Why would you work with us, gringa? How do we know you are not with your FBI-CIA-NSA or other American police?"

Sarah shrugged. "You don't. But you like what I'm offering."

Two of the men looked slowly up and down her body. The one with the ponytail stepped up to an inch from her. "Tell us what that is again," he said in her ear.

She held her body neutral, kept her eyes up without challenging. "Transport. Information. Access." She shifted her voice to Waitress Sarah. "A Peace Corps volunteer. Sweet, innocent, English-speaking, Spanish-speaking, idealist mother." She smiled in a way that was more fake than when she'd used it to say, "And who'd like dessert?"

The men exchanged glances, then words. They talked fast, but she heard the key words. Puesto a que saca...ventajoso...riesgoso...reemplazable...la culpa a ella.

The short one elbowed ponytail-guy and quirked his eyebrows. "Te apuesto que ella es tan facil como salir con una puta."

Sarah rolled her eyes. They wanted her all right. Time to call their bluff. "I only put out if there's something in it for me. Usually...several things. You want my ventajoso for these deals because I'm reemplazable? Well, you're expendable to me. So, do we have a deal, or do I make my offer somewhere else?"

The men exchanged looks and the man with the ponytail nodded once. "What are your terms?"

Sarah suppressed a smile. He clearly thought he was charming. She met his eyes. "One run per ten days. Of every fifty guns, I get my pick of one, straight off the top. I get ten percent of the cash. I get a safe place to store my take, a place to sleep, and your kindest girlfriend," she leaned against the most nervous-looking of the men and adjusted John in her colorful rebozo, "to watch my son during the action."

"Is that all?" Ponytail scoffed. "You don't want our dicks and our mothers' secret mole recipes too?"

She smiled, tilting her head and nearly purring with the satisfaction of victory. "Well, I wouldn't turn down the recipes." She reached out a hand. "Sarah." This world included no last names.

His hand was callused, warm, and strong. "Jorge."

She gripped his hand, and he broke eye contact first.

"I'll talk to Mami about her mole. It's supposed to be a family secret," he stammered.

Sarah hitched her hips as she sashayed back to her trailer.

The road vanishes before my headlights, but I could cross this desert blindfolded now. I've made connections to action Enrique has wanted a piece of for years, and the coyotes' lonely calls sound like victory. I once heard of someone bringing home a saguaro cactus-a six-foot thing like the ones that dot this wilderness, backlit by the night sky-only to have it start shaking. The tourists called the police, who told them to get out, that the cactus was about to explode thousands of baby tarantulas through their home. Skynet will be like that, buried inside something we invite in, innocuous until that moment before it destroys us. That's what John has to be: a time bomb, waiting for the hour of destruction.

ooo

They fear

They fear the world.

They destroy what they fear.

They fear themselves.

ooo

Sarah swam in and out of consciousness as she shook off the anesthetic. Hospital white shrouded everything in the tiny cubicle, and pungent antiseptic fumes permeated the air. Her belly was stiff, tender.

A nurse arrived, clucking, "Pobrecita, wiped her forehead, and fed her a few ice chips.

Jolanda would be there soon to take her back to John. Sarah drifted back into unconsciousness.

She started awake. The room was larger, and there was a window. Instead of a bandage on her belly, her leg was in a cast now a year gone. She'd slipped into the past, where a balding man sat at her bedside holding a clipboard.

This condescending bastard had sat in her room for an hour each of the past two days. The nurses told her he'd looked in the day before that as well, when she was still completely high on narcotics after they'd pinned her femur. She supposed that made her a cyborg too.

"How are we feeling?" Silberman asked.

"My leg hurts." Actually, it throbbed.

Silberman sat there, saggy basset-hound eyes on her, waiting. The cop, the black one with the half-glasses who'd draped his jacket around her and let her bum a smoke at the station, he'd had basset-eyes too. At least he'd tried to do something.

And he'd died. With the skinny balding detective, the guy from the front desk, all the other cops, the other Sarah Connors, Ginger, Matt. Mom.

All dead.

But not Silberman. Even Terminators must consider criminal psychologists as harmless as they were useless. Sarah couldn't help but chuckle at the thought.

"Sarah, it's normal to have confused emotions after a tragedy like-"

She rolled her eyes and pushed the call button. "Nurse!"

"Listen, Sarah, I know I have no idea what you've been through. People with your name being murdered, being shot at, almost killed, being held hostage by a madman-"

Sarah felt her blood run cold through her arms and around the throbbing in her leg. She clenched her teeth. "Get out."

Silberman held his hands out, palms up. Not soothing. "I just want to help."

"Oh, like you helped Kyle? After you decided he was 'a loon'? Like you helped all those cops who died around you? I don't want your help! Nurse!" She pushed the call button repeatedly. It did not have the satisfying resistance and click of the industrial button that she'd used to crush the Terminator.

"Schizophrenics with paranoid delusions are very convincing, Sarah. Remember, I spoke to him too. He clearly believed everything he was saying." The shrink leaned forward, resting leather elbow patches on bad brown polyester. "It's understandable that when you had to depend on Reese, you'd let yourself be drawn into the delusion-"

"Excuse me?"

Silberman blinked.

"You think I'm deluded?" Sarah demanded. So much for cold blood. It was throbbing as hot in her face as her leg now. "Have you looked at what's left of that station you hid in? Or the video footage? Or the pieces of that thing that tried to kill me in that factory?" She leaned forward, wincing as her cast pinched. "Have you even looked at the evidence?"

"There's no need to shout."

"I'm not shouting!"

"Sarah, there was no evidence because there was nothing there. Just Kyle Reese and his accomplice-"

"Get the fuck out of my room!"

Of course the damned nurse chose now to show up.

"Is there a problem here?"

Silberman gave the woman a tiny, brief smile. "No. No problem. Sarah and I were just finishing our session." He stood. "See you tomorrow, Sarah."

Self-righteous, condescending bastard. Two more days and she'd be discharged and never have to speak to him again.

She fought her way back to the surface again, dodging bullets and laser weapons.

Silberman was gone. He'd never been in this white-curtained cubicle in Mexico, big enough only for her bed, present and remembered pain, and her memories.

It had taken ten weeks for her leg to heal, two more for her to finish closing out the last of her mother's affairs, to gather papers and destroy most of them, to visit Ginger's mother one last time, to have her first shooting lessons, to get a second-hand Jeep, to make all assets liquid and portable, to make an exit.

By that time she had known that she was pregnant, and who the father of the Future Leader of Mankind was. Had known that she'd already told her son's father to get lost. That he'd stayed and protected her anyway. She'd known this baby's name would be John, and that she had a scant twenty years to prepare him for the end of the world.

Twelve weeks from the day she'd been wheeled into the hospital, she'd driven south in the summer's worst heat, a book of pocket Spanish on her seat and a Ruger .357 in her center console.

Twelve months after arriving in Mexico, she'd walked into this remote clinic and asked about sterilization.

Babies were a liability. John was a liability. He was necessary. There would be, however, no more.

Jolanda was there, ready to escort her...not home, but where they stayed. There was no home except John. No children except John. No future except John. No future without John.

Sarah breathed steadily against the deep ache in her abdomen, against the incision pain, the post-anesthetic headache.

Jolanda drives as I grit my teeth at each jolt of the uneven road. Bumps and unevenness are the way of things in this life, but this feeling of emptiness is profound. No more babies, just John and the future of mankind. A decimated mankind. Some legacy.

ooo

The wind will blow them across the ocean

thousands of them in giant boats

swarming like larva

out of a crushed ant hill.

ooo

"Go, go, go!"

The pounding of boots on the jungle floor was muffled by the gas mask Sarah wore. Damned rubber strap was caught in her hair. It was long enough for a ponytail now. She should cut it, she knew, but it was a vanity that served her.

Still...she needed her femininity for herself...as well as to open doors, to use as a bargaining chip in some deals, to get attention and disarm suspicion.

The compound door she was watching was flung open and guerillas poured out along with gas that steamed in the humid jungle.

"Now!" she barked into her walkie.

Sarah spun her rifle, cold-cocking the first one past her with the butt, and she stepped back as he fell hard at her feet. Momentum around a fulcrum was the best lesson Jared had taught her. The sex was good, too, which didn't hurt. They were together every day, high on adrenaline from raids, high on the thought of how much they'd make selling weapons that no one would report missing, sent by the U.S. government in quantities they lied about.

Footsteps pounded closer, and Jared's voice rose above the sound of gunfire and hand-to-hand combat.

Hotwiring the truck with the load of weapons was the work of seconds. It was the first thing Enrique taught me, and my reward for being a quick study was a beer. It took me longer to master driving these monsters, but for someone who used to drive a souped-down moped, I do pretty well. John only needs a little practice to pass me up in hotwiring speed. I leave the technological side to him entirely. If I ever see a computer again it will be too soon. John, though, he can hack his way into a bank account faster than he can jimmy a lock. In this insane world it's criminal skill that begets maternal pride.

It was the work of minutes to camouflage the truck with plant matter. The operation was like a smoothly-oiled machine. Everyone followed a schedule, did what Jared said without question. The rages he flew into if things did not run smooth ensured that. By the time Sarah took up her patrol shift, Manuel and John had continued the chess game they paused for weapon concealment and inventory.

Their days were almost monotonous, yet never the same. Combat practice, hand-to-hand, blades, throwing knives, running practice ops, equipment.

The day after they returned with the truckload of arms, a new guy wandered into camp, asking to join up.

Jared laughed. He always laughed at new people, at new ideas. The laugh was tinged with madness, and no one crossed him any more than they asked why he still wore his Green Beret hat as if he were not a traitor to his country.

"So, you want to join our operation?" Jared circled the new volunteer, who turned a shade paler at each lap.

"Sí." The man licked his lips.

"What's your name?

"Ruben."

Sarah had to give him credit. The man could still use his voice, which was more than she could say for the previous three volunteers.

"Well, Ruben, let's see if you can stand up to our best fighter," Jared breathed over Ruben's shoulder.

Ruben looked nervously from one muscled, tattooed guerilla fighter to the next, then had the nerve to laugh aloud when Jared said her name and she stepped forward, handing her patrol rifle to John, who grinned. "Get 'im, Mom."

Ruben shrugged, and stepped forward, fists up. His fear had vanished, entirely replaced with bravado. Sarah let him dance around her, then, faster than he could see, landed a roundhouse kick to his head. Then one to his jaw. The third kick caught him in the nose, and the fourth knocked him to the ground. Jared laughed until he cried every time she kicked someone in the head. Sarah smiled. Who would have known ballet lessons and cheerleading would be useful here?

She retrieved her gun, ruffling John's hair before he returned to chess and she to patrol and her thoughts. She could do so much, every skill one she'd never have considered. And, no matter how much she trained, how hard they worked, how much they prepared and hid and stockpiled, no matter what, they could never be ready. There was still so much to learn.

Even with forty years, she might never be prepared. How could John ever be ready? How could anyone?

Who could be prepared for the end of the world? To fight an enemy that never stops until you are dead?

John knew to keep his head down, to be watching, watching, always, but without letting anyone know he saw everything.

He did though, and Sarah's poker face-the one that fooled Sandinistas, Contras, and Jared the Green Beret-didn't fool John for an instant.

"Mom, what are you thinking?" he asked incessantly.

She told him about the stashes of guns and liquid money, the stashes of food, about Judgment Day, about leadership, about tactics. She made him report how each leader of each rebel cell gained and kept loyalty. She asked him every day, "What are the ways out? What are the losses that would happen with each?"

John was a damned good soldier. But he wasn't a leader yet, and she didn't now how to get him more ready.

She didn't want him to have to lead in the world she saw in her nightmares.

ooo

They will carry objects

which can shoot death

faster than the eye can see.

ooo

Every five runs, Sarah transported her stash north.

The drive through Guatemala and Mexico was increasingly dangerous, even though she knew all the routes and could go around any outpost with minimal notice.

The arsenal Enrique had let her construct-for a cut of her take-was as complete as she could make it. She'd started making forays to more remote locations, leaving stashes and arsenals that would be accessible after Judgment Day.

The trip back had taken her through a zone that hadn't been occupied by rebels until just recently, and Sarah, in the Jeep she'd traded the transport truck for, was unprotected from a hail of shrapnel and bullets.

She climbed gingerly out of the Jeep once she arrived at Jared's encampment and pulled out the cases of good tequila she'd bought outside Mexico City from a private supplier. A cheer went up, and she grabbed her bottle and headed for the tent where John stood, waiting at the flap.

John's eyes moved to the dark spot on her pants, instantly seeing her injury. "Mom, you've gotta stop doing this."

Sarah chuckled to cover a wince as lowered herself to the bunk for John to bandage her leg. "How else are you going to learn to be a good enough field medic to keep your people alive and train them?"

John rolled his eyes, thin hands sure and adept as he applied pressure with one and snapped a betadine ampoule with the other.

"What good am I supposed to do here in the middle of nowhere?"

"What good will you do if you're vaporized by the first nuclear strikes?" she shot back.

For once John's chin lifted. It was good. He was growing up. He squeezed the betadine again and Sarah hissed as it burned deep in the wound. "That's not for almost five years, Mom. What more is there to do here?"

"We learn what to do when this is all that's left!"

John's jaw tightened and he didn't answer, just finished bandaging where a bullet had taken a scoop out of her calf as she dove for cover. The tension stretched long, awkward. As John sat back, she said, "That's a good dressing. Tight, clean. It doesn't even sting."

John stared at it, touched the edge with a finger. He didn't look up. "Mom, will you read tonight? The Wizard of Oz, maybe?"

The moment of raw emotion on his face made her heart twist in her chest. She could never give either of them a normal life. They would travel, travel on their own yellow brick road, but they would only face danger and try again and again and again to defeat it until, through a mistake, inferior firepower, or happenstance, they lost. There would be no Emerald City, no Wizard, no finish. Not unless somehow the rules changed. Or she changed the rules, changed the future.

She breathed past the lump that rose in her throat, swallowing hard as she reached for him. "C'mere."

As he leaned forward, she ruffled his hair and pulled him close. He smelled like antiseptic, gun oil, and sulfur. "I love you, John," she breathed in his hair, holding on tight. "Of course I'll read tonight. And tomorrow morning, I'll make pancakes."

ooo

Up here

in these hills

they will find the rocks,

rocks with veins of green and yellow and black.

They will lay the final pattern with these rocks

they will lay it across the world

and explode everything.

ooo

She knew when it was time.

She'd known before she knew. Jobs and runs were farther north. It had been six months since she'd worked in Nicaragua, three since she'd been even a far as El Salvador. The next three drops were in north-central Mexico. She was heading north again.

It was time.

She could fight, shoot, throw a blade, improvise a weapon with scraps and her own body, incapacitate a person quickly, plan, hide, act.

It was time to act.

The electronics components she helped distribute, the digital communications units half her colleagues used, more and more of them came with "Cyberdyne" stamped into the metal and plastic of their shells.

Cyberdyne Systems Model 101, Kyle had said. The name echoed in her dreams. Cyberdyne. Cyberdyne. They will lay the pattern of destruction, mines and explosives across the world until it all explodes and us with it. Humans, hoisted on their own petard.

Cyberdyne was expanding, growing. It was only a matter of time before someone created the code, the software, the hardware, until it was past the point where any of this future could be stopped.

"Come on, John," she whispered into the inky night after a dream where the Terminator endoskeleton choked John in front of her eyes. "It's time to go."

Before Jared and his people were even awake, she and John, along with their share of the most recent haul, were well into Mexico.

The next afternoon they were back with Enrique, the closest thing to home she'd had since the night everyone she cared about had died in her place.

They stayed two weeks this time. Only when every inch of her truck was packed with supplies did she do a last inventory on the weapons cache she had shored up with ammunition and financial stores. John knew all the details of the cache, and heaven only knew if she would ever return here with him or if this would be his supply for a future she now hoped to circumvent.

Cyberdyne was visible, though, a real, tangible entity. It was a hard target rather than the soft target of "preparation" that she'd aimed at for nearly seven years.

She might have grown up there, gone to prom there, waitressed there, but L.A. was, like the future, a foreign country. And she and John were heading into the heart of the beast.

The yellow lines in the center of the road are dusty as John and I drive up through the desert. As I smile and wave to the guard, it feels like we are sneaking across the border, slipping into a place we no longer belong. Flashes of light advertising McDonald's and Denny's light up John's sleeping face beside me. It's still the face of a little boy, one who's never eaten at McDonald's, but who can field strip nearly any firearm you hand him in thirty seconds or less. I'm driving toward the heart of the dragon, highway lines like tongues of flame, leading the way. Years ago, Kyle wouldn't let me. He was right. I wasn't ready. Skynet tried to kill my son before he was born. I'm ready now. Ready to kill Skynet before it's born.

ooo

"Take it back.

Call that story back."

It's already turned loose.

It's already coming.

It can't be called back.

ooo

ooo

~end~

ooo

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