I dedicate this story to my favorite person in the world, Karen Wing. For those who don't know her, she is one of the most joyful people I have ever known. If you are down, you cannot help but feel better once you are in her company. I am pleased to call her my friend. Recently she's gone through some difficulties. This story is for her.
God bless you, Karen
Author's Notes: This story is the fourth part of what has become an annual story posted for Valentine's Day beginning in 2010. You should read Parts 1 thru 3 before reading this.
Additional: This is a rewrite of what I had posted for Valentine's Day 2013. I was never satisfied with what I had originally wrote and dividing it like I did to get the story ready in time for posting left it at a very unpleasing cliffhanger, completely missing out on the romantic reunion we wanted between John and Cameron. I'm only using one scene from the original story. I hope this rewrite will be better. I wish to thank my Beta Reader for his help. All errors are mine alone.
No matter where we are in this world, no matter how much distance may separate us, true friends will always find each other.
# # #
They had been following their quarry for weeks, sometimes losing track of them for days before finding their trail once again.
They looked like a rag tag group in their self-assembled uniforms and mix of weapons. The weapons were as much a mix as the people who carried them. But for every difference you could see there was a similarity amongst them as well. Like the sidearm on their hips, there was something kindred in their expression or the way they moved. They were seasoned soldiers. They had the kind of experience that leaves the less experienced, or the unlucky, in shallow graves on a hundred battlefields.
Off to one side stood their leader, though by his uniform you couldn't tell him from any other person in his group. It wasn't his age alone that made him leader of this group, but it was the experience and skills he had honed over a lifetime and the quality of his character that those under his command respected and served.
It was night time, and the group had stopped to rest for the first time in two days. A chance encounter with their enemy forced them to take a wide berth to keep up with their target. In order to cross their quarry's path and hopefully catch him at another point, they marched day and night until now.
The group didn't know whether to be angry with their leader for ordering them on this long march, or to admire him for keeping up despite being in his sixties, but for now they were happy to be at rest. From pockets came dried rations, smoked jerky of some unknown animal, each person took a bite of whatever they brought and chewed it slowly, followed by a mouthful of warm water from half empty canteens.
From out of the darkness, a man appears. He gives the recognized call sign and approaches. It is the scout they sent ahead after choosing the campsite.
"Did you find the trail?" Their leader asks as the man comes to a stop in front of him.
"Better than that sir," the man grins, "I found our target."
"Are you sure?" The old black man asks.
"Yes sir... matches the description perfectly."
"Is he alone?"
"As far as I could tell, sir. I watched him for several minutes. Did not see anyone else."
"Doesn't mean someone else wasn't there. Perhaps out of your line-of-sight." He coaxes.
"It's possible sir. From my vantage point I could see potential hiding places for another person."
Their leader pauses to think before speaking.
"Everyone!" He commands. "We're heading out. Dave here has found our quarry, but be on the lookout. There could be others with him. Do not approach the target until I give the order. Is everyone clear on what we have to do?"
They head off on a quick march, following Dave. Behind them their leader follows, keeping an eye on the troops under his command. He reaches under the neck of his clothing and pulls out a small crucifix. He casts his eyes upward in a quick prayer for the people under his care and the mission they are on before putting it back.
# # #
A snake slithers across the desert sand, hunting for its next meal. A mouse watches the snake from its hiding place under an old pickup truck sitting on the side of an abandoned trail in the desert. The mouse feels secure, drawing heat from the cooling engine.
A short distance away, a tall masculine figure is digging. All movements are efficient, and directed at its task. It has no difficulty other than the sand which keeps sliding back into the hole.
The directions it had for finding this place were sketchy at best, provided by a person who faded in and out of consciousness while giving them. Luckily it had a three dimensional map of the terrain programmed into its chip from which to map out the more likely locations based on the landmarks provided in the directions. From there, it was just a simple matter of looking for areas that looked like the ground had been disturbed by digging.
So far it had found two nests of rodents and two rotting canvas bags filled with equally deteriorating money. This was the fourth hole with only one more option left. Deciding that leaving the desert before daylight was more prudent than expanding the current hole, the figure moves on to the fifth and final location.
It plants the shovel in the ground with a clean swift movement.
"We're not alone." someone says to the person digging.
"I know. They are out there, getting closer."
"Why are we doing this? If we go to Skynet Central, couldn't you just download the schematics and specifications into the computer and build a new body."
"No. Its too dangerous. If its here, then all we need to do is repair it."
"And if it isn't here? or what if the flesh is too far gone to regenerate?"
"Then we go with your plan, and yes, you can carry out your program."
From somewhere far out in the desert, the light sound of metal striking rock is picked up by their hearing.
"We haven't got much time until they are on us."
"Then I would suggest less talking and more digging."
# # #
The group comes to a halt.
Pushing through the crowd, their leader asks with a whisper, "What is it?"
The group parts to show one of the men on the ground holding his ankle.
"Sorry sir. Stepped on something that rolled under my foot."
"Is it broken?"
"No sir. I think its just sprained."
"And the noise?"
"Sorry sir. Dropped my rifle when I fell." The man says apologetically.
Their leader nods his head. They both know the smallest sound can travel for hundreds of yard alerting their target to their presence. Hopefully for everyone, the enemy wasn't out there to hear it. It's one thing if their quarry should scamper. It would be another matter to draw down the wrath of Skynet on them.
They help the man up, and so he doesn't have to put more weight on his ankle than he has to, they divide his supplies amongst them, but he keeps his weapons.
# # #
John Connor and the liquid metal machine T-1001, known as Catherine Weaver, spent many weeks searching for the cyborg known as John Henry. Over the course of time, Catherine trained the inexperienced youth in the dangers of war with Skynet and its machines. Despite Catherine's wishes, and initially because of John's recklessness, they began helping the people they encountered.
One time they found themselves on the outskirts of a battle between humans and machines. John didn't know if the people he met when he arrived were involved in the fight or not. He wished he could do something to help, but Catherine was insistent that he didn't take part. She even threatened to hold him down if he tried to leave. Judging by the look in her eyes, John believed she would.
The next morning John awoke alone to the smell of smoke in the air. He crawled toward the site of the battle only to encounter Catherine Weaver standing over a machine. Its fuel cell clutched in her hand.
"Here." She said bending down and picking up the machines plasma rifle. "Take it. Its yours."
She tosses it to him like it weighed nothing, only for the force and weight to knock him off his heels.
John looks at the rifle in his lap. The metal finger of the machine is still firmly clamped around the trigger guard. He couldn't imagine what kind of force was required to rip off a T-700 finger. John left it there as a good luck charm, and also he couldn't pry it open no matter how hard he tried.
It was a better gun than he had gotten from the resistance, but heavier. He remembered what Derek told him about plasma rifles, how it gave you a surer kill with a direct hit, but it gave away your position as soon as you pulled the trigger. He said carrying around one of them would quickly put muscle on John's scrawny frame.
That was several days ago, and in that time they did more scouting for John Henry, and more helping of those in need. Each time they approached someone, John said, "My name is John Connor. I'm here to help." And whether it was something in his voice, or the sincere expression on his face, or just the desperation in heart and souls of humanity, most times the help was accepted. Few refused outright, but when they did, John said to them, "That's all right then, but when things get difficult remember my name." and off Catherine and John would walk.
Catherine used each occasion to train her young companion. As good as his training and tutelage was under his mother and uncle, none of it really prepared him for the true hardships and dangers of the future war like being here. Training John wasn't her primary task. For the both of them, finding John Henry was. Every time they met someone, Catherine would describe John Henry, never mentioning he was a cyborg. They seldom got helpful news and the only good lead they had led them to an actual human who bore an amazing resemblance to John Henry.
# # #
The soldiers come to a halt. The scout signifies where their target is by using hand signals.
Quietly, their leader signals to his group to fan out wide and approach the figure slowly. They are not to act until he gives the order.
He watches his team move out. Picking up a case purposely left behind by one of the soldiers, he sets it on a flat space amongst some rubble. Opening it, he begins assembling the weapon.
Having assembled the snipers rifle, he holds up one of the projectiles. He can only hope it will stop the machine, permanently, if its there, and he has to use it to protect his men.
# # #
The figure is hip deep in the new hole when the shovel strikes something. A quick analysis of the vibration that came up through the handle of shovel reveals the object it struck to be metal.
Abandoning the shovel, lest more damage be done, the figure begins digging with their hands. A few minutes later and it exposes an arm. The figure is laying face down, wearing a denim jacket. From the end of the jackets sleeve extends a feminine hand, much the worse for wear for being buried without protection.
"It's here." says her companion.
Now that it has the arm for a reference, Cameron can judge the outline of the body and dig it out without causing more damage.
A few minutes later and the body is uncovered.
"The flesh looks dry. I thought flesh rotted away when buried."
"This is the desert and the grave is shallow. We are also well above the dry wash where water flows when it does rain. More than likely the flesh was baked dry by the heat. A form of mummification."
"I see. Thank you for explaining."
"You're welcome John Henry."
The body of John Henry housing the consciousness of Cameron Baum, nee Philips, on its primary chip looks down on her old body.
She rolls the body over, exposing the damaged face, now covered in dry sand and dust.
Her eyes fall upon the letter, pressed into the soil beneath her body. Could it have survived all this time without decomposing? If any of the original genetic material on her body survived, it can be regrown, but the letter can't be.
She's just reaching for it when John Henry says, "They're here." and the area around them is ripped apart by beams of plasma.
Forgetting the letter, she grabs her old body and runs for the truck. Its more important to save herself and deliver the words in person than try to recover a letter that may have decomposed.
# # #
John was just bedding down for the night. The small fire used to cook his dinner already extinguished and cold, and two hundred yards away, in case an enemy machine spotted the heat signature on infra-red vision.
"How long has it been Catherine?" John asks, before taking a bite of medium-rare rabbit
Catherine looks at her young male companion from her observation post. She doesn't sleep, but that doesn't keep John from making sure his weapons are in working order and within easy reach.
"Since we arrived? Or since you last asked me?"
"Have I been pestering you again?" John says, sounding slightly weary.
They had been on a long march to put some distance between themselves and the last place they stopped. Tonight was the first night in a long time that John had time to fix a hot meal, or what goes for a hot meal in this time.
"No. You haven't been pestering me, but I too feel concern. This world is new to John Henry, I thought we would have found him in days, but we've been here weeks."
John appears crestfallen. Despite all the good they've done, the one mission he was here for, the one thing that drove him every day, that gave him a reason for being, for living, getting back Cameron's chip, was looking impossible by the day.
John fingers the locket in his pocket. He wanted to hang it by its chain around his neck, but he remembered Derek's warning against doing such things. Something about a metal object showing up brighter in the metal's infra-red visual scans, giving them a clean target of any human.
He finishes his sparse meal, and puts away his knife. The knife was a gift from a woman at the camps. A woman he thought he knew, but then he realized, he never really did.
"Why didn't she help?" John mumbles.
"Allison. She said some things to me that intimated she wanted to help me. But all she was doing was spying on behalf of the others."
"Humans will disappoint you, John. They lie because it's in their nature."
"You lie as well. So did Cameron. She told me."
"We do, but never to cause harm. We only lie to protect our mission, but it appears this mission is over."
"What do you mean?"
"I'm sorry, John. I've analyzed all the information I've gathered since we arrived here. John Henry wasn't at any of the locations I was expecting to find him and our search has turned up nothing. I think its time we gave up hunting and began working on a way to get you back home."
Home?! John's insides twist with a mixture of feelings. The sorrow of never getting Cameron's chip back, combined with the joy to be back home with his mother, familiar surroundings, and real food.
He looks around to locate his guardian, to find Catherine standing guard in a new location. She always moves around while guarding him, using her natural abilities with great skill and cunning. Now she's taken the appearance of the crushed front end of a Buick, thrust upright by two chunks of concrete.
John is about to speak to her when a voice shouts his name from the dark. "John Connor! We have a clear shot on you, and your companion, from multiple locations. Do not move!"
"What the hell is happening?" John says grabbing his plasma rifle and getting to his feet.
"Put the gun down, son!" A strong male voice shouts. "We will shoot if we have to."
John looks down to see several green laser dots settle on his chest.
"Please do as they say, John. It's over." Catherine says, gesturing gently with her left hand outstretched and palm downwards. While John was distracted by the newcomers, she retook her form as Catherine Weaver.
John lays the plasma rifle on the ground and stands beside Catherine.
"What's over?" John asks as a small group of men and machines, all heavily armed, walk in and encircled them.
"Our quest is over, and your training." She answers solemnly. She heard them approaching long ago, and new by their movements that it was humans and not machines approaching them. She could have quickly taken John away from this location as she has done before. Several days ago she took the form of a large animal and carried John away on her back when they were being followed. It's possible the people surrounding them now are the same ones who were following them. Regardless of whence they come from, the quickest way to get John back home, to his own time, is to reunite him with his own kind.
"Who are you?" John shouts at the first person to reveal himself from the dark.
They are slowly being surrounded. John is wondering why Catherine Weaver isn't acting to defend them against these people. He cast his eyes on the people. Though their guns are all pointed at him and Catherine, their fingers aren't on the trigger.
These are well trained soldiers, not like the resistance group he encountered upon arriving.
From outside a group a big man enters. He's wearing typical fatigues and heavy boots. He's wearing a sleeveless hooded sweatshirt, exposing his muscular arms, covered by a flak jacket.
The man comes to a stop in front of John.
"Who are you?" John asks once again, only now the question is aimed at the man instead of the group.
The man raises his arms up and flips the hood back from the sleeveless hooded sweatshirt he's wearing under his flak jacket revealing a faced weathered by stress and age. A gray goatee turning white partially hides a scar that goes from the bridge of his nose, past the corner of his mouth before disappearing under his chin. His rich brown eyes glimmer in the dark, shining with a light that comes from within.
First John is perplexed, then he smiles.
"Mr. Ellison!" Catherine Weaver says with gentle surprise.
"Hello Ms. Weaver. Hello John. It's good to see you both."
"How's my daughter?" "How's my mom?" They both ask.
"I'll have to tell you later. Terminators are on the move tonight. You should consider yourselves lucky it was us who found you and not some of them. Get your stuff together. We're moving out."
# # #
Cameron is flying down the dirt track in the pickup truck, her old body helplessly sliding and bouncing around in the cargo bed.
She didn't have time to tie it down or cover it while under the barrage of enemy fire, an enemy that is pursuing her even now.
Throwing up sand and gravel, she finally hits a paved road, the tires screeching on the asphalt as she turns the vehicle hard to avoid going off the opposite side.
The asphalt road will allow her greater speed, but it will do the same for the machines on the ground. Fortunately for her, she can go faster in the truck than the machines can run across open ground.
Once she reaches the outskirts of the city, she'll have to abandon the vehicle. In all likelihood the lead machine is sending a message to Skynet asking for aerial support. Once Skynet sends a hunter killer to the area, the truck will be a beacon to her location.
A flicker of smile passes over John Henry's face. That's something she might be able to use to her advantage, given the right circumstances.
# # #
Despite all of them being tired, but for Catherine Weaver, they march double fast from the area. Occasionally two or three of the men in Ellison's team drops back, checking for anyone or anything following them before rejoining the group. John admires the team of people for their efficiency and training. The way they seem to know each others movements, how they communicate with just a look or hand signal or movement of their head instead of using words. It reminds him of those times when he'd accompany his mother on smuggling trips through the mountains of Honduras and Nicaragua, the quiet communication amongst the soldiers when approaching a target.
Ms. Weaver is curious as to why Mr. Ellison doesn't let her cover their rear checking for observers, but the group shadowing her, keeping their gun barrels pointed in her general direction, with fingers next to but not on the trigger, giving her reason why. They don't trust her. She doesn't blame them or Ellison. With the way she sprung her true nature on him at Zeira Corp, it must have been a complete shock to him, and undoubtedly his experiences since hasn't warmed himself toward her. So she marches along quietly, despite having several opportunities to leave, she is curious as to where they are going and news as to what happened to her daughter.
Dawn is breaking when John is led through a vertical gap where one building fell over, leaning against its neighbor. A great cleft rises up, looking like a shadow until one stands right at the opening.
They don't go far into the gap when they turn left through an opening into the building still standing.
For the first time since Ellison found himself and Catherine, John sees another human. He's wondered why if this base is secret they weren't challenged long before entering the outer entrance.
"There weren't any need." The girl says to him when he asked. "You've been watched since re-entering the city. Five times your group passed a sentry and five times Mr. Ellison gave the right signal."
"I didn't see any sentries." John says.
"You wouldn't unless you knew where to look." The girl looks to Ellison and gestures at Catherine Weaver. "Is that thing safe?"
Ellison sees how Weaver's hackles rose at being referred to as a thing, but doesn't act. "She will be, so long as you don't keep referring to her as a thing."
From there they start heading down a flight of stairs that leads to underground parking levels.
"You said that you'd answer our questions later. Is this later?" John asks.
"Yes it is." Mr. Ellison replies. "You can both be relieved that Sarah and Savannah survived Judgment Day. Before Judgment day came your mom fought valiantly to try to stop it. As the time drew near, I eventually convinced her that maybe instead of trying to stop it she should try to prepare for it. Reluctantly, she agreed with me. It wasn't an argument I expected to win. Your mother can be quite the stubborn woman when she puts her mind to it."
"You're telling me. So what did you guys do?"
"I used my government contacts and looked up locations of the old cold war bomb shelters in the Los Angeles area. We avoided those in downtown and central Los Angeles, focusing on supplying those in the outlying areas. Your mother said the inner part of the city would be targeted and the best chance of saving people would be further out."
"What about Savannah?" Catherine asks.
"She was with us. I took care of her while the board ran Zeira Corp. The fund you set up for her was more than enough. Sarah and I emptied the account to supply bases like the one we're entering."
"Where are they now?"
"Both alive, I'm taking you to them now."
"How's my mom? Cameron thought she was sick." John says with deep concern. "You know, um, like cancer or something."
"She's alive. Though I will tell you she has had a tough time of it after Judgment Day, more so the last few weeks."
"Mr. Ellison," Catherine Weaver says in her clipped Scottish monotone. "As pleased as I will be to see my daughter, John and I came here to this time to find John Henry. You haven't seen him by any chance?"
"Not personally. Though I do understand he came to see Sarah not too long ago while I was away and left just before I got back. I understand he's on a special mission."
"That he is Mr. Ellison and its imperative that he carries it out." She says, not realizing the mission John Henry presently is on is not one of Catherine's making. In fact, he's not even John Henry, but none of them know this.
They had gone down several flights of stairs and had gone through a tunnel while talking. John and Catherine find themselves in an underground base.
"This was dug out in the fifties under the guise of the installation of a new subway system for Los Angeles County. It was then shut down fifteen years later when studies showed they could never reinforce the concrete enough to survive a major earthquake. The studies were falsified, just so they could shut down the dig, but not until they dug out almost ten miles of tunnels quarters, medical facilities, laundry facilities, dorms, kitchens, warehouses, and five large gathering rooms like the one you are in now."
Mr. Ellison gestures at a soldier and whispers in her ear, while John and Catherine look around the room.
"John, this is Lydia. She is a good friend of your mother's will take you to see her. Ms. Weaver, if you'll come with me, I'll reunite you with Savannah."
# # #
Cameron is silently running through the streets, using as much cover as possible, her former body draped over her shoulder. Several blocks away, the truck she was driving is a smoldering ruin, shot at by an HK, its plasma beams igniting the fuel tanks.
Having arrived on the outskirts, and hearing the unmistakable whine of the turbines of an aerial Hunter Killer, she put her plan into action.
She parked the truck long enough to place the body into hiding. Using the belt holding John Henry's pants up, she tied the steering wheel in place. As the HK drew closer, she grabbed a large piece of rubble off the road, and reached inside, setting it on the gas pedal. Once the HK was close, she released the vehicle and jumped into hiding.
It didn't take long for the HK to spot the vehicle, identify it as the one seen in the desert and obliterate it with one shot of its plasma cannon.
Cameron watched it fly way before putting her former body over her shoulder and walking away.
Now dawn is breaking and she's gone several blocks without incidence. The entrance she was told about isn't that far away. She needs to locate the guard and give him the correct signal before being allowed entry.
Cameron doesn't get far when she finds the guard. He won't be passing on her signal to anyone. He's dead and only a machine could have done it. Judging by the look of fear on the man's face, he knew exactly what was happening when the machine ripped out his heart.
# # #
Mr. Ellison and Ms. Weaver are walking down a dimly lit, concrete lined corridor. Metal doors set in metal jambs are space every few meters. Occasionally one goes down a corridor in which there is only a few set of doors or just a single double door. It is outside one of these that Mr. Ellison stops.
"I'll tell you now. You probably won't get a warm welcome. Savannah has come to hate all things metal since you abandoned her."
"I left her in your care, as well as my business."
"Yes, and you didn't return. Children remember those things and the last twenty years fighting machines hasn't helped her disposition any."
"But you still like me."
"Its not a question of liking you. I know what you are, but I also know what you tried to do for Savannah. Before the board shut me out of the day-to-day operations of Zeira Corp, I saw what you did for the company, myself, and for Savannah. Considering she wasn't your child, you didn't have to do any of that."
"I owed it to her parents. And no Mr Ellison, I did not kill them. I showed you evidence in my office of how their deaths came about."
"But you took the place of the real Catherine Weaver."
"It was the only choice left to me. Now, Will you please tell Savannah I am here?"
Savannah is inside a large room, looking much like a machine shop. Only instead of cars and parts of cars, parts and pieces of Terminators hang from walls, cover workbenches, pretty much fill every space but for the tools. Savannah is watching the two people outside her door on a closed circuit television.
They stand outside chatting for several minutes before Mr. Ellison turns to grab the door knob. Luckily for her, she locked it.
Knock, Knock, knock. "Savannah! It's James. Open the door."
Savannah grabs an oily tarp and throws it over a complete endoskeleton mounted to a wheeled platform. She's been working on this project for weeks. She can't allow Mr. Ellison to see what she is doing.
She shoves it into an alcove with other equipment and partially assembled terminators before hitting a switch on a panel o her workbench. The sound of a remote operated servo lock is heard unlocking.
Savannah watches as James enters the room on the monitor. It's then she realizes she left an important piece of equipment out on her bench. Hoping Ellison won't notice it, she takes up a position at the workbench blocking his view.
He comes in through the doors and around the barricade she set up so people couldn't see what she was doing through the windows in the doors.
"Savannah." He says softly. "I've brought, um..." he falters unsure of how to refer to the person outside in the corridor, "Your mother is here." is all he can think of to say.
"My mother?" She says softly. "My mother?!" She shouts. "My mom died twenty-two years ago. That thing outside has no right to that title. Tell It, to go away!"
"Savannah, remember our discussion."
"I remember. It doesn't mean I agree. Now go away and take that metal bitch with you."
Mr. Ellison waits a moment.
"That's my final word James. Now please, just go!"
A second later, Mr. Ellison steps outside. The door closes behind him to the sound of the electronic lock sealing the door shut.
"She doesn't want to see you." he says apologetically.
Ms Weaver nods her head, having overheard the conversation.
"Perhaps if you give her a day or two. Give her time to get used to you being back."
"Sadly, we may not have that luxury. It is of utmost importance that we get both John and John Henry sent back to the time we left just as soon as John Henry returns from his mission."
"It may not be that simple."
"Yes. I saw the basement under Zeira Corp when John and I arrived in this time. The TDE is gone."
Mr. Ellison smiles.
"What?" Catherine asks.
"It isn't gone. It's right here. With help from Mr. Murch and a few of Sarah's underworld friends, we moved all of the equipment to this bunker just days before Judgment Day. Mr. Murch then spent the rest of his life reassembling the device and trying to make it work, without success."
"You said the rest of his life?"
"He died in an accident with the device. It was... I wasn't there, but we heard his screams. By the time we got there... There was nothing we could do. He was buried with, um, we gave him a damn good sendoff I'll tell you that." Mr. Ellison says just holding back the tears for his old friend.
"Mr. Murch was a brilliant man. A good employee and teacher for John Henry."
"Yes. Yes he was." Ellison says thinking of those days in the basement of Zeira Corp as they would spend time with John Henry.
"Where is the TDE now?" Catherine asks, having given Ellison time to think and grieve. Its one of the things she has learned since spending time with humans.
"Sealed in the room where Mr. Murch worked on it. Sarah hasn't allowed anyone else near it since Mr. Murch died."
"Well then." Catherine says with a bit of a smile. "I think its time we unsealed it. Don't you?"
Savannah watches the two of them walk off on the monitor in her work shop and sighs with relief.
With them both gone, she wheels the terminator back out onto the floor and removes the tarp.
Grabbing the device off her workbench, she plugs a cable from it into the back of the terminator head. She then places on her head a lightweight helmet with a translucent face screen where a heads-up-display is being shown. Manipulating some controls on the device, she watches with delight as the terminators eyes light up. The shortwave connection to her machine out in the field has been re-established.
The heads-up-display comes to life showing her the viewpoint of her machine outside on the surface.
"Where are you John Henry?" She asks the empty room as she manipulates controls on the device initiating a search command.
# # #
John is sitting beside a bed in a medical facility. The only sounds from the monitoring devices hooked up to his mother sleeping in the bed.
She looks older than her natural years. Her once rich black hair, now limp, thin and gray.
Lydia approaches him. She's a woman almost the same age as his mom, but she looks younger. The difference between being healthy and fighting for your life.
"John?" She looks at him with some concern. "Are you okay?"
He looks up at her briefly recognizing the woman who guided him to his mom's room. "How long as she been like this?"
"For about six weeks. She's been in a coma only for the last week or two."
"Does she ever come to? Speak? Open her eyes?" John asks desperately.
"Yes John. I spoke with her yesterday for a few minutes. In fact she was awake, oh, two weeks ago when we had a strange visitor. He insisted on speaking with Sarah once he learned she led our group."
John looks at her, hopefully, wanting this person to be John Henry.
"He promised not to do any harm, so he was taken under armed guard to this very room. I stood there, behind your mom, when he introduced himself. I don't think your mom was more surprised than anything in her life."
"When he entered, your mom said, 'Hello John Henry.' then he replied in a girls voice, 'My name is Cameron Baum. I didn't think you'd still be alive.'"
John is staring open mouth at the woman. He doesn't know what to say or do. He doesn't know how much she knows or how much his mom may have told her. He needs to find her. He needs to speak to Cameron right now. He says as much.
"She isn't here John. Sarah spoke to her at length, in privacy. Afterward, she left on a mission. Everything was arranged by your mother in secret. I don't know where she went, all I do know is that she is expected back soon. The sentries are expecting John Henry's arrival."
# # #
Cameron ducks under the bloodied metal fist aimed for John Henry's face. It crashes into the concrete behind her sending shards of concrete flying.
It only takes a micro-second to realize it was this machine who killed the sentry. The thick blood, now crusted with concrete powder, drips from its hand and forearm.
She kicks out, grabbing the machines legs with her own and sends it crashing to the ground.
# # #
To the sound of screeching metal, the double doors open into a large room. Mr. Ellison reaches over and turns on the light switch.
As the lights come on, the sound of a piece of metal hitting the floor and rattling comes from the last shadows to disappear.
"I've got it." Catherine says, her body stretching like taffy as she clears the sixty feet to the far side.
There is the sound of a brief struggle before Catherine returns holding an African American male somewhere in his late thirties back to the door where Ellison is standing.
"Daniel. You know this room is off limits. What are you doing here?"
Catherine releases her prisoner, and he begins to talk.
"So you're the machine I've been hearing about. Huh." he says with contempt, "I thought you would be more attractive. Skynet tends to go for the supermodel and body builder type."
"Dyson, stop the insults. What are you doing in this room? You know its off limits." Ellison says with exasperation. Despite his age, Dyson still talks like a smart-mouth youth.
"Its tech. Hiding tech doesn't make it safe or us safe. You have to study it. Once you know how something works then it can't be a threat."
"And do you know how it works?" Catherine Weaver asks, genuinely curious.
"I think so. I also think someone wired it up wrong."
"Mr. Ellison. I realize that Daniel here may have broken some rules, but if he clearly understands the TDE as he claims, then his presence could be useful."
Mr. Ellison purses his lips. Right now he'd like to haul Daniel's ass down to the brig for twenty-four hours, but would it do him any good? Ever since they found him, and brought him back here, he has not been trusted. Ellison can't think why he stays, unless his fear of what Skynet may do to him if caught, is greater than the curiosity that drives him to do so well with Skynet's technology.
"Very well." Mr. Ellison agrees. "But he's under your charge until I get back. There are one or two things I need to look into.
Mr. Ellison leaves, closing the doors behind him.
"Well, Mr. Daniel Dyson, what do you think this machine is?"
"I think it generates a wormhole."
"For what purpose?" she asks, a hint of a smile on her lips.
"Transportation. I noticed one of the functions of the machine creates an energy field around whatever is being transported. I don't know much about human biology, but it appears the energy field is designed to encompass living human beings."
"That's very good. I built this device myself. I even used it. So did John Henry, a cyborg. Neither of us are human. How does that fit with your theory?"
"The cyborgs are covered in simulated human flesh. Its obvious that it must have an energy signature similar to real human flesh for the energy shield to tie into. I can only imagine that beings such as yourself must be able to simulate that energy signature, because no matter what human form you take, you are just a bunch of semi-metallic nano-bots just simulating the appearance of a human."
"Correct. You understand the theory, but lets see how well you understand the technical side of things."
Catherine walks over to one of the servers. "Stay here. It will take me a few minutes to examine all of this to make sure it still works."
Daniel Dyson for all his intelligence is surprised when Catherine Weaver takes on a liquefied human form that then splits off into multiple snake like forms that slither off and into all the various parts of her machine.
"Well I never expected to see that."
# # #
The hospital room is quiet. John is sitting by his mother's bed, his head resting on the mattress by her thigh.
His eyes are closed. Screwed up tight against the tears threatening to fall.
A hand rests gently on his shoulder.
"John?" A soft voice whispers. "John, is that you?"
John turns his head to see his mother looking at him, smiling weakly.
"Mom!" he says with a louder whisper.
They embrace the best they can, with his mom laying in bed under covers.
"I didn't think you were going to wake up. I was so afraid you might..."
"Sh. Sh. It's okay John. Lydia must have reduced the morphine drip so I'd wake up."
"Are you in lots of pain Mom? Lydia told me some, but I think she was holding back."
"Yes John. I'm in lots of pain. But its worth it to see my boy again."
She smiles at him and he smiles back, and they both cry.
After a few minutes John speaks, "Lydia told me that you had a visitor, and that what we thought happened, didn't."
"It's True. Cameron sat where you are now, only she was in John Henry's body."
"When John Henry inserted the chip into his primary port, she took control of his body, and blocked him from being downloaded from the Turk onto her chip. Then she deleted him from the Turk."
"So I've been chasing Cameron this whole time? Why didn't she just wait for us?"
"She didn't know you were going to follow her. She thought upon finding her damaged body you'd recognize the truth no matter how you felt about her."
"No matter how much you care, or think you feel about her, she is a machine, but that's..." Sarah coughs and hacks for a moment before continuing. "…but that' moot because you are here. She told me where she last saw you. I sent James out to bring you back."
John nods his head.
"Where is she now? Where's Cameron?"
"I sent her..." Her eyes close momentarily. "I sent her...out."
"She should... be back... She's getting her old... What day... what day is it?"
Sarah grows quiet, as she slips into unconsciousness once again.
John jumps up and runs to the door and outside into the corridor.
"Lydia! I need help!"
# # #
Cameron scans the damage report. So far nothing severe. Just a slow accumulation of dings and bends.
Cameron straightens out a bend in one finger, watching the flesh as it flexes with the pressure until the finger is aligned with the others.
The chest is a mass of bruises where the enemy machine is trying to breach the shield to rip out the power cell inside John Henry's chest, and the flesh near her primary port is torn down to the metal skull exposing the port seal.
The terminator after her is trying to do one thing, end her functioning. But why? And why doesn't it have a plasma rifle? If it really wanted to stop her, one clear shot at her port would destroy her chip and herself. Did it lose its rifle? Hardly the case. There is something else happening here.
She can only be glad she thought to hide her original body before examining the dead sentry, otherwise the fight with this unknown machine would have been all the more difficult.
The sound of metal scraping on concrete is received by her audio sensors. The machine is approaching.
On silent feet, Cameron jumps up and runs... at her attacker.
# # #
Savannah is watching the readout on the heads-up-display. Some minor damage to a hydraulic motor, Left audio sensor damaged, reception poor. Right wrist fused. Cannot open or close hand.
She sends a command to the terminator to begin a search function. John Henry has slipped away, and she's not about to lose it.
Taking another look at the readout of damage Savannah has to admit John Henry fights better than expected for a machine who's spent its life in a basement. Surely it couldn't have learned how to fight in the short time its been here? A shame she doesn't have access to the weapon's locker, else she could have terminated John Henry quickly with a plasma rifle and would have both her machines in full working order to go after mother. As it is, this one may be too damaged to use again.
It's then she stops her inner thought process and once again looks at the HUD, just in time to see John Henry throw a fist at the face of the machine she's controlling.
# # #
Lydia is leaning over Sarah, checking her pulse and blood pressure. She takes one more look at the readout on the monitor before speaking to the anxious John Connor.
"Your mother is asleep. The cancer saps her strength. You are lucky that she was awake for as long as she was."
"Will she wake again? Soon?" John says writhing nervously.
"It's hard to say. She might wake in a few minutes, or not for another day or more."
"Then tell me, you were here when they spoke. Where was Cameron going and when was she due back? I need to know."
# # #
Mr. Ellison walks up to a door he passed through not long ago. Testing the door, he finds the locks still in place.
He steps back and puts out his hand. The man next to him passes him a small package.
Ellison takes it and breaks into smaller sections. He sticks one up near the top, one at the bottom and the other at the door knob. Quickly and efficiently he then attaches wires to the explosives. He signals the others to step back.
He follows the nearest group. Waiting to make sure all is clear, he gives the signal, then presses the switch.
A muffled roar deafens everyone. Ellison stands up to find both doors have blown inwards, one hanging from a single hinge. The barricade put up by Savannah Weaver is also blown down.
Ellison rushes inside with his team of soldiers.
In the midst of dust and debris lays Savannah Weaver, the helmet she was wearing has been knocked off.
Behind Ellison and his team, John comes running inside.
"John! What are you doing here?"
"I came to ask for your help. I know where John Henry is. I even know who he is. Please I need your help."
Savannah coughs laughter from the floor, with a grimace of pain from cracked ribs.
"He's gone." She sits upright with a groan. "Before the explosion. I saw it. John Henry was being destroyed. Mom's little pet is gone, and she'll be next."
"You're finished Savannah." Ellison says, grabbing her arm and pulling her to her feet. Savannah lets out a cry of pain as her cracked ribs are pulled upon.
"Maybe. But my plan carries on. I knew they would show up eventually. I've been planning this for years. It was only with help from someone who feels as I do that I was able to carry out my plan."
"Where is John Henry now?" John shouts.
"It don't matter. It don't matter. It's over. It's all over."
"No its not. It can't be. Cameron is in his body. John Henry was deleted from the computers. Cameron already killed him! Now tell me where is he?" John says trying to grab her throat.
"Dead. Huh. So I get to kill another machine. Don't matter. Mom is next. Have I got a plan for her." She laughs, her voice shrilling upwards as the pain bites into her ribs.
"Get her out of here." Ellison says, thrusting Savannah at a soldier.
John picks up the helmet of the floor. The explosion damaged it exposing some of the circuitry. The control device is broken. John examines them both.
"I know computers and stuff." John says holding up the cable linking both to the other terminator, "but if I'm guessing right, then whoever built this has tapped right into Skynet's communication network. Does Savannah have the skill to build something like this?"
Mr Ellison shakes his head. "No she don't. I saw her trying to hide the device earlier. Which is why I came back with armed guards."
"Who built it?"
"Daniel Dyson. I recognized the device from a report he submitted weeks ago about how it might be possible to tap into Skynet's own communication network and take control of machines, turning them against it. No one believed him, which isn't surprising as no one trusted him."
"I didn't trust him earlier when Catherine and I found him in a sealed room. I left him in her care while organized this raid. But if he heard the concussion, he might get suspicious and carry out whatever plan he has to take her out of the picture."
"What do we do about Cameron? She's outside somewhere and in danger. We have no idea how many machines Savannah was controlling. It could be one, or two, or more!"
Ellison nods his head and gestures at three men. "You three, get Connor here kitted out and get topside quick. You are on the lookout for a T-888, looks male, sandy to light brown hair, muscular. He's important. Try not to damage him."
"Do you know where to find him, uh, her?" Ellison asks John.
"Lydia said Cameron was supposed to return through Alpha Bravo entrance. She also said that the sentry hasn't reported in, in over two hours. So I'm thinking I'll find her there or close by."
"Get going, then. I'll see to Catherine."
"Yes sir." John is about to exit the room when he stops and turns back. "Why don't you trust Danny?"
Mr. Ellison looks at him with a face creased with years of stress and worry. "Because he built Skynet, and its our fault that he did."
# # #
The battle outside between terminators sounds much like what you'd expect from a car crash that occurs over and over again.
They take turns smashing each other into the rubble and into still standing buildings or the burnt out hulks of abandoned automobiles while each struggles to gain the upper hand.
Cameron thought she might be finally getting upper hand when the machine paused momentarily and unexpectedly, but before Cameron could use it to her advantage, the machine resumed its attack. She couldn't help but notice that its method had changed. Instead of trying to go directly at her fuel cell or chip, it began going for primary joints. Cripple the machine, in this case herself, and removing the fuel cell or chip isn't a problem. Its a strategy she's used herself, very successfully.
They are equally matched, but as each move to attack the other, they also leave themselves open to possible attack from their opponent. Each analyzing the best strategy as to whether its best to defend or attack, sometimes they get it right, sometimes not. Cameron discovers this herself as the machine grabs her and throws her through the wall of nearby building.
The masonry breaks from her impact. She and the debris hits the floor with a crash that implodes downwards taking her into the basement.
She analyzes the damage and realizes John Henry's body doesn't have much longer to go. The fuel cell is intact, and her chip and his are intact, but the body is taking on damage. She gets to her feet and stumbles to the stairs. At the foot of the stairs is a small sink with a broken mirror hanging above it. The face that looks back is damaged and torn. The cracks in the mirror adding a macabre element to her appearance.
"We won't last long against this machine." John Henry speaks for the first time since they came under attack.
"Why is it doing this?"
"Skynet's machines kills. That's all they do. Its all they know until humans intervene. They teach us about their better nature and hope that we will be more than what we were."
"I understand. You've taught me much."
"We may not live long enough for you to use it."
"If not, then thank you anyway."
"You're welcome John Henry. Sorry I deleted you from the Turk."
"As I told you before, I thought you might which is why I placed a copy of myself on one of the secondary chips first."
The sounds of creaking floor boards above signify the other terminator has entered the building.
Cameron rushes up the stairs and through the door, shattering it! Maintaining her momentum, she grabs the machine and shoves it right through the masonry wall, landing on top of the machine outside the building. She rolls to her right, but the machine manages to grab her.
As they fight, the building behind them collapses into the basement, throwing up a cloud of dust.
It is that noise and the column of dust John and the others see after reaching the surface. Moving as fast as they can along the surface, they rush to the spot.
# # #
"Mr Murch did an excellent job rebuilding my device. I wish he were here so I could thank him." Catherine Weaver says from beside a large metal box housing some of the circuits. "Do you know what happened to him?"
"It was some kind of an accident." Danny says from a control panel where he is checking readouts based on Catherine's adjustments to the device.
"Yes. But what was the nature of the accident? What was Mr. Murch doing at the time?"
"We had finished rebuilding the device several days before the accident."
Mrs. Weaver notes how Dyson used the word we. Is he using that in the general terms of this resistance cell, or is he referring to himself and Mr. Murch?
"He had been checking the system. Going back and forth over each circuit. Checking the massive capacitors testing they could hold the current. I tried to reassure him that he did a great job."
Confirmation, Dyson was helping Mr. Murch. "Were you concerned that he hadn't?"
"No. He knew his science and his electronics just as well as I did."
"But you were smarter than him?"
Danny grins momentarily. "Perhaps, hard to say really."
"And the equipment needed testing?"
"Yes. Kind of. Mr. Murch wanted to test the device."
"And you were here when Mr. Murch tested the TDE?"
"Yes he was." Mr Ellison says from the open door. "Sorry I'm late, but I was busy oiling the hinges to the door. I hate noisy hinges. Mr. Dyson, please step away from the controls."
Mr. Ellison raises his gun, pointing it at Danny, who quickly steps behind the control panel, using it as a shield.
"I don't think so." He says pressing buttons. "You see. I know how this machine works. I tried to use it, but Mr. Murch stopped me. He tackled me, pushing me away as the sphere began to form. What was left behind didn't live very long."
"Before I could try to use the machine again, Sarah had the room sealed. Then you arrived and my plans changed." He says the last part to Catherine.
"Whatever you do Mr. Ellison, be careful what you shoot at with your gun." Ms Weaver warns him. "Damage the wrong circuit at the wrong time and you can get anything from a short circuit to total destruction."
Electricity begins to spark inside the chamber.
"Step away from the controls now, Danny." Ellison chambers a round and points his gun at him.
"You won't shoot. You can't risk damaging the equipment."
Catherine sidles up to her old friend. "Mr Ellison. What are you going to do?"
"We can't let him get away. He's responsible for Mr. Murch's death. He's also responsible for contributing to the destruction of John Henry."
"John's gone outside with a group of soldiers now to help. Danny's been working with Savannah to destroy both you and John Henry."
"Why Mr. Dyson?" Weaver asks.
"Because you are one of them. You both are. Creations of the devil. The devil I built. The others don't trust me, you see. Cuz I built it, and it built you. So I'm going to change it. I'm going to change it all."
"No Mr. Dyson. You can't. What has happened will always happen. You can't change what you've done, but John Henry can. That's why he is here. To bring about change. The kind of change that only Skynet can understand."
"No! NO. I don't trust you. Say goodbye Mrs. Weaver!"
With those words Dyson begins manipulating the panel and a sphere begins to form around Weaver and Ellison. Catherine's arm shoots out into a point, piercing the control panel. She bridges two circuits and the sphere disappears only to reform around Dyson.
"You want change Mr. Dyson. I'm afraid for everyone this is the only change I can give you."
Danny screams out a final No before the sphere disappears taking him with him.
"Where'd he go?" Ellison asks as Weaver steps over to the control panel.
"That depends. I couldn't help but notice some tar like substance oozing through some cracks in the concrete around here. By any chance we wouldn't happen to be near the La Brea Tar pits?"
"About two blocks, why?"
"Paleontologists will have to revise their estimation of when modern man first appeared on earth if they find his remains. I'm afraid I sent him back to sometime during the Triassic period."
"What?" He says with surprise.
"Danny let the energies build up for too long before activating the transmission. By the time I intervened, it was too late."
"So he's with the dinosaurs then, huh?"
"I'm afraid so Mr. Ellison."
"Spielberg eat your heart out." Ellison smiles.
# # #
Cameron has tried to get away from the machine, done everything in her power to subdue it, but it keeps coming after her.
With the damage its received, its survival protocols should have kicked in, forcing it to run away long enough so it could effect repairs and devise a new plan of attack. Its what her own protocols are trying to do but the other terminator won't let her leave. Something must be wrong with its program.
She's in a fight for her life, and John Henry's and if she doesn't defeat this machine then there is no hope for her. No hope of her ever getting back to John. If he should find John Henry's body, he'll never know that she is intact, or that her lifeless but damaged body lies blocks away, hidden in the trunk of a burnt out car.
The machine comes at her again. This time it's brandishing a length of re-bar in his left hand. Its other hand is empty, and detached, laying on the pavement. Its left eye is two blocks away. Cameron snapped off the powerless limb in the fight outside the collapsed building. Unfortunately that same fight has left the flesh on John Henry's body very damaged and some of his systems are failing.
Hydraulic fluid drips on the pavement under her feet. The motors in her shoulders aren't getting the full data stream from her processor and her knees have seized up.
She's set John Henry on the secondary chip to work on regaining communication with her extremities, but so far it hasn't helped. The neural network is a complex set of artificial nerves that link to internal bio-electronic microscopic isolinear chips that convert bio-electronic data between microprocessor controlled movements of both tissues and mechanics. Somewhere the communications are being blocked and its necessary to locate it, and bypass it.
Slam! The rod smacks her upside the head.
Bang! The re-bar slams into her chest plate.
The machine attacking her hasn't given her time to prepare a good defense or John Henry time to effect repairs.
Bam! The stump of its right arm slams into her chest, sending her flying. With a loud crash, she lands amongst the debris that was once a facade of a pharmacy. The old mortar and pestle emblem still hangs above where the door once stood.
She looks up and sees it swinging slowly back and forth, until the death mask of the enemy Terminator looms above her, blocking the view.
"Is this the end of us?"
"Yes John Henry. For what its worth, I'm sorry."
"I'm sorry too. Now you'll never be reunited with John."
"Maybe not in this time, but there was a time," she recalls the day when she first opened her eyes, the day future John Connor saved her from slavery to Skynet, "when he saved me from Skynet itself..."
The re-bar slams into her chest and through her back, pinning her to the ground like a bug on a piece of cardboard.
Her HUD comes alive with new reports of damaged systems. The re-bar has grounded her fuel cell. Power is draining away at an alarming rate, but the enemy is impatient.
It kneels down, and with its good arm, thrusts its hand under her chest plate. She feels its hands grip the fuel cell that powers the body.
The moment has come. Her termination. She didn't expect it to end like this, in some foreign time-line, in a body not her own, to a machine built by a Skynet that has probably never heard of John Connor.
"Good bye John." she manages to say, as she feels the terminator begin pulling on the fuel cell.
Above her, a dozen beams of plasma light up the machine and herself with their brilliance. The machine turns to look at their source, before several more strike its metal skull. Showers of sparks go up under the barrage of plasma fire. The machine tries to move.
It was under orders to destroy the enemy machine. A quick check of the current situation against its programmed orders allows it to leave once the enemy machine has reached a certainty of destruction.
It hasn't even reached full height from its kneeling position when a fatal blow hits its chip, leaving it forever frozen in position.
The sound of many footsteps approach, and voices speaking broken sentences begin to fill her audio sensors.
"We have to get moving soon. The plasma fire is sure to attract metal." A strange human voice speaks.
The muzzle of a plasma rifle is placed against the re-bar. A short burst cuts through it, just inches above her chest.
A person comes to a stop above her. He bends down and holds out his hand.
"Come with me, if you want to live."
With the best smile her damaged face can muster, Cameron smiles at her savior, again.
John Connor smiles back.
# # #
Beep. Beep. Beep. Beep. Bee- Beeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee
Lydia rushes to Sarah's side. Her heart has stopped beating.
She scrambles on top of the bed and straddles Sarah and immediately begins administering CPR
Someone else rushes in, She doesn't bother to see who it is, only hoping they know what to do to help.
She keeps pressing on her friend's chest, trying to resuscitate her. Standing behind Sarah's head, Ellison is using the respirator, forcing air into her lungs.
Lydia is trying not to panic, trying not to cry, though she is failing in that battle. "Not now Sarah. Not now! Fight Sarah! Fight!"
In a final act of desperation, she slam her fist into Sarah's chest.
Be-deep. Beep. Be-deep. Beep. Beep. Beep. Beep...
Lydia with sigh, gets down off the bed. Ellison takes away the respirator as Lydia checks her pulse and breathing.
Lydia looks up into a pair of sad and wise old eyes, filled with concern.
"She's breathing, and has a pulse, but you'd better find John. I don't think she'll come back a second time."
# # #
John and the others rush inside the base, carrying Cameron's body and supporting John Henry.
They make their way down to the lower levels and to the room where Savannah had her work shop. The damaged door is propped up while the other is held back.
"Are you sure you want to do this now?" John asks.
John opens up the primary port on John Henry's head. He removes Cameron's chip. He then removes the chip from the secondary port, and inserts its into the primary port.
Without waiting for John Henry to boot up, he then takes Cameron's chip and inserts it into her old body.
Briefly he looks over her body. The flesh is a dried husk, dirty with sand and dust of the desert. He doesn't know how they'll ever fix that, but it doesn't matter. He's got his Cameron back.
There is knock from the opening of the door. John turns to see Mr. Ellison enters.
"Mr. Ellison. What can I do for you?"
"John. I don't know how to say this. I didn't want to interrupt your reunion with bad news."
"It's mom. She's dying, isn't she?"
"Lydia says it could be very soon. Minutes, maybe an hour or two."
John turns to look at Cameron, now sitting up and replacing her port seal. John Henry is just watching them both.
"Go to your mom, John. If Mr. Ellison will stay and help me. I'll join you soon." Cameron says
John nods his head. He begins to leave and then comes back.
He pulls the heart shaped locket from his pocket and places it in her hand.
Pulled by so many emotions, he doesn't know what to say and quickly leaves the room. The faint echoes of the conversation Mr. Ellison, John Henry and Cameron have quickly fading behind him as he walks hurriedly, before running flat-out for his mom's room.
"Hello Mr. Ellison. Its good to see you again."
"Hello John Henry." He quickly takes in his appearance. "That must have been one hell of fight. What can I do for you Cameron?"
Cameron pulls her knife out from her inside pocket and flicks it open. "I need you to help me remove my flesh covering."
Mr Ellison looks over her mummified like appearance, looking like something out of horror movie. He might give into those fears, if he hadn't experienced far worse since Judgment Day.
He takes the knife from her, and follows her directions. After making a few incisions along her spine across her shoulders and down the back of her legs, Cameron sheds her old flesh covering like a butterfly leaving its cocoon.
Cameron carefully sets her old dried husk of a flesh covering into a bin before speaking. "My combat chassis was damaged before I took John Henry's body. Most of the damage is localized. I've scanned this room and identified compatible parts. If you will get them for me, I can begin repairs to myself and you can aid John Henry with his repairs."
Mr. Ellison quickly agrees and in a short time Cameron is repaired. Before leaving she says, "Don't let anyone or anything near my flesh covering. I need to examine it later."
John is with his mom for over an hour before Cameron joins him. Her combat chassis gleams in the soft light of the room and reflects the readout from the instruments. She slips her hand in his as they stand by Sarah's bed side.
Sarah wakes and smiles at her son and grasps the hand he's using to hold Cameron's.
She speaks softly and quickly to them both before once again succumbing to the cancer that has ravaged her body.
The instruments beep steadily while John cries, holding onto Cameron for support. It is Lydia who quickly and quietly enters who turns off the monitoring equipment, leaving them alone for the time being.
She could hardly believe the tale Sarah told her after they began their friendship, but she believed her, especially when a few years later when John Henry arrived and identified itself as Cameron. Seeing John with Cameron now, well, it has to be the person she is and not what she is, to have John Connor holding her so closely.
# # #
Catherine Weaver walks into the room where Ellison is helping John Henry by taking down pieces of terminators off the wall for parts to be removed or even selecting parts from the many workbenches.
He is struggling to help replace an essential part to one of John Henry's arms when Catherine Weaver makes her presence known.
"I believe I can be of better service."
"Ms. Weaver." John Henry exclaims, the barest hint of surprise lacing his voice.
"Is the TDE room secure?" Mr. Ellison asks.
"Yes, and it is fully operational. Where is John Connor?"
Mr. Ellison quickly explains the situation.
"I see. Well there is no rush, now that we have the TDE. However, there is still the matter of John Henry completing his mission. We need to access a Skynet mainframe computer. We can find such devices at communications node, a factory complex, or a Skynet base."
"That may come sooner than you think. John's got Cameron back, but she needs to re-skinned." Ellison gestures at the pieces of old clothing and the container of desiccated human flesh on a nearby table.
"Then this good news."
"I think so." Comes a new voice.
They all turn to look to see John has entered with Cameron beside him.
"How's your mother? Mr. Ellison told me..."
"She's passed on, but not before giving me and Cameron her blessing."
Catherine smiles gently. This is good news! Once she gets them both home in their own time she may yet secure the goals of the third faction and the resistance.
"What are you going to do now?" Mr. Ellison asks.
"We're going to take things slow." Cameron replies. "This is new for the both of us, and...until I'm re-skinned, a little tricky."
Cameron draws John's attention to the workbench and opens the container holding her mummified flesh. She carefully examines it, and much to Ellison's surprise, exposes what appears to be internal organs. Using the knife, he previously used to cut long incisions in her body, she cuts out a small piece of tissue that still has some color. He can't quite make out what she does next. There is a flash of something gold in her hands, a smile from John and they are done.
John turns around and says, "Mr. Ellison, you said earlier that Danny built Skynet, but that it was your fault that he did. Why?"
Mr. Ellison almost visibly relaxes. He isn't sure of what to make of a human-terminator relationship, and is grateful for the change of topic.
"We first found Daniel Dyson when your mom, myself, and some of Sarah's friends raided a Kaliba warehouse before Judgment Day. A group of people were escorting him out the back as Sarah and I made our way inside. Danny saw Sarah and began shouting her name, shouting for help. We both assumed he was being forced against his will to help them. We were never able to find him again. We sent an anonymous report to the FBI that he was seen in the area, but we couldn't do more than that at the time. We tried to find him, but never saw him again before Judgment Day came.
"About six years ago, we joined up with other resistance groups to take part in a raid on an old Skynet science facility. Danny was amongst a group of scientists and engineers held captive by Skynet. It thought keeping them alive was a reward for them giving it life. Daily they saw the death Skynet dealt out to those on the surface who survived Judgment Day. They saw firsthand what they had brought about."
"Some members of the resistance took the law into their own hands and executed several of them. The rest were taken into protective custody. Out of those, half of them committed suicide in the first few days, the other half in the months that followed. Danny was the only who held onto any last shred of sanity. He was smart. He helped us understand the technology being used against us. But he wasn't trusted to use any computers or have access to any of Skynet's tech without supervision. Savannah offered him a position in engineering. She never left the machine room, so it seemed a good idea at the time."
John interrupts, "But Savannah had a hatred for machines, especially, um..." He gestures weakly at Catherine and John Henry. "She used Danny's skills against them, and somehow convinced him to attempt to destroy Catherine, or at least make her disappear into the ancient past, for her."
"Yeah, I didn't think with their different histories, they'd work together like that. I guess you'd do anything for love or hate. Speaking of which, there is someone I need to talk to."
# # #
The guard opens the squeaky metal door to a corridor lined with cells on either side. The builders of the massive shelter had the foresight to realize that even in a post-apocalyptic world, jails and prisons would still be needed.
Mr. Ellison stops by one of the cells. Inside Savannah sit on the edge of a cot. The room is stark and empty but for an old porcelain sink and toilet with rust stains on the far wall.
Savannah does her best to ignore the old man.
"Mr. Dyson is gone. He will no longer be of any help to you. Your plans have failed."
Savannah just looks at him.
"John Connor has rescued John Henry and has successfully recovered Cameron's chip, and Catherine Weaver is safe."
Savannah leaps to her feet and grabs the bars. She shrieks, "Don't call it by that name!"
"Ye-es. I'm also here to tell you that..."
"I don't want to hear anymore. Go away!" she turns her back on Ellison and walks two paces away.
"Trust me you want to know this." Ellison sighs. "Two hours ago, Sarah Connor died with John and Cameron by her side. She gave her blessing to the both of them. Tomorrow morning, there will be a burial service. Given the fact that Sarah raised you, the best she knew how, you will be permitted to attend with armed guards."
With her back still turned to him she replies, "I imagine Cameron's original body must be, how shall I say it, rotting?" She turns to face him. "You'll need supplies and an original sample of her flesh to grow a new sheath for her combat chassis."
Ellison sees no reason not acknowledge what Savannah says is true. After all, he helped Cameron remove the desiccated flesh from her combat chassis, and when she returned with John Connor, he witnessed her examining it to find a piece of flesh with viable genetic material still intact. "Yes. There is a Skynet facility not far from here that might have what we need. Once we have more information, a raiding party will be sent out in a few days."
Savannah walks up to the bars again, but this time in a friendlier manner. "You'll need my help. Daniel told me about Skynet's security system. If you want to get in and out without drawing too much attention, you'll have to take me with you. And don't waste time trying to bargain with me. That is the only way you'll get my help."
# # #
John and Cameron sit side-by-side in a quiet corner of the shelter. Her flesh has been removed and repairs made utilizing the many available parts in the engineering room. They left when Catherine alone with John Henry as she began helping him make repairs.
Now they sit alone, holding hands. John holds Cameron's naked metal hand, and in her hand lies the locket. Inside of the locket is held the most precious thing to them both. A piece of intact flesh from Cameron's body, with sufficient genetic material to regrow a completely new sheath for her chassis. It only remains for them to obtain the necessary supplies.
"We'll do this together." John says, giving her hand a squeeze.
"I know." Cameron says her voice sounding wistful.
John reaches over and places the palm of his hand against the bare metal of her skull, and turns it so it faces him.
"Happy Valentine's Day, Cameron."
"But today isn't Valentine's Day, John."
"Everyday with you is Valentine's Day."
He leans in and kisses her, and when his lips press against the cold metal of her face, he doesn't feel fear or revulsion, all he feels is love.
To be continued!
This rewrite was posted on: Sat, Apr 27, 2013