Cameron tries to comfort a miserable John as fate delivers a new arrival from the future.
All throughout his life John has had to give up everything he holds dear. Nothing is sacred. Nothing is safe. Everything comes to an end. He tells himself this as he watches the blonde-haired girl get into the cab, never to return. Her name was Riley, and she was, if only for the briefest of moments, the single good thing in his life. He bites his tongue against the overwhelming urge to call her back, but he knows that would be unfair, that she deserved to escape the chaos of his destiny. His birthright. His future.
John Connor, future leader of Mankind, the saviour of Humanity.
Right now he felt nothing like a messiah. He felt like saying “to fuck with it” and had to struggle against the sudden desire to leave everything behind. To give up. But he couldn’t, he wouldn’t. The world needs him, and what right does he have to say “no”?
Soft footsteps announced a familiar, and unwelcome, presence approaching from behind. John leaned against the doorframe and narrowed his eyes at the tiny red lights in the distance, a mocking reminder of what he’s lost and why he’s lost it. She stopped mere inches away from his left shoulder and followed his gaze to the diminishing glow of the cab as it slowly faded beyond his range of sight, but not hers.
Within ten seconds it was gone and John let out a sigh of regret. Another ten seconds and Cameron let out an internal sigh of what humans might call relief.
After a few silent moments, John finally pulled back into the house, closing the door on the world. He turned around to find Cameron standing there, her face characteristically blank, unaware that his was no different. They stared at each other for several long seconds until Cameron finally opened her mouth to speak, but John decided he didn’t want to hear what she had to say, and cut her short.
- “If you say; I told you so, I swear to God I’ll…”
He didn’t know what he’d do, because, realistically; there was little he could do to Cameron. He couldn’t even hurt her feelings, assuming she had any. But his incomplete threat did cause a small stir within those eyes of hers and she tilted her head ever so slightly, waiting for him to finish his sentence. John just sighed again and closed his eyes, hoping that when he opens them she’ll have gone, but Cameron was still there when he did. She was always there.
- “Just… leave me alone.”
Without another word, John brushed past her and went upstairs to his room, leaving Cameron alone in the room, silently reviewing his demeanour and deciding that he was exasperated. She approached the stairwell and peered up into the darkness of the upstairs hallway, weighing the pros and cons of paying him a visit. Before she could reach a decision, however, Cameron’s attention was drawn to the 8 year-old “runt” who came hurtling down the corridor.
In one swift movement, Cameron grabbed the boy by the scruff of his neck, bringing him to an immediate stop and lifted him off his feet, his eyes level with hers.
- “What have you been told?”
Her voice was calm but stern, and the boy’s eyes widened in fear at the sound of it.
- “N-Never run in the house, unless…”
- “Unless the bad robots come around for tea.”
Cameron gave him a sweet smile, which the boy found to be even scarier.
- “Good boy.”
Movement in the other room caught Cameron’s attention and she slid her gaze from the boy’s face to that of Sarah’s, who stood with her hands in her pockets and an amused expression on her face.
- “Uh, Cameron…”
Sarah raised her eyebrows, her eyes darting from the boy to the floor. Cameron understood the gesture and checked her chronometer, determining the time as 9.32pm before slowly lowering the boy to the floor.
- “Would you like a bedtime story?”
Though his feet now touched the floor, Cameron maintained her grip on his t-shirt until he nodded silently. Once released, the boy gave Sarah a quick glance before running up the stairs, stopping halfway as he remembered the household rules. Sarah smiled and took a few steps towards Cameron, who was listening out for any signs of running upstairs, but hearing nothing.
- “How is he?”
Satisfied that the boy was behaving himself, Cameron returned her attention to Sarah’s question.
- “He is still afraid of me.”
- “Well I’m not surprised, the way you keep handling him.”
Cameron’s brow twitched in slight confusion.
- “You told me little boys need a firm hand.”
Sarah smiled and shook her head, amused by the machine’s method of interpretation.
- “Yes, I suppose I did. But try not to scare him too much. We don’t want a repeat incident of what happened when he found out what you are. Anyway, I was referring to John, not him.”
Cameron’s thoughts drifted to that day when the boy walked in on her whilst she was patching up her leg, and saw the servos and pistons moving beneath her torn flesh. He flew into a blind panic, having been warned about evil robots that look like humans, and attacked her with a plastic knife in a vain effort to remove her “batteries”. Cameron was forced to tie him up and gag him to stop the screaming. Luckily, neither Sarah, John, nor Derek were present at the time, and Cameron was able to convince the boy that she was a good robot.
Sarah was afraid that Cameron had suffered one of her personality glitches again when she came home to find the boy tied to a chair, timidly listening to Cameron as she read him “Humpty Dumpty”. She couldn’t help but find the whole thing amusing and was constantly reminded of it whenever she saw him and Cameron together.
Cameron snapped out of her reverie and returned her thoughts to the present, taking note of the five seconds that had passed without her notice, no doubt a result of another minor glitch. The vacant smile on her lips faded as she recalled John’s behaviour.
- “He is very upset. It might be a while before he is ready to talk to us again.”
Sarah rolled her eyes and sighed.
- “Well that figures. I guess we’ll just have to give him some time alone… again.”
- “Maybe Derek might-“
- “Maybe I might what?”
Derek came down the stairs, a slight look of annoyance on his face, and stopped short of Cameron. She regarded him without expression and took a few steps back, allowing him room to pass.
- “Maybe you might talk to John. Help him with his problems.”
Sarah looked at Derek expectantly but he just snorted and folded his arms.
- “Well I would, except he’s not in his room and his window is open.”
Sarah shifted uncomfortably, concern clouding her features.
- “He’s gone?”
- “Yeah, and so has three bottles of beer from my room. I’m guessing he’s gone to find his own way of dealing with his issues.”
Sarah ran a hand over her face and shook her head.
- “John and alcohol are never a good combination.”
- “You’re telling me? I was at his 30th remember, he almost shot himself in the foot. Twice.”
With this in mind, Cameron marched to the front door, stopping only to pick up her jacket, and left the house in search of John. She started outside his window and followed the impressions in the wet grass which led to the pavement, becoming increasingly faint footprints and followed the trail as far as she could before calculating a series of possible locations. Knowing John as she does, Cameron chose to visit the least likely location first and set off at a fast pace, hoping that she would get to him whilst his feet were still intact.
John wasn’t much of a drinker, and in the few times when he had indulged, John had never gotten any further than slight dizziness. But as he uncapped the third bottle and put it to his lips, John felt a slight tingling sensation in his finger tips that ran all the way back to his brain, blurring his thoughts together. As the alcohol poured down his throat and settled in his stomach, John forced himself to think about the very person he’d come here to forget; Riley.
For almost a month, he and Riley had become close friends and, in the last few days, something more. But inevitably, this was not meant to be, as Riley bore witness to the machines and was overwhelmed by the truth of it all. John had tried his very best to keep her from leaving, but he knew it to be pointless and instead made her promise to hide somewhere safe come Judgment Day.
- “I promise… Goodbye John.”
- “Goodbye Riley.”
John repeated these words before taking another swig and staring down at the empty levee, a small puddle of water gathered beneath the bridge he was currently sitting on, his legs dangling over the side. Promises; his life was full of them, and not a few of them were empty. His mother had promised to help him stop Skynet, but she had yet to make any real progress there. His uncle had promised to prepare him for the future war, but he had yet to teach him anything new. Cameron had promised…
Unbidden, unwanted, a memory flashed in his mind:
- “Are you here to kill me?”
Cameron stared into his eyes with an inhuman focus, dried tears still visible on her bloodied cheeks, as she pondered his question. Finally, she answered, but her word did not carry any tangible weight…
…so John decided to put her to the crucial test, one that would decide his fate for him. Despite the risks, despite the fact that only an hour or so earlier she’d tried to kill him, John handed her his gun.
She took it with apparent hesitation and held it uncertainly, her gaze sliding from the gun to John’s face. Cameron regarded him closely for a long moment before dropping her gaze back to the gun and placing it in her other hand, the barrel facing away from John.
She held out the weapon for John to take. He snatched the gun from her before extending his hand to hers and carefully helping her out of the burnt-out car. Once on her feet, she took her place by his side, just as she promised.
A few glitches aside, Cameron had maintained her pledge, despite him constantly pushing her away. He loved and hated her for that, and found it harder and harder to keep her at arms length, which he knew would now be impossible with Riley gone.
- “Mind if I join you?”
John closed his eyes at the sound of her voice, and couldn’t help but smile at the aptness of her timely appearance.
- “Why not, it’s not like anyone else is taking up room.”
John took another swig as Cameron swung her legs over the side and shuffled up beside him, eying the bottle with scrutiny.
- “How much alcohol have you consumed?”
John held the bottle at eye level and squinted at it for a moment before placing his finger about halfway from the bottom.
- “This much, times five.”
Cameron’s eyes darted from the bottle to his feet and she raised an eyebrow.
- “Well at least you still have your feet attached.”
- “Never mind. But you shouldn’t drink anymore; a bridge isn’t the safest place to get drunk.”
John snorted and raised the bottle again, only to have it snatched from his hand and placed on Cameron’s left, out of his reach. He just shook his head and looked away, determined to ignore that faint smile on her lips.
- “Still protecting me, I see.”
- “I promised, remember.”
John smiled silently and rocked his legs back and forth to get rid of the pins ‘n’ needles, Cameron mimicking his actions. They sat there for a few minutes as feeling returned to John’s legs, putting an end to his and Cameron’s rocking.
- “I’m sorry about Ril-“
- “No you’re not!”
He’d been anticipating this ever since she arrived and was surprised it took her this long to bring up the subject.
- “You’ve hated her from day one. All you ever did was lecture me on how she was a threat and that I should’ve gotten rid of her. So don’t lie to me and say you’re sorry to see the back of her, okay?”
- “But I am sorry… for you.”
John closed his eyes and shook his head as the early signs of an oncoming headache took hold.
- “Don’t, just don’t. Alright? I can’t take this from you, not now.”
Cameron obeyed and turned her attention to the bottle, picking it up and taking a small sip, analysing the beer’s properties.
- “This drink has a very high alcohol content. I’m surprised you haven’t passed out by now.”
John decided not to answer and watched as she took another sip, his head starting to throb.
- “Take it easy, you’re already a pain in my fuck, and I don’t fancy having to carry a drunken cyborg home tonight.”
Cameron scanned the bottle again before putting it down and staring ahead.
- “I can’t get drunk, but I know what you mean.”
- “How would you… You know what; I don’t care. Forget about it.”
John drew in on himself, silently resenting her persistence and at the same time feeling grateful. Despite himself, those old feelings slowly began to resurface and he had to struggle to force them back into their cage. John had promised himself that he wouldn’t fall into that sand trap ever again. Feelings for a machine were just… complicated. And he knew first-hand the dangers of allowing oneself to grow too attached to a machine who can use your feelings against you.
He turned to face her, seeing that innocent curiosity in her brown eyes. The pain in his head seemed to dull slightly, as if her stare had soothing properties. He took a deep breath, washing away his apprehension at whatever she was about to ask him.
- “What is it?”
- “Do you think that, with Riley gone, we can go back-“
A crack of lightning and a flash of white light sent them flying off the bridge and hurtling towards the ground. Luckily, Cameron managed to grab John mid-fall and held him close as she struck the ground, acting as a cushion between him and the concrete. Arcs of lightning surrounded them as a sphere of light appeared a few feet from where they laid. The lightning eventually dissipated and John extricated himself from Cameron, wincing as his back ached despite landing on top of her. Cameron got to her feet and stood in front of John, her eyes scanning the naked figure before them.
He laid there shivering and slowly raised his head, his eyes trying to focus on John and Cameron. As they slowly drew closer, John noticed that the man was bleeding heavily from his forehead, a bullet wound visible beneath his long dark fringe. The man’s eyes darted back and forth from John and Cameron to the world around him, confusion and fear lining his handsome features. Cautiously, John took a step closer and knelt down a foot away.
- “Are you okay? My name’s John, are you from the future?”
- “Future? I don’t…”
The man looked up at Cameron, who continued to eye him suspiciously, her right hand slowly clenching into a fist. John followed his gaze and glanced up at her, shaking his head disapprovingly before turning back to the mysterious arrival.
- “What is your name?”
- “My name?”
- “Yeah, who are you?”
The man stared at the floor for a moment before locking eyes with John again, uncertainty clouding his features.
- “I don’t know.”
To be continued…