The stranger tries to understand who he is and turns to Cameron for help.
She was trapped. There would be no escape for her this time.
Through eyes cold and merciless, the infiltrator watched as the human female hurtled down the dark corridor, desperately trying to escape this nightmare. But the infiltrator had secured all the exits, blocked every possible escape route. She was little more than a rat in a maze now, and it was only a matter of taking the wrong turn before coming face-to-face with her fate.
She collided with her captor, her brown eyes widening in utter terror as she saw his face. She froze completely, every fibre of her being told her to break away, to fight and flight. But she couldn’t, her body refused to respond to her instincts and she did nothing but shed a single tear before falling into nothingness.
The infiltrator carefully lowered her body to the floor, placing her hands on her stomach and closing her eyes. She looks so peaceful, the infiltrator thought as he stood over her, recording the sight to memory before calling out to his creator.
- “It is done.”
The stranger woke up screaming to find himself on a bed he didn’t recognize, in a room he couldn’t recall, a house he’d never seen before. His vision was blurred and a sharp pain came from his temple, he cried out again as he felt as if his head was splitting in two. Shadowy figures entered the room and distant voices reached the stranger’s ears.
- “He’s awake.”
This voice was wispy and soft, the voice of a petite teenage girl, but it sounded so mechanized to his ears.
- “Yeah, I think we noticed, Cam.”
This belonged to a boy, bearing all the hallmarks of an adolescent, but carried an undertone of tenacity.
- “He looks out of it; maybe we shouldn’t have given him so many painkillers.”
An adult, male, sharing similar speech nuances as the boy, but with a brusque manner.
- “He had a bullet lodged in his skull, how would you feel?”
Another adult, female, strong, commanding, dominant.
He didn’t know how, but the stranger felt these observations pour into him from a place deep within the back of his mind, an undetectable aperture of knowledge. The shadows moved. Two approached his right; the others remained on his left, all looking down on him. The stranger blinked repeatedly, his vision becoming clearer with each attempt, but their faces still remained obscure.
One of them pulled up a chair and sat closer to the bed, leaning forward and shining a bright light in his eyes. He blinked against the harsh radiance, the light of which illuminated the person’s face, revealing a woman with dark hair and green eyes. She studied him closely for a few seconds before switching off the light, leaving oil coloured spots in his vision.
- “He seems to be alright. How do you feel?”
The stranger winced and put a hand to his face, his mind starting to clear as an answer came to him from that hidden place. He felt his vocal cords scrape against his throat, making him cough before speaking, his voice coming out ragged and hoarse.
- “My head hurts… Where am I?”
The woman leaned back and put the light down on the bedside table before picking up a syringe and filling it with a clear liquid.
- “You’re safe.”
The stranger watched as she tapped the needle and gave it a small squirt before taking his left arm and placing the needle against his skin, causing him to recoil.
- “What is that?”
Her expression softened and she let go of his arm.
- “It’s morphine. It will help dull the pain.”
His head gave another excruciating throb and he held out his arm for the injection. A small sting and it was done, within a few seconds the pain began to fade until it was nothing more than a minor ache.
- “Thank you.”
The woman put down the syringe and got to work replacing the plaster on his forehead, being careful not to touch the wound as she placed a fresh one over the stitched skin, her eyes darting across his face a dozen times as she worked.
- “You’re lucky to be alive, you know. If that bullet was a centimetre deeper it would’ve penetrated your brain, or so Tin-Miss tells me.”
The woman inclined her head towards the girl on his right, who was regarding him with an expression of mild curiosity. For the first time he saw the girl’s face with total lucidity and felt his heart begin to race for reasons he couldn’t quite explain. Something about her was screaming danger to him, but he didn’t know what. She looked perfectly harmless and innocent to him. She tilted her head slightly and seemed to look right through him, making the stranger feel even more uncomfortable.
- “Who are you people?”
The woman seemed to consider his question carefully for a moment before raising her eyebrows in a slightly defensive gesture.
- “How about you tell us who you are first? I mean, you’re obviously from the future. You’re clearly human. Are you a Resistance fighter?”
Her words made little sense to him, even more so as he couldn’t possibly answer her question.
- “I can’t remember. Everything’s… I don’t know who I am. What do you mean; the future?”
The boy shifted slightly and crossed his arms.
- “He said that before.”
The woman glanced up at the boy before looking back at the stranger.
- “What is the last thing you remember?”
The stranger searched his memories and came upon a perfect recollection.
- “White light, falling backwards, and then… pain… and cold. You were there… and you as well.”
He pointed at the boy and the girl, his eyes narrowing at the former.
- “John. You said your name is John.”
John nodded and cocked his head in the girl’s direction.
- “Yeah, and this is Cameron.”
Again, he felt a tightening in his stomach at the mention of that name, as it seemed all-too-familiar. The woman stood up and moved the chair away from the bed before pointing to herself.
- “I’m Sarah. This is Derek.”
Derek simply nodded in recognition. The stranger willed his muscles to work as he sat up and rested his back against the pillow, getting a better view of the room, and spotting a pair of eyes peering through the door.
- “And who’s the kid?”
Sarah gave him a look of confusion before glancing over her shoulder and spotting the kid by the door.
- “What did I tell you?”
The kid jumped out of his skin and backed away, heading for his room.
- “Sorry, I’m going to bed, I’m going to bed.”
Sarah closed the door and leaned against it, her ears pricked for the sound of creaking floorboards.
- “So, you remember nothing before your arrival here.”
The stranger nodded.
- “I remember some things; numbers, the alphabet, things like that.”
- “But nothing about who you are?”
- “No, it’s all a blank.”
Sarah stared at the floor for a long moment, as if considering something.
- “Not even your name?”
- “His name is Jason.”
Everyone looked in Cameron’s direction. She regarded each of them in turn, her gaze resting on John that little bit longer than the others, the stranger observed. John frowned at her and took a step away from the bed.
- “How do you know that? Do you know him? From the future, I mean?”
- “I’m not sure.”
Her face was blank but carried a hint of confusion as she glanced back at the stranger. John crossed his arms and drew closer to her.
- “What’s that supposed to mean?”
Cameron tilted her head and returned her gaze to John’s face before answering.
- “I don’t know. I just know his name is Jason, Jason Corvain.”
John narrowed his eyes at Cameron and searched hers for any hint of dishonesty…
- “Are you lying to me?”
…but found none and nodded slowly as he accepted her response.
- “Another glitch, I suppose, a deleted memory resurfacing?”
The stranger found that to be an odd statement in regards to a human being, but the more he watched Cameron, the more he got the sense that she wasn’t all that she appeared to be. Regardless, the name sounded right, and Jason wasn’t going to argue against it.
- “I couldn’t say. It is possible though.”
Satisfied, John turned his back on Cameron and headed for the door, indicating for Sarah to move aside.
- “Where are you going?”
- “I’m going to bed, Mom. I might as well get this on-setting hangover out of my system.”
Sarah stepped out of the way and smirked as he passed.
- “That’s what happens when you binge.”
- “Tell that to Cameron.”
With that, he left, leaving Sarah to give Cameron an inquisitive look. She simply remained blank though, and followed John’s example, Derek close behind her. Sarah then placed a glass of water and some pills on the bedside table.
- “In case you can’t sleep.”
Jason leaned his head back and held up his right hand, which he proceeded to study carefully. Sarah watched him for a moment before turning back to the door, stopping halfway.
- “Let’s hope you remember something when you wake up tomorrow.”
- “Yeah, let us hope.”
Sarah frowned slightly as she closed the door behind her, leaving Jason to examine his hand in silence. He turned it over again and again, not knowing what he was looking for, but knowing that something was there, beneath the skin. He balled his hand into a fist and heard his digits click in perfect unison, unnerving him slightly.
He now knew his name, but he still had no idea who Jason Corvain was, who he was. Jason reached for the glass and swallowed the pills in one go before resting his head back onto the pillow and closing his eyes, hoping that the morning would bring him the answers to all his questions.
When John awoke the next morning he instantly regretted drinking all that beer, proving his mother right… again. He rolled over and shielded his eyes from the ray of sunlight that shone through the window. His head felt three times too big and his stomach seemed to be performing back flips. This wasn’t helped at all when he finally prised his eyes open, only to find Cameron sitting on the edge of his bed, a glass of water in one hand and several aspirin in the other.
He started at the sight of her and pushed himself further up the bed before letting out a sigh and settling back down. Cameron found his behaviour to be overly-dramatic, but then she remembered how much he hated people watching him sleep, as she had done all night.
- “For the last time: stop doing that!”
Cameron held out the glass and pills, watching intently as he sighed again and took them from her.
Once swallowed, John gave back the glass and got to work clearing the sleep from his eyes, uncomfortably aware that Cameron was still watching him. Once his eyes were no longer glued together, John sat up straight and rubbed his aching head, regarding Cameron with a mild annoyance.
Cameron quickly averted her gaze and stared at the sheets as she started fiddling with a loose thread.
John continued to watch her for a moment, wondering what was going on in that chip of hers, but could only conclude that she was being clingy again.
- “Well, since you’ve nothing to do, how about you go prepare our guest’s breakfast and let me get dressed in privacy.”
Cameron looked up at him for a moment, confusion clouding her features. John inclined his head at the door and comprehension dawned on her.
- “Oh, right. Thank you for explaining.”
John rolled his eyes as she got off his bed and strode to the door, pausing only to pick up her pistol before closing the door behind her. John climbed out of bed and winced as his muscles ached from fatigue. He went to his wardrobe and picked out some clean clothes, all the while thinking about Cameron.
When they first met, Cameron was no different than any other girl he’d met. Scratch that, she was different, she was special. Something about her told him he could trust her, even though they’d barely gotten to know each other. But then he discovered the truth about her and it was like a switch flipped in her mind, she ceased being that amorous and engaging chatterbox and became a sweet, and sometimes naïve, robot. Sure, she looked like a normal girl, but the way she moved and the way she spoke told him otherwise.
Regardless, he still held a soft spot for her and couldn’t help but continue to find her attractive, despite knowing what lay beneath the mask of flesh and blood. He had allowed his feelings for her to grow and found himself becoming enamoured by her once again. He started to see her as more than a machine; he started to see her as a person, a person with feelings, even if she never showed any evidence to testify his belief. But there were moments, instances when he saw a flicker of emotion, be it humour, annoyance, or adoration. He’d seen that last one more than he’d like.
Then everything changed.
Cameron was given the trivial task of buying him a birthday cake, only to be blown to hell and back by Armenian mobster Sarkissian. The explosion shook something loose in her chip, reverting his beloved friend back to her Skynet settings and instantly turning Cameron into the very thing she’d been sent back through time to protect him against. She chased him and his mother across the city, finally overturning their car in a levee before cornering him in a warehouse.
John was certain that his number was up, but his mom came through like always and managed to pin Cameron between two trucks, allowing him the opportunity to get at her chip without worrying about her ripping his throat out. That’s not to say that she didn’t rip something out of him, it just wasn’t what he’d expected.
- “John. John? You can't do this. You don't know what you're about to do.”
John tried to shut out the memory, but it proved too strong for him to suppress:
- “Yes, I do. You were gonna kill me.”
John jabbed the screwdriver into her CPU port, twisting it back and forth as he buried it deeper into the groove between the shock dampener and her skull. Cameron could do nothing to stop him, but she still persisted regardless.
- “No, John. You can't do this. You're not doing the right thing. This is not the right thing, John. Things are good now. Things are fine now. I ran a test.”
John paused, part of him hoping against hope that she was telling the truth.
- “Things are good now. I'm fixed now. You can trust me now. Everything's good now.”
But she couldn’t be, it wouldn’t make sense.
- “What are you waiting for?”
He barely heard his mother’s voice over the screeching of the tires, but somehow he could still hear Cameron with complete clarity.
- “She doesn't know, she doesn't. I'm good now. I'm good, I ran a test. Everything's perfect. I'm perfect.”
Perfect? How can any of this be perfect, he thought.
His mother was right, of course. He didn’t have time to waste with ifs and buts.
- “I'm sorry for what I did. I'm sorry. It wasn't me. You have to understand. It wasn't me. That wasn't me.”
Her mechanical façade seemed to melt away as her face flushed with emotion. But John couldn’t let himself fall for her tricks, and as much as it pained him to do it, he popped open the shock dampener, exposing the chip.
- “You can't let this happen, John. You can't! Please, listen to me. Listen to me. I don't want to go.”
Despite his resolve, John found himself unable to act upon his conviction. This wasn’t just the ploy of a cornered machine; this was a desperate plea from a girl who’s afraid for her life.
- “Please, John, please. John, listen to me. I don't want to go. Please, John. Please. I'm good now. Listen to me. I don't want to go. I'm sorry.”
John felt his heart clench as he saw actual tears brimming in her eyes, her voice betraying raw despair.
- “That wasn't me. I'm fixed now. I ran a test. Everything's perfect. You can trust me.”
His grip on the tab slackened slightly as he stared into those beautiful eyes and saw what he hoped was the real Cameron.
- “John Connor!”
But like the proverbial angel on his shoulder, John knew his mom to be right and twisted the tab a half turn counter clockwise.
- “I love you! I love you, please.”
John froze as this blatant confession penetrated his mind, rendering him completely numb.
- “I love you, John, and you love me.”
He wanted nothing more than to believe her in this moment, and part of him always would, but instead he forced himself to violently cut off his emotions and wrench that chip from her skull. Her face, which seconds ago had displayed utter dismay and love, was now completely blank. John rolled over onto his side and cradled the chip in his palm, pure emotional exhaustion consuming him.
John had tried so hard to forget that trauma, he and Cameron had never spoken of it since, but it often manifested in his dreams, causing him to call to her in his sleep. It was no wonder then, that he kept waking up to find Cameron sitting on the end of his bed, having watched him all night. He didn’t want to admit it, but Cameron had touched upon such a patent truth that he purposely sought out a means to distract his attention, to draw himself away from her.
Riley served this purpose perfectly, but she was gone now, and John was stuck back on square one. With a weary sigh of regret and mingled dread, John pulled on his shirt and left his room, heading for the kitchen downstairs. As predicted, Cameron was there, and she had saved him the trouble of making his own breakfast. The kid was also present, sitting at the table with a bowl of cereal and a glass of orange juice.
- “Hey, Mini-Me. How’s it going?”
Cameron frowned slightly at John’s quip, not quite understanding why no one but herself and Sarah ever referred to the kid by his proper name.
- “Okay, I guess. Cameron made me corn flakes… again.”
Cameron gave the kid a look of mock disapproval and placed a box of rat poison on the kitchen table.
- “In case you prefer something a little different.”
Taking the hint, the kid proceeded to wolf down his cereal without further complaint. John just smirked and sat down opposite the kid, pausing for a second as he considered his breakfast. Seeing the look on his face, Cameron replaced the poison with a tub of sugar, a ghost of a smile on her lips. John took it from her and gave her a small nod.
- “You’re welcome.”
Cameron then went to the fridge to get a carton of milk but suddenly froze, the carton slipping from her grasp and falling to the floor, spilling milk all over her feet. John dropped his spoon and watched as Cameron twitched for a few seconds before coming to her senses and noticing the spillage. The kid hopped off his chair and handed her a wash cloth, discreetly disposing of his cereal in the bin. Cameron took the cloth and started mopping up the milk. John shook his head and sighed as he returned to his breakfast.
A few minutes later, the sopping rag was suddenly dropped in his bowl, ruining his half-eaten breakfast. He looked up in surprise to see Cameron leaving the kitchen without a word. As he removed the cloth from his cereal, John couldn’t help but think that this was going to be another one of her bad days.
Jason studied his reflection carefully, taking note of his strange fringe, which was longer on his right side. His hair was jet black and his eyes a greenish brown. Jason didn’t recognise this face, but he figured he’d get used to it. After all, his physical appearance was the least of his problems at the moment. Between being adopted by a strange family and his lack of total recollection of his entire life, Jason felt more than a little lost.
Sarah had left him some clothes which he changed into before taking another dose of painkillers for his head. Apparently he had been shot and survived, which only added to the mystery of his past. That, coupled with their belief that he was from the future, Jason couldn’t quite imagine what he’d fallen into.
He cautiously poked his head out of his room, finding the corridor empty and quietly took a step out into the open. He could hear talking downstairs; the kid from the other night seemed to be complaining about his breakfast, and that name again… Cameron. It sounded so familiar, and it sent shivers down his spine every time he heard it, but he didn’t know why.
- “For someone who took a bullet to the head and survived…”
Jason spun around to find Derek standing behind him, a pistol in one hand and a cleaning kit in the other.
- “…you sure seem to have gotten over it quickly enough.”
Jason gave a slow smile, his eyes lingering on the gun. Derek followed his gaze and turned the weapon over in his hand.
- “Oh, right. Just cleaning it, you know. Gotta keep ‘em up to spec. You never know who might walk through that door.”
- “Right… I’m sure the postman will be delivering your letters with a 12 gauge any day now.”
- “Ah, I forgot. You can’t remember anything. Can you?”
Jason narrowed his eyes at Derek, detecting the scrutiny in his tone.
- “No. I can’t.”
Derek nodded slowly and tapped his hip absent-mindedly with the gun.
- “Yeah… and what are you going to do about that?”
- “I thought I might talk to ‘Tin-Miss’, or whatever you call her. She seems to know more about me than I do.”
Jason matched Derek’s stare, realising that this gruff individual was trying to suss him out. Derek snorted and flipped the gun in his hand before holding it out for Jason to take. Jason eyed the gun questioningly for a second before taking it and instinctively checking the magazine, surprising himself. Derek just smiled sardonically.
- “I guess you know how to use one of those then. That’s good, you’re gonna need it with her around.”
Jason was tempted to ask why, but decided against it and instead turned around and began the short descent down the stairs. Upon reaching the bottom, Jason caught a snippet of a conversation in the living room between whom he assumed to be John and Cameron.
- “I’m fine.”
“You’re not fine, Cameron. This is the fourth time you’ve frozen like that. What if it happens again when we need you, like in a gunfight or something?”
- “It won’t.”
- “How do you know that-“
John stopped short as he spotted Jason standing there with a gun, his expression darkening. Jason placed the gun on a nearby cabinet and took a step away from it, his hands raised. Cameron watched him carefully before returning her attention to John, who seemed to have lost his thread.
- “I need to talk to Cameron, I need to know-“
- “Who you are?”
Jason lowered his hands and stepped onto the threshold, earning him Cameron’s attention once more. John put his hands in his pockets and made for the stairs.
- “I’ll leave you to it then, just don’t piss her off, she’s in a bad enough mood as it is.”
Once John was gone, Jason entered the room proper, unconsciously committing everything to memory. Cameron just remained rooted to the spot, her face as blank as before. After a few awkward minutes of silence, Jason finally spoke.
- “I was hoping you might shed a little light on, well, me. You knew my name, and you seem familiar to me, so we obviously know each other-“
- “I don’t know you.”
- “But you knew my name.”
Cameron leaned against the back of the couch and placed her hands there for support.
- “That doesn’t mean I know who you are. I might’ve read it somewhere.”
- “Like where? I seriously doubt mine is a common name in this day and age. Hang on, it is 2007 right?”
Cameron’s eyes seemed to mist for a moment as she consulted her chronometer.
- “Yes, March 24th to be exact, it’s a Sunday.”
- “Right… see, I know stuff like that, but anything else is just…”
Jason swept a hand past his face and sighed. Cameron tilted her head to one side and narrowed her eyes slightly. Jason took a step closer and brushed his fringe out of his face, triggering a flash in Cameron’s mind: she saw a dark corridor and a shadowy figure at the very end with two violet orbs of light in place of eyes.
Cameron blinked and found herself back in the present, Jason was watching her with an expression of slight puzzlement.
- “You okay?”
Cameron’s lips parted slightly as a strange sense of comprehension dawned on her.
- “Yes, I think I can help you.”
To be continued...
- Previous: "Promises"