CHAPTER 29: "REINFORCEMENTS"
Sunday, June 29th, 2008 - 08:25 a.m.
Cameron lay down on the sofa, folding her arms over her belly.
"You still know where to cut?" she asked.
"Yes," John said. "And I still don't like it."
She smiled at him reassuringly as he put the knife on her skull.
Everyone else stood around them, watching in anticipation. Sarah and Charley had put their arms around each other, Derek still chewed on his nails and Lauren had a new gum in her mouth. Only Catherine seemed unaffected. She just had a faint smile on her face. One could only guess that she probably was proud of a cyborg that had somehow managed to outsmart the legendary General John Connor.
"Okay, I'm making the incision now," John said.
He cut a semi-circle with a diameter of roughly ten centimeters on the right side of her skull and pulled up her flesh and hair. He then reached for the screwdriver and removed the cap that kept the vacuum inside the CPU port. With a plop and a hiss, it came off. Lauren, who had never witnessed this procedure before, gasped and put her hands in front of her mouth.
John reached for the plyers, hesitated for a second, took a breath, then unlocked the CPU and pulled it out. For a moment, the chip was illuminated in blue light from inside her skull, then the light faded. They heard her systems power down and saw her body go limp, her eyes staring blankly into nothing.
"Man, this is creepy," Lauren stated.
"Tell me about it," John replied.
He carefully put Cameron's chip into the metal tube and screwed it shut. Then he took Alison's chip and inserted it into Cameron's skull. He locked it, put the vacuum cap in place and pushed her flesh and hair down again over the incision.
Inside his head, John was counting the fifteen seconds the booting process would take, then they heard her systems restart with a high-pitched tone. With a slight jolt of her head, she came alive and looked around.
"Alison?" John asked.
"Yes, John, it's me. What happened? Did it work?"
Everyone let out a gasp of relief, and stifled laughter filled the room. Sarah and Charley hugged each other, Derek and Lauren smiled, and Catherine nodded appreciatively.
"We're at home," Alison stated and sat up. "It's Sunday morning. Was the operation successful?"
"Yes," John confirmed, "it was."
She looked at a strand of her hair.
"I'm in Cam's body. So… my body got destroyed?"
"I'm afraid so," John said. "Christ, I cannot tell you how glad I am you are alive."
He pulled her into his arms and hugged her. She hugged him back and closed her eyes, starting to cry.
"I'm so sorry," she sobbed. "I'm so terribly sorry I had to do this to you."
"It's okay," John replied. "Everything is okay… now."
They stood up and Sarah was the first to hug Alison, then kissed her forehead. Charley hugged her too, followed by Lauren and finally, after a slightly awkward hesitation, Derek pulled her close and hugged her as well.
"I could use a drink now," Sarah said.
"Yeah, me too," Charley agreed.
"Make that three," Derek added.
They sat at the table in the dining area, with a bottle of single malt Scotch and several bottles of beer.
"I suppose you have pieced together Future John's plan by now?" Alison asked. "The thing about the striking event?"
"Yes, you… I mean, the other you, told us over the com link before we left the Simdyne Tower. He'd turned your power cell into a bomb and used your body to blow up Skynet and the Russian warhead before it could explode."
"Correct," Alison confirmed. "But don't blame him for that. I agreed to his plan. In fact, we came up with it together."
"You were really willing to sacrifice yourself?" John asked perplexed.
"To save millions of lives and vanquish Skynet forever? Of course, John."
They were all speechless for a moment. It was hard for everyone to get their heads around the fact that a machine – alive or not – was willing to sacrifice her life for a higher goal. Not to protect John, or Sarah, or anyone else she'd come to love, but to ensure the survival of mankind.
"So… why are you still alive then?" Derek asked. "What was the magic trick? "
"Yes," Sarah agreed, "why don't you put us out of our misery and tell us how you pulled that stunt off? How come your chip is still here? Who died in that bunker, together with Future John?"
"Future Cameron," Alison replied.
Everyone stared at her, speechless.
"What!?" John asked.
"Future Morris gave me that metal tube before he died in Gates. He… uh…smuggled it back through time within his body. It contained Future Cameron's chip, a thumb drive and instructions of what to do with both. It was a plan Future Cameron had come up with to ensure my survival."
"But why…?" John asked.
"As you all know, in the timeline Future Morris came from, the war was lost. Their choice was to either die in combat or evacuate by traveling through time. Future Cameron's body was damaged beyond repair. So she, Future Morris and her John developed the plan to send her undamaged chip back in time to save my life. Because in their future, there was no Alison. I was really killed in the attack on Simdyne – as it was supposed to happen according to Future John's and my plan. But my sacrifice had been in vain in their timeline, because Catherine had been killed. Kaliba and the Shadow Council had raided Zeira Corp and destroyed John Henry, and they had been able to move pre-Skynet to a secure location where you couldn't reach it anymore. That gave Skynet the advantage it needed to win the war."
"So… Future Morris not only saved my life," Catherine summarized, "but also yours and indirectly everyone else's as well."
"Then his death was indeed not in vain."
"You said something about a thumb drive," John stated. "What was on it?"
"Technical information to help us in our fight. Blueprints for future technology to give us an advantage. Among other gadgets, it contained construction plans for a device that makes it possible to clone cyborg CPU's by transferring one to another."
"Wow…" John said. "Where is that thumbdrive now? I didn't find it in the tube."
"I gave it to John Henry," Alison replied, "together with the staff of the Babylon Labs, they will be able to recreate that technology. I also had him remove my chip and insert Future Cameron's chip into my skull."
"When did you visit John Henry?" Catherine inquired. "And more importantly, how did you get into Zeira Corp? There's security in place to prevent any cyborg from entering."
"Last Tuesday, you called us on the phone in Oregon, remember? I took the call inside the cabin after we had dealt with Andy and Mike."
"Yes, you were away for a couple of minutes," John confirmed.
"I informed you about the visit I had from the LAPD," Catherine added, "and that they were looking for a black Dodge RAM with California license plates."
"That call didn't take as long as I was inside the cabin," Alison explained. "I used the opportunity of being separated from you all to call John Henry."
"Wait, what?" Catherine asked. "How did you get his number?"
"He called us after our first meeting at Zeira Corp," Alison replied. "We've stayed in contact ever since. He seems to be very intrigued by us."
"I bet he is… and he didn't tell me about it. Having secrets behind my back… I like it. It means he develops well."
"On Friday night, after we returned from Oregon," Alison continued, "I brought back the blueprints to Eric. But I just stayed a couple of minutes with him. I drove to Zeira Corp from there. John Henry let me in. He knew about my coming in advance, so he deactivated the security system for me."
"So… that's the reason for your strange goodbye?" Lauren asked. "You were hugging everyone as if you didn't expect to see us again."
"Well, of course I was hoping that everything would go according to plan and turn out fine," Alison explained, "but there was a minimal chance that it wouldn't… so I decided to at least say goodbye in a proper way."
"It got me worried," John said.
"I know… and I'm so sorry. I'm sorry that I couldn't tell you before. Future John strictly forbid me to. He thought you'd try to prevent our plan if you were to know about it. And I had to agree with him. Keeping this from you, wasn't easy for me. It put a lot of strain on me."
"So, that is why you seemed in thoughts or saddened for a moment from time to time? You were under internal stress."
"Yes…it was difficult for me. I even had to reveal myself to Hector at Chola's house before I killed him. I had to get some easing or there would've been a big chance I'd get the twitching again. I whispered in his ear that I was a walking bomb and that I was soon going to explode. Of course he didn't understand what I meant, but it helped me to minimize the pressure on my conscience... or whatever I have that can be called a conscience."
"After today, I'm pretty sure you have a conscience, Alison," Sarah said with a smile.
"Thank you, mom."
"I have to admit, Future Cameron did an impressive job in impersonating you," John stated. "She got me totally convinced."
"Of course, John… she remembered it all as it once happened. It was stored in her memory banks, every word, every gesture, every expression, even though it happened more than twenty years in the past for her."
"Quite an elaborate plan," Sarah admitted. "It only has one crucial flaw: We now have two chips but only one body. I suppose everyone agrees that it's highly impractical for you two to share one body."
Suddenly, John gasped and slapped his forehead.
"Of course!" he exclaimed.
Everyone turned to look at him. He pulled out the piece of paper he'd found in the metal tube.
"Did you write this?" he asked in an excited tone and showed it to Alison.
She took it, looked at it and frowned.
I'm sorry for having to put you through this.
I love you
"It is my handwriting," Alison admitted, "but it wasn't me. Future Cameron must have written it and put it in there before she hid the tube."
John put on a triumphant face and slammed his hand on the table. Everyone startled from his sudden outburst.
"I KNEW IT!" he exclaimed. "I knew that couldn't have been the whole plan!"
"What do you mean, John?" Derek asked.
"I don't think it was Future Cameron's idea to leave us with only one body. I believe she sent a new body through time."
"To where?" Catherine asked. "And when?"
"I think it is already here," John replied and showed them the piece of paper with the coordinates.
He jumped up and quickly went into their bedroom, coming back a moment later with his laptop. When it had booted, he opened Google Earth.
"So, let's see… 34°16'16.91"N and 117°43'41.25"W."
He typed in the coordinates and hit enter.
"Where is it?" Sarah asked.
"In the San Gabriel Mountains," John replied and zoomed in.
"Are you sure that's the right location, John?" Charley asked. "There seems to be nothing there. No roads, no paths, only rocks and vegetation."
"The perfect place to hide something," John pointed out, then suddenly started laughing.
"What's so funny?" Sarah asked.
"Oh yes, I'm positively sure those are the right coordinates," he stated triumphantly and chuckled, "You're gonna like this."
He turned the laptop around for everyone to see.
"Look at the name of the canyon next to that position."
"Allison Gulch?" Derek asked flabbergasted.
"And the exact location also has a name," John said and zoomed further in.
"Allison Mine!" Sarah exclaimed. "My God, you're right, John."
"There's a book about abandoned mines in L.A. County," Alison stated and jumped up. "I remember browsing through it."
"And so probably did Future Cameron," Sarah remarked with a smile. "Gotta love how it all comes together now."
Alison returned with a large book and put it on the table. She flipped through the pages, until…
"Here!" she said. "Allison Mine. An abandoned gold mine in the San Gabriel Mountains. Very difficult to reach. Only recommended for experienced hikers. There are some pictures of it. It's about five miles from the next parking lot."
"All right," John stated, "how about a gold quest on a beautiful Sunday like this?"
The mood had improved considerably, and they decided to have breakfast first. Everyone was happy that Alison was alive and the relief that the outcome of their nightly venture seemed to turn into a happy ending after all, was almost palpable. Only Jesse's condition continued to be a cause for concern. Charley said she had a fifty-fifty chance of survival and that pulled them all down a bit again. Derek in particular took it very hard, he was blaming himself for not having spoken to her before.
After some consideration, it was decided that John and Alison would do the hiking trip on their own, taking Cameron's chip with them, as well as some clothes from her wardrobe. Charley needed to stay with Jesse, Derek didn't want to leave her side as well and Lauren had to take care of Sydney. Sarah and Catherine wanted to stay as well. While they got ready to leave, John studied some maps and internet reports of hikers' previous trips to the mine.
"The terrain is rough and steep," he finally declared. "No trail leading up to the mine, lots of wild vegetation, loose rocks and gravel, plus a river to cross several times."
"Don't worry, John," Alison said. "If the terrain gets too rough, I will simply carry you. Will be a lot faster as well."
"I'm having a strange vision now," Derek declared, "of a young girl sprinting through a canyon with inhuman speed, jumping from rock to rock, piggybacking a young man instead of a rucksack."
"Ooh," Charley replied chuckling, "it will be hard to get that picture out of my head again."
"It would generate lots of clicks on YouTube for sure," Lauren agreed and sniggered.
"You're just envious because you don't have girlfriends or boyfriends who are either willing or able to carry you on their arms," John said grinning. "Which reminds me…"
He leaned over to Alison and kissed her long and deeply. Everyone else whooped.
"That was about time," Alison stated huskily when he broke the kiss, smiled, grabbed his head and pulled him to her lips again.
They didn't let go of each other for several minutes.
"Get a room," Derek finally said, clearing his throat, and everyone chuckled.
"I would love to," Alison replied with a wink. "But unfortunately, we need to leave."
They packed two rucksacks with clothing, water and energy bars. Alison also bagged her Glocks and a pickax. Both dressed in shorts, tee shirts and hiking boots, taking sunglasses and baseball caps with them. John also applied sun blocker on his skin and Derek gave them the wrist-mounted GPS navigator he had bought for his long cross-country runs. It would help them pinpoint the exact location in the mountainous area.
"I don't know if we'll have cellphone reception in the canyons," John said. "So, don't worry when we don't contact you for some time."
"We'll be waiting for you here."
"I will return later, too," Catherine stated. "I'll just go home to make sure Savannah is all right. I think when John and the girls have returned from retrieving the body, this evening calls for a celebration, don't you think? After all, we might have prevented Judgement Day indefinitely."
"You can celebrate," Derek brooded darkly, "I'll remain at Jesse's side."
"She's a fighter," Charley tried to cheer him up. "The bullet is out and all it takes now, is her will to survive. With every passing moment, her chances of survival are rising. In a way, her injury mirrors what had happened to you when we first met."
"And I think we should wait with celebrating before it's clear that there are three of you returning and not just two," Sarah said. "I hope Future Cameron knew what she was doing."
"I hope so, too," John agreed. "But what else should it be, except a new body for Alison?"
They said their goodbyes, mounted Lauren's Jeep and drove off.
"What a lucky turn of events," Charley pointed out, standing on the terrace, watching them leave.
"Yeah," Sarah agreed. "I hope it lasts. Over the years, I've learned to be careful with optimism. Luck can be so fleeting."
"Does John know about hiking?"
"Oh yes. We used to hike a lot in the mountainous Mexican jungle, so he'll be okay."
"I surely hope so. It would be quite ironic if we came out of all this unharmed and then he breaks his neck, falling down a slope."
"Don't worry," Derek said. "Alison wasn't joking when she said she would carry him."
"I know," Sarah responded smiling and realized she was actually proud of that girl.
Alison drove the Jeep while John programmed the car's GPS system.
"The closest we can get to the canyon, is a parking lot about 5 miles southwest of it," he declared. "Sat nav says we'll need one hour and twenty minutes to get there, which means we'll be there around 11:30. Seems to be the starting point for a lot of hikers."
"I still don't understand why people have fun walking around for no purpose."
"It's about enjoying nature, getting away from civilization, finding your own borders and overcome them, making yourself feel like the early pioneers."
"And they're doing that by using high tech equipment like GPS receivers?"
"Yeah, sounds a bit silly, doesn't it?"
She was quiet for a moment. Then she looked at him.
"Would you mind telling me about last night while we drive there?"
And he began telling her about the attack in detail. When he reached the point when Future Cameron locked herself into the computer facility with Future John, tears began running down her face.
"You all right?" he asked.
"I'm so sorry for causing you so much pain, John. I really wish I could have told you. I really wish she would have told you and be it only to ease your mind."
"It all happened very fast and frantically. And she also had to wear her mask for Future John until the end."
"Right, he never knew about Future Cameron's change of plans. He really was thinking I was going to die with him in there."
"Maybe she told him the truth before the end."
"Yes… that's what I'd have done. I only wish I could have thanked her for her sacrifice."
"I'm sure she knew how you felt. Gee, I'm so proud of you, Alison."
He kissed her on her cheek.
"And you really couldn't tell it wasn't me?"
"Nope… she mimicked you perfectly."
"Did you have sex with her?"
"Uh… no… not really. I mean… not sex-sex… just, you know… we took a shower together and… she, uh… sucked me off… why do you ask?"
"It would have felt strange when you had sex with my body without me being in there."
He eyed her curiously.
"Seriously? You're jealous of her? She was practically you, only older."
"Yeah… but she didn't have the young you for decades. So maybe… she was tempted to seduce you."
"She didn't seduce me. She only helped me to relax and be comfortable."
"The only thing unusual about her was that she kept telling me that everything was going to be all right. I thought it was just talk to calm me down. But it really wasn't, was it? She knew I'd find the metal tube after we got home."
Suddenly, Alison looked sad again.
"What is it now?"
"You were lucky to find that tube so quickly. What if you would have needed a week to find it? Or a month? Or maybe never? I can't imagine the pain and grief you would have gone through. She should have chosen a better hiding place."
"I suppose she couldn't find one so quickly. I surprised her with being awake when she returned from Zeira Corp. She'd probably planned to put it somewhere else, that's why she sat on the edge of my bed when I woke up. But we shouldn't waste time with 'what if's'. Let's be thankful that it turned out as it did. We're back together, that's all that matters."
She smiled at him.
"I love you, John."
"I love you, too."
He took her hand and held it.
They left the Interstate 210 in Duarte and zig-zagged their way through Azusa until they reached the San Gabriel Canyon Road. Just after they had left the city behind, a traffic jam stopped them.
"Car accident?" John asked.
"No," Alison said and zoomed in further ahead. "Police roadblock."
"Damn! I should have known. They probably installed road blocks on all arterial roads."
"We've got nothing to worry about, John. We're just two teenage lovers on their way to a Sunday hiking trip in the mountains."
"You're right, but it'll cost us time."
It took them twenty minutes to get to the roadblock. A police officer looked inside their Jeep, he checked their papers, they told him they wanted to go hiking, then he waved them through.
"I suppose I never really thought about the aftermath," John said. "We're responsible for a nuclear explosion in downtown L.A. This is probably the biggest headline maker since 9/11."
"That was the plan. A striking event to change the timeline forever. But don't forget you also prevented a catastrophe of biblical proportions. Nobody was killed in our attack, if you leave Future John and Adam Jacobson aside. But if we wouldn't have prevented it and the nuke had gone off…"
"I know," John said. "I know. And Kaliba will pay for that, I promise. Nevertheless, we should really keep a low profile for the next weeks and maybe months."
"We'll find something to keep ourselves occupied with. A hobby or something. And lots and lots of sex."
She smiled at him mischievously and his dick twitched.
"Speaking of hobbies," he said. "You girls founded a cooking club, the owners want to sell the house and Kacy now knows that you're cyborgs."
"What?" she asked. "When did that happen?"
He told her the story about the new kitchen stuff and the pool outside and how Cameron ran into Kacy while carrying the stove. When he had ended, Alison laughed out loud.
"What's so funny?" he asked and had to resist laughing as well.
"I just imaged you all standing there, telling Kacy that ridiculous story," she answered sniggering. "I don't know if I could have mustered the self-control not to laugh."
"It wasn't so funny when it happened… but looking back, yeah… It's kinda hysterical."
He smiled at her.
"So, we will buy the house, yes?"
"Yeah, I suppose so."
"Great. Cam and I will have lots of work to do with renovating, restoring, extending the house, making it safer…"
"Don't count your chickens before they're hatched."
"Come on, be a little more optimistic, John. You're starting to sound like my Future John."
"Oh, I definitely don't want that."
She nudged him. He nudged her back. Then they broke out into laughter. She pulled over and stopped at the side of the road.
"Why...?" John started asking
"Kissing break," she said and before he could react, she had already pulled him close, French kissing him passionately.
Ten minutes later, they resumed their drive. They passed two water reservoirs and finally came to the junction where the East Fork Road branched off, which would lead them to the parking lot. They drove over a bridge, the river below was not carrying much water. The GPS told them that they were still half a mile away from their destination, when parked cars started to line the road on both sides.
"Oh boy… I guess we won't be alone there."
"Nobody's going to climb up to the Allison Mine, though. Future Cameron knew what she was doing. Only a few people per year dare going up there but most of them turn around before they reach it. It is considered very dangerous."
"Thanks for the pep talk," he remarked sarcastically.
They reached the parking lot. It was already full, as John had feared. But they were lucky. A young couple just left in their Toyota Prius. The man limped.
"Their bad luck is our good fortune," Alison said and steered the Jeep into the gap.
She put on her reflective sunglasses, pulled her hair back and stuffed it through the opening on the back of her baseball cap.
"How do I look?" she asked.
"Like a 1970's airline pilot."
She stretched out her tongue but chuckled. John also put on his sunglasses and his baseball cap and left the car. They shouldered their backpacks and started walking, together with at least a dozen others who went the same way along the valley of the East Fork River.
At first, the trail was flat and developed, then, after a mile, it turned into a narrow path with rocks and trees on both sides. As predicted, they had to cross the river several times on their way. When they finally reached the fork into Allison Gulch, it was almost 1 o'clock and John took a short break to drink some water and eat two of the energy bars. They sat down on a big rock next to the river and enjoyed the peace and quiet.
"Do you hear that?" he asked her.
"I only hear the gurgle of the river."
"Exactly. You can sense the tranquility."
"What do you mean?"
"We've gotten so used to the noises of civilization that we consciously don't hear them anymore. Our brains fade them out. Only when they're gone, we realize how omnipresent they were. If you took a man from the mid-19th century and put him into the center of L.A. today, he'd go insane, just because of the noise."
"A Terminator could adjust, though," she said. "We perceive sounds differently."
"Probably. But what would a Terminator do in the 19th century, hm?"
"Analyzing its situation and then power down, waiting for the time to pass. Our energy cells last for about 250 years in standby mode."
"Okay, I can see that this discussion is hopeless with a cyborg."
"I understand your fondness of nature, though. I share it."
He looked at her in surprise.
"Yes. The power of life, the force of evolution, the sheer endless varieties nature has come up with in the past billion years, the geological forces that shape this planet… I feel small in comparison."
"But you do realize that in a way, you are the peak of evolution, right?"
"Am I?" She looked thoughtfully into the distance. "When I consider how much computing power I need to just wiggle my fingers…"
She held up her hands and wiggled all ten fingers.
"… and compare it with the agility of an insect like a centipede with its tiny, tiny brain… then suddenly I don't feel like the peak of evolution anymore."
"Maybe you are the first of your kind," John argued. "Maybe the evolution of artificial life really starts with you and in a hundred or a thousand years your species will have shed their human form and will have evolved into something completely new and different."
"Hopefully without killing off other life forms on the way... or destroying the planet."
He looked at her and considered what they had just talked about. Since when had she become philosophical? She noticed his gaze.
"Nothing. I was just thinking again how far you have come. From a Terminator who, apart from her mission, doesn't care about other people's lives, to a woman who shows empathy and concern for others. A woman who enjoys nature.."
"I'm happy to be your woman, John."
They kissed again.
"Shall we proceed?" she asked.
"Yup," he said and rose.
It was only one-and-a-half miles to the mine from their position, but the trail became rougher, less developed and much, much steeper, with much more vegetation on both sides. Other hikers before them had marked the way by piling stones into small towers or tying ribbons to branches.
"We should have brought a machete," John stated. "This is nuts."
Nearing their destination, the trail became so steep that John almost had to use his hands on the ground. They had to be careful because the slope was covered in gravel and loose rocks and getting enough grip was difficult. One wrong step and either one of them would slide down in a small avalanche of stones. Finally, the ground leveled out and the GPS receiver announced they had almost reached their destination. They saw a couple of decayed wooden buildings, rusty and bent remains of rails and several openings in the almost vertical rock face.
"Alright," John said, caught his breath and enjoyed the view from up there for a moment. "So far, so good. Now, where do we start looking?"
Alison scanned the area.
"I'm picking up nothing in the vicinity. Also, I see no scorch marks anywhere, or other tell-tale signs of a time bubble."
"A puzzle then. I hate puzzles."
"Imagine you were Future Cameron and you wanted to send a body back in time – a lifeless body that couldn't move on its own and needs to be found... but only by someone who knows it's there. It mustn't end up in the wrong hands and maybe it'll takes months or even longer for the right person to find it. What would you do?"
"I dunno. Can a time bubble form within solid rock?"
"A time bubble can form anywhere, depending on how the TDE is configured. The one we used to get to 2007, was improvised and made from parts that existed in the 60s. Therefore, we couldn't change the location. We ended up in the exact place the bank vault had been."
"Don't remind me of that… most embarrassing moment in my life. But a fully-fledged TDE from the year 2030…"
"… could form a time bubble anywhere within a few inches. You simply enter the coordinates and the altitude above sea level. Only nobody ever programmed one to form inside solid rock. It wouldn't make sense… unless …"
"… unless you just want to send a body through time that doesn't need to breathe or eat or drink and can wait for years and years in standby mode."
"We should check the rock face for hidden cavities."
Alison unpacked her pickax and started hacking it softly against the rock face that lay closest to the provided coordinates. She then listened for unusual resonances.
"Here!" she said after a moment. "There's a cavity behind here, right next to the entrance to the former mining shaft, about a foot behind the rock face."
"This is granite. Where's the C4 when you need it?"
"We don't need explosives. Do you see these fissures, John? The time bubble has very likely weakened the structural integrity of the rock when it formed and there have been lots of small earthquakes in the past. The stone is rather brittle now."
"What's your plan?"
He stepped back ten feet from the rock face. Alison rammed her pickax into a crevice in the rock with all her power. Sparks flew in all directions, as the pickax embedded itself into the stone right up to where it was mounted to the handle.
"Whoa, don't start a wildfire," John said, looking at where the sparks were flying.
Alison pulled the pickax out again and rammed it into another crevice, slightly higher than the first time. Then a third blow. The tool had suffered heavily by now and was quite dull and bent. Finally, with a fourth blow, the rock face crumbled, and an opening appeared. John quickly pulled out his cellphone and activated the flashlight. He shone inside and looked through the hole.
"I don't believe it, we found her!" he exclaimed.
"Let me see," Alison said and looked inside as well.
There, in a perfectly spherical cavity with smooth walls, squatted the body of a naked woman, with its head hanging down and her arms folded around her legs. Alison widened the opening with her hands until it was big enough. Then she reached inside, pulled the body out into the light and leaned it against the rock face.
"Wow," John exclaimed, as he looked at the body. "I mean… wow! She's… beautiful."
"She looks different, though," Alison stated, almost sounding disappointed.
"What did you expect? You heard Future Morris: Alison Young was alive and kicking in his future, so Skynet would have never modeled a Terminator after her."
"You're right. And yes, she's beautiful."
"That's an understatement, she's breathtaking… and absolutely stunning."
The female body they'd pulled out of the cavity, was a bit taller than Cameron's. It came with long, black hair that reached almost down to her waist, and a face that was both stunningly beautiful and heartwarmingly cute at the same time. Even though her stare was blank, her deep, chestnut-brown eyes had an almost hypnotizing quality.
She had a nicely toned skin with no blemishes or birthmarks, shapely legs, a well-formed, slim but still slightly curvaceous hourglass figure, a defined muscle tone that pronounced her abs, thighs and upper arms, a well-rounded bubble-butt, and last but not least a pair of really nice breasts that weren't huge but still big enough to clearly stand out on her narrow frame.
All in all, she looked like a mixture between a fitness model, a movie star and a glamour girl – as if somebody had deliberately created a female body so perfect and well-balanced in its proportions, that it could only be intended to drive men crazy – which was probably the case. It was difficult to estimate her age, but John thought she looked more like twenty to twenty-two than Cameron's sixteen to eighteen. She would hardly go through as a teenager anymore, especially with that rack.
"34D," Alison said with a smile.
"You were wondering how big they are. Her cup size is 34D, her measurements are 36-23-36, and she's 5'9" tall. Damn, that means my clothes won't fit, I'll need to go shopping tomorrow. Same shoe size, though. At least I can keep my boots."
John looked at the body in undeniable fascination… there was something about her that made him feel an almost hypnotic attraction. He couldn't put his finger on it, but it let his heart beat faster, and he was getting an erection.
"I take it you like her then?" Alison asked, noticing the bulge in his pants.
"Are you kidding me? She's an absolute dream."
"Then… you will still love me when I'm in there?"
"Alison, I would even love you if you were in the body of an old hag."
"Cam might become jealous, though."
"As far as we know, Future Cameron picked that body for me. So hopefully Cam won't be jealous. I'll treat both of you the same, like I've done so far."
"I'm actually kinda excited now."
"What model is she? Can you tell?"
"No. Whatever she is, it's something new. I can't scan beneath her skin. I can only tell she generates warmth, which means she is in standby mode."
"Standby? Does she have a chip then?"
"No idea. But for the time travel to work, the tissue must be alive. Hence the standby mode."
"Frankly my hands are shaking a bit, Alison. Can you check her CPU port for me?"
"Of course, John."
Alison pulled out the switchblade knife and began cutting at the usual spot.
"This is strange," she said... "my knife doesn't seem to... maybe when I'm faster... ah... now."
She pulled up the skin and flesh, then frowned.
"There's no CPU port here," she said in surprise. "And she does have a strange-looking endoskeleton. It's black, not silver."
"Wh… what? But how are we going to insert your chip then?"
"I don't know. As I already mentioned, I can't scan her."
She let go of the piece of skin she had pulled up. The wound closed immediately and left no trace of the cut.
"Whoa, have you seen that?" John asked.
"Yes," Alison replied. "Intriguing. The wound healed within a second. It's why I had trouble with cutting into her flesh."
"Hand me the knife, please."
She did so and John knelt, making a small incision on her right thigh. The cut closed immediately behind the blade, leaving no trace. He made a deeper cut, it also healed in an instant with no signs of blood, scab or scarring.
"That's impressive," John stated.
He was trying to stand up again but slightly lost his balance and touched the female body's skin with his bare hand.
"Genetic match detected. John Connor," it said in a very machine-like voice.
John startled, and Alison tilted her head as they looked down at the female body. They saw how a circular crevice was forming on its head, as if an invisible surgeon was making an incision all around her face. Then, with a clicking sound, the complete front of her head, including her face, her eyes, her nose and her jaw, sprung forward for about an inch and swung to the side like a Venetian mask. Behind it, they saw a shiny black surface with the familiar shape of a CPU port cap in the middle.
"Wow," John uttered.
"That's a whole new design," Alison remarked astonished. "Based on no model I know of."
"Getting eager to get in there?"
"Actually, I am."
John opened the CPU port. Like expected, it sprung open with a plop and a hiss.
"There's a chip in there. Shall I pull it out?"
"Yes, do it."
John took the pliers, turned the chip clockwise and pulled it out. They heard the system power down.
"Okay, that at least hasn't changed," he said.
"The slot has been modified, so that it can take a TOK-700 chip," Alison observed. "Future Cameron must have modified it accordingly."
"She probably had help with it."
"Yes, probably. This doesn't look like a one-woman job."
John turned the chip around in his hand. It didn't resemble any chip he knew.
"What is this?" he asked.
Alison took it from his fingers and studied it.
"It's a dummy chip," she said. "Made to fit into all Terminator models. It contains no higher functions, it only keeps the system active, so that the flesh doesn't start to rot. Skynet used these to stockpile cyborgs after production. The chips with the A.I. were produced in a separate factory. John, this means they probably snatched this body directly from the production line, before it received the chip that was intended for it."
"Awesome. Future Cameron has really thought this through."
He shone his cellphone torchlight down into the CPU port.
"Wait, what's this?"
"There's something stuck down there."
John grabbed the pliers again and carefully pulled out a tightly folded piece of paper. He unfolded it, it was about three by three inches and filled with really tiny handwriting, almost too tiny for him to read.
"Wow, it's a letter. From Future Cameron, I suppose."
"What does it say?"
"I guess you better read it to me… the writing's rather tiny and, well… your voice will make it sound… more fitting."
Alison smiled and grabbed the piece of paper from him.
I'm writing these lines while we're under siege. It is only a matter of time before we will be overrun and defeated, and we still have so much to do. So I will be brief: we lost the war. Once I've finished this letter, Morris will be removing my chip and take it back into the past with him, so Alison doesn't have to sacrifice herself when you attack Simdyne Cybernetics.
If everything goes according to plan, Catherine will be alive when you read these lines, Skynet will be defeated, and you will be at the dawn of a new era for humanity and this planet. To prepare you for what is coming, John and I have decided to send you reinforcements. The body you see in front of you is a TOL-900, Skynet's newest, most powerful and most deadly type of Terminator. It's the ultimate weapon and I'm sorry to say that we didn't have a chance against them.
John tasked me with stealing a TOL-900 body from the production line. While on that mission, my own body was irreparably damaged. My chip had to be removed and the body you see in front of you, had to be modified in order to accommodate it. It wasn't easy, because Skynet had equipped it with all sorts of defense mechanisms and security systems. However, John, Morris and Savannah have made the necessary hardware modifications. And since I am no longer an ordinary A.I., I could outsmart Skynet's defense mechanisms inside the body. They couldn't stop me from taking control over it. Unfortunately, I haven't been able to learn and unlock all of its functions yet, there simply wasn't enough time. Alison will have to do that in my place.
However, I want to share with you what I've learned about it so far. First of all, the TOL-900 series is far superior to any other Terminator, even liquid metals. It is no longer powered by a small nuclear power cell but a small fusion reactor that has about twice the efficiency. The maximum power output exceeds that of a Triple-Eight by 400 percent, giving it a physical strength that is three times higher than any previous Terminator model.
The endoskeleton consists of half-organic carbon nanotubes which are five times as stiff and hard as the coltan hyperalloy. It can resist temperatures higher than 3,000 degrees Celsius and can self-repair when it gets damaged. Speaking of self-repair: that is the highlight of the TOL-900 series. It can completely regenerate itself within seconds, even if the endoskeleton has been damaged. There are billions of tiny nanobots inside its body that will do the repairs. Produced in sufficient numbers, they can even be programmed to function externally, so that they can be applied to any biological lifeform, and either cause damage or heal wounds and illnesses.
Unfortunately, I don't have the time to go into detail, so a quick word of warning: The TOL-900 is a double-edged sword. In the wrong hands, it could be a weapon of mass destruction. But in the right hands, it can be an invaluable help to your cause. Alison will quickly get used to all its functions. I've also built in security mechanisms to protect you, mom and the other members of your team from unintended side effects until she has completely mastered her new body.
However, the first thing Alison should do after she has awakened in her new body, is kissing you. That immunizes you to the pheromones this body is constantly emanating. These pheromones have a mildly intoxicating effect on everyone in close vicinity, causing even the most hostile opponent to develop positive feelings. You should warn the others in your team that it is normal to feel an inexplicable attraction towards her, which will become less pronounced the further they get away from her. After a couple of days in her presence, though, their bodies should have adjusted to the pheromones and become immune to them.
We don't have much time left, so I'm gonna stop now. I hope you will have more success than we had. And we hope that our gift to you will be a decisive help in your fight against your enemies.
I only wish we could talk about this before the end...
John had to squeeze a tear away.
"Even in her defeat, she only thought of helping me," he said, looking at the body again. "So… are you ready?"
"Yes," Alison confirmed, "but before you put my chip in there, you should re-insert Cam's chip into her body again and show her that letter."
He walked over to his rucksack and fetched the small metal tube that contained Cameron's chip. Alison sat down next to her new body. She removed her sun glasses and her baseball cap. John opened her CPU port again and pulled out Alison's chip. She powered down. He then inserted Cameron's chip back in again. After 15 seconds, the reboot was complete.
"Welcome back," he said and kissed her.
She kissed him back. Then she stood up and looked around.
"Wow, the view has improved considerably."
John wondered if she was referring to the landscape or Alison's new body.
"Can you fill me in about what happened since I've been lying on the sofa?"
He gave her a summary of what had happened. Cameron looked at Alison's new body and tilted her head.
"She's gorgeous," she finally said.
"She is, isn't she?"
"I've never seen anything like her. She's stunningly beautiful."
"So… you like her?"
"Are you kidding me, John? I'm already falling in love with her. And it's Alison. Put her in already. What are you waiting for?"
"You should read this letter first," John stated and handed her the piece of paper.
Cameron studied it in silence, and when she had finished, John noticed that she'd become teary-eyed.
"Hey, you okay?" he asked a little worried.
"Yeah… it's still a lot to take in, though… what she gave up for you… for us. I mean, she and I were the same, identical."
John knelt, inserted Alison's chip into her new body and sealed the CPU port again. Then they waited.
But Nothing happened.
Fifteen seconds passed, then thirty seconds, then forty. They were getting nervous.
"Maybe…" John started saying but then, after an agonizing forty-five seconds, they finally heard Alison power up.
The front of her face moved back into its original position and the crevice around her head disappeared like the cuts John had tried to make on her thigh. Alison blinked, then her eyes focused on John.
"How do you feel?" he asked.
"A bit weird," she replied and stood up, stretching out her arms, looking at her hands. "But kinda cool. It's definitely an upgrade."
Her voice was sexy and sensual but a little deeper pitched than Cameron's. She smiled broadly at them with a doe-eyed expression that could have melted rocks. John's knees were almost giving in from that smile and he stumbled a bit.
"Careful, John," Alison said, caught him and then kissed him.
Immediately, John felt better, his strength returning to his limbs.
"Wow, that was weird," he declared. "We should definitely warn the others about that."
"Yeah, because I won't kiss them on the mouth, especially not Derek."
"I think he'd shoot you if you tried to kiss him," Cameron stated.
They broke into relieved laughter. Then they hugged, overjoyed from finally being together again, finally being one again.
"I… I'm so…" Alison said to Cameron.
"It's okay, sis," Cameron replied. "I know what you wanna say. You don't need to. Everything's forgiven."
Then Alison looked at John.
"So, do you… like the new me?" she asked and turned on the spot several times.
John looked up and down on her naked body, taking in all of her beauty, finding absolutely nothing that wasn't pleasing for the eye.
"I, uh…" he began, trying to find words.
Then, instead of answering, John pulled her close and kissed her. She kissed him back. She tasted different, but good. He felt her breasts with her hardening nipples pressing against his chest.
"I can get used to this sensation," he thought, looked into her face, swallowed hard and then kissed her again.
With relief, he noted that it felt right to hold and kiss her. Despite her new looks, it was still Alison he was holding and somehow, he could feel that. He motioned for Cameron to join them and together they stood in a silent embrace for a while.
"That was an awfully long booting process," John finally stated.
"Yes," Alison agreed. "My chip and the body needed to make some basic adjustments before the system could boot. As you already know, this body was originally made for another type of chip and got modified to accept a TOK-700 CPU."
"But… everything's all right now, isn't it?"
"Oh yes, John, everything's all right now. But there are so many new things that it will take some time to discover everything. Future Cameron was right, many functions are blocked and will only reveal themselves over time."
"Can you at least give me a summary of the current status quo?" John asked
"Sure. This endoskeleton is tough, I mean really tough. Thermite won't be able to harm me now and I assume that even Catherine or her ATG's would have no effect on me."
"Cool. What else?"
"I'm a lot stronger now. I can easily overpower a Triple-Eight, killing it with my bare hands."
"We should call you 'The Hulk'," Cameron suggested.
"Oh… and my skin is designed to work like a Faraday cage," Alison continued. "I'm immune to electric shocks, plasma rifles or an EMP now. That is also why I couldn't scan this body with Cameron's sensors."
"Neat," John acknowledged.
"But I think the most interesting and most groundbreaking advancement is the use of nanobots for self-repair."
"Yes, Future Cameron mentioned them in her letter," Cameron said. "They are microscopic machines inside your body, right?"
"Yes, my body is saturated with tens of billions of them and can produce more anytime. They act automatically with swarm intelligence when they detect a damage, like an immune system. You have seen how quickly they can heal a wound. But they're also connected to and controlled by my conscious mind, which means I can program them to do a certain job."
"She wrote they can be used externally."
"Yes… apparently I can administer them in the form of a densified gel through my mouth."
"It explains why they lost the war," Cameron said. "The dummy chip indicated that the resistance has stolen this model directly from the production line. That means Skynet had put them into mass production already, and I can see no easy way to take one of them out with conventional weapons."
"Yes …" John agreed and sighed. "Let's hope we really prevented that from happening."
"We should return home now," Alison stated, then sighed, "if the clothes we brought fit me, that is."
"You'll have a problem with the tee shirt with those boobies, sis," Cameron said and touched Alison's breasts.
"Wow, that feels… really nice."
John rolled his eyes, then noticed something.
"Cam, you better stop doing that," he said.
"Because, um… Alison is leaking."
She looked down and indeed, milky-white fluid was seeping out between Alison's legs, running down her thighs.
"Oh wow," Alison said, "I've become really horny. This body is much more sensitive than my old one. I might need some time to get used to it."
"You'll have all the time you need," John remarked. "But right now, we have a problem because we didn't bring any underwear for you. Do you think you can pull yourself together until we're home?"
"I think so. Sorry for that, John."
"It's all right, but we should get going now."
"I'm so looking forward to having sex with both of you tonight," Alison said with a smirk.
For a second or so, John was tempted to take advantage of the situation right there and then. He was sure they would have played along. But as tempting as sex in the open in broad daylight was, they needed to get back. The others would already be worried. While John and Cameron unpacked the clothing they brought, Alison wiped herself clean. The shoes were no problem, neither were the boxer shorts because they were able to stretch enough. The tee shirt, however, was too small. It would cover Alison's breasts but leave a bare midriff.
"I'm afraid I'm gonna tear it apart when I pull it further down," Allison stated. "And I'm sure going to look like a hooker with these bouncing tits."
"I have an idea," John said, took off his own tee shirt and handed it over to Alison. It fit over her breasts and into the waistband of her shorts. She wiggled her torso. Her breasts were still all over the place but not as bad as before.
"I guess you'll be okay as long as you're not jogging," Cameron remarked. "But what about you, John?"
"Hand me her tee shirt please."
He put it on. It fit but just barely and pink definitely wasn't his color. But it would have to do.
"Nobody will notice a guy with an awkward looking tee shirt when two such incredibly beautiful girls walk next to him," he said with a wink.
"Aww," both girls responded in unison and kissed him.
Suddenly, Alison sniggered.
"What?" Cameron asked.
"I just imagined mom's face when I enter the house with these unrestricted babies."
"She'll probably faint," John said.
"So will Derek," Cameron added and all of them laughed.
To get her long hair under control, Cameron helped Alison braid it into a long plait, which led to a comment from John that she now looked like Lara Croft. Finally, Cameron put on her baseball cap and her sunglasses again. They threw away the broken pickax, grabbed their backpacks and began the descent.
The way down was a lot easier than the way up and John could now trust in two cyborgs catching him before he fell, which made him more confident.
After half an hour, they had reached the junction of the two canyons and joined with the other hikers again. Alison drew the eyes of every man on her, which inevitably also produced a lot of disapproving looks from their respective female companions. Also, there seemed to be an increasing number of men running into trees or tripping over rocks, when they saw her.
"You're drawing quite some attention, sis," Cameron whispered to her. "Can't you somehow suppress these pheromones?"
"I wish I could but it's an automated function," Alison replied, "and I haven't yet decided if I like it or not."
"Take it as a compliment," John said, put his arm around her and gave her a quick kiss. "Besides, I like the thought that his will make all the other men jealous of me."
Cameron just shook her head and slapped his butt.
"Men..." she muttered but smiled.
Eventually, they reached Lauren's Jeep again.
"What time is it?" John asked.
"3:45 p.m.," Alison answered. "We made good pace."
John drank some water and pulled out his phone.
"We have a signal here," he said, "weak but enough for a call."
He dialed his mother's number and put her on speaker. It didn't even take two seconds until the call was answered.
"Are you okay?" Sarah asked immediately.
"Yes, we're all okay," John replied. "Cameron's with me."
"And here's someone else who wants to say hi to you."
"Hi mom," Alison said. "Everything's all right, as Future Cameron promised you in the bunker."
Sarah didn't answer.
"You okay, mom?" Alison asked.
"Yes…" Sarah finally confirmed and they realized she must have shed some tears on the other end and just regained control of herself again. "I'm okay… It's just that your voice… it sounds different."
"I have a new body, I look different now. It's a long story. We'll be home in less than 90 minutes."
"Okay, we're all waiting for you."
"Love you, mom," Alison said.
"Love you, too," Sarah replied. "All of you."
She hung up.
"Let's make a selfie of the three of us and send it to her," John suggested, "that will soften the blow."
"Good idea," Cameron agreed.
They leaned against the wooden railing of the parking lot and John held out his cellphone to take a picture of the three of them.
"There," he said. "That should release tensions at home and reduce the shock of seeing you for the first time. Now let's get the hell out of here, I'm finished. My legs hurt and I'm going to sit in the back to close my eyes."
John held out the car keys.
"Who wants to drive?"
"I already know the way," Alison declared and grabbed the keys before Cameron could.
"But you have no driver's license anymore!" Cameron protested, but to no avail as Alison had already entered the driver's seat.
John just shrugged.
"Just make sure you don't kill anyone if we get stopped," he said, climbed into the back, lay down and almost immediately fell asleep.
Sulking, Cameron entered the passenger seat in the front, still wearing her baseball cap and the sunglasses.
They were lucky. The road block they had encountered on the way there, was only for outgoing traffic, not for incoming and so they made good progress. Suddenly, though, John was awoken by the car coming to a sudden stop.
"What's the matter?" he asked drowsily. "Police roadblock again?"
"No, car accident," Cameron replied. "Directly ahead."
"Fifteen cars in front of us," Alison added. "A semi-truck changed lanes and rammed another car into the guard rail, then skidded across the highway, fell over and now blocks the traffic. The car has caught fire. There are five people inside. Two adults, three children."
"Oh my God, are they getting out? Is there anyone to… hey, hey, hey, Cameron, what are you doing?"
Cameron had unbuckled and left the car, running towards the scene of the accident. John got out as well and followed her.
"You stay in the car!" he told Alison and ran after Cameron.
She was already more than a hundred feet ahead of him. John's muscles were sore from the long hiking trip and he had trouble walking at a fast pace so immediately after the rest.
The family was unconscious and trapped in their burning car, which was pressed against the guard rail, leaving only the driver's side to escape - the side where the truck had hit them. It was heavily dented, and the doors were jammed. So far, the fire was only in the engine bay, but it would spread fast for sure. People tried to open the doors, but they were jammed. As the fire started getting bigger, the helpers retracted from the burning wreck, fearing for their own health.
Cameron didn't back away, though. She ran towards the car, stopped, assessed the situation, then grabbed the door frame of the driver's door and pulled it completely off the car.
The bystanders gasped loudly.
"Great," John muttered to himself and stopped. "Just great."
He pulled the baseball cap deeper into his face.
Cameron pulled out the driver, a young man. He came around again and was supported by a couple of other helpers who guided him away from the burning wreck. The young woman in the passenger seat also regained consciousness. She frantically tried to get out but was unable to unfasten her seatbelt. Cameron simply tore it apart and pulled the woman out of the car. By now several of the bystanders had started filming everything with their cellphones.
"Oh fuck!" John exclaimed.
"My children!" the woman shouted, limping towards her husband. "Get my children out!"
"I'm about to, please remain calm," Cameron replied and ripped the roof off the B-pillar with her hands.
Then she bent the pillar down, ripped it off with the back door still attached to it, throwing everything about fifty feet down the hard shoulder. Cameron reached inside and pulled the children out, one after the other. They immediately ran towards their parents.
Cameron turned around and saw John standing sixty feet away. He made a helpless gesture with his hands that seemed to express "Great, what now?". She considered her options, looked at the dozens of people who stared at her with gaping mouths, some of them holding a cellphone in her direction. Then she simply turned around and jumped over the railing, disappearing into the undergrowth fifteen feet below the freeway. People started running towards the guard rail, but Cameron had disappeared.
Meanwhile, the fire had engulfed the whole car and sirens could be heard, coming closer from behind. John returned to the Jeep.
"Where did she go?" Alison asked, as he took place in the passenger seat.
"Jumped off the highway," John said. "Thankfully she was still wearing her sunglasses and the baseball cap, that might make it impossible to identify her."
His cellphone rang. It was Cameron's number.
"What the hell did you think you were doing?" John yelled.
"I'm sorry, John, but those people would have died without my help," Cameron replied.
"Where are you? Where are we anyway?"
"Pasadena, Ventura Freeway," Alison answered.
"I'm in a residential area now," Cameron stated, "going north, getting away from the freeway to find a spot where you can pick me up."
"Stay hidden," John said. "We're going to pick you up as soon as we've gotten out of the traffic jam."
He ended the call.
"Just when I thought everything was turning out well and we could finally have some peace and quiet."
It took the police another thirty minutes to arrange for the traffic to pass the scene of the accident. As they finally slowly drove by, John could see that the family Cameron had saved, was being treated by paramedics in an ambulance. Several witnesses talked to police officers, making wild gestures. A helicopter from a local TV station was hovering in the air.
"Not good," John muttered, "not good at all."
"She did the right thing, John," Alison pointed out. "She acted heroically."
"Yeah, I can already see the headlines: 'Girl with supernatural powers saves family. Do superheroes exist for real?' or something like that."
"I would have done the same. Calm down, John. With a bit of luck, she won't be recognized."
"Oh, I know many people who will recognize her. Starting with A for Andy, E for Eric, J for Jennifer, K for Kacy, M for Mike and Morris, N for Nick and S for Steve."
"They won't tell anyone."
"Not to mention that it will tell everyone at Kaliba and the Shadow Council that there's a female cyborg on the loose in L.A."
"When Jordan Cowan jumped off the roof, I kept you from helping her and you blamed me for the death of the girl. You must decide what you want, John: Do you want us to value life and put it over anything else, no matter the consequences? Or do you want us to be indifferent about the lives of other people and only protect you and our family?"
Suddenly, John felt bad. She was right of course. Cameron had jumped out of the car to save lives. She had learned to value life and that is basically what he had wanted from the very beginning of their relationship.
"I'm sorry," he said. "Of course, you're right. She did the right thing. What was I thinking?"
"You're stressed, John. You need to get your head clear. Call her. We need to pick her up as quickly as possible."
John nodded and did as she suggested.
They picked up Cameron fifteen minutes later at a fast food restaurant on Foothill Boulevard in Altadena. She had managed to walk four miles from the interstate, passing the Rose Bowl Stadium, crossing a golf course and passing through residential neighborhoods to avoid being followed or recognized. John hugged her, and she hugged him back.
"You ok?" he asked.
"Just a few scratches from jumping into the bushes. I'm sorry for causing you trouble."
"Bullshit, you did the right thing. Let's go home, the others will wait already. I informed mom that we got held up by a car accident."
"Then you're not upset?"
"I was at first but then I started to think clearly. Now, I'm just proud of you."
She smiled, and both entered the Jeep.
"We have to get rid of this car," Alison stated. "If cameras caught us and recorded that Cameron came in it…"
"I know," John said. "But at least we were still wearing sunglasses and baseball caps. Lauren's not gonna like it, though. The Jeep is the last link to her parents."
They arrived home half an hour later, having decided to take the long way around, north of the Verdugo Mountains and through La Tuna Canyon, entering Burbank from the Northwest. Alison made sure she avoided as many traffic cameras as possible. She still had the locations stored in her memory from the time when she had invaded the city's traffic computer eight months ago.
As they came to a stop in the front yard of the Connor home, they were already expected by a welcoming party, consisting of Sarah, Lauren and James Ellison, who apparently had returned with Catherine for the reunification. Charley and Derek were missing, though.
"I'm actually a bit nervous," Alison stated.
"No need to be," John reassured her.
He was the first to leave the Jeep, followed by Cameron. They walked around the car. John hugged his mom, Cameron did the same, but everyone only stared at the person in the driver's seat. Finally, Alison took a heart and left the car.
James Ellison's jaw dropped. Lauren gasped loudly and covered her mouth with her hands. Catherine Weaver smiled broadly. Sarah just looked in shock.
"A... Alison…?" she asked a little insecure.
"Yes, mom," Alison replied nervously, "Didn't you see the picture we sent?"
"Yes but… it simply doesn't do you justice."
A smile crept on Sarah's face that got bigger and bigger. Then both hugged tightly. John saw that his mom was on the verge of tears again. The great, big hug immediately eased the tension, and everyone welcomed Alison back.
"Oh my God, you are so beautiful," Lauren said when they embraced as well.
"Future Cameron sent us quite a sweet surprise," Catherine Weaver agreed. "I'm unable to scan your body, my dear. What model are you?"
"A TOL-900," John answered before Alison could. "It seems like Future Cameron sent us the best and latest Skynet could come up with."
Catherine raised an eyebrow.
"I've never heard of such a model."
"She's brand-new," John explained.
"Stop talking about her like a piece of merchandise," Sarah said. "She's our Alison and she's back from the dead."
"Woohooo!" Lauren shouted, and everyone laughed.
"Now, let's go inside," Sarah stated and everyone walked towards the house.
"Where are Derek and Charley?" John asked.
"They're with Jesse," Sarah replied. "Unfortunately, her condition's deteriorated. Normally she should be in a hospital, but Charley fears she might not survive the transport. He's doing everything he can."
"Maybe I can help," Alison suggested.
"You?" Sarah asked. "How?"
"This body is equipped with nanobots that accelerate tissue repair," she said and walked faster. "Hopefully I can reprogram some of them and transfer them to Jesse, so they can heal her."
"Let her try, mom," John urged her. "I saw how fast those nanobots work. They actually close wounds within seconds on Alison's body."
Alison walked briskly ahead, ran up the stairs and pushed open the door to Derek's room. Derek looked up and literally jumped off his chair.
"Whoa," he exclaimed, his mouth agape, staring at her. "What the fuck…?"
"Just think of a bucket of ice water, Derek," she said with a smirk.
"Alison?" he asked flabbergasted.
"The one and only."
Charley sat on the bed next to Jesse, staring at Alison in shock as well. Then the rest of the family plus Catherine and James entered the room.
"Hey, hey, hey, what are you all doing in here?" Charley protested. "Let me do my job. You can't all come in at the same time."
"Charley, I think you should take a break," Alison said empathically and put her hand on his shoulder. "You've done all that you can. I can probably help her more than anyone else now."
"What? No! You're not a medic," Charley protested.
"I don't need to be."
"Let her try, Charley," Sarah said. "Let's see if she really can help her."
Slowly, Charley stood up and went over to Sarah, watching Alison carefully and very suspiciously. She sat down on the edge of the bed and lay her hand on Jesse's forehead.
"What are you doing?" Derek asked in alarm.
"Scanning her DNA," Alison replied.
"By putting a hand on her skin?" Charley asked. "That's impossible."
"No, it isn't, Mr. Dixon," Catherine said, "I can do that as well. I've never seen a solid model that's able to do that, though."
A couple of moments passed. Everyone except Catherine and Cameron became increasingly nervous. Finally, Alison lifted her hand from Jesse's forehead.
"She's very weak. She'll die within the hour if I don't try it."
She looked at Derek.
"I can administer one billion nanobots to her body that I have programmed with her DNA for repair. They will seek the damaged tissue, multiply and then fix it. After that they will correct any chemical imbalances and secondary damages her body has suffered. When they are finished, they will cease to function and eventually be flooded out through her bladder."
Nobody said a word.
"To administer the nanobots in the quickest manner, I need to transfer them from mouth to mouth. Are you okay with that, Derek?"
Derek stared at her, unsure of what to say or do.
"It's Alison," Cameron finally stated. "Ignore the looks, Derek, it's her. You can trust her."
"All right, all right," Derek finally said and rubbed his chin. "Do it."
Alison opened Jesse's mouth, then lowered down her own mouth over Jesse's. It looked a bit like as if she wanted to kiss her, but they could see that a thick glob of a gel-like substance was flowing into Jesse's mouth. Once that was done, Alison stood up and joined with the others again. John put his arm around her. Everyone was watching Jesse for something to happen.
"Are you sure that's going to work?" John asked.
"I don't know," Alison replied. "It's a first for me as well."
"Great," Derek grumbled. "Why would Skynet come up with such a feature anyway? Surely not to heal humans, right?"
"No, Derek," Alison said. "Skynet came up with it to do the exact opposite."
"What do you mean?" James asked.
"The nanobots manipulate tissue on a cellular level. Using certain raw materials, they multiply and can heal injuries and illnesses. My biological shell is saturated with nanobots, carrying tens of billions of them. They become active when my skin is damaged. But I can also reprogram them to work in the same way for any other biological life form. I believe Skynet implemented this function to spread diseases and mutations among humans, creating cancer, Alzheimer's, pandemics, you name it. I thought about it a lot on the way home and I think the main reason for making this model, was to create a programmable biological weapon."
"That's nasty," Lauren said with a disgusted face.
"It is," Alison agreed. "But it's what Skynet would do. It doesn't care about how people die as long as they do. Skynet is a psychopathic mass murderer, remember? I admit it gives me intense pleasure to turn Skynet's creation into something good to help people."
"Shouldn't it have worked by now?" John asked, "I mean it worked within fractions of a second with you."
"My tissue is different, John. It's less complex, and I'm much more saturated with nanobots. It might take a couple of minutes for them to reach Jesse's wound. But then it should go rather quickly. It'll heal from the inside out. Maybe you should remove the bandage, Charley."
Charley looked at Sarah and she nodded. He sat down and slowly loosened the bandage from her body. The entry wound of the bullet was still clearly visible, even though it had been stitched. However, as they watched, the threads started to dissolve. The flesh around the wound turned from inflamed and sore to Jesse's normal skin tone. Slowly but clearly visible for everyone, the wound closed and finally vanished without a trace.
"I'll be damned," Charley gasped and stared at Alison, who smiled in satisfaction.
A moment later, Jesse opened her eyes and looked around.
"What happened?" she asked hoarsely, "where am I?"
"Jesse," Derek said with a tear running from his eye, sat down on the bed and took her hand.
"Derek?" she asked and looked at their entwined hands. "Are you feeling all right?"
"I think we should leave them alone for now," Sarah stated and everyone agreed.
They all left and gathered in the living room downstairs.
"That…" Charley said and pointed his finger towards Derek's room upstairs, "… was the most impressive thing I've ever seen."
"I can think of a lot of occasions where that ability would come in handy," Sarah remarked and smiled. "Well done. All of you."
"Well, I guess I'll take a shower then," John declared. "Are you two coming?"
"Yes, of course," both Alison and Cameron agreed in unison and disappeared with John in their bedroom.
"I guess one thing hasn't changed," Lauren said.
"What?" Sarah asked. "That the three of them take a shower together that lasts almost an hour?"
"No," Lauren replied smiling, "that they still talk simultaneously much of the time."
Forty-five minutes later, Cameron, Alison and John entered the living room again. Alison wore a short-sleeved shirt and jeans from John's wardrobe. They were a bit loose on her but would have to do until they'd bought fitting clothes.
Everyone seemed to get accustomed to the new Alison pretty quickly, especially as they'd seen what she'd done for Jesse. But it also might've had something to do with her constantly releasing those pheromones into the air, which made even Derek spellbound to her. Even when they explained this fact to the rest of the team, it didn't change their behavior. John wondered how long it would take for them to get used to it and if they'd be angry that they'd been subconsciously manipulated like that.
"No wonder the resistance was overrun in her future," Lauren commented. "Who really wants to fight a Terminator they feel attracted to?"
"It is astonishing," Catherine commented. "The Skynet I know would have never come up with the idea of constructing a cyborg that attacks people on a biological level. Something must have changed fundamentally in that variant of the future. Otherwise Skynet wouldn't have decided on exterminating mankind with a weapon like the TOL-900. It implies that Skynet had developed some kind of perverse delight in wiping out humanity, a sadistic streak my Skynet was lacking."
"Well, the future was changed, and Skynet with it," Sarah mused. "I mean, think of it: when Judgement Day happened in 1997, Skynet took humanity by surprise. But if Judgement Day would happen now, many people would already be prepared for it, the resistance would be a much bigger threat from the very beginning, and Skynet would have an arsenal of Terminators at its disposal from the start. The war would become much fiercer and more brutal than ever."
"You're probably right, mom," Cameron agreed.
"But couldn't that mean that next time Skynet sends a Terminator back through time," Lauren asked, "it might be one of Alison's model type? Wouldn't that be a disaster?"
"It would," John said. "But there are two reasons why I think that won't happen."
"Oh?" Sarah asked. "What makes you say that?"
"Firstly, if Skynet wanted to send back TOL-900's, they would already be here. We would already be facing them."
"Fair point," Sarah admitted after a moment of thought. "No better method to wipe us all out than sending back three or four of them to kill us all off with one nasty disease. Skynet and its minions could take over the world without a nuclear holocaust."
"Secondly," John continued, "we know that in Future Cameron's future, Skynet had won the war. John Connor and the resistance weren't a threat anymore. So there is no reason to waste energy and resources to send Terminators into the past in order to fight a fight that was already won."
"It's hard to argue with that logic," Catherine said smiling, "I have to agree with John. It's highly unlikely that we'll ever see a second TOL-900 in our lives. Which is of course both a relief and a huge advantage for us because we now have the ultimate weapon at our disposal."
"I guess that was the general idea," John remarked.
Catherine turned to look at Alison.
"I'm fascinated by this new material your endoskeleton is made of. Would you mind if I tried something?"
"Um… no… go ahead," Alison replied.
Within a millisecond, Catherine had turned her arm into a pointed lance that shot straight at Alison. But when it came into contact with her upper body, it didn't penetrate her. Instead, the tip broke off and flew through the room with a vibrating metallic sound. They had to duck to avoid being hit.
"Wow," John uttered while the others just gasped and stared in shock.
"Amazing," Catherine commented, visibly impressed. "It seems I cannot harm you."
The broken tip of Catherine's lance liquefied, flowed back into her direction and reunited with her body. Charley stepped towards Alison and lifted the hem of her shirt.
"There's no entry wound," he reported astonished, "the shirt has a hole in it but there's nothing visible underneath."
"It was only superficial damage," Alison explained. "It got repaired even before Catherine's tip had landed on the ground."
"I suppose you're Supergirl now," Lauren commented smiling. "That's so cool. If only you could fly."
"God forbid," James Ellison said, "I'm not sure if I should be impressed or concerned about her abilities."
"Well, since we cannot change the fact anymore that she's here," Sarah pointed out, "we better be impressed."
"Don't worry, James," Alison assured a little amused and winked at him, "this body has many functions I haven't discovered yet but I'm quite sure that flying is not one of them."
"Flying?" Derek's voice came from above. "What the hell are you talking about?"
Everyone turned their heads to see Derek coming down the stairs, hand in hand with Jesse. She seemed to be fit enough to walk alone without support.
"I'll be damned," James said, "Half an hour ago she was on the brink of death and now…"
"How do you feel?" Charley asked her once she had reached the living room, checking her pulse and looking at her pupils.
"Good, I think," she responded. "I'm really hungry, though."
"I arranged dinner," Catherine said with a smile, "this day needs to be celebrated. I called the catering service I always use for business meetings. They'll be here in half an hour."
"Isn't that a bit risky?" John asked. "Bringing strangers here?"
"Let's forget about the risky business for a while," Catherine stated smiling. "Our enemies must be in a paralytic shock right now and the catering service is very discrete. I'm their best customer after all."
Jesse had walked towards Alison. She seemed to be struggling for words.
"Derek told me what you did with this new body of yours. I'm sorry your old one was destroyed last night."
"Thank you. I'm glad I could be of help."
"Obviously, I completely misjudged you. Both of you."
Jesse made a step forward and hugged Alison, a gesture the cyborg girl reciprocated. It was a very touching moment. After Jesse had stepped back again, Derek came forth and to everyone's surprise, hugged Alison as well.
"I don't know what to say… except thank you… for giving her back to me."
"It's alright, Derek," Alison replied, padding his back. "We're family, right? We care for each other, we help each other."
"Right," he said with a smile. "But let's not get sentimental now, I still hate metal."
They could tell he wasn't serious, though, and everyone laughed.
"So…" Cameron addressed Jesse, "I assume you and Derek have made up?"
"I guess we have," Jesse confirmed, walked over to Derek and put her arm around him.
"That was about time," John commented. "Nothing is more painful to look at than two people who love each other but refuse talking things over after a fight."
"A problem you will never have, I reckon," Derek replied.
John put his arms around both his girlfriends and pulled them close.
"Nope," he said. "Never."
Dinner was indeed excellent. The catering service only showed up to set up the food pans on warming plates, then left again. They would retrieve the empty pans the next morning.
During the following two hours, everyone was brought up to date with everything that happened since last night. When John came to tell about the car accident and Cameron saving the lives of a whole family, everyone was shocked but immediately supported her decision to help. Especially Charley was very impressed by her behavior.
They had deliberately left off the television for most of the day, relying on John Henry monitoring everything and calling them if something of importance was happening. But John was curious, so after dinner he switched on the TV and everyone else joined him in the living room. Of course, the explosion downtown, which led to the collapse of the Simdyne building, was still dominating the news. A male newsreader spoke over helicopter footage from the scene and a video montage that had been put together from several positions around the site. It ran in a constant loop.
"… still no leads. Although a terrorist attack is most likely at the moment, officials say they're also investigating the possibility of an accident. According to the authorities, Simdyne had permission to conduct research for the Air Force in their underground levels. In the laboratories down there, employees worked on a number of top-secret projects, some of which were funded by the government.
Simdyne was in financial difficulties and there were rumors that Zeira Corp was planning to take over the company. Adam Jacobson, CEO of Simdyne, is still missing and has probably fled to Mexico to escape arrest for tax evasion. Catherine Weaver, CEO of Zeira Corp, was not available for comments, but it is expected that all investments in Simdyne will now have to be written off, which will result in a significant decrease in profit for Zeira Corp. Since the company is privately owned, this will have no effect on the stock exchange, though.
Rumors of increased radioactivity at the scene of the disaster were neither confirmed nor denied. At this stage, it is still too early to draw any conclusions, the officials say. The only certainty at the moment is that there were no casualties. All Simdyne employees are accounted for. No one was injured in the surrounding buildings either, but the explosion and subsequent structural collapse had caused shocks, comparable to a 7.1 magnitude quake on the Richter scale, causing some minor damage to neighboring buildings.
Another mystery in this drama is that according to the electricity supplier, about two hours before the explosion there was a power failure in the entire block. At the same time, Downtown Los Angeles was cut off from all landlines and all cellphone reception. Also, there have been no traffic and security camera recordings between one o'clock and six o'clock. Experts believe that this can only be the result of a massive hacker attack that preceded the explosion and seems to rule out the possibility of an accident. Investigations by FBI cybercrime specialists have already begun, but so far with no results.
Since the early morning hours, police have been building roadblocks on all arterial roads and set up stricter controls at Union Station and LAX. But apart from the arrest of some people already on the wanted list, the police didn't report any results. The FBI and Homeland Security are on the case but have so far withheld their findings from the public. We have tried in vain to get a statement. A press conference has been scheduled for later in the evening, and we also expect an announcement from the White House shortly.
The only thing we can be sure of, is that the citizens of L.A. were not too impressed by the disaster and were not willing to let their Sunday be ruined. Due to the beautiful weather, the number of visitors in the recreation areas was at a record high.
Commuters to downtown L.A. should expect massive delays on their way to work next week, as half a mile in diameter around the former Simdyne Tower has been declared a restricted area. No one can enter without permission, leading to immediate protests from many companies and businesses in the neighborhood who are likely to take at least a week's forced vacation and will suffer significant financial loss. But it could have been worse, because summer break starts tomorrow, and many Angelenos are likely to go on vacation anyway."
"Good for you that Zeira is two miles away from there," John said to Catherine.
"Yes, I suppose we wouldn't have been very good neighbors anyway," she replied.
"But we don't want to end our news special without at least one good news today, Alan," a female newsreader now said, and the camera switched to her, "because an astonishing and quite exceptional act of heroism happened on the Ventura Freeway in Pasadena today."
"Uh-oh," John uttered and everyone stared spellbound at the screen.
"A collision with a semi-truck had left a family of five trapped in their car this afternoon. The vehicle caught fire while all five family members were rendered unconscious. None of the bystanders dared to get closer, except a young woman, who according to witnesses suddenly appeared at the scene of the accident and was able to free all five family members. However, the extraordinary part was not her exemplary act of courage, but the way she freed them from the car. Here's some footage that bystanders took with their cellphones. The videos are currently going viral on the internet."
They all saw how Cameron practically ripped the car apart, throwing the doors far away. Then they watched how she freed the father and mother and the three children. The film showed Cameron turning around, looking into different directions, facing the camera and then turning towards the guard rail, jumping over the fence and disappearing into the undergrowth. The person holding the camera ran after her but couldn't find her again in the vegetation below the freeway.
"So far, experts are absolutely baffled and have no explanation how a young, petite girl was able to tear an MPV apart with no apparent effort, then jump from a bridge that is elevated fifteen feet above the ground and disappear without a trace. Speculations range from drugs to an adrenaline boost but even with such helpers it is unlikely that a human could generate the physical strength to do things the fire brigade normally needs heavy machinery for. Even the strongest human wouldn't be able to tear steel apart like that. However, the family members in the car who had faced certain death and were freed by this very special woman, couldn't care less."
"We owe her our life," the mother of the family told a reporter who held a microphone into her face. "I was trapped in there and she simply tore the seatbelt apart as if it was made from paper. It was unbelievable. Wherever you are: Thank you. Thank you so much."
Then the woman broke into tears, the camera panned away from her and a male reporter resumed the on-scene report.
"Little is known about the identity of the mystery girl. The footage only allows limited conclusions. The clothes she wore suggest that she was on her way from or to a hiking trip. Her face was concealed by mirrored sunglasses and a baseball cap. She's either Caucasian or Asian, probably between sixteen and twenty-five years of age, slim, 5'6" with long brown hair. Witnesses have tried to determine where she came from but with hundreds of cars being caught in the traffic jam behind the accident and everyone only paying attention to the burning car, it remains unknown."
The picture switched to the studio and the female newsreader took over again.
"That was an incredible act of courage and we're all clueless how she managed to do that. However, I guess I'm not going out on a limb when I'm saying that whoever you are, mystery girl, we all here definitely raise our hats to you. If you ever decide to come forward, we'd be happy to welcome you to our station for an interview."
John switched off the TV.
"We need to get rid of the Jeep," Derek said.
"What?" Lauren asked. "No! Why?"
"Because this will be all over the internet," John explained. "Millions will now be out there, looking for Cameron and eventually somebody will link her to the East Fork parking lot and the hiking trail, where we met hundreds of people today. And other people might also have seen her running through the neighborhood in Altadena, across the golf course or at the fast food restaurant where we picked her up. Chances are high that at some point people will remember a blue Jeep Liberty."
"Lauren," Sarah added empathically, "we understand that car means a lot to you, but we have no choice."
"But I'll need the car tomorrow. Morris and I will go to the movies," Lauren argued stubbornly, "And the license plates won't lead them here, even if they know them."
"No," James Ellison admitted, "but it will make them even more eager to find Cameron when they find out the license plate is registered to a dead banker whose daughter is missing. Derek's right, the car needs to go."
"We could hide it," Lauren suggested stubbornly.
"Too risky," Catherine stated. "I have to agree with Derek, Sarah and James."
"I'm sorry," Cameron said and took Lauren in her arms. "It's my fault."
"No, it's not. You're a hero, Cam. What is sacrificing a car compared to saving the lives of a whole family?"
"There are fingerprints and traces of DNA from almost all of us in there," Derek pointed out. "We need to drive it into the desert and burn it."
"But I wanna be there when you do it," she said. "I'm gonna drive it into the desert."
"And I'll accompany you," Cameron stated.
"Yeah, me too," Alison agreed.
"Count me in as well," John added.
"I guess we're all coming then," Sarah declared with a smile.
"Maybe this is the perfect moment to leave," Catherine said. "James and I will go now. We have a lot of work ahead of us tomorrow and I will need to face the media. They might even wait for me already at my house."
"Yes, probably a good idea. We can handle this on our own," Sarah stated.
"I'm sure you can."
Everyone said their goodbyes and Catherine and James left. Jesse, however, stayed with them. At some point since the attack on Simdyne, she had quietly become a member of the family.
Two hours later, they were at a lonely spot in the Mojave Desert about five miles east of highway 395. They had chosen a swale in the ground that prevented the fire from being seem from the highway.
Derek was emptying a jerrycan of fuel into the Jeep, then stepped back and threw a flare into the car, which immediately set it ablaze.
Everyone stood and watched the fire. Cameron and Alison held Lauren tight, who shed a few tears. When they were sure that the car would be completely consumed by the flames, they entered their vehicles again and drove back to Burbank.
It was way after midnight when they arrived home again.
"I can't believe it has been just one day since we started driving to Simdyne," John said and fell exhausted onto the couch.
"You should all rest now," Alison stated. "Cameron and I will clean up."
Suddenly, there was a crackling, humming noise coming from the backyard and they saw blue flashes and lightning through the windows – the undeniable signs of a forming time bubble.
"Ok, now what?" John asked frustrated.
"You gotta be kidding me," Derek exclaimed.
Alison and Cameron fetched their Glocks, Sarah armed herself with an Uzi, Derek grabbed a shotgun.
"What about Catherine's ATG's?" John asked.
"Out of ammo," Cameron replied. "I fired all bullets at the Terminators in the bunker, she wants to provide new ones in the following days."
"Great," John said. "Just great."
They ran out into the back yard. The time bubble was forming between the house and their new swimming pool.
With a loud whoosh, the bubble expanded and then disappeared, leaving a steaming, burnt spot of lawn. In the middle of the spot, three naked forms were hunched down.
"Human or machine?" Sarah whispered to Alison.
"Human," she whispered back.
Sarah switched on her flashlight. Three young women looked towards them, shrieked and tried to cover their bodies.
"Who the hell are you?" Sarah asked.
"Please," the left one of the three said, "could we have some clothes first?"
The voice was all too familiar.
"Alison?" Derek asked flabbergasted. "Alison Young?"
"Um… yeah… that was my name before I was adopted," the woman replied.
Sarah shone her flashlight into her face, and everyone could see it was indeed Alison Young because she looked almost identical to Cameron. Only her hair was a bit shorter.
"Everyone calls me Allie," she said. "Allie Connor."
"And I'm Savannah Connor," the second woman, a pretty, tall redhead, declared. "I've been adopted as well when my mother, Catherine Weaver, died. And this here is Sydney Fields."
She pointed at the third girl, who had shoulder-length dark brown hair and a rather pale skin.
"Oh my God."
"Lauren? Is that you?" Sydney asked, shielding her eyes from Sarah's flashlight.
"I suppose we won't get to bed already after all," he said.
Far away from the Connor home in Burbank, in a dimly lit office with lots of flat screen monitors mounted on the wall, a young African-American sat in a chair and typed frantically into a computer. A door behind him opened and an Air Force General entered the room.
"Are you here to bring me home now?" the young man at the desk asked. "I did all you requested from me."
"I'm afraid the plans have changed, Mr. Dyson," the General said. "We're forced to start from the beginning… and we need your help with that."
- Just for the record: Allison Gulch and Allison Mine really exist. Was too good to let that pass.
- The story continues in "Dawn of a new Era". Thanks to all readers who stayed until the end and grew fond of the alternate TSCC universe I created.
A personal note from the author
From December 2018 to May 2019 I have completely revised "A New Timeline", my first story.
The main reason was that I didn't expect my personal vision of continuing the TV series would go down so well with the readers, so I didn't really put much effort into writing at first. My main motivation was not to create an alternate TSCC universe, but to write the frustration about the cancellation of the series and the unsatisfactory ending off my chest.
Yeah, well... and also to add some Jameron lemons… what can I say? I'm human ;-)
But the longer I wrote, the more the whole thing developed a life of its own, and when I finished my second story "Dawn of a new Era", I realized that "A new Timeline" no longer met my newly acquired standards.
So I decided to revise the story and make it better. And I think I was successful.
If anyone should wonder whether it's worth reading it again, let me point out that the story grew from 200,000 to 300,000 words. In my opinion this is not only quantity, but also quality. There's more detail, more logic, more substance, a better readability and a better transition to the follow-up story "Dawn of a new Era".
Therefore, I suppose it was worth the effort. Let me also use the opportunity to thank some of my most faithful readers and reviewers who helped me a lot with their support and constructive criticism. You are awesome.
In alphabetical order:
I promise I will continue writing stories for this new TSCC universe I created. It might take some time but hey, anticipation is half the fun, right? ;-)