Chapter Twenty-Three - A Revelation (Finale)
The platform shone with ethereal blue light, blinding them all, while the rest of the hall plunged into darkness. Now, within their sight there was just the time machine - the rest of the world had gone out, and everything important to them depended on what happened next to this time machine, or rather, who went through it.
When John and Kate took their hands off their eyes, they saw that Danny had climbed up onto the time machine platform. He stood still there, his features washed out by the beams of energy shooting from the machine's every arch.
Kate pulled back the bolt handle on her handgun and aimed it at Blythe. "Step back from there!" she shouted.
Blythe was hurriedly jamming on the buttons at the control panel, ignoring her. Kate repeated herself to Blythe, closing in on her. She held the gun to Blythe's head, but didn't have the heart to pull the trigger. She had been forced to do many things after Judgement Day, but one thing she couldn't do was murder, no matter how many lives her logical mind told her it would save.
As Kate's gun pressed against her forehead, Blythe pressed down on the initiation. Kate wrestled her to the floor, but it was too late. Blythe laughed, not even bothering to resist.
"Why didn't you shoot me while you could?" she taunted in Kate's face as Kate pinned her to the ground at gunpoint. "Too bad. We win."
Now the light was growing brighter on the platform. The light swallowed Danny and they could barely see him anymore. John ran to the control panel, working on the buttons to no avail. All the lights of the buttons had dimmed - the time machine was already in motion, set to send Danny back to the year 1995. There was no way to shut it down.
John turned to their Terminator. They couldn't stop it, so there was only one thing to do. "You! Get in! Get into the time machine now!" John shouted at the Terminator.
The Terminator obeyed and climbed onto the platform, holding his rifle. The silhouette of his body sliced through the beams of light, melting into the blaze. A moment of silence ensued. Then, Danny Dyson was thrown out of the time machine platform. He fell onto the floor with a shriek.
At the control panel, John managed to change the year to 2003, and the machine's light became slightly dimmer, its power reduced for the shorter time it needed to send through. All other processes were already set right, thanks to Blythe Dyson. John turned around to face the time machine, his back to the control panel. He could see the Terminator on the platform. The Terminator had assumed his standard crouched posture, ready to be sent through time with dignity - that is, as much dignity as could be preserved considering that he would, as usual, arrive naked. They had all become veterans of this strange process.
John stood there, smiling, his face flooded with light from the time machine. He was forty-seven years old this year, but this was the happiest moment of his life. Blinded by the light, he could almost see the peaceful lives the people would lead after today, the Resistance no longer needing to resist, the bright futures of the children. This was his purpose that he had been prophesied to do since before he was born. Now, it was finally about to be fulfilled. He couldn't help but think for an instant of the future he wanted for himself and Kate, too. Once their purposes were completed, maybe they could live for themselves.
But Danny had only been thrown down, not subdued. He scampered up from where he had been tossed, screaming in a flustered rage. He looked up at the time machine. "No! He's having his way again!" he wailed. He turned to his sister. "Blythe, your radio transmitter!"
Kate was still holding Blythe down on the floor, pinning her as she struggled to move. Blythe dug in her coat pocket, produced a small device and skidded it across the floor, over to Danny. Danny picked it up, turning it on and watching as a long antenna extruded out from the front. He then worked furiously at it. As he operated this device, the Terminator stood up on the time machine platform where he had been crouching still.
Kate gasped, letting go of Blythe. "It's the IEM controller!" she shouted to John.
The Terminator's body was already turning into white sparks of lightning and flowing away through time, responding sluggishly to Danny's signals. At the last moment, with angry tears all over his face, Danny commanded the Terminator one last time through the radio device. But rather than commanding it to leave the time machine, Danny instead commanded the Terminator to turn around and shoot John with its rifle. At the same instant the time machine's light snapped inwards, taking the Terminator twenty-nine years back, his rifle fired as Danny had commanded, creating a spark of light in the now-blackened hall which hit John and passed through him, cracking across the control panel behind him. John collapsed on the floor.
The control panel hissed and sparked, damaged by the shot. Then, all its lights went out, and with them the dim green lights of the time machine's arches disappeared too. That shot which Danny ordered had so precisely and inadvertently broken the time machine that he needed.
Then, after all the noise and conflict, the hall suddenly fell into a deep silence. The sounds of distant voices and movements and helicopter blades from elsewhere funneled through the roof and walls. But inside, all was quiet now. The light of the setting sun became dimmer through the hall's open door. The sunset cast a long column of orange light, centering on the darkened time machine.
"Oh, no," said Kate. She ran to John, falling down to her knees on the floor beside where he laid. "I'm going to get you help. Where is everyone?" she grabbed for the radio transceiver beside the control panel, but it didn't work. Everything in close proximity always went out after the time machine did its magic. The time machine's power was simply inordinate - it was so powerful, so destructive, just like the computer that created it. Now that it was destroyed, this perversion of time created by SkyNet was finally set right.
"Did it go through?" said John, taking hold of Kate's hand and gently pulling at her.
"No, it's not working," said Kate, desperately tapping on the transceiver.
"Did the Terminator go through, I mean."
Kate looked up wearily at the dark arches of the time machine. "Yes, I think so."
John sighed in relief. "It's over," he said, his breaths short. Lying there on the floor, he held up his hands and counted. "Now, every time-travelling Terminator we've seen is accounted for. No more Terminators."
He looked aside and saw the spent rifle shell lying on the floor from the shot the Terminator had fired. It had fallen from the platform and rolled across the tiles. John picked it up and examined it. It was still warm. Blood ran down the sleeves and shoulders of his tatty green jacket from the gunshot wound, gathering in a small pool on the floor tiles.
That Terminator was back in 2003 now. It would protect him and Kate from the T-X sent by Danny and sacrifice itself at Crystal Peak, having been reprogrammed by Kate and having killed John before being sent back. All the prophecies had come to a full circle - it turns out that after all, they weren't wrong, and they all fell into place perfectly in the end. His life's mission was accomplished, yet not in the way he had hoped. All the dreams of a life after defeating SkyNet that he had believed in so vividly regardless of the warning, were gone. He felt he deserved a peaceful life after a lifetime of struggle, but it was not to be. He closed his fingers around the spent shell and clutched it tightly. Why did he have to die?
John looked up at Kate. Despair and anger had been filling him, but as he met the eyes of the woman he loved, John instead felt strangely peaceful, despite the pain of the gunshot searing through his body and making each breath harder than the last. He reached up and touched her face, gazing over the familiar features. She meant the world to him. Maybe this small moment with her was reward enough. Maybe he could accept this.
"Yes, it's finally over," Kate whispered, holding his hand in hers. Through tears, she smiled.
John smiled back at her. "I love you, Kate," he said.
The fading light from the sunset stretched all the way across the hall floor, laid like a pillar against the far wall, over the mezzanine. Now it was a waning pink of dusk.
Blythe and Danny stood there speechlessly, shoulders slumped, staring at the platform of the lightless time machine. They were in a pain of a different kind. Now nothing remained on the time machine platform except for a pile of old clothes and a rifle. They commanded the Terminator to destroy, and destroy it did. They had been hoist by their own petard. The blank look on their faces stayed for a long time. Just like John, their lives had been built around a singular purpose, only theirs was vengeance. And now everything they worked for was for nothing. Should they have laughed or cried?
"John! Kate!" A voice called from across the hall. Tim appeared at the door, followed by Kurt and a group of their friends. The Resistance, framed by the light of dusk, burnt silhouettes of fiery strength, had finally come to join them. They were all together again - late, but never too late. Ava was among them too, with one kind woman from the Resistance helping her along.
Blythe and Danny tried to sidle away as the members of the Resistance ran to attend to John. A few soldiers surrounded them at gunpoint and ordered them to drop to the floor with their hands raised. The brother and sister were taken away, where at some point they, too, would have to find acceptance. With the time machine gone, there was no more changing the past. Perhaps, being such talented computer engineers, they would eventually make something great and help to rebuild the world as it was.
John was surrounded by his large group of friends, looking over him, while above them the ceiling lights twinkled as they were relit one by one, the time machine's power now gone for good. Some tried to help him, but many were trying to apologise for having doubted him and believed the worst about him.
"I'm sorry John, I should've known better, I should've known better," said Kurt tearfully, crouching beside John. "I was angry. I was angry at the world and I blamed it on you. I led all the people to kill you. I could've destroyed everything. I can't ask you to ever forgive me."
"We should've done better. We fell into their trap," another Resistance member said.
"John, I'm so sorry. We'd been attacked a lot by Terminators before. But that time we turned on you instead of working together like you taught us."
"How could we ever..."
But John assured them all that everything was fine. "It's okay. You don't need to be sorry. No, I don't blame you. Not you, either. Life is so, so hard on all of you. You're all the best. It's going to get better from now," he said, holding their hands as they all huddled around him, crying tears of relief, of joy, of sadness - of humanity.
And John meant every word he said. It made him happy and hopeful to see his friends gathered around him, united again. He could see the future that they would create: the world, rebuilt and beautiful once more. No matter what seemingly insurmountable odds it faced, humanity would always prevail. Like a child learning to walk, it would fall and fall and rise and rise again with a smile on its face, learning from its mistakes, and walk forward towards the future it was destined to make for itself. John looked up at all the people crowded around him as his vision of their faces blurred and darkened.
He believed in them.
The Catch - End