Captain Juan Rodriguez, of the 379th Recon Division, entered the former office/make shift interrogation room of the air base and sat down at the scratched wooden desk across from the pale, shaking man. Less than 48 hours ago, this man had been one of three liberated from a secret Skynet facility, and right now, the officer was thankful to have found him. It only took minutes after securing the facility for the team to realize that the man had been a direct asset for the artificial intelligence entity, and if it wasn't for Captain Rodriguez, the man would have been quickly executed as a traitor by the men under him. Thankfully, especially since the officer was the only part of the team with a complete fluency in the English language, he had pieced together in time that the other two individuals found were his family, meaning he was operating under duress. Sadly, similar misunderstandings had ended more tragically on previous missions, committed by outraged and less than understanding TechCom units.
Now, however, was the time for answers.
As soon as he sat down, the man erupted like a long dormant volcano, sputtering a flurry of apologies and excuses. He repeated that he had nothing to do with human experiments happening inside the concentration camps, and that he was only trying to keep his family alive.
"Señor," Captain Rodriguez started calmly, but the man continued spewing words. Time for a storm breaker. "SEÑOR!" Captain Rodriguez snapped with a slammed hand on the desk. The man hushed up, though the panic was still evident on his face. "Señor," he began again, calmly and slowly. "My name is Captain Juan Rodriguez. I am with the Resistance. I promise, I am not going to let anything happen to you or your family, but...I need some information."
The man took a deep breath and relaxed some. "Okay…I can do that."
"Now, tell me who you are, and what you know about the bunker in the desert, and what you were doing there."
"My name…is Jeff Phillips. I was a lead R&D researcher for Cyberdyne Systems…you know, before the war. About…I don't know, six months ago, those bastard machines identified me in one of their camps, and then moved me and my wife and daughter to that hole in the ground in the middle of the desert." He started to trail off, meandering about not being sure who was worse, people or machines.
"Señor," Captain Rodriguez calmly and professionally interjected. "Tell me about the bunker."
"Right, sorry. So, at first, I think they did a test by having me reverse engineer and then program a Terminator CPU. Once I passed that, they quickly gave me the strangest project. I thought I had seen everything, but this…I don't know who was more stumped, me or Skynet."
"What was it?"
"It was…a Terminator skull, but the thing was…it was thousands of years old."
The captain was speechless for a moment. He was not prepared for that kind of intel. "But…where did it come from?"
Jeff sighed. "According to what Skynet told me, it was recovered in Egypt around the late thirties, then snapped up by the Nazis, followed by the Allies, before somehow ending up in Cyberdyne's hands."
Captain Rodriguez wondered aloud, partially to Jeff and partially to himself. "How did Cyberdyne get their slimy hands on it?"
Jeff shrugged. "One of a million questions I always had about them, both before and after the bombs."
Captain Rodriguez refocused. "So, for starters, how old is this thing?"
Jeff leaned in. "Based on Skynet's testing…it's older than the pyramids. But that's not even the weirdest thing."
The captain's head was swimming with questions. "Which is?"
"Well, this thing was so sophisticated that Skynet could still salvage a second, deeper CPU, a sort of little black box. Now, Skynet could only retain a few shards of data. It couldn't find anything major, like mission parameters, but there was one key item that stumped it: the initial date of manufacture."
The captain was the one to lean in this time. "When?"
Jeff whispered with a cynical smile. "Six. Years ago."
Captain Rodriguez was bewildered. "And infiltrators have only been around about a year. So…Skynet has somehow created…time travel?"
Jeff shook his head. "I don't think so, at least not yet. Otherwise, Skynet wouldn't be trying to figure out how this thing appeared. Here's another weird part: it was more advanced than those rubber heads roaming around out there."
"How do you know?"
"Well, first, because I learned the ins and outs of the T-600 skull during my audition piece, and comparing 600s to this thing is like comparing George Washington's best musket to an M-16. Secondly, because Skynet straight up admitted it to me."
Captain Rodriguez sat back for a moment, to digest all of this. "We have a Terminator skull thousands of years old, that is more advanced than what is on the field, at least that we know of, and was supposedly manufactured five years before it was supposed to exist. That is…a lot to take in." He looked back at Jeff. "I think the big question to ask is, what did Skynet glean from that? At least, that it told you."
Jeff gave another cynical, bitter snort. "It was wild, we had discussions on the matter, like we were colleagues examining the results of an experiment. We both came to the conclusion that it probably confirms the Many-Worlds Interpretation of quantum theory."
Captain Rodriguez blinked. "The what?"
Jeff sighed again. "Basically, it's a theory of time travel where there are numerous parallel universes, with different versions of history. So, for example, in some universes, like ours, Hitler lost World War II, while theoretically, in others he won. Or, to bring it home, there are likely universes where Skynet never took over." In a brief moment of camaraderie, both men gave each other a side glance and bitterly chuckled.
"But how does this confirm that theory?"
"Well, it seems this Terminator came from a timeline where either Skynet took over at an earlier time, or developed and advanced its infiltrator technology at an earlier time, or both. What this also shows is that if Skynet develops time travel the same way as the Skynet from that other time line, then it won't have the capability to send anything back in its own timeline, but rather to another timeline."
Somehow, the captain was able to keep along. "If I understand right, then if I go back in time and kill my grandfather, I won't magically vanish, like 'Back to the Future'?"
This time, upon hearing the old film reference, Jeff smiled warmly. "Right, you'll only affect the future you of that timeline you've hopped into."
The captain slowly nodded. "So, obviously, Skynet is now trying to learn how its other self created time travel?"
Jeff nodded back. "Frightening, isn't it?"
Captain Rodriguez narrowed his eyes in speculation. "What I want to know is, what would it want time travel for?"
"That," Jeff gravely replied, "is a more frightening thought."