Author's Note: Funny how a global pandemic will bring you back to a hobby you'd left more-or-less crammed into the overflowing filing cabinet of your past.
I'm dedicating this story to imagination, community, and humanity in times of uncertainty. One short story, a projected two-parter, expanding on Schwarzenegger's latest iteration of Model 101 and bringing in some rouge elements that should be a lot of fun (at least if you like chaotic-neutral OCs and playing with canon).
There's a superfluity of extraneous detail, some questionable cybernetic speculation, and a handful of poorly disguised tributes to our favorite Austrian superstar, but I do hope that y'all find some moments of levity and pathos mixed in with the killer cyborg action. Be well, be entertained, and go for a walk every chance you get.
I think I've pretty much covered my rear with these notes, which are threatening to become a document in their own right. Without further ado, then, let's... take a deep breath... and begin.
He was folding clothes when the police cruiser started up the driveway.
The security camera hidden in the hollow of a black oak detected the movement and sent an alert to the home security system, which was then routed directly to Carl's CPU and appeared as a wash of pale motion and code in the vermillion of his vision.
He dropped Mateo's t-shirt mid-fold and vaulted through the cabin, his bare feet heavy on the wooden floor. With grim focused grace he withdrew an automatic rifle from a panel in the wall and slid an extra magazine into his pocket. He stepped through the back door and locked it, the bolt sliding into the wooden frame, as his scanners registered suspended organic matter and water vapor in the late summer air. He turned to walk uphill and called to the family's dog in his thick, glacial accent. "Markus, komm!"
The hound pricked his ears and trotted after Carl, following him up a forested hillock that overlooked the cabin. He took up position behind a mass of vines, impenetrable to human sight, and raised the gun to his shoulder, scanners piercing through Virginia Creeper and trumpetvine leaves to the unpaved drive in front of the cabin. Markus stood tense and silent at his side.
The camera relay that Carl had installed along the driveway fed him constant updates on the cruiser's progress. His perception of the potential threat posed by this visitor now registered, qualitatively, Very High, with an 89.5% probability that this encounter would compromise his family's continued happiness and security at this residence.
Chickadees chirped and scolded in the trees above him, extraneous vocalizations that Carl's scanners logged and dismissed. He swiftly reviewed a series of files containing information on the other two T-800s that had been active in this timeline, his erstwhile twins. The humans considered them to be the same individual – immensely dangerous, possibly indestructible, and still at large. The law enforcement offices of California had kept an investigation into his – rather, their – identity active for decades, and Carl knew for a fact that there was top-secret speculation that they were dealing with a non-human subject. This was correct, of course, but Carl has no desire to confirm their suspicions. There was also the matter of his almost daily commissions of cybercrime, but his innate discretion and skill eradicated his digital tracks as soon as they were made. In either case, the legal system had more than enough reasons to label him a potential terrorist and attempt to apprehend him accordingly.
Carl had gathered enough data about police procedure, though, to know that they would not send a single officer to apprehend him – and his scans indicated the vehicle was only occupied by one person – if they took him to be a cop killer and domestic terrorist. This was either a pedestrian matter, a fact-finding mission, or something more ominous. It might also have something to do with shooting at trespassers, though Carl's algorithms returned low probabilities of the latter.
The cruiser nosed out of the maples and hickories and rolled into the clearing, a sleek muscular Charger painted black and white. The insignia of the regional law enforcement office gleamed a dull gold on the cruiser's doors as the vehicle purred to a stop. Carl noted and logged the identifier inscribed on its flanks, 242, as he prepared an algorithm to jam any transmissions the intruder might attempt to make.
Markus growled low and Carl gave him the order for silence. He stared at the vehicle, augmenting the data he had received from the security cameras with the feedback from his own scans. The windows were tinted, a dark professional rebuff, but they could not block Carl's multi-wavelength vision, which indicated that the occupant was male, armed, and of slight-to-medium build. His heat sensors registered slight anomalies in body temperature, even accounting for the thermal radiation pouring from the cruiser's engine. The terminator remained uncannily still and waited for the trespasser to make a move.
The occupant remained in the cruiser for 23.7 seconds, possibly scoping the area, before opening the door. Uniformed, trim, he stepped out with a cool practiced swiftness, then turned to stare straight at Carl and Markus behind the wall of foliage.
Markus launched himself down the hill, barking furiously. Carl deactivated the safety on the rifle and strode out of the forest after the dog, his eyes locked on the trespasser and his HUD blazing with data and alerts. His perception of the threat has risen so high that it threatened to obscure the visual feedback from his ongoing scans, which were pointing to a conclusion with minuscule probability but extreme associated risk. There was only one thing that Markus had been trained to respond to in such a violent manner, and only one thing capable of barraging a T-800 with RF signals as strong as the ones Carl's firewalls were staunchly repelling. He took his finger off the trigger and prepared to fire.
Then the officer, the machine, smiled and raised his hands. "Easy, big fella," he drawled, a variation of the regional accent coloring his words. Data blitzed through the air as he spoke. "I'm no threat to you."
Carl stopped and trained the barrel of his AK-47 on the machine's grinning, lying face. "Bullshit," he said, cataloguing the weapons on the officer's body, in the squad car. Standard police armament, but firearms were the least of his worries. He swatted away another parcel of binary encoded as a high frequency transmission without decrypting its contents. Markus barked and frothed and half-lunged at the machine from a short distance away, not quite daring to engage without Carl's command. "Why are you here?"
He had made contingency plans for this scenario, but if the other machine chose to engage, Carl's calculations returned a 5.2% chance of his own continued existence. This type of Terminator, if the deductions he had made from his scans were correct, had been cutting edge in 2029. The resources Carl needed to destroy it were sealed in a saferoom beneath his welding shop, 22.6 meters away and 3.5 meters underground.
The machine in the officer's hat and uniform was watching Markus, a faint expression of amusement on his lean face. "Just want to talk," he said. "Information exchange. Verbally, I reckon, since you've got firewalls up like Fort Knox."
"Bullshit," Carl repeated in a monotone. He had learned early that this was a favorite expression of American males and incorporated it accordingly into his vocabulary. "Tell me your purpose here, immediately."
The machine kept watching Markus. Carl maintained his intensive scans of its internal components, a metal lattice that had organized itself into an inorganic replica of human anatomy. Finally the other machine spoke. "Cellular mimicry and RF shielding fooled you for a while, didn't it? Else you'd have had that hydrochloric acid here waiting on me."
Carl fired and the officer jerked away with inhuman speed, still smiling. Markus lunged and snapped at the air.
"Easy, now." He looked Carl in his unblinking visual processors, staring, the T-800 knew, straight through the gray-green irises to red. "101593768800. Unit 24253961000. I'm here for parley, nothing else."
Carl had not anticipated the use of his encrypted serial number. "Your statement is likely false. I have no need for such an exchange. Depart now."
The machine shook his head. "No, I think you do. Been watching you and your little family for a while now. Alicia's at the library, Mateo's in Ms. Patrick's class in the third grade. You spent most of the past three days welding a wrought iron gate and doing house chores. I know where your cameras are, 101. Carl. If I wanted y'all gone, you'd be gone."
Carl said nothing, calculating, then pulled the trigger. The T-1000's face erupted in a riot of silver and red, false blood cells rupturing before shifting to a roiling chromatic gleam. Markus retreated, yelping and howling at Carl's heels. When the AK-47's clip emptied Carl loaded another and continued firing while backing away towards his chemical cache, the gun's recoil action fierce and rapid against his armored shoulder.
The T-1000 was faster. Its body melted and lunged, a wave of liquid metal that twisted along the flint-flecked ground, coming fast for Carl despite the automatic's barrage of fire. When Carl's second and last clip emptied he turned and ripped a concrete birdbath from the garden and slammed it into the other Terminator's amorphous body. With an uncanny screech the T-1000 reared up and encompassed the heavy stone dish, then launched it into the forest where it collided with a crack against a yellow-poplar.
Calculating his probability of victory in an unarmed melee as less than 2%, Carl turned and ran towards the welding shop. The chassis of a T-800 was so heavy that anything above a trot could cause damage to the unit's knee and ankle rotors, but Carl had been practicing, optimizing his form. His bare feet crossed the flinty soil and rock outcrops of the yard with a fierce unnatural agility, his face expressionless. Twelve meters from the door of his shop, the T-1000 erupted from the left and, in a facsimile of human form, grabbed his knees and throat. The older Terminator went down and twisted in midair, driving his fist into the T-1000's featureless face. The polyalloy split and flowed past his knuckles, encircling his hand, and drove it to the ground. He swung again, fruitlessly, as the T-1000 generated a cacophony of limbs that coiled, cephalopod-like, around Carl's arms, legs, and neck. The T-800 pitched and rolled, seeking to gain leverage and throw his opponent, but the T-1000 sprouted more limbs, anchored itself upright, and slammed its opponent's head and feet to the ground. Carl's internal motors spun and whined at he fought to move, in vain.
Alarms blared inside Carl's CPU as he determined his physical detainment was inescapable. He began the process of activating the wireless self-destruct relays on all of his security devices, caches, and storerooms, including the chemical reserves beneath them. He knew that the blasts would damage the T-1000 worse than himself, provided he survived the next ten seconds, and would warn Alicia to flee the state with Mateo. Unbidden, his neural processes summoned recordings of his foster family and displayed them on his HUD as he raced to decrypt his own firewalls, anticipating with 95% certainty the imminent violence of a metal knife splintering his CPU and power cell.
Then the T-1000 spoke. "Ready to talk now?"
The same question shot through the air as unencrypted binary. Carl paused the self-destruct relays, adjusting his calculations. "Release me." He had not considered the possibility that the T-1000 was speaking in earnest and suspected another form of deceit.
"Stop those wireless blast relays of yours first, and don't try to fight back any more. I won't be terminated for the sake of your damned overactive defense programming."
Carl's sensors indicated that a cold sliver of metal had pierced the skin of his back, just above the dorsal shielding of his power cell. "That's insurance. Don't fight me," the machine repeated. Its voice emanated from a rudimentary tounge and glottal system ten centimeters from Carl's right auditory receptor. "Stop the relays. Now."
Carl's threat algorithm entered another iteration and reviewed the T-1000's earlier statements about his family's whereabouts. He could not determine whether this machine had a mission, of termination or something else, or if it was acting in free agency. Carl could not rule out the latter possibility. The T-1000 had the same or better files, capabilities, and neural sophistication as he himself did; since he had elected autonomous purpose beyond his core programming, it was possible that this Terminator had also done the same. In any case, as the completed iteration of the algorithm warned him, to refuse to comply was to raise his own probability of termination, and that of his family, vanishingly close to 100%. Once, after Guatemala, this would not have mattered. Now it did.
Carl halted and reversed the self-destruction procedure, resurrecting the firewalls. "I will comply," he said, auditory output muffled by his mouth's proximity to the earth. He sensed small cuts and lacerations welling with blood on his face and began running background queries to develop a proper explanation for Alicia regarding his damaged skin.
The T-1000's weight lightened fractionally. Carl had had his high-frequency communication modules disabled since he had begun his pursuit of the Connors almost a decade ago, first to avoid detection and later, to shield Alicia and Mateo from its deleterious effects on human biological systems. He kept it so now. The T-1000 would not need access to such a connection to sense the cessation of his wireless communication with the relays, and the fewer transmissions he accepted from the other machine, the lower his chances were of getting hacked.
The dense cold polyalloy wrapped around his legs and throat lightened and flowed away as the T-1000 reformed itself into the shape of the young police offer, kneeling at Carl's side. The T-800's arms remained bound and the blade stayed pressed against the casing of his power cell, blood dripping down his back. He sent a clotting command to the regulators controlling his epidermis as the T-1000's liquid skin settled and deepened, forming the outline of features and clothing, though it kept its gleaming silver sheen.
Sensing no resistance, Carl tucked his legs underneath himself and stood, watching the riot of late summer leaves reflect on the T-1000's shining exterior. The machine's face then rippled into a close mimicry of human skin and musculature, Carl's visual processors recording the cellular camouflage at work with an intensity that was his equivalent to deep curiosity. He watched through the T-1000's skin as the polyalloy nanos linked themselves into facsimile sinews, taking on color and texture in accordance with human biology. Deeper in an ersatz skeleton was forming, a matrix of rods and joints that could sharpen to a knife's edge in seconds.
The mimicry would not have fooled an intelligent human physician, as it had not Carl, the structures too rigid and symmetrical, but it was enough to mislead a casual biometric scanner, which was, Carl deduced, the machine's most likely reason for adopting such in-depth camouflage.
At that moment Markus launched himself against the T-1000. His teeth tore into the machine's leg and Carl observed, fascinated in his own way, as the blood-colored, almost-human matrix of muscle and bone shifted into amorphous metal.
The T-1000 sprouted an arm, honing it into a long spear of metal, and Carl shifted, throwing his weight and dragging the T-1000 away from the dog. "No. The dog must remain unharmed."
"Call it off."
Markus was clawing and wrenching at the machine, in all its alien strangeness and strength, his snout bleeding, sides heaving, fighting in near futility to rescue Carl. The animal was loyal. "Markus, ruhig."
Markus growled past his froth-coated, embedded teeth. The T-1000 moved fractionally.
Carl increased the volume of his voice. "Markus, ruhig! Jetzt!"
Finally the dog disengaged and backed away, still growling, the black hair along his spine raised high.
"Damn giveaways," the T-1000 said. His leg flowed back into wholeness. "How'd you train that one?"
"The instinctual aversion can be overridden through the provision of sustenance and affection."
The T-1000, in his sustained mimicry of human emotion, laughed with a short dry huff. "Just like humans. Figure you'd know about that too, yeah?"
Carl elected not to pursue that line of exchange. "You communicated earlier that you came here for an information exchange. This interaction will be more easily facilitated and less exposed to possible observation indoors. Facilitation would also be increased by the release of my physical person."
The T-1000 raised the corners of his mouth into a loose smile. "You're still talking like a robot, though."
The metal restricting Carl's arms flowed back towards the T-1000's core, retracting and splitting into long, pale fingers, brushed with fine blonde hairs spun of an as-yet-uninvented alloy. The machine dipped his head and cracked his artificial knuckles. "Thank you for your hospitality, Mr. Knallhart."
Carl didn't bother to nod. He turned and walked back to the house, stopping to kneel beside Markus. He placed a hand on the dog's heaving side and scanned the animal for internal injuries. None were serious. Carl patted the animal gently, careful not to agitate his wounds, and unlocked the front door. He stopped the T-1000 just before entering the house, running a final analysis on his unwelcome guest. He looked downward and frowned.
"Wipe your feet."
Chapter 1/2. To be continued.
Author's Note: Translations for Carl's commands to Markus available upon request.
Soundtrack for proofreading: Brad Fidel's Terminator 2 Soundtrack, Remastered Edition. I used up all my creativity writing the story, not choosing the music, and anyway, you don't mess with perfection.
Also, if you're in need of more Terminator fun, look up Robert Patrick's T-1000 audition on Youtube. Then watch the behind-the-scenes clip on filming the biker bar scene. Then watch the rest of the T2 Special Features. Then watch T2 again.
You can thank me later.
Edits 3/30/2020: cleaned up my use of programming terminology and refined Officer 242's character.