Chapter Twenty Seven: Sergeant Rivers
The orders had come from John Conner himself, at some point during the next couple weeks that Rivers spent in the infirmary, recovering from the beating and plasma shots he had taken during the battle with the Infiltrator. Recovery was faster than expected, since Erin was one of those rare doctors with training that happened before Judgement Day, and he was still getting used to being on his feet again when Baron gave him the good news: Because of the success in all his solo missions, as well as being able to both survive against and provide intel that led to the destruction of Skynet's Infiltrator, the Private had been promoted to the rank of Sergeant, effective immediately.
After that, things in the Resistance bunker pretty much returned to normal, with Jennifer and the other scavengers constantly heading out, and more recon missions being conducted, but there were a few changes as well. Mark and Laura had made the decision to leave the bunker together and try to head east, away from Skynet's Annihilation Line, stopping in to see Rivers briefly before their departure, and when they left… when they left the Sergeant felt a strange sensation. The feeling was hard to describe, as if something had changed for the better, but without really understanding what that was… it was a good feeling, though, and those were rare these days.
Some of the soldiers in the bunker were more tense than usual, mostly because the deactivated body of the Infiltrator had been recovered from the docks, and brought to Alvin's lab for study. Even with all of the times he had encountered the advanced machine before, looking at it up close now as it lay on the examination table, Rivers had to admit that it was beyond creepy. The human flesh that surrounded the metal endoskeleton was so lifelike and real looking that no one could have ever told the difference between it and a real human without already knowing what to look for, and to make matters worse, the metal on its body was harder, denser than that of the standard T-800… no wonder the fucker had been so hard to take down.
"I can only read a little of the data on its CPU." The scientist explained, watching the monitor while his equipment scanned the chip pulled from the Infiltrator's head. "The security encryptions and RAM capacity are beyond anything Skynet has produced before, designation… T-850."
The Sergeant had already suspected that this was an advanced prototype, so it wasn't very shocking to hear that confirmed, at least not as shocking as finding out that the machine's CPU was equipped with a physical pin-switch that looked like it was for changing the settings of the unit… but what that setting change was, who could say? This was a lot of new knowledge gained, but at the same time there were drawbacks, such as the fact that breaking the chip's security encryptions was beyond Alvin's skill level, as was the unlocking of the machine's damaged weapon.
"But we need to get it unlocked." Baron protested, putting her hand on the defunct weapon. "If we could figure out how to use Skynet's violet weapons, we would be able to hurt them just as easily as they can hurt us."
"I know that, Commander." The scientist explained. "But I don't have the equipment, or the skill to do that here. I'm not even the one who figured out how to unlock the red ones… there's only one person alive as far as I know, who might be able to accomplish such a thing."
Rivers figured that the possibility of someone who could help them better understand the Infiltrator and its violet plasma weapons would have made Baron happy, but instead she frowned, turning away and storming out of the lab. When the Sergeant asked Alvin what happened, the scientist could only explain that the Commander and his predecessor, Dr. Mack, had a pretty severe falling out a few years ago. The scientist would only say that Dr. Mack grew overconfident in his abilities after successfully unlocking red plasma, and that a mistake was made involving a T-600. Anything else, he was going to have to get from Baron, herself.
All right, so that's what he was going to do, especially if it meant getting them closer to the possibility of fighting Skynet on a more even plane. However, when Rivers followed the Commander back to her command room, he stopped, not wanting to interrupt the radio conversation that she was having with John Conner. Baron was getting upset, asking if his division had anyone with the skill that they could borrow for a while, only to hear him say that Dr. Mack was the only one around. She didn't trust this scientist, gritting her teeth and mentioning someone named Perry, but Conner shut her down.
"I know this is hard for you, Commander, but the mission comes first." His voice said over the speaker. "I'm ordering you to take the Infiltrator's CPU and the violet plasma weapon to Dr. Mack… the chip should be harmless without a body to install it in… understood?"
"Yes, Sir." Baron replied, looking both angry and defeated at the same time. "Understood."
The final piece of advice the leader of the Resistance had to offer was putting some dogs at the front door, not that Rivers understood how that would help, and then the conversation was over. The Commander turned and yelled out Rivers' name, surprised by the fact that he was already standing there, and then told him to come in and shut the door. Red in the face and pacing back and forth, Baron took several deep breaths to try and calm down, only for all of her self-control to vanish the moment the Sergeant asked her if she was all right.
"No, you fucking donkey, I'm not okay!" She spat, balling up her fists so hard that her knuckles were turning white. "That God damn quack got Perry killed, and now Conner wants to trust him again?! Are you fucking serious?!"
Once she calmed down enough to explain things a bit better, especially since Rivers was still pretty new to the division, it was revealed that Perry was the Commander of South Division before Baron was. He was the one who liberated her from that Skynet camp with the collaborator, and trained her to be the soldier that she was today. However, after Dr. Mack unlocked red plasma weapons for the Resistance, he thought that reprogramming a T-600 to fight Skynet was the next logical step, and because of that over a dozen soldiers were killed, including Perry. Fearing retribution for this mistake, the doctor ran for his life, completely vanishing for a number of years now… but apparently John Conner kept tabs on him the whole time.
"The little dick-snort's hold up somewhere in Hollywood Hills." Baron explained. "Since you were able to find a box of chalk while hiding from the Annihilation Line, finding Dr. Mack should be a breeze, so I want you to bring him the weapon and the chip."
Well, this did sound like an easier mission, since Hollywood Hills was in the opposite direction from the Annihilation Line, and the Infiltrator was down, but this mission also came with a little addition that wasn't part of the official orders. The Commander hoped that the doctor would be able to unlock violet plasma for them, but he was seen getting anywhere close to accessing that CPU, the Sergeant was to shoot him dead. Baron knew her orders, but after what happened with that raging T-600, there was no way she was going to let him pull the same bullshit with a more advanced model.
"Look, Rivers… I know I'm asking you to disobey Conner if that happens." She explained, getting calmer as she walked up to him. "But this is very important to me, and you'll find that I can be grateful when someone does me a personal favor, especially one that helps keep the entire Resistance safe… very grateful."
The Sergeant was about to say that he understood, but his words were interrupted when Baron leaned in and kissed him on the lips. Oh, now he understood what she meant by grateful, but there was no time to react to it before her cold, professional demeanor came back, telling him to get the weapon and Chip from Alvin, and get moving, basically pushing him out of the command room and closing the door behind him. Now, Rivers had met a good number of people over the course of his life, but none of them were as downright confusing as Baron, and he was still shaking off the confusion of this latest encounter, when he almost walked right into Jennifer.
Cheerful and friendly as usual, her sudden presence made the Sergeant sweat a little, since he really liked her and wanted more and more to pursue a relationship with the young woman, while feeling guilty as hell about kissing the Commander. Only catching part of what she was saying, he was pretty sure that she congratulated him on his promotion, and then said something about Patrick, before kissing him on the cheek and waving goodbye as she vanished back down the corridor. Wait a second, what was he feeling so guilty about? After all, Baron had kissed him, and it had been quite a shock, but… but why did he suddenly feel like a real jerk?
Damn it… maybe some time out of the bunker after laying in bed for a couple weeks would clear his mind, and what luck, there was already a mission for him. Alvin said some stuff about keeping the CPU safe, not that Rivers was really listening, and he was pretty sure the quartermaster wished him luck after giving the Sergeant his weapon and ammo, and then he just wanted to get back up to the surface. Honestly, this was the longest Rivers had ever spent underground at one time before, and even though it was still dark outside, just standing in the fresh air made him feel better.
Taking a deep breath, and then checking his compass to make sure that he was heading in the right direction, the Sergeant set out toward Hollywood Hills, hopefully to bring back a real advantage for the Resistance, and taking them a step closer to ending this whole war.