They sat down with a map to see where they should go. One of the broadcasts had come from a town called Porter. They decided to head in that direction since it was the closest broadcast site.
They spent the next few days packing up the Jeep with food, water, medical supplies, extra clothes, blankets and a shortwave radio. They also loaded several cans of gasoline because it would be almost impossible to find any along the way. They knew it would be quite a while before they could return to Crystal Peak. They decided to get some sleep before they left. They would travel by night and sleep by day. They would camp where ever they could find shelter so that their vehicle could not be seen. Early the next night, dressed in biohazard suits, they pulled out of the garage at the base of the mountain. This was Kate's first look at the devastation caused by the bombs. Even in the darkness it was more than she could comprehend. The Jeep made its way through the dust and ash. They had decided to head towards northern California. John figured that it would be better to stay away from larger cities that would have been primary targets. Driving was difficult because there were so many burned out vehicles blocking what was left of the roads. Fortunately the Jeep was able to drive in just about any terrain. They had to drive with their headlights off so they would not draw attention to themselves, but John had brought several pairs of night vision goggles so that he could see to drive. They drove for several hours before stopping for a break. The meal was eaten silently. Both were too overwhelmed to talk. After lunch, they climbed back into the vehicle and continued their journey. The suits made talking difficult so most of the journey was made in silence.
As they left the mountainous area and got closer to towns, the devastation grew worse. There was very little left. Buildings and trees were broken and burnt and cars had been tossed around by the explosions like they were children's toys. They saw the twisted remains of playgrounds and far too many charred human skeletons. There was absolutely no sign of life.
Morning was drawing near. John knew they had to find a safe place to sleep. He finally found grove of trees that was still partially intact to park the Jeep. He wanted to be sure that they were out of sight when they went to sleep. Kate fixed a quick meal of canned vegetables and Spam. Not the tastiest of meals, but it was filling. Since John was nervous about being out in the open he decided to stay up for a while and keep watch. Exhaustion finally got the better of him and he fell asleep. He woke several hours later to find Kate heating up some coffee on the campfire. She smiled at him and handed him a cup of coffee. He took the cup and drank the hot liquid, grateful for its warmth. It was cool and damp out. Before Judgment Day he had slept outside a lot of the time.
He had gotten spoiled by six years of sleeping in a soft bed.
After breakfast they packed up the Jeep and continued on their journey. Kate looked at the map, giving John directions that would hopefully lead them to the voices they had heard. They hoped that they could not only find them, but convince them to come back to Crystal Peak with them. John was still hesitant to use the radio because he didn't want Skynet to find them.
They had been on the road for almost a week when they noticed that as they moved away from the larger cities the damage from the bombs began to decrease somewhat. There were buildings that were partially intact, the vegetation was not totally burned and there were vehicles that had not been destroyed. After traveling for a few more days they arrived at their destination. It was almost daylight, when they stopped just outside of the Porter. John turned the vehicle off and turned to Kate. "I think you should get out here and hide until we know what we are dealing with."
Kate disagreed with him. "I think we should both go. They might be more relaxed if they see a woman with you. Besides, I don't think it's a good idea for us to separate."
John thought about it for a moment, and then agreed. He started the Jeep and continued driving. They had only been driving for a few minutes when they heard a shout. John stopped and put his hands on his gun in case the person wasn't friendly. Looking around, they saw a thin, ragged looking man approaching the vehicle, shouting, waving his arms and smiling. John and Kate stepped out of the vehicle and lowered the protective face masks on their suits. John kept the gun handy, just in case.
"Hello! Please stop!" He reached the vehicle and paused to catch his breath. "Who are you? Where did you come from?"
"My name is Kate, this is John. We've been looking for survivors."
"Well you found them. There are almost 120 of us here, including 17 children." replied the man. "My name is Bruce Kirby. Where did you come from? We never heard you on the radio." The man was so excited that he never paused between questions for answers.
"We were in a secure bunker when Judgment Day happened." Kate told him.
"Judgment Day? Is that what you call it? We just call it the end of the world." Bruce answered as he turned to look at their Jeep. "Nice set of wheels you have here. Where did you get it?"
John hesitated for a moment, still not sure if he could trust the man. "It was in the bunker."
As the three stood there, trying to figure out if they could trust each other, they heard shouts and approaching feet. They turned to see a group of 5 people running towards them. There were 3 men and 2 women. All were in their early to mid thirties.
"Bruce," exclaimed a woman who looked like she was in her early thirties, "Where did they come from?"
Bruce hesitated for a moment before answering her. "They said they were in a secure bunker when the bombs dropped"
John didn't care for the way the older man stressed the word "said" as if he wasn't sure whether to believe them.
Kate must have picked up on his tone too, because she explained "My father worked for the government, he sent us there when he realized the attack was going to happen."
There was a brief, awkward silence, then one of the men from the group introduced himself. "My name is Keith Reynolds "Would you like to meet the rest of our group?"
Kate and John climbed back into their Jeep and slowly followed the group back into town. They stopped in front of a church. One of the men entered the church; soon the bell rang three times. People began to emerge from different parts of town. They all began to talk excitedly when they saw John and Kate. Soon they were surrounded by at least 80 people, of all ages and races, all laughing and talking. Keith attempted to silence the group. "Okay everyone, quiet down and we can explain where our guests came from."
The group finally calmed down so that John could continue. "We need to get undercover before it's completely light"
The town had suffered a lot of damage, but not as much as many of the areas they had passed through. Glass was broken out of many of the buildings, some had been burned and others had collapsed. The people all were thin, and wore ragged, patched clothes. John and Kate removed their protective clothing, figuring that it would be safe since these people had survived all this time. They told John where to park the Jeep so it would be out of sight, and then lead them to the local hospital.
"This has been our central meeting area." explained a woman who identified herself as Dr. Marie Eldridge. "We spent to much time here after the attacks it just seemed logical to continue meeting here. We set up the basement as a shelter in case the attacks started again"
A man who identified himself as Ben Weaver spoke up. "So, who are you and where do you come from?"
John spoke first. "My name is John Conner, this is Kate Brewster. We have been in a secure bunker in the Sierras for the past 6 years. We were there when the bombs dropped. We had a shortwave radio there and heard some of your broadcasts and decided it was time to come out and try to find you."
"But why didn't you answer us if you heard us?" asked a balding man who was wearing a faded t-shirt and slacks.
"Because we didn't want Skynet to hear us and know where we were." answered Kate.
"Skynet. What is Skynet?" asked a woman with blonde hair who introduced herself as Emily Gordon.
"Skynet is the computer program that is responsible for Judgment Day." John told her.
"A computer is responsible for what happened? We always thought terrorists attacked us!" said a frightened looking woman in the back.
Before John or Kate could answer her, Bruce stood up and almost shouted, "No computer did this! It had to be terrorists."
"Mr. Conner, do you have any proof that a computer program caused the war?" asked Emily Gordon.
"No, we don't," replied John. "At least not here."
"Then why should we believe you?" asked Bruce.
John looked at the man for a few moments, a part of him regretting that he and Kate had picked this particular town. "Where else do you think we got a Jeep and all of the equipment we have?"
The man didn't have an answer for that.
"But why would a computer attack like that?" asked Eddie Carmichael.
"It was given too much power. When it became self aware it decided that it didn't need humans anymore so it launched the bombs." replied Kate.
A silence fell over the group.
"So that is why you are so worried about being under cover during daylight?" asked Eddie.
"Yes, in case there are any patrols out." answered John.
"Where are your children?" asked Kate.
"They are in the school right now." Replied a woman named Dana Neely. "They stay inside most of the time. At first we were afraid of fallout, and then we heard stories about people being killed so we kept them inside."
They were both excited by the possibility of seeing children again. They knew it was even more important that they convince these people to get back to Crystal Peak with them so that the children would be safe.
John turned back to the group and asked, "How have you survived all this time? Do you have food? What about electricity?"
A man named Eddie Carmichael introduced himself and his wife Joanne, answered his questions. "It hasn't been easy. We figure the closest bombs hit about 500 miles from here. We had some fallout, and some damage from the shockwaves. We lost about 300 people to radiation. Those of us who survived were inside when the bombs fell. We've been surviving on canned foods that we either had here or we got from neighboring towns. Our power has been out since the attack."
They continued to talk until it started to get dark, stopping only for meals. The Carmichaels invited Kate and John to stay at their house. They had two children, the younger one, Sam, looked like he was about 10, and the older one was a girl named Abby about 13 years old.
Neither of them slept well that night. Even though they had been on the road for over a week they were unaccustomed to any noises other than the air conditioning or heating. They were not used to the creaking boards and crickets. Exhaustion finally took over and they both slept.
Sunlight streaming in the window woke John first. He watched Kate sleeping for several minutes before she woke too. After breakfast, they helped with the chores around the house. Kate helped cook breakfast and wash the dishes and John helped chop wood for the fire.
Later, they headed to the hospital for another meeting. Some of the adults were busy teaching school and taking care of the young children, but the others were free. John and Kate explained more about Skynet, and what was going to happen when it learned to build the Terminators and mass produce the HK's, if it hadn't already. The people listening to her stared at her with mixed expressions on their faces. Some looked shocked, others frightened, and still others had a look of disbelief.
Finally, a frightened looking man asked, "What can we do?"
John hesitated before answering. "I think everyone should pack up and come with us back to the shelter. There is plenty of room and a lot of food. You would all be safe when Skynet really makes its move."
The reaction to this was explosive. "No! We can't leave here!"
"How would we get there?"
"Why would we leave? We have everything we need here!"
"The war is over. We don't need to leave!"
John and Kate realized that they were going to have a difficult battle ahead of them, but they also understood that it was important to get these people to a safe place. They spent the next several days talking to people, trying to convince anyone to come back with them. Kate also spent some time with the children. She knew that she and John would eventually have children, but realized that this was not the time. They had a war to fight first.
As they got to know the people they continued to try to convince them to leave with them. Everyday while the children were in school they would meet in the hospital and discuss whether or not to leave Porter. They had been there almost two weeks when a helicopter flew over. John knew that it had to be Skynet. Some of the people ran out to attract the pilot's attention. John tried to stop them, but three got out before he could stop them. As they ran across the street to the park, the helicopter slowed and turned towards them. Suddenly it opened fire on the three people, killing them before they could turn back to safety.
"Let's get away from the doors. We don't want anyone to be able to see us." John shouted. He headed into the darkness of the hospital. The helicopter turned and began firing on the hospital sending wood splinters and shards of concrete flying in all directions. The people in the hospital ran further into the hospital, trying to get to safety.
"What was that?" asked Lisa Parker, a young woman who was trembling noticeably.
"That was Skynet." explained John.
"But how can computers fly a helicopter?" she asked.
John thought about it for a moment, and then answered, "They might have discovered the remote controlled helicopters that the government uses for surveillance or they programmed an HK to fly. Then they attached weapons to the helicopter so they could kill any humans they saw. I think we can expect more attacks. We have to assume that the helicopter was in communication with whoever sent it"
John was glad that they had parked the Jeep in a garage so that it was out of sight.
After retrieving the children from the school, the group decided to spend the night in the hospital basement, then get up early and start packing things for the trip to Crystal Peak. They no longer doubted John and Kate. John and a group of three other men went out and gather food and blankets for that night. They watched the sky carefully as they hurried to gather what they needed. No one slept very well that night. They all kept listening for more helicopters. By morning, they were all exhausted and edgy.
After they all had something to eat; John led the first group out into the open to finish packing for the trip.
John went to the local Army Surplus store to see what he could find that might help them on their trip. The store was pretty badly damaged, and had been picked over, but he found several things that would come in handy, including several large camouflage colored nets that they could cover up with if they needed to while they were on the road.
They loaded up everything they could find for the trip. Only a handful of vehicles still worked so most of the people would be walking. Only the elderly, small children and infirm would be able to ride.
They set out on their trip early the next night. There were a total of 103 adults and 17 children in their group, including John and Kate. John led the group in the Jeep. Kate walked, letting an older woman take her place. The back of the vehicle was crowded with children.
Traveling was slow. It had taken them over a week to get to Porter; John figured it would take at least twice that long to get back to Crystal Peak. People were quiet while they traveled. They were also cautious, spending much of their time watching the skies to see if they were about to be attacked. As they traveled, the people from Porter were able to see just what kind of devastation affected the rest of the country. They realized that they had been very lucky. They traveled as fast as they could, but it was difficult walking in the dark. They spent their days protected by underpasses or wherever they could find shelter. John always tried to find someplace that would offer some cover from Skynet. They cooked their meals early in the evenings or mornings so that they would not have fires after dark. A few times, late at night they heard planes and helicopters in the distance. The refuges huddled together in fear, hoping that they would not be discovered.
After a little over two weeks on the road, they arrived at Crystal Peak. They paused before entering the garage. As the doors slowly rumbled open, John put his hand on his weapon. He was worried that Skynet had found the shelter and had taken over in their absence. His worries proved unfounded. The group entered the garage and the doors slid shut with a heavy clang. They were safe for the time being. People were astonished by the size of the facility. Once they were inside the shelter, they were even more stunned by their surroundings.
John and some of the other men started unloading the vehicles while Kate took the women and children down to the main level.
"Let's get the children settled, and then we can start unpacking and decide where everyone is going to sleep."
The families were settled into the larger sleeping areas. The single men bunked together, as did the single women. The children who were orphans were put into a room together near the other families. The library was turned into a makeshift classroom for the kids.
After dinner, everyone settled into their beds and had the best night's sleep anyone had since they started their trip started. Tomorrow was going to be a busy day. They would start training for the fight against Skynet. John had decided that he would work with this group for a few weeks, then head out and to find more survivors.
Kate and John were the first ones awake. They treasured their time alone together because they knew that it would be very limited now that they were not the only residents of Crystal Peak. They talked about the plans for the day for a while, and then got up to start the day. Some of the women prepared breakfast while Kate, John and the men discussed what needed to be done first. They decided to give the adults a tour of Crystal Peak. Two of the older women, both former teachers offered to stay with the children.
As they toured the complex, people were angered by the way the government had prepared for nuclear attack. They couldn't believe how well the facility was equipped. Even the ones who were uncertain about the existence of Skynet began to believe after the tour. Dr. Eldridge was thrilled at the medical area, glad that she finally had decent equipment to work with. The last stop on their tour was the weapons room. John knew that the adults needed to be trained on the various weapons they would need to use. There was a room at the base of the facility that was designed for target practice. The walls were thickly padded to keep bullets from ricocheting. They needed to get enough practice to be familiar with the weapons, but not waste too much ammunition. They would need it later. He also wanted them to know what Skynet had planned, and the types of weapons it would use. They also needed to know that the machines would have no pity. If they ran into a HK or Terminator, they would have to destroy it immediately, because they would have no second chance.
As the days passed the residents of Crystal Peak developed a routine. They would get up and have breakfast. After breakfast the children would be taken to the classroom where they would begin their lessons which included not only the usual subjects, but also things that they would need to know in order to survive Skynet. While the children were in school, the adults were also learning. John taught them what to expect in the battles they would have to fight, strategies and how to hide from the machines. Kate taught them how to fire weapons, clean and load them. They posted guards inside of the facility at every entrance so that they would not be surprised by an attack. There had been cameras outside of the facility before Judgment Day, but they had been destroyed in the attacks. Maggie Hall, a former resident of Porter was an electronics expert and was able to get the cameras replaced and working.
When John felt that this group was well trained, he began to prepare for another trip. He wanted to find as many survivors as he could before Skynet learned to make the Terminators. Kate would not go with him on this trip. She had decided to stay at Crystal Peak and continue training their soldiers. John would take three men with him; Jose Valenzuela, Paul Tanner and Ben Weaver. He felt that these were the healthiest and best trained out of the group.
They packed the Jeep and one of the trucks that had been brought from Porter with supplies enough to last two months. Hopefully they would not be gone that long. The men studied a map that had pins stuck in it to mark where radio broadcasts had been pick up. The decided on a town in southern Oregon called Timbercrest. It wasn't near any large city so hopefully damage would be kept to a minimum.
They left late one night in July. Kate had said her good-byes earlier in the day so she did not see them off. She hadn't had the courage to tell John that she was pregnant. She knew he would have worried about her so much he might have gotten distracted and not been as cautious as he needed to be.
John and his group traveled as far as they could each night. They always tried to find a place where they could camp and be undercover. They continued to watch the skies in case Skynet had any HKs, planes or helicopters in the air. They heard aircraft almost every day, but they were too far away to pose any threat. They took the camouflage netting in case there was no place to hide. The route they chose took them within a few miles of Porter. They weren't going through the town, but knew they could see it from a hilltop where they could camp. When it was light enough to see, they were astounded to see that the town was no longer there. It had been totally destroyed. All that was left was burned buildings and huge craters. Apparently Skynet had finished the job they started while the town was still inhabited. The group traveled in silence for the rest of the night.
After being on the road for nearly 3 weeks, they arrived at Timbercrest. Once again they were met by survivors who were overjoyed at seeing other people. There were only 45 thin and ragged people who survived the attacks. It didn't take much to convince them to return to Crystal Peak with John and his group. They had seen Skynet's work first hand when a nearby town was destroyed. Their leader was a former Air Force Colonel named James Perry. He was assisted by a man named Dennis Reese. John felt himself relax a little; he just met the man he believed was Kyle Reese's father. He had made the right decision in coming to Timbercrest. It took several days to gather what they would need to move to Crystal Peak. There was only one working vehicle in Timbercrest so everyone would have to walk, except the drivers and woman with a broken leg. Food was very scarce so there wasn't much of it to pack, but there were other useful items to bring such as candles, lanterns, water purification tablets and a large supply of MREs. There was a lot of food back at Crystal Peak, but it wouldn't last forever. James Perry had been preparing for something like this; stockpiling MREs, collecting weapons and ammunition, and preparing a bunker for him and his two sons, David who was 14 and Daniel who had just turned 16. He had raised his sons to be well trained in combat and survival techniques. Colonel Perry had known Kate's father in the Air Force and had been concerned about putting Skynet online. He was afraid of what could happen if a computer was in control of nuclear weapons.
It took over a month to get back to Crystal Peak. During their return trip they heard airborne HKs twice, but weren't close enough to be seen or picked up on infrared scanners.
While John and the other men were on their trip, Kate read as much as she could about pregnancy, especially about the affects of radiation on unborn children. She knew that she had been underground most of the time, but she was still worried about the weeks she had spent outside. Kate was trying to keep herself busy, helping out with the children, when she heard shouts. "They're back!"
She jumped to her feet and ran towards the elevator that would take her up to the garage level. As the doors to the elevator opened, she looked around for John. She saw him helping to unload the Jeep. He heard the elevator doors open and knew it would be Kate. He turned to see her standing in the elevator, her face pale with worry. Kate finally stepped off of the elevator and walked towards John. He stopped unloading the vehicle and took her into his arms.
"I'm so glad that you are back." She told him, burying her face in his chest.
"I'm glad to be back." He replied, holding her closer.
When they finally let go of each other, he told her, "I have someone I want you to meet."
He turned to a dark haired man and said, "Dennis, this is Kate. Kate this is Dennis Reese."
Kate wasn't sure how to react to the name Reese. She knew he must be Kyle's father, but she also knew she couldn't let him know how important he was. That could change the future. "Good to meet you Dennis."
"Good to meet you too, Kate." He replied, then turned back to continue unloading the two vehicles. Before either of them could say anything, James Perry approached them and introduced himself to Kate.
"I'm terribly sorry about your father, Kate. I knew him for many years. He was one of the few people who I could trust with my misgivings about Skynet. He had his concerns too, but no one would listen to us. They were all so obsessed with getting that thing on line."
Kate's eyes filled with tears at the mention of her father. "Thank you Colonel Perry, my father lost his life because of Skynet. He made sure that John and I had a safe place to go when he knew that the bombs could not be stopped. I am glad to have you with us. Your experience will be a great asset."
Colonel Perry returned to his job of supervising the unloading of the vehicles. John and Kate talked about the trip for a few moments before John returned to his work too.
Later that evening, after the children were settled in bed, everyone met in the conference room. John gave everyone time to get acquainted, and then he took charge of the meeting. He got everyone quieted down, and then described what had happened to the town of Porter. He could hear people sobbing while he described what he had seen. There was no doubt in anyone's mind that Skynet did exist, and would kill them all if it got the chance.
John decided that the people who had been there for a while would help train the new arrivals on weapons and what to expect from Skynet. They also decided to post double sentries at each entrance, and always make sure someone was listening to the radio.
John and Colonel Perry felt that it would be easier to maintain order and train people if they were structured in a military type organization. John, Kate and James Perry would have the rank of Colonel. At this point everyone else would be Corporals until they earned an advance in rank.
After the meeting, when John and Kate were alone in their room, Kate finally told John that she was pregnant. He was excited and frightened. He loved Kate and wanted to have children with her, but he also knew that they lived in a very dangerous world. They finally fell asleep in each other's arms.