Feb 18, 2008

1963 – Chapter 2

Author's Note

When I wrote the first chapter and thought it was going to be a one-shot, using a first person style seemed like a fun idea – mainly to see if I could capture the unique perspective of a machine mind transitioning into something new and different. Later, when I was thinking about continuing this story, I thought about keeping the first person style but doing chapters from different characters' perspectives. But the more I thought about it, I decided this would just slow the story down with the same things being rehashed over and over. So I am going to switch to a third person format, so I can more easily explore what is going on in the various characters' heads within the same chapter. Now, ideally, I would go back and redo the first chapter to maintain a consistent style, but I think my time is better spent writing something new. So, let's all just agree the first chapter is more like a prologue in a different style and now the real story is about to begin . . .

Sarah felt the goose bumps covering her arms and neck begin to recede as the light show put forth by the time machine slowly died away. It was done. Cameron, the terminator who had been their constant companion for the past seven months, was gone. She had retreated down time after dropping the bombshell that she was pregnant. Sarah had now known about it for a week, but she still felt like her mind was in an utter state of shock.

The machine, sent back from the oh-so-distant future by John, was supposed to help protect him from the nearly endless stream of Skynet minions they seemed to come up against – much like the earlier T-800 had tried when John had been ten and she had been trapped in Pescadero. At least this one had survived in the task for seven months compared to a handful of days for the first one.

For a moment Sarah's thoughts were drawn back to the long ago time of the first terminator and their stop at Enrique Salceda's desert place to retrieve her stash of weapons. She had been sitting at a picnic table enjoying being outside after her years of forced captivity and glad to have a weapon in her hand again, even if it was only a combat knife. As she sat there watching the machine with her son she had been thinking how the terminator made the best father figure she had come across in all the hard years since she had lost Kyle – the terminator would never leave John, never hurt him, never shout at him or get drunk and hit him, or say it was too busy to spend time with him. Yeah, he had seemed to have all the makings of the perfect father at a time when John desperately needed that in his life.

Sarah looked over at her now sixteen year old son as he finished shutting down the equipment and then started on the task of disassembling it to put the components back in their hiding places. He worked calmly and efficiently, but she could see the tears running down his cheek and knew he was only working so quickly in an attempt to distract himself from the loss of Cameron. And as she looked at him she again wondered who was actually molding him into the great leader he was supposed to be. For a long time she thought she was the one who had to do it and it had led to their years with the various rebel organizations in Central America when John had been a child. But now she was beginning to wonder if it was John himself, or rather his future self, that was doing the molding - first with the father figure, as brief as it had been, and now with the girlfriend, lover, pseudo-wife. Was it all part of an agenda carefully planned out by the older John, or just a cause and effect result of the time loops? The whole 'which came first the chicken or the egg' nature of life with the existence of the time machines simply drove her crazy sometimes. Was the future John sending these machines back with a secret agenda or was he merely doing it because he had memories of these earlier encounters?

Sarah pushed herself erect from where she had been leaning against a stack of wooden crates. Whatever reasoning had been behind this latest machine sent back to aid them, it no longer mattered – it was gone and they needed to get on with their lives. Quickly, she moved over to where John was struggling to lift a particularly large equipment box and grabbed the left side handle from his hand.

"Here, let me give you a hand with that."

"Thanks, Mom," John responded, briefly lifting his freed hand to rub at his eyes before shifting his grasp on the far side of the box.

As they struggled to carry the hundred twenty pound box, which Cameron had so effortlessly carried earlier, back to the locked storage room in the back left corner of the warehouse, Sarah asked. "You do understand she had to go?"

"Yeah, there was just too much risk to our baby if she stayed here. For all her supposed 'free will', if it ever came down to saving me or the baby, I think we were both afraid some hardwired programming would kick in and she would try to save me first."

A small shudder passed through Sarah as she realized how comfortably John had said 'our baby'. Even after all of these months together, she still thought of Cameron as a machine first and a person a very distant second. And the whole concept of a baby still hadn't sunk in. How was it even possible? On the very first evening when Kyle had rescued her from the dance club, he had explained that terminators where mechanical endoskeltons wrapped in human flesh, originally so they could infiltrate resistance enclaves and then later so they could pass through the time displacement devices. Kyle had specifically mentioned sweat and bad breath as aspects of the terminators to help them pass for human, but he had never once mentioned that they could become pregnant and have human children.

When Sarah had tried asking Cameron for details after her startling revelation, she had just responded it was one of the things that made her 'special'. When Sarah had tried to press her as to why someone would want a terminator with that ability, Cameron had just shrugged and said she had no idea; it was simply how she had been made. Sarah was certain there was more to the story and that the machine knew at least part of it. But if she wasn't going to explain, there was absolutely nothing Sarah could do compel her to talk; for the terminator had made it clear on more than one occasion that she took orders only from future John.

So she had been had been left with only one thing to ponder - when exactly had things changed between her son and the machine? She had never suspected it and therefore had never looked for it. But she had been forced to think about it a lot in the last week and had come to the conclusion it had been while she had been in the hospital up in Oakland at the beginning of the summer.

The doctors had kept her pretty doped up during her stay to keep her sedentary to give her internal injuries time to heal. When she had first awoken she had argued against the drugs for fear she might say something under their influence that would expose her true past and risk her and John's freedom. But John had overruled her and she had seen from the fear in his eyes how close he had thought he had been to losing her. In the end it had turned out okay; she hadn't said anything which had endangered them.

But looking back now, there had been a marked change in the machine, Cameron, starting from the day they had guided her out of the hospital in the wheel chair and then loaded her into the Jeep for the trip back to L.A. The machine had suddenly been smiling a lot more and, remarkably, almost always at appropriate times. Previously, at least since their jump from 1999 to 2008, the machine's emotional expressions had seemed almost random. But after their return to L.A. they had definitely been more natural and realistic.

Since the beginning, the machine had always positioned herself physically close to John, as though needing to be instantly ready to protect him, by throwing her body between him and danger if it became necessary. Again, thinking back, Sarah realized it was only after her hospital stay that this proximity had subtly changed to include touching of fingers or brushing of shoulders. Looking back with the always perfect 20/20 hindsight, Sarah now could see all kinds of signs that things were going on between the two. But at the time she had seen the young attractive terminator as purely a machine and therefore thoughts of John and her becoming involved had simply never crossed her mind.

Sarah and her son continued to work quickly for the next couple of minutes to get all of the time displacement gear packed up and stored away. There was most definitely the possibility someone had seen the unusual blue lights through the high windows lining the upper portions of this old warehouse in the heart of the Long Beach docks. At any moment a cop car could roll up to investigate.

Abruptly, the fine hairs on the back of Sarah's neck stood on end. And before her conscious mind seemed fully cognizant of the situation, her right hand had pulled the Glock normally stuck in the back waistband of her jeans and her eyes were sweeping the room to locate John and determine the distance to the Jeep where her heavier ordinance was stored.

A whiff of ozone tickled her nose just an instant before crackling blue light began to appear forty feet closer to the warehouse's main entrance than where they had been working. It only took about four seconds for the blue light to coalesce into a solid blue sphere with bright jagged bolts of blue lightning dancing across its surface and randomly jumping forth to connect with any nearby metallic object which could act as a ground.

At the first sign that something was about to happen, Sarah had automatically started towards John to ensure he would move to cover. She had only covered half the thirty foot distance separating them when the full import of what was happening struck home; someone was about to arrive via another time displacement device.

Sarah's first thought was the most likely one to arrive at this time and location was Cameron. But then she remembered they were talking about time travel and she had no idea who in the future might know they were in this place at this exact time. It suddenly seemed the arrival of one of Skynet's terminators was equally as possible as the arrival of their own personal guardian. Therefore barely a stutter broke Sarah's stride as she raced to see that her son was safely undercover until they knew who was about to arrive.

"Hide," whispered Sarah in a commanding tone as she reached the frozen-in-place John and grabbed his shoulder to turn him towards the nearest stack of wooden crates.

"Cam," was as much as he got out before Sarah overrode his objections.

"We don't know it's her. Get to cover, now!"

John stared at her for a moment and then his eyes settled on the gun she was holding at her side and that seemed to get his attention. With a quick nod, he pulled his own weapon and sprinted for cover.

They had just skidded to a halt behind the shelter of the crates and turned to peek around the corner, when the time displacement sphere began to fade from opacity to translucent before finally disappearing completely while leaving the characteristic small depression in the warehouse's concrete floor in its wake.

And in the center of the small depression crouched two figures. One was distinctly larger than the other, but even with the low lighting of the warehouse and across the fifty feet separating them, John and Sarah could clearly see the larger of the two was not the hulking form the majority of Skynet's terminators took. No, the larger of the two was the nude body of a petite woman and the smaller form was obviously a child.

As Sarah and John stepped clear of the crates and started to cross the intervening space to what had to be Cameron, Sarah watched as the woman quickly ran her hands across the child's body. The way her hands carefully checked for any signs of injury or trauma suddenly reminded Sarah of her own inspection of John's body on that horrific night when John and the T-800 had broken her out of Pesco with the T-1000 hot on their tail. Her motherly instincts shouted to Sarah that this child with Cameron, a girl she could now clearly see, had to be Cameron's and John's daughter. The girl, about seven or eight, was thin with long straight light brown hair that seemed a better match to her own natural color and Kyle's, too, than either John's or Cameron's – assuming the eggs in the terminator's body even matched the genetic code used in the creation of her body.

Sarah suddenly realized in an instant that everything had once more changed. Five minutes ago she had still been struggling with the concept that Cameron was pregnant with her son's child. And now she was a grandmother - a grandmother at thirty-six with a sixteen year old son and a seven or eight year old granddaughter. And then the true bizarreness of the situation struck home as she realized she and her granddaughter had probably both been born in the same year, 1963.

John had raced ahead and reached Cameron just as she was rising to her feet from her position beside their daughter. John swept her into a hug as though it was him and not Cameron who had gone years without seeing the other.

Sarah was a little surprised as she approached the pair that Cameron was not whole-heartedly returning the embrace. One arm was wrapped around John's shoulder, but it looked more to prevent them from toppling over than as a sign of affection. And then Sarah noticed how Cameron's other hand still carefully held onto to her daughter's. Finally, Sarah saw her face and its expression was coolly detached – not simply cold like it had looked when they had first arrived in 2008 from 1999, but also not blazing with joy and passion, as it had since the revelation of the pregnancy had occurred.

After a moment, John took a step back and then knelt down by the little girl. "What's your name?"

The girl glanced up at Cameron, who nodded her head.

"My name is Lisa. Lisa Miller."

Kneeling down next to John and her daughter, Cameron said, "Lisa, this is your father, John."

Lisa looked John up and down once and then with a child's simple frankness, she said, "Wow, Mommy told me all about you, but I never thought you would be so young, or dress so funny."

So, the kid was smart and observant, thought Sarah as she agreed with Lisa's assessment that John looked too young to be a father, at least too young to have a daughter Lisa's age. Then she looked at Cameron and realized the terminator looked distinctly older and more mature. Did terminators age? She had never known one long enough before to find out. Or perhaps it was simply the cut of Cameron's hair. The long flowing locks were now gone having been replaced by bangs and what almost looked like a mullet cut in the back. It looked familiar and after a moment Sarah knew why. Cameron's hair was cut in the exact same style as Mrs. Brady on 'The Brady Bunch'. And if Cameron had gone back to 1963 and stayed until Lisa was seven or eight, she would have just returned from 1970 or 1971, which certainly would have been during 'The Brady Bunch' era.

Dragging attention away from the TV shows of her own youth, Sarah saw a hurt expression flash across her son's face at the 'so young' comment. But it only lasted for a moment, before it cleared. "Well, you look pretty funny, too, standing there without any clothes."

The girl looked down and seemed to realize for the first time that her clothes had disappeared somewhere along the strange journey.

For a moment, it looked like she was going to cry, but then Cameron rose back to her feet and gave Lisa's hand a slight tug. "Lisa, I have some clothes packed away for us. They are over this way."

Cameron started towards the back of the warehouse. As she reached the spot where Sarah stood, she paused for a moment. "Lisa, this is John's mother, Sarah."

The girl looked at Sarah for a moment and then stuck out her hand. "Hello, grandma. It is so cool to meet you. My best friend at school, Jane, has this big family, but I only have ever had my Mom. Mom always said one day I would get to meet you and Daddy and I am glad the day is finally here."

For a second Sarah's tongue seemed so dry, it felt stuck to the roof of her mouth. Many days she had a hard time believing she had a son of sixteen and now suddenly she had a granddaughter calling her 'Grandma'. Carefully, Sarah shook the offered hand, "Ah, hi, Lisa. How about you just call me Sarah for now?"

The little girl giggled. "Mommy said you would say that."

Sarah glanced over at the naked Cameron, who merely raised one eyebrow. Sarah couldn't help but notice the woman's perfectly smooth stomach, for of course the machine would manage to go through a pregnancy without acquiring a single stretch mark.

As Cameron started once more to move towards the right back corner of the warehouse, the opposite corner from the special storage room which had held the time displacement equipment, she asked, "Sarah, can I borrow your knife?"

Sarah, who had fallen into step with the other woman and little girl, was forced to pause for a moment as she bent to draw the combat knife from the holster she always wore on her right calf underneath her black jeans.

As she rose and hurried to catch up with the other three, she saw Cameron snag the black tank top she had left folded on top of the pile of other clothes she had discarded before using the time machine to travel back to 1963. Sarah had wondered why she hadn't just allowed the machine to vaporize her clothes like had happened when the three of them had made the jump forward from 1999 to 2008 and now she had her answer. Obviously, Sarah had planned all along to return mere minutes after her departure.

Cameron slipped the tank top on as she continued to move. It was long enough to extend several inches passed the bottom of her butt and provided sufficient modesty that Sarah assumed she was simply waiting until she had provided Lisa with some clothes before worrying about her own pants.

By the time Sarah caught up with the other three, Cameron was kneeling down near the far wall and moving her hands in sweeping patterns across the floor. After a moment she paused and looked up at Sarah.

"Your knife, please."

Sarah passed her the knife and then watched as Cameron worked the tip into a nearly invisible crack. Then working left and right she used the knife to expose a hidden seam in the floor. Quickly she expanded it until she had exposed a rectangular shape about eight feet wide by foot feet tall. Then switching her grip on the knife, she pounded the butt end within the marked-out rectangle near the center of the long edge nearest the back wall of the warehouse. After a couple of blows the thin veneer of concrete broke into small pieces and exposed a recessed handle.

After handing the knife back to Sara, Cameron grabbed the handle and gave a strong tug. At first nothing seemed to happen, but then with a series of crackles and pops the remaining bits of concrete broke free and the hatch began rotating up on its hidden hinges.

The door was four inches thick and solidly built so the use of forklifts and heavy equipment within the warehouse wouldn't accidentally reveal its existence. Sarah watched the ease with which Cameron swung it up until it stood vertical, held in place by some lock which had activated with an audible click. She knew she and John would need a block and tackle or a forklift or something if they were going to open this hatch by themselves.

Sarah looked into the exposed space and it seemed to be a cavity about four or five feet deep, although it was difficult to tell as it was filled to the brim with equipment. And lying right on top was a set of girl's clothes – a pink and white striped blouse, gray slacks, underwear, and a pair of Ked's sneakers.

As Cameron pulled out the clothes and helped her daughter to dress, Sarah asked, "How did you decided on the name 'Lisa'?"

Cameron glanced over briefly at her before turning her attention back to her task. "Before I went downtime, I searched the social security records and discovered 'Lisa' was the most common name for girls born in 1963."

Sarah had noticed Cameron's almost chameleon-like ability to select clothes to blend in with whomever she expected to be with and assumed it was part of her terminator programming - so picking the most common name for her daughter probably made sense to the machine. No, Sarah mentally chastised herself, Cameron was the mother of her granddaughter and she needed to stop thinking of her as simply a machine.

"I am surprised you didn't make it Lisa Jones then," answered Sarah.

Cameron had just finished helping Lisa with her shoes. A small smile graced her face, as she looked back at Sarah. "Well, Cameron Jones sounded too much like the name of a porn star."

"Mommy, what's a porn star?" asked Lisa innocently.

Cameron's remark and Lisa's question seemed to break some underlying tension which had filled Sarah and John since the unexpected arrival of Cameron and Lisa. Sarah felt herself begin to grin and then she briefly laughed out loud. John joined her and even Cameron's smile got bigger for a moment.

Turning back to her daughter and putting a more serious expression on her face, Cameron said, "Remember how I explained some things are adult things and I would explain when you were older?" She paused until Lisa nodded. "This is one of them, so ask me again in a few more years."

Lisa frowned for a moment at this reminder that she wasn't as grown up as she would like to be. "Okay, Mommy."

Sarah decided the conversation needed to move on to other topics to distract the little girl from further thoughts of 'porn stars'. "Cameron, why did you decide to come back now? I mean you must have waited about eight years. . ."

Cameron interrupted her with a quick "Seven years, eight months, twenty-three days."

"Right," responded Sarah seeing all of Cameron's robotic fascination with numbers and data hadn't disappeared. "So if you waited almost eight years, why not wait until Lisa was fully grown?"

Cameron paused from where she had started to remove things from the secret compartment. "My power cells are only good for twenty-five years and there was no way back there to recharge them. If I had stayed back there I would have ceased to function by the mid-1980s and even before that my power reserves would have been dangerously low. I determined this was the optimum point where Lisa could be self-reliant for brief periods of time without excessively depleting my power cells."

With this brief succinct explanation of her logic, Cameron turned her attention back to the contents of the secret cache and quickly started pulling out supplies. As Sarah sat pondering what such a finite mortality might do to Cameron's thought processes, she watched the supplies appear from the hole in the floor. She expected to see familiar looking weapons like guns, flame-throwers, maybe even another of the plasma rifles like she had used back in the bank vault when they had made their escape from 1999. But what was at the top of the stack didn't look like any of those things. Oh, there was a Glock of the same caliber as her own and a handful of clips, but the next things Cameron removed were four gray cylindrical tubes about the size of policeman's flashlight and two boxes filled with glass vials containing red and green liquid. Cameron pulled one vial of each color and held them up to the light as though inspecting if they had gone bad in the more than thirty-five years they had been looked away in this secret compartment. They must have passed the test as Sarah watched Cameron slip them into slots in one end of one of the cylinders. She quickly repeated the process with the other three cylinders.

Sarah was about to ask what the cylinders were, as the vials had looked vaguely similar to the red liquid solution which had powered the plasma rifle, when Lisa spoke first.

"Mommy, are we going to Disneyland now?"

"Not Disneyland, honey," answered Cameron as she continued to pull equipment from hole. "EuroDisney. Remember it is over in France. We looked it up on the globe at the library."

Sarah and John's eyes met in a shocked expression. But before either of them could say anything, the main doors of the warehouse exploded inwards, rammed off their tracks by the large black SUV which came skidding to a halt well inside the building. Immediately, three hulking brutes Sarah knew at first glance were terminators sprang out of its interior and each raised a handgun as they began to advance.

In almost a single motion, Cameron grabbed Lisa and John and forced them down into the relative safety of the hole and then grabbed up her Glock and one of the gray cylinders.

"Sarah, on a count of three I am going to head right to draw their fire. Wait two seconds and then make for the crates to your left so we can set up a crossing field of fire. One. . . Two. . . Three!"

Sarah watched as Cameron darted from the cover of the thick hatch door at a dead run. Immediately she began firing with her Glock at a steady measured pace. Grabbing several spare clips from the pile in front of her, Sarah counted 'One Mississippi, Two Mississippi' just as she had done ever since her first gun battle with Kyle all those years ago. Then she launched herself off towards the left firing fast as she went. Instantly when she cleared the door she could see Cameron had been putting on a shooting exhibition that was impressive even for a terminator. Her first three shots had punch straight into the right eye of each of the terminators. The fourth shot had taken out the left eye of the first terminator by the time she had reached the cover of the nearest stack of crates to the right. Sarah continued to fire in the direction of the terminators until she reached the shelter of her crates, but the three terminators remained focused on Cameron.

Breathing hard, Sarah slammed a fresh clip into her gun before peeking around the edge of the crate. Taking out their eyes would slow the terminators down, but it wouldn't stop them. And after that, these small handguns were going to be little more than nuisances to the big machines. They needed to get some heavy weapons or this could turn out very bad. She just hoped for the moment that John would keep his head down and look after the little girl.

Sarah glanced over to Cameron's position and saw her give the signal for Sarah to lay down some covering fire. Sarah nodded, dropped to the ground to make the smallest target possible and then leaned out and emptied her clip in the direction of the terminators as fast as she could pull the trigger.

Before the third round had cleared the barrel, Cameron was out from behind her cover and racing straight towards the three towering terminators. Almost before the tenth round boomed out of Sarah's gun and the trigger clicked up dry, Cameron was among her three opponents, too close for them to effectively use their weapons.

As Sarah hastily loaded another clip into her weapon, she watched Cameron go to work. In the previous encounters Sarah had witnessed, Cameron had always gone toe-to-toe with the other bigger terminators in a major slugfest. The other machines had to mass at least twice what the petite terminator did and Sarah thought they should have easily been able to out muscle her. But that had never been the case and Sarah had come to assume that part of what was 'special' about Cameron was a more advanced design which made her, pound-for-pound, a lot stronger than the run-of-the-mill T-850 series.

But what she saw now was a fighting style completely different than what Cameron had ever used before. Now she moved very fast and fluidly – like a mist flowing around three stationary trees. She bobbed and weaved, landing a quick blow here and there, but her three opponents seemed unable to even touch her. Over a matter of ten seconds she seemed to use her movements to drawn the three terminators ever tighter around her until it seemed like the three would merely have to slam together to trap Cameron between them and crush her.

Then a blinding white blaze of light seemed to engulf the combatants. A glow so bright, Sarah had to briefly throw a hand in front of her face to protect her eyes. Forcing herself to look through the cracks between her fingers, she saw the bright light resolve itself into a bar about four feet in length. And then squinting hard, Sarah saw it was extending out of one end of the gray cylinder Cameron had been carrying. But it didn't look like a bar for more than an instant as Cameron swung it around in a blinding blur. Immediately, Sarah could see arms and legs, heads and parts of torsos being ripped apart and raining to the floor, the severed ends glowing as molten metal oozed from the gaping wounds.

In a matter of seconds, it was over. The three terminators were nothing more than broken fragments scattered over a twenty foot area. And Cameron stood in the center looking like George Lucas' ultimate wet-dream. Oh, the way her black tank top had ridden up during the fight exposing half of her naked ass was a part of it, but mainly it was the weapon she clasped in her right hand, the glowing blade angled down at thirty degrees in the direction of the floor. As Sarah climbed to her feet and started moving from her sheltered position, she knew there was no other description for it. The weapon in Cameron's hand was a light saber. Oh, it didn't look quite like the traditional ones from the movies as this blade was about the same diameter as a baseball bat rather than the pool cue thin design of the Jedi. But with the way it looked able to cut through anything, as the remains of the harden terminator chassis clearly attested, it achieved the same effect.

But Cameron seemed to hold the pose for only a moment and then she did something no Jedi would do, well, except for that evil one thought Sarah trying to remember his name. But Sarah's life had never been about attending movies since the night Kyle had come crashing into her life. Ever since, the only time she saw movies were on the late, late shows when her nightmares about Judgment Day kept her from sleeping. And then his name popped into her head, Anakin, the one who was destined to become Darth Vader in the final episode she had yet to see.

Cameron calmly walked over to the nearest terminator skull, brought down her blazing weapon and played the beam over it until it was nothing but a molten heap of slag. As Sarah watched her move over to the second head, she knew the Jedi wouldn't be so vicious towards their fallen opponents. But then they lived in a make-believe world where severed heads couldn't come back to haunt you as had already happened to them once before.

As Sarah watched, Cameron moved on to the third head. It was only about half melted when the beam of her light saber pulsated for a second and then abruptly blinking off. Immediately, Cameron set the weapon carefully on the floor and then stood shaking her hand.

Sarah walked up just as Cameron paused in her hand waving and stood examining it. Sarah could see her hand and fingers were covered with ugly blisters.

Feeling Sarah's presence, Cameron looked up. "It gets damn hot. After the first time I used it, I always wore an insulated glove. Fortunately, nothing fatal, my hand should be okay in a few days."

Sarah nodded, as she cast her eyes around at the scattered body parts. Up close the stink of burnt flesh, even if it was synthetic Terminator flesh, was nauseating. As she saw John and Lisa approach, she waved them back.

As they paused, Cameron called out. "We need to move now, before more trouble shows up. John, move the jeep down by the secret compartment so we can load up my gear."

John had obviously seen at least part of the fight, as Sarah could see the hunger to talk about it in his eyes. But even he realized there was a time to talk and a time to run and this was a time to run. Grabbing Lisa's hand he ran towards the jeep.

After Cameron ripped a piece of cloth off of the nearest terminator body, she wrapped it around the weapon and then lifted it with her left hand. Then the two women headed back towards the back of the warehouse at a jog.

Sarah wanted to ask about the light saber, but decided to wait until John was present so Cameron would only have to explain once. Instead she asked, "What was that fighting style? I have never seen you use anything like it before."

"I had time to evaluate my past performance while I was waiting for Lisa to be born. I came to the conclusion using simple brute force resulted in too much risk of damage to my body versus other potential fighting styles. After Lisa was born, I spent several hours a day studying a variety of martial arts forms. As of 1970, and perhaps even today, I was the only occidental-looking woman to simultaneously hold a fifth degree black belt in Jujutsu, an eighth degree black belt in Taekwondo, and a seventh degree black in Kendo. Of course, when I trained and competed I held my speed down to 68 percent and my strength down to 22 percent to not have too much of an advantage. Fortunately, as a side benefit some of the training techniques helped me develop some improved algorithms for enhanced fine motor control."

Sarah remembered the precision of Cameron's first few shots. "Yeah, that was some impressive shooting."

"Thanks. After reviewing my records of our previous encounters, I determined the loss of one eye decreases their efficiency by eight percent. Loss of both eyes drops it by over thirty-seven percent. So, good marksmanship has its rewards."

The women reached the secret compartment just as John was raising the back hatch on the Jeep. Quickly, they filled the back until only one package remained, which Cameron set on the hood of the jeep.

"What are we going to do about the bodies?" asked Sarah. Previously, they had always been careful to dispose of any remains to avoid bringing the existence of terminators to the attention of the authorities. But it was going to be a time-consuming task getting all of the scattered pieces together, yet alone find a place to fit them in the already full Jeep.

Cameron patted the box on the hood. "That's what this is for. It's a hybrid phosphorus-thermite bomb. It will melt anything it touches, including terminators. It will destroy the warehouse, but there's nothing here we need other than what is in the car."

Cameron motioned the others to get into the Jeep and climbed behind the wheel herself. She backed the Jeep up until there was room to turn it around. Then when she reached the terminator remains, she stopped, hopped out, lifted the box down from the hood, flipped two switches on it and then got back into the car and drove out through the gaping hole made by the larger vehicle the terminators had been driving.

As they pulled out of the building Cameron explained the bomb was on a sixty second timer. They were four blocks and two turns away when they all heard the muffled 'boom' of the distant explosion.

They drove in silence for a couple of minutes before John couldn't hold his patience any longer. "Cameron, where the hell did you get the light saber?"

Before she could respond, Lisa, who was sitting in the back with John, piped up with a "Mommy, he used a bad word."

Sarah watched as Cameron glanced back in the rear view mirror. "Honey, he doesn't know about our rule, so we going to let it go this one time. Okay?"

"Okay," said Lisa with a hint of disappointment in her voice, which made Sarah wonder what the normal penalty was for using foul language.

Cameron nodded and then addressed John and Sarah. "It's obvious normal guns have limited affectivity against terminators and that we needed a weapon that would quickly put them down and keep them down. Eventually the idea occurred to me that what we need was something like the light sabers from the movie which can cut through anything. The movies didn't give any clues about how they are actually supposed to work, so I had to come up with a solution of my own. The glass vials you saw contain a two-part chemical which when mixed and ignited transforms into a forty-seven hundred degree Celsius plasma. Fortunately, it is a simple process to ionize the mixture so it can be controlled by an electro-magnetic field. The cylinder extends a four foot long, thin four-layer wire just before the plasma is ignited. The outer layer is insulation to prevent the plasma beam from melting it. The next two layers form an electrical circuit to create the magnetic field which controls the plasma. The innermost layer is a special ferrous alloy with also reacts with the magnetic field and keeps the wire taut.

"Of course, this light saber has a few drawbacks that never happen in the movies. First, the ampoules only contain enough fuel for twenty-one seconds, so you better not light it off until you are ready to use it. Second, once the reaction is started you can't turn it on and off. You can turn it off early, but even if you only use it for two seconds, you are going to have to replace the ampoules before you can use it again. Third, the handle gets very hot. Well, you can see what it did to my hand. Fourth, you don't want to ever touch the plasma blades of two weapons. This will destroy the central wire which controls the plasma and you will get an explosive result equal to about half a stick of dynamite. So there won't ever be any movie-style sword fights with these weapons."

Sarah looked over at Cameron and watched for a moment as the streetlights threw alternate waves of light and dark across her face. "Why not just stick with the plasma rifle we used back at the bank? A weapon that can be used at more than arm's length would seem to be a big advantage."

"Yeah, it would be except I have uncovered a significant design flaw with the plasma rifle."

Sarah waited, but Cameron didn't elaborate. Finally, she asked, "And what is the design flaw? Perhaps we can come up with a solution."

Cameron glanced over at Sarah and grinned. "So you became a physicist during the five minutes I was gone?"

Sarah gave an embarrassed shrug. Yeah, if the mechanical mind that had just created a light saber couldn't find a solution, there was exactly a zero percent chance she would either.

Apparently, Cameron felt like explaining would have some benefit, so she continued to speak.

"Remember how when a terminator is hit with a high voltage electrical surge, it shuts down for one hundred twenty seconds? Well, it is a protective measure to keep the memory storage devices and the neural network central processors from being damaged."

"Yeah, I understand all that."

"Unfortunately, what wasn't known when the plasma rifles were first developed is that they put out an EMP pulse when fired against which the surge protection circuitry is ineffective. The pulse doesn't have any effect on the memory storage arrays, but it does a hard reset on the neural network system. For most terminators which operate on their hardwired programming without an active 'learning' mode, this isn't a big issue, but for me it is like experiencing a Bill Gates' blue screen of death. All of the emotional capabilities I have developed through my accumulated experience are wiped out. This first happened when you fired the plasma rifle back in the bank when we escaped from 1999. It happened a second time two years after I arrived in 1963 when the resistance cell's chief scientist and I were testing one of the guns out in the desert."

Cameron looked into the rear view mirror again. "I'm sorry, John. All of the data from the time we spent together is still in my systems, but it is just abstract information. Every time my neural network is reset it takes between two and three months for my network to acquire enough experience to cross a threshold where I have emotions more or less equivalent to human. However every time I pass the threshold and, well, come alive, it is like I am emotionally a whole different person. And the last time it happened, when I was back in 1963, you weren't a part of my life. So, I know you are Lisa's father, but for the present, I don't . . . ah . . . feel anything towards you. I hope you can understand and hopefully this may change in the future."

Sarah turned and looked into the backseat. John was staring out the side window and she could see he was blinking hard. She suddenly understood at least a little now about Cameron's reaction when John had first run up and hugged her. To her he was almost like a stranger. When Cameron had disappeared into the time displacement machine, Sarah had expected it would be days or weeks before John would recover from her departure. Now, she was still here, yet the next days might remain just as difficult. Nothing ever seemed to go easy for her or her son.

To give John time to collect his thoughts and start to adjust to what Cameron had said, Sarah turned back to Cameron and asked about the one thing she hadn't understood.

"Cameron, who is Bill Gates?"

Cameron turned and stared at her for longer than Sarah had ever seen her take her eyes off the road when driving.

"You don't know who Bill Gates is?" When Sarah shook her head, Cameron addressed the same question at John. It took a couple tries to penetrate his funk, but he eventually said 'No', too.

"What about Windows?" Sarah shook her head again. "PCs?"

"What's that?" asked Sarah starting to get a little concerned about this line of questioning.

"Personal computers. You know, the devices everyone has in their homes to connect to the internet."

Sarah stared at Cameron and suddenly she seemed more alien than ever. "What are you talking about? Individual people don't have computers; they would fill their whole houses. Only companies like IBM and Cray have computers."

Cameron sat there silent for a minute, obviously deep in thought. "This is bad. There has been a significant time ripple."

"Time ripple?" echoed Sarah feeling a little stupid, but needing to understand what Cameron was talking about.

"The 2008 from which I left was filled with computers. They came in all sizes with powerful ones as small as a hardcover book and some were even built into portable phones. There were almost as many computers on the planet as people. Something important has changed in the past."

Cameron paused for a moment, before continuing. "Sarah, when I joined you, what year did I say I was sent back from?"

"2047 – eight years after Judgment Day."

"Hmm," Cameron seemed to muse as she processed this information.

"What?" asked Sarah.

"Oh, that just verifies my estimates of the effect of having only centralized computers compared to more numerous smaller devices. Theory says once a certain threshold of technology is achieved, the singularity – where some form of intelligence makes the jump to super-intelligence – is inevitable. However a centralized computer system which limits overall human-computer interaction would be expected to slow the process. And this demonstrates it does, as Judgment Day is shifted back roughly twenty-two years versus my timeline."

Cameron drove on in silence for a few more seconds, as if to give time for her words to sink in. "While theory is all well and good, we better focus on the more practical and figure out what happened. Let's start at the beginning, who is the President?"

"Arnold Schwarzenegger."

Cameron shook her head. "It is supposed to be George Bush."

"George Bush was the president a long time ago, like sixteen years ago," answered Sarah.

"No, I'm talking about his son. But how could Schwarzenegger even be President? He doesn't meet the native-born American requirement."

"After the events of June 5th, 2003, a twenty-eighth amendment was rushed through eliminating the native born requirement. It was ratified by the required thirty-eight States on January 22nd, 2004 and Schwarzenegger was elected in a landslide in the following November elections."

"What happened on June 5th, 2003?" asked Cameron.

Sarah stared out of her own side window for a moment. When they had arrived in 2008 from 1999 it had been such a shock to learn the years she had missed were referred to as the 'Decade of the Terrorists' in the press. First, there had been September 11th, 2001 and the World Trade Center incident in New York which had left three thousand dead. Then had come the May 22nd, 2002 toxic gas attack on Tokyo which had left sixty thousand dead. And finally, on June 5th, 2003 there had been the simultaneous dirty nuke attack on Washington, London and Paris - leaving over three million dead and the cultural, economic, and political heart nearly torn out of Western civilization. When Sarah found out it was almost like her nightmare of Judgment Day had come early.

Finding her voice, Sarah answered. "On June 5th, 2003 terrorists set off nukes in Washington, London, and Paris. Three million died including most of the legislative, judicial, and executive branches of the government. Apparently, there was utter chaos for a while and Governor Schwarzenegger was the only one offering an effective plan of action. He swept into power by almost universal acclamation. Things are quieter now, but martial law has only recently been partially lifted."

"How do you know it was terrorists?" asked Cameron.

"Who else could it be? Do you think Schwarzenegger would kill three million people just to get the constitution changed so he could be elected president?"

Cameron shook her head, as she pulled the car over to the curb. "Do we still live here?" she asked, as she nodded to the stucco house across the street.

"Yeah, we still live in the same dump," came John's voice from the back seat for the first time in quite a while. "Apparently, some things never change."

"No," said Cameron in response to Sarah's last question as she put the Jeep back into gear and headed towards their driveway. "I wasn't thinking of Schwarzenegger being behind it. I was thinking of Skynet. It will try to kill off humanity in the future, so what does it care if a few million go early?"

Sarah played with the idea of Skynet being behind the nuke attack, as Cameron pulled the Jeep around to the carport behind the house. It certainly seemed plausible given all of the terminator activity she had observed since the jump up to 2008.

As they climbed out of the car and started carrying Cameron's equipment into the house, Sarah asked. "Cameron, how many terminators were operating in 2008 before you went downtime?"

Cameron paused with the box containing the glass vials for the light sabers in her hands. "We ran into seven and I suspected there were at least four more working somewhere in the city, based on things I had observed. Why?"

"We have evidence from resistance groups and from other sources that there are over two hundred terminators active in the L.A. area alone. They have infiltrated the highest levels of the city government, as well as the police force." Suddenly Cameron's version of the timeline was starting to sound very inviting to Sarah – only a handful of terminators and no nuke attack on the capitols, of course in exchange Judgment Day came twenty-two years earlier. Perhaps they were in the classic 'no win' situation.

Cameron nodded. "We need to identify where the timeline shifted and see if we can fix it. Skynet is obviously trying a more direction approach to prevent an effective resistance from developing after Judgment Day rather than just going back to eliminate a few key individuals."

"But where do we even begin?" asked Sarah.

"Everything was the same when I left from 1970 and the personal computer revolution begins around 1980. So whatever was the key event, it happened somewhere within that ten year span."

"That seems like an awfully big window."

"Then I guess a trip to the library is in order to see if I can spot something to narrow it down before we head back downtime," answered Cameron before turning to head back into the house.

Sarah was left standing alone on the back step and she looked up into the dark blue sky which was just starting to show the faintest hint of pink with the approaching dawn. For sixteen years her life had been so simple – protect John and stop Skynet. But suddenly everything seemed to be changing so fast, she could barely keep up. The only positive part was that in Cameron's version of the timeline, Washington, London, and Paris had not been destroyed in 2003, proving the future was not set. It WAS therefore possible to stop Skynet before Judgment Day became inevitable.

End of Chapter 2

Author's Note

Several of the reviews to the first chapter said I had written myself into a corner. What do you think? Let's see what I managed with the second chapter: A) started an epic new plotline, B) explained the big step backwards in Cameron's personality between the pilot and subsequent episodes which everyone talks about, C) rebooted Cameron and John's relationship back to the beginning. Hmm, I don't think I was in that tight of a corner!

Have a great day,