Mar 1, 2008
1963 – Chapter 3
John unconsciously tugged at his tight shirt collar as he took in the crowd stretched out before him. None of his training had prepared him for this. All of his life had been spent at the extreme other end of the social spectrum – from his childhood years with the guerillas in Nicaragua, El Salvador, and Belize to his time trapped in the California foster care system even to his recent years on the run with his mother. But now here he stood on the fringes of the power elite of Greater 1971 Los Angeles. Movie stars, entertainment moguls, and political leaders were spread out across the width of the large ballroom before him with the surplus spilling out into the dimly lit pool area beyond.
But they weren't here to hobnob with the rich and famous, no they were here on a more important mission. They were here for the sole purpose of keeping one 'Thomas Griffin' from dying tonight.
With Cameron's abrupt return to 2008 they had discovered a ripple in the time line had engulfed their world. Washington, London, and Paris weren't supposed to have been destroyed by 'dirty bomb' terrorist attacks. Los Angeles wasn't supposed to be overrun by hundreds of terminators from the future. Arnold Schwarzenegger wasn't supposed to be President.
Since only Cameron had memories of how things were supposed to be, it had up to her to find the key event, or events as it turned out, which had led history down this alternate path. She had spent weeks at the library reading microfilm copies of old newspapers and news magazines looking for key discrepancies. In the end she had found four events back in the 1970's that were different from her memories and which didn't seem to be related by a 'cause and effect' relationship to earlier discrepancies. The earliest one was here and she said it was best to start at the beginning, because the later events might not reflect active involvement by Skynet, but might just be a natural result of the earlier changes via some connection she couldn't yet decipher.
And that was when the arguments began. Cameron had been for just her and Lisa going back alone to tackle this problem while John and Sarah remained up in 2008. Her logic had been that if John and Sarah went back and they managed to fix the time line, then when they returned to 2008 all they would have for memories of the past thirty years would be the ones from the closed off time loop rather than memories of the true history of events. If on the other hand they stayed up in 2008, when the time loop was healed they would be left with the correct memories of past events.
But both John and Sarah had adamantly objected to this course of action. It was one thing for Cameron to retreat alone to the peace and obscurity of 1963 to have the baby. But it was completely different to go back alone into a situation where she would be going up against an unknown number of terminators and other Skynet minions without any backup. In the seven months they had been together since Cameron had first appeared in 1999 New Mexico, there had been several occasions where they had only survived and won by working as a team.
They had fought and argued for days before Cameron finally dropped her opposition and acceded to them going back as a team. John had almost expected some subterfuge on Cameron's part that would have left him and Sarah behind, when they reached another secret time displacement facility, this time hidden out in the desert, but the translation had gone like clockwork.
So here they were at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel for the big Hollywood-style post-premiere party for the new movie 'Space Angels'. With stars Steve McQueen and James Coburn, it had been billed as a cross between 'The Magnificent Seven' and '2001: A Space Odyssey'. But with thirty years of hindsight at his disposal, John knew it was destined to be the biggest flop of the 1970s and almost completely forgotten by the 21st century.
It had struck him as strange when Cameron had told him that the first disruption to the time line she could find had occurred at this party. Why would Skynet see this event as a key event in history? He could sort of see the logic of going after his mother, if he was destined to defeat the machine, but why Thomas Griffin, the writer of this movie? In the timeline he remembered, Thomas Griffin was a complete unknown, as he was killed in some kind of a brawl at the party before making any significant mark on history. And even at first when Cameron had explained about his future in the original timeline, it seemed like such a stretch to see him as a key. After flopping as a science fiction film writer, he would turn his attention to 'real' science and two years later publish a book entitled 'The Computer Paradigm Shift'. He never was directly involved with creating any hardware or software which were key to the development of the personal computer. But his book would become required reading at most engineering and computer science schools, and Cameron said many of the giants in the personal computer field of the original timeline would credit his book with being one of their main inspirations.
John tugged at the collar of his tuxedo shirt again; alternate timelines were enough to drive him crazy. It seemed like he had barely adjusted to jumping from 1999 to 2008 before discovering all the history he had ever known could be considered wrong from Cameron's pre-'time ripple' perspective.
"Stop fiddling with that," came the whisper from the haunting voice of Cameron, who was standing to his right. Every time she spoke his heart still seemed to beat faster even though for the last four weeks everything about their relationship had changed. For from his perspective that was how long it had been since Cameron's disappearance through the time machine to 1963 and then abrupt return mere minutes later. But for her, almost eight years had passed in that blink of an eye. And more importantly, during those eight years the emotional part of her neural network had been reset to zero and then reformed without him. She looked almost the same. She sounded the same. But the longer he was around her, the more he had come to realize she simply wasn't the same person inside. Oh, she still had her memories of the time they had spent together, but there was no emotional attachment.
John glanced over at her and for a moment she looked like the Cameron of old. Her hair had grown out some and was now parted in the middle again. The bangs were longer, but still present. However she did now look more like herself than a dark-haired clone of Carol Brady. Then he glanced down and took in her attire. Most of the women present, including surprisingly his Mom, were dressed in formal evening wear appropriate for this gala affair. But Cam had only made a few compromises from her normal combat attire. She was wearing a thin blue blouse so sheer her lacy black bra was plainly visible beneath. Her pants were dark with thin white pin-striping and in a cut that looked more appropriate at a riding club than for a Hollywood ball. However in place of the matching pair of riding boots those pants would typically call for, she wore a pair of black steel-toed biker boots with four inches heels and which laced up almost to her knees. Topping it all off, as those it was some kind of bizarre fashion statement, was the single black glove on her right hand extending up passed her elbow. John knew it was there for the strictly practical purpose of protecting her hand if she was forced to use the light saber stowed in her shoulder bag.
John wondered for a moment what the other guests would make of her, but this was Hollywood and they were in the fashion lull between the hippy 60's and disco 70's, so perhaps anything did go. Her attire certainly wasn't any more outlandish than his tux. If he had ever imagined he would find himself wearing a tux, which certainly wasn't something he had ever expected in his life of battling Skynet and its terminators, it would have been something clean, simple - an elegant black. But of course instead he found himself in a crushed blue velvet jacket with black lapels and a white shirt with frilly over-abundant lace work down the front and on the cuffs. Oh, the joy of being in the early 70's, he thought.
"Give me a break, Cam," he said in reply. "I have never worn a tie, let alone a bowtie, in my life."
"Well, you DID want to blend in," she said with a light quirk of a smile.
She was obviously remembering a comment he had made that in some ways she seemed to come across as even less human than when they had first come out of the time displacement bubble from 1999. At the time, he had said it with a hint of anger as though it was Cameron's fault their relationship had changed. But she had merely shrugged the comment off with a smile saying the longer she was around 'the locals', her term for people who didn't know about the Skynet war, the less she worried about blending in. For as she said, never once had someone come out and said 'Oh, you're different, you must be a robot-girl.' They might think her strange or eccentric, but no one was ever going to suspect the truth.
And so a comment he had blurted out in pain had in the end turned out to be the first small step in the process of rebuilding a measure of rapport.
Their exchange was at that point interrupted by Wally Jay, the man who had gotten them their invitation to this event. "Come, I see Steve and Jimmy over by the bar. Let me introduce you."
When this first time line ripple point turned out to be in L.A. barely a month after Cameron's departure for 2008, they had decided the simplest thing to do was for Cameron and Lisa to resume their old lives with Sarah and John as out-of-town guests. And even now, as they prepared to do whatever was necessary to preserve Thomas Griffin's life, Lisa was staying with Samantha, one of the resistance fighters sent back to 1963 to help build the back-up time machines. Of course, Samantha's mission was always intended to be one-way and she was now happily married to a 'local' and raising a family of her own.
One of the main reasons they had decided to have Cameron resume her old life was Wally Jay. He had been her Jujitsu instructor for five years and more importantly had also been the martial arts advisor for 'Space Angels'. So this had given them a simple way to get invited to the party without having to sneak in.
John had gone along with Cameron when she went to the dojo to speak to Wally. John had found the man to be an affable guy in his mid-fifties. He looked Chinese, but he spoke perfect English and John eventually found out he had been born and raised in Hawaii before settling in L.A. John had even suited up and sparred for a few minutes with the man, for if Cameron spoke so highly of him, he must have something worth learning.
John had never been as heavily into the martial arts as his mother and had only pursued it as far as a first degree black belt in Karate. No, hand-to-hand combat skills had always struck him as fairly pointless when his primary opponents were terminators. So, on the whole he had focused more of his attention on weapons training and the art of homemade explosives – a couple pounds of homebrew C-4 was a lot more effective against terminators than a perfect round-house kick. But Wally was cool and he had shown him a couple simple moves to use in a pinch that John had never seen before.
Bringing his attention back to the present, John watched as Wally took his Mom's elbow and headed diagonally across the ballroom floor in the direction of the bar. Sarah had definitely made a conquest in Wally, who hadn't met her until the limo picked them up for the trip to the premiere. And looking around as he and Cameron followed in their wake he realized countless male eyes were watching his Mom's progress across the room.
Sometimes it almost seemed like he had forgotten what she really looked like since Sarah had been going with the black dye job for the five years since the events at the Cyberdine research facility. But, back here in 1971 where the FBI wasn't looking for her, she had reverted back to her more natural light brown hair color.
But John was certain it wasn't the hair color which was attracting all the male attention. No, it was most certainly the portion of her physique highlighted by the red gown she was wearing. The strapless gown with the large billowy skirt and matching red gloves left her upper arms, shoulders, upper chest, and most of her back fully exposed. And after fifteen years of a daily training regime which would break most Navy Seals, she had a ripped, lean body where every muscle was clearly visible as she gracefully made her way across floor. With the women's fitness craze still more than ten years in the future, John doubted that any man in the room had ever seen a woman's body quite like his Mother's. Certainly, Wally Jay had been taken by her and spent the whole ride to the movie discussing her training and nutritional methods.
John wondered what the man would think if he knew that under the breakaway skirt Sarah was wearing a leotard, combat boots, a large hunting knife strapped to her right calf and a small Beretta on her left. It was a good thing this was in the pre-'X-ray Machine at every entrance' era or the amount of ordinance the three of them were carrying, let alone Cam's metallic endoskeleton, would get them into all kinds of trouble.
They were just about to reach the spot where Steve McQueen and James Coburn were talking and laughing at the center of a small circle of people when the reality of the situation began to sink in with John. They were really here in the heart of Hollywood. They had passed many famous people he recognized on the walk across the ballroom, but now they were actually going to meet two of the most famous men present. John's whole life from his earliest memory had been focused on preparing for Judgment Day and his ultimate role in the salvation of mankind. For a moment, John tried to forget his fate and worked to burn these events into his memory to relive during the inevitable dark times ahead.
John glanced over at Cameron to see how she was reacting to this situation. He saw she was almost completely ignoring the famous stars in front of them, but was instead steadily sweeping her gaze across the crowd. Doubtlessly she was on the lookout for the trouble they had come to stop. John knew he should be, too, but at least for now he didn't care. Trouble would find them soon enough and just for this instant he wanted to enjoy this situation which was unlikely to ever occur in his life again.
Sarah and Wally were less than ten feet from the loose circle of people around the film's two big stars when Wally abruptly veered off to the right. John wasn't certain what had caused the change of course, but his right hand immediately unbuttoned his jacket and then slid towards the butt of his Glock tucked away in its shoulder harness. He saw Cam's bag start to come off her shoulder before she relaxed and slid it back into place.
Looking ahead, John saw Wally had come to a halt and was exchanging a short bow with a much younger oriental man wearing a dark turquoise Nehru jacket. Then, as the two men stepped forward going from the formal to the personal with a quick hug and a slap on the back, John recognized the second man - the legendary Bruce Lee.
As the two men broke their embrace, John and Cameron stepped forward from one side and McQueen and Coburn broke through their circle of friends to approach from the opposite side.
"Bruce, I haven't seen you in a couple of months. Chad has missed our sessions. Where have you been?" asked McQueen while reaching out to shake Lee's hand.
Even though a big grin adorned McQueen's face, John could still feel the charisma radiating off the man. As he stared at these legendary icons, John wondered if it was something you could learn or if you had to be born with it. Suddenly, it was as though he was channeling Cameron in the way she could focus with the precision of a laser as she watched someone she wanted or needed to mimic. For John knew he would need to develop his own inner source of charisma for the day when he would be called on to ask men to undertake suicide missions in their battle against Skynet.
"Hello, Steve," answered Lee, as he turned to shake Coburn's proffered hand in turn. "I have been over in Hong Kong prepping a movie. I just got back yesterday to secure additional financing. I will be in town for ten days, so we should certainly try to get together for a session or two, I would enjoy seeing how your son is progressing."
Before this conversation could continue, Wally grabbed Cameron's arm and pulled her forward.
"Bruce, I would like to introduce Cameron Miller, the best student I have ever worked with."
Lee gave her a quick up-and-down before offering his hand. "Wally, I thought you always said I was your best pupil."
"That was then, this is now," answered Wally with a small laugh.
Lee turned his attention fully towards Cameron. "It is a pleasure to meet you. I am Bruce Lee."
"Cameron Miller," responded Cam.
"So, Cameron," began Lee as he took a half step back and gave her another quick scan. "Do you think you are better than me?"
Cam, who had been dedicating part of her attention to scanning the room, shot John a quick wink and then turned her full attention to Lee.
"Me? How could a little girly-girl like me beat someone like you?" answered Cameron.
John took the pair of them in. Lee probably had thirty or forty pounds on her; well he would if she was the human girl she was pretending to be. But in her biker boots Cameron towered over him by almost four inches.
Lee looked over to Jay and raised an eyebrow.
"She is just being modest," responded Jay. "She went from zero to fifth degree black in Jujutsu in five years. I have never heard of anyone else doing it in under twelve."
Lee looked back to Cameron. "Truth time, how good are you really?"
Cameron appeared to eye the small crowd of on-lookers then shrugged. "Since we are going to be fighting on the same team, I guess I can let you in on a little of the truth."
John saw the questioning look appear on Lee's face when Cam made the comment about them fighting on the same team. Since John had at least a hint about what was probably going to happen sometime in the next couple of hours, that comment didn't have the same impact on him. But he guessed he might have a similar expression caused by her 'little of the truth' remark. What exactly was she about to say?
"In addition to studying with Wally," continued Cameron, "I have also been studying Taekwondo with Master Won Kang." She gave a little martial arts type bow. "Eighth degree black. And Kendo with Grandmaster Noriaki Sato." Another little bow. "Seventh degree black."
A look of amazement passed of Wally Jay's face. He obviously had no idea Cameron had also been training simultaneously in other forms. Then John took in the similar expression on McQueen and Coburn's faces. He knew they both trained with Lee, but doubted if either of them were even first degree blacks.
During this lull, Cameron nudged Jay and then pointedly looked over at John and Sarah.
Jay apparently got the hint. "Bruce, Steve, Jimmy let me introduce John Baum, a friend of Cameron's, and his mother, Sarah."
The three men nodded politely at John before turning their full attention to Sarah, not that the two fortyish movie stars hadn't been paying her a lot of attention from the first moment they had walked up.
"Let me guess," began McQueen. "You're another martial arts wiz, they do seem to be crawling out of the woodwork tonight."
Sarah gave him a beguiling smile. "Oh, I wouldn't ever claim to be in Cameron's league. I have never had much formal training."
Coburn gestured towards Sarah's left shoulder, "That's an interesting scar."
Sarah looked down. "Gunshot wound. Nine millimeter." Then she looked back up, "I was a photojournalist with the Sandinista rebels under Tomas Martinez down in Nicaragua back in the early sixties. I was shot a couple of times and have several interesting knife wounds. Eventually, I learned to look after myself, but I am more of a street fighter than formally trained like Cameron."
John could see both of the stars were eyeing how the muscles in her shoulders rippled as she gestured. He had no idea if either of them was married at the moment, but from the looks they were shooting at her, he knew either of them would gladly escort her out of there if she gave them the slightest hint.
But her comments about her assorted scars - most of them acquired in battles against terminators, though a few actually did date from their time in Central America – and also her comments about being a street fighter got John thinking about how his Mom would do against Bruce Lee. Oh, there was no question Cameron would whip his butt, but a Sarah versus Bruce Lee encounter was a different matter. Bruce definitely had the flashy moves, but John doubted he had ever used his skills in a true win-or-die situation. His mother though had gone one-on-one against terminators and won. And she had been forced to kill a few men down through the years, too. His mother simply had an indomitable spirit. She had been in situations where she truly believed if she lost it might be the end of mankind. And she had always found that last bit of inner strength to carry on the battle no matter how battered and banged up her body might be. Yes, a contest between his mother and Bruce Lee would definitely be interesting.
"So, John," started Lee, interrupting John's train of thought. "How good is Cameron? Have you seen her compete?"
John had never seen Cam in a formal martial arts competition, but he had certainly seen her in action a number of times. And then their last encounter with terminators in the warehouse after Cameron and Lisa arrived from the past came to the front of his mind. He had been over sixty feet away with his head just poking around the edge of the heavy steel hatch in hopes he wouldn't get it shot off. But still the image of Cameron in amongst the three burly terminators would be forever engraved in his mind. She had fought in a style he had never seen her use before. Fast and fluid, she had moved with a speed he hadn't believed possible for man or terminator. He knew Bruce Lee was famous as much for his speed as for his skill, but John couldn't image him being in even the same league as Cameron.
"Oh, yes, she is truly remarkable."
"You will have to forgive my friend," jumped in Cameron. "He is prone to exaggeration. Pretty soon he will be telling you my abilities are all due to the hyper-alloy combat chassis I have hidden under my skin. You know, sort of like the robots in the movie only covered in flesh so I can pass unnoticed among humans."
John almost choked at this near revelation, but then he had to admit her comparison to the robots in the movie made her whole comment sound more ridiculous than real. For the robots, as depicted in the movie, had been such clumsy creations that they made C3-P0, even with his metallic gold skin, look perfectly human by comparison.
Trying to keep the focus on the lighter, humorous aspects of Cam's remarks, John casually draped his arm around her waist before speaking - although if he truly acknowledged things to himself, he would have admitted he was marking Cameron as his territory in front of these powerful men. "Yes, you are my special little robot-girl aren't you?"
"Yes," Cam responded in a monotone. "I . . . am . . . your . . . robot . . . girl." With an exaggerated mechanical motion she leaned her head to the side and then jerkily turned it to look each of the nearby men in the eye. "I . . . am . . . the . . . martial . . . arts . . . training . . . device . . . of . . . the . . . future." Then she stepped away from John and in a slow-motion robotic style demonstrated one of the standard Jujitsu training katas. After thirty seconds she ended with a perfect Michael Jackson 'moonwalk', which wouldn't break across the American music scene for another dozen years.
Someone standing nearby started to clap which quickly grew into a loud round of applause from everyone at that end of the ballroom. Cameron's stony robotic expression abruptly broke into a grin and then with a fluid bow she glided back over to John's side.
Several people tried to speak at once, but they were drowned out by a loud bellow, "Griffin, get over here or I may have just found your replacements!"
John turned to look at the speaker. He was a big florid man with a giant gut that hung over his belt; no one was going to mistake him for a leading-man style actor. John realized he had been standing with McQueen and Coburn when they had first approached and when the stars had moved over to join Lee, he had followed along.
John caught Wally Jay's eye and then threw a questioning glance towards the man.
Jay leaned close to be heard over the clamor still surrounding Cameron. "Tony Solomon, the movie's executive producer."
Just then a tall-gangly man of about thirty with thick glasses and an atrociously ugly paisley tuxedo stepped up beside Solomon.
"Griff," began Solomon. "These people have this wickedly funny human robot sketch. It will be perfect for my next comedy. Talk to them and then get back to me on Monday with some ideas of how we can best use it."
"Yes, sir, Mister Solomon," answered Griffin with several bobs of his head that struck John as being almost as comical as Cam's robot maneuvers.
Griffin moved over and John found it necessary to crane his head back; the guy stood at least six foot four.
"John Baum," said John sticking out his hand. "And this is my friend, Cameron Miller."
Griffin shook the offered hand. "Thomas Griffin, but my friends call me Griff. I am the movie's writer and sort of the unofficial assistant to Mister Solomon."
This is going smoother than I had hoped, thought John. Instead of hunting for the man, he comes looking for us. Which got John wondering how much of Cameron's remarks and subsequent little display had been intentional with this goal in mind. Her personality in this latest incarnation he had been experiencing since her arrival with Lisa was certainly a different mix of machine AI and quasi-human then what had existed during the first go around. Perhaps, he thought, it was the five plus years this one had been evolving versus the mere seven months of the one he known before.
John turned his attention back to Griffin. Now that they had located him, it was just necessary to keep him by their side until this evening's events unfolded. And again Cameron seemed to be at the center of making this happen.
Lee had stepped back in front of Cameron. Reaching behind his back, he pulled a three sectioned staff from beneath his jacket. "This is a sanjiegun. Have you ever used one before?"
Cameron shook her head. "I don't think I have ever seen one before."
John recognized it as a staple of the couple of Bruce Lee movies he had seen on TV and assumed Cameron would have seen it there too. But she had been doing a good job of keeping things moving along, so he decided to just follow her lead for now.
"Well, that's not surprising," began Lee as he dropped into instructor mode. "It was originally developed by Chao Hong-Yin, the first Emperor of the Sung Dynasty about a thousand years ago. It was popular for a couple hundred years before falling into obscurity. I found descriptions of it in some old books and built my own. I have been training with it so I can use it in my next movie as it should make an interesting change from the nunchaku that everyone else is using. Would you like to give it a try?"
Cameron accepted the weapon from Lee and spent a few seconds seemingly randomly moving the three wooden pieces around. Then she handed it back to Lee. "Sure, but how about you give a short demonstration first, so I can get some ideas of the possibilities?"
A broad grin spread across Lee's face and John realized the guy was a real showman and that this whole party was just one big PR possibility for him.
As Lee glanced around, John suggested, 'How about we move out by the pool where there is more room to move?"
"Great idea," said Coburn clapping one arm across John's shoulder and the other one across Sarah's. "Seeing Bruce put on a demonstration is always a pleasure." As he started leading the way towards the row of doors, the arm across John's shoulder slipped away while the one across Sarah's seemed to pull her in a little tighter.
John watched his Mother's face and for a second thought the martial arts demonstration was going to start early and Jimmy Coburn might find himself more directly involved then he had intended, but then Sarah seemed to give a mental shrug and wrapped her own arm around Coburn's waist.
As Cameron stepped forward to walk with Lee, John made sure Griffin was still in tow.
The large rectangular pool was situated about fifty feet beyond the ballroom doors. From one corner of the ballroom wall to the edge of the pool extended a serving table similar to the one inside although a bit smaller. From the other corner of the ballroom to the other corner of the pool extended a row of chairs, in what was an obvious attempt to keep the partygoers constrained and away from the other hotel guests. Within this rectangular outside area a small band was set up in a corner and a few people were dancing.
When the movie's main stars came trooping out behind Bruce Lee, the dancers faltered to a halt and the band switched to a mellower 'Muzak" type of background music. Lee strode over to a spot near the pool and then handed the sanjiegun temporarily back to Cameron. Quickly he stripped off his jacket and white shirt and began to do a few warm-up moves.
After about thirty seconds, Lee either was sufficiently warmed up or felt he had given the audience sufficient time to find their places, and gestured for Cameron to toss him the weapon. Immediately he began to weave the jointed weapon about his body in a complex pattern, first swinging it about his head and upper body and then switching to a pattern that emphasized combination moves using his legs. John had enough experience with a variety of weapons to see that Lee was still working to fully master the weapon from the way he occasional missed a maneuver which allowed one of the wooden staves to hit hard against one of his arms or legs.
Lee continued with his exhibition for roughly two and a half minutes before grinding to a halt. He wasn't breathing too hard, but his bare chest was glistening with sweat.
"So, are you ready to give it a try?" he asked of Cameron. When she nodded, he tossed the multi-segmented weapon to her.
Cameron walked the ten feet over to where John stood and pulled off the large handbag which she was carrying across her shoulder. John tried to take it from her without letting a grimace of effort cross his face. The bag contained one of the light-sabers, a .45-caliber Mini-Mac 10 machine pistol, and most of their spare ammo; it weighed close to forty pounds.
As John carefully set the bag by his feet, Cameron turned back towards Lee. Pointing at his gleaming torso, she grinned. "If you think I am going to strip to the waist before playing with your weapon, I am afraid you are going to be disappointed."
Lee just gave a casual shake of his head, ignoring the double entendre.
Slowly at first, Cameron began to swing the sanjiegun about her upper body. John recognized these as the same initial patterns Lee had used and knew Cam was starting in simple 'mimic' mode. Then over the next fifteen to twenty seconds the movements began to change with a gradual increase in speed and fluidity of motion. By the thirty second mark all vestiges of mimicry were gone and the movements were entirely Cameron's own.
For the first forty-five seconds Cameron remained mostly stationary and all of the movement involved just her upper body and the sanjiegun, but then slowly she began to move and it was like watching a great dancer playfully using the sanjiegun in place of the more traditional silk streamer. Around and around she went – sometimes the weapon was twirling about her and sometimes it seemed like she was twirling about it. And then Cameron began adding leaps, back flips, and other acrobatic maneuvers into the mix.
As John watched, he couldn't help but notice the similarity to the ballet dancing 'his' Cameron had come to love. He remembered sitting for hours watching her practice even though he knew with her special gifts, practice was hardly a necessity. But Cameron had explained it was almost like mediating and how when she was out on the practice floor she felt about as close to a true dream-like state as she was able to achieve.
But the 'new' Cameron was not the same as 'his' Cameron and he hadn't once seen her perform anything close to ballet – until now. As she continued to spin, twirl and whip the weapon about at an almost blinding pace, John wondered how he was going to get back together with Cam, for his heart still ached for her. He knew it was going to take time and patience, but it had been four weeks already and it felt like he hadn't made any appreciable progress. For a moment he glanced over at McQueen and Coburn who were staring at Cameron with rapt expressions. How would they, or their on-screen personas, go about winning the girl? Well, they certainly wouldn't stand about waiting for the girl to take the initiative. No, they would take charge and set about wooing the girl. And suddenly John realized that's what he needed to do; he needed to start treating her like any other girl he was interested in and slowly work towards a serious relationship.
Feeling like he had just turned a corner on the issue of how to proceed with Cameron, he relaxed a little bit and tried to enjoy the show she was putting on.
Cameron's movements steadily got bigger until she was using up almost half the space between the ballroom and the pool with most of the audience scrunched up along the edge of the pool to stay out of her way. Eventually, her movements took her near the refreshment table. Champagne was being served at the center of the long table with thirty freshly filled glasses lined up along the edge. Abruptly, Cameron shifted the pattern of her movement into an attack and the air was filled with the sound of shattering glass. The sound was not all one big crash, but a number of small pings and pops occurring at such a rapid pace it sounded almost as if a machine gun was being used. Then after a few seconds her motion swept her away from the table and everyone could see the destruction hadn't been random at all, but rather highly selective with every third champagne glass shattered to fine pieces while the remaining two thirds were perfectly intact.
Her swirling, twirling dance took her over to where Bruce Lee stood with a look of amazement on his face that was no less overawed than that on any of the other faces in the impromptu audience. Then with one final flourish, the three segments of the weapon collapsed down to one and Cameron held out the weapon to Lee.
"Thanks for sharing it," said Cameron looking even less winded than Lee after her three minutes with the sanjiegun. "It is an interesting weapon, but I think if you shortened the two outer segments by one and three-eighths inches, it would greatly improve the balance."
John watched as Lee stared down at the weapon in his hand as if seeing it for the first time, or at least as if seeing its true potential for the first time.
"How," began Lee, as if trying to ask how someone who had never seen the weapon before could be so good in a matter of seconds. But he never got a chance to finish his question as they were interrupted by a stream of men who came roaring out of the shadows along each side of the ballroom. Quickly they proceeded to form a line along the doors into the ballroom which trapped those on the inside in and those on the outside out.
All of the men were dressed in matching black karate uniforms and John suddenly felt like he had been flung into an old Chinese martial arts movie where the members of one 'school' were about to take on the students of the rival 'school'. Unfortunately, the guys in black numbered about forty while those lined up with John along the edge of the pool numbered more like twenty-five. And as John took a quick scan of the people around him, he realized most of them would be useless in a real fight. McQueen and Coburn looked like they could hold their own, but he didn't have that good of a feeling about any of the rest. So that just left Cameron, Lee, Jay, his Mom and himself to take on forty guys who looked like they fully knew how to use the nunchakus most of them were brandishing. Just great, thought John as his hand subconsciously started to slip towards the 'Great Equalizer' hanging from the harness in his left armpit.
Then further reinforcing the feeling he was in an old martial arts movie, John saw a man near the center of the line take a couple of steps forward and begin to speak.
"Well, well, well. What do we have here? Is that the great Bruce Lee standing there? This is an unexpected pleasure. Now I'll be able to kill two birds with one stone."
Cameron had turned to face the ballroom doors as the men rushed into place. Now Lee took two steps forward until he was standing beside her and leaving them the closest of all the people arrayed along the edge of the pool.
"Wang Chow," began Lee with more than a hint of sarcasm in his voice. "What rock did you crawl out from under? I haven't seen your sorry face since the 1967 International Championships down in Long Beach. Where, if I remember correctly, I kicked your ass."
"I guess we'll have to see if you still can. I have spent the past four years training," Chow said. He paused to run through a quick kata from the 'plum flower fist' school of Shaolin Kung Fu before continuing, "While it looks like you have spent most of that time schmoozing with these Hollywood types."
Chow started to step forward. Lee made a move to join him in the cleared space between the two groups, but Cameron put up a hand to stop him.
"Bruce, you wanted to see what I can do, so let me handle this."
Bruce shook his head. "He is very, very good."
Cameron turned her head and threw Lee a quick wink. "I'm better."
Then before Lee could respond Cameron took three steps forward. "To earn the right to challenge Master Lee, you are going to have to get passed me."
Cameron made a show of putting her hands behind her back. Then she started to sway from side to side shifting her weight from one leg to the other. Finally, in sync with her movement she began to whistle the slow, melodic 'Moon River'.
John felt a shiver run down his spine as soon as he recognized the song. The sensation was enough to drive all thoughts about their current precarious situation out of his mind. That had been 'their' song – his and Cameron's. He clearly remembered the night - was it only three months ago? – when they had first heard it together. They had been curled up on the coach in the living room unable to go too far because Sarah was due home at any moment. So mostly they had been holding each other as they watch the old classic 'Breakfast at Tiffany's' on the late show. John had always felt there was more than a hint of Audrey Hepburn's face in Cameron's particularly when she wore her hair up. They had been playing light little 'touchy-feely' games until the scene where Hepburn began singing 'Moon River' on the fire escape. Then Cameron had gone completely still like she did when she was focused on learning some new skill. And that night had turned out to be the first time John had ever heard Cameron sing and 'Moon River' had been the song.
And now, suddenly, Cameron chose that song to whistle. John couldn't help but wonder if it was some hidden message or sign.
Cameron continued to whistle until Chow was about four paces away. Then continuing to sway back and forth in an almost hypnotic manner, she paused long enough to say 'So, are you really going to hit a girl?' before continuing to whistle from the exact spot in the song from where she had left off.
Chow made a move to go around her to the left, but she glided over to block his passage. Then he tried moving to the right, but again Cameron blocked him. Finally, he gave the tiniest of shrugs as though to say if she really insisted he hit her to get by her, then he was ready to oblige.
Chow threw a shockingly fast straight arm punch right at Cameron's face – and completely missed. Then he threw a second punch and missed again. Then he threw an absolute flurry of kicks and punches in a variety of styles and every single one continued to miss. And most startlingly of all, Cameron hardly seemed to vary from the simple swaying pattern she had used from the beginning. Her arms remained behind her back and weren't used to block a single blow. She even maintained her whistling although it was frequently drowned out by the grunts of effort coming from Chow.
Slowly, as the rain of near misses continued, Cameron moved through a half circle leading Chow around until he was faced back in the direction of his own men. Then, as though she had been patiently waiting for it, Chow in desperation took a wild haymaker swing. As his arm swept by and he looked overbalanced, Cameron did a lightning fast spin and tapped two fingers into his exposed back right between the shoulder blades.
To everyone else, it looked like she had added the smallest amount of force to use his own momentum to drive him to the ground. But John knew that a light tap from Cameron could be like a normal human hitting you with a five-pound sledgehammer. Chow slammed to the ground and lay there momentarily stunned.
Cameron glided away to one side as smoothly as if she was wearing ice skates rather than biker boots with four inch heels. She paused when she had opened up about a fifteen foot space.
"Had enough yet?" she taunted.
Slowly, Chow levered himself up to a kneeling position. He was breathing hard and from the way his nostrils were flaring, it was obvious to everyone present the man . . . was . . . pissed.
"Perhaps you would like a faster tempo?" Cameron continued in a teasing tone.
Then she began stomping her feet against the ground in a fast rhythmic manner working both her toes and heels. Quickly she raised her hands above her head and began clapping a fast complementary beat.
With a quick glance and a tilt of her head, John realized she want him and the others to join in with the clapping. John started to clap and found the rapid, syncopated beat challenging to maintain. Then the guitarist of the small ensemble seemed to recognize what Cameron was striving for and joined in with a jaunty flamenco tune.
As the clapping was picked up by more people along the edge of the pool, Cameron stopped clapping and began swing her arms around above her head and then at shoulder height as though she was twirling a large invisible cape.
Cameron's dance went on for almost fifteen seconds, before Chow recovered and strove to regain control of the situation by charging directly towards the 'impossible-to-hit' girl.
Almost as soon as Chow began to move, Cameron swept her invisible cape down in front of her at waist height and then shouted, "Toro . . . Toro!"
She swirled the unseen cape in front of her like Chow was some enraged bull. Then like a master matador, at the last possible second she leapt to the side and Chow smashed into the table and chairs which had been immediately behind her.
Maintaining the frenzied flamenco footwork, Cameron moved back towards the center of the cleared space and continued to dance with her back to Chow.
Chow recovered much more quickly this time compared to the first encounter where Cameron had pummeled him to the ground. He came roaring towards her with all thoughts of fancy martial arts maneuvers completely forgotten. He merely ran with outstretched arms while raging inside at how this girl was humiliating him. He thought this time he had her because her back was to him and she didn't seem to be paying him the slightest attention.
But of course, in truth Chow had Cameron's undivided attention. Again at his approach she lithely stepped out of the way at the last moment. But this time she didn't simply let him rush passed. Instead she did a quick 360 degree spin to build up some momentum. Then firmly planting her right foot, she clamped her terminator-strong left hand on the back of his neck and spun his body ninety degrees and sent it cart wheeling parallel to the ground in the direction of the ballroom doors. Chow barely had time to start a scream before his body slammed into four of his own men and they all went crashing to the ground.
Abruptly Cameron stopped her dance.
"Oops. Sor-ree," she exclaimed in a little girl's voice.
Then she looked back over her shoulder at Lee and said in a conspiratorial tone. "I guess he has never run into the super-secret 'Spanish Flamenco' fighting style before."
Lee just stared at her for a moment. She was the most scarily capable fighter he had ever seen. He had been on the receiving end of blows from Chow in matches before and knew the man was incredibly fast and could hit unbelievably hard. Yet he hadn't landed a single blow against this girl. And she didn't even seem to be trying too hard, but acted like it was all some kind of a game. Then there was that final throw where she had tossed him a good thirty feet. Using your opponent's momentum against them was one thing, but the throw she had used would take an incredible amount of strength. How had the petite-looking girl done it? Who exactly was she?
Unfortunately, the toss of the chief henchman seemed to break the spell which had been restraining all of his men. With a chorused yell of 'Hii-Yee' and brandishing weapons or fists, all of them came charging forward.
Cameron glanced at Lee. "Okay, I will accept your help now." Then without waiting for any acknowledgement, she raced forward towards the thickest clump of opponents. Four strides before reaching them she vaulted into a high handspring that lofted her almost passed the first couple of men. Then coming down hard feet first, Cameron smashed down onto the shoulders of the two men in the center of the group driving them into the ground with her great weight and massive inertia. But before they were even completely down she had turned her maneuver into a giant roundhouse kick which took down the next nearest six men around her. Three seconds into the fight and she had already eliminated eight opponents, but without a pause she surged forward towards the next group of combatants.
Before stepping forward into the melee, Sarah looked over at John. "John don't let any of them get to him." She pointed at Griff before continuing, "And no guns, unless it is absolutely necessary. We don't want stray bullets killing anyone important and making the situation we can to stop even worse." Then bending down, she pulled the combat knife from the sheath on her lower leg. As she straightened and moved forward, the blackened eight inch blade seemed to gleam in the subdued light.
John chaffed at being told to hang back while once again the women in his life did all the fighting. But he quickly saw he might really be needed here. Cameron might be cutting through their opponents' ranks like a buzz saw and eight more were vying to be the one to take down the famous Bruce Lee and three or four were battling with both Sarah and the older Jay, but that still left plenty of others approaching unhindered.
Griffin was still standing next to John and quickly turned to him. "Why did she just single me out?"
John glanced over and saw McQueen and Coburn standing just beyond Griffin trying to mentally prepare for the coming fight while keeping one eye on John and Griff. Then John turned his attention to Griff and grinned. "These guys really, really hated the movie and they are here specifically to kill you. If you get out of this alive, you seriously might want to think about a change in careers. Have you ever considered going somewhere safe and quiet and maybe writing a book?"
Panic was flaring in Griff's eyes and John's last not-so-subtle hint went completely unnoticed for the moment. "They're here to kill ME?"
John nodded, but his eyes were fixed on the fight. The first of the black-garbed karate-men had broken passed the impromptu line formed by Lee, Sarah, and the others and was rapidly approaching. John took a half step forward and had just dropped into a fighting stance when a pair of nunchaku came flying end over end seemingly from nowhere to catch the man in the back of the head. He went crashing to the ground and slid to a halt at John's feet. As John bent to retrieve the weapon he glanced in Cameron's direction. She gave a quick nod before turning back to the fight.
John straightened. It felt good to have a weapon in his hand even if the two-segmented wooden weapon wasn't his personal favorite. But then he didn't have time to think about it as four more men broke passed their first line of defense. McQueen and Coburn step up beside him forming a barrier between the approaching men and their target. The two actors were both big men, but they were going up against their opponents unarmed. John knew he needed to get them weapons and couldn't depend on Cam coming through again.
Fortunately, the first man to reach them was armed with a tonfa – a martial arts weapon from Okinawa which looked just like a side-handled police baton. A police baton was the weapon John had trained the most to defeat as he had always figured a run in with the cops was much more likely then running into a bunch of random martial arts guys with their traditional weapons. And if he was going to fight without using his gun, then a police baton was what he was most experienced with.
Hoping the guy spoke English, John stepped forward trying to throw a little fear into the guy. "Did you see the way my girlfriend crushed your boss? I taught her everything she knows." John raised his weapon, but held both shafts in his hand and didn't try any fancy maneuvers which would expose his limited skill. "If I were you, I would save my skin and start running, because things don't look too good for your side."
John took a deliberate glance passed the man's shoulder and just for a second the man looked back too. And that was all the opening John needed as he stepped forward and started to use the nunchaku as a large flail. Holding one of the sticks near its end, he swung his weapon with an overhand motion repeatedly as fast as he could. The other man got his tonfa up just in time to protect himself, but John discovered if he hit the baton with the upper end of the stick in his hand, the other end, attached via the short chain, would rotate passed and crash down on the man's head. After five repeated blows the man began to waver and John managed to use a left-handed palm strike to the nose to finally put him down.
Tossing the nanchaku to Coburn, John claimed the tonfa for himself. And just in time as the next three reached them and he no longer had time to think, just to act.
The battle raged on for several minutes. Cameron continued to flit around and seemed always able to know who was in the most immediate trouble and would benefit from her help. John, Coburn, and McQueen managed to deal with the small scattering of fighters that made it passed the others. Even Kate Jackson, the movie's young female lead who had just made the jump from Dark Shadows soap opera regular to movie star, had lent a hand, or rather a foot as she had used her pointed-toed Yves Saint Laurent shoes to good effect on a couple of the attackers.
Abruptly it was over. One minute they all seemed to be locked in combat and in the next all of the guys in the black karate uniforms were down. As John tried to catch his breathe, he took a quick look around. Everyone on their side was still on their feet. Griff was completely unharmed. Steve McQueen was sporting an ugly black eye, but was otherwise unhurt. Jimmy Coburn was cradling his right hand and appeared to have a couple of broken fingers. Sarah's lip was split and blood had run down to trickle from her chin.
Except for people gasping for breath, a moment of silence seemed to fall over the group.
Then the silence was broken by Cameron. "Damn."
They all turned towards her and saw her studying her right hand. "Damn," she said again. Her voice suddenly became harder and more menacing than anything they had heard from her. And when the person who had personally taken down more than twenty-five of the forty attackers sounded angry, it was enough to cause a shiver to run down everyone's spine. "Damn, I broke a freaking nail. Oh, someone is going to have to pay now."
Everyone had just started to relax from her apparently humorous comment when she spun around and jammed her finger in the direction of a large man standing near the corner of the cleared area by the row of chairs. "And that someone is . . . YOU!"
John took a second look at the man she was pointing at and simply knew he was a terminator – most likely the one who had hired the karate guys. Then as he watched, the terminator started to move forward in the direction of Cameron. Apparently, he was here as backup to ensure the assignment was successfully completed.
Lee, who had ended the fight near John, lifted the nunchaku he had liberated from one of the attackers after deciding the sanjiegun wasn't as effective as he had originally hoped. As he made to step passed John, the younger man put up a restraining arm.
Putting all the weight he could behind his words, John simply stated the facts. "He is out of your league. You need to let her handle this."
Then reaching into Cameron's bag, which he had managed to hang onto, John pulled out the light saber. With a shouted, 'Head's up, Cam,' he gave it an underhanded toss in her direction.
Without ever taking her eyes off the approaching terminator, Cameron reached up and snagged the weapon from mid-air. The first time John had seen her do that, he almost thought she had eyes in the back of her head. After the second time, he had asked her about it. She had explained that terminators had a low-powered short range radar system built into their sensory array. It allowed them to have a continuous 360 degree view of everything within fifty feet of them. And in practical terms, it was as good as having eyes in the back of her head.
Cameron held the weapon aloft but hadn't yet ignited it as she took a step forward. The approaching terminator faltered to a halt. John took in the expression on his face and for the first time besides Cameron he saw what could pass for emotion on a terminator's face. And what John saw was a sudden surprised recognition and then more than a hint of fear. Abruptly, the terminator began to backpedal and then turned to run. For a moment John wondered if this machine was from some more distant future – a future where Cameron and her light saber had reached true legendary status.
The terminator began to run across the wide grassy area beyond the pool and was heading for an opening between two wings of the hotel. Cameron headed off in pursuit, but at first was slowed by all the bodies strewn around. Finally, she reached the jumble of chairs and after a bound that would have made any Olympic hurdler proud she reached clear ground and began to accelerate. At once it was like the big terminator had become a classic cartoon character whose feet churned but who didn't cover any ground – so rapid was Cameron gaining on him. He had had a seventy foot lead when Cameron cleared the chairs but she had almost caught him by the time he disappeared around the corner.
Cameron disappeared around the corner barely three strides behind him and almost immediately a brilliant white flash flared into being. John knew she had fired off the light saber. The light almost instantly dropped in intensity and then flickered and flashed as she must have been swinging it around with her own shadow blocking the light from time to time.
John felt himself counting off the twenty-one seconds until the weapon's charge would be expended. Right on schedule darkness fell around that corner of the building. Five seconds later John expelled the breath he hadn't realized he had even been holding as Cameron stepped safely back into view.
They all watched in silence as Cameron walked calmly back over to the group. After she worked her way passed the overturned chairs, she started to tread her way between the fallen karate men. She was about twenty feet away when one of the men on the ground in front of her started to moan and raise himself up on his arms. With hardly a break in her stride, Cameron brought one foot down on his back right between his shoulder blades. As she applied her full three hundred fifty pound weight, the man was slammed back to the ground. Everyone heard the loud 'crack' as a rib or collar bone snapped. Cameron stepped down off the stricken man and simply continued her calm walk towards the others.
"Well, this has been a truly fun party," said Cameron with a grin when she reached the others. "We simply must do it again some time."
John felt a small matching grin begin to form on his lips. Then out of the corner of his eye he saw movement down near the corner where Cam had finished off the terminator. A half dressed man and woman were making their way out of some bushes which would have had a clear view of the spot were Cameron had used her light saber. Their faces were both frantically swinging from the spot where the final battle had occurred to where Cameron now stood by the pool. Slowly, they moved further into the open and reached a spot well-lit by one of the security lights. John saw the man was somewhere in his mid to upper twenties with short brown hair and a matching beard. And that was when he recognized him. The man who had been interrupted while fooling around in the bushes was none other than a young George Lucas.
The circle was complete.
End of Chapter 3
With the impeding Judgment Day always looming before them, terminator stories generally tend to be dark and bleak. I thought a lighter romp where the main characters could have a little fun would make a nice change-of-pace chapter. I hope you enjoyed it.