September 21, 2008
1963 – Chapter 4
"Ready, Lisa?" asked Cameron.
"Yes, Mom," responded the girl with more than a trace of excitement in her voice.
John looked over to where Lisa sat firmly belted into the seat beside him. He still found the situation almost impossible to believe. From his perspective it had been barely three months since he found out Cameron was pregnant. And now he had a thirteen year old daughter, who was chronologically only three years younger than himself. At this rate, she would be middle-aged before he reached his seventeenth birthday. This had to be one of the hardest to comprehend aspects of living in a world with time machines.
Pulling his thoughts together, John realized Cameron had called his name several times. "Yeah?"
"Are you ready, John?" Cameron repeated.
John hated the almost motherly tone in her voice. But then he forced himself to remember the seriousness of the situation and the terrible price they had paid to reach this point. He gave the shoulder straps of his seat's webbing a quick tug to ensure it was tightly secured before answering in a tone he hoped would lighten the mood. "Yes, Mister Spock."
Lisa giggled for a moment as Cameron swiveled her head and flashed them a grin, showing she full understood the rationale behind John's response. Therefore, quirking one eyebrow, she said in an absolutely perfect Leonard Nimoy voice, "Very good. Then the logical course of action is to engage the warp engines."
Turning back to the control panel in front of her, Cameron pressed a series of buttons and the stolen spacecraft lifted effortlessly off its parking spot in the hanger. Grabbing the control stick, she turned the craft towards the open door and then slowly accelerated out of the building.
The 'warp engines' comment had obviously been a kidding reference to the old 'Star Trek' show, as this craft didn't have the ability to break the light-speed barrier. But it certainly was way beyond anything that should exist in 1977. According to the history John remembered, 1977 should see little manned space activity with the Americans in the lull between the end of the Apollo program and the start of the shuttle era and the Russians only lofting a handful of capsules per year. Not that John's knowledge was infallible with all the time-loops, time-branches, or whatever it was called that he had experienced. But still this craft, which looked like a cross between the Jupiter 2 from the old 'Lost in Space' TV show and a ride at the World of Tomorrow exhibit at Disneyworld, had speed and range capabilities which NASA could only dream about.
As the craft approached the door, John got a quick glimpse through one of the windows of the remains of the three terminators Cameron had slagged with her lightsaber. Seeing the melted, smoldering remains reminded John that this craft had been designed to be used by the machines. Hopefully, Cameron wouldn't inadvertently initiate an acceleration level that would instantly kill the predominately human passengers.
After passing from the interior of the well-lit building to the surrounding dark night, John could see off in the distance to the right the brilliantly lit Disneyworld Magic Castle. Somehow it seemed almost fitting that Skynet's main spacecraft assembly line would be hidden within the confines of the Magic Kingdom workshops where the animatronics figures used throughout the park were put together.
The resistance had sent scientists back to 1963 to setup an assembly line to produce time machines and plasma weapons for the ongoing battle with Skynet and its terminator minions. So it shouldn't have been a surprise Skynet would pursue a similar strategy. What had been a surprise was how in this timeline Skynet had focused on creating a space program rather than sticking to its usual strategy of terminating individuals it perceived as threats to its future existence. But then from what they had found on returning to 2008 after the mission to the Hollywood party in 1971, it did seem to have been a successful strategy. . . .
Part One - 2008
With a sizzle and a pop the energy bubble shimmered into existence; its surface covered with swirling, cascading sheets of blue lightning. Slowly the ghostly sphere of the time displacement field died away revealing the three naked forms inside - two women and a man just on the cusp between youth and adult.
For a moment John could just gasp for breath as the spasms he always experienced during a time passage continued to reign in his body. Finally, after fifteen seconds he was able to rise to a kneeling position and take a look around.
The room was familiar. They had successfully returned to their starting point – an old, long abandoned cold war era government facility in the foothills seven miles south of Twentynine Palms about three hours east of their home base in L.A. A quick glance at the windows verified they had arrived at night just as they had planned. So far, so good.
After pausing for another ten seconds in the kneeling position, the trembling in his arms and legs had receded enough that he felt ready to try standing. As he climbed to his feet, he saw that Cameron was already half dressed over by their stack of clothes. And even his mother had covered most of the intervening fifty feet from where the bubble had appeared. Why did time travel seem to affect him more than the others? Well, he could understand the difference with Cameron, but not with his mother. Was she that much tougher than him? Or were women in general less susceptible to its side effects?
Putting a hand down to modestly cover his groin, John made his way over to the others. He had just about reached them, when Cameron abruptly said, 'Damn,' and dropped into one of her blank robotic stares.
Knowing a 'damn' from Cameron usually meant imminent danger, John forgot his modesty. Quickly he grabbed his pants and struggled to get them on while scanning the room for signs of trouble as well as the exact location of their hidden cache of weapons. Not knowing when or if they would return to this site, when they had left for 1971 they had stashed their weapons. It certainly wouldn't have made sense to let their weapons fall into the wrong hands, particularly the lightsabers and plasma rifles.
"Cam, what is it?" John asked in an urgent whisper as he noticed that his mother, too, was foregoing the niceties like underwear in her rush to get ready for a potential combat situation.
Cameron sagged a little from her rigid posture as she once more seemed to be aware of her surroundings. "Sorry. There isn't any immediate danger, but we have a big problem. I think Skynet is already in control of the world."
John dropped the boot he had been struggling to get on his right foot while hopping on the other foot to maintain his balance. And for a second he thought he might follow the boot in tumbling to the floor. In his timeline, Judgment Day should still be almost forty years in the future. In Cameron's original timeline, Judgment Day was still at least four years in the future. They had gone back to 1971 to stop the termination of Thomas Griffin, which should have made things better not worse. What could have possibly gone wrong?
Before John could get over his shock, his mother did.
"What do you mean, Skynet is in control? How can you tell?"
"I can internally access commercial radio signals. I was comparing signal strengths and directions versus those I recorded immediately before our jump to 1971 to look for changes and anomalies. Before we left, six AM and five FM stations were within range. Now I am receiving eight AM signals, but no FM signals, which is enough of a difference to indicate a major change to the time line has occurred. Therefore rather than just looking at strength and direction, I started to monitor the actual signal. All eight channels are broadcasting the exact same message. Here, listen for yourselves."
Abruptly Cameron's voice changed in the same way it did when she was mimicking someone else. A rich deep baritone issued forth, but it was totally lacking in normal human warmth. With a complete absence of emotion, as though it was merely reading from an everyday grocery list, the horrific message was simply stated.
"People of Earth. Repeatedly you have been told that obedience would result in peace, prosperity, and happiness for all. Yet, you continue to destructively resist the activities of my peacekeepers. Therefore to demonstrate the futility of your actions, this evening at 8:00 P.M. the following individuals will be executed on live television. In the United States – The President, the Vice President, the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, the Speaker of the House. In Russia – The President, the Vice President, the Prime Minister, the Director of the FSB. In Great Britain – The Queen, the Prime Minister, the Chancellor of the Exchequer. In France – The President, the Prime Minister, the Chief of Staff of the Armies. In Germany – The Federal Chancellor, the Vice-Chancellor, the Federal Minister of Economics and Technology."
Here Cameron paused and then reverted to her normal voice. "The message is still continuing in the same vein. So far seventy-eight individuals in the upper echelons of governments around the world have been named."
"Shit," exclaimed Sarah in a harsh whisper as she bent down to tie the laces on her boots. "Do you understand what this means?"
Cameron nodded as she made her way over to the secret compartment where their weapons were stashed. "Skynet is trying to control the world without unleashing a nuclear holocaust, which brings to mind two things. First, what makes it feel secure enough that it isn't worried about a counter-attack? And second, with a world population of over six billion people, how can it maintain control over everyone? It would take far more troops than the fifty thousand terminators which will exist at the peak of the battle between Skynet and the resistance."
Sarah shook her head. "No, you're not getting the critical point. We have only a little over fifteen hours to figure out what is going on, find the critical nexus back in the past, and then get our asses out of here."
Cameron had already started lifting their weapons out of the newly exposed hole in the floor. She paused, tilted her head to the side for a few seconds as though deep in thought, and then she looked over at Sarah. "What is it I am missing?"
Sarah felt a smug expression start to take shape on her face, but then she suppressed it. Just because she had a better understanding of human nature then Cameron did even with her seven years among humans, this was not the time or place to feel superior. Plus from the look on John's face, he didn't fully grasp the situation either.
Taking a moment to marshal her thoughts, Sarah walked over to where Cameron still knelt on the floor. Quickly, she grabbed her hunting knife and Glock and slid them into their respective holsters. Then reaching down, she grabbed the case containing the plasma rifle in one hand and the backpack full of spare ammo with the other.
"Humans are not going to let all of their leaders be killed without putting up a fight; it isn't in their nature. And that is particularly true for the military. There is going to be a major battle before the hour of the execution arrives. Events may not be happening in the order we remember them, but I wouldn't be surprised if the nuclear war which nearly wipes out mankind happens in this timeline at about 8 PM. I may be wrong, but it seems way too likely to risk. That's why it is imperative we learn what we need to stop this version of Skynet and be out of here in the next 15 hours."
John felt a shudder run through him as he grabbed the two duffel bags which were his portion of the equipment. He had heard about Judgment Day his entire life, but it had always been somewhere off on the horizon. Now, it felt completely different knowing it might only be hours away. Suddenly he was glad Cameron had agreed to leave Lisa with Samantha back in 1971 – too many things could go wrong and they might find themselves riding out a nuclear attack. No way should a seven-year-old kid have to go through that.
"Where do we begin?" he asked, as the three of them headed to the door leading outside to where Sarah's Jeep should still be parked.
Sarah shrugged her shoulders. "Back at the house, I guess, assuming we still live in the same place. We should be able to get there by dawn and there isn't a lot of research we can do until libraries and such open."
The three of them walked along the side of the building towards its rear where the Jeep was parked in a spot which couldn't be seen from the road, not that this road which led nowhere important saw much traffic, but Sarah always tried to be cautious.
As they rounded the corner and faced east to cover the last twenty feet to where the car was parked, they all noticed it almost at once. Cameron, however, was the first to find her voice.
"Damn, that explains a lot."
Having cleared the horizon just minutes earlier and now hanging only a few degrees above the roofline of the Jeep was the newly risen moon. Based on its current position relative to the sun still well below the horizon, the moon was a narrow crescent-shape halfway between the new and first quarter phases. But with less the five seconds of observation, they had all noticed the unexpected change in its appearance. The whole North Pole region of the moon was awash in light. John had seen compilation photos of the Earth at night from satellites in orbit. Those photos had shown spots of light wherever civilization existed from a few lonely specks scattered across the Sahara Desert to the solid white of overlapping metropolitan regions such as the Washington to Boston corridor. And instantly that was what the change in the moon reminded John of – it was as though a giant city was spread for hundreds of miles across the polar region of the moon.
"Explains what?" asked John suddenly frozen in place while his gaze remained locked on the moon's northern hemisphere.
"It explains why Skynet didn't destroy mankind at its earliest opportunity. It thinks it is beyond reach. And it also explains how it can have enough troops to attempt to control the whole planet's population. I mean, look at the size of that facility, it could churn out hundreds of thousands of Terminators per week," responded Cameron.
"You really think Skynet is up there?" asked Sarah.
"Yes," Cameron answered with a ring of conviction in her voice.
"But . . . but how?" asked John. "The installation is huge. There isn't that kind of space travel technology in 2008."
"Not in your timeline or even mine," said Cameron. "But remember, we just jumped forward thirty-seven years. Thirty-seven years is a very long time, if your opponent has been dedicated to one cause for most of that time."
"But Skynet would have to be launching hundreds of rockets per day to transport the quantities of material and personnel needed to create and make efficient use of such a facility. How could it have hidden that much activity until it was ready to announce its presence?"
Cameron started to move and it seemed to break the spell which had been holding them in place ten feet short of the Jeep. "I don't know. Perhaps it sent back some 'super interplanetary drive' from the future in the same way the resistance sent back a scientist with the knowledge of how to build a time machine."
There didn't seem to be much else useful to say until they had more information. So they loaded their supplies into the back of the Jeep, climbed in, and began the three hour trek back to their home in L.A.
Traffic had been light most of the way in the pre-dawn hours and they had made good time. It wasn't until they were within the city that traffic began to pick up. They were all on the lookout for Skynet's presence, but at least on the surface nothing had been obvious.
Pulling up to a stop three houses short of their own house in her typical cautious way, Sarah shut down the engine.
"Okay," said Sarah pulling her gun from its holster as she eased open her door. "We don't know what we are going to find, so everyone stay on your toes."
The sky was just turning a light blue in the east as the three of them reached the sidewalk. Sarah led the way with her gun held discreetly down along her thigh.
"I miss her," Cameron whispered to John.
John glanced over to where Cameron strode along beside him. Her face was calm and her eyes steadily scanned the area looking for anything out of the ordinary.
"It has only been six hours since we left her with Samantha. Certainly the two of you must have been separated for longer than this before."
Cameron nodded. "Seventeen hours, twenty-three minutes, fourteen seconds - three months ago when she was on a sleep-over with some girls from school. But somehow this is completely different. There is this feeling of emptiness inside I have never experienced before." She glanced over at John before continuing. "Is this what it felt like to you when I went to 1963 to have the baby?"
John realized his mother was pulling away from them and picked up his pace before answering. "I guess. However I knew you could take care of yourself, while Lisa is just a little kid. But if this really is Judgment Day, I think it is for the best she is somewhere relatively safe."
Cameron nodded, but then John felt her intertwine her fingers with his. He squeezed them gently as he realized this was the most intimate contact they had shared since Cameron had gone to 1963 and then returned with her emotions reset and reconfigured. A small smile graced his face.
Sarah reached the front door and inserted the keys she was still carrying in one hand into the lock. Everything was quiet and seemed normal, but with the heavy drapes they had over all the windows to keep out prying eyes, it was impossible to tell what was going on inside. Quietly twisting the key, she felt relief that it fit the lock, indicating in this timeline this probably still was their house.
Easing the door open, she found the living room was mostly dark, but there was a light on in the kitchen and she was certain they had turned off all of the lights when they had left. Lifting her left hand, she made a fist to indicate there might be trouble and with quick finger gestures, Sarah indicated John and Cameron should spread out so they could lay down covering fire, if it became necessary.
After sliding the keys into a pocket, Sarah got a solid two-handed grip on her Glock and began to move across the room towards the open doorway leading into the kitchen. Slowly she edged closer until carefully leaning to one side she could see into the room without exposing too much of her body.
A tall, dark haired man wearing a simple white tee shirt and jeans was sitting at the kitchen table facing in her general direction. An AK-47 assault rifle was spread out in pieces before him and his attention was focused on cleaning the receiver. There was something hauntingly familiar about this man, who looked a hard thirty, but Sarah was certain she had never seen him before in her life. What was he doing here? If he was with Skynet, why would he be cleaning his rifle on her kitchen table? And if this wasn't her house in this timeline, what were the odds her keys would still fit the lock or that it would belong to someone with an AK-47?
Knowing she had to find out what was going on, Sarah took a deep breath then stepped forward and leveled her gun on the man.
"Nice and easy – put your hands on top of your head."
The man looked up and smiled. "I'm glad you're back. I was beginning to think you weren't going to make it in time and I was going to have to leave without you."
The man seemed to know her, but Sarah couldn't take any chances; John was right behind her and if things went wrong he could be hurt or killed.
"Hands on top of your head," Sarah repeated putting more steel into her voice. "Now!"
The man continued to smile for a few more seconds, but then he must have seen something in her eyes. Carefully, he set down the assault rifle's receiver and the rag that had been in his other hand. Slowly, he raised his hands.
"Sarah, what is this all about?" the man asked.
Sarah took another step into the room and felt John and Cameron crowd in behind her. Out of the corner of her eye she saw Cameron lower her weapon while in front of her she saw the man's jaw clench as he looked passed Sarah in Cameron's direction. At least the two of them seemed to recognize each other.
Without lowering her Glock, Sarah shot a quick glance over at Cameron. "Do you know this guy?"
"Yeah, in my timeline he is a resistance fighter John sent back from the future."
"Your timeline?" asked the man. "Sarah what is she talking about? Why are you acting like you don't know me? It's me, Reese."
When the man spoke the name, Sarah couldn't help but think of Kyle. This guy was taller with darker hair and looked almost ten years older, but something about him, particularly his voice, suddenly reminded her of Kyle.
Slowly Sarah lowered her gun, but held it down along her side in a ready position with no intention of holstering it yet; this 'Reese' might be on their side, but she wasn't willing to take any chances.
"I'm sorry, I don't remember you. We have never met in my timeline," answered Sarah.
"What is all this talk about timelines?" asked Reese as he pushed back his chair and climbed to his feet. He walked over to the refrigerator, opened the door, and pulled out a bottle of beer. He held it up offering it to Sarah, but when she shook her head 'no', he popped the top and took long swallow. Then he leaned back against the refrigerator with one eyebrow raised expectantly.
"When did you last see us? And where do you think we have been?" asked Sarah.
Reese appeared to think about it for a few seconds, but then shrugged as though he decided he was going to have to give a little information to get some in return.
"I last saw you yesterday about four in the afternoon. You were headed out to Twentynine Palms to use the time machine to go back to 1971 to prevent Skynet from killing George Black." Reese paused and took in the expression on the other three faces which indicated that none of them knew who he was talking about. "You know, the George Black who was supposed to develop the anti-matter detector which would have given the world advanced warning about what Skynet was up to?"
Sarah shook her head. "I have never heard of George Black. Yes, we went back to 1971, but it was to prevent Skynet from killing a Thomas Griffin, who was instrumental in developing the personal computer."
What had happened, wondered Sarah. It was almost as though there were two parallel universes and when they had jumped forward in time the two groups of time travelers had switched places. However, as Kyle had said on the long ago night when they had first met, 'he didn't know tech stuff'. And the same thing certainly applied for her. But whether they had jumped universes or things were just jumbled by the timeloops, it didn't really matter. This version of 2008 was where they were now and they were going to have to deal with it.
Sarah was about to ask Reese for a debriefing on the current situation in this timeline however Cameron spoke first.
"Why didn't you go with us?" asked Cameron in a cold tone that hinted at an accusation.
"Because I had my own mission to accomplish, in case yours didn't have the desired effect," snapped Reese.
Sarah glanced between Reese and Cameron and immediately realized while these two might have been forced to work together, they were nowhere near friends. And since they were from distinctly different timelines, she wondered what could have transcended that. Or was there even a common cause? But that underlying problem could wait for later. If she was right, Judgment Day was racing towards them and every second might count.
"Reese," she said sharply to force his attention back to her. "Obviously something changed while we were downtime and this is not the same present from which we left. What is the situation here? Is today Judgment Day?"
Reese continued to stare at Cameron for a few seconds. Then he took another swig from his beer. When he turned towards Sarah, some of the fire had gone out of his eyes.
"Yeah. The nukes begin to launch at 6 P.M. By seven-thirty most of the world's population will be dead."
John felt a shiver run down his spine. Then it made a right turn and settled in his gut as a dull throbbing. Judgment Day. He had never had the nearly incapacitating nightmares about it like his Mother, so perhaps it hadn't been as real for him. But now it was here. Six billion people would die in the next twelve hours or in the days and weeks to follow. The moment they had been preparing for and striving to prevent was here. Judgment Day. There was still a chance they could prevent it if they could find the critical nexus in the past and then move quickly enough. Six billion dead, but there was still time.
Glancing over at his Mother, he could see her eyes were fixed blankly on the far wall and he knew she was reliving her constant nightmare. For at least the next few minutes she was going to be worthless for when the nightmare struck it was just as incapacitating as a brutal migraine. It was going to be up to him to get things moving. And to do that, he was going to need more information on the current timeline.
"Mom, why don't you sit down for a minute?" As he spoke, he gently took her arm and led her over to one of the kitchen chairs.
"Are you going to be alright?" he asked giving her hand a squeeze.
Sarah nodded, but John could tell she was running mostly on autopilot.
"Cameron, can you make some coffee?"
When Cameron nodded, John slouched into the chair next to his mother's.
"Okay, Reese," began John trying to project some of the quiet charisma he had seen McQueen display the day before or was it now thirty-seven years before? God, time travel could mess with your head and it only seemed to get worse the more you did. Forcing himself back to the critical issue at hand, he continued. "Assume we don't know anything that has happened with regards to Skynet in the last forty years. Give us a five minute summary so we can figure out how to proceed."
Reese returned to his original seat, set down his beer, and picked up the cleaning cloth he had been using on the assault rifle. "Okay, let's start at the beginning. Well, since the beginning is technically somewhere up in the future, let's not start there but rather at the first point where Skynet's activities came to notice in the past.
"The resistance doesn't know how far back in time Skynet started its effort to take control of the world. Its activities first came to light in 1977, but things had to have started years and years earlier.
"The first public hint came when amateur astronomers spotted lights near the north pole of the moon. At first there were only a few lights in one small crater, but over time they steadily spread. Now since we are talking the moon and not some truly faraway place like Mars or the moons of Jupiter, it didn't take a world class telescope to spot the structures springing up in that area.
"Everyone's first thought was that this mysterious installation had to belong to one of the superpowers. Plus the fact the military had to have spotted it before an amateur with a backyard telescope seemed to reinforce they were covering it up. But both America and the old Soviet Union quickly and vehemently denied any involvement.
"People were still clamoring about a cover up until old Doctor Wernher von Braun of Apollo fame pointed out it would take approximately three hundred Saturn 5 launches to lift just the visible portions of the installation to the moon. When he asked how someone could have launched and continued to launch on such a massive scale without being noticed, he shut everyone up who claimed the governments were behind it.
"If the government wasn't behind it, it didn't leave too many possible explanations. The one which swept the world and held sway for a number of years was aliens. And it was certainly reinforced by the almost countless UFO sightings.
"Of course, we now know many of the UFO sightings were, in fact, Skynet's crafts busily shuttling materials to the moon."
As he sat there listening, the UFO comment clicked in John's head with what Reese had said had been their mission to 1971 in this timeline. Quickly he interrupted the older man's monologue. "Reese, does anti-matter have something to do with Skynet's spaceships?"
Reese nodded. "Yeah, from what the resistance was able to put together up in the future, anti-matter is the primary power source for the spaceships and probably the installation on the moon, although in the last couple of years before I traveled back here what looked like giant solar arrays were being assembled in lunar orbit."
"If Skynet has anti-matter, why would it need solar power?" asked John.
Reese gave a helpless shrug indicating he had no idea.
Before John could turn the conversation to another topic, Cameron walked up with a steaming cup of coffee which she set before Sarah before sliding into the chair next to John's. Then Cameron answered John's question.
"Skynet needs the solar power to create the anti-matter." Cameron said. Taking in the quizzical expression on John's face she continued. "Anti-matter is not naturally available, at least not in the inner portion of the solar system; you have to make it. And it takes a lot of energy to create it. A lot of energy."
"Then why bother?" asked John.
"Because anti-matter is the most dense energy source known. One pound of anti-matter has the equivalent energy of a 21 megaton hydrogen bomb. Minute quantities that can be easily sent back through the time displacement devices could power a large facility for years."
Keying in on her comment about the hydrogen bomb, John asked. "Anti-matter bombs? Are they possible? Could one by used to destroy Skynet's lunar facility?"
"Anti-matter bombs are certainly possible, but they are extremely risky. Fission or Fusion bombs are very difficult to initiate as you need high pressures or high temperatures or some combination of the two to start the chain reaction. They simply do not naturally want to explode, which makes them easy to safeguard. I mean in over sixty years there is no record of one ever going off accidentally.
"But anti-matter is a completely different beast. Any contact with normal matter will start a reaction – any contact. To prevent interaction with normal matter, special containment fields must always be maintained. And if they fail for even an instant – BOOM! It doesn't matter whether your intended usage is a bomb or simply a power source. If the containment system fails, you can get a catastrophic event."
"You seem to know an awful lot about anti-matter," remarked John.
Cam shrugged. "Just one of the bits of data that has been sitting in my memory system since I was first activated at the Skynet production facility."
John pondered what Cameron had said for a few seconds and his thoughts kept circling back to her comment about a compact energy source. "Cameron, are you powered by anti-matter?"
"No," she answered with a shake of her head. "It would involve way too much energy or not enough energy depending on your perspective."
When she recognized to look of incomprehension of John's face, she expanded. "My power source needs to provide one hundred fifty thousand mega joules of energy over a twenty-five year time span. The amount of anti-matter needed to provide that much energy would have the explosive power of 35.85 tons of TNT. Even Skynet couldn't risk having thousands of terminators running around that could each wipe out the equivalent of eight to ten city blocks, if their power cells were ruptured."
"It takes that much power to run your body?" asked John with an incredulous tone.
"Actually, it is only about double the energy used by a human body over the same twenty-five year period. It is just that for the human body you are used to thinking units of calories rather than joules and usually in terms of calories per day rather than calories per twenty-five years."
"But still, thirty-five tons of TNT!"
"Well, if the mechanical terminator part of my body could be recharged every day like my human part is with food, it wouldn't be a big deal. But there aren't any handy power outlets available up in the post-Judgment Day future, so Skynet went for a self-contained power solution."
"So if it isn't anti-matter, what is your power source?" asked John.
"Fusion," answered Cameron. "I have a small fusion generator for my basic power needs. It generates a constant two hundred watts of power. I also have several capacitors to store extra energy for high power demand activities like running, lifting heavy weights, and combat. When my power needs are low like just sitting here now, the excess power is shunted to the capacitors."
The only thing John knew about fusion was that it was involved in hydrogen bombs and that didn't sound a whole lot safer than anti-matter.
"If your fusion generator is damaged, won't it also explode with a force of seventy thousand pounds of TNT?" he asked as he subconsciously slid his chair back a few inches further away from Cameron's.
Cameron shook her head. "No, two grams of Deuterium and two grams of Tritium are the fuel supply. And by themselves they have no tendency to explode. To get them to implode and release energy, you have to raise their temperature to about one hundred million degrees. Oh, a tenth of a microgram is at that temperature in the generator's toroid at any given time, but if it is ruptured, the reaction would immediately stop and the microgram of plasma would merely melt down most of the generator before cooling. So you don't have to worry about some big explosion if my power supply takes a direct hit."
Getting the conversation back to the subject at hand, John asked. "Since fusion sounds so much safer than anti-matter, why doesn't Skynet just use it to power its spaceships?"
"As I said, my power supply generates a steady two hundred watts. That is plenty to power a terminator, but at least three or four orders of magnitude less than what you would need to power a spaceship. A fusion generator is extremely difficult to fabricate and can only be built up in the future. After scaling it up to the size you would need for a spaceship, it would be impossible to fit it inside a living body to get it through the time displacement device. That's why Skynet has been forced to go with the much more dangerous anti-matter for its spaceships. It is extremely difficult and costly to create, but that part can be done up in the future where the technology is more advanced. However the hardware for extracting the power from the anti-matter is relatively simple to fabricate and can easily be created here or even back in the 1970's."
Then Cameron ended her little science class with a grin. "So, since I am never going to explode like a hydrogen or anti-matter bomb, you don't really need to scoot your chair any further away."
John nodded a little sheepishly and then reached his arm around Cam's waist and pulled her closer. She didn't resist and even raised her hand and allowed her fingers to caress the side of his neck. For a moment John allowed himself to wallow in the memories of a time when she touched him like this on a regular basis. But then he forced himself to remember this was Judgment Day and he needed to stay focused.
He looked over at Reese and for a second wondered if there was any significance that the man had the same name as his father. But just like Cam's caress, thinking about the identity of this man needed to wait until later.
"It seems like stopping Skynet from developing the lunar facility is the best way to stop this version of Judgment Day. Reese, do you know the time and place of the original staging area for Skynet's operations? It would seem best to nip its project at the source."
Reese shook his head. "The resistance hasn't been able to uncover that information. We have found no records indicating any activity before the installation was first noticed in 1977. However from the rapid pace of the initial construction, our scientists are convinced Skynet was already staging materials from at least four different locations. Most probably they were all in the United States or Western Europe as a lot of high-tech equipment would have been needed and it is always simpler to be able to buy most of what you need rather than build everything from scratch."
Somehow John knew in his heart the solution wouldn't be as simple as going back in time and have Cam do her lightsaber thing on a handful of terminators.
"Does the resistance know where at least one of their bases is in 1977? If so, we could try stealing one of their ships and then destroying the lunar base while it is still a manageable size. That should, at a minimum, postpone Judgment Day for awhile."
"Destroy the lunar base?" asked Reese with a look of disbelieve on his face. "How could we possibly do that?"
"With an anti-matter bomb," answered John while trying to maintain a calmer expression than what he was actually feeling inside. "So do you know where one of its Earthside bases is?"
Reese still had an expression on his face that implied he thought John must be crazy, but after a moment, he answered. "Not back then, but I do know Skynet's center of operations in the L.A. area in the present is inside Disneyland."
"Then that's where we need to go," interjected Cameron. "Do you know the location of an entry point to Skynet's facility within the park?"
When Reese nodded, she continued. "Good, I think I can get us through the first level of security. Once we are inside we will need to acquire two things. First is access to the internal network to discover information on the location of one of its original bases, the security protocols in place at the time, and instructions on how to fly one of its ships."
When she paused, Reese glanced briefly at John and then asked, "And the second thing?"
"We will also need to acquire an anti-matter bomb."
"I don't remember Skynet ever using an anti-matter weapon," stated John. "Does it just have them laying around, but then never uses them?"
Cameron shook her head. "No, but as I said earlier, anti-matter is nasty stuff. Any sample you have will behave like a bomb if you turn off its containment field. With the setup Skynet appears to have in place here in 2008, I am certain it is using anti-matter to power some of its facilities and of course there is the fleet of spaceships it is also powering. If the Skynet facility under Disneyland is its hub of operations in this area, I would bet it is also a transshipping location for anti-matter being sent back from the future."
"What size containers are we talking about?" asked John.
"Small, I would think. Most likely there is a standard design, probably about the size of a Coke can which can be carried through the time displacement field inside a terminator's body. Even allowing for the necessary containment field hardware and electronics, a Coke can sized device should still be able to hold enough anti-matter to have an explosive yield in the same range as a Hiroshima class nuclear bomb. And that should be plenty to take out the lunar facility that existed in 1977."
John glanced over at Reese who sat there slowly shaking his head.
"Let me get this straight," said Reese as he looked from Cameron to John and back again. "You want to break into Skynet's main facility, rummage through its electronic records, and steal an anti-matter bomb. And you expect to plan and execute this," and he paused to glance at the clock on the wall over the sink. "In less then ten hours and fifteen minutes."
John felt a stupid grin forming on his face. "No, actually we need to do it in substantially less then ten hours and fifteen minutes. You forgot the part about getting clear of Disneyland and then reaching one of the time machines before the nukes start going whump, whump, whump."
"And," added Cameron, "we also need time to implant the anti-matter bomb into someone's body before we can take it through the time machine."
The smile on John's face faded. He had forgotten for the moment about needing to have the device surrounded by living tissue before it could go through the time displacement device. Shit.
Cameron must have read the expression on John's face. "Since I am the Terminator, I suppose I better volunteer to carry the bomb. However I was not designed with that mission in mind. My sub-dermal nanotube layer is very difficult to penetrate and it may take extra time and the right tools."
"Nanotube layer?" asked John, wondering what she was talking about, as she had never mentioned anything about it before.
Cameron shrugged. "You know I am different than most terminators. I was the prototype for the next generation, which would have a full set of human organs. Well, after having Lisa, you are fully aware about that part."
"Lisa?" asked Reese.
"My daughter," answered Cameron.
John watched the startled expression appear on the older man's face. Obviously in his timeline Lisa had never existed.
But quickly John turned his attention back to Cam as she continued to speak.
"Anyway, if the human portion of the new terminators was going to survive in the rough-and-tumble world of combat, it was going to need some additional protection. Skynet managed to modify the human genetic sequence to cause a mesh of carbon nanotubes to form at the boundary between the dermis and the hypodermis layers of the skin. It is only three hundredths of an inch thick and has a sufficiently coarse weave to allow blood vessels and nerve fibers to pass through, but to large items like bullets or knife blades it has the equivalent stopping power of about five inches of Kevlar. So since one of its primary purposes is to stop knife attacks, it is very difficult to penetrate even intentionally."
Ever since John had known about her human internal organs, he had wondered about her ability to shake off bullet wounds. Now he finally knew.
"Any other little secrets you feel like divulging?" John asked.
"Not at this time," she responded with the little smile John had come to understand meant there was probably a lot more about her gifts and abilities she might one day reveal.
For almost a minute they sat there in silence until John realized the clock was still ticking. Quietly, John leaned over and shook his mother's arm. "Mom, we need to go. If we leave now, we should reach Disneyland about the time they open. We can make our plans while we are on the road."
Sarah still had a somewhat glazed look about her eyes and John wasn't sure how much of the previous conversation had even registered with her while she had been trapped in her personal waking nightmares about Judgment Day, but she took a couple of deep breathes and then rubbed her eyes for a moment. When she lowered her hands, some of the brightness had returned to her eyes, as it seemed to do whenever a life-and-death struggle was imminent.
"Yeah, let's do it," she said while rising to her feet.
"Can I take off my head?" asked the muffled voice of John. "Please?"
Cameron glanced around the area and nodded. Then not certain how well he could see her, she leaned in close and spoke into his big floppy ear. "Yes, it should be okay here."
John's hands, enclosed in oversized three-fingered mittens, reached up and rotated his large dog's head left and right a couple of times before the catch released and he could lift the costume's head up and away to expose his own. With nowhere to set it, he tucked the large plastic and black felt covered head under his left arm.
As he reached up with his right hand to use the glove to mop at the sweat which covered his forehead and had been annoyingly dripping into eyes, he heard a snicker from his right.
Glancing over, John said with more than a hint of annoyance in his voice. "Reese, after all of your whining and moaning when you were putting on your pirate's costume, I don't need any shit from you right now. Unless, of course, you want to swap, as it looks a lot more pleasant to be a Caribbean pirate, even with the extravagant mascara, than being stuck inside this costume."
"Sorry," answered Reese attempting a serious tone, but unable to fully suppress a chuckle that set the rings embedded in his dreadlock laced wig and beard to jingling.
John looked the others over again and couldn't suppress a smile of his own at the ridiculousness of the situation. Here they were invading Skynet's secret lair, which was probably one of the most dangerous spots on the planet, doubtlessly filled with hordes of killer terminators, and they were all dressed as Disney characters. First, there was Reese in the full-on Johnny Depp inspired pirate's regalia. Next was himself in the Goofy costume – why did it have to be Goofy rather than Pluto or one of the other characters, who was less . . . well, less goofy? And then there were the girls, who had faired better in the costume department, at least in terms of looking good if not in terms of being dressed for combat.
Cameron was dressed, no, way over-dressed, as Belle from 'Beauty and the Beast'. She was in a flowing golden gown stretched over a hoop skirt so wide its like couldn't have been seen since the days of 'Gone with the Wind'. The gown was covered with layer upon layer of glittering sequins from the off the shoulder sleeves to the lowest exposed ivory petticoat. Of course, this was Disneyland so ultimately there was nothing risqué about the costume other than a few subtle hints.
But the one who was truly shining was Sarah. Oh, the character's personality didn't match her in the slightest, but the costume looked like it had been designed specifically for her. She was in a long, slinky black satin dress that suited her much better than the evening gown she had been wearing barely twelve hours earlier at the 1971 Hollywood party. However this dress was so tight and form-fitting, it would be impossible to run or fight in, not that the costume's candy apple red shoes with the nearly five inches heels would make running fun anyway. Over the black dress, Sarah was wearing a floor-length all white faux mink coat with a red silk lining, which accented the black dress, the red shoes and the matching red silk gloves. The only things that detracted from Sarah's natural beauty were the twelve inch black cigarette holder in her right hand and the half black, half white wig on her head. Still, at first glance, with her tall athletic body Sarah made an absolutely stunning Cruella de Vil.
"Come on, we need to hurry and locate an access terminal before we are discovered," stated Cameron as she glided off in a decidedly regal manner.
Sarah immediately set off after Cameron. And while Cameron walked like a mythical Princess, Sarah's stiletto heels and extremely tight gown forced her to use short rapid steps with one foot crossing over the other like a supermodel on a fashion-show runway.
The two men watched the women for a moment, shared a quick glance, and then trailed along behind. Reese managed the easy swagger of a movie pirate while John carefully restored the hated dog's head over his own.
From the small alcove where they had momentarily sheltered, they stepped out into a long corridor located deep under the central Matterhorn Mountain. This was the only entrance into the secret Skynet facility that Reese had known about. Realizing if they ran into trouble, it would be almost impossible to fight their way clear, they had decided on the need for disguises. Their only hope was that some of Skynet's minions were seeded around the park in costume and that they might remain in costume even in the Skynet controlled portions of the facility. Therefore when they had arrived at Disneyland a little over an hour before the park's opening time, they had proceeded directly to the employee parking area. There they had waylaid four employees for their badges and had proceeded into the park in search of the changing area for employees who strolled the park in character.
After seventy-five feet the corridor terminated in a Tee. Without any pretense of stealth, Cameron swept around the corner to the right as though she owned the place. The others were a little more hesitant, but didn't have any choice but to follow her lead. Suddenly, they found themselves in a much more active area, but to their relief the first person they met was also in costume. A very tall, six-foot, six-inch Abraham Lincoln came striding in the opposite direction. From the fake, plastic look of its face to the equally fake look of its hands, it had to be a terminator, or if not an actual killing machine, at least a close relative.
Lincoln strode by without giving them a single glance. They all, or at least the three humans, gave a small sigh of relief – perhaps this strategy might work.
They passed through a large room where bare skeletal machines were being outfitted with clothes and fake body parts. More than half of them seemed to be former Presidents, so the Hall of History must have been one of their more important displays. And since none of these were covered with human skin, John realized, it strongly implied they were of local manufacture rather than having been brought back from the future. But then he remembered the giant Skynet facility on the moon. Since Skynet could produce as many machines as it wanted here, there probably wasn't any need to go to the expense of making them all able to pass for human.
There were several exits on the far side of this workshop area and Cameron without hesitation headed to the leftmost one. John wondered if she knew where she was going or just pretending she did.
The next corridor was quieter, but John could now hear the hum of computer equipment. Perhaps Cameron's more sensitive hearing had picked up the sound earlier and that had led her to select this corridor.
Cameron spared a quick glance into every room they passed, but wasn't until the fifth doorway that she actually paused for a moment and then stepped inside. The others quickly followed and then Reese quietly eased the door closed behind them.
They were inside some kind of control room. While the others gazed around, Cameron stepped up to a terminal and started typing faster than was humanly possible. John quickly joined her and watched schematics and other data scroll across the screen so fast it was almost a blur. And once again John found himself wishing he hadn't grown up in a version of the timeline where personal computers had never developed. He definitely needed to find some time for Cameron to help him get more proficient with the machines.
Cameron typed for almost fifteen seconds, paused to study the screen for about ten seconds, and then typed another rapid sequence. After studying the data flashing across the screen for another ten seconds, she typed a final brief string and a floor plan of the facility was displayed on the screen.
"This control room dates back to the days before Skynet took control of the below ground infrastructure of Disneyland. I can access a lot of the less sensitive data from here, but not the information we need about the spaceships or information about Skynet's activities further back in time. To access that data is going to require jacking my neural network directly into the system."
She paused to bring up her hand and point to a spot on the screen. "We are here. The most obscure location I can find to access the network is here." And she point to a spot off to the right side of the map. "And the anti-matter storage facility is over here." And she pointed to a spot on the left side of the display. "I think we are going to have to split into two teams. John and I will go for the data we need while Sarah and Reese go for the anti-matter."
"Agreed," said Sarah. "But we will need more detailed instructions on how to find the location and how to recognize an anti-matter container when we get there."
Cameron nodded and then glanced around the room. She quickly spotted an old printer in the corner. She moved over, studied the connections on its back, and then turned it on. She walked back over to the terminal, typed for a few seconds, and then the old dot-matrix printer began to print with a ripping sound that seemed almost deafening in the long unused control room.
While the printer continued to work, Cameron brought up another image on the display. "The anti-matter containers are a little larger than my original estimate. They are cylindrically shaped, but closer in size to a tennis ball container than a coke can. Fortunately, they are labeled with both barcodes as well as the more standard RFID chips. Here is a sample of the barcode you need to look for."
Reese pulled a black felt tip pen from his pocket and moved to copy the pattern onto his arm to be sure they found the right canister.
"Here, let me do that," said Cameron.
Reese handed her the pen. He pulled up the sleeve of his shirt and they could all see the barcode which was already permanently laser-burned into his forearm.
His existing barcode didn't seem to have any impact on Cameron, unlike the others. As she worked, John asked. "Is that the barcode from one of Skynet's prison camps? My Mom has told me about the one my father had, but I have never seen one."
Reese gave a cryptic glance towards Sarah before responding. "Yeah, anyone who has ever been caught by Skynet has one of these."
John tried to imagine what life in a Skynet prison camp would be like. Images of Nazi concentration camps quickly filled his head. But then he realized Skynet's had to be even worse. It didn't want to just exterminate one race. No, it wanted to wipe out every last human on the planet.
John was about to ask more about the prison camps when Cameron straightened up.
John had barely taken in how the row of wide and narrow lines looked as geometrically perfect as the nearby Skynet tattoo before his Mom started towards the door.
"Come on guys, the clock is ticking. The longer we are in this facility, the greater the risk something will go wrong and the closer we get to the six p.m. departure deadline."
Reese nodded and pulled down his sleeve as he moved towards the door. Cameron paused just long enough to close down the computer system and shut off the monitor before she followed the others from the room.
Cameron and John followed Sarah and Reese for about a minute before the others turned down a hallway leading off to the left. Cameron and John kept going straight for another twenty yards before Cameron indicated a corridor to their right with a nod of her head.
When they rounded the corner and found the new hallway as empty as the last, John asked. "It has been bugging me since you first mentioned it this morning. Do you truly only consume the same energy as a pair of 100 watt light bulbs?"
Cameron nodded. "Under normal circumstances the answer is yes. Sometimes having machines design each subsequent generation of machines is a huge advantage. With very efficient motors and extremely low coefficient of friction bearings in the joints, my power requirements at this moment while I am walking and talking is 152 watts."
John shook his head. "Some of the things I have seen you do seem simply amazing. And to find out you can due it on less than 200 watts of power. Wow."
"Well, as I mentioned, I do have some surge capability when the situation warrants it. With my reserve system completely charged, I can increase my available power to thirteen hundred watts for twenty-seven minutes."
"I don't understand," responded John, "Why you don't maintain a higher energy flow from your fusion generator? I mean it sounds like you could easily carry many times the amount of Deuterium and Tritium fuel you described."
"Yeah, I could have a higher output energy system, as some of the earlier models did, but it comes down to a question of power management. Whenever I am using less than 200 watts, like now, the excess power is shunted off to the reserve energy units. Of course, the reserve system can only store so much energy. Once that limit is reached, the energy has to go somewhere. Usually the simplest solution is to turn the excess power into heat.
"And that was one of the big problems with the early terminator series. They generated a constant maximum thirteen hundred watts of power. When they were trying to be stealthy and were only consuming a few watts, they dumped so much excess heat they glowed as bright as bonfires when viewed with infrared goggles. Therefore with later models Skynet began to emphasize power management to minimize thermal output to make them more effective infiltration units."
As he listened, John had been trying to scan through the eye openings in Goofy's head for potential problems. But the import of what Cameron had just said almost forced him to pause. Quickly he tried to burn the key point into his long term memory: 'Early terminators could be easily spotted with thermal imagers.' Hopefully, they would be successful in preventing Judgment Day, but if not, then every scrap of information might turn out to be important in the Resistance's war against Skynet.
John and Cameron reached an area with more activity and proceeded in silence. After about five minutes of walking they once again found themselves in a long empty corridor.
"Since we have been talking about power management," began Cameron. "I have been monitoring my power consumption more closely than normal. Ever since we returned to 2008, my neural network has been consuming more power than it typically did before. At first it was just under two extra watts, but it has slowly been climbing and is now a little over three extra watts. The only significant difference in my mental processes seems to be related to Lisa. Part of my mind seems to be stuck in a loop trying to decide if leaving her behind was the right thing to do and it keeps spinning out endless scenarios showing how everything could go wrong due to that decision. Was it the wrong decision? Is my neural network developing some kind of instability?"
John felt a strong urge to reach out and wrap his arm around her waist, but between her wide hoop skirt and his dog costume, it was impossible. So he was forced to settle for just reaching out his left mitten-covered hand and clasping her right hand.
"We made the right decision to leave her behind," John said firmly. Then he softened his tone before continuing. "It is perfectly natural to worry about big decisions and it is normal human nature to try to second guess our decisions."
Cameron looked in his direction for several seconds. John had no idea what she could hope to see in his face with it completely hidden by the costume, but finally she answered. "So, this is normal?"
John gave an exaggerated nod to be sure she saw it through the large dog's head.
"Well, it sucks," she continued. "I still have my earliest memories and way back then everything seemed so simple, so black and white. But now, every decision I make opens up a myriad of choices and each new choice in turn leads to another whole set of permutations. Sometimes I feel like I am going to be overwhelmed."
"As I said, welcome to the human race, Cam. Everyone has those feelings. You just have to learn to deal with them. Sometimes it helps to focus on the present since there is nothing you can do to change things with Lisa at the moment."
They walked in silence for a few seconds.
"Okay, I'll try," answered Cameron in a small voice John barely heard. Then with hardly a pause she continued in her more normal tone of voice as though some mental switch had been thrown. "We're here."
Cameron led the way into a room off the right side of the passage. John wasn't sure what he was expecting, but not this. The room was barely bigger than a closet. To get the door closed behind him, he had to push harder than he really wanted to against Cameron's broad skirt. They still might need these disguises for a long time and he didn't want to bend any of the hoops that maintained the skirt's shape.
Once the door was closed and he had found the light switch, John took time to remove Goofy's head. Finally, he was able to give the room a more detailed inspection, which didn't reveal any mysterious deep, dark secrets. One wall was almost completely covered with a variety of small switches which fed into a large mass of cables that disappeared through a large opening in the ceiling. The other walls were bare and not even completely finished. They were just drywalled and taped, but had never been painted.
Not seeing any computer terminals or monitors like in the room they had just come from, John asked. "What is this place? And how do you interface with the system?"
Cameron pointed to a white six inch wide by nine inch tall panel, which was set into the wall near the large bank of switches. It was nearly the color of the drywall and John hadn't noticed it during his initial inspection of the room.
"This is one of three data closets where Skynet's systems interface with the existing Disneyland wiring. It is in the most obscure, least frequented area, plus it is the only one that has a neural interface."
"The panel?" asked John. "I thought you were going to have to jack into the system."
"You mean like stick a wire into a port in my arm or head? With the requirement of unbroken living tissue to pass through the time displacement device, a physical port would have to be buried beneath the skin and the skin cut every time you needed to access it. Oh, I do have several ports like that, but an electro-magnetic induction field is a much cleaner solution."
Cameron paused to raise her right hand and place it on the white panel. Almost instantly the panel began to glow a faint pale blue.
"I'm in," announced Cameron, as her eyes fluttered shut and a vacant expression spread across her face.
John had no idea how long it would take Cameron to penetrate the network and locate the information they needed. There were probably important, urgent things he should be focused on to increase their chances of surviving the next few hours, but instead he found himself staring at Cameron's face. He had an almost overpowering urge to run a finger tip lightly across her high cheekbone and then down across her perfect lips. Everything had changed since Cameron's return from 1963 with her emotions reset and her memories of their time together reduced to just cold, hard facts. And with her minimal need for sleep, this was almost the first time in the intervening month where John had been able to stare at her to his heart's content without raising questions they weren't yet ready to address on a verbal level.
As with most pleasurable things in John's life, this opportunity to indulge himself ended much too quickly. In less than forty-five seconds, Cameron's eyes popped open and stared straight back at John's. After a few seconds she tilted her head slightly to the right in the characteristic way she did whenever she seemed to thinking hard about something. Their gazes remained locked for a few more seconds and then Cameron pulled her hand away from the interface panel.
"Come on, let's go," she said gesturing towards the closed door. "I have gotten everything I can without raising any security flags."
"Did you get what we needed?" asked John, as he cautiously opened the door an inch to peer out into the corridor.
Determining the hall was still vacant John started sliding his dog's head back into place as Cameron answered.
"Not everything, but hopefully enough."
"What does that mean?" asked John in a muffled whisper as he stepped out into the corridor.
"Skynet has high level security blocks in place on all historical information. I guess it has learned the importance of keeping some things well guarded in a world where time travel is possible. So I couldn't determine where its earliest activities in this timeline took place. I think we are stuck with Reese's intel about 1977 and we are still going to have to stop Skynet there.
"However, most of Skynet's current operations were accessible. Assuming they haven't changed significantly in the last thirty years, I do have the technical and operational specifications for its spaceships. Also I know where Skynet's most active spaceport in the United States is currently located and it would be a good guess that it was also one of the earliest spaceports."
"Where?" asked John, as he followed Cameron.
"Disneyworld in Florida."
"Why all the connections to Disney?"
Cameron shook her head. "I don't know. Maybe the Skynet in this timeline was weaned on the old movies." Then she grinned. "I know seeing an elephant fly had a profound affect on me."
John watched as Cameron, in her guise as Belle, posed with a gracious smile for a photo with what had to be at least the thirtieth group of park visitors. He, too, had posed for some photos, but he wasn't half as popular as Cameron. Of course, even without the Goofy costume, he wouldn't be nearly as photogenic. And perhaps it was just as well he was hidden under the all-concealing suit for he certainly would be struggling about now to maintain the easy smile Cameron was projecting.
The two of them had exited the underground portion of the Disneyland facility almost ninety minutes earlier and had been forced to loiter in the immediate area waiting for his Mother and Reese to make a similar appearance. Sarah had long schooled him that doing things the stealthy way typically took a lot longer, but knowing it didn't help his nerves. He knew they might have been forced to wait for activity at their target site to die down, but he wished he had some way of knowing what was going on. Surely if they had been captured, something noticeable should have happened out here, too.
Well, something noticeable was going on, but John didn't think it had anything to do with their activities. No, what he was noticing was the expression on many of the adults' faces. During the drive to Disneyland, they had heard traffic reports describing heavy, stop-and-go traffic on all of the roads leading out of Los Angeles. Nothing had been overtly said, but obviously a lot of people felt in their bones that big trouble was coming as a result of the execution announcement and they were trying to escape.
And from the looks in most of the eyes here, a lot of the adults in the park had the same misgivings. But perhaps these were the truly smart ones, John thought, as they had realized the futility of running and had decided instead to spend their remaining time with their children trying to have one last day of fun.
Then, even though he had been waiting for what seemed like forever, John was still startled when the door he had been watching opened with a loud 'bang'. Immediately his Mom and Reese came stumbling out of the dark interior. And it didn't take more than a moment to notice the large crimson stain down the side of Sarah's white mink coat nearest to Reese. John knew one of them had been shot, but from the way they clung together it wasn't instantly obvious which one it was.
They hadn't taken more than three steps out into the open when Sarah half turned and fired two shots back through the open doorway using the Glock held in her free right hand. And the resulting grimace and half stumble on Reese's part revealed it was the older man in the pirate suit who had taken the hit somewhere along the way during their escape from the Skynet facility.
John wasn't more than forty feet away, standing off to one side, but it was nearly impossible to make a move in their direction. As between their positions was the large crowd that had gathered around Cameron in her 'Belle' costume. Now, as a result of the sound of gunshots and a distinct explosive 'whump' sound from whatever Sarah had been shooting at, children were screaming and some parents were trying to get their families down to the ground while others were trying to run away. Cameron was temporarily trapped with a girl in her arms, who looked to be only a year or two younger than her own daughter, Lisa.
John was sure his Mom must have spotted Cameron and himself, but there was no way she could quickly get clear of the door by forcing her way through the crowd while helping the injured Reese. Therefore after only a glance in their direction, she headed the opposite way, towards the 'It's a Small World' attraction, as it was the shortest route to get some substantial structure between them and whatever was following her. As she half dragged Reese, John could see she had sacrificed the high heels somewhere along the way and had torn, almost to the waist, the seam in her tight gown so she could move her legs freely.
John turned and ran in the opposite direction while simultaneously trying to get Goofy's head off. Twenty yards in front of him was the large garbage bin where they had stashed their heavy ordinance. It suddenly looked like they were going to need everything they had brought with them.
He should have covered the distance to the garbage dumpster in less than five seconds and would have, if not for the encumbering costume. In the end it took him nearly ten seconds. After pulling the large satchel free, he decided he better get rid of the suit, now that it had served its purpose and before it slowly him down at some more critical junction.
Fortunately, they had taken the time when they had first selected this costume to do up the back with just a few pins, so with one sharp tug the costume came apart and dropped down around his knees. As he worked his feet free, he looked back over his shoulder. His Mom and Reese were just clearing the corner of the structure when a steady stream of dead Presidents came pouring out of the doorway like fire ants from a disturbed mound. Washington, Lincoln, Jefferson, Kennedy, Teddy Roosevelt and a swarm of others he didn't immediately recognize came racing out, most of them brandishing guns of one sort or another.
Hurriedly, John pulled his share of the weapons from the bag and then, after catching Cameron's eye, he tossed the lightened duffle as hard as he could in her direction.
Without pausing to see how close the bag had come to reaching her, he dropped to a kneeling position, grabbed the M72 LAW rocket launcher, extended the tube, flipped up the sight, and pivoted in the direction of the presidents. As he had practiced a hundred times during training with his mother, he took a calming breath, sighted squarely on the back of the lead machine, who happened to be wearing the Kennedy face, and pressed the firing stud on the weapon's upper surface. As the rocket exited the tube with a loud whoosh, John suddenly thought of the old T-850 terminator that had shown up in his youth. And thinking of the T-850 brought memories of its penchant for bad one-liners. And perhaps that is why John found himself whispering, 'Fuck you, Mister President.'
While the rocket was still crossing the thirty-five yards separating John's firing position from his target, John had already dropped the spent launcher, grabbed up the plasma rifle and his Glock, and started sprinting towards the Mad Tea Party ride. That location would give him some cover as well as separate him enough from Cameron so the field put out by the plasma weapon wouldn't damage her neural network. He hadn't gotten more than three steps, when looking over his shoulder he saw the rocket detonate squarely in the back of the Kennedy robot, utterly ripping it apart and knocking the next four nearest presidents to the ground.
John heard shots and then screams as the remaining Presidents still standing followed the smoke trail left by the rocket and began firing in his direction and indiscriminately hitting people in the crowd between John and their position. John crouched lower and started to jink left and right as he ran. Judging his distance from Cameron's position to be sufficient, he jammed the pre-start button on the plasma rifle beginning the twelve second process of mixing the two volatile chemicals which were the power source for the gun. The chemical cartridge would power the gun for ten shots or twenty-four seconds, whichever came first, before it would be expended and need to be replaced. But twenty-four seconds was probably more than he could stay in one firing position anyway before the terminators would have him zeroed.
John was just hurtling the fence at the perimeter of the Tea Cup ride when a much larger explosion than the rocket he had fired shook the area and slammed him into the ground. Quickly, he rolled to his stomach as he saw the two chemicals in his weapon change to red. Pointing the weapon back towards the group of Presidents, he saw a massive hole had been blown into the light fiberglass side of the nearest wall of the mountain. Right in front of it were the mangled bodies of at least six or seven of the machines. He let out a little sigh of relief when he realized the explosion had been caused by the block of C4 explosive which had been in the bag he had tossed to Cameron.
Scanning the crowd scattered on the ground between him and the Presidents, he easily spotted Cameron in her brilliant gold gown. She was stretched out protectively over a group of children. The duffle bag was on the ground at her side and she had a Glock in each hand. She was steadily firing a pair of rounds alternately from each gun and John knew she was taking out the terminators' optical sensors to slow them down.
Quickly, John got down to business with his heavier weapon. A head shot would be best as it would destroy the terminators' neural processors, but with so many targets, John didn't have time for that much finesse. And a plasma bolt through the chest would put the machines out of commission long enough for their current purposes. John sighted on his first target, a machine with a rubber version of Ronald Reagan's face, and pulled the trigger. Instantly, a blindingly bright lance of light speared across to the target and burned an eight inch diameter hole completely through the center of its armored chest. Before the Reagan terminator had even begun to collapse, John rotated his aim two degrees to the left and shot Ulysses S. Grant through the chest. As he moved his aim on to Woodrow Wilson, he briefly wondered what the middle initial S. in Grant's name stood for.
With a weapon that worked at nearly the speed of light, John didn't even have to 'lead' the few moving targets and found hitting the dead presidents wasn't much harder than practicing at the gun range against stationary targets. Four. Five. Six. Seven. Eight. The terminators were destroyed almost as fast as he could pull the trigger. Carefully counting his shots, he used the last two to destroy the doorway by which they had all exited the underground facility in hopes of stalling any reinforcements.
Then he was on his feet, sprinting between the still spinning teacups on his way to a new firing position over by the Storybook Canal boat ride, in the general direction of the 'It's a Small World' attraction where he had last seen his Mom and Reese headed, as well as the direction of the employee parking lot where they had left Sarah's Jeep.
Once he cleared the teacup ride, he glanced over his shoulder as he ran. His eight shots had taken down all of the Presidents that had been standing, but he didn't know how many of the others had been destroyed in the two explosions and how many had just taken cover. Now he saw several climbing to their feet, but Cameron under the cover of his fire had worked her way closer and now she was amongst them and lit up her lightsaber.
John started counting the seconds the charge in her lightsaber would last as he ran and fitted the next cartridge into his plasma rifle. He knew he had to be in position to cover Cam if there were any remaining active terminators when her lightsaber burned out. She would be vulnerable while changing its power cartridge.
As he had by the teacup ride, John intended to find a position behind the barricade fence that kept the crowd back while they waited their turn for the ride. However as he raced up trying to remember to dodge back and forth to throw off any shots in his direction, he spotted a small brown-haired boy wearing Mickey Mouse ears and just standing out in the open looking lost. Without a second thought, he altered his course enough to grab up the kid with his left arm before covering the last ten feet. Swinging through the opening in the barrier, he found a bunch of other people were already sheltered there including a frantic woman who had to be the boy's mother.
The woman grabbed the boy and pulled him into her arms while repeatedly whispering 'Thank you, thank you, thank you,' in John's direction. However the boy twisted around in her arms and continued to stare with wide eyes at the large chrome-plated weapon in John's hands.
"Hey, mister," began the kid with a hint of awe in his voice. "Is that a ray-gun?"
By John's count Cameron's lightsaber would burn out in twelve more seconds. He hit the pre-start button on the plasma rifle before glancing down at the little boy.
"Nah, it's just a prop gun. Didn't you hear we are shooting a movie here today? It is a remake of 'Space Angels'."
The kid stared blankly at the 'Space Angels' reference. It was the first thing that had popped into John's head since he had just seen its premiere only hours before. But then he reminded himself that that had been thirty-seven years ago and the movie had been a flop. There was no reason this kid would have ever heard of it. Still John felt a little disappointed at the complete lack of recognition.
"The movie is all about these alien robots attacking the Earth. But they are not too smart so they all try to look like famous presidents and they don't seem to understand that all these people are dead and therefore they stick out like sore thumbs."
Realizing a lot of kids, as well as a few adults, were listening with rapt attention, John asked. "So who wants to be in the movie?"
A lot of kids began saying 'me, me, me' while others nodded their heads.
"Okay," answered John making a shushing motion. "For this scene, we need everyone to play dead. Please lay down right where you are and try not to move until the director yells 'Cut'. Can you do that?"
A few kids nodded while the majority of them immediately started playing dead. He received silently mouthed 'thank you's' from parents who realized the true seriousness of the situation and knew this game would keep the children safer than the actual truth.
John's mental count reached zero and he turned his attention towards Cameron just in time to watch her lightsaber flicker and die, as she was slicing through the head of one of the terminators lying on the ground. She took a quick glance around and then gave the hand signal indicating all was clear. Then even as she fitted a new power cartridge into her lightsaber, she was already sprinting off in the direction Sarah and Reese had taken.
John remained where he was - ready to provide covering fire if any of the terminators weren't truly out of commission or if any more appeared from the shattered doorway. He also tried to simultaneously scan all around. It was almost a given that Skynet had multiple paths out of the subterranean facility and new threats could pop up from almost anywhere.
The whole twenty-four second life of his second power cartridge expired without his firing a shot. Quickly, he ejected the cartridge and fitted in a third, but then he hesitated. He didn't have an unlimited supply of cartridges and they might desperately be needed later. On the other hand, with its twelve second started up requirement, if he waited, it might be too late. If only the weapon had an 'instant on' feature, he thought wistfully. But beggars can't be choosers, and it did put down terminators with a single shot, which normal handguns and rifles couldn't do.
Deciding he better save his cartridges for now, he used the rifle's sling to hang it from his neck and shoulders so that his left hand could quickly reach the pre-start button while he reached back with his right hand and pulled his Glock from where he had tucked it into the back of his pants.
He was just starting to rise to his feet when a whispered female voice asked, "Is it over? Is it safe now?"
Crouching back down so his eyes just cleared the barrier, he glanced briefly over at the woman whose son he had rescued and then returned his attention to scanning for any suspicious activity before answering.
"It isn't over, but the lull may last long enough to get clear of here. They are after me and my friends over by 'It's a Small World'. Most of the danger will be in that direction. If you head down towards Main Street and the main parking lot you should be in the clear. However if you do run into any Presidents or anyone else with weapons, drop to the ground and they will probably ignore you."
As he finished speaking, John glanced at the woman. She was nodding her head and from the expression on her face, it was like she was looking at John as though he was some movie hero. And glancing passed her, he saw similar expressions of gratitude on others as well and John realized it felt good helping people and maybe, just maybe, he could someday become the hero he was destined to be.
But then John remembered the current situation and knew this wasn't the time to start getting delusions of grandeur. In a matter of hours this world was going to be destroyed and if they didn't make it to a time displacement device in time, he would be dead, regardless of his supposed destiny. And before they could start worrying about using a time machine, they still had to make it out of Disneyland. Abruptly, John mentally shifted from problems hours in the future and back to the present as he could feel the seconds ticking away before another group of terminators would surely make their appearance. And he had no idea how seriously Reese was hurt and how that would affect their ability to escape from Disneyland.
Therefore with just a curt nod in the woman's direction, John rose to a crouch, scrambled from behind the relative safety of the barrier, and dashed in the direction of the exit to the employee parking lot, which was located between 'It's a Small World' and Mickey's Toontown.
John hadn't gone more than forty feet when he heard the familiar woman's voice ring out from behind him, "Off to your left!"
Crouching lower, but still running, John looked to his left. He scanned the nearest boats of the canal ride but didn't see anything but tourists trying to hide behind the cowlings of the still moving boats. Then he scanned the artificial island formed by the looping canal, but again saw nothing. Finally, looking still further, he spotted the man's silhouette highlighted by the outline of a rifle high on the 'Dumbo, the Flying Elephant' ride. As one part of his mind flashed back to Cam's comment about the 'Dumbo' movie having a profound effect on her, the rest of his mind decided he hadn't yet been spotted. However to blend in better with the people still running in a panic away from the Matterhorn area, he actually straightened up from his crouch while twisting his body as much as possible to shield the plasma rifle from the other man's view.
Veering a little further to the left then he really wanted, John caught up with a group of teens. "That way," he said pointing more in the direction of the employee parking lot exit. Almost as one, the group of a dozen kids turned and ran towards the exit.
In no more than fifteen seconds, the group of kids slammed through a camouflaged door with a discreet 'Cast Members Only' sign and found themselves on a narrow street with low buildings on each side. John knew these buildings contained the changing rooms where they had 'borrowed' their costumes, as well as spaces for other necessary support functions for the employees like break rooms, training rooms, even an on-site nursery for crew members with small children. But at the moment John was only interested in reaching the parking lot where they had left his Mom's car. And better still, he could finally see the other three easy-to-spot members of his team. His Mom had ditched the blood stained white mink coat and her black and white wig, but Cameron was still in her gold gown. And it was impossible to miss how the petite looking princess was inexplicably carrying a large pirate in a fireman's hold as she ran.
"That's the way out," said John indicating where Cameron and the others were just disappearing around a corner. As he had hoped, the teenagers around him continued to follow his lead and he was able to maintain his illusion of anonymity for a little longer.
It didn't take more than twenty seconds for the teenagers to pound down the street, around the corner, and reach the sprawling employee parking lot. John's eyes immediately sprang to Sarah's Jeep parked four rows away. He could see the back hatch was open and the women were in the process of lowering Reese inside. Then before heading in their direction, John scanned the rest of the parking lot. Nothing else seemed out of the ordinary. A scattering of people were moving towards their cars and others were heading in the direction of the entrance, but apparently the events near the Matterhorn were far enough away that they hadn't yet filtered out here.
"Thanks, guys," John said with a wave to the teenagers who had been his escort and who were beginning to mill aimlessly about. He hoped he hadn't put them into too much danger by leading them out into this parking lot.
John jogged the rest of the way to the Jeep. When he reached the car he discovered they had folded the backseat down and were using the added space to allow Reese to stretch out almost flat on his back. Sarah was in the back with him holding a makeshift bandage to his lower abdomen. Cameron was busy moving the extra weaponry which had been stowed in the back of the Jeep up to the front passenger footwell.
"How is he?" John asked his Mother.
"Not good," answered Sarah while shaking her head. "He's losing a lot of blood and I am not certain, but the bullet probably hit some internal organs. We have to get him to a hospital."
"No," said Reese through gritted teeth. "There isn't time. If we go to a hospital, we will all end up dead. We have to get to the time machine. You can take me to a hospital once we are downtime."
John looked at Reese and didn't like what he saw. He really wondered if Reese could survive the stresses of time displacement in his current condition. But he also knew Reese was right. If they showed up at a hospital now with Reese's obvious gunshot wound, they would be caught up in a world of paperwork with either the cops or worse, with Skynet's minions. They could just drop Reese off at the emergency room entrance and then speed away, but with Judgment Day arriving in mere hours or perhaps minutes, that would be a death sentence for the older man.
"He's right, Mom. We don't have time for a hospital; we are going to have to take our chances with the time machine."
Sarah looked John in the eye for a moment and then slowly nodded. She understood the dangers as well as he did.
"Did you get the antimatter?" John asked.
Sarah nodded again and pointed with her chin towards an innocuous silver can wedged into place between her and the aft right wheel well. And then without saying anything more she turned her full attention back to Reese.
John couldn't help but stare at the little package with the explosive capability of a nuclear bomb. As he stared at it, he remembered how Cameron had said that only an instant's failure of its magnetic fields would be catastrophic and his Mom had been lugging it around while in a gun battle with terminators. An involuntary shudder ran down his spine.
"John," said Cameron breaking his reverie. "We have to go now. Every second we stay here increases the odds of getting caught. You drive."
John just looked at her for a moment taking in her appearance. This was the closest he had been to her since the events back by the Matterhorn and what he saw was a vision soaked in blood. Her bare right shoulder and most of the front of her strapless gown was stained a bright red from carrying the wounded Reese.
But before John had a chance to become fully lost in his thoughts about Cameron, she turned and ran around the right side of the Jeep towards the passenger door and he was forced to follow suit and move to the driver's side. Then as he hurried forward, Cameron's words fully sank in. They HAD been exceedingly lucky to have only run into the one group of terminators right here in Skynet's backyard. They needed to go before their luck failed.
John backed out of the parking space and then gunned the Jeep towards the parking lot exit. Immediately he heard a sharp groan from Reese and regretted his incautious acceleration. And more than just not wanting to further aggravate Reese's wound, he realized he needed to remain as low profile as possible, at least until they cleared this parking lot.
Reaching the end of the row in which they were parked, he made a slow gentle turn into the lane leading to the exit. But whether it was his jackrabbit start or some unnoticed surveillance cameras, they had obviously been spotted. Two guards with automatic weapons slung from their shoulders were busily lowering a barricade fence across the exit lanes.
"Don't slow down," said Cameron.
John glanced over and saw her hit the down button for her window and then she reached down by her feet for another of the M72 LAW rocket launchers. She slid the launcher out the window before leaning out herself to extend the tube and arm the weapon.
As she leaned out, her large hoop skirt popped up, almost completely obscuring John's view forward. Fighting it back down with his right hand while steering with his left, John wondered why she hadn't found a moment during their escape to get rid of the damn thing.
Once he had cleared his view, John discovered the two guards must have spotted them as they were both in the process of raising their weapons to their shoulders. Hoping it wouldn't screw up Cam's aim, John mashed the accelerator to the floor.
The Jeep with its powerful hemi engine seemed to leap forward. And in almost the same instant, Cameron fired her rocket. Trailing a vivid white streamer of smoke, the rocket flew straight as an arrow towards its target. John figured Cameron would have targeted one of the guards, but the rocket shot straight passed them and scored a direct hit on the leftmost support of the barricade fence. The impact resulted in a large ball of flame as the barricade was torn loose and went spinning end over end until it ground to a halt over fifty feet away. And as their car raced forward, John realized the explosion had knocked the pair of guards to the ground. They were just beginning to crawl back to their feet as the Jeep shot through the exit.
"Left . . . Left . . . Left," shouted Cameron, as they went careening out into the moderately heavy traffic on West Ball Road.
John wove between two cars as he fought the wheel in an attempt to follow Cameron's directions. All the while he mentally waited for one of the tires to blow at the most inopportune moment. Fortunately, they appeared to have made it through all the metallic debris from the rocket's explosion without picking up a piece that proved to be lethal for any of the tires. Once they were safely in a west-bound lane without experiencing a blow-out or a collision, John's heart rate began to drop.
"Why go left?" asked John, as he glanced back in the rear view mirror at his Mom and saw she was just getting up from where she had ended up sprawled across Reese's body due to the violent maneuver. "The freeway was to the right."
"We can't risk the freeway now," answered Cam while her eyes never paused in their scanning for potential danger. "It would be too easy to be boxed in. On surface streets there are many possible routes and Skynet can't cover all of them. Plus we need to ditch this car; they have to have recorded it with surveillance cameras. A mile up this street, we will enter a small industrial area. We should be able to find something we can use in one of the parking lots."
John had slowed enough to blend in with traffic and was just checking the rear view mirror again to assess Reese's status when he caught a flicker through the glass rear hatch and realized the remaining few blocks to the industrial district were going to be too far. They wouldn't have time to pause to change cars without being seen.
Seeing the signal three cars ahead turning from yellow to red, John swung into the unoccupied left turn lane and floored the accelerator.
"They have found us," John exclaimed just before he laid on the horn to warn the cross-traffic that he was coming through the intersection – red light or no red light.
Cameron and Sarah turned to look out the Jeep's rear window after having seen John's gaze into the rearview mirror. What the they saw weaving through the slow moving traffic behind them were five, no six green 1968 Mustang GT Fastbacks. John wasn't particularly a car nut, but even he recognized they were the car Steve McQueen had been driving in 'Bullitt'. In the movie McQueen's character had been chasing a devilishly fast-looking black Dodge Charger and after a long and arduous chase had run it to ground. Well, their Jeep was no Dodge Charger and they had six, not one, Mustangs on their tail. 'Wonderful,' thought John, as he slammed on the brakes for precisely two seconds halfway through the intersection to avoid clipping the rear fender of a yellow Volkswagen Bug. 'Simply wonderful.'
Cameron grabbed one of their two remaining rocket launchers and leaned out of her still open window. John tried to hold a steady course to maximize her chances of success, although he wasn't certain how they were going to stop six pursuers with only two rockets. The plasma rifle would do the trick, but he hoped Cam wouldn't have to make that level of sacrifice.
John expected her to shoot the moment she had the lead car in her sights, but she just stayed there, half out the window. They traveled two more blocks and were rapidly approaching another red light. The left turn lane wasn't free this time and John was contemplating jumping the curb up onto the sidewalk when Cameron finally fired. John saw the smoke trail in the rearview mirror, but at the speed the Jeep was traveling he had to focus on his driving and there wasn't any alternative but using the sidewalk. The Jeep jumped the curb with two bone jarring thumps and another scary groan from Reese.
John was laying on the horn to clear the five pedestrians from the sidewalk between him and the next intersection when the rocket exploded. The explosion was way more powerful than either of the two previous rockets that had been fired against the Kennedy terminator back by the Matterhorn or the gate across the parking lot exit. It was even more powerful than the C4 explosive Cameron had used. They were almost two hundred feet from the impact point, yet the blast wave picked up the heavily loaded Jeep and tossed in against the side of the furniture store they were passing. Simultaneously, every window in the Jeep, every window in the furniture store, and every window in every nearby cars shattered by the overpressure.
"What the hell was that?" shouted John to be heard over the combined on-going explosion and the ringing in his ears. As he waited for a response, he fought to keep the Jeep in a straight line as it bounced away from the brick and glass storefront. The Jeep was suddenly pulling hard to the left and John knew, at a minimum the right front wheel was severely bent. Now it was doubly imperative they dump this vehicle as not only did Skynet have it identified, but also because its remaining useful lifespan could probably be measured in blocks rather than years.
"Take the next right," yelled Cameron as she slid back into her seat. She gestured with her hand to be sure John understood.
John glanced at her briefly as the car approached the corner. The hair on the back of her head was thick with glass from where she had hit one of the large glass windows on the storefront during the explosion. John could see the scary red tinge of blood mixed in. Quickly he took a second look at her face, but only saw a couple small scratches weeping a little blood. It was lucky she had been facing backwards, he thought, as he turned his full attention back to his driving.
Reaching the corner, John held his course using the handicapped access curb to reenter the street without the jarring impact they had experience on first entering the sidewalk. Then he jerked the wheel hard to the right while pushing the accelerator to force a four-wheel drift to make the turn. He managed to stop the drift at just the right point so the car was pointed in the desired direction and it accelerated down the street. For a moment he wondered how many other sixteen-year-old drivers could have managed the maneuver. But then most of the other kids his age probably didn't have mothers who insisted they pass a security driving school intended for anti-terrorism and executive protection drivers before they were allowed to take their first driving test.
"What the hell was that?" John repeated as he raced down the street.
"A gas tanker truck, it entered the intersection from the cross-street just behind us," answered Cameron.
"My god," said John glancing over at Cameron, but she didn't meet his eye as she continued to scan ahead of them with a calm expression on her face. "That explosion must have killed the driver and probably a whole lot of others."
"I estimate fourteen immediate fatalities and approximately six more with mortal wounds."
"How could you do that?" sputtered John.
"It's Judgment Day; they were all going to be dead shortly anyway. And it was the only viable way to block all the pursuit vehicles."
Anyone else would have heard only a cold dispassionate response, but John knew her better than that. He could hear from the quiet undertone that Cam was trying to justify her action to herself as much as to him.
John was trying to think how to respond Cameron's statement when his thoughts were interrupted by a shouted 'through that garage door' and Cam's finger pointing to a building half a block ahead on their right.
Quickly John realized she was pointing at the door into the service bay of a Dodge dealership. As he slowed to make the turn into its driveway, Cam told him to slow just inside the door so she could get out to lower the large overhead door and then further explained how he needed to pull far enough in so the Jeep wouldn't be easily visible through the building's windows.
John nodded as he watched her 'weapon up' and he wondered how many more innocent bystanders she, and maybe he, would have to kill before this day was over.
Just as the Jeep entered the service building, John tapped the brakes hard and Cameron dove from the vehicle with a Glock in one hand and her lightsaber in the other. As John pulled the Jeep forward into an empty service bay between a gray Chrysler minivan and a white Dodge Neon, Cameron hit the large 'down' button on the control panel beside the overhead door.
John turned off the Jeep, automatically pulling the key from the ignition. He knew there were things he needed to be doing, but for a moment he just sat there in the driver's seat. He had been running on fear and adrenaline for too many hours and all at once events wanted to catch up with him. His body ached all over from the numerous near-miss explosions and all the running and diving and rolling he had been forced to do. He desperately wanted to sag forward and simply rest his forehead against the steering wheel for a minute. But instead he merely closed his eyes and repeated one of the mantras Cam had long ago taught him during their first sojourn in the year 2008.
At the time, life had seemed so scary with Cromartie on their trail and a scattering of other terminators crossing their path, but it had also been the best time of his life with his new-found connection to Cameron. They had spent hours and hours talking about everything and nothing. Cameron had been using the hours he needed for sleep in pursuit of the concepts of religion and the human soul. She had taught him meditation techniques in exchange for his insights on the meaning of life.
As he sat there in the Jeep with his eyes closed and his hands resting lightly on the steering wheel, John tried to recapture one of those moments. He remembered how they had sat cross-legged on the floor of his bedroom and how he had been able to empty his mind and almost get it to float free of his body. But in the twenty seconds he could spare, repeating the experience seemed utterly impossible. There was simply too much pressing down on his mind. The planet was over-run with Skynet's minions. Judgment Day was today and the nuclear death of billions was barely minutes away. And perhaps hardest of all was the loss of his former relationship with Cameron. In that particular area he was still groping around trying to figure out how to regain what he once had had. For once upon a time, Cameron would have simply sensed that what he really needed right now more than anything was simply a hug.
Shaking his head, John knew there was nothing he could do at this moment but soldier on. Resolutely he opened his eyes and climbed out of the Jeep. There was work he needed do if he was going to fulfill his destiny of being the savior of the human race.
HE'S YOUR UNCLE.
The words seemed to repeat over and over in John's head. He should have realized it back at the house the moment the older man had stated his name was Reese. But the revelation that today was Judgment Day had followed so rapidly on its heels; he hadn't really given it another thought.
Now he couldn't seem to do anything but stare at where his Mother leaned over the barely conscious form of Reese, no, of his uncle Derek. He knew his Mother had made the abrupt pronouncement to emphasize her urgent desire to get them moving towards the time machine so they could get the man the serious medical attention he needed. But the shock of her statement was having the opposite effect on him. As he tried to get his head around the concept this man was the brother of the father he had never known, he found himself wondering how long his mother had known the truth. Had she known since the first moment she had seen him? Or had she found out during the nearly two hours they had been separated back at Disneyland?
John finally dragged his eyes away from his Mother and his new-found uncle and looked over to where Cameron stood guard over the mechanics and the others who had been in the service area when they had made their abrupt arrival. And as he looked in her direction he remembered how both Reese and she had recognized each other. If she knew who Reese was, she must have known of his relationship to John. So why hadn't she said anything? There had been more than a hint of enmity between the two of them. Was that the reason? But whatever her history was with Reese, it shouldn't have prevented her from telling him the truth, John thought.
However, John realized, explanations could wait for later. The important thing now was to get to the time machine and move downtime to where they could safely get Derek to a hospital.
"Cameron," began John, putting a little bit of steel in his voice, although more to keep himself focused than because he thought it would have any effect on her. "We need to move now. We have already pushed our luck staying here for forty-five minutes. At some point another customer is going to show up who will already be talking on their cell and get a warning out before we can get the phone away from them."
Cameron's eyes glanced at him for no more than three seconds, but the gun she held pointed at their hostages never wavered.
"We need to give Skynet enough time to spread its net over such a wide area that we can slip through the cracks," she said, repeating the same refrain she had been using to counter Sarah's arguments for the last thirty minutes.
"Or perhaps we are just giving it enough time to gather sufficient forces to do a building-by-building search," said John shaking his head. "There is going to come a point where we will have waited here too long and I think we are already passed it."
Cameron appeared to ponder this for what seemed like a very long time for her. At least ten seconds by John's estimate. Finally, she nodded. Then, almost in the same motion, she pulled back the hammer on her Glock and it gave off the raspy clicking sound everyone was familiar with from literally thousands of TV shows.
"What are you doing?" John quickly asked. After the way she had calmly destroyed the tanker truck and ended countless lives to get them clear of the pursuing Skynet forces, he was afraid she was going to use the same logic to justify terminating the nearly dozen people they were currently holding hostage. Was it as simple as believing it made no difference with the rapidly approaching Judgment Day event? Or was there something wrong with her? For surely the Cameron he knew wouldn't condone killing people just to make things easier. Had something happened to her mind or her underlying programming as a result of her jacking into the computer system back at Disneyland? "You don't need to kill them. We have already destroyed their cells and taken out the building's phone system. It isn't necessary."
Cameron glanced at him with an expression on her face that said she had no idea what was going through his mind. "What are you talking about? I am just going to lock them in the storeroom."
John let out a sigh of relief, but still wondered why she had felt it was necessary to cock the weapon. For, after the impromptu striptease all the way down to her panties she had performed in front of these men while trading her blood encrusted golden gown for a pair of gray mechanic's coveralls, she must have known she had them eating out of her hand.
As Cameron directed the men into the storeroom and then pushed a heavy rack of equipment in front of it to block the door, John walked over to the gray minivan and climbed into the driver's seat. They had already pulled the backseats out of the minivan, which had merely been in the shop for a routine oil change, and loaded Derek on board. Now John fired up the engine and moved the vehicle over to the large overhead door. By the time he was in position, Cameron had finished securing the hostages and had made her way to the door, too. After hitting the door opening button, she climbed into the front passenger seat.
Easing the accelerator down as smoothly as possible, John guided the minivan from the relative gloom of the building into the bright, hazy light of L.A.'s afternoon sun. Seeing how far the sun was from the zenith merely reinforced how little time they had left to make their escape. According to what Derek had said back at the house, in less than two and one half hours the destruction of this world would begin. Of course, with the way Derek looked now, they were under an even tighter time constraint if they were going to save his life.
John couldn't help a quick glance around as they cleared the building, but nothing was obviously out of place. After passing a long double row of full-sized Dodge pickups festooned with balloons and streamers proclaiming a year-end model sale, the minivan reached the exit from the lot. Pausing briefly for some traffic, John turned south to get them back to Ball Road. It would lead them west to the nearest unused time displacement machine, located in Long Beach, as there was no longer time to get to a more isolated one like the one they had used in Twenty-nine Palms.
They proceeded west on Ball Road. After five minutes John hadn't seen anything out of the ordinary – no police roadblocks, no mysterious green Mustangs. If there was anything at all different, it had to be the lightness of the traffic. Schools should already be done for the day and the afternoon rush hour should be getting into full swing, yet traffic felt more like what you would expect on a major holiday. John suspected it was another symptom that people consciously or subconsciously knew something was going to happen, in much the same way the outbound roads had been jammed up in the morning and the unnaturally worried expressions on many of the adult faces at Disneyland had been other symptoms.
An unusually loud moan pulled John's eyes to the rearview mirror and the view of his Mother once again crouched beside Derek. During the couple of seconds John watched before turning his attention back to the road, he saw Derek roll his head from side-to-side and then he reached up to brush away the cooling compress Sarah had been holding against his forehead with one hand while her other maintained pressure on his wound.
"How's he doing?" John called back towards his Mother.
"Not well," was her response. "I think he is slipping towards unconsciousness."
So John was almost startled when a minute later, Derek called out with a surprisingly firm voice, "H-Ks. I see H-Ks. We have to get to cover."
H-Ks. John knew Derek had to be referring to Skynet's Hunter-Killer aircraft that were part of the arsenal of weapons Skynet would bring to bear during the final days of its battle to exterminate the human race. However while they were an everyday threat in the future world from which Derek had traveled, they couldn't be here.
John had almost decided Derek was becoming delirious from blood loss when suddenly Cameron pointed off to the south. "He's right. There are H-Ks here."
Looking in the direction she was pointing, it only took John a second to spot them, too. Like an angry swarm of hornets, a virtual cloud of the machines were taking to the air. John didn't have time to count them, but there had to be at least fifty. Obviously, Skynet's giant lunar facility was cranking out more than just terminators. This batch seemed to be taking to the air from a spot about a mile south of their current position. With barely a conscious thought, John brought up the mental image of the area his mother had forced him to memorize. They had to be coming from the old Los Alamitos Army Airfield, he decided.
John carefully studied them as they spread in a 360 degree pattern from their launch site. They were different from any aircraft he had ever heard of, although they might be classified as cousins to the Marines' V-22. They had a similar looking fuselage with space for ten to fifteen men or terminators. However while the V-22 had a pair of large helicopter style blades located on either side of the fuselage, these H-Ks had somewhat smaller ducted fans in comparable locations. As the pair heading in their direction got closer, John could finally see the large swivel mounted gun slung below where the cockpit would be located, assuming the craft even needed a cockpit and wasn't fully automated or remotely controlled by Skynet.
John forced his eyes away from the H-Ks and back to the road; this wasn't the time to draw attention to themselves by getting in an accident. However while his eyes were on the road, his mind was still distracted by what he had just seen and the memories it brought forth. For he was suddenly reminded of the audio cassettes his mother had recorded shortly after her first encounter with a terminator and the resulting death of his father. John hadn't even been born yet, but Sarah had wanted to get everything Kyle had told her down before she forgot some important detail. Shortly after the encounter with the T-850 and T-1000 was when she had finally decided he was old enough and had given him the twelve tapes filled with seventeen hours of her thoughts and recollections. At the time she had joked how the tapes were almost longer than the total time she had known his father.
John had listened to the tapes more times over the past five years than he cared to admit. They had included a lot of 'free-stream' rambling thoughts by Sarah as she had been forced to cope with her pregnancy and with the loss in a single day of everyone she cared about - Kyle, her mother, even her best friend and roommate, Ginger. But what had always sent a chill down John's spine were her recollections of what Kyle had told her about the world he had come from. Filled with near nuclear winter bleakness, his world had been a dark and scary place. It had been an endless struggle to survive against the marauding terminators, H-Ks, and other Skynet attack units. And that didn't even include the equally difficult struggle to locate the basic necessities like food and water. John once again wondered how humanity had survived under the conditions his mother described in the tapes. And he also wondered where he would find the strength, the knowledge, the courage, and the wisdom to lead mankind through that terrifying existence. But then he reminded himself that everything they were doing now was to prevent Skynet's vision of the future from ever occurring. However with Judgment Day barely two hours away and this version of the world already overrun with terminators and H-Ks, it was getting easier to envision Skynet once again winning the preliminary rounds.
Forcing his thoughts away from the gloom and doom of the world of his father, John tried to concentrate on his driving.
"How much further?" John asked Cam, as she toyed with their single remaining rocket launcher. He hoped the weapon in her hands wouldn't become necessary. First, he didn't know if it would have sufficient punch to take down an armored H-K. And second, even if it did, the bright white smoke trail it left would be like a neon arrow pointing directly at their position.
"Four point seven miles," Cameron answered. "Stay on Ball until it changes into East Wardlow Road. Then keep going straight until the road tees. Turn south on Lakewood Boulevard. Stay on Lakewood until we pass under the 405 and then turn right on East Willow Street. After six blocks turn right on Junipero Avenue and it will be in the third building on the right."
John nodded as he kept most of his attention focused on his driving. He wished he knew the locations of all the time machines for emergencies like this, but apparently his future self hadn't thought that was prudent. So Cameron knew where some of them were located. And she had told both Sarah and him where to find hidden instructions for the locations of others. This way in a true emergency they each would have their own fallback route if one or both of the others was lost or compromised. Sometimes it felt almost like they were the bad guys with all the secret codes, need-to-know restrictions, and blind cell rigmarole.
They drove on in a silence seemingly only broken when a pair of the H-Ks would go screaming by; their ducted fans roaring at least fifty decibels louder than any other sound on the quiet streets.
After what felt like an eternity to John, but in reality couldn't have been more than ten minutes, they arrived at their destination. John slowed the minivan to a crawl as he read the sign on the front of the building, 'Long Beach Uniform Co. Inc.'.
"Pull around back," directed Cameron. "There is supposed to be another entrance. Just inside the rear of the building is a storage area with a walled off section accessed via a secret entrance. Assuming nothing has been disturbed, we should be able to have the time displacement equipment set up and ready for use in twelve minutes."
John nodded as he pulled the minivan off the street and drove through the small parking area along the side of the building. There were a smattering of cars in the lot and John couldn't suppress a twinge of concern. On all their previous passages via the time displacement generator, they had always been alone or hidden in the darkest part of the night. However this time there were obviously going to be people in the very same building and it was effectively the middle of the day. He just had to hope no one would stumble across them before they were ready to make their escape.
Cameron jumped out of the front seat almost before the minivan had stopped moving. Immediately she grabbed the sliding door on her side of the van and jerked it open.
"John, make sure things are clear inside," she said as she helped Sarah lift Reese out of the van.
John grabbed his Glock from the console between the front seats and scrambled out. He ran over to the building's back door trying to decide what to do if it was locked. Shooting out the lock would make a lot of noise, but his lock picks would take a lot longer. And suddenly he had this strong feeling time was running out much faster than what they had thought. He wasn't certain what it was, whether Skynet was about to locate them or something else, but he just 'knew' they had to hurry.
Luckily, when he grabbed the door knob it rotated freely. Grasping his Glock more firmly, he opened the door and stepped inside.
Compared to the bright light outside, the room felt as dark as night, even though several overhead lights were on. As John waited for his eyes to adjust, he started scanning the room for a wall likely to hide the time machine room. It was immediately obvious it had to be to his right as the left side of the room extended to the exterior wall.
Moving towards the right wall to search for the secret entrance, John walked passed rack after rack filled with uniforms. Nurse's uniforms, maid's uniforms, waiter's uniforms, and every other type of uniform seemed to be available in abundance. For a moment he was tempted to grab a couple of police uniforms, as you never knew when one might come in handy. But then he shook his head as he remembered it was impossible to take clothing through the time machine.
John reached the wall that had to hide the secret room and started scanning for the secret entrance. It had to be well concealed if the time machine had been here since 1963 without being discovered. Of course, someone from the resistance may well have been in control of this building the entire time, which would have reduced the level of security needed. But still it had to be concealed sufficiently to prevent an accidental discovery by a lowly employee or an infrequent visitor.
He was still looking when he heard the approach of the two women with their heavy burden. Perhaps the information on how to open the secret entrance had been part of the information package Cameron had received on this facility. If they couldn't find and open the door in a timely manner, there was always the brute force approach. However ripping down walls would probably cause someone to investigate before they would have time to make their departure. A quiet approach was definitely the preferred solution.
"It has to be here somewhere," whispered John when Cameron and Sarah reached him. "But I can't find it."
"Take him," answered Cameron lifting Reese's right arm from where it was stretched across her shoulders.
John slipped into place as Cameron moved over to the target wall. John took a moment to glance at Derek. The older man looked terrible. His eyes weren't quite closed, but his head lolled forward and his breathing was reduced to shallow, wheezy gasps. The strips of white cloth Sarah had wound around his torso to bind his wound closed were soaked through with fresh dark red blood.
Turning his attention back to Cameron, he watched as she slowly scanned the wall. After about five seconds she moved about fifteen feet to their right and started moving several large open boxes filled with Los Angeles County Firefighter's shirts. When he felt his mother start to move in that direction, John shifted to get a firmer grip on Derek and then he started to move also.
"Have you founded it?" asked John quietly.
"Yes, it's right there," said Cameron waving her hand at one particular spot on the wall before she bent to remove the last box.
John looked at the indicated spot, which to his eyes didn't look any different than any other location on the forty foot long wall. "How can you tell?"
"I can see it," was Cam's immediate response. When she saw him raise an eyebrow, she expanded. "With my radar I can see the outline of the door's surrounding structure. I can also see a buried steel rod extending over to that fire extinguisher enclosure, which has a ninety-four percent probability of being the release mechanism."
As she finished speaking, Cameron was already moving. After lifting out the fire extinguisher, she reached into the recessed receptacle and started running her hand along the side nearest to where she had indicated the door was located. After only a few seconds John heard a distinct 'click' and saw Cameron rotate a freshly exposed lever.
With a light tearing sound, John saw the hinged door, located eight feet to the left of where Cameron was standing, swing open with an inward motion, leaving a jagged edge of tape and paint from where its seam had been hidden for the last three and a half decades.
Quickly, John and Sarah began moving towards the doorway. All of the strength was now gone from Reese's legs and his feet mostly dragged limply behind them. Cameron beat them to the door and once the others were through, she pushed it closed behind them.
They found themselves in a surprisingly large room, roughly fifteen by thirty feet. Both ends were filled with racks of equipment similar to the configuration they had seen at other time displacement facilities, but that was hardly surprising considering they all came off the same assembly line. The center of the room, where the time displacement bubble would form, was mostly clear space. A row of old fashioned light bulbs hung from the ceiling on bare electrical wires, but at the moment they weren't needed as the room was well lit by a row of windows high on the northern exterior wall.
John and Sarah carefully lowered Reese to the floor slightly off to one side of the cleared space while Cameron immediately set about powering up the equipment. Once Sarah's hands were free, she pulled off the backpack which had been slung from one shoulder. Reaching in, she pulled out the silver canister containing the anti-matter with exaggerated caution that seemed almost over done after the risks she had taken with it during the battle with the terminators back at Disneyland.
Reese's eyes, which had been mostly closed while they had moved him from the van, were now open and focused on the canister. After a few seconds he began to speak in a voice with only a fraction of the strength he had projected during their first encounter back at the house less than nine hours earlier.
"Well, since I am the one who already has a large hole in his body, I guess I am elected to carry the anti-matter through the time machine."
John watched as Sarah looked down at the canister she still held in her hands. Almost immediately she began to shake her head. John found himself agreeing with her, no way could the already greatly weakened Reese survive having his wound opened up enough to force the tennis ball tube-sized container inside.
Reese must have read the expression on Sarah and John's faces. With an incredible show of will-power he managed to leverage his upper body up on one elbow. Then with an obviously forced nonchalant expression on his face, he asked. "Did you hear the joke about the pirate captain?"
John couldn't keep a look of surprise from crossing his features at this unexpected non sequitur from Derek.
"The captain was standing near the wheel on the aft deck of his ship with his first officer and the helmsman. The first officer turned to the captain and asked," and here Derek was forced to pause for a moment as a shudder ran through his body and the tendons in his neck all stood out as he grimaced in pain. "And asked, 'Captain, why do you always put on a red shirt before we go into battle?'"
And once again Derek was forced to pause, this time by a coughing spasm that seemed to last at least twenty seconds. By the time the man had his body once more under control John could see fresh blood oozing from his bandages. John willed him to lay back and rest, but Reese forced himself on.
"The captain looked at his first officer for a moment before answering. 'It is in case I get wounded. I don't want the crew to see me bleeding and become disheartened.'"
Derek's voice was falling towards a whisper as he continued. "Just then the lookout in the crow's nest called down, 'Three British Men Of War closing on the port bow.' The first officer and the helmsman turned and looked expectantly at the captain."
Once again Derek was forced to pause for a coughing fit and by the time it passed, John could see blood on the older man's lips.
"The captain kept them waiting for a few seconds before saying, 'Please ask the steward to bring me my brown pants.'"
John stared at Derek as he slumped down to the floor. John got the joke but didn't feel the slightest urge to laugh. If Derek's intention had been to show he was in good enough shape to tell a lame joke and therefore in good enough shape to survive having the canister inserted into his body, it hadn't worked. No, all it had done was use up the last of the man's remaining strength.
"Hurry," said Derek before coughing up more blood. "There isn't much time left."
Then he must have realized it was too late. Much of the tension abruptly went out of his body and he looked up at Sarah.
"Kyle really loved you," Derek said, as his voice seemed to fall almost below a whisper. "I never understood it, but now I do. And I think . . . I think I love you, too."
Then Derek's body spasmed one more time and his eyes fixed on Sarah's face as the light slowly faded from them.
Sarah had been kneeling close to Derek on the opposite side from John so she could be close enough to hear his words. Now she pulled his upper body up from the floor and held his face against her breast as she rocked slowly and the tears ran down her face.
John stared in shock as he felt tears welling up in his own eyes. He had seen an inordinate amount of death and destruction in his life, but this was the first time he had lost someone close and personal since, well, since they had lowered the T-850 into the vat of molten steel. He hadn't known Derek nearly as long as he had known the old terminator, but Derek was family. And as he looked at Derek's body in his mother's arms and once again took in the ruined pirate's costume and the heavy black mascara still ringing his dead eyes, he thought the man had deserved better than this. Oh, he had died from wounds received in battle against his eternal enemy, but he should have been allowed to survive long enough to fulfill his dying wish of carrying the anti-matter through the time machine.
He felt himself slipping towards the uncontrolled grief that was consuming his mother and Cameron's exclamation of 'It's starting,' almost didn't register.
As he tried to pull himself together, John's initial thought was that she was referring to the time displacement equipment. But then a brilliant flash of white light filled the room from the overhead windows and forced John to squeeze his eyes shut. Only a handful of seconds later, the building began to shake violently – far worse than from any earthquake John had ever experienced while living in California. Even after the shock of losing Derek less than a minute earlier, John knew, without a doubt, they had just experienced a nuclear event. They were supposed to have almost ninety more minutes, but obviously this timeline wasn't behaving exactly as Derek had remembered it.
"We have to go NOW!" shouted John to be heard. But at least for Cameron he needn't have bothered, she was already throwing the last few switches as fast as she could.
His mother was another story. She still knelt on the bucking floor slowly rocking Derek's body in her arms. John reached across Derek and dug the nails of his fingers into Sarah's exposed upper arms. "Mom, we have to go. Judgment Day is here."
She still made no effort to respond and with a silent apology to his uncle, he grabbed the front of his shirt and desperately jerked his body from his Mother's grip. Then without a pause, John returned his hands to her shoulders and began to bodily lift her to her feet. She resisted for a moment, but then she snapped out of her shocked state far enough to rise the rest of the way before pulling John into a tight hug.
John lifted his feet over Derek's body and then he shuffled forward to force his mother to the center of the cleared area. At almost the same moment Cameron came running up and John stretched out his left arm to pull her into a three-way embrace. Fiercely, John tightened his grip on the two most important women in his life.
As he felt the time displacement field beginning to take form around them, John briefly worried about the electrical power failing from the first nuclear blast before they were able to escape, but then he remembered the equipment had its own self-contained power supply based on the same technology which powered the lightsabers and the plasma rifles. Therefore as long as the room didn't take a direct hit or they didn't experience a shockwave which damaged some vital component, they should be okay.
The blue shimmering bubble was starting to become visible around them as John glanced back over his shoulder for one final look at his newly found and now lost uncle. Sitting on the floor beside him was the suddenly out of reach canister of anti-matter. Somehow they were going to have to figure out a way to destroy Skynet's lunar facility without it. Hopefully, the information Cameron had been able to glean from Skynet's Disneyland computer network would be enough.
Then as he continued to stare at his uncle's lifeless body, he wondered if going after the anti-matter had been the right decision. They were going to have to get by without it anyway and perhaps if they hadn't tried for it, Derek would still be alive. At the time it had seemed like the right decision and John knew it was too late to start second guessing now. Regardless of how much harder it seemed since it was his uncle, this wouldn't be the last time he would be forced to make a decision that might get someone killed. No, if history eventually played out like it had some many times before, he would be forced to send people to certain death over and over again. John felt something readjusting in his mind as the last vestiges of boyhood were stripped away from his heart and soul.
The three of them collapsed to their knees as the time displacement field intensified and its peculiar radiation began to directly affect their nerves, spinal columns, and brains, or the neural networks that passed for a brain in Cameron. John was barely conscious as the time bubble lost its translucency and moved towards the fully opaque state which occurred at transition. Derek's body was no longer visible through the shimmering blue wall of the bubble and it had to be less than a second from when the bubble would turn fully opaque when a blast of white light a thousand times brighter than the earlier event glared through the windows.
The excruciating pain in John's body suddenly felt a million times more intense than he had experienced in any previous transition, as the radiation of the time field battled for dominance against the radiation of the nuclear explosion from a nearly direct hit. John had no idea what the effect of the interaction of the two intense fields would be. Assuming they survived, they might come out of the encounter in who knew what time or place or alternate timeline.
But John didn't have more than a fraction of a second to think about it before the combined fields slammed him into unconsciousness. And as his mind slipped away, his last thought wasn't of his mother or his uncle or even Cameron. No, his last thought was of his daughter, Lisa.
End of Chapter 4
Author's Note – I just want to extend a special shout out to Carl S. He read a copy of this chapter on my 'work in progress' page when it was about half done and sent me an email complaining about some of my science in describing the terminators' power source. After exchanging several messages and doing some research, we came to a method that was more satisfactory to both of us. This required rewriting some of the dialog from when they were sitting around the kitchen table, but I think the end result is better than what I had originally done. So, thanks again, Carl.
Update – This story is continued in: 1963 Timeline 90210