Author: MORE THAN HALF A MONTH! Sorry, schoolwork! Anyway, to compensate, this is EVEN LONGER than the previous chapter! :D:D:D More author note at the end of the story.
Also, a URL exists in the story. Simply replace the (dotcom) with the necessary . com to access the link. FF culls this stuff...
"One of the things I remember most about Cameron Connor is that she had a heart. We were all used to some of the greatest bastards on Earth giving us orders, and here was a woman as good as any of them – if not better – and yet, despite her air of coldness, somehow she showed compassion for us that no one else would've made known. No one was barred from her presence, and she talked to everyone as equals in the suffering of humankind. This did not make her any weaker a leader than anyone else, however; simultaneously she was the mother of war, sister to soldier, and wife to warrior. And we never forgot this, because through the heart of the savior, we knew her person well."
-Maj. Gen. (ret.) James Gardner Scott, on Cameron Connor
The Heart of the Savior
Master Sergeant Peter Jameson O'Reilly woke up to the smell of breakfast.
It wasn't yet known just what the breakfast comprised. Regardless, this would've been a fairly normal occurrence to any morning-arisen man – prior to April 11, 2011, that is. Now that it was 6:30 am of the 19th, however, the smell of breakfast was a welcome but still unexpected olfactory experience.
It would've also been normal to anyone who lived in an average room in an average house. But Cheyenne Mountain Operations Center, and the steel-encased, spring-mounted living quarters within, certainly weren't representative of the baseline suburban dwelling; the only possible source of this smell was also rather far away, in a huge mess hall in another freestanding building, in the gargantuan excavation within the mountain itself. Given these factors, a smell of breakfast was at best an anomaly – and since it was an anomaly that smelled good, he was most compelled to investigate.
As he again walked through the corridors of the living quarters, he made sure this time that his steps were soft and deliberate. After the morning of glorious man-versus-machine combat, the whole day before was spent in some mystical, situation-appropriate (and yet simultaneously situation-inappropriate) revelry, labeled by some as "The Last Party on Earth." The parties sure got wild at the end of the world, and the alcohol flowed more freely than water. Because of this, "quite a few" people were incapacitated to the most profound degrees imaginable – a huge mistake, in his opinion – and many of these "quite a few" were now experiencing glorious hangovers that would've made Lindsay Lohan blush, or made Jack Thompson support Grand Theft Auto IV. (The latter would come after Skynet repented and made peace with humanity, though.) This meant that behind each door might be found a groggy, half-conscious man who still had the physical capacity to strike down the source of noisy steps, and O'Reilly would rather not provoke this hypothetical drunk.
When he arrived at the mess hall, he was greeted by the sight of seven men seated at one of the very long metal tables, which had equally long metal benches situated on both sides. As they chatted about themselves, a large platter of pancakes sat in front of them, and each had a plate, a fork and a butter knife at his place.
"Morning," he said sleepily after a groan.
"Morning," the men responded in unusual unison.
"Pancakes?" O'Reilly asked, pointing at the platter of brown discs.
"Connor's doing," one man proclaimed through a mouthful of the stuff. "Woman can cook a good pancake."
"Just like she can cook a good robot," another joked. "Wonder if she can cook a man."
"Yeah, I bet she can cook a good sausage in her oven." Loud snickers filled the room.
Ugh, came the mental grimace on O'Reilly's part. He was reminded of seeing the woman naked. He reflexively scratched his head to remove the offending thought as though it were a piece of dandruff.
"Where is she?" he asked.
"More pancakes." The responder poked a thumb in the direction of the kitchen. "She's been doing them for almost an hour now. I wonder if she'll try to feed all seventy mouths here."
O'Reilly walked over to the metal doors, behind which was the kitchen. As he moved, he saw the newcomer Reese brothers seated by themselves at a distant table, eating their own pancakes. That Derek one looked like a high school freshie, and the younger Kyle probably was barely into grade school. They were too young for this mess.
But was that true, really? Pressure variance waves brought about by nuclear explosions didn't exactly discriminate between those "too young" and those "old enough" when they massacred millions at a time. It wasn't a matter of age anymore, but rather a matter of being prepared to fight for your life, and to survive the best you can. And for that, the kids' young age and the mental malleability which came with it would prove to their advantage, making any kind of preparation easy enough.
The opening of the metal doors introduced him to the smell of eggs, flour and batter, the sound of a beating ladle and a number of electric mixers – and the sight of Cameron Connor in a white jacket and pants, with a blue-and-yellow floral apron and a ridiculously large chef's hat, or toque, on her head. It was so big that it sometimes slid below her forehead and covered her eyes, which caused her to push it up slightly ever so often. O'Reilly couldn't help but laugh.
His minor guffaws drew the good chef's attention. "What's funny?" Connor asked.
"The hat. Way too big."
Connor reached up and patted the top of her hat, creasing the base. "I couldn't find any others. The last chef must have had a big head."
"I don't think you need a hat to cook pancakes, but it looks nice anyway."
"What are you doing?"
"I'm making two hundred and forty-four more pancakes. Each person gets four pancakes. Nine have already had their share."
O'Reilly gaped. "Two hundred and forty-four pancakes."
"Yes, two hundred and forty-four pancakes."
"Two hundred and fo- never mind." He sighed. "I'll help." He was about to grab some pancake-synthesizing implements when Connor stopped him.
"Wash your hands," she said sternly.
O'Reilly took a step back from the cooking utensils. "Uh, yes ma'am."
"Thank you for helping."
"Yeah, sure," came the reply through the sound of water on hands. When this aspect of hygiene was complete, O'Reilly took a ladle and began working on pancakes. There were many to be made.
Upon the completion of Pancake Seventy-Six, O'Reilly broke the vocal silence. "How's it been?"
"You locked yourself in your room while everyone partied."
"Oh. I was sleepy. It takes a lot of effort to kill a T-1."
"Yes, it does," O'Reilly said, remembering the grenade launcher "thwupping" in his hands. He'd written something in his journal about that:
Oh, sweet thwup, thwup, thwup…
Oh shit DUCK AND DON'T GET UP!
Oh sweet thwup, thwup BOOM!
GODDAMN bullets 'cross the room!
He'd also added a singsong tune to the stanza, and sometimes he could be heard idly singing the M203 song. It was silly. "How did you kill it?"
"The T-1 is a bad design, I'll admit," Connor explained with the faintest hint of a scowl on her face. "It has a very limited view frustum and its torso spin rate is slower than it should be." O'Reilly raised an eyebrow; was she lamenting her bad design on the things that nearly killed them? If she'd had her way and fixed this bad design, maybe they'd all be dead instead of partying. "This design flaw helped me, though."
"That was some dangerous stuff you did there."
"I know. But if I hadn't done that, the T-1 would have flanked you, and you'd all have been killed. And then I would've been killed. Taking it from this perspective, it wasn't very dangerous at all, in comparison."
"Right, I see your point." O'Reilly did, but still had the image of Connor as being that hardcore motherfucker. He went back to pancakes, beating rapidly at a bowl of batter.
The synthesis of Pancake One Hundred and Thirty-Nine saw O'Reilly talk again: "The party was a bad idea."
"Yes, it was," Connor replied. "But it lifted the men's spirits."
"Suppose it did."
"Morale is sometimes more useful than capability."
"I guess so. It would've been better if they left out the alcohol, though."
"Yes. If Skynet attacks now, we are fucked." Connor put a lot of emphasis on the last word.
"Yep." O'Reilly went back to pancakes, frying a batch of batter on a huge pan. Four pancakes per person sounds rather small, but each pancake had a diameter of more than a foot. Connor had found a lot in the way of ingredients.
Pancake Two Hundred Point Five was undergoing a transition to Pancake Two Hundred and One, when it became Connor's turn to break the silence: "What are you doing?"
"Uh, making pancakes," was O'Reilly's reply. Well, what the hell? That was what he was doing, wasn't it?
"No. I mean when you talk about parties and ask about yesterday, while we're making pancakes. What are you doing?"
"Oh, I don't know. I guess I'm just making conversation."
"Well, Cameron, you don't talk much to anyone, and no one talks much to you. It just seems like something I should do."
Pancake Two Hundred and Forty-Four was completed at 8:15 am without incident, and O'Reilly went out with a pair of trays to distribute platters of pancakes among the tables. A few more people were coming in now, all apparently having been attracted by the smell of breakfast, and they came in various degrees of hung-overness. A man walked in what looked like a drunken stupor, but was actually the product of dizziness and weakness following such inebriation. Another soldier was being assisted by two others, his arms over their shoulders as they struggled to bring him to a table. This one probably couldn't throw a rock to save his life.
"Hey, O'Reilly," Top Hat called out as he entered the room, noting the trays in O'Reilly's hands. "Waiter much?"
"I helped Cameron make the pancakes."
"Cameron? Oh, Connor. She made these things?" Top Hat sat down at a table as O'Reilly deposited his load. "Smells good."
Connor walked in from the kitchen, balancing four trays on her two hands, and they never seemed to tilt more than a couple of degrees in unlucky directions as she walked from table to table, putting down a platter of pancakes as she transitioned.
"Good stuff," Top Hat said almost indistinctly through a brown mouthful. "Nice hat, Connor." At least this last sentence was said through a less filled-up mouth.
"Thank you." She pushed the hat back up as it fell down over her eyes. O'Reilly gasped to prevent the laugh from surfacing.
When all of this distribution was done, the room held about fifteen people. When Connor and O'Reilly sat down to eat at a table at the back of the room, the population went up to sixteen: A very loud and incoherent McGrady walked into the dining hall, his balance utterly lost and his mental resolve even further down in the dumps. He came in singing (badly) a song from a Broadway musical that involved misunderstood Wicked witches:
"I think I'll try defying gravity, and you can't pull me down…" Someone could've given him points for staying true to the lyrics, but the vocals were unearthly, guttural, alien bellows which defied reason. It wasn't singing; it was more like a barely articulate tribal chant that followed no known methodical beat, no detectable rhythmic patterns, and certainly no melody that could have been conceived by the sane and lucid minds of the Earth. But of course, McGrady belonged to neither the sane nor the lucid minds of the Earth – even when he wasn't recovering from alcohol.
Wait, was he just recovering from alcohol?
"That is a bad hangover," O'Reilly observed.
"That isn't a hangover. Private McGrady is still drunk." Connor watched the unsteady figure.
"How's that possible?"
"He probably didn't sleep."
McGrady became aware of pancakes after some indeterminate period of singing the song – with remarkably consistent lyrical skill, but the same extraterrestrial vocals – and went on to investigate random platters of brown discs.
"Wait, what is this, now?" he asked of the atmosphere – which meant, really, no one in particular. "Pancakes? And good fucking pancakes too?"
"Yeah," said the unlucky man whose pancakes were the subject of McGrady's observations.
"Who made…who made them?"
"Connor," said a few men in unison, pointing to the back of the room.
"Connor? Ah, Connor!" The prime exemplar of drunkenness made his sloppy way towards Connor's position. "Connor, Connor, Connor. Leader of human resistance... against evil computers….destroyer of gun-toting robots…hardcore motherfucker…genius military designer… and now goddamn good pancake chef? Hell, the only thing missing's…a …a rockin' hot face and body. Oh wait. You already have those."
Connor eyed the man with a curiosity that O'Reilly watched long and hard. He wanted to save her very much at this point. No one deserved such madness.
"You know, Connor," McGrady said as he pirouetted – what the fuck? thought O'Reilly – and sat right next to Connor on her bench. "We could make-" He paused and put his arm around her shoulder, drawing her close. "-a beautiful couple. Whaddaya say, Connor? Connor, Cameron? Or may I call you…Caaaam." His voice drew out the "Caaaam" ridiculously, and persisted with the offensive syllabication even as his head drooped off to a side, his body swung backwards, and he fell over the bench and onto the floor, totally knocked out.
Connor bent down to look at his motionless form. "No, we would not make a 'beautiful couple'. And no, you may not call me 'Cam.'" She took his arm, brought his body up to her shoulder height, and sat him up against a wall.
As McGrady had made his intoxicated advances, an anticipating silence had fallen over the room, and when this sitting-down of the offending party was complete, loud applause and laughter knifed mercilessly through the quietness.
O'Reilly laughed too, and turned back just in time to see Major Villanueva and Spc. Cayman enter the room. Top Hat took his plate and left his seat to stay with them, and O'Reilly followed suit, leaving Connor to eat alone.
"Morning, Major," O'Reilly and Top Hat said in order.
"These pancakes are good," Villanueva said. "Couple of minutes ago, I'd be asking who made them, but it looks like everything around here's Connor's doing."
"She makes a good pancake," Cayman commented.
"Did you drink last night?" O'Reilly asked Villanueva.
"Drink? No. I don't drink."
"That's a surprise."
"Cap'n Edwards said the same thing when I asked him," Top Hat said, "But he's asleep in the toilet, so I don't know whether I can trust him."
"Did Connor drink?" Villanueva asked back.
"No," O'Reilly said. "She didn't even go to the party."
"Good girl," Cayman observed. "Good leader, I think."
"Yeah, about that," Villanueva said. "Let me tell you boys something about that woman. Now Connor, she's brilliant and all. But she's damn reckless." He frowned. "That stunt she pulled on the T-1? A little less luck and we wouldn't have a Skynet engineer on our team anymore. Don't suppose any of you wanna try to follow her example that way."
O'Reilly coughed loudly enough that it sounded exactly as artificial as it was. "If she hadn't done what she did, that flanking bot would have kicked our asses straight to hell and then killed her too. Same outcome plus six more deaths."
"She could've used some backup," Top Hat added. "Sorry, Jake," he said to Cayman. "You don't count. You were thrown out of a toppled-over fuel truck."
"Shut up, Peggie." This caused the two men to grapple at each other's throats before Villanueva stopped them.
"In any ca- ah! Stop it, you two! In any case, let's just hope, with her attitude, Connor lives long enough to help us stop the damn computer."
"Speaking of Connor, is that still her sitting near what's left of McGrady?"
"Yeah, that's her." O'Reilly looked in her direction. "She's been eating alone since day one." He recounted how, from the first dinner of April 11, 2011, to today's April 19 breakfast, he'd never observed her eating with anyone. O'Reilly had sat with her for a few minutes earlier, but that didn't last.
"Excuse me," O'Reilly said as he understood what he'd just said, and stood up from his seat. He walked to the place where a woman sat at a table, and near where a man sat unconscious against a wall.
As he drew up next to Connor, he asked, "Mind if I sat here?"
Connor's brown eyes looked widely up at him, then reset. "No, I don't mind."
"All right." He descended onto the table across her and continued his first pancake. Each forkful of the hardened batter mix saw him try to observe some reaction on Connor's part to his position, but always her face was down, just eating her own food in silence. There was a strange manner about her that was actually a lack of any mannerism whatsoever. She never brushed away her long hair, or crossed her legs, or tapped her fingers or anything of the sort; always she was perfectly still, focused on whatever she was doing. O'Reilly thought of it as some kind of tactile tunnel vision, as not even the faintest hint of a subconscious action would surface from the still seas of her stiff person.
On finishing his first pancake after three minutes, he decided that Connor wouldn't speak to him unless he did, and he said, "So Con-" Well, that went well. He was immediately interrupted by three "Excuse me's" on either side of the table. Top Hat, Cayman and Villanueva had ventured forth from their own table to present their own company to the relatively quiet woman who was going to be their leader for the next – oh, who knows how long?
The reasoning for this was good enough on all counts: The three men had agreed that Connor was no military woman, and there would be no point in distancing themselves from her. If someone was going to lead them, then shouldn't they talk to that someone? Know how the minds of each bitch or bastard of authority worked? If not to better understand the Mandates of Cameron Connor, then maybe it would be to know whether those Mandates came from a mind that was as stable as a submarine in Cat-5 hurricane seas – or a petty fishing trawler atop the same waters.
"Morning, Connor," each man said, voices overlapping each other.
"Good morning," she said, nodding to each.
"These are some good pancakes," Top Hat commented, slicing up his second fluffy disc.
"Yes. Peter helped."
"Yeah," Villanueva went. "The two of you seem to be on a first-name basis." His finger dashed between pointing at her and O'Reilly.
"He's my runner."
"That explains it?"
"Yes, it does."
"Okay." Villanueva was quieted. Kinda cold. Well, hell, she was. She rarely smiled, she rarely spoke, and ate alone.
"Did you always want to be a military computer scientist who builds sentient missile systems?" Cayman asked. Rather out of the blue. "Just asking."
"No. I used to want to be a ballerina."
"Well, that's a small difference between jobs," Top Hat snorted.
"I took ballet classes, and then I hurt my foot. Then I wanted to take up acting, but they said I was too stiff. So I studied Computer Science in college. It was easy because math and Chomsky context-free grammars are easy, and I graduated quickly."
"So in order, we have ballerina, actress, and computer scientist." Villanueva ticked off a finger with each recital. "You have one interesting life, Connor."
"Yes. I've also studied Theoretical Physics and Mechanical Engineering." They stared at her. "What is it?" she asked.
"I took up Architecture," Cayman said, and then everyone looked at him. "What?" he shrugged. "I like houses."
"As much as you like landmines?" O'Reilly asked him with a raised eyebrow.
"What turned you into a hardcore motherfucker, Connor?" Top Hat asked.
"I only said that so that McGrady would let go of my arm."
"Well, he didn't let go; last night he said that you practically ripped his arm off."
"If I had ripped his arm off, he would not have had been able to put it around my shoulder."
"Yeah. About that…" Top Hat laughed. "McGrady hates you, but last night…and that scene just a few moments ago? They kinda add up to something."
"Yes, they do add up."
Someone new came into the dining scene just then, and he was looking for a place to sit. He considered the cliques that he'd encountered over the past few days, but he wasn't that close to them, that he'd be able to eat with them.
He then saw Connor, most unusually being flanked by four accompanying breakfasters, and thought, Why not? So he grabbed an issued plate of pancakes and the necessary fork and knife, and then moved to that table.
"Morning, ma'am," he said to Connor.
"Good morning. And don't call me that. Military honorifics are dangerous on any battlefield, and I don't have a rank."
"Sorry, uh, Connor."
"McAnders!" Cayman said. "Welcome to Connor's table."
"Yeah, I noticed," said McAnders. "Not to be rude, Connor, but y'all never showed yourself to be a woman of company."
"They sat at my table," Connor explained. "I don't mind."
"Most of us thought you were introverted or somethin' of the sort."
Connor's eyes flickered, and widened slightly. "I appeared introverted?"
"Well," McAnders said as he scratched his head. "Yeah. Always seated alone, never speaking 'less spoken to; hard not to get branded as a shy one there."
"I see," Connor said, somehow looking affected by what he'd said. That was pretty blunt of McAnders, and the others knew it:
"Ted!" Cayman snapped at McAnders. "What the hell?"
"Hey, she asked."
"Yes, I did ask," Connor agreed. "Thank you for explaining."
"Don't, uh, mention it, I guess."
Connor was silent for a minute. Her head was tilted downwards, and her eyes lay on her pancakes like they were the most interesting things in the world. Her fork was in her hand, but it remained stationary on the table; it didn't move, twitch, or even involuntarily shudder. In fact, she was so still that she might've not been blinking at all. O'Reilly had this urge to prod her.
"Sorry," she finally said – and smiled widely – that was rare! – as she shook her head.
"What was it?" O'Reilly asked.
"I didn't know that I appeared reclusive and shy."
"Hey Connor," Cayman popped in. "Why weren't you at the party last night, anyway?"
"I was sleepy. It takes a lot of effort to kill a T-1." This was exactly the same sentence she gave to O'Reilly, in response to a question in the same spirit.
"Yeah, I guess so."
"I would've gone, though," Connor added. "If everyone's going to get themselves incapacitated with ethanol, then there's no harm in joining them. I wouldn't drink."
"Do you ever get drunk?" Top Hat asked, a twinkle in his eyes.
"No. My alcohol tolerance is very high."
"Just how high is 'very high', Connor?"
"Very high. I can drink as much as Mel Gibson and release comparatively few anti-Semitic remarks." The men at the table laughed as she did. O'Reilly laughed too, of course, but with a little bit of confusion in mind; suddenly, the cold, tough-as-nuclear-nails leader was all light and preppy. Triggered by "Ted" McAnders's comment, maybe? She'd said that she didn't know that she had looked introverted over the past few days, but really – who'd give off such an impression unintentionally without really being just that? It just struck him as a change that was somewhat abrupt and weird, but a change that was probably going to be good for morale nonetheless, and her men's respect and relationship with her.
The latter changes, concerning Cameron and the warriors of humanity, were seen almost immediately. A small group of men, now cognizant of feminine laughter interspersed with the loud ruckus of male amusement, changed their seats too and joined Cameron Connor and the table of people that included an incomplete set of T-1 slayers. They joined in the new path of conversation that implicated everything from pancakes to the PlayStation 4 (fall 2011 release date pushed back indefinitely due to nuclear war), and in this it was like a View-Master changing slides from a gloomy, dull landscape to a scene from Saturday Night Live as Connor was suddenly participating in their lives in a light-hearted way that didn't involve the salvation of the human race. And it wasn't just that, either; just like back in school, the men had all separated into their various cliques, as those who knew each other would stick to themselves, while keeping away from other groups. This mentality of localized collectivism had carried over even to last night's "Last Party." But when Connor tethered their interest to her table, everyone was somehow given an opportunity to interact with one another, crossing groups over with groups and breaking down psychosocial walls. Hell, she wasn't even saying much of anything particularly funny – she was just being open and happy and a good listener.
This unexpectedly unifying effect could be attributed to just how warm she was being. Before, she was as solid as a brass sculpture in an Alaskan winter. Now, more than just thawing her old disposition, she was as effervescent as the blue fish played by a lesbian comedian from an old CG movie about a missing clownfish. Thankfully she didn't share this aforementioned character's memory loss issues.
Maybe it was also because Cameron Connor was the only woman all around, and was a very hot one at that. Countless men have been inspired to new, bubbly heights because of pretty women, and recent years have seen the rise of the beautiful, strong and intelligent Amazon Queen archetype as an attractive figure – and Connor damn well embodied this archetype.
Whichever the reason or combination thereof, it was working out well, and Connor's table was full of rowdy boys/men by 9:00 am. Most had finished up their pancakes, and were now telling jokes, stories, and discussing post-Apocalyptic life in general. Many of these laughers had lost huge chunks of family and friends to the nuclear strikes and Skynet's henchbots, and it was a wonder that they had any good or light emotions left in them to be drawn out – but Connor did it.
It was after some further sharing and such that Connor noticed that the newcomer Reese brothers still sat alone at their lonely table. They'd been long done with their food and seemed to have been staring blankly for the whole time they'd been sitting there. The elder Reese, Derek, was as pensive as she'd been in her pancake-staring interval, while Kyle played with his fork, striking with deadly force at ants or errant crumbs.
"I'll be back," Connor said in a mockingly gruff voice, as she left her table. The men converged around the space she left behind, and resumed their chatter without her. She moved to the Reese brothers' table and sat a few meters away from both of them.
"Hello," she said, since she hadn't even caught their attention when she sat down.
"Wha…" Derek snapped immediately out of his trance-like mode of thought. "Oh, I'm sorry," he said as he stood up quickly, but Connor motioned for him to get back to his seat. "Is there anything you need…uh, sir, ma'am?"
Connor smiled at the young boy. "No. And you call me Cameron, too. I'm probably not much older than you are."
"Okay." Derek looked back down at his plate.
"How old are you boys?"
"I'm sixteen. My brother, Kyle here, is nine."
"And you're from Los Angeles."
"How did you get here?"
Derek began to look uneasy at his seat on that question; he fidgeted on the bench and tapped on his plate a few times. When he finally spoke, it was with a discernibly shaky voice: "We were part of a convoy, L.A. survivors, everyone going to Cheyenne Mountain. We had six cars and a military jeep. Then the planes came, and the tanks too, and almost everyone was killed."
"Kyle and I hid. There was a motel nearby, and we ran to the cellar while everyone fought. When we got back out, everything was gone, and there was only one man left. We had thirty people before the attack.
"Our man was wounded but he could move. He found us a car and drove us the rest of the way to Colorado. Before we got to Colorado Springs, he said that he couldn't go anymore, and he passed out and died. Kyle and I walked here from that point."
"Where are your parents?"
Derek looked at Kyle. Something passed between them, a glance that offered more information than simple speech could disseminate. He turned back to Connor. "When I brought Kyle to the underground, our parents were downtown. That's where the missile hit."
"I'm sorry," Connor said, frowning and looking genuinely saddened by the account. A single tear rolled down Derek's cheek. She understood that he didn't want to talk about it, and pursued the question no further.
"Miss Connor?" the younger Kyle asked then.
"Yes, Kyle?" She moved closer to the boy.
"While we were back in the tunnels, I asked who was hitting us. No one knew. Do you know?"
"An advanced networked distributed artificial intelligence established control over secure governmental intranets and the global internet, gained access to nuclear-capable launch facilities, and declared war on humankind, resulting in nuclear strikes at critical military locations and regions of high population density across the planet."
Kyle blinked. Connor understood why.
"A crazy computer reached out and launched missiles at places all over the world," she explained.
"Oh," he said. "I get it now." Connor's simplification was efficient enough. "Are we going to fight it?"
Connor looked earnestly at the young boy. "I'm going to fight it, so that you and your brother won't have to." She patted his head and stood up from the table. Looking around, she spied the original large group of men still being chatty and loud, and stepped out the dining hall's metal doors without being noticed, making a path back to her room in the living quarters.
Why hadn't she gone to the party, really? It wasn't like she could sleep.
Well, Cameron had spent most of the previous afternoon and night with a soldering iron, a pair of pliers, and a sharp cutter. Sitting on her bed, a long steel table in front of her, she'd peeled away pieces of her skin to reveal blackened capacitors and their corresponding twitch servos, representing the damage caused by using them in ways that went beyond the specifications. Each servo and its partnered capacitor was designed for at most six "twitches" per minute, and even this was pushing it. The problem lay in Connor having used them at a rate of six twitches per second, as the number of 25mm bullets that was coming at her per second was…immense, to say the least. Hey, don't blame Alternate Future Skynet for bad design – future plasma weapons were semi-automatic at best.
She'd pulled out capacitors that were damaged, separating repairable units from totally destroyed ones, and had gone straight to work on them with (obviously) inhuman steadiness. She had also been very quiet, such that people stopping by her door would simply think her asleep and move on.
At 5:30 am of the next day, interrupting her self-repair, Cameron had thought to make breakfast. Over the days following the Fateful Eleventh, each man had been the steward of his own stomach, and snacks and supplies were shared and distributed whenever someone arrived and had them. Until today, not a decent, full meal had offered itself to the seventy of Cheyenne. Cameron, from her experience, figured that good food was a good idea for morale, and she made pancakes to this effect.
Now, as she sat on her bed back in her room, Cameron pondered the changeover of her outward personality.
As she had understood him, John Connor was a great man to whose actions the men and women of the Alternate Resistance had looked up. He was brave, skilled and had a great tactical mind, and was ruthless in his dealings with the machine.
He also resembled the machine. He was aloof, and spoke to no one but his generals – and even these men participated in no colloquy with Connor, outside of orders and reprimands. While he was ruthless in his dealings with the machine, perhaps he could be considered even more ruthless with his subordinates; at least, when he shot up Skynet's bots and blew them to pieces, it wasn't like they were dying. Meanwhile on the home front, the slightest mistake led to a stripping of command or rations (or both), and large but otherwise forgivable mistakes would lead to summary execution by abandonment in the wastelands.
Who would die for such a man? To this there was an answer that encompassed a group larger than it should have been. Indeed, this very distant reclusive nature of Connor fortunately made him something of a legend among the people of the Resistance, and there were many who would fight under his banner, live by his decrees, and die for him, because they thought he was a glorious hero who lifted the spirits of his men in battle. Paradoxically, it was this very thought that lifted their spirits, and not Connor himself, because most of the time, his presence was neither inspiring nor empowering. It was such that ironically, only those who truly knew Connor were those who would not die for him.
Cameron had been given the opportunity to replace John and thus had decided to build on the errors she saw in his reflection. And because of this, it was much to the emulated surprise and distaste of her machine consciousness, that she had been branded as shy and reclusive – exactly the image that she did not want to project. At the same time, though, it was a chance for a re-evaluation of the self, and in this regard, Sarah Connor's statement so many years ago was mirrored:
"You know what I love about you guys? Even when you've evolved into the ultimate indestructible killing machines, you're not above self-examination and improvement."
It was sarcastic, and was actually intended to berate the socially and verbally inept Terminator, but nothing could be truer about the robot girl from the future – especially now that this self-examination and improvement would possibly be beneficial to the movement towards the salvation of mankind.
Cameron, thus knowledgeable of the error in her "disposition," immediately switched to a new parametric set of interaction rules. Smile more, talk more, gather as much information as you can about others, leave no one behind, talk to everyone, and say things that make them happy; these were a few of the little, shallow precepts that, in aggregate, apparently brought many heretofore-discrete "cliques" together into a unified entity, and drew the members thereof closer to her. And it worked, so that was good.
It was still 9:30 am as Cameron returned to her mundane procedures of self-repair, and barring all further boring description, she was done by 11:00 am. Now, she needed to test if these things worked well when interplayed with her regular motors.
Her room was way too small for what she was going to do, so after she got into a new set of clothes, picking up one of her bags, she left the long hall with living quarters at each end, and made her way to one of the two physical fitness centers that populated Cheyenne Mountain.
Inside the center was all manner of exercise equipment – seated row weight machines, bench press assemblies, and, of course, the ever-popular treadmills. What Cameron was looking for, however, was the wide open space that the place offered. And in the aerobics room was to be found the best-designed space for the job; a wide floor composed of wooden floorboards, and floor-to-ceiling mirrors lining the walls provided exactly what she needed.
Now, exactly what kind of motor test involved a place like this?
Cameron first stood at the center of the room, perfectly still, bag in hand and unblinking in her forward stare. And then she spoke softly, in an extreme monotone that was worse than any emotionlessness that John Connor had ever perceived from her: "Starting self-diagnostic procedures. Dumping all debug data to logs and speech synthesis for secondary and tertiary memory access." She made herself speak all her self-commands aloud so that she'd have at least three sources of memory access now. It was a technique that helped in retrieval later on.
"Engaging forward kinematics engine and loading restraints for standard human skeleton." Cameron's motions were normally governed by an inverse kinematics software engine, which moved her body parts to target locations, using logical calculations that were based on the obvious restraints of her endoskeleton. By loading her forward kinematics engine, she switched to animating herself using precalculated routines. Why, though?
She was holding her bag. Reaching into it, she pulled out a CD, and turned its data surface to her eyes. She eyed it, turning and tilting the disc very slowly over time, until she spoke again: "Loading Red Book audio CD standard. Decoding 2-channel, 16-bit PCM audio sampled at 44.100 KHz. Reading subchannels R and S to load CD-text. Playing song internally: Nocturne in C#-Minor; Frédéric Chopin."
And she shed her shoes, leaving her barefoot on the wooden floor. She held herself on her toes.
Danced with such grace as to make a man forget the end of the world.
Bending down at her torso slightly, she drew a leg forward and raised herself up again. She lifted her arms and brought her hands together over her head, each sweeping motion a visual cornucopia of elegance. No one could have been more detached from this exercise of refinement than the Terminator who now danced to unheard music, but no one either could have been so perfect in the dynamics of the dance; so flawless was she in her execution and so fluid in her movement, and so graceful in so human a pattern. It was a sharp irony that the monotonous, robotic beginning of this effort had led to so beautiful an affair of art and transition.
She began to turn herself on the balls of her feet, slowly at first as though in a placid warm-up stage. Then she stopped, her legs crossed at the onset, and suddenly whipped herself around in a single, smooth circuit, her arms spread horizontally as though embracing her image in the mirror before her – an image she projected of quiet magnificence and glorious beauty, a personification of resplendence. And truly enough, while not human, she was a person indeed, and one worthy of this image.
As she executed the workings of this dance, a memory long-gone arose in her head through the music and the debug data – another memory of dancing. It portrayed an entirely different sort of dancing than the solo traffic of her arms and legs, but it stemmed from dancing nonetheless and perhaps was thus summoned by her memory registry. Forward kinematics required little CPU power on her part, as did the decoding of PCM audio, so she welcomed this memory as a guest to the motional poetry of her body, and in the machinery of her mind, played a happy scene from happier times…
There was much to be said about prom night.
For one, the buffet table was loaded with, of all things, Japanese food. Not a single ounce of more Western delicacies was laid on the white tables with white tablecloths, and white cards were labeled with such obscurities as "Katsudon" and "Teriyaki" (or, as the hiragana characters below the Latin characters described, カツ丼 and てりやき respectively).
Another was that the event took place in the school gymnasium. This was a fairly common occurrence, actually, but there had been bad feelings about the gym as a venue because in general, it was not very pretty. And then, some genius team of improvisational decorators darkened the room, added a retro disco ball, placed blue cellophane over the fluorescent light tubes, added paper and fabric drapes everywhere, and got good deals on good tables and chairs – and somehow the place ended up looked better than any private school's cookie-cutter hotel ballroom prom.
John Connor – whoops, John Baum – was sitting at one of the good tables, eating good Japanese food, as this list of "much to be said" reeled through his brain like a spool of film. There was a lot more on the list, and not all were as light or neutral as the previously mentioned thoughts. Indeed, John sat alone, for the reason that one of the things on this list of "much to be said" included the absence of Cheri Westin, whose mysteriously stringent father had forbidden her to go to high school's social gathering of social gatherings. So…he had no date. That was okay, right? "Going stag" wasn't such a bad thing; you got to talk to all your stag friends, party like at a bachelor party despite not really getting married any time soon, and make fun of the lovingly mushy couples.
Well, damn it, John didn't like partying much, and it didn't help that he didn't have that many friends in school yet. On top of that, he wanted to be among those lovingly mushy couples – and indeed, everyone actually did, but hid their desires behind a mask of mockery. Oh sure, maybe the commitment-frightened weren't members of this demographic, but they were a select few and even some of them had thoughts of the other side from time to time.
Was it mentioned that he didn't have that many friends? He probably had only one – and that friend was going to date his "sister." Morris! Yes, Morris! Lacking some social graces and alternative in a sense – that sense being rather alternative-human – but he was a good guy, and was actually a decent person. He'd take care of John's "sister," all right; he had a genuinely shy crush on the girl and didn't really seem to be capable of having designs on her outside of a simple ask-out like that. Then again, in this case it really wasn't his "sister's" safety that was important in this sort of gathering, but rather Morris's.
Because his "sister," Cameron, was a freakin' Terminator.
She was a hot one, though. And she happened to project this image of being a wickedly gothic-looking, dry-humor type of girl, with massive intelligence to boot. And despite all the little mechanisms associated with the Terminator line, she was different. Somehow she could be affectionate at times; somehow she could act so damn human sometimes that it was unnerving to think about.
And sometimes he caught himself thinking that he could love her.
Every time. Every fucking time that she pulled another one of those Humanity moments, he became curious about her in a significantly inappropriate way. And every time she pulled off something that directly affected him, he…well, he got confused. He'd hugged her; she'd hugged him back and smiled. She'd cried; even if it had been a simple test of emotions, he'd comforted her.
She was always such an enigma, and it bothered him enough that even if he could almost love her as a person, sometimes he wanted to be away from her because of all the mixed feelings that she stirred up in him.
And in the end, barring all the reckonings of personality and concepts on artificial sentience, the organic sheath of her coltan endoskeleton was really pretty.
She wasn't there yet. John had gone ahead because his mother had a claim on the robot for "a mission of unspecified parameters," in Cameron's words. He sat there alone at his table, looking quite happy despite being a little sad at his lack of a date, and ate his beef bowl gyudon in peace.
At that point, Morris appeared and sat next to him.
"Hey, bro," he said in a very light and excited tone. Morris had gotten a good haircut and a tux for the occasion – kudos for effort. "Your sister ain't here yet?"
"Nope," he said. "She had…uh, something to do first with our mom."
"Oh, all right."
"Hey, nice suit."
"Hah! Thanks!" He beamed and pulled the fabric of his coat forward. "I think it looks ridiculous, I swear to God…but if it works, then to hell with what I think, right?" He laughed.
"You're a stag?"
John sighed. Not again; it was what, the fifth time that he was asked that question today? Jesus. "Yes, I'm a stag. Cheri wasn't allowed."
"Westin?" Morris frowned. "Warned ya to stay away from that one," he said. "Nothing good to come out of a thing for her." He shook his head. Morris wasn't really trying to scare John off or diss on Cheri; he really just knew the stories, and wanted to watch out for his friend.
"I could say the same thing about my sister, Morris," John snorted.
"What, Cameron? She seems nice."
"You don't know Cameron." It was John's turn to laugh. Damn right Morris didn't know her.
His laughing was interrupted by some kind of uniform commotion through the chatter of the gym – primarily among the guys. Some of them had stopped talking to their partners and had turned to where many were now looking; others had their eyes wide and their mouths agape. Neither John nor Morris could see what was going on, but they saw that many were now looking towards the entrance of the gym. Then, the questioning voices of some disbelieving guys told them all they needed to know:
"Holy shit, is that Baum's sister?"
"Christ, that is her! What's her name…Cameron?"
"That can't be fucking her. I know she's pretty but she never looked like that-"
"That's Cameron Baum!"
At that, John stood up and peered through the crowd, trying to see why everyone was so hyped up about his sister's appearance. At school, the near-constant scowl on her face and the narrow, piercing eyes that she wore ruined the natural beauty that she possessed, so that people didn't spend much time thinking about how pretty she was, or could be. At home, her face wasn't much different, but at least he saw her more "relaxed" at times, when she wasn't in protective scanning mode or whatever it was that she entered whenever she ventured outside with John.
But this wasn't any Cameron that he'd ever seen before. This Cameron had her hair curled, and some delicately applied makeup to accentuate the tones of her skin, and wore a lovely, flowing black dress that emphasized the luscious curvature of her body, and held herself high and not stiffly as John had been so accustomed to seeing her. And this Cameron, over all of the other sundry things that enhanced her beauty – this Cameron smiled beautifully. She smiled as she entered through the doors of the gym, smiled at each man who paid his respects and admiration to her in full, and smiled at John and Morris as she made her way to them.
She was positively radiant, glowing, and the most attractive person in the whole room now. Her appearance brought to mind a musing of Rushdie's in Fury, where he described a character patterned after his own wife:
"Extreme physical beauty draws all available light toward itself, becomes a shining beacon in an otherwise darkened world. Why would one peer into the encircling gloom when one could look at this kindly flame? Why talk, eat, sleep, work when such effulgence was on display? Why do anything but look, for the rest of one's paltry life? Lumen de lumine."
She was a burning effigy of transcendental resplendence; if at this very moment, beauty could be quantified, then its value would be one – no one could look at any other woman and see anything of note that had not already been overwhelmed and washed away by the torrential floods of Cameron's body. She was alone in her class, and raised the bar of loveliness to such a height that the closest competitor was comparatively plain.
A curious guy from the back of the room had also come to observe the commotion, and bore witness to the blinding brilliance that illuminated the prom. With no second thoughts, he pulled out his camera phone and, coming in close, took a nice close-up shot of Cameron. Thanking her for letting him do this – and silently thanking the Almighty One that such radiance was allowed to exist – he returned to his seat and uploaded the picture to the Internet; he would later post it under this URL:
There were the requisite questions, "Is she with anyone? Does she have a date? Where is she going?" and these were answered when she made her way through the gym towards the table to which John and Morris had returned.
"Hi," she said, beaming at Morris.
"H-hi," he said in a crisp staccato of a reply.
"I am sorry I'm late. I had something to do first."
"It's…okay, really. Oh!" He stood up and pulled out a chair for her, which she took and for which she thanked him. "I'll go get you guys some drinks, okay? Stay there!" He dashed off for the buffet table.
Cameron turned to John, who was still looking at her. "Is something wrong?" Her smile dropped off for a moment.
"Oh, nothing," John replied. "You look really good."
"I'm guessing that this is the 'mission of unspecified parameters,' then."
She nodded. "I asked mom to help me get ready for prom. She wasn't very happy about it but decided to help me, for your sake. She got me this dress and took me to a stylist."
"Did she teach you how to smile?"
"No, she only told me to do it more often. I know how to smile." She demonstrated this knowledge to John, which made him melt a little.
"Very good," he said, turning away; her face burned his eyes.
"Hey guys," Morris said, panting as he ran back with the drinks in his hands. He placed one of each at Cameron's place, then at John's, and finally at his own. "Wow, Cameron, you look amazing tonight."
"Thank you," she said again.
"No, thank you," Morris replied.
There wasn't much time for idle chat before the music began and the dance floor started filling up. "Hey, do you, uh, wanna go dance?" Morris asked his date.
"Okay." She stood up to go over to him, as he led her by her hand to the floor.
John looked on with no small amount of snickering. This wasn't the partnered slow dance; rave music blasted out the speakers and people were showing off their stuff on the floor like it was a crack party. The source of John's laughter therefore was the fact that Morris definitely couldn't dance, and Cameron seemed to be doing very, very well.
He couldn't help but feel a tinge of green envy among his emotions as he regarded the couple. Indeed, besides saving the world – and even this was starting to be tipped lower in the scale – there was nothing he would have wanted more, than to go into this intimate event hand-in-hand with…oh well, hand-in-hand with his "sister." As Hamlet said, "Ay, there's the rub." She was supposed to be his goddamn sister. Why couldn't she have been a family friend, or a girlfriend who spent time at the house? It wouldn't have made a goddamn difference…
Okay, it probably would have. If something went wrong, who'd be her mother when the school called? Some shit like that made sister a reasonable choice, but still!
In the middle of John's musings, the rave music stopped. Cameron and Morris returned to John during the lull of a few minutes between songs. They were laughing. Cameron about Morris, and Morris about himself.
The DJ's voice rang out like some omnipotent deity's address to the world: "All right, ladies and gentlemen, grab your partner and take it slow on the floor. We're having our slow dance's song choice from the 90's, and this one's a pretty good number for the affair."
A short piano intro set the stage for the voice of Sarah McLachlan, as her serene song Angel filled the perceptions of every prom-goer.
"Spend all your time waiting for that second chance…"
John heard the lyrics, and interpreted them a little differently from the original meaning; right now, he had that fucking second chance, and he was the supreme idiot if he didn't take it.
"Morris, could I have this dance with my sister?"
"Sure, bro." He smiled at Cameron, who walked with John to the dance floor.
John put his right arm around the small of Cameron's back, and took her right hand in his left, as she reciprocated with her free arm. She felt so delicate in his grasp, so strangely fragile, that his touch was soft and light, even though he knew very well what it was that lay beneath her skin.
"All right," John said, and began to move with her to the music. Their steps were in sync and their motions were smooth. John kept his eyes locked to Cameron's as they flowed about the floor as one, and he sometimes drew her closer with his arm as the song progressed.
McLachlan's soothing vocals washed over John's being as her skilled fingers played both a physical piano and a metaphor of that instrument in his heart. Her chorus bled into his soul as he gently led Cameron on a slow dance.
"In the arms of an angel, fly away from here…"
Sarah McLachlan had written Angel based on the death of the Smashing Pumpkins' keyboardist Jonathan Melvoin, but John didn't know that and saw something else, strangely appropriate in the words that came from the speaker's throat. He was in the arms of an angel – a coltan angel, but an angel nonetheless – and in her embrace, he was able to fly away from all terrestrial perils and concerns, and instead find infinite solace in a comparatively infinitesimal period.
"From this dark, cold hotel room and the endlessness that you fear…"
Was it so much of a stretch to conceive verisimilitude between his life and, quote, a "dark cold hotel room?" It was a dark life of running and fear and hatred, and it was cold, devoid of emotion and a warm home, a solid state in life, He also feared the endlessness of war and pain, the way the days always flew by so fast but he never felt any closer to stopping the nuclear rain – or being in the midst of it all, his flesh being seared before vaporization a breath's passing later. And there again, before him, filling his vision, heart and spirit, was the angel who was taking him away from it all.
"You are pulled from the wreckage of your silent reverie…"
And yet, John's dreams were never silent. Never had he been able to coax his brain into a silent reverie, for inevitably some psychological Terminator would bash through the walls of his mind and strangle his form until it was his screams that were silent. And there would be shattering; buildings, hearts, relationships and bodies. The wreckage was everywhere; he saw it everywhere - the debris of human flesh and blood, of lost battles, and crashed friendships and ruined plans and lost loves and everything else that became the detritus of life.
So it was appropriate, then, that Cameron was this angel, because when he was with her, he forgot.
"You're in the arms of the angel. May you find some comfort here."
He danced with her through the rest of the song, drawing closer to her each time they moved. When McLachlan's last word passed, he was fully embracing her, her head rested on his shoulder, the two in such a warm embrace as was reserved for the closest and most passionate of lovers.
The song died down, and for a timeless interval, John and Cameron were immersed in pristine quietude, simply in each other's arms. There was no Skynet. There was no war. There was no mission, and John was not a savior-to-be, and Cameron was not a cybernetic protector; John was just an ordinary boy, Cameron an ordinary girl, and they were holding each other in extraordinary love.
The rave music started pounding, and the timeless interval was out of time. John smiled shyly at Cameron, who smiled with no other characteristic than that of a standard smile. He led her back to Morris, who was quite eager for more time with his date.
"Thanks, Morris," John said.
"No problem. Hey, you guys were good out there."
"Yeah. Weren't we, Cameron?" He laughed, masking all the tension he had built up within him with an overenthusiastic guffaw.
"Yes, we were," Cameron said, nodding. "Thank you, John."
"For dancing with me."
"Oh, sure. Thanks for dancing with me too."
"Let's go!" Morris jumped from his seat, taking Cameron's hand. "We've got a boatload of partying to do. See you later, John."
"Yeah. See you guys later." They left him alone at his table.
So fucking confused.
"Wow," rang a voice from behind Cameron. Immediately, she stood up still, closed the memory, and turned to face the source of the speech. It was O'Reilly. Again.
"Still a ballerina after all those years, huh?"
"Yes. I still practice sometimes." She closed the dancing animations and reverted to inverse kinematics. It was 2:56. Testing on her twitch servos combined with normal movement was finished more than an hour ago. She really just liked dancing.
"You're pretty good."
"Thank you." She began packing her stuff into her bag. "Are you here to exercise?"
"No, I'm here for you. One of the dorm people said that he saw you going to the gym."
"Oh. Okay. Why?"
"We have special guests at the front door. Some of your scientists are here."
Connor went to greet each one of the seven incoming scientists as she gathered them in the main control room. The soldiers who'd escorted them waited at the corridors outside.
"Ladies and gentlemen, I'll be brief. I'm Cameron Connor, and I was head of the research team at DARPA's Cyber Research Systems division in charge of designing and implementing the Skynet AI platform and related weapons. Our purpose here is to research on efficient methods of defeating Skynet, predict its future movements and plans, and commit to new technologies on which DARPA was working prior to Skynet's takeover.
"I'm going to be supervising all R&D at this base, and we'll be coordinating with other teams in the region as soon as we establish a secure and reliable form of communication with them. I am working on that.
"For now, rest. We'll be clearing out some of the buildings in Cheyenne Mountain to serve as our labs and fabrication facilities later on."
She left them quickly, without even having given them a chance to introduce themselves or their fields of expertise. But she did leave an impression of being straight-to-the-point…and she was one of them anyway. That was what mattered. And since Connor was going to be a military leader of the whole deal on top of her science background and supervision in the research, things would actually come into place this time, unlike all the lost hours previously spent rotting in labs while orders and scientific achievements trickled down the monolithic bureaucratic chain of the military.
Now was a time for necessity, though. Maybe, under Connor's direction, mankind would get plasma rifles in the next month.
Someone had cooked fried chicken for lunch. Actually, it was many people simultaneously working at the kitchen. Lots of chicken there; the freezer had been practically raided by the cooks.
So it was that when Connor went to the dining hall, it was possible for her to address almost the entire population of Cheyenne Mountain, eating fried chicken.
"I'm going to be working on some projects for an unspecified amount of time," she announced. "And therefore my presence may not always be possible. In my absence, whenever it occurs, the eleven generals that I've assigned will take over command. Follow their orders as you do mine."
And she added: "Movie night tonight. We're watching Serenity."
The place erupted into applause and whooping.
Cameron traveled the path back to her room very quickly, and she found herself longing to return to "daydreaming." She found that the retrieval of that memory of prom night had unexpectedly caused the synthesis of "happiness," and most profoundly so when she remembered that John wanted to dance with her. Back then, she was mostly cold to the idea, and artificial in her smile, but now that she returned to it, she experienced, for the first time, a happy feeling triggered by a happy thought. The emulation program that she designed was not supposed to do this – could it have been evolving?
Whatever the case, it seemed to have been imperative for her to return quickly to similar thoughts after having been interrupted during her silent reverie by O'Reilly. She wanted to see John's face in her mind again; not quite needed, but desired, in order that her emotions be fulfilled. It was an inexplicable Auxiliary Objective that defined this, and it had come from some mystical recess of her mind that even she was unaware of. Things of the sort had been happening lately, following John's death, and the expansion of her consciousness and being had come geometrically.
Before she dove into another memory long gone, though, she stopped herself, and cleared her thoughts manually, using a main memory dump. There wasn't any time for this right now; right now was the time for action, and not thought. And if there were thoughts to be had, they'd be about creating new technology for the Resistance. The scientists were there as helpers, sure, and in this job they'd do a fair job. But in terms of actual research and development, they were just there for show; she'd be doing all the "research" and "development" in that game. She knew everything about the future, after all. It was in those goddamn limitless memory banks.
So it came to pass that the heart of the savior was today removed from the top of the list of priorities, and replaced with the mind of the savior.
Author: So this chapter is done! Didja like it?
The Heart of the Savior does not actually directly showcase Cameron's compassion and "heart," so to speak, but sets the stage for her possessing this compassion and closeness to her men later on. This is intended to be an irony; Cameron, the machine who struggles to be human, becomes warmer and nicer than the previous savior, the machine-like John Connor.
You'll note that this is among the first few stages of Cameron's personality development. For this I decided to start her off with "artificiality by necessity." She needs to act nice so that people around her will perceive her as nice. They'll grow to like her and become more inclined to stick with her, and understand her when she gives orders. This is how her authority evolves.
The theme of this chapter is, in fact, artificial humanization. The above shows Cameron acting human. She then dances with such perfect human grace, but is simply using an animation engine that she shares with many of today's video games. In the prom flashback scene, Cameron does nothing especially human; she is just prettied up by a stylist, and told to smile more often by Sarah Connor. It's meant to emphasize the artificiality beneath Cameron's outward appeal, so that when she starts acting human by her own accord - as is referenced by the last part, where she starts to long for John - it will be a nicer surprise.
Note how O'Reilly mirrors John/Cameron at times. This is an important bit...
Thanks for reading to this point, and I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did writing it! Please review as you leave the room... :D:D:D