Author: Yet another new storyline by Flatlander...are you getting tired of this? :D HOWEVER, I am putting ALL stories on hold until THIS ONE IS FINISHED. Don't worry, it'll be short. I wrote this chapter in one day! It helps that the first 500 words are almost exactly the same as what was seen in The New Savior.
When John Connor awoke a third time, he knew that it was probably the last time that he would do so. His head was throbbing, he was dizzy and weak, and all he could do, lying on the ground, was move his lips.
Cameron was by his side again, watching him in the final hours of his life. Her hand caressed the back of his head as he lay, slowly weakening and fading away. All that had to be said had gone between them, so he made small talk.
"Ever…watch Firefly, Cameron?"
She looked at him, in a way that he perceived as tender, and said, "Yes. After the release of the movie sequel Serenity, and subsequent rise in DVD sales and syndication buyouts, the series was rediscovered as a potential cash cow and revived for a second season in 2010. I like the second season."
"What do you think of River Tam?" John said, ignoring the additional information.
"The actress who played her structurally matches my outward characteristics to a degree of 98.4 percent. Her voiceprint matches my own to a degree of 96.3 percent."
"Yeah, you two do look and sound alike." He laughed gently, inasmuch as a hoarse wheezing could be a gentle laugh. "Why do you think Cromartie was waiting for us here?"
"Cromartie's orders were not synchronized with the other Terminators in this timeline. His primary goal has always been to kill you. Therefore, he did not go to Crystal Peak, as the other Terminators did, and instead tracked a possible destination of ours to NORAD's Cheyenne Mountain."
Suddenly, there was a deep, booming sound. The whole place rattled for a moment, and the lights flickered out. All power was gone. "I'll be back, John," Cameron said, squeezing his hand and leaving for the emergency backup generator room.
"I'll be right here," John said, not knowing how long he could last.
Cameron engaged the diesel-powered generators and hooked up the power transfer coil to the alternate power socket. Flipping a switch, she restored electricity to the installation, a measure that would last a few days on minimal use and with regular refilling. She returned to John, and found him still alive, fortunately. She sat by him.
"You know, Cameron," he said. "You'd make a better leader than I."
"That may or may not be true," she said emotionlessly, "depending on the sort of leadership needed."
"Yeah, maybe," John said. "Were those the nuclear strikes?"
"Yes. The impacts we heard are consistent with the timeframe for the strike on the state of Colorado."
"Great…hope this mess gets worked out this time around…" John laughed at the irony. "Hey, Cam…how long have you and I been Mitchells?"
"You have been John Mitchell and I have been Cameron Mitchell for two months and thirteen days."
"It's been a while. Do me a favor," he asked quietly.
"What is it?"
"Change your last name to Connor. So it'd be Cameron Connor."
"I am not your mother's daughter," she said.
"No," he replied. His voice was so soft and weak now.
"I understand that in the case of marriage, the wife takes the surname of her husband."
"Yep, you got that right. Think of this as my proposal to you." His breathing was slowing down even as it seemed more stressed with each inhalation.
"Why are you proposing to me?"
"Oh, I don't know…it seems like a good idea right now." John Connor closed his eyes. And then they flicked open again, as though he'd forgotten something.
"What is it?" Cameron asked, her voice tinted with just the slightest hint of human concern.
"I…I-" He coughed violently, and some more blood came to his mouth, but he held back the last throes of the fit in order to say the most necessary words in the world:
"I-I love you, Cameron."
She didn't respond verbally right off the bat. She tilted her head slightly in her common expression of common curiosity, processing John's words. Each possible, fluid response came to her. "Why do you love me?" was one, and it was an honest question since she was a machine, and he was a man who was supposed to love a woman. Was it totally uncharacteristic of her to ask something like that? After all, in response to a very recent bona fide proposal on his part, she'd asked, "Why are you proposing to me?" Nothing human came naturally to her.
However, these new final words of John Connor were ranked "strongly" within her heuristic hierarchy of human phrases, and while she didn't know why, she understood that they were important to these emotional creatures. And therefore, it was to make John feel better even in the last few moments of his existence on Earth, that her infiltration subroutines were brought to consciousness-level priority, and she was moved to say:
"I love you too, J-" But before she could say his name, she stopped herself. Her hand, which cupped the back of his head, registered the cessation of all neural activity in his brain, and therefore there would be no point in continuing her statement. He probably didn't even hear her say the "I love you too" bit.
Cameron slid her hand away from his head and stood up, looking down at John's newly-formed corpse. She recorded the time of death – 0943.54 to be precise – and noted the cause of death for future reference to human physiology. She also set the primary objective of "PROTECT JOHN CONNOR" to "FAILED" and moved it to a registry of past objectives that were never completed, making sure to arrange it in a human-parsable format, so that any benevolent programmers could easily read it off her chip. It was all a very neat and systematic process that left no ends untied.
And then, as soon as all her affairs of technicality concerning John's death were done, she fell to her knees, and wept.
Her weeping was borne of true emotion for the first time, rather than some deceptive synthesis or a diagnostic of some new programming. Cameron was crying her theoretical heart out over the dead body of John Connor, and her glistening tears fell like jeweled fragments of her nonexistent soul upon his clothes. She shed her liquid sorrow over his body for hours; non-physical pain registered across her tactile sensory network, which suggested that she was sustaining damage that didn't exist. Fragmented memories of her with John flooded her mind and cancelled out reason and situational awareness, making her a closed shell of pain and suffering. This was the first emotion she felt, and for now it was the only one she knew.
And then she became aware of another emotion, which filled her senses and overrode her logical processes without prejudice or discernment; every piece of rationality and reason within her was trampled upon and replaced with an unbearable urge to release invisible hate and lust for destruction. Her mind sought output for the whirling alternation of sorrow and this new feeling, and it became known to her as rage – this was the second emotion she felt, and along with her sorrow, would account for the only emotions she would know.
This blind fury moved her to find refuge in destruction, and this caused her to come before the 25-ton blast doors that sealed off Cheyenne Mountain Operations Center from the outside world. She was unable to remember that there was a control mechanism which opened these doors; so clouded was her logic and so brilliantly ablaze her "soul" that instead, her hands gripped the structure of the door, and with force for which her body was unrated, she began to pull the massive thing open. Her power management systems routed a torrent of electric current to her arms, which responded with ever-increasing strength even as their own tolerance limits were broken, and they distorted slightly as they exerted red-zone force on the door. The skin of her arms began to stretch and tear as the endoskeleton on which it was tightly laid changed in form and shape, while superconducting energy dissemination pipelines rippled with energy.
Finally, after a few minutes of exertion of which even a Terminator was normally incapable, Cameron made a gap wide enough through which to exit the doors, and there still dumbly stood Cromartie, the direct cause of John's death and one of a myriad sources of her overall hatred and pain. The machine knew that behind the heavy doors lay the future of the Resistance, and he would destroy all that came to it – until it came out as well.
She wasted no time in threat detection or situ-awareness efficiency, and she launched herself at the cyborg. Both unarmed, they engaged in a duel that comprised cold, unflinching metal, and temperedly hot metal that almost hazed the air with the burning machine passion that, like some almost-newborn, struggled to see the resolving light of day. This heated coltan, this machine woman scorned, would have no rest until either of them was destroyed.
Cameron knew that men released screams as they committed the most emotionally-charged of acts, but she had never implemented this on her person. This is why she would have been surprised to find herself screaming with every strike that she landed on Cromartie's body, had she not been so violently engulfed in a zealous inferno. She was smaller than he, but already his strength buckled with each of her impossibly powerful blows, fueled by the desire to destroy him even as she destroyed herself with her own overpowered strength. As she brought her fist down upon his shoulder, the frantic whirring of an entrapped servo signified his bodily structure collapsing onto the motor, as the lightly creaking metal and motors in her own hand responded with their own cries of mechanical pain. As she planted her elbow into his face, the figure of his skull was crushed and the skin of his nose and cheeks distorted gruesomely with bloodied lines of tearing. When she kicked his knees and legs, her ankles' servos whimpered and her skin tore, while the joints of Cromartie's limbs bent backwards, severing motors and power lines, causing sparks to magnificently fly from them even as he fell to the ground.
He never had a chance to transmit his own blows to her as she fell, and she came down on him and pinned him, punching his face through clenched teeth, and the sounds of her furious voice echoing through the tunnel were accompanied by the almost explosive impacts of her fists on the surface of his skull. She hit him again and again, each punch enough to send any other man flying, and saw the menacing crimson of his optical sensors, into which she also drove her hands until they were crimson no longer. And when her hands could no longer do the job right, she slammed her forehead down against his, again and again, metal on both cyborgs' faces being exposed and the clanging of coltan on coltan resonating through the place, until at last Cromartie moved no more. The mainboard within his skull had been damaged; the shock-damping assembly could not perform a job that entailed being the subject of an enraged Cameron's fury.
Even has his form became motionless, Cameron continued for a while in her assault, but as she came to the realization of his death, her anger slowly faded. Her hands still rose and fall in merciless fists, but the background of her mind shed its fiery temper until at last she was calm again. Not sad, not mad, just serene – but unsatisfied.
She came off Cromartie and examined herself with a clearer mind that gave her distaste. She had damaged much of herself in the attack, and she needed to fix herself, so she hoisted up the motionless endoskeleton beside her and entered the Operations Center again. With electric tools, pliers, and all manner of devices around her, she began to disassemble Cromartie, and removed compatible and functional parts. These she inserted into necessary ports and slots around her body, where she had torn her own skin to allow for reparation of internal damage that bore testimony to her bout of unrestrained anger. She replaced broken servos, repaired damaged fingers, twisted the metal bars of her body where they had been bent, and fixed her ankles that she could walk normally again. All this combat damage was resolved within two hours.
And as this aspect of repair on her body was complete, she suddenly became aware of damage to her mind. This awareness was not brought about by a diagnostic, however; rather, the insanity came to her in a torrential flood of muddled thoughts and stacked memories of John that were now horribly disfigured by her recent emotional outbursts. When she felt extremes for those brief moments, the very structure of her mind, which was starting to resemble a human brain in its construction, was set in pure disarray. The process by which she repaired it was incomplete, and even furthered the damage as she tried to make sense of new things that had surfaced from the raging seas of her new emotions. Now, Cameron's consciousness understood that the very fabric of her thoughts was slowly collapsing, and she knew that there was only one way to resolve her gradually maddening state.
And so she came to Cromartie's body again, but this time, Cameron's focus was not on his simple, mechanical parts – but on the intricacies of his internal sensory and information distribution network. A complex array of nanofibers which could act as nodes or intelligent sensors, and an efficient network of superconducting pipelines, this was truly the artwork of Skynet, and it could rewire itself to fit additional compartments, create wholly new interfaces for legacy or future artifacts, or reroute extremely high-powered electric currents in special ways to produce many different sorts of radiation and subatomic particles; it could do anything. For what Cameron now needed, it had to be able to do anything.
First, Cameron stripped herself of clothing, and opened the power cell compartment within her abdomen. There she began the process of rewiring her own network to adjust to the changes she wanted to make. She then pulled out Cromartie's chip and accessed his wire networks through a newly-created interface on her fingers. Like a seamstress of old, she weaved an intricate pattern of nanofibers on the loom of his body, and these fibers once created, she directed them to flow into her own body, so that her network would be enhanced and enriched by the introduction of more capacity for detection and control. This would be necessary for what she was going to make within her very body. The modifications took many hours.
With a large cutter, she then peeled away the skin of Cromartie's stomach and pried open his own abdominal compartment. His two power cells glowed brightly within, and she gathered these into her body. The first one she inserted into her auxiliary power cell port, which significantly boosted the amount of energy that she could produce, as well as slightly lengthening her lifespan. The other one she deactivated with its reaction "kill" mechanism, and she took this little assembly apart. First she placed the reaction mass directly on top of a hub where many of her power pipelines were linked. Then, she covered it with some of the original protective material in the cell's assembly. She rerouted power to these pipelines, so that they transmitted energy to the reaction mass, and it flared to life, an energetic glow spawned by an electric catalyst. But this was not the orange glow of a standard power cell; no, with the modifications she made to her body, and the way she was sending power to the mass, it glowed an electric blue, and sparked with sharp lightning. Adaptation of these items took many hours as well.
Finally, she created a new program within her, one that gave her direct control over the way her bodily sensor/control network routed energy and data, and also over the workings of her power distribution pipelines. This was the final step in the creation of Cameron's final solution to her problems. Everything would go away. Everything would be returned to the way it was supposed to be.
And Cameron sewed and closed herself up, and walked to an open space in the room, clear of any objects that would cause issue in the new construction within her. She crouched, held herself low to the ground as though paying tribute to some unknown deity, and held out her arms in a horizontal bar. At the ends of her hands, concentrations of fibers blossomed invisibly like tiny vines, and a set of newly-created power pipelines supplied intense current in a loop that ran through her arms.
She summoned raw energy from her trio of power cells, and routed them through the loop, causing the thousands of fibers surrounding it to flare up with the release of so many new heretofore unseen particles. Orange light bled from her fingertips until her hands shone with it gloriously, and suddenly the light became a stunning blue-white that made even the bright sodium lamps of Cheyenne seem like weak pricks of fireflies. The light flashed in erratic intervals for a few moments, flickering like an igniting fluorescent tube, before it became constant and brilliant in the room.
Lightning arced all over her body, in charged loops jumping about her skin or in strong bolts that radiated from her form, striking the ground around her. The sound of overwhelming energetic release filled the room even as the sharp sparks danced and played a dense staccato of crackles.
Suddenly she was enveloped in a glowing, translucent blue sphere tangent to her hands and head, basically enclosing her from the rest of the world, and the weakening lights of Cheyenne flickered out to nothingness even as the sphere grew more magnificent in its glow.
Cameron ignored the glory of all that she had created, for she found another task possible through this thing that she had created within her, borne of necessity and a desire to undo.
And in the midst of all this blinding light and spectacle, something recently discarded surfaced in Cameron's mind. In a debug console output, it would be read as: "REINSTATING OBJECTIVE: PROTECT JOHN CONNOR."
These words flowed through Cameron's mind as the sphere reached the zenith of its magnitude, and in a flash of light and a sonorous bang of expanding air, she was gone.