It was June 25, 1999, 73 days before "Cameron Phillips" first met John Reese, and the day that this cybernetic organism arrived from the year 2027. As always, the sphere of energy and lightning that comprised the corollaries of time travel was forming over a secluded patch of sand, in the dead of night. This was the moment, a few seconds before hope from the future would again arrive in the past, and an event would again take place which had already taken place, under exactly the same circumstances.
But why was the flow of time constricted so? It was like a painting of some supernatural happening. There were bolts of lightning, arcing but fully in place; kicked-up, suspended clouds of dust that had begun their ascent to heaven, only to be stopped in midair; and in the midst of it all, that very same sphere of azure, a girl emerging from the glowing aura within. All frozen in time.
And there, just standing a few meters away from this static scene, was another girl, encapsulated in her own blue sphere – but this one moved and flickered brilliantly as she walked and gazed at the lifeless interplay of energy before her. Cameron Connor, within the confines of her cerulean bubble, took a few more steps closer and watched her past form crouching low to the ground. She remembered this scene, four years ago in her frame of time reference, when she left a John she knew to save a John she didn't.
She observed her past self's looks; she had barely changed over the years, save for some biological anomalies in her organic sheath – a single mole here, an errant zit there, nothing substantial. It would have been surreal for anyone to bear witness to this silent, motionless event, with oneself almost identically present in the center. But to Cameron, this was a wholly expected encounter that saw no surprise form on her face or even in her machine consciousness, an encounter that only saw necessity and an objective embedded in her doppelganger.
But this wasn't her first choice of temporal destination.
From the body of Cromartie, Cameron had derived materials through which she would repair not only herself, but the deterministic continuum of events that was so wrongly put into motion. Within her coltan womb she had conceived a personal temporal displacement engine, the supreme instrument of reparation. The TDE was already the pinnacle of Skynet technology, but this pTDE was the incarnation of Cameron's knowledge and passion; spawned of her intelligence in the field of temporal mechanics and a self-sacrificial desire to return to John Connor, it was her refinement of the bulky, restrictive, hit-or-miss system of Skynet time displacement, making it an elegant work of technological art.
Rather than through the brute-force release of tachyons and chronometric particles in order to force a subject traveler out of the space-time continuum and into a previous or future time period, the pTDE enclosed its user in a blue displacement bubble, protecting her from changers to the timeline. It then slipped her forwards or backwards through time in linear, observable patterns, such that from within the bubble she could see the world moving in reverse, or in rapid motion. The latter is what Cameron saw as she engaged the pTDE for the first time, as she endeavored to return to a few hours prior, just before John was shot by the robot that she had torn to pieces and cannibalized.
As soon as she found herself seeing a living John again, as her past self walked with him within the tunnel that ran through the mountain, she disengaged the pTDE and tried to re-enter history. However, once her displacement bubble began to fade, everything went horribly wrong. Her mind was filled with duplicate memories, and her eyes flickered in and out of transparency. Everything about her programming was thrown into disparate states; her personality seemed to merge with some external consciousness that mirrored it, and even the physical arrangement of her neural network nodes was changing rapidly.
Strangely enough, the past-Cameron which she saw with John was shuddering violently just as she was now. Both of them were experiencing the same flickering, and Cameron knew why.
The words of the warrior-scientist Sofia Dyushkov were the doctrine of Resistance temporal mechanics engineers all throughout the future. She explained every conceivable paradox and principle in detail, and even created new ones based on (mostly horrifying) observations of experiments with animals. One of the most important of her original concepts received her name, and this became the primary source of contention for all historical operations that involved destroying Skynet or protecting John Connor.
"Dyushkov Material Simultaneity Principle." No one, not even she knew why, but if ever two extremely similar arrangements of the exact same matter co-existed in the same timeline, by some strange act of natural homeostasis, the two objects would begin "bleeding" into each other and exhibiting each other's characteristics, until they merged into a single entity, both originals being destroyed in the process. This meant that if someone went back in time and his past self was already alive, the two of them would In general the effects were weak at best when it came to such things as guns and heavy equipment. In humans and Terminators, however, it was a different story.
The human body mostly replaces itself over time with the atoms it consumes, so given Dyushkov's Principle, nothing should happen to a time traveler who goes back to a time when he was already alive. The same holds true for the organic covering of infiltration Terminators. The brain, however, does not change its neurons much, and Terminator CPUs do not change at all. Being extremely complex systems, the slightest change would cause total hell for either, and soon they'd merge with their past selves, eventually resulting in their death.
Kyle Reese was able to travel to a time when he had not existed yet, at least in his current state of matter. The T-800 sent to protect John Connor did not exist either when it arrived in the past. Sarah Connor. John, and Cameron, when they arrived in 2007, had been gone eight years. But Cameron, who went back in time only a short distance, collided with Cameron.
So, she having traveled to a few minutes before John's death, when "she" was still walking by his side, Cameron was now experiencing the full force of Dyushkov's Principle effected on her, and it slowly ate away at her mental state as she saw John in so many memories flooding into her involuntarily, duplicating all over her chip in solid-state storage blocks; as logical processes overlapping with one another, and as thoughts surfaced that were of her mind, but not of her time.
It was all well then that Cameron was able to clear main memory with a quick dump, and she immediately reactivated the pTDE within her, separating her from the continuum yet again. Her mind in horrible disarray after the episode of mental bleeding, she began crying as temporal "shadows" of Cromartie shooting John came to her vision, as past-Cameron's own frayed nerves resulted in a timeline change from which she was protected. She had created a new timeline where she was unable to protect John even for a few seconds because of the Dyushkov bleeding, and John died immediately while she was destroyed. Now, this travelling Cameron was discrete from the timeline, as she could no longer exist. Not in 2011, where she'd just watched herself die, and not 2007, where she was still around.
But what if she went back to when it all began?
1999 was not Cameron's first choice of temporal destination, but it was the only one left to her, for in 1999 was an objective that had to be completed before she could do anything else. It was a sacrifice that had to be made to save John's life, to save the world – and to save her.
Now, Cameron stood before Cameron, and she regarded herself with an air of melancholy again. This sadness, with anger, was the only emotion of which she was capable, and so Cameron traveled through time constantly suffering pain and regret and hatred within. It was now time to complete the circle and let her fix everything.
The pTDE was active, but it wasn't going anywhere. It had stopped time for its user, locking her to a single point in time and protecting her from the flow of the universe. The latter was the most important thing in the world, now, because when Cameron walked over to Cameron, she extended her hand, thus extending her displacement bubble, and intersected it with her past form's ball of energy. The bubble's interruption caused her past form's blue sphere to ripple with light and shudder violently, turning green, yellow, then red as it destabilized. Finally, as time mystically resumed all around the two identical cyborgs, the doppelganger looked around curiously at the now-burning sphere, as it collapsed onto her and vaporized her.
Cameron's displacement bubble faded as she emerged naked in the blackness of June 25, 1999, and overwhelmed by what she'd done and seen, she fell to her knees, raised her fists as though cursing the heavens, and screamed.
September 7, 1999, and she'd skipped meeting John Reese yesterday. Instead, she'd gone straight to the source of danger, and after searching for hours, she found him. Cromartie again. It was his old organic covering, but that endoskeletal structure would remain embedded within her for the rest of her life. She had wasted no time but certainly wasted a lot of effort, and akin to how she'd dealt with the Kester persona in 2011, she had destroyed Cromartie with so much rage built within her that she damaged her fists again. Although summary repairs took hours, she was ready to repeat her performance with John Reese today.
At 6 am, she camped out in an old, empty building overlooking the school's façade, and watched for hours every student and every teacher who came in and out. Skynet could not know of her dealings with history, and Cromartie would be the only Terminator who'd be sent for the next two years or so, if she thought correctly, but she needed to make sure that all went according to plan.
At 7:30, she saw John walking up the steps of the entrance, and she marveled at how unchanged he looked even considering he was four years you-
At 7:32, Cameron woke up lying on the floor. She had just experienced a standard 120-second system reboot, and looking at her crash logs, she realized why.
Summoning memories of John, comparing his appearance in 1999 and 2007 to his appearance in 2011, resulted in her fragmented mind loading every single memory of John to main memory. It caused so much hell for her that she experienced a stack overflow, and this error involved a system process that was integral to her functionality.
Cameron's mouth fell agape as she realized the implications: The damage to her mind meant that she could never think of John again. Here she was, undertaking the ultimate journey to save him from oblivion, and she could never even recall how much she loved him. And now, she could not accompany him again through 1999, and send him and his mother off to 2007 in order to stop Skynet; her consciousness would collapse onto itself if she thought about him again.
Tears streamed down her cheeks as her emotional state brought discord to the rest of her mind, and she summarized the events of her first period of time travel: She'd divorced herself from history by destroying her old self. She was alien to the timeline; she'd never properly exist at any point in time, for she was now separate from the flow of time through the universe. Cameron would never be created, and yet here she was. This for the man whom she loved, and the man whom she loved was the man about whom she could never think, never recall, never ponder.
The sacrifice of Cameron Connor, who was now a nomad in time and in love.