May 10, 2009

1963 – Timeline 90210

Chapter 5

Part 1

'Damn, David Silver could be Derek Reese's twin brother, his identical twin,' was the first thought that ran through my neural network on meeting the man.

It was the opening night performance of the play, 'Spring Awakening', and as seating was 'first come, first served', we had all arrived a good forty-five minutes early and were now milling about outside the front entrance of West Beverly's Performance Arts building, waiting for the doors to open. I was there with Lisa and her husband, Paul, who had just returned from a business trip to Paris. Ty, who was the male lead in the play, had left the house an hour earlier. Fortunately, his recovery from the gunshot wound two evenings earlier was almost as impressive as my own healing abilities. Oh, he had been moving pretty gingerly at the previous evening's final rehearsal, but by today he was almost his old self.

David Silver had arrived with Sarah, John and Naomi. When Naomi had told me earlier that John's parents had insisted on making this a 'family' night, she had been fuming. But at least for the moment she had managed to plaster a smile on her face.

As soon as Lisa had spotted Sarah, she had led us over. Approaching them had been an eerie experience as this was the first time I had seen the John and Sarah of this timeline together and it brought forth strong memories of the John and Sarah of my previous timeline, who I still thought of as 'my' John and Sarah.

And those memories were more confused then ever with the hallucinatory vision I had suffered about 'my' John the previous day. I still didn't know what exactly had happened, but ever since then I had cranked up my visual recognition program so that it was now consuming eight percent of my processing power rather than the normal one-tenth of a percent. I had had one more sighting this morning that might have been 'my' John, but in truth it only rated a nineteen percent probability and he had been so far away he had disappeared before I could get close enough for a conclusive observation.

The whole situation was insanely frustrating, but for the moment there was nothing I could think to do except continuing to watch for him and hope to make contact. And since that moment might not happen for hours or days or weeks, I needed to keep most of my attention focused on this reality. Therefore as we reached the Silvers, I scrolled through my old list of stock expressions and selected 'happy smile number 4' to paste on my face, as my natural expression at that moment would have raised all the wrong kinds of questions.

"Paul, it is good to see you again," said David, as he shook Paul's hand. "It has been too long. We really need to get together for some tennis."

"Dad," interjected John, "Cameron is coming over in the morning to play with Mom, Naomi, and me. Perhaps if you and Mr. and Mrs. Collins are free, you could join us."

David had seen John's nod in my direction at the mention of my name and now quirked an eyebrow. Sarah, who was standing on David's other side with an arm wrapped casually around his waist, made the introductions.

"David, this is Paul and Lisa's niece, Cameron Miller. She is staying with them for awhile. I played a set with her at the club on Tuesday. She's very good. Rudy was able to watch for one of the games and by his estimate she's a 5.5 or maybe a little better."

David gave me an appraising glance. "Cool. I have an eleven o'clock appointment at the office with the agents for a new band from Portland we are trying to sign, but if we start early I would be up for a couple of sets." Then turning his attention back towards Paul, he add, "How about you, Paul?"

All the eyes in our little group swiveled in his direction and found him trying to smother a big yawn.

"Sorry," Paul began, as he pulled his hand away from his mouth. "I just got back from Paris about three hours ago. I came back a day early especially to see Ty in tonight's play, assuming I can stay awake. You better put me down as just a 'maybe' for tomorrow. At least it sounds like you have plenty of players, if I don't make it."

David nodded.

The longer I was in his presence, the more my curiosity was getting the better of me. Deciding it was best to just get it out of the way, I jumped into the conversation.

"Mr. Silver," I began and then continued when he turned in my direction. "Do you know a Kyle and Derek Reese? Derek is a spitting image of you, well," I paused fourteen milliseconds to calculate how old Derek probably would be at present based on what I had known about him in previous timelines, "As I imagine you would have looked at fifteen."

David smiled. "Yeah, they're my cousins. Their Father, Danny, is my Mother's younger brother. They live in the foothills northwest of Pasadena. How do you know them?"

As soon as I had a name, I googled 'Daniel Reese, Pasadena'. In just over one second I had a dozen hits related to a Daniel Reese who was a Senior Research Scientist at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory specializing in cyber-systems. For a moment I boggled at the potential irony, if, in this timeline, the Reese family might ultimately be involved in the development of Skynet. However at least learning David Silver and Kyle Reese were cousins helped explain how the John of this timeline could have a different father than the John of my original timeline, but still look remarkably similar in appearance.

"A couple of months ago there was a big robotics conference at JPL. I and several of my fellow students back home in San Antonio built a robot for the ICRA robot challenge. We made it through the regional competition in Austin and then competed in Pasadena. I met Derek and Kyle at one of the lectures."

David laughed. "That sounds like the Reese's. I still remember giving Derek one of those Lego Mindstorm robotic kits for Christmas a couple of years ago. He and John disappeared into John's bedroom for several hours and when they reappeared, Derek had completely mastered it and had it programmed to do things I wouldn't have thought possible with a two hundred dollar toy."

"So, Cameron, you're into robots, too?" asked Paul.

Out of the corner of my eye I saw Lisa grin. In the three hours Paul had been back, we hadn't discussed my true relationship relative to Lisa and Ty. And since Ty had made a complete recovery from his gunshot wound, I wasn't sure when or even if I was going to bring Paul in on my secret. Of course, the decision might ultimately be Lisa's not mine.

"Oh, more than you can probably imagine. I am such a geek; sometimes I think I should just go back to wearing my horn-rimmed glasses instead of these contacts."

Paul laughed and then pointedly glanced down at the Veronique Branquinho designer black silk pants, matching black silk jacket, and white silk blouse I was wearing. "I think a few more sessions of shopping with Lisa will be all it takes to bury the geek under a permanent layer of chic."

As the other adults laughed and nodded knowingly, we all heard the building's entrance doors being unlocked and opened. We had just joined the rest of the waiting crowd in heading inside when Naomi spoke up for the first time.

"Cameron, let's run backstage and see how Addy is doing. I haven't talked to her since just after lunch."

I could read in her face that she was looking for an excuse to get away from John's parents for a few minutes before being trapped in a seat next to them for two hours as much has she really wanted to see Adrianna.

"Sure, I wouldn't mind a quick peek into the backstage activities. Who knows, perhaps I will be a participant in the next production," I answered before turning towards Lisa. "Save us a couple of seats, okay? We'll be back before they raise the curtain."

Lisa nodded and lightly touched my arm. "You girls go have fun. The seats will be waiting for you when you get back."

I nodded my thanks and then as soon as we were through the front door, Naomi and I turned right and headed down the corridor that would loop around a few classrooms before leading us to the dressing rooms and other backstage areas.

As soon as we reached the relative quiet of the corridor, Naomi glanced over. "Thanks, I needed to get out of there for a few minutes."

I looked over at her and took in her tense posture. Spending a few minutes with John's and Ty's parents shouldn't cause this reaction. I ground to a halt and then reached out my right hand to lightly touch hers to force her to pause and look at me. I also used the contact to run a quick biometric scan of her body.

"What's wrong?" I asked her.

For a moment she just stood there. Then I saw her eyes begin to tear up.

"Sometimes it is just so hard to be around them - and particularly tonight."

"Around who?" I asked, at a loss as to what was suddenly bothering Naomi so much.

"John's parents. And Ty's too, I guess."

Naomi was blinking hard now, but the tears still got away from her and began rolling down her cheeks.

All I could think to do was to repeat my original question, "What's wrong?"

Naomi reached up and wiped at her tears and mainly just smeared her makeup. "My parents have been having problems for a long time. When I got home from school today I discovered my Dad had moved out to the beach house with his girlfriend and my Mom had spent the whole day in bed crying. I think my parents are about to get a divorce. Then tonight I see John's parents and they seem so happy and I have never heard them argue or fight. Why can't my parents be like that? Suddenly I needed to get away from them for a few minutes. Sorry I dragged you into this."

I took her arm, turned us, and started moving down the corridor again. "That's what friends are for – even robot friends."

This last comment got at least a small smile from her.

"Come on, let's find a bathroom and get your face cleaned up. Then we can talk."

While Naomi nodded and rubbed at her eyes again, I tried to figure out what to say. Teen counseling was never a part of my programming.

We reached the bathroom and after Naomi got her makeup taken care of, we spent several minutes just quietly talking. I didn't come up with anything profound or particularly inspirationally, but just talking about inconsequential things seemed to help.

"Come on," I said briefly clasping her fingers with mine. "If we are going to have a minute to talk to Adrianna before the play starts, we better get a move on."

Naomi clenched my fingers tight for a moment and then released my hand as she nodded. Straightening her shoulders, she quickly pulled open the door and stepped back into the corridor.

We walked down the silent hallway for seventy-eight feet until we reached the next left hand turn. Abruptly we found ourselves in the midst of all the last minute hubbub of the backstage activity. Being an official member of the drama club, even if I wasn't involved with this production, and having been at play practice the previous three evenings, I knew my way around the backstage area. The girls' dressing room was straight down the corridor and the third door on the left.

The room was relatively large at twenty by thirty and broken into two areas. The front area just beyond the propped open door had an array of makeup tables and chairs. The back area behind a thick heavy curtain provided the necessary privacy for costume changes.

As Naomi and I entered the front area, three girls sat at the mirrors working on their makeup, but the majority of the occupants were in the left back corner crowded around the opening in the curtain leading into the back area. They all were staring in silence at whatever was going on back there. I could hear raised voices from the back, but with the muffling effect of the curtain, I couldn't make out what was being said even with my enhanced hearing. I spotted Annie in the front row of onlookers and she seemed to have a shocked expression on her face. However I didn't see Adrianna anywhere and couldn't help but wonder if she was in the back room.

Naomi must have had the same question in her mind or perhaps based on long experience she recognized something in the situation that I didn't. Anyway she quickly moved over to the opening in the curtain and forced her way through the other girls. Curious about what was going on, I followed in her wake.

As we reached the front row of the tightly packed girls, I saw the back room only had three occupants – Adrianna, Brenda Walsh, the woman who ran the drama club, and Kelly Taylor, the guidance counselor. Adrianna was sitting on an old battered couch and she looked terrible. Her eyes were dull with heavy, dark circles under them. Her posture was listless and the first words out of her mouth that I heard were completely devoid of energy or enthusiasm. I didn't need to run a chemical analysis on her to know she was strung out on something. And apparently the two older women didn't either.

"Adrianna," said Brenda with a tough, no nonsense tone of voice. "You are not going on stage in your condition."

"Yes," concurred Kelly, "We need to see about getting you some help."

Adrianna shook her head. "You can't do that, not with Rebecca Baker home with the flu."

Rebecca Baker was Adrianna's understudy. I wondered how Brenda was going to respond to Adrianna's statement and I didn't have long to wait.

"Adrianna, you are not going out there. If we have to cancel tonight's performance, then we will."

I heard a sharp gasp from Annie, who was standing next to me. And I was suddenly reminded of a conversation I had had earlier with Ty. He had told me that Annie had been helping him run his lines and practice his songs and that she knew all of Adrianna's lines. In fact, he had commented with a hint of pride that Annie was a natural as she seemed to know the lines for every character in the play. And I had heard her sing as part of the chorus during the previous evening's rehearsal and knew she had a voice.

"Ah, Ms. Walsh," I said stepping slightly into the back room. "Annie could substitute for Adrianna. She knows all the lines and all the songs."

Brenda looked at me. At first there was more than a hint of annoyance in her expression at a student interrupting the situation. But then my words must have sunk in and she looked to my left at Annie. I followed her glance and saw the shocked expression on Annie's face which was followed in quick succession by nervousness, excitement, and then a pleading expression that said she wanted this more than anything.

At the same time out of the corner of my eye I saw a belligerent expression on Adrianna's face I had never seen before, as though I had betrayed her. And maybe from her perspective I had. Suddenly, I realized I had acted without fully evaluating the potential consequences to myself. If Adrianna thought I had betrayed her, would she retaliate by betraying my secret?

I watched as Adrianna grabbed her large bag from where it had been laying by her feet and then slowly pushed herself erect.

She stood swaying for 5.6 seconds, as though it took her that long to find her balance, before she said with a sneer. "Fine. Let Annie star in the play. See if I care."

Then she strode briskly over to the entrance and started to force her way through the crowd of girls. Naomi tried to put a restraining hand on her shoulder, but Adrianna shook it off.

"Naomi, leave me the fuck alone," Adrianna snarled. "You have all your new friends. Hang with them."

Then Adrianna turned and in a moment she was gone.

Naomi looked helplessly at me and I could see her eyes tearing up again. Her home life was a mess and now her best friend had just walked away.

"Naomi, just let her go. I think if you try to talk to her now, it will only make things worse," I said.

Naomi slowly nodded. I turned my attention back to the current situation, although if I had known what was going to happen in a few hours as a result of my statement, I not only would have let Naomi go after Adrianna, I would have gone with her. Unfortunately the ability to see into the future isn't one of my gifts. Well, since I am technically from the future, I do know some things, but as circumstances took me further and further from my original timeline, that knowledge had become more and more useless.

"Annie, can you really do this?" asked Brenda.

Annie tried to answer, but all that came out was a high pitched squeak. She paused, gathered herself, took a big breath, and said, "Yes, Ms. Walsh. I can do it."

Brenda stared at her for eighteen seconds before nodding and then looking into the crowd of girls. "Okay. Ah, Mary help Annie get into her first costume."

Then Brenda paused for a just a moment. "Hmm, that leaves us one dancer short for the chorus line."

I glanced around. "Ah, Ms. Walsh, I watched last night's rehearsal. I'm sure I can fill in for the three dance numbers."

Brenda shook her head. "You can't possibly have mastered it and be able to stay in step with the others after just watching it and without any rehearsal. We will just have to do the numbers with one less dance couple."

I moved two steps further into the room and kicked off my high heels. "I am a master at martial arts." I executed a quick series of kicks smoothly transitioning from front to side to back kicks. "And many of the training kata aren't that different from dance moves."

Then with barely a pause I segued into the first dance number. Fortunately, what I said was true. I had been designed as the ultimate mimic and my years of martial arts training had only improved my fine movement control.

I performed the first thirty seconds of the first number before stopping. I looked at Brenda and raised an eyebrow.

Brenda looked at me for only eight seconds before she nodded with a rueful expression. "Why does it suddenly feel like I am in an old Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland musical from the 1940's where the kids all just improvise the show at the last minute?"

"Brenda, I'm sure you will get through this," said Kelly as she put a companionable arm around her old friend.

Just then we were interrupted by a loud girl's voice, which I recognized as belonging to Erin Silver, the production's stage manager, calling from the other room. "Ten minutes, everybody. Ten minutes to curtain."

Brenda looked at the gaggle of girls still standing by the curtain separating the two halves of the dressing area. Fluttering her hands in their direction, she said. "Well, what are you all waiting for? We have a show to put on."

Suddenly, the room was a flurry of motion. I quickly strode over to Naomi and pulled off my heavy shoulder bag with its Glock, lightsaber, ammo, and assorted other things a girl might need at a moment's notice if she should happen to run into a terminator or two.

"Naomi, can you hang onto my bag until after the play? I hate to just leave it lying around where anyone could peek inside, if you get my meaning."

Naomi stared at me for a moment without responding. Apparently, her thoughts were still focused on Adrianna or the situation with her parents. Then her eyes widened as though a light bulb had gone off as she glanced down at the large brown leather Gucci bag I was holding out. With a nod, she reached out for it and then almost dropped it at its unexpected twenty-three pound weight.

"I'll take good care of it, Cam," she answered, as she tried to shift it up onto her right shoulder to join her own bag. However that much weight on her shoulder forced her other shoulder up to the point where her left breast popped almost completely out of the strapless gold metallic dress she was barely wearing.

"Oops," I said with a pointed glance at the now visible pink nipple.

Quickly she lowered the bag back to the floor and spent a moment rearranging her dress. After a final adjustment involving cupping her breasts with both hands, she reached down and picked up my bag again. Holding it in front of her with a two-handed grip, she glanced down to do one more check of the bodice of her dress. Satisfied, she looked back at me with barely a hint of embarrassment, as though having a 'dress malfunction' was as normal for her as it was for Janet Jackson.

"Well, I better go, so you can get into costume," Naomi said, as she started to turn towards the door.

"Naomi thanks. And try to enjoy the play. I am sure everything will work out eventually with Adrianna and your parents. Oh, and can you tell Lisa and Paul that I will meet them out by the car after the performance?"

She nodded once without looking at me and then headed out the door.

Turning my attention back to the room, I realized one of the students, who was acting as a costumer, was standing next to me holding up the black and white outfit I needed for my first scene. Scrolling through the school's student database, I quickly matched her face with her photo.

"Thanks, Allison," I said while projecting a warm smile.

She responded with a smile looking pleasantly surprised that I knew her name since we had never talked before.

"You can hang your clothes over there, ah, Cameron," she said while gesturing towards a clothing rack in the corner.

I was already removing my jacket while moving towards the indicated rack. As I did, I thought about the play and my first scene. The play was set in late 1890's New York. My first scene was part of a dream sequence belonging to Annie's character. All of us would be dressed in sleepwear appropriate to the time period. While they were only slightly more risqué than an old granny nightgown and nowhere near what you might find in a Victoria's Secret store, I still had seen the effect these costumes had on the guys who had been present during the dress rehearsal.

My understanding of what the human male finds erotic is still a lot less than perfect. Oh, I have done enough research and been around humans long enough to understand about things like nudity, swimwear, and exotic sleepwear. However there is no logical reason these costumes, which extend from neck to wrist to ankle, should have anymore effect on men than any other article of clothing that covers the same amount of skin. Yet when I performed a quick thermal imaging of the men present during the dress rehearsal, I had found the average body temperature elevated by 0.35 degrees compared to normal, even when 'normal' was the miniskirt-filled hallways of West Beverly.

As I stripped down to my underwear, I began a low priority search of the internet for more insight into the connections between sleepwear and the male psyche.

Part 2

The play was a rousing success. Annie pulled off her part to perfection and I managed to avoid accidentally crushing my dance partner – although it had been a near thing at the spot where he was supposed to swing me up into the air. Fortunately, by putting a little extra spring in my step and by using a modified ushiro geri back kick, I managed to approximate the required maneuver without subjecting him to my full four hundred pound weight.

After two curtain calls and a presentation of a bouquet of roses to Ms. Walsh, the play was officially over for the evening. Immediately, a mad dash ensued where everyone bolted for the dressing rooms to scramble into their eveningwear for the big post-performance party. Since I didn't have a hot date for the party, I dawdled around and let most of the other girls change first.

So I happened to be one of the last people to leave the backstage area, which already had many of the lights turned down or out. I was just about to step into the corridor that led to the front entrance when I heard voices around the corner. Pausing for a moment, I realized it was Annie and her adoptive brother, Dixon.

"Dix, are you still carrying that condom in your billfold?" Annie asked with just the slightest hesitation in her voice.

There was a long pause and I spent most of it wondering about what I had almost stepped into.

Finally, after seventeen seconds Dixon replied and I could almost hear the furious blushing in his voice. "Ah, yeah. Why?"

"Because I want to borrow it," Annie responded. Then with hardly a pause she continued in a rush. "Well, not exactly borrow it in the traditional sense since, eww, you are definitely not going to want it back. Okay, let's so not go there. Anyway, can I have it?"

She finally must have had to pause for breath for there was a moment of silence only broken by a rustling sound.

"Man," exclaimed Dixon, "I can't believe it. I have been carrying this around with me for almost three years and then the one who ends up using it is you, not me. You are going to owe me big time for this, sis."

"Thanks, Dix," Annie said and the relief of getting through the moment was palpable in her voice. "How about I take out the garbage for the next month?"

By the end of her comment her words were already getting fainter as she moved off down the corridor. I doubt she heard Dixon's final muttered, "Yeah, like that is ever going to happen."

Making a little more noise than was absolutely necessary, I stepped around the corner and found Dixon staring at the spot where Annie was just disappearing at the corridor's next corner. Abruptly, he swung around and faced me, a deep blush visibly blooming through his dark brown skin.

"Ahh, hi, Cameron," he stammered out, as he jerkily stuffed his wallet back into his back pant's pocket.

From everything I had learned about my grandson, Ty, I knew he was a 'player'. And at some level I didn't truly fathom, this bothered me. I had never been programmed with any particular set of morals regarding human relationships, so why exactly had I developed an almost Victorian sense of propriety? Perhaps it comes down to the fact that the last time I came 'awake', it had been in the 1960's – the wholesome 1960's of Andy Griffith, Lassie, and Donna Reed, not the later 1960's of free love and the sexual revolution. So in my mind there should always be in single pairing like me and my John, or Lisa and Paul, or, at least in this timeline, Sarah and David. But Ty appeared to like to play the field and that seemed to rub me the wrong way.

While expressing my concerns to Dixon didn't seem to add any value to the situation, I suddenly felt the need to talk with Annie before she did anything irreversible. Without drawing unnecessary attention to myself, I was afraid I couldn't catch her before she left for the post-play party. I hadn't been planning to go, but having been an actual participant in the play gave me the convenient excuse.

"Are you going to the party, Dixon?" I asked without making any mention of overhearing his conversation with his step-sister.

I saw a little of the tension go out of his shoulders as he nodded.

"Yeah, I'm meeting Silver there," he answered with a more relaxed smile.

I made a small motion with my head towards the far end of the corridor. When I started walking in that direction, Dixon stepped up beside me.

"I've only been here a few days and only talked to her a couple of times, but Silver strikes me as a good person. From what she has told me, she has never been much into sports, but she might appreciate it if you took some time an explained Lacrosse to her. Oh, not just the rules, but why you in particular like it."

Dixon shot me an appraising glance and then gave a small nod. "Thanks for the advice. Sometimes I am not certain what to talk about with her."

I shrugged. "Just be yourself. Talk about the things you like. I'm sure you will find things of common interest. Or you will both figure out how to stretch a little into the areas of interest of the other person."

Dixon nodded again and then looked at me with a more serious expression. "Why is it you sometimes feel a lot older and more experienced than sixteen?"

I broke eye contact for a moment and looked straight ahead as I thought about his question and how to best respond. On the one hand it had only been a little over five years from my perspective since the last time I had 'awoke', but I had spent most that time raising a daughter, who suddenly was in her mid-forties. On the other hand since I didn't sleep I had spent more of those five years reading and studying philosophy than any sixteen year old would have. And on the third hand, not that I have a third hand like those truly bizarre T-1000s, I did have the unique outsider perspective of a neural network in place of a human brain.

But I could hardly explain any of that to Dixon, so I simply shrugged. "I don't know, but I think I will take that as a compliment."

Dixon grinned. "You know, I think it was a compliment." Then he changed the subject. "So are you going to the party?"

"I wasn't planning on it. But now that I actually participated in the performance, I think I just might."

"Great. If you need a ride, you can go with me."

I looked at him and then shook my head. "Thanks for the offer, but I don't think Silver would really appreciate it if you showed up with me in tow."

"Ah, right," Dixon answered with a sudden look of understanding in his eyes. "I guess some things have to change when you are trying to make the right impression on someone."

I smiled. "I'm sure you will get the hang of it."

Part 3

Can a machine-based mind experience a feeling of déjà vu? I think I can, or at least something equivalent.

The big post-performance party was being held in the ballroom and adjacent pool area of the Beverly Wilshire Hotel. From my perspective, it had been one hundred twenty three hours and twelve minutes, or simply five days if you prefer, since I had last been here. Of course from the room's perspective, if rooms had such things as personal perspectives, it had been thirty-seven years. And in those intervening thirty-seven years the room had been remodeled at least a couple of times, but it still managed to elicit a sense of déjà vu in me.

Once again the space was filled with beautiful people in beautiful clothing. The typical age might be younger this time, but the same sense of wonder and excitement filled the air. And with a large number of parents in attendance, the number of celebrities and movie industry heavyweights was just as high as at that long ago movie premiere. Fortunately, this time I wasn't here on some secret mission to keep someone from being assassinated by Skynet's minions.

After my encounter with Dixon in the hallway, I had met up with Lisa and Paul in the school's parking lot. Still feeling an urge to speak with Annie, who had already left with Ty, I asked Lisa and Paul to drop me at the party before they went home. Apparently, Paul had gotten his second wind after his return from Paris, as he told Lisa he wouldn't mind stopping at the party for a little while.

The three of us had arrived together, but Lisa and Paul had quickly excused themselves to join a cluster of parents near the buffet table. I had remained near the top of the raised entrance to the large room using the elevated position to scan the occupants and then placed tags in my visual array at the locations of the various people I knew.

I was looking for Annie when I spotted her - not Annie, but 'my' Sarah. The Sarah Silver of this timeline was standing over by the buffet table and was wearing a dark emerald green dress which stopped just short of her knees. The 'other' Sarah was standing near the row of French doors leading out to the terrace by the pool. And the 'other' Sarah was wearing a tight, black, floor length gown identical to the one 'my' Sarah had been wearing as part of her Cruella de Vil disguise back at Disneyland. There were too many people between us to see if the gown was torn up the side as had been the case with her dress after the battle with the metal presidents.

Quickly descending the steps, I tried to keep her in sight as I made my way across the crowded room. Several people called out to me in passing, but I ignored them all. I wanted to reach Sarah before she vanished the way John had on the previous day.

Apparently Sarah had seen me when I was near the entrance or had spotted me as I made my approach, as she was staring attentively at me once the crowd separated enough so I could see her face. I stopped barely three feet from her and returned her stare.

"Cameron, is it really you? We have been looking for you everywhere." Sarah said, as she stepped closer and raised her hand to touch my arm.

Her hand passed straight through my body much as John's body had passed straight through Adrianna back at school. However, at least for me, her hand's passage wasn't totally wraithlike. No, there were measurable shifts in the voltages of the robotic components of my arm while her hand and my arm shared the same physical space.

Before I had a chance to respond, a haggard look of defeat descended onto Sarah's face, as though I didn't truly seen her any more than anyone else in this plane of existence.

So a look of surprise lit her face when I leaned closer and asked softly, "Where's John?"

However before she could get over her shock that I actually saw her, I heard John's voice behind me say, "I'm right here."

I glanced back over my shoulder and suddenly could help but wonder if Sarah's shocked expression was really from my ability to see her or from the fact that John Silver, not 'my' John, was standing there with one arm around Naomi. Had my 'Sarah' and 'John' realized they had counterparts in this timeline? Was the fact they had counterparts the reason they were trapped in their limbo state while I wasn't? There was so much about the situation I still didn't understand and I desperately needed to talk to Sarah before she disappeared or dematerialized or something.

Before I could say anything, Naomi gushed out. "Cam, you were great in the play. I don't think anyone in the audience would have guessed you had never even been through one rehearsal. And while I was disappointed Addy didn't participate, Annie did a fantastic job, too."

"Ah, thanks," I answered while trying to keep an eye on Sarah without appearing to stare at someone no one else could see. "Have either of you seen Annie since you got here? I really need to talk to her or Ty."

John shook his head and Naomi glanced around the immediate area before answering. "No, but as tall as Ty is, he shouldn't be that difficult to spot."

"Would you mind checking out by the pool while I look around in here? And if you find them, could you have them meet me . . . ah . . . back over by the entrance in about ten minutes?" I paused for a moment and then to make sure Naomi realized the urgency of my request I looked her straight in the eye and added. "It's sort of related to the other night when Ty and I went with you to pick up Adrianna."

I saw her eyes light up when she realized I was making reference to my 'special' situation. I hated to lie to her after everything we had been through in the last few days, but I wasn't sure she was ready to find out I was trying to get rid of her because I needed to talk to a ghost. And 'her' John was most definitely not ready to find out the ghost I needed to talk to was his Mom from a different timeline.

Naomi gave a quick nod and then pulled on John's arm to get him moving towards the nearest door out onto the terrace.

Casually turning away from the departing John and Naomi, I stepped closer to Sarah until our bodies were almost intermeshing and whispered into her ear. "We need to find a place where we can talk without my appearing to be talking into empty space." I knew I could pretend to be talking into a bluetooth headset and not really appear any stranger than a dozen other people in this big room, but I wanted to be able to focus my whole attention on our conversation without further awkward interruptions by others who knew me.

Sarah's eyes had been lingering on the departing form of the John from this timeline, but at my words she glanced around and then gestured off to her right. "There is a series of smaller meeting rooms along that wall. I think we can find an empty one."

Keeping one eye on me, Sarah turned and began to move off. It had been totally unexpected when I had seen Adrianna walk straight through John yesterday. Now it wasn't unexpected, but it was still extremely eerie to be this close to Sarah and watch her walk right through person after person. My attention was so focused on her I bumped into several people with my full four hundred pound inertia. After the second one, a linebacker on the school's football team by the look of him, went crashing to the floor, I forced myself to divert an extra 3.4 percent of my processing power to navigate a more careful path through the crowd.

Sarah strode quickly up to nearest door, paused, and then leaned forward until her head and shoulders had disappeared through the dark mahogany surface. After a moment she straightened up and looked back.

"This room's empty," she said before stepping effortlessly through the solid barrier.

Hoping no one I knew was watching, I stepped over to the door and grabbed the handle. A casual twist revealed what Sarah in her ethereal state couldn't have known, the door was locked. Exerting more force, the lock released with a distinct pop. Estimating a eighty-seven percent probability that the noise had been covered by the drone of voices from the crowd and the music from the band drifting in from the terrace through the open doors; I stepped quickly into the adjoining room without a backwards glance and pulled the door closed behind me.

The room was dark so I cranked up my enhanced night vision for an initial scan of the interior. It was a typical conference room found in any large office building or upscale hotel. It had a long central table with seating for twenty-five. The far wall was dominated by a large screen for use with the projector hung from the ceiling above the table. The left wall was lined with more chairs while the right wall had floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the pool.

In the dim light from the wall of windows I saw Sarah looking out at the activity on the terrace. If I turned on the room's lights I would be immediately visible to anyone looking in this direction. Knowing people I knew would be out by the pool and would wonder what I was doing alone in this room, I left the room lights off as I made my way over and stood next to Sarah.

"What's going on? Where's John?" I immediately asked.

Sarah's eyes glanced in my direction for a moment and then before responding she turned her gaze back to the view through the window.

"John is around here somewhere. We split up to double our chances of finding you."

"So, you two have been together?" I asked with a note of relief in my voice. "When I arrived here in this timeline alone, I was afraid we had all been separated."

"Yeah, John and I arrived together," Sarah said with a sigh. Then she raised her right arm and pushed her hand through the window. She slowly waved it back and forth for six seconds before letting it drop back to her side. "But as you can see, neither of us is all here."

"Do you have any idea what happened?" I asked.

"No, I was hoping a mechanical marvel like you would have the answers. Why are John and I like this, while you came through perfectly normal?"

"I have no idea," I answered truthfully. "Time displacement theory was not part of my programming." I paused for a moment to organize the various ideas that had been running through my thoughts since I had first seen John the day before. "I assume our arrival in this timeline has to be related to the nuke that went off during the last time jump. Maybe the location where you and John first appeared versus where I first appeared will give us a clue. I arrived just outside the house where Lisa lives in this timeline. How about you and John?"

"Lisa's here?" asked Sarah with a sharp glance in my direction and momentarily forgetting my question.

I nodded. "You won't believe the shock I had discovering she was alive and well, but is now middle-aged with a teenage son of her own."

Sarah didn't immediately seem to comprehend that she now had a grand-daughter older than herself and a great-grandson the same age as her own son. Or perhaps she did, but felt there were more urgent things to discuss.

"Oh, I don't know, the shock of my arrival was pretty intense, too. One moment it is late afternoon and I am in a warehouse in Long Beach mourning Derek's death as the time displacement field formed around us and the next it was the middle of the night and I was in a bed snuggled up against a very much alive Derek. And then when I jolted upright in shock, I found myself looking down at my own sleeping body. When my hand passed straight through my body and then through Derek's as well, I was certain I was dead and about to see the tunnel filled with white light you always hear about from people with near-death experiences."

My mind quickly leapt to a thought I had had earlier. Somehow Sarah and John couldn't exist on a physical plane since another version of them was already here. In the same way I had ended up near my closest genetic match, Lisa and Ty, the time displacement field had tried to integrate John and Sarah with their bodies here, which is why Sarah had ended up in bed with the David and Sarah Silver of this timeline. But something had gone immensely wrong and now John and Sarah were stuck in this limbo state.

"That wasn't Derek," I commented while my mind still raced to fit all the pieces of this complex puzzle together in a manner that would help me figure out what to do.

"Yeah, I figured that out later," answered Sarah. "But they do look a lot alike."

I nodded in agreement. Then trying for a third bit of data to add further weight to my theory, I asked. "What about John? Did you find him in bed with the John of this timeline?"

"Well, I actually found him in the hallway, but he had arrived where you said." Sarah paused to look at me. Obviously, I no longer have the perfect poker face of a simple mindless terminator, as she must have read something in my face or eyes. "Is that significant? Do you understand what happened?"

I shook my head. "Understanding is too strong a word. It implies I comprehend the underlying physics or quantum mechanics and I don't."

"Don't start confusing things with nitpicking robot logic," she snapped. Then she paused to take a deep breath before continuing. "Sorry about that. You can't imagine how frustrating this immaterial existence is." She paused for several more seconds before adding, "Do you have at least an inkling of what happened?"

"The time displacement equipment is supposed to deliver whoever is within its sphere to whatever time and place is selected. It shouldn't matter whether you are already present in that time period or not. I mean the old paradox, the one about going back in time and killing your grandfather which causes you to go 'poof' like you never existed, isn't true. Because the universe is really a multiverse, you can go back and kill your grandfather; however one of you will actually be from a different timeline. We know two versions of a person can coexist since you have previously traveled back to 1971 where an eight-year-old version of you already existed.

"But this time something went wrong. Perhaps gamma radiation from the nuclear blast messed up the time machine's electronics, I don't know. But the end result is that the time displacement field tried to integrate us with the versions that were already in the new target timeline. Since I wasn't present in that instant in this timeline, it merely dumped me close to my best genetic match, my daughter. But since versions of you and John were present at that instant, the field tried to integrate you. However it was unsuccessful and you were left in this limbo state instead."

Sarah stared out the window for almost a minute in silence like she was trying to process all that I had just said. And truthfully, I was trying to process it, too. Much of what I had said had only become clear as I had said it out loud.

Finally, Sarah turned to me. "How do we fix things?"

I slowly shook my head. "The only possibility I can see is to try another time displacement."

"Will that work? Will the time displacement equipment even sense John or I in our current condition?"

I shrugged. "I have no idea, but I don't know what else to try."

"So, if we go through the time displacement device together, you could end up at the target destination while John and I might be stranded here with no way to communicate with anyone, not even you?"

"It's possible," I answered. "But unless you think there is some scientist here who I can convince to believe me and who then will find some alternate solution, I don't see any other choice."

Slowly she nodded. "You're probably right. The time machine may be our only hope. Wait here while I go get John. We all need to agree on this before we do anything."

Sarah started to step through the large window when I halted her with a question.

"Sarah, how were you able to find me?"

She paused and looked back at me. "I don't know how to explain it exactly. Perhaps it is because we all came from the same previous timeline, but sometimes we get a sense of where you are. Although even that sense seems sort of unstuck in time, as sometimes it turns out to be where you have already been or where you will eventually be. But now that I have found you, I don't want to lose track of you again."

"So you are not just randomly materializing and dematerializing?" I asked to clarify.

Sarah almost smiled. "No, once we arrived we have been constantly here just unable to interact with most of the physical world."

"It's been four days. Are you hungry?"

She shook her head. "That's the only good part, if there is a good part. Our bodily functions seem to have been frozen at the instant of the transfer." She paused to glance down at herself. "At least it left us with our old cloths and we haven't had to wander around naked this whole time."

Then without waiting for any further response from me, she stepped through the window and disappeared out into the crowd on the terrace.

I was left staring out the window pondering the situation. Other than my concern about what had happened to 'my' John and Sarah, I had been surprisingly happy since my arrival in this timeline. First and foremost there wasn't a hint of Skynet activity and a world without Skynet was a luxury to be treasured. And then there was Lisa and Ty. It had been such a pleasant surprise to discover my daughter all grown up with a good life and a family of her own. And then there was Naomi, Adrianna, Annie, Dixon, the John of this timeline, and all the others I had met at school. I could almost imagine myself staying in this timeline and being happy.

But even though trying the time machine might leave me stranded alone in some other timeline or thrust me back into the never-ending battle against Skynet, I couldn't just leave 'my' John and Sarah stranded in their current limbo condition.

With an almost human sigh, I turned my attention to locating the nearest, most convenient time machine. If John and Sarah could pass straight through walls, it probably meant they couldn't use cars. We were going to have to hoof it from here.

I had been standing there thinking and waiting for Sarah's return for five minutes, fourteen seconds when I spotted my John racing across the terrace towards my location. He was running in a straight line making no attempt to avoid anyone or any inanimate obstacles. He didn't slow down until he was passing through the large window and finally paused beside me. One small part of my neural network noted that he wasn't even breathing hard which raised the question of how John and Sarah were even breathing at all.

'We've got trouble,' was the first thing out of his mouth, no pleasantries or anything after four days of separation. The situation had to be serious.

"Skynet?" I asked, as a vision of a horde of terminators descending on the hotel flashed through my mind temporarily driving thoughts about using the time machine to restore John and Sarah into the background.

"I don't know," John answered. "I just know a group of men armed with shotguns, assault rifles, and a variety of handguns has entered the building and grounds."

"How many and what is their target?" I asked as I pulled my bag from my shoulder.

John shook his head. "I don't know. I am guessing their target is someone at this party. Mom sent me to warn you while she went to gather more intel."

I wanted to be ready for whatever was about to happen and didn't want to be slowed down by needing to retrieve my weapons from my bag when there might not be time. So I tucked my most obvious weapon, the Glock, into the back waistband of my slacks and then pulled my jacket back into place to hide it. Then I slid the three spare magazines into the left front pocket of my slacks. The resulting bulges totally wrecked the lines of my designer outfit, but hopefully no one would notice. Next I pulled a pair of black gloves from the bag and slipped them on. Finally, I pulled out the lightsaber and checked that its power vial was undamaged. Sliding the three spare vials into my right pants pocket, I turned and headed towards the door. Hopefully the lightsaber wouldn't look too threatening, and if things went crazy, no one would immediately try to take it from me.

I had almost reached the door when John darted around me.

"Let me take a quick look outside before you open the door. We might as well use my condition to our advantage."

"Thanks," I said. Then I added quickly, "And it is good to see you. I've missed you."

John smiled. "I've missed you, too."

Quickly he turned and leaned the upper part of his body through the door. After a couple of seconds he straightened and then stepped completely through the closed door. I tried to wait patiently for his return, but then I started hearing shouts and screams which were quickly followed by a burst from an automatic weapon. John returned in 6.5 seconds, but for a neural network that operates at zetacycles per second, it felt like an eternity.

"I count eight armed men in the ballroom plus more out on the terrace. If you move right now, you should be able to blend in with the other guests before any of them notices."

John stepped back through the door, as I reached for the handle. Turning it quietly, I opened it just enough to slip through.

The strong feeling of déjà vu returned as I stepped into the pandemonium. A battle was breaking out just like the last time I was in this hotel. Only the last time the opponents were mostly armed with non-lethal martial arts weapons. And last time I had Sarah, John, Bruce Lee, Wally Jay, and others at my side. This time the opponents had automatic weapons, John and Sarah were mere wraiths only I could see, and there wasn't a real or cinematic superhero in sight. I was alone with just my Glock and lightsaber. If I mishandled this situation, a lot of people could die.

Armed men out on the terrace were forcing everyone out by the pool through the French doors and into the ballroom. At the same time other armed men up by the entrance were forcing everyone at that end of the ballroom towards the center. There were over four hundred people in the room and they were being compressed into a tightly packed mass.

I spotted Lisa about thirty feet to my right and started to make my way towards her. John was still at my side passing in and out through people to maintain his position. I turned to him and spoke, no longer caring what bystanders might make of the situation.

"John, do you know who Ty is? Do you know what he looks like?"

John grinned. "Ah, about sixteen, looks a lot like me but taller and would call me 'Gramps' if he knew I existed?"

I nodded. "See if you can find him and then let me know where he is."

"Got it," answered John as he turned and headed towards the side of the crowd still streaming in from the terrace.

Since Ty had enough of my enhanced gifts to survive getting shot, Lisa had to have those abilities, too. That made them my best allies in this situation. I knew from Ty's comments on my first day at school that both Lisa and he practiced regularly at the gun range. Therefore when I reached Lisa I pulled the Glock from my waistband and held it along my right leg.

"Lisa," I said quietly when I reached her side.

When she heard my voice she turned in my direction. I gestured down towards my gun with my eyes.

"Do you know how to use this? Can you use it if it becomes necessary?" I asked.

Her eyes widen and after a quick glance at Paul, she nodded.

As I pulled the spare magazines from my pocket, she asked, "Is it Skynet?"

Before I could answer a loud voice called from the entrance, "Oh, CAMMMERRRONNN, come out, come out, wherever you are." Then after a brief pause, the voice continued in a harder, more serious tone. "And the rest of you, start emptying your pockets. Someone will be with you shortly to collect your wallets, jewelry, and watches."

My voice recognition software found an immediate match so I wasn't surprised to find Samuel Salmon, the chief goon from our run-in at the warehouse down in Hawthorne, had just entered the ballroom. To his immediate left stood Adrianna with her arm twisted tightly behind her back. In his right hand with its butt propped against his hip he held a large anti-materiel rifle the likes of which I hadn't seen since coming downtime. From this distance I couldn't make out the specific model, but it definitely had the punch to do me serious, possibly lethal damage.

"No, it's not Skynet. It's the drug dealers from the other night." I quickly forced the Glock and the magazines into Lisa's hands. "Try to work your way to the back of the crowd and off to one side so you can cover the men by the doors to the patio. I'll take care of the ones up front. Don't do anything until after I make my move. We don't want this to turn into a major firefight, if we can avoid it."

Lisa looked scared, but she quickly took a deep breath, nodded, grabbed Paul's hand, and started heading towards the back of the room.

Turning in the opposite direction, I forced my way through the crush of bodies, my thoughts turning back to Samuel Salmon. And I couldn't prevent a small shake of my head. This is what comes from trying to act human. If I had followed my true terminator nature back at the warehouse, I would have terminated all of them and we wouldn't be in this situation. Then a small smile briefly flickered across my face. It could be worse. I could be facing a battalion of terminators rather than a group of pissed-off drug dealers.

Finally, after forty-seven long seconds, during which Salmon kept demanding in ever more pissed off tones that I show myself, I reached the edge of the crowd nearest him. Just as I was about step out to confront Salmon, Naomi and 'her' John seemed to magically materialize at my side.

"Did you find Ty and Annie?" I asked in a whisper. While it was Annie I had been most interested in talking to when I had sent them in search of the pair, now I wanted to speak with Ty. Besides Lisa, he was the only one who could deal with these gun-toting men with little risk of any permanent damage. Well, at least from the weapons most of them were carrying. Now that I was closer, I could see that Salmon's weapon was a Fifty caliber Barrett M82A1 sniper rifle.

Even though man-portable lasers were available, the old reliable M82A1 had been the weapon of choice for many resistance groups during the final battles against Skynet. Originally designed to penetrate body armor, lightly armored vehicles, and all grades of bullet-proof glass, it was one of the few weapons that could take down a terminator with a single shot. Of course, that shot had to directly hit the primary CPU chip located in the right side of the skull, which was an extremely difficult target. A shot to a terminator's primary power supply was also ultimately lethal to the machine, but its backup power supply could keep it going for several hours, more than enough time for it to complete its primary mission.

Of all the weapons I could see, this was the only one that was a serious threat to me. Even if it missed my two most vulnerable spots, it could still do a lot of damage. And a hit from it would definitely be fatal for Lisa or Ty. So the first thing I needed to do was neutralize it.

Fortunately, its intended use was as a long-range sniper weapon and with that mission in mind, it had a very long barrel, weighed thirty-one pounds, and was intended to be fired from a prone position using its folding tripod mount for stability. It was not intended to be 'fired from the hip' in the way Salmon was carrying it. If he let me get close enough, I could move faster than he could follow with such a heavy weapon.

I was so focused on looking for a strategy that would disarm Salmon and then defuse the situation without anyone getting killed that I had almost forgotten Naomi was standing right next to me until she responded to my question.

"No," she whispered back. "We didn't find them anywhere."

I glanced at her face and she looked surprisingly calm given the current situation. But she had been present during the gun battle at the warehouse, so perhaps she was expecting me to pull another rabbit out of the hat.

"Ty and Annie are probably safe in a suite upstairs having a lot more fun then we are," remarked John Silver not looking nearly as calm as Naomi. His eyes had been darting around to the various men with guns, but then they focused on Naomi as he continued. "If you had listened to me, we could have been safely somewhere else having fun, too."

Naomi looked like she was ready to slap him. "I am NOT some slutty little tramp who sleeps around or goes sneaking off to some hotel room," she answered fiercely, her voice rising far above the hushed whispers we had been using.

At her words everyone in the crowd nearest us seemed, as one, to take a step back. Instantly the three of us stood apart and were clearly visible to Salmon and the men standing near him on the raised entrance to the ballroom.

"Ah, there you are, Cameron. And I see you have brought a couple of friends for me to play with. Excellent," said Salmon while motioning us forward with a wave of his big gun.

The three of us stepped forward. I held the lightsaber loosely in my right hand hoping they wouldn't perceive it as a threat until we got close enough for it to be useful.

As we walked, I couldn't stop myself from staring at Adrianna standing next to Salmon, who still held on to her with one arm twisted behind her back. The only way Salmon could know my name was if he had gotten it from her. And if she had told him that, what other of my secrets had she revealed? I didn't have to wait long to find out.

"Stop. I think that's close enough," Salmon said when we reached the bottom of the four steps leading up to where he was standing. The tip of his rifle, which was now pointed at me, was barely eight feet away. One good leap and my lightsaber could slice the weapon in half like a knife through a stick of butter.

Having noticed my glance in Adrianna's direction, he gave her arm an extra little twist, before he continued. "Adrianna here has been telling me the most interesting little story. If I hadn't witnessed the events of the other evening personally, I never would have believed it. So, Cameron, are you really some kind of machine from the future?"

Everyone at the near end of the ballroom had to have heard his comment. My secret was about to go public. An hour ago that would have been a big deal. But now that I had found my John and Sarah, it was time to use the time displacement equipment to try and restore them to the physical world. In a matter of hours, I would be in a different time period or a different timeline. If I wasn't here as living proof, this whole evening would just be an enigma the people present would talk about for years.

I had just about to respond when 'my' John came running up and stopped on my right side, the opposite side of me from Naomi and 'her' John were standing.

"Cam, there are three more men with guns on the balcony to your right at, ah, your four o'clock position - distance about forty feet. The center one is armed with another of the M82A1's. The other two have MAC-10s. Mom is with the men on the other side of the crowd near the doors to the terrace. She has just signed that none of them have heavy ordnance."

With a glance down at the lightsaber in my hand, John took two steps back when he saw my subtle nod of acknowledgement. Obviously, even in his altered state he didn't want to risk coming into contact with the blade if I was forced to light it up.

His words hadn't taken more than a couple of seconds and I spent a few more milliseconds adjusting to this new information. I had already flagged the men up on the balcony as potential threats after spotting them with my short-range radar, but it was nice to have visual confirmation and to know which one was the most serious threat. For me the one with the M82A1 was the only major concern. The MAC-10s, seen frequently in action movies, were light automatic weapons. They wouldn't do any more damage to me than a normal handgun. Of course, if they sprayed them out over the crowd, a lot of people could be killed. Those three men would have to be dealt with quickly when I made my move.

Over six seconds had passed since Salmon had completed his question. Afraid he might do something drastic if I didn't respond quickly enough, I had just opened my mouth when I was cut off by Naomi.

"Adrianna, you backstabbing bitch. You swore an oath not to say anything."

"Me, a backstabbing bitch?" answered Adrianna. "What about you? Where were you when I needed your support before the play? Oh, that's right; you sided with all your new friends. You and your perfect life and your perfect friends and your perfect boyfriend, it just makes me sick. Of course, your perfect boyfriend really isn't all that perfect. John, have you told her yet that you're doing me on the side? Or is she the only one in the whole damn school that doesn't know?"

Naomi had been staring at Adrianna throughout her little tirade, but now she turned to look at John. She must have seen something in his face that convinced her that what Adrianna had just said was true, as she pulled back and slapped John so hard he went sprawling to the ground.

"So, John," began Naomi in a tone filled with so much venom I was afraid she might seriously hurt him and then single-handedly turn on Salmon and take out his entire crew for good measure. "You were standing there trying to talk me into bed with you while you were already fucking my best friend?" She shot a brief glance at Adrianna. "Make that former best friend. And from the sounds of it you have managed to make me the laughingstock of the entire school in the process. I . . . HATE . . . YOU."

Then Naomi turned towards Adrianna and I could see every muscle in her neck and throat was taught with tension and the blood vessels in her temples were clearly pulsating. "And Addy, you fucking Ho-bot. What do you know about my 'so called' perfect life? Did you know my parents are splitting up and getting a divorce? Or that my longtime best friend is a drug-addicted slut? Or that my loser of a boyfriend can't keep his dick in his pants? Or that the only person who has been there for me lately isn't even a real person, but a stupid robot?"

Naomi ground to a halt, but she was still breathing hard, her nostrils were flaring, and at that moment I wasn't sure who was more likely to kill someone in the next ten seconds – her, me, or Salmon.

Salmon was laughing out loud. "This is simply hysterical. Here I am ready to kill everyone in the room, if necessary, and I find myself in the middle of a teenage soap opera. Me, me, me, it's all about me." He chortled for a moment before continuing. "There must be some writers or producers in this crowd. I hope you are getting this down, as it would make a great TV show."

He paused again to gather himself. I watched as the tip of his rifle wavered through a three inch arc. The heavy gun was a lot to handle with a single hand even for a big guy like Salmon. The longer I kept him talking the worse his aim would be.

Turning his attention back to me, he gestured with his head towards Naomi. "Your friend seems to confirm what this one has been telling me. You are some kind of machine or robot from the future."

I looked at him for 6.5 seconds and then nodded. "I guess you could say that. But I'm not sure why you needed to cause all this trouble just to confirm that."

"'The Piranha' does take shit from anyone not even some robot chick."

It was my turn to smile. "Is that what this is all about? Losing face? What are you, some Japanese Yakuza wanabee? Do you make your men cut off parts of their fingers when they screw up? Because if you do, I think you are going to lose a lot more than a part of a finger for crossing me for a second time."

Salmon shook his head. "You're just a stupid machine. You may have caught me unawares last time," he paused to make a small gesture with his gun. "But this time I came prepared. I'm sure there are plenty of people who would pay good money for a machine from the future, whether it is fully functional or not."

"Did the girl tell you my whole story?" I asked. When Salmon shot Adrianna a glance, I continued, forcing as much cold terminator indifference into my voice as I could. "I and all the machines like me in the future were designed and built with a single solitary purpose: to kill humans – fast and efficiently. Walk away now, Salmon, and take all your men with you. Or this time I won't leave a single one of you alive."

I could see a hint of uneasiness in his eyes, but as soon as he started to speak I knew he wasn't going to back down. Stupid human.

"I have this big fucking gun and something tells me it can stop you."

I moved my finger over the firing stud of the lightsaber. "Do you remember Obi-Wan Kenobi, you know, from Star Wars?"

Salmon looked at me with a slightly puzzled expression at this seeming non sequitur.

"Well, as Obi-Wan would say," I continued, as I pressed the button. "Don't bring a gun, no matter how fucking big, to a lightsaber fight."

As the lightsaber in my right hand blazed to life, I took one hundred twenty seven milliseconds to reach out with my left hand and give Naomi a brisk shove into 'her' John, who had just barely regained his feet. I didn't want to hurt them, but I had to do what I could to get them quickly to the floor and out of the line of fire. Hopefully, the shock of seeing the lightsaber would cause the men in front of me to hesitate for a moment. And also, hopefully, the men on the balcony would hesitate to shoot with Salmon and the others in their line of fire.

With four of Salmon's men standing to Adrianna's left and only two to Salmon's right, I leapt up the four steps directly towards Adrianna while spinning my body in a counter-clockwise motion. Reaching across to my left, I swept the lightsaber through Salmon's weapon at the juncture between the long barrel and the stock. Instantly, the plasma beam ripped through the tungsten steel barrel leaving a melted, deformed cross-section that would make it impossible to fire.

My spinning leap left the lightsaber high in the air as I slammed back first into Adrianna. She went crashing to the floor and as I rolled clear to take on the four nearest men, the momentum I had imparted combined with Salmon's grip on her arm twisted the pair around until Salmon ended up sprawled half on top of her, his body providing her some protection. I had heard a distinct 'snap' when I hit her and either her arm or shoulder had been broken, but it was the price she was going to have to pay for causing this situation. If she was lucky, that was all the next few minutes were going to cost her.

Salmon was unhurt, but with his body entangled with Adrianna's and his weapon out of commission, he wasn't an immediate threat. Therefore I focused my attention on the four men in front of me. The fight had been going on for 1.8 seconds. I estimated I had another 2.5 seconds before the man on the balcony with the other dangerous rifle would open fire. So I had that much time to acquire one of weapons of these men and take him out first. It didn't leave time for finesse or compassion.

From my position on the floor next to Adrianna, I leapt forward in a shallow dive staying only inches above the floor. Holding my weapon out to the right side of my body, I dove behind the four men who were my targets to make myself as difficult to hit as possible for the gunman on the balcony. As I swept by, the incandescent plasma of the lightsaber sheared through the legs of the first three men at mid-calve height. And just like a lumberjack in a virgin old growth forest, I angled the blade up at a twenty-seven degree angle to force their bodies to collapse backwards so their guns would end up closer to my position.

The stink of burning flesh filled my human nostrils long before their screams began, as the forty-eight hundred degree beam cauterized all their nearby nerve endings. What had happened to them didn't begin to sink in until they started hitting the ground. And with their feet still standing where they had been like a row of toy soldiers, their guns were instantly forgotten as they began to scream in unison.

Ignoring the fourth gunman near me and the two on the other side of where Salmon and Adrianna still lay in a heap, I held the lightsaber between me and the man on the balcony while I reached out with my left hand for the nearest gun. With the intensely bright light of the saber almost directly in front of my face, I had to step down the light receptor circuitry in my visual array until it was like looking at the world through a pair of welder's goggles. Therefore I was forced to depend almost entirely on my short range radar in place of my normal vision. And with most of my attention focused on the man with the M82A1, I was left to grope almost blindly for the gun.

My hand had just closed on the grip of the MAC-10 when I detected the gunman's finger beginning to twitch on the trigger. I made one final triangulation and moved the lightsaber 0.32 inches to the left just as the projectile exploded from the barrel of his weapon. It would have been nice if life was like the movies and I could have deflected his shot back at him or into one of his cohorts, but it was good enough that the plasma of the lightsaber vaporized the bullet before it passed through the 3.5 inch thickness of the beam.

Unfortunately, I don't have access to 'The Force' and couldn't perfectly predict when he was going to shoot or exactly where he would aim, so the odds of stopping subsequent shots with the lightsaber decreased dramatically. Therefore hoping he wouldn't switch to full auto-fire mode, I swept the lightsaber off to my side to clear my vision as I brought up the MAC-10 with my left hand. Using my thumb to slide the selector to 'single fire' mode, as I didn't know how many opponents I would have to take down with this single clip, I quickly fired two rounds into the center of the man's chest. Then uncertain if he was wearing a vest and adjusting for the accuracy of this particular weapon which had hit the man two inches to the left and one inch lower than my aim point, I put a third round through his right eye for good measure.

In the 4.8 seconds I spent dealing with my most dangerous opponent the remaining effective gunmen at this end of the ballroom had finally overcome the shock caused by my abrupt attack with its wholly unexpected nature and had begun firing at me. Rounds were hitting me, the floor around me, and the three men cut down by the lightsaber. The impacts jarred my body and gun arm such that it took me four shots rather than two to finish off the other two men up on the balcony. Since they could reach the only weapon that could seriously hurt me, they had to be dealt with first.

From where I was still laying on my back, I swiveled my aim to the one opponent still standing near me. A quick shot between his Adam's apple and his chin took him down. Then I rolled back to my feet facing the two gunmen beyond where Salmon and Adrianna still lay.

A quick glance showed most of the crowd had ducked down and were huddling on the floor cradling their heads in an attempt to make themselves the smallest targets possible, which left the remaining gunmen at the far end of the room clearly visible. For the benefit of this particular audience I started advancing on the two remaining gunmen here at the entrance with my most stoic terminator expression adorning my face. The two men continued to fire, hitting me repeatedly in the chest, and I let them continue for a couple of seconds in hopes of intimidating the gunmen into eventually giving up without a fight that might result in shots fired into the crowd.

As I moved towards the two remaining opponents, I used the lightsaber to silence the three writhing, screaming men lying at my feet. As they saw the lightsaber effortlessly rip through the torsos of the dying men and saw how their weapons' numerous hits on my body had no noticeable effect, their shooting faltered to a halt.

In the sudden silence, I looked at the two men and slowly lifted the MAC-10 I had been holding down at my side and pointed it in their direction. "Drop your weapons now, if you want to live."

Both men briskly tossed their weapons away and they went clattering down the steps onto the main part of the ballroom floor.

I strode forward to where Salmon was carefully clambering back to his feet while trying to hold his hands above his head.

"Please. Please. Please." He repeated in a pathetic manner.

The lightsaber had five seconds remaining on its charge when I reached Salmon. "I only give humans one chance and you wasted it," I snarled in a loud voice to ensure it would carry to the men at the far end of the room. Then in a quieter voice I continued, "take it like a man."

I swept the lightsaber through a fast, hard arc. It burned through his left arm and shoulder before coming out on the far side of his neck. As his severed head went spinning up into the air, the follow-through stroke vaporized his right hand. I released my grip on the MAC-10 and grabbed his head by the hair with my left hand as it began to descend and before his lifeless body crashed back down on top of Adrianna.

I turned towards the gunmen at the far end of the room and held his head aloft, as the lightsaber pulsed once and then went out.

"This is YOUR one chance. Drop your weapons now," I said in a clear ringing voice. "If you make me fire up my lightsaber again, I guarantee you will all end up like this."

It took less than three seconds for the first man to make his decision and toss down his weapon. In four more seconds all the others had followed suit. Almost before the last gun had hit the ground, Lisa rose to her feet from her position at the edge of the crowd, her Glock firmly pointed in their direction.

The next motion I saw was from the floor near the steps. David Silver had apparently been crawling across the floor in an attempt to reach John and Naomi. Now he grabbed up one of the MAC-10s that had been tossed down there and as he rose to his feet he pointed it towards the men in the back.

"Hands behind your necks and then down on your knees," he commanded.

As he stood there gun in hand, I was once more reminded of Derek Reese. And then for just an instant a very old memory flashed through my mind. Most of my old memories had been wiped when John, future John, had reprogrammed me, but with a holographic memory system it is virtually impossible to eliminate every single fragment without destroying its functionality. Now a brief fragment from when I was a nearly mindless Skynet minion surfaced. Derek was tied to a chair and I was torturing him for information. I no longer have any idea what information I was seeking or if I was successful, I just have a single image of a battered, damaged Derek staring me defiantly in the face with an expression of inner strength not unlike what I saw on David Silver at the moment.

Then the memory was gone and I was left with the 'here and now' to deal with. I had just terminated eight drug dealers in front of a crowd of people in about as vicious a manner as was possible in twenty-one seconds. I had taken at least a dozen bullet hits to the body that would be impossible to explain and I had been using a lightsaber to devastating effect. If I was still here when the authorities arrived, it was unlikely I would be able to extricate myself without another firefight. It was definitely time to go.

"David?" I asked, as I descended the four steps back to the main level of the ballroom.

He glanced quickly at me, but his gun hand never wavered, "Yeah?"

"Can you hold these men until the cops arrive? It's best if I wasn't here."

"Yeah, I understand," he answered. Then a small smile flickered across his face. "Are we still on for tennis in the morning?"

I smiled at his mundane question. "I'm afraid not. What I came to Beverly Hills to accomplish is done. It is time for me to move on."

He gave a small calm nod of acknowledgement. The giant revelation that I was a robot from the future he seemed to take perfectly in stride. It reminded me again of the Derek Reese I had known in previous timelines.

"Be safe," was all he finally said before starting to weave a path through the still prostrate crowd towards the kneeling men at the back of the grand ballroom.

Part 4

In the end Naomi, Lisa, and Paul had walked out of the ballroom with me and 'my' invisible John and Sarah. As Naomi's John had theorized, Ty and Annie must have been in a room somewhere else in the hotel. There hadn't been time to search for them, so I never had a chance to say goodbye to my grandson or warn Annie about my worries about his playboy nature – not that I would've explained to her the maternal aspects of my concern.

However Lisa and I did use the thirty minute hike to the Century City Hospital, where the nearest time displacement machine was hidden in a subbasement storage room, to bring Paul up to speed about me and my relationship to Lisa. Like with Naomi and Adrianna after our first encounter with Salmon, he had the benefit of seeing me in action and witnessing my ability to be shot numerous times with no more serious effect than a blouse soaked with blood from where the bullets had penetrated the outer layer of my skin before being stopped by my sub-dermal nanofiber layer.

We were a subdued group by the time we reached the hospital. It was just sinking in with Lisa that after a mere four days with her I was leaving again and that it was unlikely I would ever return.

As we reached the main entrance to the hospital, where I slipped on Paul's suit coat to hide the blood-soaked nature of my clothing, I spotted an ambulance dropping Adrianna off at the Emergency Entrance. Part of me wanted to go see how she was doing because not everything that had happened had been her fault. But the risk of someone among all the hustle and bustle down there noticing the current state of my clothing was too high. I just had to hope everything would turn out okay for her and that she would get the help she needed to get past her drug problems.

The route to the secret storeroom had been engraved in my memory since the long ago time I had spent in the nineteen sixties. Well, a long ago forty years for Lisa, it had only been a couple of months from my perspective, but in some ways it felt a lot longer. I guess the thought of leaving Lisa was taking its toll on me, too. Not that it was nearly the same. In whatever time period or timeline I ended up in next, one of my top priorities would be tracking her back down. I had seen her as a child and I had seen her as a mature adult and mother. Next time I might see her somewhere in between. At least our relationship would never be boring.

We traversed three corridors and descended two flights of stairs before reaching the storeroom with the false back wall. I hadn't detected anyone on this level and since it would take less than twenty minutes to setup the equipment and be gone, I didn't bother to be gentle while creating a passage through the wall. In some ways it felt good to be able to focus my energies on an inanimate object like a wall rather than on hurting or killing people.

Once inside the room, I quickly set about getting the equipment out of the packing crates and organized for use. Some of the simpler tasks I was able to delegate to the others and I think they appreciated having something to do to fill the time rather than simply standing around and waiting.

Paul and Naomi were over on the other side of the room prying open wooden packing crates with crowbars while Lisa was helping me assemble the power supply components.

"Mom," began Lisa quietly with a small catch in her voice. "Do you really have to go right now? Can't you stay for at least a few days? I have waited so long to find you."

I shook my head. "Too many people saw what I did at the party. The cops will be at your house shortly, if they aren't already there waiting for you. I hate to leave in the middle of this mess, but you'll have an easier time without me."

"But," began Lisa and I could see tears running down her face now. "But we could go into hiding, at least for awhile. I have been prepared for this day for a long time. I have enough cash stashed away to take care of us for several years."

I shook my head again. "Lisa, if it was just me, I would. But it's not just me. It's John and Sarah - the John and Sarah of my previous timeline. I found them at the party, well, actually they found me."

"They're here?" exclaimed Lisa in almost a loud enough voice to attracted Paul and Naomi's attention from across the room. "But how can you leave without them?"

"I'm not leaving without them. They are right here in the room," I answered. I glanced over to where John was standing barely three feet away and avidly staring at Lisa. At least I had had several days with her. He had barely seen her before the walk from the hotel.

Lisa's gaze flicked around the room and then returned to me. Before she even asked the obvious question, I jumped in with the answer.

"They are invisible to everyone except for me. When we made the last time jump, a nuke went off only a fraction of a second earlier. I suspect the bomb's radiation screwed up the time displacement machine's hardware or software. John and Sarah ended up in this strange limbo state. I'm not sure why I came through normally while they did not, but I think something related to the glitch or that fact we were from the same timeline is why I can still see them.

"The only solution we could think of to restore them to normal is to go through another time bubble. We don't know if the risks increase the longer we wait, but I don't want to chance it," I concluded.

Lisa's eyes swept around the room again in the vain attempt to spot them, as though the sudden knowledge that they were here would miraculously make it possible. Then with a sigh she turned her attention back to me.

"I wish I could see Dad and talk to him for at least a little while."

I nodded to her. Then I glanced at John and saw him wiping one sleeve at the corner of his eyes. In that moment it suddenly felt like the three of us were a family again. And even though he didn't say it out loud, I knew what he would like to say.

"Lisa, John asked me to tell you how proud he is of you and how happy he is at seeing the life you have made for yourself without any help from us," I paused to pull my daughter into a hug. "And I hope you know I feel exactly the same way."

Lisa held the hug for twelve seconds before slowly stepping back. As she wiped at her eyes, she said, "Well, I suppose we better get back to work so you can go before some new problem rears its ugly head."

I felt my own human eyes fill with tears and took a moment to wipe them before nodding and getting back to work assembling the equipment.

Except for my quiet instructions, we worked in silence for the next eleven minutes twenty-three seconds. I had just finished assembling the control panel and had initiated the system's self-check cycle when Naomi joined me.

"Cam, I'm sorry about the 'stupid robot' comment I made back when we were confronting Adrianna and those gangsters. Addy had seriously pissed me off and I am afraid my mouth was running a lot faster than my brain. Will you forgive me, please?"

"Yes, Naomi, I'll forgive you," I answered. "And besides you aren't that wrong. I am a robot and I have done some pretty stupid things. Just look at this whole mess at the ballroom. It isn't really Adrianna's fault. Oh, she may have been forced to lead Salmon and his men to the party, but if I hadn't stupidly let Salmon survive the encounter the other night at the warehouse, we wouldn't have ended up with a room full of gunmen."

I put my arm around Naomi's shoulder before continuing. "But look on the bright side, we all survived and only drug-dealing scum paid the ultimate price."

"Perhaps that's the bright side for you," answered Naomi. "But I am not seeing the bright side for me." Naomi paused to shake her head. Then she took a long, slow breath and looked directly in my eyes. "My whole life is a mess and I really hate it." Then her expression hardened and her eyes seemed to change from their normal light blue to a determined darker shade.

"Cam, I hate my parents for dragging me through their divorce. I hate my long-time best friend for being a drug-addicted whore. I hate my boyfriend for sneaking around behind my back with my 'supposed' best friend. Frankly, I simply hate my whole life," stated Naomi in a surprisingly calm voice. Then she dropped her bomb shell. "I have been thinking about it ever since we left the hotel. Cam, can I come with you?"

I stared at her for fourteen long seconds as my whole neural network seemed to freeze up at this unexpected request. Then my brain kicked back into gear and I spent another 3.8 seconds coming up with a list of reasons why she shouldn't accompany me.

"Naomi," I began while slowly shaking my head. "You don't understand what my life is like. You have seen what I am capable of. The last timeline I was in was filled with tens of thousands of machines like me only they were all the enemy and would have focused one hundred percent of their attention on trying to kill me and my friends, if they had found us. As it was, the twelve hours we spent there was one endless battle and one of my companions died. There's no guarantee where I end up next won't be as bad or worse. Do you really want a life where at any moment you could find yourself injured or dead?"

I thought I saw her waver, so I continued my argument from another angle. "And it's not just the danger you will face if you go with me. You are needed here. I know you are angry with her at the moment, but Adrianna is your friend and she needs you. She needs someone strong like you to help her beat her problems."

My eyes flicked over to 'my' John for a moment, before I continued. "And then there's John. I have known him in other timelines and in all of them he was destined to play an important role in the survival of mankind in the battle against the machines. The machines don't seem to be present in your world, but that could change at any moment and John needs to be prepared. However the soft, easy life he has here is not the preparation he needs. Since you and Lisa are the only ones who know the truth, it is up to you to get him ready. And you can't do that if you come with me."

Naomi stared at me for a minute and then started to laugh. "John Silver, the savior of mankind? If that's true, the world is royally screwed."

I shrugged. After a couple of days around him, my opinion of John Silver wasn't a lot higher. "People can change – particularly if there is someone to give them an occasional shove. And since you know what might be coming, that person needs to be you."

Then since she was still watching me I did a deliberate scan down her body from her perfectly coiffed hair to her three thousand dollar metallic gold mini-dress to her five hundred dollar shoes. Looking back up into her eyes, I used my biggest weapon to convince her that her place was in this timeline. "Besides Naomi, before arriving in this timeline I spent a lot more time cleaning weapons then worrying about my appearance. And I have been in eight different timelines and this is the first where I haven't shopped in thrift stores. Are you really prepared for a life where all your shopping is done in either gun stores or pawn shops or Wal-Mart?"

She actually appeared to experience a small involuntarily shudder at the mere mention of Wal-Mart.

"Wal-Mart? You're kidding, right?" she asked with a frown. When I shook my head, she took a half step back. "Okay, maybe going with you was a crazy idea."

I smiled at her. A large part of me was happy at her decision. She was a good person and deserved a chance at a normal life, if life in Beverly Hills could be considered normal. But I had to admit at least a small part of me wished she was going along. She was the first true friend I had who wasn't part of the battle against Skynet. It had been fun having someone to talk to about trivial things like fashion, music, and art.

Just then a green light on the control panel glowed to life indicating the time displacement equipment was fully operational. Seeing no value, only increased risk, in postponing the inevitable, I quickly entered the destination coordinates and then turned to the five other occupants of the room.

"It's time," I stated, as I pulled Naomi into a final hug.

"I'm going to miss you," I whispered quietly, as I gave her a second squeeze before releasing her. She nodded, seemingly at a loss for words. She swept her thick tangle of blonde curls away from her face before moving her hand to rub at her tear-filled eyes.

As I turned away from Naomi, I caught sight of John and Sarah in the corner of my eye. Sarah gave me a brief nod as they moved to the center of the room where the time bubble would appear. Obviously they intended to give me a moment alone with Lisa and Paul.

Paul may have been Lisa's husband for almost twenty years, but we had only known each other for a few hours and he had only known my secret for a few minutes. I considered pulling him into a hug, too, but in the end settled for a firm handshake. And even as we shook hands, I could see the doubt creeping into his expression. Oh, he had witnessed the events back at the ballroom and could probably accept that I was a machine from the future. Well, at least for the moment, doubtlessly in a few months or years he would begin to question his memories of tonight.

But the hard part, that I am sure he was having the most problems accepting even at this moment, had to be the fact that I was Lisa's mother. The general concept of human-looking machines had to be easier to swallow than the specifics that your spouse's long departed parent was in fact some half human-half machine hybrid who looked like a high school teenager. I mean his parents had to be in their upper sixties and yet his wife's mother looked like her daughter. How impossible would that be to comprehend with less than an hour's exposure?

"Paul," I began, feeling the need to say something. "I am glad I had the opportunity to meet you and your son. It has been gratifying to see how well my daughter's life has turned out and from everything she has told me, you are a big part of the reason. It almost makes me glad that our lives took different paths when she was young. I mean tonight you have seen a hint of what my life is like. And sadly, by my standards, today was a 'good' day, as no one I truly care about was seriously hurt or killed."

I lowered my voice before continuing. "Please take good care of Lisa. She deserves so much more out of life than I was ever able to give her."

Paul nodded and then impulsively pulled me into a quick hug. "I will," he promised.

After releasing me, Paul took a step back and I turned to Lisa. Quickly she pulled me into a tight hug and for just a moment I thought she was going to lift my full 400 lb body off the floor.

"Mom, I'm going to miss you," she began. "Is there any chance you will return?"

The odds struck me as extremely small, but not impossible. And with the crazy twisted multiverse we inhabit, I calculated the odds were actually slightly higher that some alternate version of me might make some future visit to this timeline.

"I don't know," I stated truthfully. "But I have experienced so many impossible or at least highly improbable things since I first traveled downtime from the future I would 'never say never'. However I will admit the odds seem low."

Lisa nodded, as though this was the answer she expected.

"Lisa, it has been wonderful to see you and to see what life is like in a world without Skynet. Of course, my biggest fear is that someday the machines will rear their ugly heads here, too, and I won't be around to help." My thoughts turned back to my conversation with Naomi about John Silver. He didn't seem to be on the path to be ready if this world needed him. But perhaps this world had another option in my grandson, Ty. Oh, at the moment he wasn't an obviously better choice than John, but he did have at least of few of my special gifts and Lisa did have the potential of guiding him in the way Sarah had guided John in my previous timelines.

"In case the machines ever do show up here, someone needs to be prepared. And I think that someone needs to be Ty," I stated.

Lisa looked at me for a moment and suddenly I felt an old connection rekindle between us. She held my gaze and then nodded.

"I understand, Mom. I know I have given him a lot of freedom, but he needed to experience the good things in life to know what he might one day be called on to fight for. But the events tonight have driven home, at least for me, that it is time to start preparing in case the worst should happen." Lisa paused to run her fingers through my hair one last time as she had so often done as a little girl. "Trust me, Mom. I will have us ready, if the day ever comes."

I felt myself smile as I pulled her into a final hug. I suddenly had a much better feeling that everything would be okay in this timeline once I was gone.

Our final hug lasted sixteen seconds and then once we had separated, there was no reason to delay any longer. I reached over and flipped the switch which would initiate the time jump after a ten second delay. I walked quickly over to the center of the room and took my place next to 'my' Sarah and John.

The blue shimmer of the time bubble began to materialize around us right on schedule. From previous experience I knew the time jump would occur 2.3 seconds after I first detected the field's glow. I was just raising my hand in a final farewell gesture when Naomi darted forward and took her place beside me.

"I have to do this," she said as the time bubble went fully opaque.

It was too late for me to do anything about it or even reply to her comment. In the final milliseconds before the field temporarily turned my neural network to mush, I contemplated the shock Naomi was in for if the time jump succeeded in restoring the others to the 'real' world, and she found herself in a naked pile with a completely different John and Sarah. Just to see the expression on her face might make the whole trip worthwhile!

The End

Author's Note

Well, there you have it. My vision of what Cameron's life in the world of 90210 would be like. As always, I would appreciate hearing what you think about this story. (Hint, hint) I had a lot of fun writing it and could have easily extended it a lot further, as there are many more things I wouldn't mind exploring, but there are also a lot of other things I would like to write about and I never seemed to have as much time to write as I would like. So, this seemed like a good spot to stop the 90210 storyline and move on to other things.

Thoughts about another sequel to 1963 . . . .

Between watching the new 90210 TV show and writing this story, there was something about the Naomi character that attracted me, similar to the way Cameron in Terminator and Alicia in Smallville do. When I started this story I intended this to be one of several stand-alone sequels to 1963, which could be read in any order. But as I was writing this final chapter, I decided it might be fun to bring Naomi along for future stories and turn future stories into sequels in the same arc rather than parallel stories.

I think throwing Naomi into the mix will be sort of like Dr. Who and his companions. He is this technical wiz, but the companions are usually just normal people thrown into extraordinary circumstances so the audience has somebody to empathize with, as well as someone to ask the 'dumb' questions the audience needs answered to understand what is going on.

So I thought it might be fun to throw a Beverly Hills party-girl into this small band of warriors and see what happens. Plus it also seemed like it would be fun to explore a Cameron-John-Naomi triangle as Naomi learns to deal with someone who looks just like her old boyfriend, but has a completely different background and personality.

At the moment I am thinking the next story will be a variation of them battling Skynet on the moon I had mentioned in the last chapter of the previous story. However I think I am going to set the story in 1979 rather than 1977. By using 1979, the Lisa of that timeline will be 16, Naomi will be 16, John will be 16, and Cameron will be pretending to be 16 – which makes it more interesting than 1977.

This cross-over story with 90210 was a lot of fun to write and based on people's comments the unexpectedness of this mash-up seemed to be appreciated. So I think the next story is also going to be another cross-over, although probably even more obscure.

Way back in 1970, British TV did one season of a sci-fi show called UFO. If you have netflix, just type UFO in their search field and it should be the first hit. You will be able to see the cover art and story synopsis (and if you are really inspired, you could even rent it!)

The show was set in the distant future year of 1980 and involved a secret organization (with its headquarters buried below a British movie studio) battling alien invaders. Now if you aren't old enough to remember 1970, when this show was created, you may not understand how things on this show like the existence of many large moon-based operations by multiple countries and corporations felt entirely possible a mere ten years in the future. But in 1970 it had been less than ten years since the first person had gone into space and they had already landed a man on the moon. I think if you asked people in 1970 which was more likely: the space travel of this show in ten years or mankind not sending anyone back to the moon for more than 50 years, they would have all voted that events in the show were more likely. What has happened with space travel in the last few decades seems to be almost 'stranger than fiction'.

Anyway, as I said, this show was done in 1970 and tried to extrapolate things to 1980. And not only did they try to extrapolate technology, but also everything else. It feels so anachronistic, at least to a modern American, to see all the characters sitting around their offices smoking cigars and drinking hard liquor. And then there are the fashions. 1970 England was still in the whole 'mod' scene and this show is a lot like Austin Powers on steroids – the men all wear turtlenecks and Nehru jackets and the women are all in short, short skirts. But my favorite bit was always the women who manned the secret organization's moon operations. They dressed in these shiny metallic jumpsuits and all wore matching purple wigs. I think it would be a lot of fun to see Sarah, Cameron, Naomi, and Lisa forced to wear the purple wigs and skin-tight spacesuits to blend in!

I still have to figure out the 'hook' to tie these two stories together into a seamless whole, but it simply feels like it will be a lot of fun if I can make it work.

Anyone have any thoughts about this story idea? Good, bad, or indifferent?

Also are there any preferences on the style of the story? Should I again do it from Cameron's perspective like this story or should I revert back to the third person style of the first story? I am almost tempted to tell it from Naomi's perspective, but I am not certain how many people, besides me, would really appreciate a terminator story from her point of view.

I hope you are having a great day and I would enjoy hearing from you,

Duane

Duane