May 25, 2009

Author's Note

This story is a sequel to '1963 Timeline 90210'. It is a crossover with the 1970 British sci-fi TV show 'UFO'. However being familiar with that show isn't really necessary, as I will introduce what you need to know along the way, just like I did with my previous story. And if you have read the previous stories in my Terminator series, you know I like to twist things around without sticking to canon anyway. Enough rambling, on with the story . . .

[Oh, and of course, I don't own any of these characters, but I will fiendishly bend them to my will!]

1963 – Timeline UFO

Chapter 1

Part 1

Slowly the unbearable pain that had left her curled up in a twitching, spasming ball began to subside. Her mind cleared gradually as the sensation that every nerve in her body was on fire ebbed. Her name . . . her name was Naomi . . . Naomi Clark. She was sixteen and . . . and lived in . . . in Beverly Hills.

Then abruptly all her memories came flooding back. Her parents impending divorce. Her fight with John over his insisting she sleep with him. Finding out John had been doing it with her best friend Adrianna. Being caught in the center of the scary battle with the drug dealers at the post-play party. And her nearly spontaneous decision to join Cameron in the time jump.

The time jump. Suddenly she realized that was what she was feeling – the aftereffects of the time jump. Why hadn't Cameron warned her it would feel just like you were being burned alive? But then she remembered Cameron's robotic nature. Maybe it felt nothing like this to her only remaining friend.

And then it occurred to her that Cameron might not be just her only friend, but perhaps the only person in the whole world she knew. For Cameron hadn't said where she was going. They could be anywhere and anytime. The future or the past, she had no idea.

Trying to take stock of her situation, she felt the sun beating down hard on her curled up body. A moment earlier the burning sensation of the time transition had completely overwhelmed it, but now she could feel the heat penetrating her skin and brilliant light scorching through her still closed eyelids. It had been night when they had departed from the subbasement storeroom of the hospital where the equipment had been hidden, but now it was day and she was definitely outside in the sun.

Then more of her nerves returned to normal and began to send her mind useful information as the artificial searing sensation continued to recede. She was lying on her side on hard ground that seemed to be completely covered with sharp pebbles which dug painfully into her naked skin. Naked skin? All along the left side of her body, from ankle to calf to thigh to hip to side to shoulder to arm, she could feel the coarse gravel and dirt pressing against her bare flesh. What had happened to her dress? She wiggled her toes and realized her Giuseppe Zanotti pumps were gone, too. Why was she suddenly lying naked in the dirt?

The only part of her that seemed to be cushioned was her head. She could feel her cheek was pressed against bare skin. A stomach or a thigh, she couldn't tell which without opening her eyes, but definitely it was bare skin. It had to be Cameron, but why was she naked, too? Her mind must still be muddled, she decided. And the only thing to do was to force her eyes open and figure out what was going on and where her life-altering decision to join Cameron had taken her.

Opening her eyes no more than a slit against the glaring midday sun, Naomi was forced to wait a second for her eyes to adjust. Then her vision swam into focus and she got another shock. It wasn't Cameron's body her head was resting against, but the hard abs of a naked man. And less than three inches in front her eyes was his equally naked and exposed package.

In utter shock, Naomi jerked away and began to scramble backwards. After moving less than a foot, her shoulder slid across another nude torso. Turning her head, she looked past a naked breast and straight into the face of Sarah Silver. Glancing the other way, she abruptly realized the head attached to the man's naked twitching body was John. How the hell had John and Sarah Silver ended up here with her? And why were they all naked?

"I think we have a problem," Naomi heard Cameron's voice say off to her left.

Turning her head, Naomi was no longer surprised when she saw an equally naked Cameron standing there with her back to them looking off into the distance.

"So, what else is new," groused Sarah. "I can't believe you would have intentionally picked this spot in the absolute middle of god-damn nowhere as our destination. Do you have any fucking idea where or when we are?"

Having never heard a swear word from Sarah Silver in the three years she had known her, Naomi turned her head to stare at her. As she watched the older woman climb to her feet, Naomi received the next shock. She had seen Sarah out by her pool on numerous occasions and the woman had had an okay body for someone in her mid-forties. But now, suddenly, she had sprouted an absolutely ripped, killer physique. There couldn't be an ounce, not one single ounce of fat on her. And she had a six-pack to die for. Her arms and legs were covered with sinewy muscles that simply rippled and bulged as she moved. Her upper body had the classic Vee-shape from broad for a woman shoulders down to a narrow waist. Then Naomi noticed the scars. Her arms, legs, and torso were covered with wounds – from long jagged scars to numerous small circular puncture marks. Most were long healed, but others were still surrounded with black and blue bruises and couldn't be more than hours or days old.

Naomi looked back over at John. The tremors dancing through his body were just now dying down, as though his reaction had been much more severe than hers. And as she looked at him, she realized like Sarah, his body was leaner, harder, more sorely used than the John she remembered. Oh, John had played Lacrosse and tennis and had some muscles, but nothing like this. And his body, too, was now covered with an assortment of scary looking scars. Naomi knew John's body should be virtually blemish free. She may not have ever gone 'all the way' with him, but she had explored his body often enough to know he shouldn't have an ugly red scar running down his right side from his armpit to almost his hip or any of the other marks she could see.

What was going? Sarah and John shouldn't be here, but they were. And their bodies were completely different.

Naomi glanced back up at the older woman, who was staring off in the same direction as Cameron. Covering herself as best she could with her hands and arms before drawing attention by speaking, Naomi asked, "Mrs. Silver, what are you and John doing here?"

Watching as Sarah turned her gaze down at her, Naomi felt goose bumps surge across her body. They should have been impossible in the pounding desert heat, but Sarah's eyes were that scarily hard and intense.

"It's Connor. Sarah Connor."

Before Naomi had time to think about Sarah's unexpected reply, her attention was drawn to John.

"It worked," he exclaimed. "We've got our bodies back."

Feeling like she hadn't merely jumped to some alternate time and place, but had gone all the way to a twisted Twilight Zone realm, Naomi watched as John climbed to his feet. One of his hands seemed to automatically go to his groin to cover himself and Naomi felt a small sense of relief. She had never before seen him completely naked in broad daylight and to have it happen in front of his equally naked mother was highly disconcerting.

If they could get passed this awkward naked state and get some clothing, things might be okay. And suddenly Naomi realized maybe things weren't going to be as bad as she had thought. Instead of finding herself lost in time with Cameron as her only acquaintance, suddenly John was here, too. Maybe they could even patch things up with that whore Adrianna out of the picture.

She allowed herself to wallow in the dream of a return to the wonderful times they had shared before the fall semester of school had begun, but then her momentary dream went crashing down in flames when John completely ignored her and moved over towards where Cameron was standing and still scanning the distance.

"Cameron, I missed you so much," said John, as he neared her.

As Naomi watched, Cameron spun around with an incredibly happy smile on her face. In fact, thought Naomi, it was the most real and natural smile she had seen Cameron display in the four days she had known her. Had it really been only four days since she had met the robot girl? For a moment or perhaps more than a moment, she wondered how she had gone so totally insane as to have followed what was an almost complete stranger into a time machine heading who knows where.

Then, as John stepped forward and gave Cameron a gently kiss on the lips, what little hope of happiness Naomi had had with John at least being here, too, was crushed and ground into the dirt.

As she stared at the pair, Naomi remembered the last real conversation she had had with Cameron before the time jump; the conversation where Cameron had tried to convince her that her place was in Beverly Hills not traveling through time battling evil machines bent on destroying the human race. Cameron had told her that John needed her support to become the man he might need to be – the man who was destined to defeat the machines in so many other timelines. And as she replayed the conversation in her head was when she truly started to get 'it'. This was not the John she knew, but one of the others who was destined to be a leader, a savior of mankind. Shit, was she ready to deal with an űber-John, who obviously was in love with a robot girl?

"Are you okay?" John asked, as he took a step back from Cameron.

Cameron glanced down and Naomi's eyes followed her gaze. She had witnessed all the gunshots Cameron had sustained back at the party, but her clothing had hidden the true extent of the damage. Her chest, breasts, and abdomen were covered with giant, angry pockmarks – all of them an ugly dark red with some still oozing small trickles of fresh blood. With the surrounding bluish-purple bruises from ruptured blood vessels, she looked an absolute mess.

Then Naomi also noticed Cameron didn't have nearly the incredible physique this John and Sarah both shared. Of course, her secret robotic nature probably made powerful looking muscles unnecessary.

"I'm fine, John," Cameron answered when she lifted her gaze back up to John's eyes. "I will be completely healed in 37.5 hours."

Sarah abruptly stepped forward. "Now that we have the pleasantries out of the way, do you have any idea when and where we are?"

Cameron looked at Sarah standing in her normal commanding pose with her hands resting on her hips. Then she looked down at Naomi still sitting in the slight depression the time bubble had created, her hands carefully trying to protect her modesty.

"I don't think the pleasantries are quite completed yet," responded Cameron. Nodding her head towards Naomi, she continued. "Naomi Clark, this is my . . . ah," she paused for just a moment to shoot a glance at Sarah, "family. Remember how I said, as a result of the convoluted path my time travel experiences have taken, that Lisa Collins is my daughter? Well, John here, John Connor, is her father. So while we aren't married, we are a family of a sort. And just like in your timeline, Sarah is John's mother."

For a moment Naomi forgot she was naked, as the arm that had been covering her breasts rose to cover her mouth as it opened into a big shocked 'Oh'. After Ty had been shot at the warehouse and then revealed to be barely injured, Cameron had explained her true nature and her relationship with Lisa and Ty. Everything had been such a shock at the time; she had never thought to ask Cameron who Lisa's father was. But now it was obvious why she hadn't explained. In Naomi's timeline she had been dating John. But in Cameron's timeline Cameron had been dating John. Hell, more than dating if they had a child together. God, could this situation get any more awkward or bizarre?

"How did John and, ah, Mrs. Connor end up here with us?" asked Naomi to say something while the concept of multiple John's and Sarah's tried to sink in.

"They were with us in the time bubble. It's just when they were in your world, they were trapped in an invisible state. It wasn't like they were dead or ghosts or anything, they were just in a phase-shifted condition where only I could see or interact with them. That was the main reason I decided to leave when I did. It wasn't because my secret was about to go public, but because another time shift was our only hope of returning them to normal."

"You mean they were with you the whole time?" asked Naomi.

"Not the whole time," answered John, speaking to Naomi for the first time. "When we arrived in your timeline we were separated. We didn't reconnect with Cameron until the party."

Then he took a step towards her, swapped his left hand for his right in front of his groin and then held out his right hand. "Since we haven't been formally introduced, I'm John Connor."

By this time Naomi had lowered the hand from her mouth back to her breasts. "Ah, sorry, both my hands seem to be occupied at the moment. And besides, I have this feeling that I have already known you for years."

John lowered his hand and smiled. "I am not that John. I would never have cheated on you like that, if I was your boyfriend."

Naomi couldn't suppress the small thrill that raced through her body. She knew this John was with Cameron, but, god, if only her John had been half the man this John seemed to be.

The 'moment' Naomi thought she might be sharing with this new and different John was interrupt by his mother.

"Hello, Naomi. I would say it is nice to meet you, but at the moment we are all frying out here in the sun and I believe we have more urgent things to discuss than mundane pleasantries." Sarah started turning towards Cameron, but then paused and looked back at Naomi for a moment. "Oh, and call me Sarah, not Mrs. Connor."

Then turning her attention to Cameron, Sarah continued brusquely, "Now, what can you tell me?"

Cameron almost gave a human sigh. Maybe someday Sarah would learn to back it down half a notch, or maybe even two like the Sarah of Naomi's timeline. The world wouldn't end if they spent five more minutes chatting to ease Naomi into their frequently frightening lives.

"Since I didn't have any new, better destination to use, I set the time displacement equipment to send us to the same location as had been our destination when we left the last time line – the warehouse in Compton which housed another of the time devices and the year 1977.

"Obviously, we are a long way from Compton, so I have to question the current 'when' as much as the 'where'. As far as the 'when', I am not picking up any GPS satellites so either it is before 1993 or we are in a timeline that hasn't yet developed GPS. I am not picking up any cell phone signals either, but that could simply mean this desolate location is not within range of any cell towers. I am weakly picking up one AM radio station. Since I have been listening, I have heard part of a Beatles song and one by the Rolling Stones. So it is no earlier than the late 1960's, but it could simply be a 'golden oldies' station and the time period could be a lot later."

"Wait, a moment," said Cameron suddenly with a slight change of tone. After pausing for twelve seconds she continued, "The radio station just announced their call letters which places it in Ridgecrest, California. Based on the signal direction, we are north-northeast of the town. I don't know how far, but it could easily be forty to fifty miles and all of the intervening miles could be desolate desert just like this. And if that is our location, it would put us in the middle of the China Lake Naval Test Range."

Cameron paused to scan the immediate area again. "This valley has probably been, at one time if not at the present, part of a weapons test area. Everyone should be careful and watch where they step, there could be unexploded ordnance scattered around the area."

While the other three were standing together holding the conversation, Naomi came to the conclusion clothing wasn't going to magically materialize anytime soon. Therefore still trying to maintain what modesty she could, she slowly climbed to her feet. Then she moved to join the others while following Cameron's advice by carefully inspecting the ground in front of her for anything that looked manmade and which might explode. She stepped up between Sarah and John just as Cameron's comment about forty to fifty miles of surrounding desolation sank in.

"You mean we are stranded in the middle of the freaking desert without clothes or transportation or even water? This is how your time machine works?" asked Naomi, as she stared around the long, wide barren valley in which they found themselves. It had to stretch at least ten miles in front of them. It was completely surrounded by mountains or what at least were very tall hills which would have been an adventure to climb in appropriate climbing gear and stout hiking boots. Being naked and with bare feet, the hills might as well be as tall as Mount Everest, thought Naomi.

"Our last couple of times using the machine have really sucked," muttered Sarah, as she took a moment for another look around them. Continuing in a more forceful tone, she added while pointing off to her left, "I think that is our best hope of quickly finding some cover. We need to get out of this sun before we are burned and dehydrated. We will have to wait for nightfall before hiking out of here."

"Cameron?" asked John.

"I agree," answered Cameron immediately. Then taking in John's expression she continued, "I can hike out of here fastest alone, but I would prefer to wait for nightfall, as well. The human part of my body can be damaged by excessive exposure just the same as yours. Plus, I would rather scrounge us clothing and transportation under the cover of darkness."

"Come on, then," said Sarah, already moving off in the direction she had selected without any visible concern about Cameron's warning of potentially dangerous weapons lying around. "I don't want to end up any more burned than I have to."

Naomi looked the other three over again after Sarah's comment. Except for some color on their arms and faces, none of them had enough of a tan to even sport tan lines and therefore were nearly a uniform pasty white. From the looks of them, they never took time to hang out at the beach or a pool. Without even glancing down, she knew her tan would at least give her a little more protection than the others. And for that she could thank the luxury of having her own private tanning bed at home. Of course, access to her tanning bed was now lost just like access to her dressing room filled with designer clothes. What had she been thinking to give that all up?

With Sarah leading the way, they set off towards an outcropping of rocks that looked to be roughly a mile and a half away. Naomi stepped up beside Cameron on the opposite side from where John was walking. Walking naked across a desert was weird, but having John, but not exactly her John, walking also naked barely five feet away was insanely weird and more than a little uncomfortable.

To take her mind off the situation, not that her question really helped on that front since it delved straight to the heart of the matter, Naomi asked, "Ah, Cameron? Why exactly are we all naked?"

Cameron glanced over at her new friend, who was trying to walk with her hands still held modestly in place. "We are naked as a result of one of the limitations of the time displacement device. Only living tissue can go through the field, or in my case, a metallic endoskeleton completely surrounded by living tissue. And don't bother asking me why; like so many other potential useful bits of information, I was never programmed with that data. It is just the way it is. Usually, we try to pick a destination where we have already stashed some clothes or at least can easily acquire some. But then something goes wrong and we end up in a place like this."

"So let me get this straight," asked Naomi. "Every time we go through the time machine we arrive at the destination naked? And you didn't mention this because?"

Cameron shrugged. "I didn't expect you to jump into the time bubble at the last minute. If you weren't going to experience a time jump, there was no reason to explain the naked side effect any more than there was a reason to explain about my John."

Naomi was just about to respond when her foot came down hard on a particularly sharp, painful stone. Instantly her thoughts about modesty were completely forgotten as she started hopping up and down on her good foot while using both hands to rub at the sole of her injured foot.

John began to snicker and even Cameron smiled.

"What?" asked Naomi, as she gingerly lowered her foot to the ground and experimentally put weight on it.

"Sorry," answered John trying to maintain a straight face. "I've just never seen a naked girl hopping around in quite that manner before."

Naomi, who had been standing there with her hands on her hips after momentarily forgetting her current state of undress, abruptly jerked her hands up to cover herself again.

Sarah, who had continued walking and who was now almost twenty yards ahead, turned and shouted back across her shoulder. "Come on guys, kick into gear. There will be plenty of time for 'show and tell' games when we reach shelter."

Suddenly deciding it would be more comfortable up front with Sarah then back here with John and Cameron, Naomi almost loped ahead. However the time 'her' John had made her sit through the old war movie, 'Kelly's Heroes', suddenly popped to mind. In the middle of the movie, Eastwood's men had been trapped in a minefield. As they tried to extricate themselves from the field, they all had had to carefully check for landmines until they reached a spot where one of the others had already cleared the way. Therefore while Naomi quickened her pace to catch up to the older woman, she carefully made sure to only step in Sarah's foot prints.

When she caught up with the older woman, Naomi stepped up beside her. However she kept her eyes mostly on the ground in front of her, watching for more sharp stones as much as for things that might decide to explode.

They walked in silence for a few minutes. Occasionally Naomi shot Sarah glances and marveled at the casual way she moved, as though finding herself naked in the middle of nowhere was no big deal.

"Mrs. Connor, ah, Sarah," amended Naomi. "Has this happened to you before? The whole stranded naked in the middle of nowhere thing?"

Sarah pondered the question for a moment before answering. "Not really. Oh, the first time I experienced a time jump we had been in the middle of a battle with a terminator and ended up jumping eight years forward to get away. We arrived naked in the middle of a freeway, but we managed to acquire some clothing within a few minutes. And I knew ahead of time we would arrive naked. On the other occasions when I have time jumped, we have ended up with clothing readily available."

"If that's the case, how can you be so casual about the current situation? Doesn't it bother you to be naked?"

"Well, in my life, any time is a good time when no one is shooting at you or trying to kill you by some other means. Besides, after you have given birth in a room full of strangers, a little nudity no longer seems like such a big deal."

Naomi glanced back to where John and Cameron were following along about twenty-five feet behind. Their hands were just touching as they talked quietly.

Looking back at Sarah, Naomi asked. "You gave birth to John in a room full of strangers? What about his father?"

Sarah got a wistful look on her face. She was so long in responding, Naomi almost thought she wasn't going to answer.

"I had my first encounter with a terminator from the future on the day John was conceived. His father was killed by the machine the same night," Sarah answered with a sigh. "I managed to destroy that machine, but was afraid more might follow. By the time John was born, I was hiding in Central America. I gave birth at a small clinic in San Esteban, Honduras. The machine had not only killed John's father, but also my mother, and my best friend. So I was in a remote village, utterly alone, and at the time I barely spoke any Spanish. It was probably the darkest, scariest day of my life and I have seen a lot of dark, scary days."

Despite the extreme heat, Naomi felt a shiver run through her body. She had thought her life had been difficult and as a result had run away via the time machine. But she realized, her life had only been bad from a Beverly Hills perspective. This woman striding along beside her had seen and experienced things she couldn't even imagine. While her parents might be getting a divorce and her boyfriend was cheating on her, Sarah's family and friends had been wiped out by a killing machine and she had been left pregnant and on the run. How would she have reacted, Naomi wondered, if it had happened to her? What if her parents were dead rather than merely contemplating a divorce? Then Naomi realized she might experience the same thing now. There could be terminators lurking in her immediate future. What had she gotten herself into with the decision to follow Cameron into the time machine?

The girl with the light blonde hair and the woman with the darker blonde hair strode on in silence for the remainder of the thirty minute hike to the sheltering outcropping of rock.

Part 2

As bad as the heat of the day had been, the cold of the night was even worse. Naomi sat so close to the small fire John had managed to start that her toes were almost in the flames. But it still left her back fully exposed to the bitter cold of the desert night. And the modest breeze wasn't helping as her teeth chattered so hard she was afraid she was going to chip at least one of her pearly white caps.

Cameron had left at dusk in search of transportation to get them out of this hell hole. At the time everything had still felt like a big adventure. Naomi even remembered smiling at Cameron's appearance before she had taken off across the floor of the valley at a dead run. Being around her for hours with her wounds continually on display had really driven home the concept that Cameron was truly a robot on the inside despite her almost perfectly human personality. However for some reason, seeing the bright red sun burn across the face and shoulders of her robot friend had struck Naomi as extremely funny.

But nothing was funny about the situation now. Cameron had been gone for at least eight hours. And by Naomi's best estimate it had been at least sixteen hours since she had last eaten. Between the growling of her stomach and the non-stop shivering from the cold, she was finding it harder and harder to think coherently. Could you died from exposure if you were naked in the desert in the middle of August?

By the time Cameron had left she had learned from the radio station she was receiving that it was August 12, 1979. Not only had the time machine missed their target by several hundred miles, it had also missed it by over two years. Stupid time machine, thought Naomi. Then she appended a 'stupid Naomi' onto the thought. Why had she followed Cameron into the time machine? She must be an absolute idiot.

For some reason her thoughts segued to Mr. Matthews, her English teacher. Just today, or was that now yesterday or thirty years from now, he had again chided her by telling her that she was very bright, but she was squandering her gifts by not learning everything she could while she had the opportunity in school and that she should spend a little less time focused on things like fashion and clothing. If he knew where she was now, he would doubtlessly be laughing at her. Because at this moment he was right, she had absolutely zero interest in fashion. Cameron had talked about a life where shopping at Wal-Mart was usually as good as it got. And while she had barely been able to fathom the concept when Cameron had been talking about it while they were still in Beverly Hills, she was now almost ready to kill for the most frumpy, shapeless article of clothing Wal-Mart had in stock.

Sarah threw another piece of their dwindling pile of kindling onto the fire and then moved over and wrapped her body and arms around Naomi's back. Almost instantly Naomi felt a little warmer as Sarah's body blocked the harsh wind. Her teeth mostly stopped chattering, but shudders still swept intermittently across her body.

"How are you doing?" asked Sarah, her tone as light and motherly as Naomi had heard it since they had arrived here.

"I have never been so cold and hungry in my life," answered Naomi. She heard a whine in her voice like she was six years old rather than sixteen, but she was so miserable she didn't try to stop it. "What is taking Cameron so long?"

Sarah hugged her even tighter. "We don't know how far she had to go to find help. And while she has some remarkable abilities, there are limits to how fast even she can travel over broken terrain in complete darkness. She understands the situation we are in and will get back here as soon as possible. But it might be a while yet. You just need to hang in there. It will be light in three more hours and then things will seem a little better."

"Three more hours?" whined Naomi. Knowing her attitude wasn't helping the situation, Naomi forced herself to continue in a calmer tone. "How do you know dawn is in three more hours?"

"In the summer, days are about fourteen hours long and nights are about ten hours long. When the sun set and it got dark enough to see the stars, I spotted Aries near the western horizon. After Aries, next came Cancer, Capricorn, and Gemini. Leo is almost to the horizon and next comes Libra. You can see Libra right over there," said Sarah as she pointed with her left hand at a group of stars about thirty degrees up from the western horizon. "It will take about three more hours for Leo to fully disappear and Libra to fall to the horizon, which is how I know when dawn will get here."

To Naomi the stars Sarah had pointed at didn't look any different than all the other stars in the sky. Oh, on a good night she might be able to pick out the Big Dipper, but that was the extent of her knowledge of astronomy. And thinking about it brought back thoughts of Mr. Matthews. Perhaps he was right and she should have made a more serious attempt to learn things in school.

"Sarah, did you learn all this astronomy stuff in school?" asked Naomi.

Sarah laughed quietly. Then before she answered, Naomi felt the older woman's laugh turn into a violent shiver. Even with her impressive body, she obviously wasn't immune to the cold.

"No," answered Sarah with an almost bitter undertone in her voice. "I was what you would call a party-girl back then. Partying four or five nights a week, I drove my mother almost to despair and had the teachers, or at least the good ones, ragging on me to do better." Sarah shook her head before she continued. "And, of course, they were all right. There was so much I could have learned that would have made my life easier, but I had to learn it all the hard way. Anyway, to answer your question, I learned all I know about reading the night sky from Emilio Hector Garcia, a scout with a guerilla group in Nicaragua I stayed with back in . . . ah, let's see . . . 1985, I think."

Naomi heard Sarah's description about how she had learned astronomy, but what really caught her attention were her comments about her school days. It sounded like her life had been a lot like Naomi's. And yet look at her now – strong, tough, a survivor of multiple encounters with killing machines. Perhaps, Naomi thought, there was hope for her, too, assuming she survived this ungodly cold night.

"So, it's your turn now, Naomi," continued Sarah. "My life has been one long battle only broken by brief lulls which were spent healing wounds and preparing for the next stage of this seemingly endless conflict. I have spent most of my adult life on the fringes of society. But you have been right at its heart. So tell me a story about some rich and famous person I would have heard of before."

Naomi stared at their small fire for a moment and their situation suddenly reminded her of an old movie whose premiere she had attended as a kid.

"My dad is a producer at Dreamworks," began Naomi, "so we have attended a lot of big Hollywood premieres down through the years. Did you ever see the movie, 'Cast Away', with Tom Hanks? I must have been eight or nine when it premiered."

"Ah, no, I must have missed that one," answered Sarah. "But I do remember him from 'Saving Private Ryan', a good movie that really captured the intensity of combat."

John had slid over until his shoulder rub up against Naomi's and his mother stretched out her arm to pull him closer for the shared warmth. Now he joined the conversation.

"Mom, 'Cast Away' was about a man who was stranded by himself on an island for years. He had been on a Fed-Ex plane that was thrown way off course in a storm and when it crashed into the Pacific he was the sole survivor."

Naomi nodded. "The movie spent a long time on his struggle to start a fire. Seeing you start the fire is what brought it to mind. He seemed to work at it for months before he was successful, but you did it in a matter of minutes with just a couple of old sticks."

Naomi felt more than saw his shrug.

"Starting fires was one of the first things I learned when I was growing up in Central America. Well, proper handling of weapons may have come first, but fire starting was a close second."

Naomi felt another shudder wrack her body, but this time she wasn't certain if it was due to the cold or from learning a little more about John and Sarah's hard lives. She had seen news shows on TV showing kids with automatic weapons in poverty-stricken third world countries, but she had never expected to be huddled up with an American who had grown up in that kind of life.

Trying to lighten the mood, Naomi got back to her story. "Tom Hanks got his start in TV comedies and then moved on to movies, but stayed in the comedy genre through most of the nineteen-eighties. It wasn't until later that he made the jump primarily to dramas. Anyway with his comedic roots you would never expect him to be a method actor, at least not compared to someone like . . . Christian Bale who almost seems to need to live the part. But at least for 'Cast Away', Tom did too. They shot the first part of the movie and then shut down production for six months so Tom could grow the unkempt, grizzly beard and put on the extra fifty pounds he sported on the island for that extra little bit of realism.

"Anyway, my Dad knows Tom quite well and by the time they were working on that movie, I had met him a number of times. So when my Dad needed to stop by Tom's house about some paperwork, he took me along. I hadn't seen Tom in about six months so when he opened the door, bearded, fifty pounds overweight and decked out in a red engineer's shirt like Scotty from the original Star Trek show and a Cleveland Indians baseball cap, well, his appearance was a . . ."

And abruptly John interrupted her with a shushing sound. "Do you guys hear that?"

Instantly Naomi went quiet and strained to pickup whatever had caught John's attention. She was hoping it was going to be the sound of a car or truck and that Cameron was about to return. But what she heard was a faint rumble that was far too deep to be the engine of a car. On the other hand, it didn't sound like thunder either.

"There," exclaimed Sarah, pointing in the general direction where Cameron had headed when she had gone for help.

Naomi scanned the area and quickly spotted what Sarah was pointing at, but felt instantly discouraged. What she saw wasn't the headlights of a car, but the slowly blinking red and green lights of an airplane. It was flying low, but it couldn't be there for them. For what she heard she now recognized was the sound of jet engines, not the whump . . . whump . . . whump of a helicopter. It was just conceivable that Cameron might be arriving in a helicopter or had one sent by a search and rescue organization, but there was no way a jet could land on the rough floor of the valley in front of them in broad daylight, let alone on a moonless night. So this jet had to be heading in their direction on some wholly unrelated mission. And with the way their luck had been going today, its mission was probably a practice bombing run with live weapons.

Still, this might be their best chance for getting out of here. "Do we hide or try to attract their attention?" Naomi asked.

"Let's wait a little," responded John. "If they start bombing, this outcropping will provide us cover."

Wow, thought Naomi, we have been together for less than a day and already we are starting to think alike. She wasn't certain if that was a good or a bad thing.

The three sat in silence waiting to see what was going to happen. The plane continued to approach but it seemed to take longer than would be expected for a jet. Then, when it was less than a mile away, it switched on powerful landing lights that seemed to illuminate a wide swath of the valley floor. And it was the slow progress of the forward edge of this region of light that drove home how the aircraft was moving at a pace hardly faster than a brisk walk.

The aircraft took almost five minutes to traverse the last half mile. It was slowly descending at the same time and as it got close to the ground, the reflection of its landing lights began to illuminate its bottom surface. And that's when they got a true feeling for the size of the plane. It had a long fuselage and long, spindly looking wings. It had four engines mounted in pairs under each wing that gave it a vague resemblance to a B-52 bomber. But only a vague resemblance, as this craft also had a tandem pair of engines mounted on each side of the fuselage back near the tail for a total of an even dozen. And at the moment all dozen were gimbaled around so that their inlets were pointing straight up and their exhaust nozzles pointed straight down giving the giant craft the ability to hover in midair.

Then in the reflected light they all saw extremely tall landing gear cycle down. Slowly the giant craft settled until the widely spaced gear touched lightly to the ground. In a matter of seconds the roar of the dozen engines began to abate as they were sequentially powered down.

Sarah gave Naomi's upper arms one last energetic rub before she began climbing to her feet. "I think our ride is here."

John was already scooping dirt onto their little fire, as Naomi stood up. She quickly wrapped both arms tightly across her chest, but this time it was for warmth rather than modesty. She didn't know who was on this aircraft or what they would think of her appearance, all she cared about was getting out of the cold wind and hopefully into a warm set of clothes.

The spot where they had been sheltering was about twenty feet up from the actual floor of the valley. As she scrambled down, Naomi realized just how much the large outcropping of rock had been sheltering them from the cutting force of the wind. Now out in a more exposed area, it felt like she could hardly stand up straight. Trying to make herself as small a target as possible for the biting cold, she crouched low as she scuttled forward for the looming sanctuary of the aircraft.

The landing gear had looked tall when it had descended out of aircraft's body, but now as they got closer it looked like the airplane was standing on stilts. The body of the cylindrical fuselage had to be at least twenty-five feet above their heads.

The glare of the landing lights were almost blinding from up close. Naomi struggled to look past the brilliant lights in hopes of finding some sign they had been spotted and they would soon be welcomed into the craft's warm interior. Therefore she was the first to spot the elongated oval of the door that opened just aft of the cockpit.

"There," she exclaimed pointing up just as a long metal ladder began to unfold from inside of the doorway. Before the bottom edge of the ladder even reached the ground, three bundles were tossed out. As they hit the ground with a soft series of thuds, Naomi wasn't certain what they were other than they looked khaki-colored under the bright lights. Hoping they were clothing, she raced over to the nearest one.

The bundle turned out to be a flight suit tightly wrapped around a pair of boots. There was no sign of underwear, but at the moment Naomi didn't care. She struggled for a moment with shaking hands to get it unwound. Then as she stood back up to slide her legs into the lower half, she realized it was way too big for her. She almost didn't care as anything that would block the wind would better than nothing. But then she noticed John holding up a similar outfit only it was obviously way too small for him.

Grabbing up the large boots in her other hand she ran the six steps to where John was standing. "Here. Trade." Was all she said, as she pulled the smaller jumpsuit out of his hands with an abrupt jerk while thrusting the other at him. Before she was even certain he had caught it, she was busy jamming her legs into hers and pulling up the long zipper.

Ah, nirvana. The material was coarse and scratchy with nothing under it to protect her skin, but the thick, heavy cloth did a wonderful jump of blocking the wind and almost immediately Naomi could feel it starting to trap her body heat. She almost leisurely sat on the ground to pull on and lace up the boots.

As she worked on the boots, she had time to watch the figure descend the ladder. Like a scene from an old movie, the booted feet were hooked around the edges of the ladder and the figure slid rapidly down without setting a foot on a single rung. It wasn't until the figure landed at the bottom that it was fully exposed to the glare of the landing lights and was revealed to be Cameron outfitted in a matching khaki jumpsuit.

Quickly, she unslung a canteen from around her shoulder and handed it to Naomi as John and Sarah stepped closer.

"Sorry, it took so long to get here," Cameron began, as Naomi took a big swig of water. "But the terrain was very bad and I didn't see any passable road to get a car or truck easily in here. So, I had to scrounge other transportation."

Naomi passed Sarah the canteen and then made towards the ladder and the beckoning warmth of the aircraft's open doorway. "Not that I am complaining, but you actually stole this giant freaking airplane to come and get us?"

"Of course not," Cameron called to Naomi, who was already halfway up the ladder. She was hustling Sarah and John over to the ladder when she continued. "If I stole it, there would be all kinds of people looking for us. No, this plane was scheduled for a post-maintenance check flight, so I merely signed it out. Their computer security systems were an absolute joke."

Naomi had paused at the top of the ladder to hear the end of Cameron's remark. Then she stepped into the interior and felt the warmth radiating from the racks of electrical gear. Quickly she sagged into one of the nearby seats while she waited for the others to ascend the ladder.

In less than a minute the others had joined her. Cameron was the last and as she entered the chamber she hit a button by the door which began retracting the ladder. Sarah and John fell into other nearby seats.

After swinging the door shut, Cameron moved over to a nearby locker and pulled out a large bag with a 'Pizza Hut' logo on its side.

She lifted out four drinks with straws and then two large pizza containers. "I'm afraid it's pretty cold, but it is the best I could do."

Naomi, John, and Sarah dove into the pizza. It was a cold, congealed mass of cheese and pepperoni on a paper-thin crust, but at the moment it tasted better to Naomi then anything she had ever eaten at Mario's on Sunset.

They wolfed down two slices apiece in silence before slowing enough to talk.

"What is this plane?" asked John between bites. "I have never seen or heard of anything like it."

Cameron, who had been slowing munching on a slice of her own, took a swallow of her Dr. Pepper before answering. "You wouldn't believe all the cool toys they have down at the base. This timeline, wherever we are, has taken a way different path with technology then any other I have encountered."

Getting to John's question, she added. "This plane, a V-48, is the mothership for launching single-stage to orbit rockets. The rocketship is slung under the mothership, which is the main reason it sits so high off the ground. A side benefit is that the extra height keeps the engine inlets well clear of all the crap that gets kicked up when you land in the middle of the desert."

"Single stage to orbit," repeated John. "If they have that, they could have a much more active space program."

Cameron nodded. "They had twenty of these babies lined up with half of them already loaded up with rocketships. And this seems to be one of the smaller bases from what I gathered. All the major countries and even some of the larger corporations have large orbiting space stations and some of them even have moon-based operations. The amount of space borne activity is way beyond any I have seen before except perhaps for the timeline where Skynet was based on the moon."

"Speaking of Skynet, any signs of it," asked Sarah, focused as always on the mission.

Cameron shook her head. "No, but I wasn't really looking either. My main focus was on getting transportation. I figured there would be plenty of time once we returned to the base."

"Cameron," asked Naomi, "how do you know how to fly this thing, if you have never seen one before?"

"Oh, that was easy. A copy of the flight manual is stowed up in the cockpit. It only took me ten minutes to scan it." Then Cameron climbed to her feet. "And speaking of flying, it is probably time we head back before someone at the base becomes concerned. Anyone else up for learning how to fly this thing? It's not too hard."

John's hand shot up like he was in school and the teacher had asked an easy question for which he knew the answer. And then Naomi realized she had raised her hand, too. The old Beverly Hills Naomi would never have volunteered, but this was her life now and she was going to have to make the best of it. Perhaps if he knew of her reaction, Mr. Matthews would even be proud of her at this moment, Naomi thought.

Cameron grinned and threw Naomi a quick wink. "I think Naomi will fly left-seat this time. John," she paused to glance at the nametag on his jumpsuit, "or should I say Lieutenant Larsen, you can man the engineer's console."

Naomi looked down and read the name on her own jumpsuit. "So, am I Lieutenant Powell, now?"

Cameron's grin widened and then she threw a jaunty salute. "No, sir, You're CAPTAIN Powell now, sir."

Cameron headed forward towards the cockpit. The others followed along behind with Naomi trailing at the rear. Even though she felt a slight flutter of butterflies in her stomach at the thought of getting behind the controls, it was amazing how much better life suddenly seemed with a little food in her stomach and some clothes on her back.

End of Chapter 1

Author's Note

This chapter was a lot more Naomi-centric than I expect the rest of the story to be. But I thought her perspective immediately after the time jump would be the most interesting.

Have a great day,

Duane