Disclaimer & Notices: See Prologue.
by Red Hope
There was a low stench of dried blood that initially woke her up, but it was followed by a dull throb behind her forehead. Yet she tempted fate and cracked her lids open only to be further pained by the light. She couldn’t bite back the soft moan. Then a metallic rattle vibrated in her ears.
“Sarah,” a gentle voice called.
That was her name, she recalled in her head. She jogged her memory and came up with Sarah Connor, the mother of John Connor. She lost her thoughts upon the delicate touch to her cheek. She forced her eyes wider and slowly focused on the features of another human. After a mental groan, she remembered this human was a wolf in sheep’s wool. This was her son’s protector, a cold and dangerous terminator from the future that’d been named Cameron.
Sarah was on her side that didn’t ache, as bad. She managed her hands under her and discovered cold steel.
“Can you stand?” Cameron assisted the woman onto her feet and steadied her.
Sarah Connor glanced at the terminator in hidden appreciation for the help. However, she wasn’t pleased once she took in their current situation. She had her hands wire tied in front of her, and she was staring through metal bars at two guards, who noticed her wakefulness. Sarah glanced at the terminator and mentally cursed at the manacles and chains that locked the terminator to the steel plates in their cage.
“Where are we?” Sarah called to the guards.
The guards ignored her, and one of them marched out of the room and went through a metal door. He locked it behind himself.
That’s when Sarah took in her surroundings better and figured they were in an airplane’s bay. She suddenly noticed the faint turbulence. “Where are you taking us?” she tried.
Cameron shook her head and explained, “They will not speak to us.”
Sarah slotted her eyes at the terminator and chided, “Because you talked their ears off?”
Cameron tilted her head to the side and carefully regarded the human. “I have not.”
Sarah went silent though because the metal door reopened and the guard returned but with Sam in tow. She sent a dark glare at him that would have melted alloy.
Sam was not all deterred by the look, and he slipped his hands behind his back. He came five feet in front of the cage and smiled at the women. “Nice of you to rejoin us, Miss Connor.”
“Why don’t you join us in here, and I’ll show you how nice it is,” Sarah snidely shot off.
“Your charming invite beseeches my heart, Miss Connor.” Sam rubbed his thumb over the top button on the remote that he had hidden behind his back. He didn’t apply any pressure to it. He became rather serious, which looked odd on his face considering his usual condescending mannerism. “I apologize your caught in the middle of this, Miss Connor but you’ve become a useful control tool in the grand scheme of things.”
“What is going on?” Sarah demanded. She approached the bars and grasped a bar with a bound hand.
“You were initially bait,” Sam answered, but he switched his focus to the terminator. “For her.”
Sarah Connor shook her head and debated, “What could you want with a girl?” She hoped to brush Cameron off as nothing of importance; however, she already had that sickening feeling in her stomach.
“Please, Miss Connor… we both know what Supergirl truly is.” Sam’s normal, dark smile returned and lit up his stern features.
Sarah took a wild guess and stated, “You’re from the future.”
“Very observant,” Sam remarked. He had a proud smile but quickly lost it. “I have been sent back by Skynet on a mission.”
“Which is what?”
Sam obviously debated whether to answer Sarah’s question. He couldn’t seem to help gloating about himself. “Unlike prior agents who were sent back to kill your son, I was selected for a special mission by Skynet. I am here to collect what is rightfully Skynet’s.” He shifted his cold stare to the terminator. “John Connor stole her from us, and we’ve come to collect her.”
Sarah was surprised by this news because she’d never heard of Skynet retrieving terminators, especially what would be deemed a traitor. She shoved down her shock and quickly thought about everything she knew about Sam and his team. “Then you have been collecting hardware for Time Displacement Equipment. You plan to build it and go back to the future with Cameron.”
“Yes.” Sam rocked on his feet briefly then explained, “It seems the original TDE housed at a bank was destroyed a few years ago. I’ve since had to make a few adjustments and extend my stay here. But once I realized I put my name out on the market for TDE hardware, you would pick me up and bring Cameron to me.” He chuckled and held out an empty hand to the terminator. “Thank you, Miss Connor… you’ve made my mission that much simpler.”
Sarah growled at Sam and slammed her palm against the bar despite the pain it caused her.
Sam lowered his hand and returned it to his back. He still had his smug smile, especially because of Sarah’s reaction. “Oh, and don’t get too cozy with your terminator, Miss Connor.” His dark eyes flickered to Cameron, and he playfully informed, “As we speak, Cameron’s cortical kernel is being reset and her software reformatted to Skynet’s default program.” He chuckled and finally walked away while contently rubbing his thumb over the remote’s top button.
Sarah shifted her astonished features to Cameron, who had a confirming look to what Sam just told her. She clenched her teeth and yelled, “What does Skynet want with a rogue terminator? Why all the effort to retrieve her when she’s just another terminator?”
Sam had the door open, but he turned back and merely explained, “She is a chink in the chain and must be terminated.”
Sarah waited until he was gone then she faced the terminator. “Is it true?”
Cameron lifted her head and held a stare with Sarah. She understood the question and barely nodded.
Sarah back stepped from the terminator and held up her hands. “Oh my god.” If she didn’t feel caged earlier then she surely was now that she knew the terminator was being reset.
Cameron shook her head and softly tried, “I will not harm you, Sarah.”
“The hell you won’t!” Sarah backed up further until her body pressed into the bars. “You’re probably already fucking reset and lying like last time.”
Cameron was visibly stung by the words and drew back from the human. She instinctively reached to the back of her head and fingered the slit that Sam had made in the back of her head to gain access to her cortex module. She could do nothing to stop Sam as he threatened to have Sarah electrocuted further.
The terminator raised her head and her HUD display popped up involuntarily. Instantly her HUD targeted Sarah Connor and populated her name then flashed in red: TERMINATE. Cameron struggled against the command and fell to her knees. She dropped her head into her hands.
Sarah stared in horror and murmured, “It’s already happening.”
Cameron resisted the order’s will, and it caused friction in her cortex that produced high heat in her head. She didn’t give in and felt her self-control come over her again. She breathed heavily against the stress it put on her, but she tested herself first. She looked up at Sarah Connor and again her HUD retrieved Sarah’s full name. But this time in white her HUD read: TERMINATION OVERRIDE, and she gave a relieved sigh.
“This is just fucking great… we’re kidnapped, and I’m locked in a cage with a terminator about to kill me.”
The terminator climbed to her feet then glowered at the human on the opposite side of the cage. “You were foolish to come back for me in the warehouse. I had the situation under control.”
Sarah gave a low rumble from her chest and gruffly challenged, “I could tell since you didn’t have Sam.”
“I was in the process,” Cameron snapped back.
Sarah pushed off the bars and carefully approached the terminator. “You’re welcome for coming back to save your steel hide.”
“I am cybernetic organism made of-”
“Whatever.” Sarah blew off the terminator. She couldn’t figure out why they were arguing anyway, but it fueled her.
Cameron neared the human until her chains stopped her. “If you didn’t allow yourself to get captured then we would not be in this situation.”
“Oh, it’s my fault!” Sarah was fully primed now that finger was directly pointed at her. “You can’t even follow your most basic subroutine to kill threats.”
The terminator jerked on her shackles then her blue eyes lit up. “Shall I terminate the threat closest to me now?” She gritted her teeth and strained against the chains towards Sarah.
Sarah stared right into volatile blue eyes that she’d never seen directed at her. This struck her hard because it was true that Cameron had never once been violent towards her, but she couldn’t say she’d treated Cameron well. She instantly withdrew but not out of fear and quietly reminded, “This isn’t us, Cameron.” She lifted her locked hands and ran her fingers through her hair just before she faced the terminator again. “This isn’t solving anything.” She noted that Cameron’s eyes had faded back to the soft amber she was use to seeing.
Cameron reversed until her back hit the bars, and she slumped against it in a defeated form.
Sarah studied the terminator and had never witnessed such a posture from the normally stoic terminator. “We have to find a way out of this mess.”
The terminator harshly dropped her head back against bar. She shut her eyes but retrieved her heads-up display and began a crucial calculation.
Sarah approached the terminator in a sign of truce and trust. She whispered, “How long do you have until you revert back to your Skynet programing?”
Cameron lifted her head and opened her eyes again. She waited a beat as the estimated time until reset was displayed in her HUD. “I have anywhere between twenty-four hours and seventy-two hours.”
Sarah moved her head in disbelief. “Why is it such an imprecise estimate?”
“There is a variable,” Cameron explained, “that’s dependent on how hard I fight the reset.” She paused at seeing the realization on Sarah’s face. “I can only fight it for so long… it will dig deeper and deeper into my cortex to a depth that I cannot stop it.” She searched the human’s face and murmured, “It is inevitable.”
Sarah turned her head away and stared at the guards, who acted like flies on the wall. She shut her eyes and tried to comprehend that after twenty-four hours she wasn’t just on her own but also on the terminator’s hit list.
Cameron detected deep regret fill her, and she already felt she’d failed Sarah. She soon would become Sarah’s greatest threat and nothing could stop it. Cameron put aside her darker thoughts and instead focused on what she could do right now. She hooked Sarah’s chin with her index finger and lifted Sarah’s head. She found worried green eyes directed at her.
“You will get back to John,” the terminator quietly promised.
Sarah clasped Cameron’s petite hand and murmured, “I’d prefer us both to make it back.” She hadn’t expected herself to confess the truth, but she wanted Cameron to survive this just as much.
“I cannot,” the terminator starkly reminded.
Sarah tightened her grip on Cameron’s hand. “I wouldn’t count yourself out just yet.” She narrowed her eyes and sharply reminded, “You have got to have faith that you can control your fate. There is no fate but what we make.” She then quirked a grin and teased, “Or your programing.”
Cameron was quiet for a beat but whispered, “Perhaps.” She freed her hand then looked over at the guards. “There is little we can do until this plane lands.”
Sarah leaned in closer to the terminator in a bowed posture. “Can you break the chains?” Her words were so low that only Cameron’s excellent hearing could pick up her voice. She peered up at Cameron with hooded features.
The terminator kept silent but replied with a mere nod.
“Good,” Sarah muttered. “We’ll just wait ’til we land then take it from there.”
“Have you forgotten the collar?”
Sarah grumbled and grabbed the annoyance around her neck, and it chirped at her in warning. “No, but if I’m going to blow up then I’m taking as many of these bastards with me as I can.” She stiffened when Cameron suddenly grabbed her shoulder.
“If this becomes futile,” the terminator sadly whispered, “then you must make one last sacrifice, for humanity.” She read Sarah’s curiosity and worry. “I cannot return to Skynet or all will be lost for the Resistance. You must terminate me.”
Sarah clenched her jaw and grounded out, “You want me to blow us both up?”
Sarah let out a heavy groan but tried to focus on the topic. She hotly demanded, “What the hell is this about anyway? It’s ridiculous to think that Skynet would send an agent out to obtain you.”
Cameron glanced once at the guards and hoped they really wouldn’t hear their conversation. She lowered her voice enough. “It is complicated.”
Sarah glared because the terminator was blatantly trying to avoid the conversation. She was always amazed at how Cameron had learn such human characteristics that terminators normally could not adopt. “Alright… let’s try something simpler.” She gradually arched an eyebrow. “You’ve never told us your model type… what is it?”
The terminator tried to remain indifferent and merely replied, “I do not have one.”
“Cameron,” Sarah snarled, “all terminators have a model number.”
“Not all,” Cameron argued back, “Not prototypes.”
Sarah clenched her hands in front of her because she felt like a badly paid dentist yanking teeth out of the terminator. She took a deep, calming breath but through gritted teeth, she checked, “Then you are a prototype?”
“Yes, I am technically a hybrid… between the T-800 and T-1000 models.”
Sarah muttered, “A T-900 then.”
“No, I am not apart of the T-900 Series.”
Sarah touched her aching brow and went back to the original topic. “Why would Skynet go through all this trouble just to terminate a prototype?” Then another thought occurred to her. “And aren’t prototypes considered imperfect and have flaws?”
“It is my flaw as to why Skynet wants me returned and terminated.” Cameron didn’t have all the facts, yet she easily theorized what had happened upon her absence from Skynet’s control. “I do not have any imperfection such as bad software or hardware. However, Skynet considers me flawed because I am self-aware.”
“But isn’t Skynet self-aware too?” After Cameron’s nod, Sarah grew more confused. “Then how is that a flaw?”
“I can reject Skynet’s orders.”
Sarah blinked a few times and went through the new information. “Now it makes sense.” She shifted away from the terminator then sat down on the floor. She leaned against the bars and propped up her legs. She stared up at the terminator, who was in a form of a petite girl in her teens. Sarah leaned her head against the bar behind her. “It’s like bees.”
Cameron tilted her head. “Please explain.”
“Skynet is the queen of the hive and all the terminators are worker bees with set orders.” Sarah licked her chapped lips. She let the metaphor washover her and Cameron. “If one bee leaves the hive then they’re useless and if one bee is as big as the queen then…”
“A threat is posed to the hive,” Cameron finished.
“Yes.” Sarah Connor stared up at Skynet’s threat to the hive. “If you can reject Skynet’s orders then how can they reset you?”
The terminator decided to sit as well, which caused her chains to rattle in protest. She sat cross legged and rested her shacked hands in her lap. “All terminators are preprogrammed with basic subroutines such as killing humans and following Skynet’s orders. Then Skynet chooses how to build upon the base programming in the terminator with software for human infiltration, supply management, reconnaissance, rogue hunting, and so on.”
“In your case, you were built for human infiltration.”
Cameron nodded but further revealed, “But Skynet took my programming further than any terminator’s normal human infiltration by making me self-aware. Skynet determined it would allow me to better infiltrated human Resistance camps at a faster rate. And Skynet was right because I can infiltrate a human camp in seven days versus an average of two months for other terminators.”
Sarah could barely absorb it all. “So, this reset isn’t exactly resetting you?”
Cameron peered up from her shackled wrists and her HUD flickered briefly. She turned off the HUD display that had a diagnostic read on the reset. “My brain is a computer therefor my human infiltration programming is being formatted. I will then reset back to my basic subroutines.”
“Formatted… wiped clean,” Sarah concluded. Her stomach twisted at Cameron’s confirming nod. She wanted to ask more but the plane’s dip told her they were dropping altitude.
Cameron gazed up when the lights softly dimmed in the cargo bay. She carefully climbed to her feet and saw that Sarah did the same.
The metal door whined when it was opened and a soldier in blue military fatigue ordered, “Get buckled up. It’ll be a bumpy landing.” He slammed the door shut.
The guards backed away from the cage and pushed the seats down that were anchored into the plane’s metal wall. They situated the rifles across their laps then buckled up for the landing but never lost visual on their prisoners.
Sarah Connor briefly caught sight of lights from the porthole window on the opposite side of the cargo bay. She finally realized that it was dark wherever they were landing tonight. Then a sudden bounce from the plane caused her to tumble.
Cameron had better reflexes and stayed upright. She stretched forward as far as her chains allowed her, and she grabbed Sarah, who had fell back towards her.
Sarah tried to gain her composure but failed because of a second, harsher bounce that made her crumble back into the terminator.
Cameron dropped herself to her knees and protectively pulled the human into her arm. She then dug her left hand into the floor so that they were now safely anchored.
“Cameron,” Sarah argued to the terminator’s help.
“You will be tossed around like a ball if I do not hold you.” Cameron’s point was reinforced when the plane violently jounced worse than last time.
Sarah covered the terminator’s small hand over her stomach. She then tensed when the lights were shut off. “Great,” she muttered.
Cameron was not deterred by it and automatically her night vision booted up. She glanced over at the guards to make sure they still were not a threat in the dark.
The plane suddenly shot upward in an attempt to avoid a problem.
“Holy shit!” Sarah called out and her body pressed deeper into Cameron’s. Then she heard an alarming sound because something metal accidentally freed from a rack mounted on the wall straight ahead.
Cameron’s head whipped up, and she sucked in her breath when metal rods came flying at them. She watched the initial few slam against the bars and roll by but one was about to come directly between two bars. Cameron calculated she had ten seconds to stop the flying bar before it pierced Sarah Connor.
“Cameron!” Sarah screamed when she spotted the steel pole coming through the bars.
The terminator kept her left hand grounded, but she shot her right hand out at what appeared to be the last second. She wrapped her small but powerful hand around the pole’s shaft and halted its movement.
Sarah had her eyes open the whole time and only slumped back into the terminator when the pole’s spiked end stood inches from her chest. “God.”
Cameron tossed the steel stake out of the prison. “God did not save you.”
Sarah couldn’t determine if it was a joke or not. But she lost her words as the plane started to drop altitude again but at a safer pace. She felt her equilibrium adjust, yet Cameron’s secure arm around her kept her safe.
The terminator tilted her head when she heard the plane’s wheels roll down. She commented, “We are about to land. Hold on.”
Sarah would never admit she had a fear of landing. She shut her eyes tightly and gripped Cameron’s arm harder.
Cameron cocked her head and studied the human’s profile. She detected Sarah’s increased heart rate and perspiration plus her body had grown flush. Cameron bowed her head down to Sarah’s once she assumed what may have caused the shift in Sarah. She murmured, “You are safe, Sarah.”
Sarah unknowingly dug her nails into Cameron’s arm, and she sunk deeper into the terminator. When the plane’s wheel brushed the ground, she was jarred until Cameron held her still. She gave out a tense breath once the plane completely and safely touched down. She slumped back into the terminator in a rather spent manner.
Cameron sensed the human’s grip finally released, yet she kept Sarah close to her body. She wasn’t comfortable until the plane had slowed down to a safe rate. She read that Sarah’s heartbeat was returning to normal.
“It’s alright, Tin Miss,” Sarah chided the terminator. She gave a soft tug at the secure arm around her waist.
Cameron shut off her night vision when the lights flickered back. She freed the human then helped her stand up.
The two guards unbuckled from their seats and returned to their posts by the cage. They waited until they received the green signal, and one of them went to the control panel. He hit a button, which caused the cargo bay door to drop down slowly.
Soon enough the prisoners were freed from the cage but Cameron remained manacled and chained. Sarah was also kept bound by the thick wire tie around her wrists. She and Cameron were escorted down the cargo plane’s large ramp by a swarm of soldiers. Cameron was in front of Sarah on purpose so that Sarah was protected from any danger beyond the plane.
Sarah hissed when the black collar cut into her throat. She whipped her hair out of her face when the wind grabbed it once she was out of the plane. She blinked a few times until she had a better view of the empty landing strip except for the military style truck that waited for a load.
Sam patiently waited by the truck with a few soldiers. “Get them loaded then we’ll get the hardware onto the other truck.” His voice carried over the high, cold winds.
Cameron looked up at the stars and instantly took rapid pictures of the stars. She’d have them scanned to help pinpoint her and Sarah’s new location. She focused back on the march to the military truck, but her HUD involuntarily popped up like last time. Her scans of the humans in her range automatically ordered her to terminate them, but she forcefully belayed the order. She gained control of her HUD, which removed its targeting scan and defaulted to geographical analysis such as the time, the local temperature, and total life signs.
Sarah followed a few paces behind Cameron. She noticed how much colder it was here than back at home. She knew enough that they had flown north, but she had no idea to where. Sarah tensed at the dark trucks outlined in the distant flood lights. She hesitated her next steps because she could only imagine where she end up and with the ticking terminator in front of her.
“Move!” a soldier barked. He rammed his buttstock into Sarah’s back.
Sarah stumbled two steps but recovered and spun around with a high kick. She sent him spinning in the air until he hit the ground. She raised up her hands in a fighting stance as soldiers advanced on her.
Cameron whipped around and strained against her shackles. But she watched in horror as blue bolts ran up and down Sarah’s body.
Sarah screamed against the intense burn ripping through her body. She collapsed to her knees and clawed at the collar, again.
The terminator knew she could do nothing, but she fixed her furious glare on Sam. She threateningly yelled, “If you kill her then there will be nothing to stop me!” Suddenly Sarah’s cry went silent, and Cameron turned her head in time to watch Sarah crumble to the ground.
Sarah Connor didn’t move yet continued to barely breathe. There was smoke that lifted off her body into the cold night.
Cameron went to Sarah and knelt at her back. She put her hands on the human quickly in hopes to read Sarah’s vitals. She was relieved there was a heartbeat despite it was erratic.
Sam pushed through a few soldiers and stared at the two women. He then curtly ordered, “Carry her yourself, Supergirl.”
The terminator stared coldly back at Sam, but she followed the order anyway. She slid her hands underneath Sarah Connor then slowly stood up to fill her five feet and five inches with pride. She cradled the human in her small but powerful arms as if Sarah Connor was her very own. Cameron lowered her amber eyes to the unconscious woman and realized that indeed Sarah Connor was her human. For a brief instant, Cameron’s eyes flashed blue then settled back down.
“Load up,” Sam ordered to everybody.
Cameron waited until a few soldiers were in the truck then she was signaled to get on board. She easily climbed up without losing Sarah from her arms. She was instructed to sit on the bench but nobody told her to release Sarah. Many were fearful to tell her because of the possessive expression on her face.
Two last soldiers climbed into the truck and sat on either side of Cameron while the rest remained on the opposite bench. The soldier on the left turned his head to Cameron and grinned at her.
Cameron recognized him as the soldier that had shoved Sarah Connor. She locked his face into her memory bank for later. She had every plan to permanently terminate that smug look on his mouth even if she reverted back to Skynet’s basic subroutines. The terminator lowered her head and stared down at the battered Sarah Connor in her arms. For the first time, Cameron experienced an overwhelming emotion humans often called rage, and her software could barely control the rage that started to shake her cybernetic body.