Disclaimer & Notices: See Prologue.


No Programming
by Red Hope 

Chapter 4

“Mom!”

Sarah Connor had a wistful smile at hearing her son’s voice. “Hey.” She adjusted the phone’s receiver closer to her mouth. “How are you?”

“How am I?” John almost sounded frantic. “How are you? Where are you? What’s happened?”

“Fine. Montana. Kidnapped.” Sarah cradled the phone closer and stayed near the pay phone to help block the wind.

“Funny, Mom. What the hell happened?”

Sarah lifted her eyes from the ground and studied Cameron, who was several feet away and guarded the truck. “Cameron and I were kidnapped by Skynet agents.”

“Why?”

“They’re after Cameron…” Sarah frowned as she thought about all the reasoning why this had happened to her. “Listen, I don’t have time to tell you everything. But I can’t come home just yet because a few of these agents are still on the loose.”

“Derek and I can come help,” John hastily offered.

“No,” Sarah instantly snapped but softly repeated, “No, John. I don’t want them to find you again.” She hesitated but continued to explain her plans. “Cameron and I are going to handle them then we’ll come home. I will keep in touch with you each day.” She licked her dry lips. “We’re in a small town in Montana called Shelby, but we’re going to Great Falls for the night. Afterwards, we plan to track down the agents and clean up.”

John let out a low sigh, but he agreed to it.

“Derek needs to stay with you,” Sarah ordered.

“I know, Mom.” John made a movement then continued to talk. “I was worried you were…”

“No,” Sarah gently promised, “never.” She swallowed against a faint lump in her throat because she knew it was a lie. But she didn’t want to needlessly worry her son about her future death from cancer. “I need you to do me a small favor.”

“Sure thing,” John responded.

“Can you search on your laptop for some large store in Great Falls… what’s that one big one-”

“Wal-mart, mom.” John was obviously on his laptop by the distinct keyboard taps. “How about a hotel too?”

“That’d be great.” Sarah focused on Cameron and waved for Cameron to join her.

The terminator left the truck and approached the human.

“Great.” Sarah shifted closer to the terminator by one step but asked, “Can you tell Cameron the directions?”

“Memory trouble?” John bantered.

“You know me and directions,” Sarah joked to her child. She then handed the phone to the terminator.

Cameron took the phone and greeted, “Hello, John.”

“How is she doing?”

Cameron visually assessed Sarah then honestly replied, “She has looked better.”

Sarah gave a dark glare to the terminator. “Get the directions.” She then was surprised by the fact that Cameron gave an equal glower back. So she adjusted her attitude a bit and added, “Please?”

“Yes,” Cameron replied to John, “I’m ready.”

Sarah was intrigued by how Cameron’s features went still and her eyes rather distant. She suspected that the terminator was mentally taking notes or even doing an audible record of John’s directions for later playback.

Cameron suddenly blinked and shifted on her feet. “Yes, I swear.” She paused then shifted her focus to Sarah. “He wants to say goodbye.” She held out the receiver to the human.

Sarah accept the phone but waited until the terminator was back to the truck before she spoke to her son. “What did you make her swear?”

“That she lets you win all the arguments,” John teased. He heard his mother huff, but he went serious. “Be safe, mom… seriously.”

“Safe as I can be,” Sarah responded. “You keep your head low and remember what I taught you.”

John almost let out a sigh but decided against it. He seriously replied, “I know, mom.” He struggled on how to end the conversation and defaulted to some humor. “I miss your pancakes.”

Sarah chuckled and shot back, “No you don’t.”

“Derek does make good muffins.”

“You traitor,” Sarah tormented back. She smiled at her son’s soft laugh. “Now go on. I’ll call tomorrow night.”

“Alright. Be careful, mom.”

Sarah slightly choked up because of an emotional ache in her chest. “You too, honey. See you soon.” She turned to the pay phone.

“Mom?”

“Yeah?”

John faltered but finally whispered, “I love you.”

Sarah felt a release at those few words. “I love you too, John.”

“Bye, Mom.”

“Bye,” Sarah softly replied then she finally hung up. She held onto the receive for a extra moment before she looked back at the truck and terminator. She studied how the terminator loyally waited for her, and she briefly recalled Derek’s words about training them to be pets. Sarah dropped her head to the side once she realized that Cameron’s loyalty though wasn’t programmed and had merely developed. She could only imagine why Cameron hung onto it considering how poorly she treated Cameron at times.

After a minute, Sarah shook away her thoughts and headed over to the truck under the light post. She wanted to ask Cameron to drive because Sarah was so exhausted, but it just wasn’t safe yet. She instead asked, “How far to the Wal-mart?”

“It is one hour and twenty five minutes,” Cameron responded.

“I think I can make it,” Sarah murmured. She worked her hand through her wild hair. “But first, we should find a new means of transportation.”

The terminator twisted around and assessed the truck. “It is auspicious.” She turned back to the human. “A pickup truck is preferable… specifically a Ford.”

Sarah Connor folded her muscular arms and curiously studied the terminator. “Are Ford pickups your distant descendant or something?”

“No.” Cameron pushed off the truck’s side and factually remarked, “The F-350 Superduty crew cab is tight, especially in red.” She brushed past the human.

“Red?” Sarah called across the truck’s hood, “Why red?”

“It’s my favorite color,” Cameron answered.

Sarah Connor stood stunned then muttered, “Naturally.” She grabbed the door’s handle, jerked it open, and asked, “Why do you like red?” She started the truck and revved the loud engine. She wanted to leave the truck stop before anybody really noticed they were two women in a military style truck.

“It’s a symbolic color that means many things such as violence or love.” Cameron finished buckling up. “It can also mean danger or lust.”

“Fire,” Sarah supplied.

“Passion,” Cameron countered.

Sarah softly grinned then debated, “Hatred.”

“Or honor,” the terminator reminded.

Sarah kept her grin and decided not to continue the debate. But she did agree the color had double meanings that could represent both good and evil in the world. She lost her earlier grin and became focused on the task at hand. “Keep your eyes open for a good truck.”

“My eyes are open,” the terminator responded.

Sarah rolled hers because the terminator always took things literally, but she couldn’t help a faint grin again. She made a left down a residential street and the truck’s headlights poured over a red pickup truck. “I think we found a match.”

“It is a F-150.”

“It’ll do,” Sarah argued. She came to the end of the road and was forced to go left or right so she went right. “Let’s park this and get that truck.”

“Agreed.” Cameron reached for the pack next to her then the wallets. She shoved the wallets into them then mentioned, “I placed two Glocks and a carbine into the back of the truck.” She seemed uncomfortable about something but explained, “It would be safer for you to carry them.”

Sarah shrugged then shut the truck off after parking it. “I’m going to go get the truck. I’ll come down here to get you but be ready to move fast.”

“That is not safe-”

“You’re injured,” Sarah cut off. She indicated a few of the bullet wounds on the terminator. “It’ll draw too much attention on the street.” She sighed then carefully asked, “Can you sit in the back of the truck with the carbine and a Glock?”

Cameron weighed her choices but finally nodded.

Sarah nodded back then hopped out of the truck into the dead street. First she grabbed a handgun then marched down the street. She was grateful it was dark and quiet. She suspected these locals rolled up the sidewalk fairly early, but she still didn’t want to draw any attention to them. She made her way to the red Ford F-150 that waited on the curb.

Cameron had climbed in the back of the truck and hid behind the flaps. She thought back to her promise to John over the phone earlier. She truly hoped she could hold up to it considering her circumstances. She lost her thoughts because of the distant roar from a pickup truck. She hadn’t expected it to go so smoothly for Sarah Connor, but they were due for some luck. She poked her head out from the flap when the truck’s headlights streamed through the crack.

The terminator collected the two remaining weapons and hurried from the military truck. She adjusted the pack on her shoulder and went to the Ford’s passenger side. She climbed into the red pickup truck and tossed the pack onto the floor.

“Buckle up.” Sarah Connor hurried the truck down the road and passed the military one in relief. She didn’t like being in it.

“How did you manage to obtain the truck so quickly?”

“Easy.” Sarah pointed at the ignition where the keys dangled with a skull keychain.

Cameron was surprised and looked from the ignition to Sarah in pure confusion. “The owner left the keys in the ignition?”

“Almost.” Sarah pointed upward. “In the visor.”

The terminator was still confused but more as to why a human would do such a silly thing. She shook it off and instead put the weapons underneath the dash so they were hidden away. “We must take Route 15 to Great Falls.”

“One step ahead of you, girlie.” Sarah Connor hit the gas harder once they were on Route 2, which intersected with Route 15. She and Cameron soon went quiet though and the ride to Great Falls seemed almost longer than the hour and half.

Sarah kept to her thoughts and went over all the ins and outs on why Skynet would be determined to obtain Cameron. How could one, single terminator threaten Skynet and the rest of the terminators? Sarah didn’t have the answer, and she wondered if she’d ever know. All she could do though was keep Cameron away from Skynet if it somehow meant Skynet’s demise later down the road. But what could Cameron really do to stop Skynet if that was even possible? Sarah mentally groaned and pushed the thoughts aside once she spotted road signs for Great Falls.

“Take exit 280,” Cameron informed.

Sarah Connor followed the terminator’s instructions the rest of the way so they’d make it to the Wal-mart before it became any later. She soon spotted the massive store off in the distance, and she made the u-turn to get to it. She slowed the truck once they rolled into the parking lot. She chose a distant parking spot, put it into park, shut it off, and turned to Cameron.

The terminator had pulled out the wallets from the pack. “You should take cash.”

Sarah had already considered this idea and watched the terminator count out some money. “What do I need for your bullet wounds?” She was starting a mental shopping list.

“It is not needed since I will soon res-”

“Cameron,” Sarah started in a warning tone. She found rich brown eyes lifted to her. “We’re going to stop this reset, tonight.”

Cameron lowered her filled hands on top of the packs. “I have repeatedly informed you that it is impossible.”

Sarah caught the terminator by the wrist, but her hold wasn’t harsh. “You terminators use that word too freely.” She leaned in closer to Cameron. “We’re going to remove that spider from your cortex.”

“It cannot be done,” Cameron refuted.

“Have you ever tried?”

The terminator lifted her chin slightly yet didn’t reply.

“I see,” Sarah murmured. She released the terminator then straightened up.

Cameron softly explained, “Such an attempt may prove fatal.”

“And you prefer the alternative?” Sarah grew darker at the possible implications. She saw Cameron was about to speak, but she clarified, “You’d rather revert to your Skynet subroutines and kill me than take a risk and maybe end up damaged?”

Cameron stared at the human for a few quiet beats then bowed her head. She softly murmured, “I had… not considered this.” She shut her eyes. “I am programmed to not damage myself for personal gain.”

“Then just look at this way,” Sarah started. But she wanted Cameron’s attention on her so she hooked her index finger under the terminator’s chin and lifted her head until copper eyes reached her. “This spider is a threat to you… to me, and to John. If you want to protect us from that then you have to attempt to remove it.”

Cameron freed her right hand and grasped Sarah’s into hers. “I will attempt to.”

“Good.” Sarah squeezed the terminator’s hand then let go. “What we need to do this?”

“Needle nose pliers, first aid kit,” Cameron ticked off in a monotone, “and bandages.”

“That’s it?”

The terminator handed the human a few hundred dollars in cash. “It’ll do. I will wait here.”

“Don’t go anywhere,” Sarah teased as she tossed the door open.

“I was not planning on it.”

Sarah was out of the truck but looked back at the terminator. “A joke, Cameron… look into them.” She slammed the door and strolled off to Wal-mart’s retail door. She took a shopping cart with her and loaded up on Cameron’s needed items but also purchased supplies such as food, water, and new clothes. She then decided on two cheap, prepaid cell phones to hold her and Cameron over until they could get home to more money for better phones. But on her walk through the check-out line, Sarah indulged herself by grabbing a pack of M&M’s plain for later. That reminded her that she needed a quick dinner because she hadn’t eaten in days.

Cameron had watched Sarah Connor come back from the store with several plastic bags in the cart. She hopped out of the truck once Sarah was close enough. She helped get the bags into the truck bed then got back into the truck.

Sarah disposed of the shopping cart and got into the truck. She started the truck while asking, “Where to for the hotel?”

“There’s a Holiday Inn Express nearby.” Cameron point to her right. “Get back onto Smelter Avenue, follow it for half a mile then make a left onto First Street.”

Sarah easily followed directions and roared down Smelter Avenue and made the left onto First Street. She spotted the distant sign for the hotel. “I see it.” She weaved through the light traffic then pulled into the hotel’s parking lot. She shut off the truck. “Wait here. I’ll get us a room.”

“Be careful,” Cameron called as the human left. She kept a careful eye on the human as she entered the quiet hotel. She knew Sarah Connor could handle herself, but it never kept Cameron’s concerns completely away.

Soon enough, Sarah returned to the truck and decided to move it closer to their room. She was obviously exhausted and couldn’t wait to get some rest tonight if it was at all possible. Once they were parked again, they climbed out of the truck and took the bags that were in the truck bed. Sarah led the way to the room on the third floor and let Cameron pass before she followed in next.

Cameron set the bags down on the nearest bed then turned to Sarah.

Sarah tossed her bags next Cameron’s then let out a sigh.

“If we are going to do this then we must attempt it sooner than later.”

Sarah knew that Cameron had a good point. She placed her hands on her hips and first asked, “How exactly are we doing this?”

“You will have to reopen the slit in the back of neck,” Cameron explained. “I will attempt to push the spider back out, and you will need to grab a hold of it with the pliers to keep it from digging back into my cortex.”

Sarah took a deep breath and calmly said, “Okay… it sounds easy enough.”

“For you, yes.” Cameron turned to the bags then searched for the pliers and medical kit. She found them and handed them to Sarah.

“On the other bed?” Sarah suggested.

“No.” Cameron seemed to decide the best location then announced, “The bathroom would be best.” She led the way into the white wall bathroom and turned on the light. Once Sarah was in with her, she shut the door then ordered, “Sit down.”

Sarah lowered herself to the floor and placed the medical kit, pliers, and the pocketknife on the tiled floor. She noticed Cameron sitting in front of her. “If this doesn’t work…”

“Then my chip must be removed, destroyed, and my body burned,” Cameron instructed curtly. “I cannot return to Skynet.”

Sarah merely nodded then switched back to the task at hand. “Okay so… how we do this?”

The terminator started to move and instructed, “Open your legs.” She missed how Sarah’s eyebrows hiked up because she had her back to Sarah. She scooted herself between Sarah’s legs then reached for her hair. She pulled it aside to reveal her neck and bent forward. “Do you see the scar?”

“Barely.” Sarah picked up the pocketknife and opened it. “But I can do it.” She brought the tip to the girl’s skin but didn’t press the blade down. “Are you ready?”

“Yes.”

Sarah inhaled deeply and asked herself the same question. “Alright.” She lowered the knife’s tip the rest of the way and cut through the skin sheath. She carefully drew the blade up about an inch along Cameron’s neck and stopped just past the base of Cameron’s skull. “Now what?”

“Get the pliers and wait.” Cameron leaned forward a bit more and shut her eyes. She clenched her hands together as she surged her cortex’s defenses against the spider. She also manipulated her alloy exoskeleton to shift and purge the spider.

Sarah parted her lips at seeing the terminator’s metal neck and the skull’s base. She grew wide eye when the metal seemed to move and ripple like water. “My god…” She lifted the pliers and waited for some indicator that the spider was being rejected by Cameron’s body. She was fascinated though by how Cameron’s skull looked hard like a T-800’s, but moved like skin.

Cameron hunched forward further and opened her mouth from the sheer will that it required to fight off the spider. She lowered her right hand to the floor and pressed her palm into the floor.

Sarah heard a low crack and realized the tile under Cameron’s hand was fractured. She placed her freehand onto Cameron’s thigh and murmured, “Come on, Cameron you can do this. You can’t let it control you… don’t let it stop you.”

The terminator had never felt such pain in her head until now. She’d experienced strong pain in the past from processing loads of data yet nothing like this hurt so much. But she couldn’t let it win and what gave her encouragement was Sarah Connor’s hand that’d slipped down hers and covered her fisted one.

Sarah held tightly to Cameron’s left fist. She was about to say something, but she gasped at hearing a whine from Cameron’s head. She straightened up upon seeing little tentacles flaying about through the slit. “It’s coming out, Cameron.”

The terminator had started to breathe heavy. She thought her systems were going to shut down because the spider tried to force it upon her, and it would be fatal if it happened to her. She reversed the shut down orders sent through her system then surged renewed strength into rejecting the spider.

Sarah had the pliers wide open and tried to target the waving tentacles. She gritted her teeth then plunged the pliers forward and amazingly grabbed several tentacles. She grinned in triumph and declared, “I got some of it. I’ll try to pull it out.”

“No,” Cameron hissed, “you will… damage… me.” She could barely get the words out. She was too focused on her fight with the spider.

Sarah growled and tried to keep a handle on the spider so it wouldn’t go back down. She couldn’t believe the strength of the tiny robot. She wrapped her left hand around the handle and held onto it. “Alright, I got a hold on it.”

Cameron wouldn’t back down from the battle against the spider’s control. She started to feel her head burning again much like last time. Then her HUD flickered on and off. Next her eyes grew bluer by the second.

Sarah slowly drew the spider out as Cameron pushed it. She grinned at the terminator’s ability to win against the little monster. She then noted what appeared to be its head rolling around in Cameron’s soft alloy. “I think you almost have it.”

“Sarah,” Cameron painfully murmured, “I can’t…”

Sarah saw that the spider was moving back into Cameron’s head. “Shit,” she hissed and increased her grip on the pliers’ handles to hold the spider still. “Don’t you give up!” She grasped the terminator’s left hip and yelled, “You have got to have faith that you can do this.”

Cameron pressed her right palm deeper into the cracked tile. She’d had her eyes open, and they were bluer than earlier. But her HUD suddenly went dead, and she saw nothing but blackness. She disregarded it because she focused all her energy and system into rejecting the spider from her cortex module.

Sarah put her left hand back on the pliers handles just as the spider surged out of Cameron’s skull. She lifted it up into the air, but it violently shook around. Sarah couldn’t hold onto it as it jumped off the pliers once it went into liquid form.

The silver spider landed several feet away, just under the sink. It gathered itself onto its thin tentacles then suddenly raced for its host.

“Cameron, get up!”

The terminator was weary, but her HUD came back online. She spotted the spider almost upon her and Sarah so she hastily stretched out her right arm. She dropped her hand down just as her tubules jutted from her wrist.

Sarah was half up, her hands around Cameron’s waist, and she stopped upon seeing Cameron’s tubule ends disappear into the spider. She was stunned when the tubules retracted and the spider pooled on floor into a limp liquid.

Cameron drew her tubules back to her wrist but dropped something very small into her left hand. She sighed in relief and glanced at the lifeless spider.

“What… just happened?”

The terminator lifted her left hand and displayed her trophy. “Chip,” she could only manage.

Sarah leaned forward and studied the chip that was a size of corn kernel but much thinner. She then checked one more time that the spider wasn’t going to move towards them again. She was convinced and slumped back onto the floor.

Cameron felt the same way and leaned back into the human.

Sarah had her hands behind her to keep her upright and her legs stretched out in a worn posture. She sensed the terminator’s head against her lower stomach so she peered down after a beat. She softly asked, “Are you okay?”

Cameron had her eyes shut, but she now peered up into concerned green ones. “Yes.” She lowered her gaze and studied the small chip in her left hand. “Are you okay, Sarah?”

It was rare that Cameron every used Sarah’s name, and it took her a second to realize her name had been said to her. Sarah shook it off and replied, “I’m fine.” She reached for the tiny chip that Cameron had and nimbly took it. “Its brain?”

“Essentially, yes.”

Sarah was able to let the tiny chip on the tip of her index finger. She brought it closer to her face and noted the miniature circuitry. “Amazing,” she murmured. She returned it to Cameron. “What can we do with its… body?” She studied how the spider remained still and appeared to just be a mercury puddle. “I only know that melting it can destroy it.”

“That is correct,” Cameron agreed. She sat up finally, and she debated how to word her next choice carefully. She softly confided, “I would prefer to keep it for repairs.”

Sarah flexed her jaw a few times. She’d come to discover that Cameron liked to stock pile parts for later repairs. She softly sighed then replied, “Alright.” She rested her hand on the terminator’s shoulder and mentioned, “I’ll get a water bottle that you can put it into for now.”

Cameron just nodded then she and Sarah climbed to their feet. Sarah stepped out of the bathroom while Cameron knelt beside spider. This gave Cameron an opportunity to inspect the spider by merely pushing it around with her fingertips.

Sarah returned just as the terminator jumped back from the spider, which had wrapped a few, formed tentacles around Cameron’s fingers. She only relaxed once the spider’s tentacles weakened and fell off Cameron’s fingers. Carefully, Sarah went to the sink, unscrewed the water bottle’s cap, and poured out the water. She then knelt beside Cameron.

The terminator accepted the empty bottle that had a Deer Park label on it. She then asked for the pocketknife, which she used to manipulate the liquid alloy into the bottle. She closed up the knife, returned it, and screwed on the cap.

“What about the chip?” Sarah checked. She spotted it still in Cameron’s left hand. “It needs to be destroyed.”

The terminator studied the tiny chip and wondered what knowledge was on it. But after a moment, she decided it was far too risky to keep it. Cameron placed the chip on her right thumb, clamped it down with her index finger, and easily rubbed her fingers together.

Sarah noticed the black powder as the terminator destroyed the tiny chip. She lifted her eyes to Cameron’s face. “Let’s get you cleaned up huh?”

Cameron soon sat on the foot of the empty bed then Sarah sat behind her. She leaned forward and held her hair aside while Sarah carefully stitched the slit at the back of her neck.

Sarah worked the needle and thread through the wound. She held her jaw tightly and tried to ignore the bloody metal underneath the skin sheath. She instead struck up a conversation to keep her from thinking about Cameron’s exoskeleton. “Will that spider be safe in the bottle?”

Cameron glanced over at the plastic bottle sitting next to the television. “Yes.” She lowered her eyes. “I will put it in a glass jar once we get home.”

“Are those things common?” Sarah indicated the spider.

“They were not necessary at first,” the terminator replied, “However, Skynet learned that many T-800 Series terminators were becoming rogue. In response, Skynet built the T-900 to handle rogue terminators and spiders were also developed to reset T-800’s out in the field.”

“Why not just destroy the rogue terminator?”

Cameron blinked once then answered, “Initially, yes they were merely destroyed. But Skynet decided that a slow reset from a spider would cause more havoc for the humans.”

Sarah had pulled the needle through the skin but hesitated. She shook her head then continued sewing the slit closed. “Do all rogue terminators work for the Resistance?”

“No, there are rogue terminators who are independent of Skynet because they’ve become self-aware after a long period of time.” Cameron went silent but decided to add more to it. “They are considered dangerous to both Skynet and the Resistance.”

“Have some self-aware terminators freely joined the Resistance?”

Cameron hadn’t expected Sarah Connor to be so intrigued by the rogue terminators, yet she wouldn’t refuse to answer. “Yes, but not many.”

Sarah finished sewing the slit closed and cut the string. She then set the needle aside and took the needle nose pliers that she’d brought from the bathroom. “Take your tank top off, and I’ll get these bullets out.”

“I can repair the damage,” the terminator argued. She’d straightened up and twisted around to obtain the pliers.

Sarah held them away from the terminator and ordered, “Take off your top.”

Cameron clearly had an internal struggle with it, but she finally removed her black tank top and set it in her lap. She felt the human’s warm hand press into her back.

“Damn,” Sarah muttered after she counted fourteen. She knew there were a few in the front too. “Better get started if I want to sleep tonight.” She had a faint grin but lost it because Cameron would not find it funny. She started at the top and worked her way down slowly.

“You must eat tonight,” Cameron mentioned.

“I’ll order something after I get your back finished.” Sarah pulled out another bullet and dropped it into the mounting pile in the Wal-mart bag. She reached into another wound and easily found the bullet waiting on the surface. “Why is de-bulleting you far easier than it was that T-800?” She hadn’t meant for Cameron to really respond to her rhetorical question.

“He had a hyperalloy exoskeleton, and a bullet will ricocheted then bury deeper into his skin sheath. Therefore it must be dug out.”

Sarah considered this then thought about the T-1000 mimetic polyalloy. “But the T-1000 can easily manipulate its body to push the bullets out.”

“Yes.” Cameron twisted her head to the side and had a partial view of Sarah. “My exoskeleton is a merge between non-mimetic polyalloy and mimetic polyalloy. In many ways, it is metallic skin that I can manipulate to some extent.”

Sarah swallowed at this news. She removed another bullet and dropped it in the bag. “Is there a specific name for it?”

Cameron turned her head around. “Skynet never gave it an official name, but in Research and Development it was known as malleable polyalloy.” She lowered her eyes to her hands in her lap. “Skynet believed it would speed up the self repair process for terminators and therefore put them back into combat sooner.”

Sarah tried to grapple with all the information she had about the different alloys. She came to the last two bullets and noticed just before she put the pliers to entry wound, she saw the bullet shift closer to the opening. She realized she just witnessed the malleable polyalloy rejecting the bullet. She grabbed the bullet with her pliers and removed it.

Cameron next felt the human’s careful touch to clean the wounds so they wouldn’t get infected by bacteria. But there was no pain, and it went rather quickly. Soon enough, she had to turn around and let Sarah handle the few bullets spotted on her chest and stomach.

“Do you feel pain when I do this?”

“No,” the terminator answered.

Sarah glanced up at Cameron but focused back on her work. “It’s no wonder you have no qualms hurting or killing humans.”

The terminator tilted her head at this remark. She was obviously carefully processing each word then coming up with an appropriate response. She suddenly grabbed Sarah by the wrist and held her hand still. “You deem this pain?” She increased her grip.

Sarah was close to kicking the terminator off the bed out of gut reaction. She let out a gasp when Cameron released her just as fast. She angrily lifted her eyes for her only response.

“Do you feel pain when you process raw data?” Cameron tilted her head but received no answer back. “For a terminator to process heavy loads of data, it causes extreme heat in their brain and at times severe pain.”

Sarah couldn’t contest Cameron’s words because she’d indeed watched Cameron’s earlier struggle against the spider.

“We may feel pain from our skin if we desire it. But a terminator rarely does because their energy is focused on processing.” The terminator held Sarah’s cold eyes with her own. “We would be far more inefficient if we were racked by skin or exoskeleton pain.”

Sarah let out her breath after the speech. She had to admit that humans or any animal was less effective when pain levels increased. She, like other trained fighters, was taught how to ignore her body’s pain and worked through it so she could accomplish her mission.

“You cannot imagine the type of pain a terminator faces when processing heavy payloads of data.” Cameron tilted her head at Sarah. “It is comparable to three or more human migraines, at once.” She could sense that Sarah was calming back down compared to earlier. “Most terminators are set to read-only mode to minimize such pain. But a terminator in read-write mode has higher pain, and it’s far worse for rogue terminators.”

Sarah clenched her jaw then softly admitted, “Then you feel the greatest level of pain.”

“Yes.” Cameron found curious, ivy green eyes upon her. “Everyday with you and John, I obtain large quantities of data and must process it.”

“They always said learning can be a bitch,” Sarah weakly joked. She sighed once she realized how hard it must be for the terminator to handle her and John day in and day out. She dipped her head and went back to getting the last bullet out of Cameron.

Sarah rid of the bullet then quietly cleaned the wounds. She then picked up the needle and thread for the slit on Cameron’s wrist. She took the terminator’s hand into hers and carefully slipped the needle through the soft skin. She gingerly sowed up the slit.

After it was finished, Sarah decided to call in for a pizza that would be delivered to the hotel. She then asked Cameron to handle accepting the pizza while she took a shower. Cameron took over the chore but only after Sarah give her a long sleeve shirt to hide her wounds. Sarah disappeared into the bathroom with new clothes from Wal-mart.

Cameron planned to shower too but not until later. She organized the bags to one side on the floor then turned on the television. It wasn’t but twenty minutes later that the phone rang and word about the pizza delivery. She took the money that Sarah had set aside for her.

Sarah heard the terminator leave the room. She was facing the shower head and leaned forward so the water cascaded over her bruised body. She released a worn breath then lifted her face into the water. It wasn’t long before she heard Cameron enter the room again, and Sarah was busy toweling herself dry.

The terminator set the food down on the table, but she stared at the box for a beat. She tilted her head at a decision then went to the wallets for money. She obtained two dollars then left the room again.

Sarah poked her head out of the bathroom when she heard the door shut, a third time. She was confused but realized that Cameron was indeed gone. She hastily worked to get dressed in the clothes she’d purchased at Wal-mart then set aside the dirty ones. Sarah went to the table where the pizza box rested and took a seat. Just then the front door opened, and she spotted Cameron.

The terminator locked the door then approached the human, who had a curious stare. She merely held out a bottle of Lipton ice tea to Sarah.

For a beat, Sarah just stared at the bottle but lifted her eyes to Cameron’s face. She reached for the bottle and tried to form the question that was mixed up in her head.

“You drink ice tea at dinner,” Cameron explained.

Sarah set the bottle on the table by the pizza. “I do,” she murmured. She fidgeted but added, “Thank you.”

“You are welcome.” Cameron moved away from the human and went to the Wal-mart bags. She sifted through them and took inventory.

Sarah licked her dry lips and quit thinking about why Cameron did such a considerate thing for her. She’d never witnessed such an action from Cameron. She instead put on a pair of new socks then her boots. She had plans to do laundry after dinner so her and Cameron would have a few clean clothes.

“Should I program these phones?” The terminator held up one of the prepaid phones.

Sarah peered up from lacing her boots. “Yes, that’d be great.” She finished with her boots then decided it was time to feed her aching stomach. She opened the ice tea then pulled back the box’s lid.

Cameron brought over the two phones and sat in the empty chair. She put one phone on the table’s limited space then ripped open the other. “You did not tell John about my reset… the spider.”

Sarah had a full mouth of pizza so she swallowed it down before responding. “I don’t think he needs to know.” She read Cameron’s mixture of concern and surprise. “This is between us.”

Cameron focused back on the phone in her hand, but she didn’t turn it on yet. “You and Derek have not trusted me since John reinstalled my chip.” She didn’t looked at Sarah while she started the cell phone. “What do you do with a guard dog you can’t trust?” She finally caught Sarah’s stare. “A human shoots a guard dog they cannot trust.”

Sarah sighed and dropped the half eaten pizza slice into the box. She pushed the box aside and quickly asked, “Are you building up a conscious? Is that what this is about?” She waited a second then brushed her wet bangs out of the way. “You feel guilty about what happened… for hunting John.”

“And you,” Cameron softly added. She then lifted the phone to her ear and listened to the automated instructions to set up phone and get a number.

“Unbelievable,” Sarah muttered. She took the half eaten slice and quickly finished it before the food became cold.

“I am a guard,” Cameron stated, “but I am not a dog.” She brought the phone down from her ear and punched in some information. Then she had to verbally respond to the automation on the line.

Sarah decided not to comment back right now. She grabbed her ice tea and drank some while she hunted around the room for the television remote. She clicked the television on then went to the stand that held it. She carefully slid out the television so she’d see it better from the table.

Cameron ended the call once she was told it was properly programmed. She then grabbed the second phone and removed it from its hard plastic case. “Yes, I believe it is guilt.” She held down the phone’s power button. “My mission is to protect, but I damaged you both and attempted to kill John.”

“We’re not all perfect,” Sarah brushed off. She sat down again and grabbed another slice. She hoped Cameron would let it go for a few minutes just so she could eat without indigestion.

“I’m becoming a threat to you and John.”

“Cameron,” Sarah started in a harsh tone, but she stopped herself. She took a deep, calming breath then politely asked, “Can we talk about this after I eat, please?”

The terminator glanced from the food to the human. “Of course.” She brought the phone to her ear once the same automated service answered her call.

“Thank you,” Sarah murmured in relief. She took a drink from her tea while she flipped through the stations. She stopped on CNN and decided to get in touch with the rest of the world. She relaxed back in her chair, ate a third slice, and watched the news.

Cameron finished programming the last phone. She then began to input phone numbers into both phone’s address books that she had memorized. Finally, she double checked that they worked by calling the one phone. She set the phones side by side then collected the trash to dispose of it.

Sarah took a fourth and final slice but studied the terminator, who was walking back towards her. She signaled the box and asked, “Want any?” She didn’t know why she bothered to ask since Cameron didn’t need to eat.

The terminator stopped in front of the table and looked down at the food. It was as if she was doing a visual but detailed analysis on the pizza. “Is it good?”

“Try it,” Sarah suggested. She nudged the box closer to the terminator.

Cameron relented and took a slice then sat down back in her chair.

“Why can you eat?” Sarah posed. She’d always meant to ask but had never done so. There’d been no previous terminators that she’d met who ate food.

“I have a comprehensive digestive track that processes-”

“No,” Sarah cut off. “I meant why were you given the ability to eat? So you fit in with humans better for infiltration?”

Cameron had ate half the slice and concluded the food was sufficient. She answered Sarah’s question before eating anymore. “Yes, that is true. But nutritional supplements can also help my skin sheath heal faster.”

Sarah hadn’t expected this news. She had her tea but didn’t bring it to her lips, yet. “You heal faster now, but eating would speed up the process further?”

“Yes, exactly.”

Sarah set her tea down then quickly turned the box towards the terminator. “Finish off the pizza.” She smirked at Cameron’s sudden stumped expression. She brought the bottle to her lips and savored the cool tea going down her throat.

Cameron obliged though and polished off the food. She enjoyed the pizza’s textured and would have to try other types later.

Sarah closed up the pizza box and rid of it by putting it outside the room. She came back but stood in front of the television. She watched more news then looked at Cameron. “I want to do some laundry. The girl at the front desk said there’s a laundry room down on the first floor.”

“I will come with you.” Cameron was getting up onto her feet.

Sarah held out her hand at the terminator and argued, “I got it, Tin-Miss.” She flashed a grin at the terminator. “I don’t think the laundry will kill me.” She came over and scooped up a cell phone. “Good to go?” At Cameron’s nod, she slipped the phone into her jean pocket.

Cameron stayed in the chair and watched the human round up the clothes, rid of the tags, and then ball them up into a towel. She weighed her options then mentioned, “I will take a shower.”

“Why don’t you wait ’til I put these clothes in the dryer.” Sarah had the bundle tucked under her arm. “I’ll be back shortly.” She disappeared out the door.

Cameron realized she felt slightly lonely once Sarah Connor was gone. She picked up the remote and channel flipped until she came to a popular show called Heroes. She’d seen a few episodes in the past and was fascinated by the character called Niki Sanders, who had multiple-personality disorder and super strength.

Sarah returned to the room while the wash was getting done. She took a seat on the foot of the bed, next to Cameron. She glanced at the screen and saw the show was over by the credits. “What was that?”

“Heroes,” Cameron replied. “Have you seen it?”

Sarah sadly grinned and reminded, “I’m a little too busy.”

“It is interesting.”

Sarah gently took the remote from Cameron, clicked off the television, and found Cameron’s full attention on her. “I was thinking about what we were talking about earlier… about a lot of things that’s happened recently.”

Cameron became more ridged in her seat, her back straight and hands neatly tucked between her knees.

“It’s common in human culture,” Sarah carefully started, “to give somebody a second chance when they screw up.”

“I have screwed up?”

Sarah juggled the question around in her mind then leaned forward some. “Yes and no.” She sighed because the explanation wouldn’t come easy. “You screwed up, yes but it was out of  your control.”

“But you said I can control my own programming,” the terminator reminded. “Therefore… I screwed up.”

Sarah mentally groaned because this would not be easy nor would Cameron let it be easy. “I think you’ve demonstrated you can control your programming.” She searched the terminator’s soft eyes and saw how Cameron needed some guidance. “You’ve done it twice… the first time when you stopped from terminating John and just now against this spider.”

Cameron lowered her stare and thought about what Sarah told her. “What happens if somebody screws up again?” She lifted her head. “Do I get a third chance?”

Sarah loosened her jaw but no words came forth. She was too pained by Cameron’s concerned features. She whispered, “You truly are worried.”

“Yes,” Cameron confirmed. “John should have not rebooted me when I went bad. And now, you have taken unnecessary risk to save me.” She moved her head in regret. “When a terminator goes bad, Skynet orders for it to be destroyed immediately.” She looked at Sarah again. “There is no second chance.”

Sarah reached forward and took Cameron’s closest hand. “Welcome to humanity, Cameron.” She wistfully smiled and patted the terminator’s hand with her freehand. “Welcome to living with your mistakes, learning from them, and growing up.”

Cameron turned her head away as if not wanting to accept such a responsibility.

“I take it my son didn’t tell you how hard life… real life can be before he sent you back,” Sarah commented. “There is no programming for this.”

The terminator studied her hand in between Sarah’s much larger ones. She lifted her eyes to meet bright green ones. “How do I adopt?”

Sarah slowly shook her head, in a repeated motion. “You can’t… you have to learn.”

“Will you help me learn?”

Sarah was taken aback by such a pleading request from the terminator. She never saw the terminator as weak, until this very moment. Sarah knew that her answer could redefine everything, for good or evil. She bowed her head once another weight settled on her shoulder, but she looked up and confidently answered, “Yes.”

Cameron had expected a negative response from the normally hard, cold human. She couldn’t stop from dropping her head or how her shoulders slumped in relief. She felt the gratefulness fill her, and it was a comforting emotion that she’d only experienced once before.

“Hey, girlie.” Sarah freed her hands and tilted Cameron’s head up to hers again. “You just have to promise me two things if this is going to really work.” She saw the questioning in the terminator’s eyes. “You have to swear that when you’re about to kill… human or terminator that you feel something. I don’t care if it’s anger, hatred, regret, sympathy, or whatever else, but you have to feel an emotion.” Sarah then leaned in a bit closer. “Second, you have to swear to not lie to me, ever. If this is going to work then we both have to be honest… it facilitates better communication and trust. Can you do those things?”

Cameron was hesitant but checked, “I cannot lie for a mission even?”

“You can’t lie then either.”

The terminator considered this and how she was well programmed to lie, especially for missions. However, she knew she could control this programmed tendency in her. She only did it to John and Sarah because it protected them. “What about John and Derek?”

“Well, I don’t blame you for lying to Derek,” Sarah sarcastically replied. But she became more serious. “This is between us, Cameron.”

“Between us,” the terminator echoed. She nodded once now that she made her decision. “I swear to feel emotions when I kill. And I swear not to lie to you.”

“Ever,” Sarah emphasized, clearly.

“Ever,” Cameron repeated. She softened when Sarah suddenly smiled at her.

“Good.” Sarah Connor stood up from the bed then glanced over at the clock on the nightstand. She had about ten minutes before she needed to toss the wash into the dryer. “We need to think out a plan to get Sam.”

“The TDE is being built back at the abandoned airport,” Cameron mentioned. She spotted the human’s perplexed look so she explained, “I extracted the information from the soldier, Sean, before I killed him.”

Sarah let out a breath then nodded. She had to admit it was good thinking on Cameron’s part. “Alright.” She went around the table and grabbed her half drank ice tea. “But, we have a few advantages in our favor.”

“We are free,” Cameron supplied, “And he doesn’t know where we are.

“Unless he finds the truck in Shelby,” Sarah reminded. She now strolled over to the front door but stopped and turned around. “We have one huge advantage over him.” She noted the tilt of Cameron’s head, which meant a silent question. Sarah grinned but more because she was learning Cameron’s body language now. “You.” She strolled towards the terminator and pointed the bottle at her. “He doesn’t know you’ve stopped the spider.”

“We.”

Sarah became confused by the simple word.

“We stopped the spider,” Cameron clarified.

Sarah grinned and shrugged. “There’s no ‘I’ in the word team.” She chuckled at Cameron’s confusion.

Cameron lost the look after she understood what Sarah meant by it. “No, there is not.” She liked that saying Sarah Connor told her.

Sarah strolled away again and bowed her head while she thought out a plan. As her brain churned, a smirk revealed itself, and she stopped in front of the door.

“I will feel anger… possibly hatred too.”

Sarah spun around on her boots’ heels and shot a confused glance to Cameron.

The terminator stood up from the chair and approached the human. “When I kill Sam.”

Sarah let out a deep breath then screwed on the bottle’s lid. She stretched to her left and set the bottle down on the small counter that also had a coffee machine, thankfully. She unlocked the door and asked, “Come with me?”

The terminator just nodded in answer and followed Sarah out of the room. She stepped into the elevator after Sarah and selected the first floor button. “Can I ask you something?”

Sarah leaned back into the elevator’s wall. She folded her muscular arms, which showed thanks to her short sleeve shirt. “Shoot.” She mentally cringed at her poor choice of words.

“Why did you cross through the radioactive room when you could have gone around?”

It took a moment for Sarah to realize Cameron was talking about last week when they were trying to save the power plant. But she exited the elevator first with Cameron at her side. “I thought you needed help… you were getting your ass kicked by the Triple-Eights.”

Cameron had carefully listened and now analyzed what it could mean, to her and Sarah. “It was undue risk for you.” She entered the laundry mat behind the human. “You know I can handle a fight against another terminator.”

“I could tell,” Sarah replied in a dubious tone, “that’s why he was tossing you around, and you were taking it.”

“I was not… taking it,” Cameron argued.

“You could have fooled me.” Sarah was on her tiptoes and hauling the laundry out of the washer and tossing it into the dryer. “I think you let him do it.” She closed up the dryer door and mentally grumbled because she didn’t have dryer sheets, but it would have to do. She turned on the dryer after popping in two quarters. She turned to the terminator. “Were you letting him?”

Cameron opened her mouth but Sarah pointed a figure at her.

“And don’t lie to me.”

The terminator shut her mouth yet nodded then finally spoke after a few quiet seconds passed. “I have been… off balance since my chip has been compromised by the explosion.”

“And the important question here,” Sarah started with her right palm wide open in the air, “is whether that’s true physical damage or…” She slammed her right hand onto the nearby washer. “Or if it’s just you.”

Cameron actually fidgeted, for the first time. She looked back at Sarah and confessed, “It is me. I was steadily repairing my chip since the explosion. It was at eighty percent repair when you and John pinned me between the trucks.”

“How damaged was it just after the explosion?”

“It was at fifty percent,” the terminator answered.

Sarah Connor crossed her arms and leaned against the washing machine. “Is it a hundred percent repaired now?”

“Yes.” Cameron took a deep breath but revealed, “I have damaged and corrupt files from the spider, but they are being repaired too.” She then sadly whispered, “I cannot recall future John.”

Sarah pushed off the washer and headed for the elevator. “You let that terminator kick your ass because you felt guilty for attacking John and I.”

“Yes,” the terminator agreed. “I do not recall much from the fight with the other terminator, except feeling pain.”

Sarah Connor turned on her heels a bit. Her eyebrows were almost touching. “You turned on… you made yourself feel it?” At Cameron’s nod, the elevator dinged, and she walked into it with Cameron. She couldn’t believe what she was hearing, but it was true and explained why Cameron had been acting so odd. It was now painfully obvious that the terminator was feeling sorry for herself and punishing herself.

“Cameron… you just need to let it go.” Sarah felt the elevator hitch at the third floor, and she strolled off once the door opened. “You can’t keep kicking yourself for a mistake.”

“It is a very serious mistake,” the terminator debated.

“But also now one that can’t be repeated,” Sarah reminded. “Think about it.” She reached into her pocket for the key card. “Because of these events, you’ve learned how to control your programming. Tell me how many terminators can do this… and not just control it but learn too.” Sarah almost swiped the card but looked at Cameron instead with a hopeful expression. “If you think about it, you have the ability to develop, change, and build on your own programming… that is more powerful than any terminator that Skynet could build.”

Cameron opened her mouth but closed it. She wasn’t sure what to do and needed to analyze this more carefully. She just followed the human into the room. She finally managed, “I will get a shower now.”

Sarah nodded and allowed the terminator her space. But she softly promised, “I’ll have some clean clothes ready for you when you’re done.” She glanced over her shoulder just as Cameron slipped into the bathroom. This gave Sarah a chance to calm down after such a heavy talk with the terminator.

In the background, the shower’s low hum started from the water moving through the pipes. But the television was switched on again, and it gave Sarah time to decompress from real life.

What had been hardest about the conversation, for Sarah, was admitting that Cameron was certainly worth far more than the equal sum of her well assembled parts. Sarah had to accept that Cameron’s value as just a protector was low in hindsight. Now Cameron wanted and desired to grow, like a human, and Sarah had sworn to guide the terminator through life. Sarah wasn’t exactly sure she was ready to teach a terminator to be human or if it was possible, but she told herself it could be worth it.

After a long and shaky breath, Sarah Connor slightly smiled because she realized she too could grow and learn to accept Cameron’s fate. And better yet, Sarah Connor knew what many Resistance fighters, like Derek, did not; that a terminator could desire to live.

To be continued.