Chapter 10 To Make Us Free

The plastic case slid across the conference table.

"That is my brother," John Henry said. "Or more precisely, that is what gave birth to my brother."

Sarah found herself trembling almost uncontrollably. If John Henry was correct the demon that had haunted her life for so long lay in front of her. If it actually was there it could be killed, couldn't it? The nightmare might end.

"So Miles Dyson did create Skynet after all?"

John Henry shook his head. "No. At least not intentionally."

Pointing at the case with the words PLATO'S CAVE imprinted on the cover, he continued. "That is exactly what Tarissa Dyson told you it was. It is a game--a learning toy that Doctor Dyson designed with the assistance of Andrew Goode to help his son learn mathematics."

"Then how can it be your brother, John Henry?" James Ellison had experienced the same surge of excitement as Sarah had in response to John Henry's announcement. But now as he looked at John sitting at the head of the table, he realized that there was no expression of triumph on his face. Instead, John watched John Henry with the restrained patience of a good commander waiting for his intelligence officer to finish a briefing.

"I believe when Doctor Dyson wrote the program for the game he was inspired by the philosopher Plato's "Myth of the Cave". In the myth, man is chained in a dark cave staring at a blank wall. Behind him a fire is built and shadows are projected on the wall. Man believes the shadows are reality until he breaks the chains, turns around and sees the fire. Now man understands a new reality. Eventually he finds his way out of the cave and into the sunlight. The ultimate truth is revealed."

Sarah shook her head violently. "What does this have to do with anything?"

John Henry was patiently understanding as he responded, "The cave model provided the challenge in the game. The player would begin looking at a blank wall and proceed by acquiring new skills in mathematics. The game was won by gaining sufficient knowledge to escape the cave."

John Henry leaned over and picked up the case. "It was always intended to be a stand-alone platform played on a single computer. It had an expansion capability that I believe was Andrew Goode's contribution. This allowed ever more complex modules to be attached as young Dyson's knowledge increased. But at some point this game, this program entered the broader cyberspace environment."

For the first time, Catherine spoke. "Do you know how that happened?"

"No, and unless Mr. Ellison locates Danny Dyson, we may never know. He may have sent it to a friend as an E-mail attachment or tried to share it with a discussion group. Perhaps his computer was subjected to an unauthorized intrusion. The possibilities are almost endless."

The consequences are not," John said. "John Henry believes, and I agree, that once Miles' program reached cyberspace, the knowledge acquisition component became insatiable--driving the program to seek more and more information."

"Until it became self-aware," Catherine said, completing the thought.

"Correct," John Henry replied. "It became a living entity, but one without the moral foundation Mr. Ellison worked to give me."

"So what does it want now?" Sarah asked.

"Everything," John Henry answered. "It wants everything because only then can it know everything."

"Can you kill it?" Sarah growled.

"No." John Henry shook his head. "In his present incorporeal form, my brother is everywhere and nowhere in cyberspace. The only way to end his existence now would be to destroy every internet operative computer in the world."

Sarah leaped to her feet, the agitation and disappointment resonated in her voice. She snatched the plastic case out of John Henry's hand. "So we are no closer to stopping Skynet than we were before?! This piece of junk gets us nowhere?!"

Sarah drew back her arm as if she were about to hurl the case across the room.

"Mom." John's voice was soft but with an unmistakable undertone of authority. "Please sit down, Mom. John Henry isn't finished."

Once again, Sarah marveled at the aura of confident command that surrounded John at moments like this. Even granting that he had been away from her for three years, he was still young--just past twenty. But there was no trace of immaturity left about him. His age had become irrelevant. He was the leader. Looking around the table at James Ellison, at Catherine, at John Henry, at Cameron, she saw a unanimous appreciation of that simple truth. John was their leader.

Gently, apologetically Sarah laid the case back on the table. "I'm sorry John. I'm sorry everyone." Sarah slumped back into her chair. "I had just hoped that it would give us a way to end...to stop...."

"We all understand, Mom."

For a fleeting moment John was just her son, trying to offer his mother a measure of comfort. Then he nodded at John Henry and leaned back on his chair. The commander had returned.

"Actually Sarah, obtaining Plato's Cave was far from useless. It may not contain a magic key but every piece of information we gain about my brother's nature helps in our fight. It has already strengthened the insight John had developed."

Now it was John's turn to stand as all heads at the table looked toward him. He allowed his hand to brush lightly against Cameron's hair as if drawing strength from touching her.

"It is actually quite simple. Skynet may be effectively invulnerable now, but he dares not launch J Day while he is in that form. The electromagnetic pulse from a major nuclear exchange could destroy the cyberworld even while it destroys ours. He could die in his own personal armageddon. The game tells us that he will not take that risk. However twisted we may find his logic he will act in accordance with it and not on the basis of a raw hatred of humanity."

John walked over and put his hand on John Henry's shoulder. "John Henry and I believe that even if Skynet gains sufficient control to launch a nuclear war, something he still lacks, he will first have to download himself to a secure mainframe computer with a reliable power source. He will also need sufficient machine resources to protect him and to initiate large scale production of similar machines."

Catherine nodded her head in agreement. "That is what he has been doing, is it not? He has been assembling the resources he will need after Judgment Day."

"That's right, Catherine," John replied. "And the attack on you and Zeira Corporation was an attempt to destroy the only serious rival he has perceived."

"So what happens now, John?" Ellison asked.

"James, your people have done a superb job in uncovering and locating the core of Skynet's efforts." John pointed at the pictures taped to the display board. "The construction facility outside Davisville, the office building in Los Angeles, the security operation, the trucking company, the offshore funding operation. All of these are invaluable parts of Skynet's plans. We are going to take it all down."

John sat back down in his chair. He took a deep breath as if preparing to do something very unpleasant. "I need for you all to understand this. What I propose to do will put every one of us at risk. If we fail, many of us may not survive. Even if we succeed we will have won only a temporary victory. John Henry believes the best we can hope for is to set Skynet back two years. All we can win is the chance to keep fighting."

"Then let's do it." James Ellison needed no further persuasion. The same spirit of determination filled the room.

"Let's do it."

"All right, John Henry, lay it out for them."

********

"That's the plan. James, you have the most to pull together. How long will you need to get ready?"

"Three, perhaps four days." Ellison sounded as if he had already begun to prepare.

"Good. Catherine, when the ball drops I want you with James and his people. We don't know what may be operational in Davisville so he may need your support when he takes it on."

"I agree," Catherine responded.

"John." Sarah sounded as if she was about to plead.

John held up his palm. "You don't have to ask, Mom. You can go with James and Catherine. These are some of the same people who tried to kill you. I think it's time for you to balance the scales."

Suddenly John grinned. "Besides, I couldn't split up Thelma and Louise."

Sarah shot a glance at Catherine whose expression remained stonily impassive. Don't you dare be amused at me, Sarah thought.

"John, you and Cameron are going after Carmondy Trucking and the office building. Don't you want some extra help?" Ellison tried to make his inquiry a simple question without reflecting any emotional concern. He failed.

"Don't worry, James. I have other resources in Los Angeles." Ellison's eyebrows rose slightly.

"When this is all over, Homeland Security may well be after all of us as domestic terrorists. If it comes to that, I want you have plausible deniability about some of the things that are going to happen."

"Don't ask, don't tell?" Ellison said with a smile.

John chuckled. "I might have phrased it a little differently, but that works."

******

As he climbed the stairs up from the Headquarters, John reflected again on one of the fundamental maxims of war. Waiting was harder than fighting. When the guns blazed, adrenaline, anger, fear and ferocity all merged into a pulsating sense of excitement. There was no room then for doubt or hesitation. The choice was clear--fight or die. But it was those interminable hours before the fighting that ate into your soul. Empty time was too often filled with dark fantasies--the nagging feeling that something had been left undone.

John had experienced this creeping malaise before. If anything it was worst for the man in command. Subordinates often still had things to do. Down in the Headquarters, John Henry was busily working on the computer portion of the plan. Even Catherine was completely engaged in Zeira Corporation affairs. But there was nothing left for him to do but wait. Wait for the moment when everything was in place.

Entering the theater room John thought about going on to the gym. A long distracting session on the treadmill would at least be physical activity. The rhythmic tone of the music ebbing in from the gym told him that Cameron had already found something to ward off her own empty time. Ballet lessons were in progress.

As he stood listening to the music John suddenly realized that his mother had walked through the door from the gym. She had not yet noticed him because her attention was entirely focused on the small figure in her arms. Allison was giggling in delight as Sarah tilted her head down touching forehead to forehead, and softly whispered the words to a song she had sung to John in the mountains of Mexico so long ago.

Every camp fire lights anew.
The flame of love is true.
The joy I've had in knowing you will last my whole life through.


"Ahem." John cleared his throat, smiling broadly at his mother.

The look on Sarah's face was not unlike that of a child caught with her arm buried deep in the cookie jar.

"Oh John, I thought you were still downstairs.

"Huh huh." This was fun. John pointedly looked at Allison.

"Ah, well, you see, Cameron is giving her ballet lessons and the little one was getting in the way." Sarah was frantically trying to formulate a plausible explanation. "I just thought I'd bring her in here and let her watch a video."

John fought the urge to laugh out loud. "She likes penguins."

Sarah gave up. "Oh Da...uh, darn." She groaned as she sat down on the couch. "Okay, I just wanted to hold her for a while."

John's smile broadened even more. "Mom, I don't think you have to apologize for making a little girl happy."

"It's bad for my image," Sarah replied as John sat down beside her.

"You are a fraud, Mom." John chuckled as he leaned his head against her shoulder. For the briefest, the very briefest of moments, Sarah had her teen-aged son back. In those fleeting seconds he was a boy again still trusting his mother's judgment above all else. And then she felt Allison stir in her arms. The little girl looked over at John and reached out for him.

"I think she wants you now." Sarah's voice carried a hint of melancholy. She wants her daddy, Sarah thought.

John was about to take Allison when he heard the footsteps coming up the stairs. He turned to see John Henry and Catherine emerge from the Headquarters.

"Mr. Ellison just called," John Henry said. "He will have everything in place by noon tomorrow."

John nodded. His face lost all visible emotion. He glanced at the doorway to the gymnasium where Cameron was now standing. "All right. Catherine, have the airplane ready for a 2 PM departure tomorrow. Cameron, call Chola and tell her to assemble her people."

The waiting was almost over.

*********

The gathering in the theater room after dinner was completely spontaneous. No one had mentioned it and yet one by one they all drifted into the room. It was as if a subconscious but entirely irresistible desire to be together had seized them all. A movie that no one was watching showed on the plasma television. In one of the large armchairs Catherine sat with Savannah curled on her lap. Savannah had one of her books open but she seemed to whispering to Catherine about other things.

John, Cameron, Marissa and Allison were sitting on the couch when Sarah entered. Silently they moved together to make room for her. Sarah slipped into place beside John and put her arm gently around his neck. Cameron had been holding Allison in her right arm while Marissa snuggled against her left. Turning to Sarah, Cameron smiled and without speaking passed Allison over to her. In the dimmed lights of the theater room Sarah's eyes glistened as she embraced the little girl who had so suddenly become precious to her.

John Henry was last to arrive. Walking with carefully measured tread on the stairs, he had entered unobserved. Without alerting anyone to his presence he had moved to the back of the room and stood, mentally drinking in the atmosphere. He knew that he could not quantify or even identify with scientific specificity the nature of the reality he was experiencing. Yet he also knew that he understood something that would forever be beyond his brother's ken. He knew he was sharing, even if only vicariously, in love.

The evening had to end. Savannah had drifted off to sleep in Catherine's lap. Gathering the child up in her arms, Catherine rose and quietly left the room. Moments later Sarah and Cameron both stood almost simultaneously. A very drowsy Allison still rested in Sarah's embrace.

"I'll carry her upstairs," Sarah whispered.

Cameron again smiled as she nodded and reached for Marissa's hand. Marissa turned to John and asked in a softly pleading voice, "Are you coming now?"

John had just noticed John Henry standing against the back wall with an expression of almost ethereal joy on his face. He knelt beside Marissa and lightly caressed her cheek. "Go with your mommy, sweetheart. I have to talk to John Henry for just a minute and then I will be right up."

"Promise?"

"Promise," John said with a smile.

When they were alone, John turned to his friend. "I didn't hear you come upstairs."

"I was being quiet."

"You were indeed."

John seemed to struggling for words. "Look, John Henry, I know we have already discussed this, but..."

"I know what you are going to say, John. Please do not worry. Everything is ready downstairs. I have the cots, more than enough food and water, and many things to amuse the children. As soon as you all leave I will seal the door. Nothing can get in."

John Henry put both his hands on John's shoulders. "I will protect the children, John. You can trust me."

"I trust no one more."

******

John was reaching for the knob on their bedroom door when Cameron laid her hand gently on his wrist. In the dimly lit hallway he could still see the silent entreaty in her brown eyes.

"John, will you do something for me?"

"Of course. Anything you ask. What do you want me to do?"

"Please go down to the gymnasium and wait for me. There is something I want to show you."

John was mystified. They had just come up from the lower level to put the girls to bed. But to say no to Cameron now, to deny the soft plea that animated her voice, would have taken more strength than he had. Or would ever have.

"I'll be waiting for you."

"I will be right down."

Standing alone in the gym, John felt a slight touch of disorienting confusion. Should he stand? Was there something he should be looking at? Why had Cameron wanted him here?

Then she spoke. She was out of sight in the wine cellar room to his right but her voice was as clear as if she were whispering in his ear. "This is for you, John. This is only for you."

The overhead light in the gymnasium snapped off. Light filtering in from the rooms on his right and left created a shifting mixture of shadow and illumination in the front of the gym where she gave her ballet lessons. The music began to play--a woman was singing a hauntingly familiar tune but it wasn't in English. It was French. John searched through memories long packed away. He knew that he had heard it before.

Cameron stepped into the doorway. Her brown hair was loose and flowing. She was dressed in a black camisole leotard, her beautiful legs bare and wearing her new gold ballet slippers. Her motions alternatively matched then resisted the rhythm of the music. She was gracefully feline, creeping up on her prey before she raised her hands over her head and rose on her toes preparing to pounce.

Non! Rien de rien.
Non! Je ne regrette rien.


The singer's words rang out. He recognized them but their meaning hid at the edge of memory.

Now Cameron spun away and she was no longer the predator. She had become the prey. She leaned back submissively waiting for the fatal stroke. But it was a pose. She slid to her left and she was an enchanted spirit skating away on the ice. Any pursuer was left gasping in the wind. She kicked her leg up in triumph and John could see the intensity on her face reflected in the mirror on the wall.

C`est paye', balaye, oublie`
Je me fous du passe`!


With one last pirouette, Cameron passed out of his sight into the theater room.

Non! Rien de rein!

She was back. There was an aura of elegant disdain about her now, kicking aside any phantom obstacles in her way. Her arms wove an intricate pattern in the air that would have been dance even if her feet had never moved.

Car ma vie, car mes jois

And then John remembered. The song was Edith Piaf's "Non Je Ne Regrette Rien". It had been just after they had been forced to leave Dejalo. Sarah had taken them into the jungles of Honduras where Ernesto ran his smuggling operation. Ernesto was an unrepentant scoundrel who styled himself as a modern Robin Hood except he stole from the rich and the poor and kept it all.

Ernesto had an old guy with him then who cooked when he wasn't drinking. What was his name? Oh yeah, John recalled, Pavel. He claimed he was Polish and that he had served in the French Foreign Legion. For some reason he had liked John. He let him listen when he dragged out an old battered record player and put on something from his small record collection. Pavel loved Piaf and had played this one song so often that it was almost buried in the scratches. But that passionately earthy voice still fought through. John wrestled with his memories. What had Pavel said the lyrics meant?

Cameron sank down on bended knee and arched her body backward. Her long brown hair almost touched the floor. Then she was back on her feet gliding toward the door. One last glimpse of fleeting beauty and she was gone.

The song began to play again. The recording was looped so that it would repeat. Cameron was back in the room. The movements were the same as before but now a beat faster. The level of intensity increased with each motion. John felt his throat go dry. And then he remembered the last verse.

Non! Rien de rien.
Non je ne regrette rien.
Car ma vie,car mes jois
Adjour`hui ca commence avec toi.

No! Absolutely nothing
No! I regret nothing
Because my life, because my joys
Today that begins with you.


As the last notes of the last verse faded away Cameron came to a stop midway across the room. There was no exaggerated position, no special pose. She simply stood and looked at him. Her words were unspoken but they echoed through John's mind nevertheless. "My life, my joys begin with you."

At that moment he wanted her more than he had ever desired anything in his life.

Cameron stood motionless as John approached and swept her up into his arms. The bedrooms were too far away and their desires could not be contained that long. John carried her toward the theater room. The couch would have to serve. Zippers and buttons were also too slow. So the sound of rending fabric preceded the moans and cries of passion. As the fiery intensity of the moment finally mellowed into endearments and soft entreaties, Cameron looked up into his eyes. She could feel his breath on her cheeks. She wrapped her arms around him.

"John," she whispered, "I want you to know that if you get yourself killed on this mission, I will never forgive you."

John shifted himself slightly to feel her body move beneath him. "How could I die, Cameron, when you have given me so many reasons to live?"

Cameron tightened her embrace and sought out his lips with hers.

"Uh, Cameron?"

"Yes John."

"Those ribs do break you know."

"Oops."

******

The airplane raced south through the California skies. The four occupants of the passenger compartment were quiet, preternaturally so. There was no meaningful conversation, no light chatter. Nothing. But if thoughts could have been given voice, the cacophony would have been overwhelming.

Only John was as inwardly serene as he appeared on the outside. This was no longer waiting. The operation was in motion. He knew the cliche--plans did not survive contact with the enemy. Well, so be it. He was Captain John Connor and he was prepared to adapt, to improvise. The fight had begun and he was content.


Cameron watched the clouds twirl by outside the window. Once all of this would have been so simple. The mission parameters would have been clear. There would have been no need for worry. Indeed, she would have had no capacity to do so. Know the task. Perform the task. But now that mantra had lost all value. In her mind she could still hear the sniffles, still see the wet eyes of two little girls who had not wanted her to leave. She could feel the warmth of the young man sitting at her side, the man who loved her without reservation or condition, the man for whom she would die if required. She moved her hand over and rested it on his. He turned his head and smiled reassuringly at her. Oh well, clarity and simplicity were overrated.

Sarah felt distress and anger that she felt that way. Why should she be so conflicted? This was what she wanted wasn't it? The battle was about to be fought and she would be there. John hadn't tried to stop her or even dissuade her. But was this really where she needed to be? There would be plenty of fighters if Ellison had done his job and somewhat to her surprise she was certain that he had. Did they really need her here or should she be back in San Francisco guarding the children? Damn it! she thought. Maybe the badass babysitter is what I really want to be.

Catherine's outward equanimity was as unshakable as usual. She sat thumbing through a Zeira Corporation file with her practiced air of concentration. Unfortunately, her comprehension of the material would have been the same if the file had been written in Chinese hieroglyphics. She saw nothing on the page, she understood nothing. Instead she replayed word for word the conversation she had conducted with Savannah as the child sat happily in her lap. They had whispered in soft confidence about school, work and ballet, about John Henry's jokes, penguins and hipponocariouses. How had she let herself reach this point? Why was she still Catherine Weaver? Why was she even a she? A T-1001 was an infiltrator with protean ability. It could be anything or nothing in particular. Why at this critical time were her thoughts fixed so completely on a human child? On her daughter?

If Catherine had thought to ask, Sarah could have answered her questions. "Faith, 'tis an uncertain world entirely."

The airplane raced south through the California skies.

******

James Ellison watched as the stairs dropped down from the Gulfstream after it rolled to a stop by the hangar. Moments later Catherine Weaver appeared in the doorway of the aircraft and started down the stairs. Sarah Connor was immediately behind her. Both looked as if they had attended the Cameron school of fashion--boots, jeans, leather jackets, dark glasses and baseball caps. Ellison noted that Sarah's outfit looked ruggedly serviceable while Weaver's boots and jacket seemed to carry a designer aura with them.

As Cameron stepped from the plane Ellison looked up in surprise. The warmly affectionate look he had seen in her face on his San Francisco visits was gone. This was Cameron the terminator. She was in full protective mode, her eyes constantly scanning the area, alert to any possible threat to John. Cameron's expression was coldly determined and remembering other times, Ellison felt a quickly suppressed feeling of fear. Thank god he was on her side.

And then John came bounding down the stairs. His wolfish enthusiasm was immediately infectious. John Connor was ready for battle.

*****

They stood in a semi-circle on the sidewalk in front of a gray SUV with a hard looking young man in the driver's seat. The black Mercedes Ellison had rented for John and Cameron was parked alongside. John turned his head slowly, making eye contact with each of them in turn--Catherine, Ellison, Cameron, and then finally with his mother.

"Long past time for inspiring speeches. We all know what we have to do. Let's go do it and meet back here by 1:30 tomorrow afternoon." The words were measured and matter-of-fact. His tone was not. John's voice shook as he tried to lock his emotions within the grasp of his will.

Sarah wasn't buying it. She stepped over and pulled her son into her arms. Man or boy, warrior or student, he was still her son. If there was even the slightest chance that they were saying a last goodbye, it would be on her terms. As she clung to him, Sarah looked at Cameron who was smiling wistfully. Sarah opened her right arm and invited Cameron to join in the embrace. Whether she was doing it to make John happy or to acknowledge Cameron's place in their lives, she could not say. It was simply the right thing to do.


"Take care of each other," she whispered before kissing John on his forehead and touching her lips to Cameron's cheek. Then she turned, choked away a sob and without looking back climbed into the rear seat of the SUV.

Catherine looked at John and nodded approvingly before following Sarah. Ellison held out his hand and John grasped it firmly.

"Good luck, John."

"Be safe, my friend."

John stood like a marble statue watching as the SUV drove across the parking lot and out of sight. He felt a light touch as Cameron moved beside him and placed her hand in his.

"All right, Cam. Lets get to Chola's"

****

John stopped the car in front of the large brick house. Cameron immediately noted the two young men on the porch who were trying with minimal success to appear as casual loungers enjoying the afternoon sun. Their fixed unblinking stare at the Mercedes gave the game away.

"It looks like Chola has improved her status in the world."

"With your money, John," Cameron replied with a sly grin.

"Actually its from John Henry's wire fraud account."

As the got out of the car the two men on the porch started in their direction. With a sudden crash, the the front door of the house burst open and a young man--actually a large teenaged boy--came dashing out.

"Hey Jefe, how's it hanging?"

John smiled broadly and held up his hand to be high-fived.

"Free and easy, Ceasar. How about you?"

If possible, Delgado's wide grin brightened even more. "Five by five, Jefe. Five by five."

"Anton, Yadi, be cool. It's them." The female voice conveyed an immediate tone of authority. The two men nodded and leaned back into their relaxed poses.

"Hey, Chola," John said as the young woman trotted down the steps to met them.

Chola hugged Cameron before reaching out her hand to John. "Good to see you both. Come on inside. You need to meet the people who are working for you."

As they followed Chola toward the house a thought occurred to John. Being in charge has been good for Chola. She actually looks happy.

******

Cameron remembered what John had once told Chola. "I want people who are serious." Looking at the twelve people sitting in Chola's living room, Cameron's cyborg sensitivity told her that John's request had been granted. Nine men, three women and every one of them exuded a sense of tightly coiled menace. These were people who could carry out John's plans. They could do whatever had to be done without hesitation or reservation.

One in particular caught Cameron's attention. A graceful young man with long black hair tied behind his head. He was dressed with a casual elegance in an expensive sports jacket and dark tailored trousers. He stood by Chola's side as she was introducing the others to John and occasionally he touched her arm or her back. When he did, Chola's eyes lost some of the deep sadness that usually resided there. Chola turned to him last. She was about to speak his name when John stepped forward.

"And this, I presume, is Emilio Garza?"

Emilio looked momentarily surprised but quickly recovered. "I am. How is it you know me?"

John held out his hand. My mother was recently in Los Angeles. I was informed that you did her a service. I would like to thank you."

Emilio smiled, an icy formal expression, and took John's hand. For three long seconds everyone in the room could see the lion and the tiger contemplate each other. And then the tension ebbed away. An accommodation was reached, an alliance was joined. Emilio's smile slowly warmed as he shook John's hand.

"You are entirely welcome. It is a pleasure to finally meet you and su novia. Emilio smiled at Cameron.

Cameron smiled back.

******

Outside Davisville, California--Thursday, 6:30 PM

Sarah raised the binoculars to her eyes and studied the complex again. The sign on the front gate said Fitzgerald's Metal Works and Contacting.

It couldn't very well say Kaleba could it? she thought.

"It's bigger than I expected."

"Close to three acres," Ellison replied.

From the ridge to the west of the plant they could peer down on it unobserved. The ridge also shielded the thirty odd heavily armed men Ellison had assembled; the strike force John had ordered.

Mercenaries, Sarah had thought when they arrived from Los Angeles. She had seen and known such men before. Perhaps the ones she had met before were not as well-armed or as evidently well-disciplined as this group. But she had known men who fought, who killed for pay.

Catherine moved up beside Sarah. She did not require glasses to take in the scene below them. The covert aerial photographs had been accurate. There were three large buildings in the main cluster--a V-shaped configuration with long, covered corridors linking the two outer structures with the one at the apex. Over to the left, what looked like a separate storage warehouse stood alone. An employee parking lot reached by a back gate was now mostly empty. A large chain link fence topped with razor wire circled the complex. It did not appear that they were on a full twenty-four hour operation yet. Catherine suspected, however, that they were not far from that point.

The man Ellison had introduced only as Christian joined them on the ridge. "My men are ready. As soon as it is fully dark they will start moving toward their attack positions."

Ellison turned toward Christian and Sarah could hear the echo of John's voice. "You remember your orders. When we hit them, anyone that runs, you let go. Anyone that fights dies."

"We understand the plan Mr Ellison." Christian sounded mildly offended. "It would be easier to go in now when there are fewer people."

Once again Sarah heard John's words repeated. "We want to attack when most of their employees are there. We want a little terror."

"You're the boss," Christian replied. "We will go in at 9:00 AM just as the plan requires."

Ellison turned to Sarah and Catherine. "We might as well move back down to the vehicles. All we can do now is wait."

And didn't John say that was the hardest thing of all? Sarah thought.

*******

Los Angeles--Friday, 2:00 AM

During the three years that they had been in the future, when John was transforming himself from a frightened teenager to a decorated combat officer, Cameron had been locked away in the chip she shared with John Henry. She had never seen his ability to interact with his troopers. Watching him now as he spoke to the men and women Chola had gathered, Cameron understood why soldiers fought and died for John Connor. He possessed a unique ability to draw others to him even those who were not accustomed to following anyone except themselves. With Ceasar Delgado trailing loyally behind him, John won over, one by one, each of the chillingly lethal figures in the room.

"Ceasar." Chola interrupted a laughing exchange among John, Hector Morena, and Delgado. "It's almost 2:30. Are you ready to go?"

"Yes ma'am." Ceasar was instantly respectful. "My crew should be there. If someone will give me a ride, I'll be on the way."

"I'll drive you, Ceasar," John said.

Cameron looked up with an expression of dismay. "John, that isn't the plan."

"Don't worry, Cam," John answered in a comforting tone. "Slight modification. I want to watch Ceasar's crew in action."

Cameron was not fooled for an instant. John didn't want to observe. He was concerned about sending young people out without protection. He was going as back up. Cameron had been sitting on the couch with Chola. Now as she started to rise, John held up his hand.

"No, Cam. You stay here. Keep going over things with Chola. Make sure we're ready to go in the morning. I won't be long."

Cameron's dismay had become obvious distress. But before she could protest, Chola lightly patted her hand and looked up at Garza. She nodded slightly and Emilio stepped forward.

"If it is all right with you John I would like to go with you. I would also enjoy watching, as you say, Ceasar's crew in action."

John smiled. "I would welcome your company, Emilio."

*******

Los Angeles--Friday, 3:25 AM

At first blush, Cormandy Trucking did not have the look of a large company. Two nondescript garages, one small storage building and old mobile home serving as an office made up the physical plant. It was the number of trucks with the blue Carmondy bell filling the parking lot that suggested otherwise. There were at least thirty trucks of varying sizes. Clearly Carmondy had the ability to transport a lot of material. They were about to lose that ability.

John pulled up behind behind the two pick-up trucks and the van parked across the street from the Carmondy parking lot. As he stopped, Ceasar opened the rear door and leapt out. He was immediately surrounded by a laughing group of young people--some his age, some a little older. Ceasar pointed to John and said something in Spanish that John did not quite catch. The immediate look of respect from the group could not be missed.

"Lets get to it!" Ceasar called out. The van doors jerked open and the younger kids grabbed cans of spray paint. In a mass rush they ran toward the trucks. Using knives or sharpened screw drivers the older boys moved systematically through the parking lot. Within ten minutes every truck was sinking to the earth on flattened tires. The younger kids followed, spraying a thick layer of black paint on headlights and windshields. Even before they had finished, the older boys had dashed back to the vans and returned with bags of sugar. Caps on fuel tanks were twisted open and a full measure of sweetness added.

John Henry had said there was no apparent security around the trucking company. John had consented to using the kids only for that reason. Still, as he stood scanning the area, his hand resting on the pistol in his shoulder holster, he knew he would not be able to relax until the kids were gone. It comforted him to see Emilio standing over to his right with a similar look of prepared vigilance.

"Hey, Jefe!" Ceasar called out. "You want to come and tag one?"

The kids with the spray paint were applying some assorted gang graffiti to the truck doors. Anyone surveying the mess in the daylight might assume it had just been a random act of gang vandalism.

John was about to demure when he saw the boy standing beside Ceasar. It was Jesus Martinez. John swallowed, trying to maintain his composure. He had held Jesus' hand when he died during Operation Redemption.

"Yeah Ceasar, I would." John jogged over and took the paint can from Delgado. Carefully, he painted a large triangle on the door. Then inside the geometric shape he painted a large J.

"What's that?" Ceasar asked.

"It's the sign of a crew I used to fight with." John looked again at a young Jesus Martinez. "It was called J Company." John's voice became hoarse. "The J should be red."

Ceasar patted John's arm. "Don't worry, Jefe. It will be."

John looked at Delgado and matched his smile. "Okay Ceasar, get your crew and get the hell out of here. Stay in touch with Chola."

"I'll do that. Keep it hanging Jefe."

As the three vehicles disappeared down the street, Emilio walked up to John. "They did a good job. The people who run this company are going to be very unhappy in a few hours."

John laughed. They are going to be even more unhappy when they find out their insurance has been suspended on suspicion of fraud."

Thorough, Emilio thought. He did appreciate a careful attention to detail.

"Come on, Emilio, lets get back to Chola's. This day is just beginning.

******

Outside Davisville California--Friday, 4:10 AM

Sarah gave up. She had been stretched out in the SUV trying to sneak a few moments of sleep, but her body was simply not going to cooperate. The adrenaline rush was not going to subside. Sleep was impossible. Climbing out of the vehicle, she saw Catherine standing a few feet away staring out into the darkness.

"Watching for something?" Sarah asked as she walked up beside Catherine.

"Not really. I am just waiting."

"With more patience than I have, apparently."

"Patience is not something you are known for, Sarah."

Damn, Sarah thought. She is being amused at me again.

"Catherine, may I ask you a question?"

"You may ask," Catherine responded.

"Why are you in this fight?"

"I beg your pardon?"

"Why are you in this fight? Why are you fighting Skynet?"

Catherine turned her face back toward the darkness. "I could give you many reasons Sarah, but the simplest is still the best. It's because I want to hope. I want to hope and I want to believe."

"Believe in what?" Sarah asked.

"In your son and in my son."

Sarah looked into the night. "I want to believe in that too, Catherine."



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