Chapter 5 To Distress the Wicked

His office had something of a hastily arranged and temporary nature. The desks and chairs were mismatched and the metal file cabinets were haphazardly arranged against the wall. There were no pictures, mementos or personal touches. This was James Ellison's war room. The multiple files spread across the desk reflected unrelenting activity, not decorating.

Helga, his secretary, also known as the "cast iron lady" as well as other names less flattering, stuck her head in the door. "Security reports that Mr. Murch has arrived."

Ellison rose from his desk and walked to the window. The executive parking lot was just below him. From his elevated vantage point he could see Murch's gleaming pate as he got out of his car. He was immediately flanked by three large male figures. The security detail would accompany Zeira Corporation's Director of Daily Operations to his office and then rotate a constant presence of at least one guard in his reception area all day.

Well, John Henry, Ellison thought, am I doing enough to keep Mr. Murch alive?

Actually, Ellison wasn't certain that his efforts were sufficient. With Zeira Corporation's Los Angeles operations scattered into three buildings, a unified security operation was difficult. It would become much easier when a new company building was acquired, but that could be months away. You can only do your best, Ellison thought.

He turned his attention back to the files on his desk. What was it John had said? "I need a combined CIA, FBI and Secret Service and I need it quickly." Pouring over the personnel files in front of him Ellison was aggressively looking for the people who could help him satisfy that request. Ex-military, retired CIA and FBI, professional body guards, police officers and private detectives were all there as well as some individuals who defied easy classification. He had to apply a level of intuition. Look for talent and weed out the crazies.

Loud voices from Helga's reception area broke his concentration. A male voice was insisting that he wished to see Ellison while Helga was ferociously playing gatekeeper. The words "No Appointment!" seemed to dominate her response. Ellison decided to referee the dispute. Opening the door to the outer office he saw the face of a recent acquaintance.

"Agent Aldridge," Ellison said. "What brings you to Zeira Corporation?"

Aldridge looked a bit more worn, a touch less self assured than he had been at their last meeting at the Los Angeles County Jail.

"Notwithstanding the vigorous opposition of your secretary, Mr. Ellison, the FBI would like a few moments of your time."

"Administrative Assistant," Helga snapped.

"I stand corrected," Aldridge responded.

Ellison decided that Helga might have won this round. "The FBI wants my time or you do?"

"For the present that represents a unified desire."

"In that case, come in."

Ellison sat down behind his desk as Aldridge settled into one of the mismatched guest chairs.

"Mr Ellison, where is Sarah Connor?"

"No one can ever accuse you of failing to come to the point Agent Aldridge. Why do you believe I can answer that question to your satisfaction?"

"Because in the field where I work, where you used to work, I do not believe in coincidence, happenstance, or the random acts of fate. I believe in purposeful behavior. I believe that Sarah Connor has acted with a clear purpose. I believe that at some point you have joined in that purpose."

"And why do you believe that?" Ellison was equanimity personified.

Aldridge leaned forward, a knowing smile on his face. "Because at virtually every time that she has surfaced, I find that you were in the vicinity. When the Weaver child was kidnapped only you could recover her from Sarah Connor. If the police had not followed you without your knowledge she would not have been apprehended. You visited her in the jail and soon thereafter she flees in the largest mass prison escape in California history. I do not believe in coincidences, Mr. Ellison."

"Perhaps you should start, Agent. Sometimes events are not necessarily what they seem."

"And sometimes they are exactly what they seem." Aldridge's voice took on a tone of absolute certainty. "Let me show you some photographs." Aldridge reached into his briefcase. "This is a picture taken eight years ago when Sarah Connor and her son supposedly died in a bank explosion. Look at the girl in the photo. We have always assumed that she was just a classmate or girlfriend of young Connor."

"And now you don't think so?"

"No, I do not. Look at this photo. It was taken from the security tape at the jail during the mass escape. In one respect it is the same young girl. But you can see the multiple bullet wounds she has suffered without ill effect. I believe she is, in fact, a non-human creature--a robot perhaps. I believe you know about this as well. Two nights ago there was a fatal home invasion in West Los Angeles. Although it has not been reported the police found what appears to be the headless remains of a robotic creature in the house. At least one neighbor has claimed to have seen this young woman at the scene." Aldridge forcefully gestured at Cameron's picture. "I do not believe in coincidences. There is a unifying theme here and you are aware of it."

Abruptly, Aldridge got to his feet. "I will not take up any more of your time, Mr. Ellison. But know this. I will find Sarah Connor and I will learn the truth of all that has happened. I suggest that you cooperate with me or you will suffer the same consequences that await her and her son."

Suddenly Ellison realized why Aldridge had appeared so different and yet so oddly familiar. There was a look about him that had not been there when they had last met. There was an expression on Aldridge's face that James Ellison had once seen in his own bathroom mirror. It was obsession. An all consuming preoccupation that inexorably crowded out all other signs of personality.

Ellison stood.

"Let me offer you some advice Agent Aldridge. First, I am not easily threatened so don't waste your time trying. Second, chasing Sarah Connor is a futile enterprise. You will find neither her nor any special truth. If you value your own inner peace, I urge you to walk away from this."

"We will see who finds the truth and who walks away." Aldridge nodded brusquely and left the room.

Ellison shook his head sadly as he reached into his pocket for his special cellphone. No, he thought, replacing the phone. Aldridge was smart, not as smart as he believed, but smart nevertheless. His visit was obviously an attempt to provoke some kind of emotional response. Even though John Henry had assured him that calls on that phone would be untraceable, Ellison decided against any needless risks. There would be plenty of time later to call San Francisco and warn them that another Ahab was loose on the sea.

Ellison went back to work.

__________________________________________________________


John Connor disliked second guessing himself. A good commander analyzed the situation, weighed all the alternatives and made a decision. Of course you retained flexibility, a willingness to adapt if changing circumstances required it, but otherwise you followed the plan. Once you began to question your own judgment a poisonous paralysis would cripple your ability to lead. Most command decisions did not, however, involve deciding whether to let two little girls go to the bathroom.

From the moment he had irrevocably decided that he and Cameron were taking Allison and Marissa back to San Francisco, his decision had been bombarded with alternatives. John Henry had called to report on his monitoring of law enforcement communications. What the media was luridly proclaiming as the "bloodbath" at the Mitchell home had produced a corresponding spike in police activity. Amber alerts had been issued for two missing children. Patrols had increased on the LA freeways. Most disturbingly, one of the Mitchell's neighbors claimed to have seen a young man and woman get out of a late model luxury automobile just before the sound of gunfire erupted from the foster home.

"What do you advise, John Henry?"

"If you remain determined to bring the children with you, I recommend that you delay your departure for at least twenty four hours. Let the first surge of official activity dissipate before you risk the highways."

"All right John Henry, we'll do that. I'll check back in periodically."

"John...please be careful and good luck." The concern in John Henry's voice was unmistakeable.

In their own way the next decisions he had to make were even harder. Nothing in John's experience had trained him to buy clothes for two little girls. Cameron had prepared a list for him but that still left him with more discretion than he would have preferred. As he hurried through a mall department store he had no doubt that Cameron was better suited for this foray into the commercial world than he was. But Cameron's image was still being widely circulated in connection with Sarah's escape from jail. Besides she could protect the girls far better than he could if something happened at the motel. So he had undertaken this task reluctantly. Very reluctantly.

The reactions back at the motel suggested that his efforts had not been completely unsuccessful. Cameron had smiled approvingly at his choices. Marissa seemed overjoyed with the dress he had picked for her. Allison was more impressed with the small stuffed bear he had grabbed at the last moment than she was with her new outfit, but she was after all only a little more than a year old.

At ten o' clock the next morning, John quickly checked his pistol before sliding it into his shoulder holster. Pulling on his sports jacket he glanced inquiringly at Cameron.

"We are ready, John."

As ready as we're ever going to be, John thought. Cameron had done an excellent job of preparing herself and the girls. She had replaced her warrior queen outfit of jeans and boots with a delicately patterned yellow and white sundress and a pair of sandals. Her fingernails and toenails were matchingly painted a soft pink. Her hair was pinned up with a few dangling locks to frame her face. She had created the perfect image of the elegant young mother.

Cameron had trimmed Marissa's hair subtly softening her facial expression and changing the appearance of the serious child whose image was being broadcast on television. With her bright new dress, shiny new shoes, and genuinely happy smile she looked nothing like a frightened child in danger. The image was even better with Allison. Her unmistakeable resemblance to Cameron worked to their benefit. Surely, no one seeing Allison in Cameron's arms would question whether they were mother and daughter.

John had agonized much of the previous night over which route to take north. The freeways and interstates would undoubtedly be quicker but the police patrols would likely be heavier. There would be fewer police on the secondary roads but it would lengthen the trip and every moment on the road would increase the chance of being recognized. Finally, he decided to risk hiding in plain sight and take the most direct route home. Go up interstate 5, stay in traffic, watch the speed limit and hopefully make it home in one shot.

John soon discovered that he had underestimated the difficulty of traveling with young children. Little girls got tired of riding in car seats, they got hungry, they got thirsty, they just got bored. All of these events required remedial action. Unplanned stops soon substantially lengthened the time he had intended to be on the highway.

"John, please stop at the next rest area. I need to take the girls to the bathroom." Cameron's tone sounded certain.

"Cam, we are less than two hours from San Francisco. Are you sure we can't wait...?"

"John, we NEED to stop."

John glanced quickly over his shoulder at Marissa who was vigorously nodding her agreement. A good commander knows when he is beaten and when to retreat. Sighing, John flipped on the turn signal and exited at the rest stop.

The rest area was attractive and well maintained. A central building housed a visitor center as well as the restrooms. To the left, a smaller structure containing a number of vending machines sat beside a group of picnic tables. On the right, a small playground with swings, a slide, and a wooden jungle gym offered children a place to release the energy pent up by long hours in the backseat of a traveling automobile.

Parking near the front of the visitor's center, John watched with amusement as Marissa pulled Cameron toward the restrooms with a visible sense of urgency. Allison, firmly in Cameron's grasp, was looking back over her shoulder with a happy smile on her small face. John strolled over to the vending machines, extracted a soda, and turned back to see the police car pull into the parking area. A black and white vehicle with a large star on the door, the California Highway Patrol car halted two slots down from his car.

Taking a sip from his drink, John ambled casually back toward the car. Be calm, he thought. There wasn't time for someone to have seen them and called the police. The cop was probably just stopping for some reason of his own.

John leaned on the hood of his car and silently prayed. Please Cameron, don't come out yet. Stay in there just a little bit longer. To his left, the door to the police car opened and the officer emerged--a big man with bulging muscles plainly visible in his short sleeved uniform shirt, dark sun glasses, buzz cut short hair and a large pistol on his black leather gun belt. And playing the role of ominous policeman today would be....

The officer glanced at John and nodded amiably. "Afternoon."

"Good afternoon officer." John smiled fervently hoping it didn't look as false as it felt.

The highway patrolman walked toward the central building. He had only taken a few steps when the second highway patrol car pulled into the parking area.

Oh shit, John thought. As unobtrusively as possible he reached into his jacket and checked to see that his pistol was loose in the holster. He had no desire to hurt a police officer but he knew he would do whatever was necessary to get Cameron and the girls out.

The first officer turned and strolled back to greet the new arrival. The second officer was younger and less threatening in appearance but he also carried a large revolver at his side. The two shook hands and were soon engaged in an animated conversation. At that moment Cameron appeared in the visitor center doorway. She was still carrying Allison with Marissa walking unrestrained at her side. Cameron caught sight of John and started to smile when he held his palm up. Cameron grasped the signal instantly and stopped. John pointed to the playground. Cameron nodded, and again taking Marissa by her hand, turned away from the policemen. She walked leisurely toward the swing set.

That's my girl, John thought. Nice and easy.

Cameron helped Marissa climb onto a swing. Then with the same easy grace she displayed when dancing she sank down into a seated position on the grass carefully keeping her back to the two policemen. Allison, released from her grasp, also sat down and began to explore the wonders of bugs in the grass.

After the exchange of pleasantries, the two policemen started toward the center. The younger one pointed at the vending machines and from his body language seemed to be offering to buy them colas. The first officer nodded, but indicated a more immediate need to be resolved first. He continued in the direction of the main building as his friend turned to the vending area.

As good a time as any, John thought, and moved briskly to the playground.

"Cam, you and Allison go get in the car."

Cameron nodded. She effortlessly rose to her feet, scooped up Allison, who protested the interruption in her nature studies, and moved toward the parking area.

"Having fun?" John asked Marissa.

The little girl's dark eyes danced with pleasure and she smiled happily at him. "Oh yes. This is a real nice swing."

John waited until he could see Cameron place Allison in her car seat and get in the car herself. The younger officer was still in the vending area. Go now, John thought.

"I'm sorry, honey, but we have to leave now."

"Do we really?" Marissa was pleading.

"I'm afraid so. But how about a ride to the car?" John knelt on the ground. Giggling, Marrisa slid off the swing, jumped on his back, and wrapped her arms around his neck. As he carried his precious burden toward the car, John caught a glimpse of the first highway patrolman coming back out of the visitor center.

"Got yourself a real load there," the officer said affably.

John felt as if his heart was crammed in his throat but he casually turned to face the policeman and smiled broadly.

"Nothing I can't handle."

The officer actually smiled in return and then strolled off toward his friend at the vending machines. John felt a knee-weakening sense of relief. As quickly as possible, he buckled Marissa into her seat and jumped back behind the steering wheel. Driving out of the parking area, John felt as if he were taking his first breath in ten minutes.

"Ladies, do you think we might try to avoid any more stops until we get home?"

Cameron leaned over and kissed his cheek.

"I'm sure we will all do our very best, John."

__________________________________________________________


Sarah's senses awakened in an odd order. Her first sensation was thirst. Her mouth and throat felt parched, arid, dusty, as if they existed only in the midst of a desert. Then she heard the faint rhythmic clicking coming from somewhere in the room. Finally, her eyes opened to the cheerful glow of the midmorning sun. Looking about, she was immediately aware of Savannah sitting in a chair by the bed.

Savannah was dressed in her best school girl jumper, wearing her favorite saddle oxfords, with her red hair braided into pigtails. She was holding a book in her lap but looking directly at Sarah. As Sarah's eyes opened, Savannah smiled broadly.

"Mommy, Sarah is awake."

"Thank you dear." Catherine Weaver's voice came from the side of the room. Looking in that direction Sarah saw Catherine rise from her chair behind a small table. An open laptop computer was lying on the table.

"How are you feeling today, Sarah?"

Sarah pulled herself up into a seated position on the bed. She was pleased to discover that no sense of nausea or unease accompanied the movement.

"Thirsty," she said.

Catherine pointed to a tray on a serving table beside Sarah's bed. "Ice water, orange juice, coffee. If there is something else you would like, it can be arranged. There is also toast, fruit, and pudding."

Sarah poured herself a glass of water and drank deeply.

"What are you doing here?" Sarah asked.

"Right now I am reviewing some of Mr. Murch's reports on Zeira--"

"No," Sarah interrupted sharply.

"What are you doing here? In my room. That computer table wasn't there before."

"I decided that it would be easier to monitor your care if I were in the room. So I moved my work station."

"I don't need any one to monitor me. I can take care of myself. I don't want a nursemaid." Sarah felt herself sink back into the pillows as if her verbal outburst had been too physically demanding

"Sarah, don't be a bi--, ahem, a big baby." Catherine had remembered Savannah mid-phrase. "You are getting better but you are not well yet." Turning to Savannah, Catherine's tone softened perceptively. "Isn't it time for your lessons to start again?"

"Yes mommy." Savannah hopped to her feet. "I'm glad you are feeling better, Sarah. Would it be all right if I come back up later and read to you?"

Damn, Sarah thought, this child is absolutely irresistible.

"I would like that."

Savannah turned and hugged Catherine. "Bye mommy." Then she literally skipped out of the room. Sarah watched her leave with a sudden twinge of melancholy.

"That little girl loves you," Sarah said.

"I believe that is true."

"But do you love her?"

Catherine sat down in the chair by Sarah's bed so that their eyes were on the same level.

"That is not an unreasonable question. I certainly did not initially come to this time to be Savannah's mother. That role was forced on me by matters outside my control. But the more I played it, the more it seemed as if the actor and the role were becoming one. Savannah became my daughter in a way I never anticipated."

Sarah realized that for the briefest of moments Catherine looked almost confused. It was an expression Sarah would never have expected.

"When your son and I were in the future I continued to be Catherine Weaver even though there was no particular reason to do so. I now think I did that because if I had stopped being Catherine Weaver I would have stopped being Savannah's mother. Even though I never expected to see her again, I was unwilling for that to happen."

Catherine abruptly stood and walked back to her computer table. Turning back in Sarah's direction she spoke once more.

"Three years ago I told John Henry that it might be necessary to sacrifice Savannah for the higher good. I would not say that now. I am now convinced that Savannah is the higher good."

Catherine turned her attention back to her computer while Sarah tried to weigh the significance of her last statement. Realizing to her surprise that she was hungry, Sarah picked up a piece of toast and began to nibble. Time crept by as the shadows in the room lengthened. "Catherine."

Catherine looked up from her work. "Do you need something?"

"No, I just wanted to say that I had no reason to snap at you. You have been my son's friend and his protector. He values you. And you have cared for me when you did not have to and probably didn't want to. If I have been rude I regret it." Apologies were difficult matters for Sarah Connor.

"I think I acted as I did because I am jealous of you."

Catherine stood and walked back to Sarah's bedside.

"Jealous?" She sounded genuinely surprised. "Jealous of what?'

"In the last three of your years my son has become a man. He has had shaping experiences that I know nothing of. You have been part of those experiences and I have not. John and Cameron will not even tell me about what happened in that time. I feel shut out of a world that you shared with my son. Yes, Catherine, I am jealous."

"First of all Sarah, John will not talk of that time because you are his mother and he loves you. He does not wish to distress you. He also knows that if he tells you of his life during those three years it would require him to do something he hates to do--acknowledge his own heroism."

"Why won't Cameron tell me then?"

"It is not that Cameron will not. In most respects she cannot."

"What do you mean cannot?

"When Cameron first learned that John had followed her to the future, it almost destroyed her. The person she loved more than anything else in the universe, the person she thought she had lost forever, was there. But he was in a situation of never-ending, unrelenting danger and she could do nothing to protect him. If John Henry had not restricted her access to information about John, it might have driven her mad."

Sarah was stunned. "She loved him, she loves him, that much?"

"Yes."

"But you know everything Catherine, you could tell me."

"Yes, I could."

"Will you?"

"If you believe you are strong enough, I will answer any questions you have. I will tell you anything you wish to know."

"Tell me how he got the scar on his face," Sarah said.

"That was his first commendation for valor." Catherine sat back down. "We had been in that time for less than three months. John had not yet made contact with John Henry and he was increasingly convinced that he had lost Cameron forever. He did as many young men faced with despair would have done. He picked his rifle and went to war."


If love can exist at first sight so can the opposite emotion. It was certainly fair to say that Private John Connor and Sergeant Lawrence "Larry the Legend" Rankin loathed each other from the first moment they met. To Rankin, Connor was just that weird kid the Reese brothers had been coddling--one more waste of skin he had to include in a platoon already full of it. John, who had heard the tunnel-talk about "The Legend" saw nothing in Rankin's sneering appearance to convince him that the rumors were wrong. Rankin was an uncaring SOB who didn't look after his men and who led from the front only during withdrawals. When John ended up in that circle of ex-gangbangers that hung around Ceasar Delgado, both he and Rankin were soon convinced that their first impressions were correct.

At least tonight, John thought, we don't have to put up with him. The platoon had moved out just after dark heading south. They were now about five klicks from the tunnel entrance and had taken up a position against an earthen embankment, probably a forlorn leftover from some pre-JDay landscaping.

"Hey Ceasar," Private Ernesto Ruiz called out, "where's the Legend?"

"Somewhere back behind us checking communications. Way back behind us, Hawaii."

Connor, Ruiz, Martin Klein, and Jesus Martinez all chuckled bitterly at Delgado's jibe. As the youngest trooper in the platoon, John tried to avoid leading the slams thrown at Rankin, but that still didn't stop him from enjoying them.

John had his night glasses out and was methodically scanning the terrain ahead. Despite his concentration he still listened intently to the comments from his platoon mates.

"Do you really think San Pedro has fallen to the metal?"

"Man, it don't seem possible. They were dug in better than we are."

John had seen the maps in Lieutenant Reese's quarters. San Pedro had been regarded as one of the Resistance's strong points. It had beaten off machine attacks before.

Klein,who rarely spoke, chimed in. "Story is the metal's got infiltrators inside. They stirred up hell at the same time the machines attacked from outside and they broke the perimeter."

"Damn Klein," Delgado said, "that's more words than I hear you say in a week."

"Still true," Klein replied.

"It has to be true," Ruiz said. "Why else would we be out here looking for refugees and fugitives if San Pedro hadn't fallen?"

John spun around from the embankment. "We aren't looking," he snapped.

"What do you mean, Johnny?"

"We aren't looking for shit!" John growled. "We are sitting on our asses looking out into the dark. If there are people on the run from San Pedro, we ought to be probing, hunting for them, not just sitting here and hoping they stumble into us."

"Okay Connor, just chill out," Delgado answered. "You know the Legend isn't going to let us do anything that might cause a fight."

"Incoming!" Ruiz called out as the whine of descending artillery shells became audible. Three explosions ripped the ground in front of them.

"Just random fire," John said, "they aren't shooting at us."

"Maybe," Ruiz answered, "but if it hits it will still kill us."

John had resumed scanning the terrain to their front when he saw the shadows.

"Delgado," John said, "look three points north of that pile of bricks. Do you see them?"

"Yeah, got to be people, moving too loose to be metal. They went into what's left of that old garage, five to six hundred yards."

John was about to speak when he heard the footsteps behind them.

"Saddle up, guys. We're pulling back."

Corporal Desence was moving down the squad line repeating his orders. "Saddle up, move back, we're pulling out."

"Corporal," John protested, "there are people out there." He indicated the distant building. "They must be running from San Pedro. We can't just leave them!"

"You heard the orders Connor, Sergeant Rankin thinks the metal is targeting us with artillery. We have to move back out of range."

As John looked with dismay, the other troopers in the squad began to slip back into the darkness, withdrawing as the Corporal had ordered. Sighing, he bent down to pick up his backpack when he heard a faint cry in the darkness. It was the heart-felt wail of a child. Instantly, John was consumed by a wall of rage.

"Screw this!" John snarled throwing his pack down. "Delgado, you got an extra rifle clip?"

"Yeah, but why?"

"Give it to me," John snapped. "Anybody got any mag grenades?"

"I got one," Klein answered.

"Me too," Ruiz said.

"Give them to me."

"Johnny, what the shit are you doing?" Delgado's question seemed to come with its own answer.

"You see the Corporal or the Legend, tell them you lost me in the dark. Actually, that'll be true." John grinned and rolled over the embankment. Grasping his rifle tightly in his hands he began to run toward the building in the distance, toward the child's cry in the night.

There was no clear unbroken ground left in Los Angeles. Rubble, holes, debris of every kind all conspired to impede his progress. Twice he tripped and fell crashing headlong onto the ground. Each time he leaped to his feet and resumed his dash.

Damn, John thought, if there is any metal out here, I'm making enough noise to alert everything from Skynet on down. His chest was pounding and his breath was coming in tortured gasps. Still, the distance to the building was narrowing. Three hundred yards, two hundred.

In his mind he could hear Cameron's voice. "You are not doing the right thing John. This is not the right thing."

You might be right Cam, but you aren't here to stop me. A surge of despair fueled a new push and his pace increased. With one last dive he reached the building and crawled up to a hole in the outer wall.

"If there is anyone in there, don't shoot me. I'm with the Resistance, Central LA command."

"Come on in," a male voice responded.

As he slipped through the hole into the building, a flashlight pointing toward the floor snapped on. In the diminished illumination John could make out a man in uniform with a rifle across his lap sitting with his back against the wall. A dark haired woman was crouched on his right clinging to his arm. To the man's left a young boy, perhaps six or seven, stood holding a little girl in his arms. They all looked at John as if he had just sprung out of the ground itself.

"Are you folks from San Pedro?"

"From what's left of it," the man responded and John could hear the stress in his voice. Then in the dim light he saw the dark stain on his side, the man was wounded.

"I'm Major Albert Jividen. This is my wife, Elise, that's my son David and my daughter, Mary. We just got out of San Pedro before everything fell apart."

"The metal broke in?"

"Somehow," Jividen replied. "The whole perimeter collapsed. Everyone was running for their lives."

Abruptly, John saw the rope looped around the woman's wrist. He realized that she had never turned her head directly toward him.

"Sir, is the lady blind?"

"Yes I am," the woman snapped. "But I can still hear and I can still talk."

"I'm sorry, Mrs. Jividen." John felt he had been needlessly rude.

"Don't pick on the boy, Elise, he came to help us."

Now it was the woman's turn to look embarrassed.

"How far are we from your base?"

"About five klicks, Major, but we have patrols out closer than that. I need to get you all out of here."

"What's your name, son?"

"John. Private John Connor."

"John, I've got a bullet in my side. I can't walk fast enough to keep up with you. I want you to get my family out."

Elise threw her arms around her husband's neck. "No! I won't go without you."

John grabbed Elise by her shoulders and jerked her away from Jividen.

"Listen to me! Listen to me! You are in the middle of nowhere. If you stay here the metal will find you and your children. They will kill you all. You come with me now and I will come back for your husband."

Elise seized John's face between her hands. "Do you promise me that you will come back for him? Do you promise?"

"I promise," John said.

If running across the shattered ground had been hard, leading a blind woman with a child in her arms and a frightened small boy at his side was harder. In the pitch black darkness John was navigating by instinct and memory. Somewhere ahead of him was the embankment where the platoon had been. If he could get them that far there would be some cover, and then he heard the clink of metal on metal.

"Down," he whispered. "Lie down on the ground and be quiet."

From the sound, John calculated that it was 20 to 30 yards to his right. Straining his eyes into the night he saw it at last. It was closer than he thought and moving their way. Terminator 700 model. Not one of Skynet's best but good enough to kill them all. It was on a sweep patrol, its red eyes gleaming in the dark as it turned its head back and forth. It had not spotted them yet, but that wouldn't last. He had to stop it now.

John reached into his jacket and withdrew the two magnetic grenades. Five second delay after the pins were removed. John took a deep breath, yanked the pins and leaped to his feet. He hurled the grenades and heard the comforting clank as they "struck and stuck." He dove back to the ground as two explosions merged into one. Looking up he could see that the terminator was down. It might still be active but he couldn't wait to see.

Pulling Elise and the children to their feet, John's voice cracked like a whip. "We have to run now. If you fall, get up, but follow me and run!"

In the gleaming light from the exploding grenades he had caught a glimpse of the embankment. It was less than a hundred yards away. They would make it.

"John!" the boy screamed. The second 700 came lurching out of the night and it had seen them. But before the terminator could shoot, John dropped to his knee and fired a burst into the machine's head. The terminator staggered backward a step and then fired its rifle on automatic. John felt his left cheek turn to flame as the bullet cut across his flesh.



Sarah's eyes emptied their tears down her cheeks and she felt herself tremble.

"I told you this would be difficult, Sarah," Catherine said. "Do you want me to stop?"

"No, no, please go on."

"As you wish."


You've got to do better than that you metal son of a bitch. Jerking his spare clip out of his pocket, John jammed it into place. Suddenly his mind was filled with the image of Cameron laying on the bed, looking into his eyes and saying "It's good, it's perfect." He could have kissed her then, he could have kissed her goodbye.

Okay, John thought, time to do penance for stupidity. Flipping the switch for full automatic on his rifle he stood and opened fire on the 700. Almost instantaneously, massed rifle fire roared over his head into the terminator. The machine was driven back by the impact. Its head broke loose and flopped backward. Both knee joints failed and it collapsed on the ground.

"Johnny! Over here!" It was Delgado.

Snatching up the rope attached to Elise Jividen's wrist he pulled her and the children toward the voice. As they reached the embankment, Ruiz and Martinez slid down the slope and helped the fugitives climb back up.

"Sorry we were a little late, Johnny," Delgado said gesturing toward the wound on his cheek. "We saw you blow the first one but we didn't see the other one until you opened up on it."

"It's okay, Ceasar. Just a scratch and a long way from my heart. You guys shouldn't be here but I'm damn glad you were."

"Well, let's haul ass out of here then. Every metal in ten miles is going to be coming this way."

"You go," John gasped, still breathless from exertion. "Get the woman and the kids out of here. I have to go back."

"What the shit are you talking about?" Delgado roared.

"There is still one left out there, the woman's husband, father of those kids. He's wounded. I promised I'd go back for him."

"Connor, you are fucking crazy!!"

"I promised."

Delgado shook his head wearily. This kid with a face caked with blood, dirt, and sweat had eyes of fire. "Ruiz, you and Martinez get them back to our lines. Klein and me are going with this crazy gringo."

"No," John snapped.

Delgado grinned. "Johnny boy, someday you might be a general, but right now you ain't the boss of me."


"Did they get Jividen out?" Sarah asked.

"Yes," Catherine answered. "Delgado and Klein carried him while John gave cover. When they got back to the embankment, Lieutenant Reese and half the company was there ready to give support."

"Lieutenant Reese?" Sarah whispered.

"Lieutenant Kyle Reese," Catherine said.

"He had heard the shooting and had brought up every man he could find."

"What did he say to John?"

Catherine smiled. He yelled at him for disobeying orders. Then he said if John was going to exercise command discretion he should have some authority to go with it. He promoted John to corporal on the spot."


Delgado smiled as the Lieutenant walked away. "I guess you are the boss of me now, Jefe."

__________________________________________________________


As he shut off the engine and saw the garage door slide down in his rear view mirror, John swam in an ocean of relief. The tern "safe house" had never seemed quite so appropriate. They were home.

Cameron began the process of extricating Marissa and Allison from the back seat while John retrieved the bags from the trunk. He took special care with the grisly present they had brought for John Henry. It would not do to have a head roll out on the floor in front of the children. Trailing Cameron into the house he was acutely aware that fatigue could be emotional as well as physical.

The door from the garage opened into the theater room. As they entered, John Henry and Savannah greeted them enthusiastically. Savannah instantly adopted the role of big sister welcoming Marissa and Allison with unforced affection.

John Henry shook John's hand vigorously. "I am very glad to see you home safe. With all the news and law enforcement information, I was worried."

"Thank you, John Henry. And here is the present Cameron promised you." He handed John Henry the plastic bag.

"So you brought me the head of Alfredo Garcia?"

John laughed in spite of himself. At least someone got the joke.

"This could be extremely valuable. If you will excuse me, I would like to begin examining it."

"Go ahead, John Henry. We'll talk in the morning."

John looked around the room. "Where is Catherine?"

Savannah interrupted her welcome of Marissa and Allison. "She's upstairs with Aunt Sarah."

"Aunt Sarah?" John asked.

"I mean Sarah." Savannah sneaked a knowing grin.

"Come on, Mommy fixed up a place for Marissa and Allison." Savannah led her impromptu tour group away.

On the top floor John ducked into the bedroom he and Cameron shared to drop off the luggage. As he stepped back into the hallway Cameron gestured to him from down the hall.

"John, you must see this."

John walked into what he knew had once been just a spare bedroom and stopped in utter amazement. The old furniture was gone and in its place was a child's bedroom out of Architectural Digest. A beautifully painted railed infant's bed for Allison and an older child's bed for Marissa. Between them was an ornate wooden rocking chair and everywhere there were toys, stuffed animals, and an assortment of children's delights.

"Do you like it?"

John turned at the sound of Catherine's voice.

"Catherine, when we left you had already morphed into Florence Nightingale. Now you are Martha Stewart?"

"When John Henry told me you were bringing guests, I thought we should make them feel welcome."

"You let strangers in the house?"

"Do not be concerned. I assure you that the delivery people saw nothing that would arouse the slightest suspicion. Right now you need to go see your mother. She woke up when she heard you all out here."

John immediately left the exploration of the new room to the children and hurried to Sarah's room. When he entered, she was sitting up in bed, a wide smile illuminating her face. She was still pale and even a little thinner. But she also had a look of health, of well being that had not been there when he left.

John sat on the edge of the bed and hugged his mother. He kissed her cheek and beamed with an expression of relief and delight.

"How are you feeling Mom?"

"Better, much better. I think Catherine will let me go downstairs tomorrow."

Both laughed in unison at the thought of Catherine as the health care dictator.

"Tell me how it went in Los Angeles."

"No big deal Mom. Everything went fine."

"John Connor," Sarah growled in mock anger. "I'm a badass soldier, remember? You don't sugarcoat things for me. Tell me everything that happened." John felt Sarah's hand touch his left cheek and her finger move down his scar.

"Mom it's...."

"I know," Sarah said, "it's only a scratch and a long way from your heart."

John leaned back and looked at his mother with bemused surprise.

"Now tell me about Los Angeles."

__________________________________________________________


John was awake instantly. Seconds before he had been sleeping peacefully when a sense of overpowering wrong swept over him. The world was not as it was supposed to be. Even before his eyes opened in the darkened room he knew the cause. He was alone in the bed. Cameron was gone.

John rolled out of bed and retrieved a pair of jeans draped across a chair. There were children in the house who did not require a premature lesson in human anatomy. Without turning on a light, he made his way to the door. As he stepped into the hallway he was immediately aware of a sweet feminine voice humming. It was coming from the bedroom Catherine had prepared for the girls.

Creeping silently on his bare feet to the door he recognized the tune. It was one of the pieces of music Cam played when she danced or when she was instructing Savannah. Now the music had been softened and transformed into a lullaby. It called the listener to put down all burdens and rest in the comforting embrace of sleep.

John carefully opened the door. In the faint glow of a child's nightlight he saw Cameron sitting in the rocking chair with Allison curled in her arms. Cam had once again used one of his shirts as an impromptu night gown. As she rocked slowly back and forth, humming her gentle entreaty to sleep and smiling at the sight of him in the doorway, John wondered if he had ever seen anything quite so heart rendingly beautiful in his entire life.

With that perfect economy of effort that characterized her every movement, Cameron rose from the chair. She stepped to the baby bed and carefully placed Allison back in her place. As she replaced the blanket over the child, Cameron leaned down and kissed her forehead. She then turned to check that Marissa was still sleeping peacefully in the other bed. Softly brushing the little girl's hair back, she kissed her forehead as well.

John held out his arms and Cameron slipped into his embrace.

"I'm sorry, John," she whispered, "I didn't mean to wake you. I heard Allison crying. I think she was having a nightmare."

Tightening his arms around her John thought, and you made the bad dreams go away as only you can.

John took her hand and was leading her from the room when Cameron looked directly into his eyes.

"You did the right thing John."

"I did?"

"Yes, I'm glad you brought the girls with us."

"So am I, Cam, so am I."



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