Chapter 6 - Burying the Dead


John spent the next several hours of the morning briefing Cameron on her new mission. He covered everything from the base layout, to schedules, to the command structure. Great detail was given on how Cameron was to interact with other people.

“A lot of people have a rough time getting used to terminators on our side. Don’t expect anyone to be friendly or forgiving; human’s don’t forget easily.”

The machine took in all the information and committed it to her memory. Skynet infiltrators possessed enormous amounts of data on humans, yet Cameron still found them to be highly complicated. She stopped John mid sentence with a question.

“Will I have a weapon to protect you?”

John answered by pulling a handgun and two extra magazines from his belt. He set them down on the table with a metallic clunk. Cameron instantly identified the weapon as a .44 Desert Eagle. It had excellent stopping power against humans but would not be suitable against another machine.

“This is not adequate.” Cameron flatly said, inspecting the weapon.

“Sorry Cameron. This is all you get. Nobody likes seeing scrubbed metal with a big gun. This is concealable, it’ll get a T-800s attention, and it’ll stop a man, dead in his tracks.”

The machine found it curious that John mentioned the performance of this weapon against other humans. She tilted her head with a quizzical expression.

“Skynet isn’t the only one who wants me dead.” John replied knocking on his chest. A metal thud came from beneath his shirt. He pulled it up to reveal an armor plate.

“Body armor. For the Grays?”

“Sometimes Grays, sometimes our side.”

“Have there been many attempts?” the machine asked with a look of concern.

“No, but twice is enough for me to get wise.”

The machine slipped the weapon into one of her pockets. The extra magazines went into the other.

“I understand.”

The two stepped out of the room, and into the tunnels. As expected, everyone in the base gave Cameron a large amount of space. As she walked with John, she could see men and women glare with hatred. Some children cried, others hid behind their parents.

Evidence of Cameron’s rampage was everywhere. It almost stunned the machine to see how much destruction she had caused. Blood was still being cleaned up. Walls were blackened from plasma fire. Smoke still lingered in the air from several fires that had started.

As they walked past the medical bay, Cameron caught a glimpse inside. There were several people, overseeing a dozen occupied body bags. Some were crying. Others were preparing the bodies for burial. A man saw the machine peer in and slammed the door shut.

The rest of the walk through the base was uneventful. The machine was careful to mentally memorize all routes and possible exit strategies. John continued to point out all relevant areas to the terminator.

“There’s the cafeteria. Oh, and there’s the armory. Only the soldiers get the big guns, unless there’s an emergency.”

“Like a terminator?”

“Yeah.”

“There’s something I don’t understand.”

“What is it?” John asked.

“Why is so much effort put into burying a human?”

“What do you mean?”

“Humans spend so much time preparing the body for burial. Even Captain Calitri wanted to retrieve the bodies of his men.”

“Good men and women need to be put to rest after they die.”

The machine was confused. “They’re dead. They don’t feel anything.”

“We do it to put their souls to rest. You know what a soul is, right?”

The machine nodded. “The human belief that every individual possesses an eternal, invincible force of life. Something that leaves the body after death.”

“Also, it’s a coping mechanism for the people that survive. We use the time to say goodbye.”

“Why?”

“Because they were taken before we had a chance.”

John brought Cameron back to the rear of the tunnels and showed him his quarters. Behind the heavily secured door was a small, spartan room. It contained a small shelve of books, a desk, a bed and a shower. It was fairly underwhelming.

“Most of the time, you’ll be on patrol, here in the rear halls. That‘s about it.”

“I need to go outside tonight.”

John looked concerned. “What for?”

“I want to examine a T-800 that was disabled not far from this base. I may be able to salvage the chip.”

John knew that wasn’t her only reason. “Anything else?”

“There is a body near the base. I can bury him.”

“Why?”

“To put his soul to rest.” the machine replied.

The corner of John’s mouth slightly moved. It was the same half-smile John gave Cameron earlier. He nodded.

“All right, be careful.” He paused. “Have them issue you a rifle at the door.”

The machine patrolled her specified areas without trouble. John spent the rest of the day in the war room; a huge area with multiple radio stations, computers and holographic map projectors. The terminator wanted to see John Connor commanding the forces of the resistance, but he advised against it.

“Sorry Cameron. Give it a few days.” he said.

Nightfall came and Cameron left the base. She was issued a plasma rifle and a number at the door. She’d have to repeat the number and her mission to be allowed back in. She still wore the bracelet of Allison.

Cameron remembered the night she experienced just hours ago. It was a totally new world now. She walked briskly, with purpose and confidence. With light amplification and infrared, it would be easy to find the T-800 and Hank Porter’s body.

She didn’t quite know why she wanted to bury this man. Part of the machine still felt she owed it to him. Every logical process in her neural net processor found no reason to complete this mission, yet she was still doing it.

She found the damaged T-800 easily. It’s bright, chrome endoskeleton glowed in her low-light vision. She pulled her rifle from her back and cautiously approached. The bodies of the three men were gone. Apparently Calitri’s men had retrieved them.

The terminator was completely destroyed; T-800s weren’t as resistant to plasma weapons as the newer series. Plasma fire had totally destroyed it’s hydraulic systems and even penetrated the armored skull. Upon removing the port cover, Cameron found the T-800s CPU to be damaged.

Cameron felt the same feeling she had after killing the man with the grenade. She attempted to identify it but could not. This “feeling” was alien to her. The machine assumed that this was similar to the human emotion of sadness.

She quickly turned her thoughts to Porter’s body. She would not be able to bring a CPU back but at least she could bury this man. She continued to walk in the darkness.

Eventually, the machine found the corpse. Hank’s body looked the same as when she left it. With an entrenching tool, it took mere minutes for the machine to dig a large enough hole.

Cameron then took the man in her arms and gently laid his body on the cold, wet ground. The machine had observed the respect and gentle handling of the dead bodies at her new home. It made sense to do the same.

Before she started to cover him, Cameron took Hank’s dog tags. There was no doubt in her mind, that someone at the base would want them. She put the tags around her neck and started to bury him.

Finally, Hank Porter’s soul was at rest. The machine looked at the freshly dug grave and paused. Hank didn’t get a proper goodbye before he died. She wasn’t even sure if a “goodbye” was part of a human burial.

“Goodbye, Hank.”

The machine returned home and checked her rifle in at the door. She had many questions, but only one person in the base would answer them. She decided to find John.

After checking the war room, Cameron realized it was 1:00AM. She walked in silence to the rear of the base. Reaching John’s room, the machine saw light coming from behind the door and also heard movement. John was awake. Cameron knocked on the door.

“Yeah?”

“It’s Cameron.”

“Come on in.”

Cameron walked into the room. John was at his desk, writing notes and sketching on four different notebooks. He was leaning back in his chair and yawned. He looked tired.

“Are you busy?”

“No.” He looked at the pile of work on his desk and smiled. “Well, not more than usual. How’d it go?”

“The terminator’s CPU was destroyed. There was nothing I could salvage.”

“And the dead guy?”

“I buried him. His name was Hank Porter.”

John seemed surprised. “You know his name?”

“I asked around. He had a wife.”

John sat back up in his chair. “You didn’t speak with her…”

“I did.”

“What did you say?”

“I gave her his dog tags and I told that her that he was a good man.”

John sighed and leaned back in his chair. He seemed relieved. “That was the right thing to do.”

“Have you ever seen a man lose his soul?”

“What do you mean?”

“I want to know if it’s possible to lose your soul.”

John thought for a long time before answering. He searched his thoughts and attempted to organize them while his guardian stared intently at him. He wasn’t even sure he believed in the human soul anymore.

“I’ve seen men and women lose what makes them human. I’ve seen them lose life before they die, I’ve seen them become monsters… I’ve seen the best and the worst humanity has to offer… I guess you could say I’ve seen people lose their souls… why do you ask?”

“If it’s possible to lose a soul, is it possible to acquire one?”

John looked up at Cameron. “Are you asking if it’s possible for you to have a soul?”

The machine looked down, almost as if in guilt. “Yes.”

“Why did you tell Hank’s wife that he was a good man?”

“I don’t know.”

“Do you know for a fact, that Hank was a good man?”

The machine was not sure where John was headed. “No.”

“Then why did you say it?”

“I thought it might help her.”

John smiled at Cameron. “I think you just answered your own question.”

Cameron smiled back at him. For some reason, she felt relieved. John seemed to understand machines better than most humans. She wanted to know why. She had so many more questions but it was late, and John needed his sleep.

John answered before she spoke. “I know, I know. I’m going to sleep. You should probably shower and change.”

The machine looked down. She was covered in mud and dirt. Cameron respectfully nodded and stepped out of the room. Before she closed the door, she turned around.

“Goodnight, John.”

“Night, Cameron.”

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