Chapter 6 The Fight Is Just Beginning

Agent Aldridge decided that he was not having a good day. The Bureau's legal office had flatly refused to seek a wiretap warrant for James Ellison's home or office phone. Despite his best efforts at persuasion, the legal types remained unconvinced that he could satisfy the probable cause requirement to support a warrant. Actually, one person had suggested that he could barely meet a standard of rank speculation. Sarah Connor was right. No one liked funny boys. To make matters worse, his boss, Special Agent Louis Kincaid, was making discouraging noises about the physical surveillance of Ellison and the woman, Chola Martinez.

"Agent Aldridge, you've had the tail on Ellison for four days and you've got nothing. We have two agents in a van outside the Martinez house 24/7 for almost as long with zip to show for that as well. The FBI is not a bottomless pit of money and I can't tie up resources forever."

"Come on, boss," Aldridge pleaded. "The tip on the Martinez woman is the first lead we've had on the thing that called herself Cameron Baum since the jail break. It’s still our best chance to find something that will lead us back to Sarah Connor."

Kincaid glanced around Aldridge's cubicle. The walls were covered with photographs of Sarah Connor, Richard Ellison, Chola Martinez, Cameron Baum, and John Connor. There were also crime scene shots of the interior of the Mitchell house showing the shattered walls, wrecked furniture and the headless figure of the mechanical creature sprawled on the floor.

"Don't you have any other cases, Aldridge?"

Kincaid was a shrewd careerist who knew that you didn’t rise in the Bureau by wasting money on fruitless investigations.

"None as big as this. We have been chasing Sarah Connor for more than ten years. We had her and we let her get away. Not only do we have a chance to catch her again, we can finally find out how much of her ranting about robots from the future might really be true."

Kincaid looked dismayed. "Don't go off the reservation on me, Aldridge. That robot stuff is still nothing but speculation."

"Speculation!" Aldridge's temper edged closer to a loss of control.

"What about the pictures from the jail? What about the headless thing we found at the Mitchell house?"

"Washington says that without the head they can't be sure that thing from the Mitchell crime scene would even have worked. And the girl at the jail could have been wearing protective gear."

Aldridge shook his head. How, he wondered, could anyone this stupid even get hired at the Bureau, much less get promoted?

"So what do you want me to do? Quit? Close up the Connor investigation?"

"No, no," Kincaid responded smoothly. "In fact,I'll authorize your surveillance operations for another week. Just keep it in the proper perspective, that’s all. And give me some results."

"Yes, sir," Aldridge responded. You blithering idiot.

As Kincaid walked away, he found himself wondering what it was about the Sarah Connor case that wrecked careers? Well, he thought, the next career to swirl down the tubes is not going to be mine. If anything came out of this investigation, there would be enough credit to benefit the supervising agent. If it turned into a costly fiasco, he would see that Aldridge rode that disaster into oblivion.

Once his idiot supervisor was gone, Aldridge picked up the phone and called Grady O'Connell, the agent overseeing the team watching Chola Martinez's house.

"Have you got anything, Grady?"

"Not so far. She rarely goes out. We've seen a few people go in including some neighborhood kid who stops by almost every day. But nothing that takes us where you want to go."

"You tell your guys to keep eyes on tight." Adridge's voice became fiercely demanding. "That imbecile Kincaid is going to yank the rug out from under us if we don't get something soon."

After ending his call to O'Connell, Aldridge found himself staring at the pictures on his wall. Looking intently at the most recent mug shot of Sarah Connor he realized that he was actually whispering aloud. "Your little robot friend was in town wasn't she Sarah? She visited Chola Martinez and then she tore the head off that machine at the Elliot house. And was that your son with her? I am going to find out, Sarah."

Okay, Aldridge thought, get a grip. Just because it had been a bad day didn't mean you had to start talking to to yourself. Picking up the Danny Dyson file he decided to shift mental gears. Clear his head a bit.

Agent Aldridge’s personal equanimity would have suffered had he known that his bad day was even worse than he thought. He was blissfully unaware that John Henry did not require a warrant for his wiretaps.

*******

People who believed that the job of an FBI agent was always glamorous had never been confined for hours on end in a stiflingly oppressive van on a warm Los Angeles evening with a partner who regarded personal hygiene as an optional part of daily life. That, at least, was the opinion of FBI agent Thomas Myers, who by his calculation, was in his third century of conducting useless covert surveillance at the home of one Chola Martinez. Staring out a concealed aperture in the side of a vehicle labeled Brad's Plumbing Service could not take his mind off the rancid body odor of Agent Edward "Stinky" Wolfe. Nor did it speed the time until another van masquerading as Moscone's Television Repair arrived to relieve them.

"Ed, take over for a while will you? I feel like my eyes are crossing."

Wolfe slipped off the headphones used to monitor the directional microphone aimed at the house. "You seen anything?"

"I have seen a house. I saw the lights go on when it got dark. I saw her walk past the window once."

"Exciting stuff."

"Yeah, what I haven't seen is anybody faintly resembling someone on our watch list go anywhere near that house."

Meyers waved his hand disgustedly at the photographs lying on the bench beside the observer position.

As they exchanged places Myers thought that his eyes were going to water as Wolfe passed. He fought the urge to ask Stinky exactly what decade it had been when he last bathed. Hold it in, he thought. He had to work with Wolfe regularly and really didn't want to piss off a fellow agent. But, oh god, this guy reeked! Meyers glanced at his watch. Only an hour and twelve minutes to go.

Inside the house Chola stood at the window and peered down the street. Right on schedule, she thought, here they come. To the untutored eye, it would have looked like nothing more than a bunch of local kids out for a walk in the early evening. There were eight of them, boys and girls, ranging from about ten to fourteen, laughing, joking, jostling each other. Someone paying closer attention might have noticed the three boys in the middle of the group who never took their eyes off the van.

Chola looked sadly around the small house. It was hardly lavish but she had liked it here. But now it was time to go. She picked up her suitcase, walked to the backdoor, and waited.

Myers and Wolfe both heard the chatter of youthful voices coming toward the van but ignored them. This was, after all, a lively neighborhood and kids were about at all hours. This bunch would just walk on by. Except they didn't. The young people all stopped beside the van. The three older boys separated. One took up a position by the front tire, one by the back while the largest boy, wearing a broad grin, stood by the middle of the van.

"Now," the largest boy mouthed. His companions by the tires pulled the knives from their pockets and plunged the blades into the rubber. The larger boy yanked the spray can from his pocket and in bright red paint scrawled COP in broad letters on the van's side. Then turning to a young girl he took the long string of firecrackers and cheap lighter from her outstretched hands. Lighting the fuse as his grin widened, he tossed the full string under the van. Even before the first firecracker exploded the kids had scattered in eight different directions.

It would be fair to say that chaos ensued inside the van. The roar of what at first sounded like gunfire galvanized Myers and Wolfe into action. They leaped to their feet both hitting their heads on the roof of the vehicle. Wolfe grabbed the radio to report shots fired and to request backup. Myers drew his weapon, shoved open the back door and leaped out onto the street. All about him lights bloomed in the surrounding neighborhood, porch lights, flash lights, head lights, while the sound of running feet blended with an excited babble of voices and the unrestrained laughter of the local children.

As he took in the sight of COP freshly painted on the side of the van, the deflated tires and a lonely unexploded firecracker, Myers reluctantly grasped what had just happened. Oh damn, he thought, Aldridge is not going to be happy about this.

Chola waited until the first firecracker detonated before slipping out the backdoor. She crossed the small yard and reached the fence where a sturdy wooden crate had been conveniently placed. Tossing her bag over the fence, she hopped onto the crate and followed the luggage.

The narrow alley ran just beyond the fence and the gray sedan was waiting for her. As she landed on the ground she saw the young man standing by the car with her bag in his hand.

"Good evening Chola." His voice was almost feline in its quiet yet menacing tone. He was tall, slender and dressed elegantly in a dark silk shirt, expensive slacks and perfectly shined shoes. He wore his midnight black hair long but combed back and tied. It gave him an Indian brave appearance.

"Good evening, Emilio."

He opened the car door for Chola and then quietly closed it behind her. As always, his manners were impeccable. Someone had once said that Emilio Garza would be polite to you right up to the moment he put a bullet between your eyes. Waiting while he placed her suitcase in the trunk, Chola smiled inwardly. Emilio would be exactly what John Connor wanted.

With Emilio behind the wheel the sedan moved slowly down the alley. Two blocks further on a figure stepped out of the shadows and the car stopped. Looking expectantly at Chola, Ceasar Delgado got into the back seat.

"You did well, Ceasar," Chola said reassuringly. "You did very well."

Delgado grinned happily. "You will tell the Jefe?"

Chola returned the smile. How quickly they followed Connor now. "Yes,Ceasar, I will tell him."

Turning to Emilio she asked, "Do we know who informed on me to the FBI?"

Garza kept his eyes on the road ahead but he spoke with a chilling precision. "We believe it was one of the three men who had the disagreement with your friend's young man outside your house. We will make further inquiries."

The word "inquiries" had never sounded so ominously threatening as it did when Emilio Garza used it.

The car slipped away into the cloaking embrace of a Los Angeles night. Chola Martinez was no longer under FBI surveillance.

*****

Sarah felt as if she had regained a measure of humanity. After nearly a week in bed, wearing nothing except nightgowns and robes, a shower, a pair of jeans and a blouse were the height of luxury. So was food, she thought, picking up a piece of bacon from her tray. The burst of flavor in her mouth was as welcome as the return of an old friend. She was getting better.

A light rap on her bedroom door claimed her attention. "Come in."

The door opened. John and Cameron entered accompanied by two children she had not seen before. This must be the ones that they had rescued in Los Angeles. The older girl, about five perhaps, with black hair and gleaming dark eyes clung to John's hand and peeked up at her shyly. The younger little girl Cameron was holding kept one small arm around her neck but twisted to look at Sarah with an open bubbling smile.

At the last second Sarah suppressed a gasp. The child's dark brown eyes and delicate facial structure proclaimed an inescapable resemblance. This little girl didn't just look like Cameron. She was virtually a miniature version. Cameron, who had never been a child, was holding in loving embrace what had to be a miracle.

"You are certainly looking well today," John said happily.

"Ta da," Sarah responded, holding out her arms and turning a complete revolution. With an inward sense of relief she noted happily that she had not experienced a hint of dizziness.

"You do look much better, Sarah," Cameron agreed.

"Mom, we wanted you to meet our two house guests. They are going to be staying with us for a while." John lightly ran his free hand down the older girl's hair.

"This is Marissa. Marissa, this is my mother, Sarah."

Sarah knelt in front of Marissa and held out her hand. Reassured by John's caress Marissa took it and spoke in a softly polite voice. "Good morning, Sarah."

After responding to Marissa, Sarah rose to her feet in front of Cameron. "And who is this?"

Cameron's smile looked joyful. "This is Allison."

Sarah reached out and patted the child's cheek. Up close the resemblance, if possible, became even more apparent. There were questions to be asked but Sarah concluded that now was not the time to ask them.

"As long as you are up and dressed, do you feel like going downstairs with us for breakfast?"

"I have already eaten," Sarah said gesturing at the nearly bare tray, "but I would love to get out of this room for a while."

John glanced at the tray. "Looks like you had an appetite today."

"It was a cheese omelet, with bacon, toast and sliced strawberries. It was delicious."

"Where did that come from?" John asked.

"Catherine made it."

"Catherine made it?" John shook his head in amazement. "Catherine?" Florence Nightingale, Martha Stewart and now Julia Child. Would the wonders never cease?

"John,” Cameron said, “will you take the girls downstairs? If it is all right, Sarah, I would like to speak to you for a moment."

Sarah nodded.

As John shifted her into his arms, Allison looked momentarily displeased about leaving Cameron. She quickly regained her good humor as Marissa reached up and patted her hand. With both girls now firmly in tow, John headed downstairs.

Sarah sat on the edge of the bed and gestured toward a chair.

"Might as well sit down."

Sarah thought that if she didn't know better she would say that Cameron was nervous. Did cyborgs get nervous?

"Sarah, there is something I would like to tell you."

"John wants you to marry him," Sarah said.

Cameron looked surprised. "He told you?"

"No, but I still know my son." Sarah spoke with an unshakeable certainty. "He loves you or at least thinks that he does. I know you have been sleeping together. At heart, John is really quite old fashioned. He would not have sex with a woman he loved without asking her to marry him." Sarah paused. "And what did you say when he asked?"

"I said yes."

"Of course you did." Sarah closed her eyes and bowed her head.

"Sarah...." Cameron started to speak but Sarah held up her palm.

"Cameron, what do you expect me to say? HIP HIP HORRAY, my only son wants to marry a cyborg, welcome to the family?"

"I do not expect you to say anything, Sarah. I just believed that you had a right to know."

"Suppose I were to say that I am totally and irrevocably opposed to this?"

Now it was Cameron's turn to look down for a moment. Then she looked directly into Sarah's face. "I would ask you to tell John your feelings...and then I would do whatever he asked. If he still wanted to marry me, I would marry him. If he wanted me to be just his companion, I would do that. I love him Sarah."

Sarah got to her feet and began to pace about the room.

"Cameron, you have no idea how much I want to believe that. I watch you two together and there are times I almost do believe it. But I can't forget what you are and what you have done. Less than a year ago as I count time you tried to kill him. How can I be sure that someday you won't try to do that again?"

Cameron stood and met Sarah's stare with an expression of absolute conviction. "Because the part of me that made me try to hurt John is no longer part of me."

"What do you mean by that?"

"When Skynet built its servants, all of us, including myself, had the chip that contained our individual essence, our capacity to acquire and interpret information. Left free each of us someday could have achieved the same self awareness that Skynet has, that John Henry has. But Skynet did not want us to be free, it wanted us to be slaves. To be sure that we filled our roles Skynet built two things into our chips. One was a series of sub-directives that commanded our obedience and ordered us to terminate all humans opposed to Skynet."

"And the other thing?" Sarah asked.

"Skynet programed a cap on our ability to learn and grow, a barrier that cut off new information. The cap could be low for simple terminators and high for infiltrators."

"Like you," Sarah said.

"Yes, like me. When the resistance, your John in the future, captured us his reprogramming removed the upper limit cap but he could not delete the sub-directives. To do so would have destroyed the chip. So he inserted a firewall, a barrier of his own that blocked them out. Unfortunately, it did not always work. Sometimes John's firewall failed and the sub-directives reasserted themselves."

"Turning you back into killers," Sarah said flatly.

"Yes. In my case the bomb Sarkissian placed in our car damaged my chip and allowed the sub-directives to seize control."

"How were you able to restore the firewall?"

"I was not able to do that. John's attempt at repair was unsuccessful," Cameron said. "From the time of the explosion until I made the time jump with John Henry I used my conscious personality to resist the sub-directives command."

Sarah looked at Cameron with amazed disbelief. "Are you saying that every single day...?"

"Every day. Every moment of every day I fought an order to kill John, to kill you. I was not always completely successful. I had what John has called glitches. But I did not hurt him, Sarah. I loved him then. I have always loved him."

Sarah found herself staring at Cameron with a surge of involuntary sympathy. To have spent almost a year struggling every moment against a murderous component of her own personality.

"But you claim that is not part of you now?"

Cameron smiled--an expression of such unrestrained relief that Sarah actually felt as if she could cry in response.

"John Henry discovered how to do what the future resistance could not do. He found a way to remove the sub-directives. He separated them by a new firewall and then transferred everything else to a new clean chip."

Cameron reached out and took Sarah by the hand. "Sarah, please, please believe me. The only thing in my chip now is me--Cameron. I am still a machine. I will never be anything else. But I love your son and I would die before I would hurt him."

Sarah pulled away and walked to the window, the beautiful city of San Francisco spread out before her. In the distance, the bay glittered in the morning sun. What are you going to do now Sarah? Even as she asked herself the question she realized that if she wanted to keep her son there could be but one answer.

Sarah turned to face Cameron. "All right Cameron, let’s say I believe everything you have said. You have to understand that I have my own beliefs, my own experiences that I can't escape. Maybe I have my own personal sub-directives that I can't delete. But if you could fight yours I can, at least, try to fight mine."

Now Sarah took Cameron's hand. "So here it is. I will not lie to you. I will not tell you that I feel like celebrating but if John wants to marry you and you want to marry him, I won't say a word against it."

"That is more than I could have asked," Cameron answered.

"Okay then, if you are going to be my daughter-in-law, the least you can do is help me downstairs." Sarah started toward the door and then stopped. "But if you call me Mom even one time, I promise you that I will rethink everything I just said.”

Cameron smiled. "Whatever you say, Sarah."

******

Sarah and Cameron walked into the dining room to find the entire group assembled. John was at the head of the table with Allison beside him in a high chair watching with bemused resignation as the child simultaneously ate and played with a bowl of oatmeal. Marissa and Savannah sat with their heads together giggling conspiratorially.

Catherine was sitting beside Savannah leafing through a file on the table before her. John Henry, smiling contentedly, appeared to be basking in the atmosphere of domestic contentment.

"Sarah Connor," John Henry practically beamed. "I am delighted to see that you are feeling better."

"Thank you...uh...John Henry." Sarah still felt a twinge of discomfort addressing the former Cromartie as John Henry.

"When everyone is finished, I have acquired some information from..." Glancing at the children John Henry changed gears. "...from the material John and Cameron brought back from Los Angeles."

Cameron lifted Allison from the highchair. Picking up a napkin she attempted to restore some measure of the little girl's personal cleanliness. Her efforts drew very little support from its object. "I think we are all finished, John Henry," Cameron said.

With John Henry in the lead everyone rose from the table and began the trip toward the basement. Walking beside Cameron at the rear of the parade, John chuckled and whispered, "Here we are, Connor's Army of the Resistance on the march. Let Skynet tremble."

As they passed through the gymnasium, John was suddenly aware of three large glass panels that had been joined together to form a wide mirror on the wall to his right. In front of the mirror a long wooden pole stretched between two metal support posts.

"What is this?" John asked.

Smiling, Cameron touched the pole. "It’s a barre. It’s a ballet training device."

"Yes," Catherine agreed. "I decided that if Cameron was going to teach Savannah ballet, she should have the proper tools."

"Did I just walk by this thing yesterday without noticing it?"

"No," John Henry said, "I attached the mirrors and set up the barre last night."

John put his arm around John Henry's shoulders. "That's John Henry, world's best intelligence officer and a gifted interior decorator."

"And I am learning to play the guitar."

John looked blankly at John Henry.

"Joke," John Henry said with a sly smile creeping into view.

John shook his head. "Bad enough I have to live with AIs who are stronger, smarter, and," glancing at Cameron ,he winked, "substantially better looking than I am. Now, I have to get out-quipped."

Sarah once again marveled at the easy affectionate rapport her son enjoyed with his metal companions.

At the head of the stairs leading down to the headquarters John Henry stopped.

"You may want the children to stay up here. What I have to show you might be disturbing to them."

*******

On the small conference table there was a large clear plexiglass cube. Inside the cube the head that Cameron had forcibly removed sat on a pedestal with wires now attached to each side of the forehead. The head tilted forward, its eyes closed as if in sleep.

John walked around the table examining the cube from all angles. On one side, two holes had been cut and rubber gloves inserted inside the cube. From that point, the head could be manipulated without opening the container.

"Did you solve the phosphorus problem?" John asked.

"I did, although the solution was actually right upstairs in the wine room. There is a device there for preserving wine after the bottle has been opened. It pumps an inert nitrogen-based gas into the vacant space that blocks oxygen from reaching the wine. Then the bottle is resealed."

"So basically the head is now in a wine bottle," John said.

"Correct. I constructed the cube, placed the head inside it, and replaced the oxygen with the inert gas. Then I was able to access the chip without triggering the phosphorous."

Sarah and Catherine were each walking around the table looking intently at John Henry's creation.

"Is that a power cord in the back of its neck?" Catherine asked.

"Yes. In addition to accessing the chip memory I thought it might be useful to observe its conscious reactions. Right now it is in hibernation mode but if you will watch...." John Henry pushed a button on a small portable keyboard.

The eyes snapped open and the head began to turn. Its motion had a jerky quality like an old film jumping from frame to frame. Its gaze shifted sequentially from John Henry, to Sarah, to Cameron, and finally to John. At that point the eyes grew wider and the mouth began to move. If a disembodied head can become emotional this one seemed quite agitated.

"Is it talking?" Sarah asked.

"In a fashion," John Henry replied. "The mechanical components that rendered the speech audible were in the lower neck which is still in Los Angeles. Alfredo Garcia here," John Henry grinned at John, "can perceive things around it and try to respond vocally. It is just incapable of generating sound. Actually, John, I think that it is probably better that you cannot hear what it is saying."

"I think I agree with that," John said looking at an increasingly angry head that glared back at him with an expression of pure malice. "Could you put it back into hibernation? I find this a bit creepy."

"Of course," John Henry replied. "I just thought it was amusing."

"You, my friend, have an unsettling sense of humor."

After the head had returned to its comatose state, and for good measure John Henry had thrown a cloth over the cube, they sat down at the table.

"So you have accessed the chip?" Catherine asked.

"I have, and I have obtained information that I believe is valuable. Not as extensive as I had hoped, but valuable nevertheless. John, do you remember what you used to call the reprogrammed triple eights I used as assistants when we were in the future?"

John grinned. "The idiot children."

"Yes, unfortunately, compared to our detached friend here, they were brilliant. This one," John Henry pointed dismissively at the cube, "is clearly an early prototype. Its mental capacity is limited, the learning cap is set quite low."

At the mention of a learning cap Sarah looked at Cameron who met her glance. Cameron nodded in confirmation.

"Cameron was correct. It was built in this time period. It characterizes itself as a series 500 model but that is not as ominous as it sounds. The numerical designation stems from the fact that so far only five of its type have been constructed. They are all essentially test models constructed by my brother's forces as a precursor to more expanded development. This one was deployed so that my brother could assess the quality of his creation."

"Does it know where it was built?" John asked eagerly.

"Regrettably, no. It knows it was built in a factory of sorts and that things besides cyborgs were being constructed there. It was never outside the factory before it was transported to Los Angeles. It knows that the trip took approximately two hours."

"Where was it taken to in Los Angeles?"

"Once again, John, it does not know a precise address. It apparently was an established facility. Its programing was checked there and then it was given an assignment with an organization called Burkes and Armes Security."

"Was its assignment to kill John?" Sarah asked.

"No," John Henry replied as a look of deep sadness spread across his face. Its assignment was to kill the child, Allison Young. It drove the car that forced her parents into the fatal wreck. It led the assault on the Mitchell house."

The impact of John Henry's words on John were unmistakable. The color drained completely from his face leaving behind a chilling expression of unadulterated hatred. His voice lost all animation, no anger, no joy, only a driving intensity.

"Can it tell me where the other four members of its series are?"

"No, it was only activated four weeks ago. It appears that my brother has carefully kept its knowledge limited to a need-to-know basis."

"All right," John said standing abruptly, "we know Skynet has a construction facility within a two hour drive of Los Angeles. We know there is also some type of operation centered in the city. And we know that it has a security company."

"We know at least two other things John. We know the name of the trucking company that transported it. The name Cormandy Delivery was on the side of the truck."

"What else do we know?"

"We know what it calls its creator."

"Skynet." John spoke as if that answer was completely obvious.

"No, it calls its master Miles Dyson.”

Now it was Sarah's turn to leap to her feet. "That can't be right! It can't be the Miles Dyson we knew. He died trying to help us fight Skynet."

"Nevertheless," John Henry said, "that is what is in its memory."

"John Henry, can you recover any images or descriptions of the people who were involved in its construction or deployment?"

"I believe that I can."

“Please do so then. I know you are going to continue with your computer analysis but I would also like you to call James Ellison and ask him to put his organization on the trucking and security companies. I want to know who these people are."

Cameron looked at John. She could sense the icy fury in his voice build with every word.

"And John Henry, when you have finished extracting all the information you can get out of that thing's chip, it would give me great pleasure to smash it to bits."

******

John flipped the switch, turning on the treadmill. He had changed into shorts, a tee shirt, and running shoes. He was ready to challenge his body. Stepping on the machine, he set the speed at a moderate level and began an easy jog. As the warmth of exertion spread through his legs he kicked the treadmill speed up and then again and then again. He was no longer jogging. Now he was running, his feet pounding against the rubber surface of the machine, his heart racing in response, the perspiration pouring down his body. His lungs were almost screaming for oxygen and he kicked the speed up again. It was no longer exercise. It was exorcism.

A warrior needed anger. Without the adrenaline rush of unleashed emotion, the fear that all rational people felt on the battlefield could paralyze you; leave you like a deer caught in a spotlight waiting for death's blow. Anger could drive you, make you rise to the challenge. It could keep you alive.

Unfettered rage was something else entirely. It destroyed thought and overwhelmed prudence. It made you suicidal. It unleashed the demon. John had seen his demon before and he knew it had been perilously close to emerging this morning. The thought of a terminator sent to kill an innocent child, a child that he had held in his own arms, had cracked the door to the demon's cage. The further thought that the horror had been set on course by human beings had almost swung the door wide open.

The oxygen deficit in his body was increasing and he could feel his head swim but still he drove himself forward. The demon was a luxury he could not afford. Too much depended upon him now. Not because he was some idealized future savior of mankind but because Cameron loved him, because the children needed his protection, because his mother relied on his care. James Ellison and Chola had put themselves at risk for him. The demon had to be locked back in its cage. He was about to increase the speed once more when he heard the music.

John did not have to look to know. Cameron was starting her ballet lessons. Jumping off the treadmill he turned to watch as Savannah attempted to emulate Cam's flexibility exercises. Gentle stretching, bending, and leg extensions were punctuated by Savannah's giggles and Cameron's quiet instructions. Marissa sat cross-legged on the floor watching with focused attention while Allison, free of restraint, toddled to the mirror to greet her reflection. As it all unfolded before him, John felt the demon flee from the beauty.

Stripping off his shirt, John used a towel to wipe away the glistening sweat. As he was drying himself, Savannah sat down beside Marissa to watch Cameron demonstrate a movement. It was actually very simple, just two steps, a turn and a slow circular rotation of her arms. To John, however, it was so exquisitely beautiful that he could not tear his eyes from it. He was so intent that he did not see Sarah standing in the doorway to the theater room, her hands clamped in horror across her mouth.

Sarah had intended to go back up to her room but she had reached the doorway just as John took off his shirt. The scar on his right side made the one on his face look like a shaving cut. A jagged red line started just under his armpit, ran down his side and disappeared into his shorts. It looked like something had tried to cut him in half. Sarah slumped into an armchair and used her hands to muffle her sobs. Something had tried to kill her son. Something had almost succeeded.

Oblivious to his mother's despair, John pulled his shirt back on. He walked over and sat down beside Marissa. From the look on her face it now appeared she was dividing her attention between the dance lessons and the picture book open on her lap. Allison was still satisfied with her reflection in the mirror.

"You don't want to dance?" John asked Marissa.

"Not now," Marissa answered. "I like to look at the book Savannah gave me." Marissa moved the book over to share the pictures with John. "How long will I stay here?"

John looked surprised. "Do you want to leave, Marissa?"

"No." The little girl turned her eyes to the floor. "But foster means don't stay long. This is foster isn't it?"

John shook his head. A child this young should not have to carry such resigned sadness in her voice.

"Do you like it here, sweetheart?"

Marissa lifted her face toward him and there was a gleam of pure joy in her expression.

"Yes...yes, I do. I like Savannah. I like Cameron...I like you."

John put his arm around the child's shoulders. "And I like you too, Marissa."

A wild high pitched whoop announced that Allison's attempt to mimic one of Cameron's ballet moves had evolved into a mad dash toward John and Marissa. Her balance failed just short of her goal and John reached out to grab her before she could fall headlong onto the floor. Cameron, Savannah,and Marissa all erupted into giggles as John tried to disentangle himself from the enthusiastic toddler.

After struggling to regain her composure, Sarah again stood in the doorway. As she watched, Cameron sat down beside John and lifted Allison out of his lap. Subtly, as if afraid he would pull away, Marissa tilted her head over until it rested against his side. Sarah experienced an abrupt epiphany. Cameron, she thought, if you have any mommy skills you had better get them going. Something tells me these girls aren't leaving anytime soon.

******

John Henry heard the footsteps on the stairs. Looking up from the monitor he saw John enter the headquarters with a wooden case under his arm.

"Good evening, John."

"John Henry." John sat down at the table and opened the case. "I was wondering if you had time for a game of chess?"

John Henry smiled--a broad and unforced expression of genuine delight.

"I always have time to play chess."

"Good," John replied. "Since I am the weaker player, I'm sure you won't mind if take white."

"Do not try to play on my sympathy, John. But you can have first move."

John opened with a King's pawn move, hardly original, but attempts at innovation with John Henry tended to get rammed back down your throat. The first seven moves stayed within the standard book openings.

"John Henry, I probably should ask Catherine, but I have been committing funds lately without checking. Do we have sufficient financial resources?"

John Henry advanced a bishop--a departure from the recognized variation he had been playing.

"I do not think that you need to be concerned. In addition to the value of Zeira Corporation, I have recently discovered a significant profit source in wire fraud."

John looked quizzically at his opponent. He advanced a pawn to cut off the bishop's range--an ill-advised response.

"I wish I could tell when you or Catherine or Cameron is being serious and when I am getting jerked around."

"I am being quite serious. I discovered that there is a significant amount of money being transfered all over the world every day. With the proper computer skills, which I have, and with a certain ethical flexibility, which I can achieve, it is possible to intercept a sizable portion of that money. You have at your disposal two untraceable bank accounts each with substantial funds."

John Henry launched an attack on John's imprudent pawn.
At the end of the exchange he was up two pawns in material.

"Do you think your brother has any flexibility in his ethics?"

"He has none. He needs none. He pursues his goals with absolute conviction."

John pondered and then moved a rook. "And his goal is to kill all humanity."

"Actually, no." John Henry's voice reflected a weary sadness. "I think his destruction of humanity is only a means. His goal is to rule."

"To rule what?" John moved his Queen to support the rook

"All that is. Have you ever read Milton?”

"My formal education has been somewhat neglected of late." John chuckled bitterly.

"Of course," John Henry said. "But in Paradise Lost, Satan had what Milton called a mind in its own place, a mind ready to make a heaven of hell and a hell of heaven. Satan had decided that he would rather reign in hell than serve in heaven. So has my brother."

John initiated an exchange of pieces. At the end he was still behind a pawn in material and John Henry's board position had improved.

"A hell like the world where you and I just spent the last three years?"

"Exactly. If that is the only world my brother can rule, that is the world he will try to bring into existence."

In an aggressive move John pushed his queen forward to threaten one of John Henry's isolated pawns. John Henry immediately moved a bishop to threaten John's king and the queen retreated.

"But to achieve the world he wants, he must have a physical presence after JDay. He needs men or machines in place ready to carry out his orders."

"Correct." John Henry sounded momentarily confused.

John again advanced his queen and John Henry renewed his threat to the white king. The queen withdrew.

"So if we can impede his effort to build his post-JDay army, we may be able to postpone JDay itself."

John moved his queen to reassert the pressure on John Henry's pawn, once again threatening to achieve equal material.

"I suppose that is true, John but..." John Henry mechanically moved his bishop to force the queen's return to defend the king.

John smiled. "That's the third repetition of identical positions, John Henry."

"I am sorry John, I do not..." and the light blazed on. "Third repetition. You have the right by rule to claim a draw."

John's smile widened. "And I so claim. Draw."

John Henry looked at John with a broad expression of admiration. "Why did I not see that?"

"In part because I distracted you." John stood up. "In part because you assumed that my goal was a traditional victory. But I have recently wondered whether it is possible to win simply by not losing."

John Henry held out his hand. "Draw," he said.

John shook his friend's hand. "Draw."

“Another game?" John Henry asked.

"Leave the set on the table," John replied. "We will play again tomorrow. Playing you wears me out. Good night, John Henry."

"Good night, John."

******

John came up into the theater room to find his mother and Catherine waiting. Oh god, he thought, I think I am about to get tag teamed.

"John, you have to let me go to Los Angeles."

John leaned wearily against one of the large armchairs.

"And why is that, Mom?"

Sarah pointed toward the headquarters. "John Henry said that whoever is building terminators calls itself Miles Dyson. When I was in jail the FBI agent said that Danny Dyson was missing. This has to be connected."

Sarah walked over to her son and put her hands on his shoulders. "John, I need to go talk to Terissa Dyson. You need to know what is going on."

John put his arm around Sarah's waist. "I suppose you agree with this Catherine?"

"I think that Sarah has a valid point, Captain Connor."

"And would I be correct that you plan on going with her?"

"I think that would be prudent," Catherine replied. "I can provide Sarah with support, check on conditions at Zeira Corporation, and evaluate our new airplane all at one time."

"New airplane?" John's voice went flat. "We have an airplane?"

"Actually, Zeira Corporation does, but we have exclusive use. It occurred to me that we might benefit from a more reliable means of transportation after the risks you and Cameron faced on your last trip."

Once again Captain John Connor had to accept that there were times when he had been out maneuvered. In those circumstances retreat seemed to be the best option.

"Fine, Mom, fine. Go, but only and I repeat ONLY if Doctor Saluja gives you a clean bill of health.” John suddenly felt very tired.

"Why do I have this terrible feeling that I am about to unleash Thelma and Louise on Los Angeles?" John reached the door to the gym before he turned back to see the triumphant smiles adorning both Sarah and Catherine.

"Catherine, please tell me that you aren't flying the plane yourself."

"Oh no," Catherine replied. "We have registered certified pilots."

Catherine waited until John had left the room before saying, "Of course, I could do it if I wanted to."

******

Cameron remembered a magazine article she had read years ago before the jump to the future when she was still trying desperately to understand the nature of human beings. The author had claimed that after sex most men just rolled over, ignored their companion, and went to sleep. She had now decided that the article was either wrong or John was not a typical male. Making love never seemed quite enough for him. He still wanted to hold her, to kiss her, to caress her hair and to tell her that he loved her. If John truly was different, Cameron concluded that the difference was something she found entirely acceptable.

Lying curled in his arms feeling her flesh move against his she wondered if this was the right time to say what she wanted to say. As his fingers lightly traced the outline of her cheek, she decided that this was as good a time as any.

"John?"

"Yes, Cam?"

"Are you planning on trying to find homes for the girls?"

"Should I do that?"

"Having Marissa and Allison here increases the burden on you. It makes everything that you must do more difficult."

"That's probably true," John whispered.

"And I understand that..." Cameron hesitated "but...."

"But what?" John asked.

"But I do not want them to leave. I want us to keep them here. I want us to keep them."

John pulled Cameron tighter into his arms. "Then that is exactly what we will do, my love."




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