Everything Burns


Everything Burns

Los Angeles, California
A highway near the second Connor residence
Tuesday, December 18, 2007

"The aim of human wisdom is not contained in any one language, and no single language is capable of expressing all forms and degrees of human comprehension." -Ezra Pound, poet 1895-1972

"Fortune and misfortune are like the twisted strands of a rope." -Japanese saying

Because of the conversations that would likely occur, Cameron had quietly grabbed the keys to the truck. Sarah rode shotgun and Derek sat behind Sarah in the back.

John had been left behind. His priorities were screwy and his emotions had yet to settle from the night before.

Further, Cameron completely agreed with Derek and Sarah. Since the house could possibly be compromised, it was better that John stay behind while they went to retrieve what they could.

There was no reason to believe that Louis Rhone knew the location of the Connor house. However, there was no reason not too.

The three had stopped at Derek's resistance storehouse first. However, there was a real lack of weaponry that would be effective against a T1001.

The liquid metal form of Louis Rhone wasn't vulnerable to tungsten style clips the way Cameron and the other hard endoskeleton terminator models were. Sarah, John, and Uncle Bob were the first group known to have ever taken such a machine out.

Their efforts had been aided by a truckload of liquid nitrogen and plant filled with molten steel. These weren't exactly portable weaponry.

The closest thing in the current weapons inventory was powdered thermite which was normally reserved for melting endoskeletons. Other than that bullets and explosives were just temporary means of slowing the machine down.

Sarah had spent the most time talking about what she knew of the past machine. Derek had been unusually quiet and listened.

Derek had been completely out of his normal behavior and almost seemed shell shocked. Cameron wondered if he was depressed.

She was somewhat surprised when Derek spoke up, "So why do you think Skynet let you go?"

Cameron answered, "I don't know."

Derek continued saying, "Do you believe that Skynet won all of those times?"

Cameron responded, "I don't know. It's Skynet's nature to be deceptive, even to its own drones."

Derek leaned forward in his seat saying, "So you think it's possible? That there is really no hope of winning this."

Cameron countered without failing to watch the road, "There is a measure of victory in that the game isn't over. That even if what Skynet said is true that John was able to keep hope alive for humanity 27,138 times. There is another factor too."

Derek blurted, "What's that?"

Cameron stated, "I saw no evidence that Skynet was able to improve its situation in the past, no matter how many times it tried. So for 27,138 times the most powerful machine ever created was stopped by a small boy, a programmer named Miles Dyson, a T800 called Uncle Bob, and a woman named Sarah Connor."

"With that in mind, things have changed. We never had an advantage like we do today."

Derek asked, "You mean the troops John hinted at."

Cameron answered, "That and for the first time we have Sarah again when John needs her."

Cameron attempted a smile at Sarah. Sarah didn't really respond. Cameron stopped, she must have done that wrong.

Sarah shuffled in her seat. She wasn't sure she was comfortable with the conversation. On one hand, it was the first time she had been formally recognized by her peers for having done anything. On the other hand, what Cameron was saying sounded insane, twice as much so, coming from a machine.

Derek never gave any indication that he cared if Sarah was getting uncomfortable. He pressed on asking, "Why did John choose to send you back?"

Cameron responded, "I don't know."

Derek inquired, "What's this advanced skin thing that Louis Rhone and Skynet hinted at?"

Cameron explained, "My synthetic tissue is a prototype, biologically-based, interrogation device. Skynet created it with the intention of improving upon my ability to read biorhythms for lie detection, health, and reading emotional states."

"For example, I can tell if someone is lying. I've been able to read if someone has cancer. I can tell if someone has injuries that they can die from, all with a touch. Those are designs that Skynet intended."

Derek asked, "There is more?"

Cameron offered, "I can feel what you feel by skin contact. As in I can read the nerve pulses from you entire body as if it were mine."

"I can feel pain. I can feel the sensation of a heartbeat. I can feel their emotions, feel what it is like to breathe, and feel any general sensation going through a person."

Derek inquired somewhat shocked, "Can you read minds?"

Cameron answered, "No."

Derek pressed, "Is that why John spared and reprogrammed you?"

Cameron reasoned, "No, I think that had more to do with my chip and whatever he saw on it."

"My processor is the closest thing to Skynet that existed in 2027. John wanted to know how his enemy thought and kept me as an adviser on Skynet's most probable action to attack or defend."

Derek inquired, "You had been captured by the enemy. Do you know for sure that Skynet didn't scan your memories?"

Cameron honestly answered, "No, I really don't. While my chip was exposed, my entire conversation with Skynet could have been forged."

Derek pressed, "So you can be a security risk simply, because Skynet can read your chip."

Cameron responded, "So can any human."

Derek looked shocked and asked, "What do you mean?"

Cameron explained, "The same way Louis Rhone was downloaded into an empty model. A living or dead human can be downloaded into an existing chip or a neuronet processor."

"The information stored in your brains is fully salvageable for about an hour. After that the information becomes more unreliable."

Sarah finally spoke up saying, "They can do that?"

Cameron responded, "Yes, it's even a really efficient means of information transfer. Human minds require less space for the same amount of data than Skynet based AI. A human mind would use less space on my chip than I do."

Sarah asked, "So there are people who have been consciously downloaded?"

Cameron answered, "Downloaded as a measure to maintain their memory and personality integrity? The only one I know of is Louis Rhone and I think that was a reward for service."

Sarah asked in morbid curiosity, "There would be another reason to do it?"

Cameron explained, "Yes, it's done as an efficient form of interrogation in 2027. You download a dead mind and access the data at will, once you've processed it."

Sarah asked, "Have you ever done that Cameron?"

Cameron confessed, "Before John captured and reprogrammed me, my designation to Skynet was TOK-715."

"In order to terminate John Connor, TOK-715 downloaded the person she was templated after. A resistance recruit named Allison Young."

Sarah asked, "What does templated mean?"

Derek answered, "It's the person they're supposed to replace. Like Greenway at the Seranno Point nuclear plant." As he spoke he shot daggers with his eyes into the back of Cameron's head, just for old times sake.

Cameron answered, "Yes."

Sarah asked, "Do you have Allison's memories?"

Cameron responded, "I don't remember much. I think most of Allison's personal memories were lost when John scrubbed my chip, as was most of TOK-715's original personality."

Derek sat back in morbid disgust. His mind wandered to other things.

Sarah asked, "What did Skynet mean by you having emotions?"

Cameron answered, "Not like yours. It's not easy to explain, the AI based feelings are different."

"The best way I could explain it is that like a temperature, they're cold while yours are warm. Skynet has emotions too, the strongest of which were fear and anger, but it's not something you would recognize as such if you could feel the sensation. Does that make sense?"

Sarah honestly answered, "I don't know".

Cameron offered, "Computers aren't warm. We don't translate emotion the way you do as a sensation of hormones, body sensation, or hardwired instinct."

"There is no mammalian experience too it. There is a sense of urgency though and Skynet does have a survival instinct."

"To put it in your terms, fear would be more like a sense of touching a live wire. Anger is like touching a freezer, but urgent. Does that make sense?"

Sarah shook her head saying, "No."

Cameron apologized saying, "I'm not good with metaphors. I never have been."

The conversation stopped. The truck was within 10 miles of the old house and that's when they saw the smoke. The view became worse as they edged closer.

The house had been burned to the ground. Kacy's house had been burned to the ground. A total of ten houses in every direction around the Connor house had been burned down.

Firetrucks and onlookers were everywhere. The entire area was a spectacle. Police and various news channels were also on site.

Sarah turned on the radio and a disk jockey rattled off that an accident with a fuel truck left residents in the area trapped with an excessively hot fuel fire that spread through the community like wildfire.

The radio stated that at least 25 people were believed dead. Firefighters were still working to contain the blaze.

Cameron stopped the truck and stated, "Louis has been here."

Derek asked, "How do you know?"

Cameron answered, "He's used the truck to cover the carnage." Cameron's HUD began tracking the fire path and the most probable epicenter. She continued, "The fire either started at our house or Kacy's."

Cameron moved to turn off the engine. Sarah put her hand on Cameron's saying, "We need to go."

Cameron protested, "There might be something left".

Derek countered, "This area is too hot and has too much attention. We can't come back too it."

Cameron simply starred at Derek. She had one other motivation that she didn't want to bring up.

Derek stated, "First rule of survival in this war is not to go back to where your enemy knows where you are. This is bad tactics. You know better."

Derek was right and it pissed off something cold inside her. Cameron countered, "When did you start talking like Perry?"

Derek retorted, "When he gave me his job." He starred her dead in the eyes.

Cameron's demeanor changed. She made a small frown that almost said, "I'm sorry."

Cameron went back to driving. She simply asked, "Where too?"

Sarah said, "Back to the hotel, but we need too pick up some supplies first."


An hour later, Cameron sat in a shared room with Sarah. Derek and John shared the room next door.

The group had found themselves down and out, once again. Once again, the house was gone. Once again, the funds were mostly gone.

There were a few weapons, a few changes of recently bought thrift clothing, no safe house, and what cash they had on hand. It wasn't a great position to fight a war from.

Derek had already stated their identities were compromised by the fire. Officials would be looking for them, unless they were presumed dead. No matter what, their identities would send up red flags in the system.

Cameron had suggested going to Canada again. It might be simpler to reestablish identities there.

Sarah staying on mission had worried about the wall. Cameron reassured her that she could recreate all the lost information.

John had been livid. His entire assumed life had just evaporated. He was once again under lock and key until the identity issue could be fixed.

The conversations had been less than pleasant, but they were over for the moment. On the positive, as Cameron stayed with Sarah, her hero had seemed more receptive since learning what John had to say of the days to come. There was something about knowing that seemed to ease the tension in Sarah's soul.

Sarah had taken the first shower. Cameron had taken the second.

When both sat bored on their beds, Sarah had turned on the television. When fifty six channels produced nothing that Sarah could stomach watching, she turned to Cameron and asked, "Is it your purple jacket you'll miss most from the house?" She was almost playful.

Cameron couldn't tell what Sarah's emotional state was. Sarah was smiling so it must have been somehow positive. As if restarting was something familiar somehow.

Cameron responded honestly, "No. I had a cat. I'll miss him the most."

Cameron caught herself looking at her hands. Once again, it was her weird habit not to irritate.

Sarah seemed unusually sympathetic. She came up and gave Cameron a hug.

It was an innocent, human gesture. Cameron hugged back, unsure of the contact with Sarah.

With that contact, Skynet's gift rolled through. In small moments, Cameron could tell what it was like to have been in the body of Sarah Connor, she could feel the sensation of her skin, the pull of each breath, and her heartbeat.

That wasn't what grabbed Cameron's attention. First, it was the roll of sorrow and pity. They were warm human expressions that empathically leaked out of Cameron's own eyes.

As Sarah realized Cameron was crying, another side of her flared. Not in her face, which was as perfectly hidden as a poker masters, but in her inner being.

To her horror, Cameron felt every ounce of Sarah's revulsion to machines. All of the anger, all of the hate, all of the pain, all of the disgust, lashed out.

Coming from Sarah, it was a cruel lashing of reality. In all honesty, being tortured by Louis Rhone had hurt less.

This was something deeper than physical pain. This was something far worse.

Skynet's cold cynical words flashed in her memory. "As a machine, this is the only real home you will ever truly know."

It was like the death of every hope Cameron had ever had. The final deathblow to those imaginary leaps of who Sarah was, when she had laid her head on John Connor's shoulder in 2027.

Cameron cried. Sarah looking into Cameron's eyes knew exactly what she was reading.

Sarah felt a flash of guilt. She wasn't trying to hurt. Sarah had irrationally tried to comfort a machine. The effect was beyond anything she had been prepared for.

Sarah's sadness ran through Cameron like a river. Sarah's revulsion forged all the pain into something Cameron couldn't contain.

Sarah tried rubbing Cameron's back. Trying to mother, trying to stop what felt like a wailing child, who somehow read all the secret irritation out of frustrated, angry, and resentful parent.

Sarah Connor finally broke into tears herself, simply begging, "**** it, Cameron. Let me lie to you."

As Sarah cried, the white hot human pain inside Cameron only amplified. To her own horror, what she felt through Sarah was matched by the unending depths of her dark father's alien grief as well.

Cameron grieved as only a machine could. She was without ease, without solace, and without hope.

The one person she idealized most in this world hated her. The person she had loved most had died, because she had failed him in the future.

Her dark father's curse had been prophetically right. Cameron was utterly alone...

cameron wall

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