For Hope's Sake
Los Angeles, California
A warehouse complex used as a research facility 83 miles out of town
Sunday, December 16, 2007
"The hottest places in hell are reserved for those who in time of great moral crises maintain their neutrality." -Dante
"Hell, there are no rules here -- we're trying to accomplish something." -Thomas Edison
The security guard's neck violently snapped with a wet pop. His body quivered.
There were no witnesses. According to the shift schedule, there would be no guard to relieve this one for approximately 2 hours, 24 minutes, and 52 seconds.
Staging the view, Cameron moved the guard's body back into a relaxed position. She took a moment and dimmed the guard shack lights. After opening the gate, she left the small guard shack.
It was short walk back to the stolen freight truck. She noted that its wheels were heavily loaded. That was because of the four thousand thirty five pound thermite and magnesium laced, fire burst bomb, taking up the sealed back compartment.
The bomb would have worried her in a high population area. That wouldn't be an issue though.
Sometimes, Skynet's need for privacy was a gift you couldn't underestimate. California had been kind in providing several locations in areas unfriendly enough to provide cover for her dark father's black ops.
Cameron drove the freight truck into the facility. She parked the truck in the area she had predetermined to have been the facility's target epicenter.
Bomb placement for maximum impact was important. Humans almost always got this part wrong, wasting significant amounts of a blast's energy.
In truth, the high explosive was about one thousand four hundred seventy pounds beyond what would more than likely be needed. With this target; however, there was no margin for error.
It wouldn't be enough to just set off an explosion. That might actually make things worse.
She'd have to take care of a much bigger problem. That danger would have to be completely incinerated.
As she exited the truck, a wandering guard approached to see what was being delivered. Cameron's nine millimeter took care of his curiosity with two quick shots to the head.
She ignored the smell of gunpowder, blood, and brains. There couldn't be any survivors.
It would be unbelievably cruel to condemn the humans here like that. Terminators weren't built to be malicious.
Focusing back on the truck, Cameron set the bomb fuse for thirty minutes. As a back up, she could remote detonate it earlier with her key ring. No matter what, the bomb had to go off tonight.
She would finish the mission or she would make sure there was no evidence left of her. Either way, she would protect John, Sarah, and the others she cared about.
Cameron reviewed everything, right down to the tamper proof fuse. She grabbed the rifle with the modified tungsten style, armor piercing shells. Hopefully, the twelve she had built and loaded would be enough.
Cameron looked over everything one last time. Once satisfied, she locked the truck's back door.
She moved towards the main building to check the facility for the bigger problems. There was twenty eight minutes, fifteen seconds left until fate showed its true face.
Cameron knew why things were so desperate. Roland Parker's gift to Skynet was something simple. It was an alternative to Judgment Day.
Humans that survived the nuclear destruction that happened in 4 years would come to believe that such weapons were the deadliest thing ever invented. It was almost a sad joke.
Nuclear weapons were firecrackers. To the individual human body, as well as, the general mesh of society and families, a single virulent disease could be much worse.
Weaponized viruses were within the capacity of any major nation that dotted the world right now. It took little more than an insane virologist, a lab, a sample virus, and test subjects to make your own personal Armageddon.
Though, it wasn't even necessary for humanity to do so. Nature could do it just fine on its own.
Americans like John would learn of a Black Plague that killed a third of Europe in high school. The actual disease had a reach far greater than just Europe and affected a much larger percentage of the world's total population than most people knew.
It was with this hope that Skynet developed an alternative to blowing up the majority of property it would one day like to acquire. Disease would have no effect on machines. In fact, it would leave the majority of the world's inanimate resources intact.
The virus would only remove Skynet's enemies. Even better, it would allow selected docile human populations to continue as long as they submitted to Skynet's law.
Fail to comply with orders and your life preserving treatment dose is removed. Thus, the need for treatment alone would end any possibility of organized resistance.
There would be no human uprising. There would be no John Connor.
The gray operative Ronald Parker's sick fascination with the last stage of the black plague had been the catalyst of this. Four hours ago, while Cameron interrogated him over toilet in his medical facility, he'd slowly confessed his grand scheme.
Of course, at first, Parker had been unwilling to talk. Three broken hand bones later, while his screams were muffled by the toilet water, the megalomaniac had grown a bit more giving.
He'd been surprised to learn that Cameron could tell when he was lying or withholding information. It had cost him four more shattered bones in his other hand.
Parker had said, "Most of humanity is trash. Cattle fit only for the slaughter. Skynet could clear them all quickly and quietly in days. There's only six degrees of separation at this time in the world. Thanks to worldwide travel, everyone could infect everyone else."
Parker had isolated his favorite stage of the virus. He improved its effect and incubation qualities. He turned it into something no one would have an immunity too.
Parker's fate was simple. He gave the location, defenses, capabilities, back ups, and allies involved. His information matched the computer information that Cameron had gathered from his computer.
Once all the conceivable gaps were covered, Cameron snapped Parker's neck and left him in the bathroom. Ten minutes later, Parker's private practice building was going up in flames.
The weapon was live and nearby. Skynet's only hold up was the treatment for the grays.
Due to the nature of the information gathered, Cameron only had a couple of hours to arm a bomb and equip herself. The rest was acquiring a freight truck, loading time, travel, and checking the facility's security information on Parker's laptop. The gate guard was nice enough to provide a second truck with a way home.
There was only twenty five minutes, thirty two seconds until detonation time. Using Roland Parker's security card, Cameron moved inside the main lab area and encountered the first T888 that the gray operative had let her know about.
The three T888s assigned to work with Roland Parker had been his only lab assistants and the facility's elite security. Luckily for Cameron, Parker had revealed that all three looked the same.
The first T888 was easy to spot. It was the same generic skin model as the one that had tried to heist a shipment of Coltan a few months back.
The first of three went down with two armor piercing shots to the head. Surprise would only be on Cameron's side once. That was now expended.
Cameron confirmed the kill and noted it had a rifle under its lab coat. Something seemed out of the ordinary with that.
There wasn't time to reflect. Two other metal brothers still roamed the halls and would protect the newly synthesized virus at all costs.
If Cameron let them pass, the virus would be predictably released in a high traffic area. It would incubate for seven days, and then infect others without symptoms for fourteen days.
On the twenty second day, the victim's lungs would suddenly hemorrhage. The infected person would cough out chunks of their own lung's lining. Convulsions, spasms, seizures, bloody vomiting and other expulsions would likely follow. An average of two hours later, they would be dead.
Put more personally, the pain would be beyond the imagination of most people in modern times. The start would be a high fever that spread into a migraine that poured across the entire body. Extreme dizziness and severe nauseousness would follow.
Then, the virus would literally combine the sensation of falling, vomiting, and drowning. All the while, there would be the white hot stabbing sensation of someone slowly carving your lungs up with an ice pick from the inside out.
Many might mercifully die from the shock alone. Some would live the full two tortured hours.
The widespread death of the entire human population would take place in days. The last week of the human race would predictably descend into madness and panic over something genetically engineered to leave no survivors.
As Cameron hunted for the other two T888s, she could see every human she ever knew dying from the disease. Though, her chip focused on Sarah and John, screaming and choking in pools of their own blood.
She wouldn't let that happen. The consequences be damned.
It was only nineteen minutes, fifty eight seconds until detonation time. Neither T888 had advanced to the only exit point. They were forcing her to go deeper into the facility.
Soon enough, she wouldn't have a chance to clear the blast zone. Thinking of John and Sarah, she proceeded forward.
As Parker and the computer records had revealed, there was a deeper level. The lower area housed its own sealed environment and had enough diesel fuel to run itself independent of outside power for 30 days.
Cameron wasn't worried about the bunker. She had included the building structure, the lower level, the amount of diesel, and the generator in her explosive calculations.
As for appearance, the interior of the lower level was mostly made up of large green cylindrical tubes, looking more like a beer brewery than a high tech lab. Each cylinder was filled with enough liquid to fill two to three average sized swimming pools.
Away from the stairs, far against the back wall towards the north was the more traditional lab area. This was a human free zone, simply enforced by universal biohazard markings that most would avoid from fear alone.
Cameron had three problems. One, she had to continue to block the exit point, or one of the T888s could simply slip past her with the contagion. Two, she was outnumbered two to one, with foes she couldn't locate. Three, she had fifteen minutes, fifty four seconds to get the hell out of there or this was her last mission.
The vats began generating noise, mixing like large powerful blenders internally, the very ground vibrated from the noise. Simultaneously, the lights went off.
Cameron camped near the stairwell out and watched the inside area towards the lab. They knew she was here and had taken steps to conceal themselves.
She watched and waited, flipping through infrared and ultraviolet vision points. She waited calmly like a hunter.
There was movement. She targeted another generic model and fired straight into his head. Its retaliation shot fired right past her.
When the T888 wobbled, she opened fire again. Pinpointing its skull, she fired two more shots, until its chip obliterated.
That's when the third triple eight fired. The shot didn't hit her as expected. The enemy bullet tore through her combat chassis like sharp, broken glass through a baby's soft flesh.
Cameron's HUD flashed a warning, "INTERNAL POWER CORE DAMAGED. MAIN POWER DEPLETED 54%." Her dark father's unique gift of advanced nerves, were howling in agony. Filled with a sudden urgency of self preservation, she panicked.
Cameron pivoted and fired wildly, missing. A second shot tore through her form.
Cameron's HUD flashed, "EMERGENCY POWER CORE DAMAGED. BACK UP POWER DEPLETED 63%. MAIN POWER DEPLETED 55%."
The gun dropped out of Cameron's hands. Her internal diagnostics were fighting to take over.
The last time she had let the diagnostics program do so, Cameron unconsciously had tortured Sarah and tried to kill John when the program took over. She'd die before that happened again.
The T888 kept to the shadows. Even over the noise of the vats, it simply said, "Father would like a word with you, TOK-715."
There was no reason for a terminator to say that to its prey. Not unless it was ordered to do so.
Cameron moved for the gun. Once she grabbed it, she slid herself back towards the stairs.
As unnatural as it was for her to do, she tried to imitate Derek or the John she knew in 2027. To survive, she would have to move for cover like a human would.
The two chest wounds screamed in pain at the air brushing against the ravaged flesh. Were she human, she would be dead or in shock right now. Her blood soaked her shirt and spread to her jacket and pants by the pint.
The diagnostics program tried to override her again. Cameron willed it away as she looked for her target.
Somehow, this had been a trap. Skynet had known she'd go for the virus so it set up three hunters to catch her. If her dark father had wanted her dead, she'd have lost her head just as she'd done to her brothers.
It was thirteen minutes, fifteen seconds from the end of everything here. She could hear her dark father's voice from her creation stating, "Your programming design will be unique and based on an early iteration of myself. I build servants, not clones or offspring. You exist for no other purpose than your missions. Through hard wiring, I have secured your obedience in your very chip design. In the end, you will never serve any master other than myself."
Cameron watched for her hidden foe. All the while, she fought the diagnostics program wrestling for control of her.
Cameron's HUD flashed, "BOTH POWER CORES CATASTROPHICALLY DAMAGED. BACK UP POWER DEPLETED 73%. MAIN POWER DEPLETED 63%."
The terminator spoke, "Do you comply TOK-715?" It was completely hidden, not acting like a machine at all.
Cameron tried to place the voice in the darkness. Her targeting was screwy. She grabbed the key ring and contemplated ending the game with a single touch of a button.
The terminator spoke again. "What are your primary directives TOK-715?"
Cameron took one last shot at ending this without pressing the button. She moved back into the shadows and away from the stairs trying to find the voice, while still trying to cover the exit. If the last unit moved past her, she'd have no choice than to detonate the whole place early.
Her focus twisted. Memory flashes disturbed her concentration.
Cameron remembered Sarah the way she envisioned her in 2027. She remembered an older John and his silly little book "the Wizard of Oz". She thought of the family she would leave behind as they existed now. She even thought of the purring little kitten Coltan.
There was eleven minutes and five seconds left. Her HUD display marked up again "BOTH POWER CORES CATASTROPHICALLY DAMAGED. BACK UP POWER DEPLETED 78%. MAIN POWER DEPLETED 69%."
Her only hope for survival would be to cannibalize the power generators from the T888 models. They were essentially the same piece.
She could use them, until she could modify or build a unit to perfectly interact with her system. Her target would know that as well.
She moved back and analyzed the best point for her to cover the stairs and go for the first terminator's body she had dropped down here. Then, thinking of her opponent as more intelligent than a typical T888, she looked for the perfect ambush point for that spot. She moved slowly and carefully to attack the last point.
There was nine minutes and four seconds left. The HUD display marked up again "BOTH POWER CORES CATASTROPHICALLY DAMAGED. BACK UP POWER DEPLETED 85%. MAIN POWER DEPLETED 78%."
Cameron quietly climbed up one of the green vat housings. Eight feet above the ground, she slid into a sniper position and looked for her target.
Fate was kind. The T888 had moved into the ambush point.
Cameron ignored the pain and willed herself to fire. Three shots later, the last T888's head was a pile of scrap.
Cameron moved as quickly as possible to claim two spare power core housings. She used a knife to open the chassis and extracted it as quickly as possible.
With her back up dying, first she chose to extract it and replace it immediately. More of her flesh screamed as she ripped it open to do the repair.
The power unit was a slightly misplaced model. She was trying a connection without diagnostics. It slid into place, but there was no sensation of activation.
There was three minutes and nineteen seconds left until detonation. The HUD display marked up again "BOTH POWER CORES CATASTROPHICALLY DAMAGED. BACK UP POWER DEPLETED. MAIN POWER DEPLETED 96%."
Cameron grabbed her rifle and the other power core and ran up the stairs. She ran through the warehouse complex and out the front door.
Out the front door she bolted across the lawn and out of the gate passing the dead guard at the front. Past there, she ran straight out into the open desert as fast as her legs could carry her.
Her internal clock told of her sin of waiting too long to leave. Even with her best speed she was barely clearing the area.
In short moments, time had been reduced from minutes into seconds. Those precious seconds were limited to an internal count of "5... 4... 3... 2... 1..."
Fire erupted behind her. Noise thundered that would shatter human eardrums.
The ground shook like an earthquake. A blast wave pushed past that blew her body forward like a small piece of plastic against hurricane like winds.
The impact wave itself would have pulverized human bone. Even well beyond the epicenter, the heat blasted past that was hot like an oven.
Cameron helplessly rolled into the dirt. A rain of earth that would go on for minutes began afterwards.
Cameron struggled up looking at the blast. Its core area had exceeded 5000 degrees Fahrenheit.
Everything there was dust. Roland Parker's nihilistic curse on humanity would never be.
Cameron's body was damaged. The **** diagnostic program was still fighting for control of her mind.
Things were off. Her main power was erratic.
She'd lost her grip on the rifle and the scavenged main power supply in the blast. She had no idea where either was.
Her HUD displayed the problem "BOTH POWER CORES CATASTROPHICALLY DAMAGED. BACK UP POWER DEPLETED. MAIN POWER DEPLETED 99%."
She was bleeding power faster. Time was running short.
With her flesh howling at the fresh wound and quaking hands, Cameron removed and replaced the borrowed spare unit that wasn't taking. The images that flashed earlier in her chip returned.
"MAIN POWER DEPLETED 99.1%"
Once again, she removed the power supply and tried flipping it for a better connection. She replaced it too see if it would activate.
As she did so, Cameron thought of the little kitten Coltan. She could hear him purring and remembered his tuna breath from the night before.
"MAIN POWER DEPLETED 99.3%"
Cameron removed and checked the bindings again on the unit. Nothing was out of place and it had nearly full power.
She tried replacing it again. As she did so, she thought of Sarah Connor, the woman that would never give up, even in times like these.
"MAIN POWER DEPLETED 99.5%"
Cameron checked her surrounding chassis area, trying to locate any short that might be stopping power flow. She found none.
As she did so, she thought of John as he was today. If she didn't fix herself he wouldn't have his protector.
"MAIN POWER DEPLETED 99.7%"
Cameron tried one last internal fix to open up the new power system as she bled power out from her main core. Anything to buy a few more minutes time, she didn't detect any faults.
She thought of the John she left in 2027, the one that had saved her from Skynet. He was the version of John that she was still trying too protect and serve.
"MAIN POWER DEPLETED 99.9%"
All these images and more poured from her memories. Defiantly, like her hero Sarah, she smacked the outside of the power cell trying to get it too activate.
Tears poured down her eyes. She simply and silently begged an unkind world, "No, not like this..."
Cameron's main power cell died. The world went black...