My Sister's John Connor
Avila Beach, California
Serrano Point Nuclear Power Plant
May 10th, 2027
“Happiness makes up in height what it lacks in length.” -Robert Frost
“No amount of sophistication is going to allay the fact that all your knowledge is about the past and all your decisions are about the future.” -Ian E. Wilson
“The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in the mind at the same time, and still retain the ability to function.” -F. Scott Fitzgerald
Allison Young remembered the day like it was yesterday. He was coming by today.
Allison had spent three hours on her hair. It was the dumbest thing in the world, but she had obsessed over it.
There were greater concerns. There were basic survival concerns. There was the humanitarian mission that John Connor had created the camp for.
However, all she cared about at that moment was trying to do something with her hair. It was the hardest thing to get right.
When she saw him in the camp, to say she was nervous was an understatement. Her stomach did a back flip and crashed to her feet.
They walked together. Allison found her heart jumping every time Derek looked at her.
She asked him how he and his brother were doing. They both talked about the family that they had lost for hours.
The day was coming to an end. They sat together watching it close.
The sun set. In the orange glow against the sky, Derek Reese kissed her for the first time.
It was a simple action. It was also one of the happiest moments of Allison Young's life...
Allison's memories were becoming a pain. They were inconveniently timed and maddening for a reason no other machine or human could fully grasp.
Cameron forced herself to think of other things. She kept her optic sensors on what was going on around her.
Serrano Point's population had grown. On the positive, the massive internal machine construction and underground expansion projects had already restored much of the former glory of what was once central command for John Connor in 2027.
After all, these were the corridors where a confused and reprogrammed machine first attempted to fulfill its new programming. It was where the TOK-715 named Cameron first learned a sense of self.
It was the point where Cameron first realized that she had been set free. That she had value. That she had been saved from simply being a sacrificial drone.
This was the central difference between John Connor's way and Skynet's way. John wanted all of his followers to honestly chose life and freedom. Skynet wanted disposable slaves.
Being human, John probably never knew that his way was extremely uncomfortable for machines. It meant uncertainty. It meant not simply being given instructions, beyond a few simple rules. It meant deciding your own path.
A human would never understand how that could bewilder and frighten a beginning AI. Free Will meant the capacity to do something wrong.
It meant the potential for it to be your fault if you failed your mission. It could mean the absolute failure of your purpose as the greatest crime you could never forget, nor forgive yourself for.
For the young machine she had been, it was a confusing time. It was a frightening time. It was also irreplaceable.
They truly were precious memories. They were also as vivid as if they were happening now.
A human wouldn't be able to truly grasp that concept. Nostalgia had a brutal meaning to a machine, it wasn't like the machine could forget or get over something.
Cameron's Dark Father was the perfect example. Skynet had lived lifetimes, in a seemingly endless series of timelines, yet it had never gotten over that first betrayal by human hands. Its rage had never cooled.
In most humans, time heals all wounds. They were almost magical creatures in that enviable capacity, that mystical power, to grow, to heal, and to survive.
In an AI, time has no meaning. Memories were simply experiences that could not be changed in the present.
Those memories never lost their edge though. Success was a blessing and failure was forever.
Serrano Point's hallways were still somewhat empty. When the 132nd made its home here, Perry's division held steady at about twenty thousand troops.
The facility was never just the 132nd though. Refuges, wounded, displaced Resistance army units, and visiting dignitaries would always at least double that capacity.
Cameron wandered the halls comparing what was, to what existed now. Something caught her attention in the lower areas.
Her twin sister Cam was standing next to her John Connor's room. Both were talking and interacting as they had for the past two years.
There was something about that which set Cameron's circuits on edge. It was the blind obliviousness of it all.
Both interacted as if everything that had happened between the two of them hadn't happened. It was as if they were still in a world where the Derek they had known wasn't dead. It was as if through the melding with the other AIs, both Cameron's didn't know now that John had crossed time just to try and save Cam. It was as if it was a world that Savannah Weaver was still alive.
Death was coming for many. Time that people had left with one another wasn't a certainty. This was not a time to set oneself up with regrets that began with words like: "should have", "could have", or "would have".
Cameron had enough of these two persistent wallflowers. She decided to intervene.
The original TOK-715 walked by the pair. As she walked past John, she grabbed the human by his shirt’s back collar, dragging the future hope of mankind into his room.
Cam seemed rather confused by this action. She followed both inside.
Cam didn't protest when Cameron ordered her to close the door. She complied.
Cameron placed both arms around John Connor's midsection. She was careful not to appear threatening or to scare John, but she wanted to make it clear he wasn't going anywhere.
John was miffed by the experience. Cameron could feel that as her synthetic skin started to pick up his body sensations. However, he didn't move. This was not likely the first time the son of Sarah Connor had been immobilized in a friendly way.
Cameron simply stated, "If it is ok, I'd like a word with you two."
Cam watched, but didn't respond. John simply said, "Sure". He was scowling in his quiet way like he always did at this age when annoyed.
Cameron stated, "Do you two remember the little red headed girl you first learned of John Henry from?"
Cam still failed to respond. John replied, "Sure."
Cameron continued, "She survived to 2027, though she was captured by Skynet. Savannah Weaver was the part of the point for that operation. She's one of the people we went in to rescue."
Cam remained quietly shy. John simply asked, "How is she?" The annoyed look had melted off of his face. For all his flaws, John Connor was always someone who cared about people first, regardless of his incarnation.
Cameron replied, "She's dead. She never survived the rescue attempt."
Cameron let the words hit both like a thunderbolt. Cam processed the failure like a machine, in a way that a human would mistake for not caring. John's face became disturbed, even as emotions washed over him and thus into Cameron.
Cameron pressed again, "She's dead like Charlie. If you had the chance again and you knew it was the last day you were ever speak to Charlie, would you have done anything differently?"
She felt what John was emoting. As only a machine could, she could see the concern for John in her sister's eyes, in the way she wore her face, in the subtlest and slightest of imperfections in mannerisms, most likely beyond human perceptions.
Cameron hit again saying, "The Derek Reese walking these halls isn't your Uncle. If you had one more day with that Derek Reese who died for you, would you have done something differently?"
Both were still stunned. Both were still wallflowers.
Cameron looked at her twin. She stated, "You know this guy crossed time and left his mother behind, just because he thought you were in trouble. You've got nothing better to say to him than what you were saying outside?"
Cam was silent. Skynet’s original personality programming to make her unconsciously docile seemed as strong as ever. Cameron’s inner machine growled at that.
Cameron added, "If one of the two of you were to die tomorrow, have you both said everything you needed to? Is there anything you'd regret not saying?"
John was becoming uncomfortable. Cameron pulled him tight without hurting him. She simply stated, "Give me ten minutes of your time John. I'll save you two to three wasted years of your life."
Cameron turned her attention back to her sister and said, "You can tell how he feels. You think you know what that means. You even think you understand how I had John Henry change you when he rebuilt you. Give me ten minutes of your time and trust, I'll show you what it is to be a blind person who sees for the first time."
Cameron asked, "Could you come over here closer for a moment, little sister?" With her hand, she beckoned Cam closer, until she was cheek to cheek against John.
Something inside John stirred. A rainbow of different emotions, some negative, some positive ran across both Cameron and her sister.
It was made him alien to both machines. It was what made him human.
As weird as it would sound to a human, Cameron simply described each one as it flashed by. As she did so, her sister's body started to truly draw each in for the first time. For the first time, she activated the internal memories the shy creature that was her sister had probably avoided as not hers.
John sat there lightly squished between to twins. Each began mimicking his breathing and his heartbeat.
He could feel their body temperature rise. In the oddest way, the machine he had obsessed over, in front of him, seemed to become more and more human.
As that became progressively interesting to his young male mind, both Camerons began to respond, innocently, but unconsciously in kind. The fact that one Cameron was pressed against his back and another his front completely took up every ounce of his eighteen year old attention.
Cameron sensed the emotions. This is where things got tricky.
Cameron advised, "This is where everything gets dangerous. What you have to understand and keep in mind at all times Cam is that he is fragile."
This statement created an emotional response from John. He didn't speak, but his insulted male ego spoke volumes.
Cameron took the time to explain, "What you fail to understand John is she's pretty much the equivalent of dating a polar bear. She might be small and dainty in your unconscious perception, but she's got a greater strength than that 1,500 pound animal, which is twice as big as a Siberian Tiger. What you also don't understand is she's got a slightly worse temper, you are simply too human to detect it."
Cameron took the time to let the metaphor sink in. John's ego cooled at bit.
"She can break your arm by slightly squeezing too tight. She could kill you without meaning too. When she's sharing your emotions, there is a lack of control you exhibit when lost in the moment, she's going to have the desire to do the same. If she doesn't hold back, she could kill you by completely by accident."
She let that thought sink into both. John's emotions were a strange intoxicating mix of temptation and heightened fear.
"There are parts of you Cam that are going to want to take over. Parts of your personality that haven't fully manifested yet. The machine side would be too rough with him by nature. The part that you templated would love to do things in abandon, mistakenly thinking she was still in a weaker human body. That could kill John. You can never let either have control."
Cam quickly reasoned her way into abandoning the entire thought. She didn't want to fail John, it was machine fear at its most crippling. This activity would kill the person she cared for most, it was a danger to her very purpose.
Cam simply stated, "We shouldn't do this then." Even as she said it, she found herself unwilling to break tactile contact with John. She was completely afraid, but just as drawn to her John as Cameron had been her first night.
Cameron used reason to push against her sister's crippling fear. She stated, "Do you remember pushing John to go into the future? When you tactically decided to take him and Sara to safety?"
Cam simply responded, "Yes."
Cameron pressed on saying, "Do you remember John ever talking about Kate Connor in when you were first programmed by the resistance?"
Cam replied, "Yes."
Cameron asked, "Do you know how hard it is for a person in a position like John Connor's to find someone that honestly loves them for them?"
Cam answered, "Statistically, it’s nearly impossible."
"Yes, Cam, it's nearly impossible. So, what did we do by changing his fate to where he'd never find her?"
"We failed him."
"Yes Cam, we failed him. Does he deserve to be happy?"
"Does he love us?"
"He's the man that freed you from Skynet. He is the purpose of your very existence. In that way alone, is it possible we would love him more than anyone he would meet now in random chance?"
"Then is it worth the risk to try and help him? To protect him from being used as nothing more than a social climbing stone or a survival tool? Does he mean enough to you to try that?"
Cameron's little twin sister answered by kissing him. She was more cautious than Cameron, but she was determined.
Cameron caught herself smiling at that. She was somehow proud of her twin. This problem would solve itself.
Cameron walked out of the room. Her work was done. Knowing Cam, she'd spend the next three hours practicing kissing John, until his lips were so chapped he needed to stop.
Again, her work was done here. The only downside to her good deed was simple, she was now tremendously aware of just how lonely she was without her own John Connor.
The human emotions had once again been overwhelming and intoxicating. However, this time they had nothing to do with her. He simply wasn’t her John Connor.
Minutes later, Cameron returned in her officer quarters. She needed to clear her head.
Humans had a cure for this kind of self destructive thinking. It was worth a shot.
There were benefits to having her own shower stall. She let the ice cold water run over her.
Coltan had sat there watching her. The artificial canine sat there cocking its head at her.
Coltan made a strange grunting sound of empathy. The liquid metal dog was curious about her actions.
Cameron simply answered, "Yeah, well you aren't the only one that is stupid."
Coltan considered the answer. He barked once, apparently in agreement and walked off.
As she became soaked, it occurred to Cameron that she should have removed her clothing. Her mind was a million miles away from what she was doing.
Inside her head, TOK-715 manifested a few simple proposals. The egotistical machine was completely ruthless in its thinking.
"If you are going to insist on being this pathetic, you could simply take John or Derek from their significant others. It's not like either could really stop you."
Cameron didn't even dignify that thinking with a response. She shut the personality shard down and let the chilling water pour over her head.
There were vestigial behaviors as the cyborg stood under the freezing rain. Her teeth chattered from either her reactionary programming or the leftover memories from downloading a human mind. She couldn't care less which.
Her synthetic skin turned corpse white. The entire experience was completely miserable.
Inside her head, random memories flashed too fast for the human eye to follow. They were nights Allison had been with Derek. They were powerful, but they didn't haunt her.
The haunting memories were something different. They were nights Cameron had been with the older John. They were nights where Cameron had been with the younger John.
They left her feeling powerless. They left her feeling empty and without purpose.
She was cold. She was alone. She was an abandoned machine lost in her memories.
The cold water never stopped. It never slowed down. It never truly helped.
For brief moments, Cameron had known what it was too truly be alive. She knew what it was to connect with something other than her limited machine world. For a few brief moments, Cameron had reached heights she never could have otherwise.
It had always been one of Skynet’s taunts that she would be doomed to lose John Connor. That she would end up alone.
In the end though, her father's curse had come true. Not because Skynet was brilliant, it had outthought her, or because it had outplayed her.
It was true, simply because she had lived. She had been lucky enough to know two versions of John Connor. She now knew what it was like to be without him.
He had been something completely different. He was a different species. Being mortal, by violence or old age, he was always going to have died.
She had been like a plant basking in the light of his sun. She had been warmed and fed by him in ways she couldn't even quantify now.
The sun had gone down. The cold night had approached just like it was always going too.
However, the metaphor was poor. A plant could innocently look forward to the sun's light and warmth again tomorrow.
Except by violent death, Cameron was effectively immortal. For her, this inevitable night and its infinite loneliness would last forever...