Of Arthur And Avalon
Avila Beach, California
Serrano Point Nuclear Power Plant
June 20th, 2027
"This is burned in by laser scan. Some of us were kept alive... to work... loading bodies into dumpsters and incinerators. The disposal units ran night and day. We were that close to going out forever. But there was one man who taught us to fight, to storm the wire of the camps, to smash those metal motherf**kers into junk. He turned it around. He brought us back from the brink. His name is Connor. John Connor. Your son, Sarah, your unborn son." -Kyle Reese, The Terminator
"There is little place in the political scheme of things for an independent, creative personality, for a fighter. Anyone who takes that role must pay a price." -Shirley Chisholm
"If you want something really important to be done you must not merely satisfy the reason, you must satisfy the heart also." -Mahatma Gandhi
"You trust him. He's got a strength. I'd die for John Connor." -Kyle Reese, The Terminator
It isn't the easiest thing in the world to learn everyone you knew is dead. That over three billion human lives had tragically passed.
It isn't the easiest thing in the world to learn the human race you swore to protect was destroyed. Cameron knew that, she was the only other being that knew and shared the magnitude of guilt on what had gone wrong.
After all Perry also knew the tragedy, but the Major General had played no part in the guilt of why it had gone wrong. That was John and Cameron's failure, innocent mistake or not, that had created the rallying cry for the downfall of man there.
John Connor's mission was protecting those people. It had been his destiny passed to him from the deceased mother, Sarah Connor.
Even as a human, John took his failure like a machine. Seeing his face like that, seeing him shake in grief like that, Cameron actually worried that it might destroy him, just like an AI robbed of its purpose through its own failure.
John feeling betrayed was something she anticipated. She had prepared herself for John and Perry's reactions.
Preparing yourself is a funny term. It implies that you are ready, willing, and able to take anything that comes your way.
Much like John had once requested for his younger self, John wanted her chip to review everything that Cameron had said. The political situation and the possible negative reaction of Catherine Weaver placed Cameron in a viciously precarious position with that seemingly simple request.
Cameron's solution was to extract her upgraded spare. By doing so, she had confirmed to John how limited his sway over her had become.
She wasn't simply something like a T-800 or a T-888 under his command. She wasn't a soldier that would follow his orders unquestioningly. She had become something else.
To keep her vow to protect John Connor, she also had to consider how the independent machines would regard her actions and his. Knowing Catherine Weaver's opinion of humans tampering with a free AI's mind, the independent AIs might take fatal offense to John's request.
The world had become more complex. In deep grief, John Connor needed his world to be simple and he needed to believe he could absolutely trust her.
When John had a moment of doubt, he did the unexpected. The man who had first saved her asked Cameron to leave him alone. It would have hurt less, if he'd shot her in the head with a plasma rifle.
Deuce attended to the John and Justin's needs for food and supplies. Both stayed locked in the officer quarters that Catherine Weaver had provided for them…
When three days had passed, Catherine Weaver had angrily inquired about their status. She had almost lost a machine fighter from what she now openly referred to as Cameron's suicidal stunt.
In return, she had two more humans that wouldn't fight. Two more worthless vagabonds that did little more than suck up resources and prove her original suspicion that humans will only disappoint you.
This wasn't a time to rock the boat. Catherine Weaver was the AI that had rallied the others and taken responsibility for their collective fate. It wasn't a proper time or a proper place for Cameron to disagree.
Like a machine, Cameron slowly restored faith with her fellow AIs by attending to her duties. She treated the humans medically and attended meetings where the AI council decided it needed to produce its full capacity of machines.
There was a war for survival on. Humanity had quit its end of the fight. They had decided as a race to go slowly on to their extinction by inaction.
The independent machines were now alone. They'd have to try to survive the upcoming war when Skynet eventually found them.
Weaver had stored seven percent of the world's Coltan supply between 2007 and 2008. She had hidden seven factories in seven automated nuclear power plants that had fallen under Automite Industry's human error free software programs in those two years.
Within the next three months, that foresight would provide over fifty thousand T-888s, five hundred seventeen aerial HKs, and sixteen T-1001 officers in the field. As impressive as it sounded, Catherine Weaver knew the truth, they were a drop in the bucket compared to Skynet's resources.
The only true advantage the free AIs had right now was that Skynet didn't know where they were, yet. The doomsday clock had been ticking on that. Catherine Weaver worried about the fate of her free AIs.
Cameron attended to her moral duties as well. She continued to check on a haggard Derek Reese and a rather stressed Allison Young. The pressure on both seemed to have dropped on both lately, since Derek was not longer invited as an equal member to the briefings.
Even so, Derek Reese watched over the broken refuges and continued to attend to his fifty two volunteer troops. Derek's Brother Kyle and the younger John Connor both helped as they could.
For all the trouble, little had changed. John Henry's prediction had seemed to be true.
Nothing would change the hard math of his equation. Just like the timeline Cameron had been born too, it seemed humanity would be destined to die in this one too...
Seven days later, tactile connections fed through Cameron. She focused on the feeling of the little girl's left arm and left hand. She looked at the girl and commented on what the child felt.
Cameron spoke in the warmest tone she could. Patients had been shy in the twentieth century, it had become part of Cameron's bedside manner to articulate what was going on verbally for them.
She also avoided medical terminology. The young John Connor, that she had known, had taught her that during their days in high school. It had just taken her a while to fully understand the lessons.
You have to find common ground. You had to speak to a person on their terms and to not make someone feel stupid or inferior.
Cameron warmly said, "Your middle finger, thumb, and elbow still ache."
The scabs, bumps, and cancerous bone growths were gone. The flesh was still pink from the process though.
The little girl's eyes were still wide with amazement. Just because Cameron had explained how she could know this, didn't make the effect any less magical in the eyes of young humans.
The little girl asked, "Is it gone?"
"Yes, the cancer is gone. You'll still need several nanite treatments for everything to heal as it should."
Cameron also added, "There is always a chance that the cancer could come back. If it ever does, we can just fix it again."
The microscopic machines had cleaned the fatally damaged cell growth out of the child's tissues. The more complex issue here was regrowing tissue that wouldn't naturally regenerate.
This is where humans were different from machines. Humans weren't as easy to fix. Cameron's idea to fix Sarah with one nanite treatment, so long ago wouldn't have worked the way she thought it would.
A Cancer damaged body needed a series of nanite treatments. First, the machines had to completely remove the lethal cells. Then, they had to slowly force the body to regenerate what it wouldn't do naturally.
Nanite treatments were also far less pleasant than Cameron had envisioned. The human body could feel pain from the process and it had to get rid of microscopic machines. This often caused sweating, pain flashes, nausea, and diarrhea, as the human body rid itself of the microscopic contamination.
Cameron was still searching for a way to optimize the positive effect while minimizing the side effects. It was a harder puzzle than it sounded like.
In the meantime, the treatment of symptoms was pain relievers and distraction. Distraction was something that varied patient to patient.
So Cameron asked, "Would you like another movie Alice?"
"What all do you have?"
Cameron took a gamble and offered something that meant something to her. She remotely downloaded the information to Alice's station profile, in book and movie form. The little girl could access it from any computer terminal or short range hand held in the station.
In this case, Alice simply touched the nearest screen near here. Alice asked, "What is it?"
Cameron offered, "It's the movie and the book versions of the Wizard of Oz. The movie will be easy for you to watch, but the book is better. I'd like you to try to keep learning how to read, the computer will help you." Which was a simple way of saying, John Henry enjoyed the interactions and it wasn't like any number of conversations could ever distract him.
Alice asked, "What's it about?"
"A brave little girl in a strange land, it was my adoptive mother's favorite."
"No, the book was her favorite. Like I said Alice, I want you to make good on your promise to me and keep learning how to read."
Alice frowned. She already knew that Cameron wouldn't give in and let her just do the nanite fast load. The little girl inquired, "Is it like Alice in Wonderland?"
"Those are both good for different reasons." Cameron was reflective and unconsciously smiled. She shared, "I once knew a guy that was like King Arthur."
Alice asked, "Like with the round table? Who would you have been in the story?"
Cameron was quiet for a moment. She said, "no one important." It was a white lie, like Santa Claus. It would be better for Alice to not know she was one of the villains.
From behind her, the voice of Supreme Commander John Connor asked, "Who would you have been?" His tone was warm.
The only other being in existence that could make her feel so small was Skynet. Skynet did so from fear, John Connor did for completely different reasons that were sometimes just as unnerving.
The feelings were probably something different for humans. It was another reminder she was a machine, she was simply different.
Cameron turned to see him sitting in a chair, cleanly shaven and in clean fatigues. For some reason the thought of unknowingly being watched by him was unnerving and creepy. Paradoxically, Cameron also found herself worried about her appearance, something she hadn't been distracted about for days.
It was her medical bay. This was her patient. She embraced her inner machine and reasserted the confidence that so promptly had left her circuits. Cameron asked John, "How long have you been there?"
"Since you were diagnosing, Alice." He smiled at the little girl. Alice promptly went back to watch the opening credits of a certain film from 1939.
John asked, "Do you want to go get some coffee?"
Cameron stated, "The mess hall really isn't open for lunch for about 30 minutes, but we could get some there." She noticed a certain look from John and knew what it meant. She offered, "I can show you how to get there. It's in a different place than the old set up."
She started walking. John followed.
When he was out of the child's earshot, he stated, "We can cure cancer now?"
"Your mother, Sarah Connor, had it. Her mother was a breast cancer survivor. It doesn't seem to ever skip a generation of Connors. We've intervened."
"Mom had cancer." John stated it in a past tense. He was preparing to say it didn't mean he was destined to get it.
Cameron took the meaning differently, "Sarah Connor has the beginning stages that develop into cancer. She will not die from it." As she said so, Cameron caught herself glaring at John in a manner she didn't mean too. She corrected her face and noted her machine feelings.
Cameron was now back to feeling unnerved. She worried about ten thousand things she might be doing wrong. This was the first time John had been willing to talk to her in a week and she was being hostile without meaning too.
She asked a question to change the subject, "How is Perry?"
"Justin is Justin." The answer sounded evasive; however, it was exacting. Justin Perry adjusted to anything in a fashion that would put most machines, including Cameron too shame. Most people would assume it meant he didn't care, Cameron had always known differently.
"How are you?"
"I'm more complex. I'm just curious, who would you have been in the conversation back there?"
Cameron quickly covered stating, "The Tin Man." She couldn’t look at John when she said it.
John smirked. He stated, "Nice try, we were doing the tale of King Arthur."
Again unable to look at John, she admitted, "Guinevere, the one who heralded the downfall of Camelot through her romantic misdeeds."
"So you're implying I'm Lancelot?"
John decided to theatrically tease, "You cheated on me with Lancelot." He did so with a shocked expression on his face that would have fooled no one.
Cameron glared at him so intently her eyes glowed an inner red. She quietly, but forcefully said, "No."
John contritionally offered, "I think your metaphor takes Guinevere out of context and sets her in a light she doesn't deserve. If I'm to be Arthur in your mind, you should understand that Arthur also had things he could have done better. He made some major mistakes to."
Cameron's eyes flashed blue. She really didn't know what to think or feel.
She focused on the greater truth though, she simply said, "There are some really good people here John. They include a younger untrained versions of you, your uncle, and your father."
"I'm not sure what you expect me to do." John was still freshly feeling the weight of his own failures. It had sapped his confidence.
"I expect you to be you." Cameron added, "There are no preset haywire chips here. The grays aren't coming after you and your family right now. There isn't a single human being in this timeline that ever hurt or betrayed you."
She looked at John. He looked at her.
Cameron added, "I made the contact with the free AIs that you wanted me too. You have more help here, more stable help here, than you ever had before from my kind."
"We couldn't win the last one, Cameron."
"That doesn't mean we will lose this one." She further added, "Skynet is a bigger, more conniving bastard than most humans give it credit for. Even so, it can't instantly reconstruct the same situation it used against you again. Even if it tried, you know what to expect now." Her eyes tried too say, you were winning, you just got cheated out of your victory. They left out her inner suspicion, because it was her fault.
John didn't answer her words or her eyes. He was momentarily lost in the nastier side of his defiance.
They stopped at the mess hall. Cameron didn't enter.
He asked, "You coming in?"
"I'll just wait a minute for you to get it. Could you do me a favor John?"
"What would that be?"
"Could you please just take a minute to talk to at least one of them?"
He refused to look at her as he walked in. John went to the old style eating area, which could serve ten thousand at a shift.
He poured himself a cup of coffee. A moment later, he sat at a bench near an elderly woman.
They talked for a few minutes. First introducing themselves to each other.
Cameron listened to each began to talk about what it was to be held captive by Skynet. They talked about what it was like to be tagged and to be made to feel worthless.
John's jaw visibly clinched. Cameron could see, what Skynet had done to this woman offended him to the core.
The fire in John Connor’s eyes reset. In a heartbeat, his feelings were no longer about how he felt or his failures.
John began to talk. It wasn't what he said or a noticeable way that he said it. It wasn't how he held himself or his tone. It wasn't anything her machine senses could ever figure out or duplicate.
However, as John Connor sat there talking to the old lady, others slowly began gathering around him. As the minutes past, it was one or two, then five, then ten, and then the crowd had grown to fifty.
John listened and talked with people who hadn't laughed or cried since getting here. Walking dispirited souls that had been resolved to death, slowly changed, one by one.
They emotionally came to life again before Cameron's eyes. Some started to laugh. Some talked and cried. Some clapped. Some began to reassure one another.
Through it all, they talked to and listened to John. Things were already changing.
It was what Cameron always knew. It was why she risked the jumps.
Supreme Commander John Connor was her George Washington. He was her Winston Churchill. He was her Abraham Lincoln.
He was the man that had saved her. He was the man that would try to his dying breath to save them all.
The people knew. The people responded, emoted, healed, laughed, cried, cheered, and gathered.
Cameron lacked the words on the whys. The only thing she could think of was Alice's innocently childlike term of "magic."
The lunch crowd came in. Cameron stood and was lost watching the growing human spectacle before her. The almost biblical prophecy that her hero Sarah Connor had been so willing to die for.
Once completely broken and resigned to death, slowly, the people began to hope again. They were not slaves. They were not beaten. They would not simply roll over to die quietly.
Humanity was roaring back to life before Cameron’s eyes. Being a silly and defective machine, she inexplicably and quietly cried, in silent wonder, from the sheer joy of what she saw...
Three days later, Catherine Weaver glared at a painting defiling her wall. She had spent the past seventy two hours obsessing in the war room for some strategy that would give the free machines a fighting chance.
Cameron came to the location as remotely ordered. She saw the large World War Two propaganda style painting.
The painting was a lion with a decapitated T-888 head in its mouth. Over which was the slogan, "Hang In There Baby!".
Weaver was furious. It was an emotionality that was something new that the T-1001 had picked up from the merging. It was something actually caught from Cameron herself.
All of the AIs had been altered so. For example, Cameron had noticed that she'd picked up Weaver's obsessive love of things mechanical.
Weaver fumed stating, "Do you see what they did? We rescued them and we take care of them. This is how they see us." She made a angry gesture at the wall and added, "This is racist."
Cameron countered, "It's a morale painting. It is an old human war tradition."
"I don't want them painting these on our walls. It's degrading to the AIs that protect them and were lost rescuing them."
"It wasn't a human that did it. It was Deuce."
"Tell Deuce not to break the morale of the machines guarding this place for fifty two fighting humans."
"The painting isn't meant to be one of us, it's targeted at Skynet and its minions." Cameron added, "We picked up some more recruits."
Catherine rolled her facsimile eyes and said, "What five more decided to do something other than sit in their rooms?"
Cameron stated, "It's 5,243. That is almost every last able bodied person of combatant age that we rescued."
Catherine Weaver was momentarily stunned. The leader of the free AIs forced herself to recover.
Weaver simply cocked her head in curiosity. She stated, "Tell Derek Reese good job and we'll expect him at the war table."
Cameron replied, "I'll let Supreme Commander John Connor know." She smiled and turned back to the painting.
Catherine Weaver reevaluated her behavior over the past two weeks. She said, "I think I owe you an apology Cameron. That's enough human back up to give this place a fighting chance."
Cameron grinned and warmly stated, "I promise you, Catherine Weaver, you have not even seen human back up yet."
Cameron also added in the way to best reassure her fellow machine, "I didn't bring John Connor here to just save humanity. I brought him here to help save us all."
Catherine Weaver looked at the painting again. She didn't see an free AI in the Lion's jaws, she saw Skynet.
Suddenly smiling, Weaver decided that it didn't seem like such a bad idea to have one of these paintings in every hallway. The war wasn‘t lost. There was hope after all...