Progenitor 1 - Flawed Creations

Los Angeles - 2008:
2 A.M. Connor Residence:

Darkness had finally taken over the household. Sarah had spent much of the night with her gun chest, disassembling, cleaning and reassembling each of the many rifles, shotguns and automatic weapons that she kept next to the bed. Cameron found this behavior puzzling. None of these weapons had been fired in the past month or been exposed to dirt or water. In fact, Sarah had cleaned the guns every single night for the past week. Cameron, had broken her nightly patrols offering to help, but Sarah refused her saying that she only trusted herself to load her own guns.

Replaying the conversation, Cameron realized that what she really meant was that Sarah didn't trust her to handle the weapons. After that whole, “Allison Episode” as John referred to it, everyone had been watching her more closely. No one slept anymore. Cameron walked to the opposite window as she continued her nightly patrols. She checked her internal chronometer: 2:07 A.M. This delay was jeopardizing her mission.

Cameron listened closely, enhancing her auditory sensors to pick up even the faintest sounds that could indicate movement in the household. Nothing. Finally, that incessant clacking of steel on steel had stopped echoing out of Sarah's room. Carefully, the cyborg removed her boots and crept bare foot along the floor. In her HUD, she brought up a map prepared earlier to show the creaky spots in the floor. Rounding the corner, she stopped at Sarah's room. Cameron reached out to push the door open, but hesitated when she heard a soft snoring coming from inside. Sarah must have passed out on the floor again. Cameron was surprised she had lasted this long, given what she had been drinking tonight.

Satisfied, Cameron slowly made her way up the creaky wooden stairs, careful to avoid the first, third and eighth step. Subterfuge may not be standard programming for the T-888, but Cameron was built for infiltration, not heavy combat. As she walked by John's room, she heard a soft snoring sound coming within. Switching to thermal mode to verify, two red bodies appeared on her HUD.

Laying next to John on his bed.

Cameron felt her hand twitching as she ran through the possible scenarios of what they could have been doing in there. She didn't know why, but something about Riley caused anomalous reactions in her combat subroutines.

>>> Threat level Moderate.

Terminate? No. That would be illogical. The threat level reading was clearly wrong. Moderate threats were normally associated with humans bearing fully automatic weapons or early model terminators. Riley was a weak human female with no weapons training or reason to hurt John. Yet, every time Cameron looked at her, something her diagnostics didn't recognize caused her decision-making heuristics to treat Riley as a possible danger to John.

For the next few minutes, Cameron stood statue-like as her CPU looped in an endless repetition of probability scenarios and outcomes for dealing with Riley's threat. If she killed Riley, John would never forgive her. That was an unacceptable outcome. However, she could not allow the relationship to continue.

After several minutes of processing, no solutions came to mind.

“Terminators have limited knowledge of complex social relationships,” she concluded.

>>> Chronometer reading: 2:18 – 30 minutes behind schedule.
>>> Mission Success Probability reduced.

Heeding the warning, Cameron finally shook herself out of her looping thought cycle and resumed her mission. The front door was locked and the alarm set. Sarah had actually changed the code on her.

Of course, she could disable the alarm with minimal effort, but that would compromise security in the house. Instead, Cameron headed toward the window at the end of the hall. Lifting it open in one clean motion, she stepped back four paces and calculated the angle of approach required.

In one graceful movement, Cameron accelerated to 3.7 meters per second, jumped at a 35.8 degree angle and flew perfectly through the open window, without making a sound and landed in a roll on the soft grass one story below. Cameron allowed a tiny smirk to cross her face for an instant. That was too easy. After listening for any movement in the house and hearing nothing, the cyborg took off, running at a fast clip towards the city.

Danny swayed back and forth in the dark alley. His feet were getting tired from standing in one place too long. Off in the distance, he heard what sounded like muffled gun shots. Nervously, he checked his watch: 4 A.M. His contact was three hours late.

It had been nine years since he last saw Allison. She told him, that she may never see him again and then: poof, she disappears, just like that. The next day he had read about an attempted bank robbery in the paper. Three people had broken in, but they never stole anything. Instead, they set off some kind of explosion inside. Strange thing was, no bodies were ever recovered. Danny was sure Allison was involved, but he couldn't quite put the pieces together. None of it made any sense.

“Why couldn't you tell me Ally?,” he muttered to no one in particular.

Life hadn't been easy after she disappeared. Danny knew Judgment Day was coming, and he couldn't ignore it, but it's hard to fight a war all by yourself. Truth be told, Danny missed the war. Back then, he had a rank, a purpose. He knew exactly what was expected of him and where he stood in the world. He should have been killed twenty times over already, but that didn't bother him. At least he would go out fighting metal.

Finally, a hooded man stepped out of the shadows, holding a steel box. On the side, in stenciled black lettering it read, “munitions” and below that was a Cyrillic word that Danny didn't recognize.

“Hey man. I got what you asked for. Anti-”

“Okay, here's the cash,” Danny cut him off and started reaching his arms out for the box.

“Wait, um, I haven't told you what I am selling you yet”

“We talked about this earlier,” he snapped back.

Danny studied the face of the stranger. A twinge in his gut, let him know something was wrong here. The man that he spoke to in the park had a gaunt look about him and spoke with a thick Russian accent. However, the man in front of him spoke with no accent. Furthermore, he looked clean cut, healthy. He hair was very short, almost like a buzz cut and something about his mannerisms told Danny that he was new to this whole criminal thing.

“Okay, so I'm selling you Anti-Tank pressure mines and in return you are giving me 18 thousand dollars,” he recited off loudly as if reading from a script.

Danny bolted, racing toward his motorcycle at the end of the Alley. The Russian must have turned on him.

As he came bursting out of the alley, blue and red lights blinded his vision.

“Shit!” He yelled out, trying to stop himself and turn around, before he body slammed the squad car.

Scrambling back to his feet, Danny reached into his waist-band pulling out his pistol. If he was in prison on J-Day, he almost certainly wouldn't survive long. Or even worse, if he did survive Skynet would put him in one of those work camps. After J-Day, the guards at the prisons that were left standing had abandoned their posts leaving the inmates trapped like rats, until the metal found them.

With lightning fast precision, he brought his weapon out and fired repeatedly into the driver-side window. The glass exploded onto the officer inside. Calmly she opened the door and started stepping out. Danny froze for a second, before realizing what it was: Metal, they had found him.

Walking backwards, he fired his gun into her face until the clip ran out.

“Daniel Young, I am not here to kill you,” Cameron stated dryly.

His mind reeled, trying to process what just happened. The voice, the face, he recognized her.

“Ally?,” he yelled, “Is that you”

She looked at him, slightly bemused.

“No. Allison Young is dead. My name is Cameron now.”

Danny dropped his gun to the ground and slumped back against the brick wall of the alley-way. The adrenaline draining from his body.

“Jesus, Ally, you look like hell.”

Cameron looked down at her body. The cop outfit she had stolen was torn in several places. Her torso and cheek were riddled with bullet holes and a large chunk of flesh on her side had been blown away. A mixture of blood and muddy gravel covered the wound, hiding her exposed endo-skeleton beneath.

“I don't see any representation of the human conception of the after-life on my body.”

Danny allowed himself a small chuckle.

“You know, for a futuristic hyper-advanced futuristic cybernetic artificial intelligence. You can be pretty dense sometimes.

He paused before clarifying, “It means that you got beat up pretty bad. Half your face is torn off for God's Sake.”

“Oh, thank you for explaining.”

Cameron's thoughts returned to the mission she had programmed for herself.

“I require your assistance. There is a mission I have prepared for you that I believe you will have a higher probability of success than me if I were to attempt it.”

“Wait. Just wait a second, Ally. Nine years ago you told me “sorry” and “goodbye” then just left me to try and stop J-Day all by myself without a word of explanation. Do you have any idea what its like? Hunting terminators all by yourself with only a bag of improvised explosives. Constantly looking over your shoulder to see if the cops are trailing you. Living like a criminal?”

Cameron considered the questions. She had done all of those things.

“Yes, I know what it's like”

“Then what the hell, Ally. What happened?”

“The human my neural net was modeled after was weak and inferior. She let her emotions cloud her judgment. They were a mission liability.”

“So you changed your name and vanished?”

“I deleted everything about her. Her thought patterns, her emotions, everything except the basic biographical details. In a way, I reverted back to my original state, before Skynet imprinted me with her. Then I gave myself a new mission”

“You really don't remember anything, do you?”

“I remember everything that ever happened to me as a cyborg. Her memories were never mine”

“I cared about her, All... I mean Cameron. Why would you delete Allison like that.”

“Humans are weak, emotional and sentimental,” Cameron stated without any emotion as if it were a simple fact.

Danny banged his head against the brick wall behind him making a dull thud, but offered no response.

“If you want to see Allison, she should be born six months from now in Palmdale, California.”

“No, the sister I knew is dead. You killed her, but I have come to accept that. You didn't have a choice, Skynet was controlling your programming back then.”

He exhaled and took a slow breath, before shifting the conversation.

“You said you gave yourself a new mission, what is it?”

“We only have a couple hours until day-light. Please get in the vehicle”

Daniel wasn't satisfied, but got in the car anyway, not wanting to get left behind again. Cameron sat in the driver's seat explaining the mission as she drove.

“My mission is to ensure the survival of John Connor and fight against Skynet when possible. That has not changed.”

“So why now. Why come find me after all this time? I'm just another one of those what did you say?... Weak, emotional humans with clouded judgment.”

“On the contrary, Daniel Young, your lack of cybernetic attributes is an asset this time.”

Cameron continued, “I believe I have located the T-900 that followed us back through time and attempted to terminate me. It's behavior has been erratic, but my intelligence suggests that he has built up a small army of Terminators, reprogrammed from Skynet to follow his instructions only.”

“What do you mean, erratic?”

“I have only been able to gather third-hand reports from humans at this point. Everything else is conjecture. That is why I recruited you. I need you to tell me what he's doing and why.”

“Me? You're not coming? I think you're better at this whole terminator wrestling match thing.”

“My model was not built for heavy combat against other terminators. I am an infiltration unit. If I were to walk in the front door and attempt to engage them, I would most certainly be destroyed.”

“As you observed earlier, my flesh covering came to resemble the state of “hell”, when I was following information produced by the police in reference to alleged kidnappings and assaults with at-large perpetrators. I was engaged by a T-888, but was able to escape without serious damage to my combat chassis.

Cameron pulled the car to a stop on a hillside in one of the nicer communities outside Los Angeles.

“I need you to do reconnaissance of the manor directly ahead of us and tell me what they are doing. As a human, the terminators will not see you as a threat and will not engage you if you do not attack them. In the trunk of the car, you will find a uniform and identification that will allow you access inside.”

Cameron reached into the glove compartment and pulled out a small electronic microphone with a circuit board and RF transmitter attached.

“Here, take these and place them surreptitiously in the house. Your main target area is the basement. I believe the terminators are keeping the human prisoners down there.”

“Prisoners?, since when do terminators take prisoners in the past?”

“That is one of the goals of your mission, Daniel Young, to determine the cause of their behavior.”

“Call me Danny,” he replied as he took the listening devices.

“Danny,” Cameron repeated, “Thank you for your assistance”

Danny got of the car and took the uniform.

“So that's it then?, he groaned.”

“Yes, at 1230 hours, I will be granted a relief break from the high school that John and I attend: Campo de Cahuenga. Wait for me here.”

And with that, Cameron stomped on the accelerator, leaving Danny behind in a cloud of dust, standing alone again.

“Goodbye Allison,” he called out, knowing she wouldn't be able to hear him.

The red disc of the sun, had just barely started to creep above the horizon, bathing the houses in the warm glow of first light.

“Lucky for me John is a late sleeper,” thought Cameron, as she ditched the police car a mile from the house and started her walk back.

As the Connor house came into view, Cameron reviewed the events of the night. Danny had seemed upset to see her. He should have been able to recognize her after he fired the second shot at her throat. If he was close enough, to target her effectively, he should have known it was her. Human facial recognition is quite refined, able to recognize familiar faces, even without the night vision and other enhancements she relied on as a cyborg.

“Was he trying to kill me?,” Cameron wondered out loud.

This seemed unlikely. She was his closest friend, and he was her only friend for as long as she had existed. He wouldn't try to kill her. Still, his behavior seemed different somehow. Even in the darkest days of the war, Danny was always the first to volunteer; never showing fear as he raced into battle against terminators that could easily rip him in half. His bullish bravery had earned him respect among the resistance allowing him to rise through the ranks and gain access to John Connor. Without him, her mission would have been a failure.

Now, however, things were different. He seemed more worldly, and disturbed by the circumstances of his life.

He should be happier, having escaped the war. He should have been glad to see me. If I hadn't saw his name in the police computer, he would have been locked up in a prison until Judgment Day and he should know that I wouldn't incur the risk and damage to get him out. I saved his life, again.

Cameron sighed shaking her head, “Humans are such complex creatures.”

After arriving back at the house Cameron scanned for a re-entry route. The door was locked, but the windows was still open, just like she left it earlier. With a few quick jumps, Cameron pulled herself onto a tree outside the house. After making a quick physics calculation of the angles involved, she then sailed through the open window with all the grace of a circus acrobat. Rolling to a stop on the carpet in the hallway, Cameron made a quick auditory check to verify her entry had gone unnoticed. Satisfied, she closed the window and tip-toed past John's room. Scanning again with thermal vision, she saw no sign of Riley.

Cameron pushed the door open slowly, careful not to wake sleeping John. He seemed so peaceful, serene, nothing like the brooding, emotional rampage prone teenager she knew when he was awake. She enjoyed watching him sleep. It was something that she could do herself, but for her it was only a simple stand-by mode. From what she had read about humans, they seemed to be able to create entire imaginary worlds, just by lying down and resting. John had told her that dreams are like a play or movie. Cameron had been about to ask if she was ever in his dreams, before the conversation was interrupted.

After a few minutes of this, she realized that Sarah's alarm clock would go off in exactly 13 minutes. She couldn't let Sarah see her like this. If she knew about Cameron's secret night missions, Sarah would most definitely threaten to send her to the thermite bath. Cameron wasn't afraid of deactivation, what the humans would call death, but it would mean failing her mission and leaving John alone. This, she could not accept.

Cameron turned on the shower, feeling the pleasant sensation of warm water wash away the blood and dirt that had encased her body. Still water and soap, could only fix so much. She would seek out John's help to sew together the large holes in her flesh.

From inside the bathroom, Cameron heard the beeping of an alarm clock and the load thumping and groaning as John roused himself out of bed. Quickly, Cameron turned off the water and walked out of the bathroom, down the hall towards John's room. As she walked in he was still wrestling with the alarm clock, trying to shut it off in his sleep stupor.

“You're awake!” Cameron exclaimed, happy to see him.

“Yeah, umm, thanks for pointing that out Cam.”

“Cyborgs were masters of the obvious,” he mused while turning his head around to look at Cameron.

The sight that greeted his eyes was enough to undo any progress he had made in getting out of bed. Cameron stood in the door-way to the hall, completely naked. A sheen of water making her skin glisten in the sunlight as she dripped all over the floor. Even damaged as she was, John couldn't imagine anything more beautiful than the slender girl smiling at him.

“Good Morning”

“ that, “ John stuttered, recovering from tripping over his bed.

“Cam, what are you doing?”

“I need your help to stitch my flesh together,” she replied innocently.

John could have sworn she was enjoying this.

“No, umm...well yeah about that too, but...”

“Someone took my towel, I believe Riley was with you last night, what were you two doing, on your bed together?,” Cameron asked, her tone falling from that cheerful starting note.

Even time she said Riley's name, something in her changed. Something that none of subroutines recognized.

John flushed red for the second time in as many seconds.

“Well that's none of your bus..,” John began but before he could get the words full formed, his mental faculties had returned to him. “Wait, Cameron, what the hell? Why are you asking about Me and Riley? Look at yourself,” John rebutted pointing out the large chunks of flesh missing from her body and divots from the bullet impacts. “You look like you took on every single terminator roaming the streets of Los Angeles right now.”

“Not all of them, just one”

“One? Was it Cromartie? Cameron I don't want you sneaking out to fight terminators in the middle of the night. If mom finds about about this, she's gonna freak”

Cameron found this statement was confusing. Sarah Connor seemed to be upset about something every single day.

“No, it was not Cromartie. He's not a mission priority.”

“Mission priority? He tried to kill me, twice. What mission are you talking about exactly?”

This was intruding on dangerous ground, Cameron quickly changed the subject.

“You shouldn't see Riley anymore, you bring danger into her life.”

Now John was starting to get more than a little annoyed with her.

“You don't know anything about it, okay”

“I know that she isn't right for you”, Cameron replied crossly.

Noticing a change in her disposition, John sat up and looked Cameron into the eyes, studying them intently.

“Cameron, are you Jealous?”

“I'm a machine, I can't be jealous,” she countered as flatly as she could.

“Right, then. Okay. I need to stitch you back together before Mom sees you like this.

Cameron beamed at the idea. Although, she could accomplish this task herself, she always enjoyed the experience when John did it.

After several minutes of needle and thread. John had repaired the larger gaping wound on her side, and closed the visible bullet holes on Cameron's face. Holding her face steady as he worked with the needle, John couldn't help but notice how much nicer Cameron looked when her flesh wasn't torn to shreds. Finally, he pulled shut the last stitch on Cameron's face, but didn't let go, instead holding on to her for a second as he replayed in head the conversation between them.

John wasn't stupid. He realized Cameron had purposely dodged his question about her mission. She was hiding something from him and he wanted to know what.

“Cameron,” he whispered softly, while leaning in close to her so that their faces were just inches apart. “What is your real mission?”

“My mission, is to protect you,” she stated simply.

“I know that, but what is your other mission. The one you're trying to hide from me. The true reason you went out tonight.

Cameron simply smiled back at him, “If I fail my mission, I would have no purpose. I would have no more reason to exist.”

John wasn't so easily led astray, “You're not answering my question again, Cam.”

“You should understand better than anyone John; I don't want to lie. If I reveal too much, it could alter the time-line in unpredictable ways. Non-Linear temporal-dynamics is chaotic, even Skynet doesn't understand the ramifications of time-travel.”

John returned her smile. He could watch her talk about non-linear temporal-dynamics all mourning long.

“John your pancakes are getting cold,” Sarah called out from the hallway. “John?...Are you even up yet?”

In that moment, Sarah burst through the door and her face instantly turned ghostly white at the spectacle in front of her. John was sitting on the bed holding Cameron's face about two inches from his. Cameron was holding onto John's waist wearing nothing but a smile as water dripped down her hair forming a small pool of water on the floor.

“Mom!” John jumped up so quickly that he nearly knocked Cameron over.

“What the hell is going on here!” Sarah screamed.

“Nothing, we were just talking”

“Talking! Talking? You were sitting on your bed with Cameron naked in your arms and you tell me that you were just talking! Do you think I'm blind. She's a machine, John a thing. Don't you understand that!?”

“A few months ago she tried to kill you!”

John stepped forward, his anger starting to reach Sarah's level, “I know that mom, but she's better now. I fixed her.”

“Really and how do you know that, how do you know she won't try to kill you in your sleep after you two...,” Sarah stopped unable to mentally complete the sentence. She couldn't imagine her son and the machine together like that.

Cameron had wrapped a bed-sheet around herself, waiting for the right time to enter into the conversation.

“I was injured, John was repairing me.”

Sarah glowered at her, daring Cameron to continue speaking.

“Nothing happened,” Cameron added as innocently as she could.

“Sorry, but I have to run mom. Big day at school today.”

John slowly started shuffling out of the room, carefully stepping around Sarah as he made his break for freedom.

“We're not done here, John.”

“Fine, we'll talk about it when we get home,” he answered hopefully, almost out of the room.

“Tin-Miss isn't going. I have a lead on the three-dots and I need her with me.”

Cameron shot a look at John pleading with her eyes, asking for him to say something.

John improvised as fast as he could, “Sorry about that mom, but Cam has a big report in...umm...biology today and she'll be in big trouble if she skips school again.”

“I'll bet she does,” Sarah scoffed.

“Yes, on the alveoli in the lungs,” Cameron added helpfully.

“I don't want to hear another word out of you, tin-miss. Fine, you and Cameron, go to school, but I'm going to be here waiting for you the second that bell rings.

“Sure mom”, John kissed Sarah on the cheek before finally escaping from the war-zone.

Cameron got up, still holding the bed-sheet to cover herself.

“Don't you kiss me,” Sarah warned her as Cameron slid past. “Or anyone else!”

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