Searchers of the Lost

by sidspappy

searchers_lost

NOTES: Continued from my story "Broken Glass." Though the overall story is John/Cameron romance, this particular chapter is lacking in any romantic progress. Indeed, Cameron really only appears once here, and she's not even conscious! Still, this is an attempt at true story-driven fanfic, so please bear with me. No adult content, save for some profanity. Also, please be aware of a side-character who is quite the racist, and I want to make it clear he does not speak for me when it comes to his views on people.

Hope you enjoy it as much as I do writing it!


07:40am

"John?" she called out to him. He shook his throbbing head slowly, trying to surface from a deep, dark sea of unconsciousness.

“Wake up, John,” she said. It was her. He just knew it was her voice. And hearing her voice made him very happy.

He awoke, finding himself in a stark white hospital room, on an equally white bed. He was relieved to find Cameron sitting there next to him, looking none the worse for wear, giving him a look of loving concern.

“How are you feeling?” she asked in a tiny voice. Her beautiful brown eyes gleamed with unshed tears. With a smile he replied, “I'm feeling fine - better than fine, actually - now that I know you're okay Cam.”

Her brow furrowed in confusion, “Cam?” she said.

Something was wrong. What was wrong? John wondered. Then a cold, creeping realization came over him.

And so he opened his eyes. Again.

He was still in a hospital room, but it was different than the one he’d dreamt of. The love of his life was no longer in front of him. Instead, Riley Dawson sat there, looking at him with concern - not the tender concern from Cameron he saw in his dream, but the distress of not being important enough to think about in a time of need.

"Riley? What are you doing here?” he asked her, trying to hide his disappointment. Riley leaned forward and said, “I've been here since last night. I called you and your Mom answered. She told me what happened.” John looked around and asked, “Where's Cameron?”

With a shrug and a tilt of her head, Riley responded with "I don't know. Your uncle said you left with her yesterday afternoon, but…" That wasn't the answer John was expecting, but it was no less unwelcome. "But what?" he prompted. The young girl seemed hesitant to continue, but she finally told him, "After the accident, no one could find her. She wasn't in the car."

The accident. Suddenly, flashes of memory rushed at him. He felt, rather than saw, the looming presence rushing toward him. He remembered Cameron's scream. Then came the excruciating feeling of being dumped into a cement mixer on overdrive. Then, there was nothing…nothing until now.

What the hell happened to her?

His tortured head conjured up a horrifying scenario. What if she got damaged again? What if she wandered off somehow? The imagery of a car explosion, the glitch in Cam's programming, the attempts on his life all returned to him in a horrifying wave of recollection.

Not again. No. Impossible, he told himself resolutely. If she had turned again, she would have certainly killed him in the car. He tried to get up and immediately had to lie back down. His head felt it like it was going to burst like an overripe melon. He held the side of his head with his hand as he collapsed back onto the bed.

Riley stood at the same time as he sat up, and was assisting him as she spoke. “John, you've got a serious concussion. You need to rest.” He gently pushed her hands out of the way, saying, “No, I've gotta find Cameron!” He tried to turn himself in place. He managed to flip the retaining bar on the bed, and was just about to slide his feet off when Sarah Connor and Derek Reese came into the room. They had arrived just in time to stop John from rolling out headfirst.

Sarah reached out to push her son back down gently. “John, no. Come on, you're in no condition to get out of this bed!” she scolded him. But he didn't want to hear it. “No, Mom, where is she? I've gotta find her!” He struggled feebly against his mother’s hands. Sarah gave her son's friend an embarrassed glance. “Riley, would you mind giving us a minute here?” she asked kindly.

Riley turned and reluctantly picked up her handbag before facing them again. “Uh, sure, no problem. John, I'll come by later to see how you're doing, okay?” John stopped struggling, feeling guilty for ignoring his friend. He reached out and held her hand in his. “Yeah. Thanks for coming Riley. I'm sorry for everything I'm putting you through.”

“Oh, come on. Who else do I have to fuss over, Mr. Cat Fancy?” she reassured him with a laugh. She leaned over and gave him a peck on the cheek before walking past Sarah and Derek and heading out the door.

“Cat Fancy?” Derek repeated, with a look on his face like he’d just sucked on a lemon. John rolled his eyes. He realized how stupid it sounded. “It's a long story. Mom, I –“ But his mother interrupted him before he could continue. “John, we've been everywhere, but we can't find her. The police have been around to the crash site, but we checked it out after they left; there’s no sign of her at all.” John shook his head in disbelief. "How can that be? What happened? Did we get hit by a car?"

“Yes, it was abandoned after it hit you; the driver was gone. And the investigating officer said the truck was apparently stolen. They're filing it as a hit-and-run, and we're hoping it'll get buried - we can't stand out and attract unwanted attention.” With a pout on his face, John said, “That still doesn't help us find Cameron.“

Sarah stifled the urge to lecture her son about his attitude. She knew what he was going through. “What we need to do right now is make sure you're okay. The doctor said your concussion was serious, he’s optimistic that there will be no permanent damage, though. You'll experience some nausea and headaches, but if you stay in bed and rest, you'll be discharged soon. They just want to keep you here for 24 hours for observation.”

As much as he hated it, John did feel like he was going to puke any second, although he wasn't sure it was the concussion that was causing the nausea. He laid his head back on the pillow. "You were lucky to get out with just the knock on your head. You could have been killed," Derek was quick to point out. But John felt anything but fortunate at this point. "Yeah, I'm lucky," he said with a tinge of sarcasm.

With a tender smile, Sarah brushed some hair away from the stitches on her son’s battered forehead. “Now, is there anything I can get you?” she asked. With a pleading look that nearly broke her heart, John replied. “Yeah, you can get my girlfriend back for me, Mom.” Sarah leaned in to kiss her son on the cheek. “I know, John. I'm working on it,” she promised.

-------------------------------------------

As they headed down the long hallway to the front entrance of the hospital, Derek spoke. “So, what do you think?” Sarah gave him a shrug and replied, “I think our best bet is to track down who stole that truck. Seems awfully convenient for a hit and run to happen in such an isolated area at that time of day.”

Derek shook his head. “Come on, you're reaching. It's gotta be a coincidence,” he protested. Walking through the double doors, Sarah turned her head to look at Derek as she said, “Maybe. And maybe this was done on purpose.”

“For what reason?” Derek asked. “Does killing John require a reason?" Sarah shot back. "We've been living with that hanging over our heads for years.”

He gave her a sidelong glance and a darkly ironic smirk. “Well if you're right, then the only problem is that John's still alive, and now we've got a missing Terminator...” Something in Derek's tone bothered her. “What are you suggesting?" she asked pointedly. "That Cameron had something to do with this?”

Derek raised his hands in mock innocence. “I didn't say it.”

Sarah gave him a frown. “No, you didn't have to. Terminators aren't sneaky like this. If Cameron wanted to kill him - or if any other Terminator did, they would have come in through the front door. No, if it wasn't just an accident, then there's a human hand in this, I know it.”

“So what's the next move?” he asked. It never ceased to amaze him how resolute Sarah could be when situations like this came up. His impression was that this woman really came into her own during times of stress.

Sarah didn’t disappoint Derek, saying, “I go home and get John's computer. He's got a lot of time lying on his back, so maybe I can get him to dig up some info on that truck.”

------------------------------------------

Riley dialed the phone number from memory. She stood at a pay phone just outside the hospital entrance, shivering in the cold morning air. The phone on the other end rang a few times before it was picked up.

“Hello?” the woman’s voice said, betraying a heavy Australian accent.

“Hey,” Riley answered.

“Hey yourself. How's things coming along?”

“John's in the hospital. Doctor says he's got a concussion and some cuts and bruises, but he should be released tomorrow.”

“Good, our plan worked then.”

“I guess so.”

“Come on sweetie, everything's fine. Loverboy is fine. I didn't hurt him too much. Now you just do the job you were brought here for and you'll be okay.”

Riley fidgeted nervously with the telephone cord before responding. “Jesse, I don't wanna do this,” she pleaded. And as expected, the young girl could feel barely hidden rage emanating through the phone connection.

“Remember what we talked about? That your time here is dependent on your usefulness?” Jesse said this nonchalantly, but Riley wasn’t fooled – not anymore. She shivered again, and it wasn’t due to the cold. She knew what Jesse was getting at.

“I know. I-I just...” She didn’t want to hurt John anymore. She cared about him enough that the mission just didn’t seem right any longer. But she was trapped.

“You're just out of practice. You haven't seen John in a while,” Jesse reassured her charge. She knew that the dumb blonde just needed some coddling and then she’d be in apples. She switched the phone to her other ear and continued. “Don't worry, sweetie. Everything will come back to you - like riding a bicycle. You like riding bicycles, don't you?”

Riley shut her eyes tightly. All she wanted to do was cry. But she’d done too much of that already. Now the only thing left for her was to be useful and complete her mission. “Yes...Okay,” she mumbled reluctantly.

“Okay, what?” Jesse was tiring of this round and round she was forced to endure.

"I'll do the job - like I'm supposed to."

"That's my girl. Now, run along. I've got some business to attend to. Don't call me. I'll get in contact with you when you're needed."

"All right. Bye."

Jesse hung up the phone and put it in her pocket. She held an object in her other hand and she stared at it in contemplation. She held it up to the light in her hotel suite and rotated it slowly.

It was a Terminator Model TOK-715 CPU. And she'd removed it from that damn metal bitch's head.

--------------------------------------------

9:10am

Only the soft clacking of plastic keys broke the quiet in the brightly lit hospital room. John worked his cyber magic as he always did - with a fast laptop and a good wireless connection. "Okay, here," he said, as he pointed to the screen. Sarah, who sat next to him in a vinyl chair, leaned in closer. "The report says that the truck was registered to a Nolan Johnson, 317 Acacia. Stolen at approximately eight o’clock yesterday morning."

Sarah glanced at John. "Anything else?"

John shook his head. "Johnson supposedly has an alibi - he was in the middle of jury duty while the truck was stolen right off the street in front of the county courthouse. Johnson’s alibi checked out with the other jurors, plus all of the officials in the courtroom. He wasn't the driver," he concluded with a shrug.

"I guess that rules him out. Any witnesses?" Sarah leaned back and rubbed her eyes with backs of her hands. "None so far," John replied.

"Security cameras?" She guessed that her brilliant son would have covered that, but she felt she had to ask anyway. "The report says that there were none aimed at the street," he replied with a tired sigh.

"Well. Not much to go on then. Pretty ballsy move, stealing it off the street in front of a courthouse," Sarah admitted. She stood up and walked to the window. Suddenly, she thought of something. "Maybe..." she said, trailing off. John looked at her. "What?" he asked. She turned to glance at him. "I've been there - to the courthouse, I mean. I remember a lot of homeless guys always hanging out right across the street. Maybe someone saw something."

Derek, who had been lurking in the corner of the room, crossed his arms. "You're reaching, Sarah - again." She turned on him, giving him a flash of her fiery green eyes. "Dammit Derek, do you have any better ideas?"

He stopped leaning against the wall and moved closer to Sarah. "Yeah. We sweat the owner out. Maybe he does know something." Sarah shook her head at him. "I'll take my chances with the bums first," she told him. "Suit yourself," he shot back, irritated at her offhand dismissal of his input.

Sarah turned back to her son and rubbed his arm. “Good job, John. Now, get some rest.” She told him, and stood up to leave. He stretched out his arms and yawned, indicating that rest would be welcomed.

“Mom?” he said. She turned back and answered, “Yeah?” John gave her a broad smile and said “Thanks.” She returned the smile with one of her own, saying “You're welcome...Just get better, okay?” He nodded, making a silent promise to do his best.

Derek passed John on his way out. “You heard your mother,” he said with a wink. John grinned at his uncle. “Thanks, Derek.” The older man held up his hand in acknowledgment as he rounded the doorway and disappeared from sight.

John fell back against the pillow with a heavy sigh. He missed Cameron terribly, and it was all he could do not to burst out into tears from sadness and frustration. He knew his mother and uncle were doing all they could to find her, but if she hadn’t turned up yet, it wasn’t likely she would be found easily.

He almost wished she had turned again. At least he would know she’d come back to him, and he would be able to see her again. He believed if that ever happened, he’d let her kill him. He realized that he would literally die for her. He loved her that much.

Where are you, Cam? I need you. He thought to himself, as he impotently beat his fist against his mattress.

------------------------------------------

Sarah and Derek stood on the sidewalk fronting the steps to the courthouse. They looked across the street at a large empty lot. A huge billboard on steel poles rose out of the dusty ground at the lot entrance. It proclaimed "Coming Soon! Palace Mall - The newest shopping experience from Sokolov Builders! Opening this summer, 2005!" The board was dirty and covered with spray painted graffiti.

Sarah crossed the street, followed reluctantly by Derek. As she stepped onto the curb, she was assaulted by the smell - the familiar stench of sweat, grime, alcohol, and rotting garbage all mixed together in a wonderful fragrance that made Sarah want to gag.

Derek walked up behind Sarah and was struck by wave of nostalgia. The smell was part of his life for nearly two decades, and although he vowed he would never miss it, it took him back to his life in the future and immediately made him think of Kyle...and Jesse.

He shook his head slightly, silently admonishing himself for his misplaced sentimentality. He prepared himself to back Sarah's play - although he was sure she could handle anything these mooks could dish out.

Sarah approached the group of five homeless men gathered in a semicircle under the battered billboard. They looked up at her with a mixture of fascination, suspicion, and not a little bit of lust.

Trying not to shudder with revulsion, Sarah tried on her best fake smile. She spoke to them in a casual, friendly manner. “Hey guys, I got a question I'm wondering if one of you could answer for me.”

One of the bums stood up from his overturned vegetable crate and shuffled over to Sarah. He seemed to be the leader of this ragtag group. He was a short, rotund man with dark features and very little hair on his head. He had a graying, scraggly beard. Sarah judged him to be in his late forties, though being homeless could take a toll on a person, she knew.

“Ay' pretty lady. Sure, ask away,” the man said, smiling broadly and showing Sarah a full set of rotting teeth.

Sarah wanted to turn away, her eyes burning from the noxious fumes of the booze he was veritably chugging. But, she pressed on. “Um, yesterday morning, a big red Dodge truck was stolen right across the street from here. Did any of you see anything?”

“Ha! Dem cops already been here, lady. And dey axed us da same questions,” the man said cordially.

The report she saw on John’s computer said the locals were questioned, but did not provide any useful information. “And they said you guys didn’t see anything,” she confirmed.

“Well…” the man said noncommittally, holding his hands out to his sides and shrugging dramatically.

Although Sarah didn’t want to play this game, she knew all too well that she had to go along if she wanted to get anywhere. “Well, what?” she asked, trying not to let her irritation show.

“Well we told dem dat if dey want us to talk, it don’t come cheap, see?”

“And?”

“And at first dey told us we can go down to da station and talk. Ha, dey didn’t fool us. We just told dem feel free to haul us in den, right guys?” They all limply pumped their fists in apathetic victory. “Yeah, we told em, didn’t we Bud?” one of them said, sarcastically.

The man called Bud just shrugged off the insult. “Yeah, so den dey said, forget it. Dey said ‘you guys don’t know shit and are just trying to bullshit us.’ And so dey took off.”

Sarah shook her head in mild confusion. “So, let me get this straight. You guys saw something, but the cops wouldn’t pay you, so you didn’t talk?”

“Well, pretty lady, like I said, info like dat be worth sumptin, dontcha tink?”

With an exasperated sigh, Sarah turned to her companion. For his part, Derek tried to hide his smile. “Don’t look at me, I’m just the muscle here. This is your show.”

Rolling her eyes, Sarah reached into her pocket and pulled out a small wad of cash. She slid a hundred-dollar bill from it and held it out to Bud. “This ought to keep you pirates soaked in booze for a good while,” she said with a slight frown.

Like a cartoon, Bud licked his lips as he stared at the money. The only thing missing was the rubbing together of hands. Sarah guessed it had been a long time since Bud had even seen a hundred-dollar bill, if he ever had at all. All of his friends stood up in anticipation as well. Derek moved a bit closer to Sarah, sliding his right hand under his fatigue jacket and gripping the Beretta inside of his waistband.

Bud reached out and virtually snatched the money out of Sarah’s hand. He held it up and examined it in the morning sunlight, as if determining its authenticity.

Gritting her teeth slightly, Sarah said patiently “I hope your information will be worth it, otherwise, my associate here will have to extract the information some other way.” She gave Derek a sly glance, and he knew instantly his role in this performance. He slowly pulled out his gun and held it casually against his right thigh.

All eyes were drawn to the Beretta like a magnet, and they immediately understood what was expected of them: no funny business. Bud stopped his charade and conspiratorially leaned closer to Sarah. As much as she hated to get nearer to the offensive little man, she did the same. “You ain’t the first pretty lady to show up here, y’know?” he said, as if the statement was supposed to explain everything. Sarah looked into the man’s red, bleary eyes and wondered if he wasn’t also crazy. “What do you mean?” she asked.

“Well, yesterday mornin, we was just sittin here like always, see? And den right over dere on da sidewalk, dis hot babe be standin dere, lookin across da street at da courthouse.”

“Hot babe?” Sarah wasn't sure she'd heard him correctly. His enunciation left a lot to be desired. Bud answered, “Yeah, she had long black hair like you, but she was younger den you – not so old.” She could hear Derek’s snicker in the background, and she wondered how she ever got herself into this situation. “Gee, thanks,” she said to Bud.

Bud ignored the comment. "Anyway, she be lookin all serious, staring across da street. So’s I go up to her and make a little conversation, y’know? Maybe hit her up for some coin. And den you know what dat slant-eyed bitch says to me? She says, ‘Rack off, ya damn dero!’”

Derek’s blood ran cold. “Wait, what did she say again?”

“She said ‘rack off, ya damn dero!’ Don't have no idea what dat means, but I remember cause she had an accent, y’know?”

“What kind of accent?” Sarah wanted to know. But all she got was a shrug from Bud. “I dunno. But she was foreign, dat’s for sure.”

Sarah frowned slightly as she asked Bud, “You said slant-eye, was she Asian?” Bud could only purse his lips and hold his hands out in a helpless gesture. “I guess. She coulda been a Jap, or a Chink, or a Slopehead, I dunno.”

Great. What a humanitarian we’ve got here, Sarah couldn’t help but think. What could she realistically expect from a homeless vagabond, anyway? She tried to keep on track and not lose focus. “An Asian woman with a foreign accent…okay. So what does she have to do with the truck?” she asked.

The bum blew her off with a distracted wave of his hand. “Yeah, I’m getting to dat, 'kay? So’s she takes off across da street. Den I don’t see her no more. Next ting I know I sees her open up da truck and drive away. I remember cause, I’m tinking ‘hot babe, but what a bitch!’”

“So you didn’t know the truck was stolen until the cops came by to question you?” Sarah asked. “Nope,” Bud said confidently, crossing his arms. She continued by saying, “And you don’t remember anything else about this Asian woman, anything helpful?” Bud shook his head. “Nope. Only that she headed west on Pico.” Bud pointed a finger down the street.

Sarah put her hands on her hips and let out a breath of frustration. She had more than when she showed up, but how this bit of information would help her to find out who was behind the attack on John and if it was related to Cameron’s kidnapping, she had no idea.

She tried to put on her best face. “Well, Bud, thanks for your help. If you can possibly manage it, try not to spend it all on booze, okay?” Bud gave her another rotten grin. “Yeah, tanks lady. We’ll be sure to get a nice manicure on da way to the store!” She gave the bum an amused smirk as she walked away from the lot.

“So what do you think?” Derek asked, hiding his growing suspicion. "I think I just got robbed," Sarah responded, with a gleam in her eye. Derek gave her a little laugh. “Yeah, me too. So what do you wanna do now?” Sarah shook her head. “I have no idea. I’m going to the hospital and check on John. Maybe he can dig up some more leads from the police report.”

Derek scratched his head awkwardly. “Um, I’m gonna go check on a couple of things, I'm still in contact with some of the informants we used to use. Maybe I can get somewhere with the physical description of this mysterious Asian woman.” She gave him an encouraging nod. “Yeah, okay. Sounds good. I’ll see you later then.”

“Yeah, later.” Derek had to try not to flat-out run to his truck. As he walked away from Sarah, he took out his phone and speed-dialed Jesse. The line rang.

…And rang. "Come on, Jesse!" he muttered under his breath. The phone rang once more before Derek heard the call connect.

“Hello?” a feminine voice said.

“Jesse!” Derek blurted out.

“Hey babe, what’s going on?” she seemed calm and collected, but Derek knew how cool Jesse could be, especially after doing things that made some of his other soldiers faint.

“Where are you?” Derek said with barely restrained frustration.

“Out. Why, do you need me?” She was being coy, and that got Derek wondering.

“Yeah, I need to meet with you, we gotta talk.”

“Ooh. Sounds serious. Sure you don’t wanna just spit it out?” she joked.

But Derek wasn’t in the mood. “No, not on the phone. We gotta meet.”

“When? Now?” Jesse seemed to take the hint and her response took a more businesslike tone.

“Yeah.”

“Well, I’ll tell you what. Meet me in a couple of hours at the hotel, and we can talk all you want."

Derek was silent. He had to think about this. He had to figure out how to approach this very carefully. "Okay. See you in a couple of hours, then."

“Bye.” Jesse broke the connection. Derek jumped into the truck and fired it up. He had to get to his storage locker. He had a computer set up there and he would need it if he was going to figure out where Jesse would be over the next two hours.

-------------------------------------------------

Jesse snapped her phone shut. She held it to her chin, deep in thought. There was something in Derek’s voice. Though he was trying not to let it show, she detected an urgency - a faint panic that she suspected was directed at her.

No, you’re just being paranoid. This mission was critical, and she was arriving at the culmination of months of work. It was natural to feel stress, she convinced herself.

She put the phone in her pocket and turned to the person she had been speaking to before she was interrupted by Derek’s call.

“Sorry for the interruption,” she told the tall man across from her. The man smiled at her reassuringly. “It’s no problem at all. Shall we complete this transaction?”

“Of course,” she answered. She pulled out a small metal box out of the duffel bag she brought with her. She handed it over to the man. He was over six feet tall, thin, but also muscular. He was very handsome, and Jesse would have been all over him if it hadn’t been for Derek.

The man opened the box and peered at its contents. He poked at the advanced computer chip nestled inside. “Satisfied?” she asked. He looked up and nodded once. “This appears to be the item we discussed.”

“Then I’ve completed the mission?” she asked hopefully. The man smiled again. “Your duty to the Resistance is very much appreciated. Your mission is a complete success.”

“Then…I'll get what I asked for?” Jesse tried not to look so desperate.

But the man just seemed amused by her restraint. “Certainly. Returning you to the future would be an expensive and resource-consuming exercise – one that is rarely performed. It would not be in the interests of the Resistance to bring you back.”

Jesse couldn’t hold back her own smile. “That’s wonderful news.”

“I’m glad you think so,” he replied warmly. “Well, then. Since we’ve completed our transaction, I’ll take your leave, if you don’t mind. Thank you, Jesse, and good luck.” He held out his hand, and Jesse took it gratefully. She was finally getting what she wanted. She was never going to have to go back.

The man turned to leave, but suddenly Jesse remembered something. “Wait! What about the body? Don’t you want that as well?” The man gave her a smirk and said, “Not at all. My advice to you is to burn it.” She was slightly taken aback by his statement, but recovered quickly. “Oh. Well, all right then.”

The man nodded and smiled. “Thank you for your time!” he said and walked briskly through the door. Jesse stared at where the man had been and frowned, something about what he said seemed out of place, but she realized she didn’t have much time before she had to meet Derek, so she had to get started.

Now, where did I store all the thermite? As Jesse poked and prodded among the stored items in her rented container space, she thought back to how she ended up here in this time and place.

Her instructions when she arrived in this time period was to prevent the Terminator known as Cameron from getting too close to John Connor. Her influence over John would have serious and detrimental effects in the future.

She was to accomplish this mission at any cost. From the beginning, Jesse planned the mission as an infiltration – recruiting the tunnel rat Riley Dawson to become John’s seductress. She was to distract John from Cameron. And for a while that subtle plan had worked. But once Riley returned from Mexico, everything fell apart.

It was then that she became desperate, finding that Cameron was getting too close to John. She knew it was only a matter of time before John truly became inseparable from Cameron, and nothing her inept blonde did would be able to overcome that. She knew she had to take drastic measures.

And so she did. She began meticulously surveilling the Connor house and following the young couple around. She knew something was going to happen when John and his metal girlfriend went shopping for fancy clothes. Jesse decided to wait until the both of them were heading out in the same car at the right time of day before springing her trap.

Jesse waited for days at the top of a rise overlooking the house. She didn’t want to think of the hours she spent hidden in the grass, listening to the electronic bugs she’d had Riley place in the house. Finally, the day she’d been planning for was coming. She stole the huge truck she was going to need to pull off the attack the very morning of the “date.”

Feelings of revulsion toward John Connor boiled up within her. How could a man be so sick as to fall in love with metal? As much as she wanted to kill the bastard, Connor’s death wasn’t in the mission parameters. Granted, ramming a truck into a car wasn’t the most subtle and risk-free method of isolating and subduing the target, but with Jesse’s talent for driving, she managed it beautifully, if she did say so herself.

With Connor incapacitated, any investigation by Sarah or Derek into Cameron's disappearance would be hindered by their distraction over John's health and recovery. If she had killed Connor, then it would have been an even better diversion, damn her instructions to the contrary. She didn't place any faith in The Savior of the Resistance being the only human who could pull off a victory against the tin cans. The secret cadre that sent her back would be a perfect substitute in place of the ridiculous notion that the human race needed another messiah to deliver them from doom.

Her phone began to ring. She pulled it out of her pocket and flipped it open. “Yeah,” she said brusquely. Jesse hoped it wasn’t Riley again. She’d have to do something about her, now that the mission was over.

“Hey, babe,” came Derek’s dulcet tones. Jesse grinned. “Whatsa matter Reese? Can't get enough of me, can ya?" she joked. She could practically see him smiling as he replied, "Yeah, you caught me. Um, listen..." Jesse realized with dread that something was wrong – she could sense it. "Yes?"

After a short silence, he continued. "Do you ever have regrets? You know, things you've done, things you wish you could change?" She had no idea what her lover was getting at, but she decided to go along with it. She stopped looking for the thermite and sat down cross-legged in a corner of the storage container.

"Sure, I do. With our lives, how could we not?" she responded. On the other side of the line, Derek sighed as he replied, "Yeah. Sometimes, I don't feel like I'm being the man I could be. Like I should be better than I am. Do you know what I mean?" Jesse nodded before realizing he couldn’t see her. "I used to feel that way, but not anymore. Not after I met you," Jesse said tenderly. "Derek, come on; what brought this up? What's the matter?"

He shook his head. "I don't know. It's this thing happening with John. He's pretty broken up about...you know." Jesse squirmed on the floor. She was starting to feel guilt - though she told herself she had nothing to feel guilty about. "So how is The Savior doing?" She knew Derek hated it when she referred to John like that, but she didn't give a rat's arse about it right now.

"Physically, he's fine, but..." Derek reached out to click the touchpad on the laptop he was sitting in front of. "Jesse, what the hell happened to Cameron?" For a split second, Jesse feared she'd been found out. Then she realized that his query was purely rhetorical. "Who can say? They always turn eventually. And when they do..." she trailed off.

"Yeah," Derek replied knowingly. He tried to think of what to say next, but she beat him to it. "Hey, I'll be seeing you in a while,” she said. “We can talk, and maybe after...well, maybe we can do some communicating that doesn't require us jabbering on like a couple of goddamn kookaburras."

She heard Derek's melodious laugh on the other end. Oh, how she loved it when he did that. She vowed now that she was free, she'd spend more time making him laugh. "You never did tell me what those sound like," he said with a smile. The bird in question was native to Australia, and made quite a serious racket when it wanted to. Whenever Jesse wanted Derek to shut up, she told him to "stop squawking like a damn kookaburra."

"Well I'll see you in a little while then," Derek said. "Yeah, see you in a bit," she responded. Derek hit the END key on his phone and tossed it on the desk. It was close, but he'd kept Jesse on the line long enough to determine the cell towers that were carrying her call. The program running on his laptop triangulated the approximate area she was located in during their conversation. According to the map, it was right in the middle of an industrial area, one where he was sure would have cargo containers that a person could use to hide any number of activities.

Picking up his phone, he dumped it into his jacket pocket. Then, he pulled out the Beretta and ejected the magazine into his free hand. As always, it was a full clip. He slammed it back in and racked the slide, chambering a round. Before shoving the gun back into his waistband, he flipped the safety on, which dropped the hammer and made the weapon safe.

"Life's a bitch, and then you die," he repeated the mantra he used to recite almost daily to his squad, a lifetime away in a battered land far from this paradise. Derek had a feeling that his life was going to be turned upside down once again, and the faster he got there, the sooner he'd get it over with. He hit the light switch on the wall and quickly walked through the locker door, shutting it firmly behind him.

------------------------------------------------

Jesse had finally located the thermite powder she was looking for. She opened the plastic storage container to confirm its contents. Satisfied, she carried the container outside of the warehouse that housed the shipping container she rented as a storage facility. It was virtually identical to the setup where she detained Charles Fisher, but she couldn't use that location, as Derek knew of its existence.

Directly outside of the warehouse, in an isolated corner, she'd set up a trough, made up of concrete cinderblock walls, filled with sand. It resembled nothing more than a concrete sandbox. Making sure she was indeed alone, she went over to her truck and opened the tailgate. On the truck bed, was a black vinyl body bag. Jesse pulled and struggled with the bag until she was able to lift it upon her shoulders.

With some grunting and staggering, she was able to carry the bag to the trough and unceremoniously dump it onto the sand. She straightened, massaging her aching back muscles with her fingers. Wiping the perspiration from her brow, she leaned over again to unzip the bag.

Inside, Cameron Baum lay in repose. She looked as peaceful as an innocent teenager in deep slumber. Still in her peach silk dress - now torn and stained beyond repair - she was indeed a beautiful creature, Jesse had to admit. In this solemn, private moment, she had difficulty dredging up the burning hatred she reserved for metal, and this example in particular.

She just looked like a pretty girl who had fallen asleep. Jesse brushed a few errant strands of Cameron's hair out of her face. There was very little blood, aside from a few stains on her dress and a little on the side of her head, where she'd apparently hit it on something during the crash. Jesse began to have an inkling of what Connor saw in this tin can...

Immediately, Jesse realized what she was doing and pulled away from the inactive Terminator like she'd been shocked. The damn tin cans always get to you that way, she told herself. When they couldn’t take you from the front, they resorted to infiltrating from the inside. Cameron herself had been deployed as an infiltrator, taking the place of poor Allison Young. Jesse had known Allison for a short time, though the girl hadn't been in her unit. She remembered how full of life Allison was - welcoming Jesse into the camp, when several other soldiers treated her with suspicion. A foreigner was a relative rarity in the Resistance camps, but the girl who had the face of the machine lying in that concrete box had been nothing but kind to her.

And this was why Jesse had to do what she was about to do. She could not allow Skynet to infiltrate Connor's life here in the present. The ramifications of Cameron's influence in the future was well-known in the reality she'd come from. Connor had isolated himself to the extent that he rarely interacted with the Resistance soldiers under his command. Orders were handed down by a select few humans, but more disturbingly, Cameron was the only entity that was always by his side. There were rumors of a sick romance going on between the two, but she didn't believe it.

Well, she didn’t believe it then, anyway.

How wrong she had been. She was such a fool - everyone was. Skynet had done an end run around the Resistance, hitting them where they were most vulnerable - John Connor. Instead of killing him, they got Connor to do their dirty work for them, destroying the Resistance from the inside out. Connor was reprogramming captured Terminators almost weekly, and deploying them in all of the camps within Los Angeles County.

It had to stop. Command was getting worried about Connor and his mental state. They knew something had to be done. But Connor had popular sentiment going for him, despite his erratic behavior. He still got results in battle, though sometimes his soldiers and innocent civilians paid the ultimate price when one of The Savior's metal pets reverted to original programming and went on a killing rampage.

By now, Jesse had begun sprinkling the thermite powder liberally around Cameron's still form. The exothermic reaction of thermite would be hot enough to melt even the heat-resistant coltan that made up the machine's endoskeleton. She would burn this empty husk, and perhaps also burn away some of the demons that had dogged Jesse ever since she'd been assigned this mission. Command had seen that she was a cold, ruthless soldier who would achieve her mission, whatever the costs, no matter who got hurt in the process.

She'd been incredibly lucky that she hadn't lost Derek - though she came close once when he had first uncovered her mission. Thankfully, he never found out about Riley. It was almost over now. Once she finished this, she wouldn't have to hide anymore. She didn't know what she would tell Derek, but she vowed to tell him the truth - once this was over with.

There. Jesse put the container down. Cameron was covered with thermite. Out of some vague notion of respect, Jesse didn't cover Cameron's face with the fine white powder. Everything would burn anyway. At those temperatures, nothing would be left, except for a molten puddle of slag made up of oxidized thermite compound and melted coltan.

Pulling a flare from her duffel bag, Jesse pulled the cap off the red stick and turned it over, ready to strike the top on the flare, igniting it and providing the ignition source for the thermite reaction. She drew her hand back to strike the flare...

"Jesse."

She closed her eyes. She should have known things were going too well. Things were never easy, at least they never were for her. She turned to face the voice, and found herself staring into the barrel of Derek's Beretta.

"Put the flare down," Derek growled. He didn't yell at her, and she knew that this when he was at his most dangerous. She lowered her arms, holding them out for him to see. "I wondered why you called me that second time and got so chatty. Very clever, dear," she cooed, trying to diffuse the situation with some charm.

Derek came closer, leaning over slightly to quickly glance in the concrete box. When she saw his lips tighten, Jesse knew that his worst fears had come true. Seeing the look of pain and betrayal in his gorgeous blue eyes made her want to cry. But she wouldn’t. There were loose ends to be tied up, and no one, not even Derek Reese, was going to get in her way.

With defiance, she squared her shoulders and glared at her lover. “What are you gonna do Derek? Shoot me?" When she saw his eyes cloud over for a moment, she knew she had him.

“How can you stand there pointing a gun at me after everything they’ve done to us - everyone they’ve killed? Think about that tin can lying there. Who does she look like? Remember Allison Young? Derek, they killed her so this, this abomination could take her place!”

“Don’t talk to me about hating metal, Jesse. You have no idea,” he said.

Jesse smirked and gave him a knowing look. “Sure I do," she told him. "The basement. Come on, Derek. I heard the rumors – we all did. You were interrogated and tortured by a TOK model down there. And it doesn’t take a bubble tech to figure out which one it was.” She looked over at Cameron’s still form. “And still, you wanna point that gun at me, after everything they’ve taken from you?”

Derek shook his head desperately. “I can’t let you do it, Jesse.” She tilted her head slightly. “Why not? Why can’t you back me on this, you of all people?” she asked.

“Why?” Derek yelled. “Because you took this too far Jesse! My nephew’s in a hospital because of you!” She wasn’t surprised at his anger, just very disappointed that she had to fight him on this. “I was the best driver in the unit, and you know it. I wasn’t gonna kill him – I didn’t. I was sent to save him from her, remember?”

“Yeah, so you say,” he replied with a sneer. Now that made her mad. “Yeah, Derek, I say. I had a mission, and I carried it out. Now, are you gonna let me finish it, or are you gonna kill me?” She’d had enough of coddling him. She loved him dearly, but she wasn’t about to let him bully her out of what needed to be done.

It was up to him now, she realized.

His finger tightened on the trigger, and for a long moment, Jesse was convinced that she’d read him wrong, and was about to pay the ultimate price for her mistake. But then, she noticed the fire in his eyes went out, and his shoulders suddenly sagged as if he could no longer hold them up. The gun barrel slowly moved toward the ground and then she knew she’d won.

She turned away from Derek and swiped the flare with the cap. A bright crimson flame sparked and grew to a blinding, hissing light. She stole one last glance at the man she loved. To her shock and dismay, Derek Reese was crying, tears streaming down his face. His look of defeat and despair gave her pause. Was she doing the right thing? Would he ever forgive her?

But when she thought about the future, and what was in store for the human race, she knew there was very little choice in the matter. So she tossed the flare onto Cameron’s midsection. The flare’s flame immediately burst into a conflagration so intense and hot that she took several steps back and had to cover her face with her forearms.

After a few seconds, the bright white flames completely engulfed the body, and burned away Cameron Baum's serene features until only her silvery endoskeleton shone through. After about a minute, the coltan metal chassis gave way and melted into formless puddles of molten metal, mercurial rivulets running down and collecting upon the sand below.

Jesse finally ended up standing next to Derek, who still had tears in his eyes. He wouldn’t look at her, and she felt torn between wanting to hold and comfort him, yet knowing that was the very last thing he wanted from her at the moment. Without another word, Derek turned on his heel and left the way he’d come in. A few seconds later, she heard his truck screeching out of the warehouse parking lot.

Mission Complete, Jesse thought to herself sadly. She leaned back against the wall of the warehouse and sank down until she was in a sitting position. Then she laid her forehead upon her knees and began to cry.


(To be continued...Don't worry - everything will be okay! Promise!)

More pages