Los Angeles, California
Friday, December 10, 2027
"When things are going good, reflect. When things are going bad, be brave." -Korean proverb
"When written in Chinese the word 'crisis' is composed of two characters. One represents danger, and the other represents opportunity." -John F. Kennedy
Major General Perry had relayed the message to meet John Connor in the temporal bubble room. As always, Cameron had immediately complied.
She had watched John send people through time before. Missions weren't uncommon, but they weren't exactly every day either.
Every soldier sent back in time was one less body that John Connor had here. John couldn't replace troops the way Skynet could. He couldn't just manufacture a thousand more soldiers that were ready to fight seconds after dumping off the assembly line.
Humans had to grow and mature. Even then, only certain types could serve. John couldn't take someone that was: obviously unstable, of poor character, panicked easily, sickly, handicapped, too old, too young, or passed out at the sight of blood.
Even once you recruited humans, that were of the proper age, health and mental capacity, they had to be trained. Humans weren't terminators. They could panic in battle. They weren't as resilient. They had to be taught to fight as a unit, to fight through their fear.
John and his officers screened his army's recruits as carefully as possible, but even then some of the recruits washed out. Even once they were fully trained, some could become twisted by the hardships they endured. Others no matter how brave, once injured, could not simply repair themselves and move back into combat status.
Someone might assume that Cameron thought of humans as somehow inferior, but nothing could be further from the truth. A species of defeated, vulnerable, survivors had endured being blasted back into the stone ages, in the most ruthless attack in the history of the world. They had put aside petty differences and overcome language barriers. They had scrounged together sticks and stones, then stolen every last weapon they could. They fought back, from the brink of worldwide extinction. After all of that, Humans were now at the cusp of defeating the most well armed and technologically advanced intelligence to ever cross the face of the earth.
Whatever their flaws, humans were nothing less than amazing. Of all of them, there was one that amazed her more and meant more too her than any other. His name of course was John Connor.
John had taught her many things. On the subject of his army, he had one philosophy. Every soldier mattered. Every soldier lost was a tragedy.
That is not to say John Connor wasn't willing to risk himself or his army. John had a capacity for ruthlessness that was as cold as Skynet's own. The difference is why they would act.
Skynet acted out of genocidal megalomania and paranoia. John Connor acted to insure the survival of the human race and the other living creatures left on the planet.
Cameron left her thoughts behind as she approached one of the most guarded wings of the complex. The jet engines screamed from the complex the bubble techs worked in. The smell of the specially refined fuel was overwhelming and the air was hotter than it was in the rest of the compound. Someone had just passed through time.
Blinding flashes of light erupted in the corridor. Cameron almost assumed that she had been too late to see who John was sending. The jet engines calmed down, but kept running.
That was odd. They must be planning on hitting more than one target in time. They almost never did that.
Cameron could sense something was wrong even before she saw John. How many missions were they doing?
John normally had a guard or two when outside of his central complex. Cameron was normally one of them. Tonight, he had six guards, all human soldiers armed with armor piercing grenade launchers.
Cameron approached John, keeping in mind, this wasn't his inner sanctum. She was precise and obviously a terminator. Acting otherwise could spook the troops, so it was good that it was Cameron's default manner.
John's face was blank and unreadable. Cameron had often wondered if it was the manner of Uncle Bob. Had it been that old T800 that John unconsciously based his poker face on?
She closed within six feet and waited for John to respond. Something was off about him.
She would have been able to tell exactly what it was from a touch, but that might spook John's guards. Was he lost in thought or just quiet?
Cameron wasn't going to do anything unusual. John's guards seemed edgy. Was it the time machine that made them nervous? Was it her?
John broke the silence. He simply asked, "Do you remember when we talked about a worst case scenario?"
It had been two months ago, but Cameron had remembered the conversation perfectly, just as she could and would remember every second of her existence. The answer was simple, "Yes."
"It is that scenario." John's face was unreadable.
There were several possibilities that ran through Cameron's mind. The base was being lost to Skynet's forces or a rival human faction. The greater war had hit a turning point where winning was no longer possible. There could be plague, widespread fatal radiation sickness, a catastrophic loss of rations, the loss of the clean water supply, or any number of non survivable issues that couldn't be solved by simply relocating.
Cameron had detected no fighting. All the evidence she knew pointed to a human victory in months or less. Nothing had been reported that was out of the ordinary. John's morbid words made no sense.
Cameron simply responded, "If you are in danger, John, my place is with you." Just as she silently thought, "It is the only true purpose in my existence".
Was this a test? Was this some kind of game?
That wouldn't make any sense. John never lied too her. What was going on?
The guards seemed edger. They were almost aggressive. Were they a threat to John?
All it would have taken was a touch to know what John was feeling. His emotional state alone would have clarified everything. He was however distant, not walking forward like he normally would, and purposely staying out of her range.
He simply asked, "Will you carry out the mission we talked about?" His face was still unreadable.
Cameron simply replied, "Yes". Cameron instantly recalled everything: the year, the target information, the priority list, and John's specific orders on how to not damage the timeline irrevocably.
The guards behind John eased up a bit. John never moved to shake her hand or acknowledge her in any way.
This wasn't the way he acted with others. This wasn't the way he ever acted with her, even with the guards around. Cameron didn't understand.
She simply did what was requested. Cameron walked to the pad, after placing her guns, boots and a small chained pendant to the side boxes.
Anything other than flesh that entered the bubble would be destroyed. The resistance was too low on equipment to waste anything besides basic clothing for modesty's sake.
The turbines began wailing louder. The fumes and fuel smell became more powerful, as the room became hotter, as the safely distanced turbines built up to three hundred degrees. Vibration that would subtly rattle the teeth of the average human began filling the whole room.
Cameron stood barefoot on the cold pad and turned to face John. Electrical static began to raise the little hairs on her skin. Her body was lightly shaking. The pad's temperature began to quickly rise.
John shouted out so Cameron could hear him even through the aircraft engine noise that was beginning to rev up. "Do you remember what we talked about with the way Skynet looks at things?"
Cameron shouted back, "Yes." She watched the guards behind John begin to pull back from the machine. The noise would soon hurt their ears, the vibration would jar their bones, and the light would be blinding. They didn't appear to be interested in anything other than seeing her on the pad.
Cameron fixated her gaze on John. She was blind to what he was feeling without touching him. His face looked concerned, but she was never as good at reading feelings with her eyes as with her skin.
Cameron's gaze was blank. Inside her chip though, her thoughts were almost panicked, "Please don't do this John... please..."
John increased his volume even louder and screamed, "Skynet always sees everything as a Chess board. You are going to have to see it the same metaphorically. Cameron don't play the game Skynet's way. Do you understand me?"
"No" He was talking metaphorically. She didn't understand how humans thought that way or other weirdness of fancy like John's favorite book. Even if it was something she could eventually learn, as a terminator, John knew that she was only 99 days old.
John screamed, "Cameron, I need you to play like me. I need you to cheat. Change the board, you have to break the rules."
She didn't understand. Cameron could only think, "Please don't do this John..." Panicked memories of all the time she spent with him flooded in the back of her mind.
John continued screaming, "We talked about this. You know all of the pieces on my board. You need to change the game."
He screamed something as if it had great meaning to him. "Cameron, there is no fate, but what we make it."
The aircraft engines roared. Flashes of light began blinding Cameron's sight. Gravity increased beneath her pulling her down to a kneeling position. Her skin burned from electrical shocks. Vibration jarred her whole body.
The lights began flashing brighter and faster. The pad and air rose to over a hundred degrees Fahrenheit.
John was mouthing something. Cameron only caught a word of the sentence. She calculated it was 71.467% likely to be the word "two".
Time flashed and she shut down. One hundred and twenty seconds later she rebooted. Her core systems detected possible catastrophic damage from the energy bubble and ran auto diagnostics. Her
consciousness slowly came back into focus as the test determined she was fine.
Cameron's body had defaulted into a full crouched position. Her clothing had been destroyed by the energy bubble.
She was in a crater in an empty street. Compared to the room she had been in, the air was cold as she turned down her sensitivity.
John was gone. Her entire world was gone. For a short moment, Cameron was stunned by that fact.
Her internal computer noted the date as Friday, June 25, 1999. It noted she needed to find John under the name John Reese.
She would find John Connor. She would protect him at all costs.
She would do it because the fate of mankind was at risk... She would do it because the fate of more than just mankind was at risk...