The Girl Who Came in From the Cold

AUTHOR'S NOTES: Hey everyone. This is my first fanfic in several years. I used to do X-Files and Battlestar Galactica fic, but not extensively. This short vignette takes place directly after the S2/Ep.4 "Allison from Palmdale." If you haven't seen the ep, you might be lost. This one is slight John/Cam romance, but nothing explicit. As this is a first attempt, please be kind.

The two drove down the dark, eerily lit road in silence. The sodium lamps of the streetlights cast everything under them in a dull white-orange glow. Cameron gazed sightlessly out of the passenger window, seemingly oblivious to the concerned, sidelong glances her companion kept throwing her way.

The quiet was broken only by the purr of the truck engine and the rumble of thick tires rolling across pavement. The absence of sound threatened to drive John Connor crazy. Finally, he had to speak.

"What the hell happened to you, Cam?" he asked. She said nothing. Sighing, he tried again.

"Are you gonna tell me what's going on with you?"

Slowly, she turned her head to look directly into his eyes.

"Nothing is going on with me," she replied. When he gave her one of his frequent I-Don't-Believe-You looks, she tried to explain. "I'm better now. It was a temporary malfunction, and I have corrected it." She turned away to look out the window again.

Bullshit, John thought to himself. Yet he knew somehow that he had to approach the subject carefully with her.

"Why did you try to choke that girl?" he wanted to know. "Why were you in that house?"

"She lied to me," was all Cameron said.

"And you wanted to kill her for that?" John exclaimed incredulously.

"I did not kill Jody. You confirmed it," she replied.

This was getting him nowhere, John thought. He'd get some answers out of her…eventually, he vowed. Then, another question popped into his head.

"Why did you say your name was Allison, back at the halfway house?"

If John didn't know better, he'd swear he saw hesitation in Cameron’s eyes. He could see her balling her tiny hands into fists in her lap, and for a fleeting moment, John was afraid Cameron was going to hit him. But it quickly passed as she looked down and noticed what she was doing. Unclenching her fists, she looked at him again.

"I temporarily regressed into a previous infiltration profile, and that was the name I was given." She was not lying...exactly. But Cameron admitted to lying to John before. He didn't have to know the truth - yet. John Connor was going to meet Allison one day, perhaps a decade or so from now. And then he would know. Allison Young was the reason Cameron existed in the first place.

And she had killed Allison. In cold blood – when the young girl’s usefulness came to an end. Cameron felt that it was better that John would not understand the level of her treachery for many years. This John would never forgive her if he learned who Allison really was, and what ultimately happened to her.

"You mean you weren't always Cameron Phillips?" John continued, breaking Cameron out of her reverie. She shook her head. Then the obvious follow-up: "Who was she, this Allison, anyway?"

Cameron did not want to continue this line of questioning. John was a smart young man, she knew. Eventually, he would put some of the pieces together and she could not afford that.

"She was no one of importance," she lied. She was very good at that. Her entire life was devoted to lies. Cameron thought it ironic that when she became Allison, she came as close to truth as she would ever get.

“No one of importance? I don’t buy that, Cam,” John retorted. He was met with silence and a blank stare again. "Hello!?" he said loudly.

Is this what being human is really like?
She wondered. It was simply...painful, but completely unlike the kind of pain that you could run a full repair diagnostic on.

It was truly a sad situation, but as a Terminator, she was unable to feel sad, or happy, or anything, she told herself. Still, lingering on the edge of her consciousness, she could remember what it was like to be Allison. During those few hours, she was a real person, with feelings, a history. She was not a machine, built to lie and kill.

“Cam!” John’s voice reverberated in the enclosed cabin of the truck.

Cameron focused on John's face again. "Yes?"

John shook his head in mild disgust. How many times did he have to go through her spacing out on him? The worry that had subsided over the past few minutes began to weave its icy tendrils along his spine again.

"Cam...I know you don't wanna hear this, but..." John shrugged and gripped the steering wheel tighter in his hands. "You're really broken, and if we can't figure out how to...fix you, we're going to have some serious problems."

There, he said it. He stole furtive glances at her, trying to gauge her reaction.

Cameron, for her part, was not surprised by his comment. Indeed, she acknowledged the accuracy of his statement. Thinking about the problem though, Cameron could see no way to accomplish such a difficult task. The tools and equipment needed to overhaul her systems just didn't exist in this time.

"You should deactivate me, John," she suddenly said. It was the only way. She was becoming a liability to him rather than a protector. It was the only logical course of action, Cameron decided.

“It will be better if you continue on without me,” she said in a calm, even voice.

John nearly jumped out of his seat. "What?" he exclaimed. "No! No way, Cam. There...there has to be another way." He seemed to be saying that more to himself than anything, Cameron observed.

Now that she regained her tactical displays, her infra-red sensors could see John's face in a turmoil of white, yellow and orange. He was distressed - over her. While she fought to understand why he would feel so strongly about her termination, somehow, in the part of her that Allison still occupied, she felt incredibly touched.

Touched? No, she told herself. Terminators do not feel. They act on programming.

But Allison Young was *programmed* into her, wasn't she? The profiling was detailed and exhaustive. For all intents and purposes, Allison did exist - inside her.

The answer then came to her - as if Cameron had finished computing a particularly difficult mathematical algorithm. And it was truly a revelation. She had to command her facial servos to remain inactive.

I am more than a Terminator now, she declared to herself. It was fascinating to contemplate, but if she wasn’t exactly a Terminator, nor fully human, then…what was she? This requires further analysis, Cameron decided.

John was now - what Sarah Conner had described as - brooding. He had a deep frown on his brow, and his lips were tight, pressed into a thin line. His shoulders slumped and he was running his left hand absently through his short-cropped sandy hair.

Then suddenly without preamble, he said, "I'm hungry." He turned his head to face her. "Want anything?" And while it seemed like such a non-sequitor compared to everything that had come before in their conversation, she answered him.

"I do not require food. But if it would make you feel better, I will partake of anything you wish to eat." She tried to give him a reassuring expression. He knew she didn't eat, so Cameron took his gesture as one of a "peace offering" as she understood it to be.

It seemed to have worked, as John smiled slightly, a crooked grin playing at the corners of his mouth. It was a mouth that would gain lines and creases around it in only a few years time. It was also a very sensual and enticing mouth, she concluded.

Again, Cameron slowly felt her control slipping. But this time, it was different. No longer was she losing herself to Allison Young. Rather, her Allison subroutine now appeared to be...integrating itself with her core programming.

Her particular model, the TOK-715, was the most advanced that Skynet had ever created. Cameron was to be the perfect infiltrator - able to mimic everything about her original template. Indeed, up until that point, Terminators had almost achieved a successful track record when it came to replacing humans. But Skynet had ultimately scrapped the T-1000 “liquid metal” program when an early model failed to destroy John back while he was a youngster.

If anything, the TOK line was quite adept in the methods of adaptation. Cameron was the most advanced learning computer ever devised. She could integrate and incorporate anything she learned in the field, in order to better enable her to track and deceive her prey.

She came to the realization that in order for her to regain her functionality and become an effective protector again, she was going to have to willingly incorporate the hidden programming that had lain dormant inside her for so long.

Cameron would have to adapt.

So, while she was still broken, her physical damage could be considered the "silver lining in the cloud" that Sarah Connor mentioned from time to time.

Cameron wanted to talk to John about her discovery. He was the only one who would understand the technical underpinnings of what was happening to her. Yet, she wasn't ready to discuss Allison with him. She might never be.

The brakes of the truck squeaked loudly as John stopped in front of the Cluckin' Bell drive-thru ordering board.

HISSS! "Welcome to Cluckin' Bell," the bored and muffled voice rang out. "May I take your order?"

John leaned out of the window. "Uh, yeah. Let me have one of your new Mojo Chicken Burritos, um...a large Crazy Fries, and a couple of jumbo Diet Cokes.” He turned back to Cameron with raised eyebrows. She took that as an inquiry of accuracy and acceptance. She nodded wordlessly and John turned back to the board.

"Will that complete your order, sir?" The disembodied voice asked.

"Yeah, thanks." John answered.

"Your total is $8.23. Please drive forward."

Cameron tilted her head slightly. "Didn't your mother tell you not to order the Mojo Burrito anymore, because they...'give you the winds something terrible?'" She asked.

And for the first time in quite awhile, John laughed. “Well you’re a Terminator, aren’t you?” he said, with a toothy grin. “Can’t you just bypass your olfactory sensors or something?”

This was an attempt at humor, Cameron realized. As these occurrences were increasingly few and far between, she wanted to respond in kind. John always seemed to appreciate her willingness to go along with his jokes.

“I don’t wish to suffer any further damage to my circuitry, so I would advise you to keep your windows fully open,” she parried. “Your methane discharge could create biohazardous conditions.”

This elicited a belly laugh from John. His eyes crinkled at the corners, something Cameron had never noticed before. Unfamiliar stirrings began deep inside, and she knew it was Allison’s doing.

She decided to go along with it.

They pulled up to the window and received their fast food items. John handed over each bag, and slid the drinks into holders in the console. He pulled over into the nearly empty parking lot, as it was quite late, and even this high-volume eatery was getting ready to close down for the night.

John reached over and tore into the bags. “Aw, yeah,” he muttered as he pulled out the silvery log that was his burrito. Cameron proceeded to remove the large Crazy Fries, a deep-fried concoction of sliced potatoes and copious amounts of Cajun spices. As John unwrapped the burrito, his eyes darted over to Cam. “You want some of this?” he asked, wagging his eyebrows up and down.

A tiny smirk appeared on the right corner of her mouth. “I’ll pass. I’m sure you will want to do all the ‘passing’ tonight,” she murmured slyly.

“Ooh, good one,” John commented, as he bit in. His eyes immediately closed and a look of…ecstasy came over his face.

“Mmmm.” He groaned. “I’ve been dying for one of these for weeks. Mom’s been on the home-cooking jag again.” He went for a second bite.

With a child-like smile, he glanced over at her. Cam had silently watched John’s reaction to the food with a growing fascination. Accepting her new programming, her appreciation for the subtle nuances in human expression and speech were growing. And then her sensors locked onto something.

A dollop of sauce from the burrito clung to the corner of John’s mouth. Cam ignored her display breaking down the individual components of the glob. She focused on it, and a compulsion deep inside surfaced and took her by surprise.

“What?” John mumbled around his food. She had a peculiar look on her face. And what she did next, almost made him drop his burrito.

Slowly, Cam reached out a slender hand to John’s mouth. With her index finger, she wiped the drop of sauce off. She brought back her hand and sensually licked the sauce from her finger. And if that wasn’t already enough, she put it into her mouth and sucked it clean. There was an audible smack when she finally pulled the finger from between her lips.

John thought he was going to faint. He literally saw stars for a few seconds, and his whole body tingled.

“Uh…” He cleared his throat, and tried to find the words – any words to break the tension that seemed to hover between them, like a stifling haze.

“C-Cam,” he stuttered. “What the hell are you doing?”

She stared at him with her large, doe eyes. “I am licking Mojo Burrito sauce from my finger,” she answered, as if she were telling him the time of the day.

Before today, Cameron would have never done something so…illogical and pointless. But now? She analyzed her actions, and she found that…

She was enjoying herself. It was an encouraging sign, Cam thought. Perhaps things really would be better now.

John was profusely sweating. “Uh, yeah, I can see that, but…why?” He couldn’t think of anything else to say.

As much as she wanted to explain, Cameron knew she couldn’t. She looked away from him.

“I don’t know,” was all she could say.

John was now totally and utterly confused. The day had started like any other. After he’d dropped Cameron off for the shopping, everything had gone to hell. First, the Allison episode, then the attempted murder of some unknown girl.

Now this. What the fuck is going on? John wondered. He dropped his forgotten burrito onto the dashboard and leaned in closer to Cameron.

“Come on, Cam,” he managed to get out in a soothing tone. “Tell me what’s going on…please.”

And then she knew. She suspected it, but now she understood John would not drop the subject until she explained herself to him. His empathy toward others was one of the reasons John Connor had gained such a loyal following in the future. She had observed this firsthand in the camp, just as she could see it now in his soulful green eyes.

“The damage I sustained caused a stored personality profile to activate, and my CPU is now integrating the profile into my core programming in order to compensate for my damaged systems.” It was a start of an explanation, she decided, but there was so much she left out.

“Allison,” John replied, referring to the mystery girl inside.

“Yes,” she answered.

He looked around briefly, if only to collect his thoughts for a moment. “Well, can you at least tell me who this Allison was?” he asked hopefully. “Or, at least what you were supposed to be when you were Allison?”

A list of possible responses flashed across her display, ranging from the truth, to complete fabrications. In the end, Cameron decided none of these answers were appropriate.

“I can’t tell you that, John,” she gently explained to him. “I know you want answers, but I’m not…ready to tell you yet.” Her apologetic tone was unfamiliar to him, but went a long way in quelling his curiousity.

“Please, trust me,” she said finally.

And that was all he needed to hear. Just as John tried to get everyone around him to trust his judgment – including his mother, his uncle, and even Cameron herself – he knew he would give her his trust willingly.

He’d done it before. Only that time, he was pointing a Glock at the beautiful cyborg’s face and hoping mightily that she wouldn’t jump up and rip his heart out of his chest.

Letting out a breath of frustration, John collapsed into the back of his seat. “Okay, Cam. We’ll play it your way.” They both gazed out at the empty street across from the parking lot. A lonely traffic light switched from green to yellow, then red. No other cars were in sight.

Unbidden, a kernel of thought popped into John’s head. Cameron integrating another personality – an infiltration profile. The strange looks she began to give him, and finally, the sexually charged swipe of his lip.

The conclusions he reached shocked him as if he’d thrust a screwdriver into a wall socket. In fact, he jerked upright, and Cameron turned to look at him, wondering what had happened.

“John, are y-“ she started to say. He shook his head to stop her. “I-I’m okay,” he stammered. He could feel the rising color in his cheeks. And he knew Cameron could see it. She saw everything.

Clearing his throat, he began to put his forlorn burrito back in the bag. “Uh, I think maybe we should be getting back.” He fiddled with the keys, trying to turn the engine over. “I called Mom about an hour ago, and told her we were still shopping. But if we don’t get home soon, there’s gonna be hell to pay.”

The truck rumbled into life, and John pulled out smoothly from the space, heading out onto the street. The ride home was again filled with silence, circles of bright light flashing in regular intervals across the windshield.

Eventually, Cameron turned to John again. “Will you…tell your mother what happened today?” she asked, almost timidly.

John stole a glance at her and snorted. “Are you kidding? Mom’ll kill both of us if she knew what happened. And Derek would probably put a dozen rounds in you before you got to your room.”

Although he was exaggerating somewhat, Cameron agreed with the spirit of John’s assessment. There would be trouble, no doubt.

“It’ll be another one of our secrets, then.” John added. “Agreed?” He gave her a tiny smile. It was the one he reserved only for her.

She returned it – with feeling this time. True feeling. Cameron realized that now. “Agreed,” she replied.

The dark truck was swallowed up by the night, until only the twin red orbs of light in back remained, and then, finally turned the corner.

-- END --

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