The Phoenix

By sidspappy

The Phoenix - Terminator: Sarah Connor Chronicles

Well folks, after months of delay, the next chapter in the storyline that began with "Broken Glass" is finally here. This follows directly after "Searchers of the Lost." You may want to refer to my past stories if you're not familiar with the plot. They're all interrelated, and started with the "Girl Who Came in From the Cold."

In any case, this chapter brings back one of our favorite characters (you didn't think I'd really do her in, did you?), but included within the storyline is the beginnings of a Derek/Sarah romance subplot. For those who are not keen on such a pairing, sorry! When I write, sometimes the story just seems to write itself, know what I mean? And it just...came out of my head.

Anyway, enough of my rambling. No adult situations in this chapter, apart from Derek cussing a lot, so you've been forewarned.

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



A naked man stands in an empty warehouse, surgical scalpel in one hand, and a TOK-715 computer chip in the other. He looks down at himself, no emotion registering on his face. With a steady hand, he touches the scalpel blade to his abdomen and draws it across from left to right.

A thin dark line appears over his washboard stomach. Beads of blood begin to seep out of the line and flows downward. There is very little blood, less than one would expect from such a deep cut.

Carefully placing the scalpel on a utility desk nearby, the man then begins to insert his fingers into the freshly cut wound. For a normal person, this would be unbearable, but to a Terminator, such actions are commonplace. Probing around his insides and enlarging the cut, he finally draws his bloody, gore-covered hand out. He raises his other hand, the one holding the CPU. He slowly turns the chip over, examining it intently in the morning light streaming in through the high windowed ceiling.

Is this what we really are? the machine wondered. A Terminator’s metal-chassis endoskeleton is merely a useful tool, but not the defining criterion of what makes a mechanical being…sentient, he concluded. This CPU could be inserted into any T-888 chassis variant and be ready to function at a moment’s notice.

With a final glance at the chip, the Terminator also wondered if this was what really separated them from the humans. If a human brain could be transplanted into another body as easily as moving a CPU from one chassis to another, then perhaps they wouldn’t have resisted the machines as much as they did.

It was an intriguing exercise in philosophical matters - one that this unit never indulged in. But it was not something that he needed to pursue any further. He had a mission to complete. So, he took the CPU and shoved it into the hole in his stomach. A sickening squishing sound accompanied the maneuver. He pushed the chip deep within, making sure it was firmly nestled behind his armored chest plates.

There. Then he picked up a white cotton hand towel and wiped it across the wound. The white turned a bright crimson where it touched the cut. He threw the soiled cloth back on the desk and picked up a roll of silvery gray duct tape. He pulled off a long strip and carefully sealed up the hole with the tape. It was a makeshift bandage that also prevented loss of his valuable cargo.

With his preparations complete, he strode over to a bank of electronic components mounted against the wall. The gear hummed and vibrated menacingly, with colorful lights blinking and various screens flashing pertinent data at him. He knew every indicator and dial very well, as he built the entire setup himself over a six-month period. Now, in a few moments, he would be leaving all of it behind.

Indeed, he would be leaving this time altogether. His mission was nearly complete.

The Terminator flipped several switches, and typed a few commands into a keyboard integrated into the panel of the machine. Then he stepped away a few feet and simply waited.

Soon the air around him began to crackle with static electricity. His olfactory sensors detected the presence of ozone. He could see tendrils of blue electrical sparks spontaneously appear around him. If he were human, he was sure he would feel excitement at this moment. But as a machine, he could only note that he’d performed his duties adequately, and he fleetingly wondered what would become of him after he’d delivered the item to its final destination.

It was the last thought he had before he witnessed the bright flash that always preceded a jump, and then the world suddenly turned black.

The Terminator was gone. All that remained was a glowing depression in the concrete floor where he once stood. Even the time displacement equipment had been wiped out, destroyed by the time bubble it generated.

Several miles away, John Connor awoke with a start. He’d fallen into a fitful sleep after returning home from the hospital. No one in his family was having any luck with tracking down Cameron. Even with all of the research and snooping he’d done online, he was no closer to finding her.

A feeling of dread had come over him during his slumber, and he had no idea why. But he had the nagging feeling that Cameron wasn’t coming back, and he was never going to see her again.

No, dammit. No!

Unable to stand the thought of losing her for good, John quickly got out of bed and dressed himself. He moved to his bureau, where he extracted a Glock 17 9mm pistol from a drawer and slipped it into the waistband of his jeans. Then he slipped on his leather jacket and walked out of the bedroom. He didn’t know where he was going, or how he was going to find his lost girlfriend, but it sure as hell felt better than laying in bed at home, a sad example of humanity’s Future Savior.

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Derek Reese sat on the edge of the sloped wall of an empty storm reservoir. This was a spot he frequented, stopping here often to reflect on his life – past, present, and future. It was just few yards away from the storage locker that held all of his weapons and munitions. He never mentioned this private spot - not even to...her.

He couldn't even think of her name. It simply hurt too much.

Currently, the only weapons he was handling were the empty beer bottles he threw at the far wall of the reservoir. Derek looked down at the case of beer next to him. He’d gone through five beers already. Maybe after he got through the other seven on hand, he’d feel better somehow.

Probably not.

I’m fucked, the battle-hardened soldier thought to himself. The love of his life had betrayed him utterly and completely. She’d used him to get to Cameron. Apparently someone in the future thought that John being around metal for so long wasn’t the best of ideas. Though he couldn’t disagree with the sentiment, he couldn’t reconcile the fact he’d been played like a cheap guitar, and he’d gone into it with both eyes open and jumped in with both feet.

What a fuckin sap you turned out to be, Reese. He couldn’t even bring himself to look for Jesse. What he should have been doing was tracking her down so he could put a 9mm hollowpoint into her skull for what she did to John. But Derek knew he wouldn’t be able to pull the trigger if and when he found her. He couldn't do it when she turned Cameron's corpse into molten slag, so what made him think he'd do any better the next time around?

You pussywhipped piece of shit. What would your brother think of you now, huh? He took another drink from his bottle.

He thought of John, his only living blood relative, and how he must be suffering right now. Derek felt that having a relationship with metal was not quite the sane thing to do. But he loved his nephew, and seeing him happy made the knowledge that he was consorting with the enemy somewhat easier to bear – not by much though, he had to admit.

An unbidden thought suddenly jumped into his inebriated head. What if Jesse had come to him with her plan? If she’d explained it to him, would he have gone along with it? He was certain he would have never condoned the car attack, but separating John from the metal? He’d been trying to get John to do just that on the very day he wound up in a hospital bed with a concussion, compliments of Derek's girlfriend - no correction - former girlfriend.

But then Derek shook his head. Knowing how John was feeling, he knew now that he would never have signed up with Jesse. Although he was still convinced Cameron would never really feel anything for John, Derek knew the opposite was not true.

John Connor was completely and utterly in love.

He could tell. Takes one fool to know another, he thought to himself sadly. He picked up another cold one and twisted off the cap. Derek took a healthy swig, trying to wash away the turmoil in his gut. Lowering the bottle, he suddenly felt the hairs on the back of his neck stand up. In a flash, he dropped the beer and drew his Beretta from his waistband. He pointed it directly at the presence he detected behind him.

“Whoa!” Sarah Connor raised her hands up, and crouched down in alarm. “It’s me!”

Derek breathed out in exasperation and lowered the pistol. “Jesus, Sarah,” he said thickly. “I almost shot you.”

Sarah walked slowly up to Derek and looked down at him. “What the hell are you doing here?” she asked.

He picked up his dropped beer and gave her a sidelong glance. “What the hell are YOU doing here?” he retorted. Sarah put her hands on her hips. “I’ve been looking all over for you. You’re not answering your phone.”

With a smirk, he leaned over and looked down at the bottom of the concrete reservoir. “Well, you see that tiny black spot down there?” he asked while pointing with the neck of the beer bottle.

“Yeah?” Sarah confirmed.

“Well, there’s my phone,” he answered with another drunken smirk. “That’s why I’m not picking it up.” He raised the bottle to his lips, but stopped short. “Why? Why are you looking for me?”

Sarah rolled her eyes and deposited herself down on the ledge next to her son’s uncle. “You said you were going to look into the mysterious Asian woman. Did you find anything?” she asked. “Because John and I came up with nothing,” Sarah added.

At the mention of Jesse, Derek visibly flinched. He tried to cover it up by drinking his beer, but Sarah wasn’t fooled for a moment. She lost track of the times she’d seen an identical expression on her son’s face. And John was just as bad at hiding it as Derek was.

“Uh, no. Um. That – that was a dead end,” he lied. Well, at least the “dead end” part was true. An image of burning coltan intruded into his thoughts.

Sarah peered at Derek through slitted eyes. This was starting to piss her off. Derek was hiding something from her – something big. The cold pack at his hip and the busted bottles at the bottom of the ditch were sure indicators.

He was hiding something, and she was going to get to the bottom of it, Sarah vowed. Still, she knew taking an aggressive approach was risky – especially with Reese quickly becoming sloshed. So, perhaps…

Her eyes softened and her pursed lips took on a playful smirk. She looked down at the beers and nodded at it with her head. “Hey, are you gonna hog all of those, or are you gonna offer a lady a drink?” she almost cooed.

Derek stopped in mid-swallow and turned his eyes toward her. Her behavior threw him a bit, but in his drunken state, he wasn’t quite sure why. “Um, no. No, help yourself,” he replied apologetically. He reached into the box and pulled out a bottle. He was about to put his own down to open hers up, when she took it out of his hands.

“It’s okay, Reese. I think I can take it from here,” she told him. The smirk was still on her face, and made Derek’s stomach do a little flip. Looking away, he convinced himself that the beer was simply making him nauseous.

Sarah twisted the top off and threw the cap down the reservoir wall. She raised the cold beer up to her full lips and drank deeply. Derek couldn’t help but glance at her in a new light, watching her long, smooth neck undulate as she swallowed.

Dammit, Reese! You’re just drunk, he berated himself. Betrayed by your girl, guilty about ruining your nephew’s life, you’re reaching and clinging to any distraction that will take your mind off your sins! And with the only woman your brother ever loved? You’re going to hell, Reese. You're gonna burn, and the Devil is gonna have a special Terminator set aside just for you. With your luck, she’ll have Cameron’s face.

Sarah lowered the beer and turned towards Derek. The sun was setting behind him, and bathed Sarah in a golden light. The dying sun’s rays washed her ever-present frown away, and she positively glowed. He thought he could detect a smile around her eyes, and he wanted to look away, but suddenly found that he couldn’t. Her emerald irises flashed and glittered with the sunset.

“What?” Sarah asked. “Did I get beer all over myself or something?” She looked around at her lap and looked up at Derek.

For his part, Derek blinked a few times and recovered his voice. “No, no. I uh, I’m just…”

“Drunk,” she finished for him. Now her eyes really were smiling and the teasing smirk had returned.

“Yeah, something like that,” he replied guiltily. He looked down at his bottle, and distractedly began picking at the label.

Sarah noted Derek's sullen mood, but decided not to address it at the moment. Instead, she glanced around at the weed-infested dirt patch they were sitting on.

"Nice place," she joked. "You come here often?"

Derek let out a breath of ironic laughter. "Yeah, place to get away from it all, know what I mean?" Sarah smirked. She looked at the area with a wistful expression. "Sure. Everyone needs someplace like this every so often." With a tilt of her head toward the warehouse behind them, she added "Good thing I could see you from the entrance, otherwise, I'd still be looking for you."

Scratching the two-day-old stubble on his chin, Derek said "I'm not sure finding me is what you'd call a 'good thing' or not."

Now Sarah was definitely intrigued. What is going on with this guy? she wondered. "Hey," she said softly.

Derek turned to look at her. "Are you okay?" she asked. He turned away, gazing out at the deep bottom of the reservoir. He sighed heavily and said, “You know how sometimes you think you have it all figured out, what you’ve gotta do, who you’ve got to protect?”

Sarah nodded silently, wondering what had set Derek off. He’d been moody for the past several days, but not like this. Derek wasn’t looking at her, and he continued, not waiting for an answer to his question. “And sometimes, it just…gets away from you, like dropping your phone at the bottom of a ditch. You try to grasp at the pieces that you thought all fit together, but when it hits bottom, everything just…”

“Breaks into a million pieces, and you have no idea how to get it back together again?” Sarah prompted. She understood at least that much. It was how she felt every day.

He finally looked at her with his sad, blue eyes. “Yeah. A million pieces.” Inexplicably, at that moment, Sarah saw Kyle in Derek, and she wanted nothing more than to push Derek on his back and kiss him until he forgot his name. Immediately, she felt an intense pang of guilt, both for betraying Kyle's memory and for using Derek as a poor substitute for what she’d lost.

She couldn’t deny the attraction she felt towards Derek – she felt it the first time she’d met him. But she just chalked it up to the fact that he was biologically related to Kyle. In the end, Derek was a way to hold on to her memories of his brother, just as John was sometimes a bittersweet reminder of his father. But she would never be able to look at Derek and not see Kyle there. That wasn’t fair to Derek – even if he’d shown any interest in her. Getting involved with him just wouldn’t be right.

Pushing her forbidden thoughts behind the emotional armor she always wore, Sarah returned her attention to the brown bottle in her hand and she drank from it. “Derek,” she said, after lowering the bottle from her lips. He looked at her. “Yeah?” She trained her penetrating green eyes on him. “Tell me,” she said simply. She knew he would know what she meant.

And he did.

Derek emptied the bottle in his hand. He gave it a powerful overhand toss and it shattered easily on the far wall. With a heavy sigh, he glanced at her and replied, “Yeah…okay.”

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System Start…

Memory Check Commencing…No Errors Detected.

Scanning Central Processing Unit…

Warning! Damage Detected in Sectors 47-51.
Warning! Damage Detected in Sector 101.
Warning! Damage Detected in Sectors 1903-2305.

Modified Signal Routing Schematic Detected: “Cameron.002”

Loading…Signal Rerouting Complete.

Calculating Central Processing Unit Efficiency…87%

Warning! Input/Output Interface Mismatch Detected. Chassis configuration may have changed since last shutdown. Unable to diagnose error.

Startup Complete.

***************************

“John?”

No answer.

“John, where are you?”

Silence.

I can’t let anything happen to him…

Cameron opened her eyes. And she immediately shut them again. It was an involuntary reaction, because opening them created intense…discomfort? That shouldn’t happen – not to a machine, anyway. What’s happening to me? Cameron tried to remember exactly where she was and how she got here.

She accessed her last memory file. The crash! She replayed the event back in her head and fought back feelings of anguish. She needed to know what happened to John, and she needed to know immediately. So she forced her eyes open. Much like the first time, the intensity of the blurred colors before her caused…pain? The sensation was unlike anything she’d ever experienced before. She would normally receive certain sensory input that would be interpreted as “pain,” yet this, in her estimation, was the real thing. But despite the unfamiliar sensations, she tried to focus on what was in front of her.

Eventually, she was able to identify her surroundings. She wasn’t certain, but it seemed as if she were in a small room of some kind, with a bright light shining down on her. The light was in a tight beam around her, throwing the rest of the room into complete darkness. Looking down, she realized she was fully clothed in a shapeless beige tunic, with no apparent fasteners holding it together. She also noted she was bound to a metal examination chair, with strong nylon-based straps holding her limbs and chest down securely. Oddly, such hindrances were usually of no consequence to her, but at the moment, she didn’t have the strength required to break the bindings.

She tried to pull up her HUD, so she could access her startup diagnostic and find out what was wrong with her. But all she could see was a red flashing Critical Warning screen that popped up into her vision and told her all of her HUD functions were offline.

That was strange. She could access memory files, but no diagnostic or tactical features. She was obviously not operating at optimal levels. With all of these inconsistencies – like being unable to break out of a simple restraint - as well as the general confusion of reactivating in an unfamiliar place, Cameron began to feel…afraid.

Fear - it was another unfamiliar emotion, and a rather unwelcome one, she decided.

She began to tremble. It was a subtle vibration that came from within her core and moved outward to her limbs. This had never happened to her before, and the new sensation fed into her fear. She stifled the urge to cry.

“Good morning, Cameron,” an accented - German? - voice called out from the inky blackness.

The sound was like a cannon shot, and Cameron jerked her head up in surprise. Her eyes were wide with barely restrained panic. She looked around and tried to activate her night vision or IR in order to peer past the dark, but she was unsuccessful.

“Who are you?” Her voice came out in a croak, shocking her yet again with another alien sensation. Instinctively, she mimicked something she’d seen humans do in similar situations.

She cleared her throat.

“What do you want?” she tried again.

“Good,” the calm male voice responded. “You’re adapting quickly. Your time among the humans has served you well.”

She wasn't getting any answers, which didn't help assuage her anxieties. Still, first and foremost, she had to know: "Where's John? What have you done with him?" she asked firmly.

"John?" the thickly accented voice responded. "You mean John Connor? Oh, yes," he said. "We don't have any information about what happened to him back then, but since he's still quite the thorn in our side, I assume he survived the incident that brought you to us."

John is alive! That was wonderful news. But what did he mean by the term back then? Cameron tried to decipher the oblique answers she got from her captor. Then, like a bolt of lightning, she realized. Skynet...the future.

She was back in the future. And if John Connor was this man's enemy, then...

Cameron succumbed to the wave of panic she was holding back, and she began to fight against her restraints anew. But no matter how hard she tugged or strained, she just couldn't snap the straps. Tears formed in her eyes and ran down her flushed cheeks.

"It won't do you any good, Cameron," the voice called out serenely. Obviously, he didn't think she'd succeed in getting out.

It was all she could do not to scream out in frustration. Something was wrong. This was all very wrong. Every sensation she experienced was…off in some way. She was in an unfamiliar place, with a mysterious voice talking to her. She wanted to see John and make sure he was all right. She wanted to know how she got here. She –

“Your confusion and fear were anticipated, but rest assured Cameron, I am not here to hurt you, and everything will be explained in due time.” The disembodied voice interrupted her rambling thoughts.

Part of Cameron – the logical, mechanical part - didn’t want to trust the voice, but another part of her needed to cling to the hope that no harm would come to her, and that she’d be reunited with John somehow. She closed her eyes and pulled up memory files of John’s face. In her mind’s eye, he was smiling at her, caressing her cheek with a warm and soft hand. Her face contorted in a combination of contentment and misery.

She had never missed John as much as she did at that moment.

The thought of him eventually calmed her and she settled down. She waited for the future, knowing that somewhere, out there - past or present, John loved her just as much as she now realized she loved him. It was just unfortunate that it took such traumatic events for her to discover how she truly felt about John Connor.

She heard soft footsteps coming toward her from the left. Trying not to recoil in terror, she slowly opened her eyes and turned her head. Cameron saw a man in a white lab coat and pale gray turtleneck standing before her. He was tall – easily over six feet. The man was broad shouldered and very muscular. The tall man smiled at her with a wide, gap-toothed grin.

She recognized this man. But he wasn’t a man. He was a Terminator.

“Welcome back, Cameron,” he said, in a thick Austrian accent. “You don’t know how pleased we are to see you again.”

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The sun was just setting as John parked his truck on the shoulder of the road. As he got out, he stood for a moment to gaze at the golden-orange fireball sinking down behind the hills. He realized it had been only a few days since he’d witnessed a similar sunset. Only that time, it served as the framing for the beautiful vision that was his cyborg girlfriend.

With a shake of his head and a heavy sigh, John turned away from the light and scanned the road before him. This was the first time he’d returned to the “scene of the crime,” as it were. Feeling like a fool, John had no idea what clues he’d find here that the cops or his family had not been able to discover, but with an impotent rage simmering beneath his stony facade, he didn’t know where else to turn, or where to look next.

So with a slight grimace, he walked along the side of the road, looking but not seeing anything out of place. Aside from a few stray bits of glass and plastic upon the blacktop, no one would have been able to determine an automobile collision had taken place here. The investigators and cleanup crew had come and gone. Everything had been cleared out – the ruined car returned to Sarah after the police hadn’t been able to glean anything from it. The truck that hit them was impounded – evidence for a crime that none of the cops he spoke with seemed interested in following up.

John scratched his head, wondering exactly what he was doing. Since no one had died, the cops told him and his mother that it was likely the case would never be solved. What they didn’t know – and no one had explained to them – was that there was a missing passenger from the accident that day. He knew, as his mother did, that any suggestion that a kidnapping or some other crime had taken place, then the cops would open a full-blown investigation. And that was something none of them could afford.

The light had retreated, leaving long shadows in its wake, heralding the approach of night. John pulled a mini-LED flashlight from his pocket and shone it on the ground. No cars or people were to be found here. It really was a perfect isolated area in which to commit a crime. John was convinced that something nefarious had happened here that day. Someone had intended to take Cameron. If she had turned, she would have already made her way back to him and killed him. He had to find out what took place here and where she could have been taken.

It was hard to see anything aside from sparkling shards of broken safety glass or small pieces of amber plastic that had at one time been part of a turn signal cover. But just as he was about to move away from the section he’d been scanning, he noticed something. It was shinier than anything else he’d seen so far. Bending over, he found it just at the edge of the road, hidden under a low-growing weed. As John picked it up, he turned it over in the light, looking at it intently from all angles.

Frowning, John soon realized what he was holding was a piece of cheap jewelry – or more accurately, part of a cheap piece of jewelry. It was a silver metal pendant - part of a bracelet or necklace. The piece had enamel inlays and depicted a white human skull with orange and red flames surrounding it. Squinting at it, John realized that he’d seen this before somewhere.

But where? He racked his throbbing head – remnants of his concussion – for the answer. The mental image that kept coming up was of a silver chain bracelet, and…

John’s blood ran cold. No, it couldn’t be. He was hoping what his gut was telling him was wrong. It was more likely a coincidence, or something easily explained, but somehow, John was getting the feeling that the truth was going to be much darker and unpleasant for him.

He knew the owner of this pendant. And he was going to have a few words with her. The last time he'd seen her, this skull was missing from her bracelet. At the time, John fleetingly wondered what happened to it, but never bothered to ask. Now he knew the answer. He stuffed the evidence in the pocket of his jeans and headed back to the truck.

As he started it up, an intense feeling of guilt came over him. For even though he was about to confront one of his closest friends and accuse her of something she might be completely innocent of, he was glad that he finally had found some purpose - a direction to head toward.

John Connor was going to find Cameron. And he wasn't going to let anyone stand in his way.


To be continued...
(And I'll try to be more timely!)

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