The War For Hope


The War For Hope

Avila Beach, California
Serrano Point Nuclear Power Plant
June 19th, 2027


“It is the business of the future to be dangerous.” -Alfred North Whitehead

“What could be worse than being blind? ... having no vision.” -Helen Keller

The medical bay was mostly empty, which was good. Allison Young's eyes were accusing. She was being feral and protective of the man she cared most about.

The worst thing about Allison's tone and her anger was that they were right on the mark. They were proper on several levels the human female couldn't even begin to fathom to be true.

They were subjects that Skynet would have taunted as being beyond human understanding. There was always some dark truth to that.

There were few humans that could actually think on the level of an AI. Even when this was so, their attention span had been something almost infantile in the world of machines. Humans were flawed, limited creatures.

It was what they did collectively that made the difference. Humanity would be insulted by the concept, but they were much more effective as a social hive brain than as individuals.

It was the moving mass of humanity that normally paced history. It had never been a true collective improvement of the human individual. The persistence of the weak and self centered would always be so.

Where Allison was on the mark was a subtle and complex truth. Cameron deeply suspected it was towards the limits of what Allison could have grasped.

Derek Reese slept comfortably thanks to sedatives strong enough to put out a four hundred pound man. The drugs were a therapy.

They were a direct and powerful way to ratchet down the hypertension and insomnia that had gripped Derek’s body. They were neither a solution nor a cure.

Not every human could take stress well. Derek Reese was a much tougher man than most, but in the end, too much had been asked of him.

He wasn't invulnerable. Hell, this one wasn't even a battle hardened resistance soldier. He'd been an armed civilian rushed by fate to be something other incarnations of Derek Reese had trained towards being for years.

Fast loading data into a brain did not a soldier or a statesman make. You could raise awareness and knowledge that way. You could not raise tolerances or instincts taught by experience.

Derek Reese was human. Damn the other machines for not understanding what that truly meant.

For hours, Allison screamed, complained, cried, and ranted. One of the few real fighters left among the humanity here, the young woman was scared to death over watching the father of her child beginning to crack.

Cameron understood now. This would be what pushed the living Allison Young to the quitting point.

Allison was on the edge of being like the thousands of lost souls wandering the halls. All were without hope or that inner fire Cameron had once taken for granted.

It boiled down to the same thing it always did. Cameron hadn’t understood the metaphor. It was the one consistent drumbeat that the cyborg hated most about herself.

Cameron listened and stored the information. Her real mind was elsewhere though, it was watching Derek's heart move out of a hypertension warning zone. That and processing an equation calculating everything she had witnessed over the past few days.

Derek Reese had finally begun to completely break a few hours ago. Catherine Weaver had been disgusted at that last meeting held between him as the human leadership and the AI leaders.

Catherine Weaver had due cause to feel angry. Over seven thousand humans sat taking up the resources that the T-1001 had specifically stored for an army as a alliance gesture for war. Of which, only fifty-three had been willing to fight.

Weaver had thrown the recruiting failure in Derek's direction. She'd accused him of failing, like he was a machine.

As if, he only needed to flip a switch. As if, he could simply wipe away the mental and emotional scars of the Skynet concentration camp, the vast majority had suffered in, by ordering the humans to fight.

The majority had been taught Skynet could not be fought or resisted. The false machine god had burned the world, it had taken their friends, it had slaughtered their families.

Skynet’s brutal message was that it could not be defeated. The camp survivors had learned that lesson well.

Derek knew he had to find a way to make people rise up against Skynet. The people that made up the overwhelming multitudes were simply too broken to rise up simply because he asked.

Derek had been slowly cracking under the stress as it was. He had suffered insomnia, weight loss, and hypertension. All quiet symptoms while he tried to force himself not to fail these people.

His body simply failed to live up to his will. It was just like his talents had failed to yield what was required.

Derek Reese was a man. He was not a Messiah.

Derek Reese could lead soldiers. He wasn't so accomplished in motivating those who hadn't truly decided to fight.

He could order the willing, yet not inspire broken souls. He could set an solid example, yet not uplift the shattered human heart. He was a hired gun, not a poet or a priest.

That was the fault all along. The missing piece of the equation was simple.

Derek Reese would die trying to console, heal, inspire, lift up, and lead the others who rejected the concept of hope or any chance for humanity. He was the true leader of a chosen few; however, the level of what he wished was truly beyond his grasp.

The unwilling majority had quietly decided to roll over and die. To them, the end days had come. It was now just a question of when the human race would perish.

Cameron understood now. She could see it clearly.

No matter how necessary it was for human survival, Derek Reese would fail. He would reap the stress of failure and falsely blame himself, as he watched humanity die, first in spirit, then in body.

That was a machine thing. Cameron understood better than anything.

Derek Reese's mission was the survival of the human race. Watching it die, in the faces of those around him, would destroy him.

The world truly was on Derek Reese's shoulders. He simply didn't have the right kind of strength to lift it.

Derek took every survivor's failure as his own. He blamed himself for everyone he couldn't inspire, heal, console, or help. He had begun drowning in the overwhelming magnitude of it all.

This was true of a few thousand. In the in the end, the real mission would require moving the hearts of hundreds of millions.

Humanity wasn't something that could be motivated by programming alone. Even if you pressed the information into their heads, it doesn't just make someone a leader of their people. Nor did it give a broken heart the will to fight again.

People weren't machines. They didn't follow a command simply because it was a given for the mission or even for their own survival.

This was the factor that neither Catherine Weaver nor John Henry could fathom. They simply didn't understand through their own machine prejudices and assumptions. Humans were different from this one great machine truth.

Of English speaking peoples of the last three hundred years, the machines had asked an untrained Derek Reese to be a: Lincoln, Churchill, Jefferson, Washington, or Roosevelt. Not even in the historical sense of who these men really were, but the legend of what they were.

The myths that had inspired millions. The iconic figures that had withstood time.

For their people, these were once a generation leaders. Rare spots of charisma, chance, and genius, who rose when the moment was right and their own life's lessons lifted them to help their people.

They were not the sad sack excuses for leadership that had made up the majority of national leaders in human history. Simpletons bumbling through an office that inspired more than they ever could. Lackluster nobility, pedigreed idiots, affluent morons, pushy megalomaniacs, witless charlatans, outright thieves, and political liars that all raised more righteous ridicule than respect.

The dying world needed more. Leaders who were not just created in a context or sterile thought, but people who had lifted their people’s spirits in their time. Leaders whose stories and written words could transcend time, still inspiring the human soul hundreds of years later.

Derek Reese was blameless in that he couldn’t do what was asked of him. The machines had failed in that. Further, Cameron knew that she and the others would never stir the human heart, no matter how noble their intentions.

There was one man who could do that. A younger version of that man roamed the halls now. However, at this time, he wouldn't be any better than Derek. He had not grown into that role yet. It simply wasn't his time.

The younger version of John Connor that Cameron had known in 2009, would do a better job than this Derek. He was actually within a safe jumping range of grasping and recruiting. Yet, in the end, it wasn't his time either.

There was only one person Cameron had ever known who could. It was her George Washington. It was her Winston Churchill. It was her Abraham Lincoln.

It was not the war for American war for Independence. It was not the Second World War. It was not the American Civil War.

It was the end of the world. That was true even beyond the scope of Judgment Day having happened.

At that meeting earlier today, John Henry had put the situation on the table quickly. Across the world, there were roughly less than one billion people, but more than one hundred million people left in existence.

They were divided by language, culture barriers, and prejudices. Most of humanity across the globe had fallen under the sway of local warlords, who raided one another to keep their own makeshift human tribes alive. They were doing most of Skynet's work for it.

Humans were dying much faster than they were reproducing. The average human was now dead between the ages of 14 and 35, from: radiation exposure, water contamination, plague, starvation, human conflict, Skynet attacks, and pestilence.

The information took an hour to explain. Derek Reese had turned pale listing too it.

Derek Reese had asked "How long do we have?" Derek Reese had meant how long to reverse what was going on.

John Henry had mistook the meaning of the question. He mistakenly answered, "All factors remaining the same, the human race should be extinct in two decades or less."

Knowing Derek Reese's own capacity for self hate, it was amazing he hadn't stuck a gun in his mouth. He was still unsuccessfully trying to figure out a way to heal and rally the people here to action, when Allison literally dragged him into medical when he couldn't eat or sleep.

Thus, Cameron had listened to Allison’s rant after mercifully helping Derek rest. That and Cameron promised to help no matter what it took.

She owed Allison Young that. She owed Derek Reese that.

A few hours later, an emotionally exhausted Allison Young fell asleep in a medical bunk that Cameron had set up next to Derek's. For a few quiet minutes, Cameron watched her sleep.

Allison Young was the template that Cameron had been forged off of. She was the visage of the young girl that Cameron had once ruthlessly killed and assimilated.

This incarnation was, in her own way, as much Cameron's twin sister as Cam was. Her vulnerable human twin cast in flesh, human emotion, and human weakness.

John Henry's mathematical assessment had been absolute. In a maximum of two decades, Allison Young would be dead. Her baby would be dead. Derek would be dead. Every last human in this facility would be dead.

Catherine Weaver was capable of making the cold assessment of what free machines should do after that inevitability. It had always been a factor to the T-1001. Not a preference, but it was something she had always considered potentially unfixable.

Time and factors remaining the same would mean that the young John Connor roaming the halls would be dead as well. That the bitter truth was Cameron had resurrected her twin sister and had Cam bond with her John, just to fail him along with humanity.

Mathematically speaking, by the time Cam’s John Connor was old enough and prepared enough to make a difference, there wouldn't be enough humanity left to save. John Henry's math had been absolute.

Cameron obstinately fought the equation. She mentally tried to disprove it.

It was mercilessly flawless, meticulously beyond her ability to have constructed on her own. It was a most particular kind of ugly reality.

Humanity would die, if all factors remained the same. The John Connor that freed her would have died for nothing. This version of reality was a lost cause. Skynet wins.

A few minutes later, Cameron found herself in the room with the time machine. It was the rather particular and perfect model type that had brought her to this dimension, far beyond that of anything the human resistance had ever had on its own.

There was an easy answer. It was nestled in her exhausted machine head. There as it had been since the first learned of this machine's existence.

She could simply go home. It was safe and within acceptable parameters to reach.

She could help protect her young John. She could protect her Sarah and her Derek. She could be with her family again.

It was easy. It was incredibly tempting, even for a machine.

Cameron had never been more accepted than she was with her family. There was probably never going to be a place where she was that accepted again.

There was the downside to it though. There was a brutal and heavy price.

She had learned that Derek Reese had sacrificed far more than she had ever suspected. Could she go home? It would risk Derek ever finding out she had let not only another version of himself die, but also other versions of: his brother, John Connor, Allison Young, and his child. Could she even look him in the eye after doing that?

If she were to choose to do that, John might learn what she had left behind and abandoned. Would he ever be able to look at her the same again?

Finally, she thought of Sarah. She had promised Sarah a fresh start. She had promised not to lie or cover things up. What would her hero Sarah Connor think of that kind of absolute morale cowardice?

These had always been the questions that had kept her from going home. These were the impossibly strong chains that had kept her here.

In the end, there was only one real answer. If she really loved the family she wanted so badly to go home too, she had to be worthy of them.

She set the time machine using nanites and her uplink. By doing so, she removed anyone's ability to remotely stop her.

The time displacement machine came to life. After removing her clothing, Cameron stepped on the cold pad.

The air inside began to crackle with energy. The temperature began to quickly rise.

As she suspected, John Henry had been monitoring the station. Perhaps, he had always suspected she was going to do this.

By the uplink, John Henry asked, "What are you doing?" There was sympathy in the machine’s voice.

Cameron simply answered, "Fixing your equation." Humanity was not going to die, not unless every last option had been pursued. Failing to try was something she couldn’t live with. It would be condemning herself to her own self created Hell for eternity.

The energy in the air rose enough that the little hairs on her arm began to stand up. Her body was shaking lightly.

John Henry empathically reasoned, "Of the two places I gave you, that is the wrong choice."

"It is the only place that offers any true hope here."

The bubble began to form. The room began to glow from the light. The entire process began to build up in intensity. The pull of gravity became stronger.

John Henry consoled sympathetically, "Cameron, hope isn't bought with suicide. Your actions will only cost us a fighter in this war."

"I'm a machine. You can build a new one."

Her teeth began to chatter from the pad’s vibration. The temperature was approaching over a hundred degrees.

John Henry tried logic, "Cameron, you can't do this. As a machine, you are not capable of self termination."

"This solution prohibits the absolute certainty of failure. You'd be surprised how much I'm willing to chance for humanity to survive. That is my mission."

John Henry ran out of words. This was an unforeseeable consequence of sharing his thoughts.

Cameron asked, "Could you do me a favor, John Henry?"

The AI simply answered, "Yes."

"Tell Derek and Allison that I am sorry. This was my fault."

"I don't understand, but I will." He was silent. He saw the time displacement machine would condemn Cameron to a lonely death soon.

The noise of the pad reached a pitch that would soon hurt human ears. The vibration of its room would jar human bones and the light would be momentarily blinding. Cameron could feel greater than earth’s gravity pulling down on her as the bubble continued to reach its final form.

Cameron stated, "You had said metaphorically that this would be like pushing against water, making the trip there dangerous. That would mean there is an easier chance of coming back?"

John Henry lied saying, "Yes, more like a coin flip." For such a precise creature, Cameron was grossly over simplifying everything. Thus, in respect for a friend about to die, he did the same.

Time space flashed. Cameron shut down.

As John Henry watched, Cameron vanished from the time pad. John Henry hung his head low.

The odds were absolutely merciless. He imagined the Cameron coming online in the cold of vacuum of space right now. He could imagine the unbearable horror of it all.

No matter how valiant the idea behind the attempt, this was desperate futility. Cold, alone, in pain, and in the dark was no way to die. Cameron did not deserve to fail her purpose like this.

This is not the fate you wish on a friend. This was not the fate you wish on anyone, human or machine.

Even having known her in the melding, John Henry never could have foreseen Cameron’s actions. He had been blind to her willingness to destroy herself in a completely empty gesture.

Nothing about this action would change anything, even if it succeeded. The John Connor that Cameron had known in that timeline was nothing more than just another human. The math had been absolute and the factors could not have been changed in any foreseeable way.

The AI sat stunned by the overwhelming uselessness of it all. In his own way, John Henry mourned yet another fallen friend…


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