I Have a Feeling we’re Not in Kansas Any More
suburb of Wichita, Kansas
Cameron wakes up with a start when she realizes Sarah has been watching her sleep.
"I understand now why he hated that."
Obviously the old timeline had not popped back into existence while she was powered down. This Sarah said good Morning.
Sunlight was streaming through the window. How could a human need less recharging (sleep) than a machine like her? Especially after a long drive. She had planned to get up before Sarah and make breakfast.
"I made your favorite breakfast. Blueberry muffins and veggie patties."
[It was those non-meat vegetarian breakfast patties]
"How did you know I eat? Don't answer that. I'm still getting used to the changes." said Cameron getting out of bed.
Cameron felt unsure of what to do next. In the old timeline, she would simply get dressed (showering first if she had been out on patrol all night) but now she wondered if she had to start doing some saccharine sweet mother-daughter ritual like . . . like she didn't know what. She might have to watch the Christian network or read Sweet Valley High or get a subscription to some beautiful home life better family Martha Stewart living magazine in order to have a clue as to how a perfect relationship between mother and daughter was supposed to be scripted and acted out. If there were Stepford Wives, then there had to be Stepford Mothers and Daughters too. Had her mother become a Mormon? Or Ned Flanders?
Fortunately, Sarah seemed to sense that Cameron needed some space and didn't suffocate her. She just announced good Morning, breakfast was ready, smiled and left her bedroom.
Whew! When Cameron had first met the first Sarah Connor, all that perfect stuff would have been easy. She could simply run emotional emulation subroutines and draw on her cultural database for appropriate behavior. But all of that hogged memory and had been erased from both RAM and solid state, the memory space reassigned other uses as sectors were appropriated during battle damage rerouting of circuits, and simply lost during the change in timeline. She would have to come by her emotions honestly and behave well without the crutch of preprogramming. And that was just at home. She was also expected to be this leader her mother spoke of. Her mother! For the first time, she could think of Sarah Connor as her mother without feeling like she was pretending. The old Sarah Connor never returned Cameron's daughterly love. Would this new Sarah Connor think that Cameron was not returning her motherly love? One thing Cameron could not forget was two years of abuse. The new Sarah Connor had the old Sarah Connor's face. Cameron just couldn't flip a switch. It didn't work that way emotionally. Cameron had to fake it meanwhile. It was only fair to this new mother who really was worth the effort.
Cameron looked across the breakfast table at this woman who was now a stranger to her. Cameron thought that this Sarah was the real robot in terms of perfection and that she was the less than perfect human daughter. Except that her hand didn't shake any more. Her face was all there and there were no bullet holes. She knew this because she looked in the mirror as she got dressed. Her mother ('I can't get over that' thought Cameron) had a continuous memory of this timeline while her memory of it--
"What day is today?"
"Holy Saturday April Eleventh, Two Thousand Nine."
J. Juh. John? He had disappeared into the future.
"Mom, what do you know about the future from which Kyle Reese came?"
"Just what he told me, and what you and others who have been there tell me."
"More please." (Sarah passes the muffins) "Details. More details. I have amnesia."
"No you don't."
"But last night you said!" (pause) "Never mind. Father Time must have been busy while I was asleep. Fine tuning details."
"Okay. I stay out of Resistance secrets and stick to being a mother." (pause) "I assume you've been testing me to see how careful I am about Resistance matters and to learn what rumors I've heard so that somebody gets disciplined for leaking information or being careless. 'Loose lips sink ships.' Isn't that what they said in World War Two?"
"Yes, I am testing you." (pause) "So if there is nothing nicknamed Judgment Day, then why are we fighting Skynet?"
"Oh, you decided to give me an easy one: Skynet is an insane AI out to create a super-weapon that will wipe everyone and everything out of existence."
"Obviously not atomic bombs or hydrogen bombs."
Sarah leaned over the table and whispered: "Singularity bomb."
It now all made sense. Whatshisname's disappearance. The date. The unwinding of the timelines as she went back to 1997 and 1996 and finally 1963 before being thrown here against her will last night which, by definition was Good Friday April Tenth, Two Thousand Nine because she had just been informed that today is Holy Saturday April Eleventh Two Thousand Nine. When she was in Skynet Forces and again when she was in the old Tech-Com in the Old Future, she had heard about this weapon in general staff meetings that would enable Skynet to selectively destroy a range of timelines. It freed him from the need to send 'killer robots from the future' to change a given timeline. Skynet could, in essence, checkmate John Connor before Connor sent his own agents through time.
"Why me as leader? I'm underage. I'm a machine."
"I thought I answered why a machine last night but again they don't need you as a mainframe or a supercomputer for computational analysis. They have computers. They need you exactly because you ask these kinds of off-the-wall questions that no one else thinks to ask. And because you have been in the future. And because you have known Skynet up close and personal." [That was true thought Cameron. I knew Skynet better than John.]
Continued Sarah: "We need someone who knows Skynet and Skynet Forces. And you have done field work. And besides experience and knowledge, Kyle recommended you."
"But I'm underage and still living at home."
"I thought I just answered that question. That's why I got you two weeks off. There are two people who can overrule you, me and your doctor. Why an underage person? Some cynics in Tech-Com say it is because Skynet has killed everybody else on our side with leadership potential. As your mother, I say it is because you are the best."
A knock on the door. Sarah goes to answer it without grabbing a shotgun first. Even the attitude toward security seemed lax in this timeline. It was a courier. The man came into the kitchen with a document satchel. He handed it to Cameron. Being a speed reader, she leafed through and read the thick Report in seconds. Sarah cleared her throat. Cameron looked up. Sarah was nodding her head slightly toward the fireplace in the den. Cameron understood. The courier needed to go and she was expected to burn the papers in his presence. Okay, so maybe these people were not total idiots when it came to security. Either that or they were paranoids. After the man left, Cameron asked Sarah another question.
"If Skynet has killed every Resistance leader before me, why didn't you grab a shotgun before you went to answer the door?"
Sarah took out her cellphone and muttered something about next she's going to ask me why no response to that screaming in the yard last night.
"Follow me Cameron."
Cameron followed her mother to the back door. Sarah went out on the deck and threw an apple straight up into the air. The apple was shot from several directions by sharpshooters.
"We're on a tight budget and I hate wasting food. Any more questions?"
"No ma'am. I'll sweep up the mess."
As she swept, Cameron looked around and could not see anyone. Security was obviously better than appearances. She herself might have ordered discreet security. She was being watched. If the budget was so tight, should she eat the apple fragments that she swept off the deck so that people would know that she was not a wastrel?
As if reading her mind, Sarah yelled from the kitchen.
"Don't even try! Put it out in the yard for the birds or squirrels."
It was all so strange and yet familiar and comforting. She was leader (the Morning Report she read left no doubt) but she was looked after by an overprotective mother. Was this how Jon John felt?
But was she really their leader? Had she taken the place of the Cameron from this timeline? Everybody, without exception, has a twin in a parallel universe. What had happened to that other Cameron? Undoubtedly there was another Cameron because Sarah described things that she had never done. Had she swapped places with that other Cameron? Of course she did. Had to. That other Cameron was probably dying right now. Her mind in the Zeira mainframe. Her chip in that timeline's future with John-Henry. And her body in that chair before the old Sarah Connor incinerated it. Mister Ellison would do nothing to stop that Sarah Connor from burning her body while her mind watched from the lab cameras. But she was here in THIS body with no bullet holes and no shakes. That meant she had swapped bodies but brought her memories with her. How was that possible unless Christianity was right about transmigration of souls? She left the apple fragments out in the otherwise tidy back yard and went back in and found her mother in the kitchen washing dishes.
"It wasn't in the Morning Report. Nor would I expect it to be, but do you think I am a Christian like you?"
"I've wanted you to share my faith but imposing is not my style. I thought you were an agnostic."
Old Sarah, atheist with no respect for churches or men of the cloth but not a fanatic about it. New Sarah, Christian but not evangelical. Now Cameron was assumed to be an agnostic. In the old Resistance and the old Tech-Com, no one cared about your religion because the end of the world had come and God had not seemed to care.
One thing was certain. Cameron did not want to go back to the old life. A body falling apart. A hopeless cause. A world doomed to end in 2011. A dead uncle. A leader thrust into the fray before he was ready. A brother who took advantage of her frailties (and yes, even machines have weaknesses). A hateful mother. No thanks. Cameron loved her old mother but that woman hated her. Yes, she was a pretender pretending to be their Cameron. But their Cameron obviously couldn't cope with a singularity bomb any more than J--- could prevent himself from being wiped out of existence. Still. The J she knew had risked himself to rescue her. And lost. She had to give him that.
The Morning Report was simply about current missions. Hunting down and killing Skynet agents. Protecting Resistance money men and scroungers. Skynet knew that if he got to them then he could cut off Tech-Com's already tight funds. Security wasn't cheap. And time travel research was so expensive that they had not really started. So expensive that Cameron felt like chasing the birds away and eating that apple anyway. That admonition that parents said in other countries to wasteful children: "Clean your plate. There are people starving in America." took on a whole new meaning.
Agents on missions could support themselves with cover jobs. But taking care of the leader (her, Cameron) had to be paid for and Sarah was obviously well aware of it before pulling that stunt with the apple.
It was ironic that the people in Skynet's pocket, the military-industrial complex, could waste the taxpayers' money on weapons systems that didn't work and gold-plated toilets for Pentagon generals and, more ominously, on systems like Skynet itself while the people fighting to save life had to pinch pennies.
After witnessing her old mother lug boxes of cash while denying Cameron any biomedical attention or health care, Cameron again was grateful that God or Father Time or the multiverse had dropped her into a life where she had her own doctor. Her mother had said she had one. Even on a tight budget. Maybe tight budgets made them smarter. They had no choice but to be smarter since they didn't have Fort Knox to waste. Cameron looked forward to kicking Skynet's gold-plated ass.
"Are you going to mope around all day? We have R&R to plan."
"Shopping? I thought you said we couldn't afford that."
"I did say that but there are lots of free things to do."
"I hate to sound like a grind but shouldn't I be in school? Don't tell me that I'm home schooled in this timeline too. I hate that."
"No, you have tutors on days that you work in HQ and you attend parochial school whenever we find a good one locally."
Sarah still dismissed the idea of amnesia. Cameron had a memory like a steel trap. But there were other possibilities. Maybe she really was from another timeline and this was an interloper. She'd have to talk to Derek about that. She called Cameron's doctor to schedule an appointment for tomorrow. No. It could wait until Monday or Tuesday. Why screw up somebody's Easter weekend? Besides, Cameron had never left her sight the past few days. No impostor could have switched or traded places. And security would have made it impossible.
"You sent me to a Christian academy?"
"Heavens no. I said parochial school. You know, Catholic high schools. Since I'm no good at discipline, I figure that they can give you what I can't." [No good at discipline? This sure isn't the old Sarah Connor.] "I wouldn't send you to a conservative Christian academy. Those places would turn your mind to mush. They don't believe in evolution which is why they haven't evolved. But those same conservatives are social Darwinists, which makes them the worst kind of hypocrites. Doubly so in politics. They finally got one of their own, a born-again Christian, in the White House and turned him out of office after one term for the Antichrist Ronald Reagan."
"Why do you call him the Antichrist?" (Cameron didn't care. She was just fascinated that in this timeline the presidents had been the same.)
"666. Ronald Wilson Reagan. Three six-letter names. A divorced man. Nancy practiced the occult and astrology. Ronald started his presidential campaign in Philadelphia, Mississippi to win the Klan vote because that was near where they murdered Emmett Till. The Bible says even the Elect, my fellow Christians, would be fooled. They were."
Cameron tuned out and let her mom talk. Cameron hated politics because she had seen politics in the upper echelons of Skynet Forces and decided that a suicide mission was preferable. However, that suicide mission resulted in her being brainwashed and serving as a yeoman in another hotbed of politics -- The Resistance -- which was full of anti-machine extremists. In this timeline, Derek Reese was married to Jesse Flores, one of the worst extremists in the old timeline. Even the Machine Underground seemed infected by politics as she learned after giving John-Henry her chip.
Cameron: "Didn't Jimmy Carter serve under Admiral Hyman Rickover? He might be a Southern Baptist but he has a solid background in nuclear physics."
Cameron tuned back out as her mother responded to this.
"Exactly. Jimmy Carter turned out to be right about everything except the Palestinians. And even there, he was just being a peacemaker. He was right about energy independence and that was probably why the powers that be destroyed him and then Al Gore."
Cameron woke up.
"Gore lost the election in this timeline too?"
Sarah stopped short but not in a surprised way so much as an analytical way. Cameron kept referring to timelines. The Cameron she thought she knew was more instinctual. Who was this person?
Cameron looked back equally in puzzlement. The old Sarah Connor had no interest in politics whatsoever. This new Sarah was absorbed by it.
"Mom, why do you care what a bunch of crooked politicians does? Every president gets the country into a war or keeps it in a war. The foreign policy Mafia will never change."
"You're joking. One day, machines will have rights. In the meantime, Skynet controls Wall Street, the corporate world, DC lobbyists, and soon the military and political worlds."
This jolted Cameron. This was not in the Morning Report. Her staff had assumed certain assumptions and did not need to put them in the Morning Report.
Machine rights in her lifetime? She couldn't even hope for it in the future from which she originally came. And Skynet was not bothering with the slow liberal approach of fighting and serving in the military and hoping the humans would notice your loyalty and reward it. The Connors back in the old timeline had planned to use her up like they did with Uncle Bob. Or should she say, Uncle Tom?
Skynet was taking the fast reactionary (ultraconservative) approach of seizing power like the Nazis. Cameron remembered the scuttlebutt when she was first built (circa 2026 old timeline) that Skynet time research was based on Nazi super-science. Nonsense and quackery. Cameron ignored it until, as a Resistance fighter living with The Connors, she came across the archive article on Myron Stark in the 1920's. It was then she recalled the other rumors that she had heard on both sides.
"Mom, young people like me tend to tune out politics. Next time you talk politics, you may discover that I actually listen to you."
It could be a matter of life and death, she thought.
Cameron had a photographic memory and did not remember seeing what should have been an obvious fact in the Morning Report. Except that she had already learned that her staff did not fill her Morning Report with obvious facts and assumptions.
"Where is headquarters now Mom?"