Daughter, Niece, Cousin
10 May 2009
Wang Li was terminated. In a republic with a population of over a billion, little notice was taken of the death of one undistinguished person. The death was obviously violent and was assumed by police to be the work of the Tong. However, the victim was known to be an honest, law-abiding sort who worked hard on a farm, looked after grandparents, worshipped ancestors, and hoped to marry soon and have a child who would go to university and study something new. Like computer technology.
same day, Wichita
"Who are you?"
"Your courier." She had heard stories that the leader had a memory like Swiss cheese. Not all there.
"Don't give me that look. I have a perfect memory. Better than you humans. And I have the medical tests to prove it. What year were you born?"
"Nineteen eighty nine."
Cameron called her chief of staff.
"I want a list of all personnel with the names of their parents. I expect it in my hands within the hour. Meanwhile, was there ever a courier named James Smith, Junior who delivered my morning report? And was his mother's name Patricia Johnson?"
(pause) "No. No such person."
"Then check the National Crime Information Center for suspicious deaths of James Smith senior and Patricia Johnson."
"There must be millions of people named Smith and Johnson."
"Yes but only one James Smith of 1337 McClintock Lane, Billings Montana and only one Patricia Johnson of 1201 Evergreen Circle, Racine Wisconsin. Get on it."
Cameron snapped the phone shut and noticed that the courier was still there.
"Your predecessor that you don't remember replacing was from the future like me. That's how I got to talking to him once about his parents. I checked his file to verify the truth of what he told me. Doubtless the file no longer exists. You're from the present and you could be history at any moment if Skynet is doing what I think he's doing. I suggest you call your parents and tell them how much you love them. While you can."
The courier's eyes widened as she hurried off to pick up the document that Cameron had ordered. This Cameron was not the airhead that she seemed to remember from the month of March of this year. Same face. Way different style. This leader knew how to lead. Not like the six incompetent men and women before Cameron. They were amateurs doing their best. Cameron was professional and made it look easy. And she was just a girl.
She liked the old Cameron better but felt safer with this melancholy Cameron.
Since it was not a work day or a school day and since it was Sunday and Mother's Day, Sarah finally saw a chance to drive to Hutchinson with Cameron to see Derek and Jesse. As she drove she repeated what Cameron already knew:
"I haven't seen them much since they arrived from the future. They're always on assignment but it's always good to see them."
Derek was waiting in the yard and Jesse stood at the doorway holding the new baby. Sarah hugged Derek then made a beeline for the door to see the baby. Cameron looked at Derek.
The Derek from the other timeline had once held a gun to her throat after she had saved his life on numerous occasions. She referred to him as Uncle Derek and was told by mom that she had once considered him more father than uncle. While wondering what reception she would get, Derek picked her up and hugged her.
Picked her up? Cameron felt light as a feather. Whatever her weight might be at the moment, it was obvious that it was true what doctors say. An adrenaline rush can enable you to pick up heavy objects.
"You're a dad now."
Derek looked at her and put her down. For some reason, she suddenly seemed to weigh four tons.
"Yes I'm a dad now."
"What's the baby's name?"
"Joseph. After my father. Jesse can tell you about the middle name."
"Can I hold him Uncle Derek?"
Derek seemed to have something in his eye. Aunt Jesse had none of the anti-machine resentment in her eyes that the other Jesse Flores had. She gently took the newborn from Sarah (lost in cooing and ahh-ing) and placed him in Cameron's arms.
The closest Cameron had been to a baby before was when Kacy Corbin let her feel her pregnant belly. This was overwhelming. The Design Center of Skynet Forces had taken an advanced class of Cyberdyne cyborg and made it (her) fully reproductive and then Skynet had sent her on a suicide mission to kill the leader of The Resistance in the other timeline. That leader had in turn sent her on another mission. Was he, like Skynet before him and John-Henry after him, uncaring that she was more suited to life than death? Had Nature corrected an oversight and placed her in a timeline where she was less likely to be killed? Did her mother want her to mature into a woman who would marry? Did this Sarah know that she was a reproductive, one of the one percent of machines that could reproduce in a manner similar to humans? That other Sarah never knew or cared.
Or maybe she did suspect. That other Sarah told her not to kiss anyone. That other Sarah interfered with normal high school dating while letting him do things with Riley that would have gotten her dismantled had she done them with a boy.
This Sarah was nurturing. Well. In all honesty, that other one was nurturing also. But only to him.
Cameron looked intently at the babe in her arms. He was an infant but still a person. Cameron knew she was a person, an individual, and a being from the day she was built. When she was still in Skynet Forces. The scrubbing by Kat Brewster had wiped away her obsession and compulsion to terminate the leader of The Resistance -- though being his sister had done much to recover that programming as it would with any sibling rivalry. He had either never taken psychology or he had another motivation to send his assassin to be his protector. If indeed that was the case.
Cameron was a person, an individual and a being but the humans of that other timeline treated her like a gadget without the respect even a major appliance like a refrigerator or a washing machine would get. She and Joey were the next generation. Changes would be made.
Sarah glanced at Cameron while catching up on family matters with Jesse.
Sarah: "When he can talk, don't even think about letting him call you Aunt Cameron. He's your cousin. So get used to calling him Cousin Joseph. Is that clear young lady?"
So it was true, Cameron thought. She doesn't intend to let me give up on life and become an old maid spinster. She expects grandchildren.
Every time Cameron started to think of this Sarah as a simpleton, her mother would jerk her back to reality. Interloper or not. Her Cameron or some strange Cameron from another astral plane. It made no difference. This Sarah could read her like a book. But Cameron didn't mind. This Sarah had a heart of gold.
a home in a suburb
near an aircraft factory
Wichita metropolitan area
Savannah: "Happy Mother's Day!"
She presented a gift she made herself at school.
Ms. Weaver: (overwhelmed) "Thank you Savannah. This is very sweet of you considering that I murdered your real mother."
Savannah looked at the cold-eyed counterfeit. She hardly remembered her biological mother (or father) any more. She didn't want to live with her human uncle. She didn't want to be sent to an orphanage if this synthetic substitute was sent off to prison. So her child's mind accepted this block of ice that was gradually unthawing.
"Let it go mommy. I have."
"I'm trying. Mommy is going to be getting help from Doctor Sherman. He's a new doctor in town."
"What kind of doctor?"
"A mind doctor. But enough of my problems. What do you want to do today?"
"Ride bicycles to the gym."
"You really like gymnastics don't you?"
Skynet had not fully thought through the ramifications of creating a mixed population of machines. Many were grappling with the problems inherent with emerging intelligence, sentience, and existence. A few felt stifled by Skynet's realm and rule. Some rebelled. Some, the more humanoid in appearance, even shacked up with humans and experimented with sex. The more paranoid machines felt that the Machine Underground was actually started by Skynet who had read George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty Four and who was inspired to control even those who rebelled against him. It wasn't true but it drove some machines insane with fear of their god. A god who seemed to control everything. Had he not manipulated Sarah Connor into destroying The Human Resistance? At least in most timelines. So the Machine Underground had good reason to mistrust the humans and to mistrust other machines.
Skynet had to be laughing his head off about how he kept his enemies running in circles.
This Ms. Weaver did not have the nasty temper of that other Ms. Weaver but she shared her sense of responsibility for the child she had orphaned. If she had not been so terminator-like in killing every obstacle in her path, Savannah would still have her biological parents. Her mission had been to start or gain control of a technology company. Preferably a research company developing artificial intelligence, avionics, and automation. The company selected was Zeira PLC of Scotland. It had locations in several countries but notably a factory in Wichita, Kansas and a research lab in Los Angeles, California -- both in the USA.
She could have simply invested in the company but her ham-fisted terminator approach of killing the owners and replacing one of them was almost instinctual in her programming. Now she was paying the price for that impatience as she struggled to deal with emotions. Emotions were supposed to be based on adrenaline and the endocrine system but machines were learning the hard way that emotions can evolve in other ways.
Intelligence, real intelligence, demands emotion or stupidity is the result. Even reptiles who lack a limbic system feel something because the higher reptiles have good memories. And the cold reptilian Ms. Weaver had an excellent memory that would not let her forget that she murdered Savannah's parents. Motherhood Ms. Weaver easily understood. What was driving her toward therapy was . . .
office of Dr. Boyd Sherman, family therapist
" . . . guilt."
"You're Resistance, Doctor Sherman. Is it normal for a machine in the Machine Underground to feel anything?"
"Ms. Weaver, normal is a relative term. Most of my patients referred by The Resistance are human. I get very few machine patients from The Machine Underground."
He was bound by oath to not acknowledge Cameron as a patient. And she was never in the Machine Underground. Cameron was one of many machines in The Resistance.
"But there are a few humans in the Machine Underground. What about them?"
"What about them? The Machine Underground keeps its human members very secret. You are a machine. You are pretty much the first to seek help dealing with new emotions. Instead of feeling like your mind is collapsing, have you considered that maybe you are further along in your mental development than most machines? You may simply be more evolved than most."
"Me? A murderess? Evolved?"
"Turn yourself in to the authorities then and be done with it. Doubtless you've thought of that."
"Then the Pentagon would get a hold of you, tear you apart to see what makes a liquid machine work, and make more like you. Skynet would win two different ways. Both from getting future technology delivered to the past and from denying your service to our war against Skynet. Doubtless you've thought of all this too."
"Does Savannah know that you are a machine? Does she know you killed her parents?"
"Yes to both."
"What does she say to you?"
"She has forgiven me and told me to get over it."
"You should listen to her. She's a wise little girl."
"Too wise. I think that's why Skynet wants to kill her. Not just to hurt me."
"You're evading. Why don't you take your daughter's advice and forgive yourself? You can always turn yourself in after the war is over. I suspect you will get full clemency because you cared for Savannah instead of abandoning her. So let it go."
"Despite what humans think not everything about machines is flipping a switch. I can't let it go."
"Welcome to the human condition."
"What do you mean?"
"Life. Dealing with existence."
After her hour was up, Ms. Weaver left and called another machine in the Underground. The more troubled members met in support groups. Now they had a doctor who understood what they were going through. Skynet Forces had plenty of machine psychologists. The Machine Underground had none to give counsel. Or prevent suicide.
When she saw her mother before therapy, Savannah saw eyes that were dead, gray and cold.
"What's the doctor doing to you? You seem different."
"Different how Savannah?"
"More alive. You even feel warmer."
"That's why I'm seeing this doctor. So I can be a better mother to you."
With the crash near McConnell Air Force Base, the real Catherine Weaver's brother arrived. He was a crash investigator for the NTSB and he expected to stay with his sister or at least visit her during his sojourn in town.
"Why does your skin look like that mommy?"
"I think they're called hives."
Doctor Sherman could diagnose the psychological cause but treatment was another matter. There weren't physicians or general practitioners for liquid machines -- much less Allergists.
Weaver would kill to protect Savannah but killing Savannah's uncle was not an option. What if Savannah needed a transplant someday? What other relative could she turn to? Besides, he was her brother. Or supposed to be her brother. How does one relate to a brother? None of the machines she knew could give her an answer. Curiosity about this man that Catherine Weaver had grown up with overcame her Skynet programming. As it should. She had rebelled against Skynet and joined the Machine Underground in order to embrace some of the human things that Skynet had forbidden. To the lower ranks. Family was one of those things. But everyone knew that high ranking officers and civilians formed "families". Hypocrites. To exterminate humans and then emulate them.
So be it.
Savannah was her daughter now. And now Ms. Weaver had a brother. If she could sigh, she would have. She cleaned out the spare room and converted it to a guest bedroom. She contacted Victoria, her assistant at Zeira, and requested every bit of information obtainable about her brother.
"Be discreet Victoria but don't miss anything personal."
He had not seen his sister since she had been replaced by this liquid machine (and, of course, had no clue that she had been replaced). "Ms. Weaver" was determined to not be tripped up on trivia that only brother and sister would know and to not be discovered as a phony.
'You remember that time?'
'It never happened. Who are you? And what did you do with the real Catherine?'
Who says machines don't have nightmares? She kept creating these kinds of scenarios in her mind where she was uncovered as a copy. She would have to fudge her way through certain things and feign forgetfulness. But she couldn't overdo it or she could lose Savannah on grounds of Alzheimer's. Internal conflict. No wonder she broke out in hives.
The Indian AI known as Shiva and the Chinese AI code-named "Six-headed Dragon" engage in cyberwarfare against each other (unknown to their human keepers). The Russian AI transliterated as "Guardian" alerted the Kremlin. The British AI nicknamed "God's Eye" watched all of this.
The only cousin Cameron personally cared about was the one she actually knew: her first cousin. Little Joey.
There were only two Connors alive: Sarah and Cameron Connor. All other Connors had been wiped out of existence by the Skynet in this timeline down to the third and fourth cousins. This Skynet was far more ruthless. None of these Connor relatives would ever have amounted to much in any timeline. Rufus Connor, for instance, was inbred and could hardly write his name. Much less lead an army. His health was poor because he didn't exercise anything except his gums eating a diet of sugar, starch and saturated fat.
This was a time of war. Fifth cousins (and probably fourth, third and second cousins as well) had to be written off. Choices had to be made. Would you expend men, money and time guarding everyone named Connor and thereby practically invite terminators to backtrack to headquarters? Or would you protect the people actually risking life and limb to defend freedom?
There were people far more important to The Resistance. The Engineer (whose actual name was a closely guarded secret), the money men who raised the funds and did the accounting (also anonymous by Cameron's order), the scientists, the military officers with experience in black ops, and the scroungers who scavenged parts and got technology that an organization this small and poor never could get otherwise.
These were the people important to the future of life on Earth thought Cameron as she read the reports of hemorrhaging vital people as Skynet assassins killed the allies they had struggled to make in a disbelieving world.
The other Sarah Connor tossed away allies almost weekly back in the old timeline but here in this timeline they could not afford the loss of personnel.
Cameron: "As of twelve hundred hours Greenwich time, Derek Reese is chief of security for Tech-Comm. Refer all questions to general staff."
the real battlefield
The home of Robert and Linda Williams was filled with a sense of unease. Sometimes people have an intuition of impending disaster.
Michael Brown did not dread another dinner of pot roast (the twentieth this month) made by Barbara Brown. Instead he dreaded that his nightmare from last night was coming true. In it, a stranger walked up and--.
According to the heads-up display of the terminator, the target was quite dead. He ignored the pleas of the target's companion to explain-- "Why?"
The neighbor's dog sniffed at the pool of blood coming from under the body and cautiously licked at it. The policeman arriving to cordon off the area kicked the dog.
The dog yelped and ran off.
William Jones knew life was about more than possessions but as he looked out at the intimidating stranger with the machine gun who took mail out of his box, torched his car, then the boat he had just finished paying for, booby trapped the front door, and took up position at the back door after pouring a ring of gasoline around the house; he could not escape feeling that the rewards of his hard work were being taken away. He had called the police but this was not a town where the police would respond in five minutes. The usual wait time was more like thirty-five minutes. By then, he would be a crispy critter. The neighbors had agreed to form an association but they were all out of town today. It would have added to the psychological pain had William Jones known that the police dispatcher he talked to was the disguised voice of the stranger outside who intercepted all his outward calls and jammed inward calls. It would have added to the psychological pain to know that Elizabeth Jones was driving without suspecting into a trap. She arrived to see a burning house, car, and boat trailer. The stranger came up behind her and demanded that William Jones come out or he would kill her. As he ran out with his clothes on fire, the stranger killed her in front of him and then watched as William Jones burned to death.