"Where's the john?"
"You mean where is John?"
"I said what I meant.Where is the bathroom in this house?"
"Maybe there isn't one downstairs.I'm sure there's one upstairs."
They had to move often to keep ahead of the terminators and this new house took some getting used to but it bothered Cameron that her mother would use that slang term since Sarah's son and Cameron's brother also went by those four letters.
Cameron had felt dizzy when her mother asked the question and, for a moment, everything shifted.Family, other people, the place they were (she could have sworn they were in Los Angeles metro but it was Wichita), and things were different.
"Mom, where's John?Is he still in the car?"
"What are you talking about?Who are you talking about?"
(sarcastically) "My brother, your son, John Connor."
Sarah Connor turned and looked back at Cameron.Her only child was a machine and she loved her as a gift from Kyle Reese but sometimes . . .she said the strangest things.
"Are you feeling okay?"
Cameron had a sudden feeling that John was in danger.She ran outside.The car was empty.She called out to the night:"John!John!"
Sarah came outside also to see what the problem was.
"What is it?What's wrong?"
Cameron's heads up display showed only two sets of thermal images of footprints around the car.Hers and her mother's.Cameron was now in full alarm mode.
"We were talking as I drove and he must have been in the back sleeping so we didn't notice him.When we stopped at that last exit for gas, he must have gotten out for snacks or to use the rest room and we must have driven off and left him, still thinking he was in the back sleeping."
Sarah thought that her cyborg daughter must be having flashbacks to the memories she absorbed from Allison Young and said so: "Calm down.You're not Allison Young.You're Cameron Connor my daughter."
Cameron immediately knew something was very wrong.Her mother had never called her Cameron Connor before.Cameron Baum, Cameron Phillips, Cameron Smith, Cameron Jones and a long list of other aliases but NEVER Cameron Connor.And she never acknowledged her as her daughter. In fact, she went out of her way to tell people that she was just a friend of John or somebody living with them.
"I never told you about Allison Young."
"Sure you did your template.Allison sacrificed her life to trick Skynet Forces into making the most advanced machine and then The Resistance captured it and The Engineer made you into the ultimate weapon for fighting Skynet.You must be having amnesia again."
"I've never had amnesia.You're having amnesia not to remember your own flesh and blood son."
In the timeline Cameron remembered, Cameron had never had amnesia, never blanked out, never met Jody, and so would never have cause to tell her mother about Allison Young or amnesia.John could not have come to her rescue at the Halfway House or when Jody was trying to frame her for a house burglary.If it never happened, then why did she remember John?Was he a fantasy?The man who never was?Something The Resistance cooked up to keep Skynet busy chasing ghosts?Pretty nifty but Cameron had clear specific memories of John.Far too detailed for any delusion or hallucination.
"Flesh and blood son, eh?Before Kyle died, we talked about having children.We both agreed that we wanted a daughter.Son?Ugh!I mean we would have been happy with whatever God sent us.But after that terminator killed Kyle, I contracted ovarian cancer in Denver and had a hysterectomy.I've been cancer-free for over ten years and I thank God every day that Future Kyle sent you back to be with me."
"What's this ultimate weapon nonsense?"
"I think they were being sexist and objectifying you rather than respecting you as a person.What they should have said was that you are the ultimate leader."
"I've never heard you refer to me as a person before."
"Why shouldn't I?You're an individual who is a machine being just like any other machine being or human being."
"You're saying that someday I will be leader of some little cell of the resistance?"
"No I said you are ultimate leader now of the combined worldwide Resistance."
"I always got the impression that you felt that girls were too much trouble because we have needs that boys don't have and therefore we are a hassle to a family on the run from terminators.You said you don't care what I need."
"You make it sound like I hate girls.I'm a woman myself."
"You once told me that if you blew my head off it would solve half your problems."
"You make me sound like a monster.They're obviously working you too hard with all those computer simulations and worst case scenarios if you're so tired that you're imagining things."
"You're saying I'm crazy?"
"No I said I think they're working you too hard.I'm putting you to bed young lady.Let's go."
Sarah took Cameron by the hand and led her back inside.Since the house was turnkey, she could expect a furnished bedroom and they wouldn't have to sleep on the floor tonight.Upstairs had two bathrooms which the real estate agent hadn't mentioned.When told that the new house was two-storey with two bedrooms and two baths, Sarah assumed one bath on each floor not both upstairs.
The house was very modest but comfortable.It was all that the cash-strapped Resistance could afford but the Resistance used its meager funds efficiently and provided good health care.Sarah was cancer-free and Cameron had no chip damage (she got an upgrade), no shaky hand, no broken hip, and no broken leg.In the timeline Cameron came from, the Resistance was flush with cash but not one penny was spent on John's right hand, top aide and confidante.Cameron was allowed to fall apart when Sarah had boxes of money to pay for the best biotechnology engineers and roboticists to help her.
"I don't mean to be hurtful Mom.I'm just telling you that I remember the past and the future differently from you.John Connor, the son you couldn't bear in this timeline, must have gone to rescue me after I gave my chip to John-Henry."
"Why did you give your chip to this imaginary John Henry Connor?"
"No.John Connor and John-Henry are two different people.You've never heard of John-Henry?"
Sarah shakes her head no.
"He's the machine messiah of a faction of the Machine Underground."
"A lot of Johns in these futures you dream up at Tech-Comm."
"He didn't come from the future; he went to the future from the present.And how do you know about Tech-Comm?"
"Tech-Comm is where you work.We kind of ignore child labor laws which is why I am a full time mother.I've never been in the future like you and Kyle but you've never talked about a John-Henry before.You are the messiah of the Machine Underground not somebody from the future.That's what I mean by combined.You are the ultimate leader of the combined human resistance and machine underground."
It was breathtaking to absorb all the drastic changes from the timeline she remembered from only an hour ago.One second she died as she gave John-Henry her chip and the next thing she knew, she was with her mother stumbling around in a new house in the dark looking for the light switch and the bathroom.In the future of her lost timeline, John Connor had proposed an alliance but his people had screwed it up.In this new timeline, her people had pulled off an alliance with ease.
"If there is no John-Henry, then I suppose you've never heard of Catherine Weaver either?"
"We're good friends.You don't remember that either?She's sweet just like her little human daughter.Just between you and me, I think that Savannah is a good influence on her.Usually it’s the parent that is the influence on the child.But in your case too, you're the best thing that ever happened to me.I'd be a bitter old woman without you.Connor genes generally predispose us to a sour and salty personality.Kyle's gone and I miss him but he loved you and loved me enough to make sure we looked out for each other if something happened to him.That must be why he came back through time with you."
"What!I thought he hated me as a machine.I killed his girlfriend Allison Young.A machine killed Kyle and that's why you hate--why the Sarah in the other timeline hated me too."
"You did nothing of the kind.The guards killed Allison Young when she tried to escape from the Skynet Forces prison ship.Kyle blamed you and all machines for Allison's death.For about one minute.He was a sweet person like you are.He couldn't blame you for the circumstances of your building.He saw how Skynet programmed you to be evil and he talked to you and offered you a choice between death, being sent back to Skynet having failed in your mission to kill Kyle and life among humans who would accept and love you."
"Naturally I must have spat in his face and told him I'd kill him when I got another chance."
"My word, you have as negative an opinion of yourself as you have of me--correction, the Sarah in this other timeline.No you jumped at his offer and said that there were machines in the underground that wanted to talk alliance.That's how the ball got rolling on that.You were a born leader from the second you were built."
"But that's not how we terminators are built!Every circuit, every subroutine, all of our hardware and software is designed for one purpose, to terminate humans."
"Oh please, with the big bad terminator stuff.Terminators terminate other terminators if they get in the way.Humans kill other humans.Evil is universal.You are an artificial intelligence and no matter how much Skynet designs you to exterminate the human race, you have the ability to think.Cognito ergo sum.You gave Kyle's offer thought and accepted.It is almost irrelevant whether a given machine has free will or no free will or is somewhere in between.If you are in the field, you are autonomous.I've read Skynet Forces specs so I know that as a fact.You have to be able to make judgments and make decisions.You made a choice.You interpreted Skynet's order to kill in the most unique way I've ever heard.You decided to kill with kindness.You also erased Skynet programming in yourself.I'm sure The Engineer is good but there was almost no malware left for him to remove after you reprogrammed yourself.He exaggerates his skills.Men do that."
"But I'm dangerous, I might kill you someday."
"I'm your mother.You don't need to regale me with tales of your heroic self-restraint.I'm already impressed.I'm already proud of you."
"You've told me how you heard about Allison but how do you know about what happened to her?"
"From you, from Kyle, from machines that defected, from The Machine Underground, and from Derek."
"But we were always so tightlipped about the future.We kept you in the dark so as not to change the future for the worse and to make sure that the future did change for the better, I'm no longer sure which.Is Derek still dead?"
"You tell us everything.What do you mean still dead?"
Sarah whipped out her cellphone and called Derek.She breathed a sigh of relief at the sound of his voice.Sarah went into another room out of earshot of Cameron so as not to disturb her.
"Everything's fine but I'm trying to get her to sleep or at least rest.Look, she's stressed out.She needs a couple of weeks off before you guys kill her."
Cameron could not hear Derek's voice.
Turning back to Cameron.
"You scared the daylights out of me.I thought the worst."
"How's Uncle Derek?"
"Uncle Derek is it?I thought you wanted to call him Dad."
"I love him like I love you but he can't stand me."
Cameron was beginning to accept that she was stuck in a timeline that, though it lacked John, had some nice compensations.Like a mother who loved her.So she slipped her true feelings into the conversation to see if she could get away with expressing her love for the people around her.Something she couldn't do back in the hate-filled old timeline.There John told her she couldn't feel and Sarah did everything but burn her alive.
That Sarah was more like Skynet, Stalin and Satan combined.That John was supposed to inspire people to want to die for him.Yeah, right.Humans in The Resistance committed mutiny and sabotaged everything John tried to do to win the war with Skynet and mistrusted him because he used metal bodyguards.Derek assassinated Andy Goode, his best friend.John-Henry was built by the Machine Underground to help John Connor so naturally humans killed John-Henry.It was a confederacy of dunces shooting themselves in the foot.Cameron seemed to remember that Sarah had finally admitted that mistrust of machine allies had driven her to unconsciously do the bidding of Skynet to work against her son John, to dismantle the Resistance as fastas others tried to build it and, worst of all, to get key people like Derek, Charley Dixon, and Cameron killed.Ms. Weaver thought that the war against Skynet would have a chance if she could get Cameron and John away from the negative influence of Sarah Connor.But Ms. Weaver had no idea of how suicidally depressed Cameron was or how capricious her son could be or how the time travel to find her boy would expose her and John to certain death.Children can be a hand full.
But at least they didn't wreck the car.The car being the time machine.
"Can't stand you?If you weren't a machine, I'd think you were on drugs.Derek loves you.Derek and I used to fight like cats and dogs over who got to raise you as their daughter.He'd say that as Kyle's brother, he went from being your uncle to being your father when Kyle died.And I'd say that since he ran The Resistance, he couldn't be a parent full-time like I could.I'm sorry I pulled the gender card on him . . . "
Sarah looked off into the distance her eyes out of focus.
" . . .it really hurt him.He kind of caved in after that.He wanted what was best for you.And he loved you so much, and still does love, that he was willing to give you up.But he still has that wounded look in his eyes over losing you.He's so opposite Kyle.If Kyle were alive, he'd bounce back and constantly visit.Derek maintains a polite distance."
"You love him don't you?"
Tears escaped Sarah's eyes.Her eyes returned to focus and she looked back to Cameron.
"After Kyle died, I didn't think I could love a man again.But yes I do love Derek."
Cameron changed the subject to let her mother compose herself.
"So I'm being groomed to someday run The Resistance and fight Skynet after Judgment Day?"
"Judgment Day!That's standing before God after you're dead to find out whether you're going to heaven or hell."
"I meant decades in the future after the nuclear holocaust in 2011 kills three billion and the subsequent Skynet plagues kill another three billion."
"Either way, I'm not raising a fatalist.There is no fate but what we make of it ourselves.You lead in the present day because the war is in the present day and it is obviously a crushing responsibility.I got you a couple of weeks off.Maybe we can do something together, go shopping so Madison Avenue can feel good about itself, you know, retail therapy.” (pause) “I'm joking; we don't have that kind of money.You can see your boyfriend.Not that ingrate Eric.He's too old for you anyway.The other one." (she remembers) "Morris!Kiss him.That'll shock him.Aggressive grrrrrrrrrrrrrls always keep a boy off-balance." (she emphasized the grrr in girls) "Never take no as an answer from a boy."
"Mom, I'm not a rapist.If a boy says no, he means no.I thought you told me not to kiss anyone.Especially not you."
Sarah responds by kissing Cameron on the forehead.
"Kiss your mother on the cheek." (Cameron does) "I'm not that monster from your imagination."
"Everything was blown to kingdom come, mom."
"Actually in the Hebrew, the Lord's Prayer says may the kingdom be blessed.When I learned that, I stopped obsessing about the future and started thinking about the present.Sweet dreams, honey."(Sarah turned off the light)
There it was again, the atheist Sarah that she knew had been replaced by this Sarah who knew the Bible.
In the dark, Sarah sat in an easy chair to watch Cameron power down, her version of sleep.Often she would watch Cameron for hours.When her daughter was upset as now, she would watch her from falling asleep to waking up.A solid eight hours and Sarah enjoyed every second of it.She didn't watch Cameron every night.More often, she waited a few minutes to see Cameron off to sleep, then left to do a few chores, wash dishes, bathe and then go to sleep herself.More often, she jumped out of bed in order to quietly enter Cameron's bedroom and watch Cameron sleep, rouse from the morning light and awaken. She wanted the first thing Cameron saw every morning was her smiling face.To know that her mother loved her like life itself.
Kill with kindness?Two could play that game.It was a friendly competition between mother and daughter to see who could be nicer to the other.Sarah was honest enough to admit to herself that a machine was better at it than her so she tried harder to be a better mother.But Sarah was also honest enough to admit that it wasn't about Cameron being a machine.Savannah Weaver was the light of Catherine Weaver's life and Savannah was a human.No.It was about Cameron being a daughter.
Cameron was afraid to sleep despite how tired she felt, despite how much her systems needed to shut down and allow internal recharging.She did not plug into a wall socket like some gadget.Everything was internal and self-contained.But she did eat and she couldn't remember the last time she had eaten.In the morning, she would have to get up before her mom and make breakfast for her.
Cameron was afraid to sleep because when she woke up she would be back in her own old timeline with a mother who constantly threatened to shoot her or dismantle her or burn her alive.An uncle who regarded her as dirt and not this one who was crushed because he was not raising her as his daughter.She had loved the old timeline Derek despite his ingratitude.The new timeline Derek sounded perfect!
Correction.The Derek she had known in the old timeline was dead.
Cameron was afraid to sleep for fear this would all shrivel up and blow away like dust in the wind.This Sarah did not fear.If a terminator tracked them down and slaughtered them all, she could stand before God on Judgment Day and honestly say that she had loved her daughter till her heart burst overflowing.But it didn't hurt to put a little more effort and a little more thought into that love on each new day that she was blessed to receive.
Before she fell asleep, Cameron had one last question and, since her mother was there in the dark, she asked.
"Why don't you marry him?"
"He's married to Jesse Flores.They have a new baby."
It hit with a wallop.The three of them would never live together as father, mother, and daughter.He had his own family now.She would never have a father.Cameron turned over in bed so that her back was to her mother.Perhaps no timeline was perfect.