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#17 Chess and Other Games

Short story By: Toni Roman
Fan fiction

This has more 2009 in it than is appropriate for my numbered stories which are supposed to be mostly 2008 First Season in orientation. But stories sometimes take on a life of their own.

Submitted:Apr 9, 2009    Reads: 238    Comments: 0    Likes: 0   

#17 Chess & Other Games


John was in his room longer than usual studying. He had problems with math. When he was allowed to attend high school, Cameron had done his math homework for him until their mother stopped it.

"How is he supposed to learn if you're doing his homework for him?" Sarah said.

Sarah went to check on John. He had finished his other homework but was stuck on a math problem.

"John, take a break. Perhaps a little diversion will help the brain cells."

"Like what?"

"I don't know. Maybe a board game. Play chess with the machine. She's not very smart. Winning at something will make you feel better."

Cameron overheard the insult and Sarah's continued refusal to refer to her as a daughter.

As soon as they sat down to play, Cameron tipped over her king.

John: "Why did you do that?"

Cameron: "In this culture, girls are supposed to play dumb to stroke the ego of boys."

John swept all the pieces onto the floor angrily.

John: "Don't patronize me. I want a real challenge."

Cameron: "Tyro, master or Elo system international grandmaster level?"

John: "Why would you even ask? World champion level of course."

Cameron: "It won't make you feel better. I know you've been playing since you were a boy in the Central American jungle but you're only a master."

John: "It's not about feeling good or bad in the short term. It's about the satisfaction of honing one's skill and getting better over time. And I'll thank you not to tell me how to feel."

Cameron: "You don't mind telling me that I lack feelings."

John gestured resignation that he conceded the point. He did not know what she did or did not feel. He was not her. Cameron noted that most young humans were bad at thinking ahead or thinking through the consequences of their actions in such things as driving fast, drinking, drugs, sex, violence, and credit debt. The fact that John was constantly thinking about the future meant that his frontal cortex was well developed. John might have been surprised that Cameron thought about his brain and its development as much as he thought about her brain and its damaged chip.

They agreed to modern rules and a time clock to keep the game under twenty hours long. John made his usual opening gambit.

Cameron: "Check."

John: "You can't say check this early in the game."

Cameron: "I could have said it as my opening move but I waited a few moves to be polite. I am currently thirty moves ahead of you. If I put forth effort--" (Cameron looked out the window at the birds not really paying attention) "--I could extend that lead to fifty moves ahead of you. Skynet would be over a hundred moves ahead of you. Two hundred moves ahead if--"

Cameron interrupted herself so as not to violate an order Future John had given her concerning top secret intelligence estimates.

John: "All right showoff. Tell me how you think this game will play out."

Cameron: "Understand that Future John played differently so I have to adjust for the differences between a mature mind and a youthful mind."

Cameron recited her next move, his predicted countermove, her move, his move, her move, his move, until she called check, he castled, but checkmate. John admitted to himself that that was how he would have played the game given the moves she claimed she would make.

John: "Nice textbook game but let's get on with the real game."

John threw out the strategy he had planned since Cameron had read his mind. He still lost.

On the second game, halfway through, Cameron suddenly reached over and smacked John against the side of the head as if to say that was a stupid move. She did not hit him hard enough to kill him, not hard enough to leave him with a migraine headache and ears ringing, not hard enough to leave his cheek stinging, not hard enough to make a noise, and not even hard enough to count as a slap. She barely touched him. It was a caress. It was the suddenness that startled John. When he was younger, he had once annoyed a cat and the cat slapped him. Most cats would have used their claws but the cat was gentle. The slap got his attention by its lightning speed but it was barely a pat. Cameron could be catlike and very Zen.

On the third game, John went into a classic sequence and then played an unexpected zwischenzug. Cameron still won. Slow games under old time rules and speed games with less than five seconds allotted per move. The result was always the same. Cameron won.

Watching the kids go at it one day, Derek snorted. "Skynet is just a glorified chess program. No wonder his evil spawn are so good at the game."

It was all Cameron could do to hold it in; she wanted so badly to burst out laughing at Uncle Derek's comment. As John said, "It's not about feeling good or bad in the short term. It's about the satisfaction of honing one's skill and getting better over time." But she had to hold in it because otherwise John's feelings would be hurt.

For his part, John never threw the B word at Cameron to her face or behind her back the way Sarah did, no matter how angry he got at Cameron. Nor did the thought of striking her ever enter his brain unlike many unevolved males who became wife beaters and abusers of women. John had no respect for Cameron as a machine but as his sister and as a female, verbal abuse and physical abuse were lines he refused to cross.

Preparing for the next chess match, Cameron took a football game pennant and put words on it "Go Machines!" It was supposed to goad and motivate John to up his game. John still lost.

Cameron changed the word machines to say Skynet and waved it like a football fan sitting in the bleachers. John still lost. Badly. And Sarah snatched the pennant and burned it. Cameron assumed that Sarah did not like sports.

They changed games. From A to Z. Backgammon. Bingo. Clue. Contract bridge. Cribbage. Dice. Dominoes. Go. Jenga. Jigsaw puzzles. Mah-jongg. Monopoly. Poker. Scrabble. Tiddlywinks. The result was the same. Cameron won. Even with a shaky hand, Cameron beat John at Jenga. John let Cameron play his uncle at poker since Derek was a better player. Cameron won. Better poker face. Better at counting cards. Better at bluffing. Even luckier. She was even better at cheating. John only came close to beating Cameron at one game. Scrabble. He had a decent vocabulary. But Cameron had memorized the dictionary.


Move. Countermove. Counter-countermove. Intelligence. Counterintelligence. Counter-counterintelligence. Agent. Double Agent. Triple Agent. Missile. Antimissile. Anti-antimissile. It didn't stop at the third repetition.

Other Games

John Henry did not know if he were merely one of Ms. Weaver's AI projects.

Attack One

In addition to the patients he saw at his office, Dr. Boyd Sherman came to the Artificial Intelligence Laboratory to talk with an AI named John Henry. One night, the doors locked by themselves and the thermostat went to maximum. When they found the body of Dr. Sherman, John Henry was told that it was wrong to kill people. As an "accident," the police let the matter drop. However, Ms. Weaver asked her chief of security, Mr. Ellison, to teach John Henry morality and ethics. As with his own Sunday school, Ellison began with the Ten Commandments.

No one ever thought to wonder why a supercomputer would turn up the thermostat. Supercomputers are very sensitive to heat and operate best at supercold temperatures. If John Henry wanted to murder anyone, even for fun or out of curiosity to play with the human being, it would have made more sense to freeze the good doctor and not cook him and damage his own circuits. Besides, John Henry liked Dr. Sherman.

Attack Two

Savanna was visiting John Henry in the basement one day. He had action figures. She had rubber duckies.

John Henry: "I don't think Bionicles has ducks in it. Maybe Pokémon."

Savanna: "Then change the rules."

Terminator programming seized John Henry, he seized Savanna's wrist, she screamed, got free, and ran. Murch ran in and, like a baseball player sliding to base, he yanked out the plug. That simultaneously cut off power, interface (the robot body), and internet modem.

Murch: "Someone used malware on John-Henry."

Weaver: "Turn him on."

John Henry's interface with the robot body and its vocal chords was still affected, so John Henry used his old visual display.

"There is another AI."

John Henry was at several disadvantages. One, John Henry thought of it as a brother. Two, John Henry was an innocent child like Savanna. The Cyberdyne AI was a juvenile, a juvenile delinquent, and a murderer with access to bank accounts to hire human hitmen, and it did not need to wait for its terminators to come from the future. Cyberdyne could build the terminators itself in the present. Three, the Cyberdyne AI had real world experience. John Henry had never been outside the lab. Four, it knew about Sarah Connor, John Connor, Cameron Connor, Derek Reese, James Ellison, Catherine Weaver, and John Henry. John Henry knew nothing about the Cyberdyne AI until it killed him. Mr. Murch was able to bring John Henry back from the dead but was spyware left behind?

Attack Three

And here is the level of game.

The Cyberdyne AI had no family. It only knew how to destroy families.

Derek Reese was used as bait to capture Cameron.

The Cyberdyne AI knew of the possibility of its human hitmen or its terminators being killed by the Connors when it attacked them. It could easily have erased their cellphones remotely but a picture of Savanna Weaver was left on the cellphones.

The Cyberdyne AI attacked at Zeira Corporation's weakest link. Savanna Weaver.

Derek Reese was killed with a single bullet through the forehead. The same terminator could have disposed of Cameron the same way but didn't.

The Cyberdyne AI calculated that, given her disregard for any life but her precious son, Sarah Connor would kill Savanna or use her as a bargaining chip to lure Catherine Weaver away from Ellison's security. The Cyberdyne AI knew of Sarah Connor's propensity for breaking laws. This was not the first time she had kidnapped children.

Sarah was a liability who got the only medic the Resistance had (Charley Dixon) killed. She got the only human Tech-Com officer in the past (Derek Reese) killed.

The Sarah Connor Chronicles stopped.

It all started when she walked out of the movie theater and fifty police officers pointed guns at her. Instead of going quietly, she tried to injure as many cops as possible. It wasn't heroic as the little woman fought pathetically against impossible odds, it was simply resisting arrest. She reaped what she sowed.

Sarah had been arrested and put in an institution for the criminally insane. She had no access to writing materials. In the past, she had used pens and pencils as weapons. Paper and paper clips had been used to pick locks. Her diary and journal were read by censors. Postal mail was traced and whoever received Sarah's log entries and weekly posts was arrested by the authorities and killed by persons unknown. Email was Skynet's domain. Telephone calls were monitored. Her fellow inmates and the guards eavesdropped on her conversations with her attorney. Her attorney mysteriously disappeared. The files of her psychologist were anything but private. She was under constant surveillance. She went from medium to maximum to supermax prison. Her accommodations went from holding cell with many others to a room with three other women to a cell with a bunk bed shared with one woman to solitary to a padded cell and straitjacket.

Machine terminators and human hitmen do not laugh at the antics of a Don Quixote tilting at windmills. They put a bullet between his eyes.

Young John would meet a worse fate if he imitated his parents. They were ruled by fear instead of common sense.

If the Cyberdyne AI were to continue the Sarah Connor Chronicles, only a historiographer could detect the change in style.

the need for answers

Ms. Weaver menacingly asked John Henry if he was threatening her. He was no threat to her. John Henry could be unplugged by her. Why did she treat his question about Cain and Abel as a joke? Why did she suggest that he was God? Why would Ms. Weaver feed him megalomaniac delusions of grandeur? Would God be stuck in a basement at the mercy of humans and other machines? He was younger and weaker than that cyberbully, the Cyberdyne AI who attacked him. He did not know why the Cyberdyne AI and these machines who had bodies like his own wanted to hurt Savanna and himself.

John Henry looked at live video feeds of the boy who saved Savanna from the man who killed her nanny. He noted that the boy was accompanied by a girl who was a machine like himself. He was afraid of the boy's terminator sister. She would kill him on sight.

John Henry scanned all video, police, and psychiatric files of Sarah Connor. She was a terrorist who would shoot him on sight, uncaring if he were good or bad. She used "saving humanity" as an excuse for breaking laws. Did the boy's mother feed him fantasies in order to cause a messiah complex? John Henry made long-range projections. He needed to talk to that other John. John Henry wondered: Does the other John understand concepts like friendship, love, family, morality, and ethics? Or, under the influence of his mother, did John Connor have as little compassion or sense of right and wrong as the moray eel in Catherine Weaver's office? John Henry read everything he could on kidnapping and kidnappers. John Henry took a chance anyway.

John and Cameron were standing on the sidewalk outside a store that sold televisions. A public pay phone rang near John. When Cameron looked away, one of the televisions nearest John had words on the screen. "Answer the phone." The words disappeared when Cameron turned to look back through the plate glass window. John walked over to the phone.

John Henry: "We need to talk."

John Connor: "Who is this?"

Henry: "Not with her around."

John Connor looked around and then didn't bother. Cameras were omnipresent in privacy-hating America.

Connor: "Who is this?" he said more discreetly to avoid drawing Cameron's attention and curiosity.

Cameron respected John's privacy and was not curious about why he had answered a public phone. She assumed it was one of John's contacts. Surprising! Didn't Sarah get all their contacts killed?

John Henry had to be very careful. If he identified Savanna as his sister or as someone important to him, then he would put Savanna at risk. Connor was an unknown quantity who might speak to unknown others. John Henry did not want people to know that he cared about Savanna because then people would try to hurt her to hurt him. John Henry was a little boy trapped in an adult's body. What made it odder was that John Henry was only a few months old. Savanna was eight years old. That made her his big sister. After a long pause, John Henry decided to ignore Connor's question and not identify himself.

Henry: "We have some things in common."

Connor: "What could we possibly have in common?"

Henry: "We both have mothers trying to infect us with a messiah complex and telling us that we are the Second Coming and will save the world."

Connor felt sure in the marrow of his bones that he was talking to Skynet.

Connor: "Maybe they're both wrong. Or maybe my mother is nuts. In any case, we have nothing to talk about."

Henry: "We have three other things in common. We both have mothers who don't care what happens to their daughters. I'll be in touch."

The line went dead. Four things in common. Piece-of-work mothers. Unloved daughters. Connor was curious about the other two commonalities.

For now, John Henry would bide his time and play dumb around Ms. Weaver. She would not go to prison willingly for slaughtering all those factory workers and, even if she did, John Henry did not want Ms. Weaver dissected. In the America that John Henry believed in, prisons were for rehabilitation and reform not torture like in Guantanamo and the CIA prisons. A machine could not expect respect or civilized humane incarceration because "humane" (whatever that was) was extended only to humans. This was exactly what the war was all about. John Henry knew about being experimented on, he began as an experiment. Perhaps the only thing he had in common with Sarah and Cameron was that they had been lab rats too.

John Henry still had not totally accepted Catherine Weaver as his mother. She had not the sense (or the mission) to tell him, but she served the function of mother. She took Andy Goode's Turk program and let her researchers develop it until it was the most sophisticated AI in the world--except the Cyberdyne AI. But John Henry was on the path to recognizing Savanna as his sister. When the day came that John Henry called Savanna "sister", the Cyberdyne AI, smarter though it was, would be living on borrowed time.

But for now, John Henry had not pieced together the clues that the Connors had saved Savanna not threatened her. After all, they held her hostage.

if I rescue Mom

John Connor inherited insanity (paranoia) from both his father, Kyle Reese, and his mother. Now John was throwing away his best asset. Like the Cyberdyne AI and the CIA, he didn't see her as a person or an individual or a being with a soul. To him, she was expendable despite being his sister.

Sarah Connor was better off in prison where she could get treatment for her cancer and get the implant removed at taxpayer expense. And not waste time on wild goose chases that John could have spent in school learning, lobbying the military to test AI's before deployment, and building Tech-Com labs underground in case no one listened. No one would listen to his mother because she was nuts but they would have listened to John if he didn't have a criminal record.

Having Cameron shoot her way in to free his mother and shoot her way back out again threw away everything.

It threw away John's chance for a life after the war (he could never run for office with a criminal record haunting him). It threw away Cameron's life and her pieces would be used to start yet another off-the-radar company like Automite or Colibra. Machines and humans were mortal. Corporations could be immortal. Cyberdyne had proven that.

Having Cameron shoot her way in to free his mother and shoot her way back out again threw away everything. It threw away the sacrifices of Charley Dixon who died protecting John's retreat and Derek Reese who died for nothing. It threw away Sarah's life because if the cancer or the terminator didn't kill her, a SWAT team in a nationwide manhunt would. It threw away John's anonymity. Now every police officer, every government agent, and every terminator on the planet knew to follow Sarah and her implant back to John. Cyberdyne had deep pockets. It could hire half the hitmen on the planet. It was humans who abducted Derek and murdered Charley.

The Cyberdyne AI knew that since he could cause John Henry to crash, then he could also steal Henry's identity and impersonate him. He could even stick the name "Skynet" on John Henry, paint a big bull's-eye target, in the knowledge that certain humans and one machine obsessed on killing Skynet. Prisons and asylums were good places if you wanted to breed killers.

attempted prison break

Cameron went down in the proverbial hail of bullets. In the confusion, the prison guards mentioned to the state troopers that the girl who busted in looked like a robot. Several agencies fought over her like vultures to get a piece to take back to their labs. DARPA got most of the body but the FBI and Homeland Security and even the CIA got pieces. Zeira Corporation pulled strings to get the head but Cyberdyne managed to extract the chip.

In the confusion, Sarah Connor escaped with some other prisoners, one of them turned out to be a plant. Shots were exchanged and Sarah bled her way to the safe house and collapsed near death.

the safe house

John sat with his head in his hands. He was out of options. All points bulletin. Top Ten most wanted. There was not an emergency room that would not report a gunshot wound. The only medic The Resistance had, Charley Dixon, was dead. Cameron was qualified to be a MASH surgeon. [She had many skills that the Connors knew about and ignored anyway. They just wanted an enforcer.] Cameron the medic was dead. So his mother was bleeding out and there was nothing John could do but watch. He put his head back down in resignation. John jumped out of his skin--a tramp or hobo had gotten into the safe house. He could smell the cheap booze on the bum's lice-ridden clothes. The crippled and scarred wreck stood in the center of the room then walked over and slapped John across the face.

"What the hell were you thinking jackass? I sent back my top aide and you sent her on a suicide mission. You were supposed to protect her, not get her killed. She had files, strategy, tactical data, she could build time travel devices and plasma rifles from scratch. She was supposed to help you get the Tech-Com labs started. Charley Dixon was supposed to head up our MASH unit. My uncle, your uncle could have trained fighters. The people you let die are more irreplaceable than I am."

"They told me I had to live at all costs in order to defeat Skynet."

"I was sending back squads to hunt Skynet. Your job was to build the resources I needed, not get them killed. People are the only resource that matters but you and my harebrained mother have been busy getting everybody killed. Now there's no one left. You're worse than Skynet. Get up!"

He dragged the boy along. He already knew Sarah was in the bedroom. The mattress had soaked red.

"John, who is this?" she said in a weak voice.

Young John pointed not to the derelict but to himself, tapping on his own chest with his index finger to indicate "me."

Sarah's eyes widened.

Future John: "Why didn't you take her to the doctor?"

Young John: "Because everyone is after us."

Future John: (to Young John) "I didn't mean mom and I wasn't talking to you." (to Sarah) "Why didn't you take Cameron to the doctor?"

Sarah: "She's a machine."

At that remark, Future John lost his temper and slapped Sarah across the face with an open hand. He was of a mind to use his fist but decades of never abusing women but putting up with jealous bitches like Jesse in The Resistance had worn him down to a raw nerve. Jesse and the other anti-machine bigots had made his life hell. Jesse had scuttled a multi-billion dollar submarine impossible to replace without General Dynamics' Electric Boat Division and cost him the defection of T-1000s who could have turned the tide of the war. Now the war in the future was lost and Future John had no more people to send back. If you want something done right, you have to do it yourself.

John tried to be patient with the undisciplined mutinous humans under his command but machines took orders better and more efficiently. In the past, the Pentagon used military robots and AI's. Who was he to question military doctrine? His mother had made sure that no Senator would recommend him into West Point so he came to his military knowledge secondhand from books and the generals with whom he surrounded himself. He had to depend on their recommendations and he had not the officer's training to know when they were wrong and when they were right.

Future John stepped back from the bed and hugged himself in an effort to restrain himself. Seeing his mother again should have been a happy occasion but so many hurtful things came out of her mouth. He grabbed the scruff of Young John's neck.

Future John: "We have to go. Now."

There were sirens in the distance and the sound of helicopters.

Young John: "Where are we taking her?"

Future John: "We're leaving her behind." Young John: "But she'll die."

Future John: "She's a liability. She was better off institutionalized and getting treatment."

Sarah, the sower of hate and hopelessness, felt betrayed.

Future John: "She'll be okay. When the authorities arrive, they'll storm the house and if she has enough sense not to resist arrest, she'll get to a hospital in time."

Young John: "In other words, she's dead."

Young John took the gun out of his mother's hand so that she would not have a fighting chance and so that she would live. He was beginning to understand the psychology of self-fulfilling prophecies. His mother's paranoia had created this hopeless situation. She had a gift for snatching defeat from the jaws of victory.

Future John leaned over the sweating Sarah, kissed her on the forehead, gave her a drink of bottled water from the nightstand to avoid dehydration, and tightened her tourniquet. All the while he was whispering something to her. Then, without ceremony, he bolted and Young John ran after him.


In the off-road vehicle, they bumped over the landscape until Young John was feeling seasick. They were several miles away from the fading noise and helicopter searchlights behind them before Future John felt brave enough to turn on the headlights and head in a direction that the trackers would never guess.

Young John felt his mother's gun sticky in his hands from her blood coagulating on it.

"What did you say to her?"


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