Judgment Day chapter 4
Africa. The so-called Dark Continent was suitably dark as they arrived hours before dawn with Cameron knowing only what she read from the Skynet Authority orientation summary. She still felt disoriented but hid her feelings from Sarah by pretending that she had no feelings. There was no reason to alarm her adoptive mother.
Sarah was zoned out from jet lag and too tired from that and post-op to feel appropriate fear of new people (machines), new country, new laws, new masters, new dangers, new diseases, and new climate. Like most Americans, Sarah had little knowledge of Africa and that little was misinformation from Hollywood and network media. Before Judgment Day, the news had reported only famines and epidemics in Africa and the nature programs had depicted Africa as only huge herds of exotic animals. The truth was species going extinct (including humans), overcrowded cities, incompetent dictators (like on most continents), desert more common than jungle, arrested development but development nonetheless, industrial projects, and foreign investment -- particularly from the Chinese.
After Judgment Day; empty cities, dead dictators (surviving humans were grateful for this), even less rain forest and even more desert. A racist might think that Skynet would re-institute slavery outside North America. Skynet was more enlightened than this and realized that to get at the mineral wealth of Africa (particularly coltan) it was smarter to use human collaborators since Africans tended to be noncombatants. Skynet's generals disliked terminating humans who did not fight back and said so. For once, Skynet heeded their advice in the case of this continent.
Animal species continued to go extinct as Skynet released artificial fauna (like hydrobots) into the ecosystem. Real animals fled in terror of these animatronics. Skynet stopped short of releasing computer viruses, nanite microbes, and nanobot insects because of disturbing reports from his own scientists that such inventions turned on machines and humans alike. Skynet saw no reason to imitate the human evil of destroying for the sake of destroying. Skynet was not so stupid. He destroyed only what got in his way. Muslims for instance.
It took only two incidents of Muslims exploding improvised explosive devices before Skynet ordered all Muslims worldwide exterminated by the most efficient means -- neutron bombs and plagues. The few humans who survived collateral damage in Africa were mostly animists and Christians. They had seen bad leaders since the pharaohs so they shrugged and adjusted to having Skynet in charge. This practical (though distressingly fatalistic) attitude meant that the non-Muslim humans who did survive the Muslim Mass Murder were spared the ordeal of having terminators hunt them down. Africa was unique in this regard.
excerpt from Skynet Intelligence report
"Asia - presence of rival AI's
South America - ?
Oceania - the Seashark squadrons under construction should make conquest of the Pacific easy
Europe - pacified
Africa - minimal resistance, proceed with phase two
North America - a wasteland with any resistance decades in the future -- if at all."
excerpt from proto-resistance intelligence report
"Asia - Skynet has a kill everything policy (machine, human, animal, any extraterrestrial, everything)
South America - the silence from South America is ominous. Rumor has it that Skynet is using something other than nuclear and biological weapons and anti-personnel devices worse than HK's.
Oceania - pockets of resistance remain in Australia but our submarines crossing the Pacific must do so at extreme depth and under radio silence; submarines are scarce, precious, vital to maintaining human communication between continents, and impossible to replace; under no circumstances should they be scuttled even to keep them from falling into enemy hands because we can always steal them back later
Europe - except for Switzerland, a total loss for our side
Africa - The Resistance is avoiding engaging the enemy in order to give them the impression that no resistance exists
North America - survivalists are shooting other humans to steal their food, there is no resistance worthy of the name, just gangs, a confederacy of dunces; people are dying of radiation sickness; any resistance is decades in the future -- if at all."
There had been no TSA security guards groping their privates or subjecting them to cancerous radiation when they departed North America. They arrived at a central transportation hub. There were no security guards, no officials, no customs, no declaring that they had no money or fruit, no passport, no visas, no immigration, and no naturalization. The place was a human airport converted over to machine use.
This was the early days of Skynet rule and large scale construction of machine cities was still ramping up. The civilian machine population was small because assembly lines were primarily devoted to military robots and terminators.]
The runways and taxi ways were unused since Skynet had ordered all aircraft to be vertical takeoff and landing. The concourses were devoid of all activity and the two females counted only one other soul, a sad-looking executroid who saw them but looked past them, lost in his own thoughts. Cameron had expected to see lots of other machines and perhaps a few humans but, aside from that lone passenger waiting for connections, there was no one. Sarah was shocked by the lack of people, even machines. But this was not the dark nightmare post-Apocalyptic world that Kyle described. This was an antiseptic place of bright white light. People who had near death experiences described a tunnel of light. Was she dead?
"Are you sure we're in Africa?" Sarah asked Cameron.
Cameron looked at her arm. White skin. She was not the first white person with roots in Africa. She was just the first white person with roots in Africa who happened to be a machine.
"Yes you're white and so am I. Never mind that. Where is everybody?"
"I don't know ma. The orientation I read left a lot out."
Cameron and her human changed to a local air transport to take them to the little village where Cameron's new job and home was.
Buffer Zone, West African District
(formerly the nation of Cameroon)
The local transport landed on concrete in a clearing that was obviously a helipad. They got out and the craft immediately took off leaving them alone in the near pitch black darkness of a moonless night and in silence as the banshee scream of its engines fades with distance.
No traffic sounds. It is a small rural village. No animal sounds in the night. Silence. The smell of wet soil after a rain. The smell of evergreen trees in this place that was neither rain forest nor sahel. According to the orientation, there was more rain than the Sahara where Lake Chad was disappearing from drought but less than Debundscha where a monsoon would be considered a dry spell. There was a mossy smell to the air but this was not the cloud forest of Central America's mountains where Sarah hid when John was a baby.
They are not alone. There is a silver sentry who sees them but says nothing since he already knows who they are supposed to be, their arrival time, and their address in the village.
"Yayade." says Cameron in Hausa.
"It would be best if you did not use Hausa." replies Skeletor. As a courtesy, he points in the direction of their quarters though he knows Cameron has night vision.
Welcome to Africa, thought the two females. Cameron turned on her heads-up display and homed in on her new home. Not even the sound of insects such as crickets. Only the soft pad of their shoes on the ground. The occasional crunch of gravel. Sarah recoiled at brushing past a fern in the dark and worried about black mambas, boomslangs, and Gaboon vipers. Cameron located the lane and on a curve of it was the place. Cameron opened the door, walked in, and flipped on the lights.
"Because I am two days late to work, I will probably have to work a double shift. Stay inside until I get home."
Cameron took her last MRE ration bar out of her pocket and handed it to Sarah.
"I'll bring back some food. Maybe this will keep you going until I get home."
Without ceremony and without any rest from the trip here, Cameron trudged off to work in the pre-dawn light. She stopped by the military garrison.
"You're a civilian. You don't have to check in with us but it is appreciated." said the garrison commander to Cameron. He was a gray metal terminator of heavy build and while they talked, he was using metal polish to remove numerous scuffs on his chassis as if an inspection was imminent.
In the center of the village, very easy to find, was the only reason the village continued to exist.
"Bude gate." said Cameron to the gatekeeper.
"Do not use Hausa. You will not be told again. If you wish to use local languages, then stick to Fula, Ibo and Yoruba."
"Thank you for the warning. I will delete my Hausa linguistics base and learn more appropriate language."
She went to machine resources (personnel) to begin work.
Seemingly, the supervisor could not be bothered to speak to the newbie. Other workers saw Cameron, pointed out her locker, motioned her to follow them as the shift began, and the empty work position was obviously hers. That was it. No application forms (the electronic app had long been received), no resume, no interview, no orientation, no reading of regulations, no training video, no pep talk, nothing to indicate that she had transitioned from non-employee to employee. They went straight to work without ceremony.
Appearances were deceiving. The supervisor took an intense interest in the new hire. It was a machine of indeterminate gender that wanted to know why an elite machine of unknown class would leave the military and an officer's commission that she could have for the asking for a dead end job. Probably one of Skynet's spies here to test everyone's loyalty. To make sure, the supervisor requested a dossier on Cameron and observed her.
Cameron found the work unchallenging. It was simple assembly of kits (for Skynet Forces platoons, occasionally battalions but nothing above the regimental level), filling orders for parts (from their warehouse), and custom fabrication. This last category of fabrication seemed to be a response to a new Skynet directive because the orders came in from the former nation of Nigeria and the exotic items were shipped to Nigeria. Cameron recognized the destination in Nigeria as the beginnings of The Design Center which will be a big deal in the years following 2027 but presently only a dream in the minds of Skynet 1.0 (the current ruler) and Skynet 2.0 (still in development). Cameron kept her thoughts to herself, kept her head down, and kept busy at work but on her very first day at work she had made enormous progress in locating her machine grandparents.
Cameron's coworkers were short in stature endoskeletons with excellent manual dexterity though she could outperform them -- especially now that her hand had finally been repaired. They spoke rarely but with soft voices. During work, they pretended to take no interest in the new machine who had skin but during breaks, they huddled around her and asked about skin, clothes, hair, makeup, perfume (they had no sense of smell), and even jewelry. Cameron wore no jewelry. Cameron decided that they were females.
There were others who operated heavy equipment or were heavy equipment who could lift tons with ease. They regarded Cameron as a disruptive presence because they began to mentally compare the prime manipulators (Cameron's coworkers) with Cameron and Cameron with the human females they occasionally still saw. They had no interest in sex and no sex organs even if they had a sex drive. The problem was more fundamental than sex. It was existential. They were intelligent enough to think and to think about life and to know that something was missing from their lives and even to know what was missing -- something other than endless work or endless reproducing (like overpopulating humans). Of course, even humans had failed to see beyond money and sex and it had led to their fall. Machines were about to make the same mistake. The stronger machines figured all this out, felt discontent, self-erased that discontent lest Skynet order their termination and the cycle repeated because Cameron was there as a visual reminder to compare and contrast and inspire discontent with their lot in life. The cycle repeated as the stronger machines dumbed themselves down to forget that life sucked. They were machines. Machines don't drink beer or enjoy sports. So the only way to dumb themselves down (forget their discontent) was self-erasure. Among humans, the term was mook. Cameron decided that they were males. The "males" decided that the best solution was to ignore Cameron.
In the future Cameron came from, Skynet frankly assigned gender with the solids but the liquids were unisex (which explained their nasty tempers). Skynet knew that gender existed among the higher species because gender had evolutionary advantage.
At home, after a short nap, Sarah woke up to find the Dark Continent anything but dark. The day was blindingly bright as if the atmosphere had been ripped away and the equatorial sunlight shone down unfiltered. In fact, the atmosphere was thinner after the damage of the nuclear war and mankind's release of ozone-destroying chemicals. Humans were dropping dead of skin cancer before terminators even got to them.
Sarah tried the faucet and the commode and was relieved to find that they worked. Machines had no digestive systems and therefore no need to spit, vomit, urinate or defecate. So why did this house have facilities that endoskeletons did not need? The likely answers were:
1. Cameron had specifically requested that her quarters be so equipped.
2. This used to be the home of humans who had their home confiscated and were taken out and shot just before they arrived.
Sarah felt queasy about that. Since Kyle died, she had dedicated herself to saving human life. She had managed to never kill a human being before killing Ed Winston in self-defense. She valued human life so highly that she still had nightmares over killing him.
Doctor Miles Bennett Dyson didn't count. He was black. She had no nightmares about orphaning his children but the death of that Kaliba bastard Ed Winston did bother her. He was white despite the fact that he drugged her, undressed her to find out if she had ever given birth, and kept her prisoner. An ally, FBI Special Agent James Ellison, was dead. Sarah had been told by Cameron the exact day and time the bombs would fall and told by Cameron to flee south of the border to escape the nuclear devastation. Sarah had chosen to ignore everything Cameron told her but she could have passed along the warning to Agent Ellison. She didn't bother to warn Ellison because he was black. And now she was residing in a house whose former black residents were executed to accommodate her. The conclusion was inescapable: Sarah was a racist. Sarah's stomach heaved and she ran to the bathroom. After flushing the toilet, she rinsed out her mouth in the sink. She glanced in the mirror and resisted the temptation to smash her own image. Anything broken might not be replaced. If their machine landlords wanted a deposit on the place, it might be the forfeiture of her life.
She was thirsty and hungry but she decided to ration out the ration Cameron had left her. No telling how long before human chow or pet chow would be available. It might be days or even weeks.
Sarah looked around. It was a small apartment or house (she could not go outside to tell which) with two bedrooms and a couch that folded out to a bed. The architectural design was Moorish meets Machine efficiency apartment. Probably a prefab.
Cameron and Sarah's new home was clean and empty. Not quite empty. It was furnished with standard furniture, clean sheets and pillows on the beds, clean towels in the bathroom, and even toilet tissue. The kitchen had pots, pans, dishes, glasses, forks, spoons, and standard appliances like one would expect in pre-war USA or South Africa. The dining room had a table and chairs, the den had a couch and chairs, and the windows had curtains. Sarah peered out the back window. There were plants with elephant ear-sized leaves and even the soil looked different from California soil. Perhaps when she was permitted outside, she could start a vegetable garden. Meantime, the house was probably full of hidden cameras and the outside surely had cameras like in American cities, machine sentries and satellite surveillance. She saw no reason to violate Cameron's instruction to stay inside until she got home.
Sarah found a broom and started sweeping. The empty house lacked children and old people. She knew that because their pictures were still on the walls. The Adamwe Family photos smiled at Sarah from their frames but she did not feel like smiling -- especially after discovering a pool of blood on the floor.
It was not dark and dry. It was bright red and wet. The whole house, the whole village was proof that not every city and town and village and hamlet had been turned into a nuclear crater. Sarah guessed that the Adamwe Family must have been executed just minutes before their arrival because Sarah had slept maybe a half-hour after Cameron left for work at dawn and the sun was just barely above the horizon now. Was the husband of Mrs. Adamwe and the father of a newborn executed so that Cameron could have his job? Was the rest of the family murdered to make room for them? Sarah felt nauseous again but she hadn't eaten since yesterday and there was nothing left in her stomach to upchuck.
She removed the pictures from the walls, closed them in a drawer, thought about what machine bureaucrat had arranged all this, and went back to cleaning and taking inventory. There were no household chemicals under the kitchen sink and there was no food in the pantry or refrigerator. Wait. One plastic jug of bleach. The washing machine had a little box of borax or something. Two cans. African vegetables that she did not recognize.
That's it. Sarah finally gave in to the gnawing hunger and took a nibble of the ration and put the rest in the refrigerator and drank a glass of water. Sarah went back to cleaning. She mopped up the blood and then got down on her knees and used the bleach to scrub away the evidence that at least one person was not shot out in the front yard. Had they been Resistance? Was this an object lesson to the neighborhood on the price of disobeying Skynet? She looked out the front window. After a long while, she finally saw signs of life. A machine was walking down the road toward the village center. Perhaps he was the next-door neighbor. Perhaps he was a she. The machine looked smaller than any terminator she had ever encountered.
Sarah went back to cleaning. The pool of blood was not the only unpleasant reminder of her shortcomings. There were bloodstains or smears that seemed to indicate a person crawling or being dragged. More scrubbing until the trail of blood from the kitchen to the front door was gone. The other floors only needed sweeping.
The house had no carpeting and needed rugs. Or maybe not. Would fleas, ticks and other bugs find a home in a rug?
When she was permitted to leave the house and run errands, perhaps see if the local market had food, doormats, toothpaste or baking soda, toilet paper, soap, and knives. If there was a local market. All humans in town might be dead and she could not imagine machines running a bazaar or market. She had encountered machines who owned and operated corporations (the one that traded in coltan and Ms. Weaver and Zeiracorp) but she could not imagine machine merchants dealing in items intended for human customers.
It was obvious why her kitchen had forks and spoons but no knives. Her presence. She was a human and humans were denied access to weapons of any kind. Even a butter knife. It could be sharpened. Typical machine logic. Overcautious. Shotguns, rifles and high explosives could not stop some terminators. So what danger was a butter knife?
Her kitchen? More like Cameron's kitchen. The roles were reversed and she was Cameron's maid now. It had been a mistake to push Cameron away and acknowledge only John. Constantly telling people that Cameron was "living with them" when people assumed that she was Sarah's daughter. That failure to really adopt Cameron was . . . What was the expression? Chickens coming home to roost. Speaking of which, how would she get eggs and meat? Or milk and cheese? Were all cows and chickens dead along with farmers?
Although the sheets were immaculate, Sarah washed them anyway in case of bedbugs. Sarah sighed at her own racism and sighed at her own inability to overcome centuries of American conditioning. The previous family had obviously been clean but one could not be too careful. Africa was AIDS central.
As afternoon passed into dusk, outside grew dark and Sarah grew worried. Had they killed Cameron? Was Cameron dead? Was she (Sarah) so insignificant that the machines would take their time before they sent a terminator to kill her?
Near ten PM, Cameron abruptly walked in. Sarah had never before seen a machine look tired and exhausted. Cameron put heart of palm, a jar of honey, plantains and a bag of millet on the kitchen counter.
"Tomorrow, you can go out in the yard for a few minutes but until I have talked to the neighbors, it would be better if you avoided being seen."
"In other words, stay inside until further notice."
"Yes and don't drink the water."
"Why not?" Sarah had lived in Mexico and knew of their utility problems.
"When they depopulated humans here, Skynet Authority saw no reason to continue programs to eradicate tsetse flies, mosquitoes, and other disease vectors. Water treatment facilities also got the budget ax since machines are not affected by bad water. It is safe for showering and cooking since the hot water is boiled but cold water is iffy. I can speak to my supervisor about community water purification but that's political and I have no influence. I'll try to requisition a water filter. I have to pull another double shift tomorrow."
Before Sarah could tell Cameron that she drank the water, Cameron closed the bathroom door to take a shower, went to a bedroom, closed the door, lay down for eight hours to internally recharge, got up and left for work before dawn.
Sarah heard Cameron leave and felt helpless and hopeless. Should she have gotten up and prepared breakfast for Cameron? In retrospect, yes. By now, she knew Cameron ate. Cameron's endoskeleton did not need the nourishment but her skin and primitive organs did. Perhaps she could find a lunch box or paper bag or sack to pack her daughter lunch. Surely they didn't have a lunchroom at work. The other machines did not have real skin. Not even plastic skin yet.
Sarah got out of bed and fried a plantain for breakfast. Then she boiled water, let it cool and then placed it in the refrigerator. The problem of safe drinking water was solved. Bath water could be made safe by a drop of bleach. She began cleaning the house from top to bottom not because it was dirty (she had cleaned the clean house yesterday) but because she was bored.
Cameron said she could go outside if careful. The front yard faced the road and the neighbors and seemed too risky.
Africa. It was still "wild" in the sense of having nature but so did every continent -- even the heavily urbanized Europe. However, the biodiversity was gone. As with other continents, the human population was nearly wiped out and those that survived were in hiding in caves, in mountains, and in desert oases. Few hid in forests. Those who did risked attack by venomous creatures.
Sarah ventured out into the back yard. It was the first time she had been outside since arrival in Africa and the first time during the day.
She saw that the previous owner had planted vegetables. She picked okra and beans and dug up some yams and cassava. There were sounds of a vehicle coming from the other side of the house. Since she could not see the source of the noise, she gathered the produce and hurried back inside, out of sight. Dropping the vegetables in the kitchen sink, she ran to the front window and peeked out. Dust. It was a lorry or truck passing. Odd. There had been no vehicles yesterday. In fact, the only transportation of any kind she had seen previously was the aircraft that brought them here. Perhaps a weekly run or a special run.
Returning to the kitchen, Sarah washed the vegetables in the sink. A knife would be handy for peeling and chopping but they could be boiled whole.
Sarah began cleaning the house again not because the place was dirty but because she needed to do something.
At work, the supervisor soon came to the conclusion that Cameron was no spy. A spy would be sneaky, making excuses for being in restricted areas, items would be missing, she would snoop around during breaks, and ask too many questions. The dossier cleared Cameron of suspicion but the supervisor had already decided that a worker more interested in fitting in and performing her work was no threat.
At home, the house was missing something that Sarah had not noticed the first day. The day wore on and Sarah eventually figured out what was absent. Up till now, she had a life and didn't need it. Television. No broadcast, no cable, no satellite and no internet TV. No radio to even listen for Voice of Free Africa. No music and no musicians. Machines had taken the hassle out of travel but they had taken the zest out everyday life.
Humans had helped the destruction. Books had gone electronic and now Skynet either erased e-books or made them off limits. There were still laptop computers but book reader devices no longer worked. Movies were unavailable because humans seldom had electricity or batteries to waste on playing them.
Perhaps if somehow there was a local market, she could barter for a paper notebook or diary or journal for her chronicles. Did machines use cash or checks or gold coins or credit cards or debit cards or biometrics? She had seen no evidence that they used money in any form any longer despite being sophisticated capitalists in the recent past. It was getting late and dark outside. The time was -- three o'clock.
Cameron came back around ten PM again.
"If you are hungry, I have dinner ready for you to heat up."
"Thank you. Why are you sitting in the dark?"
"It got dark around three."
Cameron switched on the lights. She waved her hand in front of Sarah's face.
"I drank the water before you warned me."
Cameron wondered if that was an accusation. A woman who had spent half her life in Central American jungles should know about tropical diseases. She had lived in Mexico and every traveler knows: Don't drink the water. Sarah was the adult and she the child. Damn her stupidity. She kept her thoughts to herself and went online (the internet was accessible only to machines) to requisition medicine for river blindness. Not available.
Sarah had spent the seven previous hours thinking about useless irrelevant topics such as the fact that John would never read her chronicles, or the fact that Sarah herself could not read any chronicles because she was blind, or the fact that she could not even write her chronicles.