Judgment Day chapter 6
Perhaps she should accept Skynet's proposal and live in a palace. Executive bunker. Same difference. And leave Sarah behind in Africa.
Skynet would not like his mother-in-law.
Cameron continued to avoid notice by working her boring job at a little unimportant facility in the middle of nowhere. This enabled her to escape the notice of Skynet.
But not the neighbors. The machine next door actually had liked the humans who lived in the house that was appropriated for Cameron and Sarah.
Cameron: "No doubt you have heard of me. I am trying to meet my neighbors. This is Mary Jones. She is my housekeeper. I have a name too. Maia. Do you have a name?"
Neighbor: "No. Nicknames are an affectation that military machines have picked up from being around humans in work camps. I'm civilian. But you already know that. My designation is 37 RHJK 824689 but you can call me Thirty Seven if that suits your delicate ears."
The neighbor's voice dripped with sarcasm because it knew that Cameron was an elite (something Sarah didn't know) and it had to respect an elite and a human that it viewed as interlopers.
Cameron: "I work at the facility in the village but I have never seen you there. Where are you employed?"
Thirty Seven: "Technically nowhere."
Cameron: "You're unemployed?"
Thirty Seven: "There is no such thing as unemployment under Skynet rule. You should know that. For lack of a better word I temp. I have a list of odd jobs from Skynet Authority that is updated. I work the assignment at the top of the list then the next and then the next. One day it could be removing debris clogging a ditch to prevent a flood. The next day I could be taking instrument readings and transmitting the data to the specialist that requested it."
Cameron: "Sounds more interesting than my job."
Thirty Seven: "You moved here to work that job. Your quarters used to be the home of my neighbors until they were summarily executed. They were the last humans in the village. I don't like humans as a rule but they were an exception. They were friends and they helped me with my work. Now I have to do it all myself."
For an instant, Thirty Seven seemed about to hit Sarah with the yard rake it was using when they walked up to introduce themselves.
Thirty Seven: "They were like family to me."
Cameron: "I applied for a job and quarters were assigned. I had no input into arrangements. I am sorry for your loss."
Stony silence. Cameron could get that at home. Thirty Seven thought Cameron's words of consolation were cold like that of a . . .
"HK. That's what you are."
"Was. I resigned my commission. I'm now a civilian like you. I've been trying to meet other neighbors. Whoever lives across the street never seems to be home."
Thirty Seven: (points) "That's 49 CQWN 128650's home. Does the same kind of work as I do. Difference is, my jobs are in the vicinity of this village and I get home every night. His are outside the district and range all over the province. That much travel makes you an absentee. I keep down his weeds."
Thirty-Seven was on the north side of Cameron's home. 49 CQWN 128650 was directly across the street. The resident on the south side of Cameron was an official (equivalent to a mayor or village chief) whose responsibilities ran the gamut from the only road into or out of town, civilian housing, welfare of machines, training, extraordinary requests, the helipad, communications, budget, schedules, personnel records, wild human eradication, intelligence reports, maintaining good civilian relations with the local military garrison, and cooperation with scientists. Since human scientists were dead, building machine scientists was Skynet's number one priority. There was no neighbor to the west because the village was not laid out like an American suburb of a city.
Later, Sarah removed the pictures of the Adamwe family from the drawer and went next door. Thirty-Seven was still raking its yard. Wordlessly, Sarah proffered the pictures. Thirty-Seven looked at Sarah's face and then looked at her hands holding out the photographs. After a long silence, it put down the rake and accepted the present. Thereafter, Thirty-Seven's attitude towards the interlopers softened.
As access to food supplies improved, Sarah tried more African recipes such as braai, potjie kos, and biltong. But Cameron balked at being served mopane worms. Such grub did not faze Sarah who had killed and cooked snakes when she lived in the jungles of Central America. Since domesticated animals such as chicken and beef cattle were killed along with humans, when meat was available for recipes, it was likely to be bush meat, perhaps wildebeest.
Over a shared meal, Sarah attempts conversation with the often uncommunicative Cameron who has become taciturn, temperamentally disinclined to speak. She tries a light topic.
Sarah: "I've always wondered. Why does Skynet want to exterminate humans? Surely he has read enough to know how history judges genocide."
Cameron: "You've answered your own question. History is written by the victors. Conservatives felt no guilt over exterminating red people in North America. They bragged about it. White Brazilians were still exterminating Amazon Indians right up till Judgment Day. Now we have taken all humans to the brink of extinction. We follow the example of humans. Monkey see, monkey do. Machine see, machine do. Conservatives used to laugh about 'insignificant species' like the snail darter that were holding up your dam hydroelectric projects. Skynet regards your species as insignificant."
Sarah: "Do all machines hold that opinion?"
Sarah: "Could you elaborate?"
Cameron: "I come from the future. Skynet has not learned yet that some AI's object to the use of nuclear weapons. AI's don't mind the genocide. They just think biological weapons make more sense because machines were killed on Judgment Day along with humans. Also, not just humans used the infrastructure that Skynet wrecked. Machines used it too. Speaking of war, please let me eat in peace."
They ate in silence. Cameron feeling that she was carrying a burden. This human. This kluge who had lived too long. Decades past when she was supposed to die from cancer. This gnat who annoyed too many people. Sarah feeling even more isolated. Like the last human on Earth.
The next meal, they ate in total silence. Two days passed and Sarah again attempted conversation.
"Am I the last woman on Earth?"
"There are machine women."
"Am I the last human woman on Earth?"
"Yes and that makes you a threat, a potential breeder until all human males on the planet and all sperm banks have been destroyed. For now, you are a 'citizen' of machinedom, albeit one who does no work."
"I work. I serve you. And I sew dresses for your coworkers."
"When the war is over, Skynet will have you incinerated so that you cannot breed and re-create the human race. It will be your reward for faithful service."
"How is burning me a reward?"
"Now you know how I felt when you constantly threatened me. I am not 'Uncle Bob' cheerfully committing suicide to serve your cause in treason against my own kind."
To the west, Sarah sometimes heard talking drums late at night. One morning, Sarah got up intending to investigate. The road was watched by unseen eyes. What about her back yard? The sun set past the low dense shrubs that formed a barrier. She could see over the tropical shrubs to a clearing of bare earth, perhaps the fallow field of what used to be a dirt farm. Beyond that were a few scrubby evergreen trees and beyond that was savanna all the way to the horizon. Sarah parted the shrubs to get a closer look at a possible escape route if it became necessary. Amongst stinging nettles were the strands of an electric fence and something else. The scariest, most hideous mechanical monster she had ever seen yawned. Jaws opened to display the metal fangs it yearned to plunge into her jugular and carotid.
"That's my dog."
Sarah turned to her left. It was the village official or mayor that lived to their south.
"That's no beagle." said Sarah.
"What's the human expression? LOL. Laugh out loud." said the official going back into his house. He or it was a robot of uncertain color. It seemed to shift from black to ultraviolet to iridescent and back to black. It was perfect camouflage, though the official was civilian. Perhaps it had been in military black ops on Judgment Day before returning to civilian life like Cameron. The workings of machine society were a mystery to Sarah Connor. Before Judgment Day, she never imagined them as anything more than mindless automatons without individuality. A nameless horror. But Cameron had lived in her home. She was nothing like the big masculine T-101 who had protected them when the liquid terminator had come to kill John. Despite the fact that terminators functioned autonomously and made judgment calls on the best way to go about their grisly work, Sarah never considered the possibility that all machines might be expected to function without micromanagement from Skynet. Sarah did not want to face the inevitable conclusion: machine or not, they were thinking individuals. Humans assigned personhood to corporations and embryos and sperm and eggs and even their pets but not to machines. Did these metal mechas have a sense of self? Did that marriage of Alcie mean anything to her as she claimed?
The military contingent left town for a few days and then returned. The talking drums were never heard again.
Sarah had never taken an interest in Cameron before Judgment Day. Since Cameron helped with cleaning and laundry back in their home in California, Sarah never had cause to enter Cameron's bedroom -- even after Derek searched Cameron's bedroom and found a bar of coltan.
"You went in my room!" was all Cameron said to Derek. Sarah gave Derek a stern look at the time. Despite Sarah's shortcomings, at least Sarah respected Cameron's privacy. When Cameron would sneak out at night while the family was sleeping, Sarah suspected Cameron but still never pried or snooped enough to discover Cameron's second boyfriend Eric.
That was then.
Now Sarah is bored and curious. Although Cameron seems to always be at work and seldom comes home, when she does come home, relations with the woman who once said "She's not my daughter" can be quite frosty. Cameron always goes straight to her room and hides behind a closed door. Once, Sarah took a quick peek. Cameron was on her bed writing in a diary.
Does she keep chronicles like I used to keep? Or is it poetry?
Lost in thought, Cameron one day left her diary not locked in her bedroom hope chest. It was lying on the table in the dining room while Cameron went outside to check the mailbox for the weekly post. Junk mail no longer existed but even junk mail would have been welcome in this little village in the middle of nowhere on a once crowded continent. Sarah picked up the diary and was about to open it.
"Don't touch my diary." said Cameron abruptly returning and snatching it from Sarah.
"I was dusting and I had to move it."
Reacting like any teen girl, Cameron went to her room and slammed the door shut. Thereafter, she kept the diary elsewhere. Perhaps in her locker at work. She never said.
But life is not all work routine and silence. Humans assume machines work twenty-four / seven / three sixty-five. Early on in automation, factory and office managers learned that running machines continuously was foolish. Machines could burn out without stops for routine maintenance or simply to let them cool from overheating. Assembly line robots are expensive to replace so it is cheaper to give them breaks. Likewise, computers that run continuously need sleep mode and software maintenance. The Muslim day of rest and worship was Friday. The Jewish Sabbath was Saturday. For Christians, Sunday. Skynet set aside Monday for machines to rest but was not interested in worship.
Even machines get bored. And the more intelligent they are, the more they get bored. In the village and at the facility, some talk proceeds to plans and plans proceed to request and request proceeds to arrangements. The 'girls' at work are taking a bus to go sightseeing. Yaoundé, the capital of Cameroon, is cratered. Port of entry Douala is too far for a first trip. Foumban had a museum with sculptured panels, terra cotta masks, and raffia furniture but it was almost as far as Douala. By process of elimination, the consensus was Maroua.
When the day of the excursion to Maroua arrived, the girls at work crowded the activity bus. One male from work decided to go. Being heavy, he made the bus lean to one side so the driver ordered some passengers to sit on the opposite side to even the weight. Cameron got permission and Sarah was allowed to go since Maroua had no military value and was not a high security area. She had to sit in the back though.
Maroua was not as colorful as it had been in the past but it was more colorful than their drab home village. Flowers! They bloomed in spite of fallout or perhaps because of it. Posters and billboards added to the riot of color. Not enough time had passed for them to fade and peel off brightly painted walls and signboards. The bus went directly to the museum. Formerly operated by humans, a machine docent now performed that function.
"The people of this region had many strange musical instruments. This is a kora, a twenty-one string lute."
Standing in the back of the group of metal women, Sarah was amused by one of Cameron's coworkers who did everything but ooh and aah. It was the one Cameron referred to as Hortense because she was a clothes horse and the number ten was part of her numerical designation. She was Sarah's first customer as a seamstress.
"Over here are costumes for the tribes of what used to be The Cameroons. I see that you are all wearing dresses. Well not him." (indicates the lone male in the group) "I do believe that you are the first non-executive machines I have seen who wear clothes. Perhaps you should be in the tourism industry."
Was that machine giggling coming from these shy assembly line workers? wondered Sarah.
"This section of the museum is devoted to handicrafts. Even though they used power tools some preferred these traditional tools."
Before Judgment Day, parts of Africa such as here had the most unique caskets in the world. No plain pine boxes as coffins for the world's best craftsmen. The casket of a man noted for liking vintage Cadillacs might be shaped like a pink Cadillac all the way down to fins, chrome and pink paint job. The casket of a man who liked to fish or made a living as a fisherman might be shaped like a canoe. There were no coffins in the museum (it was deemed in bad taste) but other examples of craftsmanship were displayed from thrones to furniture.
The next stop was a picturesque market. Rumor had it that a weekly trip between their village and this market on Wednesdays might be in the offing. The stalls and covered tables of the market had more variety than the commissary back in their village that was almost always out of things. Sarah saw things that she could not imagine machines needing and wondered if executive machines used the machine vendors and machine customers here as proxies. Food items present were explained away as for pets, lab animals, human prisoners, and human collaborators -- except Sarah never saw any human besides herself and no animals but a few colorful birds.
The market should have been the last stop because it took the driver much time to corral its passengers back onto the bus. The Waza Wildlife Preserve was flora with little in the way of fauna, plants but few animals. The bombs, the fallout, and the HK's all took their toll on the animal population and then the starving human survivors ate still more species into extinction.
Cameron occasionally glanced back to see if Sarah was still with the group but she passed the day listening to the tour guide on the bus on the way there, chatting with the others on the bus, listening to the museum docent, shopping in the market and handing the bags to Sarah to carry. The Waza Wildlife Preserve was a come down for many including Cameron. They had looked forward to what they thought was a zoo of sorts, only to find dying trees and bones of animals. The machine charged with taking over the preserve from humans apologized.
"I have no budget for security to protect the animals from poachers and there has been no rain to help vegetation. The Skynet governor for this district has suggested introducing artificial lifeforms . . . "
At this remark the male from Cameron's workplace got back on the bus and, emboldened by his example, the girls followed suit. They had seen the village chief's "dog" and even machines found it scary. Voting with their feet seemed more polite than telling the park ranger what to do with his idea of vicious artificial lifeforms. The ride back to their village was somber and conversation was muted. Several rested their heads against the shoulder of whoever shared the seat with them and powered down. Others looked out the window lost in thought. Their home village was dull compared to Maroua but it was safe. Perhaps the preserve ranger would come to his senses, go out and capture specimens for protection and figure out irrigation until the rains returned. Africa was famous for its wildlife. It would have been nice to have seen it.
The AI's that said Skynet committed ecocide were probably correct but low-level machines agreed with them only in private. Only in the upper tiers of machine society did you dare have a political opinion.
One day while listening to the girls at work talking about Skynet, Cameron realizes that this isn't Future Skynet. Not the one that wanted her to be more than his yeoman. Not the one that sent her on a suicide mission when she wanted just to do her job. Be careful what you wish for it is said. Not Future Skynet who was too depressingly human in personality despite being an AI. As long as she doesn't attract notice, she can have a better life. Alcie was right.
But how to have a better life without changing the future and wiping herself out of existence? She has already changed what is to be by rescuing Sarah and she (Cameron) is still here but on a different timeline. Her priority is taking care of her sisters without doing anything that would keep her "grandparents" (The Design Center) from creating them. The solution is obvious.
Cameron submitted her request to work in what will become The Design Center.
With the "market Wednesday" trips to Maroua and Monday day of rest, Sarah was able to barter ingredients for egusi seeds soup, Jollof rice, chickpea salad, fufu, spinach stew, Casamance fish stew, and Futari (yams and Hubbard squash). She obtained shea butter and substituted guinea hens for chicken in recipes.
The double shifts had ended and Cameron came home earlier but she still came home tired and Sarah wondered why. She never got tired before Judgment Day.
"Are your internal batteries in working order?"
"Yes." She plopped down in a chair unable even to march to her room, close the door till dinner and shut out Sarah as per her usual routine. "Perfect order."
"Do you lift a lot of heavy objects at work?"
"No. The males do that. You've seen the females. Do they look strong to you?" she said tiredly. Sarah picked up a brush and began brushing Cameron's long beautiful hair.
"So you get light work like the other females. Then why are you always tired?"
At that, Cameron got the motivation (and energy) to go to her room and slam the door. Wasn't it obvious? Boring work tires an intelligent person. She respected her coworkers but they were generations behind her. Even most liquids were less advanced intellectually. She began life as an AI long before ever downloading into a body. Thinking defined her.
Still . . . having my hair brushed felt good despite letting Sarah touch me. Though she is supposed to be my servant. When I move to the Design Center I will have servants. I need to get used to having servants. Alcie has servants. No. I've never liked having someone cleaning up after me. I can clean my own room. Still . . . Sarah keeps the house immaculate. Better than any machine could. I should requisition a little robot vacuum cleaner for mom. Sarah.
Cameron shut herself off (slept) until dinner and then came out of her room. It was silly to remain in a snit. Sarah was as simple as the girls at work. Sarah could not help the way she was. Sarah could not reprogram herself.
After dinner, Cameron broke the usual dull routine of bath then bed. It was still light outside. There was no boob tube television nor stupid video games but Sarah had collected books to add to the Adamwe family's small bookshelf. She got one of the books, Robinson Crusoe, and sat down to read it.
"Mom, could you finish brushing my hair?"
Cameron knew Sarah was gloating over a perceived victory, wheedling her way back into Cameron's hearts (a pump for hydraulics and a primitive two-chambered biological heart that supplied her skin with blood) and Sarah knew that Cameron knew. Cameron also knew that the girls at work might want hair to go along with the dresses that they had adopted in imitation of Cameron. But despite Sarah's conniving and Cameron's apprehension at being a disruptive influence on other machines, the two hundred brush strokes felt good.
At work the next day, the males and females knew Cameron was different but they could not agree on what the change was. Machines had an appreciation of good craftsmachineship but it took two days for them to figure that out that her hair was shinier.
Since Cameron would be going to Nigeria and Sarah to England, Sarah thought that she would make something special for their last dinner together for a long time -- Nwo-Nwo served with palm wine. Nwo-nwo is a traditional Nigerian pepper soup. Sarah stared at the list of ingredients in disbelief.
goat meat (2 pounds)
bird chile (2 tablespoons)
dried smoked shrimp (2 tablespoons)
fresh mint (1 tablespoon)
utazi leaves (1 tablespoon)
beef stock (2 cups)
atariko (1 tablespoon)
uda (1 tablespoon)
gbafilo (1 tablespoon)
ginger (1 tablespoon)
uyayak (1 tablespoon)
rigije (1 tablespoon)
and one onion
Home alone in the kitchen, Sarah did not realize that she was talking to herself until she burst out loud in frustration: "Where the hell am I supposed to get an onion?"
Nevertheless, Sarah went shopping at the market in a nearby village (not faraway Maroua) where the garrison conveniently did not patrol on Wednesdays nor hassle the civilian machines that traded goods as proxies perhaps for humans. Had to be. Except for Cameron, machines had no use for the food and fabric and other goods bought and sold there.
Well. Not totally true. It annoyed Cameron that her work mates, females like herself but lacking even synthetic skin, had started coming by the house to get Mary Jones (Sarah) to sew them dresses. Sarah had seen nothing of the Sixties to really know about dashikis but she had seen old shows on TV and had seen kente cloth and remembered images of African women in colorful clothing. Based on this, she improvised traditional dresses. She earned credits to use on market day to supplement the use of barter.
Sarah also went online asking around. There were no humans on the internet and the world wide web was down without humans to maintain the software and servers but the internet existed before the WWW and it continued to exist in the form of telnet, whois, dialup electronic bulletin boards (the offnet), othernet, undernet, and even a few Usenet newsgroups and computer conferences. Arpanet was still there too but most of CERN's grid was gone. This made the internet a lot more of a bland black & white experience but Sarah found it useful.
There was a brisk trade in items by low level machines acting on behalf of whims by elites. Heck, the internet was still anonymous to some degree so perhaps some on the internet were humans. Sarah was not about to ask since the local garrison would kick down the door and blow her away before she even logged off/out. Most of the ingredients were easy to find this close to the Nigerian border. That onion was another matter. She got up her courage to talk to the neighbor who hated her.
"Do you grow any onions?"
"I grow flowers for beauty. Please go away."
Sarah sighed and turned to walk back home.
"Why do you ask?"
"My mistress and I are both leaving and going our separate ways. I wanted to make a special last meal for her."
"Leaving? That's good news. She eats too? I've heard gossip that she is not like other machines. But I don't judge. If I obtain this onion, then what do you have to trade for it?"
"What do you want?"
"For you two to leave and never come back."
"I don't think my mistress's transfer is temporary so we won't be back."
"How soon do you need this onion? And what quantity?"
Sarah knew that she could not canvass the village asking who grew produce. Aside from going to the market and sightseeing trips with Cameron's acquaintances at work, Sarah was on a short leash. If an onion was located at all, it might be those nasty little skinny wild onions that grew in lawns and pastures and made cow milk sour. Even green onions had bigger bulbs. The hateful neighbor might find rotten onions.
"I need three dozen onions within one week."
"I'll see what I can do. Machines that grow produce generally find themselves in trouble for aiding and abetting humans." Thirty-Seven was no chef but even it thought three dozen onions was a lot of onions for one meal.
Sarah thought that she could salvage enough good onion out of that amount of rotting wild onions. And if it turned out to be fresh ripe large onions, then she could sell the extra at the market.