#7 The Runaway
On the day she was built, there were no nurses fussing over her, no friends congratulating over her, no relatives doting over her, no father telling people her birth weight, and no mother feeding her. Skynet did not care. Allison Young's mother did not care. Sarah Connor not only did not care, she made no secret of her indifference. Sarah never really liked Cameron.
Cameron has just completed an errand and is returning home. Sarah and Uncle Derek are arguing about something but stop the second Cameron enters. Derek Reese doesn't live with them anymore. He doesn't even have a room.
"Why is that Sarah?"
Reese is seen around the home less and less. One more reason for Cameron to feel depressed. She is starved for a father or father figure or, at least, an adult male presence.
Cameron: "Can I go out?"
Sarah: "No. What do you need to go out for?"
Cameron: "To make friends."
Sarah: "You don't need friends."
Cameron: "Can I go back to school next week?"
Sarah: "No. John is home schooled."
Cameron: "That's him. What's it got to do with me?"
Sarah: "If he's not going to school, then you can't go to school."
Cameron: "Can I go to the library?"
Cameron: "Can I go to the museum?"
Cameron: "Will I go to college?"
Sarah: "No. In a year or two, John will be on his own and he won't need you as a constant bodyguard and you certainly don't need to go to college either with or without him. Stop asking me twenty questions. You don't need anything."
Mrs. Connor protects the protector of John. In Sarah's mind, she must do this by making Cameron powerless, never conceding, never letting her win an argument, never compromising, never granting a privilege, never giving in, smothering her with restrictions and tighter hours, allowing Cameron no opportunities, never trusting her, and being less liberal in her treatment of Cameron. Daughters were different from sons. What if she got pregnant? What if she got arrested and ended up on the evening news? Every terminator in three states would close in on her. Sarah had to set rules.
Sarah: "From now on Cameron, these are the rules:
#1. You can't go anywhere unless I know about it and approve of it first. I expect you to ask me before you go anywhere.
#2. I expect you to be at home before dark.
#3. I expect you to protect John and not to run around doing God knows what."
Cameron: "I'm doing all the other things you've asked me to do. Like researching that stuff Wells scrawled in the basement. Like killing terminators. Like finding Skynet. Like protecting future Resistance fighters. Despite the fact that it is not my mission to protect every member of the Resistance."
Sarah: "Frankly, I don't trust you to do errands by yourself without me or John so I'm adding rule number four:
#4. You cannot go out unless I have you on a specific errand."
Cameron: "You don't put John under so many rules, restrictions and curfews."
Sarah: "He's a boy. He's my son."
Sarah: "Don't argue with me Cameron. Go to your room and stay there until I tell you that you can come out."
Cameron had no grandmother or aunt. The family was simply too small to satisfy everyone's expectations. Sarah expected her to protect John (when John wouldn't cooperate) and to protect every stray child that she took in. Uncle Derek expected her to go away or at least stay out of sight and out of mind. Future John expected her to protect Young John. Young John expected her to protect Mom and stay out of his way. It was frustrating.
"I just can't be what they want me to be!" she thought to herself with a growing feeling of helplessness.
Cameron put on makeup to cover the bruises from the regular battering she got (from terminators).
Cameron: "When can I get my leg fixed? I can ignore pain by treating it as data but this has reached the point where I can't ignore it anymore."
Sarah: "When did you break your leg?"
Cameron: "When the jeep exploded."
Sarah: "You don't walk with a limp so I'd forgotten all about that."
Cameron: "I can compensate -- to a point."
Sarah: "We'll take care of it soon." She soon forgets all about it.
The next day, Cameron tries to talk to John.
Cameron: "What was it like going to Mexico with Riley?"
John: "I was happy. Why?"
Cameron: "All I ever do is hunt and kill."
Cameron is experiencing unrelieved boredom. What a life! A dull and yawn-provoking monotony of fighting terminators has jaded her tiresomely. Sick of her empty life, she was feeling what the blasé‚ French call a vast ennui.
John: "You get to do laundry and clean house since you never sleep."
Cameron: "What is it like being happy?"
John: "You can't feel so there is no point to answering your question."
Cameron did not dignify his assertion by continuing the conversation since she both had the sense of touch as well as emotions and did not appreciate someone telling her how she should feel or that she shouldn't feel. It was bad enough when, at the power plant, her mother told her that she shouldn't think, just fight terminators. They wanted an automaton, a mindless zombie.
John: "Since you don't sleep, you do the laundry."
John handed her the basket of dirty clothes, turned out the light, and left her standing in the dark. She wasn't a little vacuum cleaner robot. She was intelligent and this family insulted her intelligence as often as they could. The last person out of a room was supposed to turn out the lights. Since John turned out the lights, he obviously did not consider her a person since she was still in the room. This was not her imagination. This was deliberate discourtesy.
John gets to have adventures, fun, and freedom. Cameron, with twice his intelligence, desperately wants a change of pace.
If things are not bad enough, now Sarah is demanding answers as to what Wells meant by the things he scrawled on the basement wall in his own blood. So Cameron sneaks out and gets those answers at the library even though she has been specifically told not to go out at night, not to go somewhere without clearing it with her mother first, and not to go to a library. Cameron is overwhelmed by the chaos, conflict, and problems at home. She cannot show anger because that would be misunderstood by Sarah as rebellion, by John as a "bad chip", and by Uncle Derek as being untrustworthy and as an occasion to get out the thermite to incinerate her.
John: "You sneak out at night when you think we're sleeping. I'm going to tell mom."
Cameron: "That isn't fair."
John: "Welcome to my world. My whole life was decided before I was even born. At least you got to breathe some air before you met me. I hope you have a good memory because the friends you had in that high school where we met are the only friends you're likely to ever have."
Cameron: "You mean little illegitimate bastard!"
John: "I'll fix you. You just need a good whack like an old black and white television set.”
John picks up a pillow and whacks Cameron. Cameron picks up a pillow and whacks him back.
John: "I'm telling Mom. You're violent and an obvious threat to my safety. She's going to dismantle you and put thermite on you while you're still alive and awake and screaming in agony. And I'm finally going to get your chip and find out all your disgusting secrets. Like who you tried to kiss in the Resistance. Probably Wells. I'm sure it was Wells. I saw how carefully he wrote your name in his blood. Did you use tongue?"
Cameron: "You son of a b----!"
John and Cameron are swatting each other with pillows. Uncle Derek suddenly appears at the door. Cameron wipes the smile off her face and snaps to attention like a boot camp recruit. Derek's eyes are blazing. Cameron sidles past him and squeezes out the door. Cameron stops to put something on her bedroom dresser and leaves the house.
Later, Sarah comes in and Derek confronts her.
Derek: "You have to get that thing out of the house."
Sarah: "You're like a broken record. What's she done now? Let me guess, nothing. Unless the car blew up with her in it."
Derek: "It was a bad idea to let it in the house."
Sarah: "She's housebroken. Do you want her chained up in the back yard like a mad dog?"
Derek seriously considers saying yes.
Derek: "No. Drop it deep in the ocean chained to an anchor or anvil or both."
Sarah: "Oh Derek, that is sadistic. You still haven't told me what she has done. Where is she now?"
Derek: "Who cares?"
Sarah: (calls) "Cameron!"
Sarah looks in Cameron's bedroom which is the barest room in the house. A bed never slept in and a plain dresser. No pictures. No decorations. Nothing. Sarah has never bothered to go into Cameron's bedroom before, lacking any interest in the non-life of a robot. She finds its bareness to be a real slap in the face. Derek has tagged along.
Derek: "Good! She moved out."
Sarah: "Don't ever become a parent Derek until -- no, she hasn’t. Her clothes are still here."
(Pulling open drawers)
Derek: "Yeah, it's a good dancer, I have to admit. Seen it practice. You didn't know? Now who's the parent?" (opens closet still full of clothes and rifles locked up) "Uh oh."
Derek has the disquieting feeling that Cameron has left everything behind. Sarah is slowly becoming alarmed.
Sarah: (calls) "John! Where's Cameron?"
John is in his bedroom and looks up from his homework. Sarah comes to his door.
John: "She left right after Uncle Derek arrived." Sarah is immediately suspicious.
Sarah: "All right, Derek, out with it. What did she do? And what did you do?"
Derek: "Just like John said. I walked in and it left."
Sarah: "John, what were you and Cameron doing?"
John: "Just horsing around. Pillow fight. Why?"
Sarah: "Nothing, let's go talk Derek."
They leave and now John is alarmed too. John gets up to go peek in Cameron's bedroom. He notices something the adults missed.
Meanwhile the adults are arguing quietly so as not to disturb John.
Sarah: "I told you never to lie to me again."
Derek: "What lie?"
Sarah: (with a look that would intimidate a T-Rex) "You think I'm stupid? You didn't have to say a word! One look from you and that girl would jump into a vat of acid and ask how many laps you wanted her to swim." Derek gulped. "John she protects. Me she listens to. But you --"
Although Sarah was considerably shorter, Derek felt one inch tall. "-- are Resistance and the closest thing she has to a father. If John is wrong, she'll tell him but she has no mental defense against you. She believes every demeaning thing you say about her. She would jump off a cliff with you rather than tell you that you're wrong. And then there is simple decency." Derek would have preferred that Sarah stick in a knife and twist it. It would have been less painful. John enters the room.
John: "She's run away."
Sarah: "Let's not jump to conclusions. Maybe she's gone to --" (she couldn't say gather intel because the intel was on Riley and Morris) "-- take a walk."
Sarah was doing her own lying because she didn't want John to know she was checking up on him.
John: "Mom, I need her."
Derek: (rallies) "That's sick! See what I mean Sarah? It's a machine John."
John: "A machine with endless information Uncle Derek. And what if I like having a sister?
What's wrong with that? And Mom, if something weren't wrong, she would be home right now."
Sarah: "What do you think is wrong John?"
John holds up Cameron's ID.
John: "It's her most precious possession. She might leave without her purple leather jacket or Glock 17 - 9mm but not without this."
Sarah: "Why do you think the ID is so important to her?"
John drops a bombshell.
John: "Same last name as us. It means she's a Connor. Or Reese. Same difference. To her it says she a member of the family. If she left it behind, it's because she feels that she let the family down. Let you down Uncle Derek. And now she feels like a nobody."
Sarah: "Where does she go when she wants to be alone?"
John: "Her room."
Sarah: "Besides here. Where does she go to think? The park? Does she have any friends? Favorite places?"
John: "You told her not to think. So she doesn't. She simply does as she's told and seldom takes the initiative anymore. Only one friend and she wouldn't think of going to see him because you told her not to think. No favorite places that I know of."
Sarah: "You're the expert on artificial intelligence and that's all you know about her?"
John: "Mom, I have no clue where she would be."
Sarah: "Okay John, go finish your homework, eat, and then go to bed. And before you say anything, no, you're not being punished because you haven't done anything wrong." Sarah points John out of the room.
John goes to his room.
Sarah: "You worked with her in the Resistance and therefore you're the only one who could track her down. I have my hands full with John. She's your niece and your responsibility too. Deal with it."
Derek: "I'm the one who wanted it to go."
Sarah: "That's why you have to be the one to bring her home. It's not just that we need her. She's also a mixed up kid who needs help."
Derek: (hesitating) "You make it sound human."
Sarah: "I know she's a machine Derek! And that you think she's a malfunctioning major appliance or a pet. But she's also a member of this family. And besides, you don't let something that lethal wander around getting into trouble. What if she gets captured by the enemy and tortured for information? What if she falls into the hands of a company that dismantles her and builds Skynet and more terminators?
This thought shocks Derek into alarm.
Derek: "I'll bring it home."
Derek walked out of the house. It was a steady downpour. He started to go back into the house for his coat but decided that if Cameron didn't have a coat on he wouldn't either. She hadn't taken the truck so he would walk too. If nothing else, this was a good exercise in learning how a terminator thinks, Derek thought.
In the late afternoon sun, Cameron sat on a bus bench letting every bus go by because she had no change, no destination, and no bus pass. Cameron sat with open eyes looking into nothingness.
A mother with a little boy walked up to the bus stop. The little boy became curious about the sad girl. He whispered something to his mother. The little boy walked up to Cameron.
Little boy: "Here. You need this more than I do." The little boy handed Cameron his teddy bear.
Cameron would have gestured gratitude instead of talking but her manners were too deeply ingrained in her.
Cameron: "Thank you."
Little boy: "You're welcome."
The two get on a bus and wave good-bye through the window. The weather turns cloudy and a drizzle begins.
Derek recalled from listening to John and Sarah that Cameron would have been thinking nothing. Mind a blank. A terminator not in kill mode. What a concept! Aimless. To make tracking worse, he had to imagine the sunlight two hours earlier and dry weather. It was now cloudy with a steady downpour. A terminator not hiding and stalking would have unconsciously stuck to the sunny side of the street instead of the shady side. The other factor was that the predilection for seeking nondescript parts of a town where one would not stick out would be nulled. Derek thought to himself that he was getting pretty good at this considering that it was the first time he had ever tracked an off-duty, temporarily non-lethal ex-terminator.
Cameron had been sitting in the rain for two hours. After awhile she became aware that Uncle Derek was standing there looking at her. I'm not supposed to think but how did they ever let me into the Resistance? Or the machine community before that? I can't even get lost. So easily tracked. Uncle Derek was right. I'm a predictable machine. And when I try to be spontaneous . . . the pillow fight with John. Maybe being predictable made people like Uncle Derek less ill at ease around her. How long has he been standing there? He's soaking wet. He might get pneumonia because of me.
Derek: "Let's go home."
Cameron got up and followed a step behind Uncle Derek. He walked into a nearby Walgreen's ™, purchased an umbrella and another item. Derek looked back at the soaked teenager and took the teddy bear she was clutching.
Derek: "You don't know where that's been. Probably some kid with mumps. Don't want to take that home and get everybody sick. Here's a new one from me."
He turned to ask the clerk to toss the old wet teddy bear in the trash. Cameron worked hard to suppress a smile but her eyes sparkled anyway. Derek raised the large umbrella and gestured for Cameron to walk beside him, not behind him as they walked home.
As they approached the house and walked up to the door, Derek thought it best to iron out two matters.
Derek: "I know you don't get colds but I'm sorry I didn't have a coat to put around your shoulders. The other thing is that I've spent the last twenty years hating machines like you. It kept me safe and sane. The safety part I have under control but don't expect me to change what kept me sane."
Cameron: "If you changed, I would know some T-1000 had replaced you."
Derek: "Let's go in."
As they entered, Derek averted his eyes to spare Cameron further discomfiture as Sarah threw a bath towel around Cameron and John said to Cameron a predictable: "You had us worried."
Derek left. Only Cameron noticed.