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A Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles Thanksgiving

Short story By: Toni Roman
Science fiction



A Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles Thanksgiving.


Submitted:Nov 2, 2013    Reads: 136    Comments: 2    Likes: 0   


Thanksgiving

"I will wash mine hands in innocency: so will I compass thine altar, O Lord: that I may publish with the voice of thanksgiving, and tell of all thy wondrous works." -- Psalm 26, verses 6-7

The first terminator had murdered Sarah Connor's mother and imitated her voice. Sarah had never made contact with any relative after that out of fear of leading terminators to them. But after Derek Reese's arrival, curiosity began to gnaw at her. Sarah Connor made a heavily armed sortie to her birthplace, her parents' hometown. She went off-road in the SUV, over a hill, over a river (barely a trickle, it was November), and through the wood.

"To grandmother's house we go." John said sarcastically to Cameron.

"This isn't funny, John." said Sarah as she parked. They got out. Sarah pointed in the direction of the house. They looked through binoculars.

"See anything?" Sarah asked Cameron.

"No."

"Let's go." Sarah said and they got back in the SUV but instead of driving on to the house, Sarah turned around and took a different route back to the highway.

"We come all this way and we're not going to take a closer look?" John asked.

"That's right. Paranoia is what has kept you alive all these years."

Sarah drove to another town, the county seat, which had the hall of records. According to them, the home should have passed to a relative or been sold when Sarah's mother was murdered but no one wanted the place. Sarah knew it was not just superstition about a house in which murder had happened. Rumor in the town was that the widow Connor's daughter was a terrorist. Other rumors were that the house was watched, that visitors could expect to be murdered also, and that it was not healthy to be curious about the house. Sarah smiled when the clerk told her these rumors. She had started one of the rumors herself to scare off, and thereby protect, any relatives who came to visit. At the same time, she knew that it was not healthy for her to visit either. She loaded her children back in the SUV, left the county, and while she drove she wondered if she had signed the clerk's death warrant.

"You're making excellent progress teaching John Henry ethics, Mr. Ellison. Yesterday he quoted Matthew 11:25 in response to a question about whether he understood the meaning of Thanksgiving."

"That's your accomplishment not mine Ms. Weaver. You read the Bible and that has rubbed off on him."

"But you attend Bible study whereas the best I can manage is quoting from memory. You're very humble. I've noticed that about you. You're also good with the young. John Henry and Savanna for example. How is it you've never had children?"

"So far the career track has got in the way." He thought of his ex, also at the bureau, who was about to remarry. "Besides, who'd want me?"

Weaver looked at him with possessive eyes. This was the first man she had ever met that she didn't want to kill.

Ms. Weaver's secretary buzzed to remind her about the investors and the movers. The Mayflower vans were arriving with the possessions of the late Mr. Weaver (and the late Mrs. Weaver) from England. The investors were The Adventurers Ltd of London UK. Thomas Westin was chairman and also on the board of Zeira PLC, Zeira Corporation's subsidiary in England.

The following day, Weaver crosses paths with Ellison at Zeira's headquarters.

"My daughter is going to be in a school pageant."

"When I was Savanna's age I had to play Tom Turkey. I was shamed in that stupid costume as it was, then the parents in the audience could no longer hold it in and burst out laughing. Most kids would have been in therapy for years but I told the principal that I had paid my dues and that next year I deserved to be Miles Standish. And the succeeding year I was. Imagine a black kid playing a white man who was a redhead. Like Miles Standish himself, I had a fiery temper."

"No trace of it now. I can't imagine you angry. I envy your control of your emotions. I have to deal with hundreds of employees and some of the best will run off to the competition if you upset them."

"Like children."

She nodded.

"Savanna's very shy. Should I pull her out of the pageant?"

"What part is she playing?"

"Rose Standish."

"Then she should stay in. I'd encourage her to ham up the death scene. Might make her popular at school."

"You are a very kind man Mr. Ellison. Would you like to join us for Thanksgiving Dinner?"

"I couldn't intrude on a family reunion."

"My late husband's sides of the family, the Weavers, are a big family but they're all in England and Thanksgiving is not a British holiday. I'm estranged from my side of the family, so it is just me, my daughter, my employees, my daughter's friends, and the servants."

"Sounds like a crowd. You must have a large banquet hall for a feast that large."

"I invited all the employees and all of Savanna's classmates. All have declined. I realize that I am perceived as a cold person and a tough boss but I'm making an honest effort to adjust to America. Stiff British upper lip and all."

"I accept your invitation."

Ellison figured it beat a TV dinner alone and he could TIVO™ the game.

"My company is a parade sponsor. Why don't you join me and Savanna in the booth and we can make a day of it?"

Captain Miles Standish had more in common with Weaver than red hair. He had a fiery temper indeed. He put an Indian's head on a pike mounted on the fort near Weymouth.

Weaver had a low tolerance for self-delusion. The school Savanna attended did not teach the dumbed-down history that most grade schools present in their Thanksgiving pageants. The First Americans were candidly acknowledged as having been screwed out of their continent by genocidal invaders. At the same time, the classics were also taught. Either strain of education, the radical or the classical, would have been jarring to an average American parent or child used to mind-numbing Pablum™. Reactionaries and other ultraconservatives have always been mystified by the fact that the children of the rich are often taught by professors who are communists. Theoretically, communists want all rich people up against a wall to be machine gunned down.

Theoretically.

The rich are still with us.

Weaver sat in the auditorium with the other parents. The pageant was a loose adaptation of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's The Courtship of Miles Standish with additions of the Mayflower Compact (dear to the heart of Mayflower descendants), the Pilgrim babies (Oceanus Hopkins and Peregrine White), the "bound children" (servants Richard, Jasper, and Ellen More), the Pilgrim teenagers (Elizabeth Tilley 14, Giles Hopkins 13, Constance Hopkins 15, Mary Chilton 15), and the Native Americans (Chief Massasoit, Samoset, Squanto, Hobomok, and Corbitant). Weaver was proud when Savanna appeared as Rose Standish and prouder still when she delivered her lines perfectly. Not too muted, not over the top, just right. Weaver was unsure how to interpret the audience's reaction to Rose's death. Other children did their bit parts. The pageant ended with Luke 22:17 and a salute to Sarah Josepha Buell Hale, editor of Godey's.

In the aftermath of the play, Savanna got more acceptance from the other children. Weaver's opinion of Agent Ellison rose.

Sarah is a lousy cook. Cameron offers to cook Thanksgiving Dinner and wash the pots and dishes. Sarah is about to agree on condition that Cameron also buys the ingredients too but instead decides that shopping alone with John is what she wants. Riley and Cameron monopolize his time and Sarah is still stinging from being told by John that she is jealous that he has somebody other than her in his life.

"Okay domestic goddess. You're on. Make a list of ingredients and John and I will go get them."

Before John can object to spending one-on-one time with his mother, Sarah adds, "That is nonnegotiable."

Cameron is happy. John is nervous that his mother is going to lecture him for a couple of hours.

Remarkably, John finds that his mother does not upbraid him as they go to one supermarket for most of the ingredients and to a specialty store for the remaining hard-to-find items. The shopping trip is passed in relative quiet as Sarah points to items on shelves and confines her talk to "What's the next item on the list?"

John finds himself feeling strangely nostalgic about being mothered by über-maternal Sarah Connor. It is precisely the feeling Sarah wants to engender. The time has not come to cut the apron strings.

Meanwhile, Cameron is home alone reading cookbooks, setting out pots, and wondering if she has bitten off more than she can chew. The metaphor is apt because she can eat little, smell little, and taste little. But she can test things on the landlady. Pregnant women had heightened senses. Returning from shopping, Sarah looks at her kitchen (Cameron has laid out cooking utensils with military precision) and wonders what her mechanical maid is capable of in the culinary arts.

It is T-Minus 25 hours and Cameron prepares the courses requiring the most lead time and the courses that can be kept refrigerated. The turkey is unthawing. Vegetables will be prepared last on D-Day right after the parade on TV.

Because she does not sleep, there is no danger of someone cutting a hole in the middle of dishes. Cameron has placed snacks out in the dining room to keep the rest of family from underfoot and out of the kitchen. Sarah goes to read a book and then notices Cameron trotting in and out repeatedly. She wonders if she should offer to be taste tester instead of letting Cameron endanger the life of Kacy Corbin.

When Cameron returned, Sarah went out of earshot of her and called the landlady.

"Is Cameron trying out her recipes on you? Are you okay? Is she poisoning you?"

"The first thing she had me try was horrible but she's getting better with each visit. Relax."

Thanksgiving Day. Ellison enjoys watching a parade from the VIP booth. By the time the Santa Claus float arrives, Savanna is sitting in his lap.

Inside a gated community with armed guards is the Weaver mansion. Thanksgiving at the Weavers turns out to be four people: Weaver, Ellison, Savanna, and the neighbors' kid, a boy named Tommy. If it is possible, Tommy is quieter than Savanna but he is the same age, same class, and same caste. The butler stays nearby but out of sight.

As hostess, Weaver uses her prerogative, a concept she has recently learned.

"Mister Ellison would you please bless the food?"

"We thank and praise the God of our fathers who has given us wisdom and strength and made known to us what we asked of Him and made known to us what the world demanded."

All said amen.

"I believe the expression is stick a knife in it." Weaver said and warned the butler off with a look. The footmen were supposed to serve but Weaver was determined to make Ellison feel at home, or at least comfortable. He carved the turkey. The other items on the table were standard Thanksgiving fare including Indian corn. There was a cornucopia centerpiece. There was cranberry sauce but not from a can. Weaver watched Ellison microscopically. He saw no soul food items on the table. Weaver had calculated correctly that he did not like soul food. Ellison only liked soul food if it was prepared by his favorite aunt. His other relatives ruined soul food cuisine with too much cholesterol. Weaver now motioned the footman to step forward. Ellison was being offered a choice of skim milk, buttermilk, tea, or wine. Weaver again did not want to overplay her hand. She guessed that, given the choice, he would choose skim milk. Ellison chose skim milk.

Weaver tried a conversational gambit. "The Bible says the poor will always be with us. But there are harvests and harvest festivals. There were in ancient times and still are today. In the Bible, a true thanksgiving differs from a harvest festival. It is a day of prayer and fasting."

Ellison waited for Weaver to point out that his prayer had been a paraphrase of Daniel 2:23. Weaver stared back refusing to take the bait. Ellison looked at Weaver with renewed interest.

"What are you thankful for Ms. Weaver?"

"For the progress of the project, for you because you pointed out things I hadn't considered, for the time Doctor Sherman spent with John Henry, for having known Doctor Sherman because he helped me be a better mother to Savanna, and for Savanna herself."

Weaver leaves unspoken something else for which she is thankful: Weaver is also thankful that The Turk in its fifth version (A, B, C, D, and now E) was spared after the police investigated the death of Dr. Boyd Sherman. Benjamin Franklin wanted to make it the national symbol instead of the eagle. Ben might still get his wish.

Weaver decided to rename it Project Babylon and now John Henry. In 2009, he might join her for Thanksgiving or the military might buy him and rename him Skynet. More name changes than the Connors.

At the Connors, Derek won't eat the food that Cameron has slaved over, Sarah pukes but it's not the food (and she's not pregnant), and John has invited Riley over. Cameron applies a few profane words to Derek and then says, "If I was trying to poison you, you'd already be dead."

Derek points at Sarah. Sarah waves aside being dragged into it, "The food is fine. I think it's that bug I picked up in Mexico. Let me have some of that cranberry sauce. It's a natural antibiotic."

John shrugs and says to Riley, "This is my family. I can't believe you want to be around us."

Riley is grinning from ear to ear. "No, it's great. It's a lot more honest than my family. They're losers."

Derek takes some crescent rolls (since Sarah seems to be able to keep them down) and goes to watch the game on TV. Cameron stamps her foot in irritation. Sarah returns from the bathroom after regurgitating her stomach and rinsing out her mouth. "I feel much better. Let me have some dark meat and stuffing." Having gotten her second wind from an intestinal standpoint, Sarah tries to rise to the occasion. "What is everyone thankful for?"

Riley says "That I'm here and not at home."

John says "That we're not moving as much."

Sarah says "I am thankful that John is alive and that my stomach feels better." Sarah goes and pokes the unresponsive Derek who is mesmerized by the game.

Derek is told what the question is and says "I'm thankful that the human race might have a chance. And that the Indians are gonna win this game."

"You're full of it. The Patriots are going to win." Cameron replies.

Sarah asks, "Cameron, what are you thankful for?"

Sitting beside Derek and letting bygones be bygones, Cameron replies without bothering to look away from the game, "Nothing. Thankfulness implies that I was given something that I wanted."

At a distance outside, Jesse is looking through a telephoto lens at the dysfunctional family and wishing that she could trade places with Cameron. Derek has assumed that Jesse would have declined an invitation. There is nothing good about a family fighting at family gatherings. But at least they have to care about each other to bother to fight in the first place.

In the back of his mind, Ellison felt like his brain was being spidered on the World Wide Web. Suddenly he noticed that the background music was not recorded. A cellist was playing softly in a dark corner of the great room. She was a member of a local philharmonic earning a few extra bucks.

Ellison knows that it is proper for him to make a better effort at contributing to the dinner conversation.

"Prayer and fasting. In my mind, that's more of an Advent or Lent activity but it's a personal choice. Tommy, what prayers have you been taught?"

"The Lord's Prayer. Our Father, who art in heaven. Howard be thy name." the boy said with a sly grin. Ellison laughed and grinned back. Weaver had to compromise to get a dinner companion for her daughter. There were no machine children in this decade. At least not ones ready to leave the lab. But at least Tommy was upper class. Savanna saw much and said nothing of what she thought.

Weaver had no alimentary canal. Topologically, she was one-sided like a Moebius strip and had neither inside nor outside. Whenever Weaver had to fake eating, she hid an ostomy bag on her person. The food went into it undigested. Savanna looked at Tommy. Tommy motioned for the footman to put more whipped cream on his pumpkin pie. Savanna liked Agent Ellison and that made her sad because every time she liked someone, they died.

It occurred to Ellison that milk and turkey had something in common. Both contained tryptophan and both made you sleepy. Did Weaver plan on encouraging him to sleep over? She did not offer him coffee at the dessert course. In the history of crime, stabbings had always been from the outside in. He thought of the man from the power plant in the morgue who was the first person stabbed from the inside out. Ellison was an FBI agent. It was not hard to connect the dots. In her office, Weaver had a snake in a terrarium and a moray eel in a tank. She practically advertised her predilection for murder. The murderous mind of John Henry in the murderous body of Cromartie. So why did she respond when he suggested that John Henry needed to learn the Ten Commandments? She struck him as an atheist despite her ability to quote Scripture. Under atheist regimes, people developed a hunger for the spiritual. But Weaver came from England not Russia or China. What did she really want from him? He did not regard himself as smart. He wasn't an AI scientist. He had got her the robot she wanted but he was still alive. Ellison didn't have a death wish but he was curious. What did she really want from him? What could he possibly offer that a thousand Ph.D.'s could not? There were higher placed agents with more seniority who had made it up to assistant director status. There were hot shot young agents on a fast career track with connections. What could Weaver possibly see in him? What did she really want from him?

Propriety having been observed, Ellison took leave.

"Thank you for a wonderful dinner Ms. Weaver. It's always good to see you Savanna. Nice to meet you Tommy."

"Savanna, I'm going to see Mr. Ellison off and walk Tommy home. Why don't you pick out a game for us to play now and a book for me to read to you later?"

"Good night Mr. Ellison. Good night Tommy." Savanna curtseyed.

Ellison nodded but Tommy bowed, took Savanna's hand, and kissed it.

In the driveway, Tommy stood quietly at a short distance with eyes averted. He perceived that the adults needed privacy to say their good-byes and so he waited politely.

"Thank you for a lovely day and a lovely evening."

"No, that's my line. You're a wonderful hostess. Thank you Catherine."

"You're welcome. But I was also thanking you for not being predictable and ruining things by saying 'What do you really want Ms. Weaver?'"

Ellison kept a poker face. Ellison felt like he was jumping through hoops. That he had passed some IQ test. He hadn't thought of this as a date but he wasn't easy. He would not be seduced even by the third date.

"You don't have to kiss me James."

Ellison kissed her on the cheek anyway, got in his Plymouth, and waved at the two as he drove off.

It was dusk. It was a safe community but form must be followed. Weaver walked Tommy to his home next door in silence. She did not have to pretend with him. Like the Pilgrims, the machines arrived from the future. Accompanying them were The Strangers. Like Tommy.

It was a compromise to invite over Tommy. He was Weaver's last choice. But after all, Thanksgiving is about giving thanks.





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