chapter one: Off to Camp
Cameron has just become a member of the little Connor family. Like John, her identification says she is 15.
Sarah: "I need to get away from you damn kids for a while and you need to get away from me for a while.
John: "That sounds plausible but what's the real reason?"
Sarah: "I'm going to be gone for a few weeks looking after some distant relatives on my mother's side." (an obvious lie since she has never cared about her relatives on either side)
John: "You're going to blow up Automite Systems aren't you?"
Sarah: "I might set up a few more safe houses while I'm gone."
John: "You dodged my question which means I'm right. We have enough heat on us after you blew up Cyberdyne, after the bank vault blew up, and after we went to that funeral for the employees killed in the Desert Heat & Air factory explosion."
Sarah: "I didn't blow up Desert Heat & Air. Somebody beat me to it. I was unconscious with a bullet in me."
John: "And then you kidnapped an emergency room doctor."
Sarah screams at John. And then cries and hugs John.
Sarah: "I love you John but it is my job to worry about you not your job to worry about me. Just do as I ask. Go to summer camp with your sister. Your Uncle Derek will be a counselor there so it is not like I am abandoning you. He knows how to contact me." (no he doesn't, she hasn't told him a thing) "Concentrate on having fun and maybe learning a few things." (to Cameron) "And you!" (Cameron jumps startled at suddenly being noticed) "You better still be a virgin when you come back. I will check to make sure. Not only do I forbid you to kiss but I forbid you to hold hands, stare at boys, sit close to a boy, or do anything else even remotely romantic. Derek is taking his sniper rifle. Remember, your sole reason for existence is to protect John. Beyond that, you're just charcoal."
Cameron: "Yes ma'am."
Cameron is distressed at the implication that she was loose, wanton, wayward, and lax; that she was no better than she should be; and that she was a girl of easy virtue. Just when she had gotten used to the threats to kill her or burn her alive, her mother had found a new way to make her feel cheap -- she would make her feel valueless and worthless.
The problem of not being worth a thought is that Sarah had not thought it worth mentioning or speaking of Cameron. When John and Cameron arrived at camp driven by Uncle Derek, they found that Cameron was not expected or registered. There was no bunk for her and no provision for her in the various activities. She might have to sit in the car for the next two months. Fortunately, there was a last minute drop-out and because Reese was a counselor at the camp, his niece got the empty slot.
Meanwhile, Sarah takes action based on a bad dream. Putting weapons in her coffin in the family plot. Getting treatment for cancer. Chemo and radiation. And chasing down reports of UFO sightings.
The lump in her breast is a tracking device implanted when she was unconscious. The chemo and radiation won't work. She needs to get the homing device surgically removed before the lump develops into real cancer.
At the camp, Derek settled into his duties as counselor. He thought to himself that Sarah was crazy as a loon but this camp business was a good idea of hers. His nephew got to breathe some clean air, get some exercise instead of cooped up home schooled, and, most importantly, be around sane people. As for Cameron, he saw her smiling with her friends but not laughing because she was well aware that her uncle was watching. He had been given instructions by Sarah to blow Cameron's head off if she acted too human. [Derek had no intentions of doing anything so insane.]
At the cancer treatment center, Sarah meanwhile had a repeat of the dream where she saw Cameron in a nursery holding a baby. She couldn't see the baby's face. Her grandchild. Sarah awoke sweating. She had spent her life trying to kill Skynet and his terminators. She didn't need robot grandchildren because if she was killing machines, she would have to kill them too and she couldn't. In the dream, Cameron had handed her the baby. As always, dreams go symbolic instead of telling you plainly what you need to know. The "baby" in the dream turned into rocks and turtles. Just like the rocks in the Mexican desert and that turtle that had been helpless, turned on its back. Cameron was like that turtle. Helpless as Sarah poured her hatred and hopelessness into her. No matter how indifferently Sarah treated Cameron, Cameron always responded with respect. Sarah was well aware that Cameron loved her but she could not acknowledge that. Sarah sighed and looked at the lighted clock in the dark. It was 1:17 AM. Hours more of being tortured by her conscience, the conscience that she could suppress during the day. She was glad that she was an atheist. As a Catholic or some other denomination of Christianity, a conscience would have incapacitated her and made her unable to function. Other atheists would have been insulted to know that Sarah was among their number. Most atheists tried to be good decent citizens, not lunatics and criminals like Sarah.
Since she could not get back to sleep, Sarah analyzed the recurring dream. If she poured hopelessness into Cameron, would it cause Cameron to make a bad decision? A decision based on despair rather than hope? A decision that would hurt John? Sarah had to admit, if she were honest, that hurting Cameron could hurt John. But before Sarah could resolve to be better she was back asleep in dreamless sleep. The IV drip.
If Sarah had bothered to read the brochure, she would have known that Cameron would be exposed to the possibility of a normal relationship with a boy and the possibility of making friends with other girls. Cameron was designed to fit in, act human, and be normal. So making her conceal her emotions and act like a dead zombie when she was a living organism (a cyborg) was like stripping the gears on a stick shift in boy terms or combing against the grain in girl terms. It was frustrating.
Swimming, boating, sports of every description, Vacation Bible School, financial camp within a camp (everything from credit card common sense and mortgages to budgets and starting a Junior Achievement business), computer clinic, dances, poetry slams, day trips, masterworks master classes, projects, moviemaking (actual analog cinema film not crappy HD digital video), art appreciation, biotechnology, and this was the short list of activities. John and Cameron looked up at the bulletin board and then down at their schedules in their hands. They clearly saw Uncle Derek's hand in their schedules. Tears of gratitude were streaming down Cameron's face. OMG! Ballet!
John: "Oh man, computer clinic. I'm sick of machines."
Cameron gave him a sharp look but said nothing. She would gladly suffer through the boating to show her appreciation to Uncle Derek for getting her into ballet class. But what was it with Connors and water and boats? Cromartie had chased John on the boardwalk right into the water. Jesse had sunk a submarine. And she didn't want to think about the way Charley Dixon would depart this life. Cameron looked up and saw some girls from her bunkhouse. It was arrival and the first day of camp. She had put her stuff in her assigned bunkhouse but had missed much of orientation while Uncle Derek straightened out the non-registration snafu with Mr. Fubar. She had therefore not gotten to really meet the other girls in her bunkhouse nor made acquaintances neither at the reception nor at orientation.
Cameron hurried off to make friends with a group of girls. Starting now, she wasn't going to spend camp protecting John. Let Uncle Derek use his sniper rifle to protect John instead of killing her for trying to be normal.
John noticed Cameron's abrupt departure and saw that she wasn't going to stick to him like glue. He looked back up at the board, picked the most interesting things, and went to get his schedule changed.
What he wanted was to get a mentor in the leadership program, and the emotional education program offered classes in ethics, moral philosophy, etiquette, values clarification, and character building. What he got was computer clinic, robotics (building little H-K's), artificial intelligence, and gun club on the firing range.
Well, thought John sourly, maybe I can build a terminator to kill mom, an AI to beat Skynet, and then shoot myself on the firing range. John needed target practice like he needed a hole in the head. He could outshoot any kid at the camp and any adult instructor but would have to pretend to be a lousy shot in order to keep a low profile. There was little or nothing that they could teach him in the AI class that he did not already know. Only the robotics competition offered the hope of learning something useful and making new friends. More nerds and geeks. John was beginning to regret not spending more time with Morris. Just because Cameron liked him was not a good reason for avoiding the only guy in school that sought his friendship.
Cameron: "Hi, I'm Cameron Bantling."
May: "May Green."
Dolly: "Dolly Wiener. Pronounced like wine R not like we are."
Missy: "Missy Lamb."
Babe: "Babette Farrow but my nickname is Babe."
Some boys the other girls knew walk up.
Babe: "This is my brother."
Bud: "Bud Farrow."
Junior: "J.J. Colt, Jr. People call me Junior."
Sonny: "Sonny Shaver."
John tries to walk by without being noticed but Cameron calls him by his cover name, which is Phil Bantling.
Cameron: "That's my brother Phil."
Junior: (seeing the sad look on John's face) "My condolences." He gives John a friendly slap on the back and sticks out his hand. "J.J. Colt, Jr. People call me Junior."
John: (shakes his hand) "Phil Bantling. Pleased to meet you Junior. I don't suppose you're related to the family that makes the Colt 45?"
Junior: "That's us. I see we're both in gun club together. Last thing I want to see in summer camp is more guns."
John: "Tell me about it. I was on my way to get my schedule changed."
Sonny: "Good luck with that. Bribes don't seem to work."
John admitted to himself that it would be fun to be "Phil Bantling." The Connor Family used a lot of aliases, most recently Baum was their last name, but they almost always used their real first names. John Connor was sick of being John. Phil was a nice change. He wondered if people went into acting to shed their skins, even if it was only temporarily. And this guy named Junior might teach him something about guns he didn't already know.