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Summer Vacation

Novel By: Toni Roman
Young adult

"I need a vacation." Summer with the world's most dysfunctional family.

[Note: Back in the year of this story (2008), it was possible to go LA to DC by Amtrak in two & a half days. Due to old engines and tracks more suited to slow freight, the trip now takes four days. I'm not slamming Amtrak, I'm just saying that people of modest means are lucky to get two consecutive weeks off each year.] View table of contents...


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Submitted:Jul 26, 2013    Reads: 122    Comments: 0    Likes: 0   

First of May 2008

The air conditioner is broken and the family is sitting around the sweltering house. The heat is not the only cause of suffering.

"Mom, you know I'm not getting any younger. In a few years or less, this will all end unless a miracle happens and we find and destroy Skynet."

"Okay. You're getting older and Judgment Day is coming. Why do you state the obvious?"

"It's been nonstop training for mega-death. Nothing that resembles a normal family. All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. You want the fate of the world to rest in the hands of a dull boy?"

"What are you suggesting John?"

"A family vacation."

"We travel all the time. Too much in fact. It was your idea to settle down in one place, take a stand, and go on the offense against Skynet."

"That kind of travel is work not play. I'm talking about a holiday, recreation, a temporary cease fire, acting as if we were a family instead of a business, living in a home instead of an office, a break from the 24/7/365 daily grind of saving the human race, a trip that's not a mission."

John stops, aware that his mother, like him, has working class roots that barely admit to two weeks of vacation a year and not even consecutively. One week around Christmas and the other in the summer. The diner she worked in had few or no benefits. They were sort-of middle class now and middle-class people took one-month vacations. Teachers and some executives took three-month vacations.

"I lay on a beach somewhere and get skin cancer. No thank you. No vacation."

John looks at the ground like a whipped puppy. Derek punches a wall. Cameron gets up, goes to a corner, sits down, turns away from the others, and hides her shaky left hand.

Since Sarah does not consider her a daughter, there is no point in trying to lobby for rest and recuperation from battle. Like humans, she needs to internally recharge after long exertion. She desperately wanted to repair herself but her human mother has systematically denied her the materials (coltan), the parts (suitable for a young female machine), the access to a robotics engineer to make the repairs, the time off to get the operation done, and the money to pay for it. The Resistance will pay for Sarah's cancer treatment but not for the repair of Future John's top aide? Cameron felt let down by The Resistance.

Derek is remembering his most recent suicide attempt.

"Family therapy is good but it's no substitute for a vacation." John mutters under his breath and gets up to go.

Sarah grabs John's chin and turns his head to one side. On the left side is a bullet graze scar so faint that only his mother can still see it. She recalled the incident where John claimed that he was cleaning his gun when it discharged. No one believed him. She looked at Derek who was also getting up to go. Probably to go to the garage, to close the door, to let the carbon monoxide do its work.

"Derek! Have you tried what John tried?"

No answer. None necessary. She could see the wounded look in his eyes. The thousand miles stare.

She looked over at Cameron who was trying not to be noticed. The girl hung her head and stared at the floor. Sarah would never acknowledge it, but she was aware that Cameron loved her as a mother. Not "like" a mother. As a mother. Sarah noticed the palsy.

Sarah had a sudden flash, a foreshadow of what was to come -- John alone, the last survivor of the human race. Derek with a bullet in his forehead. Sarah herself going insane, attacking Cameron for no reason. Cameron allowing Sarah to murder her even though Cameron could kill Sarah with a touch. Shaking herself out of the reverie, Sarah released John's chin.

Sarah narrowed her eyes at John, guessing his thoughts. I'm not able to think outside my working class background.

"Forget the beach. We could vacation at a spa."

"One of those places for rich people. I could never see you letting down your guard. While you are laying there naked under a towel waiting for a massage you'd be worried the masseur was a terminator." Derek replied to Sarah.

"There are spas and spa programs for every price range. Maybe we could only afford two weeks. We could spend the other two weeks in Italy like Cameron once suggested. Sightsee before Skynet levels everything. If you're so worried about security, then you pick the spa. Maybe one in Silicon Valley. That way, while I'm exercising and catching up on my sleep and John is eating health food for a change, Cameron could be having her hand fixed at some high-tech startup."

At the mention of her name, Cameron looks up, dead certain that this is all a memory glitch and will pop like a soap bubble if she gets her hopes up. She looks back down at the floor to avoid jinxing possible good luck.

"So while we're at this Club Med or Club Well-Bred or Wellness Center or whatever, what would I be doing in this daydream of yours?"

"I'm guessing you'd sneak out, go over to Nevada and find a bordello."

Derek was genuinely hurt. In her mind, Sarah had long decided that anybody who wasn't her son John was no good. Sarah had decided that Derek whored around in his free time and that Cameron was a whore. It explained her shabby treatment of them. In fact, Derek was a one-woman man (Jesse Flores) and Cameron was a virgin who would be happy just to hold hands with a boy. Sarah Connor had told her to not kiss anyone and she had obeyed.

Sarah looked around at John, Derek, and Cameron. No one believed that she was serious about a vacation. John was looking at the floor, Derek was looking more wounded than ever, and Cameron had long since given up on this bunch ever acting like a family. John was right, thought Sarah, this is the first and last time we have to vacation as a family before the world literally ends. And I'm insulting Derek for no reason. I need a vacation if my impulse control has disappeared and I'm coming across as a crazy woman to my family.

Since 1984 and she was almost John's age, she had been running around like The Madwoman of Chaillot. No wonder they tossed her into an asylum. Even she didn't believe in "killer robots from the future" half the time except one lived under her roof and was sitting over there contemplating suicide.

Sarah thought about that sarcastic remark John had once made that Cameron could finally get a health plan if they incorporated as a business. I'm losing my family!

"I'm sorry Derek. I had no excuse to say that. From the little I've been told about the future, I imagine that it is nonstop war with the smell of burned flesh and cordite in the air. At a spa, I would think that you would find aromatherapy a refreshing change. Spas have an atmosphere of peace and that alone might be worth the price of admission. They also have beautiful art and interior decor. The better ones have libraries stocked with one-of-a-kind books."

John looked at his Uncle Derek and Cameron. Despite herself, Cameron had looked up again. The two were mesmerized by the words 'peace' and 'beautiful' and the idea of being able to stop and smell the roses (no roses in the future) and not having to worry about being shot. From what kind of hell had they escaped? This time of Future John? For what kind of future was his mother preparing him? Obviously not that one. She had never been there and the people who had were reluctant to talk about it. John thought about what that first protector said: "I need a vacation." Cameron was a lot smaller than him. She must really need a vacation.

"If this isn't some sadistic joke to play with us like toys," said Derek cautiously, "then I want to see whatever catalog or reference or brochure you've been looking at."

Derek had been in a work camp, had been tortured by the infamous Charles Fischer, and had been held in a house where he was exposed to some dark thing in a basement. He did not like being toyed with and he had known Sarah long enough to suspect her capable of it.

Heck yes, he needed a vacation.

Summer Vacation 1



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