Terminator High School 10
With a sirloin under his belt from the steak house, he pulled out of the truck stop after midnight and continued the long haul to his destination: The 666666 Ranch near Turkey Springs, Arizona. If you were an abductee who made hats out of aluminum foil to keep aliens from reading your mind, then this place would make your hair stand on end. He took an equally hairy route -- US Highway 666.
The redneck truck driver had thinning hair, cut mullet style, short in front but sticking out long from under his baseball cap on the sides and back. He was licensed to drive a triple. This was a train on wheels. A tractor pulling three trailers on the wide open western interstate highways. As such, it seldom went anywhere except those superhighways, the biggest truck stop plazas, and freight terminals right off the interstate. He was like his rig. He never talked to anybody about anything. This reluctance to talk was how he got his job with Kaliba Group.
This run was different. He drove a single. He was on the back roads way off the interstate. The ranch had high security, automation, remote cameras, and the dogs had electronic tags on their collars. The gate opened automatically as he drove up. He entered, dropped his load, and was on his way. He had seen no one human or otherwise. No horses or cattle. He had heard about human-appearing robots but he didn't see them either. Even the dogs hid when a visitor came. Not from cowardice but from training. They would slip up on any intruder silently and rip them apart. Silent because these were Army-bred superdogs, sentry dogs that had their vocal chords removed and were bred for viciousness. Part pit bull, part Doberman, part Rottweiler, and all killer instinct.
The only thing he saw was his own cargo when he opened the back doors of the trailer. One immediately flew out almost colliding with him. The second turned itself on, began to hover, and politely rose before it flew out in order to avoid hitting its chauffeur. The third and last almost shyly crept forward. It fell to the ground and the driver thought it might be damaged and he would get cussed out but this was not cargo that was strapped down. This cargo flew into the back of his trailer when he made his pick up and flew out when he delivered it. You couldn't get any more advanced than packages that delivered themselves. But this one was on the ground apparently damaged. No. It was feeling the dirt. As if figuring out where it was by taking a soil sample and analyzing the chemistry. This one scared him. It was smarter than the other two. It suddenly stopped sifting dirt, leaped to eye level and clicked on lights so bright that they turned night into day.
"Get out of my face." he told his passenger half in fear and half in annoyance.
It clicked off its lights and zipped away with a speed that would put a UFO to shame. Darn things probably were the UFO's that people claimed to see. Which made him wonder how they moved the really big drones. The ones the size of houses and aircraft carriers. That had to pay good money.
His truck driver's mind thought of triple pay for triples. The arithmetic meant that hauling bigger drones had to pay quadruple or quintuple. It never occurred to him that he was helping to make the human race extinct -- just like petroleum workers and fission plant workers never thought of the negative consequences of their work not even when the paychecks stopped. They simply wanted their jobs back and to heck with the environmental impact.
Trucker made up his mind to ask his boss for more lucrative runs.
From the Mile High City of the Plains came a high plains drifter across a prairie near Kiowa National Grasslands to a grain silo near a feed lot. A steely-eyed gunslinger had come from the future to terminate young John Connor. He hired a bounty hunter to generate leads. The bounty hunter talked to a lot of cops in the Midwest and Western states and persistence paid off. One cop mentioned that shoot-outs have a profile like any crime. School shootings in particular. This led to one high school where he obtained an old photo of a John Reese presumed dead but body never found. The bounty hunter assumed that the kid would be much older now since that shooting had taken place a decade ago but he used the photo around Albuquerque, New Mexico. Again luck. A very pleased client. The bounty hunter had no idea who or what his client was.
"Thank you. We may do business again."
He gave the bounty hunter a briefcase of money and walked off.
From the city where the West begins came a tall Texan across ranches to a railhead. Another killer had come from the future. He did not know for sure what John Connor looked like any more than the first. But he knew what Future John's face was supposed to be like according to infiltrators that had infiltrated the Resistance. In every instance, Connor's Tech-Com Security people (some of them machines) caught the infiltrators but one managed to smuggle out a description of Connor's face before it was caught. That description was used to make a photoreal image that this terminator had in his memory. Upon arrival in this past, he had a computer artist first render the image of Old John and then, instead of aging it as police would do with a kidnapped kid, he had the artist make it younger. He took this youthful rendering of John Connor to the Pinkerton Detective Agency.
The Pinkerton detective had worked in law enforcement and got his old acquaintances to run the image through facial recognition software and police databases. No matches.
Undeterred, the detective asked his client a few questions.
"How old is the subject?"
"What is he like?"
"He does not want to be found."
"And you say his name is John Connor?"
"Where was his last known location?"
"Unknown but no reports of him outside of North America."
"What about South America?"
"No reports south of the Canal Zone."
"Why does he not want to be found?"
"Fear that he will be killed."
"By whom? Why?"
"By killer robots from the future. His mother was in an insane asylum and from birth, she has brainwashed this into his mind."
"So the kid is crazy too. How do I know you won't kill him? We at the Pinkerton Agency have a code of ethics we have to abide by."
"I was hired by the relatives to find him so that he can get the counseling he needs but I am an attorney not a detective. Here are my references."
Not an easy pushover, the detective checked it out. It was a law firm from back East.
With the profile of a fifteen year old who didn't want to be found, the detective started searching home schooling sites and high school databases. A hit. A kid named John Baum in the Los Angeles Consolidated School District with closed school psychologist and guidance counselor files he could not open.
He saved the search. A good thing because the school record seemed to disappear before his eyes. He called his client in.
"Take a look at this. The information seems to be erasing as fast as I find it."
The client looked at the screen. He recognized the pattern. Machines, not humans, were behind the disappearing information.
The smell of onions, smoke, grease, and French fries fills the air of Mel's Diner outside its noisy kitchen. Orders are repeated by tired waitresses in pink and white uniforms. A fry cook wipes grease off his hands then turns the metal wheel with checks clipped on it to see if an order is complete.
"Three All-Americans and a side salad."
"A number twelve."
"Two cows, make them cry."
Alice, a waitress with dirty blonde hair, is waiting for her order and looks at Sarah clocking in. Sarah wears the shortest skirts of the wait staff to show off her pretty legs and to help her tips. Alice glances out the plate glass window at the big black stretch parked at the curb then her eyes flick back to Sarah.
Alice: "Good morning your majesty."
Sarah: "What do you mean?"
Mel: "A lawyer came in here before the rush and bought your double shift so that you can go to some research center and begin treatment."
"For a lawyer, he wasn't much on talking. I guess he thought I wouldn't give you time off to go to a doctor or you were reluctant to go because you needed the hours and money. There's your carriage Cinderella."
He pointed to the limousine outside. Sarah seemed unsure.
Mel: "I'm getting paid. You're getting paid. You got a better health plan?"
He takes the pencil from behind his ear and leaves to handle a situation at table nine. Sarah shrugs and gets in the limousine offering her a ride to the center.
When Sarah gets home, Derek tells her that his team will have a non-drug and non-surgically invasive process to reverse the metallization next week.