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Terminator High: The Series

Novel By: Toni Roman
Young adult



Where's Cameron? Where's Uncle Derek? John is back in high school and Skynet isn't waiting around to take over the world in the future. Skynet has taken over now. View table of contents...


Chapters:

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14

Submitted:Aug 23, 2011    Reads: 5    Comments: 0    Likes: 0   


Terminator High School 13

Thrown about cabin as pilot reacts to a fiery shot across the bow: "Fasten seat belts."

The owner goes forward to see why his drink spilt.

He returns to announce: "Air-to-air. Maybe some Air Force jock with PTSD. We reported it to the Air National Guard. Until the air cavalry arrives, no sweat. This jet can maneuver as well as that fighter plane and hit Mach 2 in a straight away. We're detouring through Top Gun air space so the joysticks can train on the nut out there." Seeing their faces he adds, "No, not Miramar. We'll get to Montana."

He held on as the jet flips upside-down in a stomach-wrenching 360ø roll. Getting to Montana isn't uppermost in John's and Cameron's minds at the moment. On the ground, they'd be in control, not up here. In the window, earth is above, wild blue yonder below.

"In fact, we'll get there faster. Normally we fly whatever speed air traffic control tells us. People don't like sonic booms so the plane only flies supersonic over oceans. Let'em sue us. This is survival." He stops and calls the senator who chairs the Select Committee on Homeland Security.

"They shot at us. Military is supposed to protect civil aviation not fire at it. Kill the son-of-a-gun. We weren't over a missile, bombing or even a gunnery range."

Ending his call, he unfastens his seat belt and climbs up to the cockpit and tell the ex-Blue Angel pilot: "break every rule in the book."

"I can lose him but I'll lose my license." says the pilot while ducking into a cloud and twisting into an Immelmann.

"Maverick, I don't care if we're arrested. The company can get the best lawyers."

"Then buckle up. Gonna be a bumpy ride." The boss leaves.

To copilot: "Thunderbird let's redline past Mach 2, see how much horsepower this jet has."

"Roger that."

McCloud pilots the stolen war plane with the steely-eyed gunslinger in the second seat. Just as he is about to ram the jet to show he meant business, the quarry suddenly doubles its speed and leaves him in its contrail dust. Maverick feigns that he flies straight through the air traffic circling Salt Lake City International. This forces their pursuer to thread his way through close calls and near misses with midair collisions and fall farther behind. Thunderbird switches off the beacon that enables the fighter's radar to home in. Maverick veers over Great Salt Lake instead of the city and SLC knowing the black box will show he never encountered any holding-pattern airliners.

The FAA and very irate Mormons burn up the phone lines with the brass demanding to know why they haven't forced down thieves in their airspace yet, a half hour past first news of a "dogfight". Some dogfight. The light jet has no weapons while the fighter has air cannon, ECM, and missiles.

The owner made another call. This time to a network. "Is the entire US Air Force overseas? Why hasn't the Air National Guard scrambled? Where are the air cav attack helicopters? You'd think after September 11th, 2001 the Departments of Defense and Homeland Security would at least pretend like they care about terrorists attacking innocent Americans. Does the president know his officials are slow as molasses?"

Satisfied that he had kicked enough hornet nests in the bee hive state, the man sits back to view the news at his seat. Till now, the top story is some runaway train but within half a minute there's a report of the stolen plane going down in the northern Utah desert.

The business jet races across Idaho and a few minutes before nine A.M. lands in Montana. The plane lands not at Great Falls but at an airstrip not far from the Blackfeet Indian Reservation. Considering the chase by a stolen USAF fighter and the queries of authorities and the cost of jet fuel, John and Cameron are lucky that the man is so obliging in landing so near their destination. It is late morning and they still had to get up into the hills. Every minute counts and they can't waste a day driving from Great Falls, up I-15 and then back roads. So they never ask the man why he is so helpful. They thank him and leave the airstrip for the town of Blackfoot, hitching a ride with a local. Moments later, the authorities descend on the airstrip, impound the jet and arrest all. The calm executive gets a lawyer and release within the half-hour.

Kaliba Group owns the Heap-Leach Mining Company. Just as the law isn't enforced in West Virginia, here they poison the soil and water with cyanide.

"When you looked at my map, I could see dollar signs in his eyes." says Cameron when the local drops them off outside an outfitters not far from the town of Blackfoot and the Blackfeet Indian Reservation.

They go inside to buy provisions and inquire about horses. Cameron finds her size hat and riding boots.

"You got Hermes saddlebags?" she asks a clerk whose brow goes up.

Before leaving home, John had assumed success in finding Cameron and had prepared ID and accounts for her. He sticks a debit card in her hand that says 'Cameron Bristow'. She used the summer camp name of Cameron Bantling before adopting Cameron Diné on the reservation.

John says nothing when Cameron buys a fur coat. His mother is stingy with the daughter she never wanted. Unlike mom, he figures Cameron has earned luxury a hundred times over. The Resistance owes his sister big time. John doesn't know or care about PETA but it's ranch-bred mink not wild-trapped and the fur lines the inside -- not showy on the outside. Montana is hunter and trapper territory with changeable weather so John buys denim Levi's, a slicker, a green river knife, a hat, and walking boots. The provisions include sleeping bags, tent, canned peaches, beef jerky, toiletries, rope, binoculars, canteens, horse blankets, and flashlights.

Cameron whispers to the man at the gun counter but not about the Rambo knife and high-tech crossbow she is buying.

"It will take time."

"Don't have time."

"Half an hour."

"Too long. You deliver?"

A nod.

Despite the paper trail, John almost rents an off-road SUV before he asks: "Is there a dude ranch west of here?"

"I can give you a ride." says a guide from a dude ranch.

As John loads their provisions in the pickup, Cameron points at the sign on the truck.

"The delivery address is that ranch. There are killers after us. They'll kill you too if you know anything."

"I'm not about to."

On the way, they see American buffalo. Not as many as on the National Bison Range but a respectable herd. Then regular cattle spreads. Cameron thinks of Ellen "Cattle Kate" Watson unjustly hung by liars who framed her because she was a female rancher. On the truck's radio; the news is a train derailment, the sports is about Gros Ventre High ("Go Bellies!"), an advisory, and then back to music.

Finally, a sign above a gate: "Big Sky Ranch". It's a place of ponderosa pine and a stockyard. Rodeo bronco busters taming horses and destroying their prostates (and later urinating blood), wranglers on cutting horses, ropers whirling lariats and lassoing animals, bulldoggers wrestling steers to the ground for branding. Roundup.

A weathervane tops the ranch house.

"How y' doin' ?"

John registers them as guests at the dude ranch and requests three horses: "a gunbroke animal not afraid of machines and able to support an extremely heavy rider, a second animal with a bit more spirit and a pack animal."

Cameron sat outside observing the Native American cowboys. Blackfeet Indians own and operate this working ranch and dude ranch. Cameron had not eaten in weeks. She dug in her purse for pine nuts. Her tribe picks the tasty product of pi¤on pines in the desert for food, for sale, and for recreation. To the elders, it is cultural and spiritual.

Seeing one of the new arrivals nibbling on a snack, the chuck wagon cook offers a plate of barbecue beef, beans and biscuits with chokecherry syrup to Cameron. "Thanks." says John taking the plate and immediately shoveling it down. It is around ten thirty, nowhere near lunch time but he had breakfast around four and is hungry. The chuck wagon cook can tell that these Montgomery Ward cowboys are famished and so obliges the two by serving early but the pretty young girl fasts though clearly hungry. Cameron could eat food but she sat sipping water as they wait for horses. The cook points at the water.

"Miss, you can't hit the trail and keep going on a Mexican breakfast. I could make you a Denver omelet. Got some fresh corned-beef hash from breakfast too."

Cameron shakes her head then realizes that she hurt him.

A starving guest refuses the grub he slaves over preparing. One of them vegetarian vegans from Vegas, he thinks. "Try the wop salad miss?"

She held out her hand. "Thanks. And can you pack us two lunch boxes please?"

He nods grinning ear to ear.

John points. "What's that?"

"Son-of-a-bitch."

"Pardon me."

"No," he laughs, "that's the name of the stew. In the old West, cowboys could not go more than one sentence without cussing. And you don't want to know what loggers call this creamy gravy."

In the ranch house, Cameron changes into culottes.

Worrying about rustlers, the cattleman interrupts work mending barb wire fences when the desk clerk informs him that two unsupervised teens are guests. They represent an insurance risk. He plans to say to these kids: You need a note from your parents.

As he walks in removing his gauntlets and white boss of the Plains hat, Cameron looks up. He sees her in black moccasins and she sees his Blackfeet Morning Star beaded buckskin jacket.

Storm Rider: "Be careful."

He remembers what his great-grandfather once told him.

After kissing his children, the stockman strides off to give orders to expedite the horses and then to see about a guest who wants to hunt elk and antelope. It's a tradeoff because he won't allow guests to hunt his buffalo herd.

"What was that all about?" asks John.

"I'll tell you later." replies Cameron taking off her black moccasins and putting on her new riding boots.

Observing the children, John asks Storm Rider's wife: "Do Indian children play cowboys and Indians?"

"Siksika, outsiders call us Blackfeet, are ranchers and horse breeders. Like all children, ours imitate their parents. I grew up around ponies and cattle. So yes we played the games you'd expect. Except we called it cowboys and whites."

Cameron: "Ma'am, can you hold my textbooks 'til we return?"

The guide leads them to the stable where a farrier shoes horses. Cameron applies black lipstick and gray eye shadow as if in imitation of Marie Walcamp from the black & white silent films.

"This ain't Lust in the Dust outlaw. You ain't an Ollie Hammond calendar girl."

Cameron hog-ties John and grabs a cold iron. Branded!

"Ssssssssssss. Next time it'll be hot."

"Sorry. Just joshing."

She unties him.

A stablegirl walks out horses.

"You two the greenhorns?"

"I requested three horses." says John.

"You get the broken down old nag. We put this gelding out to pasture and this afternoon he would have gone to the glue factory but for you."

"I asked for one with spirit." he says getting on and taking the reins.

"Careful what you wish for. I funned about the gelding part. He's a wild mustang stallion barely greenbroke yesterday and a stump-sucker to boot." The stablegirl stands back. "Amazing. You're the first person he hasn't immediately put in the hospital."

Cameron: (to John) "Knees out or you'll get gall blisters on raw thighs even with chaps."

Cameron is tall in the saddle wearing a gun belt, holsters, jingle bobs on spurs, and a gray Champie with a neck string. It is a Plains Indian saddle mounted from the right side. As if "Texas" Guinan on her horse Waco, Ruth Roland on Joker or Dale Evans on Buttermilk; she sat astride a galon, a Clydesdale mare standing eighteen hands.

stablegirl: (to Cameron) "Your mount is a draft animal that never gets a harness duty more exciting than pulling roots or drawing hayride wagons for guests. She's shy but will love you, grateful for a change of pace. Hasn't worn a saddle since she was a filly."

A truck drives up.

"Are you Cameron Bristow?"

The moment after Cameron signs for the delivery, a nudge of heels and they canter off the ranch. Cameron's horse tows a third. The rancher's dog named Old Yeller follows them. John bounces until he adjusts to the rhythm of the gait. Past the fence, Cameron takes out her Colt single action 7« inch barrel hogleg (small grip) and sticks it in her side holster worn in cross-draw fashion. She sticks her Remington 870p combat shotgun in her upper back holster. Cameron puts the delivery in the saddle pocket -- a high-power rifle with telescopic sight, laser, night vision and silencer. She puts a bullwhip and a rope on the pommel horn. They made for the high country and took the way west.

His forehead completely healed the ex-rodeo clown who dresses in the frock coat and ruffled sleeves of an Old West gambler doesn't repeat his hard landing in the helicopter. He gets cushions when Mr. T steals a locomotive [this is a slow news day so the media calls it "The Great Train Robbery"]. Though Mr. T takes curves too fast, the train doesn't plummet off a cliff or a tall bridge over a deep gorge. The derailment is on bad track on flat plains. Two mysterious strangers step out of the train wreck.

The other two mysterious strangers walk away from the fighter crash in the northern Utah desert. Both pairs immediately walk to the nearest house, kill the family inside, check the news, steal a car and proceed to the nearest airport to hijack a plane. With one difference. The gambler takes a laptop and during the flight searches the internet and arranges for a rental car.

The authorities depart the airstrip but park the jet.

"Wish I had a bloodhound right now." thinks the gambler. He looks up. A plane lands.

Now clean-shaven and dressed in all white, Mr. T sits at the wheel of a sports sedan. The gambler gets in up front. McCloud and the steely-eyed gunslinger get in the back. The cowboys from hell race off in the DeTomaso. In town, they show sketches and pay for leads. Oddly, they skip the outfitters.

Arriving at the ranch, the other three look at the clone. He reads humans better.

"They went thataway." says the stablegirl to him pointing east toward the Great Plains. In case they need to return and use their car again, the four cause no trouble and pay for their horses. Once out of the vicinity of people, the killer clone from the future aims them west. "She lied."

The other three look at the man of steel who turns into a pony and races ahead to spot hoof prints or footprints.

"There are bigger matters than the end of the war between humans and machines. I followed Young Skynet home one day. The next day his whole subdivision was gone."

"That's a whole new category. The war between humans and machines was a side show. The real war has always been between Skynet Forces and the Machine Underground and other factions. In the future, they all lost so this is a different enemy."

"One that missed him and his protectors -- a T-Meg and his future self."

"A fatal mistake. I'd bet on Skynet winning no matter what the odds against him."

"Well if the Earth is going to be a battlefield, then any treasure we find will go to help your new family survive."

"I thought we settled this. Any treasure should go to your resistance. The Resistance."

"You're coming back to L.A.?"

"Yes, I won't bring trouble back home to my new family -- I love them."

"Don't you love mom and Uncle Derek?"

"A better question is: Why don't they love me?"

"We used to live in New Mexico. We could move near the reservation. That way you wouldn't have to choose between families."

"No. You attract danger like a lightning rod. I won't put my new family through that. Besides, you said they won't let Derek leave town." Looking at her map Cameron points out the landmarks: "Devil's Tower, white buffalo (that's Buffalo Gap, South Dakota), stars, big sky (Montana), separator of waters (continental divide), Four Mountains, dancing bear (Bear Butte SD), ice & snow (Glacier National Park), bighorn sheep (Medicine Wheel WY). The garden wheels of Michigan were a square mile. They don't exist anymore. Other things don't exist yet. It's like this map is from the past and the future."

"Like you."

The pieces of the puzzle began to fall into place in her mind. "Wolf Mountain."

They gallop off.

The slope gets steeper and steeper until their horses break into a trot before flinching and stopping as a wolf bares its fangs. John goes around but the wolf again bars their way with a growl.

"It's that rancher's dog following us. Instinctive hatred. Wolves see dogs as selling out the canine world."

"Do you regard me as selling out machines?"

"Now is not the time for a philosophical powwow Cam."

"It's always time for philosophy. That wolf is our spirit guide. It's telling us we're going the wrong way."

John: (to the dog) "Go back!"

Old Yeller interprets this as concern for its safety and heads back to the ranch. The wolf immediately turns and the riders follow.

The gambler looks at the time, high noon, and angrily throws away his timepiece.

Pushing back his brown Calgary hat, John leans back his head to get the last drop.

"Didn't realize the altitude would dehydrate so much."

He uses his bandanna to filter out dirt and refills his canteen from a fast stream. Two cubs play nearby.

"Get on your horse John."

A grizzly charges him. Destiny rides again. Not a good idea to be between a mother and her young.

"This is the Montana State Police. We are calling all the area ranchers to find out if you've seen any suspicious strangers."

"No."

Just back from a hunt and tired, the cattleman doesn't want to hassle paying guests or day riders and is more intent on ordering his ranch hands to move the herd up from the bottom land near the river after hearing a weather watch.

John's horse's ear flicks as Old Yeller returns. A puma leaps out of a tree at John, he draws his rifle, his horse jumps, pecks badly, flings him off as it stumbles on landing. Cameron guns the cat with a May Lillie trick shot from horseback.

"You all right?"

John uses his bandanna to bandage a cut. He blushes. She has saved his life a lot more times than he has saved her life. He wants to do something nice for her and feel like he is a good brother. Maybe if they find this treasure . . .

After noting the barometer, the weathervane and the weather channel alert, the stockman puts out extra bales of hay for his herds.

High-line riders. Cameron sees a distant dazzle. She looks through binoculars and then the telescopic sight of her rifle at sun reflecting off the silver pony.

Meanwhile, the other three of the Insane Clone Posse stop. Resembling the rodeo clown he used to be, wearing silly-looking but practical woolies, the gambler looks into the distance behind them and dismounts. Weatherwise and psychic, he knows what's ahead. He scratches 3-7-77, skull and crossbones on the ground and on trees. He gets on his horse. They resume tracing the silver pony.

Since the law is clueless, local vigilantes are after the Wild Bunch that so far has hijacked, stolen, and killed its way to Wolf Mountain. They hope the sheriff will formally deputize them into a posse--until they encounter the scorched earth and trees like the devil beating tan bark. This is dry forest. The vigilantes want neither marble hats nor to be caught in a forest fire. In a panic, the volunteers spur, flee this approach to the Tri-Continental Divide, ride the skin off their steeds back down to their trucks and horse trailers, and break speed laws going to the sheriff's office.

In Texas, they call it a norther bringing torrential rain but this is Montana. Upstream, a swollen mountain brook bursts a beaver dam. Resolute to head off meddling by lawmen, the crazy gambler takes advantage of the rain by pressing a remote to dynamite a canyon dam and cause chaos down river. A forlorn river suddenly swells to a raging flood. The sheriff is too busy rescuing victims of the rogue river to spare volunteers to track them.

With the gang on their trail, John leads Cameron and their horses into a shallow stream therein to wade upstream with their prints washed out and even bloodhounds unable to sniff -- until the rain starts (and the beaver dam bursts) and the stream rises from one inch to several feet. John again falls backward off his ungovernable mount and drops his Winchester. Lost, like the West itself. Most of their provisions also wash away. They manage to get onto land on the same side of the rapids in the pouring rain. Cameron reacts by putting twigs in her backpack. John thinks her mind is gone.

The breeder's face is grim. The forecaster on TV has the area in a box representing a severe winter storm warning. With thirty thousand on the hoof, he faces the wiping out of the working ranch. The dude ranch supplemented income but might become his sole income. If so, would his ancestors look down on him as a drug store Indian existing only to entertain tourists? Would his children regard him as an Uncle Tomahawk when they became teens? His appetite was gone but he forced himself to eat anyway. The buffalo could handle almost anything nature dished out but cows were domesticated animals. All thirty thousand of them.

The drought-stricken landscape amazes John by how fast it dries up after the rain and the signs by a would-be Will Rogers bemuse him: California trail, Oregon trail, Santa Fe trail, Chisholm trail, bajada trail, foot trail, fugitive trail, last trail, happy trail 1 and happy trail 2.

"Happy trails."

One trail has a blank sign except for Braille.

"Blind trail. Probably no blazes or marks."

They get serious as they take in the panoramic vista -- glowing craggy mountains swathed in a maelstrom of clouds, heroic trees, and towering cliffs. The Rockies. There are several mountains with the name "Wolf Mountain". Gray Wolf Mountain is behind them. To the right another, ahead another, and to the left the fourth. There is also Thunder Mountain and Old Baldy. Ragged Peak has never been climbed. Call of the wild. Bevy of trumpeter swans overhead. A mighty crash echoes as bighorn sheep ram horns somewhere. John smiles and looks at Cameron who turns and looks at him. Though she has an excellent sense of humor, she never laughs. Either she lacks the ability or she saw too much tragedy in the future. And the present. The wolf returns. They follow it up bajada, a steep ascent trail.

Shadows on the trail. The four horsemen of the Apocalypse. Above the timberline, John and Cameron hole up in an old abandoned shack on a bluff above a pond.

"Johnny Bristow!"

"I'll kill you." replies the voice of John from within.

"We are all cosh." respond the four.

McCloud floats over the pond toward the shack.

Inside, John mutters: "What the heck is that?"

"He's not a solid or a liquid. He's a nanocloud and can kill from the inside when inhaled."

John rummages in his backpack for his toiletries.

"Now is not the time for brushing your teeth John."

McCloud sifts in a tendril through the keyhole in the door. John strikes a match, sprays an aerosol over the flame and finds the Achilles heel of the unique terminator.

"Let her go." hollers a voice from outside beyond the pond. A cold howling wind as snow blew sideways. Cameron pulls a rotten piece of wood off the side of the shack and stuffs it in her backpack.

"Your mind is gone." says John to her.

In the blizzard, John uses his bandanna to protect his ears from frostbite as they made for Sunset Pass.

Behind them, Mercury freezes, Mr. T can not use his thermal heads-up display to track them and the clone is not insane enough to risk falling off a cliff in this whiteout.

It isn't the Kemp Sisters Wild West Show, just a square dance normally held in the barn. But the barn is now full of gestating cows and newborn calves who would not survive a blizzard. As a result, the ballroom of his home is now full of Easterners and loud tourists. Sleep is impossible with all their noise down stairs. Sure, the horses are in the stable, the buffalo are probably okay and the most vulnerable cows are in the barn -- but the snow drifts might bury thirty thousand head. On top of despair over his working ranch operation, he worries about those two white kids out there. The boy seemed to carry the world on his shoulders and the girl . . . . He made a quick call to a Navajo rancher he met at the Indian National Finals. They share an interest in history and a knowledge of Old West gunfighters who happened to be Indians and Old West lawmen who happened to be Indians. He describes the girl.

"Sounds like Cameron DinŠ."

He decides not to contact the Navajo police chief. It is obvious that the kids are not outlaws themselves but on the run from outlaws. Country music interrupts his thoughts. Were he not innkeeper and host, he would order the band outside to certain death in the cold. He steps through the vestibule that traps air. When he opens the outer door, his face stings from the wind chill and the hundred mile-an-hour ice needles. As a teen, he had rebelled against the ranching ways of his father and been through a whole Alfred Jacob Miller mountain man phase as trapper, explorer and prospector. He could handle cold that would daunt a polar bear from the far country of Alaska but he shuts the door. The words of his great-grandfather will not leave him alone. Nor the music. Country & western music divorced long ago. All that remains is downscale country. When the square dance caller takes a break, the band starts a hoe-down and the rancher almost reaches for his gun. Then the urban cowboys start line dancing. This is Montana, not Texas! He kisses his wife, grabs provisions, and bundles up.

He puts his horse in the back of the Sno-Cat, unplugs the tracked vehicle, rides out of the safety of the emergency equipment shed into the storm, and heads for the hills with two people.

As the lights of the lodge fade behind them, he makes a mental note to ban country from the ranch. He will switch the place to western music. Singing cowboy nocturnes, waltz, Copland, soundtracks from classic Western movies. Even Native American music. Heck, they're Indians. Why not? It won't hurt business. Quite the opposite. Going upscale will attract the carriage trade, all the millionaires and billionaires that come to Montana. Get a piece of that market. With the working ranch operation going down the drain, he has to be able to support his family and his employees and to give back to his tribe and his nation -- The Blackfeet Nation. So he has to increase revenues from the dude ranch operation. To add a worry, where is his dog? In this bone-chilling cold. Ranchers call it a cow skinner. No. It is worse. White wind, a peculiar kind of blizzard that even the best scouts refuse to brave because it's impossible to see.

Horses gone. Provisions gone. Within a stone's throw of the last glacier that even this storm could not rescue from global warming. Feeling the added chill of that glacier, they will not seek shelter from the storm in an ice cave. That would be suicide. They are half-frozen now. By her memory of the map, by her heads-up imaging (more advanced than that of Mr. T) and by the night vision from her rifle, Cameron finds an old silver mine. By one degree above zero, the warmest place in the mine is neither deep in it nor near the entrance. With penlights, they look around. Nothing but an old coal oil lamp, a fallen support, and ashes in a circle of stones left by someone with the same idea. Being used to Cameron cooking, cleaning, washing clothes, and being his bodyguard, John sits and watches Cameron. He is surprised to see her go out into the blizzard, come back shaking the dirt off the roots and the snow off the branches of a small bush, break off the root, go down into the depths of the mine, come back with the root washed and a canteen full. She takes the twigs and the rotten piece of wood out of her backpack, puts them in the circle of rocks, pours the last of the coal oil (a teaspoonful) over it, lights a match, and sticks the bush and then the fallen support in the campfire. She roasts the edible root in the fire and takes nuts and berries out of her backpack.

"Dinner is served."

Incapable of trusting his best friend and ally, John mistakenly thought Cameron had been picking twigs (chip damage) or deliberately leaving a trail for the Hole in the Chest Gang (her real brothers, fellow machines).

Cameron wants to slap John because she knows that he is thinking this. And she is right. He is so male and so predictable.

"Whose mind is gone? You're the one with brain damage. At least I know how to live off the land."

"Thanks." replies John. The first time he or any Connor or Reese has ever uttered that word to her.

Even if the thick cloud layer of the overcast sky could part, the unseen sun is setting and a deadly mist settles in the mountain valley. It is the pogonip -- an icy winter fog which blocks sun for days. It is an Indian word which translates as "white death" and thought to cause pneumonia if one breathes it. One look and Storm Rider sends his ranch hand back home with his Appaloosa.

"The snow is too deep and the slope is too slippery. My horse can't do ice climbing. Arrange for a helicopter, I'll radio latitude and longitude if I find them. If not, enjoy my funeral."

Without ceremony, Storm Rider shuts the door of the tracked vehicle and its warm interior and heads for a place he hasn't been since he was a foolish teenager who had seen Jeremiah Johnson too many times. Back then he had only a buffalo robe and Angora. He now wears an Inuit anorak (parka) over layers of Antarctic-grade thermal underwear, socks, gloves and ski mask. Still, it is bitter cold.

After climbing for hours, the dark day merges into a darker night with moonlight unable to penetrate the murky sky. To heck with it, Storm Rider thinks. They're guests and they're just teens but I have my own young children. I can't orphan them.

He turns back and enters a cave that he knows. He can resume in the morning. No one will blame him. Even the police and the military do not go out in this brutal weather. As he sits in the cave at a campfire of cached wood eating pemmican, he pulls the eagle feather from his hair. His great-grandfather had given him this feather.

Cameron sighs as the timber fails to burn for whatever reason. The campfire is going out and the temperature is plummeting. She adds her map to the waning fire. John adds his map and then the cash. He still has plastic if they survive the night -- which they won't. A sad end to their chronicles.

Fitting perhaps. No one will ever find their bodies or know what happened to them. With the war over, the threat of Judgment Day gone, and the hunt for Skynet over, John Connor is now irrelevant to the human race, history, and Earth. The Wild Bunch will trash the entire Western Hemisphere until they find his cold dead corpse and then riddle his rotting carcass with bullets to make sure he is dead. John bursts out laughing at the absurd pointlessness of his life.

Cameron can see no humor. The campfire goes out. No more fuel. She inwardly programs her body heat to ration out warmth until her batteries are completely drained dead. She is built to live forever. But John is her brother. She does not think twice about dying to save his life. Death, a futile final gesture.

When the blizzard hits, it has the least effect on the clone. He gets their horses into the shack and then tries to drag the statue in. Reluctantly, Mr. T decides to help. The horses provide heat but Cameron had left a hole in the wall which the gambler patches to keep the cold out. For the first time, the four talk amongst themselves to pass the night. Mr. T would have no problem leaving Gunslinger behind in a glacier if he fell in a crevasse.

"Global warming. Get out in about two years."

Instead of always stealing, the clone gets money by gambling because he learns useful information in card games. Like a ghost rider in the sky, the phantom of McCloud is with them. A thin vapor that one can see through. Almost invisible. His nanocells have been blown all over the mountain by the blizzard and most of them have not made it back yet. Nanites are impressive technology but being almost the size of molecules, they can not buck a hurricane force wind. McCloud's volume is far less than one hundred percent, hence the spectral form, which has its uses if they need to frighten the heck out of someone. Humans have a primitive atavistic instinctive fear of the supernatural deep in their collective unconscious and genes that dates back to pre-humans. A fear to exploit.

John tries a tune around the cold campfire.

Cameron: (disgusted) "You lost everything else but you still have a harmonica."

Shivering from hypothermia, he gives up.

"You have to get out of those wet things."

Mink may be the warmest fur but you need body heat first.

"Get on top on me."

"Okeydokey." he stutters.

Before she died, Cameron's last thought is how much she'd like to kill John.





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