Terminator High School 5
They say chickens can live for a few seconds after having their head cut off. The record length of time for a headless chicken is considerably longer. Days. Towards the end, the poor animal (hand-fed and given water by an eyedropper) was obviously very depressed at being deprived of sight, sound, taste and smell. It was an experiment suitable only for Nazi doctors and other cruel sociopaths lacking a conscience or knowledge of humane treatment of animals.
The machines were aware of cases of anencephaly (no brain) where humans were able to function but this was a new extreme. The machines had enough knowledge of biotechnology as to shoot Derek Reese between the eyes, decapitate him, and still keep his body alive and walking around.
After John and Sarah stopped screaming, the headless body was still standing there as if waiting to be invited in.
If there was hope (as John implied before dinner), then it would be better to keep the headless man inside and out of sight in the basement. The Connors did not want neighbors to see a headless man and start asking questions. If the press and police found out, then Sarah would go to jail and John would go to juvenile hall and any possibility of defeating the machines would be lost forever. Uncle Derek would end up on the slab of a morgue. Again.
At least hiding him in the basement and taking turns caring for him, there was the remote possibility that John could negotiate getting Uncle Derek's head back for the family to conduct an honorable funeral. It was a remote possibility that was slim to none but it existed.
When Sarah stopped screaming, she took Derek by the hand and led him to his bedroom so that familiar surroundings would inform him that he was home. Then she led him down the basement steps, set up a cot and left him to get used to his new cell. There was a half-bath down there and Sarah had taken some of Derek's personal effects down there.
Sarah knew he was sleepy when he tried to use the toothbrush and comb because that was Derek's routine before bed. He once bragged that he could brush his teeth while sleepwalking. She didn't know Derek's wake-up routine so John would have to handle that.
The basement was now part prison and part bedroom for Derek. If he lived upstairs, he might fall down the stairs. If he lived on the ground level floor, he might open up the front door and wander out where people would see him. But he could be locked in the basement. He wouldn't fight. He was already in the depression phase of his condition having accepted that he could not see, hear, smell, or taste. Or think. No brain. Depression required higher brain function. It was not a peripheral nervous system reflex.
John took off his jacket and canceled his plans to go out and get his mother's blood tested. John looked at the red stuff congealing in the Mason jar as Sarah returned from the basement.
John: "I can't leave you alone with that monster."
A hard slap.
Sarah: "That 'monster' is your uncle. He got that way through no fault of his own."
Sarah had never slapped John. Until now. She hugged John.
Sarah: "I'll be all right. Go. Do what you need to do son. And be back before dark. Unless you want me to slice myself again tomorrow for a fresh sample. There might be less blood and more metal then."
John put his jacket back on. He did not go to the pathology labs in the hospital district. He went instead to a place he knew. When he returned, he saw no reason to tell his mother that he was not interested in testing to see if the sample she provided was human blood (although he did have it tested). T-1000's do not bleed blood. Why get her hopes up until he had something? Why even then? Better to do what needed to be done and let that speak for itself.
John stopped sleeping during biology and started paying attention. He looked at his lab partner and imagined her as a slab partner. How long would she live if her head and body were separated? In different cities? If his uncle's head had not been tossed into medical waste or an incinerator or floating in the city sewage treatment facility or pickled in Formalin or otherwise rendered unsalvageable, then he had to get the machines to return it to its rightful owner for a proper funeral.
John calculated that, by now, houseflies would be buzzing around his uncle's head, assuming it still existed. John was deep in overtime on the matter of recovering the head. He was halfway through the day and he still had not seen the bully in the halls anywhere at school.
Finally, he saw him at a distance and John gave up all pretense at dignity. John ran up to Hector, fell to his knees, and knelt to beg for help.
John: "Yesterday, after I mentioned to you that I wanted my uncle back, he was returned to us. Since your parents seem to have influence, please ask if his head can be returned too. For my mother's sake, we want to bury him in one piece."
Hector: "Get off your knees or I'll kick your teeth out."
John: "I thought you wanted me to grovel."
Hector: "It stopped being amusing after the first day. Okay, I'll ask the adults to find the head and glue it back on. Sit him out on your back porch at four p.m. today. Now get out of my face."
Sarah: (yelling up the stairs) "John! Where's your uncle?"
John walked from the back porch and looked down the basement stairs.
John: "I sat him on the back porch--"
Sarah: "You did what! The neighbors might see him! He'll attract flies and get infected." (runs up the stairs past John)
John: (following) "He needs some sun so he won't get rickets."
The back porch is empty.
Sarah: "What possessed you leave a headless man out here?"
John: "I was talking to that machine bully whose gang put me in the hospital. Yesterday at school I mentioned that I wanted my uncle back and we got him back a few hours later."
Sarah: "Without a head! Apparently you don't have one either. Trusting the same sadistic little bastards who sodomized you to do anything resembling decency. They probably were the same machines who cut his head off to begin with. If we ever see your uncle again it may be a pile of guts attracting every stray dog and coyote in the neighborhood."
Sarah suddenly broke off, nauseated by her own words. John watched as she ran to the bathroom and then heard the sounds of his mother retching.
John felt like a dunce. He had been conned by a machine. A machine who watched as his goons tormented him when he couldn't be bothered to do his own dirty work. Hector let the tall basketball player dunk his head in a filthy toilet and dick him with a stick. John had been through so many traumas in his short life that it all blurred together. He was willing to forgive the bullies and forget their violations for the sake of his mother getting some closure by laying her brother-in-law and his uncle to rest. His mother had been threatened with rape and infected with something turning her into quicksilver and so John was willing to put up with anything to give her the solace that a memorial service would provide. Traditions and ceremonies might seem silly to machines but they gave comfort to humans.
John's regrets deepened when he heard his mother leave the bathroom, mutter "dinner is on the stove" and close her bedroom door to muffle the sounds of her weeping.
Before home room, John waited near Hector's locker.
Hector came down the hallway with an odd slowness in his stride as he looked down at the floor not bothering to look up. Something was on his mind. He looked up and there was John between him and his locker.
Hector: "Baum, you're the last thing I want to see. Go away."
John: "You tricked me. I left what's left of my uncle on the back porch and now he's gone. The strain could kill my mother."
Hector: "Just say thanks, you ingrate. I stuck my neck out for you. My worst--" (pause) "And you accuse me of tricking you. You wanted the head back. Even our technology has limits."
John: (lowers his voice) "Did you or your thugs cut his head off?"
John: (whisper) "I want to talk to Skynet."
Hector: "I have to get to my homeroom and you need to get to yours."
Walks away with that strange slow gait.
John: "Are you sick?"
Hector ignores him and shuffles into his homeroom.
Machines can't get sick. Can they? John hurries off to his homeroom.
The principal had a sardonic sense of humor. He was a machine whose eyes glowed red only when he was certain that only John was looking. He walked in the room just before the final bell and whispered to the teacher before coming over to John.
Principal: "You have missed so much time from school that we, the guidance counselor and I, debated whether to inform you of a family emergency so close to the end of the school day. I can drive you to the hospital. Unless you prefer to walk home, read the note on the door, and then take a public transit bus to the hospital. That could be two hours."
John disliked the machines on the school staff as much as he disliked the district truant officer. The principal was probably planning to deliver him to the slaughterhouse. His carcass would be hung by a meat hook in a frozen locker next to the side of Angus beef and the pork bellies. No thank you. I'm a grain-fed vegan.
Principal: "I can get you there in less than fifteen minutes. Your choice."
What the heck. His mother was dying in the hospital of cancer or sexual assault or whatever the machines had done to her while he was at school. His life had been a waste. Better to end it than prolong the agony.
John: "Sure why not."
The bell rang. John collected his books and accompanied the principal. On the drive, there was no conversation. Although the principal was a humanoid like the truant officer, he had a very different personality. He was not given to small talk or talk of any kind. They drove in silence and John was surprised that the car headed not to a meat packing plant or mob-owned warehouse but to the hospital district.
Saint Francis Hospital
Instead of pulling up to the Emergency entrance, the principal stopped at the main regular entrance.
John got out with his schoolbag.
Principal: "Room 345."
He drove off. John entered the room. Instead of seeing his mother in intensive care, it was Uncle Derek in one piece and very much alive.
Seeing his mother beam a smile as she fawned over his uncle and seeing her so happy to have him back made everything that he had gone through insignificant, thought John. I wonder if she would be happy if Cameron somehow was rescued? Sarah was giving Uncle Derek a sip of water and, as if answering his unspoken question, looked up at him hopefully.
Was Cameron shivering in some torture chamber as mechanical demons stripped down her circuitry? Was she being electrocuted as she was held underwater? Was her skin being peeled off and fed to dogs? John knew from firsthand experience that machines like Hector had vivid imaginations and therefore knew how to make people suffer. And he was just a kid. What nightmares did the adult machines come up with?
Was Cameron being told that her human family had betrayed her, that the Resistance had betrayed her, and that she was all alone against Skynet Forces, all alone against a human race that hated her, and all alone against the tide of history? Unfortunately, there was an element of truth in all of that and machine interrogators and torturers could point that out.
John knew so little about his cyborg sister. He knew that she was originally a terminator or an infiltrator built to kill him. Then she was reprogrammed and served as his right hand assistant in the future. That was about it. He never was curious enough to ask Cameron if she had any life beyond these bare facts because he himself had no life beyond dodging bullets and training to save humankind from extinction.
What were they doing to Cameron?
In the future if Cameron had terminated him, how would Skynet Forces have reassigned her? Was Cameron really military? Or was she originally civilian intelligence? She was a teenager like these machine kids at school. Where was Cameron? Did his mother want her back? He was sure that after what his uncle went through that Uncle Derek would never want to lay eyes on a machine again.
John: (out loud) "Do you want her back too?"
Sarah looked up from tending to Derek. She didn't need to ask who "her" was. Who else could he be referring to?
Derek: (scratchy voice) "She's not with you?"
He assumed that Cameron was freaked out by hospitals the same way she avoided water and dogs. He assumed that she stayed home while Sarah and John visited him in the hospital.
Sarah: (to Derek) "I thought she was with you when we got separated."
John: "Why won't you two tell me what happened? Mom, did you have Uncle Derek shoot her and dispose of the body?"
Sarah: "No! The only one who got shot was Derek."
She lifted the bandages around Derek's forehead to show the swiftly healing entry wound. It must have taken some skilled surgery to remove a bullet that had no exit wound and breakthrough biotechnology to repair the damage to his brain. [Which was minor compared to rejoining a severed head to its own body.]
John: "Well then did you send her off to boarding school?"
Sarah: "No. The last time I saw her she was headed off to school like you. Maybe the district sent her to another school. Then the next thing I remember is being injected and told a lot of things while I was semiconscious. Then you came home screaming about terminators taking over the school--"
Sarah: "I honestly was too foggy to wonder about Derek and Cameron until you came home from school the first day. I just assumed a lot of things. If she never came home from school then she was kidnapped like Derek."
Derek: "I was shot. That I remember. It's the only thing I remember until waking up in this bed today. What's this about terminators taking over the school? We need to get out of town if that's true."
Sarah: "It is true and you aren't going anywhere. We certainly aren't. John has a tracking device in him."
John: "And mom can tell you the rest. Maybe I'd better leave the room."
John left to let the adults talk about Sarah's predicament with a little less embarrassment and about the hostages. One of which apparently was Cameron.
What devil had dreamed up injecting his mother and threatening to . . . he didn't want to think about anything that horrible. What terrible visitors did his mother have when he was away at school? How had they delivered their message to her? In person? By mail? By threatening phone calls? His mother never said.
In the waiting area outside the ICU, John opened his bookbag and began studying until his mother came for him.
Sarah Connor did not want to leave Derek alone in the hospital overnight after what had happened. But she didn't want John to be home alone either. She cursed herself for always being a loner and not making enough friends. She needed friends and family now and, unfortunately, she had no friends and family was held hostage. She called the neighbor and extracted a favor. John was to stay with the neighbors tonight. Sleep on their couch. Anything was better than him being alone at night with God-knows-what loose on the planet. She needed to buy time until Derek could be brought home from the hospital.
Derek was more confused by Sarah's behavior than by learning that he had been decapitated and lived to tell. He always thought his sister-in-law wanted him dead and no longer a hindrance to her overprotective mothering of his nephew. After Sarah got her wish, she realized that a living Derek was better than a dead brother-in-law.
Derek had no idea that while his nephew begged for help, John never would have done so if Sarah hadn't cared. But it took the destruction of the last of her family and the destruction of her own body before Sarah rediscovered compassion.
Sarah fussed over Derek and while she did not interfere with the doctors, nurses, and orderlies, she watched them like a hawk to make sure Derek got the best care.
The hospital was told that this patient had suffered unspecified trauma including a puncture wound to the head [a lie, it was a bullet] and cuts to the neck [a gross understatement, it was decapitation] in an apparent fall at a construction site.
All bullet wounds have to be investigated by the police but since the police chief was a machine, it was covered up. If the press got hold of a story about a miracle recovery from a decapitation, every reporter on the planet would descend on the hospital. So the hospital wasn't told. The machines owned a clinic for their own needs and experimentation and did the surgery there (and quite possibly Sarah's as well) and then transported Derek Reese to Saint Francis for recovery.
Sarah insisted on having Derek scanned. Of the three (Derek, John and herself), Derek was the only one who didn't seem to have implants or infections. That would be useful. Derek could travel.
late that night
Sarah slept in a chair next to Derek's hospital bed. She suddenly awoke and there was an anonymous note in her lap.
"If he leaves town, his head will come off again."
the next morning
The neighbor couple, after hearing that John's uncle was in the intensive care unit of the hospital, insisted on making a big breakfast for John. Having grown up snacking on the run, John didn't know what he had been missing. Arriving at school with a big breakfast under his belt for a change, he wasn't sleepy. He actually had energy. And with his uncle back, he wasn't so depressed for a change.
another day at Terminator High