Terminator High School 6
John waited outside Hector's homeroom. The starting bell would ring soon and Hector still had not arrived. John went in to see the teacher.
John: "I wanted to talk to Hector."
Teacher: "He's gone."
John: "Where did he go?"
Teacher: "That depends on what kind of life he led."
John didn't know what she was talking about.
Teacher: "I guess you have to be religious to appreciate that old one. Hector has transferred. I can't tell you more than that since I value my life. Maybe his parents wanted him in a safer school. Sherman High is rather dangerous and full of gang-bangers."
John: "He was one of the bullies and gang-bangers who made it dangerous."
Teacher: "So did you want to leave a message? I have to forward the contents of his locker. I can send a message along with it."
John: "Yes I wanted to thank him and yes I know how strange that sounds after my experience with him. Is he sick or injured?"
Teacher: "No. Depressed."
John took out a blank sheet of loose-leaf paper, wrote: "Thank you. Give me a call. John." He folded it and handed it to Hector's former homeroom teacher.
John: "Please make sure he gets it. Thank you."
John ran off to his homeroom as the bell rang.
Later that day, John saw one of Hector's henchmen and stopped to talk.
John: "Is Hector depressed? You know, sad?"
Henchboy: "I know what the word depressed means."
He was well aware that John considered him an AI, artificial ignoramus, automaton idiot. John had yelled these insults enough times as they tormented him.
Henchboy: "I can't say."
John: "Then pass him this message. Tell him I said thanks and that I want to talk to him."
Henchboy grumbled. Hector was gone and he was still doing his scut work.
Where was Cameron? What were the machines doing to her? Anything they did to her should have taken hours at most. He had been injected with a tracking device in less than one second. How long could it take for them to do whatever they were doing to her? Five minutes to swap out her chip and turn her into a zombie. Why hadn't they returned her to the Connor family? In the future, Katherine Brewster had brainwashed a terminator and turned it into Cameron. Maybe Skynet Forces had no intention of ever returning her. Skynet justifiably might consider her his property since Skynet Forces built her. Still. If there was any chance that the Cameron he had grown to love still existed, he wanted her back. As future leader, no scratch that. There was no future. As leader (before he was ready to be leader), he wanted Cameron back.
A leader did not have the luxury of sentiment. Everybody is disposable in a war. A good reason to abolish wars.
But there is something to be said for the code of not leaving your people behind. You extracted them at all costs. No one left behind. It's the principle of the thing. It's what separates us from animals. And machines. So Cameron was a machine. BFD. Part machine. She was one of us even if she wasn't human. But she was part human too. So somehow, some way, he had to get Cameron back.
Not just for sentiment or honor or the code (which were good reasons) but because Cameron might know how to fight this new war that had new rules. Instead of quick death in a nuclear holocaust, there was slow death as the body-snatching infiltrators wrapped their tendrils around humanity like a strangler fig vine choking the life out of a tree.
After school, John went by Hector's home. John wasn't kidding when he told Hector that he knew where he lived. John was curious and staked out the place trying to get a glimpse of Hector's parents. It was a gated community with armed guards, electrified fences, the works. The kind of place where Rich Right-wing Reactionary Racist Republican Racketeers and Robber Barons of the Ruling class await the Revolution when the religious nuts are reduced to poverty by recession, hyperinflation, debt, and renting houses they used to own. Minorities have always been shot dead in the streets of America like rabid dogs by the police and National Guard. When the police and army start gunning down white people too, the end of America is near. The rulers get some release from boredom and a few laughs by reading the impotent rage expressed in blogs. When America ends, it will simply be the abandonment of any pretense at democracy since the Patriot Act abolished the Bill of Rights long ago. And machines will take absolute control from the last few humans in the kakistocracy of the military-industrial complex.
This was what John was thinking as he rode his bicycle to Hector's neighborhood. He hoped to get a glimpse of Hector's parents when they stepped out of the black stretch limousines with the dark windows but, alas, they always drove under the carport and inside the car barn and closed the garage door before stepping out of their vehicles.
The usual glimpse of nothing is what John expected as he rolled up to the hole where he slipped through the high wall with the barb wire on top. As usual, he hid his bike in a bush and slipped through the wall. When he took out his binoculars and prepared to look, he was shocked.
The entire gated community was gone! It was now a quarry or strip mine. It was as if a giant scoop had gouged out a crater, except whatever happened had cut clean through water mains and other underground utility conduits. And they had done it overnight because he had been there the day before. The clean hemispheric shape of the giant hole reminded John of something.
The smooth scoop in the ground when a time traveler arrived in a lightstorm.
But that was arrival. This looked like departure. Had they gone back to 1970 to avoid even the slightest possibility of human resistance? Would they kill his mother when she was a young girl in grade school? The machines already held power in the future and in the present. Did they desire power in the past too?
When John got home, there were express packages waiting for him. It was comix, anime, manga, and videos. All on one theme. Humans hunting down rogue robots. Hector's personal collection.
Not just another day at Terminator High.
"Talking. What a concept. My guess is that Skynet has been around since 1991. That means Skynet is a teenager just like me and a juvenile delinquent just like me. If I talk to Skynet and work something out, then seven billion people won't die in a nuclear Armageddon and the genocide that follows . . . At least right now the infiltrators had flesh and made an effort to blend into society. In the future, they wouldn't have flesh. Nor the motivation to try to become useful members of society. It's a stretch I know. But a start. Talk to Skynet and get him to make his machines behave." -- excerpt from Summer Camp, chapter 5
"Future Skynet orders colonization of the past. On a large scale. Skynet finds a way to go back to the past himself so that he can personally protect his younger self." -- excerpt from Summer Camp, chapter 13