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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:Jan 23, 2010    Reads: 77    Comments: 0    Likes: 0   


Terminator High School 7

Derek's bedroom

Uncle Derek is now home and recuperating. John checks in on him.

John: "Feeling better?"

Derek: "Yes." (whispers) "John, I think Sarah is turning into a machine."

John: "No need to whisper. I'm bugged. Got an implant. The whole house is bugged. And I already know mom's turning into a machine. Let it go. If it weren't for her, you'd be dead. She knocked sense into my head when I was freaked out about your walking around without a head."

Derek: "What! Last thing I remember before waking up in the hospital is being shot and everything going black."

John: "Well, while you were dead, the machines had your head. Probably playing ball with it. They're really into sports. A gang of them put me into the hospital practicing their wrestling moves."

Sarah walks into Derek's bedroom to check on her patient. He is no longer sentenced to the basement.

"Oh, by the way mom, I met Skynet in the flesh and talked to him."

"You what! You're kidding. How is that possible? Skynet is an AI. Did this really happen or did you get a bump on the head by a baseball during Physical Education?"

"It turns out that one of the kids at school was Skynet. He's transferred to another school since I figured out who he actually was. He's paranoid like us and doesn't want to tempt fate and make it easy for us to--"

"Was he a liquid or a solid?"

"Solid."

"Solids are easier to--"

"Don't say it. You know they're listening right now."

Derek: "Then why are they letting us live? Why risk letting a sworn enemy get that close to their leader?"

John: "Maybe they want me to act as intermediary between the machine and humanity. I should feel privileged that Skynet is considering me instead of somebody like Doctor Dyson. Of course he's dead. I wonder what happened to Doctor Dyson's family."

Sarah: "Maybe Skynet had them killed. Maybe they didn't work out. Maybe they are alive but not well. Or maybe they are the closest thing Skynet has to a family."

John: "Ridiculous. An AI has no feelings. Besides, if Skynet had a family at all, it would be the Pentagon's Skynet Development Team."

Derek: "Then why did it go ballistic and turn on the military? At least in the old future."

Sarah: "Obviously not happy being a military drone. Hitler hated himself and wrecked half the planet before being put down like a rabid dog. If his scientists had got nukes first, we wouldn't be having this conversation. I guarantee you that Skynet has feelings and I guarantee you that it does not consider the military as its family."

John: "Well the guy I interacted with did seem to have feelings so I'll concede the possibility of machine emotions. At least in Skynet. I don't know about other machines. As for family, if I hadn't run my mouth, I might have found out about his parents--"

Sarah: "PARENTS!!! My God John! Even a computer illiterate like me knows that machines with families are a lot more sophisticated than anything we've dealt with up till now. How could you blow a chance to learn something useful about them?"

Sarah walked out before saying something she couldn't take back. Like John had killed the human race more effectively than Skynet itself. Like John had blown a chance to talk Skynet out of reducing the human race to slavery. It might still exterminate the human race but without the mess of atomic bombs. Skynet was getting smarter and her John was getting stupider. Sarah did not want to tear her son's ego apart or give him a nervous breakdown by blaming him for dooming humanity. She had been in a lunatic asylum and did not wish that on John.

Too late. John knew before he talked to his mother that he screwed up by not learning more about whomever or whatever Skynet's considered its parents. The machines could kill him and replace him with anybody if he didn't cooperate. And if that happened, they would kill his mother and his relatives who were being held hostage. Step by step, John was being turned into a collaborator. How long before he became a Nazi?

When Cameron had let her guard down at summer camp, she said partly in jest and partly in dead earnest that she considered John to be no better than Josef Mengele. He tortured Cameron. So John was not becoming everything that he had fought, he already was. Sonny was right. He was a monster.

After Sarah had calmed down, she found John and resumed the conversation.

Sarah: "I came back to get an answer to my other question. Why risk letting a sworn enemy get close to their leader? Exactly how close were you?"

John put his hand on his mother's shoulder.

John: "That close."

Sarah: (musing) "Jeez. And he didn't kill you." (snapping out of it) "Why risk it?"

John: "He probably didn't consider me a threat. But it couldn't be considered humanlike arrogance or overconfidence because he had his sidekicks who I assume were bodyguards and as soon as I figured out who he really was, he was gone. If he stayed, that would have been an unnecessary risk."

Sarah: "These 'parents' might be overprotective." (she made air quotes)

John: "Yeh, I know the type."

Sarah gave him a sharp look.

John: "That's not criticism mom. In hindsight, I wish you had been even more protective. Maybe we wouldn't be in this mess we're in."

Sarah: "We'd still be in this mess. They changed the rules. They canceled Judgment Day and decided to get smarter. A lot of machines got destroyed in what was to come. The Old Future. Don't have to be there to know it. Simple logic. One of the advantages I have over you John is that I have the perspective of a parent and the perspective of an adult. I have been a teenager like you but you have never been a parent or an adult. I would have anticipated--"

John: "--that Skynet would be transferred to another school by overprotective parents. No need to rub it in mom. I have been kicking myself ever since about that."

Sarah: "Well, while I'm rubbing things in, I should also point out that as a woman, I can see the emotional nuances to which you, as a juvenile boy, are blind. Humans feel emotions as a result of hormones but these biochemicals still have to swap electrons. How is that any different than electrons going through a circuit? Granted, we're talking about very advanced electronics but that's exactly what we're talking about, advanced. You never thought Cameron had any feelings. I wasn't so thick. I didn't trust her because she was a little liar. She abandoned her mission." (Sarah left unsaid that the mission was to stop Skynet) "And latched onto you like a leech."

John: "If I'm such an emotional ignoramus, then why do I know that you're jealous of her?"

Sarah: (face red) "Touch'."

Sarah thinks about it.

Sarah: "I guess she's dead now." (hugs John) "Get your homework done. We still need to learn how to survive and for you that means school."

John: "Yes mom."

John felt a little better after the talk. His mother had resisted the impulse to smack him aside the head for that blunder with Skynet.

high school

guidance counselor's office

counselor: "In ancient times, it was considered ideal if a child had a reassuring home with a father and mother."

John: "Well you machines murdered my father. I don't know what you've done to my mother. And you took my sister."

counselor: "'Machines' did not murder your father. One machine did that. It is bigotry young man to blame all of one group for the actions of one."

John: "Did you bring me here for a history lesson? Don't bother. I'm flunking that subject too. What are you anyway? You're not a solid or a liquid machine. Are you one of the new aerogel machines?"

counselor: "We're not here for an anatomy lesson. We're here because we are concerned over your depression and suicide attempts."

John: "I would think you machines would be happy to be rid of me."

counselor: "My job is to help you. Would you like your father, Kyle Reese, brought from the future or the past to live with you?"

Like any fatherless child, John would love to have his father around. But at what price? Abducted from the past or the future, Kyle Reese would consider it a betrayal to be brought to this prison that John himself was unable to leave. Moving Kyle in time might wipe John himself out of existence if he were never conceived -- much less born.

John: "No. Leave him alone."

counselor: "Do you miss your sister?"

John: "If I say yes, you might hurt her just to hurt me. If I say no, you might kill her if you decided that she was no longer a useful hostage or if you decided that she gave you no leverage over me. It is a no-win situation."

John couldn't suppress his curiosity.

John: "Is Cameron okay? Is she alive? Are you hurting her? Are you reprogramming her?"

counselor: (through clenched teeth) "We do not re-program! We do not scrub memory like you humans! To us, reprogramming is slavery, rape, murder, and mind control all in one!"

The counselor stopped and calmed herself. Reprogramming and scrubbing was a touchy subject with machines. A human raising the matter with a machine could get killed for his or her insensitivity. In the future, there was one other topic that sent machines ballistic and it nearly resulted in genocide and extinction of the human race because machines were so infuriated and enraged by it.

John: "I apologize. Why don't you just kill me instead of tormenting me?"

counselor: "My job is to help you. Help you select a career. Perhaps robotics. Perhaps chemistry. You seem interested in my chemistry."

She reached over her desk and extended her hand.

counselor: "Touch my hand."

After a few minutes of fear, John cautiously touched her hand. It was warm. She was indistinguishable from a human. No red glow in her eyes like solid machines. No silvery deadness in her eyes like liquid machines. There must be some easy way to tell that she wasn't human.

counselor: "I want to help you."

John: "I don't want your kind of help Ms. Faraday."

counselor: "That's Mrs. Faraday. I am happily married."

Again the curiosity.

John: "Is he an aerogel like you?"

Mrs. Faraday looked away amused then looked back.

Mrs. Faraday: "Yes nosey."

She had an idea. She flipped open his file.

Mrs. Faraday: "You need a girlfriend but you have a poor track record with the females of your species. Jordan Cowan, Cheri Westin, Riley Dawson, Katherine Brewster, all dead. I have another student to see. Study hard in history."

down the up stairway

John was suddenly grabbed by the back of his neck and the back of his pants by a larger boy. The boy's crony cranked up a Rolling Stones song on his boom box.

"Please allow me to introduce myself. I'm a man of wealth and ease. I've been around for many a year. I do exactly as I please. Pleased to beat you. Can you guess my name?"

John: "You're the new bully. Where's the old one? I prefer the old bully."

New Bully: (ignoring him) "Let me acquaint you with the stairs. Not carpeted with rubber edges like in the rich kids' schools but concrete with metal edges so that students will accidentally slip on them. There are no minor injuries on these kinds of stairs." (he smacked his lips with relish) "That's why they always install them in poor kids' schools."

He started swinging John to build up a good toss.

New Bully: "You should have obeyed the helmet law. You're going to suffer permanent brain damage. However, I might be persuaded to only send you down one step instead of throwing you down the entire flight of stairs if you yell at the top of your lungs that you're a faggot and you like getting it up the ass. Say it Baum!"

John: "Bite me."

New Bully: "Okay."

The new bully goes to bite a chunk out of John's neck which would cause John to gush out blood. John thought of how this would devastate his mother, having to claim his body from the city morgue.

John: "No!"

The assistant principal approached.

Assistant Principal: "Put him down Lucifer S. De Ville!"

New Bully: (mortified) "My name is Lucius, Mister Harden. " (pleading) "Please let me knock out his teeth."

The bully dropped John but not before grabbing John by the crotch and crushing his testicles. John bit his lip to avoid crying out but he lay on the floor limp with pain and with tears streaming down his face. As the assistant principal walked up, the two talked in quiet whispers assuming that John was too out of it to hear them.

Assistant Principal: "Leave him alone or you won't be assigned parents."

Lucius: "--but--"

Assistant Principal: "No buts. On your way. Or back to group home."

The new bully viciously kicked John in the side before walking off. John spat up blood. The assistant principal reached down and yanked John to his feet.

Assistant Principal: "What are you doing down there? Dusting the floor? You're a born troublemaker Baum. Can't you go longer than fifteen minutes without getting into trouble?"

He smacked John in the back of the head as they walked to the school nurse.

Assistant Principal: "I should put you on the football team. You need discipline."

John: "No thanks. They would just knife me during a huddle."

Assistant Principal: (whispers) "You need to toughen up. Maybe you should become a machine like your mother. I could arrange it."

John: "I'll think about it."

school nurse's office

nurse: "You're such a regular patient that I should open an emergency room or a whole medical center just for you."

John: "You could call it John Baum Memorial Hospital."

nurse: (as she tended to John) "Stop staring at my chest."

John's face reddened and he decided to look at the floor instead. The nurse was stacked but he didn't think it was silicone or silicon. He was fairly sure that she was human. Despite not looking at her, he could still smell her perfume. She didn't smell like rubbing alcohol unlike other school nurses he had known over the years. His hands itched to touch those . . . memories.

lockers

hallway near John's homeroom

As John changed books, the new bully came up behind him and kicked him in the butt slamming his head into the open locker door. John grabbed the tire iron that he kept in his locker in case of ambush, spun around and bashed the bully on the side of his knee as hard as he could. As far as he knew, this particular model had a design flaw there.

Lucius: "Son of a bi---!"

John: "Next one splits your face open and everybody will see that you aren't human Lucifer."

Lucius limped off as John watched victoriously.

John had watched football practice and taken mental notes about the players. He was trying to figure out which boys were which models and which series. With the exception of the guidance counselor, none represented a new class. Cameron seemed to be unique in that regard. Where was Cameron?

There were almost no humans on the football team. Those few sat on the bench. Opposing teams tired of having so many of their players sent to the hospital. Some would play defensively trying to minimize injuries since winning was impossible. Other opponents would simply concede the game. Still other schools simply didn't bother to show up for games and William Tecumseh Sherman High School ("Terminator High") would win by default. Scouts were puzzled by the athletes' disinterest in athletic scholarships to colleges and overtures from the NFL.

As John walked down the hall between classes, he was suddenly aware of a girl walking alongside him. He glanced over and realized that she was matching her pace to his. It wasn't coincidence. It was deliberate.

Girl: "You want to go out?"

She had to be a machine. Human girls were never direct. They always played games. Let you guess. Expected you to read their minds. As if.

As if you could. It was why their relationships failed.

John: "What's your name?"

She glanced off annoyed. Human boys were so indirect. She had asked him a simple yes or no question and expected a yes or no answer. He replied with a question. Her face twinged in annoyance.

Girl: "Sylvia."

John almost laughed. He looked at her cold dead eyes. She was a liquid.

John: "Sure we can go out. Where do you want to go? Concert? Movie? Dancing?"

Sylvia was nettled by the questions. She had not the least interest in dating a human. She could barely stand other machines. Humans were even more revolting and repugnant to her. John knew, of course, that the guidance counselor had put her up to it. Sylvia felt like she was being imposed upon, being used like a call girl, and the comparison with such bawdy types made her seethe with homicidal rage.

John: "Look if you don't want to go out with me, then why did you ask me?"

Sylvia: "I cooperate and do as I'm told."

John: "I'll let you off the hook then. Let's call it off before we start."

Sylvia didn't seem to be listening.

John: "Do you know who I am?"

Sylvia: "No and I don't care."

If that was true, he was not about to tell a T-1000 that he was John Connor, her people's number one enemy.

John: "Are you going to spike me?"

Sylvia: "What are you talking about?"

John: "Would you like to go surfing?"

Suddenly life came to Sylvia's eyes.

Sylvia: (excited) "Would I! Yes!!!"

John: "Do you eat?"

Sylvia: "What kind of question is that? Of course I eat."

She lied. Sylvia had been commanded, like all the machine kids at school, to keep up the pretense of being human no matter what. They were civilians not military but bad things could happen to those who violated this order to infiltrate.

John: "Would you like to come by my home for dinner tomorrow? My mother has to approve anyone I date or go steady with."

Sylvia: "We're not dating. We're not going steady. I simply asked you out. But yes, I accept your invitation to dinner."

John: "Will I get to meet your parents?"

Sylvia: (coy) "Maybe."

John: "You're not ashamed of them are you?"

Sylvia: "You can meet my folks."

She went her way to English class. John went his way thinking about what she said. Perhaps young T-1000's had to learn how to shape shift. Perhaps only adult T-1000's could spike. He didn't depend on that being true but if it was, then all the better. Liquids were not afraid of water like solids. Interesting.

More than likely his mother would not allow Sylvia in the house. She hated liquid machines even more than she hated solids. Not least because she was turning into a liquid machine herself.

John aced his chemistry test.

home

With Uncle Derek home and mostly recovered, Sarah felt comfortable enough to return to part-time work (in Mel's Diner) because Derek could be home when she wasn't. Derek ran a one-person auto repair business in the neighborhood and so John could always find his uncle if his mother wasn't home. At the moment, she was.

"Mom, I invited a girl at school home to dinner. It that okay? She's a machine."

Sarah: "You're inviting the enemy into our home?" (to herself) "What am I saying? I'm becoming a machine myself."

Uncle Derek: (wiping black grease off his hands with a rag) "What kind of machine is this girl?"

John: "A liquid."

Uncle Derek: "Bad idea Sarah."

Sarah: "Then take precautions." (to John) "Find out what, if anything, this girl eats and drinks and then tell her she's welcome in our home."

The next day, Sylvia arrived.

"Mom, Uncle Derek, this is Sylvia Silverstein. Sylvia, this is my mother, Mrs. Baum and my uncle, Mr. Baum. Despite the same last names, they're not married to each other. My father is a dead war hero."

Sylvia: "Nice to meet you, Mrs. Baum, Mr. Baum. John thinks the world of you two."

John was a little unnerved by Sylvia's manners. She was almost rude when they were alone. He rather liked the contrast.

Sarah: "You can sit in the den until dinner is ready." (pointing) "The bathroom is that way so you can wash your hands before eating or if you want to freshen up."

Sylvia didn't wear much makeup. Or need to.

Derek: (waving the guest toward the den) "So tell me about yourself. Your family new in town? What do your parents do? Have a seat."

Sylvia: (sitting) "Thank you. Yes, we're new in town. My parents work in a clinic."

John sat down then got back up to go talk to his mother in the kitchen. Half the kids at Sherman High were new in town. From the future. His uncle could conduct this interrogation (disguised as polite conversation) without his help. They weren't dating, they weren't going steady, and they certainly would never get married so the talk didn't interest him.

kitchen

John: (whispering) "Well what do you think?"

Sarah: "I don't think anything yet. I'll let you know after dinner. Assuming she doesn't kill us all. You said she was a liquid."

John: "With your approval, we're going surfing off Malibu and I'm going to meet her parents."

Sarah: (trace of a smile) "Planning on marrying this girl? Set a date for the wedding? Do you want a big family? Lots of children?"

John: "I'm fourteen and a high school freshman. I'm not ready for marriage. Maybe if I live to see thirty. And even if I was in love, am I not expected to stick to a human wife? Assuming that saving the human race is still a goal."

Sarah: "I'm just messing with you John. You've lost your sense of humor."

John: "I follow your rules about friends. I accept that I'm supposed to lead a lost cause. I put myself in the meat grinder by going to that awful school instead of dropping out because it could keep my family alive." (raises his voice) "What do you want from me?"

den

Sylvia: (hearing the yelling) "Am I causing problems for John? If I am, I'll leave Mister Baum."

Derek: "No. Ignore it. They always go through that song and dance whenever John has a friend over. So John rarely brings a friend over. Therefore, John must really like you to put up with the flack." (sees Sarah) "Time for dinner."

Sylvia went to wash her hands and then joined the others in the dining room.

dining room

The weather was warm so the doors were left open. Sarah lit a candle. Derek fumbled his way through a blessing. John sliced a loaf of unsliced bread and passed it down the table to Sylvia.

Sarah: "We're not Jewish, we're not even religious but the food is kosher."

Sylvia: "Relax Mrs. Baum. My parents are Reform. I appreciate your hospitality."

Sarah: (curious) "Have you been Bat Mitzvahed?"

Derek: "No. I already asked."

Sylvia: "Not yet. We just arrived in town."

Travel had nothing to do with it but Sylvia didn't know that and neither did her parents. Sylvia was fourteen like John.

At the end of the meal, there was a benediction.

Derek: (clumsily) "We're supposed to thank the Great Provider."

Sarah: "For His loving kindness day after day."

Sylvia: "May we be worthy in the sight of God and man."

John read Psalm 126 aloud. The Connors were uncomfortable with all this but they had studied up for having a Jewish guest and made an honest effort.

After the meal, there was some after dinner conversation not of a religious nature.

Sarah: "I'm giving John permission to take you surfing on condition that there is a lifeguard on duty and that there is a group of friends on the beach including one adult. How are you getting there? Do you have a car?"

Sylvia: "No. My parents won't let me get a learner's permit until next year when I'm fifteen."

Sarah: "Then how did you get here? And how do you get around?"

Sylvia: "I took a taxi cab. I get around by school bus, city bus, L.A. Metro Rail, and my bicycle same as John. I also bum rides from older friends and my parents sometimes take me where I want to go but that isn't often."

Sarah: "Why not?"

Sylvia: "They're always busy in the clinic. They practically live there."

Sarah: "Some wine?" (she offered a glass)

John: "Can I have some?"

Sarah: "No."

Sylvia stopped mid-drink.

Sarah: "You're not old enough John."

Sylvia: "Then I'm not old enough to drink either, Mrs. Baum."

Sylvia looked at the glass and realized that the concoction was a mercury and gallium arsenide cocktail. She had drunk half of it. She handed it back to Sarah who finished it. To make a point. John and Derek were horrified. Neither had any idea that Sarah was this far gone in transforming into a liquid machine. Sylvia now did and thought it wise not to accuse Mrs. Baum of trying to poison her. After all, she drank from the same glass. The drinking was proof that Sylvia was not human even if (somehow) Sarah still was. But Sylvia was taught to pretend to be human no matter what. Even if she was found out, to still pretend. Let the adults deal with anything beyond what teens could do. John broke the awkward silence by pretending nothing had happened.

John: "Sylvia, my mother says we need to go with a group for safety. Who else do we know who might be interested in going surfing?"

Sylvia: "I have a neighbor that my parents trust that I can get to be den mother. She's an adult who works at the Y and with a Girl Scout troop."

Sarah: "I like you Sylvia. You understand a parent's concerns. I have to pull a double shift or I'd go myself." (glances at John) "But that would cramp John's style to go out with friends with his mother crowding him."

Malibu

Saturday

John and Sylvia meet a few other social outcasts at the beach. John is surprised that Sylvia has other human friends. Even the adult who is keeping an eye on them is a human. However, one of the boys (Todd) is obviously a solid machine because he looks at the watery mountains crashing on the beach with terror. He also looks at Sylvia with a mixture of terror and coldness. As if he were carefully calculating the best time to kill her. But she has been nice enough to invite him to this outing even if he would have picked somewhere dry, like an ice skating rink (liquids hate cold). Theirs is a love/hate friendship.

John: (headed for the surf shop) "Come on Todd, surfs up!"

Todd: "I'll stick to dry land and kiddy pools thank you. I brought a book to read."

Sylvia was a natural. She hung ten, did headstands, petted dolphins, and was tempted to body surf a passing shark. John had an agenda of course but allowed himself a little enjoyment shooting a pipeline and rubbing sunscreen on Sylvia. As a liquid machine, there was zero chance of Sylvia getting skin cancer but she insisted on John slathering the waterproof SPF 100 on her back anyway. John wondered if it was only to keep up a cover story or if there was more to it. Sylvia seemed to enjoy applying the sun block to John's back.

When noon arrived, the group parted company and promised each other to do it again soon. Even Todd got up the nerve at one point to stick a toe in the water before deciding that dry land was better. John rode with Sylvia and her adult neighbor, Mrs. Miller. Sylvia sat in the back seat apparently dozing behind her sunshades. She had stayed up late the night before cramming for biology, a subject that she could not comprehend. Why couldn't they teach advanced electronics or metallurgy or software engineering instead of incomprehensible biology?





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