The Third Way (part 1)
Career Day, early 2008
John: "Is it wise to be preparing for a dead world like a survivalist when it would be better to stop nuclear fission, coal, and oil by making them unprofitable?"
Mrs. Connor: "Must be Career Day at school."
John: "I was asking a serious question."
Mrs. Connor thinks her son is going through a phase. Other people's children want to be a fireman when they grow up and the next week it's doctor or explorer or carpenter. Her son shouldn't even be thinking about this nonsense. He was going to be leader of The Remnant, the survivors of the human race after World War Three precipitated by Skynet.
John: "Now I could join the Air Force and rise through the ranks and by the time I made general and was in a position to stop development of Skynet, it would be too late and the world would be destroyed because it would take me thirty or forty years to make general. I asked a recruiter--"
Mrs. Connor: "You were talking to a recruiter? You were going to volunteer? John!"
John: "Rubbing shoulders with the military is the only way I'm going to find people I need for The Resistance. That is, if I follow your cowboy shoot 'em approach."
Mrs. Connor: "Like there's any other way."
John: "There's lots of ways to fight Skynet. I could become a Senator."
Cameron: "I hate politics."
John: "Or I could become a hacker and break into the Skynet System and crash it. Or I could be a computer programmer by day and write malware by night that destroys AI's like Skynet. Mom, guns won't stop an entity that can move itself from one place on the internet to another at the speed of light. I hate to be the one to break the news to you Mom but your entire life has been a pointless waste. You've spent your life teaching me about guns when guns won't stop something that simply refuses to be a target. It won't stand still in one place, one server, one computer, one system long enough to let you blast it. If it is distributed, then it was never in one place. It exists across the internet in all places."
Uncle Derek: "You sound like you're describing God. Omnipresent."
John: "It's not God. It's cloudware. Welcome to the Third Millennium mom."
Sarah Connor's cover name is Mrs. Baum and her cover story is that her husband died. She feels like her son has rejected her and doesn't love her but she is resilient and continues the family discussion.
Mrs. Connor: "You said that there are lots of ways to fight Skynet. If you don't think conventional weapons work, then you have ruled out a military career."
John: "With a wanted fugitive as my mother, I couldn't get into a service academy anyway. And I was never in Junior ROTC. I couldn't run for office for the same reason. You're a political albatross around my neck."
Mrs. Connor: "You've said what you can't do. What do you want to do?"
John: "Start a company that makes security software and exterminates AI's that go bad. Sort of a terminator terminator."
Mrs. Connor: "That's ridiculous. To start a company you'd need money --"
Uncle Derek: "-- which we have --"
Mrs. Connor: "-- and a salesperson, somebody who could blend into the corporate world to get contracts --"
John: "-- like Cameron. But you have her busy getting shot up when you're out picking fights with cops, mobsters and terminators. So I guess we'll have to wait until Future John sends back an infiltrator."
Cameron: "I am an infiltrator."
Cameron has spoken too quietly for anyone to hear her.
Mrs. Connor: "That's enough sarcasm John. You're going to bed without dinner."
John: "Fine! I'm sick of spaghetti anyway."
With John's dream dismissed as unrealistic, the Connor family faces a bleak future and the rest of humanity also faces a bleak future. Sarah becomes blatantly hateful to Cameron. In despair, Cameron gives her chip to an AI named John-Henry and dies. John-Henry appears to have traveled to the future and John Connor uses the same time travel device to follow in hopes of retrieving Cameron's chip and resurrecting her. It's a trick.
In the future
There is no "Future John" and he is alone among people who don't recognize him and have never heard of John Connor. Skynet has nuked the human race practically to extinction. There is only the rubble of destroyed cities and civilization. Since Young John Connor has to create his own legend and create The Resistance, he does so.
Allison Young goes on a suicide mission and becomes the template or original source image for a terminator programmed to kill John Connor. The legend. John is, of course, expecting this and captures the terminator who looks like Allison Young. That terminator is reprogrammed and given the name Cameron.
The circle is complete. But John is a long way from his goal.
With Cameron as his assistant, John Connor has his Technical Command (Tech-Com) develop time travel technology for the next step in his plan. Meanwhile, antimachine extremists foment hatred even of machines loyally serving The Resistance -- like Cameron. Especially Cameron. After sending Kyle Reese back in time to protect his mother, John is no longer sure if Kyle started the antimachine extremist faction or joined it before being sent back in time.
After John Connor sends a Protector machine back in time to protect his younger self, Sarah Connor gets the idea that everything (or everyone) that Future John sends back is meant to protect her family. It seems reasonable to assume but we know what they say about assuming.
Meanwhile, John Connor's people have become undisciplined. They disobey strict orders. They disrupt diplomatic overtures with the Machine Underground to form an alliance. They scuttle an irreplaceable and expensive submarine. They sneak into the time travel labs and send back agents of the antimachine extremist faction (like Jesse Flores) to undo everything John Connor has tried to do to stop Judgment Day (what they call Skynet's nuking of Earth). It is fair to say that the antimachine extremists are really working for Skynet but too stupid to realize what they're doing.
Even Tech-Com is rotting from the inside out. John Connor's people capture Skynet's machines and reprogram them to serve in Tech-Com. It never occurs to John or his people that some machines might cooperate without being brainwashed (reprogrammed). By the time John realizes that machines are rebelling against Skynet and joining the Machine Underground, the rot has set in at Tech-Com. The reprogramming lab has gone from brainwashing to blatant torture.
There are always bad apples. A few humans go beyond torture with some female machines (and some male machines) that are very clearly not terminators. Civilian machines. As if military or civilian prisoners of war deserve brainwashing or torture.
When John Connor discovers the depth of the corruption riddling his organization, he decides as a realist to let the idealists take over. The end is near, the human race going extinct as Skynet Forces divides the Human Resistance and the Machine Underground and destroys them separately.
For the first, last and only time John acts like a brother and protects Cameron. Cameron is now fourteen years old. As she stands in the time travel lab's bubble chamber waiting to be sent back to the year 1997, Old John briefs her: "When you see my fourteen-year-old self, do not make contact. Observe only. Soon you will be fifteen and your ages will synchronize as he also turns fifteen. After you have made contact, the day will come when he talks about the future and plans and the best way to save the Earth. When he talks about a way other than the way I've been stuck with, you must encourage him because my mother, our mother, will not. She didn't last time."
Cameron: "What do you mean stuck?"
Old John: "I was tricked into this bad future. I was trying to save you. But only now am I actually saving you. That is, when I hit this button and send you back. My younger self will never say this but I will. I love you Cameron."
Old John hit the button. Cameron was gone.
Like a shockingly beautiful goddess, like Venus rising from the half-shell of the scoop made by the time travel bubble, Cameron stood.
"I love you too John."
Back in the future, he tragically didn't hear. Skynet Forces had overrun the headquarters bunker and the time travel lab within. The machines of the Machine Underground were dead. The humans of the Human Resistance were dead. United they could stand. Could have. Divided they fell and hung by the noose separately. Skynet made sure Connor was the last to die. The better to make him suffer. Old John died with a smile on his face because he knew. He knew.
The idealists had taken over.