Survival

Chapter 14

Kyle slowly opened the door to the room John was in. The former man was still curled up on the floor, unable to move past the magnetic rings. A pool of black resin was spreading out beneath him, slowly being pulled to the magnets. It leaked from his mouth and nostrils, as well as pooling from large open wounds that had formed along his torso. John didn't bother looking up as Kyle came in the room, staring ahead silently.

“You woke me up.” Kyle said quietly, closing the door behind him. “Sarah won't even sleep in here anymore because of all the noise you make.”

“What makes it easier for you?” John asked quietly, voice distorted by the resin that leaked out from between his lips.

“Hell John, you should know. How many people did we have to listen to while they were dying? I can't remember a year of my life when those kinds of sounds weren't there.”

Kyle walked towards the outermost ring, sitting down beside it, watching John. He crossed his arms, resting his elbows on his knees. John tilted his head up just slightly so he could stare at the other, hands brought in tight against his chest.

“I didn't want you to have to go through that. I never wanted any of it.” John mumbled, pausing afterwards to spit out a glob of resin that had gotten stuck in his mouth. It flew through the air, immediately sucked against the magnetic ring, joining the thick black coating made up of billions of nanite corpses.

Kyle frowned, leaning forward, the zipper of his open jacket being tugged towards the ring he sat next to, “John, that's – you don't have to say that, I know you didn't want that for me. Listen, I would've done the same thing, if I'd been where you were. I would've made the same choices if it meant I would be born because people needed me.”

“You're sure?” John asked in return, “Kyle, how could you possibly begin to comprehend what it is to manipulate someone their entire life just so they can die?”

“Did you ever ask your mother that about her own kid?”

John's expression dropped, and he snorted. “She did everything that she needed to do, she did the best with what was given to her.”

“By raising you from birth to be a soldier? You know, I've been watching the news, apparently in this day and age that's frowned upon. She couldn't have just tried to find a different way? A way that didn't involve you sacrificing your childhood?”

“She did what she thought was the best! She didn't know if another way would work! Billions of lives were at stake in her mind, Kyle, anyone faced with that would've done anything to try and make it right!”

“But it's fair for you to blame yourself for what you did? Like you were given any other option except what Sarah raised you with. As if somehow you would just stop and think one day 'maybe this entire time, everything I've been taught my entire life was just one of many options'. You weren't given that option, John. None of us were. Judgment day happened in our world and without the sacrifices that Sarah made, that you made, none of us would've lived to see Skynet fall.”

John stared at him for a few moments, resin pooling on the side of his mouth closest to the floor. “What makes you so sure, Kyle? If I hadn't been there, someone else would've. Someone else would've been there to lead.”

“Why the sudden revelation? When you were pissed off a while back it sounded like you were bitter at being chosen.”

“Because I've come to realize that this obsession placed on me from Skynet was born out of one thing – misunderstanding. The Skynet we fought couldn't do anything but see the biggest fly in its face and try to swat it. It didn't understand that a new fly would just buzz in its place a few minutes later. By sending the Terminator back all it did was give Sarah the tool of foresight. If it hadn't been so reactionary, the world would be a lot different. But now we're caught in this loop, and this timeline's Skynet won't make the same mistake. I'll make sure it won't make the same mistakes.”

“Now who's feeling self important all of a sudden.”

“I'm much more important to Skynet than I was to the resistance.”

Kyle leaned back, setting his weight on his palms as he supported himself, “How do you feel about that?”

John raised a brow, looking at Kyle strangely. “What?”

“How do you feel about it?”

“Are you going to play machine therapist with me?”

“No, I just – John, I really want to know how you feel about Skynet!” Kyle exclaimed, nodding at the other. John shook his head, looking away as he answered slowly.

“I feel...I suppose how I feel about Skynet is how I used to feel about you, when you were younger. I wanted to do anything to protect you, keep you from harm...give you a good life. I didn't want the years you had to be wasted because I knew they'd end soon.”

Kyle stared at John, blinking quickly before scoffing, turning away. “And now that's what you feel for this machine? This is what it's fucking done to you John, and I know you can't help it, but this is what it's done! It's turned everything that was amazing and good and noble about you and twisted them to center around itself. It's a tumor that's taken everything you were so it can grow. This whole thing is sick.”

John simply watched the other man slam his hand down against the cement floor in frustration. Kyle shook his head, standing, pacing back and forth in front of the magnetic rings. He found himself at a loss for what to do or say – and the most frustrating thing of all was that he knew he was powerless for now.

“Still have that temper of yours.” John remarked quietly, watching Kyle, “You really need to learn how to go through situations calmly.”

“So what, you're not above giving me advice? You suddenly give a shit?” Kyle asked, pausing and turning to look down at John. He was visibly upset, eyes reddened and wet, nose starting to run.

“I wouldn't have gone through that charade at the Hospital if I didn't still care. But when you wouldn't listen I didn't have a ch-”

“I know. I get it.” Kyle snapped. John kept quiet after that, letting Kyle pace and fume in his anger and tears.

Kyle crossed his arms tightly, trying to sniffle as quietly as possible. To hear what John had said, concerning just how much he'd cared about him growing up in a living hell, and then to have it twisted to center around Skynet was too much acid in the already enormous wound.

“It'll be alright, Kyle.”

Hearing those words brought Kyle back to his childhood, instances returning when John had said those words to him. Once, kneeling down, comforting him when the dog John owned had been unlucky enough to get caught in the crossfire of a T-600. Another time, Kyle's first botched mission, his whole squadron slaughtered. He'd hidden underneath a pile of rubble from a downed drone until John's platoon had swept the area clean. A pair of arms had hauled him out from the wreckage and repeated those words until he'd reached the triage tent.

A wave of disgust followed the memories, and he turned, glaring at John.

“How can you say that? It'll be alright? It'll be alright!? If judgment day doesn't happen, you're still going to die! Either humanity is fucked or you're fucked and...well...” Kyle paused, looking over at John, expression softening. “I guess you're fucked either way.”

“Language.”

“Sorry.”

Kyle paused, doing a double take at John, smiling bitterly as he sat back down at the edge of the third ring.

“How's it going to be alright, John?” he asked, getting comfortable on the cement floor. “Tell me how this all is going to be okay in the end. Because right now, it looks like you're going to be stuck here and we're going to destroy Skynet, permanently, or die trying. And then you're still going to be stuck here and die anyway.”

“Out of curiosity,” John said quietly, closing his eyes. “How long have I been here? I've been putting myself in standby mode.”

“That's what that was? I thought you were having a seizure or something. Machines can't have seizures but, the robot equivalent. You've been in standby on and off for about two weeks.”

“What happened to my cell phone?”

“Your...oh. It kept ringing after the first week, we shut it off.”

“Kyle I need you to do something for me.”

“I'm not giving you your cell phone.”

John shook his head, attempting to sit up, just able to support his upper body on his elbows. “No, I just want you to send a message to someone for me. To a friend of mine.”

“You have friends?” Kyle asked, cynicism clear in his voice.

“One friend. He's worried about me. I don't want him to worry.”

Kyle shook his head, staring at John the entire time. “You know I can't let you do that. It could be code words or some signal for help, you know I can't let you. Why even bother asking?”

John lowered himself back down to the cement, magnets tugging at the edges of his hands, some skin pulled from the silver flesh just beneath it. He shook his head a little bit, closing his eyes and folding his arms inward once more.

“I don't know.”

Kyle watched him for a while longer before standing and leaving, closing the heavy door behind him. He paced around the compound, Sarah and Pops having left to do a supply run hours ago. Sarah estimated they would be gone for two days, and had seemed hesitant to leave Kyle alone again for so long. Kyle knew they had been at odds lately, but he also knew that her concern wasn't based on if she could trust him. He had seen her throw worried glances at him every time John had snapped out of his standby to howl and scream. She would quietly trail him every time he'd been unable to deal with the awful sounds and left to go outside. Sarah trusted him, and Kyle was grateful for it. He made a mental note to thank her later, in whatever small way he could.

He continued to walk around in a daze, checking the tiny, old fridge they kept by the television. He sighed loudly upon seeing the contents, swinging the door shut afterwards.

Out of milk. Again.

“Damnit Sarah...”

Sighing in defeat to finding anything better, he grabbed a box of chocolaty cereal that was standing on the top of the fridge, walking back to the room John was held in as he began to eat from it.

Upon shutting the door, Kyle elected to sit against the wall rather than get up close to the magnetics. John raised his head slightly, looking over at Kyle, squinting.

“What are you eating?”

Kyle paused, raising the box so John could read the name of the cereal. He shook the box back and forth a few times, the cereal swishing quietly in the box. John grunted, resting his head back down and closing his eyes. A few minutes of silence passed until Kyle spoke up quietly.

“John?”

“Yeah?”

“Can I just stay in here for a while?”

“Of course.”

Kyle just nodded, continuing to eat. He stared up at the ceiling, sighing as he relaxed back against the wall.


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