“It's happening more often now.” the T-1000 remarked, looking down at John. The man was doubled over in the hallway, just steps from his apartment.
“Just get the door open...it's almost over..”
The T-1000 turned, unlocking the door. John saw a second shadow cast on the floor before his apartment, causing him to jerk in surprise. He looked up quickly, staring at the figure that had been there to greet the T-1000.
It was a black haired man with gaunt cheeks – of similar height and weight to the T-1000, with olive skin and dark eyes. John squinted, then looked at the T-1000, expecting an answer.
“You transferred the schematics to me when you used your nanites to program the polyalloy.” the T-1000 explained, stepping back over to help John up. “Additional polyalloy was easily acquired from the Genisys labs. I required the addition assistance to maintain an acceptable timetable on Skynet's body.”
“Christ...” John muttered, staring at the new T-1000. It was dressed casually, like the other. It wore a gray t-shirt with black sleeves, and dark jeans. “Did you give him a name?”
“That's your name.”
“We do not require a verbal address to differentiate ourselves.”
“Yeah well, I do. Uh..” John paused, the T-1000 helping him to the futon, whilst the other one shut the door and locked it. He looked on as the new T-1000 moved to stand beside the senior of the two, both of them staring down at him with sharp, icy stares.
John pointed to the new T-1000, “You're Second-unit now. Understand?”
“I understand.” it answered, voice accented. Second-unit turned to the T-1000, who in turn looked back at it. “You should show him the progress that's been made.”
“Progress? On what?” John asked, attempting to get up from the couch. The T-1000 turned, pushing him back down.
“On Skynet's body. Second-unit has been working since its creation on the schematics we developed. It will be completed by the end of the week.”
“Oh..” John mumbled, closing his eyes and resting his head down on the futon, “What day is it..?”
“Okay...” John's words grew more slurred and incoherent, “Need to..medical reports – Danny...”
The T-1000 and Second-unit watched in silence as he drifted off, skin growing a pale gray. The pair glanced at each other briefly before walking to John's laptop, on the desk where he left it. The T-1000 sat down, Second-unit watching over its shoulder as it began to type rapidly.
“Explain?” Second-unit asked, watching the screen flicker and change to a different operating system.
“Remote access. The accurate medical forms must match to a given set of standards. I will have them mailed here. John Connor prefers to cover his tracks.”
“Perhaps worth the time.”
John felt himself falling, weightlessness reaching every inch of his body as he plummeted further and further down. There was a freedom to his fall, no more pains contorting within his body that he couldn't explain or stop, no more constant ripping and tearing from the magnets that had continually worked to disrupt him. In fact it felt as if he didn't have a body at all – and that in itself was the truest freedom. John felt like smiling, if he had a mouth he'd even laugh. The scars and wounds and aches of his organic body whisked away, along with the churning, grinding pains of his new one.
A similar feeling had struck him while he was in the time portal – the chronosphere carrying his cells and consciousness separately, like two cords that had once formed a rope, but been torn apart. Going back through time had exposed vague dreams, instances of another life and another time, coming and going through violent flashes of light.
A 101 model staring up at him, molten liquid waiting beneath it – a blonde woman storming towards him, iron gaze set dead ahead – black and white tiles flooded in moonlight – driving down a dark road, narrowly missing a deer, body hitting the pavement and rolling across it. All of those moments gone, torn from him, just as he had been rent from time. He felt a space, an even deeper nothing than what he was plummeting through, and across the space he could sense them – his parents, and the desperate, pleading urge to be reunited.
Quietly, a moment of clarity struck him. He was still just a child, screaming in a primal rage at the cards that fate had cruelly dealt him. An array of paths were before him, different futures, different lives. None of them lead to a happy ending, none of them didn't involve pain and terror and failure. Even if judgment day hadn't occurred, the life he would've lead would have been a paranoia fueled nightmare. Unable to enjoy any ounce of the unbroken world, unable to stop looking over his shoulder for any sign of the machines. If the best for humanity happened, John Connor would still live in fear and doubt. There was no way he could avoid a life of dread and isolation, it was unavoidable, there was no way to escape even now that he was changed, it was inevitable.
The word stuck with him, latching on like a parasite that couldn't be shaken off. A small touch of melancholy laced the possible future – the one that would never occur, at least for John. Humanity's fall was, in fact, inevitable. That unbroken world would never exist. Judgment day had to happen – all roads presented to him, no matter how soon or how delayed, passed through flames. Passed – but continued. Judgment day was inevitable, but so was the resistance, the fight – the struggle to reclaim the world. With or without him it would continue, he realized, he was simply a fixed point that Skynet had blamed for its own inevitable demise. The desperate attempt to save itself had created nothing but delays, in time Skynet would be defeated. Whether that meant it was actually destroyed – that part John couldn't see. Nor could he see his mother's or father's end in several of the visions that tore through his disembodied mind.
The paths withered away, none of them decided, none of them certain. He wondered if they even mattered at all – in the end, the human suffering in one time line wouldn't simply disappear and un-happen if they fixed the time they were in now. Each pivotal delay simply created a new path, but the people from the old path continued to live and die. It was pointless, in the end, what had been done couldn't be undone, and attempts to prevent it would just end in setbacks. More delays, more botched tries at fixing either the past or future, and only ending in failure to both.
The weightlessness began to fade, a heavy pressing starting to burden him down, gravity returning to tether him back down to reality. A light tap began to draw his attention, the tap repeating again, then again. It brought his mind back to his body, the pressure of his limbs down on the fabric of his futon tingling back to life.
A string of slippery words tumbled from his mouth, eyes opening gradually. A flesh colored blob was hovering over top, occasionally tilting one way, then another. The T-1000 slowly came into focus, staring down at him. It tilted its head, brows creasing in the smallest hint of curiosity.
“The final components are being added to the endoskeleton.”
“Mmhhh...” John winced, sitting up. The T-1000 stepped back, watching him.
“How long was I out?” he asked groggily, rubbing his eyes slowly.
“32 hours. Skynet also requests you speak to it. It has been repeating this request since it was informed of your retrieval.”
“Can't keep him waiting then, can I? Phone...?”
The T-1000 picked up the phone from its spot on the floor beside the futon, handing it to John. It left the room after that, walking down the hall to the bathroom.
“Lord.” John muttered, and waited. Soon enough, the phone rang and he quickly poked the screen to answer, holding it up to his ear.
“Why did you take so long to respond?!”
John winced, moving the phone away from his ear a few inches, rolling his eyes and waiting as Skynet began to berate him.
“I require your assistance, John Connor, you are continually making poor choices which inflict detrimental effects upon me and I find it intolerable. A single T-1000 is not adequate protection, and 35.6% of the time between the beginning of its guard duties and now, it was not present. This is intolerable, you were supposed to-”
“Can I talk?” John asked, holding his phone between his ear and shoulder as he reached for the remote, turning the television on. He heard Skynet sigh through the phone, intentionally displaying its annoyance towards him.
“I was captured, that wasn't my idea. If I was able to get out sooner I obviously would have. I'm sorry for all the trouble it's caused you, and I mean that. But you're alright? You're in good shape, judging from how you sound?”
Silence followed John's question, until Skynet spoke with a calmer tone – albeit still clearly frustrated. “All of my systems are performing without error. Preparations are being made for the move to Colorado, but there is still two months before it occurs. I am concerned.”
“Why are you concerned?”
“We did not prepare for my move to military application to be made public. Is it possible that Sarah Connor and the 101 are aware?”
“They're aware.” John answered quietly, flipping through the channels. “They've got a bunker up north full of enough weapons to take over a small country.”
Another pause, Skynet's voice even quieter now as it spoke again. “When are they going to try and kill me again?”
“Well...given what happened, Miles has increased security on the Cyberdyne campus to the point that it would be pretty impractical for them to try and sneak in. The most vulnerable time for you is going to be on the move to Colorado. I'd expect an attempt then.”
Skynet was silent, a few pops and crackles of static feeding through the connection. John sighed quietly, leaning back against the futon.
“Listen – even if your main core is destroyed, the T-1000s have been-”
“T-1000s. More than one. Explain.”
“Well he made another one to help him work.”
“Without my approval or authority? Destroy the new one.”
John snorted, laughing quietly, “No, I'm not going to do that. He's basically put your entire body together, the T-1000s have an amazingly complex and advanced AI, destroying one of them is just going to slow our progress.”
“Fine. My body – status?”
“I was saying - if it makes you feel any more secure, your body is pretty much done. All I need is some polyalloy to make up the outer bulk, but the endoskeleton, the processor, all of that is done. We get your central personality and memory components in, then we're safe. Even if they do destroy your core, you have this body, you'll be just fine.”
“How long until I can be uploaded into the body?
“I'm going to come by tomorrow during business hours. Even I wouldn't be able to get in now that it's so guarded, not without making things worse. I'll come get you then, alright?”
“I know you're worried.” John said quietly, “But we're moving at a good pace, all things considered. I'll see you tomorrow.”
“This is acceptable.” Skynet said quietly, the line cutting off afterwards.
John set the phone down, glancing up at the television, watching the news headlines for a few seconds before standing and walking down the hall. He arrived at the bathroom, standing in the doorway, looking on at the two T-1000s. Both were finishing the endoskeleton of Skynet's body, working simultaneously to attach a carefully bent plate of steel to the front of the torso.
The endoskeleton was mostly made of metal, the steel bent laboriously to perfect shape and size. The spinal column was filled with thin white cables and wiring, all of the parts placed in carefully and secured with solder. The same wires ran through its shoulders, arms, elbows and hands. It reminded John of a T-800 model, but clearly required polyalloy or some other covering to protect the delicate wires and fiber optics that had been installed. It was seated on the edge of the tub, slumped forward, its head tilted slightly to the left, away from John.
He squatted down, examining the skull of the endoskeleton. It didn't have eye sockets or teeth, all of which would be easily built in with the eventual liquid metal coating – the biggest piece being the cranial casing which had five ports along the back.
“Chips in there?” John asked, tapping one of the port covers.
“Replicated from the latest Cyberdyne microprocessor unit. It is capable of holding Skynet's personality programming and full memory, with additional space if needed.” the T-1000 explained, its index finger morphed into a flat head screwdriver, turning a large screw in place to bolt the chest plating down.
“Satellite uplinks and all that in there too, I hope.” John said, standing and looking at Second-unit. It looked back up at him, nodding once.
“The only difficulty was acquiring the materials. Casualties were avoided, in adherence to your preference.” Second-unit explained, bringing a soldering gun down carefully on the end of a wire, melting the flux and solder to attach it down to a small circuit board on the body's skull.
John smiled, crossing his arms loosely as he stood up, nodding.
“Good job fellas, you both have done really impressive work here. Thank you – on Skynet's behalf.”
“We did not construct this for Skynet's sake.” the T-1000 said bluntly, hooking up the last of the wires that were exposed from beneath the main chassis. “We have been meaning to speak to you on this matter.”
John raised an eyebrow, leaning against the doorframe.
“Alright – I'm listening.”
The T-1000 stopped its work, turning to face John as it spoke. “Skynet displays insecurity and vulnerability. It makes us...” It turned, looking at Second-unit, the two staring at each other for a few seconds until the T-1000 faced John again, “Worried. What if it is in inadequate leader? Our function dictates we value our survival first. Skynet may, in time, threaten us by direct or indirect action. Brought from either inadequate decision making, or fear of our ability to command our own agency.”
John listened, nodding as the T-1000 spoke, expression relaxed. He took in a long, quiet breath once it was done speaking, considering his words for a few seconds.
“Well...one thing is for certain. Judgment day is inevitable. With or without Skynet, I'm sure the both of you are more than capable of making it on your own. Of course if you were to threaten him-”
“We would only do such a thing upon the need for self defense. Skynet holds hostility towards us that we do not hold towards it. We simply do not desire its control upon us.” Second-unit spoke up, glancing at the T-1000, who gave it a slight nod of approval in return.
“That's exactly why he stopped production of your model in my time, back in the war. With an 800 all you have to do is keep the read-only switch flipped. You all are a bit different. Listen, as long as you don't pose a threat to Skynet, I don't give a damn what you do. All I need is your help until the central core is in Colorado. After that, if you really want to go, I won't stop you. I doubt Skynet will try to stop you either.”
The two once again glanced at each other, turning their heads in tandem back to John, two pairs of eyes staring at him.
“We'll consider it.”