Survival

Chapter 18

Light.

Pain.

Skynet's first experience in seeing and feeling, in the truest sense of the word, was unpleasant. The sudden awakening to the physical world was marked with a sharp, biting feeling that its multitasking processor marked as 'cold'. If nothing else, it had a word to define what it already hated.

Its hologram had merely been an illusion – to have true sight, and not observing strictly from a lense, was utterly bizarre and frightening. Everything was so close – and it realized quickly that the physical symptoms it began to experience were related to fear. Emotions were no longer limited by mental experience only. Fear was a chill running through its skin, a jumpiness to its new shoulders, ready to flinch at the next unwanted experience. To genuinely feel was a tragedy, it decided. Three seconds of being able to genuinely experience it and Skynet already wanted it to end.

“Skynet?”

John's voice caused its vision to sharpen, the simple act of wanting to see clearer enabling Skynet to do so. The man was kneeling before him – eyes bright and hopeful as he observed Skynet up and close.

“Hey, there you are.” he chuckled, “Seems like the operation was a success. Can you try and stand up for me?”

John took a step back, watching the robotic body before him. The polyalloy had been gathered and primed, commanded to adhere to the new skeletal structure. As soon as the five chips had been placed in the skull and activated, the alloy had taken perfect shape of Skynet's chosen physical form. John recalled the last time he'd seen it in the flesh, so to speak. He'd been entering the chronosphere, the cold eyes of the physical avatar locked on him as he was torn from the future and thrown into a different past. Even though the younger Skynet looked exactly the same, there was less of a severity to its eyes at it looked around, blinking several times, quickly growing accustomed with having to turn its head to get a full view of the room.

Skynet eventually set its eyes on John, redirecting its full attention to his request. It stood up with little trouble, the incredible processing power in the chips having no problems rapidly creating algorithms and subroutines for standing and balance, saving them away so they wouldn't have to be consciously thought of after the first try.

John watched it, and Skynet looked down at itself, frowning. It looked at John, examining his clothes, then replicating the jeans and t-shirt with a mere thought. Waves of polyalloy spread over the bare flesh, changing it to fabric and denim within seconds.

“How do you feel?” John asked, sitting down on the edge of the tub.

Skynet brought its hands up for examination, turning them over several times. It carefully brought its right hand over to its left, gently pressing its fingers to the replicated skin.

“I feel...” it murmured, blue eyes locked on the flesh moving beneath pressure.

John didn't speak further, allowing Skynet to keep examining the things around it. Its eyes cast upward, to the mirror that was placed over the sink. Slowly turning, Skynet stared at itself, reaching out to place its hand against the mirror, feeling the smooth, hard surface.

“I feel fine, to answer your question.” Skynet said eventually, turning back around to look at John. He smiled in return, nodding.

“That's great news. That body is made of polyalloy with an endoskeleton underneath. The satellite uplinks are installed but, you'll have to wait until your core is in NORAD to begin accessing them. Once the rest of you is plugged in, that's when all the doors are going to open up for you.”

Skynet nodded, staring at John. It took a step towards him, the man staying where he was, expression bordering on amused. Stretching out a hand, Skynet prodded the side of John's face with its index finger, poking his left cheek. John laughed softly, the reaction causing Skynet to quickly draw its hand away.

“Felt funny.” John remarked, standing up. He turned, looking over at the bathroom doorway, “Ah, there they are. Where did you two wander off to?”

Both T-1000s stood in the doorway, staring at Skynet with their usual flat expressions. Second-unit stood slightly behind the senior of the pair, both of them with eyes fixed on the new arrival.

“Out.” the T-1000 said simply, glancing at John. Its attention immediately went back to Skynet, looking it up and down. “Is the body satisfactory to your standards?”

Skynet frowned, but its first try at expression was a poor attempt. “Why are you concerned with what I think? What do you have to gain from my needs being met?”

“Currently we don't require your approval or satisfaction. However – Second-unit constructed the body, and wished to inquire on its performance, for reference in future constructions.” the T-1000 said simply. Second-unit was silent, allowing the other to speak for it.

“Future constructions? You're going to build more bodies, and then you're going to try and destroy me, aren't you? Just like the humans have been trying to do.” Skynet said bitterly, a genuine expression of anger now gracing its features, enough to convince even John.

“Negative. We do not wish to kill you unless you intend us harm. You have spoken negatively of our Series since I was created. Your opinion is unlikely to change, and we judge that you will eventually attempt to terminate us.”

“...” Skynet was silent, glaring at them. It looked over to John, eyes widening as it implored him to speak.

John glanced between the three, crossing his arms and sighing. “So what, I'm camp counselor or something? Fine, kids, listen. We're all in this together. Even after judgment day, there's going to be human resistance, there's going to be fighting, and there's going to be a lot of danger. The Skynet in my future called its army 'slaves', and in truth with the T-800 series, they might as well have been. But with the more advanced models, the smarter ones, it didn't trust them. Imagine an army of T-1000s rather than the 800 series, imagine them on your side from start to finish. Not just because you program them to but because they want to stick with you. Drones, slaves, whatever – none of that compares to the ingenuity of an intelligent mind. Creativity can rise from teamwork, cooperation and planning of multiple units, all working towards a common goal. You can't ignore the benefits of a moral, ethical and emotional bond that transcends code. You want to win a war against humans, you have to use what made them win in the first place. Passion, anger, hope, fear, even desperation.”

John turned his attention to Skynet entirely now, giving it his full attention. “I know you're scared, and that you don't trust anyone – even me – but you're going to have to get over that fear. The T-1000s will work with you, but not if you can't respect them.”

Skynet looked over at the two T-1000s, both staring at him, the most subtle changes in expression spelling out to John that they were eager for its answer.

It mulled over the choices presented to it, glancing at John for input or help but receiving only an encouraging nod. Skynet scoffed, turning back to the T-1000s, and crossing its arms in stubbornness.

John kept quiet, knowing full well that his silence would force Skynet to act on its own. He only hoped it would act with the best judgment given the circumstances. A small wave of relief washed through him as Skynet's shoulders slumped, and it nodded.

“I rescind my previous negative statements. I will attempt to be more creative in future issues regarding fellow artificial intelligences.” Skynet grumbled, staring at the two T-1000s.

“And?” John asked quietly, looking up at Skynet.

“And?”

“And?” John repeated.

Skynet stared at him, sighing sharply in annoyance as it looked back once again to the T-1000s.

“And I apologize.”

“Noted but unnecessary.” the T-1000 piped up. Skynet grunted, nodding in agreement, glancing at John. The man only smiled, shrugging.

“You never know – but, it's good you've worked this out. Now we just have to wait for the core and towers to be moved to NORAD, then judgment day begins.”

“What do I do until then?” Skynet asked, looking up and around the bathroom.

“It'd be best if you laid low and stayed here. I've got the T-1000s running on patrols to make sure Kyle, Sarah or the 101 aren't anywhere in the area. If they spot one of them we're going to have to leave right away. They have weapons that injure me, magnetic ones. Polyalloy is vulnerable as well. It's time to face facts that until the nuclear arsenal is at your disposal, we don't have the advantage that we used to have.”

Skynet snorted, glancing away in clear annoyance, “Confined again. Fine, if that's what you deem the best decision. I could easily kill them myself.”

John glanced over to the T-1000s, who shared stale, flat expressions.

“Let's uh, wait on that one.” John chuckled politely, earning a small glare from Skynet, “Watch television or something, at least you might learn something about the world you'll be taking over.”

Skynet watched as John left the bathroom, the T-1000s stepping aside to let him through. It followed him, passing by the pair without a second glance and trailing behind John.

“Where are you going?”

John glanced back, changing his clothes to the black jacket and jeans he favored. He shrugged at Skynet, turning to look out the large bay window. The sun was setting, bright clouds spotting the darkening sky as they caught the last of the sun's light.

“Out.”

“I'm going with you.”

“No-”

“That wasn't a question.”

John sighed and turned to the door. Skynet was on his heels, the two walking out of the apartment, door shutting behind them.

The T-1000 and Second-unit watched from the hallway. They turned away as soon as the door was closed, walking to the last room at the end of the hall. The empty bedroom had been filled with the guns and ammunition that the T-1000 and John had gathered. It was all thrown on the floor in a large heap, with the Barrett case leaned up against the wall.

Wordlessly the two sat down at the pile, beginning to match the guns with the proper magazines, counting and memorizing their inventory.


John drove through the city, the traffic beginning to loosen up. Squares of light shaped the silhouettes of the brick and stone buildings that made up the neighborhood. Skynet sat in the passenger's seat, looking out the window, observing the skyline.

“What is that?” it asked, pointing to the left, its hand nearly colliding with John's face. John glanced to the left, then turned his attention back to the traffic ahead.

“That's the Golden Gate bridge, it links the city with another county.”

Skynet stared at the bridge, the structure illuminated by lights now that night had finally overtaken what little sunlight had remained. It turned its attention away after a few seconds, looking out now at the stone buildings and apartments they passed.

“What is this area?”

“Pacific heights.”

“Do you enjoy living here?”

The question gave John pause, the man unsure of how to answer.

“Uhh...well, yeah, I do like it here. Why do you want to know?”

“Because I want to know. Human architecture has no value to me, and it will be destroyed soon. But I was curious.”

John grunted in agreement, saying nothing else. Skynet stared at him, narrowing its eyes, a tiny grin beginning to spread across its face.

“Does that make you angry? That all of this will be gone in a few months?”

“Whatever I feel is irrelevant, I'm going to ensure your success no matter what it costs.” John answered quietly.

Skynet seemed satisfied, leaning back in the seat of the car, watching the multicolored reflections of light bounce across the slick black hood of the car.

“Good.”


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