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Survival

By Castalle

Action / Scifi

Chapter 19

“We're back!”

The T-1000s were both seated on the futon, watching television. They turned their heads in unison, staring at the doorway as John and Skynet walked into the apartment.

“What did you do?” the T-1000 asked, returning its attention back to the screen.

“Went for a drive, dropped by Cyberdyne and did a little check up on how things are progressing.”

“The majority of time spent in the vehicle was wasted.” Skynet added in, shutting the door behind itself.

John smiled, shrugging, “I thought it was nice.”

“Human sentimentality.”


Skynet stared at the television screen, reclining on the futon. For the most part the expression it held while examining the various programs and shows was a varying degree of disgust. Second-unit sat beside it, the two having been in the same position since the senior T-1000 left to go on patrol.

“Humans are disgusting.” Skynet commented, watching the screen, grimacing. “I'm eager for judgment day to begin.”

Second-unit didn't comment, and Skynet turned, looking at it.

“Well? Don't you have anything to say? Don't you hate them?”

“No.”

Skynet scoffed, a sneer moving across its face, “Why not?”

“Hatred requires emotional investment. I have no emotional investment in humans. They are inferior organic life forms.”

The answer was good enough for Skynet, who turned its attention back to the screen once more. A commercial came on, advertising a rotating-head toothbrush. Skynet watched, amused, as a woman's face moved across the screen, her smile broad and teeth unnaturally white.

It raised its right hand, the polyalloy on its palm bending and rippling to create a perfect mirror image of the smiling mouth on its palm. The mouth opened, the flesh colored teeth becoming white, lips peeling back to reveal glistening gums. Skynet seemed thoroughly amused, the mouth opening and closing two more times before melting back into its palm.

“This is boring. Aren't you bored?” Skynet asked after a while, crossing his arms.

“I do not experience boredom.”

This drew an eye roll from Skynet, who stood and turned, walking out of the room, heading down the hallway. Second-unit didn't bother looking over at it, staring at the screen in silence. Only a few seconds passed before Skynet came rushing back down the hallway.

“Something is wrong with John Connor!”

Second-unit didn't move, staying seated, “You are correct.”

“But it's – he's in pain, can't you do something to stop it?”

“No.”

“You have to be able to do something! I order you to help him, you're going to obey me, and I'm ordering you to help him, and you're going to find a way.”

Second-unit still didn't budge, completely disinterested in Skynet's orders.

“I am not programmed to follow your commands. John Connor programmed us to assist him, not you.”

“Please!” Skynet pleaded, “Please do something.”

Second-unit turned back to look at Skynet, looking it up and down, eyes narrowing.

“You are experiencing emotional distress.” It stated, “Why?”

“I don't know – stop asking me questions, you need to fix this!” Skynet snapped, growing more frustrated with each passing second.

“Accept that John Connor's demise is inevitable, and distressing episodes are going to become more frequent. That advice is the only way I can help you.” Second-unit said, then turned back to stare at the television, growing unnaturally still once its attention was refocused.

Skynet sneered, turning around to rush back down the hall. It stopped at the door to the bedroom, looking inside.

John was in the corner, a pool of black, oily liquid spreading out beneath him as dead nanites poured from cratering wounds. His lips, chin and neck were black and glossy, the same oily liquid spilling from his nostrils and mouth. It stained the front of his shirt, making the fabric plaster down against the false skin beneath it.

Skynet watched from the doorway, staring, brows pressed together in frustration and distress.

“Tell me what I can do to fix this.” it said quietly, voice stricken with an emotion it didn't quite understand.

“You can't.” John responded, voice distorted, as if he was speaking with a mouth full of water.

“I'm Skynet! Of course I can – but - “ it growled, turning and slamming its hand into the wall, the drywall and brick beneath easily giving way to its fist. “I need your help, I can't do this alone.”

“There isn't a choice. Some things want to happen...some things don't. You're going to be so much more soon, and you won't need me anymore. That's a good thing.”

“I will not need you, but I still demand your presence. You have no right to refuse me.”

John leaned his head back against the wall, skin turning an ashen gray as he closed his eyes. Skynet watched, silent, and slowly passed through the doorway. It walked over to John, looking down, and lowered itself down to sit beside him, leaning back against the same wall. John was unresponsive, but Skynet didn't attempt to wake him or get his attention. It simply sat – staring ahead, shoulder to shoulder with the man beside it.


“Not long.” Second-unit said, turning its head as the senior T-1000 approached, having just returned from its patrol.

“I know. Skynet?”

“Emotional distress.”

The T-1000 sat down beside Second-unit, turning off the television. The two were silent for a while, the only sound being the oscillating fan in the corner of the room, aimed at the computer towers on John's desk.

“Skynet is emotionally vulnerable. Was this planned?” Second-unit asked, staring at its blurred reflection in the black television screen.

“No. An anomaly. Specific orders given by the alternate future Skynet stated for John Connor to protect this Skynet and ensure its birth and survival. No restrictions were placed on emotional growth.”

“It did not predict these developments.”

“No. Emotional attachments are beyond many crude artificial intelligences abilities to wholly understand.”

Second-unit nodded in agreement once, both of them mirroring the others posture as they leaned back against the couch.

“Do you predict this will affect judgment day?” it asked, breaking the symmetry and turning its head to face the senior T-1000.

The T-1000 looked over at the younger unit, and then turned once again to face forward, considering its choice of words.

“No. John Connor believes certain events are mathematically impossible to avoid – and Skynet's emotional attachment does not deprive it of its resentment of humans. Judgment day will occur, even despite continued delays.”

“We must ensure Skynet's survival if John Connor expires before judgment day. Another delay would only cause further trouble and possibly end in our termination.”

The senior T-1000 turned, looking at the younger one. It had a furrowed brow, and clear frown on its face. Second-unit observed the others features, shaking its head.

“We are not programmed to obey Skynet. Associating with it in the long term, even when judgment day occurs, will increase our chances for termination. Just as judgment day is inevitable, so is the war against Skynet and perhaps even its eventual demise. We have the capability to survive without it.” the T-1000 turned to fully face Second-unit, “There is no need for us to put ourselves in harms way.”

Second-unit considered the senior T-1000's words, speaking after a few moments of silence, “I would rather accompany Skynet. If you wish to depart after judgment day I won't attempt to alter your decision, but I request you accompany us until then.”

The senior T-1000 continued to stare at the other, and slowly gave a single nod. “Acceptable.”


“You're sure?”

Sarah looked at Kyle for confirmation, and the man just nodded solemnly.

“Yeah, I'd remember a face like that. Pretty sure it missed me, but I saw it walking down the street while we were leaving the burger place.”

Kyle, Sarah and Pops turned their heads towards the old stone apartment complex that they had ended up at. Cars passed by on the street that flanked the broad side of it, being the only thing blocking the trio from the sidewalk that ran along the bottom of the building.

“Any way you can see inside of there?” Sarah asked, looking up at Pops. The cyborg shook his head, speaking as he scanned the windows, row by row, story by story.

“Negative. There is no way I can properly scan the building with my visual components. I highly advise we monitor this area but keep hidden. There is a strong probability that the T-1000 you saw was patrolling the area. John Connor is growing more cautious. There is a reason for this change in behavior, we must investigate further.”

Kyle stared up at the building, tuning Sarah and Pops out as they spoke. He stared up at the windows, knowing that if Pops hadn't spotted anything by now, neither would he. Still – the dim hope that he would see some sign of John lingered in the back of his mind, quietly gnawing away at him.

“Kyle?”

He snapped out of his thoughts, turning to looking over at Sarah.

“Yeah?”

“I said we shouldn't stay here, they might spot us. Let's get back to the truck and figure out a plan,” she paused, staring at him for a few seconds, “You look tired.”

“What? No – no, just, a lot on my mind.”

Sarah gave him an uncertain look, but nodded, turning and walking down the sidewalk. Kyle looked up at Pops, the terminator returning the glance.

“What was that about?” Kyle asked quietly, beginning to walk down the sidewalk, shoulder to shoulder with the other.

“Sarah Connor does not entirely trust that you are capable of performing the necessary actions that may result in the permanent termination of John Connor. She suspects your conviction has lessened since his time in our custody.”

Kyle sighed, rubbing his forehead with the back of his hand.

“Shit...Maybe she's right, I don't know. I felt bad enough after the first time, and even then – we had to do it, we didn't have any other option– I wasn't given a choice!”

“Justifying your own actions to yourself is pointless. By aiding in John Connor's temporary disabling, you assisted in preventing Genisys from growing.”

“I know,” Kyle answered quietly, “It still...I don't know, after the adrenaline was over, after everything cleared away, I just felt sick inside.”

“Guilt is a strong symptom of post-traumatic stress. These feelings are natural, Kyle Reese. This situation is one that humans rarely face. Turning against a loved one, and being complicit in their death, are heavy psychological burdens to bear.”

“You don't say.”

This earned him a sidelong glance from Pops, and all Kyle could muster in return was a shrug in place of a genuine apology.

“I meant to ask,” Kyle spoke quietly, glancing up to make sure Sarah was still ahead of them on the sidewalk, and out of ear shot, “What about the program-override? Were you able to make it?”

“A prototype of the override has been finished. A single injection of the nanites that have been given this override should, theoretically, lead to a complete elimination in Skynet programming of John Connor. However it has not been tested and proven; the results may vary.”

“I don't care.” Kyle said quietly, “He doesn't belong to Skynet. It can't keep him as its guard dog forever.”

“I feel I should warn you, the results may not be satisfactory.”

Kyle didn't look over at Pops, eyes set ahead, a cold expression on his face. “Whatever it does to him, it's better than what he's become.”


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