“Are you sure you are capable of going out alone? Have Second-unit accompany you.” Skynet said, following John as he headed towards the futon where his briefcase was sitting.
“Listen, it's fine. Second-unit is staying here to make sure you're safe while I'm gone. I just need to drop in and find out what's going on. I promised Danny I'd have some new app ideas in by the end of the week.”
“Your work there is pointless, and it consumes your time that could be spent here.” Skynet hissed, narrowing its eyes at John bitterly.
“My work, Skynet, is what affords this apartment, afforded the radio equipment to help me build the T-1000s, and afforded some of the parts they built you with. Until judgment day, we're in the modern world. And in this world you need money, and this job gives me quite a bit. So calm down, watch some TV, and I'll be back in a few hours.”
“I'm tired of television!”
“I'll see you in a little while.”
That was all the response John gave to Skynet's outburst, walking out of the apartment and shutting the door behind him. Second-unit was seated on the futon, one leg crossed over the other as it watched Skynet stand alone.
Kyle leaned against the outside wall of the convenience store, watching the apartment entrance from a safe distance. Pops and Sarah had both gone to Cyberdyne, scoping out the new campus for any weak points. Sarah felt the need to sneak in and find out just how Skynet was going to be moved to Colorado, but Kyle also knew that she wanted time away from him. She'd gone quieter around him, and it wasn't hard to figure out why. The solid bond of trust that had been built between them was crumbling, and Kyle was helpless to stop it.
Movement at the door drew his attention, the familiar sharp faced brunet walking out, scoping the area with a simple turn of its head before beginning on a patrol route.
Kyle watched the T-1000 walk casually down the sidewalk, blending in perfectly with the crowd of pedestrians, even moving aside politely for a woman pushing a stroller. It was well gone in the crowd before Kyle could follow it, the man sighing and backing away, disappointed.
He glanced back at the apartment door to see it open again, jerking away from the wall to stand straight as adrenaline shot through him. John stepped out, carrying a briefcase with him as he walked down the sidewalk.
Kyle glanced around, making sure the T-1000 hadn't doubled back, then quickly darted out from the side of the convenience store, appearing as a harried pedestrian as he crossed the busy street, waving a hand in apology as he ran in front of a honking car. Reaching the sidewalk, he spotted John easily, the tall man not very hard to find in the crowd. Kyle began to follow him, moving to avoid other people passing him by.
The apartment complex was still to their direct right, and was ending soon, giving way to an alley where Kyle had seen parked cars. John turned into that alleyway, and Kyle was close behind him. He let John get halfway down the alley, making sure no one else was there, before quietly reaching into his jacket and pulling out a pistol. He fumbled with the silencer that Pops had given him, still a little uncomfortable with the new piece of equipment. Finally getting it attached, Kyle held the gun down, both hands wrapped around the grip as he jogged down the alley. The louder footfalls caught John's attention, the man turning just as Kyle raised the pistol and fired twice. The bullets struck John's right thigh, the man glancing down at the impact wounds as they healed over.
“Kyle,” he said quietly, pausing to take set his briefcase on the hood of his car, “That wasn't your best decision.”
Kyle kept his pistol raised and pointed at John, who began walking towards him. He made it three steps before his right leg buckled and he fell against his car. John looked down, silver polyalloy starting to seep from his leg.
“So whose bright idea was this?” John asked, struggling to stand.
“Pops. He's the only one who really knows how that poly stuff works.”
“The 800-series is becoming more and more inconvenient.” John grumbled, sighing. He looked up at Kyle, shaking his head.
“Where did I go wrong with you? What did I tell you before I left, Kyle? You shouldn't be here. If you keep interfering I'm not going to keep giving you second chances.”
Kyle didn't respond, untwisting the silencer from his gun and stuffing it away in his jacket. He knelt down beside John, looking at the leg wound, watching as the limb grew stiff, twitching a few times as the nanites attempted to overcome the modified polyalloy.
“You're ballsy.” John grunted, Kyle just inches away from him.
“Just relax. You don't want to hurt me.” Kyle said quietly, reaching into his cargo pants, pulling out a medical injection gun.
“What is that?” John asked, beginning to stir at the sight of the syringe that Kyle was loading into the gun.
“John – stop -” Kyle hissed, reaching out to John on impulse, only to have the man's iron grip snatch his wrist and hold it in place.
He groaned in pain, John's hand like a vice as the man twisted his wrist, causing Kyle to follow the bend in tandem. The injection gun was dropped to the pavement, and John began to try and stand.
“Stop!” Kyle snapped, reaching into his jacket and pulling out his pistol, aiming it at John's head. As he raised the gun, John in turn brought up his free arm, the skin melted away as the limb grew into a long blade.
Kyle's finger was quick on the trigger, the single pop of the gunshot echoing through the alleyway. John immediately went limp, Kyle hastily snatching the keys from his pocket and unlocking the back door of the silver car. Struggling, he hauled John's body into the back seat, snatching up the injection gun from the pavement, and slamming the door shut before any prying eyes could find the scene.
“You had to buy the tiniest four door in the whole state, John? Really?” Kyle grumbled, shoving John's body none too gently down into the space between the back seats and the front, wedging it down as much as he could. He kept himself down low against the back seats, looking out the windows as a street cop jogged into the alleyway, gun drawn.
Kyle plastered himself down on top of John, laying as low beneath the window's edge as possible. The cop walked further into the alley, speaking into the radio clipped on his shoulder. Kyle held his breath, listening through the window, attempting to listen in on the cop.
“...don't see anything – could've been some kids or something, I'm going to do a door to door in the apartment, ask around, no backup necessary..”
Kyle kept completely still, keeping himself curled up and below the window as much as he was able. He felt the urge to apologize to John, whose shins were getting the brunt of his weight, but he decided to save it for later. The cop didn't bother to look in John's car, or any of them for that matter. He continued on through the alleyway until reaching the other end and doubling back. Kyle watched as the officer passed by once more, continuing on to the entrance of the alleyway, turning, and disappearing beyond the edge of the wall.
Kyle let out a long sigh of relief, closing his eyes and sitting up.
“Christ...” he muttered, reaching into his jacket and taking out the injection gun. John's body had begun to jerk and twitch violently, the nanites continuing to expel the polyalloy from the bullet wounds in his forehead and leg. Kyle turned, scooting across the seat to kneel over John's torso, pulling the man's sleeve up to expose his shoulder.
“For everyone's sake I hope this shit works...” he mumbled, double checking the injection gun and syringe before lowering the needle to the surface of John's skin.
The car door swung open, a hand reaching in and snatching the syringe gun, tearing it from Kyle's hand and hurling it into the nearby brick wall. Kyle barely had time to shout before he too was thrown into the wall, slamming against the hard surface and falling down to the pavement. Coughing several times and gasping for air, Kyle slowly pushed himself up to look at the attacker.
“You...” he whispered, staring at Skynet, face to face with the physical embodiment of mankind's waking nightmare since he'd been a child. It wasn't only terrifying, it was bizarre. Despite his fear, a small thought struck him that of course it would be dressed like a normal person – if it wore anything else it would stand out. Still, seeing it in a T-shirt with some obscure band name printed on and jeans, was strange. Kyle would've laughed if he wasn't fearing for his life.
“That doesn't belong to you.” Skynet spat, pointing back to John.
“He doesn't belong to anyone, he's a person!”
“Then he is my person.”
Kyle sneered, snatching his gun out from his jacket. Before he could even aim it at Skynet, a silver streak shot through the air, cold metal colliding with the pistol in his hands, and slicing off his ring finger while it was at it. He shouted in pain, bringing his hand over the finger stump, watching as the javelin landed a few yards away. Rapid footsteps drew Kyle's attention to the opposite end of the alleyway – a slim, olive skinned man with black hair sprinting towards him.
“Oh – fuck, fuck - “ he whispered, looking over at John's body, still wedged in the car, then at the injection gun. Groaning in frustration and anger, he grabbed the injection gun and rose, turning and running.
“Kill him!” Skynet barked at Second-unit, but the T-1000 slowed instead, stopping by John's car, watching Kyle run out of the alleyway.
Skynet stared at it, slapping Second-unit on the arm roughly, pointing in the direction that Kyle had fled.
“He is not my first priority. I must find the first T-1000 and inform it of this development. It is not safe here, they are aware of our location.” Second-unit said simply, walking to the open vehicle and leaning over John's body. It tilted its head, observing the polyalloy that was seeping from the bullet holes.
“Don't touch him. Sit in the front.” it said, walking to the front door and getting in, tearing off part of the steering shaft with a quick yank and starting to hotwire the car. Glancing down, it bent over, placing its hand on the pavement, the javelin it had thrown slithering back, absorbed through its fingers. Shutting the door, Second-unit glanced over as Skynet got in. It looked back at John, then at the T-1000.
“What's wrong with him? That's polyalloy from the bullets, what's it doing?”
“It's disrupting his nanomachine functions, perhaps it's been programmed with instructions that cause errors. The other T-1000 will also have valuable input on this situation. Do not make physical contact with the foreign polyalloy, even after it has been completely expelled from the T-3000.” Second-unit said, driving to the end of the alleyway. It parked the car there for a few minutes, the senior T-1000 jogging over from across the street and climbing in the back seat, keeping its legs tucked up against it, avoiding contact with John as it examined him.
“Invasive and disruptive. Further testing is needed.” Second-unit responded, turning out of the alleyway and into the street.
“Without equipment it will be difficult.”
“Low priority. Avoiding contact is more important, we can investigate its means of harm later.”
“Agreed – find a safe location. It must be on the route that Skynet's pillars will be taken along towards the Colorado base.”
The two T-1000s went silent after that, Second-unit driving casually through the city, drawing no attention to the group. Skynet stared out the window, glaring sullenly at the other drivers and pedestrians. After a few minutes it looked back, leaning over the seat to look down at John.
“Is he going to be alright?”
The T-1000 looked up at Skynet, nodding. “The nanites are in the process of expelling the foreign polyalloy. However, it will take several hours for his system to recover from the paralysis.”
“Is he in pain?”
“Does it matter?”
The T-1000 tilted its head, but shrugged lightly, “Unlikely, if a complete system reboot is taking place. The closest biological metaphor would be an unconscious mental state.”
Skynet glanced at the T-1000, nodding silently, turning its eyes back to John, gripping the top of the car seat anxiously.
Another sinking void, another trip down collapsing libraries of memories that belonged to him in another world. John felt the world and his senses fall away, glimpses of other times and lives flashing before his eyes. The stream of visual thought grew narrower, focusing into a singular memory – or a dream, John didn't know which.
A building, white tile floors, white walls, white everything. Rows of square, barred windows lead down the right side, allowing enormous shafts of light to filter in, illuminating the already bright corridor. He could see her in the distance, standing in black clothes, round glasses covering her eyes, a familiar rifle strapped across her shoulder.
“Mom!” he shouted, voice breaking. He must have been a teenager again, a memory he recalled somberly. John called to her again, and she turned her head slightly, a cigarette hanging from her lips.
Something told him she was leaving, she couldn't stay – and he would be left alone, to handle a future and a life that he didn't want. He began to run, but his legs were tired and heavy, like weights pulling him down, making him slow. The hallway grew longer, stretching out before him; Sarah still standing at the end of it. The swivel of her shoulders confirmed his greatest childhood fear – and soon after her back was turned.
“Mom! Mom wait – I can't do this by myself!” The voice that sprang from his mouth was the voice of a child's, all of the somber and quiet adult that he'd become left behind.
He kept trying to run, to get closer, but the hall was so long and his limbs were too heavy and tired. Sarah began to walk, back turned, into the waiting shadows before her.
Crying out for his mother one last time, mouth opening, only air and silence came out. She was gone, and he was alone, cast back into the storm of time that would tear him apart.
Not mom's voice, not Kyle's – another – the last of the trio that had been responsible for his birth.
He opened his eyes slowly, staring up at Skynet's concerned face. Concern. Of course it'd be concerned, he was practically its father. Because of how skewed the timeline was thanks to constant altering, the first being this Skynet knew and almost trusted was him.
“Hey...” he mumbled, starting to try and sit up. Skynet helped him, reaching around his shoulders to support his upper body.
John looked around garnering what he could from the new environment – garage doors, old hanging lights and wheeled chairs. Dusty auto calendars dated back to 1994 hung from the walls, and old desks were pushed into a corner.
The T-1000 approached, Second-unit standing by a window, staring out at the dark road alongside the abandoned building.
“We were forced to abandon your apartment, John Connor. They were aware of our location, and your priorities state that Skynet cannot be harmed. We deemed it prudent to leave immediately.” the T-1000 said, staring down at John, “We were unable to retrieve the equipment that you installed to create us.”
John listed, leaning against Skynet, nodding. “That's fine...it's not going to matter. The convoy leaves in two days. They'll try to intercept it, we stop them. Simple.”
The T-1000 nodded, turning and walking over to Second-unit, standing beside it.
John sighed, looking around, not bothering to try and stand. “Phone?” he asked quietly, Skynet handing John the requested object.
After dialing a number, he brought it up to his ear, waiting as it rang. Eventually the ringing went to voicemail, Danny's voice on the other end of the line asking for a name and number, and to leave a message after the tone. Even after the beep, John was silent for a few seconds, eyes shifting back and forth as he tried to find what to say.
“...Danny,” John wheezed, “I'm sick again, have to go in for more tests but I didn't want you to worry. I think it's just the same thing from before, they said there might be relapses. I know that you wanted me to be there to see Skynet off, and I did too – but don't wait up for me. Send her on to bigger and better things for me, buddy.” The man paused, squeezing the phone a little tighter in his hand before continuing. “Danny, I couldn't have asked for a better friend. I just wanted you to know that.”
He hung up after that, crushing the phone in his hand like a stale cracker, and tossed the remains aside. Skynet stared down at him, continuing to support the man, even as he closed his eyes.
“I'm tired,” John mumbled, closing his eyes, “Wake me up when it's time to leave.”