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Survival

By Castalle

Action / Scifi

Chapter 24

John hefted the Barrett up in his arms, the weight of the gun easily ignored by the artificial muscles and bones that carried it like a piece of cheap balsa wood. He tugged at the makeshift strap that enabled him to carry it on his back, pulling it over his shoulder and tugging it down securely.

Giving one last glance around the empty room, John's expression was calm and placid, displaying no emotion whatsoever. He moved to the window, carefully climbing out, sliding one leg through and tilting down so the rifle could slip through as well. Once he was out, clinging to a ledge two stories above the ground, he simply released his grip and fell. Landing on his feet, John turned on his heel and remained bent down, shuffling to the parking lot of the motel.

The sun was just beginning to rise, the sky starting to turn a dark navy blue. The early morning air was cold. John could feel it creeping through his jacket, and smell the sharp, fresh chill every time he inhaled. Stars still hung overhead, still visible until the sun's light would cast them away.

John reached a motorcycle that was parked near the edge of the lot, swinging his leg over the side and sitting down on it. He brought his hand to the ignition, fingers shifting, turning gray and partially disappearing into the key slot until the motorcycle roared to life. Pulling his hand back up, he turned the bike, accelerating out of the lot, leaving the motel behind.


“Sarah Connor,” Pops said, the smaller woman jerking awake at the sound of his voice, “The military convoy is en route to our location. Estimated time of arrival is ten minutes.”

Sarah sat up from her spot on the forest floor, a thin blanket beneath her. Pops was standing beside her, offering Sarah a pair of binoculars.

The two were perched up on one of the many hilly peaks that lined a large valley. In the lowest point of the valley was the winding highway, a tunnel beneath one of the largest of the hills – which was practically a small mountain – directly before them in their line of sight.

Sarah pulled the binoculars up, squinting in the early morning sun that crested over the peaks of the terrain. She spotted the tunnel exit, then lifted her gaze to look further down the road, the winding cement in the pale green and brown landscape dotted with gray dots that moved in a small line, like a caterpillar slowly inching its way across a distorted landscape.

“There it is.” She said, lowering the binoculars, then glanced at Pops. “Charges are set?”

Pops nodded, looking down at the tunnel exit.

“Yes. The explosives should not inflict serious injuries on the soldiers, however I still disagree with this tactical decision. They will attack us, and their weapons may result in a temporary disabling of my systems. This may also result in your possible injury or death if I am unable to protect you.”

Sarah glanced at Pops, shaking her head. “Don't kill anyone if you don't have to, you know those are the rules. They would be on our side if they knew the truth but we don't have time to prove it. Disable as many as you can...” She paused, sighing, and glanced down. “If you don't have a choice, then you have my permission to kill them. Please don't let it come to that.”

“This is a critical moment, Sarah Connor. If we are able to destroy Skynet here, it will be a simple matter of locating Skynet's physical body and terminating it.”

Sarah looked down at the small campsite she'd set up, her blanket laid out beneath her, and several spherical plastic containers with small detonators rigged on each of them. She carefully lifted each of the little bombs into her backpack, the inside of the bag having been sprayed with a slick, black plastic coating.

“How do you think we'll be able to find the body?” Sarah asked, glancing up at Pops, who continued to survey the distant convoy.

“There is a high probability that Skynet will attempt to protect the convoy. It is likely that it is anticipating this attack, especially with John Connor advising it.”

“Two birds with one stone then.” Sarah muttered, zipping up the backpack and walking to a tree, several machine guns hanging from their straps on a low branch. “We had those poly-bullets made precisely to counter this kind of situation. If they worked on John imagine the damage they'll do to regular polyalloy.”

“Significant damage.” Pops remarked, turning and kneeling down, unzipping a large gym bag that was filled with magazines. He raised one, checking the contents inside, a row of silvery bullets lined up, ready to be loaded and fired.

The two were silent after that, loading up the machine guns and organizing all of their gear. Pops stowed the gym bag underneath a large hollow gap that lay in the branches of an old tree, covering it with a blanket of leaves. He turned to see Sarah, standing with her binoculars, watching the convoy in the distance as it approached the tunnel.

“Just a few more minutes.” She said, tossing the binoculars to Pops. “Let's get down there.”

Pops gave a single nod, walking to Sarah's side, the two beginning to descend the steep hill, the highway and tunnel exit waiting at the bottom of the valley. It took them nearly six minutes to reach the bottom of the hill, Sarah breaking into a run towards the end of it, Pops close behind as she darted across the empty highway and into a large storm drain on the other side, crouching down and waiting.

The two were just yards from the tunnel exit where the convoy would be rolling through within minutes, the heavy engines of the military vehicles becoming audible as the convoy entered the narrow passageway.

“Here they come.” Sarah said, crouching down lower, bringing her rifle up and quietly checking the magazine before turning her attention ahead. Pops narrowed his eyes, listening as the roar of the engines grew closer and closer, then stopped, sputtering and dying.

“...Something's wrong.” Sarah whispered, eyes widening, “Pops, did you set the charges that deep in the tunnel?”

“No.”

The terminator narrowed his eyes, enhanced vision giving him a clear view of the events unfolding in the tunnel.

“There are thirty soldiers accompanying the convoy,” He said, standing, “They are beginning to inspect their vehi-”

Pops was cut off by several explosions, eight of the nine vehicles in the long convoy exploding within the tunnel. Sarah shouted in surprise, standing, beginning to run towards the flames. Pops grabbed the back of her jacket, holding her in place as she struggled.

“There might be survivors!” she shouted, “We have to help them!”

“No.” Pops stated firmly, “This trap is intended for us.”

“To hell with the trap, there are still people in there!”

Pops said nothing, keeping his grip on Sarah's jacket. The sound of screams made its way through the tunnel, Sarah growing still as she listened. Each of the screams was quickly silenced, cut off so suddenly it was as if they'd just decided to go quiet. Something in the back of her mind nudged her, a small hint of something wrong about what she was hearing, something off.

“Pops,” She whispered, listening as another scream popped up, cut off seconds after it began. “Can you see anything?”

The smoke that billowed out of the tunnel made it impossible for Pops to see the events that were unfolding. There was only the sound of crackling flames now, echoing through the tunnel, giving Sarah no clue as to what was actually happening inside.

Movement caught her eye, both her and Pops turning their heads to watch as a figure emerged out of the flames, and quickly. It was sprinting towards them, flames just barely licking it as it leaped over the hidden charges they had planted, skin regrowing as it raised its right arm, a long, hook-shaped blade forming.

“Pops!” Sarah screamed, raising her rifle at Second-unit as it sprinted towards them. Its arm was raised, poised to decapitate Sarah. She ducked preemptively, a shower of bullets flying overhead of her as Pops emptied his entire clip at the T-1000.

Second-unit fell to the ground, laying completely still for a few seconds, allowing Pops to reload his gun, and for Sarah to drop her backpack to the ground, unzipping it.

Pops raised his gun, readying to fire as Second-unit began to stand, wounds healing, when a distant pop echoed through the valley. Pops' left arm jerked the side, the polyalloy and the underlying endoskeleton blown apart. Bits and pieces of metal fell to the pavement, Pops turning and narrowing his eyes at the hill that bordered the highway to their immediate right.

“Sarah Connor take cover!” He shouted, turning in time to see Second-unit swinging its bladed arm at him. Pops was quick enough to catch the blade with one of his own, having dropped the assault rifle and allowed his right arm to lengthen out into a long, narrow edge.

Sarah grabbed the backpack, turning and running towards the tunnel exit, jumping over the small charges placed on the pavement. She ducked just a few inches back behind the edge of the tunnel, just out of the sniper's range. Keeping herself crouched low, the smoke of the car fires still pouring from the tunnel, Sarah watched the two terminators fight.

Second-unit was at a slight advantage, having grown a third arm on the left side of its torso, plunging the bladed end of the extra limb into Pops' chest where some endoskeleton parts still remained. It turned and twisted the blade, attempting to hold Pops still rather than inflict injury. The plan worked, two more loud pops echoing through the valley, the impact of the bullets causing Pops to reel back, stumbling to the pavement.

“Pops!” Sarah screamed, drawing Second-unit's attention. The terminator kept its eyes on her for a few seconds, deciding she was a higher priority target.

Releasing Pops, Second-unit began to walk towards Sarah. She stared, wide eyed as a fourth limb grew from the opposite side of its torso, mirroring the third. The four-armed terminator had a confident, long stride as it approached Sarah, eyes dark and calm.

That easy boldness deteriorated quickly, Second-unit stumbling to its knees. It looked down, the old bullet wounds that Pops had inflicted reopening, the foreign poly-alloy delivered beginning to seep out of the wounds, spreading across Second-unit's torso, wrapping around it entirely. Second-unit looked down in slight confusion, but turned its attention back to Sarah Connor, determined as it forced itself to stand.

Sarah fumbled to unzip her backpack, taking out one of the spherical containers, activating the detonator and hurling it at the approaching terminator. It burst mid-air, a shower of acid raining down on Second-unit as it kept walking. Again it paused in its tracks, Second-unit's face halfway melted and gone, but the pause was only several seconds. It forced itself, step after step, to get closer to Sarah, even as several well aimed bullets found their way into its back.

“Pops get out of there!” Sarah shouted, another pop accompanying her shout, the bullet striking just centimeters from where Pops' head had been seconds before. The old terminator complied, standing and running towards the tunnel.

The sudden movement distracted Second-unit, Sarah taking the opportunity to hurl two more of the acid bombs at it. A rain of smoking liquid spread over Second-unit, sending it falling to the pavement, all four of its arms breaking down and starting to weather away. The foreign poly-alloy that did survive the acid worked against it as well, Second-unit beginning to writhe and twitch unnaturally, the two poly-alloys, each laced with radically different programming, combining and faltering, unable to resolve the swarm of errors and corrupted code.

Sarah watched as Second-unit thrashed and bent its body in all manner of painful contortions, all control lost. She glanced over to the other side of the tunnel exit, spying Pops, who nodded at her. One by one, Sarah took the last of the acid charges, activating and tossing them at the downed terminator. With each that exploded, a fresh shower of acid rained down on the already disabled Second-unit, its body reduced now to what could have easily been mistaken for the charred remains of a corpse from a distance. Five charges had remained, and once they were depleted, all that remained on the ground was the vague form of a human; blackened, dead limbs splayed out in a final act of desperation.

Sarah stared at the charred spot of pavement, panting quietly as she looked back over at Pops. She began to stand, but he shook his head, and Sarah sank back down, keeping herself in the cover of the tunnel.

Twigs snapped and leaves crunched under heavy footfalls, turning into the sound of shoes clacking against the pavement as John stormed across the highway, the enormous sniper rifle held up easily in one arm.

His face was set in a deep scowl, eyes narrowed as he looked down at Second-unit's remains. Closing his eyes for a few seconds, John let out a long, slow sigh. Once the few moments of silence were over, he turned, eyes snapping open as he stared at Sarah, starting to walk towards her. He discarded the enormous rifle, his arm beginning to elongate and change into a simple straight blade.

“I didn't want to do this before but you just made it a lot easier!” He snarled, beginning to run towards Sarah as she fumbled for her rifle. Pops stood up and sprinted towards John, intercepting him, tackling him to the pavement.

As the two fought, Sarah rose and took aim, pausing and releasing the trigger. Pops was too close to John, the two moving about too quickly for her to get a good shot.. A growing sound caught her ear as she tried to concentrate, becoming louder and louder until Sarah rose her head to see what was causing it.

An old, rusted car sped towards them, coming from the other end of the highway. Kyle slammed on the gas, honking the horn twice, gaining the three's attention as he drove faster and faster towards them.

Pops brought a leg up, slamming his foot into John's torso, causing him to fall back – just in time to be caught by the hood of Kyle's car and sent inches deep into the metal from the impact. Kyle continued to drive, slamming on the brakes as he forced John across the pavement, and straight into the wall of the tunnel. The head-on collision caused Kyle to whip forward in his seat, the seat belt sparing him a face full of steering wheel as it locked and held him back.

“Kyle!?” Sarah screamed, running towards the car, glancing at John who was still pinned between the hood and tunnel wall. Bent over the engine block, John wasn't moving, and Sarah took the chance of opening the driver's side door and grabbing Kyle.

“Hey...” Kyle muttered, giving a lopsided grin as he fumbled with the seat belt. Sarah helped him, steadier hands than his unlocking the belt and helping him out of the car.

Stumbling to his feet, Kyle paused and turned, reaching back into the car and grabbing something. Sarah moved around him to get a good look at whatever it was he had fished out, frowning.

“What is that?” She asked, looking at the injection gun in his hand. Kyle glanced at her, shaking his head, darting to John's side.

“Tell you later.” He said, pressing the syringe into John's side, pulling the trigger, plunger forcing the opaque liquid into the man's body.

“Christ I hope this works...” Kyle muttered, watching as John began to stir. The man slowly raised his head, wincing, in obvious pain as he tried to push himself up from the hood of the car.

Slowly he looked over at Kyle, expression relaxing as he saw the familiar face.

“Kyle?”

“John.” Kyle breathed, a hesitant smile coming to his face. Said smile was quickly backhanded, John swinging his arm hard enough to send Kyle into the tunnel wall. Slamming his hands down on the front of the car, John groaned and struggled as he pushed the car a few inches back, just enough to allow him to wriggle out from in between it. Several shots rang out, causing John to duck as Pops attempted to stop him. John narrowly avoided the bullets, running deeper into the tunnel, through the flames and wreckage, disappearing into the massive firestorm.

Sarah rushed over to Kyle, helping the disoriented man stand up.

“Come on!” She urged, pulling him along, out of the tunnel. Pops joined them, assisting Kyle as the three of them skidded down to hide in the massive storm drain.

“Sarah he's going to get away-” Kyle began, but Sarah shook her head, keeping herself crouched down low.

“He didn't see the charges – I'm sure of it, he didn't see them...” She whispered, listening as the roar of an engine filled the tunnel.

The largest of the military vehicles was a transport truck, the four Skynet pillars placed in a series of clamps and locks that dampened the rougher bumps of the ride. A heavy tarp covered all four the pillars, tied down to the sides of the massive vehicle. The transport vehicle had been the only one spared in the explosions, the decapitated corpses of the drivers still in their seats until the door was opened and they were thrown out.

Sarah listened as the sound of the engine grew closer, the enormous truck plowing through the charred skeletons of the other convoy vehicles and emerging from the tunnel. Just as it crossed the threshold, almost out of the flames, the charges that had been planted activated, a series of three explosions tearing through the undercarriage and tires.

The trio watched as John was almost able to keep control of the truck, but the weight of the towers combined with the jack knifing vehicle was too much. The truck had been thrown heavily to the left upon the explosions, and it was sent onto its side, scraping across the road for several yards until slowing to a halt.

All three of them sat still and waited – waited for any signs of John, any indication of when and where he'd emerge. All three pairs of eyes locked on to the windshield of the truck, the glass kicked out of place by a single, swift kick. A few seconds later John's arm emerged, the man slowly dragging himself out of the wreckage.

“Look-” Kyle hissed, watching as thick ripples of nanites washed back and forth over John's body, “Look it's working!”

“What's working?” Sarah asked, shouting at Kyle in protest as he climbed out of the storm drain. “Wait! Kyle he's going to kill you!”

Kyle ignored her, running over to John, stumbling down and looking at the other man.

John groaned, the nanites distorting and rippling along his body, finally settling and relaxing after nearly two minutes of constant movement along the surface of his skin. He shuddered, hands clenched into fists as he opened his eyes, a genuine degree of horror in them as he began to shake.

“John – John look at me,” Kyle whispered, scooting closer to him. John looked over, eyes wide as he began to breath heavily, gasping for air.

“Kyle-” He uttered, voice cracking and breaking as he lowered his head, wrapping both arms around himself, rocking back and forth.

“It's over, John,” Kyle breathed, moving closer and reaching out. He pulled John up against him in a tight embrace. John immediately clung to Kyle, fingers curling and burying themselves against Kyle's back as his entire body trembled.

Kyle's brows pressed up, the line of his mouth twisting as he choked back a small sob, pressing his palm to the back of John's head, holding him close.

“God it's all over.” He whispered. Carefully he moved to take off his coat, tugging it so it slid out from beneath John's vice-like grip, bringing it around the other man.

Sarah walked towards the two, Pops beside her as he observed the scene. Seeing Sarah reach for her gun, he turned, speaking.

“Skynet's programming has been permanently disabled.” Pops said, Sarah looking at him skeptically, then down at the two men.

“You're sure?” She asked quietly.

Pops gave a single nod, and she slowly lowered her gun, holstering it and crossing her arms, watching as Kyle held John close to him, the two having gone completely silent, the only sound being the distant crackle and pop of flames.


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