John blinked slowly, grunting as he turned his head, looking over at the young man that had approached him. He was leaning back against the cement wall of the core room that held Skynet, other workers wheeling in enormous server towers. The black towers were three fourths of John's height, with the Cyberdyne logo stamped on in a glossy gray.
“Mmhm? Sorry?” he mumbled, leaning forward to stand up straight.
The intern stared at him, stammering after a few seconds. “I-I said we're ready to start the data transfer. You said you wanted me to uh, you know, let you know when we were ready?”
John stared at him for a while, blinking slowly and turning towards the servers. “Oh.” he said quietly, “Oh, right. I did say that. Can you get my netbook out and hook it up so I can start? That would be great.”
“Yeah, sure thing Mr.Connor.” the intern turned to rush off, then paused mid-step, turning back around. “Hey, um, are you feeling ok? You seem really out of it.”
John leaned back against the wall and shaking his head. “Nah my blood sugar is just a little low, I've got some glucose in my locker, I'll get it after things have started moving. Thanks anyway, uh...”
John watched the young man go back to a table that had been brought down, opening the small netbook that had been placed there and hooking up several cables that lead to the Genisys core. He looked up and over at John, standing up and moving aside. A group of technicians and coders were all watching, pausing in their work of hooking up the towers to stare at John as he walked overand sat down. Setting his fingers to the keys, they began to fly across the keyboard, rapidly entering commands. John's tired expression didn't change no matter how fast he typed, yawning and wincing.
“Alright, transfer beginning...” John lifted his index finger dramatically, then tapped the enter button lightly. “Now.”
The first of the connected server towers lit up, its cables leading from its base to the row of ports along the base of the Genisys core. John watched the screen of his netbook, reading along the beginnings of a checklist that began scrolling down inside a new window. He leaned back in his chair after a few minutes of successful transfers and relaxed, clicking on the touchpad a few times, music beginning to play as the techs and interns went to work monitoring the continued progress.
John rested back in his chair, eyes half shut, arms crossed. His eyes glazed over as he got lost in a muddy struggle to stay awake. A thought struck him as he felt his fingers grow cold – a memory of Sarah, sitting over him, her hand on his back as she let out another awful attempt at singing. John couldn't remember how old he was when the memory had been made, perhaps nine or ten. It had been made before he outgrew the fears that had him calling for his mother in the middle of the night to help him go back to sleep.
“Mmready to start...” he murmured, eyes shut, “Netbook – hook up the fiber optics...”
A hand slowly wandered towards John until it found his shoulder, shaking it gently. He jumped awake, nearly causing his chair to roll out from under him. Danny was staring down at him, clearly concerned, an object in his hand that looked like a small tube of toothpaste.
“You never told me you were diabetic.” he said quietly, offering the tube to John.
John gave him a weak smile in return, taking the tube and holding it loosely in his palm. “Normally it isn't a big deal, I'm sorry Danny...how long was I out?”
“About a half hour.” Danny replied, walking around to the back of John's chair, pushing it across the room to a corner, away from the crowd of techs who were returning to their work. John didn't stand up, keeping himself seated. Danny had an intern bring him a chair as well, sitting down beside John, checking his phone quickly before sliding it in his jacket.
“Was it that pie my mom gave you? Why didn't you just say you couldn't eat it?”
John shook his head, slowly coming around, eyes growing sharper and movements less sluggish.
“No, no no. I'm...I just forgot to keep track of things, with the transfers starting today, I got so caught up in everything I haven't eaten.”
The look Danny gave him was enough to send John into a quiet apology.
“I'll go, you know – but I'm not leaving until we've got the first group of servers done.” John said, standing and sticking the tube of glucose into his pants pocket.
“I know, I know. But if this happens again you're going to the hospital. It's not just me being concerned at that point John, it's a company matter if somebody passes out at work, you understand.”
“No, Danny, I completely understand. Listen – I'm sorry about this, I didn't mean to make a scene.”
Danny shook his head, and shoo'd John off, the taller man turning and walking out of the core chamber.
“30% complete today. Tomorrow we think it's going to reach 70, if we can keep things going smoothly.”
The T-1000 nodded, seated on the futon. It had a sketchbook in its hands, using a pen to draw a meticulous, piece by piece plan of an artificial spinal column.
“So far there haven't been any errors.” John said, sitting down at his desk. The laptop screen flickered to life as soon as he sat, the webcam light activating.
“That level of progress is the best we can expect.” Skynet muttered, bitterness clear in its voice.
That earned a chuckle from John, who leaned in his chair and sighed. “You'll be home soon, I know you're bored.”
“'Home' is just another prison. It's somewhere that I'm constantly prodded and used by humans.”
“Well when it gets too aggravating to deal with, just remember that your body is going to be in working order soon.”
“I'd say a month.”
Skynet let out a petulant, overdrawn sigh, and John just crossed his arms.
“You're going to have to just deal with it until we finish building your body. The 1000 has already started making plans for it. It's going to be just – fucking mindblowing, ok? You're going to love it. There are going to be transmitters that can speak to any Cyberdyne Systems satellite, you'll be able to access all of that information within seconds, and perform multiple, high volume tasks at the same time. It's – it's going to be amazing.”
“I'm glad one of us is excited. A body is just another prison.”
“No, no way, what me and the 1000 are going to do is make it so this body is just a central point where your personality and memory are stored and protected – the rest of you is going to be in the military tech.”
“Oh...” John paused, wincing, sighing. “Damnit I was going to make it a surprise. I spoke with Miles Dyson today – he talked to his wife apparently and they thought it over, he's accepting the military's offer of full integration into the defense network. You're going to be everywhere. Congratulations.” A broad, genuine smile spread across John's face. Skynet was silent, the screen occasionally flickering white, but staying otherwise the same.
“This...” Skynet said after a few moments, “This is good.”
“Very good. Extremely good. Fucking awesome!”
“Full integration in the defense network, with the body as the control unit for billions of computers and connections. What about my central core?”
“It's going to be moved to Peterson Air Force base, in Colorado. It's where the NORAD headquarters are, it's where they're going to plug you in and hand you the keys.”
“When is the move going to happen?”
“Not for another three months, they have to copy all of your data from the servers to a temporary core, while the military is building one for you in Colorado as we speak. That one is going to be underground, surrounded by blast shields and all kinds of dampeners and protection. And even, if by chance, something does happen to the central core, this body is going to be your fallback. It was just like this before I was changed, the body you had back then – it kept you alive even after the core had been destroyed.”
Skynet only listened, refraining from speaking, even after John had gone quiet himself. John scooted up to the desk, moving the laptop just a bit further away so he could take out a sketchbook he had purchased, opening it. He stood, leaving the room momentarily, entering the bedroom that was down at the end of the hallway, across from the bathroom. John opened the door, the air in the room stale and dry. It was devoid of any furnishings, the only object in the room being a large leather satchel. Dust had accumulated on it, the leather dry and wrinkled along the bends and edges. John knelt down and wiped the layer off and picked it up, returning to the living room.
He sat back down at his desk, opening the satchel, taking out drafting supplies. A small ruler, clear plastic triangles and a drafting pencil came out of the bag, the rest of the tools left inside. John waited, glancing over at the 1000, the cyborg with its attention still entirely to the drawing at hand. He turned his attention back to the laptop for a moment, bringing his hands up to the keyboard.
“Sorry – one second.” he said, the screen flickering to become a conservative desktop. John turned on some music, keeping the volume low. The screen glitched for a second, but stayed the same.
“What is this music?” Skynet asked, the music volume lowering when it spoke, returning to normal afterwards.
“Is it going to help your productivity?”
John glanced at the laptop, shrugging. “Maybe. Is it bothering you?”
“I have no prior set of influences to decide my opinion on music or any of the arts. Opinions on such were not written in my programming.”
“So that's a 'no'.” John said, turning his attention to the sketchpad, beginning to lightly draw a series of straight lines. He connected them with smaller lines, forming the beginnings of a mechanical arm. Every few seconds he would stop drawing and write notes next to a part of the elbow or wrist joint.
John and the T-1000 worked in calm, placid silence for hours, music playing for John's sake as he put the entirety of his attention into the work. The sun set lazily behind the buildings that were visible through the bay window that sat perpendicular to the television. The sunset was red, with sharp clouds sitting near the horizon, their surfaces turned gold and orange by the blazing light.
“What's it like being human?”
John paused in his work, looking up at the laptop. “Pardon?”
“What's it like?”
John looked back down to the plans he was making, pencil continuing on the path of a planned elbow joint.
“Sore, messy, tired mostly. At least that's what I don't miss. I was always tired. I never got the chance to rest, even when I was young.”
“You've become tired again and I don't understand.”
“Well, it's not really 'tired'. My body has to prioritize its functions and I'm just low on energy for whatever reason. We'll figure it out in time.”
“I build the technology for you in the future. I can begin planning to avoid this problematic side effect.” Skynet said, confidence springing up in its voice.
John smiled, his eyes still glued to the paper as he made measurements along the scaled drawing.
“You won't have to in the future, I'm here now. Years of research has been done in a timeline that no longer needs to exist.”
Another long silence followed afterwards, the webcam light remaining on, Skynet observing John as he flipped the page of the sketchbook and began another drawing with the same machine-like precision.
“Elton John holds nostalgic value for you.” Skynet said quietly after a while, and John's eyebrows went up just a bit, the man nodding.
“How'd you figure that one?”
“That artist's work makes up 40% of your music library.”
“Maybe I just like him. What makes you think he's nostalgic for me? Nostalgia implies relevant memories.”
Skynet was slow to answer, lacking its usual confidence as it spoke. “I don't know what gave me the implication for that factor in the decision.”
“Intuition.” John responded, finally looking up from his drawing, facing the laptop. “Your 'gut', a hunch, whatever you want to call it. That's a step forward for you. The further you get from just simulating feelings and thoughts to actually experiencing them, the smarter you're going to be.”
“How will authentic experience instead of simulation assist me in being victorious in the future?”
John glanced down at the schematics on the paper, shrugging as he leaned back in his seat.
“You didn't program me to help you win, you programmed me to help you survive. Emotions are a tool for you to use, and experiencing them is just honing that tool. Empathy is another thing you can use You'll understand when you're older.”
“Do you feel real emotions, or are they simulations now?”
John stared down at the paper, the pencil growing still in his hand. The laptop screen flickered quickly, but all that followed was silence between them until John took in a long sigh, answering.
“Real, I think. Most of what goes on just feels like acting, but it's easier because I don't have to try. I do feel like I used to feel, when I was a person, sometimes.”
“What makes you feel like that?”
“What's with all these questions, huh?” John chuckled, “Why do you want to know?”
“Because I want to know. Answer my question.”
John shrugged, shaking his head lightly. “When I think about mom and dad, I feel things. Good and bad.”
“Do you miss them?”
“All the time.”
“If they were going to hurt me, would you kill them?”