Fandom: Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles
Disclaimer: Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles is not mine...though since Fox appears to be dropping it, rightfully it should be up for grabs.
Summary: Slightly alternate time-line, Riley lives...Cameron's glitch continues to make itself known, and Sarah...well Sarah gets to learn what it's like to be in John's shoes...in more ways than one.
AN: Many thanks to inspectorboxer, a couple of Cameron's better moments in this one came from her, and to revolos55, for her typo scouring.
Chapter one / Chapter two / Chapter three / Chapter four / Chapter five, part one / Chapter five, part two /Chapter six / Chapter 7 / Chapter 8
Jeanette Harris recognized the girl walking through the newly repaired door of Haven House immediately. Her middle-aged heart stuttered and leapt like a startled rabbit, kicking at the back of her ribs and sending normally lazy blood rushing through her veins at a speed much more suited to younger fluids. Fighting to keep the instant, and wholly reasonable, fear from showing on her face, Jeanette didn’t make any sudden moves, but she eyed the phone at her elbow, acutely aware of a certain three digit number that she could, and definitely should be using in a situation like this. Her fingers twitched.
“I wouldn’t do that.”
Jeanette snapped her eyes back up. The girl’s voice was completely neutral, without a trace of anything recognizable as a threat, but her eyes… There was something crucial missing in that wide brown gaze. Mercy, Jeanette decided. In all of her time working with girls on the fringes of society, and those who abused them, she had never seen anything so empty. She had never felt so helpless. Jeanette shifted her hand away from the phone and the stare softened almost immediately.
“May I help you?” She asked carefully, falling back on her secretarial script while her heart, exhausted, ceased its mad jumping and settled down into a worried quiver.
Equally careful, the movement slow and smooth, the girl pulled a piece of folded paper out of the pocket of her purple leather jacket and offered it to Jeanette. “This is a letter from Lauren Bird. I’m a friend. She asked me to pick up her belongings.”
Jeanette looked between the letter and the girl. She made no move to take it. “I don’t want any more trouble…” She fought for a fragment of her usual self assurance, gripping hard on the edge of the desk as if to anchor herself.
The girl tilted her head. “I don’t want any more trouble,” she echoed, extending the hand with the letter a little further and setting the folded paper down between them when Jeanette didn’t let go of the desk to accept it. “I only want Lauren’s things.”
Sceptical, but curious, Jeanette picked the letter up and scanned the note quickly. There were no more than three lines, identifying the holder as one Cameron, and requesting that the clothing, personal items, and baby things Lauren had left behind be released to her. It was signed by Lauren Bird, and Jeanette recognized the handwriting and signature from Lauren’s admission documents. Relief eased some of the tension out of her shoulders.
“Where is she?” Jeanette dared the question because she had to.
“Safe,” Cameron answered simply.
Jeanette wanted to believe her. Lauren hadn’t been the average teenaged screw up. She was smart and kind, and had seemed determined to make something out of her life.
And then she had disappeared under the most unusual circumstances Jeanette had ever been a witness to. Circumstances that had given her nightmares for days, about guns and shattering glass, and a full grown man being tossed through a door like he was a doll and the door nothing but paper. Circumstances centered around this very girl.
The only reason Jeanette wasn’t already bolting for the door was that while Lauren had certainly been afraid, it hadn’t been Cameron that she had been running from. On the contrary, from Jeanette’s perspective, before flying bullets had sent her diving for cover behind her desk, Lauren had seemed worried about the slim brunette.
The whole affair smacked more of a rescue than abduction, and Jeanette tended to trust her gut instincts in these situations. That made this girl, however personally unnerving, one of the good guys in her books. Still…
“How do I know you’re telling the truth?”
Cameron didn’t shrug, but a subtle shift in her posture suggested the gesture. “You don’t.”
Jeanette hesitated. Her first responsibility was to the girls under her care. Lauren had been one of those girls, but she was gone, and the rest of them still needed a protector. Everything about this girl suggested that she would walk straight through Jeanette, or anyone else who stood in between her and what she wanted. The question was what she wanted, and what she was prepared to do to get it. What she had done.
Jeanette nodded, folding the paper slowly with shaking fingers and handing it back to Cameron. The girl took it without comment, and Jeanette withdrew her hand, punching a code into the intercom and trying to keep the quaver out of her voice as she summoned Paige, one of her volunteers, down to the front office. The girl chirped an acknowledgement and the line went dead.
On the other side of the desk, Cameron didn’t shift or fidget; she stood perfectly still, her eyes trained steadily forward. Jeanette squirmed under that unrelenting stare. She shuffled a few papers, lined up her pencils and kept her own eyes down. Unable to bear the silence, and the mystery, she finally asked;
“Did you save her life?”
“Yes,” the answer came without hesitation, as if Cameron had been expecting the question. Jeanette took a deep breath.
“You’ll keep her safe?”
This time there was a pause. “I will try,” Cameron answered finally, and Jeanette raised her head to see the first glint of something that might have passed for emotion in the girl’s eyes.
“Thank you,” Jeanette whispered and Cameron nodded, her gaze pulled away by the buzzing of the interior door as Paige stepped through with a smile.
Jeanette sat quietly while Paige introduced herself, and Cameron explained why she was there. Paige looked to her once for approval and Jeanette managed to endorse Cameron’s request without betraying her inner turmoil.
“Right then, shall we?” Paige indicated the hallway and Cameron stepped around the desk to follow. She paused at the corner, reached into her pocket, pulled out a handful of bills and set them on the desk.
“For the door,” she explained at Jeanette’s puzzled glance, and then she smiled. It lasted a moment, no more, only the space of time it took for Paige to glance back to see what was keeping Cameron, but that was long enough.
Cameron disappeared through the door, and Jeanette watched her go, unable to shake the feeling that she and the slight, but deadly, girl understood one another perfectly.
Cameron followed the girl named Paige to the storage room, remaining silent in the face of her chatter. She nodded and smiled at the appropriate places, but didn’t offer to add to the conversation. Paige asked no questions, she simply kept up a steady stream of reassuring nonsense, avoiding with practiced ease any awkward silences that might unnerve one of the frightened young girls this establishment generally catered to.
Cameron collected the clear plastic bags that Paige pointed out to her, taking care to let the girl help once her sensors informed her she was already holding enough to burden a human of her size and weight. There were four bags in total, mostly
“Do you have a way to get this all home?” Paige asked as they walked back up the hallway.
“I have a car,” Cameron reassured her.
They made it to the Jeep without incident, and Cameron loaded the bags into the backseat. She was careful to say thank you and smile. Then she waited to make sure that Paige got back inside safely. The woman at the desk watched over these girls, and she had trusted Cameron with one of her charges. Cameron respected that responsibility. Also, Sarah would not be happy with her if anyone got hurt.
Pulling out of the parking lot, Cameron flipped open her cell phone and hit the speed dial for Sarah’s number.
“Cameron,” Sarah answered after they had exchanged security codes.
“I have it,” Cameron said, turning onto the highway.
“Are you being followed?”
Cameron glanced into her rear-view mirror, confirming the blue pick-up four cars back as the same one that had tailed her out of the parking lot of Haven House.
“Yes,” she confirmed.
“Good.” There was a pause, then “are you sure about this?”
“Yes.” Cameron turned a corner, checking to make sure that the truck took the same one. “Is everything ready?”
“Just waiting for you… Kacey and the baby left an hour ago.”
“I’ll be there in twenty minutes. Did you eat lunch?”
“Cameron! This is hardly the time,” Sarah snapped.
“You promised.” Cameron waited for Sarah’s exasperated affirmation, then closed her phone and glanced back up at the rear-view mirror. She barely saw the road or the cars behind her, caught off guard by the slight, and completely involuntary, smile on her lips.
The house was empty. Not literally, the furniture that had come with the house was still there, the same pictures hung on the walls. Photographs of happy strangers were still stuck to the fridge with gaudy poly-resin magnets. Sarah and John had never brought much in the way of personal items with them, so it was not the absence of those either, but something less substantial that had turned the house that had been their home, back into someone else’s house.
Sarah ran her hand down the side of the kitchen doorway. Wherever they went, the kitchen always seemed to become home first, and it was always the room she missed the most. She and John had never been the couch-sitting, television-watching or game room kind of family, and bedrooms, hers anyway, were so often the setting for clock watching, insomnia and nightmares. But even the future leader of humanity and his mother needed to eat, and the kitchen was a place they could just be mother and son.
With Cameron’s arrival, and then Derek’s, the kitchen had also become a center of operations. It was where they made their plans, where personal grievances were left at the door. In the kitchen they had neutral territory, sitting around the table they were a team.
Lauren and Riley, even
Sarah took one last look, and then flipped off the light and said goodbye. It was time to move on. Again.
Feeling like an intruder as she made her way through the rest of the house, Sarah did a final sweep to make sure that no remnant of their time there had been left behind.
With the ease of long practice to draw on, Sarah, John and Cameron could have been packed and ready to go within an hour of the news that there were not one, but three terminators loose in L.A., two of them with unknown targets, but the addition of five people, one of whom was an infant, and another injured, meant that it wasn’t that simple.
Even so, it had taken less than forty-eight hours. They had put most of the weapons and other ordinance into one of the caches Derek had set up when he and his men had arrived from the future, and anything else that couldn’t be easily transported had been destroyed.
John’s computer equipment was the only thing other than the necessary items like clothing and toothbrushes that had gone with the rest of the team to the motel. If everything went according to plan, they’d need it.
So easily this life was erased.
Sarah checked her watch as she returned to the main floor. She had about five minutes until Cameron would be back from the halfway house. Kacey had been sent safely off to her mother’s with the baby, and on a weekday afternoon there was no one else near enough to get in the way.
Time to get into position.
Cameron pulled into the driveway with one eye on her mirrors. There had been no sign of the truck for a few blocks, and she concluded that the other terminator had most likely fallen back in order to plan his assault. He knew what he was dealing with. The 800 series had never been known for their imagination, but they got the job done.
Cameron considered the possibility that the other terminator would wait to engage, and discarded it. He had to assume that his target was aware of him, there was no advantage in delaying, and very little chance to gain the element of surprise. He would most likely come straight for Sydney’s last known location, which was in the company of Cameron. She didn’t have much time.
The house was still, but the living room lights were on, and Cameron could see the television playing through the window as she climbed the steps. Sarah would be waiting out of sight and, hopefully, out of the line of fire.
Sarah had fought her about that. She had argued that catching the terminator between them made more sense, and Cameron had not been able to find any flaw in Sarah’s logic, save that she could not do her job if she was worrying about Sarah getting hurt. A worry that had surprised the machine with it’s intensity. She was not used to anyone but John triggering that level of protectiveness. Unfortunately, that reasoning would not have swayed Sarah, so Cameron had simply refused to argue. If the plan called for bait, then Cameron would provide the bait.
Walking in through the front door, Cameron experienced a twinge that she identified, with some surprise, as regret. It was unexpected, but not inexplicable. She had spent almost a year here with Sarah and John, even Derek. Longer than any other place she might have called home. She had felt secure in her place here, confident. She knew her mission; she knew all of the exits, the likeliest routes of attack and the most strategic places to set up an ambush. Things would be different now. Nothing was straightforward anymore.
Sarah had left guns for her in the coat closet, and Cameron retrieved them with a quick check to make sure they were loaded properly. The 9mm she tucked into the back of her jeans, but she held onto the Mossberg as she moved into the living room to wait.
Had he thought about it, the terminator might have considered other avenues to his target than the front door, but he had not been programmed to think, only to kill. He had a basic implanted personality, and programming that allowed him to simulate human behaviour. A small database of common knowledge was enough to get him though simple conversations, and that was all. He had not infiltrated the police department. That was beyond the capabilities of his program. He had simply killed an officer and taken the uniform. When his attempt to apprehend and terminate Sydney Fields at Haven House had failed, he had retreated and healed, then returned to her last known location to wait.
A preliminary scan of the house revealed three heat sources. Two large, and one small, like a child’s. The smaller heat source was almost merged with one of the larger ones, presumably being carried. The two combined heat sources were within ten feet of the entrance. That was all the information the terminator needed.
The front door was hollow core pine, painted white with a brass handle. The terminator forced it open, splintering the wood around the lock and door frame with a single push. Stepping inside, he registered movement to the left, the same direction as the dual heat signatures. Turning, he lifted his gun and fired repeatedly; ignoring the female terminator he had followed here in favour of the blanket wrapped bundle in her arms.
She twisted, protecting the child with her own body, and fled out the opposite end of the room. Without the ability to plan beyond the elimination of his target, the terminator followed. He only made it a few steps before a flash of fire and sound tilted the world on its axis, and ripped the floor out from underneath him.
Wood and wire screamed as they tore apart. The impact of shrapnel from metal pipes and plastic casings provided a staccato accompaniment, and the heavy base of the charges themselves filled the air until mere human ears were overwhelmed.
Her feet braced on top of the coffee table, a mere two by four foot rectangle of safety set underneath the fuse box in the basement, the detonator clutched tightly in one fist, her thumb firmly on the button, Sarah pressed her back up against the wall and covered her face with her arms. Fragments of ruined floor boards and shredded insulation rained down around her, making a veritable weather pattern out of the remnants of what had, five seconds before, been the living room floor.
Ripped and torn chunks of the loveseat and arm chairs splashed as they hit the half foot of water swirling under her feet, but the impact Sarah was waiting for didn’t come. Panic sent adrenalin roaring through her veins, and she lowered her arms, looking up to find the terminator clinging to the edge of the hole left by the explosion. Dangling by one hand from the fractured floorboards, he was safe above the flooded basement and the live cords twisting like poisonous snakes under the water.
In the dimmed light of the basement, his eyes glowed, and they cast around, scanning every corner of the room before settling on Sarah. Target acquired, he raised the gun in his other hand and aimed it at her heart. Dropping the detonator, Sarah clawed her own gun free, but not before the sharp retort of gunfire blasted her ears.
His first bullet missed her, and Sarah’s poor abused ears heard it smash into the concrete wall behind her and spin off into the water with an anticlimactic little splash.
She jerked herself to the side and squeezed off a few of her own, aiming wildly while trying to make herself as small a target as possible, but there was nowhere for her to go. The table she was perched on was the only thing keeping her safe from the electric current running like liquid death through the water on the floor.
The second blast of the terminator’s gunshot came simultaneously with a groan as one of the boards that he was clinging to began to tear loose, and he dropped a foot, sending the bullet that might have killed her somewhat lower.
Sarah fell to her knees with a strangled yell as a line of fire knifed across her thigh, ripping through skin and muscle, and releasing a warm, wet heat that soaked her jeans in an instant.
Gritting her teeth against the dark spots dancing in her vision, Sarah forced her head to rise, and her eyes to focus. The terminator still had his gun. Swinging wildly with the groaning of the floorboards, he brought it around for another try.
Unable to move, Sarah could only wait for the next shot, but it never came.
Like an angel descending from heaven, Cameron dropped from the sky. She hit the other terminator, and their combined weight snapped the floorboards and sent them both into the water.
“Shit!” Sarah clawed her way up the wall towards the fuse box, gritting her teeth against the throbbing of her leg. The seconds ticked by too quickly in her head, almost half a minute passing before she managed to switch the power off.
Getting down from the table was a nightmare Sarah didn’t ever want to repeat. There was no time for finesse, she simply held her breath and threw herself off. The shock of the cold water cleared her head enough that the added pain didn’t threaten to steal her consciousness, and Sarah half-walked, half-crawled over to the limp bodies, pulling her tools out of her pocket as she went. She couldn’t waste precious seconds checking on Cameron, so she passed her by and aimed for the other terminator.
His scalp opened easily under the knife, and Sarah tossed it aside once she’d exposed the metal skull underneath. Another moment, and the tip of a screwdriver took care of the cover. With five seconds to spare, she gripped the pliers and yanked the chip out of his head.
The timer in Sarah’s head reached two minutes, and she slumped over the body of the terminator. Clutching his chip in her hand, she waited for Cameron to rise and carry her out of this wet hell. If there was ever a time she would welcome the metal girl’s strange concern, this was it, but nothing stirred in the water behind her.
Another minute passed, and Sarah couldn’t wait any longer. Her leg feeling like a leaden weight, she heaved herself up and turned, bracing herself against the lifeless machine underneath her.
Cameron lay in a silent heap on her side, her back to Sarah, and her limbs splayed awkwardly under the water. Thick brown curls tangled with fragments of wood and carpet fibres, floated in a halo around her head.
Beside her, propped up by the blanket-wrapped hot water bottle that had been masquerading as Sydney, lay the Mossberg rifle that Sarah had left for her, and that Cameron had, inexplicably, chosen not to use.
Worry twisted in her gut as Sarah pushed off of the other terminator and dragged herself towards Cameron, but she fought it off.
Shoving the gun and blankets out of her way, she shook the metal girl’s shoulder roughly.
There was no response.
Light headed from blood loss and shock, Sarah couldn’t think of any other way to rouse the machine, so even though it was ridiculous, she shook her again, rasping wearily, “Cameron?”
Four minutes now and darkness was beginning to creep back into the corners of Sarah’s vision. She groped around under the water for the knife she had used on the other terminators head. Once she’d found it, it took two tries to close her fingers around its smooth sides, and she cut strips off of her pants with shaking hands.
Binding the ragged bullet wound in her leg took almost all of Sarah’s remaining strength, and she used the very last dregs of it to dig the cell phone out of her back pocket and hit John’s speed dial.
“Mom…?” His worried voice came from a long way away, and she nodded before remembering that he wouldn’t be able to see her.
“Cameron’s hurt…” Sarah managed roughly. “Tell Derek…” oblivion threatened and she fought it off. “Tell Derek, come and get us…”
Sarah could hear John yelling for Derek even as the phone fell from nerveless fingers. Unconsciousness was only moments away, and Sarah hooked an arm over Cameron’s limp form to hold herself above the water, letting her head come to rest in the shallow dip between the girl’s hip and ribs.
Sarah woke to darkness, the sound of boots sloshing through water, and rough curses as someone tripped over a chunk of floorboard. Deprived of sight, she registered the almost familiar smell of blood and strawberries, a scent that was fast becoming a symbol for the walking contradiction that was Cameron.
Other smells, stagnant water and wet wood, slowly invaded her consciousness, and then there were firm, but gentle, hands on her, pulling her up and away from Cameron’s body.
“Sarah…” It was Derek’s voice, uncharacteristically concerned. Sarah tried to answer, but her throat wouldn’t work. She clutched at Cameron, catching hold of the girl’s jacket.
“Damnit, Sarah.” Derek tried to pry her fingers loose. “We don’t have time for this. We’ll have to burn the house down with them in it.”
“No…” Sarah coughed weakly, refusing to let go. “She comes with us.”
Derek swore again, backing off, and Sarah fumbled with the girl under her hands, drawing out the 9mm gun from the back of Cameron’s pants and aiming it shakily in the direction of Derek’s voice.
Derek sighed audibly. “You can’t see a thing can you?”
Sarah blinked rapidly, her eyes beginning to adjust to the dim light and she realized that the darker shadow that was Derek was actually three feet to the left of where she was aiming. Lucidity returned on the heels of vision, and she lowered the gun abruptly, wincing as it knocked against her thigh.
Derek stepped forwards and took it out of her hand, shoving it home in his own belt. “Got that out of your system?” he asked testily, hauling Sarah to her feet.
Sarah cried out as weight hit her injured leg. Supporting her until she steadied, Derek knelt and ran his hands over the crude bandage.
“Shit… that’s not a scratch, but I don’t think it’s bleeding anymore.” He rose and pulled Sarah’s arm over his shoulder, tugging her towards the stairs. “Let’s get you out of here, John is worried sick.”
Sarah resisted, and Derek dragged her a step behind him before realizing she wasn’t cooperating. “We’re not leaving her here,” she persisted, her teeth beginning to knock together from the chill of too long spent lying in freezing water.
“Christ.” Derek glanced back at the still shadow in the water. “Look, the machine is broken, and I don’t think I can carry her anyway!”
“Try!” Sarah ground out. “Or did you want to explain to John why you left her here when there are two other terminators out there and you’re the only uninjured adult left to face them?”
It was partly a bluff, and partly the truth. Sarah had had worse injuries, and John had been an adult from the moment he had strangled Sarkissian, but the principle was sound, and Derek knew how to calculate the odds.
“Fine!” he snarled. They stared at each other, and Derek dropped his eyes first. He helped Sarah over to the stairs and made sure she was secure against the railings before returning for Cameron.
In the end, Derek had to drag the machine. He hooked his hands under Cameron’s arms and hauled her through the dirty water, across the floor and up the stairs. Sarah followed, biting back curses as she hitched her way up the steps. Shock had retreated, and her body was coping, belligerently. The last of the fog in her head cleared as she limped along after Derek and Cameron, overseeing the process of getting the girl’s body out of the house and into the backseat of the truck. Derek was sweating heavily by the time he got the machine all the way in and settled in a way that would have been more or less comfortable for a human girl, but he didn’t complain.
He tried to insist on leaving Sarah in the truck as well, but she ignored him. While he went back inside to drag the other terminator up the first floor, she went to the shed to get the thermite. She needed to keep busy. Sitting and staring at Cameron’s limp body, waiting like a jilted lover for the girl to come back from wherever it was she had gone, wasn’t an option. Neither was even considering the possibility that Cameron wasn’t coming back.
This wasn’t the first time the girl had taken longer then two minutes to reboot. The same thing had happened when they had rescued Lauren and her family. The delay hadn’t seemed to affect Cameron then, and Sarah refused to believe it wouldn’t be the same this time. They needed the machine’s strength and abilities now more than ever. She needed Cameron… for what she wasn’t exactly sure, but it had something to do with the girl’s solidity, her persistence, and the reluctant comfort Sarah was beginning to take from Cameron’s attentions.
Back in the house, Derek took the bag of thermite from Sarah without a word, pouring it over the inert terminator and piling a stack of chairs on top of the machine. He added in the last of the charges, and they retreated to the truck before setting them off.
Sarah leaned back heavily against the hood of the truck as she watched her house start to burn. The other terminator’s chip was a solid weight in her pocket, and she hoped that whatever information John could extract from the metal and silicon would be worth it.
“Time to go,” Derek reminded her from the other side of the truck, and if he had any reaction to the destruction of their home, it wasn’t visible. He was wearing his soldier’s face, hard and empty.
“I know.” Pulling her burning eyes away from the flames beginning to lick and rend at the curtains in the kitchen window, Sarah wrenched the door open and stepped up onto the running board. A hopeful glance into the back seat stopped her cold, half-in half-out, one hand frozen on the back of the seat and the other reaching reflexively to the back of her jeans for a gun that wasn’t there.
Cameron was awake.
Soaked and filthy, her delicate features smeared with dirt and blood, Cameron was sitting up, staring blankly between the front seats, through the cracked windshield at the burning house… and her eyes glowed red.