four times judgment day happened... and one time it didn't | zennie

 

Hope... tell me a story

“Tell me a story. A happy story,” Sarah clarified as they huddled in the small emergency shelter, the floor moving beneath their feet and the sounds of explosions still ringing in their ears. They had just made it beneath the surface when the sirens had sounded, and Cameron had lead them through the twisting tunnels to a long-forgotten shelter just as the first wave had hit.

They had thought they had stopped it; there had been no hint of a military AI program or other harbingers of a computer program able to become Skynet. So Sarah, every watchful, had let her vigilance ease somewhat. She had assumed, like she had after Miles’ work had been destroyed, that she had time, time to breathe, time to identify the next threat. So she had let the fateful date fade from her consciousness and let time pass. Until it ran out.

Sarah leaned back to stare at the flickering lights above her head and swore. “Forget it. There aren’t any more happy stories. There aren’t any more stories at all.”

“Yes, there are,” Cameron correctly gently, her hand reaching out to take Sarah’s. Sarah resisted for a moment, not wanting to be consoled, but the slow caress of Cameron’s thumb on the back of her hand was her undoing and she finally allowed Cameron to thread their fingers together.

“Once upon a time,” Cameron began, and Sarah groaned at the silliness of it all, at the thought of fairy tales at the end of the world. “Once upon a time there was a brave woman who fought to save humanity from the evil Skynet. She fought and she fought and she fought but Skynet always won.”

“This is a happy story?” Sarah questioned.

Cameron hushed her with a look as another blast rumbled through. “The evil Skynet won and banished the brave woman deep underground to keep her from fighting again.”

“The end?” Sarah suggested, earning her another look from Cameron.

“But Skynet made a mistake. He forgot how stubborn the brave woman was, how she never gave up, and he forgot that she had a friend, a companion, who stood beside her wherever she fought.”

Sarah rolled her eyes at the pseudo-fairy tale language, but a small smile graced her lips and she stayed quiet as Cameron continued the story.

“Even though they were banished, they were together. And they realized that so long as they were alive and able to fight, they still had the one thing that Skynet could never take away from them-“

“Sex?” Sarah asked dryly, her smile widening to a smirk as Cameron did her best to ignore the interruption.

“Hope.” Cameron’s fingers squeezed Sarah’s as she glanced up shyly. “Together we have hope.”

Reaching out, Sarah stroked Cameron’s cheek, rubbing some of the dust and dirt from her features. Emotion choked her as she realized the gift she had been given, even at the end of days, in the woman who sat beside her. “Hope.”

*****

Love... in sickness and in health

“Will it affect you?” Sarah asked, her voice echoing in the empty hospital ward.

Cameron was silent for so long that Sarah thought she would have to ask again, but once the terminator started speaking, it was clear she had been choosing her words carefully. “A high dose of radiation will affect the organic components of my body. Cells will die. Hair...” she trailed off, her eyes drawn to the dark locks that lay scattered on the floor. “A large enough dose could cause my organic material to die.”

“But not you? Your...” Sarah waved vaguely at her head, “other stuff.”

“No. My endoskeleton and processors will remain intact.”

The pause seemed large enough to drive a truck through. Finally, Sarah muttered, “Lucky you.”

Cameron didn’t say it, but she didn’t feel lucky. The burns on her hand and arm were mirrored on Sarah’s body, but she had none of the headaches and nausea that the other woman exhibited. A white butterfly of tape on Sarah’s arm held the I.V. needle in place, sending needed antibiotics and electrolytes to stave off an infection. Cameron held little hope that it was enough to repair the damage done, and none of the materials for a more aggressive treatment had survived the blast. Sarah was dying, and Cameron could only watch.

Sarah shook her head, angrily denying the tears threatening to fall. “I don’t want to die like this.” Her eyes sought Cameron’s, imploring, the familiar fear born of too many days and nights worrying about cancer. “I don’t want to lay here and watch my body fail hour by hour. I can’t.”

“There’s still a possibility you might recover,” Cameron reminded her quietly.

“Damn it, Cameron.” Sarah grabbed a handful of her hair, pulling it out easily and letting it fly to settle on the floor at Cameron’s feet. With more gentleness, she rested her hand on Cameron’s leg. “Promise me. Promise me you won’t let it get to that point.”

Cameron shook her head stubbornly. “I can’t. Don’t...”

“You can. You’re a terminator for Christ’s sake.” Sarah paused, sensing that her words were causing unbearable pain. “I can’t die like this. Please... don’t make me.”

The fear in Sarah was so strong Cameron could almost feel it herself, and so she gave the woman at her side the only solace she could offer. “Ok. But only if and when it is clear that you won’t recover.”

“Thank you.”

Cameron met her gaze again, the gratitude almost too much to bear. “I want you to understand. I’m not doing this because I’m a terminator.” Sarah watched her carefully, but did not say anything. “I’m doing this because I love you.”

Sarah nodded her head slowly, in acknowledgement, before saying, “I know. That’s why I asked.”

*****

Faith... the coming thunder

“Can you feel that?”

Cameron nodded, wordlessly. It felt like the first roll of thunder from a gathering storm, off in the distance.

“And that?”

She nodded again, feeling the storm surge across the horizon in a senseless, mindless fury. It was getting closer, and she thought that she should run, but there was nowhere to go, nowhere to hide. Soon it would sweep through and engulf her, overwhelming her senses and her reason.

A quiet touch and the softness of Sarah’s body kept her grounded against the onslaught so she could ignore the storm rushing toward her and focus on the last few seconds. Green eyes met hers as the storm overtook her, cascading through her body like lightning through the night sky.

When she opened her eyes, she found Sarah perched above her, sweaty and disheveled, watching with a soft smile. “I thought I lost you there for a second.”

“No.” She brushed back the lock of hair that had fallen across Sarah’s forehead. “You’ll never lose me.”

Sarah grinned and collapsed down onto the bed, snuggling tight against the terminator’s naked body. Within seconds she was asleep, and Cameron watched her while she slept. And when she awoke, they got up and made lopsided pancakes, sitting out on the picnic table with Savannah to enjoy the beautiful sunny and completely unremarkable morning.

*****

Togetherness... the end

They were too late; Sarah could see the streaks in the sky that signaled the paths of the missiles. They only had a few seconds...

Cameron grabbed her hand and pulled her backward, picking up speed as they ran away from the impending explosion. Sarah could see Cameron’s head sweeping the path ahead, desperately looking for shelter, but Sarah gave no thoughts to survival. Her only thought was This wasn’t supposed to happen today, as if the coming apocalypse was simply a forgotten appointment or inconvenience to her day.

They rounded a corner, and Sarah could see the City Hall just a few blocks away, promising shelter in the deep tunnels underneath. But they were too late; already she could hear the rush of wind as the fire sucked all the oxygen in to feed the blaze and feel the heat gathering at her back.

Throwing her weight back and to the side, Sarah managed to stop Cameron’s headlong flight, pulling them both into an alley. She soothed a hand down Cameron’s cheek, trying to calm the frantic look in the cyborg’s eyes as she pulled her close for a kiss. “I love you,” she whispered. “I love you I love you I love you” were the last sounds she heard and the last emotions she felt as the wave overtook them.

*****

Promise... a new day

Sarah shivered and wrapped her hands around the enamel cup to ward off the chill. The sun had not burned off the fog yet as it rose up and slowly bathed the valley in a golden hue. It was beautiful, she thought, as Cameron settled in beside her.

“What time is it?” Sarah whispered, almost afraid to break the hush that surrounded them.

“6:17 AM Mountain Time Zone,” Cameron answered, her words oddly formal yet quiet, as if she too did not want to disturb the beautiful day dawning.

“And what time will...?” Sarah’s voice trailed off, swallowing hard as she refused to let the words pass her lips. To speak them out loud would make it real, and she wanted to sit there, ensconced by beauty and the quiet rustle of the world waking up, and pretend that they were on a hiking trip to Wyoming for just a little while longer. 

“Not for a while yet.”

“Will we be able to see?”

“I don’t think so. We are far from primary targets and population centers.”

Sarah shivered again, and Cameron wrapped her up in a blanket and pulled her close, hugging her to her side. Sarah slid her arm around the cyborg’s waist and burrowed into her warmth, her eyes fixed on the blue, cloudless sky, watching, waiting.

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