fractured | inspectorboxer and anklebones

Days later, Serrano Point was still and silent when she arrived. There was no hint of the resistance base that it had once become, or the busy staff of the nuclear plant it had once been. She walked the doubly familiar halls, listening to the mournful echo of her own footsteps. 

“Car accident,” she murmured with a faint smile, remembering the excuse she and Sarah had delivered in tandem during their undercover operation at the plant. They had been a mess physically. She had still been healing from the explosion and Sarah...

Her smile faded when Cameron remembered who had been responsible for Sarah’s injuries.

The guilt had been there, even then. She simply hadn’t recognized it for what it was. Cameron now knew the glitch in her systems had been her emerging sense of self. The carefully constructed walls Skynet had designed to keep her mind and body separate had been dissolving. She had begun to feel and react without the control those walls gave her, and it had left her in chaos.

It was here, inside this facility, where Sarah had risked a high dose of radiation to save Cameron’s life. Cameron didn't know if that had been a mother's sacrifice to reclaim a weapon that could protect her son, or the first sign that Sarah considered her a member of the team, but something irrevocable had changed. That night, with no one else for either of them to unburden themselves to, they had quietly confessed their fears to one another.
They'd spoken aloud the fear of their own bodies, facing the possibility that they might fail, or turn on them at any moment.  

Sarah Connor had always intrigued and fascinated Cameron, even before she had been sent to the past, but that was the first time Cameron had suspected they had anything in common besides their desire to protect John. She had looked at Sarah differently after that, and perhaps Sarah had looked at her a little differently as well.

Cameron stilled, feeling the now familiar ache wash over her with almost overwhelming intensity. The fingers of her right hand rose up and clasped around the watch, clutching it against the grief that wanted to well up and swallow her whole. 

Minutes later, when she finally felt steady again, she headed for the reactor room, reminding herself that every action she performed from this moment forward was a step closer to Sarah and her family.

Radiation levels suggested that even if the people who had maintained it were gone, the plant had survived the worst of judgment day. Perhaps something was finally going right. She would need a big space and lots of power. And that was just the beginning.


Time was the enemy. When she stopped to rest, Cameron could hear it laughing at her down the dark hallways of the plant, mocking her efforts to replicate the work of a monster. Time slipped through her fingers, and dragged on her heels, there was never enough, but it was more than she could bear. She could have run the generators day and night, how many times had she insisted that she didn't sleep? But it wasn't sleep that she craved, it was escape.

She made herself a bed out of crates and the blankets that she'd taken from emergency kits left untouched by the fires. She found a little shelf in one of the staff rooms and took that too, using it to hold her small store of clothes and Savannah's giraffe. When she lay down at night she brought the stuffed animal with her, curling up around it and whispering the stories she used to tell her daughter into its ragged ears.

There too was where she remembered Sarah. She took her lover in her mind, torturing herself with the memories of Sarah's touch, the feelings that her own hands on her body could never replicate.

During the day she worked on the time machine. Some of the parts she found at the plant, others came from the wreckage of the city. Skynet had used teams of cyborgs and heavy machinery to shift the enormous jet engines and tear metal beams out of ruined skyscrapers, but Cameron was alone. It took her days to find enough gas to run the flatbed truck she righted and repaired, and weeks to bring everything she needed to Serrano Point.

Digging through the rubble, and climbing through collapsed buildings, Cameron was often bruised and battered, her soft skin tearing on broken glass and gleaming metal. She stitched up every rent and gash, knowing her endoskeleton would need to be completely covered if she was going to make it back through time.

The push of the needle and pull of the thread through her skin was achingly familiar. If Cameron closed her eyes she could imagine that it was Sarah putting her back together, and hear her voice, promising to be gentle.

"You're always gentle," she whispered to the empty room before pulling the coveralls back over her shoulder.

The clothes she'd found on her first day in the future had long gone to rags. A search through the plant had turned up boxes of the one piece blue suits, and Cameron calculated time by how long they lasted. Counting the days was too painful, and marking the hours would have incapacitated her. She couldn't face estimating how long it would take her to finish the machine, the days, weeks, and months it would be before she could return to her family, so she tried to live in the moment, focusing only on the joint she was soldering, or the panel she was wiring.

John would have been fascinated by the project, and Cameron found herself telling him about it. She explained while she worked, seeing his frown of concentration as he tried to wrap his head around the calculations it had taken a machine to discover. Sometimes she would forget she was talking to herself, coming up short when she asked him to hold something steady, only to turn and find nothing but the silent and empty bay behind her.

It was the loneliness that wore on her, the silence that stole the strength from her arms, but as the time machine came together Cameron drove herself harder, stopping only when she had to leave the plant to find alternate parts, or replace faulty wires. The tips of her fingers blistered and tore, sparks bit her skin, and her eyes ached from the strain of focusing on tiny circuits for hours at a time. She could have chosen not to feel what she did to her body, she could have turned it off and been a machine in full. A machine had built the first time machine, and it might take a machine to build another, but she would not let go of the humanity she had fought so hard to achieve, even if it hurt her unto death, or the wish of it. Even if it meant she failed. She would not return to her lover as less than she had been. 

Better not to return at all.


"You've been working all day..." The last word was drawn out in a theatrical whine, Savannah throwing her head back and rolling her eyes in a child's lament. She knocked her heels against the metal sides of the engine that was her perch, beating out an irregular rhythm that made concentration impossible.

"I have to finish it," Cameron said finally, teasing the ends of a wire to its mate. From deep in the panel she heard her daughter's sigh, and then a thump as tiny feet hit the floor. She felt more than knew Savannah's presence beside her, peering into the guts of the time machine with studied seriousness, her giraffe caught by its neck in the crook of her elbow.

"Is it going to work?"

"Yes." Cameron couldn't allow any other answer room to be possible.

"Will you be back in time for my birthday? Sarah said we could have ice cream and cake." This was clearly a great concession, and Cameron wondered if her own absence had prompted the generosity. Could ice cream fill the space left by a mother?

"I don't know," she answered honestly. "I'll try."

"You always say that." It wasn't a complaint, merely an observation, and Savannah moved on without dwelling on the uncertainty. "Can we play outside today?"

"It's raining." Cameron had postponed a planned trip for supplies when the dirty clouds had let loose a new flood of acid at dawn.

"Not out there." Savannah's tone was derisive. "We'll remember a better day, a sunny one, like the day when the baby robins hatched, and mama robin chased Walther under the porch..."

"And it took Sarah an hour to get him out," Cameron finished for her. She put down the pliers and turned to see her grinning daughter ankle deep in new spring grass, and then past her, knowing Sarah would be on the steps with a much chastened kitten in her arms, but the porch was empty. "Where's Sarah?"

Savannah's smile vanished. "She's not here."

"Why not?" Cameron clung to the memory but it slipped through her fingers, unraveling around Sarah's absence like a sweater around a single pulled thread.

Ash on the wind blurred Savannah's face, running cruel fingers through the colours of the dream until all that was left was the grey of the reactor room, and a mournful whisper, "because you don’t want her to see this."

Cameron blinked. With a shaking hand she reached out to pick up the ragged giraffe she didn't remember bringing to work with her. The hallucinations were becoming more frequent now, and harder to ignore. She was afraid that someday soon she wouldn't even try.

Time was running out.


Cameron's internal clock told her it had been nine months, five days and seven hours before she was ready to push the button. She had put off running the first test as long as possible, checking and rechecking everything until even John was accusing her of stalling.

She powered up the machine.

It hummed, whining up to the fever pitch of something that should have never been.

The indicator lights were green, and then they weren't.

There was no time to fix it, no time to even wonder what was wrong. The explosion threw Cameron from the launch pad, blue fire chasing her like long tangles of lightning after a ground as the time machine shorted out. 

Pain and the hot smell of burnt flesh nearly sent Cameron offline. Knowing she had failed almost sent her crawling into the fire after her dream. She did neither. Instead she rose to unhook the fire extinguisher from the wall and drench the flames. When the canister was empty, she looked down and saw a machine.

The skin on her hands was gone. Bare metal flexed and grasped, ringing like a death knell against the metal of the fire extinguisher. She dropped it, hardly hearing the clang as it hit the floor and rolled away. Nausea twisted what her chip claimed was a stomach, not for the sight of herself, but for what it meant.

Metal didn’t go through.

A last spark from the main panel of the time machine lit the air, falling slowly like an electric dandelion seed. Cameron watched it drift, knowing that her perception of time was slowing, delaying the moment when it would wink out, taking with it everything she had worked for.

Stretching out her hand, Cameron caught the spark, wanting to feel the heat, but she felt nothing.

Fury clenched metal rods into a fist, and Cameron buried it in the middle of the ruined panel. Unhindered by pain, she ripped out wires, smashed keys and shattered circuits. In her mind, it was Skynet's throat she was tearing out, and the wound was bleeding hope all over the floor.

She didn't realize she was sobbing until she sank to her knees. The shrapnel stung the remains of the skin and muscle on her legs, but it was a good hurt. She clung to the panel with what was left of her hands, resting her forehead against the edge and feeling coolness there as well. Likewise the tracks of tears down her cheeks. She had not been completely scoured of her humanity, only enough to ensure that she would not be making another attempt any time soon.

"Sarah..." The whimper was a rasp scraped off the sides of a throat nearly closed with grief.

There was no answer.

She was alone.

Cameron reached up to clasp the watch around her neck, finding it slippery with blood, and nothing but the cold shell of her chest plate in a circle behind it. Metal scraped against metal, a sickening sound to her ears. She let the watch fall slack, feeling it swing in time with the beating of her heart, a pendulum ticking away the seconds and carrying her pitilessly forward.    

She had used the best of what she could find to build her time machine, and it had failed. Another promise broken, even if it had been one she'd only made to herself.

A future spent alone stretched out ahead of her, approximately sixty three years, seven months and five days of power left in her core. Death would be preferable, but for all the modifications Cameron had made to her systems, that one directive remained. She could not self terminate.

They never gave up, and they never stopped.  

Cameron wanted to stop, wanted it almost as desperately as she wanted to see Sarah again. She wanted an end to the pain, an end to the loneliness, to the guilt and the thwarted love that was devouring her from the inside out. Soon she would be nothing but a shell full of memories, a broken record that just went round and round and round...

Leaving a trail of blood, Cameron left the reactor room and closed the doors behind her.

Her bed didn't promise relief, but there was nowhere else for her to go. She curled up on the rough blankets, cradling Sarah's watch and Savannah's giraffe within the circle of her body, careful to keep the horror of her hands away from them. One by one, she let go of the senses that connected her to the real world, sight, sound, scent, taste, touch... wrapping herself instead in an insulating numbness. She retreated farther into her mind than she had ever gone before. If she could not have oblivion, than she would at least have forgetfulness.

Sarah was waiting for her there.

A warm breeze came over the grass to ruffle Cameron's hair, and she breathed it in, taking determined steps into the dream, not noticing when it closed behind her, cutting her off from an empty nuclear plant and a broken time machine. Without a backwards glance, she ran away from her body and into her lover's arms.

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