quietus | inspector boxer

Sierra vividly remembered the first time she called Sarah Connor “mom.” She hadn’t meant to. It had slipped out after a long but fun day at the beach. Cameron had chased her through the tide as it had washed ashore, and Sarah had indulgently helped her create not one but three different sandcastles.

The sun was setting when Sarah had finally plucked her out of the ocean, swinging her around before drawing her in close and sharing her body heat as the cooling night air began to chill Sierra’s skin. She’d been too big to carry by then, but Sarah hadn’t put her down, holding her tight as if she never wanted to let her go.

Sierra hadn’t meant to say it. It had just slipped out. She had turned her face into the crook of Sarah’s neck, breathing in the smell of sunscreen, sand and surf on her skin, and whispered sleepily, “I love you, mom.”

Sarah had gone very still, her arms tightening around Sierra in surprise, and Sierra had nearly panicked, realizing too late what she had said. But after a moment Sarah had only adjusted her grip and pulled her closer. “I love you too,” she promised.

And that had been that. Assured of her place in Sarah and Cameron’s lives, Sierra’s “aunts” became her mothers. Sarah and Cameron raised her, given her a home, and given her a purpose. Their lives had never been easy, or normal, but Sierra knew she had been loved, fiercely loved, right up until the moment Sarah Connor had taken a bullet for her, dying beside her in Cameron’s arms.

Cameron had been irrevocably broken when Sarah took her last breath, some part of her damaged so badly by the loss that merely existing was almost more than she could bear. Sierra had caught her offline more than once, locked into total recall as she relived her memories of Sarah, of the family they had been. At first Sierra had been jealous and resentful of Cameron’s ability to go back in time, but as the years passed, and her grief began to ease, she hurt instead for Cameron, who couldn’t resist the escape that promised relief, only to renew her loss, over and over and over again.

Unable to move on, but refusing to quit, Cameron had endured, ensuring Sierra’s safety and helping her bring together the people who would eventually form the heart of the resistance.  She never stopped loving her daughter, and she kept her promises to Sarah, but when the end came for Cameron, Sierra didn’t miss the relief in her eyes before they closed for the last time.

That was the day Sierra had taken the place that had been meant for someone else, and in those final moments, Cameron had made her promise... promise that she would never jump back... never try to fix the past, never try to change it. It had been tangled up enough, Cameron had warned her, and there would be consequences.

It was a promise Sierra had meant to keep, but luck, fate, or accident had conspired against her. Promise or no promise, she was here now, and her mother was about to die, again. She couldn’t let that happen.

Sierra hit the window with brutal force, feeling it resist, then yield, before finally shattering and sending her careening into the living room just as John Henry found his target.

The moment she had been waiting for since waking in the past was here. The universe was about to correct itself.

act 1

With an instinct ingrained into her DNA, Sarah dove for John.

Slipping out of the safety of Cameron’s grasp, she left herself wide open, exposed, but it didn’t matter. She didn’t matter. Sarah could almost feel the gun track them, could feel it targeting her son, and her muscles screamed as she pushed herself past her limits to reach John in time. They collided, John grunting in pain or surprise, Sarah wasn’t sure. She only knew the impact rattled her bones as their bodies tangled and hit the floor. Wrapping herself around John, Sarah covered as much of him as she could, ready to take bullets for him. Ready, as always, to die for him.

There was a moment’s silence, a hesitation, in which the world seemed to go still. Holding John down, Sarah risked a glance at John Henry. He was staring at her from behind the muzzle of his gun, his eyes red and intent. Sudden as the attack had been, he smiled, and with a sick, sinking sensation, Sarah realized John wasn’t the target.

She was.

Her drive to protect John had put him at risk instead, and she could only hope that her body would provide enough cover to keep the bullets from reaching him. Sarah closed her eyes and turned away.

She could have died for John with no regrets, but in the instant before the gun roared Sarah had one for herself. She had told Cameron how she felt, offered the love she never thought she’d have to give, but she wished, just once, that she had the memory of the terminator saying the words in return to take down into the blackness with her.  

Cameron screamed her name. Glass shattered. John Henry pulled the trigger. But the sharp tearing pain of the bullet Sarah had expected never came; instead someone else slammed into her, driving her off of John and onto the unforgiving floor. The air was forced out of her lungs in a rush, and Sarah saw spots as she struggled to stay conscious.

Pinned, Sarah was fighting to get clear even before she’d managed a full breath, twisting her neck around to try to find John Henry. He was down, his eyes vacant and staring, his face only inches from hers on the floor. Sarah jerked at their proximity, but the weight across her back had her trapped.

It had to be Cameron, Sarah thought foggily, wondering why her lover hadn’t moved, hadn’t released her once the threat was over, but then she realized that whoever it was, they were soft where Cameron wasn’t, yielding in a way that Cameron never could be... and now that she could breathe, too light to be a terminator.

Heat seeped through her shirt and trickled down her spine. Blood. Sarah was all too familiar with the sensation. Reality finally began to penetrate her confusion as the chaos of other voices broke through, and the ringing began to fade from her ears.

“No! No!” John was shouting.

The weight on Sarah’s back was gone and she was rolled over, the sudden movement causing the spots to return. John’s face swam into view and Sarah fought ferociously to hang onto her hard-won consciousness. He looked unhurt but terrified, and she felt his hands on her as he checked her for injuries, just as she had examined him only a few short hours before. For a brief second, relief and gratitude shone in his eyes as he squeezed her hand, then his gaze shifted to focus on the still form beside her.

“No,” John said again, this time as a whisper.

Sarah struggled to sit up, the room whipping by in a blur. Terissa was helping Sabine. Ellison was kneeling next to John Henry. Cameron... Cameron...

Turning, Sarah struggled up on one knee, fear beginning to tighten her chest. She looked down at the body that had pinned her, still expecting to find Cameron riddled with bullets and down, maybe blacked out from the pain, but alive. She had to be alive.

But it wasn’t Cameron.

John was hovering over the unfamiliar woman, one hand on his protesting ribs, the other searching her wrist for a pulse. There was a jerkiness to his movements, a frantic panic in his eyes. Sarah recoiled from the sudden sharp smell of blood in the air, flinching as someone grabbed her under her right arm and drew her back so Cameron could ease down on the floor next to John Henry’s victim and Sarah’s savior.

Sarah turned her head, coming face-to-face with Sabine and wincing at the bleeding gash on the younger woman’s temple as she helped her to her feet. There was a dark, purpling bruise forming under her right eye as well, the result of the vicious blow she’d taken at John Henry’s hand. The damn girl was lucky to be alive.

“Who...?” Sarah asked, only faintly aware of the commotion around her as Ellison yanked out John Henry’s cord, and Danny removed the cyborg’s chip. She fought to shake off her confusion, to process what was happening.

“Get him out of here!” Cameron ordered the two men. “Burn him!” It was all the attention she spared anyone, even Sarah, as her hands pressed down on the bleeding mess that was the stranger’s stomach.

John didn’t argue, his gaze fixed in disbelief on the woman’s face.

She was young, Sarah realized, no older than her mid-twenties. When she finally looked past the injuries and saw the shock of short, choppy red hair and the eerily familiar blue eyes, Sarah felt her stomach sink along with her heart.

“Cameron?” Her tone was sharper than she intended, as she felt a rising panic creep up her throat. Cameron raised her head and met Sarah’s eyes, seeing the pain weighting the word, and she shook her head helplessly, unable to speak. But the unshed tears waiting to fall were the only confirmation Sarah needed.


It couldn’t be. John could barely breathe through the pain in his ribs, but he didn’t move, couldn’t move, to take some of the strain off them. Sierra was on the floor before him, multiple gunshot wounds to her chest. She was struggling for air, her breath sounding wet and thick as it gurgled in her throat. John knew she was dying. He’d seen too many soldiers die from similar wounds in the future. He ached for her, for himself, as he felt yet another connection to his father slipping away. As much as he desperately didn’t want to watch anyone else die, his gaze was riveted on her profile. John wanted to say something, do something, to save her, to offer her comfort, but he was frozen in place.

Cameron was yelling. There was a strange edge to her voice, a roughness John had never heard before or even believed her capable of. She was telling him to call the doctor, but John couldn’t move. He felt Terissa take his cell, heard her dial. There was no way Felicia would make it in time, John thought, but some small part of him still prayed to a god that never seemed to listen.

Sierra was here. She was in the past. John struggled to wrap his mind around that reality, his thoughts drifting helplessly to Allison before a tiny, terrified sound had his head lifting.

Savannah was standing on the couch, her chin tilted to see over the people between them, watching as Sarah sank to her knees, watching her clasp the blood-streaked hand that reached for hers across the floor. Shaking, her young gaze was wide and fixed on the scene unfolding before her, unknowingly watching herself die.

“Mom,” Sierra gasped when Sarah’s hand gripped hers. She sounded scared, and sad, and not ready to go, and John felt tears burn his eyes, and his stomach roll.

“I’m sorry,” he whispered to her before lurching to his feet, stumbling over his mother’s legs as he went to the child. Scooping her up, he took her away, holding his breath against the pain in his ribs as he hurried to get her out of the house and onto the porch. There was nothing he could do for Sierra now, but he would be damned if Savannah would witness her own death, even if the woman who was dying was a version of Savannah that would never be.

He staggered outside, the night air cool and crisp on his face after the heat and chaos of the house. John realized he was sobbing as he collapsed on the steps, holding Savannah to him as if he could tether both the child and the soldier she had once become to this earth just a little longer.

Savannah’s arms tightened around his neck and she began to murmur soothing words to him, now more worried for the boy she was beginning to think of as a brother than a stranger on the floor, or herself.

“Is she a friend?” Savannah asked through her own tears.

John clutched her tighter, feeling the truth come home in the moment.

“She’s family,” he whispered.


“The doctor is on her way,” Terissa informed everyone, watching as her son, James, and Sabine began to drag John Henry’s inert body out of the room. “My God,” she whispered, wrapping her arms around herself and hugging her body as she watched the sickening sight playing out before her.

“Stay with me,” Cameron begged the young woman on the floor, her hands darting from wound to wound as she tried to staunch the flow of blood. It was a futile effort, but Cameron couldn’t seem to stop herself.

Sierra shook, her body rebelling against her injuries. Her blue eyes were wild as they shifted from Sarah to Cameron and back again. She could see the horror on their faces, the grief. Her own life came into sharp focus, her choices, and her mistakes. She reached out, grasping Cameron’s hand, stopping the terminator’s frantic efforts to save her, holding on to both her mothers.

“Felicia...” Sierra struggled to say.

“She’s coming,” Cameron promised, shooting a quick look at Sarah.

Sierra jerked her head from side to side. “She knows... can show you...” She coughed, a bubble of blood bursting on her lips.

“Don’t talk,” Sarah murmured, reaching down to run her hand through Sierra’s hair. The texture was soft and familiar, and Sarah felt something breaking inside her. Tears collected and burned her eyes, blurring her view of the woman dying before her. Sierra’s eyes began to roll back in her head and Sarah tightened her hold. “Don’t you dare,” she ordered, and Sierra responded to the command, her gaze drifting back to Sarah’s face. “You stay with us,” Sarah insisted.

“Don’t...” Sierra managed, her weak grip pulling Cameron closer. Her mother seemed to sense what she needed, and Cameron gently collected her in her arms, drawing her in protectively close and holding her. Sierra closed her eyes at the contact, felt it ease her fears through the pain. “Don’t be mad...” she finally gasped, her eyes slowly blinking open once more to fix on Sarah. “My choice.”

Shaking her head at the senseless bloodshed and sacrifice, Sarah whispered, “Why? You shouldn’t have...”

Sierra closed her eyes again, drawing on what little strength she had left. “No...” she whispered, realizing Sarah didn’t understand what she was trying to say.

Sarah frowned. “Sierra...” Sarah swallowed. “Savannah,” she corrected, finally feeling her tears spill down her face.

“I made... Cameron... promise,” Sierra got out before making a sound of pain that had both her mothers flinching.

Sarah looked up into Cameron’s stricken gaze. The terminator was staring back at her, the truth and regret swimming in her dark eyes. Sarah felt what was left of her composure fracture. Her jaws clenched together, betrayal lancing through her and temporarily overriding her grief.

“Mom,” Sierra gasped again, tugging with her grip on Sarah’s hand.

Sarah looked down on her daughter, saw the light fading from her eyes. “We’re here,” she managed. “We’re here,” she repeated with more conviction. She let her free hand cup Sierra’s face. “We love you,” she promised fiercely. “We’re proud of you,” she got out on a sob.

Sierra’s lips lifted in a weak smile. “My turn... to die... for you.”

Her eyes closed.


Gravel flung out under tires moving too fast. John lifted his head from Savannah’s shoulder, watching as Felicia’s Jeep rolled to a stop a few feet away. The doctor scrambled out, her medical bag in hand, only to go still when she saw him.

“I don’t think you need to hurry,” John told her truthfully, his voice hoarse and eyes rimmed with red.

He watched as the doctor nearly sagged at the news before she moved past him, climbing the steps and yanking open the door. She leaned back against it when she stepped inside, knowing in her heart she’d just missed Sierra’s passing by mere moments. Judging by the wounds to her chest, however, Felicia knew there was nothing she could have done.

The doctor glanced to her side, seeing Terissa nearly blending with the woodwork.

“I’m going to deal with the neighbors,” Terissa murmured. “They might have heard the shots.” She moved past the doctor and stepped out into the night air, her steps slow and unsure.

Felicia reluctantly looked back at the scene before her. Sierra was in Cameron’s arms, the terminator gently rocking her lifeless form. Felicia felt her throat tighten and unwelcome tears brim in her eyes. A few slipped free as Sarah reached out and brushed a lock of red hair from Sierra’s face. The doctor put a hand over her mouth to stifle the unexpected sob that wanted to escape. She’d grown fond of her stubborn patient, and she couldn’t believe she was gone.

“You lied to me,” Sarah breathed into the thickening silence, ice in her tone as she angrily wiped a tear from her chin. She slowly stood. “Goddamn it, Cameron...”

The terminator wouldn’t look at her, closing her eyes and resting her cheek in Sierra’s hair. “I did what she asked me to do,” she murmured.

Sarah leaned back, her gaze traveling toward the ceiling as she shook her head. She saw Felicia, their gazes meeting fleetingly before Sarah pivoted on her heel and slowly climbed the steps.

When she heard a door slam upstairs, Felicia hesitantly came closer, easing down on her knees, careful to avoid all the blood. She watched Cameron for a long moment, seeing how gently she was still cradling Sierra. The doctor didn’t know what to make of a machine that could clearly feel the love and grief that this one did, but the sight stirred her own carefully guarded heart, and she reached out to lay a hand on Cameron’s shoulder. It felt surprisingly human under her palm. “What can I do?” she asked softly.

Cameron shifted her grip on Sierra, pulling her in tighter. She was struggling to process everything, to come to grips with the fact that this version of her daughter was no more and never would be again. “I need...” Her own voice sounded strange to her ears, like it was far away and under water. “I need to bury her.”

Felicia took in a slow breath and nodded. “There was a place...” She broke off when Cameron finally looked at her, caught off guard by the depth of misery and loss in the machine’s eyes. “She had a place where she wanted...” Felicia sighed.

“She knew this would happen,” Cameron said.

“She did,” Felicia agreed after a moment. “I always thought she was just being... I don’t know.”

“The universe corrects itself,” Cameron murmured. “It always does. She knew that. She wanted to spare Sarah from that.”

Felicia’s gaze darted to the stairs, and she wondered if she should try to talk to Sarah, but decided that would have to wait. She owed it to the woman in Cameron’s arms to help finish this. “She had a place,” she repeated. “Where she wanted to rest.”

Cameron’s gaze was intent on the doctor, but for the first time, Felicia didn’t feel afraid of her.

“Show me,” Cameron pleaded.


Even with three of them bearing the weight, John Henry’s stomach dragged across the ground, gathering dirt and grass as James, Sabine, and Danny struggled to get the body into the shed. Sweat was beginning to bead on his skin, and James listened keenly for the sound of sirens growing ever closer, but there was only the gentle breeze through the trees and a few muted crickets. Either the neighbors had slept through the gunshots, or they were used to weird sounds emanating from the Connor household at strange hours. James gave both options even odds.

He tried not to think about the woman dying inside the house. He had a strong suspicion as to who she was; the familiar blue eyes and red hair were unmistakable. His throat rippled around a rough swallow when he realized that mankind wasn’t just losing a hero, but two women were losing a child.

Danny hit the door of the shed with his back, shoving it open so hard it banged against the wall. Sabine gave him a murderous glare, made all the more impressive by the bruises on her face.

“Sorry,” Danny muttered, looking anywhere but at the girl or the inert cyborg they were carrying.

“In the pit,” James ordered, and they all grunted with one last burst of energy to lift the former terminator up and over the cinder blocks, letting his body drop with little care into the makeshift crematorium.

The three of them stood there sweating, staring down at John Henry, the cyborg’s open eyes looking back at them in silent accusation.

“Why did he shoot?” Danny said into the quiet. “Why would he do that?”

James shook his head. “Only matters that he did.”

“No,” Danny disagreed. “There had to be a reason. John said that John Henry was basically harmless... like a child. We should know the reason,” he insisted.

“Why?” James asked. “It won’t happen again. What we’re about to do here will make sure of that.”

Danny rubbed his forehead in agitation. “Didn’t you see it? Didn’t you see how awkward it was...? It looked stiff, like a robot, but confused, as if it was moving for the first time, as if it was learning how...” He shook his head. “Why would John Henry need to learn that?”

“It targeted Sarah,” Sabine said, her voice low and startling, neither man expecting her to speak.

“It did,” Danny agreed.

“John Henry’s chip was damaged. More than once,” James said with forced patience. “I’m sure he had to relearn all kinds of things.”

“I’m not buying it,” Danny muttered. “You burn him, you burn our best chance to understand.”

“I can live with that,” James told him, a hint of finality to his tone.

“Are you sure you should?” Danny asked.

Sabine studied one man and then the other, not sure who would give ground first. She really didn’t care. Her thoughts turned toward Savannah and she let her feet follow, leaving the former agent to make the call.

“Agent Ellison,” Danny began, using the title he’d been expected to use nearly his whole life. “I know you’re mad. I know he killed. I know it’s a risk...”

“We have enough of those already,” James said simply. He put his hands on Danny’s shoulders, trying to see the child he’d known when he was working Miles’ case, the boy he’d played catch with, the son of a woman he considered a friend. “What if he turns on you next, Danny? Or your mother?”

James saw a flicker of something in Danny’s eyes, and he pressed his advantage. “What if John Henry gets loose while you’re searching for your answers. What if he kills Terissa just because she happens to be in the room?”

Danny swallowed, reluctant to give up on his need to explain what had just happened in the living room. He didn’t know how he knew it, but he knew there were things they needed to know locked in that cybernetic mind, knew it as surely as he knew he was the one who could flush them out, but Ellison had a point. “I just... Don’t you think John should make this call?” he finally asked, neatly putting the responsibility onto someone else. John would listen. John was the only one who listened to him.

James drew up to his full height, his gaze casting toward the window. “Fine. Why don’t you go get him?”

“You promise you won’t do anything until he gets here?” Danny asked, unable to read any emotion on the former agent’s face.

“I suggest you hurry,” was all James offered in return.

Danny’s lips pressed together in a tight line, but he turned and rushed out. James could hear him breaking into a run up the dirt path that led to the house.

James stared at the body for a long moment, not sure how to feel. This mockery of a man had killed his fellow agents, gunning them down without remorse. In its infancy, the intelligence that gave it life had doomed an innocent man to a horrible death, just to keep itself online. John Henry had confused him and threatened his faith, made him question everything he believed in.

But Ellison also remembered John Henry’s almost childlike wonder, his curiosity. The machine had seemed honestly fascinated by humans, driven to understand his creators, and through them, theirs. John Henry had shown affection, even friendship, for Savannah. He had saved her life.

What James was about to do felt both like justice and like murder. He swallowed, an image of the woman bleeding out on the living room floor swimming to the forefront of his thoughts. This metal bastard had killed her, and there would be a price to pay for that. He turned, reaching for the thermite Sarah kept on the workbench.

“I wouldn’t do that if I were you.”

James spun, feeling his heart jerk in his chest at the familiar Scottish brogue that rolled out of the shadows. He drew his weapon, realizing as soon as it cleared his holster that it was all but useless against the machine slipping from the recesses of the shed and into the light cast by the sole, grimy window. It had been months since he’d last seen Catherine Weaver, and he wasn’t sure what to make of her sudden appearance now. He only knew that the smile she offered him felt less like a greeting and more like a death threat.

“Hello, James. Good to see you taking care of our boy.”

“He’s not our boy,” James snarled, cocking the hammer instinctively on his semi-automatic. “Did you do this?” he demanded. “Did you send him to kill her?”

“So you know who she is? Who she was?” Weaver asked with mild surprise. “I would have thought the boy would have kept that from you. My daughter was more of a leader than he could ever hope to be.”

“Sierra wasn’t your daughter any more than Savannah is.” Having his suspicions confirmed about the identity of the victim left him feeling sick. James shifted, putting himself between the door and Weaver. He didn’t know if he should shoot or run. Either option was pointless, he suspected, but he could at least go down fighting.

“No,” Weaver answered honestly. “I had nothing to do with her death.” Something flickered across her features, something that almost looked like regret, but the expression was gone so fast James wondered if he had imagined it. “And I don’t believe John Henry did, either.”

“He shot her,” James said through clenched jaws. “He emptied the whole damn clip into her trying to kill Sarah.”

Blue eyes regarded him in the pale light. “Why would John Henry want to kill Sarah Connor?” she asked simply. “Think, James. Like the young man said, there are answers we need. Answers you were about to burn.”

“I don’t know. I don’t care. I only know that I’m going to make sure he doesn’t try again.” James grabbed the container of thermite off the workbench and started to toss the contents onto John Henry only to be backhanded into the wall by a flash of quicksilver. He hit hard enough to rattle the whole shed, the tools swaying on their hooks as he dropped to the ground.

“You disappoint me, James. So quick to judge. In such a rush that you would destroy the truth that could help us both.”

“He’s a murderer,” James spat, scooping up his dropped weapon and sliding it into his holster as he got to his knees.

“Is he?” Weaver asked, her blue eyes glittering in the low light. “I thought the judicial system you believed in so fully claimed that a man was innocent until proven guilty.”

“I was standing right there. I watched him pull the trigger!”

“And now you’re going to be his judge, jury, and executioner,” Weaver purred, a faint trace of an insincere smile on her features. “Something went wrong, James. Something corrupted our boy. The answer is inside him. On that inferior chip. I can’t let you destroy him, and I strongly urge you to keep the others from trying as well.”

James turned toward the sound of footsteps coming closer outside. “Or what?” he said as he slowly stood.

“Do you really want to find out?” Weaver asked.

Seconds before the door opened and John stepped inside with Danny nearly on his heels, Weaver disappeared, dissolving before slithering away into the night.

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