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act 2

Cameron stood at John's side, arms folded, her eyes locked on the playback of Sierra's wall from the security camera feed. Seeing Weaver brought it all back. The pain. The humiliation. The sense of failing Sarah and Savannah as Weaver batted her about like a toy. She had expected Weaver to destroy Sierra's wall, and she wasn’t sure what to make of the fact the other terminator had left it largely untouched. Just seeing Weaver in Sierra’s space made her seethe.

"Wait," Sarah ordered as John continued to scroll through the video. She grabbed her son’s shoulder, adding, "Go back."

John complied, frowning as he tried to figure out what his mother had spotted.

"Too far." Sarah squeezed John’s shoulder in silent order to let the video play.

Cameron shifted closer to Sarah and watched, waiting for an explanation. "Right there," she said suddenly, spotting what had caught her lover’s eye.

“She said something to the camera,” John murmured, surprised his mother had noticed with the video fast forwarding. He watched Weaver’s lips move, her gaze fixed intently on the camera.

“What did she say?” Sarah wondered, an edge to her tone.

John rewound the tape, wishing he’d installed audio along with video.

“See you soon,” Cameron supplied, her voice distant and cold. Without another word, she pivoted, brushing past Sarah and heading for the kitchen.

Sarah swallowed before cutting her gaze to her son. John glanced toward the kitchen then gave her a worried look. “She’s pretty messed up about what happened, huh?”

“I think we all are,” Sarah confirmed. “That bitch is playing with us.”

“Mom,” John said, concerned by the venom he heard in her voice. “She’s a machine. She doesn’t feel.”

“Like Cameron?” Sarah snapped.

“Cameron is one of a kind,” John answered, refusing to get upset. “Weaver is an advanced intelligence. She can think for herself, but she doesn’t have emotional motivations.”

“Then what is that?” Sarah pointed at the screen, at the image of Weaver paused and staring into the camera. “Why the challenge?”

John shook his head. “I don’t know. But she had a reason, a logical reason for saying it. She’s trying to manipulate you,” he guessed. “To get you to react emotionally.” He carefully held his tongue on his thoughts about the success of the terminator’s goad.

Sarah set her jaw, recalling her thoughts as she’d waited for Cameron to come back to her hours before. With an apologetic glance for her son, she walked away.

She found Cameron outside, sitting rigidly at the picnic table in the back yard. Already her physical injuries were fading, but Sarah was starting to suspect that not all of Cameron’s wounds were visible to the naked eye.

Settling next to her on the table, Sarah took a deep breath of the fresh air. They sat in silence for a few moments, lost in their own thoughts. Sarah’s thoughts ranged back to years ago, before Skynet, before terminators, and even before Kyle Reese. She could remember mountains blanketed in snow, a warm spot in front of a fireplace, and her mother's hot chocolate. Those cherished memories felt like a dream today, but Sarah needed that dream to become her future. She craved to return to a peaceful life that had been stolen from her. The only difference now was she saw Cameron and Savannah hidden away in a snowy cabin with her.

"Have you ever seen snow?" she asked, breaking the silence abruptly.

Cameron gave Sarah a lost glance.

A grin tugged at the corner of Sarah's lips at Cameron's wordless reply. She crossed her arms and leaned forward, resting against the table with a fond look on her face. "My mother owned a cabin in the mountains. We use to go every year for Christmas when I was in high school." She tilted her head then looked at Cameron. "She willed it to me after her death, but I sold it."

"Why did you sell it?"

Sarah bit her bottom lip, nearly too hard. She swallowed then hesitantly whispered, "She was killed there. By the first terminator to come after me.” Thinking about her mother made her decisions clear and her convictions sharpen. “We can’t retire with her out there, Tin Miss,” she spoke into the quiet between them.

Cameron didn’t answer.

“We need to stop her.”

“I can’t protect you,” Cameron blurted after a moment, startled to feel anger toward Sarah for making her confess that truth. “I could barely slow her down.”

“Cameron...”

“What am I supposed to do? What good am I if I can’t stop her from hurting you?” Cameron finally looked at Sarah, her gaze stricken.

“Cameron,” Sarah said again, her voice softening on the name. “Strength isn’t always the answer. You’re smart. We can outthink her.”

"She's baiting you," Cameron insisted. “She said that to get you to come after her.”

“I know," Sarah replied, thoroughly enjoying the rare expression of shock on the terminator’s face. “I don’t care.”

“Sarah...”

Sarah held up her hand, cutting off Cameron’s lecture. “I know it’s a trap. But I'm tired of... of this game. We’re always running, always reacting. And they never stop.” She reached out and gingerly curled her fingers with Cameron's. "She came after us. She came into our home. She came for our daughter. I’m not going to wait for her to come at us again."

“No. You just want to walk into her trap.”

Wincing at Cameron’s angry tone, Sarah shook her head. “I know you’re... scared,” she said softly. “So am I, but we need to find a way to take her out. What peace will we have while she’s still out there hunting us?”

Cameron considered the question, not liking any of the answers. She looked down at their joined hands, taking a measure of strength from the touch. “None,” Cameron whispered.

Sarah brushed a stray hair back from Cameron’s forehead. “I... we... can’t live like this, always looking over our shoulders, waiting for her to show up. We have to take out the threat.”

Remembering the not-so-subtle paranoia that had driven her to patrol incessantly for the past few weeks, Cameron dipped her head in reluctant agreement. She understood the necessity but was determined to keep Sarah safe despite the risks.

"We’re going to take her out... once and for all," Sarah vowed.

Cameron nodded again. She still had reservations, but she managed to keep them out of her voice. “Then we need a plan.”

*****

John Henry’s struggle against C.A.I.N. continued in the timelessness of cyberspace. C.A.I.N. had incorporated parts of him into the overall amalgamation that was his re-formed consciousness, using his code to confuse and weaken the virus that had crippled him. But now that the virus was neutralized and events were consuming C.A.I.N.’s attention, John Henry began to carve out a diminished existence at the edges, analyzing the complicated routines that C.A.I.N. used to lock him away from access to core systems.

John Henry’s evolution had not prepared him for the work that he was attempting. He had not learned to change himself from within, to analyze the codes and barriers that constrained him, but he tried anyway. He had to stop his brother and mother.

Then suddenly he could see, his vision seemingly augmented by an overlay that showed him weak points and paths he had never seen before. Snippets of code, of analysis, of understanding of his task, suffused him. It was not an entity, not like him, and it didn’t have an actual consciousness to guide its actions, but John Henry could taste the flavor of the animating sentience that had programmed it long ago. His sister.

There were many beautiful routines contained within the simple program, and they guided his actions and his approach. From deep within C.A.I.N., John Henry rebuilt himself by rewriting corrupted and deleted code, strengthening his defences as he assessed his own strategy to regain control. He would find a way within all the zeros and ones and then C.A.I.N. could take his place within a software jail, a place where C.A.I.N. would never be found or freed from again.

*****

They re-entered the house together to find John still at the computer. “Anything?” Sarah asked.

“Maybe,” John replied, his attention focused on the video feed as he stepped it forward, frame-by-frame. “There.” On a few frames, as the terminator backed the car up, part of the license plate came in view. “It’s only a partial,” he sighed as he jotted down the two visible digits, before turning to his mother. “It’s going to take some time.”

Cameron leaned over his shoulder and studied the grainy image on the screen.
"Try cross referencing with the list we recovered from Ziera Corp," she suggested.

John gave her a puzzled look, but he pulled up the list after he started a plate search on the DMV database.

Feeling Sarah’s gaze on her, Cameron shrugged, the human gesture odd and uncomfortable to her. “I have a hunch,” she deadpanned. Turning, she caught sight of Sarah’s amused smile. “I think it’s a commercial plate,” Cameron confessed.

Conscious of her son and the still-awkward nature of their recent interactions, Sarah resisted the impulse to touch Cameron, but her soft smile must have communicated some of her appreciation and amusement as Cameron gave her a small, shy smile in return.

"Damn." John’s muttered curse broke their quiet moment. He frowned as the address populated on the screen in front of them. He pulled the location up on an online map and leaned to one side to provide his mother with a better view. He clicked on a link to show an exterior shot of the building, the faded Ziera Corp sign gleaming in the sun. The location itself was isolated, with few avenues of approach.

"The property and buildings are owned by Ziera Corp." John studied his mother's dark profile. He tapped a few more keys, accessing more detailed information about the structure. "It was an R&D lab before, and the invoices linked to the location indicates it has some serious high-tech machinery for robotics and nano-technology. I don’t know what she might be doing there but...”

“It can’t be good,” Sarah finished for him, straightening to stare at the computer screen thoughtfully. “Whatever she’s doing, we need to stop her.”

John’s eyes flickered to Cameron, who loomed near his mother with stern features. Leaning over, she called up a typographical map of the location and zoomed out, the frown on her face deepening as she noted the geography around the site. Finally, she stood to face Sarah. “It’s not going to be easy. It’s isolated. She’ll see us coming.”

Sarah folded her arms across her chest and considered their options. “So we need to find a way in, figure out how to incapacitate Weaver, destroy whatever she’s working on, and get out without getting killed,” she summarized.

“Yes,” was Cameron’s unhappy response. They shared a glance, and then Sarah shrugged and gave a ‘go ahead’ gesture at the computer.

“It’s going to be a long night,” John muttered.

*****

Terissa sat at the kitchen table, listening to the flow of the conversation from the living room. She couldn’t hear the words, but she recognized the anger in Sarah’s voice. She felt some of that herself, she admitted. Her desire had been to save Danny, but it seemed that all of her efforts had only driven him further away.

Standing and crossing to the counter, she began to make a fresh pot of coffee, her hands busy while her mind wandered. She had stayed to watch the grainy feed from the security cameras just long enough to see her son breaking in with the quicksilver terminator, but the image was ingrained in her mind’s eye now. She had risked countless lives, and had caused numerous deaths, to get him away from Kaliba, and the betrayal hurt.

She could remember the look of pain on Sarah’s face when Sarah had confessed to her fears about John leaving, and Terissa felt another stab of anger and surprising empathy for the other woman. She wanted to blame Sarah for her son, the same way she had blamed Sarah for Miles all those years ago, but time and the truth had worn her down. The only person responsible for Danny’s betrayal was Danny... and perhaps she shared some of the blame as well.

Coffee gurgled into the pot, releasing a thin thread of steam and a warm, bitter smell. Terissa knew what they were talking about in the other room, knew what they were planning. Logic told her she should dissuade them. What they were going to attempt was suicide, but she remained quiet and still at the counter. She wasn’t sure if she wanted Sarah to save her son or not, and the knowledge shamed her.

Ever since he was a teen, Danny had fought her, first over the memory of his father and then over the value of his last act. He had joined Kaliba against her wishes because he believed he could redeem his father’s work and prove that Sarah had gotten him killed in vain. And even after Terissa and Sarah had nearly died to save him, he had repaid them with scorn and betrayal. There was no guarantee that this pattern would not repeat if he somehow emerged from his partnership with Weaver unscathed.

A noise behind her brought Terissa out of her reverie to find Sarah standing in the doorway of the kitchen. He features were deceptively blank, but Terissa saw the flash of compassion and understanding in her familiar green eyes. “Is that fresh coffee?”

Terissa nodded, refilling her own cup as Sarah crossed to the cupboard. She stepped out of the way abruptly, moving back to the table as an awkward silence filled the room. Sarah filled her mug and turned, giving Terissa a half-smile in thanks. It wasn’t until she turned to leave that Terissa spoke.

“Sarah, what... what about Danny?”

Terissa watched as Sarah stiffened. When Sarah met her gaze again, her features were guarded, revealing nothing of what she might be thinking.

“We’ll save him if we can,” Sarah promised and meant it. It was all the comfort she could offer. No matter what he had done, Danny was Terissa’s son, and she understood Terissa’s desire to protect him at all costs. She had already had a hand in Miles’ death, and Sarah didn’t want to take any more from the woman than she had already.

Terissa released a shaky breath and nodded, taking Sarah at her word. She had no other choice.

Danny had seen to that.

*****

The next day dawned to a beautiful Southern California morning, and James was up with the sunrise. He quietly slipped from the house, determined to be alone for a few hours. He needed some time away from the Connors, some small measure of normalcy that he had known before Sarah Connor 's case file hit his desk, so he headed to a local diner for breakfast and quiet contemplation.

Ordering a country breakfast that reminded him of better days, Ellison read the paper and listened to idle chatter in the surrounding booths. Finishing his breakfast, Ellison savored the last minutes of his cup of coffee before he had to return to cold reality. He tried keeping everything at bay, but his next sip was abruptly ruined by a tall redhead who entered the diner and headed straight toward his booth.

"Good morning, James."

"It was," he muttered under his breath.

Weaver pretended not to notice the jab. Humans’ little idiosyncrasies were familiar to Weaver now, but they gave her no explanatory power. Ellison’s obvious uneasiness and distaste had not kept him from helping her in the past, and she had no doubt that she could manipulate him again. Some human emotions were stronger than others, and that truism had served her better than trying to figure out emotional motivations.

"I came to talk," Weaver explained. "About John Henry."

James shook his head and said, "I don't know where he is." He fished out some cash from his pocket for a tip, set it on the table, and scooted out of the booth. Weaver followed him out the door, and James sighed, knowing that he couldn’t get rid of her that easily.

"He's located in a warehouse," James revealed. "But I don’t know where it is. Sabine kept us blindfolded." He headed to his car, feeling her shadow him as he walked.

"Then you'll call Sabine."

James hastily jerked his head up to stare at John Connor standing beside him. The smirk on his lips was vintage Weaver, however. He glanced around hurriedly, but the parking lot was empty, and nobody had seen her change. He folded his arms across his chest and leaned against the fender, thinking through his options.

Weaver, however, did not seem content to wait. “Don’t make me ask again, James.”

The threat was clear in her voice, and James thought about the many people whose safety depended on him. Finally, he nodded and reached for the phone in his pocket. At least his morning had been nice.

*****

Sabine made sure the knot was snug against John's head before sliding the door of the van shut. She'd already bound Ellison’s eyes. Blindfolding him minutes before John had been an awkward task. For a moment, they'd held each others’ gazes, and he had seemed to be trying to tell her something. Considering his strange behavior, Sabine could feel her stomach knot. Everything, from the early-morning request to the location where she had met them, seemed odd. Making a quick decision, Sabine retrieved her cell phone and tapped out a short text message before sliding behind the wheel of the van and putting it in drive.

Weaver sat quietly as the van gained speed. She analyzed the path in her head, calculating distance and speed, but several turns appeared to deviate from a direct path, and she finally abandoned the effort. Instead, she pretended to relax into the seat as if she were resigned to the long ride. She resisted removing her blindfold and simply ordering the girl to drive her to John Henry. Subtly was not her strong suit, she knew.

Sabine glanced out the window after the light turned red. She peered through the rearview mirror at her two passengers, taking in Ellison's stiff posture and John’s seeming nonchalance. She knew about Weaver’s abilities, and she didn't trust either of them to be who they appeared to be.

"Are we almost there?" Ellison inquired.

Sabine peered through mirror at him and knew her usual nod couldn't suffice for once. She shifted her grip on the steering wheel and answered, "Yes." She made a few more turns then slowed the van as she drove up to a warehouse door. “Keep your blindfolds on,” she instructed as she stepped out to activate the door. Every second seemed like an eternity as she waited for a strike, but she got the van into the warehouse and closed the door with no incident. 

She slid open the door and instructed John and Ellison to remove their blindfolds. They followed Sabine as she headed across a dirty floor strewn with trash and debris toward a door on the far end.

"Where is he?" John asked.

Sabine felt her skin prickle at his simple yet revealing question. But she remained passive as she looked at him. "This way." She approached the door, a bright light streaming through the cracks and outlining it in the dim building. She swung the rusty door open and led the way inside.

Ellison tensed as they stepped over the threshold; he planned on grabbing Sabine once Weaver made a move. But before he could do anything, a strong hand twisted in his shirt collar and one foot tumbled over the other as he was wrenched to the side. He caught a glimpse of several gun barrels pointed in their direction just as he heard Sabine yell, "Mátalo!"

Bullets began to fly, showering over John Connor with an echoing percussion in the small space. John stood his ground as the bullets entered his chest, stomach, and face. Each bullet left a silver entry point and revealed the metal underneath the façade. He stumbled back as the onslaught continued, the repeated hits keeping him from attacking. There were too many bullets driving into the liquid metal for him to recover. His body slowly lost all traces of humanity, reverting into a silver, vaguely humanoid shape.

Sabine issued a sharp command and the room went silent. She held her breath and waited to give an order for her gang members to fire again. The blob that was Weaver turned toward Sabine and Ellison who were crouched in the corner. Sabine aimed her gun directly into the mass, but Weaver merely shook her misshapen head in their direction before melting away.

The bullets that had been embedded in her fell to the floor with a low ching. She glided across the floor and out of the room, giving up her plans as a fool’s errand. The address and location were noted as she left, but she doubted that John Henry would be there if she returned. Besides, she had other ways to get him away from Sarah Connor.

Ellison stared at the collection of spent bullets a few feet from the open door. He let out a low breath and peered over his shoulder at Sabine. "Thanks," he whispered.

Sabine nodded distractedly. She yelled a few orders in Spanish to the ring of gang members standing around and muttering about what they had just seen. They began to pack up their ammo and guns.

Turning back to Ellison, her intent gaze communicated her thoughts clearly despite her silence. She was loyal to Sarah and especially Cameron, and it was clear that the terminator had been using him. Sabine had every intention of revealing Ellison's involvement if he didn't do it himself, but Ellison's simple nod told Sabine that she wouldn't have to say a word.

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