a prayer for the dying | inspector boxer & zennie

“We have the package.”

Danny pressed himself against the backseat of the van as two of the three agents that had grabbed him from Weaver’s warehouse stared him down. His wrists throbbed; the zip-tie holding them together was cutting off his circulation and slicing into his flesh. He tried to look anywhere but at the muzzles of the two large weapons trained on his skull, the agents’ fingers resting casually on their triggers. They’d come out of nowhere, he recalled, as the frenzied few seconds dimly took shape in his memory. A loud sound rocked the warehouse and then the lights flared and died. The three terminators dropped to the ground like marionettes with their strings cut. 

Swallowing, Danny tried not to be sick. His head hurt from being shoved to the concrete and cuffed, and the surge of adrenaline pumping through his system was only making it worse. His eyes fixed on the telltale logo printed on their bulletproof vests. Kaliba, he realized with a start. He had no idea why the agents had taken him and left Sarah behind, but Danny doubted he was in for a happy reunion with his former employer.

“Yes, sir.” One of the agents continued to talk into his headset. “We’ve removed the chip. She’s off-line.”

Danny’s gaze drifted helplessly to Cameron. She lay motionless at his feet on the floor of the van, her brown eyes open and staring at him in silent condemnation. The agents had swarmed her in the seconds after the pulse had taken the terminators out. Only one had been dispatched to deal with Sarah, delivering a sharp blow to the back of her head as she stumbled toward Cameron in a sudden loss of coordination. Sarah had seemed dazed and confused, almost succumbing to the attack just like the machines, and she had gone down hard.

Danny had felt a twinge of regret as her figure receded in the distance, as he and Cameron were carried away and dumped unceremoniously in a van. A knife flashed as soon as they were inside, and he had tried to roll away in panic. He watched with sick fascination as the agent ruthlessly cut into Cameron’s scalp. Her chip had been yanked free with moments to spare. She was already a bloody mess from her fight with Weaver, but somehow the agent’s brutal treatment of Cameron’s body seemed to be the cruelest cut of all.

The van began to move, and Danny felt a small measure of triumph that the terminator that had made him nearly sick with fear was nothing but an empty shell. Cameron couldn’t hurt him now. Weaver. C.A.I.N. John Henry. Danny had been sure one of them would kill him, but the fates apparently had other ideas. He had come full circle, escaping the latest threats only to end up back where he had started, with Kaliba.

He glanced once again at Cameron’s empty, accusing eyes and felt a surge of anger at the thing that had caused him and his family so much misery. Before he thought better of it, Danny lashed out with his boot, kicking Cameron in the side. She didn’t move, but his toes burned like fire from the impact. Danny felt weak and pathetic, but he was tempted to kick her again.

One of the agents chuckled, a dry, humorless sound. Danny forgot himself for a moment, glaring at the agent defiantly. He only remembered his predicament when the agent pointedly adjusted his grip on his gun.

“Connor was wounded. Weaver’s other A.I. was destroyed.” The agent on the headset nodded. “Connor had backup. They put up a good fight but we got what we came for, sir.”

Danny swallowed again and looked away, refusing to feel guilt over what happened to Sarah Connor. “Should have put a bullet in her,” he grumbled, trying to convince himself that was the right thing to do. He stared at a piece of thread working its way loose from the fabric of the backseat, refusing to face the disdain in the agents’ eyes. He wondered what he’d done to deserve any of this. Danny thought of his mother, wondering if she could help him, but he knew that the way he’d left branded him a traitor in her eyes. His own mother was lost to him, and he cursed her for turning her back, for siding with the Connors and that thing over him. She had been willing to sacrifice her own son for the so-called greater good, and Danny wouldn’t forget that or forgive it. He had been on the edge of showing her, showing them all, that his way had been the correct one. If he survived this, he still might be able to prove it.

He dropped his head and sighed wearily. Even with the agents’ guns trained on him, it was Cameron’s gaze he could still feel boring into his back as the van left the road and began to bounce and slide in what sounded like dirt and sand.

The desert, Danny realized. They were going to the outpost. He’d heard whispers about it, the mythical place where Kaliba did its top secret A.I. research. Now it looked like he was about to see it with his own eyes. With no other choice available to him, Danny began to strategize, hoping he could come up with a reason viable enough for Kaliba to keep him alive.

act 1

Staggering, Sarah caught herself on the edge of a rusting and damp dumpster. She watched the vans disappear in the distance, knowing a huge piece of her world was inside one of them, but her knees would barely hold her. Even her fingers didn’t seem to work, and they swiftly lost their precarious hold, the flaking metal slicing into her skin as she slumped to her knees.

Her mind only knew that she had to save Cameron, and she willed her body to obey, but all she could do was crawl toward the fading trail of dust.

Hands were suddenly on her, and Sarah winced as she was rolled over on the cracked and busted asphalt.


John smelled like gunpowder and sunlight, and Sarah weakly gripped a handful of the canvas jacket he was wearing, trying to tug him closer. They’d been here before, in a moment so similar to this Sarah felt a rush of déjà vu. Her thoughts skittered to Sierra and the day she’d died before tracking back to John and the piece of her life that had just been ripped away. “Cameron...”

“We tried. They had too much firepower.” John looked both angry and apologetic, and he was noticeably winded. “What happened in there?” He brushed a hand through her hair, frowning with concern at how ashen she looked. She had a wicked cut on her right cheek and shoulder, and her hand was slick with blood when he grabbed it. “Are you hit?”

Sarah shook her head, but it was difficult. “Our plan didn’t work. John Henry... Danny brought him back online but he turned on Weaver.” Even talking took effort, she realized. “What the hell is wrong with me?” She stared at her shaking hands, the slice across her knuckles still oozing blood.

“They hit the warehouse with an EMP. It would have taken all the machines offline. Even...” he paused, gazing at the blood streaking her knuckles. “Even your nanites.” An edge of worry crept into John’s tone. He had no idea what the loss, even temporarily, of the microscopic robots in his mother’s blood would mean for her wellbeing.

He eased one of her arms around his shoulders before hauling her to her feet. She sagged against him, barely able to stand, and John felt his throat tighten. “Your body had become fully integrated with them. Your system is in shock.”

The part of her that was Cameron, Sarah fuzzily realized. It only made the situation that much worse, that even that part of her lover was gone.

“Go after her.”


“John...” Sarah snapped, anger and fear making his name sound harsh. She swayed in place and would have collapsed completely if he hadn’t held her up. A thin trickle of blood spilled lazily down her neck and back, and she realized that her head was bleeding from a wound she didn’t even know she had.

Uncomfortable, Sarah began pawing weakly at her jacket, needing to feel more air as her body grew uncomfortably warm. Thoughts of snow and cabins nestled in the mountains drifted through her mind, almost making her forget where she was, who she was. That cabin, that life, had never felt more far away than in that moment. 

“Mom!” John’s voice yanked Sarah back into reality. He had a firm grip on both her arms, but was being careful of her shoulder wound. “No,” John said with a finality to his tone that made Sarah meet his gaze. Eyes so like her own stared back at her with a clarity of purpose in them she’d never seen before. She swallowed, seeing the John Connor Kyle Reese had told her about, the one she never thought she’d live to meet.

“John,” she pleaded.

“We couldn’t stop them from taking her. Going after them right now is suicide.”

Sarah knew he was right but her soul didn’t want to believe it. Confused and exhausted, her body started shutting down. Guiltily, she almost welcomed the oblivion.

“Mom,” John called her back from the edge of unconsciousness. “Weaver? John Henry?”

He wanted a status report, Sarah realized. John was right to ask, but something about the request rubbed her raw. Her only thoughts were of Cameron, and it took an incredible mental effort to think about anything else. “John Henry is dead. Destroyed. Danny is gone. Weaver...” Sarah trailed off. “John Henry did something to her. She was acting strangely. The pulse...” She licked her cracked and dry lips. “The pulse half melted her or something...”

“She lost her molecular integrity.” John’s gaze drifted to the warehouse.

Sarah watched him, understanding what he needed to do. “Be careful.”

John situated her on some old crates and put a gun in her hand. “You can’t stand but I’ll bet you can still shoot.” He managed a weak smirk. “Let me check on Weaver and find Ellison.”

Sarah glanced around, realizing for the first time the former FBI agent was missing from the moment. Something curdled in her stomach, and she swallowed. “We walked right into a trap,” she murmured as her son started to walk away. “We were so damn worried about Weaver that we took our eyes off Kaliba.” She shook her head, feeling panic starting to set in. How in the hell was she going to tell Savannah they’d lost Cameron? “We practically handed her to them on a silver platter.” Her head rocked back and hit the wall.

She could see the truth in her son’s eyes as he looked back at her with a mixture of compassion and determination. Fears Sarah had thought she’d put to rest reared their ugly head and seemed to wrap around her heart and mind, choking both. She’d learn to trust in Cameron, to believe her lover would never do anything that would bring about the creation of Skynet, but neither of them had planned on this.


It wasn’t the first time James had been shot, but he knew with sickening certainty it was the worst. Panic ebbed and flowed through him with each labored breath, but his lips began to move in a silent prayer, the act calming him as much as circumstances would allow. A disturbing giddiness radiated from the hole in his left shoulder as blood spilled down his chest and arm, trailing after him as he did his best to leverage his body back toward the warehouse. He could only drag himself with one arm, his teeth nearly biting through his lower lip to hold back cries of pain.

The gunfire had stopped and now there was only a heavy quiet. His back hit the side of the warehouse, and he leaned heavily against it, trying to hear any signs of Sarah or John. Nothing came from within or without.

He’d seen them drag Cameron toward one of the vans and had opened fired on the agents with everything he had. James had never thought he would put a machine’s existence over a human life, but he’d squeezed the trigger without remorse, knowing Cameron’s survival and freedom was worth the weight he’d carry on his conscience later.

James had wounded two agents before one had turned and drilled him with a single shot. The bullet had punched clean through, knocking him off his feet and momentarily robbing him of his consciousness. He’d come to in a pool of his own blood.

All he could do now was wait. John and Sarah would come for him if death didn’t come for him first.

Sarah. His thoughts stumbled over her name. For years he’d chased her, then he’d followed her, and now, it appeared, he would die for her. A strange peace settled over him at the thought, accepting that this was God’s will. He was honored he had be chosen for such a noble purpose. James knew something Sarah didn’t. John wasn’t the only Connor chosen by God to save the world. Sarah was mankind’s savior as well, a modern day Job who would sacrifice everything to stop Skynet, even her own son. God had given her Cameron to help her carry her burdens, and James shuddered to think what would happen now that Cameron had been ripped away.

“Our father who art in heaven...” he whispered, letting the Lord’s prayer tumble from his lips. “Hallowed be thy name...”

James coughed, feeling something thick collecting in his lungs. “Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done...”

The sun beat down on him, baking his skin and blinding his eyes. He closed them, trying to remember the words, trying to remember why he was reciting them.

The cold darkness came moments later, and James surrendered to it willingly.


The space smelled like fried wires, burned metal, and blood. John felt his nostrils flare at the pungent scent, but he kept advancing, his gun trained out in front of him. Spent shell casings were everywhere, and he shuffled forward to keep from slipping on them. He spied John Henry’s body first, the former terminator facedown on the ground, his hand reaching toward a goal he would never obtain. Crouching next to him, John could see the charred remains of the chip still inside the A.I.’s head. Somehow John Henry had defeated C.A.I.N. and done his best to save them all in the process. John swallowed, remembering how innocent and kind the A.I. had been in the future, how all John Henry had ever wanted to do was help. Overwhelmed by the need to show some semblance of gratitude for John Henry’s sacrifice, John gently closed the machine’s eyes.

Drawing in a quick, short breath, John lifted his head and studied the space around him. His mother, Cameron, and Weaver had undergone a hell of a fight. Bullet holes were everywhere. Machines were destroyed. Blood was splattered across the floor and the walls. John tightened his grip on his pistol and got back to his feet.

There was no sign of Weaver. Enough time had passed for her to recover from the pulse, and John’s eyes peered into the shadows and studied every object around him with suspicion. He didn’t feel her, however. Whenever Weaver was close, John’s skin prickled, like a cold touch traveling up his spine.

Danny was nowhere to be found. He’d been taken by the agents or had run and left his mother to die. John felt his anger swell. It was bad enough they’d lost Cameron, that Kaliba now had everything they needed to build Skynet, but Danny’s betrayal rubbed him especially raw. He’d tried to do the right thing by Terissa’s son, and it hadn’t done him a damn bit of good. John didn’t know if Danny would have gone willingly with Cameron’s abductors or not, and he frankly didn’t care. John knew he was going to have to make some hard choices about the young programmer and soon, but not right now.

Slipping his cell phone out of his pocket, John texted the retrieval code to Sabine. He sent a second message before closing his phone, knowing that he was going to need help with his mother when they returned home.

John tucked his phone back into his pocket and headed for Ellison’s last known position. Dread pooled in his stomach, and John accepted the reality of what he might find. All his allies were falling around him, and he was drawing closer and closer to the moment where he would have to go it alone. 

Shoving open a rusting door that bitterly protested with a loud creak of its hinges, John stepped back out into the daylight. He carefully made a visual scan of the area, doing his best to resist the urge to rush so he could get back to his mother. A slight breeze ruffled his hair, and John detected the scent of blood on it. His lips tightened into a thin line.

He was nearly to the front of the building before he saw Ellison’s weapon lying lonely and spent on the asphalt. John retrieved it and looked to his left, feeling himself freeze even though he’d found what he’d expected to find.

Ellison was against the side of the warehouse. His shirt was soaked through with blood around a gaping hole in his upper left chest. For several moments, John could only stand there, knowing that once he moved, once he laid his fingers against Ellison’s pulse point, that it would all become real, and he didn’t feel ready for that.

“Prophet,” he whispered.

His mother was waiting on him, and that was enough to propel him forward. He knelt next to the older man, carefully touching Ellison’s wrist. When the former agent suddenly moaned, John nearly came out of skin.


Sarah struggled to her feet weakly, feeling her whole body sway as John came around the far corner of the warehouse. He was practically dragging Ellison, and Sarah took a few steps toward him to help before her body rebelled. She stumbled and collapsed onto her knees, cursing as the impact jolted her sweating frame.

Gritting her teeth, Sarah willed herself back on to her feet as John drew closer. She didn’t have time for her injuries or her body’s betrayal. Getting the hell out of there and finding Cameron was all that mattered.

The sound of an engine caught her attention, and she shielded her eyes against the glare of the sun, wondering if Kaliba was coming back to finish them off. Her finger tightened on the trigger of her gun until she spotted Sabine’s familiar features behind the wheel. The young woman was coming fast, kicking up a trail of dirt and gravel in her wake.

There was nothing she could do but stand there and let the world come to her so that’s what Sarah did, her thoughts helplessly turning to Cameron and what Kaliba could be doing to her. She knew they’d removed Cameron’s chip, that her lover was offline; otherwise, Cameron would have come back for them by now.

Sabine cranked the wheel hard to her right as she came to a stop before throwing the van in reverse and backing up to the door of the warehouse. Sarah shifted her focus back to John and Ellison. Blood was staining the former agent’s shirt, and his steps were uncoordinated. Sarah took a breath and moved toward the back of the van, gripping the handle and jerking it open. She held on to the door to keep herself upright, moving aside as John maneuvered Ellison inside. Sabine materialized next to them, helping John make the older man as comfortable as possible.

John’s eyes met his mother’s as he climbed back out. “I need to get John Henry,” he murmured, not waiting for her blessing before he moved away.


John hesitated before giving her a tight shake of his head. He touched her shoulder as he passed, heading back for the warehouse with determined strides.

“Damn it.” Sarah watched him go, feeling like she’d let him down somehow. Like she’d let them all down. “Go with him,” she ordered Sabine.

Sabine gave Sarah the once over and Sarah met her gaze squarely, almost defiantly. Deciding Sarah could fend for herself another few minutes, Sabine obeyed.

Sarah crawled into the back of the van, shivering in the sudden coolness. With every second, the distance between her and Cameron grew, and she could do nothing but crouch there, waiting for her son. She crawled weakly to James’ side, moving aside the tattered hole in his shirt to check his wound.

“Tried,” James whispered. “Too many. Too fast.”

Sarah shushed him more harshly than she intended. A petty part of her was angry with her son and James for failing to save Cameron, but she knew she was being unfair. It wasn’t like she had done much of a job in that department, either. “I’ll get her back.”

His hand suddenly gripped hers, and Sarah went still at the slick sensation of blood on her skin. It was all too familiar.

“I’m sorry.” James’s gaze locked intently on hers.

Sarah swallowed, knowing he was apologizing for far more than Cameron. She set her gun down and wrapped her other hand over his. There was nothing she could say to ease the guilt she could see in his eyes so she didn’t bother. She simply squeezed his hand, silently saying with actions what she never could with words.

James nodded once and closed his eyes.

Sarah kept watch as he slipped back into unconsciousness, his grip growing slack in her fingers. She thought about saying a prayer for him but she didn’t have the strength, and she was pretty damn sure God didn’t want to hear from her anyway. Instead, Sarah slumped with her back against the seat, her legs stretched out beside him. He may have let go of her hand, but she didn’t let go of his.


“Where’s Cameron?”

John twitched in surprise. Sabine spoke so rarely he sometimes forgot she actually could. “Kaliba took her.”

The young woman stared hard at the center of John’s back, her jaw clenched as she seethed at the news. She knew John was supposed to be some kind of messiah, the leader that would save them all from the machines, but from where she stood, Sabine suspected they were all screwed.

Grabbing one of John Henry’s arms, John motioned for Sabine to take the other. For a moment, she resisted, waiting until he looked at her expectantly. Her dark eyes bored into his, silently accusing.

John took a breath and kept his excuses to himself, but he allowed an edge of anger to enter his tone. “Ellison needs a doctor. We need to hurry.”

Sabine slowly looked away, bending down to help. “Danny?”


They began to drag John Henry’s body toward the door, both of them breaking out in a sweat from the effort.

“What are we going to do to get them back?”

John said nothing, his gaze focused forward.

“We are going to get them back, right?”

“Let’s deal with one thing at a time.” John banged the door open more forcefully than necessary. His gaze landed on his mother before skittering away. With the thoughts churning through his brain, he couldn’t look her in the eye. The plan taking shape inside his head made him sick, but he also knew he had little choice.


The desert heat was dry on Smieth’s skin as he waited by the loading dock. He was beyond pleased that his retrieval team had performed their duties successfully. While he’d been tempted to eliminate the Connors completely, their deaths would have only been a complication he had no time or interest for. In good time, he could have them removed, but right now, he was on a deadline.

The van slowly backed in and his first hint of impatience began to show as he tapped his foot. The driver hopped out and opened the back door, giving him his first glimpse of the metal girl he’d only seen in security camera footage before now.

“She’s beautiful.” Ignoring the blood and scrapes on her skin, he appreciated Cameron’s perfection on many levels. She was the missing piece, the evolution that would send their work to the next level. It didn’t matter to him who made her or where she came from. She was his now and that was all that mattered.

Their previous attempts to reverse-engineer other cyborgs had failed, and the complicated mechanics of their robotics designs required a level of sophistication that didn’t exist, not yet. Kaliba had had limited success with reprogramming, but it wasn’t enough. Smieth had thought they were ready when he had allowed the A.I. program to be terminated, but so much of their successes in robotics had been predicated on the work done by C.A.I.N. He needed to know how the terminators worked down to the smallest line of code in order to complete the contract, and from what he’d seen so far of Cameron, she would be his best subject yet.

One of the agents stepped out of the van and handed Smieth the chip. He unwrapped the cloth around it, studying the device in his hand. “Her soul,” he murmured with a smirk before his gaze lifted, and he watched several men retrieve the cyborg’s body. “Careful with her. I’m sure my engineers would like to study her in one piece before they start to take her apart.” His smirk turned into a knowing smile.  

When the van emptied, Smieth found himself looking into the frightened eyes of Danny Dyson. He’d worked for Dyson’s father once, a long time ago at Cyberdyne. Miles had always treated him with respect, and Smieth had been in awe of the other man’s genius. He had hoped the brilliance that had burned in the father would manifest in the son.


“S-s-sir,” Danny managed before swallowing roughly.

It was out of respect for Miles that Smieth let the young man live, but no one got something for nothing from him. “Welcome home.” Smieth turned on his heel and headed inside, Cameron’s chip cradled protectively in his right hand.

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