DISCLAIMER: The Sarah Connor Chronicles and its characters are the property of James Cameron and Fox. No infringement intended.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: Written for The Sarah Connor Chronicles Virtual Season Judgment Day Challenge.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
All the Roads Taken
John dejectedly follows his mother and Cameron into another underground chamber. He slumps over to a wall and waits for his mother to set him to a task. As he slides down the wall, he glances around at all the other refugees and then hangs his head down to hide his face.
John looks up as he hears the first explosion, unable to believe this is happening. They were supposed to stop Judgment Day. He wonders if they ever had a chance to stop the apocalypse at all, as he feels all the choices, all the possibilities coming down to this point, a strange feeling coming over him as he finds himself looking out of his eyes but seeing different scenes in front of him. He sees scene after scene of people huddling in terror as the bombs go off. They are looking around for someone to take control, to fix things for them, for someone to take responsibility, to take the burden away from them, to make things better. John looks around for his mother, and sometimes he sees her and sometimes he doesn't. Where she is, she is always directing things. Some places it is just him and a blonde as they hear people calling for help, direction over a radio. People looking lost and terrified, room after bunker after cave after mountain side after forest, all with people looking for someone to take on the burden of leadership.
John finally realizes the truth; it isn't about him. It was never about him. Being the leader of mankind against the machines isn't some privilege being awarded him. He isn't special or different. Leadership isn't a privilege, it is a burden. Leadership comes to those who are willing and able to bear the burdens for everyone. Leadership is about sacrificing oneself's needs for the greater good. There are many people claiming to be leaders, but they aren't. They use leadership positions to fulfill their needs, their wants. He had been thinking of leadership as being able to do what he wants to do, about how he is the important one. As long as he thinks that way, he will never become the leader of mankind. And he is doing it again, he is thinking about himself, and now is not the time to think about self, now is the time to think about the greater good for mankind. Mankind needs a true leader in these times, one who is thinking of others and not themselves.
Looking out into the multiple of places playing out before him, he sees his mother and remembers what she has done. He realizes that she has sacrificed everything for mankind. She sacrificed her life and her son to save mankind. Instead of hiding in some far corner of civilization and avoiding all responsibility for the future, she raised her son to be a leader. She sacrificed a safe life of being a nobody to prepare him for the future. She traveled to war zones to find teachers for him. But the most important lesson she taught him was through example; that it is possible to fight against seemingly impossible odds and win. And she has shown him how to sacrifice oneself for others.
John realizes that anyone can sacrifice too much, give too much, and that the burden of leadership can become too difficult without help. As he sees places where Sarah is without Cameron, his mom is a burned out husk running on determination. That anyone, no matter how strong they are, will burn out without help. But if the leader has help, people they can depend on, they will survive and maybe even thrive. John realizes as he sees places where Cameron is standing by his mom and she looks happy and has a reason for living. Remembering how he behaved in the past, he realizes he was one of the burdens, even when he was trying to help, because he was thinking about himself. It is time to stop thinking about himself and time to start thinking about others. John's head rises as he looks out in the room to find how he can help someone as the sound of the first explosion fades.
Cameron moves at Sarah's back, acting as guard and helper to the intense brunette woman as they move through the underground complex. The apparent young woman's eyes travel over the room, observing the rest of the humans.
Cameron stands with Sarah, looking around the room as Sarah, the brunette woman, starts directing people. Cameron checks on the sniffing Savannah, gently stroking the girl's back comfortingly as she holds the young girl. The ex-terminator turns up her internal temperature a degree to better help sooth Savannah, the girl that adopted her and Sarah as her mothers. Glancing over at John, who is sliding down a wall across the room, she fakes a sigh at his look of dejection. On the other side of the room, Sierra is organizing boxes, although Cameron detects considerable stress in the young red-headed woman. The apparent young woman's eyes travel over the room, observing the rest of the humans as the first rumble of an explosion reaches them.
She starts memorizing everyone in the room, categorizing them into groups of people who will be helpful, who will be problems, who will be helpless. As the only functioning computer for miles, it is going to be her responsibility to keep track of all the information that Sarah needs at hand. Sierra will tell her what is in the various boxes she is storing as soon as her daughter is finished stacking them, like she has from other rooms. The ex-terminator wonders as everyone's bodily readings start fluctuating, some people's pressure going down, like John's. Some people's readings are stabilizing like Sarah's, going into what she has labeled a peaceful state. Most people's readings spiking, some of them into dangerous zones, including Savannah's as she tries to soothe her red-headed young daughter.
As the sound of the first explosion fades, Cameron witnesses a transformation in people, seeing the John who leads mankind against Skynet wake up. And Sarah turns towards her with a loving smile on her face. Cameron hears Sierra falling behind her and turns her body to protect a suddenly crying Savannah from seeing Sierra collapsing.
Sierra walks into another room with Sarah and Cameron, seeing a random pile of boxes, she moves over and starts organizing and stacking them, looking into each box to see what is in it, making a mental note to tell Cameron once she is done.
Sierra uses the activity to hide her tears as she looks over her shoulder where Savannah is being held and comforted by their mother Cameron. She is breaking up inside that she has to witness Savannah live through Judgment Day, because she couldn't help Sarah and Cameron stop Skynet. The feeling of wrongness she gets around little Savannah grows as they wait for the missiles to land. She has never felt comfortable in Savannah's presence. The young red-headed woman feels that she shouldn't be here, that being here with Savannah is wrong. Sierra feels herself falling in slow motion as a wave disorientation slams into her as she feels all the choices, all the possibilities meeting at this one point as the sound of the first explosion reaches her.
Sierra finds herself being at two places at once, experiencing things from two places with two different thought patterns, the adult Savannah and the child Savannah. She is viewing her life in this moment from her adult, point of view at the same time as she re-experiences the view point of a child who barely understands what is going on. Panic fills her as she realizes that Savannah is getting the same feedback loop. She tries to shut out everything, all thoughts, all feelings, trying to protect her younger self from her adult thoughts.
Sierra can't help but notice that her child thoughts outnumber her adult viewpoints. Sometimes Savannah is being comforted by her birth parents, sometimes by the cold machine Catherine Weaver, and sometimes by Sarah and Cameron. Where she is with Cameron and Sarah, there is a chance she is there as both adult and child, sometimes as adult and teenager, sometimes as just a teenager. Sometimes the adult is off by herself with friends and allies of her mothers. Sometimes she is all by herself. A memory from childhood rises up, remembering this moment when she was a child. She couldn't cope with it as a child and had buried it, but it affected her life subconsciously. The red-headed young woman finishes collapsing to the floor, knocking over a stack of boxes and passing out from the disorientation as the sound of the first explosion fades away.
Sarah strides into another underground chamber of refugees with Cameron, John and Sierra following her, she glances around to see what needs to be done. Nodding as Sierra automatically goes to a pile of boxes and starts organizing and stacking them. She frowns as John immediately goes to rest against a wall.
Sarah stands with Cameron beside her as she starts directing people, but inside she feels like she has failed. Failed her son and, more importantly, failed the human race. As she hears the first explosion, she wonders what she could have done differently. As she stands there, trying to come up with a way she might have halted Skynet, all the possible lives and decisions she made come rushing to her. And as she is gazing out of her eyes, looking at John, she sees the epiphany flowing out of his eyes, in place after place. She sees that he is finally getting it, that he understands what it means to be the leader. She didn't fail mankind; John was going to be able to step up and do the job.
Feeling and hearing the explosion to her core, she realizes how many bad decisions she has made, ones that lead to her being barely human anymore. In her mind's eye, she traces the paths, decisions that lead her to completely losing herself. Becoming a machine that only cared about fighting, damaging herself and her son. But she also sees the things she did right. Looking at her son, she sighs in relief that she didn't make him into a machine too. In her mind's eyes, she sees that sometimes her son followed her in her descent into losing her humanity. She wonders if he would have been more effective or less effective that way.
And she realizes the two best decisions she ever made for herself, the ones that saved her. The first was taking in Savannah and becoming her mother, raising the girl correctly, even as they were fighting and hiding. It hurt John to see her raising the little red-headed girl better then she did him, but he also learned from her mistakes. The little girl was a balm on her soul, showing that she could be a good mother, that she could do what is right for her child and still train her to survive in the world that was coming. She could see it in the smiles the little girl gave to her and Cameron and in the adult Savannah that came back to them.
The most important decision was to accept Cameron into her heart, to let Cameron, her Tin Miss, the terminator that learned emotions, to get past all her defenses to remind her what it means to be human again. Looking out into all the possibilities, where she is the most human, she sees Cameron at her side, holding her, touching her, helping her carry the weight of leadership. Of all her lovers, Cameron is the only one who made her feel safe and let her drop her defenses without fear of judgment. They had fought, they had kept secrets, but they had been there for each other as well. In the end, it comes down to that. They compliment each other, work together, and being together made them more than they ever could be apart. As the explosion dies off, Sarah decides at the first quiet moment, to tell Cameron that she is the most important person in her life. She looks up with tears of happiness and sadness in her eyes.
Sierra hunches in on herself as she starts a slow motion fall to the floor, crashing into the stack of boxes she working on.. Savannah cries grow louder at the same time as Sierra falls.
Cameron turns at the sound of Sierra knocking over boxes and out of corner of her eye sees John moving towards the young red-headed woman. "Sarah, Sierra," Cameron directs her love's attention to the collapsing young woman as she cradles the crying little girl in her arms protectively.
Sarah turns and immediately starts moving to Sierra, concern written on her face.
"I will get the first aid kit!" John calls out as he moves to help, without having to be told what needs to be done, for once focused on what others' need and not what he wants.
As everyone focuses on helping the red-headed young woman, the moment of clarity, of seeing past the veil of time, seeing all that has happened, that could have been, all possible lives, fades into the back of their human minds. It is too much information for them to hold on to, but it leaves a lasting impression.
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