DISCLAIMER: The Sarah Connor Chronicles and its characters are the propert of James Cameron and Fox. No infringement intended.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: Big thanks to inspectorboxer for the support, enthusiasm, and beta on this. This was supposed to be my epic proportions fic, and thus this is just the first part of a very long story. Iím trying to do more of an action-adventure story, which is a stretch for me. ralst
demanded the fic supplied the prompt, so, my queen, this is for you.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
Cameron stared at Sarah with her all-purpose blank look, which Sarah interpreted this time to be confusion. Her mind flashed over the events that led them there: the sheaf of printouts in Cameron's hand, the scorn in Derek's voice, her own determination to do something, anything, that might get them closer to finding out who built Skynet. Sarah gave a little shake of her head as if to dispel the last of the fog of anger. "I'm sorry," she exhaled hard to get the words out, and then scrubbed her face with her hand, feeling the grit of their hike scrape against her cheek. When she glanced at the terminator, Cameron's expression was, if possible, even more blank, signifying an even deeper confusion.
"That was my paranoia talking," Sarah explained, feeling spent as the adrenaline that had driven her left her body in a rush. She reached out, her hand flat and pale against the black band that striped the blast door. Drawing a shaky breath, she turned, slumped back, and slid down the door while Cameron watched her curiously. "It's being locked in," Sarah spoke quietly, nearly a whisper, hugging her knees to her chest. "All those years in the institution, I I don't like to be locked in." For a second she was back there; she could hear the rattle of the keys as the guards locked the doors to her cell and the smell of bleach and urine burned her nostrils, and she shuddered.
It had been her worst nightmare: trapped, powerless to stop a future she could feel advancing toward her, like a rumble of thunder far off in the distance that warned of the coming storm. The steady diet of tranquilizers and antipsychotics had not stopped her nightmares nor her absolute belief in the coming apocalypse. A modern-day Cassandra, she had learned there was nothing worse than knowledge of the future that could not be acted upon. Those antiseptic white walls had been the perfect screen to play out her nightmares, day after day and night after night. She had been worse than useless, trapped as she was, and the only thing she could do was prepare her body for the possibility of release and the opportunity to fight, to save her son.
The scuff of rubber on metal brought her back to the present, where one of the monsters from her nightmares looked down at her with hazel eyes and told her, "Thank you for explaining." And Sarah didn't know what to do with that so she didn't even try.
Instead, she bounced to her feet and began to pace. "How did this happen?" she asked, her heavy boots loud and echoing on the steel plating. Cameron stood quietly and tracked Sarah up and down the corridor, her head methodically keeping pace with Sarah's movements.
"The doors are electromagnetic," Cameron supplied finally. "A power surge might have triggered the lock."
"How would that have happened?" Sarah stopped pacing, half-turning to face the terminator. "If this place is abandoned, they shouldn't be supplying enough juice to " Cameron reached out and hit a light switch on the wall, causing the fluorescents to flicker on above their heads. "Oh." That's when she noticed the sign posted on the door: "IF BLAST DOOR BECOMES INOPERATIVE CONTACT MCC FOR ASSISTANCE" in an old-fashioned serif stencil. She gave a quiet, sarcastic chuckle. "You think that would work?" she asked the terminator rhetorically.
Cameron ignored the question. "We could be early." Sarah's silence prompted Cameron to continue. "They might still be preparing the infrastructure of the silo "
" running power lines to support all those servers." Sarah frowned. "That means someone could come down here and find us."
Cameron considered. "Yes. Or John." Sarah stopped short. "John and Derek Reese know where we are. They will attempt to find out what happened to us."
"Damn." All they needed was for John to get arrested trying to break into an Air Force base to rescue them. "It would be better if we're not here at all." Cameron nodded in agreement. "There's got to be fail-safes or emergency procedures." It was the military after all, and the government had to idiot-proof these things. "There should be manuals, procedures, something."
"There's a safe in the control room."
Sarah nodded distractedly, her mind still working. "When John got locked into that munitions bunker, he found a phone." She spun on her heel and headed back to the control room, slapping the light switch as she passed. These lights too flickered on, filling the room with light and a low hum. There, just a few feet from where she had been sitting, was a phone hanging from one of the many control panels in the room.
"That's the communications console," Cameron supplied from behind her.
Noticing the red-painted safe on top of a fat filing cabinet, Sarah nodded toward it. "Think you can bust that open, Tin Miss?"
Cameron moved past her and into the room. "Yes. There's only an inch of concrete underneath the steel." She noticed Sarah heading toward the phone. "Stand back," she warned before punching straight through the safe door with a muffled thud, smashing the locks and sending up a small puff of pulverized concrete.
Sarah grinned as Cameron began to empty the safe, oblivious to the fine layer of white particles coating her face. She tried the phone and found it dead. "Damn!"
Cameron settled herself into another threadbare chair by the safe and was already scanning through pages of a huge, three-ring binder. Sarah could see several more in the file drawer open beside her, but she was still too restless to sit. Fear and anxiety appeared to have driven away her pain and fatigue, so Sarah decided to take advantage of it. "Phone's dead. I, I'm going to go see if there are any more."
Cameron didn't look up from the manual in her lap. "Okay."
Sarah clamored down the long tunnel, marveling at the massive tension springs every few feet. Cameron had said that the doors were designed to withstand a nuclear detonation as well as a missile launch, so it made sense that the whole complex would be built on springs to absorb the blow. Probably pretty safe in an earthquake too, thought Sarah, as her footsteps echoed down the long corridor. She stepped over a yellow-and-black nuclear warning band on the floor and came into a mostly-empty room with shelves and a clothing rack. What looked like a rudimentary environmental suit hung limply on a hanger, helmet, boots, and airpack neatly tucked into a shelf nearby.
The phone in this room was dead also, and Sarah didn't think there would be another phone in the silo itself, but she continued past another warning band and onto a metal catwalk suspended near the top of the silo. Looking down into the dimly-lit hole, she saw several more catwalks ringing the space where a missile would have stood.
Still driven by an anxious desire to find a way out of their trap, Sarah swung off the catwalk and began to clamber down the access ladder. Her leg began to ache about a third of the way down. By the time she reached the bottom level, a sharp pain stabbed through with every step. She regretted the restlessness that had driven her to go exploring, but there was little she could do at this point, she decided, as she swung her flashlight around the massive space. A burnt mechanical smell lingered down in the lower levels, like propellant and singed insulation, and there was a faint taste of bitter metal on the tip of her tongue.
There were vents coming out of the walls and hanging along the side of the missile silo, for ventilation of gasses, Sarah assumed. They seemed too narrow for her to try to crawl through and, besides, they only appeared to run along the side of the shaft to be vented when the silo doors were opened.
Deciding there was little she could do without a schematic, she began her ascent. If the climb down had been bad, the climb up was a thousand times worse. She gritted her teeth against the shooting pains, taking each rung of the ladder slowly. Twice she stopped at a catwalk to rest and massage her leg muscles, trying to will them to recover faster.
Near the top, her foot slipped off a rung and she cursed as she banged face-first into the ladder, a taste of iron informing her that her lip had not emerged unscathed. Cursing her weariness, Sarah was more careful in her foot placement on the last few rungs. When Sarah finally pulled herself onto the catwalk at Level Two, or so the stenciled words informed her, she was sweating in the cool air and the muscles in her legs were twitching. Scooting back from the edge, she rested against the smooth concrete wall of the silo, moving only to pull the 9mm from the waistband of her jeans, where it poked uncomfortably into the small of her back.
That's where Cameron found her an hour later, her knees drawn up, one hand propping up her head and the other loosely holding the handgun. Sarah had felt the vibration of Cameron's boots on the passageway before she could even hear the dull metal clank.
The noise and vibrations stopped just shy of the metal catwalk where Sarah was sitting. There was a moment of silence before Cameron spoke, her voice unnaturally loud in the cavernous space. "Here," she said, handing Sarah a bottle of water. Sarah accepted it without comment, but she shot the terminator a look when Cameron extended a paper pill dispenser as well. "Analgesic, for your leg," Cameron explained. Surprise warred with misgiving at the gesture, for it was disconcerting to Sarah to have the terminator so solicitous. In the end, she took the pills with a grumpy gratitude, but Cameron didn't seem to notice.
"So where are we?" Sarah asked.
"In an abandoned Titan II missile silo," Cameron replied without a trace of sarcasm. Sarah sighed. She really should have Cameron memorize an idiom dictionary some night, she thought sourly, "I mean, status. Where are we in terms of getting out of here?"
"Oh. I have not found anything yet."
"No schematics of the base? Emergency procedures? Escape hatches?"
"I have seventeen more manuals to go through."
Sarah gestured vaguely toward the silo pit. "There's some exhaust vents down there, but I can't tell if they go anywhere. There's got to be an air intake or some outside access." She could feel Cameron's eyes on her as she spoke. "What?"
"You should rest," Cameron said.
"What does it look like I'm doing?"
"You should sleep," Cameron clarified pointedly.
Sarah shook her head sharply. "We need to get out of here."
"If you are exhausted, then you can't help us get out. You might miss something or fail to consider something that could help us escape," Cameron reasoned.
"Yeah, well, you're the supercomputer, not me."
There was almost a minute of silence before Cameron spoke again. "But I don't think like a human." Sarah glanced at the terminator out of the corner of her eye; Cameron was scanning the silo as she spoke, her actions at odds with her words. "My thought process is linear, logical." There was another pause. "Strategic."
Sarah leaned her head back and stared up at the white dome of concrete above their heads. She wasn't sure she was up for another session of Artificial Intelligence 101, but once Cameron was on a topic, it could be hard to stop her. So it surprised Sarah when Cameron said, "I found sleeping quarters above the control room."
Sarah blinked, the change of topic and the insight into human emotion it showed throwing her for a moment. It was unsettling, the way Cameron had been reading and understanding her emotions during their trip. She knew Cameron could respond, rather mechanically, to human emotions, but her responses to Sarah seemed more nuanced or natural somehow. More subtle, more human, she thought, and the thought chilled her. "Cameron, how much do you feel?"
If Cameron was thrown by the non-sequitor, she did not show it. "The skin over my endoskeleton is equipped with pain and pressure sensors so I can "
"No, I mean, feel human emotions, or understand people's emotional responses?"
"It depends. The more time I spend with humans, and the more time I spend with a specific human, the more I learn."
"Who do you know best?" Sarah asked, curious.
"John, in the future. I spent considerable time with him before he sent me back." She considered. "John, in this time, because he's not so different now as in the future."
"Oh." Sarah wasn't sure if it was interest or vanity that made her ask the next question. "What about me?" She toyed with the 9mm in her hands, fairly certain that her attempt to appear nonchalant was not as successful as she hoped.
There was another one of Cameron's odd pauses, and Sarah wondered what was processing through those circuits during those times. Was she, like a human, trying to find the right words to express her thoughts, or was she accessing the file labeled 'Sarah' in her memory and analyzing it before giving her answer? Sarah wasn't sure she really wanted to know the answer to that.
"Sometimes I understand you and sometimes I don't," was Cameron's soft reply. "You're unpredictable. You do things. Your way of doing things should not succeed but it does. You "
"Is that a nice way of saying I'm illogical and impulsive?" Sarah chuckled.
"No," answered Cameron seriously. "You John, in the future, makes leaps of logic, associations. He sees patterns that shouldn't be there." Cameron's head tilted to the side as she gazed down at a pair of startled green eyes. "He gets that from you." Sarah sniffed. "But you are more subtle and more driven by emotions and people and therefore more unpredictable."
Finding herself psychoanalyzed by a terminator was disconcerting, Sarah lightened the mood by teasing, "So if I'm so unpredictable, what am I going to do now?" she asked while struggling to her feet, her left leg nearly buckling under her weight.
"You are going to sleep for several hours," stated Cameron in a monotone as she caught Sarah's arm before she could fall and started to guide her down the corridor. Sarah let her as the events of the day caught up with her. The physical exhaustion coupled with the feeling of the walls pressing in on her had shredded her nerves, and, even though she hated it, Cameron was right.
The distance seemed to have tripled between the silo and the control center, forcing Sarah to lean heavily into Cameron. Cameron smelled of sweat and raspberry lipgloss, and nothing about her soft curves betrayed the metal endoskeleton beneath her skin. The sheer mastery of her creation awed Sarah a little; Cameron, unlike her predecessors, was truly an infiltration model, able to put even the most suspicious and knowledgeable off their guard with her doe-eyes and soft skin.
The 'sleeping quarters' ended up being two bunk beds walled off from the kitchen directly above the control room. The two lower bunks were made up neatly, complete with military-style hospital corners at exactly 45 degrees. Sarah eyed the olive-drab wool blankets suspiciously, wondering how long they had been on the bed.
Cameron, seeming to read her mind, said, "I put the sheets and blankets on the beds." When Sarah looked at her, startled, she continued, "I didn't know which bed you would like."
Sarah shook her head at the oddity, but was too tired to puzzle through it; she was already trudging over to the bunk. She kicked her boots off, unhooked her belt and let her jeans drop in the middle of the room. She stepped out and left the jeans in a heap, too tired to pick up after herself. Feeling eyes on her, she turned to find Cameron staring at her as if she had never seen someone undress before. "Are you going to watch me sleep?" she asked the motionless terminator.
"So you are just going to watch me undress?"
Cameron blinked, as if just now realizing where she was and what she was doing. "Oh," she said quietly, and then without another word, left Sarah standing in the room alone.
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