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.

Gambit
By zennie

 

Part 6

Sarah came to in a world swirling with confusion and pain. A hand gripped her wrist; they were tying her down again. She struggled weakly, the pain shooting through her body nearly blinding her. Through her tears she could make out shapes, people, a mummer of voices: big burly men in white, slick glass for eyes, a thin trickle of spit down her cheek, a girl with sad eyes, stronger than the others, her son, telling her it was okay while a figure out of her nightmares loomed over them both. A familiar weight pulling on her wrist, pulling her down, the chill of metal under her fevered fingers… "No," she protested, shaking her head, "don't."

"It's okay." The words were a quiet whisper, but rather than sooth her, they launched her into further panic. Sarah yanked and twisted, ignoring the pain stabbing through her as she wrenched her shoulder.

"Please, don't," she begged as a restraint tugged her other arm back and an all-too-familiar feeling of helplessness surged and drove the breath from her body. "The machines… will get me, get my son," she explained as metal flashed beneath a wave of mousey brown hair and blue blossomed in a sea of hazel. Sarah felt the prick of a needle in her arm, bringing the poison that numbed her mind and made her forget her son. "No!" she screamed as she dug her heels in and tried to leverage herself off the bed, the tethers on her wrists holding her back. The taste of metal flooded her mouth, choking her, whether from the drugs or blood from her bitten tongue, she couldn't tell. "No…" Her voice trailed off as the world grew fuzzy and her body seemed to drop from a great height, never hitting the bottom.

"I'm sorry." The words were the last thing Sarah was conscious of, a quiet undertone that she couldn't make out, like the rustle of grass underfoot, before she drifted.

Pain was the first thing to penetrate Sarah's consciousness the next time she woke; a dull throbbing that began at her right temple and radiated across her forehead and down her jaw. It pounded with the beat of Sarah's heart so that every part of her head hurt, even her eyes, which felt gritty and swollen in their sockets. She refused to open them, but she couldn't close her ears so she drifted there for several minutes simply listening to the faint buzz of the overheads and the muted swoosh of air circulating in the tomb-like silence of the silo. For a moment, it was peaceful—swoosh, breath, swoosh, breath—and the world was kept at a distance. Then a flash of memory, and another: the cold muzzle of the gun pressed against her temple, the terminator closing the distance, her finger pulling the trigger.

Sarah didn't feel dead; rather, she felt like someone had killed her and then reanimated her corpse after several days of cold storage.

The raw scratchiness of her throat was familiar, as was the pressure at her wrists. She risked opening her eyes and for a moment the world spun dizzily before resolving into the underside of the top bunk a few feet from her face. Blinking away tears and fighting a wave of nausea, Sarah raised her head a few inches, nearly dropping it back to the pillow as the throbbing increased exponentially. It took her a moment to focus and realize what she was seeing, but when she did, it confirmed everything she feared: wide white strips of fabric were looped around her wrists, tying her to a metal bunk. A neat X of surgical tape secured an IV needle a few inches above her wrist.

Her eyes traveled from her arm to Cameron, standing stock-still and wordless in the doorway, watching Sarah warily and appearing afraid to enter the room. Sarah recoiled, or tried to, but her bonds held her firmly in place.

"Let me go," Sarah rasped around the rawness in her throat, tugging on the restraints to emphasize her point. Her muscles felt weak and thoroughly depleted, but that didn't stop her from struggling.

"You tried to kill yourself." A worried sadness seeped into Cameron's tone, mirroring the expression in her eyes.

"And you stopped me." It wasn't a question; Sarah remembered the terminator reaching for her arm, the gun deflected, a burning across her forehead. She gritted her teeth and wrenched on the cloth tying her to the bunk, nearly screaming in agony as her struggles unleashed a cascade a pain through her body. "Fucking machine. Untie me."

"I can't." Cameron braved a step into the room, then another, until she was standing beside the bed and looking down at Sarah. "Not yet. You need to listen to me first."

"What makes you think I want to hear anything you have to say?" Sarah's voice grew hoarser as she yelled. She twisted her body, hearing the bone grind in her shoulder. A familiar rage burned in the pit of her stomach as she struggled ineffectually against her bonds, a rage honed in her years of captivity.

Cameron reached out and caught Sarah's shoulder, pressing her back against the mattress. "You will injure yourself."

"Don't touch me, robot," Sarah snarled, but she was surprised when Cameron snatched her hand back. Sarah lay, panting and exhausted by her futile struggles.

Cameron held out a bottle of water and a straw, but Sarah glared at the proffered item suspiciously. "If I wanted to drug you, I could," Cameron pointed out reasonably.

Finally, Sarah took a few small sips, the cool water easing her much abused throat, but her eyes were still fixed on the terminator. "Is that what the IV is for?"

"You were dehydrated and malnourished," Cameron replied with a hint of accusation in her voice.

"Gotta keep your lab rat healthy?" Sarah didn't give Cameron a chance to answer. "You lied to me. You tricked me. You're a machine." She hissed the last word between clenched teeth. "I won't listen to a machine."

Cameron glanced meaningfully at the restraints that bound Sarah to the bed, but she didn't comment. "Yes, I lied to you. I tricked you. But you have to listen to me now."

"I'm not going to be your puppet. You aren't going to use me against John." Sarah braced her heels and yanked, feeling the bunk scoot half an inch with her movement. "You can tell Skynet to fuck itself."

"I'm not working for Skynet. I'm working for John."

"Bullshit! You weren't sent back to protect John. You were sent back to kill him." Sarah rested her head on the pillow for a moment, her teeth sinking into her lip as she fought a wave of nausea and pain.

"No, I wasn't sent to kill John." Cameron's words were calm, in an obvious attempt to quiet Sarah. "But I wasn't sent back to protect John either. That is the first lie I told."

"How many?" Sarah snapped, the edge of her anger wavering in the face of her need for answers. "How many lies have you told?"

Cameron regarded her. "Many. But three important ones." She read Sarah's expression. "John is safe, as far as I know."

"Tell me," Sarah demanded.

"I was sent back for you."

For a moment Sarah had a feeling of deja vu, as she heard echoes of Kyle Reese's voice saying nearly the same words. A new pounding set up shop in the space between her eyes. "For me?"

"My primary mission was to bring you forward in time and lock you in this bunker. Protecting John was my secondary mission."

"Why?" Sarah growled, her distrust shining clearly in her gaze.

"Judgment Day." Cameron spoke the words with finality and Sarah felt her stomach clench. She swallowed the bile that rose in the back of her throat. "Judgment Day…?"

"…happened five days ago."

Sarah felt the bottom drop out, and a wave of vertigo washed over her. Her head fell back and her eyes squeezed shut. Twisted buildings, dead bodies, and flames, like scenes from a low-budget science fiction movie, flooded her vision, all her nightmares made real. She could feel her body shaking, could hear Cameron's voice speaking to her but the words were distorted, as if she were speaking from a vast distance or down a long tunnel. Spots danced and sparkled before her eyes, like air bursts exploding and raining fire and destruction.

"Sarah!" A touch on her shoulder, the touch of a machine, snapped Sarah back to reality and she jerked her shoulder away, a gasp escaping her as the muscles wrenched.

"Why?" she managed to gasp out. "Why did you bring us forward in time?" All the years, all the time, wasted. "We could have stopped it."

"No," Cameron's voice was soft, almost gentle, as she asserted, "you couldn't. John tried. He sent people back to stop Skynet many times; he even tried to stop the discovery of atomic weapons." Sarah's head shook back and forth in denial, but it didn't stop the flow of words from the terminator. "It didn't work. Unlike the science fiction stories that postulate that minute changes can alter the course of history, John discovered that technological evolution is more resilient than he expected. That's why when you destroyed Cyberdyne and Miles Dyson's work, you didn't stop Judgment Day."

Five days, five days, millions, maybe billions of people died, the world destroyed… It was impossible. There had to have been something… or the terminator had to be lying… Sarah's eyes snapped open in sudden horror.

"John? Where, you said he was safe…"

"He is. He and Derek Reese left for another bunker not long after we did. They had plenty of time to reach safety before Skynet went online."

"Why? And why didn't we all go together?" Sarah's eyes narrowed suspiciously. "Why the deception and the lies? Why would John and Derek go off on their own?" It had to be another elaborate falsehood. John, her John, would not abandon her, leave her with this machine.

Cameron shifted her feet and trained her eyes on the floor, steadfastly refusing to meet Sarah's gaze. "That is the last lie," she confessed. "You didn't die of cancer."

Sarah blinked back the tears that were suddenly in her eyes as she tried to draw a breath. Her body felt paralyzed, numb, cold. She didn't notice her hands shaking, didn't see the wild expression in her eyes that belied the calmness of her words. "I what?"

"You didn't die of cancer. You died on Judgment Day."

She didn't… all those tests… no wonder they never found anything… Sarah's thoughts ran in a million different directions as she tried to contemplate the magnitude of this last truth. She wasn't dying. Suddenly, it all became apparent to Sarah, a realization as bright and clear as the ocean she had gazed upon the day before the world died. "He sent you back to protect me. To prevent my death."

"Yes."

"Let me go," Sarah's voice was quiet, subdued, as she issued her demand, the enormity of all she had been told pressing down on her. In her mind's eye, images of sand and surf and the feeling of a faint breeze juxtaposed with a fireball boiling the sea and burning sand to glass. She remembered the glimpse of emotion in Cameron's eyes as they had stood there watching the waves and she realized it had been sadness. Sadness born of the fact that Cameron had known what was coming and kept the information from Sarah. Anger flared, and she rattled the bunk as she yanked on the restraints. "Untie me, damn it!"

There was a squeak of the chair as Cameron stood and leaned over Sarah. Her eyes were on her task, the slicing of the cloth that bound Sarah's wrist, so Sarah was free to gaze, unsure if she had ever been quite so close to the terminator before. There was a subtle perfection in the imperfections of Cameron's features, the birthmark that marred the line of her eyebrow, the way her mouth was slightly off-center. Then Cameron pulled back and turned her attention to the other wrist, neatly slicing the last restraint away.

Sarah reached out and gripped the IV, bracing herself as she ripped the needle out of her arm. Cameron's lips tightened in disapproval, but she didn't say anything. Nor did Cameron flinch when Sarah reached for the 9mm on the bedside table. Sarah knew from the heft that the clip was empty but the weight in her hand was reassuring nonetheless. She snagged the water bottle and took a few more sips of water. "What happened? How did I die?"

"You were fleeing from the destruction, you and John. There was an explosion. You saved him."

Sarah drew in a shaky breath, her eyes on the bottle in her hands. "Does John… my John… what does he know about this?"

"John, in the future, made the plan and sent me back. But the final decision was left to your John, in this time."

Sarah's head jerked up to stare at the terminator. "What?"

"I told John everything, and Derek Reese too," here Cameron's expression turned a little sour at the mention of John's uncle, "the night before we left. I told him John's reasoning, the events of Judgment Day, the details of your death. He agreed."

Sarah felt tears welling in her eyes again. He sent her away to protect her, when it was her job to protect him. "You said he was safe. But you don't know that, not for sure. Something could have happened, something I could have prevented had I been there…"

"You are his mother. He loves you," Cameron explained as Sarah cradled her head in her hands, words and images pounding through with every beat of her heart. Even with her eyes closed, the blackness was tinged with red: flames, fire, blood, the gleam of a terminator's eye. She was supposed to have stopped it, all of it. John had asked her to stop it and she had said she would. She had failed him, failed the world. The machines had won. The gun in her hand dug into her forehead, the cold metal bringing her back to some semblance of reality, but a nightmare reality she couldn't accept.

"How do I know?" Sarah muttered into her hands, before raising her head to fix on the machine before her. "How do I know any of this is the truth? Why didn't you tell me? Why didn't I get to make a choice?"

"That was not the mission. The mission was to protect you."

"Damn good job you did of that!" Sarah snapped. "Why didn't you tell me all this when you locked me in here in the first place?"

"My orders were to wait until I had confirmed that Judgment Day had happened. John was afraid that you would try to break out and find him if I told you before. This silo did not take a direct hit. I was monitoring radiation levels until they confirmed several nuclear strikes in the region."

The trembling in Sarah's hands increased. She looked at Cameron, standing haloed in the light from the fluorescents, her eyes deep in shadow. She looked inhuman, she was inhuman, she was a deceitful machine. "How do I know? How can I trust you?"

"I can show you the radiation monitors. They will confirm…"

Sarah cut her off. "You could have manipulated them to say anything you want them to. This could be some elaborate trick to keep me docile—your pet!—-until you need to use me against John." She rubbed a palm across her fevered brow. "You have me trapped, your prisoner; you can make up any story to…"

"It's the truth."

"Prove it," Sarah challenged.

There was a pause before Cameron admitted softly, "I can't. Not in any way you would believe."

Sarah shook her head emphatically. "Not good enough. Six days ago you locked me away from the world and now you tell me it's gone. You say John knew, and I'm not dying of cancer. You're a machine. You were built to lie and now you expect me to believe that you are telling the truth?" Her grip on the gun tightened; if only she had… her head snapped up and her gaze fixed on the red edges of healing skin at Cameron's temple, half-hidden by the fall of her hair.

"You want me to trust you?" Sarah snarled the question and Cameron nodded. Sarah jerked her chin at the wound. "Let me deactivate you."

There was a long moment of tense silence as they stared at each other, Sarah's green gaze cold and unyielding.

"Okay." Cameron's single word broke the silence and the staring match. She gave Sarah one last look, a plaintive plea for understanding deep in the hazel of her eyes. Cameron walked to the other bunk, the springs groaning under her weight as she settled on the mattress. She arranged her hands across her stomach and looked at Sarah expectantly.

"Okay? Just like that?" Sarah asked suspiciously. She rose, feeling her legs tremble a little as they took her whole weight. Her eyes blinked to clear her vision as the world threatened to spin again. Her body felt lethargic and uncoordinated, matching the numbness growing in her mind and the exaggerated roar of her own breath in her ears. Sarah's hand shook perceptibly as she reached for the pocket knife she spied on the bedside table. "You'll just lay there and let me pull your chip?"

"Yes."

Frowning skeptically, Sarah stepped closer and knelt by the bed carefully, waiting for a sign that Cameron's acquiescence was a trap, but the terminator merely watched her curiously. Sarah brushed Cameron's hair back from the angry wound she had inflicted her first try. Her fingers slid through the silky strands a second time, almost of their own volition. "You don't have any self-defense programs that will kick in to keep me from doing this?" Sarah asked, remembering the negligible ease with which Cameron had thrown her earlier.

"No. Not with a person I trust." With that, Cameron turned her head to expose the chip cover, her eyes fixing on a spot in the distance.

Sarah's hands stilled for a moment as she considered Cameron's words, but then she set the blade of the knife against the edge of the cover, flipping it back and exposing Cameron's chip. Gripping the chip with the pliers, Sarah glanced over and saw the almost peaceful blank look on Cameron's face. Something in the terminator's bland acceptance of her fate almost penetrated the numbness that cocooned Sarah, but Sarah wasn't sure if the emotion trying to edge in was anger, disgust, pity, or some combination of the three.

It didn't matter anyway, she thought, as her grip tightened on the pliers.

A half-twist of the tool in her hand and the chip was free. Cameron's eyes darkened perceptively and Sarah held the entirety of Cameron in her fingers. Sarah rose clumsily to her feet and swallowed past the bile in her throat, the hard silicon edges of the chip digging into her palm.

Part 7

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