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.

By zennie


Part 7

Sarah found herself in the control room, with no memory of how she got there. Spying a toolbox, she grabbed a hammer and gripped it tightly as she set the chip on the very edge of the console. It was time, once and for all, to rid the world of yet another machine, she thought as she raised the hammer high above her head. The last words Cameron had uttered, "Not with a person I trust," seemed to hang in the air for just a moment, but Sarah shook her head, roughly dispelling the soft words, before she swung the hammer with all the strength she could muster.

The chip stared up at her, whole and unbroken, beside the dent in the console. The unmarred silver and silicon mocked her, taunted her for her inability to do what had to be done. She raised the hammer and brought it down again, and again, smashing the blue, yellow, and red rainbow of plastic embedded in face of the console, shattering lights and switches. A tiny, jagged piece of metal flew and lodged deep in the muscle of her arm, but she took no notice. Sarah didn't see the room of computers nor the console in front of her; instead, she saw gleaming metal skeletons stepping over charred bodies and burnt-out buildings, hideous red eyes surveying the damage they had wrought. The crack of shattering plastic and the drumbeat of the hammer assaulted her ears in the quiet, like explosions in a midnight sky.

Judgment Day… had happened. She hadn't even known, hadn't stopped it—hell, she had probably slept through the whole damn thing. And now, barely 100 feet above her head, death and destruction ravaged. The world had died and she had lived through it.

Mindlessly, Sarah struck out, swinging wildly with the hammer, crushing components along the wall of computers that ringed the room. Bits of plastic were strewn in her hair as she rampaged, taking out her helplessness and rage on the assorted machinery. Her breath came in deep gasps and wheezed out of her lungs, filling her ears like the shriek of a thousand missiles gone ballistic and streaking through the sky. Every crash of the hammer exploded buildings and cars before her eyes, and when the hammer slipped from her grasp and flew across the room, she attacked with her bare hands, clawing and prying at the unyielding metal. Fingernails cracked and splintered, but Sarah took no notice through the blood-red haze that enveloped her vision. She was manic, mindless, lost in madness, destroying the only machines she could...

When Sarah came to herself, she was leaned back against the wall, her head clutched in her hands, sweating and trembling despite the chill air of the bunker. The heel of her hand felt like pulp, crushed and torn, from her assault on the machines, and a single drop of blood beaded, then dripped from her palm to the floor between her feet. Sarah opened her eyes, not really seeing the wreckage that surrounded her; instead, she fastened on a thin slice of silver amid the destroyed machinery and broken lights. Cameron's chip, lying undamaged on the floor beside the smashed console. Death and destruction surrounded Sarah, yet that small sliver of silicon survived unscathed. It hardly seemed fair.

On her hands and knees, Sarah crawled over to the chip, ignoring the plastic that dug into her palms. She stared at it for a long moment with narrowed eyes, as if the force of her gaze could obliterate it, but it seemed impervious to her powers. Unsure where the hammer had flown and too tired to look for it, Sarah grabbed the chip up off the floor and gripped it tightly. She staggered to her feet on unsteady legs and headed up the stairs, her body exhausted and her head throbbing.

Sarah stopped dead in the doorway to the sleeping quarters; she had forgotten about Cameron's body, lying on the bunk next to hers. The cold empty hazel gaze seemed to fix on Sarah, and she shivered as a ghost touch crept up her spine. But she was too tired to do anything about it, so Sarah dropped the chip beside the 9mm and settled into the bunk, deliberately turning her back on Cameron's body just a few feet away from her. She tucked her arm under a pillow and closed her eyes, willing herself into an exhausted, dreamless sleep.

For once, Sarah didn't wake to a nightmare; instead, she swam out of a deep sleep and blinked her eyes open to stare directly into the face of death—or at least Cameron's dead eyes. Startled, she reached for the gun under her pillow and came up empty. There was no gun; she hadn't put one there. For a moment, she panicked, an automatic response to the absence of a weapon in her hands. Then she realized: she didn't need it, didn't need the reassuring weight in her hands like a security blanket. She was locked in; she was alone; she was… safe. Sarah exhaled, slumping back to the pillow and rolling over to stare at the criss-cross of springs that supported the top bunk as an alien feeling washed over her.

Drawing in another deep breath, Sarah exhaled again, trying to dispel an odd jumpy sensation in her gut, the cause of which it took her a minute to put her finger on. It was a feeling of complete and utter lack. As she lay there, she realized it was over. The machines had won—game, set, match—and nothing she had done had made a damn bit of difference in the end.

For sixteen years, she had lived with the pressure of the future rushing toward her like an out-of-control freight train. Since the moment her previously mundane existence had been shattered by the appearance of Kyle Reese and his visions of the future, she had been geared toward protecting John and stopping Judgment Day; running, hiding, searching, and strategizing, Judgment Day had consumed her mind. She had made no plans for surviving it.

She remembered the day her previous life ended; it had been a normal enough day: she was late for work as usual, had a bad day waitressing: typical rude children and self-important businessmen. Then her co-worker dragged her in to watch the news and told her, "You're dead." Looking back, Sarah realized that those words were more true than she had realized. She had died that day, or at least the young, naive, slightly ditzy college student had. From that day on, she had begun a curious half-life of hiding and fighting, trying to preserve a way of life she only caught glimpses of, like a shadow world that she ghosted at the edges of. Normalcy had been forgotten in the push to hone herself into a weapon, to make herself strong enough to protect and raise her son, and to prevent the world from ending. Dreams she had held, college, career, a house, a husband, children… All except John, they had all been ground down and forgotten in her rush to embrace the future Kyle had laid out for her.

And now… the world as she knew it, the world she had fought to protect, was gone. Sara scrubbed her face with her palms as a question formed in the stillness of her mind: how might she have lived her life differently if she had known Judgment Day was impossible to stop?

It was a sobering thought: In her hermitically sealed prison, all the fighting and running had come to an abrupt end and she was left with very little to show for her life. John was alive, as far as she knew, but there was little beyond that that she could point to that made her life worth the years she had spent living it. With the benefit of hindsight, she saw all the different ways she might have lived and what she might have done differently. If she hadn't tried to blow up Cyberdyne, she wouldn't have been locked away and lost years with John, years she knew he still resented her for. Miles wouldn't have had to die, Danny would not have had to grow up without a father, Andy might still be alive… If she had only known. She had promised Theresa that no one dies in vain and that had been a lie. So many lives had been sacrificed to her drive to save the future, to change John's fate.

She felt emptied, of all drive and purpose, like someone had thrown a switch and cut the power. Like Cameron.

Rolling over and tucking her arm under the pillow, Sarah stared at the deactivated terminator, the hazel eyes returning her gaze sightless and blank. A shell, emptied of purpose and hollow, just like Sarah. But there had to be something more; John's plan had to be more elaborate than just locking Sarah in the silo; she wasn't supposed to live out her life in a tomb with only a terminator for company, was she? For a moment, Sarah regretted her haste in deactivating Cameron, but she clamped down on the emotion lest it give rise to others, like pity or remorse. Spurred by her need to avoid the turn her thoughts had taken, Sarah rolled over and sat up, her feet hitting the floor with thump. She, unlike the terminator, was not inert and it was time she stopped acting like it. Stripping off her shirt and fatigues, she headed for the shower purposefully.

The hard, hot spray was heaven; Sarah wasn't sure how Cameron had bathed her while she was unconscious, but it felt like it had been years since she had felt truly clean. She scrubbed at her hair with the shampoo and watched as several long brown strands washed from her hands to circle the drain.

Sarah frowned when she stepped out of the shower area to once again confront Cameron's lifeless body, and she dressed hurriedly, feeling as if the sightless eyes were fixed on her back. She made a mental note to drag the body somewhere out of sight, but first she had to satisfy an intense craving that drove her to the mess hall. The smell of fresh brewed coffee filled the air, and Sarah savored her first sip, trying to count the days since her last cup. She had a moment of panic when she realized that she had no idea how many days had passed since Cameron had locked them in the silo, but she decided it didn't really matter. The fight was over and she had lost; who cared how many days it had been?

As the caffeine hit her system, Sarah began to once again consider her future. Her mug rattled to the tabletop as she leapt up, hastily making her way to the walk-in freezer to begin a quick inventory. Cameron had been correct; there was plenty of fresh, frozen, and dried food, including, Sarah realized with a sigh, enough coffee in the freezer, to last several months at least. Grabbing eggs, bacon, and frozen biscuits out of storage, she decided to fix a decent breakfast. She no longer felt as weak and malnourished as she had while hiding in the silo, thanks to the IV Cameron had given her, but nothing could take the place of an actual meal.

Sarah knew that her pretense of activity was merely that, a pretense. The air circulating through the vents was a mockery of the breath of another person, a subtle reminder of her isolation. She was trapped and alone, and she had no idea of what the next steps were, or even if there were any next steps. Faced with the vast blankness of her future, she had no idea of what she should be doing or what she should prepare for. All her adult life, she had planned, learned military tactics, and honed her body in order to defend her son and fight for his future. Now, she waited, for what she did not know.

A sudden tension gripped her frame; there was no way in hell she was simply going to sit and wait for someone to come find her and let her out of this prison. Even if she no longer knew what the future held, John was still out there, if what Cameron said was true. "I'll always find you," she had promised John, and a locked door and a nuclear apocalypse weren't going to keep her from her promise. In fact, Sarah wasn't sure that she was actually trapped there; Cameron had said she had disabled the emergency exits, but she might not have been telling the truth. It wouldn't be the first time the terminator had lied to her, Sarah thought bitterly, as she remembered the magnitude of the lies that had led her to this point.

With that in mind, Sarah strode purposefully down the stairs but her steps faltered as she took in the demolition in the control room. Several components were smashed on the floor, and bits of metal and plastic littered the entire room. Shaking her head, Sarah ignored the mess and continued down to the lowest level of the crew quarters, where most of the maintenance systems were housed. Massive generators and water recyclers took up most of the space, the floor vibrating through the soles of her boots at the constant operation of the machinery. Sarah glanced at the dials, which showed a steadfast green across the board, which was a good thing since Sarah didn't think she would be able to do anything if one of them slipped into the red. She ran a hand through her hair, realizing how precarious her situation was. Her life depended on these machines, for air to breath and water to drink, and she was alone without the know-how or ability to fix them if they should break before she figured out a way out of there.

She completed her circuit of the room and found the hatch built into the farthest wall, just where it was supposed to be. The wheel that secured the door had been twisted off and tossed aside, and Sarah fingered the sharp edges of the metal carefully. Not even a welder would have been able to put the mechanism back on, and Sarah sighed in frustration. Cameron had indeed locked them in efficiently and effectively.

She had a moment of panic as she felt the walls pressing in one her again, and she took several deep deliberate breaths to keep from hyperventilating, willing herself to calm down. It seemed to help; the muscles across her ribcage eased and her hands, clenched into fists, slowly relaxed. Another wave of lethargy washed over her as she stared at her hands, her empty hands, and her thoughts of earlier returned. The world had ended and she had nothing to show for it, nothing tangible, nothing to hold on to. In all of her years of running, she hadn't had time for sentiment or memorabilia. After her botched attempt to blow up Cyberdyne, her few possessions, which consisted of a few pictures and mementos from people she had met along her travels, had ended up in storage somewhere and she hadn't gone back for them after breaking out of the hospital. With Charley she had accumulated a few things, but she left most of them when they had fled and lost the rest when Cameron had brought them forward in time.

Sarah had lived her life by a simple rule: leave no trace. Things were traces; they could be found and used after the fact to prove that she existed, that she had traveled through, so she had strictly controlled what she carried with her. But what kind of a mother didn't have baby pictures of her child? She remembered a night before they left the jungle; John was maybe 5 or 6, and she had just made the decision to go back to the States and hunt down the people who created the machines that ended the world. She sat there, that night, with a bottle of tequila and a small stack of Polaroids, pictures of John as a baby, him taking his first step and holding his first gun. Slowly, one by one, she sat there and fed them into the fire, taking a hit from the bottle every time she felt her eyes tear up. And now, even if she had anything to go back to, it was all nuked, vaporized, burned to ash just like those pictures in that campfire.

Her muscles protested as she straightened, and Sarah groaned, her voice loud in the silence. She wasn't sure how long she had been lost in thought, but her body told her it had been a while. Giving the door one last look, Sarah headed upstairs to accomplish at least one of her goals today.

Cameron's body was cold to the touch, just like a real one, but far heavier. Sarah dropped the arm she was holding back into place and sank down into the other bunk, suddenly exhausted. She wiped the thin sheen of sweat from her forehead, surprised at how quickly she tired, a side effect of her long deprivation of food and water. She gazed at Cameron, who was peacefully composed, her hands crossed over her stomach and her head tilted to the side. Sarah remembered the silky smoothness of the terminator's hair and had a sudden image of dragging the terminator's body over the scruffy, dirty floor. She wondered if she should find a gurney or something, to give Cameron's body a small measure of dignity. She had, after all, taken care of Sarah; Sarah owed her.

Sarah bolt upright and shook her head. She was thinking of Cameron as 'her,' not as 'it,' not as a machine. She was on her feet then and her hand tightened on Cameron's arm to pull her off the bunk.

A few moments later, light returned to the hazel of Cameron's eyes. Sarah watched as Cameron's expression took on a faraway look, obviously accessing her memory to recall the last few minutes before she was deactivated, before those eyes turned to her.

Cameron stared up at Sarah with wonder. "You didn't kill me."

"I need information," Sara's tone was brusque, and she watched as the light in Cameron's eyes dulled. She spun on her heel and was already retreating toward the door as Cameron replied, "Of course."

To Be Continued

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