DISCLAIMER: They don't belong to me. I wish, but I wouldn't have a clue what to do with them anyway. Fox, here's to you.Anyway, I decided I would play around with them a little and see what turned out; hope it's not too boring. Warning: I want to say thanks to 'Wolfe' for the help with the beta. Any mistakes are mine and mine alone.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: Good, bad or just plain ugly? All comments welcome at jude.nightlure@gmail.com
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.

Lessons in Instinct
By Jude Nightlure


"I call an animal, a species, an individual depraved when it loses its instincts, when it chooses, when it prefers what is harmful to it." Friedrich Nietzsche

Part One

Sarah jumped, startled, as something heavy landed in the bed of the truck. Her foot was like a bar of lead, crushing the gas pedal to the floor of the cab. She risked a look behind her into the truck bed but the figure was gone. She looked down at the speedometer, willing the old workhorse to give her just a little more. But the vehicle was old and the engine small. 'John must have stolen it from the school when all hell broke loose.' She felt a strange sense of motherly pride that can only come from years of living on the run, the vain hope that her timid son might be learning to think on his feet after all this time.

The moment was broken as the passenger door of the truck opened. She reached for the Glock 9mm in the waistband of her jeans just as the figure pulled itself inside the cab. She relaxed her grip on the useless weapon and returned her shaking hand to the steering wheel. She didn't spare the figure a glance. She couldn't. Not yet. She thought back to the house and how she was sure that someone had stripped the very breath from her body when she saw John fall to the terminator's rain of bullets. The deception had been that perfect. No, she couldn't look at this thing, this girl, just yet. Still… "Did you stop him?"

"One hundred twenty seconds and the system reboots. I was sent here to protect John…" the girl's explanation was cut short when Sarah removed a sweaty hand from the now slick steering wheel and held it up in her direction.

"Not now," Sarah said, her tone fueled by adrenaline, maybe even a little fear if she were honest with herself. "Not Yet." She didn't have the patience to listen to another machine tell her that her life had just gone to hell yet again. She looked down at the speedometer. 'Ninety-five… too slow, just give me a little more baby'. But her foot was already attached to the floor and the old truck just wasn't going to give her anymore. She felt John tense beside her and knew he too had looked at the dusty gauge. She could feel his trepidation and knew it had as much to do with the machine beside him as the recklessness of her driving. Not for the first time Sarah wished that all they'd been through, all the fighting and running, all that she had tried to teach him about survival would kick in. That all of her effort would finally mesh together inside the boy's brain and she wouldn't have to lead him around by his ear just to keep him safe from himself.

"Mom?" John began, his eyes shifting from the road ahead of the vehicle to the gauge and back to her face. He was scared too and knew that his mother was only acting on years of instinct and fear. Fears that she wouldn't have if not for him. He looked at the tense lines and the thin layer of sweat beginning to run at her temples and thought he could see the beginning of tears forming in her eyes. "Mom I think…"

"Not now John!" Sarah snapped, watching as he flinched away from her, inadvertently bringing him closer to the machine. She looked into its brown eyes and thought she saw a hint of reproach reflected there. Unconsciously she began to ease up on the gas pedal before realization set in and she angrily slammed her foot back to the floor. "Damn them," she thought. "Damn him for making me weak when I need to be strong. And her… it… for bringing this nightmare back into my life. Damn them both." No sooner had the thought formed than she felt the faint flush of shame creep up her neck and over the high plains of her cheeks.

Beside John the girl shifted as close to the door of the cab as possible, making more room for herself now that he had moved closer. What Sarah could only assume was a veiled look of discomfort passed over its placid features. 'What kind of machine cares about how much room its ass takes up?' Sarah noticed but chose to ignore the implications. Could a terminator be adverse to touch? Was it even possible for them to care? Sarah let the thought go. It just was too much to process at the moment. Her eyes wandered to the speedometer. "Ninety-eight… better." She tightened her grip on the wheel and tried to focus her thoughts on getting through the next few hours.

John shifted for the fourth time in an hour trying to find a measure of comfort in the cramped confines of the cab of the truck. He winced as the shift stick pushed into his hip once again. "Fuck it!" Frustration won out as he threw his right leg onto the dashboard and kicked his left on top of the back of the seat. "Hey." He jumped at the soft sound of his mother's voice outside the open window above his head. "What's with all the noise John? You should be sleeping we've got a long day a head of us tomorrow." Sarah leaned into the cab through the window and had to stifle a giggle at the lanky teen's obvious predicament.

"I still can't see why I have to sleep in here, it's too freak'n small." To further plead his case he shifted, bringing his legs up into a bent position. "Besides, she's here, if that thing manages to track us this far she'll take care of it." He looked up into his mother's eyes and saw his own doubt reflected there. His thoughts wandered to the small female figure that had integrated herself into their lives and couldn't help but wonder why she wasn't… well… bigger?

"We've already talked about this." Sarah's face tensed, trying hard not to show her exasperation. "I don't want you out in the open." His mouth moved in the darkness, ready to begin another round of protest. She held up her hand. "Save it. I don't want hear it again." As he sighed and began to settle down once more, she reached into the cab and ruffled his hair, earning a look of irritation from the teen. "Goodnight John, I love you. Now get some sleep." She walked away from the truck and allowed herself a small smile as she listened to him curse under his breath and turn over in the cab.

Sarah walked around to the back of the truck reaching the edge of the makeshift campsite as the girl was removing her blouse. She averted her eyes and focused instead on cleaning her weapon, the parts slipping away from one another with ease in her practiced hands. "What did John call you? Cameron?" This was the first time she'd spoken to the terminator since she'd climbed into the truck and turned the family's duo into a threesome.

"Yes." She had such a small voice, Sarah noted. Almost lyrical in its finality. When Cameron didn't elaborate Sarah realized that she'd have to ask if she wanted to get anything from the machine. "Some things never change," she thought.

As she cleaned the weapon parts her eyes wondered to Cameron's face. There she thought she could see what passed as frustration as the girl struggled with the clasp on her bra. Sarah smirked, thinking that with all the technology in the future the machines would have at least programmed their impostors to be able to use a simple human contraption. "Then again, most grown men can't seem to figure it out either." Cameron's arms arched behind her as she wrestled with the clasp of the bra once more, pulling it away from her slim figure before letting it snap back against the pale flesh of her back. 'I can't believe I'm doing this.' Sighing Sarah stood up and walked around the fire barrel before standing tentatively in front of the machine perched on the tailgate of the truck. "Would you like some help with that?" She asked, part of her hoping the girl would say no so she wouldn't have to come in contact with the cold 'skin' she knew she'd find. Another, more disturbing part in the back of her mind, whispered with a tight glimmer of hope that she would. "Where the hell did that come from?" Shaking off the twinge in her belly she kept her eyes locked with the far safer, but equally unsettling gaze of the girl.

"Yes, please. It's new. The others opened in the front," Cameron said. A soft and simple statement, almost naive, but it made Sarah cringe and caused the familiar heaviness in her belly to return. "She's a machine Sarah, not some helpless young woman. Don't start thinking of her as anything but that." Cameron held her gaze, unblinking, as if she was waiting for the older woman to perform some technological feat. It was almost comical and Sarah couldn't help but smile at the absurdity of it all. "You find this humorous?" Cameron asked after a moment. A simple question; not tainted with accusation or a sense of indignity.

Sarah didn't know how to respond, hoping her thoughts weren't as apparent on the outside as they were within. "No," she drew out the word stalling for time. She leaned in close, her torso almost touching Cameron's nearly nude chest. "I just think it's strange that the people that made you didn't program you to," she reached around with both hands, her face inches from straight brown hair. Shivering from the proximity and at the surprising warmth under her fingers she brought the two interconnecting pieces closer together, "dress yourself properly." With a quick twist the clasp opened and began to slide off pale shoulders. When it was apparent that the young woman wasn't going to make a move to protect her dignity, Sarah leaned back and turned away, returning to the safety across the fire, a soft scent of lavender soap still lingering in her nose. She could still feel Cameron's eyes on her back as she sat back down and began reassembling her gun.

Cameron pulled the straps of the white garment the rest of the way down her shoulders and put it to the side. Reaching down she picked up a pair of pliers she had found in the tool chest of the truck she'd taken from the school. Bringing the makeshift instrument to the first hole in her chest she began to dig out the first of the bullets. Sarah, who had finished putting the Glock back together, found herself watching this with a strange sense of sadness. She couldn't explain it but somehow she felt that she should have prevented the damage. She picked up the tattered map she had found in the glove box of the truck and tried hard not to concentrate on her son's newfound protector. 'Why should I care, all that matters is she protects John. Nothing matters.' Still, as her eyes unconsciously strayed from the map she couldn't help but think that they'd at least have to find the girl a decent shirt to cover the damage. Cameron could feel Sarah watching her but chose to ignore the look directed at her, instead focusing on her current task. If Sarah Connor wanted to talk she would have to ask the right questions.

"Will it stay that way or will it heal itself?" Sarah found herself asking. She could have kicked herself for such a seemingly irrelevant question, when there were more important things to worry about. "Like who sent you back this time?" If it was 'future' John, she wondered if she should wake the boy up and have a long talk about his not so subtly hidden porn collection he kept stashed in the bottom of his duffle bag. At least now he would have to start all over again. "Surely he could have thought of something with a little more bicep and a little less…" she let the thought trail off as her eyes strayed from Cameron's face and to the bullet hole above a perfectly shaped nipple. She felt the muscles in her abdomen pull a little tighter as the woman freed a second bullet from the hole in her shoulder. "At least he has good taste. And thank God she at least looks legal." She shuddered. Thinking of your son as the leader of a future resistance movement was one thing. Thinking that he might turn out to be a creepy pedophile was quite another.

"The synthetic skin will regenerate at an accelerated rate, but will leave a distinguished discoloration over the surface," Cameron said as she continued digging with as much precision as one can with a pair of rusty pliers.

Sarah laughed. "You mean that it'll scar?"

Cameron paused in her task to look at the older woman, her head bent slightly to the side as if considering the meaning of the word. "Yes, that would be an accurate description." She looked down as the last bullet made its way to the surface of the wound in her chest. "It will scar." She hesitated as if trying the word for the first time. She dropped the bullet and the pliers on the truck bed next to the others before returning her attention to Sarah.

"So do you need to patch it somehow until it heals over?" Sarah asked, wondering if she could keep her hands still long enough to stitch or bandage the smooth flesh closed or if she'd even need her help to begin with. Somehow she didn't think the young woman would protest if she offered. After all, it would be more efficient than trying to do it herself. From what she'd seen the girl hadn't displayed any yoga master feats of dexterity. She knew that even if the girl needed to cover the holes she'd have a hell of a time getting the bandages in the right place, at least for the wound at her collarbone.

"No, closing the wounds will not be required. The fracture in my synthetic structure will begin to close approximately thirty-six hours after the obstructions have been removed. Then they will… scar." Sarah thought she saw a flash of anger pass over the girl's face as she tasted the word again. "Strange," thought Sarah. "It's almost like she cares about having a mark on that perfect skin of hers." Sarah stopped, realizing her eyes had once again strayed, now from the sight of the young woman's breast and down to a firm, flat stomach. "You've got to get a grip Sarah. You're just tired. Quit staring at her like she's a piece of meat." And yet it took far too much effort for her taste to drag her eyes back up to meet Cameron's silently staring gaze.

"You might want to put those back in the holster," Sarah said nodding her chin in the general direction of Cameron's chest, her eyes catching the light from the fire as it played over her exposed skin.

"Oh!" Cameron said, surprised that she had not realized that her lack of understanding of modesty might make Sarah uncomfortable. She picked up the white bra and began to pull up the straps. She always found that it wasn't nearly as hard to get the human contraption on as it was to remove. She noticed that the older woman's eyes moved to the map she held before shifting back up to concentrate on her hands as she began to bring the bra up. She decided that it was a curious sensation to be watched so openly, and slowed the movement of her hands as the other woman began to stand. Her mind analyzed the readings she was receiving from the human, but it could not find a suitable definition for its findings, registering both arousal and fear. "Elevated heart rate and hormone levels. Increased respiration." Cameron began to settle the bra into place but let the left side slip from her fingers momentarily before catching it and fastening the clasp. She watched as Sarah inhaled quickly and began moving closer. "Interesting" she thought as she watched the older woman approach in a slow, stilted fashion, running a hand through her hair in frustration.

"We should leave here in a few more hours. Hit the border by lunch time," Sarah said. She was having a hard time keeping her emotions in check. The day's events were finally catching up to her and the stress was playing havoc with her mind. 'And your body too as long as we're being honest here.' She found herself appreciating one last look at the girl's flat stomach as she walked around to stand beside her. As much as she hated to admit it she could use a couple of hours of sleep. 'But first the tin chatter box and I need to clear up a few things.' She leaned close just as Cameron finished fastening her bra, her breath catching in her throat as the left cup seemed to slip, allowing her a brief glimpse before it was caught and brought back into place. She felt her cheeks flush and began to get angry that this girl… 'No, this 'machine' Sarah. You're letting this fucking machine get under your skin.' She felt a fire begin to burn in her belly and this time she knew it wasn't just from a false sense of desire. There was hate there too. Anger and hatred for all that this terminator represented. Disgust at her own body's betrayal. "What year are you from?"

Cameron felt herself begin to respond to the wave of hostility… and something she could not identify… emanating from the older woman. It hung in the air like an electrical charge, her senses more alert to this new danger. "Twenty twenty-seven," she said.

"How long have you been looking for us?" The eyebrows on Sarah's forehead drew together as she tried to hold her temper in. The longer she was close to the girl the more she wanted to hurt her.

Cameron lowered her eyes as she walked around the truck to retrieve her shirt. All of her readings indicated that Sarah Connor was in distress. Of what kind Cameron couldn't yet determine.

"Seventy-three days." She slipped the pink long sleeved garment over her head, noting that she'd have to take care to cover her wounds until she could find more concealing clothing.

"And the war?" Sarah asked. A simple question. One she thought she'd never have to ask again, but somehow knew could never be unasked.

Cameron paused, pulling her hair out from where it had become stuck inside of her shirt when she had pulled it over her head. A very human gesture. Very female. It unnerved Sarah and only served to remind her that the girl was still just a construct and nothing more. "The SKYNET Missile Defense System goes online April 19th, 2011. Declares war on mankind and triggers a nuclear apocalypse two days later."

A cold sweat broke out on Sarah's forehead. "Miles Dyson?" she asked. The very thought that the man had died for nothing made the bile rise in her throat. She could feel the hot pin pricks of anger and exhaustion beating at the doors of her tear ducts but blinked them away, refusing to show even the slightest moment of weakness in front of the machine.

"Someone else builds SKYNET." Cameron walked back to the center of the campsite, putting some distance between herself and Sarah. The older woman's vital signs had elevated drastically since they had begun discussing the future. The last thing Cameron wanted to do was cause Sarah Connor unnecessary stress. That was not her mission.

"Who?" Sarah asked in a whisper. It was as if she was almost afraid of the possible answer. Afraid that the enemy might be too much for even her to handle this time around. 'And what if they are Sarah? What if they are and the world's gonna end and there's not a god damned thing you can do about it this time? What then huh?' Try as she might, she couldn't stop the nagging feeling that she wasn't going to like the terminator's answer.

"We don't know," Cameron said. She bent down and peered into a small mirror, trying to get a better look at the scrape on her forehead. The skin there would heal but until then she would have to find some makeup or a bandage to cover the damage. It wouldn't do any of them any good to be detained. Looking into the mirror she could clearly see the lines on Sarah's face tensing into anger.

"You don't know who builds the computer who blows up the world?" Sarah asked, her tone indicating that she didn't believe the girl. 'I can't shake it. She's not like the others. She's more… human somehow.'

Cameron dabbed at the scrape above her eye, noting she would have to clean out the wound before she could allow it to heal. "I wasn't sent here for that." Behind her Sarah's rage was reaching a boiling point.

"Yeah, I know. You were sent here to keep my son from being assassinated." Venom laced her words as she very nearly spat them at the girl. Sarah wanted to reach out and grab her and rip the skin away to show her for what she really was. To show herself that this was not a dream and that she had every right to be pissed off.

Cameron stood and faced Sarah. There were more important things to worry about than the older woman's ire right now. She was programmed to identify and learn human emotion. Right now she believed the appropriate feeling was… irritation. "Your fiancé went to the police. You should have changed your alias."

Sarah leaned in until she was only inches from the girl's face. "Go to hell." Cameron stood her ground. 'What did you expect her to do, run away crying?' Despite herself she found herself wanting to step closer and bridge the gap between them. She knew it was just the anger burning inside her. The need to possess something out of frustration. She wanted to laugh and cry all at once because despite the sickness of it all, it was that difference in this moment that marked her irrefutably human.

Cameron looked down at the full lips so close and tried not to over process the multitude of readings she was receiving from the older woman. Tried not to notice that her own circuitry had responded in an unfamiliar manner. One in which she was not prepared for. She would analyze it later once she was done dealing with the volatile human for the night. "They'd have found you anyway. They always do."

They sat in silence for long moments, one lost in thought and exhaustion; the other carefully observing. 'Why is she here?' She knew what the answer would be. It was always the same. Save John, save the world. No big deal right? She'd been doing that all his life. So occasionally the future leader of the human race thought she could use a little help. If it were anyone other than John she might be offended. As it was she was just tired. Tired of running. Of fighting. Sarah looked up across the flames into the face of this newest twist in her life. 'Tired of being alone' She realized in that moment that she hadn't thought of Charley once since she and John began their trek from West Fork. In that moment she knew that this was all there was for her. Her and John and the machines, with only the future to bind them together. She was almost getting used to the idea.

Cameron watched the play of emotions as she returned Sarah's intense gaze. She knew the older woman wasn't ready to be told the full truth of her mission. In fact she had been carefully programmed to withhold from the Conners until such information became triggered by certain questions. Generalities had been left to the program's discretion. She gave Sarah the answer she knew would satisfy her immediate curiosity. Sarah would have more questions but she knew that now was not the proper time to inform the older woman of the rest. To do so too soon could possibly compromise her mission.

"Cameron why..." Sarah let the question die on her lips. She was tired and knew she'd only have a couple hours of sleep before they had to leave the seclusion of this spot. The rest could wait until morning. Sighing, she looked one last time into the darkness of Cameron's face over the fire. She imagined she could see the endoskeleton behind the softness of her skin if she looked hard enough. "We'll talk about this tomorrow." With that she lay down and rested her head on the makeshift pillow of her coat. Her last thoughts before sleep took her were that she'd never be able to rest with Cameron staring at her all night. "And why isn't she watching John anyway?"

Cameron watched as Sarah's heart rate settled and her breathing evened out, indicating that she had reached the first stages of R.E.M. She stood up and walked around the fire barrel, kneeling next to the sleeping woman. She reached down to brush a lock of hair that had fallen in the exhausted woman's face, but stopped herself before her fingers could touch the warmth of her skin. She didn't know if it was her programming or if she was learning to care for her charge, either way it wouldn't do to scare her. Waking her now would only cause more mistrust from the already wary woman, as well as a healthy dose of questioning that Cameron was not yet ready to answer.She studied the older woman for a long moment, noting how fragile she looked at rest before settling in at the edge of the campsite. Watching. Waiting.

To Be Continued

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