Sergeant Joe Griffin stood with his back against the wall and clutching hold of the phased plasma rifle that he carried. He’d been leader of this fire team for only a month but he knew that he had the best of the best under his command. His Rifleman – Bryce Stark – stood across from him holding the rifle in a ready position. His wasn’t a standard fire team though. Instead he had two additional Riflemen (Tony Wilkins and Sonya Ballantine) rather than the heavy automatic weapon. As the other two were moving ahead Joe wished he had the automatic. It would have been more helpful. They hadn’t taken fire yet, but Griffin found it best to already be in the rush formation rather than waiting until the shots started. When ‘fire’ and ‘assist’ were in place, Griffin and Stark ran ahead of them to the next checkpoint.
As they reached the intersection Griffin brought out a mirror and exposed it to the open corridor. All of the civilians had been locked down in security chambers so that they could be kept safe. It was weird to see the corridor empty like this but it was the lesser of two evils. The last thing they need was a Trip Eight taking a civilian hostage or a rook shooting him. Not that there were many civilians nowadays. Everyone including children had a job to do in this future war and many of them picked up a weapon after a while and joined in the fight. Though they didn’t need any shiny rooks or civvies to mess things up and that would be what they probably did.
Stopping this bastard was the objective. Connor himself had ordered that the masculine infiltrator be destroyed but he wanted the feminine one taken prisoner and brought directly to him and Danny Dyson. It was no secret that Connor was spending more time with the machines these days that his own people. Maybe he wanted to spend some ‘quality time’ with her. Hell if it was true it had the appearance of Major Young there weren’t many men who wouldn’t want to spend some quality time with the machine. They were fully functional after all. So what if they faked it.
“I don’t see nothin’ top,” said Stark as he peered down the corridor. “Whatever happened here I think we missed it.”
“Don’t count on it,” was Griffin’s only answer. Crouching down and resting his back against the wall he waited. When Connor gave the orders they said under no uncertain terms that the Quadling Country – named after the southern division of the Land of Oz in L. Frank Baum’s Wonderful Wizard of Oz – of the base had to be kept isolated and that nothing was to make it into the chamber. Griffin and his team were the closest so they went there to wait. So far the radio reports showed without a shadow of a doubt that that was exactly where the male replica was going.
And they were going to be ready. He motioned to the two behind him to move across the hall and into the ready position. The parallel corridor was being held down by Sergeant Harris’ team and he was a metal buster that the men in the Resistance feared being assigned to. He’d hold them off. Harris had to. As they moved into their new positions Griffin knew in his heart of hearts that this was going to go badly for the Resistance. There was something in the air, a sort of finality to it that he couldn’t quite place. Everything was calm and perhaps a bit too calm for what a full scale invasion should be.
As they waited Griffin couldn’t help but think about his life and everything that had happened to him in it. He pulled off his hat and ran his fingers through the barely present hair on top of his head. Ever since he joined the Resistance it felt like he needed hair in a short cut that was almost not even there. It was like an unwritten rule. Mainly he liked it because it meant that he didn’t have to worry about the lice problem that commonly afflicted the Resistance bases. Bonnie had had problems with it and she missed his long locks, and he missed her.
It’d been months since they last saw each other. Joe and Bonnie met during the Battle of Avila Beach. They fought together and were able to take down an HK Bomber during the fight. The Resistance won that day and they all celebrated together. After that they were almost inseparable. Then Bonnie was reassigned to Oregon Bunker and they hadn’t seen each other ever since. She was probably dead after Oregon was invaded – the reports said that everyone was killed – and that was something that Joe had faced. Some of them would have assumed that they would see each other again in the next life if something like that had happened. Joe didn’t believe that. There was no next life; there was only the here and now. As the prospects of death came more and more close Griffin noticed members of his own team seemed to be in silent prayer of one form or another. He couldn’t bring himself to it. It wouldn’t do any good.
In the distance the team could hear a scream of pain and the blasts from a plasma rifle. Pulled instantly to the ready his fingers moved the rifle almost by automatic. Pulling on the bolt the whine of the plasma gun told him that they were ready. Joe looked around the corner in time to see a Resistance private in fatigues running down the corridor. He was bloody and bruised with his uniform in tatters. Behind him walking in a perfectly straight line they saw the massive machine. It had no visible damage of any sort on its flawless body. The dark brown eyes though were penetrated by a crimson glow.
“Run!” The young private screamed trying to avoid the tin can. As he tried to dive around a corner three rounds ripped into the back of the young man and he slammed against Wilkins. Blood was pouring out of the kid’s back, dead instantly from the perfect shots ripping his spine into pieces. Before any of them could fire again though the machine had disappeared down another corridor and was nowhere to be found. The only door into the chamber was the one at the end of the hallway they were guarding; it would have to come this way to get there. Ballantine was on it though. She picked up a popper and tossed it down the hallway. If it spotted a machine or any movement it would start to pop and warn them. Proximity detectors – the Resistance’s best stolen friend.
“It… it… it killed him! It just… killed him!”
Wilkins wasn’t prone to panic and had seen his share of death, but the majority of the Resistance Soldiers had always seen Kansas Bunker as impenetrable. Now a machine was roaming its halls murdering loyal soldiers among its ones pristine walls. As the Team Leader it was Griffin’s job to bring him back into the fold.
“Suck it up, trooper. That thing’ll be comin’ and we have to kick its ass from here back to Skynet. So grab your gun and watch that hall.” Sometimes it took a firm hand and not the kind words for a solider to get things done. The kid nodded in agreement and underwent a restoration. Before Joe’s eyes he was a bad ass Resistance Soldier again. It was a beautiful sight to behold.
The men and woman on the fireteam pointed their guns at the end of the hallway where Wilkins and Ballantine were standing. If the TripEight was going to get to the chamber it had to go that way. It probably anticipated the popper so it wouldn’t go that way. This was the only option. They all had their rifles pointed when suddenly bricks in the walls slammed outward with incredible fury. Two arms flew out from the openings and wrapped around Wilkins’ chest and pulled the young crybaby back. Bones broke, blood started to rush from his eyes, mouth, and ears and the cybernetic organism squeezed the youngster like a boa constrictor preparing for a meal. Blood and pulp began to drop to the ground.
“Forgot they could do that,” mumbled the team leader, “Sorry kid.” They began to fire at the wall and the machine followed suit with its own weapon. During the fight it had acquired a phased plasma rifle just like the ones that the humans were using. Energy pulses flashed through the cramped quarters and struck against the walls. Smoke billowed from the freshly cut perfect circles as debris was thrown outward in tiny pebbles. It was clear though that the machine had the advantage right now. It had a barrier shield thanks to the remaining brick, the humans were mostly exposed. If only they had grenades stronger than those poppers, but all had been worried about damaging their own home; too bad the machine didn’t share that sentiment.
A plasma blast struck forth from the skinjob’s rifle and slammed into the face of Stark. The man’s head exploded outward like a pumpkin being smashed after Halloween. Ballantine fell back on her feet as the machine stepped through the wall. Griffin returned fire on the tin can and scored a hit against its back. In retaliation it picked up Sonya and threw her at him. The machine had been good in its calculations. Sonya slammed right against Joe’s rifle and knocked it away. The impact had dislodged the power pack too and it skittered over the floor. Griffin pushed back with his legs and dragged his butt as he tried to get away from the approaching machine.
Without effort the replica of William – who the machines called Cromartie – bent down and picked Joe up. It didn’t kill him though and brought him instead into the main corridor. With proficiency it walked to the door to Quadling Country and showed it to the human.
The machine’s voice was cold, “Open the door.”
“Go to hell!” Spat Sergeant Griffin while trying to catch his breath. The grip of the Triple Eight tightened around the human’s neck.
It twisted him around and looked him right in the eye, “I am unable to comply. You will release the door.”
“I will not!”
The machine looked at the retinal scanner, “Yes, you will.” It turned on its booted heel and walked to midway down the corridor to the intersection. The replica pulled Joe close and stared right into his eyes – so close that the Resistance’s Sergeant could swear he smelled lubricant. “I hope that you have a nice trip.”
Before the question could be asked the machine had thrown the human like a fast ball against the reinforced door. Upon impact the metal door cracked and groaned causing stress points to form on the body. A quick scan utilizing Cromartie’s advanced sensors gave it everything that it needed. With rapid punches that bloodied the synthetic knuckles on its mechanical hands it broke through the door and – when suitably afflicted – pulled apart the remnants. It stepped through and into its target: the time displacement chamber.
Through all of the calculations that the infiltrator had run while on this assignment to go back to the past it hadn’t anticipated what was on the other side of the door. In the center of the room was a large circular chamber surrounded by what it calculated to be a three story drop. A single, older, catwalk barely capable of holding the weight of a human connected it to the main chamber. Twin computer consoles were sitting on both sides of the catwalk with their human operators scrambling to hide. Though that was to be expected – even a T-888 Series was to be expected.
“You will proceed no further,” said the other machine with a thick Austrian accent filling the auditory sensors. It moved into a classic sparring stance which Cromartie had taken during training exercises. The memory circuits of the Skynet loyal machine fired quickly and determined everything that it could about the Model 101.
Both machines ran at each other at full speed ready to fight, ready to terminate.