The warm sunlight of the sun felt good on Miles Oliver Beaumont’s bare chest as he floated peacefully on the surface of the pond behind his parent’s property. The water was cooler than he expected it to be on this spring evening in Arizona but that only added to the charm of the idyllic scene surrounding him. In the distance birds sang a sweet song that floated on the air. Despite his youth he’d been very stressed recently with college preparation and the hazards of his family’s life. The waters of reality had gone choppy for the Beaumont’s in the years since the United States entered into the depression and it was getting harder and harder to keep their heads above water. Through it all though somehow, by some strange happenstance, they lived to see another day.
Miles missed the days of his youth when he didn’t understand things like economics and money. His parents had been adept at keeping him out of the loop and well stocked with everything that he could have possibly wanted. As a kid he had all the newest toys and games that a kid could hope for. His family was one of the first to have high speed internet access in his small town – though that was somewhat necessity due to his father’s job. When he turned sixteen his parents gave him the keys to a brand new Ford Mustang and told him to enjoy himself. It was, to be honest, partially his fault that they were in such dire financial straits. College wasn’t going to be any better. He had been accepted to several schools – three of which were Ivy League – except he couldn’t bring himself to accept those appointments. They would be too hard to pay for. While he knew that going to a larger university would have unparalleled possibilities he decided to accept the spot at the small State School that he’d applied to mainly as a joke. That had been one of the most stressful moments of his life.
Which was one of the reasons why the pond was so important to him. When he was floating on the mirrored surface waters he could relax and not bring himself to think about the world and its problems. He could just exist without thought. It was like a paradise and a little bit of paradise was something that everyone needed these days. They all needed to escape. Here he didn’t have to wish that the economy and all the problems with it would go away.
“Room for one more?” The sweet voice of his neighbor interrupted his solitude and hovered in the air.
Miles nearly lost his buoyancy and almost fell into the water. Natasi Godfrey was a beautiful girl who had lived next door for about six months. He had trouble talking to her because of her beauty and radiance – and she had never before spoken to him about anything. Miles was popular, but he wasn’t popular; Natasi was the school’s queen. Beautiful, smart, and damned sexy. Every boy wanted her and most of the girls wanted to be her.
She just giggled at his struggles, “I take that as a yes.” She started pulling her clothes off and tossed them to the side. When she got down to her underclothes she held onto them for a moment and looked at Miles, “I hope that you don’t mind if I come in without these on. Much more fun that way.”
Miles tried not to stammer, “I have no objections.”
Natasi smiled and undid her bra strap. She dove into the water with the poise of a gymnast and swam around – her perfect form rippling through the water like a shark hunting for prey. Miles tried not to show his excitement as he felt her brush beneath him and come up alongside. She put a hand on his stomach and just stayed there bobbing up and down in the water like a ball bearing. As Miles looked into her deep eyes and felt her move his arm around her he knew that April 21, 2011 would be a day that he’d never forget.
Soon they found themselves in a world that they tried desperately to forget. The pond, the suburbs, even the economy that he prayed would go away had done just that. All destroyed in the nuclear fire that had been judgment day – the day the human race nearly ended at the hands of machines they’d created. It was also the day that he realized he should be careful about what he wished for because sometimes you truly did get it. All those wishes just brought him pain and misery.
He and Natasi survived Judgment Day together as they floated together in the pond. They watched both transfixed as the nuclear missiles flew over their heads toward their targets. Both heard the explosions as Phoenix Arizona erupted into a ball of nuclear fire that swept outward at speeds too fast for his youthful mind to calculate. They got out of there and went to the hospital for help. Miles wasn’t an idiot and he knew his history. After the explosion – even as far away as they were – nuclear fallout would cause massive radioactive rainstorms. The hospital at least had a fallout shelter.
It was cramped and hellish inside the shelter. The bunker was built back in the sixties incase the Russians ever decided to make the Cold War into a very Hot one. Back then though the town only had roughly 1,000 people in it so they only needed to accommodate that many. Since then the town had ballooned up to nearly 12,000 people. He and Natasi were lucky. They were allowed in under the women and children rule. Miles couldn’t bring himself to think about those poor people who were locked outside; people that included their parents and even some of their friends.
When they signaled the all clear he woke the sleeping Natasi – she’d fallen asleep on his shoulder – and they made their way out into this new frontier. They were like the cowboys of the old west he thought quietly trying to make it in an inhospitable world. Miles learned quickly that this world brought new meaning to the term survival of the fittest and he was determined to be one of the fittest. First they went back to their family homes to get what resources they could that were still good, but neither was prepared for the horror of finding their dead family in their homes. Miles’ family had known the reality of the fallout and taken their lives. Natasi’s family wasn’t home and they didn’t know what happened. Some people tried to outrun the storm front so maybe they had too.
Slowly they learned more and more about this new reality. Almost every major city had been destroyed including Phoenix, Tucson, Los Angeles, and San Diego. There were some cities that survived, but not many. The United States Government had been nearly wiped out but a few small bodies still existed. The National Guard had taken over direct control of the United States and they were responding to the crisis as best they could. A lot of people were being relocated to refugee camps. There was also splintering and faction building that he couldn’t understand. The government would help them. They needed to trust them.
Which was why he and Natasi decided to move to one of the refugee camps; though, he soon learned they were nothing like described. They were more like concentration camps and the accommodations got worse and worse all the time. People were starving, they were beaten, and the quarters were close. Crime was horrific as people struggled just to survive. Miles fought to keep the peace, but they weren’t immune. Natasi had been brutalized and that ate away at his core. He found the man that did it and beat him to a bloody pulp, only to learn that he was the base commander’s son.
Under the cover of the night he was loaded up into a truck with about twenty other people. There was silence among the darkness as they rode along on the long dirt road. The stars were beautiful as they twinkled among the night sky. When Miles was a child his parents once told him that stars were the people that we loved who went away. He wondered if his family, his friends, everyone he had ever cared about were up there watching him as they continued their trek. Before seeing such amazing sights had been impossible due to light interference, but that was one of the oddities of the new Earth on which they lived. Everything seemed to be healing – except for humanity. They were devolving back to the era of Cro-Magnon and there was no way to stop it.
About fifteen minutes later the truck came to an abrupt stop in the middle of the road and died. The world was quiet around them as the brightly lit moon shone down upon them. Their tranquility was broken quickly. From nearby a thunderous stomp filled the air. In a puddle made by their tires water rippled as the sound got louder and louder. In the distance a man could be seen walking toward them.
At least he thought it was a man.
When it reached them it was clear what Miles and Company were seeing was anything but a man. It was titanic. Easily eight feet tall its arms were as thick as probably his entire torso. With each and every footstep the world seemed to quake in fear. Its skin was ashen – like that of death itself – and rubbery like a tire. It carried something that looked like it was as big as a small man one handed. When it got close enough Miles’ jaw dropped at the sight: it was a gun.
They all jumped from the truck and ran away from the machine, but for many it was too late. The whirring of the chain gun was something that he’d never forget. Then came the rapid flashes of fire as bullets rained at the crowd and tore through them like a warm knife through butter. People fell and the monster just kept firing – it didn’t care about them. It felt no pity, no remorse, and no fear. It just didn’t stop.
Then came something he didn’t expect. The towering man erupted into flames and repeated gunshots roared into the air. The sounds of ricochets as metal hit metal were hard to forget, but they were something that he needed to hear. Miles legs wanted to run but he also knew that this was something that he had to see. The motorcycle’s engine roared as a man raced it toward the misshapen monster. He maneuvered it with incredible precision and somehow the older Harley Davidson jumped into whatever the hell it was. It fell to the ground and the man was now on his feet looking at the wreckage.
Miles tried to sneak closer just incase and got a shotgun pointed in his face. Like a classic movie – not that he’d seen one recently – Beaumont’s hands flew up. “Don’t shoot,” he pleaded.”
The man looked at him for a moment like he was a specimen in a lab. He pulled the gun back and slung it over his shoulder in a holster. Thanks to the trickling light Miles could make out more about the man. His hair was short – almost a buzz cut but a little longer – and his eyes were a grayish blue. The man had the build of an athlete and was wearing military fatigues that had definitely seen better days. He could make out the name: Connor.
He said only a few words, “Come with me if you want to live.”
As Miles’ eyes fluttered open in the remains of the old truck he had fallen asleep in there were three things that he did (a ritual he’d had ever since joining the resistance). The first thing was he called out for Natasi hoping each time that she’d answer him. So far in all these years she never had. Natasi had been his last connection to his former life and he knew deep down that he was in love with her. Every day they’d been apart it was like someone carved out his stomach with a knife. Deep down Miles knew the truth about her: she was probably dead; his heart wouldn’t let him accept that.
Immediately afterward he kicked himself in the ass for making such a rookie mistake. The machines could be anywhere and they could hear for what seemed like miles upon miles away even something as low as the slightest whisper. If there were any around here they would come running full speed ahead in order to kill him without mercy, without reason, without conscience. After a few minutes of waiting with his rifle ready he realized though that he was safe for one more minute.
Finally, without fail, the third thing he did was always the same. He hated himself for going with John Connor that winter night and wished that he would have stayed behind. Most likely one of the tin cans would have found him and killed him or some animal would get the better of him in the field. Anything would be better than this living hell. Death wasn’t a bad thing anymore – for many now it was a reward from this Earthbound punishment to living hell.
After finishing the crumbs of his TKL – that was all he had left anyway – he got out of the truck and relieved himself before starting back toward home. When he joined TechCOM Connor had made him a scout. For the last few days he’d been out in the ruins trying to find some mysterious new base that the tin cans had built. It was supposed to be something new, something that they’d never before encountered, and it was supposed to be perfect. Miles didn’t like perfect. If something was perfect that meant that it couldn’t be stopped. Humanity didn’t have time for any of Skynet’s designs to be perfect.
Hours passed as he searched and he was about to go back and rest for an hour when something caught his attention. In the brightness of the light he could see something shining off the sun. Hiding up in the remnants of an old car he pulled out his binoculars and took a look at the site. Whatever it was it had to be important. Two endos were nearby hiding in the obvious places watching the horizon. Their plasma rifles were pointed to the side – hopefully signifying that they hadn’t found him yet – and they didn’t seem to care. Suddenly something happened. The sands of time parted inward as what appeared to be two doors slid open. A large platform lifted up into view holding an HK-Tank. Its massive treads started to roll and tore through the ground without concern for what it encountered. The two machines remained there staring. This was what Connor had to have been talking about. A new Skynet laboratory was hidden beneath the sands.
Grabbing his radio he called in his location and what he found to the base. His job finished he grabbed his gear and was told to get his ass back to the base so that he could be debriefed. Connor wanted this outpost – something inside of it meant life or death to him – so he would at least be pleased. As he slung his rifle (much as Connor had once did before him) he made his way out of the rusted hulk and was shocked by what he saw standing on the other side.
For the first time in years he stammered, “Is it…”
Those were his final words.