“The hardest thing is deciding what I should tell you and what not to. Well, anyway, I've got a while yet before you're old enough to understand the tapes. They're more for me at this point... to help get it all straight. Should I tell you about your father? That's a tough one. Will it change your decision to send him here... knowing? But if you don't send Kyle, you could never be. God, you can go crazy thinking about all this... I suppose I'll tell you... I owe him that. And maybe it'll be enough if you know that in the few hours we had together we loved a lifetime's worth.” – Tape 7 of Sarah Connor to her son John Connor, November 10, 1984.
High above the darkness of the nighttime sky over Los Angeles hung in place. For the first time in what felt like ages the blanket of clouds had lifted for even a minute revealing in their wake the brilliance of the world left behind. Like traces from forgotten dreams, high above them the stars hung amid the seas of black. These tiny specks of light were more than just reminders of the past or novelties to be wished upon for some impossible dream. The stars were a reminder to every member of humanity of what could be. These faint lights in the sky had fought impossible fights against the darkness for centuries. Sometimes the darkness won the war and these stars were extinguished forever; other times they kept up their everlasting crusade against the coming of the night.
Just like humanity was doing against the superior forces of Skynet. Since the dark days of Thursday, April 21, 2011 the survivors of the nuclear fires had been fighting against intelligent machines. Millions of people survived the fire and each rose up against Skynet to fight for their planet, for their families, for their friends, simply to live. They were winning against their superior enemies until one fateful day when everything went to hell. The last leaders of the United States Military thought that they’d found their salvation. A secret code was found hidden deep within Skynet’s systems that could be exploited to make the machines shutdown forever. The last of the organized militia struck against Skynet with their combined forces throughout the world in a massive battle that spanned the globe.
They failed. Skynet was smarter than any human had given it credit for. Like a spy from a Cold War Era espionage novel it fed false information and telemetry to each of the human leaders. The codes did work to disable the machines, but Skynet had already built hundreds of new warriors without this fatal flaw. While the military engaged the sleeping tin soldiers these incredible new weapons of war tracked them down. All of humanity’s last refuges were destroyed in balls of flame. The military was eradicated due to their own short sightedness, for ignoring one of their basic tenets. They forgot to respect their enemy and never imagined a machine could be more intelligent than a man.
That was their greatest failing and the sins of the father were being revisited by the children. Humanity was now next to extinct with only a handful of survivors. Most had reverted to their basic instincts of us against them with the them being both human and machine alike. It was survival of the fittest for much of the world with the strong continuing to prey upon the weak. There were some good people left who wanted to help others to survive, but they were as rare as medical supplies. In this war people looted each other stealing anything they needed to survive. Men killed other men over things once taken for granted and a lot of people who could be heroes became nothing more than petty thugs. This wasn’t the world any of them had been meant for.
Most of all John Connor. Ever since he was born John Connor had been locked in mortal combat against the machines and their horrific agents. They tried to kill him before he was born, but one soldier had the courage to go back to try to make things right. That man, Kyle Reese, was his father who gave his life to save him. When he was ten the machines tried again this time sending a machine that they couldn’t trust in the slim chance that it would succeed where so many others had failed. The Resistance had sent back one machine to protect him and it won at the cost of its own survival. They thought they were free, but destiny had a way of coming back to haunt you.
As he stared at the stars his mind wandered back to those days. John had never been an introspective man but he found himself reliving his own past more and more trying to understand it all. Every time he thought of yesterday he found himself returning to that day in Red Valley where his life went back to hell. His mother, Sarah Connor, had convinced herself that they weren’t safe after Charley Dixon asked her to marry him. John thought she was being paranoid, but somehow his mom had been right. Not long after they arrived the war began anew. What he thought they’d prevented, the battle they won against Skynet before it was even born, still had come to life before him. A machine walked into his life.
Cameron. His new protector, she was the epitome of cybernetic perfection. The perfect infiltrator she was the most unassuming of all of Skynet’s machines and she was sent back to protect him. Another advanced model, this one was a Skynet minion, revealed itself in the middle of a crowded Chemistry class. The weird new kid had proven just how weird he was when the training he’d received in South American jungles kicked in and he dove through a window. The machine followed, but he was rescued. They stopped the machine and even travelled to the future, but nothing changed. John Connor – the prophesized leader of the Resistance against Skynet – was still a target.
Then the mystery got deeper. Skynet hadn’t just targeted him but hundreds of people with different missions. It was expanding its powerbase, strengthening itself before the bombs even fell. The Resistance sent back more soldiers to strengthen him (including his own uncle) but there was no escaping destiny. Each of the heroes of the Resistance was killed one by one with Derek dying pretty much before John’s own eyes. His mother was arrested and charged. Against all odds John decided to be the leader he was meant to be. He sent Cameron to rescue Sarah and then they went up against Skynet’s protector: Catherine Weaver of Zeira Corporation. She was building Skynet; they were sure of it.
And they were dead wrong. Catherine Weaver was building something based upon the work Cyberdyne and Andy Goode had completed. While Sarah and John confronted Weaver in the corner office at the top of the tower, Cameron stalked through the basement looking for the machine known as John Henry. Her mission was to terminate; though, that wasn’t what happened. Cameron gave herself freely to the AI living in the body of their one time attacker: Cromartie. While all this was going on below the streets, near the sky one of Skynet’s warriors attacked. A prototype Hunter Killer plowed through the reinforced glass and into the office where the battle was about to begin. Instead of allowing Sarah, John, and former FBI Special Agent James Ellison to be killed, Catherine Weaver saved their lives and revealed herself as the leader of another faction of machines allied with humanity.
Together they raced to stop Cameron from killing the only hope of humanity. They found her deactivated in a chair and John Henry missing. He’d downloaded himself into her processor and reactivated Cromartie’s body. Footloose and fancy free as the saying went, John Henry began his mission. He went after Skynet, but the question was when? Weaver knew the answer and John decided to tag along for the ride. Sarah assured him that she’d stop the war and that he’d find peace in the future. John hoped it was true. He hoped that he’d arrive in the future to see things exactly as he left them in the past. Cameron would be sitting there waiting and John Henry would sacrifice the chip to restore her. It would all be so neatly tied up.
Instead he found the reality he knew would be waiting. The Future War had ravaged the countryside and razed the once proud Zeira Corporation Headquarters. Cameron wasn’t there and neither was John Henry. His only ally was a machine that he didn’t trust in the slightest. Catherine Weaver stood behind him – dressed in the clothes of a refugee – as he scrambled to dress. Humans came not long after and Weaver disappeared. A soldier named Keith “Hunting Wolf” Fuller found him and held him at gunpoint until his commander came and ordered the boy free. The commander was Derek Reese, but he didn’t know John Connor. Then coming from behind was a man John never thought he’d meet. His father: Kyle Reese with a soldier named Star behind him. Dumbstruck both by meeting these people again and then realizing he wasn’t their leader he didn’t know what to do. John Connor’s world came crashing down.
Then it got worse when he saw Cameron walk in. Watching her like a hawk preparing to swoop down on his dinner, John couldn’t believe it. Cameron was back, fully operational, and without a single defect. She was perfection itself and the world suddenly reformed. With amazement he watched as that world came shattering down again. This woman wasn’t Cameron. Machines and animals didn’t mix. Ever since the Infiltrator series were discovered humanity had used dogs to sniff out the machines. No one knew how it worked – maybe they heard the servos working or smelled the synthetic skin worn by the machines – but they always knew. The woman pet the German Sheppard’s head without fear. She smiled at him.
Cameron what did you do? He thought in his head watching the woman. He’d long suspected that there’d been more to her story, but she never revealed the truth of her origins to him. Cameron would answer with ‘You will find out’ or ‘when you become Future John you will understand my origins’ every time. Looking at this woman he knew too well. Cameron had murdered her in order to get close to him, in order to kill him. How had he been so stupid? It was just like when he was the weird new kid that the hottest girl in school wanted to talk to. He should have known, should’ve realized.
That was three years ago and he realized just how different his reality was. This wasn’t the future that his mother had warned him of and things were far darker than he could possibly have dreamed even in his darkest nightmares. There never was a Resistance because he didn’t exist to start it. The story of General Ashdown and his wayward raid had confirmed as much to him. John Connor could feel in every fiber of his being that that was the moment that the Resistance had started, that that was the moment that humanity united and rose up against the machines under his leadership. The prophesy of John Connor, the destiny of the world, all of it had changed because he went after Cameron in a mission to save her synthetic soul. A mission that John Connor had failed in miserably and he had no real chance of completing.
Now he was lying in a ditch half buried under the trash of the past. John could remember the first time that he’d been to this park as a teenager. This was where he’d met his father as a birthday gift from Derek. Now the swing set was a twisted shadow of its former self, the baseball diamond had gone silent, and the merry-go-round had seen its last customer – the faces of the horses horribly disfigured in the flames of Armageddon. What would his mother think if she saw him today lying on the ground like a turtle that couldn’t find its way back to its feet?
For days Connor and the refugee group he’d been accepted by – led by Kyle and Derek – had been continually harassed by a Series 7T Hunter Killer over the last few days as they were on patrol. Despite its incredible bulk it could, somehow, manage to position itself so that they never saw it coming. It’d launch a hit and run attack on them as they tried to find supplies and it always got away. Instead of being the prey it was John’s idea to hunt it this time for a change. Kyle had been opposed to the idea of sacrificing their lives on this mission, but it was Derek who changed his mind. Connor was told to pick a team of people and good hunting before essentially being kicked out of the chamber. They had a day to find it or they’d be forced to move on to a new home. If they didn’t succeed, John and his team would be on their own if they weren’t back in time.
John picked his team but the ranks were slimming. When he arrived in this new, horrific, time Kyle’s team had 89 people living in it. Through Skynet’s attacks over the years they were down to 21 people and they had little chance of replacing those lost numbers. New human soldiers were getting harder and harder to come by while it seemed that the machines doubled their numbers in the blink of an eye. He’d considered suggesting that they capture and reprogram a few of the endoskeletons that they’d come across, but only got looks as if he’d grown a second head on his shoulders. In the reality that he was supposed to lead the Resistance had hundreds of scrubbed infiltrators and endoskeletons on their side, here they had none. It didn’t even seem like they knew that the machines could be reprogrammed.
With little time left Connor picked his team carefully, but quickly. His training had taught him how to pick the best from the bunch with only a cursory glance and he knew that he’d had a good selection. Stories told to him by Derek and Cameron in what seemed like only yesterday gave him a greater insight to the names he picked. Satisfied with the team, together they set off into the wastelands of Los Angeles looking for the cybernetic killer. No matter how many times he’d seen it or heard the stories of it he never was prepared for the reality. Where there were once proud buildings that stood tall representing the success of humanity now all that was left now were the warped skeletons about to fall in on themselves. The debris and other flotsam of the past fluttered in the breeze as the rain fell upon their heads. Bleached white skeletons lined the ground with the majority of the unburied dead having been the victims of Skynet patrols.
It made him sick to his stomach; though he’d never let it show. Instead they pressed on in a standard search pattern that John had been taught as a kid while in the Amazon. Back when other kids were playing Nintendo he was learning valuable life lessons that were paying off. For a long time when he was growing up he’d actually wished that he’d been one of those other kids. Today wasn’t one of them. The entire team of four had gone out on their own patrol route with John taking the one that was the most dangerous. It was intentional – a way of feeling important in a world where he wasn’t really needed anymore. And then he fell and got half buried in the trash of yesterday. It’d be at least an hour before anyone else would be back this way.
That was when he heard it. From nearby the sounds of a metal gears grinding, servomotors flexing echoed in the cool air. A small puddle made of blackish green water rippled with each vibration. There wasn’t time to escape – it was futile anyway because all of his attempts of cleaning himself off where useless earlier anyway – and there was little time to hide. He could always play dead and hope that the machine didn’t scan him to confirm it, but he was John Connor. John Connor didn’t play dead. John Connor fought the machines with his dying breath. At least he had a fully charged plasma rifle and an extra clip. He’d have preferred to get a better vantage; nonetheless, he was forced to work with what he had at his disposal. Maybe the muck would distort the thermal sensor readings.
It marched along like a dutiful little soldier. The Series 7T Hunter Killer – the Spider as they’d come to call it. The name was well deserved. These machines would hunt on the battlefield and capture prey when they least expected it. Sometimes they’d burrow into the ground and wait for a trigger up above to pounce. Other times they’d hide among the debris fields and emerge to attack with brutal force. They had four large, mechanical legs that they’d use for stability or to slash at the enemy. Its arms were something far more deadly. As an older model Skynet hadn’t seen fit to upgrade this machine yet with the latest plasma weapons, but it had machine guns on the tips of its arm-like limbs. From its movements John knew it was in search mode and that it’d keep looking until it found the source of the noise. It probably keyed in on his trying to dig himself out earlier or even something as low as his heart beat. The fact that it hadn’t locked in on him and began to pound the area with machine gun fire was reassuring. That was a fleeting reassurance. Flames erupted from the arms as bullets began to pellet the area. It sounded like an old fashioned hailstorm with each of the bullets digging into the ground. John saw what it was after: a small rat had scurried among the rubble looking for a good meal. The machine had thought it was an enemy.
That was a good thing about the Series 7T; they had an older style logic circuit and were prone to mistakes such as that. It came in handy every now and then. Slowly he lifted his rifle and searched the body of the crablike automaton. His experience had told him that there were two possibilities when facing down a Series 7T machine. You could target the sensor equipment on the front and pray that you knock it out before the machine could retaliate. The other choice was to destroy the battery on the back of the machine and hope that you had enough time to take it out before it switched to the auxiliary power systems. That was the best choice in a normal situation, but this wasn’t a normal day. This was the first 7T that he could remember not having a scouting drone escort surveying the battlefield with their more capable scanners.
Kyle’s team wasn’t deemed a threat. This machine was simply out to harass, not eliminate. If it were to kill them all then it would’ve had a lot more effective support force. It was alone. Finding the sensor eye he knew he’d only have one shot to destroy the scanner, but the machine would triangulate and reset. Even blinded it’d be able to fight back by just firing wildly where the shot originated from. At least the other 20 people would be able to survive. He pulled the trigger of the plasma rifle.
In a flash the eye exploded inward and the machine fell backward. If it could feel pain or any emotion it’d be crying out. Instead the machine did nothing. Circuits rerouted, compensating for the new damage that it’d been inflicted. Communications arrays tried to contact Skynet Central to navigate home for repairs while the rest of the brain calculated the origin of the shot. The machine swung with weapons ready intent on killing whatever had struck against it. As it spun John could hear his mother’s voice in his head.
“That was a stupid move, John; you have to be smarter than that! You’ve gone and gotten yourself killed!”
Another flash of light but it wasn’t at him. The back of the mechanism was engulfed in flames as hot as the sun. The batteries exploded outward destroying the machine’s power systems. It wasn’t able to function. Auxiliary power generation would begin in moments and it’d be after them again. They had to make every shot count. John fired and three more plasma charges impacted against the reinforced armor of the machine. Closing in another four shots slammed against it from behind ripping into the delicate circuitry that powered the machine. Its legs went out from underneath it and it toppled over like a drunken sailor after a long night of celebration.