Kyle Reese stood in the center of what was once the Emergency Command and Control Center for Los Angeles County staring at an old fashioned paper map. It was a stark contrast to the broken down world that they all lived in. Most of the equipment was broken, the papers and files in tatters, but this map was pristine. It was as if it’d just been freshly printed and delivered to the table straight from the cartographer; in many ways that was what had happened. The image was just as perfect – clear and crisp – but there was writing scattered throughout the map in various points. Different icons and circles were placed at strategic locations over the topography and the text looked like it’d been printed by a machine instead of being written after the fact. Kyle just kept staring at it like it was the key to buried treasure.
“You can’t be serious,” challenged Derek Thomas Reese from the raised platform at the rear of the room. “It’s a trap; pure and simple.”
Kyle studied the map like an historian reading a Gutenberg Bible, “I really don’t think so, brother. We’ve gotten messages like this before. They turned out okay and gave us some of our greatest victories against the machines. Avila Beach comes to mind.”
“That wasn’t because of some damned mysterious benefactor or anything like that. That was because of some good old fashioned humans sticking their boots up the machine’s asses. Those papers came in handy, but they were far from sure fire wins for us.” He leaned against the railing and applied a bit more weight to it than he normally would. “They’re playing us. The machines have been playing a game and basically giving us a few minor victories and supplies and crap that they really don’t need anyway. Kyle I’m telling you this is a trap.”
“Don’t you think I’ve thought of that?” He held his index finger below their current location and ran his other hand to a point labeled Topanga. “But this is too important to pass up. If Skynet’s planning to wipe us out for good this might be our salvation. This bunker in Topanga Canyon is supposed to have one of Skynet’s most advanced weapons hidden there and it’s lightly defended.”
Derek pounded his hands into the railing, “Because it’s deep in Skynet occupied territory! Why put an army around something that’s in the middle of the heart of your territory?”
“Goddamn it so are we!” There was fire in his eyes as he looked back at his brother. “What isn’t Skynet occupied territory these days? Where don’t they have the advantage over us? We’re dying, the machines are winning, and we need to find at least one last victory and this is it. We’re in the heart of Skynet territory and we’re going to fight them. We both made a promise to fight and that’d what we’re going to do.”
“I don’t trust these plans,” he said, “and I don’t trust the source. Why is he so secretive? Why doesn’t he reveal himself to us?”
Kyle smiled defused, “Whoever said it was a he?”
“How the hell would you know? I don’t think SHE has shown herself to you either,” the older brother taunted with a hint of anger in his tone. The fact that they had never seen this benefactor, this philanthropist, had always struck him as odd. It’d always made him certain this was a trap.
“Never said she did,” behind Derek the older door opened and John Connor stepped over the threshold and joined them. John was one of the most gifted soldiers Kyle had ever met in his entire life; and he literally fell out of the sky to join them. He almost had a career that ended before it started though. When he appeared he stole Kyle’s coat and slid it on over his naked body for cover. He was found a few minutes later wrapped up in it like a blanket as he tried to avoid one of the dogs. Fuller tried to blast him, Derek teased him about wearing the coat, and Kyle just let him keep it.
John stood next to Derek and rested his hands on the railing, “You asked to speak to me?”
The younger Reese nodded, “Yeah I did.” He turned back to the table and motioned for Connor to join him, but Derek just stood there like a statue watching them. “Derek you’re gonna want to see this too. I have a feeling that this is something you’re going to need to know about.”
“I’ve seen enough,” he spat back at his sibling. “I have other things that need my attention.”
Kyle peered over his shoulder, “Nothing as important as this. Get your ass down here because this is something that you’re definitely going to want to see.”
The older Reese boy rolled his eyes but relented with a loud and angry sigh. He joined his younger brother and (unknown to him) nephew at the table. Kyle pointed out several of the locations circled on the map. Even though this was a briefing, Kyle hid part of the truth from John despite his knowing of the boy’s so called destiny. “We intercepted these plans from one of the machines in the area recently. It was transporting these to a Skynet outpost near Baja. These are detailed schematics and plans for a Skynet Processing Node recently built and activated in Topanga Canyon. This base has a supposed doomsday weapon that’ll win the war for the machines if they get it online. We’re going after it.”
Looking at the plans John kept his poker face. “Topanga Canyon?” He asked astonished. “There’s not a damn thing there that’s important.”
Just as Kyle was holding back vital information so was John. Topanga Canyon was one of the most important battles that the Resistance ever fought according to Derek and, in a way, Kyle. Not long after his Uncle Derek had introduced him to the younger versions of themselves, Derek had told him about what he’d found out from General Justin Perry about the mission where Kyle was declared missing in action. The Resistance attacked a small Skynet outpost in Topanga Canyon after stealing the information regarding it and a doomsday weapon from the processors of a Series 800 infiltrator that they’d reprogrammed. There they found a fully operational Time Displacement Sphere and all the required technology to travel both forward and backward in time.
How could they have obtained this information was a question that plagued him? No one in the refugee camp that Kyle was running could even pass for a computer user except for maybe John and he hadn’t used a computer since he jumped forward in time. There were no scrubbed infiltrators being used by any human that he knew of and, honestly, John couldn’t remember having ever seen an infiltrator in the three years that he’d been here. The dogs in this reality weren’t used to sniff out machines, they were used to find humans and get them to safety from the machines. The Series 800 endoskeleton did exist though and it was an exact match for what was beneath the skin of Uncle Bob. What delivered these plans? Skynet wouldn’t send paper copies of anything and backups could just be made digitally. Could it have been Catherine Weaver or John Henry that did this? John still hadn’t found out what happened to her after she disappeared on him after they arrived. Was she secretly helping Kyle and what was his version of the Resistance?
“These seem to suggest the exact opposite,” Kyle Reese responded to his accusation. “Whatever’s there this machine was delivering these plans somewhere and it was important enough that Skynet wanted a hard copy backup.”
“Yeah it was delivering them somewhere. To us laying a trap,” snorted Derek in contempt.
John had to play it up, “I’d have to agree. The machines are planning something for us. They want us to go after this… whatever this base is because they haven’t been able to find us. They probably want to see our numbers and get us all in one place so we’re easier to kill.” He couldn’t oversell being against this idea because he was, honestly, all for it.
“If that were the case why didn’t they just send a swarm of endos in and kill us all? We destroyed this one and they know where their machines are. It’s been over four days since we got these plans and we haven’t been attacked yet that I know of,” pointed out their makeshift leader.
“What about the Series 7T that I just hunted down?” It was a fair question.
Which Kyle had an answer to, “It was already harassing us long before we got these plans, Connor. Plus there was something else that was just as amazing as those plans with the machine that Skynet would want a backup for.” He pulled a file folder out from beneath the chart. He opened the manila folder and a schematic diagram of the 800 Series rested on top with a scattering of pictures beneath. “These were there too just waiting for us like presents under a Christmas tree. Full schematics of the Eight Hundred Series.”
“A lot for a lowly machine to play courier for,” John pointed out. It was possible a machine really did take these to an outpost to be backed up, but he knew something was being kept below the surface. The truth was being hidden. “Something you want to tell me? Like where these really came from maybe?” John looked at the file. All of this seems a little bit too convenient for us to recover from just one machine.”
Derek answered with a voice laced in sarcasm, “Thank you.”
“I’ll tell you the truth on a need to know basis,” Reese flipped over the photo and a blurry image of a man was on the next page. John recognized it immediately. “This is what I’m worried about though.” He showed the photo to both Derek and John, “This man is a machine. Skynet’s found a way to make skin for endoskeletons. With this technology we’re defenseless. The machines can stroll right passed our forward guards and can position itself deep inside our defenses until the time it called to strike against us.” Kyle let out a long breath and stared at John, “But you knew that already. Didn’t you?”
John shot his head in Reese’s direction, “Excuse me?”
“When you first appeared you mentioned this very fact,” Kyle reminded.
Derek chimed in, “That’s right. You screamed at Fuller that you weren’t metal. Later you warned us about a lot of different machines that would be coming. This was one of them wasn’t it? The skin-job?”
John smiled, “The timing’s about right. My mother always told me that they’d be coming in 2027. Here we are and here they are right on time.” He picked up the photo and studied it, “This is a Cyberdyne Systems Model One Oh One. He’s not the only one though. There are more. A hell of a lot more. Some are tall, some are short; some are fat, some are thin; some have long hair, some have short hair.”
“Enough,” Derek had had enough of it. “So you’re telling me these things can look like people now and they can come in basically every shape, size, and color?”
“Yeah,” John nodded, “Sometimes they even walk alike and talk alive.”
Kyle looked at his brother Derek, “Double security. We need to keep an eye out for these things.”
“Like that’ll do any good,” the older Reese walked toward the exit and held his hand on the handle. “You have any bright ideas for sniffing these things out since they can be literally anyone?”
“Good choice of words,” John answered him. “Dogs. Don’t ask me how but they seem to know humans from machines. Using them can help.”
The younger Reese tried to lighten the mood despite it being so dark, “Just don’t bark up the wrong tree.”
“That’s not very damn funny.” The older Reese opened the door, “Man’s best friend indeed.” He left the room to shore up their defenses leaving Kyle and John behind.
It didn’t take a psychic to tell where Derek Reese fell on the side of this mission. John leaned against the side of the table and stared at the doors long after his uncle had left the room. He let out a long breath and shook his head, “He’s got some strong opinions about this doesn’t he?”
Kyle peeked at the closed doors, “He’s got strong opinions about everything these days, but I’ll deal with Derek. You just worry about this little gift of ours. What do you think of it? You were holding back; never do that in my presence.”
At least he knew where he got that little piece of his personality from. John hated people that held things back, especially important things. Like this mission, for example, the fact that Kyle or Derek had neither one said specifically where these files came from was an important omission. The source was need to know in Kyle’s eyes and John didn’t find need to know acceptable in this case. This wasn’t his Resistance, but as dwindling as their numbers were everyone needed to know as much as they possibly could about what they were facing and how to stop the machines. Everything was need to know.
Would he feel the same way if he were in charge making the big decisions?
“I think this is something that we need to do,” John revealed looking again at their chart. “Not because Skynet has some sort of weapon there, not because it could have the mother lode of supplies, we need to do this because of our men. For their morale.”
The other man looking at the chart scratched his face, “Why’s that?”
“Because these twenty-one people are for all we know what’s left of humanity. They need some sort of victory against the machines and, even if it’s a small one, they need to think that it was something far greater. They’re losing hope, they’re losing energy, and they’ve given up. They don’t think Skynet can be defeated.”
Reese nodded, “I wish I could say I didn’t share their outlook. But I swore on my father’s deathbed that I would fight the machines and I’d survive. Derek made the same deal so we’re both going to fight until the machines have killed us or we’ve killed them. I agree with you. The men need some sort of victory because they have given up and they don’t think Skynet will ever die. We need to show them just what our determination can pull off.”
“I wish I knew what was inside that base though. You’re supposed to be the Great John Connor. Do you know anything about this base?”
For John need to know was again in his corner. The question was what would he answer?
Leaning over the table and looking at the map of Topanga Canyon he shook his head and made sure his poker face was stable, “I wish I knew, but this is beyond me.” Behind him a red strobe light started to flash and an alarm wailed throughout the cramped confines that had been their home for so long. The machines had found them and were coming.