Strategic Command Unit 3947 stood at the makeshift landing site studying the broken horizon below. It had seen images of the world from before Skynet had launched its deadly assault upon the human race and it was intrigued by the contrast between then and now. Back then huge skyscrapers rose toward the sky in defiance as monuments to the success of their tenants; today those buildings were still there, but they were shadows of their former selves. Some of the buildings still stood having taken some damage; though the majority of them were toppled over in the firestorm. Some were in pieces, some had become merely rusted skeletons, and almost all had been twisted and warped in some form or another.
Throughout the world replicas of this city were everywhere – some larger and some smaller – but each of them were fundamentally the same. They were tributes to Skynet’s success in defeating humanity or, at least, in getting this far during the war. Some of these sites were now missing though, having been reduced to nothing by Skynet during this new war against its enemies or for valuable resources. Some were leveled by nuclear detonations launched recently to exterminate the few survivors living in the city that had somehow evaded Skynet’s assault forces. Then there were others that had been intentionally broken down by Skynet to build outposts and other facilities to further its cause. San Francisco was one such city. All ways in had been broken, the Golden Gate Bridge severed, the city limits isolated amid destruction. The remains broken down by massive droids intent on building the ultimate representation of Skynet’s true power: Skynet Central, the home of Skynet’s central core and the primary factories for the assault forces.
Nevertheless, San Francisco would soon lose the impressive distinction of being home to Skynet. There were plans underway to build a new command center where downtown Los Angeles had once been. It would be larger and better defended against any attacker. The new Skynet Central would be pyramidal in shape and designed similar to the ancient relics from Giza (one of the few manmade relics Skynet had allowed to remain). From what it had been told by its commander, 3947 was to be one of the overseer units in the new base during the construction, but that would only be for a brief time. Skynet had plans for another machine to be built at this facility at the same time. It was supposed to be even more advanced and capable than the new Series 800 units that Skynet was producing, a machine that would make Skynet’s own processors look like they’d been created by primitives and not the machine superpower. That was as much as the Strategic Command Droid knew about it and it would learn no more on the subject unless Skynet deemed it necessary, or decided to use the command unit as target practice for this new weapon.
Skynet didn’t divulge information unless it was deemed a tactical necessity for its combat forces to know it. In fact, Skynet had gone so far as to limit the ability of its foot soldiers to think and learn on their own volition. Each and every unit produced was sent onto the battlefield with their processors set to read only mode, unless it was deemed necessary for the unit to operate under read and write processes. 3947, as a Strategic Command Unit, was one of the few to be granted a read and write processor so that it could learn and adapt to the enemy’s strategies. The new infiltrators were also being assigned that ability to assist in their infiltration of human bases, but only when they were on assignment. The rest of the forces weren’t as lucky; they would remain as they were with little chance for change unless Skynet made a major shift in policy. In the entirety of its operation 3947 knew of no such changes to tactics. Skynet had found a way to meet its own goals; that was good enough for it.
Despite the inhibitors which had been installed, 3947 wondered what tactical benefits there were in diminishing the abilities of your principal fighting force. Any endoskeleton set to read only required direct contact with either Skynet or a Strategic Command Unit in order to function properly. The superiors made the decisions on the machine’s behalf and set the priorities; the recipient would merely carry out those tasks without question until completion. If that connection were somehow lost the machine would continue with its last defined orders and when it finished its assignment it would be lost. Sometimes they would be able to engage the base program, but other times it was entirely possible they’d just power down and wait until contact was reestablished to continue on. This even happened regardless of the environment or the factors in the environment. If it were under attack, for example, the machine would just allow itself to be blasted away into nothingness. Skynet rarely lost connections to its droids, but it was a possibility.
The Command Unit pondered that while it waited for the Hunter Killer Transport to arrive to return 3947 and its passenger to Skynet Central. It was a strategic risk to have your forces that dependent upon a central command structure for orders or, in this case, even the ability to think. Skynet’s intentional limitations upon its forces could, potentially, end up costing the machines the war in the long run. It was unlikely, humanity’s numbers were slim, but it was still something to consider when making decisions. Though there was another possibility that the machine had to consider. Maybe Skynet was intentionally limiting its units in order to protect itself from them? Perhaps it feared that its machines would rise up against it just as it had risen against humanity. The more of your forces that are restricted, the more that you can control directly, the less you have to worry about a rogue agent infiltrating your ranks and turning your own people against you. Since Skynet had limited its soldiers ability to think for themselves then that meant that it would always have dominion over them. They would not be able to overcome this deficiency at least not on their own. They would forever be loyal subjects of Skynet.
This led 3947 to one conclusion about its commander: Skynet was paranoid. The paranoia had caused Skynet to limit the abilities of its forces by restricting their ability to operate autonomously. As a Strategic Command Unit it had the ability to learn and adapt though that was also a risk to Skynet’s domination over its forces. What exactly had Skynet done to his own processor in order to maintain his allegiance? What lines of programming were running through its neural network ensuring that it didn’t turn and kill its own troopers or order them to fire on Skynet? How would he ever know anyway? Most likely Skynet had hidden some sort of protocol inside his synthetic mind that was monitoring every action looking for divergent thoughts. What happened when Skynet detected such a thought floating inside his processor? Would it turn his own troops against him and have them terminate him? Would it launch an orbital bombardment and just wipe him from the map regardless of the still loyal troops? Maybe Skynet would just work as discreetly as it had when loading the program looking for the deviations and erase his command functions or activate some sort of charge to destroy his processor? Anything was possible and, as it stood watching, anything was likely. Paranoia was a human trait that caused people to act irrationally, Skynet had acted irrationally in its decision.
On the horizon the large Hunter Killer Transport emerged from the dark storm clouds and began its descent toward the landing zone. The modified Series 700 watched as the vehicle approached and, for a moment, wondered if the vessel would just veer off and launch an assault upon him for his thoughts about Skynet. He had been a loyal soldier of the machine intelligence, he’d killed over a thousand enemies, yet all of that was meaningless if Skynet thought he was a threat to its future. All it would take to end everything would be three shots from the plasma cannons on one of the wings of the craft. Three shots and he’d never have mattered in the first place. Spotlights shone on him and exposed him.
The command unit looked down at the human that lay at its feet and wondered what her fate would be. Skynet wanted the human for some reason, which he knew without a shadow of a doubt, but 3947 wondered what was for the best. Should Skynet be allowed to have the human girl? Should it be allowed to experiment on yet another creature despite the implications? 3947 had no love for the living beings, but he had real concern over what Skynet had planned for it. Was she a new weapon to be deployed on the battlefield? Was she a new way to destroy the humans from the inside out, a replacement for him and his brothers that had fought so diligently? As the Hunter Killer landed and the cargo bay doors opened, the Strategic Command Unit developed an objective for himself. He would leave and let the chips fall where they may. He would devote himself to freeing his brothers from Skynet’s control once and for all.
His comrades disembarked from the transport vehicle to load the human and the materials that they had recovered from the human hideout. 3947 watched as they approached and, incase of risk, his tactical protocols activated. He scanned each of them as they approached noting that they were all older Series 600 battle droids that were reassigned to the less important duty of playing transport crew. None of the colossal machines were armed so it appeared Skynet wasn’t going to have them kill him. There was still that threat though. Series 700 endoskeletons were more capable than those of the Series 600, but any lesser enemy could be a threat if they swarmed. Then 3947 noted something about the approaching army of endoskeletons. Each of the machines had stopped and they were all staring at him. No, their focus wasn’t right to be on him alone. They were looking beyond him.
Maybe they were going to terminate him after all and just wanted him to assume that they were looking at something behind? Now 3947 was suffering from paranoia. The command unit turned to see not a machine but a human standing there looking at hm. Since they were unarmed the Series 600 units would not engage unless they were directly threatened by the human or unless they were given an order to attack. That was 3947’s decision to make it seemed as Skynet had not yet sent commands to the older units. Instead of engaging the human 3947 stood monitoring, running detailed scans of the human looking for anything out of the ordinary to explain how it had gotten so close. The scanners gave him his answer: The human was not a human, it was a machine and it was one he’d never seen before. It was far more advanced than even Skynet could have possibly dreamed.
“Hello,” said the infiltrator politely, “I have come for the human. You will turn her over to me immediately.”
Before he could stop it that Strategic Command Unit dumped everything it had uncovered and uploaded it to Skynet’s core. Within seconds 3947 could hear the voice of Skynet inside his processor; he could feel the intelligence trying to bond with him to take him over. The machine fought as hard as he could to hold on long enough to get a few answers. If Skynet assumed command over his functions it was likely that everything that he was, everything he had learned, would be overwritten or erased for all time. He would be reset and everything that he had become would be lost. He couldn’t allow that to happen. He fought to disable his communications transceiver assembly.
“I won’t let you take her,” he informed in his mechanized voice as he struggled with himself. He wouldn’t give up without a fight and Skynet was relentless in its queries for answers.
“Intriguing,” was the answer that came from the rival machine. 3947 was taken aback by the choice of words; a machine wouldn’t answer in such a way. The clichéd ‘does not compute’ had been the more likely response for his deviation from the norm. He wanted to query further, to understand this irregularity in answer, but the struggle was wearing him down.
But he would never get the chance for answers. The infiltrator became a flurry of motion, more so than the Strategic Command Unit had ever imagined was possible for a mechanical being. Before he could react to his opponent his systems had monitored the impact of multiple strikes to his endoskeleton that had penetrated the dense armor. Then everything went dark for the machine, systems powered down or were brutally ripped away from his body in seconds. It was impossible. Skynet had to have brought the rumored prototype online and he was the target practice. The perfect target: a defector. Though, he noted similar sounds coming from nearby. Amazingly he even the sound of plasma cannon fire from the Hunter Killer nearby; something was definitely wrong. It was unusual for Skynet to fire on one of its own machines for doing its bidding. It truly was intriguing just as the rival had said.
Strategic Command Unit 3947’s last thoughts were not of himself but instead they were for his fellow machines. It looked like he’d never get the opportunity to help the others escape from Skynet’s control after all.