“Here they come!” Kyle Reese screamed at the top of his lungs just as the world seemed to collapse around each of them. An army of endoskeletons marched forward in perfect synchronism like a phalanx of the ancient world. Their metal skeletons were polished to perfection and acted like a perfect mirror reflecting everything back at the dwindling human line they were engaging. Their demonic grins and devilish red eyes betrayed nothing as they opened fire on the last lines of humanity. Thousands of bullets were fired in seconds while the reserve line let loose with the plasma cannons that had become more and more common in battle.
The human line fought back as the platoon of machines pressed forward. The last outpost of humanity had been fully stocked when the survivors arrived, but that didn’t mean much when it was only two dozen people against an army ten times that number. Nonetheless they fought and they fought as hard as they possibly could. The front line opened fire with their deadly plasma cannons trying to score as many critical hits to the machines as they possibly could before they were overrun. It was like a battle between gods as the two sides fought with humanity on the losing side of the fight for paradise. It was a battle as old as time.
Derek Reese threw a grenade over top of his head at the lineup and managed to land the explosive right between a group of the approaching monsters. When it broke into flames it managed to knock over three of them and blew the leg off of another, but more took their place. One of the endoskeletons, a Series 700, stepped right over its fallen comrades and used one to rise off the ground for a better vantage point from which to fire. Hundreds of bullets pelted the ground of his barricade ripping through it, closer and closer to the human behind. Derek knew he was running out of time.
Off to the side another soldier, a man named Earl Wise, stood behind a barricade that was once the wing of a 747 which had fallen from the sky when its artificial brain cut its power on Judgment Day. Another soldier, a girl with red hair, handed him a portable missile launcher that was bigger than she was. With great difficulty the man managed to swing around and release the devastating payload right into the chest of an approaching Hunter Killer Tank knocking it off course. The massive tank fell apart, crashing on top of several of its own companions on the battlefield. It only served as a temporary delay and was a short success. As Wise struggled to recompose himself to move on to the next target an Aerial Hunter Killer flew overhead and fired multiple shots from its turret based cannons. Wise didn’t have a chance to compensate for the flying attacker. The pulse ripped through him and his buddy like a warm knife would slide through butter.
“I’m running out of ammo!” Jonathan Sayles yelled from the sidelines. He fired several more shots from his rifle taking down a flying reconnaissance bot that the Hunter Killer had dropped off as it passed overhead.
John Connor ran as fast as he could and tossed a clip at the soldier when he went passed. “Make them count,” he demanded of the soldier as he climbed into the wreckage of a bus. John climbed up the central aisle and to the broke open emergency exit at the rear. The once destined leader of the Resistance peered through the hole and saw just how devastating the Skynet assault was going to be. The ground was crawling with tin cans as far as his eyes could see. The front lines were made up of a combination of endoskeletons, older first generation tanks, and some of the newer Centurion walkers that Skynet had become so fond of deploying against them. Behind those lines were the real big boys that they should be afraid of. A wave of Hunter Killer Tanks and a couple of Harvesters were on the far edge waiting to pick up any humans that managed to evade the droid army. There was even an Ogre Heavy Tank standing in the far back like a silent sentinel just waiting to let loose its devastating heavy plasma cannons. If Skynet were commanding this battle from anywhere nearby it was from inside the heart of that colossus.
As the Hunter Killer flew overhead, John slid down the aisle just in the nick of time. A large plasma blast hit where he’d been crouched seconds prior and the skeletal bus was enveloped in flames. Somehow he’d managed to get far enough from the blast zone that he’d escaped the fire, but he still felt the heat coming from the relic. The flyer flew above him and shone its spotlights on him waiting for any kind of movement, but John was smarter than the machine. He kept his body limp and the attack ship, convinced he was dead, just flew away for its next target. Connor rolled forward firing several pulses from the plasma gun and into the underside of the attacker, but it moved off without even a wobble of its wings.
“Damn you,” Connor cursed as he got back to his feet and spun around to run to the nearest barricade so he could continue the fight. Right as he was starting into his run he saw a woman step in front of him just a little bit outside of arms reach. He barely had enough time to stop to miss tackling her. His body barely complied and he fell on his ass as he came to a final stop. John looked up into the eyes of the person who had been his greatest champion. He pushed himself backward trying to show himself as bigger than he was, as stronger than he was, to the woman that had taught him everything.
Sarah Connor looked exactly as John had remembered her when he left Zeira Corporation in the T-1000’s temporal displacement equipment. She stood with perfect posture that gave off a tough, yet somehow had a quiet softness to it. Her green eyes looked at him sharply and her black hair was swept behind her in the ponytail she wore while he was a kid while they were in South America. His mother was dressed in a black - it could’ve been navy - tank top and her characteristic cargo pants (which John assumed were filled with weapons of one form or another knowing his mother and her dogged determination to be ready for anything). Her piercing gaze looked down at him as he rose back up to his feet, but she didn’t say a word to him; not even a word of disapproval as he’d expected to hear.
“Mom?” John questioned with his voice breaking from his emotions getting the better of him. She’d probably yell at him for showing any type of emotion while on the battlefield other than determination and relentlessness, but he didn’t care. This was his mother after all and it’d been the first time he’d seen her in years. All he wanted to do was talk to her, to have her help him win this war. If anyone could help them to turn everything around it was Sarah Connor. If only she would talk to him. Any suggestion would be perfect right now.
Sarah tilted her head slightly and asked, almost in a monotone voice, the two words that had meant more to her than anything in the world. “John Connor?”
His entire body filled with dread just from the way that she’d said his name. Those words told him that this wasn’t his mother; that it couldn’t be his mother. This was a machine, an infiltrator sent to kill him. Sarah Connor was dead anyway, killed in the aftermath of Judgment Day by Skynet. Nevertheless, though, John couldn’t bring himself to take a shot at her. Every fiber of his being was telling him to shoot her between the eyes with the plasma cannon to liquefy her processor ship, but he couldn’t do it. This was his mother, but it wasn’t. It was like his mind had been cut off from his muscles as he stared into her eyes. With all his strength, all of his energy, he managed to turn and run away from the beast that shared his mother’s face.
Though behind him was another face from his past long forgotten. Uncle Bob, the machine he’d sent to protect him as a child, stepped from among the shadows and came toward him. It repeated the same words that the replica of Sarah had just asked him. To his left came Cromartie as he’d seen him when they first met in Mister Ferguson’s Chemistry class in the ass end of Nebraska. Next to him was the T-1000 that had hunted John as a child; its arms were replicas of Excalibur. Then there was the other shapeshifter that had brought him to this forsaken world with her fiery red hair fluttering in the breeze. Cromartie’s other look, John Henry, was approaching from next to her as they surrounded the prophesized leader of mankind.
John’s head was spinning as he spun around looking for a way to escape from this hell. There was one hole left, one little that he could run through to escape from the approaching automatons, between the facsimile of his mother and the metal bitch that had left him alone in this timeframe. As he went to run for it the hole filled before he could reach it and it was filled with the bridge he’d made between humanity and the machines. Cameron walked toward him slowly and steadily with her face as he’d left her in the subbasement of Zeira Corporation. Her red machine eyes burned even through the still intact replica on the right side. All of the machine’s eyes were burning with the fires of Armageddon deep inside.
At once the squad of machines all raised their weapons toward the head of John Connor. Catherine Weaver lifted a finger while John Henry lifted one of the phased plasma rifles that Skynet was using. Uncle Bob was carrying the minigun that he’d used to force the police to fall back as they destroyed the Cyberdyne Laboratories back when the Connors believed that Judgment Day could be stopped. The T-1000 mirrored the actions of Catherine Weaver only it raised its entire arm with the point ready to extend outward from the swordlike appendage. Cromartie was holding onto a rather dated Beretta 92F, like he had when he hunted John at the school, but it was just as deadly. Then there was his mother’s replica who stood with her MP5 Submachine gun pointed right toward John’s head. The last of his firing squad, Cameron, had signature weapon too: the Glock 17. All of them stood there watching him with their fingers on the triggers of their guns waiting for the order to fire.
“I will die,” John Connor repeated from the tapes of his mother as he stared into her replica’s eyes. “I will die and you will die. Death gives no one a pass.”
At once they all fired.
John Connor flew out of the bed and into combat readiness. His adrenaline was pumping, his body was sinking everything he had into his fight or flight responses, but there was no reason for it. He let out a long breath as he tried to relax himself to a safe level. Nothing he had seen was real, none of it had happened. It was just a nightmare pure and simple and it was nothing that he should worry about. He wasn’t a psychic, he didn’t have foresight regarding future events despite what so many people could claim, and it was just a stupid dream. He had to remember that it was just a stupid dream.
It was a stupid dream that happened to feel as real as life itself though. It was truly sad when Skynet and its automatons were able to invade someone’s own dreams and warp them against him. It felt so real so much like reality that he could’ve sworn he’d actually lived those events. Plus Skynet had the perfect weapon against him. Sarah Connor, if Skynet ever figured out that it should replicate her, was probably the one and only machine that could get under his skin and through his defenses. Not even Uncle Bob could get as close to him as his mother could. But it wasn’t possible for Skynet to know to use her; nor did it have her physical template on file at any rate. For all intents and purposes John Connor was a nobody in this conflict even though he’d been here for over three years. It was true that he was on a Skynet kill list or two, but not as the priority target so much as he knew. That was an honor reserved for his father.
Which posed another problem of course: if Kyle Reese were the greater threat than John Connor was in this reality, why would Skynet make the last ditch attempt to kill Sarah in the past like it had in the world he came from? There’d be no reason to; there would be no logic in the necessity of killing John Connor to win the war in the future. The first machine would never go back in time with Sarah Connor as its target and Kyle Reese would never go back to protect her. Everything would’ve been different but, he knew deep down, everything would’ve been the same. Only the players would be different - much like they were today. Kyle would have a little bit more preparation than he did before but that’d be the extent of the advantage. Though, in this new world, he’d be John Connor; if grandpa and grandma survived that was. There were no guarantees not even that the events leading to his own birth would be recreated again. Who knew what the real flow was anymore.
John ran his fingers through his hair and collapsed back onto the bed. He didn’t want to think about such things and - more to the point - he really didn’t want to think about much of anything. John needed to take a vacation, well they all needed a vacation, or he at least needed a mental health day to try to wrap his brain around everything. It wasn’t like he’d get that wish though. If Kyle gave anyone a mental health day it’d probably end up in them needing a hell of a lot more of them because whoever took it would probably lose their mind. And then Skynet, of course, wasn’t going to give them any time off because it didn’t have to. It was winning and wasn’t about to call a stalemate so that it could relax and enjoy a day without firing a shot.
As he heard someone coming toward the door John knew that he wasn’t destined for even a moment’s rest. Still from his place on the bed he heard a gentle knocking that got louder the longer it took for John to stir. He didn’t want to deal with anyone right now and just wanted to lay here unless it was news about Allison. That was the only way that he wouldn’t chew the head off of whoever was on the other side. Well he’d probably give him a pass if it was a Skynet attack, but the chances of that were even unlikely. Connor left the bed and opened the door only to be filled with another rage when he saw the woman on the other side.
“I’m sorry to bother you,” said the familiar voice of Jesse Flores, “but I was told to come get you and bring you to the security room.”
John stood there a moment looking into Jesse’s eyes. He kept reminding himself that this wasn’t the same woman he’d had the unfortunate happenstance of dealing with in his old life. She may have looked like her, she may’ve sounded like her, but the truth was that she wasn’t her. If everyone was the result of their circumstances it was entirely possible that this Jesse was a different person and that was the only reason that John hadn’t already grabbed the Glock from his dresser and put a bullet between her eyes. He may have forgiven her in the past, but that felt like it’d been a lifetime ago.
“Is there a problem?”
“No,” John was pulled back to reality. “Sorry it’s just,” he paused as he put on a fake smile, “you remind someone I used to know.”
Jesse grinned for a second, “I suppose everyone’s had that every once and a while. I hope that she was a good bird.”
“My uncle thought so,” he answered honestly, “but it didn’t work out between them.”
“I’m sorry to hear that,” she sounded genuine.
John shrugged, “I really wasn’t, but I’m sure that you don’t want to hear about my family’s problems. Not that they matter anyway since my family’s dead. But,” he realized he was heading off on a tangent better left unexplored, “I’m sorry you said that you needed to take me somewhere?”
“Yeah,” she answered, “Top wants to see you. He’s been talking with that other bloke that came in with you most of the night. They asked me to come find you and bring you to them when I reported for morning watch.”
“Well I haven’t got anything better to do,” he said grabbing the coat that Kyle had given him when he first arrived from its place strewn over the back of the chair. “Care to lead me to this security room? I haven’t been here long enough to have my bearings yet.”
She nodded, “I was going to anyway.”
“Of course,” he nodded wondering what she was thinking of him – if she were thinking of him at all. His personal opinion of Jesse, however, was mostly static over something that she hadn’t even done and wasn’t even responsible for. Only time would tell how John Connor and Jesse Flores would get along, but if history were any indication then John already had his answer. More than likely he’d try to kill her before this was all over; though, a very small part of him, hoped that this wasn’t the case and kept reminding him that this wasn’t the person he remembered.
If only the rest of him would remember that fact.