Not too long ago the Sovereign Room was one of the most beautifully decorated ballrooms in all of Los Angeles County if not California itself. It was a playground of the wealthy and had hosted star studded weddings, birthday parties, and anniversary celebrations. The waiting list to even get to tour it for possible use was rumored to be so long that you could wall paper every room in the hotel with it and still have some pages left over. Beautiful crystal chandeliers hung from the ceiling (including one in the center that was easily the size of a luxury sedan), several dozen tables lined a central dance floor, and a well appointed bar was along the right side of the chamber.
It’d been a long time since the room had been used for its original purpose and, to be honest, the Sovereign Room had been rarely used since the refugees made the hotel into a last outpost at all. Amazingly the room hadn’t taken much damage over the years and the oversized chandelier was still hanging in the center of the dance floor. That was the only thing that had remained nearly perfect. The tables had a layer of dust covering them that had made the white tablecloths a dingy brown color. Some of them had been overturned, the chairs ripped or broken. A few people had written messages into the dust and almost none of them were very appropriate to read. The room that had once hosted the wedding of the Governor’s Daughter had forgotten those glory days and now it was left to the filth.
John Connor took a seat near the middle of the room where he could have a good view of everything going on around him. It was a pretty good seat from where he was concerned. He had a clear view of the stage where the base commander would make his presentation from and he was close to an exit if he had to get out of there in a hurry. While he walked with Jesse he made a point, like his training had dictated, of paying more attention to the layout and the diagrams posted every so often in the corridors so that he could come up with a reasonable plan to escape if the war found them again. This ballroom was in the center of the hotel’s second floor and was surrounded by service corridors on all sides but the one with the door he came in through. Going through the front doors of the ballroom he’d be on the upper balcony overlooking the lobby and he could pretty much go straight through the main doors to escape if Skynet found them.
That was if he wanted to die. Most rookies would make the mistake of trying for the quickest, most direct route out of the room and to the outside world. That’d be the side that Skynet would most focus on. If trouble would erupt John would run for the portion of the ballroom that held the bar. The bar itself was a perfect barricade since it was made out of a very thick looking metal (it could’ve even been silver if this building’s history was to be believed) if he was trapped in a shooting war. The door attached led into a small storeroom that opened up into the service corridor. John would go through this door, run down the hallway, and then he’d go into the industrial sized kitchen. From there he had two options available. There was a door to the northeast that led to a small stairwell that connected to an emergency exit; the exit, in turn, led down the embankment that was left from the blast crater of the nuclear missile Skynet used against LA in 2011. The other door in the southeast led to another stairwell that would take him to the basement. The basement itself was the best choice if he had any hope of surviving this. They’d stored some weapons in a small storage compartment on the basement level so he’d be able to rearm for the long trek away. Also, as always, there were tunnels that they’d established to help with escape should they need them and he could gain access to the sewer system through them. From there it was his choice where he went. The only problem was there were no more hideouts to choose from if he was able to escape. He’d be on his own and forced to find shelter.
Truthfully he realized that escape on any of the normal routes was a long shot this time. Skynet had routed them too many times before and the refugees had to expect some surprises. Skynet would probably anticipate any actions that the refugees would take even by now. Using its records the machines would probably figure out the choke points that they could use to hold off any humans from escaping. That was the problem with having isolated bases: the more isolated you were the harder it was to keep hidden. Being off the beaten trail was often a gift and a curse and if they needed to get away quickly no one really knew which of those two choices this would be. Right now it was a gift but if a tin man showed up it’d be a curse again as it’d be hell to try to escape.
Good thing that every last one of the people John had met since arriving here liked a good challenge. The only drawback was that it looked like everyone he’d met since he arrived here had been pulled off of their patrol routes and had been brought into the Sovereign Room for this little briefing. He was truly impressed though, and John wasn’t really easily impressed by much of anything, about the people that he met while he was here. It was amazing that somehow he’d heard about every one of these people before; let it be from Uncle Bob, Cameron, Derek, or stories that his mother had repeated from his father’s stories on that fateful day, he’d somehow met all of them. The most important members of the Resistance of his reality were here in this very room and there wasn’t a damn thing that John could say to any of them. It was like the galaxy was playing a cruel joke or trying to right itself somehow or another or maybe it was both, but that was a dilemma best left to philosophers and scientists to try to figure out. When this was all over he’d find one of those great thinkers, if there were any left, and tell him the story and find out his opinion.
Connor tapped his fingers on his tabletop as he kept waiting and wondered what was taking so long. Everyone he’d met was here which meant that this prized base commander was probably here by now too. Derek and Kyle had just come in and they were the only two stragglers that John had noticed. The only person he didn’t see was Maria Graber but, from what he’d been told by Jesse when she brought him here, Graber was the unfortunate migrant assigned to patrol the outside world incase Skynet chose this very moment to attack. John remembered hearing stories about her from Derek one night while they were following a lead while they were looking for the Turk. Graber was a soldier who’d led a team that was able to infiltrate a Skynet base and stole a nuclear torpedo from it that Skynet had been keeping in reserve for a rainy day so to speak. Unfortunately there were no other people from her team that he knew of being alive right now, which was devastating for him to realize. The rest of her group either hadn’t been found yet, they had been confirmed as dead, or – in some instances – those particular team members were both.
Despite his cool exterior John was starting to get a little impatient with waiting for the base commander to begin his presentation. He kept tapping his fingers along the dusty table, and he even wrote his own message for posterity in the filth. He was just waiting for the damn meeting to start and he was getting a little antsy. With a low echo that John’s finely tuned senses picked up on John heard the door start to open and his gaze shot to the very door that was nearest to his escape route. The first person through the door was a girl who had her red hair hidden beneath a camouflaged baseball cap. The girl was carrying a Phased Plasma Rifle that was almost larger than she was and John wondered how she was carrying the rifle. She walked right into the dance floor part of the ballroom and surveyed the room like an owl looking for anything out of the ordinary amid the darkness. If John hadn’t know any better he would’ve sworn that this soldier was an infiltrator but in all his travels he’d never heard of or seen a machine looking like that lady. Then again this was another reality so anything was possible he could reasonably assume. He had to always remember that little fact. Anything was possible.
Then a real vision from his past came through the door. A tall man dressed in military fatigues designed for urban combat lumbered through the entryway but he was under great strain. He was using what looked like the broken apart leg assembly from a T-600 as a cane as he crossed the large room toward the center where a chair had been set up by the girl only seconds earlier. His fatigues were a bit baggy, more so than standard issue would ever allow for, which told John that either they’d been too big in the first place or that James Ellison had recently lost a lot of weight. Either was a possible answer but, from the way he moved and the injury down his face, illness was probably the most likely answer to that particular riddle. The big man sat in the chair and started his briefing but John’s attention was stuck in the past.