The Evergreen Room was one of the smallest rooms inside the makeshift home of the survivors, but it had a storied history before the fall. Los Angeles Mayor Mark Wyman announced his long shot candidacy for the position of Governor of California from inside this room in 2009; it was a bid that he’d win the following year. Not long afterward it was the site of the historic partnership between Dakara Systems and Simdyne Cybernetics – creating one of the world’s premiere artificial intelligence firms because of their prototype AI Emma (before their partnership was purchased by the United States Government’s Cyberdyne Systems and broken apart piece by piece). It’d fallen hard since those two history making events, but it was going to get one last footnote in the history books: the site where humanity planned its first major victory against Skynet.
Kyle Reese was going to see to it – if he could get his growing headache back under control. Ever since the briefing he’d been locked away inside the old conference room looking over reports and studying the myriad of charts kept here. It felt like he’d read over a million pages since he arrived here and every line – every word – repeated pretty much the same fact: they were fools for trying this. If they tried to invade Topanga Canyon it was pretty much a certainty that they’d be going home in body bags before all was said and done. The base had failsafe after failsafe waiting for them and those failsafes were backed up by big ass guns that were looking for them and loaded for tanks lets alone humans. Taking them out was just as impossible. Hitting the weapons platforms’ tactical sensors was like hitting a bullet with a smaller bullet while wearing a blindfold and riding on the back of a motorcycle. It wasn’t possible – not even with the added numbers that John and Jesse would be bringing with them from the prison camp aboard the Enterprise.
Though, Kyle had the dubious honor of somehow making it all possible. Gently he rubbed the growing tiredness from his eyes and tried to get over the slowness of his own thoughts. His mind was turning into clay from the lack of sleep and his own concerns were starting to creep into his head again. It’d been too long since they last heard from Derek’s team and John’s team. They really should even have been back by now – it’d taken too long. Kyle’d become so fixated on solving the military problems of their upcoming engagement at Topanga Canyon that he’d lost all track of the time. It’d been over a day since the teams left on their missions and more than eighteen hours since his last break. Maybe he really had read over his millionth page since then?
It really was unusual though. It really wasn’t like Derek or John to skip out on reporting in especially if they’d found something that they thought was important enough. Both were on missions that were exceptionally dangerous, but they were relatively light missions compared to some of the raids they’d launched over the last three years (and a cakewalk compared to what they were planning at Topanga). What could be keeping them? Even stiff resistance wouldn’t have kept them down this long. He rubbed his eyes again and tried to push the thoughts back away from his head. His own fears weren’t helping him to win this war and they sure as hell wouldn’t help anybody else to come up with a plan. He kept reminding himself that he could disconnect his pain, but fear served no useful purpose. It made him sloppy, careless and that was something that none of them could afford to be right now. Their carelessness would end up costing them this war not winning it.
There was only one other time that Kyle had been this afraid and that was when he was trapped inside Skynet Central in 2018. Both he and Derek were separated then and he was living with a fellow refugee named Star at the time in Griffith Park. The Resistance, well the remnants of the United Stated Military that called itself the Resistance, had been planning a major offensive against Skynet. At that particular time Kyle Reese wasn’t one of them and that ended up being his saving grace. The Resistance’s stupidity led them directly into a Skynet created trap. The machine intelligence had played a perfect game of chess and led the Resistance and its soldiers to the slaughter in the form of a radio signal. The code transmission that they thought was their salvation ended up leading Skynet right to each of their hidden bases where it could strike and it’d strike fast. In an instant almost all organized resistance to the machines was wiped out leaving only a few stragglers behind and hardly any viable technology. He was one of the lucky ones. Somehow he’d managed to escape from Skynet Central and found Derek (a Resistance member at the time out of the San Fernando Valley who’d been captured), but their enemy just grew in strength. In Skynet’s view the war was won, but they had a difference of opinion. At least the LA Branch survived, but at half power. He never did find Star again either. He always assumed that she’d been killed trying to escape from Skynet Central along with Virginia, but he never learned the truth of what happened to either of them.
“Don’t do this to yourself,” Kyle mumbled to himself as he pushed against the back of his chair. “Don’t get focused on the past and keep your eyes headed toward the future. Win the damn battle then you can mourn the dead.” Reese pushed himself back into his work. That was what he needed right now.
Years ago he’d read that repeating the same action over and over again was the sign of insanity, but right now he didn’t really care about that. He was insane for not surrendering anyway and he knew that fact. Reese picked up one of the topographical charts that Jesse had put together and studied it again looking for another possible angle they could exploit. There weren’t many possibilities that were open to them to explore. Their best bet, really their only bet in his opinion, was to go in through the north but it was still a long shot chance if they took it. The north didn’t have as many plasma emplacements for them to worry about but the terrain made up for it. It’d slow them down enough to allow the machines to pick them off while they tried to find a way into the base. How Jesse got this detailed of a map was beyond him somehow. Apparently she had more talents than just the ones in the bedroom that Derek seemed to like the most (he’d be worried if his brother didn’t prefer those talents, even though the military ones were just as important).
“Where are you Derek?” He whispered to himself. Reese knew that his older brother was a big boy but he still worried about him just as Derek worried about Kyle. Kyle didn’t really understand why but he was worried about John in the same way. Had they become that close of friend that they were family now? What did he matter anyway? There was a connection between them that Kyle had never been able to place and why would he give him a photograph of his mother? That he never understood either – nor did Derek. And what about Allison Young? Where was she now? Had Skynet killed her? Probably. Another innocent lost because of this stupid war. In her case the assumption was probably the fact. Poor John.
From behind him, Kyle heard something. He turned to see the wood veneer door come toward him and James Ellison standing right on the other side of the threshold. The low lighting shimmered over the makeshift cane that the man carried with him; polished to a silvery hue from the normally dingy grey. Kyle was still impressed that Ellison used the heavy leg of a T-600 tactical droid as his personal cane. Kyle’d moved one of those legs on his own years ago and he’d hated every second of it because of the sheer weight of the thing. That fact that Ellison was using it on a daily basis was something that impressed him to no end. Apparently, despite his age, Ellison was stronger than his frail body would suggest.
“Hello Mister Ellison,” Kyle walked around the side of the table so that it was between he and Ellison. “Is there something that I can help you with?”
James Ellison pushed his way forward using the cane for support the entire way. He didn’t seem to be strained even slightly from the mass, “I just wanted to come in and check on your progress with the maps and charts. You’ve been locked in here for a very long time.”
“Time flies when you’re having fun,” the younger man joked. “There’s a lot of information to go through in these charts. I’ve been doing this for so long that I’m starting to feel like my mind’s turning to clay from everything in here. There’s so much data here to go over.”
A big, dopey grin came to the leader of the enclave. “I’ve felt that way every now and then. During my days with the Bureau, years ago, I had those types of feelings fairly regularly. Even when I worked for the Resistance before it imploded I got them every now and then; not nearly as often as with the Bureau but still every once in a while. The question is how do you work through them?”
“With the dogged determination of a policeman,” Kyle answered him referencing the man’s personal history. “Don’t worry I’ve been pushing through and I think I have an idea or two for how to break through Skynet’s defenses when we have the others and can strike.”
Ellison shifted his weight impressed, “Oh? How’s that?”
“It’s not perfect yet but I was thinking about having us go in through the northern side of the compound,” Reese highlighted a portion on the hanging map so that Ellison could see. “There’s rougher terrain up there, but Skynet has fewer offensive arrays in the northern part of the canyon. We’ll have an easier time through there.”
The former FBI Agent looked at the chart and pointed out a part of it, “That’s a lot of ground to cover and we don’t have many men available to do it. Plus, Skynet would be able to pick us off one by one. You yourself said that every life’s important in this fight, Kyle.”
“Every life is important, but so is winning the war. We can use the terrain to partially mask our approach as we go. The outcroppings, for example, are pretty big out there. That’d give us plenty of room to hide while we’re going. The only problem is avoiding the perimeter guns. They have pretty advanced tracking protocols.” One question was on Reese’s mind and he had to ask it, “Have we heard from the teams? My brother? Connor?”
James tensed his muscles for a moment, “I’m sorry but I haven’t heard from them. Savannah’s watching the radio waiting for them to try to get ahold of us. Be patient, Reese. She’ll tell us the minute that they report in. We can trust her to be thorough; she’s been well trained over the years.”
“I’m sure we can,” Reese replied but he felt something strange inside of him. It was like Ellison was keeping something from him, something important. Savannah’s training was something he wanted to know more about anyway. For a young girl she seemed to be adept at the ways of war, even more so than he was and he learned from a former soldier (an Army Engineer, but still a soldier). Reese pressed the issue a bit, “I know my people and this isn’t like them. What about your agents? That Jesse Flores woman seems like she’s a pretty accomplished soldier; these charts, for example, are simply amazing. Is it unlike her to keep silent for this long?”
A smile played over Ellison’s lips again, “More than you could imagine her to be. I don’t know Jesse well, but I’ve learned from experience to just let her do her own thing and see where the chips end up falling. So far it’s been a pretty good arrangement between the two of us. We’ve gotten some very valuable intel and she’s come back from the frontier with not even a scratch all ‘carrots and apples’ like she’s prone to daying. I don’t really understand her, but she’s good at her job and that’s what matters the most to me.” James looked at the charts, “And those are definitely thorough charts to say the least.” He looked at it more closely and saw something pointed out on it that he hadn’t noticed before. “Did you make notes on these charts while you were working, Kyle?”
“Some,” answered the younger man. “Why do you ask?”
“Did you put in that grid reference?” Ellison pointed out a set of numbers on the map. “Those ones there? They weren’t there before.”
“I didn’t add anything to this chart except for when I just highlighted the venue I wanted to try to infiltrate for the mission,” Kyle explained. “I’ve been using the ones on the table, mainly, to do my work from. Why? Is there something wrong with this chart? Is that grid reference important for some reason?”
Ellison stepped back for a moment and tightened his grip on the top of his cane. “No, nothing. I just don’t like loose ends and that’s a loose end to me.” He quickly made up an excuse, “I’m sorry but I have to get going back up to the Security Room. I want to check in with Savannah to see if she’s heard anything new from our teams and I want to run a diagnostic on the surveillance system. There’ve been some minor hiccups with the surveillance cameras on this level these last few days and they could use a good once over I think.” The enclave’s commander started his trek toward the exit, barely even using his cane.
Kyle was surprised to see that Ellison was so determined to get away. He called out, “Are you sure that everything’s fine?”
James stopped near the exit and looked at the door before opening it. He turned his head back and half looked at Kyle, “Everything is fine. I will be back soon. We have some more work to do to make sure that this battle’s a win and I look forward to seeing what else you come up with.” He still seemed spooked.
“Alright then. I’ll see you later then I suppose?” He got no response. As Ellison left the conference room, Kyle Reese returned his undivided attention to the table and the collection of charts and graphs on the scratched and worn surface. As he looked over one though he began to grow more and more curious about what was so important about that grid reference to Ellison. It’d clearly spooked him so whatever it meant was important. What could be so important about it though? It was just a coordinate located in the remains of downtown Los Angeles. Hell, it wasn’t really anything other than a broken down building these days if he remembered downtown LA correctly. It wasn’t like time travel was a possibility or anything science fictiony like that to go back there before the fall. What could be so important about the broken down former headquarters of Zeira Corporation?