The damage inflicted by the grenade had been surprisingly effective if brief. The explosion had caused structural damage to both of the leg assemblies and had damaged the fluid transport systems making movement far more difficult for the infiltrator. The fire that resulted from the explosion had burned away or, in places, charred the skin on over 47% of the body structure to blackness. Mechanical components and repair systems had already responded to the most critical problems though, and the secondary considerations would soon have their chance for repairs. As the machine worked to right itself, it made noises similar to growls. Within thirteen seconds it was already back to its feet, yet far from 100%. It stood in the fire unconcerned for the biological and more focused on the technological. Significant portions of its processor were focused on repairs, but the rest was busy calculating the source of the explosive that had damaged it. It took a second but the software directed it right to the source. The assassin restored the heavy plasma weapon to firing position and pulled the trigger. Error messages flashed across its field of vision informing it that its weapon was destroyed in the explosion. While it calculated an alternative response the human opened fire against its attacker. This human’s attack was far better than the one who attacked it in the hallway. Perhaps it was because the machine had already been damaged in the explosion, it didn’t know the answer to the question, but the human’s recent assault had managed to disable the right arm assembly. Worse it had caused significant damage to the primary processors. The Skynet battle droid shifted to auxiliary command functions to keep itself online and operating for at least the next few minutes. It had a mission to perform and its target was right ahead struggling to survive. A minute was all it needed as the human lashed out in desperation. It grabbed the human’s weapon and threw the crowbar aside with the flip of a wrist. Then it grasped the human and lifted him into the air like he was a child. The lag time from the processors was significant as the less powerful secondary processors struggled to keep up with the demands of the primary systems. The system’s efficiency got worse with each system that the repair program tackled. After a long moment the command appeared cam through. It was ordered to terminate. There was no reprieve from Skynet like the other human had received. The damaged infiltrator sent the commands to seal the fist and crush the human’s neck, though there was lag time. Right as it began to close the machine was hit again and again by plasma bursts. When the one blast scored a direct hit to the shoulder assembly error messages flashed wildly. It lost its grip and the human fell like a rag doll to the floor. The machine went to crush him but another impact from the plasma rifle knocked it off balance. The mighty Series Eight Hundred infiltrator, the Infiltration Prototype designed to lead Skynet’s next generation of battle droids, fell to the floor with a loud crash. It had fallen and it couldn’t get back up to its feet. It struggled and pushed, but it was futile. It repositioned its head to allow the sensors room to see what was going on around it. The helpless assassin watched as the duo of humans at the door’s plasma pulses broke into its reinforced skeleton. It was helpless, unable to move, unable to defend itself from the enemy that it had never before feared and still didn’t. A mixture of blood and oil from its body flowed like a river. It called for Skynet, but Skynet didn’t answer its pleas. The target, Kyle Reese, got to his feet and clutched at his neck right in front of the machine. The auditory scanners told the exposed endoskeleton that the human had been seriously injured, but there was nothing that the attacker could do about it. It listened to Kyle’s rasping breaths as he struggled to get air and chastised itself for its failure. The human pulled the trigger of the once overheated plasma gun he’d used seconds earlier. Purple beams tore through the skull assembly and destroyed the processor chips. The infiltrator was dead and a human had killed it. Had if been possible it would have hoped Skynet would forgive it for its failure, but even if it were possible it already knew the answer. Its vision faded to black. Derek Reese watched as the machine struggled to stay upright after his onslaught. His attack had caused the infiltrator to lose its hold on Kyle and his younger brother, the man he swore to his father that he’d always protect, fell to the ground like a broken toy. Derek stared for him and knew that his flesh and blood was most likely dead. The metal bastard had to pay for what it’d done to him and his family. He repeatedly pulled the trigger – his shots backed up by similar beams of light from the rifle of Connor – and the machine continued to struggle. “Die you goddamn metal bastard!” He screamed as he pulled the trigger again and again. Red blood mixed with oil that spread from the damaged torso assembly. A puddle of the strange combination spread out from the half exposed machine and engulfed Kyle as he lay on the ground. The cool combination caused him to stir. Derek looked over and felt his world brighten for the first time in what felt like his entire life as he watched his younger brother (Connor still fighting). Kyle’s eyes opened and he was getting back up to his feet. Blood was dripping from his arm and he had the imprint of the machine’s massive hand on his throat, but he was alive. That was all that mattered to Derek. The rasping sound scared him though. To the older Reese it sounded like Kyle was Darth Vader from Star Wars. With every breath of fresh air the sound got worse and far from better, and then it still sounded like he wasn’t even able to catch a single breath as he forced himself to walk. The younger Reese, the boy who Derek had protected for so long, walked up to the machine and put the gun equal with the machine’s head. Half a dozen plasma pulses were flung from the futuristic weapon and burrowed deep into the skull of the killing machine. After the second shot the red eyes started to flicker. When they got to number three they went dark forever. Kyle pulled the trigger three more times until part of the combat chassis’ skull had turned into liquid metal and was rolling into the cracks dug into the ground. The older Reese ran over to support the younger one. Derek knew his brother than anyone and he knew that Kyle was in worse shape that he was leading on. He was having trouble standing, trouble breathing, trouble living. Yet, Kyle still didn’t want any help. Kyle knocked his brother’s hands away as Derek tried to support him. This frustrated Derek to no end. Why wouldn’t his brother accept any help? He was so damn stubborn. Then, in spite of everything, he actually smiled. If he were in Kyle’s position he wouldn’t have accepted any help either. It was a dominance thing, a leadership thing, a show of strength. If you were the leader of the pack you’d never show weakness; it was the surest way to get attacked by the wolves. “We need to get the hell out of here.” John Connor said from near the door. “There’re more machines coming.” “Is,” Kyle rasped, “is everything… destroyed?” John nodded, “Yeah. I blew the processors a few seconds ago and I burned all the documents that we got from your source. It’s all gone.” “Are you sure? We can’t let even,” Kyle was trying to press home his point but his breaks in his voice were making him hard to understand. The strain was a lot on him. “John got everything,” Derek stepped in reassuring. “Everything from the mainframes to the files are gone. I saw him do it myself.” Kyle nodded after Derek repeated John’s words, “Good. If Skynet would find out… find out that we had them…” “With respect,” Connor said forcefully at hearing his father’s pain, “shut up. We can talk about this later. We have to go.” “You know how much I hate agreeing with him,” Derek looked at John then turned back to his little brother, “but Connor’s right and you need my help – so quit being so damned like me and let me help you.” The youngest of the Reese boys nodded and took a deep breath. He let it out after Derek’s arm wrapped around his body and, for a moment, showed just how much he’d be hurt. It was only for a moment and not a second longer. The leader of the community looked into his brother’s eyes. Even though he was hurt he was still trying to be Kyle, “I guess I should get a parka then.” “Why’s that?” John Connor looked down the corridor checking it for the tenth time to make sure that it was still clear. The machines were certainly in the base by now and there numbers were multiplying exponentially. The hallway was still clear though but it wouldn’t be for long. Knowing that they were momentarily safe, from a certain point of view, he went to help his uncle and father out of the room. While John supported the other shoulder, Kyle finally answered Derek’s part of the joke after catching his still raspy breath. “Because hell froze over when you two finally agreed about something. Oh well at least I’ll get to see snow again.” He tried to laugh but felt only pain. John helped him down the corridor and spoke the words his mother had told him as a child, “Pain can be controlled; you just have to disconnect it.” Kyle smiled and forced himself through it, “More words to live by from Sarah Connor?” “The one and only,” Connor answered brightly. “But I’m sure it’s hard to do without focusing on something,” the oldest Reese boy handed the remains of the snapshot to his younger brother. “I’m afraid it got a little cooked back there, but Sarah’s still there looking back at you.” He never understood Kyle’s fascination with the photo nor did he understand why John had ever given it to him, but Kyle’s mood instantly brightened as he held the remnants of the photo in his hand. With the support of his brother and, unbeknownst to him, his son, Kyle kept up with the two men on his own power. He gently ran his thumb over the charred remains of the photograph that meant so much to him as he walked down the stone corridor toward the escape hatch – his rifle in his other hand and ready if he needed it. He still spoke slowly and with the raspy voice, but he seemed brighter all the same. “She’s my good luck charm and we need her now more than ever.” John nodded but didn’t speak a word. His father’s words of wisdom were definitely on the right track.