Life had been filled with trials and tribulations for Lauren Fields ever since she had been a kid. It was clear to her at an early age that her parents only were together because of her – her mother getting pregnant before her parents ever married. Her dad was a workaholic who was married to and nurtured his work better than he ever raised her. Her mother’s days consisted of watching TV, shopping, and doing the next door neighbor. They hated each other more than loved one another and that never changed. That was until Sarah Connor came into their lives. One day she just appeared at their doorstep brandishing a shotgun telling them that they had to get out of there – that a machine was coming to kill them. Of course no one believed Sarah or Cameron until they came face to face with a machine wearing a human face. Lauren was stronger than either of her parents during it and helped Sarah rather than quibble over semantics with her parents or her mother’s boyfriend. In a show of courage she couldn’t believe her dad tried to fight the machine despite Sarah’s objections that he was the target. It just let him go. That was when she learned about her little sister. The Connors got her and her family to a safe house and they lived off the grid. Lauren didn’t have any trouble with it, but her mother did. After a while she began to crack under the pressure and called her boyfriend. She didn’t know though what that meant. It started again. The machine came for them again. Her father was killed trying to protect them from it and her mother was seriously injured. Without option she called Sarah Connor. She met not with Sarah but instead a guy named Derek. Together they delivered her little sister – Sydney – and Derek even offered to let her stay with him and the Connors. When he snuck off to make a call though Lauren knew what had to be done. She slid off her St. Christopher’s Medal and placed it on her mother’s chest. Grabbing her sister she ran. While learning from the Connors first hand would have prepared her for the storm deep down Lauren knew that she would have even more of a target on her chest than that medal. Besides they needed as many troops as they could get and she had some ideas. With her sister she fled to Mexico to train. It wasn’t easy. She picked up military techniques from a crazy ex Green Beret who had serious shell shock in Baja. There she learned about weapons, explosives, anything and everything that she could use against Skynet. While the machine wasn’t chasing her anymore – she assumed that Sarah had killed it – Lauren couldn’t take that chance. Sydney had to be protected. They sent a machine into the past to kill her so that had to mean that she was important. It was Lauren’s job to protect her. Around 2011 she ended up in Argentina and was living in the town of La Plata. Trading what she could she was able to take up residence with a young Doctor in the city and started to read his medical books while he was off at work. Sydney was doing well considering the circumstances but didn’t understand why other kids had a mommy and a daddy and she had a Lauren. Despite everything she couldn’t bring herself to tell her little sister about it yet. All it would do was screw the girl up in the head to know that machines would take over soon. Then April came. It was a pretty routine day for her. She was preparing dinner when she saw the news cut over to a live, breaking news feed. The screen was fuzzy because of some global supervirus that hit the telecommunications network. Lauren had thought it to be an isolated incident but this confirmed her worst fears. The United States and the United Kingdom had declared war on Russia and China. Nuclear warheads were fired in first strikes at key locations inside both of those nations. The retaliation didn’t take long – but it expanded. France, India, Pakistan, North Korea, and Israel all fired their missiles laying waste to the world. Over three billion people were dead. Dinner had to wait. She and her boyfriend – as well as Sydney – made their way to Buenos Aires to join one of the emergency teams to go into the warzone to help the sick and injured civilians. When they were preparing she saw something that she never expected: a United States submarine emerged from the waters into the port requesting help. The leaders of the nation just asked them to leave. It showed her just how much the world had changed. Everything was different now, everything had changed. She needed to act. Sneaking away thanks to her training she was able to break through the barricades and military checkpoints. As she ran to the sub though she heard them yelling for her. Members of the Argentine military chased her onto the dock as she ran with Sydney in one hand. She had to keep ahead of them; she had to get to the ship. At the top of her lungs she yelled that she was an American citizen and that she was requesting their help. One of the SEAL assigned to the ship heard her. Two gunshots cut through the air and the heads of the pursuing soldiers turned to pulp. With the support of the squad they brought her aboard. It was very cramped aboard the submarine. They took her to a small conference room and Sydney was taken to the medical station for a checkup. After about fifteen minutes the Captain came in and took the seat opposite her. He was an Asian American by the name of Thaddeus Chu and he looked like the weight of the world was on his shoulders. There was no time for pretense; Lauren told him the story of her life. Normally such a story would land someone in a psychiatrist’s office. Fields was in luck. The Captain told her another tale one that chilled her just as much as that cold night in 2008 when the future became very real. The Roosevelt was the only part of the United States military still left from what he knew. The rest of navy had been converted into automated warships with cybernetic brains designed as part of some clandestine project. They heard from the waters through Morse code from those souls dying in the waters that the ships had turned against them. Skynet had issued orders to hunt them but they evaded. Now they were trapped in a world where some unknown force wanted them dead. The Roosevelt had become a member of the human resistance not long after. Sydney grew up inside the protected confines as Lauren took up a position aboard as a nurse to the ship’s corpsman. They fought Skynet every so often and the SEAL team helped with training, but most of the time they lived in relative peace. As Sydney grew older though it became clear to the Acting Lieutenant that the two of them needed to be on the ground when Sydney’s destiny came to call instead of aboard the Roosevelt. After a transfer to the Resistance army she was assigned to the Resistance base in Los Angeles. That was how she came here today. Together with Captain Catherine Luna they walked among the ruined remnants of Earth trying to get to the nearest Resistance outpost. They’d managed to escape from the hell of the Aircraft Carrier Enterprise together, but they lost two of their team including their good friend and CO Allison Young in the process. Technically Luna was in command now and the medic was just a medic, but something had changed. Luna wasn’t her typical self. Who could be? They had all been tortured in their captivity aboard the Skynet base. The hells seen by the Major or Private Wise were unknowns in this reality, but Lauren could only imagine what they did to her. After all Luna’s husband was a machine. As for her own torture: Skynet had learned about pleasure and pain all to well. They’d been walking for what seemed like forever trying to get to a base that could very likely not be there anymore. The machine supercomputer launched new attacks daily and most of the last settlements of humanity were gone. Both the Captain and Medic were tired, hungry, and very thirsty. They were trying to stay hidden during the day and move in the night like Connor had taught them, but that was easier said than done. Skynet was everywhere and time wasn’t exactly a strong variable anymore in making decisions. “Who would have thought it could get this hot so fast?” Captain Luna asked as her Spanish accent colored some of the words. Fields walked along behind her keeping an eye on their flank. Skynet liked to have its tripeights come up from behind in sneak attacks lately. It didn’t matter much though if tin cans showed it. It wasn’t like they had any weapons to use against them. Taking her eyes off the rear flank for only a second she caught eye contact with Catherine. “I thought you were from Baja? You’ve seen it hotter than this.” “Got me there,” answered Luna as they made their way over the ridge, “but back then I was at my prime.” Fields smiled, “Passed your prime? You’re not that old.” “You’re only as old as you feel,” Luna stopped. “And right now I feel like I’m eighty.” “And you move like it too,” taunted the medic. “Move your ass, Granny.” Catherine shook her head, “At least its still a pretty one. Any idea how much further?” “I wish I knew,” Lauren said looking at the horizon and staring. “It can’t be that much further. I’m kinda surprised we haven’t run into any patrols.” “Watch your tongue,” Captain Luna said with playfulness. “You don’t want to tempt the Gods. I was thinking the same thing though. Strange we haven’t run into anyone including our own.” Lauren nodded to that, “I can’t argue there. We should have patrols out or something. You don’t think that we’ve pulled out of the area do you?” She was a little worried about her sister. “I suppose anything’s possible.” A large black bird flew passed her face and crashed downward among the broken remnants of yesterday. It started pecking at something among the remains. “Good to see someone’s got some food.” Medic Fields shrugged, “Waste not, want not. We have to go check it out. We don’t know what we could find over there.” “Yeah,” mocked Luna, “we haven’t got shot at lately.” “Fifty/fifty chance we’re going to find something good or bad. Fifty/fifty chance that whatever it is is with us or against us.” Lauren started after the bird. Luna started to chase her, “You’re a fool you know.” “Who’s more foolish: the fool or the fool who follows her?” Rather than ponder it the pair kept on course for the bird. It jumped into the sky and flew away before either of them could catch it but it left behind a body lying on the ground. The eyes were pecked out and made into a bloody pulp. That wasn’t the most horrifying thing. On the chest where the heart once rested was now only a gaping hole of dripping coagulated blood. The name tags were still there. “He was one of ours,” said Fields. Luna started searching the remains, “We’ll mourn his loss later. Right now we need to see if he had anything of use.” They couldn’t find any weapons or equipment, but they did find some rations and water packs. The two women feasted on the crumbs and drank the last drips of water from the pack. They were about to get on the road when it came. The familiar whine of a jet thruster going subsonic ripped through their eardrums. Above them hovered the very sight of evil. A Skynet HK Aerial had found them. “Karma,” Fields mumbled. “Screw karma,” Luna grabbed the medic. “Run!” The two Resistance soldiers took off as fast as their tired legs would let them. The uneven terrain was like trying to navigate through a tar pit or quick sand and neither could keep up the pace. The machine just hovered there watching and waiting for them. It didn’t strike or try to harm them. It was just watching. Aerial HK 3927 hovered above the remains of Los Angeles watching the two as they tried to flee. It always amazed the processors of the machine how just its appearance could cause the humans to take to running away. They didn’t know its state of mind so how could they know rather they were at risk or not? Humans were a peculiar bunch. They continued to fight when they knew that the war was over and that they had lost. How strange they were. Sensor scans were quite revealing. Through the multiple sensor palettes built into the outer hull of the machine it knew an incredibly detailed amount of information about the two runners. Both were female and in exceptional physical health despite the environmental factors. They were suffering from dehydration and overexertion, but their adrenaline production was at critical levels. The women split up trying to escape. The processors of the machine understood all to well. A spark of it though almost pitied them. It sent a message to Skynet asking to be allowed to put them out of their misery. Skynet had other plans. Rather than terminate the Hunter Killer’s leader gave it a new directive. It was to toy with them. Catherine Luna dove behind an unnatural formation of plaster and concrete rubble left behind from the days of future’s past. It was as hot as fire but she leaned against it pushing herself as tightly as she could to make her body as small as possible. If she could compact herself maybe the HK would just pass her by and not see her. It was a long shot but the fact she was even still alive after all this time was against all odds anyway. It would be somewhat ironic if Skynet managed to do her in with one of the HKs. Back in the day when she was a prisoner it was her job to help build them, it seemed fitting somehow that one of them would kill her. Though this one was different from the primitive that she had worked on – it was scarier. That could be the fear talking. Fear could make anything seem like an impassable obstacle. Bugs, water, anything and everything could be made to look like it was the size of a titan if you were afraid of it. With this thing hovering out there her fear was winning out. Then came a faint whisper of air. Thousands of scenarios came to mind. What was going on with it? Why wasn’t it blowing her to bits? Was it releasing endoskeletons to take her captive? Was it landing? Any number of possibilities could give the answer, but she’d never know unless she pushed herself to look. Grabbing a long metal beam to use as a weapon she moved her legs beneath her. The Captain pushed herself upward and her eyes around the rim of the broken plaster. Right on the opposite side was something she didn’t expect, something that she had never even actually seen before. It was roughly the size of a basketball and had an open middle that looked like a fan. A single red sensor node was in the center and it was focused on her. It didn’t look so tough. It was actually kind of cute. A small compartment on the ventral of the droid slid open drawing her attention. The fear started to rise again inside her gut. From the partition the sound of moving servomotors interrupted the whisper quiet turbine. A large blaster appeared from the opening and focused on her. A shot filled her ears.