Only moments before, John Connor had allowed his young father to leave him forever. He allowed his young sergeant, Kyle Reese, to go back in time to protect his mother and sacrifice everything for the survival of humanity. John clearly understood his role in this world. His mother had explained to him all that he should ever need to know to get to this point; to become mankind's last hope to defeat an enemy they created. Machines. Machines controlled by a man-made computer system. So, it was as his mother had told him. John became a leader of a new generation that had the will to live and smash those motherfuckers! But, all that training and knowledge of the future did not prepare John for the loneliness that was suddenly more unbearable than knowing millions would die one day and sending your father to his death. His mother had not prepared him for this.
John recalled the first time he saw Kyle Reese. Young and eager. He was just as John had imagined: matted hair, torn clothes, lean build, and a quick mind. It wasn't until Reese was around twenty that he rose in ranks and became an important person in John's resistance against the machines. Their time together in this life was short. His father was gone now. John stood only a few miles away from what was Skynet, the structure was a marvel compared to the dilapidated ruins that John and his soldiers saw daily. The metallic pyramid that encased Skynet's system core was finally still and cold against the rising sun. It reminded him of mountains he saw once in his youth.
"...but what we make," he whispered to the structure.
John turned to see a young face. Half her expression was covered with blood from a deep gash on her forehead. It was common for young soldiers newly assigned to John's team to drop whatever it was they were doing and hang on any word that escaped his lips. "We should get moving. There's a lot more to do. Here," he removed a bit of cloth from his jacket. It was covering something that he did not bother showing her. She holstered her rifle and gently took the thing from John.
"Get that to Daniels," he pointed to a man with dark grown hair sticking out from under his helmet. He was standing among men cheering and crying a few feet away. "It needs to get to Dyson as soon as possible."
Shortly afterwards, Daniels approached John who had separated himself from the celebration. Daniels was not surprised by the company John had chosen over his comrades. At the base of the defeated pyramid, John had managed to hardwire nearly a dozen endoskeletons at his command. He was kneeling over an endoskeleton; its CPU cradled in one hand while he probed at it with the other. Its eyes flickered red and it made strange mechanical noises that unnerved Daniels.
"Connor! What are you doing?"
John looked over his shoulder and grinned. He and Daniels were close friends. They were the two oldest surviving members of the resistance other than Dyson, to John's knowledge anyway. They met shortly after John's exodus from the concentration camps when he was convincing others they could defeat the machines. That was so long ago, John thought suddenly.
"You take half and I'll take the others," John said clenching his teeth. He had stuck his hand in the machines skull and looked like he was trying to switch something off, Daniels hoped.
"Yeah, that sounds great. But there aren't any more machines to fight. We don't need these metal shits on our side anymore."
"Relax, Daniels. There." The machine's eyes went dim completely. John then slid the CPU back in its skull, careful to not hang up the wires while doing so. A quick twist locked the CPU in place and the eyes went red again, focusing like real pupils. It focused its pupils on Daniels, which annoyed him even more.
"Damnit, Connor," Daniels huffed. He stepped over the metal legs of the machine so that he and Connor flanked it. On three, they heaved the endoskeleton into a position so that it wasn't top heavy. From there, the machine took control of its own body after accessing the change of programming and stood upright.
"All right, step back Daniels. Give it some room."
"Fuck you!" Daniels yelled at the machine, flipping it off to add insult. John grinned and forcefully shoved him back.
"Fall in line." The machine lined up with the rest of the endoskeletons, awaiting command. John knelt down and removed some cloth from a bag that was hardly capable of holding anything anymore. He approached an endoskeleton and slid one over its head so that it fell on its shoulders. The cloths were of any earth colored bit of fabric. No marks or emblems. They were just make-shift square ruffs that John had adopted to let people know they were looking at a machine taken over by John Connor. Daniels watched, arms crossed, as John dressed each machine with a ruff.
"Very nice, Connor."
"You six, go with Daniels to meet with Dyson. Protect the team and ensure that they get there alive. Your parameters and secondary objectives are also a priority. Daniels, Dyson will know what that thing is. There's nothing to brief you on that. It's simply an artifact from both our pasts. The important thing you will be taking to Dyson and the others is confirmation that the machines have been defeated."
"I understand. They'll want to hear from you. We'll all want to know what to do now."
John, who had knelt down to gather his things into the bag, looked up and silently thought before responding. "First, I'm going to have these machines do to themselves what they did to us," he growled. "I'm going to find every last one of them. I'll make them round each other up and destroy what is left of Skynet. After that...I don't know," he looked at the tall structure. "I've only thought about defeating it. We will all just have to decide together what we will do."
Sometime later, John had positioned the rest of his team left behind by Daniels at the foot Skynet's pyramid as a checkpoint. With the injured being cared for and food distributed, John entered the pyramid with only two companions and a terminator. John did not seem to be bothered that his last conversation disturbed Daniels. It was the truth. He was brought up and told to lead people to defeat the machines. He did not know how to lead people in anything else. Civilization? "What the hell is that," John thought to himself. "Wasn't I a juvenile delinquent that blew up computer companies?" His thoughts preoccupied him. Distracted, he nicked his finger while trying to open a Skynet room that had been systematically locked down in defense earlier.
Behind him, the female soldier had turned red from the awkwardness of hearing John Connor swear. Her head was bandaged now, but John could see she was no older than twenty. The other soldier was busy holding a flickering light for John to see what he was doing. The kid was young too. He was a technology whiz like Connor and Dyson. In fact, John specifically chose him to go with his team when he found that they could breach Skynet's core. Dyson objected. The kid was his best tech specialist.
Fortunately, Dyson's best tech specialist wanted to go. John had jokingly called him "kid" since he was nearly as good with computers and technology as they were. The name stuck, though.
"See? Rerouting it there would have opened it. But, Skynet knew what I knew. Too bad being systematic doesn't make you creative. Their effort in being clever only makes this take more time..." John explained to the kid.
"I guess they figured that's all they would need...time, I mean. Time enough to have you held up so they could terminate you...Sir."
"Good point." Just then, the thick door slid open. The sound of the chrome slab dragging across the floor made them wince. The female soldier was the first to look into the room; she nearly fell back from shock. John gripped her shoulder and flew her back behind him. He held a rifle up in defense as he removed from his bag a mirror attached to the end of a rod. Using the mirror as his eyes into the room, he swept the reflection across the room. Endoskeletons. Several dozen Endoskeletons in a seemingly endless room with monitors, flashing lights, mechanical arms that jutted from walls that moved jerkily at a task unknown to John. John noticed what the girl had overlooked: The endoskeletons were not moving. They were offline like Skynet. Some sort of back up system must be operating in the room. Not much of a system, thought John. Then he realized that the machines in the room were unarmed. The only defense for this room was a huge slab door and whatever armed machines on the outside. They didn't want anything going off in that room, John concluded. Information!
"Archives," John said aloud.
"They used to say 'Knowledge is Power.'"
"Dyson says that."
"Yeah, I bet. Librarian endo's? A bit excessive, Skynet. Then again, a liquid terminator was excessive too." He was talking to himself. He stood up and patted his jacket down. After finding an old cigarette and a light, he took a few puffs. His face twisted in disgust. With the cigarette between his lips, he called out to the endoskeleton that was standing guard at the opposite end of the hall. "Hey!" The machine shifted his body slowly so that it could look over its shoulder at the human companions. Its skull slowly turned to face them; red eyes glowing in the darkness as they turned to look.
John ignored the menacing sight as he put out his cigarette and continued, "Secure this room for us to enter. Do not destroy anything if you can help it," he yelled at it. His voice echoed but was soon lost as the sound of metal shifting and grinding got closer. Its red eyes getting bigger as it got nearer. Then, it stepped into the kid's light. The girl unconsciously gripped her rifle. Without hesitating, the machine entered the room. They watched it from the mirror as it searched the room for any danger. Finally, it stopped and faced the mirror and motioned for them to enter.
"I'll go first," said John. Shortly thereafter, John busied himself with all that his eyes and hands could manage. While the kid was busy printing out documents, the girl stood near the terminator on guard.
John was in his own world. The wealth of information staring back at him on the screen was overwhelming. He had read strategic plans Skynet was working on the moment it fell. He saw where Skynet had found scattered human settlements that he never knew existed. Then he found video files on old cities, people, and battles. Before he realized what he was doing, he typed in his name.
- Connor, John/
JOHN CONNOR b. 1984
Son of SARAH CONNOR of CALIFORNIA.
LEADER of HUMAN RESISTANCE.
Information gathered has confirmed CONNOR's pre-knowledge of Skynet. Current priority is TIME DISPLACEMENT PROJ. to eliminate current target JOHN CONNOR and his mother SARAH CONNOR by TERMINATION.
Last known location// BREACHING SKYNET CORE
Detailed files for JOHN CONNOR: POLICE RECORDS//IMAGES//VIDEO//PROFILE//
If only he could have been here, John thought. The blood was rushing to his head and the sting of regret made him shut his eyes. He sat for moment to allow his emotion to pass. With a sigh, he typed in another name:
- Reese, Kyle/
KYLE REESE b. unknown
MOTHER, FATHER unknown.
Sergeant to Tech-Com under JOHN CONNOR
Last known location//ENTERED TIME DISPLACEMENT ALC. circa 1984
Detailed files for KYLE REESE: POLICE RECORDS//IMAGES//VIDEO//PROFILE//
- //IMAGES/REESE, KYLE
The system attempted to pull up related images to the name. Several name matches appeared. When the system finished listing a few pages of possible matches, John narrowed the search to those that were salvaged from police records in California.
There he was. His mug shots from when he had been arrested in 1984 after acquiring his mother, Sarah. His expression was intense. Kyle looked troubled and he peered at the viewer with total resentment for having him parted from Sarah Connor. John found other pictures related to his arrest. His mother had been photographed for evidence: her face was bruised and bloody. He stared at her for a long time. It was the first time he had ever seen any fear in his mother's face. She was so young, he thought. Young and confused. It's so twisted how it is all because of me that this whole situation came into reality, he thought. If he hadn't had sent his father, then maybe it would have been someone else to lead he resistance. He would have spared his mother the-
He had had these thoughts many times before and it never did any good to think about it, so he didn't.
"Hey! Look! It's Reese," the female soldier exclaimed. The kid looked up with a confused expression, but saw what she meant.
"They have pictures of us?"
"They have what information was left from Judgment Day. He made it through. This is dated from the 1980's, the day he met and saved Sarah Connor," John explained. He pulled up the picture of his mother.
"Whoa. Look how young she is."
"Remember those old drawings that got around?" the kid asked. "A man had met her once. He drew that picture, you know? He drew that picture of what he remembered her looking like and it was copied and anyone who was anyone had seen it or had a copy."
"Yeah, I guess the terminator was convincing..." the girl replied implying that the young woman they saw in the picture got the message loud and clear to become the Sarah Connor they were used to.
John looked over at the terminator in the room. Its back was to them, watching over the vulnerable opening. For some odd reason, his life flashed before his eyes. Decades of knowing what would be the future and seeing it all come true at this moment made him feel very mortal. His parents were gone. The two young soldiers noticed the silence and shared an awkward glance with each other.
"Sir? It's true, isn't it?" the kid finally asked. John had never told about his parents. Even Dyson didn't know. But Dyson knew that the Connors were sure of Judgment Day. All of the Human Resistance had their theories on how they knew it would happen. But, John just couldn't tell everyone that it was as simple as time travel. After all, if it were common knowledge that his father was Kyle Reese, then Skynet would have destroyed him long before he could have gone back in time.
"Yes, I knew. She knew too. I knew that I would lead the resistance, smash their defenses, and allow him to go back to protect her. You're right. A terminator is very convincing."
"What happened to him, Sir?"
"He died protecting her."
A long silent moment then. Everyone liked him. John loved him.
"Hey kid," John finally said, "you'll be in charge of collecting data here. I need to contact the base and will return shortly."
Exiting the structure, he remarked to himself that this was the first time in years that he had walked alone. There were no strategic conversations to be had, escorting guards, or distant sounds of pulse rifles to be heard. John had joined one of his terminators at the base of the pyramid and took out his binoculars to survey the area. "Nothing to see," he said aloud. The terminator looked down at John. It was one of the worst looking terminators he had decided to keep. It had torn flesh with exposed endo-arms, chest, and shoulders. A part from its Connor ruff, it wore tattered black cargo pants tucked into a pair of dark (blood stained) boots. It spoke to John with a rustic digitized voice, "Nothing to see but a lot to do."
"So much has been done already," John responded. He removed a piece of fabric fastened with string from inside his jacket. It held a stack of old photographs together. The first two photographs were old prints of his father's mug shot and the oldest picture of him and his mother. He was an infant in her arms as she looked down at him smiling. "Do you think it's wrong that I would rather be with them? I think part of me thought I would be joining them soon after letting him go through time. I guess that was more of a wish than an assumption."
"Wishes can be dangerous and futile distractions. But, your wish is not uncommon. They did their part as you have done yours. You have what they never did have in the end: an unknowing. You will struggle with it like most people do."
John replaced the photos in his jacket. Not knowing the future was something he had wished for a long time ago. Now he had to face the unknown with uncertainty and worst of all, loneliness. Fate sure is a motherfucker, John thought.