It's been three years since the Terminator met his end in the steelworks. Now, in a strange twist of fate, he's back. He has the same memories and a new foe, only this time, it's human. Sebastian Meddle is continuing Miles Dyson's work, but not all is what it seems.
“Come on, Connor! Don’t tell me this doesn’t hurt!”
Then I won’t, because it does. John thought, but he said nothing.
Fourteen-year-old John Connor was being ‘disciplined’ by the local bullies in a dead-end part of town.
A mean blow to the chin spun him round and he tripped into the dust. The bullies laughed and circled like jackals. John winced and wiped the blood from his mouth. As he made to get up, he was grabbed roughly by the shoulders and forced against a brick wall. John grunted on impact and grimaced at the bully restraining him.
His name was Marcus Burnham, a dumb-arse sixteen-year-old, who shoved his ugly face up close to Connor’s.
“Police? SWAT team? Your face on the goddamn News?” he spat. “I steal one laptop and they expel me, but you blow up a computer factory and no one cares!”
John knew it would be pointless to explain but he tried anyway.
“We didn’t do it for nothing.” he hissed. “They were developing stuff in there you wouldn’t believe, it was ... It all seems crazy now, but ...”
And then he started laughing.
Burnham frowned. “What’s so funny?” he barked.
“I’m laughing at the irony. Instead of going to war, you get to beat up a guy who saved your life! You’re so lucky you get a choice.”
“What the hell are you talking about?”
“Forget him, Burnham, he’s a wacko.” One of the other bullies droned.
“Not until he fights me back.” Burnham sneered. “Or can’t you?” he shot at John.
By way of answer, the younger one didn’t move, and after thirty seconds, a bruised and bleeding John Connor picked himself up for a second time.
His pride would have been less bruised had Burnham not stolen his jacket.
John crept into the house and shut the door quietly. He didn’t want his mum to know he’d been fighting, or specifically, not fighting back.
Sarah Connor was a soldier through-and-through, had a mind like an ocean-liner, and was built like a gymnast. A formidable combo.
He reached the foot of the stairs, and got only half-way, when -
“Where have you been?”
John stopped and kept his face hidden, trying to sound natural. “I just walked home slower today.”
But Sarah knew when her son was lying. She stomped over and turned him round to face her.
He looked away, exasperated, as she inspected his black eye and nose-bleed.
“Who did this to you? Tell me it wasn’t that Marcus Burnham dick.”
John sighed and didn’t answer. She knew this meant a ‘Yes’.
“You kicked his arse though, huh?”
That’s what he’d been waiting for.
“It’s kind of hard to kick arse when you’re out-numbered!” he answered, angry and embarrassed.
At that, her face changed from angry to disgusted.
“That settles it. I’m gonna kill those sons of bitches myself!”
She was striding for the door in full military mode, but John beat her to it and barred her way.
“That was my battle, soldier.”
“I don’t care! I won’t put up with dirty fighters.”
“It doesn’t matter, it’s over now.”
“Of course it isn’t! They’ll track you down again before you know it and they’ll never stop, John. They’re program – “
She stopped, abruptly, and he stared at her.
“I mean, they’re bullies.” She finished, lamely, but there was no covering up what she was really talking about. He forgot sometimes that she got wrapped up about the machines as much as he did.
When she looked him in the eye again, her son had a calm about him she’d never seen before.
“Choosing not to fight isn’t the same as losing.” He answered, steadily. “Burnham's not a machine any more than I’m a soldier. He’s just a kid, mum, and so am I. I’ve got to be a kid for as long as I ... have.”
Sarah’s face changed subtly, but John knew she had softened.
“Your dinner’s getting cold.” She said, quietly, and handed him a box of plasters. He took it from her and felt the peace spread in the air like warmth.
They ate in quiet, the TV on but neither paying much attention.
John glanced at his mum out the corner of his eye.
He hadn’t told her the whole truth about why he hadn’t fought those bullies. His future was riddled with fighting. Spoiled with a war he couldn’t avoid. And it was a war that didn’t start today, so why did it have to intrude on his present?
He wasn’t ready to be a soldier yet ... Wasn’t ready to watch people die ... He couldn’t fight it alone, but would hate if people he knew got involved.
As if the machines would leave people you care for out of it. He thought, bitterly.
John got up from the table and swiftly left the room.
Sarah made to call after him, but decided against it this time.
The front door banged open as John stomped outside. The air was warm with a cool breeze, and the sky a fading orange.
He climbed on his motorbike and shot off, trailing a line of blue exhaust fumes.
He was trying to leave behind something more than home. You can’t run from the future, but he had to get away.
Not for the first time, he wished his dad was still around.
John drove to the very edge of town where there was no light pollution, and so quiet you could hear the crickets.
Sadly, the atmosphere couldn’t get a chance soothe him; his thoughts wouldn’t switch off. You can’t put it off forever. It came back before, what’s to stop it this time? Not him. He’s not here anymore.
John skidded the bike round, throwing up clouds of dust, and came to rest beneath a single street lamp. He put one foot down and breathed deeply, eyes closed.
He waited there for nearly a minute, just slowing his breathing. Then he kicked the bike stand down, and strode away and out of the light.
He wanted to escape all humanity. They were too smart for their own good. Stupid people! They were so stupid one of them invented the perfect killing machine! Selfish, greedy morons! People like that set more store in money than in life.
John halted abruptly and blinked. Wait a minute ...
Hadn’t he once been like that? He used to swipe money. He hadn’t given a thought to the affect it would have on someone. He hadn’t cared.
But like most people owning up to their crimes, John tried to justify his:
He had once changed a killing machine into something that valued life, hadn’t he? It had gone so far as to save both John and his mother from a machine like its former self. He’d made a difference! That had to count for something!
He had fond memories of how that had happened: Teaching the Terminator how to smile, and how to talk to people in non-machine language.
They’d had a laugh - Well, John had laughed, the Terminator had frowned and raised an eyebrow, but their friendship was clear.
Then the Terminator destroyed himself in a wild attempt to stop the war. He may have been moody and dry-humoured, but he’d been John’s friend ...
Emotions surged up in him all the way to his eyes. Other teenagers would have thrown a temper tantrum, but John didn’t. Instead, all that came out of him were tears.
“I miss you.” he said into the darkness.