There was a pause as they took a moment, then John broke the silence.
“So, how are you upgraded, exactly?”
At that moment, Sarah walked in. She was wearing her typical khaki top and combats. She stopped dead on sight of the visitor.
“Mum! It’s ok, it’s him again.” John reassured her, quickly. “This might take a while to explain though.”
The Terminator looked from John to Sarah and winked.
“No problemo.” He said, simply.
“There’s another one coming, isn’t there?” Sarah said, tensing up at once.
The Terminator raised his hands. “Sit down and I’ll play you the message.”
Sarah crossed the room to the three piece-suite and she and John sat down side by side. The Terminator moved so that he stood behind them, and lifted his shirt half-way. In the middle of his chest appeared a circular opening which widened and became a camera lens.
A 50-inch wide projected image appeared on the wall above the mantelpiece.
Needless to say it was extremely high quality, and showed a man wearing a spotless white suit, black shirt, and a scarlet tie. He had swept-back, black hair and wore a ring with a large jewel exactly the same red as the Terminator’s trademark eye.
“Hello there. My name is Sebastian Meddle, head of Meddle Cyber Robotics.”
The image changed to shots of the company building which had a futuristic-meets-industrial theme.
“Most people say I owe my work to one Miles Dyson.” Meddle said.
Miles Dyson? John’s heart gave a lurch, and then he saw Meddle’s products: Terminators. Serious. Elite. Perfect. Probably cost half a billion dollars each.
“But Dyson’s not the only one I have to thank.” Meddle continued. “I also thank John Connor.”
“Dyson made killing machines but how John Connor reprogrammed one of them inspired me to I build a new army of Terminators. I named them the T-Connors.”
“What?!” Sarah hissed.
John watched the reconstruction of a suburban family under attack, and a T-Connor rescuing them, without, to John’s surprise, killing anyone.
“I’ve programmed the T-Connors to protect us. Each and every one of us. And to prove my passion for machines, every one of my mine contains a precious metal.”
There followed a series of close-ups of aluminium skulls and silver hands.
“Meddle Cyber Robotics.” the caption read. “We’re building a safer future.”
A T-Connor looked into the camera and saluted. John narrowed his eyes back.
The message ended and the Terminator lowered his shirt.
There was a short, horrified silence. Then-
“Scum!” Sarah spat, glaring where Meddle’s image had been. “Continuing Dyson’s work and glamorising the gun on a whole new level!”
“That’s only half of it, mum.” John murmured, feeling sick. “He’s making Terminators with our name. Everyone will think the war will be my fault!”
Sarah leapt on that at once.
“It is not your fault, John.” she told him firmly. “Do you understand me? This has nothing to do with you. Skynet. Meddle. All that came from Dyson’s ideas, you got that?”
“Correct.” the Terminator agreed, seating himself in an armchair. “But he is also a liar. I stole that message from his computer. He’s programmed the T-Connors to prioritise his own protection - and his company’s - above all others.”
“So they’re not actually soldiers, they’re just personal bodyguards in disguise!” John said in disbelief.
“Exactly. They’re programmed to protect others under Meddle’s orders, but once the bombs fall, they’ll all make him their top priority.”
“You know the way to Meddle Cyber Robotics?” Sarah asked at once.
“I have the whereabouts in my databanks. It’s a three day trip.”
“Right. John, grab us stuff to eat on the way, we’re leaving in fifteen.”
John didn’t argue. He hurried to the hall, threw the other two their jackets, and ran to the kitchen.
“You have any guns?” Sarah asked the Terminator.
The look he gave her now reminded her of the old him.
“I’m an advanced machine.” Was all he said, and winked.
She half-smiled and almost winked back.
Fourteen minutes later, Sarah tucked a gun into her belt and packed her and John’s spare clothes. The boy loaded the back with food while the Terminator got on his Harley Davidson.
On the road, the adults took turns to swap vehicles so John could alternate talking to them. The Terminator had given him Burnham’s i-Pod to while away the time, but John hadn’t been impressed by the laptop’s entertainment:
There were too many war games for his taste.
On the third day, John started feeling uneasy about their mission.
The Terminator was behind the wheel now, eyes were hidden behind jet-black sunglasses. John looked at him, briefly, and then out the window.
“Are we doing the right thing?” he asked.
The Terminator frowned and looked round at him, slowly.
“What are you talking about?” he asked.
“It’s just ... I don’t think Meddle’s the bad guy here. Yeah so he’s a jerk for copying Dyson, but, all he’s done is made himself a really good security system.”
The Terminator slammed on the brakes, and John swore, jerking in the seat-belt.
“What the hell are you doing?” he yelled, and grunted as he was thrown back in his seat.
The Terminator whipped off his sunglasses and turned round in his seat to face him.
“Have you completely forgotten about the future?” he barked.
“Of course I haven’t!” John shouted back, furiously.
“Then you know better! All it’ll take is for the T-Connors to start thinking for themselves and the war – begins - today!”
“You don’t realise how much you’ve changed!” John countered. “Just listen to yourself! You sound like mum! Like a ... a human.”
And all of a sudden, John realised.
“You’ve got emotions now.” He said, slowly.
“We’re not going to discuss this.” The Cyborg said, shortly. “We have a job to do. Machines to terminate. Again.”
He was struggling to get the car into first but the gear-box was playing up. John watched him, noticed the cheeks flush as he adjusted to these new feelings.
It made what he was saying even worse.
“I think you get it, but you don’t want to.” John said irritably.
“What don’t I get?” the Terminator sighed.
“Those machines have as much potential to become something like you. Why don’t you want to give them a chance?”
“I ... Because I ...” the other stammered, then the Terminator unknotted his eyebrows and faced the front again. “Just because.” he finished, most unTerminator-like.
“Is there a problem?” came a third voice. Sarah had appeared by John’s window.
“Nah, we’re just fighting.” The boy told her, moodily.
Sarah smirked just like her son. “That’s my boy.” She said, and ruffled his hair. “I’m gonna get us some snacks. Try not to kill him while I’m gone.” She added, dryly. The Terminator watched her leave with a thoughtful expression.
He looked from her to John and back again.
“I once said it’s in your nature to destroy yourselves.” He said. “But your kindness equally measures your cruelty.”
“Hey, don’t get too soft, Mr. Nice Guy! While I’ll be off fighting a war you’ll be saving whales and planting trees.”
John chuckled as the other punched him on the shoulder.