Chapter 4: Moment of PeaceThis is a featured page


Chapter 4: "Moment of Peace"






“John, wake up. We’re here… John?”

John groaned slightly and struggled to open his eyes, and out a loud yawn and stretched out his arms. Still in a tired daze, he groggily looked around. Cameron sat in the driver’s seat next to him, her left hand leaning on the steering wheel, staring at him.

“Wha…. What?” he mumbled sleepily still unsure of what was going on.

“The mall. We’ve arrived. Is this the right place” She enquired, her eyes still on John.

Realization dawned upon John and he nodded slowly. “Oh right… right,” he mumbled again as he his head to look out the car window, looking at the mall building outside. A ray of light bounced off the building’s glass walls and momentarily blinded him.

“Ow… yeah, that’s the place.” John groaned, shielding his eyes with an arm, still wincing in discomfort. The two exited the car and made their way together towards the mall, with Cameron constantly scanning the surrounding area for threats and traffic.

“Tell me, why are we here again?” sighed John as he walked, glancing at Cameron. John felt somewhat uneasy being in a location with many people. In crowds, John always felt cautious and alert, as if a threat were constantly lurking nearby.

“We’re here to obtain supplies; food, computer equipment, and clothes.” She replied, her attention still focused on navigating through the traffic of the parking lot.

With feelings of apprehension still lingering, John asked, “Why’d you have to bring us all the way to a mall in the middle of nowhere? Couldn’t we have just gone to some store somewhere, you know… closer?”

“It would take approximately five hours to travel between locations to obtain the needed supplies. It would be more efficient to obtain all the required items in one trip.” Cameron paused to glance at John for a moment. “Your mother also suggested that you to spend some time to relax. She said you needed to ‘get away from it all’ for a while.”

As John began to open the mall door for Cameron, he paused a moment and shook his head in confusion. “Wait, wait, hold on… clothes? I think we have enough clothes already.”

Cameron gave John a cold stare as they entered the mall entrance. “I require additional clothing. I have already worn each of my existing outfits on multiple occasions.”

Dumbfounded, John simply shrugged and shook his head again as they walked into the mall.

“Girls are complicated.” Cameron said helpfully.

“Yeah… no kidding.”

After passing a few stores, Cameron suddenly stopped in front of a colorfully decorated and brightly lit clothing store with extravagantly dressed female mannequins in various poses.

Carefully scanning the clothing on the mannequins and determining it as appropriate attire, Cameron lightly tugged at John’s sleeve. “This is a suitable location to obtain clothing. We will visit this location first.”

“Alright, fine, let’s get this over with...” replied John in exhausted resignation as they made their way inside, Cameron already busy quickly and systematically examining each rack of clothing in the store. John had always dreaded clothing shopping.

-----

“Hey man, I’m just heading out to take a leak alright?” said a security guard as he got up from his seat.

“Yeah, yeah. Just don’t go and take a freaking hour to do whatever you do in there,” Grumbled the other guard, a pudgy middle-aged balding man, barely looking up from his newspaper to acknowledge the younger man.

Before the other guard could leave, the pudgy guard looked up and waved the man over. “Oh, and when you come back, grab me a coffee would you? Might as well make yourself useful for once.”

The young man frowned and rolled his eyes, and left the office without a reply, letting the door slam shut behind him. “Damned kids…” the balding guard muttered under his breath, leaning back and shifting in his seat to find a comfortable position.

He momentarily glanced at the row of security monitors before him, and seeing only a few scattered shoppers traveling about the mall, returned his attention to reading his paper. Feeling thirsty, he absentmindedly reached for his coffee cup nearby. Feeling the lightness of the empty paper cup, he grunted in annoyance and tossed it aside amongst a scattered pile of used coffee cups.

Moments later, the younger security guard returned, slightly adjusting the neck of his uniform as he closed the door behind him. The older guard looked over, surprised to see the other man back already. Noting the absence of a fresh cup of coffee in the young man’s hands, he scowled in frustration.

“What, did they run out of coffee at Starbucks or something?” the balding man inquired incredulously, slapping his newspaper on the desk before him.

The other man paused, and then raised an eyebrow, grinning slightly. “I’m sorry sir, I guess it slipped my mind.”

The balding guard irritably grumbled under his breath, and picked up his newspaper again, muttering curses. The younger man strolled over to the side of the security monitors beside the other security guard and peered into one of the screens.

“Hmm… not much going on here today is there?” mused the younger man as his eyes scanned each of the displays.

“It’s freakin’ Monday morning, boy, what did you expect?” replied the older man sarcastically, as he lazily flipped to the next page of his newspaper.

The young man casually leaned his hand on the back of the other man’s seat, his fingers tracing along the worn fabric lining. With a lightning quick twist motion, his hand shot towards the pudgy man’s neck with his thumb and index finger, snapping the man’s neck instantly with a sickening crack, his head lifelessly slumping forward. The newspaper slipped through the older man’s fingers and slowly fluttered to the floor.

The younger security guard’s face shimmered slightly, and began to shift, his hair lengthening down his shoulders, shifting from a light brown to a dark black. The man’s facial features slowly melted away, revealing the hidden face of a young woman below.

“Don’t call me ‘boy’”, the woman quietly replied, her unmoving expression betraying no emotion. A little gleam of white reflected off one of her eyes as she calmly returned her gaze to the security monitors.

---
Four hours later...



Exiting the flashy clothing store, Cameron walked with a slight look of satisfaction on her face as she carried two medium-sized bags in each of her hands, as John followed behind, breathing a heavy sigh of relief.

“Cameron, let me help with you with that,” said John as he quickened his pace to catch up to Cameron, motioning to one of the bags she carried.

Cameron tilted her head slightly, confused at John’s offer of help. “I am perfectly able to carry these bags of clothing without assistance.”

“Yeah well, usually the guys hold onto the bags after the girl’s shopping spree sessions.”

Cameron pondered on John’s words for a moment, then handed two of the bags over to him. “You can help me with this, then.” As they continued their way around the mall, past various stores – toy stores, furniture stores, and shoe stores – which Cameron suspiciously eyed as they passed by, Cameron turned to John and frowned. “I only chose four outfits. That was not a ‘shopping spree’”.

John chuckled, “Yeah maybe, but it sure feels like one when you go and search through every clothing rack in that store. I’m just glad you didn’t go and try on everything.”

“I had to be thorough in my search. There could have been more appropriate - …” Cameron paused, and quickly looked behind her shoulder.

Confused, John turned around to see what Cameron was trying to look at, and saw nothing out of the ordinary, except the mall being more active now that it was almost noon. “What’s the problem, Cam?” he asked, still puzzled as her eyes darted about the mall, searching for something.

“I think someone is following us.” Cameron reported, as she turned around and continued her walk forward, pulling on John’s sleeve.

“What? Who?” asked John as he followed after Cameron, bags in tow.

“I don’t know. I recognize some of the people that were in the clothing store with us. They may be following us.”

John sighed, calming down slightly, and then turned his head to Cameron. “You’ve never been to a mall, have you?”

Cameron returned his look, shook her head. “No.”

“Well, it’s almost…” replied John as he looked down at his watch, “…noon. It’s no surprise there’s more people here in the mall now. Besides, those people were probably behind us at the checkout.”

Before Cameron could reply, the two were interrupted by a faint barking noise. Curious, Cameron turned her head quickly to see where the sound was coming from, and saw that they were standing in front of a little pet shop. A plain white poster taped on the glass wall of the store read, “PUPPY SALE: THIS WEEK ONLY!” in large bolded letters.

Intrigued, Cameron slowly walked up to the glass wall and placed her hands on the window, peering inside to see a dozen puppies playing on a large, dirtied blue towel. The puppies excitedly barked, tiny tongues wagging, as they all gathered in front of the wall, paws reaching up.

“I’ve never seen a puppy before.” Cameron commented as John curiously went up next to her. In a moment of usual calm, the two inquisitively stared at the puppies in silence.

“They’re… not afraid of me…” she whispered.

John traced a finger along the side of the glass, and watched in amusement as the puppies gathered around it, their pawing following the path of John’s finger. He smiled peacefully. “They don’t know what to be afraid of yet.”

She wondered why they seemed so happy, despite the fact that they were trapped behind walls of glass. Most animals normally exhibited signs of distress when confined to small spaces, or simply remain unresponsive and quiet when accustomed to confinement.

The puppies must be too young and unaware to realize their state of confinement, Cameron concluded.

The moment of calm was interrupted as John’s cellphone beeped in his jacket. Cameron momentarily glanced over, and then returned to gaze at the puppies. Putting the bags of clothing on the ground, John put the cellphone to his ear. Two tones beeped. Sarah’s code. John grimaced, Sarah must have been expecting him home a few hours ago.

“Hey, mom. I know what you’re going to say. You see, Cameron wanted to – …”

“John, you’ve got to come home - now.” Interrupted Sarah’s voice.

“What’s going on there? Is everything alright?” John’s eyes narrowed, something was wrong. Hearing John’s worried reply, Cameron turned around in interest.

“No, everything is not ‘alright’. Derek spotted Cromartie today during one of his morning jogs. You and Cam need to get back here pronto - we've got to move.”

“We’re on our way.” John replied as he closed his cellphone. He turned to Cameron, shifting the bags of clothing into his hands. “Come on, we got to go.”

Taking one last lingering look at the puppies still excitedly pawing at the window, Cameron followed behind John as they made their way around the mall, navigating through the thick crowd of shoppers.

“What did your mom say?” Enquired Cameron as they walked.

“Cromartie’s coming onto us. Mom says we’re leaving.”

Spotting a narrow hallway leading to an exit, Cameron pulled on John’s sleeve.

“This way.” She said as she led him down the hall.

Before they could make it halfway through the empty corridor, the moment of peace was abruptly interrupted when Cameron heard a faint sound from behind – the click of a gun. Immediately, she dropped the bags that she was carrying.

“John! Get down!” Cameron urgently yelled as she shoved John to the ground, shielding him with her body. Before their bodies hit the floor, three silenced shots fired, the rounds burying themselves into the wall behind them.

Still covering John, Cameron whirled her head to face behind her. Behind them stood a woman of medium height, flowing black hair down to her shoulders, a look of calm superiority in her expression. The barrel of her gun remained pointed at Cameron, unwavering.

“Don’t move. I’ll deal with this.” Instructed Cameron, looking momentarily at John to make sure he was unharmed. John silently nodded in response. He was afraid, but he kept his expression firm.

Cameron briefly examined the silenced gun in the other woman’s grasp, and then turned her attention to the woman.

> Subject: Unknown cyborg.
> Threat: Indeterminate.


“If you’re going to get in the way of my mission, then I’ll have to deal with you as well.” The other woman said quietly, slowly lowering her weapon. Cameron watched, perplexed, as the gun briefly shimmered, then disappeared from the woman’s hand.

“My mission is to protect John Connor. I won’t let you hurt him.” Cameron replied coldly as she and John stood got to their feet.

Unfazed, the woman simply smiled. “Oh well, don’t say I didn’t warn you.” she said, as she raised her right hand, a glowing orb of lightning forming in her palm. The crackling sphere of light rapidly extended to form an elongated rifle.

> Identifying weapon: Phased plasma rifle – model unknown
> Re-evaluating threat: Extreme
> Probability of primary mission failure: 93.51%



“The name’s Alissa by the way, it was nice meeting you.”



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Miscellaneous Notes:

- Having never visited a pet store or owned any pets before, I don't know if "PUPPY SALE" signs are ever actually seen in reality.




ZeroOne
ZeroOne
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