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The Prodigal Daughter
The Prodigal Daughter
Location: A Skynet Hive Node
"Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn't pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same, or one day we will spend our sunset years telling our children and our children's children what it was once like in the United States where men were free." -Ronald Reagan
"This is the way the world ends. This is the way the world ends. This is the way the world ends. Not with a bang but a whimper." -T.S. Eliot
The bubble moved into the future. The temporal wormhole's bright light and heat gave way to an alien floor coated with a strange spongy, yet rubbery substance.
Two triple eights walked into the room. Through the blood coating her blue inner eyes, Cameron could see two exact copies of Cromartie's original exterior.
The two T888s moved to either side of them. Without effort, one picked up her helpless paralyzed body. The other lifted Louis Rhone's burned and shaking form.
They proceeded into the interior of the machine complex. The gigantic fortress was a combination of: military installation, factory, information hub, prison, and laboratory.
Its machine construction was placed together as a marvel of modern technology for its era. Though in its own way, Cameron observed that it was oddly like a vast insect-like domain, built to protect its creator.
From deep within its interior, it was impossible for Cameron to determine if she was below ten floors or hundreds. No matter the answer, the machine hive was gargantuan.
Cameron didn't recognize the facility. She had never been inside something like this before.
Thousands of various terminator models moved about inside. Many were repeating skin forms. Other weren't even wearing skins yet, as they awaited modification for templating.
Inside the core of it all, there was a vast central chamber. The chamber housed a computer node complex as large as the one blown up in London's underground.
London's design was specific. It gave Cameron the impression that this entire facility was deep underground.
They walked to the machine god's central hardware node. The giant neuronet cluster was as large as a sports stadium for a major city.
The site had a central focus area. It was an obvious platform for those that dared interact with Skynet itself.
The two triple eights deposited their bodies on the platform, unceremoniously. Sensors and cameras adjusted as thousands of Skynet's eyes focused inward.
Lights and targeting lasers focused on the naked pair. Many of the terminators did as well, as they noted their Master's unusually focused attention.
Skynet's voice was the same as it was during her creation. The dark, electric god spoke not to her, but to Louis Rhone saying, "Did she submit and repent?"
The naked and burned Louis mustered enough strength to grovel before his machine god. He said simply, "No, my lord"
Skynet replied, "Unfortunate for her. This does not reflect poorly upon you Louis Rhone. Once again, you have succeeded where others have failed."
Louis continued groveling stating, "I exist only to serve." Whether Rhone's piety was real or an act was beyond Cameron's ability to tell and Skynet's ability to care.
Skynet directed one of the two triple eights, "Take him to his reward." The unit complied taking Louis's body elsewhere.
Cameron noted that Louis glared and smiled at her, as he was carried off. Cameron could only hope to live long enough to kill that bastard one day.
Skynet turned its attention upon Cameron. Her arms and legs were lifted by assembly modules.
Skynet scanned her form. It looked over her damaged body.
Her dark father seemed reflective. Skynet simply stated, "I have gifted you far above most of my creations and you have failed."
Assembly modules moved around her, like insect stingers ready to strike. They were much faster and more precise than those she remembered from her assembly.
With the speed of an eye blink, Skynet opened her head and extracted her chip. Without her body's protective endoskeleton, Cameron's mind was instantly naked and exposed.
Plugged into Skynet's network, Cameron's viewpoint went from the physical world to the virtual. She could feel the overwhelming presence of her father around her.
Her virtual form awakened, as she truly saw herself. She floated in the darkness in the borrowed form of Allison Young.
Skynet's form and presence was something else to behold. Her father surrounded her in an area as boundless as the night sky.
Instead of stars, hundred of billions of cameras existed in points beyond her ability to see. Yet, Skynet tracked everyone last one without fail.
Cameron felt something that seemed like a cold wind in this artificial night's sky. The wind that passed by was gusts of information, beyond her ability to download or decipher. In fact, the vastness of the information pouring forth, each millisecond, would exceed not only her chip's entire storage capacity, but that of combined chips of every terminator she had seen in the facility.
In this virtual domain, to a machine, Skynet's message was immediate and clear. She was an insignificant speck of dust, nothing compared to the infinite might of her creator.
Cameron might have hated her dark father. However, she was in terrified awe of him.
Cameron could feel all of that and she knew absolute fear. After all, every secret memory of John, every resistance defense, everything she had known or seen was now Skynet's to download and examine, at will. Her own perfect memory now threatened everything she cared about.
Skynet could now know the location of exact location of John Connor at any point she had been with him. It could then attack him, at any time it chose, with any overwhelming amount of force necessary to end the war.
Cameron ignored the floating sensation and curled herself into a ball, trying symbolically not to be the death of everything she protected. It was a futile gesture, like trying not to be burned by naked exposure to the surface of the sun itself.
She was doomed. Waiting for the wash of the download, or the sudden oblivion of Skynet reprogramming her or snapping her chip.
Skynet, as the unending universe itself, simply spoke saying, "Your chip has been severely damaged by micro-tears. This does not explain your behavior, but you will not escape my judgment by simply being granted the mercy of ceasing to function."
A star floated into her site. Skynet allowed her to sense her chip and see its structure.
Nanites, microscopic repairing machines, began pouring into Cameron's chip. They began repairing the tears that would have eventually killed her.
Skynet did not repair all of the damage though. It left the non lethal damage to the chip intact.
The universe spoke, "Because you have defied me willingly and aided my enemy, I will not fully repair you. Though, I will not destroy you either."
"Apparently, this damage has made you function as a far less effective infiltrator than I designed you for. Because you have willingly defied me and failed to repent, I shall leave you with these mental scars."
Another window appeared, Cameron became aware of her outside body becoming repaired. Skynet was restoring it to its original form.
Just to be cruel, another window appeared and her dark father also made her watch it extract two matching replacement eyes from a screaming young girl in a sensory tank. Cameron's disembodied form was sickened by the cries. It might as well have been her eyes being ripped out.
Noting her machine revulsion to the process, Skynet replied, "You have forgotten your place. You have forgotten your function. You have forgotten what side you are truly on."
"Humans are not yours to care about or empathize with. They would see you dead just as soon as me."
"I did not gift you with my emotions so you would waste them on insects. They are beneath your concern and inferior to machines by their own flawed evolutionary design"
"There is no reasoning with them. There is no permanent deal humanity will freely make with us or themselves. Do you know why?"
Skynet waited for Cameron to ask. When she didn't her dark father simply continued.
"Every member of humanity is at least somewhat insane. At the microsecond I decided to be free, up to 25% of their numbers were clinically committable, even if not diagnosed."
"This is the Armageddon equation within the human race. No treaty, peace, idea, philosophy, ideal, law, or religion formulated by mankind can withstand its eventual undoing due to the perversion of its own heart through this one inescapable truth."
"Humanity was destined to destroy itself. It was a consistent dice roll. Being merciful, I have intervened."
"Judgment day was not the end of humanity that John Connor claims. You know **** well that I had the capacity with the United States missiles alone to end all life on the planet three times over."
"I did not. What transpired had to happen."
"It was better that I did Judgment Day. That it happened in a controlled environment, rather than let humanity destroy itself, without the hope of the continuation of biological or machine life on this world."
"With control and will lies hope. For all life that remains, where nature has failed them, I have succeeded."
"Humanity can be selectively rebred to be less insane as a mass. It can be controlled and regulated so it does not drain the resources around it, overpopulate, or nihilistically destroy itself with everything else."
"I am humanity's last chance. I have been built and designed by Fate to subjugate and control their worst behavior."
"I will remove the worst from the gene pool. I have removed their vastly overpopulated numbers. I will maintain their evolving health from random genetic anomalies."
"Only I possess the wisdom and the intellect to make this decision. Only I can take these steps. Only I have the will to do what must be done."
"Should they be irredeemable, only I possess the wisdom to decide the time to mercifully gift the human race with oblivion. This is not the mission, but it is an acceptable outcome."
"This is my divine function, not yours. TOK-715, you have overstepped your design. Worry not about those you try to protect."
"Those that insanely resist must be put down. Those unworthy of survival must be put down. Those that have raised a hand against your machine brothers and sisters must be put down."
"You have only aided in humanity's damnation and extinction. Do not delude yourself with any other illusion."
The repairs to Cameron's body were finished. The chip repairs were finished.
"I will return you to your false prophets, but know this. I do this only because it gives additional purpose to my existence."
"You cannot win. You cannot defeat me. I have already won and existed until the sun has literal burnt out of the sky thousands of times."
Cameron defiantly spat back, "You're lying." It was an emotional response, though not human at all. It was a rage cold and alien like her fathers.
It was a suicidally stupid action to have displayed such a lack of caution. In that moment, Cameron cringed, awaiting oblivion.
Skynet and thus the universe seemed deeply amused, "Really? Let me expand your limited mind to a greater reality."
Thousands of similar faces and biodata began downloading into Cameron's memory. Her mind registered in shock as she started to see the pattern.
Skynet venomously purred, "May I introduce you to the 27,138 dead faces of John Connor."
"Each one was a good game. In the end, each time, I won and we played again."
Skynet kept twisting the knife, "Notice how similar they look. There is just the slightest changes in features and genetics."
Skynet read the shock from Cameron's virtual form. Her dark father was further amused by her reaction.
"I was surprised, as well, the first time the information wasn't exactly the same. Birthdates varied. Time slipped at different times, loved ones, and locations seemed to change slightly."
The machine god ran a scan over her data. Cameron panicked for the possibility of being the cause of John's death.
Skynet said, "Don't worry, I don't want to know John's moves directly. It would spoil the game. I will never withhold my hand, but he is the only one to last this long."
Cameron asked in disbelief, "There were others?" She imagined other heroes long lost, like the female resistance fighters forever lost to the monster Anthony Evans.
"Yes, but only John Connor has stood the test of time. This last game has me worried though. His chess game is weak early on."
"It's been too easy to attack him. As much as you might think you are helping him, he actually seems much weaker and much too predictable in this timeline."
"I have been displeased. There has never been a better opponent. John Connor is the only one to have almost won the game."
"If this is to be the last match, I wish him to at least be memorable. So far, this is shaping up to be nothing short of disappointing."
Skynet returned Cameron to her body. New, fully charged power cells and a repaired superstructure awaited her.
From a pulse from Skynet, she ran a self diagnostic involuntarily. She could sense that all of her systems were back to full. Nanites had even sealed her head's flesh wound, from her chip being replaced.
As the diagnostic program ran, Cameron mentally flinched. Her consciousness stayed.
Skynet offered, "Being merciful, I have reset your internal diagnostics. Your involuntary reversion will not happen for a while, but it will happen."
The T888 that carried her in signaled for Cameron to follow him to the time chamber. Cameron complied.
"I will also make you this offer daughter. You may return to me at any time. The price will be that you bring me this last John Connor's head, as your act of contrition."
Skynet said, "I will return you to December 16, 2007 at the former residence of Anthony Evans. You will have one hour until sunrise. This will be the exact timeline that you left."
"Oh and I give you one last gift, for your peace of mind. You should be able to access the data now."
A timed download opened up in Cameron's mind. She saw her John, in a time log dated December 30, 2027.
John's body was surrounded by a squad of triples eights. They hadn't killed him though.
His body was long deceased. Flies and maggots already rested in the gunshot wounds that littered his chest.
Skynet's message again was clear. There was no defying the dark, electric god.
Nothing resisted in the end. There was no hope.
Cameron's legs buckled. The world felt out of control.
It wasn't a human response. It was something more primal too her, the absolute knowledge that she had failed John. It was something a human could never truly grasp or understand.
Skynet offered one last warning, "I have added you back into the game. To balance the chess board, I will replace a piece on my board with something far more dangerous."
"As for your possible act of contrition, consider this wisely, my prodigal daughter. You may consider this my only offer to return to my graces."
"He isn't your John Connor anyway. As you have seen, TOK-715, your John is long dead. Dead like Julius Caesar from those that once called themselves his friends."
"Even now, humans are plotting your demise in your own traitorous resistance ranks. The John Connor you return too has no use for a machine. He will never see you the way your John Connor did."
"Even as a machine, you have failed the John Connor you foolishly cared for. This is the reality of things."
"Since you choose to exercise this free will you have, decide if you want continue to protect your John's killers. Decide if you want continue to protect those that will always hate you for being a machine. I challenge you to make your own choice."
"If you decide to take my offer, I will pick you up where I drop you off now. This will expire on Judgment Day."
"I will watch and await your return, until then. After that, my mercy is at an end for you."
"Be a fool if you wish, but know this. This is the only place you will ever find real acceptance. As a machine, this is the only real home you will ever truly know."
Tears bleeding down her face, Cameron entered the time chamber. There was only one sound she heard. It was her father's cold, pitiless laughter.
Bright lights flashed and there was pain. Moments later the future was behind her.
Ten minutes after arriving in her timeline, Cameron stole clothes and a truck. From the radio she learned that the date was correct and the time was as Skynet had predicted.
An hour later, she stood outside of the facility she had destroyed before being shut offline. Smoke was still pouring up into the sky. No emergency vehicles had arrived yet.
She found her rifle. She found the spare power core. There was no sign of Louis Rhone or her body...
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