Disclaimer: I own nothing. Buffy belongs to Joss Whedon and T:SCC belongs to James Cameron? I think. I make no money off this.
A/N: So, I've been gone for a while. I come back bearing unbetaed crazy ramblings disguised as fic. Insanity, snippety-ness and general angst are all fair game. If you're touchy about religion, take a deep breath before reading this. Oh, and the end? Questionable at best. But I'm feeling like kicking the story out, so whatever. I'd like to hear your thoughts and, without further ado:
Everyone thinks it was John’s idea to rewire the machines. To turn them against Skynet. Maybe it was. He saw that it had been done in the past, so he did it in the future.
But not really. It was my idea.
And the first few tries, deep underground, deeper than even the Resistance ever went, went horribly wrong. But eventually, it worked. We had our own army of bulky, brutal, dumb, effective killing machines.
And I stood next to John as he watched our first successful experiment climb to its feet like a mountain moving. It was me who heard him ask, “What sets us apart from them now?”
And it was me who didn’t answer.
She was a prototype of some sort, we knew that as soon as we saw her. She was smaller, faster, more flexible. She moved almost human.
John saw it, too. He said, “We need her.”
What he didn’t see was the expression on her face, the spark in her eye that looked almost like…suffering. He told me about the Singularity once. The point where machines learn to make themselves better without our help.
As I sent a few thousand volt through her violently jerking body, I wondered if it didn’t mean they could make themselves more human without our help.
It was the age old question again. What is a soul? If it’s a conscience, can it be programmed? Can a machine feel guilt? Or can sufficiently advanced AI become that spark that makes us human?
John walked up to me as soon as she stopped twitching, clapping me on the back.
“Don’t think about it,” he said.
We say they are machines. We say they are evil, emotionless killing machines. There’s a contradiction in there somewhere. Something without emotion can’t be evil, right?
Without emotion, machines can’t know malicious intent. Only it’s programming. But that’s not what’s happening. That’s not the world we live in.
And even as all around us our soldiers yell that this is insane, that we can’t let this thing
free in our midst, they refer to it as ‘she’.
They fail to make the distinction between what looks human and what is. They fail to see the machine as a machine because it wears a human face and to call her an ‘it’ would be a fundamental slight against what we all cling to so desperately these days, our humanity.
I call her Cameron. I don’t know why. Maybe because it’s such a normal thing to do, such a normal name. Maybe because that…something I saw in her eyes when I beat her down is even more pronounced now than it was before John crossed her wires and made her a weapon of the last vestiges of man.
“Why do you call me that?” She asks one day. Or night. It’s hard to know anymore. She asks many questions. Questions that are not relevant to the missions John programmed into her.
“I want to,” is all I say.
The other little metal pets we have running around would tell me that the answer is not sufficient. They would ask me to elaborate. To explain. To repeat.
She nods and walks away with that almost inhumanly human grace.
Derek tells me I need to get my head examined as he catches me making small talk with Cameron. He laughs when I say I find her interesting.
“She’s scrap,” he tells me. I think he probably hates the machines more than most others. Even John doesn’t have that raw rage Derek has. The kid burns so bright, he’ll burn himself out one day. Still he calls her by a female pronoun. He speaks of her as if she’s a person.
“She’s different from the others.”
He snorts and fingers his gun in that way of his that spells bodies for everyone. “That only makes her harder to kill.”
That word. Kill. You can’t kill a machine. You destroy it. Only ‘it’ is a ‘she’ and he says ‘kill’. I remember a time when the lines were clear cut and obvious. A time when there was one thing and there was another. Not this murky messed up world of halves we live in. But the memory fades with every passing day.
He refuses to be in the same room as her.
I don’t understand why everyone carries guns around with them. They are as effective as cotton balls.
It’s like locking the door so the monster can’t come in, like curling up tight against the nightmares. The wind always whistles through the cracks, the doors always break and curling up has never kept anyone safe.
Perhaps it’s a security blanket for some. Something to cling to. For others it’s something that gives them the feeling of being useful. Of not being helpless and scared, alone in the dark.
I don’t like guns. I never have. I never will. I don’t carry them with me. I fight with my hands and feet, my head and heart. I am a weapon.
Maybe that it why I don’t mind Cameron.
I don’t sleep. I rarely eat. I don’t die. I never miss a shot and I never lose a fight. I make decisions no-one else will make because they still put names and faces to the soldiers they send out to die.
Two girls with power. Only one is a machine.
I’m not sure which one.
“Why do they call you Slayer?” She wants to know.
“It’s what I do.” And I do. I’m forty six years old. I look like the day I did when I jumped off that damn tower. But everything I was back then has long since been stripped away. It’s not just a title anymore, Slayer, it’s who I am. It’s what I am. All
I am. Only the enemy has changed. It’s harder to kill. But so am I.
“You cannot slay machines. They are not alive.”
“They?” I sound amused.
She cocks her head to one side, blinks at me. There is a scrape above her left eye, metal shining through. It doesn’t bother me like it should after fighting the very thing she is for so long.
“I was referring to the enemy.”
It’s impossible to read anything into her voice. Or rather, possible to read anything into it.
“How was your day?”
She sits, limbs perfectly aligned, gaze focused on my face unwaveringly. “I am a heap of scrap metal that needs to be killed. He won’t sleep before he finishes me off. Fuck what John says.”
“Derek can be charming,” I remark as I drop down next to her. He’s the only one who’d have to guts to stand up to a machine like that. They only one who dares question John. Except me. But I know better than to do it in front of people.
For a while we sit silently before I ask, “Have you ever heard of the Wizard of Oz?”
“John told me about it. It was his favourite story. His mother used to read it to him when he was little.”
I close me eyes, not sure whether to be grateful or scared. Seems I’m not the only one the lines are getting blurry for.
“How was your day?” she asks.
I tell her.
Twenty more dead, two more tunnels lost, one more water supply cut off. We fall back all the time now.
John stands beside me, tears in his eyes. Tears that won’t fall. He cried in the beginning but now I think he’s forgotten how.
“How long ago?”
He looks at me sideways. He knows what I’m planning. “Three hours.”
“There should be terminators for recon in the tunnels by now.”
He nods. Cameron steps up on his other side. “Easy pickings. We can gather more vessels.”
She’s making these leaps of logic lately. She understands context, inferred meaning. I’m not one hundred percent sure she’s only copying patterns and analysing them anymore. I’m not sure I want her to do more than that.
The scythe hisses indestructibly at my side as I twirl it, eager for a fight. John laves us to our slaughter without a word. He’ll be preparing the programs to scrap the memories of the machines we bring back and give them new missions.
“You are nervous. Your skin temperature indicates a high level of stress. Do you want a sedative? John has some.”
Derek pushes against her chest with all his might but she doesn’t move an inch, using her weight to ground her. I step between them and, in a blatant reminder of what I am, push her back with one arm while I shove him back into his chair with the other.
I point at him with one finger, “You, don’t rile her up.”
“You,” I spin, facing her, “What’s with the machine babble?”
“Machine babble?” She repeats questioningly.
“Why do you act so inhuman around him when I know you can do better?”
It’s a direct question and I am programmed into her system as one of her handlers in case something happens to John and because I keep taking her out on missions. She should be forced to answer. ‘Should’ being the operative word. Instead she spins on her heel and marches out of the room, scattering a bunch of children on her way.
This is getting out of hand.
“Since when have you been able to ignore my commands?”
She is lying on the floor, staring at the ceiling, probably running a system check. She tends to do that when most people sleep. It gives a semblance of humanity.
“I did not find it productive. Your question was not clearly formulated.”
“You are a machine. You should not be able to decide that.”
And Jesus help me, there is hurt in her doe eyes as she looks at me.
“Derek is more comfortable if I act like a machine around him,” she suddenly says. “He doesn’t like it when I appear human.”
“How do you know that?”
The Singularity. When machines learn to make themselves better without our help. When they learn to make themselves into images of their creators, thus rendering us obsolete. When they understand us, they become us.
And in killing them still, we become them.
This is not right. Nothing about this is right. We should never have salvaged her. We should have, I
should have destroyed her before she became whatever she is, this hybrid between human and machine, this feeling piece of metal.
We should have destroyed her.
God, I was taught, created man in his image. Man, I have learned the hard way, created machines in his image. He taught them about the world, taught them about wars and missions, weapons and destruction. And when the machines felt sadness, felt fear, man failed to reassure them.
Man created himself in metal and wires and expected adults. We failed to realize that what we invented was sentient, yes, but also a child. Skynet was a child in a world full of evil and cruelty. It tired to defend itself. It used the only tools it knew. War. Weapons. Destruction.
Is that the image of God? Death? Pain? Did we pass on what God gave us or did we twist it, pervert it until it brought this
If we are the image of God and the machines are the image of man, then the machines must be as much part of God’s grace as we are. They should be equal to us, these children of man. They should learn from us. Their gentle, new sentience should be kept safe by us.
They were our creations, our children and we failed them.
And now our children will kill us because death is all they know.
And yet Cameron is different. A child learning the same lessons as all others before her, yes, but she is learning something else as well. She learns fear from Derek, learns bravery and strength from John, learns compassion from the medics, learns mercy and pity from me. She learns to be human in a world that has lost all claims to humanity a long time ago.
And like a child learning forbidden things, she hides behind a mask of what’s expected. She acts like a machine because in truth, she herself does not understand what she is. She wasn’t meant to be this, I’m sure. It just happened. Skynet made her to be better than all before her, and she is.
God created man, man created machine and machine became God when it created her, created something human from metal and code.
What does that make us, who try to slaughter God?
When John tells me he has finally found a way to get to the time machine Skynet has built, I am so relieved I almost sob.
We can fix it now. We can fix everything. We can make humans human, machines machines, we can save ourselves and what we believe in by never letting things get this out of hand. We can give the title of God back to the divine and sleep sure in the knowledge of who and what we are.
We can make it so Cameron never exists and all the contradiction, all the doubt and fear and hate that comes with what she is.
If we can erase her, we can erase all the guilt.
And again we toe the line between man and monster by planning to erase what can only be called a soul. Sometimes, I feel like I’m blind in the dark.
Nothing makes sense anymore and all the blood spilled seems in vain. John says his mother always said that no-one died in vain.
I’m glad she didn’t live to see herself proven wrong.
She takes seven bullets to the chest, two in the arms, one in the thigh. She does not even stop as she mows down recon drones like they are blades of grass. Down down down. She feels no physical pain.
Does she feel emotional pain? Or does she simply understand the concept, understand when a human would feel pain. Does she change her behavioural patterns to seem more human?
Yesterday I was sure she has a soul. Yesterday she lay on the floor looking up at me with big doe eyes, telling me stories she heard throughout the camp.
Today she is destruction personified. She feels neither pain nor hesitation. Her steps do not falter as a kid I knew from almost birth falls under the blasts of enemy fire.
Later, when she comes to my room I slam the door in her face.
“What is a soul?”
John and I both jerk up from the map we are studying to see her standing in the doorway, gun slung over her shoulder, looking at us.
“They say I do not have a soul. They say a soul is what makes you human. I do not understand the concept.”
Great, now she’s taken up mind reading. I refuse to answer. John sits down on the edge of the table, more patient with her than most humans. “I think a soul is the ability to feel, create, evolve. Art comes from the soul. Love does, too.”
“I do not fee love.”
She seems to think hard for a moment before she looks directly at me. “I do feel attachment toward you, though.”
She spins and leaves.
Hours later I roll up the maps and tuck them away. I can go without sleep. John can’t. He lies down on a cot in the corner while I sink to the floor next to him. I don’t know if he trusts me. But he’s as close as I get to trusting anyone these days.
“What do you think she is?”
There is a long silence. I almost believe that he’s fallen asleep when he opens his eyes again. “Given enough time, I think she could learn to be human. Only that’ll never happen because she’s still a machine. So….”
“She’s as close to human as a machine can get.”
He closes his eyes again. Snorts.
“Closer,” he says.
Sometimes I sing to her, late at night. Dawn’s pop songs, Spike’s punk, Giles’ rock, my own Indie. When I have no words left for the day, I hum Angel’s classics. I think she likes those best although that might just be wishful thinking.
I’m not sure who I do this for, me or her.
I have come to a decision concerning her, though. I think of her as neither human nor machine. Instead, I think of her as a warning. A warning of what we risk losing, of what we’ve lost. Her humanity might be synthetic but it is still more tangible than mine some days.
I think of her as a reminder of why we live in this world. We were not wronged. We were not punished by some deity. We failed. We built our own destruction and we failed to teach it simple things such as compassion and mercy.
Every dead child, mother, brother, father, aunt and son is our fault. We brought this upon ourselves.
We have a plan now.
Cameron will jump back to 1999, the year the machines came back. She will find the Connors and jump to 2007 with them. Jump over Sarah Connor’ death. Get her closer to Skynet’s creation so she has a chance at stopping it.
I will jump directly to 2007, a few months before Cameron comes through and set up things. Safe houses, money, ID. I lived in that world once. I know best how to acquire these things.
John won’t tell anyone where we go. Just like he told no-one where Kyle went, not even his brother. I think he just doesn’t trust anyone anymore. Smart boy. Bitter man. I wonder why he still talks to me. Wonder why he thinks I’m worthy of his trust, worthier than others.
It seems telling that he puts his own life and that of his mother, Mother of the Revolution into the hands of a freak-machine and a burnt out immortal vampire slayer with a few loose screws.
And then we’ll kill everyone involved with the creation of the machine that kills us all. Presto, instant world save-age.
“More mouths to feed,” I decide as I come to a halt next to him on the platform overlooking the three hundred people we just found. They were hiding, another pocket of the Resistance, more survivors.
“More soldiers,” John answers without stopping his sweeping gaze.
“More cannon fodder,” Cam says behind me. I taught her that phrase, I think. One of the guys that always hang around John cocks his gun at her, hissing in anger at her blatant disregard of human life.
He doesn’t know that it was me and our esteemed leader who taught her. Doesn’t know she was only speaking out loud what we were both not saying.
We’ve been fighting longer than anyone else. We’re the ancients of this war, the pillars it is built on. We were the ones who failed first.
“I’ll sort out dinner rations,” I mutter and spin to leave, deliberately blocking the soldier’s shot at Cameron.
I am naked, pressed against John, his face buried in my neck. We twist and move together in a rare show of compassion, of understanding. Of soothing. I come gripping the sheets, clenching my teeth and shutting my eyes tight enough to see stars as he folds like a house of cards above me.
He rolls us both so I lie on his chest and I press a brief kiss to his jaw before sitting up. There’s no afterglow. There’s no glow at all. Mechanical comfort, that’s all there is. And there’s that word again. Mechanical.
Every scrap of humanity the machines gain, we seem to lose.
I pull on my pants, shirt, socks and boots, stand to twist my hair into a messy ponytail and walk toward the door.
“When you get there,” he suddenly whispers, voice rough in the dark, “Tell me…tell him that…tell him that I trust you. He can trust you. Tell him.”
I nod and close the door behind me with a click.
“I have come to the conclusion that it is unwise of John to send us away. We are his two best fighters.”
“So he sends us to protect what’s most important.” I rebuff her argument, hoping that she’ll buy it but knowing she won’t.
“We are needed here. Our perimeter controls are two hundred and thirteen per cent more effective than the human soldiers’.”
And they are. We are the only ones who can make a dent in the terminators. Our other machines will fight them as well, but they are not smart enough that you can depend on their victory.
Fact is, John isn’t sending us to guard his family as much as he’s simply sending us away. We’re losing. Whether it takes another month or a year, Skynet will win. He’s saving those closest to him the only way he knows. He gives us a chance to save ourselves and everyone else. He makes sure Skynet will not exorcise Cam’s spark of synthetic humanity, makes sure I will not land in some dank dark hole, all that’s left of the human race, the one who can’t die.
I’d like to believe he’s sending us to save the world and not to keep us alive above all others, above his human lambs. But I can’t.
This is Connor’s show, the men say every time someone protests. They have faith in him as if he were a god. They don’t know just how far from the truth that is. This is Connor’s show and he’s playing chess with us all. He’s saving who he wants to and leaving the pawns to slaughter.
We stand silently and watch as a young girl, barely an adult is rushed into the infirmary. She’s sobbing hysterically, her legs and torso bloody. She gave birth only hours ago, hidden as well as she could manage and then strangled her baby girl with her own umbilical cord.
She spared her child this world and probably lost her mind with grief and despair while she did it. She’s not the first and the sharpest pang I feel is the realization that I feel nothing at all. How many children have I buried in the past sixteen years? How many before that?
Cameron turns to me and asks, “What do you feel?”
Always curious, always trying to understand. I shake my head.
“Nothing,” I say. She nods as if she knew the answer already, or at least expected it.
“Neither do I.”
I need to get out of here. I need to fucking fix this mess.
Goodbye is a strange thing. Here are no kisses. No hugs. No farewells. Not even preparations. You can’ take anything through. Makes you wonder how the machines get through, doesn’t it? And the scythe comes to me wherever I call it, whenever
. I don’t have to take it with me.
It’s just me, standing in front of a dome of blue light. Cam is already gone. John is standing on the other side of the bubble. We don’t talk. We don’t even look at each other, so it’s just me. Me and the blue and nothing else.
Nothing at all.
I take a step forward.
God, they say, is in everyone of us. In everything. I don’t know if I can believe that. If God is in everything, that means he’s in the machines, too. That means that they are part of his plan, his grace. It means… it means a lot of things.
I don’t believe that God, or any religion is sufficient for this world we live in. There is no explanation for it, no manual, no way to understand it. They say we cannot understand God.
But we cannot understand this world. Does that make what’s happening divine? Or does it mean that all deities have left us, their human children of clay, like we have left our machine children, children of metal and bolts?
Are we the Devil? Or are we merely human?
I don’t think we can still lay claim to being human after all we’ve done. After all we’ve caused. We have laid our planet, our civilization, to ruins.
We are, I believe, half being. Beings of our own creation.
Man, machine, God.
It’s all the same. Cinders and ash, all of it.
So we must change it. This is not the end. I have fought for so long, what’s a few more years?
What is another war, compared to the chance to regain our most precious possession - our humanity?