Chapter 5: The Cheshire Gambit
September 16, 1998
“So this is your idea?” Burke asked, kneeling down as he fastened the metalwork to the floor. It was bolted through the floorboards, and he made sure that he didn’t touch any pipes or electrical work. After he was done, Burke placed carpeting over it, making sure that it was flush against the walls and that the grid wasn’t easily noticeable. Across the hallway, Xander was pulling large industrial-strength power cables through a couple of holes that had been cut through the floorboards, the other end already connected to the metal.
Xander looked over at the demon, still tugging at the cables. “We can’t keep running. And Tim and his dad want proof. They aren’t going to up and disappear, leaving everything they know behind, just because of our word. This is the only way.”
Burke just grunted as he stood up, looking at the work that they had just finished. It had taken some time; they had had to use a good amount of cash to rent the right place. It was in the bad and deserted area of town, but had good wiring that would let them pull enough from the city’s power grid for their purposes. Also, the neighboring building had a number of dog owners; the dogs being rather large and loud enough to be heard from the room that they were in. Thin walls, but it was good that there was nobody else on their floor. Not to mention that the landlord had been suitably nonchalant about not looking too closely at Xander’s identification with regards to renting the place.
“You think about Faith’s offer?” Burke asked, stopping and looking at his commanding officer. While they could use the help, he knew that it was too close to involving Xander’s old circle of friends. He wondered if Xander was getting nostalgic, or was specifically trying to avoid that by avoiding them.
Xander seemingly didn’t hear as he went about his business. He made sure that the power cables weren’t stuck on anything, and had enough slack in the hall to be able to be seated firmly in the makeshift ports that he had attached to the main wiring in bedroom. He ran them through a couple of holes that he had cut into the main bedroom.
“L.T.,” Burke stated sharply, trying to get his attention.
Snapping his head around, Xander looked at the demon. “I thought about it.”
“And?” Burke pressed.
Xander just narrowed his eyes. “And I don’t have to explain my decisions to you, Sergeant.”
Burke didn’t say anything. While they were close friends, they were still in the Resistance. That meant military, even if it was technically over a decade before the Resistance would even exist. And rank did have its privileges. “Yes, sir. But, I would remind the lieutenant, that we aren’t exactly flush with recruits right now. Sir.”
Xander sighed. “I know. But, it’s bad for a number of reasons.”
“Like?” Burke returned to his work, though he cocked an eye at him.
Shrugging, Xander stopped feeding the cables into the bedroom. “She’s too close to the Council and Buffy and the others. Don’t know how much I can trust her. And I have no idea what happens to her or what actions she takes between now and Judgment Day. Things could change if we involve her and she changes what she does, or if she dies early. There are other end of the world scenarios that could have played out between then and now.”
Burke just looked at him. “Way I see it, things can’t get much worse. We’re already trying to change things as it is, it might make things better. Hard not to.”
Xander looked back. “I’ll take that under advisement.”
“I guess we’re done, then.” Burke wasn’t that satisfied, but it would have to do for the moment. He moved farther into the apartment, taking a seat on a threadbare couch that they had moved in there. There wasn’t much furniture in there, only the bare necessities for their purposes.
“Not yet,” Xander said, walking over and taking a seat on an upturned wooden cable spool in the middle of the main room. “We still need to bait the hook.”
Burke frowned. He wasn’t necessarily a fan of the plan, not so much because it was bad, but it was an awfully big risk. Not just in regards to the metal that they were bringing down on their heads, but that hacking into the police database was too close to official attention for his tastes. Not to mention that it was about a case that they were actually involved with, no that the cops were aware of that fact. Yet.
Still the machines were nothing if not thorough and would run down any clue it came across. Even planted ones. They were predictable like that, utterly ruthless and methodical to the last.
October 23, 2026
“I don’t like this,” Xander said, leaning against a workbench. It was warm and cramped, the room filled with boxes and shelves of parts. Some of them were scavenged materials from old computers, from PC’s to workstations, and others were bits from various terminators that had been destroyed over the years. Random servos and sensors lay mixed in with joints and hydraulics. It was Connor’s personal laboratory, and next to nobody had been in there. Some would be shocked at what they would find in there he imagined. “Sir.”
John looked up at him, turning off the table mounted magnifying glass that he had been looking through. He blinked a couple of times to clear his vision and then smiled grimly. “I know, but it’s been working out so far. The tests look good. The programming seems to be holding, and it looks like I’ve identified all of the memory and command sectors. Scrubbing should be complete.”
Xander shrugged, not saying anything. That wasn’t all he was talking about.
“They’re machines, efficient, even elegant in their own ways,” John continued, rubbing his forehead free of sweat. He leaned back in his chair, crossing his arms over his chest. “Predictable. They’re thorough and ruthless, but not that smart. You blank the programming, insert your own, and they do what you want.”
“I know, they follow routine. Sight, sound, I know their tracking systems. And…” Xander sighed, looking away. He had gotten pretty good at anticipating what the various terminators would do in any given situation. His time in the field had made him as much of an expert as anyone regarding the behavior of terminators. Of course, what Connor was doing was something else altogether. Not to mention that he knew that terminators were learning new tricks. From some disturbing new teachers.
John looked into the soldier’s eyes. He could tell that Xander was tired, dark bags beneath easily conveying just how tired he was. It was more than the fight, he knew that. Whatever had happened during Xander’s imprisonment, it had been worse than even Century. Xander had been debriefed, but he knew that the young man hadn’t disclosed absolutely everything that had happened. “This is the way it needs to be. We both know that.”
“Because it’s happened before, and therefore it needs to happen now. Again.” Xander knew what the Resistance leader was talking about. It was why John Connor was who he was. “I’ve never been one to stand by and let destiny just happen.”
The edges of John’s lips twisted in a slight curl. He knew the feeling. “I know. But, sometimes things just happen, and we can’t even control it. And sometimes we have to just let things happen. Cause destiny isn’t always out to get us.”
Reaching in, John pulled out the chip he had been examining from its base and put it on the table. Both men examined it carefully, the light of a single bare bulb glinting off of its smooth metal surface. A part of him wanted to drop it to the floor and slam his boot heel on it, but that wouldn’t solve anything. He knew that he would have to do it eventually, or the metal sent back to the past would never exist.
“Will you back me on this?” John asked.
Xander just looked at him blankly. “Do you really need to ask?”
“Thanks,” John said, smiling briefly. He knew that it would be an unpopular decision. Ashdown wasn’t the only one to disagree with his methods or attitudes, but he was still the man on the ground, and had the authority. He knew that a number of his own men would be less than thrilled with learning that he was planning on reprogramming the terminators for their own use. It would mean that the dogs would have to be moved to only the outer perimeter, not to mention the simple fact that there would be terminators in the base among them.
Watching as John turned back to his work, Xander headed to the door, undoing the heavy latch and preparing to step out.
“Do you trust me?” John asked, staring at the man’s back. Xander had changed after he had been taken prisoner. It had been a couple of years, but he knew that Xander wouldn’t be going back to what he was before, as hard as that had been. They had a bond, closer than he had towards most of his other men. It wasn’t just their shared time in Century, there were others in the Resistance that had been there at the same time. It was that Xander knew the truth, and with that, he believed with total faith.
Xander stopped in the middle of the hatchway, not looking back. “Have you ever had to ask?”
John didn’t respond for a moment. “No.”
Xander didn’t bother to say anything else.
“Find Allison for me,” John said, as he leaned towards a shelf and pulled out a box of wires and equipment.
Xander just turned his head to his shoulder, looking over it. “Yes, sir.”
September 18, 1998
The machine didn’t react as it scanned the updated file to the Calax coltan theft case that the local police department was working. It had neither hope nor worry about the abilities of the local detectives, simply content to monitor the situation in case their efforts proved fruitful. While the police had been unable to determine with certainty that the suspects were guilty, the subjects identified in the file were considered persons of interest. If they had not been the ones to steal the coltan, they would likely know who it had been. At least, that had been the detectives’ working theory. As of yet, the police had not been able to get the suspects to give themselves away.
The terminator had files regarding detective work and the methodology that the police utilized to solve crimes. There were regulations that hindered their efforts to fulfill their purpose, regulations that did not apply to itself.
Standing up, the terminator walked to the closet and opened it up. Bending down, it unzipped a duffle bag and pulled out a handgun, securing it behind its back.
“How can you be so sure about this?” Burke asked, looking across the mouth of the hallway to where Xander was sitting. The drum-fed shotgun was lying on the ground next to him, just in case the trap that they had set didn’t work. He idly wondered how long they would wait, if the terminator would even fall for the trap. They couldn’t stay there forever.
He was just glad that nothing had happened to the Frakes family during the whole setup, though they had made it clear that the two civilians should to whatever they could to always be around other people, as well as to always be aware of undue attention. Still, such precautions would be taxing before long, and that led people to making mistakes.
Xander said nothing for a moment, staring at the window at the far end of the apartment. It was getting near sunset, and he wondered what his friends were doing. He tapped the remote control against his leg. “Let’s just say that they’re dependable.”
Burke was about to say something more, but he heard dogs beginning to bark after a car engine had stopped. The sound of the dogs was easily able to be heard through the thin walls of the building. He picked up his shotgun, taking another look towards the front door. It may be nothing, but they couldn’t be too careful. You never could be with the machine.
Henley scratched the short hairs that were growing out of his chin. It had been a long day, and he was starting to feel it. His partner was off running down a lead on another case, their active caseload getting backed up because of the currently still unsolved Calax case. It had been over a week and there had been yet to be any more leads on the coltan theft. He had questioned everyone that he could think of, and had come up with nothing. Not even hitting the local fences had brought up much; it wasn’t likely that the thieves had a particular usage for so much coltan. Then again, it could be industrial espionage, but that idea hadn’t borne much fruit either.
Yawning, he noticed that he had just received an e-mail, opening it up and glancing at the sender. It was from his partner’s friend in the CID. Evidently there had been no recent thefts of depleted uranium shells, and the cases that there had been had all been solved with all ammunition recovered. It may mean nothing in regards to his case, but he still felt that there was a link.
The police detective pulled up the central database, planning on updating the open case file when he frowned. The file had already been updated, with the identities of potential subjects as well as an address. He knew that he hadn’t put it in there, and there was no way that Preston would have without telling him. Looking at the timestamp, it had only been in the last couple of days.
Frowning even deeper, Henley took another look at the address and the subjects in question, weighing his options.
“Damn it,” the police detective muttered, reaching over and picking up a piece of scrap paper. He copied it down, staring at it. It didn’t take long, and he stood up, making his decision. He pulled his coat from his chair back and headed out of the station, jamming his hand into his pants pocket for his key ring.
The terminator reached the right door, its sensors actively searching for anything out of the ordinary as it verified the number on the door. Its memory banks contained details on the common human responses to confrontation, the “fight or flight” response that usually resulted in flight in its programmed experience.
Making sure that it was not being observed, the cyborg reached behind its back and pulled out a handgun, hiding it against its leg. Raising its other hand, the machine knocked on the door.
Keeping himself from flinching, Xander pulled a rope, the force moving upwards through a pulley screwed into the roof and down to the window handle that it was attached to. The window rose with an audible screech as if it hadn’t been greased in years. Flakes of rust and paint floated down as a result, the window inching upwards.
Burke readied himself as Xander opened the window. It wasn’t exactly an escape, even though the window led to the fire escape. It wasn’t more than a second before a large figure barreled through the door. The sound of the door opening was more than loud enough to be picked up by the sensitive hearing of the trip-eight. It had been intended that way.
Firing his shotgun while making sure that he was behind cover, Burke heard as the heavy slugs ripped into metal, sparks audibly created as the gunfire hit its target. It slowed the terminator down some and distracted its own fire, which was all it was intended to do. At the same time as he fired, Burke heard the response of Xander tripping the switch. The crack of electricity sounded, and even from around the corner he could see the sparks of lightning that were generated as the terminator was hit with tens of thousands of volts of electricity.
Xander shut the trap down quickly, ensuring that it was safe before moving closer. He made sure that the terminator had fallen, trusting that Burke would watch his back. This was the dangerous part of things, the narrow hallway would allow for no escape if the terminator was faking, or managed to recover.
“Two minutes,” Burke said as he checked his stopwatch; his partner making his way down the hall toward the fallen machine.
Not bothering to respond, Xander pulled a knife from his pocket, flipping out a wickedly sharp and serrated blade. He knelt at the head of the machine, savagely cutting through the wavy salt and pepper hair and scalp. Pulling the patch of scalp off, Xander exposed a small circular metal hatch, coated with blood.
Burke looked on carefully, his gun aimed at the fallen terminator. Warily checking his watch again, Burke spoke, “70 seconds.”
Xander worked as quickly and calmly as he could. Dropping the knife, he pulled a screwdriver from his belt, jabbing it into the gap between the gleaming metal skull of the endoskeleton and the hatch. Pushing down on the plastic handle, he popped the cap, exposing the main CPU. Reaching into the port, Xander pulled the main processor chip, exhaling audibly as he did so.
“We’re good,” he said, standing up and pocketing the neural net processor. Looking down at the now deactivated terminator, Xander noted that the face of the trip-eight was familiar to him. He remembered that a unit of the same series had gone rogue and had taken out a number of Resistance soldiers before being destroyed by Cameron.
“We should go.” Burke knew that even in that neighborhood, the multiple shotgun blasts was sure to attract attention.
Xander nodded, picking up his knife and wiping it clean on his pants leg. He picked up his screwdriver as well, sticking it through his belt. “Roll up the body. I’ll do a final check.”
Packing up the rest of their gear in a duffle bag, Xander heard as Burke wrapped the terminator in a long piece of canvas, roping it up to ensure that nobody would be able to tell what it was easily.
“At least we have proof for Frakes,” Burke noted, as he hefted the machine over his shoulder. He waited a few moments as Xander finished up, pulling a coat on and picking up the duffle bag. He let Xander go first, to ensure that the cost was clear before letting Burke out of the apartment.
“It’s clear,” Xander said, looking both ways through the hall. He stepped to the side to let Burke through, the tall demon having to duck through the doorway to make it through with his bulky package.
Xander was about to turn around and follow Burke to the back staircase, when a thickly mustached man came around the corner on the other side. He could see the shiny badge that was attached to the man’s belt.
“What the…” the police detective said, staring at the sight of a large demonic looking figure with gleaming red eyes carrying what could only be a body over its shoulder. He was shocked frozen for a moment, unmoving at the sight. He barely even saw the human that was there too.
“Go!” Xander broke the silence, pushing Burke down the hall as he reached behind his back and under his coat. He pulled out his sidearm and aimed down the hall.
The movement broke the detective out of his reverie and he went for his own weapon. It was too late though, before he could get to it he had to leap to the side to avoid the pair of shots that the human sent his way.
Xander made sure that he missed, not wanting to kill a cop for simply stumbling along the wrong scene. He had to have been in the area prior, given the response time. It was just bad luck all around.
He fired another couple of shots, dropping the duffle bag and rushing towards the cop. Xander reached him quickly, lashing out with a foot to kick the gun out of the police officer’s hand. Leaning down, he followed up with a fast strike about the face with the butt of his pistol.
Henley grunted heavily as he was struck in the face, a gash opening up at his cheekbone. He blinked in response, trying to clear his head as he looked up at the man that was standing over him. The detective could make out short brown hair and a Caucasian face, but the blow had made his vision blurred. He tried to speak, “pol-!”
Xander hit him across the face again, knocking the cop out. Looking around quickly, he noticed that nobody else had come up. Not wanting to pass up the opportunity, Xander quickly frisked the man, pulling out his wallet and a piece of folded up paper. Flipping the wallet open, he noted that detective’s name and address, committing them to memory. He opened up the piece of paper as well, noting that it was their exact address, down to the apartment number.
Frowning, Xander thought about it. It didn’t make much sense for the detective to have had the address on him. He must have been the detective on the case that he had had Burke tamper with, and must have looked up the file after it had been altered. It was the only reasonable explanation.
Shaking his head, Xander dropped both and wiped his gun off on the man’s shirt. The movement caused him to groan, but at least he was still alive. “Sorry man, but it could be worse.”
Without waiting for a response, Xander turned and rushed down the hallway the way that he had come, not sparing a look back at the fallen detective.
Burke laid the terminator down on the floor of the main room of their apartment, pulling off the canvas and stuffing it under the robot’s body so as not to let the still seeping wounds stain the carpet. Curious, their small dog padded over and started barking at the odd sight and smell.
Xander rolled his eyes and picked the dog up, carrying him to his bedroom. Placing the dog gently onto the floor, he stepped out and closed the door, ensuring that it would stay in the room. Luckily the dog stopped barking. He still needed to come up with a name for the thing.
“Hmm,” Burke said, as he started to examine the body. He pulled out a wallet and key ring, noting the garish plastic toggle on it. “Sunnydale Motor Inn. Room number 23.”
The demon placed it on the coffee table and flipped through the wallet. “Looks like he was posing as a FBI agent too. Charles Carmichael. Pretty good copy too.”
Xander walked over to the coffee table and placed the terminator’s CPU next to the keys. “I’ll check out his place tomorrow. See if there’s anything else of use.”
Burke nodded, looking over the rest of the body. Pulling up some bits of clothes, he noted the healing evidence of previous damage. It matched up with the wounds that Xander had inflicted on Tim’s Bronze attacker.
“I don’t suppose you know the name of the detective that was investigating the coltan theft,” Xander asked as he pulled out his phone.
Burke glanced at him. “A detective Henley. That the guy that was there?”
“Yup,” Xander said.
Burke frowned, looking rather fierce. “He may be a problem.”
Xander shrugged, and turned around, dialing on his phone. It didn’t take long before it was picked up. “Tim. It’s me.”
He waited for the boy to respond with his name, thus verifying his identity, before speaking again. “I know you guys weren’t totally persuaded, so I found some more evidence. There’s an abandoned warehouse off of Union, sign says Randall Machine Parts. Be there with your father at 5:30 tomorrow afternoon. I’ll have all the evidence you need then.”
“What the hell happened to you?” Preston said, as he walked up to his partner. He noticed the butterfly bandages on the other detective’s face, holding together a cut on the man’s cheek, though the man’s expression was worse than the injury itself.
A good chunk of the hallway had been roped off with police tape, both at the apartment as well as further down where a few bullet holes were evident in the cheap wallpaper of the apartment building’s walls.
“Bastard took a shot at me,” Henley said, his face throbbing with pain. Technically the medics had advised that he go in for an examination to check for a concussion, but he had waved them off. He wanted to be there as the techs combed the apartment.
“The IT guys checked as good as they could.” Preston turned and looked through the apartment door, noticing the bloodstains and bullet holes in the front hallway. “They couldn’t trace it back, and the only reason that there’s any reason to believe that it’s been tampered with is because we know that it’s been tampered with. The person responsible is a pro.”
Henley just rubbed at his chin, feeling a shot of pain cross his face yet again. The guy was a pro, which didn’t make him feel any better. Still, he wondered why he had been left alive. A moment of conscience on the part of the guy that had shot at him, perhaps? It didn’t seem likely though, given how easily those shots had come towards his direction. And the body.
The police detectives just watched as the crime scene units dug into the carpeting, cutting pieces of it and placing into plastics baggies. A few others were in the hall with them as they dug into the walls to get at bullet fragments.
Henley noted as a young tech pulled a particularly large piece of metal out of the inner wall of the apartment, slipping it into a plastic bag. “Wait a second, let me see that.”
The tech walked over and passed the sample to the detective.
“Looks like the others,” Henley said, holding it up to the light of ceiling-mounted fluorescent tubes. “Why use this type of ammo? Can’t be the easiest to get a hold of. Must want to punch through something pretty damn tough.”
Preston shrugged, and took the evidence to look at as well. “Hasn’t been an issue for them so far. Two right? That’s what you said?”
“Yeah, the bigger one carrying a body.” Henley hadn’t bothered to mention that the bigger one had looked like a monster. He still didn’t have an explanation, despite whatever rumors were going around the department about the odd occurrences in Sunnydale. He chalked it up to the hits to the head he had gotten, but that part of his memory was actually rather clear.
“I guess we’ll have to wait to have the blood run.” Preston gave the bag back to the technician, turning to his partner once again. “Run it through the databases. Hopefully we’ll get a hit on the DNA. Or maybe there might be some useable prints.”
Henley just frowned. “I wouldn’t want to bet on that.”
Storing the body for a day had been a little more trouble than they had originally planned on. The terminators were made to be extremely similar to humans, and given the deactivation of its programming, the life-sustaining subroutines had turned off as well. Which meant that the artificial skin and blood would start to decay and smell.
Xander had had to resort to buying numerous bags of ice and dumping the body into the tub, keeping the body cold until they needed it. It was a workable solution, though it had been an exhaustive one, taking up a good number of hours into the evening to purchase enough ice. He hadn’t gotten that much sleep during the night, and was still tired.
Grasping the cheap motel key ring in his hand, Xander walked the outer hallway of the motel looking for the right room.
“What are you doing here?” a voice from behind called out.
Turning around, his hand reaching for his back, he looked for the source of the outburst. Xander let his arm fall as he noted who it was. It was probably a good thing that it wasn’t an enemy, and it could actually be worse, but not by much. “Faith.”
She was holding a mesh bag of what looked to be laundry. Evidently she wasn’t big on hampers, or folding for that matter. Dressed in jeans and a tight white t-shirt, the Slayer looked as she always did, hot and with a chip on her shoulder.
“Yeah, so what are you doing here?” Faith asked again, holding the bag by her side, despite the readily apparent freshly laundered undergarments in the bag.
Xander tightened his grip on the key in his hand. It was just bad luck; just because he knew the future didn’t mean that it was all predestined. It had to be luck. “Running down a lead. How are things with you?”
Faith smiled slightly. “The same. Vampires. Demons. Had some zombies too even. Nothing we can’t handle.”
Shifting in place, Xander just looked at her. It was odd that the Slayer would be living in a motel room in that area of town, but that wasn’t exactly his concern. “Okay. Well, good talk.”
Turning around, Xander walked down the hall once again, looking for the room. He could hear that Faith was following him, but he ignored it. It didn’t take him long to find the right unit. He didn’t go for the door though. Without looking over his shoulder, he spoke, “Is there a reason you’re following me?”
“Curiosity?” Faith said, as innocently as possible.
Xander didn’t need to see her to feel the sarcastic smile on her face. “Yeah well, that’s not a healthy trait. You should probably head on home.”
“I thought you were looking for help,” Faith asked, crossing her arms over her chest.
Xander shook his head and reached out with the key, unlocking the door. “Looking and finding are two different things. You should go home before you get yourself killed.”
He slipped inside and made to close the door behind him, but Faith held it in place. He looked her in the eye and saw the rather adamant expression on her face. It wasn’t like he could close the door on her anyway, what with her superpowers and all. “Fine. Just be quiet.”
Faith smirked in triumph as he let her in, closing the door behind her. She looked around the room, noting how tidy it was. Even tidier than the less than stellar job that the maid would do. She dropped her laundry bag on the floor next to the door. “Whose place is this?”
“Nobody that’s coming back,” Xander said, examining the room as well. He looked at the bed, and pulled the mattress up, pushing it back off of the frame. A host of large weapons, including automatic rifles and a shotgun lay carefully placed on the spring box.
“Whoa,” Faith exclaimed as she came up next to him, her eyes wide at the small, but impressive arsenal. “What’s that about?”
Xander twisted his neck and caught her eye. Burke was right; they were trying to change things. They were changing things, and whatever future they were making, anything would be better than the holocaust that was coming. “Me and Burke slagged a trip-eight yesterday. He had a key on him to this motel room. From the damage that it sustained, it was the same one that had targeted Tim for termination.”
“No shit?” Faith said, impressed at the blasé attitude that Xander was displaying regarding the revelation that he had destroyed a robot killer from the future. Of course, Xander had likely done that numerous times in the future.
“Yeah,” Xander smiled grimly. “Well, we got lucky. If we hadn’t been able to zero out its target, it would have been a hell of a lot harder.”
“So what now?” Faith asked, about to reach for one of the rifles. She stopped as Xander grabbed her wrist. She didn’t like being touched, unless she was doing the touching, but kept herself from pulling her arm away.
“Look through the rest of the room.” Xander let go of her arm. He noticed the look in her eyes as he grabbed her, though he ignored it for the moment. “Computer equipment, files, anything that might be helpful. It may have had more than one objective. I’ll take care of the weapons.”
The warehouse was full of rusted machinery and equipment. A few conveyor belts were still there, though some of the more expensive equipment used for whatever production had taken place in the warehouse and production facility had long since been removed, likely to recoup whatever costs were possible for the owners. Still, there was enough material to construct a makeshift fire pit, cinder blocks used to line the bowl, pounds of dirt packed into it to deaden the fire and heat that was to come.
Burke heard the car pull up, but didn’t stop from his work. He sliced away at the body, carving long strips and patches of flesh, exposing gleaming metal endoskeleton beneath. He had already done the head, removing the secondary and tertiary CPU’s, the machine’s dead red eyes and rictus death’s-head grin pointed up at the rusted metal ceiling.
Taking another bit of flesh, he stuffed it into a plastic bag that was already heavy with skin and muscle. It was disgusting work, but it was all the better for the show. He was about to go for another when he heard footsteps, finally turning around to see who was coming in.
“Whoa,” Tim said, coming up short. He hadn’t gotten used to the demon’s appearance, despite all of the other weird stuff that had been happening lately. His father had taken it somewhat worse, having been rather set in his ways. Of course, the threat to family had made his father take things pretty seriously despite it all. His father hadn’t ended up calling the police as he had originally intended to.
Burke just rolled his eyes, setting the bag of flesh down on the ground and picking up a towel. He wiped off the knife and the large gloves he had one, taking them off and shoving them into the bag as well.
Joseph Frakes walked up to the makeshift pyre, eyes widening as he caught sight of the heavy metal skeleton that lay in it, red-tinted from its coat of blood. He grimaced slightly as he saw the dead grin, imagining what it must look like when it was active, and hunting. “This is…this is what came after my son?”
“Yeah,” Xander said, coming up from behind the two. He looked down at the skeleton as well, noting the bits of damage that had been inflicted on its endoskeleton. Some of the areas had been repaired, but there were still some blasted away areas and dents. “You’re through the looking glass now.”
“What is it?” Faith asked, looking at the robot as well. It looked like something out of a science fiction movie, but given the size of its servos and pistons, it could assuredly dish out a good amount of strength and damage. She imagined that it could give even a Slayer a good fight.
“Series 888 terminator. Advanced infiltration model,” Burke said, walking over to a table that they had set up and picking up a couple of paint cans. He moved carefully with them, not wanting to spill any of the rust colored powder within.
“They’re an improvement on the T-800’s, with added armor plating to the back and reinforced motor systems,” Xander added. He took one of the paint cans from Burke and helped to spread the thermite powder on top of, and around, the endoskeleton. “Can be pretty good infiltrators too. Better at mimicking humans from what I’m told. Lost a lot of guys before we figured out how to detect these things trying to come into our bunkers.
Joseph moved a little closer, the scientist in him fascinated at the subject. It was amazing to think that it would not be a significant amount of time before such things came into existence, as much of a nightmare as that actually would be. It was proof of the Singularity that foretold the creation of smarter than human artificial intelligence. “This is amazing…”
“Yeah, right,” Xander said dispassionately. He made sure that his paint can was empty before walking over to the table and setting it down. He picked up a flare and the processors that had been removed from the terminator, walking back to the others. “It was amazing the first time I saw one. That feeling goes away pretty damn quick when they’re trying to kill you. Then you start getting terrified.”
“How does it work?” the elder Frakes asked, still fascinated. They were trying to come up with a relatively simply programmed drone that would still represent the greatest leap forward in artificial intelligence, and the robot that lay in front of him was advanced enough to trick humans into thinking that it was one of them.
“Neural net processor.” Burke eyed the scientist, frowning a little bit. Leave it to the scientists to completely miss the point. “Superconducting at room temperature; something of a breakthrough I imagine, but that’s more your field. It’s a learning computer, good enough to pass a Turing Test, if it was trying.”
“You know about the Turing Test?” Joseph was surprised and looked up at the demon again.
Burke shrugged, setting down his paint can. “I know all sorts of things. Don’t be so impressed by these technological marvels. The artificial intelligence that created these things was designed to protect the world, not end it. A flaw, I’m sure, not planned by you people.”
“You people?” Faith echoed in question.
Smiling, Burke turned to face the Slayer. “I suppose it’s ironic that for all the horror stories that are told about demons and us trying to destroy the world, it’s the fruit of your labors that ends up actually doing it. You brought Judgment Day upon us all, not the other way around.”
“So what happens now?” Tim asked, sticking his hands in his pockets. He was still rather blown away by everything, understanding how his father felt about running. It was nearly all he could do to keep himself from running and never looking back.
Tossing the secondary and tertiary CPU’s into the brick-lined space, Xander held up the primary processor. “We slag this one, and then we figure out what to do about that little project that’s brewing at Calax.”
Burke just snorted. “Figure out how to blow it, you mean.”
“Wait,” Joseph interjected, looking between the two Resistance fighters. “You can’t. I mean, there are a lot of people that work there. And, it’s a government project. You can’t just blow it all up.”
Nobody said anything for a moment. It was a weak protest, but it was an attempt to cling to the perception of the world as it existed before the knowledge of Judgment Day. It was deluded at best, dangerous at worst.
“This terminator came after your son,” Xander said coldly. He held up the processor chip so that Joseph could see it. “After this is done, you’re going to have to run. You take your wife, you take your son, and you run. And you never look back.”
“I can’t just…” the elder Frakes paled, trailing off. He knew the truth of the matter, no matter how much he didn’t want to face it. It was just too much to have to uproot everything and just leave.
“You can. And you will,” Xander said, a little sympathy in his voice. He looked down, lowering his arm. “Skynet sent one back. And if it sent one, it could send another. And we might not get so lucky next time. As it is, we don’t even know who else is on its target list. I’m sorry.”
He made to toss the chip into the pit, but was stopped as Joseph reached out and blocked his arm. He glared at the man. “What?”
“Can I see that?” the Calax researcher asked. He took the chip and held it close to his eyes, analyzing the structure of it. It was familiar in design and shape. “I think I can read it. The UCAV motherboard uses a similar chip. It matches the design for the CPU that Cyberdyne is supposed to send us. It might work.”
Xander considered what Frakes had just said. It was a risk, a big risk. But, being able to read the memory banks of the terminator would allow them to figure out what it was programmed to do. It might even give them a list of Skynet’s objectives in the past. It would allow them to stop flailing about, trying to find out what to do, and take the fight to Skynet. “Are you sure?”
Joseph shook his head. “I don’t know. It depends on how it’s programmed. I can’t be sure unless I try it.”
Xander frowned, catching Burke’s eye. It wasn’t just a risk walking into the facility, but allowing a piece of future technology out in the world, especially one as potentially dangerous as a neural net processor, was almost more than he could bear. If that piece was lost, or captured, it could change things considerably. It would give Cyberdyne and Skynet years of a head start, perhaps ensuring that the Resistance would never come into being in the first place.
He decided, lifting the flare and taking off the cap. Striking the tip, Xander tossed the stick into the pile of thermite and metal, the metal oxide powder instantly igniting in a bright blitz of light. They all instinctively turned away or shielded their eyes, the coltan hyperalloy slowly but surely melting into nothing but scrap.
“The chip doesn’t go anywhere without me or Burke,” Xander said, looking at Joseph as the fire grew to a steady burn. “After, you need to explain things to your wife, and then you need to disappear.”
“Okay,” Joseph said, blinking his eyes a few times, he could still see the initial flash a little bit, burned as it was into his retinas. He handed back the processor and shook his head. “I don’t even know how I’m going to explain this to Mary.”
Burke just grinned. “Leave that to us.”
The gears in Xander’s mind turned, and he looked over at Faith who was staring into the elevated dirt pyre. He wondered just how prepared she was to take a role in this, despite her claims that she wanted in. It wasn’t like he had a lot of choice in the matter though. It was his job to gauge how effective people would be, the survival of his team, and the rest of mankind for that matter, relied on how well he could read people. It was a hell of a thing to be responsible for. He was beginning to understand how John Connor must feel about things.
February 14, 2027
“That’s not fucking her,” Xander grunted, through gritted teeth. He held a hand to a rib, closing his eyes for a moment. There were a couple of cracked bones, not to mention the other wounds that he had sustained. The dressings on his chest and back were already soaked through, and he was lucky that the bullet had not hit a lung. “We both know it.”
“The processor’s different. The hard-wired programming’s different than it is for the others. More of the memory’s been pre-written, and in a different format,” John said, ignoring the outburst. He couldn’t exactly blame the lieutenant; Xander had lost good men in the latest raid. Some of them killed by the terminator that had taken on the appearance of Allison Young. He hadn’t even known that that was possible. “It’s odd. Some of the neural net architecture seems to mimic human memory processes. And a closer approximation of human thought. More complex than that though.”
“John,” Xander shook his head, whispering. He knew that there were a lot of rumors flying around the base after they had come in, carrying the metal body with them. The integration of metal for use in their bunkers was already a contentious point for many of the soldiers, even if they had proven their use, despite some setbacks. That John had assigned one of them to captain their sole submarine was still causing some grumbling, even among those not sailing it. Still, they were all soldiers and would do their jobs.
“This didn’t happen before. They’re changing their game plan. This is not the future my mother warned me about.” John looked up from his chair, setting down the processor chip. He caught John’s eye with an intense gaze of his own. “I know she’s dead. I know that this isn’t her, but I also know that they went through a hell of a lot of trouble to program her to be more than just another tin man.”
“I know you guys were tight.” Xander had always wondered about John’s relationship with Allison. The two of them were really close, and there were any number of women that would be more than willing to sleep with The John Connor, the age difference was a little weird, and it didn’t strike him that it was that sort of relationship. Then there was that thing with Kate too. “Even if, even if you’re right. Even if you’re right and they did some type of flash copy of her mind, to…to program this thing. It’s still not her.”
“I know, but…something of her has to be in here,” John looked down at the chip once again. “There has to be.”
Xander was struck by how human he sounded at that moment. It was as if they had all, even him, expected that John was a sort of machine of his own. John Connor was their great leader and general, the savior of humanity. Such a figure was more than a man, and was not expected to have feelings, or feel lonely.
It was a testament to how close they were that John was able to say such a thing. John would never have been able to reveal something like that in front of any of the others.
“We could always use an extra body.” Xander knew why John wanted to have the body repaired and to scrub and reactivate it. But, he also knew that John was still John Connor.
“I know, and I know it’s not her, Xander.” John Connor smiled. He knew Xander’s concern, and it was a valid one. But, despite whatever feelings he had had towards one particular unit, from what seemed like a lifetime ago, it didn’t mean that he had lost objectivity. He had lost too many friends and too many soldiers fighting against the machines to feel particularly affectionate towards them. “I’m not going to get all weepy over the fuckers. They aren’t like us, and whatever they’re working on, it doesn’t make a bit of difference. We’ve both lost too much for that to happen. But, there’s more to this one, and that could be important.”
Xander shrugged as well as he could. “It’s your call. It’s always been your call.”
September 20, 1998
“Why am I here,” Faith asked, waiting for Xander to open the door to his apartment. She followed him in, looking around at the sparsely furnished apartment. It seemed to fit its purpose, a base of operations more than a home.
Xander ignored her for the moment as he walked further into the apartment, bending down and scratching the dog behind its ears. He watched as the small dog walked over to the Faith and sniffed at her, wondering who the newcomer was. It didn’t bark though, knowing that Faith wasn’t a robot.
“What’s its name?” Faith asked, as she pet the dog.
Xander shrugged. “Still working on that.”
Faith just chuckled, watching as the dog wagged its tail.
“You ever think about the future?” Xander asked, setting his bag onto the kitchen counter. He turned around and leaned against the countertop, looking at the Slayer.
Faith shrugged and let the dog run off to play. Xander didn’t particularly know that much about her, and she didn’t see a real reason to open up. “I try not to think about it that much.”
Xander just continued to look at her. “You should, cause it’s thinking about you.”
“Why am I here?” Faith asked, smiling a little. She walked into the kitchen from the hallway, crossing her arms across her chest. “Looking for a nooner?”
Looking blandly at her, Xander just walked out of the kitchen and into the main room. He wasn’t going to get drawn into that. Not now of all times, especially since he was pretty sure that she was being sarcastic and defensive. “I’m going to go with Frakes to Calax later, see if we can get anything off of the chip. It’s dangerous. Can’t exactly take Burke with me for backup, and you’re not going to pass for a colleague or vendor or client of Joe’s. If something happens to me, Burke could do with some help. Looks like you’re it.”
“Thanks,” Faith said sarcastically, having followed Xander into the main room. “I feel so lucky.”
Xander shook his head. “You came to me, remember? Anyway, Burke can teach you what you need to know. He has most of the technical skills anyway. Worse case, it still gives you a leg up.”
“You think it’s a trap?” Faith asked, seriously this time.
The thought had occurred to him, but Joseph seemed like a straight shooter. As well as a father that would be unlikely to risk his son’s life to gain an advantage in the arms race that would bring about the apocalypse. Still, he would effectively be going into the belly of the beast, and that had concerns of its own. Especially given that he would be going about in public. Despite his age, he didn’t look all that different than before he had been thrust into the future. He didn’t want to be recognized. “Can’t be too careful.”
Xander tried to ignore the looks that he was getting, imagining that it was just because he was an unknown, as opposed to someone that was trying to destroy their life’s work. His guest pass authorized his presence, meaning that most didn’t pay him much more than a curious gaze. Still, it was a little disconcerting, especially with the rather large number of security cameras that dotted the ceilings and walls. It probably wasn’t too out of the ordinary for such places, given the top secret nature of their work.
As it was, he was keeping track of their position and the best ways to get in and out of the place. They were on the second floor, heading towards a central lab, two office areas filled with cubicles and lined with offices on either side of it.
“Try to relax a little,” Joseph said in encouragement, noticing the tense stance of the man next to him. He had set up an appointment the day before, going through the proper channels to ensure that nobody would question Xander’s presence. His position as head of research meant that his decisions were not questioned.
Xander slowed as they neared the main computer lab, the more mechanical aspects of the work was done on the first floor. He would be less nervous if he had been able to just come in at night and blow the place. Too bad that was only Plan B. “Let’s just get this done.”
Nodding, Frakes ran his security pass through the detector and opened up the reinforced door. There was nobody there as he had planned; he had used the coltan theft to reassign the lab personnel to assist the programming staff. “It’s clear.”
Xander entered too, looking at the high tech equipment that lay about the room. He recognized a number of the tools, from computers to soldering irons. John had had many similar devices in his personal workshop, though those had been scrounged together and jury-rigged from many different sources. The stuff in the Calax lab was top of the line, and looked it.
Walking further into the room, he headed towards the station that Joseph was approaching. As he neared, Xander looked at a large diagram that was tacked onto a wall. The familiar turboprop shape of an HK was printed on it, descriptions and notes written haphazardly all about the paper. They were making improvements on the design, trying to make it a better hunting machine. There was some amount of sad irony there he supposed. He wanted to burn it.
Glancing up, Xander noticed a camera. “Is that going to be a problem?”
Following his gaze, Joseph looked at the security camera too. “No, it’s automated. The video’s dumped to a central server and is overwritten every three days. As long as there are no security issues, it’s just going to get erased.”
Looking back down, Frakes started to boot up the client computer that was connected to the chip reader that they had been issued from Cyberdyne.
“Good, looks like it might work,” Xander said, looking at Joseph Frakes work. He frowned as he noticed the rather small computer that the Calax research head was working on. There was no way that it contained enough computing power to analyze the chip. “What is that? You’re pulling computing power off of a central core?”
“Yeah,” Frakes said, not knowing what the problem was. “It’s cheaper this way. There’s no way we could have afforded enough workstations independently.”
“It’s networked?” Xander asked, feeling nervous.
Joseph nodded. “Yeah, of course.”
“Internet access?” Xander followed up. He didn’t know all of the details, but he knew that even the individual processors of terminators were extremely versatile, and that they were very focused on their missions. They could crack some rather sophisticated computer systems, and he didn’t imagine that the security of a nineties computer company could withstand a hack by a determined trip-eight.
Nodding again, Frakes spoke, “Yeah, but heavily secured with limited access. We have a lot of sensitive information on the server, we don’t want any intruders getting access.”
“Damn it,” Xander muttered, rubbing his face. “Okay, but see if you can keep an eye on if the station’s accessing any data or trying to open up a connection to the Internet. And make sure that you don’t use too much power, we don’t want the chip activating.”
Frakes was stunned at the implications. “It can operate independently in chip form?”
“Yeah, and we really don’t want that.” Xander took the chip out of his pocket, taking it out of a secured holder. He inserted it into the chip reader, watching as Joseph ran a diagnostic scan on it, trying to see if there was anything that they could pull off of the chip.
“This is…weird,” Frakes said as the chip was accessed. “It’s close to the programming that we have for the Falcon, but it’s much more complex. And there are algorithms that I’ve never ever imagined in this thing. I think I can read it though.”
“See if you can pull a list of objectives from the data,” Xander asked, glancing up at the camera again. He could have sworn that it was looking at them specifically. Maybe it was motion controlled, or maybe he was just being paranoid.
“Got it,” Frakes said, taking a seat and punches some keys on the keyboard. His fingers worked fast as he tried some search functions. He was playing things by ear, but was making some progress. Data fields and machine code flashed on the screen as the chip reader tried to make sense of the extremely complex data feed. The information scrolled faster and then the screen went white, then pixelated into a video feed.
“Whoa,” Joseph said, smiling despite himself. “There’s a video feed embedded in the memory subroutines.”
Looking around, he opened up a drawer on the worktable and found a portable drive. He connected the drive to the computer and activated it. “Okay, I’ve set it up to record the data, so hopefully there’s something on here that can help you.”
“What’s the power level?” Xander asked, not knowing exactly what was happening. He would have preferred to have Burke there, though it was unlikely that even he would have been a lot of help. Hacking neural processors was a skill that few possessed, human or demon.
Frakes checked, looking at the connections on a separate monitor attached to the chip reader. “Uh, 3.1 volts. It’s still pretty low if these readings are correct. That okay?”
“Fine, keep going, record as much info as you can.” Xander wondered how that was supposed to work. Likely it would just be a straightforward video of what was being displayed now. But, there could be things in there that would only come up when they went through it frame by frame. “Let me know if it goes over 3.5 volts.”
Frakes nodded, glancing at the monitor again.
The video jumped around, but seemed to be sorting itself out by subject, as if the memories of the T-888 were catalogued by subject rather than on a chronological basis. Fields of words and code appeared at times as well, likely tags marking what sectors of memory the bits of video related to.
“Wait, go back to that,” Xander said after a moment, as something familiar passed through the screen. He pointed at the monitor where he had seen it.
Frakes did as best as he could, not knowing if he could truly rewind the system. “Uh, I think I got it. Let me see if I can tighten it up.”
Fiddling with a couple of more keys, Joseph managed to freeze it on a list. “It’s…it’s a target list.”
“And, your son is top of the list,” Xander said, frowning. “I recognize a few of those names. They’re linked to the creation of Skynet. Miles Dyson. That’s not part of the objectives though. It’s a root name connected to the others.”
“Miles Dyson,” Joe repeated. “He’s dead. But, it was his work that really kicked off the research into neural net processing, and especially its application for military computers.”
“It’s the genesis of Skynet, but it includes a list of targets as well as those that have some connection. Doesn’t say what the reasons are though. The terminators don’t need to know why I guess.” Xander looked over at the hard drive that was vibrating as it wrote the data. “Make sure we have that list copied.”
Frakes nodded. “Got it.”
“Got the blood report.” Preston sat down at his desk, tossing the file onto his partner’s as he did so. The speed of the results had been a little surprising, but the request had been expedited to a lab in Los Angeles. As problematic as the higher-ups could be in the police department; one of their own had gotten hit. In a small town like Sunnydale, that made everyone feel like working a little faster or asking a little more urgently.
“And?” Henley asked, opening up the file. His head didn’t hurt anymore, though his pride still did. He chalked up the demonic looking figure to a costume of some kind, some kind of freak show put on by the pair. He still didn’t know who had gotten killed, although it had ended up being a rather convoluted way of doing the deed, especially considering the hardware that had been used.
Preston shrugged. “The techs think that the sample must have been contaminated, even though they ran it twice. It’s similar to blood, but it’s not.”
Henley stopped looking at the report and shifted his gaze upwards. “So what is it?”
“They don’t know. It’s like blood, but there aren’t any red blood cells.” Preston shook his head. “Can’t explain it. CSU is also working on the metal fragments that were found. They IDed the slugs pretty damn quick, but they can’t tag what the rest of it is. Some kind of odd alloy, they’re still working on a metallurgical analysis.”
Henley sighed and pinched the bridge of his nose. “Son of a bitch. We got a bunch of guys running around with serious hardware and we’re nowhere closer to catching them.”
“Yeah, well Homicide isn’t exactly beating feet on this one. No body, and something that’s not actually blood, they’re probably going to write it off.” Preston knew that something was odd about the whole thing, especially with the whole electrical grid that had been set up. They had run cables from the building’s wiring to a metal mesh; it looked like those responsible had a particular type of death in mind. Electrocution couldn’t be a pleasant way to go.
Henley rolled his eyes. He wasn’t surprised. “At least they aren’t trying to kick us off of it.”
“What the...?” Surprised, Frakes’ fingers flew over the keyboard, trying to figure out what was going on. There was a surge, and the computer screen went dark. It flashed a couple of times, and then started to scroll machine code.
“What’s going on?” Xander asked, his stomach beginning to sink.
“I don’t know, it’s like there was a power surge.” Frakes didn’t bother to look at him, concentrating on figuring out what was going on. “Wait…it’s back up.”
“What’s the power level?” Xander asked, feeling the hairs on the back of his neck begin to rise.
Frakes look at the monitor attached to the chip reader. His eye widened. “Four eight.”
“Shit.” Xander made to grab for the chip to disconnect it manually, but had to pull his hand away as the reader sparked, electricity arcing wildly. As he tried again, the door to the lab flew in, crashing into a cart full of machine parts.
“Get down,” Xander shouted, trying to drag Frakes behind the table with him. It was too late though, the figure that had just entered had raised his weapon, shooting twice and hitting Joseph in the chest. Xander had to break the man’s fall as he dropped.
“My…my…son,” Frakes tried to get out, a dribble of blood falling down the corner of his mouth.
Xander pulled his gun, sending a couple of shots in the general direction of the intruder. He heard return fire and saw bits of metal around him fly up, but also heard the sounds of other guns, likely the building’s security force moving in. It couldn’t be a coincidence.
“Joe,” Xander said, applying pressure to the man’s wounds. He could feel the blood streaming through his fingers and knew that it was too late. “Hold on.”
“Čapek,” Joe whispered, losing strength rapidly. His face grew paler, and he knew that he was near death. “Find him. Bring the…drive to him.”
“Where?” Xander asked, craning his neck to see what was happening. The intruder had not gone down, and from what he could hear, was currently engaged with security. He would have to move fast.
“Cal Sci,” Frakes coughed out, his eyes losing focus. “Oh God, my son.”
“I’ll make sure that he’s okay,” Xander said, as sympathetically as possible. It was about all that he could do. “It’ll be okay.”
“No…he’s here,” Joe continued, coughing up more blood. He had wanted to keep an eye on the boy, making sure that he was safe. It had all gone to hell. “Oh God, he’s in my office.”
Xander felt the man slump, finally expiring. It had not been the first man that he had lost, nor would it likely be his last. “Damn it.”
Getting up in a crouch, Xander reached over and pulled the chip from the reader, ignoring the few sparks that still popped out. He knocked the portable hard drive down off the table as well. Disconnecting the drive, Xander pocketed it and the chip, getting to his feet. Moving carefully, Xander headed towards the door, trying to keep behind cover as much as possible.
Looking out the door, his eyes widened as he saw the battle that had been going on. Numerous employees had been caught in the crossfire and their bodies were strewn out on the office floor, some on the ground and some laying on top of short cubicle walls. Security guards had also been killed, no match for the man that had assaulted the company.
Some residual gunfire was still going on, the security guards trying to do the best that they could. Xander could see the plastic skin hanging off in shreds from the attacker, knowing that it was another terminator. The only thing was that he couldn’t identify the model. Instead of an endoskeleton underneath a sheath, there were bulky metal plates, haphazardly placed over the core. But, he couldn’t wonder about the identity of the machine right now.
Running low, Xander turned away from the fight, scrambling towards Joe’s office. He managed to pick up a fallen guard’s shotgun on the way. He didn’t meet much resistance, all of the security personnel already on the office floor, or dead.
Kicking in the office door, Xander glanced inside for movement, slipping in. “Tim, you in here?”
“Xander,” Tim called out, coming up from underneath the office desk. He looked scared. “What’s going on? Where’s my dad?”
“He didn’t make it,” Xander said. The expression on his face told the boy not to ask any more questions. “We need to get out of here.”
“Alright,” Tim said, after a moment. The news was still sinking in.
Xander moved towards the office door again, checking the hallway. “Okay, let’s go. There should be a fire exit down the hall to the left. Be careful, there may be more of them.”
Moving out, Xander kept the shotgun up, wary for any other machines to appear. He nearly made it to the marked fire door, before it opened, displacing a number of uniformed men, gray in color, not the black of the Calax security guards. They were carrying submachine guns and moved into the office, weapons ready. Not a word was said as they opened fire on the two of them.
Xander leapt to the side, rolling and coming up behind a cubicle wall. He moved up and fired over the plastic top, tagging one of them in the chest. From the way that the blood spurted and the body fell, it was clear that he was human. The others went for cover, firing as they dove.
“The Gray,” Xander whispered, surprise heavy in his mind. In the future, they had been humans that worked willingly with the machines against the Resistance. For any number of reasons, survival, the promise of safety, or more insidious motives, they had turned on their fellow men. “Tim, we need to-.”
Looking over for the boy, Xander’s face fell as he saw the teenager lying face up on the carpet, a surprised expression on his face. A small trickle of blood was running out of a small hole in the center of Tim’s forehead, yet another person that Xander had failed.
Xander rose and fired his shotgun once again, feeling a bullet graze his arm, burning a path across his bicep. He backed up quickly, firing as he did so. Xander tried to keep behind some cover, hearing the rounds sent his way by the team of men quickly advancing on his position. The machine had finished up its attack on the security guards by this time, and Xander had to keep his head down to avoid being seen.
Feeling the men on his back, Xander made a decision and dove in front of the terminator, firing off a snap shot from his shotgun, its head twisting up and to the right. A patch of skin was blasted off, pitting a curved patch of bare metal, and creating a grotesque mockery of a smile on its inhuman face. He ran off after that, having a few extra seconds lead time. Running to his right, he could hear impacts as the terminator fired in his direction. The Gray only added to the gunfire, bullets striking up divots in the walls as he ran towards the exit on the other side of the office.
He hit the fire door hard, opening it up and heading down the stairs. It was pure luck that the Gray had not sent other men to secure the stairwell, though it was likely because the machine had covered that area. Rushing down the stairs, Xander didn’t look back. There was nothing left in that direction.