14.The CRT Factory.
Pushing through the door Buffy looked up in surprise as sirens started to wail and lights began to flash.
“Sounds like they’ve noticed we’re here,” she turned to see Xander gamely keeping up with her, “lets try this way,” she pointed to another door to her left.
To be honest Buffy had no idea where she was in the building or where Willow was, she was working on the principle that if she made enough noise someone would come to see what was going on. When they did she’d beat the information out of them, it was a simple plan, but she’d found that type often worked the best. Running into the door she’d just indicated, Buffy came to a halt with a startled ‘OH!’
“Ow!” she rubbed her arm, “its metal I can’t break it down.”
Turning she ran back to the first door, to her horror she found that it had closed and was now locked.
“Damn it!” she punched the door in frustration and turned to look at Xander, hands on hips, “Now what?”
“Listen!” Xander held up his hand the sirens had stopped their baleful call but the red warning lights still flashed, their bulbs clicking as they blinked on and off.
“What?” Buffy demanded.
“Listen!” insisted Xander.
Buffy did and soon heard the sound of something hissing from the fire suppression system.
“GAS!” she cried in alarm; she turned back towards the door and renewed her attempts to break it down.
“Do you often find yourself being told what to do by a sixteen year old girl?” Jenny rested against the side of the car next to Giles.
“Buffy’s the slayer,” shrugged Giles, “it’s difficult not to want to help but I know I’d only be in the way.” He pushed his glasses back into place, “That’s the watcher’s job you see; to train, to teach,” he smiled wistfully, “to watch…and in the end to grieve.”
“Rupert,” Jenny put her arm through his and rested her cheek against his arm, “I didn’t mean that…”
“I know,” he reached across his body and patted her hand with his, “I’ve got used to it by now…but it doesn’t make it any easier.”
Hitting the demon repeatedly in the head with her fist didn’t seem to be having very much effect other than to shred the skin from her knuckles, Cameron changed tactics and threw the robot across the room. It crashed to the floor smashing several monitors to fragments and sending sparks cascading across the room. Turning Cameron reacquired Willow and walked briskly over to her noting that her damaged leg was starting to slow her down, she held out her hand to Willow.
“We must leave,” she ordered.
Pulling Willow to her feet Cameron started towards the wall on the side of the room furthest from the demon. When they were a few feet away, Cameron let go of Willow’s hand and shoulder barged the wall. Dust rose into the air as the light brick wall bowed inwards. As Cameron hit it again, Willow had a sudden urge to giggle hysterically as a Cameron shaped hole slowly appeared in the wall.
“Come,” Cameron reached back and pulled Willow through the hole.
Groggily Buffy looked up to see the wall burst apart in front of her eyes, as if in a dream she saw the terminator burst through the wall dragging Willow behind her. Too weak from the effects of the gas to do more than watch, she saw the terminator rip the far door from its hinges and disappear down the corridor beyond.
Slowly Buffy dragged herself to her feet, looking around she saw Xander lying in a heap next to her. She reached down and started to pull him towards the hole and fresh air. Willow was safe enough for now, she was with the terminator and the machine would never harm her, it would always protect her, somehow she knew that. It was Xander who needed her help now.
Striding down the corridor Cameron ignored Willow’s protests; she pushed open a big steel door and walked on through into a large room filled with machinery. Finding the light switch Cameron turned on the lights, her infer red scanners weren’t working at optimum efficiency and she was having trouble seeing in low light situations. She let go of Willow’s hand and slammed the doors closed securely bolting them as she did so. It wouldn’t stop her opponent but it would slow it down. She started looking for something to use as a weapon.
“Hey! Hey!” Willow backed away from Cameron, “What’s going on?”
She didn’t understand what had happened to the kind loving girl that had been so warm and caring only a few hours ago. She looked in horror at the many wounds on Cameron’s body where metal showed through. Was she another robotic demon like the monster that had wanted to kill her?
“Hey!” Willow called trying to get Cameron’s attention, “Time-out here!” she gasped.
Slowly Cameron turned to face her and Willow could see the wound on the side of her head where the skin had been torn off and bright metal glinted in the light.
“What are you?” whispered Willow shocked to her very core.
“I’m Cameron,” the terminator smiled grotesquely and for a moment Willow caught a glimpse of the girl who’d made love to her the night before.
“No!” Willow held on to her sanity with both hands, “That’s who you…are? What are you?”
All expression left Cameron’s face as the question penetrated to her central processor.
“I am a T901 Terminator,” she informed Willow flatly, “I was sent from the future to fall in love with you and protect you.”
This wasn’t Cameron’s entire mission, but it was the part that seemed most important to her right now.
Sitting down heavily on a chair by a control panel, Willow wondered why suddenly all these weird machines wanted to fall in love with her; what had she ever done to deserve this, she laughed bitterly.
“By lying to me?” Willow asked incredulously, “By pretending to be a person? Pretending you loved me?”
“But I do!” For a moment the ‘human’ Cameron came back, but it was only a short visit: when next she looked Willow saw only the dead eyed machine.
“NO!” yelled Willow as she stood up and backed away from Cameron, “You’re a machine, what do you know about love?”
“As I experience certain sensory input patterns my neural pathways become accustomed to them,” explained Cameron flatly. “The inputs are eventually anticipated and even 'missed' when absent.”
For a moment Willow was shocked to see a look of hopelessness, even betrayal cross the terminator’s battle ravaged face. Turning to run Willow found herself grabbed in a vice like grip, fearfully she turned to face the terminator.
“Listen, and understand,” Cameron’s mouth was mere inches from Willow’s ear, “that demon robot is out there. It can not be bargained with, it can not be reasoned with. It does not feel pity, or remorse, or fear; and it absolutely will not stop, ever, until you are dead.”
Reasoning that Willow was now suitably terrified and would do as she was told, Cameron picked up a long heavy metal pipe and hefted it he left hand, her right arm was becoming more difficult to control; she would need a major overhaul at the end of this mission. There was a loud bang from the direction of the door.
“Come on,” Cameron took hold of Willow’s hand once more, “its coming.”
As she pulled the girl to her feet Cameron’s eyes fell on the control board that Willow had been sitting next to. Information poured into her mind; quickly she started to switch switches and the machinery in the room burst into life.
“Why’ve you done that?” Willow’s mind searched for sanity in a world that had seemingly gone mad around her.
“The electronic impulses made by the machines will make it difficult for the robot to track us,” Cameron started to pull Willow further into the machine room.
“What about you?”
Cameron turned to look at Willow sadly.
“I will manage,” she looked back at the door before glancing at Willow again, “and I have you.”
“Xander?” Buffy tapped Xander’s face gently in an effort to wake him up, there was no movement; just as she was about to slap him a little harder when his eyes fluttered open.
“Hey! What? Where…?” memory returned with consciousness, “Willow?”
“I don’t know,” Buffy helped Xander to his feet, she pointed to the hole in the wall, “the terminator went that-away followed by demon robot.”
“Moloch?” asked Xander putting two and two together and for once coming up with four, maths had never been his strong suit.
“Could be,” Buffy let go of Xander’s arm as soon as he was on his feet, “lets go find out.”
Leading Willow through the maze of machinery, Cameron tried to keep track of Moloch; coming to a particularly large machine she pushed Willow down into cover before squatting down beside her. This would be as good a place as any to spring an ambush. Watching over the top of the machine Cameron saw the robot blunder towards them. Obviously she had made a good tactical choice; the robot appeared to be effected more than she was by the machinery all around them.
The robot was close now; close enough for Cameron to launch her attack. Standing up smoothly she swung the pipe at the robot’s head. It staggered back at the blow and turned to face its attacker. Again Cameron struck out knocking the demon robot back on its heels, it looked as if she only needed to hit it once more she’d knock the demon’s head clean off. Again she swung the pipe.
This time the demon raised its arm and caught the pipe in its hand, with a yank it pulled it from Cameron’s grasp. Its other hand came round to rip her right arm off at the elbow almost knocking her off her feet. Cameron moved in to grapple with the demon; she glanced over her shoulder at Willow.
“Run!” she cried.
The two machines rolled across the floor striking at one another and reducing the smaller machines to scrap. Willow hesitated as she watched the two titans battle for her life. Something snapped in her mind; she’d had just about enough of this today. Looking around she saw the pipe lying on the floor where it had fallen, she staggered over and picked it up.
Lying under the demon Cameron kept exchanging blows with the robot even though she knew she was losing. Finding it more and more difficult to move her damaged body; she noticed that what movements she was capable of making where becoming more jerky and machine like…less human looking. She looked up to see the robot raise one of its great metal paws ready to bring it smashing down on her head.
It was at this point Cameron realised she had failed; the demon would kill Willow. It didn’t matter that Willow’s death would serve humanity’s future just as well as her continued survival…but it mattered to her that the girl should live and she would fight on right to the very last.
“CLANG!” Willow hit Moloch across the back of the head with the pipe; the demon froze in mid punch.
Raising the pipe once more, Willow brought it crashing down on the demon’s body knocking it from astride Cameron.
“Get,” Willow swung the pipe again, ‘CLANG!’ “your Robo-demon,” ‘CLUNK!’ “hands offa my girlfriend!”
Casting the pipe aside Willow tried to drag Cameron to safety.
“No run!” ordered Cameron as she tried to stand, the stump of her right arm was useless and her left leg could hardly support her weight.
Her visual sensors kept blacking out and her head-up-display continuously informed her of a long list of less obvious damage.
“Come on Cameron Diaz!” Willow pulled her to her feet, “Move it! Call yourself a terminator?”
They staggered away from the demon as it slowly got back to its feet.
Swaying alarmingly Moloch tried to see were the girl and the creature like him had gone. The machinery all around confused him and prevented him from tracking his enemies as efficiently as he should. He shook his head trying to clear it of the fog that threatened to cloud his mind. Looking up he saw them; they were making their way through the machinery making his task even harder, but he would catch them and tear them apart with his own bare hands!
Lying on the conveyor belt Willow had time to catch her breath; Cameron lay heavily against her legs. It had been an effort to move her she weighed so much, Willow found herself wishing that Buffy was here. As if reading her mind Cameron spoke.
“Buffy loves you,” she said her voice wooden and machine like.
“No she doesn’t,” Willow turned; they’d soon have to get off the conveyor, “well maybe like a sister.”
“No,” Cameron shook her head, “her pupils dilate, her skin flushes and she breaths more rapidly when you are near…I would recommend you form a romantic liaison with her when…when I am gone.”
“You’re not going anywhere,” Willow heaved and managed to pull Cameron off the conveyor belt, “can you walk?”
Getting slowly to her feet Cameron turned to Willow and groaned, “I need a vacation.”
Jumping from the conveyor belt Moloch stumbled against part of the production line; his weight crushed a safety shield bringing the metal of the shield in contact with a high voltage cable. The metal sliced through the cable’s insulation and electricity surged through Moloch’s body short-circuiting the bomb that Mike had planted inside the demon. There was a flash and a bang as Moloch’s body flew apart in a thousand smouldering pieces.
Ducking at the sound of the bang, Buffy waited for the smoke to clear before leading Xander onto the factory floor. Running over to the control panel Xander started to switch everything off. In the silence that followed he and Buffy started to search for their friend.
“Is it dead?” Willow called as her two best friends ran over to her and knelt by her side.
“Its dead,” nodded Xander.
Sitting on the floor with Cameron’s head in her lap Willow brushed the hair from her lover’s once beautiful face.
“Hear that, honey?” she forced a smile, “We won!”
Looking around jerkily Cameron tried to speak, no sound came from her mouth for a moment, she tried again.
“No,” her voice sounded less machine like than before, “I am still here…if we had won I would have vanished having never been.”
“What?” Chorused the three teenagers.
“But you must have been,” Willow declared, “otherwise how…?”
“I do not know,” Cameron shrugged as she looked up into Willow’s eyes, “but if I am still here Skynet must have been built; there is one last chip,” Cameron pointed weakly to her own head, “it must be destroyed.”
“But,” sniffed Willow, “that’ll kill you!”
Again Cameron shrugged, “I am already beyond economical repair…”
“No!” sobbed Willow, “You can’t go…please Cameron don’t leave me!”
“Its right Willow,” Buffy laid her hand gently on Willow’s shoulder, “it…” Buffy corrected herself, “she seems to think there’s a danger, we’d better do as she asks.”
“No,” Willow held onto Cameron’s body, “we can’t, we…can repair her, we…”
“No, I’m sorry Willow, the processor must be destroyed,” Cameron looked around, “there,” she pointed at a hydraulic press. “Help me, I can not self terminate, put my head in the press and crush it.”
Weakly Willow tried to prevent Buffy from helping Cameron position her head in the press, eventually she fell exhausted into Xander’s arms.
“There,” Buffy said quietly, “what do I do now?”
“Activate the press.”
“No!” Willow crawled over to kneel next to Buffy, “Let me do it.”
Reaching for the button she froze as Cameron’s good hand found hers.
“Never doubt that, as I understand it, I truly loved you,” a smile flickered across Cameron’s ravaged face; her systems were rapidly failing now, “Why are you crying, Willow Rosenberg, are you damaged?”
"No,” tears ran down Willow’s face, “you see my neural pathways have become accustomed to your sensory input patterns too, Cameron." Willow pushed the button.
The press strained as it pushed down on Cameron’s head slowly squeezing it out of shape. For a few seconds electricity sparked around the machine and Cameron’s head, her eyes glowed momentarily until the blue light started to fade and eventually went out.
Cameron kept her eyes focused on Willow for as long as she could while her systems closed down. Finally the housing for her central processor gave up the unequal struggle with the press. The walls of the housing failed and crushed the chip into silicone dust; her vision failed then came back on for an instant before going dark forever.
“She’s gone,” Willow knelt, her hand empty where she’d been holding Cameron’s at the last, “it’s like she’d never been.”
“No,” Buffy tried to comfort her friend, “we’ll always remember her.”
0=0=0=0Sunnydale High, about a week later.
Sitting on the wall by the fountain in the centre of the school plaza, Buffy, Xander and Willow discussed the events of the previous week. Unseen by Xander, Buffy slipped her hand into Willow’s and squeezed it gently; the two girls turned to each other and shared a secret look.
“…and maybe it'll be enough to remember that in the few hours we had together we loved a lifetime's worth,” Willow smiled wistfully and sighed, “In bed, in the shower, on the dinning table, on top of the TV, in front of the fire, in the…”
“Okay, okay!” Buffy gasped, looking at her friend with new respect and not a little envy, “I get the picture,” and she did, they were playing through her mind like some triple ‘x’ rated home movie.
“…swinging from the light fittings…” Willow continued with a smirk as if Buffy hadn’t spoken.
“No-no!” Xander spoke up from the other side of Willow, “Let her go on,” he caught the black look he was getting off Buffy but wasn’t deterred. “Hey, look, she needs to get this off her chest,” he turned his attention back to Willow, “what else did you two…y’know, get up to?”
“…up-side-down in the…” Willow grinned at the memory.
"Let's face it!” Buffy interrupted before Willow could continue with her own version of ‘The Joy of Sex’, “None of us are ever going to have a happy, normal relationship."
The full horror of their lives seemed to hit the three friends for the first time as they stared across the school plaza. They laughed with forced jollity just as a Spanish speaking pupil ran by and pointed up at the sky.
“¡Hay el venir de la tormenta!”
“What did he just say?” Buffy followed the running teen with her eyes.
“He said,” Xander looked up at the sky, “ ‘there's a storm coming in’.”
“I know,” sighed Willow sadly.
“When did you learn Spanish?” Buffy wanted to know.
“I heard it on the news this morning,” Willow collected her books together.
“Oh,” sighed Buffy as she gathered her own books, “we’d better get in.”
The three friends got up and started to head for the library just as the first rain drops splashed onto the ground.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=owQoK84XPJI THE END.