James Ellison looked at the lab results feeling incredibly disappointed. Lehane had given up a sample of her blood without a fuss, and had immediately thereafter requested to see all the information they had on the murders that the fake blood linked together. After impressing on her how serious and confidential the information was, Lehane had simply said ‘I can keep a secret’ and signed the non-disclosure agreement that would grant her access to the files.
It was just something to keep her busy until he broke the news to her that their collaboration was not going to be going anywhere, and that she’d be going back to prison. There was the off-chance that she might recognize something as being part of the mind of a killer, but that was a faint hope at best, and a mental pat on the shoulder if James was honest with himself.
Lehane’s blood was, with the exception of her rare AB negative blood type, nothing special at all. There was nothing to explain her rapid healing from the few scuffles she’d gotten into during her time in prison. Her immune system seemed to function at a higher-than-average capacity, but that was far from a unique condition. Biologically speaking, the girl was as human as a human could be and still have killed people.
And as much as he hoped that she could help him, the truth was that Faith was a killer: one of the worst kinds of sinners. Unlike most such people, however, Faith Lehane seemed truly dedicated to redeeming herself. The fact that Faith herself put her sentence in personal terms of redemption spoke to her current character, if not her past self. Someone or something had given the girl a set of principles and morals, and while it might not count for much in the criminal justice system, James Ellison was thankful that Faith Lehane’s soul was on the right path again.
He had hoped that he would have been able to keep up the charade a bit longer, but Faith’s lack of a proper education would make that hard to run by his superiors, even if she might actually be of help. He hated to dash the girl’s hopes, but this was still progress: one possible explanation had been definitively ruled out. Hopefully she’d take that as a good thing.
Sighing and checking the time – going on 1:00 – James decided to check in on Faith. He’d shown her the basics of the files and their layouts, and the girl had caught on very quickly for someone without a formal education. She seemed to have a good feel for spotting patterns, which he had hoped would be of some small help. Shortly after she’d given her blood, James had left her to her own devices, since she claimed to work better alone.
She was in a VIP area on the tenth floor, but it was really just a fancy cell, complete with code-access doors and guards both inside and out. James was on level six, so he caught an elevator up and strode down the hall to break the news.
What he did not expect to see was a nervous-looking clerk looking to intercept him. “Agent Ellison! Agent, please!”
“Yes, what can I do for you, Mister…”
“York, sir. Ted York. I just thought you should know that one of the guests has been going over some sensitive files. A, uh, Faith Lehane, sir?”
James nodded, thankful for the man’s vigilance, even if it wasn’t needed. “I appreciate your thought and care, Mr. York, but Miss Lehane has signed an NDA and has been granted access to a few files.”
“Well, uh, yes sir, I know. They’ve been in there with her since you brought her here yesterday. But she’s been asking for more, sir, and since the NDA didn’t specify only those exact files, and since the guards felt threatened-“
“She threatened the guards?” Ellison asked, all ears now.
“Not exactly, Agent,” the poor clerk stammered. “She just kept insisting that if the killer ended up striking again, then it would be on their consciences for not getting her the information sooner. And, um, I think she spooked them, sir. They seemed to be apprehensive before entering the room with the files or, well, entering the room at all. Do you think something might be up, sir?”
“Quite possibly, Mr. York,” Ellison mused. “Thank you for bringing this to my attention. I’ll handle Miss Lehane.”
Leaving behind a flustered Ted York to go about his duties, James headed to the VIP quarters where Faith was lodging and showed his ID to the guards before keying in the code to open the door.
The living area’s floor was covered with papers and photos, and there was a notepad with a few pages flipped sitting on a coffee table with the outlines of a sketch penciled on it. Right next to the pad was a stack of large and empty
pizza boxes. Did the girl normally eat like this, or was this just a case of getting as much non-prison food as she could while she had the time?
Regardless of her eating habits, Faith herself was sitting on a sofa and was leaning forward towards the ‘show’ on the television, and James had to prevent himself from breathing too hard as he looked at the scene playing out.
The time stamp marked the video from September 12, 1999 in the middle of the afternoon. The apparent robbery of the Sun Trust of Los Angeles Bank was playing out before his eyes. Sarah Connor and her son, John, took backseat to an unknown female accomplice who held the teller at the point of a gun she had taken from one of the security guards.
The people in the building had evacuated by the time the police arrived, and the tape showed a lengthy period of nothing happening. A number of police officers appeared just outside the doors, followed shortly by an unidentified man who witnesses had also seen three days earlier at a shooting at a school in New Mexico. His face was clearly disfigured, but the details weren’t clear from the tape, which ended a few minutes later when the camera fell at an odd angle and broke.
“You just gonna stand there, Agent, or are you gonna ask me what I think?”
James snapped out of his reverie quickly. Faith had to have exceptional hearing to pick up his entry while still remaining so focused on the video. “I was going to give you an update, but I think you should go first. I take it you found something in our files that you think might give us a lead, or do you just find it funny to fool around with FBI files?”
Lehane smirked. “Probably would be funny if that’s what I was doing, but it’s not. One of the files you didn’t show me covered this guy,” she said as she rewound the tape to show the disfigured man, “tearing up a school in New Mexico, gunning for some kid. They found that strange blood there.”
“This case was resolved eight years ago,” James said patiently.
“You really think that, Agent? I don’t. Doesn’t add up. A couple of your other files referenced this case, talking about Sarah and John Connor. The mom sure had some interesting ideas on how things were supposed to have turned out, didn’t she?”
“If you want to call delusions that ended up with people dead ‘interesting,’ then you could say that.”
“Yeah, but I ain’t done yet. So, Sarah Connor goes all ‘end is nigh, the machines are coming’ starting back in ’84, gets committed after she gets caught trying to blow up a computer factory, gets sprung slash escapes. Check out these photos.”
Faith sifted through a small stack of photocopies by her side on the couch and pulled up two shots of the same man caught on camera: one was the shooter who tore up a police station and killed several officers in 1984, the second was from a shopping mall in Reseda in 1997.
“Look at ‘em closely. What can you tell me about our guy here?”
Sighing, James decided to humor the girl and held up one photo in each hand for him to examine. “Noting to see, Faith. Just one guy, two photos.”
“See, that’s what’s so strange. Look closer. He looks pretty much exactly
the same in both photos, and they’re thirteen years apart. And given what this guy’s done, I don’t see him caring about going to see a plastic surgeon to make himself look younger. This guy hasn’t aged a day, Agent. Tell me you don’t think that’s odd.”
James raised a curious eyebrow and re-examined the pictures. He checked the dates, then re-checked the pictures. They really were as close a match as he could tell with his naked eye. “Anything else? A strange pair of photos isn’t much to go on.”
“I know. Be patient, okay? So, this guy who tried to kill John Connor slash Reese in New Mexico – the survivors said he went by ‘Cromartie’ – did you see his face when he went into that bank? You think he was just torn up, right? Been in a fight or something? Nah, I asked very politely for a nice close-up shot of his wounds. Check it out.”
Faith handed James another piece of paper, but this one showed nothing but a rectangle of metal circuitry that went far over his head. “What’s this?”
“That,” Faith said, “is a very, very close-up shot of Cromartie’s scalp, from where his hair was ripped or burned off or whatever. And the forensics team showed that the door to the bank’s vault was forced open before it went boom.”
James did not like where this was going. “Do you have anything else to share?”
“Just a bit for now, but I’ve only had a day or so to look at this stuff. Why did the Connors blow up the bank? Didja ever get a motive for that one?”
“No, we didn’t. But Sarah Connor was a paranoid, delusional madwoman. While I have to try to think like psychotics in order to catch them, that doesn’t mean I understand them.”
“Huh. Well, crazy or not, Sarah Connor has a pattern: computers and the people who make them. The bank was neither, and given how tiny a branch it was, I don’t think any big shot computer company’s gonna hide their top secrets in that kind of bank. Also, if Connor did want to blow up the bank, where was her bomb? Yeah, yeah, I know she could’ve had a vest, but that doesn’t fit. She’s not looking to be a martyr: she’s a soldier on a mission, or that’s how she sees herself. She was following this kid’s lead here,” Faith said, rewinding the bank security tape to show the brown-haired girl pointing a gun at the teller. “Look at the Connors, look at their faces. They’re scared, or at least worried. They think this chick can help them, I bet. The way she took the guard’s gun, she could kill them both easily anytime she wanted, so she’s their ally. Means she’s also on a mission, so why go down into a vault with no way out to blow herself up?”
James was now rubbing his temples to try and shoo away the inevitable headache. “Do you have a point, Lehane?”
“My point, Agent Ellison, is that Connor’s story is the most likely one. Robots or no, something that wasn’t human is probably killing people. The blood you found isn’t human, so just call it like it is: non-human blood. Belongs to something else entirely. ‘Til you find out what that something else is… Well, I guess that’s why you sprung me, isn’t it?”
“So, just to make sure I understand you correctly, Faith,” James said carefully, “you think that Sarah Connor’s story about machines from the future trying to kill her and her son is the most likely story to explain these murders?”
Lehane shrugged. “I don’t know if Connor’s who they’re after now, but it fits. The exposed metal skull, the strength to push over a bus and knock down a vault door, the ability to shrug off bullets as if they were nothing… That explains the robot half. We don’t know where they come from, but we have one possible explanation: the future. If these things can time travel, and if in the future, the good guys captured that tech – yeah, I read up on the ’84 case – then they might still have that tech. Don’t know how it works, but maybe the mystery girl had one in a safety deposit box. This is assuming she's also from the future, which yeah, I know, is kind of a big 'if.' She probably 'robbed' the bank instead of waiting in line because she knew Cromartie was following them.
“So, you have a case in ’84, another in ’97, another in ’99, and then a bunch more here in ’07. If the Connors did travel in time, my guess is that they jumped ahead eight years. If they’re wanted, everyone would think they died, so you guys wouldn’t be onto them. More importantly, the robots wouldn’t be onto them, either. Or maybe they would. I dunno how time travel works, or machines for that matter.
“So, that’s my brilliant theory, Agent Ellison. Think you can use it?”
The most troubling part of Faith’s entire rant was that she sounded totally and completely certain and calm all throughout, as if her thought process was the most logical progression possible. Had Sarah Connor been so certain of herself when she’d killed Miles Dyson and destroyed Cyberdyne Systems?
“Let me guess,” Faith said before he could reply. “You think I’m crazy, right?”
“The thought had crossed my mind.” The words were an understatement.
Faith threw up her hands and began to pace the room, clearly frustrated. “What is it with you people, anyway?” she said, and James wasn’t sure who she meant by ‘you people.’ “You see dead people, you see the clues, you see what killed them, and then you just ignore it ‘cause it doesn’t fit in ‘the real world.’ Well, the world’s a hell of a lot bigger than you realize, and the sooner you admit that there’s a shitload of stuff out there that you know nothing about, the sooner you’ll start saving lives.”
Faith looked skyward again, just as she had done when she’d first come to him. “Is this a friggin’ joke? You send him to me all nice and gift-wrapped, and then he doesn’t believe me! Will nothing make you fuckers happy?!” With her rage vented, Lehane fell back onto the sofa and sulked silently.
Something was nagging at the back of Ellison’s conscious mind, but he couldn’t tell what it was yet. “Are you saying you think that these murders are the work of some religious cult or a group of radicals? Does Sarah Connor have a doomsday cult trying to follow her, maybe?”
Faith growled in exasperation. “You’re still not getting it, Agent… Dammit! Can’t I know your first name? I feel stupid having to call you by a title and you get my name, rank, serial number, all that jazz.”
“James,” he offered. “And what am I not getting?”
“Well, James,” Faith said angrily, “you’re not getting that humans ain’t the top of the food chain. Never have been, never will be. There’re so many things out there that are supposed to give you nightmares. Stuff that parents warn their kids about, all those itty bitty fears you’ve had since you were a kid, I guarantee you that if you can think of it, it exists, and it probably wants to kill you. It’s not like I’m even expecting you to believe in the really nasty shit. Trust me, Jim, robots from the future are not
that big of a leap of faith.”
The thought at the back of Ellison’s head came to the front as Lehane finished her tirade. “First, it’s James, not Jim.” Young people today had no respect. “But more than that, ‘Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.’”
“That supposed to mean something to me, James?” Lehane asked with arms crossed under her breasts.
“It means something to me, yes,” Ellison retorted. “It’s from the Bible. Without faith, there’s no point in worshiping God. I am a religious man, and I believe that God has a plan for us all. I don’t presume to know that plan, and I try not to let it interfere with my work. But when you start talking about monsters and robots from the future as if they were everyday things... If faith is ‘the evidence of things not seen,’ then I’d be a fool to turn away your help.”
The girl laughed. “What’re you talking about? You think I’m some sort of sign to point you in the right direction? I’m a lot of things, but I’m no saint. Not someone you should be looking to for your religious kicks, for sure.”
“This isn’t a game to me, Faith,” Ellison said calmly and firmly. “If you’re willing to share what you know with me, then I’m willing to bring you on board for a while longer than I initially thought as an outside expert. This is assuming, of course, that you’re not stark raving mad.”
“Oh, of course,” and now she was smirking and stretching in a way that highlighted the curves of a very fit young female body. “So, uh, do you want me to clean this up?” she said, gesturing to the mess of papers all around her.
“Yes, please,” James said as he picked up her notepad. “You went through all this paper?”
“Yeah,” she said. “Was trying to get a good sketch of something, but I kept getting distracted. Amazing how prison gives you so much time to practice things like that. What’s next after this?”
“I figured we’d talk to someone in local custody. The apartment with the three dead guys? Bar-code tattoos? There’s a fourth, and the LAPD has him on a murder charge. We’re gonna talk to him.”
“Sounds good to me, boss man. Except for the whole murder thing, y’know. And by the by, I’ll try not to let it get out that the FBI keeps colored pencils in their nice office building,” she said with a smirk.
Wondering at her words, James flipped through her notepad to find page after page of sketches of the same thing over and over: a red-eyed metal skull. What had Sarah Connor called it? He whispered the ominous name under his breath: “Terminator.”
Special Thanks go out to Oxnate for beta-reading this chapter. You're a lifesaver, friend.
More thanks to everyone who decided to check out this story, and then one more round of thanks to the wonderful people who left reviews. All of you are what give me the motivation to keep on writing, and you guys are the best.
As per usual, I don't own anything, and am not looking to make a profit. Just looking to have a good time and share the fun.
I hope you all enjoy this latest chapter, and I hope you all like what's still to come. ^_^