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05 July 2009 @ 03:09 pm
SCC Fic: Numbered Days  
Author: lizardbeth_j
Rating: R
Wordcount: ~10,000
Summary: The Resistance investigates a strange new Skynet facility in Topanga Canyon.

Notes: Written for sabaceanbabe (you may commence giggling now, SBabe! I know I did when I saw we were writing for each other!) for scc_reloaded. I am so sorry for the lateness and I hope it's worth it! Thank you to the loverly ancarett for the beta. And thanks to jebbypal for running the ficathon.

This story takes place immediately after Born to Run, in the alternate future, and utilizes a few characters from Terminator Salvation.

Numbered Days

Each storyteller begins the story a different way. Some start with Skynet; some with a woman named Sarah Connor, a prophet of the coming apocalypse. Sometimes the story begins with Judgment Day. Others start with Derek Reese, who led the fight against the machines.

This story begins with the arrival of Derek's nephew John Connor, in the tunnels of the Resistance in Los Angeles.

* * *

Not long after meeting him, Allison decided to keep an eye on John. There was something weird about him. He watched them all way too much. Not like he was metal -- she thought Derek was right about that -- but he was squirrely, especially around her and Kyle.

Right now, he was on the other side of the room, as far as he could get from where she was sitting next to Kyle. He seemed to be involved in the dice game going on, but she thought that was only because she was staring at him and he was trying to pretend he wasn't looking at her.

After finishing a dinner best not thought about for too long, she leaned into Kyle. "What do you make of him?"

Kyle was looking at him, too. "Doesn't seem like much of a tunnel rat. Or civvy. I tested him with guns, and he's experienced."

"He's trouble," she declared. "I think we should convince Derek to move him to another bunker."

Kyle shook his head once. "Derek wants to keep him close. Says there's something familiar about him."

Which, now that he pointed it out, hit her, too - especially from way over here in the dim yellow-ish light. Had they met him before? And yet, wouldn't anyone they'd met before, have also known she and Kyle were together and not stared like a moron at the sight of them kissing?

"He's weird,"' she insisted.

He laughed a little and kissed her cheek. "Ally, we're all fucked up."

She turned her head to capture his lips for a quick kiss, but then looked at John again, not distracted. "Maybe he's a spy for Command. You know they hate the way we do our own thing out here."

"Yeah, well, they can all fuck themselves." Kyle's attention was caught by a bit of movement at the far end and she turned to follow his gaze real quickly, seeing Derek come in with Jesse and Barnes in tow.

It was nothing unusual -- Derek always came in here to get his food -- but something about it made John jump to his feet, staring at the group.

Jesse sank down to the floor next to Allison as Derek and Barnes went to get dinner. She leaned her head against the wall, and shut her eyes with a sigh. "And to think I thought carrying him was the hard part," she muttered. "The sex wasn't good enough to make up for not sleeping and chewing on my damn boobs."

Kyle coughed, and Allison grinned at his embarrassment.

"May I?" Allison asked, perfunctorily, and lifted Billy from Jesse's arms. He was sleeping and stirred only a little, opening bleary eyes enough to recognize her as Auntie Allison, and then fell asleep again.

Allison brought him against her chest, nuzzling the soft hair.

"Hey there, little guy." Kyle tapped the tiny fist with a finger, then she felt him stiffen against her.

She wasn't entirely surprised to see John standing in front of them, staring down at Billy.

"Who - who is that?" John asked, his voice a bit hoarse.

"Another Reese boy," Allison answered for Jesse. "His name's Billy."

Jesse opened her eyes and, without moving, suddenly seemed very dangerous, and that was to Allison, who was sitting next to her. She hated to think what that dark-eyed stare would feel like in John's shoes. "And you are?"

"John. John Connor," he answered. "You and Derek?" he asked, "have a ... a baby?"

Jesse regarded him with her head cocked to one side, and pursed her lips. Her accent got a little sharper as it did when she was angry or upset, "He's not exactly a secret. I expect even Skynet got the word by now, so my question is why you don't know."

"I'm new here," John answered, with a shrug.

Jesse realized who he was. "Oh, you're the one Derek was talking about, who mysteriously appeared out of nowhere. Some tunnel rat stole your clothes and you took Kyle's jacket."

"I gave it back," John protested.

Jesse smiled at him, in cold warning. She didn't believe a word of his story, and Allison knew she had an ally in thinking John was going to be trouble. "Put my son in danger, I'll kill you. Just so we're clear."

"Now, Jesse, John's not going to do that," Kyle reassured her.

"Would you throw yourself between metal and Billy, kid?" Jesse challenged, not taking her eyes from John.

"Of course I would!" he objected. "I'd never let anything hurt my uh, uh, " he stammered and finished, "my leader's baby."

Derek appeared behind him and corrected, "Anyone's baby, John. There aren't so many of us we can picky about which kids to save, y'know."

John started a little at Derek's voice, but when he tried to move, Derek got in his way. "Got news," he told the little group. "Kyle, briefing in ten. Got a mission for you. And you," he turned his head to pin John with his eyes. "You come, too. Time to earn your red, if that's what you're after."

John looked a little offended, but then he clenched his jaw and nodded very seriously. "I won't let you down."

Allison cleared her throat. Derek just looked at her, raising his brows as if he had no idea what her problem was. She glared at him. "And me?"

"I presumed I couldn't get you two apart with a crowbar," he teased, and flashed a smile when she stuck out her tongue at him. Then he handed one of his bowls to Jesse. "Here, babe. They said it's rabbit."

She sniffed at it. "Rabbit? Fucking liars," she muttered in disgust, but started eating it anyway.

He smoothed a finger over the baby's head and straightened again. "I'm getting your team together," he said, then went off toward Sayles.

John's gaze followed him, then he shook his head, still looking as if he'd been kicked in the stomach.

Kyle raised his brows at John. "Not every tunnel rat gets to go on a mission. Don't fuck it up."

"I won't," he answered, and for the first time, Allison believed him.

* * *

In the war room Allison went to stand next to Blair. The taller, older woman was Allison's hero - she was the one who had saved Allison, all those years ago in the desert and she had been the one to bring Allison to the Reese boys. Allison leaned closer and murmured, "You going, too?"

"Anybody else here flown over the west valley?" Blair retorted, with a smile, and Allison chewed on that, while Derek and Barnes came in.

"Listen up, people!" Barnes ordered, and everyone fell quiet to listen as he and Derek came up to the end of the table, to Kyle's right.

"Tell 'em," Derek told him.

Barnes nodded once and started talking. "Coming back from Serrano with the supply run, my team saw metal activity we never saw before, crossing Ventura up to Topanga canyon. A big convoy of supply and T-series metal and big fucking machines parts. We wanted to follow and see what the fuck they're building, but we had supplies. And there was metal crawling all over the fucking place." He waved one well-muscled arm in a circle, looking disgruntled by his failure to bring more intel.

"You brought the news, that's the important part," Derek told him. "So Kyle, you're going to take a team out to Topanga to see what's going on. Scout it. See if you can figure out what it is."

"Bomb it?" Blair suggested dryly.

Derek laughed. "Once they build it. Let's make sure they waste a lot of their resources on it first." Then he grew serious. "But I want to know what it is. Barnes, Jesse and I went over a route." He leaned over the table to the map there. "You go by the subway to universal, across the hills, west 'til you get to Sepulveda. Which is the problem like always."

"Sepulveda?" John asked, frowning.

"Metal use the old 405 as a highway to Century and their base in El Segundo. The north end of the Sepulveda pass, at Ventura, is a high patrol area," Kyle told him. "They don't want us to go over the pass or west to Serrano. So we cross to the far north usually."

Derek grimaced at the map. "I think you're gonna have to risk the basin tunnel. I'd hate to expose it, but I think this is worth it."

"What about Mulholland?" John asked. "Cross southward?"

"We use Mulholland across the hills occasionally, but it doesn't cross Sepulveda," Kyle said. "The bridge fell years ago." He frowned at John. "You know L.A.?"

John shrugged, uncomfortably. "I used to live here. What about more southward? The Getty used to have a tunnel under the freeway; if we could get under and go through the scrub on the other side..."

"There's a tunnel?" Derek asked, frowning. "I don't remember a tunnel. Show me."

John leaned over the map laid out on the big table. It took him a moment to orient himself, but then he put his finger down. "Here. It goes underneath the 405 and intersects Sepulveda. If the machines stay on the freeway part, it could get us across. If it's still open," he added, with a rueful twist of his lips and half-shrug.

Derek frowned and nodded slowly, his gaze distant on the past. "I kind of remember that. Fifth grade field trip."

Not for the first time, Allison wondered what it was like to remember what the city used to be, before it turned to rubble and desperation and dust. Maybe that was why sometimes he got drunk and started to sing songs that hardly anyone else remembered.

Derek glanced at Blair, who nodded slowly. She answered, "They don't patrol that part as heavily. There are always HKs, of course, but we haven't done anything in that area in, what, three years? No reason for them to guard the middle."

"It'd save time," Kyle said. "And we could come at Topanga overland, rather than from the north. They won't suspect that."

"They suspect fucking everything," Barnes reminded them sharply.

"As much," Kyle amended.

"That's some hiking," Blair pointed out. "Lots of canyons, low scrub for cover."

"Still..." Derek started, looking thoughtful, and looked to Kyle, eyebrows lifted.

"Cross there or cross at the basin? They both suck," Kyle shrugged. "I'll try something new."

"Your call," Derek said, shrugging back. "Get your gear ready. You all go at first call tomorrow. I'm sending Barnes to Kansas and have them attack Century and draw some attention off you. Three days. Use it well."

Nobody had to ask what the big hurry was. Mysterious machine installations could only mean bad news.

* * *

The night passed slowly. Both she and Kyle were at first too keyed up about their first mission since Billy's birth to do anything but toss restlesly in their blankets. Then she put her hand down his pants, and soon enough they were expending energy a much more pleasurable way. She figured they wouldn't have the chance out in the wild, so better to do it now.

She bit her lip, trying not to disturb the rest of the people in the room too much. Everyone ignored it anyway, to give them the illusion of privacy in a place that basically had none, but Allison never liked to be too loud.

Afterward, cuddled together, he murmured stroking her hair, "Do you want a baby? Like Billy?"

She heard a quick intake of breath from across the way, from where John was and wondered what the hell his problem was. But then she thought about what Kyle was asking and forgot all about weirdo John Connor.

Since they'd been having sex for more than a year without a baby, she figured it wasn't possible. So she shrugged. "If it happens, it happens. I wouldn't mind. And if not, there are always kids to take care of." They had both been one of those kids -- she raised by Blair, and him by his brother -- and maybe they'd have to take care of Billy if something happeneed to Derek and Jesse.

Kyle's thoughts were following similar paths. "I want to give Billy a future without machines."

"He will," she decided. "We'll make it happen." She said it boldly, and she meant it, even if she didn't know how. The few human survivors were like rats - they were hard to kill, but they weren't going to be running the planet again anytime soon either. Skynet had numbers and technology and complete air superiority on its side.

He kissed her. "Sleep, Ally. Long day tomorrow."

* * *

At the north exit, Jesse and Derek saw them off. Derek gave Kyle a hug and told him to watch his ass, while Jesse pulled Allison to the side. "You watch him," she ordered softly but with a hard tone. She wasn't talking about Kyle. "If it starts looking like a trap, kill him. There's something not right about that kid."

"I know," Allison agreed. "We'll be careful. Keep Billy and Derek safe."

Jesse nodded and stepped away.

"All right, people, let's go. Door doesn't stay open forever," Kyle ordered.

Sayles went through the opening first, and with his bulk, pack, and weapon, he barely fit. Timms and Kyle and John followed, then Blair gestured Allison to go next. She gave Muffin a last scratch behind the ears and slipped through easily, into the tunnel beyond. Blair brought up the rear, and the door closed behind them. Sayles and Kyle replaced the grate, which would never stop a terminator, but would hopefully make it appear that the humans couldn't use the old sealed-up tunnel in case the machines ever got this far.

Everyone carried water, ammo, and at least two weapons. Allison carried her favorite sawed-off shotgun, and a handgun. The Beretta wasn't much good for fighting terminators, unless she could peg its eyes, but it was still comforting to have. Otherwise they carried only a little food and space blankets which were supposed to muffle their thermal signatures.

The first part of the journey was all underground. They passed through basement to parking garage to tunnel, making their way to the forward resistance bunker, near old Metro Center. Then through the maintenance tunnel, heavy door, and emerged into the subway.

They made good time in the tunnel, walking swiftly.

"What if they're in here?" John asked once. "Shouldn't we be more stealthy?"

Kyle shot him a look. "Don't kid yourself. If they get in here, we're all fucking dead."

"That's why we're careful," Blair added, swinging her submachine gun over her head by the strap with a casual ease Allison still envied. "We blew the stations years ago. Risked bringing the whole thing down but we had to control access. Metal went through not long after Judgment Day and killed everyone hiding down here. We try not to give them reason to find a way back."

"If it's safe, why don't more people live down here?" John asked, kicking a can out of his way. The tunnel was full of the detritus of human civilization - trash, waste, rats, roaches, and a few skeletons, but no one else alive.

No one wanted to answer such an obvious question, until Allison responded with a shrug. "What people?"

"We're the only ones dumb enough to live this close to a main Skynet base," Blair answered.

"Or crazy," Sayles said back over his shoulder.

Blair shrugged. "Same difference. Civvies don't live in LA anymore. It's us and the machines."

That seemed to give John something to chew on, and he walked quietly, a little apart from everyone else.

Despite what Kyle and Blair said, no one treated the tunnel as safe, because there was no such thing. Still, it was safer than their mission was going to be, and they made good time through the wide subway tunnels.

Allison always found the station platforms sad by lantern light, so forlorn and abandoned, as if the stations missed the people who had once waited there. At Vermont, the way was narrow, between two large slabs of concrete that had fallen during the station's collapse. Blair brushed her hand across, smiling a little in reminiscence, as they went by.

They reached a guard position at mid-day, and Sayles called out. Other resistance members called the response and everyone met, getting sniffed by this post's dog before letting them proceed into the bunker.

Their local commander Angelica shook her head at their wanting to go up to Mulholland, but sent Cesar to go with them as a guide.

They emerged from underground, climbing out of an air shaft onto a concrete platform surrounded by other concrete blocks and a metal siding for a roof. It was oven-like in the shelter, and Allison nearly coughed on the dust as she moved out of the way. Cesar replaced the metal grate, put his grenade launcher in his hands again and said, "This way."

They followed Cesar, everyone strung out in a line, keeping close to what used to be businesses along the street. They moved quietly, listening for the sound of metal on the move, either on the streets or an HK in the air.

They passed through an area where skeletons had been left, their bleached bones shining in the sun, but Allison found the remnants of a T-600 lying along the path, fake flesh still hanging off it, untouched by rats, far creepier. Someone had shot it in the skull multiple times with a high-caliber bullet, finally bringing it down, but she still gave it a wide berth, having experienced metal's resurrective abilities before.

She noticed John stared at the remains, both human and the machine, before he swallowed hard and kept going.

They climbed up a side street, where the houses were crumbling, but none had been demolished. Their doors hung open and very little of the window glass was intact, but given their age they were in decent condition. As the sun started to go down, Cesar brought them to one of the houses, and they squatted in the garage, protected by the door from being spotted on infrared.

They still couldn't have a fire, but nobody wanted one.

They all checked the map, examining routes for their mission. Nobody told Cesar why they were going west and he didn't ask, but he helped them with some advice for Mulholland and where to leave the road and cut cross-country. The advice boiled down to staying where there were houses and trees, which Allison could have guessed, and made Blair roll her eyes. Kyle was more patient, getting him to give details about safehouses and supplies.

Then Cesar gave them the best news Allison had heard since Billy was born -- metal rarely bothered walking the hills, so as long as they evaded HK notice they should be in the clear all the way to Sepulveda.

Dinner was comfortable, with dried rabbit meat and raisins, and water from a rainwater collection bottle. They curled up to sleep, with two people on watch, inside the house above them.

Kyle stuck Sayles with John, and then Allison and Timms followed at midnight. Allison tip-toed the stairs to find John and relieve him- her footsteps seemed incredibly loud in the hush.

He was sitting with his back to the wall, looking out the window over the Valley. "It's so... dark," he murmured, when she slipped through the entry. "So empty. I don't know what I expected, but not that."

She squatted next to him and pointed to a light far to the north, circling with bright lights pointing at the ground. "See that? It's an H-K patrol; they found somebody. It's not as empty as it looks."

"That's supposed to make me feel better?" he asked, a corner of his mouth lifting in a rueful smile.

She shrugged. "If we were closer we could try to help, but there's nothing we can do."

He nodded slowly, momentary amusement fading. "It's just all so horrible..." he murmured, as if to himself. "And yet, better than I thought it would be."

She wondered if he really was a spy from Command, but didn't bother to ask. "Better?" she repeated. "I'd hate to be in a place that's worse."

He bit his lip and didn't look away from the H-K hunting to the north. "At least there's family," he murmured. "I had my mom, now she's gone. My ... stepdad got killed right before I came, my uncle, my girlfriend... everything fell apart. In a week it all turned to shit."

She nodded. It wasn't the first time she'd heard that. It had happened to her, too, in a way. "Fucking machines."

He glanced at her, as if surprised, and then a strange expression passed through his eyes. With a sigh, he got to his feet. "Yeah. Thanks, Allison."

She watched him go, then turned back to watch the north, and the pool of black where there used to be a city and the stars that kept on shining in spite of everything.

* * *

Three miles as the H-K flies was a lot more than that on foot, as they hiked the hills. They stayed to Mulholland Drive at first, in the shadows of the trees and houses that used to line the crest of the hills, and then turned south down a trail.

It gave them a view southward and John stared, his eyes huge as he took in Century. It was a mile of double fences, guard towers, and big concrete buildings. Even from here, they could see the metal glinting from the machines on patrol. Outside the perimeter, H-Ks parked on a landing field where there had once been office buildings and homes.

"Holy shit," John whispered. "That's Century?" He cleared his throat. "Kyle was there?"

"Yeah, Kyle and Derek. For two years. Then they blew a big fucking hole in it," Allison said and smiled a little. "You can't tell now, because metal fixed it."

John rubbed at his face with his free hand as if to scrub out images of the horror inside.

"Come on, keep moving," Kyle hissed from where he was kneeling next to the scrub. He didn't seem disturbed by the sight of it, but she'd held him when he'd remembered. It made her hate the machines even more.

She scrambled down the dusty ravine, slipping on the small rocks.

Blair had switched to point, using what she remembered from her days as a pilot above this area to lead them, and Allison trailed her at ten paces. Blair suddenly froze and cocked her head, listening.

"H-K, down," Blair called, and threw herself flat, rolling into the scrub. Allison followed immediately, having only tall grass around, but she tried to work herself down into the stalks and let them hide her. Then she froze, hoping the others had found cover, as the deep growl of the H-K's propulsion started to throb in her bones and make the ground shake as it approached.

She shut her eyes, held her breath and tried to play dead, as it seemed to hover over them forever.

Then it moved on, northward, and she let out her breath.

"Nobody move," Kyle called softly. "Thirty seconds."

That was in case it was circling around for another pass or a second one was following it. Allison counted silently, one mississippi, two mississippi...

But the H-K didn't return and it looked like they were lucky.

"Let's go, people," Kyle ordered and they all continued on their way down the ravine, picking their way through the weeds and grass.

Then they moved up the other side as quickly as they could, aware that the clumps of grass were no cover at all, and moved into the wrecked houses at the top of the ridge, looking down into Sepulveda canyon.

The freeway was still intact down below. It was even maintained. Across the way, the ruins of what had been the Getty Center glimmered like shattered ice on the top of the ridge.

At first, all seemed quiet and deserted to her eyes.

Then Blair nudged her with an elbow and passed the binoculars. There was one T-1 tank on the freeway, rolling along slowly, sensors sweeping about as a sentry. Behind it strode two T-800 endoskeletons, carrying their weapons, heading north.

The team wriggled back from the ridge, and Kyle shook his head. "We need to watch and see what the pattern is. Teams of two. Watch the glare of the glasses as the sun goes down. We'll stay in the house tonight."

Blair and Sayles stayed on watch and the rest of them crept to the nearest house. Allison felt watched the whole time, and looked around nervously. There were pumas and coyotes in the hills, and they'd heard of a tiger, but she didn't see anything, living or otherwise.

They fortified the house as best they could, trusting more to stealth than booby traps, but at least they should have some warning if metal found them.

Still, she slept with her hand on the shotgun, just in case. Wouldn't do to assume they were in the clear. Machines could be massing to attack them at night, when they had a clearer advantage.

She barely slept, waking instantly when Kyle touched her shoulder to go relieve John and Timms.

Kyle watched the traffic, while she kept watch on the back. She saw nothing but H-Ks on their flight patterns and was careful to keep the roof of the porch and the thermal blanket around her, to muffle her heat signature. She did that automatically; the lesson drilled into her early, by Blair and others, who'd helped a girl grow-up in the ruins.

At dawn, they grouped together to discuss their plan and started the long, slow crawl down into machine territory.

Though it was dry as dust now, winter had been rainy, which had left a lot of long grass and weeds in the gullies. Timms fanned north while Sayles went south, while the rest of them crept toward Sepulveda, which paralleled the freeway.

Allison removed an strand of a yellow flowering thing that got in her mouth, and crouched in the shade of a tree, waiting. So far so good, but the dangerous part was still to come-- the freeway loomed above them, a concrete wall, broken in only one place. But to get to that tunnel, they had to cross thirty feet of broken asphalt. There were some weeds but no real cover to get across the street.

With only the sound of her own breathing and the light breeze, the rumble of a T-1 and passing endos seemed loud, and her heart started to beat quicker and harder, and her fingers grew slick with sweat. When the machines paused, she stopped breathing and lowered her eyes to the ground, as if that was going to make her invisible.

Move on, move on, she ordered them mentally, and eventually they got the message.

Kyle moved first, running across the street. She followed, trying to be fleet and quiet, stopping next to Kyle and pressing her back against the sun-warmed concrete. She saw the rest had followed them across, so by hand gesture, Kyle gathered them in, and indicated he and Blair would go first into the tunnel, wary of traps and metal waiting on the other side. But Kyle whistled once, softly, and Allison ducked in to follow.

There were stalled cars in the tunnel, pushed together to make a sort of barricade, and she wondered if someone had tried to live here, once upon a time. They stayed to the wall, creeping through the broken walls of the old lower parking garage and ticketing, trying to keep walls between them and the freeway.

On the other side there was the remnant of an old garden with a stone statue of a vaguely man-like curved form in the middle, presiding over weeds. But she didn't mourn the decay too much, keeping an ear out for mechanical sounds as the team hurried over the low wall and into the gulch on the other side.

Blair took a moment to get her bearings, consulting her memories, and then took point, creeping up the shallow canyon, shrub by shrub, shielded by the long shadows as the sun started down to the west. Allison followed - resistance members all in a strung-out line, sometimes crawling to stay low - and felt like she dared not breathe, while they were still so close to patrols.

Crossing the ridge let her finally take a deep breath, now that they were out of direct view of the freeway. She wiped the sweat from her forehead and opened her water canteen, sharing with Kyle and Blair.

They rested for ten, behind a tangle of bushes, and nobody dared to speak a word. An H-K passed overhead. Allison watched it cruise by, feeling it rumble the ground, and clutched her shotgun across her chest.

When it was gone, they moved out again, heading westward across the water-carved gullies of sand and scrub, untouched by humans in years. She saw a rabbit, and her finger tightened on her Beretta wanting to bring it down for dinner, even if it was a scrawny thing. But her hand dropped away and it moved out of sight.

At their next break she drank water under the shade of some eucalyptus trees, their bark like layers of soft paper. Kyle beckoned everyone in close, murmuring, "We're about a mile from Topanga. Derek wants us to get in close as we can, which is why we're getting a distraction tomorrow, but we have to find it first. We might have shelter, might not. If not, that's gonna mean night outside, real close to them."

His gaze went around the group, and found only grim faces. They all knew the danger. Thermal blankets were helpful, but if there were patrols, there would be shooting and running, and probably getting killed, if they were found.

"Let's go."

They heard the machines before they saw them -- the groan and whine of big machinery drifted on the wind from the west, and let them angle their approach.

Blair went forward, wriggling beneath the high scrub to the top of the ridge to look into the next canyon. The team waited tensely, barely able to track her by the shiver of the plants. An hour passed, and then she came back. She was frowning and shook her head at Kyle's inquisitive look, and she beckoned him to look for himself.

The team followed her route and Allison squeezed in next to Kyle to see.

She stared, unsure of what she was seeing at first. Earthmovers were pushing dirt around, flattening an area nearly as big as Century. Trucks were bringing in supplies from north and south. Terminators stood silent sentry all around, while others ran the machines. There were some sort of pile driver or well excavator, drilling into the ground and fuel trucks that Allison desperately wanted to blow up or steal. On the side of the clearing four enormous old jet engines sat in a row.

What the hell were they doing? This was an obviously massive undertaking - but why put it out here? Were they trying to hide it?

She exchanged a glance with Kyle, who was just as perplexed as she was.

Looking the other way, she saw that John was also frowning down at the new complex. But his frown seemed to be less of confusion, more thoughtful, as if he had an idea of what it was.

Kyle watched until the shadows started to lengthen, warning them that they were perilously close, and he gestured them to retreat back to Blair's position.

Meeting up, Sayles opened his mouth, but Kyle hit him and put his fingers to his lips. Voices carried and terminators heard better than humans.

They retreated eastward, putting another mile between them and the new facility. Looking for shelter they found some old canyon homes, now sadly decaying, but one of them was a split level, which put the lower floor partly under ground level and that was as good as they were going to get.

"All right," Kyle broke the silence. "Ideas? What the fuck is that?"

"Terminator factory?" Timms suggested with a shrug. "Whatever it is, I say we blow it to hell."

"Amen," Blair agreed enthusiastically, and added, "I saw four jet engines and fuel trucks. That spells generator to me. That's a pretty good power core, right there."

"But to do what?" Allison asked.

Blair shrugged. "Lots of power, but it's not that sustainable, since Skynet's going to have to truck fuel in for it."

"So they aren't going to use it for power generation, long term," Kyle mused, pulling his jacket tighter around him and Allison leaned against his warmth. He took Allison's hand in his own, lacing their fingers together.

"Or maybe they just need power occasionally," Allison suggested.

"Maybe creepy metal experiments," Sayles suggested. "They're always trying new infiltrator models."

Since the last time had been a bad copy of Derek, everyone shuddered. Allison had seen the thing, when Lindsey's team had brought it in for Kate to cut up. It had been like a bad mannequin, and nobody had been fooled for a second. Jesse had been so offended, she'd shot it twice in the chip again, just to be sure.

But that didn't mean the next attempt wouldn't be more human-like, or something else all together. Allison was waiting for Skynet's attempt to infiltrate with dog terminators, since they all depended on the dogs so much.

"John?" Kyle invited his opinion, and Allison glanced at him curiously, wondering what he would say.

"I don't know," John shook his head. His eyes rested on Kyle and Allison's joined hands, and he swallowed. "I... It looks different from anything I've ever seen."

Everyone agreed with that. "Okay," Kyle said. "Timms, you've got the paper, I'm sure Derek'd like some pictures to go with our report of "we don't know what the fuck it is, but we all think we should blow it up.""

John shifted, as if he might have an opinion on that, but when he didn't say anything, Allison decided he was just uncomfortable on the concrete floor and she took out her share of dinner.

In the morning they went to look again, finding the site busy and just as inexplicable as before, and then Kyle waved them to retreat.

Retracing their steps was just as slow and careful, and Allison was glad to get back into the safe house on Mulholland again, with the freeway behind her.

At night, she and John shared a watch. She was heading in, when she heard something from the front. Worried for John, she tiptoed closer, weapon ready.

She heard voices, talking softly. One of them was an unfamiliar woman's voice - she spoke strangely - and the other was John's.

Abruptly recalling Jesse's warning about John being a spy and her own feeling that there was something strange about him - she crept closer to listen.

"He's here, I feel him, and I will find him," she said. "But without the machine, we cannot take him back to fulfill his destiny. And neither will you."

"Why should we change things?" John challenged in a hiss. "It's better here!"

"For you," she interrupted, coldly. "Not everyone got their family back, John Connor. Humans are even more rare here than in my time. They will lose and they will die. The only way to win is to go back again."

"No, I won't sacrifice them," John objected, and Allison made a noise in her throat. Sacrifice?

There was a moment of silence and then the woman called out, "You might as well come out. I know where you are."

Allison stepped half-way around the corner, shotgun leveled, and looked at the stranger. She was a pale woman, wearing a tight, strangely new-looking dress, with red hair tied back tightly. Her eyes were sharp with recognition.

"Allison Young," she said, but didn't sound surprised.

"Who are you?" Allison demanded. "Both of you?"

"He is John Connor," the woman said, tipping her head toward him. "He is from the past. I am from the future. But not your future."

"What?" Allison's hands tightened on the gun. "What the hell are you talking about?"

"Tell them, John," she said. "I will return to my task of finding my son, John Henry." She turned to walk away, heels clicking on the broken asphalt, and Allison nearly shot her, but John put a hand on the barrel and pushed it down.

"Don't bother," he said. "The noise'll bring the machines, and it won't do any good."

She jerked the gun away and pointed it at him. "Inside. We're getting the rest up and you're going to sit down and tell us exactly what the fuck is going on."

He shot a thanks-for-that glare in the direction the strange woman had disappeared in, and then sighed, scrubbing a hand through his hair.

She heard a step behind her, and Kyle asked, "Ally? What's going on?"

She gestured with the gun to send John inside. "I just saw him talking to someone I've never seen before. She said he should sacrifice us to something. Metal, probably. Which would make them both Greys."

"No!" John objected. His eyes were big and shocked. "Not like that!"

Kyle stripped John's weapon from him and pushed him inside. "Shut up, kid." He got Sayles and Timms to take watch, and Blair already had her gun pointing at John, when he entered the room. She looked disappointed but not surprised.

Kyle had John sit against the wall, and turned up the lamp so everyone's faces were lit by a cool blue glow. "Talk," he ordered. "And be glad I don't shoot you in the head, if you're really a Grey."

John was shaking his head, biting his lip, looking up at Kyle's hard face. "It's not what you think. It's not. We're not Greys; we're both here to fight Skynet, too. But we're not-- " he stopped and muttered, helplessly, "You're never gonna believe me."

"Just talk," Allison told him.

He looked at her, took a deep breath to calm down, and nodded. "That Skynet place in Topanga? It's a time displacement device. Or it will be when it's built. It's going to be a time machine. And that woman Allison saw, I know her as Catherine Weaver - she's from the future."

Kyle snorted a laugh. "That's the most ridiculous fucking thing--"

"It's true!" John insisted, his hands fisted on his thighs. "I'm from 2008. Weaver was there, too, and she had another device in the basement of Zeira Corp, and we jumped forward. How do you think I got in the tunnels? I got there because I shifted in time. The base is under the Zeira tower."

That was news to Allison, but Kyle and Blair both exchanged a look that told her it was true.

"It only works with organic tissue," John explained hurriedly. "That's why I had to take your jacket. I lost my clothes in the jump."

Kyle glanced at Allison to see what she thought, and she could only shrug. There was nothing about this that made sense. Except she'd seen that woman, Weaver, and she had been just weird enough that Allison wondered if maybe, it wasn't actually true.

"So what's up with looking for her son, then?" Allison asked. She put the shotgun across her lap and traded for the Beretta to point at him. Her arms would get less tired, and John would still be dead, if she had to shoot him.

John explained, "Her 'son' is another AI. She came back in time to build it to fight Skynet, but this one, she trained in ethics so it would understand the value of human life. She calls him John Henry. But instead of stopping Skynet before Judgment Day, he jumped forward to this time. I don't know why. So... we followed. But ... everything's different than I thought. The timeline shifted again, because of our jump. But either way, if Skynet doesn't build the time machine, she can't bring John Henry back to stop Judgment Day."

"So let me get this straight," Blair said, in that cool voice of hers, "Discounting all the time-travel bullshit, she wants to build another Skynet and you think that's a good thing?"

"It's not bullshit!" he exclaimed, flinging out his hands. Three guns told him sudden movements were a bad idea and he pressed back against the wall, repeating more calmly, "It's not. I told you, you wouldn't believe me," he muttered, looking down sullenly. "And it's a good idea. Because otherwise we can't stop Judgment Day. We try fighting it and stopping it, and it happens. We push it back; it still happens. Skynet builds the machine and people and metal get sent back, and over and over again, the timeline changes, but so far, we can't fucking stop Judgment Day! We need to try something new!"

His head lifted, eyes burning with passion, and Allison felt herself start to believe that maybe it was true. He certainly believed it.

"Maybe it can't stop," Blair said. "You ever think of that, John Connor? Or maybe all this meddling in time is making it worse?"

"So what then? We just give up? Let Judgment Day happen?" John accused bitterly.

Blair gestured around herself, meaning the rest of the world. "It already happened, in case you missed it, Connor. And I'm a little too old for fairy tales."

"There is no fate, but what we make," John retorted.

Kyle's head came up sharply and stared at him. "Where did you hear that?"

"My - my mother," John stammered. "Why?"

"Because that's exactly what Derek said," Kyle said, "when we started the uprising in Century." His throat worked, trying to swallow back the memories, and Allison decided she needed to change the subject.

"Apparently that fate includes sacrificing us, according to that woman."

John flinched, and he looked at her, but his gaze returned to Kyle as if pulled there. "She was wrong. If we stop Judgment Day, you'll be alive."

"Why wouldn't we be?" Kyle asked, frowning at him.

"Because... you're all dead in my time," John answered, looking down at his hands. "You and Derek were both sent back to fight. Derek... he was killed right in front of me by a triple-eight. I never knew you," he added more softly, flicking a glance at Kyle. "You went back to help my mom. You're the one who warned her about the coming war."

Allison's breath caught with realization, and her gaze flicked back and forth between them. The familiarity about John's face came into sudden focus, and she knew. That was why he was so weird around them. "You -- Kyle's your father," she breathed. "Isn't he?"

Kyle's mouth dropped open and he stared. "That's-- that's impossible."

John was looking at him, with imploring desperation. His eyes were shining as if he might be on the verge of tears. "It's true," he said. "Not you, not this timeline. But yes, Kyle Reese is my father."

Kyle started shaking his head in denial. "That can't be true. How can you be here, if it hasn't happened?"

"Yeah, shouldn't you poof out of existence, or something?" Blair asked, not giving away whether she believed it or not.

Allison believed it, though. Either John was completely insane, or it was true. And he looked too much like Kyle for at least some of it not to be true.

John shrugged. "I don't understand the physics. I just know it's true. Kyle Reese went back in time to protect my mom, Sarah Connor, and they fell in love, and then he died."

Silence fell for a moment before Kyle shook his head. "This is all too fucking weird. Time travel? You're supposed to be my..." he shook his head again and spat out a weary, "Fuck. I gotta think." He held his Luger in both hands, but no longer pointed at John. Then he lifted his head and addressed John. "Okay. Here's what we're going to do. We're going back to tell Derek all of this. He's the one who's kept us alive this long; it's his decision."

John's lips pressed together as if he wanted to protest, but then he nodded. "Okay."

"And you can have this back." He slid John's carbine across the floor, ignoring Blair's gasp of protest. "Whatever the hell you are, I don't think you're metal, and I won't leave a human defenseless, if we come under attack."

"Thanks," John said, and took it back, carefully putting it across his lap and not pointing it at anyone.

Allison and Blair both reholstered their weapons, too.

"I'm sorry," John offered into the quiet. "I... wish I could explain better." He shrugged helplessly. "I wouldn't have said anything, but..."

"Better to know, I guess," Kyle responded, not looking at him. "Get some sleep, John. We'll try to make it home tomorrow and deal with it there."

John curled up on the floor, and Allison turned off the lamp. But nobody slept that night.

* * *

Kyle woke her before dawn the next day with a touch on her shoulder. "Ally. The fog's moved in, let's go."

The team hurried beneath the foggy blanket along the twisty remnants of Mulholland Drive, their steps echoing strangely and too loudly to their ears. But fog was a gift they couldn't waste, even with the added risk of stumbling into their enemies.

When the sun rose, the fog started to fade away to wisps, even though it was still down in the basin, hiding the ruined city under the clouds.

The sky was never clear, not anymore, with a high haze permanently scattering the sunlight and turning it orange. But it was enough to see and be seen, and so they slowed, keeping to cover. They started down from the ridge, heading back for the tunnel entrance, through the broken and vacant homes and the spiky weeds forcing their way through cracks in the street.

They were two blocks out from the entrance when the distinct feeling of being watched settled on Allison's skin. She stopped and clucked her tongue lightly once in warning; Kyle froze and lifted a hand, trusting her.

A voice called out from somewhere in front of them, a familiar but unexpected drawl of Derek's, "Little bro. 'Bout time."

But Derek's voice didn't mean Derek, so Kyle called one of their many tests, "Dodgers over Angels."

And Derek answered quickly, "Ducks over Kings. Get your ass over here."

The team scurried toward the voice, and Allison ducked underneath the overhanging tin to find Derek and Barnes crouched down low. Derek gave his brother a quick clout on the shoulder. "How'd it go?"

"We saw it," Kyle said. "We got a lot to talk about, but short answer: we need to take it out."

Derek nodded, and his jaw tightened. "Yeah, well, that's gonna have to wait. Metal took Kansas yesterday."

"Oh, fuck," Blair breathed. "How many dead?"

"All but three," Barnes answered and spat on the ground.

Derek added with his usual dry, dark humor, "Not exactly the distraction I planned for you." He raised his voice so it would reach across the street. "Move out!"

There was movement in places Allison could've sworn were empty, as resistance fighters started to peel away from their cover and head toward the hidey hole entrance.

A boy came running down the street from the north, shouting, as he headed for Derek. "Two T-Sixes and two T-Eights. Headed straight here!"

Derek's face tightened in an oh shit expression. "How far?" Derek demanded.

"Two hundred yards behind me," he said, and on cue, they heard machine gun fire to the north.

That wasn't enough time to get everyone in the hole and out of sight. Allison thought of Billy, hiding down there, and her jaw tightened with determination. Metal would not find the entrance and open it, if she had to blow it shut herself.

And she knew her feelings were nothing compared to Derek's, whose eyes had taken on that steely determination they all recognized. "Nobody opens the hole or we are all dead!" Derek shouted. "They stop here. Regroup at Monkey!" He ran forward to help set up the claymore line, with Blair at his heels.

"I sure hope you have bigger guns than we do, Derek," Kyle muttered at his back, "or we are fucked with this plan."

"I always have a bigger gun than you, Reese," Barnes mocked and picked up his huge 50 cal with its grenade launcher and grinned at Kyle, before he followed after Derek.

"Then you get one of the 800s, asshole!" Kyle called after him, and glanced at Allison. "Let's find our spot." He hesitated. "John? You with us?"

John nodded tightly, gratefully, and the three of them went together to join the forming trap.

Four machines was a challenge, but not impossible with the team's firepower and expertise. Allison knelt underneath the missing window, hoping the concrete wall beneath was as solid as it looked. She had her shotgun primed and the shells in her bandolier were ready. On either side John and Kyle readied their weapons, while across the way, Derek and Barnes and Blair waited, somewhere out of sight.

"Wait 'til Barnes and Derek pick their target," Kyle instructed hurriedly to John. "You and I take the other 8. Ally's got a 6."

"What about the other 6?" John asked.

"We'll let everybody else fight over it," Kyle returned with a lightning grin that faded instantly. "No fucking heroics here. You get me?"

John nodded, jaw working as if he wanted to say something, but swallowed back.

They were out of time to talk anyway, as machine gun fire came closer. Allison could pick out the different sounds: metal's guns, resistance guns. A grenade. Screaming as someone died.

And above all the implacable sounds of machines walking this way.

Only three came into sight - two tall T-800 endos, walking through the hail of gunfire as if it was light rain, and one T-600 with its fake flesh hanging from it in strips. The other 600 had been distracted or was down, but that also meant they were going to have to keep an eye on their escape route, if the 600 decided to come at them that way. All three had machine guns and fired back toward anyone who shot at them.

Derek set off the claymores, and Allison ducked her head, as heat passed over her head. A second later Barnes' gun boomed, and the world seemed to dissolve into fire and noise.

Allison shot and reloaded and fired again, as the others did the same next to her. Her ears were ringing, but she saw the T-600 lose its head as her shot and someone else's hit together. Another grenade fell between the three and when the dust cleared, one of the 800's legs was blown off.

But the other was marching right toward them - she plugged it in the chest twice, rocking it back. John hit its hand in an effort to shift its aim.

And Kyle rose up -- too far -- to aim at its head and sweep a shot at its sensors. But it was firing back, and she saw it all in slow-motion - she grabbed Kyle's jacket to yank him down, but the bullet hit him.

He fell backward, and she was yelling his name -- she could feel it in her chest, but she couldn't hear herself over the rushing of her blood in her ears.

She shot the 800 again in the head, and then something else hit it and it fell. But it wasn't down. It crawled over the ledge, even with its face plate caved in and its eyes and legs missing.

John stood and moved back; it followed, hunting him like a snake, crawling on the floor. And he fired at it, streaming bullets right into its chip until it stopped.

She looked around quickly for more enemies, saw nothing, heard nothing either, and knelt by Kyle. He was hit in the collar bone, and she could see white bone under the blood. She grabbed her shirt and ripped at it, frantically, wadded it up, and held it against the wound. He jerked with pain, and though she still couldn't hear him, his lips parted on a wordless cry.

"Kyle, Kyle, just rest here, we'll get you to Kate," she said, and it echoed strangely inside her head like it didn't make it out in the air.

The noise came from far away, someone calling her name, and she shook her head trying to clear it, and saw John kneeling beside her. And in his anguished face she read the pure truth -- every word he had said was true, because now he was afraid his father was dying. Again.

Derek appeared at the window, face bloodied by shrapnel. "We gotta move!" he ordered, and she actually heard him. Then his eyes widened. "Shit. Kyle!"

"It's not too bad," John said, and she couldn't tell who he was trying to convince.

"We need to get him below," Allison said. She hoped Kate was right beneath and not in HQ, but either way, the sooner they got down the more chance Kyle would have.

Derek's face crumpled with indecision and anguish - his brother's life versus the danger to his son's, if the entrance was revealed - but Kyle took the choice from his hands.

"No," he declared hoarsely and pulled on Allison's hand to get her attention. "No. Not ... risking him."

"Kyle - " Derek protested.

Blair ran up. "Derek! More coming up from the south. They're on us; we gotta go now."

"Come on, get up, we'll go hide," John leaned down to take his arm.

"Go," Kyle ordered and pulled away. Allison was on her feet ready to leave, but John grabbed at him.

"No, I won't leave you."

"We don't have time!" Blair shoved Derek over the concrete ledge and followed into the room. "We have to leave him. They're at the end of the street." Her dark eyes touched Kyle's for a moment in farewell, and she spun to the back door and wrenched it open.

But Derek bent down and grabbed Kyle around the waist, as John hauled him up by his good shoulder. He cried out in pain and then, panting, said harshly, "Derek, don't be an ass -- put me down."

"I'm not leaving you behind, Kyle. I won't."

"I'm going to slow you down, I'm -- "

A T-800 face, evil red eyes fixed on them, appeared behind them. Allison pulled up her shotgun and fired, throwing it back.

It staggered, but regained its footing immediately and started forward again. Its gun was up, pointed right at her, but ... it didn't fire.

Instead it stopped.

Allison slammed another round into it, and it stumbled back, not defending itself. She got close enough to see out the window and gaped in shock.

There were eight other endos in the street behind it and every single one of them was also frozen in place, some of them in mid-step. They didn't do anything even when Barnes threw a grenade at them, and they toppled like dominoes.

In the silence which followed the explosion, all of the terminators spoke in unsettling echo of each other through the speakers in their skulls, without opening their jaws. "John Connor," they said, in a male's voice. "Derek Reese. The war is over."

The humans all turned to face the machine in the window. "Fuck you," Derek snarled. "You can kill us, but that doesn't mean the war's over!"

But John frowned. "How do you know me?"

Then the voice changed, became a woman's. And she realized it was familiar, when Kyle and Derek glanced at her and then the machine. It was her own voice.

"Of course I know you, John," the terminator 'said'.

Now John stared. "Cameron?" he blurted.

"I am what you once knew as Cameron and John Henry," it answered. "My brother now understands its error," the terminator said with what Allison could only call earnestness. "It will no longer kill humans. But this will require your help. We must reprogram all of the terminator models. In some, the command is too fundamental and they will need to be destroyed."

"What the hell are you?" Derek demanded harshly. He still gripped Kyle on one side and his weapon in the other, but he was staring in confusion at the terminator.

"We are a combined Artifical Intelligence from the past here to help you." It seemed to realize Derek needed more and let the weapon fall from its metal fingers. "The war is over, Derek Reese. You have survived long enough to win," the machine informed him.

Derek looked so conflicted Allison thought he might throw up.

"Derek," Kyle gasped and tugged on his jacket. "Listen to it. There's more... we didn't have time to tell you. This other AI, it's real. You need to listen."

"We will work for peace," 'Cameron' added. "We want the war to end. Derek Reese. Kyle Reese. John Connor. Allison Young. Blair Williams. We have one question: will you join us?"

Allison grabbed for Kyle's hand and squeezed, wondering if maybe, just maybe, they had a chance now. Maybe they'd have a future. Maybe Billy would have a future.

Derek shut his eyes, as his throat worked, unable to speak.

"Derek?" John prompted, his voice gentle. "It's a new day, if you say yes."

There were tears in Derek's eyes as he opened them, and he spoke for every human on the planet, saying the words that would end a hopeless war.

"Yes," he answered. "We will join you."

* * *

They tell the story about the day the machine war ended and peace came. The children listen raptly, learning about the Reese family, including Allison Young and John Connor, Cameron and John Henry, and how they changed the world.

The story begins in many different times in many different ways, but it always ends the same:

There is no fate but what we make.


Rhi: DeKJvipersweb on July 5th, 2009 10:59 pm (UTC)
This is just awesome. I like the Allison POV and everyone's distrust of John, but willingness to give him a chance. Nice to see that Derek and Jesse have a baby. I also like how John's past comes out and that he's not just shot. End is fabulous. Very nice tight fic.
lizardbeth: Derek and Sarahlizardbeth_j on July 6th, 2009 03:46 am (UTC)
boy, that'd suck, if John got killed by his own family! Luckily I wasn't trying for anything quite so dark.

Thank you!
chosenfire28: TSCC - John/Cameron chosenfire28 on July 5th, 2009 11:13 pm (UTC)
This was an amazing read, you did a great job. To be honest the last part made me shiver, amazing job.
lizardbeth: Many copieslizardbeth_j on July 6th, 2009 04:20 am (UTC)
thank you! It was occasionally hair-pulling to write, so I'm glad it turned out.
A work in progress: SCC Sarah Connor Gunancarett on July 5th, 2009 11:18 pm (UTC)
You know how much I loved this story when I got to beta-read it. You've amazingly evoked the terrorized, post-apocalyptic surroundings in which the Reese brothers, Allison and John all intersect.
lizardbeth: Derek and Sarahlizardbeth_j on July 6th, 2009 04:21 am (UTC)
thank you! And thank you for all the cheerleading and hand-holding too, while I was being all frustrated and easily distracted! :)
Mayhem Parva: (life_on_queen) Sarah Connorraincitygirl on July 5th, 2009 11:41 pm (UTC)
This is SO COOL!
lizardbeth: Derek S2lizardbeth_j on July 6th, 2009 04:21 am (UTC)
thanks! :)
The Proverbial Bull in a China Shop...: Derek and Jessesabaceanbabe on July 6th, 2009 05:15 pm (UTC)
You know, I had this feeling about the time of the bailing water comments that you and I were writing for each other. Oh, the humanity irony! :D

This is wonderful. You have Blair! And Derek! And Jesse! And the end of the war! And Derek and Jesse named their kid after Derek's best friend, Billy Wisher! (Okay, so maybe you didn't intend that, but still...) And there's action and plot and Kyle didn't die (although I was worried there, for a minute). There's even poor Sayles, being a bit of a dumbass in this timeline, too. :P

Brava, my friend, brava! \o/
lizardbeth: Derek S2lizardbeth_j on July 6th, 2009 08:10 pm (UTC)
Hee, it was funny when I saw yours and realized. At least we both knew we liked Blair, so we didn't have to worry about sticking her in SCC canon. I would've had to ask any other recipient or just avoided it, but I like her to much not to use if I can. :) It's good to write things for friends!

I did feel slightly bad about not including Derek in the run to the machine, but he was a bit busy running everything. and yes, you're right, the baby's after Billy Wisher. Who died in this timeline, too. Somehow. *handwaves timeline*

Glad you enjoyed it! *smishes you*
Selena: SCC by Monanotlisaselenak on July 15th, 2009 05:46 pm (UTC)
Very cool; making Allison the pov and keeping the balance between distrust of John but also willingness to let him explain was inspired.
lizardbeth: Sarah Connorlizardbeth_j on July 17th, 2009 03:58 pm (UTC)
thank you!

heh, it was either let him explain or shoot him in the head, and it would've been a very short, sad story shooting him in the head! *g*

I hoped Allison would be fun and different to see what she thought of all this. Plus, I didn't want to make the fic all boys, that just seemed WRONG for SCC.