Branches on the Tree of Time, Chapter 1

Kyle Reese crouched in a small ball, completely naked, and with a flash of light was transposed a thousand miles and thirty years, from the cold floor of the MIT facility to the still-warm air of Los Angeles at two hours past midnight, June 22nd, 1997. His whole body tensed, and he readied himself to sprint or roll out of the way of debris, or a car, but the jump had come through clean. He stood up, fully conscious of his lack of weaponry, identification, and clothing, and set off at a brisk jog towards UCLA.

Somewhere out there, his mother was six years old. She was living in Oregon, though she’d never said much more beyond that. Kyle tried not to think about her too much, or about anything else in the future he’d just locked himself off from. The future wasn’t being rewritten, a whole new book of history had been plopped down alongside the old one. He tried to shake off the memories and focus on the mission instead. He glanced inside the cars that he passed, hoping to see one with some clothing.

If anyone saw the naked man running down the street, they must have assumed that he was a college streaker, or perhaps more likely just dubbed him Someone Else’s Problem.

The house was a white, single story one, with a long set of steps that ran up the front lawn to the front door. The number on the mailbox matched the one that Kyle had etched into his mind in the future. The curtains were drawn over all the windows of the house, and even though it was nearly three in the morning, all the lights were on. Kyle rang the doorbell, and placed a hand over his crotch. It was several minutes before she came to the door, and the whole time he waited he was trying to strike the right pose and tone of voice to keep her from calling the police on him.

She opened the door halfway, standing so that she could close it on him, and looked down at where his hand covered his crotch. Without so much as a grin she said, “If I had known this was a casual affair, I wouldn’t have bothered putting on pants.”

“Sarah Connor?” he asked, but there was no denying it was her. Kyle had seen a single picture of her, carried by her son, and it must have been from this point in her life. Her brown hair was tied back in a tight ponytail, thick glasses sat perched on the bridge of her nose, and she wore a grey t-shirt with “Shirt” written across the front of it, along with black sweatpants. To Kyle’s eyes she was radiantly beautiful, even with the subtle wrinkles of age on her face. She was thirty-four, he knew, but she didn’t look it. Perhaps people didn’t age quite as fast prior to Judgement Day.

“Is this a joke of some kind?” she asked calmly. “Or are you simply insane?”

“Neither,” replied Kyle, looking over his shoulder, “I know this is very unusual, but I need to talk to you.” He paused. “And borrow some pants.”

“Of course, if you were insane, you probably wouldn’t know it, or at least not advertise it.” She paused, and tapped at her lip. “Alright, you have two sentences to convince me not to call the police.”

“I’m from a future where an artificial intelligence has killed 99.99% of humanity through command of the nuclear arsenal of the United States and need your help to stop that from happening.” He stopped himself and weighed his next words carefully. “There might also be a cyborg coming to kill you that only I can protect you from.”

She stared at him for a few seconds, then shrugged. “I’m unconvinced. Why are you naked if you’re sent here to protect me?”

“The time machine only sends through flesh,” replied Kyle. He knew how that would sound to her, but it was the truth.

“Convenient. And this cyborg, he can still get through somehow?”

Kyle nodded. “It’s metal, wrapped in flesh.”

“So you come through without any clothing, and with no proof that what you say is true, and you come completely naked telling me that the world is going to end, and that I should come with you if I want to live. And somehow, the hypothetical future organization that sent you thought that this was something that I would go for. I don’t suppose that metal wrapped in flesh applies to people, and if it does I don’t suppose that you hypothetical future human resistance thought to have you swallow evidence to vomit up for me?” She rattled it off quickly, and Kyle might have been stunned by it if he hadn’t been prepared for her idiosyncrasies by her son.

He reached two fingers into his mouth, and began gagging heavily. Finally, Sarah Connor seemed to express some surprise. With a wet gurgle, Kyle felt the sudden panicked need to hurl, and with modesty forgotten, he threw up in a potted plant next to her front door. A slim balloon with something hard in it sat in the middle of the pool of bile.

“Well,” said Sarah. “Well … that shows dedication if nothing else.”

“There’s a jump stick in there. It has as much as I can give you for proof.” Kyle shook his head and tried to spit the taste of vomit from his mouth. “In the meantime … well, let’s pretend that I’m just a freshman from UCLA that’s being hazed into doing this shit, and you’re feeling nice enough to let me in and give me some clothing.”

“I’ll get you clothing, but you can’t come in,” she replied. Her eyes flashed to the small balloon. “If you were somehow, impossibly, from the future, I’d just be able to plug that into my computer?”

“Don’t, not until I can supervise. Skynet’s on there.” Kyle coughed wetly, and saw some blood. He hoped it was just from throwing up; the time travel tech was pretty far from any standards of safety and reliability.

“I’m going to get you some clothes. Don’t move. If you try to come in, I’ll shoot you.” Her right hand had been behind the door, but she pulled it back to show him a handgun. “I’m serious. I’ve shot men before.” She closed the door on him quickly, keeping the gun trained on him the whole time, and Kyle heard the deadbolt slide into place.

He breathed a sigh of relief, and stood naked on the porch, massaging his throat. He knew what to expect of Sarah, and knew that she’d find his story intriguing, but there were more a huge number of potential pitfalls. It wasn’t a mission with a terribly high chance of success. After a few minutes, Sarah reopened the door, and tossed him some clothing with her left hand while keeping her handgun pointed at him with her right.

“What’s skynet?” asked Sarah. She’d lowered her gun slightly, not enough to truly let her guard down, just enough to let him know that she wasn’t planning on shooting him unless she had to. He wondered if her arm was getting tired – the gun looked heavy.

“Skynet is the machine intelligence, the one that killed almost everyone.” Kyle slipped into the pants she’d given him, which were loose in the waist and a bit too long, but far better than being completely naked.

Sarah nodded. “And we’re back in crazyland again, are we? You’re telling me that there’s a fully functional AI that killed everyone, so you stuck it on a disk and sent it back in time?” At the same time her eyes kept moving to the vomit covered balloon.

“It can’t do anything without access to the outside world,” said Kyle. “John did his best to make sure of that. So long as you don’t have a network connection, it won’t be able to get out, and you can poke at it as much as you want.”

“It’s not smart enough to talk me into letting it out?” asked Sarah. The gun slowly slipped to her side, and Kyle stifled a breath of relief. Sarah Connor was long dead where he was from, but they still told stories about her. The Sarah Connor of legend would have shot him in the head after seeing him through the peephole, but she didn’t seem to have become that person yet.

“Skynet is as dumb as a box of bricks. It’s got no real capacity for self-improvement either. But as dumb as it is, it’s dumb very, very fast, and in the future, after it’s all but wiped us out, it’s dumb fast enough to be a problem.” He cocked his head to the side. “But I’m still standing out in front of your door, and this is a long story.” He slipped on the t-shirt that she’d handed him, which was a size too small.

Sarah briefly glanced down at the vomit-covered balloon, then back up at him.

“Fine, you can come in. I’m going to make you wear the handcuffs though.”

If you have found a spelling error, please, notify us by selecting that text and pressing Ctrl+Enter.

Branches on the Tree of Time, Chapter 1

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to top

Spelling error report

The following text will be sent to our editors: