Branches on the Tree of Time, Chapter 6

Kyle had seen the police officers walk by the door, but they hadn’t looked in past the window. There was no way of knowing whether the terminator was circulating their pictures among the police, or whether it had told the right sort of lies that would cause a manhunt for the him and Sarah. The terminators could lie, but they weren’t as good at it as humans were, and Kyle knew that their method of operation more often involved sitting in one place like a spider with eyes and ears wide open. Their ability to intercept and process vast quantities of information was the legacy of a library of code they’d adapted from the NSA.

He watched as Sarah talked to Skynet, bought them both a coffee, tried to answer her questions to the best of his ability, and kept a lookout. It was hard to not be distracted by the splendors of this age. The research bunker at MIT had been the cleanest and most advanced place that Kyle could ever remember being in, and compared to what he’d seen on their drive, it was a complete dump. While there was litter, it wasn’t anywhere near the scale of the years after Judgment Day, when the houses collapsed and spilled their guts onto the streets. And everywhere, there were people, people for miles, people of such astounding density that his mind could hardly handle it. He had a mission, but for the first time since he’d arrived, he actually felt like he could start to relax a bit and take in what he was seeing.

So of course it was no surprise when he saw the cop staring through the window at them with glowing red eyes and a shotgun. He’d screamed at Sarah and watched her paralyzed reactions, and saw the rest of the cafe duck beneath their tables and huddle down, away from the bullets and the broken glass. He was used to people fighting back against the terminators, or running away from them; to hide under a table was nearly suicidal.

Kyle followed Sarah out the back of the cafe and into the alley, where rotting garbage in huge dumpsters awaited them. She took off running, and Kyle debated whether to hold the terminator back or to chase after her. He elected for the former. Sarah knew what she had to do, and if she could make Skynet smart and good instead of dumb and bad, then maybe an AI god from the future could come back in time and save his life. John had told him it was a suicide mission, and Kyle had agreed and done it anyway. Trading his life for Sarah’s had been what he’d signed up to do.

He ran to the end of the alley, trying to bait the terminator towards him. A hard enough hit from a truck could take the thing out for long enough that Kyle could extract and destroy its memory core. The traffic was zipping by out front, fast enough that it might pose a threat. The police would be here soon, and that would be trouble, but for now the terminator took priority over everything else.

He turned to look behind him, and saw a familiar-looking man hiding behind a small dumpster with an assault shotgun. The man smiled at Kyle and put his finger to his lips. When the terminator appeared from the back door of the cybercafe, the man stood up and fired three times at it, taking it twice in the chest and once in the head. Flesh was splattered everywhere, and the metal of the skull was twisted. The glowing red eyes faded to black as the machine slumped to the ground.

“Who are you?” he asked the man. He was about Kyle’s age, with light brown hair and a wide smile on his face.

“I’m your backup,” replied the man. “Come on, let’s go get Sarah.”

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Branches on the Tree of Time, Chapter 6

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