Sarah fled from the wrecked and smoking ZeiraCorp basement as soon as they heard the sound of sirens.
"Wait," James said, grabbing her arm and then flinching back as she swung at him to break his hold.
"They'll shoot me on sight." She swiped a hand across her forehead, smearing soot across it.
"Don't just disappear again. Let me know you're alive, somehow."
"No promises," Sarah said, and in the one slow blink between the moment she was there and the moment she was gone, James could almost see the ghosts of everything she'd lost.
Then, not knowing what else to do, he picked Savannah up from gymnastics.
"Why do you enjoy playing with those?" James gestured at the toys scattered across the table.
"I like the stories," John Henry replied. "They help me exercise my imagination."
"You have an imagination?"
"Ms. Weaver says that I do, and that it's important I develop it, along with my physical skills."
James considered this. The AI, before it was placed in Cromartie's body, had told a joke, and a sense of humor probably depended on some kind of imagination.
"There are stories in the Bible that Jesus told in order to teach people," he said, drawing his chair closer to the table. "They're called parables. Would you like me to tell you one of those?"
John Henry obediently set down the toy he had been manipulating. "Yes, please."
James related the story of the Good Samaritan, who had rescued a stranger lying beaten and robbed on the side of the road. "And Jesus asked the man, 'Who was the man who was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?' And the man replied, 'The one who had mercy on him.'"
When John Henry saw that he was finished speaking, he picked up two action figures, one in each hand.
"What do you think was the lesson of that story, John Henry?"
"That you should help people in trouble?"
"Not just that. The man who was robbed was Jewish, and Samaritans were considered their enemies. Jesus is saying that to be a good person, you should help anyone who needs it, no matter how different they are from you."
"Everyone is different from me," said John Henry, placid as always.
It was five months until he heard from Sarah again. She showed up on the doorstep of his house, a small place in Santa Fe that he'd rented when he and Savannah left Los Angeles.
He stared at her without speaking. She stared back, grungy in her leather jacket and canvas pants. Her hair was even more ragged than last time he'd seen her, as if she'd been cutting it herself without any consideration for her appearance.
"I guess you should come in," he said, stepping aside. After she passed him, he scanned the street for unfamiliar cars, but saw nothing.
They sat in awkward silence at his kitchen table, which was so small that his knees bumped against the center support. He'd spent too much of his life chasing Sarah Connor; now that she was in front of him, he wasn't going to be the first to say anything.
"You're taking care of the girl?"
He had to laugh at that. Five months, and he still hadn't gotten used to it, suddenly having a family again. "Weaver left me custody in her will. I'm not sure it's legal, but there's no other family, and no one's complained."
She didn't volunteer anything else, just slowly turned her coffee mug in circles on the table.
"Do you think we stopped it, somehow? Judgment Day?"
She shook her head. "They found Cameron's body in the ZeiraCorp building. I should have figured out a way to destroy it, but there wasn't time. Kaliba Group got their hands on it, along with ZeiraCorp."
"That part I knew," he said. "I read about the corporate takeover in the Wall Street Journal."
"They have everything they need," she said. "Materials, software, money, everything."
"How do you know all this?"
"I found Danny Dyson. Do you remember who Miles Dyson is?"
He nodded. He'd read her file enough times to have the whole thing memorized, especially the details of the man who the police believed she'd murdered.
"Danny's his son. Kaliba got to him. They threatened his family, and he did some programming work for them. His mother and I tracked him down and got him out of there." She sighed and took a sip of her coffee. "We destroyed everything we could, but they had backups. They had backups of the backups. We were lucky to get out alive."
"I bet it was easier when you had a robot to help you."
She smiled ruefully. "They're called Terminators. Did you know that?"
"I think I remember that from the interview tapes. From when..." he trailed off.
"When I was in a mental hospital," she finished. "And it was all for nothing. I think Judgment Day is coming soon. Within a couple of years."
The statement hit him like a blow, though it wasn't anything he hadn't already known. "We should prepare," he said. "I've already started stockpiling. Food, medicine--"
"Weapons," she said.
He nodded. "I'm teaching Savannah to shoot."
Her chair scraped across the floor as she pushed back, too fast, and stood. "I thought maybe I could stay with the two of you," she said, turned away from him.
He looked at the rigid line of her back in surprise.
"With John gone, I don't have anything left. I even miss Cameron sometimes." She laughed, but he could tell that it was to cover how hard it was for her to make the admission.
"Yes," he said, without a second thought. "Stay. We all need help. Even you."
"Okay." She turned back to face him, and he politely pretended not to see the tears brightening her eyes.
"I'll tell Savannah. She'll be glad to have someone else around again. It's been hard for her, living so isolated."
"What does she call you? Dad? Daddy?"
Through the kitchen window, he could see the sun setting. He wondered how long it would be before the orange streaks outside turned to fire. "She had a father. And a mother. She calls me James."
"I have been thinking about our last visit." Unlike the last few times James had come to the basement, John Henry wasn't playing with his action figures or painting statues. He sat, palms flat on the empty table, with no distractions. It made James a little nervous to feel like John Henry had prepared for him.
"I have researched everything that is available on Jesus Christ, who you described as the savior of humanity."
"What did you learn?" James sat across from him and tugged a little at his tie, which felt tight.
"There is much written about Jesus, most of it contradictory. But you seem to have covered the essential facts."
"And what are those?"
"Jesus was the son of God, born into human form. He spent much of his life teaching and spreading his religion, and then was killed. After three days, he was resurrected, opening heaven to those who believed in him and granting them eternal life."
John Henry's head tilted to the side, a sharp movement that reminded James of a bird in a cage. "I think that I am like Jesus. I died and was reborn."
James took a couple of deep breaths and reminded himself that a machine wasn't capable of blasphemy. "It's not the same thing. Only your body remains the same. The old program was destroyed and replaced with a new program."
"Isn't that a form of resurrection?"
"It's not the same thing. You don't--" He stopped short of telling John Henry that he didn't have a soul, because he didn't know how the AI would react. And because he didn't know if it was true or not.
"Jesus died to save us from our sins," James said. "He suffered and died on the cross for us."
"But humanity still sins."
"Yes," James admitted. "I don't think anyone is capable of living without sin. The point is not to live a perfect life, but to try, and to admit when we fail."
They gathered a group around them--too small to be called an army. Sarah did most of the work, revealing a network of contacts that James had always suspected she had. Danny Dyson and his mother, Tarissa. Martin Bedell, who Derek had identified as a future member of the Resistance. Lauren and Sydney Fields. A doctor named Felicia Burnett. Sarah introduced her with a wry smile.
"I kidnapped her and made her take a bullet out of my leg."
James laughed. "You know nothing you say surprises me any more. Pleased to meet you, Dr. Burnett."
"Call me Felicia," she said. "If we're going to spend the end of the world together, we might as well be friends."
James' own contribution to the group was FBI agent Samuel Auldridge, who Sarah had last seen when he'd interrogated her in a jail cell and tried to convince her that he believed her story. Turned out he'd been telling the truth. All of the effort it had taken to contact Auldridge was worth it to see the expression on Sarah's face when he arrived at their hideout near the Nevada border.
They all picked up the lingo, all the tricks Sarah had learned from Kyle and Derek Reese and Cameron. J-Day. Metal. HK. T-triple-eight. They learned to look twice when a dog barked at someone. Sarah built mockups of skulls so everyone could practice digging into a terminator and extracting the chip that made them run. They turned into scavengers, salvaging technology and weapons wherever they could. Dr. Burnett returned to work in an L.A. hospital and helped them stockpile antibiotics, painkillers, meds to treat radiation sickness, anything she could get her hands on.
The message board postings were Danny's idea, during one of the unofficial meetings that had sprung up around the nightly dinner table.
"What's Craigslist?" Sarah asked, peeling her third banana of the night. The hideout's pantry had shelves and shelves of canned food, saved up for when they'd need it. Until then, they ate as much fresh fruit and vegetables as they could manage.
"It's a website. People post ads and messages there. And there are tons of other sites around the web that we could use." He drummed the fingers of his right hand nervously on the table. The left hand, missing its thumb and index finger, he kept out of sight unless he was working on a computer.
Tarissa picked up on his train of thought immediately. "You want to warn people."
He shrugged. "No one will believe us, except maybe a couple of kooks, but if we also share everything we know, someone might remember after J-Day comes. Dogs, the best kind of ammo to use against the machines, that kind of thing."
"You think this will work?" James didn't realize Sarah was talking to him until he looked up from refilling Savannah's cup.
"I think we should take whatever chances we have," he said. "You never know what will make a difference. One person who manages to survive is one more person to fight back."
"Okay," Sarah said. "You just make damn sure they can't track those posts back here to us."
Danny rolled his eyes, and Tarissa smacked him on the shoulder, making Savannah giggle. James leaned over to kiss the top of her head; when he straightened up again, Sarah was gone from the table.
The day they heard the bombs drop, the walls shook and dust rained down from the ceiling.
James had known they were building the foundation for the Resistance, but what he hadn't realized was how many people would survive. In Los Angeles, buildings had been reduced to rubble and ashes, but three months after Judgment Day, they had nearly a hundred people living in a network of safe houses and underground facilities, and there were hundreds more who'd refused to join outright, but helped out in one way or another.
Then there were the bodies that still lay in the street. He tried to bury them whenever he could, but it was usually too dangerous to take the time. He said a prayer for those he had to leave behind. The children were the worst.
He found a priest who was willing to say a Mass every Sunday in the main camp. The first time he returned to his tiny room after the service, Sarah was waiting for him.
"I don't want this crap here." She spat the words out at him, practically shaking with the furious energy that she'd been running on since they'd returned to L.A.
"What? The Mass? Are you kidding?"
"It's a waste of time. It's asking for trouble, having that many people gathered in one place."
"You can't tell people not to worship, Sarah."
"I know! I know I can't, and I hate that." She paced the confines of the room, kicking at the leg of his cot when it got in her way.
"Hey," he said, putting a hand on her shoulder and drawing her to sit down on the cot. It bounced with the rhythm of her foot, tapping furiously on the floor. "I think you need a vacation."
At that, as he'd been expecting for months, she cracked, fighting the tears with great shuddering breaths until she was almost hyperventilating with the effort not to let them out. He wrapped an arm around her and drew her in close, letting her wet the front of his dirty shirt.
"How can you still believe in God, after everything that's happened? "
"Savannah asked me the same thing a few weeks ago," he said, pulling a handkerchief out of his pocket and handing it to her. "So did John Henry, come to think of it. He wanted to know how I could believe God, if I also believed that God let terrible things happen in the world."
"What did you tell him?"
"The same thing I told her. That if you understood everything God did, there would be no need for faith. You just have to trust that He knows what He's doing."
Sarah sighed and folded the handkerchief in smaller and smaller pleats. "I never believed in anything but John."
"Maybe you should start."
She shook her head. "No offense, but I don't think religion's for me."
"I'm not suggesting that," he said. "But you're surrounded by people who believe in you. You could try returning the favor."
When Savannah was thirteen, she began going out on missions. He argued with her on principle, but knowing he'd lose. He insisted on going with her to watch her back as often as he could. A couple of years later, a T-800 infiltrated their base, and James got a shattered knee before he managed to take it down. After that, he had to content himself with making sure she had plenty of ammunition and a good plan. He'd raised two of Weaver's children, and he'd tried his best to give them the skills they needed.
Savannah returned from one of those missions with John Henry following behind her like a stray dog. James struggled out of his chair to stand and greet them.
"Hello, John Henry."
"Hello, Mr. Ellison."
He held out his hand; John Henry took it, without hesitation, and shook it. It felt like a normal human handshake.
"Call me James."