There is a bible story of two brothers, Cain and Able. God favored Able. Cain killed him. God cursed Cain, and ordered him to wander the world alone. Which brother am I?
I don't know John Henry. Perhaps you're neither. Perhaps in this story, you are God.
THURSDAY, JUNE 24, 1999
Sam Winchester dreamed of thunder, standing in a cornfield under a heavy grey-green sky. The waist high stalks whipped roughly against his hands and jeans with each gust of wind. The fine hairs on his arms and neck stood away from his body in the charged air. Lightning cracked again hitting close enough that he could smell the ozone, followed hard on by thunder vibrating his breastbone.
Sam started to walk and then run towards the road in the distance, following the rows of damp green cornstalks. His newly-long legs eating up distance with a length of a stride he still wasn't used to. Shit! His foot twisted on the uneven ground between the rows sending him sprawling face first into the wet dirt.
Sam opened his eyes to find his face close to an ugly green and gold blur. He levered himself up on the motel bed and shook his head to clear it.
He remembered watching a late night movie, waiting for Dean to get back from his date with that waitress from the nearby diner. But the noise in their dingy motel room wasn't coming from the direction of the television, and a storm wind was actually swirling inside the room whipping curtains and stray fast-food wrappers in its wake.
A bolt of electricity shot from the corner of the room beyond the foot of his bed, hitting his bare toe.
He scrambled up the bed and crouched against the fake-wood headboard. His right foot was numb and his lower leg was wobbly and full of prickles.
More bolts hissed and snapped out from the same area of the room with increasing intensity. Sam ducked his head as one hit the wall he was leaning against. He shot glances longingly at the doors to the bathroom and the exit, but there were more of the bright blue bolts zipping in those directions. Always know your exits. Good advice if you can fucking get to them .
Just as he was readying to leap, numb foot and all, to the head of Dean's bed to try to make a break for the outside door, the lighting in the room changed. The flickering light from the television and the yellowish cone from the table lamp were gone, replaced with a brighter but inconsistent cooler shade. A large ball of azure light obscured his view of the room past the foot of his bed.
With a thunderclap, like a small sonic boom, it collapsed plunging the room into darkness. The bed tilted under Sam's body and he decided now was the time to move. He launched himself onto the second double bed and rolled over it, none too gracefully, landing on the floor on the far side. He swore again as his head clipped Dean's nightstand on the way down. Well, at least there was nothing between him and the exit now.
Rubbing the site of the pain, he raised his head slowly above the mattress. He knew some light should be coming through the cheap blinds, but he could see nothing past the spots on his vision. Crap. He could smell the acrid stench of scorched carpet and burnt wood. He also heard movement. Something was alive in the room with him.
He dove back down, bare chest pressed to scratchy carpet, and tried to quiet his breathing. In his experience, not knowing who or what was in the dark was a very bad thing.
The compulsion to see outweighed his instinct to stay hidden. Sam reached up and fumbled his hand across Dean's night stand until he found the lamp switch. He flinched as static charge snapped at his fingertips, then turned the knob and yellow light flooded his area of the room.
He ventured another look. Smoke was curling up from multiple locations. Either the smoke alarm in this cheap-ass motel never worked or it was one of the items missing in action. The table and chairs in the corner were gone, along with the main room lamp. His bed was canted on only three legs, a curved chunk missing from all layers. Adrenalin was already rushing through his veins making his heart thump double time, but now his stomach clenched again. His feet had been in that empty space only moments before.
Sam unfolded himself a little more in order to see over his bed to the floor beyond. In the center of the circle of destruction was a human-looking form. Damn, he's buck naked.
Nothing about the stranger screamed non-human. Pale skin, but not supernaturally so. Short, dark hair in a military-style cut. Average build. Short not-at-all-claw-like, thank you very much, nails. The eyes that met Sam's were just eyes, nothing freaky. He was an ordinary looking guy…who just happened to have transported sans clothes into their room.
The shaking man knelt on the patch of ruined carpet, a single wooden leg with a smoldering chunk of top attached—all that remained of the room's table—laying beside him. He pawed ineffectually at his mouth in uncoordinated swipes. His desperate eyes locked back onto Sam's briefly, but he still didn't speak. The stranger started coughing.
"Christo," Sam croaked but there was no obvious reaction. The young man seemed to be absorbed by his own problems. Sam tried again. "CHRISTO!" Nothing.
Sam dove for Dean's duffel, tearing through it until he found a small flask. He unscrewed the lid. He slid his right hand under Dean's pillow until it brushed against the hilt of a knife. Sam silently thanked the gods that Dean had only taken his date-night weapons with him, and had left his favorite knife behind.
Sam saw the stranger topple, coughs weakening. Cautiously he approached. Across one bare hip and curled leg he saw old bruises. A fresh angry burn, matching the trashed table top contrasted with his very pale skin. Must have hit him on the way down.
Just out of arms reach, Sam hurled the holy water, hitting the naked man on the neck and head. No reaction again. OK. Here we go now. He stepped over the now very still body, half expecting to be grabbed. The light from the bathroom revealed a surprise. Sam downgraded his estimate from man to boy. This kid was about his age…and he didn't appear to be breathing.
Sam moved the boy onto his back, damn his skin was cold , and checked his airway. Jammed in his throat was a metal object. Sam pried it out and slid the saliva-covered thing onto his front pocket. Come on. Come on! Sam didn't relish the thought of giving mouth to mouth to his naked stranger,and was relieved when he started to breathe on his own.
Sam jammed the table remnant under the box spring almost leveling what was left of his bed. Then he helped the other boy sit up against it, tucking the ruined bedspread around him. This close Sam could tell that it had been a few too many days since this guy had seen soap. He eased back and leaned against the damaged wall opposite.
"I'm Sam. What's your name?" he spoke softly and waited, thinking at first that the shivering boy didn't understand English.
"John." OK, Sam thought, first names it is. "What's the date?"
"It's Thursday, June 24." The boy continued to stare at Sam. "Uh…1999?" John closed his eyes in evident relief.
"Sam Winchester, I've got a story that's going to sound pretty crazy to you."
"Just try me."
THURSDAY, JUNE 24, 1999
Dean turned the key and pushed into their room. The one dimly lit lamp revealed the room was trashed. Paper crinkled under his feet and he could see some of the smaller furniture, which he suspected was older than him, overturned. Both beds were a mess.
His stomach clenched for a second until his eyes adjusted and he spotted Sam on the far side of the room. His brother, barefoot but dressed, had a second t-shirt slung over one shoulder and was jamming clothes haphazardly into his worn duffel. Dean heard the shower turn off in the bathroom.
"Holy crap, little brother! Did you have your own party while I was gone?" Dean wasn't sure if he should feel righteous anger or admiration. He thought he'd reserve judgment until he found out how much of his stuff was damaged.
The bathroom door opened spilling more light into the room, and a male figure stepped into the doorway. Although mostly back lit, Dean could see that this sure as hell wasn't their dad. The slim young man was shirtless and appeared to be wearing a familiar pair of faded thrift store sweatpants. After his most recent growth spurt these pants had Sam wading for water, but their father hadn't converted them to rags since they would still fit Dean. Not happening. It would be a dark day in hell before he wore his baby brother's hand-me-downs.
Instead of answering, Sam turned to the stranger and handed him the extra t-shirt.
Dean's grin faded. "Dude, seriously…Sammy, is there something you need to tell me?"
"Well, yeah," Sam started distractedly as he turned back to his brother. He stopped when he saw the stunned expression on Dean's face and Dean's gaze darting between himself and John's bare torso, then it clicked in his brain. "What?...No! For God's sake Dean, get your mind out of the gutter for just a second. Damn!"
John took in the exchange with the shirt clenched in his hand, and didn't break eye contact with the man who was now glaring at him. The heat from the shower was fading, but he didn't want the brief loss of vision and tangling of limbs that putting on the shirt would bring him. He just stood very still.
He'd met enough men like Dean in his life to be wary. Most people were dogs, occasionally vicious but mostly domesticated. However a few, like his mother and Derek, were wolves. Everyone in the future is a wolf. Or someone's prey. So he didn't let the young, handsome face fool him. He sensed this older brother was the more dangerous of the pair as he tracked Dean's inching towards the bag John guessed held the majority of their weapons.
"Right," Dean drawled, stretching out the word, "This guy just falls naked from center of a tornado, like some x-rated Dorthy, and desperately needs your skanky old clothes."
FRIDAY, JUNE 25, 1999
Shirt on and toweling holy water out of his face again, John sat on the edge of the damaged bed. As he finished his story for the second time that night, all he wanted to do was topple sideways onto the threadbare bedspread, but he didn't dare.
Sam continued to deal with what remained of their things shoving some haphazardly into bags and tossing the unsalvageable bits into the trash. Meanwhile, Dean leaned back against the far wall his arms crossed over his chest.
"So let me see if I've got this straight. You," pointing at John, "are the result of some time paradox thingy between your future dad and your teenage mom."
"And you're the future friggin' savior of mankind in a crappy-as-hell post-apocalyptic world full of killer-robots. Those killer-robots, lead by some hopped up computer program, keep coming back in time trying to knock you off," Dean ticked the points off on his fingers. "So you, I mean future you, counters by sending more not-so-killer-robots back to defend you. Am I with you so far?"
"Yeah," John fought a sigh. Man he sounded like a lunatic, didn't he.
"Then you jump a bunch of years from now to avoid getting killed by one of the bad guys, but they find you anyway. Another robot from some third team, to be named later, steals your pet robot's brain and jumps further into the future. You leave you own mother behind and follow mommy-robobitch to get back a piece of what is supposed to be your guard dog."
John's had been trying his best to look sincere and nonthreatening but at this his eyes narrowed. "Cameron's not my pet. She's family. I couldn't just let him keep her. You don't just give up on family."
Dean appraised him for long moment and pushed off the wall with a snort. "Well, that's the only thing you've said that makes sense. I'm gonna talk to my brother here for a minute, if you don't mind." He canted his head toward the door.
A shrug from Sam met John's questioning glance. John started for the door.
John turned as a pair of beat up sneaker's flew his way. He caught them by the tied together laces and exited the room, closing the door quietly behind him. On the stoop for the motel room, he pushed his bare feet into the cheap shoes and laced them as tight as he could. At least two sizes too big, he surmised. He'd worn worse in his life. Too big beats too small any day. Besides, it's hard to run away on bare feet.
He leaned back surveying his surroundings. It was a warm night in the almost deserted parking lot of a single story motel. They were about as far from the office as you could get, which may explain why no one noticed his arrival but Sam. In front of him, in the circle of the overhead light he couldd see an old but well maintained muscle car. He couldn't tell what model. He'd never been too interested in cars beyond their ability to get him somewhere fast. Twenty dollars says I know who you belong to, you shiny thing.
He felt exposed out here under the clear sky and scanned above and around out of habit. The only sounds of machines were the intermittent whoosh of cars on some nearby highway and the hum of outdoor lights. He forced himself to relax a little. Remember where and when you are, John.
Through the thin wooden door of the room he heard muffled voices. Both were loud and none too happy. He could tell Sam wanted to help him and might even believe him, which made him laugh. Even he wouldn't believe him if the roles were reversed. Dean, on the other hand, wasn't buying any of it. John wondered who would win.
For a moment he considered just taking off, saving the brothers that headache that usually came with helping out a Connor. The practical side of his mind ticked off the advantages of funds, wheels, and backup. And what the hell…I've got an invitation.
He stood up before the door fully opened. Dean, his face flushed, challenged him, "For some godforsaken reason, my brother thinks you're on the level. I think you're full of shit! Tell me one thing to prove me wrong!"
John nodded towards the Impala. "The first time your dad let you take that car out alone, you managed to get a scratch all the way down the passenger side. Instead of picking up the girl you were going on a date with, you spent the rest of the evening in the parking lot of Walmart using rubbing compound to erase the damage. You never told your father and you broke up with the girl at school the next day to help cover your tracks."
Dean's jaw dropped. Sam snorted a laugh and covered his mouth to hold back a second one when Dean whipped around to glare at him.
"What are you laughing at, princess?" To John, Dean sputtered hands flailing, "That doesn't prove shit. You could be one of those freaky psychics and, I don't know, pull that out of my head. Or maybe you touched the car and got vibes from it like them clari-whatsits."
"Do I look like I need your help, Snow White?"
Sam rolled his eyes but managed to stifle the reflex to reply in kind. He wanted Dean to come around to his side in this argument.
"If you want me to pick up and drive you around the country on some half-assed mission, then I'll need something more that just your word. Can you give me that?"
Dean's fine tuned cynicism was so like Sarah's. I think it won't help my case to tell the angry armed man that he reminds me of my mom. John thought for a minute and then asked, "Where are we exactly and what time is it?"
"It's around half past midnight. We're just outside Atlas, Kansas about 20 miles north of Topeka.
"If you're willing to travel now, I think I can give you that proof before the day is done."
"Well, we've got to bail from here before housekeeping comes around tomorrow, so it might as well be now. You've got until lunch tomorrow to convince me, or I'm leaving your scrawny ass at the nearest funny farm. Are we clear?"
FRIDAY, JUNE 25, 1999
"We can't tell him!"
"Why the fuck not?" Dean snapped. Both Sam's usual contrariness and his own lack of sleep, were leading to one mother of a headache. The last thing Dean wanted right now was to get in a bitchfest with his little brother while speeding down the I-80 West in the dark before sunrise. "He could help us."
"Yeah, right. Dad is about as flexible as an iron rod, and he's so willing to trust strangers." Dean's eyes flicked to the rear view mirror, where he could see John, head lolling back apparently asleep. Must be pretty damned tired to sleep through us taking a round out of each other.
"He's got his reasons. Why don't you ever cut him any slack? All the two of you do anymore is butt heads."
"Dean, this is not about dad and me. Stop being such a good little soldier for a minute and think it through!" Dean's hands tightened on the wheel so that he wouldn't reach out and smack the righteousness off his little brother's face. "This job is about saving the world, not a family or a town, the whole friggin' world."
"If it's real," Dean interrupted.
"Yes, if it's real. Think about what's at stake if you are wrong," Sam said urgently. "We've been picked to help save the world, not Dad. There must be a reason for that. You know as well as I that Dad is not likely to agree to help John, but if by some miracle he did, he sure as hell wouldn't let us help with it."
"You mean he wouldn't let you help. Just 'cause you got freakishly tall, don't go thinking that you're all grown up, little brother."
Sam's mouth shut with a snap, and he stared out the window at the dark shapes rushing by, muscles jumping in his jaw. After slowly counting to one hundred in his head, he tried attacking from a different angle. "He won't even be back for another six days. John said we can't wait that long."
Dean didn't respond, but Sam thought he might be wearing him down. "You promised John that you would give him until noon to prove himself. You call Dad now and there is no way you can live up to that promise."
"Fine. I won't call Dad until after noon today. Now will you shut the hell up and just let me drive."
Sam knew well enough to quit while he was ahead.
Catherine Weaver makes an introduction.
(See the end of the chapter for notes.)
I don't know about God or heaven, but I do believe that someone or something wants this world to burn.
- Sarah Connor
RESISTANCE BUNKER, FORMER CITY OF LOS ANGELES
The future stank. On a good day it stank of mildew, rot, and the smell of unwashed humans. On a bad day is smelled of things a whole lot worse. This bunker looked and smelled no different than the dozens of others that John had seen since arriving in this time.
"Are you sure we're in the right place, Connor?" asked Kyle Reese.
When John replied, he looked over Kyle's shoulder to Derek Reese. John was still unnerved by Kyle, this father who looked only a few years older than himself. He didn't know if he could afford to alter his world view to include this man who had been dead since before he was born. On the other hand, with his uncle, he had already swum that river. "She will be here."
"I thank you for the vote of confidence, Mr. Connor," said the metal wearing the shape of Catherine Weaver as she emerged from the shadows. Immediately the Resistance fighters trained their guns on her and the two large men flanking her on either side.
"You told me that things are worse. That this world is worse," John challenged. "Why should I believe you?"
"Hello, John." Cameron's voice sounded from behind Weaver. John kept his eyes locked on Weaver's, so he could pretend, just for a minute, that the familiar voice wasn't coming from John Henry's body. "I was privy to all resistance activities when I was last in this time frame. I've compared that information to current data we have acquired. Skynet has vastly more physical resources. There are approximately 42% fewer humans alive now. Extrapolating from my test samples, at least 39% of people currently living in this area have acquired NU-AIDS, and will be dead in seven to twelve months."
Kyle swore under his breath. John could see that neither he nor Derek had realized how far Skynet's new biological attack had spread.
The deeper tones of John Henry added, "With numbers depleted this far, it is likely that the Resistance will collapse in North America within months, and across the world within a year."
Weaver swayed a step closer. "You are facing extinction, Mr. Connor. If we work together, we have the means to set things right."
"Is this all because I jumped here with you?"
Weaver's face arranged itself into a look of amusement. "You are unique, John Connor, a paradox by your very creation, but it's not all about you. This is not simply a fight between man and machine. The real damage was done much earlier. You and my John Henry must jump back together to set things right."
"How can I do that? In this time-line, my father has not gone back. I can't even exist now. Won't the past be changed as well?"
"As I said, you are unique. Chosen, if you will. You exist outside the normal rules of linear time. A great deal of power and will was expended to ensure your very birth. It doesn't matter what has happened to create this version of now. You are tethered to your own past alone. I can transport you back to any point along that paradox line I choose."
"Where do you want to send him?" asked Derek.
Cameron, wearing the face used by too many others, spoke to John, "To 1999, to before we first met."
"We will accompany you, your sister and I," John Henry continued, "traveling surrounded by your living flesh."
"The hell you will..." Derek protested.
"You misunderstand, Mr. Reese," Weaver said advancing again to cup John's face in her hand. "This boy will not be harmed in any way."
John jerked his head out of her grasp but didn't give her the satisfaction of retreating. "Think of this reality as a catastrophic failure, John. There is a virus in the system. We are going to root it out and reboot." He felt relieved as she stepped back out of his personal space and gestured her other companion forward.
All eyes focused on the quiet man as he pushed off from his position leaning against the grimy cement wall and straightened to his full height. Damn. They don't grow them that big anymore, thought John. The stranger ran his fingers through a mop of silver and brown curls, pushing it back from his lined face. A tracery of long healed scars wrapped around his neck and crawled along his face.
He favored one leg as he approached, hand outstretched to a surprised John. People rarely shook hands anymore. Derek maintained his aim on Weaver, but Kyle shifted to cover the stranger. The older man's face spread into a small smile as he waited, hand extended, scar tissue tugging at one side warping his smile's symmetry. John clasped the much larger hand.
"It's nice to finally meet you. Cameron has told me a lot about you. I hear that you are the future messiah. I'm Sam Winchester. I used to be the antichrist."
FRIDAY, JUNE 25, 1999
WEST FORK, NEBRASKA,
Watching yourself walk down the street was a fairly freaky experience, John decided. John knew that it was himself walking toward the side entrance of Highland High School, but perspective made it strange, like hearing his own recorded voice. Do I really walk like that? Was my hair really that long in the back?
They were parked in the far corner of the lot, inconspicuous amid the frequent comings and goings of parents dropping off teens and the older, luckier students arriving in their own cars.
Sam unfolded himself from the car and swung a backpack onto one shoulder. After some dispute, they'd agreed that Sam would blend most effectively with the waves of Nebraska teens funneling into the school. Dean watched Sam closely as he timed his approach to match his target. Sam opened the door for John's twin and followed him into the building.
John sat through three minutes of Dean's nervous drumming on the wheel before Sam emerged through a different exit and cut across the parking lot toward them.
"Well?" Dean asked as his brother settled into the Impala.
"He sounds the same and, besides the hair, he looks identical. So unless he's got an identical twin, I'd say that's proof."
Dean contemplated his hands on the steering wheel for one long moment. "Ok, I guess I'm in. But I want to get this job done before Dad is due back next week. And some time 'fore that I need to figure out what to tell him about why we're not where he left us."
The school bell rang, and the last few stragglers either started to walk faster or not, depending on their personal investment in school. With traffic thinned, it was time to go. Dean eased out of his spot.
"Where to now?" Dean asked.
"I need to pick up something at my house," John said, "but first I need to check on someone."
John leaned against the front seat and directed for the short drive from the school to the center of town, a few doors down the street from a diner.
"I don't want to run into my mom at home. She works here as a waitress. I think she was on the morning shift this week, but it's been awhile. I need you to make sure. She's brunette, lean, wearing a name tag that says 'Sarah'."
"I'll do it. Sam walks in they'll wonder why little baby's skipping school." Dean opened his door.
"Jerk." Sam was stung both by the comment and the fact that their father had pulled Sam out of his last school early, only to plant them in motel hicksville when he took off on a solo hunt a few days later.
John reached out to grip Dean's shoulder. "Be careful. She's got paranoia honed to a science. She's always on the lookout for Terminators or the law. Don't set off her radar."
Dean pulled away and tugged his leather jacket into place. "No worries, man," Dean said flashing a bright smile. "I grew up in diners. I never met a waitress I couldn't have eating out of the palm of my hand." With that, he sauntered away.
John slumped back in the seat. "We're doomed aren't we?"
Sam just shrugged. After a long silence he asked, "That stuff you told us. The private stuff. How did you find that out? I mean, I haven't told anyone. Not Dean, not my father, not anyone. And you knew my full name before I told you, too."
John looked uncomfortable and remained silent.
"You met us, didn't you? In the future, I mean."
"I met you, Sam. When you told me I should go to you and Dean for help, you said I would need some information to convince you."
Sam thought on this for a minute. "Just me? Is Dean dead in this future world of yours?"
"Maybe," John replied honestly. "I don't know. Almost everyone in America alive right now is dead by then. Humans are an endangered species in the future."
That effectively ended the conversation. John sat lost in his thoughts of 2027, and Sam contemplated a world without Dean.
"Hey, girls," Dean said as he leaned in the open window and handed out coffees. "You all look like someone ran over your dog. Drink up. God knows we need the caffeine." He slid into the driver's seat and started in on a takeout container of cherry pie. Pointing his plastic fork at John, he grinned around pie and said, "You never mentioned how hot your mom is, dude!"
"Dean, you didn't!" exclaimed Sam. "Tell me you did not try to pick up his mother."
"Hey! What do you take me for? I did not try to pick up John's mom. I was just …friendly, you know. I didn't want to act like no robot or fed, so I figured it was best to just be my charming self. Act natural-like." He replied to Sam who was shaking his head, and then to no one in particular, "Damn, this is good pie!"
FRIDAY, JUNE 25, 1999
WEST FORK, NEBRASKA,
The drive was empty when they drove past the little ranch-style house. Dean swung around the block to park, and the brothers followed John through the trees that served as a border between the church graveyard and the small, neat backyard. John took the magnetic keybox from under the air-conditioning unit where Charley Dixon stashed it, and let them in through the back door.
John's room was at the back of the house, and Sam ducked into it with him. Dean leaned in for a look and then carried on to the front of the house to scout for the best lookout position.
It wasn't a rich home, but it was better than most of the places that Dean had grown up in. He circled the living room, pausing at the photos. In the largest, a man stood leaning close to Sarah, his face turned towards her, his other arm slung around a shaggy-haired John. They were all smiling.
Dean ran his fingertips over the glass. They looked so happy. He remembered this feeling, the feeling of home being a place not a person. He wished he had something to remind him other than faded and worn memories. If wishes were horses. Moving away from the photos and his thoughts, he found a place to wait where he could view the street and the drive easily.
In his old room, John turned slowly, taking it all in. It felt so strange, like he was sleepwalking. This had been the closest thing he had experienced to the kind of home he'd seen on all those TV shows while growing up in low rent apartments, old motels, and squats. This was his first long term home base Post Uncle Bob. He had let himself believe that he could stay here, if not indefinitely, at least until he choose to leave. Like the man said, you can't come home again.
He opened his closet and quickly sorted out some clothes, choosing the least favored, the most easily missed, and stuffed them into a borrowed pack. Then he lay on the floor and reached far under his bed, tugging a laptop through a slit in the fabric bottom to his box spring.
"One of the students at my school fancied himself a master gamer," he explained to Sam. "More money than brains in that whole family. When this computer turned into a paperweight, overrun by viruses, he talked his parents into a newer, faster one. I traded him some info he wanted on three of his favorite games for this thing, cleaned it out, souped it up and it's back in business."
"If you didn't steal it, why are you hiding it like a stash of skin mags."
John snorted out a small laugh, "Same reason, I hid my porn. I really didn't want my mom stumbling across it when I wasn't home." He started talking in a different cadence that Sam assumed was like Sarah. " 'No computers, John. We can't afford to have you hacking, John.' She tattooed that and a bunch of other Connor Family Rules on the back of my eyeballs." Sam could hear the capital letters.
"But it's a tool, you see, a tool for survival. I couldn't go without one of these anymore than she could give up her weapons."
Sam smiled. "Dean sleeps every night with that huge-ass knife under his pillow."
John laughed. "My mother sleeps on her whole fucking arsenal. Maybe they're meant for each other, after all."
"If you take this now, aren't you, um younger-you, gonna notice that it's gone?" Sam asked.
"I didn't get it out that often. It was just nice to know that it was there. Insurance. When I finally found that it was gone, I thought Mom found it. Thought I was in deep shit. But she never said anything. We're real good at not talking about stuff. Had lots of practice. I thought for a long time that this was one of the reason she got freaked enough to leave."
Dean rushed through the door, and whispered urgently, "Someone's here. Guy in a uniform. Black pickup truck."
"That's Charley. I'll distract him," John said quietly as he found and pulled a ball cap low over his eyes, flipping the hood of his jacket atop that. Other than the hair, he hadn't changed all that much since this time. "You go out the back door."
He handed the laptop to Sam, and shouldered the bag filled with clothes. John stepped out into the hall, making sure to be noisy. He could hear Charley's off key singing start in the kitchen.
"Hey Charley, that you?"
"John, what are you still doing home? You sick?"
John stepped into the kitchen and his heart froze. Charley was young. Charley was alive.
He made himself cross the room and grab an apple and drink to stuff in his pack, trying to act like any teen reluctantly on his way to school. "I slept in this morning. Teachers are probably just showing movies 'cause exams are starting anyway. Don't tell Mom, ok?"
Charley ran his hand through his hair and smiled at the boy, "Ok, just this once, but you better get a move on." Charley knew how strict Sarah could be with John. He could afford to cut the kid a little slack.
On impulse John darted forward to hug Charley. "You're the best, man." He forced himself to let go far earlier than he wanted. "See you tonight."
Then John escaped. He heard Charley wishing him a good day as he closed the front door. Goodbye, Charley.
He walked quickly up the block willing himself not to break into a run. Around the corner, the Impala was waiting engine rumbling. John swiped his face with his sleeve before sliding in next to Dean.
Dean studied him intently. "Was that your stepdad?"
"Sort of…almost." John said quietly. "I wanted him to be."
"He died," Dean said, a statement, not a question.
"Yeah. Not now though. About ten years from now." Saving me. Sam reached over the seat and clasped John's shoulder.
Dean's face mirrored John's pain, but he didn't break his gaze. "If we do this thing, does he live?"
"Him, my uncle. If this works out, who knows, maybe the whole damned world!"
"Well then, if we are going to save the world, we better get a move on. Point the way, Johnny-boy." Dean flashed John a grin, put the car in gear, and flipped on the tape player. AC/DC drifted through the neighborhood as they pulled away.
FRIDAY, JUNE 25, 1999
"Come on, Dean. John and I could take turns, and we could be there a lot faster," Sam argued.
"Um, let me think about that for a minute," Dean drawled. "No."
"You've been teaching me for months. I can do this."
"That was back roads, in daylight. And we don't know exactly where in Los Angeles we need to go. It's a pretty big fuckin' place. So, again, no," Dean said as he pulled into a motel parking lot.
"You'd put saving the world on hold, just so you don't risk the car."
"Damn straight!" Dean agreed hauling himself out of the car. Sam flipped the finger at his back, as the older Winchester entered the office.
After letting them into their room, Dean kicked off his boots and collapsed face first on the shabby, circa 1980 bedspread of the closest double bed. "Go do your brain boy stuff, kids." He flicked one hand at John and Sam and mumbled into the pillow, "Don't forget to salt the room, Sammy."
Sam made sure to give Dean's duffel a good kick on the way to the scratched laminate table, where he dumped the electronic store bags. Then the salt lines were laid with the care of long practice, even if done with more noise than needed.
By the time he returned to the table, John had wires and tools spread out around the laptop. Sam watched fascinated, anger slipping away, as John deftly cobbled together an interface for the chip. The youngest Winchester had never known anyone that was this comfortable with computers. His dad, whose idea of a database was his journal, a newspaper, and his network of fellow hunters, told Sam that they had neither the money nor the space for such things. Dean was no help since his only use for computers was to surf porn sites.
As interesting as it was, not having anything to do himself eventually got to Sam.
"This could take awhile," John said quietly when Sam's bouncing leg vibrated the table again.
"Sorry, dude." Sam pushed up from the table and riffled through Dean's bag looking for his stash of extra cash. Bingo! Dean didn't stir on the bed.
"I'll snag us something to eat. Back in a few."
He pushed the door shut with his foot upon his return, balancing drinks and take out bags. John was still hunched over the computer.
Ignoring the burger and Coke Sam placed beside him, John typed rapidly on the keys, read, and typed again, the tension draining out of his face as he went. With a smile, he looked up, "There's someone I would like you to meet. Sam, say hello to Cameron."
"Um…hi, Cameron. Nice to meet you," Sam said self-consciously. He dropped the fry heading for his mouth when a tinny female voice replied from the laptop's small speakers.
"It is nice to meet you again, Sam Winchester. You sound different. You must not have obtained your adult tonal range yet."
"Can she see me too?" Sam whispered.
John laughed at the other boy's discomfort. "No. I don't have a camera hooked up, but she can hear you."
"Even if you whisper," said the computer generated voice.
"Cameron, it's good to hear you again."
"Did you miss me, John?"
"Yeah, missed you bunches, Cam," John teased. "Is John Henry still in there with you?"
The voice that replied was male. "I am here, John Connor. Your sister has a run a diagnostic, and I appear to be intact. However, this system is very confining. Could you please connect us to the internet?"
The joviality of a moment ago was gone. John said cautiously, "I don't think that would be wise. The connection is crappy dial up. You wouldn't have the speed to avoid detection if someone out there is looking for you." From his expression, Sam suspected John was holding something back.
"What smells good?" Dean rolled to sit up and scrubbed his hand across his face. Sam timed his toss so the takeout bag hit Dean mid-chest as he was stretching. Score. Dean caught it as the sack was tumbling to the floor and dug inside. "Hope you got something good, jerk. None of that healthy frufru crap. Oh, come to papa!" He unwrapped and bit into a thick cheeseburger, moaning his appreciation.
"You two need some privacy? Cause John and I can step out for awhile."
Dean's eloquent reply was a raised middle finger. Around another mouthful, he mumbled, "So, what's the plan?" He leaned over Sam to snag a drink and took a loud sip. "Did robo-girl boot up alright?"
"Yes I did, Dean Winchester. Thank you for asking."
Dean coughed, Coke squirting out his nose, as he jumped back from the table. After recovering Dean pulled out his best smile, "Hello, darling. Do we know each other?"
Sam scribbled on a piece of motel stationary and held it up in Dean's face, SHE CAN'T SEE YOU DICK-HEAD!
"I have an extensive file on you, but we have never actually met."
"Files, eh? Then you can probably see that I'm the older, better-looking brother."
"I see that your features are regular and symmetrical, conforming well to current Western standards of beauty…"
"Ha! She called you pretty," Sam interjected with glee, making kissy faces as he rocked back in his chair.
"…but other than as predictors of health, I find such details irrelevant."
"Oh, pretty-pretty-princess is shot down! Ow!" Sam picked himself up from the floor where he had landed when Dean pushed his chair past the balancing point.
John smiled as he asked, "What's next, Cameron?"
"Our first priority is to launch John Henry to track and destroy the other artificial intelligence. For that we will need a much more powerful computer than this laptop. There are a few supercomputers in North America with the required hardware that are not in military facilities. However, they will still be guarded and are used around the clock."
The Winchesters exchanged a look. Breaking into computer labs was not part of their training. Give them a nice morgue or mausoleum, and they felt right at home.
"The original me will arrive in this time tomorrow. We should locate her. Her assistance will greatly increase the chances that neither you nor the Winchester brothers are harmed. Based on our current location we could reach her in 13 hours."
"Cameron, does it make any difference if we do this now or tomorrow?" Dean asked.
"I will still be able to direct you, no matter when we start."
"Ok, then. I'm going back to bed. John, you and graceful here can flip to see who gets the couch."
"What? Why don't we go now!"
"Sammy, I've gotten like three hours sleep since Thursday morning. You two haven't done much better. If we are going to be any use after driving over a 1000 freakin' miles, we should crash for awhile now, shit, shower, and shave in the morning and be on the road by daylight."
Dean wandered off to the bathroom, emerging a few minutes later in his underwear and shirt. After double checking the wards and getting his knife, he crawled under the covers of his bed and was lightly snoring moments later.
John pulled the bedspread and a pillow from the other bed and threw it on the couch. "I'll sleep here. I don't mind. It's better than I've had in weeks anyway."
"Are you going to shut down the computer?" Sam said on his way to the bathroom.
"No. It seems kinda cruel, you know? Let them stay up. Cameron can keep an ear open and wake us up for 4 a.m." John smiled to himself at the idea of a Terminator alarm clock. He turned off the lights and settled down to sleep.
"John Connor, would you like to hear a song or a bed time story? Savannah Weaver says they help her sleep."
Thanks for comparing me to a six year old girl, but what the hell . "I'll take the story, John Henry."
"Once upon a time there was magical kingdom ruled by a kind king and his beautiful flame-haired queen. They ruled wisely for many years, but alas while traveling, the king was killed…" John eyes slid closed and he drifted off to sleep.
My artwork for this chapter can be found at http://davincis-girl.livejournal.com/65587.html