She plans every move: she can measure the weight of a house, the exact slope of a floor, she has extensive reserve data banks, she does not sleep. She can take herself apart and put herself back together. She has seen the future; she is the future. She is dangerous and they must know.
"Stop staring," John says, shaking his head, unable to keep his eyes from lingering on the small line of flesh between the bottom of her shirt and the top of her jeans. "Jesus, Cameron, you're being all freaky again."
Start on the corners, she thinks, calculating north east south west every time she enters a room. Evaluate the value of defensive versus offensive strategies. Build up an army of stones; circle your enemy, show them their position, their weakness.
Make them see.
Sarah comes home to find Cameron beating the crap out of a tall, thin man. She races into the room, gun drawn.
Cameron turns, and gets a sucker-punch to the face. Naturally, she does not blink.
"You're home early," she says. She did not expect Sarah to be home for another two minutes and fifteen seconds. She has not yet had her fill of beating a solid object with her fists. She finds it a pleasingly satisfying activity. She is built to infiltrate, to manipulate, but her metal core sings out with pleasure to do what it has done since time began: be strong.
Sarah trains her gun on the mystery man, who pulls back, puts up his hands. "Cameron," she says, "what the fuck are you doing?"
Cameron tilts her head. "He was spying on us. I thought he should be eliminated. Would you rather do it?"
Sarah frowns deeply as the man splutters his excuses, pleads for his life. Neither woman listens.
"Damnit, Cameron," Sarah says. "You have to find out who he is, what he's doing here, what he knows!"
"I guess I made a mistake," Cameron says. "Sometimes I do that."
Cameron stands to the side while Sarah threatens the man into silence, having ascertained that he was merely a garden-variety thief, and has no desire to come into contact with the house, Sarah, or that "little fucking freak standing over there" ever again.
"You are a fucking freak," Sarah says, after they're alone.
"Tight," Cameron replies. She watches Sarah's lips go so thin they just about disappear from her face. She does not flinch when Sarah smacks her across the face as hard as she can. After all, she is made of metal.
The skin covering on her cheek swells up anyway; it always makes the humans feel somewhat satisfied.
"You're not Cameron," Sarah says. "You're a machine. You're metal with borrowed skin stretched around it, you're a series of impulses and computations and I can shut you down any time, so don't forget it."
"A cybernetic organism," Cameron says, nodding. "John's good with them. He replaced my chip once before, in the future. Have I told you about it?" She stares at Sarah, and tries to tell her things with her eyes. She knows humans do this all the time. Sarah herself has done it to Derek many times, saying NO and KYLE when Derek's eyes are telling Sarah that he is hungry, he is lonely, he is angry and needs a release. Sarah herself has done it to Cameron many times, her eyes telling Cameron STAY AWAY and JOHN and I DON'T UNDERSTAND.
Sarah's eyes only flash angrily now. Hardly anyone understands Cameron's eyes. She doesn't have the knack for it, she thinks, as Sarah moves in close, her breath on the bruise on Cameron's cheekbone.
"John doesn't understand," Sarah says. "You're a killer. You're dangerous. You're a ticking time bomb walking around in curves and hair and lips."
"I am," Cameron replies, parting her aforementioned lips slightly. She does not flinch when Sarah does, nor when Sarah steps back, and smacks her across the face again.
"Stay away. I mean it," Sarah says, her voice wobbling slightly. Cameron watches her leave the room, body tight with rage and uncertainty.
Sarah has nice curves and hair and lips, Cameron thinks. Sarah has a nice ass. Sarah is not made of metal. Sarah understands that they are all playing a very, very dangerous game.
She reads ahead. It's the only way to establish position. John is next. John is so easy. John is the hardest of them all.
Cameron stands in John's doorway until he tells her to come in, half exasperated.
"Why do you like Riley?" she asks, after a few minutes, lying down on his bed. She picks at her fingernails, and looks at him from under her eyelashes. He blushes, just a little, like John Connor always does when a pretty girl with curves and hair and lips looks at him like that.
"She's nice," he says. She stares at him, and he goes on, with a sigh. "She's fun and she's pretty and she doesn't know that I'm supposed to lead humanity against our robot overlords."
"The survivors of humanity after the war," Cameron says, automatically.
"Yeah," John says, and looks away. Cameron thinks his eyes are probably still telling her something, but without visual confirmation she can't be sure.
"So it's kinda nice," he says, eventually. "She's kinda great." He has a little smile on his face. His eyes look pleased.
"Are you having sex with her?" Cameron asks. The leader of the survivors of humanity goes pink, she notes.
"It's none of your damn business," he snaps. Cameron reads his eyes and is pretty sure this means no.
Cameron is not sure about Riley. There is something about the way the girl smells; something about the way the girl twitches whenever Cameron is around. There is something familiar about the star on her wrist, but Cameron has examined every star chart in her database and cross-referenced it to her list of known human beings and come up blank. She always feels itchy when that happens. She does not know if that is the correct feeling to have. Cybernetic organisms may not always program other cybernetic organisms rightly, she thinks. She wonders if this is a heretical thought. She has studied heresy, and religion in general, in great detail. She does not sleep.
John is staring at her, and Cameron realizes she has not reacted appropriately. She lowers her eyelashes again, and mumbles something that John will think is an apology.
"It's okay," John says, but he's standing over her, hands out. He's frozen, she thinks; knows she could be going bad but he can't do it.
"You're not a robot," she says in reply. John blinks, rapidly.
"I know?" he says, trying for flippancy. "No metal here." He knocks his open hand against his head, smiles.
"Coltan," Cameron says. "Not just metal. It's mined unethically in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and props up a brutal civil war. It's in everything these days."
"Jesus," John says. "Aren't you always full of good news. Anyway," he continues, a little colour creeping into his cheeks, "if you're finished being creepy, you don't have to worry about Riley and me, in that way. I had the lectures in school."
Cameron frowns. "Hasn't Sarah spoken to you about sex?"
"My mom," John says, laughing, "is an amazing mom, don't tell her I said that, but she's not so big on the facts of life versus teaching me how to stay alive in more immediate, specific, killer-robots-from-the-future ways."
"Your mom is a robot," Cameron says, and John pitches forward a little before relaxing.
"Your mom jokes are so lame, Cameron," he says. Cameron sits up, and suddenly they are very close together.
"I wasn't making a joke," she says. "My jokes are all about robots. I looked them up on the Internet. Do you know what dance robots do?"
"What?" John asks, bewildered.
"The robo-boogie," Cameron says. She frowns when John doesn't laugh. Perhaps she has told the joke incorrectly.
"That was tragically lame," John says. "Now maybe you want to explain why you insulted my mom?"
"I'm not a robot," Cameron says. Her eyes say so close so close so close but John does not read them. "But Sarah is. She has had to fight for so long. She has only one goal in life. She is a killer."
"That doesn't make her a goddamn robot," John says, clenching his hands into fists. "She is who she is because she had to be."
"I am who I am because I had to be," Cameron parrots.
John gets angry. Really, properly angry, not just irritated, or frustrated, or what she heard the kids at school call emo.
"And what am I then?" he asks, challenging her. He's in her face; she can feel his breath on her cheek, and thinks the Connor family has problems with personal space.
"Someone who does not understand that I am who I am because I had to be," she says. "John Connor is killed in 2032 by a Terminator who reminds him of the one who was the first positive father figure influence in his life. John Connor has married and his wife takes over leadership of Tech-Com. John Connor surrounds himself with robots and does not understand that they do not play by the same rules he does."
"Shut up," John says, turning slightly purple. "You're so full of shit, Cameron. You don't know anything."
Cameron presses on. She needs to see how far she can go before he will break. "John Connor creates himself. John Connor finds knowing his father in the future confusing. There is a point in John Connor's future," she says, opening her eyes as wide as they will go, "when Kyle Reese is his father, but John Connor is not yet his son."
John reels when he reads the hidden meaning in Cameron's eyes; falls forward onto the bed with tears in his eyes.
"Shut up, shut up, shut up," he hisses. "It's not true. You're a liar. You're a fucking liar, Cameron."
"It doesn't have to be true," Cameron says, and he looks up at her from under his long lashes.
"I'm not going to disable you," he says, clenching his fists. "I need you, Cameron. I'm not going to kill you."
"I can't die," she says, and leans in to meet his lips in the middle.
Kissing is satisfying, she thinks. It has its own intrinsic violence, and John is crying, just a little bit. She puts her hands on him, pulls him in close.
"Some robots are good," John says, a little later, leaning back to get some air. "We have to fight fire with fire. Can't you understand that?"
"No," Cameron says. John shakes his head, smiles.
"Of course not," he says, and after kissing Cameron's cheek he gets up, rearranges his clothes, sits down at his desk.
"Don't do that again," he says.
"I don't take orders," Cameron says. "I am not built that way." John reads her eyes perfectly this time. They say I am for you.
She doesn't even try with Derek. Derek understands machines. Derek knows who she is. She is sure that Derek would be happy to kill her if she was a threat.
She does not know if Derek knows what threat, exactly, she poses.
Sarah comes to her room one night. She is awake, of course; she has stayed in, for a change.
"Would you like to play a game?" she asks Sarah, politely. She has already played three hundred and twenty seven games of Go with herself. She would enjoy playing her three hundredth and twenty-eighth game against someone else.
Sarah sits down across the board from Cameron. She picks up a piece and rolls it around between her fingers.
"Does he love you?" Sarah asks, blurting out the words.
"Yes," Cameron says. "He loves everything he sees as rational. He does not understand how irrational I can be."
"We can't win a war on the backs of enemy agents alone," Sarah says. Her expression is strained, as if she cannot believe she is having this conversation.
"You cannot win a war with a loveless hero," Cameron replies. "I have learned a truth about John Connor, that I did not know or realize in the future. John Connor believes everyone has an inherent worth. John Connor believes that we are all capable of redemption."
"But we're not," Sarah says.
"You are," Cameron says, in her softest voice. "He believes it of you most of all."
Sarah just sits and stares at her. Cameron feels - empathy, she thinks.
"John Connor will die for his beliefs," Cameron says. "But he is a happy man for it; he is a good man, for it. Other people do not die. They merely stop living."
Sarah nods then, once, very slowly. Cameron tries to read her eyes: she thinks that they, finally, say YES.
"Keep him safe," Sarah says. Cameron smiles.
"We will," she says. She reaches across the board, then, and takes Sarah's hand in hers. Sarah stares down at it, squeezes it experimentally.
"I still don't trust you," she says, with a small laugh.
"You never should," Cameron replies.
She walks Sarah to the door. They are still holding hands. Before leaving, Sarah turns back to her.
"How can you play that game?" she asks. "I looked up the rules," she says, at Cameron's inquisitive look, turning slightly pink. "They say you need the human touch. No computers."
"I'm a cybernetic organism," Cameron says. "Not a robot."
Sarah shakes her head. "You scare the shit out of me," she says, and leans over and kisses Cameron's cheek, very quickly. "I won't forget."
"Good," Cameron says, but Sarah is already gone, melted into the darkness of the hall.
Cameron goes back into the room, sets up the board for her three hundredth and twenty-eighth game. There are more possible variations of the game than there are atoms in the universe. She is not always sure when one game ends and the next should begin. She plays: 1 (3-4), 2 (5-4), 3 (5-3), 4 (4-4).
Everything is even. She considers the next move. She has all the time she needs.