So answer me this. I live every day of my life under siege, secure in the knowledge that the fate of the human race relies on me. I'm living with my mom, my uncle and a devastatingly attractive killing machine who's sole purpose in existence is... well... me.
So what possible use could I have for obscure russian literary quotes?
Cameon comes in and sits down across from me at the kitchen table. She points at something on my paper. "There's no 'u' in Soviet."
I cross it out and write it again.
Cameron looks back up at me. "Why don't you touch me more?"
I almost swallow my tongue. "Um...what?"
Mom comes in, her timing could have been worse by half a second. "Are you all right?" She asks me.
"Fine." I croak out. I think I just had a stroke.
Cameron just looks at me while mom gets whatever she came into the kitchen for and goes back upstairs. I spend the whole time staring at homework I don't see. Dammit, how can she just... I mean, I know she's a machine but she's a smart machine. She just drops that sentence down on me and... without any emotion or inflection in her voice...
I manage to get my breathing under control. "Now... um... where did that come from?"
Cameron stares at me without blinking. She never blinks when we're not around other people. "Derek."
"What's he done now?"
"When he was shot, the only thing he said to me was not to touch him. He fought in the war. He knew that three feet of distance would not have protected him from me. He knew also that I have detailed files on human anatomy. I could have saved him, but he refused to let me touch him, even to save his life."
"I remember." I nod. "Derek... he doesn't trust you. Not yet, so he doesn't like the idea of you touching him. Does that bother you?"
"No." She says. "I don't trust him either. But I wanted to know why I couldn't touch him, not even to change his bandages. I didn't understand the relevance."
Cameron takes that as a cue to keep going and continues. "In the future, Skynet observed human soldiers sending coded messages through gestures and touches. I believe it is a form of communication. Since arriving in this time, I have watched people touching each other on the television. When not in the context of combat or intimidation, it is often a precursor to sex, but also used for comfort and friendship. In the context of close couples it can mean anything."
I swallow, but at least she's being... clinical. As usual. "So what's the problem?"
"On the television, people make contact with lots of things they cannot communicate with. Cars, animals, plants..."
"You want to know why?"
I actually have to think about it. Cameron always does this... make me try and define things that I never even think about before...
"I think..." I say finally. "I think people like to make connections to things. When you want to know what something looks like, you look at it, when you want to know what it sounds like, you listen to it, when you want to know what something feels like..."
"Touch is used to create a more complete impression of something."
"Yeah. I guess so."
"Thank you for explaining." She says. "We're late for school."
Lunchtime rolls around, and I'm trying to comprehend trigonometery over lukewarm macoroni and cheese.
Cameron sits down next to me. "I still do not understand why humans like to be touched."
I choke on the mac-and-cheese plate. "What?" Another stroke. Gotta be a record.
"I still do not understand-"
"I heard." I clear my throat. "What... uh... what's not clear to you, exactly?"
"The record from Vick's chip."
I flush, and stare at my plate. "Oh."
"She liked it, that woman, when he touched her lips, but I don't understand why."
Oh boy. I was so very hopeful that mom would have this talk with her instead. "I think, I think that people like to feel like they are a part of things. I think that touching something lets you become a part of it, even if only for a second. When you love someone, or for that matter, something, it's a way of showing... when you... It means a lot of things." I finish lamely.
She processes that for a few moments. "I think there's more to touching things than just knowing what they feel like."
"Why do you say that?"
"Derek's never touched me, and still refuses to do so." Cameron says. "But Morris does. And he already knows what my hands and arms feel like."
Slowly, I send a look over at my friend, so very glad he wasn't at the table right then. "Morris likes you, he wants to get closer... He wants you to be comfortable with him." I tell her, hoping that my voice holds steady. "Derek, he doesn't want to be comfortable around you."
I'm never sure if it's possible for Cameron to be... offended; but every now and then, there are these awkward silences.
"When we started school, after the time jump, Sarah told me not to kiss her goodbye. Not her or anybody else. She acts a lot like Derek that way."
Damn. I was hoping she hadn't noticed. "I know. I think... Mom doesn't know how to act around you, because her eyes say you're one thing, but she knows you're another."
"I'm a very scary robot." Cameron says. She isn't as... detatched about that one.
"Yes, you are." I say quietly.
"I have observed people making physical contact in a variety of contexts. People who are dating in particular. But I have observed friends, strangers, and teachers making casual contact repeatedly."
I look around and realise she's right. People tapping each other on the shoulder, handshakes, gang sign fist-grips... people are holding hands, leaning against each other, swatting each other after quips and dirty jokes...
"Well like I said, it can mean a lot of things."
"Does the way they touch each other act as a signal how to act around each other?" Cameron asks me.
I think about that for a second and nod. "Yeah. I think casual aquaintances don't do more than shaking hands, dating couples are closer, family members are more comfortable because they're used to each other..."
"It would be better for you to be comfortable around me." She says.
It probably would, but this is rapidly becoming one of the more uncomfortable moments in my life.
"When I came online after you put my chip back, you were touching my hair." She says slowly.
I swallow a lump. "Yes."
"Morris is coming."
Beat. It takes me a full fifteen seconds to shift gears, as Cameron suddenly becomes an animated girl-next-door, talking about finding a shade of nail-polish she likes.
Morris comes up behind me, slaps a hand on my back, gives Cameron's shoulder a squeeze and sits down. "Hola Amigo and seniorita!"
The school day ends, and the bus picks me up. As usual, Cameron preceeds me onto the bus. She always does that. She gives the driver a facial structure recognition scan and takes in the rest of the passengers before I get out my bus pass. If there's a problem, she tells me she dropped her pass outside, and asks me to go back for it.
She says nothing and makes her way down the aisle, I'm right behind her. It's routine. One of many paraniod security checks that are a part of my day to day life.
We get a seat, and the bus pulls out. Neither of us say anything.
As the bus stops at a light, Cameron shifts in her seat, so that her leg is up against mine, and she's leaning into me. Just like any sister would toward her big brother, just like half the people on this bus are without realizing it.
Suddenly, I am hyperaware of the fact that this is the first time she's made contact with me deliberately, without shoving me around a corner out of sight, or forcing me behind her to block incoming bullets.
I send her a quick look, and she looks back, to see if I'll object.
I can't help it. I'm smiling.