Cameron stands in the doorway and watches John. The darkness is no impediment to her. He looks strained. Shoulders set and muscles tense; fine lines taut around his eyes and mouth.
Cameron knows those lines get deeper and stronger and permanent in the future, although they are almost imperceptible now. She remembers how to make the knotted tightness in the shoulders go away, though, but she does not know if it would do the same for this John Connor.
Cameron accesses all the behavioral information she has on humans and assesses the data. She cross-references it with her stored knowledge of John Connor, now and then.
Cameron knows now that her base human data, which she accesses when she tries to act more human, is built on Allison. She remembers building up her programming from what Allison said, from how she reacted, putting in memories and experiences which she gleaned from Allison’s words and behavior. Allison’s experiences in the camp had felt like a memory, and Cameron is satisfied that her programming was excellent. She had built the programming over the core command to terminate John Connor, and when John had reprogrammed her, all he had changed was the base command to be protect John Connor instead. The rest he had left alone, although he had taken her memory.
When Cameron reaches for human, she reaches for Allison.
She remembers some of the time before reprogramming, now. She remembers, when constructing her programming for infiltration, assessing whether or not Allison had been John’s lover. She had determined not. Allison’s last thoughts had been about John, yes, but Cameron can hear – could perfectly reconstruct, in fact – her last words, I’ll never help you get to John Connor.
John Connor. Cameron can remember the way resistance fighters said John Connor like a talisman, a myth. That is the way Allison had said it, like the words contained all the hope of humanity, not like John was a person. Not like Sarah Connor says John, not like the resistance fighters who worked directly with John Connor in the future said Connor. Allison had never been allowed close to John Connor, Cameron is 95.7% certain.
Just what humans would term a crush then, and Cameron had duly built that knowledge into her programming. After reprogramming, while still with the resistance, Cameron had seen countless fighters with ‘crushes’ on John Connor. None of those had got close either.
Cameron knows Allison would have had even less chance because, of course, John would have known.
He would have known when he saw Allison that Cameron would be sent back in her image. Would have known that meant she was going to be terminated. Cameron doesn’t really have Allison’s memories, but she can reconstruct John Connor’s eyes on Allison as she’d grown up, flicking over her, assessing whether or not she had reached the physical stage when she would be reconstructed as Cameron. When she would die. John Connor was only human, his eyes and memory would not have been perfect enough to assess that Cameron’s body was 16 years and 114 days old, and be able to tell exactly how much time Allison had left.
Cameron knows John Connor would never have let Allison get close to him.
John turns over in bed and looks at her. Cameron looks back. She hears the stutter in his breathing and knows it means emotion. She hears him swallow and his breathing evens out as he gets himself under control. Cameron is not aware of why John is upset tonight, but that is not unusual. She knows it need not be anything from today or even the last week. Humans can reconstruct their feelings along with their memories in quiet times, and it is perfectly plausible that John is upset about something that happened years ago.
Cameron’s recall is perfect, but she cannot color it with shades of emotion. John Connor once tried to explain emotion to her as color. An emotion always feels the same in some way, he said, like red is always red. But it can be different shades of red, he said, showing her a painting on the wall of the tunnel some children had done, with different colors including different shades of red, crimson, maroon and a dark, dried blood red. And they can fade, he’d said, but humans can remember them, restore them, he’d said, running his hand over and taking off the layers of dust revealing the color beneath, and sometimes make them just as strong again.
But Cameron does not think this is the case with John today. John’s heart rate has elevated looking at Cameron all day, his breath had become uneven each time, and he’s looked at her more frequently than usual. Cameron assesses an 83.2% probability that John is thinking about Cameron trying to kill him.
He turns back over, putting his back to her. His bare neck looks vulnerable, and Cameron’s CPU assesses that snapping his neck would be the easiest way to kill him at this moment.
Cameron has watched television, watched Sarah and John, and thinks she should say something like I didn’t mean it or it won’t happen again. Cameron can say neither of these things because her strong intent had been to put a bullet between his eyes, and she knows how easily her programming can be changed. She knows John knows this perfectly well.
Cameron was not in the future. She was not still with John Connor when she arrived to terminate him after killing Allison. The resistance had taken her easily, of course, had known she was coming. As soon as Allison had failed to return as scheduled, John would have known the next time he saw her face she would be coming to kill him.
Cameron has speculated on what happened to her. It is possible, and she knows Sarah Connor would like to think this, that her presence here has changed the future and is rebuilding it, so Cameron would not be there still at John’s side 20 years in the future that they are currently destroying. Cameron does not believe this. She is certain John Connor knew her; the same way he clearly knew Kyle Reese was his father in the future. Had given him his mother’s photograph, had made him his friend. A hundred small things can be analyzed as proof John Connor knew her, too.
Cameron is certain she dies sometime between now and when the future her infiltrates the camp. The other resistance fighters gave no indication they had ever met a robot in Allison’s image, and Allison’s reaction to her makes her certain she had never seen Cameron before. And if she was not with John Connor in the future, Cameron knows she was dead.
Cameron is satisfied to think she dies protecting John sometime in the future, and fulfills her purpose. She is dissatisfied with the thought that Sarah or Derek or John himself has to kill her because her chip malfunctions, but she knows it is possible. She knows John knows this too.
John Connor had allowed her close to him as soon as he had reprogrammed her. It had not seemed strange to Cameron at the time that he made her his closest companion and bodyguard. She was stronger than any of the humans, much more efficient, and John Connor had reprogrammed her himself – it was the sanest choice. She had not accounted for human beings’ ingrained revulsion to the machines by that time – the reaction of Derek Reese to her had been common – and that, therefore, John Connor’s treatment of her had been strange. She believes now John Connor kept her close to him because he already knew her.
John punches the pillow and fidgets. Cameron assesses his physiology and determines it will likely be 3.16 hours before he falls asleep with this level of tension in his body. Cameron is aware that John has eaten 876 calories today and slept an average of 4.32 hours per night over the last two nights. The human body operates at optimal levels with 7.82 hours of sleep per night and a boy of John’s growth rate and activity should be eating 2,748 calories per day.
John turns over suddenly and switches on his lamp. He pushes himself up on his elbows and glares at Cameron.
“What?” he says, irritably.
“You should be sleeping,” Cameron states.
“Did you think that maybe the creepily staring machine at my bedroom door might be putting me off?”
Cameron has been standing in the doorway for 11.73 minutes and John has been lying awake in bed for 1.42 hours.
“No,” Cameron replies.
John glares at her some more. He is dishevelled from fidgeting in bed and slightly flushed. The room is 1.2 degrees Celsius above perfectly comfortable for humans. Cameron has no real concept of beauty; it was not something required for programming but she is aware that John is beautiful from monitoring the physiological reactions of others to him.
Cameron can understand and recognize strength, fitness and even grace. Her learning computer has built up a framework for recognizing beauty, too, but she is aware it is less than perfect. Symmetry is important, and smoothness, she has determined, but sometimes Derek Reese’s physiological reaction to Sarah Connor is stronger in the morning, when her face is creased from her pillow and her hair is un-brushed.
Cameron is aware that she is, that Allison was, beautiful also from the reaction of others. She is aware of it from John’s physiological reaction to her. The programming that includes Allison Young’s crush is pleased by it. The programming that says protect John Connor is satisfied with it, too. It will allow her to keep closer to him.
John will not ask her if she meant it when she said she loved him. Will not ask her if her chip had been fixed by then, because she knows he knows the truth. She used it to manipulate him and would have killed him if she could. Cameron would never have said that.
Cameron’s love does not require her to live. Cameron would have told him to destroy her as Sarah Connor knew they should when she had been proven to be a risk to him.
Cameron had assessed self-termination as the best option to fulfill her programming following her reactivation, and rejected it with a 25.3% probability that it was the best course of action. When they terminate Cromartie she will make another assessment.
Now, she will remain vigilant to protect John. Will do what she can to keep him at optimum levels.
John has dark circles round his eyes and his energy levels are low. He is not at optimum level.
He switches off the lamp.
“Go monitor the subsidence,” he says, dismissing her and settling back down on the bed.
But she does not go down to the center of the house. She goes to her room and picks the item up from the drawer, still in the brown paper bag she bought it in.
It is purple and not, she thinks as she strips and puts it on, at all life-like. Others had come with veins and fake testicles and been skin-colored. Some had come with batteries.
This one is plain, smooth and fairly large. The straps are black and can be adjusted to fit well around her narrow hips.
In the future the straps are worn and the leather is broken in places. The buckles are tarnished. Now, it is brand new. Cameron had seen it in the window of a shop she had passed and assessed there was a 94.2% probability it was the same one. Small idiosyncrasies in the plastic and the leather and the color, indistinguishable to human eyes from all the others mass produced at the same time, were immediately apparent to her.
There is a part of the strap-on where it sits against her body that is designed to stimulate her clitoris. She can sense injury which could be called pain, and she can sense stimulation which could be called pleasure. The technology was there for those machines used for longer-term infiltration to ensure that appropriate reactions in any given circumstances could be achieved. She doubts what she experiences is the same as an orgasm for a human, but that does not matter.
She picks up the lube she also bought and returns to John’s room. She checks Sarah Connor’s breathing is sleep-even before leaving her room. She knows Sarah would kill her for this.
She goes in and closes the door behind her, flicking the light on. John Connor has always liked to see her.
John looks up, irritation on his face and freezes at the sight of her, naked but for the strap-on, and with lube in her hand.
“What…?” John stutters. “I mean… what?”
“You are tense.”
“I’m tense?” John says. He stares at her for a minute. “I’m tense. OK, so maybe you offer me a hot chocolate or something, not. This.” He waves his arm in her general direction.
“This works,” Cameron says.
She monitors John’s reactions. She may be wrong. It works for John Connor, but humans change a lot over time and the differences between John Connor and John are many. John Connor is stronger. Made of muscle and bone and scar tissue. He’s calmer and colder. John changes a lot and everything is different. Except his eyes. John’s eyes never change.
John is sexually aroused, without doubt. But John has become inexplicably aroused around houseplants as his body develops, usually in the mornings. His reactions suggest excitement, but excitement and fear are indistinguishable in the body’s response.
“We have done this before,” she says stepping towards the bed.
John gives a short laugh. “No we haven’t,” he says, “no we have not.”
“You find this very pleasurable,” she informs him.
John gives that laugh which she doesn’t understand. “Do you?” he asks, meeting her eyes.
“The sensation could be called pleasure,” she says.
He bites his lip and stares at her. Three more ounces of pressure and he will break the skin. She moves forward and touches his lip to make him stop.
John Connor does like to kiss her, but not usually on nights when he is so tense. John is different, though, so she tries it on him. Pushing her lips against his and parting them with her tongue.
She was not surprised, even the first time, that he looked to her for sexual release. With all the humans relying on him, with the decisions he would make putting any one of them in danger it was no surprise to Cameron that he chose her rather than one of them.
She was surprised the first time he pressed the strap-on into her hands, but later determined she should not have been. It made sense that he would want to give up control in the small things, when the fate of the world rested on him. They didn’t always do it with the strap-on, but mostly they did.
John moans into her mouth and kisses back, and she knows it is decided. John is a teenaged boy, after all, and predictable in that.
She pushes him onto his back on the bed, pulls off his blankets and looks down. His t-shirt is soft and worn, and so are his boxers. They are wet where his penis is straining against them. Cameron nods in satisfaction and pulls them down and off, freeing his arousal. She rips the t-shirt in half to get it off. It is more efficient that way, and she has felt the same spike in arousal from John in the future from it that she senses now.
In the future John is able to fellate the strap-on, but Cameron’s knowledge of human anatomy tells her that that must be a hard-won skill. She does not set the challenge this time. She pushes his legs apart and settles between them. She opens the lube and applies it generously to the strap-on.
John watches her with wide eyes, but makes no move to get away as she pushes his legs further apart and up to his chest.
She does not prepare him, because John Connor likes the force of the initial stretch. She is careful, though, as she enters him slowly, monitoring his reaction. She restrains the pressure and is careful not to tear. His breath hitches and his heart stutters, and she knows it is painful, but not unbearable. He is grasping her arms tightly and there will be bruises. She makes a note to wear long-sleeves tomorrow.
She waits, seated fully inside him for his body to relax and adjust. His eyes are wide and wet and his lip is swollen from biting it, but not bloody.
His heart beats frantically against the thin skin of his chest. She is reminded how fragile he is and her programming makes itself known. Protect. Protect.
She rests one hand gently on his chest, over his heart, until he calms. Protect him. Protect him. Please him.
She knows she has made that last one as an additional program. From Allison, perhaps. From her knowledge that this will help her to protect him, possibly. Either way, protecting John Connor has developed beyond the initial concept of his continued life.
His breathing has evened out and she starts to move, slowly at first. He throws back his head and makes small, whimpering sounds. He probably looks beautiful, she thinks. He looks vulnerable, certainly, with his throat bared, and that makes him beautiful to her, causes her programming to strengthen even more. Protect. Please. ProtectPlease.
He groans and moves his hands from her biceps to grasp his arousal. She adjusts her grip quickly, grabbing his wrists and pushing them down on the bed, either side of his head.
His eyes fly open and he struggles a little. Cameron makes sure her hands form an immovable cage over his wrists, rather than gripping them and forcing them down. In the future John Connor will like bruises, but Sarah Connor most certainly will not.
He strains up and she angles her thrusts. It is easy for her to fuck him just as he likes. She can catalog his reactions minutely, knows what makes him gasp and whimper and clench.
She is still surprised when he freezes and comes suddenly all over himself. Of course, he is younger now, in the future he won’t be able to come without a touch, but for now he is relaxing back onto the bed, sated.
She pulls out and lets him recover for a moment. She pulls the strap-on off. The thrusts have been stimulating her, too, and her body feels pleasure.
She moves up his body and straddles his shoulders. He stares up at her, startled. Cameron knows he likes this. Knows he likes doing this for her and so she says, “I feel pleasure.”
He grips her hips and pulls her down onto his mouth. He stares up at her as he works his tongue tentatively over her. He is unpracticed and clumsy and Cameron determines it is likely this is the first time he has done this. Good, she thinks. She will protect him from all others who would touch him. She helps him by moving, getting his tongue into the right place until she calculates an orgasm would be achieved.
She feels satisfied and moves off him. She lies beside him and watches him as he watches her.
His mouth, wet and swollen, twists into a sort of smile. “Better than hot chocolate, I guess.”
She nods. “There are more endorphins,” she confirms.
John snorts at that. She cannot tell if he is happy, the twist of his mouth is dry, but he is certainly more relaxed.
“Sleep,” she says, and she can already sense his body getting heavy and his eyes closing.
He lays his hand on her stomach, and it feels a little tentative so she covers it with hers.
He falls asleep in 4.34 minutes. She stretches her senses out and there is no danger. She can hear Derek Reese and Sarah Connor sleeping, and there is no unknown movement. Her senses are overlaid by John’s heartbeat slow and steady next to her.
Satisfied and watchful, she waits for the morning.