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Though I Walk Through the Shadow

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A.D. 2024
Eight Years after Judgment Day
Timeline Gamma Alpha Two, Code "Born to Run"

John followed Derek through the complex, doing his best to scout his environment as they traveled. Derek stopped in front of a door and knocked.

"Come in," a female voice called out.

Derek led him inside, where John saw a young woman, just a few years older than him. She was dressed in the same sort of clothing everyone else in this future wore and had dark red hair.

When she saw John, her eyes immediately narrowed.

"We found him already within the complex," Derek explained. "We don't know how he managed to get inside."

She nodded, not taking her eyes off John. "Thank you, Derek. You can leave us alone now."

Derek clearly didn't approve, and opened his mouth, no doubt to protest, when the woman simply said, "I assure you, we'll be fine." She spoke in a firm voice that brokered no dissent, and Derek simply frowned and left the room.

"You have to forgive Derek," the woman said. "He's a good soldier, but he can be overcautious. But then, you already knew that, didn't you, John?"

John blinked. "You know who I am?" he asked. It was the first sign that anyone in the future had demonstrated that they had even so much as heard of the name John Connor.

The woman laughed a soft, dark laugh. "Of course I know you are. You're John Connor, savior of humanity and leader of the resistance against the machines. Except when Judgment Day came, you weren't here.

"I know who you are, John, because I am you. Humanity needed a John Connor, and when you weren't there for them, they got me instead."

John eyed the woman more intently. She did seem familiar: the hair, the face, the eyes, even the cadence of her speech. She reminded him of Catherine more than anything else, but younger, and different. "Savannah."

She nodded. "Very good."

He studied her, amazed that this woman could be the same person as the little girl he had met only days before. She simply watched him back, her eyes peering out at him intently beneath auburn bangs. "I had forgotten how young you were, John," she said. "You seemed so old to me then."

John took a breath. "My mother?"

"Dead," Savannah answered. "I'm sorry."

John nodded and sat down on a cot in the corner of the room. "Cancer?"

"Terminator." Her expression was soft, gentle, but she faced him without flinching. "She died protecting me."

"Well, humanity need a savior," he answered. It was strange--he had spent his whole life being told it fell on him to lead the human race after Judgment Day, and now he found that someone else had just picked up the burden in his absence. As simple as that. "And you're the only one who remembers me."

"Not the only one," Savannah corrected him. "There are others who remember you--Martin Bidell, Lauren and Sydney Fields, Alexis Kyle, Jonathon Horpe, Kate Brewster."

"Who?" He had recognized all the names except for the last one.

"It doesn't matter," she answered softly, not meeting his eyes. "She--they remember you."

John nodded, even though he didn't quite understand. It was all a bit too much to take in. "So you're me. Who does that make me?"

Savannah shrugged. "You came through with my mother."

John nodded. "She left before the others--she's not--she's not really--"

"I know," Savannah said, responding to what John didn't say. "She might not have been as good a parent as the real Catherine Weaver, but for a machine, she still did a pretty impressive job."

"And then my mother took over the job." He wasn't able to keep it from sounding like an accusation.

Savannah nodded. "She was a good mother. You were lucky." She said it evenly, but John still couldn't help feeling rebuffed. She had lost her mother as much as he had--and had had her replaced with a machine.

The machine he had traveled to the future with in pursuit of Cameron's chip and Cromartie's body and John Henry's mind. Who had been building some sort of anti-SkyNet in the basement of her company.

"Don't hate me, John." Savannah had an odd vulnerability to her, at odds with her role as the leader of humanity.

"I don't hate you," he reassured her, realizing that the shadow that had hung over him all his life had engulfed her, too. Only now he was here, in the flesh, the person she had spent most of her life trying to replace now sitting in front of her.

Well, at least she wasn't going to look at him and find herself wanting.

"So what happens now?" he asked her.

Savannah sat down on a stool across from the cot. "Well, I guess that depends on you," she said. "I'm assuming you'll want to pursue your machine."

John just nodded.

"I'd offer you help," Savannah said, "but I know you understand my first responsibility has to be to my men."

"Of course," John said, doing his best to keep his voice even.

Confusion was the only emotion John could be sure of as he made his way through the compound. He didn't hate Savannah; he had been telling the truth when he said as much to her, but he did find himself irrationally angry with her for taking his life. He had never wanted it, and now that he could see what had been supposed to be his destiny it appealed to him all the less--and the anger was there all the same.

Most of the compound's occupants were already in the mess when he entered. He joined the line behind Kyle, Derek, and the woman who looked like Cameron--she introduced herself with a friendly smile as Allison. In some other timeline, John reasoned, she must have been the template used to manufacture Cameron.

"So where are you from?" Allison asked once they sat down, obviously trying to be friendly. John noticed Kyle frown, clearly not at all approving of Allison's gregariousness, and filed the information away. Jealousy? Or something more complicated?

He paused, not quite sure how to answer the girl's question. Savannah saved him by breaking in, "He was on a special mission. Secret." Now it was Derek's turn to frown.

"Oh," said Allison. "Well, welcome." It was strange to see the full range of human emotions work themselves across Cameron's face and to know it wasn't simply a mimicry designed for infiltration. Allison's smile, so vibrant, seemed completely out of place on those features.

John forced himself to smile back anyway. "Thanks."

"Are you going to stay with us long?"

Once again, it was Savannah who answered the question he couldn't for him. "That remains to be seen," she said--which was, after all, the truth.

There was a sudden cackle of radios. "Weaver?" a static-laden female voice called out.

Savannah lifted her radio to her mouth. "This is Weaver," she said. "Go ahead."

"We've got a caravan of metal passing through from the north. Four T-400's."


"From the looks of it, probably hyperalloy."

Savannah frowned, then looked to Kyle. "Think it's a trap?"

Kyle shrugged. "Could be."

Savannah nodded, then sighed. "Still too good an opportunity to pass up." She thumbed her radio. "Understood, perpare for offensive. We'll be there as soon as we can."

She stood up. "Okay, people. Dinner'll still be here when we get back, just a little colder."

John simply followed the mass exodus of people as everybody left the mess, and found himself in what he assumed was the compound's armory. Derek looked to Savannah for instructions when he got to John, but at her nod handed him a semi-automatic rifle with armor-piercing bullets.

"Connor, you're with me. Derek, take Hernandez and attack from the west. Allison, you're in command of the main offensive." Her face showed steely determination reminiscent of his mother at her most scary as she rattled off the commands without hesitancy. "Kyle, you and Williams hold back, just in case they decide to pull a fast one on us."

Kyle was obviously not pleased by that last command, but kept his objections silent, obviously knowing better than to question Savannah's orders in the field. "Understood."

John followed Savannah as they made their way around the convoy so as to be able to attack from the east, using the hilly terrain for cover. They didn't speak much; they didn't have too--trained as they both were by his mother, they were able to anticipate each other's thoughts and actions on the battlefield.

Soon, they were right next to the convoy of Terminators and, as far as they couldn't tell, hadn't been spotted. "You ready for this?" Savannah whispered.

He wasn't, but he doubted sixteen-year-old Savannah had been ready, either. "Are you ever?" he asked, and Savannah grinned.

"Plan?" he asked, although as he examined the four Terminators' tactical weaknesses he suspected he knew what she would say.

She managed to surprise him, though. "Squirrel runs around the tree," she answered, the grin transforming into smirk.

But John just nodded, visualizing the battlefield and understanding what she was saying instantly. "Dives in the whole, scurries out the other side," he finished for her, then lifted his gun and began to run.

John found his way back to the room where he had met Savannah--well, met the older Savannah--for the first time, and knocked on the door.

"Come in," Savannah's voice called out.

John entered. Savannah was laying stomach-down on her cot, reading a book under the light of a small LED lamp. She looked up at him over her shoulder. "John."

"Ma'am," he said, not sure what else to say.

Savannah smiled at him, then turned and sat up in the cot. "Call me Savannah, please," she said. "Save 'ma'am' for in front of the men."

John nodded. "Okay. Savannah."

She smiled again. "Good work today, by the way. I think you've definitely earned Derek's trust. Saving his brother will do that."

John nodded absently, and there was a beat of silence as the two students of Sarah Connor stared at each other, not speaking.

"Have you decided how you're going to find John Henry?" Savannah finally asked.

"I was thinking I would set out tomorrow, see if I could get back in touch with your--with Catherine." It wasn't the most sophisticated of plans, but he was hoping it'd be enough.

Savannah nodded thoughtfully. "I'll make sure to have Derek give you a gun and field kit before you leave."

"You don't have to do that," John interjected. "I know you're short for supplies."

"John, please," Savannah said, and John was surprised by the forcefulness of her sincerity. "It's the least I can do." She paused, then added, "Besides, if it wasn't for you we'd have lost half our men instead of having captured three T-400's and a ton of hyperalloy"--but it was clear from the way she said it that it was an afterthought, not her actual reason.

He shrugged, acquiescing. It wasn't as if he had relished the thought of going out there among the machines unarmed.

There were a few more beats of silence. "Okay, I guess I'll be getting back to the barracks, then."

"John, please sit down." There was a note of neediness, of desperation, in her voice, at odds with the steely commander he said in action just that afternoon. "If you're leaving in the morning, then it'd be shame to waste the short time you're here."

He hesitated. "I interrupted your reading."

She laughed, held up the book she had been reading. It had a cross on the cover: a Bible. "It's okay, I've read it before." She sobered. "It was a gift from Mr. Ellison."

"He's dead too?"

She nodded. "He was cancer." Then her expression changed and she patted the space next to her on the cot. "Come on, sit down."

John sat in the space she indicated, even though the stool was still open. There was maybe a couple of inches between them on the cot.

John just sat there, not making an effort to break the silence this time. Instead, he just watched Savannah out of the corner of his eye.

Her head was turned and watching him straight-on, apparently perfectly content to just have him there. After several minutes had passed, she spoke. "You really love her, don't you?"

He almost jumped. "Who?"

"Your machine." Her voice was almost sad. "I forget her name."

"Cameron," he told her, then, "I--it's complicated."

Savannah nodded knowingly. "If you see my mother, tell her I--" She broke off, as if unsure exactly what message John should pass on to Catherine. "Tell her I said hello."

"Will do," said John, but Savannah reached across and took his hand in hers, her grip firm.

"You're the only person in the world who understands," she said, "what it's like to live in your shadow. To try to live up to that legacy, to ask yourself what he would do, to wonder if you'll ever be good enough. To have to become that person."

"I'm not that person," John told her. "If you want advice, or guidance, or wisdom, I'm sorry, because I don't have it."

"I don't want that person," Savannah's voice was firm. "Actually, sorry, but I've decided I don't really like that you very much."

John laughed. "Good. That makes two of us."

Savannah's face softened. "I want the John who understands."

John turned and looked at her full-on, their eyes meeting. They looked for a moment and then, with neither face visibly changing, they wordlessly came to agreement. They leaned in together, their lips meeting each other halfway between them. The kiss started out gentle, but Savannah quickly turned it rougher, her tongue ferociously exploring his mouth, and then they were pulling clothes off each other: heavy camouflage jackets, followed by two shirts and a sports bra, fell to the floor. Savannah's now free breasts jiggled as she unbuckled John's belt, the two red areolae standing out vibrantly against the fair complexion of her Scottish skin. He reached out and took the left breast in his right hand, as he one-handedly worked to undo Savannah's belt.

She responded by leaning over for a kiss, and then moved her mouth to his jaw where she delivered a series of gentle bites--and then one not so gentle one, a mischievous glimmer in her eye.

John shifted his weight on the cot to pull off his trousers, as Savannah did the same, leaving the pair naked except for their matching grey Resistance-standard unisex underpants. The fact that Savannah somehow managed to make them look sexy was quite the achievement.

Savannah pushed him down on the cot, then climbed on top of him. He watched as her breasts moved up and down in rhythm with her thrusts as she lowered herself down and raised herself upon him.

Their love-making was slow and intense.

"It's been a long time since I've gotten to do that," she said as he held her in his arms once he had spent himself. They hadn't stopped making love, not exactly, they simply shifted the focus as they waited for him to regain his erection. "It makes the men uncomfortable. It's as if they can only take my orders if they manage to forget that I'm a girl."

John looked at her skeptically. "It's hard to believe that anyone could ever possibly forget that."

Savannah smiled. "Still, the double standard is infuriating. If it weren't for Allison I'd probably have gone insane."

"Well, if it's going to get you in trouble with your men, maybe I should--" John said, getting up, but Savannah grabbed his arm and pulled him closer.

"Don't go," she said.

The cot might have been okay for sex, but they couldn't very well sleep one on top of the other, so Savannah spread a blanket on the floor. It didn't do much to pad the hard floor, but they spooned together anyway, and Savannah somehow managed to fall asleep in his arms almost instantly. It took over an hour before he managed to doze off, but eventually he found himself groggily coming awake after a night's sleep, a dozen different pains throughout his body.

That morning, Savannah watched John walk away until he was long out of her line of sight. She whispered, "Godspeed, John Connor," then turned around and made her way back into the compound.

She had an insurgency to run.