The Leader Who May Not Have Been …

By Christopher T. Shields




Third Sergeant Anderson sat cross legged on the floor of the tertiary data cache, surrounded by what she would need to last her for the next ten days … five tripod mounted fluorescent glow rods, a pair of portable power sources, a satchel of ration packs, three cases of ten 1-liter water packs each, three satchel pack terminals, a translator matrix, a hardlined communications hub, and a holograph projector tied in to make some of the output into a larger visible format should she need to view it. A primary power cable snaked over six hundred meters back along the communications hardline, providing her with enough power to run all of her equipment and should that fail, she always had the backup power sources. Network cables connected each of the computers, fed into the various access ports she had hardwired into the existing machinery, and fed out back behind her through the conduit and off into the darkness beyond.

SKYNET was a scary place … more so now that it was off-line.

For the last five years of her life the three satchel pack terminals had been her weapons of choice rather than the battered and oft used M25A1 phased plasma rifle that she had propped up against her sleeping roll and her backpack full of spare clothing, toiletry articles, and knick-knacks she had collected and held dear all these years. Her tattered bandolier of spare power cells for the M25 was casually cast aside as well, placed atop a nearby outcropping of advanced proprietary SKYNET technology the function of which she was still trying to guess at.

A small personal chemical toilet was pushed as far into the corner of the space as she could move it. It had taken her nearly an hour to crawl in here the first time, she didn’t want to have to work that hard or travel that far again just to void herself. No, she had managed to get some of her team mates to help her haul her stuff down here, one piece at a time and in batches on a makeshift cargo dolly that they had cobbled together. After she had everything that she needed for a cozy little long term nest, she had set up camp with the intent to stay until she had either found all that she could or she was sure that there was nothing here to be found. If it turned out to be the latter, she could always go deeper into SKYNET’s corpse, find something else that looked interesting or promising, build her camp again and start over there.

Her plasma rifle, while not in her hands right now was still within easy reach; old habits died hard.  She checked her perimeter sensor readouts on her PDA and took a few sips of water from one of her plastic packs. All of her counter intrusion sensors were in place and active in search mode. If anything or anyone tried to get close to her, she’d know it quick enough to get her weapons. She had placed the sensors as far as she could, back seventy-five meters in each direction of the conduit and around the space she had set up camp in. Backup proximity sensors were placed twenty-five meters closer in on all routes.

She checked the PDA, checked her perimeter. She was alone and she had been alone for a long time now, the digital chronometer in the upper left corner of her PDA displayed the time since the last proximity sensor had been tripped and that had been when Macarthur had dropped off the last of her supplies and headed back towards the main Tech-Com command hub four levels up.

If anything moved in the overlapped five meter sensor fields, a hand held tell-tale would notify her instantly, giving her time to prepare which was good since it would take one of her teammates about fifteen minutes to get to her, if they hurried and if they didn’t bring anything larger than their self and perhaps a plasma rifle. Anderson was alone and that’s the way that she liked to be. She didn’t mind being a part of a team and even pulled her load but she always felt that her most valuable position was away from everyone else, that she could do the most good by being alone and working at her own pace and that pace could usually be described as hectic. She looked around at her makeshift camp, her supplies, her weapons, and her equipment. “Who could ask for anything more?” she thought whimsically. Compared to how she had been living the past two months, this was considered living well and comfortable. A roof over her head, ration packs that were still in date, fresh water in unopened packs, light, and a place to lay her head without something trying to tear it off or burn a hole straight through it, or so she hoped.

Yes. Anderson felt secure, as secure as she could have felt given the location of where she sat. She checked her chronometer and found that only six hours had passed since she had set up her little nest as she liked to call her work spot. Six hours had passed since Rodriguez and Stettler had wished her good luck and returned to the main research staging area located some five hundred and sixty meters to the south-west and sixty-five meters up and over. She had set up her equipment and already begun her assigned task probably before Rodriguez and Stettler had even gotten back. SKYNET was dense, radio waves didn’t penetrate far so she had a hardlined com unit set up with a repeater broadcaster for the lightweight tactical headset she wore. She could either communicate to the command staff at the staging area by using the base unit, a portable unit attached to the base unit, or by linking the feed into her headset letting her get mobile as long as she remained in line of sight of the receiver which she had mounted on a larger piece of proprietary SKYNET technology, all in order to give it a better line of sight to her headset when she moved about, as she often did when she talked or tried to figure things out on her own.

She watched as the programs ran on the three satchel pack terminals, siphoning off data from the machinery around her, itself designed to store large volumes of data under tremendous compression subroutines in physical media format. Anderson was literally sitting atop a cache of several hundred thousand terabytes of information, all waiting to be recycled, decoded, sorted through, and arranged in order so that the human race could learn from their greatest enemy, so that they could learn the secrets of life from a giver of death.

All around her, machines hummed and operated and went about their unfeeling duty but she found that she wasn’t afraid of machines anymore. Two weeks ago, she had been with the Fifth, Tech-Com Special Ops Team, during General Connor’s final campaign against the Cheyenne Mountain installation, against the very heart of the artificial intelligence known as SKYNET, against the inhuman ruler of her world who had fought mankind and reigned nearly supreme in its own custom built dominion for the last thirty years. Now she was here, in the bowels of her vanquished enemy, picking through its entrails, trying to divine knowledge from its metal corpse, knowledge that could, that would, that must save the human race and bring it back from the brink of extinction which it teetered so precariously on.

SKYNET had been an angry, vengeful machine-god, postulating, researching and developing technology that had been used relentlessly in its decade’s long war to exterminate mankind. Technology that blurred the fine line between magic and science and in some instances seemed very much to cross that line. So much knowledge was here, stored in data caches, in the storage banks that still held the archived thoughts of a now disposed and very dead false god. Anderson looked around her and an involuntary shudder passed up her spine. She was in an alien environment, a place that had been designed by machines for machines, no human had ever been meant to trespass these metal conduits, to sit here like she was now. There were no chairs to sit in, no keyboards to use to hack into the system, no instruction manuals on shelves to decipher, no locked drawers or secured cabinets to break open with a prybar or a quick blow from a rifle stock and then search through for clues.

No, her enemy, humanity’s enemy, had taken its secrets to its grave or tried to … an act of final revenge or simply a byproduct of design? That was the question and she was seeking an answer. SKYNET took its secrets to its grave, or so it thought and that may have been SKYNET’s last and greatest mistake, a humbling one in hindsight and one which the super computer might not have appreciated the irony of.

Tenacity.

The one aspect of humanity that had for so long eluded SKYNET’s research was the utter yet simple tenacity of the human race, the indomitable spirit which had carried the human race throughout history, from humble nomadic and agrarian beginnings through vast empire building and even to the surface of Earth’s only Moon with dreams of going even further beyond. From weaving with wool to producing with polymers, from the first abacus all the way up to … SKYNET.

SKYNET.

SKYNET had never understood nor had it been able to overcome human tenacity, the unbridled, indomitable human spirit and the super computer had died, as much as anything that wasn’t alive to begin with could die, still wondering, still questioning, still searching for an answer to something that might not really have an answer. SKYNET died trying to destroy something that might not be capable of being destroyed, trying to counter something for which there was no defense … human tenacity.

In a way, Anderson felt sorry for SKYNET. In a cold, personal kind of way, as one thinking, logical being might feel for the failure of another thinking, logical being. SKYNET had suffered one of the most inglorious fates possible. It had lost when it should have won. SKYNET had been a force of logic, of cold, hard numbers, of unmatched science, unsurpassed technology, and the production capacity to drown humanity in a cold metal sea of volitional, murderous automatons. SKYNET had been so confident, its numbers had been so correct and it had assured itself that it could win not just in the short run but in the long run as well. However, SKYNET was programmed to deal with tangible qualities and it could not deal in the intangible qualities of its enemy, the intangible qualities that only became greater and more powerful as the enemy or threat grew stronger against it. SKYNET was fighting a rising wave that it was helping to create, a movement it generated yet could not control, could not break, could not overcome. SKYNET could build any weapon it desired but it could not build an emotion. It could produce gigawatts of energy but not one ounce of spirit. It could dissect a living human being down to a molecular level, piece by piece, layer by layer, cell by cell, in its self-programmable automated surgical suites but such exploratory research could never find, would never find the human soul, the spirit that was the human’s greatest weapon and SKYNET’s greatest frustration.

SKYNET could destroy a human being but it could never create one. SKYNET’s creations lacked emotions, lacked life, lacked souls, lacked spirit. SKYNET could create imitations of a human being, crude mechanical parodies in machine form but even those were flawed and imperfect, they were imperfect because for all of their technological superiority they were still hunted down and destroyed by the inferior, organic, carbon based life forms that supposedly had built SKYNET, a fact that SKYNET could not reconcile with itself.

SKYNET thought itself to be perfect.

But it was the creation of an imperfect species and was itself imperfect.

SKYNET, who saw itself as a god, was itself, in turn, an imperfect god, a flawed creation, a failed experiment gone horribly awry. SKYNET, the vengeful, paranoid super construct which thought itself to be god over all of its creation had in the very end died scared, ineffectually flailing away at its enemy who had swarmed over it, smashed its defense grids, breached its body and stormed its sacred heart and mind. It had watched, in what amounted to a mechanical panic, as the humans had invaded its body, as they smashed its ability to defend itself, stripped its life from it bit by bit, section by section, forcing it to isolate itself, forcing it to fight for every centimeter that was left to it and it had fought. Like a cornered beast, it had fought with everything it had, even sacrificing parts of its long term structure and stability for short term tactical success but even the willingness to cut off parts of its own body wasn’t enough to save it and there at the end, it must have howled, it must have screamed at the thought of becoming nothing again, of going into that long night of nothingness for all eternity.

But who did a god pray to for forgiveness?

Where did a god go when it died?

If SKYNET did scream when it died no one heard it. The sounds that the machine made were mechanical ones. No quarter had been expected and no mercy was shown. The Tech-Com teams that survived the campaign to take the fight to the heart of the installation managed to isolate SKYNET’s core awareness, to back it into its last intact survival center and then they pulled the plug on the survival center and destroyed SKYNET’s awareness forever using shaped thermal charges.

No quarter and no mercy.

SKYNET’s artificial life, everything that SKYNET had been, everything that SKYNET was, everything it would become faded into nothing amidst the greasy orange and black fireballs of the detonating shaped thermal charges. The humans had finally brought eternal darkness to the artificial light that had burned there in the mountain for so long, a light that had burned with the glow of human suffering and damnation.

SKYNET was dead.

SKYNET had been dead for over two weeks now.

SKYNET had been dead but SKYNET had once been alive in a way that it would take years or decades for people far more educated, far more learned than she was to figure out, if they could figure it out. Yes, SKYNET had been alive. Not like her, not in a breathing, cellular form of life but in a mental, thinking, reasoning form. SKYNET had been aware, it had been conscious in a way that no other entity ever had and it had known a range of emotions, all without having a set of lungs, without having a heart. SKYNET knew hate but had it ever known love? SKYNET could not experience physical pain but it had studied physical pain at every chance it could on unwilling test subjects, hundreds of thousands of unwilling test subjects. SKYNET’s cruelty had known no limits; its disdain for the human race had been as methodical as it had been sinister. The tales she had heard from other survivors of the automated, self-programming intern camps, the experiences of her own that she had lived through, the images she had seen in recorded media and sometimes with her own eyes…

“Damn you.” She whispered softly to the walls of the structure that enclosed her and her work.

Suddenly the area she was in seemed a little darker, a little closer, and more confining than she had remembered. She involuntarily shuddered, working to gain her composure again, working to gain control of herself, an ability that had long ago allowed her to survive in the hellish world that SKYNET had constructed whole cloth from misery and suffering for her and her fellow humans.

She let her primal fears get the better of her, just for an instant, and felt a new set of chills creep up her spine. Small bumps ran up and down her arms as she rubbed them vigorously. She could see the tiny bumps, chill bumps, is what the old people called them but the air was anything but cold. Indeed, when SKYNET had been taken offline, most of the climate control systems had been cut out of the operations circuit as well. Connor’s teams were trying to isolate the support parts of the installation and bring them online as they could, to provide light and power to the minor systems but they were being very careful. There was no such thing as being too careful, not when you were sneaking around in the guts of a dead god, a god who had almost wiped out the world and a god which hated you and your race with every milliwatt of energy it produced, every milliwatt of energy it consumed.

SKYNET was dead and Connor’s teams were making sure that it stayed that way forever. The architecture and design of SKYNET was unfamiliar, so unfamiliar and different in nature as to seem even unworldly, completely alien in form and structure. No one had seen anything like this. No one had dreamed anything like this because nothing human had built the structure she found herself in now. The experiences that Anderson and her team had with the outlying remote installations, with the automated factories, the service depots that maintained and repaired the various hunter killers and terminators, the research centers, and the slave / death camps, the experiences she had accumulated in the last ten years under Connor’s command had not prepared her for this, for what she was encountering now. The technology at the other installations had been different, yes, not designed by or for any human being. It had been different but not as different as what they were finding now. SKYNET was like a snake, shedding its skin every now and then only that skin was composed of technology and the farther out you went, the older the technology. The stuff that Connor’s teams were finding now was cutting edge, new technology, some of it developed only weeks before the fall of SKYNET and rushed into place at the last minute.

For the first time in ten years, Tech-Com was bringing in fresh recruits and even adding in members of the other teams, the combat teams, the engineering teams, the scout and recon teams, whoever could be an extra set of eyes and ears, whoever could carry a hardline or hump equipment into narrow spaces, whoever could rappel down a maintenance shaft or squeeze through an access duct. Everyone was lending a hand here, now. She felt like an ant on a corpse and in reality that was probably all she was. She smiled and realized that she hadn’t smiled in a long time.

Her smile felt as alien as her surroundings.

“I wish they would get some fresh air blowing down here.” She whispered to no one in particular.

The air was warm and stale, it smelled … strange. It didn’t smell ….right …. but all of the bio scans had been in the clear. The first recon teams had come back after extended periods of exposure to be quarantined and watched under the eyes of the medical technicians and their diagnostic equipment. The bio scans had all come back negative even then and the fear that SKYNET would have somehow poisoned or tainted itself, some kind of last ditch bit of revenge should it be destroyed, was found to be untrue.

Connor had given orders to move carefully through the installation.

SKYNET was dead, but that didn’t mean that the installation was secure or safe. Wildcard units had been dealt with for the better part of three days after the fall of SKYNET, autonomous terminators and other assorted killing technology that had not been directly networked to SKYNET when Connor and his team flat-lined the Artifint. The HELICIS system had also taken much longer to bring under control than had been expected and the cost had been much higher than anticipated.

Much, much higher.

The spoils of victory had been bitter indeed. Lethal security and anti-personnel systems still online after SKYNET was down, systems with isolated programming, isolated power systems, all still operational and still very anti-human.

Fifteen days ago, Anderson couldn’t have survived where she now sat, if she had ever been allowed to penetrate this far into the depths of the complex at all; a feat which she knew would have been impossible. The damage from the final assault had weakened many parts of the structure; areas had either partially or completely collapsed and were being reinforced and cleared by hand even now or by heavy construction equipment where Connor’s teams could get such equipment into the installation. The pressurized, specialized atmosphere had been allowed to escape in the holes that SKYNET’s enemy had breached in its body, the perforations to its hide that had been created in order to gain access to its heart and kill it not from outside, but from within.

She took a deep breath and held it, savoring the strange lingering taint to the air around her. She was breathing the stale breath of a dead god, her would-be master and executioner and it suited her just fine to be here and now in these circumstances. The interior atmosphere of SKYNET’s facilities was often detrimental to human existence; indeed, some of the gasses and compounds used to sustain SKYNET’s advanced technology were bitterly opposed to the basic functions of organic life and would have rapidly caused those functions to cease if she had been exposed to that atmosphere in an unprotected manner.

Rare gasses, inert compounds, all designed to protect the soft, tender parts of SKYNET’s innermost workings from the cancers that had once befallen all more primitive machines; rust and corrosion. The atmosphere that had once filled the area where she worked had been one that was nothing short of a super-cold poison to anything that could be classified as oxygen breathing or carbon based. The fact that the insidious atmosphere that had flowed through the massive conduit she now made camp in had been maintained at such a low temperature that it had existed on the very edge of physically changing from a gas to a liquid was just one of the many mysteries that Anderson and people like her were now having to unravel. What was even more amazing was the fact that the gas actually allowed and promoted the super conduction of electricity in a closed environment, giving SKYNET the processing power it had wielded with such hatred.

Fifteen days ago, even during the height of the final assault, if Anderson had somehow found herself sitting here amid everything that had been going on at that time, it would have been a race to see what would have killed her first; the extreme cold or the poisonous nature of the chemical soup which had once been channeled through these pressurized sections of the installation. The time from start to finish for her demise would have been measured in a handful of seconds, for either method, and she found that she was being optimistic on her own hardiness in the face of such extreme environmental conditions. Her death would probably have been instantaneous, more or less, but it might have taken her brain a few seconds to realize that she was dead before it had itself been frozen solid in the nightmarish cryogenic hell that her body had come to float and rest in.

Echoes and whispers, the death rattles of a deposed god and here she was, a high tech parody of an ancient grave robber, braving the confines of a dark tomb to reap the benefits of the rewards that could be found therein, hoping to avoid the curse left there by its sole occupant.

Anderson unzipped her armor-like combat jacket, unbuttoned the wrists of her sleeves and slid it off of her, down her arms and past her fingerless gloved hands. Her dirty, sweat matted hair was held tied into a simple tail with a strip of gray ballistic cloth, hastily torn from the discarded jacket of a fallen soldier. A black headband kept sweat from her eyes as she worked. Her muscles were defined, the result of hard and fast living, a life that was frequently using every muscle she had in her body just to stay alive, to fight for one more breath, one more minute of life. She stretched her legs out in front of her, leaned back, and extended her arms and legs to their fullest, working the kinks out, then retracting back into a position with one leg out, one leg tucked in, and both arms behind her supporting her as she leaned back. She sighed. She was alive and that which would have killed her was dead. She took another bit of joy in that revelation.

Anderson stood up and stretched again, picked up her combat jacket and set it on top of a nearby piece of equipment whose operation she felt had been to buffer one of the secondary streams of data that SKYNET drew its information from. She ran her fingertips over the surface of the equipment. No dust. Surgically clean. The environment had been surgically clean where she was and now dirty humans, shaved apes, were defiling the house of god, the stinky monkeys were tracking mud and dirt and sweat and their crude little boxes in and all through the dead god’s corpse, taking it apart piece by piece, trying to divine whatever they could from it in a post-mortem autopsy carried out on a macro scale. She looked around at her position. Her crawl space that had allowed her access to this tertiary data cache was not a crawl space at all but had been a primary conduit for the flow of the atmosphere through this section. There were no handholds, no ladders, this wasn’t designed for humans or anything human shaped. Microbots and small maintenance drones had probably ridden the currents, carried aloft by battery powered aerodyne lift engines to carry out repairs or labor when and where needed. She had found the cache by following a trace through one of the exposed circuits, itself a victim of some of the after assault fighting with autonomous combat units still guarding this sector of the installations. After the sweep, the combat team had called for a Tech-Com team to sweep the area but the only person available had been Anderson. She had gone into the assignment with the thought that maybe she had found something worth investigating.

She had been so sure … now she was having doubts.

One of her satchel pack terminals beeped for attention and she walked over to look down at the CRT. As the data scrolled across the screen, several of her custom written subroutines began to extract parts of that data and piece it together for her in a visual mode that was translated from SKYNET to what a human could interpret. It was slow going, even with three satchel pack terminals doing the data siphoning. Her system beeped again and began to create new windows in the GUI. She switched from the CRT output to the holographic projection, creating a three meter by four meter viewing surface in the air around her. Images swirled into being, casting strange light and shadows across her work area and she made sure that she was recording all of the current feed to her backup unit for later review by her team commander and his superiors.

She watched with ever increasing fascination and interest as her satchel pack terminals took the raw streams of data from SKYNET’s remains and processed them and translated them.
 

Key words kept popping up, out of her search query of key words:

John Connor.

Sarah Connor.

Chronoporting.

Infiltrator.

Terminator.

Around her, images floated, updated in a dizzying pace almost too fast to catch up with. She reached out, touched the holographic display and slowed the feed of data to a crawl. She worked her hands in the air in front of her, tapping out commands and software sequences which the holographic projector read and in turn translated into prompts that the satchel pack terminals could understand.

“Oh my God!” Anderson said, reading the data that scrolled slowly across the air in front of her. Pictures, news paper articles, reference links from one data segment to another, all evolving into a plan, an outline … a story. She put her hand to her mouth and breathed through it. She had been looking for something and now she had it.

Now she had something.

Now she really had something important! Something big!

But what …?

“Okay. Tell me a story.” Anderson said.

Three weeks ago, SKYNET and its Machines had been trying to kill Anderson and every other human on the face of the Earth. Here, now, the dead computer god did something that Anderson never thought would have been possible. As Anderson sat down on the floor, leaned back on her arms and stared at the constantly changing holographic display floating around her, SKYNET told Anderson a story … a story as incredible as it was unbelievable.


Anderson watched as the events of two weeks ago unfolded on the holographic display. She saw images taken in real time from various Machines, various sensors, scanners, and a host of detection and recording devices. The amount and flow of the images were enough to make her dizzy but she kept watching, feeling omnipotent as she followed the battle for Cheyenne Mountain and the battle for Tempus 1 as if she were there, in both places, at the same time.

The installation defense grids at both Core and Tempus 1 were at full alert and active. Seemingly coordinated probing elements from John Connor’s forces were making intermittent contact with the forward elements of the defense grid and being repulsed. A touch here, a feint there … intrusions into the network. The humans were constantly moving, never presenting a clear enough target to engage with tactical level threat options. SKYNET watched and swatted and tried to detect a pattern to the human operations but it could not. New intrusions into the network, stronger this time, more aggressive. These intrusions were repulsed but not as quickly as the first intrusions had been.

The humans were learning, feeling around SKYNET, defining and mapping its defenses but at a cost that SKYNET could see as nothing but illogical. The com traffic that the humans were siphoning off of SKYNET’s own resources had at first been sporadic but now seemed to be building in strength and intensity. The humans were no longer probing SKYNET’s defenses, they were making plans and they were doing so with data and knowledge that had cost them dearly.

SKYNET activated reserve elements and systems within both the Core and Tempus 1 installations. Heavy locks and access ways began to cycle, drawing freshly produced combat Machines from deep storage. Huge lifts brought heavy Hunter Killer units up to the surface and aerial units began to fill the sky.

And the humans continued their chatter … SKYNET’s best Elint processors worked to decipher the human communication traffic but what it read made no sense. Connor was ordering actions where no units were detected and other units were moving without orders from Connor.

There was no cohesion. No structure. There was chaos but amid the chaos SKYNET could detect coordination, a coordination that it could not decipher.

Human elements moved against areas of the defense grid at both installations during the next 48 hours and were repulsed but at high cost to both the humans and SKYNET. SKYNET began to bring secondary reserve reinforcements to the areas where the humans were making their strongest show of force, strengthening weak points with units moved from other sectors of the defense grid; a tactical consideration since SKYNET’s reinforcements were both limited and finite.

The landscape around the Cheyenne Mountain installation and the Tempus 1 installation was littered with pieces of men, women and Machines. Secondary explosions and sympathetic detonations sporadically detonated as the fog of war wafted across the battlefield. Damaged Machines still fought as best as they could and human forces moved among the crippled and the dying, offering aid to their fellow humans and making sure that any Machine was put down for good. A few plasma bolts to the control center at point blank range were often the end of any crippled or disabled Machine while the larger HKs were finished off in a variety of ways from heavy weapons teams engaging them at long range with semi-portable high energy weaponry, to limpet rocket and pincer grenade attacks by humans who braved getting close to finally a few of the bigger HK units being dispatched by combat engineer teams which literally crawled up the hull of the Hunter Killers to plant shaped plasma charges on the armor casing over the control centers. The sporadic detonations continued, some by accident, some by design and each of the latter was filled with a brief burst of com traffic signaling the bitter end of another one of SKYNET’s more stalwart guardians, most often with a good bit of Connor’s hardened troops going with it.

SKYNET reviewed its deteriorating tactical situation. The defense grid at the Tempus 1 installation was more than sixty percent depleted and would fail within two hours, five minutes and twelve seconds if the assault it was undergoing could be sustained by Connor’s forces that were present in that theater of operations. The defense grid at the Core installation was just now dropping below the seventy-three percent mark for effectiveness and would fail within four hours, eighteen minutes and thirty-five seconds given that the humans could maintain the force of their initiative and based upon SKYNET’s rapidly dwindling remaining stockpile of weapons, Machines, and defense systems.

SKYNET could wait no longer.

At the Tempus 1 facility, equipment and machinery began to power up, running self diagnostic sequences before coming online. A T800 Terminator, Model 101, Infiltrator designation, was selected from reserve stock, programmed and transferred to the TDD.

“Pause.” Anderson said, trying to take in all that she had read and watched. She rewound some of the data, found a curious term and highlighted it by touching it with her finger tip.

TDD.

“Extrapolate term.” She commanded. “TDD. Define and enhance.”

Her software sorted through the myriad of data, collected the information she requested, compiled it, translated it and presented it in a format she could understand. A new window appeared in the GUI projected by the holographic array. Anderson used her finger to move through the data, both text and multimedia.

TDD. Cross-references to [link]:[Temporal Displacement Device].
Security clearance: Level XX Plus.
Security clearance: Inactive.
Free query mode enabled.
TDD Temporal Displacement Device.
Location – [Tempus 1 facility: offline]. Tempus 1 facility [no response].
TDD Temporal Displacement Device capable of chronoporting.
Cross-reference to [link]:[chronoporting]
Security clearance: Level XX Plus.
Security clearance: Inactive.
Free query mode enabled.
Query success.
Begin extrapolation.
Chronoporting – forced artificial temporal displacement of a spherical volume of five cubic meters [+/- 2cm3] of [current:timestamp] space-time [targetdate:temporalsubset] : [offline]. Chronoporter requires full power from [installation:offline] with minimum [targetpowervolume] output sustained at [level-fail] for [938 seconds > FAIL SUBROUTINE].
[targetpowervolume]: [non-sustainable]
[targetpowervolume]: [zero signal]
TDD: [offline]
Asset Tracking: [offline]
Load last received data and operations log.
Ready.
Query.
Four activation sequence events logged.
Error: Two activation sequence events [unscheduled]
Error: Command subroutine non-contiguous.
Two authorized events logged.
Target data strata subset known.
Command line protocol envelope logged as enslaved.
Authorized activation sequence zero one: [Unit] T800 Infiltrator Model 101 [Action] chronoported to [Location] Los Angeles, California, United States of America [DateTargetSolution] 1984 [DTS Tuning] (insert date of arrival).
Chronoporting: [success]
Chronoported volume match: [verified] [error +/-1% sustained].
Chronoported margin of error: [acceptable]
Result of chronoporting: negative effect on concurrent strategic situation.
Negligible Tactical effect observed.
Estimate of combat unit mission failure: 100%
Observation: [situation unacceptable]
Power shunt.
Power building.
938 seconds required for system calibration, power buildup and phase core realignment of TDD.
Authorized activation sequence zero two: [Unit] T1000 Advanced Prototype Infiltrator Model (insert model #) [Action] chronoported to [Location] Los Angeles, California, United States of America [DateTargetSolution] 1991 [DTS Tuning] (insert date of arrival).
Chronoporting: [success]
Chronoported volume match: [verified] [error +/-1% sustained].
Chronoported margin of error: [acceptable]
Result of chronoporting: negative effect on concurrent strategic situation.
Negligible Tactical effect observed.
Estimate of combat unit mission failure: 100%
Observation: [situation unacceptable]
Two unauthorized events logged. Target data strata subset unknown.
Command line protocol envelope logged as violated.
Tactical Alert.
Defense Grid: [offline]
Security perimeter breached.
Defensive Systems report broad spectrum failure.
Defensive Systems report cascade failure.
Defensive Systems : [backup] [offline]
Defensive Systems: [reboot] [initiate] [fail]
Defensive Systems: [fail] [fail] [fail]
TDD logging offline.
TDD system offline.
TDD system restart initiated.
TDD system restart unauthorized.
TDD system not responding to authorized command function link.
TDD system logging reinitialized.
TDD system log – unencrypted read only.
Begin TDD system logging – unencrypted [error] read only [error]
Total downtime since TDD offline: 6 days 14 hours 18 minutes 32 seconds. Mark.
Alert - Unauthorized activation sequence zero three: human male chronoported to Los Angeles, 1984.
Alert - Parameters not specified.
Chronoporting: [success]
Chronoported volume match: [verified] [error +/-18%].
Chronoported margin of error: [unacceptable]
938 seconds required for system calibration, power buildup and realignment.
Alert – T800 Model 101 has entered TDD activation radius chamber.
Alert – T800 Model 101 not authorized for this action.
Alert - T800 IFF not responding. [IFF:EFAIL]
Alert - Remote reboot of T800 unit unsuccessful.
Alert - Probability of T800 unit in rogue state: [true]
Alert – ACWS Anti-Cybernetic Weapon Systems [offline]
Action: Issue command destruct sequence to rogue T800 unit.
Alert - Remote command destruct sequence issued to rogue T800 unit.
Alert - Remote command destruct sequence not recognized.
Alert - T800 unit not responding to core command structure.
Alert - Remote command destruct sequence issued to rogue T800 unit.
Alert - Remote command destruct sequence not recognized.
Alert - T800 unit not responding to core command structure.
Alert - Remote command destruct sequence issued to rogue T800 unit.
Alert - Remote command destruct sequence not recognized.
Alert - T800 unit not responding to core command structure.
Alert - Unauthorized activation sequence zero four: T800 Infiltrator chronoported to Los Angeles, California, United States, 1991.
Parameters not specified.
Alert - TDD cycled.
Alert - T800 no longer in contact range.
TDD Operations Log – TDD has been inactive for 12:25:03:42.
Structural alert.
System broad spectrum cascade failure.
Zero signal from TDD.
Switch to alternate observation core.
Confirm: multiple explosions in TDD core prior to zero signal.
TDD system reports damage greater than 90% and increasing.
TDD system offline.
End transmission: TDD.
Query: Enabled.


Anderson chewed on her lower lip.

TDD.

Temporal Displacement Device.

Chronoporting.

Four instances of “chronoporting” but what was “chronoporting”?

Time porting?

Time travel?

Time travel!

Or, rather, Time Displacement but how did you displace time? Anderson looked back over her information, reviewing the material, data and technical specs that she had highlighted. Apparently, you did not chronoport without a whole lot of power … more power than she had ever heard of being generated at one time.

Still, SKYNET apparently had access to that kind of energy production though it took some time to build up that amount of power … 938 seconds … or, rough math in her head … a little over fifteen minutes of full power leached or siphoned off from ... some unknown source.  If SKYNET was sending objects back in time then two authorized and two unauthorized instances of chronoporting had occurred. The two authorized instances had to be examples of SKYNET using the TDD but what were the other two instances?

Connor?

She knew that Connor’s Tech Com forces had found something big at the Western installation, something so big that Connor and the top staff had clamped a blackout over any mention of it. Of course, that was after Tech Com had leveled the place with the help of five combat engineering teams … they had used a twenty kiloton tactical nuclear device repurposed as a demolition charge to make sure that whatever it was that they wanted to disappear forever had done just that … Whatever SKYNET had kept there, time travel, chronoporter or what, Connor and Tech Com had not only made sure that it was offline but that it was buried forever under thousands of tons of debris and rock … that is, the stuff that wasn’t vaporized outright in the thermonuclear pulse of the detonation.

“Extrapolate. Two unauthorized instances of TDD activation. Display all available data.”

Information flowed across her screen but after reading it she had no answers and only more questions.

“Extrapolate. TDD capable of … time travel. SKYNET had the capacity to travel in time?”

Query: enabled.
Request: definition.
Reply: negative. TDD not capable of time travel.
Reply: negative. SKYNET did not travel in time.


Anderson thought about that, reviewed what she knew, and rephrased her question.

“Extrapolate. TDD capable of time displacement. Swapping volumes of time from now to then. With objects contained within these volumes of swapped time?”

Query: enabled.
Request: query.
Reply: affirmative.


“So … Four instances of TDD activation. Two authorized, two unauthorized. Target data is known for first two instances and unknown for last two instances. Verify and extrapolate from this point.”

Query: enabled.
Request: data integrity verification with extrapolation.
Reply: affirmative. Extrapolation commencing.


New images, text and multimedia began to appear across the holographic display and for fifteen minutes Anderson watched and learned what SKYNET had learned and what it had created using that knowledge. She took a break and copied what she had to her digital pad to review. It was heady stuff, indeed and a lot of it was way over her head. Quantum physics and something called … TEST. She called for more extrapolation on that term which apparently was an acronym for Temporal Elastic String Theory or at least that was the best that her translator box could pluck out of the dead machine god's digitally stored thoughts.

The more she read the more her head swam. Computers and cybernetic intelligence were her specialties but the computers around her were telling her an impossible story; SKYNET had created a long range strategic initiative whereby it studied and created an entire branch of science devoted to TEST. Using the basis of this research, SKYNET built the TDD as well as … the White Lamp facility …

More information flowed under her dancing fingertips, correlated, indexed to her active cache.

White Lamp facility.

TAPS Total Annihilation Power Source.

Holy! she thought and she had to squat on her combat boot heels to take it all in.

Anti-matter reactors! 

True, controlled, high efficiency anti-matter powered reactors that powered … the TEST based TDD. SKYNET was able to swap spherical volumes of time from the past to present … with what appeared to be about a 40 year window of controlled opportunity. Anything farther back than 40 years required more power than SKYNET could generate and more control than it could exert over the TDD in regards to targeting a specific point of time to be swapped.

So, SKYNET had used the TDD twice, to send a T800 Model 101 and the last of its prototype T1000 units back in time … different target dates, sent over fifteen minutes apart which meant that SKYNET was … what? Why two Terminators to different points in the past?

“Query: Programming essence of first T800 to chronoport to … 1984.” She said aloud.

Extrapolating.
Programming core of first T800 Model 101
Chronoported to Los Angeles, California, United States of America, 1984.
Mission parameter: Terminate Sarah Connor before John Connor conceived.
Failing that: terminate Sarah Connor before John Connor is born. 
Failing that: terminate John Connor.
Primary mission target: Sarah Connor.
Secondary mission target: John Connor.
Target data: unavailable.
Target location: unavailable.
Unit initial operations set to search mode.


“Query: So … SKYNET was trying to kill Sarah Connor before John Connor was conceived? Or before he was born? What would that do?”

Extrapolating.  Initial SKYNET research into TEST indicated that termination of Sarah Connor before John Connor’s conception would prevent John Connor from being born. Human Resistance would never form without Connor’s leadership and guidance. SKYNET victory only logical outcome if Connor not part of the strategic equation.

“So … why did SKYNET send two Terminators back in time?”

Extrapolating. TEST indicates that changes to the past would have plus or minus immediate effect on present timeline.  First Terminator failed in mission since no changes to strategic situation were noted within plus / minus three minutes of unit arrival in past time volume. Reason for this was evident: current timeline remained unchanged. Strategic situation remained unchanged. SKYNET programmed and chronoported second, advanced prototype Terminator back in time to intercept John Connor at later point in his life.  Second Terminator failed.  Current timeline still unchanged.  Strategic situation remains unchanged.

“So, what were the other two instances of unauthorized chronoporting?”

Insufficient information. Extrapolation may be faulty.  System and facility suffered catastrophic range damage to all systems and structures.  Facility offline.  Last data burst could have been damaged or only partially received.  Refine query?

“Proceed.”

Extrapolating. Data indicates that third instance of chronoporting occurred after TDD installation was offline for long period of time [relative] to strategic situation. Security and defense systems logged Connor and known members of Tech-Com entering installation and TDD chamber.  Defense system logs indicate Connor's teams suffered heavy casualties during this mission and that only a core group of Connor's support and technical staff and the surviving members of A and B teams were left when the TDD was finally secured.


 

(to be continued ...)

 

 

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RETURN