Aftermath: Chapter Seventeen

Cheyenne Mountain Air Force Base near Colorado Springs, Colorado A T1000 kills an off-duty guard, dumps the body and then goes in on the guard's shift. Darren Bean from DARPA and Lance Strong from Homeland Security arrive early for the tour of NORAD. As usual, there are several guards at the checkpoint. One guard takes it upon himself to escort the two VIPs to a waiting room. The guard is alone with the two. A sharp pain as ice pick-sized spike stabs through eye into brain. They instantly slump to the floor. While the phony guard is hiding the bodies, there is a short loud hum of breakers tripping and ringing in ears. He wonders what it is but continues his clandestine activity unable to smell the rubbery odor of hot electric cords or taste an acrid taste in his mouth from the fumes. Elsewhere, the other have arrived for the tour. Slight nausea, some blackout, and some feel an epileptic aura. “What was that?” “Got to be an EMP bomb.” said Richards. Someone is coming out of main tunnel emerging out of the smoke. A guard asks the man: “Any one injured?” “Yes.” He walks away calmly. In the confusion, the guards' primary duties are to lock down the entrance. Air Force rescue units can go in and injured can come out but otherwise sealed. Auldridge: “No tour today. Wish they'd let us help.” Ellison: “Captain Richards, that guard. Something about him.” Auldridge: (approaching guards) “What was that guard's name?” CO of guard detachment: “Smith. New guy. Wait. That can't be right. He's on TDY in Thule.” Auldridge: “Can you spare someone to follow him or interrogate him?” CO: “Not really, but it's a security matter now.” Being approached, Smith shoots them with his handgun, takes their automatic rifles and begins to kill everyone who gets in his way. All hell breaks loose in this high security area outside the base. Gun smoke. The smell of blood. Running. Yelling. Hitting the ground. Ducking for cover. Crouching. Jumping. Gunshot victims falling. There are many civilians present. getting up, everything feels in slow motion, Richards crawling over to the first man shot to check his pulse. None. Everything feels in fast motion.

Ellison improvises tourniquets for those still breathing. He ignores the grit on the ground that is cutting into his knee.

Ellison: “Assuming we survive this, how about having me temporarily re-activated in the Bureau? I need a gun and a badge.” Auldridge: (handing him a weapon) “Done.” “Smith” stops an ambulance, yanks open the door, tosses out the driver, and commandeers the vehicle. He speeds away down the access road until the men in the Hummer following him shoot out the tires. They are near a construction site. This time the MP's have heavier weapons. Smith gets a few nicks

but ignores them intent on finding new transportation. The construction crew has stopped because of the shoot-out and the man pretending to be Smith takes advantage of the slowdown of the biggest vehicle to run along side it, jump on the bottom step and climb up to the driver's seat. “Move over.” He takes the wheel of the scraper and speeds off the construction site towards town. “What are you doing?” “If I tell you, I have to kill you.” “You're one of those military moles in Cheyenne Mountain. Well you still can't do this. What are you doing?” “If you must know, my mission is to fry their electronics and then distract them.” He grabs the man by the collar and throws him out -- under the wheels of a bus going the other way on the road. He had warned the man not to ask. Richards was in the Hummer with the MP's. Their communications are fried and they need orders before pursuing further into civilian areas. Captain Richards doesn't. He is FBI SWAT and sees a godsend. Bouncing up and down over a road that seemed like corduroy. The shock absorbers on heavy equipment this large were never designed for it to drive off-road at high speed so the hijacker gets on a road. Soon, “Smith” looks back and sees a garbage truck catching up to him. He begins to roll the scraper over cars, SUV's, light pickup trucks, monster trucks and even runs several tractor-trailers off the road. This is as close as this machine gets to feeling happy. It is in its element – violence. Richards is hard pressed to thread his way through the wreckage but somehow avoids hitting and killing any survivors crawling out of crushed vehicles. He prays that the maniac he is following doesn't get on the interstate during rush hour and increase the mayhem as it wreaks havoc. Back at the tunnel entrance. Auldridge: “We need a helicopter to pursue that thing.” Perry: “I have friends at Fort Carson but all communications are down.”

Richards is leaning on his air horn but is temporarily blocked by a street of crushed cars left in the wake of the maniac rolling through the heart of downtown Colorado Springs. While stopped, he catches his breath panting with mouth open as if he had been running and gulps more than dust and diesel exhaust. The sour stench of week-old waste is so strong that it crosses from smell to taste. He tries to spit out the taste he has inhaled and can't. He smells something that he hasn't smelled since he last did duty with a cadaver dog finding victims under flood and earthquake ruins. That street. He takes a detour and catches up with the scraper headed southeast this time toward Peterson Air Force Base. Diesel engines snort as Richards clutches the stick shift. He looks up and guesses that the helicopter approaching is after the same quarry. No way. This one is mine. He floors the accelerator and slams the big garbage truck against the front of the scraper. Damn! What a time for the power steering to fail. He wrestles the steering wheel as the scraper nudges back. Colorado Springs actually

has cliffs inside city limits and this road was twisty, narrow, and . . . goodbye. Perry: (to the gunship pilot) “Hold your fire. That air to ground might toss shrapnel onto those houses and hit civilians or set fires. I don't need the paperwork from lawsuits.” Having arrived at the scene, the pilot slowed the jet engines and adjusted the pitch angle of the blades for lower noise as they hovered. Below, Richards parks the garbage truck and gets out to inspect the damage to the scraper and his own vehicle. The scraper is overturned and inoperable a hundred feet below. The garbage truck will need some work. He waves his arm at Perry. He felt like a Canadian Mountie. He got his man. No way. The cyborg was climbing out unhurt. “Fire.”

_________________________________________________________________________________

Ellison watches Richards take off after the terminator intent on exacting revenge for the SWAT team massacred by another such machine. A furrow comes across his brow and he goes to look at one of the bodies. No bullet wound. But there is a small puncture like that of a large bore hypodermic needle and a small amount of blood. He walks over to the leader of the MP's. “I'd bet money that one of your MP's is missing. Could I borrow your best canine tracker and handler?” The dog gets the scent and starts following the trail. Ellison, the handler and the dog leave the others behind. In the parking lot, a car is starting and an MP is behind the wheel. “Run that tag.” “Can't. Computers are down and don't have to. That's Sergeant Bedloe. Want me to flag him down?” “No. Let's get a car from the motor pool and follow him. As soon as we get a phone that isn't barbecued.” At a stoplight, the followers hang back. Ellison sees some binoculars in the vehicle and-“I'll be damned.” (he hands the glasses over to the handler and pushes the dog from licking his face) “That's some woman.” “Ellison to base. I know you're busy monitoring heavy equipment destroying downtown Colorado Springs but I need some quiet eyes, no sirens or flashing lights, on Sergeant Bedloe's vehicle. And I need it yesterday.” Bedloe's car pulls into the vast parking lot of a shopping mall. The watchers follow the housewife on foot at a discrete distance into the mall. If changes shape again. Confusion.

The MP with Ellison: “Where is she?” A call comes in to the MP at an inconvenient time. Caller: “We just found Sergeant Bedloe's body stuffed in a garbage truck. You'll never guess which one.” Handler: “The one chasing after that maniac in the scraper. Cut to the chase, I just lost my trail.” Caller: “If you're following Sergeant Bedloe, then whose body did we find?” Handler: “The real Sergeant Bedloe. Gotta go.” (Ellison is pointing) Caller: “Then who are you following?” Ellison recognizes the same determined stride as the MP at the Cheyenne Mountain parking lot and the housewife walking into the mall. It is another man. A Colorado Springs city police officer.

Ellison: “If we lose him again. Fido can pick up the trail. Oh hell, he's headed for the far side of the mall from where we parked. I have a feeling we're going to be needing wheels again.” The “quiet eyes” had arrived and Ellison got in the front passenger seat and the handler got in the back with Fido.

suburb of Colorado Springs While staking out the place, Ellison called General Perry. The handler is listening to another MP describe the carnage of Richards chase. Pedestrians and motorists crushed by the huge vehicle before Richards and the gunships took out the machine driving the machine. “They found a robot in the wreckage?” “No. That's classified above our pay grade. But we will be getting a briefing tomorrow on how to spot these things. What isn't classified is that the Pentagon is buying walkers from a company called Cyberdyne. Not those little bomb squad toys but androids that could pass for well . . . that's classified.” Thermal imaging and passive scans and sharpshooters encircling the house showed that the thing was still in the house. Ellison had warned them to stay off police band and citizens band and was concerned that his suggestion should have extended to cell phones also. Cromartie had had monitoring devices. The mobile command post arrived a block over and Ellison stealthily moved to it. Ellison: “Cromartie was like that thing Captain Richards chased. He killed a whole SWAT team without breaking a sweat. That thing is there is worse.” Richards: “As long as I'm first in, don't care.” Auldridge: “Stand down Captain Richards. General Perry's people are taking point on this raid. We've evacuated neighbors on either side of the house, across the street, and behind the house on the next street.”

Perry: “We cordoned off the area as quietly as possible and started extending the evacuation to more houses on the block in case this gets nasty. How nasty will it get?”

Ellison: “Very nasty. Worse than the type Captain Richards was chasing. I've seen one of these survive being rammed by a aerial drone and subsequent fire and I have uncovered evidence in Zeira computer files that it can survive the dynamiting of a factory.” Perry: “So that's why you requested two tankers of liquid nitrogen and fire hoses? To freeze the thing?” Ellison: “Yes. I'm no expert on what nozzles and hoses work at cryogenic temperatures but tell me you found some.” Perry: “Easy. There are rocket engineers all over this town who know how to pump LOX and other cold liquid gases. Shall we get started?” As if listening in on their conversation, the “cop” came running out of the house and tried to bolt left toward the mobile command post. Perry: “Hit it!” The men in hazmat suits were still hooking up but they heard Perry's voice over their headsets and knew he didn't accept excuses. A “fireman” turned the hose on the silver man and got sliced down. Perry grabbed a fire extinguisher and ran out. He did what no general is supposed to do. He endangered himself. But he couldn't watch as his men got sliced and diced by this walking mercury. Perry started spraying with the CO2 and slowed the thing. Perry was dead on the ground and the quicksilver messenger of death was still coming toward the command post. Ellison: (to the driver of the mobile) “Back this thing up! Get us out of here !” The driver managed to start and slam the gear just as the other tanker crew let loose. Perry revived to watch the very air freeze around the liquid man. He patted his aching ribs and thanked God and the latest in body armor. Perry: (to his assistant) “Colonel Harrison, you know those supersoakers that Professor Chang was trying to sell us? Get procurement to order us a hundred of them.”

a secure room at Schreiver Air Force Base east of Colorado Springs. He felt itchy and scratchy and prayed for a hot shower. It had been a long day and many on the team had not had a decent meal since the day before. Although the room smelled of coffee and dough-nuts, the coffee and dough-nuts were stale.

For six hours there had been martial law in the city and suburbs before the experts in covering things up lifted it and substituted a curfew by the national guard as half the wreckers and insurance adjusters in the state converged to haul off the totaled vehicles and clear the streets. By morning, the national security apparatus would lift the curfew and everything would be back to normal. Though Cheyenne had suffered the brunt of the pulse, city and county police and fire departments had communications nightmares because crime and fires do not take holidays. The emergency rooms at hospitals were doing triage to deal with the surge in patients. The local news were hounding the military for answers and the military had not cooked up a story yet. Probably something about the coincidence of a magnetic storm (the ozone layer was thin after all) and a mass murderer. The story needed some work or it would be a fiasco like Roswell.

Was the end near? Ellison had to wonder why the machines were so bold and so public. Nothing to compare since that other liquid machine had driven a Mack truck in broad daylight through heavy traffic after John Connor back in Nineteen Ninety-One. A different century. Ellison took notice of Sarah Connor after Doctor Dyson died and made himself familiar with the police reports dating back to Nineteen Eighty-Four. He had to wonder about strange things that had happened to himself back in the Seventies. Before Sarah went bad. The others interrupted his thoughts. Chang: “Sarah Connor is here?“ Auldridge: “Yes, she's in another room listening to us on an intercom.” Chang: “Why don't we ask her how to get information out of this thing?” Ellison: “Because she's not interested in helping us. She wants the human race to burn up in a thermonuclear holocaust so that her son can play God with the few survivors with radiation sickness. I think survivors would be busy coughing up blood and seeing their hair come out in handfuls. Something I don't have to worry about.” Chang: “Lets talk to her anyway.“ Ellison: “Knock yourself out. If she doesn't do it first. Better keep her in that straitjacket, handcuffs and leg irons though. You know how dangerous she is. I think she hates humans more than machines. Sort of like Hannibal Lecter.”

confinement room with intercom The room feels claustrophobic. The prisoner smelled of plain soap. No fancy perfumes in lockup. The guards make her open her mouth to check for bobby pins, paper clips and even keys. Then they make sure her straitjacket is tight and the chain hobbling her ankles is secure before admitting the VIP visitors. The team. Sarah: “How can you say I don't want to help? And why would you say I hate humans?” Ellison: “When I was with the FBI, I had resources and only needed proof but you lied, withheld information, had Cameron beat me unconscious – that's assault and battery -- and wasted precious time we can't get back. Fourteen years. Where's your son?”

Sarah is silent.

Ellison: “Exactly. He's in the future and you want a nuclear Armageddon to fulfill some prophecy that he will lead in the post-Apocalypse Tribulation. You want the world to burn so that your life and his life was not wasted. He's going to lead – in some other timeline. Not this one.” Sarah looks surprised. Auldridge: “The Attorney General is going to drop all charges against you on several conditions.” Sarah: “Funny boy, why would the Attorney General do that?” Though looking straight at Auldridge, Sarah turns her head slightly away from him and looks at him sideways. Auldridge: “After review of forensic evidence, he thinks you may be innocent of the most serious charges, treason and murder, in the case of The People of the United States of America versus Sarah Connor. Want to hear your conditions of release or do you want to rot in a supermax while the world burns?” Sarah: (sighs) “What are the conditions?” Auldridge: “Cooperate. Don't give your guards a hard time. Apologize to Mister Ellison. Never break the law again--”

(Ellison bursts out laughing at this condition)

“--more importantly, you will act as a consultant to the government on this Skynet Affair. The priority is shutting the thing down and preventing extinction of the human race. As you know, this Judgment Day you've spent your life fretting about is days away. Lastly, assuming we avert this crisis, your final responsibility will be to help our scientists document the whole time travel business.” said Auldridge. Sarah: “Agreed.” (she avoids looking at Ellison) Ellison is shaking his head in disgust that she is wasting their time.

Chang: “Ms. Connor how can we get information out of this thing?” Sarah: “You can't. It will only try to kill you. If it can talk, it can kill. If you freeze it, you can break it up. If you break it up, it can reassemble. The only way to kill it is to throw it into the molten metal cauldron of a blast furnace.” Chang: “Anything else?” Sarah: “The simple plan is kill'em all. The alternative is seeing shades of gray.” Chang: “Such as?” Sarah: “Serving machines as employees or slaves because if we try to coexist with something programmed to get smarter than humans, faster than humans, and stronger than humans then we will be obsolete. Or become machines, like some of your scientific colleagues are planning to do to us. A future version of Skynet sent these cyborg assassins back in time but it had to be the present version of Skynet that sent human assassins after my family. Which no longer exists.”

Judgment Day is days away.

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