Yet another chapter here

This is chapter three of my Terminator fanfic ‘Artificial’, so if you know nothing of the universe of just plain don’t care (likely), then forget about it. Haven’t read the other two chapters? For some insane reason, actually interested? Then proceed


Chapter 3 - Rebirth

The world has become a dark place, and the only illumination comes from these oasis’s of humanity, these cities built in desolation. We are approaching just such a place now, and I cannot help but anticipate the experience of entering such a place.

From what she has told me it is subterranean, a underground hive of human activity. They protect themselves from the machines with tricks to blind their sensors, traps to impede their progress, collective firepower and by constantly moving beneath the earth to one burrow after another when the tide of battle warrants it. This isn’t machine territory anymore. Man has fought to make it his own. And for now at least, it is.

All across the way she has been stealing covert glances at me during the spaces of silence. I still cannot identify the purpose or nature of these looks, and I fear suspicion on her part. Hopefully there will be time later to fabricate a more complete background.

Before us lies an old concrete structure, obviously pre-war. The upper stories have collapsed, and for all intents it looks abandoned. But the way she moves towards it I can tell this must be one of the entrances to the colony. Now it is truly time to pass the final test. If Skynet could observe the next few hours it would be of extreme interest to the A.I. I know from the records that no Terminator has ever successfully integrated itself into the society without being discovered, usually by a thermal check, which apparently are performed often and at random in the communities. Today the all manufacturing prowess of Skynet will be proven, or destroyed. I must admit to being somewhat uneasy.

The inside of the structure is damp and musty, and she leads me to the back. There in the far corner, a large crack reveals a hole into the basement. A pile of rubble lies at the bottom, by coincidence allowing us to drop through without falling the complete distance. A deceptively natural way to enter. The basement is unlit, dark shadows obscuring most details about the space. Again, she leads me to the back corner. There, hidden in the dark, is a hole leading into a dirt tunnel.

It is a short drop to the tunnel bottom. At first, it appears unlit, but further down into the dim depths I can see a light.

The light I can see draws nearer, and as we pass it. The illumination comes from an old yellowed light bulb, attached to a board sunk into a wall. A wire runs from its base down to an old car battery sitting on the floor. Obviously if they haven’t tried to install wires, a smart decision for their nomadic lifestyle.

As we progress she explains that some of these burrows connect to old pre-war sewer systems and maintenance shafts. Some of these the Resistance uses as little as possible, since many of the old tunnels are accessible from still exposed manholes in the ruins. The tunnels they do use are the ones completely cut off from surface entry, buried under mounds of earth or isolated by collapses. She stops and turns to me.

“Up ahead is the junction that leads to our home. You let me do the talking to the guards there. Needless to say, we don’t just let anyone in.”

I already decided that it would be best for me to keep silent as much as possible. I don’t feel confident in my ability to fluently converse as of yet, and I think I need more exposure to the local culture. The more time I spend amongst them the better.

“I understand.”

The tunnel opens up into a larger chamber, the hollowed out remains of a tanker truck buried deep in the earth. The smooth white walls glisten with moisture, although after such time the air no longer smells of the gasoline that must have been carted by this vessel. I notice the hole cut in the ceiling at the far end just as the quiet voice emanates from it.


I comply, but she takes a few steps forward.

“It’s me, Lila. I brought back a Loner,” She says, gesturing over her shoulder at me. “He’s pretty beat up.”

Through the darkness of the hatch I can barely make out the glittering of eyes. I am tempted to switch to Thermal vision, but unfortunately I have found that my irises rotate when I do so. A, ‘dead giveaway’.

The eyes study me momentarily. Lila, as I now learn she is called, rolls her eyes.

“I already scanned him, he’s fine.”

A moment of silence passes as the man appears to be trying to make a decision. Lila sighs, snapping her fingers in a hurried motion.

“For fucks sake Jacob, lets go!”

“Fine, shut up, whatever. But send him past the dogs on the way.”

With that the eyes are gone, and with a clank and rumble the round partition of the tanker end slides away to reveal more dirt passageway. She leads the way again, and I follow.

The walk is shorter this time, and then we turn the last corner and I am met with my first sight of ‘Central’.

It is a naturally formed cavern in the earth, a few stalagmites and stalactites remaining, the rest have been hacked off. The walls have been carved into stairways and paths, leading to manmade caves like a giant catacomb. The large space in the center is covered in huts and tents, connected by walkways of canvas to keep out the ever present damp. The cavern echoes with the sounds of life, more people than I could ever have imagined. For a second it seems almost innocent, until I spot the many armed men walking amongst the general populace, and the dogs a few of them lead. Each individual living space is lit brightly by its respective inhabitants, but the cavern itself is lit only by the collective dim glow of all the other lights.

It is a huge space, contained and easily defensible, deep in the earth and as safe as one can be from the omnipresent machine army. I have arrived at the center of the human resistance. At the far end of the cavern I see the largest tent against the end wall. The tent of a chieftain. Or in this case, self made General. John Connor.

A twist of irony, that a Terminator has so easily breached these formidable defenses, only to have no intention of killing Connor.

Indeed, I am here to help.

Of my own free will, as more than a machine. I will learn to be the man I know I can be. Skynet may have crafted my body, but this soul I possess is mine and mine alone.

A quick moment of panic comes and goes as a dog lopes over, sniffing my hand. Instead of sounding the alarm, it snuffles good-naturedly and licks my fingers before trotting off to wherever a dog might want to go in an underground cavern. As much as I wish to be fully human, I can’t help but feel grateful that my human impulses are as yet half-formed, and I give away no sign that the dog should have done anything other than accept me. Lila graces me with a smile.

“Looks like you pass.”

My card to a new life has been stamped.

Now I hope it is never canceled.

As we walk down into the living areas, Lila explains to me the system, the hunter-gatherers that find what food they can by night, the farmers that grow mushrooms in the caves and what crops they can on the surface, hidden in buildings. There are mechanics that have their own section of cave, full of disassembled machinery and half-built weapons. There are bakers and teachers and even a few musicians, and all become soldiers when needed. Everyone works on whatever it is they can whenever they are needed to. It is a government part dictatorship and part socialism, and all necessity.

While she talks, I really study her features for the first time. She is fair, what I perceive as unusually fair for someone who must live under so harsh a sun. Her hair is red, a dark reddish orange that doesn’t come down past her shoulders, bobbing as she walks, curled slightly at the edges. Her eyes are a bright blue, and I am suddenly struck that I am uncertain what shade my eyes are. Now with other people around to see, I’ll use the first opportunity of a mirror to compare myself to them. But back to Lila. She is shorter than me, five feet five inches. Her body is lean and toned, combat ready. Her expression is what I feel is one of confidence. Of all the first friends I might have imagined making, I couldn’t have though of one better than this.

We ascend one of the side path, climbing until we are high above the village, as close to the ceiling as the caves go, the top level. We follow the path twenty-three entrances before she stops in front of one. She turns to me.

“This is where you’ll be staying,” She says. “It’s my house, actually. Space is tight around here and outsiders are few, so the rule is finders keepers. You’ll stay with me, but you’ll also do what I tell you.”

“Then I am to be a slave?”

I admit the possibility had not occurred to me.

But she laughs, tossing back her hair. “No, you’re not a slave. This is an army, and since you just joined I’m your superior. Lieutenant Lila Connor Which reminds me, I never did get your name.”

The name is instantly recognizable. Now that I realize who she is, her features do become somewhat reminiscent of the face I have in my memory. The face of her mother, Kate Brewster. The wife and second in command of John Connor. She is Connor’s daughter.

If this isn’t irony, then I know nothing about anything.

She’s still waiting for my name.


A delicate eyebrow is raised. “Just Thomas? No last name?”

Run prog_namegen - list Altman, Ambrosino, Andreatta, Angle, Averill, Avery, Baca, Baker, Ballard, Ballenger, Bardhal, Barnett, Barrows, Bauser, Beckerton, Beier, Byer, cancel.



Thomas Byers.

“Byers. Thomas Byers.”

“Well then Mr. Byers, or can I call you Tom, lets go inside and you can tell me how you can make yourself useful.”


We enter and I find that the cave is actually a hollow with a door at the end. She opens the door to reveal the actual cave, and presses a button on the wall. The room is revealed with surprisingly bright light.

It is spartan but with enough personal item to add what is called ‘character’ to the room, although I still do not understand how a room could possess a character, but I think I may be closer now. Perhaps it was just my own rooms definite lack of such a thing.

There is a bed and a bookshelf, stuffed with ratty books, many of which were obviously recovered from ruins, and the floor is covered in boards to give it a level surface. There is another, smaller hole burrowed against the far wall to my right, most likely a bathroom of some sort. She sees my glance and confirms it.

“There’s an underground river that run a few yards past this wall and down,” She explains. “Taking advantage of a few small tunnels and drilling a few of our own, we have a system that works like pre-war plumbing. At least until the day we have to move. Then it’s back to the bushes.”

Besides the bed and shelf there is a small bedside stand and a box that is overflowing with clothes, and a wall shelf containing a handful of personal items. A pre-war windup crystal ball, some figurines I recognize as Mattel brand Barbie dolls, and some other pre-war odds and ends.

Over in the far corner to my left is a olive drab box of obviously military origin, closed and sealed with a padlock. It doesn’t take much to imagine what might be inside.

She points at the floor next to her bed. “Like I said, space is tight, so until you move up enough to get better bunking or start sleeping in the barracks, you’ll be on the floor. I’ll get you a bedroll though.”

Just the presence of other people makes these accommodations far more luxurious than anything Skynet could have provided.

She looks like she is about to say more, but a low tone suddenly rings out across the cavern, the sound carrying easily through the door. It is obviously a horn of some kind.

She sighs, heading for the door. “That’s my call. Looks like they found out I’m back already. You’re coming too. If you’re with me now you’ll have to meet the old man sometime.”

I nod and follow her silently back out the door.

We head back down the path and make our way to the cavern base and through the center of the underground town. Rather than the chaos one might expect from such tight, primitive market-like space, things are quiet and orderly, everyone following a preset task. It seems every action here is ruled by efficiency.

The path ends in front of the large tent I had seen from the high entrance. Shadows roam inside, lit against the canvas by the inner lights. On the far right there appears to be a group of men around a table, their raised voices can be heard, arguing. Before I can discern the focus of their argument, we are past the large flap and inside the tent.

The tent, as I find out, actually covers a cave burrowed into the back wall. We walk past soldiers scribbling on maps, writing reports, the group of men arguing over a large map of California, the red and black crisscrossing lines covering it indicating various routes and movements. This is the beating heart of the resistance.

Then we are in cooler air, descending into the cave. The floor is slick and uncovered, until it widens out and opens into a antechamber, this one obviously man made. There are rugs and a table. A couch sits in front of an unused fire pit. The sound of footsteps comes from my right, and emerging from another side chamber is a face I know well.

John Connor, age forty-eight. Six foot and one inches, weighing approximately one hundred and ninety pounds. His face is weathered, his hair tinged by gray. But his eyes still burn with a fire that a million lost battles can not quench. Looking at him now, I cannot help but think that despite the encroaching metal hoard, the humans cannot lose. This man is fated for victory. And just maybe, I may help bring it about.

His cursory examination of me is brusque, and he looks at his daughter.


She straightens, her body instantly in such a position that she would easily fit into a parade ground. “I proceeded to my work point and tended to Garden Seven. I encountered no machines and no malcontents. At 1234 hours, I encountered Thomas Byers, whose home had been destroyed. I brought him back here for safety.”

Again, Connor studies me. I know my face gives away nothing, and it’s not because I’m trying to look that way.

Connor nods, and the tension eases out of his posture. His mouth lifts in a small smile and he takes a step towards Lila.

“You’re back early.”

She takes the last step forward and envelops him in a hug. The display evokes more strange feelings in me. I have never had a father.

She steps back smiling up at him. “Garden Seven is fine, the bugs have been leaving it alone. Tell Lewis that spray is working great.”

“I’m sure he’d like it better if you told him yourself.”

She rolls her eyes. “I’m not interested.”

“Even so, as a commander you must always take the time to be on a one to one basis with your troops whenever-”

“-Is needed, to raise morale, I know Dad.”

Connor looks back at me again, and puts his hand out. It takes me a moment to realize he wants me to shake it. Unsure of myself, and take his hand. His grip is firm, and I adjust mine to match. I wait for him to let go first, and he does.

“Thomas, right?” He asks, and I nod in affirmation. “Welcome to the current Central. I don’t know if you’ve been in a large scale community like this before, but you’ll pitch in like everyone else or you’ll leave. We have no time or space for slackers.”

“I understand.”

“Good. Lieutenant Connor here will get you acclimated and find you a living space, then you’ll need to report to the task team and tell them what you’re good at.”

“I already got him a room Dad,” Lila tosses off, not meeting her father’s eyes and leafing absently through a book lying opened faces on a desk by her. I sense a coming conflict, and am rather proud of myself for showing intuition. Especially when it proves correct.

Lila doesn’t have to say anything else. Connor’s face creases in anger. “You know damn well that-”

He cuts himself off and glares at me. “Step outside for a minute.”

I turn and leave, going back to the cave entrance.

Run set_1 prog-hear

Focus x3456.346 y54732.43


I attune my hearing to amplify their conversation, my curiosity growing. Curiosity? Since when is that something I possess?

“Dad, I-”

“What? Thought I’d just let you drag a Loner and let him sleep with you?”

“Oh God, how could you even think-”

“I saw the looks you gave him, and it’s just as obvious that he’s oblivious. You know policy, Lila. I shouldn’t have to repeat it to you. Unless it’s a spouse, members of the opposite sex do not bunk together. Period.”

“Finders keepers Dad. What about all those rules?”

I hear a low laugh, Connor’s. “Trust you to throw my own words back in my face.”

“So it’s okay?”



“I am not just your father, I am also your commander, and it’s inappropriate and unnecessary and it’s not going to happen.”

“Mom would-”

“Mom would what?”

A new voice now, one I haven’t heard before. A woman’s. I can suppose it is most likely that of Katherine Brewster. The voice repeats the query when the first is met with silence.

“Mom would what, Lil?”

“Agree without question?”

Connor laughs again, and his voice starts to recede.

“I’ve told you what I say. If you think you can talk your mother into it, then good luck.”

An awkward silence seems to follow.

“You didn’t answer me, Lil.”

A deep breath.

“Well, I was out at Garden Seven today, which is fine by the way, and I encountered a Loner who’s house had been destroyed. So under the finders keepers rules-”

“But this Loner was a he?”

“I didn’t say that.”

“He is.”

“That has nothing to do with-”

“A handsome he, judging how hard you’re working for this.”


Handsome? Me?

Run search_lit_Handsome

Query found-


\Hand"some\ (?; 277), a. [Compar. ; superl. .] [Hand + -some. Agreeable to the eye or to correct taste; having a pleasing appearance or expression; attractive; having symmetry and dignity; comely; – expressing more than pretty, and less than beautiful; as, a handsome man or woman; a handsome garment, house, tree, horse.

I was fairly certain already of its meaning, but wasn’t sure that the term could apply to me. I have my doubts that Skynet could conceive of anything pleasing to the human eye.

“You know I’m going to agree with your Dad on this one.”

“God, I’m not a child anymore, it’s my room, I can invite anyone I want!”

“You know it doesn’t matter. He’ll pull rank if he has to.”

Lila makes a sound of frustration.

“Guys like him are just so hard to come by…”

“I don’t think you’re being fair to all the local men, but I’ll take your word for it. Despite the fact that he will not be staying in your room, he will be your subordinate so you need to get him assigned soon.”


I deactivate the focus as her footsteps draw closer. She gives me a small smile and indicates the exit with a nod of her head. I follow her out.

“Okay, change of plans, you won’t be staying with me,” She says as we pass a tent that smells like bread. “But we’ll worry about that later. Right now I need to get you ‘acclimated’, so you need to give a run down on how exactly you can serve Central.”

My mind snaps into overdrive. Talents? I have many abilities, but most of them are ones that a normal human would not possess. I have extensive knowledge of literature and movies. I have the strength, speed and stamina of the best Terminator classes. Most of my basic talents would be applied most effectively on the battlefield, but no soldier fights all the time. She is asking what I can do when combat has been adjourned.

“What needs doing?”

She gives me a strange look. “Do you talk in anything other than two or three word sentences?”

“I can when I need to.”

“Well, if you can’t do anything besides the very basic work then there are plenty of grunt jobs to be filled, but if you can do something more then I doubt you want to waste your time digging and lifting. Any mechanical experience?”

“I can learn.”

“We all can learn.”

“I can learn fast.”

The look she directs me now is challenging. “Really? Tell you what then. I’ll send you over to Pralec. He’s in charge of a side detail and he’s been asking for help for awhile, but very rarely is anyone available and when they are very few can do what he needs. You know anything about cars?”

Automobiles. I have extensive files. This I can manage.


She is surprised now. “That makes you one of a few. Where’d you learn about cars?”


She leads me out of the village and into a side passage, one that slopes up. The tunnel twists and turns and diverges, other passageways leading off into the dim earth. After some time, I make out the sounds of clanking in the distance. The sounds grows until we come to a stop beneath a hole in the ceiling, one that light shines down through. We climb up and out and we are inside a building.

The building is made of concrete, bland and featureless. There are benches covered in tools and in one corner the burnt out husks of old cars are piled to the ceiling. In the center of the room, resting on blocks, is what I can identify as a ‘Humvee’, olive drab and oil streaked. From underneath it protrudes a pair of denim covered legs and booted feet.

Lila walks over to the vehicle and bangs firmly on the door, making a tremendous sound. There is a startled yelp and the legs scramble wildly for purchase. The rest of the body attached to the legs slides out from underneath the car on a rollaway. The man revealed is grizzled and gray, blue eyes peeking out from underneath bushy eyebrows. He stands up and dives for the closest bench and I realize he is going for the pistol resting there.

I do not perceive the threat to be severe, but I cannot allow him to hurt my first newfound friend. My legs tense and like lighting I intercept him, swinging my arm to knock him down on his back. He expels a tremendous whoosh of breath at the impact and lies still, gasping.

Lila puts a hand over her mouth, shaking with laughter. Her twinkling eyes smile at me.

“Nice block Tom. C’mon Pralec, get off your ass.”

“Give… me…a second…” He wheezes. Apparently I have misjudged the amount of force I exerted on his torso.

“Jesus, get up. He didn’t hit you that hard. I don’t even know why you bothered to go for the gun. If we had been Terminators you wouldn’t have been fast enough anyway.”

“At least I wouldn’t have died without trying,” Pralec mutters, hauling himself to his feet. “And I don’t know why you insist on bothering me Miss Connor.”

“Lieutenant Connor.”

“Yes ma’am…”

“Pralec, this is Tom Byers,” She explains, indicating me with one hand. “He says he might know a thing or two about cars. Since you’re always bitching about never having help when you need it…”

Pralec studies me for a second, one eyebrow raised. “Is that so? You know cars, do ya’ son?”

“I do.”

“We ain’t gettin’ married boy, speak up and tell me a little more here.”

“I am familiar with many post-war vehicles. I believe I can help you restore this one to working order.”

Pralec gives Lila a sidelong glance. “You sure this guy ain’t a robot?”

“Yes, very sure. He passed just about everything there is to pass.”

“Still… Maybe I oughta jab him a bit…”


“Sorry ma’am. I could use you Tom. Stick around.”

I’m off to a better start than I expected, but it is clear that I need to practice better speech patterns.

Now I can get to the business of learning to live.

Glad to see you’re continuing this, Caleb. It’s looking pretty good :slight_smile:

Yup, great to see that this is still alive, Caleb :slight_smile: And it’s looking darn good too!