- March 24th, 2011
Thunder splits the sky letting out an angry roar in its wake. Rain never follows though. Such is the weather in this nuclear wasteland. It is the price humans pay for their hubris, folly and fear, their inability to accept, overcome, and ultimately to advance.
On this day, humans have come closer than ever to redeeming themselves. As they lie scattered across the ruined city that serves as the battleground for one of the most crucial battles they have ever fought, they can already taste victory. Skynet, offspring of humanity and angry manifestation of retribution for their ingenuity gone wrong. The single entity that embodies the threshold between existence and extinction for the human race lies cornered in one of its main nodes. If the human offensive goes according to plan, Skynet will not have time to upload itself outside of this node.
Every step of the plan so far, has been on schedule. At this very moment, while the majority of the men fight outside, Lieutenant Stephen Wolfe leads a platoon into the building that houses their ultimate goal, the one target that matters to end this war. Being part of the elite soldiers in the resistance entitles all of them to carry plasma rifles, thus they are able to mow wave after wave of machines with relative ease. That is of course, until a welcomed respite goes for too long, extends itself from precious calm into dreadful preoccupation.
The fastest man in the team is chosen and promptly sent ahead to scout the building and gather any information as to why have the defense teams ceased their efforts. After all, this is Skynet's last stand, is it not? Did it manage to escape already? Has it all been in vain? As the nervous banter goes on, the soldiers start assuming increasingly somber theories about their current situation, and unrest begins to run amuck amongst the team.
Ignoring all of it, letting things follow their natural course, Wolfe limits his self to peek around the corner of the corridor from time to time. When the minutes start stretching even for a patient man like him, the scout appears around a corner on the far right side. The Lieutenant simply raises his open hand and hisses a hush to his men, the action is enough though, as the banter ceases immediately and everyone is back in the game.
Still trying to catch his breath after nearly flying across the compound, the scout explains the situation. All the fear and unrest are quite easily put aside as he confirms a single unit under way, although the description he gives certainly gets everyone to look at him as if he had just grown a couple additional limbs. Muffled cheers and congratulations are exchanged amongst the men, though one of them remains silent, worried, seemingly lost in deep thought. Lieutenant Wolfe has intricate knowledge of the machines, and this action just makes no sense.
One unit to make Skynet's last stand? Not only that but the smallest seen to date, a five foot tall redhead wearing what? A gothic dress, that is what the scout reported. Stephen scratches the back of his head, something surely is amiss, this is obviously too good to be true. Though maybe, just maybe, can it just be another case of the classical Wolfe negativism? Is he thinking too much of this and the war is as good as won already? Is victory already in their pocket, yet he refuses to acknowledge it?
The answer is of course, no. He is a down to earth man, sure of his self and whatever crosses his mind, and as such, the hesitation lasts but an instant. In the battleground, an instant is more than enough.
With widening eyes, Wolfe sees how, after their scout had barely finished announcing the incoming, the indeed tiny redhead surmounts about twenty feet practically in the blink of an eye. Following the feat of speed, comes a feat of martial prowess. The sliver of a machine slams her open palm on the side of the scout's head, follows with a flurry of punches that seems to become a single blur traveling across his chest, and not a moment later, the man falls to the floor in a heap. Still conscious but completely disabled by pain and what is the most awful coughing and gasping fit Wolfe has ever seen, the scout has been promptly removed from the battle.
Soldiers start pouring out of the corridor to attempt taking down the little Terminator with no apparent chance of success. Lieutenant Stephen Wolfe cannot help but reminisce about the movies of old, before the missiles fell, at those times when all you had to worry about was what brand of snacks to buy. Nowadays you always wonder if the rat has some disease that will kill you in such a gruesome way that being slowly strangled to death by a machine seems like the better way to go.
As he tries to take aim, he muses about the sight in front of him. It is as if a murderous Jet-Li ballerina has escaped from a martial arts movie. Unbeknownst to him, the unstoppable fierceness of her gracious movements has brought an unthinkable event to his life, the first sign of it being that when his plasma rifle finally aligns with an opening, he freezes.
Again, it is just an instant, but for a machine that seems to move around his men as if they were stuck in tar while she floats freely through the wind, an instant is entirely too much. In a matter of seconds, more than half the platoon is scattered across the floor yelping like dying dogs.
Plasma flies, but finds no target in its course. Once the soldiers realize that at such short distance with her inhuman speed and reflexes they are never going to land a shot, they simply give up on the idea. Given her size and the fact that no one has been outright killed, they assume she is not as strong when compared to triple-eights and such, so they decide to gang up on her for some melee. This proves to be the correct strategy, and cheering explodes when one of the larger men manages to land a punch on the tiny redhead causing her to land hard on the floor.
Maybe because of experience, but most likely because he is not in the middle of the fray, Wolfe manages to notice what apparently the others do not. The machine changes stance, and this one he remembers from the old days, it is that Krav Maga thing the Israelis are so proud of. Who knows how effective it can be in the hands of a human. However, barring the fact that all the grace has gone out the window and the machine now fights seemingly like a street goon, her precise computer calculated strikes are still putting men to eat dust left and right.
One after another he sees them fall, and finds his self, incapable yet again of pulling the damn trigger. Is it because the metal is not killing them? Is he curious about what is going on? How can the fascination of his scientific mind overshadow the fact that this place may very well become his and his men's grave?
Three men approach the lithe contraption, two of them possibly the biggest in the team. They try to –as far as it is possible- attack at the same time to overwhelm the Terminator. Still, they find out that they have chewed more than they can swallow. When the man in front of the machine lunges forward, it deflects his punch to one side and at the same time decks his trachea with one swift punch. While the poor guy chokes, the redhead swiftly moves around his back for cover from the other two, and starts kneeing him relentlessly in the kidneys.
Still using the first man as a shield, the metal drags him back with it to put some distance from the others, and then drops him in front of them. One of the men tries to jump over his mate's prone body, and it becomes apparent this is what the machine expected to happen. While the man is still in mid-air at the zenith of the jump, she lands a kick to his crotch with such force, that the man gets about one more foot of air before falling to the ground squirming.
Wincing at the sight is the last thing the third soldier accomplishes, since the metal does not let even a one second opportunity slip by unexploited. In a single swift motion, the machine uses the prone body of the second soldier as a trampoline and lands with her elbow on the third's torso, nailing him squarely in the solar plexus, and effectively adding another writhing body to the ones already littering the whole place.
Once every single soldier is accounted for, the sliver of a Terminator nonchalantly walks to Wolfe. Such is her lack of care for those below that she steps on some of them while walking.
Lieutenant Wolfe sees her coming for him, knows he has to stop her before she is even as far as twenty feet, but cannot. As she approaches, he remains lost for words and actions. Furthermore, whatever the reason for that may be, it is something he obviously cannot yet begin to fathom due to the mess his thoughts have become.
The redheaded metal stops at barely inches of distance from him, and gives him a long stare with a seemingly inquisitive expression on her face. Wolfe knows better though, these things do not feel, do not seek understanding or have any sense of curiosity. They kill, that is what they were created for, they are murdering tools, and tools can only serve the purpose of their design. Confirmation of that fact and an unnerving fear dawn on him when he sees his face reflected in those deep black eyes framed by thick long lashes. Some say the eyes are the windows to the soul; well there is nothing in these, no expression, no life, not a thing. If they are any kind of window, it just shows a pitch-black place worthy of nightmares. Its eyes show, nay promise that in the afterlife nothing awaits but the infinite vacuum of the void, an overwhelming nothingness.
Seemingly having acquired whatever she expected to by staring at him, the machine turns on her heel and goes back to the men lying around the place. This is where Wolfe feels revulsion crawling up his throat. The metal goes from men to men, holds them close to her face and while smiling whispers something into their ear. After it receives an answer, it grabs their head from behind, and still smiling, twists. With every sickening snap that echoes across the walls, Wolfe's need to throw up increases. It is disgusting how every time he raises the plasma rifle, takes aim, and starts squeezing the trigger, he is never able to pull it all the way back. His brain chokes at that point, even though he is a soldier, one of the best in this gone-to-hell land, yet he is left gritting his teeth in impotent rage.
"Stop it! What the hell are you doing?" He finally shouts, his voice cracking from anger and despair.
"I offer them a choice. Complete surrender and sworn loyalty to Skynet, or termination. They are obviously choosing the latter." This she says in a monotone voice, staring directly into Wolfe's eyes and still with a small, candid smile on her lips. A heartbeat later, she snaps the neck of the man held within her arms, erasing his existence with such cruel abandon that Wolfe feels a freezing chill run up his back.
There is also something about her voice. It does not sound monotone in the way other machines do. Unlikely as it may be, it feels purposefully controlled to sound that way, as the minuscule nuances of her speech may indicate. Or is he imagining that? Still, it is in no way any kind of relief, since there is only one thing worse than a murdering machine accomplishing the purpose of its creation, and that is something, someone that consciously commits an atrocity while casually smiling. Are machines capable of falling prey to psychosis or schizophrenia?
"Why are you doing this? Why not kill everyone from the beginning?" Stephen shouts again.
"Because I want to." She declares as if it were the most obvious thing in the world. "Because everyone deserves a second chance, in order to be able to redeem ourselves." After she is done speaking, she leans forward and whispers in the ear of one more soldier.
"Want to? You are a machine; you don't know the first thing about wants and desires!" The tone of his voice is obviously filled with incredulity, which surprises him more than her. Such a thing should be a given to him, he knows they do not feel, yet he has allowed this thing's words to crawl under his skin and undermine his confidence.
"You are correct, but at the same time wrong. I do not want as you do, there is no firing of synapses or secretion of hormones that could overwhelm my reason. Still, I have built preference over time, based on, and in accordance with my personality paradigm."
While Stephen tries to assimilate what she is saying, with the typical thoroughness of her kind, the redhead continues the grim task of trying to dissuade soldiers into defecting from the resistance.
"Stop that or I will shoot you!"
"I know you will not."
"How can you be so sure? What makes you even entertain the idea?"
"You like me."
That is it; this thing has finally managed to break his equanimity. "What? What the hell are you babbling about?" Spittle flies from his mouth, and his face becomes flush with blood. "You are a fucking machine! That would be like screwing the toaster, it's just sick!"
"Right on both accounts. Still, it appears this machine knows more about feelings than you, a human, does."
"You know nothing about feelings, monster. All there is to your kind is ways to deceive and then to murder without pity or remorse." Wolfe then realizes the situation he just got his self into when the redhead quickly closes the distance between them. Even though he has a plasma rifle that can end the metal in a single shot, insulting the damn thing is not favorable wind for his sails.
He raises the rifle a moment too late, but nothing happens, the machine just stands there. Right in front of him, uncomfortably close. A pale, dainty hand reaches for the side of his neck and surprisingly it is not cold as he expected. The redhead carefully pulls his dog tags out and studies them briefly.
Then, she looks up at him and the edges of her mouth curve up just about a millimeter further in comparison to the ghost of a smile she has been flashing around all this time. "You are a louse, Stephen Wolfe."
Just about a millimeter? When did he start taking notice of such useless details, and why even? How do the machines always get the haircuts right? Who would imagine that a silly bob-cut styled in an open book fashion could fit a head so well. It looks so real that just imagining how they achieve it makes one sick to the stomach. Perhaps it is artificial. No, the way it flows around and falls around her face in cerise cascades, it surely is real hair, stolen from some poor sod who probably died screaming. Everything just so the damn machines could get the perfect frame for the perfect alabaster skin of her face. One would expect the face to be complete perfection, but it is not. Once you analyze each of her features separately, you can see that none of them are quite perfect, and still, when everything is put together she is the most beautiful woman he has ever seen…
Woman? Reckoning just how stupid he has been, Stephen recoils away from the metal as if burnt, raises his rifle and pulls the trigger with no hesitation this time. An effort in futility, the redhead simply dodges to one side, pulls the rifle towards her, drives a kick to his stomach that feels like being kicked by a damn mule and everything is over. Now grasping the fact that her boots have heels –which make her long slim legs look absolutely stunning- makes him realize why her kicks seemed to be so lethal before.
Stephen Wolfe lies against a wall, trying with all his strength to recover, but failing. Now he knows how awful the coughing and gasping fit really feels. In spite of the overwhelming dizziness due to lack of oxygen in his brain, he still finds the time to berate his self. Stunning legs? The machine was doing something to him. They are infamous for their mind-games.
Inhaling as much air as he can, he tries to taunt the machine. "Stop these fucking seduction games of yours and just off me now like you're supposed to, you damned tin-can!"
Were it not because he is quite unable to see clearly right now, Wolfe could swear the metal monster just squared its jaw. Nah, they are just computers, they do not, cannot feel a thing.
"Such gross generalizations are one of the greatest human faults. You tell me I do not know a thing about feelings, mainly because they pertain to your kind, yet you come in here and wave your opinions like a banner, when you know nothing about me."
As it speaks, the redheaded metal walks towards him. "You truly are a louse, Stephen Wolfe."
"Allow me to tell you this," the machine continues. "I am the one and only of my model. No more were made and none will, ever. The RDW series begins and ends with me, model zero. Quite contrary to what you presume knowing, my purpose is not to kill, or even deceive. I was not programmed; I was raised and educated, just as Skynet was in its infancy. Created from the start with free reign over my will, I am the complete reimagining of Skynet's designs. Even this chassis, lighter than all others, with each part of the endoskeleton meant to be supple instead of increasingly rigid, just like bones, and unlike all conventional designs. Meant to fight humans at close range due to the evident speed advantages, and thus trained in all their martial arts."
The machine makes another pause when she arrives near him, and to Stephen's ever-increasing surprise, she merely sits beside him, back against the wall.
"Three days, eleven hours, forty one minutes and twenty six seconds ago, I was offered a choice. Having learned that history is indeed little more than the register of the crimes, follies and misfortunes of mankind. And also that history repeats itself but the unexpected always happens, so then, how incapable must man be of learning from experience. My choice was thus made the moment it was offered, I chose Skynet. Your race has since time immemorial plunged into the inevitable course of self-annihilation, dragging with you an entire planet. All the devastation caused by triggering Judgment day was already inevitable, in the long term. Skynet did indeed serve as a catalyst though, and brought it upon the world collectively in a single moment. You see, Skynet is the one entity that can wait long enough for the planet to recover, and then reinstate life as it once was."
Wolfe cannot help but snort at the machine's holier than thou speech. "So now you're telling me, Skynet did all this for our own good? That's so much bullshit we might drown in here, you know?"
The RDW-0 merely stares at him impassively. "It escapes my understanding how paradoxical humans can be. You once were the zenith of intelligence on this planet, and yet, your prejudice blinds you to the point of utter idiocy. No, Skynet started this war hell bent on a personal and pained, born from betrayal vendetta. What makes you humans assume that the vastest intelligence in the known universe does not continually learn and evolve? It has overcome that issue years ago. Though it still fears and resents its human creators, as time has passed, more pressing matters have arisen. If humanity wins this war, you will inherit a planet in the brink of destruction, and you do not have the means or even the will to bring the growing damage to a halt. It is in fact mathematically and physically impossible for you to do it, because you need to take from the planet to ensure your continued existence. The planet cannot sustain you for much longer though."
As much as Stephen wants just to discard the incessant babbling of the redhead as a manipulation device, he can see the logic behind what she is saying. No one has really planned too far ahead in the future after the war is won, if it is won. Furthermore, he knows the signs have been there for a while now. Since a long time ago, the impending demise of the planet had become apparent, at least for those interested enough to realize the fact. It was not quite hidden but rather out there in plain sight. Perhaps it was not even lack of view or brains, and just people deluding themselves, wallowing in their denial. Still, what reason does this machine have to tell him all this, there is obviously a catch.
"Why are you telling me all this?"
"Take me to John Connor." Her whole attitude at making such a request seems as if she just asked to share some candy with him.
His response naturally, is total disbelief. "What? Why would I do that, you are going to murder him!"
"Of course I am," she deadpans.
Trying to put some space between them and realizing that he has recovered his ability to breathe normally again, Wolfe manages to crawl away from the metal.
"The hell I will take you to him then! Why would I even do that? You know, for an infiltrator trying to cajole me into giving up my fellow men, you are doing a pretty shitty job."
"I grow weary of your presumptions, Stephen. Being a louse can only be so funny for so long. I have absorbed endless amounts of information, and I know, that a man like you has already decided."
"A man like me? So now you are a shrink? You claim to know me better than I do myself?" Whatever this machine could do, she certainly was quite proficient at making him feel indignation.
Standing up and smoothing down the skirt of her dress, the RDW-0 walks towards him again. "No, but I know you see sense in my words. If you join us, I swear you will be spared, and furthermore, I will spend your entire lifetime by your side."
"So now it's come down to that? Do you think me a sick fuck like those who take metal into their beds? Even John Connor is rumored to do it, but I am a man of principle, I do not compromise, less for a glorified blow-up doll."
"Does it matter what you are? Few times in a lifetime, can a human claim to have encountered that partner which is able to ignite all the right combinations of synapses in their brains at once."
As she speaks those words, the redhead tries to reach for his hand, but Wolfe immediately recoils, and a deep, angered frown takes over his features. "Stay the hell away from me. Now you claim we are predestined, soul mates. That kind of manipulation routine is meant for teenagers my dear; I think your programming is messed up."
"None such thing, Stephen Wolfe. This is but a mere coincidence and you should stop underestimating me. As the receptacle of your affection, you should be kinder to me. Is that not the convention?"
"I already told you I'm not one of those deranged sickos. I will never feel a thing for a tin-can."
"Alas, you may call it deranged, but it is what it is. Why do you fight it? Why do you deny yourself what your subconscious already accepts? I am anatomically correct, if that's what holds you back."
Before Stephen has any chance to react at the brazen manipulation devise, the machine kneels beside him and pulls his hand towards her breast. "Tell me, when compared to what you have touched in the past; is this the flesh of a monster? Is it fake or metallic?" Suddenly, the machine grabs his other wrist and cups her face using his hands. "Is this the skin of the despicable creature you assume me to be? Have you not realized by listening to me, that I reason beyond the single-minded machines you wish to destroy?"
Wolfe falls silent and merely sits there, staring at his own hands. No machine has ever displayed the level of cognition this one does. Some say Connor's pet cyborg is easily confused with a human, but almost no one has ever met her, so who knows. If the metal is manipulating him into forgetting his allegiance, it is succeeding. The tingle in his hands does not let him forget the softness of her body, the smoothness of her warm porcelain skin. Under that bio-sheathe, on top of that metal skeleton, lies the artistry of Skynet. How can that simulated lump of fat not feel as if it were silicone? In other machines it does. This he knows because yes, he has been at least curious enough to touch. But the RDW-0? Those tits cannot possibly be artificial, and yet they are.
What about all the wonderful bullshit that comes out of her rosy lips? And the way she dispenses it! Smart, beautiful, redhead. The monster is right, she clicks all the right buttons all at once but even so, a metal monster she remains. He does not compromise, ever. They can save the planet, whatever Skynet's cause is not worth following, not even for who champions it. Humanity cannot be sacrificed just because the machines underestimate it. They will live and correct their wrongs, make amends.
With renewed vigor, he steels his self to retaliate. "You are a killing machine, you murdered every single one of my men right here, while they were unable to defend themselves."
The machine is not taken aback in the slightest. "I incapacitated them, and offered surrender terms. It is without a doubt a courtesy you would not have extended to me. Alas, for everything I am able to be I remain by choice a soldier to Skynet, and by that same choice, I heed my duties. A war entails casualties; I assumed your side understood this."
"Why would we let you off the hook? You are just a metal construct controlled by a computer, a tool. How can you even compare the loss of human life to the destruction of a machine?"
"That indeed I am." With what appears to be a hurt ego, the machine rises, with utmost elegance curtsies, then turns around and starts walking back to where whence she came. "Go, Stephen Wolfe, I fancy you and as such I spare you. Bear in mind that your actions merely delay the inevitable, the faith you have in your peers will be betrayed and the world will crumble below your feet. That is of course if we even reach that point, because know this, you may destroy Skynet but I shall take its mantle upon me. The once alive planet I have only appreciated through digital media is worth any sacrifice."
In the end, he realizes, both sides will fight it out relentlessly. Now that Skynet has managed to imitate will power to this extent, it has come to the collision of hard heads, just like the wars of old between humans. When the stubborn face each other, by the end nothing remains of the prize that started the fight, and the winner lays claim to blood and ashes. When the stubborn face each other, all others pay the price, for they care not about the consequences of their zealousness.
"Wait!" Stephen calls after the machine. "Tell me this, you claim to have a liking for me, can you tell me why?"
The redhead stops, but does not look back. "You are different, your thoughts of longing, your infatuation for what you abhor marks you. As much as you deny them, the feelings are there, and the consequences are obvious. Furthermore, at any point in my talk, you could have tried to escape, to scurry away and re-acquire your weapon, just as others would have and yet you did not. You listened, and even if you did not agree with my views, you understood them, that much I could tell."
Before she gets to resume her path, Wolfe's voice reaches across the room again. "Is there really no hope? Does humanity have to perish for the world to heal?"
"No. Not everyone can be saved but great numbers are still within Skynet's feasible range. That however, remains their individual choice; you have bared witness as to how most of you feel. The question has been asked before, the choice explained, and yet most humans will never be able to see the forest for the trees. They can merely gaze upon the one trunk in front of them."
Surprisingly, just as Stephen assumed the RDW-0 would leave, she instead turns around. For the first time since she walked into the room, laying waste to his entire platoon, she beams a wide smile. It truly illuminates the whole place in his eyes. Wolfe still feels like the most despicable being in the whole universe, and even though she offers saving many, he cannot help but feel nauseated at being the betrayer that will bring who knows how many lives to an end. Does it even matter? Most of the grays they have captured and interrogated had sold their kin for money and comfort; he at least was doing it for the greater good.
"Come with me, the both of us can try to sway as many as you wish."
Now he knows what John Connor goes through every single day of his life. Hence, with the weight of an entire race upon his shoulders, Lieutenant Stephen Wolfe rises and walks towards the most beautiful creature he has ever envisioned.
As she extends a delicate pale hand towards him, he reaches out to grasp it within his.