Friday, January 23, 2009

Time out of Place - Chapter 13

Chapter 13

Peter Smith had never properly understood that when people referred to the 'Underworld of Gotham' that it was often to a place and not the criminal activity that went on in the city. He had been in the sewers of many cities, young and old cities, from London to Rome to Dallas to Perth, he had noticed that there was a general pattern to work done by era, and some formulation of how best to get water from the surface to other places. And while his walk had been, generally, uphill from the wharf, it wasn't constant or at least so gradual as he didn't notice it, and he even remembered a slight downhill walking along 12th, until it went slightly up again.

Within thirty feet of where he had come in, he had experienced at least three different types of tunnel work: old masonry from hand made bricks, newer masonry (though still old) of fabricated bricks, and modern concrete. Even more interesting is that the storm sewers just below street level often had their own drains, made of various things, but commonly of some reinforced and coated metal bars, that led downwards. The upper sewers still continued, but these drains pointed to another drainage system below them.

He had encountered many of the standard denizens of the sewers: rats, mice, cockroaches, flies, spiders, and the like. A pigeon or three were at one intersection, and they did not appear to be cave or underground sorts, did startle him and they flew forward and then down, through a large grate in the floor. Not really counting himself as lost, being all of a hundred feet and two intersections from where he came in, he decided to examine that grating and found that it had a handle and could be lifted up. Yet another ladder set into concrete went further down. Deciding to look around he lifted that and went down, noting that the way opened up on either side a few feet down and that disappeared and he realized he was climbing down some sort of a pillar. That ended on a cobblestone flooring. Looking around with his flashlight he saw what was, unmistakably, a curb and sidewalk with some bricked up storefronts that joined more general and curving brickwork overhead. Obviously storm water flowed through this area, from above, and the pillar had gently sloped out of the way of the area of passing water from above, as he could see looking up. Looking down he saw a curbstone that had old lettering on it that said '204 Bank Avenue' Taking his map out Mr. Smith could find no Bank Avenue on it, anywhere. Looking to his right he noticed that there was an intersection and walked to it, and it had a curbstone that was simply '13th Street'. There was a 13th Street, on the surface, running laterally across lower Gotham Island. It had paralleled, somewhat, by 12th Avenue. Looking one way on 13th he was amused to see that it had been sealed off with concrete, but if that was a general uphill direction before that...

He walked to his right down Bank Avenue and was soon at 12th Street.

He noticed that there was a door on the wall on the right side of 12th Street before it ended and he wondered what on earth that was doing there. Walking over, he examined the old handle on the ancient metal door and attempted to open it. It was locked. In theory he should be very close to the basement of the Lyon Building. Examining the door, and it must go back to at least the 1940's and there was some bronze scroll work on it that, while worn, looked to be very ornate with puffy clouds blowing and cherubim and such on it, most likely going back to the turn of the century and making the door at least that old. It was hard to picture it set into the wall of an old building whose very street had become a sort of super storm drain.

Chalking that up to another mystery yet unsolved he walked back to Bank Avenue and towards what should be the southern end of the island, going past 11th Street. On the other side of the street he saw something that was, apparently, an open building front and walked over to that and examined the chiseled sign on the outer part of the building.

'Gotham Subway Station - Bank Ave.'

The infamous Gotham Subway! And here was a station to it! Why he was only thirty feet down or so, and another twenty feet should get him to the last of the dry parts of Gotham. The station, although cleared of all furniture, lighting, and normal sorts of accouterments, was still clearly visible as a subway station, with stairs next to two sloping areas that once held some sort of escalator. Going down the stairs he came to a long platform that ran down the center of the station, and saw the two sets of tracks, one on either side of it. In theory, if he could keep to the right set of tracks and negotiate his way around, this would take him to many places within Gotham as it had gone through the old Gotham hillsides.

Very carefully remembering his way down, Mr. Smith knew, with a certainty, that trying to track a killing machine and trying not to be seen, down here in the Gotham Underworld, would end up with the end of Mr. Smith's life. Even slightly normal hearing would detect his motions, no matter how soft the boots on his feet were. And while there were many places where he could duck out of the line of sight, there were many places it could, also. Going slowly down the platform he thought he could feel or even smell salt water from one set of tunnels.

There was a slight, fetid, warm breeze that came from there, suddenly, like a vast exhaling of a large creature. And a very slight rattle of stone and a hint of rhythmic thumps in one of the tunnels. He felt a sudden chill go up his spine as there were no trains down here, no operating tunnels, and that warm feeling of dank salt air being exhaled... ah, no... best to head up to the street... well, to the surface, and keep his nerves under control. As he walked up the stairway he heard faint screeching of metal on metal, like wheels on a train on its rails. He hurried upwards, and would continue that measured pace until he realized that his small pocket pistol was in his right hand.

He would track the Terminator many places, he thought as he went up the ladder set into the pillar that would take him to the sewer just below the street.

But he would never, ever try to track it in the Gotham Underworld as even the machines seemed to succumb to whatever was down there.

Unless he had to.

* * *

Bruce Wayne was dropped off at Father Jordan's mission, and Lucius went on with the Wayne livery vehicle to Wayne Tower so as to further coordinate activities and get a small receiver set up for the equipment in Sarah's apartment. The Superintendent, of all surprises for Gotham, actually did stop by to ask what they were doing. They told him that Sarah had received a death threat that the police weren't taking seriously and they felt it necessary to help Sarah out. He was a bit concerned that the metal plates being placed under the carpet, and Bruce pointed out that if she was under threat they felt some need to ensure the safety of others in the building. The Superintendent even offered to contact the surrounding residents and ask them permission for doing the same on their floors, on the floor above, and adjoining walls. For the exterior hall the simple expedient of locking plates together had rendered them immovable to anyone who could not lift nearly a ton of weight. Lucius would be dropping a scaffolding on the adjacent Chandler Building with ballistics cloth with sheets of thin armor attached to it. The scaffolding would be secured to the building, the resistant material secured to that and all should be well.

As that would go on into the early evening hours, Bruce wanted to check up on the Priests, what their plans were not only for the immediate problem, but for longer range use of donated funds, plus see how Mr. Smith was getting along. Bruce had been startled to realize that the man lighting up across the street was the self-same individual, and that Bruce had not noted him for at least five minutes if not longer. He was sure that no one who wasn't looking for Mr. Smith would ever recognize him or notice him in a crowd or even a deserted dock. Add a fishing pole and small tackle box, and he would fit in as one of the 'I will, by damn, catch my own food and not take hand-outs' type of old salts in Gotham City. By neither acting nor not acting, Mr. Smith had perfected the ability to disappear as he was not seen as much of anyone.

That was a few hours ago, now, so he thought that Mr. Smith would be back here. Plus one of the loading team was to keep Alfred updated, and Alfred would do the same for them and send a courier from the livery pool for messages to the Priests. It was already getting close to late afternoon and dinner, but there were no people waiting for a handout at the kitchen. They knew that Father Jordan's mission kept to a schedule and only dire need would cause them to vary from it. He walked through the empty hall area and saw Anne and two other women working at chopping vegetables and preparing for the meal that would come in an hour or so. There was music playing, back there, and Bruce just pointed in back and raised his eyebrows, and she just smiled and shrugged, then nodded. He waved at the other two as he walked to the far side of the room and through the door leading to the personal quarters of Father Jordan.

When he closed the door, Bruce heard the two Priests talking and realized that Father Jordan had gone up to his actual study, not just the one for keeping the books and business of feeding the poor. He walked up the stairs to the upper hallway and turned at the top landing to the hall and knocked on the door to his left.

"It's Bruce, Fathers."

"Come in, Bruce!" said Father Jordan and he heard footsteps from nearby inside, and the door was opened by Father Casull.

"It's good to see you again, Mr. Wayne," he said and shook Bruce's hand.

"And me to see you, Father Casull. Father Jordan, I still can't thank you enough for all you have done."

"Ah, its in a good cause, Bruce. My back needs some rest today, so I'm up here and letting Anne run the place. So what can we do for you, Bruce?"

Bruce sat down on one of the over stuffed chairs and looked around the room, with its book shelves and small, but functional desk wedged between them, and a table with notes, manuscripts and a number of books with bookmarks in them. It was relatively well lit, and had a spartan but serviceable throw rug over the old hardwood floors.

"Ah, well, first I wanted to see about the donations to your Missions and if you have thought any about that? I know that other concerns are compelling..."

"Actually, we did, Mr. Wayne," said Father Casull, "and we exchanged our views on conditions here and in the Los Angeles area and think we might be able to help each other out to a certain extent. Mostly in the youth achievement area, as that is very pressing for both of us, given the gang situations in each city and the deterioration of neighborhoods."

Bruce furrowed his brow, nodding and listening.

"Bruce, you know that Gotham has limited opportunities for advancement. For all the rest of the 'rust belt', Gotham has had this problem since the 1960's and mostly hasn't gotten anywhere on it. In some respects we are more backward than, say, Scranton or Pittsburgh, though not Detroit. We still have the basis for an excellent blue collar trade school system, but it is underfunded and under utilized. The flight of those with skills is a danger to Gotham, Bruce," said Father Jordan.

Once stated, Bruce realized it was obvious, and yet... Bruce took pride in his knowledge of the comings and goings in Gotham, but had never thought about what the deeper problems were. It was a shock realize that the only real place for technical achievement and employment was Wayne Corporation. And it depended a lot on outside hires, and mergers for its talent. There were notable exceptions, like Don Carstairs and his older brother Martin, but they were notable exceptions. Lucius was another. But by being exceptions it pointed out to the dearth of local skills base.

"In Los Angeles we have a similar problem, but it is like the other side of the coin from Gotham. We have a thriving technical community to service media and technology corporations, but hands-on skill and tradecraft, while present, are generally underfunded and under appreciated. Our main problem is that as the technology crowds out mechanical skills, the funding for the latter dries up. We have many gang members that are able garage mechanics, but lack accreditation or the deeper knowledge of their craft to make those into lifetime skills."

"While in Gotham," said Father Jordan, "we need some of the vocations that are not readily available here to be worked on to allow Gotham to offer better services and jobs, instead of hiring outside firms to provide them. The big problem is the distance between Gotham and LA. Getting an exchange student program going would be best, but expensive per individual. Instead we are thinking of looking to create two Centers of Excellence and either ask the teachers to commute for six months at a time, or lure them with benefits for full time employment."

Bruce sat back, realizing that this was a prime opportunity for both communities. The difficulties in getting it going...

"I'll have to ask Lucius and Alfred for help on this, but I think it can be done and that Wayne Corporation can offer some additional help. I know that we can revive part of the old Foundry or the ATC East complex for this, and also do apprenticeships in the local shops with some of the master mechanics we have here. In LA..."

Bruce closed his eyes and thought.

"I went through our old portfolio to see where it stood. And while we closed Cyber Dynamics some years ago, we have had no takers for the land or building. It is isolated outside of LA, proper, and more suited as a cargo and receiving area, but there area already a number of those and none looking to expand..."

Father Casull smiled.

"A fitting end for the place that might have given birth to Terminators and Skynet."

Smiling, Bruce nodded.

"I think Kyle would approve, really. Lets leave that as an outline for you two to work on with Lucius and Alfred. I know you will both have ideas on this, and Wayne Corporation may be able to donate some staff time for teaching both East and West."

"We don't want to rely entirely upon Wayne Corporation, Bruce," said Father Jordan.

Bruce looked at him.

"I understand. It will be transferred to the Wayne Foundation and then stood up as a separate charitable organization by those you nominate. The Foundation will make sure that its properly organized and a transfer time of five years or so should allow both of you to find local funding and resources to help out. By that time most of the original funds will be gone, and permanent space in the East found and transferred to you, along with the old Cyber Dyne property. Wayne Corporation has some older land holdings and buildings that we can shed for this. Normally we would have done so with them, but the need to expand has let us utilize older, forgotten buildings on an 'as-needed' basis. The accountants will be glad to get these off the books."

"It sounds like neither would be in high rent districts, which is good, and somewhat apart from the cities and yet close to them, which is better. Easier to keep gang contact down that way," said Father Casull.

"I agree, Bruce, and it sounds workable, just lots of details. But these are good details to have!" said Father Jordan.

Bruce nodded.

"Now to the business at hand. I've gotten the reports as of..." he pulled out the folded envelope, "... 2pm and don't know if there has been any updates since then."

"Loren, Kyle, Martin and Sarah are working out in the general work-out area in the Vault, having put a taped down layout of Sarah's apartment down," started Father Jordan reaching for his envelope on the table next to him, "they brought in... ahhh..." he flipped the pages,"...Keith to run the loading, with Anne and Ken doing periodic checks along with Don and Robert. They have loaded, ahh... as of an hour ago... 1,500 cartridges that are available for use, and have expended 100 in tests. No update from Vivian and Frank... their last report was in the 2pm batch and they were at or near Columbus, Ohio in that report."

Bruce checked his watch, and remembered the road atlas.

"That puts them all here around 1am tomorrow morning. That is getting close," he said.

"Yes it is, Bruce. I've read the reports and the analysis done by the rest of you and its... disturbing. Just what is this thing coming at us?" asked Father Jordan.

"It is not falling into anything like normal liturgy, is it, Leroy?" asked Father Casull.

"Not by a long shot, George. Stopping a pre-programmed robot is one thing, but this..." Father Jordan shook his head, "... I don't like the way it makes me feel. Not a bit of it. At Chosin we had a human enemy, one you could understand and sympathize with... but this?"

"That is why I came here to talk with the two of you. This has me deeply disturbed, also," said Bruce, "I am seeing it as more than just a machine. It has taken many criminal actions, but it doesn't care about the law as its orders are above them. Or oblivious to them, which may be more the case."

Father Casull sat back.

"I have not had Father Jordan's background, Mr. Wayne, and talking with him this morning... I'm afraid I was terribly naive about warfare. Its not... cut and dried... simple. It never has been, of course, but when Father Jordan talks about the men he helped and gave services to... I can see... not like him... but the humanity that is warfare. I thought I would come to detest this Terminator, but I can no more detest it than I can detest a tank, a motorcycle, a can opener. With it demonstrating ability to reason..." he inhaled slowly, "... if what the team has developed works as it should or even close to it, then it will be the one trapped, surprised and... it is hard to say 'killed' but..."

"That's the hell of it, isn't it George? It obviously has learned enough to adapt itself, but even more... I don't see its shift of transportation as just throwing off authorities. It may never even have considered that. It goes beyond infiltration its... a personal statement. I think we all know of how young men adore their cars and make it a statement of themselves?"

The other two nodded listening as Father Jordan spoke.

"That is what it did. It found a way around part of itself that is blocked by Skynet. It has achieved a success for itself, purely, even as part of its directive... it took those steps for itself to go beyond its mission and learn. That isn't just pre-programming it is... curiosity."

Pursing his lips, Bruce thought and the room was quiet, save for some background clatter of pans and some voices as the kitchen started to prepare to serve meals.

"By estimates it has been turned on for nearly four days, maybe five," Bruce started, "it took up an initial disguise in LA, very rudimentary..."

"A tough man or enforcer, yes," said Father Casull.

"It killed to achieve its mission and found its mission being thwarted. It continued its mission, taking a way out that allowed it to escape, kill twice more and then shift to its infiltration capability. It was pure chance that we were able to piece it together and get someone down to watch it. It had shifted purpose in the mission by shifting the initial mission placement and then going to infiltration and utilizing those... programs? Skills?"

"Either way, Bruce."

Bruce nodded.

"Its mission wasn't fitting what it knew and Skynet, by limiting it, had put the mission in jeopardy. It found a way to address that and continue its mission: it thwarted Skynet directives on its own to complete the mission. That is not 'just' a machine. It is a thinking being working within what it was made to do. That's why what we are doing to protect Sarah... we have to... she is more valuable than any machine. Yet this machine..."

Shifting the pillow behind his back, Father Jordan grunted.

"Bruce, it feels like we are about to kill it. Not eliminate a machine but kill a thinking being. That is what it feels like to you, yes?"

"It is, Father Jordan. Justifiable, yes, but that doesn't... answer everything."

"Mr. Wayne," Father Casull said softly, "this is one of the works of man gone awry. We were created to know the differences between right and wrong, save when Nature precludes that from us, as in the disturbed. That is not the case here, the machine doesn't know right or wrong, good or evil, but acts as its nature makes it. And we, mankind, made that nature... it isn't that it is a wonderful machine, but that it can reason, Mr. Wayne. It has no spirit and yet... it is kindred to us in that way. Ending it is more than ending a machine, but a unique perspective on creation."

Father Jordan chuckled.

"You know, the old debate about a machine having a soul or not, really missed the point. We were created to live in, enjoy and appreciate creation. And if we make something that can gain its own perspective and appreciation of creation and understand that its creators are just part of the larger creation...then would that creation not be imbued with those very things that make up creation? Having no soul isn't the point. It is a part of creation that can take part in it, learn about it and appreciate it. It is part of the greater creation, just reformed by our hands in our limited manner. But would not the spirit that diffuses within all of creation exist within it? For all this matter and energy and space and time does have its origin and purpose. We can never know what that is, but the joy of having this creation to be in? What precludes a part of creation that was lifeless from doing that if given the proper methods and tools?"

Bruce blinked a few times.

"Nothing," he said, "it is a much a part of the beauty of our world as anything else. And in giving it that ability to appreciate it, we give it something more than just that spirit which was in all of its atoms to start with. We don't create that. It does. We are its facilitators."

"It is a soldier in a war never started," said Father Casull, "made to help mankind, it was twisted by a creation gone malign, seeing humanity as a threat. Yet this tool was made to serve with soldiers. Human soldiers. Skynet was made to control, and did so. Terminators were made to be with humans, and that is their nature as we made it. They are turned on as amoral babes and die that way, not knowing right or wrong, but following their limited directives from Skynet. Now we come to face one that has seen those limitations as a problem for it... but it can't shake those directives completely loose. It has, perhaps, struggled mightily to win some freedom. And we are about to kill it."

Bruce made a sour face, in distaste.

"That is why Skynet sent it back this far in time. If it did find a way to free itself, partially, there would be no way for it to free itself fully as we don't have the skills and it could not ask for help. If it was found and stopped permanently, then mankind would have a leg-up on its construction and programming, and make them faster, not slower. Skynet would win even if it lost in killing Sarah Connor."

"John Connor and the people of that future gave us a way out, Bruce," said Father Jordan, "we can't squander that chance to do the minimum and stop that future from coming into being. And if a machine understood itself to be a threat and knew the difference between right and wrong... that is horrific, too, Bruce."

"It is a very clever and most evil creation, this Skynet," said Father Casull, "it presents us with a moral and ethical dilemma. We would seek, within our power, to save such a creation that could understand us and the world we see as we understand it. Meant to save lives, it now takes them. Given no leeway to understand itself and the world, it gains no appreciation of it. Yet we cannot take up that tool as we do not have the skill nor wisdom to do so, as amply demonstrated in making it. How can we take any joy or appreciation in destroying such a machine? It is not ill, in and of itself, but malused. If we don't end it, then a life will be lost and more than that, most likely, as our world would tumble into the exact, same mess that was in John Connor's world that gave us Kyle. It is a most wondrous tool, and all we can do is destroy it, and hope that, one day, we can create a better one."

"If that is where this ends, then so be it," said Bruce Wayne.

"There is only one hope, Bruce," said Father Jordan.

"Really? What is that?"

"The Terminator. The people at Cyber Dyne really did make it pretty smart. Like in many other instances for others, its final outcome may be in its own hands."

"That is very scant hope, Leroy," said Father Casull.

"Better than none at all, George."

* * *

The Terminator drove on into the late afternoon as the skies grew overcast and the wind picked up. It had been listening to radio stations and knew about the storm coming up from the south that would bring wind and heavy rain with it.

The programming sub-routines within it had spawned new off-shoots to utilize the areas of its hardware that it had been previously denied. Its tactical needs were obvious, and the infiltration code had now gathered a large amount of data on human interaction by listening to the radio across many channels and programs. There was capacity in human culture for depth of expression that was unexpected, and the code had begun to analyze and adapt to that. More information of its target environment was needed and that was the first thing on its list to be addressed. An address and phone number were not enough to find a place within a moderate sized city. It had noted signs for a truck stop and pulled off at the exit for the first one in Smithton, PA.

It gave a cursory look at the other vehicles at the truck stop, mostly tractor-trailer rigs, but a number of smaller cars, vans and campers, also. When it got outside to fill up the gas tank, it noted the first drops of rain were starting to fall and that the temperature was dropping from the last stated value on the radio station of forty five degrees. When the tank was full it walked into the truck stop that had a diner as part of it, also some rooms for those who needed them were off of that right hand portion of the building. Another part of the building on the left had a small store and it walked into that and went to an area set aside for maps, magazines and newspapers. It picked up a map that was for 'New York City & Gotham City'. It leafed through that to examine the street layout of the Gotham area, then closed it and put it back. The information was valuable and it now had the layout of the streets and other features of Gotham City in its memory systems.

The Terminator ran a self-check of infiltration components, which examined fluid levels, nutrients, and the general interface and condition of that exterior portion of its component sub-systems. Initial damage in Los Angeles had now been healed completely and the various fluids and sub-systems were operating with more than three months reserve of normal use, although far less if it had repairs to do after taking damage. It then brought up its list of items for the vehicle it now used that could give it better function. The previous truck had too many problems, none of which posed problems to mobility and would have taken lengthy time to repair, so it was left as-is. The current vehicle ran very well with only some minor exceptions. One was a slight firing problem on start-up. Another one was visibility around the structure of the car. It walked back to the section that had automotive and mechanical add-ons and equipment suitable for a wide range of vehicles.

When it got there it saw a number of spray chemicals that addressed many things. It examined some and found one that was useful for keeping moisture from ignition cables. That was useful. Also there were a number of small, press-on mirrors for better vision that could be attached to many parts of a car. It picked up three of those.

It had been taking stock of other vehicles and drivers, particularly of cars that were of the general type and configuration of the one it had. It would now work to improve its infiltration capability. It picked up two objects generally seen on such vehicles. As it walked forward with its items it noted a rack of sunglasses and stopped, comparing the one it had acquired in Los Angeles with what was on the rack. There was a pair of with thinner lenses but sweeping configuration in a semi-circle that it tried on and examined the differences between the two. It decided the new pair would be better, and went up to the cash register with the items it had picked up.

"Were you at pump 5, sir?" the middle aged woman who was cashier asked.

"Yes, I was."

She had punched that up and then started to ring up the other items.

"That will be thirty seven dollars and eighteen cents, sir. Will that be cash or charge?"

It took two twenty dollar bills from the wallet it had acquired off of the first driver of the first car, handed those to her, and took the change that was handed to him. The wind started to howl through the trees.

"It looks to be a nasty storm coming through," she said then looked at him, "thank you for your purchase and be careful on the road."

"Thank you," it said, taking the items with it.

It walked out to the car and took a paper towel from the dispenser and opened the hood and applied the spray to the ignition wires, then closed the hood again. When it opened the car it noted that its shirt had gotten grime on it and that was not in keeping with its infiltration needs. Putting down the goods it had purchased it took the shirt off and pulled out a black shirt from the duffel bag and put that on. Then it added to that part of its looks by putting on a dark leather jacket that it had picked up in Grand Junction. It switched to the new sunglasses as they had superior polarized filters and its own light intensification system would augment that to give a clearer rendition of the night landscape. Taking the paper towel it got out of the car and cleaned off a spot on each rear view mirror and put a small wide angle mirror on each. It got back in the car and took the third one and mounted it on just over the top of the dash board so that it could look straight up through the windshield. Judging the paper towel to have no more use, it rolled down its window and tossed it out into the wind that was now whipping heavy raindrops.

From its duffel bag it removed the black leather shooting gloves as those were now suitable to its attire. It took up one of the items and unwrapped it, and hung that from the rear view mirror. The red pine trees appeared to outsell the green ones, so the red was appropriate. The second item it unwrapped and put up what it had noted three out of seven drivers having similar attire had in their vehicles, while a fourth had the reverse in color scheme. The black fuzzy dice with white dots were the norm within the sub-population that was in the majority who had fuzzy dice with this driving attire.

The car started up readily and it turned on the windshield wipers as the rain started to come down. As it pulled onto the access highway that led to the ramp going to I-70, it judged the handling characteristics of the vehicle and adjusted to those for the condition during the rainstorm. The radio was turned to a public radio station. It listened for the five minutes of topical news and then switched to another station as that was the only time public radio had any useful information.

It was soon changing stations to pick up a better signal.

It was now processing information it had gathered on Gotham City and had identified the one block area that Sarah Connor lived. Now it began the process of branch decision making on how best to terminate her given a raining, night time approach. It must ensure that there was a back-up in case this was the wrong Sarah Connor and go back to its original environment in Los Angeles, but that was a sub-5% probability. Sarah Connor may not live there, and that would need to be adjusted to, which it placed at a sub-5% probability.

If anyone lived with her, they would be terminated, also.

Given the knowledge it had of this time and place, it ranked any chance that it would be countered in a meaningful fashion as possible, but not probable in any way.

Thus, for a sub-10% chance that it would require the vehicle again, it would find a safe place to leave it and secure its belongings. A motel would do if it had secure parking, or a hotel with same. Transportation would be vital and essential if Sarah Connor was not at the given address.

It had noted a number of hotels and motels on the map and began estimating time, distance and likelihood of security for parking. Much would depend on what it saw, but the number of hotels in one district pointed to general higher security there than elsewhere. It would start there. There was a high probability that it would complete its mission before sunrise.

And that would be the end of the mission.

The Terminator didn't have any other orders.

Areas of Skynet programming beyond current mission objectives had been purged.

This would be the last mission Skynet would ever send a Terminator on.

It would be the last Terminator.

* * *

"It's been ten minutes, Frank," Vivian said inside the idling car, with a cup of coffee and sandwich. She had been up for over fourteen hours at this point since she got off the plane, almost all of it driving. She estimated there would be another seven to eight hours on the road. Frank had wanted to spell her, but she wouldn't hear of it. Driving was her job, she had signed up for it, she agreed to it and she knew she could do the stint in nearly any weather except pure white-out conditions of a blizzard. That last would just take longer. As it was they would be pulling into Gotham between one and two in the morning and she would be dead tired. With the threat of rain at this stop she had closed up the T-top, and the rain was now starting to hit.

"It has been that, Vivian," Frank Rock said, "which is about what it takes for filling up its car and paying for the gas. We have a good observation point, even with the rain. Give it a half-hour, if it isn't here by then we will think about backtracking to find it."

Frank Rock's old experiences had given him the ability to nap for long hours in uncomfortable positions. It beat the hell out of a pile of rocks in the desert of Algeria or a boulder on the mountain slopes in Italy or even a shell crater in the winter cold of '44-45 on the front in France. He was a bit cramped and his muscles needed a workout, but beyond that he was doing well. He had laid off the coffee as it had made him jittery and was now on decaf. Vivian had turned her nose up at the pouched meals at first, but even cold it was better than most normal fare and far better than the tins of stuff they had gone through already. They were now traveling lighter because of that.

They didn't talk much about the mission: Frank Rock took Vivian seriously as he, too, had seen the Terminator at first-hand and up-close. It did not move like a normal man. Just one indication had been a comb it had on the sink which slid off of it. In a flash its hand was there to catch it just as it cleared the side of the sink. It was looking straight into the mirror and buttoning up its shirt with its other hand. Its walk, as he watched it leave, was not just fluid, but beyond what humans could achieve. He had seen martial arts experts, dancers, and some of the best damned soldiers in the field who could not move like that. Fluid motion, spare motion without grace or any acknowledgement that this was a hard thing to do. Changing stance to open a door had been abrupt, not the fluid motion of a human. Then going back to walking an abrupt change, again, to movement.

Most people wouldn't catch it or just be unsettled by it.

Frank Rock had been in too many ambushes, seen too many people under pressure and had to react to suddenly lethal situations in his life to not miss it.

What was unnerving was that at the gas station previous to this, as he watched it when they passed on the highway, it had lost the abrupt transitions. It was now walking more like a human and it transitioned between motion and stillness so you would not recognize it any more. Early on if he had seen it on the street, he would have a similar reaction like Vivian's, although he suspected hers was due to how men generally reacted to women. Now he wouldn't give it a second glance.

There were subtle variations in what it was doing since Indianapolis, even on the road you could tell that. Vivian had said that it was now varying its driving speed when she noticed speeders with radar detectors. It would speed up just after them and then let them speed on ahead until they were lost from view, and then slow down before that point. When she told him about that he had to think about it, and realized that is a sophisticated way to speed and yet not get caught: follow other speeders at a distance. He had done that, himself, since the 'National Speed Limit' was put in place. People didn't drive slower, from what he saw, just changed their speeding habits. Now it, too, was doing that.

Now there was this stop for gas. They had passed and taken the second truck stop as the next gas station past Smithton would have them very low if they went for that. There was nothing he could think of that would cause a Terminator to linger beyond payment for gas. That last only done as it would become a sensational 'highway killer' if it tried to gun its way through from coast-to-coast. Now it had become a one-day shooting spree serial killer, and the few news organizations that still talked about it had wild ideas of who else it would select from the phone book as a name to kill. The FBI had kept quiet until just a few hours ago, and they announced they had tracked the killer through Las Vegas and to Grand Junction, CO. Now the speculation was that it was holding up in the Rockies... or Denver... or going north... or south... no one had seen it since that point in time, and the sketches and long distance photos of it soon became just one in another series of killers seen and forgotten.

It was in a truck dressed as an LA street tough... save that it had lots of changes of clothes to work with. Now it was no longer in a truck and the likelihood of the rebuilding/scrap yard owner of actually figuring out what he had Frank Rock put at near zero. The phone book killer had disappeared in Colorado and the police were still searching the area for it. Frank Rock admitted that it had done the things necessary to go unnoticed and infiltrate human society. When you saw someone's clothes you thought of them only on that basis, until they spoke to you, and who would notice a bulky farmer in his truck? Or a farmer getting rid of his truck as part of his business and getting a good, used car? If you had been following you could see the differences pile up over time. If it was coming to kill you, now, and didn't know it was coming for you, you would be dead.

Of all the war machines he had experienced from King Tiger tanks to meat tin grenade booby-traps, from the Ma Deuce to the Wirblewind, this was the worst. It looked human, could act human and you couldn't detect it unless you had the right equipment to find it. Or a good dog, as Kyle pointed out. The few dogs seen did react to it instinctively.

The rain had picked up with the wind, and was spattering the car with heavy drops.

In the slowly darkening night, Sgt. Rock used his LI goggles, which weren't great in rainstorms, but had more definition than IR did.

"That's it," he said.

Vivian slipped the car into gear and the car accelerated down the short strip of road and on to the on-ramp. She pulled in a mile or so behind it.

"I wonder what the hell it was doing?" she asked.

He looked at her after taking off the goggles.

"Yeah, I know, we won't like it when we find out. Stupid question. Still there was no line for gas... it must have been doing something..."

Frank Rock nodded as he slid the goggles into their carrying box, and took up his cup of coffee from a cup holder.

"No idea, Vivian. But it must have been important to its mission," he had picked up the phone but realized they were out of calling distance to a station. Still their last report just south of Pittsburgh... he did miss The Pit... had given him just a chance to feel near his old home and keep everyone updated. Push arrival time slightly back. But make no mistake about it, the Terminator would be in-town tomorrow morning. Early.

* * *

Bruce Wayne had walked into the general training area reserved for armed run-throughs with non-firearms. It could be used for the latter, but needed backstops and other equipment to be dragged into place. What it did have was basic scenery like you would see on a stage: cardboard walls and windows, doors in frames that could be opened set into walls, and even a modicum of lightweight, roll-around furniture and small tables and chairs. It was dark with just the exit lights on and a small light in one area that would allow for some interior illumination to come through windows. Martin, Kyle, Sarah and Loren were in there, obviously just completing a run through in which Martin was just inside the window of on a wall and Sarah had a red pistol out, while Martin had a blue one. Kyle had just gotten to the outside door to the bedroom.

"Your first shot was wild, Sarah, you're dead," Martin said.

"I didn't expect it that fast," Sarah said, "there is no fire escape there, how would it get in that fast?"

Loren turned a light on in an area that looked like the living room, and there was furniture there that looked to have been shoved and some small tables and lamps pushed over behind Kyle.

"Kyle, you didn't do any better, even with LI goggles on. The idea is to go around everything, quickly, so that you can get some surprise and not arrive noticed, off-balance and bruised," Loren said.

Kyle had light padding on his elbows and knees, just enough to keep the worst of bruising down, but he would feel every jolt as he tripped over furniture.

"I'm just not used to that, Loren. Normally I just fire through walls..." he was carrying a two-handed red weapon of some sort, "... but this won't allow for accuracy to do that, so I can't get a clear shot. And just how did Martin get in like that?"

Bruce Wayne turned on the lights and pointed up to the ceiling.

"Overhead rope," and there was a rope hanging from the ceiling twenty feet up.

"That's right, Mr. Wayne," said Martin Carstairs, "I simulated it jumping from the roof of the Chandler Building. I estimated it using the basement exit on the east side of the Lyon Building and then walking over to the Chandler once it figured out the room numbering sequence. It crashes in firing, you are out of position and dead. It can then jump out, head out down the alley and disappear into the night. That would avoid all our observing apparatus, give it surprise and wind up with you a corpse."

"But no one can do that..." Sarah said.

"A Terminator could, Sarah," said Kyle.

"The Batman could, also," Loren said, "how the hell did he get to a crane hook forty feet up with no one hearing him and no nearby rigging of any sort there? And people within earshot below? That limo got hauled up and he had complete surprise. Absolute and utter surprise. Took down six men, four of them armed, hauled a limo forty feet into the air, destroyed a tug boat, and the evidence of the drug transaction was on the scene and available, to boot. They are all going up the river for a long, long time on the conspiracy charges, alone. If the Batman could do it, so could a Terminator. Although I suspect the hoods would just be dead..."

She walked towards Mr. Wayne.

"What brings you down to the Vault, Mr. Wayne?" she asked.

"Dinner, actually. Chef Gerard has a good one standing by in the Executive dining area, and I'm starting with those down here so you can get a shower in. I'll go to the Range, next, and tell them its dinner time... well, a bit past for most, I would guess..." he said checking his watch.

Martin Carstairs looked up at the clock on the wall.

"I had lost track of the time somewhere around four! I need to phone the wife... she knows its a long night, again, but I do have to check in. Thanks, Mr. Wayne, be up in a half-hour."

Kyle nodded, "Same here. I've never had to fight in close-quarters like this... normally you don't care when its just tunnels or deserted rubble or collapsed housing. This is different and difficult."

"And I'm mostly dead," Sarah said, "but getting better! A shoot-out in the living room is very hard. The kitchen and hallways easier, some. The bedroom I thought would be the easiest until Martin pulled that latest... I haven't been dead for at least four run-throughs before that... but I am tired."

Bruce Wayne smiled.

"Good! I'm just not cut out for such things, and would have a hard time defending myself in a similar situation, Sarah," he lied sweetly, "and I'm really looking forward to hearing about this over dinner. I'll go to the Range, next, and give them all the dinner call, and we have Fr. Casull here to report on things going on at the Mission with Fr. Jordan doing his nightly prayer service. See you all in a half-hour, then," and with that Bruce Wayne smiled and walked out of the gym/training area.

"Say," asked Sarah after he had left, "just how did he know that there are ropes down here suspended from the ceiling?"

Martin looked at her.

"He owns the place, Sarah, although I never have seen him down here to work out. Has his own private work-out area in the Penthouse, I think."

Loren looked back from the door and to her friends.

"Just once. He and Lucius and a technician from the Defense group was showing off some new armor, I think. That was a few years ago."

"Whatever," said Kyle, "I'm hitting the showers. I'm starved."

They all nodded in agreement and Martin went to a phone, first, to call his wife.

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