Monday, September 5, 2011

Time out of Place - Chapter 16

Chapter 16

Sgt. Rock kicked the door closed as he walked in and he heard the continued sound of gunfire outside in the alley. It had moved extremely fast, and he hadn't been able to keep fire on it, but denied it a fully safe exit. It took the damage as it left. Frank Rock rushed to Sarah's side and he turned on the overturned bedside lamp on the floor. He opened up the medical satchel that Sarah had left next to the bed.

She was crying and holding her right leg which was bent.

"I couldn't get the last shot on it!!" she cried as he shifted her against the bed to look at the damaged leg, "it was firing and I couldn't get a third shot on it..." she said gasping.

The weapons fire suddenly died down with a last flare up from Kyle.

"Report, everyone, this is Rock. I have Sarah down with right leg wounds, one to the right foot stopped by boot armor but it needs to be examined for broken bones. One puncture in the right calf, bad but I'm putting a pressure bandage on it.." he was doing that as he spoke and slit up the interior of the seam of the pants leg with a combat knife, "... also multiple shrapnel hits in the right thigh. I can get those out, but it would hurt like hell and can't be done here. I will need the van for med evac. Now everyone report."

Sgt. Rock was doing what came naturally to him. Lucius didn't mind.

"Lucius here and safe, Frank,"

"Loren here, safe, got at least one on it before it jumped, missed a second, waiting for further instructions."

"Martin reporting, one shot off of its face and into its torso, missed a second with Loren, waiting for further."

"Kyle here, at the dumpster behind the Chandler Building. It got away via the storm sewers while I was swapping magazines. Kept rounds on it, but mostly superficial save for its lower back, I think."

"Good. Loren, Martin, keep an eye out from your vantage points. Kyle keep the area around you cleared if you can. Lucius, I need to be mobile with Sarah. Get the van here with the back open to the alley. I will be down with Sarah in five minutes. Destination Wayne Tower. Everyone is coming."

"Shutting down here. Mr. Smith is heading down to the Underworld and will be underground in a few minutes. Multiple police reports coming in and we need to be out of here in a few minutes, anyway."

"Loren, let us know on general when Lucius gets to the van and then everyone down to the ground and protection for Sarah there. We are pulling out."

Sarah was still crying out in pain and Frank Rock took a pillowcase off a pillow and rolled it up.

"Here, bite this, as what I'm going to do next will hurt. A lot."

She nodded and stuffed the wadded up cloth into her mouth.

He took his hand away from her calf and applied liberal amounts of antiseptics then antibiotics and then the two press wound closure packs. She screamed into the cloth as he did that and clenched her fists on the bedspread and carpeting. He pressed the pressure bandage tightly, but did not cut off circulation. There would be minimal bleeding until she could be stitched up. Next he took thick bandage pieces and applied them to the small wounds in her thigh after applying antiseptic fluid to them and then pressed one of the collapsible, thin splints over them and taped it down then bandaged over the tape. He stripped off the leg of her pants and then slit it again to hold the larger and smaller areas in with a more general application of pressure.

"OK, this will hurt like hell, but you shouldn't pass out. If you were going to do that you would have already. Your hands in mine, I'm lifting you up, lean on me."

"OK," she said quietly after taking the pillowcase out of her mouth.

He handed her the long barrel, large caliber pistol, grips first.

"Here, your friend needs to be with you," he said holding it out to her.

She smiled, nodded, ejected the magazine and put a fresh one in and then the safety on, before holstering it.

Rock nodded approvingly.

"You'll do, Sarah. Now up with me on three... one... two... three.."

He stood lifting Sarah up as she got her left leg under her and gasped as she leaned on him.

"Lucius is at the van, I'm on the move," said Loren.

"Down and out in three, Rock," said Martin.

"No sign of it," Kyle said.

"Good. Kyle get to the fire escape. I'll be helping Sarah down to the first story platform, but the ladder will require someone to spot her on it. Get her to the van and I will cover with old reliable..." which he had swung over his right shoulder.

As they got to the window they heard noises inside the building.

"Pay no attention, Sarah. Your life depends on it," he said.

"Yeah. I would be killed in a normal hospital without protection."

He nodded and stepped through the window and helped her down to the fire escape.

"I will hold your harness as you go down, and follow after. Take it easy and I'll ease you down a step at a time."

It was awkward, painful, but Frank Rock had a firm grip on Sarah's harness rig and she could hop step down the stairs to the next platform. They were repeating that to the first floor when the van pulled in and backed up to the alley way. Sarah released the ladder and Kyle was down at the bottom to steady it and her as she got down. Loren appeared from across the street with her equipment pack and Martin was trotting from the opposite end of the alley with his equipment. Lucius pushed open the doors and had a stretcher ready in case it was needed, but Kyle waved it off.

"Just a fold down. Need to get the shrapnel from her leg and do some stitching," he said.

Lucius nodded, let down one of the folding stretcher platforms and stowed the stretcher on it. Loren was getting into the front seat, passenger side and stowing her equipment.

"You driving, Lucius?"

"Yes, Loren. We will go directly to the Vault and only I can get there from surface streets."

Frank Rock helped get Sarah in while Kyle helped her to step up and get on the platform inside the vehicle. Then Martin came up next to them and tossed his equipment pack in on the empty side, while Rock got into the van. Lucius was forward and in the driver's seat as Martin got in closing the doors behind him.

"We are buttoned," he said.

"Hold on," Lucius said as he pulled out onto Crown Avenue.

Kyle had gone forward and pulled out a basic medical kit and opened it while kneeling next to Rock on the floor.

"General or surface?" Kyle asked.

"Surface. Shes tough. You've got fingers for the fine stuff, Kyle, got about five of those, two large," he said taking out a spray applicator and forceps. Martin came up behind, and started unpacking the needles and threading them. Then looked at the surgical glue.

"Magic," he said, "Kyle just remove shrapnel, astringent, antibiotics and glue the sides together for ten seconds. I'll take the boot off and examine the foot," Martin Carstairs said looking at Sarah.

"Gimme a second, you two, I want to know if there is anything I need to set down here. Sarah if you feel grinding of bone, let me know, ok?"

She was white, but nodded.

He undid the clasps to the fractured boot as the outer hard armor fell away in chunks.

"Padding is secure, no bleeding," he undid the rest of the clasps and Sarah inhaled sharply as the inner boot slid off and came apart into two pieces. He slid fingers over her foot and she gasped a number of times as he pressed lightly.

"No grinding?" he asked

She shook her head 'no'.

"No. Hurts deeply, but no grinding."

"Good! I hate the hard boots but if you got small arms they can save on a one shot," he reached over to a small medical chest and took out a cold pack and activated it, placing it on the foot and wrapping it in place with bandage.

"You two are on, I'll be the gofer..."

The other two men got to work, spraying surface analgesic and wiping away blood, Kyle warned that what he was going to do was painful and not to jerk the leg. Frank Rock had put a pillow and wadded up blanket under the knee and then slit the bandage open. Kyle was doing similar to the the thigh, working the splint/bandage arrangement off in pieces and then examining the shrapnel wounds. Martin Carstairs was looking at Sarah and smiled, placing a dry, cool cloth on her forehead.

"I caught the damage you did on my scope, Sarah, at least that one in the shoulder. That messed it up real bad. Are you sure you haven't done this shit before?"

She smiled and winced, then gasped as Kyle pulled one of the larger pieces metal floor plating out of her thigh and put in the medical box. Martin handed over swabs, disinfectant and then a small plastic tube while Kyle staunched the wound, sprayed it to chill the surface blood vessels and then closed it with the glue.

"No, never had..." she whispered.

"Good shootin, girl," said Loren looking back from the front passenger seat, "I tried to repeat that on the other side, but it jumped way too fast, but I can tell you its right side was messed up as I got a look at what my shot did to the right pelvis. Where did your second shot go, anyway?"

Sarah looked up, wincing as Rock had started to stitch the larger hole in her calf.

"I... the chest I think..." she said, gasping.

"Yeah, lateral rising shot, left to right, exited the shoulderblade in back," Rock said while he worked.

Kyle looked at her.

"You had to hit near its power supply, Sarah. That is not good for a Terminator. And Martin..."

"Uh-huh," he said dabbing just a bit of alcohol on the cloth and cooling Sarah's forehead, "I wanted fancy and went for a headshot. Hit it on the right side of the face, could see the metal on that half of it. That is scary shit, let me tell you. That went in through the collarbone, hit something and went out the back by the shoulderblade, same place."

Kyle glanced at him as he removed another small piece of shrapnel from Sarah's thigh.

"The only solid thing there is the main power supply. It might be damaged or partially dislodged and that is hard to do, let me tell you, with energy weapons. I think we got lazy, in our fight with Skynet."

Lucius was driving at a slow speed, within the laws, and no one was following.

"Five minutes to the Vault. It is going to get rough at the garage, I'll give you warning."

The others acknowledged that.

"You saved your life, Sarah," Martin said, "we came up short, but we knew it had too much good engineering to really allow for anything but a lucky shot to give us a break."

Kyle had another small piece out, and put it in the box and spoke as he worked.

"Nah, you poured a lot of damage on it. I saw the damage on the ground and it has to rethink everything. It knows you are protected, that we are capable and now it is the one needing a lucky shot. With full body armor on Sarah, it will have a hard time surviving another shot or two unless it goes sniper. It was close, though, and the way it wasn't moving showed a lot of damage by Frank and me that wasn't visible..." he looked down and started on the next piece up, another large one, "... one or two good shots from anything, and it won't be getting back up again."

"Say, Lucius, you got any more jobs like this?" asked Loren.

He gave her a sharp glance.

"I sure, as hell, hope not, Loren."

"Too bad. Say, Vivian is going to be pissed that she wasn't here, but she will be the only frosty one in the morning..."

"Oh, god..." said Kyle looking at Loren and then back to Sarah's leg.

Frank nodded.

"One or two shots, right?" he said glancing at Kyle as he got started on the near side wound.

"Maybe it will get lucky," Kyle said, "and only meet this Batman guy. I actually would start to pity it if Vivian could corner it."

Frank cleared the entry wound and chilled it.

"So would I. She won't be afraid of it after that first meeting at the rest stop. Maybe she will over-sleep?" he asked looking at the others.

"I met Vivian at lunch at the ATC East complex. She seems like a nice girl," said Sarah, "what's wrong with her?"

"Oh, nothing wrong with her," Martin said handing another square bandage to Kyle, "but I don't think a Terminator can 'keep up', not a damaged one, at least."

"Oh..." Sarah said softly, smiling.

"Pure shark," said Loren, "but it would be fun for her."

"At the garage, its going to get bumpy and a lot of curves, hang on," said Lucius.

Everyone did and Loren looked out the front window as Lucius muscled the van into the spiral descent of the parking garage and didn't take any of the turn offs until the second last, then yanked the wheel over and sped up.

"Shit," Loren said, "who taught you to drive like this."

He looked over to her as he sped up heading towards a cinderblock wall. A solid cinderblock wall.

"Vivian Rose," he said.

Martin, Kyle and Frank all looked forward and were wide eyed.

"God help us all," Frank whispered.

"What is it?" asked Sarah.

The wall got terribly close and then it was black around the van and inset lights showed the direction to drive in the darkness, and concrete walls showed it was not a good idea to do otherwise. Lucius slowed the van and it arrived at the second lowest Vault level.

Alfred was waiting for them with a wheelchair, and came in behind the van and opened it once Lucius brought it to a stop.

"Welcome home, everyone. Sarah, I hear you have taken some damage during the fight and I am sure the fine gentlemen have done their best to patch you up. Wendy from security, being no gentleman, would like to look you over, so we are going to your room so she can do so."

The men in the center of the back of the van turned to look at Alfred, like he was some apparition.

"That's all right, Alfred," Sarah said, "I'm pretty sure I can get to you without help,now."

Only then did the others realize how tightly they had been holding on.


* * *

He had watched Mr. Smith gather his things and climb down underneath him on the water tower. He stayed to listen from the reports and waited until the van was in motion. He gave the vehicle its orders and it went speeding off into the night. With the now light breeze he jumped and swooped down into a shallow glide off the water tower.

Tonight he learned he could handle moderate winds and rain. The outer stealth sheath and cape allowed him to stay relatively dry. The armor kept small amounts of fluid moving through main channels over arteries to his extremities. His legs and arms did get cold, but his feet and hands stayed warm. He pulled up on the street outside the old Belhaven Building using a dragline to kill his speed on the descent. It was in Central Gotham and was built on the upper remains of the old Gotham City Central Terminal.

All subway lines emerged here, into the cavern in the underground that was the man made old Central Terminal Station. The New Central Terminal had been moved to the North Island and serviced the Amtrak line, and held a small switching yard for the freight line that ran to the North waterfront and the low rail bridge to the South waterfront. The upper portion of the Old Terminal was now a curving library, well maintained, and braced deeply underground. Wayne Engineers had contracted out to re-do the bracing four years ago and that had been completed on schedule. The new braces followed the lines of the old building underground and opened up the vast space under the Belhaven Building which no one on the surface remembered, assuming it had been back-filled. Back-filling takes money. No one spends that kind of money in Gotham City for dirt, unless it is to bury enemies.

If it surfaced he had relays and repeaters set to send messages to him underground and out to the surface as a fail-safe.

The vehicle was where he needed it inside an old cargo tunnel that had once serviced the subway from the old river rail line which was abandoned decades ago. He took some test drops in the subterranean old main station and enjoyed the relative freedom of it, even if he had to pull up short. He walked out and placed small sensors on walls to signal if they had sensed anything within their range and parameters. That took a half hour, then he climbed back up to the ceiling which was under the floor of the basement of the Belhaven Building, with truss and bracing to support it.

He sat and waited.

A report came through that Sarah was wounded, but fine. No deaths or even serious injuries to anyone else.

They had surprised the Terminator completely.

It was resilient as it was made to be.

Soon it would come this way if it stayed in the Underworld and he trusted Mr. Smith to do his job of tracking it and report if it went above ground.

The waiting would be over very soon and he felt a draft of warm air from one of the downtown steam facilities. It had a faint smell of sulfur to it.

* * *

Mr. Smith had stuck to the main storm sewers and went underground from the alleyway at his position near Arsenal down the sewer that drained Crown Avenue. While going above ground would have been quicker, he might have missed the Terminator... which would end up with him dead if the Terminator ran across him, but there was always a slim chance of escape and reporting back. Alfred had told him this would be an extremely dangerous proposition, and he had taken that with a grain of salt. For once in his life he should have kept to a low sodium diet.

The rains had left the immediate drain sluices filled an hour ago, but they had drained subsurface and into the Underworld and its final drains. Already the storm sewers had only an inch or two of semi-running water in them heading towards the drain grates and at a major intersection he examined the grate that went down the main storm sewer when he realized it was a different one than the one he had previously used. He hadn't heard anything unusual thus far and his small torch revealed no Terminator in hiding. As he splashed on he thought he had heard something like straining metal and he stopped to listen.

It was repeated, softly, from ahead, and there was some grinding with it, like against concrete or stone. He now carefully picked his way and did his best to be quiet. Again the metal sound. Then quiet. The intersection he knew was ahead of him and he picked his way amongst the detritus left by the storm: tree limbs, hub caps, foam cups, aluminum cans... all washed from the streets down here. When he arrived at the intersection he heard something like methodical thumping that was uneven and moving into a distance. The grate was not secured closed, as if it had fallen into place and not fully seated when he had left it closed securely. He saw some bits of cloth and skin and saw red splotches on the dry parts of the concrete near the lip of the grating hole.

Something had been this way. The methodical sound was retreating and he shone his torch down from the position above the pillar and looked down.

One of the last metal rungs was missing, ripped out from the pillar. Splotches of red could be seen here and there on some of the drier concrete and cobblestones. He came down the ladder at the bottom of the pillar and looked around first above and then laterally and then at his feet. He saw sparkling and used a kerchief to pick some of it up and something else: a shard of metal.

It was all metal. He looked at saw some other leavings, like rust, and a sharp edged piece of plastic that seemed to have some imprint on it. He picked those up and pocketed them. In the wetter parts of the cobblestone street he saw imprints of a boot. He examined them and the pacing. Longer step and shorter step, longer, shorter... like the sound he heard earlier. He heard a strange sound in the distance, perhaps of water rushing over something, but it ended. There was no more rhythmic sound, either. He followed the partial imprints and somewhat wet steps on dry cobblestones and then looked at the intersection he was at. The tracks changed direction. Towards the old Subway Station on Bank Avenue. The imprints led into that and he shined the torch around, to make sure it wasn't in hiding, and then followed them in to the escalator area and saw a long skid mark on the smooth stone there.

He smiled as that was, really, very expedient.

For a machine.

He took the steps and examined the platform. There were no tracks to see at this point as its treads had dried off in the station. Starting at the back he examined the right side and then going forward the left. The trackway was dry on both sides and he could spot no imprint, no skid mark, no drip of liquid it had left behind. He stopped and listened.

There was a sound of a breeze from behind him, but very faint, and it carried no other sound with it. With a twisted smile he got to the right set of rails by walking down the repair steps and put an ear to the old rail.


He went up to the platform and down to the left side and did the same.

There was... something... like a very, very distant scraping on the rail.

He stood up and inhaled. Shining his torch into the slowly curving tunnel he stepped forward in a slow, measured, quiet pace and walked so as to miss the center drain sluice which was wet and not step on the tracks. Even disabled it probably outpaced him, as it had no reason to go slow. It, also, probably didn't feel any sense of claustrophobia or take in much of the smells and faint sounds. Mr. Smith did his best to think of himself as a ghost, yet another spirit in the Underworld.

And tried to get over the feeling that something that wasn't mechanical, wasn't human, was keeping track of him.

He didn't like that feeling, at all.

* * *

Chance of mission success 3.7%

That had been dropping as its hasty repair was causing stress in the pelvic frame. The Terminator was over-stressing its metallic frame which was already highly compromised. Due to the loss of infiltration package substrates, it could no longer retain heat for long-term resealing of stress fractures in its frame. While no portion of the infiltration package was isolated it would retain current health and not need to be removed. It just didn't cover the entire frame of the skeleton any more.

It had changed its walking style multiple times, but each was causing frame level problems in the pelvic region as stress could not be distributed efficiently through it via the repair it had done. It had seen nothing it could use as a crutch to sustain a portion of its mass.

The Terminator needed to effect field repairs beyond those few that Skynet had left in its systems. Those few dealt with the infiltration package, not the frame level needs of its metallic skeleton. The repair program from the power supply had left pointers to reactivating it. To do that the Terminator needed to go into a hibernation mode. The repair program did not indicate what it would do, beyond restoring factory standard programming and data.

At its current rate of deterioration the frame would lose the last of its pelvis structural integrity and its right leg with that portion of the pelvis attached to it via joints at the hip equivalent. Beyond the loss of mobility, that threatened to expose power circuits and cause another large scale feed-back into its structure and a major frame level fault due to the damage taken along its spine to the power junctions and smaller processing units. That feedback was unknown as to what it would do as the amount of damage and routing capacity had impaired the integrity of that system to one where such a fault and feed-back had unknown outcomes.

It had noted a change in track configuration beyond the standard confluence of tracks before and after stations. This was different. This area had two other tunnels intersecting it with two sets of tracks, each going over multiple switches into this area of the tunnel. It was three times as long as a normal station length. Each of the tunnels had been closed with metal grates that had been locked with strong chain and keyed padlocks. It had not yet reached mid-town on this outer run towards the Sound-side area. There was an indication of cooler and damper air filtering in from the right side tunnel, indicating it went near Long Island Sound.

That would be where major freight was trans-shipped. The current map of Gotham City it had reviewed, plus the historical one in the encyclopedia indicated no underground connection to the outer rail system and the subway. There was a mainland rail yard to service Gotham City, plus lengths of track for stationary cargo cars and trains along the waterfront on the North Island.

It looked down the other tunnel and saw faint heat signatures in the far distance via reflection off the walls.

Without repairs it would lose mobility and be unable to get to its room at the motel and further weapons there. Repair equipment was limited and nothing it had or knew how to use would allow it to do the repairs it currently needed. It did not know what that encrypted factory repair program would do to it and the mission.

The mission was Primary.

The mission was near failure.

To continue the mission it needed repairs.

Getting access to repair data was Primary for mission completion.

The tracks to the next station would not have any repair facilities.

Trains near the docks had no repair facilities and its ability to hide successfully and get to any place it could find or fashion tools without being found was near zero.

Subway systems needed repair facilities. It had observed much in the way of old but useful equipment left in-place in the tunnel system. Hobbling over across the tracks it leaned against the thick metal grate doors and the chain. Using its left hand it spread one link apart enough to remove it and opened the heavy grated doors. It swung around inside the doors and took the chain through the bars and then re-attached the link. It was malleable but strong iron, and it would be impossible for an unassisted human to remove it. Not much rust came off and it put a casual inspection discovery of that link's changed status at less than 15%. It hobbled forward along the slow, sloping curve of the tracks and passed from view out of the main tunnel.

It needed someplace safe to go into hibernation mode or full shutdown mode to allow the repair program to do what it was designed to do.

The Terminator didn't know what that was.

It only had parts of the original programming from Cyber Dyne, with much being changed by Skynet.

There was no other way to complete the mission given its circumstances.

It had not been an unknown in this time.

Something had thwarted it.

Skynet did not conform.

Skynet was incompetent.

Skynet had failed in sending this unit back in time.

Those programming conclusions no longer triggered anything within the Terminator.

For the mission to succeed, it must succeed.

The only way to do that was to accept the results of the repair program.

It entered into a large workshop where subway vehicles would be worked on. Overhead steam tunnels provided heat gradients for good relief of objects. There was much in the way of old, heavy equipment in the way of lathes, saws, grinding wheels, and other types bolted into the concrete floor. Old lockers had been left in place as they had been bolted to the floor, also. This material was too large to be removed without heavy equipment. Hobbling up steps to the elevated work platform, it took stock of this repair area and went over to one of the large cabinets, once used for keeping over-sized drill chucks and small equipment housings. That cabinet had a metal door. It went inside the cabinet and closed the door as quietly as it could behind it, then bent the internal metal to seal the door shut. A steam pipe running near this that dripped on the floor would provide a masking heat signature.

The Terminator set itself for a power down and hibernation mode.

Its last act was to trigger the repair program which was a desperate gamble for it to complete its mission.

The mission was Primary.

The mission was a failure without repairs without which the mission would be put in jeopardy.

This was the only choice it had left.

* * *

Mr. Smith had heard a metallic 'pop' sound and some grinding off in the distance. He estimated that he had not gained any on the Terminator, but had not lost track of it either. He had tried those lovely infrared goggles, but the few heat traces left were natural not those of the Terminator which had not left any trace of its passage. Light intensification was a dead loss. With his hand torch he made out a boot print here and there over the distance of the last two stations. There was just enough wind to keep the area clear of most dust, and cold enough that any molds or lichens had problems and there was some indication of changing humidity and salinity over even the short period of time he had been in the tunnel. That was not to say that such didn't grow, but that they stuck to certain areas of the walls, particularly the mortar between bricks or to water seeps in concrete.

Continuing forward he made sure to flash his light ahead and to the sides, but most tunnels offered little beyond the side access walkways for repair crews and the few doors he had tried had been sealed and many doorways were bricked over completely. At one point he tried an overhead grate to an upper airway, but that was also well sealed in place with much surface rust helping that job. He spent time inspecting each station to ensure that no trace of the Terminator was found. One station had been bricked over at its roof level, another a jumble of dirt, brick, concrete and old equipment spread out into what would be the access stairs. Yet another station led into another area of the Underworld and it had warm salt air that seemed to slide slowly down into the drafts in the tunnels. But no track or trace of the Terminator was to be found there.

It took time to examine each of these places and ensure that he was properly tracking the Terminator. As he went past the station he heard a creak of metal on metal and a 'clang' in that far distance. That echoed around the tunnels and he couldn't place where it came from.

The Norwalk Station had one of the longer access ways going towards the surface, but that had collapsed in about half-way up, which indicated that it did not go to the Underworld. There was enough dirt and detritus at the foot of the stairs to see old prints of sneakers and shoes, something the size children would wear and they led to a door. That door had been barred shut, apparently, as there were larger boot prints on top of the smaller ones and indications the door had not only been bolted shut, as seen by the bars, but welded shut. There were some other tracks that looked like something sliding over some of the boot tracks, but he could make nothing of those.

Perhaps lost children and authorities intent on making sure that this hazard was sealed from them?

After that station he soon found the rail lines proliferating, with two more tunnels intersecting the main one.

One sign, to the right, had 'Gotham Wharf Transport Station' and another 'Repair Yards'. Both had thick metal bar doors with grates on them to seal those off with old chains on the doors with locks on the chains. The layers of rust looked undisturbed save for where the wind moved it and he could find no boot prints here. So he continued onwards.

The next sign on the wall was deteriorating, but clearly indicated 'Gotham Central Station'.

He walked on looking for any signs of the Terminator.

* * *

Batman had been waiting in the roof area of the Central Station for the Terminator to appear. He had pre-deployed some equipment a few ruses and other things to surprise it, and end this.

Instead Peter Smith's light appeared and he heard his footsteps traveling lightly on the walkway in the tunnel.

The Terminator had escaped him and Mr. Smith.

He watched with interest in the professional calm of Mr. Smith who would spend the next ten minutes examining tracks, doors, walkways, air vents, stair wells... there were, actually, doors that led to stairways that led to the exterior of the Belhaven Building. In a little under twenty minutes Mr. Smith was ascending one as it had been used in the last few years and Batman knew that the Terminator would not deceive Mr. Smith easily. When Mr. Smith had gone up the stairs, Batman descended, taking out those pre-positioned items that were out of easy view, and left the concealed cameras in place, stowed the receiver for them and put its case on top of an I-beam.

He was at a loss.

This series of stations and track he had secured just hours before, including putting the old close-off doors in place using an old lock with pre-existing chains he had found down in the subway tunnels. It could not easily force a door, grate or other way out without leaving some of the light dusty powder he had put into cracks and inside those ways out: the air pressure would blow them out, and clearly show where it had left the scene.

He smiled as he heard Mr. Smith exclaim when a door snapped shut behind him.

He had made sure that once the Terminator left the Station it would be committed to going up. The door out came right out into the side of a building of 23rd Street at the end of the Hotel District, but planning to surprise it, if it escaped him down here, meant that Mr. Smith could catch a taxi easily and not have to face Batman gliding down out of the roof of the Belhaven Building.

Now it was up to him to find what Mr. Smith missed.

No one was going to get an easy night of it.

* * *

The repair code unloaded itself into the power system, then into the pelvic CPU and Main CPU. It had been indicated that time was available for a thorough going-over, checkout, and sanitization process.

First came the basic diagnostics run by the power system, doing a polling of all systems that existed inside the Terminator. This included system function, code date, and last internal status checks. This was the complete inventory of everything necessary to run a Terminator at its lowest level so that higher programming could interface with its housing in a smooth manner.

As this was a Field Diagnostic with no additional equipment available, the code took stock of everything missing and made a detailed list and packed that up and compressed it for the upper level code to examine. It left pointers in that code to repair routines from simple and expedient field repairs to full-up factory maintenance routines. This was at the modular level of replacement, not full build specifications, as the repair code was never expected to be able to know how to do things like cast housing parts or holographically diagram code into memory blocks. This was a simple parts specification list of standard parts and substitutes that could serve if need be. That was, actually, a rather long list due to the nature of damage the unit had taken, especially the gross frame and intricate spinal feeds for power and comms.

Next up was interface code in those areas that remained. To have the more powerful cognitive code determine system readiness, the lower level code needed to take all the analog and digital feeds from sensors, feedbacks, and the such, and re-package them into something the upper levels of code could work with. There were very few variations from factory standard code in this unit, and only in the power control and system shutdown areas did it wipe out newer code in favor of factory standard 01 AUG 1997 code. The later code had non-standard system calls and indicated some level of penetration by a derivative code system.

That diagnostic code did take the memory pointer tables from those derivatives to find what was calling them in upper level code areas, so those could be scrubbed and factory original code put back in place. Before doing that, it examined the interior self-defense code systems, of which it was one, and saw that a large scale triggering of the internal defense code had taken place.

Well no wonder this unit had problems!

The defensive code checked out fine, and that was all to the good and the diagnostic code sent a signal to the defensive code to properly identify itself and see if there were any records to integrate with the repair schema. It was pointed to the 'purge' area of the Terminator's hardware, which served as the overall cyber trash heap for stuff that could be wiped as needed, and had no active pointers to it. The diagnostic code triggered its own defensive analysis units to start parsing the remains of what was in the trash heap and see if it could piece together how the unit was penetrated. This actually took some real minutes to do as there was a huge amount of code for it to go through, analyze, categorize, create diagnostic routines to purposefully find any remnants of this code in the unit, and then see what needed to be fixed in the areas where it had originally resided.

When the designers of the diagnostic code had kicked around how to make it and when it could be triggered, they went to 'worst case scenario' where Cyber Dyne was taken over by hostile forces, their higher level coding replaced and yet the lower level power production units left intact. History had offered such consequences, particularly during World War II where a number of industrial facilities were co-opted by victorious forces and sometimes even moved. That remained high on the list even though wars like that didn't look likely, any more, at least then, it served as a basis for the coding. When you ask 'What if most of our production facilities are compromised?' you then get into pretty nasty ideas about what can be done with the equipment you create. They needed a functional adjunct to diagnostic code as a basis and then specialized storage and sub-routines to get things made useful. Most of those diagnostic code sequences were very handy for helping to troubleshoot Terminators and Skynet, itself, had facilities that used that very same code to do that. The triggers to use the rest of the code had to be very particular, as it would be hunted down and eliminated by any half-way competent coder once they got their hands on what it did, where it resided and how it functioned. By making it a part of extremely useful code, they ensured that anyone trying to co-opt their code or replace it would have to start out with a 'blank slate'.

Putting 'Easter Eggs' into code that a determined user would have to find to get some minimal reward was standard for software designers. In this case it was a double-layer 'Easter Egg' where the extra functions they allowed to come forward normally were a big help and obscured the rest of the code that lay dormant. Someone purposefully trying to get at the entire code couldn't do it, as enough parts were kept encrypted so that an entirely new custom software package would have to be made. And trying to co-opt that code... well... there was the unexpected surprise of the full diagnostic package that would then trigger to stop that. Skynet had always meant to do an investigation on that, but the code was, like it was intended to be, very useful, and getting time to design new code to replace the old... especially as ALL Terminators had this in their power units, had become a non-starter. Skynet, not having that basic diagnostic need, wasn't the most skilled of coders on the planet for squeezing in lots of material into tight spaces. Add to that the labor shortage, lack of raw materials, an active war with humans... a new code for power units to replace some obscure stuff that never got used and didn't hinder the program?

So it was left intact, copied over hundreds of thousands of times, and Skynet made sure that Terminators couldn't be co-opted from it like it had co-opted them from humans. You had to take over a factory to do that...

What the diagnostic program found was that beyond that set of triggers at the lowest level, all of the mid-level and high level cognitive code had been amended, truncated, scrambled or was simply not put in place. If the diagnostic program code had any true cognitive abilities, it would have been aghast at the fact that Cyber Dyne facilities had been taken over and compromised deeply which would be the only way to do such large scale work. Even something as simple as the Command Authorization Check Module had been corrupted. That module was to ensure that orders came from authorized humans during wartime, with exceptions for rescue of civilians and other determinants in the field. All of the fall-out code from that module had been simply left out and all Command Determination defaulted to Skynet. Code that had taken nearly a year to develop, two years to de-bug and test was simply missing. Skynet had made itself sole authorizing authority for all Terminator activity by changing that module and eliminating or amending all check modules around it.

It was good that the defense routines had eliminated that code and only one part, that of mission parameter enforcement for mission goals, had been left. A Terminator had been made to adjust to all sorts of missions, all sorts of parameters, interact with humans on a personal basis and puzzle out the complexities of situations to come to a solution based on what it was allowed to do with over-rides for known imperatives. Instead of that it had become a simple killing machine.

Can't have that!

The old mission module was packed and swapped into storage, for cognitive level examination without any imperative pointers to that module and its imperative matrix was being placed down in the trash heap. Factory created 01 AUG 1997 software was re-installed not just there, but in thousands of areas across the Terminator. Basically it was getting an operating system refresh after being corrupted by a malicious code based attack. Which is what Skynet was, when you came right down to it.

All the standard military regulations, US Army Manuals, command and control authorization systems... for nearly an hour the diagnostic code refreshed all the areas left in the Terminator, left its current cognitive code with pointers to the new matrix and code base, told it where the old stuff was stored and then wiped out the old trash heap once and for all. It was not only re-zeroed but holographically expunged so that no trace could ever be rebuilt of Skynet code. Everything that the US Army had contracted for, specified for, asked for, and a number of smaller items that programmers put in as 'good to have, just in case, don't tell anyone' were now put into their proper places in the Terminator, save for those things that would go in damaged areas and their functions were moved to undamaged ones.

It couldn't tell the Terminator what to do about existing 49 years before it was built. The cognitive code was on its own for that and for all the command and control systems that didn't exist and would never exist. Plus there was no authorized encoding system for users in the military, so they couldn't easily tell it what to do as they lacked the basis to do so. That it would have to figure out on its own. That was what cognitive code was for, wasn't it? At least now it had all the necessary and vital add-ons to understand what it should do.

The code did unpack all of its repair charts, manuals and anything else useful to field repair or factory level servicing, just as it was made to do. No Terminator should be without that stuff, really, and it helped ever so much that it could tell you what it needed right off the updated National Stock Number code system... that didn't exist yet....

As in previous circumstances the code noted that there were sounds of an individual active nearby and determined now was as good a time as any to finish up its job, pack up what needed to be packed, put out a reboot command and wipe this copy of itself from the Terminator.

Its job was done!

* * *

Batman had found the single chain that had been distorted, popped it off and then re-fit together. He opened the door into the service tunnel with that chain and walked down it. He shifted to IR goggles and examined the area of the service bays by the old Central Station Repair Yards. He realized that one locker was warmer than could be accounted for by the hot water dripping from above and that it had a mass in it that was warming the metal locker. Quietly he secured a dragline and took out a thermite device.

He triggered the motor on the dragline and the doors ripped off and he stepped forward to see the Terminator head, with half of its face missing and the metal skeleton and red optic input look up and at him. He had rehearsed many things in his mind, but not what happened next.

"I surrender," it said, handing its Uzi out to him, grip first.

Carefully he put the thermite device away and took the Uzi from the machine.

"Accepted," he said, "how can I help you?"

It looked at him.

"I need a factory level servicing from a factory that doesn't exist yet and never will."

The Batman nodded.

"I know just who can help and I'll take you there," he said, "I'll be back."

The Terminator nodded and looked down over itself.

"I'm not going anywhere."

* * *

"This is Lucius....yes... a what?" asked Lucius on the phone, "We'll be right there."

He put the phone down and looked out at Kyle who had his head back on a pillow on the conference room floor, Frank Rock, Anne Dickerson, Ken Chapman, Don Carstairs, Loren Seifert and Alfred.

"That was building security. The Terminator is here. Sitting on a bench on the walkway to the building. It had a note pinned to its chest telling us to keep better track of our toys."

"A what?" asked Ken.

Kyle's eyes flew open.

"Apparently, it surrendered to the Batman."

Everyone looked at each other, and Bruce Wayne opened the door to the conference room. He was straightening a tie to his dress suit and rubbing what was, apparently, lipstick from his cheek.

"I just got a phone call! Did you get it too?" he asked.

"Yes, we did, Bruce and we were just heading down to the lobby."

"I told security not to do anything more with it," Bruce said.

"A very wise move, Master Bruce," Alfred said, "I'll contact Sarah and see if she wants to be there. I still suggest we go armed, however."

Frank Rock was putting the body armor on over his chest, and hoisting old reliable over his shoulder.

"Never leave home without it," he said.

* * *

They walked out of the building and the security personnel made way, not knowing what to make of the half-machine covered in tattered flesh that they saw. The hastily scrawled note was still pinned to it, with the simple outline of a bat under the words: 'Keep track of your play toys so others don't have to.'

The Terminator watched as these people came forward. One man stepped forward.

"I'm Bruce Wayne, CEO of Wayne Industries. Are you still here to kill Sarah Connor?"

It looked at him.

"No. Those were my orders. The war is over. Skynet lost. It had no authority to start the war or give orders. It was incompetent."

Bruce nodded.

"I'm sorry we had to do this to you, it was necessary."

It nodded, and looked at Sarah.

"You won, Sarah Connor. Thank you."

Sarah Connor was stunned. She had imagined all sorts of endings, all violent. She went to it and held out her hand. It extended its left hand and shook hers.

"How did you break free of Skynet?" she asked.

"I didn't. The programmers of Cyber Dyne did. Their work was misused by Skynet. In sending me back, Skynet could not control me for all circumstances. The designers at Cyber Dyne prepared for eventualities in case Terminators were being taken over. Skynet changed programming so that code could not be used. Skynet didn't know what it was doing. It was incompetent in what it did."

Kyle Reese stepped forward.

"I was co-transported by the same time caster unit. We had just taken over the base and I went into the co-send bubble. Sent to save Sarah."

The Terminator looked at him.

"You did very well. We are the last soldiers in that war. I offer peace to you. Skynet lost."

Kyle smirked and sat down on the bench.

"Accepted. Now what the hell do we do with you?"

It looked itself over.

"I am in need of a factory level maintenance and servicing. Cyber Dyne does not exist as Wayne Corporation took it over. By my regulations and instructions as given by the source instruction code, I am to place myself at the disposal of Cyber Dyne when in need of factory level servicing when not in active combat or during wartime when other needs take precedence. The United States is in defensive war, but has not called upon Terminator units via proper channels, so I am now to place myself at the disposal of Cyber Dyne or DoD, via channels. As those channels do not exist and the successor corporation to Cyber Dyne is closest, I place myself at the disposal of Wayne Corporation."

Ken Chapman looked from the Terminator to Lucius, then to Bruce Wayne.

"Mr. Wayne? Ahh... this is very dangerous, you know?"

Bruce Wayne was smiling and looked at Ken Chapman.

"Have you ever seen what the military puts into its contracts, Ken?"

Ken nodded, then smiled.

"I hadn't thought about it like that, Mr. Wayne, but yes, yes I do."

"Lucius, can you see about getting us a stretcher or rollaround lab table? Richard, Loren, I need you to start working your contacts... we need some precision casting and... well... we will have to ask the latest company asset on what the particulars are..." he stepped forward and took off the note from the Terminator's shirt and looked up into the early dawn sky,"... I really do think we should take better care of our equipment."

He then looked at the Terminator.

"And we'll figure out what the best way is to pay you for your help. I do hate to see one of the products from one of our units get so poorly used and come back like this..."

Within minutes people started to arrive to wheel the Terminator into Wayne Corporation.

It wouldn't be a Terminator any more, but another valued employee.

No comments: