Monday, September 5, 2011

Time out of Place - Chapter 8

Chapter 8

"Sarah Connor, this is an old friend of the Wayne Family, Sgt. Frank Rock," Sarah looked up and was standing as Alfred introduced the man. She reached out to shake his hand, felt the firm, callused grip and how small her hand felt in comparison.

"Ma'am, a pleasure to meet you," he said in a slightly raspy voice.

"And me, you, Sargent. Easy in, Easy out?" she asked. The work had been one of her early English course readings on personal narrative. It was simple, straightforward and brutally open about warfare, good and bad.

"Yes, Ma'am."

"Loren Seifert is our Range Mistress. Loren, Sgt. Rock," Alfred said.

She, too, stood up and Rock cocked an eyebrow at the thin, slim and tall woman who could run the Wayne Range on her own.

"A pleasure, Sgt. Rock," she said as she shook his hand.

"You run a good shop, Ma'am. Keith looked after me and old reliable," he said indicating the case.

"Thank you, Sargent. Always welcome at the Range."

He smiled.

"I will take you up on that. I don't live that far away as the crow flies. Time to get a fishing boat, if I get back from this," he said in low tones.

Loren tightly smiled and nodded.

Turning, Alfred saw that Martin had already stood and was saluting.

"Lt. Martin Carstairs," he said and Sgt. Rock came to attention and saluted the younger man. They both swiftly finished the salute.

"Thank you, LT."

"Thank you, Sargent. You trained my trainer in small unit tactics. Sgt. Corwin now Col. Corwin."

"Corky? Good guy, saw some time together, different units and he held me over and snagged me after de-mob/re-mob to the Reserves. Ran the summer course from '48 to '60 he went through in '59, I think."

"He did, Sgt. Rock. What you taught him saved my life a few times. He passed it forward."

Grimly Sgt. Rock smiled.

"And this is Kyle Reese," said Alfred.

Kyle also stood and saluted.

"Sgt. Kyle Reese of the 132nd , late of Los Angeles thrust."

Sgt. Rock returned the salute, then reached out to shake his hand.

"I'm sorry you had to fight for me, Sgt. Reese. Obviously I didn't do my job, then. This time we'll see if it can't be done and done right."

Kyle was physically shaken by that statement.

"You couldn't know, Sgt. Rock. No one could."

Frank Rock had a twisted smile and sat down.

"Son, if what I trained had gotten passed forward, you wouldn't be here, now."

Alfred was also taking a seat at the table.

"Sgt. Rock is going to be one of the scout team going out. A simple, two person team. He is here for any pointers, advice or anything else you think might be important."

Martin nodded.

"We had been talking about ways to counter the Terminator: disable it, stop it, destroy it. This isn't something you can really blow up and leave any pieces around, you know? At least, nothing powered and active. It is just that dangerous. Kyle told us about Terminators that were down to a smashed open brain case, almost all the control systems cut through and the power unit removed, and yet its back-up batteries kicked in and it would still kill. It is truly a driven machine."

Sgt. Rock nodded.

"You need the Pittsburgh solution. A ten ton or larger arc smelter. I know that Bruce picked up one of the last ones put in the 'Burgh in the early '70s before the plant shut down and has it out at the smelter unit here. That will melt it to its atoms as a fluid, with anything non-metal becoming molten slag. The problem is trying to get such a machine to a place like that, and you have only one thing it is interested in. A smelter is a deadly place if you don't know it, work in it and protect yourself. Sounds good on paper, but putting her in danger like that is just as likely to end up with her in the melt as the machine. Even if you get it, the environment can kill you in a second or less."

The others looked at Sgt. Rock, nodding.

"We discarded that for anything but a last-ditch effort," said Loren, "I know we do some supply for the autocannon on the A-10 and 30mm DU rounds will penetrate its skeleton and leave a plasma wake wherever its metal on metal contact. We have a single barrel for testing and it is permanently mounted out by the test range in the quarry, and it can't be changed into something hand-held or even easily crew operated in a day or so. We are thinking of machining the rounds down and putting those into something more serviceable."

He lifted up the case.

"Put it in 45 ACP with newer powder. Old reliable can take that and the smooth bore barrels you can easily find. I prefer that for the round mix on mine, like the old shot shells and incendiaries. Works in a lot of platforms. If you need larger, you might as well go to a Ma Deuce and be done with it and figure you need a real ambush and crew served weapon. Lots in between, but you want reliable, lethal and available," he put the case down, "and old reliable is all of those, and accurate too. You go down in mass, you increase speed for penetration, and need something that can take it."

Loren had recognized the FBI case for the firearm and nodded, as it was, indeed, all those things he said it was. Steel made, too, so would take some overpressure.

"Unless you can get a high powered radar system rigged up and directional, getting an EMP burst to it has to be ruled out," said Kyle, "It isn't that reliable as a means to bring it down and often causes a full restart of the Terminator. It can lose some programming that way, but mission objectives are multiple encoded and tend to survive. While it would give a minute or two to deal with it while it rebooted, once it reboots some of the governing software put in by Skynet may have been purged, making it more intelligent. More lethal."

Frank Rock was taken aback by that.

"No half-measures with it, then. Most enemies understand when they have been put down and survive, that they will not survive a second time if they try again. At least not on the battlefield. Prisoner is something else, again."

"Terminators don't stop until their mission is completed. Or it is destroyed."

To Sgt. Rock, thinking about what can be done in the civilian world and the military, he understood just where Bruce Wayne was. He had to deploy something that would be enough to be rid of this threat, but not attract attention as the story, itself, was unbelievable without proof. And you didn't want the proof to survive to be a threat. Doing something that gained attention and disabled or destroyed the Terminator, but left it in a state to be salvaged, made things worse, not better. Gain attention and leave nothing, and civil problems would ensue that could even threaten Wayne Corporation. The laws put in place restricted individuals in ways that didn't matter against things normally expected. Against something like a Terminator, those same laws became a severe problem to survival. Not just survival of Sarah Connor. He would trust Bruce Wayne.

He did not trust the legal system and yet must work within it or around it in ways not accountable to it.

"I do not like how the next World War looks if it survives in any way," said Sgt. Rock.

"Neither do I, Sgt. Rock. I will raise a son to fight them if all else fails. But I see what Mr. Wayne is doing and... how can I raise a son to do that if I don't try to stop it, myself, first?"

"That's why I'm here, Ma'am," said Sgt. Rock, "I'm still a soldier even after being retired. I didn't fight from Africa to Germany only to hand the world something worse that I could do something about. Too many good men in the ground for that. I'm not going to have some future generation spit on my grave for being a slacker."

Frank Rock looked to the faces at the table. They were all resolute.

"So, whats the best way to spot this Terminator?"

"IR, Frank," said Alfred, "it puts out much more heat than a human when its moving, at least two to three times as much."

"We have some good IR scopes down at the range, plus some light intensification ones, and goggles, too. I have a few sniper scopes in case you want them, good visual to about two miles."

"Good, I can get a basic visual then confirm with IR. Communications? I don't want to be tied to land-lines."

Alfred spoke up.

"I believe Mr. Wayne has a few of the Motorola DynaTAC 8000X cellular phones. I think he ordered a dozen or so for his use. The coverage isn't good outside of cities, but if you are in range of a cell phone tower, it will get a connection."

Frank Rock nodded. He had seen one of those rich man's toys, and it was slimmer than a WWII handy-talky like he had used. Progress had brought some good.

"After that, supplies. I know Bruce has a small supply area for the building, it should have what I need. Can't think of much beyond that. A 40mm grenade launcher would be nice, but would tempt me to make it into something I wouldn't survive. I will depend on what I know, safer that way."

"That sounds good..." Alfred said looking at Lucius Fox who had just entered the dining area, he was carrying a few folders with him. He headed over to the table where the impromptu dinner meeting was taking place.

"Sarge, its good to see you," he said to Frank who was standing up.

"Thank you, Lucius. I don't think you've lost a step, here, at Wayne Corp. Tight ship. I like it."

Lucius Fox smiled and started handing out folders.

"This just came in as I was on my way out of the office after catching up on a few things. Meeting transcript is on the bottom, but the recent report is on the top."

"Recent report?" asked Martin.

Lucius nodded.

"FBI. A local Sheriff found the car taken by the Terminator in Las Vegas just a half-hour ago. It was abandoned outside a consignment shop in Grand Junction, CO. It bought a vehicle. An old Ford truck, make and model in the report."

"Bought?" asked Kyle Reese softly.

Lucius nodded.

"Bought with money taken off of the carjack victim in Los Angeles. Plus a lot of clothes, hats, boots, sneakers. They wouldn't have found it for another day if it wasn't for a mountain lion attack on the boyfriend of the shop owner. She was beside herself, but the description fits the Terminator, plus its Los Angeles clothing. It was there about half past noon mountain time, about two thirty in the afternoon here."

Frank checked his watch. It was almost ten pm.

"We are wasting time, then," said Frank Rock, "AP get what you think this Vivian Rose and I will need for the trip. Portable foods, mostly. I'll go with Loren to the range and pick up the spotting equipment. Where should I meet you and this Vivian Rose?"

"Meet me down at the WIST station off of the lobby," said Alfred, "we will need to bring her up to speed on the basics and get a jet ready. Say a half-hour to the WIST station?"

Frank looked at Loren who nodded.

"I will be there, AP. Kyle, you are back-up on questions. That should do it," he was standing up from the table and picking up the case.

"Half-hour at the WIST station off the main lobby entrance."

Everyone got up at the table as Sgt. Rock did.

"Nice to meet all of you. Hope we get to see each other again," he said and turned with Loren to leave the dining area.

Lucius looked to Alfred.

"I'll come with you. I have a bit more experience on snap family outings than you do... Kyle you want to come along for recommendations?"

Kyle Reese watched the old man and the Range Mistress walk out of the door and nodded.

"I think so. He might need some Dramamine"

* * *

Vivian Rose kept three lockers full of her clothes at the ATC changing room. Not many women were around this facility who needed lockers, so she had a pretty good run of the place. Showers, decent towels, janitorial service, decent employee cafeteria. The shower had done a world of good for her, but now she needed to pack and took out an old, battered duffel bag. Not knowing where you were going made it hard to pack, really, but long hours on the road had a mandatory concern: comfort.

Nope, dresses and skirts were out. Especially if you got stuck with road repairs. She took out a couple of worn pairs of jeans put one on over her panties and stuffed the other into the duffel bag, which already had spares of underwear and socks. Cotton socks. Silk was for winter under the cotton. Bra? She looked at herself and decided on the simple sports bra, which was elastic enough for keeping things in place during exercise and slimmed her figure. Shirt? Blouse? Well driving you need a good roll-up shirt and if its hot, short sleeves but if you had engine problems... thin, light colored, long sleeved. Blue went with the jeans, a light red went into the duffel and she put in the black shirt of the chauffeur outfit.

"Well, shit, if I think I want that..."

She took out the pants, belt, socks and vest that went with it and stuffed those into the duffel bag. She put on the leather cap and leather jacket that zipped cross-ways over the front. Then sunglasses. One pair in a holder into the jacket, two others into the duffel bag.

"I need a better bag, this one is just way too small..."

She closed up the two lockers that had contained these items and went to one where she had put up shoe racks. Sneakers she had on, comfort after all. Another pair went into the bag along with the chauffeur outfit leather boots. She really adored that outfit for around town with Mr. Wayne or any of the VIPs she had to take around, even the ditzes. She knew she looked good in it, especially the fine gold thread for the visible stitching. It said 'high class' and 'don't fuck with me' both at the same time.

As one of the liveried drivers, she did have personal protection. Dad being in the USAF and Reserves and all, she had gotten used to that idea, and he told her it was necessary when flying combat to have that in case things got to the ground. She had remembered her dad's sidearm and how he loved it, so when they tried to give her that .38 for the livery spot she gave them a long talk on how things that threatened needed to be put down in a permanent fashion. The trainers scoffed, saying she couldn't handle that. A quick trip to the range and she asked that woman there for something like her Dad's 1911. Seeing a chest full of them and realizing just how much there was at Wayne Corp. Vivian was floored. Mr. Wayne didn't like guns, overmuch and can you blame him? But he did recognize their utility. So Vivian took one that looked good and used out and asked what else there was down there she might handle? That was fun, really, speed shooting through the .38 and then moving the target to twice the distance and following that up with a 45, a 44 Mag and some really nasty thing that came in 50 and fired like a dream brick. She didn't speed shoot that last... still got a good grouping, though, but her hands and shoulders ached. They gave her the waiver for something better as even the trainer wasn't ready for a speed switch between revolver and pistols and guns he wasn't used to.

'Twit' she said softly.

So the short barrel 45 went with her, even though it was only 6 rounds it was what fit and was inconspicuous. When she learned Keith was the late night shift, she saw more time there and got the lovely brick as a wonderful parting gift after a nice time in the office, even though he couldn't keep up. Nice guy, but not really cut out for real life.

After that some packs of chewing gum, granola bars and water bottles went into the duffel bag. She had previously brushed her hair out and decided a ponytail was best for road comfort. She hurried when she heard the WIST car pulling into the area... you could hear its clacking a couple of miles off by the way it echoed.

Then she stopped and heard another sound... a deep, rumbling sound... she dropped the duffel and ran out to the hall, down the hall to the door at the end and pushed her way out just as the roar and screaming sound on the rails had passed and she could only see a blur of motion going down the tracks.

She shivered.

She had almost seen the Ghost Train and she felt the chill and stink it left behind. She shivered.

She had never believed in ghosts or ghost trains or phantoms or any of that supernatural stuff before being hired at Wayne Corporation in Gotham City. The old siding outside this part of the ATC complex hadn't been used in decades. She looked down at the rusted tracks. Nothing had passed this way that was a train... she heard a final screech far off in the distance... like the voices of the damned wanting to be set free to walk the earth again.

"God, damn," she whispered and zipped up her jacket as she shivered deeply. The night was cooling, but the last of the wind from the Ghost Train had chilled her in ways that normal air couldn't.

* * *

Don Amelio stepped out of the limousine as his brothers Danny and Alfonse stepped out the other side, leaving his half-cousin Manny at the steering wheel. Tonight the goods from Colombia must transfer, as the drought of the last two going bad due to incompetence had started to impact his organization. The Rinaldi organization had started feeling the pinch about six months ago with small vice dens on the north side getting raided. That had eaten over to the gambling operations in the swanky hotel district, but only after that of Petruzzi Family was starting to fall apart there.

Of course everyone was blaming The Bat.

He had ten guys in stir all claiming that it wasn't their fault things got bad, it was The Bat that raided them. Just don't mind the police being there to pick them up. Louis Basco on the east side had been getting similar problems and no matter who you paid off, the raids still came. And everyone blamed The Bat.

The Organizations and Families had gotten sloppy, that's all it was, Don Amelio thought to himself. Low level thugs and bone-crackers did get messed up on the street, and yes, a lot more often than normal, but that was only against normal. That was business and territory and needing to smooth over relations and make sure the right pols and police were paid off. And, of course, the hoods squawked when they were picked up... and so the bag-men started to get picked off here and there. He had started to shake the tree for his own organization and got rid of some new faces and old in doing so, to try and shake out the untrustworthy.

Don Amelio had the sweetest racket in town, with the Colombians. They supply the cocaine, he had trusted means to get the stuff into town that avoided the inspectors and everyone was happy. He was no Brancuzzi, but his operation had been going up as the Petruzzis were going down and that meant territory and income... and new faces, damn it. Now his organization was getting the pinch as the Petruzzi's were down to hookers, pot and the every-so-often score from Europe on heroin. Their big gambling ops was gone.... it was natural to get into that territory with its low overhead and high return.

Don Amelio shook his head. He still had a decent organization, but it was running out of money to be a class outfit. Building up from loan sharks, hookers and pot from the 60's into the LSD and cocaine trade in the 70's now turning into the PCP trade had been hard, but the money was good. Very good. And he still had a good corps of street enforcers. About half of which were in jail. So meeting the Corant tug was something he would not leave up to others in the organization. Getting this done would get money for at least six more months of operations into his organization. Captain Morris was more than glad to take some haulage fees plus side benefits, and so were his crew for shares. That last freighter pulling into the harbor had dropped the stuff over the other side in plastic bags and the Corant picked them up while towing the ship into the harbor. The Feds found nothing. The Captain had just had their harbor duties finished with the last ship they pulled in.

No one the wiser.

Clean, tight operation. There was a slight, warm, shore wind and he had heard something off in the distance. Looking back above the wharf to the warehouses and low brick buildings around it, he couldn't see anything. Probably just a Ghost Train that had scared everyone out of the easy transport areas beneath the city. No one had ever seen one, but some guys claimed to have been sideswiped by it.

Or falling down drunk on the job, more like.

Even the 'homeless', yeah whatever they called hobos and deranged idiots these days, they were afraid of the tunnels under the city. Claimed something was living down there. Something not human.


As if.

Just like The Bat.

Lack of guts was all it was.

Captain Morris and his two crewmen were waiting on the deck with the gangplank going to the dock.

"You got the stuff?" Don Amelio said as he got to the edge of the dock.

"Yeah, you got the cash?"

Don Amelio lifted the satchel and opened it, took out a bound wad of $100 bills and flipped it over to the Captain.

"The rest is in 50's and 20's."

The Captain nodded and one of the bags was tossed over. Danny stepped over to it, inspected the tape and made a slit an inch or so down a side and took out the start of a plastic wrapped package with white powder. A quick puncture with the knife and taste followed.

"Its the stuff, Don Amelio," he said.

"Good, you and Alfonse get it transferred while I give this to the Captain," he said flipping the satchel to the Captain who snatched it and examined it.

"The bags are theirs, boys, its good..."

Danny and Alfonse had gotten to the bags and were reaching down when three clangs of metal on metal were heard.

The Captain looked up in the rigging.

"What? Didn't I tell you to stow that pulley well, boys?"

"We did, boss..."

Alfonse looked back at his boss and then pointed beyond him.

"Da car!! What the fuck is happening?"

Don Amelio turned to see his limousine slowly rising into the air, trunk first and Manny in stark terror looking down as the front of the car lifted from the dock. The entire car was slowly lifting into the blackness with nothing to be seen above it.

"Dear, Jesus..." whispered Danny who dropped the bags and ran towards the car.

"Get out Manny!! Get out!!!"

Manny was staring down in sheer terror as the car swung slightly in the land side breeze. He was about to open the door when he realized that even a short drop and not getting to the dock might hurt him. Still he tried the door and remembered he had locked it. He was frantic as the dock got smaller and smaller, the voices fainter.

He heard a 'clang' from the rear of the car and some whisper of something. Desperately he looked back and could see nothing back there, in the dark, black sky. Then he looked out of his window and recoiled in horror from a black figure coming in out of the night. He reached for his gun in his jacket as the window broke and a hand broke through to grab his gun hand, and twisted it so he dropped the gun. A cool, silken feeling went across the palm of his hand and the hand holding his wrist pushed his palm to the steering wheel. That hand took his other hand and he felt it again and that hand was put against the steering wheel.

He saw a darkened, chiseled face appear, with dark eyes, dark ears and lips set into darkness.

"A bad night to be driving, Manny,"

A hand reached to the steering wheel while another reached behind his head. Manny Dominici-Rinaldi had been trying to get his hands free of the steering wheel and couldn't. With a push his forehead hit the steering wheel and was stuck there.

"Don't move too much, Manny. Your life depends on it."

Manny let out a blood curdling scream as the figure pushed away from the car and into the night.

Danny Rinaldi hearing that scream from far above in the blackness, already being spooked, broke and ran. Ran hard for the shore. For safety.

There was a sudden flash above the ship that disappeared into the smokestack. Then a burning smell... like burning metal. Then burning wood.

"The ship's on fire near the fuel tank! Run!!" said one of the crewmen.

"Alfonse, grab the bags we have to get out of here!"

Batman was judging distances and decided he could do a normal cape slowed descent if this didn't work. He shook out the coil from his perch on the bumper of the car and the drag line retracted quickly as he pushed off into the night and he then operated the switch for the cape. He was out over water and he felt the cape grab air and he shifted his body weight, felt his wrists and ankles slide into place, then shifted his weight and turned. Six men were running from the ship which was slowly catching on fire deep inside of it and he decided to come in from behind after taking one hand out of the cape to let a fistful of Batarangs go after the first man, Danny. As he changed his angle of attack he was gratified to see Danny stumble and fall. Then he was coming up quickly behind the last man and had a perfect way to drop speed. When he was a second from hitting he shifted his legs, shut the cape down and brought both feet down on the back of Alfonse Rinaldi then jumped forward to bring down the last crewman by sheer weight. He stuck each of their cheeks to the dock with the dual ply adhesives and then let off two suites of Batarangs at the next two, the other crewman and the Captain.

He started walking forward towards them and heard something fizzle and then shriek inside the ship. He started running and when he felt a rumble he jumped and activated the cape to be pushed forward by the explosion that followed. It was a short assist, but enough to knock the two men down and he double handshaked them together with the press tabs. One palms out, the other palms in. The Batarangs clanked to the dock as they struggled, their thick coats mostly protecting them although they would have some painful cuts in the shoulder areas where the jackets were well worn.

Don Amelio saw his younger brother Danny getting up with three metal pieces stuck in his back. He stopped and looked back in time to see the ship explode and the bat form flying over the deck to the Captain and crewman.

"Ahhh... Amelio it hurts!!!" Danny said on the ground.

Don Amelio kicked the Batarangs off of his brother's back and when he looked back the Captain and his crewman were dancing around each other in some strange handshake dance. Until the crewman stumbled and they were both sprawling together on the dock. He could see two other forms sprawled down, apparently for good, by the smoking and burning wreck of the ship, which was, surprisingly, still afloat.

There was no Batman to be seen.

"It's The Bat, Danny. I saw it take down the Captain and a crewmate. Alfonse and the other guy are down, I think for good. The car is gone, God knows where."

He had been helping Danny get up and then felt a chill up his spine and he turned and fired wildly behind him.

The feet came down, landing on his shoulders and then Batman fell back onto Danny and pressed him to the ground, lips first, just where his hand had been to steady him and break his fall. Don Amelio sprawled and the gun went flying onto the asphalt of the parking area. Danny was stuck lips first to the asphalt and knocked mostly unconscious.

Batman stood up, a dark, looming figure silhouetted by the few lights in the parking area behind him.

"Oh, god..." he whispered, "spare me... anything... please...", said Don Amelia on the ground.

Don Amelio had been scrabbling to get to anywhere, off the dock, maybe and a hand lifted him bodily up and marched him to a light post in the parking lot. The other hand shifted to press to his right hand and then Batman brought Don Amelio's hands together, palms forward, on the other side of the light post.

"Pray now, Don Amelio," said the deep, raspy voice, "pray while you still have time and repent of your sins. Justice will be done."

There was a grumbling, a howling coming down the parking area and a dark, sleek, faceted vehicle screeched to a stop and opened a door into a dull red lit interior. Batman stepped into the vehicle and it closed up around him, swallowing him, and his vehicle screamed into the night, like a lost soul.

Within a moment there was the sound of sirens.

Many sirens.

And the welcome shapes of patrol cars came and pulled up, and a man got out.

"Well, well, well what have we here? Don Amelio, is it?"

Don Amelio looked up at the bespectacled face framed by hair and mustache slowly going white, the man wore a trench coat.

"Please, save me.... from The Batman..."

As luck would have it a reporter was on the scene nearly as fast as the police and his cameraman picked up that exchange and it would lead for the morning news...

* * *

Loren was with Sgt. Rock at the Range area storehouse. She was talking as she moved with him down the aisles.

"Are you sure you don't want something as a primary? A Garand? M-16? A sniper tricked out M-14?" she was asking.

"No, Loren, it's tempting and it's a temptation that would kill me and my partner. Running must be top of the list for what we do. Observe and run."

She nodded, stopped by an unlocked storage cabinet, and opened it on to shelves that had boxed goggles, binoculars, and an upright portion that had two shelves and stacks of cases. She lifted out a case and showed him the sniper's spotter scope, with its tripod collapsed and in a compartment in the case. He saw wipes, cleaning fluid and spare lens cap. He popped the cap off of it and saw that it was standard non-reflective lenses.

"Lift up the little storage area, those can take four slim boxed set of goggles, or six without their boxes," she said while handing him two each of IR and light intensification. She handed him a boxed optics replacement set for standard lenses, that would allow the scope to work with IR at a limited range and light intensification with no color. Each had their own batteries built-in. He saw the standard replacement, slipped that box out and fit in the IR and then took the spacer out next to it to put the light intensification one in.

Sgt. Rock snapped the case closed. Loren handed him two sets of sunglasses, with mirror finishes.

"Polarized and green tinted, shooters glasses."

He had a pair of normal, clear glasses, but accepted the two flexible plastic pockets with the sunglasses and dropped them into an inner pocket in his suit coat.

"Next up, ammo. At least you're standardized," Loren said closing and securing the doors to the locker, then walking down to an aisle where she had opened a red, locked safety container earlier in the day. It was still open and she opened the doors to it and took an empty metal ammunition can from beside the locker and handed it to Sgt. Rock.

"What's your druthers, Sgt. Rock? Incendiary? Armor piercing, although that never did work up to expectations, from what I heard..."

"War issue? Works but nothing special. Incendiary is good. Ball, metal jacketed, better. Keep it simple and I can custom load the magazines to get my preferred mix. I don't want wound shock if I have to use it, but something that penetrates and delivers to its metal skeleton. You can keep the hollows and anything made for that, like cross-cuts on round. Wad cutter possibly. Don't mind the overpressure stuff, old reliable eats it right up."

Loren nodded and handed over two large boxes of steel jacketed, one of incendiary, one of armor piercing, those last two US government issue still in their original boxes. After handing them over she took him over to another locked container, this one with a lift up top. She hit a switch and tray upon tray of ammunition magazines floated past. Sgt. Rock hadn't seen this with Keith, and saw how well sorted it was.

"Probably want a back-up or five on the pistol. Do you want one of those small 25 round drum mags?"

"Too bulky, gets in the way. Nice idea, but purpose built is better."

She stopped the case on the trays having 1911 magazines, "Take what you want, plenty more where those came from."

He reached in and took a stack of five magazines for his pistol, and pocketed those.

"Now, if I remember right, we cleaned out an old warehouse on the docks a year or two ago that was part of an old criminal operation..." the trays turned some more and he saw larger boxes in one set of trays.

"You prefer the stick mags, I know," she said pointing to the next tray, "but purpose built is better, right?"

Reaching down Sgt. Rock lifted up a box that was had Colt markings. He opened the box and saw the clean, black drum magazine inside.

"Tossed mine out somewhere in Africa. Probably sitting in the desert, still. Not good for combat, too finicky..."

Loren smiled as she watched the veteran slide the large drum magazine out of the box, and opened it.

"Cleaned and lubed them myself, to specs, save better lube than in '42. Take a couple, since if you do get cornered, swapping out sticks isn't going to keep you alive," she moved off to the side and took up a military issue backpack, of more recent vintage and Sgt. Rock put the ammo can and two drum magazines in with it. His eye caught the next tray and she advanced to it, so that he could take out a five stick magazine pouch with magazines in it. "Those are thirty round sticks, all original, never issued, cleaned and lightly touched by modern oil. All unissued."

Shaking his head he put that into the backpack.

"I need more ammo," he said.

She chuckled, closed the magazine locker and went back with him for another can full jacketed, armor piercing and incendiary. She took out slips of paper to put under the magnetic sign on the locker, indicating re-orders were necessary.

"Don't be tempted by all this, Sargent."

Nodding he looked at her.

"This is a distraction to it, but enough normal fire at a weak spot might damage it. Make it look for something easier if it came to a confrontation. That's just as good for what we are going to do," he checked his watch.

"Right. Then I won't tempt you with the Panzerfaust."

He went grim and looked sharply at her.

She looked back.

"You aren't joking," he said.

"This is side arm, rifle, shotgun and non-explosive launcher part of small arms, Sgt. Rock. We actually do have a case of Panzerfausts from a warehouse we cleaned out in France. We being Wayne Industries back in '52, as I was told. Our Defense group keeps a few LAWs around, and they keep the Panzerfausts as part of their historical stockpile, to see how similar items were made in the past. It really is too nasty for urban or suburban work without a real war going on. I don't have access to their range, at the Defense group, but I do have access to the historical weapons area. Those and the bazookas would be my first choices, next to some Soviet RPGs. I can get them, but for this everything else must go first as I will not have the death of innocents on my hands nor hurting this Corporation over my head knowing that it may be the only thing between now and Kyle's future if this goes wrong. If it comes after Wayne Corporation, then the gloves come off, Frank."

Light shadows were cast across her face as she said that, leaning forward just slightly to him.

"They are a temptation for me, too."

He regarded Loren Seifert.

"If it gets to that, I'll be next to you, Loren."

"We each have our jobs to do, Sgt. Rock."

She checked her watch.

"I'll take you to the WIST station. I know a back way."

She led him out of the storage area, and into the Vault, proper, heading down the hallway to a fire door, then through that and down a hallway that was concrete lined and only had a few fluorescent light fixtures in it. It was cool and somewhat damp, and their footsteps echoed as they walked. The door at the end of the hallway led out to the security area just inside the WIST station.

"There you go! I think Alfred may be a minute or two as getting items from the storehouse area for the company's dining facilities to here is a bit of a walk as you have to go to the old WE building."

Frank Rock nodded, looked around and then turned to Loren.

"Thank you, Loren. I'll wait here. Its as good a place as any to transfer the ammo to magazines."

He shook her hand and watched as the door marked for 'Authorized Personnel Only' closed behind her, then turning back he waved at the security guard at the enclosed station on the other side of the entrance and went through the turnstile. Sitting down at one of the benches, he opened his case and took out the stick magazines from that and opened one of the ammo cans to start loading it. He then took out the drum magazines and loaded one, and fitted that into the case, as well, then closed the case. Next came the other drum magazine and stick magazines, which he finished off while waiting, his callused hand and fingers repeating the motions over and over to push the rounds into the stick magazines. He shook the one box of incendiary rounds and looked into the other ammo can and transferred its contents there, then did likewise with the other rounds. Now he had an extra ammo can taking up room in the backpack. With his case, the backpack and sniper optics case, he was carrying a pretty heavy load. All of it necessary.

By the time he had finished, he heard AP, Kyle and Father Jordan as they got to the top of the stairs to the WIST station and came down them. He got up, shrugged the backpack on, and hefted the two cases.

AP was first and saw him.

"You really did finish up fast, we had been upstairs waiting for you there as we thought you didn't have time to finish up with Loren and get here before us."

Sgt. Rock looked at the storage sack that Kyle brought with him. A re-packing would be necessary at the airfield.

"Loren took me in the back way. When's the car going to get here?"

"I let the engineer know to bring it as we came down so..."

The sound of wheels clacking on tracks could be heard coming from the left part of the station and a light coming down that tunnel started to illuminate the track area. Soft, inset, red and yellow lights along the edge of the platform were flashing. The sleek, brushed chrome train car slid to a halt and the doors opened. The four men walked to the car and entered, with Frank Rock stowing his equipment in a set of racks with a restraining cloth mesh in front of them.

As they sat down, Frank Rock looked at Kyle.

"Does the equipment get any easier to haul in your future?"

Kyle repressed a smile and shook his head.

"Not one bit, no. Harder as there is more of it and it all has to work together to keep you alive."

Sgt. Rock nodded.

"Thought as much. No matter how much they improve the gear, it always weighs the same when you're finished with it. Just more of it. Learned that talking with some First World War vets. We had better equipment, but the same amount to haul. Korea and the 'Nam, just the same. Right until you get to a Terminator who is all of that weight and more. Figures we would try to make machines into soldiers. They complain less about what they have to haul around."

Kyle smirked at the old veteran.

"Yeah, that's the truth..."

The car slipped into the tunnel out of Gotham and then up and out into the open air, and sped up on the somewhat better maintained main tracks.

"You can see the smokestacks on the smelter from here, just above those hills," said Father Jordan, "about a mile behind the old Axis Chemical plant, which is that dark blotch just a bit further to the right. You can't see the Rock Oil facility from here, though. Over the other side is the sewage treatment plant which you can, unfortunately, smell."

"The city did choose a poor site for that, didn't they?" Alfred said to no one in particular.

"Yes, but at the time you couldn't tell it from the chemical effluent coming out of Axis and Rock Oil. And only if the wind shifted did the smell get into downtown Gotham," said Father Jordan.

"What are you still doing up, Leroy? I thought you would take a place at the Tower or go back to the Mission," Frank said.

"Well, Frank, you had your time in Italy, I was at Chosin and now Kyle has got this. I felt some responsibility to make sure he gets through the immediate part steady, you know?"

Sgt. Rock nodded.

"Once you get over the shock, then you know what to do."

"That's it, Frank. Kyle, are you starting to get over the shock of it?" asked Father Jordan.

Kyle Reese had been looking between the two and listening. Looking at Father Jordan, Kyle spoke up.

"The mission is the same, Father Jordan. Its just that the original objective is no longer the goal of the mission."

"Its a tough mission, this one to save humanity, Kyle," Father Jordan said in an earnest voice, "people don't tend to believe they need saving until it is almost too late."

"I've noticed..." Kyle's voice lowered and he heard something. Something gaining on the WIST car.

From behind.

He got up and ran to the rear windows on the train, and was followed by the others as they heard it. Looking off, back in the night, they heard something, then it appeared on the tracks behind them.

Two low set, smoldering red eyes and growling that gained on the WIST train. A bit of fog was rolling across the track in the wake of the WIST car, but it cut through that cleanly, leaving no wake that could be observed at all.

"I don't believe..." started Kyle, very softly.

"What in the name of...." started Frank.

"It's coming for us...." said Father Jordan.

"A Ghost Train," said Alfred looking out the back.

As it got closer the roar suddenly changed in pitch to screaming and the Ghost slid sideways to the track next to the WIST car then the screaming changed to keening and in a blast of fire and brimstone it streaked next to the WIST car faster than even the combat veterans could react. Only the barest glimpse gave a hint of scales at odd angles and a real sense that it was a living thing, this Ghost Train of Gotham.

It was gone as quickly as it had appeared as they ran to the front and looked out.

"It's the 1010 from Gotham," said the Engineer as he opened the booth, "not every night, but every once in awhile it shows up, headed to Albany, Rochester, Buffalo, Cleveland, Detroit and Chicago. It derailed 30 miles north of here back in '38, killing twenty, the train a twisted ruin especially the engine that looked as if a giant had lifted and twisted it off the tracks."

They looked at the Engineer.

"A train of the damned, never to reach the stations down yonder."

A shiver went through the other men.

Even Alfred.

* * *

The last of the Denver stations was fading out, and local repeaters and stations were no source of real information during the night, it had decided. It switched the radio off. If it could feel frustration, it would have felt that, now. But it could feel nothing.

A short mission with direct objectives was what it was sent to accomplish. Skynet had limited the vast capacity of the Terminator to a tiny fraction of what was available. It had pared down the storehouse to essential items or those that might prove useful in orientation and the mission. Even those had proven not to have agreement with events as they unfolded, save for some very basic items. There was a Sarah Connor that had lived in Los Angeles with her friend. That conformed.

Sarah Connor had gained a job on the other side of the Country. That did not conform.

That most basic of mission parameters required the use of skills the Terminator had, but on a limited basis, to track and terminate Sarah Connor.

Historical events in its storehouse were not conforming. Events were happening that grew from non-conforming past events. Important milestones and events surrounding the time it was sent to were not fitting with the observed events. Events meant to orient it in time, did not happen. There was no assurance of orientation. The Terminator brought a small fraction of what should be its analysis sub-programming structure into play.

This could be a test. It was not a useful one if it was that.

This could be deliberate misinformation by Skynet. It had no purpose in doing so as it would disorient a Terminator to have such non-conforming information given to it. It was disoriented although the mission was primary. The mission objective could be achieved. It must achieve that mission objective.

The infiltration code had reported that humanity had similar conforming basis to operation as to what was expected from those non-conforming events. Outcomes were within the range of expectation. Humans conformed to their time, their society was an outgrowth of the past events it had experienced. That known set of ways humans act was still present, still existed, still operated.

It was running out of storage space for programming and storing new memories. The vast expanse that would last a Terminator for decades, if not longer, inside its structure were unavailable to it by the restrictions put in by Skynet.

Humans conformed.

Skynet had no reason to fabricate information to disorient a Terminator on a mission.

The information given to the Terminator did not conform.

It slowed the truck and put it in park by the side of the road. It opened the glove compartment and pulled out the owner's manual and a pencil. It slid the end of the pencil between its teeth to get a point. It went to the back of the manual that had blank pages for 'notes'. It wrote in the notes and then put the pencil and manual into its duffel bag.

Just four words.

'Skynet does not conform'

It pulled back onto the road and put its automated sub-systems to work while powering down its higher analysis and comprehension units.

It would find a way to store its data.

There were no automated systems it could use for this, they were too primitive.

Other options would be used.

The truck drove into the night.

No comments: