A HUMAN REACTION by Jayne Leitch
Sarah told him to stay out of her bedroom, but Derek can't: his time in the resistance instilled in him a primal need to know--thoroughly know--the arsenal at hand. He doesn't sleep anymore, really, but he does whatever passes for it these days fractionally better if he knows exactly where the closest weapons are, knows they're primed and loaded, knows he can have one going off in his hand within seconds of opening his eyes.
Before he opens his eyes, ideally. But this situation is far from ideal.
John's at school. Sarah's out buying groceries--ridiculous, frivolous, to think of Sarah Connor strolling down aisles of fresh fruit and viable meat and, hell, Twinkies from before the old joke about nuclear holocaust became insanely ironic (if he even sees a Twinkie before Judgement Day, it'll be too soon)--and Derek's in her room, pulling the trunk out from under her bed, pulling the guns from the trunk and ordering them neatly on the floor. Going through the motions of checking chambers, oiling mechanisms, counting bullets. The rote checklist in his head fills his entire world, and before he consciously registers the soft creak of the floorboard in the hall, he's already aiming at it.
The machine stands in the doorway, framed like a picture. Derek hates that it got that close before he noticed--he used to be trained better than that, he knows he was, what's wrong with him?--and considers pulling the trigger on principle.
The machine cocks its head. "Shooting me would waste ammunition."
He knows it can read body responses down to the tiniest muscle contractions--knows it's not actually reading his mind--but that doesn't make it any less creepy. "It's not like I have to melt junk metal over a campfire to make more."
It blinks. "No. It's not like that." It looks at the oil smudges on his hands, the inventory on the floor. Cataloguing everything, Derek thinks, so it can tattle back to Sarah, probably. Tell her he was into things he shouldn't be. "You don't trust that the weapons are maintained."
Finally, he lowers the gun. Doesn't put it down. "I'm not explaining anything to you."
"You don't have to." Another visual sweep--and Derek will never understand how anyone could see a machine look at something the way it does and not know it isn't human--and then it takes a step inside the room. Derek raises his gun again, and it pauses. "I won't hurt you. That's not my mission."
"Yeah, well." Derek's suddenly all too aware of the emptiness of the house around them. He stands, slowly, keeping the gun trained on the machine. "It's not your mission to dance, either, is it."
He says it like it's blackmail--and it is: he's certain the Connors don't know about their pet robot's extracurricular activities--but he can't stop the small shiver that runs across his spine at the memory of it. The sight of it, there in the afternoon light, the lines and curves and grace of the body as it moved, as it danced, a body that had been built to kill and kill and kill.
It looks at him, and he knows it saw the shiver. He wants to shout, wants to scream, wants to slam the butt of his gun into the machine's pretty little fake-girl face until the metal glints through--but all of a sudden its arms move, arch over its head in some absurdly perfect ballet pose, and Derek's completely thrown.
It holds there for a minute, still looking at him--it hasn't blinked in ages, and he's caught by that, by wishing it would just close its eyes for a second--and then, gracefully, it lowers its arms. And its hands go to the buttons on its blouse.
Derek's hand tightens around his gun. "What are you doing?"
"Unbuttoning my shirt."
"Stop. Stop." But it doesn't; one by one, the buttons slip between the machine's fingers. Pale purple cotton falls open, and Derek sees pale perfect skin, the edge of a collarbone, the curve and weight of breasts. Derek's hand is numb on the grip of his gun; he looks up and the machine is staring back, eyes wide and shameless.
"You have to see," it says, as if it's the most obvious thing in the world, and with a shrug of its shoulders the shirt falls off, crumples softly on the carpet. Half-naked now, it walks toward Derek, implacably closer, until he's forced to lower his gun. And then it just stands there, the thing that looks like a girl, silky hair and smooth skin glowing in the light from the cracks in the blind, like something out of long-forgotten soft-core porn.
Derek can't help himself--hates that he can't help himself as he reaches up with his empty hand and touches her hair, telling himself he needs to know if it feels as real as it looks. The strands run through his fingers, catch lightly on his callouses; then his hand lowers, turns, and he brushes his knuckles across her collarbone (its chassis), leaving a dark smudge of oil on her skin. She stands motionless, and he doesn't know what she's seeing because he refuses to look at her face (eyes that aren't eyes); instead, he's drawn irresistibly to follow the path of his hand as it skims slowly down, brushes the swell of one breast, cups the air around it while the pad of his thumb grazes her nipple once, twice, again.
It stiffens under his touch. "Jesus," he breathes, and pulls his hand away as if burnt. "What sick fuck thought to build that?"
When he looks up, he sees the beautiful face of a woman, meets the serious gaze of a machine, and hears music.
Cameron says, "Humans did."
She leaves him standing in the middle of Sarah Connor's bedroom, shaking. He doesn't even know if the gun's still in his hand.