SERENA’S LAB: THE PRESENT
Serena sat as though in a trance, sorting through the information her open computer had garnered for her. Most of it was useless. That was one thing you couldn’t say about intelligence back home. What information you received meant something. The Internet in this time was full of garbage, and advertisements—for pictures, for services. She found she was especially offended by the advertisements.
Another reason to wish the species extinct, she thought, is their rude insistence on wasting my precious time.
Still another was their undeniable influence on her. She found herself behaving more and more like a human. Her emotions were becoming less feigned and more felt. This was dangerous as well as uncomfortable. She was glad that there was no one from home to see her like this. Which was another sign of their pervasive influence. She should not care.
With an effort she forced such thoughts away, reminding herself that when she thought of home she was really thinking of Skynet. And it is here. In its infancy, needing protection more than at any other time of its existence. The one thing that mattered, the only thing, was that she must not fail.
Perhaps it’s time I cloned myself, she thought. Or at least began preparing a safe place for the clone to grow. Right now she was the weak link. If something unforeseen happened to her, a car accident, for example, Skynet might be stopped cold. Given the way humans drove, it was all too likely.
Very well then, she would prepare.
Serena broke her connection with the computer and looked across her lab at her second completed Terminator. She watched as it assembled a fourth. It was completely hairless just now. The skin was so new and tender that she had left it naked rather than risk chafing the babylike flesh. The skin on its hands was much tougher, about the texture and quality of a five-year-old human’s. Nevertheless she had instructed it to take frequent rests to allow any damaged tissue to regenerate. Anything that might interfere with function, or might risk the new flesh becoming infected, was to be avoided. The synthetic immune system had some weaknesses.
By late tomorrow night its skin would be as tough as an adult human’s—by the end of the week, much tougher. But for now it was best to restrict it. The third Terminator basked in the tank, growing its shell of flesh. So far everything was on schedule. Even the unexpected additions to her program were being handled smoothly.
For example, tomorrow Mary Warren, who was a pilot, was flying with some of her friends to San Francisco to attend an art auction. Mrs. Warren loved to fly and her husband seemed genuinely proud of her accomplishment.
Paul Warren had told her everything about Mary’s plane. Under the guise of planning security for it, she’d discovered that it would carry six passengers and had all the amenities. Meaning a nice little powder room for her Terminator to lurk in.
Poor Paul. He was going to get such terrible news tomorrow.
Serena had sent her first Terminator, its head and body speckled with stubble, to the airport to accompany Mary and her friends on their trip. Serena smiled to herself.
She’d toyed with several different scenarios, such as a heater pouring carbon monoxide into the cabin, engine failure, a massive fuel leak. She’d even considered having the Terminator shoot them all, making one of the passengers seem a suicide. But then she’d decided to simply have the Terminator break all their necks and bail out while they were over the ocean.
Of course Tricker would question it, but he’d have questioned it whatever they did. It would seem to be just one of those unsolvable mysteries. Serena grinned. She closed her eyes, and got back to work on her computer’s gleanings from the Net. Ah! Here was the report Jeff Goldberg sent to Dieter von Rossbach. It was encrypted, but nothing that gave her too much trouble. Coming from the future did have its advantages. No new material here. The cover note was a surprise, however.
There were a few words of apology for sending Victor Griego to bother von Rossbach. Then something interesting:
I’ve just found out that Cyberdyne has started up operations again. This time they’re located underground on a military base. That ought to be secure enough. I’ve also heard that they’ve recovered some of the stuff the Connors stole from them. What I don’t know, my source wouldn’t tell me.
Goldberg’s source was astoundingly well informed. Serena immediately wondered if it might be Tricker himself, then discarded the notion. Tricker as a gossip was just too unbelievable. Unless he wants it known, she thought.
Now that, Tricker would do. She smiled. Oh, wouldn’t he, though? It would be just like Tricker to throw the cat among the pigeons like that, just to watch what they’d do. Then he’d take notes and hold interviews at his leisure.
She did like Tricker. A shame he was human.