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11 March 2008 @ 08:06
Temporal Mechanics 1/1 Rated PG  
Title: Temporal Mechanics
Author: LJC
Character/Pairing: John, Cameron
Rating: PG
Summary: Set during "Vick's Chip". John Connor's knowledge of temporal mechanics hinges on linear time and the concept of causality.
Disclaimer: Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles and all related elements, characters and indicia © 2007 Warner Bros. Entertainment. All Rights Reserved. All characters and situations—save those created by the authors for use solely on this website—are copyright Warner Bros. Entertainment.
Author Notes: Please do not archive or distribute without author's permission.

Temporal Mechanics
by LJC

John Connor wasn't sure which was worse; waking up to find his mother watching him sleep, or Cameron.

He had 15 plus years experience with the former, and only 10 weeks with the latter. And it was equally as mortifying when, say, he woke up with a boner. Mom pretend not to see it, which is really the reaction you want your mother to have.

Cameron, on the other hand, assured him nocturnal penile tumescence was a parasympathetic nervous system reation common to males his age, and perfectly natural. Which pretty much took care of the problem right there.

But what was ten times worse was when he woke in the middle of the night from a nightmare that left him crying like some stupid little kid.

The difference was, his mom would crawl into bed with him and stroke his hair, until he fell back asleep again. And then the next morning, there would be pancakes.

Cameron, on the other hand, just stared with wide, unblinking dark eyes. And he'd lie awake beneath the cotton sheet, staring at the ceiling until dawn and be sullen and quiet for the rest of the day.

Eleven minutes after Sarah Connor and Derek Reese left for City Hall, John had reached the part of Vick's chip containing the encoded visual memory of the T-888 infiltrator strangling Barbara Chamberlain.

He watched it through twice, the sound playing through earbuds. He closed the laptop, chewing on his thumbnail, not saying anything.

Cameron sat beside him, knees together, hands in her lap. 18.4 centimetres between them at the closest point. He had previously expressed a desire that she sit at least 20 centimetres away from him, and she did her best to comply, but it was difficult as he tended to shift his weight in his chair, alternately leaning forward or backward in response of the images on the laptop screen.

She could hear the audio recordings due to her audio receptors being more advanced, and therefore did not require him to share the earbuds.

Cameron did not need to hear Barbara's dying gasps. She had known from the moment she had seen the first image of the Barbara speaking to the T-888 is if it were Victor Chamberlain, aged 32, what it would ultimately contain.

However, despite the logical outcome of the scenario, John Connor appeared troubled. If not surprised by the recording, then affected by it. Cameron could see it in the way he held himself as he viewed the recording, and how his eyeblinks increased from the standard average of once every six seconds to three 500 millisecond blinks in a four second period. As if his corneas were irritated, but there was no sign of foreign matter in the ocular cavity, which lead Cameron to the obvious assumption that viewing Barbara Chamberlain's death was affecting him emotionally, despite the fact that he had never met her and now never would, and therefore she meant nothing to him personally.

"She said something about Tahiti. That means Vick'll have covered his tracks this time. No body in the Hollywood hills for us to find. No trace of Barbara Chamberlain at all."

John sighed, rubbing at one eye with a two fingertips—a gesture Cameron recognised as him trying to cover his emotional outburst with signs of fatigue and eye-strain.

"Once she had completed the system, she was of no further use to him," she explained. "His mission was completed."

Rather than clarifying the issue for him, her response seemed to upset John further. Cameron watched his facial muscles contort as he tried to keep his reaction from displaying clearly on his face. He was not successful.

"You are upset," Cameron observed.

"Something my mom said, earlier. Do all these people have to die, for us to win?" John asked her as if she knew the answer. Cameron remained silent, aware that any information she could impart to him at this juncture would be unsuccessful in altering his emotional response.

"Vick wasn't sent here to kill Derek and his men, was he?" John pushed the issue. "He only killed them because they targeted Barbara. He was sent back for her."


"He killed her husband, and took his place—to protect her. To make sure the system got finished."


"Does that mean there was a future where it didn't? Because they sent back a duplicate for her husband on purpose. They knew somehow that Derek's team had targeted her, didn't they?"

Cameron cocked her head as she ran scenarios, and tried to find a suitable answer for .0356 seconds until she realised he did not expect her to know.

"Are we stuck in some crazy kind of... I dunno, temporal Cold War?" John's tone was accusatory, but Cameron observed that he appeared to be expressing anger at the situation, rather than directed at her specifically. "They send a guy back, so we send a guy back. Over and over, and instead of stopping Skynet, or stopping me..."

John leaned back in the chair, scrubbing both hands over his face, as if he was tired. But Cameron knew he had slept for 7.69 hours the night before. Sufficient for an adolescent human male of his approximate size and level of daily physical exertion, if below the suggested norm of 9-10 hours. In the 67 days she has been with the Connors, John slept on average no more than 7.25 hours a night, and it was more common for him to wake between the hours of 2 and 3am, and not fall back to sleep again until after 4am. During that time he often remained in bed, silent but with elevated heartbeat at rest which suggested he suffered from night terrors.

"I'm just scared that we're not winning the war. That everything we do just makes sure it still happens."

"You are referring to Causality and Chronology Protection Conjecture," Cameron stated, the appropriate reference material flagged and consumed in less time than it took to identify verbally. "A paradox."

"It's a bitch, isn't it? The grandfather paradox in reverse. By trying to kill my mom, Skynet created me. So if I exist..."

"If you exist, then Skynet must exist."

"Yeah. And nothing matters." John's eyes slid away from hers, fixing on the scuffs on the cracked linoleum floor. "I don't expect you to understand."


"Humans believe in free will. Want to believe in free will. That the future isn't set. Mom says that all the time. It gives her hope, and I want to believe it."

"But you don't."

John's smile held no amusement as he raised his hands in a gesture Cameron identified as ironic. "I'm still here."

"Your assumptions are faulty."


"Your knowledge of temporal mechanics hinges on linear time and the concept of causality. By that logic, in the future, you will do what you have to do only because you have already done it. Completing a causality loop. You exist; therefore Kyle Reese impregnated your mother in 1984. You exist, therefore Skynet exists, in order for the technology to exist which allowed Kyle Reese to travel to 1984. You exist, therefore Skynet exists."

John nodded. Cameron could tell he was having difficulty swallowing. She could go and get a bottle of water from the kitchen. It was an acceptable action to take, to alleviate his immediate physical discomfort.

"That timeline no longer exists," she said instead.

"How can you say that? I just told you—"

"That timeline no longer exists," she repeated. "You have neglected to take into account the many-worlds quantum interpretation."

"I didn't neglect it—I just don't see how it's possible. Nothing changes anything. Miles Dyson, Andy Goode. Barbara. They all die, and nothing changes."

Cameron performed a calculation, and accepted the most likely outcome predicted by the algorithm in question.

"In the original timeline, Sarah Connor died in 2005."

John stared at her. A muscle in his jaw twitched, and be blinked three times in rapid succession. Cameron continued.

"We moved forward to 2007. That timeline no longer exists. It is a parallel future that we are now wholly separate from. Judgement Day happened there, but it may not happen here. Because this future is not set. Your mother is right to hope. You should, too."

He breathed in and out several times, and she detected his skin was flushed, and his eyes were puffy as if he was having a systemic reaction causing the tear ducts to produce moisture.

"I want to believe you," he said, meeting her gaze.

She cocked her head, studying him. "Why don't you?"

"Because you told me sometimes you lie to me. About important things."

He pushed away from the desk and went to the kitchen.

Cameron did not follow.

When he came back, his eyes were dry. He resumed scanning through the T-888's memory, and Cameron sat once more on the stool, approximately 21 centimeteres from his right knee.

At 3:27 am, Cameron paused in the open doorway of John Connor's bedroom.

His breathing and heartrate at rest indicated that while not fully conscious, he was experiencing distress. As she approached his bed, she could see tracks of tears on his cheeks, and the sheet was twisted around his waist.

Earlier, when she had reactivated, John had been violating the 20 centimetre guideline regarding personal space he had set for her. As her neural network had finished performing its self-check, he had sat close enough for his hip to touch her outstretched arm as he stroked the side of her face. When the self-check had completed and she was able to access her motor functions again, he had removed the hand, reducing his physical proximity by shifting his weight so they no longer touched at any point.

As he frowned in his sleep, Cameron mirrored his gesture which she had coded as comforting rather than initialising physical intimacy as the T-888 infiltrator had done with Barbara. She silently stroked his hair away from his temple as her thumb traced the curve of his damp cheek.

Cameron noted that this was effective.

Slowly, his breathing became even again. Rapid eye movement indicated that while he was dreaming, he was not aware of her presence.

She continued the rhythmic movement for 17.4 minutes, until by all indications John Connor was in stage 4 sleep, and then returned to her room.
Tags: ,
(Deleted comment)
ljc: SCC (trio)taraljc on 11th March 2008 14:01 (UTC)
someday, I shall learn to type.
It started life as commentfic, so I wasn't sure it had all that much structural integrity, due to me not thinking tti through very well when I posted?

But I really loved writing the ending bit--because I love how complex John and Cameron's relationship becomes in "Vick's Chip". And with Derek now as Sarah's partner-in-crime (if not more eventually), I think John and Cameron are bonding more, now that it's not longer just John and Sarah, alone against the world.

I really hope we get a 2nd series, so Cameron can have her "Builtday".

Edited at 2008-03-11 14:03 (UTC)
indiefic on 11th March 2008 14:17 (UTC)

Bravo! That was very well done. John and Cameron both seemed perfectly in character and I love this insight into their moments together. Lovely.
ljc: SCC (connors)taraljc on 11th March 2008 15:32 (UTC)
Thanks so much! I am blown away by "Vick's Chip". Just loved loved loved it, and couldn't resist playing with it.
much hearty grog!: Alonetenillypo on 11th March 2008 14:24 (UTC)
Lovely Cameron voice. Very nice.
ljc: SCC (girlbot)taraljc on 11th March 2008 15:32 (UTC)
Thanks so much! Still fidning me way in this fandom, so I worry about voices...
Invader Ace: camkillerlint138 on 11th March 2008 14:28 (UTC)
I loved this as a comment fic, and I love it even more as an expanded fic, especially that last scene between them. Great job. :D
ljc: SCC (trio)taraljc on 11th March 2008 15:35 (UTC)
Thanks so much! I'm really still testing the waters, but I love playing with John and Cameron's relationship.
(no subject) - lint138 on 11th March 2008 16:03 (UTC) (Expand)
dark_aegis: Icon of Rassilondark_aegis on 11th March 2008 14:55 (UTC)
Oh, I like this a lot. It's so very true to Cameron and to John. I especially like all of the little differences you throw in, the way that a machine mind would likely work. It's brilliant. Thank you so much for sharing :)
ljc: SCC (roomba)taraljc on 11th March 2008 15:37 (UTC)
It's hard to figrue out from the show exactly how Cam's brain works, but I loved the scenes between the two of them in "Vick's Chip" and wanted to build on that. And I think that John's "she's a machine, she has no soul and never will" is in direct contradiction with his tenderness while she reboots, and I really want to play with that mroe in the future...

I also really love how John is really growing into the role of leader. His and Derek's relationship also totally gelled for me in this ep too.
tarkheena lizzeeen: scc [stand in front of you]liminalliz on 11th March 2008 15:01 (UTC)
GORGEOUS. And I loved loved loved loved LOVED the 20 cm thing and the cyclical ending with her comforting him as he sleeps. OH ROBOT GIRLFRIEND.

Really, really, really awesome.
ljc: SCC (girlbot)taraljc on 11th March 2008 15:38 (UTC)
I can totally see John giving her all these rules, and I love how he childishly doesn't want to move and is desperate for stability and one normal thing in his life, and how Cam colludes with him, tho I do think that the second he's actually at risk, Cam's gonna go over his eehad straight to Sarah.
(no subject) - liminalliz on 11th March 2008 16:15 (UTC) (Expand)
grime and livestockcofax7 on 11th March 2008 15:29 (UTC)
Oh, very neat indeed! I love your Cameron.

(I'm trying to remember: did they tell Cameron Kyle was John's father? Because I'm not sure she knows that yet in canon; or I'm not sure she's been told, although she may know anyway. Also, if Derek figured it out, Cameron probably could too.)
ljc: SCC (roomba)taraljc on 11th March 2008 15:31 (UTC)
I think they did, based on the fact that the alias Johnw as using when she found them was Reese, and the "your father is always dead" line in the 2nd episode.
(no subject) - cofax7 on 11th March 2008 17:17 (UTC) (Expand)
(Deleted comment)
(no subject) - taraljc on 23rd March 2008 20:08 (UTC) (Expand)
frogfarm on 11th March 2008 16:40 (UTC)
Twice the awesome. Yay for expanded-from-comment fic!

(Oh hai, I just recognized your name, you wrote one of my favorite Spike stories, "Glorious")
ljc: dangerous (being human)taraljc on 11th March 2008 17:53 (UTC)
*blush* thanks so much for the kind words. Thatw as my only Buffy story, and it's extraordinary to learn folks remember it at all.
(no subject) - frogfarm on 11th March 2008 20:10 (UTC) (Expand)
want. take. have.: john wants to see youghostrunner7 on 11th March 2008 17:56 (UTC)
Oh. That is... so cool. So very cool.
ljc: SCC (connors)taraljc on 16th March 2008 23:26 (UTC)
Thanks so much!
Galloway: cameyeskastellen on 11th March 2008 19:39 (UTC)
I started reading this, and was all, "I've read this before, haven't I?" Then I remembered it was from the comment thread fic. Liked it then, love it now with all its new expand-y goodness. I like how you've made Cameron's voice robotic while still capturing her slowly increasing understanding of humanity.
ljc: SCC (girlbot)taraljc on 16th March 2008 23:28 (UTC)
ack. I knew I ought to have put an author's note about how it staretd lfie as commentfic...

I'm having a lot of fun with Cameron's voice. I think I need to rewatch a few more times and make notes, tho. I really wish there were transcripts up someplace, for quick reference... But I ended up dloading all the eps off iTunes at work, so I can check stuff if I'm there futzing on my lunch...
obsessive-compulsive squirrel: very scary robotacari on 11th March 2008 21:41 (UTC)
I think I read bits of this in the comment fic thread. I really liked the expanded version. It touches on a couple things that make John and Cameron so very faszinating for me. Thanks for sharing.
ljc: SCC (roomba)taraljc on 16th March 2008 23:29 (UTC)
Thank you so much for the kind words! I'm really loving John and Cameron, especially in "Vik's Chip" where we really get a lot of them interacting on their own.
Jonathan Toews does not want a sandwich.svmadelyn on 11th March 2008 22:53 (UTC)
Eeeee, loved this!
ljc: steve (the happy alien) hearts utaraljc on 16th March 2008 23:29 (UTC)
Ellequiet_elle on 11th March 2008 23:58 (UTC)
may i just say you write cameron brilliantly :) and im quite fond of the fic too :)
ljc: SCC (girlbot)taraljc on 16th March 2008 23:30 (UTC)
Thank you! I'm still really new to this fandom, so I need to watch all the eps through again, and really pay attention to Cameron's speach patterns and behaviour. I didn't originally intend to have her as POV character, but I think it worked in the end.
One zarkin frood: TSCC - Sarah Connorscarletumbrella on 12th March 2008 02:35 (UTC)
Wow, I loved this. SUCH a great supplemental piece to the Vick's Chip episode. I love your Cameron voice. Haha ok I'm just gushing now so I'll stop. ^_^
ljc: SCC (girlbot)taraljc on 16th March 2008 23:31 (UTC)
Gushing is always immensely flattering to hear, and I'm so glad you enjoyed it.
Jayne L.: sccchillserrico on 12th March 2008 02:58 (UTC)
Oh, *nice*. I cannot get enough of Cameron and John and the weird ways in which they understand each other--and deal with each other--and you nailed them here. *Very* nice. :)
ljc: SCC (john)taraljc on 16th March 2008 23:32 (UTC)
Thanks so much! I'm really addicted to their relationship, and how messed up it is (and could become).