Tarissa Dyson sat silent and motionless in the motel room's uncomfortable chair and watched her children sleep. Blythe and Danny lay totally abandoned to it, like puppies collapsed after a long, hard romp, dark lashes still against soft, plump cheeks. They had wanted so desperately to stay awake for their father's return, had fought so valiantly to keep their eyes open.
She felt a twinge of regret for not keeping them awake. But their constant refrain of 'Where's Daddy?' and 'When's he coming back?' had strained her nerves to the snapping point. She'd rather feel guilty for letting them get some much-needed rest than for yelling at them when they were already so frightened and stressed.
She tried to steer her mind away from what had frightened them.
They were in a little motel off the interstate, clean but shabby, showing bare spots in the tired carpet and worn patches on the arms of the sofa, smelling slightly of disinfectant soap.
The Terminator had said that the T-1000 would probably go to their home, extract information from whomever it found there, and then terminate them.
So Sarah Connor had chosen this place from the phone book. They would meet here after the mission, she'd said. Mission—another word that distanced people from what they were doing.
Images crowded into her mind: Miles pressed against his file cabinet, terror on his face as shots destroyed the room, glass shattering and paper turned to confetti swirling around him.
'Take Danny and go! Run! Just run!' he'd shouted.
She'd grabbed their son and dragged him toward the front of the house. Then Miles broke from his office, running toward them. A bullet struck him; she could
still see the arc of blood as he fell. Tarissa swallowed hard. Then her son had slipped from her grasp and thrown himself over his father's prone body.
'Don't you hurt ray daddy!' he shouted.
She looked at her son, awed by the courage in that small package. Tarissa put her hand down on the bed beside him, fearful that touching him might wake him.
She sighed. If what they'd told her was true, then the loss of Miles's dreams was a small price to pay to ensure that their son and daughter would live to have dreams of their own one day.
The endless sound of cars shushing by might have been lulling… had there been any possibility that she could sleep. Tarissa sighed again and squeezed her eyes shut, whispering a brief prayer for Miles's safe return.
Danny started snoring and she looked at him. The corners of her full lips wanted to lift in affectionate amusement, but she lacked the physical strength, even for such a little thing.
She'd never been good at waiting; that was why she was so punctual herself.
Miles was less so, and had often teased her out of her irritation over his tardiness by asserting that opposites attract. He'd slide his arms around her, his beautiful dark eyes smiling… Tarissa shook her head.
But this wasn't just waiting. This was slow torture.
With another sigh she rubbed her face, then got up from the ugly chair to pace the little room. It was taking so long. Too long? Who could say? How long did
'missions' take anyway?
She looked at the TV and then at Danny and Blythe. If she kept the volume down it probably wouldn't bother them, and there might be something… Tarissa sat on the end of the bed and tapped the remote. Sound blared from the TV and she groped frantically for the mute button. Her heart pounding, she turned guiltily to Danny and Blythe. The little guy turned over and uttered a muffled protest, but didn't wake up. Blythe didn't even stir.
When she looked back the screen had cleared and there was Cyberdyne Corporation… on fire. There were shattered police cars everywhere and the strobing lights of dozens of ambulances. It was a disaster, a war zone. She watched bodies being carried out on stretchers and she forgot to breathe.
'Miles,' she whispered, and her heart shriveled with horror.
The phone rang and she dived for it.
'Yes?' she said, amazed at how calm she sounded. Danny and Blythe slept on.
'Tarissa?' It was John Connor's voice. The voice of a smart-ass ten-year-old, mature beyond his years.
'Where's Miles?' she asked. She heard John take a breath, and froze, screaming silently. Miles should be on the phone, not John.
'He's… gone,' she said, sparing the boy.
'He saved you tonight,' John said firmly. 'He saved Danny and Blythe and millions of other people. You
'I know,' she agreed, then choked. With a hard swallow she steadied herself and asked, 'Where's your mother?'
'She's been hurt,' John answered. 'She'd needs a transfusion, but that's'out, for obvious reasons. She'll be all right, I think. Mom's tough.'
Yes, she was, and terrifying—maybe because she was visibly hanging on by a thread. Tarissa would never forget the sight of her standing over Miles, trembling and cursing, her finger tightening on the trigger. But Sarah Connor had lived alone with this slowly approaching horror for years and had still soldiered on. She was tough all right.
'Where's the Terminator?' she asked. With the massive…
'We had to destroy him,' John said rapidly. 'He said so… he said so himself. He climbed into the… he did it, with Mom's help, himself. We couldn't risk someone getting hold of his microprocessor.'
'Besides, the T-1000 damaged him so badly, he couldn't pass for human anymore.' John sounded almost distracted, as though more important things were happening around him and his attention was divided.
'Then you didn't really
'And to you,' he answered.
Tarissa hung up the phone. She couldn't say thank you, even though she knew that Miles's sacrifice had just saved the world. She couldn't bring herself to thank one of the people who'd brought him to it.
Tarissa pushed herself up from the bed and stumbled to the window.