Also available from Titan Books:
From the Ashes
By Timothy Zahn
The official movie novel
By Alan Dean Foster
By Greg Cox
TRIAL BY FIRE
Terminator: Trial by Fire
For James Middleton,
who brought me into the Resistance and guided
those first tentative steps.
His name was Jik.
That wasn’t the name his mother had given him, back in those quiet, peaceful times before the horror of Judgment Day. But it was the name everyone had always called him, ever since his first week in school. It was what his classmates had called him, and his teachers, his friends, and eventually even his college professors. Everyone called him Jik.
Even the thing that was stalking him through the tangled woods of the eastern Sierra Nevada mountains called him Jik.
The thing that was trying to kill him.
“Jik?” the gruff voice called through the fading light of evening. “Jik? Come on, friend, this is ridiculous. I’m not going to rob you—I promise. All I want is to talk.”
There really wasn’t much thinking left for him to do. There were just the two of them out here in the forest. The thing back there wanted to kill Jik. Jik didn’t want to die. All very simple, all very cut and dried.
Jik swallowed hard around his sore throat as he resettled his grip around the big handgun that was all that stood between him and death. This particular section of mountains hadn’t suffered much from the missiles of Judgment Day, and the trees and shrubs were thick enough to give him plenty of cover.
Unfortunately, plenty of cover for him also meant plenty of cover for his stalker.
Jik hunched his shoulders, wondering for the thousandth time what the hell kind of Terminator that was back there. It wasn’t a T-600—that much he was sure of. The rubber-skinned T-600s barely had faces, let alone voices. It wasn’t a T-700, either, the nightmarish dark-metal skeletons that Skynet used these days as their basic ground troops. This was something new.
Jik peered up through the canopy of matted tree branches above him. The cloud cover was a mottled gray- white, and had gotten visibly darker over the past half-hour as the sun continued its slide behind the mountains toward the distant Pacific Ocean. In other circumstances, darkness would be a friend, giving him a chance to slip away.
But darkness wouldn’t help against a Terminator. Darkness would just be one more enemy.
Which meant Jik had to have this out right now.
He lowered his eyes, focusing once more on the gun pointed toward the sky in front of him. It was a Smith & Wesson Model 29, an eight-inch barrel wrapped around a .44 magnum cartridge. More like a small cannon than a regular gun, really, a copy of the weapon Clint Eastwood had carried in
If it couldn’t, he was in trouble, because he only had three rounds left.
Jik grimaced. From the direction of the voice, it sounded like the Terminator had moved to the base of the small defile that Jik himself had climbed earlier, a deep crease in the earth’s surface that led up to the tree Jik was currently hiding behind. On both sides of the gap were trees and thick stands of bushes, impossible to get through without making a lot of noise. If the Terminator back there was smart—and so far it definitely seemed smarter than the T-600s Jik had tangled with back in Los Angeles—it would probably move up the pass instead of trying to climb the bank.
But not until it was sure Jik was up there.
Taking a deep breath, keeping as quiet as he could, Jik worked his way back up from his crouch into a standing position. Getting to the next large tree should make enough noise to attract the Terminator’s attention, while still leaving Jik able to cover the top of the defile. He stepped away from the tree.
And suddenly a figure burst into view, charging up the defile toward him, its feet scattering dirt and rock. Spinning around, Jik squeezed the trigger.
The blast hammered across his ears, the recoil of the gun jamming his arm back into his shoulder. The Terminator’s charge stopped in mid step with the impact as the big bullet slammed into its chest.
It was as Jik fired his second round that his eyes caught up with his brain, and he saw that his pursuer wasn’t a Terminator at all.
It was just a simple, normal man.
But the horrifying realization had come an eternity too late. The slug slammed into the wide-eyed human, boring through the hole the first round had blown in his chest and pitching him backward down the defile. He slid