beatrice_otter: Cameron is a Terminator--made for me, not shareable (Cameron Terminator)
[personal profile] beatrice_otter
Title: Danse Macabre
Author: [personal profile] beatrice_otter 
Fandom: Terminator: the Sarah Connor Chronicles
Rating: PG
Character: Kate Brewster
Warnings: none
Spoilers: all of SCC
Word Count: 1607
Written For: [livejournal.com profile] lilhobbit in [livejournal.com profile] scc_reloaded
Betaed by: [livejournal.com profile] jebbypal
Prompt: "What if we could reprogram them?"

When Kate was twelve, she used to go to her father’s office and hang out with the programmers who worked on the floor below him. She wasn’t supposed to be there because everything was classified; but none of them ever told on her, and she didn’t think it really mattered because they didn’t show her anything important. They taught her the cheat codes on the cool computer games, and how to do basic coding, and they showed her the robots they were working on. One of them had taught the prototypes to “dance,” to move in time and rhythm to music of all kinds. He’d justified it by telling his superiors that it was a test of the coordination and movement capabilities.

At age twelve, Kate loved watching the robots.

At twenty-two, after what seems like a lifetime of watching robots and computer programs slaughter people, that thought nauseates her.

“So, where were you from?” the new girl asks. Kate hasn’t bothered to learn her name; chances are she’ll be dead, or worse, soon enough. “You know, before?”

Kate ignores her as she squints at the dog’s paw in the low light, ignoring the low whining sound it makes as it tries unsuccessfully to scrabble away. She needs to make sure all the splinters are out before she stitches and bandages it. Feral dogs that can be captured and used as metal detectors are a dime a dozen, but this bitch is the best rat-hunter the Reese group has. They’ll be going a little hungrier while she heals; Kate wants to make that time as short as possible.

“I was from Palmdale,” the girl says. She’s one of the chatterers. Some people can’t stand to talk about what they lost. Some people can’t stand not to.

“That’s nice,” Kate says. “You’re doing a good job of keeping her still. Can you see any splinters I missed?”

The girl leans awkwardly over the dog she holds to inspect the paw. Her face wrinkles at the smell of blood, but she takes her time examining it. “Looks good to me,” she says at last.

“I’ll stitch it,” Kate says. “Watch so you can do it next time.” She bends to her task, slower than normal, each step exaggerated so Palmdale can see it. She was half-way through vet training when the world ended, and she’s the closest thing their band has to a doctor or medic. So all the kids get rotated through apprenticeships with her, learning all she can teach them about keeping animals and humans alive.

Once they’re done with the bitch, Kate leads the new girl around their section of tunnels. Lots of people don’t like to go see her, like it makes them weak or something to be hurt. Like being as invulnerable as metal is something to aspire to. So she goes out and finds the wounded, the sick, and if they give her more trouble than she can handle—rare, but it happens sometimes—she calls in Derek or Kyle to back her up. Nobody argues much with the two men whose word can cut you off and send you away, alone.

Kate doesn’t even notice the grime anymore as she steps lightly over piles of rubble and around people talking, working, sleeping. Makes her job harder—the very idea of sterile is a joke—but there’s nothing anyone can do when there’s not always enough water to drink. She doesn’t really notice the holes in peoples’ clothes, either, except to wonder what they’ll do when there are no clothes and fabric left to take in abandoned houses and stores.

There’s Jimmy, in his normal spot, stump of one arm cradled against his chest. He’s good at making stews and things that stretch their food as far as it’ll go and then some, and he rarely needs her services since he can’t go out on surface runs, anymore.

Riley’s huddled in a corner, loading ammunition, dirty blond hair framing her face. She spent a couple weeks learning from Kate a while back. Kate’s surprised she’s still around—that one’s looking for death, and it probably won’t be long before she finds it. But in the mean-time, she’s good at reloading.

Doesn’t take long to make the rounds, to show her young partner the moves she goes through every day. Their band isn’t that big, not like the last gang she was with. She left Bedell’s group because although they treated her all right (a doc’s too valuable to lose), the same couldn’t be said of all the women in the group. After Judgment Day, you saw what people were really made of—and it turned out a lot of them weren’t made of anything good. At least, not the ones who survived.

Kate thinks she remembers being horrified by this. It seems a long time ago. Anyway, the Reese band is self-sufficient, not too many jerks, big enough to take care of itself but small enough to stay under Skynet’s radar.

Derek comes to find her that evening. She hears him coming long before he shows up, the rhythmic stomp of his boots on cold concrete floors. They couldn’t find the right size of shoe for him after his last pair wore out; the ones he wears now are slightly too big and he keeps them stuffed with paper to keep them from sliding around. It gives him a little hitch, each step. Kate spends most of her life inside her head with her own thoughts, self-contained, but she’s not stupid and she’s not suicidal. She always knows when someone or something comes near.

“Bedell sent a messenger,” Derek tells her. “He wants to try an assault on one of the camps.”

“And he wants a few extra guns?” Kate says, keeping her eyes on her knitting. They found a house with a big stash of yarn a few weeks ago. She’s making bandage covers. Another of their group is teaching people to knit socks. Slip in and out and around and through and always keep moving steadily. It’s almost like meditating.

“And someone to take the leftovers his group can’t handle,” Derek says.

Kate nods. The camps do things to people. They can’t just be abandoned once they’re out, not if you want to keep them from getting captured again immediately after. “Risky.”

“Yeah, well, so’s breathing,” Derek says. “Kyle likes the idea. Century Work Camp. It’s a good target. It’s far enough away they won’t trace it to us.”

Metal is stupid, that way. It doesn’t make distinctions between groups, doesn’t track specific ones, can’t tell the difference between the ones who fight and the ones just trying to stay alive. Kate supposes it’s because metal is interchangeable, and doesn’t understand that humans aren’t. It’s as good a guess as any, and they’ll never know what goes through metals’ chips. “When?” She doesn’t bother looking up from her knitting.

“Leave the day after tomorrow. Day of travel each way.”

Kate nods. “I’ll be ready.” It won’t take her long to pack what medical supplies she can carry and make sure all her guns are clean and ready to rumble. It’s an old, familiar routine.

So’s marching, one foot in front of the other, pack on her back and hunched low to avoid notice, gun at the ready. Their group doesn’t move as frequently as some, but enough to build up muscle memory. Kate does her job in travel: doesn’t get separated, keeps a sharp eye out, bullies everyone into changing their socks because sores and blisters are a real bitch.

They reach the target without mishap, then settle in for final recon and discussion before attacking at dawn the next morning. Kate hangs back; she’ll be fighting, they all will, but her real job won’t start until after the main battle’s won, so she’ll be sticking to the rear—cover fire, that sort of thing. She sleeps first shift, then gets up for guard duty/camp surveillance.

It’s a miserable night. Cold, quiet, joints and muscles aching, stomach gnawing itself with hunger. So, not that different from a night back at the base. But unlike base, there’s no task she can distract herself with. There are no animals or people to be stitched up, no rounds to make, no bandage covers to knit, no basic camp chores to do, nothing to keep her mind occupied, no sleep.

Nothing to do but watch terminators—both covered in flesh and bare metal—move gracefully around the lighted compound. If you don’t know their every action is focused on the destruction of the human race—or if you can forget it for a few seconds—they are beautiful in their way.

It’s at times like these that Kate can’t ignore the memories of her twelve-year-old self watching these machines being designed, built, played with … loved. Watching them dance. It’s at times like these that she can’t silence the whisper of a thought, what if we could reprogram them.

Kate doesn’t remember the names or faces of the technicians who first showed her metal, showed her it could be beautiful. They are almost certainly dead, killed by their creations in the first attack or hunted down shortly thereafter by the first wave of Terminators. There are survivors who used to do computer programming. But to even start trying to reprogram the terminators you would need detailed knowledge of how they work, how to capture one without destroying it, how to get inside its programming.

Kate probably knows more about Terminators than any other human still alive. It’s not enough.

She watches, and waits for dawn.

(no subject)

Date: 2009-06-26 02:51 pm (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
I'm a great fan of Kate Brewster. I love her voice in this fic. Your spin has definitely whetted my appetite. I hope you write more of Kate in this topsy-turvy SCC world that has suffered the loss of John Connor without even knowing that they have. "What if we could reprogram them." That makes me miss John.

I'd like to say that Kate is bleak but she's not really, she's doing the job that needs to get done the best way she can do it. I enjoyed her contemplation, acknowledging the beauty in the movement of the machines. I don't want to make this too long but really it was a beautiful little fic! Thanks for posting.

(no subject)

Date: 2009-06-27 06:24 am (UTC)
tielan: (love)
From: [personal profile] tielan
Oh, this is beautiful. I haven't watched T:SCC all the way through - still stuck at about 2.06, but there's an ache in this that can't be mended. Really well-done!

(no subject)

Date: 2009-06-27 06:53 am (UTC)
tielan: Wonder Woman (Default)
From: [personal profile] tielan
Must. Find. Someone. To. Watch. With.

(no subject)

Date: 2009-06-29 02:04 am (UTC)
ancarett: (SCC Sarah Connor Gun)
From: [personal profile] ancarett
Oh, you gave us a wonderfully tough and pragmatic Kate, who's worn by the trials she's lived through, but still has that core of hope, deep inside.

Just lovely!

(no subject)

Date: 2009-07-06 01:35 am (UTC)
indiefic: (Default)
From: [personal profile] indiefic
Beautiful story. Nicely done!

(no subject)

Date: 2009-07-09 09:33 am (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
Thank you so much for this fic! It's so hard to find good Kate fics, as people tend to overlook her even when imputting minor characters. Everyone keeps on focusing on the soldiers and not really on what it is like to survive.

I love the way you write her, how she has her own unique voice and how it fits perfectly with the canon (especially Kate in Salvation). Also good use of the prompt - You managed to put together a tasty meal from simple ingredients. ;D

- lilhobbit

(no subject)

Date: 2009-07-13 04:38 pm (UTC)
lithiumdoll: (Default)
From: [personal profile] lithiumdoll
Way cool! I particularly really liked the snippets of the other characters from Kate's point of view :)

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