Excerpt: Zahn’s Terminator Salvation: Trial By Fire

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Blair shook her head sharply. Stop that! she ordered herself. Yes, Marcus had been mostly machine by the time Blair met him, a hybrid of man and Terminator that was far beyond even Skynet’s usual blasphemies. And yes, he’d been created for the express purpose of luring Connor into Skynet Central to die.

But buried somewhere beneath all that machinery had been a man. A man with a living heart, a determined mind, and an unquenchable spirit.

There was no way to know if he’d still had a soul. Blair hoped that he had.

“There!” Barnes’s voice growled into her headphones.

Blair blinked away the bittersweet reverie. Ahead on the horizon she could see the still smoldering remains of the massive Skynet dish array and hidden underground lab that the Resistance had hit over two weeks ago.

And in doing so had walked squarely into a devastating, multilayered trap.

Blair still winced whenever she thought about how close they’d come that day to losing everything. The self-destruct explosion that had taken out the lab and killed the entire assault team—except Connor—had been the first, most obvious trap. The data download that the techs had managed to transmit before they died had been the far more subtle, far more dangerous one. Buried inside that data had been a radio kill code that had promised a way for the Resistance to simultaneously shut down Skynet’s vast armies of Terminators, T-1 tanks, and H-K Hunter-Killers.

But the promise had been a lie. The code had worked perfectly in Connor’s small-scale tests, perfectly enough that Command had given the order for a massive, simultaneous transmission to be followed by a scorched- earth attack on Skynet’s huge San Francisco hub.

But when the multiple signals were sent out, the supposed kill code morphed into a homing signal, allowing Skynet to pinpoint and destroy most of the Resistance cells worldwide.

Of all the leaders only Connor had smelled a rat in time, and had shut down his team’s transmitter before it could join the party. Only Connor’s group and the ones who had heeded his plea for more time were still alive and functioning.

And only Connor’s group was back there in the remains of San Francisco, cleaning up the remnants of Skynet’s once massive forces.

So far, the clean-up had been relatively easy. A duck shoot, even, at least the mopping-up part that Barnes had been engaged in. Nearly all the surviving T-600s and T-700s were hopelessly crippled, and their demolition was giving some good firearms practice to the new recruits who’d joined up from among the civilians Connor’s pilots had rescued before the balloon went up.

But the duck shoot wasn’t going to last much longer. Blair had heard rumors that there was some kind of prophecy wrapped around Connor, that he was destined to lead the Resistance to victory over the Terminators. She didn’t put a lot of stock in such things, and she couldn’t imagine Connor himself taking it very seriously either.

But considering the time and resources Skynet had poured into luring the man into his own private corner of the trap, it was clear that the big computer wasn’t ready to dismiss Connor or this so-called prophecy nearly so quickly.

And that meant Skynet wouldn’t simply write off western North America as a loss and content itself with trying to dominate and wipe out the rest of the world’s population. It would be moving resources here, as many as it could, as quickly as it could.

They’d won a major battle. But the war was far from over.

“Well?”

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