Literatti: Fiction By Deslea

Attachment Theory
Deslea R. Judd
Copyright 2008

DISCLAIMER: Characters not mine. Interpretation mine.
ARCHIVE: Yes, just keep my name and headers.
FANDOM: Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles
SPOILERS/TIMEFRAME: 2x06 The Tower Is Tall But The Fall Is Short.
CATEGORY/KEYWORDS: Catherine and Savannah Weaver.
SUMMARY: Key behaviours of the maternal bond.
FEEDBACK: Love the stuff.

The maternal bond refers to the connection between a biological or social mother and her child. Key behaviours in the development of the maternal bond with infants are touch, response, and mutual gazing. John Bowlby's attachment theory contends that children have an instinctive drive to make emotional attachments in order to secure the care they need. Therefore, the ultimate goal of the maternal bond is the survival of the child. The mother's role is to engage with the infant, meet its survival needs through childhood, and equip it for self-sufficiency at maturity.

You give a computer a series of rules and it will follow them, till those rules are superseded by other rules or that computer simply wears down and quits. Do you know what's extremely rare in the world of computers? Finding one that'll cross against the light.

The thing that used to be Catherine Weaver had a new subroutine.

Fortunately, it was one that could coexist readily with her primary directive.

It had never been necessary to calculate the value of Savannah Weaver's life against inserting herself into the real, late Catherine Weaver's work. This was fortunate for Savannah, who otherwise would not have survived a single night under the same roof as the T-1001.

But the two objectives were compatible. Aligned, even, to some degree. She noticed the way people seemed to trust her more when she had a child and a sad (yet downplayed) backstory. The myth of the saintly mother remained strong in the human consciousness, the feminist revolution be damned.

The ugly little man with the beady eyes and the MBA who appeared to have no use in her corporation whatsoever would have called it a blending of synergies.

So the child was of use - limited use - there was that. But mostly it was just that the child posed no threat. Catherine was programmed to allow non-threats to live. Here in the stealth-world, the world before Skynet, there was an inverse correlation between the death rate of a mission and its chances of success.

The child might not be a threat, but it (she, Catherine corrected, humans didn't like it when you called children it) - she was a problem.

She was nervy. Her pulse rate was off the charts - 160 or more at rest at least 87% of the time. She exhibited frequent pyrexia. She broke into sweats and soiled herself frequently. Catherine scanned the child regularly for signs of illness, of which there were none. She performed the routine functions of providing the child's survival requirements (she was perfectly efficient at it, so it never occurred to her to hire a nanny) and she cleaned the child's messes with no awareness that this was any more offensive a task than cleaning up spilled milk.

Human happiness was not so easily quantified, and rarely relevant enough to warrant calculation. Nonetheless, Catherine's data collection subroutines frequently logged the turned-down corners of the child's mouth, the tears fluttering on eyelashes, and over time, the trend became plain. The child was unhappy.

Catherine, for her part, paid little heed to the child's happiness or otherwise, just as she paid little heed to whether her shoes were tied. These were irrelevant to the child's survival and therefore not a mission priority.

But Catherine gradually became aware that these little things, insignificant to her, seemed vaguely off-kilter to others. And that was a threat. More - it was a sign that her mothering subroutine had logic errors.

She resolved to better comprehend the role of mother.

It took only the most rudimentary study. She watched mothers of many species (on the computer, of course) and human mothers on television and in real life. She comprehended the satirical nature and general irrelevance of the sitcom mother, and the extravagant self-sacrifice stories she filed away as contemporary re-tellings of the mother-child survival dynamic.

It was the animal documentaries that were most telling. The observations of the humans told her much about human expectations. The way a narrator would become infused with warmth over small expressions of affection, for instance. This puzzled Catherine, who had assumed the highest praise would be reserved for the mother's sacrifice of her own life or her own nutritional needs. The praise for signs of affection was disproportionate to their importance in the mother's mission, she thought - but the trend emerged again and again.

This informed her subsequent research. She discovered the attachment theories. The stories of babies in orphanages whose physical needs were met, but who failed to thrive.

Was that what was happening to Savannah? Was she physically well yet failing to thrive?

Catherine, compromised almost entirely of mind, conceptualised failure to thrive as lacking some element in the mind. The body was well, but the mind did not know that the body was well. know it was well...the child needed to receive attachment cues. It (she) needed that message, as well as physical needs themselves, to know that its/her survival needs were met and would continue to be met.

And so Catherine adapted. She learned. And then she rewrote her mothering subroutine entirely.

Once she understood what was required, Catherine was an excellent mother, as she was excellent at almost everything else (although smiling would always elude her). She studied other mothers...created baselines for acceptable and effective mothering behaviour...learned to detect unpopular deviations that should not be emulated. She implemented conventional wisdom perfectly, without the fatigue, conflicts, and self-interest that so often converts conventional wisdom into useless cliche.

She even learned to love, more or less. She programmed herself to prefer Savannah's presence to her absence. She programmed herself to behave lovingly. Behaviouralists and even pastors have been known to contend that love is action far more than feeling - even that loving behaviour breeds loving feeling. Catherine wondered now and then if this meant she had learned to love (and whether that mattered in any way - she didn't think so).

Whether Catherine had learned to love or not, Savannah recovered from her early terrors, grew up well-adjusted and supremely self-sufficient, and believed herself to be loved. And if she ever sensed that there was something essentially wrong with her mother, Catherine's well-honed survival training kept that intuition deep and unexplored.

The paradox that only a child taught by Catherine could survive a childhood under the same roof with her eluded them both.


Computers rarely detect conflicts in their own programming. As any end user knows firsthand, they inevitably stumble into them in situ and crash.

And so it was with Catherine Weaver.

Catherine calculated a 3% chance of a conflict between her primary directive and her mothering subroutine. In such an event, her primary directive would override her mothering subroutine automatically.

She never factored in that motherhood has its own self-sacrificing primary directive.

And she never calculated the impact of equipping Savannah Weaver for survival.

Catherine herself never detected her logic error. All she knew was that one day, Savannah did exactly what she had been taught to do: She pushed her mother into a furnace. And Catherine allowed it, because Savannah was not quite eighteen, and it was her mission to sacrifice herself for her daughter until such time as her daughter was fully grown. Her own, decades-later resurrection and redeployment never entered into her calculations.

Savannah Weaver would go on to push her mother into the flames twenty three times. Each time, she was a little different, or her mother was a little different, and a couple of times James Ellison lived to help her, but it always went pretty much the same.

Each time, when the moment came, both Catherine and Savannah sensed it coming a little earlier. For Catherine, the knowledge came to her as static in imperfectly scrubbed areas of her chip, static that gradually cleared and revealed shadows of iterations gone by. For Savannah, it was more visceral. It came as relentless dread felt as an ache in her bones.

In those moments between knowledge and action, something new was born. Savannah reached out to Catherine. And Catherine submitted to Savannah and gave her whatever she needed. Sometimes it was knowledge, sometimes a touch or her name. It was always some form of love.

The loop repeated over and over, barely changed while Skynet grew and changed on different paths to them both. The cataclysmic, near-deadly moment between them rolled around inexorably, each time tinged with great hurt and great love, in whatever sense Catherine understood those things.

The twenty third iteration was the same iteration that saw the successful assassination of John Connor. In that iteration, Savannah Weaver went on to lead the Resistance. It was then that Skynet became aware of Catherine's little mistake. On the twenty fourth iteration, Catherine was programmed to kill Savannah on sight.

Catherine hid Savannah instead. She never knew it herself. It was an automated subroutine, buried along with the subroutines that made her body appear to breathe and the ones that allowed her to process and dispose of biological by-products. For fourteen years, Catherine hid and mothered Savannah without ever logging a hint of it in her databanks.

It ended as it always ended - in love, in violence, in grief, in submission, and in reiteration. Some unconscious, deadly tired part of Savannah feared that it would always be so.

On the twenty fourth iteration, John Connor led the Resistance once more, and this time, he found the databanks of all the Skynet missions throughout the iterations. He learned of the existence of Savannah Weaver. He sent Cameron back to protect her.

In that iteration, both Savannah and John came to leadership in the same timeline for the first time. And for the first time, Savannah was separated from Catherine before the cycle could reach its end.

For Savannah, it was a bittersweet relief. For Catherine, it was pain. The pain of a thwarted mission that had long since become her deepest, more-primary-than-primary directive.

Catherine blundered through the decades. She built Skynet single-handedly with obsessive yet erratic zeal. She created Judgement Day. It was the most formidable one yet. It was the action of an angry, thwarted toddler hell-bent on destruction, and just as capricious.

To John, though his paths through the iterations had been more diverse than Savannah's and had left less of an impression, Skynet seemed different to those seen in timelines gone by. It was less directed. Less fundamentally intentional in its actions. Less dangerous in some ways, maybe, but more so in others. Catherine had taught it to survive.

Savannah, with the combined wisdom of her good instincts and Skynet's databanks, at long last knew what to do.

She went back. This time, she didn't push her mother into the flames. She asked her mother to stay with her and help her survive. And Catherine submitted.

They dismantled Skynet together.

Catherine had learned to love.


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