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A few times in Terminator 2, the T-1000 takes its time, almost to the point of absurdity. For example, when it sees John and his mother at the top of the steel mill platform, it slowly ascends the stairs, allowing John plenty of time to escape. Obviously, the terminator is quite agile and fully capable of running full speed up stairs.

I realize that the out-of-universe reason for this is to build tension and for dramatic effect, but what in-universe reason presents itself?

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Because it would scare the fish away when moving faster? –  leftaroundabout Jul 26 at 9:08
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"asked by T-1000" Guys, don't answer, it's Skynet trying to gain an advantage! –  Stuart P. Bentley Jul 27 at 1:27
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Decided to remove my answer and add it as a comment because I didn't really intend it to be an answer but an observation about a related issue - Not sure about the example you gave but I always noticed that whenever the Terminator's start to run, they always seem to start slow before getting up to speed. It's almost as if it gives them a sense of weight, like getting this heavy object moving from a resting position requires a lot of effort and then once they get up to speed its difficult to slow down with all the momentum. I always put it down to ingenious acting direction. –  xXGrizZ Jul 29 at 4:06
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@xXGrizZ - That certainly seems to be true of the T-800 but the T-1000 seems relatively sprightly. –  Richard Sep 17 at 18:09

2 Answers 2

At that point in the movie, the T-1000 is actually quite heavily damaged. Its cloning ability is going wildly out of control and it seems to be suffering from having been frozen, then blown into bits.

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The script identifies these as "glitches". Presumably running is out of the question.

ANGLE ON ITS HAND as it touches a railing in passing. The railing is covered with O.S.H.A. yellow-and-black safety tape. The hand turns yellow and black, the color fading to normal by about the elbow. It rips the hand from the railing with difficulty. There is a sound like adhesive tape ripping off a surface.

203B The T-1000 looks at its yellow-and-black striped hand. It wills the hand back to normal. We see ripples of "static" or system noise moving subtly over the surface of its body. It's starting to "glitch".

203C TRACKING WITH THE T-1000'S FEET. With each step, the pattern on the tile floor "invades" its lower legs. Fades as the foot is lifted. Returns as it is set down. The foot is trying to meld with the floor. The chameleonic function is out of control. The T-1000 is losing it. It moves forward, searching. It rounds the corner, entering the aisle between the furnaces.

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A little later, he still is able to clone Sarah Connor, though –  coredump Jul 26 at 10:57
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@coredump: but, if I remember correctly, not perfectly. I think there’s a deleted scene where the camera pans down to fake Sarah’s feet and we see them merging with the walkway, just before the T-800 comes back and blows it away. –  Paul D. Waite Jul 26 at 14:10
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@PaulD.Waite I never watched any deleted scenes, so you might be right. –  coredump Jul 26 at 14:46

Just some clips of undamaged Terminators moving slowly to prove Richard's tenebrous yet apparently stellar ( maybe it's the pretty gif? ) answer is incorrect:

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In all of these scenes it would have been better for the individual Terminator if they had moved faster (such as the sixth link. The T-1000 could have easily caught up with John)

Of course, they can move quickly when they want to

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Note how the T-1000 instantly breaks into a run here, dismantling xXGrizZ's argument that Terminators need to accelerate gradually.

But they move slowly in certain scenes because, obviously, it looks cool. It gives the impression that "It doesn't matter how slow they go, or how fast you run, you're still dead when they reach you." It's filmwork and I promise you you won't get an in-universe answer.

My guess at a possibly in-universe answer is possibly their Iridium Nuclear Power Cell. While it allows a T-800 to operate for several years at full power, suddenly pulling the fuel rods out to release more energy could weaken the cell's structure or be 'unstable' and so the Terminator only runs when it absolutely has to.

There is no in-universe information pertaining to the T-1000's power source, but it possibly has many microscopic versions of the T-800's power source that could be subject to the same stresses.

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I'd take exception to the suggestion that my answer was tenebrous, if only I knew what it meant. –  Richard Sep 17 at 18:07
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@Richard: "dark; shadowy or obscure" :-P Maybe he meant "tenuous", "very weak or slight."? –  Sean Duggan Sep 17 at 18:09
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@SeanDuggan - You're not helping my self-esteem here. –  Richard Sep 17 at 18:14
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@Richard - how about tendentious - promoting a cause or controversial point of view? –  Oldcat Sep 18 at 0:07
    
Funnily enough, I meant tenebrous, meaning hard to understand. merriam-webster.com/dictionary/tenebrous –  Starkers Oct 5 at 20:44

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