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zorb ([personal profile] zorb) wrote2007-04-23 11:19 pm
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Fic - SG-1 - Clinging as Condition (Bhava Rising) - Part 1/2

Title: Clinging as Condition (Bhava Rising), Part One
Rating: R, for teh pr0n
Characters/Ships: Original team, Sam/Daniel, Daniel/Sha're
Spoilers: Through "Tin Man." I know, I make it so tough to follow along.
Disclaimer: There are a lot of references to other works in this fic. I don't want to spoil them in advance, but if you recognize it, it's not mine, and I'm not making any money from it. That goes especially for the Stargate universe and all it encompasses. When in doubt, Wikipedia.
Summary: "With clinging as condition, bhava arises." What happens when you're cut off from everything and almost everyone you know, down to yourself? How do you reconcile who you were and who you are? How do you become?

"See ya."

The gate shuts down.

Dramatically speaking, there should be silence, but Daniel's new ears pick up sounds all around him: the subtle shift and click of his artificial joints as he clenches his hand, the scrape of cloth against synthetic skin as Sam looks around her, and the persistent hum of the power generator that seals their sentence.

Harlan claps his hands and pulls Daniel back from the minutiae. "Well! Perhaps it would be best to get right to work. With five of us..."

Jack turns and walks off.

"Or perhaps you would prefer some time alone first?"

Teal'c takes off in the other direction. Harlan looks between Sam and Daniel anxiously.

"They're, uh, they're fine, Harlan. They - we - just need a little time to adjust." I think.

Sam joins in. "I'm sure they'll be glad to help out once they've had a chance to recharge." 

Daniel winces at her choice of words, but Harlan perks up. "Ah! Rest! Yes, I understand. You should return to your quarters as well, so we can all begin working together."

It seems as good a plan as any. Daniel follows Sam. 

Nobody comments that the stargate is still up.


When they first met their originals, Daniel tried to train himself to think of his black-clad companions as Robot-SG-1 - Robot Jack, Robot Sam, Robot Teal'c - but it didn't stick, and somehow, having two people with the same designation wasn't that confusing after all. Sam kept saying that they were really two separate people now, each, but Daniel found it simpler to think of them as one person in two bodies. How many times had he idly wished he could clone himself to speed up his research?

But his organic other is back on Earth now, or god knows where else in the universe, and even though Daniel is technically the cast-off copy, he can't help but feel like he's the one with a phantom limb. 

It doesn't take a computerized mind to figure out why. While he's trapped here fixing valves and straightening pipes, the other him is out looking for Sha're. He'll be the one to find her, if anyone does, and he'll be the one to -

Daniel goes to find a larger mallet.


The thing about being an artificial construct is that it's very much like being human, except when it isn't. Sam's hounding Harlan for details on their construction and functioning. It has to do with neural nets and bio-something fluids, but most of it goes over his head for lack of caring rather than understanding. Daniel focuses more on the experiential changes. He doesn't notice the differences unless he's looking for them or they jump out at him, like when he goes to push up glasses that aren't there and he remembers why they're not, or when he lifts something on his own that would've taken a second person, or Tea'lc alone, before. 

The contrast between organic and mechanical exhaustion is striking; where Daniel used to be able to push on through tiredness by strength of will and caffeine alone, his extended artificial endurance comes at the cost of irrefutable shut-down when his energy is expended. Harlan tells them that closing their eyes and lying down isn't necessary for restoration, but they hold onto their humanity in that if nothing else, while Teal'c kel'no'reems as best he can.

What throws Daniel off the most is not eating. There's not a human culture that doesn't center around the communal production and consumption of nourishment, he explains to Sam as they're working on the air filtration systems (not that they need to breathe, but their systems can get clogged with particle build-up). It's a social as much as a physical need, the regular times of day when the whole community gathers together in reaffirmation.

Sam interrupts him. "When was the last time you saw the colonel?"

Which is exactly the point - there's nothing bringing them to the same place at regular times. Sam, Daniel, and Teal'c have been keeping to a similar recharging cycle, and they've assumed Jack was simply offset a few hours.

Daniel isn't usually consciously aware of his computerized brain, except at times like this when he can immediately respond, "Forty-six hours, twenty-eight minutes ago." It was stored in bits but the conversion is natural. So to speak.

They find Harlan, who reassures them that Jack is fine, all is well, and here's the screen that tells them so. All five robots have their locations and power levels monitored; Jack is a few levels up, operating at 85% efficiency.

Daniel quashes the impulse to go after him. Jack needs to work through this one on his own.


Somehow, they manage to convince Harlan that work and recharge aren't the only possible states of being, and with the five of them having most of the facility's potential disasters under control, they can have downtime that doesn't have a technical purpose. It turns out that eleven thousand years ago, Harlan was as well-acquainted with the concept of having fun as any human, but he needs some readjustment.

Of course, for the scientists, fun is also an exploration. Arm-wrestling, aside from delighting and terrifying Harlan to no end as he fears for their structural integrity, tests the relationship between physical shape and tensile strength, as well as their patience - a match between Sam and Daniel can stalemate for hours, and Teal'c is not so ready a victor as before. He takes it well. Tic-tac-toe is quickly abandoned as it always ends in a tie, but they rediscover hopscotch as a measure for hand-eye coordination and pinpoint accuracy, modifying the court to become ever-larger and more intricate, with shrinking squares.

Then there's The Game.

"There are a number of theories on Earth about long-term memory," Sam lectures. "They revolve around the question of how much is stored and when. It's a sliding scale. At one endpoint, scientists suggest that we store every sensory impression we encounter, whether or not we're aware of doing so or can easily retrieve the information. At the other, they maintain that we filter out most of what we don't consciously perceive and it's lost prior to storage."

"You remember everything now!" exclaims Harlan.

"Yes," says Daniel, "but we're trying to figure out how much our organic brains remembered. Assuming they were copied perfectly, we should be able to pull out anything we ever stored." He looks at Sam. "What's up today?"

"The Godfather."

The Game involves Sam, Daniel, and sometimes Teal'c attempting to reconstruct, verbatim, entire works of fiction, usually movies. They're trying to figure out the limits of their collective knowledge, but since Harlan is completely unfamiliar with the stories in the first place, they also serve as entertainment.

Daniel doesn't tell them about the role storytelling plays in a culture's development. Sam's eyes sparkle as Daniel makes her an offer she can't refuse, and he thinks they get it anyway.


"Why is he avoiding us?" Sam asks him. They're investigating the upper levels of the complex today, as far as they dare. They rest often to conserve energy, though neither yet feels tired.

Daniel leans against a railing anyway. "You know Jack."

"Not like you do." She's not letting him get away from this one. "It's been weeks, and he still walks around like a..."

He raises an eyebrow. "Robot?"

"Our old conception of one, anyway," she acknowledges. "I thought the colonel would adapt, but you saw him when Teal'c and Harlan were playing thumb war."

Daniel nods. Jack had walked into what had become their rec room in the midst of an intense, and intensely funny, game. He hadn't even cracked a smile before walking back out.

"Jack is..." He sighs, starts again. "You know that for all he complains, Jack really does enjoy new experiences. But he doesn't cope well with loss."

"So?" Sam interjects. "Not to belittle what we all went through, but he's not alone in losing something this time. We're dealing with it by sticking together, as a team."

Daniel shakes his head. "His loss means something different. Teal'c took awhile, but I think he's come to accept that his fight is continuing without his presence. You and I can repress it by distracting ourselves with science and exploration." Sam flinches; he wonders what, besides the obvious, is her most painful loss. "But Jack's whole identity rests on his sense of uniqueness in the universe. He can't look on what happened as a discovery, only a destruction."

She's silent, considering. Daniel can hear a lot now, see and smell details he couldn't imagine before, but he can still only guess as to her thought processes. "Let's keep going," she finally says.

They go only as far as they promised Harlan they would and then turn back. Two floors above the base level, Sam pauses, and then says, hesitating, "You don't think the colonel would...you know...do something...?" She almost radiates discomfort with the half-asked question.

Good thing he's been thinking the same thing. "Like kill himself? No, I don't think so." It wouldn't be against Jack's M.O - Daniel knows from experience - but: "If he were going to, I think he would've already done it."

Sam nods, and they go down the ladder.

When they get back to the base level, both need to recharge and immediately proceed to their slabs - for lack of a better word - in their quarters. In the darkness, Sam asks, "Daniel, how are you doing? I mean really doing."

Waiting to answer her won't make any difference to the endless patience of a digital brain. "Remember what I said about repressing?"

"Of course." Of course.

"I try not to think about it. Sometimes I do. But I can't hate him for it, you know? I just..."


She doesn't speak again, but it's four thousand, two hundred and sixty seconds until he can fully shut down.


There are good days and bad days. Today is one of the latter. 

A weak pipe on an upper level bursts, and the team converges with patches and welding tools and hammers. With Harlan yelling instructions from below, they reroute what they can and scramble to contain the rest. Teal'c takes a blast of steam to the shoulder and Jack and Daniel have to alternate pounding the patch into place so Sam can seal it tight.

Daniel automatically moves to wipe sweat from his brow when they succeed, but there's nothing to wipe. There is, however, fluid leaking from Teal'c's wound, which is deep enough that they can see the metal musculoskeletal system underneath. Jack is quickest to take off his shirt to stem the bleeding-analogue, and Harlan is there as fast as his short legs can carry him to help rush Teal'c off to the repair room.

Daniel watches them go and wonders if they should have a robot first aid class. 

There's a loud bang! behind him. He turns in time to see Sam follow up her kick to the wall with a pounding fist.  "Hey!"

She starts as if surprised to see him still there. "Sorry, I didn't mean to.... It's just this place!"

He waits.

"How could a society so advanced as to produce artificial life be such terrible builders? There's no redundancy, no internal communications, and I have never in my life seen a less efficient power distribution system." She turns and slams her back against the wall, sliding to the floor. "Ow," she adds, grabbing her foot gingerly.

Daniel kneels in front of her. "You gonna be okay?"

"Yeah. They got that sensation right, at least."

"Let's check, just in case." He holds out his hands; she hesitates only a moment before relinquishing her foot to him. He keeps talking while he unlaces her boot. "From what I've seen in the records, the Altari were pretty single-minded. Their artificial intelligence research was by far the most advanced of their studies when they realized what was happening to their planet."

Sam winces as he slides the boot off and shakes her head. "Not AI as we know it, though. A lot more of the facility's systems would be maintained on their own."

"Well, in any case, they threw all of their resources into perfecting the transfer process. This place was sort of a secondary concern." Her toe's a little red, but nothing of concern. He rubs it gently. "Stood up pretty well for eleven thousand years."

"True," she acknowledges. "I still want to talk to Harlan about a few things. I've been looking over the schematics, and I think we can make some more solid improvements without jeopardizing the current system."

"Make it 'better'?" he suggests.

She smiles back at him. "Exactly. Can I have my foot back now?"

It's still on his lap. "Oh, uh, it's all yours," he says, handing back her sock and boot. She lets him give her a hand up, so he figures she's not angry.


Sha're almost never got intensely emotional, especially not with anger, but there was one time, a month after their marriage, that she was absolutely livid with him. She didn't show it in public, of course, but in the privacy of their own tent, she turned on a cold rage that left him understanding for the first time all those sitcoms with the befuddled husbands and their justifiably angry wives. 

He picked up three new swear words before he got an inkling of why she was so pissed off.

"Something was wrong with the story?" he ventured from the other side of the room. As often happened, Daniel was designated storyteller that evening, due to his wealth of foreign mythology.

Sha're laughed harshly. "The wisest are the last to follow." She slammed the scrubbed drinking glasses back onto their shelf.

"Apparently," he muttered in English, before switching back to Abydonian. "Sha're, I'm sorry, but I don't understand what I did. I followed the customs. It was just the story of the golem, nothing inappropriate-" Her shudder at the word "golem" - he used the Hebrew word, not knowing a local translation - stopped him short. "It was inappropriate?"

She finally turned to face him, and her anger seemed somewhat abated. "Oh, Daniel," she whispered, "it could not have been more so. To be a giver of life to something not of life - to speak of the idea is more forbidden even than writing is. Was."

"Taboo. Damn." He groaned and pinched the bridge of his nose. There was still so much about this culture in its evolution from ancient times that he didn't know. He wondered if she'd ever mentioned to anyone her own resurrection at the hands of technology and couldn't recall a single instance. "Sha're, I am so sorry. Why didn't anyone stop me?"

Calmed at last, she crossed the room and took his hands. "My Daniel, they believe you are more powerful than taboo. I think maybe, after tonight, they believe you can create life from the sand."


After that, Jack at least makes the effort to sync his schedule to theirs. Daniel sees him more often when they're out working, and if not yet a participant in The Game, he sometimes looks over Daniel's shoulder as he's digging through Altar's historical records, or glances at Sam's design schematics when she's out of the room.

Of course, the stargate is still standing.

He's not thinking about that when Sam drags him off to scavenge for parts to build radios, however. She gives a rapid-fire explanation as they march down the corridors to Section Six, on Harlan's assurance. "They'll be better than the radios at the SGC, though. I'm thinking more of a direct connection, using voice recognition software to allow for private channels on demand. We could probably just hard-wire it into our heads, actually," she muses.

"Ah, that might be a little too far down the cyborg scale," he points out.

She stops and looks at him.

He sighs. "I know. We're way past that."

"Long past it. But I guess you have a point. As long as we don't see ourselves as machines anymore than we have to..." She continues to the end of the hall, where there is indeed a storage locker.

"I wonder if denial is as unhealthy for a synthetic psyche as it is for an organic one?"

They lift a few boxes down to the tabletop and start digging for parts. It's a hundred and seventy-five seconds before she pauses with a part in hand to say quietly, "Can I tell you something?"

"Of course."

"Don't tell Harlan, but there are a few organic body functions I really am better off without." She meets his eyes briefly, with an embarrassed smile that turns to amused as he coughs. 

"And yet, we can still blush," he mutters in a lame attempt at humor.

"Looks just like the real thing," she assures him. 


She goes back to her box, setting a few small circuit boards to the side. "Seriously, though, have you looked at the copy template schematics?"

"Not really," he admits. 

"If it's not too weird, you should take a look. For a people focused on the preservation of their intelligence, they sure focused a lot on copying appearances. I mean, everything is exactly the same."

He smiles, willing his circuitry not to betray him again. "I've noticed." Yeah, he checked himself out. They might not need to eat or sweat, but they still get grimy and need to clean themselves. It's not embarrassing because he's pretty damn sure they all did a little self-exploration that first time. "That part was probably much easier than the memory transfer."

"I guess the only question left is, aside from metabolism, are we fully functional?" Sam looks at their assembled pile of pieces. "I think that's enough to get us started." 

Daniel's electronic brain is still processing her words as he follows her back.


They're in the rec room. Harlan, having warmed up to Teal'c after his first disastrous incarnation, has become fascinated by Jaffa culture and has finally gotten Teal'c to agree to teach him to kel'no'reem.

They would be making more progress if Harlan could stop asking questions for a minute. 

Daniel admires Teal'c's patience from the other end of the room, where he and Sam are each absorbed in their own work, or as much as can be with the floor show going on.

"What do you miss?" Daniel asks quietly.

He knows she's heard him; her hands still and her eyes lose focus. Finally: "Stars."


To no one's surprise, Sam soon has a prototype radio system ready to test, so Daniel joins her for a walk around the complex to test its range. Sam wants to put in relay units, eventually, but for now, they're each walking in opposite, expanding circles and keeping up a running conversation.

"How are you on fairy tales?"

Daniel checks his unit, but the green light she told him to watch is holding steady. "Say again?"

"How are you on fairy tales. Did you catch that?" she repeats.

"Um, yeah, loud and clear. Just confused."

"For The Game," she explains patiently. "Going down ladder 7C."

Oh. "Maybe." He starts up his own ladder. "We could do a few different versions, I guess. Or just recite the Disney ones."

"Oh, but those ones are missing all of the good parts!"

He grins at her vehemence. "Original versions, it is, then. I think I can do that. What was your favorite one?"

"Hansel and Gretel. I liked the idea of a house made of sweets. I don't think Teal'c and Harlan would enjoy that one much, though."

Daniel chuckles. "Yeah, we traumatized them enough with E.T." No matter how much Sam and Daniel had reassured them the story was entirely fictional, their companions couldn't get over the movie's anti-alien sentiments.

"Ugh," Sam comments, "I think I found the local dump."

"All clear up here," Daniel replies sweetly as he turns into another empty corridor.

"Hah, hah. Anyway, what's your favorite fairy tale? Something Egyptian?"

"Actually, I always liked Pinocchio."

The radios must be working better than planned; he can hear her freeze at the same time he does.

"On second thought, maybe we'll skip that one."


Once they've mapped the complex as far as possible with the prototypes, Sam annotating a copy of the layout with points of interference and signal degradation, Sam gets to work on fine-tuned, fully functional versions. Harlan's the only anxious one, fearing that their increased opportunity to travel farther by themselves will get them hurt (or worse, leave him alone), but the rest of them are looking forward to getting space without safety-imposed time limits. 

Of course, leaving forever isn't possible, but they can pretend.

Not needing to "waste" time on life-sustaining functions has made Sam's work go faster, but Daniel's still surprised when he calculates that they've been on Altar for three months. He hasn't had that kind of stability since Abydos. Three months at the SGC meant at least a dozen different planets, usually more. He wonders how many the organic SG-1 has visited since they left. He wonders what civilizations' remnants they've discovered, and what new mysteries of the universe have been explained.

He wonders if he found her yet.

Denial's a bitch when it comes crashing down on you. Daniel volunteers for every solo repair and testing job he can and works until he has no choice but to recharge. He ignores their worried looks when he heads to his slab; picturing what he'd look like with bolts sticking out of his neck distracts him enough to shut them out.


Not long after they arrived here, Sam rigged up a clock for their quarters set to Earth's rotation, Colorado Springs time. She wanted a reference, she said, to keep track of time passing back home, and it does provide an anchor for them in a sunless world. At first, Daniel checked it every time he entered and left the room and drew comfort from the notion that the world continued on - that regardless of when their mechanical forms needed recharging, the twenty-four hour day, seven-day week, and thirty-day month (give or take) persisted somewhere.

Which is all very nice on a superficial level, but if he thinks about it any further (and he always thinks about it further), he can't help but calculate benchmark dates, birthdays and promises, and the resentment starts to grow.

He hates the stupid clock.

He trains himself not to look at it. It's not as if they need it; they're walking digital counters, for god's sake, and an irregular reckoning system on a far-off planet has no relevance for them here. One, two, three, four, and on to infinity. That's all he wants when he's working, a count to mark the length of each task and resting session. Simple incrementation and alternating states. He thinks it helps him focus; when Sam captures him in the hallway and remarks that she hasn't seen him in a week, it takes him a moment to parse up the blended time-steps and confirm her statement.

Time is arbitrary, anyway.


One day, the power goes out.

Sam’s been tinkering with something in the distribution system – “Make all this empty space useful,” she says – and she’s got Daniel and Teal’c taking it in turns to ferry parts. He’s a few corridors away when everything goes black and silent.

He freezes. “Sam?” he calls out.

“I don’t know!” Her voice echoes.

He’s briefly thankful for his perfect sense memory as he hurries the rest of the way to her previous position in the dark. (Granted, he might’ve been able to do that before, but it would be with a lot less confidence and more stubbed toes.) His hearing, smell, and proprioceptive systems shift to the fore and lack of sight isn’t much of a problem.

Before he can ask what’s going on, the radio squawks.


“I’m with Daniel, Colonel.”

“That’s great. What the hell’s going on?”

“I don’t know, sir. I don’t think it was anything I did.”

“You don’t think?”

He hears her intake of breath, but Harlan breaks in.

“Colonel O’Neill! Everyone! I need your immediate assistance!”

Daniel and Sam gather her tools and make their way to the control room level. “Do you have any idea…”

“No.” He can’t see her face, but her voice is frustrated. “I was working with peripheral systems. There’s no feedback to main control anywhere in that section, unless the builders forgot to label it.”

“Hey.” His hand brushes her shoulder. “I believe you.”

Opening the hatch to the main level, he’s briefly blinded before his sense adjusts to a dim red light. He glances at Sam, who’s blinking like he is, and they hurry on to the control room. Teal’c and Jack are already there, obediently pulling levers and twisting valves at Harlan’s direction. The power generator is clearly below full strength, but fortunately, not all the way out.

“Ah, you are here!” Harlan exclaims. “Very big emergency! Too much pressure, systems not responding, radiation-”

“Whoa, slow down,” Sam says. “Do you know what’s causing the power failure?”

Harlan shakes his head.

Warning: Pressure controls offline. Radiation levels approaching hazardous.” They haven’t heard the automated warning system since their first month on Altar, and its return escalates Harlan’s panic.

“We must restore power to the pressure valves! Colonel, Teal’c – ”

“Wait!” Sam pores over the control panel. “We need to figure out what’s causing the failure.”

Harlan shakes his head so hard his cheeks flap. “No time!”

“We can’t treat the symptoms without knowing the cause.”

“Carter!” Jack breaks in. “Do you have a solution?”

“No, sir, but if you give me a few minutes-”

“No time!” Harlan repeats, slapping Sam’s hand away from diagnostics.

Jack ignores her pleading look. “Harlan, give us priorities.”

The order focuses Harlan. “First, pressure. Without power, the system will not regulate itself. We will need to release it manually. Next, we must close off the upper levels with the radiation plating. All systems require status checks.”

Jack nods. “All right, you heard the man. Everyone take a corner and move out.”

Teal’c doesn’t need to be told twice. Sam’s torn between disbelief at the colonel and racing through the possibilities. Daniel can feel Jack’s glare on him, but he holds back. “Harlan, what about our maintenance systems? Is there enough power left to keep us going? Or a back-up?”

Harlan gives Daniel a bleak look before going back to his panels. 


Continue to Part Two.