Change of Plans
Sitting on the cold floor, his back supported by the DHD, Daniel stared at the Stargate. When he had first discovered he was a robot, the concept had fascinated him especially the aspects he had found beneficial. The most obvious was his perfect vision and superhuman strength. A few of the less apparent advantages were that he never felt hungry or thirsty. All his life, he had resented wasting his time eating meals he did not want or craving fluids his body deemed necessary. Now, the thought of a thick juicy steak and a cup of coffee were mere memories.
With the excitement and novelty of their transformation wearing off, he was discovering the drawback of having wires instead of muscles and lubricant instead of blood. Primary among them was Sha're. He would never be able to keep his promise to Kasuf to find her. Once they buried the gate, he would never even know if the "real" Daniel Jackson had succeeded. This body would keep his mind alive for hundreds of years, a millennium of uncertainty, doubt, and fear. He knew it would destroy him. His body would live, but what would happen to his sanity? How would he cope?
Daniel closed his eyes, knowing it was a forlorn hope that Jack would be gone when he reopened them. Jack had hated the whole robot thing from the beginning. That his misgivings had been proved to be right was high on Daniel's list of hardships concerning their present situation. "Staring at the Stargate," Daniel honestly replied.
"I can see that." Jack sat next the archeologist. "Is there a specific reason why, or are you bored, too?"
Daniel glared at the symbol representing Earth. "I made a promise to Kasuf, Jack. Once we bury the gate, I won't be able to keep it. I'll never know what happened to Sha're."
"And I made a promise to you, Daniel," Jack quietly reminded. "I told you we would find her."
"The real Jack told the real Daniel."
"Who says we aren't real?"
Lightly tapping the bandage around Jack's left wrist, Daniel unnecessarily pointed out, "We don't have veins, Jack. We have wires. And it wasn't blood that came out of your arm when you cut it."
"Daniel, how do you define sentience?" Jack fingered the frayed edges of the gauze wrapping.
"Having or capable of feeling or perceptions; conscious."
"That sounds like a quote from the dictionary."
Sheepishly, Daniel admitted, "It is."
"Do you agree with it?" pressed Jack.
"I guess I do."
"Okay." Jack caught Daniel's eyes with his own. "If something is sentient is it alive? I don't want the dictionary definition, I want yours."
Daniel broke eye contact, shifting his gaze to his wiggling fingers. "We're alive."
"But we're not flesh and bone and blood," interrupted Daniel.
A soft sigh whistled through Jack's lips. "Maybe Sha're isn't your wife, Daniel. But there's no reason you can't find her for the other Daniel."
"The real one."
"The original one," Jack gently corrected.
"Wait a minute." Daniel rose to his feet, staring at his companion in comprehension. "Are you saying we aren't going to bury the Stargate?"
"I didn't think I would have to spell it out for you of all people."
"You promised the r-r," Daniel stuttered to a stop. "You promised O'Neill we would bury the 'gate."
Rising to stand next to Daniel, Jack put an arm around the younger man's shoulders. "I didn't say when we would bury it. Knowing us, we'll piss someone off and have to disable it eventually. But that might not happen for five or six hundred years."
With our track record, it could be five or six years," Daniel grimly amended.
"Hey, I'd take five or six days if it gets us away from Harlan."
Pulling away, Daniel's fingers caressed the symbols on the DHD. "So, we could keep exploring?"
"I think that's what I've been saying. Weren't you listening?"
A smile flirted with Daniel's lips before being replaced with a frown. "What about the energy thing? We won't be able to stay away for long or we'll collapse."
"Then we won't stay out long." Jack rubbed the back of his head, showing a frustration his words had not revealed. "To tell you the truth, I'm more worried that we don't have a MALP."
"What if we 'gate to a planet without a breathable atmosphere?"
"So we die," hissed Jack.
Daniel smiled. "We would if we were –"
"Don't say it," Jack held up his hand.
"The originals," Daniel substituted. Tapping his chest with a forefinger, he reminded, "There isn't much that can harm these bodies."
A sly smile curved Jack's lips. "We are so going to own this universe."
"Maybe Sam could invent some kind of portable energy supply?" speculated Daniel.
"How about destinations?" Jack put a hand on the DHD. "Do you remember any from the Abydos cartouche?"
"Enough for the first hundred years or so."
"Then we have a go." Jack imitated Hammond's voice.
Returning his gaze to the Stargate, Daniel whispered, "There really is a chance we could find Sha're."
"We have as much chance as the other SG-1."
The hope that had made Daniel's face glow faded. "If we find her, I'll lose her again when we send her to Earth."
"Before she goes, we could get ol' Harlan to make a copy."
"Only with her permission," Daniel insisted. "I wouldn't want her going through the same thing we did."
"If she gives the OK." Jack nodded agreement.
Daniel grabbed Jack's arm. "Let's go find Sam and Teal'c."
"On your six, Daniel."
Exchanging a quick smile with Daniel, Jack strode up the stairs to the event horizon. The feeling of anticipation he always – or at least his organic self – had always experienced, filled him. With these robot bodies, they should be able to go on missions for hundreds, possibly thousands of years. Yet, somehow he knew, what he was feeling now - a mixture of fear and excitement - would never get old. It was a high no drug could duplicate.
A last look back showed Daniel was on his heels with Carter and Teal'c not far behind. Harlan stood next to the DHD, his dire warnings audible, but no deterrent to the determined team. Even though they were only copies, they had the same passion for their job as the originals. Jack smirked; actually they were better, stronger, faster, and smarter. Although, they did have that little problem with running out of energy. Given time, Jack was confident Carter would find a solution. He just wasn't willing to postpone going on missions until she did. Any planets that needed more attention would be marked for a later visit.
Confidently stepping into the event horizon, Jack felt the familiar pull as he was whisked across a great distance to another planet.
Instead of exiting onto a planet covered in trees or sand as had been the norm on all their other missions, Jack slammed into a wall of water. It took him a few minutes to realize the Stargate was in a lake or an ocean. Looking up, he could see they were quite deep, though not at a depth the sun couldn't penetrate. In the soft glow of its light, Jack saw the DHD a few feet to his left. "Daniel, dial it up," he gurgled, finding it difficult to operate his jaw in the added pressure.
"What? Why?" spluttered Daniel.
"We're underwater, Daniel."
"Yeah, isn't it cool?"
"Jack, what's the problem?"
"Daniel." Jack wondered if his tone sounded as menacing underwater as he hoped it did on land.
"Think what we could be missing, Jack. Legend places Atlantis underwater. Maybe, we've found the lost city. Can't we stay? We can't drown."
"But we could short-circuit."
Carter raised her hand. "Actually, sir--"
"Or," Jack gave his subordinate a dirty look. "We could rust. Somehow, I doubt we can expect Dorothy to come down the coral road with an oil can."
Satisfied he had gotten his point across, Jack turned to face the Stargate. His action speaking as clearly – more clearly in this instance – that he expected Daniel to dial home.
When the wave of "water" erupted from the Stargate, Jack nervously eyed the blue wash as it settled back into the circular barrier. Its color blended in with the liquid around it making the wormhole barely discernable. Realizing they would be unable to tell if they had a stable wormhole with the natural fluctuations in the water around them, Jack turned and glared at Daniel though, he was pretty sure the expression was softened by the fluid surrounding them. "Daniel, we don't step through that 'gate again until we have a MALP or an equivalent substitute."
Daniel unhappily nodded. "Agreed."
If he hadn't already been sitting down, Jack knew he would have collapsed by now. This wasn't the first time he had felt weakness creeping over his body. The last time, they had been locked up in the SGC. Somehow, Jack had known then they needed to return to P3X-989. Luckily, General Hammond had believed him. The moment they tumbled down the stairs and confronted Harlan, it had felt as though they had gotten new batteries from the Energizer Bunny. They had discovered, they were long past the deadline for heading back to be recharged.
Soon after arriving on this planet Daniel had designated P47-196, the Stargate had engaged. Once it stabilized, twenty Jaffa had emerged. Rather than risk discovery and possible irreparable damage to their bodies, Jack had chosen to wait until the numbers around the Stargate diminished before attacking. Unfortunately, it had taken the warriors a long time to get organized. It made Jack begin to wonder if their System Lord was Lucy Ricardo. As a result, Jack knew he and his teammates were too weak to take on the trained fighters. They could only hope all of the Jaffa would be recalled. Since that was an unforeseeable eventuality, Jack knew they were facing a slow, painful death.
"Colonel, they're leaving."
Carter's softly spoken observation confirmed what Jack thought was a hallucination. One of the Jaffa pressed the seventh symbol on the DHD and a wormhole erupted. Slowly, much too slowly for the impatient O'Neill, the Jaffa stepped through the Stargate. As soon as the last one was swallowed by the blue "wave," Jack pushed Daniel toward the DHD. "Start dialing, Daniel."
Dismayed, Jack watched as Daniel crawled to the device. When he tried to climb to his feet, Jack discovered why. His own legs didn't have the strength to hold the weight of his body. Even Teal'c was forced to move at a snail's pace. So much for their superior bodies.
His hand visibly shaking over each glyph, Daniel painstakingly punched in the address for Altair.
Teal'c and Carter reached the active 'gate together. When they paused, Jack waved them through. He had deliberately held back, knowing the effort of dialing would drain Daniel even further.
He was proved right again when his teammate collapsed at the edge of the platform fronting the Stargate. His own lungs – or what passed for lungs in this body – feeling as though they were on fire, Jack dragged himself back to Daniel's prone figure. Knowing he didn't have the strength to save them both, Jack urged, "Come on, Daniel."
"I can't," panted Daniel.
Grabbing the edge of Daniel's vest, Jack contradicted, "Yes, you can."
"Jack." Daniel tried to pull free. "Save yourself."
"Not a chance, Daniel. Either we both go or we both stay."
His fingernails digging into the stone ramp, Daniel pulled himself a few feet closer to the 'gate. Their progress was so gradual, Jack was sure the wormhole would destabilize before they reached it. He concentrated on pulling himself a few inches forward, and then urging Daniel to cover the same distance. It wasn't until his hand actually crossed the event horizon that Jack realized they had reached their goal. Locking his hands onto Daniel's vest, he fell backward into the wormhole.
Unable to stop their momentum, the two men roughly exited the Stargate and started to roll down the stairs. A strong hand wrapped around Jack's arm bringing them to an abrupt halt. While these bodies would not have been damaged by a tumble down the stairs as their originals would have been, Jack was still grateful for Teal'c's assistance. Their circuits transmitted pain when appropriate. Something Jack decided he would have to talk to Harlan about. "Thanks, Teal'c," he breathlessly said in gratitude.
The Jaffa gave a small bow in acknowledgement.
"We were getting worried, sir," said Carter.
Jack slowly climbed to his feet. "You weren't the only ones."
"Close call," Daniel agreed, from where he sat on the edge of the top step.
"Too close, Daniel, that's the last . . ."
"Jack, don't say we can't go on any more missions," pleaded Daniel.
"I wasn't going to," Jack protested. "What I was going to say before I was so rudely interrupted, is that this was our last mission until Carter develops a portable power pack for us."
Daniel protested, "That could take years."
"Then it takes years."
"All it will do is extend the time we can spend on another planet. If it runs out of energy, we'll still have the same problem."
"A little more time was all we needed back there. Daniel, you almost died."
"That could happen on any mission to any one of us."
"I know." The truth hurt, Jack knew what they did was dangerous. Sometimes, he wished he had buried the Stargate as he had promised the organic O'Neill. "I just want us to have every advantage we can. Right now, that includes a portable power pack."
"All right," Daniel reluctantly conceded.
"Besides," Jack held out his hand to pull Daniel to his feet, "we need to do a little work around here." An alarm sounded as if to give credence to Jack's observation. "See, if this keeps up, we won't have a home to return to."
Accepting the offer of assistance, Daniel agreed, "I guess you're right."
"Have I ever been wrong?" Jack smugly declared, following Harlan to the control room.
Daniel paced impatiently in front of the Stargate. It had been several weeks since they had found the time to go on a mission. Despite spending several months working on the equipment while Carter developed a portable power pack, they had barely made a dent in the high priority repairs. A number of key systems had recently gone critical, forcing them to stay and assist Harlan. Though some minor equipment was also in need of refurbishing, Jack had decided they all needed a "break." For SG-1, the originals and copies, a break meant a mission. There had been no argument from anyone, though Harlan had not looked happy.
Pulling up beside Carter, Daniel demanded, "Where's Jack?"
Shrugging her shoulders, Carter's mouth opened to make a verbal reply which became unnecessary when Jack appeared.
"I'm right here, Daniel," Jack calmly stated.
Two steps brought Daniel back to the DHD. "Then let's go."
"Not so fast." Jack put a hand in the air indicating Daniel should stop dialing. "This is our fiftieth mission. I think we should commemorate such an auspicious occasion."
For the first time, Daniel noticed that Jack was cradling a bottle in his left arm. "What do you have in mind?" he suspiciously inquired.
"I think a toast is in order." Jack unscrewed the top from the bottle. "Teal'c, the glasses."
Teal'c swung his arms out from behind his back. In his hands, he held five long stemmed glasses.
"Where did you get those? For that matter," Daniel pressed, turning his attention to Jack. "Where did you get a bottle of champagne?"
"It's not exactly champagne."
"What is it then?"
"It's something of my own creation." When Daniel refused to accept a filled glass, Jack revealed, "I built a still, all right?"
Daniel reluctantly took a glass from Teal'c. "I hope I'm not sorry."
Once everyone was ready, Jack held up his flute. "To us."
"To us," each of the others repeated.
Taking a cautious sip of the liquor, Daniel allowed a small portion of it to slide down his throat before hastily spitting the rest out. "What the hell is this?" he croaked, staring in disbelief at the amber fluid.
"Whiskey," Jack proudly replied.
"I know it's been a while, but it's not like any whiskey I've ever tasted." Daniel was surprised to find he had difficulty making his lips form words. He didn't even want to think what condition his stomach – or what passed for a stomach in these bodies - would be in if he finished the glass. One advantage – in Daniel's opinion – to being a robot was that they didn't require food or drink. He wondered if Jack's potent beverage had damaged any internal mechanisms.
In between coughs, Carter stuttered, "I have to agree with Daniel, sir."
"How about you, Teal'c?" a clearly disappointed O'Neill inquired.
"I must abstain, O'Neill," said Teal'c.
"Oh, come on," Jack pleaded, "just give it a little try."
Daniel quickly warned his friend, "I wouldn't."
"I believe I should not." Teal'c placed his glass on a railing and put his hands behind his back.
"I quite like it," Harlan announced draining his glass.
Jack patted the rotund robot on the shoulder. "Now here's a man who knows something good when he tastes it."
"If Harlan needs repairing," said Daniel, "you get to do it."
"Come on, it's not that bad." Jack took a mouthful to prove his point.
"I think your deductive components have been damaged, Jack, just like our taste buds."
Harlan held out his glass. "Komtraya. Can I have some more?"
"We're going on a mission, Jack." Daniel turned to start dialing.
Harlan's second glass of the potent brew quickly followed the first. Attempting to interlock his fingers, he repeated, "Komtraya." Completely missing the connection, his hands waved freely in mid-air.
"Jack, you got him drunk," groaned Daniel.
"Nah," Jack shook his head. "These bodies can't get drunk."
"Obviously, they can."
Harlan gave a loud belch.
"Can," Daniel smugly ended the argument.
"Well," said Jack, "at least he can't throw up."
When Harlan started to sing very loudly and very off-key, Daniel unnecessarily pointed out, "But he can sing."
"Shut-up and dial, Daniel."
Jack stared at the uniforms in his locker. He realized he didn't know what type of planet they were going to visit, so was uncertain whether he needed his green fatigues or the brown desert gear. When he looked around to ask, he saw he had been lost in thought for so long Carter and Teal'c had already left the room. Glancing over at Daniel was no help. The younger man sat in his boxers as introspective as Jack had been.
"What type of planet is it we're going to, Daniel?" Jack asked. When he got no response, Jack raised his voice. "Daniel!"
"W-What?" Daniel jumped, almost falling off the bench.
"I said, what type of planet are we going to?"
"Green, Jack," revealed Daniel. "Your favorite kind, lots of trees and moss."
Reaching for his fatigues, Jack probed, "Something on your mind?"
"This is our eighty-third mission, right?"
"Something like that."
"It's been three years and nine months since we were replicated."
Puzzled, Jack quickly did the math in his head, no longer surprised it came so easy to him. "Your point being?"
"In all those years and all those missions, we still haven't found Sha're or Scarra. Or any weapons to help Earth fight the Goa'uld."
"What if the other Jack and Daniel have already found Sha're?"
Feeling his friend's pain, Jack looked away and started to dress. "We knew that was a possibility from the start."
"I just wish I knew."
The wistfulness in Daniel's voice nearly broke the heart Jack supposedly no longer possessed. Hoping to hide is feelings, he kept his back to the room. "Every planet we visit is one closer to giving you an answer."
"Have you ever felt like time was running out, Jack?"
Since that was exactly what had made him sit and stare into his locker for so long, Jack was at a loss. With an ease gleaned from many years of practice, he hid his reaction. "With these bodies, we don't have years, we have centuries. It'll be a long time before our time runs out."
"I hope you're right." Daniel grabbed his socks and slipped them on.
"Aren't I always?"
Pausing with one sock on and the other dangling from his hand, Daniel asked, "Jack if we did find something that could help Earth in the fight against the Gou'ld, how would we let them know?"
Jack had asked himself this same question since he decided to resume going on missions. Unwilling to add to Daniel's obvious depression, Jack flippantly replied, "We'll cross that bridge when we come to it."
Slipping on his vest, Jack closed his locker and wished he could shut away the apprehension that was plaguing him as easily. "Hurry up, Daniel, or we'll leave you behind."
Jack was almost sorry when he saw Daniel following his advice. He had never felt closer or more protective of his young friend. For the first time since they started going through the 'gate, Jack wanted to abort a mission. But there was no logical reason to backup such a decision. "What's the planet's designation again?"
Obviously surprised at Jack's sudden interest, Daniel said, "P3X-729."
Two letters, four numbers, they didn't sound menacing. But Jack couldn't shake off a sense of foreboding.
"I'm ready, Jack." Daniel crossed to the door. "Let's go."
Jack wanted to pull Daniel back into the room and lock the door. Instead, he reluctantly joined him and led the way to the Stargate. His eyes studied the machinery on either side with an interest he had never felt before. Once again, he was filled with a fear he could find no basis for, but could not dispel. For some reason, he remembered what he had said to Harlan soon after they discovered they were robots. "People aren't supposed to live forever."
When they reached the 'gate, they found Teal'c and Carter were waiting for them. Harlan was absent. It was the first time the little android hadn't been here to see them off. Once again, Jack's emotions were in turmoil. Even after all this time, Harlan had the ability to annoy him until he was tempted to get Carter to put an off switch on the rotund machine. Yet, strangely, Jack wanted to say good-bye this time.
Squaring his shoulders, Jack ordered, "Dial it up, Daniel. We have a world to explore."