Title: Beyond the Darkness
Category: Episode Tag, Drama,
Spoilers: Tin Man, Double Jeopardy
Summary: After the events of "Double Jeopardy," Daniel returns with Harlan to P2X-729 to help retrieve the bodies of the synthetic SG-1 while pondering the differences in their lives.
Author's Notes: I just wasn't satisfied. I wanted more Daniel for this episode and I have a soft spot for Harlan and the robots.
Disclaimer: Stargate, Stargate SG-1 and all of its characters, titles, names, and back-story are the property of MGM/UA, Double Secret Productions, Gekko Productions, SciFi Channel, and Showtime/Viacom. All other characters, the story idea and the story itself are the sole property of the author. This story cannot be printed anywhere without the sole permission of the author. Realize this is for entertainment purposes only; no financial gain or profit has been gained from this fiction. This story is not meant to be an infringement on the rights of the above-mentioned establishments
Sam had warned him ahead of time that he might be disturbed by what he would see. It wasn't that he had doubted her or that he didn't appreciate her concern for him. It was just that he hadn't expected to be affected as deeply as he was.
Jack's body was the first that he'd found. Daniel's initial reaction had been to turn away and close his eyes, to try to will himself to believe that it was all an illusion. He had known better, though, and knew that he would be of little help if he refused to come to terms with what had happened. He'd come here to help, after all.
Sighing, Daniel snapped out of his thoughts, opened his eyes, and gazed down at the motionless lump that lay in its own "blood." He found himself staring, struggling between the reality of what had happened and the reality of what lay before him. It didn't seem fair. None of it was fair.
Daniel choked on a sob that never came as he bent down to touch the body. First, he was hesitant, but resolved to move on by placing his fingertips to the face. Cold, smooth, but filled with death, if that was even possible. Imprinted. By studying this body, Daniel felt as if he could read his history, not unlike the ancient scrolls he'd researched most of his life.
He grazed his fingers across the skin again. So real, yet so…
Jack had died well—he could tell—and his face held a certain sense of peacefulness that tore Daniel at his core.
He cleared his throat, determined to lift the body as gently as he could.
"Yes, yes. Right here," Harlan told him in that sharp nervous voice of his. He stood by a small wheelbarrow, fidgeting anxiously as Daniel dragged the dead body toward him. "Yes. Oh, yes. Much better."
Nodding, Daniel grunted, placing Jack's sticky, dirty body into the wheelbarrow. He allowed himself one last meaningful glance at the body that was once machine but more than man. He couldn't help but wonder what his last thoughts had been. Had he been scared? Grateful? Did he feel at all? He assumed he did. These weren't just copies. They were them. But still. He wondered.
"Oh, you wear that face," Harlan said with a nod as he gazed at Daniel. "You, or you, so very often wore that face."
"What face?" Daniel couldn't help but ask. Carefully, he positioned Jack so he was lying prone, affording him some dignity in his death. For once, he wished he could be like Jack, the other Jack, and just view them as machines. To be detached. He shook his head. "My other did, too?"
"Oh, yes," Harlan said. "So curious. Both of you so very curious."
"What was he like?" Daniel asked. He leaned against the wheelbarrow, away from Jack, his gaze surveying the pyramid's throne room. He could still see blood on the walls and the floor from where the Jaffa had fallen, as well as the pool of white liquid where Jack had shut down. He bowed his head. He needed a distraction, any distraction, from the dirty job he was doing. "What was he like? My double. I only met him him briefly."
Harlan nodded but didn't reply. For a moment, he appeared sad, confused, and hurt. "Always curious," he whispered. Then, Harlan rubbed his hands together, stealing a furtive glance at Jack before pulling another brave face. "Come. We have much work to do. Come now."
Once they reached the inner chambers of the pyramid and ringed up into the ship itself, Harlan had regained some of his composure, even though by all accounts he seemed terrified of the Goa'uld mothership. Even so, the distraction was enough to keep Daniel in the right frame of mind. He had to be strong for Harlan, and that was enough for him.
The two of them walked down the corridors, searching for the next body. Sam had told him where to go, and had offered to go with him, but somehow, he'd felt he needed to do this with Harlan alone. It was important. It was important to Harlan.
When he'd returned from a follow-up mission to the Land of Light, he had been surprised to see Harlan. At first, he had thought something unfortunate had happened, like a breach in security or maybe even something more sinister, like a Goa'uld invasion of Harlan's home planet. But when he had seen Harlan whimpering every time he had passed by Daniel, and when he had seen General Hammond's stern but sympathetic face, he had known it was much, much worse.
When he was told what had happened, Daniel had immediately requested to be let through the Stargate to offer any assistance to SG-1. General Hammond had started to consider Daniel's request, and a few additional troops to boot, when SG-1 had reported back.
Chronus had been defeated, but the robots had been destroyed.
The anguish on Harlan's face had left Daniel beside himself. Technically, Harlan may have been created from metal, wiring, and electronics, but he could still feel. In the end, weren't they all a form of machine? Did it physically matter what made them who they were? They all functioned in similar ways. They had feelings. They had histories. They had lives.
That included the doubles they'd left behind three years ago.
Harlan was alone. Utterly and completely alone. While Daniel knew what isolation could feel like, he couldn't relate to the time and depth of Harlan's distress. An eternity of isolation…
"I am alone," he had said. "I am all alone."
Knowing there was very little he could offer the grieving man, Daniel had done what little he could. Daniel suggested that he and Harlan return to P2X-729 to collect the bodies and pay their respects.
Jack had thought it was a terrible idea. Though, to be honest, Daniel wasn't sure why. Daniel could see a change in Jack, even if just a slight one, which may have had to do with seeing "yourself" die. But even so, Jack still had a certain kind of stubbornness when it came to the robots. Maybe it was just for show. Or maybe he just didn't want Daniel to see himself, or any version of himself, dead.
Whatever the case, Jack had refused to let Daniel go. Not alone, anyway.
Sighing, Daniel continued to walk down the corridors with Harlan, keeping lookout for any body they might find. The Jaffa had already been cleaned out, he'd noticed. Some of the survivors had pledged their allegiance to Teal'c. Maybe the robots hadn't died in vain.
"Do you bury your dead?" Daniel asked suddenly. He realized not only did he have little understanding about Harlan's culture, or the culture the original Harlan had come from, but he also knew little how a robotic culture functioned, or even if they had one. They had to have one. They came from people, after all. "Do you--? What do you do?"
"Questions," Harland said with a sad smile. "You always ask so very many questions."
And that was it. He pattered off ahead, leaving Daniel to ponder Harlan's responses. As they journeyed deeper into the ship, he wondered just how curious and inquisitive his other had been. He wondered how he had interacted with Harlan, and how he had worked with Sam, Teal'c, and Jack.
Were they similar? Three years had passed and all of them, human and robot alike, had been shaped by different experiences. They must have become different people. How different were they? Was there anything that remained the same? Had time made the robots more machine than human? Or, had their robotic form freed them from certain inhibitions they had in human form?
Who were they now?
So many questions that Daniel needed answered and there was no one to answer them.
Daniel stopped and resigned himself to his task, one he'd volunteered for, when he heard Harlan begin to cry. He pushed the wheelbarrow and came to join him.
Finding Sam jarred him, especially since he'd just left her only moments ago. He found himself staring at her limp form, identifying her burns and her open wounds. This one still had her hair cut in a way similar to when he'd first met Sam, and somewhere, hidden, he was sure he'd find the same bright and excited blue eyes that always grew and sparkled when Sam figured something out.
She was very brave, Daniel decided, as he reached down and scooped her into his arms. She was heavy, though not as heavy as Jack. Daniel found it to be a strain to lift these robotic bodies, but he knew he wouldn't have it any other way. Carefully, he lifted her a little higher, and placed her beside Jack. He couldn't tear his eyes off them.
"She was female," Harlan said quietly. "Very intelligent. She-she created the power packs we all use."
"Sam…" Daniel hesitated, uncertain if he would hurt Harlan with his words. Upon seeing Harlan's expectant gaze, he continued. "Sam, our Sam, told me. It must have made your lives easier."
"Easier, yes." Harlan stared at the bodies in the wheelbarrow. "They should have never left."
Daniel didn't really know what to say. It had been their curiosity, their need to explore, to fight, that had originally brought them to Harlan and changed his life. It had also been these same qualities that had left SG-1 dead, bringing another change to Harlan's life. Gently, Daniel placed his hand on Harlan's back, offering a touch of support, before he began to push the wheelbarrow toward Chronus' throne room.
While Doctor Fraiser treated Teal'c for his injuries, he had told Daniel his triumph over Chronus, and how he, and himself, had finally avenged their father. It seemed weird, but oddly right, that they would unite as one.
The boundary between real and artificial wasn't much of a boundary at all.
"Oh," he heard Harlan cry.
Teal'c. He was lying on the ground where he'd died. Daniel immediately recognized the wounds caused by a staff blast or two. The sight was horrific. Knowing that this wasn't "their" Teal'c didn't make it any easier.
He wondered how this Teal'c had lived, having been lifted of the burden of carrying a symbiote. His life surely had changed, and the possibilities were endless. Yet in the end, he had died by way of the Goa'uld.
At least he had died free.
"He was different," Harlan said sadly. "But I had made him better."
Daniel nodded and squeezed Harlan's shoulder before he walked towards the body. Slowly, Daniel slipped his arms under Teal'c's and heaved upward, quickly dragging the body to the wheelbarrow. With a loud grunt, Daniel hurled the large body into the cart, next to Sam and Jack, and then tucked in his limbs so he appeared to sleep.
He stepped back and searched their emotionless faces. This was something he never wanted to see again.
"Very sad," Harlan said.
"Yes." Daniel cleared his throat. "We should go. The SGC will be sending in some troops to secure the ship and we don't want to get in the way."
Harlan jerked and blinked at him, appearing horrified. Confused, Daniel searched him and reflected inwardly to see if he had said anything offensive.
"Harlan?" he asked. He grabbed the handles of the wheelbarrow and urged Harlan to follow him. "It'll be okay. But we should go."
"But no, we have not found you!"
The wording caught Daniel by surprise. He stopped and stared at Harlan. He had been told what happened to his other. Both he and Harlan knew there was nothing to recover. Was Harlan capable of denial?
Of course he was, Daniel chided himself. Harlan might be eccentric, but he was still human. Or, well, at least he was once.
Daniel wondered if over time the other SG-1 would have become as peculiar as Harlan. Maybe it was a flaw, or maybe it was from the time spent alone.
"Harlan, we won't be finding…me," Daniel said as delicately as he could. "There was an explosion."
Harlan shook his head and began to move away from Daniel, frantic in his search. "No, no. We must find you. Yes. Your head." He nodded. "We will find your head."
Daniel sighed, quickly placing the cart down to run after Harlan. He'd already disappeared down one of the corridors, and from what Daniel knew, it would be very bad for Harlan to become lost on a Goa'uld mothership. While he had stopped to recharge on PX3-989, Daniel didn't want to chance Harlan's life over a body, or a head, that probably didn't exist anymore.
"Harlan!" he called.
Daniel kept after him, following him as Harlan darted in and out of rooms. Finally, Daniel rounded the corner, slowing down as he caught sight of Harlan dipping into one of the rooms to his right. Quietly, he followed Harlan, coming to rest at the doorway. Inside, he recognized what appeared to be a lab of some kind, or more correctly, what used to be a lab.
The room had been torched. Obviously, this was the room where his…him…the other… had exploded. The walls, three tables, some of the devices on the walls—everything had been destroyed.
Daniel didn't feel safe in here.
"Harlan, I really think we should go," Daniel told him.
The little mechanical man paid no attention to him. He continued to scour the room in search of this head he seemed to need so badly. Daniel watched as Harlan disappeared behind the table.
"Harlan," Daniel tried again, moving to follow him. He found Harlan on all fours as he searched the floor. "There was an explosion. Everything in here was destroyed."
Harlan had developed selective hearing. He ignored Daniel, moving to another part of the room. That's when a panel caught Daniel's attention.
And Harlan's as well.
"Oh," Harlan said, his face awash with interest and confusion. "These are buttons. The buttons will open this, yes?"
"Uh." Daniel caught Harlan's hand before he had the chance to press anything. "Why don't you let me look at that."
It was definitely a control panel. Daniel recognized the Goa'uld symbols, which made sense, naturally, as this was a Goa'uld mothership. He figured they accessed what appeared to be a storage bin underneath the charred remains of the once table. Or it could be a trap. Torture device. Or…
Daniel licked his lips and quickly punched in a combination of three.
With a click, and a whoosh, the wall under the dilapidated table opened. The damage prevented it from opening completely, but it was just enough for Daniel to peer inside. From what he could gather, it looked like a bunch of Goa'uld instruments were stationed within the table, probably used for interrogation and other unpleasantries. There was no sight of the head.
"It's not here," Daniel said, partly relieved but partly disappointed. He had no desire to see his disembodied doppelganger, yet there was something curiously alluring about the idea. Sighing, he shook away the thoughts and pushed away from the panel. When he glanced at Harlan, he was caught by the look of pure anguish in his features. "I'll look again," he said with resignation.
Daniel reached his hands deeper into the compartment, careful and full of focus. The last thing he wanted was to accidentally come across a Coptic jar or something worse. He patted the shelf, fingers filing past another tool or two before he hit something smooth, fleshy.
Wincing, Daniel pulled his hands back, bringing the object along with him. The Goa'uld had kept the head, after all.
"Oh dear," he heard Harlan whisper behind him.
Daniel couldn't agree more. The head was severed right at the neck, its inner electrical and mechanical wiring exposed, raw and unforgiving. Mercifully, he, Daniel, had closed his eyes before…
Quietly, gripping the head, Daniel rose and held it out to Harlan.
He felt like he was serving his own head on a silver platter. It was surreal.
"I don't know what you'll do with just the head," Daniel said aloud, following Harlan out of the room. When Harlan stopped and looked around the corridor, Daniel guided him back from where they'd originally come. "Do you need the body for your burial practices?"
Harlan shook his head, refusing to look at Daniel. "Just the head. That is how it has been. That is how it has always been."
Daniel frowned. "How? How has it always been?"
"Come," Harlan said, now with a smile. After they reached the wheelbarrow, he placed the head inside, nestling it between Sam's head and Teal'c's shoulder. "It is done."
Daniel sighed again, this time from frustration as he grabbed the handles to the cart. He and Harlan made their way through the ship, in silence, as Daniel mused over Harlan's loss, their past adventures, and what this SG-1 could have been like. It seemed ironic that beings that could practically live forever would have their lives cut so short, while the rest of them, made of fragile flesh and blood, could continue to thrive and fight another day. It made Daniel wonder if they were lucky, or if they had someone watching out for them. If not, were they working on borrowed time? Could any one of them have their time expire at any time? It wasn't a thought that Daniel wanted to entertain now, or ever.
Before long, they had reached the ring platform, had transported down to the pyramid, and were on their way back to the Stargate. The silence was starting to get to Daniel, and he found he couldn't remain quiet any longer.
"What are you going to do now?" he asked quietly.
Harlan smiled, but it was a sad smile, one that bore the weight of a lifetime of hardships. "I will manage," he said. "I have managed for many, many years."
"Yes, I mean—" Daniel paused, trying to find the right words as he gave the wheelbarrow an extra shove. He could see the Stargate in the distance. "Do you, would you like…Your customs," Daniel said finally. "Do you need help with your burial customs?"
Harlan paused, pursing his lips. Daniel didn't understand why he kept dodging his questions.
"I will manage," Harlan repeated.
"You don't—" He swallowed hard, having a hard time believing he was going to even suggest this. "You don't need for me to come and…" Daniel stopped, unable to vocalize the sentiment.
This was something Harlan could understand. His eyes widened, and he smiled gratefully at Daniel. "Oh no, no. I do not need another copy of you. I have all that I need."
Daniel nodded, and though confused, he sent Harlan a weak smile. Duplicating himself wasn't something he'd really wanted to do anyway, but he felt the need to offer something to the man. They were leaving him alone. It just didn't seem fair.
But Daniel just wasn't satisfied.
Harlan cut him off before he finished. "There is light beyond the darkness, yes?"
"You mean an afterlife?" Daniel asked as he pushed the cart toward the Gate, noting that Sam was waiting beside it. When he saw Harlan nod, he continued. "I would hope so."
"Yes," Harlan said, nodding. "There is."
Daniel had no idea what this had to do with anything. He supposed since Harlan's people were based on a prior people, some culture, they would have some kind of notion of life and death. But he wasn't sure what this had to do with Daniel helping him. Puzzled, he eyed Harlan closely.
Harlan didn't meet Daniel's gaze, instead moving to look down upon the remains of SG-1. "There is information in the head." He smiled proudly, patting the head that rested so unceremoniously in the cart.
"Inform—" Daniel's eyes widened and he jerked with surprise. He found himself staring at the small man.
Harlan smiled meekly, waving his fingers in that timid, defensive way of his.
"Beyond the darkness," Daniel stated more than asked, this time with confidence.
"Yes." As they slowed by the DHD, Harlan quickly shook his head and lowered his voice. Sam was approaching them. "You will not tell?"
Daniel shot a look over to Sam. Her face was an odd mix, tense but bright, as she forced a smile, likely for Harlan's sake. Daniel didn't fail to notice that her gaze kept falling to the bodies piled in the wheelbarrow.
Slowly, Daniel returned his focus to Harlan. He provided his best reassuring face. "No," he finally said.
Harlan's face lit up, as if Daniel had just given him the greatest gift in the world. "I knew that you would understand. You always would understand."
Daniel nodded. He supposed that was the case. It was a shame he'd never be able to find out for himself. Not as himself, anyway.
Daniel smiled at the thought.
"Did you find everything?" Sam asked, coming to stand with them. Obviously, she could see they had, but Daniel felt it was her way of trying to sort through the difficulties with this mission. Sam liked things orderly, cool, controlled.
"Yes," Harlan said with satisfaction. "We have obtained what I need."
She frowned, appearing a little puzzled, but she didn't question them. "Are you all set to return home?" she asked Harlan.
"Yes. Home." He sniffled. "We are going home."
"Okay," she mouthed, while catching Daniel's eye. Quickly, she started to dial Harlan's home planet. The Stargate easily came to life, devouring the air before recoiling into the shimmering event horizon. "Do you need some help with the bodies?"
To his credit, Harlan didn't flinch, though Daniel found himself cringing. Harlan shook his head, grabbing the cart's handles and pushing it up the makeshift ramp they had created when first gating to this world. "I will manage," he said at last, hesitating by the Gate. He gazed at Daniel.
Daniel kept his smile subdued, but his expression open. He didn't need to say any more. He understood.
And then Harlan was gone, swallowed by the event horizon. Daniel doubted they would ever see him again.
But then again, Harlan didn't need them any more.
Daniel felt Sam step closer to him, and place her hand on his shoulder. "Are you okay?" she asked.
Daniel nodded. He was still worn and weary from having to see duplicates of his friends and himself destroyed and dead, and wanted nothing but to return to Earth and place it all behind him, no matter the outcome.
"Let's go home," she said quietly.
They did just that. Sam took the opportunity to dial again and within seconds they were inside the Gateroom, a million miles away from the aftermath of battle, and the demons and possibilities left behind.
"So," Jack said, standing at the base of the ramp with General Hammond and Teal'c. "How'd it go?"
"All the robots were accounted for, Sir," Sam said, moving down the ramp. "Harlan will be disposing—" She caught herself and coughed. "Harlan will be laying them to rest."
That seemed to satisfy him. He didn't even bat an eye at the wording. Calmly, he turned to Daniel. "And Harlan?"
Daniel sent him a soft, knowing smile. "He'll manage."