A Dark, Dark Day

Daniel's wrist throbbed. He heard Jack order the sweep, but he couldn't seem to pay much attention. His eyes drifted to Reece's body. She looked so young. She'd trusted him, and he'd had to deceive her. He'd reached out to her with a gesture of friendship, and when she'd accepted that gesture, he'd gone in for the kill -- her off switch.

He swallowed hard and closed his eyes. The pain radiated up his arm, and his fingers tingled. He felt sick and swallowed again when bile touched the back of his throat. 

What was he becoming? Years from now, might he one day look in the mirror and see the face of a man he hoped never to see again -- one who could order the destruction of millions of innocent people?

The tears that had escaped his control earlier threatened to resurface, and he squeezed his eyelids as he took a deep breath. When he opened them again, he found himself alone in the room with Reece's mechanical corpse.

  Jack sure had left in a hurry. Daniel found the sudden emptiness of the gateroom unnerving, and he pushed himself to his feet. The walls tilted, and he thought for sure the bile would get the better of him this time. To his surprise, he managed to push the nausea back down. Casting a final, lingering glance down at Reece, he turned slowly and shuffled out of the room. Someone would have to come soon, he supposed, to take care of the 'body.'

"Excuse me, Doctor Jackson."

Daniel looked up, startled, as a woman in a white lab jacket squeezed past him. He blinked. He was already at the infirmary, and he didn't even remember the trip. Shaking his head, he walked through the doorway and peered into the front room.

It was crowded. Various men and woman took up almost every available surface. They were all obviously patients. Many had visible cuts and bruises. Quite a few had burns that were likely caused by the replicators.

"Is it your arm?"

Daniel turned his head to the right, toward the voice. He saw a petite nurse looking up at him with tired, brown eyes.

"Uh, yeah." He let his gaze sweep around the room again. "Looks like you've got your hands full."

"Yes, we do. Sign in at the desk, and have a seat if you can find one. I'll be back in a minute to get some information from you."

Daniel nodded as the woman turned and hurried away. Looking around again, he couldn't see any place to sit other than the floor. He knew what his problem was, and it wasn't life threatening. His broken wrist could wait, and from the looks of things, he wouldn't be seen for a few hours, anyway.

Turning, he left the infirmary and headed toward his office. At least there he could pop a few Tylenols, relieve his bladder, get some coffee, and maybe even manage a nap. He'd check back a while later when, hopefully, things were calmer and the more critical patients were already taken care of.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

"All clear here. Edmonds out."

Jack hit the button on his radio. "Good work." With a tired sigh, he rubbed at the back of his neck. It had been a very long day. A hard day. A day he'd rather never, ever repeat.

*You stupid son of a bitch.*

Jack winced as Daniel's words came back to him, packing an even greater punch because they had been spoken softly rather than shouted. To be honest with himself, he had to admit they'd hurt a little more than they should have, but he hadn't been able to muster a retort, not with Daniel folded in on himself on the floor, tears spilling from his cheeks.

He'd rarely seen Daniel cry, and the times he had were so bad, he tried hard not to think too much about them. Sha're's abduction. Her death. The sarcophagus. All dark, dark moments in an equally dark life history.

Now that he was confident the situation was under control, and none of the little buggers had survived Reece's shut down, he might as well find Daniel and start on what was bound to be a rather unpleasant 'talk.'

Turning around, he headed toward the lift when he realized he had no idea where to go. Bets were that Daniel was either in his office, Carter's lab, or, possibly, the infirmary.

Daniel *had* looked a bit rough around the edges. Actually, thinking harder about it, Daniel's eyes had been narrowed with pain, and he'd kept his arm cradled close to his body.

Jack swallowed, his stomach churning. What had happened during those few moments they'd lost visual into the gate room?

~~~~~~~~~~~~

Daniel staggered into his office. The nausea he'd felt earlier returned, and now that he was alone and so close to a bathroom, he didn't bother trying to muster the energy to fight it. Instead, he careened toward the bathroom and dropped in front of the toilet just as his stomach heaved. All that came out was bile. When was the last time he'd had anything to eat or drink?

Spitting the last of the vile stuff into the toilet, he leaned forward and rested his forehead on the cool porcelain. He felt a headache building at the back of his skull, and it reminded him that, not to long ago, he'd slammed into a bookshelf and received a minor concussion for his trouble.

Lifting his head, he slid his good arm beneath his forehead and rested his throbbing skull on top of the limb. At least it was warm and soft. He really needed to get up and pop a few pain killers. Maybe get something in his stomach.

He just needed a few seconds to rest first.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Carter's lab was on the way, so Jack stopped there and peeked his head inside. It was empty. Frowning, he jerked away and hurried to the nearest wall phone. Dialing the infirmary, he waited several rings. When no one answered, he gave a sigh and hung up. They were probably swamped with injured.

Trotting down the hall, he headed toward the infirmary.

When he arrived, it was the madhouse he expected. Nurses rushed past him, a few almost colliding with him as they muttered hurried apologies. Jack scanned the outer room, his eyes drifting over the collection of waiting patients. Thankfully, none of them seemed seriously injured. A few scrapes and bruises. A couple of burns. He figured the more serious cases were further inside, undergoing treatment.

Jack intercepted a passing orderly. "Did Doctor Jackson check in here?"

The man looked up at Jack, then straightened. "Uh, no, sir." He jerked his head toward a desk in the corner. "Sign in sheet is right over there. If he came in, his name's on that list."

"Thanks." Jack dismissed the man with a wave and strolled over to the desk. Paging through the sheets, he gave a low whistle at the sheer number of names. Fraiser certainly had her work cut out for her.

Fortunately, Daniel's name wasn't among the list of injured. That made Jack's next stop the archeologist's office. Pushing away from the desk, he hurried into the hall and tried to resist breaking in to a trot. There wasn't any kind of emergency. Daniel probably just needed some cooling off time.

A few minutes later, he stopped in front of Jackson's office door and tried the knob. It was unlocked, so he pushed his way inside. The interior was dark and quiet. He was just about to turn around when a light beneath the bathroom door caught his eyes.

"Daniel?" Jack moved forward and knocked on the restroom door. "You in there?"

After a few seconds of silence, he put his ear to the door. Nope. Not a sound. When he tried the handle, it turned easily and he cracked the door open and stuck his head inside.

"Crap." Pushing the door all the way open, he hurried inside.

Daniel was crouched in front of the toilet, his head resting on one arm. His other arm lay on his folded legs. Jack knelt, avoiding the protest from his knees, and tried to get a better look at the free arm, but Daniel's sleeve covered half his hand.

Gently, he reached forward and tugged carefully at the material, pulling the sleeve back slightly. Sure enough, the wrist was swollen with an angry red. In fact, it looked downright pissed.

"Daniel," Jack whispered, placing a hand on the young man's shoulder. "Time for school."

Daniel moaned softly, rolling his head. "Huh?" He blinked, and cloudy, tired eyes looked up. "Jack?"

"Yep. You wanna get off the floor?"

"What?" Daniel swallowed and lifted his head, squinting as he looked around. "Oh."

"Come on." Jack pushed himself to his feet and moved to Daniel's right side, grabbing his good arm and lifting slowly. "Why didn't you go to the infirmary?"

"I did. It was crowded." Daniel pulled away from Jack, his movements suddenly stiff. "They won't be able to see me for hours, anyway, and there are more critically injured." Daniel headed to a small cot shoved against the far wall between two bookcases.   He eased himself on to his right side and released a small sigh as his eyes closed.

"Daniel," Jack pulled a spare chair and rolled it next to the cot, "what happened back there? What did she do to your arm?"

Daniel didn't bother opening his eyes. "I tried to deactivate her. She defended herself."

"Like she defended herself earlier by sending you airborn into a bookcase?"

Daniel opened his eyes and pushed himself up with his good hand. He slid his legs off the cot and held his injured arm close to his ribs. "She was a scared girl, Jack. Yes, she was dangerous, but she wasn't evil."

"She destroyed her people and she was about to make us next on her victim list."

Daniel sighed and closed his eyes, tilting his head back. "I was getting through to her. She could have helped us figure out how to defeat the replicators."

"No!" Jack raised his voice sharply, and Daniel straightened, jerking his eyes open. Why wasn't Daniel *getting* it? "She was going to kill us, Daniel. All of us, including you. I couldn't stake billions of lives on you *maybe* getting through to her."

"Right." Daniel nodded wearily. "Besides, she was just a robot, anyway. Just like our robot counterparts. The ones that 'died' saving you, Sam, and Teal'c. The ones that took down Chronos. Remember them? Were they 'real?'"

Jack sighed. Daniel had a point. "I don't know, okay? All I know is Reece was a threat."

"And you neutralized that threat."

 "You're damn right I did!" Why was he suddenly defensive? "I did what I had to do, and I'd do it again."

Daniel looked at him solemnly. His eyes steady. "I know you would, but I think maybe you pulled that trigger a little faster or a little easier because you kept telling yourself she was only a robot. She wasn't human."

"Yeah, okay, so she was a robot. She was programmed. She had an *off* switch Daniel. What don't you get about that?" 

"What I don't get is how a man who has traveled to so many other worlds and encountered so many different types of lifeforms can't fathom the possibility that an artificial lifeform is still a *life* form."

Jack took a breath and let his eyes drift around the dim room. "Maybe she was, okay? But none of that matters. Whether she was alive or not, it had to go down like that. I'd have done the same thing either way."

"Would you? If she was an eight year old human child standing there, alone and afraid, striking out because we were trying to hurt her?"

Jack snapped his eyes back to Daniel, images of Charlie and red flashing through his mind. He blinked back the sudden heat in his eyes. "She wasn't a child," he whispered, his voice unexpectedly hoarse.

Daniel looked at him sadly. "Yes, Jack, she was. She may have had the body of a young adult, but she was still as much of a child as she was before her consciousness was transferred into that machine."

Jack swallowed. Would he have pulled that trigger if he'd stormed in and looked into the eyes of an eight year old girl? Maybe it never would have come to that. Maybe, if he had treated her like a human child, things would've happened differently.

"I'm sorry things ended like they did." Jack leaned foward, his voice soft. "But what I did at that time was the right thing to do. It was the only thing to do."

When Daniel didn't answer, Jack rose from his chair. "I'll be back. You get some rest. I'll head to the infirmary and put your name on the list. When they're ready for you, I'll have them call. Okay?"

Daniel nodded, then tilted, falling carefully back to the mattress, his injured arm resting on his ribs. "Thanks."

With a nod, Jack turned and headed for the door. He stopped before opening it and looked over his shoulder. Daniel's eyes were closed, his glasses slightly skewed on his face. Lines framed his eyes. He looked much older and much more worn than the kid that had accompanied him to Abydos years before.

They had both changed so much that, sometimes, Jack wondered whether they were still even friends.

"Daniel?"

Daniel opened his eyes. "Yeah?"

Jack took a breath. "You took a big risk going in to talk to Reece alone, and maybe you did get through to her. Maybe she did shut the bugs down."

Daniel just stared at him.

"What I'm trying to say," Jack swallowed, "is that you did good. You did real good."

Daniel closed his eyes. "Not good enough."

~~~~

The End

Feedback appreciated

nawdc@yahoo.com

BACK