Title: Thyself, Unknown
Spoilers: Beneath the Surface
Summary: And then they were strangers again and their world was brand new with signs of aging.
Disclaimer: I own nothing to do with Stargate but my rabid fan behavior. Alas.
A/N: This here's another fic from the 'crap fanfic file' collection. Since a number of people seemed to enjoy my other CFF piece, 'A Question of Suitability', I decided to put this one up, too, even if I don't think it's all that great. Maybe some of you will disagree with my assessment and actually enjoy it.
Jonah rolled in one swift motion from his bed and stole toward Thera's bunk as others in the community sleeping room started to stir. He reached her bed and touched her shoulder in a hurried jostle. She lifted her head, golden hair adorably tousled, her blue eyes turned to him so full of attentiveness, astute curiosity and intelligence directed wholly at him.
"I think I know what's going on," he whispered lowly, like it was the key to the universe tucked in his brain, and Thera's lips parted and she was about to speak. "Jonah, Thera, report to Brenna's office." Thera and Jonah looked over at the foreman addressing them and they stole a wary, ominous glance at one another. It was too late. When they were taken to Brenna's office to find Carlin and a sick Tor already present they were given only the vague apology, "I'm sorry. I don't know what happened, why it stopped working, but we'll make it right. This time. It took a great deal to convince the administrator to even spare your lives. I'm just sorry we can't salvage your Jaffa friend... he was a strong worker. It's a shame I must do this to all of you again." Brenna's words sent an edge of panic through those summoned and Jonah and Thera looked at one another. Desperation flickered in the depths of their eyes. Too late. And then they were three and they were strangers again and their world was brand new with signs of aging.
"I think I know what's going on," he whispered lowly, like it was the key to the universe tucked in his brain, and Thera's lips parted and she was about to speak.
"Jonah, Thera, report to Brenna's office."
Thera and Jonah looked over at the foreman addressing them and they stole a wary, ominous glance at one another. It was too late.
When they were taken to Brenna's office to find Carlin and a sick Tor already present they were given only the vague apology, "I'm sorry. I don't know what happened, why it stopped working, but we'll make it right. This time. It took a great deal to convince the administrator to even spare your lives. I'm just sorry we can't salvage your Jaffa friend... he was a strong worker. It's a shame I must do this to all of you again."
Brenna's words sent an edge of panic through those summoned and Jonah and Thera looked at one another. Desperation flickered in the depths of their eyes. Too late.
And then they were three and they were strangers again and their world was brand new with signs of aging.
Brenna looked up from her worker productivity reports when someone entered her small, unpretentious office within the underground tomes of the ice planet. Her eyes immediately fell upon a slim, tall woman in the androgynous tan/orange worker's tunic. What made this woman stand out was her hair. Short-cropped, spiky, and cream-gold yellow. Brenna had seen so few blondes in her time; they were not common to the people on her planet.
"Thera," Brenna greeted her and beckoned the woman inside. Thera was a stab at Brenna's conscience because before, when she'd been Sam Carter, Brenna had liked her. In different circumstances, she believed she and Major Carter might have been friends. But that was not to be. The off-worlders involved themselves in matters not their concern and now Brenna was their overseer and Sam was Thera, the latter a woman that Brenna could respect and like but could never befriend.
Thera stepped into the office and shut the door behind her. Her hands quickly clasped in front of her body and Thera down-turned her face and averted her eyes. It was a built-in front that crumbled so easily. Some personality traits were never completely stamped out, and the propensity for confrontation was one characteristic that never leeched entirely out of Thera. Even when she was acting dutifully subservient there was a quick-to-light energy and fire in her that Brenna privately admired. Thera was more of a handful than she let on, and slowly, after four months with her in the caverns, other workers were starting to understand that about Thera.
Today Thera's outward appearance seemed more an accurate reflection of her inner emotional state. Thera's uncharacteristically meek, unassuming attitude was a sign that something was bothering her.
"I heard you were ill yesterday and had to go to the infirmary," Brenna decided to speak first. She harbored true concern for Thera, and not merely because she was on the look-out for another lapse back into Sam Carter as had happened two months ago. Brenna felt closer to Thera than many of the workers. Even if she wasn't quite Sam Carter anymore she was enough like her that Brenna felt a kinship with her, like she owed this almost-friend some protection and favor. "I hope it wasn't night sickness."
"Oh, no, I'm not night sick," Thera answered, then her hands started to twist upon themselves nervously. She refused to look Brenna in the eye.
Brenna frowned. "Thera, is there something troubling you?"
Thera frowned, chewed on her bottom lip, then released a strained sigh. "Brenna... I wanted to ask you... what steps does one have to take to get a breeding permit?"
Brenna's eyes widened slightly.
Because of the scarcity of resources, reproduction in the work force was strictly monitored and controlled. To ensure there were always enough workers for basic maintenance (what personnel wasn't provided from Above), select instances of controlled breeding were conducted. It was more husbandry of human life than the raising of children. Partners were evaluated and selected based on their genetics strengths, mental qualities, and work histories. Pairs did not always get along, but they would bow to the will of the overseers and 'provide' the requested offspring because they were 'happy to serve'.
Brenna could hardly remember the last time a child was requisitioned by the work force management commission. It was avoided when at all possible because the 'newness' of a pregnancy and a baby disrupted the monotony and complacency of the workers. It shook things up, and keeping everything under strict control was paramount.
Brenna realized she was still staring up at Thera.
"Well," she began, a little debased by the question and grasping for control of the situation, "it's not really something one can request. If work labor forces are projected to drop below minimum efficiency the management staff evaluates the stock available and 'orders' two individuals to copulate to conceive a child to eventually fill out the work crews."
Thera's lips thinned and she looked ashen.
Brenna's brow furrowed. "Thera, why are you asking about breeding permits?"
"... Jonah..." Thera started, but it was the only word she managed.
It was all Brenna needed. She had observed a natural closeness between former Colonel O'Neill and former Major Carter the moment they were introduced into the work force, fresh from their memory 'procedures', the first and the second. The stamp had naturally erased all explicit knowledge of one another, but almost innately they had gravitated toward each other, more so than any of the other members of the late SG-1. By the end of the first week Thera and Jonah were a pair. If not in an intimate sense, then in the sense that in between shifts and at meal times they were always in one another's company. Brenna noticed it, and more than once she wished she'd had time to learn the previous nature of their previous identities' relationship.
Personal relationships among the workers were not forbidden in and of themselves. They were human beings with physiological needs. If it interfered with an individual's work one partner would be transferred after a single courtesy warning (at Brenna's largess, because the management would just as soon there be no warning before transfer), but it had never been necessary with Thera and Jonah. They were expedient, diligent workers and their 'closeness' never impacted on their efficiency ratings.
Brenna had long suspected that after the first month with SG-1 as part of the labor force Thera and Jonah had become intimate. The second stamping procedure appeared to have little to no impact on the couple. They reunited and bonded all over again with even greater speed than in the aftermath of the first stamping.
"You and Jonah want to have a baby," Brenna mused aloud, and she watched Thera grimace. She had to know what was coming, and Brenna wanted to tell her non-friend she was sorry.
"Thera... you know the needs of the planet and its people supersede the desires of the individual workers. Our resources are limited and population growth has to be very carefully controlled or we'd, as a people, outgrow our food stores."
"I know that, Brenna, but I just thought, just once–"
Brenna resolutely shook her head. "I'm sorry. I appreciate that you and Jonah want to have children, but it's just not practical." Brenna watched Thera stand stone-still, face drawn, and she was struck with a pang of sympathy and compassion. "I tell you what I can do, I'll bring it up with the management board and see if they'd be willing to grant a reproduction order."
Thera did not look especially optimistic. "What are the chances they'll agree?"
"Honestly, small. Labor force increases by means of breeding are just not very practical in our situation. We end up investing years of resources before a viable, productive worker is at our disposal."
Thera looked down sadly.
"I really am sorry, Thera. I know you're disappointed, but I will make your case before the management board. You never know, they might agree."
"Why would they if there's no need for breeding at this time?"
Brenna could not help a small smile. "I don't think you need to be told you're an exceptional worker, Thera. You possess an intelligence and work ethic I imagine my superiors would be eager to preserve through genetics. When and if the need arises for breeding assignments you would probably be on the top of the list of candidates. It helps that you'd pick Jonah; he's a natural leader and has really helped us in keeping the others organized and on task. I'd be surprised, honestly, if he wasn't on the short-list of men considered for stud."
Thera's face twisted but she tried to hide it... with minimal success. There was no room for jealousy or possessiveness in the caves. There was no room for monogamy when the management sent down orders. Jonah would have to impregnate any woman the board chose for him, just as Thera would have to submit to fertilization by any man chosen for her. They could only say they were honored to serve.
Thera, instead of excusing herself, stood in place before Brenna's desk. She looked nervous, uneasy.
Thera met Brenna's eyes and for the first time she held eye contact for longer than a few seconds. Brenna could see the intensity dancing in Thera's light blue gaze.
Thera glanced around the empty office, stepped closer to the desk, then said lowly, "I... I didn't ask about a breeding permit because I was just overcome with the errant desire to have children."
Brenna could not look away from Thera and Thera gave her time to think about it.
"The visit to the infirmary..."
Thera nodded and swallowed. "I convinced the medics not to say anything, to let me come talk to you." There was bright hope and desperation in Thera's eyes.
Brenna sat back to digest the news.
Pregnancies were not uncommon in the barracks. Contraceptives were too costly and it was cheaper to administer abortive agents to terminate unwanted pregnancies after the fact. Frequently the mother did not even know she'd conceived when the medics 'took care' of the problem. Technically, Thera should be expelling her unplanned occupant at that very moment. But Thera had a way of getting others to listen to her and the medics knew Brenna had an affinity for Thera. They held off on the abortion procedures because they thought there might be a chance Thera could coerce Brenna to make it so that Thera could keep her baby.
And Brenna knew at that moment that she would at least try.
Thera was watching Brenna intently.
Brenna sighed. "I'll have to talk to the board. For now I'll give the infirmary orders not to terminate."
Thera's face brightened in relief, tentative though it was.
"I can't authorize the further allotment of food or water to adjust for additional nutritional needs, not until I can authorize this with the board."
Thera nodded. "Jonah's been giving me parts of his meals and water rations."
Brenna suspected as much. "He'll have to keep at it until this goes through the committee and I can secure requisitions for additional portions for you. Just see to it that he doesn't compromise his energy for work."
Thera nodded vigorously.
"I'll go see the administrator immediately," Brenna promised.
Thera almost smiled but something quickly dampened her mood. "I appreciate you doing this for me, for us, but... how likely is it that they'll let me keep my baby?"
Brenna studied Thera. "If it was anyone but you, Thera, I'd already be asking you to report to the infirmary for the standard termination procedure. But as I've said, you and Jonah would make ideal breeding partners for efficient offspring and I think–I hope the board will see that and the potential even if the timing is not exactly good."
Thera looked like she might almost believe it was possible.
"You better get back to work," Brenna said.
Thera immediately moved. With a rushed 'it's an honor to serve' she hurried out of Brenna's office and left the woman with a daunting task.