Title: Built to Last
Prompt: Twilight swim, robots, and a fairly clean handkerchief. Also using for fanfic100 prompt #4, "Insides"
Summary: Jack finds out the truth about The Others
Word count: 1544
Note: Kinda cracked out. Thanks oodles to themoononastick for supplying a huge chunk of the purest crack.
Spoilers: Up through "I Do"
The hour is nearly up. He’s bought Kate and Sawyer a full hour so he hopes they can run like rabbits as well as fuck like them. But he can’t think about that right now. Not when he has an evil genius’s life in his hands.
Jack’s been pacing this whole time. Sure, his legs are tired but how else can he keep up the whole highly-strung, just-this-side-of-psychotic thing, short of adopting that creepy Hannibal Lecter smile of Ben’s?
They’ve stood still this whole time, just watching him, poised to act but restraining themselves. At least they got a good night’s sleep. Jack has never hated the well-rested so much.
There's only 30 seconds left, and he makes his decision. They’re going to kill him no matter what he does, so he might as well go out doing what he does best. Might as well save that miserable jerk's life. Not that he'll get any thanks for it.
He calls for a scalpel and Juliet, still masked, eyes watchful but calm as always -- Damn, that’s annoying -- hands it to him. He can feel the tension ease out of the room as he resumes the surgery. It's all going well, of course, because he’s damned good at his job. He's so absorbed, he's almost forgotten what's at stake here.
And then he makes another cut, peeling back the last layer of skin and stops. He can feel them going for their guns again. But he can't continue, because he has no idea what he's looking at. Wrapped around Ben's spine is something he can't even begin to identify.
"What the hell is this?" He looks around the room and he can practically feel them closing in.
"What the hell is what?" Juliet responds, still serene but with a hint of annoyance in her voice.
"This.” Jack points at a small black tendril that runs the length of Ben's spinal cord. “I’ve never seen this before. It's like it's been ... implanted. It's not...”
"Not important.” Juliet finishes for him. “Just ignore it. Work around it.”
Jack knows she's not an expertly trained spinal surgeon like he is but, seriously, how is he supposed to work around that? That’s just great. Ben’s going to die and it’s not his fault. He can’t work under these primitive conditions but it’s not like he has a choice. Well, he does, really. But he hates to just give up.
Jack carefully tries to pry the mysterious foreign object away from the tumor but it's too imbedded. “I’m going to have to cut it,” he announces.
“No!” The cry goes up from the whole group, in unison.
"Jack," Juliet is still the model of eerie calm. "I'm afraid you can't do that. It's ... vital. If you cut that, you'll be killing him."
"Well, who the hell has ..." He's still examining the black cord and he realizes it's knotted, just like a bundle of nerves.
"We do," Juliet sighs. Pickett is giving her a look of pure disgust, but she presses on. "I was hoping it wouldn't come to this."
"Come to what?"
"We can bleed. We can cry. We can get sick. We can die. But we're not human, Jack."
She's serious. Jack looks from her to Pickett to the other people ranged around the room. “So, you're what, robots?"
"That's a crude word for it," she says, taking a step towards him.
"Well, that would explain why you're completely cold and humorless," he mutters, but she ignores him and presses on.
"Did you ever see Blade Runner? We're as human as it's possible to make us. Except for one thing. We can't have children."
"You said you were a fertility doctor!"
"Not for us... why do you think we took Kate and Sawyer too?"
Jack makes a face at that. And, for a split second, he wonders whether to be insulted that he wasn’t chosen for his contribution to their human zoo's gene pool. Sure, Sawyer’s good-looking but other than those damn dimples, what’s he got to offer? Any kids he and Kate would have would definitely be the most stubborn, annoying, smart-mouthed children ever, not to mention born criminals. For robots, these guys aren’t too bright. They’d need a nice, stable, intelligent guy like himself to balance out Kate’s DNA.
"Jack, we need you," Juliet is imploring him, "All of you, to keep us going. We thought we were made to last forever, but we didn't know that we could get cancer. You're our last hope. Now, will you please finish the surgery?"
Jack laughs. "This is just too ...” He’s about to say “weird,” but the word has lost all meaning on the island. “Look. I can't work around that cord. I'll do my best, but I can't promise anything."
She nods, and he sets back to work.Okay, he’s a robot. It’s not a big deal. But he can only get to part of the tumor. He finally admits defeat. "That's it, that's all I can do. I can close him up or ..."
"No, it's better if he doesn’t wake up." Juliet sighs and calmly inserts her hand into the opening around Ben’s back. She pushes something until there’s an audible “click” and the heart rate monitor goes flat.
Her eyes are moist. Pickett steps forward with a handkerchief, none too clean, and hands it to her. She wipes her eyes. "It doesn't matter now. Ben wasn't the first. And he won't be the last. It's going to spread to all of us. But if there's no hope..."
Soon, the room is full of crying robots -- or whatever they are -- and Jack can only stand there and awkwardly cross his arms and feign being sympathetic. It’s a good thing he has such an excellent bedside manner.
They drape a cloth over Ben and then he's led out. They drive him to the water's edge. Drive. In a car. Jack tries not to be bitter about all those needless, long hikes in the rain.
They stop at a marina where they have their motor boat docked. Pickett and Juliet are arguing in low tones and then Pickett throws up his arms and storms off. "I’m going to take you back," she announces, as calm and emotionless as ever. He thinks he should have guessed the truth about her long ago.
"You don't need a doctor anymore?"
"We can always come get you if we need you," she says, with what might be smugness in a human.
They get into the boat and she expertly pilots him across the few miles separating the two islands. The sun is setting and, especially after so much time trapped in that fishbowl, the beauty of the island, his island, almost brings a lump to his throat. But he doesn’t want to let a robot see him cry.
“How did you get here anyway? Who made you?"
"Dharma made us," she says. “Some say we rebelled and we were banished here. Others think we're part of an ongoing experiment." She turns to smile at Jack. Almost human. "But none of us really knows. None of us can remember anything before the island."
“So how did you find out you were...?"
"How did you know what you are?"
Jack opens his mouth but finds he doesn't know what to say. So he just nods and tries to look thoughtful.
The island is growing closer now, looming larger by the second. He's not sure he recognizes the beach they’re approaching. Of course, she's not dropping him anywhere near to camp. He wouldn’t mind a word -- and about half an hour alone -- with whoever programmed her.
She cuts the motor when they’re about 100 yards from the shore. "You'll have to swim back, Jack," she says, pointing to the water. "I can't get any closer than this."
"It's okay. I'm a good swimmer," he says hastily, already shucking off his scrubs, anxious to be back among people who don’t have “on/off” switches.
"I know," she says, nodding. "I'll be seeing you, Jack."
He pauses before he dives over the side. "Yeah, sure." He can't hit the water fast enough. The water is still warm and he falls into an easy rhythm swimming. The light is fading but the white sand on the beach is a target he can't miss.
He drags himself onto the beach and collapses. He has no idea where the camp is. He looks back to see the boat, still bobbing on the the waves for a few minutes. He waves and the motor starts up again, like she was waiting to make sure he made it okay.
If she cared that much, she could have given him a map at least. He tries to get his bearing and finally just picks a direction and starts walking.
What the hell he’s going to say to the rest of them, especially Sawyer and Kate, he doesn’t know. How do you tell someone they were kidnapped by robots so they would mate in captivity?
Robots. He does remember Blade Runner and he sighs. Pity. There wasn't a pleasure unit in the bunch.