magibrain: "Did they have morality majors at your school?" "No." (Don't ask me; I was not a morality major)
[personal profile] magibrain
See the Rift exposition post for too much context. Or just keep reading for too much context again.

One of the reasons I don't really plan on doing more with this universe than braintics is because Jack Harkness is about as overpowered as you can get, and I don't think that three hundred thousand works of Jack O'Neill being shown up by the 280-something-year-old Special Ops man from the future is good fic. Jack Harkness can be put in his place by a few things – one of his alphas (and oh, isn't there a whole other post to be had about what that entails), overwhelming force, and his own utter ineptitude when it comes to dealing with his own emotions and his own damage, but none of these things are really O'Neill's forte. Which means that in the Battle of the Jacks, Harkness is almost a shoe-in to win. ...and I don't really like crossovers where the takeaway seems to be "My Canon's Character Is Better Than Your Canon's Character," even though in this case SG-1 is usually more my canon than Torchwood.

Phwah. SG-1 and Torchwood would be my Facebook "It's Complicated"s, if Facebook believed in polyamory.

(All of this pretty much boils down to to the fact that I should write a lot more with Harkness and Daniel, because Daniel can kick Harkness' ass before Harkness realizes it's been kicked, at least in the emotional insight corner. And O'Neill needs to make friends with Sam Tyler, because Tyler is a no-nonsense, authority-respecting sort of guy who can also kick Harkness' ass if it comes down to it.)

(...strangely enough, [livejournal.com profile] damageverse is pretty much my one grand foray into the world of slash, and is Jack Harkness/Sam Tyler. Whereas Jack O'Neill/Sam Carter is my foremost Stargate pairing, in that very special way where I ship it only so long as they both ignore the ship because saving the galaxy and being upstanding soldiers is more important. [personal profile] storyinmypocket and I came to the conclusion that Jacks need their Sams. Not always in a romantic way, and not always in a, er, healthy way, but it seems to hold true. ...we also came to the conclusion that the group names are "a confusion of Jacks" and "a repression of Sams". Just try to tell me it doesn't seem right.)

But anyway, I was talking about Jack and Jack.

Harkness is a torturer. A 51st-century torturer, trained in the Time Agency, which in Damageverse canon is a freakishly fucked-up group of Machiavellian empire-builders who became the most powerful and most corrupt force in the local universe because they had functioning time travel technology and no mandate whatsoever. And because they were nominally controlled by the Chula, who, in Damageverse canon, were pretty much the exact opposite of the Time Lords in terms of time travel technology (as the Time Lords were all, "Hey, let's make laws and regulations to prevent paradoxes", and the Chula were all "Ooh, paradoxes. LET'S PLAY WITH THEM."), and they had an interesting sort of psychology and worldview ("What happens if I do this? Bored now." Alternately, their entire philosophical structure boils down to "We do it for the lulz") that, if you're a human or have human-like cognology, kinda fucks you up if you spend too much time around it. Meaning systems in particular tend to degrade, and morality is one big meaning system that's prone to interpretation and degradation anyway.

Also, the Time Agency tends to bring people in who are fucked-up anyway, so it's not like Harkness had a nice, strong sense of self that couldn't be completely rewritten into what the Agency needed him to be.

I'm still fuzzy on the exact timelines, but Harkness probably joined the Agency circa his early 20s, and got out circa his mid-ish 30s. Not long after that he was rendered immortal, and spent the next 240 years or so looking for the Doctor. Now, this should demonstrate how deep Time Agency conditioning runs: those two and a half decades looking for the Doctor happened because he's trained to look for certain forms of authority (primary authorities, in Agency parlance; alphas, in another) and the Doctor managed to alpha him but good.

Also, after 240 years, his identity is still Time Agency Eletor-Instagur 462O1/J, Jack Harkness, compliance officer.

He hasn't worked as a torturer for about two and a half centuries, and it's still central to who he is.

...hey, who wants more braintics?




[Context: Harkness is rathermuch hated by certain factions in the Archangel command structure. Angels can't lie – it's physically painful for them – but they're more than familiar with propaganda; one of them decides to throw a wrench in the whole SGC/Torchwood alliance thing by inviting O'Neill to a little diplomatic meeting and saying something along the lines of "You are aware he's a torturer, right? And we have reason to believe that he makes a practice of torturing his own."

Other things to know? Uh, Sam Tyler senses lies. As pain. And apparently, Sam Carter and Daniel knew about the whole "torturer" thing, but it conveniently failed to come up in their reports.
]

=

After all, they said he was immortal.  Jack was nearly willing to take advantage of that fact.

>

"Don't you just love archangels?" Harkness said, leaning back and folding his hands together on his chest.  "Oh, they can't lie, but they'll definitely tell you the truth they want you to hear."

>

because either I can try to explain this to be or we can jump right into sanctions and fisticuffs."  Harkness spread his hands.  "Which is it going to be?"

>

"What exactly did Mr. Barnam say?"

"Exactly?" Jack asked, and shook his head.  "He said you were a torturer by trade, and alleged that you had tortured Torchwood personnel."  Including Carter and Daniel, he didn't say, because he wasn't sure he could get the words out without ripping out Harkness' throat.

"Torturer, technically, though not as you understand the term," Harkness said.  "By training.  Not by trade unless you want to get clever – but then, archangels always want to get clever, so what's a body to do."  He raised his left hand, indicating the wrist device.  "Fifty-first century.  Time Agency.  I had a job in information extraction and compliance, which means, yeah, I'm versed in the whole 'tie people to a chair and hurt them until they tell you things' thing, but where I come from, that's the same sort of stupid as fishing for double-agents by putting a lawn ad out in front of the UN.  I can tell you categorically that if that's what you're thinking when you think torture, I've never had to do that to any member of Torchwood Chicago.  And I can get DCI Tyler in here if you don't believe me."

Jack scowled.  Oh, he believed him, but only because Harkness seemed to be playing at least as clever as he said the archangels were.  If that's what you mean.  Any member of Torchwood Chicago.  Never had to.  His hand hadn't stopped itching for a sidearm.  "And what would you mean by torture?"

"Comliance," Harkness said.

"Compliance."

Harkness glanced back at the wall behind him, didn't see whatever he was looking for, frowned, and turned back to Jack.  "There's a word in Latin," he said.  "Torquere.  It means 'to twist'.  To align, if you want to get poetic with your translations.  What I am, how I'm trained, what I do – there's no early-21st-century term for it, so it got back-translated out of Ransham, the Agency language, into torture.  My job is to align compliance.  You command a team; it's a big part of your job, too.  And aligning compliance covers everything from neat rhetorical tricks to little dropped anecdotes which increase trust to favors done to, yeah, all the ugly syringes-and-electrodes stuff that I'd rather not touch in my life again if I have any kind of say in it.  Yeah, under the Agency definition, what I do to command my team is xholat.  Torture.  Under the Agency definition, I'm pulling out more than a few tricks in the e'xhol arsenal on you, right now."  He spread his hands.  "You're being tortured and you don't even know it."

>

-

>

"Daniel!"

>

Daniel crossed his arms.  "Oh, and how many shady things are lurking in your past that you never told any of us about?" he said.  "And we've never asked.  You know, there might have been a reason you were so damn good at convincing us all you'd gone rogue when you stole from the Tollan, but it's never disqualified you from leading SG-1."

>

"I don't trust him," Jack said.

"Yeah, well, I don't think he trusts you that much either," Daniel responded, which didn't make Jack feel any better, but probably hadn't been supposed to.  "But Sam and I trust you both, so maybe the two of you can trust our judgment a little, hm?"

Damn Daniel and his always having a mind of his own.




[Context: Gee, I don't even know. Jack and Jack are having a beer, one Jack is introspecting, the other is getting him situated in Chicago and Torchwood's bitchy psychic office building, and even money says they're going to get interrupted in about three more paragraphs because the Rift has done something excruciatingly strange. Also, Dmitri Lang is mentioned, and damn but I need to write her into something. ...well, I do have that snippet of her in Jack O'Neill's cabin livingroom.]

=

There weren't many people who terrified Jack O'Neill, right down to the pit of his stomach.  Ba'al didn't.  Jack hated the System lord, would prefer never to meet him again, would prefer his empire summarily crumbled the next time anyone from the SGC so much as looked in his direction, but Ba'al was more like a falling tree in an unkempt forest or a chemical spill in the SGC: an occupational hazard.  Kinsey, for all that he could bring most of the galaxy tottering over and crashing down around Earth's head if he got people to listen to his sanctimonious idiocy, was just a sanctimonious idiot; Jaffa and Iraqi soldiers and Russian commandos and Ashraks and Reetou and all the various enemies he or the Stargate Program had made were, sure, capable of killing him or hurting him or hurting the people he cared about, but so were car accidents and improperly handled chicken and stray bolts of lightning.  Terror existed in a different realm than your run-of-the-mill bodily harm.  Most people did not inspire it.

But there were a few.

Daniel, sometimes, because Jack could see how totally he got swept into things, and if there was ever a situation that hit him right, well.  Genial as he might be, Daniel could be half a turn from zealot at times.  At times not even that, and Jack never could tell how far he personally would follow.

And then there was Harkness.

Because Harkness's entire moral landscape seemed to boil down to "looking after his people" and some vague notion that the Doctor wanted him to be a good person, and the instant those tenuous holds were threatened, it was like the brake lines got slashed.

Harkness didn't have much to be afraid of – what, immortal, nearly three centuries old, most of that time spent in special ops, and the one run of training he couldn't ever shake was training in torture (or it's high-falutin' fifty-first century equivalent), for Christ's sake.  From what Jack had read of Harkness's  skirmishes with the archangels, the way to threaten Harkness was to strike out at the Doctor or Torchwood personnel, not at him.   As it turned out, that was also the way to get well and thoroughly massacred with your corpse stuffed in cold storage.

Normal people had limits on their behavior.  Things like guilt and shame and senses of personal or religious responsibility that kept them from killing, stealing, hurting other people or tearing the world down.  Take away those moral leads – or worse, threaten them with harm – and those limits might still weigh on him, but as for his actions, none would apply.  And that, combined with the weird possession Jack knew Harkness felt over his team, the idea that Torchwood was one hand of cards, one set of pieces on the chessboard, and Harkness knew how to move and what to play...

Dealing with Harkness was like dealing with the Devil.  You could make all the arguments you wanted about the end justifying the means, you could cut a deal to save the world and cast down those that threatened it, but in the end you still had to realize that he might get you there on a trail of dead bodies and fractured governments.  You had better be sure, damn sure it was worth it.

-

At the moment, the devil was serving him beer.

"La Fin du Monde," Harkness said, popping the cork and pouring from a foot above the glass, not bothering to tilt the glass or anything as the beer foamed up.  "Courtesy of Dmitri Lang, who's gone ahead and nominated it the official beer of Chicago.  Not that I can blame her.  I can kinda see her point."  He moved over a glass, started pouring for himself.  "You run into her yet?"

"Haven't had the pleasure," Jack said, though he wasn't sure pleasure would be the right word.  "Russian?"

"Chicagoan."  Harkness's tone implied that that was all you really needed to know about most people – they were here, they lived in the chaos, they hadn't fled the area yet.  "Chinese by ancestry, I think.  I'd say you'd understand more when you met her, but from everyone I've spoken to, meeting her is a way to understand a whole lot of nothing, real fast."

"Ah," Jack said.

"She'll probably happen to you sooner rather than later," Harkness said.

Date: 2011-11-21 07:04 am (UTC)
thiefofvoices: A catlike machine made of bones and scrap metal, holding a small talisman in its claws. (catbeast)
From: [personal profile] thiefofvoices
Okay, so the long introspectre that O'Neill's doing about Harkness is spot on and kind of awesome. I feel like I'd have to excerpt half of every sentence if I were going to say the bits I liked specifically. Damn you. 8| It's just that it's not just a really good description of Harkness (which I just almost typed as Jarkness), but also feels like a pretty good description of Chicago's morals to begin with: Don't Threaten Its People. Never mind that each little faction in Chicago sees Its People as an entirely different group.

Also, jumping back, Harkness's semantic runaround of the entire idea of torture is awesome. Well done.

Also also, I eagerly await Dmitri happening to anyone.

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