magibrain: There ARE no tunes. It's TALK RADIO, Torg! ALL TALKING! (Still just talking.)
[personal profile] magibrain
Title: J is for je ne sais quoi
Author: magistrate
Rating: T.
Genre: Mostly talking. Character study, episode-related.
Beta: Can only control the host at night.
Continuity: Canon-compliant.
Prerequisities: Nightwalkers.
Summary: In which Jonas considers ethics, and when ethics feel wrong.
Disclaimer: You know, I write in all these different canons, and as far as I can tell the legal status of fanfiction is more or less the same in all of them. The opinions expressed herein are the properties of the characters and not of America, Bedrosia, or Kelowna. The difference between theory and practice is that in practice there's a difference between theory and practice. Ethics may confuse. Questions, comments and creeping suspicions can be left in replies or directed to magistrata(at)gmail(dot)com. Thank you for reading!

==

He wouldn't have admitted it back on Kelowna, where it could have cost him his position, but Jonas had begun to suspect that ethics was the study of undefinable gut feelings. Pick any formal law – maximizing happiness for the majority, minimizing suffering, prioritizing the correct balance of action and responsibility – and pretty soon you could put together a scenario abiding by those rules which most people would agree was an atrocity.

Thing was, that just put everyone back at square one. Whatever feels wrong, is wrong. And more than a few people took that to its contrapositive: whatever doesn't feel wrong, isn't wrong.

And that led to problems.

After lunch, Jonas headed back to his lab, and the research assistant he'd apparently inherited along with it. "Hey, Nyan," he greeted; Nyan looked up from a tall stack of books dragged up from the Archaeology and Linguistics Library, and gave him a smile. "Up for another round of A-B-K?"

Nyan winced in sympathy. "It was one of those missions, wasn't it?"

Jonas raised his eyebrows, and poured himself a cup of coffee.

Here they were, scientists in a military outfit, with a history of science overseen by military concerns. Once they'd bonded on that, it had become something of a game to compare notes. America, Bedrosia, Kelowna. Take a situation, guess how each nation would react. If there would be differences at all.

"Let's assume that out of some form of professional incompetence, an entire town is infested with immature Goa'uld symbiotes," Jonas said. "The symbiotes have a vested interest in preserving the status quo until they can complete their objective. The hosts have no conscious awareness of them. All anyone notices is that they're tired all the time, because the symbiotes are waiting until they're asleep so they can manipulate them into building a ship with spaceflight capabilities. Meanwhile, a branch of the government becomes aware of this, sets up containment protocols to ensure that the Goa'uld won't actually make it off the planet, and then sits back and observes in order to seize the ship once it's finished, returning the town to normal."

Nyan flipped the book closed.

"The NID apparently had all the authorization they needed to do that," Jonas said.

Nyan tilted his head. "From what I've read of contemporary political thought, if the program were public, there would be widespread controversy if that were to come to light."

"Civilian controversy," Jonas pointed out. "But yeah. I think most people have a gut reaction that getting taken over by an alien is bad. And that letting someone be taken over by an alien is bad, too. At the same time, this ship could conceivably mean a significant leap forward in Earth's capacity to defend itself."

Sitting in the back of the NID van, with Agent Cross thinking about whether or not to hold a gun on them, Jonas had wondered what he'd thought of the mess. All the opinions he'd given voice to were on that pragmatic side of the scales. Had there been a niggling unease at the edge of his consciousness? A hint that the situation didn't sit right?

Whatever doesn't feel wrong. Jonas still had yet to figure out if the hardline positions he'd seen in his own overseers, in some of the people here, were beliefs held without reservation, or if the reservations were rationalized away.

"According to Kelowna's military thinking, the benefit to security would easily outweigh any damage to personal autonomy." The Kelownan military had been hungry for any kind of technology it could get its hands on. A few civilians with sleepless nights wouldn't rate much – not when a team of dead scientists and a dead foreign diplomat was hardly worth a pause to reflect.

Nyan considered, for a while.

"I can't see the Bedrosian government supporting that," he said. "But not on moral concerns. Exploiting Goa'uld knowledge would mean admission that the Optrican theory of life on our planet was correct. No matter the technological gains in the long run, the blow to Bedrosian morale and the increase in positive sentiment for Optrican propaganda would be too dangerous for them to accept."

There was an odd feeling at the back of Jonas's head, after all these conversations. A sense that whatever the individual representatives of these organizations felt – he did like Major Carter, had a healthy respect for Colonel O'Neill and General Hammond, and felt a growing sense of camaraderie with Teal'c – the whole of the armed forces wasn't much aware of him as an individual. Had no sense of individual life or individual experience as something to recognize or assign any value to. And it was no single person he could ascribe that to, but something in the layers of abstraction that separated life on the individual level from considerations at the pragmatic.

"I'm not sure that's an improvement," Jonas said.

"Certainly not," Nyan agreed. "Especially as the civilians would likely be executed or detained indefinitely."

Jonas thought about that, for a moment.

For no reason other than his own sense of moral propriety, which he felt was the right one and had no evidence to support. He couldn't deny that the overall effect of Earth being unable to mount a defense against the Goa'uld could have far-reaching consequences that stretched beyond one sleepy town in the corner of this continent undergoing a control they'd have no memory of. But that was taking the moral weight of a hypothetical and weighing it against a real, ongoing decision. Maybe if the Goa'uld did show up in a month or two, and a ship was the only way to protect the planet, he'd feel that the moral choice should have gone differently.

He was still somewhat amazed that he'd ever been paid to present himself as an expert on this. After his first school of philosophy had fallen apart under his feet, the more he thought about it, the stranger all of it felt.

"Well," Jonas said. "As always, it's been a vaguely disquieting game."

"I look forward to our next round," Nyan said, and turned back to his reading.

- END -

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