Originally posted for the men and machines challenge on sga_flashfic.
Title: He Who Has Spoken
Primary Characters: John Sheppard and Rodney McKay.
Summary: Sheppard and McKay discuss cyborgs fictional and hypothetical.
Author's Notes: There may be some spoilers for movies and series that have been out for several years, and there are a lot of SF references. I double-checked to make sure everything is something you can at least find out a little about on Wikipedia, rather than put a list of everything in here and possibly spoil the fic.
"No, no, no," McKay said, waving around a pair of very fine wire cutters, "You're getting it all wrong, Colonel! Deckard was a replicant -- he was an artifical being--"
"But what if some of his parts originally came from real human beings?" Sheppard asked, leaning over his P-90 and watching the room's only door. "Wouldn't that make him a cyborg, in the reverse?"
McKay snorted, his arms disappearing into the open wall panel that already obscured his head.
"What, like Wolfe's Jonas? I think not, Colonel. Deckard may have been a biological humanoid, he may even have thought he'd had to have had something replaced over the course of his long, unhappy, entirely fictional career in the LAPD, but he was most certainly not a cyborg." His statement was punctuated by a shower of sparks inside the wall. Sheppard didn't budge from his guard/lookout position, since McKay didn't even curse, so it must not have been a bad thing -- although now he thought he could smell burnt hair.
"But if Kryten is considered a cyberorganism just because he has a partially organic brain--" Sheppard started, baiting the scientist. It worked. There was a thunk and then McKay slid out on his back, pushing up his safety goggles just to give him a properly disdainful look.
"Please. If you want to bring Red Dwarf into this, we might as well give up all pretense of having a scientific -- or, indeed, logical! -- basis to this conversation right now."
Sheppard gave him a wounded look and McKay snorted and pushed his glasses down, slithering back into the wall. Sheppard always wondered how he did that if he had a bad back. McKay didn't say anything, and after a moment or two of hearing the very faint sounds of him working, he conceded that it was his turn to restart the conversation.
"So, you're saying that you think that his artificial heart--"
"--is the reason the Borg chose to take Jean-Luc Picard as their Locutus, yes."
"You don't think his captaining a flag ship had something to do with that?"
"If you're asking if I think they were able to determine rank and influence, then yes, I suppose they could have done an analysis of the communications flying around subspace and determined what security code level he was receiving, but I don't think they cared, except in the terms of giving a powerful ship a setback in operations by removing an essential component. But they'd encountered him before and would have seen he was already a cyborg, and thus would be more susceptible to their modifications."
Sheppard shook his head.
"You ever get the feeling that someone on the writing staff was pushing a warped understanding of transhumanism?"
There was a pause, like there always was when he said something McKay hadn't expected him to know. Either that, or McKay wasn't really listening, absorbed in doing some delicate bit of wizardry on Atlantis' systems and letting his mouth move on automatic. It didn't matter, it was a pause, and he took advantage of it.
"I mean, despite what McKibben might say, most transhumanists think that people who don't want to adopt human enhancement technologies should be allowed to make that decision, and their right to make that choice protected -- I think the comparison was the Amish? But the Borg come along and kidnap people and force them to join their collective."
McKay grunted, accompanying a flickering of the lights in the room.
"Even the Amish are considering embracing gene therapy. What about in life-saving situations?" he asked after some muttering and another thunk. "Do you think if you were unconscious and Carson had to give you bionic lungs or something to save your life that he'd wake you up to ask, first?"
Sheppard thought about this.
"No, but he'd probably ask you and Elisabeth. Would you want him to?"
"Keep you alive? If your quality of life would be undiminished, very probably," McKay said absently. "You're very efficacious at keeping us all alive, after all, but then again, you're military and if you don't have an actual death wish, you've at least demonstrated a lemming-like willingness to sacrifice yourself." His voice had gone bitterly sarcastic. "But since you have the best chance of operating Atlantis' defenses, chances are good that Elisabeth would vote to keep you alive any way possible."
"What if you had to put my brain in jar?" Sheppard asked as McKay slid out of the wall again. He hauled him to his feet.
"Please, your brain would die in a jar," he said, hurrying over to an Ancient computer console. His fingers flew over the keys and they lit up, finally. Sheppard sagged against the wall in relief as McKay began restoring power to key systems in this section of the city.
"You know what I mean. Okay, what if something really horrible happened to you -- God forbid," he hastily added as McKay gave him a shocked look. "But while your body was mostly unsalvageable, your brain could be saved, put in an artificial body, say, or kept alive and hooked up to a computer so you could communicate."
"Yes, well, I suppose if you couldn't do without my brain--" McKay snapped. His shoulders had hunched and gotten progressively tenser as Sheppard spoke.
"You're always saying we can't," Sheppard pointed out, unable to picture McKay as just a brain and wondering if he could really communicate without his hands.
"If this is what happens when you read McCaffrey --"
"Nope. Still on Tolstoy."
McKay shook his head, radioing in to Elisabeth that they were ready to move on to the next section and getting an update on the other teams. He started packing up his tools.
"Hey," Sheppard said, straightening suddenly. "You don't suppose there's someone's brain somewhere in the city, running things?"
"I hope not; I've been theorizing it's an AI of some kind," McKay replied, slinging his bag onto his back. "If we find it before Minsky is dead, I'm hoping I can get him clearance so I can tell him."
Sheppard nosed his gun into the corridor. They didn't know that there was anything dangerous around, but experience had taught them to be cautious.
"I didn't know you knew Minsky," he commented.
"We've met," McKay said around a mouthful of PowerBar, in that tone that immediately let Sheppard know they hadn't seen eye-to-eye. He'd come to realise that McKay was much better at playing nice with others now than he was on Earth, scary as that was, and he suppressed a grin, picturing that meeting.
"Seemed like a nice guy to me," he said, moving into the hall, and was rewarded with the sound of McKay walking into the door.
"Why do you do that?!" McKay demanded, and even better than startling him was getting him to admit it.