Cogito ergo sum
‘There must be a thinking entity for there to be thought,’ René Descartes once explained, a long time ago, in his Meditations on First Philosophy.
Doctor Elizabeth Weir had read the book, written in the first half of the seventeenth century, a long time ago in college. It hadn’t so much been required reading, as it had been her curiosity after one too many drinks during a night discussing the very idea of one’s existence with some fellow students. What defined an entity as a person? Was it the ability to think? To feel? To experience emotions or the world in which they lived?
It had been a brief interest, and she hadn’t given the notion of existence, of one’s own self, much thought after reading it or for the rest of her student years or life as contributing adult to society.
That is, until, as the leader of the Atlantis expedition, she had joined the main exploration team and had made contact with the Asurans. A race more advanced than they had ever encountered. A race, which could very well help them defeat the Wraith, and therefore it was imperative to get to know them better. But looks can be deceiving, as they had unfortunately learned the hard way.
The reasons the Asurans were as advanced as they appeared, was because the Ancients had built them that way. They were not flesh and blood, but machines build from building blocks called nanites, invisible to the naked eye and advanced enough to give even Doctor Rodney McKay a run for his money. The Ancients had given these androids the ability to act independently, to learn, to live their lives, but most of all fulfill their purpose as a means to an end; a way to defeat the Wraith, once and for all.
Niam, one of the Asurans, had taken a keen interest in them, and especially in her, and had wanted to share information. He was as curious about them, as they were about him. He wanted to do good, be honorable and true to himself and others. But most of all he wanted to be a real man. He was the Asuran Pinocchio as it were, but without the nose that grew should he tell a lie.
He had told them his people, the Asurans, had overcome the Ancient programming and evolved into much more than their creators could ever have hoped for. Though Elizabeth doubted the Ancients ever intended for their creations to reach the same kind of enlightenment they had accomplished as flesh and blood humans. Niam asked them for their help to achieve that same goal, to reach a higher plane of existence, and he was convinced that the descendants of the Ancients could do just that.
He believed by altering his programming, and that of his people, they could very well reach ascension. Niam's believe in his very existence pushed him to the very edge of thought, to the very edge of what he could be and more, within the known universe. He was convinced his very self, his very being, was as real as Elizabeth was as a flesh and blood human. In the eyes of Descartes, Niam’s existence was fact, for he was capable of thought, and as such he too could reach that higher plane of existence.
Je pense, donc je suis
The Asurans had left an impression on the expedition but not the kind that would be looked back upon with happy or joyous feelings. They had failed to help Niam, and to make matters worse he had infected Elizabeth with some of his nanites. Doctor Carson Beckett had no idea how to flush the wee little buggers out of her system and so they would remain a presence in her existence, dormant yes, but not gone.
It had furthermore forced her to look at her own existence and being in a whole new, and different light than before the Asurans happened. It had sent her cascading into a dreamworld, more real than anything she had ever experienced in her life, a mind altering reality from which return seemed impossible. It had left her with a sense that nothing was real, not the reality of Atlantis and the expedition, nor the reality created by the nanites. She'd told Doctor Kate Heightmeyer as much, and the debate which had followed hadn't exactly helped solidify which reality was more real or whether she was even still human; in that the philosophical question remained an open question.
What defined her existence within this or that reality? Was her capability of thought even enough to define her as real or was she version 2.0 with the original no longer in play? Descartes had infamously said that with thought comes existence, but did that include nanites altering thought or one's self? If the French philosopher was alive today, he'd probably have a thing or two to say about that. But he wasn't, so Elizabeth was left to ponder on her own.
Ik denk, dus ik ben
The last conscious thing Elizabeth remembered before everything went dark, was the Asuran beam hitting the tower, shattering the glass stained window above and sending her flying backwards towards the middle of the room,. It was in that moment she knew, without a doubt, she had existed as a person. She knew her existence had left a mark, and she would not be so easily forgotten. It gave her comfort in her final moments.
However, the very idea that the Asurans could both take her life and give it back, had not crossed her mind in those final moments, so it was with a little surprise and possibly a bit of anger she had learned the truth when they had woken her up from her slumber. Doctor Rodney McKay and Doctor Jennifer Keller had used the nanites to repair the damage done to her body.
They had been awakened from their dormant state and put to good use. Even Doctor McKay's assurances that the nanites couldn’t do anything else, could not alter her mind or sense of reality, she wasn't convinced that bringing her back from the brink of non-existence was such a brilliant idea. Furthermore, he had coded a kill-switch into their programming, thus sealing her existence as a human-Asuran hybrid. The SGC was not going to look kindly on Elizabeth Weir version 2.0, but that would have to be dealt with at some other, more convenient and less dire time.
Perhaps, in the end, when she had sacrificed herself to save the team she had done so with the knowledge that her death had been inevitable from the moment the energy beam had hit the tower, and all she had been doing so far was living on borrowed time. Her mind was no longer hers alone, and knowing she'd lose that which made her unique to the world fueled her strength and resolve to put her friends before her own self. If she were to go down, she wanted to go down a hero at least.
I think, therefore I am
The silence was deafening and yet welcoming all at once. She'd been part of the hive mind for so long she'd forgotten what it was like to be alone in her own mind. Her mind, that was all she had left of her true self. The rest was gone. She had forgotten what her corporeal form even felt like. She remembered what she looked like, though even those memories had become vague and flooded with others from other minds, not her own.
But when the opportunity had come to pull herself free, she had taken it, with both proverbial hands. She had followed the surge and landed in an environment she had long since forgotten about. As soon as she consciously realized where she was and that it could very well be the beginning of her salvation, of the saving of who she was and who she had become, she burrowed herself deeper into the system. She was still herself, still capable of thought without the interference or influence from others. She still had a right to live, to be and to become the woman she once was.
As they reached out to her, asking her who was asking for help, she remembered everything.