SG-1 walked in their usual vigilant formation down the long hill from the Stargate. The MALP's telemetry had revealed a degree of order to the tree planting that spoke of civilisation, which in turn had convinced Daniel that anyone who took this much care in forestry couldn't be all bad. He just wished that the persistent cold drizzle would lay off for a while. It didn't feel like it was raining, and yet cold wet trails were beginning to infiltrate inside his collar, and every time the breeze rocked the trees, a volley of much larger droplets descended on them. He knew better than to complain on this occasion, though, as the others had not completely forgiven him for having had to negotiate his release from an irate tribal elder on their previous mission.
Ahead, Teal'c suddenly stopped and raised his right hand. With practised ease, the others separated slightly and crouched behind bushes or trees, awaiting his further signal. Teal'c turned and ran back silently. He whispered to them "There is a road ahead, and I can hear two persons talking as they approach us. Should we attempt to establish contact now, O'Neill?"
"Not yet," replied Jack. "I'd rather wait to find out where the road leads to, and maybe see what and who we're up against in a village or town." They stayed out of sight as the two natives walked past.
"Bleedin' 'oliday weather, this." said one of the passing men. "Me barnet's not dried out all day. Wish I knew where I'd left me titfer." His companion merely grunted in reply.
As they disappeared into the distance, SG-1 moved to the road and started walking in the same direction as the men, but far enough behind to remain undetected.
"Interesting dialect variation on the standard Microsoft US English spoken on other worlds." said Daniel. "I'm not sure I've ever come across one or two of those words in MUSE before, though." He looked round for a reaction from his companions, but was surprised to see smiles on Jack and Sam's faces as they exchanged a glance. Teal'c as usual remained stoically impassive.
Soon they came to a fork in the road, with a white wooden signpost. 'Pratt's Bottom 2' said the writing on one arm, 'Turgington Thrumpwell 2' on the other.
"MUSE manuscript." stated Daniel. "Er, which way should we go? It's 2 kilometres either way, so."
"Miles, I believe." said Teal'c. "It is best this way, DanielJackson." To everyone's surprise, as he set off at a smart pace towards Turgington Thrumpwell. Jack shrugged his shoulders and they followed a few paces behind.
As the cold, wet dusk enfolded them, they entered the village, consisting of a collection of thatched cottages clustered around an inn. The warm glow of lights from the windows was a welcoming sight, as was the wisp of wood smoke leaving a tall brick chimney stack. In the reflected light they saw a hand-painted sign at the top of the tall wooden post outside. 'The Stargate Arms' it proclaimed, against a picture of the familiar grey circle.
"Leave this to me!" said Daniel, hoping to get back in everyone's good books. "I can deduce that the local use of MUSE manuscript should not present too many difficulties in developing a working conversation with the natives." He looked to Jack, eyebrows raised, for approval.
"Lead on, MacDuff." replied Jack. "It's your funeral." They shouldered their weapons and filed in through the huge oak front door, leading into a low-ceilinged room with wooden tables and chairs. The log fire in a brick hearth was especially welcoming. Several of the locals looked up briefly but soon returned to their conversations.
A large man with a jovial expression appeared behind the bar. "Aright, John?" he enquired, looking at Daniel.
"Er, yes, aright." said Daniel. "But actually, I'm Daniel, Daniel Jackson, and this is Colonel Jack O'Neill, Major Samantha Carter, and our good friend Teal'c. We are peaceful explorers from the planet Earth, and wish to meet your leader with a view to establishing trade relations to the mutual benefit of our two nations."
"Oozat art there?" came a harsh female voice from the open door behind the bar.
"Three Yanks and a Jaffa." the big man replied over his shoulder. Turning back to the new arrivals, he continued, "Yer won't find nuffink like that tonight, mate. Best fing tomorrer is to go up the smoke and talk to The Pearly King. But while yer 'ere, set down and rest yer plates. Will yer be eating dinner wiv us tonight? A tiddleywink to start wiv, perhaps?"
Daniel's intense frown added to his inability to reply. To his surprise, Jack cut in with "That'd be great, landlord. We haven't come far, but we're all pretty cattled. But I think we'll need the last of the daylight to set up camp. Is there a nearby field we can use before coming back later?" Daniel looked at Jack and his frown deepened, if that were possible, but the lack of reaction from Sam and Teal'c was also worrying.
"Stone the crows, not while it's coming down cats and dogs! I've got two free rooms up the apples, you'd be welcome!" came the reply. Having noticed Jack and Sam's obvious ease and familiarity with each other, and the way he had helped her off with her pack, the landlord said "You and yer Duchess can take one, Socrates 'ere and whotisname can 'ave the uvver. The going rate's a pony, but I'll make it a score each seein' as 'ow yer 'avin dinner."
Both small bedrooms were more than filled with a large double bed, and an old wardrobe that leaned away from the wall at the top, highlighting the sagging floorboards in the centre of each room. The landlord promised that the small log fires would be lit for them before the evening was out, and showed them the communal bathroom at the end of the corridor. After changing out of their wet clothes, they met again in the bar a while later.
As they sat round a large wooden table near the log fire, Daniel raised his hand to summon a waiter by clicking his fingers. "I advise against doing that, DanielJackson!" said Teal'c sharply. "I will get the first round." He stood up and looked quizzically at the others.
"If it's the usual, I think it'll be three pints, and I'll have a Vera 'n tonic. But only a small one, I don't want to be getting elephant's" said Sam, smiling at Daniel.
When Teal'c returned from the bar and placed all the drinks on the table, Daniel could contain himself no longer. "Look, OK guys, I know you've taken a little getting over what happened on the last planet, and I'm sorry, but I'm not going to apologise any more. What in the hell is going on here? Why are you so relaxed about being with these strangers? How come you all seem to understand what they say? How do we know the food and drink is safe?"
Jack took a long sip of the deep amber-coloured beer in his glass and wiped the foam from his mouth with the back of his hand. "You really haven't figured out who these people are yet, have you? Call yourself a philologist!" Daniel noticed Sam smiling into her glass of 'Vera', whatever that was, as she raised it to her lips.
Teal'c was the one to take pity on him. "We have seen societies derived from many ancient civilisations in our travels, have we not? Minoans, Greeks, Egyptians." His eyebrow arched upwards as he surveyed Daniel's confusion. "This one is no different. They are the Cockneys, an ancient race still found on Earth in England. Their language is a highly developed form of Standard English. I believe it is only practised on Earth today in London, and in Ireland and Australia. But it seems to be dominant on this world also."
"But how come you can speak their language, Teal'c?" asked Daniel.
"I was once required to establish a regiment of English Jaffa under Apophis." he replied. "They were openly dismissive of the MUSE dialect and spellings, so I had to learn to address them in their own language." He rose from his seat. "Now if you will excuse me, I must go for a Jimmy." He walked across the bar looking for the smallest room.
Daniel looked at the others round the table. "I've got English relatives who taught me Cockney Rhyming Slang when I was young." said Sam. "And the Colonel learned it from joint ops with the SAS over the years. We sometimes speak it amongst ourselves when we don't want people to pick up on everything we say. Teal'c's the best at it, believe it or not!"
A little later the landlord approached them. "Apart from the menu, specials tonight are pie 'n mash, bangers 'n mash, faggots 'n gravy." Daniel sprayed beer from his raised glass at this. "Jellied eels, eel pie, fish 'n chips..."
"Ooh, I'll have fish and chips!" said Sam, excitedly. "Have you got mushy peas to go with it?"
Even Jack was taken aback with that one.
And for the first night of a mission off-world, it was just splendid. The unceasing rain outside made them grateful for their surroundings. Daniel learned a few local expressions, and how taking turns to get a round of drinks was the accepted custom. One thing bugged him, however. "How are we going to pay?" he asked.
"That is not a problem, DanielJackson." said Teal'c. "Did you not see the 'American Express' sign outside?"
"Er, but how do they collect the money?"
"Come with me. I will pay." said Teal'c. Daniel watched in fascination as the landlord swiped Teal'c's card through a machine with a small familiar grey ring attached to it. A tiny 'Kawoosh' appeared through the ring, and after about 20 seconds a receipt for signature was issued.
Up in their room, Sam and Jack manoeuvred round the bed to their packs. "Shall I take the floor as usual, Carter?" asked Jack, smiling.
"Why, Colonel, how sweet of you." replied Sam sarcastically. Suddenly she laughed. "Don't you fancy a bit of 'Slap and Tickle', then?" She threw her arms around his neck. "Especially after what we did on P4B 997 and that week at your cabin?" They collapsed together onto the bed and kissed tenderly. "Anyhow, I've got something to tell you."
In the next room, Daniel lay in bed as Teal'c started Kel'no'reem in a small space in the corner. As he was starting to doze, he heard a voice through the wall, distinctly Jack's voice, shouting "Oh God, Sam! Yes! Yes!" followed by her equally unmistakeable peel of laughter. It stopped him from sleeping for a while, but eventually the warmth, food and beer got the better of him and he drifted off.
At breakfast next morning, Daniel noticed his companions' really good mood and the way they kept smiling. "OK, spill the beans!" he said finally.
Jack looked straight at him, and said, "Daniel, Teal'c, I'm starting a new career next week. This is my last mission in command of SG-1."
"Why?" asked Daniel and Teal'c together.
Jack took Sam's hand in his, and pronounced, "To use the local expression, my future 'old trouble' here is 'up the duff', and we couldn't be happier!"
Teal'c smiled, but Daniel still looked perplexed.
"Think about it, Daniel." said Sam.
ANYONE NEEDING A TRANSLATION IS REQUESTED TO CONTACT THE AUTHOR!