The village was abuzz with excitement that day. Everyone was out and about celebrating the summer harvest. People were drinking, laughing, roasting meat at the large fire pit in the center of town, and just generally having a good time. And later that night there were three young men and women who were coming of age and would put on a short show by dancing a traditional dance around the fire pit before drinking their tea. The tea was a special treat that people only experienced during the happiest and saddest moments in life, to help provide personal clarity and understanding.
Today was also special because they were getting visitors from a favored trading partner. They had met several times before and were always happy to negotiate with them. They were always fair and never asked for more then the people of the planet could give, but what else did you expect from the descendants of the Ancients themselves. It was because of this that no one found the strange man running through the streets very alarming. After all, he was wearing a very familiar uniform and didn't seem to be in any type of distress. In fact, he had a wide smile on his face and looked like he wouldn't want to be anywhere else at the moment. After running down a few streets the man turned into a bar where singing could be heard, and instantly joined the ongoing party as if he had been there all the time.
About ten minutes after the first man had shown up, five more appeared at the edge of town. Four of them looked a bit angry about something while the fifth just looked guilty. No one really wanted to ask what was wrong, because they were all having to good of a time to want to be brought down by the negativity coming from the party. The five men cut a path through the crowded streets until they reached the center of town where the village council sat at a table near the fire pit. They spent a good hour talking and negotiating before everything was worked out and everyone dismissed to do as they pleased.
The guilty looking man had started to wander around to every bar in town, but never ordered a drink. People thought this odd for a few seconds before getting on with their own lives and forgetting about it. However, in one bar, the guilty looking man stopped looking so guilty and looked incredibly relieved to see a familiar man dancing on a bar with a pretty girl in a sundress while singing along with everyone else in the bar.
Arthur made his way to the bar and without even asking he was handed a large glass of the local drink with a wink from the barmaid that made Arthur blush slightly. He blushed even more when he looked up at his dancing friend and realized he could see up the female dancer's dress. He forced his eyes to look directly at Ford and he called out, "Having a good time Ford?"
Ford didn't stop dancing and howled with joy, "Oh, Arthur, I have missed parties." he grabbed the girl in front of him and dipped her low before bringing her up to share a deep kiss before they continued to dance. It was clear Ford thought he had found heaven when, as he was dancing and flirting with the pretty girl before him the bar maid handed him a new drink. Arthur had to smile at the look of utter content on Ford's face, a look he had not seen in a while. While it was true that most people loved a good party, Ford literally lived for them. They gave him purpose in life and the determination to go on living so he could make it to the next party. And for a whole month now Ford had been without one and starting to loose a bit of motivation, even while helping Radek with the still. But Arthur knew, that as long as Ford got to enjoy this party until it ended, he would be good for a while longer. And if they managed to get their hands on some of that tea, all the better.
For the next three hours the pair stayed in the bar. They drank, sang, and at one point the barmaid had dragged Arthur out onto the dance floor and taught him a local jig while touching him more then she needed to. It was one of the better parties Arthur had been to in that he wasn't afraid to drink what was put in his hand and the native people were humanoid. It was just starting to get dark when people started leaving the bar. When Arthur and Ford asked why this was they were informed that the coming of age ceremony was starting soon and everyone in town would be there to see it. They exited the bar with the elderly owner and said they would be along in a minute after a visit to a near by bush. And while they did make use of the bush, they didn't follow everyone into the center of town.
"Why aren't we going to the ceremony again?" Arthur slurred around his drunken tongue
"Because..." Ford paused to think about this before nodding and continuing, "because I got to talking with one of the people who watch over the tea plants. That girl, in green, remember her?" Ford asked with a slightly pervish grin
Arthur blushed and nodded, he did indeed remember. The girl had drunk so much she had sat down right in Arthur's lap and passed out against his chest. He had been so startled by this that he had fallen out of his chair, "Yes." he replied simply
"Well, that was her. And she told me where they grow the plants. I promised not to tell anyone, so once we get the plants you have to forget where we got them, got me?" Ford managed all this without pausing to think and felt proud of himself for that
Arthur just felt even more confused but decided to nod and agree with Ford so they could just finish whatever it was they were doing and getting to the center of town. He remembered someone saying there was food there and he was feeling a bit peckish. So Arthur followed Ford out into the forest and soon found himself walking down a small and hidden path. At the end of the path was a beautiful sight. The sun had gone down now and the moon light filled the clearing they found themselves in. The slightly purple light of the violet moon shown off the natural dew that covered the field of plants. There weren't a lot of them, only about a 40 by 40 foot space, but the light twinkled and glittered as well as any light show either of them had ever seen. In their drunken state they decided it was the most beautiful natural light show they had ever witnessed before going closer to figure out which parts to steal.
After a few minutes of looking around Ford pointed to a freshly dug part of the crop. Clearly some had been harvested to make tea for the ceremony going on tonight. Ford told Arthur that they should take some from around the same area, that way it was less likely to be noticed. When Arthur asked what they were going to put the tea in to make sure they didn't loose any of the dew, Ford withdrew a few plastic bags from his pockets, "Nicked them off of Parrish in the woods." he said with a giggle
Arthur joined him in giggling for a few moments before they took about 6 plants and put them in the bag along with some dirt. Ford said they should try and grow more of the plant, just in case they ended up liking the tea and wanted more in the future. Arthur thought this was genius and told Ford so. Ford had swayed proud, but drunk, and said, "I know, I thought of it. Now, lets get to that thing in the center of town, I'm hungry."
They got to the center of the village just as the ceremony started. They tried to pay as much attention as they could as they watched the tea being brewed and then the young boys and girls reactions to drinking it. As far as either man could tell it was just like being very high, sort of like Ford when hit by a Wraith stunner. But this high was accompanied by the occasional harmless hallucination. And Arthur had to admit that it looked like a really good way to relax. Unfortunately they didn't stick around to hear that the children would spend the next 12 hours in the woods remaining like this to complete their ceremony because they had been distracted by the free roasted meat.
The next morning everyone trudged back to the Gate, hung over and tired from the party the night before. The only sign that they had done their jobs was a small bag of leaf clippings in Parrish's bag and a signed document form the village council saying that the trading would start in a week once everything had been prepared. But of course, Arthur knew, there was another mission that had been completed, and the fruits of it's completion would be shared between Ford, himself, and Radek after dinner that night.
Radek was a bit excited as he ate dinner with Ford and Arthur that night for several reasons. The first and most important being that tonight was a very special night. For the last week the three of them had been working on Radek's still diligently, changing a few things and messing with the mixture. Tonight was the night the first batch would be ready and they had all agreed to make a night of it out on Arthur's favorite pier and listen to music. Ford had even promised to show him a few interesting entries in his Guide, provided Radek never tell anyone. It was going to be a fantastic evening. But he was also excited because ever since his two friends had returned to Atlantis they had been acting like they were hiding something, sort of the same way boys at school would hide dirty magazines. Radek knew this wasn't because of the party because that had been planed before they had left on the mission. This was something they had either done or discovered on the trading planet, and Radek just knew whatever it was would be amazing and probably illegal. He was really looking forward to it.
They all finished eating quickly and separated in the hallway. They each took different routes and ended up at the still room at the same time. It was in a small isolated part of the city, right at the west edge. There was really nothing down here for anyone in the city because it was filled with disused labs whose controls and panels had long since lost all power. But it was the perfect place to set up the most complicated still any human had ever made. Using all sorts of equipment from the disused labs the still was a masterpiece that only a man as skilled as Zelenka in engineering could design and construct. There were many loops and pooling chambers as well as a few hot plates hooked up to battery packs. It brought a smile to Radek's face every time he looked at it.
At the ending point of the still was a gallon sized tub filled with mint green liquid that was draining from a tube hanging above it. The still was now dry, the alcohol all made. It had had a day to settle itself and was now ready for drinking. If Ford had been correct in all his advise, the result would be something that tasted a bit like sour apples and could work as well as vodka and tequila mixed together.
Ford let out a proud whistle as he looked at the tub, "That is a very froody sight right there."
Arthur nodded from his place standing beside Ford, "And what is it called again?"
"Who cares what it used to be called." Ford said, "I invented it in this universe so I get to give it a new name." Ford thought for a moment before he smiled and said, "I have it." he spread his arms widely to add drama to the occasion, "We'll call it...PDZ." he continued to smile when this got no reaction, "You know, because of all our last names, first letter of each." still no reaction, "I'll work on it shall I?" Arthur and Radek nodded and Ford sighed, "Fine, we'll name it later." then he was all smiles again and Radek realized he was about to understand what all the sneaky behavior before had been about. Ford reached into his pocket and took out a bulging plastic bag with some sort of plant and some dirt in it, "Look what we got on that trading planet."
Radek stepped forward to inspect the bag but couldn't see anything other then some dirt and weeds with purple flowers, "What is it supposed to do?" Radek asked, hoping he would like the answer
"It's for making a special kind of tea. Think marijuana with a bit of a trip. We saw it used, looked like great fun." Ford said as he opened the bag and pulled out one of the plants, "Thought we might start a little crop, get the party going."
Radek grinned wolfishly as he thought of all the days in college he had spent vegged out of his mind in a crowded dorm room. And if it worked, it would go a long way to calming down some of the people around the base. And on the upshot, they probably didn't test for alien plants during drug screenings. It sounded perfect, Radek loved it, "Are we going to test it while we have our little party?" Radek asked hopefully and could see the answer on Ford's face before the Betelgeusean even spoke
"Yes." He said as his smile threatened to crack his face in two, "Yes we are."
The next morning, when the first few people who woke made their way to the kitchen to start breakfast, they came across a confusing sight. The kitchen was an absolute mess. There were condiments spread on the wall, water all over the floor, half the pots were filled with peeled potatoes, and the plates and glasses had been used to build a teetering tower on the main counter top.
They were not the only ones to be surprised when they got to their work stations that morning. A female botanist had entered her office to find it filled with what turned out to be every pair of spare boots from storage. A geologist found his lab had had it's walls colored on in a way that looked like a strange star map with a red arrow pointing at one star with the words, "I'm from here." printed next to it. Someone had poured shredded paper confetti all over the floor of every men's restroom in the outer parts of the city. And for some reason the medical unit was missing several rolls of bandages. And after a search for evidence of what had happened, someone pointed out that no one had seen Ford or Arthur all morning. This worry was further added to when McKay mentioned that Radek had not shown up for work that morning and had not been answering his comm link.
The Gate room used the internal sensors to scan for the three missing people. Then they tried the external ones when those didn't show any results. And so they located them on the outer edge of the East pier. John led a team of men down to the area, not really knowing what to expect and trying the whole way to think of a way to prevent the three man from being beat to death for all the trouble they had caused. When they arrived at the indicated location, they were shocked at the sight that met them.
Arthur lay against a gate that prevented people from falling off the pier. He was covered in what looked like ketchup and giggling to himself as he looked down at a small bottle that had some sort of green drops left at the bottom. The hand that wasn't holding the bottle was stroking a ginger haired head. Ford was laying with his head in Arthur's lap, gazing out at the ocean with a peaceful smile on his face and tears in his eyes. He was curled up like a cat around his own empty bottle and seemed happy to lay like that until he withered up and died. And with his feet pushed sole to sole with Ford's shoes, was Radek. He was laying on his back, his hands covered in paint, and staring up at the bright blue sky as he mumbled happily to himself. Sticking out of his pocket was his own empty bottle. And to the surprise of all, Radek was also holding both Arthur and Ford's towels, one in each hand.
They were all quickly taken to the infirmary to be tested for everything and the contents of the bottles was tested. After a large amount of testing it was found that while the alcohol was no longer high in their systems, the three still remained in a loopy state. After three more hours of testing the three trouble makers passed out and stayed that way for the next twelve hours. It was discovered that they weren't sick and had no detectable drug in the system. No one really knew what to make of the odd behavior but passed it off as an after effect of a drunken night. While the three were punished, they didn't seem all that sorry about what they had done. In fact, 2 days later, the same thing happened. It wasn't however any of the original three that had caused the problem, but a Private who had just arrived from Earth and the head of the Archeology department. They were found locked inside a broom closet around lunch time covered in empty chocolate wrappers and out cold for the rest of the day. Despite questioning by Woolsey and Shepard the pair refused to say anything more then they had had a bit of Athosian wine the night before.
This happened a few more days in a row and everyone in charge finally had enough when in the middle of a hand to hand training session Dr. Parrish stepped onto the mat, grabbed Major Lorne by the shoulders, and kissed him square on the mouth before walking back out while singing something about Oklahoma boys. They had found him several hours later in the main greenhouse, surrounded by potted plants and the warning sign that said "Beware Killer Plants". The only difference in his story compared to all the others they had heard so far was that Parrish had not had a single drop off alcohol the previous evening, and this was backed up by his medical scans. This caused the leaders of Atlantis to be worried for everyone's health, as well as their own sanity. Because no matter how serious it appeared to them, everyone else seemed to be in on some big joke.
After a week of sneaky investigating they came upon a disused part of the city on the East side. It was a lab that had heat control and several heating lamps set up to one side. Under each heating lamp, of which there were about twenty, was a pot with a plant growing in it. Major Lorne had taken one look and stormed to the room that Arthur and Ford shared and interrupted the pair while they were watching a movie on the info screen in the wall.
"WHAT THE HELL DID YOU TWO DO?" could be heard all down the hallway the room was located in
The pair had jumped, looked at each other in confusion, and then Ford had turned to Lorne and said, "You'll have to be a bit more specific then that."
Arthur looked up at the scowling faces before him, feeling much like he had when he had been brought in front of his headmaster as a boy for hiding a dirty magazine in his locker. Colonel Sheppard, Mr. Woolsey, doctors Carson and Keller, McKay, and Major Lorne stood in front of Arthur and Ford, who were seated in small chairs in the conference room, and glared daggers at them. Lorne had told everyone about the tea and what it could do if ingested. This had caused everyone else to feel both relieved and furious. They were relieved because there wasn't some sort of strange disease infecting people, and furious because of the damage it had caused in just under a week.
"So, what happens now?" Arthur ventured hesitantly
This was met with a tense silence while everyone just continued to glare at the pair of trouble makers. Arthur knew all hope was lost when Ford opened his mouth and spoke, "I honestly don't see the big deal, we didn't hurt anyone. Whats wrong with having a good time?"
"YOU DON'T SEE THE PROBLEM?" Sheppard exploded
Ford ignored the yelling and simply said, "No, I really don't."
"This is a military base in the middle of an active war zone. You don't see a problem with intoxicating the people who live hear with something that will make them useless and vulnerable for almost a full day?" John was looking like he really didn't want an answer, but Ford gave him one anyway
"No, I don't see the problem. Two or three people are hardly going to matter in a real emergency, unless it's the people in charge. That's why none of you were told about it. That way, you could all stay sober while the rest of us tried to relax a little." Ford held his hands up in a peaceful seeming gesture, "And I know that sounds unfair, but leaders have to bare the brunt of unfairness for the good of the people."
And while this was a sound argument, it didn't make anyone very happy. Arthur could feel the fires of Hell itself coming from the eyes of the men and woman before him and could only think of one thing to say, "Oh Belgium."
Ford and Arthur were locked in their room for the next week while all the plants were burned and the city returned to normal. During this time the pair of them took very great care to hide a small potted plant they kept in the closet just in case of an emergency.
It would be several months before anything new was discovered at the original sight of appearance for both the universe hoppers. At this point they had solidified their use on Atlantis. Arthur had joined the kitchen staff and perfected his sandwich making skills. He was very close to learning just the right amount of mustard that a sandwich needed. Ford in the mean time had started allowing certain people to look at the guide from time to time. And by certain people, he meant people who gave him things he really really wanted. But he only ever showed them things having to do with culture, never technology. He had also been breeding his babble fish and declared that next mating cycle there would be enough for everyone in the city. He was also teaching as many people as he could how to swear properly.
And then, one day, the science team studying the exotic particles had something to report. This something was an old man who insisted on speaking to Dentarthurdent. He also apparently had a space ship. Ford and Arthur had collected the few things they had come to own in the short few months they had been on Atlantis before bounding off to the planet. It turned out to be someone they knew, someone named Slartibartfast, he apparently helped design custom planets. And according to him, he had noticed when they vanished and finally decided to help because he owed them one after all the trouble with Krikket, whatever that meant. So with one last goodbye Ford and Arthur left the universe with a soft sounding pop and normalcy was restored. Radek had shed a tear for his best drinking partners ever. And he would never admit it out loud, but he sometimes wished the pair would come back.
Meanwhile, on the ship, Ford looked lovingly down at the small potted plant he had smuggled out of the city in his satchel. He couldn't wait to start growing more of them so he could share it with all of his friends, if friends meant carbon based life forms who had money to pay for it. He was looking forward to being exceedingly wealthy in the very near future.