This was meant to be a quick little dashed-off ficlet, inspired by a line in a story I am still writing. It certainly moves fast enough. Still, at over three thousand words, this was not quick or little or a ficlet.
Takes place sometime during SGA's Season Four, wherein SG-1 has lost Sam to Atlantis. Small cameo from our girl at the end, otherwise, mostly Landry and Daniel, with strong supporting roles for the other three SG-1'ers as well.
Also, they are all actually saying things in here. If you want a translation, just ask.
He knows it's going to be one of those days when it's Teal'c who radios in with his IDC.
Even without the Goa'uld or Replicators or Ori posing any threat, even with Colonel Carter in another galaxy, SG-1 still manages to be the flagship team, both in accomplishments and level of trouble they get into. Landry listens to Teal'c's request for a medical team and thinks that this was a while in coming- ever since Sam left for Atlantis, her old team has managed to avoid getting into any serious trouble. This had to happen eventually.
There's a commotion in the background over the radio- someone laughing their ass off, and what sounded like the galaxy's largest, angriest cat. Teal'c is unruffled by the goings-on, but that's not surprising, since it is Teal'c.
"What's the nature of the emergency?" Walter asks. There's more of that noise- hissing, spitting, buzzing, like a bad TV connection. After a moment it goes silent and Teal'c answers.
"ColonelMitchell is currently under the effect on an alien device that has attached itself to his arm," the Jaffa reports. Jackson can be heard in the background, speaking in a low, soothing tone. That alone worries Landry- he's heard a two-hundred-pound Marine use that tone on a psychotic house cat and a brigadier general use it on his ex-mother-in-law.
"Is he hurt?" Carolyn's there now, leaning over Walter's shoulder.
"It does not appear so," Teal'c reports blandly. The static noise is pitched low now, almost as though it's muttering to itself. Landry is getting a very bad feeling about this.
"Can you ask him?" Carolyn demands. Teal'c's simple, brutal answer cuts through her ire.
"Let them through," Landry orders, because they won't get anywhere with Teal'c providing the details. By the time he's made it down to the gate room proper, SG-1 is halfway down the ramp.
None of them look the worse for the wear, although Vala has obviously been crying- with laughter, if her occasional bouts of giggles are any indication. Jackson looks strained and tired. Teal'c is impassive as ever, and Mitchell-
Mitchell does indeed have something on his arm. Landry had been thinking of the Goa'uld cuffs Vala had used on Jackson. Instead, it's a small grey box just above his left elbow, wires and cables holding it in place. Mitchell sees the general, instinctively stands up a little straighter, opens his mouth, and says-
"Kkek mrrkon frezzerit."
"It's not hurting him," Carolyn reports later, in the conference room. "I don't know what it is doing, but it's not doing any damage to him. He can't speak English, obviously, and he can't seem to read it or understand it either, but that seems to be the extent of its effect. I can't even begin to guess how or why it's doing this."
Mitchell slaps his hand on the table, getting their attention. Once they're all focused on him, he hooks a thumb under one of the wires and mimes cutting them with a pair of scissors. Carolyn is shaking her head even before he looks back up at her.
"No, we can't know what kind of security measures it might have, so we can't just go-" She stops there as Mitchell slaps the table again. He gives an exaggerated shrug, hands held palms-up in classic I Dunno style.
"We are sure that he can hear us, right?" Doctor Lee, hovering behind Carolyn, steps forward a bit. "I mean, maybe it's not that he can't understand English so much as he can't hear anything."
"No," Carolyn begins, and gets cut off again by an extraordinarily loud clapping sound. Mitchell catapults out of his chair and wheels around, assuming a defensive posture, only to slump when he finds himself faced with his female team member.
"He can hear," Vala announces cheerfully.
"Kkrekkzzerit, Vala!" Mitchell snaps, then launches into a brief- and presumably colorful- display of his new vocabulary.
"He responds to his name," Carolyn continues as if nothing had happened. "And he requested Doctor Jackson by name when we were having trouble communicating."
"You understand him?" Landry asks, gesturing to Mitchell. Jackson shakes his head a little.
"Uh, no, sir, not when he talks. But verbal isn't the only form of communication."
They all watch as Mitchell drags his chair around to Jackson's side of the table, settling himself next to the archaeologist and keeping a wary eye on Vala. As far as non-verbal communication goes, they all get that one.
"Have you heard anything like that before?" the general continues once the halftime show is over.
"Not even remotely," Jackson replies with a short smile. "Sir, I think it might be a translation device."
"Then why is it translating perfectly good English- which we all understand, might I add- into screechy gibberish?" Vala asked. "For both us and him, apparently."
"Well, like Doctor Lam said, he can still hear and speak proper names," Jackson explains. "He's probably hearing another language entirely, one the natives of that planet spoke. They might have used those to translate whenever visitors came."
"So it's translating English, which he isn't supposed to understand, into the language of the natives…?" Landry trails off.
"Which he is, yes," Jackson nods.
"Okay." Landry nods himself, once. After a long moment Mitchell says something and Landry points at him. "So why is it doing that?"
"It's possible that it's set to translate to the language of their most frequent visitors," Jackson says, eyes on the table and hands curling loosely into fists. He's annoyed, Landry realizes, and his next words confirm it. "It's also possible that, like most sensitive technology, the unexpected surge of electricity did serious damage."
There's a long pause, then Landry asks- slowly, because there's always the hope he's misunderstood, "You shot it with a zat?"
All three English-speaking members of SG-1 turn as one to their team leader. Suddenly the focus of all attention, Mitchell looks a little on-guard.
"Kreznit?" he asks warily. Teal'c answered by placing his zat on the table. Mitchell makes an 'oh' face. "Zzritkezz." He leans over and grabs the zat, mimes shooting the device with it, then makes a fist and opens it quickly. "Rritzztirk?"
Jackson shrugs, nods. "Yeah, probably."
"All right," Landry interrupts, because as amusing as this round of charades is, there are more important things to worry about. "Doctor Jackson, you said the planet was uninhabited?"
"Uh, yes, but only recently," Jackson replies, shifting forward. "It looks like their reservoir ran dry and they couldn't find any other water. They were fairly advanced, so they probably decided to just leave the planet rather than die."
"But it's safe?" Landry asks, and Jackson nods. "All right. Take SG-12, get back there and figure out what the hell is going on."
There's news, but it's the wrong kind of news.
The device barely fits around Teal'c's bicep, but it holds on with dogged determination. Landry watches Carolyn poke and prod at it, then turns and heads back up to the conference room. Jackson has his forehead resting on the table, fingers buried in his hair. Mitchell sits next to him, as well as the two members of SG-12 who weren't tagged, as they were now apparently calling this.
"Want to tell me what happened?" he asks, not trying to soften it for Jackson's sake, even though the archaeologist is clearly blaming himself.
"They ambushed us," Sergeant Morena answers in all seriousness.
"The devices ambushed you." Landry clarifies, half question.
Silence again. After a moment Mitchell nudges his morose teammate.
"I could see how it would look like that, sir," Jackson says to the table. He drags himself upright with a groan. "They seem to be triggered by movement, and they're everywhere."
"Any ideas?" Landry asks, and Jackson's smile is grim indeed.
The radio connection to the planet- PM6-288, Landry recalls, and makes a mental note to put it on their do-not-visit list- is scratchy and stuttery. Jackson sounds tired, although that could be the four days of minimal rest.
"The recalibration is working. The scanners are doing a much better job of detecting them now," he's saying. "Only one person has been tagged in twenty-four hours, and she did it on purpose."
"Figured she could help more on the other side, huh?" Landry asks wryly. There's no obvious negative effect, save aching ears from that horrible screechy language, so the science team is being a little careless. "That makes how many?"
"Seventeen," Jackson says on a sigh.
All right, a lot careless.
"Got news for you," the general says, and on the video monitor Jackson's head comes up, eyebrows winging above his sunglasses. "Mitchell took a pair of wire cutters to the cables."
"Is he all right?" Jackson demands, leaning forward a little.
"Got a little bit of a zap," Landry drawls, looking over at Mitchell. The young man is curling his left hand into a fist and relaxing it repeatedly. "The numbness is wearing off, we think."
There's shouting from behind Jackson in that god-awful language. He sighs again, scrubs a hand over his face. "General-"
"Next check-in is six hours," Landry says, and the wormhole disconnects.
"It's a what, now?" Vala demands. Jackson is too busy draining his third mug of coffee to answer, so Lee does instead.
"A gossip deterrent."
"Seriously?" she laughs. Landry doesn't know why she isn't getting it- it's not like this can actually get any weirder.
"It's a translator, like I thought," Jackson says, taking over the conversation as he hands the mug off to the waiting soldier. "Except its intention is to do the opposite of normal translators. It has about a dozen languages programmed into it, and if you're caught- 'wasting words' was the exact phrase- they choose a language neither you nor anyone close to you know and make you wear the device for however long your sentence is. Now, all these devices are set to the same standard language as a base, the language of the natives of that world, and that's the one we're hearing."
"Yeah, but… they're able to talk to each other," Vala says, and Jackson shakes his head.
"I have no idea how they work."
"How is it you know what these things are but not who makes them?" Landry asks. The soldier chooses that moment to return with Jackson's coffee, and the conversation is temporarily abandoned.
"They never signed anything," the archaeologist says finally. "Apparently they assumed people would be more interested in what they were making rather than who they are."
Vala takes a team out to do a circuit of the more populous worlds, listening for rumors and asking a few careful questions. Vala knows the right places to go and the right people to talk to, and it's worth the risk of stumbling across some threat from her colorful history to get this fixed. Jackson heads back to the planet to try to put a name to these people.
Landry retreats to his office and wonders why this sort of thing never seemed to happen to O'Neill.
"Phaolitine Baltikesh," Jackson says as he walks in.
"Not you too," Landry groans.
"What?" Jackson asks. He frowns a moment, then catches on. "Oh! No, I'm fine. It's the people of that world." He sinks into the chair opposite Landry as he speaks. The general can all but feel the boy's exhaustion.
If he gets too comfortable he'll fall asleep. "Fowl-o- something ball-whatever," Landry says. He catches Jackson's grimace and slides a pen towards him. "Better write it down."
He tries not to be too insulted when Jackson produces a slip of paper with the name already written on it.
Despite being tagged, Teal'c is still a sufficiently imposing figure that Vala takes him with when she heads off-world. She says she has a lead, and by now Landry's given up on containing the devices or their wearers. So far Mitchell and Teal'c are the only ones not joining in the knot of Phaolitine Baltikesh speakers. The lieutenant colonel is dogging Jackson's heels, which Landry doesn't get until he hears Jackson talking in broken, halting Phaolitine and Mitchell responding excitedly.
"You're actually learning this language," he says, not quite a question, and Jackson can only shrug in reply.
It makes sense. Jackson is a gifted linguist, and he's certainly had enough exposure to this gabble.
They're called up to the control room not even two hours later, walking in just in time to hear Vala.
"Well, Walter, this Krezk is a repugnant little troll of a man who wouldn't give a drowning man a glass of water. Daniel is surprisingly skilled at convincing people to do things contrary to their own nature, whereas I am not. Know your limits, Walter."
She probably would have kept shoveling, except Daniel steps forward. "What do you want, Vala?"
"You, darling, as always," she replies smoothly. "This time it's for business reasons, I'm afraid. I found a descendant of the people of that planet. I believe he can help us except, as I was explaining, we need a more skilled diplomat than myself."
"Haven't heard her lay it on that thick in months," one of the gate techs mutters.
"Agreed," Landry says. "Go ahead, Doctor Jackson, but be careful."
Jackson nods and hurries out. Mitchell stares after him, then looks at Landry, then back at the empty doorway.
"Go," Landry orders, complete with a dismissive wave, when that gaze turns back to him, and Mitchell goes.
"It's kind of a long story, sir," Jackson says ninety minutes later as he walks down the ramp. He sounds very broken.
Vala all but skips up to Landry and says, "Krezk zzrit rekkzkit," in a very satisfied tone, as if it means all of anything to him. She then turns and walks away, apparently very pleased with herself. Mitchell gives him a dead look and mutters a now-familiar "kkek frezzerit", which Landry figures means something along the lines of 'hello General', before heading off in the opposite direction.
Which leaves the final two, neither looking much livelier than Mitchell. Jackson heaves a sigh and rubs at the bridge of his nose, glasses resting on his forehead. Finally, he starts talking.
"So it turns out Krezk was an old- friend- of Vala's."
Not such a long story after all, Landry decides, and holds up a hand to forestall anything else. "Thank you, Doctor, I can guess the rest."
Jackson shrugs and glances at his remaining teammate. "However, it's not all bad news."
Behind him, Teal'c holds a burlap sack aloft and shakes it, hard. The bag instantly starts squirming and belting out a string of very familiar gibberish.
"We brought Krezk back with us," the archaeologist announces.
"Oh good," Landry replies, deciding not to comment on the travel arrangements. "We'd better make him comfortable, then."
Krezk is a purple-faced little toad of a man, four feet tall if he's lucky. He regards Landry with a look of dark fury.
"I was abducted, General, and carried onto your world in a bag," he says angrily.
"And I'm tired of my people speaking nonsense," Landry shoots back. If Krezk had flaming orange hair that stood straight up, he would look exactly like the troll dolls Carolyn played with when she was a kid.
"It's not nonsense, it's Phaolitine Baltikesh," Krezk sneers. "A noble language that you would do well to learn."
Landry leans forward over the table. "I. Don't. Care."
"Vala cheated me," Krezk starts.
"She's cheated a lot of people. You ought to hear what she's done to Doctor Jackson."
"And your people deserve their punishment for trespassing," the troll finishes.
"On a dead planet your people abandoned centuries ago."
Krezk sneers again. Landry suppresses a sigh and moves on.
"All right, Krezk, here's the deal. You help us get those devices off, you get to go home. You help us get them off now¸ and you get to leave with a lot more dignity than you arrived with."
It's the dignity thing that does him in, Landry figures. He nods once and gestures to the door.
"Fine. Take me to them."
Landry grunts an 'enter' to the knock on his door and looks up in surprise to see Mitchell.
"I thought you were spending your leave off-base?" he asks, and a tiny part of him delights in the perfectly understandable answer.
"I am, sir. Just making the rounds first." He takes a breath and dips his head to Landry. "Thank you, sir. For everything."
"Jackson did most of the work," Landry replies.
"I know. Like I said, sir, just making the rounds."
There's a long silence. Then Landry looks up at him again.
"You're welcome. Now why are you still here?"
Mitchell grins, and Landry figures, as much as he's glad the boy is speaking English, Mitchell is probably even gladder that he's hearing it.
"I'm not, sir."
Then he makes good on his words and disappears.
Sometimes it seems like Pegasus exists for the sole purpose of breaking people. On those days, Sam goes and curls up in bed with a good book and a bottle of almost-wine- something significantly less potent than the Athosians' roos wine, but native nonetheless.
Tonight she sits at her laptop instead, rolling a flash drive between her fingers. She'd gotten it on the Daedalus' last run, tucked into a manila envelope with a short note written in Daniel's familiar scrawl.
Save this for a rainy day.
There's two files on the drive. One is the official mission reports. The other is labeled Beginner's Guide to Phaolitine Baltikesh. She opens that one and finds a half-dozen video files, all labeled by date.
She clicks on the first on the list, and the media player opens to show-
"Kkrrefezznit nnrom zzkkin roffznit!"
"Zzrit frezzkkitt kkrekkzzerit, Vala!"
"Zzrit frezzkkitt kkrekkzzerit kkerkk, Mitchell!"
"Oh my god," Sam mutters, watching over what was obviously a recorded security feed as Cam and Vala bicker in some bizarre, static-sounding language.
Then, for the first time in a long while, she sits back and just laughs.