In Days of yore,
From Britain's shore
Wolfe the dauntless hero came
And planted firm Britannia's flag
On Canada's fair domain.
Ronon Dex was a Specialist in the Satedan army, an officer, and an educated man in a reasonably advanced society.
He was trained in military protocol, much similar to the code of conduct held by the Marines and Air Force officers on Atlantis. He had been offworld a handful of times as part of maneuvers before his army fell, and he had been trained in Gate Recon though he'd never officially been assigned. He was also one of those rare souls in whom the military had not quashed the urge to ask forgiveness rather than permission.
So, when he returned from his first offworld mission with the Atlanteans he naturally took the notebook out of his pocket, tore off the small sheet of paper, scrawled his name and the date on the top, and handed it to the gate tech, the young one who wore the same tribal insignia as McKay but didn't talk half so much (growing up with McKay would probably do that to anyone).
"What's this?" the gate tech asked, studying it.
"Gatesheet," Ronon answered.
"Yeah, but what is it?" the tech asked again. "I mean I can see the symbols, but what's the rest?"
Ronon belatedly realised it was in Satedan.
"Um," he said. "It's a log of all the known worlds Olesia does trade or war with."
The tech's eyebrows shot up. "Where'd you get it?"
Ronon stared at him. "I asked."
They regarded each other for a few seconds before Ronon realised this was what he'd started to think of as absentee protocol -- things the Marines should be doing and weren't. Like the ritual tattooing and the basic knife-training.
"When you go through a gate you ask them what addresses they know," he explained, feeling kindly towards the ignorant tech. "You note 'em down and give 'em to the tech so they can track 'em."
"Oh. Yeah, we've never done that," the tech said, but not dismissively -- more like he was considering something.
"You should," Ronon said, because, well, duh.
"It's a good idea. Why'd you write it in -- oh, guess you can't write English, eh?"
Ronon crossed his arms.
"Not that you need to. Except probably they're going to want mission reports from you, but..." the tech trailed off thoughtfully. "Can I keep this for a few days?"
"You're supposed to keep it," Ronon pointed out. "And put your name on the sheet and the time you received it."
The tech nodded and took the pen Ronon offered (man, Atlanteans, never fuckin' prepared) and scrawled Charles Morse in the corner, then noted the time. He carefully handed the pen back and set the piece of paper next to the DHD, smoothing it out.
Turned out they did want a mission report from him, which he'd be happy to give written or oral except, you know, they didn't want oral and he didn't write in English. Still, he was resourceful, and if he couldn't write it then he'd have to find someone to write it for him. The fastest typist he knew was McKay, and McKay was pretty easily intimidated by a couple of grunts and the knowledge of just how many knives Ronon had concealed about his person (17 on standby; 24 for missions; 9 on his day off).
He tracked McKay down and loomed efficiently until McKay started bitching about what a waste of time it was to make a scientist act like a secretary. McKay shut up when Ronon started talking, though, and his fingers began to click the keys automatically, his face growing less and less annoyed and more thoughtful as Ronon succinctly outlined the events on-planet, the resources expended, the injuries sustained, and any relevant information the Olesians had let slip.
"You really were a soldier," McKay asked, when it was done and sent to Sheppard for vetting before Dr. Weir got it.
"Really am," Ronon replied, and went on his way with the satisfaction of a job well done.
He didn't see the gate tech again until they were kitting up for their next mission, supposedly escorting Teyla somewhere boring and diplomatic. He privately thought she didn't need much escort, but it was a chance to get offworld and McKay and Sheppard were pretty funny when they were bored. While Teyla did the negotiating and Sheppard struck his "I could menace you at any minute" pose and McKay wandered around with his energy-detector out, Ronon ambled down to the central archive, then to the tavern, then to the market square, and came back with three pages of gate addresses. This time Charles Morse was prepared; he had a pen, took the pages without question, signed his name and the time.
"That reminds me," he said, tucking the pages in an official-looking folder. "I'm off-duty in two hours. Can you come translate these for me? Just read them aloud and -- "
"Yeah, I know," Ronon said.
"Oh. Oh, of course you would," Charles Morse replied, grinning. "Anyway, I'll be in the mess, stop by? Have some not-quite-porkchops, translate for me?"
"Sure," Ronon shrugged.
"Ronon," Dr. Beckett called from the gateroom floor. "If you're done flirting, I would like to do the post-mission examination sometime this afternoon."
A couple of the other techs giggled and Charles Morse grinned, even as the tips of his ears turned red. Earthers were really immature.
He found Charles Morse sitting at one of the long tables, at the start of dinner when there weren't many people around yet. He tossed his tray down and slid into the seat, grunting a greeting as the tech looked up. He held out his notebook.
"So that's your name," he said, pointing to a reasonable approximation of the English Charles Morse. English had a truly hideous and annoying set of ideograms. "How do you say it?"
"Charles Morse," the tech replied. "But everyone calls me Chuck."
"Kay. Gimme the pages."
Chuck opened the folder and passed the gatesheets back to him, including the old one. He picked up a tablet from the chair next to him and offered that as well.
"I've put in all the dialing codes," he said, pointing to a display on the tablet. "What I was thinking is, once I know what all this is," a gesture at the Satedan scrawl next to the codes, "I'll put together something to show Dr. Weir. She's already said I can make a presentation at the next staff meeting."
"Cool," Ronon answered, and started to read. "PXR-786..."
He trailed off after only a few sentences about how the inabitants of PXR-786, who called themselves Kelari, were expert weavers. Chuck was looking at his face but one of his hands was dancing over the tablet's surface, keying the information in with even more speed than Dr. McKay.
"You type one-handed," he observed, and Chuck unaccountably laughed.
"Well, it's faster when you've got to dial with your other. It's a one-handed keyboard, see? If I hit the alt key, it swaps over. Took some training, but I broke my wrist at university and had to learn then anyway."
"Fight?" Ronon asked.
"Uh, no." Chuck looked embarrassed. "I was uh. Showing off, in, uh, a tree."
Ronon raised an eyebrow.
"And kinda fell out of it. Anyway, keep going."
Ronon read out the rest of the notes he'd made, which didn't take long; most of the addresses didn't have more than a few sentences attached. When he was done, Chuck tapped on the screen to save and clear it, and attacked his dessert with something much resembling McKay's enthusiasm. Well, that figured.
"So," Ronon said, as Chuck spooned the crumbly fruit pie into his mouth. "Is your whole tribe pacifist, or what?"
"Tribe?" Chuck asked around a mouthful of syrup and fruit. Ronon nodded at the insignia on his shoulder. "Oh! It's a country, not a tribe. Canada. We're not pacifists, we just didn't send any soldiers."
"Canadian, yeah. Try not to judge us based on Rodney McKay," Chuck added with a grimace. "This..." he tapped the flag with a finger, "It's our national symbol. It's a leaf."
"Yeah, I got that," Ronon said drily.
"Does -- uh, I mean, did...your country..."
"Sateda, did it have a flag?"
"The tribes had pennants," Ronon said absently. "And tattoos."
"Tattoos? Is that...?" Chuck gestured to the place on his throat that matched Ronon's.
"S'my regiment," Ronon said.
"And your arm?" Chuck indicated the rows of neat triangles.
Chuck looked suitably impressed. "Wraith?"
"Sometimes. Haven't kept it up. I should add what's missing."
"Cool. Most of the Marines who have tattoos have dumb ones, like those fake curly things or Semper Fi in really ugly lettering."
"It's their motto. Semper Fidelis. Always faithful."
"Dunno," Chuck chewed thoughtfully. "America, I guess. That's their country. And Colonel Sheppard's, too. But like, you have a tattoo for your tribe?"
"Where?" Chuck asked, lowering his voice.
"My ass," Ronon said, just to see what kind of reaction it got. Chuck choked on his food, looked at him, and then scowled.
"You so do not have your sacred tribal tattoo on your ass, Dex," he said.
Ronon tugged the collar of his shirt down and pointed it out, just below his clavicle. Chuck studied it with clinical interest, then nodded, satisfied.
"We don't really have tribes, I guess," he said.
"How d'you know where you came from?"
"That's a good question," he said.
Ronon had not been at all surprised when he was asked to join the Senior Staff in their weekly meetings. After all, he represented a military point of view, which meant Sheppard would be happy to have him as backup, and he was a member of the lead exploration team. It was his right.
He tried not to be bored, because it was an honour as well as a right, but man, these people could talk. He knew McKay felt the same way, despite McKay himself being Head Talker Of Talk City, Talkingdom, but at least McKay talked fast.
The next meeting promised to be at least interesting, when he arrived and saw Chuck sitting on the edge of one of the seats, fiddling nervously with the tablet in front of him. He could relate; it was tough to be the low-ranking officer, and Satedan regiments hadn't encouraged original thought or underlings making suggestions any more than any other military institution did.
"All right," Dr. Weir said, as everyone settled down for the meeting. "Everybody here, everybody awake. Let's try to make this quick. Chuck, you have a presentation for us?"
Chuck flinched a little, poor kid, and stood up. "Yeah, I..." he clicked a button on the tablet and the screen behind him lit up.
"Gate addresses?" McKay asked. "Where'd you find those?"
"McKay," Dr. Weir said warningly.
"I didn't find them, actually," Chuck said. "I've been building a database of unvisited planets, based on some recon Colonel Sheppard's team brought back."
"When did we do recon?" Sheppard asked.
"Specialist Dex has been retrieving gate addresses from local populations," Chuck said smoothly, as if this part he'd prepared ahead of time.
It was cool to hear that again, Specialist Dex.
"Ronon?" Sheppard asked.
"Yeah," Ronon said.
"Apparently in the Satedan military it was standard procedure to record gate addresses from other worlds, with notes on traders and who was at war with whom, that kind of thing," Chuck continued. "Specialist Dex brought back several addresses and passed them off to me for signature."
"Well, that's....less than stupid," McKay said, sounding surprised.
"I thought it was a pretty good idea, so I'd like to propose..." Chuck looked anxiously at Dr. Weir. "I'd like to propose that we make it a standard practice for all exploration teams. It doesn't have to be a requirement, just, if someone has some spare time, they can talk to the locals and get some notes. I'll be in charge of building the database, and my deck team can prepare the paperwork. As you can see..." he began flicking through database entries. "Specialist Dex and I have already built the prototype filing system. I think it could be an enormous asset to the mission. We'll cross-reference with the main planetary database, of course."
"What about misinformation? Outdated information?" Sheppard asked.
"That's a risk, of course, but it's not as though we're acting on the information. It's just supplimentary, in case we need it. And it'll give us an organised way to begin investigating other planets when the teams have some downtime. Each offworld team will need to appoint someone to recon, preferably someone who writes in English -- most of my people have a second language but we all have English."
"You and Ronon cooked this up?" Sheppard said, glancing at Ronon, who tried to look modest.
"Mostly Specialist Dex," Chuck answered. "I just did the programming."
"Seems pretty smart to me," Dr. Weir said. "Colonel?"
"I got no problems. Ronon, you want to be our recon go-to guy?"
"Sure," Ronon said. "I can train some other people too."
"Settled, then. Chuck, draw up some guidelines and protocols, work with Ronon."
Chuck's smile broke over his face, equal parts triumphant and relieved. And that was another thing about Earthers, they couldn't keep a poker face to save their lives. Except Sheppard, but he was practically a Satedan soul anyway.
"Thank you, Dr. Weir. Colonel, Doctors, Specialist Dex," he said, nodding to everyone in turn, and bolted from the room.
After the meeting, Ronon wandered up to the gateroom, where Chuck was supervising repairs on a MALP that had encountered a little unfriendly attention offworld.
"So I gotta file a mission report, Teyla's all over my ass about it," he opened, which made Chuck grin. The rest of the techs working on the MALP looked like they would rather be anywhere else, which was not an unfamiliar look to Ronon. "Can't type in English."
"Want me to type it for you?" Chuck said. One of his techs looked at him like he was insane.
"I could pay you. Dr. Weir says I get paid now," Ronon shrugged.
"Step into my parlor," Chuck said, leading him away from the MALP repairs and up to the console deck. "You don't have to pay me, I mean, it probably won't take long, right? And you'd better clear it with Colonel Sheppard, I'm not sure I have security clearance for some of the stuff you could tell me."
"Sure," Ronon said. "That mean you'll do it?"
"Yeah, sounds interesting. I'll teach you how too, if you want. Tell you what," Chuck snapped his fingers and pointed at him, and seriously, Canada might as well be a tribe, Chuck was totally related to McKay somehow, Ronon knew it. "I'll teach you to write in English, you teach me how to do that awesome thing with your blaster."
"Shoot people?" Ronon asked.
"No, the twirly thing. You know. When you show off in the gateroom to mess with Sheppard."
Ronon grinned. "You can't touch my gun, Chuck."
"I'll make a mock-up like they do for the cadet corps back home."
"You don't let your cadets handle real guns? How do you weed out the ones who can't duck fast enough?"
Chuck narrowed his eyes. "You're fucking with me, aren't you."
"Just a little."
"This is lame," Ronon said, four days later. "English is really ugly."
"Well, you can learn English or you can just give me blaster lessons for the rest of time in return for typing up your reports. Someday I'm going to get good enough you'll have to let me try the real thing," Chuck said, crossing his arms.
"Yeah," Ronon agreed. "That's gonna happen."
"So, come on. English has twenty-six letters."
"Satedan has forty."
"It's not the size of the alphabet, it's how you use it," Chuck said, which was probably some other Earther joke Ronon was missing out on. He made a mental note to ask Sheppard about it, because Sheppard got totally messed up when he asked about Earth humour. "Do you know any of these?"
Ronon eyed the two neat rows of letters. "They're out of order."
Chuck turned to the letters.
"That's not how they're set up on your keyboard," Ronon explained. "This one goes first," he said, pointing to the circle with the line through it, which bore the faintest of resemblances to the Satedan third vowel.
"Um. So, we'll, let's table the whole touch-typing concept for a minute, I'll explain that one later," Chuck said. "They're in the right order the way we learn them as kids."
"This is gonna be really bad, isn't it?" Ronon asked. Chuck sighed.
"Probably," he said. "But I'm Canadian, I'll get through it."
"So, there's no actual Engl anymore?" Ronon asked, standing in the empty firing range and watching Chuck assemble a mocked-up wooden blaster model. He'd give Earth this: their people knew how to build stuff.
"As in, the place English derives from? Well, we have England," Chuck said. "Canada used to be part of Great Britain, like England was. It was an empire."
"So you were conquered."
"Uh, we settled there. Though, yeah, sort of," Chuck said. "It's complicated. Come on, show me some twirling."
Ronon rolled his eyes and took out his blaster, showing Chuck how to hold it. The Canadian mimicked his movements clumsily.
"I still say it's pretty ugly," he said, and Chuck snapped his finger in the fake-blaster's hinge.
"English is one of the most beautiful languages in the world," he said around his finger, sucking the pinched part.
"Yeah, but that's just one world."
"English is awesome, and you can't convince me otherwise," Chuck insisted, trying the simple half-flip again. "Ow, damn!"
Ronon rolled his eyes and held out his hand, showing the loose grip.
"Oh, gotcha. Anyway, English is great," Chuck insisted, managing not to maim himself with the blaster this time.
"Prove Satedan's any better!"
Ronon triple-flipped the barrel. Chuck rolled his eyes.
"Okay, whatever," Chuck said. "Your world was pretty military, right? You must have like, epics and things."
"We had our share."
"Well, English has its share too. Okay, okay, listen to this," Chuck said, focusing on the blaster as he talked. Ronon double-flipped, and Chuck tried and dropped it before bouncing up again, tossing the model in his hand to get a better feel for it.
Ronon was totally unprepared for the words coming out of Chuck's mouth, words that he heard in Satedan but with a strange roll and cadence that was pure English.
"It little profits that an idle king, by this still hearth, among these barren crags, match'd with an aged wife, I mete and dole unequal laws unto a savage race, that hoard, and sleep, and feed, and know not me. I cannot rest from travel: I will drink life to the lees: all times I have enjoy'd greatly, have suffer'd greatly, both with those that loved me, and alone," Chuck recited, then swore when he caught himself in the hinge again.
"Whoa," Ronon said. It seemed to fulfill the requirements. Chuck looked up, laughed.
"That's Tennyson. Famous poet. Had to memorise it for grade ten English." He took a deep breath and watched as Ronon demonstrated the half-flip twist, talking through it. Ronon listened, hands moving idly.
"...and drunk delight of battle with my peers, far on the ringing plains of windy Troy. I am a part of all that I have met; yet all experience is an arch wherethro' gleams that untravell'd world whose margin fades for ever and forever when I move. How dull it is to pause -- dammit!"
"Here," Ronon said, and took Chuck's hands off the model, showing him how to bend his finger in the trigger-guard for a proper spin as Chuck kept talking.
"...death closes all: -- thanks, I got it -- but something ere the end, some work of noble note, may yet be done, not unbecoming men that strove with Gods..."
It was probably best to keep him talking; you didn't have to think about fighting or movement, you just taught your muscles to go. Even as he realised his own shoulders were clenching as the words poured out of the Canadian's mouth.
"...tho' much is taken, much abides; and tho' we are not now that strength which in old days moved earth and heaven, that which we are, we are; one equal temper of heroic hearts, made weak by time and fate, but strong in will to strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield."
Chuck grinned at him, executed a perfect single flip with a spin, and bowed.
"Is all your poetry like that?" Ronon asked.
We are not now that strength which in old days moved earth and heaven...yeah, he could relate.
"The good stuff," Chuck said. "Oh, you mean about war and kings? Lots of it is."
"Okay," Ronon said. "You can still teach me English."
Ronon ate with his team most of the time, and he spent enough time learning the stupid alphabet with Chuck that he didn't really think the guy wanted him hanging around at meals, too. McKay, he soon discovered, had absolutely no use for poetry of any kind, and Sheppard was pretty illiterate on the subject. Dr. Weir sometimes ate with them, but it wasn't polite to pepper the mission head with questions or unnecessary speech, and besides she creeped him out, so he didn't ask her. Sometimes Dr. Beckett would sit with them, usually if McKay invited him, and he was pretty cool about it.
"I don't know if you hear it when I talk," Beckett said, "but I don't speak the same as John and Rodney."
"Yeah, it sounds different," Ronon said.
"Well, that's because I'm Scots, see, and from a different part of the world."
"I just figured it wasn't your first language. Like Dr. Zelenka."
"No, it's a dialect. And," Beckett continued, "this is how English is supposed to sound."
"Oh, that is -- " McKay began, but Beckett held up a hand. He was one of like three people who could shut McKay up.
"This is the accent that Shakespeare wrote for."
"It is so not!" McKay protested.
"Close enough! Now, listen to this," Beckett sat back and rolled the words out with relish. "Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more; or close the wall up with our English dead. In peace there's nothing so becomes a man as modest stillness and humility," with a sidelong look at McKay, "but when the blast of war blows in our ears, then imitate the action of the tiger; stiffen the sinews, summon up the blood, disguise fair nature with hard-favour'd rage; then lend the eye a terrible aspect -- and there's a bit with a cannon, I think, comes next...right, the next I know is: For there is none of you so mean and base, that hath not noble lustre in your eyes. I see you stand like greyhounds in the slips, straining upon the start. The game's afoot: follow your spirit, and upon the charge, cry 'God for Harry, England, and Saint George!'"
Applause broke out from a nearby table. Beckett nodded graciously to them. Ronon looked to his left; Sheppard was sitting, fork poised in one hand, his breathing a little quicker than normal. Well, naturally; Sheppard was a soldier too.
Still, come on, it was only words. He'd heard better from Chuck.
"Do you guys only have poems about war?" Ronon asked.
Everyone blinked at him.
"No, there's love poems and such," Beckett said cautiously. "Shakespeare wrote a fair deal of those, too."
"He sounds pretty cool."
"Pretty cool," Beckett echoed faintly. "Yes, well. I suppose so."
Ronon lingered after the others had gone, McKay to do something science-y with science, Sheppard trailing after him as always, Teyla to beat up Marines with sticks, and Beckett to do whatever it was "Scots" people did in their time off.
He saw Chuck at a nearby table with a couple of Marines and two other gate techs; when he nodded a greeting, the others in the group hunched over and spoke in low voices, like he couldn't hear them or something. Nothing really that extraordinary; he was used to being talked about by now, and while a footsoldier like the Marines were could pick a fight, Ronon was a Specialist and above petty private insults.
"Seriously, I think he's going to bite me."
"Nah, Sheppard's got him paper trained."
"You guys are assholes," that was Chuck. "Ronon's good people."
"He's like nine feet tall," one of the Marines said.
"Is he?" Chuck asked. "Hadn't noticed."
"Seriously, should he be allowed to just wander around? I hear he keeps knives in his hair," one of the techs said.
"Well, he's got the hair for it," Chuck observed. "Who cares? He's not going to knife you in the bathroom, Mendelson. He's cool."
"Yeah, he's not a moron, and he can probably hear you, by the way," Chuck said. The rest of the group looked up at him with almost comical unity. He gave them a small wave and a feral grin.
"Oh man, oh man," the one who'd made the remark about "Sheppard had him trained" groaned.
"Relax. If the big bad Satedan scares you, you can hide behind me. I told you, he's cool, there's nothing to be afraid of," Chuck continued. "He's not like a barbarian or anything, he had the same boot camp you did, probably."
"So are you dating or what?" one of the techs asked, with a much nastier tone than polite inquiry required. Chuck rolled his eyes.
"Yeah, Annie, I can't have any other motivation for hanging out with him than to get into his pants. It's not like he has interesting things to say or useful contributions to -- oh wait! That's right, that database you think is the best thing since ENIAC, didn't he come up with that?"
Ronon grinned into his dessert.
"Besides, he's on Sheppard's offworld team. Look at that team. You think the military leader of Atlantis picked McKay for his people skills and Teyla for her tits and Ronon for being nine feet tall?"
"He definitely didn't pick Teyla for her tits," one of the Marines said, and Ronon looked sidelong in time to catch a rude gesture; apparently he wasn't the only one who'd noticed that the Colonel didn't pay much attention to tits.
"McKay's good with the machines," one of the techs suggested.
"McKay's a badass and the only reason you don't know it is you're never on duty when they come in hot. The team has Sheppard and Teyla besides, they don't need more brawn. Ronon's smart, he knows where to look and when. Sheppard's got layers, he wants guys with layers on his team."
"Are you sure you don't want to get in Sheppard's pants?"