She stood before the Stargate, her outfit muddied and crumpled with her remaining team-members by her side. She stood staring at her husband, trying to make him understand her silent communication. She stood as a sign to her people that all wasn`t lost. They took hope in that thought, in that sign. They took trust and comfort from it.
Stop, Jack. Sam signed, stepping down from the platform, her booted feet clumping on the stone stairs. It was one more thing that had changed in the last nine years. Before the destruction of Earth, before the A`cuit, she had not known sign language, beyond what she`d learnt in the movies. Now she, like the majority of the villagers, could sign fluently. It was a side-effect, due to the high number of `dumb` refugees that had survived. Their very unique disability the complete lack of speech had been their blessing. Over half of the original thousand refugees were mute.
Sam paused as she felt the all too familiar brush against her cheek of an A`cuit hunting. She caught her breath, just swallowing the gasp of sound before it hit the air and froze. The wind whistled past, it`s presence illustrated by the fluttering of her hair. She continued on, ignoring the trembling in her knees. As she passed her son she touched his shoulder, but her eyes never left Jack`s.
Sam. Jack signed back, protesting. She shook her head indicating him to wait. She turned when she reached him and pressed a few keys, stilling the recording. The alarm still sounded and would continue to do so for a long time to come. But Jack`s voice was now stilled. She stood on the raised platform, eyes scanning the terrified people before her.
We`ve just returned from their homeworld. Sam reminded everyone. We will be alright, so long as we remain silent. We were successful in our mission. We can be just as successful here.
How? A young man asked, stepping forward. He was one of the original `mutes`. He - unlike many of the others - had no fear of speaking, so his mind was already thinking towards the future.
I think there may be a way to destroy them that doesn`t involve the device. Sam announced, then put her hands up to still everyone. Like I said, she signed `loudly` - her gestures large and emphatic - We can be successful here as well. I just need to do some testing first. But I fear that if we leave now, we will be exposing the rest of the galaxy to these beings. And that`s something we can`t risk. She finally got a few nods of agreement. She stepped down from the console, her husband behind her, and walked quickly to her lab. Behind her, she felt not only the stares of the rest of the villagers, but the weight of the alien`s presence. It sent a shiver down her spine.
* * *
They flew, angered. Their quarry was here. They could feel them, sense them. But they could not hear them. The few they had consumed did nothing for their hunger. Their hunger grew. Their wrath continued unabated. But there was no sound.
If they could, they would scream in rage. Instead, icy cold settled around them.
* * * *
Jack sat beside his wife, his son and daughter curled up in his lap. Daniel had remained silent, his blue eyes wide in his pale face. The boy was frightened, but there was nothing Jack could do for him yet. There was nothing he could do for anyone, but wait for Sam to figure out how to defeat these things. He pulled his children tighter to him and concentrated all his support, all his strength on his wife. She, above all, needed it.
* * * *
Janet stood before the cave, face pale. At the entrance was a mass of red liquid. Red liquid and caving equipment. She felt a tear drop onto her cheek. She knew. Knew without any way of knowing. Her husband was amongst the carnage. She was alone again. Her heart shattered in her chest, but survival instincts muted her reaction. Any feeling at all would result in an outpouring of horror and disbelief. An outpouring that would eventuate in sound. And sound on this planet was deadly.
So the doctor held her tongue. Held the whimper of heartbreak that teetered in her throat. Held back the grief and howls of despair. Held it all back. For now.
Instead she went forward and picked up the five dog-tags that were scattered amongst the mess. She found her husband`s, she found their friend`s. But there was no reaction. No sign of emotion. She simply pocketed the tags and turned away from the cave. Outside, she was still, emotionless. Inside, she was screaming.
* * * *
Sam glared at the screen, dearly wishing she could swear loudly. Her idea just didn`t seem to want to gel into an actuality. The error bleeped cheerily at her, flashing on the monitor, as the blue of the screen cast a pale glow over her features. She hit a key on the keyboard and started typing again, reconfiguring. Re-calibrating her calculations. This had to work.
* * * *
They writhed and swirled, eddies of raging wind sweeping the planet. They knew there was food here. They knew it to the least of them. They could feel them, on the edges of their senses. Silent and superior.
They spun and thrashed, anger making them harsh. Their food was being denied them. They were starving. And no one, since the first glorious taste, was letting them ease their pain.
* * * *
How did we get the name for them, any way? Jonas asked, sitting with Teal`c below the large window. Sam was still at her desk, had been for close to 36 hours now. Jack was feeding her coffee and sugar to keep her going. Their children had long since gone to sleep, Jack finally admitting to the need for Daniel to be `muted`. Daniel had understood, but his eyes had reflected betrayal. Jack had bowed his head away from that stare as he injected his son. He`d looked at their supply of the drug in Janet`s lock-up. They were running low. Soon, the children would be able to talk again. He didn`t mention this to his wife. She had enough stress on her shoulders, without him adding to it. Jack turned back to catch Jonas` question.
The Asgard. Jack replied, sitting with his back to another wall. Jonas looked at him, encouraging him to continue. When we first contacted them, two years after Earth was destroyed, we mentioned the things that had done the damage. Thor and his friends said they knew of the aliens who had done this. They thought they`d managed to contain them on their homeworld.
Obviously they were wrong. Jonas replied, fingers flicking as he signed.
Obviously. Jack said. Had he been speaking, his voice would have dripped with sardonic bitterness.
* * * *
Sam leaned back, breathing a soundless sigh of relief. She ran her hands through her shortened hair, stretching her neck muscles as she did so. She jumped when she felt a hand on her neck, then relaxed into the massage her husband was giving her. She refused to count the hours she had been awake, just as she refused to count the gallons of coffee she had used to sustain herself while she worked. But her body was feeling the effects. A minute later, she moved away from Jack`s hands and turned her chair, facing the rest of her family.
Teal`c and Jonas were still sitting under the window, the darkness of night giving way to morning visible through the glass panes. Jack was by her side, hand on her shoulder. Her children were asleep next to Teal`c, several large cushions piled on top of each other as their mattress. And Janet. Poor Janet. She had returned just on dusk, with the news that her husband and his team had been caught out by the A`cuit.. She had handed over the dog-tags, as per procedure. Her face was impassive as she wiped her blood-stained hand on her trousers. Then she had sat down at her desk and started working. Now she was sitting, staring out of her window at the coming dawn. Sam could see her through the open doorway. She felt compelled to go and comfort her friend, but couldn`t. Not now. She rapped her hand on the desk to get everyone`s attention and then waited for Janet to come in from the other office.
So? Jonas asked when Janet had entered the room.
It looks like it`s going to work. Sam replied. She leant forward, stretching her back and continued to sign. Obviously the device I created before wouldn`t work here. For one, we don`t have an abundance of naquadah, which is why we chose this planet as our Alpha site in the first place. And secondly, we still want to live here after we`ve gotten rid of the A`cuit.
That would be nice. Jack signed, grinning slightly.
So I was thinking. These guys hunt and feed on sound, yes?
They do? Jonas and Jack signed together. Sam could almost hear their surprised tones of voice.
Yes. She replied, holding back a grin. That`s why we`re signing right now instead of talking. They`re attracted to organic sound. They live on it. Their home-world is devoid of any and all flora and fauna.
I myself noticed that. Teal`c said, joining the conversation. He didn`t like speaking in sign. He always said that his fingers were made for holding a staff weapon, not for holding a conversation. But he managed adequately despite his protestations.
So did I. It got me thinking. If there is no organic material to make `sound`, how do the A`cuit survive on such an arid planet? Sam shook her fingers to loosen them again and continued. Solar noise. I figure, solar noise has to be their staple for wont of a better term. Their planet was pretty silent, but they lived. The only thing that could sustain them was solar noise. So, if we starve them
They`ll die? Jack finished for her. I like that idea.
Thought you would, Jack. Sam grinned. Jonas and Teal`c echoed her. So I`ve been developing a kind of shield. But it`s pretty complicated. It has to repel all noise even from microbes, and the sound of the shield itself must be generated OUTSIDE the field. Basically, we need to generate a noise vacuum around the planet and wait them out.
Will it harm us? Jonas asked, frowning. Sam shook her head.
No. The humans as a species - along with the majority of animals - can deal perfectly well without the ability to hear. So while we may be uncomfortable for a while, we will not die. The A`cuit, on the other hand, will.
How long? Janet asked, finally joining the conversation.
I have no way of knowing. It could be days, weeks, years. Or it could happen in a matter of seconds. On Earth, it`s been eight years since we abandoned the planet. However, the area around the Milky Way is very.. loud. There is a lot of solar noise in that region of the galaxy. Out here, not so much. And we`ll be depriving them of that noise.
So less than eight years. Jack summarised. Sam nodded. Jack wanted to grunt in frustration. Even at less than eight years, it wasn`t a good number. The drugs for the children would run out well before then. He had a sudden urge to do some math. How are we supposed to keep quiet for that long? Let alone Danny and Sylvie?
That`s part of the device. It will essentially be a DMZ for sound. Once inside, no sound can be uttered. It has to do with the- Jack grabbed her hands, halting the lecture.
If it works, great. I don`t need to know how. Sam smiled at this familiar argument. They`d had a similar one over the device they`d used to blow up the A`cuit homeworld.
So when can we install this shield? Jonas asked, clapping his hands to get their attention.
Tomorrow. I need some sleep first, but it shouldn`t take me more than a week to set it up. We have all the necessary equipment here. Jack nodded his head to signal his agreement.
Great. I`ll go and order a general assembly, let everyone know what`s going on. Janet , He got the doctors attention, Will the muting drug supplies last that long?
No. But I`ve been working on a synthesised version of it. I should be able to produce a successful batch within the next three days. And our supplies will last until then.
Good. Teal`c, Jonas go and round up the field workers. Sam, get some sleep. Janet, if you can, get to work on the new mute drug. They all nodded and went to follow his orders. All except for Sam who had managed, while her husband was giving orders, to crawl over to the cushions where her children were and was now asleep, curled up around them both. Jack grinned lovingly at them and quietly shut the door.
* * * *
Three.Two..One Sam flipped the switch and looked up at the sky above her. Everyone else did the same, eyes focused upwards at the vacuum shield. A great shimmering gold arc appeared above them, flickering from horizon to horizon. As the gold became solid, every single person noticed an abrupt devoid. Not a sound. Complete and utter silence. Someone clapped his hands, but though he felt the impact, there was no sound. Another scuffed his feet in the gravel. Again, he felt the movement of the pebbles below his shoe, but no noise. The Alpha site refugees all slowly turned and looked at their leaders, eyes white with fear.
It`s alright, everyone. Sam signed, feet planted on the console. Like I said, all noise is effectively muted. I can turn this shield off at any time. But for now, I want you all to go to your homes and rest. It`s been a hell of a week and we need to keep our strength. Your animals may be startled, scared. Try to keep them calm. And yourselves as well. Sam herself turned to Jack, a worried frown behind her eyes. They still had no definite idea of how long this may take.
Come on. I think it`s time we all went fishing. Sam laughed silently and followed Jack away from the console, making their way through the mingling silent crowd.
* * * *
Agony! Silent, muted agony! What had they done? These beings, these pieces of sustenance! Where was their energy, their source? Oh!
* * * *
The wind swirled and eddied silently, not even the passage through the trees creating sound. Sam stood with her hair whipping her face, eyes alight with hope. The wind was cold, icy. She could feel it`s rage. She held her son`s hand in one of her own, the other on her husband`s, wrapped around their daughter.
It was working.
* * * *
Agony. Hun.gry. Oh Pain.
* * * *
Days after the wind storm had felled trees silently - and levelled crops, Sam and Jack stood outside their house. It was morning, the sun was shining through the golden shield. He had his arms wrapped around his wife`s shoulders, chin on her hair. The last three months of silence had brought the entire community closer, had knit them together even tighter. But now, it was time to join the world of the hearing again. The A`cuit were dead. Surely.
Are you certain? Jonas had asked the night before, just prior to leaving for his own dwelling. Sam had nodded.
The wind storm was their final death-rattle. Sam had said. Besides, unless we try, we`ll never really know. And that was the end of the conversation. The community knew that the shield was coming down today. They knew and they were scared. Sam finally stood away from her husband, cleared her throat silently hopefully for the last time and walked to the console before the Stargate itself. The rest of their community had gathered around, sitting or crouching, standing or signing to one another. They all fell still as she approached, watching her progress with hawk-like attention. She smiled at a few, distinctly nervous. Finally, she turned to them all and held a finger to her lips, smiling a twisted smile as she did so. Several others returned her smile, getting her attempt at a joke.
Sam flicked the switch. Abruptly, the golden shield disappeared. Noise descended upon them in a deafening roar. Yet despite the pain this brought, they all remained silent. All held their breath. Until someone stepped forward.
`Ahh hello?` He called in a loud voice. He stood still, tensed against a possible violent end. And waited. And Waited.
They all waited with him. He shot a look at his wife who was staring at him, horrified and relieved all at once.
`Jonathon Patrick O`Neill!` She screamed in rage. Others gasped or laughed in reaction. Then suddenly everyone was talking, crying, and yelling with relief. The A`cuit were dead. They were alive. And their home was still intact.
* * * *
EPILOGUE (otherwise known as TAG)
`Oh, my head.` Jack winced, holding the offending body part in his hands and staring at the floor through squinted eyes. His wife lay behind him, snorting softly into her pillow with mirth. `Shut up, you.` He groused at her, debating using up his precious energy to beat her into silence with his pillow. Unfortunately his bad mood set her off giggling even louder, which caused his head to implode. Well, it felt like it was imploding anyway.
`No sympathy, my love.` She said, rolling over and pulling the pillow from her face. `You will insist on trying to keep up with Teal`c. So you suffer the consequences.` She sat up to get out of bed herself and stilled suddenly. Jack felt her movement and cast a look back at her. His wife had gone distinctly green around the edges and was breathing roughly through her nose. All this didn`t seem to help and within seconds she was running for the bathroom, hand over her mouth. Jack stumbled after her, going down beside her to assist her through her own hang-over problems, breathing through his mouth so as not to smell anything that would set him off.
`I thought you didn`t drink much last night?` Jack asked, bracing as Sam`s body heaved again.
`I didn`t.` She replied, wiping her mouth with a damp cloth that he handed her, the sound of the toilet flushing filling the room. `I drank juice all night.` She leaned against him, her strength gone for the moment.
`Then what did you eat? Something must have caused this.`
`Something did, alright.` She muttered. `What did I say eighteen months ago? I said no more, I`ve had enough, that`s it. But no, an overbearing, bossy, bad tempered affliction I like to call my husband, decided to just run rough-shod over any thought I had for peace and quiet. `
`What? How the hell did I` Jack broke off, his mind finally waking up and coming out of it`s state of alcohol induced stupidity. `Oh.` He breathed, then looked down at his wife. `I thought Didn`t we. You`
`Yeah.` She agreed smiling softly with joy, then leaned over the toilet again. So much for romance.
`A baby?` Jack grinned as he held his wife`s heaving, shuddering body, blocking out the smell emanating from the toilet bowl in front of him. `Sweet.`