Winding River: Chapter 9
Saturday, May 13, 2006

Sorry for the delay folks, here's another chapter of my Stargate/ Firefly crossover fic. I know, doesn't sound like these shows ever could or should mix, but I've given my best shot at a believable link. Please give it a try and tell me if I succeeded!


Disclaimer: See chapter 1 (just go to my profile page for previous chapters if you've just joined me!)

AN/ Sorry, it's been a while since my last update. I'll have more in a few days! I should mention that this is starting to give spoilers for the BDM so if anyone hasn't seen Serenity (and why not, I demand indignantly!) you should probably go out and buy that first. Oh, and buy another on June 23rd!

Chapter 9 Discovered

Jack nearly collided with the tight huddle of his team as he stumbled down the rough cobbled ramp from the closing Stargate. Glancing around the dimly lit cavern he couldn’t help hunching his shoulders. The space wasn’t really that cramped, the barrel vaulted ceiling arched in ragged peaks a full six-foot above the pinnacle of the giant stone ring. The feeling of claustrophobia was inspired by the twisting columns of long desiccated stalactites that partitioned the space into dark, flickering alcoves. The gnarled almost-faces of stone bosses peered down malevolently from odd angles. Jack had to resist the urge to keep checking over his shoulder for a looming presence.

“Aren’t Stargates usually out in nice open places?” he asked uncomfortably.

“Well, it would make sense to put it somewhere hidden and defensible if this is where Aten brought through his secret supply of slaves.” Daniel threw back over his shoulder absently. His attention was focussed on the far wall of the cave. He strode forward over the rough floor with a confident stride that showed he was quite at home in this dingy grotto.

“Look at this!” He called excitedly, hunkering down and running his long fingers through the dust. “These are old animal bones, and see here! The stone’s still blackened with soot from a fire!”

Jack shook his head over his friend’s excitement and stalked away towards the shaft of light that tumbled into the gloom over a cascade of broken boulders at the cavern’s mouth. Peering up at the patch of bright sky framed by the ragged, shoulder-high entrance, Jack felt the hairs on the back of his neck prickling again. Giving in to the creeps this time he flicked a quick glance behind him and almost jumped out of his skin to find River’s pale face a hand’s breadth from his own.

“Jesus! Don’t creep up on a guy like that!” He barked in a slightly high-pitched voice.

Her unfocused gaze didn’t seem to register his presence, travelling beyond his face out to the stretch of cerulean blue. “It was taken for a dead man’s daughter. Conquerors and conquered each to their nature.” River’s voice had been vague and quiet, as if talking only to herself. Now her gaze sharpened and she turned her face to pin O’Neill with her penetrating stare. “Memes and genes flying out to the black on stolen wings. Spreading in waves. A fresh breeze through overripe wheat.”

Her tone was urgent and insistent, but Jack could only shrug in helpless bewilderment. He had to look away from those dark eyes, swimming with disappointed frustration, to search out his more academically minded friend. Dr. Jackson had abandoned his investigations at River’s first words and had come to stand a short way behind them.

“Daniel, please tell me you can make sense of some of that.” Jack entreated.

The archaeologist shook his head ruefully. “I wouldn’t even know where to start!” he replied apologetically.

River spun lightly on the ball of one foot, her skirts rippling like a hot road on a summer’s day as she drifted towards him. “Every story has a beginning” she called in a singsong voice as if repeating something learned by rote, small bobs of her head punctuating the rhythm of the words. Her dark eyes snapped up to bore into Jackson’s startled blue ones.

“Um,” he floundered uncertainly. “Where is …” He choked off in surprise as River reached up to press light fingertips over his lips.

“Shhh!” she murmured. “You have to close your eyes so you can hear them.” Her own eyelids flickered shut and her tapered fingers trailed away from his mouth. They fluttered through the air at arms reach as she strode with quick, sure steps to the wall of the cavern. She skimmed her hands over the milky stone surface, her cheek pressed close enough to feel the chill emanating from it as she flowed along the wall. All four members of the team craned to follow her progress as she ducked behind a frozen waterfall of stalagmites. Jack and Daniel exchanged a look loaded with exasperation before rushing forward to squeeze through the stone teeth.

They found her kneeling next to a tumble of rocks, leaning her body over close to the wall above it, her nose almost brushing the smooth surface. She blew out a breath through pursed lips then turned her head to them, only opening her eyes when she was in a position to make direct eye contact with Dr. Jackson.

“X marks the spot.” She told him, then scuttled backwards on her heels and the palms of her hands and gestured with a nod of her head for him to take her place.

Daniel hesitated, then, as an oddly angled shadow caught his peripheral vision, he dropped heavily to his knees in front of the wall. He brushed some of the chalk-like dust away with one fingertip, squinting over the top of his glasses. “There’s something carved here,” he called out excitedly. “I think it’s a Maltese cross. There are some letters.” He wet his finger with the tip of his tongue and continued rubbing. “R…. I…. P”

River leant forward and reached into the rock pile with one slim hand to tug a small object free from the rubble. It tumbled from her fingers to swing like a hypnotist’s watch from a thick chain. Daniel froze, his eyes fixed on the pendant like a cat watching a mouse. The chain passed though a thin semi–circle of discoloured copper, the raised shape of an ankh just visible through the rough verdigris. Thin spokes dangled down from this crescent, each tipped by a stylised cupped hand. The gap where one had been lost brought a dissonant note to the faint muffled chiming.

“That’s the symbol of Aten!” Daniel breathed in awed disbelief. He reached forward a hand, almost reverently. “May I?” he entreated softly. River surrendered the necklace with an absent flick of her wrist, instead leaning forward to place a hand lightly on the cairn of stones.

“Sad little queen.” She crooned softly to the burial mound. “Ran so far, but not far enough.” She stroked the stones from which she had pulled the chain. “Even your bones commanded respect. They didn’t steal from you.” Suddenly she snatched her hand back, scrubbing it against her skirt as if she’d touched something unclean. She continued in a low moan of distress. “Except your prize. Your love. Your divinity.” She scooted back a few inches till her back was pressed against the cold stone of a stalagmite, and pulled her knees to her chest. “Pandora’s box, a fragile seal of superstition.”

She fell silent and Daniel glanced up to the Colonel, who was staring down at them, an unreadable expression on his face. “Jack!” he exclaimed excitedly. “I think that she might actually have found Nefertiti’s grave!”

Jack’s eyes never strayed from the huddled young girl. “Yeah, I kinda gathered that. Plus that whoever buried her made off with our jar of pickled snake.” Uncertainty flickered over his shadowed features and he glanced back at his kneeling friend. “How much of what she says should we be taking as fact?” he asked doubtfully.

Daniel gave a half shrug. “I know that deciphering a psychic’s visions seems a little out there, but you’ve got to admit she’s not been wrong yet.”

Whatever response O’Neill might have made was curtailed as Sam’s head poked though into the alcove from between two thin pillars. “Sir!” she called softly. “You’d better see this. Teal’c’s spotted something.”


The five figures perched precariously on the narrow shelf outside the mouth of the cave. O’Neill and Carter had immediately donned their sunglasses on emerging into the baking glare. Teal’c made do with one large hand raised to shield his eyes as he gazed out over the olive-brown landscape. A dark smear in the haze of the plain was the only sign of human habitation. A thin line of black smoke snaked its way from it into the blue of the sky. Jack took a breath but his comment went unsaid as a choked sob from beside him cut off his train of thought.

Sam put a hand on River’s shoulder in concern as the young girl’s face crumpled in unhappiness. “River, what’s the matter?” she asked solicitously.

River pressed her hands to the sides of her head and stared up into the dazzling blue to the point where the dark column dissolved into the brightness. “Poor little souls. Their screams almost human!” she moaned, sounding almost in pain. Carter looked on in helpless distress that switched to bafflement as, in a quicksilver change of mood, River’s face brightened suddenly with a happy smile. “Simon!” she called out in pleasure. In a swift movement that took them all by surprise she darted forward to the edge of the ledge and, with a small leap, plunged from view.

“River!” Sam called in anguish, dashing forward to join her C.O. as he peered out over the drop. She watched in relief as River sprang nimbly through a break-neck maze of tilted slabs and sharp ravines.

Jack called out from beside her. “River, be careful! Wait for us!” He turned in frustration to the capable jaffa. “Teal’c, go after her. Try to keep her from killing herself.”

Teal’c gave a single nod. Without a word he stepped forward to slide down the steep slope, leaping clear onto a boulder in a shower of gravel, his massive form as agile as a mountain goat. It took the other three nearly an hour to descend the cliff as Jack insisted they be roped together for safety. This precaution proved vital the first time Daniel, distracted by the remains of stone steps carved into the crumbling rock, slipped on a slanted slab and would have slid into a deep crevasse had he not been checked by the strong cord around his waist. They met up at the base of the rock-face, where Teal’c was patiently restraining a jittery River.

It took a further hour to cross the baking heat of the open scrubland. They walked in silence, each lost to their own thoughts which grew steadily more apprehensive as the low squat shape of the town drew ever closer. When they had covered all but a few hundred meters of the distance their course intersected with a dirt path, heavily rutted by narrow wheels and animal tracks, that meandered its way towards the settlement.

O’Neill took point, trusting his team to keep a vigilant eye on his six, and took a firmer grip on his weapon as he stalked forward. They were skirting the edge of the town, keeping to the shadows of the thick wooden posts of the palisade fence that towered eight foot high around the perimeter of the community. As they rounded a curve a waist high post and rail fence that had been smashed in several places came into view. It had separated off a large paddock, jutting out from the city wall, but now housed only the collapsed ashes of a massive bonfire that still dribbled a feeble trail of dense black smoke from the buried embers.

O’Neill approached cautiously, carefully navigating past the amputated fence posts. There were unpleasantly organic curves visible within the charred timbers. The obsidian gleam of seared teeth shone through the pale ash like black pearls and at several points thin legs stood out from the fire, smouldering flagpoles tipped by neat little hooves. The air stank of burnt flesh and rendered fat. Jack made the mistake of taking shallow breaths through his mouth and nearly gagged as the oily smoke coated the back of his throat.

“What the hell is this?” he asked tensely as he nudged a large curved horn that had tumbled free from the fire. “The world’s worst barbeque?”

River stepped forward, closely shadowed by Teal’c who watched as she pivoted at the waist to reach down into a burnt out section of the fire. She pulled a calf’s skull from the ashes and, cradled it in her cupped hands, gazed sadly into the staring eye sockets.

“Not food.” She said quietly in a dead voice. “It’s an instrument. Music whilst they ate.”

Jack gaped at her, not wanting to think about this, and was glad to be distracted by the sound of Daniel shouting his name. Jackson and Carter had bypassed the enclosure and were standing beneath a wide opening in the fence, flanked by large gates that were flung open in welcome to the silent city.

“Look at the name of this place, Jack!” Daniel exclaimed as he drew close, pointing to the wooden lintel above the gate. The heavy oak had letters deeply branded into it, searing out the name Verbena Town. Below this, in neatly drawn calk had been written ‘Pop. 1,392’.

“Remember the journal?” Daniel asked insistently. He glanced behind Jack to where Teal’c was urging River forward to join them with a gentle hand on her shoulder. “This must be where the Roanoke colony escaped to. To this settlement, ‘taken for a dead man’s daughter’!” He gave a significant jerk of his head towards where River stood, quiet and withdrawn.

“Oh come on!” Jack scoffed in surprised disbelief. “Isn’t it a bit of a coincidence that out of all possible Stargate addresses we just happen to find the one they stumbled onto?”

Daniel shook his head with a superior smirk. “Ah, but we didn’t find it, River did. We don’t know the limits of her abilities. It’s possible that she had some sort of vision that enabled her to retrace the path the colonists took.”

Jack’s mouth quirked dubiously as he considered this. Carter took a few steps towards them, obviously coming to ask what they were talking about, but was interrupted by River. She had broken from her silent contemplation with a frustrated cry of “You’re all so slow!” Now she spun around to grab Teal’c hand and tried to pull his heavy form towards the gates. Exchanging an amused glance the others fell cautiously in behind her as she led them into the hush of the town.


Janet sat in her office, her head pillowed on her arm once more. She had been intending to take Sam’s advice and head home as soon as everyone had left that morning, relieving her of her charge in a flurry of activity. She’d made the mistake of stopping for a moment, just to catch her breath.

That had been two hours ago, and she hadn’t moved since. There’d been a voice calling for her a while ago, she recalled vaguely. She thought it had belonged to Airman Groves, although fear and distress had thickly twisted it. She tried to remember whether she had managed to rouse herself long enough to respond, but the answer hardly seemed to matter much. It had stopped eventually anyway, with only a few odd groans and pants to disturb her solitude.

Her thoughts centred now on her breathing. Her whole being concentrated on expanding her lungs against the tight band across her chest, again and again. She was dimly aware that this wasn’t something she used to have to think about. Now it felt that if her attention drifted from the task the heaviness that suffused her limbs would spread to her core and she would fossilise completely.

Another voice drifted from the still room beyond her open door; the tone first hesitant, then spiking in concern. The words sounded foreign in her ears, their meaning lost in a fog of apathy. The soothing croon washed over her even when it broke in a wave of panic. The first shrill shout pierced the warm blanket that wrapped around her mind like a needle of ice, and she longed to lift her hands to cover her ears. Her left finger twitched an infinitesimal amount then fell still. Her veins had filled with lead, the muscles solidifying into unyielding lumps. Her head was weighted to the table with heavy chains.

She gave up the effort and lay quietly, listening to the crescendo of screams punctuated by soft, wet tearing and the odd gristly crack. A bright spurt flashed out from the room beyond to splatter high up on the open door. The stain condensed into a dark, viscous nucleus and Janet’s eyes followed its crawling path down the white paint of her door as the cacophony slowly died away.

There was a pause, broken only by a bubbling wheeze that settled from high-pitched, ragged gasps into a pattern of long, deliberate inhalations that sucked in the taste of the air. Janet watched through the blur of slitted eyelids as a slanting shadow fell across the threshold. She dimly heard the breathing draw closer but didn’t resist as the bars of her eyelashes finally dragged closed, enclosing her in a womb of darkness. Her mind floated, disconnected from the moment. She was only dimly aware of the sensation of warm drops splashing on her upturned cheek. The sharp treble tang of them was her last perception as everything else dissolved around her.


“Ah, hell!” O’Neill swore under his breath as he caught the all too familiar aroma of blood and decomposing flesh.

“It was.” River muttered in a small voice. Her body trembled with shivers and she pressed in close to Teal’c’s side, as if to draw strength from his body heat. Jack looked away from the pair, returning to his careful surveillance of potential threats.

At first glance the town looked like any other. Or, at any rate, any other freakily deserted ghost town. But there was a pervading sense of wrongness to the scene, the feeling of unease before the nightmare pounces. The first thing out of place that Jack noticed was a smeared handprint at shoulder height, stark against the bright white-stucco of the single story home. Four lines scraped down in a ragged ochre arch, which ended above the stained and shredded remnants of a thin cotton dress, once a pretty floral blue. More clues began to leap out under Jack’s grim scrutiny. Small things, such as the smashed face of a china doll and an overturned basket, that seemed more frightening in their isolation than a charnel house of bodies.

Carter touched light fingers to O’Neill’s elbow and pointed in wordless horror at the small pond that stretched in front of a large communal building. Jack followed the line of her gaze to see a child’s hand bobbing gently on a cushion of weeds, bathed in a gruel of mud and blood. The pale, puffy fingers curled upwards, beckoning them closer as if to impart a secret. Carter jumped as a frog let loose a cackling chuckle, a macabre comment on the little scene.

Jack looked away in disgust, his eyes drawn to the movement of a cloud of flies in the shadows cast by a low building. A few steps brought him close enough to distinguish the shape of a ravaged human torso. The partially exposed bones of the ribcage clawed the air in a grisly skeletal grasp.

Jack swallowed down a surge of bile, turning deliberately from the sight as he flashed out a rapid series of hand gestures that called his team away from their revulsion back into professional alertness. As Carter and Jackson spread out on his flanks, holding their guns cocked at shoulder height, O’Neill locked his gaze with Teal’c’s steady brown eyes. Jack pointed at the ground beneath his feet and nodded to the young girl Teal’c cradled protectively against his side. The Colonel’s eyes spoke volumes of his desperate desire to save her from exposure to more of this horror. Teal’c inclined his head in a short nod as Jack spun to lead the others further into the town.

They covered the ground in a series of staggered, crouching runs that took them from one patch of cover to the next. Jack felt a flash of pride at how efficient a force his team had become. The first time he had met Jackson he’d been afraid to issue him with a gun for fear that the absentminded doctor would shoot himself in the foot. Now Daniel handled his sidearm like a professional and moved silently, falling back in his turn to cover Jack and Sam, a critical player in the complex ballet of their advance.

Suddenly Jack held up a hand and they each dropped to the earth, listening for a sound above the soft sigh of the wind in the dust and the raucous cawing of carrion birds. There! Jack caught it again. The soft, clam sound of voices from behind a long low building that resembled an old style saloon. He gestured to his team to stay put whilst he investigated. Slinging his P90 over his shoulder to rest across his back, he instead pulled out the zat gut that had been tucked in the waistband of his fatigues. The alien weapon was more versatile in that it could either stun, kill or destroy a target. O’Neill liked to keep his options open when meeting new people. He crept forward silently, pressing close to the side of the shuttered building. At the far corner he paused, then peered out cautiously to glimpse the scene beyond.

The first thing that caught his attention was the spacecraft squatting on clawed feet at the far side of a dusty square. The thing looked to be a little larger than a Goa’uld cargo ship, but was of no design that O’Neill had even seen before. It looked kind of like a water bird, with a long neck and curved beak, managing to somehow look both graceful and clunky at the same time. Jack went on to assess the four people at the centre of the square. A solemn black man was the one speaking, so quietly that Jack couldn’t make out the words. He stood over what appeared to be a mass grave, his grey head bowed over a thick scruffy book. Two other men were lugging between then a low-slung, shrouded shape which they swung over to join the others in the deep pit. The larger of the two, almost Teal’c’s match in size and build, scrubbed his hands on his clothing in a nervous gesture, looking around him twitchily. The smaller, lighter haired man stool silent for a moment, his sombre stance at odds with the loudness of his shirt, which was even worse than one of Teal’c’s under-cover specials. The forth man stood stiff and vacant off to one side, his well cut clothes hanging crumpled and askew on his slim frame.

O’Neill carefully shrugged off his pack and glanced down, looking for his binoculars to get a better view, but froze as a voice spoke up from beside his left ear in a soft but deadly drawl.

“You might want to be droppin’ that qí pì gu weapon right about now. ‘Less you got a secret hankerin’ to sing soprano.”

Jack looked up very slowly to take in the sight of a hard faced man dressed in shades of brown holding a mean looking gun in a loose, but unwavering, waist-high grip. Damn! How the hell had he managed to creep up on him? Jack hesitated; wondering whether he could get a shot off with the zat before the man could fire.

His racing thoughts froze at the sensation of the cold barrel of a shotgun nestling into the nape of his neck. His spine turned to a river of ice at the small sound of a trigger being cocked.


Chinese Phrase:

Qí pì gu - Weird-ass

AN/ I post this here in with an urgent and grovelling request for feedback, hints and tips. My regular beta is away at the moment (Oh, I feel all naked without her!) and I really want to make any alterations that are needed before I post it at Please be honest, what should I change? Thanks for the help!


Saturday, May 13, 2006 7:48 AM


Oh dear! See I'm trying to do this crossover WITHOUT the plot shortcut of timetravel. This doesn't seem to be a concept that a lot of people can get behind and has led to a lot of confusion. Never mind, hopefully things will be sorted out once and for all next chapter!

Saturday, May 13, 2006 11:01 AM


More! Faster! You have me on the edge of my seat here! You can't just stop like that!
In all seriousnes this story is awsome! Thank you for sharing.

Saturday, May 13, 2006 11:20 AM


Yes! The characters finally all meet each other! Sort of. Well, threatening with guns counts as meeting, right??? Post again soon, please!

Saturday, May 13, 2006 11:58 AM


My, if that isn't a mighty fine plot-hole. Do your best to fill it.

Otherwise, great job!

Sunday, May 14, 2006 3:38 AM


Yay! The Captain and Zoe sneaked (snuck?) up on them. Great.

Another great chapter. River's impatience with the SG team is neat and their discovery of the Reaver's victims is horrible.

All in all - just right. I'll be looking forward to the next one!

Thursday, May 18, 2006 12:52 AM


“Memes and genes flying out to the black on stolen wings. Spreading in waves. A fresh breeze through overripe wheat.”

Very River... I understood the first part and not the second and that's about right.

Started interesting and then got really interesting and then tense...tense..tense.

WHAT'S WRONG WITH JANET! Yes I love that Mal snuck up on the SG1 team but hurry up and tell me what's wrong with Janet.




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