Marcus L. Rowland (ffutures) wrote,
Marcus L. Rowland
ffutures

Omphalos Part IV

Just tried to post this to FF.net and Twisting the Hellmouth, both seem to be down at present. For anyone who can't wait the next installment is in the cut.



This is a Buffy / Star Trek: Deep Space Nine crossover. See the first chapter for background and some of the sources which suggested the plot. Thanks also to Captain Boulanger and Tara Keezer for helpful comments and suggestions.

All characters belong to their respective creators / film companies / etc. and are used without permission. This story may only be distributed on a non-profit-making basis.

Work in Progress. If you like this story, check out my other stories on the Fanfiction Net, Twisting the Hellmouth, and Fonts of Wisdom websites.

I'm British, so's my spelling. Live with it.



Omphalos
By Marcus L. Rowland
IV

"If this theory is right, why can we see the stars?" asked Odo. "Why is there light if they don't exist?"

"That's a good question," said Julian. "I think you have to assume that the evidence of continued existence that's being created has to include light and radiation from the stars, otherwise they'd suddenly appear in the sky as they were created and give the game away. We would have started with no stars at all, wouldn't see any for several years."

"But we already know something isn't right."

"We do," said Sisko, "but does whatever is doing this? Maybe it can only operate this way. Maybe it thinks it's doing its job without realising how much damage this will cause."

"Well yeah," said Dawn, with a look of panic in her eyes, "maybe anything you like, but I think this is nuts. I'm not God's word. If I was I wouldn't have spent so much time running from vampires, I'd be too holy to touch. What if it wasn't your Prophets at all that spoke to us? What if it really was Glory, or maybe, maybe the First Evil. That thing could impersonate anyone who had ever died."

"And had everyone we saw died?" asked Sisko. "I was under the impression that your sister was alive."

"She is, but she's been dead twice, that gave it the power to copy her. It impersonated her a few times, tried to drive Spike insane."

Sisko looked puzzled but said "And the others? Tara, your mother, Xander?"

"Tara's dead, so's mom, it impersonated both of them a couple of times. Uh, Xander's still alive though. At least he was when I left home. Trouble is we know of at least one dimension where he's dead and turned into a vampire. No, couldn't be that, the vampire would have looked younger and had two eyes. But maybe..."

"Let's assume for now that your Xander is still alive. I think that the Prophets are more likely to be the source of our visions, since we were on their home ground."

"Even if they were and even if Julian's right, which I doubt, how does it help us?"

"It doesn't help us," said Sisko, "but it at least gives us the beginnings of an idea that we can test. Even if you're not the creative force our vision suggested, something changed at the moment you arrived. Maybe our universe already existed, in a form that didn't allow warp travel, and what's going on is that the original version is being overlaid by the version you've experienced from your entertainments. We've seen reality shifts just as bizarre caused by powerful entities such as the Q. Maybe your arrival has changed our time line in some way, and a time paradox is causing the problem; we've never come across an effect like this before but who knows what's possible. Whatever the cause, we know more about it now than we did this morning."

"But not enough to be useful."

"Not immediately, but if we take the Prophets literally it seems likely that the answer is inherent in your powers. We just have to work out how to use them."

"Preferably in a way that leaves me alive rather than a drained corpse."

"That would seem to be desirable," Odo said in a dry tone, "It wouldn't do to acquire a reputation for treating our guests poorly."

"I wonder if Worf has any ideas," said Dawn. "Where is he anyway?"

"Organising repairs to the Defiant," said Ezri, "there was a little damage from the fighter attack and he's keen to keep her in top shape and ready for combat."

"But if things are the way we think they are - not saying I agree that you're right - the Dominion can't attack."

"Who said anything about the Dominion?" said Sisko. "There are a dozen Federation and allied warships in dock, there's nowhere for them to go and apparently no chance of anyone from outside interfering, and the crews are already getting restless. I want to be ready for anything from a mutiny to a military coup"

"Oh."

"What I think we need to do now is pool our information about alternate worlds and dimensions, time travel and so forth and see if we can come up with some answers. Miss Summers, given the extraordinary circumstances I'm going to give you unrestricted access to any files you request, excepting military secrets. This breaks the letter of the prime directive, I'm going to trust you not to break its spirit by using any information you acquire to change your own culture."

"Don't worry," said Dawn, "I think my culture's already in enough trouble, I'm not gonna mess with it. Might end up like the guy in 'The Man Who Fell To Earth.'" They gave her the blank looks she was coming to expect. "Never mind, another cultural reference that doesn't work here. Alien guy ends up a prisoner because he knows stuff that we want. Did they make any movies in this dimension?"

"Of course," said Julian, "but from what you've told me we have few in common after the nineteen-sixties or so."

"Ezri," said Sisko, "I'd like you to continue to work with Dawn, help her with any problems she encounters. See if Keiko O'Brien can spare some time to help, she might be better at putting across the theoretical background since Dawn lacks a lot of the context she'll need."

"You mean I'm kinda primitive?"

"Let's just say lacking a modern technical and scientific education. Keiko can probably help you get up to speed, she's worked with students of all ages. Doctor Bashir, I'd like you to see if you can come up with any other theories, or any way we can test the one we already have. Odo, run interference and try to keep things as quiet as possible. Given the Bajoran character I think it might be unwise to give this premature publicity."

"Are you worried that they might hurt me?" asked Dawn.

"Actually I was thinking that they might want to worship you."

"You're kidding."

"Not at all. The Bajorans have a very strong religious tradition which includes worship of the Prophets. As the chosen Emissary of the Prophets I'm in a position to influence the Vadek Assembly, but I can't control them. If word gets out I think it's safe to say that there will be some sort of reaction to your presence; the Assembly will undoubtedly want to send some priests to investigate, the popular response is less predictable. Worship seems a possibility. That or they'll decide that you're a heretic or possessed by a Pah-wraith."

"A Par-what?"

"Pah-wraith. An evil spirit, a Prophet gone bad."

"They believe in that?"

"Oh, Pah-wraiths exist, I've encountered them. There's a Cardassian called Gul Dukat who's possessed by one and organised a cult that worships them."

"Okay, possessed bad guy, check, evil cultists, check... suddenly I'm feeling more at home."

"Is that good?" asked Odo.

"Well, let's see... nope. Most of the possessed bad guys I've met have been pretty bad news."

"But they don't scare you, do they?" said Ezri, watching her eyes.

"Not exactly... they can be scary, I've come close to being killed a few times, but any bad guy who deliberately lets something possess him probably didn't start out as the sharpest pencil in the box. As life-style choices go it's kinda terminally stupid."

"Dukat isn't stupid," said Sisko, "He's come close to defeating the Federation on several occasions."

"Since he got possessed?"

"Well... not really, no. He's mostly been trying to destroy the Prophets."

"Any chance he'll succeed?"

"I doubt it. They're immensely powerful."

"See what I mean?"

"Don't underestimate him, he seems to have some long-term plans which we don't understand yet, it's possible that he's closer to success than we realise. He did close the Wormhole for a while."

"Do we have to worry about him anyway? Is he here or on Bajor?"

"Not that I'm aware of."

"Then he won't get here for a few years."

"Wait a minute," said Ezri. "I'm not so sure that's true."

"Why not?" asked Sisko.

"You and Jake once got to Cardassia in a few days without a warp drive, using a solar sailing ship."

"That's right. We found an uncharted tachyon current flowing from this system to Cardassia."

"Could that current be taking this... creation, or whatever it is... to Cardassia?"

"The current certainly crosses the sphere of creation we're envisaging, it goes within a few light-hours of Bajor. If it still exists that might tell us something. If creation is extending along it at tachyon speeds we will know a good deal more."

"How can you find out?" asked Dawn.

"You'll remember what I said about military secrets."

"Sure. And with that little hint I bet I can guess what it is."

"Really?" said Odo, sounding skeptical.

"You're using the current in some way... I don't know, maybe to get spy satellites to Cardassia without them noticing? No, there'd have to be more to it than that, I guess the Cardassians have that route pretty well staked out. You're sending some sort of decoys that way while the real spy satellites go in another way? Or there's more than one type of satellite..."

"Please don't speculate any further," said Sisko, "you're moderately close to the right answer, which I would prefer not to discuss. Suffice it to say that if that channel exists we can probe it."

"If it exists that means that this... whatever... is spreading faster than you thought. Um... are there any other wormholes around here? Maybe it'll go through them too."

"That's certainly a possibility. Let's assume that it will go through wormholes and any other natural route that becomes available as soon as it exists. Let me just reset the simulation accordingly...."

Sisko fiddled with the controls again, then the hologram came back to life. This time the sphere around Bajor was joined by a writhing tube leading to Cardassia, which began to expand at lightspeed. Gradually more spheres and currents appeared, each expanding in turn. It still took more than a hundred and fifty years to cover the Federation and Cardassian territories, five hundred to take in the entire galaxy.

"That's a little better," said Julian, "but even at that speed Bajor and Cardassia would be isolated for the next twenty years or so, and the Cardassian Empire would have a huge advantage in resources."

"I wonder what would happen when one expanding sphere encountered another," said Ezri. "Would they have history in common, or would things be a little different in each bubble of reality?"

"They'd all be linked," said Sisko, "but there's no way of knowing for sure. I'd prefer not to find out."

"I need to get some food," said Dawn, "then I guess I'd better hit the books.. um, PADDs. Unless there's something else?"

"No, that's it, Miss Summers. I think we already have quite a lot to think about. Let's try to find some answers."

* * * * *

"This stuff is really... kinda good," said Dawn, chewing a mouthful of gak and trying to ignore its appearance.

"You don't have to pretend," said Ezri, "I know it's an acquired taste."

Behind them the Klingon chef tended to his pots, watching approvingly as Dawn swallowed and licked her lips.

"Really," said Dawn, picking up another writhing mass, "it looks repulsive, kinda like worms covered in snot, but it tastes kinda like... um, worms covered with snot, but in a good way. A little cheese on top might be nice, but it's good." She closed her eyes, popped it in her mouth, and began to chew.

"Cheese works, but sour cream with garlic and coriander is better, or a lime and chilli dressing. You won't get a Klingon to eat it like that though, they think it ruins the flavour." The Klingon said something emphatic in Klingonese, and Ezri added "He says it tastes like.. well, like something you wouldn't want on your plate."

"Mphh... Yeah, I get that. Lots of people don't like garlic. Vampires too."

"I thought it drove them away."

"You've been reading Dracula, haven't you?"

"It seemed a good reference for the world you described."

"About ten percent of it is true, another twenty percent is true but only applies to Dracula, the rest was Dracula having some fun with Stoker and planting disinformation. I know of at least one vampire that loves garlic. Don't know that any of it is true in this world. How soon do you think we'll hear about Cardassia?"

"I don't have the need to know, but I'd guess several hours. We can't really discuss it in public."

"Okay, I'm about full anyway. Let's go stuff my brains instead."

* * * * *

Four light-hours from Bajor the Defiant dropped to impulse power and fired a spread of football-sized drones into the tachyon stream. Each in turn deployed a circular photon sail a few hundred metres across and a few molecules thick and began to accelerate towards Cardassia. Hours passed.

"Well?" said Worf.

"Just coming up on the barrier now," said the science officer, "current probe speed is approximately warp two point three. If the barrier is where we think it is they'll drop to lightspeed, I guess, otherwise they'll continue to accelerate. Twenty... ten... two... one... Sensors show them instantaneously dropping to lightspeed as they hit the barrier, their instruments think that they're making warp two point four."

"DenIb Qatlh! Hab SoSlI' Quch!" said Worf, then apologised for swearing and ordered the helmsman to return to Deep Space Nine.

* * * * *

"Okay," said Dawn, looking at the screen in her quarters where Julian was bringing up images of strange worlds with Nazi flags and starships with peculiar insignia, "you've got all of these different parallel worlds where people went back in time and changed things, the mirror dimension where everyone's evil, and the dimension that these black and white guys come from, plus the Q Continuum and wherever it is that the Prophets live. Is that the lot?"

"I think so," said Ezri.

"Right. The ones I know about are five or six different hell dimensions, Pylea, Quortoth, the world without shrimp, the world that Cordelia made with a wish, the world she was shown where she never became a seer and oh... the troll dimension. Plus the ones I visited on the way here, but I don't think we can count them because if this stupid theory is right I may have made them."

"What was that about a world made with a wish?" asked Julian.

"It's kinda like your mirror dimension, our world gone bad. A demon tricked Cordelia into wishing that Buffy had never come to Sunnydale, when she did the world changed to make it that way. That meant that Sunnydale was over-run with vampires, Buffy was killed by them when she finally got there. Anya... the demon that granted the wish... lost her amulet and the world changed back, but while the spell lasted that world existed. A while later Willow was tricked into trying to get Anya's amulet back and a vampire version of Willow came out instead. Willow thinks that she pulled her through time from the period while that world existed, before the amulet was broken, but for all we know it went on existing afterwards."

"That sounds like a Hawking bifurcation. A split in the timeline creating two parallel worlds, as you say it would be much like our mirror dimension. I see no reason why it would cease to exist; in fact we know that there are thousands of timeline splits like that every second, each potentially capable of creating a new dimension. Most of them merge together again within seconds, but a small proportion persist. Given a little time each is its own unique world."

"Did the vampire version of your friend resemble her?" asked Keiko.

"I didn't meet her, but from what I was told she was kinda gay... sorry, homosexual... long before Willow was into that scene, and a dominatrix, which wasn't Willow's scene most of the time. But that's pretty normal for vamps."

"Most of the time?" Julian asked with sudden interest.

"She kinda went evil for a few days when Tara was murdered, it was pretty intense."

"Dawn," Ezri asked slowly, "just how many people have you known that have been killed? Have you ever actually seen someone killed?"

"A lot, and yes. Like I said, Sunnydale wasn't exactly a normal place, and we weren't exactly your average residents. Not counting the army that Glory massacred, or the vampires I've seen killed over the years... I guess I've known eight or ten, and seen a couple of dozen. The worse was when I came home and found Tara's body. I sat with it for hours, didn't know that they'd taken Buffy to hospital, didn't think of calling for help."

"That's horrible."

"We were fighting a war. It wasn't one that people knew about, but it was real. It's still going on, of course, but a lot less intense for Buffy and me now that there are so many Slayers."

"If you need any counselling, or any other sort of help..."

"I'm okay. I can't say I'm used to it, hope I never get like that, but I kinda know how to deal. Kinda revolves around eating chocolate chip ice cream and helping the Slayers dust the bastards that are responsible."

The door chimed, and Keiko raised her eyebrows at Dawn. "Expecting anyone?"

"Not really."

"I'll take a look." She checked a small screen by the door, and said "It's Kira and some Bajorans I don't recognise."

"Wonderful," said Julian. "Priests?"

"Priests. Looks like eight or ten of them."

"Is there anywhere we can talk to them?" asked Dawn, "Somewhere like a conference room, so there's room for everyone?"

"I'll organise it," said Ezri, "if you're quite sure it's what you want to do."

"I don't want to, but I want to nip this whole worship thing in the bud, so I'm gonna have to."

* * * * *

"...so the way I see it," said Dawn, looking around the room at some very worried-looking Bajorans, "either this whole thing is a big mistake, a coincidence or some side-effect of my arriving here, or your Prophets called me here for some reason."

"The Prophets called you?" asked Kira.

"If it isn't just a coincidence I don't think I would have come here if they hadn't wanted me to come here and attracted me in some way. Don't get me wrong, I like it now I'm here, I just wouldn't have thought of it for myself."

"Then you don't think you created our universe?" asked one of the priests, a woman in her fifties.

"I don't know. It certainly wasn't something I set out to do, if that's what you mean. Maybe I'm not making this clear, I don't really control the Key. I can kinda tap into its power, enough to move between the dimensions, but I really have no idea if it's a thing or a person, if it's part of me or just something that happens to be in my body, and if it thinks for itself or is some sort of tool. I kinda incline towards that idea, actually."

"A tool?" asked another priest, this one a man.

"It's usually called the Key. To me that suggests it's a tool, rather than a tool-user. Even the thing the Prophets hinted at, the Word, is something that God used, one of his powers, not God himself. Does that seem to make sense?"

Three of the Bajorans began a furious argument, quoting references to prophecies faster than Dawn or Kira could follow. Soon all were shouting, until one of them yelled "Emmissaries 12:12:43: 'and behold the key of the Prophets that opens all doors,'" and the rest fell silent.

"Oh crap," muttered Dawn.

"The Key!" "The Key of the Prophets!" "The Child of the Key!" "The Miracle Child!" "We are not worthy!"

"Chill out, guys," said Dawn. "I'm not claiming to be anything special."

"'Emmissaries 12:12:56," said the oldest priest, "'and the Key knoweth not its nature, but comes amongst them as a child.'"

"Hey, I'm nearly nineteen."

"Blasphemy!" howled one of the female priests. "Emissaries 12:11:07, 'For the Key shall not be born or mortal man or woman,' how can this... this Terran be the Key!"

"Actually," said Captain Sisko, who had come in while the argument was going on, "Miss Summers tells us that she was made magically as a container for the Key, not born. We have reason to believe it may be true."

"The Emissary has spoken!" said the same priest, "Is this true, oh girl who may be the Key?"

"Yeah, it's true," said Dawn, "and how come you're suddenly speaking like a bad history movie?"

"We are speaking classical Bajoran," said Major Kira, "as a sign of our respect, oh Key, and the translation has changed accordingly."

"Speak to us of your wisdom, oh Key," said another priest.

"Will you guys please knock it off!"

"Knock what off what, oh Key," said several voices in near unison.

"Stop talking like that, guys, you're giving me a headache. Just cool it. Even if I am in your prophecies, if our theory about this universe is right they've only been around as long as I have."

"What?" asked the female priest.

"If I made this universe, or was used to make it, your books of prophecy have only been around for a few days. Doesn't matter how old they seem to be. Anything that's written in them must have been created by the Prophets, or whatever used me to create this universe, knowing that I was gonna be here. It doesn't prove a thing."

"Bugger," said the oldest priest, "she's right you know."

"Blasphemer!" shouted another priest. But his heart didn't seem to be in it.

"Are we done here?" asked Dawn. "You want my advice, wait this out. In a few days we'll know one way or another, and I hope that what we'll know is that we've been jumping to silly conclusions. But please don't waste your time asking me about this, because the answer's gonna be the same. I don't know any more than you do, so it's futile trying to solve this before we have all the facts."

The priests argued again, much more quietly, then the oldest priest bowed deeply and said "Truly you have the wisdom that was foretold, oh Key. We will watch and wait." All of the other priests and Kira bowed, and Kira led the delegation out.

"They took that better than I'd expected," said Dawn, "I was worried they'd come to blows. Thanks for speaking up then, the whole Life of Brian thing was kinda wearing."

"Brian?"

"Obscure cultural reference."

"Never mind then, it was my pleasure," said Sisko. "Actually I came here for another reason. Mister O'Brien has come up with an interesting idea that might improve our understanding of the Key. Would you be prepared to participate in a little experiment?"

TBC

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