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.
Final part. 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.
By Marcus L. Rowland
"I want to be entirely sure you've given your informed consent to this procedure," said Ezri. "I've never heard of it causing medical problems, but there's always a possibility that any memories it releases will be distressing or cause problems for you."
"How does it work?" asked Dawn, sitting in a complex-looking chair in sick bay and eyeing Julian apprehensively as he prepared a tray of instruments.
"Putting it as simply as possible," said Julian, "the neural scanner traces chains of association in your memories, detecting any that seem to stop unexpectedly. It can also identify false memories since they'll be chains that start abruptly. Once we've identified a broken chain we can try to restore it, using nanoprobes to trace the chain and repair it. Removing false memories is more complicated, since you want to keep yours we won't attempt it."
"But I forget things all the time, won't it keep finding stuff like... I dunno... like what I had for breakfast three weeks ago?"
"That's a different type of memory loss. Unless there's a particular reason to remember a meal, the memory of what you actually ate is gradually subsumed into your general preferences for breakfast foods. It doesn't show up as a broken chain."
"Can you do it by date, look for the earliest ones first? We're pretty sure I was made into... well, into me... around the middle of two thousand, so that's where all the false memories would be."
"It isn't quite that easy, it's more a matter of associations and contexts. The equipment doesn't read your thoughts, we don't actually know what the engrams are until they're stimulated and the memories come back to you. But if we find a cluster of incomplete chains that seem to be associated it's likely that they represent a deliberate attempt at erasure or implanted false memories."
"I think I get all that. Okay, you've got my consent to go ahead. What do I do?"
"Just sit back." Dawn sat back in the chair. "There's a low power force-field restraining your head," said Julian, "it won't stop you moving, it's intended to slow any movements to a speed our equipment can handle. If you want to stop the process just sit up, it'll cut off automatically. Would you like to try it?"
Dawn tried to move her head from side to side, then sat up. "That's weird, kinda like the thickening spell I've seen Willow use a few times, then it just went away once I'd moved a little. What now?"
"Just sit back again and rest... that's good. We're beginning to calibrate and trace the engrams, it'll take a few minutes. Would you like to listen to some music?"
"What have you got?"
"Klingon opera, Bajoran chants, some Cardassian g'tonka music, most of the classics back to the eighteenth century or so."
"Never mind. Dido?"
"Can't see any listings for that name."
"Bay City Rollers?"
"Before they broke up or after they got back together?"
"They never got back together."
"Maybe it's one of the differences between our histories."
"In my world they stayed split and two of them are dead."
"Mmm. That's a shame. I rather liked 'Helter Skelter.'" Dawn giggled. "What's so funny?"
"Spike told me once that Adam liked 'Helter Skelter.'"
"The half-demon cyborg I told you about. How do you know the Beatles anyway?"
"Their early music is sometimes used to set the scene in the holodeck programs I play, I got interested and listened to some of their later work. Hmm... that's fast, I think we have our first broken memory chain."
"What happens now?"
"I'll insert a nanoprobe, it'll seek the remainder of the chain and restore the connection. It's painless, but to do it I'll have to immobile your head completely for ten seconds or so. Are you happy with that?"
"No, but do it." The force field intensified, holding Dawn's head rigid while Julian touched a stubby cylindrical instrument to her temple. Seconds passed, then Dawn felt its grip slacken.
"It'll probably take fifteen or twenty seconds to make the connection. When it does you'll probably see or feel something related to the memory."
"No, there's... oh!" Dawn sat up, clutching her stomach, gasping and retching.
"What was it?" asked Ezri.
"I'm not sure... I think... I think it was my first breath. My first moment as a human. Feeling my body, with most of my senses gone, everything so limited. A huge sense of loss."
"I.. I can't explain it. Like I was struck deaf, dumb, and blind, and stuffed into something that could barely move."
"They must have made you, then erased that memory and replaced it with the false memories of your earlier life."
"If you can lie back again," said Julian, "I can continue to trace that engram chain, see if we can find anything prior to the change."
"Okay." Dawn lay back, her breathing a little ragged. Julian eyed the diagnostic screen behind her chair and said "Would you like something to calm you a little? Your pulse is racing."
"No... I think I want to keep a clear head."
"It won't affect your ability to think clearly, it'll just suppress extreme emotional states."
"Forget it, I'll manage without."
"If there's another reaction that extreme we'll have to stop. I'm not going to risk your health."
"Just do it."
"When you've rested for a few minutes."
"Let's hope that this one's more interesting than the last five," said Dawn. "I really didn't need to remember the pain of breaking my arm in that car crash, or the day my skirt got caught in the door in front of the football team."
"I think you suppressed that one for yourself," said Julian, inserting another nanoprobe. "As for the arm, I should have warned you that severe trauma might show up as a broken chain."
"It's okay. When will... holy crap!"
"What do you remember?"
"Everything," said Dawn, sitting up again. Behind her the diagnostic panel burned out in a shower of sparks, while the screen of the neural scanner turned milky white. "Everything," Dawn repeated. "Better get Sisko down here fast, there are decisions to be made."
"Decisions?" asked Julian, then got a closer look at Dawn's face and hastily made the call. She was crying and her tears were glowing with green fire.
"What's the..." began Sisko as he came in, then saw Dawn and said "Oh."
"Memory's back," said Dawn. "I'm back."
"As the Key." He stared at her, seeing the green helices swirling around the girl, a complex whirl of hypnotically repetitive movement. It was obvious that Julian and Ezri could see something of it too.
"You got it. Just needed to fix a few memories and I was there."
"So what are you?"
"The guys in the wormhole were kinda right, I'm not just a key. I'm the key, the lock, the lock factory, the place where they make the doors.. you get my drift?"
"It's a way of putting it. Not exactly right... it's like I'm a facet of something larger than you can imagine, than anyone can imagine. The Word doesn't begin to cover it."
"Are you still Dawn?" asked Ezri.
"Kinda... Yeah. Dawn plus a lot. I think I'm gonna stay human, most of the time, material bodies are kinda fun, but that's not a problem. Keeping things under control, that's more of an issue. I'm gonna have to be careful and fix my messes. Starting with this one."
"You've found a solution?" asked Sisko.
"I've got three. You won't like them, but you need to choose one."
"You command this place, you're the Emissary and speak for the Prophets, and there isn't time to organise a vote on Bajor. Right now the universe is small, I can still work with it as a whole. Give it a few more hours and it'll be too late, it'll be stuck the way it is."
"So what are the choices?" asked Sisko, trying to stay calm.
"The first one's easy. Do nothing, and accept that things are gonna be bad for a good few years to come."
"Not an option I like."
"The second one's easy too. I undo this creation."
"You undo it?"
"It's a mess. Universes aren't supposed to be like this, it should have been created long before there were people to live in it, you shouldn't have to face knowledge like this. So I wipe the slate clean. It never happened, it never existed, it was always a work of fiction." Her voice was dreadfully calm.
"And that's easy? The death of billions of people is easy?"
"Easy to do. I didn't say I liked the idea. But I wouldn't be destroying you, I'd be cancelling your creation. You would have never existed."
"No," said Sisko, echoed by Ezri and Julian.
"Thought you wouldn't go for it. That leaves number three."
"A makeover. I start again, this time back a few gigayears ago with a real big bang, set the ball rolling properly. When time catches up with here and now it'll be the universe it's supposed to be."
"So what's the snag?"
"I can't guarantee how well it'll work. I can steer things quite a lot, and I'll make it so that it's gonna end up the way I remember it from the TV show, but there's always free will. I'm pretty sure that there'll still be a Federation, and that the broad situation will still be the same, but I can't guarantee that every last detail will be exactly the way it was before I arrived."
"For example any one of you might be dead, you guys take too many risks."
Sisko turned to Julian and Ezri. "Do either of you see a better alternative?"
"No," said Julian, "Centuries of chaos or non-existence? At least this way we stand a chance of getting back something like normality."
"No contest. We have to do it this way."
"I agree." He turned back to Dawn, and began to ask another question, but she was gone. So, soon, were they.
In the beginning...
Energy springs from nothing, and the universe begins to expand. Microseconds pass... seconds... days... millennia... slowly the expanding energy cloud begins to form subatomic particles, atoms, molecules, gas clouds, stars and planets. Always there, always guiding it, the Key.
Billions of years pass, and the conditions for life emerges on countless worlds, but the first primordial space-faring race finds itself alone. They resolve to sow their seed, suitably modified for each world, wherever it has a hope of surviving. Eventually their distant decedents are Klingon and Romulan, Vulcan and Terran, Ferengi and Cardassian, thousands of other races. Invisibly the Key continues to guide the process.
Jadzia Dax was tired when she came off shift, but decided to stop at Quark's bar and catch up with her friends before heading home. The bar was crowded with Klingons from the Glorious Slaughter; she bought a drink then looked around for a seat, eventually spotting one at a table where Julian was chatting to a stranger, an attractive young Terran woman wearing fashionable Bajoran silk clothing. She made her way over, exchanged friendly insults with a few Klingons who knew her in one or another of her incarnations, and said "Anyone sitting here?"
"Help yourself," said the stranger, "Sorry it's a little cramped but I've gotta go soon, that'll make room." Her eyes widened slightly as she saw Jadzia, but neither of them noticed.
"Miss Summers," said Julian, "this is Jadzia Dax. Jadzia, Miss err... Dawn Summers."
"Pleased to meet you," said Dawn. "Say, do you know a Tril named Ezri... now what was her last name?"
"Ezri Tigan?" asked Jadzia.
"I think so. You know her?"
"She's been through the station a couple of times, I think she's serving aboard a hospital ship right now. Why do you ask?"
"Oh, we met a while ago and I thought we kinda hit it off, I doubt that she'd even remember me but if she comes through again say 'hi' for me."
"Of course," said Jadzia. "Travelling to Bajor?"
"Passing through," she sipped at her mug of raktajino and added "on my way back to Earth. Wanted to see how some friends were getting on, do some shopping, that sort of thing."
"What brings you so far out of Federation space?"
"Long story," said Dawn, "Long, long story. I was kinda trying to find myself. Only when I did it turned out I'd been there all along. You know what they say, 'wherever you go, there you are.'"
"It happens," said Jadzia, vaguely wondering what she was talking about.
"That's a Buddhist saying, isn't it?" asked Julian.
"Wouldn't know," said Dawn, "I just picked it up somewhere."
"How are your friends, is the war causing problems for them?"
"No worst than anyone else, I guess, but it was like they didn't know me." she sounded a little sad. "Guess I shouldn't have expected anything else."
Worf came into the bar; Jadzia waved, then realised that there was nowhere for him to sit. Dawn followed her glance and said "Friend of yours?"
"Sounds like my cue to vacate this seat. I really ought to be leaving anyway, I've gotta fly." She picked up a shoulder bag from the floor, smiled at Worf, then went to the bar. Jadzia noticed her give Quark some strips of Latinum, collect a bulky back-pack from the cloakroom, then leave.
"Seemed like a nice person," Jadzia said after kissing Worf.
"I suppose so," said Julian, "to be honest I wasn't paying much attention, I've been thinking about procedures for some of the injured Klingons that came in on the Glorious Slaughter."
"Theirs is the honour of battle," said Worf.
"That's one way of looking at it. I've got to patch them up, and I can think of better ways to describe it."
"Why are you here then?" asked Worf.
"I've done all I can for today, they need to sleep and recuperate before the next round of treatment. Don't worry, they're in good hands."
"Of that I have no doubt. Captain Sisko mentioned that she is pleased with the progress you have already made, she was reading your report when I came off duty."
Quark came over with a tray holding two large glasses and a deep beaker of brown liquid.
"We didn't order this," said Worf.
"The young lady did," said Quark, "said she'd known a Trill that liked this stuff." He put the tray down on the table.
"What is it?" asked Jadzia.
"Peanut butter cookie ice cream for you and the doctor," said Quark, "and a large prune juice for Worf." He went back to the bar.
"That's uncommonly nice of her," said Julian. "Can't have been cheap."
"This is gorgeous," said Jadzia, tasting a spoonful. "Can't believe I've never heard of it before. Ezri Tigan must have mentioned liking it."
"The drink of warriors!" Worf said enthusiastically, sinking his juice.
"I wonder how she knew you'd like it," said Julian. "It's not exactly a common Klingon beverage."
"Don't tell me," said Jadzia, "you think she's a beautiful spy who's softening us up?"
"Just because I like to play spy games on the holodeck... of course I don't, she's just a nice girl, must have asked Quark what Worf likes."
"Of course she did. It's a shame she couldn't stay longer, it made a pleasant change to talk to someone relatively normal."
"Are you implying I'm abnormal?" asked Julian.
"If the cap fits..."
Several million miles away something green and intangible flashed through the minefield and into the wormhole, going home.