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Redefining Normal

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This story is No. 4 in the series "The Normal-verse Series". You may wish to read the series introduction and the preceeding stories first.

Summary: Buffy has been brought back to life in a world radically transformed. Powerful forces are attempting to force Humanity on the 'correct' path. Unfortunately for them, Buffy has her own ideas about destiny...

Categories Author Rating Chapters Words Recs Reviews Hits Published Updated Complete
Star Trek > Multiple SeriesjAkLFR1815108,6421920666,37921 Jul 091 Jun 11No

Chapter One

This is a crossover story between Buffy the Vampire Slayer and the Star Trek universe. There are also very limited appearances by some characters from the StarGate universe, although not enough to constitute a multiple crossover. All canon characters are the property of their respective copyright holders.



WARNING – this story has not been completely written!



Redefining Normal



Chapter One





The first indication that things had changed was the return of sensation. Senses which hadn't been used in longer than she could remember were not prepared for the sudden return of awareness. Calibrations were off; any sensation was treated as an extreme event, her body so unfamiliar with anything so mundane as 'touch' or 'smell' or ‘sound’ that the input was quickly overloaded in a feedback loop. It was like a speaker being placed too close to a microphone, her nerves being flooded by sensations which had once barely registered as background noise. The soft rustling of distant leaves being gently brushed by the wind. The slight pressure of a pebble under her palm. The muted sweet odor of distant flowers. All were more intense than anything she could recall, the equivalent of an icepick being driven into her forehead. She would have screamed from the pain... if she only remembered how.

Buffy Summers had just returned to the land of the living.

It almost drove her insane.

The first few minutes were the worst, until, of necessity, her body learned how to adapt. With it returned the ability to think, in addition to simply feel. Her first thought was 'I wonder if this is what it feels like to be born?'

She hoped it wasn't. Otherwise children would never stop crying.

Her body remembered, and slowly adjusted to the return of physical senses. They were crippled... pale substitutes to those she was already forgetting she had been using before...

...before what?!

Before her rebirth? Or was the quickly-fading memory of another time, another place, itself a delusion; her mind creating details for the unknown interval during which she hadn't actually existed? Memories of something not-too-dissimilar from the womb: warmth, security, the psychic awareness of unconditional love?

Everything this place was not?

Tears streamed from her eyes, barely-audible whimpers the only sign of the dawning realization of her new reality.

She was home.

Alive.

It really sucked.



Time passed.

Minutes. Hours. The tears stopped, but still she didn't move.

There wasn't any point. She already had a fairly good idea as to what she'd find once she did.

Even before her eyes adjusted to being able to see once again, Buffy knew where she was located. They'd planned it, Dawn and her, given the inevitability of it happening. Selected the location her ashes were to be scattered, so that when the inevitable occurred she would return to a familiar place, but one unlikely to be occupied at the time. Not too far from town, but far enough away to have some elbow room in case things were seriously bad. Because chances were, things were going to be pretty awful. She wasn't destined to die. At least not permanently. Not yet. Not because she was so wonderful the world couldn't survive without her, or because she was the greatest, bestest, most awesomest Slayer evar! That actually would have been kinda cool, not to mention a serious ego-stroke. But, alas, that wasn't the reason 'they' kept bringing her back. No; 'they' wanted her around so she could be used as a tool to manipulate her sister.

Nor was there anything ‘magical’ about how they were doing it. They were using science; just an ultra-advanced science that was as amazing to her as a modern hospital would be to a prehistoric cave-slayer. The basics, however, were simple enough. If she was injured so badly human medical science would be unable to save her, the local equivalent of the Powers That Be stepped in, did something to capture what back in Sunnydale would have been called her 'soul,' and stored it away in some pocket universe. Locked it away somewhere, until they needed her again. Stored it somewhere she would feel safe, and warm, and loved, and would be content. The equivalent of a womb.

Except in reality it was nothing more than an ultra-sophisticated jar on some pseudo-god's table. Like Nixon’s head in a jar in that Furturama episode.

Tears once again flowed before she could process her anger and bitter disappointment. Even heaven was denied to her now. They needed her alive. So long as she lived, they would have leverage when dealing with her sister. Dawn was powerless; but the Key was Power Incarnate. Even the most powerful Ascended Beings wanted to have some way to influence the Key. The monks who had created Dawn had innocently created a sisterly bond in order to compel the Slayer to protect her; but it worked both ways. As a direct consequence of the massive fight to stop the First, Dawn had more-or-less become the Key, so now what Dawn wanted, the Key also wanted. Dawn wanted to protect her sister. To be with her sister. And there was the trap. Buffy could only be brought back if Dawn agreed to it. They both knew that if she kept bringing her back, even for the best of reasons, again and again, then sooner or later Buffy would hate her for it. Once that happened, something like the First would find it easy to manipulate Dawn. That was something which could not be allowed to happen.

They'd talked about, after Buffy had brought Dawn to this universe; discussed the situation, their options, how they could prevent the Key from being manipulated by beings far smarter than either of them. In the end the pressure was all on Dawn. She was going to have to make the call, and Buffy was going to have to trust her to make the right call. They'd come to an agreement. If Buffy was going to be brought back, the situation had to be so dire that the slayer alive at that time couldn't handle it. More importantly, there had to be a chance that Buffy could. She couldn't stop a war, or a plague, or the heat death of the Universe, or prevent Paris Hilton from achieving fame without having any actual talent. If Dawn wanted her sister back, there had to be a realistic possibility that she could actually accomplish whatever it was that Dawn needed doing.

And now here she was, back again.

Apparently, Dawn had judged that those criteria had now been met. Buffy had to trust her to have made the right decision. She did trust her! But it was just so very hard to be back, away from the safety and comfort of her artificial Heaven.

Despite her tears, Buffy was aware that she wasn't as traumatized by being torn from the closest thing she would ever get to Heaven as she should be. It wasn't that she was happy to be back. It was just that, truthfully, she wasn't really unhappy about it either. Wherever they were keeping her, it really was a wonderful place. Not the way she'd expected Heaven to be --she'd sort of pictured this infinitely large Nordstrom's where she had an unlimited Plutonium Visa card and could shop forever while eternally maintaining a perfect size 1-- but it was actually simply a state of being where she experienced almost pure contentment. It was... nice. Really, really nice! Good-ish bordering on... tranquil. It wasn't accurate to say that she'd been mellower than the best bong hit ever. It was less than that, and more; genuine, blissful, unending serenity.

If anyone claimed that after a while all that peace and happiness got a bit... boring... she'd deny it. Because that would imply she got more happiness and satisfaction out of beating the snot out of Bad Guys than she did peacefully floating away on a cloud or whatever it was she was doing there in her simulated Heaven.

Although, in truth, whaling away on Glory had been seriously sweeeeet...

Part of the reason she wasn't overly devastated to be back could be explained by the fact that she had always felt at least a low-level awareness that she wasn't in Heaven, which had made her slightly resistant to the otherwise-blissful ambiance. Even a barely-conscious awareness that sooner or later she would be recalled to a far less pleasant Earth-bound existence put a bit of a damper on the perfection of the experience. Despite her contentment, there had always been a feeling of... waiting. Enjoying some R&R until she was recalled to active duty.

Which had been its own source of low-level frustration. Part of her personality, a part of what made Buffy, Buffy, was the fact that she didn't like to be kept waiting.

Even knowing that returning to 'life' would be like being transferred to North Dakota in winter after a holiday on Maui, paradise tended to lose its appeal after a while when you were temperamentally suited to a more active existence. Given a choice, of course she'd have preferred to stay! But if Dawn both needed her, and thought she could do some good, Buffy couldn't honestly say that she was overly upset to be back. In fact, she was kind of curious about how much time had passed, and what had happened to the world while she'd been gone. Last time this had happened it had been, what, about half a year? She was fairly certain it had been a lot longer than that this time around, but there was no way to be sure.

Opening her eyes a bit, about the only thing she could determine was that it was 'night.' Everything was pretty dark, although she wasn't focusing right, the stars were waaaay too bright, and everything looked kind of orange-ish. She recalled that things had looked the same way when she'd awakened in post-demon-horde-invasion Sunnydale at first the last time she was reincarnated as well. For a minute she wondered if her eyeballs were so bloodshot that she was the one who looked like a demon.

After awhile she couldn't help but notice that the stars were really bright. Brighter than she'd ever seen them. Buffy was a city girl, and had rarely seen the Milky Way. She'd never seen it like this: a sweeping curve of glowing light, billions of stars, many showing obvious tinges of red or orange, in an arc extending from horizon to horizon. It was beautiful. She couldn't see any artificial light sources in any direction, although she still couldn't move her head much. The smell was... earthy. Literally. Dirt and rotting vegetation with fainter tinges of tree sap and animal dung. There hadn't been any smells such as these in False Heaven. Nothing so... raw. For a moment she inhaled great lungfuls of air through her nose, almost basking in the strange, harsh, but somehow pleasantly familiar odor. Lying on the sand, she ran her fingers through the tiny grains, isolated pressure points from larger stones providing an uncomfortable counterpart to the embrace of the cool sand. It wasn't the gentle comfort of a cloud... but it wasn't horrible either.

For a moment she wondered what was wrong with her. They wouldn't have called her back unless things really sucked. She'd served out her sentence, done what she had to do, and it was time for her successors to take up the duty. Yet she felt... almost excited by the challenge, the idea that she was needed, that she might make a difference. Fake-Heaven had been wonderful, yet there had been an underlying awareness that she was merely existing, being rewarded for a job well done, but no longer contributing. Just like one of the many slayers in her head, who often appeared in her dreams: pale shadows of what they had once been. Part of the whole, bit-players contributing when they could, but no longer front-and-center.

No longer real.

No longer important.

Was it conceited of her to want to take a more central position, to become a more active participant, in the game of Life? Living in her memories were the experiences of girls who had been at least her equals in their contribution to the slayer mythos, who had personally saved the world and fought the good fight. Legends one and all. Did they deserve any less than her, given that their times had all passed? Or was the question even important, since everything was being done without any input from her, or any consideration of her desires? It was Buffy Summers being returned instead of Lucy Hanover or Nikki Wood or any of the thousands of others because of her relation to the Key, not out of respect for her achievements. That being the case, all she could do was use the opportunity to contribute the best she could, and be equal to the gift being given to her through no effort on her part.

Because, she finally decided, it was a gift. Dying was easy. Given the reasons she was undoubtedly being brought back, her 'gift' would more than likely come to her again before too long. Despite dying four times, she had still only lived twenty four years. There was much she hadn't seen or done, and a lot more she wanted to. She'd never seen the Pyramids, or walked along Bondi Beach. Never been scuba diving, or climbed the Matterhorn. There were so many things she wanted to experience. Yes, life was harsh, and unpleasant, and filled with disappointments and failure. But it was real! It was important. And even knowing it was likely to turn out badly, Buffy was still okay with the idea of being given another opportunity to contribute, no matter that the cost was likely to be high.

It helped that she knew what to expect this time. Not to mention that there wasn't a horde of biker demons trying to kill her after she'd had to claw her way out of her coffin. The whole 'digging yourself out of your grave' thing had pretty much sucked. Buffy would suffer almost anything before going through that not-fun experience again. By comparison, this was positively gentle. Reconnecting with the world, experiencing the touch of the wind, the distant call of an owl, the tingle of a spider delicately crawling over her leg....

"Ghaaaaahhhhaaaa!!"

Instantly she was leaping to her feet, dancing maniacally, shaking loose what suddenly felt like an infestation by tarantulas and lizards and locusts crawling all over her body.

Okay, so maybe it was actually only an ant or two... but still... bugs!

Eeeek! Not to mention uck!

Not quite the most dignified of awakenings.

She pouted.

Sue her; she'd just returned from the friggin' dead, dammit! She was allowed to be a bit freaked out.

Not that she had been 'freaked out.' It was more like... surprised, at max, she told herself, grumpily.

Trying to ignore her sudden embarrassment, Buffy took stock of herself. She wasn't wearing a dress this time. They'd known she'd have good walk ahead of her, so she'd demanded to be cremated wearing the clothes she'd need when she was returned to life. Sturdy, but form-fitting leather pants. A nice light blouse, dark red of course, along with a dark black sweater over it. Rather ugly shoes which didn't give her much in the way of extra height but would stand up to a long hike without tearing her feet to pieces. A small bag for carrying supplies. She looked good. Not her best outfit, but not something she refused to be caught dead wearing... quite literally, apparently. There was a small bottle of water in the bag, some energy bars, a crank-light with built-in radio. A quick test didn't bring up any radio stations. That was unexpected. There weren’t too many places in California where you couldn’t pick up a decent radio signal. Some money, in gold coins. A disposable lighter. A copy of Dawn's favorite picture of their family, taken just before it all fell apart.

Mr. Pointy.

Dawn had argued that she should leave a gun. Yes, Buffy could take care of herself. But she was small, and she looked helpless. A handgun was sufficiently threatening that it would keep people from trying something stupid. Without one she would have to prove that she wasn't someone to mess with. Dawn had tried to sell it with the idea that a gun would actually prevent people from getting hurt learning a painful lesson about just how deceiving appearances could be. In the end she'd given up trying to convince her sister. Buffy simply would not use one, so carrying around that much dead weight was pointless.

Her sense of direction was excellent, which was convenient because there were almost no recognizable landmarks. No artificial lights, anywhere, in any direction. That wasn't right. She should be less than six miles outside of Santa Barbara, just up the coast, a bit to the northwest, just outside the border of the Los Padres National Forest. Not as populated as anything close to LA, but hardly the Outback. There should have been lights everywhere... but there weren't. Either something had happened to Santa Barbara, or something had happened to the electricity supply to Santa Barbara.

Since she was already standing, and did not intend to lie back down where there were bugs and scorpions and possibly forest alligators, it didn't seem to be a bad time to start walking. To find out what kind of world she had rejoined. Hopefully, it was just a world experiencing a power outage.

But she doubted it.
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