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(Fic) The True History of the Universe

9th November 2010 (21:54)

This post is in the nature of an experiment, and I'd be interested to hear people's views of it. One of the (many) complaints I've often heard about Season 8 is that people don't like the comics format: they can't get into it, they don't understand it or they just don't like it. It can be a handicap to discussing the stories, their plots and characterisations. So what I thought about trying was writing up of one of the comic issues in the form of a fanfic.

I'm not talking about a transcript here, but an actual fic. A story, from the point of view of one of the participants, which faithfully uses the canonical dialogue and action, but adds description and narrative around it. In some ways it would be more limited - by sticking to a tight POV, I wouldn't be able to flash across to other scenes or images as flexibly as a comic (or a TV show) can do; on the other hand, by adding the protagonist's inner voice I can perhaps give more structure and depth to the story. It would be an experiment - and perhaps a presumptious one - but I thought it might be fun to try.

As to which issue to write up, there was one obvious candidate: 8.34. Yes, *that* one, the spacefrakking episode. The reason is obvious enough: it was an important issue of the season, with a lot of revelations and plot developments crucial to the main season arc. However, because of its content, a lot of people - or so I gather - can't bear to re-read it because they don't want to have to look at those pictures again. ;-) By making Andrew my POV character - an obvious choice since he sees himself as the narrator of these adventures - I can keep all the Buffy/Angel sex shenanigans off-camera and concentrate on Giles's exposition instead. :-)

Title: The True History of the Universe
By: Brad Meltzer, adapted into fic by stormwreath
Characters: Ensemble, Andrew POV
Rating: PG (some swearing)
Wordcount: 3053


The True History of the Universe

One minute Twilight had been standing there, invulnerable, holding them all helpless in his power - and then there'd been a growing rumble, a crash, a brief impression of blurred motion - and he was gone.

And there were two gaping holes in the walls, on opposite sides of the room.

As Giles rushed over to tend to Faith's injuries, Andrew looked around himself in confusion. What just happened? He could see mountains through the nearest hole, and a chill breeze blew through it. There was debris all around it, rubble and lumps of concrete scattered over the floor. The other side of the room was clear, though, and he felt a glow of satisfaction as he deduced what just happened. Something - or someone - had just flown through the room at superspeed, carrying Twilight away with him.

Or with her. Most of the genuine superheroes he knew were women, so "her" was probably the best pronoun to use, on the balance of probabilities. Had it been Willow? Andrew knew she could fly, but he didn't think she could burst through solid concrete walls like that. Not even Buffy could do that, as far as he knew -  and he'd made a careful list of all her powers so he ought to know if anyone did.

Then the chamber was suddenly bathed in green light as a glowing sphere of energy popped into existence in the middle of it, and his calculations were interrupted as a whole horde of people burst through. He was proud of himself for not reacting with fear. He recognised the green light as the distinctive signature of Willow's magickal energies (although she'd looked at him strangely when he'd asked her why she chose that colour, or was it a factor of the type of power she was drawing on?) Sure enough, Willow was among the people who came in, and Xander and Dawn and Satsu and some other Slayers he couldn't remember the names of right now but were still very important people, especially since they were here to rescue him. They were all talking at once as they came through:

"Are we there?"

"You sure this is Twilight's HQ?"

"Giles...!"

And then he saw who else was with them. Some guy in military uniform who confirmed that this was "HQ" - like he recognised it - and Amy 'Evil Witch' Madison.... and Warren. Warren Mears, large as life and twice as skinless. Andrew reacted with instant defensive fury - made worse when Warren came straight over to him and tried to claim the Captain America shield he'd taken up in a (probably vain) attempt to challenge Twilight.

"That’s my shield!"

"Are you high? The shield was my idea!"

"Yeah, go tell Joe Simon that!"

As they argued, he was vaguely aware of Giles calling for help for Faith, who was bleeding badly - and as one of the Slayers rushed over to tend her wounds, Giles explained to the others what he'd discovered.

"Twilight is Angel?"

Willow looked shocked as she said the words, and beside her Xander could only repeat the same question in bemusement.

"Twilight is Angel?"

Under her breath, Dawn muttered, "Ben is Glory?"

Amy, though, looked triumphant, as if everything had suddenly fallen into place for her. "'Twilight is Angel'? Of course he is!"

"Of course he is? It doesn't even make sense." Dawn's scepticism and confusion were clear in her voice - but Giles, at least, seemed to know what was going on.

"No, no, it does. The forces at work here--"

Willow interrupted him, completing his sentence.

"--Are exactly the same as when they first met. Passion and love are more potent magicks than you think."

As she spoke, she was casting a spell of some sort, shaping magical energies between her hands like a little glowing ball of light. Xander, however, spoke to her challengingly, his frustration at the whole situation turning into impatience.

"You’re talking magic with a k, aren’t you? Screw magic with a k. Buffy needs our help. We need to find them. Willow, do a spell."

"Xan, I don’t think you want that."

"What what?"

She was looking into her glowing energy ball, where tiny but perfect images were forming.

"I don’t think you want me to find them right now. Trust me on this. With these two being apart as long as they have— I don’t think you really wanna see it."

Andrew was only half-listening to this conversation, still trying to process all the new information he'd heard. Trying to restrain himself from throttling Warren. And wondering how on earth his friends had teamed up with the bad guys while he was a prisoner. Oh, it wasn't that the idea of heroes and villains joining in alliance to fight a greater threat was a strange one. It happened all the time, in fact, in comics and movies. But this was real life, and he was beginning to realise it wasn't as easy as it seemed. Like, how did the good guys stop themselves from wanting to throttle the villains, for instance?

And then... something happened. Just... something. He couldn't really describe it; it was... as if the whole world seemed to quiver slightly. As if... if this were a movie, the tape had stuck then jumped forward a second or two.

And then Faith leaped to her feet, as healthy as ever she was. She held her hands up in front of her and stared at them in confusion.

"I – I’m not bleeding anymore. My wound— it’s— it’s gone. Giles, what the hell is going on?"

Giles looked down, a troubled expression in his eyes, and put his hand to his head without replying. But Faith wasn't going to let it rest. Andrew looked at her in a worried fashion as her anger mounted; he knew - because he'd asked the others - that Faith had a long history with Angel.

"Don’t pay silent treatment! With Tw- with Angel… I heard you talking with Angel. Don’t you fucking lie about it, G!"

Another long moment... and then with evident reluctance Giles began to explain.

"Y-you must understand. Even among Watchers— the last time they thought this was happening – back in the 1680s – thirty Watchers took their own lives in fear."

That struck home: but it still wasn't really an explanation. Willow clearly felt the same:

"Giles, if you know something--?"

"But don’t you see? No one knows anything. It’s – it’s just a Watcher myth… a fairy tale."

Xander too was getting impatient at all the hesitation and reluctance to speak.

"We’ve got witches, werewolves and centaurs—" ("Centaurettes!" interjected Dawn.) "The point is, even when it comes to the dark, scary ones… how much can you shock us with a fairy tale?

As they were arguing, Satsu had been studying the portable computer screen she'd brought with her. She'd somehow managed to patch it in to the surface wave radar Warren had installed in the HQ, and was using it to look for Buffy and Angel. Andrew - and Dawn - both went over to watch over her shoulder as she scanned the locality. Andrew swallowed a pang of jealousy - or was it admiration? - as he saw how clear the images were. Warren had managed to get a signal almost as good as TV.

Then they found them, and saw the two of them, and saw what they were doing together.

Andrew was shocked. Dawn was horrified. Satsu, though, was furiously angry at what they could see. She swore venomously, and Andrew - whose knowledge of Japanese mostly came from watching grey-market imported animes in the original language - didn't even recognise the words she used. He wouldn't get a chance to ask her about them either, because she thrust the computer into Dawn's hands and stomped off fuming. "Dawn, you're in charge. I'm done."

Dawn took the screen gingerly, not really wanting to touch it as it broadcast images of her sister being all naked with a man. Andrew was equally upset, but for another reason. How could she do this to him? Hadn't he told her to her face he was Team Spike? That Spike was so much edgier and cooler than Angel? So how could she go back to her previous vampire boyfriend again like this?

"Please don’t tell me that was them. It’s ruining everything for me."

But the universe clearly wasn't being fair to him. At least Faith was happy; she'd got her powers back, she was strong again. Giles didn't seem to think this was good news, however.

"It’s – it’s – it’s everything they warned – the universe… The universe is answering."

That was enough. Xander's patience finally snapped, and he lunged forward, grabbed Giles by the arms and shook him.

"Giles, you have zero seconds to tell me what the hell this has to do with the universe!"

"Think of how the world works…" Giles spoke with resignation, but no further reluctance. He knew this had to be said. "Nature isn’t wasteful. It doesn’t put anything in the ecosystem that it doesn’t need. If one side feeds too much, smaller animals lose their food and the entire ecosystem collapses. It’s no different with a Slayer. Think of what keeps the vampire population in check. You’ve heard it before, yes? Demon blood created the first vampires… but soon after the creatures appeared…"

Willow recited the words from memory: "Into every generation a Slayer is born."

"Precisely. Wherever a vampire, there would always be a Slayer. Generation after generation, the battle would be fought. And lost. And lost again. But the balance would always be kept."

"Actually, when you say it like that, it sounds like a really bad plan."

Xander evidently agreed with Willow's scathing judgement. "It is a really bad plan! Thousands of vampires versus one Slayer? How is that fair?"

"It’s not fair. But the greatest battles are never fair. Think of the balance."

As they spoke, Dawn had been playing with the controls on her computer, attempting to retune it to show other scanning systems and the Internet. She still occasionally flicked back to the window showing what her sister was doing in order to keep track of her, but kept her looks as short as she physically could before hastily turning back to the other data she was studying. But it was showing a worrying pattern, and so she interrupted Giles's explanation with a warning.

"Guys, we’ve got cyclones reported in six… seven… eight countries! Earth temperature just went up 0.9 degrees in the northern hemisphere."

Concerned himself -and remembering his responsibilities as a squad leader - Andrew turned to the controls on his gauntlet. If he remembered the schematics correctly - and if Warren had bothered to follow them - then... yes! There. He flicked a switch and a holographic screen materialised in the air above his arm. He tuned it in to a global meteorological tracking station, to see if he could back up Dawn's discovery. He did - and it was even worse!

"Rossby waves – whatever they are – are churning four percent faster in every ocean."

At least he assumed Rossby waves were even worse. He opened a separate tab to Wikipedia to check, as Giles continued to set out exactly how much they were all doomed.

"However much Buffy and Angel might love or miss each other, what Buffy’s experiencing right now is the pull of something far more ancient, far more powerful, and far more destructive than anyone in this omniverse has ever felt before. If the universe is smart enough to create vampires and Slayers to balance each other out, isn’t it also possible that, well, that the universe is also smart enough to have a far bigger plan for them?"

Andrew listened, but he also checked his readouts as he did. Things were getting worse by the minute: the world was shaking itself apart.

"They’re reporting a seaquake in the Arctic Ocean."

That caught Willow's attention. "Where in the ocean?"

"The Arctic Ocean. All of it."

Dawn was also studying her screen, dutifully checking on Buffy's location. "Radar says they’re moving and- Ewww!" She pulled a face, then added in a tiny voice, "I don’t think that’s what superspeed’s for."

All this talk of sentient universes and ancient prophecies wasn't impressing Xander very much; that was obvious in his voice.

"And that’s the universe’s grand plan? Giving Buffy super-powers so she can have destiny sex?"

"You’re not listening," replied Giles, more in despair than in anger. "These abilities she’s displaying – they’re an evolution. A protection for what’s coming. Indeed, my predecessors – the cultists who took their own lives – they called it the next step up the metaphysical ladder."

Willow looked shocked enough at that. "Giles, you’re scaring me."

"We need to be scared. That’s why they only whisper about it, Willow. This isn’t just the Earth’s reaction. It’s how the Earth gives birth to a new reality. For thousands of years, the universe has been watching – waiting to find one Slayer – just one – who measures up to its test. Century after century, they all meet the same fate..."

As if in dramatic counterpoint to his words, the whole room seemed to shake and quiver with power. Still glued to her screen, Dawn gasped that hurricanes were starting all over the world, but nobody else was listening to her as Giles continued his tale.

"...Until Buffy Summers came along and did the one thing that no Slayer – no Slayer in history – had ever done before."

Willow knew the answer to that one. "She shared the power."

"She didn’t just share it, Willow. With you, and the power of the Scythe, she created it. She gave this world a new breed. A new evolution. And this is the universe’s reward. The power that will let her reach the next step on the ladder - the power to survive the Twilight."

There was a moment of stunned silence. And then the voice Andrew least wanted to hear in all the world - well, no, The First-slash-Jonathan's voice probably held that position, but - but anyway, Warren burst into the gap in the conversation with a question. To be fair to him, it was quite a good question.

"That’s fine, but what about Angel? No offence – (and by the way, I hate you all) – but why’s Angel get a reward?"

Willow turned to explain it to him, too caught up in the sudden passion of understanding to care whom she was speaking to.

"Because he’s the yin to her yang."

Warren sneered dismissively. "Now there’s the fantasy."

"It’s not a fantasy," she snapped back. "Everyone knows it. Giles said the universe was smart. So think how smart it’s being—Angel’s the piece we were missing. Sure, Buffy shared her power, but when it comes to her place in the Slayer history books – I’m pretty sure that’s not the only thing she was the first to do."

A long silence as everyone thought about that one. It took Andrew a bit longer to realise what she meant than it did the others, which embarrassed him a little, because of course the story of the Slayer of the Vampires who fell in love with a vampire herself was a classic. Someone ought to write a fictionalised version of it as a novel; it would surely become a best-seller. You'd have to change Buffy's name, of course, maybe something similar. B--

Dawn interrupted his musing with another status report, and this time Amy chimed in with her own observations, this time done with magic.

"I can’t find them on radar anymore. They’re moving too fast."

"I checked. They’re not on this plane of existence. I think—don’t ask me how, but – can they be moving through time?"

Willow suddenly gasped in horrified realisation, clasping her hand over her mouth. "Oh Goddess..."

"What?"

"Think about it. She should be staking him right now. She did it once, to save the world. Now the world won’t let her. It isn’t just reacting to what they’re doing… it's urging them on. It’s all part of it. What’s been, what’s to come – or might not come. Think of Buffy’s truest loves. Vampires – humans infected by demons. Just like Slayers. Buffy’s meant to make that connection. That’s the universe’s grand plan."

"Yes." Giles spoke grimly as the truth dawned on them all. "Yes. They are the best of their kind… the first of a new kind. And when they truly become? We humans won’t matter at all."

In the sky above, the fabric of reality - stretched to its breaking point - began to tear asunder. Deathly white light shone through the glowing, spreading crack in space.

"And do you understand how quickly the ancient demons and magicks will come pouring back in?"

There were shapes moving within the depths of the hole in the sky. It swelled and burst, and they came pouring through, a vast, unnumberable horde. Nor did it go unnoticed below, as Amy's magical visualisation showed her the stark truth.

"Warren, you seeing that-? I’m showing a dimensional rift –  Hey, people-I-want-to-kill! It’s raining demons!"

The earth shook. Dust and rubble fell from the ceiling, and everyone reeled and grasped for balance.

But there was one mystery still left unexplained. Faith cornered Giles, demanding answers.

"Giles, when you were talking with Angel – He said… in Germany, in England – he said you were searching for something."

"I – I was – there are rumours of a totem – an item that could stop them if they grew too powerful. I know it sounds horrible, but that’s what I was searching for. I needed to know how to kill a god."

The ceiling collapsed, and the scaly horde of monsters fell through the sky towards them.

"But look around. It’s too late now –

"Twilight is here."


Far away, in a place that was not a place, in a time that was not our own, Buffy and Angel found themselves lying side by side and sated on lush green grass beneath a sky that shone an unearthly shade of delicate pink and mauve. As Buffy stared around and stammered in confusion, Angel spread his arms wide and smiled triumphantly.

"And now it's ours. Here we are, Buffy. Welcome to Twilight."


Comments

Posted by: singer_shaper (singer_shaper)
Posted at: 9th November 2010 22:04 (UTC)
slayers

I'm impressed! As someone who faithfully reads your reviews (and has seen maybe one or two issues of the whole series), I like the straightforwardness of this form. Thanks!

Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath)
Posted at: 9th November 2010 22:21 (UTC)

\o/
Thanks! Glad it's a success for some people at least. :-)

Posted by: ceciliaj (ceciliaj)
Posted at: 10th November 2010 00:25 (UTC)
Harmony comics

I think it's a really cool experiment. I hope you'll do more!

Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath)
Posted at: 10th November 2010 18:17 (UTC)

Thanks!

I might do, but not all of them lend themselves so easily to the format. We'll see.

Posted by: treadingthedark (treadingthedark)
Posted at: 10th November 2010 02:56 (UTC)

Hee. Very nice. As one of those people who has a hard time "getting" the comic format, this is helpful. It was easier to understand, and you did a great job. Especially considering the story you had to work with.

I still found the story itself nonsensical. Thanks for trying though.

Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath)
Posted at: 10th November 2010 18:18 (UTC)

Glad it was of help. In the story's defence, it *is* chapter 34 of a 40-chapter fic, so might not make all that much sense as a stand-alone. :-)

Posted by: lusciousxander (lusciousxander)
Posted at: 10th November 2010 10:26 (UTC)
Scoobies by maharet83

Wonderful! I didn't really have any problem reading that issue, but I realized fiction/novel is more my thing than the comics, because I've enjoyed and understood this more as a fic. You're a gift to us S8 fans! I hope it's okay if I recced this everywhere I know.

Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath)
Posted at: 10th November 2010 18:19 (UTC)

Thank you! And go ahead; more readers make it all worthwhile. :-)

Posted by: norwie2010 (norwie2010)
Posted at: 10th November 2010 12:01 (UTC)

Thank You for this experiment.

Interstingly, Your approach to an issue of comic!Buffy laid bare another problem od season 8 (i having):

A while ago i wrote a piece about time-experience between TV!Buffy, comic!Buffy and audience.

The outcome was rather inclonclusive, apart from a feeling that "something's not right".

And YOU showed me what. :)

What You have written is ONE WHOLE ISSUE. How many words are that? Or, better, how few words are that!

Looking at my comic book shelf (mostly filled with french artists) most stories there have two to four times the pages for probably half the time frame. So, it is not really the comic book format - but more precisely the us-american superhero genre of it. Season 8 feels like a film with only 2 takes per minute. (Or long streches of story which happen off screen and aren't even mentioned.)

Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath)
Posted at: 10th November 2010 18:28 (UTC)

Thanks!

I assume the 22 pages of content per month format is standard for American comics. I know I've worked out before that compared to the TV show, it's like watching in painfully slow motion, as you say. A transcript of a single issue, written in full shooting script form, is about the same word-count as one-third of a TV shooting script - in other words, three comics issues equal one TV episode. That does mean that the 40 issues of Season 8 are very roughly equal to the 22 episodes of a TV season - actually rather shorter - but they come to us over four years instead of eight months!

Posted by: norwie2010 (norwie2010)
Posted at: 10th November 2010 20:20 (UTC)

Sorry, i worded it wrong: i meant 2 shots per minute. (But, yes, 2 takes per minute is about right, too).

When first thinking about the time phenomena that is our interaction with season 8 compared to TV show time, i thought that 40 issues would equal 1 TV season, too.

But, it is not. Far from it. For one, we are shown a far more epic tale with many, many more characters. I daresay that would mean season 8 is much more akin to 2 TV seasons in time.

Secondly, every issue grants us the same number of pages - regardless if we see a situation, where several panel or even pages show the events of mere seconds. I'd say a comic book needs FAR more space (time) to tell the same story than a TV show. Let's take for example the rather popular "Akira", which made it into a 2 hour film. The comic book had many, many tens of thousands of pages.

I'd wager that what we actually get in the comics is about half the time worth of a TV season (with a story which has a much larger scope and cast).

Posted by: brutti_ma_buoni (brutti_ma_buoni)
Posted at: 10th November 2010 19:38 (UTC)

Thank you. That certainly works better for me than a comics format (though I gave up on the comics before this issue, so it's not a straight comparison). I suspect I'm hopelessly verbal, rather than visual, and flat images just don't quite give me the narrative I need.

Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath)
Posted at: 11th November 2010 10:38 (UTC)

Glad to be of assistance! :-)

One thing I was interested to find out - because I had no clue how it would work out when I started writing - was that this novelisation of a single issue of the comic works out at around 3,000 words, or the same as a single chapter of the fic I, at least, tend to write. That was rather neat.

Posted by: ((Anonymous))
Posted at: 15th November 2010 17:33 (UTC)

As an experiment, I think it works. Also like the personal touches (Andrew's musing about writing Twilight and Buffy's pseudonym was hilarious!). Trouble is, Joss Whedon or no, I still think the destiny sex plot reads like crack!fic.

Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath)
Posted at: 16th November 2010 14:16 (UTC)

Thanks!

I actually have a sneaking suspicion that the more bizarre elements of the destiny sex are meant to be read as parody. Joss is poking fun at the-other-Twilight and the standard tropes of bodice-ripper romantic fiction.

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