The Goddess Quandary
by Andy Russell
The Goddess Quandary
Written by Andy Russell
Directed by Gary Russell
Post Production and Music by Simon Robinson

Lisa Bowerman (Professor Bernice Summerfield), Jane Goddard (Ker'a'nol), Duncan Wisbey (Secundo), Lizzie Hopley (Aldébrath), Paul Bryant (Parasiel).

Legend has it that the mighty warlord Aldébrath will return to defeat the enemies of Imogenella. Should the need ever arise.

When the monks of Etheria stumble across what they claim is Aldébrath’s last resting place, it looks like the legend might come true. If nothing else, the monks could make some cash from tourism -- perhaps even enough to repair the monastery roof. All they need is a certain professor of archaeology to verify their claim.

Simple. You think?

Bernice soon finds herself trapped in a race against death on an unstable planetoid where there’s more to the tomb than meets the eye. Mind you, the monks aren’t all they appear either -- oh, and Benny’s old friend Keri wants in on the audience share.

  • This is the twentieth audio in Big Finish’s new series of The Adventures of Bernice Summerfield.
  • Released: February 2006

  • ISBN: 1 84435 127 0
(drn: 78'13")

On KS-159 the staff and students of the Braxiatel Collection are celebrating their annual Liberation Day to commemorate the end of the Occupation and the defeat of the Fifth Axis. Professor Bernice Summerfield has just finished her lecture to an invited group of historians when she’s approached by Parasiel, one of the students who recently joined the University at the invitation of Irving Braxiatel. She’s rather irritated to find that he’s recorded the whole lecture and now wants to question her on certain statements that he claims don’t make sense. He points out that she only spoke about what happened several years ago, whereas he’s more interested in what’s happened more recently. Bernice is uncomfortable talking about these events and Parasiel suspects she’s scared about the future of the Collection. He wants to know what led them to their current situation, but to explain that she’ll have to recount what happened when she accepted the invitation to make a low-budget documentary for the Monks of Etheria…

Abbot Primus of the Monks of Etheria is watching an earlier Tri-D documentary that Bernice produced about the planet Agravanthagorum, a stormy world which is typical of many planets in the Imogenella Star Cluster. 500 years earlier, war spread throughout the quadrant and its effects touched most of the inhabited worlds in that sector of space, including Etheria itself. When his internal alarm starts sounding, the distressed Abbot summons Father Secundo to administer his medication. Slowly, the readings start to return to normal, showing that his spirituality has been restored and his lucidity levels are rising again. The Abbot explains that he’s been watching an educational documentary on the war, but Secundo finds such programmes interminable and describes Bernice as dreadful. He re-sets the Abbot’s otherworldliness regulator and they both watch the documentary together.

When the programme reaches a section in which Bernice questions why the warlord Aldebrath is always shown as having enormous breasts, the Tri-D equipment switches off. Secundo admits their Monastic funds are so low they can no longer afford the subscription. He regards Tri-D is a frivolity and there are other more pressing demands on the Order’s purse, such as food, repairs to the roof and, of course, their need to fund the holy mission to spread the word of god. Sadly, Primus points out that the people no longer want to hear the word of their god, preferring instead to follow the goddess of love and peace. It suddenly occurs to Secundo that Bernice’s programmes probably reach more people than he possibly could and if only they’d had access to her timeslot, their holy mission could have been completed years ago. Unfortunately the religious quota on the channel has already been filled and there is no desire for a programme about a ‘dead religion‘. Primus tells Secundo that Bernice’s documentary was on the subject of the final resting place of Aldebrath, and that she revealed Etheria itself is one of the planets rumoured to be the location of his lost battleship. Primus knows that on one of the outer planetoids there is the ancient wreck of a large space vehicle, and if the Tri-D Broadcasting Company were allowed to believe that it might contain Aldebrath’s mortal remains, it would be worth a fortune to the Brothers! Secundo is more than happy to exploit the company for the glory of their Lord. After all, what could possible go wrong…?

The Pakhar news reporter Ker'a'nol, known to her friends as Keri, summons a robotic stewardess to complain about the delay in their departure and learns that they’re waiting for the arrival of the last passenger. Keri is furious - until she discovers it’s her old friend Bernice Summerfield. They greet each other warmly and Bernice helps herself to a drink from the stewardess’s tray before realising the other passengers are all staring at her angrily. Unfortunately Station 59673 goes through its embarkation announcements in 769 different languages and she was further delayed by some jobsworth from the Port Authority who wouldn’t let her take her duty free on board because of religious objections on Etheria. She tells Keri that the monk Father Secundo has asked her to verify the claim that they’ve found the Lost Tomb of Aldebrath, the legendary saviour of the Imogenella Star Cluster. Bernice is sceptical, but part of their exclusive deal with the Braxiatel Collection means she can pick up some artefacts on the way and she also hopes to get a new documentary out of it. Keri reveals that Secundo has also made an exclusive deal with her current employers, Tri-D and she’s been asked in her capacity as the galaxy’s top journalist to cover Bernice’s adventure. Obviously there are no religious objections on Etheria to double dealing! The ship takes off and the two friends settle down to enjoy each other’s company for the voyage.

After a slap-up meal, Bernice and Keri discuss the story of Aldebrath. According to local myth, he won the Festari War single handed then disappeared with his warship, the Fervent Hope. The legends say that he’s asleep somewhere, waiting for a time of great peril so he can wake up and save the quadrant all over again. Nobody really knows whether he’s fact or fiction and although Bernice suspects it’s a load of superstitious bunkum, she also knows from experience that anything is possible. The legend of Aldebrath crops up on most of the planets in the Imogenella Cluster and she shows Keri a statue of the warlord that she picked up on Agravanthagorum. Keri wonders why he has breasts, but Bernice thinks it’s just artistic licence. The Monks of Etheria are shrouded in mystery, but apparently before the War they were very powerful in the Cluster and they owned or ruled most of the populated planets, either openly or by exercising religious manipulation behind the scenes. They were all but wiped out and their power and influence were lost. When their religion went out of fashion, the last few survivors retreated to what was left of Etheria. Bernice realises that the publicity and resulting tourist income generated by the discovery of the long lost tomb of Aldebrath would be very welcome.

As the spaceship approaches their destination, the observation dome opens up to give the passengers a good view. Even Bernice is impressed by its beauty, but she notes that even though Etheria is generally referred to as a planet, it’s actually a collection of planetoids. The Monks are based in the centre of a dome on one of the rocks and the massive red fountain that everyone is admiring is their monastery’s famous leaky roof. It’s caused by the monastery’s internal atmosphere bleeding through the malfunctioning protective electromagnetic barrier field. It forms a shower of ice particles as it hits the sub-zero temperatures of open space, and it appears red because it reflects and refracts the light of the planet’s red dwarf sun. It’s one of the Wonders of the Galaxy.

The ship lands and Bernice and Keri disembark onto a grimy rain covered platform in the middle of a storm. It looks like they’re the only passengers stopping off on Etheria, which is not surprising given the unwelcoming reception area. Bernice is accompanied only by a hovercam, which can store 900 hours of footage, and the clothes she‘s wearing, but Keri’s luggage is enormous - a portable anti-grav broadcasting studio with integral life-support, living quarters and wardrobe, courtesy of Sol Tri-D. Bernice and Keri are greeted by a figure who was lurking in the shadows. He describes himself in the plural and goes by the name of Brother Myriad. He’s here to welcome them to the Great Monastery of the Holy Order of Etheria and convey them both to their leader, Abbot Primus.

Father Secundo meets the visitors on behalf of the Abbot but he immediately objects to their informality and refuses to call them by their abbreviated names. The Abbot himself is extremely old and kept alive only by technology and his great faith. His mind is not what is was and although the Monks try to keep him stable, his senility levels are rising daily, especially now that he lacks any stimulation without his Tri-D entertainment - last year’s Galactic Snooker Championship coincided with a marked improvement in his mental alertness. Brother Myriad is dismissed and Secundo explains that the young monk has spent his entire life within these walls and consequently he may appear somewhat naïve. He exists purely to fulfil their divine duty to spread the word of god to all sentient species. They get down to business and Secundo explains that they believe they’ve found the last resting place of the warlord Aldebrath. It was Bernice’s own documentary “The Warlord’s End” that prompted Abbot Primus to recall seeing the wreck of a mighty battleship on one of the outer planetoids. Whoever discovers it will reap huge rewards, as will the owners of the land on which it is discovered. Brother Myriad, who is an excellent pilot, will fly Bernice to the location and once there her job will be to confirm that the ship is indeed the Fervent Hope. Keri will remain in the monastery and cover the whole expedition on behalf of Sol Tri-D. Brother Myriad arrives to escort them to their rooms, but the young monk introduces himself as if he’s never met them before.

Later, Bernice visits Keri to check on her accommodation and starts to think that her motto of “travel light, move fast” is a stupid one for an archaeologist of her standing. She decides to change it to “first class travel, move only when first-class accommodation is guaranteed”. The monks sleep on stone beds in draughty cells, so they don’t aspire to the levels of luxury Bernice is used to. They discuss Brother Myriad’s strange behaviour and Keri wonders if he has problems with short-term memory. Bernice thinks there’s something familiar about his appearance, but she’ll have plenty of time with him tomorrow to work out what. Keri hints that he might be a mad axe murderer, which would suit her quite well as reporting such a dramatic story would help her get back into the big time. Bernice is curious to know why her friend is covering such a minor league story and Keri explains that she had an unfortunate encounter with Stellis Gadd, the multi-zillionaire business tycoon. She’d heard rumours that Gadd was financing arms sales to both sides of the Janacek border disputes in order to keep the war going and make a fortune. Keri’s source provided her with evidence of huge sums of money leaving his personal accounts and disappearing, which seemed to confirm the rumour, so she ran the story. Unfortunately her source turned out to be one of Gadd’s business rivals trying to discredit him and the missing cash was going into anonymous charities providing humanitarian aid to the Janacek region. Gadd sued Sol Tri-D and Keri was lucky to keep any job at all. She blames herself for not checking her facts more thoroughly, but she was under pressure to deliver a story that would win ratings for the channel. Now she needs to restore her reputation, but Bernice reminds her that a good journalist can always make a good story. Before they retire for the night, Keri shows her friend the results of a survey she’s conducted of the planetoid field which shows the wreck of a spaceship matching the monastery records of the ship Abbot Primus mentioned…

Father Secundo speaks to the assembled Monks of Etheria. He tells them the Lord has smiled upon them and tomorrow marks the beginning of a new holy crusade. Their Order stands at the eve of a new dawn and the Lord has delivered into their hands the means by which they may carry his word to the stars. They are to prepare themselves for their apotheosis… He stops suddenly when a yawning Bernice enters the hall, having lost her way while searching for cocoa.

Keri secretly enters the chambers of the sleeping Abbot Primus and makes a closer examination of his life-support system. She discovers the senility readings are still a bit high, so she takes the liberty of adjusting the adrenaline supply. The Abbot becomes conscious and mumbles that there “must be no crusade“. He becomes aware of Keri’s presence, but believes he must be hallucinating as he can see a talking giant rat. She introduces herself and says she’s come to seek his great wisdom. She asks him about the wrecked spaceship and he admits that he saw it crash at the end of the War centuries earlier. He is the only survivor of the old Order, but now there are many more members as the ship carried “much bounty”. Keri doesn’t understand what he means, but the Abbot becomes tired and goes back to sleep. She realises the ship may not be Aldebrath’s warship after all…but she isn’t going to let that get in the way of a great story!

As Bernice and Brother Myriad leave for the planetoid, Keri finishes recording her first report on the expedition. Her in-built editing suite appends the necessary pictorial images and checks for errors, then it’s submitted to Sol Tri-D’s Central News Bureau on Angola V where her story is filed, ready for broadcast across the galaxy. Father Secundo is curious to know whether such broadcasts actually influence the people, but Keri will only confirm that they reach a sizeable audience. She plays back her report and is furious to discover her employers have edited down her contribution and broadcast the item under a ‘special interest’ banner, which means no one will take any notice of it. Secundo is concerned to hear this, but Keri assures him everyone will take notice of the story once Bernice arrives at her destination.

En route to the planetoid, Bernice complains to Myriad about the age and condition of the shuttle. It’s the best of the three remaining ships that the Monks own, but it’s only just hanging together and when Bernice fiddles with the handbrake it comes off in her hand. There’s also a strange ’chamber’ aboard, the function of which is a mystery to her. She decides to take her mind off things by recording the next report on her hovercam, but this proves too much of a distraction to Myriad and he nearly pilots the shuttle into an asteroid. She’s then interrupted by a message from Keri who’s checking how things are going. The Pakhar tells her she’s left some flycams with Bernice, but all they seem to do is buzz around her head and interfere with her own equipment. Back at the Monastery, Secundo is listening to her report and is offended by her blasphemous heathen comments.

Bernice contacts Keri urgently and tells her the flight is getting a bit scary. The planetoid ahead of them is spinning and throwing all kinds of debris into space. It’s going to be very difficult to land, especially as their force fields have failed and Myriad has his hands over his eyes instead of piloting the ship. Suddenly they’re hit and the ship goes out of control. Myriad starts praying, so Bernice takes over the flying. The pictures from the flycams go black and Keri can only listen as the ship crashes… Secundo offers to send one of the other ships on a rescue mission and Keri agrees they have to do something as the whole galaxy is watching.

Bernice wakes up inside the wreckage of the spaceship and is delighted to find that she made the crash landing without serious injury. Unfortunately Brother Myriad wasn’t so lucky. Leaving his body behind, she tries to send a message back to Keri then puts on a spacesuit, blows the escape hatch and emerges onto the planetoid. However, Keri hasn’t received the message and she records another report for her programme explaining that it’s now been 38 minutes since the crash and all contact with Bernice has been lost. Father Secundo notices that some of the flycams are back on line, so he and Keri can at last see the inside of the spaceship. They realise straight away that Myriad is dead, but Secundo is not worried as his acolyte will simply go on in eternal life. They see the escape hatch is open, so Keri sends the flycams after Bernice.

As Bernice makes her way through a cave system, she wonders whether she’d have been better off waiting by the spaceship to be rescued. Just then, she receives a message from Keri via the communications system on one of the flycams. They’re both overjoyed, but by now Bernice has realised the planetoid is unstable and there’s considerable seismic activity from the erratic orbit which is causing the roof to fall in on her. She plans to return to the ship, but Keri tells her it isn’t safe back there as it could explode any time because the flight deck was on fire and the emergency systems didn’t seem to be coping too well. Bernice thinks she can probably fix it, but Keri adds that she also noticed a rockfall which has blocked her access back. Bernice starts to panic, but her friend tells her she’s not far from the other wreck and it’s on a more stable part of the planetoid. The area is riddled with tunnels and Keri should be able to plan out a safe route for her. She’ll arrange for the rescue ship to rendezvous with her there. Bernice realises she has no choice, so Keri starts to give her directions…

Secundo asks Keri why she’s not plotting a more direct course for Bernice through the planetoid, but the Pakhar explains that the quicker route has been blocked by rockfalls. Secundo is still confused - he’s been looking at the survey readings, the mission ship’s status and Bernice’s telemetry and none of it seems to make any sense to him. Keri argues that he’s simply not trained to interpret the instruments, but before he can question her further, a gong rings out. Secundo leaves to attend to other matters, and Keri wonders what could possibly be more important to him than the quest to find Aldebrath‘s tomb? She returns to Bernice and advises her that she’s about twenty minutes away from the mysterious wreckage. In the meantime, she’s going to powder her nose…

Bernice struggles through the cave system and is disturbed to learn that Keri has stopped transmitting. She’s now alone in the dark apart from the three flycams which continue to buzz around her head. As she moves off, she hears something moving in the shadows and calls out to anyone who might be there. Unfortunately her voice triggers another rockfall…

Father Secundo preaches to the Brotherhood and tells them the time is at hand and they should prepare themselves. It’s no longer important whether Bernice discovers the Tomb of Aldebrath as the outcome will be the same. He’s been watching Keri and has learned the secret of her power to spread the word. By the grace of god and the generosity of the Tri-D broadcasters, they are ready to begin with their holy crusade. The ‘false’ goddess of peace and love will be swept aside and the one true god will be restored to his rightful place, with the entire Universe bowing down before him. At that moment Keri enters the hall on the pretext of saying a prayer for Bernice’s safe return. Secundo orders his followers to seize her - and Keri is shocked to discover that she recognises the faces of the Brothers that surround her!

Keri can’t believe what she’s seeing - each of the hundreds of Brothers in the hall is identical - they all have the face of Brother Myriad. Secundo explains that the Monks of Etheria are clones. After the War with the Festari, the Holy Order of Etheria had almost been eradicated and there was only one survivor, but god delivered into the hands of Abbot Primus the means to rebuild the Order. During the War, a ship carrying vital supplies for the army crashed on the planetoid. Among the freighter’s cargo was cloning equipment, so Primus duplicated himself and they were sent out into the Universe to spread the word of god, but they were never heard of again. Secundo likes to think that they’re still out there somewhere, continuing their holy mission, but he’s had no contact with any of them. He was the last of the clones, left behind to tend to the needs of the Monastery. Abbot Primus lost his faith and descended into frailty, but Secundo never wavered in his devotion and carried on the cloning, rebuilding the Order in his own image.

Bernice is helped out of the rocks by a familiar face - Brother Myriad! Dazed and confused, she asks him whether he knows that he’s dead…? The Monk explains that he’s been reborn and god has blessed his people with eternal life. Bernice realises he’s a clone and now knows that the strange chamber in the mission ship was cloning equipment. The death of the pilot must have triggered the chamber and it used his previous body as a template. She quickly deduces that Myriad’s template was Secundo and his template was the Abbot Primus, but she’s concerned that each of the generations must be deteriorating like a recording of a recording.

Keri offers to help Secundo by spreading the word of god through her broadcasts, but in order to do so she needs him to be more specific about what the word actually is. His reply is vague, saying that he carries the word within him but that it cannot be explained or questioned. He tells her she must simply have faith and those who are deaf to the word will be considered faithless and will be cleansed from the grand design. He asks Keri whether she can find her faith or does she deserve god’s cleansing fire? Keri thinks about it for a second - then offers praise to their god and is welcomed into the Order.

Bernice realises they’re in trouble and their only hope is to find the other ship and get away from here, but Brother Myriad seems reluctant to help her clear a path. He suggests going back to the mission ship on which they landed here, but she tells him the way was blocked by a rockfall. The planetoid starts shaking again and the tunnel starts collapsing. Myriad is frightened and the two of them race for their lives as the roof caves in around them…

Bernice and Myriad arrive in a cavern, but there’s no sign of the lost spaceship. However, they do find one of Keri’s flycams and communication is restored with the Pakhar back at the monastery. Keri is able to determine that the spaceship they’ve been searching for is on the other side of the cavern, which is just as well as there isn’t time now for them to get back to the mission ship. It suddenly occurs to Bernice that the new clone of Myriad must have emerged from the ship after the rockfall that blocked the tunnel. Keri argues that he got out before then, but Bernice knows this can’t be true as the cloning chamber was inactive when she left. Myriad explains that there was no rockfall - Keri has been lying all along. Bernice realises her friend has been deliberately forcing her away from safety and putting her life in danger in order to save her career. This is all to do with creating a good story to restore Keri’s journalistic reputation! She’s furious with her former friend, but before she can say anything more, Myriad calls to her from the top of a pile of rocks. He and Bernice manage to break through the wall and on the other side they find the wreck. Keri assumes it’s the just the rusting remains of an ancient freighter - but Bernice reveals that it’s a battleship and it’s still in good condition. Unfortunately Bernice’s air supply is starting to run out and it’s getting hard for her to breathe. Myriad finds a name plate on the ship and confirms that it really is Aldebrath’s ship, the Fervent Hope. As Keri congratulates them, Bernice reports that a hatch is starting to open and she’s blinded by a light from within. A shot is heard and then the communicator goes dead. Keri rushes to summon the Monks for a rescue mission.

A female voice from the battleship asks whether Bernice and Myriad can comprehend her speech patterns. She wishes to aid in their recovery and they’re both invited into an airlock where they can get a fresh supply of oxygen. The woman assures them she means no harm and the weapon she fired was aimed at the flying cameras that she thought was hostile. Full life-support has been activated to facilitate their survival and she invites them to remove their space helmets. Myriad wonders where the voice is coming from and it replies that she is “all around them”. The woman’s voice introduces itself as Aldebrath!

Keri tries to get support from Secundo, but he is only interesting in finding out more about her channel’s viewing figures. Billions of people are already booking tickets to visit Etheria and his plan has been more successful than he ever imagined it could be. They no longer have to spread the word of god to the rest of the Universe - the Universe is coming here! Keri offers to help further, but only on condition that they send a ship to the planetoid to rescue Bernice. Secundo replies that it was always his intention to do so, but only so the Monks can claim ownership of the Lost Tomb before Bernice does it in the name of the Braxiatel Collection. He intends to guard the Fervent Hope with his life…or at least with the lives of his fellow Brothers. He summons the other monks and tells them the holy crusade has begun. The time they have prepared for has finally come and the word of god will soon be spoken by every tongue in creation! Keri realises he is totally mad and his plans have to be stopped…

Bernice is a bit embarrassed to ask, but she needs to know whether the woman claiming to be Aldebrath is the same Aldebrath who was responsible for the utter defeat of the Festari race in a bloody war five centuries ago. The woman is surprised to be regarded as a mighty warlord, but yes, she is the same person. Bernice explains that the legends tell of Aldebrath being a man, but the woman says this is an understandable mistake, given the events of the War. Myriad is still frightened, so Aldebrath opens the inner door to the spaceship and gives them both permission to explore and go wherever they wish.

The voice of Aldebrath welcomes her guests to the control centre of her ship. Bernice is very impressed - the Fervent Hope had quite a reputation and it certainly lives up to that. The operating systems could even give most modern ships a run for their money. Aldebrath explains that many races became embroiled in the struggle against the Festari and the makers of the ship were able to avail themselves of some ’interesting’ technology. Myriad finds a mummified corpse and the voice identifies it as her own body in physical form. It was placed in the cryo-chamber just prior to the last battle 500 years ago while her mind was deposited within the ship’s computer matrix to form a vital part of the ultimate weapon which wiped out the Festari. Myriad begins praying, but Bernice finds his words are gibberish. She argues that most religions have a core belief system and a moral code, but the Monks’ faith seems to exist around the ritual itself and nothing more. Yet despite this, Aldebrath can touch his mind and feel his burning desire to carry his faith to the stars.

Keri rushes to Abbot Primus and urges him to speak to Father Secundo who she now believes to be mad. Unable to wake him from his deep sleep, she fiddles with the controls of his life-support system and he revives with a start. Surprisingly, he seems to be full of energy and he suddenly realises that Secundo has been keeping him artificially senile for decades. He’s furious with his younger clone for using their religion as an excuse for oppression and tyranny. He decides it’s high time his ‘son’ was put in his place!

Bernice pleads with Aldebrath not to side with the Monks of Etheria who are planning to subjugate the entire Universe, but the warlord realises this isn’t the first time that a regime has been defeated only to be replaced by an Order than aspires to the same goal. She’s dismissive of the professor’s concern, arguing that Bernice also lives by her own standards and if an action suits her own agenda, she will justify it. Aldebrath plans to enter Myriad’s mind, confident that the two of them will reach accord. Myriad accepts the offer and the merger takes place, leaving the two in complete harmony. They set off to spread the word together after returning to the monastery using a transmat booth in the corner of the control room.

Father Secundo urges his fellow monks to lead the new holy crusade to the stars and assures them their god is with them. At that moment, Bernice and Brother Myriad appear out of nowhere and Aldebrath speaks through the body of the young monk to her followers. Secundo demands to know who she is and the warlord announces her true identity and explains that she has the means to help facilitate their crusade. As Secundo pledges loyalty to his god, the door at the end of the hall opens and Keri enters, accompanied by the elderly Abbot Primus. He orders the meeting to stop but Secundo explains that the great warlord Aldebrath has offered them the means to achieve the goal that they were conceived for. The Abbot believes Secundo has lost his way and asks him to define their purpose, but he refuses to discuss the matter with a man who abandoned his faith long ago. Instead it is Aldebrath who announces her intention to spread the word to the rest of the Universe, to dominate the beliefs of the free people of the galaxy, to prosecute a holy crusade against the rest of the Imogenella Star Cluster!

Primus pleads with them to stop, but surprisingly Bernice thinks they should do it! The Abbot explains that the holy order was originally founded upon the principles of love and peace and their intent was that all creatures, regardless of race, colour or creed, should be encouraged to live side by side in harmony. Secundo believes that philosophy only works if everyone is willing to accept one rule - and that is what they offer…and anyone who does not accept their word will be cleansed from the face of the Universe. Bernice continues to support his idea and urges Aldebrath to proceed with her plan. When Secundo agrees, Aldebrath enters his mind. Bernice has finally worked out that the ultimate weapon that put an end to the Festari was the goddess of love and peace herself. The goddess is the embodiment of an ideology, a telepathic virus carrying a very special message - anyone coming into contact with Aldebrath’s mind is overwhelmed with a desire to lead a life of love and peace. The Festari were never wiped out, they just buggered off somewhere to live in harmony with the Universe!

Secundo is furious and refuses to submit…but slowly he starts to talk of love. And so, the Holy Order of Etheria is finally restored. It was created to spread love and peace and it shall do so again. Abbot Primus is filled with joy, and then passes away, content that his work is finished. Secundo pledges to honour and remember him. He realises he’s been shown a new way and will spread the word throughout the Universe - and those who will not share their faith will be allowed to make their own choices.

Later, Bernice comes to say goodbye to Keri. Now that Aldebrath has retreated back into the Fervent Hope’s computer matrix, she will take the ship back to the Braxiatel Collection. Aldebrath claims to know Irving Braxiatel and is happy to be looked after by him. Bernice knows that the ’warlord’ was manufactured, but she believes the religion of love and peace that grew up around here is no bad thing. She may sometimes take the goddess’s name in vain, but the Universe would be a worse place without her. Keri offers an embarrassed apology and asks for Bernice’s forgiveness, but she’s not sure she can give it. When she was dying from lack of oxygen on the planetoid, all she could see was her son’s face and she was frightened she would never see him again. She turns on Keri angrily, demanding to know how a friend could possibly do what she did. There may come a time when she’ll be able to forgive her - but not today.

Bernice’s story ended when she brought the Fervent Hope back to KS-159 and found out that Ms Jones had gone. The young student Parasiel is disappointed as this isn’t what he asked her. When he accuses her of dodging the question, she realises that his real interest is in why Irving Braxiatel has vanished. Parasiel wonders if it’s something to do with Bernice’s husband and some people are even saying Irving has died. Bernice has had enough of secrets and agrees that maybe she should tell him the truth…

Source: Lee Rogers
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