The Crystal of Cantus
by Joseph Lidster
The Crystal of Cantus
Written by Joseph Lidster
Directed by Gary Russell
Post Production and Music by Simon Robinson

Lisa Bowerman (Professor Bernice Summerfield), Miles Richardson (Irving Braxiatel), Stephen Fewell (Jason Kane), Steven Wickham (Joseph), Nicholas Briggs (Ronan McGinley), Paul Bryant (Parasiel).

Fabled crystals from long-dead civilisations. Jason Kane blundering into situations out of his control. Entombed Cybermen waking from a century-long sleep. It's all in a day's work for Professor Bernice Summerfield. Armed with her endless supply of witty quips and penchant for alcoholic beverages, she’ll find the Crystal, rescue Jason, destroy the Cybermen and be home in time for supper.

Except, this time, it's different. This time, as the saying goes, it's personal.

And, after this adventure, things will never be the same again.

  • This is the twenty-first audio in Big Finish’s new series of The Adventures of Bernice Summerfield.
  • Released: June 2006

  • ISBN: 1 84435 132 7
(drn: 75'35")

On KS-159, Bernice’s student Parasiel catches up with her while she’s trying to enjoy a picnic with her son. He reminds her that she promised to tell him about the Cybermen and why Braxiatel disappeared. It’s been months since it happened and no one is saying anything even though everyone’s worried about the future of the Collection. Bernice knows Parasiel has already gone over her head and spoken directly to Braxiatel, but that was before he left and he only got one side of the story anyway. Reluctantly she agrees to tell him, but warns him not to expect a happy ending. The story starts at the beginning of the year just after Bernice returned from Trib City. She’d managed to get herself in a whole load of trouble and lost her arm, so she was lying in bed feeling sorry for herself when Jason came to see her…

January 2606. Bernice is amazed when Jason tells her he’s going to see the Galyari production of “Macbeth” on Berkoff IV with Braxiatel. She tries to remind him that Shakespeare contains long words and silly names and has no explosions, but he assures her he wants to broaden his horizons. Adrian has apparently fallen out with Bev because she thought his mate tried it on with her and so he’ll be more than happy to look after Peter while Jason is away and Bernice recuperates. Distracted by the juicy gossip, Bernice agrees to let Jason and Brax go off and enjoy themselves while she stays behind in the hospital and gets used to her new arm. Fortunately it hasn’t tried to kill her yet, so she’s reasonably confident it isn’t possessed. She still can’t feel anything yet, even when he pinches her, so she’s feeling a bit invincible.

Later, aboard one of the Collection‘s flyers, Jason occupies himself during the long journey by getting rapidly drunk and annoying his host. Braxiatel asks Jason what cover story he gave Bernice and when he tells him, he’s amazed that she believed him! He hopes nothing goes wrong on this trip or she’ll be coming after both of them, but just then they hear a noise coming from the cargo hold. Realising they have an intruder on board, Jason starts to panic. Braxiatel loudly asks him about the ‘space karate’ lessons he’s been having and in return Jason asks him how his ‘punching’ lessons are going. They both agree that even though they’re quite a terrifying pair, they’re willing to be sympathetic towards any opponent who gives themselves up without a fight, especially given the fact that Jason has laser eyes etc… Their boasting is suddenly interrupted when the inner hatch bursts open and a dishevelled Bernice falls out. She’d been thinking about what Jason said in the hospital and realised there was no way he would ever willingly go to the theatre, so she sneaked on board to find out what they were really up to. Unfortunately she’s been hiding next to the spare oxygen cylinders and one of them must have a slight leak as she’s behaving like she‘s drunk.

The rest of the journey proves to be extremely tiring as accusations fly between the three of them! Bernice can’t believe that Jason lied to her, but he argues it was more of a surprise. A week earlier he was in the gardens playing football with Peter (but always making sure he won, at least until his son started crying) when he was approached by Joseph with a message for Bernice. It was from her old friend, the Pakhar trader Thesanius of the Garazone Bazaar, proudly announcing that after years of searching he’d finally found the location of Cantus. The legendary lost colony is home to the famous Crystal of Cantus and he’s willing to sell her the map for only ten gold bars. Jason has never heard of it before, but he knew that if he could get it for her while she was in hospital he’d be in her good books for a while… Unfortunately Bernice tells them that not only has she never met Thesanius, she’s never even heard of him. This is obviously a trap!

After Thesanius concludes his business with Jason and Braxiatel on the Garazone Bazaar, he admits to his friend that he’d been paid twenty gold bars to send them to a planet on the edge of the system. He about to explain what happened when he was working late the night before…when he hears a strange ticking noise. Before he has a chance to react, there is a huge explosion!

After everyone on the shuttle has calmed down, they decide to go ahead with the mysterious expedition. Jason is piloting the ship perilously close to the mountains of Cantus and he’s making his passengers even more worried by turning round to argue with them instead of keeping his eyes on where they’re going. Eventually they land (or should that be crash land?) and they set off to explore the bleak landscape. Bernice and Jason are about to ask Braxiatel to give them some time alone so they can ’christen’ the planet, when they realise he’s disappeared.

Parasiel is getting impatient with Bernice and wants her to get straight to the bit with the Cybermen - so she tells of how the three of them fought bravely against an army of the metal giants, and when Braxiatel was captured, she pressed a switch that destroyed all of them. Parasiel dismisses this as fantasy and demands she tell him the truth. She becomes angry with him, pointing out that this wasn’t just another exciting yarn - this was deadly serious. She admits that she was like Parasiel once, naïve and seeing the Universe as one big exciting adventure, but now she realises just how dark everything is. She’s not entirely sure that any of them really did escape from Cantus, but if she’s going to tell him the story, she’s got to be allowed to tell if in full…

While searching for Brax, Bernice and Jason find a hatch with a picture of a giant robotic face embossed on it. She recognises it instantly and tells him they’ve got to get back to the flyer immediately. Before she can explain what‘s worrying her, the hatch bursts open and a Cyberman emerges and orders them to surrender. They try to run, but the Cyberman opens fire…

At this stage, Bernice and Jason are still hoping that Braxiatel has escaped, but he hasn’t. In fact he’s bemoaning the irony that with miles and miles of untouched planet surface to chose from, he’s managed to fall down an open hatch. As he explores the underground tunnels, another Cyberman emerges from the shadows and orders him to halt. He expects to be taken to the Cyberleader, but instead the Cyberman opens fire and blows his hat right off his head! He realises he’s going to be killed…and he tries to bribe it by offering to provide anything they need - money, people, gold… The Cyberman opens fire again.

Bernice and Jason flee from the Cyberman and wonder why it’s trying to kill them rather than convert them. Jason has heard of the Cybermen before, but he’s never had the pleasure of meeting them. Bernice guesses they’ve been lured to one of the Cyber tombs, in which case there could be thousands of them on this planet. Jason spots a cave and they try to lose their hunter inside. They rest for a moment and Bernice explains that the Cybermen were like us once, but when their planet went tits-up, they started to replace their human bits with robot bits. Then they replaced their brains with computers and before they knew it, they’d lost any sense of being human. When their planet was destroyed, they headed off into space to find a new home. Then they started to think it would be a good idea if everyone else was like them, so there were a whole bunch of wars, then everyone thought they were dead, then some stupid archaeologists found their tomb on Telos and inadvertently awoke them. There were more wars, then everyone thought they were destroyed again until it turned out the Cybermen had tombs dotted around the galaxy. It looks like Jason has managed to find one and they’ve just blundered in and woken them up. They decide their next move should be to find Braxiatel and then get back to the flyer.

As they move through the tunnels, they come across a door. With the Cyberman close behind, they have no choice but to enter, even though they suspect it may be part of the trap. Unfortunately it’s locked, but there’s something that looks suspiciously like a doorbell next to it, so they ring it. They hear a message recorded in very annoying sing-song voices telling them that Jack and Babs can’t come to the door right now. Bernice swears that if she and Jason ever start to sound like that, she’s going to shoot them both! She examines the technology and realises they can open the door by imitating Jack and Babs’ voices to trigger the lock. It works and they manage to get inside just as the Cyberman appears in the tunnel and approaches, demanding that they surrender. The door closes and they manage to disable the mechanism, trapping the Cyberman half way inside. There’s another door leading out into a corridor so they make their escape. Bernice realises she was wrong about this place being one of the Cyber tombs. Cantus was once a human colony and home to a civilised population, not too dissimilar to the people on KS-159. The Cybermen must have invaded and converted everyone, including Jack and Babs.

Bernice is still confused about the trap. Who could possibly have arranged it? After all, the Cybermen aren’t known for targeting individuals personally. But somewhere not far away, someone is watching Bernice’s every move and mocking her in a strange mechanised voice… This is the Cyberleader and he gives orders for his troops to direct the two humans to the conversion chamber. He then turns his attention to the exhausted and distressed Braxiatel on another monitor. Believing the man has now suffered enough, he gives orders for him to be brought in.

Back at KS-159, Parasiel knocks on Irving Braxiatel‘s door and asks if he may have a word. Braxiatel tells him he’ll have to be quick, so the student explains that he’s doing a study on the Cybermen and would like to know more about what happened on Cantus. Braxiatel suggests he would be better off speaking to Bernice, but Parasiel has already tried that, but she stalled him and told him about Etheria instead. He acknowledges that they’re all finding it difficult to talk about what happened on Cantus. Parasiel wonders why Braxiatel was even accompanying Jason on the mission anyway, and he explains that he and Jason share a special bond. He recalls how Jason came to see him while he was exercising and asked him a favour to cheer Bernice up. He asked for some money and passage to the Garazone Bazaar to meet a Pakhar who claimed to have a map showing the location of Cantus. Braxiatel agreed on condition that he could go too and insisted that Bernice didn’t find out where they were going. He tells Parasiel about how they arrived on Cantus and how he was separated from the others, then found himself underground being stalked by a Cyberman…

Braxiatel is exhausted after running through the underground tunnel system. He’s confused about why the Cybermen won’t let him surrender and starts to see visions of his own dark side mocking him. Eventually he begs to be taken to the Cyberleader and his request is granted. Braxiatel is momentarily surprised, then realises the Cyberman must have received new orders and agrees to accompany him. However, things were not what he expected. A normal Cyberleader is merely a more a more intelligent and independent Cyberman, but this leader was actually somebody he once knew…

Much earlier, Braxiatel was delighted to see his guest Professor Ronan McGinley had made it to the party on KS-159. He was about to introduce Ronan to some interesting people when they were both accosted by an extremely drunk Bernice. Within seconds, Ronan was inviting Bernice to dance…

Braxiatel has a secret that he needs to tell somebody and he offers to tell it to Parasiel, but he warns that it must not go any further. In fact, he has the ability to make sure the student doesn’t tell anyone. Parasiel starts to get nervous, but Braxiatel orders him to sit down. He wanted to know the truth, so he’s going to tell him about the past, the present and the future, and he can be certain Parasiel won’t tell a soul…

Braxiatel is brought before the Cyberleader and recognises him instantly - it’s Ronan McGinley. He explains that he’s dying and shows Braxiatel a scanner image of Bernice and Jason being chased by another Cyberman through the tunnels. Suddenly it occurs to Bernice that the Cyberman should have caught up with them long ago and they realise they’re being herded somewhere in particular. They soon arrive outside the Cantus colony hospital, St Myleen’s Infirmary, and they have no choice but to step inside.

Bernice refuses to tell Parasiel any more as the story is too distressing for her. As she’s about to leave with Peter, Parasiel starts to remember that Braxiatel has already told him what they saw inside the Infirmary.

Braxiatel watches on the monitor as Bernice and Jason explore inside the hospital. Surprisingly, the beds are very small, too small to convert people into Cybermen. They’re tiny…like cribs. Bernice starts to panic as the truth dawns on her - but when she steps forward for a closer look she screams in terror and races off.

On her return to KS-159 Bernice races into the school and grabs Peter. The children are in the middle of a lesson and the school teacher challenges Bernice, reminding her that she’s been warned before about taking her son out of class. Bernice is in no mood for an argument and screams at him to get out of her way. She hugs her son tightly and then apologises for scaring him. She explains that she’s seen some distressing things, but being with him makes her feel better. It starts to rain, but Bernice is happy to be home where she doesn’t have to think about bad things. Home, where they’ll be safe…

Jason calls for Bernice to come back, but when she doesn’t he too takes a closer look at the beds. On each one is a tiny crying baby hooked up into Cyber-conversion equipment. A Cyberman explains that the infants are too small to be converted but their organs are being harvested and used to create the Cybermats which will assist them in their advance through the galaxy. Ignoring his pleas, the Cyberman drags Jason away and during the struggle his arm is broken. As he’s connected to a conversion unit, the Cyberleader approaches and Jason recognises him as Ronan McGinley, a professor who recently disappeared in mysterious circumstances. Ronan explains that he was brought here to Cantus against his will, and when Jason asks who by, a figure emerges from the shadows and confesses it was him. It’s Irving Braxiatel…

Braxiatel tells Parasiel that Bernice is a true friend and a good person, but she suffers from a rather over-inflated ego. It never crossed her mind that the trap that lured them to Cantus was not intended for her at all. He tells Parasiel that the story actually started many years ago on a world called Mondas. Its leaders realised that survival of their kind was paramount and had to take priority over everything else. That was more important than any individual, and a few years ago Braxiatel realised the same thing. There are dark things, dark events, that threaten their very survival. It happened to his own people and it happened here once before with the Fifth Axis. Braxiatel knows there are things coming - he’s received word about the Draconians - and he’s determined not to let it happen again! So he made the decision to do something, something that he wasn’t meant to do, something that would ensure their survival…

Back on his home world, Cardinal Braxiatel received orders from Commander Hallan telling him that Inquisitor Darkel was requesting his immediate attendance. He wondered what unnecessary scheme she had up her sleeve this time, but before he can join her he receives a communication. It‘s not the Madam President as he expected, but his own older self transmitting from the future and disguised as his reflection in the mirror. They both realise that such communication is against all the rules, but such a concept is meaningless when it comes to survival. The older version asks his younger self to send him something for the Collection, something that can only be found on their home planet, something from the past that will guarantee they have a future. He needs him to send him salvation.

The Cyberleader tells Braxiatel that he’s dying, but he already knew that, which is why he brought Jason Kane to Cantus. Jason is confused and realises his headaches are the result of something Braxiatel did to him on the Grid 4 Mining Station. Braxiatel admits that he didn’t want to cause Jason any pain, but what’s happened was necessary. He engineered Bernice’s visit to the Infirmary so that the sight of the infants would make her want to return to her son on KS-159. Her feelings for Peter far outweigh her concerns for Jason so she abandoned him to his fate, just as he intended. Jason asks whether Braxiatel is in love with Bernice, but he finds the idea absurd. This is about survival and until recently Ronan McGinley has been giving them all protection. Ronan pleads to be allowed to die, but Braxiatel is not ready. First they must tell Jason their story…

Braxiatel first met Ronan McGinley when he was working in accounts. He invited Ronan back to the Collection one summer and it was there that he introduced him to Ms Jones. Ronan is concerned to hear that she is now ’lost’ and he accuses Braxiatel of breaking his promise. At the end of the summer, Braxiatel lured Ronan here to Cantus with the intention of ensuring that he, Bernice, Peter and the Collection itself would survive. He’d heard about the long lost colony years ago and learned that it had been invaded by Cybermen and the people converted into a Cyber army. Jason realises he plans to use this army to protect the Collection against the Fifth Axis or anyone else who might think of attacking KS-159 in the future. But like any army they need a leader. The Cybermen aren’t robots, they have a belief and a code which he has to subsume and control. Ronan has until now supplied that human component while the majority of the work has been done by the Crystal of Cantus. It’s one of a set, a relic from Braxiatel’s people which is now embedded in the coronet Ronan is wearing and which gives him the power to control and manipulate the Cybermen. He’s their perfect leader, while at the same time being Braxiatel’s obedient servant. Sadly, the Crystal has some drawbacks - it’s killing Ronan, hence the need to replace him with Jason Kane. This whole thing has been planned meticulously by Braxiatel…

At the Garazone Bazaar, Braxiatel met secretly with Thesanius. Without revealing his identity, Braxiatel told the Pakhar that he knew of his reputation as an astute businessman and offered him twenty gold bars in return for one small job. He needed him to send a message… Later, Thesanius recorded the message for Bernice, to lure her to the Garazone System with a map showing the location of Cantus.

Jason is so utterly predictable that Braxiatel knew he would attempt to retrieve the legendary Crystal without telling Bernice. Braxiatel confesses that he’s been manipulating everyone for years. Ronan is starting to lose his control over the Cybermen, which explains why they attacked Braxiatel earlier. Jason believes Braxiatel is ill and offers to get some help for him, but when this is rejected he tries to implore Ronan to fight against Braxiatel’s influence. But it’s all too late. As Ronan dies, Braxiatel thanks him for all his assistance … but with his dying breath the Cyberleader warns Braxiatel that the thing in his head is still there. All is silent and Braxiatel orders the Cybermen to remove their dead leader. At first they refuse to obey, but he insists that they cannot resist his will. Reluctantly they carry out his instructions and Braxiatel turns his attention back to Jason. It’s time for him to be the protector and saviour he’s always wanted to be. He orders the Cybermen to place the coronet on Jason’s head and although they refuse again at first, they eventually comply and Jason screams out in agony.

Braxiatel is surprised when Parasiel accuses him of being mad and asks whether he’d prefer to be ruled by monsters? The young student doesn’t want to hear any more, but Braxiatel wants to tell him about the beauty of the Cybermen. They have one will, one mind - his mind!

Jason continues to struggle against the conditioning and Braxiatel urges him to make it easy on himself by allowing his memories and feelings to just fade away…until the moment when he stops feeling anything. Eventually Jason takes control of the coronet and through it, the Cybermen. They become one. Braxiatel is no longer needed here and he says goodbye to Jason before turning to leave. The new Cyberleader urges Braxiatel to look after his friends, but he responds by saying it’s the Cybermen who will be looking after them from now on.

Braxiatel returns to the flyer just as Bernice is about to take off and return to her son on KS-159. She’s amazed to see him, but he has bad news for her - Jason is dead. Bernice is overcome with grief and can’t believe it’s true…but then she starts to hear Jason’s voice calling to her inside her head. Jason pleads with her not to leave him, and as he tells her that he loves her, his voice changes into that of the Cyberleader. He asks her to follow his voice and promises that the Cybermen will not harm her. As the truth dawns on her and she realises what’s happened, she screams out…

The Cyberleader orders all its troops to remain still while they await further instructions, but when Bernice runs in and sees Jason, the Cyberleader in him takes over and orders the Cybermen to return to deal with the rogue humanoid. Bernice urges Jason to fight the conditioning and think about their son, but all he can experience now is peace and calm. Bernice responds by ripping the coronet from his head and she discovers the Crystal of Cantus, which he used to speak to her back on the spaceship. She grabs it and is suddenly overcome with a rush of energy. The Cybermen enter and try to capture her, but now she has access to the full power of the Crystal. Over the years she’s held so many crystals and souvenirs from the dawn of time and held so much power in her hands that she has no trouble controlling and using it. She turns her power against the Cybermen and they are quickly destroyed by an inrush of emotion. Eventually she’s able to bring the power back under her control, realising that she’d allowed herself to get carried away. The Crystal of Cantus is broken, but in the few seconds she had mastery of it, a whole planet of Cybermen were defeated. It’s time to go home now.

Bernice brings the picnic to an end and tells Peter it’s time to go home now. Parasiel helps her pack up as it starts to rain, despite the fact that the authorities were supposed to have sorted the weather on KS-159 out by now. Jason arrives with an umbrella, but will only share it with Bernice and Peter, leaving Parasiel to get wet. Suddenly the weather improves and there is instance sunshine, thanks to the efforts of Bev Tarrant. Jason is starving as Adrian has had him working around the clock to resolve the difficulties they’ve been experiencing on the asteroid recently. Some people are even talking about leaving, but Jason is confident they will survive. After Bernice, Jason and Braxiatel returned home from Cantus together, Bernice ran straight off to see Peter at the school, so Parasiel went to see Braxiatel to find out what happened on the trip. All he would talk about was difficult choices and security, but Parasiel can’t shake the feeling that he’s forgotten the exact details of their conversation. They’re surprised when the student reveals that when he left Braxiatel’s office, he passed Jason in the corridor…

Jason enters Braxiatel’s office in time to see him packing. He tells Braxiatel that Parasiel was asking about their visit to Cantus, but for some reason Jason can’t remember what happened on the planet. He keeps getting headaches, but Braxiatel says that although he can’t help him they’re nothing to worry about. Then Jason reveals that he can actually remember everything - he can remember what Braxiatel made him do. Everything he went through on Cantus seems to have cleared his mind. Braxiatel attempts to hypnotise Jason, but before he can do so, Jason grabs him by the throat and starts to strangle him. He makes Braxiatel promise to leave him, Bernice and Peter alone. As soon as they get the chance, they’ll be leaving the Collection for good, but before then Jason wants to make Braxiatel pay for what he put him through. Eventually he releases Braxiatel who falls to the floor, coughing.

Nobody has seen Braxiatel since and apparently even his rooms have completely disappeared. Bernice doesn’t think he’ll be coming back, now that he’s finally been caught out. Parasiel says the Collection needs him - they can’t even get the weather working right and now there are all sorts of rumours about the Draconians saying they own the place. How can they survive? Parasiel admits he came here looking for reassurance, but now he thinks the people who are leaving have the right idea and he leaves too. Jason tells Bernice they’re going to be alright, but she wonders whether Parasiel has a point. She’d earlier told him to imagine what it would be like if the Cybermen came here and tried to take over, but in some ways that might have been easier. The term is over and they don’t know whether they’ll be getting any new students next year. She used to live here happily with all her friends, but now everything’s been turned upside down. She doesn’t even know who she can trust anymore, so maybe the Collection really is finished. Jason convinces her to make a stand. He advises her to take every assignment she can and show the cosmos it’s business as usual, even if it means lying. He thinks it’s actually quite exciting and for the first time in ages he feels like his old self again. No one knows what’s going to happen, but he assures her they’re going to be excellent…

Source: Lee Rogers

Continuity Notes:
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