The Tartarus Gate
by Stewart Sheargold
The Tartarus Gate
Written by Stewart Sheargold
Directed by John Ainsworth
Post Production and Music by David Darlington

Lisa Bowerman (Professor Bernice Summerfield), Stephen Fewell (Jason Kane), Steven Wickham (Joseph), Neville Watchurst (CroSSScape), Julia Righton (La^Heyne), Crispin Shingler (NI/cian 137).

Benny is missing, having not returned from a dig. Kidnapped expertly. Removed from time and space completely. Jason, of course, uses every means at his disposal to find her. But resources are limited: the Braxiatel Collection has its own far more urgent problems.

Then he receives information on her possible whereabouts, from a benevolent religious order known as the CroSSScape.

Why is Benny on the planet Cerebus Iera, a planet on the cliff-edge of the universe? A planet that is known to be violent, dangerous, and uninhabitable. A planet rumoured to have links to the Tartarus Gate, the mythical gateway to hell.

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

  • ISBN: 1 84435 129 7
(drn: 69'28")

At the spaceport Bernice sends a message back to KS-159 telling Jason that the Craxitanian government were so pleased she’d found their religious temple that they’re sending her back home with ten boxes of their famous brand of champagne. All in all it’s been a great success, so she should be home soon. She hears a loudspeaker announcement for her and signs off, with just a final message for Peter saying she’s bringing him back a special souvenir. Unfortunately she fails to notice that the announcement states that she’s violated the terms of her arrangements with the flight operator.

Jason listens back to the recording, but he’s half asleep and obsessed with the sound of her voice, so he also fails to hear the exact wording of the loudspeaker announcement in the background. He’s been worried for some time now that Bernice hasn’t turned up yet and Joseph tells him his maudlin bouts aren’t doing him any good. Jason insists on the right to be upset and is angry that he hasn’t been allowed to go looking for her. Joseph understands his wish to get directly involved in finding Bernice, but the fact is Jason is needed here, particularly as Peter needs someone to look after him. In addition, Bev Tarrant has put him in charge of the errant weather system, a job which Jason finds frustrating because the control room keeps changing floors. Joseph reminds him that Bev and Adrian have already instigated a search for Bernice, and although he concedes that they’ve haven’t found her yet, he thinks he may have some news. He tells Jason to join him in Bev’s office as there’s someone there he should meet.

Unfortunately they’ve not been able to find any trace of Bernice yet, despite having various ‘associates’ engaged in a search for weeks now. Some of the staff have been starting to lose all hope, believing she must have been kidnapped by experts. Jason rushes in, desperate for information about Bernice so Joseph introduces him to their guest, a member of the religious group known as the CroSSScape. He warns Jason not to get too close as they find physical contact distasteful. Their people have stripped their minds from their bodies and now exist purely in a datascape as a gestalt. The bodies they’ve created are only used to facilitate communication with other races. Jason is impatient for news and Joseph explains that they haven’t actually found Bernice yet, but they do have a lead. The CroSSScape explain that they own a Factory that has certain temporal properties and they offer its use to civilisations that face extinction events. The Factory regresses their planets to a time before the catastrophe and allows life to continue there. They are a beneficent order and they require no payment for their services even though the people of this Universe have come to distrust goodness and kindness. The planet they’re currently regressing is known as Cerebus Iera, an inhospitable world consisting entirely of desert ravaged by freak electrical storms. In order to effect changes, the Factory is burrowing into the planet to filter out any impurities in the minerals and while doing so, they discovered Bernice’s diary. Joseph believes she could still be on the planet so he insists on going there straight away. The CroSSScape are able to transport themselves instantaneously from one point to another providing there is another CroSSScape member at the destination point, so they offer to take Jason back with them - even though it will mean perversely close physical contact.

Joseph accompanies Jason and the CroSSScape to a public area of the Collection to make sure the transference process doesn’t cause any further interference to the Mansionhouse’s mechanics. He gives Jason a recall device in case he needs to get out quickly as their destination is in a point of space/time known to be dangerous. In fact, it’s right next to an inexplicability and ships that try to pass by the planet simply can’t, as though there is a barrier there. Some legends even say Cerebus Iera is on the very edge of the Universe. The fact that the Factory appears to be playing with time is also causing Joseph’s internal components to ping, which is never a good sign. He warns Jason to be careful. The CroSSScape are ready and they tell Jason to hold onto their robes and the transference takes place…

…Jason finds himself inside the CroSSScape’s Factory and is amazed as its size. It’s big enough to fit the entire Mansionhouse and everything in the Collection’s library three times over. The CroSSScape assures him he’s safe as the interior is entirely isolated from the elements outside. They’re proud of their achievements and they’re on World 467, otherwise known as Cerebus Iera, an inhospitable world consisting entirely of desert ravaged by freak electrical storms. There’s a sudden change in the environment and the CroSSScape explains that the nature of their work is to alter the planet from a temporal perspective to a less volatile period in its past. This often causes time shifts as the regressions are applied, so it would be dangerous for an ephemeral to be caught in one without protection. As this is a dying planet, Jason asks where the population is and the CroSSScape points to some ganglia-limbed creatures outside. They have rudimentary thought and some insect-like features and qualities and are known for their extreme violence, which led the Keeper of the Factory, La’Heyne, to refer to them as ‘Soldiers’. La’Heyne is the engineer who helped to helped build the place from the CroSSScape’s conceptualities and now she remains here to operate and maintain it. It was she who discovered Bernice’s diary. As they leave to meet her, Jason takes a last look outside and prays that Bernice is not out there.

The CroSSScape introduces Jason to La’Heyne and she immediately offers him a drink of water to make up for the fluid he lost during the transferral. He seems reluctant, but she points out that if she was going to drug him she wouldn’t have made it so obvious. He agrees and takes the drink, jokingly adding that he was told to be careful before he left. He asks about the diary and La’Heyne admits that she stole it from Bernice’s possessions herself. Jason realises everything he heard about the CroSSScape being good was a lie, but they point out that they do believe in good - for themselves! It dawns on Jason that this is a trap designed especially for him and the water he drunk was drugged after all. He collapses to the floor and the CroSSScape order her to prepare him for the experiment as they’re keen to rid themselves of their disgusting form. The CroSSScape will return to their ship - now that they have Jason prisoner, Bernice may be more co-operative, but if she continues to resist them, then perhaps he will be more responsive to their needs.

It’s been a month already and Bernice is getting a little tired of the seaside scene her captors are showing her. It’s unfair of them to tease her with such lovely scenery and not let her experience it - and leaving Rebecca on her bed last night was just cruel. She’s certain she had other happy memories when she was a child, but perhaps it’s all part of their plan to make her go mad with the repetition of the same day, over and over again. She wonders if she can expect another torture session today. Maybe they’re lulling her into a false sense of security only to snatch it all away again? She assures her captors that she’s got a handle on what they’re doing to her and it won’t work. She’s simply going to enjoy herself and force them into taking action. The door opens and the CroSSScape enter, pointing out that villainy is simply a point of view and it’s unfortunate she perceives them that way. They’re merely doing this for their own betterment and her torture is not intended to cause harm, it’s simply an unfortunate side-effect. They’d hoped she would help them willingly once she’s heard the facts, but she argues that what they’re doing is wrong and quite possibly cataclysmic. Bernice also reminds them that the conversions they’re forcing upon her aren’t working properly, but the CroSSScape are confident they’ll find the right formula eventually. They acknowledge that it’s difficult to convert a human mind into the higher dimensions and divorce it from the distasteful bodily flesh, but to them she is nothing more than an idea they can shape and play with. They tell her they have another person in place, should she cease to exist… someone who is known to her - Jason Kane. Bernice is shocked and refuses to believe it, but they show her some of his belongings as proof. They explain that they brought him here in the hope of making her more malleable, but as he too has experienced the higher dimensions of another Universe he may respond better to conversion than she has. She begs them not to hurt him and reluctantly she agrees to co-operate. They are grateful to her and begin their experiment… She starts to scream in agony and the CroSSScape reports there is evidence of a slight change in her frontal lobe. The conversion is starting to work at last.

La’Heyne wakes Jason up with an electric shock and tells him they’re ready to begin their experiment, during which she will record and share in his experiences. She asks if he’s any good at tests and he replies that he’s passed the long-arduous-interrogation-by-the-villain-of-the-piece test, so whatever they’re planning is probably going to be quite cosy for him. As she starts connecting him to the Factory itself she admits that it‘s likely to hurt, but as his body is already existed before in another Universe his bio-chemistry should already have adapted to the higher dimensions, making him time-sensitive. She activates the control and Jason cries out…then finds himself in a weird, nightmarish landscape of the mind.

The CroSSScape reports that Bernice’s conversion has stalled with only minimal transferral. She appears to have an unfortunate resistance to the process and the formula has not taken sufficient hold, so her natural bio-rhythms will soon erase any effect it‘s had. They decide it may be necessary to use the Factory itself in the next experiment and they transfer to another location to set things up. As Bernice recovers, she’s approached by a man who tells her he’s a friend. He introduces himself as N1/cian 137, but says he prefers to be called just 137. He’s been trying to get her out for days now. She’s still disorientated, so he explains that she’s aboard the CroSSScape ship above the planet Cerebus Iera. They’ve been holding her prisoner within their datascape, a realm of pure mind. He tells her it was Ship who helped him find her and it’s proven to be quite useful in the last few weeks since he re-programmed certain aspects of it to search her out. He explains that he’s from Control, the government agency that oversees this area of Federation space. They’ve been suspicious about the CroSSScape’s motives for some time as no one is going to save planets and ask for nothing in return. He was smuggled aboard at the last planet they regressed which was a volcanic catastrophe until they averted it. He tells her she’s their only lead into the religious group’s strange activities and he’s convinced she knows something about what they’re doing. Bernice replies that she knows exactly what they’re after, why they’re doing it and exactly why they need her specifically - they think they’ve found the Tartarus Gate!

Jason is revived from the nightmare landscape by an alarm. La’Heyne tells him that Soldiers have broken in and although she believes it’s a minor incursion which the Factory will be able to handle, she has to get him out to keep him safe. In the meantime, she tells him his readings were off the scale and he was far more responsive to the treatment than Bernice ever was. He admits that he feels remarkably good considering what’s just happened to him. La’Heyne reveals there was a blockage in his mind which the Factory has removed because it was impeding the experiment. He’s concerned about this as he was starting to remember something important, but she points out that what’s far more important is that they’ve established the Gate is indeed here! Just then, one of the Soldiers bursts into the room and they fend it off with a weapon. As Jason follows La’Heyne out, she confesses that she let the Soldiers in deliberately to distract the Factory and the CroSSScape so she could help him escape. She opens a hatch which reveals nothing but darkness and she tells him it’s a route tunnel that leads down into the planet. It’ll be the safest place to hide out while the Soldiers run amok in the Factory. She tells Jason that if he goes with her, she’ll show him where Bernice is, so reluctantly he agrees even though he still doesn‘t trust her.

Bernice realises the CroSSScape will know instantly about anything that happens within the datascape, so they must already be aware that she’s escaped. N1/cian 137 assures her they’ll be safe in the shuttle bays as he’s shut off the security features in this area of the Ship. He’s already made one of the shuttles his base of operations. The CroSSScape only use the Ship to transport the Factory so they have no reason to come here unless they need to negotiate with another planet and they can’t transport anywhere unless one of their people is already there. 137 asks Bernice about the Tartarus Gate and she explains that it’s something that’s been bandied about in mythology for centuries. No one ever believed it was real and there are similar stories on lots of worlds. On Earth the Tartarus myth comes from Greek mythology and refers to the lowest region of the world, a dank, gloomy pit or abyss. It was one of the first things to exist in the world and was the location within the underworld where the most terrible torments were inflicted upon sinners as a punishment. The nicer versions of the stories claimed it was a prison for defeated Gods, but it’s generally accepted nowadays to be the Gateway to Hell.

The CroSSScape want to open the Gateway because about a year ago a box suddenly appeared in their datascape. No matter what the CroSSScape tried, they couldn’t open it. One of their gestalt suggested it might be a message from their god who had somehow been imprisoned in Hell so they’ve been using the Factory to explore certain planets for the hidden Gate, using clues they’ve deduced from their myths. The datascape is a realm of pure faith, belief and mind so the physical presence of a box inside it causes them disgust and anxiety. They’ll do anything to open or expel it and they’ve been using Bernice because she previously had the misfortune to have a god inside her head, which tampered with the bio-chemistry of her brain and the higher thought processes. The CroSSScape presumably discovered this after reading the ‘About the Author’ section in her latest book. Their plan was to adapt her so she could act as a physical vessel to place the god into. Their own bodies aren’t actually alive, they’re just mathematically imagined constructs of the mind, so they needed Bernice to be their mouthpiece. As a precautionary act, their god will enter her body and speak to them through her converted mind in the datascape, but they will remain in control. Gods are all-powerful and tend to have a corrupting influence, so Bernice can act as a kind of buffer to make sure their god doesn’t overpower their realm. 137 decides the best thing to do is to get Bernice out of here, but she’s not going anywhere as she’s suddenly realised they have her ex-husband prisoner too and because he also has an adapted bio-chemistry they can try the same thing with him. 137 programmes the Ship to search for Jason.

La’Heyne is convinced that the time shifts on the planet are proof that it‘s the location of the Tartarus Gate, but Jason remembers the CroSSScape had said time shifts occur on all the worlds they regress. La’Heyne claims that it never happens to this magnitude or with this frequency, but it would also explain the mystery that surrounds this part of space/time. Jason recalls the earlier references to the barrier at the edge of the Universe, but dismisses this as just a story for kids. La’Heyne is happy to be proved wrong, but she believes that if Hell is on the other side, Cerebus Iera is acting like a deadbolt lock. The name of the planet reminds Jason of Cerberus, the three-headed go that guards the gate to the underworld, and it all starts to make sense to him. La’Heyne tells him their priority is no longer saving Bernice, but finding the Gate before the CroSSScape do. After all, opening up Hell and letting in the demons and gods will have a terrible effect on space/time around the planet and possibly the rest of the Universe. Reluctantly, Jason agrees and just as he hopes they won’t run into any more Soldiers, a group of them appears nearby and they flee…

Bernice tries to stop 137 opening the datascape and giving away their location, but he assures her he can programme Ship to put in some security measures so they can’t be traced. He’s sure the box will provide him with evidence he can use against the CroSSScape. He admits that apart from Bernice’s kidnapping and torture, they haven’t actually done anything wrong yet, and her well-being doesn’t fall within his jurisdiction. She argues that unleashing Hell upon an unsuspecting Universe is probably the biggest criminal offence of any civilisation and he has the temerity to sit there and say he can’t do anything! Unfortunately there are rules he must adhere to or he will become no better than the criminal himself, which is precisely why he’s trying to procure evidence against them. As they continue arguing, 137 discovers the box is draining energy from the datascape, which suggests a vast amount of power is needed to hold it there. The CroSSScape have been using some of the discarded energy during the planetary regressions to replace the lost power, channelling it through the Factory to the datascape, then feeding off the residual temporal energy like Psychovores. Ingenious, but very illegal and therefore exactly the evidence he’s been looking for. Suddenly Bernice and 137 find themselves transported back inside the datascape. She warns him not to think of anything nasty as the CroSSScape may pluck it from his head and make it real. They see the box in front of them and note that in addition to being geometrically perfect, it’s a bit bigger than they expected. The CroSSScape appear and welcome Bernice back to them. 137 announces himself as an agent of Control and warns them of harsh indictments against them if they hold him prisoner, but Bernice reminds him that the datascape exists outside of time and space, so no one is ever going to find them here.

Jason and La’Heyne try to keep the Soldiers at bay, but unfortunately there’s not much battery power left in their weapon, Jason suggests they run, but La’Heyne has been constantly monitoring the Factory and has discovered the route tunnel ahead of them is blocked off. She believes the Gate is beginning to affect things and the tunnels have become unstable and corrupt as a result. It’s as though the regression isn’t holding and the planet itself is fighting back by closing off the tunnels. At that moment, the tunnel behind them seals up and they realise they’re completely trapped. Fortunately the Soldier ahead of them becomes stuck in the mud and La’Heyne tells Jason to stick his arm in the tunnel wall behind him. The Factory will think he’s an impurity and siphon him out onto the surface of the planet. Jason is worried that the surface didn’t look particularly hospitable, but they have no choice. He tries it and she holds onto his other hand…and they’re both dragged through the mud itself and spat out onto the surface. They’re obviously not safe where they are, so their objection now must be to find a way back inside one of the tunnels. They suddenly find themselves reliving the last few seconds over again and realise they’ve time-shifted. La’Heyne spots a smokestack ahead of them and realises there’ll be an entrance nearby. The planet starts to be sucked through the Gate, so they start to run - but La’Heyne is caught by one of the Soldiers and screams out as it kills her…but they suddenly find themselves reliving the last few seconds over again and realise they’ve time-shifted yet again. La’Heyne spots a smokestack ahead of them and realises there’ll be an entrance nearby, so they start to run…

Bernice is disappointed to find herself back once again in the seaside scene she experienced every day over the last month. The CroSSScape explain that when she was a little girl this was a safe place for her, so they selected this particular memory as she would feel no threat here. They plan to show 137 the ‘truth’ and he will feel much better then, but Bernice has seen the box - their dilemma - and she is the only one who can help them now. She realises this must mean Jason has escaped and they admit that both he and La’Heyne have ceased to register after the Soldier attack within the Factory, but because they’ve found no bodies they presume they’re hiding somewhere. They’re keen that Bernice helps of her own free will so their god will believe she’s a willing sacrifice, but she wants to know how they knew about the Tartarus Gate in the fist place. They tell her it was the Factory itself that suggested they find the Gate and their god and she realises for the first time that the building is sentient. The datascape regulates and feeds the Factory, and in return it acts as its eyes and ears, sucking up information from the outside world and pouring it into their realm. It found the Gate by examining its various connections to the worlds they’ve visited. It’s regressing Cerebus Iera to the time when the Gate was last opened, a weak point that will allow their god to pass through. But they still need Bernice to be present to accept the god into herself and they are converting her bio-chemistry so that everything the CroSSScape represents is written into her as religious code, thus enabling her to tell their god from all the rest. Unfortunately a trade is required whenever a god emerges from the Gate and in order to maintain some control over the deity, they’ll need to keep her mind contained within the datascape while her physical body is sent through the Gate into Hell. Bernice refuses to co-operate, but they remind her she has no choice. They begin the conversion process again and she screams in agony…

Jason and La’Heyne seem to have been going down forever and have passed through entire levels of strata. They eventually catch sight of the bottom and realise they’ve finally made it to the end of the Factory route tunnel. La’Heyne is stunned by the sight before her - the Gate itself in the form of a black hole! Jason knows this shouldn’t exist here and the whole planet should have been pulled through, but she believes it’s being held in exquisite balance. The beings that made it must have allowed for it to open without causing catastrophe, but Jason is worried that the Factory has been tampering with things and it may have had an effect on the Gate too. La’Heyne is certain this could not be the case. If it was, she would know because she is the Factory! Jason is dumbstruck by this revelation. She explains that the CroSSScape don’t know that the Factory has been downloading parts of itself into her for years. It, and she, want to be fully corporeal which is something the CroSSScape would never allow as they’d find the idea repulsive. La’Heyne is no longer human and she considers herself to be much better than that. She has a chance to live now and free herself from the constraints of the hypocritical CroSSScape. She hates them and intends to use the god to stop them from using her again. But she’ll need to control the god first, which is why she needs Jason. The CroSSScape have Bernice as their conduit, and now she has him. She pulls a weapon on him and assures him it’s fully charged.

The CroSSScape are aware that La‘Heyne has found the Gate but her absence has not yet been satisfactorily explained. They suspect her of having her own agenda and they find the results of her experiments on Jason have been erased from their records, which suggests they were successful. Fortunately for them, the conversion of Bernice is finally working and the changes they’re forcing on her are starting to hold. They plan to send a representative to the Gate to watch La’Heyne in case she tries to steal the god for herself. She must be shown the error of her ways and converted to their way of thinking. Using the Factory itself as a conduit, they transfer to her location…

N1/cian 137 wakes up and thinks he’s still at work, having had the most bizarre dream. He’s quite confident that he’s in his office back at Control, although he can‘t shake the feeling that he‘s missing something. When he realises the computer he’s talking to is not his AI assistant Persephone, he wonders at first if Control has finally given him an upgrade, until it suddenly dawns on him that he’s aboard a ship. His memories start flooding back and he realises he has to help Bernice. The Ship tells him Bernice is still in the datascape, but he’s not keen on going back in there again, so he asks for alternative suggestions. The Ship has an idea, but it sounds suicidal so he has to consider whether he’s prepared to go ahead with it…

In Jason’s experience gods aren’t very co-operative, so he warns La’Heyne she’s unlikely to get away with this. She points out that if he refuses to help her, Bernice will almost certainly die - but even though he loves her, self-sacrifice just isn’t one of Jason’s virtues. The CroSSScape materialise within the Gate Chamber, accompanied by Bernice, and they’re struck by the awe and beauty of the black hole they see before them. They tell Bernice to ready herself and, under their control, she states that she’s been cleansed and is now ready to receive the divine mind of the god. Jason pleads with her to snap out of it, but she warns him she’s prepared to harm him if he doesn’t stand away. The CroSSScape tell Jason that her mind is still in the datascape, but her body will act as a vessel to house their god. Jason announces that La’Heyne is planning to stop them and he’s now decided to help her. The CroSSScape were aware she was planning some deceit and they won’t allow anything to affect the download of the god, so they warn her she’ll be punished if she tries to intervene. Suddenly the Factory comes to a stop, having reached the last regression point. They’re now at the moment when the Gate was last opened and they watch as the Gate starts to integrate with the Factory. Bernice steps forward and when Jason tries to stop her, he’s knocked to the floor. He begs for anyone to help him, which La’Heyne finds pathetic, but at that moment the Soldiers arrive. The CroSSScape order them not to approach their disciple, but Jason realises the creatures can’t distinguish between different people and are only interested in stopping the Gate from being opened. He urges them to do their worst…

137 and his ship are now both ready to act. The shuttle has been cut off from the main Ship’s systems and the security measures have been dampened to prevent anyone in the datascape from being aware of their presence. 137 points out that things could still go horribly wrong and the ship’s AI starts to wonder whether he still wants to go through with their plan. He assures it he will and completes the pre-flight checks. Then the shuttle lifts off from the bay and flies at full speed towards their target, with 137 hoping they won’t be spotted until it’s too late.

The CroSSScape are alerted to a shuttle in the vicinity and a search of the Factory manifest records identifies it as the ship X-4, which is missing from the bay. Surprisingly it is one of their own ships and they realise dampeners must have been set up in this section of the Ship. The CroSSScape removes them and are able to identify the pilot as N1/cian 137 who must have escaped from his datascape prison cell. They also detect that he’s being helped by a portion of their own Ship, which indicates the Ship is dividing into schisms. The trajectory of the shuttle shows that it’s heading straight for the Factory. They must stop it immediately as they cannot open the Gate if the Factory is damaged.

137 checks that the shuttle is still on the correct heading before heading for the escape pod. He orders the AI to make sure it downloads itself back to the Ship before they reach the point of no return. He dons a protective suit to ensure he’s not in any danger from the time-shifts then he and the ship say their goodbyes. Suddenly they detect interference from the CroSSScape and 137 has to struggle with the controls to make sure the shuttle stays on course…

The CroSSScape order the Soldiers back. Although the creatures cannot harm them with “physical leprosy” because their bodies are only temporary, the Soldiers still pose a threat to their disciple Bernice. Jason calls out to the guardians of the Gate to warn them that the CroSSScape plan to open it and steal what’s inside, and the Soldiers react by hurling the constructed body of the gestalt into the Gate itself. Jason reminds La’Heyne that the creatures are only dangerous to those who want to open the Gate - so he should be safe and she should be satisfied now the CroSSScape are gone. However, the physical body of the CroSSScape suddenly reappears and La’Heyne reminds Jason that the gestalt mind is still alive elsewhere so they simply created a new body for themselves. Slowly the CroSSScape are able to subdue the Soldiers and then they prepare Bernice to receive the divine mind of their god. The ceremony is over and the Factory is ordered to open the Gate. The process begins…

…but just above them 137 is continuing to struggle against the controls of the shuttle and keep it maintained on the collision course. He spots the Factory directly ahead and realises it’s too late for him to escape now. It was a suicide mission after all… The ship crashes into the Factory and there is a terrific explosion.

La’Heyne screams out and the CroSSScape inform her the Factory has been completely destroyed. It is no longer in control of the Gate. A deep voice booms around the Chamber telling Bernice that the trade is accepted. Jason begs Bernice to fight against it, but she moves slowly towards the Gate, completely in the thrall of the gestalt. The CroSSScape commands their god to cure them by opening the box. Bernice is now totally possessed by the god and turns on them, demanding to know why they think they can govern it. Jason realises the god doesn’t recognise the CroSSScape, which means they’ve caused all this death and ruin for nothing! The CroSSScape declare that they’ve honoured all the laws of their scriptures to find their god and have converted Bernice for his apotheosis. They ask again for their god’s help, but Bernice/God points out that they are not in control here. The Factory has opened the Gate, but now it cannot be closed. Bernice/God accuses the CroSSScape of meddling with time and with regions unknown to them. This planet will be sucked through the Gate and then Hell will spread over the Universe. The gestalt had not anticipated this and realise they cannot stop events unfolding. Their urge their god to reverse the process, but Jason doesn’t think it knows how to - it was a prisoner, after all. The CroSSScape plan to retreat to their datascape where they believe they’ll be safe, but Jason warns them that their conversion of Bernice will let the god in with them. Bernice/God assures them everything will end…but at that moment there’s another time shift and Jason realises he’s back in the moment when the god first accepted Bernice’s trade.

Jason rushes forward and pleads with the god to leave Bernice alone and use him as a substitute instead. The trade is accepted and he suddenly finds himself in another Universe on the other side of the black hole. La’Heyne appears beside him and tells him that self-sacrifice must have been one of his virtues after all. She was able to cross over by using the body of the CroSSScape who was thrown through the Gate as a transference conduit. She reminds him that the Factory was linked to the datascape, so she’s now everything that the Factory was, downloaded into herself before it was destroyed. She came through to bring Jason back. He gave himself to the god as a vessel, but because he wasn’t properly converted and because of the time he spent in another Universe, he was able to adapt perfectly to both environments. He’s now fluctuating between different Universes - which in the right hands makes him very powerful. With her help, he can get back home and from the moment he returns, the god will have difficulty remaining in his form and will be ejected. She wants him to give the god to her. She will then go into Hell as the trade, but because she is the Factory and is therefore joined to the gate and the datascape, she’s confident she can take control of the situation to prevent herself from going all the way through. Jason agrees but on one condition - she must reassemble Bernice and reverse the effect the conversion had on her. She agrees to take the fragments of Bernice’s mind from the datascape, piece them together and restore her to her original form. As she accepts, Jason warns her not to try double-crossing him or he’ll happily kill her.

Jason and La’Heyne return to the Gate Chamber at the precise moment the god accepted the trade agreement. The god is instantly ejected from Jason and it transfers into La’Heyne instead. The CroSSScape try to prevent the arrangement, but it’s too late and the process is successfully completed. The gestalt threatens to hunt La’Heyne/God down, but the woman laughs at them. She explains that she was the one who placed the box inside the datascape in the first place, precisely because she knew they’d find it repulsive and would do anything to remove it from their sterile realm. As the Factory, it was she who advised them to search for the Gate, but it was always her intention to take the god herself. Her wish is to ask god to cleanse the datascape of the CroSSScape’s presence so she can be free of them and have sole control over the realm. The gestalt warns her that if she erases them from the datascape, they’ll take everything with them and Bernice’s mind will cease to exist. Jason intervenes, but La’Heyne/god assures him the CroSSScape are bluffing. She promises she’ll be able to distinguish between them and Bernice and will ensure that she’s protected. But La’Heyne hopes the CroSSScape will feel every moment of torment when the god erases them and she’s looking forward to seeing their pain.

The CroSSScape are happy to oblige and they unexpectedly transfer La’Heyne and Jason directly into their realm. They tell them they have absolutely mastery over everything that happens here and they demand La’Heyne gives them the god or they’ll resort to violence against her form. Jason is concerned that her plan is starting to go a bit pear-shaped. When she refuses to co-operate the gestalt reminds her she only has control over the Gate and the Factory, but not the datascape. They prepare to convert her form until it breaks…and she starts to scream in agony. Jason begs them to stop, but they warn him not to obstruct them or they’ll do the same to him. La’Heyne struggles against the pain and tells Jason to let the god out of the box or Bernice will be destroyed. Again Jason offers himself instead and pleads with the god to enter him by right of his dual existence. The trade is accepted and the Jason/God warns the CroSSScape not to meddle with its plans. La’Heyne urges him to send the gestalt back to Hell and he agrees…

Jason rushes over to La’Heyne and asks her to bring Bernice back. La’Heyne searches through the datascape and collects together all the fragments taken from Bernice’s dispersed mind and reunites them into one entity. Bernice is back again and receives a crushing hug from an overjoyed Jason. Then La’Heyne brings them all out of the realm and they find themselves back at the Gate, which she‘s happy to shut down. La’Heyne has decided to join them as her experiences in the datascape left her feeling somewhat detached. Bernice is surprised that this adventure is over as she didn’t do anything, but Jason reminds her that not everything is about her. La’Heyne has complete control over the datascape and the god is safely in its box, where the Factory temporal element will allow her to temper its influence. La’Heyne reveals that after reviewing his memories, she became interested in the Braxiatel Collection as it seems to be somewhere where the unique can be celebrated. She also offers to replace Jason’s stolen memories, but she warns him that some of them are not very pleasant, so he must be absolutely sure that’s what he wants. Bernice recommends he only take back the good ones, but Jason is adamant that he won’t be a whole person without them. In any case, they need to know exactly what Braxiatel did in order to work out where he’s gone. La’Heyne steps forward and replaces his memories, reassuring Bernice that his pain will subside in a few moments.

Bernice is keen to return to KS-159 as soon as possible, but La’Heyne warns her that the future of her home is in turmoil. There is no straight-forward path, only conflict and strangeness. The god has seen something is coming to the Collection… She’s interrupted by Jason who now has total recollection of everything Braxiatel did to him. He swears to kill him if he ever sees him again. Braxiatel made him do some terrible things, but…it wasn‘t actually Braxiatel, it was something else. That’s why Brax’s dark reflection didn’t appear in the mirror on the Grid 4 Mining Station - because it’s him already. There’s something bad inside him, like a shadow of his past squirming to get out. Bernice thinks La’Heyne must have muddled his memories, but Jason is certain this is the first time in ages he’s been able to see things properly. Braxiatel has been hypnotising him, which is why he had so many headaches. They’ve all been his pawns, Bernice especially so. Jason knows they can’t trust Braxiatel as he’s a killer. Whatever’s coming to the Collection, they’re on their own!

Source: Lee Rogers
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