The Empire State
by Eddie Robson
The Empire State
Written by Eddie Robson
Directed by Edward Salt
Post Production and Music by Matthew Cochrane

Lisa Bowerman (Professor Bernice Summerfield), Sophie Louise Dann (Maggie), Simon Watts (Rand), Philip Edgerley (Saf), Stephen Fewell (Jason Kane).

A remarkable city once stood on a desert moon between six colony worlds: an entire city contained within a single vast tower. In honour of another great feat of architecture from an earlier age, the human pioneers who built the city christened it the Empire State.

The phrase 'once stood' would seem to imply that the city isn't there any more, and until yesterday it wasn't, having been destroyed almost a century ago. Indeed, Bernice Summerfield has reluctantly left behind a Braxiatel Collection in turmoil and launched an expedition to excavate the site of the Empire State, and noted archaeologists like her rarely concern themselves with things that haven't been broken, ruined or lost.

Yet now the Empire State has reappeared as if the last century never happened, and the members of Bernice's expedition have been scattered throughout the city. One member in particular proves difficult to track down, which is awkward as Bernice believes that she may hold the key to what's happening at the Empire State -- and the means to save the Braxiatel Collection.

  • This is the twenty-seventh audio in Big Finish’s new series of The Adventures of Bernice Summerfield.
  • Released: January 2007

  • ISBN: 1 84435 254 4
(drn: 69'51")

As the ground suddenly starts to shake, pieces of bricks and mortar rise out of the sand and begin forming together... and Bernice wakes up to find herself in a lift. It reaches floor minus 16 at degree 210, but a computerised voice tells her not to disembark as she's not authorised for this area. The doors open and a nervous young man enters, assuring her unnecessarily that he wasn't doing anything. He asks what she's doing this far down and she admits that she doesn't know where she is. He tells her she's in the foundations, but this means nothing to her (unless of course he's referring to the pop group who had a hit with Build Me Up Buttercup in 1968, but that doesn't seem likely as they didn't have any female members). The man doesn't know what she's talking about, but neither does she, although she's confident she hasn't sustained any brain damage. The man instructs the lift to go to floor 132 at degree 45. Then the lift comes to a sudden halt and the computer tells them there's been a drive impeller malfunction. To Bernice's horror, the man starts to dismantle the controls, hoping that the emergency magnetic winch will allow them to drop down a floor, where they can get out and try another lift. When she discovers that he's not actually a lift engineer, she suggests they wait for qualified help, but he's obviously in a hurry. Just as suddenly, the lift starts working again, and just before he leaves, he reveals that she's in the Empire State. Bernice is shocked by the revelation. The lift doors close and the computer invites her to chose a floor between minus 16 and 378.

Later, Bernice plays back a new message from Jason. He sounds edgy and tells her he hasn't heard from her in a few days so he hopes she's OK. Everyone at the Collection is a bit freaked out, and today he got himself stuck in an infinite corridor in the Mansionhouse all afternoon, but when he got out he found he'd only been gone for a couple of minutes. People have started to go missing; some of them have come back, but many haven't, and those that have aren't the same as when they went away. There's also weird things going on with the artefacts -- sometimes they change, sometimes they turn up in people's rooms, and sometimes they hover over people's faces at night. He's also worried about the Draconians, who seem to think that the Collection is on their turf, and therefore it's OK if they kill everyone. The rascals! Jason finishes the message and nervously asks Bernice to hurry back...

Bernice records a reply to her ex-husband. As he can probably see from the horrible décor behind her, she's staying in a cheap hotel. What he probably can't tell from the image is that the hotel is in the middle of a city that shouldn't exist. Believe it or not, this is the same deserted desert moon she was on last time they spoke. The Empire State, the place she was trying to excavate, has made a surprise comeback. She explains that the State is one big tower reaching about half a mile underground and going all the way up to the outer atmosphere. The people who founded it manipulated the moon's orbit so that instead of taking a couple of years to get round all six planets in its system, it now only takes a week. At the time it was a famous trading post, which is why the Stone of Barter ended up here. She stops the message, then changes her mind and decides not to send it.

A woman called Maggie complains to the nervous young man from the lift, Rand, that he's been trying to blow up the city again, despite promising that he wouldn't! He admits it, but claims that she can't see the disease that's in everything. The only way to get rid of it is to destroy the whole place completely, otherwise the conflict will spread out and destroy everything. She's heard all this before, although she notes this time that he missed out the bit about corruption. She reminds him of the delicious meal they had last night, and the nice couple who asked them to go bowling with them. Does he think they were corrupt too? Rand says that the man commented on his scruffy shoes and that Maggie's defence of the couple is exactly what's wrong with this place. She doesn't agree and says that pointing out his tatty shoes hardly warrants death for him and everybody he knows. She can see that Rand is on edge, although he says he's just trying to stay alert. She suggests they go and get some ice cream.

An announcement is made around the city telling everyone that they'll be aligned with the planet Mordita in five minutes and any passengers wanting to visit should get ready to disembark. A drunken Bernice attracts the attention of Saf Malik, the barman at 'The Spirit World', and asks for a drink with alcohol in, but he points out that all the drinks she's had this evening had alcohol in them. All eleven of them. In that case, she asks, why isn't she drunk? After she picks herself up off the floor, he tells her she's probably had enough. He advises her to go home, but she says she has to stay up as she's looking for someone who was part of an expedition she brought here. The missing person, a Japanese woman named Maggie Matsumoto, isn't from around here, and Bernice is worried as she hasn't seen her for four days. Saf doesn't think he's seen her either, so a drunken Bernice offers to fix anything for him if he agrees to help. She even claims she can fix dead people so that they're alive again, but she'd rather not do that if she can avoid it. Saf asks if she can raise the dead, but Bernice thinks it sounds a bit cheesy when he says it like that. He agrees that it's one of the more impressive claims he's heard in the two years since he's been working here, although he admits to being sceptical as he's had at least four blokes in the bar in the past who claimed to be a god. One bloke even said he was a goddess and he'd had an operation. Bernice suddenly realises she may have become a god again, as at least that would explain a lot of things. She was a god once before, but her insignificant other soon put a stop to that. She realises she's not sounding very credible and Saf warns her not to cause any trouble. Just then, the entire bar is rocked by a loud rumbling noise, which climaxes with a flash of light. The barman has never noticed it happen before, but thinks it's probably nothing. Bernice knocks over a glass and Saf is furious as he ordered them specially because they repel condensation or have anti-slip coating or something. Bernice offers to repair it -- and then magically the smashed glass comes back together and reforms in her hand. It's as good as new, or at least as good as it was before she broke it. She decides to go back to her hotel room, leaving Saf looking completely stunned by what he's seen.

The next day, Maggie catches up with Rand in the shoe shop and asks about the new shoes he's trying on, but he tells her the shop assistant chose them and he doesn't feel comfortable as they look ostentatious. Maggie thinks they look striking, but he says they look like something a child would wear. She says it all depends how you "wear" them and thinks this is a pretty good metaphor for what's wrong with him in general. He's still baffled as to why his plan to overload the reactors didn't work, and when she advises him not to shout out too loudly about his attempted massacre, he complains that no one ever listens to him anyway. He's sure he planned everything perfectly, including rigging the generators to set off a chain reaction, knocking out all the fail-safes, even overriding the lift to let him go down to an unauthorised area. Yet nothing happened. He reminds her that mankind built a tower to the heavens once before and God destroyed it. And now that God is dead, Rand's just filling in for him...

Bernice returns to the bar and asks Saf whether he's seen her friend yet, but he says he sees a lot of people and can't remember them all. She nervously asks him for a drink and promises to be less obnoxious than she was last night. He agrees that she was a little 'strange', but the really weird bit was when she broke a glass and then fixed it with magic. She admits that she didn't mean to do that, but it's a long and barely credible story and the best way to tell it is over a gin and tonic. Saf turns down the offer as he doesn't drink. She tells him she's an archaeologist, but the place she comes from isn't very popular at the moment so when she set up an expedition here she decided not to use the company name. She mentions the Stone of Barter, and is surprised when he says he's never heard of it, as it's supposed to be really famous here. In fact, it's currently in a glass case on display at the front of the museum at the shuttle port so it's practically the first thing everyone sees when they land. Saf suddenly remembers it after all, but vaguely recalls that it's been stolen. She tells him it's not really a stone, it's a crystal, and it's supposedly about 3000 years old, although it's hard to be sure as it got passed around various nomadic tribes as a symbol of trading prowess. According to the myth, a legendary tradesman on his death bed asked a shaman or mage to transmute him into the Stone. It allegedly has the power to allow people to trade their internal qualities as easily as they exchange material goods. You can trade knowledge, skills, emotions, even paranormal abilities. Saf says nobody believes this sort of thing these days, but Bernice has previous experience that proves people are often wrong about that. She's hoping to test the Stone for herself once she gets her hands on it.

She then reveals to Saf that this entire city was actually destroyed over a century ago and when she visited it five days ago it was a ruin, completely covered by sand. When she first found herself back in the Empire State she assumed she'd travelled back in time, but now she realises it's the city itself that's come back. She found the Stone in the ruins and catalogued it, but then on the last day of the expedition the ground suddenly started to shake. She saw pieces of the tower rising out of the sand all around her, then she passed out and when she woke up she was in a lift, with everyone else going about their business as if nothing had happened. Saf asks her what caused it to happen and she admits that she thinks it was her fault. She must have absorbed something from the Stone that it had previously drawn out of somebody else a long time ago. The only thing she doesn't understand is why the Stone didn't go back to its proper place in the museum. Everything else went back to where it should be -- even dead people like Saf, which she finds frankly creepy. The members of her expedition were scattered all over the city, but she found them all and sent them back to the shuttle -- everyone except for Maggie, who's still missing. Bernice caught a glimpse of her in the crowd two days ago, but then lost sight of her again. Saf asks Bernice why she wanted the Stone in the first place, but she says it's just because it's got a lot of history behind it. The expedition wasn't cheap, as the radiation from the original explosion hasn't died down yet, so they had to get the place decontaminated first. Saf still seems sceptical, but she reminds him that off-world communication has been down for five days and although this is supposed to be a major trading outpost, no shuttles have landed. He says he saw something on the News that blamed electro-magnetic interference, and she realises for the first time that nobody here seems particularly worried. In fact, everybody appears very upbeat and even complete strangers have been coming up to her and saying how well everything seems to be going.

Rand takes the lift to floor minus 16, but when the doors open he's surprised to find Maggie already there waiting for him. She asks him why he keeps coming down here and whether he's deliberately trying to wreck things for her, and he admits that he can't help himself. She tries to get him to relax and asks whether there's anything he'd like to do other than blowing up the city, but when he starts to flirt with her, she changes the subject and suggests they go for a picnic on floor 300. Just then, the lift breaks down again due to another drive impeller malfunction. He tries fiddling with the controls again and casually mentions that the last time this happened, the other woman said he wouldn't be able to fix it. Maggie asks him about the woman, but when he says he doesn't know anything about her, she tells him he really has to start taking more of an interest in other people; then maybe he wouldn't want to keep trying to kill them. He denies being a psychopath, but she points out that he's not exactly a socially cohesive person either. Unfortunately his repairs don't seem to be working this time and he kicks the wall angrily.

The computer announces that the city will be aligned with the planet New Delvan in 30 minutes. Bernice checks with her personal computer for any new messages, but there's only one, from Jason Kane. She plays it back and is shocked to hear gunshots in the background. Jason screams and calls out SOS as the Collection is under attack, claiming that by the time she hears this they could all be dead! Then the firing stops and Jason asks whether he's done enough to get her attention this time. That'll teach her not to reply to his last three messages. Bernice is glad he's not dead as now she'll get the chance to kill him herself. She listens to the rest of the message and Jason admits that things aren't that good on the Collection at the moment. She records a message, grudgingly apologising for not replying earlier and admitting that she found the Stone, but then lost it again.

At the bar, Saf greets a depressed Rand, who explains he was sent by his friend and ordered to stay here on pain of death. They've just been trapped in a lift for nearly two hours and now his friend has had to go off somewhere to do something important. He orders a drink and comments on how well the business seems to be going, and Saf claims it's down to the power of advertising. Saf offers the drink, then suddenly snatches the glass back, claiming at first that it was the wrong one, then saying it was dirty. Rand had told Saf earlier that he wasn't sticking around, but he now says there's been a change of plans. Just then the entire bar is rocked again by a loud rumbling noise, which climaxes with another flash of light. Saf asks Rand if that was "her" again and wonders what she's doing up there, but Rand admits that she won't tell him.

As Maggie fights her way through a heaving crowd, she's surprised to hear someone call her name out. She looks up and sees Bernice above her on a walkway. They join up and both claim they've been looking for each other for days. Bernice apologises for not warning Maggie in advance that odd things always happen on her expeditions, but then Maggie says she's arranged to meet somewhere at a bar called 'The Spirit World' as she's in the middle of some oral history research. By coincidence, Bernice is heading for the same bar so they walk off together. Bernice explains that she's learned a lot about this place that she never knew before -- such as the fact that it used to be a refugee centre during two wars, and during the inter-war period it had a renowned philosophy school -- and even Maggie is impressed by the positive attitude everyone has here. As they walk, Bernice casually asks whether Maggie still has the amber crystal thingy they found earlier, but Maggie says she doesn't and asks innocently whether it was important. They arrive at the bar and Maggie immediately asks Saf about Rand, only to learn that the youngster left about 15 minutes ago. Maggie panics and races off, with Bernice not far behind. They enter the lift for floor minus 16 -- but Maggie is shocked when the computer informs her she's not authorised to go to that floor. She realises the computer is referring to Bernice and asks her to leave, but Bernice refuses unless she explains what's going on. There isn't time, so Maggie gives the computer authorisation to allow her 'guest' to accompany her. On the way down, she tells Bernice that history is going to repeat itself unless they can stop it. Unfortunately the lift stops again and the computer announces that the city structure is under threat and the lift is to be ejected...

Moments later, there's an enormous explosion and the entire Empire State explodes, bringing the tower down in a cloud of dust and debris. Bernice and Maggie are watching from a safe distance, shocked by the death and destruction they see before them. Maggie blames Bernice for bringing the city back "all wrong", and suddenly it dawns on Bernice that she was responsible for creating the new city. Maggie explains that when Bernice brought the city back, she also brought all the inhabitants back too...including Rand Goodwin, the man who blew it up in the first place. He infiltrated the power room in the foundations and threw the generators out of balance. Bernice realises it must have been Rand that she met in the lift when she first woke up, and Maggie says he thinks he failed so he keeps trying over and over again. Normally she's there to stop him, but this time she wasn't. She has no idea why he wants to do it; he just keeps talking about decadence and corruption, but none of it makes sense. She's spent all this time trying to drag him out of his pit of misanthropy, but without success. She says Bernice ruined everything and asks her to put the city back the way it was. Bernice is unsure, but before she can make up her mind, the ground starts to shake and pieces of bricks and mortar rise out of the sand and begin forming together...

Bernice and Maggie find themselves back in the lift. Bernice takes out a small hammer from her bag and smashes the computer inside the lift, bringing it to a halt and giving Maggie all the time she needs to explain what's really going on. Maggie orders Bernice to fix the lift so she can get down to the foundations before Rand blows the building up yet again ... but the only reaction from Bernice is a long, stony silence. Eventually Maggie backs down and agrees to talk. She reveals that she was the one with the god-like powers before Bernice 'stole' that ability from her. Maggie must have touched the Stone while it was being catalogued, and even though she didn't even feel it take her powers, she must have activated it by accident. Bernice tells her the Stone isn't meant to be operated by anybody other than its Attendant, the person who according to legend travels with the Stone and oversees all the transactions. Maggie genuinely doesn't know how she managed to activate it, and she didn't know anything was wrong until she tried to mend a hole in her canteen and couldn't. Bernice and Maggie realise they both lied to each other during the expedition by claiming not to know what the Stone could do. Maggie isn't really an archaeologist and all her qualifications are forged, but equally she knows Bernice is feeling guilty about all the people that died in the Empire State because she was never really interested in uncovering their story and was only there to get her hands on the Stone.

Bernice tries to assure Maggie that she never wanted her powers, but Maggie doesn't believe her, as the power of putting things back together would be perfect for someone in Bernice's line of work. Bernice thinks it must take an awful lot of energy to recreate something like the city. Maggie explains that it's a localised temporal reversal, but you have to make sure it stays localised or else it starts bleeding energy from the things around it instead of the stabilised black hole that normally powers it. Maggie now reveals that she's not human; she was designed by a man whom she calls her father because she's based in part on his genetic material, but she's basically just a home-made temporal physics experiment poured into a genetic engineering kit bought off the shelf in Tokyo. Her 'father' put a little of himself into the mix to stabilise it, but not enough that she looks like him. She was made a few years ago just to clear up after her father's messes, but she's operating on her own these days, which is why she needs her powers back. Bernice realises Maggie must know where the Stone is, and they argue over who should be allowed to have it. They can't come to an agreement, so Bernice fixes the lift so they can get on with stopping Rand.

Bernice and Maggie arrive at the foundations and catch Rand red-handed. He assures them he wasn't doing anything, but Maggie grabs him by the hair and drags him back to the lift. As they start going up, she rages about his insane theories and for believing everyone's out to get him, while all this time she's been trying to encourage him to engage with people. Rand accuses Maggie of hating him and asks her to leave him alone, but she's fed up with trying to reason with him and pulls out a gun. She says she's going to kill him, and when Bernice protests, she reminds her that Rand is planning to kill everyone in the city just because of an arbitrary, incoherent principle. Bernice suggests handing him over to the authorities instead, but what can they say -- that he killed everyone and then they all came back to life? The best they can come up with is a charge of trespassing, but since Bernice and Maggie were down there too, they'd have a lot of explaining to do. Bernice offers to take over the responsibility of looking after Rand, and even though Maggie thinks she'll soon get fed up with it, she agrees to hand him over to Bernice's 'custody'. She tells Bernice to get Rand to lighten up -- she's already tried discotheques, sushi, the zoo, new shoes, fencing, cheese and wine parties, the reality arcade, hiking, making fun of people who are badly dressed and ten-pin bowling, but he didn't like any of those things. Maggie says goodbye and leaves them to it. Bernice and Rand make each other's acquaintances and she soon discovers that he likes otters. But he still thinks she should have let Maggie kill him.

Jason sends Bernice another video message, but this time it's garbled and incoherent due to some sort of continuity shift, so his words are appearing out of sequence. Rand admits that Jason wasn't quite what he expected from Bernice's husband, but she tells him it's sometimes good to get what you don't expect... but at least he normally happens in the right order. She sends a message back to Jason urging him to hang on as she knows where the Stone is (sort of) but someone else has got it so she needs to prise it away from them first. There's no point in her going back empty-handed, so if she can't get the Stone she'll find help from somewhere else, possibly another buried magic treasure of some sort. Unfortunately Rand isn't terribly helpful and says he doesn't know where the Stone is, which surprises Bernice as Maggie implied the two of them were virtually joined at the hip. Rand reminds her that he used to go to the foundations from time to time and Maggie often went off somewhere too, but he doesn't know where or why. Presumably every time they hear the loud rumbling noise followed by the flash of light it means she's using the Stone, but no one knows what she's doing with it. Bernice thinks Rand is a cock-awful waste of space, but she knows she can't let him go off on his own so she decides to tell him why she really needs the Stone. She says it's not so much because of what it does, but because of what's in it. There's someone important she needs to find and she has it on good authority that details of his location were planted inside the Stone centuries ago. She needs that person to fix things back home, and a lot of people are depending on it. Just then the hotel computer announces the city is due to be aligned with the planet Gangart in one hour. Bernice needs to think, so she asks Rand where he goes when he wants to be alone. He suggests they try the Garden of Internment as his father is buried there.

Maggie orders a drink from the barman at 'The Spirit World', who asks her if she noticed that the city just blew up. She's surprised that he's aware of what happened as she was expecting him to have been brought back to life none the wiser. She argues that it wasn't her fault and blames Rand. He obviously succeeded in blowing up the city back in 2509, but now that he's alive again, he must think he failed so he keeps trying again. He's already killed everybody twice and if he keeps it up he'll go down as one of the greatest mass murderers in history, unless it doesn't count if you're killing the same people over and over again..? Maggie comments on how busy the bar seems to be getting; then, as they start approaching the planet Gangart, she leaves to go upstairs.

Bernice and Rand arrive at the Garden of Internment and discover the place is bustling with people. Bernice noticed on the way here how busy everywhere's getting and she wonders if there's a special event on. People seem to be acting in an unusually aggressive and hysterical way, but when Bernice turns to ask Rand if he's noticed too, she discovers he's gone. She catches up with him and is relieved to discover he wasn't heading for the foundations after all. He tells her he just spotted his dead father in the crowd, but she's not sure his perceptions are fully reliable. Frankly, she thinks he's mad, but he's upset because he never went to see his father when he was ill as they weren't getting on at the time. Bernice observes that he has something in common with Maggie after all. She realises she's being pretty horrible to him, although probably no more than anyone else ever has, so she tells him his plan did actually work. She explains that everyone here died, but she was able to put the city back the way it was, even though she doesn't know how. This convinces Rand even more than he must have seen his father and it slowly dawns on Bernice that he might have been right. That's why it's getting so busy around here -- all the dead people are coming back to life! Rand suspects his father will be heading for a bar he used to own called Joe Cotton's. Rand took over running the place himself after his father died, but he wasn't very successful at it and didn't even bother opening up for a couple of months. Then Saf Malik made him an offer last week and bought him out. It's called 'The Spirit World' now. Bernice is curious and asks how well Rand knows Saf, but he says he didn't meet him until the day after he met Bernice. She thinks it's time they found out more...

Bernice approaches Saf at the bar and orders a round of drinks for herself, her new friend and Rand's dead father, who's sitting in a nearby booth. She casually mentions how rowdy the place is getting, and Saf realises she's building up to asking him why he said he'd never met Maggie when he clearly had. Bernice agrees that she wants an answer to that question too, but for now she's more interested in knowing how long he's been running this bar. He admits it's only been eight days, despite the fact that he told her earlier it had been two years. Unfortunately he keeps forgetting what he tells people, but he suggests that if she asked any of the patrons at the bar, they'd swear he'd been here a lot longer than eight days. He asks if she's ever heard a song where the tune runs so naturally she can't believe it hasn't been around for decades; that's the atmosphere he's trying to create here. Everybody feels comfortable, as if they've been coming here regularly for ages. Bernice doesn't think Saf died centuries ago with all the others and she finally guesses who he is -- he's the Attendant, the aesthetic who hangs around the Stone to fix any problems. He's the one who showed Maggie how to use the Stone, and the reason he doesn't drink is because he had to forgo worldly pleasures in order to hone his talents. He admits the truth and says he's from Glysandra, the fourth planet along in this system; but he's not a descendant of the man who originally made the Stone, he just got hired. The reason he denied knowing anything about the Stone was to encourage Bernice to talk, so he could work out what she planned to do with it. Of all the people who've had the job of Attendant, he suspects he's had it the easiest and, in fact, running the bar was more difficult. He gets paid in stock tips, gambling tips and lottery numbers, just enough to keep him ticking over. When he took on the job of Attendant twelve years ago he was given a list of things to look out for at certain times. One of the things he had to do was help Maggie, and another was to answer Bernice's questions, providing she got sufficiently pushy and annoying. He begins by explaining that Maggie came up with the idea of him setting up the bar. The special glasses he serves drinks in are little mini versions of the Stone and they can absorb things from whoever's holding them, but they work best with positive emotions. The glasses are connected to the Stone, which stores all the emotions, but he has no idea what Maggie is doing with them. Suddenly the entire bar is rocked by a loud rumbling noise and the other patrons start to panic. Saf hurriedly admits that Maggie is in the observation ring at the top of the city.

Maggie makes an announcement, wishing the people of Gangart a nice day. She tells them the Empire State means them no harm and asks if they could please stop shooting at them. Meanwhile, Saf and Bernice fight their way through the crowd. Bernice realises the feeling of panic has been building up for a while as nothing in the city is stable, including the people, and it's slowly degenerating. She and Saf left Rand in the bar as they don't have time to look after him. A lift arrives and they grab it quickly...

Maggie is furious with Saf for bringing Bernice to the observation ring, but he's more concerned about the explosions and wants to know if they're part of her plan. She says not exactly, and Bernice realises she's out of her depth. Bernice wants to know what she's been doing with all the happy thoughts she's collecting, and Maggie explains that the moon orbits the six planets and the city rotates to face them as they go past. She got permission from the city administrators to use the observation ring (on the pretext of religiously meditating under the stars), and when she's up here she taps into the Stone's energy. As each planet comes into view, she uses the ring's magnifiers to focus it on the planet. In short, she's beaming down happy thoughts to each of the worlds in the system. Bernice suspects the emotions of the people in the bar will be thinly spread among the population of entire planets, but basically what Maggie seems to be doing is running a 'Death Star of Good Vibes'. Bernice thinks the idea is as mad as toast, but at least she understands the principle behind it. Maggie recognised the potential of this place when she compared the positive atmosphere here in the city to the drab colonies down on the planets. After she lost her powers she just wanted to find another way to do good. Unfortunately, there's a problem -- this power is based on Bernice's subjective view of the Empire State, not the real thing. It's Bernice's romanticised hotch-potch idea of the city based on the books she's read and the fact that she doesn't like failure -- so everyone in the city is succeeding, even when their aims conflict with other people's. Reality is trying to cope with the pseudo-Utopia she's created and it's not coping very well, so the resource Maggie has been tapping into is actually built around chaos. Maggie reveals that they've been under attack from a ship from Mordita, the first planet they passed. They thought they were under attack themselves from a weapon and sent pictures of what had happened to the city administrators -- pictures of people in conflict, injuring themselves and each other. Maggie didn't know what had gone wrong, but Mordita said that if they didn't surrender they'd destroy the city...

Bernice rejoins Rand just as another explosion hits the city. The bar is empty after everyone ran out in panic, including Rand's father, but this time Rand decided not to go down to the foundations because he's still struggling with Bernice's revelation that he was successful on both his previous attempts. She congratulates him on making the right decision -- but now she wants him to do it. She's now knows he's not really Rand Goodwin, even though he thinks he is, he's actually a representation of her idea of Rand Goodwin, based on a handful of facts she knew about him, and the rest was left to fill itself in. She tells him she made him in the image of a sad, unbalanced loser who doesn't know what point he's trying to make because that was her perception of the real person. He tries hard not to be offended, but she also emphasises that he managed to infiltrate defences that were meant to be impregnable and override every check that should have stopped the reactors from blowing. With that kind of intelligence, he could have done something worthwhile if he'd applied it better. Whereas she brought everybody else in the city back as the best possible version of themselves, all fulfilling their potential, she never imagined Rand as doing anything other than just blowing the place up. Rand admits that he can't imagine doing anything else either. Suddenly there's another explosion and she realises they have to hurry. She convinces him that on this one single occasion he has to go ahead with his plan to blow up the city, but when he asks her why she won't do it herself, she realises this is a very, very good question!

Maggie wonders what they're going to do if Bernice doesn't come back -- perhaps she's decided to leave them all here as a cruel trick? Saf is confident she wants the Stone, so she's not going to leave it behind. Just then Bernice arrives and tells them they have a few minutes before the whole place goes up. She's notified the others back at the archaeological dig to raise their radiation shields and pick them up. Saf thinks Bernice has gone for the easy option, but she ignores him and approaches Maggie to make the same offer as before -- she can have her powers back in exchange for the Stone. Maggie agrees and Bernice asks Saf to operate the device for them. The transfer is completed and then Bernice asks Saf if there's anything else inside the Stone, in particular the information she was looking for earlier. He says there isn't, but then recalls that the Stone was originally a person and reveals that it can be changed back if need be. Saf wonders whether that person holds the information she needs, so Bernice asks him to do it. After considering for a moment, he agrees and then uses his influence to transform the Stone into ... Maggie's father -- Irving Braxiatel..!

Bernice laughs incredulously and asks Irving whether he slept well. He asks for a little space as he's been inert for a couple of millennia and is feeling a bit nauseous. A long time ago he paid an aesthetic with an extremely rare talent to transmute him into a crystallised form of pure consciousness. Bernice thinks he's been there the whole time, possibly even the whole of recorded history, but Irving reminds her that she's only taking about human history and she should try to avoid being so small-minded. As Bernice tells Irving he's in a building that's about to blow up, an alarm sounds to warn them of an imminent structural threat to the city. The group holds onto anything they can as the room is about to be ejected. Maggie asks her father why he did it and Saf explains that it's a survival trick, like a standby mode for people who need to hold out for a while. Irving admits that he needed some "me" time and he didn't want to be disturbed, but Bernice points out that he couldn't resist being invested with some additional power. He couldn't just be any old stone, he had to be a mystic stone! Irving says he had to make himself valuable to ensure he would be preserved, but Bernice wonders whether being able to manipulate whoever happened to find it was a fringe benefit. Irving argues that if she brought him out just so she could gloat, the least she could do is find him some clothes. She reveals why she came looking for him -- there's a serious problem at the Collection and they need his help. She asks for his answer, but before he can respond there's an enormous explosion and the Empire State is completely destroyed...

Source: Lee Rogers

Continuity Notes:
  • To be followed by The Tub Full of Cats.
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