The Tub Full of Cats
by Daniel O'Mahony
The Tub Full of Cats
Written by Daniel O'Mahony
Directed by Edward Salt
Sound Design and Post-Production by David Darlington
Music by Matthew Cochrane and David Darlington

Lisa Bowerman (Professor Bernice Summerfield), Miles Richardson (Braxiatel), Sophie Louise Dann (Maggie), Nigel Pegram (Rogers), Diane Fletcher (Chanticleer).

Negotiations have failed and the Braxiatel Collection now sits within a war zone.

Bernice and Maggie are racing back to the Collection with something that may just help bring an end to all the fighting -- or at least protect their home.

That something is a man, Maggie's father and the would-be killer of Bernice's own husband. His name is Irving Braxiatel.

But the Collection is on the far side of the Mim blockade, and there's no possible way they can get through.

They'll just have to do something impossible...

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

  • ISBN: 1 84435 272 2

Maggie Matsumoto joins Bernice at the space dock and asks if there's been any news about the Collection. She learns that both sides in the conflict have been reinforcing their blockades, and although the Mim have announced that they're creating safe corridors for evacuees, they've also said that they'll automatically open fire on any ships attempting to leave on the grounds that they could be smuggling arms or intelligence to the Draconians. Bernice has just seen Bev on the news issuing a demand for both sides to end their blockades immediately. The Mim "thanked" Bev for her support and promised that the Collection's hour of liberation was at hand. Bernice is frustrated as it's going to take them days to get home, even if they have a top-of-the-range ship, and by then it's likely that they'll either find the Collection has been reduced to a smouldering ruin or they'll get back just in time to die with the rest of their friends. Maggie is convinced her dad will be able to sort things out, as he speaks their language, and although Bernice agrees that Braxiatel is fluent in bull, he's still only a man and not a miracle worker like Maggie once was.

They arrive in Bay 73, but there's no sign of Braxiatel, so they assume he's planning to meet them aboard the ship that he's apparently chartered for them. Bernice asks what they know about the ship, and Maggie explains that Gravity's Rainbow is an irregular unnumbered flight that's not owned by any of the major shipping cartels, isn't on any imperial or corporate register, has no pilot's guild certificate and doesn't seem to have any merchant or military shipping insurance. In short, according to Maggie's records, Gravity's Rainbow is 'invisible'. Bernice doesn't care so long as it's fast, but as they approach the ship they realise that it's neither invisible, nor does it look as though it can go very fast. Bernice is furious with Braxiatel and assumes it's either a joke or they've got the wrong bay, but Maggie tries to convince her that it doesn't look too bad... from some angles. Bernice's mood gets even worse when she sees that among their cargo, which is being loaded aboard, is a large box that's just the right size for a human body. Attached to it is a note from Braxiatel in which he apologises for his unexpected subterfuge. He goes on to say that their mission is a fraught and delicate one and there are powers in the Universe that seek to prevent its success. They wouldn't hesitate to destroy the Gravity's Rainbow if they knew he was aboard, so to avoid this he's placed himself in a state of null-field suspension inside a casket to be taken on board as cargo. Bernice isn't convinced and thinks Braxiatel simply wants to avoid paying the full fare, but Maggie insists they do things exactly as her father suggests.

(drn: 77'18")

Somewhere, alone in the dark, the voice of an American astronaut calls out to Houston and pleads for assurance that someone is listening to him. He gets no response and finally convinces himself that he's a lone voice in the wilderness. He knows the Earth will soon belong to him, and there's nothing between him and the planet but some glass and a gap so small he just about get his hand out. Even the air outside looks good enough to breathe. To his surprise, a woman who sounds like Maggie addresses him and asks whether he's trapped. She can't believe anyone could think he would survive outside in just this and she offers to get him out. The man introduces himself as Captain Anthony Rogers, but he refuses to let her open his world. He reaches out through the gap and grabs her hand, but the pain is too much for her so she pulls away and leaves. Alone once again, Captain Rogers starts calling out to Houston, terrified that the woman will be coming back for him...

Bernice and Maggie explore the Gravity's Rainbow and deduce that the ship must be at least 500 years old. Bernice recognises the 21st century technology, but the only ships from this era that she's seen before are in working museums and no one would actually want to fly in one. A member of the crew sneaks up on them and makes them jump, but when Maggie offers to show him their boarding passes, he tells them he already knows who they are. Unfortunately this means he already knows that Maggie is Braxiatel's daughter, so their plan to remain incognito for the duration of the trip is up the spout before they've even left. Bernice is surprised by the lack of security aboard, but the man assures them they've been monitored by the shore patrols ever since they came aboard. He explains that the proper name for the ship is three times as long as Gravity's Rainbow, but even he can't pronounce it. Maggie checks the ship's manifest and sees that the only named crewmember is the cosmic navigator, Chanticleer. The man tells them he isn't the only member of the crew on board, but the others aren't great conversationalists, and although the ship may be 'living history', it will get them from A to B quickly and discreetly. Bernice would like some assurances that they won't blow up on the launch pad, but the man is satisfied simply that the ship has been robust enough to survive five centuries. Gravity's Rainbow has been re-fitted and upgraded numerous times, and it not only has all the standard drives and impulses, it also has something extra, which is what they're paying for. Bernice tells him they plan to run a blockade, and if they're spotted, not only will they die, but it will give the opposing sides the excuse they need to start a shooting war, with everyone she knows stuck in the middle. Chanticleer wonders whether it's worth the risk, but she tells him there's a chance she and Maggie might be able to stop it. Unfortunately he can't promise her success any more than he could promise it to Braxiatel. They're just waiting for clearance, but before they get underway he warns Bernice and Maggie to avoid any locked doors they find on the ship; otherwise, they can go wherever they want.

The two women finally meet the rest of the crew and are amazed -- and in Bernice's case delighted -- to discover that they're domestic cats. The man they know as Chanticleer tells them there are five cats on board, which is the optimum number for a ship of this kind. He introduces them as Sun Yat-sen (who is the principal shareholder of the ship), Malcolm X, Lady Marmalade, Kali Ma, and finally, the baby kitten, Scampi. When Maggie greets them, Bernice points out to her that they're not aliens in cat form, they're not shape-shifting alien cat-women, they're not even super-intelligent mutant cats from the future -- they're just normal everyday cats. Chanticleer explains that strictly speaking the cats are the owners of the Rainbow, as it helps with some complicated tax issues.

It's only later that Maggie discovers she's allergic to cats, causing Bernice to worry that her new friend is going to be sneezing all the way home. Unfortunately there's a cat-flap in every door, so the cats will be in and out all night -- especially Scampi, who seems to have imprinted himself on Bernice and thinks she's his mummy. But even playing with the cat can't take Bernice's mind off the blockade. She wonders whether Chanticleer is mad and they suddenly realise it's actually quite hard to pin down whether Chanticleer is male or female. They're too embarrassed or daft to ask him/her outright, so they'll probably spend the whole trip wondering if he's a man or a woman. Chanticleer calls them on the intercom to say that he's just about to move the ship into the airlock, so if they have transitional deities, now's the time to make supplication for a safe journey.

Captain Rogers brings the evening's performance to a close and announces that the bar is now open. All proceeds will be going to the fund for the heroic chimps of the North American space programme to ensure that these (now elderly) primates will be destroyed humanely. The audience applauds and Rogers calls a waiter over. Braxiatel comes over with a drink and tells Rogers he was impressed with his speech. Rogers believes he's being followed by a woman, a half-Japanese woman to be precise. Braxiatel points to his companion and best friend on the other side of the room, and Rogers is amazed to discover that he's pointing to the President's wife. The astronaut goes over and introduces himself to Bernice, then admits that he never voted for her husband, as he tried to be the Sun King and flew too high. Rogers believes he's uncovered the people behind the conspiracy that killed the President and says they're the same people responsible for writing Armstrong's words "One small step". Bernice offers to take Rogers to some secret passages her husband built earlier, and asks about the woman he claims is following him. He tells her she's called Death, so Bernice tells him not to worry as Death is hot on the heels of all heroes. He denies being a hero, arguing that heroes are slaves to destiny -- and that's something he never will be...

Bernice is prowling the corridors of the ship on a special mission of her own, and is frustrated when she keeps being followed by Scampi. Eventually she finds her way to the cargo bay and taps in the security code to unlock Braxiatel's null-field cabinet. The door opens and Braxiatel greets her, then realises that she's woken him up early and they haven't reached the Collection yet. She admits that they're only two days out of port and it's taken her this long to crack the code to the box. She's still furious with him and warns him that Jason will probably be waiting for him with an ice-pick if they ever get home, with a long queue of others waiting for their turn. Chanticleer says it will be over a week before they get home, but that's probably being optimistic. Bernice hasn't had the time to ask Braxiatel all the questions that have been building up, but now she has all the time in the world and sooner or later she's going to let slip something about why he really left the Collection and what he did to her husband on Cantus. She thinks Braxiatel is scared and has been hiding from her. Braxiatel denies this and asks her to take his word at face value, but she knows him too well. For Maggie's sake, Bernice promises to keep quiet about all this if Braxiatel agrees to come out of the box and join them on the journey. Braxiatel is impressed with her self-control and discipline, but when Bernice says she's doing this for his daughter, he points out that Maggie is simply an artefact. Bernice refuses to accept that her friend is just a science project, and Braxiatel accepts that she's flesh and blood and at least as 'real' as he is himself. Bernice tells him Maggie thinks he's trying to avoid her, but although Braxiatel has no wish to hurt her, he has no illusions about the nature of his relationship with his daughter. Braxiatel bids Bernice goodnight and plans to return to the cabinet for the remainder of the journey, but she refuses to let him get off that easily. She's determined to keep him in plain sight, but Braxiatel points out that the moment his presence on the ship is discovered, he becomes a stowaway. He knows Bernice is only taking him back to the Collection because he's the only one who can sort out the trouble they're in. The Draconians and the Mim are on their threshold and blood has already been spilled, so they may have to be ruthless if they're to maintain their safety. Whatever she may think of his methods, she has to admit that he's turned out to be right so far. He insists on sleeping until he's ready and Bernice is forced to agree, although she warns him again that she'll be waiting for him at the other end...

There's a knock on the flight deck door and Chanticleer invites Maggie in. Down on a lower level he operates a switch that opens up the ceiling, allowing her to see the stars, all nine billion of them. Their journey will take them through these dense clusters, (although strictly speaking they're not dense at all and are actually unbelievably distant) and until the stars go out he has to remember every single one of them. From here, they can see the stars properly without planetary atmospheres and light pollution getting in the way. At the moment they're still in unclaimed backwaters and they won't be entering disputed space for three or four days, but even then they won't know whether they've entered Draconian territory or Mim territory. In either case, the ships on the blockade will assume Gravity's Rainbow is hostile, so they'll have to switch to silent running. If that fails, he'll activate the ship's primary system. It's not something he wanted to discuss in front of Bernice as she looked a bit of a smart-arse and might have heard of it before. It's not illegal, but it is old and for an archaeologist he thinks Bernice seems unusually wary of antiques. He explains that hundreds of years ago the old chemical-based space programmes collapsed as no one could afford rockets or satellites any more, but there were plenty of eccentrics and crackpots who continued with their own experimental schemes. Some of them actually worked, but then the aliens let the human race in on their tech secrets (and have lived to regret it ever since) so the experiments were forgotten, except by people like Bernice. He asks Maggie is the name 'Deselby Matango' means anything to her, and although she says it doesn't, he tells her it will do soon...

Bernice is amazed to learn from Captain Rogers that he was really the first astronaut in space. He dismisses Yuri Gagarin as Soviet propaganda, and when Bernice points out that even their worst enemies at the time acknowledged it as the truth, he tells her they simply didn't want to admit they'd been fooled by three gooks with a ham radio in a field. He also claims the USA's space programme was completely faked and that most of the astronauts came from a male modelling agency in New Mexico. According to Captain Rogers, their bodies were too weak to contain the pressure of the frontier, and when a weak man enters space, space also enters him, warping him from the inside out. He claims he was selected as the only man strong enough and, even to this day, he's the only astronaut to actually go into space. Bernice asks if this means she isn't real herself and he tells her she's only as real as he thinks she is. He tries to kiss her, but as he takes his eyes off the road, the car they're travelling in crashes. Rogers calls out to Bernice, but gets no response. He doesn't want to be here any more and pleads for this to end. All he wanted to do is fly, but now he's trapped. He hears the sound of a lock being opened and the woman's voice returns, explaining that he's dying. He asks the woman for her name, but she tells him he already knows who she is. He was the one that made her real. She asks him if he's trapped here and offers to get her out of this thing, but he screams at her to keep away...

Later, Bernice and Maggie challenge each other to a game of table tennis. Maggie is starting to get accustomed to the cats and she even woke up this morning to find one sitting on her stomach. Bernice is delighted to win the game as Braxiatel always used to thrash her at it, so obviously his talent wasn't genetic. Maggie doesn't want to play any more, but Bernice is starting to go mad on the ship, and it's only been a week so far. They sit down and Bernice almost squashes Lady Marmalade, probably making an enemy of the cat for life. Maggie recalls being told once that it was bad luck to get too close to Bernice, but the same people also told her to stay close to Bernice as that'll help her live longer. Bernice wonders whether she's been able to establish yet whether Chanticleer is male or female, and Maggie thinks it's a little of both. Maggie tells Bernice more about being "commissioned" by her father and admits that she can actually remember the moment she was "born". One moment she was wrapped in a membrane, a cocoon full of nutrients, and then she was ripped from it. Braxiatel sounded almost disappointed when he discovered she was female. Bernice wonders if Maggie has ever gone down to the cargo hold to look at Braxiatel's body, but she says there's no point. Bernice decides to apologise to Chanticleer for sitting on his cat, and on the way there, she asks Maggie about her former powers. Maggie can't remember how many things she was able to fix, but one thing she could never fix was people, which is a shame as that might have been useful.

Further down the corridor they find Scampi, apparently trying to get inside a door that unusually has no cat-flap installed. Maggie opens the door for it, but Bernice rebukes her for spoiling the cat's fun by removing the challenge. The interior of the room is dark, but as the door wasn't locked they feel safe going inside. The inside is set up like a shrine, which makes them wonder whether Chanticleer comes here to worship -- but it doesn't look very religious. It's more like a room that's been preserved after the person who lived here moved out. In one corner, they're amazed to find a genuine old-fashioned spacesuit with the American flag on it. The name tag reads Rogers and as they're trying to work out whether that's the name of the manufacturer or the shipping cartel, Chanticleer suddenly appears from nowhere and tells them it's the name of the astronaut. Bernice apologises if they're trespassing and Chanticleer admits that he should have locked the door. He asks them both to return to their quarters immediately and turn off everything electronic and Bernice realises they must be going over to silent running. The navigator tells them they're in range of a Mim lightship and they need to cut their radiation shadow down to nothing. Realising the urgency, the two women run back down the corridor...

Eventually Bernice and Maggie manage to switch everything non-essential off, but they won't know whether the Mim have seen them until they open fire. Unfortunately they detect the spike of a Mim energy screen running through the ship. Chanticleer contacts them to say it's bad news -- it's too late for silent running now and the Mim have already sent out an escort to investigate. Bernice begins to panic but Chanticleer knows she's in for an even bigger surprise. He's about to engage the primary system, so they might want to hold onto something... not that it'll make any difference. The enemy ship opens fire on them and Bernice knows the Mim will be wanting them for their flesh-pens, to work out why they're so easy to break and to cut. Maggie remembers Chanticleer telling her about Deselby Matango, and Bernice panics even more and rushes to the intercom to demand that Chanticleer turn the system off, claiming they'll be better off taking their chances with the Mim. But it's too late... and after a few seconds the environment inside the entire ship begins to act strangely...

Bernice and Maggie wake up inside darkness -- a darkness so complete they can't even be sure there's anything there. Where did the ship go? Bernice laughs maniacally as that's the question everyone always asks after Deselby Matango. She recalls that some of the ships reappeared eventually and some of the crew even survived, more or less. Nothing happened to them, and it drove them mad. Maggie can't see anything, and Bernice tells her it's because she's forgotten she has eyes. She urges her friend to remember that she's real, and Maggie starts to see again and discovers they're still inside the ship, but everything's changed, even Bernice herself. In fact, they don't exist anymore. Chanticleer decides to check on the passengers and hears Bernice explain to Maggie that they're actually inside an analogue of Gravity's Rainbow. It's not really here, but they're used to it, so their minds are imposing it around them. The reason both Maggie and Bernice seem different is because they're both projecting images of each other as the other sees them, rather like a mirror image. They walk towards the flight deck, although they only have to pretend to walk as there isn't really any distance between them and the deck anyway, just the memory of that distance. The Deselby Matango filter has reduced the ship to a state of non-existence, invisible to physics. In theory, it will put them together again when they get to where they wanted to go, but Bernice wants to find Chanticleer as they should be safer around someone who's done this before. Time doesn't exist here either, and they're stuck here until it ends. It's like they're an electronic recording sitting on someone's shelf and they'll remain lifeless until they're played back.

Suddenly the air is filled with a horrifying roar and two gigantic creatures appear. Bernice and Maggie freeze for a moment, desperately hoping they won't be spotted, then slowly they both back away. Maggie is convinced they've been seen, but Bernice realises the creatures have nothing to see with. Bernice urges her friend not to think or feel anything, as this will make them less real. Just then, they hear Braxiatel's voice in the distance, calling out for help. They race over to the null-field cabinet and help him climb out. In sheer panic, he closes the lid again to prevent the huge creature that was inside there with him from getting out. He has no idea how it got in there with him, but from the look of it, this creature is even bigger than the other two they encountered. Braxiatel urges them all to get away, even though there isn't really anywhere for them to go. It suddenly occurs to Bernice that Braxiatel knows what the creatures are and this may be why he's been hiding away for the last two weeks. Braxiatel admits that he's heard all the stories about the Deselby Matango effect. The navigators call this place 'the Light' and the survivors of the earlier incidents claim there were monsters living inside it. He put himself into null-suspension because he thought he'd be safe there, but he was wrong. Bernice is furious that he left her and Maggie to take care of themselves.

Maggie has become separated from the others and calls out desperately for her father. She's lost and can't see anymore, but nearby she can hear a voice calling for Houston. Believing the voice to belong to her father, she tries to concentrate on the image of a door. She pulls open the handle, but is surprised to be confronted not by Braxiatel but by the astronaut Captain Rogers. He mumbles incoherently about dreams being the sign of a disordered mind and then insists that the apparitions have been sent by the enemies of reality to torment him. When Maggie speaks to him, he realises both she and he are real, and he becomes elated. Suddenly the monsters approach and he screams in pure terror, then runs away. Bernice and Braxiatel join up with Maggie, and Bernice urges her friend to imagine gigantic doors that the monsters won't be able to break through. Together, they're successful, but Braxiatel is clearly having a hard time adjusting to their new environment, perhaps because he's more susceptible. He assures them he'll be fine and orders them to stop fussing. Maggie is concerned about the strange man she saw earlier, but Bernice assumes he was just a figment of Maggie's imagination. It now appears that all three monsters are trying to break through the doors, but Bernice realises that according to Braxiatel's informed guesswork, they're non-physical entities that exist only because the three of them are conceiving them. The problem is that right now, their imaginations are just as real as they are. Before they can take any action, new, even bigger creatures appear and tear the original monsters apart. No one knows at first what these new creatures are, but as Bernice looks more closely at the nearest one -- the one with the big teeth -- she becomes convinced that it looks like Scampi. Captain Rogers appears again, provides his name and rank to everyone present, and insists that he's the first and only man in space and is therefore the greatest human being who ever lived. At that moment, Rogers disappears and the environment around them starts to change again...

...and everyone finds themselves back on Gravity's Rainbow, surrounded by purring cats. Chanticleer is convinced he's never going to get used to the experience, and he appears to be leaking all across the floor. This isn't unusual, apparently, and the earliest navigators used to call this phenomenon 'loss of shape' as they become so used to being in the Light, they forget what they are back in the real world. He knows that one day the ship will need a new navigator and although Bernice can't believe anyone would want the job, Chanticleer says they have to fight off applicants with a broom. It offers the total extinction of flesh, ego and personality, but without any of the messy side-effects you get from drugs, religion, consumer capitalism and death. Bernice decides she'd rather stick with alcohol. Chanticleer introduces them again to the main cat, Kali Ma -- the liberator and destroyer of the delusion called self. For the other cats he just picked names that sounded cute. Bernice decides to feed the cats in gratitude for protecting them from the other monsters in the Light. The Deselby Matango effect caused them to change into primal cat-beings because in their dreams, cats remember their lineage when they were kings of the world and even in the real world they probably imagine they're all-powerful. In theory they should suffer the same effects as humans and lose their shape over time, but for some reason it doesn't happen to cats. Chanticleer has some good news -- their trip through the Light has put them a lot closer to their destination, but unfortunately they'll have to go through the effect again in order to run the blockade. Chanticleer confirms that while they were in the Light he could see that the Collection still exists, although he thinks Bernice's home is a strange black hole of a place. That wasn't the only thing he saw while they were travelling and he accuses Bernice of carrying a non-paying passenger with them, but she returns the accusation and reminds Chanticleer that he didn't tell them they'd be using the Deselby Matango. In fact, both of them were kept in the dark by Braxiatel, and although Bernice can't afford to pick a fight with him, Chanticleer has no such reservations.

A full-scale argument between Maggie and her father gets underway, with Braxiatel insisting that he spent the last cosmic cycle hiding as a rock, not hiding under one. Maggie is thoroughly ashamed of her father and appears relieved that they don't look alike, but Braxiatel simply tells her it's time she stepped outside his shadow. She storms out, bemoaning the fact that there's never a cat-monster around when you need one. As she moves down the corridor, a voice calls her name from one of the nearby rooms. She recognises the voice as that of Captain Rogers and remembers his name from the astronaut's spacesuit. She enters the room and discovers it's the shrine she and Bernice saw earlier. She realises he must have spoken to her from this room while she was in the Deselby Matango effect, and the shrine is presumably dedicated to him. She manages to open the casket in which he's imprisoned and finds that he's physically linked to it by cables going directly into his body. He begs her not to look at his face and tells her that Chanticleer knows nothing about his presence here. She asks if the casket is a life-support system, but he insists he doesn't need it and has always been able to keep himself alive. He pleads with her to pull out the connections, but then screams in agony as she does so. As he has no clothes, she suggests he put on his own spacesuit, even though he's obviously lost a lot of weight since he last wore it. He asks what the year is and she tells him it's 818 in standard Earth terms, but 2607 by his calendar. He's delighted to hear that he's lasted 600 years and laughs at those who said he wouldn't live forever.

In the cargo hold, Chanticleer presents his terms to Braxiatel. He demands that Braxiatel pay the shipping violation penalties, pay the full fare for himself, double the agreed bonus, apologise to Maggie for mucking her around, and clean out the litter trays for the rest of the trip. Bernice advises Braxiatel to accept and save his negotiating skills for when he meets the Mim and the Draconians, so reluctantly he agrees. Suddenly, Captain Rogers' voice comes over the intercom and Braxiatel tells Bernice this must be the anchorite. Chanticleer tries to speak to Rogers, but there's no reply and he tells the others it was the same when they used to run the Deselby Matango together. Chanticleer built the shrine for him as a way of paying the debt. Braxiatel suggests that from the sounds of things, Captain Rogers has finally decided to mutiny.

On the flight deck, Rogers tries to get the cats to pay attention to him, but somehow this lot feels different and he's not sure how much of this is real. He knows he's the anchorite and it's his job to make things real, but Maggie thinks that living in a hole and not talking to anyone has turned him into a hermit. She then realises that it was Rogers' own force of will that made things real again after the Deselby Matango effect. Chanticleer is the navigator that makes the ship go and Rogers is the anchor that makes it stop. That's why he was wired into the ship, to act as a living part of the filter. Rogers refuses to accept that he's just part of the machine, but before he can argue further, Chanticleer arrives with the others and explains that Rogers has been kept alive on the ship for over 500 years. Chanticleer always knew there was an anchorite aboard, but it took him a while before he discovered this one's identity because he never spoke. Rogers tries to take command of the ship and orders everyone except Bernice and Maggie to keep quiet, or else he'll cut Maggie's throat. He also reminds Chanticleer that the navigator might be able to start the ship, but without him they'll be unable to stop and will simply drift off into the Light forever. Rogers refuses to go back inside the filter, but Braxiatel points out that he's chosen the worst possible time to resign his position. Rogers decides that he doesn't like Braxiatel's face and suggests he change it. Chanticleer believes the Captain will die if he doesn't get back into the machine, but Rogers insists he's immortal and will only die at a time of his own choosing. Maggie has told him all about the blockade and Rogers is sceptical that the Draconians or the Mim will ever listen to someone like Braxiatel, so instead he suggests giving them a show of force that they'll never forget. He proposes launching a pre-emptive assault on the Draconian Navy; rather than use the Deselby Matango, they'll go in under plain old-fashioned impulse drive and ram their flagship right where it hurts. If they take some of the Draconians with them, they'll never mess with the Collection again! Bernice is horrified and realises these actions will lead to the death of everyone on the Collection as well as the Draconians and the Mim. Braxiatel suggests they evacuate, but Bernice insists they stop the Captain first, so Braxiatel suggests that she and Chanticleer try to rush him. Bernice ignores him and instead suggests that Chanticleer get into Rogers' psychology. The Captain decides he's given them enough time and orders Braxiatel and Chanticleer off the flight deck. He asks Bernice to stay behind as she reminds him of someone special.

Braxiatel insists that because he isn't likely to make it to his destination, his obligation to Chanticleer and the cats is at an end. He climbs back into his null-field cabinet where he's confident he'll survive, even if Gravity's Rainbow rams the blockade. In any case, he'll probably be needed to negotiate the ceasefire afterwards -- if there's anything left for people to cease firing at. He advises Chanticleer to persuade Rogers to let them evacuate before it's too late, but the navigator points out that there's still one option available to them -- the Deselby Matango. Braxiatel reminds him that without a willing anchorite there'll be no way to get back out of the Light, and then climbs into the cabinet and tries to close the lid. Unfortunately, it's rather awkward to do from the inside, so he has to ask Chanticleer for assistance...

Bernice suspects Captain Rogers is trying to override the controls, but he spots her talking to Maggie and orders them both to lie down on the floor. He must realise he doesn't have much time left now that he's been disconnected from the filter, so he's probably trying to put the ship on automatic in case he dies before they reach their target. Bernice starts to taunt Rogers in the belief that if he's already planning to kill them, she's hardly likely to make matters worse. In any case, Rogers seems to think Bernice is the President's wife from his own era, which is odd as they don't look anything alike. Their only chance now is to get Rogers back inside the machine, and she wonders why Maggie let him free in the first place. Maggie is confused as the whole point of having an anchorite is that they must have a strong sense of reality, but Rogers is clearly barking. Bernice realises it's not that simple. The anchorite wills himself back to life and everything else follows him, so all he needs is a strong sense of self. In other words, a raving egomaniac will do the job perfectly well. Unfortunately this means he'd rather die in a blaze of glory than be persuaded back into his cupboard for another 500 years. Maggie remembers that when she pulled him out of the alcove, the machinery looked alive and hungry. It was trying to drag him back in and he only managed to escape with her help, because she's so strong.

Captain Rogers pulls back the screen around the flight deck so he can see the reds of the Draconians' eyes when they realise a ship is coming straight for them. They spot the Collection's home constellation in the far distance, so Bernice tries to lure Rogers away from the controls. He refuses to co-operate, and claims that the stars themselves are fake and are part of the conspiracy started by people like Galileo and Newton. Bernice wonders what could have happened to Rogers before he got press-ganged into joining this ship, but he regards his life story as boring and repetitive. Every day was the same with the Earth coming up, then sinking again, over and over again. Bernice realises he's describing an orbit, even though Rogers believes it was the Earth that was orbiting him. He recalls being part of a cybernetic experiment that was planned as far back as 1942. Man was never designed to live in space, so as an early astronaut he was physically wired into the satellite. He was tricked with tales of glory and was only supposed to be there for a month, but he was abandoned when they run out of money. He was out there for five years and the people responsible knew he was watching over them all the time. Bernice realises this was when they sold him to the Deselby Matango company -- when they auctioned the surplus hardware, he was included as an accessory to the satellite. To them he was nothing more than property and he now plans to punish them in revenge, but Bernice points out that none of the tribal space powers of old Earth exist any more. At that moment Maggie sees they've been spotted by the Draconian fleet and Bernice tells Rogers this is his last chance -- dying like this would be pointless. Unfortunately Rogers cries out in pain and drops to the floor. Bernice can't be sure whether he's still alive as he looked like a walking corpse to start with, but they can't waste any more time. Maggie suggests they override the collision course, but they've been cut out of the system and it would take days to re-programme it. They decide to grab the cats and evacuate the flight deck, but Bernice thinks she has a better idea...

As they flee down the corridor, Chanticleer calls out to Bernice and she tells him Rogers is dead, most likely from old age, and everything on the flight deck is jammed. She asks him how long it would take to get the Deselby Matango filter on line, and he tells her it's already set up and ready to go but they have no anchorite. Bernice asks if the system will accept someone else as a replacement and he assures her it will, within reason, but psychology is the problem as ideally they need a self-obsessed narcissist with a god complex. Bernice considers asking Braxiatel, but he's gone back inside his casket. In any case, becoming an anchorite isn't a reversible process and anyone that's connected up to the system will stay that way forever. Even Rogers only came out to die.

Bernice tells Maggie that her father isn't coming out of his box, so it's got to be one of them. They consider tossing a coin to see which one, but Maggie admits that she still has some of her powers left and any decision based on probability wouldn't be fair as she could cheat and influence the outcome. They rack their brains to see if they can recall Chanticleer saying anything that would indicate which of them would be best suited, but Bernice claims he said either of them would do. Chanticleer contacts them to warn that they're approaching the blockade and he has no choice but to operate the Deselby Matango now. Maggie knows that she's the best candidate for the job and tells Bernice she'll see her on the other side. A few seconds later, the environment inside the ship begins to act strangely...

In his last dying moments, Captain Anthony Rogers explains how he was chosen for the mission. They wouldn't let married guys loose in space as too much could go wrong. No one wanted to see more grieving widows, but he wasn't married, except to his ship. He can't believe that he's dying. Surely he's irreplaceable? Meanwhile there are ten seconds left before Gravity's Rainbow emerges from the Light and Margarita Braxiatel Matsumoto has only just realised that she can't get out of here...

Chanticleer welcomes Bernice and informs her that they're now in a holding pattern above the Collection. He's broadcast Braxiatel's clearance so they won't be mistaken for anything hostile and they've materialised in low-level orbital traffic so no one will even notice the blockade has been run. It was a textbook perfect jump. He knew Maggie was the anchorite as soon as the effect came online. Somehow he didn't think it would be Bernice, but she knows it ought to have been. She knew the anchorite needed to be an inflexible personality, the most stubborn and least likely to change, the best at self-preservation. Bernice admits that she kept quiet about being more suitable for the job and let Maggie walk into the filter without telling her that she wouldn't be coming out again. Chanticleer thinks Maggie would have suspected the truth anyway, but that's not good enough for Bernice. Maggie isn't dead, but she might as well be. Chanticleer tells her Maggie spoke to him while they were in flight, which is something Captain Rogers never did. He hopes Bernice might feel better to know that she's still alive, but it doesn't. It makes things a lot worse.

Back on KS-159, Braxiatel tells Bernice he couldn't help noticing that the men who debriefed them were armed to the teeth. She thinks Bev was making sure he understood his position in the Collection -- he's here to advise and mediate, not to get in the way. Gravity's Rainbow will be leaving about now and Bernice can see why they didn't want to hang around. As soon as the Draconians discover Braxiatel is back, things are going to get unpredictable. She thought Braxiatel would be angry with her for what happened to Maggie, but he simply says that Bernice did what had to be done. Bernice argues that she would have been a better choice herself, as indeed would Braxiatel, but he repeats again that she did what had to be done. He argues that the Collection needs both of them more than ever before. He thinks Maggie would have guessed the truth and realised it was the best thing to do, but he also points out that sometimes it's necessary to make sacrifices to save people, to win. Bernice notes that it's always someone else who takes the pain, someone else who has to be sacrificed.

Eventually, they're released by the security team and emerge into a violent storm. Bernice can't believe the weather system still hasn't been fixed as Bev's had engineers on the job for months. Braxiatel is amused to learn that their protocols have been playing up in his absence, so he shouts out at the top of his voice, asking for a little sunshine. The rain stops immediately and the Collection is bathed in warm sunlight. It's good to be back.

Gravity's Rainbow comes to a stop, somewhere in deep space. Chanticleer tells Maggie they're clear and thanks her for a great performance. He thinks she's a natural, but she tells him it hurts. He knows that and he's sorry, but if it's any consolation to her, they're now ten light-years clear of the blockade. He puts the ship onto secondary drive so she can rest. He offers to come and talk to her properly later and says he'll bring the cats as well. In the meantime, the ship will help her dream. Moments later, she hears her father's voice, asking her if there's any way to get her out of the machine, but she knows it's too late for that. But at least she's safe in there. They both agree that there are too many Braxiatels loose in the Universe as it is, which is why Maggie knew he'd choose her over Bernice in the end. He tells her to be careful and not forget what happened to her predecessor, but she assures him she isn't like Rogers and will go mad in her own unique way. She says goodbye to the voice of her father and tells him to stick close to Bernice as that'll help him live longer... One way or another, she'll take care of him.

Source: Lee Rogers

Continuity Notes:
  • The cabinet in which Braxiatel is "resting" may be a Zero Cabinet, of the type seen in Castrovalva.
  • The Collection is described as "a strange black hole of a place" -- an unsurprising description, as the Collection is in fact a malfunctioning TARDIS, as revealed in Collected Works.
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