Freedom of Information
by Eddie Robson
Freedom of Information
Written by Eddie Robson
Directed by Edward Salt
Sound Design and Post-Production by David Darlington
Music by Matthew Cochrane and David Darlington

Lisa Bowerman (Professor Bernice Summerfield), Michael Fenner (Kothar), Harry Myers (Adrian), Miles Richardson (Irving Braxiatel), Sam Stevens (Doggles), Steven Wickham (Joseph), Paul Wolfe (Hass).

They're saying it isn't a war. The Draconians have taken over the Braxiatel Collection, but they claim they come in peace.

Insurrectionary acts are easily being quelled - but the Draconian's new head of state on the Collection is troubled by a missing academic. Is Bernice Summerfield one of the revolutionaries, undermining the peaceful campaign? Where is she hiding, and who is protecting her?

And if she's nowhere to be found, why does he keep hearing her voice?

Meanwhile, an unlikely peacebroker struggles to cut a deal on the Mim Sphere. But how can Hass, the Collection's gardener, convince the Mim to back down when they think he's one of the enemy?

  • This is the thirtieth audio in Big Finish’s new series of The Adventures of Bernice Summerfield.
  • Released: June 2007

  • ISBN: 978 1 84435 274 6
(drn: ??'??")

Under the protection of the Mimsphere, the Martian gardener Hass checks with Joseph that they now have all the samples he was looking for. He takes a third sample to be on the safe side, although he knows it could all be futile as there’s no record of this plant ever being successfully transplanted anywhere else. The drone tries to persuade him to look on the positive side, but then they’re interrupted by a call from Minister Prem who asks if they’ve been in touch with the Braxiatel Collection recently as he’s just learned that they’ve made an agreement of co-operation with the Draconians. Hass reminds him that the Draconians are an occupying force and the Collection has no interest in their war with the Mim, beyond seeing it concluded peacefully. People have started to ask questions about Hass’s presence out here, but he assures the Minister that he’s just collecting plant samples for his botanical catalogue. It’s something he does everywhere he goes, partly for his own experiments, but also in case the plant becomes extinct. When ends the call, Joseph recommends Hass contact the Collection immediately to inform them of the latest developments.

Back on the Collection, Doggles asks Braxiatel if he can put in a good word for him with Ambassador Kothar, but Braxiatel says he can’t help as Kothar doesn’t treat him any better than he treats anybody else. Doggles points out that not only has Braxiatel got a hotline to the Mimsphere, via Hass, he also has a personal supply of scotch, despite the fact that everyone else has had theirs confiscated. As Brax pours Doggles a drink, the Cahlian wonders how everyone coped during the occupation of the Fifth Axis. Doggles suffered years of torture and enjoys making dismissive remarks to those who suffered less than himself. As a piece of friendly advice, Braxiatel asks Doggles to consider whether he has any information about “certain people” that he could offer the Draconians? Doggles assures him he doesn’t know where Bernice is, which concerns Braxiatel as he doesn’t know either. Suddenly Kothar bursts in. and although Braxiatel refrains from actually demanding that he knocks before entering in the future, he does make a polite request to that effect. Kothar is rapidly losing patience with Doggles and when he orders him to leave, Braxiatel reminds him that Doggles has had unpleasant experiences with military authorities in the past. In fact, the Draconians are still paying reparations to the Cahlians over the war crimes which happened more than a century ago. Then Kothar demands to know where Bernice Summerfield is…

Earlier, Braxiatel told Bernice that he was still negotiating with Kothar for Adrian’s release, but he didn’t hold out much hope while hostilities were continuing and he advised Bernice that it might be expedient for them to “distance” themselves from him, especially after he did what he did. In any case, he didn’t think the Draconians had been treating them too badly so far, but Bernice pointed out angrily how things always seem to work out to Braxiatel’s benefit. She wasn’t exactly sure how he was benefiting from the current occupation, but she was convinced he had an angle on this war. Braxiatel protested loudly, so she told him to bugger off. He stormed out, insisting that Adrian was now beyond his help and for his sake, he hoped this doesn’t turn out to be a long war.

That was the last time Braxiatel saw Bernice. He went back later that afternoon to apologise, but she’d gone. Kothar demands to know where she is, and although Braxiatel swears he doesn’t know, he knows the Ambassador doesn’t believe him. When Brax discovered she was no longer at home, he just assumed Kothar had “escorted her away”. She’s been missing for five days now and Kothar finds it highly suspicious that he didn’t raise her disappearance with him earlier, but Braxiatel reminds Kothar that he no longer holds any position of authority here. Kothar once again raises an old argument about the virtues of archaeology in general (which he opposes as he believes it shows a disregard for the past) and the employment of woman archaeologists in particular. Braxiatel has no wish to go through this argument again and asks why Kothar has a sudden interest in Bernice. He learns that one of Kothar’s men was found dead on the day Bernice disappeared and he has reason to believe she was involved, so he‘s assumed personal responsibility for the investigation.

When Bernice and Braxiatel watched the Draconian ship returning, she mocked him for not getting the red carpet out for them and argued that they should be putting up some kind of token resistance, just out of principle. Braxiatel remembered what happened during the last occupation and said he wanted them to be able to return to normal once the Draconians had gone. Bernice noted that they seemed quite keen to keep a hold of the place and had even installed their own Head of State. Braxiatel told her Kothar had a mandate to command the troops and was planning to enforce Draconian law - which meant Bernice would not be allowed to leave her room without an escort - but he was convinced it wouldn’t last long and would soon blow over. He asked Bernice whether she was planning to make trouble, and although she tried to avoid the question, she eventually promised that she wouldn’t. She still hoped that Hass would be able to sort something out…

Kothar is sceptical about Bernice‘s promise, especially as he knows that she and Braxiatel hadn’t been seeing eye to eye recently. Kothar accuses Braxiatel of trying to play down recently events, but in fact Brax believes that what transpired between himself and Bernice was far more important than this little war. One day the truth will become clear to Kothar, so Braxiatel is preparing him for that moment. Kothar dismisses what he think is Braxiatel’s attempts at humour and insists that he explains the nature of his disagreements with Bernice. Brax says a large part of it is down to his treatment of her husband, Jason.

When Kothar tells Jason what he said, Jason is amazed at the scale of Braxiatel’s understatement. After all, the bastard only tried to have him turned into a Cyberman, simply because it was convenient at the time. Jason is curious as to why his name cropped up in the conversation and Kothar reveals that he’s looking for Bernice, which surprises Jason as everyone assumed the Draconians had arrested her. Kothar asks if she’s involved in the resistance, but Jason dismisses this as wishful thinking on Kothar’s part, as he’s probably getting bored waiting for the war to start. On his way here, Kothar learned that Adrian had escaped from custody and it’s likely that someone helped him. Jason is certain Bernice wouldn’t be involved and in any case, the resistance consists only of the friends and relatives of those people the Draconians massacred the other week, together with a few psychos and racists looking for an excuse to fight the ‘Dragons‘. Kothar is insulted by the term and Jason suggests he start using the word himself to reclaim it. Ignoring the jibe, Kothar also reveals that he suspects Bernice was involved in the death of one of his men. He also surprises Jason by saying he respects Jason’s wishes not to tell him more about Bernice, and although he dismisses Jason as being pathetically subordinate to his wife, they bring an end to their conversation.

On the Mimsphere, Joseph asks Hass if he plans to return to their lodgings, but the gardener wants to visit a remote island where several varieties of fern leaf are supposed to grow. Joseph notes that Hass appears to be extremely tired, but Hass doesn’t know how much time he has left here. The drone offers to collect the samples on his behalf, but the plant life here is very delicate and can only be handled by someone with experience. Suddenly a fleet of ships appear overhead and a voice, using a police call signal, orders them to return to their ship. The state has declared them to be potential enemies and, on the orders of the Overseer, they are to be taken into custody immediately.

…“Bernice orders Doggles to take his trousers off. She’s throwing in the towel as it’s too much for her to resist joining in the fun. They start to embrace and Bernice is confident that Jason won’t mind”…

Kothar interrupts Doggles and asks what relevance his story has to the ongoing investigation? Doggles admits it isn’t relevant at all - it‘s just that he loves telling the story and it’s always worth hearing! He offers Kothar a scotch, but the Ambassador points out that he’s not supposed to have that as alcohol has been prohibited. Doggles says Braxiatel sent him the supply personally and told him Kothar had changed his mind about it. Although Kothar insists Braxiatel was mistaken, he agrees to let Doggles keep the scotch just this once in return for information about Bernice. Doggles asks Kothar whether he’d shag Bernice, if the opportunity presented itself, but Kothar realises he’s just trying to start an argument for the sake of it. In any case, Kothar’s views on women are well known. He believes strenuous mental and physical activity is not conducive to child bearing, so by restricting women’s behaviour, their children will be stronger and healthier as a result. When Doggles points out that Draconian women aren’t allowed to do anything at all, Kothar argues that they benefit from having more focused lives. Doggles isn’t surprised that Kothar doesn’t understand Bernice. Suddenly Kothar hears a woman laughing, even though there‘s no one else in the room with them. Doggles claims not to have heard anything and suggests it may have drifted in from next door. He launches into a rant about the paper-thin walls, but is interrupted by Kothar’s communicator. The Draconians have re-captured Adrian Wall, so Kothar leaves to attend to the matter, warning Doggles that he may wish to speak to him again later.

On the Mimsphere, Hass has been locked up for hours. Eventually, he’s visited by Lood, who represents the Mim Administration. Hass demands to see Prem, but Lood tells him the Minister is also under investigation for granting Hass diplomatic immunity. People had already been questioning that decision and now the Mim’s defensive observation outpost in the deep atmosphere of the planet Mica has been attacked and destroyed after being tractored out of position and plunged into the sun. The Draconians have admitted responsibility, but the existence of the outpost itself was supposed to be a secret - which means someone must have revealed its location. Lood tells Hass they’ve detained all off-worlders currently on the Mimsphere, but they regard Hass to be their main suspect. Hass assures him he’s been trying to negotiate a peace, but Lood argues that he can’t apply neutrality in this case and suspects that he’s actually been trying to persuade them to capitulate.

Kothar visits the prison where Adrian is being interrogated. The Killoran is barely conscious, but Kothar still warns him not to try any further escape attempts or he will be killed. Adrian refuses to feel threatened, but Kothar advises him it would be better for everyone if he agreed to drop his course of action. He then makes a casual threat towards Adrian‘s son, even though he admits that he finds such threats undignified and he doesn’t like having to make them. He orders Adrian to co-operate and then reveals that he has a recording of the last time Bernice visited him in jail. He plays back the recording of their meeting…

…Bernice had heard Adrian was arrested while on a demonstration of some kind. He admits he was with some people at the time, but he can’t reveal their identities or say much about what they were doing, other than to say their plan was to ‘persuade’ the Draconians to leave. They were found in the vicinity of the Ambassador’s offices and some of the group were carrying weapons and explosives. Some people on both sides were killed, as were some innocent bystanders. Bernice is horrified that Adrian knew there might have been violence, but he refuses to answer any more of her questions. He asks her to remember what the Draconians have done - including killing Bev - and that thousands have died already as a result of this war. He says they deserve nothing but contempt. Bernice won’t condone what the Draconians have done, but she doesn’t want anyone else to die. Adrian accuses her of taking their side, but she reminds him that she nearly died once before while fighting alongside Draconians, so she has particular reason to be offended now they’re treating her like a second-class citizen. She assures him she’s trying to do something about it, but in her own way…

…Kothar switches off the recording and asks Adrian what Bernice meant by that last comment. Adrian says he doesn’t know, but Kothar finds that hard to believe. He knows Bernice is the mother of Adrian’s child and he thinks he made a very poor choice of partner. Suddenly Kothar hears Bernice’s voice warning him not to make Adrian angry. He’s confused and believes there’s a malfunction on the machine playing back the recording, and despite the guard telling him there’s nothing wrong, he insists that it’s sent back for repair. Adrian denies that Bernice had anything to do with his escape earlier today and swears that he hasn’t seen her since their last meeting in the prison. Kothar begins to taunt Adrian, but Adrian warns Kothar to be afraid of Bernice as she’s capable of bringing him down. He just hopes he’s there to see it when it happens. Kothar seems satisfied that Adrian had confirmed what he already suspected about Bernice, so Adrian asks if he can see his son now, but Kothar admits that they never had him. In fact, they assume Peter is with Bernice.

On the Mimsphere, Lood visits Joseph, who is also under lock and key. Lood admits that he has limited experience of interacting with machines and hopes that Joseph operates along more logical lines than Hass. The drone insists that Lood’s accusations are erroneous and they had no involvement in the destruction of the outpost. In fact, the incident has merely made their task - to facilitate a peace agreement between the Mim and the Draconians - more difficult. He says they wish only to see the war ended without any further deaths. Lood is aware that Joseph is only a porter from the Braxiatel Collection, but Joseph points out that he has a lot of experience of dealing with a vast array of different personalities and species, so his diplomatic programming is very advanced. Lood reminds the drone that it works for Braxiatel, who he believes is under the control of the Draconians. Lood plans to submit the drone to a dismantling process, so he orders it not to erase any data until they’ve retrieved everything they need.

Kothar returns to Doggles, who asks if he’s finished beating up Adrian. The Ambassador assures him that violence wasn’t necessary (at least not much), but he doesn’t approve of the way Doggles speaks to him and warns him that he has no special immunity. Doggles stands up to Kothar and tells him he’s not afraid, but then Kothar hears Bernice rebuking Doggles for being such a knob. It’s obvious Doggles didn’t hear her, so Kothar asks him if he’s given any more thought to what they discussed last time they spoke…

Earlier, Doggles caught up with Bernice and asked if she was alright. He’d seen one of the Draconians leaving her room and she confirms that it was Otlin. She seemed upset and Doggles wondered if he’d threatened her or tried to take advantage of her, but she assured him he hadn’t. She refused to discuss it any further, so Doggles set off after Otlin. Bernice chased after him, dragging him back into her room.

…Doggles assures Kothar that he never did find out what had upset Bernice, but he knows Otlin was the Draconian that later died. Kothar is shocked that Doggles suspected Otlin of indecently assaulting Bernice and says he should have reported it at the time. Doggles says he didn’t want to get Bernice into trouble as Kothar would obviously have taken the side of his own officer, but Kothar finds the accusation insulting. He would never tolerate such behaviour as it would tar their race. He promises that if any evidence can be found to support what Doggles is saying, then Otlin will be given a posthumous dishonourable discharge and his parents will be investigated. Doggles apologises for misjudging him. Throughout their conversation, Kothar is disturbed by verbal interjections from Bernice which clearly only he can hear. Suddenly there is an explosion not far away and Kothar starts getting reports that one of the Draconian shuttles has blown up on the ground. Doggles observes that Hass will be livid when he discovers all the grass has been singed, but his calmness makes Kothar suspect he’d been expecting it to happen.

As Kothar strides towards the location of the explosion, the voice of Bernice asks if he thinks the real Bernice was responsible. Kothar doesn’t answer and the voice tells him to stop pretending he can’t hear her. Eventually, he responds, but claims he simply doesn’t have anything to say to her. The voice reveals that ’she’ is just a figment of Kothar’s imagination, but he rejects that and believes it’s some kind of trick. He asks if she was responsible for blowing up the ship, but she says she doesn’t know any more than he does. However, being inside his head means she does know everything that he does, which is how she knows he’s not doing very well trying to find the real Bernice. She suggests he changes tack and starts being more honest with people, but he says he’s not ready to reveal everything yet. She asks if he’s going to tell Braxiatel about the attack on the Mim outpost, but he suspects Brax knows about it already.

Braxiatel is supervising the clean up operation after the shuttle explosion when Kothar arrives and demands he explain what happened. Braxiatel reveals that one of the Draconians was pulled alive out of the wreckage, but apart from that all he knows is that the lawn is ruined. Braxiatel says whoever was behind it was grossly irresponsible and he agrees with Kothar’s suggestion that Bernice might have been involved. The voice of Bernice inside Kothar’s head is outraged by Braxiatel’s betrayal, and Kothar nearly gives himself away by ordering the voice to be quiet. Even though Braxiatel concedes this act of sabotage isn’t really Bernice’s style, he does recall something else of interest…

…Earlier, Bernice was making a cup of tea for Braxiatel in her room when he dropped a cufflink under the sofa, bent down to retrieve it and discovered a gun. He confronted her with the evidence, and although she tried to deflect attention by suggesting one of the Draconians must have left it behind by accident, she soon realised how ridiculous that sounded. Braxiatel angrily pointed out that the Draconians would react very badly to finding her - a woman - with a gun, but she argued that she kept it for protection. He asked whether Adrian gave it to her, but she hadn’t seen Adrian for days. Braxiatel explained that he was keeping Adrian out of trouble and under control, then he offered to take the gun away and contrive an explanation for it. The only other alternative would be for him to report it…

…Braxiatel tells Kothar that he returned the gun anonymously in the end and never told anyone because he believed Bernice’s explanation that it was for her own protection. He still doesn’t think Bernice would be involved in blowing up the shuttle, but nor does he know where Bernice is hiding. The voice in Kothar’s head hints that Braxiatel is deliberately trying to trick Kothar into thinking he knows more than he does, but the truth is he really doesn’t know anything.

On the Mimsphere, Lood is torturing Hass for information. He tells him Joseph is being dismantled and orders the guard to increase the intensity of the equipment and hone it in on Hass’s paranoia centres. The guard thinks it would be more effective if they could remove his pressure suit, but Lood warns him they can’t for their own protection. Members of Hass’s species generate large amounts of radiation and the suit contains and neutralises it. It’s widely thought that he could poison everyone in this room in a matter of seconds. Hass laughs and tells his interrogators there a great many facts contained within Joseph, more than even he knows, but they won’t find what they’re looking for and all they’re doing is wasting valuable time. Lood tells him the Mim’s retaliation against the Draconians is already under way and they will be making a declaration of war within hours. Hass tries to persuade them that such action would be futile and pleads with them to let him help them settle things peacefully, but Lood still believes the negotiations were simply a ruse invented by Hass to gain him entry into the sphere.

Kothar is becoming weary of the voice inside his head, but he’s unable to shake it off. A message arrives informing him that a statement has been taken from the survivor of the shuttle explosion who revealed that he found Bernice inside. He says she refused to leave and kept threatening him, so he shot at her, but missed. He doesn’t remember anything after that, but he thinks she may still have been inside the shuttle when it exploded. The voice of Bernice finds this revelation very interesting as it means she might be dead after all, but Kothar points out that no other bodies were found. The voice sounds disappointed for him. If Bernice had been dead, then Kothar could convince himself that she’s her ghost, but this news means she must still be a figment of his imagination. The voice suggests he gets some rest as it’s probably a sign that he’s working too hard and is becoming obsessed with Bernice. Kothar argues with the voice, insisting that he’s simply doing his job, but the voice refutes this and says he could easily delegate the investigation. She hopes it’s worth it, because in all probability it means Kothar is going mad. Kothar insists that Draconians don’t suffer from mental illness, but the voice says they just won’t admit it to anybody as that would be an admission of weakness. Kothar doesn’t know the real Bernice very well and she hardly even registered with him before she’d disappeared, so the voice wonders what he’s basing her on. He takes a call from the prison area and learns that there’s a ‘situation’ developing downstairs that needs his attention.

Doggles and Adrian are amazed to discover that the ’situation’ was caused by one of Kothar’s own commanding officers who was seen screaming and lashing out. Nobody knows why, but Doggles is sure he heard the man mentioning Bernice’s name, and then all the other officers starting piling in too. By the time Kothar arrived, at least fifty officers were involved. Doggles has noticed everyone’s been acting oddly recently, as if distracted by something, so he came straight down to see Adrian to tell him about the anarchy. Adrian suspects the Draconians are planning to make an example of him. He wishes he was outside with Bernice as they obviously think she’s a major threat. As stories about her are starting to spread, the Draconians have become increasingly spooked.

Kothar orders Gastin to circulate details of the miscreants’ punishments to all the troops as he doesn‘t want any further incidents. He adds that he’d like them to break down the Summerfield myth too, but the idea that such a thing could exist makes the voice in his head laugh. Kothar can’t understand why the stories of Bernice are causing so much friction, but then he notices Gastin isn’t paying attention. The officer apologises and says he’s having trouble concentrating, then he starts talking to himself. Kothar orders him to report to the medical unit and pass his orders onto someone more competent. As Gastin leaves, the voice of Bernice rebukes Kothar for being so harsh, especially as he too seems to be going mad. Kothar is determined to track down Bernice and prove to his troops that she’s nothing for them to be afraid of. He still thinks Jason knows where she was, and although it would be morally wrong to extort the information from him, perhaps he can offer him something in exchange. Jason loves Bernice, but Kothar wonders if there’s someone he hates in equal measure? Kothar contacts Doggles and asks him to tell him more about Irving Braxiatel…

On the Mimsphere, Lood learns from that the team who dismantled Joseph found nothing pertaining to the destroyed outpost and there’s no evidence that either the drone or Hass were responsible. The leak must have come from somewhere, but Lood wants to stop the interrogation of Hass as they run the risk of isolating the few friends they have left. He apologises to Hass, who accepts that these things happen in war.

Doggles tells Kothar that Bernice only recently brought Braxiatel back to the Collection, but he believes it was all part of Braxiatel’s plan from the start. Kothar asks how much control Brax wields, but Doggles isn’t sure - at times he pretends he’s got more control than he really has, and at other times he pretends he’s got less. Doggles can feel some of the changes that are happening because of his painful experiences with the Fifth Axis, but he doesn’t know whether Braxiatel realises he knows. Doggles wonders why Kothar is asking so many questions, and although the Ambassador refuses to answer, he promises to give Doggles what he asked for in exchange for his co-operation. The voice in Kothar’s head wonders what that could be, and for a moment Kothar loses concentration and orders them not to speak at the same time. Doggles changes the subject and offers some more information that might be of use to Kothar. He says a friend of his who’s a chemist dropped by for a drink earlier and he tasted something odd in the scotch. He tested it and found it contained the Harvey Virus, a smart virus that causes people to hallucinate. It can even be programmed so that it only targets certain species, or make the victim hallucinate certain things or people. The scotch that Doggles had was full of it, but it had no effect on him because it wasn’t programmed for his species, but whoever put it in there (and Doggles invites Kothar to speculate who that might be) clearly meant for him to pass it on to the Draconian troops. The intention was obviously to make them all become dangerously obsessed with Bernice whilst also doubting their own sanity. Bernice, who by this stage is now visible to Kothar, congratulates him on the good news - he obviously isn’t going mad after all. Doggles realises Kothar can see Bernice, and reluctantly he admits that this is the case. Doggles waves to the imaginary Bernice, but Kothar asks him to promise that he’ll never speak of this again. Bernice sympathises with Kothar, but assures him that she’ll wear off…eventually.

Joseph receives a message from Braxiatel which he passes to Hass. They assume it’s telling him to abandon the mission and come home, but in fact it’s just Brax demanding to know why he hasn’t been in touch. Hass isn’t interested in replying, so he tells Joseph to pretend he’s still malfunctioning after their interrogation. Joseph says that wouldn’t be entirely untrue as the repair work done on him after he was dismantled was rather amateurish. Hass still wants to give the Mim time to reconsider and he can finish collecting his plant samples at the same time.

Kothar visits Jason again, who notices that the Ambassador is no longer just barging in unannounced. Kothar tells him he has information that might interest him in exchange for discussing Bernice. Jason insists that he won’t tell him anything about his ex-wife, but Kothar says the longer she remains at liberty, the worse she is making matters for herself. It’s becoming increasingly obvious she is orchestrating acts of aggression against the Draconians and unless someone can prove she isn’t responsible, he will be forced to launch an aggressive campaign to eliminate her. Jason wonders what Kothar could possibly know that would mean that much to him, and Kothar tells him it’s about Braxiatel. If Jason tries to use the information without helping Kothar in return, he can initiate a cover-up that would make the information useless. If Bernice is involved in a crime, they will have to prosecute, but Kothar says they’ll be more lenient if Jason takes them to her right now. He even promises not to kill her. Jason agrees and Kothar hands him a list of the victims of the Draconians’ attack on the Stonehauser Facility. He tells him the official version had been heavily edited because if the Draconian people knew how many children had died, they would lose a lot of support. After all, the general public often fail to recognise when such action is ‘necessary’. Jason reads the list and is shocked by one name that Kothar had highlighted. Kothar assures him the list is genuine and says they even have that person’s body. They only discovered there was a discrepancy when they checked their list with that of the human authorities. Kothar offers to have the body signed over to Jason, so Jason agrees to take him to Bernice.

Joseph tells Hass than an announcement has just been made by the Mim government saying they are unequivocally rejecting any overtures of peace. Sadly, Hass tells Joseph to put up its radiation shields. His neutraliser has been disabled for weeks and he has now accumulated more than enough radiation for his purpose. Slowly, he opens up his pressure suit…

Jason has taken Kothar down into the tunnels, but Kothar says he’s already ordered a search of the tunnels twice and if Bernice was hiding here, she’d had been found already. Jason hints that if she had been found, Kothar may not have been told about it and he thinks it’s a good idea that the Ambassador is at last conducting the investigation personally. Gastin calls Kothar with news that contact has been lost with the Mimsphere, and although Jason thinks that sounds ominous, Kothar doesn’t seem overly concerned. They arrive at a storage bay and Jason unlocks it, but then returns to his room as Bernice is bound to be angry and he’s not in the mood to face her right now. Kothar enters the bay and immediately comes under attack from one of his own men, a Draconian called Venn. Bernice calls the man off, certain that Kothar isn’t here to hurt her. She asks Venn to take Peter outside while she talks to the Ambassador.

Once they’re alone, Bernice reveals that she’s converted the storage bay into a classroom after some of the Draconian troops asked her to. Kothar is frustrated as he thought this had all stopped with Otlin. Bernice says she was sorry to hear about what happened to Otlin as she’d got to know him quite well while he was on guard duty. Otlin had spread the word and others came to see her, including Venn who gave her the gun Braxiatel found. When Otlin died, Venn knew Kothar would suspect Bernice, so he hid her down here and she’s been here all the time. Kothar is still convinced that Otlin’s death is her fault after her book was found in his room. Otlin had evidently been reading it and then shortly afterwards he killed himself. Kothar accuses her of ideological pollution, a charge he considers to be even worse than leading the resistance and blowing up their shuttles. On Draconia, they respect females who forswear learning and dedicate themselves to their children, even those as yet unborn. Kothar says Bernice is trying to undermine the cornerstone of their people’s strength and when his troops return home they’ll long for something they can’t have. He believes those that came to her were weak and were fascinated and curious about her personally, not because of what she had to say. Bernice doesn’t care - she’s had many true friends and comrades who were Draconians and she says she’ll teach anyone who comes to her, regardless of the reason. Kothar has heard enough and places her under martial arrest for interference in the course of military duty. During war time, there are few charges that could be more serious than that.

Much later, Bernice receives a visitor and she’s disappointed to see that it isn’t Jason as she’d already been thinking about which side of his face to slap first. The visitor is Doggles, who tells her Peter is OK, but that he’s been asking after her. He can’t understand why Bernice took Peter with her, but she tells him she didn’t want Kothar using her son as leverage to find her. Doggles has spoken briefly to Jason and knows that he hasn’t come to see her yet, even though she’s been locked up for three days. He doesn’t know why Jason betrayed Bernice, but he’s sure he had a good reason. Bernice says she was actually very happy to be teaching the Draconians and at least she felt she was doing something constructive for a change. She knows she’s in serious trouble, but Doggles tells her they’re doing everything they can to get her out. Just then, the Draconian guard enters and tells Bernice she’s being released on the orders of the Ambassador. She seems surprised and the guard explains that they’ve just received a report from their advance guard. It seems that the war is over!

Braxiatel pours himself a brandy and offers one to Kothar, feigning forgetfulness when the Ambassador reminds him that he doesn’t drink. Brax intends to celebrate the Collection’s liberation, but first he wants to hear the Draconians’ terms. On Kothar’s advice, the Emperor has agreed to Braxiatel’s own proposal - the Collection will retain its sovereignty, but will sit within Draconian space and will therefore ’enjoy’ their protection. Kothar says nobody knows what happened to the Mimsphere and when Braxiatel suggests it wasn’t a very honourable way to end the war and probably isn’t something they’d want to own up to, Kothar insists that his government had nothing to do with it. The last of their troops will leave the planetoid by the end of the day, but Kothar himself will remain behind with his administrative personnel to help smooth over the transition. Braxiatel tells him he’ll be welcome as a guest and is pleased to learn that Bernice and Adrian have already been released. As he prepares to leave, Kothar promises to leave Braxiatel alone, but he’d still like the answer to one question - he knows it was Braxiatel that spread the virus amongst the Draconians, even though he denied it, but he wonders why he would encourage Kothar to think Bernice was behind the resistance, knowing it would make her a target. Braxiatel simply says it was to keep them busy, then he asks to be left alone while he conducts some personal business. In the corridor outside, Doggles approaches Kothar and learns that they have somewhere in the new territories he can use. Kothar promises to contact him as soon as it becomes available.

Later, Bernice races over to Hass in the garden as he repairs the damage done by the exploding shuttle. She asks why he hadn’t been to see her, but he says he was busy and had only been back for a couple of hours. Everyone was worried about him, but he says that whatever caused the destruction of the Mim, he was protected by his pressure suit. Joseph wasn’t so lucky and he lost a lot of data, although he can re-load from his backups. Bernice asks if he knows what hit the Mimsphere, but he tells her he’s not an expert on weapons of mass destruction. The Draconians aren’t saying anything and even the troops here were surprised, so Bernice assumes it must have been a secret stealth weapon. Hass is planting a creeper that was unique to the sphere, and although it suffered some damage from the vacuum he hopes he can save it. Everything else was destroyed and Bernice realises that if it wasn’t for the samples Hass collected, there’d be nothing at all left of the Mimsphere. Sadly, Hass agrees - if it wasn’t for him… Braxiatel arrives and calls out to Hass, so Bernice makes her excuses to leave. Brax is pleased to see the gardener and tells him his mission seemed to go well. Hass tells Braxiatel he got the results he wanted. Kothar knows Braxiatel was involved somehow and he’s going to play along with them, which means they’re going to be left alone from now on. Hass asks Braxiatel if he feels the same way that he does, but Brax says he doesn’t. He tells Hass not to worry himself - things are going to be much better from now on, and he can trust Braxiatel’s word on that.

Source: Lee Rogers
[Back to Main Page]