Collected Works
edited by Nick Wallace
Cover Blurb
Collected Works

'It might be your name on the deeds, but you don't belong here any more. This is our home, our collection.'

The Braxiatel Collection. It's a museum, art gallery and academic institute. A home for renowned archaeologists, runaway art thieves and galactic waifs and strays. It's been a private playground and the battlefield in the fight against tyranny. And now things are changing again.

With the Collection's founder missing, it's up to those left behind to make this place their own. Amidst the chaos of visitors from the far future, dark secrets, old friends and new enemies, Bernice Summerfield must do whatever's necessary to keep the doors open and her family safe. Yet through it all, there's one truth she cannot escape. Braxiatel is gone. And nature abhors a vacuum.

  • This is a collection of short stories in Big Finish's novel range The Adventures of Bernice Summerfield.
  • Released: October 2006

  • ISBN: 1 84435 241 2
Work in Progress by Nick Wallace

The staff of the Collection find an invitation that Braxiatel had made to the Quire, a posthuman scholar clan from the distant future who had expressed a desire to visit the Collection for their studies. Bev decides to pass on the invitation in order to keep up the appearance that things are running smoothly in Braxiatel's absence. Doggles sets up an anchor for the Quire's time corridor and Bev hosts a reception for the clan, which consists of six members -- Dorso, Verso, Bifolium, Incunabula, Colophon, and Rubric. The posthumans' detached, almost arrogant attitude bewilders the staff and students, and soon after their arrival, the ghost of Braxiatel begins to appear throughout the Collection, bleeding from a bullet wound in his chest. Benny realises that the ghost is hunting Jason, and she and Bev confront Jason in Doggles' research facility, demanding to know what really happened before Braxiatel "left." Jason insists that although Braxiatel's actions had hurt him and reminded him of the abuse he suffered at his own father's hands, he only threatened Braxiatel, and restrained himself from killing him. The ghost appears in the research facility and stalks towards Jason, but Benny notices that the device Doggles had used to stabilise the time corridor is glowing; feedback from the corridor is interacting with the imprint that Braxiatel had left upon his home, creating a temporal duplicate. Benny boosts power to Doggles' device, and the ghost becomes solid enough for Bev to shoot in the chest. Braxiatel may have abandoned the Collection, but the people he left behind are going to make it their own. The ghost vanishes, telling Bev "thank you," but afterwards, Jason reveals that the ghost was just trying to speak to him to apologise for what it had done.

Continuity: Jason's traumatic childhood was detailed in his first appearance, Death and Diplomacy.

The Tears of Laughter by David N Smith

One of Bev's old criminal acquaintances, Anton, gets into the Collection with the help of a young Killoran woman named Boudicca who owes him a favour. He is fond of Boudicca in his own way, although she used to be his house slave and he regards aliens as being less than human. He is here to sell Bev the last surviving copy of The Tears of Laughter, a book that was banned and destroyed by the Fifth Axis; what he doesn't tell her is that he needs the money to buy his way out of the Primeiros, a dangerous criminal gang that's been moving into the former Axis territories. Boudicca learns that Anton is trying to sell not only her favourite book, but the very copy that she was forced to trade to him for safe passage away from the Axis; apparently furious at this betrayal, she attacks him, destroying the book, putting him in the hospital, and ending all hope of his being able to escape from the Primeiros with his life. Bev learns of his connection to the gang and arranges to hand him over to the authorities for questioning, but before he goes, Boudicca tells him the real reason that she attacked him. Braxiatel had already recovered several copies of the book, which means that Anton's was worthless to the Collection -- apart from the notations inside, which would have identified him as a former Fifth Axis Lieutenant and war criminal. Boudicca leaves, telling Anton never to contact her again, and Anton laughs until he cries.

Perspectives: Tribal Reservations by Philip Purser-Hallard

The Quire's reasons for visiting the Collection remain unclear, and many of the students and lecturers are becoming irritated by the scholars' attitude. The young woman, Verso, sits in on one of Benny's tutorials with the student Parasiel, and, apparently apropos of nothing, asks Parasiel how important his family is to him. Later, while discussing the Quire with his fellow students, Parasiel comes to realise that he's devoted his life to seeking the truth and fighting superstition as a reaction against his parents, who were devoted followers of a religion called the Angels' Way. He'd never fully realised this before, but Verso's question has brought it into focus for him. Slightly drunk, Parasiel visits the Quire's guest quarters to thank Verso for the insight and try to explain it to her. She thanks him politely and closes the door on him before he can ask her out to dinner.

Continuity: Parasiel first appeared in Misplaced Spring, and made significant appearances in The Goddess Quandary and The Crystal of Cantus.

Outside the Wall by Sin Deniz

The Killorans find themselves busier than usual with maintenance work, as if the Collection is literally falling apart without Braxiatel around. While working, Adrian comes to suspect that someone is following him in secret, and slowly realises that it's Bev. Peter visits Adrian at work, but Adrian notices a figure moving rapidly away when Peter starts to open his father's toolbox; acting on instinct, Adrian pulls Peter away moments before the toolbox explodes. That night, someone slips a threatening note under Adrian's door. Aware that Bev is keeping secrets from him, especially after the incident with Anton, Adrian tries to solve the mystery himself, but it's Bev who identifies and confronts the would-be killer, a Killoran named Julius. Julius attacks Bev and nearly kills Adrian in a fit of rage, but Adrian kills him first in self-defence. Bev explains that Julius and another Killoran were sent to the Collection by an extremist group who believe that Adrian's relationship with Bev and Peter's half-human heritage are tainting the purity of the Killoran race; Collection security had uncovered bits and pieces of the plan, and Bev was keeping a close eye on Adrian for his own good until she knew more. But Adrian realises that, because he and Bev were both trying to keep secrets and deal with the threat on their own, Peter's life was put at risk.

Key by Jonathan Blum

Peter discovers that Wolsey's old collar, which Benny kept as a memento, contains an electronic pass that allows him to enter forbidden areas of the Collection. Deciding to have an adventure, he takes his friend Keith to the Mansionhouse, "Uncle Brax's Palace," and uses the key to enter the Stacks. He and Keith spend the afternoon exploring the Stacks' contents, which include a statue of a naked lady with no arms, and a box labelled "Ark of the..." and a word that Peter doesn't understand. However, while they are investigating the inside of what looks like an alien war machine, an inventory droid passes by and lowers the lift, leaving them stuck inside. Jason eventually finds Peter calling for help and rescues him, but is terrified by the thought that the Martian ship's defences could have sucked out Peter's mind; however, while Benny agrees that her son must be punished for running off without telling anyone where he was going, she refuses to frighten him into believing that the world is a scary place that must be avoided. She's a bit worried that Peter has apparently been hanging around with his future half-brother, but Peter assures her that "Keith" really is just an imaginary friend. For his part, Peter accepts his punishment, and begins to realise that his mother's fantastic tales of adventure and wonder are all true.

Continuity: Keith first appeared in Return of the Living Dad, and has also appeared or been mentioned in The Shape of the Hole, Might, and Summer of Love. Though it's only implied that the Martian war machine could have sucked out Peter's mind, the effect as described seems similar to the defences placed around the refinery -- presumably by Ice Warriors -- in The Monster of Peladon.

The Inconstant Gallery by James Swallow

Benny has gone off-world to recover cargo pods that went missing due to the war between the Yar and the Quotile. Bev's relationship with Adrian has been rocky since the attempt on his life, and the Quire continue to antagonise the Collection's students and staff. Bev has thus been taking time to herself in the Aina Gallery, where Braxiatel used to store the slightly but not very interesting artefacts. Her solitude is interrupted by the arrival of new artefacts, including a quantum sculpture from the planet Cirkel -- the same Varde Sphere that Bev once stole for a collector named Damask; she was stabbed in the stomach on her way out, and nearly bled to death in her getaway ship. The sphere's presence brings back these memories, and the Gallery begins to feel strange and awkward to her, as if the Collection is rejecting her attempt to make a new life for herself here. Benny notices Bev's uneasiness when she reports in on her progress, and offers to find out how the Sphere ended up at the Collection. Meanwhile, Adrian gets upset when Bev stands him up on a date, and ends up drinking with Jason and helping a visiting academic, Dr Lakene, to pick up the oddly outdated scientific equipment that he accidentally dropped outside the pub. Benny then contacts Adrian and tells him that Damask has been murdered -- and that Lakene was the one who arranged for the Sphere to be delivered to the Collection. Lakene is waiting for Bev at the Aina Gallery, which transforms itself around her into a replica of the laboratory from which she first stole the Sphere. Lakene then stabs her in the stomach, just as he'd done before, and tells her that the Sphere was being used in a teleportation experiment at the time she stole it and that the scientist running the equipment was trapped forever beyond the event horizon when the Sphere was disconnected. Lakene was in love with her, and he's trying to recreate the exact circumstances of the experiment in order to bring her back. At the last moment, Adrian bursts into the Gallery and rescues Bev, and the desperate Lakene grabs the Sphere and vanishes beyond its event horizon as well. Adrian gets Bev to hospital in time to save her life, and, realising that he truly does love her, she arranges to have the Aina Gallery sealed, putting the past behind her so she can move on into the future.

Perspectives: Quire as Folk by Philip Purser-Hallard

Bev discovers that the Quire's guest quarters are under constant surveillance, but when she watches the footage, she has no idea what to make of it. Adrian is just as bewildered when she invites him to see it for himself. The Quire act like detached, aloof scholars when interacting with the staff and students of the Collection -- but when they're alone together in their rooms, they chatter disjointed, dream-logic nonsense at each other and rush about like hyperactive children at play...

Cabinets of Curiosities by Mags L Halliday

Bev is looking for ways to restore the Collection's reputation in Braxiatel's absence, and Mahalia Nkansah Hernandez, the head of the Curatorial Department, suggests that Bev set up a pavilion exhibit in which the artefacts will be displayed free of charge in themed rooms. While searching for historically significant themes for the exhibit, Mahalia and Jason stumble across a sealed chamber containing the dismantled remains of Peter the Great's lost Amber Room. Mahalia experiences odd electrical discharges and ghostly sensations while opening the crates, but dismisses them as her imagination and orders that the Room be restored to its former glory as part of the pavilion. However, when the doors are closed on opening night to give the visitors the chance to see its full effect, ghostly Russian and German soldiers appear out of nowhere. Quire Scholar Rubric watches with detached interest as the ghosts wade through the crowd to attack each other. Unable to break open the doors, Jason and Mahalia create makeshift Molotov cocktails from the buffet table's vodka, and set fire to the amber walls of the room. The surviving guests flee through the melting walls, and the ghosts fade away -- but while Mahalia would prefer to preserve what's left of the room, Bev points out the injured and dying guests and staff, and orders her to let it burn.

Anightintheninthage by Lance Parkin

Bev shows Benny the surveillance footage of the Quire, points out that the young woman, Verso, seems to be the most trusting of the lot, and asks Benny to invite her over for a drink and try to get her talking. In exchange, Bev will arrange for Benny to visit Columbanus, a university built inside an artificial moon that will soon be passing by the Collection on its way out of the disputed territory between Draconian and Mim space. Benny invites Verso over to her quarters for a chat and plies her with vodka, but while Verso soon feels its effect, Benny can't make sense of what the young woman is trying to tell her. When she asks whether Verso is female, Verso replies that "some of us are." She claims that the Quire come from the Ninth Age, a period after the Cornucopian Revolution, "when time was at quantum five." Verso demonstrates that the Quire can remove their eyes and hands and replace them with different, specialised models. Though Benny thinks of the Quire as being as far in advance of humans as humans are in advance of monkeys, Verso claims that a better comparison might be between humans and bacteria. Benny isn't quite sure what Verso means by any of this, but she does discover that Verso is incapable of holding her liquor, and when Verso passes out on Benny's couch, Benny asks the passing Parasiel to escort Verso back to the Quire's guest quarters.

Grey's Anatomy by Simon A Forward

The star gypsy Mordecan visits the Collection at Benny's invitation while Benny is off visiting Columbanus. Mordecan thus deals directly with Bev Tarrant, claiming that he and his reclusive passenger, Mr Grey, would like the Collection's academics to look over a certain manuscript and verify its authenticity. The academics are unable to decipher the language or code that the manuscript is written in, but they confirm that it could be worth a great deal. Bev demands to meet Mr Grey for herself, and thus finds herself face-to-face with a genuine Alien, one of the grey, dark-eyed species known to have abducted humans from pre-spaceflight Earth. Mr Grey claims that the book is a thorough anatomy of the human body and soul, and Bev realises that he wrote it himself and that Mordecan was really trying to pique her interest before offering to sell it to her. However, when Mr Grey admits that the knowledge in the book was obtained through invasive experiments and vivisection, the appalled Mordecan refuses to have any further truck with the transaction. Bev struggles with her conscience, but eventually agrees to purchase the book on condition that Mr Grey never again return to the Collection. The sale made, Mordecan and Mr Grey depart... celebrating their successful con and wondering how long it will take Bev to work out that she's been had.

The Tree that Was by Steven Kitson

On Columbanus, Benny discusses ethics with Professor Fulton Stanley while trying to avoid Ms Crozier, an annoying bureaucrat who is hunting down artefacts stolen by the Fifth Axis. On the eve of Benny's departure, Stanley is found mortally injured, having apparently fallen from the observation gallery onto the tree planted halfway between the faculties of Divinity and Philosophy. Upset, Benny tracks down the equally upset Andy, the last student to see Stanley alive. Andy tells Benny that Stanley received a letter while they were speaking, and Benny searches Stanley's flat and finds the letter -- which is, surprisingly, good news. Contact had been lost with Stanley's family after the Primeiros took over the planet, but the gang was frightened off when the Draconians moved into the adjoining sector. Benny then bumps into Ms Crozier again, and this time, she recognises the painting on one of her leaflets, Christ's Passion by Esther Cooke; Stanley had been obsessively doodling the artwork before his fall. Stanley recovers briefly and privately confirms Benny's suspicions; Stanley's nephew worked in planetary defence, and the Primeiros thus contacted Stanley and threatened to harm his students, such as Andy, unless he told them all he knew about his nephew's work. It wasn't much, but it was enough for the Primeiros to invade the planet -- and although Stanley's family survived, many others didn't. Stanley dies, still wracked with guilt, and when Benny examines the tree more closely, she finds that he'd hidden the stolen painting amongst its branches; the Primeiros stole it from the Axis, and gave it to Stanley in exchange for his "help." Benny chooses to tell Andy that Stanley slipped and fell by accident, intending to go over the painting and remove all trace that she and Stanley had contact with it, thus ensuring that Stanley's reputation is not destroyed when it is found.

Perspectives: Forging a Bond by Philip Purser-Hallard

The Quire Scholar Bifolium happens to glance at Mr Grey's manuscript while visiting Bev, and off-handedly declares that she's purchased a hoax. This is the last straw for Bev, who calls in the Scholar Dorso and issues an ultimatum. The Quire's perceived attitude of superiority is irritating the staff of the Collection and interfering with their work, and unless the Quire agree to interact with the people in the Collection as equals, then Bev will rescind their invitation and send them home. Although the Quire claim that they consider their Collection to be their friend, they seem oddly upset by Bev's ultimatum; nevertheless, they agree to her terms...

The Two-Level Effect by Eddie Robson

Jason is looking for something productive to do, and Bev thus assigns him to write up an overview of the way the Collection is perceived in the galactic media. He decides to do so from the comfort of Braxiatel's office; on his way there, he bumps into Peter and sends him to Hass' quarters to ask the gardener what kind of flowers Benny would appreciate as a gift when she returns. Braxiatel's porter welcomes Jason to the office, and Jason, after appreciating the office's architectural two-level effect, nicks Braxiatel's silver pen (which is inscribed T.V.G.) and twists its nib around so it will work on a dry scratchpad. He then descends into the lounge area to do his work, and after spending some time on the overview, tries to return to the upper office to fetch some coffee... only to find the office expanding around him. The faster he runs towards the coffee bar, the greater the office's dimensions become, until the far wall is several kilometres away. Eventually, Bev arrives to investigate the gravitational anomalies emanating from the office, and finds Jason only a few steps away from the door -- at least until they try approaching it. Jason is forced to admit to stealing Braxiatel's pen, and when Bev twists it back to ink format, the office's dimensions return to normal.

Continuity: This and the following two stories take place simultaneously. Although it's not explicitly stated, the initials T.V.G. presumably stand for Time Vector Generator. The removal of a TVG from its TARDIS has been seen to have odd effects in The Wheel in Space and Birthright. As a side note, while Benny herself had some interesting experiences with a TVG in the original version of Birthright, it's possible that those events have been superseded at this point in her history by the remake of the same name (parallel universe, Council of Eight, Time War, take your pick).

Let There Be Stars by Mark Michalowski

Following Jason's advice, Peter visits the Collection's Yesodi gardener, Hass, to ask for a flower as a present to his mother. Hass invites Peter into his quarters, which are smaller than the child had expected; however, this is because most of Hass' living quarters are in fact tucked away in a secret pocket dimension that replicates the conditions of his gas-giant homeworld. As Hass prepares to take Peter to the greenhouse, the Collection is rocked by a series of gravity waves, and Hass' pocket dimension is breached, causing the exterior door to twist out of shape and seal shut. Realising that Peter will be killed by exposure to the Yesodi atmosphere if the inner gateway is breached, Hass emerges from his environment suit, exposing himself to the lethally cold air of the Collection so that Peter will be protected instead. Peter seals himself inside the suit just in time, and the gateway bursts open, dropping both Peter and Hass into the pocket dimension. Hass realises that he will have to confess to creating this dimension without permission, but while he fears that he will be sent back to Yesodi, Peter thrills to the sensation of flight through the atmosphere. As they await rescue, the last data from Yesodi downloads into this dimension, and Peter and Hass watch the stars coming out.

Sleeptalking by John Fletcher

Following Bev's ultimatum, the Quire have been behaving more like individuals. Parasiel and Verso are having an affair, and unlike his other, casual flings, Parasiel believes that this time he is falling in love. When Verso expresses a desire to have fun for a day rather than talk academia, he invites her to tour the Deep Galleries in the heart of KS-159; however, Bifolium is also planning to visit the Galleries, and he and Parasiel end up alone in the lift when Verso steps out at the wrong moment for a better look at a "magic eye" painting. The Collection is then rocked by a series of gravity waves, and the lift gets stuck halfway down. Parasiel hears a lonely voice whispering in his head, and assumes that Bifolium is playing a practical joke -- but he soon realises that Bifolium is terrified, as the experience seems to have brought out a developing case of culture shock. Parasiel tries to calm Bifolium down by reminding him of familiar things, such as Verso, and Bifolium repeats what Verso once told Parasiel: it's our families that define us. Once, when Parasiel was a child, he tripped in the long grass and smelled sulphur bubbling up from a crack in the earth. The Angels' Way teaches that Satan lurks in the shadows, and the young boy, believing that this was the breath of Satan, was traumatised when his parents, unaware of this minor incident, didn't stop to comfort him. This is how he learned that his parents' beliefs were wrong, and ever since, Parasiel has sought to disprove others' theories and beliefs. By reminding him of this incident, Bifolium causes Parasiel to realise that he is in fact attracted to the mystery that Verso represents, because he doesn't believe in anything himself. The Killorans repair the lift and bring it back up to the surface, but when Bifolium seeks comfort from Verso, she sadly turns him away, reminding him that they must be strong in their isolation. Parasiel, meanwhile, still doesn't know where the whispers in his head were really coming from...

Perspectives: Intermissions by Philip Purser-Hallard

Benny has been spending time away from the Collection, and her return visits give her a chance to see the changes to the Quire. The child Incunabula, once a detached scholar, is now behaving like an ordinary child with fussing, playing and temper tantrums. Colophon is the life of the party; Dorso is bored, sarcastic and superior; and Rubric seems to delight in tearing down others' belief systems just for the sake of a good argument. Benny also discovers that Verso and Parasiel have become a couple, and realises that she's probably responsible, since she was the one who got Verso drunk and then asked Parasiel to walk her home; however, she doesn't believe that the notoriously inconstant Parasiel is really interested in maintaining a serious relationship with the posthuman girl...

Continuity: Benny has recently been on a mission to the planet Freedonia, which may be the world mentioned in Warmonger.

False Security by Nick Walters

Benny returns from another off-world mission to find that Bev Tarrant has purchased a new security system from Chester Industries; the Collection's entire inventory is being tagged on a quantum level by inventory drones, and all staff and visitors are now required to wear biometric ID tags. Benny is irritated to learn that her rooms were searched so the Intelligence Defence Plexus could be programmed with her biometric information, and although Bev assures her that the semi-sentient Mesh will keep them safe, Benny still feels as if she's being watched everywhere she goes. Rubric, apparently feeling guilty that he once stood by watching while innocents were killed, has thrown himself whole-heartedly into helping the Collection to protect itself from outside threats, despite Dorso's insistence that there are no such threats to be found. Jason asks Benny out to dinner at Cafe Vosta, intending to propose to her, but their dinner is interrupted when the stone bells over the Aina Gallery begin to toll and the staff of the Collection go berserk, as if trying to tear the Collection itself apart. Benny rushes to Bev's office, fights her way past the possessed Bev and smashes the Mesh, causing the staff to return to normal. Benny concludes that Braxiatel had activated different defence systems in the Collection before his departure and that the two security systems had started fighting for control, with the Collection's staff and visitors caught in the middle. Bev agrees not to reactivate the Mesh, but Benny is left to wonder what would happen if she hadn't been here...

Continuity: Cafe Vosta is serving Chateau Yquatine, a wine that presumably originates from the planet that falls in The Fall of Yquatine. More significantly to the uber-story, the tolling from the Aina Gallery is presumably the sound of a cloister bell, last heard on the Collection in Something Changed; also, it's said that the Collection's antique clocks melted and then repaired themselves, a warning sign last seen in The Edge of Destruction.

The Painting on the Stair by Simon Bucher-Jones

Benny learns that the Von Holt Collection of Dangerous, Irrational and Cursed Art has been declared off-limits to the Chester Industries inventory drones due to its dangerous nature. Braxiatel had agreed to house the collection before its public exhibition on Ballarallia, but the exhibition was cancelled when Clarinda von Holt, heiress to the late Patrick von Holt IV, apparently hanged herself after shipping the artworks off-world. Curious, Benny takes Jason on a tour of the gallery, but Jason starts to grow anxious about the future; the Draconians are threatening to expand their territory into KS-159's sector of space, and the Quire member Colophon, who has started to behave like a boozy frathouse jerk, has really been getting on Jason's nerves recently. Jason compares his feeling of unease to a painting he saw earlier, of a dark figure emerging from the woods behind a man oblivious to the danger -- but Benny didn't see any such painting. Colophon then arrives in the Spiral Gallery, and Jason goes berserk and attacks him, claiming that he is the figure from the painting. Jason collapses, and Benny and Colophon search the gallery for the painting that affected Jason; however, Benny herself suffers a panic attack when she sees that one of Peter's childhood paintings is part of the collection, apparently confirming her fears that he will grow up to become a killer. When she recovers, she discovers that this painting is in fact of a chameleonic nature and was merely reflecting her own anxieties back at her. She also realises that her anxieties were exacerbated by the effect of the painting that affected Jason, and a discrepancy in the numbering of the collection eventually unearths the identity of the painting in question; it's been painted over a fold in Time, and can thus only be anticipated or remembered, never seen. Benny convinces Doggles to use his prototype time engines to unfold the crack in Time, thus exposing the painting -- and the dead bodies of Clarinda and Patrick von Holt. It appears that the painting can be used as a time machine, and that Claudia used it to travel back in time and kill her father after establishing her alibi; however, her father had suspected her intentions and had already used the painting to travel forward in time and kill her.

The Cost for a Collection by Ian Mond

Bev wakes up one morning to find that most of the Collection has disappeared, and it's Jason who points out that the only items that remain are the ones that weren't quantum-tagged by the Chester Industries inventory drones. While Jason puts about a temporary cover story, Bev contacts Lord Chester and is invited to a meeting of the Collectors' Guild, obsessives who have taken offence to the fact that Braxiatel entrusted his Collection to someone who doesn't place collecting above all other priorities. The Guild's chairman, Ori, gives Bev an ultimatum: the Guild also have a mission to taste the flesh of rare and exotic creatures, and unless Bev delivers one of the Quire to the Guild so they can slaughter and eat him or her, she'll never see the stolen artefacts again. Bev returns to the Collection, but Dorso realises that she's plotting something and confronts her, using specialised hands with stinging tentacles to get her point across. Bev and Dorso come up with an alternative plan, and Bev returns to the Guild with one of Dorso's hands, claiming that she cut it off and has brought it to bargain with. Ori agrees to return 30 percent of the Collection in exchange for the hand, but once the Collectors have sampled it, he reveals that they've already inoculated themselves against all known poisons in the Universe. He admits that they had no intention of going through with the deal; rather, they intend to capture the rest of the Quire, eat some of them and sell the others on the open market. But Bev then reminds the Collectors that she's from 2,000 years in the future, and that Dorso is from even further ahead -- and they've developed a semi-sentient type of poison that even the Guild isn't protected against. Bev causes two of the Collectors to explode from the inside out simply by speaking a command to the poison now in their bodies, and orders the terrified Ori to return the stolen artefacts within six hours. He does so -- but Bev hasn't forgiven him for what he did, and once the Collection is back in place, Bev opens her communicator and speaks a single word. She also hasn't forgotten how Dorso got the drop on her, and thus has the Collection's security system adjusted to alert her if any of the Quire go near the dangerous specialised hands again...

Lock by Kate Orman

Peter and his Zenbrouli friend Wajiwaj find the crying Incunabula abandoned in a deserted building site and take her home to Benny. Although upset that the child was left on her own, Benny tells Peter that she'll have to punish him for going onto the building site without permission, and thus tells him to hand over Wolsey's pass-tag. Strange things are happening on the Collection, and Benny wants Peter to stay where it's safe until they're all sorted out. However, Peter then swaps his own pass-tag for his mother's and wanders into the bar run by Wajiwaj's mum-dad, who finds him and threatens to eat him all up for being a bad boy. When Jason and Benny find Peter, Wajiwaj's mum-dad claims that s/he was just trying to scare the boy, but Peter isn't entirely convinced. Benny is upset at first that Peter stole her tag, until Peter explains that he's never seen anything dangerous on the Collection; he thus assumed that it was his pass-tag that was protecting him, and he gave it to his mother to keep her safe.

Perspectives: The Injured Party by Philip Purser-Hallard

Dorso lodges a formal complaint with Bev after Benny angrily confronts her at an official reception. Benny is furious with Dorso for abandoning her child on a building site, and doesn't care that Incunabula isn't actually Dorso's daughter and that the Quire have different perspective on parenting. Bev asks Jason to get Benny to apologise, and Jason eventually manages to calm Benny down and get her to admit that she really blew up at Dorso because she's been taking so many off-world missions and is afraid that people will think she's neglecting Peter. Benny agrees to apologise for her outburst, or at least to pretend to. But this confrontation is just one of the many problems that the staff of the Collection are having with the Quire...

Mother's Ruin by Dale Smith

Benny and the other parents on the Collection begin having terrible dreams about their children, the running theme being that the parents are afraid their children are going to kill them and are lashing out to protect themselves. Benny tries to convince Bev that there's a problem, but Bev seems more concerned about the territorial disputes with the Draconians and Mim -- and when Benny tries to investigate on her own, Bev has her placed under house arrest and sends Adrian to take Peter away from her. Benny manages to convince Adrian that she and Bev are both behaving irrationally, as if they're being affected by something -- and Doggles then reports that he's found evidence that a number of proto-Universes are budding in the Deep Galleries, threatening to destroy not only the Collection but this entire sector of space. Benny and Adrian set off to investigate, but experience a number of time-jumps on their way into the Galleries -- and when they find the chamber containing the proto-Universes, Benny realises that Braxiatel merged his timeship with the Collection before he left, and that it's about to give birth, unsupervised and unprotected. Bev discovers that Benny and Adrian have disobeyed her orders and sends a squad of Grey Archaeologists after them; one of them shoots Benny with a stun pistol, and she falls off the catwalk into the midst of the budding embryo timeships. One of the timeships communicates telepathically with Benny, taking on the form of Peter, and she's forced to tell the young timeship that if it allows itself to be born, the birth trauma will kill its mother. The young timeship implodes, saving the Collection by destroying itself and taking out the rest of the Collection's children with it. As the staff of the Collection recover from this experience, Benny and Bev realise that the recent gravitational anomalies, telepathic signals, mental takeovers and random time-jumps were caused by the Collection reaching out for help -- and Benny realises that the Collection needs a time-sensitive pilot back at its helm in order to remain stable.

Future Relations by Philip Purser-Hallard and Nick Wallace

The time for the Quire's departure is drawing near, and their behaviour is changing back to the way it was before Bev's ultimatum -- but where before they appeared detached and distant, they now seem closed off as if emotionally wounded. The tear-stricken Verso tells Benny that her clan have refused to adopt Parasiel and that she's therefore decided to stay on the Collection and be a student with him. Benny, convinced that Parasiel doesn't really love Verso as much as she thinks he does, visits him and orders him to break off the relationship for Verso's own good so she can return home with her family. But the Quire is much more than just a family, and the truth finally comes out when Parasiel breaks up with Verso. He tries to do so kindly, but the stricken Verso returns to the Quire's quarters, dons two of the barbed-tentacle hands that Dorso had earlier used on Bev, breaks into Benny's quarters and tries to kill her. Bev and Adrian are alerted to the danger, and Bev is forced to shoot and kill the raving Verso to save Benny and Peter's lives. Benny puts together the pieces far too late and realises that the Quire is a collective work -- not a group entity with a single mind, but a collective in which each individual is an aspect of the whole. Their bizarre behaviour in private was their collective's equivalent of dreaming. They had been interacting with the Collection on what they assumed to be equal terms, but when Bev gave her ultimatum, the clan made an effort to fracture itself into individuals, risking madness for the sake of their study. Verso had chosen to split away from the clan in order to be with Parasiel, and when he broke up with her, that left her isolated, with nothing and nobody to be a part of. The Quire return to their own time, but politely refuse to take Verso's body back with them, claiming that the have sufficient organic material to grow a replacement for her. Parasiel, who had genuinely loved Verso in his way, takes his leave of the Collection, and Benny privately doubts that he'll return. She blames herself for the tragedy and spends the night getting drunk in Braxiatel's office, unburdening herself to another temporary ghost that appeared when the Quire's time corridor re-opened. When she recovers from her hangover the next morning, the cold light of day reveals that the office has started to decay around her. Whatever they may have said or hoped at the beginning of the year, it's become obvious that the Collection is falling apart without Braxiatel...

Source: Cameron Dixon

Continuity Notes:
  • The audio adventure Summer of Love must take place at some point between the stories of this anthology, as the events are referred to in Mother's Ruin. A short epilogue following the main events of Future Relations shows Benny packing a bag, ready to go on a mission that involves time-travel; this is presumably her trip to Ancient Greece, as seen in The Oracle of Delphi. Old Friends presumably takes place after the events of Future Relations, but could take place either before or after the aforementioned epilogue.
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