The Vampire Curse
a novella collection
Cover Blurb
The Vampire Curse

In the course of a career spent digging up ancient things, Professor Bernice Summerfield has had more than one brush with the oldest and most widely-dispersed race of undead in the universe -- vampires. Is she cursed? Or does everybody have to put up with this?

In these three stories, a young Benny files a column for a local news outlet whilst trying to stop an ancient curse escaping from her expedition; later in her life, Bernice joins a galactic tour of vampire history in order to investigate sinister happenings; and an aged Professor Summerfield is forced to confront the equally bloody past of a fellow attendee at the predictably ill-fated First Interdisciplinary Conference on Vampirology.

  • This is a collection of 3 novellas in Big Finish’s novel range The Adventures of Bernice Summerfield.
  • Released: December 2008
    ISBN: 978 1 84435 340 8
The Badblood Diaries by Mags L Halliday

2565: The human colony on Badblood has been cut off from the rest of the Earth Empire for three centuries, partly due to communications interference from the carbonised dust in its upper atmosphere, and partly because the planet is "cursed" with vampirism. Badblood is now negotiating its return, and as part of these negotiations, Benny and two of her grad students, Kash and Bobby, are invited to conduct a dig at the remains of the first human settlement on the planet. The dig is co-sponsored by the HTP and Kikan corporations, and as part of the sponsorship deal, Benny is to file daily columns with the Daily HTP using a state-of-the-art interstitial messaging system. She and her students meet their sponsors at Station CT1107; HTP is represented by Yuki Harris, and Kikan by the handsome young Ren Moreau and the older Allyn Kong. After some initial friendly rivalry for Ren's affections, Yuki and Benny become friends, and Yuki tells Benny that Kikan is descended from psi-powered yakuza who went legit; they are ostensibly interested in adding Badblood's fish exports to their own sushi monopoly, but Yuki suspects that they have another, secret interest in Badblood.

Benny and her colleagues arrive at the settlement of Hunanzun. All permanent settlements on Badblood are mobile, circling the planet on individual tracks and occasionally crossing paths for major festivals; thus, the settlements remain in constant daylight, and the inhabitants are protected from attack. Skylights and mirrors maintain day and night cycles inside each enclosed settlement, and the fishermen and farmers rush out ahead of the settlement each morning to do their work and rush back in the evening. Though the chi vampires pose a very real threat, they are rarely encountered; one of the few farmers to have done so and survived tells Benny and her students about his terrifying experience, which occurred when he fell asleep at his post and was caught too far out from the settlement as night fell. Hunanzun's representative, Ruby Woo, gives Benny a tour of the settlement and shows her the engines that keep it moving. Benny also meets the four students from Hunanzun who will be participating in the dig to compete for a post-graduate academic placement. William Siu is not involved with any of the others, but Marsha Jiminez is clearly infatuated with Aleksandr Valverde even though he and Becka Jiao are already a couple.

Driver-mechanic Oliver Chen is hired to drive the team out to the dig site in the mornings and collect them again in the evenings. The early work is very promising, and after a couple of days, they unearth two graves. In the excitement of the find, it takes Benny some time to realise that Oliver is overdue to pick them up, and as the sun begins to set, the team is forced to set up camp and circle it with emergency UV lights. Once night has fallen, a high-pitched siren song drifts out of the darkness and entrances Aleksandr, who steps out of the circle of light, knocking Becka aside when she tries to stop him. Becka falls into one of the light stands, knocking it over, breaking the circuit and plunging the camp into darkness. By the time the others have switched on their flashlights, Becka has been transformed into a vampire, who reduces William to a husk with a kiss. The others manage to switch the UV lights back on, and Becka is instantly reduced to dust.

The frantic Oliver arrives the next morning, explaining that his transport broke down and that nobody was able to repair it in time. Despite the tragedy, for which Benny feels responsible, the survivors nevertheless continue their work at the dig, and Oliver agrees to stay with them all day. The graves contain desiccated bodies and a memstone, a gem capable of recording neuro-electrical impulses and emotional impressions. As the survivors prepare to return to Hunanzun, Benny finds Marsha staring towards the sunset and scuffling her feet, and tries to comfort the young woman as best she can. However, shortly after they return to Hunanzun, the settlement itself comes to a stop and is still stuck where it is as the sun sets. As the colonists desperately try to repair the settlement's engines, Benny and her friends hear screaming and rush to the hangar bays, where Marsha has opened up the landing ramps to let in the vampires. Bobby is drained to a husk and Aleksandr himself drains Marsha, but the colonists fight off the invading vampires and seal up their settlement again. Benny herself impales Aleksandr on a makeshift stake, reducing him to dust.

Some of the colonists blame the newcomers for the loss of life, but generally it's understood that they too have suffered losses and that it was Marsha, hopelessly in love with Aleksandr, who left a note for him at the dig and sabotaged the settlement's engines. Benny finishes cataloguing the artefacts recovered from the dig, and she and Ren finally spend the night together after days of flirting. The next day, Benny signs the artefacts over to Ruby Woo, and she, Kash, Ren, Allyn and Yuki return to Station CT1107. After 24 hours in quarantine and intense debriefing, they are released into the station, and Benny and Ren make a dinner date. Ren does not show up, and when the dispirited Benny returns to her room, she finds a message from Ruby telling her that the memstone from the dig has been replaced by an ordinary pebble. Suspecting at first that Allyn is responsible, Benny sets off to confront him, only to find him co-ordinating an emergency response; a chi vampire has attacked a karaoke bar on the station, reducing everyone inside to dust.

Allyn sends Benny to find and warn Ren, but when she does find Ren, his eyes are glowing red. He admits that he was always fascinated by the tales of his ancestors' battles with chi vampires, and tries to seduce Benny to join him. She resists his influence, fights back, and impales him on the dagger that Ruby had given her as a parting gift. As Ren's body crumbles to dust, Benny takes a step back and inadvertently shatters the memstone that had been lying on the floor. Presumably it was capable of recording the essence of a chi vampire as well as human memories, and Ren's curiosity tragically got the better of him. Yuki allows Benny to cry on her shoulder once it's all over, and despite anything, Benny knows that she's made at least one good friend on this mission.

Possum Kingdom by Kelly Hale

According to Comanche legend, a hunter named Tse-naha was once tricked into releasing the demon Nepesht from his pocket world. Nepesht took Tse-naha's body for himself and became a mighty hunter, with a great appetite both for women and for the blood of his enemies. He was eventually caught in a moment of weakness and destroyed by the other men of Tse-naha's band, but his offspring still stalk the land, drinking the blood of the living.

2565: Possum Kingdom Lake, an artificial lake created by 20th-century developers in Texas, is drained to reveal an extensive cave system beneath the ground, and Benny joins the ensuing archaeological expedition. Their remote drone falls down a cliff that didn't appear on the original survey, and Benny volunteers to check out the site herself, although the team is legally required to report this incident to the authorities first. To Benny's surprise, she finds a handsome, naked man in the caverns, but he appears to have no memory of who he is. Immigration authorities then arrive on the site and cart the nameless man off to a Forth Worth military hospital, and Professor Ramirez privately tells Benny that, according to military satellites, additional caves had appeared in the underground system overnight.

2579: Someone begins killing the members of Benny's expedition. She and her current travelling companion track down the nameless man to a housing estate in Dallas/Fort Worth, where he is living with a single pet cat. They have already tried visiting him fourteen years earlier at the military hospital, but he refused to speak to them because they were in the wrong time. Disturbed by their presence, he refuses to let them in, and Benny's friend thus reveals that his name is Nepesht. This restores his memories, but instead of speaking to Benny and her friend, he pulls a hole out of his chest, steps through it into another world, and pulls the hole back in after him.

5019: A salvage crew finds an alien vessel in the vicinity of Bathory's Star, a "vampire star" that remains young by leeching the upper atmospheres of its stellar neighbours. The ship may be one of the legendary vessels of the Utluntu, aliens said to have drained whole species of blood in order to power their organic ships; indeed, the crewman Micah cuts his hand while examining the ship, drawing blood. However, the ship has an unconscious human female on board, and the crew can only claim the ship as salvage if it's been abandoned. The men decide to solve the problem by selling the woman to a slave trader named Piffany, but this horrifies the sole female crewmember, Sulie Cruz, who grew up in the work camps of Habriuz. Captain Boone eventually decides that it might be better if the woman were to mysteriously disappear out of an airlock, but it's too late; Sulie has been drawn to the woman as if by a dream, and the woman has woken, seduced Sulie and bitten her. By the time Saul arrives to deal with the woman, Micah has been drained completely of blood, and Sulie and the woman turn on Saul next.

Yesterdays Ltd: Richard Lux de Babineaux is a guide for a time-travel tour company, and he isn't enjoying his latest tour of all the hot-spots of historical vampirism on Earth. Some of his group are thoughtless and annoying tourists; student Tom Wakeen and "Miss Bixie Summerfield" act as if they know more about vampires than Richard does; and the strange Miss Lilu and Miss Sulie from Habriuz mostly keep themselves to themselves. In Victorian-era Transylvania, a wandering party of Szgany Roma turn and flee when their moroi spots Miss Sulie, and in mid-21st-century Forks, Washington, Lilu interrupts the Edward and Bella Players' re-enactment of an historic battle between vampires and werewolves by running into the middle of the battle as if searching for something. The re-enactment is further disturbed by a sudden lightning storm that knocks most of the tourists unconscious, and in the ensuing confusion, it is revealed that one of the alien tourists is pregnant.

Richard decides to cut the tour short, but instead of returning to the 51st century, the tour ends up in the year 1212. Children from across Europe have come to Marseilles, expecting the sea to part so they can walk to the Holy Land to convert the Muslims; it has not, and they are now stranded in the city. Mulo, a small figure who is neither a child nor a dwarf, is attempting to purchase some of the children as slaves from a pair of greedy entrepreneurs, but when the tour party arrives on the scene, Mulo sees Lilu and Sulie, panics and flees. Lilu and Sulie capture him, but Tom and Benny chase them in turn. Unfortunately, while Tom is genuinely descended from the Comanche who fought Nepesht, he doesn't really understand what his ancestors did, and to Benny's horror, her ally tries to attack Lilu by waving a souvenir cross and a medicine bag full of garlic at her. This does nothing, and Sulie holds Tom and Benny back at gunpoint as Lilu orders the Mulo -- a vampire created from the body of a stillborn infant -- to take her to his master.

Lilu and Sulie take Richard and his tourists hostage and force the caravan to travel to the caves under Possum Lake. However, Lilu is surprised when Nepesht steps out of a hole in the air as if he's been waiting for her to arrive, and Mulo reveals that the children he was going to purchase were meant to be bait, to lure Lilu here. She thought that she was hunting Nepesht, but he's remembered who he is and has laid a trap for her. Tom tries to grab his medicine bag from Sulie, who disintegrates him with one shot; however, Benny manages to grab the bag and toss it to Nepesht, who drops it through the hole in the air. The bag contains Lilu's heart, and she is forced to follow it through. Nepesht follows her and pulls the hole in after him, leaving Sulie wailing and clawing at the ground in a vain attempt to follow her lover.

Later, Benny explains to the shaken Richard that Lilu was the last of the Utluntu, who did indeed slaughter entire worlds for blood. Nepesht was also the last of his kind, a species who tricked the Utluntu into trapping themselves in pocket universes. Nepesht was supposed to be trapped along with Lilu for all eternity, but the isolation drove him mad and he forgot his mission. He escaped back into the universe and Lilu followed him out, but they were separated; Nepesht ended up amongst the Tigua Indians of pre-Columbian America, while Lilu and her ship were cast forward in time to the 51st century. When Benny and her friend restored Nepesht's memories, he set up this trap and sacrificed his freedom once again to isolate her in his pocket universe. Benny's friend arranges for the Mulo to get a job in the Haemovore nature preserves of the distant future, and then takes Benny back to her home time. Sulie is also returned to the 51st century, where she is committed to an asylum and spends her days trying to rip holes in the Universe so she can follow her heart.

Predating the Predators by Philip Purser-Hallard

The First Colonial University on the planet Murigen is hosting an interdisciplinary conference on the subject of vampirism and its implications. The Reverend Doctor Imogen Tantry attends with her fellow priests, Father Luke Duke and Father Antonio Finlay, but she is disturbed by the problem of the native Lavellans, whose brains lack temporal lobes and do not experience religious feelings or beliefs. Is it possible that the Lavellans were, like vampires, created by God with no possibility for redemption? Meanwhile, grad student Lloyd Doihara agrees to help out his friend Gonzo by delivering a paper at the conference, which sounds more interesting than his real grad work helping the Lavellan professor "Stassy" Leustassavil to develop an intergalactic transit system using quantum tunnelling. Lloyd is also attracted to another attendee, a beautiful young woman named Elanore Summerfield, whose slightly furry skin and sharp teeth suggest an alien canine influence in her ancestry. Ellie is escorting her aged grandmother Bernice, a confused and slightly dotty old woman who is constantly looking for vodka and forgetting her grand-daughter's name.

One of the first keynote speakers, historian Emanuel Valeriani, shocks the conference by outing himself as a vampire in his opening speech and claiming that Vlad Tepes was an extreme example of his species; he also claims that most great figures in history were vampires, including a certain religious icon whose followers symbolically eat his flesh and drink his blood to this day. Lloyd is amused when the enraged Father Finlay tries to exorcise Valeriani; in his subsequent speech, Finlay denounces vampires as those who have turned their backs on God, and claims that the only recourse is to destroy the damned creatures. Dr Tantry takes a somewhat calmer attitude when she visits Valeriani in his quarters; he is perhaps dangerously charismatic, but although he sleeps on a bed of soil in a coffin and has stored synthetic haemoglobin in his fridge, he insists that he has no intention of slaughtering his fellow attendees. In any case, Murigen is hardly an ideal environment for a vampire; the planet has three suns (Fea, Macha, and Nemhain), and vampires are unable to cross the multitude of running waterways that the Lavellans use for transit.

Bernice wanders off into the pub before her speech, but Lloyd helps Ellie to steer her back to the conference, where she is to give an account of her expedition to the Blood Citadel of Alukah. The Alukahites are said to be vampires, so powerful that they could blot out suns, who were destroyed in a war with a race of celestial beings. But as Bernice begins to deliver her speech, she suffers a panic attack and accuses her audience of being in league with the vampires. Lloyd helps Ellie to deal with her raving grandmother, and in the confusion, it takes Dr Tantry some time to realise that Father Finlay has disappeared. Tantry swallows medicinal tabs of garlic, arms herself with holy water and a crucifix, and confronts Valeriani; however, he allows her to search his rooms without protest, and she finds no evidence that he is responsible. Unsure what to think, Dr Tantry leaves Valeriani's quarters -- and is confronted by Father Finlay, who has become a vampire. His faith was based on the fear that God did not exist, and it crumbled when the vampire came for him. Dr Tantry flings holy water in his face and wades across one of the Lavellan waterways, but Finlay, though stuck on the other side, tells her that he and his people intend to go forth and multiply. Dr Tantry tells Father Duke what she's seen, and he leaves to fetch reinforcements from the nearest settlement, Ravensfoot, while she recuperates from the shock.

Lloyd invites Ellie to go stargazing during the planet's 15 minutes of true night, but the brief romantic interlude is interrupted when Ellie is called to retrieve her grandmother from the bar once again. As Lloyd happily wanders the corridors, he encounters two vampires who are attacking a Lavellan, and flees to the nearest bar -- which is attacked by a horde of vampires. Lloyd and the few survivors shelter in Burnam Plaza, which is completely surrounded by waterways. The vampires who have attacked them prove capable of surviving in the sunlight of Fea, but are forced to retreat into the shadows when Nemhain rises; however, a second wave of Lavellan vampires then rises up from the waterways and attacks the survivors. Lloyd escapes and retreats to Ellie's quarters, but only Bernice is there; apparently, Ellie has gone out looking for Lloyd. As Lloyd looks after Bernice, he tries to reason through what's happening, and concludes that the vampires are only adversely affected by the next sun to rise after their conversion -- in which case, they will soon be able to work in shifts, and no time will be safe.

Once Dr Tantry has a chance to calm down and consider events, she returns to Valeriani's quarters and tells him what's happened. His shocked reaction confirms her suspicions: he's not a vampire at all, but a stage magician who was hoaxing the conference as a publicity stunt. Unfortunately, he knows little about real vampires, but as he is an accomplished hypnotist, Dr Tantry takes him to Bernice to coax the full story of the Alukah expedition out of her. They convince Lloyd that Valeriani isn't a threat, but Valeriani then discovers that Bernice has already been hypnotised. He tells the others that Bernice needs something familiar to shock her back to normal, so Lloyd gives her vodka. Once she's drunk enough, she remembers what happened on Alukah: one of her fellow archaeologists, Shabbir, cut himself with a trowel while excavating the tomb of Re'Olena, a servant of Lord Ekimmu who was banished to the prison graveyards for the crime of laughter. The next day, the others found Shabbir dead in the tomb, his entire body drained of blood. Benny began to dream that a walking skeleton was stalking the camp, becoming more corporeal as it drained her colleagues one by one, but the vampire's mental influence prevented her from warning the others until it was too late. By the time the rescue craft arrived, only Benny was left alive, but the vampire had drained Benny of her youth and convinced her that she had come here with her grand-daughter...

Upset, Lloyd accuses Benny of dementia, but Benny is now more or less back to her old confident self, and even Lloyd must admit the truth when a yellow cat walks in through the window and transforms into "Ellie." She tries to convince Lloyd that she's just been turned and needs his help to survive, but he's already seen the cat earlier that week and thus knows that she's lying. Olena rips Valeriani's face off his skull as a show of power, but Dr Tantry recites Psalm 23, and her faith is strong enough to drive Olena from the room. Benny realises that Olena tried to seduce Lloyd for a reason, and Lloyd realises that he saw the yellow cat while leaving Professor Stassy's lab. He takes Benny and Tantry to the lab, where Leustassavil has been working constantly on her project and has missed all of the excitement outside. Despite her profound scepticism and scorn of superstition, the others manage to convince her that there is a real and present danger, and together, they come up with a plan.

Once Nemhain has set, all three waves of vampires attack the laboratory, intending to seize the quantum channels and use them to spread throughout the galaxy, creating an empire of blood with Olena as its queen. Tantry sadly tells Finlay that she always took comfort from his own strength of faith, and Leustassavil is unaffected by Olena's attempts to terrorise her, scoffing at her melodramatics and dismissing her lack of reflection as a quantum-observer effect. Angered, Olena threatens to kill the professor's friends and colleagues unless she opens up the quantum channels; out of spite, she decides that the first worlds to fall will be Beta Caprisis and Vandor Prime, where Benny grew up, and Fomalhaut IV, where her son Peter has been staying. Leustassavil apparently does as requested -- but instead opens the channels above the surfaces of Fea, Nemhain, and the sun of Alukah. Olena's entire army is turned to dust by the sunlight, but Olena herself is unaffected and reveals that she was not turned into a vampire on Alukah. Before she can attack, however, the disintegrating Father Finlay knocks her through the portal, and they both fall into Alukah's sun.

The survivors of the invasion evacuate to Ravensfoot. Dr Tantry hopes that Father Finlay found redemption in the end, rather than simply reacting against another vampire with territorial greed, as Benny believes. She has also noticed that Olena was unable to threaten Leustassavil directly, and hopes that the Lavellans' unshakeable certainty in the rationality of the Universe proves that God did not create them without the ability to feel faith. Benny's youth starts to return, and she realises that Olena had been feeding from her on the way to Murigen, partly to keep her docile and partly to keep her own strength up without attracting attention. She decides to return to Peter quickly before it occurs to anyone that she's technically responsible for resurrecting Olena and bringing her to the conference.

Source: Cameron Dixon

Continuity Notes:
  • Benny also encountered vampires while travelling with the Seventh Doctor in Blood Harvest.
  • It is not specified who Benny's "friend" in Possum Kingdom is, but come on now. Given that she says he will be taking her back home after this story's conclusion, it's probable that she is travelling with the Eighth Doctor after Benny's Story.
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