Twilight of the Gods
by Mark Clapham and Jon DeBurgh Miller
Cover Blurb
Twilight of the Gods

'Oh, why not,' Benny said. 'After all, I've died before and it never did me any harm then.'

The once peaceful planet of Dellah lies in ruins. The god-like beings who infest the place have lured the inhabitants into holy wars, suicide cults and genocidal pogroms. As they run out of victims, the deities plan to invade more planets -- and other races are preparing pre-emptive strikes to stop them. Humankind's small sector of the galaxy is about to become the battleground of leviathans.

There is just one hope. Professor Bernice Summerfield is, surprisingly, alive and well. And she's coming home. Bernice and her friends are determined to dispose of the gods once and for all -- at any cost.

  • This is the final book in the series of The New Adventures featuring Bernice Summerfield
  • Released: December 1999

  • ISBN: 0 426 20536 7

Irving Braxiatel and his new secretary Emile Mars-Smith summon Benny, Chris, Clarence and Jason back to KS-159, to inform them that a solution to the Dellahan situation has been discovered. Earth scientists have developed an experimental new technology which enables them to travel to alternate Universes -- and one of those Universes, a dying cosmos with different physical laws, appears to be the home of the Gods. Word has reached Braxiatel that the Gods have begun fighting amongst themselves, and as long as they are distracted it may be possible to install a parallel Universe node in the last surviving power station on Dellah, shifting the entire planet into the Gods' Universe. This will be a terribly dangerous mission, but time is running short -- both Chris' former employers and Clarence's People, fearing the escape of the desperate Gods, have reached an agreement to destroy Dellah and sterilise the entire galactic sector with a Doomsday Probe. Both sides are willing to let Braxiatel try using the node first, on condition that the other side cannot have access to the technology; thus only a neutral party such as Benny or Jason may put the node in place. Meanwhile, Chris and Clarence will have another task to keep them occupied; Braxiatel needs the help of noted diplomat Teran Sevic to prevent a war on Sevic's homeworld Vremnya, and Sevic has not been seen since attempting to negotiate peace with the Sultan of Tashwari.

After some consideration Benny and her friends accept the dangerous mission, and while Braxiatel tries to keep the situation on Vremnya stable, the others run the blockade around Dellah in the experimental ship Revelations. After avoiding the planet's defenses and the Sultan's air force, Chris and Clarence drop off Benny and Jason near the Casmov power station and then land near the Sultan's palace. There, they meet a woman named Maande, a former member of the NMA who joined the resistance against the Gods after the crash of the possessed Ship caused her to lose her faith. With the aid of Palma, a palace employee, Maande has made great strides in converting people away from the will of the gods, and killing them when their faith proves too strong; however, as the number of believers available decreases, the Gods have begun fighting amongst themselves for those few who remain. Tehke, one of the most brutal of all the Gods, has not only killed Maa'lon and converted his followers, but has won the Sultan of Tashwari over as well -- and has told the Sultan that soon he will ascend into heaven, taking the worthy with him and destroying the unfaithful...

Benny and Jason touch down safely in the ice fields around Casmov, only to land amidst a clutch of Arctic serpents -- predators which paralyse their prey and then eat them alive. They are saved by Haldov, one of a group of refugees who found sanctuary from the NMA in a hidden crystal city near the polar ice cap. The refugees are led by Gruat, the former librarian from St Oscar's -- but Gruat is old and dying, and his young daughter Meil, desperate to save her father, sends a call to the NMA in the hope that the Gods will perform a miracle and save her father. To cover for Meil, Benny claims that the NMA spotted Haldov leading her and Jason to the city, and the villagers are thus able to evacuate. Upon learning that Benny and Jason are here to end the Gods' power, however, Haldov and some of the other refugees offer to lead them to the Casmov power station. Benny is beginning to worry that by fulfilling her mission, she will be stranding the innocent Dellahans in a dying Universe -- but of more immediate concern is the fact that the Casmov power station has become Tehke's centre of operations...

Maande takes Chris and Clarence to a safe house to plot their next move, only to find that it has been raided by the NMA and its occupants killed. NMA soldiers catch them in the safe house, but Maande claims to be delivering the heretics into their hands, and is thus allowed to return to the region of the city still ruled by the god Mor'yuchi. Chris is assigned to the work party converting the Sultan's statue of Mor'yuchi into a semblance of Tehke, while Clarence, whose angelic appearance seems to indicate he was sent by the Gods, becomes a confidant of the Sultan. The Sultan's faith and that of his followers remains strong, thanks to a Belief Amplifier created by Mor'yuchi to counter the effect of the disbelief -- but the Sultan's proximity to the Gods has driven him utterly insane, and thanks to the Belief Amplifier his every whim is immediately put into action, no matter how mad. The Sultan's other confidants, for example, include a silent bronze statue, a gibbering man in a skin-tight leather costume, and an empty conch shell...

The region around the Casmov power station is rocked by a series of small earth tremors as Benny, Jason and Haldov approach. After a dangerous climb they enter the heart of the mountain, only to find that the complex has been converted into a shrine to Tehke, complete with friezes of twisted bones and screaming, agonised faces. Another earth tremor causes the ground to crack open and reveal a pit of glowing energy, the home of the Gods -- who in their raw natural form nearly overwhelm the intruders with belief. Just as Benny and her friends are about to leap into the chasm and sacrifice themselves to the Gods, Chris calls Benny on her subdermal comlink to report his own lack of progress, snapping her out of her fugue just in time for her to save Jason and Haldov. As they continue on towards the reactor, Benny also receives word from Braxiatel; the Doomsday Probe has been released, and will reach Dellah in less than three hours...

Mor'yuchi and his followers attack the Sultan's palace and destroy the Belief Amplifier, and in the ensuing confusion Chris escapes from his work gang and Palma shoots the Sultan through the head. Clarence helps Palma to escape, but before they can begin searching for Sevic they, and Chris, are captured by Mor'yuchi himself. Mor'yuchi confirms that he and his fellows fled from a dying Universe ruled by a race of powerful magicians, to find that in this cosmos, with its different physical laws, they possessed the powers of gods. But whereas his fellows have succumbed to base depravity and corruption, he intends to bring order to the chaotic Universe. Maande is serving Mor'yuchi once again, claiming that he has swayed her with rational arguments, but Chris, realizing that she is once again a victim of imposed faith, knocks her out and returns to the temple to search for Sevic -- whom he realizes is the man in the leather suit, forced to debase himself for the amusement of the Sultan. Meanwhile, Mor'yuchi recovers from Chris' assault on Maande, orders his guards to find and kill Chris, and attacks Clarence -- who finds that whenever he manages to kill the god, Mor'yuchi simply possesses another of his followers. Palma, however, realizes from Maande's behaviour that the god is using her as his primary host, and shoots her -- but the god merely separates its essence from Maande's body and prepares to possess the weakened Clarence, taking on all of the angel's power.

Benny and her allies find that the reactor is located in a forbidden zone of the temple, and theorize that Tehke is deliberately depriving his followers of power because in times of hardship people turn to their gods for support. Haldov is captured and killed by Tehke's worshippers, and Jason too is captured but held for sacrifice -- for in half an hour's time Tehke will ascend into heaven on a sea of fire. Jason realizes that Tehke intends to blow up the reactor, and use the energy release and the belief of his followers to escape from Dellah before its destruction. Infuriated, he challenges Tehke's high priest, Benny's former friend Reverend James Harker, and manages to plant enough doubt in his mind that Harker allows Jason to escape before the sacrifice. Benny, meanwhile, gets to the reactor only to find that the controls are located in Tehke's temple, where he and hundreds of his followers are awaiting their ascension.

Benny is captured and Tehke orders his followers to burn her alive, but Jason, disguised as one of Tehke's worshippers, cuts her free and tries to hold off her attackers while she puts the node in place. The followers are too numerous for him, however, and Benny, unwilling to stand by while the man she now can admit she loves is torn apart, rushes to his aid. She manages to distract the worshippers and get Jason to safety, as the worshippers are unwilling to abandon the ceremony of ascension to follow them. Knowing that Jason will not survive another such attack, Benny puts him in a barrel and sends him out of the power station via the subterranean river which runs through it. She then returns to the temple, and claims that Jason's death has converted her to Tehke's cause; however, Tehke is skeptical and orders his followers to restrain her. The ceremony begins, and as the force of his followers' belief fills him with power, Tehke triggers a meltdown. In the all-too-literal heat of the moment, however, Benny manages to pull herself free from the distracted worshippers and put the node in place -- and it activates automatically, drawing on the power of the reactor to shift Dellah out of its own Universe and into the one from which the Gods originated.

In this Universe the laws of physics are different and the Gods are no longer gods. Mor'yuchi, his essence suspended between bodies, dissipates into thin air, and the war machines he created for his followers also begin to fade away. Chris and the slowly recovering Sevic join Clarence and Palma and try to make their way back to the Revelations, but before they reach it, bald-headed alien humanoids descend from the skies -- the magicians who rule this Universe have come to investigate the intruder in their domain. Chris recognizes them as the Ferutu, Lords of Time from an alternate history which Chris once saw erased from existence. Only the combined willpower of the Ferutu has prevented this timeline from vanishing utterly, but it is still doomed, which is why the rebels attempted to take over the timeline which had supplanted their own. Their departure cost the Ferutu a great deal of effort and has shortened the lifespan of this Universe -- and since Benny and her friends have ensured the failure of the Gods' invasion, they must be punished.

Benny escapes from the power station and heads for the Revelations, while the Ferutu descend upon the power station to recapture Tehke. Harker finally comes to understand that Tehke is not a god, but an alien who sought ultimate power -- and like the rest of Tehke's followers, he is immolated when the Ferutu take Tehke for punishment and destroy the power station. Benny reaches the Revelations just as Chris and his friends also arrive, pursued by the Ferutu -- but Clarence steps in the path of a temporal burst fired at his friends and is regressed to his former existence as the warship !C-Mel, which is unable to take on corporeal existence in this Universe and thus explodes, wiping out the attacking Ferutu. Chris is regressed to the age of thirteen by another Ferutu attack, but Benny kills the Ferutu and helps to get him, Palma and Sevic onto the ship. The Ferutu then contact her, demanding that she surrender -- they have captured Jason and will torture him to death unless she hands over the node and allows them to evacuate into her Universe. Benny has no choice but to use the node and depart from the Ferutu's timeline, leaving Jason behind.

With Sevic's help peace is restored to Vremnya, and Braxiatel helps to establish a university there to bring culture to the war-torn masses. At his urging, Benny is appointed head of its archaeological department. Although physically 13 years old, Chris retains the memories of his life to date, and even Braxiatel is unsure how he will age now. In the meantime, they must find way to rescue Jason without releasing the Ferutu -- not just for Benny's sake, but pragmatically, because the Ferutu may torture out of him the knowledge of how to invade this Universe again. For the moment, however, things have settled down on a cosmic scale, as both Braxiatel's people and the People of the Worldsphere have retreated to their respective boltholes. Once again the fate of humanity is in its own hands, and Benny can concentrate on living the everyday, human life of a University professor. For the moment...

Source: Cameron Dixon

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