- You may be looking for the comic story.
A new phase in the never-dull life of Bernice Summerfield opens as she arrives on the human colony world of Maximediras, with her son Peter in tow, to begin work on a much-needed freelance assignment. Relics from a hitherto unknown civilisation have been discovered on the sea bed and Bernice has been hired by the planet's tourist board to travel out on one of their cruises and undertake a survey.
Bernice is suspicious of her employer's motives from the start, but becomes more uneasy as time goes on. Is she being taken advantage of? Is her reputation starting to cause trouble for her? More seriously, she starts to realise that she's travelling on a cruise ship with an unusually high suicide rate.
What is causing this? Or who...?
Kerry Lyle and Tate Booker watch the TV documentary “Our Martians, Our Selves” which was made some years earlier by Professor Bernice Summerfield and debate whether it was Bernice’s enthusiasm that made the subject interesting or whether it was the subject matter itself. As representatives of the planet’s tourist board, they’ve recently booked Bernice to produce a similar documentary about the planet Maximediras, but they’re worried because it’s a far less interesting place and may present her with a bit of a challenge. Tate proposes asking her to wear something a bit more “revealing” and Kerry agrees that it’s worth subtly suggesting it. Tate brings Kerry a coffee, but for himself he prefers something called ash tea, which is made from the sacred branches of the boragella tree of Paramour. He says he worked on the publicity campaign for it last year and they launched it simultaneously on five of the Hub Worlds. He’s disappointed that she hadn’t heard about it but thinks it’s probably because she doesn’t fit their demographic.
Bernice hasn’t boarded yet, so they decide to kick around some ideas before she gets there. Their budget won’t stretch to extensive terraforming so they need to project Maximediras to customers as it is. It’s a very wet planet, so Kye suggests emphasising the “mystery of the sea” element so they can push the historical sites as a place of discovery. This will attract the heritage tourists as well as those who just want a luxury cruise. Tate says he hopes the cruises will be on a better ship than the one they’re using now!
As Bernice and Peter approach the ship, he asks why they’ve come here. She explains that the tourist board is setting up a new heritage tour of some underwater sites they believe belonged to an ancient unknown civilisation and they want to film her going around and talking about the place. She also reminds him they need the money. Peter thinks the ship looks very slow but Bernice says that despite its retro design, it’s actually got ion-jet propulsion engines. They could have done an orbit hop and got to their destination in just a few hours, but Bernice says the journey itself is the whole point. She tries to encourage Peter to admire the sky and the fresh air, but he says he’s bored already. She says she’s sure there’ll be other boys for him to play with, but they can’t see any - until Bernice notices another family arriving and she waves to them enthusiastically. They board the ship and find their rooms, then Bernice suggests he use the media screen to find the events channel while she goes to meet the people who are paying her to be here.
Kerry and Tate are still struggling to find things to recommend the planet and wonder if anyone famous has ever come from here. They check the computer, but without success. However, 17 ‘famous’ people currently live on Maximediras as a tax haven. Kerry suggests the council could threaten to take away their tax break unless they agree to do an advert for them. Bernice arrives, so they do their best to look professional and welcome her aboard. When they learn that she’s brought her son along they ask her advice on how to pitch the planet for families, but Bernice is hesitant as they’re not exactly a typical family. Kerry explains that neither of them originate from the planet and the council brought them in especially as the new owners are making a major effort to regenerate it. Bernice is surprised as she thought the Interplanetary Mining Corporation owned the planet, but Tate says they signed it over to one of their affiliates when it was given protected status and it‘s now seen as a tourist destination. Kerry says the planet has a 17-hour day and they’re due to arrive at the first site in two days. Bernice admits that she hasn’t had time to do much research on the planet, but she’s determined that her documentary will be a rigorous piece. Kerry promises she can have access to all the archives and says they’re very excited to have her with them as her application really leapt out at them. Tate says they’ve been watching her documentary about Mars and Bernice remembers recording that during her research term at the University of Remnya ten years ago. She says she’s far more of a writer than a presenter now and insists that she has free reign with the content. Kerry agrees and says they’ve briefed their cameraman Rick Hertz what they want visually, but Bernice will be in charge of the historical material. Bernice decides to pop to the bar to meet Rick and says she’s join up with Kerry and Tate again tomorrow.
Bernice tracks down Rick and introduces herself, but just for a moment he thinks she’s trying to chat him up. They both offer to buy each other a drink, but Rick says it doesn’t matter anyway as everything can go on their expenses. He asks where she’s from and she pauses for a second before saying Beta Caprisis, but when he says he wouldn’t have known from her accent, she says she’s travelled around a lot. Rick says he used to work for IMC on their underwater survey team and got transferred here about seven years ago. Bernice assumes he was one of the people who alerted IMC to the historical sites here, but he laughs and says all IMC were interested in was the fact that there’s nothing worth mining here. There was a mining operation here once, but Maximediras is only 3% land so they only got a couple of seams of terrulium. The planet’s been mined out for years and IMC have been wondering what to do with it ever since. Bernice asks if the miners saw any evidence of historical sites when they were doing their survey but Rick says they didn’t. She begins to get suspicious as there should have been a full heritage survey before mining started. After IMC pulled out, Rick went freelance and the old gang drifted away. He’s quite highly sought after now and he files a lot of material for libraries and news wires, but he particularly enjoys it because for the first time in his career people actually care about the quality of his images. The ship starts to move and Bernice and Rick drink a toast to easy money.
Bernice is still at work in the middle of the night when Peter enters her cabin and asks if she heard a loud splash outside, like something big was being thrown overboard. Bernice assures him they do that sort of thing on ships all the time, but when he asks her to elaborate, he realises she just made that up. She tells him to go back to bed and reluctantly he agrees.
The next day, Kerry and Tate visit Bernice in her cabin and asks how she’s getting on with the archives. Bernice says she finished them some time ago as they were a bit on the skimpy side. In fact, there’s nothing at all about this planet prior to colonisation. Although she’ll be the first person to survey the sites, she can’t understand how there could possibly have been a civilisation here without anyone seeing any evidence of it until now. Tate suggests she make the ’mystery’ element of the story the main angle of her documentary, but Bernice says they’ll have to get the footage now and put all the pieces together later. Kerry and Tate say they have every confidence in her, but she’s offended when Tate suggests she might “sex up” her work. She insists that she’s a serious academic and only writes the facts, and although she’s grateful to be paid for this work, she still has her credentials to worry about.
Later, Bernice begins to record her introduction to the documentary, but she struggles to avoid using all the usual clichés connected to ocean worlds. She also finds it difficult not to fill in the blanks with ‘facts’ that she’s made up, but the problem remains that she has so little actual information to go on. She’s interrupted by a call from Rick, asking her to undergo a scan for the medical requirements. She’s surprised to hear Peter’s voice in the background and tells him he’s not supposed to be up on deck.
Rick is starting to get just a little frustrated as Peter keeps pointing to different bits of medical equipment and asking what it’s used for. Fortunately Bernice arrives and asks Peter why he’s not with the activity group she left him with. He tells her one of the other boys was calling him half-breed. Bernice is worried and asks him how he reacted, but she’s relieved when he tells her he walked away. Peter assures her he was going back to the cabin and asks if he can join her tomorrow, but she says no and Rick backs her up, saying he doesn’t have a diving suit Peter’s size. Peter leaves and Bernice thanks Rick for his support. He begins her medical scan and casually asks about Peter. She tells him he’s half-Killoran, which explains the claws and the sharp teeth, and she’s surprised when Rick says he seems like a nice kid. She tells him Peter’s had some problems recently and in the last few months they’ve been travelling a lot, moving from place to place. She carefully avoids any questions about where they used to live but says it wasn’t safe for them to stay there. She admits that she’s worried about Peter, his dad and her career, and Rick sympathises, but he has some good news as the scan shows she’s in excellent physical health. She invites him to dinner and says they can discuss tomorrow’s work schedule after she’s checked on Peter.
Kerry and Tate discuss the possibility of promoting commercial tie-ins with Maximediras, but their options are limited as the planet doesn’t actually make anything. Instead, Kerry thinks they should promote the planet as somewhere companies can come to launch traditional products, but they‘ll need to come up with some traditions first as the planet doesn‘t have any of them either. She wonders what kind of product would associate well with Maximediras and Tate suggests mineral water…
Over dinner, Rick notices that Bernice isn’t drinking much, but she says she might need another later on to help her get to sleep as she’s never been able to adjust to planets with short days. Suddenly the floor of the dining room slides back in the middle to reveal a glass panel where guests can see the water underneath. As the ship moves, it churns up the water and it’s possible to see the bio-luminescence. Bernice is genuinely impressed and says it’s beautiful, like an underwater firework display. She realises it’s caused by micro-organisms in the water that give off light when they’re agitated by movement, but although it’s common to lots of planets, it’s not normally as bright as this. Bernice wonders whether their employers are planning to rustle up some twee nonsense about the magic sea, and Rick notes that she sounds a little disillusioned by them. Bernice says she’s starting to realise they didn’t hire her for the reasons she thought, but because they think she has a reputation for spicing things up. She regrets taking this contract and blames herself for pitching for the job even though she didn’t know anything about the planet. The fact that they still gave her the job should have been enough warning. She admits that she needed the money and says that her tutors would weep if they knew she was doing a corporate job like this.
Later, Bernice continues recording her commentary for the documentary and finds herself praising the bio-luminescent waters which she says are very popular with visitors. She realises she’s telling a fib, but continues anyway. She then describes the original inhabitants of the planet and explains how they fitted in with the environment, pausing only to acknowledge the fact that she doesn’t know what she’s talking about. She’s interrupted by Peter again, who complains that he can’t sleep. She shows him a sample she’s taken of the sea water and stirs it up to demonstrate its luminescence. She tells him she’s getting the computer to analyse the micro-organisms as she thinks they might have been a food supply for whatever creatures used to live here.
The next morning, Bernice and Rick prepare for their dive. Bernice warns them not to get too close to the underwater ruins as the diving bell might inadvertently damage them. Rick says he knows what he’s doing and Bernice is embarrassed about telling him his job. Bernice notices that it’s very quiet on the ship today and Rick casually says it’s probably because of what happened to that poor woman. She asks what he means and he tells her one of the passengers had gone missing for a day or two, then she was spotted on the security cameras throwing herself overboard. He changes the subject and asks what the results of the water analysis was, but she tells him the output from the scanner was complete gibberish, so she‘s ordered some more advanced software.
Tate joins Kerry and enthusiastically tells her he’s had a radical idea - he thinks the council should re-brand the entire planet New Mars as everyone loves the old Mars. Kerry wonders what the connection between the two planets is, but he says New York doesn’t have anything to do with York either. Kerry thinks they should name it after the Roman god of water, but then she discovers there’s already a planet named after it and they don’t want to associate themselves with that old dump! Tate suggests Atlantis as a new name for the planet, but Kerry says it was copyrighted by KlaxoStarbucksRamboDisney when they opened up the real Atlantis. Tate then suggests asking them to open a franchise here and Kerry thinks that’s a brilliant idea.
The diving bell drops below the surface and Rick asks Bernice if she minds him filming some additional context material, but first she wants to see the monitor so she can check her hair. He offers to do some touching up in post-production, but she seems happy enough with the way she looks. As they descend, Bernice explains that the first site on the tour was only discovered four months ago and hasn’t been properly surveyed yet. The only footage in circulation is very poor quality, but it seems to show a deserted settlement. This is the first indication that there was ever a civilisation here and they hope it’ll give them some idea of what the original inhabitants of the planet were like.
The bell stops and they both climb out through the hatch. Unfortunately they can’t see much from this distance, but Rick advises Bernice to treat her diving suit as if she was in a low-gravity environment by jumping forward with slow, graceful movements. They soon find the ruins - a mountain with four or five igloos on it - and Bernice is genuinely amazed. Rick suggests she record her reaction again as it wasn’t particularly scholarly, but she‘s satisfied that she summed things up adequately. Bernice is keen to swim inside one of igloos, but as they look around, she tells Rick they can’t take the exterior decoration for granted as it may have been added generations after the original design or even by another civilisation entirely.
Back on the ship, Kerry and Tate are keen to hear what Bernice thought and they‘re delighted when she tells them she’s never seen anything like it before. She agrees that it does look like a settlement and the design suggests that it’s always been submerged, but she doesn’t want to say right now what kind of civilisation might have lived there. She and Rick only spent 20 minutes in the ruins, but they’ve mapped the whole place and she can do more investigative work. Tate asks her to make it a priority to find out what the original inhabitants looked like, but she says she can’t really do that without any physical remains. Tate says they’re really keen to use an artist’s impression of one on the publicity material but promises they’ll make it clear it’s based on hypothesis. Bernice isn’t too keen on the idea so Rick offers to show them the raw footage he took while she goes to pick Peter up from his playgroup.
Not long after that, Rick is surprised to see Bernice back in the bar. She says she picked Peter up, but he wanted to go and play with his new friends instead - he’s even chummy with the kid who called him those awful names earlier. Rick asks if she’s drowning her sorrows, but she says she’s drowning her frustration, irritation, regret and anger. There’s been something troubling her for a while, but she’s not sure it isn’t just her being cynical. Nobody ever found any trace of civilisation on this planet, then just as the authorities are trying to launch the place as a tourist attraction it not only suddenly acquires an interesting history, it also finds appropriate places for people to gawp at. Rick agrees that it’s certainly convenient. Bernice adds that the ruins they looked at today were very well preserved, yet nothing else in the area survived - but civilisations don’t usually just build four of five things and then leave it at that. She thinks it all looks a bit contrived and she’s been hired her because people think she’s a Mickey Mouse academic who’d be happy to spin the facts. Rick says that if they thought she was that dodgy they’d have been honest with her from the start rather than risk getting rumbled at this stage. Bernice says she still commands a degree of respect and she’s not prepared to lose it over forty pieces of silver and a complimentary bag of weird tea. Rick laughs and says he was given some of the ash tea too, but it was disgusting.
Later that night, Peter enters his mother’s cabin after hearing another splash from the side of the ship. This time both Bernice heard it too and it definitely sounded like a heavy object had been thrown overboard, so she calls security…
The next morning, Rick meets Bernice and he realises straight away that she hasn’t had much sleep. She tells him she was having trouble sleeping anyway, but then she heard something fall into the water just outside her cabin - and she‘s fairly sure it was a person. There are stories circulating about people disappearing and although security sent out patrols and came back carrying six bodies, even that doesn’t account for everyone who’s missing. Tate joins them on deck and asks if they’re ready to go, but Rick says the ship is behind schedule as it stopped for a couple of hours last night. Tate has heard the news and says it’s awful, but Bernice suspects he just means it’s a PR disaster. Tate wonders why people would bother coming on a cruise just to kill themselves, but then he surprises them by asking them to get an extra diving suit as he plans to come with them. He says he was very excited by the footage they brought back yesterday and is keen to see one of the sites for himself. Rick agrees on condition that he passes the medical test.
When they arrive at the next site, Bernice is the first member of the team to leave the diving bell. She contacts them from outside and asks if they’re in the right place as she can‘t find anything of particular interest. According to the survey, there should be able to see a huge sculpture, but there’s definitely nothing like that here. Rick agrees to join her and he takes Tate with him. They double check the co-ordinates and confirm that there should be a 12-feet tall stone statue here, which isn’t the sort of thing that gets washed away in the tide. Tate says it must have been stolen, but Bernice demands to know what’s really going on. She calls his bluff and insists that the whole story is a fake. She says she can’t believe they thought she’d back them up, but as they start to argue, Rick interrupts and tells them this isn’t the right place for such behaviour. Bernice apologises and is about to suggest they go back up when Tate cries out in pain and says he doesn’t feel well. Before anyone can stop him, he picks up a large rock and starts bashing it against his own helmet. Bernice calls for Rick’s help and together they start to drag him forcibly back. Once they’re safely inside the bell, Bernice suggests giving Tate CPR while Rick calls for the doctor back on the ship. She removes Tate’s helmet and is shocked to see what a mess he’s made of his own face. Nothing about this makes any sense and no one can understand why he’d do such a thing…
The diving bell returns to the surface and is slowly hauled back aboard the ship. The hatch opens and Rick and Bernice emerge to find Kerry waiting nervously for their return. She asks if Tate is alright, but Bernice tells her he’s dead. When she explains that Tate’s visor broke, Kerry turns angrily on Rick and accuses him of bringing faulty equipment. Bernice jumps to his defence and says Tate broke the visor himself with a rock, although they’ve no idea why he would do such a thing. Bernice suddenly decides she wants to spend some time with her son.
Bernice and Peter enjoy dinner alone in their cabin, then Peter asks if he can go out to play. Bernice isn’t too keen, but he says they’re setting up a Zero-G chamber in the main hall so they can play bulldog. Before she can give an answer, Rick arrives and apologises for interrupting their meal. Bernice says Peter can go, but warns him not to play too rough and says he has to wear a helmet. When they’re alone, Bernice admits that her son was getting restless after being with her all afternoon. It’s obvious Rick has had a few drinks, but Bernice doesn’t blame him and decides to have one herself. Rick is bothered by what happened to Tate, but it’s also reminded him that he saw someone else die in similar circumstances once before. He was diving with a woman called Natalie back in the IMC days. Most of the team had been working together so long they thought they knew each other well, but on one of the last days of the survey she broke her own helmet, just as Tate did. The team finished the survey and broke up shortly afterwards. Three of them quit and a couple of the others asked for transfers. He can’t believe he forgot all this and Bernice asks him when he last thought about it. He doesn’t know and says he was depressed for quite a while, so he took voluntary redundancy and lived off the package for a few months. Then he forgot everything, until today when he had a few drinks. Bernice asks if there’s any reason why someone would want to cover things up, but Rick assures her it was nobody’s fault.
Just then, Bernice’s computer starts making strange noises and she tells Rick it’s been doing that for a couple of days, which is why she hasn’t been able to complete the analysis on the water sample. Suddenly, to their shock, the computer actually speaks to them and says “greetings”! Bernice replies and then the computer offers them greetings on behalf of the Maximediras government and says they wish to open a peaceful dialogue with them. They’re interrupted by a call from Kerry who asks Bernice and Rick to join her immediately as Tate’s body has gone missing.
Bernice and Rick join Kerry in the sickbay and ask what happened. Kerry turns on them and suggests they already know and they must have been worried that the post mortem would reveal what really happened on the seabed. Rick tells her not to be stupid and says they have everything on camera, but Kerry says they could easily have doctored that. She doesn’t believe Tate killed himself and thinks it far more likely they killed him. Bernice points out that Kerry only met Tate a few weeks ago and he might have had all kinds of things going on in his life that she didn’t know about. She also reminds Kerry about the other people who’ve been throwing themselves overboard and says this ship has a remarkably high suicide rate. Suddenly everything lurches and the ship comes to a halt. Rick suggests they go up on deck to see what’s going on…
Bernice wonders what the worst case scenario could be and Rick says the ship might have hit something and they’ll sink here, six hundred miles from the nearest land. However, he thinks it’s more likely just an engine failure or something. Just then, they spot someone lowering the diving bell and as they rush forward to stop them, they realise to their horror that it’s Tate! In a strange voice, the dead man acknowledges that it used to known as Tate, but his body is dead and is now part of something larger. Kerry starts to approach the figure, but Bernice warns her away. They watch as the diving bell pauses for a moment, then starts to ascend. When it reaches the deck, the hatch opens and more disfigured dead bodies emerge. Bernice realises they’re the missing passengers whose bodies were never recovered from the water, but the image is horrifying as their flesh is literally hanging off their faces. Rick has seen enough and rushes forward to stop the ‘creatures’ but despite hitting one of them as hard as he can, it has no effect. Tate tells him they can take a great deal of such punishment, so Bernice suggests legging it is probably their best short-term idea. Rick says they should get to the bridge and warn the crew, but Bernice wonders if they might already know. Tate turns to his fellow creatures and says he’s disappointed that the diving bell wasn’t big enough to accommodate more of their kind as he was hoping they wouldn’t have to make two trips. One of the other creature reassures him and tells him the others should already be in place…
Bernice is the first to burst onto the bridge - only to be faced with more of the disfigured creatures pinning one of the crew to the floor and trying to drown him by regurgitating water into his mouth. She backs out quickly and tells Rick and Kerry to head for the medical bay instead. Kerry wonders how the creatures got to the bridge before them, but when they arrive in sickbay they discover the bodies of the suicide victims who’d already been recovered are now missing. It’s clear that everyone who’s drowned on this mission is coming back to life - like zombies. Bernice tells Kerry their tourism problem has been solved and they should start running a company called ‘Zombie Apocalypse Tours’. Rick has noticed that the worse things get, the more sarcastic Bernice becomes. They try to work out a way to deal with the zombies, but Kerry doesn’t think there are any weapons aboard. Bernice tries the communicator and calls for anyone from security, then she tries the engine room, but in both cases the only response she gets is the sound of the zombies massing through the ship. She suddenly realises Peter is alone and the three of them race off towards the main hall.
Bernice, Rick and Kerry enter the main hall and seal the door behind them with a deadlock. The lights aren’t working so Bernice calls out to Peter into the darkness. A man’s voice cries back, pleading with them not to hurt them - but then they hear Peter’s voice telling the man not to worry as it’s just his mum. He rushes over to join Bernice and asks her if she’s seen the dead people walking around. She’s glad he’s safe and tells him the creatures are very dangerous, but Peter says he was able to take care of them. Rick manages to get the lights working - and Bernice is stunned and horrified to find the room is filled with the bodies of the zombies, all dead and literally ripped limb from limb. She knows Peter was responsible and one of the other survivors confirms this. Peter explains that they barricaded themselves in here, but three of the zombies managed to get in and killed one of the supervisors. Peter says he didn’t think, he just got to work on the creatures and killed them all himself, save everyone else in the process. Bernice asks Rick for his medical scanner so they can examine the dead zombies, but he left it in his cabin so he’ll have to go and collect it. Kerry suggests he take Peter with him as he was able to kill three of the creatures single-handed, but Bernice refuses to let him go as he’s just a child. Peter ignores his mother and joins Rick at his side. Kerry says her son is doing the right thing, so Bernice punches her in the face. She apologises and says that was against her nature…but adds that she’ll do even more things like that if any harm comes to her son.
In the corridor leading to his cabin, Rick has to plead with Peter not to run so far ahead. Suddenly a zombie appears around the corner. Rick suggests going the other way, but Pete has a better idea. He attacks the zombie, but this time the creature manages to grab hold of the boy’s leg. Rick helps him to get free by smashing a deck chair over the creature, but instead of running, Peter turns back and starts fighting again. In an instant the zombie is dead and Peter explains that the only effective way of killing them is to go straight for the nervous system.
In Rick’s cabin, Peter finds the medi-scanner and prepares to head back, but Rick wants to get his breath back first. He comments that Peter saw off the zombie pretty quickly and casually asks him if he’s ever killed anyone before. Peter pauses, then points out that the zombies are already dead, so they don‘t count. Rick repeats his question and Peter says he didn’t mean to and that someone else made him do it. He becomes distressed and Rick calms him down. Peter admits that his mum doesn’t really understand what happened and that she never talks about it. Rick suggests they rejoin the others, but then they hear a ship-wide announcement coming over the public address system. The voice of Tate tells them they intend that everyone will die and they should give themselves up as none of them are going to be allowed to return to the land. In the main hall, Bernice respects Tate‘s honesty as, in her experience, a lot of people in his position would tease them by offering them false hope in return for co-operation. She turns to Kerry and tries to help the bleeding stop, adding that it‘s a good job Rick‘s bringing the medi-scanner. Rick and Peter return and assure Bernice that everything was fine, but then Rick adds that Peter took out another zombie on the way.
On the bridge, Tate tells the others there were originally 124 people on this ship and there are less than 80 still alive. The survivors are hiding in their rooms, but Tate is in no hurry to deal with them as they won’t be going anywhere.
Rick starts scanning the dead zombies, but the results are confusing so he decides to cross-reference them to look for common factors. He tells Bernice she has a remarkable boy, but she wonders what she’s supposed to do with a child who’s capable of such things. Rick tells her she should give Peter a break as he saved quite a few lives today. He also mentions the fact that her son told him he’d killed someone before. Bernice tells him it was someone who’d been very important to her for a long time and she has a fairly good idea how it happened. She doesn’t think it was Peter‘s fault and that he was very strongly influenced by someone else, but it’s still worrying that Peter had it in himself to do that and she’s not sure he really understands what he’s done. She says they couldn’t stay where they were as the place was caught up in a couple of wars and her boss started taking some alarming steps to make sure it wouldn‘t happen again. However, the current instability in their lives is probably the last thing Peter needs and the freelance life isn‘t all it‘s cracked up to be. She still feels like there’s a loose end in her life and she’ll never be satisfied until she’s gone back and tied it off. Rick’s reaction to all this is very philosophical and he says that’s because he spends most of his life simply staring at the sea.
The medi-scanner beeps to indicate that it’s finished its job. Rick explains that at any given time the human body is host to all sorts of organisms, but lots of them are benign so the scanner filters them out so it can concentrate on things like viruses and tapeworms. The scanner results show major activity from something microscopic that’s infiltrated every bit of the zombies’ bodies, including the brain, and is controlling them. Somehow the bodies have become filled with this ’thing’ and because the only thing they have is common is that they all drowned, they suspect it’s something in the water. Bernice remembers that the bio-luminescence is caused by micro-organisms, which are basically alien lifeforms. Rick points out that everyone on the planet drinks the water so they could all be infected, but Bernice guesses it depends how much they drink. Kerry says Tate was a teetotaller and he only ever used to drink ash tea, even when he was in the bar. Bernice realises the real inhabitants of this planet had obviously made Rick forget what happened to Natalie and it was only when he went to the bar and had downed a few drinks that he started remembering, so there must also be a connection with booze. Whatever’s inside the bodies is trying to keep the motor functions going, so Bernice asks Rick to empty out one of the hypo-sprays from the medical kit. She fills the empty spray with vodka, then tells him to keep scanning while she injects one of the bodies. The reaction is instant and the control of the micro-organisms on the body starts to slow down. Bernice asks Rick to find a blunt weapon, then suggests they head for the bar while Kerry stays behind to look after the survivors, especially Peter.
The alien organism controlling Tate realises that some of the other bodies are being incapacitated and he says it’ll be interesting to find out how they’re doing it. He orders the other creatures to prepare themselves as it’s time for them to make their move…
Bernice and Rick make their way down the corridor towards the bar, fighting off zombies every step of the way. Rick manages to hold the last two off while Bernice injects them with more vodka and the creatures fall the floor. Eventually they manage to get inside the bar just as Bernice realises her flask is empty. They seal the doors behind them, then Rick asks Bernice if she wants a drink and she asks for a large one!
Peter is still baffled why his mother won’t simply let him take the zombies on as he’s more than capable of fighting them. Kerry tells her that’s because she wants to keep him safe - his mum even punched her in the face when she suggested Peter could help out. Peter is impressed. Just then, Kerry notices there’s some water coming from somewhere and they realise this can’t be good news…
Bernice and Rick emerge from the bar and find themselves confronting Tate and one of the other zombies. They agree to tackle the other one first as Bernice is feeling sentimental, so they quickly despatch him with an injection of alcohol. Tate says he’s surprised as his people honestly didn’t think the humans would work their weakness out, or at least they wouldn’t be able to put it to any practical use. Bernice says they already know the creatures come from the water and have made people kill themselves so they could inhabit their bodies, but she wonders why they’re doing it. Tate says it’s because they want them to leave.
The group of survivors in the main hall are starting to panic as the level rises from the water pouring in from the air conditioning shafts. Kerry is unable to get the doors open so Peter tells her to call his mother, but unfortunately the communicators are dead too.
Tate says that when the humans first came to Maximediras, the inhabitants thought they could co-exist with them by letting humans live on the land while they stayed in the sea, but then they discovered the humans’ intention was to mine the sea. Rick says they changed their minds as there was nothing here worth mining, but Tate says that was because they got inside the brains of Rick’s team and made them think there was nothing. He says they also decided that Natalie’s death might just be enough encouragement to warn the others off and Bernice is horrified to learn they did it just to emphasise their argument. Tate says it wasn’t a unanimous decision and he regards their leaders are decadent, fearful and naïve because they thought they could stop the humans invading by putting up fake monuments in the hope that the intruders would make an effort to preserve things as they were. But instead, the humans ploughed their ships through their seas, dumping their effluent as they went. He believes co-existence is a laughable notion and says their leaders are not fit to make decisions, so he and his supporters from the silent majority have now taken responsibility for removing the humans. For years they’ve tolerated their leaders’ incompetence and lack of courage in the face of an alien threat, but he believes his group represents the true feeling of the populace. Bernice asks how many are part of this action and Tate says they number millions. Bernice realises there must be trillions and trillions of them on this planet, but Tate says the others will know they were right when they see what they’ve done. Bernice guesses they’re only acting now because they feared their government would stop them. She orders Rick to follow her and they both race down the corridor…
The water level in the main hall is now so high that Peter is finding it impossible to keep his feet on the floor. Kerry tells him to join her, then she helps him over to the far wall. She urges everyone to follow her to the stage so they can climb higher up.
Bernice takes Rick back to her cabin and introduces him to the water in her sample jar - which in return offers greetings on behalf of the Maximediras government via the speaker in her computer. The voice apologises for the delay and says they didn’t anticipate that it would take so long to find an effective means of communication. The voice represents 11,548 selected representatives from their government - they hoped such a gesture of faith might be appreciated by the human settlers and the motion was carried by a two-thirds majority. Bernice blames herself for ignoring them earlier, but she asks them if they’ve been in touch with their people recently. They tell her they can only communicate through water, so they’ve been isolated ever since they allowed themselves to be removed from the sea. Bernice says she has some bad news for them and tells them about the rogue faction. The government apologises and says the majority of their species favours covert co-existence and it’s only a small number who favour more extreme measures. Bernice says it’s the humans who should be apologising after riding roughshod over the planet without even noticing they were here. Rick thinks Bernice is blaming him personally for not looking closer, but she says everyone is equally to blame. Bernice says the other aliens are trying to kill everyone aboard the ship so the government asks to be returned to the sea so they can put things right.
Bernice picks up the water sample and Rick provides her with some cover as they open the cabin door and run for the deck. They successfully manage to pour the water over the side, but then they’re spotted by two zombies and they have no choice but to return to the cabin and place their trust in the government. They close the door behind them and do their best to make sure it’ll hold their attackers back. Suddenly the room lurches and Bernice realises the entire ship is sinking. Rick assures her the cabin door is totally watertight and if Peter’s indoors then he’ll be perfectly safe too.
In the main hall, Kerry and Peter have also realised the ship is sinking and they both start to argue about which of them is the most scared.
Tate uses the communicator to contact Bernice and demands to know what she’s done. She explains that the Maximediras government was trying to open a dialogue with them and his group took advantage of their absence to follow their own agenda. She guesses he persuaded his followers that action needed to be taken and that they shouldn’t wait to see whether the humans would co-operate with the government, but now they’ll be taking whatever action they feel is appropriate,. This makes Tate laugh and he says she hasn’t won. He insists that the silent majority can no longer be ignored, but then the windows surrounding the bridge collapse in on themselves and the entire room fills with a tidal wave of water.
In the cabin, Bernice and Rick realise the ship is now totally submerged under the water. It occurs to them that the aliens could have done this any time they wanted, which proves they’ve been allowing the humans to live here willingly. Rick wonders whether it’s true that the majority of the aliens tolerate them or whether Tate is right, but Bernice is satisfied that when people start quoting “silent majorities” they’re normally on very shaky ground. Just then, to their great relief, the ship starts moving back up towards the surface…
Later, Bernice is reunited with Peter and they rush over to hug each other. Bernice is concerned that he’s wet as she thought all the doors had watertight seals, but Kerry explains that they worked only too well. Water had started coming into the hall from somewhere and when they couldn’t open the doors they nearly drowned. Rick tells Peter that his mum saved everyone and Peter proudly says she does things like that. Kerry asks about Tate, and Bernice says she’s sorry, but adds that those responsible for what happened are going to face justice. Unfortunately this means the documentary that Bernice was booked to make is no longer workable, so she suggests they make another one using a micro-biologist rather than an archaeologist. Rick agrees to help and asks if Bernice is also going to hang around to offer practical advice. Bernice says someone needs to speak to the tourist council to avoid a repeat of what happened here and make sure no one gets any ideas about mining the seabed, but Peter interrupts and asks why someone else can’t do all that. She laughs and says she used to have a friend with that attitude and it meant other people always had to do the clearing up. She promised herself she wouldn’t be like that and Peter accepts what she says, but asks if they can do something cool when she’s finished. Bernice says she can’t make any promises, but she’ll do her best…
- Bernice Summerfield - Lisa Bowerman
- Peter Summerfield - Thomas Grant
- Rick Hertz - Jeremy James
- Kerry Lyle - Alice Barclay
- Tate Booker - Ralf Collie
- Benny produced the documentary Our Martians, Ourselves during a research term at the University of Vremnya in the late 2590s.
- The title of this audio, "Beyond the Sea", is likely a reference to Beyond the Sun, which is the second Bernice Summerfield story Big Finish Productions ever produced.
- This story was recorded on 28 July 2007 at the Moat Studios.
- Maximediras will play an important role in the events of AUDIO: Resurrecting the Past and AUDIO: Escaping the Future.
- Benny mentions that she was born on Beta Caprisis. (PROSE: Love and War et al)
- Maximediras was previously owned by the Interplanetary Mining Corporation. (TV: Colony in Space et al)
- Benny mentions the circumstances of her leaving the collection. (AUDIO: The Wake)
- When asked by Rick, Peter tells him that he has killed before. (AUDIO: The End of The World)
- Benny previously encountered microscopic organisms living in a sea. (AUDIO: The Poison Seas)