Tomorrow and Tomorrow

Charles Sheffield

PART ONE: Love and Death

Chapter 1

The Edge of Doom

Time: The Great Healer, the Universal Solvent.

And if time cannot be granted?

When Drake finally received a clear medical diagnosis after months of secret terrors and false hopes and specialist hedging, Ana had less than five weeks to live. She was already in a final decline. Suddenly, after twelve marvelous years together and a future that seemed to spread out before them for fifty more, they saw the world collapse to a handful of days.

It had begun simply — more than simply. It had begun with nothing, a red car in the driveway when he did not expect one. Ana's car.

He had been passing the house almost by accident, on his way from a teeth-cleaning appointment to a meeting at the new concert hall. Like everyone else, Drake had complained about the acoustics, and the hall managers had called him in to be more specific.

The grace period for construction changes without extra charge would end in less than thirty days, and they were worried.

Well, he could be specific, very specific, about bass absorption and soggy midrange sound and resonant high frequencies. But Ana should not be home. She had a rehearsal in the afternoon. She had told him when she left that she planned an early lunch with the pianist and clarinet player, and she would not be home until about six o'clock.

Car problems? The Camry had been balky for the past week.

He parked in the drive and went inside, noticing the puddle of water on the blacktop and vowing for the hundredth time to have it resurfaced. Ana was not in the kitchen. Not in the dining room or den or living room.

He felt the first twinge of anxiety as he ran upstairs. His relief when he saw her, fully clothed in blue jeans and a tartan shirt and peacefully sleeping on their bed, was surprisingly strong.

He went across and shook her. She opened her eyes, blinked, and smiled up at him.

He bent forward and kissed her lightly on the lips. "Are you all right?"

"I'm fine, love. Except I feel so tired."

"Did you stay up late?" Drake had been downtown to hear a performance of one of his own recent works, and glad-handing his public afterward had kept him out until after midnight.

Ana shook her head. "I was in bed by ten. I've been feeling this way a lot recently. Weak and feeble. But never as bad as this."

"It's not like you. Why don't we give Tom a call?"

He had expected her to say it wasn't necessary, that all she needed was a little more relaxation — Ana, between singing engagements and teaching, drove herself hard.

To his surprise, she nodded. "Would you call him for me?" She lay back and closed her eyes. "I just want to lie here for a little longer."

Drake had worried from that moment on, even if at first no one else seemed to. Tom Lambert was a close friend as well as their family doctor. He came over the same evening, grumbling about what other patients would say if they thought he made house calls.

He examined Ana for a long time. He seemed more puzzled and curious than concerned.

"It could be simple fatigue," he said when he was done. He accepted a small Scotch in a large glass and added lots of ice. The three of them were sitting in the den. Tom raised his glass to Ana before he took a sip. He sighed. "All I can say is, if it is anything, then it's something that I've never seen before."

"Do you think we should just forget about it?" Ana asked. She was sitting on the couch with her feet tucked under her. Drake, studying her now rather than simply accepting her presence, decided that she seemed thinner. "You know, take two aspirin and wait for tomorrow."

"Forget about it?" Tom sounded shocked. "Of course not. What sort of doctor do you think I am? I want to send you to a specialist,"

"Of course." Ana's tone was teasing. She and Tom had had the argument before. "Today's typical physician: can't possibly tell you what's wrong with you unless you see at least four other doctors — who of course all get their fees. If you people were musicians, nothing would be written for anything less than a quintet."

"Sure. And if you people were doctors, you'd only perform with hundreds of people watching. Anyway, don't change the subject. I want you to see a specialist. I'm going to make an appointment for you to see Dr. Kevin Williams."

"But if you don't know what it is," Drake protested, "how do you know what sort of specialist she needs?"

Tom Lambert seemed slightly embarrassed. "I said I'd never seen anything like this, in my own practice. But it doesn't mean I don't have ideas. Kevin Williams specializes in diseases of the blood and lymph systems. He's head of a group at NIH. He's a friend of mine, and he's damned good. Don't worry, Ana."

"I wasn't going to. I don't believe in it. Drake's the worrier in the family."

"Then don't you worry, either, Drake. We'll get to the bottom of this." Tom nodded, and when he spoke again it was as though he was talking to himself. "Yes, we will. And we'll do it quickly."

Tom did his best. Drake never doubted that for a moment. Ana saw Dr. Williams the next day, then there came a bewildering succession of other doctors and tests in the following two weeks. Ana's teasing remark to Tom was an understatement. Drake counted twelve different physicians, not counting the individuals, many of them also MDs, who administered the MRIs, IVPs, myelograms, and multiple blood workups.

Tom said little, but Drake knew in his heart that there was a big problem. Ana's lassitude continued. She was definitely losing more weight. She had been forced to cancel her teaching and her near-term concert engagements. One morning she was sitting at the kitchen table, pale winter sunlight slanting through onto her fair hair. Drake noticed the translucent, waxen sheen to her forehead and the pattern of fine blue veins on her temples. He was filled with such dread that he could not speak.

The grim biopsy result, when it finally came, was no surprise. Tom delivered the news himself, one drizzly evening in early March.

"An operation?" Ana, as always, was calm and rational.

Tom shook his head.

"How about chemotherapy?"

"We'll try that, naturally." Tom hesitated. "But I have to tell you, Ana, the prognosis is not too good. We can certainly treat you, but we can't cure you."

"I guess that's it, then." Ana stood up, already a little unsteady on her feet because of muscle loss in her legs. "I'm going to bring coffee for all of us. It ought to have perked by now. Cream and sugar, Tom?"

"Uh… yes." Tom looked up at her unhappily. "No, I mean, cream, no sugar. Whatever. Anything is fine."

As soon as Ana was out of the room he turned to Drake. "She's in denial. That's natural, and it's not surprising. It will take a while for her to adjust."

"No." Drake stood up and went across to the window. The last heavy snow of the winter was melting, and fresh green shoots of spring growth were poking through. A few more days would bring bloom to the snowdrops and crocuses.

"You don't know Ana," he went on. "She's the ultimate realist. Not like me. Ana's not in denial. I'm the one that's in denial."

"I'm going to prescribe painkillers for her," Tom continued, as though he had not been listening. "All the painkillers she wants. There's no virtue in pain. In a case like this I don't worry about addiction. And I'm going to prescribe tranquilizers, too… for both of you." Tom looked toward the kitchen, making sure that Ana was out of earshot. "You might as well know the truth, Drake. There's not one damned thing we can do for her. Forget the chemotherapy. If it buys more than a few weeks for Anastasia, I'd be surprised. I feel that medical science is still in the dark ages about this disease. As a doctor I have to worry about you, too, Drake. Don't neglect your own health. And remember I can be here, night or day, whenever either one of you needs me."

Ana was coming back. She paused on the threshold, holding a tray of cups, coffeepot, cream and sugar. She smiled and arched an eyebrow. "You two all done? Safe for me to come back in now?"

Drake looked at her. She was thin and fragile, but she had never been more beautiful. Beautiful and brave and loving. At the idea of living without her his chest tightened. He felt as though he could not breathe.

Ana was his life, without her there was nothing. How could he ever bear to lose her?

Chapter 2

"O, call back yesterday, bid time return!"

Tom was gone before ten o'clock. He could tell that Ana, who had been putting on her best front just for him, was exhausted.

Ana went off to bed as soon as Tom had left. Drake followed, half an hour later. She was already asleep. He lay down beside her without undressing, convinced that would be a waste of time. His mind was too active for any form of rest.

He closed his eyes. He imagined Ana, as she had been when they'd first met.

He always told people that he had loved her before he even saw her. The occasion of their first meeting was an end-of-term examination. Drake, as Doctor Bonvissuto's star pupil in musical composition, had been taking a test alone, in a small room next to Bonvissuto's austere office.

It was not the ideal setting for concentration, but Drake had been through the routine several times before. While he was setting down the parts of a fugal theme provided by his teacher, Bonvissuto was interviewing would-be choral scholars and students in the next room.

The test material was not inspiring work, and Drake could do it almost automatically, using sheets of lined score paper and a pencil. Bonvissuto scorned computers and all other aids to the rapid writing out of music.

"You think you need computer to write fast, eh?" He had scowled at Drake on their very first session together. "Handel, he write Messiah, every note, in twenny-four day. You do as good in two-three month, I don't grumble. You want computer to help? Fine. Provided you write more and better. Better than Bach. Better than Monteverdi, better than Mozart. They had no computer."

From Bonvissuto, that counted as mild comment. But he meant what he said. Drake slaved away at the test, without benefit of centuries of technological development, while in the next room a succession of young men and women came and went.

Most of them, Drake knew, arrived prepared to sing as Brunnhilde or Tristan or the Queen of the Night. Bonvissuto would have none of it.

"Something simple. Not the grand opera. The simple song, the folk song. You sing that real good, a cappella, then maybe we think about Verdi an' Mozart an' Wagner."

They would sing unaccompanied, often off-key and loud. And Bonvissuto would comment, equally loudly.

"What key did you think you were in at the end there? And what language? Did you ever hear about diction? This song is in English, for Christ's sake. Listening to you it could have been in Polish or Chinese or anything."

Bonvissuto reversed the traditional pattern. When he was angry and excited, the Italian accent disappeared. In its place came perfect English and a Kansas twang. The same thing happened during his lessons with Drake, who had once been unwise enough to mention that fact. The teacher had winked at him and said, "Whoever heard of an Italian from Kansas? Whoever heard of a composer from Kansas?"

Drake finished writing out the fugue, turned the page, and went on to the final question. "Provide a suitable melody to go with the given accompaniment."

He looked at what followed and realized that the question was going to be a snap. He knew the original piece. He was looking at the piano part of "Erstarrung," the fourth song from the Winterreise song cycle. All he had to do was write out the vocal part. The accompaniment happened to be given in A-minor, up a tone from the version that he was most familiar with, so he would have to transpose; but that was trivial.

He read the question again to be sure. "Provide a suitable melody." It didn't say, "Compose a suitable melody of your own." And he certainly could not improve on Schubert.

As he wrote in the vocal line he heard the door open again in the next room. There was a mutter of conversation, then a single chord, E major, on Bonvissuto's piano.

A woman's contralto voice began to sing, "Blow the wind southerly." It was a strong, true voice, slightly husky in the lower register and with just a touch of an attractive vibrato on the high notes. Drake paused to listen. After the final note there was a pause, then again a single chord on the piano. It confirmed what Drake already knew. The woman had finished exactly on E natural, in the key where she had started. She had been right on pitch all the way through.

Drake heard another muttered sentence or two spoken in the next room, then the door opened and closed again. He waited, writing in the last few bars of the exercise. Surely Bonvissuto hadn't sent her away, just like that, without talking to her some more. Drake wanted to hear her sing again.

On an impulse he collected his answer sheets, stacked them neatly, and walked across to the connecting door. He turned the doorknob and went through without knocking.

He braced himself. Anyone who entered Bonvissuto's office uninvited could expect a hot welcome.

The expected blast did not come. Professor Bonvissuto was not there. Alone in the room, standing by the piano and staring at him uncertainly, was a slim, blond-haired girl.

He stared back. Her hair was cut a little lopsided. She wasn't very tall, maybe five four, and her pale blue dress didn't look quite right on her. Drake, no connoisseur of clothing, did not realize that it had been intended for someone a couple of inches taller. But the most striking thing about her, far more significant than clothes, was her age. She looked about fifteen. It was hard to believe that the mature contralto voice he had heard came from her.

"Are you next?" she said finally. "I thought I was the last one. He won't be long."

He realized that he had been staring, but so had she. She must assume he was there for a vocal audition. He thrust his sheaf of papers out toward her. "I'm not here to sing. I was taking an exam. I'm one of Professor Bonvissuto's students. Was that you?"

"What me?"

"Singing. 'Blow the wind southerly.'"

"Yes. Why?"

"It was good." He wanted to add that it was wonderful, heart-stopping, soul-searing. Instead he said, "Where is he?"

"The professor? He went to register me. I didn't think I'd be accepted, and it's the last day to sign up. He said he could push it through."

"He can. He knows how." Drake, not knowing what to do next but reluctant to leave, sat down on the piano stool.

She asked from behind him, "Do you play?"

"Yes. Not very well." He was convinced that he could feel her critical stare burning into the back of his head. Music was full of prodigies: tiny infants picking out chord sequences, concert performers under ten years old, composers who wrote great works in their teens. And here he was, over eighteen and still a student. He wanted to blurt out that he had started late, that his family had been too poor to think of music lessons, that he had come to music only when he found that, almost against his will, melodies arose in his head to go with poetry that he was reading.

He couldn't say any of that. Instead, to hide his self-consciousness, and with "Erstarrung" still in his head, he began to play the restless, uneasy triplets of the song's introduction.

"I've heard that a couple of times," said the voice behind him. "But it's a man's song. Do you know 'Gretchen am Spinnrade'?"

"'Margaret at the spinning-wheel'?" Drake was much more comfortable with the English translation. He paused for a moment, then began to play a steady, pulsing figure.

"That's it," the girl said at once. "Did you know that Schubert wrote it when he was only seventeen?"

"I know." It was a possible criticism, making the point that Drake was a lot older than seventeen and had done nothing. But before he could say more she went on: "It's a little bit high for me. But I can handle it. Start over."

After the four brief figures of the introduction she began to sing, "Mein Ruh ist hin, mein Herz ist schwer." "My peace is gone, my heart is heavy." Drake, understanding the German words only vaguely but feeling the strong musical rapport between them, put all his mind into his playing, sensing and adapting to her vocal line.

They performed the whole song. After the final slowing chords on the piano there was total silence. He turned and found a smile on her face that matched his own delight. Before they could speak, a sound came from the doorway: four steady hand claps.

"You know, don't you, the penalty for playing my Steinway without my permission?" Bonvissuto walked toward them. "What are you doing in here, Merlin?"

Drake picked up his exam papers and held them out. "I finished."

"Yeah?" Bonvissuto skimmed the sheets for a couple of seconds. He snorted. "I told Leila Nielsen, using 'Erstarrung' was one dumb idea, you were sure to know it. No matter. Plenty of stuff you don't know for next time." He smiled sadistically. "How's your Webern?" And then, before Drake could reply, "Go on, go on. Out of here, both of you." He waved his hands at them. "Merlin, we'll discuss your test tomorrow morning. Werlich, I registered you. You're legal. You come in at one tomorrow, we'll work on your middle register. Now, go. What you waiting for?" And then, when they were almost out the door, "Since you two are going to be performing in public together, you'd better practice. You need polish."

Drake knew her name, or at least part of it. Werlich. And she knew his. They stood in the corridor, staring at each other.

"Did you hear that?" she said at last. "Performing together. Do you think he meant it?"

"I don't know." Drake had played before small groups only. The idea of a public concert froze his blood. "But he usually means what he says when it's about music."

She held out her hand. "I'm Anastasia Werlich. Ana for short."

"I'm Drake Merlin." He took her hand and felt an odd compulsion to admit his secret "It's actually Walter Drake Merlin, but I really hate Walter."

"So don't use it. You didn't pick it. I'm not too fond of Werlich." She frowned. "How much money do you have?"

The question threw him. Did she mean in the world, or in his pocket? Either way, it was an unsatisfactory answer.

"I have four dollars."

She nodded. "All right. And I have nine. So I'm the rich one. I buy you a Coke."

"I don't drink Coke. Caffeine doesn't agree with me. It gives me the jitters." Drake wondered why he was saying something so terminally stupid. Here he was, keener to continue a conversation with Ana than he had ever been with anyone, and he sounded like he was freezing her off.

But all she said was, "Sprite, then, or 7UP," and she steered them off toward the cafeteria at the end of the building.

They talked through the rest of the afternoon and all evening, so absorbed in each other that the presence of others in the cafeteria was totally irrelevant.

It had pleased Drake at first to learn that she was as badly off as he was. Her fluent German and knowledge of the world came not from an expensive private-school education in Europe, but because Ana was an army brat, whose tough childhood had dragged her from school to school all over Europe and most of the rest of the world. Like him, Ana was poor, too poor to attend a university without a scholarship.

And then, after just a few hours together, money or the lack of it didn't matter.

What did matter was that they were so keen to talk and listen to each other that Ana came close to missing her last bus home. What mattered was that when they were at the bus stop she said, with the directness that she would never lose, "I've been waiting to meet you since I was five years old."

What mattered was her face, gray eyes closed, upturned for a brief good-night kiss. When the bus drove away Drake felt the deepest loss of his eighteen years. He knew, even then, that he had found the girl he would love forever.

That first day set the pattern for all their time together. They were with each other every moment that they could manage. When Ana had an out-of-town performance she would return home on the earliest possible flight. When commissions or premiere performances took Drake away to New York or Miami or Los Angeles, he chafed at the obligatory dinners and cocktail parties that were part of the deal. He didn't want free dinner and drinks or extravagant praise of his talents. He wanted to be with Ana. Even in the early days, when they were desperately poor, he would go without dinner so he could take a taxi rather than a bus, and be home an hour sooner.

Drake recalled one day when Ana was involved in a major traffic accident on the Beltway. He was in bed with a fever of 102 when a telephone call came in from a total stranger, telling him about the accident but assuring him that Ana was all right.

He did not remember getting out of bed or dressing or driving to the scene. He recalled only the terrible feeling of possible loss, of doom hanging over him until he had his arms around her. Her car was totaled, and he didn't notice or care. He had been consumed with the fear of losing her.

And now…

Drake looked at the illuminated face of the bedside clock. It was past midnight, almost one o'clock. He rose, went through to the bathroom, and flushed the prescription for tranquilizers that Tom had given him down the drain.

There would be opportunity for sorrow later. Now he had work to do, and little time to do it. He needed all his faculties, unblurred by drugs. For twelve years he and Ana had done their thinking and planning together. It couldn't be like that this time. She needed all her strength to fight her disease. It was up to him.

He didn't know what he would do, or how he would do it. He only knew he would do something.

Ana was his life; without her there was nothing.

He could not bear to lose her.

He would not lose her.

Ever.

Chapter 3

Second Chance

Three and a half weeks of his efforts proved futile. After the first half-dozen tries Drake learned how to dispose ruthlessly of false leads. Unfortunately, before each one could be rejected it had to be explored. And there were so many: homeopathy, acupuncture, bipolarized interferon, amygdalin, ion rebalance, meditation, chelation, Kirlian aura manipulation, biofeed-back, quantum energy…

The list seemed endless, and hopeless. Whatever else they might do, they would not cure Ana.

By the fourth week it was obvious that Drake had to do something. Ana, though she never complained, was failing fast. He was approaching the end of his endurance. He had been sleeping only a couple of hours a night, making his data-bank searches and long-distance telephone calls when Ana lay in drugged sleep. He had canceled or postponed all commitments, except for one short television piece that could not wait. He disposed of that in a desperate seventeen-hour session, hearing as he worked at his computer the far-off voice of Professor Bonvissuto: "You think you write fast and good, Merlin? Maybe. Mozart, he write the overture for Don Giovanni, full score, in one sitting."

When Ana was awake they spent their time in an opiate dream world, touching, smiling, savoring each other, drifting. Except that Drake had taken no drugs and he could not afford to drift. Or wait.

At last it crowded down to a single desperate option. He would have liked to discuss it with Ana, but he could not do so. If she knew what he had in mind, she would veto it. She would make him promise, on her dying body, that he would abandon the idea.

So. She must not know, must never even suspect.

When he had done all that he could and was ready for the final step, he called Tom Lambert and asked him to come over to the house.

Tom arrived after dinner. It was fantastic weather for early April, with daffodils, tulips, and hyacinths bursting into blossom after a cool spring. Life and energy seemed everywhere except inside the darkened house. Ana was sleeping in the front bedroom. Tom gave her a brief examination and led Drake into the living room. He shook his head.

"It's going faster than I thought. At this rate Anastasia will pass into a final coma in the next three or four days. You ought to let me take her to a hospital now. There's nothing you can do for her, and you need the rest. You look as though you've had no sleep for the past month."

"There'll be time enough for sleep. I want her to stay here with me. In fact, it will be necessary." Drake placed Tom in the window seat and sat himself down opposite, knee to knee. He explained what he had been doing for the past week, and what he wanted Tom to do in the next few days.

Lambert heard him out without a word. Then he shrugged his shoulders.

"If that's what the two of you want to do, Drake, it's your call." There was a pitying look in his eyes. "I'll help you, of course I will. And I agree, Anastasia has nothing at all to lose. But you realize, don't you, that they've never done a successful freeze and thaw?"

"On fish, and amphibians —"

"Don't kid yourselves, Drake. Fish and amphibians mean next to nothing. We're talking humans here. I have to tell you, in my opinion you are wasting your time and money. Just making the whole thing harder for yourself, too. What does Ana have to say about it?"

"Not much." It was a direct lie. The idea had never been discussed with her. But how could he make a decision, this one above all, without telling Ana? Drake forced himself away from that thought and went on. "She's willing. Maybe more for my sake than hers. She thinks it won't work, but she agrees that she has nothing to lose. Look, I'd rather you don't mention this to her. It's like — like assuming she's already dead. I'll prepare the papers. And I'll get Ana's signature."

"Better not wait too long." Tom's face was grim. "If you're going to do this, she has to be able to hold a pen."

"I know. I told you, I'll get her signature."

After Tom left, Drake wandered out into the backyard. It was still warm outside, with the promise of summer. But spring was a mockery, an unkind and cruel joke. He roamed from one flowering border to the next. They had created this garden with their own hands. When they moved into the house, seven years ago, the yard had been badly neglected. It had been nothing but weeds and bare earth. He had done most of the work, but it had been according to Ana's design and under her direction. These were her walkways and flower beds, not his. How could he bear to look at them, if she was gone?

After five minutes he went inside. He had to check all the legal procedures one more time.

• • •

Three days later Drake called Tom Lambert again to the house. The doctor went to the bedroom, felt Ana's pulse, and took blood pressure and brain-wave readings.

He emerged stone-faced. "I'm afraid this is it, Drake. I'll be very surprised if she regains consciousness. If you are still set on this thing, it has to be done while she has some normal body functions. Another three days… it will be a waste of time."

The two men went together into the bedroom. Drake took a last look at Ana's calm, ravaged face. He told himself that this was not a last farewell. At last he nodded to Tom.

"Go ahead." He could not tear his gaze away from her face. "Any time."

Time, time. A waste of time. To the end of time. Time heals all wounds. O! call back yesterday, bid time return.

"Drake? Drake? Are you all right?"

"Sorry. I'm all right." Again he nodded. "Go on, Tom. There's no point in waiting."

The physician made the injection. Working together, they lifted Ana from the bed and removed her clothes. Drake wheeled in the prepared thermal tank. He laid her gently into it. She was so light, it was as though part of her was already lost to him.

While Tom filled out the death certificate, Drake placed the call to Second Chance. He told them to come at once to the house. He set the tank at three degrees above freezing, as instructed. Tom inserted the catheters and the IVs. The next stages were automatic, controlled by the tank's own programs. Blood was withdrawn through a large hollow needle in the main external iliac artery, cooled a precise amount, and returned to the femoral vein.

In ten minutes Ana's body temperature had dropped thirty degrees. All life signs had vanished. Ana was now legally dead. To an earlier generation, Drake Merlin and Tom Lambert would have been judged murderers. It was hard not to feel that way as they sat in the silence of the bedroom, awaiting the arrival of the Second Chance team. Tom was filled with pity — for Drake. Ana was now beyond pity.

Drake's thoughts and plans were fortunately beyond his friend's imaginings.

He had a hard time with Tom Lambert and the three women who arrived from Second Chance. Not one of them could see a reason for Drake to go over to the Second Chance preparation facility with Ana's body.

Tom thought that Drake couldn't face the idea that it was all over. He urged his friend to come home with him and have a drink. Drake refused. The preparation team didn't know what to make of it as he hovered close by them. He seemed like a ghoul or some sort of necrophiliac, yet the look on his face showed he was clearly suffering. They carefully explained that the procedures were very unpleasant to watch, especially for someone so personally involved. They agreed with Dr. Lambert. Drake would be much better off leaving everything in their experienced hands and going home with his friend. They would make sure that everything was all right. If he was worried, they would be sure to call him as soon as the work was finished.

Drake couldn't tell them the real reason he wanted to see the whole preparation procedure, down to the last grisly detail. But by simply refusing to take no for an answer, he at last had his way.

The head of the team then decided that Drake wanted to come along because he was afraid that some element of the job would be botched. She explained the whole procedure to him, kindly and carefully, on the one-hour drive to the facility. They were sitting together in the rear of the van, next to the temperature-controlled casket.

"Most of the revivables — we much prefer that term to cryocorpses — are stored at liquid nitrogen temperatures. That's about minus two hundred degrees Celsius. It's almost certainly cold enough. But it's still about seventy-five degrees above absolute zero. All measurable biological processes become imperceptible long before that. However, there are still some chemical reactions going on. The laws of statistics guarantee that a few atoms will have enough energy to induce biological changes. And mind and memory are very delicate things. So for people who are worried about that, we make available a deluxe version. That's what you bought. Your wife will be stored at liquid helium temperatures, just a few degrees above absolute zero. That's supersafe. When it's so cold, the chance of change — physical or mental — goes way down."

And the cost, although she did not mention the fact, went way up. But cost was not even a variable to be considered from Drake's perspective. When they arrived at the Second Chance facility he hung around the preparation room, ignoring all hints that he should wait outside; and he watched closely.

The team members became more sympathetic. They were now convinced that he was simply terrified that a mistake would be made. They allowed him to see everything and answered all his questions. He was careful not to ask anything that sounded too clinical and dispassionate. The main thing he wanted was to see, to know at absolute firsthand what had been done, and in what sequence.

After the first few minutes there was in any case not much to see. He knew that all the air cavities within Ana's body had been filled with neutral solution, and her blood replaced with anticrystalloids. But then she went into the seamless pressure chamber. The body was held there at three degrees above freezing, while the pressure was raised slowly to five thousand atmospheres. After that was done, the temperature drop started.

"Back in the eighties and nineties, they had no idea of this technique." The team leader was still talking to Drake, perhaps with the idea that she might make him feel more relaxed. "They used to do the freezing at atmospheric pressure. There was a formation of ice crystals within the cells as the temperature dropped, and it was a mess when the thaw was done. No return to consciousness was possible."

She smiled reassuringly at Drake, who was not reassured at all. So they didn't know what they were doing in the eighties and nineties. Would they claim in twenty more years that people didn't know what they were doing now? But he had no alternative. He couldn't wait for twenty years, or even twenty hours.

"The modern method is quite different," she went on. "We make use of the fact that ice can exist in many different solid forms. Ice is complicated stuff, much more than most people realize. If you raise the pressure to three thousand atmospheres, then drop the temperature, water will remain liquid to about minus twenty degrees Celsius. And when it finally changes to a solid, it isn't the familiar form of ice — what is usually called phase 1. Instead it turns to something called phase 3. Drop the temperature from there, holding the pressure constant, and at about minus twenty-five degrees it changes to another form, phase 2. And it stays that way as you drop the temperature still farther. If you go to five thousand atmospheres pressure — that's what we are doing here — before you drop the temperature, water freezes at about minus five degrees and adopts still another form, phase 5. The trick to avoiding cell rupture problems at freezing point is to inject anticrystalloids, which help to inhibit crystal formation, then by the right combination of temperatures and pressures work all the way down toward absolute zero, passing into and through phases 5, 3, and 2.

"That's what we are doing now. But don't expect to see much except dial readings. For obvious reasons, the pressure chamber is made without seams and without observation ports. You don't get pressures of five thousand atmospheres, not even in the deepest ocean gulfs. Fortunately, once you have the temperature down below a hundred absolute, you can reduce the pressure to one atmosphere, otherwise the storage of revivables would be quite impracticable. As it is, we have many thousands stacked away in the Second Chance wombs. Every one of them is neatly labeled and waiting for the resurrection. That will come as soon as someone figures out a way to do the thaw."

She glanced at Drake, aware that her last comment might have been the wrong thing to say. The official position at Second Chance was that everyone was revivable, and that the organization had full control of all the necessary technology. In due course everyone would be revived.

Drake nodded without expression. He had researched the whole subject in detail, and nothing that she had said so far was news. In his opinion it would be as hard to revive the early cryocorpses as it would be to get Tutankhamen's mummy up and moving again. They had been frozen with the wrong procedure, and they were being stored at too high a temperature.

But who was he to make that decision? They had paid their deposits, and they had the right to sit there in the wombs until their rentals ran out. He had started Ana with a forty-year contract, but he thought of that as just the beginning.

He had brought with him a copy of Ana's medical records. He added to it a full description of everything he had seen in the past hour or two, copied the whole document, and made sure that a complete set was included with the file records on Ana. When Ana's body was finally taken away for storage he went back to the house, fell into bed, and slept like a cryocorpse himself for sixteen hours.

It was time for the next step. And it was not going to be easy.

When Drake was fully awake again, fed and bathed, he called Tom Lambert and asked to see him — at Tom's home, rather than his office. He accepted the hefty drink that Tom prepared, after one look at him, for "medicinal purposes," and laid out his plans.

After he was finished Tom walked over to Drake, poked the muscles in his shoulders and the back of his neck, pulled down his lower eyelid and stared at the exposed skin, and finally went to sit opposite him.

"You've been under a monstrous strain for the past few months," he said quietly.

"Very true. I have." Drake kept his voice just as calm.

"And it would be quite unnatural for your behavior or your feelings to be completely normal. In fact, if you seem normal now, it's only because you have completely walled in your emotions. You certainly don't understand the implications of what you are proposing to me."

Drake shook his head. "This isn't new. It's only new to you. I've been thinking of this since the day I gave up on all other options."

"Then that was the day you put the lid on your feelings." Tom Lambert leaned forward. "Look, Drake, Ana was a wonderful woman, a unique woman. I won't say I know what you have been through, because obviously I don't. I do have some idea of your sense of loss. But you have to ask yourself what Ana would want you to do now. You can't let the past become your obsession. She would tell you that you still have a life of your own. Even without her, you have to live it. She would want you to live it, because she loved you." He paused. "Let me make a suggestion…"

While Tom was talking, Drake found it harder and harder to listen. The room felt dull and airless and he had trouble breathing. Tom Lambert's words came from far off. They didn't seem to say anything. He forced himself to concentrate, to listen harder.

"… of your work. You are still a young man. Forty to fifty good years ahead of you. And already you have a reputation. You are one of this country's most promising composers, and your best works still lie ahead. Ana may have performed your work better than anyone else, but there will be others. They will learn. With your talent you owe it to the rest of us not to cut your career off before it reaches its peak."

"I have no intention of doing so. I will compose again. Later."

"You mean, later after that?" Tom was frowning and shaking his head. "Suppose there is no later? Drake, take my advice as both your doctor and your friend. You desperately need to get out of your house, and you need to take a vacation. Go off on a cruise somewhere, take a trip around the world. Expose yourself to some new influences. I know how you must feel now, but you should give it a year and see how you feel then. I guarantee you, everything will seem different. You'll want to live again. You'll give up this crazy idea."

The breathless feeling was fading. Drake again had control of himself. He waited patiently until Tom was finished, then nodded agreement.

"I'll do as you say. I'll get away from here for a while. But if it turns out that you are wrong — if I come back to you, in, say, eight or ten years, and I ask you again, will you do it? Will you help me? I want you to give me an honest answer, and I want your word on it."

The tension drained visibly from Tom Lambert. He snorted in relief. "Ten years from now? Drake, if you come back to me in eight or ten years and ask me again, I'll admit I was completely wrong. And I promise you, I'll help you to do what you've asked."

"An absolute promise? I don't want to hear some day that you changed your mind, or didn't mean what you said."

"An absolute promise. Sure, I'll give you that." Tom laughed. "But I'm not worried that I'll ever be called on it. I'll bet you everything I own that after a year or two have gone by, you'll never mention that promise again. Hard as it seems to believe today, you'll be living a new life, and you'll be enjoying it." He walked over to the sideboard and poured himself a drink. "I'd like to propose a toast, Drake. Or actually, three toasts. To us. To your future. And to your next — and greatest — composition."

Drake raised his glass in return. "To us, and the future. I'll drink to those. But I can't drink to my next work, because I don't know when I'll create it. I have lots of other things to do — for one thing, you told me to get out of town. I'm going to do that, right away. But don't worry, Tom. I'll be in touch when the time is right."

Chapter 4

Into the Abyss

There were two problems. The first was easy to define but hard to solve: money.

In the early days, Drake and Ana had been very poor. As a result they talked about money quite a lot. She would glance through their joint checking account book, with its zero balance, and groan. He would laugh, with more worry than humor, and once he quoted something he had just read by Somerset Maugham: "Money is the sixth sense that enables us to enjoy the other five." He added: "I guess that leaves us six senses short."

Unfortunately, neither groans nor quotations produced income. Money, or the lack of it, seemed important, as important as anything in the world except music" and each other.

Career success brought a change of attitude. Ana had her teaching and her concert appearances, Drake had pupils and occasional commissions. Their needs were modest. They bought a house, a big old-fashioned brick Colonial with four bedrooms and half an acre of fenced yard, expecting that someday they would need all the space for an expanded family. Neither of them wanted to travel or be wealthy. Wordsworth was quoted rather than Maugham: "Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers."

Now all that was past. Drake needed money, lots of it. He had to make sure that Ana could remain safe within her icy womb for the indefinite future, until she could be safely thawed and her disease cured. Then her life would begin again. There were a few things he couldn't guard against, such as a total collapse of the world to barbarism, or the rejection of all present forms of currencies and commodities. Those were risks that Ana — and he — would have to accept.

The other problem was more subtle. According to Tom it might be a long time before a cure was found for Ana's rare and highly malignant disease. As he pointed out, something that killed only a few people a year did not get the attention of common cancers and heart diseases, which ended the lives of hundreds of millions.

Suppose that a cure was not discovered for a century, or even for two centuries. What knowledge of present-day society would interest people in the year 2200? What must a man know or a woman be, for the inhabitants of that future Earth to think it worthwhile to revive them? Drake was convinced that even when a foolproof way of resuscitating the revivables was discovered, most bodies in the cryowombs would stay exactly where they were. The contracts with Second Chance provided only for maintenance in a cryonic condition. They did not, and could not, offer a guarantee that an individual would be thawed.

Why thaw anyone at all? Why add another person to a crowded world, unless he or she had something special to offer?

Drake imagined himself back in the early nineteenth century. What could he have placed into his brain, then, that would be considered valuable today, two hundred years later? Not politics, nor art. Knowledge of them was quite adequate. Certainly not science or any technology — progress, in the past two centuries had been phenomenal.

What would the people of the future want to know about the past?

He decided that he had lots of time to ponder his own question; time, which had been denied to Ana. It would be foolish to hurry, when he could plan and calculate at his leisure. He set a goal of ten years. That would still allow forty of the shared fifty that he had looked for and longed for. But he was quite willing to stretch ten to fifteen if he had to.

If it did take more time, it would not be because he allowed himself to be distracted by other activities. His only diversion was to estimate the probabilities that everything would work out as he hoped. Always, the odds came out depressingly low.

While he was trying to decide what he needed to learn, he still had to solve that difficult first problem: making money.

He decided to visit his old teacher. His relationship with Bonvissuto had passed through three distinct phases. At first there had been absolute awe of the professor's musical skill and encyclopedic knowledge. Bonvissuto seemed to know, and be able to play by heart at his cherished Steinway, his own piano transcription of any work by any composer. After three years of study, Drake's attitude changed. He still respected and admired his mentor's learning, but in matters other than music he came to think Bonvissuto a bit of a comic figure. He could not ignore the elevator heels, red carnation buttonholes, dyed-brown shoulder-length tresses, unreliable Italian accent, and relentless romantic activity.

It was Ana, in Drake's final year as Bonvissuto's student, who revealed to Drake another side of their teacher.

"Can't you see how much he envies you?" she said, as they sat one afternoon poring over a marked-up score of Carmina Burana.

"Who?"

"Bony. Who else?"

"Me?" Drake put down the score. "Why on earth do you think he would envy me? He knows ten times as much about music as I'll ever know."

"He does. But just the same he envies you — for the same reason as I envy you. He teaches music. I perform music. But you create music. Neither of us is able to do that. Can't you see the look in his eyes, whenever you bring him a beautiful original melody? He's delighted, yet sad. It must kill him inside, to be so gifted and yet be missing that one essential spark."

Ana's insight led Drake to a final opinion of his teacher. The professor could be sarcastic and short-tempered. He was certainly vain, and a dedicated womanizer. But he loved music, with a passion and a strength and a devotion far beyond anything else in life.

And again it was Ana who stated it best. When a discussion of Haydn's "English" songs was interrupted by a telephone call from Bonvissuto's current flame, she said to Drake, quietly and with real affection for their teacher, "Listen to him. He tells Rita — and Charlene and Mary and Leah and Judy — that he loves them, and I think he really does. But he'd trade the lot in for one new Haydn symphony."

Or one new original work by Drake Merlin? Drake wasn't sure, then or ever. But two months after Ana had been placed in the cryowomb, he appeared in Bonvissuto's office one morning without warning. The teacher gave him one startled look, then turned his eyes away. "I know, I know," he said. "I'm terribly sorry."

It had been three years since the two last met, but Bonvissuto had followed the careers of all his former students. He took vast pride in them. Naturally, he knew about Ana.

"I didn't come here to talk about her," Drake said, "unless you want to, I mean. I came to ask your advice."

"Anything that I can do, I will. For you and little Ana, I will be happy…" Bonvissuto paused, swallowed, and turned away. The volatile Italian persona was not all fake.

"I have to make money." Drake spoke dispassionately to the other man's back. He needed advice, not emotional support. "A lot of money. I wondered if you could suggest a way."

"You! The least commercial of all my students. Oh!" Bonvissuto turned again, and Drake saw in his eyes a sudden understanding. "I know. I went through some of it myself, two years ago. The damned hospitals — the tests, and all the drugs, and prices you wouldn't believe — five dollars for an aspirin, two hundred dollars a day for a room, fifty dollars for a doctor who drops in on you for two minutes and doesn't even look at you — they bleed you dry."

Drake nodded. It was a mistaken assumption, but letting it stand saved lots of explanation. "I need to make as much money as I can. As quickly as I can. I don't know how."

"But I do." Bonvissuto went across to his piano. "Provided you are willing to lower your standards. Are you?"

"I don't know. What do you mean?"

"Don't worry. I am not about to suggest that you form a rock group. You compose well, and you compose fast. But your music is too difficult to be popular. This is what Drake Merlin is writing." Bonvissuto played a sequence of spare chords with no clear tonal center, and above them on the right hand a wandering angular melody.

"That's from my Suite for Charon!"

"It is indeed. I took the liberty of making a piano transcription." Bonvissuto sounded not at all apologetic. "It is very beautiful — to you, and me, and maybe a few thousand others. But if you want to appeal to a few million, you must be simpler, more accessible. Like this." Bonvissuto played a jaunty bass theme, accompanied by dazzling prestissimo downward runs on the right hand.

Drake frowned. "That's by Danny Elfman. It's film music."

"It is. Are you saying you are above such things?"

"Not at all. It's first-rate. But I can't walk into a film studio and say, let me score a movie. They'd throw me straight out."

"Of course." Bonvissuto shrugged. "It is obvious that you don't start there. Or rather, if you choose to start there, I can't help you. But a dozen paths can lead in that direction." He stood up, went to his old oak desk, and picked up a cheap black notebook with a spiral binder. "All the time, I hear of musical markets. I write them down. They are open to you, provided that you don't insist on writing compositions that break new ground. People are most comfortable with the familiar. They say they know what they like, but really they like what they know. See here."

He opened the book and ran down the list of entries with his long, thin index finger. "I include concerts and recitals on this list, but for you I strongly recommend composition. Are you willing to write a commemorative overture for the hundredth anniversary of the first heavier-than-air flight? That offers four thousand dollars, for eleven minutes. The time requirement is precise, no more, no less. The work will be played after the national anthem, after a Star Wars selection and before 'The Stars and Stripes Forever.' I would not recommend march tempo. Or how about this one, which came to me through private channels: a commission to ghost-write a violin concerto for a Cabinet member with musical delusions of grandeur."

"What would I do?"

"You would write the music, after listening for half an hour to Lamar Malory's vague and off-key humming of themes. Your name will not, of course, go on the finished work. His name will. The fee offered, for your music and your silence, is four hundred dollars per composed minute. It is not much, but the music does not have to be very good. In fact, it would be suspicious if it were."

Drake bit back the urge to ask why Bonvissuto did not take the commissions himself. "What are the deadlines?"

"How soon can you produce?"

"Faster than anyone else they can find. I'll take both of them. As many as I can get, in fact. I'll write around the clock if I have to."

"I'll see what I can do. I can't guarantee these or any other commissions, but I can make sure that you are on the short list. After that it's up to you. I warn you, you will be dealing with people who have no more music in them than a dog who howls at the moon." Bonvissuto shrugged. "I am sorry, but that is the price. Never mind. When you have the money that you need, you can return to normal life."

A normal life was not what Drake had in mind — not for a long time yet. But he could not discuss his plans. He thanked Bonvissuto and left.

It was the beginning of a long period of incessant work. Drake took commissions, wrote commemorative pieces, gave concerts, and made recordings. As his reputation for good, fast, and reliable work grew, he produced reams of music for good, bad, and indifferent shows and movies. If anyone compared his recent work with his earlier work, and thought that he was debasing his art, they were too polite to comment. His own attitude was simple: if it was lucrative, it was acceptable.

Once a month he visited Ana's cryowomb facility. He could not see her, but he could sit outside the room where she was housed. Knowledge of her presence produced in him a strange tranquillity. After a couple of hours with her, he could again face his work.

Sometimes that work was unpleasant, grinding toil. Since he agreed to tight deadlines, he was often forced to compose late at night when he was close to exhaustion. But sometimes the odd commercial challenges brought out the best in him. The finest melody of his life came to him as the theme music to a successful television show. And after four years he had an even bigger stroke of luck.

He had written a set of short pieces a couple of years after he and Ana first met, a kind of musical joke designed especially to appeal to her. They were baroque forms, with period harmonies, but he had added occasional modern harmonic twists, piquancy inserted where it would be most surprising and most appealing.

They had been quite successful, although only among a limited audience. Now, given a commission to provide the incidental music for a series of television dramas on life in eighteenth-century France, and facing another impossible delivery date, Drake returned to cannibalize, adapt, and simplify his own earlier work. The dramas turned out to be the hit of the decade. His music was credited as a big part of the reason for their success. Suddenly his minuets, bourrees, gavottes, sarabands, and rondeaux were everywhere. And as they flooded from the audio outlets, the royalties flooded in from every country around the globe.

Drake went on working as hard as ever. He established a foundation and trust fund. It guaranteed continued care for Ana's cryocorpse for many centuries, no matter what happened to Drake himself.

Freed from a need for money, his work changed direction. Instead of endless composition he became feverishly busy soaking up all that he could learn of the private and personal lives of his musical contemporaries. He interviewed, entertained, courted, and analyzed them, and he wrote about them extensively. But never quite in full. In every piece he was careful to leave a hanging tail, a hint that said, "There is much more to say and I know what it is; but for the moment I am deliberately leaving it unsaid."

What would the people of the future most want to know about their ancestors? Drake had his own answer. Their fascination would not be with the formal works, the official biographies, the text-book knowledge. They would have more than enough of those. What they would want would be the personal details, the chat, the gossip. They would want the equivalent of Boswell's journals and of Samuel Pepys' diaries. And if there was a way that they could have not only the written legacy, but the recorder himself, to talk to him and ask more questions…

It was not work that could be hurried. But finally, after nine long years, Drake was as ready as he would ever be. There was always the temptation to add one more interview, write one more article.

He resisted, and briefly worried a different question. How would he earn a living in the future? It might be only thirty years, but it might be eighty, two hundred, or a thousand. Could Beethoven, suddenly transported from 1810 to the year 2010, have earned a living as a musician?

More realistically, how would Spohr, or Hummel, or some other of Beethoven's less famous contemporaries have fared? Drake was betting that they, and he, could manage very well as soon as they had picked up the tricks of the time. Better, probably, than the far greater genius, the titan of Bonn. The others were more facile, more flexible, more politically astute.

And if he was wrong, and there was no way that he could make a living from music? Then he would do the twenty-third-century equivalent of washing dishes for a living. That was the least of his worries.

One day he stopped everything, put his affairs in order, and returned home. Without notice he headed for Tom Lambert's house. They had kept in touch, and he knew that Tom had married and was busy raising a family in the same house he had lived in all his life. But it was still a surprise to walk along that quiet tree-lined street, look over the same untidy privet hedge, and see Tom in the front yard playing baseball with a stranger, an eight-year-old boy who wore a flaming new version of Tom's graying red mop.

"Drake! My God, why didn't you call and tell me you were in town? How do you do it? You're as thin as ever." Tom had lost some of his hair but added a paunch to make up for it. He ushered Drake into the house and fussed over him like the Prodigal Son, leading the way into the familiar study. While his wife went into the kitchen to kill the fatted calf, he stood and beamed at Drake with pride and pleasure.

"We hear your music everywhere, you know," he said. "It's absolutely wonderful to know that your career is going so well."

Judged by Drake's own standards, it was not. He felt that he had done little first-rate composition in years. But Bonvissuto had been right: Tom, like most people, was comfortable musically with what he found familiar. From that point of view, and in terms of commercial success, Drake was riding high.

He itched to get down to business right away, but Tom's three young boys hovered around the study and the living room, curious to see the famous visitor. Then came a family dinner, and liqueurs after it watching the sunset. Drake sat in the guest-of-honor seat, with Tom and his wife, Mary-Jane, doing most of the talking.

At ten o'clock Mary-Jane disappeared to put the boys to bed. Drake was alone with Tom. At last. He took a deep breath, pulled out the application, and handed it to his friend without a word.

As Tom looked at it and realized what it was, the happiness faded from his face. He shook his head in disbelief.

"I thought you put all this behind you years ago. What started it going again?"

Drake stared at him without speaking, as though he had not understood the question.

"Or maybe it never stopped," Tom went on. "I should have guessed it hours ago. You used to be so full of life, so full of fun. Tonight I don't think I saw you smile once. When did you last take a vacation?"

"You gave me your word, Tom. Your promise."

Lambert studied the other man's thin face. "Never mind a vacation, when did you last take any sort of break from work? How long since you relaxed for an evening, or for an hour? Not tonight, that's for sure."

"I go out all the time. I go to concerts and to dinner parties."

"You do. And what do you do there? I bet you don't relax. You interview people, and you take notes, and you produce a stream of articles. You work. And you've been working, incessantly, year after year. How long since you've been with a woman?"

Drake shook his head but did not speak.

Tom sighed. "I'm sorry. Forget that I asked that. It was a dumb and insensitive thing to say. But you need to face a fact, Drake, and you shouldn't try to hide from it: She's dead. Do you hear me? Ana is dead. Work won't change that. Wishing won't change it. Nothing can bring her back to you. And you can't go on forever with your own emotions chained and harnessed."

"You promised me, Tom. You gave me your solemn word that you would help me."

"Drake!"

"Do you ever make promises to your children?"

"Of course I do."

"Do you keep them?"

"Drake, you can't use that argument, the situations are totally different. You act as though I made you some sort of solemn vow, but it wasn't like that at all."

"Then how was it? Don't bother to answer." Drake took the little recorder from his inside jacket pocket. "Listen. Listen to yourself."

The words were thin in tone but quite clear.

if I come back to you, in, say, eight or ten years, and I ask you again, will you do it? Will you help me? I want you to give me an honest answer, and I want your word on it.

Ten years from now? Drake, if you come back to me in eight or ten years and ask me again, I'll admit I was completely wrong. And I promise you, I'll help you to do what you've asked.

An absolute promise? I don't want to hear some day that you changed your mind, or didn't mean what you said.

An absolute promise. Sure, I'll give you that… There was the sound of Tom's relieved laugh.

Drake turned off the recorder. "I said, eight to ten years. It has been nine."

"You recorded us, back then when Ana had just died? I can't believe you would do that."

"I had to, Tom. Even then, I was convinced that you would change your mind. But I knew that I wouldn't. You have to live up to your agreement. You promised."

"I promised to help you, to stop you from doing something crazy to yourself." Tom's face went ruddy with intolerable frustration. "For God's sake, Drake, I'm a doctor. You can't ask me to help you kill yourself."

"I'm not asking that."

"You might as well be. No one has ever been revived. Maybe no one ever will be. If they do learn how, Anastasia will be a candidate. She is in the best Second Chance womb, she had the best preparation money could buy. But you, you're different. You're not sick! Ana was dying before she was frozen, she had nothing to lose. You have everything to lose. You're healthy, you're productive, you're at the height of your career. And you are asking me to throw all that away, to help you take the chance that someday, God knows when, you might — just might — be revived. Don't you see, Drake, I can't help you."

"You gave me your promise."

"Stop saying that! I also have my oath as a physician: to do no harm. You want me to take you from perfect health to a high odds of final death."

"I have to do it, Tom. If you won't help me, I'll find someone who will. Probably someone less competent and reliable than you."

"Why do you have to do it? Give me one good reason."

"You know why, if you think about it." Drake spoke slowly, coaxingly. "For Ana's sake. Unless I go on ahead, they may never choose to wake her. She could be one of the last on their list. You and I know her for what she really is, a unique and marvelous woman. But what will the records show? A singer, still not as famous as she would have been, who died young of a devastating disease. I've had time to prepare, I'm sure that they will wake me. And it's an advantage that I'm in good health, because there will be no reason to delay my revival on medical grounds. As soon as I am sure that they have a cure for what killed Ana, I can wake her. We'll start over, the two of us."

Tom Lambert's cheeks had gone from fiery red to pale. "We have to talk about this some more, Drake. The whole idea is crazy. Did you really mean what you said, that if I won't help you will go to someone else?"

"Look at me, Tom. Tell me if you think that I mean it."

Lambert looked. He did not speak again; but his hands slowly came up to cover his eyes.

It took six days of solid argument, another seven to make final preparations. Drake Merlin and Tom Lambert drove together to Second Chance.

Drake took a long last look out of the window at the wind-blown trees and the cloudy sky, then climbed slowly into the thermal tank.

Tom injected the Asfanil.

Drake decided that the easy part was ending. That the hard part, if there was another part, was about to begin.

A few seconds later the long fall began, dropping him steadily down the longest descent that a human can ever make.

Down, down, down.

All the way down, to two degrees absolute; colder than the coldest hell ever conceived by Dante.

Chapter 5

Awakening

The great gamble had paid off, more successfully than he had dared to hope. Ana was alive, she was reanimated, she was healthy. But the technology of the future went far beyond health. It had made her, always beautiful, much more vigorous and desirable than she had ever been.

She was dancing, and as she danced she sang; not a serious work by her usual favorites, Mahler or Hugo Wolf or Brahms, but a frothy and light-hearted confection by Gilbert and Sullivan. "My object all sublime, I shall achieve in time," she caroled.

And then she was fading. Her body became as transparent as glass, her rich contralto a vanishing thread of sound. "To let the punishment fit the crime, The punishment fit the cri-i-ime…"

She was gone.

Afterward, Drake could never be sure. Had he dreamed some superconducting dream, as he lay in the cryowomb twelve degrees colder than a block of solid hydrogen? Or had he only dreamed that he dreamed, as he came slowly back through the long thaw?

It made little difference. After the vision of Ana, all feelings of peace and certainty bled away. In their place came an eternity of twisted images, a procession of pale and terrifying lights moving against a pitch-dark background. They arrived ahead of consciousness, and they went on forever. He fought his way through them, through torment that went on and on with no promise that it would ever end.

It was daunting to learn later that he had been one of the lucky ones. In his case the freezing process had gone very smoothly. Some revivables awoke armless and legless, some shed their whole epidermis and had to be kept cocooned and motionless until it could re-grow. He lost nothing during the thaw but an insignificant few square centimeters of skin.

But the pain of waking… that was something else. The final stages, from three degrees Celsius to normal body temperature, could not be rushed. They occupied a full thirty-six hours. For all that time Drake was pierced with an agony of waking tissues and returning circulation, unable to move or cry out. In the last stages, before full consciousness, hearing came before sight. He could hear speech around him. It was not in any tongue that he could recognize.

How long? How far had he traveled in time? Even before the pain faded, that question filled his mind.

The answer did not come at once. While he was still half-conscious he felt the sting of an injector spray. He blanked out again at once. After another infinite hiatus he came up all the way, opening his eyes to a quiet sunlit room not too different from the Second Chance facility where he had begun the descent.

A man and a woman in yellow uniforms were watching him, talking softly together. As soon as they saw that he was awake the man pressed a point on a segmented wall panel. The two went on with their work, lining up two complex and incomprehensible pieces of equipment. One sight of that told Drake that he had succeeded in at least one way. Nothing that he saw was familiar. He was in the future — but how far in the future?

The person who came in presently through the white sliding door was dark haired and oddly androgynous, with a face both clean shaven and also smooth and womanly. The clothing was equally uninformative, a loose-fitting suit of pale gray that concealed body shape. The newcomer stepped to the side of the bed and stood staring down at Drake with a pleased and proprietary air.

"How are you feeling?"

Drake knew then that it was a man. The language was English, oddly pronounced. That was reassuring. Drake had suffered two other worries as he slipped under. What if he were revived in just a few years' time, when nothing at all could be done to cure Ana? Or what if he surfaced after fifty thousand years, a living fossil, quite unable to communicate his needs to the men and women of the future?

"I feel all right." He had trouble speaking. His tongue felt swollen, and his mind was slow to produce the words that he needed. "But I feel very weak and confused." Drake thought of trying to sit up, and knew at once that he could not do it. "I can barely move."

"Naturally. But are you Drake Merlin?"

"I am."

The man had an open eager face, with furry eyebrows and a high forehead. He laughed aloud in delight and rubbed his hands together. "Excellent! My name is Par Leon. Can you understand me easily?"

"Perfectly easily." Drake's second worry returned. "Why do you ask that question? When am I?"

"I ask it because the old languages are not easy, even with augments and much study. For your second question, in your measure we are now in the year 2512 of the prophet Christ."

Five centuries! It was longer than Drake had expected and hoped. But better long than short. Before he was frozen he had entertained awful visions of diving down to the bottom of the Pit and clawing his agonized way back up to thawed life, not once but over and over.

"I have waited here through the whole warming and first treatment," Par Leon continued. "Soon I will leave you so you can have rest, more treatment, and first education. But I desired to speak with you at once when you became conscious. It is not rational, but I feared that there might have been a mistake in identity — that it might not be Drake Merlin, the Drake Merlin of my curiosity, who was awakened." Par Leon glanced at the equipment standing at the bedside and shook his head. "You are a strong man, Drake Merlin. Uniquely strong. The record shows that you did not once cry out or complain during all the thawing."

There had been more important things on Drake's mind. Could Ana be cured? Where was she now? Had she been kept safe, for however much time had passed? Was it possible that she had been awakened before him, even long before him? That would be a disaster.

He glanced across at the other two workers, who were still chatting together in an alien tongue. "Language must have changed completely. I can understand you easily, but I cannot understand them at all."

"You mean, understand the doctors?" The stranger Leon replied with a surprised expression on his lean face. "Of course you cannot. Neither can I. They are doctors. To each other they are naturally speaking Medicine."

Drake raised his eyebrows. The look must have survived with its meaning intact across the centuries, because Par Leon went on, "That is right, Medicine. I cannot help you. I myself am fluent in Music and History — and, of course, Universal. And I learned Old Anglic to be able to study your times and to speak with you. But I know little or no Medicine."

"Medicine is a language?" Drake felt that his mind had been slowed by the long sleep and thawing treatment.

"Of course. Like Music or Chemistry or Computing. But surely this was already true in your own time. Did you not have languages specific to each — what is the word you use? — discipline?"

"I suppose that we did; but we didn't realize it." Par Leon's question explained a great deal. No wonder that Drake had found psychologists, professional educators, social scientists, and physicists — to name but a few — incomprehensible. Even in his original time, the special jargon and odd acronyms had been signaling the arrival of new protolanguages, emerging forms as alien as Sanskrit or classical Greek. "How do you speak to the doctors?"

"For ordinary things? We employ Universal, which all understand. I do not attempt to speak actual Medicine. If I am in that subject-matter area, we keep a computer in the circuit to provide exact concept equivalents between language pairs."

It occurred to Drake that multidisciplinary programs must be hell. But not as bad as they had once been. Here at least there was an understanding that the problem existed. And what were computers like, after five more centuries of development? In his day they had been in their infancy. They ought to be able to do anything now, anything at all — like curing Ana. It was almost a surprise to see that there was still a place in the world for humans.

He was beginning to feel oddly and irrationally euphoric, a combination of drugs and the idea that he might succeed more easily than he had dreamed.

He made a more determined effort to sit up. His head lifted maybe five centimeters from the pillow, then fell back despite everything he could do to hold it up.

"Slowly. Rome — was not built — in a day." Par Leon glowed, clearly delighted at coming up with such a prize example of genuine Old Anglic. "It will be moons before you are fully strong. Two more things I will tell you, then I will allow your treatment to continue.

"First, it was I who arranged for you to be brought here and revived. I am a musicologist, interested in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, and in particular your own time."

Drake's five-hundred-year-old bet had paid off. He wondered what modern music sounded like. Would he be able to listen to it with pleasure? To compose it?

"Under our laws," Par Leon went on, "you owe me for the cost of your revival and treatment. This amounts to six years of work from you. You are most fortunate that you were healthy and correctly frozen and maintained, or the time of service would have been much longer. However, I also believe that you will find your indenture with me both pleasant and interesting. I am proposing that you and I, together, write the definitive history of your own musical period."

So the question of earning a living was postponed for at least a few years. Par Leon would presumably have to feed Drake Merlin while he was paying off his debt.

"Second, I have good news for you." Par Leon was gazing at Drake expectantly. "When we examined you, our doctors found certain problems — defects is the word that you would use? — with your body and its glandular balance. They hope that they have cured the simpler body malfunctions, and they have provided standard stabilization of your chromosomal telomeres. You will still age, but slowly. You should live between two and three hundred years.

"However, the glandular imbalance represented a more subtle problem. It was likely to manifest itself as some form of madness, some uncontrollable compulsion. The doctors observed this as soon as you were thawed enough to respond to psychoprobes. They made small chemical changes and have, we hope, corrected the difficulty." Par Leon was watching Drake closely. "Please tell me now of your feelings toward your former wife, Anastasia Werlich."

Drake felt his heart racing. He could hear the blood pounding in his ears, and in his weakened condition it was as hard to breathe as if heavy weights had been dropped onto his chest. He closed his eyes for a long moment and thought about Ana. Gradually, he became calm again.

It was obvious what the other wanted to hear; and Ana was worth a million lies. Drake looked up at Par Leon and shook his head feebly. "I feel very little for her. No more than a faint sense that something was once there. I know that she was once very dear to me, but I am not sure how. It is like the scar of an old wound."

"Excellent!" The smile had kept its meaning. "That is most satisfying. The disease that killed the woman was eliminated from the human stock long ago, by careful mating choice — eugenics, as your language put it. We could certainly reanimate her, but according to our doctors it is still not clear that we would be able to cure her. However, we can see no reason to awaken her at all. Like most in the cryowombs, she is of little or no value to us. Most important of all, an involvement with her might interfere with your work for me."

"So her body is still stored?"

"Of course. We keep all the cryocorpses. Although most are of no present value, who knows what our future needs might be? The cryowombs are like a library of the past, to open whenever it will serve a purpose. Two hundred years from now someone may find a use for her, and her disease perhaps easily cured. Then she, too, may live and work again."

"Is Anastasia stored near here?"

"Of course not!" For the first time, Par Leon appeared to be shocked. "What a waste of space and energy that would imply. The cryowombs are maintained on Pluto, where space is cheap, cooling needs are small, and escape velocity is low."

That sentence, more than any other that Par Leon had spoken, wrenched Drake forward in time. What technology was it that could casually ship millions of bodies to the edge of the solar system rather than keep them in cold storage on Earth? If, that is, Pluto was the edge of the solar system. How many planets were known now? Even in his day, there was talk of many more bodies out in a region known as the Kuiper Belt. Five centuries. It was the time from Monteverdi to Shostakovich, from Copernicus to Einstein, from the Columbus discovery of America to the first landing on the Moon. He had come a long, long way.

Par Leon was still gazing at him, now a little suspiciously. "Again you ask about the woman, Anastasia Werlich. Why? Are you sure that you are in fact fully cured? If not, another course of treatment is easy to arrange."

Drake cursed his own stupidity and did his best to smile reassuringly. "I feel sure that will not be needed. Already her memory fades. As soon as I am strong enough, I am eager to begin my work with you."

"Wonderful." The smile was back, but Par Leon was wagging his finger in warning. "We will certainly work together, but only after you are fully recovered and have had some essential training. First, you must learn to speak Universal and Music and you must have enough background knowledge to live comfortably in this time. It will also be my responsibility to see that you are able to find suitable activity when your work with me is done, and for that you will need skills that today you lack.

"Rest now, Drake Merlin. I will return tomorrow, or the next day. By that time you will already find yourself stronger. And you will be far more knowledgeable."

As Par Leon left, the medical technicians carried forward a transparent helmet with silvered lines inscribed on its upper part. They lowered it carefully onto Drake's head.

He lost consciousness at once, too quickly to be aware of its cool touch.

Chapter 6

Brave New World

He awoke to the sound of two voices. One was an unfamiliar wordless chatter, a high-pitched and irritating tingle more in his brain than in his ear. The other voice he already knew. It was Par Leon, asking what seemed like an odd question after their previous conversation.

"Do you understand me, Drake Merlin?" There was a pause, then, more loudly: "Can you hear me? Do you understand me?"

"Of course I can. Of course I do." But Drake was having trouble controlling his own speech. He had to seek out each word. He opened his eyes. "We already… established that we can… understand each other."

Leon was standing in front of him, nodding in satisfaction. "We proved yesterday that we could communicate in English. But listen again to me… and listen to yourself."

The words were perfectly understandable — but they had been spoken in an alien tongue.

"What happened?" Drake asked. The sense of what he said was clear, but it sounded peculiar. With a deliberate effort, he repeated it in English, and the words came more easily. "What happened?"

"You learned, exactly as I hoped and expected." Leon replied in the same language. "But now" — Drake felt no decrease in his level of comprehension, yet he heard the change in the sounds — "now it is better if we both speak Universal."

"You said yesterday." Drake's shift from one language to the other was labored and sluggish. "You taught me Universal… in a single day? How were you able to do that?"

"I am the wrong person to ask." Leon shrugged. "If I were to attempt an explanation, beyond saying that the helmet taught you, it would surely be inadequate. A suitable reply would be provided in Electronics or Medicine, possibly using dialects of the latter such as Neurology. I was taught something of those languages, long ago, but I found them uncongenial. If they are to your taste, you will have opportunity to learn them later. For the moment, relax. Go slowly. In two or three weeks, Universal will come easily to you. But now we have other priorities. Can you stand up?"

Rather than replying, Drake made the experiment. He pushed the helmet away from his head and rose to his feet. As he came upright there was one moment of unsteadiness, then he felt balanced and alert. Yesterday's weakness was gone completely.

"I feel fine," he said, and meant it.

"Splendid. Are you hungry?"

Drake had to pause and consider that question. The prospect of food produced no physical reaction. It was as though during five centuries of sleep his body had forgotten the need for sustenance.

Finally he shook his head. "I'm sorry. I just don't know."

Leon nodded sympathetically. "Let us then make the experiment. We will eat a meal at a restaurant. The world has changed much since your time, and there will be much that is different. But the need for nourishment has not changed. It will be reassuring for you to learn that some things are still the same."

Par Leon meant what he said; but to Drake, following him along a short corridor into a deserted white-walled room containing an array of cubicles, each equipped with a single chair and some kind of computer terminal, it seemed that nothing could be less familiar.

This was a restaurant? There were no waiters, no menus, no signs of food or drink. Each cubicle would hold only one person.

His bewilderment showed.

"Ah," Leon said. He seemed uncomfortable for the first time. "I am forgetting the customs of your era. Food today is normally taken alone. Only close associates and family eat in each other's presence." He pointed to a cubicle. "Sit down. The arrangement permits us to talk freely, even though we will be out of sight of each other."

Drake did as he was told, wondering what to do next. Was he supposed to indicate his preferences to the computer? Or would he somehow be fed automatically and ethereally, without the appearance of material foodstuffs? That was inconsistent with Par Leon's claim that food was a constant of the world, but five hundred years was a long time. Interpretations would surely have changed, even when the same words were used.

He looked more closely at the device before him. There was no screen or keyboard, only a flat rectangular box, and in front of that a level featureless surface like a small table.

Par Leon had vanished into a neighboring cubicle.

Drake waited through a long silence. Finally he said, not sure he would be heard, "I have a problem."

"Nothing is to your taste?" Leon's voice was clear, though no other sound had come through from the next room.

"I don't know. I haven't been offered any food."

"That is strange. What did you order?"

"Nothing. I don't know how."

"One moment." Then, after another and shorter silence, "This is my fault entirely. I assumed that general information had been provided to you along with your knowledge of Universal, but that is not so. It is scheduled for your next indoctrination period. The chef in front of you is simple enough to use, and tomorrow you will have no difficulty with it. This evening, however, with your permission I will order the meal for you."

"That's fine." It was Drake's first indication as to the time of day. The room where he had awakened lacked windows, and so did this place. Physically, he had no sense of night, morning, or any diurnal rhythm.

He waited and watched, until in a couple of minutes the box in front of him slid open where he had seen no seam, and delivered a steaming square container of food, a combined knife and fork utensil, and a transparent cylinder filled with red liquid.

The vegetables were colorful but unfamiliar. The meat — if it was meat — could have been flesh, fish, or fowl. But Drake had not been widely traveled in his own time. For all he knew the whole meal could have existed then, as part of the little-known cuisine of some foreign country. He leaned over and sniffed the sauce. A satisfying combination of odors filled his nostrils: cumin, sage, fennel, tarragon. He lifted the tall cylinder and tasted.

At last — thank God — something he recognized. He should have known. Wine had endured through five millennia before his time; it should be no surprise that it continued to cheer humans now, five hundred years later.

He raised his glass in a silent toast — To us, Ana; we made it this far — and took a first, deep draft.

Drake had no urge to talk while they were eating, but Par Leon was in a chatty mood. After promising that the world would be explained later while Drake slept, far better than he could do it during dinner and in much greater detail, Leon went ahead and explained anyhow.

It became clear in the next hour where his own interests lay. He had a good but superficial knowledge of Earth civilization and society, but he knew and cared little about the rest of the solar system.

The population of Earth, he said, was half a billion, less than one-tenth of what it had been in Drake's era. It was holding steady now. In the next two centuries it would undergo a planned rise to almost one billion, then decrease again to about its present level. He did not know the reason for the change. That sort of thing was in the hands of the resource management specialists.

And the population of other planets and moons? It was one of Drake's few questions. Par Leon replied with a verbal shrug. There were people living out there, certainly, but who cared how many? Other planets and moons had no long history, in particular no long musical history. Therefore, they were without interest. If Drake wanted to know such strange things, he could do so without taking the valuable time of a human. The machines and data banks were available. Even if Drake had to learn a new language, that also would be no problem. Vocabulary and grammatical rules could be instilled almost instantly using the feedback helmets. Use of language, particularly spoken language, came a little more slowly, because it required physical coordination and practice. A week, maybe, rather than a day.

"But now" — Leon had clearly spent as much time as he wanted to on such dull matters — "let's talk about music."

He did. Happily, and incomprehensibly. Drake did not tell him that he could not understand. He would do his duty and learn about modern music when the time came. For tonight, he was content to sit back, eat and drink, and build his resolve for whatever lay ahead.

A civilization consists of far more than facts, rules, and languages. After a couple of weeks of induced-knowledge nights, Drake began to wonder if some aspects of his new world would be forever beyond him, no matter how long he lived there.

Science was one of them. Twenty-sixth-century science, particularly the basic assumptions that lay beneath it, totally eluded him. It was no surprise that he would find the subject difficult. That had always been the case. In his own time his teachers had accused him of having talent but no interest, and of dreaming his days away with words and music.

Even so, the general ideas of science ought to be accessible. They were supposed to be no more than common sense, elevated to become a discipline. But he found himself struggling hopelessly — and he was struggling, hard, working to understand more than he had ever done as a young man. Ana's salvation, when it finally came, would derive from science, not from music.

Finally he sought help — not from Par Leon, who was itching for Drake's indoctrination to end so they could get to work, and who neither knew nor cared about science. Instead Drake dived into the data net, developed beyond anything dreamed of in his own time. He asked for someone who would be willing to translate for him from Science, which he could not speak or write, to Universal. In return he offered knowledge of his own times.

The woman who contacted him had no apparent interest in the early twenty-first century, or at least in the things that Drake might have to say about it. That confirmed the wisdom of his long-ago decision to provoke the curiosity of musical specialists. Cass Leemu was a specialist also, but her own field was one that Drake was unable to comprehend, even in general terms and even after hours of conversation and study. She said it was a form of physics. It seemed to be no more than pictures, that somehow yielded quantitative results.

Cass was a black woman whose age, like Par Leon's, was difficult to determine. She was a tall brunette with a slightly large and blocky head, no eyelashes or eyebrows, and a sumptuous body. Drake suspected minor genetic modifications. Her motive in meeting was either pure curiosity in a specimen of primitive humanity — Drake — or it was for a reason beyond his comprehension.

Her explanations were as clear as they could be, given Universal's limits for scientific explanation.

"It is the typical problem of a major paradigm shift." They were in her private quarters. Cass Leemu was almost naked, lolling back on a couch and scratching her bare belly thoughtfully as she spoke. In an earlier time, Drake reflected, her exposed body would have been a major obstacle to simple information transfer. It would also have been considered a clear invitation.

She went on, "Is the name of Isaac Newton familiar to you?"

"Of course. Gravity, and the laws of motion."

"Right. Familiar, and easy to comprehend. We agree on that. But did you know that most of his contemporaries found his work quite beyond them? He introduced notions of absolute space and time, which they found implausible. They argued, with justice, that only the separation between objects could have physical meaning. The idea of absolute coordinates, as opposed to relative distances, made no sense to them. Also, his work was most easily derived and understood employing the calculus, which to the scientists of the seventeenth century was shrouded in the paradoxes of infinitely small quantities. It took three generations to resolve the paradoxes, absorb the new world view, and work with it comfortably. The same thing happened two centuries later, when Maxwell elevated the concept of a field to central importance. Many of his contemporaries, to the end of their lives, tried to devise mechanical analogies that dispensed with the need for an electromagnetic field. And in the twentieth century, when uncertainty and undecidability assumed a dominant position in the prevailing world view, even the greatest scientist of his time — Einstein — had trouble accepting them."

"Are you telling me that the same thing happened again, after I entered the cryowomb?"

"Indeed it did." Cass Leemu smiled and stroked her right nipple. It was clear that she considered her action quite empty of erotic content. Paradigm shift. Drake was tempted to ask her to have a private meal with him, and see if and where she blushed.

"It has happened not once," she went on, "but three times. There have been three major viewpoint shifts. Our understanding of Nature differs more from the perspectives of your time, than yours differed from the Romans."

"So I am going to be like Newton's colleagues, unable to comprehend a new foundation."

"I am afraid so. Unless you can master the concept of…" She paused, then smiled again at Drake, this time apologetically. "I am sorry. The word for the idea that now underpins science lacks any adequate useful paraphrase in Universal. Even the general data banks are silent. But if you really wish to study science, and learn the Science language beginning with the absolute basics, I would be willing to help you."

"I can't do that. Not yet." Drake had already given up any notion of learning science for himself, but he was reluctant to say an outright no to Cass Leemu — he might need her later. "You see, Cass, I owe the next six years to Par Leon. He revived me."

"Of course. Six years only? He is being generous. A sponsor like Par Leon, who chooses an individual in whom no one else has an interest, can set his own terms with the Resurrect."

And there again was the paradigm shift. Cass was pointing out to Drake that the brave new world he now lived in contained other elements at least as hard to grasp as science.

After he had returned to his own spartan living quarters, he worried over the problem. Slavery did not exist. On the other hand, six years of absolute service to Par Leon was taken for granted. It was a form of slavery, but its ethical basis was never questioned. Drake could not understand that basis. He comforted himself with the thought that Henry VIII would have been appalled at wars that killed civilians, while accepting as natural a public hanging, drawing, and quartering.

As he placed his helmet over his head, he wondered what induced lesson he would receive tonight. He felt beyond surprise. Before he lost consciousness, it occurred to him that humanity was able to manage with very few absolutes. Why? Because people could live within — and apparently justify — any imaginable variation of ethics and morality.

Maybe that was why humans had survived.

Gradually, Drake became resigned to his own situation. He did not need to hurry. He had survived. Ana was safe in the Pluto cryowombs. Before he could do anything to change her status he would first have to earn his own freedom. He resolved to give Par Leon six good, solid years of effort toward the other man's great lifetime project: the analysis of musical trends in the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries. In any case, as a Resurrect what other option did he have?

After the first few months, the shrewdness of Leon's act in reviving Drake was apparent. More important than any facts that he might provide were the perspectives that he could offer into the lifestyles of the late twentieth century. It was far more than just science and ethics that had changed.

Often, his information had Leon shaking his head. "It is truly astonishing. An insanity. Did man-woman relationships really play so large a part in everything in your society?"

"You know they did." Drake was learning his way around the data banks, with no help from Leon. "Your own records show it, the ones that we were examining just two days ago."

"Yes. They do show it, but believing it is difficult. Men and women actually appeared to hate each other in your era. Yet at the same time there was much random mating, mating on impulse. I do not mean mere sexual acts, that I can comprehend. But random mating that produced offspring, without benefit of genome maps or the most rudimentary genetic information on parents and grandparents…"

Drake started to explain, and quickly realized that it was hopeless. Here was another five-hundred-year gulf that could not be crossed. To Par Leon, mating was always dictated by the selection of desirable gene combinations. As he said, there was no other way to make sure that the children would be healthy. How could any other approach be justified? He reacted to the idea of reproduction between comparative strangers as Drake regarded public burning at the stake.

In any case, Drake was beginning to have problems of his own. There really was no case to be made for the production of children, without thought for their future or for their physical and mental well-being. It was, as Par Leon said, "the blind mating urge of the primeval slime, deified to become religious principle and blind dogma."

Drake listened to those words and decided that he was beginning to view his own epoch with a new perspective. He must control that tendency, or his main value to Par Leon would disappear. For that reason, and one other, he had to remain an outsider in this century.

After six months, Drake realized that he was earning his keep and more. Leon might be the century's foremost expert on the music of Drake's period, but of some events and forces he knew nothing. He was endlessly fascinated by the smallest details.

"You say you knew him?" Par Leon leaned forward, eyebrows raised on his high forehead. "You met Renselm in person?"

"A score of times. I was present at the first performance of Morani's Concerto concertante, written especially for Renselm, and I went backstage afterward. Then we went to dinner, just the three of us. I thought you already read about all this in one of my articles."

"Oh, yes." Par Leon made a dismissive gesture. "I certainly read it. But this is different. Tell me about his fingering, his posture at the keyboard, his strange reaction to applause. Tell me what he said to you about Adele Winterberg — she was his mistress at the time, you know." He laughed in delight. "Tell me, if you can remember it, what you all ate for dinner."

Only once or twice did Par Leon express dissatisfaction. And then it was because Drake had been frozen just before some event that especially interested him. "If you had only waited another three years…" he would say; but he spoke philosophically and with good humor.

It was by no means a one-way transfer of information. From his vantage point five centuries ahead, Par Leon had insights into the musical life of an earlier era that left Drake gasping. For the first time he understood where certain contemporary musical currents had been heading in his own time. Krubak, in his much-ridiculed late works, had been feeling his way toward forms that would not mature until thirty years after Drake had been frozen.

The work went on, ten to twelve hours a day. If Leon ever wondered why Drake showed no curiosity at seeing firsthand the world as it had become in the twenty-sixth century, or in making other friends, or even in learning the twists and turns of human progress over the past five centuries, he never mentioned it.

For his part, Drake had no desire to be absorbed by or become part of the current society. Yet he had to know certain subjects in great detail, far more than Par Leon could tell him. Fortunately, the general data banks permitted near-infinite cross-checking and depth of inquiry.

Drake began to satisfy his own unique information needs.

The whole solar system had been explored and mapped in detail. Venus was in the first stages of terraforming, the acid witch's brew of its atmosphere creeping down in temperature and pressure. Mars had been colonized, not on the surface but within the extensive natural caverns beneath. There were permanent active stations — many of them "manned" by self-replicating computers and repair devices — on all the satellites of the major planets.

It was progress; yet to Drake it was less than expected. The projections made in his own time had seen the whole solar system crawling with humans and their intelligent machines. Sometime in the past five centuries, priorities had changed.

But what about Pluto?

Drake gave that little world his special attention. A small crew of scientists had a research station on Charon, the outsized satellite that made the Pluto-Charon system into a small planetary doublet. Pluto itself was uninhabited, unless one counted the dreaming serried ranks of the cryocorpses. The cryowombs were too cold for the comfortable permanent presence of animate humans. They hovered down at liquid helium temperature (Drake's earlier suspicion of liquid nitrogen storage had proved well founded). The vaults were tended, to the extent that they needed any sort of attention, by machines especially designed for extreme cold.

With the idea of money subsumed into some incomprehensible system of electronic credit, it was not clear to Drake when he would be able to afford to make the long trip out to Pluto. He forced himself to be patient, putting the question to one side until his time of service was closer to its end.

The work went on, hard but certainly not unrewarding. The text that they were producing grew steadily. By the beginning of the fourth year, Drake shared Par Leon's conviction that they were producing a classic. He listened to the suggestion that in fairness the two of them should be given equal credit, and shook his head.

"It was all your idea, Leon, not mine. You could have found someone else to do what I have done. But without you to revive me I could have done nothing…"

and if you shared credit with me, I would not be here long enough to take it. As soon as possible, I will be gone.

That was the secret goal, thought about constantly but never mentioned.

And then, at the end of the fourth year, an event took place that changed all Drake's plans.

Chapter 7

"A wild call and a clear call that man not be denied"

Drake was working. It was late or early, depending on the definition. The improvements to his body included a lessened need for sleep, and he did most of his private thinking and searching long after midnight. Tonight he had lost track of the hour as he strove to understand, for the hundredth time, the complex medical environment of Ana's disease. He could see why an ailment that had been bred out of the human race would attract little attention in the present day; but it seemed to him that treatments for other conditions might apply to this one.

He was toying with the daunting idea of learning Medicine — a multiyear commitment — when his outer portal reported a caller. He glanced up at the clock. Eight in the morning. He had time for a short nap, then he ought to call Par Leon and plan the rest of the day. They worked together flexibly and well, swapping opinions and thoughts and notes whenever either of them felt it useful; but they seldom met in person.

So who could be visiting, so early and uninvited? He lived in a tiny apartment. It was furnished with minimal facilities, and in four years he had never had a visitor.

The portal again reported a request for attention. He approved it, and stood up as the interlocking doors opened.

The caller was a woman. She did not wait for Drake's invitation before she entered. She walked in and swept her gaze over the interior of the apartment. She seemed to take everything in with a single glance from a pair of sapphire-blue eyes.

"You're Drake Merlin," she said firmly. "I'm Melissa Bierly."

She looked right at him, and he experienced for the first time the full force of her. Even long afterward, even when he knew the whole story, he was never able to explain the source of that peculiar power. She was striking looking, certainly, with a round, symmetrical face framed by straight black hair and wide eyes of pure deep blue; but a composer, especially one who had written music for movies, was exposed to many striking women. His first impression was that she was tall. Then she came closer and he realized that he was wrong. Her head scarcely came to his nose.

"Do I know you?" Drake said at last. He was sure that he did not. He had met hundreds of people since his awakening, usually through Par Leon and their mutual researches; but he would not have forgotten Melissa Bierly.

"Apparently not, though it would have been possible — just." She had switched to English. "We were around at the same time, but you were frozen when I was only one year old. I went to the cryowombs twenty-four years later, and this is the first resurrection for each of us."

Dead at twenty-five — younger even than Ana. Drake gestured to a chair, and she nodded and sat down. He sat on the low bed, facing her.

The sapphire eyes looked right inside him as she went on, "I was revived two months ago. As soon as I could, I checked how many of us there are. Do you know that number?"

He shook his head, still without speaking. It was a question of no interest. At best it was irrelevant to his needs; at worst it would lead to an interaction with other Resurrects. That could waste time and distract him from his goals.

"There were fewer than fifty thousand placed in the cryowombs," Melissa went on. "Forty-eight thousand eight hundred and ninety-seven, to be exact. Most of them entered the cryowombs within fifty years after me. Apparently the idea went out of fashion when the revival success rate remained at zero for so long. Also, life expectancy had increased. Of the total frozen, only a hundred and thirty-two have been resurrected. How many of those have you met?"

"None."

"That's what I thought. As soon as I arrived, one of my first acts was to contact the other Resurrects. They form a closely knit group."

"I am not surprised to learn it." Drake was speaking in English, too, and he felt the shift in mental gears. It was his first use of the language in almost four years. It brought a surge of longing for the past, as strong and inexplicable as life returning with the spring.

He knew that his answer to Melissa Bierly had not been quite an honest one. He had examined the data base of Resurrects. He did not remember how many there were, but he recalled that they lived in a colony of their own and spent all their leisure time together.

"But you are unique," Melissa said. The eyes were boring into Drake. "You alone have had no contact with any of the others."

"Did they tell you to come and see me?" The presence of the woman was producing an effect on Drake, relaxing and unnerving him at the same time. Her gray dress was as concealing as Cass Leemu's scanty outfits were revealing, but with Melissa Bierly there was a crackling undercurrent of tension. He did not know if it was sexual or from some other cause. He had not generated it, and he did not want it. But it was there.

The dark head shook firmly, while the eyes never left his. "The others said nothing to me, except inviting me to join their group. I came to you precisely because of your aloofness. You see, I wish to undertake a project. I wish to see what the world has become, everywhere from pole to pole. I do not want to travel with a group. But I do want a companion."

Even before he replied, Drake felt the insidious lure of her suggestion. A knowledge of the world as it was now could only increase the chances of his own success. The data banks were vast beyond imagining, but surely they did not contain everything. Suppose that, in some far-off corner of the Earth, information existed that would allow Ana to be cured?

"Well?" Melissa had moved to stand in front of him, her hands on her hips.

He shook his head. "I'm afraid it's impossible. I'm busy on a long-term collaborative project."

"If it's long-term, why can't it wait a little while?" She moved closer and reached out to touch his hand. It was their first contact, and Drake felt the irrational spark of attraction.

"We wouldn't need to be gone long," she continued. She was smiling down at him. "Come on, come with me. Just for a few weeks. Surely you must have taken breaks in your work before."

"Never."

"How long have you been working on this project?"

"Four years."

She stared at him incredulously. "Without any time off at all? You deserve a vacation, and I'll bet you need one. Why not call your collaborator and see if he will agree to it?"

Drake felt no need of a vacation. He had resisted the idea strongly, the half-dozen times that Par Leon suggested it. He had known Melissa Bierly for less than a quarter of an hour. But, beyond his comprehension, he found himself reaching out to call Par Leon.

Leon was sure to say no. There was no way, given the current status of the project, that he would agree. While the call was going through, Drake told himself to expect a refusal. And once Leon had said no, Drake would have something tangible to counterbalance his own irrational urge to say yes, and go off with Melissa to the ends of the Earth.

Then the screen was alive, Par Leon's open, dignified face was staring out at them, and Drake was making a half-coherent request to delay their work for a while.

And Leon was nodding, even before Drake had finished. "Of course you may go. I have plenty of work that I can manage very well in your absence. The project will not suffer. Go, and enjoy."

Even in Drake's dazed state of mind he felt that there was something wrong. Par Leon had no expression in his voice. It was as if the request had come to him as a follow-up on some earlier conversation. Also, Leon had not asked when Drake wanted to go, or where, or how long he might be away. And Drake had provided none of that information. Indeed, he did not know it himself.

But before he could speak again, Leon was gone; and Melissa had taken both his hands in hers and was lifting him easily to his feet.

"There," she said. "What did I tell you? Now that's done, we can sit down together and make plans and begin to get to know each other. You're very cramped in here. Why don't we go to my place? It's a lot more comfortable."

Drake thought for one moment of Ana. She lay secure in her frigid cryowomb, on far-off Pluto. But it was Melissa, warm and breathing and somehow compelling, who held his hands. It was her sparkling blue eyes, rather than Ana's gray ones, that smiled into his.

Unresisting, he allowed her to lead him to the door and out of his little apartment.

Drake was heading for the open air of Earth for the first time in five hundred years. Since the surface seemed to play no part in his plans after his resurrection, he had ignored its existence during his time working with Par Leon. And if he had been asked what he expected to find as the elevator carried him upward, he would have been hard put to provide a single answer. In any case, the answers he might have given were nothing like what he and Melissa found when the deep elevator finally reached the surface.

In the past few days she had taken charge of their lives. Although she had been thawed for less than seventy days, she seemed to know more than Drake about everything in their new world. After the first twenty-four hours he had surrendered his independence. She was like a force of nature. He did not attempt to argue with her or resist her. She knew where they were going, how they would get there, what they would do when they arrived.

Only occasionally, when they were waiting for something, did he notice a difference. The forceful, all-competent manner changed. The blue eyes became frenzied and crazy, and dark shadows crossed her face like demons.

It was happening now. They were at the surface, and the giant elevator doors were ready to release them to the outside air. Melissa should have been bubbling over with energy and excitement. Instead she was withdrawn, staring at the floor a few feet in front of them as if she saw all the devils of Hell in the pattern of tiles. It was Drake who was wide-eyed and curious, too absorbed to worry about the change in Melissa. Even the doors themselves aroused his interest. They had not opened, like normal doors, but seemed to dissolve to gray mist and then quietly vanish. Was this what the induced teaching meant, when it referred to "the transforming technology provided by a mastery of molecular bonds"?

He stared through the doors as they silently faded. Half a dozen possibilities filled his mind as to what he might see outside: a world completely paved over, with roads and vehicles everywhere? vast amounts of airborne traffic of strange and unfamiliar design, flying above his head? postnuclear devastation? gigantic buildings, arcologies in which half a million people could live? shimmering heat, as global warming ruled; or sheeted ice and visible breath, the precursors to some new Ice Age held at bay in his own time only by the widespread burning of fossil fuels? Or maybe the ozone layer was lost, and sunlight was now so fierce and strong in ultraviolet radiation that unshielded skin would turn purple black within minutes.

All these, and more, had been confidently predicted.

Drake looked. He saw an endless prairie, dotted in the distance with small clumps of trees. Of humans, and human influence, there was no sign. Melissa came to his side and took his hand. He glanced at her and saw that she was back once more to her usual confident self. She began to lead the way, walking toward that far-off blue-gray skyline.

As they went, Melissa explained. She had returned to her normal manner instantly, as soon as the doors were fully open and the surface beyond was visible.

"I could certainly see the signs in my time," she said, "and I'd be surprised if they weren't already visible in yours. If I was asked to provide a single word for what started the change, I'd give one that I've never seen quoted: glass. Before people had glass, there was a time when they didn't have buildings at all. They lived outside, in the middle of whatever was out there — animals of all sizes, from fleas to elephants. They might not have liked it, but they couldn't do a thing about it. As time went on people learned to make buildings and could live indoors. But if you wanted to see what you were doing, there had to be holes in the walls to let in light. You could make the holes small, so the elephants and wolves and bears couldn't get in. But there was no way of making the holes big enough to let light in, yet small enough to keep insects and spiders and wood lice and centipedes out. People still expected to live in the middle of bugs of all kinds. So they squashed them, or encouraged them — spiders will keep your house free of flies — or just put up with them.

"But then cheap, good-quality glass became available. You could make windows that let the light in and kept the bugs out. And that's when people started to think that spiders and cockroaches and ants were 'dirty,' and even 'unnatural.' I've known women who would scream if they found a decent-sized spider in their bathroom. And as for doing this —"

She reached down to the tall grass at their feet, and stood up again holding a big grasshopper gently in her cupped hands. "I knew people who wouldn't touch a harmless bug like this, not if you paid them. Don't you think it's peculiar, even the word dirty changed its meaning. We're walking on dirt. Dirt is everywhere. It's totally natural. The ground is made of dirt. But when you live in a totally artificial environment, shielded from the outside, you never see real earth. 'Dirty' things become completely unnatural, and you avoid them. The good news is, when people wanted less and less to go outside, because it was full of beetles and gnats and worms and earwigs and leeches, they were willing to let the surface become more like the way it used to be before humans took over." She bent down, released the grasshopper, and pointed away to their left. "Not just grasshoppers and bees and flies, either.

Go twenty to thirty kilometers that way, you'll find gazelles and wildebeest and cheetahs. Maybe lions, too."

"Are we in the tropics? Or has the climate changed?" One other confident prediction of Drake's own time had been that in another generation all the hoofed wildlife and the big predators would be gone.

"We're in what used to be Africa, about ten degrees north of the equator. It's what you would call Ethiopia. There has been some climate change, too. Think of this as just like Serengeti, even though it isn't." Melissa pointed again, this time upward toward the afternoon sun. "One reason it's not too hot, it's midwinter and we're fifteen hundred meters above sea level. Feel it in your lungs?" And, as Drake drew in a deep breath of thin but warm and pollen-laden air, she added, "Come on. You've been stuck inside for four years, or maybe it's five hundred and four. Let's see what sort of job they did when they tuned up your body."

She had given up the usual gray dress in favor of bright pink shorts and a red T-shirt. Her legs were shapely but well muscled. She began to run toward the nearest grove of trees, maybe a mile and a half away. After a moment Drake set out in pursuit. They were each carrying a backpack, which when Drake had put it on seemed to weigh next to nothing. Within the first quarter of a mile he changed his mind. He could feel it bouncing up and down on his back, the straps cutting into his shoulders. How could a meal weigh nothing when it was on the inside of you, and so much when you were carrying it on the outside?

He began to pant harder and felt in his calves and thighs the first pain of fatigue and oxygen starvation. The altitude made a tremendous difference, far more than he would have expected, and he had not taken regular exercise since he was thawed. His new body was supposed to make it unnecessary. He forced himself to run for another couple of minutes, then he had to stop. He had forgotten what it was like to be physically exhausted. He dropped heavily to the ground, and lay there panting on the dry, grassy soil.

All the time that he was running, Melissa had steadily increased her lead. She went all the way to the trees, circled them, and headed back at the same speed. She came to where he lay and stood by him with her legs wide apart and her hands on her hips.

Drake rolled on to his back and stared up at her. "What did they do with your body?"

"Not a thing. This is the original me." She squatted at his side. She wasn't even panting. "Now do you agree that it was a good idea to get you away from work for a while?"

"If it doesn't kill me when my heart gives out."

"It won't. Any problems like that would have been taken care of. Come on." She reached down and helped him rise to his feet. "We have to keep going if we want to get to a monitor lodge before darkness."

That sounded to Drake like an excellent idea. Lions might be twenty kilometers away. But how far were they likely to travel when they were hunting?

Melissa didn't seem worried, although fast and fit as she was she could not outspeed a hungry lion. On the other hand, it occurred to Drake that she didn't have to. All she had to do was run faster than him.

Drake's idea of Earth's future transportation system, if he had had one at all, was vague, busy, and grandiose — the chaotic vehicle mix of the late twentieth century, extrapolated to become faster, busier, and more tangled.

If the quiet open prairie had not set him right during the afternoon, Melissa did so that night. "The transportation system is all there," she said, "and according to the reports it's an excellent one. You can get anywhere in the world in just a few hours. We'll see it for ourselves when we use it tomorrow. But it's not heavily used. A few sightseers like us; and that's about it."

They had settled into a comfortable lodge, empty except for service machines, and they were eating dinner. It was Drake's fourth meal with another human being since he had been resurrected. After three years of work together, Par Leon had shyly asked Drake if he would like to have dinner in person every three or four months. Drake took that for what it was, a sincere gesture of approval and friendship.

"So what happened?" he asked Melissa, as their empty plates vanished into the table. "I know that the population is down by a factor of ten from our time, but there still ought to be lots of traffic — people and goods. Why isn't there?"

She sighed, with the tolerance of a person with a full stomach. Although she was smaller than Drake, she had eaten at least twice as much. But there was no fat on her body. He put it down to her high burn rate and her endless energy.

"You really did tune out for four years, didn't you?" she said. "It must take a positive effort not to know what's going on in the world."

"I was planning to learn a lot about transportation systems, on this planet and off it. But not yet."

"There's less to learn than you might imagine. We could have guessed this, too, if we'd bothered to think. Why do people need transportation?"

"To carry goods from where they're made to where they're needed. To take people to work, and to let them meet each other."

"What you're describing is nowadays called a primitive industrial society. You and I lived at the end of that, though I don't think we knew it. Automated manufacturing and telework were just about to take off in our time. We are now in a postindustrial, machine-supported society. You don't need to carry goods when they can be made on the spot from simple raw materials. The manufacturing is all done by machines, smart enough so they don't need people to watch over them. People still work, but no one goes to work anymore. They don't need to. You must know that from your own project. You told me you don't actually see Par Leon more than once a month, and you could get by very well without that."

"So why is there a transportation system at all?"

"Because a few people want one and use one. Because it doesn't really cost anything to maintain it — the machines do all that, without a single human being involved. Same as this lodge. When we arrived, our meals were cooked and our beds prepared, and we didn't even have to request it. It's an odd thought, but if all the people were to die, the housekeeper here probably wouldn't notice. It would carry on as usual. I doubt if there's another person — I mean on the surface — within a hundred miles."

Drake went to the window and gazed out into the warm African night. It was bright moonlight, and fifty yards away he could see head-high grass swaying as some large invisible animal moved through it.

No other humans within a hundred miles of here. But there was a deeper question. What was he doing here?

He could not give an answer that made sense. Somehow, Melissa Bierly's requests carried the weight of absolute commands. He did not know how to refuse. If she told him to go outside and face hungry lions, he was sure that he would do it.

And there was another question. What was she doing here? Her desire to see the world made sense only if she was looking for something — or running from something.

He could not imagine what; but later, when they were lying side by side in the lodge's quiet bedroom, he heard her sighs. Melissa was moaning softly in her sleep. And every few minutes, until he finally fell asleep himself, he heard the sound of grinding teeth.

Morning restored Melissa's cheerfulness and drive. She announced that she had changed her mind. She wanted to head upward, to the top of the peak that loomed to the northeast, before they used the transportation system and flew to South America.

"Birhan?" Drake had called up a large-scale map and asked for an optimal route. Now he called up a topographic map. "Are you sure? It's a brute. According to this it rises above thirteen thousand feet. We won't be able to breathe."

"I'll breathe for both of us." Melissa was bursting with energy. "I'll help you, and we won't go all the way to the top. Just enough to get a view. Come on, let's go."

The housekeeper had anticipated their need for packaged food, just as it had provided breakfast and had a car ready. It knew which maps Drake had demanded, and it had decided that Birhan was not within a day's walk for a human.

The hovercar moved smoothly, about three feet above the surface, and made almost no noise. It handled all kinds of terrain with ease, water as well as land. When they drifted across the rocky near-dry course of a broad river, Drake looked up from the display that was tracing out their path.

"This is the Blue Nile. I wonder what happened to it."

"Diverted, four hundred years ago." As usual, Melissa knew everything. "It was once completely dry. It looks as though the old dams are breaking down. No one needs them anymore."

The ground was rising steadily, and the hovercar was following the upward slope effortlessly. So far as Drake was concerned he would have been happy to ride all the way to the snow-capped peak ahead. Melissa had other ideas.

"This will do." She stopped the car. "We're at eight thousand feet. Let's head for that, and eat when we get there. The car will stay here."

She was pointing, not at the mountain but at the display. It showed a small flattened area where the hillside leveled off about two thousand feet above them. It could be approached easily from one side, but the contour lines suggested that the other edge ended in a sheer thousand-foot drop.

Melissa jumped lightly down from the car. Drake did the same, less lightly. He flexed his shoulders. Already he was aware that his lungs were working harder.

They started up. Melissa seemed to have an instinct for the easiest route, and rather than competing, Drake stayed two paces behind and followed her lead. He was afraid that it would be worse than the day before, but Melissa held to a slow, steady pace that he could live with. They were both wearing heavier clothing. Melissa had on thick blue pants and a padded jacket that exactly matched the color of her eyes. Drake wondered how the lodge housekeeper had made or found the color — how it even knew the color.

Today, at this altitude, warm clothes were necessary. Drake felt the tingling in his ears. The breeze at his back was chilly, but it seemed to help by pushing him along.

Helped for a while, at least. He was still relieved when they breasted the final rise and emerged onto the little plateau. Melissa did not stop, but went walking over to the far side of it.

"There," she said. "That's why we're here. That's Africa."

She was pointing out to the west. Drake came to her side, then at once stepped back, appalled. The view was incredible. He could see what seemed like hundreds of miles across hills and plains. But they were standing at the very edge of a sheer cliff. It was so steep, it could not be natural. Someone, sometime, for some inexplicable reason, had sheered the whole mountain side to a rock face that dropped vertically without ledges or breaks to a boulder-strewn chasm a thousand feet below.

"Be careful, Melissa." He backed farther and sat down. There was a gusty wind blowing on the plateau, and to be anywhere near the edge was terrifying.

She turned and grinned at him. "You don't need to worry about me. Watch."

While he stared in horror she closed her eyes and walked along the very edge, so close that at each blind step only a part of her foot met the rock. When he was convinced that she must fall, she turned and sauntered over to him.

"All right, then. Lunch?"

"Lunch, dinner, anything you like — as long as you stay away from that edge."

"You worry too much, Drake." She sat down casually at his side. "Can't you see I could do this sort of thing all day, and never get hurt?"

He believed her, but to his relief she followed his lead and removed her backpack. He looked across to the other side of the plateau, with its easy descent. With any luck Melissa would feel they had done enough climbing for the day.

They began to eat. Even in midwinter, the sunlight at this latitude was intense. It picked out every detail of Melissa's face: the contented smile, the glow of perfect skin, and the dazzling blue eyes. Drake decided that he had never in his life seen a woman who looked healthier.

He was staring right at her when the change came. She had just crunched a crisp piece of celery. As she swallowed, the corners of her mouth turned down. Her face flushed darker, responding to a sudden rush of blood. The splendid eyes stared fixedly at nothing, then glared all around.

"It has to be," she said. "It has to be."

She stood up. While Drake sat frozen she walked back five steps. He was still trying to scramble to his feet when she ran forward and hurled herself over the sheer edge of the cliff.

"Melissa!" He forgot his own fears and ran to the edge.

She was falling, her arms held wide. She did not change her position, and she did not cry out. Drake stared in horror as her blue-clad figure diminished in size. Already she had dropped hundreds of feet. Her pose was a swan dive, perfectly balanced like a high diver in the first phase of descent. But instead of water, beneath her lay nothing but solid rock and sharp-sided boulders.

When nothing in the world could save her, the whole cliff face erupted suddenly from top to bottom. It threw off a cloud of dust atoms like a shaken carpet. Instead of falling or spreading, the particles converged to form a dense gray plume that coalesced further as it swooped after Melissa's plummeting body. When it was in the right position, it spread to form a gray blanket beneath her.

She must have seen it coming. She began to scream and flail, trying to avoid contact with the gray layer by changing the line of her fall. It was no good. The blanket reached her and folded itself about her. Drake saw her arms, protruding from the swaddling cover and beating at it desperately.

The downward plunge had been arrested. While he watched, the gray cylinder of blanket moved rapidly to the right, away from the main body of the mountain. In less than a minute it had vanished from his sight.

Drake stared down. Melissa was gone, but the rocky landscape at the foot of the cliff seemed to crawl and surge below him like an oily sea. His legs were too weak to support him. He cried out, and dropped to the rough surface of rock and gravel. He scrabbled at it with his fingers, trying to pull himself away from the edge.

He was still sitting, staring blindly into the fierce winter sunlight, when a wingless craft drifted down to his side.

"It's all right, Drake." Par Leon was inside the air-car. His voice was apologetic. A stony-faced woman was at his side. "Everything will be all right. We're going to take you home."

Chapter 8

Incomplete Superwoman

The woman's name was Rozi Tegger. Par Leon made it clear, more from his body language than his comments, that she was not a close friend. Both he and Tegger were handling Drake with great care, responding to his dazed questions as the aircar flew them home.

To Drake, only two questions really mattered: Is she alive? Is she all right?

"Melissa Bierly is certainly alive," Tegger replied. Leon yielded to her the first phase of explanation. "However, she is far from all right."

"She's hurt?"

"Not at all. Neither of you was in real danger, though we didn't want you to know it. You were monitored from the moment that you left the lodge."

"The hovercar?"

"That, and more than that. And far smaller. The automated safety service makes its own observing and protection units, and there were many billions of them in use all around you today. The ensemble that saved Melissa, after she threw herself off the cliff, is fairly typical. Each unit masses only a fraction of a gram. Each has sensors, flight capability, and real-time communication that allows all units to act in concert. Melissa tried to steer herself away from them and fall headfirst onto the rocks; but in reality she didn't have a chance."

"I saw, but I don't understand. Melissa had everything to live for. Why would she try to kill herself?"

Par Leon and Rozi Tegger stared at each other. The tension in the car could not be missed.

"You have to tell him, you know," Leon said. "If you don't, I will. If you weren't prepared to do this, you never should have started."

"I never thought it would turn out this way."

"Nor did I; but it did."

"I know, I know." Rozi Tegger sighed. "Very well, I'll do it." She turned to Drake. "How much did you learn from Melissa Bierly of her background?"

"I know that she was born one year before I entered the cryowombs. I know that she lived for twenty-four more years, then died and entered the cryowombs herself."

"And that is all?"

"All I remember."

"Very well." Rozi Tegger, like Par Leon, could have been any age. She had thick, chestnut-brown hair, and now she ran her fingers through it. "Let me begin at the real beginning, fifteen years before Melissa Bierly was born.

"The structure of DNA had been known for fifty years, and the first mapping of the human genome had just been completed. Molecular biologists were riding high. A few people were already worrying about the ethical problems involved in playing with human genetic structure, but none of the rules that we have now had been put in place. In fact, to our eyes your original time is most perplexing. Those who felt comfortable about gene manipulation to cure disease were often the same people who were strongly opposed to mandatory genetic selection to avoid disease. Eugenics was a socially unacceptable word.

"When technology flourishes and suitable laws are not in place to constrain its uses, there will surely be trouble.

"A group of scientists with strong social and political goals decided to employ the emerging technology to benefit the human race. They were well intentioned, we do not dispute that. They were also permitted to operate with a freedom unthinkable today. They saw ways to modify the human genome so as to create persons stronger, more intelligent, more long-lived, and more resistant to disease. That is what they did."

"Superman," Drake murmured. But he did so in English, and Rozi Tegger frowned at him in confusion.

"Superior men," Drake added, this time in Universal. "Supermen."

Tegger nodded. "And superior women. Do I have to say more? We did not change the body of Melissa Bierly upon resurrection, as yours was changed. We did not need to. You saw her, yet you were exposed to little of her full potential. She could run to the top of Birhan, or mountains far higher than that, without breathing equipment and without feeling fatigue. She could spend a winter night naked amid mountaintop snow and ice, and come down unharmed. She could hang from the cliff where we found you by one finger, hour after hour.

"But those are mere physical improvements, and we judge them trivial. Of far greater interest are the mental characteristics of Melissa Bierly and others like her. She has outstanding intellect. In two months she has come to understand more of this time, and what is in it, than most of us. She mastered access to the general data banks as though born to them. She became conversant with a dozen languages, from Economics to Astronautics, and made their cross-connections with ease.

"But these accomplishments are no better than those of many machines; although we can admire them, they are not the reason for Melissa's resurrection. My own field of study is…" She paused, then said three syllables in Universal that meant nothing to Drake. "I'm sorry, I know that the subject did not exist in your time. You can think of it as the study of all modes of influence. How does one individual persuade another? It is certainly not by words alone. By sound, yes, but also by body position and touch and pheromonal transfer and many other agents. This has been true through all of history. It may well predate the use of spoken language. What fascinated me about Melissa were the records of incredible persuasive force reported for her and her kin. I could not explain it, and I wanted to see for myself. Could it be real?"

"It's real." Drake saw in his mind the sparkling sapphire eyes. "It's more than what you say. She didn't persuade me. She made me want to do whatever she liked. If she had asked me to jump off the cliff with her, I think I would have done it. But you haven't explained what happened. Why did she jump?"

"She did not jump. She dived. The distinction is important." Rozi Tegger looked at Par Leon, who nodded grimly.

"Go on. I know this is especially painful for you, but Merlin has earned our explanation."

"Very well." Tegger turned unhappily to Drake. "You spent days with Melissa. Did you ever see changes of mood in her?"

"You couldn't miss it. Most of the time she was full of bounce and cheerfulness. But now and again she seemed angry or worried or desperate. It could switch in a second."

"But you never questioned her as to the way in which she died, before she entered the cryowombs?"

"We didn't talk about that."

"Or of her siblings and kinfolk?"

"It never came up."

"That is not surprising. There were sixteen children in that 'superior' experimental group, including Melissa herself. So far as I can tell, each of them enjoyed an equal degree of physical and mental advantage. However, it is impossible to prove this. No other was placed with Second Chance. And for good reason. All of them, except Melissa, died in such a way that the brain was destroyed. All of them committed suicide. So did Melissa, but she did it by slashing her throat. She thought that no one would find her body for hours, by which time her brain would be past recovery. But she was wrong. She was discovered by accident, very quickly, and prepared for the cryowomb by the scientists who had made her. They knew that they had created an incomplete superior form, one who for unknown reasons was driven to self-destruction. They left posterity to decide where they had gone wrong."

Rozi Tegger sighed. The aircar had entered a deep shaft and was descending. Their journey was almost over.

"And I," she went on, "I in my hubris believed that I could succeed where my ancestors had failed. I would resurrect the one remaining 'superwoman,' to borrow your word. I would make changes, very minor ones, not to her body but to her mind. And then my experiment could begin. Melissa would be allowed to go her way; and by observing her I would learn the nature of her unnatural power to persuade others.

"But in truth I learned only one thing: that the changes I made to Melissa were useless; that the death wish is as strong in her as ever."

"She didn't know about the safety service," Par Leon added, "any more than you did, Merlin. And she didn't just want to die."

"She wanted total self-destruction," Rozi Tegger said. "You saw how she dived. She wanted to do what she had failed to do five centuries ago. She wanted her brain so completely pulped that there could be no thought of repair and resurrection."

Drake saw again in his mind that dwindling blue-clad doll figure, dropping forever down the stark cliff face. Melissa knew how to control her body attitude perfectly. She would have held the swan dive to the end. If the gray cloud of tiny rescue machines had not interfered, her head would have smashed and splattered against solid rock.

He felt sick: at the thought of what might have happened to Melissa, and also at the realization of the effortless power she had held over him. She had made him ignore his own vows in order to do her bidding.

"But Melissa is still alive. What will happen to her now?" He was almost afraid to hear the answer. If she were released, and came back to him…

"That decision is not mine to make," Tegger said heavily. The car had come to a halt, and she was climbing down from it with the stiff-limbed action of an old, old woman. "It was decreed in advance, before permission could be given for my experiment. If I failed, Melissa Bierly would once more enter Second Chance. That is happening even as we speak. She will remain in the cryowombs until someone — some person much cleverer than I — can free her of that random and irresistible urge for self-immolation."

"Will you be all right?" Par Leon spoke anxiously, and he was addressing not Drake but Rozi Tegger. "Shouldn't you stay a while with us before you go home?"

"I can safely leave." Rozi Tegger gave Leon a grim smile. "I thank you for your consideration, but despite my depressed mood I do not propose to do away with myself. For I am, as I have proved to you so very clearly, far from being a superwoman."

Par Leon tried to pretend that the whole episode was over. Drake had to visit Leon and corner him, in person, the next day before they started work.

"There is something that was never explained to me," he said. "I did not ask you when Rozi Tegger was with us, but I think you owe me an answer now."

Par Leon was not good at dissembling. He craned his neck to one side and would not look at Drake. "Indeed?"

"Indeed. I can see very well why Rozi Tegger resurrected Melissa, because it related to her own field of study. But you never met Melissa, and you were never exposed to her power of persuasion. She could add nothing to the work that you and I have been doing, and she could detract from it by slowing our progress. So why did you allow me to go off with her to the surface? Why didn't you say no?"

Leon did not answer at once, and when he did his question astonished Drake. "Did you, uh," he said, "uh, did you… that is…" He paused. "Forgive me for asking, but did you and Melissa Bierly enter into a sexual relationship?"

It was Drake's turn to hesitate. "Yes," he said at last "Yes, we did. When we were staying at the lodge."

It was a lie, and a possibly unsafe one. Drake knew that he and Melissa had been monitored from the time that they left the lodge. Wasn't it likely that the same automatic safety service had observed everything inside the lodge? And although sex would presumably not have triggered the rescue process, the records of the night at the lodge might be on file somewhere in the data banks.

But Par Leon was nodding and smiling. "I thought so. And that is why I agreed to your going, although I knew that we would sacrifice a little work time.

"I had been worried about you," he went on, before

Drake could express his perplexity. "I like to work hard, but you seemed to work incessantly. You did not — forgive me for my intrusiveness, but I thought it important, so I checked — you did not ever form a relationship with any man or woman, although your body modifications at resurrection permit and actually benefit from sexual activity. You had remained celibate for four years. And there was the matter of the woman in the cryowombs, your former wife. Several times, you alluded to her."

Had he? Drake did not recall doing so, but there was no reason for Leon to lie.

"I wondered," Leon continued. "Your obsession with the woman Anastasia was supposedly cured during resurrection. But was it possible that it had been done incorrectly? I wondered this, long before we learned yesterday of another case where changes made at resurrection were unsuccessful. So I was delighted when you called me, to request time to travel with Melissa Bierly. I knew little about her at the time, except the important thing: she was not Anastasia. I agreed, gladly. And as you see, although Rozi Tegger is disappointed by the outcome, I am not. You proved that you have indeed conquered your old obsession. There is no danger of a new obsession, with Melissa Bierly. My fears have been put to rest, and our work can go forward together with new confidence."

He beamed at Drake, who slowly nodded. "I have only one more question. Why did Melissa choose me, of all the Resurrects?"

"I can only pass along to you the conjecture of Rozi Tegger. You alone possess an independence of mind and spirit. The other Resurrects cluster together and follow each other. You pursue your own agenda, steadfastly. Melissa Bierly liked that. And also, she conceivably thought of it as a challenge to her own powers."

It had not been, not at all. Drake realized that. He was dismayed by his own lack of resolve. From now on, he would keep his goal clearly in focus.

And one more thing, above all others: he must never again, under any circumstances, mention Ana's name to Par Leon.

Par Leon's great project continued, faster than expected. He and Drake worked together as a perfect team. By the middle of the sixth year they were approaching completion. They had also become close friends, or as close as Drake dared to permit; close enough, however, to sense that Par Leon, a good man by any moral compass that Drake would ever be able to comprehend, was beginning to worry about something else.

He said little to Drake, beyond hinting at other possible collaborations. Drake read the deeper concern. What would the future hold when the project ended? It had apparently not occurred to Par Leon six years ago, but a resurrection was not unlike a birth. And now, like a parent, Par Leon felt responsibility for the future of his "offspring."

Drake was soon able to reassure him, and in an unexpected way. While they were still putting the finishing touches to their mammoth study of the "ancient" music of the twentieth and early twenty-first centuries, he started to compose again. He had learned during the project that musical knowledge of the time before his birth had some big gaps in it, and facility in different musical idioms had always come easily to him. He could steal tricks from the giants of the past, dress them in a modern style, and pass it off as innovation.

In less than a year he had a burgeoning reputation, which he knew was undeserved, a group of imitators, largely untalented, and — most important — a growing financial credit.

At last he could delicately explore a long-postponed question. He chose his moment carefully, when Par Leon was euphoric over a particular section on thematic influences that Drake had just completed.

"A couple of days more, and I will be finished." Drake did his best to sound casual. "How about you?"

He knew the answer. They had agreed that Leon would be responsible for the final overall review, to ensure uniformity of style.

"Four weeks,, at least, from the time that I have all the pieces." Leon sounded apologetic. "I can't do the final assembly in any less time."

"You shouldn't rush. The last review is the most critical one." Drake stretched and yawned. "I could stay around and help you, you know. On the other hand, if you don't need me while you're working through the material, I thought maybe I would take a vacation."

"Do it. You've earned some time off — more than earned it." Leon sounded relieved. The last thing a successful project needed was two people trying to direct the final pen.

"I was thinking of having a look at some of the rest of the solar system. You know, in my time we'd seen pictures of all the planets, but only a handful of people had been as far as the Moon."

"Which is considerably farther than I have been — or choose to go!" Leon's furry eyebrows went up. "Why would you want to travel so far? You are not an astronomer, or a terraform designer, or an astronaut. There's absolutely nothing out in space for a musician."

"I think it might help me in composition. New visual experiences always stimulate my musical imagination."

"You mean, we might get new music from you? Then by all means, go, and enjoy yourself. Visit Venus, tour Titan, meet Mars. Produce something to match this." Par Leon began to rap on the desk in front of him the rhythm of the 'Mars, the Bringer of War' section of Gustav Hoist's 'The Planets.' With their own work so close to its end, he was in high good humor.

"I'd like to go." Drake had to be careful what he said next. "I was just wondering if I'd be able to afford it."

The smile on Leon's face was replaced by a puzzled frown. "Afford it?"

"The cost of the fares. Mars is a long way away."

Par Leon frowned, as though he did not understand the relevance of the remark. "The cost? Who are you proposing to take with you?"

"No one. Just me."

"Then cost does not enter into it. The ship will fly itself."

"But who pays for the ship?"

"The question is meaningless. There are ships available, as many as you want. But they are manufactured automatically. Machines make them, and they also fly them. Machine use is free. There is no human cost to making and flying a ship. Cost becomes relevant only when you demand that human time be devoted to something. Like now." Par Leon laughed, his good humor restored. "I could charge you for this advice, you know. But I won't. Go on, Drake, take your holiday. You've certainly earned it."

"I will. In a few more days."

"But if you are crazy enough to go to space, don't ask me to go with you!"

Drake laughed, too. He did not mention the subject again to Par Leon, but in the next week he quietly took accelerated courses in astronautics, astronomy, and space systems, subjects that previously had never interested him at all. He was astonished by what he found. Par Leon had understated the situation. Ships were available in abundance, with drives that could take them close to light speed. It made Drake reevaluate all his own plans. He had been thinking that he would have to return to a frozen state. Now there might be other options.

He did not even try to understand the technique of inertia shedding that bypassed what should have been a killing 4000g acceleration as the ship moved to and from the light-speed region. That understanding required a working knowledge of a Science language far beyond his capabilities. Instead, he thought of the changes in the world. If this capability had been around at the end of the twentieth century, it would have been used by millions. Now, few people seemed to care. Although the stars were within easy reach, humanity was not stretching out to enfold them. Civilization seemed stable, static, content to remain within the comfortable limits of the solar system. Was that progress, or was it regress?

After nine days Drake was ready. He had done all that he could. The night before he was scheduled to depart he invited Par Leon out for a ceremonial dinner. By this time it was assumed that they would eat and drink comfortably in each other's presence. Leon had hinted once or twice at a more intimate relationship, but he had not been offended when Drake declined.

They went to Leon's favorite eating place, ate his favorite foods, and drank his favorite wines. It was an unexpected bonus that by coincidence one of Drake's own new compositions was playing in the background.

"There." Par Leon jerked his head toward an invisible speaker. "That is real and deserved fame. Music good enough to eat to."

"But not to listen to." Drake shrugged off the compliment. "Table music is like table wine, usually nothing special. Telemann could compose it as fast as he could write it down."

"True. But do not undervalue yourself, my friend. Mozart's divertimenti are often both artful and memorable."

The conversation was on satisfying and familiar ground. Drake felt the glow that comes with good, compatible company. He was going to miss that.

The urge to tell the full truth became very great.

Surely, if he confided in Par Leon his commitment and the depth of his feelings, the other man would become a willing accomplice.

"Leon."

"Yes?"

"Oh, nothing. I'm just thinking about my trip."

He stifled the idea before it could develop further. His new plans were shaping up, and they were nothing as simple as controlled freezing and a return to the cryowombs. They might lead to danger and destruction. He would not want Par Leon to bear any guilt by association.

He also would not — could not, dare not — do anything at all that might endanger his chances of success.

Chapter 9

Escape to Nowhere

Drake had decided to proceed with great caution. For at least the first part of his trip, he must look and sound like a genuine tourist. His resurrection helped. He could tell anyone he met that he had been recently thawed (he would not define recently). He would say he was still trying to get the hang of his new era. He would gape at anything he saw, like the original hick. He would be free to ask a million innocent questions.

Drake had delved into solar system geometry long before he left Earth. At first he had been worried. By an accident of timing, Pluto was almost exactly at aphelion, as far away from the Sun as it could get. But then he looked at the performance of the ships. They could accelerate so hard, and achieve huge speeds so quickly, that nowhere in the system was more than a few days away. Travel times became irrelevant.

Mars, first, then, just as he had told Par Leon upon his departure. Drake could imagine his friend and mentor checking the first phase of his travel, but he would lose interest once he was sure that Drake had arrived safely.

Mars was described in the Earthside databases as undergoing a "modest" terraforming effort; nothing, the sources said, compared with the major effort going on at Venus. The Mars project was designed only to increase the available surface water, and it did not interfere with life in the Martian interior.

Drake's ship took him to Mars in a day and a half. He landed; and found hell.

The planet was under ceaseless bombardment. Every twenty minutes a cometary fragment, a couple of hundred meters across, hit the surface. It had been directed in from the Kuiper Belt, nine billion kilometers from the Sun, and it struck Mars tangentially, precisely at dawn on the day-night terminator. Each impact came within twenty degrees of the equator. The Mars atmosphere was too thin to carry sound, but land waves shook the surface around the point of arrival.

Drake donned a suit and stepped out of the ship. He was well away from the impact zone. Even so, he felt the compacted rubble of the regolith tremble and shake beneath his boots.

He looked up. The sky was a dirty gray, streaked and filmed with white haze. Most of the added dust and water vapor in the air came not from comet fragments, but from the ejecta of vaporized surface rocks and permafrost, blown high into the Martian stratosphere. That permafrost was the main source of atmospheric water. It returned to the ground as a thin drizzle of ice particles. For the first time in a billion years, snow was falling on Mars.

As Drake watched, another ball of fire flamed across the dull southern sky. It moved from west to east, and vanished. One minute later a flash of crimson light lit the southeastern horizon. It was hard to believe that a rough-edged chunk of water ice, dirtied with smears of ammonia ice, silicate rock, and metallic ore, and no more than two hundred meters in diameter, could produce such violence. But a few million tons of mass, moving at forty kilometers a second, carries formidable amounts of kinetic energy. The energy release for each impact was around a thousand megatons. Each arrival had the force of a big volcanic explosion back on Earth. The thin atmosphere of Mars did little to dissipate it.

Drake watched the tumult for a couple of hours. Finally he decided that the open face of the planet, battered by hailstones bigger than the Great Pyramid, was more likely to stimulate nightmares than musical creation.

He went inside the ship and considered his next move. He had told Par Leon that he would visit the Mars deep caverns. Natural formations, kilometers across, they had been interlocked and fortified over the centuries by tunneling and construction moles. Now they stood second only to Earth as a center for human civilization.

Caution said he should visit the caves, as originally planned. After that, his original itinerary called for visits to Europa and Ganymede, the satellites of Jupiter, and to Neptune's big moon, Triton. But a new knowledge was burning inside him. The trip to Mars had changed his perspective on interplanetary travel. He knew that he was, if he chose, only a few days away from Ana. From Mars to Pluto, even without invoking emergency status and maximum accelerations, was just a thirty-six-hour run.

The temptation was too much. He ordered a message sent to Par Leon, back on Earth, announcing his safe arrival on Mars. Then he gave his command.

The ship rose from the surface and arrowed out, directly away from the Sun's warmth. It would bypass Jupiter and Saturn, bypass Uranus and Neptune. It would not stop until it reached Pluto, out at the frigid limit of the solar system; out where Sol was no more than a bright spark in the sky, and the cryocorpses slept their ancient, dreamless sleep beneath the silent stars.

A little knowledge could be almost too much. In six years of work on Earth, Drake had become used to the idea of robotic servants. They were of varying levels of intelligence, depending on their function, but they all had one thing in common: they accepted every command without question, provided that it was not dangerous and did not exceed their available resources of materials or knowledge.

He assumed that it would be equally true on Pluto, and it began that way. His ship landed without incident on the frozen surface. Machines attended his arrival. There were no humans, and he had expected none. The nearest people resided at the research station on Charon, seventeen thousand kilometers away. Pluto and Charon were more like a pair of little moons than a planet with a satellite — Pluto was smaller than Earth's moon, while Charon was half the size of its primary. The pair were tidally locked, always showing the same face to each other. Drake, standing on the surface of Pluto and looking up, saw Charon hanging pendant in the sky above him, like a giant dull ruby. The research station was not visible. From this distance, there was no evidence to be seen on Charon of any human activities.

Even though Charon was so close, the machines on Pluto were designed to operate without advice or assistance from there or anywhere else. Drake's command to be taken to the cryowombs was obeyed without question.

The surface of Pluto was one of the quietest places in the solar system. However, there would be occasional impacts from meteorites and cometary debris. The wombs, for additional safety, had been placed deep within the interior to protect against disturbance.

It had not occurred to Drake that he himself constituted such a disturbance, until he had been led at least a kilometer along a descending ramp. He and his attendant machine entered a large open chamber, where his suit was placed within another and larger one. The space between the suits was filled with liquid helium.

"Is this necessary?" He could imagine the second suit interfering with his mobility.

"It is necessary. There must be no energy release within the vaults to raise the ambient temperature. I myself cannot proceed beyond this point. I am too warm." The machine raised a spidery articulated arm and pointed at a hovering blue pyramid, half a meter on a side. "This is now your guide."

Ever since they left the surface it had become steadily darker. All light sources now disappeared as Drake followed the drifting blue pyramid out of the chamber and into the next level of the Pluto vault.

According to the first machine, the cryotanks were stored in regular rows within the main cryowomb. Drake strained his eyes into the darkness ahead. He could see nothing but the faint blue light in front of him. He was at the mercy of his robot guide, who must know the deep vault's geometry and contents through programmed memory.

Encased within his double suit, Drake followed the blue glimmer, on and on. Finally it halted. Drake moved closer, and by its feeble illumination he saw the outline of a cryotank. It was like a great coffin, two meters long and a meter wide and deep. Although the cryowomb was kept at a controlled temperature, for double security each tank also contained its own temperature control and source of refrigeration.

"This is the one?" He crouched low, seeking the identification.

He was not sure that the blue pyramid could hear him, understand him, or talk to him, until he heard the sibilant whisper in his helmet. "It is the one."

"I cannot see any identification. Are you sure it is the cryocorpse of Anastasia Werlich?"

"I am sure."

"Then lift it carefully, and bring it with you. Lead us back to the surface and to my ship."

He could see no way that the blue pyramid could exert force, but after a moment of hesitation the cryotank lifted in the low gravity. Two seconds more, and the blue gleam was moving again through the vault. It led the way steadily upward, to the first-level chamber where Drake's outer suit was removed. Twenty minutes more, and he was supervising the careful placement of Ana's cryotank in the aft storage compartment of his ship.

The machine attendants had gone and he was ready to tell the ship to lift from the surface of Pluto, when the communication panel lit with a busy constellation of red and yellow lights.

"The removal of a cryotank from the Pluto cryowomb, and its placement aboard this ship, is unauthorized," said a quiet voice. "The cryotank must be returned at once."

Drake cursed his own stupidity. The actions of the machines must be reported automatically to some central data bank. It was only his good luck that screening for anomalies apparently took a few minutes to perform.

Rather than replying, he locked the outside ports and gave the order for instant departure from the surface.

"The removal of any cryotank from the Pluto vaults is forbidden without proper authorization," repeated the voice. "You do not have such authorization. Do not attempt to leave Pluto. It will not be permitted."

Drake ignored the warning. He dropped into the pilot's seat. Why hadn't the ship taken off? When he left Earth and Mars, his commands had been executed immediately.

He could guess the answer: the ship's automatic piloting system was being overridden from outside. If he wanted to leave, he would have to assume manual control. He knew how to fly the ship in theory, from his crash courses in astronautics and space systems. In practice, he had never tried anything like it.

He hit the switches to turn off the ship's computer control, cursing the messages that came back to him:

"The requested action will remove the vessel from automated path guidance. Do you wish to proceed?"

"Yes."

"The requested action will inhibit the use of all trajectory planning functions. Do you wish to proceed?"

"Yes."

"The requested action will also disconnect this vessel from the solar system protective navigation system. Do you wish to proceed?"

"Yes, yes, yes!"

He was hitting the manual lift sequence, over and over, convinced that outside the ship more direct methods were being put in place to prevent takeoff.

Finally — at last — he saw that the ship was rising. Pluto's surface of rock and ice receded below them.

He set a simple outward course, directly away from the Sun. He did not care where he went, provided it was away.

It should have been easy. The Pluto approach corridor had been completely deserted on his arrival. Now it was buzzing with ships. His control board showed scores of them in the space ahead. Where had they all come from? Was it like the automated service that had caught Melissa, a whole invisible safety net of ships that sprang into action exactly when it was needed?

No time to worry about what or why. The ships ahead were converging, moving to intersect the course that he had set for the solar system perimeter. Somehow they knew his flight plan. It must be transmitted automatically, even when he was flying manual.

"DO NOT ATTEMPT TO PROCEED." The command was louder and more peremptory. "RETURN AT ONCE TO PLUTO."

Drake set the ship to maximum acceleration and kept going, driving toward the heart of the converging cluster of ships.

"TURN OFF YOUR DRIVE. YOU ARE MOVING IN EXCESS OF FORTY KILOMETERS PER SECOND, AND ACCELERATING. IMPACT AT SUCH SPEED CAN HAVE FATAL CONSEQUENCES."

It was a great understatement. Impact with another ship at forty kilometers a second would leave random bits of melted metal and vaporized plastic.

"YOU ARE ON A COLLISION COURSE."

A grating siren sounded in Drake's ear. The ship's own detection system was blaring its warning. Collision and destruction were no more than a split second away.

And then, at the last moment, the other ships sheered off. The center of the cluster became open. Drake flew on through.

He wondered what had saved him. Did the interceptors have their own prohibition against causing harm to a human? Or against permitting their own destruction?

He angled wide of another group of ships that had appeared far ahead. They moved toward him, but he was racing along too fast. He was soon past them. Still at maximum acceleration, he fled for the edge of the solar system.

As soon as the sky was clear ahead, he set a course for Canopus.

At last he was able to breathe. If he might have been judged a murderer in an earlier generation for what he and Tom Lambert had done to Ana, he was certainly considered a thief or worse in this one.

Who cared? He and Ana were together, that was all that mattered. Although pursuit was still possible, he could see no signs of it. And he would be hard to catch. The ship was still accelerating monstrously. Soon it would crowd light speed, moving just 125 meters per second slower than a traveling wave front. Even that was not the limit. If need be, he could reach within a meter a second of light speed.

But it should not be necessary. He examined the control board. Unless he saw signs of pursuit, their planned top speed would be just right. Relativistic time dilatation was going to be a powerful factor. Years would pass on Earth for every day of shipboard time. The trip out to Canopus and back would be a few months for him, but almost three hundred years back on Earth.

And for Ana?

She was still trapped outside of time, in her personal fermata, a temporal hiatus without end where duration and interval did not exist.

He felt a great urge to gaze upon her face within the sealed cryotank. Instead he moved forward to peer ahead to the distant star that he had chosen as their destination. Even from a hundred light-years away, by some miracle of the ship's imaging system Canopus was already revealed as a tiny bright disk.

He went to where the ship's computer was housed. Now that they were far beyond pursuit, he had returned to automatic control. He was curious to see what the computer looked like, the multipurpose processor that with equal ease planned trajectories, cooked meals, and maintained all the onboard life-support systems.

He lifted the plastic access panel to the main processor, and peered into a small dark cavity. He saw a lattice of red beads, each one no bigger than a pinhead. Tiny sparkles of violet light passed among them. A soft voice from the ship's address system said in mild rebuke, "Exposure to external light sources is discouraged, since it causes the computer to operate with reduced speed and efficiency."

Drake went back to the controls and turned his attention to the general functions of the ship. It could support him and his life-system needs, apparently indefinitely. Its speed and maneuverability never ceased to amaze him. And yet it was in many ways less surprising than the civilization that had made it. A civilization that could produce such a miracle of performance and potential — and then allow it to go unused; that was the most incomprehensible mystery of all.

Was it the temporal dislocation produced by time dilatation that was psychologically unacceptable to humans? Drake was depending on it. But did others hate to leave, and upon their return find their friends in the cryowombs, or perhaps dead? But as lifespans increased, that would be less and less a factor. If that were the main reason why the ships were not more widely used, the future should see more travel to the stars.

The ship was approaching its planned maximum speed. Drake noticed that the ship's external mass indicator showed more than 140,000 tons, up from a rest mass of 130 tons. To an outside observer, Drake himself would seem to mass eighty-eight tons, and be foreshortened to a length of less than two millimeters. The shields hid the view ahead of the ship, but he knew that the picture he was seeing on his screen had been subjected to extreme image motion compensation. An unshielded view would reveal the universal three-degree background radiation, Doppler-shifted up to visible wavelengths. Far behind, hard X-ray sources were faded to pale red stars.

The ship was nowhere close to its performance limits. If necessary, he and Ana could fly on forever, to the end of the universe. Except that he was confident that it would not be necessary. He closed his eyes and heard a broad, calm melody, the music of the stars themselves, stirring within his brain. He lay back and allowed music to fill his mind.

For the first time in five centuries, Drake was at peace.

Chapter 10

"Yet each man kills the thing he loves"

In the silence between the stars there were no distractions. Drake started to compose again, convinced that it would be his best work ever. It would distill all his emotions, for all the days since that ominous first morning when he had seen a red car in the drive where no car should have been; on through the darkest days, when nothing seemed possible; on all the way to the glad confident morning of the present.

The ship's flight was fully controlled by its tiny but vastly capable computer. In her cabin aft, Ana lay safe in the cryotank. Drake had all the time that he needed. As the days went by, he allowed the new composition to mature steadily within him. If ever he felt like a break, he would go to Ana's room, sit down by the cryotank, and reveal to her his thoughts and dreams.

He assured her that a few months of shipboard time would be enough. Almost three hundred years would speed away on Earth, before their return, and in those centuries Earth's physicians would surely have found a safe and certain cure. If they had not, he would simply head out again, and repeat the entire cycle.

And what if, after many tries, Earth finally fails us?

He imagined Ana's question in his mind, and he had an answer. They would go elsewhere, on beyond the stars in search of other solutions. The ship was completely self-sustaining. It had ample power and supplies for many subjective lifetimes of travel.

But Drake hoped that one trip would be enough. He told Ana that it was one of his smaller ambitions, on his return, to locate the cryocorpse of his friend Par Leon and return the favor. She would like Par Leon.

He was strangely, sublimely happy, as the ship approached Canopus. His original plan had been for a gravitational swing-by, a maneuver that would take the ship through a tight hyperbolic trajectory close to Canopus and then hurtle away again the way they had come.

But perhaps he had been enjoying himself too much to be in a hurry, or maybe he felt a simple curiosity to see what worlds might circle another sun. For whatever reason, he chose to decelerate during the last couple of weeks and put the ship into a bound orbit about four hundred million kilometers from Canopus.

He turned the ship's imaging devices to scan the stellar system. There were planets, as he had hoped, four gas-giants each the size of Jupiter. Closer in he located a round dozen of smaller worlds. But he had ignored or forgotten the infernal power of Canopus itself. It was a fearsome sight, more than a thousand times as luminous as the Sun and spouting green flares of gas millions of kilometers long. The inner planets were mere blackened cinders, airless and arid, charred by the furnace heat of the star. The outer gas-giants were all atmosphere, except for a small compressed solid core where the pressure was millions of Earth atmospheres. No life in any form that he would recognize could exist there.

But he stayed and looked. In two days of fascinated observation, his eyes turned again and again to the fusion fire of Canopus. He wondered. Had some other human been here, when ships like the one that he was flying were new? Had any intelligence been here before, human or nonhuman? Or were his the first sentient eyes to dwell on those dark twisted striations — not sun-spots, but sun scars — that gouged the boiling surface of the star?

If others had been here, and they were anything like him, he pitied them. Canopus set up in his mind a resonance of terror beyond reason and beyond explanation.

At last Drake could stand it no longer. Like a lost soul flying from hell's gate he turned and ran. He needed the infinite silence of space, and beyond that the comforting shelter of the solar system. If another trip out were necessary with Ana, it would be to a smaller and less turbulent star.

As the ship began to accelerate he turned the imaging equipment for one last look at Canopus, knowing even as he did it that he was making a mistake. The lost souls were there. Unable to flee like him, they burned in dark torment within the stellar furnace. Smoky demons danced about them, in tongues of flame that gaped and gibbered in triumph. Drake shuddered, cringed, and looked away.

As the star receded to a blazing point of light, he tried to settle back into his shipboard routine. But all harmony, mental and musical, had been banished. What he saw, over and over, was that vision of the Pit. He was circling endlessly, in tight orbit around Canopus. Flaming gas prominences, bright jets of green and white and blue danced a witch's sabbat in his mind. He could not eat, drink, or sleep. The urge to see Ana, to seek peace in her face, grew within him.

Finally Drake went aft and sat by the cryotank. It was guaranteed to soothe all worries.

But not today. His mind churned.

"What's wrong with me, Ana? Am I going crazy?"

The usual imagined reply did not come. He stared at the cryotank. There she was, only a few feet away. If only he could see her, just for a second…

The outside of the cryotank was at room temperature. Inside, the cryocorpse was insulated by two more protective layers. Both of them were transparent. He could open the tank, take one look, and close it before there was a noticeable temperature change.

Slowly, he released the seals and lifted the tight outer cover.

She lay quiet in the tank, pale and peaceful as a Snow Goddess. He took one look at her pearly eyes and skin of milky crystal, afraid to open the cover more than a crack. An icy vapor, colder than innermost hell, breathed from within. While he watched, dew formed and froze on the inner layer. Ana's body faded and blurred, like an image placed behind frosted glass.

Rapidly, he closed and sealed the outer lid. That one moment had been enough. He was able to control himself again and think of other things.

He told himself, for the hundredth time, how fortunate he was. He had never dreamed of light-speed ships and time dilatation, when he had made his plans so long ago. At best he had envisioned a chancy succession of freezings and thawings, farther and farther off in time, until at last Ana could safely be revived and cured. He had imagined and dreaded the uncertainty of multiple awakenings, not sure where he was, not sure where Ana might be, not even sure if she still lay within a cryowomb.

Instead of such a dangerous quest, Ana was here with him. He could safeguard her himself and protect her from all risks.

The rest of the journey home was, if anything, more tranquil than the voyage out. During the final phases he scanned all the ship's communication channels, electromagnetic and neutrino, wondering what might await him back in the solar system. He found nothing but silence. The centuries must have changed technology again; he had been away long enough for some totally new communications system to have taken over. Three centuries were also — a frightening prospect — time enough for humanity itself to have changed; even, perhaps, for humans to have destroyed themselves.

He would proceed with great caution, until he knew the nature of the system to which he and Ana were returning. While still far from home he decelerated from their near light-speed race. Moving at a steadily diminishing velocity the ship coasted in toward Sol; past the barren and arid Dry Tortugas, the outermost limits of the Sun's gravitational domain; past the outer borders of the Oort Cloud; into and through the Kuiper Belt. There was no sign of human presence. The scouts who had been busy on the Outer System survey when Drake left were all gone.

By the time that they came to the frozen wastes of Pluto, the ship was drifting inward at only a few hundred kilometers a second. Drake was becoming worried. The imaging system, even at highest resolution, showed no evidence of activity on either Pluto or Charon. The research station had vanished.

Did Melissa Bierly lie in the Pluto cryowombs now? Or had a treatment been found, one that could relieve the torment of a flawed masterpiece of genetic science? Drake realized that he was afraid of Melissa's power over him. Rather than approaching the planetary doublet for a landing, as he had intended, he stepped up the ship's speed and headed for the inner planets. He had started from Earth; he would return there, and make his case to whomever or whatever he found.

The mode of his approach to the inner system was taken out of his hands as the ship passed the Asteroid Belt. As they floated high above the ecliptic, a navigation and guidance beam locked on to them, taking over the ship's internal controls. Drake attempted a manual override. It had succeeded once, but now his command was ignored. Powerless to affect his path, he watched the ship steered steadily in to a landing on the surface of the Moon.

The spaceport was new. Drake was dropping toward a flat plain of gleaming yellow, dotted with massive silver columns set in a regular triangular array. Ships, if they were ships, formed dark, windowless tetrahedra at the center of each triangle. Nothing remotely like Drake's ship was visible. Space flight, and perhaps everything else, had changed in three centuries.

A small wheeled guide met Drake at the ship's lock. Its body comprised a one-foot sphere, with a thin up right cylinder above it, and a whisk-broom of flexible metal fibers above that. The broom head dipped toward Drake in greeting. The machine rolled toward a head-high oval aperture at the base of a silver column. Drake followed, ducking his head, and passed through the opening. There was no sign of an airlock, but his suit monitor suddenly showed breathable air and a comfortable outside temperature. He removed the suit as his wheeled guide instructed and followed it along a short corridor to another interior chamber.

One man was waiting there, a dignified figure with the distant eyes of a prophet. Drake had expected more: a reception committee, perhaps, or maybe even a show of force. The man merely nodded and said quietly in Universal, "Welcome again to Earthspace, Drake Merlin."

Drake had been wrong. He had thought himself prepared for anything. What he had never expected was to be recognized, and named.

Even with that thought, he realized that he had no reason to be surprised. The ship would have revealed its identity back in the Asteroid Belt, during its first handshake with the navigation and guidance beam of the inner system. The data banks would have shown the ship's history. Presumably they would also have recorded its sudden disappearance from the solar system.

Drake wondered what else the files might say about the ship's run from Pluto. No matter what they said, he would gain nothing by lying about his actions.

"Since you know my name," he said, while the other man regarded him calmly and without expression, "then perhaps you also know my history. If you do, you will realize that I have returned to seek your help."

Drake found it hard to accept that he had been greeted in a familiar language. Par Leon had been able to speak to him on his resurrection, but only because of long preparation for Drake's arrival, and extensive studies of the right historical period.

Had language become static, totally fixed over the centuries because it had become embedded within the universal data banks? Or was the robed figure in front of him simply giving a formal greeting, a single sentence that he had learned of Universal?

But the man was nodding and speaking again. "My name is Trismon Sorel. I know something of your history as it has come down to us from long ago, although a serious… event, almost a century ago, led to our records being seriously incomplete and inconsistent. In your case, there are two versions of events. One states that three centuries ago you lost control of your ship, and were carried off unwillingly to the far depths of space. Another version suggests that your removal of a cryocorpse from the Pluto cryowombs and the immediately subsequent departure of your ship were linked events. It proposes that your disappearance at close to light speed, however curious and bewildering, was intentional. I await your elucidation. However, we should first proceed to another environment, where we will find conversation easier."

There were small pauses in his speech, slight hesitations in places where it was not natural to break the pattern of words. As Drake was led out of the room and down a spiral flight of metallic stairs, he decided that Universal must be a learned language for Trismon Sorel, just as Old Anglic had been for Par Leon. But to learn Universal so quickly and so well, in the day since the return of Drake's ship to the inner system, was beyond the powers of the learning inducers. It suggested that Trismon Sorel, in spite of his normal appearance, represented some huge advance in human mental powers.

They had entered a room that could have existed in Drake's own time. Only the light lunar gravity, one-sixth of Earth's, told Drake that he was far from home. Sorel gestured to two comfortable-looking chairs and settled into one of them. As the little wheeled servant moved forward with refreshments, he gazed at Drake with steady, knowing eyes.

"Speak, Drake Merlin. Tell your story."

Drake nodded and sat down opposite Trismon Sorel. He felt a rising tension. In a few minutes he would know if the long quest was finally over, and his life could begin again.

"My departure from the solar system was indeed intentional." It had become difficult to speak, and he had to swallow and pause before he could continue. "It was intentional, and done for a good reason. But I cannot begin there. I must begin long ago, more than eight hundred years ago. At that time, the cryocorpse who now lies safe within the ship that brought me here was my wife. After many happy years together, we learned that she was suffering from an incurable disease…"

As Drake told his story he was forced to relive scenes that he had suppressed for centuries. If Ana was to be helped, Trismon Sorel had to know everything: all Ana's symptoms, the progress of her illness, the manner of her death, the procedure in her freezing.

Sorel listened intently. He raised his hand to interrupt only when Drake spoke of the awful hours with Ana at the Second Chance cryonics facility.

"One moment. You say that the original medical records were stored with the cryocorpse. Are they there now?"

"They should be. Everything should be there, inside the cryotank."

"Then before we proceed further let me summon the necessary experts, in both antique Medicine and Languages. Let me say at once, we are able to cure all known diseases. That includes every past disease of which we have ever heard. However, we will need to examine the records and the cryocorpse itself." He sat, eyes distant, for three or four seconds.

Two waves of emotion swept through Drake. He felt a wild and terrible joy, like an agony of relief: Ana would be cured at last. But he also felt a superstitious awe. Trismon Sorel's advanced mental powers seemed to include telepathy. "You are speaking to other people directly, by transmitting your thoughts?"

Sorel looked puzzled, and again there was a brief pause before he smiled. "Not in the way that you are perhaps thinking. I can do no more than you yourself will be able to accomplish in a few days' time. You will share your thoughts with others. You will have instant access to all information in the data banks. You will calculate faster and better than the computer of the ship that brought you here. Look."

He turned his head and raised the hair above his temple. Drake saw a faint, thin discoloration, normally covered by the hairline.

"That marks where the implant sits," Sorel went on. "It is normally installed in early infancy, and can be changed at any time. It is tiny, smaller and thinner than a pin, and it serves multiple purposes: as a body function monitor, as a slave computer, and as a transmitter and receiver. Commands, requests, data, and programs can be sent or received. I can speak with data banks or with other individuals. I have requested via the Copernicus network that both medical and language experts go directly to your ship. And I am able to speak to you now, in real time, because although your language is new to me, I am employing the language translation modules within the Tycho network."

Some transfer of information was still directly from person to person. Sorel read Drake's misgivings from his facial expression. "Do not worry about this. In your case — as in all cryowomb revivals — the implant will be totally optional. Before you make a decision you will have ample opportunity to observe its use in others. But I can assure you that if you do proceed, you will find it hard within a few weeks to believe that you were ever able to function without such a service. You will possess total recall; you will be a calculator beyond the most powerful computers of your time; and you will have immediate access to every data bank within the solar system — although, naturally, access and transmission time to people and data banks on other planets is considerable. Do you have questions, Drake Merlin?"

"Only one. I want to know if Ana can be cured."

"I have asked the medical team that question. They are already on board your ship, and they are performing their assessment. I will inquire as to their progress. One moment."

The gray eyes widened. Their expression again became remote and preoccupied. This time the wait stretched on, to become one minute and then two.

As the silence continued, Drake felt a knife of tension twisting inside him. If communication was mind-to-mind, what was taking so long? He was afraid that something was going wrong, but what could it possibly be? He comforted himself with Trismon Sorel's assurance: this society was able to cure all diseases of humans, including every known past disease.

But it was taking too long. Finally he could stand to remain silent no longer. "Are you talking to them? What do they say to you?"

Sorel's eyes focused again on Drake. "I am talking now to the medical specialists. It is somewhat… complicated. Give me one moment more."

The gray eyes were changing. They became gentler and more personal. At last Trismon Sorel nodded, as though confirming something that he already feared. He spoke to Drake more slowly, choosing his words with great care.

"They ask me to ask you certain questions. The woman in the cryotank, Anastasia. According to our records she had been constantly maintained in the Pluto cryowombs. Is that correct?"

Drake nodded.

"And when you found her, she was within a cryotank?"

Again, Drake nodded.

"You did not remove her, but you brought the whole cryotank with you on board the ship?"

"That's right." Drake's mind was filled with foreboding. "I had the tank carried from the cryowombs to the ship, exactly as I found it. It was done very carefully. The gravity on Pluto is low, and the machines had no trouble handling it."

Trismon Sorel was frowning. "Then it is difficult to see how there could be any problem. Unless — Drake Merlin, think hard. Did you open the tank, for any reason, after your ship left Pluto?"

Drake saw again before him Ana's peaceful face, her pearly eyes and milky skin. He felt a sickness like death. "I did open it. Just once. The outer case, for a few moments, after we left Canopus. The inner seals were unbroken. I looked for only a second or two. I was careful to seal the cryotank afterward…"

It was pointless to try to explain why he had done it, to say that he had been unable not to do it. Trismon

Sorelwas regarding him sorrowfully, across an eight-hundred-year gulf. Somehow his face was Tom Lambert's, and also Par Leon's. The eyes spoke the same sad message.

"Drake Merlin, a Pluto cryotank is not designed for sealing and resealing. Closing calls for special equipment and special procedures, available only in the cryowombs. When a seal is broken, it is assumed that the person will at once be resurrected, or special resealing methods must be adopted. Do you understand what I am saying? With an imperfect seal, suitable conditions cannot be maintained within a cryotank."

"Then Ana…"

"One moment more. Again I must consult the specialists, and the data banks." The eyes once more became unblinking. The silence dragged on and on, longer than before. When Trismon Sorel at last focused on Drake, his face was beyond doubt.

"I have checked all our references. The medical team, at my request, did the same to provide independent confirmation. We have formed the same conclusion. The problem that faces us is quite different from that of curing a disease. The damage caused to a body, and particularly to a body's brain, when a cryotank is opened and resurrection is not performed at once… that damage is permanent. It cannot be repaired, and there can be no possible revival. Now, or ever.

"I am sorry, Drake Merlin. Anastasia is dead. Forever dead."

Forever dead. Ana is dead. Trismon Sorel's words echoed those of Tom Lambert, so long ago. But this time Drake heard the ring of complete certainty.

Yet each man kills the thing he loves. He, not disease, had killed Ana. Like Orpheus of the old myths, he had pursued his Eurydice through hell. In his case it had been a double hell of cryodeath and Canopus, but like Orpheus in Hades he had found his love and brought her back toward life. Like Orpheus he had looked at her; and in looking he had lost her.

With that thought age-old barriers came down inside his mind. For the first time he noticed a spicy fragrance in the air that he was breathing. He felt a steady dry breeze blowing past him, and far-off along the corridor he heard the faint concert pitch A-natural of vibrating metal. It was as though all his senses were opening, after long centuries of hibernation.

Trismon Sorel was speaking again. "One possibility remains. Anastasia, the woman that you knew, cannot be reanimated. That is quite impossible. However, many whole cells remain intact within her body. She could be cloned without difficulty. Her growth and education would begin anew. But it would, you must understand, be a new Anastasia. There is no hope of sufficient memory transfer from undamaged cells for any inkling of her former existence to pass to her new body. Your former relationship would of course be known to you, but it would be irrelevant to her. Should we proceed?"

The temptation was enormous. To see Ana once more standing before him, blooming and vibrant as he had once known her…

That was the selfish answer. There was a better one; Ana had the right to a healthy new life in this world, eight hundred years beyond their own time. He could not deny it to her.

She would live again. And yet…

It would not be the Ana that he knew and loved. It would be a quite different person. Could he bear to look on her, a woman who was Ana and yet not Ana, a woman who would not feel for him the overwhelming love that he felt for her?

Except that he had no choice. Ana deserved resurrection, and a new life.

Sorelhad been waiting sympathetically. Drake nodded at last. "Proceed. Make a clone of Ana."

Trismon Sorel also nodded, and smiled. Drake saw the relief on his face. Sorel knew, with the authority of eight hundred more years of science and technological progress, that the Ana whom Drake had known was gone forever.

But —

A tiny seed of doubt sprouted deep in Drake's mind. But what would science say in another three hundred years? in a thousand, or ten thousand, or a hundred thousand? Science had come so far. Surely no one, least of all a scientist, would say that it was now at an end and could go no further.

Trismon Sorel was talking to him again, trying to catch his attention. He forced himself to listen.

"Ana cannot be revived and cured," Sorel was saying, "not in the way that you hoped when you took her body from the cryowombs. But we can help you."

"Me?"

"Certainly. We can cure you. There is evidence that a cure was attempted three hundred years ago, but it clearly failed. We have superior techniques now. They can end your obsession with Anastasia. It would, of course, be done only with your consent."

"Do I have a choice?"

"You have an infinite number of choices. The right to self-determination — even self-destruction, if you wish it — is basic." Trismon Sorel leaned forward. "Now I would like to speak personally, for myself alone. I hope that you will agree to a cure, and enjoy your own new life. I have vast sympathy for you. I have searched the whole data bank as we have been speaking, and your suffering seems unique. No quest and sacrifice comparable to yours can be found, anywhere."

"I have not suffered." Drake had made up his mind. "I have not sacrificed. And I know what I would like."

"State it."

"I would like a cloned form for a new Ana, just as you offered."

"We have agreed, that will be done. But for yourself?"

"I want to remain here just long enough to be sure that Ana's cloning can proceed without problems. Then I wish to leave."

"Leave?" Trismon Sorel was bewildered. "Go from here? Go where? The universe is open to you, but we can offer you everything that your heart might desire."

"No, that is not true. You cannot offer me the Anastasia that I know and love. And that is what I want — all I want. Put me back into the cryowombs, with Ana's body at my side. Let us travel together to the future."

"But I told you, the real Ana, the Ana that you knew, is not in that body. Too many brain cells have been destroyed. Your Ana is gone."

"She is gone. But gone where?"

"Drake Merlin, that is a meaningless question. It is like asking where the wind goes when it is no longer blowing, or where is the odor of a flower after the flower dies."

"It seems a meaningless question today. But it may not always be meaningless. You told me that I have an infinite number of choices. My choice is simple, and I say it again: I want to be placed in the Pluto cryowombs. Do I have that right?"

"You do." Trismon Sorel could not conceal his dismay and disappointment. "We cannot deny it to you. But I beg you to reconsider. You can return to cryosleep for as long as you choose, but when will you be awakened? In a century? In five?"

"I do not know. I want to leave this instruction with my freezing: Awaken me when new evidence comes into the data banks that seems relevant to the recreation of Anastasia's original personality. And not until then."

"It can be done. But I must be honest with you. I do not think such new evidence will ever appear. If you hope to sleep until your Ana can return, I believe that you will sleep forever."

You have everything to lose. You're healthy, you're productive, you're at the height of your career. And you are asking me to throw all that away, to help you take the chance that someday, God knows when, you might — just might — be revived. Don't you see, Drake, I can't help you. Across a gulf of eight centuries, Tom Lambert's words reverberated in Drake's mind.

"I've heard that logic before," Drake said, "and it proved wrong. I will take that risk. It is smaller than risks that I have taken in the past. Can we begin… now?"

"If you insist." Trismon Sorel held up his hand. Drake was already rising from his seat. "But there is one thing more. While we have been speaking, a group-mind meeting has been in progress involving every human within easy signal range. A conclusion has been reached. Your request will be granted, but with one condition: You do not go alone. You will have a companion for your travel into the future, just as each of us has a companion, to share our fortunes and to stand by our side through good and bad."

"I desire no woman in the cryowomb with me, other than my own Ana. And no man, either."

"We would condemn neither living man nor living woman to such an uncertain future. Your companion will not reside in the cryowombs. It will be a Servitor, designed for on-demand operation, exactly like my own Servitor." Trismon Sorel gestured to the little wheeled sphere with its metal whisk-broom head, waiting quietly at his side. "So long as you do not call upon its services, it will remain dormant and in communion with the data banks. When you need a companion or an assistant, it will be there to obey your commands."

Sorelstood up. "Come with me now. The preparations are already beginning for the cloning of Ana. While that is proceeding, I will explain to you the endless virtues of the Servitor class. And you can decide on the appearance and name of your own personal model, to travel with you into the undiscovered country of the future."

Chapter 11

The Return of Ana

Drake woke quickly and easily, rising at once to full consciousness. He felt rested and full of energy, without pain or weakness. His immediate thought was that something had gone badly wrong. He was supposed to have descended into cryosleep. Instead he was awakening, as the effects of the first cryonic tranquilizing drug wore off.

He opened his eyes, expecting to see the cryolab facility and Trismon Sorel's face. Instead he found himself lounging at ease in a deep armchair. A woman with the strong features, raven hair, and dark complexion of a gypsy sat opposite. She was watching him closely. When his eyes opened she nodded but did not speak.

"What happened?" His mouth was a little dry, but that was normal after sedation. "Why didn't I go into cryosleep?"

"And what makes you think you didn't?" She arched jet-black eyebrows at him. "Don't you believe in progress? The old barbarism of waking agony is long in the past. Today the thawing is no different from rising after a natural sleep."

She spoke not in Universal but in perfect English, unaccented and without pauses.

He glanced around him. His last waking sight had been of the cryolab, deep within the sterile interior of the Moon. Now he was back on Earth, held to his chair by the familiar tug of a standard gravity. The room's long window faced out over a sandy beach and a restless ocean. It was windy outside. He could hear the gusts moaning around the outside of the building and see tiny sparks of sunlight reflecting from distant white-caps.

Suddenly, he knew exactly where he was. He and Ana, on one of their rare trips abroad, had worked together for a month in Italy. They had taken an extra two weeks of vacation after the assignment was over, and rented a small villa on the Sorrento Peninsula just south of Naples. He was there now. The restless sea that he was looking at was the Tyrrhenian Sea, part of the Mediterranean; the little island far to the west was Capri.

He even recognized the room and furniture of the villa.

Recognized it, after more than eight hundred years?

His moment of pleasure was swept away by fear. "How long?"

"I was hoping that we might postpone that question for at least a little while." The woman sighed. "I should have known better. All your records display a remarkable focus of attention. To answer your question, it has been rather a long time — much longer than I suspect you hoped. In your notation, this is the year 32,072. It is more than twenty-nine thousand years since you last descended into cryosleep."

Long enough, surely, for real progress in the reconstruction of his Ana.

But longer, also, than the whole of humanity's previous recorded history. Drake stared in disbelief. He had again tried to prepare his mind for anything, for any amount of change. And again he was surprised. The last thing that he expected was sameness. But the room he was sitting in was exactly as he remembered it. The scene outside was a pleasant day of late spring. The sun was high in the sky, and it must be close to noon. At any moment the villa's housekeeper would enter with an aperitif of sambuca, before serving lunch for him and Ana outside on the little paved terrace.

"It's not real, is it?" He gestured around him. "All this is an electronic simulation, designed for my benefit." A worse thought struck. "In fact, I'm not real, either. I've not been resurrected at all. I've been downloaded."

"Not true." The woman frowned reprovingly. "You have certainly been resurrected, and you are the real corporeal you, occupying your own revivified body. Although the capability exists to download a person to inorganic storage, this was not done in your case. It requires the consent of the individual, since once done it of course admits the possibility of multiple selves. However, you are right at least in part. The scene around you was synthesized from your own memories. It is being inserted for your comfort and convenience into your optic chiasma and other sensory afferent nerves — nonintrusively, I might add. The old indignities of body invasion disgust today's society."

"I don't find this either comforting or convenient. I want to know where I really am. I want my surroundings to be as they really are."

"Very well." She paused. "Are you quite sure? We judged this synthesis to be the best way of minimizing cross-cultural shock."

"You were wrong. Get rid of all of it." Drake waved his arm at the room, the easy chairs, and the blue sea and sky beyond the long window.

"Very well. However, there is one other thing that you should know before you leave derived reality." The woman stared at Drake, her dark eyes troubled. "You are real flesh and blood. But I am not. I am a part of the synthesis, and I will disappear when it does."

She raised her hand in farewell.

"Wait a minute!" Drake found himself standing, on legs that shook with nervousness. "Don't go yet. I have to know. Has there been progress in resurrecting Ana?"

"I am afraid that there has not. It is still considered an impossible problem."

"But I was supposed to remain in the cryowomb until there was hope of a new approach. Why am I awake?"

"I hear the question." The dark head nodded. "However, it is best answered by another. Good-bye, Drake Merlin."

She was gone. With her went the sunlit room and its pleasant prospect of a windswept ocean. Drake found himself recumbent on an adjustable bed surrounded by an array of unfamiliar machinery. The room was small, drab, and oddly shaped. Its octagonal walls bulged up to a multifaceted convex ceiling, across which crawled faint patterns like blue clouds. Earth's gravity had disappeared. His body was close to weightless. He felt that with a tiny effort he would become airborne, floating up to rest on that pale sky-ceiling.

Where was he? And why had he been awakened?

Trismon Sorel had assured him that his Servitor would accompany him everywhere, through space and time, and would be required to approve his resurrection. Drake stared around the room, seeking the wheeled form of the Servitor. But then all questions of his location and condition vanished.

A woman waited in the narrow doorway.

It was Ana.

Ana, happy and blooming with health. She was standing exactly as he'd seen her a thousand times, head to one side and her mouth quirked into a question.

The moment of intense joy was blotted out by a terrible disappointment. This was another synthesis, more cruel than the last.

Drake tried to stand up, but instead he found himself rising straight into the air and turning end over end.

"Easy now." Ana was somehow at his side, steadying him. "I'm sorry, I ought to have waited until you had become accustomed to a low-gee environment."

"You are a synthesis — not real."

"That is not true."

"The dark-haired woman — the simulation of the woman — she said there had not been progress —"

"It spoke the truth." Ana had floated them back down, to sit side by side on the bed. "At least on that subject. There has been no progress in the problem that interests you."

"But you — you are here, you are alive." Again, the fear was there. Could a simulation be made to lie? "Aren't you?"

"I am indeed. But it is not the way you think it is." The gentle tone in Ana's voice was infinitely familiar. "Isn't it obvious to you who I am?"

"You are Ana."

"Yes. But I am not your Ana." She took him by the arm, and turned so that they were face-to-face. "Look at me. Can't you see the difference? I am the Ana to whom you gave life. I am the clone of your wife, the person grown from her cells by Trismon Sorel and his colleagues."

"But the other woman said it had been twenty-nine thousand years — have you been alive for so long?"

"Not continuously. That is not the custom." She laughed, and at the sound Drake felt his heart break. "Like most people, I choose short periods of wakefulness between long ones in hibernation — what you would call cryosleep. Almost everyone is curious to know the future, to meet the future.

"And for twenty-nine thousand years, I have been curious to meet you. Each time I woke, I checked your condition in the cryowomb. Each time, before I went again to hibernation, I asked to be awakened should you waken."

"But I ought not to be awake now," Drake protested. "I was supposed to remain in cryosleep until the restoration of Ana's personality became possible. I gave those explicit instructions to my Servitor when I entered the cryotank."

Entered the cryotank — twenty-nine thousand years ago. Long enough for steel to rust and stone to crumble. Long enough for even the concept of a Servitor to have been lost. Long enough for hopes and thoughts and wishes to have been forgotten. It was folly to expect anything to endure over thirty millennia.

Except that some things had endured. Drake's own emotions had survived unchanged. He realized that he was delighted to be awake. To be sitting two feet away from Ana, watching the old expressions of thought and concern run across her face — that was infinite bliss.

"I am sorry." The new Ana bowed her head. "Your Servitor is not at fault. Your awakening is my doing. I came to Pluto, and as a human, I overrode the instructions given by you to your Servitor." She frowned. "It says its name is Milton. An odd name for a Servitor."

"Not really." Drake felt a twinge of uneasiness at that comment, which he pushed aside. "Milton is the name that I gave it."

"In any case, I directed that you be reanimated."

"And I'm glad that you did." Drake reached out to embrace her, but she leaned away.

"No. I should have realized that this might happen. Let me try to explain." She stood up and drifted safely out of arm's reach. "You feel that you know me well, and more than well. But you do not actually know me at all; and I do not know you. Although I have gazed at your picture and listened to your voice a thousand times, you are a stranger to me. When I first reached consciousness you were already in the cryowombs. As I grew older I learned everything that I could about you and your life. What you did — and tried to do — seemed to me the noblest and bravest thing in the whole universe. I cannot say how much I longed to see you, to speak to you, to thank you for giving me life. But despite that longing, through all past years I respected what you wanted. And I knew that you did not want me."

"I have never wanted anyone but you." "No. You want Ana — your Ana. I am Ana, yes, but I am a different person. I have my own memories, my own joys and sorrows, my own fears. You do not share them." She sighed. "Anyway, a few months ago I agreed to do something that I have been asked to do many times: to go away with friends on a long journey. We will fly out to the human colony on Rigel Calorans. I expect to be away for many thousands of Earth years. When I made that decision to leave the solar system for so long, I wondered: When I return, who knows where Drake Merlin might be? I could not bear the thought that I might never, ever, see you and know you. So I gave the command for resurrection." She gazed at Drake with those clear, gray eyes that he had known forever. "I did not think of what would come after that. I did not ask myself what pain I might cause you. I realize now that what I did was a selfish and an unforgivable act."

"You are wrong. It is forgiven already."

"It may be forgiven by you, but it was nonetheless unforgivable. It was my plan to leave Pluto after speaking with you, and proceed to the edge of the Oort Cloud where the members of the Rigel Calorans expedition will assemble. I can no longer do that, at least at this time. I must respect your feelings. How can I atone for waking you against your will?"

"Stay with me." Drake did not say it, but his mind added the word forever.

"I certainly owe that to you." Ana smiled, with that familiar rueful downturn of one side of her mouth. "And now, like the self-serving wretch that I am, I will try to justify my own action in resurrecting you. There is a level of temporal shock after any hibernation, even if it is no more than a few hundred years. I have felt it many times; a reaction to changes in the world, in areas where no change was imagined and anticipated. In your case it has been nearly thirty millennia, and you were not prepared for it as we are. So I will take it as my task to lessen the blow of twenty-nine thousand vanished years." She reached out her hand, and her touch made him shiver. "Come along, Drake Merlin. Your patient Servitor is waiting outside. It is most irritated that a mere irrational human would override your explicit instructions. Come along with me, and listen to my abject apologies."

Chapter 12

"These were never your true love's eyes, Why do you feign that you love them?"

Ana's warning of temporal shock at first seemed greatly overstated. The evidence of human presence on Pluto was mostly the cryowombs. Drake could see little change in the wombs or the planet since his mad run from them, twenty-nine thousand years earlier.

"True enough." Ana had all her old calm and common sense. "On the other hand, this is Pluto. You can't do much without raising the temperature and disturbing the cryowombs, which no one wants to do. Almost everybody has ancestors stored here, even if they don't quite know who they are."

"How many have been resurrected?"

She grimaced. "I knew you would ask me that. The cryowombs still hold close to fifty thousand people. Fewer than five hundred of those have been revivified. None but you has been resurrected in the past twenty-five thousand years. You and Melissa Bierly are the only people to have entered the cryowombs twice, and been resurrected twice."

"Melissa. What happened to Melissa?" Drake saw again those sapphire eyes, blazing with madness.

"She was resurrected."

"Was she insane?"

"Once, she was. But she is cured."

"She's alive?"

"Very much alive. Still superhuman smart and healthy and intelligent, only now she's happy and no longer suicidal."

"You met Melissa?"

"Certainly." Ana smiled at Drake, with an expression that he read as totally loving. "You have your obsessions, Drake, you must permit me mine. I sought Melissa out originally, just because she knew you. We have talked about you, many times. She forms part of the expedition to Rigel Calorans. More than that —"

Drake interrupted: "But I thought that resurrection had become trivial, for anyone who was properly frozen. Why have so few been revived?"

"Resurrection is trivial. The problem isn't technological; it's emotional and ethical. If I revive a cryocorpse, what are my responsibilities toward that person? What are my emotional commitments? Although everyone recognizes that their ancestors are here, those are remote ancestors. Think of your own time. Would you, if you could, have resurrected Hammurabi, or Augustus Caesar — even if you were a distant descendant? They would have been lost in your world of telephones and automobiles and computers. Yet they were exceptional people, not like most of the cryocorpses. Do you know the prime criterion that decided who was preserved in the cryowombs?"

Drake nodded glumly. "I can guess, from what the people at Second Chance told me. Money."

"Exactly. It took money to be frozen, and much more to maintain the condition over the centuries. You are an anomaly, Drake. I read all I could find about you, and I know that money didn't interest you. You acquired plenty, but only so you could be frozen. What you did was very smart. You learned things that people of the future would want to know. What you had in your head was true wealth. But wealth as you knew it no longer exists.

"You have a powerful imagination, Drake. Imagine this. Imagine resurrecting somebody who proves to be a money-hungry fanatic — someone who was once very rich, expects to be rich now, and hopes to receive special treatment simply because of that. Such people almost surely know nothing of interest to us. How could they be anything but miserable today?"

"You're saying it's becoming less and less likely that someone will be resurrected. So why are the cryowombs maintained?"

"What else can we do with them?" Ana shook her head in frustration. "The people in the wombs are legally dead, but because they can be resurrected we cannot think of them as dead. So what do we do? We do nothing, and pass the problem to our descendants."

She was sitting in the pilot's seat of a two-person ship, and now she stabbed at the control panel. "Don't give us too much credit, Drake," she said, as they lifted from Pluto's craggy surface. "People haven't changed at all. When it comes to making tough decisions, we're no better now than we were in your time."

People haven't changed. Perhaps not, but other things certainly had. The evidence that Ana was both right and wrong began to appear as the ship cruised closer to the Sun. It was her idea to introduce Drake to the new solar system in a practical way, by visiting or passing close to every planet and major moon, then heading out for the remoter and less familiar region of the Oort Cloud. It had been Drake's idea to use the small two-person ship, and leave their Servitors behind on Pluto until they returned.

Ana had also preferred a leisurely tour, one that would give them time to talk and Drake time to adjust. On their two-day journey to Neptune he decided that he was going to need all of it. Ana had stated that people had not changed. But what were people?

He had called for information about Neptune, and now he was staring at the three-dimensional image in the ship's display. It showed a large silvery superspider, fourteen multijointed legs emerging from a smooth central ovoid. The object was described as an "inhabitant of Neptune."

"What does it mean, 'inhabitant'?" He turned for the fiftieth time to Ana for assistance. "That suggests I'm looking at something intelligent, something that lives on Neptune. I thought that was impossible."

After the first few hours, he had stopped puzzling over the mysteries of language. Another sea change in communications technology had occurred since Par Leon's and Trismon Sorel's time. The old languages, filled with their magical resonances of old times and beauties, still existed; but a new language, pruned of ambiguities and redundancies, had been created.

It was much preferred for factual transfers of information, and he and Ana were using it now. Misunderstanding in the new language, according to Ana, was almost impossible.

Maybe. But Drake, approaching communication with a context that was thirty thousand years out of date, suspected that he was coming perilously close.

"That's a Neptune dweller all right." Ana did not share his misgivings or confusion. "Of course, it's not an organic form — we may have evolved organic forms by now that can survive on Neptune, but I don't know what they are. That's an inorganic form, and it operates deep enough in the Neptune atmosphere to be buoyant and mobile."

"But it says there, male human."

"Correct. That means it's a fully human male intelligence, downloaded to a brain of inorganic form. If it were anything different, it would say 'human-modified,' or 'human-augmented.'"

"How can you say a downloaded intelligence is human? That thing is nothing like a human."

"That argument ended a long time ago. Or let's just say, people gave up on it. Can you define a human? I know I can't. It says it's human, that Neptune dweller. That's good enough for me."

"But what happened to the original human being?"

"I don't know. I expect he's around somewhere close by — on the big moon, Triton, more than likely. Neptune has been developed in a very natural way. There are colonies of humans and machines on Triton, and even a few on Nereid, though that doesn't have much to offer. The planet hardly needs human intelligence at all. There are plenty of Von Neumanns." She laughed at the look on Drake's face. "No, I don't mean the downloaded person. He died before cryocorpses. Von Neumanns are just self-reproducing machines."

"How many of them are on Neptune?"

"Millions? Billions? I have no idea. I doubt if anyone does, since they're self-reproducing. They're mining volatiles and collecting the rare heavier elements, and they manage very well on their own. The human Neptunians are not there for supervision. They have other reasons: to satisfy their curiosity, to experiment with extreme forms, or to maintain some privacy."

Neptune has been developed in a very natural way. Drake, peering down through endless kilometers of hydrogen and helium atmosphere smudged with icy methane clouds, could see no evidence of development; but according to Ana and the ship's information service, Neptune beneath those cloud layers swarmed with the spin-offs of human activity, with machines capable of independent activity like humans, and with humans that seemed more like machines.

He would call it anything but natural development.

He changed his mind when the ship flew on to their next port of call. Compared with Uranus, Neptune's development was natural.

Something monstrous was happening to Uranus.

The major moons, except for little Miranda nearest to the planet, had gone. The ship swung into co-orbit with Miranda and circled Uranus for two full revolutions. The gas-giant world was marked with a pattern of bright spots, ninety-six of them evenly spaced around the flattened sphere of the planet.

"Nothing yet," Ana said in reply to Drake's question. "In another two thousand years or so, when the preparation work is all done, those will be the main nodes. The stimulated fusion program will begin. Uranus is too small to maintain its own fusion, so there will have to be continuous priming and pumping. They'll move Miranda farther out, and do the fusion pumping from there."

She spoke casually, as though the conversion of a major component of the solar system from planet to miniature star was a routine operation. And perhaps it was.

"What happened to all the other moons?" He could see fifteen listed in the ship's data set, from tiny Cordelia, barely more than an orbiting mountain that shepherded the Uranus Epsilon ring, out to Titania and Oberon, good-sized worlds half as big as Earth's Moon. Miranda was now the only survivor.

"Oh, they're all right. They'll be moved back eventually." Again, the astonishing thing about Ana's reply was her offhand manner. "Miranda couldn't be moved, because it was needed. But the others must have been in the way for this phase of the work."

Drake stared out of the ports and wondered. Uranus had not been a promising candidate for life to begin with. It would become an impossible one when hydrogen fusion turned the whole world to incandescence.

The thought nagged at him: Why do such a thing, within the original home system of mankind? On those rare occasions in the old days when he thought about the far future, he had imagined Earth, together with all the other planets of the solar system, preserved as some kind of grand museum. Humanity might spread out across the Galaxy, but the home worlds would always be there. Preserved in pristine condition, they would remind people of their origins.

But what had made him believe that, when Earth itself had already provided such a different lesson? Humans had been changing Earth in a thousand ways for five thousand years: draining lakes, damming rivers, making deserts bloom, razing mountains, clearing forests. Why would they stop, simply because they had left Earth?

Drake wondered if it was all his own wishful thinking: a human urge to turn back the clock to a happy time of simplicity and certitude. He stole a glance at Ana, who was looking out of the port and humming to herself in that beloved rich contralto. A surge of happiness engulfed him. Humans could change, the solar system could change, the universe itself could change. It did not matter, as long as Ana was with him.

After Uranus, the happenings about Saturn seemed minor. Its biggest moon, Titan, was being developed. It was not, however, being terraformed by machines or downloaded humans. Instead, bioengineered human forms were colonizing the unmodified moon.

"It's another experiment, of course," Ana said. "Just to see how far the human biological limits can be pushed. There's no doubt that we could do here exactly what we're doing on Neptune, but where's the fun and challenge in that? As it is, what we have on Titan is quite an undertaking. It's not the low temperature. That's a hundred and eighty below water freezing point, but it can be handled easily — just a matter of insulation, when you get right down to it. The hard piece is the chemistry, ours and Titan's. Nitrogen, methane, ethane, and organic smog: how would you like the problem of adapting a human to breathe and drink those? Do you want to take a closer look?" And, after one look at Drake's face, "Right, then, I guess that's all for Titan and Saturn. Jupiter it is."

The activities they had seen back on Uranus made more sense to Drake after they had left Saturn and its horde of moons, approached Jupiter, and descended at last for a feathery landing on one of the Jovian satellites.

He remembered Europa from Par Leon's time as an ice world, the fifty-kilometer deeps of its continuous ocean plated over by a kilometer and more of icy plateaus and thick-ribbed pressure ridges. But it was that way no longer. Their little ship landed on a giant iceberg, floating in random currents along a broad river. With the sunlight striking in at a low angle, the long stretch of open water seemed mottled and tawny like the skin of a great snake. It wound its way to the horizon between palisades and battlements of blue crystal. As the berg carrying the ship moved sluggishly along, Drake saw open water leads running off in all directions. He shivered. He could imagine strange creatures, huge and misshapen, writhing along the icy horizon.

Europa in its tide-locked orbit turned steadily about Jupiter. The Sun slowly vanished from the black sky. The sounds of jostling floes became louder, carried to the ship through the water and ice of the dark surface. To Drake's musician's ear the bergs cried out to each other, sharp high-pitched whines and portamento moans in frightening counterpoint, against a background of deeper grumbles.

"This is why we need the Uranus fusion project," Ana said cheerfully. "Europa is warmed at the moment by individual fusion plants within the deep ocean, and that leads to patchy melting. It will be a lot better here when Jupiter produces a decent amount of heat."

"You mean you'll do the same thing for Jupiter as you're doing for Uranus?"

"Not the same. But similar. Uranus is really more like a test case."

"But if you're going to do it eventually, why wait?"

"Oh, the age-old problem. We still have…"

She said a word that Drake had never heard before. A soft voice from the ship's communications system at once added, in English: "no exact equivalent; conservatives/Luddites is closest match." It was the first time Drake had realized that the ship's computer monitored every conversation, and had a program to provide near-equivalents for references it judged unfamiliar to Drake.

Ana didn't seem to realize how incongruous it was, that a project to transform Uranus beyond recognition could be judged as the "conservative" and old-fashioned approach. She went on, "But the Jupiter transformation will be approved eventually. Give it a few thousand years, and it will all be finished and working. The ice will go. And we'll have another whole world for development."

She had been setting out a meal for the two of them, and she obviously did not share Drake's increasing uneasiness. But she must have sensed it, because suddenly she stopped what she was doing and came across to his side.

"What's wrong?"

"I'm fine." It was preposterous to be anything other than fine. He was with Ana again, after an endless separation. But maybe it was because he was with her that he was allowed to admit to fears and doubts. In any case, try as he would he could not stop shivering.

"You don't look good." She placed her hand on his forehead. "And you don't feel good. Damp and clammy. Let's take a look at you."

She walked over to the ship's controls, touched a panel, and studied a display.

"Hmm. It's nothing physical."

"How can you tell?"

"I can't. The ship can. It monitors the health of both of us continuously. It says you're all right. But it only deals with physical problems. So the rest is up to us."

Ana went across to the table where she had been working, returned to Drake's side, and handed him a drink. "Here. This should help for starters. I told you there would be temporal shock, and I was right. It just took a while to show up. You sip on that, while I order something as close as this crazy chef can manage to the foods you were raised on. And for tonight, I think we'll manage with a little less Europa. I'm going to dim the lights and close the ship screens. You can sit there and imagine you're safely back on good old Earth."

She could not have known it, but long ago, back in the happy days that Drake had not even allowed himself to think about, Ana had done just the same thing when he was upset. She took over. She was strong when he was weak, obligingly weak when he felt strong.

Drake did just as he was told. They ate a full, leisurely meal, with Ana doing almost all the talking. The chef provided a reasonable shot at the foods and even the wines of Old Earth. Finally, Drake could begin to relax and probe the cause of his problem. It was not rational, but he realized that it was the sounds of Europa. He could not rid his mind of them. Others might hear nothing but moving ice floes on a changing moon. He heard tormented groans, and the agonized death cries of ice demons.

"You have too much imagination," Ana said firmly, when he told her about it. "One day you will have your reward. All this will turn itself into music." She switched off the lights, lay down next to him, and cradled his head against her breast. He hid himself away in the perfumed night of her long hair.

It was natural, perhaps inevitable, that they would become lovers that evening. Neither of them realized that Drake, deep inside, thought of it as "lovers again."

Chapter 13

"And I was desolate and sick of an old passion."

Physical euphoria carried everything before it, all the way into the inner solar system. Lovemaking, as always with Ana, provided an epiphany for Drake. As an antidote to temporal shock it could not have been better. Immersed in the familiar touch and smell and taste of her soft body, he would have seen Earth and Sun destroyed with equanimity.

It was not quite that bad, although four thousand years earlier the Earth had come close.

"A disaster?" Drake looked around at the place where the ship had landed. They were on the winter edge of a diminished Antarctic ice cap. In his time, nothing had grown on this rocky shore. The only animal life in June and July had been the emperor penguins, huddled over their eggs to protect them from the fifty-below-zero polar blizzard.

Now a gentle rain was falling, and the air was filled with calling seabirds, skuas and petrels and albatrosses and terns. Rank grass and flowering plants flourished along the salty margin of the beach. Plovers and curlews were nesting there in enormous numbers.

"It doesn't look like a disaster," Drake added. He and Ana were strolling along the shore, bareheaded.

She paused and skipped a flat stone over the brackish waters of the estuary. "Believe me, it was."

"What caused it?"

"The usual: stupidity. We still have our share of that. The old assumption was that Earth's whole biosphere had strong homeostasis. Disturb it, no matter how, and forces would come into play to restore it to its original condition. So while everyone was looking the other way, not worrying about this planet and wondering what to do with Venus and Europa and Ganymede and Titan, Earth started an environmental runaway."

"Runaway how?"

"Temperature, mostly. The atmospheric composition was starting to change, too, but the biggest problem was greenhouse warming. It was caught before it could go too far. Turning it around was another matter. For a while, people were imagining a new homeostatic end point, with temperatures hot enough to boil water."

Drake stared out over the peaceful estuary. "Hubris," he said, in English.

"What?"

"Too much arrogance; the belief that you can do anything."

Ana stared at him. "Anything, no," she said at last. "A lot, yes. Recovery has been slow but steady. Mean equatorial temperatures are below forty degrees Celsius. The land animals are heading out of the temperate zone jungles, and they're traveling sunward. Don't worry, we've learned our lesson. This won't happen again — ever."

"I've learned not to trust ever." Drake looked north. "We used to live in a place called Spring Valley. If I tell you how to reach it, could we go there?"

"Were you living up in the mountains, or close to sea level?"

"Down right at the shore." Drake did not notice the change Ana had made, from "we" to "you."

"Then we could go there, but it would be a waste of time. I don't just mean the heat — suits would take care of that. But sea levels are up. Your old home will be under five to ten meters of water. Come back again in ten thousand years. The sea level should have dropped enough for you to pay a visit on dry land. But if you'd like to visit mountains, I have my favorites."

"You've been to Earth before?" It seemed like a ludicrous question — his Ana had been born and raised on Earth.

But she just nodded. "Five times. It's a backwater, but it's on every tourist list. The original home, the birthplace, the shrine of humanity. But if most people were honest, they'd admit that it's rather dull. It's not where the action is. Are there other things that you want to see?"

"My old mentor, Par Leon, lived deep beneath the African plateau. That was high above sea level. I know the location. If we could just fly over there…"

"Of course."

Ana agreed readily, although she must have suspected what they would find. Africa, at ten degrees north of the equator, was a seared world of dust and dead rock. The snows of Birhan were a memory, the peak a stark blackness jutting into a sky of fuming yellow. Drake looked at it and nodded to Ana. He had seen enough.

They took off for space and wandered to the innermost system. Venus terraforming, according to Ana, was right on schedule. The surface pressure was down from a stupefying ninety Earth atmospheres to less than twenty. Bespoke bacteria converted the sulfuric acid clouds to sulfur, water, and oxygen. The sulfur was delivered to the deep planetary interior. It would not emerge for hundreds of millions of years. Cyanobacteria, seeded into the upper atmosphere, went about their steady business, absorbing carbon dioxide, releasing oxygen, fixing nitrogen, and delivering a rain of organic detritus to start a planetary topsoil.

"Water is still the main problem," Ana said. "There's simply not as much as we would like. Venus will always be dry, unless we do an extensive Oort Cloud transfer, or combine the planet with one of the big Jovian water moons, like Callisto."

"Is that feasible?" The cure for temporal shock seemed to be working; Drake was starting to feel that anything was possible. But flying a satellite of Jupiter to coalesce with an inner planet? That still sounded ludicrous.

"It's not feasible yet," Ana said. "The impact would destroy Venus. But we're learning how to do a soft merge. For the moment, I don't recommend we make a Venus landing. It's too hot down there — hotter than Earth ever got, even at the height of the runaway. It would have to be suits all the time. Are you ready to go somewhere else?"

Drake nodded.

"Right." Ana paused at the control panel. "Lots of options. Unless you're really keen, I suggest that we skip Mercury completely. It has the research domes, but nothing really worth seeing."

The ship flew on, skimming the broad face of the Sun. Close up, that mottled surface was as raging and demonic as anything that Drake had encountered on his visit to Canopus. They passed through hydrogen prominences that roared and flamed with prodigal energy. Drake remained unperturbed. The ship's refrigeration held the interior temperature at a comfortable level; in any case, Ana was at his side.

The Sun fell rapidly behind, and the outward journey began. Drake did not care where he went. It was at Ana's insistence that they head for Mars.

"Just for fun," she said.

It did not sound like fun. Drake recalled the fury of the Mars bombardment, the cloud-streaked sky of dirty gray and the torn and quak