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