"It's going to be okay," Victor said. "I promise."

"I know. I'm just a bit nervous."

Captain Victor Barnes gave his lover's hand a reassuring squeeze. "I understand. But you'll be in and out of cryosleep before you know what's happened. From our perspective, we'll be back together within the hour." He smiled. "And if we die, we die together."

Danielle laughed. "How encouraging." Together they walked into a large antechamber where huge files of people were lined up to be frozen. She and Victor joined a small group standing to the side, the commanders of Eros who had been aboard for months preparing for the launch. Before them stood a short, dark-skinned woman, the coordinator who had begun the entire project. Danielle might have expected a long-winded, emotional speech about the woman's dream, but her tone was all business.

"The medical personnel will be revived first," she said. "Once they are awake, they will supervise the awakening of the command crew – that's you folks," as if they needed reminding, "and then move on to the colonists. There's not enough room or oxygen aboard for thirty-five thousand people, so you need to have shuttles ready and a good portion of the colony equipment on the surface before one or two thousand of the colonists have awoken. The revivals will be a gradual process, so you shouldn't need more than your four personnel shuttles at any given time."

After she was done, the commanders were led to another door, where seven cryobeds lay waiting for the commanders of the colony ship. Victor gave Danielle one final kiss and said, "I'll see you soon."

"Remember anything?" Charu asked.

Danielle nodded wordlessly. "A little. How much do you remember before the launch?"

"Just Earth," Charu said. "A few years before the launch, actually. I don't even remember volunteering for the project. All I know about it is the little that Stuart has told us over the years."

Danielle rose from the bed in the tiny quarters she shared with Charu aboard the Nautilus and paced slowly to the other end. "Then why did he never tell us… about me and the Captain?"

Charu shrugged. "None of us know Stuart terribly well. He was always off on his own, doing who knows what." She laid her head back on her entirely uncomfortable pillow and closed her eyes. After a pause, she said, "It's kind of odd. Fifteen years aboard Eros, and now suddenly we're ripped away."

"I'm not sorry about it," Danielle said. "It was cold, musty, dark…"

"After that long, I was starting to get used to it."

Without warning, the lights flicked off and surrounded the two in pitch blackness. Danielle felt her way back to her bed and climbed in. "Why did we stay aboard, anyway? We gave up our lives on Earth to go to Sirius, but then at the first opportunity, we were on our way back to Earth. What could've motivated that?"

"I can't think of anything, really. India was in turmoil – I remember that much. I can't see any reason that I would've wanted to go back. My friends and family envied me when I left."

Danielle racked her brain, but found herself unable to dredge up any lost memories of Earth. To her it was just a name that invoked a voiceless familiarity within her. No friends or family, no home to remember. After three hundred years, they were all long gone anyway. All she had had was Clark, and now he was gone as well; all Charu had had was Dimitri, and Danielle knew she must be going through the same pain. Perhaps, like her, Charu would prefer to keep her mind off of it for now. "Well, Eros is gone in any case – any habitable portion of it, anyway. No going back."

"'As dawn goes down to day…'" Charu muttered.


"A poem."

"Never read it," Danielle said.

"Nothing gold can stay."


"Same poem."


"You need fuel?" Clark said.


Clark thought a moment, then nodded. It made sense – Eros' fusion reactor would probably have been drained after the trip to Eros and Charu's transfer of the Captain into the computer. The Captain had said that brain-to-computer transferal requires an enormous amount of energy. "You were shooting up ships so you could get a look at their reactor?"

"Can you think of a better way?"

"So how many people died because they might have had the fuel you needed?"

"Quite a few."

"Wait… fusion uses hydrogen for fuel," Clark said. "There's plenty of it all over space; it's the most common element in the universe. Why did you need to steal it from a starship?"

"It's not hydrogen I need," the Captain explained with infinite patience. "It's antimatter. Fusion reactions require amounts of heat that can be created only two ways."

"Fission or matter/antimatter reactions."

"Exactly. Obviously, carrying the fuel for two types of nuclear reactions would have been incredibly inefficient, so Eros used antimatter to spark fusion reactions. But now there's not enough antimatter left to start a reaction."

"Right, so you need antimatter. And why is finding it proving to be such a dilemma?"

"Cold fusion," the Captain replied. "It was developed two centuries after Eros left Earth; antimatter is volatile and difficult to produce, so within half a century it had almost completely replaced hot fusion reactors. I've been specifically targeting ships old enough to be carrying antimatter, but I've had no luck so far."

The air was beginning to grow noticeably thin, and Clark wondered if the Captain's twelve-hour assessment had been accurate. It hardly mattered; the living area on the other side of the hatch was probably caved in. It was unlikely that anyone could get through in twelve hours.

His only comfort was that the Captain could not last forever: Eros' backup power would inevitably fail, and when the command computer shut off, so would he.