It wasn’t like waking. It was a sudden emergence, a clash of cymbals. Her eyes gaped wide open, and were filled with dazzling light. She dragged deep breaths into her lungs, and gasped with the shock of selfhood.
Shock, yes. She shouldn’t be conscious. Something was wrong.
A pale shape swam in the air.
“No. No, Mum, it’s me.” That face came into focus a little more, and there was her daughter, that strong face, those clear blue eyes, those slightly heavy dark brows. There was something on her cheek, though, some kind of symbol. A tattoo?
“Myra?” She found her throat scratchy, her voice a husk. She had a dim sense, now, of lying on her back, of a room around her, of equipment and people just out of her field of view. “What went wrong?”
“Why wasn’t I put into estivation?”
Myra hesitated. “Mum—what date do you think it is?”
“2050. June fifth.”
“No. It’s 2069, Mum. February. Nineteen years later. The hibernation worked.” Now Bisesa saw strands of gray in Myra’s dark hair, wrinkles gathering around those sharp eyes. Myra said, “As you can see I took the long way round.”
It must be true. Bisesa had taken another vast, unlikely step on her personal odyssey through time. “Oh, my.”
Another face loomed over Bisesa.
“No. Doctor Heyer has long retired. My name is Doctor Stanton. We’re going to begin the full resanguination now. I’m afraid it’s going to hurt.”
Bisesa tried to lick her lips. “Why am I awake?” she asked, and she immediately answered her own question. “Oh. The Firstborn.” What could it be but them? “A new threat.”
Myra’s face crumpled with hurt. “You’ve been away for nineteen years. The first thing you ask about is the Firstborn. I’ll come see you when you’re fully revived.”
But Myra had gone.
The new doctor was right. It hurt. But Bisesa had once been a soldier in the British Army. She forced herself not to cry out.
Copyright © 2007 by Arthur C. Clarke. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.