Tomorrow and Tomorrow

Tomorrow and Tomorrow

by Charles Sheffield

Hardcover(Library Binding)

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781417715695
Publisher: San Val
Publication date: 12/28/1996
Product dimensions: 6.50(w) x 1.50(h) x 9.50(d)

Read an Excerpt

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 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 Blood was withdrawn through a large hollow needle in the main external iliac artery, cooled a precise amount, and returned to the femoral vein.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 temperaturehad 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.

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