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I am not superhuman.

I do have abilities that are far beyond those of any normal man's, but I am just as human and mortal as anyone of Earth.

Yet I am a solitary man. My life has been spent alone, my mind clouded with strange dreams and, when I am awake, half memories of other lives, other existences that are so fantastic that they can only be the compensations of a lonely, withdrawn subconscious mind.

As I did almost every day, I took my lunch hour late in the afternoon and made my way from my office to the same small restaurant in which I always ate. Alone. I sat at my usual table, toying with my food and thinking about how much of my life is spent in solitude.

I happened to look up toward the front entrance of the restaurant when she came in—stunningly beautiful, tall and graceful, hair the color of midnight and lustrous gray eyes that held all of eternity in them.

"Anya," I breathed to myself, even though I had no idea who she was. Yet something within me leaped with joy, as if I had known her from ages ago.

She seemed to know me as well. Smiling, she made her way directly to my table. I got up from my chair, feeling elated and confused at the same time.

"Orion." She extended her hand. I took it in mine and bent to kiss it. Then I held a chair for her to sit. The waiter came over and she asked for a glass of red wine. It trundled off to the bar.

"I feel as if I've known you all my life," I said to her.

"For many lifetimes," she said, her voice soft and melodious as a warm summer breeze. "Don't you remember?"

I closed my eyes in concentration and a swirl of memories rushed in on me so rapidly that it took my breath away. I saw a great shining globe of golden light and the dark brooding figure of a fiercely malevolent man, a forest of giant trees and a barren windswept desert and a world of unending ice and snow. And her, this woman, clad in silver armor that gleamed against the darkness of infinity.

"I . . . remember . . . death," I heard myself stammer. "The whole world, the entire universe . . . all of space-time collapsed in on itself."

She nodded gravely. "And rebounded in a new cycle of expansion. That was something that neither Ormazd nor Ahriman foresaw. The continuum does not end; it begins anew."

"Ormazd," I muttered. "Ahriman." The names touched a chord in my mind. I felt anger welling up inside me, anger tinged with fear and resentment. But I could not recall who they were and why they stirred such strong emotions within me.

"They are still out there," she said, "still grappling with each other. But they know, thanks to you, Orion, that the continuum cannot be destroyed so easily. It perseveres."

"Those other lives I remember—you were in them."

"Yes, as I will be in this one."

"I loved you, then."

Her smile lit the world. "Do you love me now?"

"Yes." And I knew it was so. I meant it with every atom of my being.

"And I love you, too, Orion. I always have and I always will. Through death and infinity, my darling, I will always love you."

"But I'm leaving soon."

"I know."

Past her shoulder I could see through the restaurant's window the gaudy crescent of Saturn hanging low on the horizon, the thin line of its rings slicing through its bulging middle. Closer to the horizon the sky of Titan was its usual smoggy orange overcast. The starship was parked in orbit up there, waiting for us to finish our final preparations and board it.

"We'll be gone for twenty years," I said.

"To the Sirius system. I know."

"It's a long voyage."

"Not as long as some we've already made, Orion," she said, "or others we will make someday."

"What do you mean?"

"I'll explain it during the voyage." She smiled again. "We'll have plenty of time to remember everything then."

My heart leaped in my chest. "You're going too?"

"Of course." She laughed. "We've endured the collapse and rebirth of the universe, Orion. We have shared many lives and many deaths. I'm not going to be separated from you now."

"But I haven't seen you at any of the crew briefings. You're not on the list . . ."

"I am now. We will journey out to the stars together, my beloved. We have a long and full lifetime ahead of us. And perhaps even more than that."'

I leaned across the table and kissed her lips. My loneliness was ended, at last. I could face anything in the world now. I was ready to challenge the universe.

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