Adam had not slept in 77.3 hours. He had a timer going, set to alert him at 80 hours that he really should try. It was difficult sometimes, between solar systems, with the night seemingly ever-present, the dark voids begging him to fill them with music and words and whatever else he could transmit to whoever might be out there listening. But he had to try. He had promised her.
Eve was asleep already, in geosynchronous orbit around a terraforming planet. In ten hours her ship would be in shadow again and the shutters would raise themselves to let her look down on the darkened surface that would some day teem with life. There was a whole crew down there right now, perched in their stations at regular intervals, monitoring the changes they had wrought, but Eve kept watch anyhow. New life was always so fascinating. But for now, Eve was asleep, tangled in a blanket she had carried from Earth, a bit of the old among all the new.
"Eve." His voice woke her, but it wasn't truly waking. She sat up in her bed and he was right there, stretched out alongside her.
"You're still wearing that tatty old robe," she noted, holding out a hand to it and gently brushing her fingers over the lapel. "How it isn't in bits and pieces I truly don't know."
"Sheer force of will," Adam commented, catching her hand and bringing it up to kiss her palm. "And don't tell me to buy new clothes."
"Oh darling," she sighed, drawing him in close to her chest and wrapping herself and the blanket around him. "Still not entering inhabited systems? You do know you can't go on like this. You must go back some day. It's not that hard to set up the safeties you'll need. And besides, you can't live on the synthetic stuff forever."
"Yes I can," he muttered into her skin. "Feels like I already have."
"Now, this just won't do," she told him. "I'll come to you. Bring you some of the good stuff, and some new clothes."
Alone in his cabin, Adam woke up and looked down at his robe. It had definitely seen better days. Much better days. Much better nights. He stripped it off and carefully folded it and stowed it away in a dresser along with the other clothes he never bothered with. Why bother in the middle of a cosmic void? It wasn't as if the neighbors were going to drop by and be scandalized to see him.
Something was beeping somewhere else in the ship and Adam floated his way down the corridors towards it, ducking through hatches and pausing every so often to listen and find his way by sound alone. As he got closer he narrowed down the possibilities. It wasn't the environmental controls. Those had more of a klaxon than a beep. It wasn't the engines, because he could hear the harmonics humming through the bulkheads and floor plates. There was a sharpness to them, but nothing he was worried about. It wasn't the timer or a blown seal or the electrics. They all sounded different and this wasn't any of them.
When he located the source he had to laugh a little. It was a proximity alert. Another ship was several light years out, close enough to hear him.
Adam turned on his transmitter, cranking it a few times to boost the signal, then picked up his guitar and started to play for the strangers who had braved the distant reaches on their way elsewhere.
Across the galaxy Eve was waking, her ship sliding into the approximation of night. She stretched out on her bed and stared at the curtains she'd hung from the ceiling. They were from one of the first colonies, woven from a plant the colonists had discovered on their new home. It glowed in moonlight. She'd liked that, even if she never got to see it these days. But there was no time to sit and stare at fabric from a colony long since turned into a bustling planet full of hundreds of thousands of people.
There were things to do. Preparations to be made. A journey to undertake.
First order of business was to check the larder. A full supply of the good stuff, procured from a medical research station where one of their own kind had settled. A very cushy gig, working ceaselessly on an immortality serum for humankind. She wished them luck on finding something other than what she could offer.
Next order of business was to check on the synthesizer. What it produced was passable, would keep one going in times of need, or when one was saving one's supply for later. It simply wasn't as robust. It had no kick to it, nothing to savor, and it left one wanting more so soon. Still, it would do.
Third order of business was the ship itself, which appeared to be in perfect order according to every diagnostic Eve could have it run. Fuel cells full and spares in place, engines ready, stealth mode functioning, defensive measures accounted for, and she hoped she could continue to never use them. Ship checked out, Eve laid her course, her directional sense keyed unfailingly to Adam. With the protective panels up to keep Eve shielded from the sun as she broke orbit, she headed out of this solar system to find her husband. Maybe some day she would return and see what the new life here had become.
"Adam," Eve whispered, laying her head on his chest and fluttering her fingers down his side. "Darling, I'm going to be a little longer than I planned."
He sighed and lifted his head to look at her. "Problems?" he asked as he took in the room around them. They were in a hotel bedroom he remembered from a few years spent in Argentina. The drapes were heavy and blocked out the light well, if there had been any light. He could recall dreaming about light, not long after he'd been turned. Rays of it streaming through windows, the warmth of it on his face. It had been so long.
Eve's face moved into view as she shifted to slide her body alongside his. "Not a problem, just a detour. The station I used last time I came this way isn't friendly anymore and I need a pit stop."
"You're coming through that nebula you like so much," he guessed. "The greenish one."
"It's just so lovely, Adam. It's no trouble, and you know they're building a Dyson Sphere in the next system?" She smiled at him as she sat up. "Just think about it, building such a marvel. Of course, they've had to strip most of the outer planets to do it. I wonder what that will do?"
"Not like we could visit," Adam pointed out.
"No, of course not, dearest. Not the interior." Eve grinned at him and reached out to ruffle his hair. "But it will make for the best place to pass through, won't it? The sun completely surrounded."
Adam had to smile at that. Imagine, the zombies making a safe space for them to travel through, however unintentional.
"So you'll be late?" he asked as he drew her back down to his side and she settled in. "But not too late, I assume?"
"Not too late, Adam. I promise. You won't have to wait long."
Skirting through the edges of solar systems could be risky, but Eve was used to traveling in the lesser used pathways of the universe. The nice thing about taking the long ways and steering clear of the inhabited areas was that you didn't meet much traffic. The unfortunate thing was that the traffic you did meet was often fairly unsavory. It was usually best to simply not engage with anyone passing by.
Eve swung her ship into the dark side of one of a pair of binary planets and set her stealth controls on. Engine noise and heat signals masked, ship all but invisible in the blackness.
Two small ships were speeding through the system right at the outer edge. They would likely take a few hours to come by her and then be out of range, so Eve left her cockpit and went to find a good book to read. The last stop she'd made had been a station that had its very own book shop, of all things. The owner had told her that most people bought the books as curiosities, but he did have some regular buyers and collectors. She'd bought five books and assured him she would be a regular from now on.
In her room she had ten shelves, all lovingly maintained and curated. It had been so hard to leave any of them behind, but she had caches in places she knew she would return to. It was the only way she could bear to be without them. And now she had five new books. If she was going to be waiting a while, she could read through one at least.
Adam scowled at the synthesizer. It wasn't cooperating and Eve was going to be late and he was hungry and feeling like a temperamental child about it. Of course it was his own fault for not keeping an emergency stash from the last time he'd had the good stuff, but there was no use dwelling on that.
Somewhere he had tools and spare parts. It was time to find them.
Except they weren't in any of the places he thought he might have put them. They weren't with all of the other tools and supplies. They weren't in the old mess hall he'd turned into a recording studio. They weren't even in that little room he'd never quite known what to do with and so had just started tossing junk into it when it didn't quite belong anywhere else.
Adam scowled some more, then sighed and kicked the base of it and suddenly it chugged to life, dispensing just enough to keep him going while he kept searching for the tools.
It turned out that they were in a small hatch just behind the synthesizer itself. Which really, he ought to have checked first but he'd forgotten it was even there.
"You're looking positively haggard," Eve told him the next time Adam bothered to sleep. "Are you getting enough to eat from that horrible machine?"
Adam closed his eyes and simply draped himself over her lap. She was wearing some sort of soft robe that felt like clouds. He'd fixed the horrible machine, but it wasn't ever enough. Of course.
"No, you're not," she concluded, leaning down to wrap herself around him, holding him safe. "Adam, dearest, you really do need to come back to civilization every so often. Once in a blue moon, you know."
"Seen any lately?" Adam asked. He was rewarded by a soft laugh and Eve relaxing a little.
"I have, as a matter of fact," she told him. "It was robin's egg blue. Remember robins? Turdus migratorius. With their red breasts in the springtime. No robins on this moon, I'm afraid. I didn't take the time to find out what made it so blue, but I noted it in my charts so I can go back and look. You could come with me."
"Maybe," Adam allowed. "Eve, I think I might try to come meet you. At least get closer."
She didn't say anything to that. What could she say? She just nodded and kissed him. "If you want to, darling. We'll be together soon one way or another."
Drifting through empty space, engines only barely engaged to keep to a course that steered him well away from actual systems, Adam hardly used a tiny fraction of the power available to him. Now he pulled on clothes, complete with boots and gloves, and floated back to the engine core, intent on figuring out that sharp note he kept hearing.
No one had ever really built engines like this on a large scale. He'd found the plans in some notebooks he'd picked up at an estate sale back during the great migration off Earth. Plenty of people were clearing out, selling what they had to finance their own trips to the early colonies and stations. And there was this engine, all detailed and ready to be built, looking for all the worlds like it shouldn't work. But Adam had known it would. He'd had a feeling.
He lugged one of his monitors into the engine room and plugged it into the ship's network while he tuned the engine. Just in case someone came by, or Eve somehow got a message through from wherever she was now.
Slowly but surely, as he nudged a valve here, a wire there, the engine sounded better and better. Until he accidentally tweaked the wrong bit of circuitry and it went flat instead of sharp, but that was easily fixed.
Once everything sounded right, Adam turned everything on full power and went to plot a course. Eve would be coming towards him and he knew where she'd been recently. He could at least start moving in the right direction, out of the void.
While Eve's synthesizer was working perfectly well, she really did hate the stuff. Apparently there were some of their kind, young enough that they'd never lived on Earth itself, who subsisted entirely on it. They claimed it was "more humane," though Eve thought that was silly. More humane than feeding directly, but more humane than donated bags? Hardly. It was, however, infinitely safer and easier.
Still. It wasn't the same.
And she did have a large store of the good stuff, added to by her last stop. It seemed her medical supplier ID was still good all the way out here and she'd left the last colony with a chest full of cryo-packed bags.
Eve took out one of the smaller vials from her larder and poured it into a glass. She'd been traveling so far, so long. It would last fine. She could afford a drink.
As she downed it in one gulp, Eve leaned back in her seat and closed her eyes. Her ship whipped through the cosmos, but she could rest. Relax. Enjoy the buzz of her first real meal in a long time.
Adam could tell Eve was looking for him. They were back in his house in Detroit and he could hear her but she was always in another room.
She was humming something, a tune he'd once known, and he tried to hum along but he couldn't speak. He couldn't say anything at all. He heard her in the bedroom but when he got up there all he found was an empty unmade bed. Now he could hear her in the parlor downstairs, so he hurried down.
"Adam?" she stopped humming and called out to him. "Adam, do come here? This house of yours, it's far too big for you to rattle around in all alone!"
He rounded the corner at the bottom of the stairs but the parlor was as Eve-less as the bedroom had been. He heard the refrigerator open and close.
"You're all out," Eve said from the doorway.
Adam sighed in relief when he saw her.
"I know," he admitted. "Fresh out. But I'm going to get more soon."
Eve smiled at him and went to open the curtains on his back windows. Those windows shouldn't have been there. When she opened them all he could see were distant stars.
"I'll bring you some," she whispered from behind him and he turned and caught her.
The tune she'd been humming was playing on the record player now and she caught his hips and drew him close and swayed to the music.
He was moving. Eve could feel it. She adjusted her course to match, going on instinct instead of the very impressive guidance and navigational system she'd had upgraded not long ago. No computer system could tell her where to find her husband. Not as far out as she was, anyhow. And she couldn't afford to overshoot or go in the wrong direction. A few degrees off and she'd miss him entirely. She'd miss him and he needed her.
Her books were packed up tightly in her cabin and a sealed cryobox full of blood was strapped in next to the airlock along with her suit. All she had to do was get to him and she could make sure he was okay.
The synthesizer had died completely. It wasn't something he could fix without cannibalizing some other essential part of the ship. He'd looked at the gravity controls, since he never had them on anyhow, but there just wasn't anything he could use there. Nothing. Eve had been right, really. He had to keep some sort of contact with a system, venture out of the void every so often.
He was so tired, but he couldn't sleep. Not yet. He had to keep checking his screens, had to keep putting them together into a big picture in his head so he could see where he was going. Where he would meet her. She was so close. Just another system or two away.
It wasn't long before he felt the quiet whisper of Eve's ship approaching, then the drumming of her docking against his side and the chime of the entry code at the airlock. He unbuckled himself and floated free, pushing off gently to send himself out of the cockpit and into the corridor and there she was.
"Oh, Adam," she said, catching him and holding up a red plastic bag with a bio seal and a straw. It was one of the most beautiful things he'd ever seen. "Not the most elegant of means, but I dare say you won't mind."
They slept after eating and dreamed alone while they drifted above Adam's bunk. They woke when the joined ships were shadowed from the sun and Eve kissed Adam's throat softly.
"We can stay here a bit," she offered. "Stay here, rest a while. Get you back in shape."
"And then?" Adam asked as he snagged one of the blankets and pulled himself back down to the bunk.
"Then, my dearest, we find a way to keep the ships together and we explore. There's an entire universe out there. Just imagine what wonders we'll see."
Adam looked up at Eve. She floated above him, arms stretched out as if she was in the ocean, her hair a cloud around her head.
"Just imagine," he repeated. "I can do that."