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The J/Lai had nothing like this. It was far more advanced than anything they had; far more advanced than anything anyone had. An RNA screen revealed that the mitochondrial RNA of the objects didn't match that of the microorganisms on Theta Omega 2. The objects came from a different planet, a different culture. Forcing herself to sit still and breathe deeply, she ran one final scan, to reveal hard structures within the husks. The two shriveled husks revealed what looked like quasi-skeletal remains, broken and jumbled. The third husk revealed a complex, elegant skeleton, one with a bizarre structure and an unusual variety in bone density and width. In all the skeletons from all the planets she had seen, she'd never seen anything that looked like this. Its intricate, bizarre pattern gave her the sense of something crafted, artificial. And it looked perfectly intact. This was when she ran, yelling and waving her test results, down the hall to Dr. Chang.

He'd been as excited as she was, and she saw a quickness in his step, a sharpness to his gestures that she hadn't seen since he'd left the university and started working full-time for IPX about ten years ago: Time to cash in on all those laurels I've accumulated, he'd joked at the time.

Yesterday she'd opened the three cocoons, apparently protective or preservative envelopes of some kind, uncovering in the two shriveled cocoons the quasi-skeletal remains, and in the remaining cocoon the mouse. With Chang and occasionally others looking on, she'd run a battery of tests. The results often generated more questions than answers. Late into the night after Chang had gone, she'd continued to examine the mouse. She wondered whether it should be considered a biomechanical device or a biomechanical species. Tests had shown it had
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