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Centauri, if rather inexpensive and unornamented. The apartment had a rather generic quality, a lack of personal effects, except for some shelves of artifacts against one wall. It was a look Anna recognized, since her freelancing required her to move about once a year. The furniture came with the apartment.

"You're sure?"

She nodded, and Morden sat in an armchair opposite her, folding his hands quietly together. The smile was still there. Everything about him bespoke control. He sat neatly, carefully, arms against his body, legs together. He wore a dark suit, freshly pressed and creased. His dark hair was styled cleanly back, no split ends or stray hairs like her own indefinable style. He was definitely an exception from the typical scraggly archaeologist.

"I guess we're going to be shipping out together soon," she said.

He nodded.


"I brought the equipment manifest."

She opened her computer, called up the screen.

"I wanted to make sure you have everything you need."

She handed it over to him. He scanned down it, the smile remaining carefully in place.

"Wow. I wouldn't have dreamed of asking for so much. I don't even know what half of this stuff is."

"So there's nothing you need me to add?"

Her ruse now seemed painfully apparent, but there was nothing to do but play it out. He returned the computer.

"No. I have a few of my own things I'll bring along, but that's it."

His eyes drifted away from her, to a point over her left shoulder.

"Is this your first expedition with IPX?" she asked.

His dark eyes came back to her.

"No, I've been involved in two others, though not recently. You people at IPX do some wonderful work."

"I just freelance for them. But I agree. They're about the only ones who can launch a major expedition
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