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"This was taken from the egg. It's by far the largest and simplest piece of writing on the object, and the only one that can be read in its entirety. The others lead into the various tunnels and hollows in the object. He brought his hands flat against each other, raised them to his mouth.

"I'm not really sure on this. My tentative translation is ''what is desired,'' though it may say ''all that is desired.'' "

"That's the entire phrase?" Churlstein asked.


Churlstein's face wrinkled in frustration.

"Is that a question? What is desired?"

"I don't know," Morden answered.

They were all silent.

"Could the device be a manufacturing center?" Chang suggested.

"It may be requesting specifications of some kind."

"Perhaps it provided entertainment," Standish said, "and the inscription is more like an advertisement."

"It sounds more like a promise," Donne said.

"Something you'd find on the side of an oil lamp with a genie inside."

And from the silence that prevailed after she said it, Anna realized it was what they had all been thinking.

* * *

"My shower's broken," she said, her shape a hazy silhouette behind the coated shower door.

"Can I share yours?"

"It's not very big," John said.

The door opened and her head peaked in, brown hair in disarray, mischievous smile radiating heat.

"I can squeeze in."

"Then by all means," he replied.

She stepped in with soap and shampoo, naked, all business.

"Could I get under the water please?"


They squeezed past each other in the small square stall, her body a brush of heaven, so familiar, so wanted. She stepped under the spray, and the water cascaded down her face, her shoulders, her breasts, her body like a blessing, she one of the ancient
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