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She loved going on digs, but he'd gotten the impression from their talks over the last few months that she needed a break from IPX, and he feared she'd only gone on the expedition out of loneliness. Now another six months would slip away from them.

He'd let so many days of drilling, inspections, and battle simulations go by without making the time to contact her. Then when he'd finally sat down to do it, he'd realized he didn't even know where she was. He'd tried her apartment in Geneva, getting a prerecorded message explaining she was on a dig. Finally, last night, he'd looked through the expedition specs she'd sent him and discovered that she was shipping out from Station Prime, not Earth as he'd assumed. And she'd shipped out yesterday. She'd probably been staying at the Imperial Hotel all this time, waiting to hear back from him. He'd tried to contact her on the ship, only to be routed to IPX headquarters in Geneva, where they informed him all personal messages had to be prerecorded and cleared.

He'd be damned if he was going to let some IPX flunky listen to his private communication. So the anniversary had come and gone, Anna's ship slipping away from his, gliding out into the vacuum of space.


Dr. Chang climbed out of the probe control module.

"It's all yours," he said to Anna.

"Just make sure you don't get a scratch on it."

Anna smiled.

"Thanks, Dad."

She stooped to climb through the small hatchway, and Chang closed the door behind her. The control module was self-contained so that it could be moved from ship to ship or to various IPX office buildings. It was designed, she supposed, to take up the least amount of space on a ship. But that didn't stop her from believing that whoever had designed this thing had been a sadist.
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