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several others had turned up in the black igneous rock that made up the more mountainous areas of the landscape. The extent of the caves was still unclear. They seemed natural elements of the landscape; no evidence of artificial alterations or improvements had been discovered so far.

Cave 3A was the largest cave they'd found so far, in a rocky outcropping near the foothills of one of the smaller mountain ranges. Her instinct told her the caves were important. In general, caves provided less disturbed, better preserved artifacts-if they had been occupied, that was. With advanced civilizations like this one, it was unlikely this cave had been occupied for thousands and thousands of years, unless by animals.

Yet Anna had noticed an odd lack of organic remains or personal possessions among the stone blocks that had made up some of the major structures of this civilization. If these buildings had been destroyed in a war, skeletons and possessions should have been among the ruins. Archaeologists loved catastrophic destruction, since it often left a perfect record of a moment frozen in time, the moment at which the civilization had been destroyed. Pompeii was the classic example.

Admittedly, some artifacts would not have lasted as long as the stone, and some may have been buried in the deposits of sand and dust, but the dry atmosphere should have worked to desiccate and preserve remains. The probe had found nothing. The lack of organic remains and personal possessions could be explained if the residents had outlived the buildings. But then where had they moved? Anna wondered if it might have been to the caves.

"Time to destination," she requested.

"Twenty-four minutes," the probe responded.

The cave was only a little over a mile away, but the probe had to move
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