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slowly over the rocky terrain or risk serious damage.

"Execute," Anna said.

As the probe moved ahead, the holographic display showed the rocks moving behind her, new landscape coming into view. The illusion of movement always made her feel like a ghost floating over the landscape. It was a lonely, vulnerable feeing. Anna's choice of destination sparked a lot of speculation from the team, who were watching the probe's readouts from the conference room and conversing with Anna though a corn link into the module. Donne's tight voice came through the link.

"Why aren't you investigating the egg?"

Anna could visualize her clenched jaw.

"The probe has done several preliminary tests on the egg. The purpose of the probe is not to do in-depth testing-that's what we're for. It's for advance scouting work. We haven't gotten any data from the caves yet."

"The egg is an incredible find," Donne persisted.

Anna didn't know what had gotten into Donne's shorts, but she found herself losing patience. Hadn't Chang gotten down to the conference room yet, and couldn't he get her away from the link?

"Basic archaeological practice teaches that an initial, thorough examination of the site is the most effective way to prepare for an excavation."

"You're wasting valuable time and resources."

"Excuse me for saying so, Ms. Donne, but I think you've lost it."



* * *



There was silence from the link for several minutes after that, and Anna berated herself for losing her temper. Hardly professional behavior for the second in command. John would have loved to see this; she was always telling him to use more tact. As time passed, the other team members got on and off the link, speculating about whether she would find anything in the caves.

Within a few minutes
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