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Favorito had established odds and was taking bets. The team was excited about the results they might get now that they were close enough to manually control the probe, and there was a generally festive atmosphere.

Anna supposed Donne must have left the room. That morning they'd left the De Soto behind. After a series of jumps that had brought them as close to the rim as jump gates could, they'd rendezvoused a few days ago with the De Soto, an explorer ship that could form its own jump point. The Icarus had hitched a ride with the De Soto, which had dropped them out of hyperspace as close to their destination as was convenient.

Although they had twenty days to go, with civilization behind them and nothing but open space between them and Alpha Omega 3, an atmosphere of expectation and excitement had begun to build. Anna was glad that the probe seemed fully operational. Probes never lasted long. They were not going to be the artifacts to survive the Twenty-third Century to be dug up by future archaeologists. They were finicky devices, intricate and prone to accidents in the hazardous landscapes they roamed.

While the body was a simple six-wheeled multiterrain vehicle, the technicians couldn't help adding bells and whistles until something was bound to break down. She and Chang had worried that the dust in the air might work its way into the probe's mechanisms, or that the rocky terrain might cause the vehicle to overturn. But so far all systems were in the green. The transmissions being sent by the probe were coming through fairly clearly today, with only occasional surges of static, the dust storms granting a rare reprieve. The probe sent its transmissions up to the orbiter that had accompanied it, which then relayed the signals to the Icarus. The orbiter was basically
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