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did seem smooth enough for the probe to proceed without difficulty. To cover uneven or mountainous terrain, a section of the probe with spider -like legs could detach, but Anna preferred not to use it. Just something else to go wrong.

"Ahead with caution," Anna ordered.

As the probe moved forward, the darkness of the cave enveloped her.

"Lights on high," Anna said.

The darkness around her lessened somewhat. She could see hints of cave walls, barely visible, to her sides. The lights of the probe seemed dulled, as if the rock absorbed rather than reflected them. The cave appeared perhaps twelve feet wide here.

"Safety lock engaged," the probe said, and its forward progress stopped.

An alarm began sounding inside the module.

"Communication endangered."

Inside the confined space, the alarm was enough to give her an instant migraine.

"Cause of danger," Anna said.

"Increased depth of rock causing contact failure."

"Reverse to safe distance."

Her ghost drifted back several feet; it was hard to say how much in the darkness. The alarm stopped.

"Maximum safe distance acquired."

"Shit," Anna said.

Not only was the dust causing communications interference; now the rock was too. Which made sense, since the dust was made up of particles of worn rock. But that didn't mean she had to like it.

"No cave-trolling for you, Sheridan," Razor's voice said over the link.

"We'll see about that," Anna muttered to herself.

If the probe went any deeper into the cave, it would lose touch with her and the orbiter. The safety lock had engaged to prevent that. Anna scanned the probe's position. It had stopped about ten yards into the cave. She decided to make full use of every inch of that ten yards. She'd run every scan in this tricked-up probe's menu.
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