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the planet. When she had dug down to a depth of one foot, Anna realized the source was actually within the cave wall, rather than beside it. One of the larger rocks, when she moved it away, covered a cavity in the stone. The opening was barely six inches across, the size of the interior irregular and unclear.

She extended her left arm-now a camera/light combination-into the cavity, and as she switched to the new feed let out a whoop as she saw the husk-like objects within. Chang's voice came over the speaker.

"I always said you left no stone unturned."

A chorus of groans accompanied hers. She switched back to the main feed. Her right arm now a metallic claw, she reached into the hole. Even though it wasn't her hand, even though they were still twenty days away, she shivered as she reached out, feeling the darkness close around her. She retrieved each of the two cocoons fairly easily, and they were narrow enough to fit through the hole. She set them down on the cave floor, her heart pounding. The husks appeared in good condition. Perhaps the closed confines and the dry conditions had put them into a suspended state. The husks were similar enough in configuration to the mouse that these either were mice or were very closely related devices.

This confirmed that the mouse had indeed come from this culture. She ran a resonance scan. On the monitors, faint but steady, pulsed two heartbeats. A variety of exclamations sounded through the link, and then money began to change hands. Anna felt she'd been given a second chance. She could understand these devices, could learn how they were controlled, could learn who had created them and why. She'd go slower this time, be more careful.

"Sheridan, get down here," Chang said.

"It looks like we're going to have a party.
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