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on his comp-pad.

"This doesn't look like a mutual thing to me."

Morden had turned away, thoughtful. Now he marked the location of the artifact with a light.

"I only have two lights left."

"We need to be heading back soon anyway," Anna said, but her mind was racing, eager.

"Let's just go a little farther."

They went as far as the two lights would take them without finding anything else, then continued beyond the last light until it was a weak glimmer in the darkness. The cave ceiling descended further, until it was about five feet high. They had to move very slowly then, crouched over, the blackness hiding obstacles. That's when her light caught on it, about twenty feet away, a smooth, oily blackness that reflected her light back at her, totally unlike the jagged, absorbing black of the cave walls. They all saw it, and as they approached it they closed ranks, instinctively moving closer together in the darkness. They stopped about six feet from it. The surface, in their lights, appeared shifting and oily, almost iridescent.

"It looks alive," Favorito said, sending the camera around the side of it.

Anna scanned it.

"I'm not getting any reading on this at all."

"You sure that scanner's working?" Favorito asked.

"It reads all of us. I'll check it when we get back."

They moved their lights across its surface, remaining side by side.

"It looks like a perfect sphere," Morden said.

"Maybe eight-foot diameter."

"It's blocking the passage," Favorito said.

"There's no way around it."

For some reason that made Anna nervous. The space containing them seemed to contract around her. She thought of the long way back up to the surface. And yet she didn't want to leave the sphere with such little information. Without the scanner, all they
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