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had was a visual recording of a round black ball. The sense of life, of movement in its surface, seemed almost to pulsate, the shifting reflections moving in surges, as if tied to the act of breathing. The nodule had an odd sense of flatness to it that came and went, as if she were looking at a two-dimensional representation of a three-dimensional object, or, perhaps, at a projection or shadow of something that existed in a fuller form elsewhere in the darkness.

"We should leave," Favorito said, and Anna realized she had no idea how long they'd been crouched there.

The camera was hovering beside Favorito's shoulder.

"I want to take a sample," Anna said and, feeling this statement required further explanation, added, "since we can't get any scanner readings."

The black membranous surface disturbed her and drew her. They had to find out what this was, whether it really was alive. Morden opened a small specimen case.

"How are you going to get the sample?"

"I don't know. I guess I'll have to test the surface first."

She forced herself to take a step forward, then another. She was right in front of it now, the oily blackness subtly shifting, realigning itself. She raised her hand. She was glad, now, she was wearing the EVA suit. She brought her fingers to the membrane, as if to tap the surface of a pond. Her hand passed through it as if there were nothing there. She could still see her hand, and she could still see the blackness beyond her hand, as if she had misjudged its distance. But then the blackness moved, and this movement was totally unlike the liquid shifting she'd been studying; this was the structural movement of a body, and she realized it was no longer the surface of the nodule she was seeing but something equally black inside it, something that
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