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you can see. It's not there."

"That's impossible."

Favorito elbowed his way to the front.

"Why don't you turn on the lights?"

As Favorito flipped on the crawler's floodlights, the answer became apparent. They reflected back off the curtains of dust, reducing visibility to almost nothing. Razor turned the lights off, and they all stared into the shifting curtains of dust outside. As the dust lessened for a few moments, the area around the base of the pillar became clear, a jagged plain of cracked, reddish-brown stone. The egg was gone.

"Could they have moved it?" Standish asked.

Favorito snorted with contempt.

"They'd know a lot better than to move something that valuable before it could be studied and mapped and its soundness checked."

"Maybe they thought the storm would damage it and moved it into the crawler," Standish persisted.

Favorito turned to face Standish and cross his arms.

"It's been there for a thousand years. Maybe that's how you do things on your team. We do things a little differently. We use our intelligence."

"It's too big to put into the crawler," Morden said quietly.

"And they didn't have any other equipment with them that would have been able to move something so large and heavy. Not all in one piece."

"Have you tried to reach Chang?"

Anna asked Razor.

"I've been trying."

Razor's voice was subdued, not like his normal, teasing tone at all.

"No response from the links, no response from the crawlers."

The possibility that something had happened to Chang and his party suddenly seemed very real. Anna kept her own voice calm as well.

"Have you scanned for life signs?"

"I'm not picking up any life signs. But it could be the scanners."

"Have you scanned for their links?"

Anna asked. Each link
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