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before narrowing back down again.

"I don't remember seeing that in the probe's transmissions. Was the egg on top of it?"

Morden approached the crevasse.

"It must have been."

The dust tended to brown out everything behind it. Yet the crevasse stood out like a stream of blackness, as if the blackness saturated the very air, persistent, leaving a negative afterimage as a bright light left a positive one. Anna knelt. The reddish-brown rock of the surface continued to a depth of less than a foot here. Below was the black, light-absorbing rock of the caves. The sides of the crevasse were jagged, vertical.

"I can't see how deep it runs. But they couldn't have climbed down here. They'd have needed to set up a platform."

"They could have fallen in," Morden said.

Above her, obscured by sand, his expression was unclear.

"The stone is jagged."

Anna leaned down into the crevasse.

"I don't see any pieces of clothing or equipment."

She didn't want to admit that she couldn't see much in the darkness, and that the wind might have blown away any scraps.

"That still wouldn't explain what happened to the egg. The dimensions of the crevasse are too narrow for it."

Anna stood. She was exhausted, and she had run out of ideas. Could they all be dead-Chang, Churl-stein, Scott, Petrovich, Donne, and forty technicians?

"Do you really think the egg might have moved under its own power?" Morden asked.

"Why not? It's basically a tool or machine of some kind. Its purpose might involve locomotion. I admit the shape doesn't suggest it, but this technology is so different from ours, we really don't know what its purpose is."

"All that is desired."

His tone was wistful.

"If that's what it's promising, then it's failing miserably."

Anna linked up to
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