if she were sleeping. Something black shone at her temple against the short white of her hair, something metal-shiny extending from temple to forehead, and from temple to cheek, a metal band down the back of the head fastened to something black nestled in her hair just above the nape of her neck. It was an interface of some kind; something to link the brain-to something else. Razor's scream died. Anna sank down against the parapet. Donne shook her.
"What are they doing?" she whispered.
At last she fully understood the mystery of the mouse, understood the behavior of this race toward them since they had landed, and the motivation behind it.
"They use living creatures as part of their biomechanical technology, at the heart of their machines. They're preparing the crew to be wired in," Anna said.
"They're using us as biological components in their machines."
As that answer registered on Donne's face, Anna realized that was why Donne had kept her alive: to explain how this race lived, how their technology worked, to clarify the threat.
"And now that you have your mice and your answers, you'll kill us, right?"
Donne had already drawn her gun.
"I'd be happy to kill the largest mass destroyer of telepaths in our history. They'll probably give me a medal."
Her eyes shifted to Morden.
"And I've been dying to kill you, you sleazebag. If you'll just go back down the passage."
"There's no way off this planet."
Morden's normally smooth voice now carried a slight vibration, probably from shock.
"The captain is down there, and most of the crew. I've spotted techs from all three of our search parties. They've got almost everyone."
Anna's link chimed as someone linked in.
"What is this place?"
As her head jerked up at the voice,