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a shape came out of the shadows, a white, waddling snowman shape, thighs brushing together.

"Churlstein, get down!"

Anna waved him down with her hand.

"Stay out of sight. Be quiet."

Donne had turned her gun on Churlstein.

"How did you get away?"

Churlstein crawled onto the parapet, his bulk filling the space. He tried to sit back on his feet, his legs in the suit too restricted to bend.

"I don't know. I remember climbing onto the egg and yelling to Chang. Then I was sleeping, and I woke up beside the egg. It had been . . . singing to me. I was trying to find my way back to the surface."

Anna heard movement below and peeked over, Donne and Morden joining her. A bluish-gray alien now stood beside one of the tubes, which held a tech who had been in Anna's group. The alien had opened the tube. It held a round device of some kind in its thick fingers, and it was wiring the device to the interface at the base of the tech's skull. Some sort of preparation, Anna thought, or programming.

"What the hell are you doing?" Donne said.

Churlstein had his hand on Donne's PPG. She kicked him back, hard, and his helmet banged against the cave wall. Even though Donne had kept her gun, Churlstein had a gun in his other hand, which he now aimed back at them. Anna checked her jumpsuit pocket, found Churlstein had taken the PPG away from her. She wanted to scream. Didn't they understand what was going on right below them?

"There's no point in shooting me," Churlstein said.

"I'm just the messenger."

He took the PPG and, getting up on his knees, stuffed it into his pocket.

"I just don't want you to hurt yourselves."

"That's not my plan," Donne said. And then her body convulsed inward as her hands clutched the sides of her helmet. She let out a tight,
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