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trying to deal with the instrumentation-challenging environment of hypersace. "Still nothing ..." Delta 7 reported.

Nor was Ivanova having any greater luck. She looked accusingly at her instruments as if they had taken it upon themselves to betray her in some manner. "We should be on top of it by now," she said in a voice that was vaguely accusatory. She was speaking as much to her own cockpit as to her pilots, in a manner that suggested that her onboard instrumentation was somehow letting her down.

And then her instruments guided her to look over her head, where something was briefly-and then more sustainedly- illuminated by flashes of light from above. Ivanova's eyes went wide in astonishment as she began to have just the faintest inkling of what it was that they had gotten themselves into.

"Oh, hell," she murmured.

To say it was first contact was to understate. To say it was alien was to not even come close to scratching the surface.

Ivanova knew of the impact that various artifacts and individuals could have on cultures. Vorlons, for example, in their angelic appearance, had sparked imagery that had cut across all manner of alien cultures, taking a permanent position in the myths of worlds. And she knew of a somewhat more small-scale instance-described to her by Garibaldi, which probably meant that it should be regarded with a touch of healthy skepticism-wherein a discarded soda bottle had fallen into the hands of a primitive Earth tribe, and had been thought to be a gift from the gods.

All of which led Ivanova to conclude that, if the object that they had just discovered had ever been within proximity of any sentient beings, then entire cultures had probably grown up around it and worshipped it. It was that big, that impressive, and, in many ways,
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