nearer the mysterious artifact. It simply had a job to do, and had every intention of doing it. That was the beginning, middle, and end of the 'bot's nonexistent opinion on the subject.
As the 'bot drew closer to the artifact, a sampler extended from its body. It drew to within the programmed distance and proceeded to take scrapings off the artifact's skin. If it had been Human, the 'bot probably would have been whistling an aimless tune as it went about what was basically mindless work.
What it did not, could not, notice was that the hieroglyphs on the artifact had begun to glow the moment the sampler came into contact with it.
Zack, however, noticed it immediately. His eyebrows furrowed as, at first, he tried to determine whether it was just some sort of optical illusion. Perhaps the artifact, which was drifting ever-so-slightly in space, had picked up a reflection from B5's marker lights or even a distant star. But even as he realized that such was not the case-that the glow was being generated somehow by the artifact itself-one of the Starfury pilots sent a terse message.
"Stand by ... we've got a problem," he informed Zack.
Obviously, this was not what Zack wanted or needed to hear.
"What kind of problem?" When there was no immediate response, he urged, "Talk to me."
Zack became alert for some sort of possible distress when the pilot did not reply immediately, but it quickly became evident that he was simply assessing the situation fully before relaying any information to Allan. "Registering a fifteen percent drop in the 'bot's power supply," the pilot said at last. Before he could offer any sort of explanation, he amended, "Twenty percent...," and then, in unrestrained astonishment, "Fifty ..."
"Move it away!" Zack ordered. He was surprised