"It's hot. Hotter than the projections." He cycled to the next data set on his arm-screen. "And the atmosphere's an unbreathable soup. Suit's staying on."
"Well, we figured that."
"You're coming through fairly clear." He turned around: the portal was shrunk to a tiny glowing speck, but it was still there. All those briefings, and all the classes, and he still had no idea how the technology worked. Or, why it worked. "Unbelievable."
"Three and a half billion years. Oop…" He steadied himself. "There's some ground movement there. And I'm seeing volcanic activity."
"No, far off. Horizon. Big plumes of smoke. Whole place looks more like Io than home. Let me try to get to higher ground and I can—"
"Negative. Stay on primary task. We want the pools."
"There's one about ten feet away, stand by." He clambered across a ridge of slick rock, placing his boots and hands with methodical care. "Here we go. I'm taking out the sample tool, but…"
"There's a film across the top of the water. Looks organic. It's well in progress here already."
There was a long pause. "Understood. Return to the portal. We'll just have to go back further."
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