"I've come across more and more people who've actually tried reading science fiction and can't make it make sense."
In this story, it is assumed that the asteroid Vesta is an intact surface fragment of an ancient planet.
You might want to compare this idea with the more dramatic Romulan flame drill used in the new Star Trek movie series (and the real-life flame jet drill deveolped for drilling into solid rock).
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Let's hear it for the vague blur!
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'Transmitting to its manipulator, far away now, all that it heard through its ear microphones...'
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