Cover image for Phylogenesis
Title:
Phylogenesis
Author:
Foster, Alan Dean, 1946-
Personal Author:
Edition:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Del Rey, 1999.
Physical Description:
327 pages ; 25 cm.
Language:
English
Reading Level:
1010 Lexile.
ISBN:
9780345418623
Format :
Book

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Central Library X Adult Fiction Popular Materials-Science Fiction/Fantasy
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Central Library X Adult Fiction Central Closed Stacks
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Anna M. Reinstein Library X Adult Fiction Science Fiction/Fantasy
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Summary

Summary

In the years after the first contact, humans and the insect-like Thranx agreed to a tentative sharing of ideas and cultures desite the ingrained repulsion they had to overcome. However they never planned for a chance meeting between a misfit artist and a petty thief.


Author Notes

Bestselling science fiction writer Alan Dean Foster was born in New York City in 1946, but raised mainly in California. He received a B.A. in Political Science from UCLA in 1968, and a M.F.A. in 1969. Foster enjoys traveling because it gives him opportunities to meet new people and explore new places and cultures. This interest is carried over to his writing, but with a twist: the new places encountered in his books are likely to be on another planet, and the people may belong to an alien race.

Foster began his career as an author when a letter he sent to Arkham Collection was purchased by the editor and published in the magazine in 1968. His first novel, The Tar-Aiym Krang, introduced the Humanx Commonwealth, a galactic alliance between humans and an insectlike race called Thranx. Several other novels, including the Icerigger trilogy, are also set in the world of the Commonwealth. The Tar-Aiym Krang also marked the first appearance of Flinx, a young man with paranormal abilities, who reappears in other books, including Orphan Star, For Love of Mother-Not, and Flinx in Flux.

Foster has also written The Damned series and the Spellsinger series, which includes The Hour of the Gate, The Moment of the Magician, The Paths of the Perambulator, and Son of Spellsinger, among others. Other books include novelizations of science fiction movies and television shows such as Star Trek, The Black Hole, Starman, Star Wars, and the Alien movies. Splinter of the Mind's Eye, a bestselling novel based on the Star Wars movies, received the Galaxy Award in 1979. The book Cyber Way won the Southwest Book Award for Fiction in 1990. His novel Our Lady of the Machine won him the UPC Award (Spain) in 1993. He also won the Ignotus Award (Spain) in 1994 and the Stannik Award (Russia) in 2000. He is the recipient of the Faust, the IAMTW Lifetime achievement award.

Alan Dean Foster's Star Wars: The Force Awakens, was a 2015 New York Times bestseller.

(Bowker Author Biography)


Reviews 2

Booklist Review

Fans of Foster's Humanx, an alliance of humans and the insectile Thranx, now discover its origins. Launching a prequel series, Foster essentializes the allies in two characters: talented, bored Thranx poet Desvendapur and cynical holdup artist Cheelo Montoya. As far as Thranx and human general populations know, a handful of scientists and diplomats are just negotiating relations. Actually, a secret project has installed colonies of each species on the other's planet. Hoping the bizarre, fleshy humans will inspire a poetic magnum opus, Des inserts himself into their colony, but, frustrated by its rigid separation of the species, must escape into the surrounding jungle to meet and study humankind more freely. Meanwhile, Cheelo has fled from a manhunt into the comforting, anonymous Thranx reserve in the Amazon. So the species meet, and curiosity, their common trait, overcomes fear and suspicion. The Thranx are a most appealing creation, and their interaction with humans provides seemingly countless opportunities for philosophizing and adventure. Moreover, Foster's love of big words perfectly suits the formal Thranx. Reliable Foster fare that should stimulate high demand. --Roberta Johnson


Publisher's Weekly Review

Some centuries in the future come the earliest days of contact between humans and the insect-like thranx. Both species carefully try to keep contact in the hands of approved experts, but the thranx have slipped a covert base into the Amazon rain forest. Desvendapur, a thranx poet obsessed with finding new sources of inspiration through contact with humans, escapes from this base into the jungle. There he encounters Cheelo Montoya, a small-time gangster fleeing a mugging that turned into a murder, a man with no poetry in his soul but abundant street smarts. Their initial misunderstandings and suspicion give way to cooperation, and then to friendship after the two survive an encounter with deadly poachers. The author of more than 40 novels, Foster does a fine job with his misfit heroes and even with his minor characters (such as the reptilian AAnn). He shows his usual mastery of narrative pacing and slips in a great deal of wry wit (the sexiness of a female thranx depends on the slenderness of her ovipositors). The novel will be a treat for those who have followed Foster's tales of the Humanx Commonwealth, to which this is a kind of prelude and which began way back in 1972 with The Tar-Aiym Krang, and can also serve as a splendid introduction to both the Commonwealth and its creator. (June) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved


Excerpts

Excerpts

No one saw the attack coming. Probably someone, or several someones, ought to have been blamed. Certainly there was a convulsion of recriminations afterward. But since it is an unarguable fact that it is hard to apportion blame--or even to assign it--for something that is without precedent, nascent calls for castigation of those responsible withered for lack of suitable subjects. Those who felt, rightly or wrongly, that they bore a share of the responsibility for what happened punished themselves far more severely than any traditional queen's court or council of peers would have. For more than a hundred years, ever since there had been contact between AAnn and thranx, animosity had festered between the two species. Given such a fertile ground and sufficiency of time, mutual enmity had evolved to take many forms. Manifesting themselves on a regular basis that varied greatly in degree, these were usually propagated by the AAnn. While a constant source of vexation to the ever-reasonable thranx, these provocations rarely exceeded the bounds of irritation. The AAnn would probe and threaten, advance and connive, until the thranx had had enough and were compelled to react. When forcefully confronted, the AAnn would invariably pull back, give ground, retreat. The spiral arm that was shared by both heat-loving, oxygen-breathing species was big enough and rich enough in stars so that direct conflict, unless actively sought, could be avoided. Habitable worlds, however, were scarcer. Where one of these was involved positions hardened, accusations flew more sharply, meticulously worded phrases tended to bite rather than soothe. Even so, the swift exchange of space-minus communications was always sufficient to dampen a potentially explosive confrontation. Until Willow-Wane. Until Paszex. Worvendapur bent his head and reached up with a truhand to clean his left eye. Out on the edge of the forest the wind tended to kick up dust. Lowering the transparent, protective shield over his face, he reflexively extended his antennae through the slots provided for that purpose and moved on, striding forward on all six legs. Occasionally he would arch his back and advance only on his four trulegs, not because he needed the additional manipulative capacity his versatile foothands could provide, but because it raised his body to its maximum standing height of slightly over a meter and a half and enabled him to see over the meter-high, lavender-tinted grass that comprised much of the surrounding vegetation. Something quick and chittering scuttled through the sedge close to his right. Using the truhand and foothand on that side of his thorax, he drew the rifle that was slung across his back and aimed it at the source of the noise, tensing in readiness. The muzzle of the weapon came up sharply as half a dozen !ccoerk burst from the meadow. Letting out a whistle of fourth-degree relief, he let a digit slip from the trigger and reholstered the gun. Their plump brown bodies shot through with purple streaks, the flock of feathered !ccoerk fluttered toward the satin-surfaced lake, cooing like plastic batons that had been charged with static electricity. Beneath a feathered, concave belly one trailed an egg sac nearly as big as herself. Idly, Worvendapur found himself wondering if the eggs were edible. While Willow-Wane had been settled for more than two hundred years, development had been slow and gradual, in the conservative, measured manner of the thranx. Colonization had also been largely confined to the continents of the northern hemisphere. The south was still a vast, mostly unknown wilderness, a raw if accommodating frontier where new discoveries were constantly being made and one never knew what small marvel might be encountered beneath the next hill. Hence his rifle. While Willow-Wane was no Trix, a world that swarmed with dynamic, carnivorous life-forms, it was still home to an intimidating assortment of energetic native predators. A settler had to watch his steps, especially in the wild, uncivilized south. Tall, flexible blue sylux fringed the shore of the lake, an impressive body of fresh water that dominated the landscape for a considerable distance to the north. Its tepid, prolific expanse separated the rain forest, beneath which the settlement had been established, from inhospitable desert that dropped southward from the equator. Founded forty years ago, the burgeoning, thriving colony hive of Paszex was already sponsoring outlying satellite communities. Worvendapur's family, the Ven, was prominent in one of these, the agri town of Pasjenji. While rain forest drip was adequate to supply the settlement's present water needs, plans for future growth and expansion demanded a larger and more reliable supply. Rather than going to the trouble and expense of building a reservoir, the obvious suggestion had been made that the settlement tap the ample natural resource of the lake. As the possessor of a subspecialty in hydrology, Wor had been sent out to scout suitable treatment and pipeline sites. Ideally, he would find one as close to the lake as possible that was also geologically stable and capable of supporting the necessary engineering infrastructure, from pumping station to filtration plant to feeder lines. He had been out in the field for more than a week now, taking and analyzing soundings, confirming aerial surveys, evaluating potential locations for the treatment plant and transmission routes for the water it would eventually supply. Like any thranx, he missed the conviviality of the hive, the press and sound and smell of his kind. Regrettably, another week of solitary stretched out before him. The local fauna helped to divert his thoughts from his isolation. He relished these always educational, sometimes engaging diversions, so long as one of them did not rise up and bite off his leg. Seismic soundings could have been made from the air, or by a mechanical remote, but for something as critical to the community's future as a water facility it was felt that on-site inspection and evaluation by a specialist was required. Wor could hardly disagree. If it proved feasible, this same lake water would be used to slake the thirst of his own offspring. When the spouts opened inside the hive, he wanted their flow to come from a station that would not be subject to incessant breakdowns or microbial contamination. Unlimbering his pack, he used all four hands to remove and set up the sounder. At the touch of a switch, its six slim, mechanical legs snapped into place. Setting the instrument down on the ground, he adjusted the controls until he was confident it was stationed in a precise and sturdy manner on the slightly boggy surface. Compared to many of the waterlogged sites he had already visited and evaluated, the present location looked promising. It would not do to situate a water treatment plant on sodden, potentially temperamental ground. Activating the sounder, he stepped back and let his compound gaze wander to a formation of gentre!!m gliding past overhead. A widespread native species familiar from numerous encounters in the long-settled north, they were migrating to the southern rain forests to escape the onset of the northern wet season and its accompanying monsoon rains. Their translucent, membranous wings shimmered in the haze-heavy sunshine of midday. Long, flexible snouts inflated and collapsed as individuals called tumescently to one another. The sounder beeped softly, signifying the completion of the survey. While he had watched the wildlife soar past to vanish beyond the far horizon of the lake, the sounder had taken a sonic scan of the immediate vicinity to a depth of more than a hundred meters. From a study of such scans as well as a mass of other accumulating data, Worvendapur and his colleagues would choose a site for the filtration and pumping station. While there was no need for him to perform an in-depth analysis of the actual readings in the field, he was always curious to see the unit's findings. Even more so than the average thranx, he was intensely interested in what the earth beneath his feet was like because he might have to live in it someday. The initial readouts that flashed on the screen were promising and devoid of surprise. As it had proven to be in every previous reading, the ground on which he stood was composed primarily of sedimentary rock, with the occasional ancient igneous intrusion from a time when local tectonics were more active. Though the area, and for that matter the ground in which Paszex itself was located, was riddled with faults, they appeared to be long quiescent and of no especial concern. He dipped his head lower. Having only a transparent, nictitating membrane in place of opaque eyelids, he could not squint, but his antennae dipped forward until the tips were almost brushing the screen. The sounder was reporting an anomaly, virtually beneath his feet. A very peculiar anomaly. It was so peculiar that he considered returning to the aircar and reporting what he had found. But while reliable, sounders were not perfect. No instrument was. And neither were those individuals charged with their operation. If he called in his concern and it turned out to be baseless, he would come off looking more than a little foolish in the eyes of his peers. Thranx humor could be as sharp as a young dancer's ovipositors. Uncertain how best to proceed, he carried the sounder toward the lake, repositioned it, and ran a second scan. This time, instead of studying the wildlife, he waited impatiently for the compact device to complete its work. The second scan, run from a different site, confirmed the readings of its predecessor. Worvendapur pondered long and hard. The unusual results he was getting could be due to a mechanical fault in the instrumentation, a consistent error in the analysis program, a simple imperfection in the readout system or screen itself, or any one of half a hundred other possible reasons--any one of which would make more sense than what he believed the instrument was telling him. Breathing evenly through his spicules, he ran a detailed internal check on the sounder's systems. As near as he could tell without taking it apart, something he was not qualified to do, the device was working perfectly. He then examined himself, and decided that he was working perfectly as well. Very well then. He would leave it to a committee to debate and settle on an interpretation of his inexplicable findings. But he would not rely on one reading, or even two. Moving the sounder again, he set about making the third of several dozen soundings of the immediate area, unaware that he was not doing so in isolation. His actions were being observed and subjected to the same kind of rigorous analysis that he was applying to the ground beneath his feet. The eyes that watched him were not compound, nor did they belong to representatives of the indigenous wildlife. "What is he doing?" Clad in color-shifting, pattern-changing camouflage garb, the AAnn advance scout was virtually invisible where she stood crouching within the wall of weaving lakeside sylux. Together with her companion, she watched the blue-carapaced intruder shift his six-legged device, wait, then move it again. "I enjoy no personal familiarity with thranx scientific mechanisms," the other scout confessed. "Perhaps he is taking weather readings." The slightly larger of the two females gestured third-degree dissent and followed it with a hand movement indicating second-level impatience. "Why send a lone technician out here with a single small device to analyze the weather? Orbiters are far more efficient." "That is so," her companion conceded testily. "I was simply trying to suggest possibilities in the absence of information." The concealed reptilian visage peered through the gracefully swaying, dark blue stems. Their constant motion made detailed observation difficult. Furthermore, it was far too humid out here on the surface for her liking. While the thranx thrived in rain forest surroundings--the steamier the better--the AAnn were most comfortable breathing air that was starved of moisture. "It takes readings of its surroundings. So we will take readings of it taking readings." Removing a small, tubular device from her belt, she activated it and aimed the shiny, reflective end at the thranx. It was a bit of a gamble, but so preoccupied was the settler with his own work that he did not notice the occasional brief, transitory light flashing from among the dense, oscillating stand of sylux. The results confirmed the worst fears of both scouts. "He is making subsurface sonic readings." Her companion was properly alarmed. "That cannot be permitted!" "Correction," her superior gestured. "The taking of readings can be allowed. What must be prevented is the reporting of those readings to his peers." "Look!" Heedless of the fact that her sudden movement might reveal their position in spite of the camouflage gear, the other scout straightened and pointed. The thranx was folding up his equipment. Turning, he started resolutely back through the grass, making a straight line for his waiting transportation. Keeping low, their suits shifting pattern and hue to match grass instead of sylux, the two scouts followed, steadily closing the distance between themselves and the visitor. As they stalked him, they debated how best to proceed. "We should call this in," the smaller female decided. "Cannot. By the time the seriousness of the situation is realized and a decision handed down, the intruder will be gone and it will be too late to halt the dissemination of the information he has gathered. A broken tooth must be filed down before it can spread infection." "I dislike making a decision of such gravity without authority from above." "So do I," her larger companion agreed, "but that is why you and I are here, and most everyone else is not." The second scout straightened to her full height, her scaly tail switching nervously back and forth. "He is nearly to his vehicle." "I can see that," hissed her colleague. "The time in which to debate how best to resolve this matter has passed." Powerful legs pumping, she broke into a sprint. Worvendapur opened the storage compartment and carefully slid the folded sounder inside, making sure that the cover sealed tightly before turning and heading for the boarding ramp. He would call a meeting of his work group as soon as he returned to Paszex. The information contained in the sounder was of sufficient import to justify an emergency session. Even as he began mentally rehearsing his presentation, he fervently hoped that some mechanical glitch, some other explanation he had overlooked, was responsible for the controversial readings, and that he was not seeing what he thought the sounder was seeing. In light of the potential explosiveness of that information he knew he ought to be more alert, but the peaceful, bucolic surroundings lulled him. Besides, in a minute or two he would be on his way back to the settlement, traveling at high speed just above the tops of the grass. There was nothing to worry about. Even when he glimpsed movement out of the side of one eye he felt no especial concern. Then he saw the glint of light on something of artificial manufacture, and knew that what was approaching was at once larger and more lethal than anything he had encountered since commencing his survey. Truhand and foothand reached down and back, all eight digits clutching at the rifle. Before it was halfway clear of its holster, a shaped sonic pulse struck the upper portion of Worvendapur's abdomen, stunning his nervous system and punching a hole in his blue-green exoskeleton. The force of the impact lifted him off the ground and threw him sideways against the idling aircar. Still trying to draw his weapon, he slammed off the gleaming, scored fuselage and collapsed to the ground. As he finally managed to withdraw the rifle, a heavy sandaled foot came down on his truhand. Several of the delicate manipulative digits crumpled under the weight, but the wounded hydrologist was beyond feeling the pain. Despite the strong bracing of his chitinous internal structure, his insides were starting to leak out through the hole that had appeared just beneath his upper set of vestigial wing cases. Consciousness and sight fading in tandem, he looked up to see a pair of homicidally alert eyes staring down at him. Then the piece of sky that framed the eyes shifted and he was able to discern the smooth outline of the skull, clad in camouflage suiting that was struggling to simulate a cloud. A second pair of eyes hovered nearby, glaring at him from behind a fluid mask of falsified brush. Words passed between the two figures. No linguist, Wor understood none of what they were saying in their clipped, sharp tones. He kept trying to reach his rifle with his foothand alone. "What do we do now?" the smaller of the two assassins wondered aloud. "Take it in?" "Of what use is a corpse?" Removing her foot from the thranx's crushed truhand, the scout nudged the gaping, bleeding abdominal wound with the tip of her weapon. The helpless researcher cried out softly beneath her. "The shot was a lethal one." Moving the muzzle forward, she placed it against the side of the blue-green, valentine-shaped head. Her expression did not change as she pulled the trigger. The skull jerked once, twin antennae twitched violently, and then the body lay still. As the two scouts deliberated how best to proceed, the bands of red and gold that shone from the compound eyes of their victim gradually began to take on the blank brown tint of lifelessness. The scouts were stolid but apprehensive when they were called before the tripartite board of inquiry. Following the conclusion of the usual terse formalities, questions were put to the female pair by their superiors, to which answers were unhesitatingly given. "We felt we had no choice," the senior scout explained yet again. "The thranx was about to depart." "We had to act," added her comrade by way of support. The senior officer present scratched at an itch behind his head. His neck scales were dulled with age, and he was long overdue to shed and replace his skin. But his eyes were still bright, his mind sharp. "You did the only thing you could." He emphasized his conclusion with a gesture indicative of second-degree conviction. "If the field researcher had returned to his settlement with the information he had gathered, our solitude would immediately have been compromised. That revelation must be prevented until our presence here is militarily secure." "Then we were correct in our assumptions about his activities?" the senior scout inquired. A junior officer gesticulated assent. "The information contained in the alien field instrumentation you recovered was extracted. It was substantially as damaging as you feared." "The situation is to be regretted," added the third presiding officer, "but had you not acted as you did it would be much worse. That was quick thinking of you to place the body in the aircar, program it to retrace its course, and self-destruct after it had traveled a specified distance." He looked at his colleagues. "With luck, the locals will make the assumption that their researcher died as the result of a mechanical failure on the part of his equipment." The senior officer gestured affirmatively. "These thranx are simple settlers. They are not sophisticated visitors from Hivehom. Our report will reflect these considerations." Slitted eyes met those of the two scouts who continued to stand stiffly at attention, their tails held motionless and straight out behind them. "It is fortunate you were in a position to effect this nullification. Appropriate commendations will be forthcoming." The two scouts, who had entered the inquiry desiring simply to avoid condemnation for having precipitated the fatal confrontation, were silently overjoyed. The hopes of their superiors, however, and of their superiors' superiors, were not to be fulfilled. Contrary to their overly sanguine predictions, the local thranx proved not to be as unresponsive as would have been wished. Puzzled by the circumstances in which the competent, well-liked hydrologist had perished, a pair of auditors was sent out from Paszex with orders to retrace the path of the deceased. When they failed to return, a larger search party was empowered. Following its equally inexplicable disappearance, the settlers requested and not long thereafter received an official commission of inquiry from the long-established northern government. Covering the same conspicuously murderous ground as the thranx who had gone before them, they rediscovered what the by now long-demised Worvendapur had threatened to expose. In the ensuing violent confrontation, most of the heavily armed force was wiped out. But this time, the AAnn could not kill them all. Their retreat and flight covered by their rapidly falling comrades, a small contingent of thranx succeeded in reaching the settlement to report not only what they had found, but what had taken place subsequent to their discovery. With serious escalation now appearing to be the only choice left to them, the AAnn proceeded to track the survivors in hopes of taking them out before they could file a formal report with the authorities in the northern hemisphere. Though the AAnn moved quickly, efficiently, and in strength, the thranx managed to hold Paszex and slip revelation of their situation past their assailants' attempts to impose a communications blackout on the settlement. At the same time, the AAnn noble in command was compelled to request that his position be bolstered by reinforcements from offworld. Paszex was nearly taken by the time the first military transport arrived from the north. Startled by the strength of the attacking AAnn, the relieving thranx promptly called for reinforcements of their own. Analysis of sounding data revealed the presence of not merely an outpost, but an entire complex of AAnn settlements located beneath the innocent surface of the extensive lake. Excavating, quarrying, building, the AAnn had made a comprehensive and expensive effort to establish a permanent presence on Willow-Wane before the thranx became aware of their intent. The subsurface lines the late, lamented Worvendapur had detected and recorded on his instrumentation had been tunnels, not geologic faults. Eventually, the AAnn were driven out of and away from Paszex. But their underground installation proved too extensive and well fortified to be taken. Diplomatic, if not military, attrition led to the AAnn being granted a portion of their claim to Willow-Wane, allowing them to maintain and expand the settlement in an area not seriously coveted by the thranx but forbidding them to establish any others. This compact was wildly unpopular on Willow-Wane itself, but larger factors were at work. Better to concede the existence of a single settlement, however far-ranging and illegal, than to risk war over a world already extensively settled and developed. So the intruding AAnn were tolerated, the least of their specious claims accepted. Such are the workings of broad-scale diplomacy, in which assorted small murders are ingenuously subsumed into what professional diplomats euphemistically refer to as the "overall picture." In its inert and hypocritical shadow, the pain of those who have lost friends and relations is conveniently overlooked. Revenge was not a prominent passion among the thranx, but there were more than a few feelings of loss and betrayal among the survivors of Paszex. Among these were what remained of the family Ven. Comprising a sizable portion of the settlement's population, they had nearly been wiped out in the first assault. The survivors struggled to carry on the family name, but ever thereafter not many were to be found who could boast of the patronymic Ven among the hive Da and the clan Pur. Acutely conscious of their loss and their responsibility to keep the family line from dying out, these few became more insular than was normal among their kind. Their offspring were inevitably inculcated in these same aberrant traits, and in turn passed them on to the next generation. To one in particular. It had been a long day, and the members of the Grand Council had retired, as was their custom, to the hot, steamy quiet of the contemplation burrow deep beneath the council chamber, there to relax and relieve the stress of governance. Solitude was not sought, and conversation turned to more pleasant, less weighty matters. Except among two. Though aged by any standard, they were among the youngest members of the council. Together they discussed two recent events of import that appeared to have no connection. It was in fact a connection they were drawing. "The AAnn grow bolder than usual." "Yes," declared the male. "A terrible shame about Paszex." As he spoke he inhaled perfumed steam from the herbal wrap that covered half his breathing spicules. "Nothing to be done about it. You cannot bring back the dead, nor can one in good conscience vote to embark on an all-out war in memory of the already deceased." "The AAnn always count upon us to be reasonable and logical in such matters. May their scales rot and their eggs shrivel." "Sirri!!ch, why not? We always are. But you are right. The incursion onto Willow-Wane was unprecedented for its size. But we can do nothing about it." "I know," agreed the senior female. Her ovipositors lay flat against the back of her abdomen, no longer capable of laying eggs. "I am concerned about preventing a recurrence elsewhere in the future. We must strengthen ourselves." The male tri-eint gestured second-degree ambivalence. "What more can we do than what we have done? The AAnn dare not make a blatant attack. They know it would invite an overwhelming response." "Today that is true. Tomorrow ..." Her antennae fluttered significantly. "Every day the AAnn work to strengthen and enlarge their forces. What is needed is something to keep them off guard, to divert them." Amid the steam, her gleaming compound eyes glittered softly. "Something perhaps not as predictable as the thranx." The male was intrigued. He shifted his position on the resting bench. "You are not hypothesizing. You have something specific in mind." "You know of the alien outpost on the high plateau?" "The bipeds? The hu'mans?" "Humans," she replied, correcting his pronunciation. Human words had no bite and were difficult to enunciate. Their speech was soft, like their fleshy exteriors. "I have just read a report. Progress there is good. So good that preparations are being made to take the next step in deepening and developing relations." "With the humans?" The tone in the tri-eint's voice was palpable and was accompanied by suitable gestures of disgust. "Why would we want to enhance relations with such unpleasant creatures?" "You do not deny their intelligence?" The female was challenging him. "Their morality and manners, perhaps, but their intelligence, no--not based on the secret reports I have seen." Sliding off the bench, he reached back to remove the herbal wrap. "They have a conspicuous military capability." "Which they are hardly about to put at the service of such as ourselves." Antennae twitched. "I have seen those reports as well. The great majority of the human population finds our appearance abhorrent. I must say that the feeling is mutual. Mutual dislike is a shaky pedestal on which to raise an alliance." "Such things take time," she chided him as she used a foothand to rub scented polish across her exoskeleton. Combined with the steam that permeated the chamber, it imparted to the purplish blue chitin a semimetallic sheen. "And education." The male councilor barked his antipathy. "You cannot educate without contact. Admittedly, from what little is released to us the project here goes well enough. But it is modest in size and scope, and does nothing to deal with the revulsion most humans seem to experience in our presence." "That is so." Nictitating membranes flushed condensation from individual lenses. "But there is another project, larger in scope and more pointed." Her counterpart looked up, uncertain. "I have not heard of another." "It is being kept quiet until it has matured sufficiently for mutual revelation. Only a few know of it. A very few. It is considered absolutely crucial to the development of relations between our two species. Above all, the AAnn must not learn of it. As it is, they consider the humans a threat to their expansionist intentions. The thought of a human-thranx axis might drive them to do something ... ill considered." "What human-thranx axis? We hardly have relations with the bipeds." "There is work afoot to change that," she assured him. The male chirped skeptically. "Proper, formal relations between our two species I can envision. But a permanent alliance?" He executed the strongest possible gesture of negativity. "It will never happen. Neither side wants it." "There are visionaries, admittedly few in number for now, who believe otherwise. Hence this second, most secret project." Her declaration of seriousness was leavened with just the barest hint of amusement. "You will never believe where it is." Moving close so that the other eints in the relaxation chamber could not possibly overhear, she touched antennae with him while whispering into the hearing organs on his b-thorax. She was right. He didn't. Excerpted from Phylogenesis by Alan Dean Foster All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.

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