They call them the “rat-catchers.” They’re the crew of the spaceship Daedalus, which an economically destitute Earth has dispatched on a mission to re-establish contact with its far-flung, long-lost space colonies. Alex Alexander, ship’s biologist, must help solve the mysteries of human and alien ecosystems that he encounters light-years from home. The planet Floria initially appears to be one of the few Earth colonies that’s actually prospered since its initial settlement. But underneath the surface of the society, the “Planners” keep a strict, repressive rule over the Florians, while the police are apparently attempting to assert their own authority. But is either group actually what they seem?
They call them the “rat-catchers.” They’re the crew of the spaceship Daedalus, which an economically destitute Earth has dispatched on a mission to re-establish contact with its far-flung, long-lost colonies in space. Alex Alexander, the ship’s biologist, together with his staff, must help solve the mysteries of human and alien ecosystems that he encounters light-years from home. Dendra is a stable world, covered by a huge, unchanging forest-except that nothing living can really be free of change. The planet has no seasons, but its animal life still undergoes life-cycles involving birth, maturation, metamorphosis, and death. The Earth colony sent to tame the world has failed, at least in the terms expected of it, and seems beyond redemption; but the crew of the Daedalus still has to find out exactly why and how the program has gone wrong. Provided, of course, that they can survive the investigation itself!
The colony was successful. That was evident as soon as the recontact ship Daedalus had landed. It was successful, prosperous, and everything was due to the work and genius of J. Wildeblood, biochemist and planetary leader. This world now bore the name of its benefactor. And it was truly his empire, with a grateful, hard-working people heeding every wish of his descendants. But the suspicious scientific minds of the Daedalus‘s special crew were very uneasy. Was Wildeblood’s Empire all it seemed – or was there a structure invisible to the eyewhich spelled out something a lot more blood-curdling?
The fourth landing of the Daedalus Mission confronts Alex and his companions with a colonial culture seemingly modeled on a classic Utopian dream, but all of its inhabitants are infected with a mysterious alien parasite, and they no longer seem entirely human. Are they being controlled by the parasite, or has the parasite merely enabled them to transform themselves? Can the visitors from Earth avoid infection themselves, and what will the consequences be if they cannot? For once, the risks of the contact seem potentially far greater than any possible reward – but that still leaves the visitors with the necessity of passing judgment and deciding what to do, in an exceedingly awkward situation.