Cluster (1977) (Also known as Vicinity Cluster in the UK.)
As the story opens, the alien envoy Pnotl of Sphere Knyfh attempts to enlist the cooperation of Sphere Sol in a mutual crisis of galactic proportion: Galaxy Andromeda has discovered the secret of energy transfer and intends to use it to steal the basic energy of the Milky Way Galaxy. Knyfh proposes to give Sphere Sol the secret of transfer -- the ability to transfer an individual's Kirlian aura (and thus his entire mind and personality) into another "host." In exchange for this priceless knowledge, Knyfh and other Spheres request that Sphere Sol spread the technology to its neighboring Spheres, creating galactic coalition in which all minor spheres will patrol their own regions to find and weed out Andromedan agents.
Kirlian transfer, a technology known to the mysterious vanished culture known as The Ancients, is a millionth the effective cost of mattermission and has been sought for decades. This knowledge is proven by Pnotl himself, who pleads his case while hosted in a human body, and the government of Sol agrees to the plan.
Because a hosted aura fades at the rate of about 1 unit per Earth day, higher-Kirlian individuals last longer and thus have more freedom of movement. Sol's highest-Kirlian individual at the moment is Flint, a green-skinned native of Outworld, Sphere Sol's most distant planet. Flint has a Kirlian aura of 200, an eidetic memory (useful for memorizing the complex equations of Kirlian transfer that he will need to communicate to other spheres), extraordinary intelligence, and is highly adaptable. His mission is complicated, however, by the fact that he is pursued everywhere by a very high Kirlian female Andromedan agent -- somehow the Andromedans are able to detect and trace Kirlian transfers.
Flint embarks upon several missions to bring transfer technology to neighboring spheres, inhabiting various alien forms and learning a lot about alien sex, among other things. His efforts are successful despite a couple of false starts and the efforts of the Andromedan agent to prevent or kill him. In the process, the mutual attraction of their two vastly superior auras begin to create a conflict of loyalties. Upon discovery and investigation of an archaeological site of the Ancients in the Pleiades, Flint and a group of other non-Sol entities recover the information that will allow them also to detect and trace transfers, giving them parity with Andromeda. One of the group is revealed as the Andromedan agent and in an attempt to prevent her escape the entire site is destroyed.
Flint and his nemesis are, through the mechanism of the Ancient site, transferred into Mintakan bodies. Choosing to leave things as they are, with parity between their two galaxies, Flint and the Andromedan mate and remain together until their auras fade (which happens rapidly since their physical bodies have been destroyed).
|Cluster series by Piers Anthony|
|Cluster • Chaining the Lady • Kirlian Quest • Thousandstar • Viscous Circle|