Dr. Larry Clark is a bioengineer working on Skrills. He learns that the Taelon Synod has decided to stop working on the Alpha series of the Skrills, which have an increased sense of self-preservation compared to the Gamma series, like the ones Boone and Sandoval have. The Alpha series are to be put on ice and in storage. Larry, who is very attached to the Skrills, accidentally bonds with Mother, an Alpha series Skrill from which all the others have been engineered. Since he doesn't have a CVI, Mother exerts a lot of control over him and is able to fire itself if it senses danger. At a train station, Larry saves a girl named Janice from a group of thugs. They go to a boat Larry's been wanting to buy and spend the night together. In the morning, Larry finds out that Janice wants to steal all the other Skrill from the lab and sell them to pay off her debts. When he gets angry, she leaves. Da'an sends Boone and Sandoval to find Mother, as a Skrill is capable of killing a Taelon. Boone and Lily find Larry on the boat, but he wounds Lily with a blast and runs away. Doors wants Boone and Lily to recover the Skrill, so it can be studied and replicated. Boone learns from Da'an that the Synod has decided to destroy the rest of the Alpha series as too dangerous. Larry sneaks back into the lab and gets angry at his supervisor after learning that Mother's children are all dead. Boone tries to reason with Larry, but Sandoval appears and attacks Larry. Larry blasts a hole into the sewers and flees. Sandoval orders all exists to the sewers sealed. His plan is to flood the tunnels with nerve gas to eliminate Larry and Mother. Boone uses his own Skrill to find Larry and Mother and convinces Mother to leave Larry. Larry leaves for California, while Mother is kept alive in the lab.
- Battle Thralls: Boone learns that the Skrills used to be a primitive species of low intelligence on a planet the Taelons encountered. They captured some of the members and re-engineered them into weapons. A Synod member mentions that the contact with the Skrills involved "carnage".
- Defence Mechanism Superpower: Mother only fires a blast when it feels threatened. It's implied to be a natural defense mechanism of the species. The only other way to fire a blast is by controlling a Skrill with a CVI.
- I Call It "Vera": Larry has nicknamed all the Skrills he has engineered. Boone's Skrill is called Condor, while Sandoval's is Raven. Boone decides he likes the name, especially since he now knows that the Skrills possess low-level intelligence.
- Symbiotic Possession: This appears to be the relationship between Larry and Mother. While the Skrill exerts its will on Larry's mind, the control isn't complete.