An overlarge and sloppy but occasionally touching genetic-engineering yarn. Following up on a mysterious message, Dr. Saxton Belcraft is on his way to visit his estranged whiz-kid biologist brother Vic, when he's stopped by the police: the town where Vic's genetic-engineering lab is located is cut off--a deadly plague, which reduces all living and once-living matter to gray ash, is loose. Soon, though, the plague apparently expires. Belcraft, evading the patrols, investigates, and comes upon a bizarre worm-like creature in the ruins of Vic's lab; he feels curiously compelled to protect and nurture it. It turns out that the creature was designed and manufactured by Vic to resist the plague and perform some unspecified task in the service of all humanity. Charmed, Belcraft takes Alphamega (Meg) with him--but he's soon captured by cohorts of the fanatic, Bible-thumping anti-genetic-engineering crusader Adrian Clegg. Meg, who rapidly grows into an intelligent, sensitive two-year-old girl with strange mental powers, is viciously tortured by Clegg-ites. After various overcomplications, Meg and Belcraft escape, but Meg is later killed by an assassin. Dying, she dissolves into a benign virus that, infecting everyone, leaves its victims better, balanced and happier--a development arranged by the late Vic. Cluttered--what with several Russian spies too many, and some wholly superfluous astral aliens--and poorly focused: a sometimes poignant but very messy outing, and far from Williamson's best.