Near-future aliens-among-us yarn, from the author of Forever Free (1999), etc.
Russell Sutton owns a small but expert marine research company. He wants no military ties, but when about-to-be-ex-US Navy Admiral Jack Halliburton approaches him with a deep-water salvage proposal, he’s inclined to listen. Seven miles down, at the bottom of an oceanic trench, reposes a small, metallic, impenetrable object. Russ and Jack soon join forces and raise it. On a site in Samoa, they attempt to probe its secrets, but the superdense, superheavy object proves impervious. Meanwhile, we learn, there are two aliens roaming the Earth, neither aware of the other but alert to the possibility that there may be another. One, the changeling, spent thousands of years in the sea before coming ashore in 1931 to learn about humanity; it can assume any form (“Back in the sixties I spent a week as a motel television set”). The other alien, the chameleon, can adopt any human semblance; a conscienceless killer, determined to survive at all costs, it has secretly become the world’s richest person. When Russ and Jack zap the object with an ultra-high-powered laser, causing it to levitate, news of the artifact’s existence begins to leak out, attracting spooks, newshounds, the changeling and the chameleon. Finally, by hitting the artifact with soundwaves, the investigators elicit a message—but it’s in an indecipherable code. Russ, suddenly and startlingly, becomes aware of the changeling’s existence. But where, and who, is the chameleon?
Well-constructed and intriguingly set up, but ultimately a disagreeable surprise: the story slips away, and you’re left holding an empty coat.