First of a new trilogy, from the author of the four-part Saga of Pliocene Exile and the Intervention sequels, featuring the Galactic Milieu, an association of psychically gifted (``operant'') races with which humanity is rapidly being merged. The Remillard family saga continues, as the death of the evil Vic somehow generates two evil successors--the mysterious Fury and the five-part Hydra; Fury is intent on destroying humanity's strengthening links with the Milieu, while the psycho-vampire Hydra, controlled by Fury, goes round draining its victims of life- force. Meanwhile, in defiance of Milieu-imposed eugenics laws, Teresa decides to bear another child; she's helped by her son, young super-operant Marc, and old uncle Rogi (he's instructed and aided by a super-powerful disembodied alien Lylmik). The baby, Jack, turns out to be a super-duper operant but a genetic wreck, and must psychically save himself from death by cancer; Marc is tempted by Fury's megalomaniac notions; Hydra (five Remillard youngsters) is unmasked but escapes; we never find out who Fury is. Okay for series fans, with well-handled operant ideas and an abundance of Remillards; but overlong, patchy, and frustratingly inconclusive for everyone else.