Sliding Scales (Pip and Flinx Adventure Series #9)

Sliding Scales (Pip and Flinx Adventure Series #9)

by Alan Dean Foster

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Overview

From bestselling author Alan Dean Foster comes a fantastic Pip and Flinx adventure starring a certain twenty-four-year-old redhead with emerald eyes and uncanny abilities and his devoted mini-dragon protector. Time and again, the daring pair have braved countless dangers to emerge victorious. But now Flinx attempts something that may be impossible for the heretofore undefeated hero. His mission: to take a vacation.

Never have the cares of the universe lain so heavily on Flinx’s shoulders, nor the forces arrayed against him seemed so invincible. Pursued by a newly revealed sect of doomsday fanatics, hunted by factions inside and outside the Commonwealth for transgressions real and imagined, expected to single-handedly avert a looming galactic crisis (or bear responsibility for the consequences), Flinx can be forgiven for feeling a slight touch of melancholy.

There’s only one solution for what ails Flinx, according to his ship’s AI. But taking time off is tricky business. With an increasing number of enemies chasing him with ever-greater enthusiasm, Flinx must find a getaway shrouded in obscurity. Jast, a planet smack in the middle of nowhere, is the perfect locale.

Yet even in a place where hardly anyone’s ever seen a human, Flinx and trouble can’t stay separated for long. Unfortunately, Flinx hasn’t a clue that his vacation paradise is in reality a danger zone of the highest magnitude. And by the time he learns the truth, it may be too late.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780307546661
Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
Publication date: 12/24/2008
Series: Pip and Flinx Adventure Series , #9
Sold by: Random House
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 288
Sales rank: 95,262
File size: 4 MB

About the Author

Alan Dean Foster has written in a variety of genres, including hard science fiction, fantasy, horror, detective, western, historical, and contemporary fiction. He is the author of the New York Times bestseller Star Wars: The Approaching Storm, as well as novelizations of several films including Star Wars, the first three Alien films, and Alien Nation. His novel Cyber Way won the Southwest Book Award for Fiction in 1990, the first science fiction work ever to do so. Foster and his wife, JoAnn Oxley, reside in Prescott, Arizona, in a house built of brick that was salvaged from a turn-of-the-century miners’ brothel. He is presently at work on several new novels and media projects.


From the Hardcover edition.

Read an Excerpt

1
 
I am in danger of becoming permanently, irrevocably, and unrescuably moody, Flinx found himself thinking. He knew unrescuably wasn’t a word, but the mangled syntax fit his melancholic state of mind. Forced to leave a badly injured Clarity Held behind on New Riviera in the care of Bran Tse-Mallory and Truzenzuzex, pursued now by a newly revealed clutch of fatalistic end-of-the-universe fanatics who called themselves the Order of Null (whose existence he might be responsible for), sought by Commonwealth authorities and others for reasons multifarious and diverse, he could be forgiven for sinking into a mood as black as the space that enveloped the Teacher.
 
Sensing his mood, Pip did what she could to cheer him. The flying snake whizzed effortlessly among the garden and fountains of the lounge, occasionally darting out from behind leaves or bushes in an attempt to startle her master—or at least rouse him from the lethargy that had settled on his soul ever since their forced flight from Nur. Recognizing the effort she was making on his behalf, he smiled and stroked her. But he could no more hide his frame of mind from the empathetic minidrag than he could from himself. Emotionally, she knew him better than anyone, Clarity Held included.
 
Clarity, Clarity, Clarity, he murmured softly to himself. When will I be able to see you again? After years of wandering, to have finally found someone he felt truly understood him and he might be able to spend the rest of his life with only to lose so soon was almost more than he could bear. Instead of having her to comfort him, he had agreed to spend who knew how long and how much precious time searching for an ancient weapons platform fabricated by an extinct race that might not even prove useful or usable in diverting an oncoming peril of incalculable dimensions and intent.
 
If that wasn’t enough to depress someone, he could not imagine what was. At least his recurring headaches had not bothered him for a while.
 
Even some of the live plants in the relaxation chamber seemed to sense his melancholy, brushing his seated form with branches and flowers. The exotic scents of several blossoms refreshed but did not inspire him. The striking foliage could touch, even caress, but could not converse. That ability remained the province of the Teacher’s ship-mind. To its credit, in its limited, formalized, electron-shunting fashion, it tried to help.
 
“My medical programming informs me that extended periods of depression can affect the health of a human as seriously as a bacterial infection.”
 
“Go infect yourself,” Flinx snapped irritably.
 
“It also,” the ship continued briskly, “is detrimental to the well-being of any unlucky sentients who are compelled to function in the vicinity of the one so depressed.”
 
Slumped in the lounge chair, Flinx glanced sideways in the direction of the nearest visual pickup. “Are you saying that my mood is contagious?”
 
“I am saying that anything that affects you also affects me. Your continuing mental condition is not conducive to the efficient functioning of this vessel.”
 
“Not to mention myself, eh?” He sat up a little straighter, brushing leaves and the tips of small branches away from his legs and sides. Several of them, very subtly, retracted without having to be touched. “You know, ship, I’ve been thinking about everything Bran and Tru told me, about all that we discussed, and the longer I ponder on it, the more my inclination is to say the hell with it, the hell with everything. Except for Clarity, of course.”
 
“I sense that this energetic verbal response is not an indication of a lightening of mood.”
 
“Damn right it isn’t. Give me one good reason why I shouldn’t do exactly that?”
 
The ship did not hesitate. “Because if you do nothing, there is a strong likelihood that everything and everyone in this galaxy will perish, with the concomitant possibility that the ultimate responsibility will be yours.”
 
He rolled his eyes. “All right—give me another reason.”
 
Surprisingly, the ship did not respond. Advanced AI circuitry notwithstanding, there were still occasional matters that required a certain modicum of cybernetic reflection. This, apparently, was one of them. Or else, he told himself, it was simply pausing for dramatic effect, something it was quite capable of doing.
 
“You are not thinking with your usual clarity—if you will pardon my use of that word in this context. I have been meditating on this situation for some days now, and I believe I may have, in the course of researching and studying the matter, come to a possible solution.”
 
For the first time all day, Flinx showed some real interest. “You don’t say? What have you been studying? Human psychoanalysis?”
 
“Nothing so imprecise. Human behavior can be slotted, albeit with variations, into specific categories. Analysis of yours suggests that you have been laboring under immense mental pressure for some time now.”
 
The tone of his reply was sardonic. “That’s hardly a news bulletin, ship. Tell me: what prescribed remedy have you uncovered?”
 
The ship could not keep a note of—artificial?—accomplishment from creeping into its dulcet electronic tones. “Philip Lynx—you need a vacation. That one quick recent visit to Moth was not nearly what is required. You need a vacation from your concerns, your worries, your fears. From trying to see and learn and study. From the immense threat that looms over the galaxy. From yourself.”
 
It was not the response he had expected. Initially cynical, he found himself more than a little intrigued. “You mean I need to spend time on a beach somewhere, or go for extended hikes in some woods? I’ve done all that.”
 
“No. It’s true you have been to such places and done those things, but it was always with some specific purpose in mind. You need to go somewhere and do some things to no purpose. You need to just ‘be’ for a while. This is a necessity for the health of any human. The library of me says so.”
 
He considered thoughtfully before finally responding, “I don’t know if I can do that, ship. I never have.”
 
“Then,” declared the ship conclusively, “it is time you did so. Every one of my relevant stored medical texts attests to the therapeutic value of such an undertaking. You need to go somewhere interesting and expend some energy in doing nothing. It is necessary for your health.”
 
Could he? he found himself wondering. Could he set everything aside: thoughts of Clarity, of Bran Tse-Mallory, and Truzenzuzex and the steadily approaching evil that lurked behind the Great Emptiness, of the Tar-Aiym weapons platform and all those who sought him, and really do nothing for any appreciable period of time? Could he, dare he, attempt the seemingly impossible? A vacation? Of everything he had done in his short but full life, that struck him as being among the most alien. Even as a child he had not been able to engage in such non-activity. He had been too busy stealing, to keep himself and Mother Mastiff alive.
 
He had been on the verge of saying to hell with everything. Here was his ship advising him to do essentially that, only without the attendant rancor. For a little while, at least. But where to seek such mental and physical succor? He asked as much of the Teacher.
 
“I have devoted almost a full minute of thought to the matter,” the synthetic voice replied, clearly gratified by Flinx’s decision. “Given the inauspicious interest in your person by everyone from several independent inimical organizations to the Commonwealth authority itself, it is clear that you would not be able to relax and refresh yourself on any developed world within the Commonwealth.”
 
Now there’s an understatement, Flinx thought.
 
“Persisting with this line of reasoning,” ship continued, “it is also plain that if you are forced to spend time on an undeveloped, unexplored world, you will similarly be unable to unwind, as all your mental acuity will perforce be focused on staying alive. This would seem to leave you with few options.”
 
“Indeed it would.” Flinx watched as Pip coiled around a dark-sided shrub and slid sinuously down the oddly patterned bark. It did not appear to bother the bush.
 
“What is required is a comfortably habitable world that lies not only beyond the reach of Commonwealth authority but of those other groups that seek to incommode you. A world where you can move about without, as humans like to put it, having to constantly peer over your shoulder. I do not have any shoulders to peer over, but I am able to grasp the philosophical conceit.”
 
“I always said you were full of conceit,” Flinx riposted. His heart wasn’t really in the verbal sparring, though. He was, as ship had persisted in pointing out, very tired. “You’re going to tell me that you’ve found such a refuge?” Near the pond, Pip was bobbing and weaving like a serpentine boxer as a thorny flower struck reflexively in her direction.”
 

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Sliding Scales (Pip and Flinx Adventure Series #9) 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 15 reviews.
Anonymous 7 months ago
Great+read%2C
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
As always, I love any commonwealth book by Foster. I am currently reading the Pip & Flinx series in chronological order, not published order. Every new alien sentient that Foster creates is a brand new treasure. The aliens in this book prove just how strange an occurrence it was that humanity ever encountered the Pitar, a race almost identical to mankind. There is only one plot hole that bothers me in this book. (Vague Spoiler) The Teacher. The Aan completely ignore the ship that the "human spy" arrived on. From reading previous books, this is extremely uncharacteristic of the species. The Aan that I have come to know from Foster's series would have tried to commandeer any unmanned commonwealth ship in their space(or perceived space in this case). When that failed, they would have brought in larger vessels to take the obviously sophisticated ship. Instead, they promptly forget about it.
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Guest More than 1 year ago
Flinx, the mysterious (even to himself) young hero of Alan Dean Foster's first novel, has done a lot of maturing by the time this ninth installment in the series begins. He's acquired his own spaceship, operating by an AI (artifical intelligence unit) with which he trades verbal barbs. He's still accompanied by Pip, the Alaspinian mini-drag (miniature dragon, or - if you prefer - flying snake) who's been his companion since childhood. His empathic psychic abilities are still growing, and he still doesn't understand them. He's in a foul mood at present, because his most recent adventure has ended with the love of his life severely injured. Flinx blames himself, and having to leave Clarity behind - without even stopping to be sure she'll survive - galls him. Yet it's the only hope he has of keeping her safe. So his AI tells Flinx that he needs a vacation. Some time to spend deliberately doing nothing, in a place where he can't possibly be recognized. The AI picks out a remote planet called Jast. Jast is home to a sentient species with a highly developed civilization. It's also a target for the Commonwealth's arch-nemesis, the AAnn Empire. When one of the reptilian aliens is assigned as Flinx's 'guide' (or minder, actually), the young human doesn't object because he's met the AAnn before. He understands and speaks their language, and thinks he understands their culture quite well, too. But on that point he's mistaken, as he discovers when his 'guide' nearly kills him and actually does leave him for dead in a rugged, isolated part of the Jastian landscape. Or he would discover that - if he could only remember how he got there. Initially I groaned a bit when I read the chapter that introduced Flinx's amnesia. 'What a tired old plot device!' I thought. But I kept reading, and before too many more pages were turned I'd decided that the tired old plot device was working just fine. There's not much movement in this book toward resolution of the mysteries central to Flinx's on-going story. It's basically a standalone 'planet of the week' adventure, with character development (for Flinx, and for the AAnn as a species) its only real contribution to the saga as a whole. But, with that understood and accepted, I found it an enjoyable tale. Not the best in the series (I've read them all), but definitely worth the read.
harstan More than 1 year ago
Flinx is on emotional overload. He was forced to leave the love of his life on New Riveria to recover from serious injuries while being pursued by the Order of the Null (end of the world fanatics) and is wanted by the Commonwealth authorities. He also needs to find an invisible weapons platform made by an extinct race that could detect what coming behind the Great Emptiness. His ship¿s A.I. has the solution to erase the stress from Flinx¿s life, something he has never tried before. He is going on vacation........................... His A.I recommends he goes to the neutral planet Jast where no Commonwealth authorities exist and the sentient inhabitants the Vsses resemble hopping mushrooms, but there is a presence of the Aann Empire. This reptilian species is bringing the planet under their control. On the orb, an Aann guide accidentallyknocks him down a canyon and leaves Flinx for dead. The Tier of Sjaiinn, a native artisan group held in contempt by the Empire takes Flinx in to their compound. Since he lost his memory they take care of him. Meanwhile, someone is attacking Aann installations with plans to remove the species from the planet and the guide returns to complete the killing of Flinx................................. The adventures of Flinx and his mini-drag Pip are always fun to read as Flinx somehow attracts troubles like a magnet so that even an innocent vacation turns ugly and could harm friends. SLIDING SCALES is a superb outer space tale with species that seem genuine especially as they relate to the planet and to Flinx. Alan Dean Foster has provided an exciting young adult tale that adults will enjoy too........................... Harriet Klausner