Esen is part of a Web, five similar shapeshifters who can share all memories. Esen is assigned the planet of Kraos as a starting task by Ersh, the Eldest shapeshifter. But once on Kraos, Esen becomes involved against a Kraosian plot to eliminate a First Contact team from the Commonwealth. While in the shape of a Lanivarian (a doglike race), Esen becomes friends with Ragem, a very perceptive Human. Esen's true nature is revealed, and Captain Kearn becomes obsessed with tracking down this threatening, evil creature. A parallel plot runs in the meantime, as a series of sections labelled "Out There" tells of an organism referred to only as Death or the Enemy. Death shows remarkable similarities to the shapeshifters of the Web, and some of the most interesting aspects of the novel come from the way Esen and friends try to differentiate themselves from this ravenous relative.