The Neanderthal Parallax trilogy, Sawyer's masterwork to date, concludes with Hybrids. Torn between two worlds, geneticist Mary Vaughan and Neanderthal physicist Ponter Boddit struggle to find a way to make their relationship work. At the publisher's request, this title is being sold without Digital Rights Management software (DRM) applied.
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September 14, 2003
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Excerpt from Hybrids by Robert J. Sawyer
"My fellow Americans -- and all other human beings on this version of Earth -- it gives me great pleasure to address you this evening, my first major speech as your new president. I wish to talk about the future of our kind of hominid, of the species known as Homo sapiens: people of wisdom..."
"Mare," said Ponter Boddit, "it is my honor to introduce you to Lonwis Trob."
Mary was used to thinking of Neanderthals as robust--"Squat Schwarzeneggers" was the phrase the Toronto Star had coined, referring to their short stature and massive musculature. So it was quite a shock to behold Lonwis Trob, especially since he was now standing next to Ponter Boddit.
Ponter was a member of what the Neanderthals called "generation 145," meaning he was thirty-eight years old. He stood about five-eight, making him on the tall side for a male of his kind, and he had muscles most bodybuilders would envy.
But Lonwis Trob was one of the very few surviving members of generation 138, and that made him a staggering one hundred and eight years old. He was scrawny, although still broad-shouldered. All Neanderthals had light skin -- they were a northern-adapted people -- but Lonwis's was virtually transparent, as was what little body hair he had. And although his head showed all the standard Neanderthal traits -- low forehead; doubly arched browridge; massive nose; square, chinless jaw -- it was completely devoid of hair. Ponter, by comparison, had lots of blond hair (parted in the center, like most Neanderthals) and a full blond beard.
Still, the eyes were the most arresting features of the two Neanderthals now facing Mary Vaughan. Ponter's irises were golden; Mary had found she could stare into them endlessly. And Lonwis's irises were segmented, mechanical: his eyeballs were polished spheres of blue metal, with a blue-green glow emanating from behind the central lenses.
"Healthy day, Scholar Trob," said Mary. She didn't take his hand; that wasn't a Neanderthal custom. "It's an honor to meet you."
"No doubt it is," said Lonwis. Of course, he was speaking in the Neanderthal tongue -- there was only one, so the language had no name -- but his Companion implant was translating what he said, pumping synthesized English words out of its external speaker.
And what a Companion it was! Mary knew that Lonwis Trob had invented this technology when he was a young man, back in the year Mary's people had known as 1923. In honor of all that the Companions had done for the Neanderthals, Lonwis had been presented with one that had a solid-gold faceplate. It was installed on the inside of his left forearm; there were few Neanderthal southpaws. In contrast, Ponter's Companion, named Hak, had a plain steel faceplate; it looked positively chintzy in comparison.
"Mare is a geneticist," said Ponter. "She is the one who proved during my first visit to this version of Earth that I was genetically what they call a Neanderthal." He reached over and took Mary's small hand in his own, massive, shortfingered one. "More than that, though, she is the woman I love. We intend to bond shortly."
Lonwis's mechanical eyes fell on Mary, their expression impossible to read. Mary found herself turning to look out the window of her office, here on the second floor of the old mansion that housed Synergy Group headquarters in Rochester, New York. The gray bulk of Lake Ontario spread to the horizon. "Well," said Lonwis, or at least that was how his gold Companion translated the sharp syllable he uttered. But then his tone lightened and his gaze shifted to Ponter. "And I thought I was doing a lot for cross-cultural contact."