Aila is fed up with Earth politics. More than anything else she wants her best friend, Huan, to be free and working with her to solve the scientific problems of the 26th century. Coded messages and secret meetings are the only way they can work together. Huan is a citizen of the Chinese-Russian Confederacy (ZPK), while Aila is stuck in the Unified American Alliance (UAA)—they help each other by sharing information, risking charges of treason if they were ever discovered.
Having just graduated from the academy, Aila is starting her career as the science officer on the UAAS Fox when Huan warns her that the ZPK has broken the UAA's codes and will be attacking soon. Aila uses the information to save her ship from an attack, earning immediate suspicion and praise from Fleet Command and her own shipmates.
Now, because of Aila's demonstrated technological prowess, the Fox is being sent to join a task force searching for a missing ship in a dangerous region of space. An enemy Artificial Intelligence ambushes the task force, causing the other ships in the task force to explode. Aila manages to defend her ship from the initial attack, using Huan's ZPK technology, but the AI takes control of her ship. After her captain is wounded and with the senior bridge crew unavailable, Aila reluctantly takes command. Now she must make her first real life-or-death choices, figure out how to work with the ship's Marines, and fight dirty.
Artificial Intelligences are illegal in the 26th century. Humanity is about to be reminded why.