The story is set in 2143. In the aftermath of wars, plagues and environmental collapse, the world’s scientists have taken control. The new technocrats are called T-men, because their brains are transformed by implants. They work closely with an artificial intelligence, Raina, whose mandate is to bring Earth’s biosphere back to health.
A second year cadet at Vancouver’s Space Training Academy, Dom Tessier looks forward to becoming a T-man himself. Brain implants have enhanced his memory and sped up the learning process; too, the cadets are starting to communicate telepathically. Astra Allison, a girl Dom knows from childhood, is in the same year. She and Dom kiss while wearing telecaps, and it’s intense.
Dom’s life holds a mystery: someone’s love child, raised in an orphanage, he’s gone to the best schools and never lacked for money, but he has no idea who supports him or why. His guardian, a lawyer, is close mouthed about the Lupine fund.
His benefactor is Lucas Rivera, a career criminal who was convicted of bringing in illegal immigrants, and transported to Mars. Dom is his clone. Now very ill, Lucas has returned to Earth for treatment. Vancouver’s Grace Hospital has technology that might save him, and the owners are in his debt.
Lucas’s trip is difficult, and by the time he gets to hospital he’s almost dead. He’s greeted by Dr. Johansen and his wife Bibi Santos. Thirty years ago Lucas rescued Bibi and her family and brought them to America. She’s almost the same age as Lucas, but looks eighteen because she’s transferred the information about herself into the brain of her clone Cici. The doctors agree that Lucas’s optimal treatment is to merge with his own clone, Dom. It’s his main chance to recapture his youth, and live on.
Mind mergers between the willing can be highly beneficial, but Dom hardly knows Lucas, and like all his school he looks down on convicts. Dom is just starting out in life, and he has hopes and dreams. He’s in love. Will Dom choose to save his only relative, the one who’s given him everything? Or will he coldly let him die?
With the novel’s background story, one difficulty was how the scientists and technicians would seize power. Dark matter and dark energy are estimated to constitute twenty-five percent and seventy percent of the universe, respectively, but no one knows what they are. It seems possible that a hundred years from now scientists will have figured it out, and new weapons emerge.
While the next century will likely see more advances in technology, there’s no sign yet that humans will take up settling their conflicts through reason and compromise. Dom’s being descended from a convict is analogous to humanity as a whole: while reaching for the stars, the race remains flawed and immature.