Fourteen year-old Tom Raines has led a rather unconventional life. His father Neil is a gambler who drifts from casino to casino in the hopes of winning enough to quit this life-style. Tom knows better. His mother has already deserted them. His dad’s drinking is clearly interfering with his judgment. The only one making any money is Tom- an ace at virtual reality gaming.
When Tom meets Heather in his virtual school- Rosewood Reformatory Sim- he can’t believe his good fortune. Heather invites Tom to a video chat the next day. She coyly says, “What network address will you be at tomorrow, Tom?” Little does Tom realize that Heather will share the network address with General Terry Marsh who has been trying to track down Tom to become part of the military.
World War III is being waged. Combatants control drones remotely. As General Marsh explains to Tom, “But the Russo-Chinese military went a step further and gave human beings active control over their combat machines. Strategists. Unconventional thinkers. Risk takers. Mavericks. Young ones because teenagers have certain attributes critical to this type of warfare. So now we too have young people on the front lines, young people playing a critical role in the war effort.”
Neil grudgingly signed the papers that allow Tom to travel with General Marsh to the Pentagonal Spire. But the general hasn’t been completely forthcoming. Neural processors are installed in all plebs (young military recruits). If Tom goes along with General Marsh’s plans, will he ever be the same? The chance is too great to take.
Tom begins to back away when suddenly Heather appears wearing the insignia of the intrasolar fighters.
What will Tom decide to do? Will this be the biggest gamble of his life?