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Nigel Sheldon has established his new civilisation in the Andromeda Galaxy. One day he is visited by Paula Myo, and it is revealed that he suffers deep feelings of guilt and shame over his actions (in reality, the actions of his clone) during his mission to the Void. He realises that he acted with unreasonable hubris, believing he could destroy the Void where the Raiel had failed. But he also believes that he destroyed Bienvenido, and more specifically killed Kysandra, because he had access to his ANAdroid's consciousness up until Bienvenido was ejected. He does not know that the planet was re-located; rather, he believes that it was destroyed.
"After my clone died in the blast, I was still dreaming my ANAdrioids' life. I watched through their eyes as Uracus opened up and devoured the whole crudding world. They were standing beside her when it happened. I heard her screams." He shook his head in frustration. "I still hear them. The whole fucking plant, Paula—obliterated. It's been two and a half centuries now, and I still hear her. There is no punishment—no suffering—great enough to fit my crime."
Book One: Another death for Laura Brandt Edit
The main action opens shortly after Bienvenido's expulsion from the Void at the conclusion of The Abyss Beyond Dreams. Bienvenido has been placed in star system so far from any galaxy that no individual star is visible. Freed from the Void, the trees have shifted orbit, increasing the drop rate of Faller eggs tenfold and threatening human life, and providing the justification for a totalitarian state headed by Slvasta.
Protected by her Commonwealth technology, Laura Brandt has brought Bienvenido society to approximately a 1950s level of technology, including nuclear weapons, activated a wormhole generator in remains of the colony ship stranded on the planet and discovered that the other planets in the star system were also apparently expelled from the void for noncooperation. One aquatic planet contains the Vatni, a friendly amphibious species that Laura brings in part to Bienvenido to assist in protecting the coasts from Fallers, and a number of planets appear barren. The last, Ursell, contains Prime aliens, who send ships to invade Bienvenido.
The Prime approaching Bienvenido are ultimately defeated by the combined operation of Slivasta's air force and nuclear weapons, Laura's wormhole, and the Commonwealth technology wielded by Kysandra and the surviving Nigel Sheldon ANAdroids. Laura then eliminates the Prime threat by using two mobile wormhole generators ("floaters") to set up a stable wormhole between the atmosphere of the system's gas giant and Uracus, genociding the Primes. However, in order to set up the link, she is forced to travel to Uracus and create a distraction, uploading her memory store to the floaters only moments before the Primes successfully overcome her Commonwealth force field with their own nuclear weapons, causing her latest death.
Book Two: Defence of the State Edit
More than 250 years later, the government is a totalitarian police state in which the People's Defense Force acts to keep order, expose Faller nests, and protect the state. Society is reminiscent of Stalinist Russia. Laura Brandt is remembered as "Mother Laura" and her heroic self-sacrifice is celebrated annually on "Fireyear Day". Kysandra has also passed into mythological status as "The Warrior Angel", a guardian angel who watches over Bienvenido and protects it against Fallers, albeit one who does not support the State. Some people believe she is real, others think she is a story told to children, or propaganda promulgated by the Eliters, who are the Bienvenido equivalent of Highers and are oppressed by the government, which believes that unless restricted, Eliters could use their biological abilities to do computational processing and storage and to communicate and network wirelessly to dominate the other humans of Bienvenido.
This book presents the viewpoints of Captain Chaing, a PSR officer, and Ry Evine, an astronaut who is concealing his Eliter abilities. Chaing believes that as a child, he met and was saved by Warrior Angel, and who believes he sees her again, in the bustle of Fireyear Day celebrations. Later, he is alerted to Faller activity by two sources: Corilla, a young eliter woman serving as an informant in return for being permitted to take university classes; and Jenifa,a PSR corporal acting undercover. Based on those tips, Chaing is able to identify a Faller nest, but during the investigation, his partner is captured, killed and eaten by the Fallers. Enraged, Chaing successfully kills several Fallers, and meets the monstrous "breeder Faller" variety that he had thought to be Eliter myth.
Chaing is outnumbered and about to be killed when the Warrior Angel arrives, demolishing the Fallers with Commonwealth technology. Kysandra reveals that Chaing has dormant Advancer genes that activated in the emergency, calling for help and alerting her to his location. She asks Chaing to conceal that he is technically an Eliter and attempt to rise in the PSR where he can do some good against Fallers. Kysandra also warns that there are many Faller nests active, breeding more Fallers and working toward the day when there will be enough of them to directly assault the human population of Bienvenido. Afterward, Chaing is recruited by Stonal, the director of a secret unit within the PSR, to aid in the battle against the Fallers and to help conceal the existence of breeder Fallers and the extent of the Faller threat, and becomes partners and lovers with Jenifa. Stonal has Corila sent to a work camp to prevent her knowledge from leaking.
Ry is training for his first space flight, aided by his fellow astronaut, best friend and lover Anala Em Yulei. Although he is tasked with reaching orbit and destroying a Faller tree, Ry's mission is compromised when an unknown force reprograms his missile to strike a different portion of the tree than planned, followed by the appearance of an unknown space craft. Ry is also visited by Stonal, who instructs him to lie about his observations to prevent public knowledge of the UFO. Outraged, Ry leaves the space program and heads for the likely destination of the UFO to investigate.
Book Three: Running from a Fall Edit
Book Three introduces Florian, an eliter who lives in relative isolation as a forest ranger, and who supplements his income by harvesting local flora for Bienvenido's drug distributors and by going on poaching expeditions with a Vatni friend. While poaching, Florian encounters the UFO - an escape pod from the ill-fated expedition to the Forest, which houses the memories of Joey Stein. The pod gives him a human baby, instructs him to keep the baby safe for a month to save the planet, and provides him with a Commonwealth operating system and data package for his macrocellular clusters, together with some Commonwealth supplies.
Meanwhile, Chaing and Stonal have arrived in Florian's valley to investigate the pod landing. Stonal deduces that they pod may have brought a Commonwealth human to Bienvenido and assigns Chaing the task of overseeing the search. Florian manages to stay barely one step ahead of Chaing, fleeing to his criminal contacts for support, and raising the baby, who seems on track to grow to adulthood within the month. When Florian's criminal network attempts to seize them, Florian stuns his attackers and flees to a distant relative's club. Meanwhile Chaing is close on his trail, aided by Jenifa, who is secretly attempting to gain information in order to assist her mother, a high ranking PSR officer who would like to depose Stonal.
Book Four: A Long Fast Week Edit
Florian remains in hiding at Tarania's club with the quickly growing child, who he has named Essie and who views him as her father. Meanwhile, Chaing and Jenifa arrest and interrogate everyone they can find with a connection to Florian, including his mother, Castelito. Castelito successfully forces Chaing to release her by revealing that she knows Chaing has dormant eliter genes. However, as the investigation intensifies, Florian and Essie attempt to flee the city, only to be captured by agents of Roxwolf, the city's dominant crime boss.
Upon meeting Roxwolf, they learn that he is a breeder Faller - the descendant of life forms duplicated by the Faller eggs, with genetic traits selected by his parents. However, as a result of a reproductive error, Roxwolf is a mixed form, apparently half human and half based on a local predator of that name. Roxwolf explains that he has mixed loyalties because he does not believe the Fallers will allow him to live after conquering Bienvenido and attempts to negotiate his protection in return for full Commonwealth technical knowledge. The negotiations fail, and Roxwolf gains the advantage when Essie's memories and Commonwealth biononics activate, allowing her to protect herself. With his hideout under attack from Chaing's forces, Roxwolf flees.
Florian and Essie briefly confront Chaing and Jenifa, then flee aided by Ry Evine, who had been staking out the area in an effort to investigate the UFO. Chaing and Jenifa are able to corner the fugitives on a wharf, but they are saved by the arrival of Kysandra. Chaing attempts to question the Warrior Angel but is prevented by Faller inflitrators of the PSR, who start an attack. Kysandra, Florian, Ry, and Paula flee in a submarine, and Essie reveals that she is actually a duplicate of Paula Myo.
Book Five: Safe Haven Edit
Stonal turns the UFO over to Faustina, head of the secret police science division, and briefs the Prime Minister, Alolphus, on Florian's escape. Loyal but a pragmatist, Stonal believes that if they are not able to capture Paula before she reaches adulthood, they will need to negotiate, and that Paula's Commonwealth knowledge offers some possibilities for their currently desperate struggle against the Fallers. Stonal concludes that if the Fallers are desperate enough to attack Kysandra in the open, they are likely to be forced to make their final attack shortly.
Meanwhile, Kysandra, the ANAdroids, and the fugitives regroup at Kysandra's hideout in Port Chana, an area secretly controlled by Kysandra's eliter network. Paula explains that she and Nigel had a backup plan - if he was unable to resolve the void mission, he would use a memory store and genetic copy of Paula to create a duplicate in the Void. Unable to assist in Paula's planning, Florian and Kysandra begin a romantic relationship.
While Chaing is injured and medicated from the assault on Roxwolf's hideout, Jenifa drugs and seduces him, causing him to admit that he released Castillito because of a secret, but not what the secret is. Jenifa's mother instructs her to continue to pretend to be loyal and romantically interested in Chaing in order to learn the secret for political use against Stonal.
Working with the team, Paula brainstorms options, including negotiations with the government or attempting an evacuation to Aqueous using the wormhole. After reviewing records, she concludes that the gas giant, Valatare, is likely a prison in which the Rail armada was trapped in stasis after assaulting the Void. Paula also guesses that a lost colony ship is likely to have crashed on the planet's southern polar continent, and the team begins planning an expedition to recover technology that might allow them to explore Valatare and free the Raiel.
Stonal sends Chaing to Port Chana to attempt to find and open negotiations with Kysandra and Paula, and Chaing brings Jenifa and Corilla to assist. They are not able to contact Kysandra or Paula, but Castellito secretly meets Jenifa and accuses Chaing of being a secret eliter, and Jenifa's mother sends her a device to monitor if Chaing is broadcasting on eliter wavelengths. Jenifa and Chaing find clues of suspicious shipping plans, and begin staking out the ship that Paula plans to take to the southern continent.
Faustina is able to communicate with the UFO/Joey Stein, and reveals that she is actually Svasta's wife, Bethaneve, rejuvenated and provided a new appearance as one of Kysandra's agents. The two of them attempt plan a strategy, and Joey begins communicating with Stonal. Aldophus and Stonal consider whether it will be possible to negotiate, but are interrupted by notification that the government has suffered a nuclear attack.
Book Six: Going Nuclear Edit
Threatened by Paula's existence, the Fallers have raided one of the government’s nuclear weapons facilities, detonating one at the facility to cover their tracks. Both Stonal’s and Paula’s groups deduce that the Fallers have presumably stolen several bombs to use in an effort to overcome Paula’s and Kysandra’s force fields and destroy them.
Meanwhile, Chaing and a squad of marines are staking out the ship they believe Paula will use. As the ship departs, several nests of Fallers and Breeder Fallers attack in force. In the confusion, Paula’s ship departs, later pursued by a ship commandeered by the surviving Fallers. Stonal and Alophus launch a military ship to pursue the Fallers, and launch a space capsule into polar orbit to look for the ships and attempt to make contact with Paula. At the polar continent, Paula’s team locate the lost ship and begin a trek towards it.
In desperation, Stonal and Adolphus speak with Joey Stein. Although Joey is able to offer some technical assistance, Adolphus reveals that he his dying of cancer and asks Joey to cure him. Over Stonal’s objections, Adolphus enters the UFO for several hours of medical treatment. After curing Adolphus, Joey stores Alophus’s memories, then replaces most of his memories and personality with a copy of Joey’s own, and implants some Commonwealth technology. Stonal is suspicious but does not appear to realize the switch.
At the lost colony ship, Paula’s team realizes that the Fallers are pursuing them, and that the Fallers have replaced at least hundreds of “seibears” - aggressive polar predators the size of elephants. In an effort to destroy the Faller’s nuclear weapons, they contact Anala in the orbiting capsule and convince her to order a nuclear strike from the government ship against the Fallers' vessel. That strike beaches the vessel, but the Fallers are able to salvage seven bombs and begin their own trek towards the colony ship.
As Paula and two of the ANAdroids continue to work on restoring the colony ship’s equipment, the remaining team members head out to intercept the nuclear armed Faller seibears. They successfully destroy four bombs, but one of the Fallers is able to set off its bomb, and two more survive to continue to approach the ship. In a race against time, the team is able to activate a wormhole projector and transport a set of Commonwealth equipment and the projector itself to a lifeless nearby world, shortly before the Fallers arrive and destroy the ship with their remaining bombs.
Book Seven: The Faller Apocalypse Edit
At the capital, Stonal and the Deputy Prime Minister depose and imprison Joey/Adolphus under suspicion of Commonwealth influence, then prepare to fight the “Faller Apocalypse,” now aware that the Fallers appear to have successfully replaced species on Bienvenido’s unsettled continents. In desperation, Stonal plans a strike against the Fallers, and continues attempting to contact Paula in the event she somehow survived the blast.
Chaing discover’s Jenifa’s link detector and deduces that she is spying on him, ending their relationship. Jenifa’s mother offers to pull her out and arrange shelter in the government’s final fortress, but Jenifa refuses, now obsessed with proving that Chaing is an Eliter and thereby finally defeating him. Although Jenifa becomes increasingly frustrated, Chaing works with the town’s Eliters, using their intelligence to locate and capture Roxwolf and his gang. Roxwolf informs the PSR that the Fallers intend to begin their attack by dropping tens of thousands of eggs from orbit, destroying all human infrastructure. Convinced that he would not survive Faller rule, Roxwolf offers to cooperate fully in return for a pardon, citizenship, and a guaranty of the same from Paula.
Although Paula’s team believed that life on the neighboring planet of Macule was extinct after a catastrophic nuclear war, they discover that the planet contains “Macule units” - sentient biomechanical entities designed to safeguard materials to reseed the planet with life after it recovers from the nuclear winter. Paula successfully negotiates with the local units, offerering technological knowledge and the promise of transport out of the system in return for raw materials.
After reviewing Macule records and Florian’s recollections, Paula begins to believe that another planet in the system, Trüb, was ejected from the Void because it contained the Planters, a highly advanced alien species whose abandoned planets provided the basis for Commonwealth technology. Once their efforts make contact with the Laura Brandt floater in the atmosphere of Valatare and locate the generator for the field at the center of the gas giant, the team leaves for Trüb to try to locate the Planters and request their assistance in analyzing and deactiving the generator. They make contact with the Planters, whose intelligence apparently resides in the nanotechnology dust coating Trüb. The Planters request that Paula attempt not to harm the Fallers, then agree to assist.
At the capital, government forces fight a desperate defensive action against invading Fallers. In the prison cells, Joey/Adophus and Roxwulf share stories while several floors above, Stonal has assigned Chaing the decision of determining when all is lost, then activating a 300 megaton nuclear bomb in order to spare the citizens from being eaten or eggsumed. Jenifa argues that their cause is hopeless, while Corila argues to hold out in the hope that the Warrior Angel has survived and can rescue them.
Working with the Planters and the Laura Brant floater unit on Valatare, Paula determines how to deactivate the generator and free the Raiel, but needs one more wormhole unit to transmit sufficient energy for the operation. With the assistance of the Planters, she transmits instructions to activate the remaining unit, locked 250 years before by Brandt. Chaing, Corila and Jenifa go to the unit, but Jenifa panics, convinced that it is an Eliter scheme, and holds the other two at gunpoint.
Meanwhile, Faustina frees Joey/Adophus and Roxwolf, and they also travel to the remaining wormhole unit to attempt to execute Paula’s instructions. In the confrontation, Jenifa and Joey is mortally wounded, buy Joey successfully activates the unit, allowing Paula and the Planters to free the Raiel. Kysandra, Ry, and Florian port to the capital to buy time, then the Raiel armada arrives and transports all humans off the planet, ending the conflict.
The Raiel reveal that they genocided all Fallers outside of the Void based on the Faller’s antisocial conduct, but agree to leave the system to the Fallers as a favor to Paula for rescuing them. They transport the system’s humans, Vatni, and Macule units in stasis for the multi-year journey, together with Roxwolf, who requests to join the Commonwealth.
Book Eight: Commonwealth Edit
The novel ends with a series of vignettes showing where many of the Bienvenido characters end up, as well as a number of characters from prior novels.
- Most of the human population of Bienvenido has been relocated to Earth, and numerous Commonwealth citizens have volunteered to assist their integration into the Commonwealth. The Raiel have found new planets for the Vatni and the Macule units to settle.
- Chaing is introduced to Edeard and Salrana, who have formed a family in a low tech community on Earth.
- Ry and Anala interview for positions as starship pilots working for Oscar Monroe.
- Joey Stein and Roxwolf wake up in relifed human bodies and reintroduce themselves.
- Corilla is a physics student at Oxford University.
- Florian is a minor celebrity, has met Timothy Baker and is the subject of apparent romantic interest from Corilla, a relifed Laura Brant, Justine Burnelli and Mellanie Rescorai.
- Paula Myo integrates her duplicate's memories into her primary body and plans to put the duplicate into storage, but not before it completes a final mission.
- The duplicate Paula borrows the Deterrence Fleet to fly Kysandra to Zoreia, where Nigel Sheldon has largely completed a post-human habitat composed of a multitude of interlocking rings seeded with different habitats, in which his citizens explore diverse post-human modifications, art forms, etc. Nigel reflects that he is largely directionless, recalling a recent interaction with Ozzie Fernandez Isaacs where Ozzie accused him of stagnating. However, once reunited with Kysandra and made aware that Bienvenido survived his prior actions, Nigel is delighted and they declare their love for one another.