During the first three chapters of the book, the reader is introduced to the three main characters. Chapter one focuses on Connor. Connor is hanging out with his girlfriend and trying to convince her to go AWOL with him. He has found out that his parents are going to have him unwound. Later than night, Connor sneaks out of his house to find his girlfriend. She doesn't want to come with him anymore, so he goes on his own. Connor makes it to a local truck stop and hides in the back of a semi truck. Eventually he is discovered and takes off running away from the cops. He causes a big freeway mess and ends up hauling Lev out of the car.
Chapter 2 is about Risa. She lives in an orphanage, is a good piano player, and she finds out that she is going to be transferred to a harvest camp.
Chapter 3 is about Lev. He is going to be tithed to a harvest camp, and he thinks it is the greatest thing is the world. He's really upset that Connor pulled him away from his chosen destiny.
The three characters run away together for a bit. Lev leaves the group and eventually finds a kid named CyFi. He's had half of his brain replaced by an unwind, and is dealing with some serious split personality issues. Lev follows him all the way to the house where his donor's brain came from.
Meanwhile Connor and Risa stumble upon the underground unwind smuggling organization. They are spirited away in a basement to hide until transport to the desert. It is here that the reader meets Roland, who will be Connor's antagonist through the rest of the story. That's about the middle of the book.