The Plot

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Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 544

Eucrasia Walsh, an expert at “wetware”— altering people’s personalities—tries out a new personality about to be marketed, Rebel Elizabeth Mudlark. She decides that she wants to keep it and flees from the corporation holding her captive in the Eros Kluster. Carrying this valuable persona, Rebel must avoid both the corporation...

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Eucrasia Walsh, an expert at “wetware”— altering people’s personalities—tries out a new personality about to be marketed, Rebel Elizabeth Mudlark. She decides that she wants to keep it and flees from the corporation holding her captive in the Eros Kluster. Carrying this valuable persona, Rebel must avoid both the corporation and an agent of the Comprise, the group intelligence that controls all people on Earth.

Rebel locates an old friend, Wyeth, a “tetrad” with four separate personalities that she crafted, and gets a job removing vacuum flowers, bioengineered organisms that grow on the surfaces of space habitats and asteroids. Wyeth is hired to transport a space structure to Mars, using the advanced technology and personnel of the Comprise, even though he has dedicated himself to opposing the Comprise. Rebel joins him. She realizes that she loves him but remains tormented by the need to suppress or integrate the buried personality of Eucrasia. Wyeth learns that a black-market shyapple with a psychoactive drug disables members of the Comprise, because it makes a person regain a separate identity.

On Deimos, Wyeth and Rebel meet representatives of the Soviet-style Martian government. Individuals on Mars are programmed to serve the interests of the state. Rebel and Wyeth learn that they are about to be framed and arrested, and they escape with a man named Bors, who takes them toward Earth. During the long journey, Wyeth and Rebel are placed in cold storage. This makes Rebel unhappy, because implanted personalities usually dissolve during the process.

When she awakes near Earth to find that she is still Rebel, she realizes that she is a “wizard’s daughter,” the product of a master at wetware, who alone could mold a personality strong enough to endure cold storage. That also means that she is a messenger of some kind, presumably to the Comprise, though she cannot recall her message. Wyeth already had left by the time she awoke, and Rebel searches for him through a ragged space habitat orbiting Earth. Bors later tells her that Wyeth went to Earth to launch an operation against the Comprise. Rebel travels to Earth and joins a colony of rebels living in a barren region. After a long wait, Wyeth reappears, with a stolen vehicle, and the operation begins.

The group travels to an artificial island and attacks members of the Comprise with the shyapple chemical. After some successes, Rebel, Wyeth, and two other survivors are surrounded by Comprise robots, and a Comprise representative arrives to negotiate. After accidentally getting a dose of the mind-altering drug during the assault, Rebel remembers her message: Her wizard has discovered the secret of “integrity,” or creation of a personality that will endure under any conditions. The Comprise desperately needs this ability so that it can travel away from Earth while retaining its group identity. In exchange for the secret, the Comprise agrees to give the space habitats all of their advanced science, including the power to travel to the stars, so that both individual humans and the Comprise can expand throughout the cosmos. Rebel, now reconciled with the Eucrasia personality, travels back to her home habitat, which will soon become the first to leave the solar system. She takes a reluctant Wyeth with her in cold storage.

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