Behrooz Wolf lost his job with the Bureau of Form Control when his great love Mary left him. The solar system's expert on form control sat hooked to a dream machine to escape his lonely and hallucination-filled reality. Then the form control machines in the Outer Solar System started malfunctioning with sometimes fatal results. Delegates from the Outer System came to Earth, unplugged Wolf from his VR machine, and took him to the Outer System to find a solution to the problem. Wolf believes the problems are being caused by a group of revolutionaries and outlaws who inhabit the Kernel Ring between the Inner and Outer Systems, and who want to seize control of the whole Solar System. His pursuit of the answers takes him on a dangerous trip into the Kernel Ring and into contact with an intelligence which may come from completely outside of the Solar System.