Malila, realizing that she can no longer live within her homeland, fakes her own death and attempts to work her way back to the land where she can see an infant’s smile, mark the passage of time in an old man’s hand, and see the stars.
She thinks she may love the Old Man, if his beliefs were not so odd. Unconvinced at her “suicide,” her erstwhile boss, and architect of a new invasion of the outlands, General Jourdaine, seeks to thwart her, coming closer at every turn.
Coming out of self-imposed exile, the Old Man, Jesse Johnstone, is sent to find her, exposing him to dangers from old enemies. Computer entities, created by the spies who use them, work out a modus vivendi despite their differences. Life would be easier for Malila if only the Higginses had stayed loyal.