Air Command pilot Nova Whiteside is assigned to a remote outpost to guard the construction of a tethered orbiter, Skyranch Twelve, against rebel sabotage. The difference between the well-ordered Union air fields and this dusty garrison is made painfully clear when she runs afoul a brutal commander of ground troops.
When she is trapped behind enemy lines in a bloody uprising, she meets Djari, a civilian whose trust in the governing Union is shattered by what he has witnessed.
Indeed, not all runs according to protocol aboard the new station, and she soon suspects that more than farming is being done up there. When she uncovers the treacherous and illicit schemes taking place, it seems that local riots are the least of their troubles.