Torver is a brilliant geneticist and biochemist who feels constrained by the world he lives in. In 2096, human genetic engineering -- in fact, all genetic engineering not sanctioned by the Mundial Genetics Revision Committee-- is forbidden by law. Nevertheless, Torver has already conducted illegal genetic experiments when Laslo Radic approaches him to find the cure to the horrible genetic mutation his son suffers from. Torver accepts.
But Torver is an emotionally crippled man: ever since he can remember, he was able to mentally jump through people's eyes and follow their lifepaths. There he uncovers their utmost secrets, and feels no guilt or regret at using them if need be. This strange ability has isolated him from everyone, even his own parents. He has developed an almost stalker-like fascination with the lifepath of this one young girl, with whom he feels a connection.
It has always been easy for Torver to jump in and start feasting on secrets. Only two people can block him from entering their eyes: Laslo Radic and Demetria Greyson.
Demetria is honorable, honest, unbending. She is also horribly disfigured. A disease called Barcina Xylopoiesis, caused by a genetic mutation, has eaten half of her face and neck. She wears a prosthesis, which highlights her disease. Her face, like a Janus mask is pale on one side, darker on the other. After the onset of the disease, she retreats to her apartment, builds her own business as a predictive statistician and keeps her mental equilibrium through vocal scanning, a form of meditation.
Suddenly, her vocal scanning becomes strange, as if influenced from someone else's actions. They seem to predict a near future in which Torver in prominent. When Laslo Radic hires her to work on what she thinks a legitimate, MGRC-approved project, her visions only intensify.
Her research for Laslo will result in her meeting Torver Lockwood and beginning the journey of discovery that will lead her to make life-and-death choices.
Laslo is a desperate man. Self-made and one of the rich elite, all of his influence cannot change the fact that his son, his precious child, will die. He is prepared to do anything, even sponsor illegal research, to save Zelimir. Because of his desperation, he will set in motion a chain of events that may end in a new reign of terror.
Zelimir knows there's something wrong with him. He can't feel his toes, and he's starting to forget words, to have difficulty speaking. But he doesn't want to tell his father, who's becoming more and more protective. He's eleven, for goodness's sake; his dad should let him breathe. And what Zelimir wants more than anything is to go camping with his friend Graeme. So he won't mention anything. Just until he comes back from camp.
Ashar Mahoud is Laslo Radic's Chief of Security, and a man with a deeply buried secret. Twenty years ago, a young Radic gave him his job instead of revealing that secret to the authorities. In turn, Radic has Mahoud's unswerving loyalty. (Read about Ashar Mahoud's story by next geneng novel, Catalyst, hopefully coming out in 2008). Ashar will be forced to get involved in Laslo's business to save Torver and Demetria from Stringer's clutches, and permit Torver to complete his research. (Read about Ashar Mahoud's story by next geneng novel, Catalyst, hopefully coming out in 2008)
Gerry likes to multitask. While he's doing illegal research for Laslo, he's also using the same lab facilities to tinker with a new drug of his. If he can make brain dust detox resistant, he and his other boss, drug lord Stringer, stand to make a fortune. Problem is, the drug kills, and Stringer's not happy. Gerry's only solution is to swipe Torver's research and use it as his own. Then again, maybe it wasn't such a good idea.
Demetria's ex-fiancé is baffled by the DOAs coming in to his Pathology Lab. They're dust users, having clearly died from using the drug. But that's the problem: brain dust is non-addictive (although personality changing) and the safest drug on the market. No one dies from it. Vincent is stumped until he discovers someone is trying to change the DOAs genetic code. Then he knows he is in deep, deep trouble.
Stringer is the most powerful drug lord in the Americas, but he's decided it's time to get out of the business. Overhead's mounting, competition's getting more intense. It's time to get out of the market and diversify. Water, since the 30-year drought, has become a more precious commodity than gold. His power will soon come from owning desalination plants and water pipelines all over the world, and Gerry's drug is going to be his ticket to accomplish that goal. Along the way Stringer realizes that, if twisted one way, the drug becomes this marvelous genetic weapon. All he has to do is to get his hands on Torver Lockwood, the only man capable of developing that weapon for him.