The word in the year 2239 is that the human race is doomed. With the Earth groaning beneath the weight of 200 billion people and with the limit of derivable scientific knowledge frighteningly close at hand, scientists believe the human race will crash, burn and vanish by the end of the twenty-third century. The last hope of humanity travels with Captain Virginia Vonzell Qing-an, her androgynous lover, and eleven other crew members aboard Earth's first starship, Mother Night, on a colonizing mission to Alpha Centauri - the closest, most likely place to find worlds suitable for human habitation. It is the adventure of a lifetime, but plagued from the onset by programming errors, structural damage and irresponsible death. But a different kind of plague could doom the assignment and, ultimately, the civilization that conceived it. A terrorist group, Indigo, has infiltrated the ship - single-minded true believers convinced that the only cure for their world's population problems is rampant, viral-induced, sexually transmitted sterilization. And the stakes are about to reach astronomical proportions. Because an artifact exists on a rocky moon called Atalanta, an impossibly ancient remnant of an alien race that offers possible solutions to humanity's gravest dilemma - and a hope and knowledge beyond present mortal comprehension --but only if Mother Night's besieged mission can somehow, miraculously, be salvaged.