Basis of the plot: Protagonists want things. Some of which are mutually incompatible.
* Terran government wants Mars terraformed so it can be settled and used as a space port.
* Thomas Sellers wants to create a society where every individual can live by their own skills and merits.
* Alexander Andrejowitsch Karkoff wants to be the biggest fish in the pond.
* The people on Mars want to go about their daily lives and become rich or at least make ends meet.
* The ex-nation states on Earth want to catch up to the Third Power technologically.
* Solveig wants to prove that she can do the job she has volunteered for.
(The above is close to a canon-format intro. I think I'll keep it.)
From this base, plot happens:
Terran government (Adams and Merchant, if you have to know) discover that money from the Mars Terraforming Project had ended up in the pockets of the Russian mob, namely, Colonel Karkoff, an arms dealer with a private army and an arsenal of unpleasant things. However, the financial records of the project seem spotless, and neither data analysis nor inspections can find anything amiss, and for lack of irregularities, they cannot trace them to a source.
It is suspected that whoever runs the plot is using mind control devices against the inspectors. The easiest solution is therefore to send someone who is immune to mind control and have them wait for the guy with the hypnobeam gun to point it at them. Sounds like a cakewalk, so they send the youngest and most inexperienced (also, available -- everyone else is off visiting the Emperor) mutant in the Corps: Solveig.
She gets a weak cover persona and job as an intern in the office of the project's financial guy (Morris). Behind that cover lies a strong cover as a junior auditor of the parent company. The assumption is that she'll blow her weak cover quickly and the hypno gun will come out, after which she can call for re-enforcements.
But no plan survives contact with the enemy. Solveig has not been told to blow her cover, so she doesn't. Sellers and Morris are too busy and too sure of themselves to suspect their intern to be anything other than what she claims to be.
Some weeks pass, and Karkoff makes his move to take over the Mars. In a flurry of damage control attempts, the conspirators travel to Mars and don't take the time to ditch the intern (who might, after all, talk to the wrong people by accident).
This lands Solveig right in the middle of the chaos which is quickly becoming a Situation -- just at the time when Terrania orders a radio silence because the expedition to meet the emperor has sent very troubling news.
Between Karkoff's attempt to take over the planet and Seller's economic model breaking down along its fault lines, taking three thousand civilians with it, Solveig tries to survive, find out what's going on, and phone home.
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