The year is 2020. It's been 17 years since the Revolution overthrew the last king of the New British Empire, and the newly reconstituted North American Commonwealth is developing rapidly, on course to defeat the French and bring democracy to a troubled world. But Miriam Burgeson, commissioner in charge of the shadowy Ministry of Intertemporal Research and Intelligence has a problem. For years, she's warned everyone: “The Americans are coming.” Now their drones arrive in the middle of a succession crisis --- the leader of the American Commonwealth is dying and the vultures are circling. In another timeline, the U.S. has recruited Rita, Miriam's estranged daughter, to spy across timelines and bring down any remaining world-walkers who might threaten national security. Two nuclear superpowers are set on a collision course. Two increasingly desperate paratime espionage agencies are fumbling around in the dark, trying to find a solution to the first-contact problem that doesn't result in a nuclear holocaust. And two women --- a mother and her long-lost, adopted daughter --- are about to find themselves on opposite sides of the confrontation.
Welcome to the fractured future, at the dusk of the 21st century, where random humans are charged with assessing dozens of new inventions and ruling on whether or not to let them loose. Young Huw, a technophobic, misanthropic Welshman, has been selected for the latest jury, a task he does his best to perform despite an itchy technovirus, the apathy of the proletariat, and a couple of truly awful moments on bathroom floors.