The long-awaited war approaches. Young countries make one kind of mistake; old countries another. For the Unity, the lone surviving hi-tech remnant of the USA, war represents a chance to liberate the outlands from their centuries-long nightmare of self-determination. Malila, once a hero of the Unity, emerges from the jungle to deliver a dire message to America: the Scorch, a polyarchy of sentient plants, declares itself to be an ally or a foe. Distrustful of the Scorch, Jesse stays by Malila for the sake of their love. The architect of the war, General Jourdaine rallies to lead his troops into battle. All the while, within the bowels of the Unity, American spies, Will, Hecate, and Elise, delve into the secrets of the CORE and their own mortality to thwart the invasion. The Old Man learns too late that this battle with the Unis may be his final one.