In this first half of the sixth book of the series, Sebastian, Chief of Security of the Columbian Military Complex, captures and interrogates Marianne, a Gaean spy. He conceals evidence so as to shield her from harm. She agrees to engage with him in sexual exchanges involving the infliction of pain, so that he’ll let her see Merrill, her wounded brother. Over four weeks, Sebastian cleverly conditions the repressed Gaean, who loses her inhibitions. Her hatred of Sebastian prevents her from growing emotionally attached to him.
After Merrill gets exchanged for Simon, Sebastian paroles Marianne. Engaged in a brutally stressful program of work and study, she excels academically. She battles despair after learning that the data she secured at such cost just lost its strategic value. At term’s end, Sebastian offers the exhausted woman a full scholarship, which she accepts.
Will Sebastian learn the explosive secret Marianne managed to conceal from him? Will her lover eventually tire of her, as she now fears? What will happen to her when the war ends?