Three humans and two non-humans who call themselves the Rebels discover that certain artifacts left behind by the vanished elves propel them into a mystery and adventure they could never have imagined. Are they ready for the history-shaking answers they will find?
(The Rebels 1-12)
This section is by D. Aviva Rothschild with some edits for continuity and detail
Forty years have passed since the war with the alien Neverending (see Jink section), and the words of the Doma are law. Her Skyward enforces economic and political unity. But a stolen experimental spacecraft called the Cam Triompe has a crew who wishes to change things. Cosmo Luricahn is their captain, son of a Skyward family, now branded rogue and traitor. Scorch Chirell is an aspiring pirate and would-be rakehell; if it's made from bolts, wire and screws, he can rig it. Chandra Davenkee, from the distant moon called Ice, is a young opinionated woman with great tech skills. Rosie, cheerful and enigmatic, born from Preserver DNA and retaining Preserver memories, was rescued from a lab. Shimmer is a mechanical melding of human and Neverending technologies. Their self-appointed mission is to remind the Abodean planets that they are still one race, and seek out the truth behind the mystery of what happened to the elves.
Here is how these five adventurers came together:
Sharing one seat between them to save money, Cosmo and Scorch travel to Abode. Their mutual seat is next to Chandra, native of the colony planet Ice. Scorch is caught, leaving Cosmo to chat up Chandra. She's not thrilled that he's part of the Skyward, but he warms her up by showing her some previously unreleased technical material. They part friends. Next day, Cosmo finds Chandra moping outside. She's discovered that her “scholarship” to the Academy means that she has to spend 16 years working on Abode, when she had wanted to take badly needed technical skills to Ice.
To distract her, Cosmo takes her to his aunt Gestrelle, who studies “the little elves who once lived in the woods.” She shows them an artifact she found (Skywise's lodestone necklace) and gives it to Chandra. Unfortunately, her research is being suppressed by the Skyward, who want the elves to remain mythological. Commander Steele, a woman who has devoted her life to this mission, threatens to kick Cosmo out of the Skyward if Gestrelle doesn't behave. Indeed, the next day, Cosmo's appointment is pulled. Meanwhile, Rosie is scheduled for vivisection. Gestrelle, Scorch, and Chandra plot to rescue her, but Cosmo, furious at his aunt, refuses to participate--until later, when he first helps Chandra hack into the Academy net for various pieces of info about the lab where Rosie is kept, and then takes his aunt's place in the “strike team.”
Sneaking into the lab, they find Rosie gone and are quickly discovered. (There are drawings of Cutter, Skywise and other elves of that time all over the walls; Chandra sees her lodestone necklace on Skywise.) But Shimmer, who has been acting for years as a lab assistant and who is friends with Rosie, shows up and knocks out their captor. They rescue Rosie from the operating table, but Shimmer is shot by Dr. Benier, who opposes Rosie's vivisection but doesn't want her to be taken away. However, when Dr. Benier realizes that Rosie is with friends, she lets them go. Shimmer, wounded, decides to go with them as well. Sneaking out, the five hear a general security alert. They have only one way out: steal the experimental ship in the lab hangar. Being geniuses, Cosmo and Chandra figure out how to override the command codes and activate the stealth system, while Shimmer pilots.
They decide to first see if they can find more of Rosie's kind and head for Sarazen, the human name for the former site of the Sun Village. It's nothing but a desert waste with living rock. Rosie races up the rocks to a small niche, where she obviously finds an elf in a Preserver cocoon; she gets the small Palace from the elf (whose identity is not made known to us), thanks him/her, and rewraps him/her up. Of course, the humans don't know what the small Palace is for. Rosie points to the sun and says, “Highthings went there!” So the others decide to check out the various destinations in that direction.
Now, the Cam Triompe (as Scorch has christened the ship) is desperately trying to outrun the Dauntless, which is trying to blow them out of the sky. Though they temporarily evade the Dauntless, the five are running out of reaction mass, i.e. fuel. They have to make a pit stop at Quaino's Station, described as “pretty sleazy” by Skyward records. Quaino and his men apparently want to steal the ship, but they are stopped by Imeliar L'cota (“outlaw murdering pirate scum” to the Abodean Cosmo and “rebel hero” to Icer Chandra) and his men. L'cota has plans for the young crew and their ship, but he doesn't reveal them immediately. Chandra and Cosmo make their way to the local bar, attempting to raise money for re-mass by selling Skyward software. One thing leads to another, though, and there's a big bar fight. After throwing a few punches, the pair are rescued by one of L'cota's men and taken to the rebel leader, who has supplied them with re-mass and asks them to meet him on the planet Harveston. Cosmo is highly distrustful and, when they take off, refuses to set a course for Harveston. However, various system failures in the ship force them to Harveston anyway.
A big chunk of Harveston is autonomous, refusing Abodean rule, and the Cam Triompe sets down in an area of local control. Shimmer and Rosie remain on the ship, while the humans are put up in a local farmer's house. There they discover a young boy with a bad but usually treatable disease. The parents explain that the hospital is in the Abodean zone and will not accept patients from the autonomous areas. The three decide to sneak the boy in, for once he's past the hospital guards, the doctors have to treat him. With Chandra and Cosmo running a diversion, Scorch sneaks the cocooned boy in via the underground algae tubes, and he is received by the doctors for treatment.
Of course, this means they have to leave Harveston ASAP. Having not had a chance to get more fuel, their choice of destination is limited. Then Chandra touches the small Palace and wishes that she was “a million klicks away.” Instantly--they are! Which turns out to be an extremely useful ability, because they discover that a rogue Skyward commander is aiming a comet at a disabled alien ship that has been sitting peacefully for years. If the comet hits... the Human-Wiggler war begins again. Not knowing who's behind it, they decide to transmit this information openly and not just to Skyward. Skyward contacts them and thanks them for the intel, but says that the rogue commander will also receive it and disable any means to stop the comet. The Cam Triompe decides to again use the power of the Palace to stop the comet themselves, which they do. Right after Cosmo has disabled the comet, the Skyward arrive and arrest the rogue commander. The Skyward also attempt to capture the Cam Triompe, but it quickly disappears with the Palace's power. They Skyward knows that the disappearance must be "Sojourner" power. The Rebels, as the crew of the Cam Triompe now call themselves, return to Abode to try to meet with L'Cota.
Shimmer, their android pilot, is suffering the effects of the shot he took during the rescue of Rosie the Preserver. Unable to repair him, Cosmo Luricahn reluctantly decides to take him to the Neverending machine that had altered him in the first place. The machine turns Shimmer into a “Binder,” whose purpose is passing judgment in sticky situations. The android uses this new ability to prevent a Neverending android from destroying Cosmo.
After they leave the planetoid, Cosmo directs the ship to a nearby derelict ship, hoping to scrounge weapons. He and Scorch Chirell leave the others in the cloaked Cam Triompe and enter the derelict--only to find it isn't deserted at all: they arrive in the middle of a firefight between two sets of space-suited humans. When one human is badly hurt, the fighting ceases. Cosmo and Scorch are escorted away by the losing side, the Scavengers (the winners are the Deserters). As the Scavengers explain the situation, the Deserters wonder where the two came from and go out to look for the ship, which could contain technology that would tip the scale in their favor. Chandra joins the boys, leaving Rosie and Shimmer on the Cam.
After experiencing life on the Scavengers' ship (which includes plants given them by elves), Chandra and the boys are alerted to intruders on the Cam Triompe and realize what must be happening. They and a small rescue party of Scavengers race to the Cam, where they find Rosie captive and Shimmer threatening her captors with energy bolts. When one of the Scavengers sneers that killing a child would be a wonderful thing on the captor's epitaph, the captors, ashamed, release her. The leadership of both factions is brought together, and Shimmer, acting as Binder, resolves the feud.
On an unknown planet, two elves are shown conversing in a forest, with the palace close by.
Situation resolved, the Rebels stealthily return to Abode. Scorch looks up his father, who is annoyed at him for not checking in to “let him know he's alive!” Then Scorch learns that this year, no Chirell will be competing in the Wayfair International, a major auto racing event (the Chirells are a major racing family). Despite the risk of capture, Scorch decides to impersonate his cousin Frix and race. However, one of the other racers is Elan Junnard. His uncle just happens to be Halm Junnard, the Skyward official pursuing the Rebels--and he's here in the garage, eager to meet “Frix” and pump him for info about Scorch. Scorch successfully fakes him out. Later Elan overhears “Frix” telling Chandra and Cosmo about the encounter, and their reluctant decision to let Scorch race. However, he diverts his uncle from immediately capturing Scorch when the news breaks that the real Frix is at the Fishery Institute. Elan convinces his uncle that it must be Scorch at the Fishery Institute. Later he confesses to Scorch that he didn't want to knock the only Chirell out of the race.
Of course, the Skyward forces quickly determine that Frix is Frix and that Scorch really is racing. However, with limited authority on the surface of Abode, the Skyward is unable to halt the race, so they merely send fighters to tale Scorch as he races. The others are forced to rescue him in the Cam Triompe. From there they travel to Cauldron City, an industrial city on rails that continually circles the polar region of the Mercury-like planet Cauldron, always just ahead of the scorching sun. The Rebels are planning to meet L'cota there. L'cota is there, but he has a plan to turn the Rebels into heroes by letting them save the city from a plot to destroy it. However, the person chosen to carry out the plot--a female terrorist named G'kahrii S'ha--has no intention of doing the minor damage that L'cota wants done. No, she wants the entire city destroyed. The Rebels work desperately to avoid its destruction, thinking that L'cota called security--but he didn't, because he didn't want government entanglement, and S'ha succeeds in setting off a chain reaction which will cause the city's destruction. L'cota and his men leave Cauldron City and the Rebels behind. Scorch comes up with an idea for how to save the city, and it succeeds. S'ha tries to kill him in revenge and is arrested by the Skyward. The Rebels are also taken into custody by the Skyward for stealing their ship.
Continued in the next section