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The planet HELLHOLE, devastated by an ancient asteroid impact, is inhabited by only the hardiest and most desperate colonists. It is one of 54 remote frontier worlds forced to pay tribute to the corrupt Constellation, which is ruled by decadent nobles. An exiled rebel general, Tiber Adolphus, has now mounted a second rebellion against the Constellation, much larger than his earlier failed attempt.
This time Adolphus aligns himself with the Xayans, a resurrected alien race from Hellhole. As the ancient civilization awakens, the Xayans encourage colonists to immerse themselves in strange "slickwater" pools and acquire ancient alien memories. Their goal is to gather sufficient numbers to achieve ala'ru, an accelerated evolution that will transform them into godlike beings.
General Adolphus rallies his fellow rebels from across the vast Deep Zone to fight for their independence, while the ruthless leader of the Constellation, Diadem Michella, vows to eradicate the rebellion and all colonists on Hellhole. The Xayans add their "telemancy" defenses to the General's conventional military resources, until they reveal an enemy far more terrifying than the Army of the Constellation: a faction of rogue Xayans bent on the extermination of their race . . . and the destruction of any planet that happens to be in the way.
As a barrage of deadly asteroids hurtles toward Hellhole, and the Constellation's gigantic space fleet arrives for a final engagement against General Adolphus, the hardy settlers are caught between a human enemy that wants to raze their colony to the ground and much more powerful aliens who can destroy not only themselves, but human civilization, as well as the foundations of the universe itself.