When their hometown of Brookfield is poisoned by radiation, seventeen-year-old Anya Macklin and her older brother Jason are relocated to the safe but boring urbano of Essention.
While Jason is put to work, Anya is enrolled in the adult skills course at Arcis, a secretive and heavily monitored education facility. There she must compete with other teenage recruits and earn her place in society by reaching the top floor.
At first, Anya fears change, and is reluctant to advance. But then she meets Dom Pavesi, a brooding, evasive stranger who drives her to discover the rules of this dangerous game where there can be only one winner.
Who is Dom? Which side is he on?
And what terrible truth awaits Anya on the ninth floor of Arcis?