Benny is on Danpetro for an archaeological survey. One morning, she awakes with a hangover and learns that she's been drafted into the Danpetroan army. A recruiting sergeant tells her 35 million people between the ages of 18 and 35 have been drafted and she must go to the recruiting centre.
While in line at the recruiting centre, Benny talks to various people. They learn that an enemy scout ship arrived at the West Pole. Everyone receives a survival kit that includes a hat, whistle and headband. Benny tries the whistle, but it doesn't work and she has an odd thought about sticking the whistle into the back of her neck.
Back at the dorm, Benny works on her paper, but when she tries to upload it to Quartz City, which is located in the west, but the link is down. Several hours later, the link is still down, and Benny thinks the scout ship may have damaged the communications link. She hangs out with some local people, and suddenly there is a hailstorm. Her friend Jontil gets hit in the eye, and Leki gets hit in the face. Benny catches a hailstone and realises it's actually quartz. The ground starts shaking. The planet is under attack.
In the shelter, the sergeant tells everyone to put on their "neck guards" — the whistles. Benny dumps hers into her vodka bottle, then puts it on. It doesn't work on her, but it makes everyone else more focused and confident. Benny thinks of them as portable teaching machines.
Benny digs out of the rubble, along with the other survivors, including Flynnt. They see the scout ship, which starts firing at them. They run for it. Benny realises that the ship is targeting the "soldiers" who are wearing their hats and yells for them to take their hats off.
Survivors from several locations meet at the college. Anyone who is wearing a neck guard decides that they should attack the scout ship. Benny tries but fails to talk them out of it. She learns where the command functions are located and changes the commands, telling everyone to run to the rendezvous point.
A week later, several war ships arrive to evacuate the survivors. Benny has spent most of the week drinking, hoping to forget what happened.
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