Life on the Collection has mostly returned for normal — for everyone except Clarissa Jones, that is. She is still mourning Bernard Moskof, and many on the Collection have not forgiven her for her collaboration with the Fifth Axis.
A celebration, the August Ball, is to be held to commemorate the first post-Occupation birth on the Collection. Benny convinces Clarissa to attend, and even makes her change from her sensible clothing into a nice dress.
Benny enjoys herself at the party and tries to include Clarissa. Eventually, Clarissa tries to sneak away, but Benny, dancing on a table with a stranger, calls for Clarissa to join her. Clarissa, however, manages to sneak away, but soon realises she is being followed by the man with whom Benny was dancing. He introduces himself as Ronan McGinley. She finds his behaviour too familiar and heads for home, with Ronan saying he'll meet her for lunch tomorrow.
The next day, Clarissa is hard at work when Ronan shows up. He convinces her to have lunch with him. At the café, their conversation is interrupted when a nearby patron makes a rude comment about Clarissa. While she hides her face, Ronan stands up and defends her actions to the entire room. He rejoins her at the table, but when he reminds her that Bernard is dead, she screams at him and runs home to cry.
Later, Ronan visits and holds her while she cries for Bernard. The next day, Clarissa goes to work but does just the bare minimum required. When Ronan shows up, they go for a picnic lunch. They dance. When lunch is over, Clarissa heads home for a nap.
In the afternoon, Benny shows up with Peter, whom Clarissa had promised to babysit. Benny and Clarissa discuss Ronan, but when Clarissa tells Benny that Ronan is from Frastus Minima, Benny tells her that the Axis sterilised Frastus Minima. Clarissa wonders if Ronan blames her.
At work the next day, Clarissa researches Ronan. She learns that he is not who he said he was, that there is no Ronan McGinley from Frastus Minima, and that there is a Lieutenant Ronan McGinley who participated in the sterilisation of Frastus Minima.
Clarissa confronts Ronan with the truth, kisses him, and thanks him for reminding her how to live again. She sits at the lake, watching the sunset.
On the far side of the lake, Ronan watches her. Braxiatel appears and tells Ronan that he give him a fictional history with the Fifth Axis so that Clarissa would not search for him. He wanted Clarissa to "move on", so he used Ronan, taking him out of his place and time and bringing him here to the Collection. Now it is time for Ronan to pay his debt.
On the other side of the lake, Clarissa doesn't hear the scream.
- Clarissa has lunch with Ronan at Cafe Vosta.
- Clarissa plays Beethoven's "Moonlight Sonata" in the public areas.
- Benny drinks lots of champagne at the party.
- Ronan convinces Clarissa to have a bagel instead of her usual yoghurt.
to be added