First paperback edition cover
|Cover artist||Daniel R. Horne|
|Publication date||February 1991|
|Media type||Print (Hardcover and Paperback)|
|Pages||323 (paperback edition)|
|ISBN||ISBN 978-0-441-86503-1 (paperback edition)|
|Followed by||Fractal Mode|
Colene, who appears to be bright and popular at school, secretly flirts with suicide and cutting herself for emotional release. Her deathwish prompts her to approach a strange man that she finds in a ditch on her way home from school, and her relationship with Darius begins.
Darius and Colene rapidly fall in love, but he regretfully leaves her when she cannot bring herself to accept that he is from a magical reality. After his departure, Colene realizes he was telling the truth, and, in despair, she prepares to commit suicide. Back in his own mode, Darius realizes that he loves Colene too much to give her up. He therefore uses a magical device called the Chip to create a Virtual Mode so he can travel back to Colene.
Colene quickly seizes the opportunity to become an anchor person and sets out along her side of the Virtual Mode. On her way, she befriends Seqiro, a telepathic stallion and, to Colene's joy and surprise, another anchor. As Sequiro joins her in traveling the Virtual Mode, she opens up to him and reveals the source of her depressive and suicidal nature; she had been raped at a party by several older boys, but did not report the incident out of fear of humiliation and because she had become drunk during the party. The two make rapid progress towards Darius’ mode until they are unexpectedly trapped in DoOon, home mode of the emperor Ddwng, who is the anchor for his world. Forced to suffer captivity thinly veiled as hospitality, Colene and Seqiro must wait for Darius to arrive.
Meanwhile, Darius has encountered another anchor—Provos, a strange older woman, while traveling toward Colene. Able to remember the future, she is able to help him avoid or defeat many hazards on the Virtual Mode. Eventually, they reach a series of beacons, which they follow to DoOon.
Darius and Colene reunite, but are almost immediately separated. Ddwng, who wants to coerce Darius into giving him the Chip, assesses his personality by sending him on a mission to another planet. Though Darius is reluctant to accede to the emperor’s request, Ddwng threatens Colene and Darius finally agrees.
Though Darius considers his promise binding, Colene prompts Seqiro to use his telepathy to trick Ddwng into freeing his anchor. He does, and Colene, Darius, Seqiro, and Provos slide through the modes to the new anchor, Oria.