After linking together via implants and artificial intelligences to form the Community, 90 percent of the human race dies; whether or not they achieved transcendence is unknown.
In this medium-future yearn, the survivors have developed “pods”; not the icky space-invader kind, but small groups of individuals linked mentally and chemically. Apollo Papadopulos—the reason for the name remains unexplained—consists of three females, autistic math and physics whiz Quant, communicator Meda and Moira, their conscience, along with two males, Strom the hulk and dexterous Manuel, whose feet are like hands adapted for work in space; their ultimate mission is to pilot a starship. During wilderness survival training, somebody tries to kill the five (although they don't at first realize this). Later, a singleton, Malcolm Leto, who survived the Community meltdown and intends to revive its projected glories, kidnaps and enslaves Meda, and implants her before the others can rescue her and drive him off. While the pod trains on a space station, a mysterious military duo attempts sabotage; Apollo pulls off a daring rescue, but then must flee to the Ring, a giant orbiting habitat built by the Community and empty since its demise. Thanks to Meda's implant they gain entry, then, still pursued by the military, descend to the ground by space elevator and go looking for answers. However, Leto, building a slave army via the implant technology, still pursues his dreams of transcendence; and only Apollo can stop him.
The plot never quite coheres and the lack of sharp edges among the characters muffles the narrative voice. Still, Melko is clearly an up-and-comer, and this is a distinctive debut.