Earth, the future. The planet is ruled by a Federation of Countries (The Olive Country, the Water Country) run by companies that have evolved out of the multinational giants today, "their corporate tentacles reaching into your politicians' pockets and sending you into a deep trance with their cheap gadgets and entertaining propaganda". There are no books, no history. Populations are subservient to the relevant company, and the Water Country subjugates all others. Sisters Jephzat and Hephzibah live with their parents in the Olive Country. Hephzibah disappears with Water soldiers and Jephzat's parents are sent away, leaving Jephzat in a big old house that is discovered to contain a secret room filled with forbidden artefacts of enormous power.