Future nations, surviving a devastating pandemic, collaborate in the Repopulation, Expansion, and Annexation Program (REAP) designed to send one-way missions to twenty-five potentially habitable moons or planets within five thousand light-years from Earth. Four couples staff each mission with two critical goals: populating the new planet and sending a message back that the orb is habitable. REAP 23, the twenty-third and longest mission, takes eight months of gravitational acceleration to achieve 70 percent of the speed of light. Despite extensive psychological screening and years of training, the stress of pending hibernation ending in finding a planet that is unsuitable results in conflicts on many levels. Insanity, sabotage, mutiny, violence, adultery, and death mar the ideological journey before entering ultrahibernation under the care of robots for thousands of years. After awakening, the reduced crew faces a deteriorating ship and systems. After orbiting and analyzing the distant planet, they send a message that is instantly delivered, utilizing quantum mechanical entanglement theory regarding the suitability for sustaining human life.
Hundreds of years after the REAP missions departed, geopolitical changes wrought by nature and war obscured the missions, overwritten by subsequent history and buried under a short ice age. Only a small number of people retained the memories that became legend and the basis of a religion based on heroes in rockets sent away in the dawn of space travel to save humanity. This cult, called Reapers, survived over the millennia. Thousands of years later, Porliche, a graduate student, pursues a faint trail left by the Reapers. She finds lost information of this long-forgotten program and evidence that the bunker built at its inception to receive the messages both exists and has messages from the stellar-bound saints stored within. What she finds changes her world.