Can a society ever successfully flee from its past? What if the past refuses to die and continuously claws its way up through the earth? Can an ordinary family man learn to be both an assassin and a hero in less than six months?
Francesco Helios is a grounds keeper, responsible for uprooting and dumping at sea hundreds of acres of “mushrooms,” relics of a despised and feared past which continually sprout from the soil. He is an ordinary man, a devoted parent in a world that abhors and discourages parenthood, about to be thrust into the role of an assassin, about to learn whether he can be a hero. The father of ten children, eight living, one dead, and one on the way, he is a social outcast, forced to live in a ghetto of “breeders” adjacent to a mushroom district. About to surrender his final of his five tendarms, or sexual organs, to his youngest son, who is on the cusp of manhood, Francesco is faced with the dreadful prospect of being forced to take “grayhead drugs” to keep his post-tendarm hormonal aggression at bay. The drugs will eventually erase his personality and memory, leaving him a helpless husk, unable to provide for his family. But if he refuses to take them, he becomes and outcast, a criminal, and his family will be put out on the streets.
However, Harry Erath offers him an alternative – avoiding the grayhead drugs by becoming a “grubber.” Francesco is being offered membership in a secret society of assassins who hunt down “creepers,” ghosts of the past who have fully manifested in the present and who now infiltrate Francesco’s society. When Francesco balks at becoming a killer, Erath forces him into the role by making him choose between his brother’s life and that of an innocent young girl from the past.
Francesco undergoes a grueling training regimen under Erath’s tutelage. He eventually utilizes his newly acquired assassin’s skills to turn the tables on Erath and discover the reasons why his society so desperately fears the past, and why it pressures its citizens to have fewer and fewer children. He meets his own great-grandfather, a submariner who played a central role in ending the Great War a hundred and thirty years earlier with an experimental chronome bomb. But the submariner’s victory came at a terrible price — the destruction of an entire continent, the pollution of the ocean with rogue chronome particles, and the infestation of much of the world with mushrooms and creepers.
A final conflict with Harry Erath aboard a ghost ship in the mushroomed Navy Yards will determine whether a deadly time loop continues to work its destruction on the present and the future — or whether Francesco will seize his destiny and free the creepers from their eternity of suffering.