Burnt out hacker Cad Caldwell is on the verge of committing nanobot-induced suicide in a cramped Union capsule hotel when a mysterious package arrives from Tokyo. Inside, a sleek black computer console unlike anything he has ever seen before. The console is a lifeline from someone high up in the Yakuza food chain and the sender wants Caldwell to do a job. The devil, however, is in the details.
Before long, Caldwell finds out that his Japanese client is dead and that he has become a moving target running from the long arm of the Yamaguchi-gumi, Japan's largest Yakuza faction. But help is at hand, in the form of a Faustian bargain from the surgically-enhanced head of a secret Union electronic warfare unit who claims to hold the key to Caldwell's blocked memories. To get his memories back, Caldwell must use the console to hack into the core of a secretive new network deep in the heart of New China.
There are forces at play that nobody fully understands. An artificial intelligence is at large in cyberspace and is prepping to up the stakes in ways that will send shockwaves through the world's computerized systems. Caldwell must stay one step ahead of other interested parties as each cuts their own path towards the same final objective, a virtual reality addendum to Shanghai that is primed to be the testing ground for the AI and its wicked master plan.
Finally, Caldwell must confront the AI on its own turf in a last-ditch attempt at salvaging his past but not before he has made peace with his own demons and gained a whole new perspective on what the future holds.