Following the brutal rescue of Connor and Tate, the Watch/Diss alliance finds refuge in the southeastern Wastelands, with Grady and his filthy goatherd daughter, Senna, where they wait for information and plan their strategy. With little to do except look after Connor and tend goats under Senna’s scornful eye, Jem grows impatient for action. When a scouting party returns, bringing more Dissidents and news that alarms, Taggart orders a perimeter watch to be set up around Grady’s farm; Jem discovers one of the new Dissidents is childhood friend, Ethan, whose circumstances give more cause for suspicion than joy. But Jem isn’t the only one sceptical, and he finds an unexpected ally in Micah.
Jem’s already soured relationship with Alex takes a distinct turn for the worse, and he and Tate commiserate over an old bottle of whisky. But even that goes awry when it’s realised that Senna has defied orders and slipped through Taggart’s perimeter, and a decidedly queasy Jem is dispatched by Garrick to find her. Furious, he stumbles not only upon Senna but also upon a small group of Guards, and finds what he hopes is the first real clue to the mysterious Black Guard. While questioning the surviving Guard, Jem hears a name he can’t quite recall: Fitz.
Jem and Senna strike a surprising agreement before returning to Grady’s; Jem reveals Senna’s secret to Taggart and Garrick; meanwhile Taggart acquiesces to Senna’s demands that the alliance leave the farm and she shows the two men a long-empty underground reservoir, which will serve as a new compound and where they find Amon, wasted and with a badly broken leg; after retrieving what information he has — the Port has been overrun; Quinn’s fate remains unknown —and unable to help him, Jem and Taggart put him out of his misery. Jem empathises with Senna’s distress at this callous treatment, and a reluctant bond is forged between the two.
Arrangements are made to move to the new compound and the men focus their attention on gaining access to the Port; Senna refuses Taggart’s request to leave the farm and accompany them. Jem grows suspicious of the unexpected camaraderie between Ethan, Alex and Cade. A few days after settling into the compound, but still unable to gain access to the Port, Senna shows up at the compound, distraught; the farm has been ransacked, and Grady is dead. When she supplies Jem with startling evidence, his suspicions about Taggart are realised.
Under increasing pressure from Taggart and Garrick to use Senna for their own ends, and following another showdown with Alex (who’s less than happy that Senna has returned) Jem sleeps with the girl, an act bringing guilt but yielding desired results, and Senna agrees to show Jem a way into the Port. A reconnaissance mission reveals the reason for Quinn’s disappearance and the fate of the Catchers; the planned attack, led by Garrick, goes horribly wrong, and Jem suspects a double-cross. But when Cade also disappears and Alex is taken prisoner aboard one of the Catchers, a distraught Jem is again made to understand that no man can escape his past and new alliances have proven no less deadly than the old.