O:N, the abridged version.
Echo has disturbing dreams. Because of this, Hiru and co vote that they should join up with the LL, since the League have a healer that might help him. Hiru, in the meantime, replaces Neko’s old cat bell with a new one... one that contains a tiny but powerful energy shield.
Meanwhile, three scouts return to the LL after months spent around the metropolis of Krysia. The foremost of these scouts, an angelic figure named Leon, reveals that the Krysian Naturals turned them out because they were GAOs. Kage doesn't believe it.
While the mercenaries are going through orientation at the LL, Kage runs across them, and it is revealed that Daemon and Kage have a history together, having grown up in the same government lab (Thomas is relieved to discover that it was only a brotherly relationship). After speaking to the group, Kage discovers that Magnus has been hiring mercenaries behind his back. Torn by guilt of having knowledge of this, Thomas breaks and tells Kage everything he knows: Magnus has been breaking into Kage's old files to find his weaknesses, and Magnus has been using the scouts to get the LL to take a more aggressive stance against Naturals. Later, Magnus catches up to Thomas to exact his revenge for his loose lips. Thomas disappears, and Magnus leaves a forged letter of Thomas' resignation on Kage's desk.
Two weeks later, the mercenaries have been integrated into the LL. Hanabi has taken in with Reina, Bitz, and Gard. Echo's dreams are suppressed with the healer's help. A bit of Puma's past is revealed when Sarah, a chameleon type, recognizes him as a military leader from her days as a soldier for the Organization (both Sarah and Puma are remarkably long-lived). Kage employs Hiru in hacking into Magnus’ files, but the security is too strong for them.
Kage and Daemon bond somewhat awkwardly one night (neither is a very talkative person, after all), after having been separated for something like seventeen years. Further, Kage laments that Magnus didn’t seem like such a snake back when they started the LL together, but instead was simply an idea man.
Magnus abducts Gavin and, well, I think you can guess what happens after that. Gavin makes attempts to escape, up to and including attempting to strangle Magnus in his sleep, but fails. At the failed strangling, Gavin’s temper breaks. Echo picks up on his distress from several rooms away and takes Daemon to discuss it with Hiru and Kage. Kage suspects that Magnus has something to do with it, and tells them of someone who might help them break into Magnus' locked room: one of Magnus' old thralls, Clove.
Hanabi and Neko are sent to get a keycard from Clove, trekking through Old New York to do it. Clove gives them the keycard they want, and tells them a bit more of what Magnus has been up to: Magnus is trying to take over the LL in order to pretty much eradicate Naturals from the planet. He tells them that Magnus is an Energy Vampire, so he keeps thralls close so that he can use them as living batteries, and taking away these thralls slows him down.
Some time later, Magnus gets Leon hold a rally to raise anti-Natural sentiments. Kage uses this distraction to plan the break-in and, feeling things rising against him, his own retreat into the night alongside the three Naturals currently taking shelter in the League. He employs Hiru and Daemon (and Echo, Hanabi, Liz, and Neko come with the package) to help him. After the escape, Daemon, Echo, and Hanabi are to stay behind and keep an eye on Magnus. They arrive a Magnus' room and discover not only Gavin on the bed, but (much to Kage’s horror) Thomas tied up in the closet. Gavin is in a state of shock and depression, and Thomas is sick and malnourished; neither is capable of getting out on their own. The group climbs out the window and follow Neko to where he claims they’ll be safe, Kage carrying Gavin and Hiru and Liz with Thomas slung between them. Apok appears from nowhere and tags along.
As they move, Gavin slowly regains his lucidity and lashes out at the nearest person (which happens to be a startled Kage). Hiru attempts to calm him down, but Gavin pulls away, accusing Hiru of failing to notice his disappearance for far too long. Switching moods suddenly, Gavin coldly tells Hiru, “I quit your little band,” and walks away.
Cut to the scientists. Brian is working the archives and gets a scare when Neko jumps out of the rafters and starts trying to convince him of their plight (it takes a while, what with Puma having killed one of them on their last visit). It’s a success, and the group is given leave to enter under the scientists’ watchful eyes. Kage remarks on Augustus’ presence (he is another of the six Perfects) and thinks it’s much too much of a coincidence.
Kage stays with Thomas while Augustus and Meg treat him (Apok sits in the background), and April and Brian lead Neko, Liz, and Daemon on a brief tour. Hiru discovers that Cal is “his biggest fan” because of the Awards of Innovation he earned as a teenager. April apologizes to Liz for the last time they met, and Brian simply glares sullenly at Neko before getting an idea about using GAO abilities in their project. Meanwhile, Kage sits by Thomas’ bedside while Thomas apologizes for keeping Magnus’ plans a secret as long as he did; Kage tells him not to worry about it.
Meanwhile, Magnus discovers the break-in. He summons Puma to his office and gives him an assignment: to track down and kill Kage, Gavin, Liz, and Hiru.
Four months pass, and it’s winter. Puma focuses on tracking down the defected Gavin, who has been roaming the streets in look for any jobs he can (although he’s picked up the habit of coldly shooting his authority figures). He shoots Puma down every time. The scientists continue their save-the-world project at an increased pace, and Thomas proves irreplaceably good at finding data in the archives. Life goes on at the LL; Reina and Hanabi start dating and Bitz struggles to hide his jealousy. Magnus does paperwork. Daemon reports to Kage and Hiru via computer, and sneaks into Magnus’ room to free his thralls once a week. Echo’s visions resume, despite treatment.
While doing his weekly "free the thrall" bit, Daemon is ambushed by one of Magnus’ favored employees, sent there to discover who keeps breaking in. Daemon kills the assassin, and this prompts Magnus to turn to Puma to track down the culprit (Puma’s failure to kill his targets is part of rising tension, and Magnus uses this opportunity to monitor him). Puma has a suspicion, and heads straight for Echo’s room, knowing that Echo is, on principle, a weak link.
Bitz, Hanabi, Daemon, and Spike are all ordered on a massive “scouting” mission, in which just about every offensive type GAO in the League is sent to walk the city. People (mercenaries hired by Magnus) attack the roving GAOs, and battles of self-defense quickly turn into a chaotic slaughter.
Meanwhile, Gavin is at a job interview nearby with a rugged trader named Adam Solomon, only to be interrupted by the noise outside. At the scientists’ lab, Apok ushers everyone out with cryptic sayings about “the great machine shifting gears.” They clear the lab and make for the abandoned subway system just in time to see the lab succumb to a pyrokinetic’s stray fireball. Daemon realizes how close to the old lab he and Hanabi are and, hearing an explosion from that direction, takes off running for the lab.
Puma questions Echo about the saboteur. Echo denies knowledge weakly, even after Puma forces some of his rather uncomfortable memories on him (having a barcode branded on his arm, having his eye gouged out, being starved and chained in a dungeon, and many many deaths). Eventually, Puma loses his patience and kills him.
In the city, the battle goes on. Spike is shot down by Gavin, who sits on a nearby rooftop. He shoots at Hanabi, who is saved when Apok appears and pulls him behind a tumbled wall. Bitz goes into his berserker mode and climbs up the brick wall to engage Gavin in a fist fight. He easily bests Gavin at close range, and sends him tumbling three stories off the building. His berserker rage drained, Bitz collapses.
Daemon surveys the ruins of the lab, worrying about the lives of those inside. He finds the scientists and co trying to breaking into the long-closed subway tunnels with a crowbar. As they’re about to go in, two of Magnus’ favored cronies (both strongman types, named Choof and Zeta) find them, delighted at having found Kage. Kage, Daemon, and Liz engage them in a brawl. The rest make their escape, except for Hiru and Thomas, who hang back to watch. Choof and Zeta get the upper hand, until Augustus runs in to distract Choof long enough for Kage to knock him out with the crowbar. Zeta grabs Kage and throws him to the cement hard enough to knock him out. At this, Thomas jumps in and promptly kills Zeta with a single touch. Hiru helps Liz get Kage underground and tells Daemon to go catch up with the League. Thomas stays close to Kage's side and angsts, having sworn never to use his GAO powers.
The battle dies down, and Hanabi and Bitz head back toward the League, mourning Gavin and Spike, respectively. Apok joins them as they head back, and Solomon finds Gavin crumpled on the cement. Daemon catches up to Hanabi and Bitz a couple minutes later. The four come upon Reina, who takes Daemon straight to Echo’s room.
After it all, Magnus is quite pleased with how things went (his goal had been to increase antagonism between the GAOs and the surrounding areas), and Puma reports to him on his progress with the mission. Neko, hanging outside the window, overhears. On his way away from his eavesdropping, Apok passes him and drops a note reading “The angel flies on May’s Ides” in his hand.
Stricken with grief, Daemon's performance begins to suffer. Puma catches him and confronts him about the sabotage. Daemon admits to it, and Puma attacks him. After a short battle, Daemon breaks away and escapes, disappearing from the League altogether. Puma attempts to hunt him down, but can’t track him. Neko picks up the slack in freeing the thralls.
Traveling through the tunnels, the scientists make for the metropolis of Krysia. They get there, and find sanctuary with an old friend of April’s. From the city, they have no more say in the goings-on of the League, and Kage gets uncomfortable, especially as news travels into the city that the LL has successfully seized control of most of Manhattan Island, which includes a disgruntled GAO colony of over four thousand people.
Gavin wakes up in the care of Solomon and takes on a role as a caravan guard, carting supplies and goods between Krysia and the nearby colonies. He discovers Daemon, whose personality has taken on a cool detachment that’s remarkably Puma-like, and the two are joined together by their internal pains.
Hanabi, alongside Bitz, Reina, and Gard, is caught in the middle of Magnus’ expansion. They are alongside the rest of his forces in the violent seizures of entire city blocks. Those who don’t submit, die.
Worried about the rising power of the LL, Krysia starts sending out scouts. Kage, Hiru, and Liz gladly sign up for it, and Thomas, Brian, April, and Cal all tag along. They arrive back in Old New York, and Sarah (one of Magnus’ confidants at this point) discovers their presence. However, she was one of the founders of the League, and is nearly as uncomfortable with the turn it’s taking as Kage is. She starts feeding them information about where Magnus is going to seize next. Puma discovers this, and kills her. He attacks the group with knives, killing Liz and taking Hiru’s right arm off before Brian catches him in a net (Cal once caught Neko the same way). Cal outfits Hiru with a mechanical arm. Kage gives Puma a tongue-lashing about his “GAOs were created as tools” attitude. Puma responds stubbornly by revealing that he’d once lost someone he cared deeply about because of overstepping his role as a tool, and Kage finds himself thinking of Thomas. That night, Puma disappears from his cage.
As for Daemon and Gavin: their work eventually takes them to the Manhattan colony. They do trade directly with the LL, and Gavin jumps at the chance to get to Magnus. He attempts to snipe Magnus from on top of a building, but a winged Leon catches him and, speaking about “retribution for the sins of the Naturals,” attacks him. Neko jumps out of nowhere and hops on his back, giving Gavin enough time to shoot Leon through the head. Neko is surprised when Gavin takes aim at him next, but manages to talk Gavin out of it by invoking friendship. Gavin, having lost his chance at Magnus, makes do with taking Neko back to Daemon. Neko has a talk with the both of them but, in the end, they decide that it’s better to part ways until Gavin and Daemon have dealt with their demons.
Magnus begins floundering without his confidants (Leon, Sarah, and Puma have all disappeared!) and some of the LL’s oldest members (Bitz and Reina among them, Hanabi coming along on principle) use his weakness to stage a coup. Support is split, so several are lost on both sides (Reina among them), but, in the end, Magnus flees. Hanabi and Bitz tear after him, but he escapes.
Kage comes out of hiding and resumes his spot in the League, frantically trying to get it organized again. The militant GAOs in the League revolt, but are quickly quelled with some wise trade deals and food rationing as proposed by Thomas (Kage is so proud of him). The scientists begin to press their case upon the Manhattan GAOs, who agree to help.
Months pass and, when the time comes, the League heads en masse to Krysia once again, where they discover that the scientists left in Krysia (Augustus, Peter, Max, and Meg) have wormed their case into the priority of the city council. Krysia provides transport halfway across the continent, to the pressure point. Unbeknownst to them, a ragged Magnus has heard of the plan and stows away on one of the aircrafts.
The ending takes place as the pressure point begins giving way to a volcanic eruption. GAOs take their places in channeling the pressure (Gard helps shield, Hanabi diverts heat). Magnus reveals himself, and tells Kage that he’ll willingly absorb what energy he can. Kage is suspicious, but there’s no time to bicker. Fissures begin opening in the ground, and a powerful explosion rocks the ground underneath them. Gard and the other shielders are thrown about, but the energy has been successfully channeled by about 4000 GAOs.
However, when the explosion dies down, Magnus turncoats. He’s been imbued with massive amounts of energy, and, in typical badguy style, revels in it by manifesting it and using it against those around him. Hanabi is blasted with an energy blast, and Bitz goes berserk, only to also be blasted back. Neko comes in next, but when Magnus attempts to blast him back, it bounces off the force shield created by his cat bell. Neko pounces, throwing them both into a magma-filled fissure.
Seconds later, Puma flies out of the fissure, Neko hanging from his arms. They set down next to Hiru (who is kneeling next to Hanabi). Kage, Thomas, and the scientists come running, Apok following slowly in their wake (after disappearing for MONTHS). At Hiru’s “what the hell?” look, Puma reveals that Apok had been the one to break him out of the scientists’ cage, as well as the one to bring him here. Apok just beams.
Things end up nicely for all involved. The GAOs, as a whole, head back to Old New York, and the League gain fame around the continent through rumors of what they’d done. Within a couple decades, it flourishes into a city called Harmony. Kage and Thomas remain prominent figures in Harmony politics for quite some time. Gard helps Nei, the healer, set up a more reliable hospital in Harmony.
Hiru kicks back with the rest of the scientists. They do some minor work for the Krysian government (and later, for Harmony as well) in improving communications and transport. With their help, the two allied cities send an emissary down the east coast to build relations with colonies and cities there… an emissary who is none other than Neko, who has a way with words that comes in handy as the network expands.
Hanabi gets in touch with his family in Manhattan (he’d run away from home at 15; they’d figured the worst) and goes back to doing what he does best: freelancing and bumming jobs off others. Bitz comes along for the ride.
Puma follows Apok to back where he came from –an old temple of mystics in the Himalayas. Puma is content to be used as a tool by the other oracle GAOs that reside within.
Daemon and Gavin return to the area occasionally, but range farther and farther with Solomon Trading Co. They visit their old companions when they’re in the city, but don’t stay for long, preferring the new lives they’ve found for themselves to the old memories that plague Old New York.