In III millennium, ‘Arkadia’ is the nickname of a newly discovered planet where humans can move; leaving polluted and overpopulated Earth behind. It is advertised worldwide as a new paradise, perfect for a fresh start. All of this thanks to a giant corporation, Warp-Gen, that created a space warping technology, called Warp Bridge, allowing ships to travel to Arkadia from near-Earth orbit. The catch is, the time of journey is scale-dependent: it takes several years for large-scale transportation vessels, like those that would be used to transport selected Earth population, to get there. Small ships, with few people on board, can arrive there in a matter of days. These are currently used to quickly send engineers, terraformers and parts to Arkadia, so they can build the colony, which will be ready to welcome the first colonists. They are also used to transport winners of the ‘Arkadia Contest’ – a global lottery allowing lucky few to go there already.
The main character, in order to avoid trouble with the law on Earth, steals ID of one of the winners and manages to leave Earth. Upon arrival though, he learns the truth – in reality, Arkadia is a hostile planet with nearly unbreathable air full of mysterious and fatal radiation. Warp-Gen couldn’t detect it while building their Warp Bridge and what appeared to be a perfect planet turned out to be a deadly trap. The company, however, upon spending almost all of the investors’ money, couldn’t afford to build another Warp Bridge. Having at least several years before the first colonists will arrive, Warp-Gen decided to fake the news about the discovery and take the matter into their own hands.
The lucky contest winners are, in fact, Guinea pigs, forced into special mechanized suits during a gruesome process called ‘fusion’ where their bodies are permanently embedded into an air-tight pressurized gear along with a local specimen, pumped into the suit along with breathing fluid, acting as a natural air purifier, prolonging the survival on the surface. Needless to say, the whole experience is less than pleasant. Collectors (as the prisoners are referred to by Warp-Gen) are then set ‘free’ onto the surface of the planet to gather biological samples, radiation data and in general, to test the limits of human survival outside the fortified Warp-Gen outpost. The ultimate goal is to find the true source of deadly radiation, so it can be analyzed and, if possible, neutralized.