November, 2031. Above the Earth, the weather satellite code-named "Sprite" ominously comes to life after decades of dormancy, about to carry out its programming to disrupt the election it had slept through.
Reuben Flagg and the illegal basketball team he escorting set down in Havana after an eventful voyage. A waiting van delivers the team, the Skokie Skullcrushers, to a rectory which is a front for a facility owned, as is the team, by Chicago mayor C. K. Blitz. Flagg gets a ride to his hotel, where he freshens up, and then disguises himself as Peter Zarustica, so he can take in the sights without being recognized as the actor who, until recently, had played "Mark Thrust". He takes a taxi to the red light district where he is immediately propositioned by a trio of hookers. When he declines, they pull out switchblades and close in on him. From nowhere, a man interrupts the assault, and the three run away. Before giving chase, he introduces himself as "Ned Beaumont", a hotel detective. Once "Beaumont" is out of sight, Flagg realizes he's been scammed, as his wallet is gone.
Much later that night, the Skullcrushers play against the local team. By halftime, they have a huge lead, which the home team takes offense to, returning to the court sporting jai alai hammers. When Tiny, one of the Skullcrushers, punches out the referee, a riot erupts. The 'Crushers take refuge in the reinforced locker room, while Flagg takes his chances on the street, wanting to avoid being found in the company of an illegal sports franchise. Soon, he is accosted by a pair of muggers, but is rescued by the same pickpocket he encountered earlier. "Beaumont" reintroduces himself as Sam Luis Obispo, and invites Flagg into the sidecar of his stolen police motorcycle.
They reach Obispo's place, and inside await two women in dominatrix outfits, "Mistress Veronika" (who sports a distinctive "dM" tattoo on her cheek) and "Mistress Bettina". Bettina orders Flagg to lick the floor and strikes him with her riding crop. In response, Flagg decks her.
The next day, Flagg and the team are en route to Brasilia for the other match. He and the team captain, Jules Folquet, are on the sundeck of the airship "Raymond Loewy". A hungover Flagg is trying to recover from what he refers to as a "good — and weird" night spent with Obispo and the two women.
The following afternoon, they are in Brasilia, and Flagg is in his PlexMall hotel room donning his Plexus Ranger uniform. He receives a call from Bill Windsor-Jones, whom he's given the duty of tracking down the source of hidden subliminal messages in Plex broadcasts. Bill confirms the signal originates from Brasilia.
Flagg then hears the Ranger assembly call and leaves to attend an arms expo. On the way, he is hailed by a fellow Ranger, Chief Emmett Golem, who introduces his companions, New Orleans Rangers Pelham Riverdale and Arcadia Driftwood. They soon cross paths with Adjutant General Ivor Overholt, whom Flagg recalls from his college days. Overholt had led a gang of bullies who made life hell for Flagg.
Overholt informs the quartet there will be an anti-Plex demonstration at the local spaceport that night, and all Rangers are ordered to duty, ensuring a safe landing for VIPs, including Marsplex attaché Dorian Le Strange, arriving from Mars.
Later, while they are on the way to the spaceport, the Rangers discuss the gogangs they have to deal with in their respective cities. Arcadia starts to describe how New Orleans no longer has gogang rampages, but Riverdale interrupts her, puzzling Flagg. Soon, they are in their riot gear clearing a path for the visitors. To Flagg's surprise, he sees Obispo in the crowd. Quickly the VIPs are escorted to their air-limo and they take off.
As Flagg and his companion, Crystal Marakova, prepare for a formal reception that evening, he gets a call from Bill who's pinpointed the signal source to inside the Brasilia PlexMall. They then note distortion in their audio, and Bill, suspecting a tap in their line, sends out a blast of feedback. It succeeds in blowing out the surveillance system in a seedy hotel room, elsewhere in town, that was indeed being used to spy on Flagg. The listeners, an unidentified Ranger and his blonde companion, also prepare to attend the same reception. Upon the table, in the Ranger's wallet, is a signed photo of Peggy Krieger, ex-wife of Flagg's murdered chief.
Later, at the reception, Flagg meets the embassy chief, Roger Deutsch-Marx, who introduces his daughter, Desiree Deutsch-Marx Overholt. Flagg is shocked to see he recognizes her as "Mistress Veronika". She propositions him, but Flagg, refusing to knowingly get involved with any married woman, declines. Insulted, she storms off, and Flagg realizes this does not bode well.
Soon, Ivor Overholt makes an announcement that, having learned of the upcoming basketball game, he is ordering a Ranger raid on it. Flagg quickly departs from the party, contacting Obispo to meet him so they can make a plan to minimize the impact to his career and his life.
Later, after the end of the reception, in the seedy hotel room, the couple welcomes Ranger Riverdale. He brings news that in Illinois, the A.S.L.C. (the subversive group Flagg is trying to investigate) are planning to make a move within the month. Adding that he's learned of Flagg's ability to see their subliminal messages in the programming, he tells the pair that the raid on the basketball game will provide the opportunity to eliminate Flagg.