The date is Thursday, November 27, 2031. Above the Earth, a thirty-five year old Soviet satellite code-named "Sprite" orbits, dormant, until it is impacted by a meteor. Something in its works falls into place, and it commences its heretofore unrealized purpose: the disruption of the 1996 American Presidential election.
At the Chicago PlexMall, Plexus Ranger Reuben Flagg complains to Mayor C. K. Blitz about mounting problems in the Mall since Chief Krieger's murder. Adding to Flagg's frustration is the assignment Blitz has just given him: to escort Blitz's illegal basketball team, the Skokie Skullcrushers, to Havana and Brasilia for two games. Flagg's tirade is interrupted by an altercation outside the station. Representatives at two recruiting booths, one for the Irish Republican Army, the other for the People's Republic of Great Britain have started a brawl. Flagg enters the fray sedating most of the scrappers with Somnambutol.
That evening, Blitz and his heavily tranquilized daughter, Medea, host a Thanksgiving dinner broadcast live on the program "Nuclear Family". Attending are Flagg, Mandy Krieger, Fourth World Industries head Ester de la Cristo, the two ambassadors involved in the earlier brawl, Ernesto Klein-Hernandez and Mr. Bokasa, and Raul the talking cat. After dinner, Blitz raises a toast to Medea, whom he is sending to Brasilia for Ranger training.
Later, Mandy lies in bed with Flagg, who laments his current woes. Mandy hands him a datascan provided by their underground information-brokers, the Witnesses. Reading it, he learns the "Bob Violence" subliminals originate, not from the Plex on Mars as he has suspected, but from Brasilia. The next afternoon, Flagg strides into Blitz's office, agreeing to escort his team to Brasilia, provided that Mandy goes with him, that he gets a much-needed deputy upon his return and a shopping spree at the arms fair. The Mayor agrees. Before Flagg exits, he greets de la Cristo, whom he finds in a compromising position under Blitz's desk. She claims she and the Mayor are discussing arrangement of a visa to enter Chicago, but Flagg cuts her short, reminding her Plex law forbids entry by foreign nationals, a law he fully intends to uphold.
The following night finds Flagg and his allies facing down another gogang rampage. He once again takes down the leader, Cyril Farid-Khan, and once again puts him into custody.
Afterwards, Flagg and Mandy have drinks at Love Canal, where she learns about his upcoming trip. He invites her along to provide her technical expertise, but she declines, suggesting Bill Windsor-Jones go instead.
The next morning, the Four World Airways liner "Raymond Loewy" takes off for South America. Aboard are Flagg, Bill, Medea, the Skullcrushers (kept under sedation) and pilot C. G. (Crystal) Marakova. Flagg and Crystal spend a few private hours together, after which they head to the bridge for her shift. There, they are confronted by a group of armed hijackers who identify themselves as members of the Provisional Order of the Black Shamrock, an arm of the I.R.A. They intend to divert the craft to Great Britain to drop a nuclear device onto London. The change in course would require auxiliary fuel, which Crystal has access to. Flagg quickly introduces himself to Des, the Shamrock leader, as "Peter Zarustica" of Four World Security, claiming he also has access.
Des orders one of his men to accompany Flagg and Crystal to the fuel bank. On the way, Flagg abruptly lays into the gunman and sends him over a railing to his death. The rest see the struggle over the video monitors until Crystal disables the system. She then heads off to warn Bill and Medea while Flagg goes to the hold where the Skullcrushers are sedated. He revives the team captain, Jules "Deathwish" Folquet to explain the situation and request help. After a brief negotiation, Jules agrees.
Soon, Crystal shuts down the propulsion system, and the liner drifts. Then, after the Shamrock technician, Clifford X, has repaired the audio/video system, Des contacts Flagg and they agree to meet to negotiate. However, Clifford points out a video screen that indicates Flagg is not where he said he'd be. Des and his men leave the bridge, prepared for an ambush. They burst into the cabin in which they expected to find Flagg hiding, but instead find Bill and Medea in Flagg and Crystal's uniforms. Suddenly, Flagg and the Skullcrushers surprise the hijackers from behind.
They kill most of the gunmen, but Des slips away and rushes back to the bridge. Flagg gives chase to find Des holding the pilot at gunpoint with one hand, and his other on the trigger of the nuclear device. He demands the ship's power be restored or he'll activate the bomb. At that point Crystal arrives toting a machine gun and she cuts Des down. When she and Flagg turn toward the device to deactivate it, they find it is little more than a firecracker.
Soon, Flagg interrogates the dying Des in the infirmary. He and his mates were actually Canadians who wanted to join the ASLC, but were rejected as non-Americans. They planned to prove themselves by bombing London. Flagg tries to get more out of Des regarding the ASLC, but the man dies.
They leave the infirmary and Flagg muses that a report will probably be expected by Ambassador Deutsch-Marx, to which Crystal replies that Deutsch-Marx is merely a figurehead. The real power, she continues, is in the hands of Adjutant General Ivor Overholt, a name Flagg recognizes with a shock.
Meanwhile, in a Brasilia hotel room, an unidentified couple discusses Flagg's impending arrival as they prepare for bed. One, whose Plexus Ranger uniform hangs on the door, assures the other, if they don't like Flagg, they'll kill him.