The date is Wednesday, December 24, 2031. For the past month, snow has been falling heavily in the Midwest, causing death and damage, and displacing thousands of citizens, referred to as "dispers"
Within Chicago's Hilton Krieger Memeorial PlexMalI, Brazilian ambassador Ernesto Klein-Hernandez and Love Canal proprietor Gretchen Holstrom, who have been carrying on an affair, are walking amidst the holiday décor, when an angry Ester de la Costa, head of Fourth World Industries, confronts Ernesto. Gretchen departs and Ester insists that Ernesto take steps to help her circumvent the law that prohibits foreign nationals from visiting Chicago proper, in order for her to make progress on her plan to purchase Illinois from the Plex. When Mandy Krieger, who had recently been temporarily deputized as a Plexus Ranger, walks past, Ester abandons Ernesto and approaches Mandy, hoping to take advantage of her connections.
They both enter the Plex Ranger station where Raul, the talking cat who acts as assistant, is enjoying bionic gloves, complete with opposable thumbs, which Mandy designed and procured for him. She asks where Chief Ranger Reuben Flagg is.
Flagg is on a call with his new (and most unwelcome) deputy, an awkward android named Luther Ironheart. They have tracked down a hijacked produce truck, which has gotten stuck in the snow. Flagg tries to sneak up on the thieves, but Luther begins firing on them. Despite losing the element of surprise, Flagg and Luther arrest the group after a short struggle. After sending the robot back to the Mall with the prisoners, Flagg heads his snowmobile to his underground television station Q-USA, but first stops at a diner for a meal.
Before long, another customer enters, whom Dot, owner of the diner, introduces to Flagg as Dr. Titania Weis. The small talk is cut short by gunshots outside. Flagg and Weis rush out to see a woman kneeling over a man who has been shot, and Weis goes to his aid. The woman points out an armed hitchhiker who is trying to steal their vehicle, and Flagg stops the assailant. However, a nearby crowd of dispers misread the situation and tackle Flagg, allowing the thief to escape. Weis then scatters the crowd with gunshots fired into the air, and she summons Flagg to aid her in emergency surgery on the man who was shot.
The procedure is successful, and Flagg assures Dot he'll return for the patient the next day. As he leaves, Weis asks him to make a delivery to the Jerry Rigg weapons dealer franchise at the Mall. She has designed an experimental prosthetic device and she's contracted them to produce a prototype.
Later, when Weis is driving home, her phone rings. The caller introduces himself as Decker, the leader of the American Survivalist Labor Committee (A.S.L.C.), a racist and reactionary subversive group. She confirms that the prosthetic will be built within two days. Decker then proceeds to brief her of the details of the pact between their respective associations.
Meanwhile, Rueben has reached Q-USA and is despairing that the station is falling into disrepair, and he sets to making what fixes he can.
A week passes, and anticipation is high at the Mall for that night's New Year's Eve parties, one for the residents, and another for the dispers who have found refuge there. Mayor C. K. Blitz greets Flagg who is drinking with Raul, and he happily tells the Ranger his daughter Medea is soon arriving, on leave from Ranger training. Flagg complains about Blitz sticking him with Luther as his deputy. Then Ester de la Cristo approaches Flagg with a gift of rare whiskey, but when she broaches the topic of visiting Chicago, he throws the bottle down, disgusted by her bribery attempt, and storms off to have supper alone.
Before long, though, Dr. Weis comes to his table, and later, they are dancing at the disper party. On a walkway above, two malcontents grumble about the influx of dispers.
300 miles to the south, the Four World Airways liner "Norman Bel Geddes" comes in, but instead of landing, its pilot announces they will proceed to Chicago, thanks to a report of clear weather. Before long, however, C. G. Marakova, on dispatch duty, receives a corrected report warning of a major storm brewing, and she tries to contact the "Bel Geddes".
Elsewhere, Flagg and Weis have retired to his quarters. He begins to undress her, but stops at the sight of her pendant, a Nazi swastika. She tells him she wears it as a member of the Gotterdammercrats. Angry, he briefly turns his back on her, but gives in, ripping the chain off her neck, and picking up where they left off.
Afterwards, as Flagg wallows in self-loathing, Raul chimes in on the video phone to report that violence has broken out at the parties, with one disper firing shots. Flagg rushes to the scene, where on the level below him, the gunman holds Blitz as a human shield, while Mandy and Luther are pinned down another level lower. He leaps onto the gunman, toppling him into a fountain below, and then leaps at him again, knocking him out with his "buzz-knucks".
After things have settled down, Marakova finds Flagg and informs him that the "Bel Geddes", on which Medea was traveling, flew straight into the storm, and hasn't been heard from in three hours.