With the galaxy at war, worlds on the fringes of civilization are easy targets for fortune-hunters and outlaws. One such frontier world is the planet Asterima. Orphans on that world are sent to a remote island until the age of sixteen, when a flying machine comes to take them away.

David, one of the kids on that island, has many questions. "Where did we come from? How did we get here? Why is a year 340 days?" His trusted guardians have always provided answers, and he has usually believed them. But David is fourteen now, less than two years away from his own mandatory departure, and the answers to his questions are beginning not to add up. "Where are the kids taken when they turn sixteen? Why are they never heard from again? Why do they have to go away in the first place? Why do the men in the flying machines carry guns? "

David started building wings because he wanted to fly. Now he builds them for another purpose--to fly away from the island before men with guns come for him. Will two years be enough time to perfect his wings and learn to fly? Or will the flying machine come early for him, as it did for another kid who asked questions and didn't believe the answers?