In the tradition of Poul Anderson's Operation Chaos, Jerry Oltion, a rising star of science fiction and a Nebula Award-winning author, returns with a novel of intergalactic travel, a mad scientist, and otherworldly allies.
Allen Meisner is a member of INSANE, the International Network of Scientists Against Nuclear Extermination. A card-carrying mad scientist, he develops a hyperdrive engine capable of taking anyone to the stars for just a few dollars. But after a demonstration aboard a space ship goes awry, Allen learns that there's no such thing as a free ride.
Allen's ideas do not have quite the effect he desires. While the ability to travel great distances excites some, it terrifies others. Earth is in chaos as governments prepare for war to control this unleashed power. With everyone waiting for the bomb-now propelled by hyperdrive-to fall, Allen and his shuttle pilot, Judy Gallagher, look for a way to save humanity.
With electronic parts from Radio Shack and a plastic septic tank from a lumberyard, they build their own spacecraft and go in search of habitable planets. Armed with new allies, an intelligent butterfly, and a temperamental tree, they return to Earth for a final showdown between fear and freedom.