Entering a newly discovered underground complex cautiously, a team of Terran and Nordakian archeologists on the planet Mawcett are stunned to find the elaborate complex in pristine condition. Summoning the courage to venture further, they enter a large circular chamber lined with strange electronic equipment. Immediately becoming engrossed in examining strange symbols etched into the floor near the center of the room, the scientists are suddenly bathed in a strange light that paralyzes them where they stand. They watch in frozen terror as a clear, circular wall rises up around them. As the enclosed area begins to fill with an odorless green gas, the dig site laborers, who had witnessed the activity from the periphery, run screaming for the entrance.
Having accidentally triggered an ancient process that creates full sized replicas of any life form, the clones of the scientists develop in less than a week and have all the knowledge and memories of the original. Unable to turn off a process that continues to produce an ever increasing number of clones, the scientific party sends a priority distress signal to Space Command. The nearest ship, the battleship Prometheus, is dispatched to answer the call.
Shortly after arriving at the planet, the Prometheus receives another distress call, this time from a passenger ship three months distant. Lieutenant Commander Jenetta Carver, second officer aboard the battleship, is left in command of the planetary mission and assigned the task of finding a way to disengage the equipment, without destroying it, while the Prometheus leaves orbit to handle the new emergency. But Raiders have learned of the cloning equipment, and just a month after the Prometheus departs Mawcett, the Raiders arrive to seize the valuable artifact. Knowing that she must prevent the equipment from falling into their hands at any cost Carver's faces the Raider forces with just two platoons of Space Marines, the scientists, and — her clones.