Human beings abducted over the centuries by various aliens have found each other, established families and Earth-like societies, and have become prosperous and influential in the interstellar society. The abductees cannot return to Earth because contact with the Earth at this time would have grave consequences for Earth’s societies. They know magic as well as advanced technology. However, some are allowed to visit Earth secretly, to seek their pre-abduction ancestors and to gather information to model their societies after those on Earth.
The PONTARIUM OF PROMETHEUS is an organization of Earth people that helps off-world humans to visit the Earth secretly. They have established places for the starship landing craft to come in without being noticed. One such place is GRANNY GRAFTON’S ORCHARD.
PRINCESS AMARANTH, of the world BALMORAL, has come to present-day Earth to attend high school, incognito. The Pontarium has found and recruited fifteen-year-old KAREN BILLINGS, of Philadelphia, to accompany her. Karen had run away from home to avoid her parents’ sending her to BIBLE GROVE CHRISTIAN ACADEMY -- the very school where Princess Amaranth is going. However, Karen has now agreed to go. The Pontarium members have impressed upon Karen the importance of keeping the interstellar society a secret, but she has also learned of some factions that want to precipitate contact now, despite the damage it would cause.
A UFO follows their airplane on their flight to the school. Karen learns some political factions, including members of Princess Amaranth’s own family, want to bring about contact with the Earth for their own political reasons.
Karen and Amaranth meet MRS. NIELSEN, the girls’ dorm mother, who also is a member of the Pontarium. Mrs. Nielsen does another search of Amaranth’s trunk and finds various contraband. Amaranth blames Karen for the discovery and storms out of the room. She does not speak to her for part of the next day.
At breakfast, Karen Meets TARK BYNUM, a UFO enthusiast who will talk of little else. He shows her a tabloid article about their encounter with the saucers. His speculations about the matter make Karen feel uneasy.
At a different table, Amaranth meets KEVIN LANCASTER, along with SHERIDAN OVERSTREET and MOLLY IVERSON. All three, Karen is told, are religious.
Their first full school day begins. BROTHER BOB is the Bible studies teacher. The class gets into a discussion about the right and wrong of magic. Karen takes special notice of LUCINDA CARMODY, a girl in the aviation class who is also very interested in magic.
Amaranth apologizes over her snit of the night before, and they discuss Kevin. Amaranth tells Karen that Kevin “may have his uses,” but will say no more.
The two of them sit with Kevin, Molly, and Tark at lunch. The talk turns to where they plan to go to church Sunday. When Amaranth decides to go to Kevin’s church, Molly, who has an interest in Kevin, leaves the table in a huff.
At supper, Tark corners Karen to talk about UFOs, again. Lucinda joins them. When Tark brushes her off to talk to Karen, Lucinda explodes, threatening Karen with some unspecified magic.
The next day at riding class, Amaranth's horse is stung by a shot from an air pistol. Because of Molly’s snit, she is suspected of the deed. The adults want to get the air gun. Karen and Amaranth go to bed wondering how they might find it. Then the fire alarm goes off.
The fire alarm is a ruse for Mrs. Nielsen to search the dorms for the air gun. She and MISS FARNSWORTH find it in a trash can near Molly’s room. She becomes a suspect due to her apparent jealous snit the day before. Karen and Amaranth believe her protests of innocence, but she remains the only suspect.
Karen begins to worry about the attention Amaranth is giving to ROJO BRAVO, a lame dog who is the unofficial campus mascot. She thinks Amaranth may be thinking of healing him, which she is strictly forbidden to do while on Earth.
Sunday comes, and Karen and Amaranth go with several others to Kevin’s church. There is a healing service, where a blind teen-age girl’s sight is restored. This is the first time Karen has seen healing. The students’ conversation on the way back to school try to relate miracles to magic and the paranormal.
When they get back to school, they find Mr Bailey and Amaranth’s cousin, CLARION VON DRAKENBERG, commandant of the fleet protecting Earth, waiting for them. Von Drakenberg has reason to think the air-pistol attack on Amaranth’s horse may be part of some intrigue. This would mean the conspiracy has a member at the school -- a mole.
The four of them go to the riding trail where it happened. As they investigate, they are shot at by an alien. They capture her and stash her in Mr. Bailey’s plane to be picked up that night by a landing craft from Clarion’s ship.
However, Clarion’s landing craft is attacked by another craft belonging the conspirators who sent the alien. Clarion’s people get the alien, but the attack destroys Mr. Bailey’s plane and military investigators find a dead member of the conspiracy in the wreckage. But the military finally declares that the noise and the damage to the campus was caused by a storm. Most of the public accepts the storm story, and things settle down. Karen continues to learn about the galactic intrigue surrounding Amaranth and the controversy about making contact with Earth.
Karen has a strange dream, which Amaranth declares is a Hunch, the sort of premonition that is the basis of magical skills. She insists Karen tell Mrs. Bailey and Miss Farnsworth about it. That evening, four strangers attempt to kidnap Karen and Amaranth. Three Bible Grove boys come to their rescue. Amaranth kills one of the kidnappers in the fight and they subdue the other three survivors. Amaranth uses her healing skills to calm Karen’s emotional upheaval from the events.
Karen and Amaranth return to their room after the police finish their investigation. Miss Farnsworth tells Karen that she has notified her parents of the incident and they are flying to Bible Grove with Mr. Bailey. Karen fears they may take her out of the school. Amaranth assures her that Mrs. Nielsen will convince them otherwise. They all meet the next day with the headmaster. Mrs. Nielsen has indeed convinced Karen’s parents to let her stay at Bible Grove.
Mr. Bailey introduces them to MARK KINGSLEY, who he says works for a private security firm which he has engaged to investigate the kidnap attempt, on behalf of Amaranth’s father. Miss Farnsworth has already told her the agency is a part of the Pontarium. Mark tells them the surviving kidnappers have started talking, and that the gang has kidnapped eight other girls, who have not yet been found.
As Mark gives his report, Karen seems to “see” the abducted girls. She suspects she is beginning to have Hunches. Then as Mr. Bailey and her parents are leaving the campus, Mr. Bailey calls her aside and presents Karen with a wand.
Mark is assigned to the campus to assist MR. SITES, the campus security guard, with watching the campus. He and Amaranth begin to teach Karen how to use a wand, introducing her to a magic web site with tutorials and magical drills.
Lucinda Carmody, who has an interest in Mark, becomes jealous of the time he is spending with Karen and pulls a fake wand on her in the parlor of the girls’ dorm. Karen doesn’t know the wand is a fake, and she puts Lucinda in the hospital and damages the parlor.
Lucinda’s Parents come to the school. They tell Karen that Lucinda’s Aunt is involved in magic. Using Hunches, Karen hacks Lucinda’s computer and finds a link to the magic web site on it. Karen and Amaranth suspect Lucinda of being the mole, or knowing who it is.
Amaranth “uses” Kevin to cure Rojo Bravo’s lame leg. In doing so, she causes Rojo to pick up some magical abilities of his own, Hunches in particular. Amaranth denies any Romantic interest in Kevin.
Spring Break is split between some days at the Orchard followed by some at Karen’s home with Amaranth as a guest. At the Orchard, Mr. Bailey introduces Karen to LUMAL HATTER HORSEHAND, who teaches her more magic.
From an Ilv family who are friends of Amaranth’s parents, Karen learns that the conspiracy runs deep in Amaranth’s family, and the group probably causing Amaranth’s trouble is known as the IMMEDIATE VINECOURT FACTION, or FACTION IV.
They go on to Karen’s house. They go shopping at the local mall, where Karen thwarts another attempt to kidnap Amaranth. The Pontarium sends a landing craft to take them directly back to Bible Grove. The pilot tells Karen he has been asked to teach her to fly the landing craft because of a Hunch by OLD MOSH, the Vinecourt family Kabalist. He instructs her on the trip to Bible Grove.
Another Hunch of old Mosh is that Karen and Amaranth have the best chance of discovering and thwarting Faction IV’s plans. Karen and Amaranth decide that Lucinda is either the mole or knows who it is. Approaching Lucinda has the difficulty that Lucinda is jealous of Karen over Mark and Karen has just put her in the hospital. Nevertheless, they decide they have to try.
Karen goes to church where Brother Bob is pastor. His sermon is about patching things up with someone after an argument. The conversation continues after church, at the home of some church members. Brother Bob seems to know more than he can say at dinner. Karen has Hunch she should talk to him.
Karen visits Brother Bob in his classroom. She finds he knows about the magic Web site and has been using it, himself. He does indeed have Hunches. He gives her some advice on approaching Lucinda, suggesting that Lucinda herself may be ready to talk.
A plague of food poisoning strikes the school. On the morning after, everybody except Karen, who didn’t eat any of the chicken and rice, have been up all night sick. A bat-like creature shows up. He gives Karen two wands, which he says she is to give to Brother Bob and Lucinda. She approaches Lucinda at breakfast. Lucinda shows her the web site and says she has been making progress on it with her Hunches. At this point, Karen doesn’t want to reveal what she knows to Lucinda, and so doesn’t give her the wand. However, she does give Brother Bob his wand.
Amaranth and Miss Farnsworth discover that the food poisoning was not salmonella but an organism from off-Earth. Karen and Amaranth agree that the organism was likely brought to Bible Grove and that the food poisoning was deliberate. Lucinda tells them she has been looking for a cure on the magic web site, and incidentally tells them PAISLEY DONOVAN first gave her the link to it. Paisley immediately becomes suspect as the mole.
Amaranth gets Rojo Bravo to deliver Lucinda’s wand without her knowing where it came from. However, Lucinda soon calls Karen aside and shows her the wand. Lucinda tells her she has not shown the wand to Paisley, who has made no progress with the web site and seems to have no magical ability, and would be envious. But Paisley has told Lucinda that her uncles are involved in some kind of political movement and that something is going to happen, at the beginning of summer, that will change the whole world.
They still don’t have much information about Paisley or how she might be connected with Faction IV. Using magical stones to avoid notice, Karen and Amaranth crack the headmaster’s safe and copy Paisley’s student folder. They find that her grandmother was an abductee, illegally returned to Earth, probably by Faction IV.
With Paisley firmly established as the mole, Karen and Amaranth’s task is to extract Faction IV’s plans from Paisley. They don’t quite know how to go about this, as Paisley is unfriendly to both of them.
Lucinda tells them Paisley has seen her practicing with her wand. Paisley has told her Amaranth is from another planet, and that after the planned event in summer, she will be able to go to magic school on this other world. Amaranth confirms to Lucinda what Paisley has told her, and enlists her help getting Faction IV’s plans from Paisley.
Brother Bob’s church hosts an end-of-school picnic at Lake Showme, near the campus. Kevin can’t go, because he is in the school's aviation program and has to fly a cross-country solo that day. Part of his flight plan is to land at the small airport near the lake. As he approaches the runway, his engine fails and he crashes into the lake. Brother Bob and Amaranth rescue him, and the wrecked plane is hauled back to the school and locked up in the hangar. Using the magic stones, Karen and Amaranth break into the hangar and examine the plane. They find it was sabotaged. Karen and Amaranth tell Brother Bob about the Pontarium.
As they pack to go home, Paisley comes to their room and taunts Amaranth, revealing that she knows who she is, and indeed has been involved in Amaranth’s troubles the whole term. They manage to turn her, and she reveals that Faction IV is using her grandmother’s mansion in Scotland as a hideout, and they plan to land a saucer publicly in front of Buckingham Palace the next day. All the Pontarium people at the school pile into the landing craft that had been flying cover over Bible Grove and head for the mansion.
They prevail in the magical shoot-out at the mansion, but a saucer escapes and heads for London to make the public contact anyway. Karen and Mark take a landing craft and manage to shoot down the saucer and prevent the contact. Faction IV is rounded up and taken to Balmoral, and Karen and Amaranth go to spend their summer at the Orchard.