On September 17, 2014 aliens from a dying planet called Atria, crash landed on Earth, just outside of a small Louisiana town. Fearing an invasion, the humans immediately attack the Atrians. One of them sends his son away, hoping to spare his life. Elsewhere, six year old Emery Whitehill looks on fearfully as her parents try to grasp what is happening in the alien-human conflict near them. Not wanting to alarm her, her father instructs her to take her medication. She hears their shed door opening and closing outside and decides to investigate. There she finds the alien boy taking refuge. She decides to help him and brings him food, cold spaghetti, to eat. The next morning soldiers and dogs track the boy’s scent to the barn and storm in on he and Emery. He steps in to protect her but is shot by a tased by a trigger happy soldier. He appears to have died.
Ten years later, the Atrians are attempting to integrate into human society. Seven Atrian teens began high school near the sector where they have sequestered by the U.S. military since their initial contact with humanity. Still not trusted, the local populace protests against them and demands the Atrians return to their own world. They even refer to them as “Tatties,” due to the markings on their skin. Emery, now sixteen, begins high school as well. It is revealed she suffered from an autoimmune disorder and spent most of middle school and part of high school in a hospital. The morning before she is to start school she goes for a run and visits her friend, Julia, who is still in the hospital. They discuss a rumored herb called “cyper” that can heal any illness. Although Julia is happy her friend is better she wishes she too could begin school and a normal life. Emery spots one of the Atrian teens on television and feels like she knows him.