Jimmy Hicks is just like any normal kid; he wants to spend the holidays away from school and go on a date with his crush, Leslie.
The only trouble is that Jimmy, along with six other teen geniuses (Leslie, Simon, Barn, Dave, May-Rose and Cruikshank), goes to school at Pinewoods Military Installation, a government military base. Forced to spend Christmas vacation at the base, Jimmy and Leslie make a plan to sneak out by disabling the security codes on the gate.
Then, something happens in the lower levels, in the top-secret lab known as Bunker 10. An experiment goes horribly wrong and a plague that threatens the entire human race is released.
It's a race against time, as the base is set to self-destruct and all communication with the outside world is cut off, making the prospect of escape very bleak indeed.
Can Jimmy and his friends survive?
This novel provides examples of:
- Brainwashed and Crazy
- Colonel Badass: Well, lieutenant. Lt. Dunwoody manages to take down an entire room full of Brainwashed and Crazy soldiers before most can even grab their weapons.
- Compelling Voice: May-Rose gains this as part of her "transformation." She can force people to do anything. And that means anything.
- Creepy Child: May-Rose. Good lord.
- Dying Moment of Awesome: Major Cowper.
- Foregone Conclusion: Both the book jacket and the prologue assert that the base is destroyed and there are no survivors. This is ultimately Subverted.
- Gone Horribly Wrong: Project Flower, a secret genetics experiment that spirals out of control and causes all hell to break loose.
- Grandfather Paradox: Quoted word for word in the beginning of the novel.
- The Hero: Jimmy.
- Heroic BSoD: Barn, after he realizes that his actions (giving Sherman's team the idea to flood the fourth level, which is filled with Dunwoody's trapped men, with gasoline and light it on fire) caused many deaths.
- Idiot Savant: Barn. He is very childlike and heavily implied to be autistic, but he is an absolute genius at logic and reasoning, being a chess prodigy and able to answer long equations on the spot.
- Jive Turkey: "Diddy" Dave. So very much. Although justified in that he grew up in the projects.
- Nice Job Breaking It, Hero!: Damn it, Jimmy, why did you have to disable all the locks in the base, allowing May-Rose to escape?
- Perky Goth: Leslie. As Jimmy tells her, "You've got a very sunny disposition for a goth," although she denies being one.
- Playful Hacker: Dave.
- Set Right What Once Went Wrong
- Smug Snake: James Cruikshank, arguably the most unsympathetic of the teens.
- Sociopathic Soldier: Nulce, one of Sherman's team members.
- Teen Genius: The seven heroes.
- Time Travel: Simon is nearly-obsessed with trying to find the formula for time travel. he eventually does.
- Twist Ending: A rare Zig-Zagged, utterly Mind Screwy one, at that.
- Villainous Valor: Dunwoody's men during their Last Stand. Well, inasmuch as they count as villains.
- Virtual Training Simulation: Sherman and his team, who work for the military, are sent into a highly advanced simulation, where the projections are capable of intelligent thought, to stop a rogue program. Or at least they think they are. The prologue of the book, in which the entire main cast celebrates christmas happily right before being blown to pieces, turns out to be one, with all but one of them being part of the simulation.