The Terran system is growing and expanding all the time. But an old and corrupt Centaurian Empire is holding Terra down, as it encircles the Terran system and will not let the humans grow out of their current empire. For this reason Terra is at war with Proxima Centauri and is trying to find a way of breaking free from the Centaurian's hold upon them. Eventually Terra comes up with a concept for a bomb, called Icarus, that Proxima can not defend against. Then the odds start to side with Terra, and Terra prepares to fight with this new-found technology. The only problem being is that Icarus does not yet work which prevents Terra from using it against Proxima Centuari. This is where Thomas Cole, known as The Variable Man, comes in. Cole is a man from the past, from the time just before the First World War. He is brought into the present (or future depending on perspective) as an accident via a Time Bubble that was used for research about the past. He escapes from the authority in the future and spends a lot of time running from them afterwards. It is, however, discovered that this man has a certain genius to fix things and make things work. This is because he comes out of a period of time when humans had a natural genius and an ability to invent things and to solve problems. Read the novel to find out what happens with the Variable Man and the war between Terra and Proxima Centauri.
Security Commissioner Reinhart rapidly climbed the front steps and entered the Council building. Council guards stepped quickly aside and he entered the familiar place of great whirring machines. His thin face rapt, eyes alight with emotion, Reinhart gazed intently up at the central SRB computer, studying its reading. "Straight gain for the last quarter," observed Kaplan, the lab organizer. He grinned proudly, as if personally responsible. "Not bad, Commissioner." "We're catching up to them," Reinhart retorted. "But too damn slowly. We must finally go over—and soon."