The story is set on an artificial orbital colony that recreates an African savannah environment. It follows a man named Koriba, the mundumugu of a Kikuyu tribe living there. Koriba was raised in a Western tradition and received several graduate degrees. Later, he led several Kikuyu colonists to Kirinyaga to recreate a traditional Kikuyu utopia. When he kills a newborn child he believes is a demon, Maintenance (the people who maintain the environment and orbit of Kirinyaga) decide to send an investigator to see if they need to interfere with and regulate the Kikuyu traditions. Koriba is unbending in his insistence that Maintenance not interfere with their traditions no matter how much they dislike them. In the end Maintenance informs Koriba that they will not tolerate the killing of infants, and thus he begins to train the young men of his tribe to be warriors.