In the year 2025, the Shuttle Program has been privatized and the shuttle Atlantis relegated to a glorified taxi, carrying military and scientific personnel and equipment back and forth between earth and its orbiting space stations.
While on a routine mission, transporting Dr. Sarah Jenkins to an observation outpost, the ship encounters two flashing bursts of light. They shut down its instrumentation and leave it powerless, adrift in space. The crew attempts to repair the damage, when suddenly there is a third blinding flash of light…
The entire crew disappears from the ship, except for Travis Black, the rookie Tech Officer. Captain Richard Castle and the rest of the crew find themselves in the middle of a barren, desert wasteland. They have no idea where they are, or how they got there. Travis watches on monitors from the ship as members of the crew begin dying in bizarre ways: Mary Bishop, the Second in Command, freezes to death under a scorching sun, the Captain disappears mysteriously and is found hanging from a tree a few minutes later, Pete Hendricks, the Ship Mechanic, is torn apart by an invisible creature.
Another flash of light illuminates the Shuttle. Travis now finds himself with his shipmates. He slowly comes to realize that they have been chosen to compete in some sort of galactic chess game. At stake are the lives of the remaining Shuttle crew. Who is their opponent? Why have they been chosen? What will it take to survive?