John Ransom was born in 1960, a native of the England of the Earth known to its inhabitants as Thulcandra, but is a resident of the Earth known as Terra Meridiana (TM). Both worlds are members of the EarthLeague. With its capital on TM, EarthLeague is an alliance of human worlds distantly removed in the multiverse from those familiar to the other Rifters, and separated from them by the group of Earths overpowered by the Kromaggs. The EarthLeague, which is highly advanced, has been fighting its own war against the Kromaggs for over thirty years. EarthLeague has access to wormhole technologies that permit controlled travel not just through the multiverse but also through space and time, and each of the three arms of its military, EarthForce, is responsible for one dimension of travel. EarthForce recruits only the best and brightest, which it hand picks at an early age. John Ransom is selected at the age of XX and his family moves from Thulcandra to TM, where he is enrolled in the EarthForce Academy in Chicago.

When he first encounters the Rifters, Ransom is a Commander in EarthForce's Multiverse Patrol and is on long-range scouting duty behind enemy lines. The existence of human-controlled worlds in this part of the multiverse is a new discovery for EarthLeague, and the fact that the Kromaggs are fighting on two fronts simultaneously is of enormous strategic importance to EarthForce. However, Ransom is not able to report this information back immediately; for security reasons, he does not carry TM's multiverse coordinates. Instead, he has an implant that is traceable by an automated retrieval system that will take him home at a time of which he is also unaware.

His retrieval is unfortunately timed; the Tardis containing himself, Nekka Mallory and the Doctor is under attack from Manta ships. He spends the next five years, during which time he is promoted to Captain, trying to convince EarthForce to send him back to rescue his friends. He has to go back, he argues, because just prior to his retrieval he received a message from himself saying he had done so. EarthForce is unmoved, since such a communication would have been a gross violation of temporal and military laws. Frustrated, he takes matters into his own hands and mounts an illegal rescue. However, an accident misdirects him in time and space. He finds himself a year earlier than planned, in the San Francisco of spindoctor's world at the same time that the original Rifters arrive there. Attacked by Mina Skywalker under Kromagg mind control, he ends up in a coma at Ravencroft, where his implant is removed by spindoctor and inadvertently damaged.

Awakened after a massive earthquake, he spends the next year working his way back to rescue Nekka and the Doctor, and then goes in search of spindoctor in hopes of getting him to repair the implant, his only means of returning home. For this he is desperate: although he knows that he will face court martial upon his return, he has also left behind his wife (a double of Nekka Mallory) and three children. He locates spindoctor, who is unable to repair the implant, leaving Ransom adrift in the multiverse and a fugitive from EarthForce justice...

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