Cormac is a legendary Earth Central Security agent, the James Bond of a wealthy future where "runcibles" (matter transmitters controlled by AIs) allow interstellar travel in an eye blink throughout the settled worlds of the Polity. Unfortunately Cormac is nearly burnt out, "gridlinked" to the AI net so long that his humanity has begun to drain away. He has to take the cold-turkey cure and shake his addiction to having his brain on the net. Now he must do without just as he's sent to investigate the unique runcible disaster that's wiped out the entire human colony on planet Samarkand in a thirty-megaton explosion. With the runcible out, Cormac must get there by ship, but he has incurred the wrath of a vicious psychopath called Arian Pelter, who now follows him across the galaxy with a terrifying psychotic killer android in tow. And deep beneath Samarkand's surface there are buried mysteries, fiercely guarded.