The Imperium: a million worlds, trillions upon trillions of humans and aliens, an empire that dominates half the galaxy... an empire that is falling into chaos, revolution and civil war. Only a handful of people are struggling to keep the Imperium together, knowing that the brutality of its rule is infinitively preferable to the chaos of its fall. This is their story. Mariko and her sister were independent shippers and ace pilots, until they ran afoul of the law on a minor planet and ended up jailed and enslaved. Their new owner, Lord Fitz, seems to be nothing more than another harmless aristocrat with more money than sense - and besides, at least they can keep flying spacecraft. But Fitz isn't all he seems. He works for Imperial Intelligence, attempting to track down and destroy the Secessionist Movement before it launches a plan that threatens the very heart of the Imperium - and Mariko and her sister have just become his latest tools. But as they are drawn deeper into the seedy underside of the Imperium, one question comes to dominate their minds... Does the Imperium even deserve to survive?