The Empress of the Eight Worlds has been assassinated during the Holiday of Life festivities on the planet Salutai. Prince Harivarman, exiled and a virtual prisoner on the Templar Radiant, suspects that he will be the next victim. Help is scarce: Gabrielle, the Prince's stunning redheaded lover, fears for her own safety. Anne Blenheim, the fortress' clear-eyed, fair Commander is favorably disposed toward the Prince, but her first responsibility is to the Templar High Command. Beatrix, the Prince's dark, iron-nerved yet seemingly demure wife, has already left him once. And Chen Shizuoka, the Templar recruit who staged a demonstration on Harivarman's behalf during the disastrous celebration on Salutai, is being stalked by planetary security forces.
When Prince Harivarman discovers an operable Berserker: his first instinct is to turn it in. But then he finds an ancient code that will either allow him to control the dreaded machine or lead him (and everyone else on the Templar Radiant) to certain death.