The Earth has endured the Zaibatsu Wars, where multinational corporations and their private militaries battled each other for market access and territory. Humanity has also discovered mysterious, ancient star-gates built by aliens called the Gonaymne, the “Nameless Ones,” who once ruled the galaxy but then inexplicably vanished. The star-gates allow humanity to colonize the stars, creating hundreds of differing human societies based on economic, social, racial, ethnic, and religious identities. But it also brings humans into conflict with bird-like aliens, the Iimarae. Diplomat Thom DuBois of Earth’s Planetary League heads to the planet Askander and hopes to forge common cause against the Iimarae.
Settled by free market extremists hoping to create a truly laissez-faire society, Askander has instead devolved into a neo-feudal society of family-owned corporate city-states bound by a religion that views the “invisible hand” of the market as God. The Askanderian families constantly intrigue against each other, and one noble, Don Ernesto abu Brion, has allied with the Iimarae, who have an ancient Gonaymne weapon that can make any star a supernova. Don Ernesto plans to bring all Askander under his control.