Dana Ikoro, a smuggler and Starcaptain, is en route to the planet Chabad with a cargo of dorazine, which is used there as a tranquilizer for the slave population. The drug’s production is controlled by a conglomerate known as the Pharmacy. Demand for it is constant, but supply is affected when the drug police try to take over the drop points. When a fellow pilot, Tori Lamo-nica, hijacks his cargo, Dana decides to visit Chabad anyway. He is caught by the sadistic Zed Yago, scion of one of the four families that rule the planet and commander of the Sardonyx Net, the slave-transport system. Zed impounds Dana’s starship and gives him a ten-year slave contract as a penalty for his smuggling activities. Zed, a doctor by training, tortures Dana into terrified compliance.
Zed intends Dana to be a present for his sister, Rhani, who runs the financial affairs of the Yagos, managing her family’s investments and slave business and overseeing the all-important dorazine supply. Her brother brings in criminals, who are turned into slaves by the drug. Rhani is kind to Dana, making him her bodyguard and eventually taking him as her lover. Their attraction grows against a backdrop of unheard-of marriage negotiations initiated by Ferris Dur, a member of another of the ruling families but not heir to its power.
Rhani faces ongoing threats and attempts on her life because of the slave trade and the use of the increasingly unavailable dorazine. Dana...
(The entire section is 481 words.)