The human race will still be young 5000 years hence. Then, man fills the known galaxy, but is only man for all that. He claws his way into and out of barbarism on new worlds in new ways, but for the old reasons. He survives despite himself. Some even thrive. Others do what they must to get by, often groaning against the bridle of conscience. Cherkowa Bente is one such survivor. A young woman, she doesn't expect to grow old. People don't in her profession. Still, it seems a bit too early when the vessel on which she has stowed away begins to come apart around her. She has no choice but to throw herself upon the mercy of a skipper she suspects is crazy, he with his Iron Cat and all. Captain Ketl is none too happy to make her acquaintance under the circumstances. His ship gone, and some of his crew, his day is ruined already. No doubt his career, too. The primitive planet upon which they are about to be cast will impose hardship enough. An uninvited guest-and a criminal at that-can only heap trouble on top of trouble. But, thrust together as they are, Bente and Ketl join forces to reclaim not only the Cradle of Humanity, but something more personally significant: themselves.