Marissa and the traders arrive on the planet Emath to trade for crystals. A simple trade but nothing is simple on Emath. They find there is no trading at the spaceport. Instead, the crew must travel to a native Trade Center. The natives hate offworlders. Xeres want something from the natives. Marissa finds herself caught between the natives, the military, Xeres, and the rest of the traders. More
The big corporations have a monopoly on the lucrative planetary trade along the densely traveled trade routes. The Celeste travels on the fringes with the lucky exception of a trade permit recently acquired by the captain. He refuses to tell how he managed to obtain the permit just as he refuses to tell his sources for the cargoes. Thus, it is no surprise that traders consider the Scheralt system as dangerous and a morass for ships.
The captain outlines the trade to be a simple short stop. The Celeste is to trade ore for crystals. Problems arise before the crew even lands on the planet. With magnetic storms capable of destroying the ship, Captain Jerupt must drop the crew then break orbit moving to the star system’s perimeter to avoid the magnetic storms
After landing, the crew finds they must travel to the native's trade centers to trade for the crystals. The transportation is primitive riding on animals unpleasant normally but exhausting for the crew caused by the planet’s gravity being nearly double the ship's gravity. The trade will just take longer to complete but more than just trade is being plotted and everyone has a separate agenda.
The starport commander under the guise of improving port and native relations plants a spy with the traders. Xeres Corporation manipulates and bribes the traders into spying for them. Xeres Corporation wants to learn the shielding manufacturing secretes and to takeover the natives processing plants. The natives, Klarn, will not trade with the Xeres Corporation or cooperate on any level. The other faction is the Kirch. The Kirch came into existence from the Klarn that Xeres forced to work in their plant. They avoid offworlders and hate all offworders wanting them eliminated from the planet.
Celeste's crew finds themselves caught in the middle of a power struggle. Xeres Corporation is more than willing to kill to achieve their goals. The natives are defending their sovereignty. The commander wants promoted off the planet and is willing to sacrifice anyone to achieve her goals. The Celeste's crew wants to live long enough to get off the planet. Who will win? The power struggle divides the crew and tests their loyalties. One thing is for certain, trade is not anyone's primary goal.