Society has come to terms with a mining operation that requires the sacrifice of death-row inmates. But what happens when one inmate turns out to be innocent?
Only the recently dead can helm the “deadman switch” to pilot a ship through the Cloud, a mysterious solar entity that shields the Solitaire solar system and its valuable heavy metals. Two convicted murderers are routinely sacrificed for this task—one to enter the system, one to exit. Gilead Raca Benedar is a Watcher, employed by the wealthy head of an intergalactic mining company as a human lie detector of sorts. When Benedar is sent to Solitaire, with its metal-rich moons, to assist with the acquisition of its valuable mining rights, he and the crew are able to make it to Solitaire safely, and all goes well. That is, until Benedar’s Watcher powers show him that the second convict they are traveling with—the one meant to helm the deadman switch on their return journey—is innocent.