After salvager Jack Carson lands on Canis Dogma Five, capital of the long-dead Circian Empire, he finds a ghost cube that tells him he's been chosen to become the next Emperor.
Even though he finds this ludicrous, Jack travels to the capital of the Torgassan Empire with an orphan girl, who claims to be the Princess of Circia. Bedeviled by three divorces, four bankrupcies and his constant search for smoke-induced oblivion, Jack tries to reach his destination while avoiding debt collection agents sent by his ex-wife.
Through a series of escapades, Jack finds out more about himself than he set out to find. But who is the mysterious girl... and can the Cube be right?
Up-and-coming multigenre author.
Jack stared at the cube, mesmerized by its iridescent color. One part of his mind calculated how long it would keep him in smoke while another part mocked him for thinking iridescence a color.
Two inches to a side, the cube glowed from the middle shelf of a contraption known as an oven. The cube stared back at him.
He swore it stared, seeing deep into his soul, tracing his past through his three failed marriages, his four bankruptcies, his multiple encounters with the Imperial Patrol, and his constantly smoking himself into oblivion.
Ivory swirls sloshed across its surface, like laughter. The cube knew him.
Twenty minutes earlier, he'd dropped from orbit in his Salvager to sniff through the ruins of Canis Dogma Five, the old Circian homeworld, for something he might hawk to the junk lords for a few hundred galacti. He'd found someplace to park the Scavenger out of sight from the constant patrols, his ship almost as derelict as the ruins he explored. Then he'd worked himself between the decrepit doors of an apartment building, one of the few still standing amidst the ruins of a city that had once housed a million people, minimum. Two floors up, he'd cracked a flat whose stale air bespoke its millennial inoccupancy. The oven was a perfect find, as valuable in its current state as it would be after being dropped out a window. I'm not carryin' it down two flights of stairs, he'd thought indignantly, bending to look inside. The dusty glass pane obscured the interior, so he'd opened the door.
And stared at the cube inside.
Before he could think, he snatched it from the oven.
Already translated. Translated by Lidia Folgar