Jack Potter puts computer cryptography to work for the highest bidder: sometimes for private corporations, sometimes for the government. Sometimes the work is legal; if not, Jack simply raises his price. But one day, Jack discovers something cloaked in the hiss of background radiation streaming past the Earth from deep space: a message from an alien civilization. One that's eager to do business with humanity -- and its representative.
Before he knows it, Jack has entered into a partnership that will open a Pandora's Box of potential profit and loss. The governments, the multinationals, and mysterious players more powerful still, all want a piece of the action -- and they're willing to kill, even wage war, to get it. Now Jack is entangled in a shifting web of deceit and intrigue in which no one, not even his closest friends, can be trusted. For Earth's cloak-and-dagger business practices are writ large in the heavens...and hostile takeovers are just as common across light years as they are across boardroom tables.