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For seventeen years the renegade Pfhor scoutship jumped between the closely packed stars of the galactic core: charting and discarding nearly seven thousand systems before finally falling into a slow orbit around the second planet of a dim star ninety-seven light years from the gravitional center of the milky way. Probes were contructed and launched, with engines and instruments whose sophistication would have astounded both the Pfhor from whom technology had been stolen and the human programmers of the AI whose mad genius had directed their fabrication. The outlines of continents were mapped, and along them the radioactive ruins of ancient cities were discovered, buried under the shifting sand and rock of a global desert. The tireless, nearly immortal cybernetic crew of the ship were the genetically engineered descendants of the dead world below- the first of their race in a thousand years to return to their ancestral home. They came to search through the devastation of the ancient war in which they had been enslaved, to find a weapon or some piece of knowledge with which they could fight back against their oppressors. All over the ship, dancing through the wreckage of the Pfhor computer core, DURANDAL WAS LAUGHING