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 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.