Fleeing an empty future in the Nekropolis, twenty-one-year-old Hariba has agreed to have herself "jessed," the technobiological process that will render her subservient to whomever has purchased her service. Indentured in the house of a wealthy merchant, she encounters many wondrous things. Yet nothing there is as remarkable and disturbing to her as the harni, Akhmim. A perfect replica of a man, this intelligent, machine-bred creature unsettles Hariba with its beauty, its naive, inappropriate tenderness . . . and with prying, unanswerable questions, like "Why are you sad?" And slowly, revulsion metamorphoses into acceptance, and then into something much more. But these outlaw emotions defy the strict edicts of God and Man -- feelings that must never be explored, since no master would tolerate them. And the "jessed" defy their master's will at the risk of sickness, pain, imprisonment . . . and death.