Once there was an Empire but now there is desolate ruin, the silence of a trillion unburied dead on a thousand worlds, and a handful of people who will not let the dream of star-spanning civilization die. Coeur "Red Sun" d'Esprit is one of those people committed to returning humanity to the stars. As a survivor of the fallen empire, she remembers better times, but as captain of a Reformation Coalition starship, she makes do with the limited resources of the here and now, and learns to deal with the sophisticated buy mysterious alien Hivers who appear to be helping mankind to rebuild its civilization. When Hiver scientists start dying by the hundreds on a frontier world, the future of humanity is called into question. Can this fragile civilization survive the plague that is wiping out its high-tech mentors, or will humanity have to rise or fall on its own? Is this a natural disaster, or is this the work of a hidden hand, willing to gamble the extinction of humanity for the extermination of an alien threat? As the plague spreads, Red Sun and her crew must head into the "Wilds" of uncivilized space to discover the truth, and to prevent this from becoming the Death of Wisdom.