Lanik Mueller, heir of one of the richest Families on the planet of Treason, is used to the occasional growth of an extra limb or organ; it is just surgically removed and his body heals within the hour. But when transsexual growth occurs—in his case a rather voluptuous set of breasts—he faces the fact that he has become a radical regenerative, and a humiliated outcast in a nation where military exploits are of the first importance.
Three thousand years after the crime their forefathers committed against the Republic, the Families are subservient to a race of prisonkeepers with which each barters. The commodity: iron, with which an escape craft may be built, for Treason is a planet without hard metal resources. The currency: a refinement of the skill each original ancestor possessed. The first Mueller had been a geneticist specializing in regenerative research, and Lanik's Family barters with surplus body parts.
Lanick's personal disaster sends him on a journey across Treason, and as he travels he assimilates some of the special gifts of each Family. And they are various indeed: the original Nkumai had been a physicist, the first Schwartz a geologist, Allison a theologian, Drew an interpreter of dreams, and others. And as he learns he conceives of a plan for unity among the Families, long separated into warring clans, and an end to their subservience. [from dust jacket]