Tens of millions of years in the future, sisters Adrana and Arafura ('Fura') Ness are skilled bone readers—the primary method by which spaceships communicate with one another. Their skill at bone reading leads them to be taken on as apprentices aboard Monetta's Mourn, a spaceship captained by Pol Rackamore. Rackamore and his crew engage in the practice of finding ancient technological artifacts, called "baubles". Also, in the story, "quoins" are units of currency and the more bars the higher the value. While in search of these artifacts, Monetta's Mourn is attacked by the infamous space pirate Bosa Sennen, separating the sisters and leaving Fura adrift on a ship in empty space.