A mysterious stranger contacts Benny in the
campus pub and warns her to expect danger on the planet Dimetos, and when
she returns home she finds a message waiting from Lizbeth Fugard -- an
industrial archaeologist currently working on Dimetos. Lizbeth believes
she's being stalked, and needs Benny's help. Dimetos used to be a company
world owned by Eurogen Butler, and the colonists who remained behind when
EB left are currently trying to attract other business interests to their
world. Lizbeth was hired to excavate old EB sites and validate the planet's
cultural heritage, but lately she's suspected that someone is trying to
frighten her away from her work -- and when she receives a threatening
e-mail and someone fills in her dig with polycrete, this seems to confirm
her suspicions. Lizbeth confesses to Benny that she suspects her ex-lover
Alex Mphphalele of hiring the stalker to keep an eye on her; they split
up after Lizbeth suffered a miscarriage, and Alex may not have gotten over
Lizbeth agrees to meet Alex at a nightclub, and Benny
trails them to watch Alex and determine for herself whether he's reponsible.
She catches a glimpse of Lizbeth's stalker at a nearby table, but can't
make out any of his features -- apart from a pair of cold, alien eyes.
Benny follows Alex when he leaves, but he spots and confronts her; when
she explains her presence he assures her that he would never do anything
to hurt Lizbeth. Later that night, Benny finds and destroys a surveillance
device in Lizbeth's apartment.
The next night, Benny accompanies Alex to a government
function where she meets some of the people who are funding Lizbeth's work.
The government of Dimetos is currently courting the Bantu Cooperative,
a company famous for its advanced weapons technology; and Lizbeth is also
at the party with her new acquaintance, Karl Csokor, a Bantu representative.
Alex suspects that Lizbeth is dating Karl on the rebound, while Lizbeth
seems jealous of the time Benny and Alex are spending together.
Someone slips Benny a note arranging a secret meeting
the next day; when she arrives at the location specified in the note, she
meets the son of a government minister, who reveals the reason for the
conspiracy. The old Eurogen Butler maps proved to be inaccurate, and the
government didn't do their research properly before beginning construction.
Many buildings on Dimetos have been constructed over top of unsafe old
mines and abandoned nuclear reactors... and Lizbeth is on the verge of
Benny shares her discovery with Alex, who decides to confront
the young man and demand more information. But their conversation is monitored,
and by the time they return to the marina the young man has vanished --
probably for good. Benny and Alex are pursued by two mysterious men in
a hovercar, but escape thanks to Alex's piloting skills. Benny tells her
story to Lizbeth, but when she suggests that the government underestimated
Lizbeth's skills, and hired her for show without expecting her to discover
the truth, Lizbeth is insulted. This may, however, be due to her jealous
suspicion that Benny and Alex are becoming more than friends.
Alex arranges for Benny to speak with Katri, another representative
of the Bantu Cooperative, to try to learn more about Dimetos' government
policy. She claims to be researching the Cooperative on behalf of Dellah,
and Katri suggests that she might get the chance to see Bantu's technology
in person once their research and development facility on Dimetos is complete.
As Benny leaves, she sees a strange shift in the musculature or shading
on Katri's face -- and catches a glimpse of Karl Csokor, spying on her.
Benny goes to Csokor's hotel to confront him but bumps into Katri, whose
behaviour is more subdued for some reason. He invites her to accompany
him to a public place where he can tell her more than he was permitted
to earlier -- but instead he tries to blow up the car with himself and
Benny inside. Benny leaps to safety before the car explodes, and while
Alex tries to bring her around he too notices Csokor watching from nearby.
Alex and Benny try to warn Lizbeth about Csokor, but she
is too jealous of their developing relationship to listen. They go to Lizbeth's
office to find out how close she is to the truth, and learn that she's
already discovered the government's secret but has remained silent for
fear of reprisals. Now Benny and Alex must find proof of their discovery
in order to protect themselves. Benny is convinced that Katri was pressured
to kill her after he foolishly mentioned the existence of Bantu's R&D
facility, and Csokor's surveillance of her would certainly seem to prove
that Bantu is somehow involved in the conspiracy. Benny sets off to confront
Mastaba, the head of the Bantu delegation, but Alex notices Lizbeth and
Csokor leaving the city and decides to follow them.
Mastaba claims that although Katri did err in telling
Benny about the new facility, his subsequent decision to kill her and himself
was his own. Csokor was sent to spy on Lizbeth to learn what she had discovered,
as it had become obvious to Bantu that the government was trying to cover
up something. But when Benny informs Mastaba that Csokor and Lizbeth have
developed a relationship, Mastaba becomes worried, as Csokor is somewhat...
Csokor takes Lizbeth out of the city to a park, where
his entire demeanour changes without warning. Suddenly he begins babbling
about morphic codes and the patterns of mythology which underwrite all
existence; and then he accuses Lizbeth of being the Shiga, the ancient
evil which destroyed the Naryayan people, and which (so it is said) hides
in the bodies of others until it hungers again. Csokor claims to be the
last of the Naryayans, and his skin dissolves into a mist which pursues
Lizbeth, trying to kill her. Alex witnesses the attack, radios Benny and
tries to hold off Karl until help can arrive. Benny points out to Mastaba
that he really doesn't want the kind of publicity that will result from
Csokor murdering Lizbeth, and Mastaba gives her temporary use of a war-scarab,
a hovercar equipped with Bantu's most advanced weaponry. Benny flies out
to the park and fires stun grenades at Csokor, which seem to kill him --
indicating that he wasn't as human as he appeared. In a fit of pique, before
her control over the scarab is severed Benny sends it to destroy Bantu's
Alex is taken to the hospital to recover from his injuries
while Benny takes the shaken Lizbeth back to her apartment to recover.
But Csokor recovers in the hospital morgue, kills the two doctors who were
about to perform an autopsy on him, and returns to Lizbeth's apartment
to finish her off. Alex recovers and arrives just in time to rescue Lizbeth
and Benny, but as they flee they are confronted by Mastaba and his personal
guards. Mastaba admits that Bantu already has an interest in Dimetos; the
planet was in fact already occupied when Eurogen Butler shows up, and EB
bought weapons from Bantu which they used to commit genocide on the native
population. Csokor is in reality the last survivor of the native Dimetan
race, taken away as an example of a now-extinct species, and experimented
upon by EB and Bantu. Bantu gave him a new identity and used nanotechnology
to augment his already existing shape-shifting and empathic powers. Now
Csokor is a living weapon... but he has become unstable, just as Katri
did when they tested the same technology on him. Csokor's return to Dimetos
has exacerbated his growing madness, and he has become fixated upon the
legend of the Shiga and its parallels to his former life. His lover betrayed
the people of Dimetos to Eurogen Butler, and he identifies Lizbeth with
Now that Mastaba has learned what the government was trying
to hide from him, he no longer needs to keep the potentially embarrassing
Benny, Alex and Lizbeth alive -- especially since Benny has foolishly given
up her one advantage by destroying the R&D facility. But as he gives
the order to kill them, one of his guards reveals himself to be the shape-shifting
Csokor in disguise. Having learned the truth of his existence, Csokor loses
control completely, and slaughters Mastaba and most of his guards before
finally giving up the ghost and dying himself.
The survivors of the Bantu delegation decide to drop the
matter in order to avoid any further bad publicity, but they do ask Benny
to keep an eye out for any further legends of the Shiga, as the parallels
to Csokor's life are uncanny. Benny suspects that they intend to turn the
Shiga into a weapon if they do in fact locate it. Lizbeth and Alex reconcile,
and Benny returns to Dellah, where the mysterious stranger who first warned
her about Dimetos informs her that Lizbeth was kicked out of St Oscar's
after discovering something she shouldn't have. When Benny next speaks
to Lizbeth, Lizbeth refuses to discuss the incident -- and informs Benny
that the most extensive of the native Dimetan archaeological sites used
to lie beneath the Bantu R&D facility, until Benny destroyed it.