In the bundle was the corpse of his friend Aubrey Darger. In the distant future, Surplus descends from the mountains into China, seeking the Infallible Physician for a cure. The old high-tech world has long since collapsed, and the artificial intelligences that ran it are outlawed and destroyed. Or so it seems. Berger and Surplus, a human and a genetically engineered, intelligent, anthropomorphic dog, are a pair of con men who travel to what was once China, where they pretend to be immortals. They convince the ambitious, mysterious, and conquest driven Hidden Emperor to once again reunite China under one ruler with their aid, of course and find his elusive Phoenix Bride. Against all odds, and much to their puzzled surprise, the scheme begins to succeed.