Karsten is a violent man at the end of a violent career, with no greater ambition than to retire to a well-earned life of ease. But a last drink with an old client goes off the rails and now Karsten is left with an impossible choice: enter service to the Dowager Empress or lose a year of his remaining time for every day he resists. That's no choice; that's a life sentence. But you know what? Maybe they should have specified whose life.