Priscilla "Hutch" Hutchins has finally realized her lifelong dream: She's completed a nerve-bending qualification flight for a pilot's license. Her timing is far from optimal, however. Faster-than-light travel has only recently become a reality, and the World Space Authority is still learning how to manage long-range missions safely. To make matters worse, efforts to prepare two planets for colonization are killing off native life-forms, outraging people on Earth. So there's not a lot of demand for space pilots. Priscilla thinks her career may be over before it has begun. But her ambition won't be denied, and soon she is on the bridge of an interstellar ship, working for the corporation that is responsible for the terraforming. Her working conditions include bomb threats, sabotage, clashes with her employers—and a mission to a world, adrift between the stars, that harbors a life-form unlike anything humanity has ever seen. Ultimately, she will be part of a life-and-death struggle that will test both her capabilities and her character.