The first book of an epic series following the career of a Space Fleet crewperson from "crewper" to Captain of a starship.
It is 2173, one hundred sixty years in the future, and humans using faster than light travel have colonized nearly a dozen nearby star systems. No alien intelligence has been discovered yet, and humans are now comfortable enough to start fighting each other instead of the unknown.
Science survey ship JOHN A. WHEELER is about to encounter a range of hostiles from human mercenaries to the first aliens any humans have ever met. Of the ten humans at that meeting, only two survive. One of them is Ensign Xiu-Li Chen.
Not all aliens are from outer space: the story of the Niv at Tau Ceti and why they used DNA nanotechnology to become Homo neosapiens is also illuminated.