Twenty-five years ago the Vardeshi came to Earth. Then they vanished without a trace. Graduate student Avery Alcott always knew they would return. When they do, she's the only one who can speak their language. She's quickly recruited to join the crew of an 11-man starship on a one-year mission into the depths of space. Avery leaps at the chance to leave behind everything she's ever known. Wearing a Vardeshi uniform, adapting to their culture, following their orders, she's as close to being one of them as she'll ever be. But there's more to interstellar diplomacy than knowing the right words to say. And shedding her identity turns out to be harder than she expected. When her ship, its crew, and the fragile human-Vardeshi alliance are threatened, Avery's humanity-the very thing putting her at risk-just might be the one thing that can save her.