Perplexed by an unearthly stranger's inexplicable appearances, Cosmologist Roger Shore is dismayed when the alien entity questions his knowledge of faster-than-light spacecraft development. Baffled when only his voice registers on a recording of the exchange, his superior reluctantly reveals the existence of a covert effort to develop FTL interstellar flight sponsored by the wealthy daughter of the revered Nobel Laureate who “fathered” nuclear fusion power systems. The program's remote base in the asteroid belt leaves program personnel vulnerable to hindrance and near-lethal interference from a malicious, dedicated alien exotic. Shore and his associates eventually learn the stakes surrounding a successful FTL venture are infinitely greater than imagined. Reaching the nearest stellar system, a supreme technological triumph, is also considered a major maturation benchmark, and apparently qualifies humanity for inclusion in a forum composed of myriad, diverse galactic intelligences.