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Headstrong and passionate anthropologist Carmen O’Dwyer encounters a culture she never imagined when she is collected from her home on Earth to be a curio in a museum on the planet, Paz. Treated as a feral animal on display, Carmen convinces the curio’s life behaviorist, a native who shows keen interest in Carmen, to see that she has more than a primitive intellect and help her escape.

She obtains an ancient, illegal translator device, which malfunctions because of her bilingual ability and translates all Paz names into Spanish in her mind. Thus, she learns the name of her new cohort, Inquieto Reúnen.

Carmen’s dual language and blended race are the first two examples of the striking differences between diverse humans and homogenous paz, who value their pure, peaceful society and have a strict isolationist policy to avoid all intelligent species, especially those within their own system, with which they once waged an ancient war. Faced with Carmen, their isolationism threatens to crumble, and their society is divided between those who support Carmen and wish to open their borders, and those who will do anything to silence the talking curio and keep their traditions in place.

While the native population focuses on the differences between paz and humans, Inquieto and Carmen explore the similarities, developing feelings for each other that could upend both of their lives and shake Paz society as a whole.