In the far future, genetic engineering is used to strip all sapient species of disability. But when humans have a brief fad of natural birth, disabled children start reappearing. They're quickly termed "Pandoras," the value of their very lives brought into question, and laws are put into place to prevent their births from happening ever again.
Xandri Corelel is one of these Pandoras, a young autistic woman scorned by her family and fighting to eke out a living on the streets of Wraith. Then she meets Chui Shan Fung, captain of the first contact and refugee ship Carpathia. Captain Chui has been watching her, and knows about the talent for understanding alien species that Xandri has cultivated. She wants Xandri as part of her crew--but first, Xandri must pass a test to see if she'll even fit in.
Wary but hopeful, Xandri joins the Carpathia at Psittaca, a newly-discovered planet peopled by parrot-like sapients. Learning to understand this new species is the easy part compared to trusting her new crew mates. As Xandri continues her diplomatic efforts with the Psittacans, it becomes apparent that the Carpathia's crew aren't the only ones to have discovered the planet, but these other visitors don't have good intentions. In order to protect this beautiful new world, Xandri must find it in herself to overcome years of abuse and neglect, and trust in her new crew.