When an exploration ship from Freehold discovered a planet with intelligent lifeforms - the first which humans had ever encountered - it should have been the most important event in history. And it might be - for all the wrong reasons.
Corporations on Freehold were eager to sell high-tech toys to the Ithkuil, as the inhabitants called themselves, which had the potential to disrupt their society. Then there was the U.N., which controlled the planet Earth. Earth and Freehold were not on good terms, to put it mildly, and the U.N. immediately sent its own ship to make contact with the Ithkuil. If the authoritarians from Earth started throwing their weight around, Freehold would have to push back, causing anything from a diplomatic incident to outright war. And then another ship arrived, full of idealistic do-gooders determined to keep the Ithkuil in their unspoiled state of nature . . .
The whole thing was turning into a cross between a Marx Brothers farce and a Kafkaesque nightmare, with a potential for Greek tragedy. Contact with a more advance civilization might pose a danger to the Ithkuil, but it definitely was becoming more dangerous to the human factions, and the situation was a powder keg just waiting for a spark to cause a very deadly explosion. . .