Li Lixia is one of eight field anthropologists set down on Sigma Draconis II after the first starship from Earth detects pre-industrial intelligent life there. She experiences several of the cultures of the humanoid people of the planet as she travels with Nia, a female exile of the Iron People. Arnason introduces Nia and her way of life, then brings in Lixia and, gradually, includes others of the starship’s exploratory team. While removed from the starship, the anthropologists remain in contact with it as they all struggle with the question of whether their active intervention will help or harm those whom they encounter. As in life, no clear answers are offered.
Nominated for John W. Campbell Memorial Award in 1992.