As a tight-knit group of human cadets heads home after eight years of military training, their interstellar transport, Bright Star, comes under attack by pirates--and after a bloody battle, they're taken prisoner. One of the cadets, Alec Horn, eventually manages to escape with the Bright Star's captain and an emperor's ransom in loot. Together, they set out on a harrowing adventure to rescue their friends and comrades. There are just two minor complications: during Alec's captivity, he "awakened" to the voice of the universe, Nastra--and worse, he fell madly in love with a young pirate woman, Alexa. Theirs is a forbidden love, one that will soon embroil everyone and everything they know in the madness of the Third Universal War. Meanwhile, at the opposite end of the known universe, a creature that has hibernated for thousands of years rises from her long rest: the ruthless alien known as Marquessa De La Hoff, history's most feared military commander. Alec and Hoff are linked by an intricate network of fate, history, and destiny. As they learn much later, Nastra speaks to us all; everyone hears it, but few actually listen. The day you do listen to the universe and the words of its parent--the creator, GULL--is the day you have "awakened" to your full potential. Only Alec and Hoff are currently "awake." Neither understands what's happening, though each is gradually becoming aware of the other--and of what Nastra is trying to tell them. But for its own mysterious reasons, the universe cannot allow more than one listener at a time. Therefore, it prepares to birth a messiah: the NASTRAGULL, a child who must set the universal balance right...lest the universe cease to exist altogether.