Dr. Little wakes in the room of a spaceship he doesn't recognize. Gaining some stability, he floats around, trying to figure out where he is. He's no longer on his ship, the Gomeisa, but he can't remember how he got to the cell he's in now. At least it must be a cell, as the door is locked and there is no furniture. The ship he was on was heavily armored and he can't fathom being attacked by hand or blaster and then forgetting it. Little fell asleep before he could discern much. When he woke up again, he went back to the cell door, trying to see something change. Every few hours, lime juice is pumped into the room from a tube and left to float for him to drink as he pleased. Little began to hate the taste of lime juice.
The ship's speed increases and Little hears voices, but can't make them out. Suddenly, the door swings open and a ladder drops down. Outside are 5 starfish-like aliens who close in around him and push him to start walking. At the end of the long corridor are his crewmates, around 40 of them also prisoners. He chats with the crew and learns they were attacked. Little figures he accidentally sent himself into suspended animation from a gas canister he was handling just before the attack. An interpreter from another imprisoned alien species appears and they begin trying to communicate with their captors. The aliens allow them to go get their supplies, which were salvaged from the ship. As they landed just a bit ago, they will be taken to a fort and allowed to bring anything and everything they want besides weapons with them to their new prison/home.
Once they make it to their supplies, the captain orders everyone to grab the nearest weapon or tool and make a break for the woods. The tendrils of the star-fish like aliens are too wily for most men to escape, and only about a third make it out. The rest of the men are marched towards the fort with the supplies they still carried.
As the humans bring more of their items to their new lodgings, Little fastens a secret canister of the suspended animation gas to the back of the stove, pretending it is a necessary component. Little and the quartermaster Magill begin exploring the new building, followed by guards. They explore the various windows, vents, and general landscape, trying to find a way to escape later. Little lets slip to Magill that the canisters on the stove are his special material that accidentally sent him into suspended animation earlier, and he plans to use them in some escape plan that they will formulate later.
Later that evening, there is a large meeting with all of the captives from the other alien race and the humans from the ship. They discuss what items they could smuggle with them, how they were caught, and some light plans for the night. Little speaks with the Vegans, the other imprisoned aliens, and they explain that they had been there for almost a whole year, and that their time with the captors has not been terrible. Every plot to escape is foiled at the last possible moment, however, with the captors stealing any technology or tools created in the process.
That night, Little and a few other men sneak onto the roof, hoping to find a good spot where they can possibly send out a signal and get help. After a little sneaking, they get the pieces of a telescope out onto the roof and begin exploring the night sky. Little tells the technician that he needs a video transmitter strong enough to send a signal to their government, which throws the tech into a tizzy, especially as he wants it done before their captors' large battleship takes off again. They find that the planet is near a binary star system and the astronomer begins making calculations to try and figure out exactly what star that is and where they are in relation so they can send a distress signal.
The next day, Little tells the men he thinks they have been captured to be studied, hence why they were allowed to carry so many potentially dangerous tools. That evening, they get the items required to make a video calling device and begin planning. There is some secret to Little's plan that he hasn't let the others in on yet. But, just as all the devices are finished and they determine their near exact distance from the star, the communication device goes missing from their room. But Little wanted this to happen. The aliens now think they have stolen an important piece of technology, but they don't have access to any new tech like telephones or verbal communicators. As the captors have no mouths, they never invented anything that used sound waves to communicate. Learning that would have been a big deal to them. Now, when the captor's ship leaves, they will rush the communication room and use the suspended animation gas to knock out any remaining guards, using their own communication system against them while they believe that the humans have been foiled.
In the meantime, Little and the techs help out with the general conniving and planning of quartermaster Magill for his own attacks, which will hopefully come to fruition at the same time as Little's so that there will be more confusion in the moment. Suddenly, the captor's ship lifts off and they see that their ship, the Gomeisa, is there unharmed behind it. Magill decides to put his plans on hold for a bit until they can figure out what to do.
Little's plan goes on anyway. They knock out all of the guards with gas and get into the communications room. Little stays in the hall and welds the door shut behind him so that any approaching guards can't open it. When he gets overwhelmed, he tries to run but is pinned down and succumbs to the gas. Waking up later, he is told what happened. The battleship returned, and the captors loaded it up with everything in the compound and all of their people left. The government promised to send a whole squadron to save the humans and Vegans left behind. Little thinks their captors are some odd group of academic-focused aliens because they never used any violence or weapons against their captives, but learned a lot.
Read if you like...