on nita's 15th birthday, her alien guardian llipel reveals the story of her birth. llipel and her companion, llare, landed on earth and discovered the institute, a place founded before the last series of wars had killed off the human population. llipel stumbled into a storeroom, full of thousands of fertilized human-egg cells. a careless word, as interpreted by the computer that maintained the storeroom, started nita's life. llare made the same blunder and became guardian to a boy only a little older than nita. she and sven are the last humansexcept for the unbornin the world. together they learn the horrible truth about their ancestors, a race of creatures that destroyed itself by war. nita and sven hold in their hands the power to reform humanity or to let it die. this finely crafted work never falters with false resolution; the children don't find any survivors, though they look, and they do not fall in love or react in ways inappropriate to their socialization.