- "The ideal purchasing agent must first of all have the technical know-how to evaluate, choose, package, and transport the cultures.... He must also be a man of proven integrity ... and not only because the whole future of Athos will depend on his good judgment, but also that he have the moral fibre to resist [women] ... and finally he should be a man with the energy and conviction to carry on regardless of the obstacles fate or [women] may throw in his path."
- ―Desroches, voluntolding Ethan[src]
Ethan Urquhart was a doctor of reproductive medicine on the all-male planet of Athos. When their first attempt to acquire ovarian cultures failed, Ethan was sent by his planet's Population Council to obtain new ones for the Athosian Reproduction Centers. Due to his upbringing, Ethan had never met a woman in his life, nor did he know anyone who had ever done so. Religious teachings claimed that women were the "Sink of Sin"; as a result, he was fearful and distrustful of women.
When he arrived at Kline Station, which was the first point from Athos going to the larger galactic population, the first person Ethan met was the woman Elli Quinn, of the Dendarii Free Mercenary Fleet. Despite considerable difficulty learning to trust any woman, Ethan soon found himself teamed up with her to investigate the disappearance of Athos's first order of ovarian cultures.
Their investigation soon led to a meeting with the telepath Terrence Cee, who, at the end of the mission, accompanied Ethan to his home planet of Athos.