Just prior to the war’s end, Merline, a Gaean spacer-fighter, gets captured, after learning that Slade, a Second Corps captain, deals in illicit drugs. Slade confines her in a military penal work force. Hogar, a former Second Corps captain serving a twenty-Earthyear sentence, fights the other criminals, and prevents gang rape. Desperate, owing to his inability to protect Merline from lecherous guards, he employs bribery to produce an investigation. Marlenn, Commander of Second Corps, informs Merline that the war just ended. In the battle of wits pitting the mistreated prisoner of war against the Commander seeking to conceal what happened to her, the quick-witted woman strikes a deal whereby she marries Hogar, who accompanies her to Gaea.
Hogar discovers that Merline is the captain of a rock-hopper ship. After winning a fierce battle with scalded pride, he agrees to serve as Mate. Hogar defuses the anger of Riley, a Gaean crewmember who hates Columbians. Forced to assume the responsibility of heading a Gaean family while serving as his wife’s second officer, Hogar avoids the pitfalls abounding in a new life as fascinating as it is difficult.
Eventually, Hogar gains the full respect of the four crewmembers, all of whom bear painful emotional scars. Hogar prevents a tragic outcome when Riley seeks to wed Danica. He secures a bride for Merline’s nephew in classic Gaean fashion, albeit with a few variations of his own. The competitive Columbian slowly metamorphoses into a Gaean family-head who feels at home in his new world. This stirring narrative, the first volume of the two-volume fifth novel of the series, plus its sequel, Trial By Fire: Final Reckoning, continue an ongoing saga of futuristic action, adventure and romance.