Newly assigned to the space cruiser Astrella II, captained by the legendary "Hero of the Gorgonian Wars," Richard Hughes, Ensign Corona Scott fears her long-dreamed-of career is about to be deep-sixed! She runs afoul of her new CO's volcanic temper, and Med Supervisor Johann Weiner warns her that Astrella's ExO, Malkis of Tartarus, is going to make her life a living Hell. He hates Terran females! Rona's ideals are put to the test as the shocking bigotry and hatred she finds aboard Astrella culminate in sabotage and murder and, ultimately, in a serious rift between Hughes and his ExO. Without warning, Astrella is mysteriously dispatched to the enigmatic planet Tartarus, where Rona Scott encounters an unsought destiny beyond her wildest dreams, and where the fate of Astrella's crew rests upon the outcome of a barbaric, bloody duel to the death!