Lieutenant John Grimes, Captain of the Serpent Class Courier Adder is in a bitter and twisted mood. Blamed for the disappearance of Cragge Rock and the desertion of his psionic officer Spooky Deane ('The Mountain Movers'), Grimes has also been overlooked for promotion (again!). For Grimes the problem isn't so much an issue of not knowing the right people but rather, that the wrong people know him. And to make matters worse he is now being ordered to ferry the officious and overbearing Mrs Commissioner Dalwood and her coldly efficient robotic servants to the planet Dhartana. A real Captain, one with four gold bands on his shoulderboards and scrambled egg on the peak of his cap would never have tolerate the situation that Grimes and his crew are about to endure... but then for all his authority and responsibility Grimes's rank is still too low for him to challenge an officer of the Board of Admiralty, even if she is a civilian. Before the assignment is over the Adder's Captain is going to need all of his infamous luck to keep both his ship and his career intact.