Having resigned his commission in the Survey Service rather than face a court martial, John Grimes is now owner and master of Little Sister, a pinnace spacecraft made of modified gold. Formerly the property of the Baroness d'Estang of El Dorado, the ship has come to Grimes in lieu of back pay, and provides him with the opportunity to run his own courier service. Unable to transport anything other than small loads at a time Grimes's first job is to ferry the attractive post-mistress Tamara Haverstock and her mail from the planet Tiralbin to Boggarty. What should be a easy run turns upside down when they encounter the insectoid Shaara. After being taken by force to an uncharted planet Grimes and Haverstock are tortured and publicly humiliated in front of the indigenous population as a show of superior Shaara might. However, things go awry for the Shaara when the pair escape and are mistaken for gods by the planet's resistance army. Grimes must not only defeat the Shaara to save their lives and that of the planet but also complete his contract and get the mail delivered.
Having resigned from the Federation Survey Service rather than face a court-martial for losing his ship in a mutiny (see The Big Black Mark), John Grimes finds himself stuck on the Planet Botany Bay and in urgent need of employment. His saviour comes in the form of the lofty Baroness Michelle d'Estang and her ship the Far Traveller. Built of gold and designed to be a rich woman's plaything the ship is piloted and run by an advanced computer known as Big Sister. And thus while Grimes might be the human Master (in so far as the ship's insurer is concerned), its Big Sister who rules the roost.
'Take one thoroughly spoiled, fabulously wealthy El Doradan baroness, one solid gold spaceyacht complete with almost human pilot-computer, one piratical space tramp captain, add the accident-prone John Grimes, late of the Federation Survey Service, stir and mix thoroughly-and the things that happen shouldn't happen to a Morrovian dog!' (1977 Hale edition).
'They called the robomaid "Clockwork Kitty" until she informed them of her right name. She was a triumph of Japan's far-future robotics industry and she was a present to John Grimes as he set out aboard Sister Sue for a voyage to the planet called New Salem.
New Salem was a colony of blue-nosed religious fanatics and Grimes knew it meant trouble. For in addition to his sexy-looking robot he had Shirl and Darleen aboard, two wild ones of kangaroo ancestry, sure to be problems. And trouble came, not merely from the fire-wielding bigots but from Grimes' old enemy, Drongo Kane.'