In this first volume of the two-volume fifth novel of the series, Merline, a Gaean spacer-fighter, crash-docks a lifeboat in Columbia, and gets captured, after learning that Slade, a Second Corps captain, deals in illicit drugs. Callously and secretly, Slade confines the prisoner of war in a military penal work force, figuring that she won’t survive incarceration with fifteen hardened male criminals. Hogar, a former Second Corps captain serving a twenty-Earthyear sentence for a murder committed in a red haze of rage, fights the other inmates, and prevents gang rape. Unable to protect Merline from assault by lecherous guards, he nonetheless teaches her how to survive a ghastly situation. Hogar deals cannily with a guard, so as to tip the Commander of Second Corps that a potentially explosive political problem exists. The investigators arrive too late to save Merline from suffering a heinous assault by a sadistic officer.
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