In one of Earth's long abandoned colonies, Rusty Buckley seeks to join the Third Rifles Regiment, a pledge he made to the medics who saved his life during the last great plague. His meeting with Queen Arrabella turns into disaster when assassins attack. In spite of Rusty's inexperience, which results in several missteps along the way, he saves his queen. While he sees Arrabella as the woman of his dreams, she sees in him a troubleshooter to throw at every problem blocking her path.
Consequently, six months later Rusty finds himself knee-deep in a swamp, beset with the effects of foul water, contaminated food and incompetent leaders. If that isn't enough to ruin his day, he's hounded by ten-foot lizards determined to have him for lunch. These are the first of the many challenges Rusty will face in Her Majesty's service, but while he's saving the queen from her enemies, who'll save him from her?