Missing for thirty years, a legendary UNSC warship is discovered deep behind enemy lines. As Infinity plans a rescue mission, however, Admiral Hood’s past with the ship’s captain threatens to jeopardize the mission. The investigation into the UNSC saboteur continues as the journalist infiltrates an Elite holy land in search of answers.
Captain Lasky; Spartan Ray and Petra Janecek begin their investigation on the Sangheili colony Karava within "contested space". Identifying it as a backwater waystation, Lasky is confused as to why Petra sent them there. Petra insists however that she knows someone who has information on the attack, a Sangheili contact named Zef 'Trahl. Entering the Karavan trade hub of Kor Delban, known as a place where human civilians and Sangheili traders frequently interact. Ray isn't accustomed to unarmed civilian Sangheili, so Petra warns her to act like everyone else. When a Sangheili trader, 'Lordan, snarls at her, Ray is warned not to imitate the snarl back as it will be taken as a racial insult.
Exploring the trade port further, Lasky asks Petra if she trusts her contact. Petra does not trust 'Trahl as a person - only that he has information accurate for the price she is buying at. The three are confronted by three Sangheili armed with energy swords, who accuse Petra of insulting 'Lordan. Lasky tries to keep the Sangheili off by shouting "enough", though Petra simply chooses to shoot one of the three in the head as a warning to the others. Ray is taken by surprise at this action, as she was previously told by Petra that guns were not allowed. Petra admits that it was a lie she told to prevent Lasky and Ray from using them from the start and dragging attention to themselves. Since they were already confronted by the locals, the damage is done. Petra describes her killing of the Sangheili as a display of dominance necessary to avoid random fights, though adds that under local custom she socially outranks Lasky and Ray due to their inaction in the fight challenge. The three enter a bar, where a human is serving drinks to several Sangheili. Petra introduces everyone to Zef, who already knows Lasky's name after receiving prior warning from someone who recognised him.
On the Infinity, Roland updates Admiral Hood and Commanders Palmer and Bradley on their mystery ship. The Pilgrims Pride was constructed less than five years ago. This runs counter to known logs, which identify it as a supply ship attached to the Spirit of Fire in 2531. Palmer considers that the ship is a fraud, containing vessels stolen from the Spirit of Fire before it went missing. Roland is unsure, as the equipment still looks unusually well despite drifting in space for so long. Analysing the ship's log, Roland says that the logs were wiped and replaced with ficticious crew longs; cargo manifests and flight plans. Roland does however find success in retrieving some deleted information, and identifies the Pilgrims Pride's point of origin as Oth Lodon, a gas giant in an uninhabited star system claimed by the Jiralhanae, within a short distance from their home Oth Sonin system.
Admiral Hood is absentminded through this briefing, and decides it is important he tells them something. He once served on the UNSC Spirit of Fire under Captain James Cutter. In the late 2590s he was the ship's XO, before being given a command of his own on the UNSC Roman Blue. In 2531 Hood received word that the Covenant were attacking Arcadia, and arrived as the Spirit of Fire was persuing Covenant ships out of the system. Roman Blue was given orders by HIGHCOM to retrieve a log buoy dropped by the Spirit of Fire and abandon the system, as HIGHCOM had determined that Arcadia was no longer worth defending. Only three months into his command, Hood disregarded his orders and engaged a Covenant ship still in the system. Unable to defeat the ship, the Roman Blue was forced to retreat, costing the UNSC the log buoy. Moving back to their briefing, Palmer tells Hood that it is unlikely they will find the Spirit of Fire at Oth Lodon. Bradley adds that it will be a diplomatic disaster if a UNSC ship is cought so deep in Jiralhanae space uninvited, alluding to the possibility of a declaration of war. Hood asks Palmer if she has confidence in one of her teams entering the system without being spotted. Palmer confirms she does, and is ordered to prep a team for such a mission.
The Infinity exits slipspace Oth Lodon and deploys five Booster Frames for Palmer and Fireteam Majestic, which head towards an asteroid belt as lookouts. The Booster Frames are detected by a Sangheili ship commanded by Guardians of the Righteous leader Vata 'Gajat, who orders a slow preparation for attack while he alerts his own contact as to the incident. Palmer regains contact with the Infinity after a short broadcast outage, and alerts them to a space station and a corvette docked to it.
Back at the bar on Karava, Zef 'Trahl brings up his familiarity with the Sangheili-Jiralhanae peace talks. He inists that it was only the San'Shyuum who prevented the two species from mutually-destroying one another. 'Trahl identifies the leader of the attack on the peace conference as Vera 'Gajat, who he knows as a soldier for Jul 'Mdama who has since become a mercenary for hire in light of the unstable nature of so-called "Covenant" space. 'Trahl identifies the mole as Captain Daniel Clayton, an attache to Read Admiral Horatio Temkin, the latter being the man who organised the peace talks. As they leave, Lasky is still recovering over the shock of learning the traitor's identity. It is a well known fact that Daniel Clayton is the son of the missing James Cutter.
On the Covenant space station, Clayton talks with 'Gajat about his father, who he respects for his commitment to raising a family rather than abandoning him like other captains are known to do. When the UNSC Infinity exits slipspace meters away from the space station, Clayton asks for a direct channel to the ship. Clayton directly addresses Admiral Hood, revealing he had always expected Hood to be in command of the ship at the point of meeting. Clayton reveals he discovered some time ago that Hood was responsible for a series of payments which supported Cutter's wife and child after his disappearance out of guilt. Further, Clayton has discovered Hood was responsible for Clayton's promotions, and that his entire career was created by Hood with him never getting a chance to actually prove himself. Angry at Hood, Clayton reveals he joined the fugitive Admiral Mattius Drake and his New Colonial Alliance. Finally, Clayton reveals that after Hood survived the attempt on his life the Alliance wanted from the Guardians of the Righteous, he planned for the Infinity to be led to the system to its destruction. The Sangheili space station suddenly fires an energy beam which blasts a hole through the Infinity.
- Thomas Lasky
- Ray Naiya
- Petra Janecek
- 'Lordan (first appearance)
- Zef 'Trahl (first appearance)
- Sarah Palmer
- Terrence Hood
- James Cutter
- Vata 'Gajat
- Jul 'Mdama (mentioned only)
- Daniel Clayton
- Horatio Temkin (mentioned only)
- Mattius Drake (mentioned only)