Halo: Mortal Dictata
This article is about the novel. For the legislation, see UN Colonial Mortal Dictata.
In 2517, Naomi, the daughter of Staffan Sentzke—then an ordinary family man living on Sansar—fails to return home from school in time. Abducted by an ONI recovery team for the SPARTAN-II program, Naomi unexpectedly awakens and escapes her captors for a time, but is eventually caught and a flash clone is left in her place. After several hours' search, Naomi is evidently found in a nearby town. However, Staffan begins to doubt whether this is his daughter after all, and after the child's death and his wife's subsequent suicide he dedicates his life to uncovering the truth about Naomi's disappearance.
In the present, in April 2553, Mal Geffen and Vaz Beloi of Kilo-Five are deployed on Venezia disguised as UNSC deserters to infiltrate into the local militia and find Pious Inquisitor, a Covenant battlecruiser which Staffan Sentzke seeks to acquire. Sentzke plans to use the ship to threaten Earth with glassing in order to coerce the authorities into providing answers about his daughter's disappearance decades earlier. Pious Inquisitor is in the possession of the Kig-Yar Sav Fel, who stole the ship from the Sangheili rebel faction known as the Servants of the Abiding Truth. Avu Med 'Telcam, leader of the Abiding Truth, hires the Kig-Yar Shipmistress Chol Von to hunt down Fel and Inquisitor, but Von has plans of her own: she intends to keep the ship to herself as part of her effort to build a unified Kig-Yar navy.
While selling Pious Inquisitor to Sentzke, Sav Fel demonstrates the destructive power of the battlecruiser's ventral beam, destroying a Forerunner ruin on Shaps III. Sometimes Sinks, a Huragok aboard the ship, is horrified about this and develops a particular loyalty to Sentzke after he convinces the Kig-Yar to test the beam away from the ruins. Sentzke then buys Pious Inquisitor and the Huragok with it, dubbing the ship Naomi in honor of his daughter. After Mal and Vaz have infiltrated Sentzke's organization, they are soon taken to see the ship due to their professed experience with Covenant equipment. Using a tracer planted by Vaz, Kilo-Five attempt to remotely seize control of Pious Inquisitor from Venezia, but Sometimes Sinks blocks the intrusion.
After questioning Huz Mor-Kha, cousin of Fel's associate Eith Mor, Chol travels to the Station of Constant Sustenance, where she tracks down Mor and learns the last known whereabouts of Fel and Pious Inquisitor. Chol and her crew track down and capture Sav Fel on Venezia in order to force him to reveal the location of Pious Inquisitor. Deducing they have something to do with Fel's disappearance as well as the earlier hacking attempt of Pious Inquisitor, Sentzke has Mal and Vaz captured and interrogated; Vaz soon reveals that he has information about Staffan's daughter. While Sentzke continues to question Vaz in a secure location, Black-Box uses Mal and Vaz's neural transponders to locate them. Naomi takes the team's new dropship, Bogof, to free Mal from the rebels' compound while Lian Devereaux goes after Vaz on Tart-Cart, also taking Sentzke prisoner. They make it to UNSC Port Stanley and Staffan Sentzke is soon allowed to reunite with his daughter. While he receives closure for his decades of pursuit of the truth, Staffan also learns that despite her opportunity to leave, Naomi is unwilling to give up her life as a Spartan in favor of a normal family life.
Meanwhile, Chol Von's crew locate Pious Inquisitor and make their way inside. Sometimes Sinks, distrustful of the Kig-Yar and only compliant to Sentzke's orders, places the ship in complete lockdown and transitions it to coordinates previously designated by Sentzke. After Kilo-Five locate the ship, Sentzke convinces Sometimes Sinks to allow them to come onboard. However, it is revealed that Sentzke plans to escape, having surmised that ONI would never allow him to go free. Sentzke has Vaz promise to take care of Naomi, in turn giving his word to cease his aggression against Earth. Mal and Naomi board the ship in a different location; on their way to the bridge, they are forced into a firefight with members of the Kig-Yar crew. Chol Von, still adamant in her refusal to give up Pious Inquisitor, finally sets the ship to explode and escapes with her remaining crew. While Kilo-Five escape to their dropships, Sentzke takes a Spirit from the shuttle bay but stays in range, seemingly at the risk of his own life, until he can ensure Naomi is safe. Vaz requests BB to give Sentzke the file on Naomi's kidnapping to prove him right to his doubting family; BB complies and sends the files to Sentzke's Spirit. BB confronts Sentzke, noting that while the Spirit's conventional engines would never allow him to make it to a safe distance of the explosion, Sometimes Sinks had secretly rigged the dropship with a miniature slipspace drive which would enable him to escape. However, Black-Box points out that ONI would never stop hunting Sentzke if they knew he was alive, but instead chooses to erase his own recollection of the incident, leaving Kilo-Five to conclude that Sentzke died in the explosion.
After a debriefing with Admiral Parangosky, Osman finally chooses to look at her personal file and uncover the truth about her family after years of reluctance. She learns that her mother was a drug addict and prostitute who abandoned her in an early age and that the only one who cared about her was her schoolteacher. Osman goes to meet her teacher on her former homeworld of Cascade while the rest of the team take a short shore leave. Back on Port Stanley, Vaz receives an anonymous package in the mail. Naomi and the others gather to inspect the contents, which are revealed to be a miniature chair for a doll's house Staffan was building for Naomi, and a planetarium lamp he had planned to give her on her sixth birthday. From this, Kilo-Five surmise that Sentzke is still alive, but they choose to quietly bury the matter.
In the epilogue, the identity of Black-Box's brain donor is revealed as Graham J. Alban, a scientist and personal friend of Admiral Parangosky who worked on the SPARTAN-II program and committed suicide over the perceived ethical violations he had been part of.