In the year 2526, mere months after first contact with the Covenant at Harvest, the UNSC is desperately fighting on the planet Mesra with the objective of denying vital resources to the enemy. Blue Team is deployed to the surface, aided by the 24th Marine Engineering Brigade. As Blue Team fails to stop an assault of Drones and Wraiths, they are exfiltrated by the UNSC Night Watch, a prowler under the command of Amalea Petrov. The Spartans are briefed on their next mission: a salvage operation on the planet Netherop, where intelligence gathered from a Battle Group X-Ray wolfpack indicated a downed Covenant frigate Steadfast Strike, designated the Lucky Break.
As the Night Watch is in slipspace, Fleetmaster Nizat 'Kvarosee is recalled to High Charity for debriefing by the High Prophets. ‘Kvarosee is blamed for the loss of several Covenant assets: the Ring of Mighty Abundance, the supercarrier Hammer of Faith, and two cities previously inhabited by the Forerunners. ‘Kvarosee, knowing full well that he will be ordered executed by the Silent Shadow, decided to use the Steadfast Strike as bait for the Office of Naval Intelligence, and left a tracking beacon hidden aboard the ship. In this way, he hoped to locate their headquarters or primary research center in order to severely hamper their efforts or outright eliminate ONI.
Meanwhile, the Night Watch arrives at Netherop and deploys their troops to the surface, getting shot down in the process. As soon discovered, Netherop is lethally hot. Petrov tasks Blue Team with capturing the Lucky Break as it is their only means of escape. En route to the crash site, Frederic-104 sees what he believes to be human children watching him. John-117 and the rest of Blue Team believe that Fred is suffering from acute heat stroke and is hallucinating. Later, on the way to Lucky Break, Fred finds mechanical legs, which leads Blue Team to come into contact with the Castoffs, a group of children and descendants of pirates Insurrectionists who were stranded long ago. The Spartans mildly injured two of the Castoff children and provided medical treatment, while subtly trying to form an alliance with the children. The Castoffs in turn try to negotiate a way off the planet with the UNSC forces on the planet. John promises to get them off.
During this time, ‘Kvarosee is trying to determine the human's plan when a flotilla of Silent Shadow forces arrives over Netherop to eliminate Nizat and his forces. Nizat believes that the only way for him to be forgiven is to capture a Spartan and return them to High Charity for interrogation. The Spartans, meanwhile, continue towards Lucky Break and stop a Covenant ambush, capturing an Umbra transport. John sends Kelly-087 back to the Night Watch crash site to meet up with the crew and marines stranded there. Linda-058 is tasked with providing overwatch support for the crew of the salvage vessel that was supposed to haul Lucky Break off Netherop. John and Fred enact a frontal assault on entrenched Covenant forces and drive them back towards the Steadfast Strike, only to discover that the ship has moved.
During this time, the wolfpack orbiting Netherop has engaged the Silent Shadow's Fleet of Swift Justice and is prepping for departure. The remaining UNSC forces on the surface are instructed to rendezvous at a LZ for evac. Due to the size of the Pelicans, Commander Petrov offers to stay behind on the planet. Unbeknownst to her, Nizat and his subordinates are also marooned, due to his ineptitude involving Operation: SILENT STORM months before. The book ends with Nizat and his steward, Tam ‘Lakosee, observing Petrov as she cooks a meal for herself over a fire. ‘Lakosee believes that the woman will provide a meal for the ex-Covenant troops on the planet, while Nizat argues that the woman should be kept alive and cared for, in the event that she is a gift from their gods.
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