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The UNSC Infinity is ambushed by an unexpected enemy while on a mission to rescue a damaged civilian freighter. Across the galaxy, an undercover Lasky enlists the help of an old friend in rooting out a spy inside the UNSC.
Admiral Hood and Captain Lasky discuss the recent events at Ealan IV. Scruggs' prior knowledge of the peace negotiations meant that someone with a particularly high security clearance must have given them to him. The implication therefore is that there is either a traitor in the top levels of the UNSC , or a spy able to feed on sensitive information. Hood gives Lasky permission to launch an "off the books" investigation into the affair. Spartan Ray interrupts their conversation with an announcement that a Prowler Lasky requested is ready for launch. Ray is confused about why the Spartan team hasn't been briefed on her new mission; due to the leak Lasky will only tell her the mission when the two of them have departed Infinity on the Prowler. Admiral Hood warns Lasky he has only ninety-six hours to find what he is looking for, and informs him that their expected location at that time will be sent to the Concord Relay station.
On the Spartan Deck, Fireteam Majestic are undergoing training. In a sparring match, Madsen vents out his anger at DeMarco's death on Thorne. Emotional, he doesn't know whether to be angry at Commander Palmer for transferring DeMarco to Firetam Bailey, or Thorne for his promotion to squad leader which necessitated DeMarco's transfer in the first place.
March 8, Admiral Hood asks Commander Bradley to conduct a field demonstration of the Infinity's Forerunner engine technology. Hood gives Roland the helm and orders the AI to make random multiple course changes in slipspace, which could take them virtually anywhere in space. Before Roland can do so, Lieutenant Jaspersen informs the Admiral he is picking up a faint distress call on an old channel. The tactical officer plots the origin of the transmission as close to the Artesia-702 system, not far off the Chaudier route used by trade ships. Bradley is aware of the trade route, which the Covenant used during the war to pick off cargo ships. Responding to the distress call, Admiral Hood has the Infinity enter slipspace to look for the ship.
March 10, Captain Lasky and Spartan Ray walk the streets of Castiglione, the capital of the Outer Colony world Escala III in search of a journalist contact. Ray is confused by their mission, as she does not consider it safe for UNSC personnel to casually walk the streets. Lasky warns her not to identify him as an officer and to instead call him "Tom"; Ray introduces more formally herself as Ray Naiya, as Lasky had never checked for her surname. Lasky insists they will be fine walking the streets owing to Ray's enhancements, though she points out that alleyways are not her concern. Reacting to a woman climbing down a balcony who could be a threat, Lasky recognises her as his contact. Lasky; Ray and his contact, Petra Janecek, have lunch at a riverfront restaurant. Lasky introduces her to Ray as a childhood friend from when he was living on Mars. With the formalities over with, Lasky asks Ray to leave them alone for a while while he discusses the mission with her, not wanting to implicate Ray if it fails.
With Ray out of the picture, Lasky comes clean: there is a mole in the UNSC and they nead a civilian outsider to track them down so there would be no papertrail. Petra is uninterested, as there have been more than enough leaks to make a career out of. Lasky adds further that this is different, as it shows that the mole was able to work with an unnamed Covenant remnant group. Now interested, Petra wants to negotiate payment for this job. Not caring about money, she instead wants an interview with John-117, who she understands Lasky has had encounters with.
On March 11, Infinity arrives at the Artesia-702 star system. There they encounter a damaged ship, identified as Pilgrims Pride, which Pelican dropships are launched to investigate. They confirm the presence of life signs onboard, as well as a badly leaking atmosphere. Admiral Hood decides to have the Pilgrims Pride brought, and orders for a first response team to take over the ship. Fireteams Colossus; Fenrir and Majestic are given the call, and are transported via Pelican to the ship. Making their way in, Fireteam Majestic is attacked by an autoturret, which Madsen destroys. Over the radio, Colossus reports the same encounters. The mission quickly goes awry and Admiral Hood orders for the Fireteams to abandon the mission and destroy the ship, which they identify as hostile. As Majestic has already reached engineering, they decide to scuttle the ship from there and escape as it explodes.
Commander Bradley and Admiral Hood begin an inquest into the ship's destruction. It was originally assumed that Pilgrims Pride was a relatively-recent vessel transporting obsolete military equipment to Insurrectionists. However, after identifying the equipment as Vultures and Sparrowhawks and checking the registry, they identified them as belonging to the UNSC Spirit of Fire, a Phoenix-class ship that went missing in the early years of the Covenant War. Bradley adds that Roland is currently checking for any information of value the UNSC has on the Spirit of Fire, though Admiral Hood doesn't think that is necessary, revealing he was responsible for its disappearance.