Traviss has clarified the term "sequel" in regards to the statement by saying: "It isn't a sequel to Ghosts of Onyx in the sense that you mean a sequel, i.e. a continuation of the same story with the same cast -- these novels are set just after it and follow the events of Halo 3. There'll be new characters and new storylines."
It was released on October 25, 2011.
The prologue begins within the Micro Dyson Sphere, where Dr. Halsey, Senior Chief Petty Officer Mendez, and the surviving Spartan II's and III's continuing their venture to find a way to escape their confinement in the sphere, and continuing to ponder the current situation of the Human-Covenant war and the fate of the human race.
The story switches to two ONI operatives: Captain Serin Osman, accompanied by professor Evan Phillips, meeting with a Sangheili Field Master known as Avu Med 'Telcam, who refers to himself as "The Servant of Abiding Truth", on the former human colony of New Llanelli in the Brunel system. The Captain discusses the post-war climate of both their worlds. Telcam accuses the human race and Thel 'Vadam of spreading lies about the Forerunners and the Halos, citing that these revelations have created significant religious and political divisions amongst the Sangheili, creating fear of another civil war. Osman says that his side could win, not the Arbiter's, and that dead allies aren't of much value and proceeds to offer to arm Telcam's splinter group with Covenant weapons, on the condition that they stay as far away from humanity as possible upon their victory. Telcam, fixated on his desire to kill the "Infidels", agrees to the arrangement and the two sides part ways. Upon reaching her shuttle, Captain Osman is immediately contacted by Vice Admiral Margaret Parangosky, asking for details on the meeting's proceedings, and is promptly reassured by Osman who then ends the transmission. During take-off Phillips ask Osman where the best Turkish bar is in Sydney, Australia, due to her Mediterranean coloring. Osman says she doesn't know and avoids any further friendly banter with him, believing if she was wearing her ID badge labelled Spartan-019, he would be acting much differently. [verification needed]
The book skips to the viewpoint of two ODSTs, Staff Sergeant Mal Geffen, and Corporal Vaz Beloi, who are searching for the Parthenon Bar to keep a promise to their fallen comrade Emanuel Barakat before heading to their meeting with Vice Admiral Parangosky. Along the way come across several destroyed buildings and roads discussing whether or not peace with the Sangheili is possible due to the countless numbers of dead on both sides. Upon reaching the supposed location of the bar they find nothing but a crater and few construction workers one of whom gives them her bottle of juice so they may make their toast. They proceed further down the road to find a large intact road with a cab driver waiting for any military personnel who could use the lift and drove them to the ONI facility Bravo-six.
The story switches back to the Micro Dyson sphere where the group discover a species of lizard but are disappointed by its lack of meat to sustain them, and various vegetation, deducing that there must be insects and small animals for pollination, later confirmed by the discovery of a beetle. They make their most critical discovery when they discover a black, bottle-sized cylinder that appears to be monitoring them, but it escapes capture (even from the superfast Kelly).
The story switches back to Earth, where Serin is waiting to meet with Vice Admiral Parangosky. There, she meets the Minister of the Colonies, David Agnoli. Once she is admitted Serin meets Parangosky's Personal AI Black Box, also known as "BB". Once reaching Parangosky's office they begin to discuss the events that transpired at Onyx, Parangosky voices her disbelief that Dr. Halsey is dead and displays the information retrieved by the UNSC corvette Glamorgan showing the transponder of Spartan 051 confirming his death. The report also displays numerous electromagnetic anomalies. Parangosky moves onto the battle report from the UNSC Dusk detailing her kidnapping of Spartan 087, her persuasion to have Lord Hood send Blue team to Onyx and summarizes that she had also used some form of forerunner technology. Parangosky openly voices her anger toward Halsey's actions. Serin deduces the possibility of leading a team designated as Kilo-5 to Onyx. Parangosky states that the Sangheili schism mission is still top priority and that she only needs to be ready to divert to Onyx if anything is found there. Parangosky proceeds to discuss the status of the personel involved with Kilo-5. BB states that Sgt Mal Geffen, Sgt Lian Devereaux, Cpl Vaz Beloi, Dr. Evan Phillips and Naomi 010 are all prepared for their briefing. with that Parangosky passes control of BB onto Serin.
On Sanghelios, a former Sangheili shipmaster by the name of Jul 'Mdama is arguing with his wife over which is more important: the rearming of their race to kill the humans, or the sustainability of their food supply. Jul gives up on the argument by saying he needs to make his way towards the Mdama keep to attend an address by the Arbiter. Jul meets with his aide, and now personal driver, Gusay, who arrives in a revenant to escort Jul to the Kaidon's keep. Upon reaching the keep and taking his seat, he is quickly noticed by his friend and fellow shipmaster, Forze, who voices his discomfort at the pace of the Sangheili council's decision, making Jul doubt the need for a council at all. Their debate is cut short by the entrance of the Kaidons Levu 'Mdama and Thel 'Vadam. Thel pleads for unity, cooperation, and the regaining of their independence. He also casts blame of their current stituation on the Great Schism rather than the humans. Jul is quick to voice his opinion that they should wipe out humanity while their guard is down. Thel states that they never fully defeated the humans, and trying a second time would be foolish, but instead chooses stability, thus announcing his intention to sign a peace agreement with humanity. Jul once again is quick to voice his opposition regarding humans as liars and thieves. Thel reiterates stating that there are honorable humans and that he intends to follow through with his actions, and states that Sangheili law states that any Sangheili who doesn't agree with him that attempting to assassinate him is their legal right.
We switch back to Earth where Mal, and Vaz proceed down a corridor and exchange candid talk of the purpose of the meeting. Once in the room they immediately met by Sgt Lian Devereaux followed by Petty Officer Naomi-010, Captain Osman, Dr. Phillips, and Admiral Parangosky. Parangosky is quick to disclose the purpose of the mission that they may or may not accept, she states her intention to create infighting, strife, and discontent within the Sangheili society, until the UNSC is ready to execute the killing blow. She goes on to elaborate on the absence of intel and the role of Dr. Phillips, and the Corvette at their disposal, Port Stanley, and introduces the group to her personal AI BB, Mal is quick to sum up the thoughts of the team, by enthusiastically asking BB to take them to "hinge-head world".
Back in the shield world the group find entrance into a forerunner tower and encounter more of the gray cylinders, within the tower they hear the movement of an as of yet unidentified creature but Dr. Halsey ponders how that is possible as she believes they found the entrance to the shield world first, but Mendez says they weren't and simply found the way in.
Back in the Sol system, as the Port Stanley prepares to jump to Slipspace, Captain Osman questions her ability to captain a ship, but is reassured by Vice Admiral Parangosky's trust in her. She is interrupted by BB, who reports the ship's status and asks about revealing her identity to Naomi, who is heard heading toward the bridge. Following Naomi's entrance to the bridge, Serin Osman reveals her true identity to her. A few minutes later, the ODSTs and Philips enter the bridge and, after a small conversation, strap themselves in for the slipspace jump. Seconds before the jump, the Stanley receives a data transmission, which BB saves and commences the slipspace jump. Osman experiences a feeling of nausea, but pushes it aside and ask BB about the transmission. BB states that the transmission was regarding the damaged UNSC patrol ship UNSC Ariadne in the Venezia system. Upon finishing the discussion regarding the Ariadne, Osman heads to Captain's cabin and looks for an analgesic but finds a piece of ginger from Vice Admiral Parangosky, which Osman uses to get rid of the feeling of nausea and heads towards the hangar bay.
Meanwhile, on Sanghelios, Jul meets Kaidon 'Mdama to discuss the matter of the Arbiter's alliance with the Humans. After the Kaidon says he agrees with the Arbiter, Jul leaves and walks back to Bekan, thinking of way to cause a rebellion against the Arbiter. After returning to his Keep, Jul talks to Raia, has lunch and goes to the watchtower of his Keep. While on the tower, he hears an explosion from the Bekan Keep, and notices that Relon has destroyed the Forerunner structure on his land. The following morning, the Bekan keep is attacked by the Servants of the Abiding Truth (Neru Pe 'Odosima). Jul goes to the Bekan keep, only to find that Relon and his brother Jalam has been killed, and has been hanged from a hastily erected scaffolding. A board hanging from Relon's neck says "We do not allow blasphemers to live, The gods demand a return to piety, Truth Abides". Jul gets an idea to seek help from the Servants of the Abiding Truth to rebel against the Arbiter.
- Dr. Catherine Halsey
- Serin Osman, Spartan-019
- Chief Petty Officer Mendez
- Jul 'Mdama
- Thel 'Vadam
- Black Box, BB
- Vice Admiral Margaret Parangosky
- Avu Med 'Telcam
- Professor Evan Phillips
- Vasily Beloi
- Malcolm Geffen
- Lian Devereaux
- Lord Terrence Hood
- Mike Spenser
- Raia 'Mdama
- Levu 'Mdama
- James Ackerson (Mentioned only)
- Cortana (Mentioned only)
- John-117 (Mentioned only)
- Jacob Keyes (Mentioned only)
- Miranda Keyes (Mentioned only)
- This novel introduced the Arum, which is the Sangheili equivalent of the Rubix cube.
- The character name: Mal may be a reference to the lead character of the TV series "Firefly" and its following movie, "Serenity"
- The novel contains a lot of Red vs Blue (machinima) references, due to Karen Traviss being a fan of Rooster Teeth.
- When Mal and Vaz are trying to talk without BB overhearing, Mal first writes on his hand before Vaz suggests lip reading, and Mal responds with "You saw the old movie, BB will space us", in reference to Stanley Kubrick and Arthur C. Clarke's 2001: A Space Odyssey .
- On page 119, 'heads-up display' is printed as 'head-up display'.
- On page 445, Mal is referred to as 'Mel'.
- Halo Portal — Bestselling Author Karen Traviss Set To Explore The Halo Universe
- Karen Traviss Blog — Master Chief insists