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- “It is 2553, and the three-decade long Covenant War that defined a generation has suddenly drawn to a close. Yet, in the remotest parts of human space, tensions remain that threaten to overflow into another full-scale conflict. Beneath the surface of the planet Gao lies a vast cavern system renowned for its therapeutic effects and rumored miraculous cures. But now Gao natives are turning up brutally murdered down there – violent acts that happen to coincide with the recent arrival of a UNSC research battalion protected by Spartan Blue Team, led by the renowned Spartan-II Fred-104.
Maverick detective Veta Lopis of the Gao Ministry of Protection is only trying to do her job as the Special Inspector assigned to catch a serial killer – one who is possibly hiding within the Spartan ranks – but she never anticipates the situation spiraling out of control into an all-out crisis. When Gao is revealed to harbor ancient Forerunner technology that could solidify the UNSC’s military supremacy for centuries to come, Insurrection loyalists within the planetary government will do anything – even align with a vicious faction of what remains of the Covenant – to ensure that never happens…”— Official summary
The book begins with Inspector Veta Lopis beginning her investigation of a series of murders in the Montero Cave System underneath Gao. At first she suspects that a spartan committed the murders based on the injuries on some of the victims. While investigating Crime Scene Charlie Major Halal almost let it slip that the UNSC research battalion had also been losing men.
It is revealed that two and a half months ago a earthquake occurred in the area, destroying two villages, but after the earthquake several tourists that entered the caverns emerged completely healed of their ailments. A month after the quake a UNSC task force arrived in the Cordoba System with the intent of performing research in the caverns. The ant-centralization government of Gao refused at first, but President Aponte finally gave permission for a small research team which turned out to be a full battalion, which took control of the most popular caverns and declared them off-limits to all civilians. Over the next two weeks the extremely independent Gao natives would sneak into the caverns along with tourists. Afterwards several tourists went missing or turned up dead. Local news outlets were quick to place the blame on the UNSC. Presidente Aponte ordered the Ministry of Protection to investigate the murders and asked the UNSC to cooperate.
While inspecting the scene of he brutal murder, Senola discovered a second body in a adjacent passage. The second body was noted as being different in that the killer had apparently felt remorse due to how the body was positioned on its back, as though resting, and its eyes were closed with a small stone on each. While removing the body a UNSC squad discovered a third body 10 kilometers deeper into the caverns, which would be problematic to reach, further exacerbated by Inspector Lopis's claustrophobia.
The true reason for the UNSC's occupation of the caverns in revealed. On April 14, 2553 Commander Murtag Nelson was at a ONI listening post that picked up a strange series of signals emanating from Gao's Montero cave system following the glassing of some Forerunner ruins by a Covenant battle cruiser on Shaps III. Commander Nelson came to the conclusion that a Forerunner Ancilla was sending those signals in response to the destruction of the Forerunner ruins and convinced his superiors of the validity of his theory. Admiral Parangosky gave Nelson command of the 717th Xeno-Materials Exploitation Battalion and of Blue Team to capture the Ancilla. In the following two months the only thing the battalion had to show for their efforts was the casualties inflected by the Ancilla's complement of Sentinels 
- UNSC Navy
- UNSC Judge Advocate General's Corps
- Major Ira Halal
- Xeno-Materials Exploitation Group
- 717th Battalion
- Commander Murtag Nelson
- Major Tereem Wingate
- Captain Baldric Breit
- A.I. Wendell
- Sergeant Odell
- Sergeant Nguyen
- Sergeant Boyle (Mentioned only)
- Corporal Phaetus
- Corporal Tegg
- Lance Corporal Ryan
- Private, First Class A. Gallos
- Private Hayes
- 717th Battalion
- Blue Team
- Petora Zoyas
- Republic of Gao
- President Tejo Aponte
- Minister of Protection Arlo Casille
- Minister of War Gaspar Baez
- Fiance Minister Trella Rangel
- Ministry of Protection
- Captain Melgar
- Gunnery Lieutenant Cardone
- Inspector Veta Lopis
- Andrea Rolan
- Olinda Riost
- Senola Lurone
Keepers of the One FreedomEdit
- Intrepid Eye
- Roams Alone