With only a season and half left to her bond, Lilian's enemies are becoming desperate, and those who would see her fail seek any infraction, no matter how minor, to deny her bond proof. Haunted by the memory of the Serengeti fallen and her actions in eradicating the Despoilers, Lilian struggles to retain her discipline for the final five months of her apprenticeship. With her actions in the battle of Serengeti proving her valor and loyalty beyond doubt, only the honor proof remains – adherence to the rigid and complex Apprentice Protocol. Although few within Serengeti will challenge her bond proof, throughout the Twelve Systems, those who wagered against her are facing penury and will stop at nothing to keep her from surviving.
With Damocles and Despoilers defeated, Lucius' power with Serengeti and the Third System is uncontested. Determined to advance his ambitions, Lucius lays plans for a triumphant launch of his revolutionary stellar exploration vehicle, the Nightingale. As he prepares to depart for Fortuna, a new threat appears in the form of a charismatic prelate who rouses the populace against Bright Star and Lilian’s role the venture. The prelate will prove but the first among many determined to thwart him through any means, including his notorious apprentice.
When thousands gather on Fortuna for the historical launch of the Nightingale into orbit, Lilian finds herself treading a blade’s edge as she attempts to adhere to the Apprentice Protocol among adversaries who are increasingly desperate and bold. Planned as a celebration of Serengeti achievement, the Fortuna voyage becomes a nightmare where she is faced with deadly opponents intent on her destruction.