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There are two missions going on in this book which is kind of unusual for a John Walker novel. Both mission involve the Peck twins, Rita and Oliver, each going on separate missions.

Rita has joined, again, with Eriss, the MerCon agent, to head back to Confederation space to try and find out who set up the secret lab and built the super secret and highly advanced gunboat. Unfortunately, she and Eriss were making the trip back to friendly space in her old ship piloted by Borden. Borden wasn’t much use on this trip other than to be a pilot. It would be fine if he just didn’t complain the whole way to where ever they were going.

And, that place was a planet not known for hospitality to strangers. Eriss had an old contact who she thought could provide information on who built the secret lab and also might help with Rita’s debt to Tobin Loch. She was hunting a guy named “Karl Petrova” and thought he was here on this planet. Turns out she was wrong, but they didn’t just leave after finding that out. No, Rita and Eriss can’t seem to not do anything but leave a trail of dead bodies behind them and that’s exactly what happened in this case.

Meanwhile, the USS Morrigan was responding to a distress beacon set off by what appeared to be a Gold Empire convoy ship. The Gold Empire was nothing much more than a pirate conglomeration that just may have set up some kind of government out here on the fringes of known space.

By the time they arrive at the star corrdiantes, there’s not much left to look at. A huge battle has taken place with several ships blown completely apart. It appears that all the ships did belong to the Gold Empire. After checking around the system, they two ships that had landed on a planet, one was wrecked and the other belonged to the ervas. Captain Merkel figured there were causalities on the ground so he dispatched some shuttles to tend to the survivors. At about the same time, a Gold Empire battleship emerged from hyperspace and immediately began threatening the Morrigan.

Captain Merkel didn’t want a fight. He just wanted to find out where the ervas came from and, if remotely possible, enlist some aid from the Gold Empire to go after the erva’s home world. But first, he had to get the Gold Empire starship to talk to him. They finally did after he nearly had to destroy their ship. Captain Merkel worked some diplomatic miracle and may a tentative agreement with the Gold Empire starship Captain where they would both work to rescue the survivors on the ground.

Everything was going pretty well when four ervas battleships dropped out of hyperspace. The Gold Empire ship and the Morrigan engaged and destroyed two, but both were pretty badly damaged. Captain Merkel though he had better retreat to fix his ship before it blew up so he issued an immediate recall for his shuttles including the advanced gunboat.

Almost everyone made it back aboard before the Morrigan went into hyperspace. The managed to do that only with the help of the Gold Empire starship. After getting safely away, Captain Merkel was given some bad news. Major Oliver Peck wasn’t among those that had returned from the planet.

Well, that means there’s going to be another book in the series and it should be interesting. I only gave this one a four-star rating because the story seemed to slow down at times. It’s still a good read and I’ll continue reading the series; that’s for sure.

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