An inquiry into the death of Specialist Granger Shelton has concluded, and Skipper Allen Paul is officially cleared of wrongdoing in the Spaceman’s death. He has also been promoted to Commander and is placed back in command of the Navy’s oldest, and in his opinion, best space cruiser, the United Earth Ship, Dawn Rising. However, Commander Paul remains saddened by the death of Specialist Granger Shelton, not only was he the first spaceman Paul ever lost, but the two were also the best of friends. He is also troubled by a discovery made while escorting Granger’s body home. While transferring shuttles, Commander Paul observed three caskets returning from the asteroid belt’s mining colonies. That by itself is not unusual as working in the asteroid belt is inherently dangerous, but his curiosity peaks when he realizes the caskets are empty! A few inquiries reveal the mining companies supposedly sentimental practice of shipping the personal effects of missing miners in empty caskets, but that’s a sentiment the commander just doesn’t buy. He knows the mining companies are all about the bottom dollar and spending thousands on caskets, rather than hundreds on standard shipping containers, just doesn’t make sense.
Before the Commander can investigate this mystery, the Navy sends him on a secret mission for the Planetary Defense Agency and tasks him with locating members of an alien species thought to be hiding in the asteroid belt. Never one to let sleeping dogs lie, Paul uses his mission as an excuse to open empty caskets on an inbound space-freighter and discovers a direct link between the contents of the supposedly empty caskets, and the alien species he is tasked with finding. A conspiracy is now afoot, and the search broadens as he teams up with a veteran Texas lawman, a Navy Seals team, and the newly minted Skipper of the Navy’s newest ship, Lieutenant Commander, Gail Schmitt. Together, they uncover a decades-old conspiracy whose fruition is just days away. Just when things could not get worse, a second alien species makes their presence known with a seemingly unprovoked attacked on the Dawn Rising. Was it unprovoked? How deep does the conspiracy go? Who can he trust? Can he stop the unthinkable from taking place, and if he does, will he survive?