The Shades rally to meet the Gun Golems' onslaught, but success brings no respite. With the Root Palace in transit between star systems and cut off from the rest of the Empire, a series of impossible crimes further rocks the Palace and threatens the Empire's future. On an unalterable course, six months from planetfall, Shades and Artifact Competition finalists are being picked off one by one by an unknown force that stalks the Palace, deadly and unseen. Is there a traitor in their midst? Or have they picked up some malevolent passenger? No one knows, but trust is a luxury and nobody is above suspicion.
Alone, Jav can do nothing but support his fellows, particularly his friend, Ren Fauer, the newly appointed Director of Imperial Police, and be ready to pit his mastery of the Eighteen Heavenly Claws against whatever it is hiding in the Palace shadows—but will it be enough?