One thing about these books, the author writes about one specific mission and nothing else. Each story is pretty much centered around the Earth starship, Gnosis, its crew and nothing much else. Yes the Pahxin are characters in the story, but they are mostly minor players in the book. I don’t mind this; it makes for an easy to read book. With some books, there are three or four themes going on at different places with different characters and you have to think about what’s going on where and that’s hard work! But not here.
After the Gnosis’ last mission, you’d think the crew and ship would need a significant amount of downtime. I mean, they did a lot of fighting and many of their crew and Marine contingent died. Getting trapped on a strange planet in a star ship isn’t what the crew is trained for. Not knowing when or how you’re going to get back home and then having two different enemies attacking your grounded ship is a pretty heavy emotional load. Still, they are assigned another mission right off the bat. I don’t think I even read about them have memorial services for the crew that were killed, only something for the Marine that got killed during that side mission to shut down the entity holding them to the planet. I can guarantee that a normal star ship crew would have had to have a lot of downtime and severe counseling after a mission like that.
Of course, this mission they are now going out on is supposed to be a “milk-run”! Yeah, we hear about those all the time. What author would write about a “milk-run” mission? So you know as soon as a character says something like that, it’s going to be anything but a milk-run. This mission is the brainchild of Beaumont Dulain, Director of Applied Intelligence Agency (AIA). He’s apparently got some pull and enough to get the Pahxin to agree to the Gnosis taking both Orbs into hyperspace and see if they can get another reaction from Agent Cassandra (Cassie) Alexander. She had been placed aboard the Gnosis as a sensor specialist or something like that, but also as a plant for Director Dulain so he could make sure the Gnosis was doing what should be done. Cassie had also experienced some kind of link with one of the Orbs, they were previously transporting back to Earth. She couldn’t tell what her experience was about, but it was certainly strange. Dulain and others thought that she might have some kind of connection to the Orbs, so they could further exploit this alien technology. While scientist had discovered some things about the Orbs, they had no consistent way of getting data from it.
Anyway, the Gnosis was to head off towards supposedly unknown galactic coordinates with both Orbs aboard and a whole passel of Earth and Pahxin scientist. No one knew what would happen if Cassie tried to make contact with the Orbs again and it could even harm her. Still, she didn’t have a choice since her boss, Director Dulain wanted it done. They were going to have Pahxin escort with them until they got into hyperspace and that escort would meet them at the final destination. Pahxin vessels traveled through hyperspace faster than the Earth vessels so they would outrun the Gnosis to the rendezvous point. But, as you guessed already, there is a traitor aboard the Gnosis. No matter how much security is put in place, there is always someone willing to screw things up and this is no different. So their “milk-run” mission turns into something totally different and unexpected. This crew is definitely going to need some extensive R&R once they get back to Earth or they all are going crackers soon.