The crew of the Antares land on the cold snowy planet of Archangel. Hope and Liz figure that the particle-wave amplifier is here, but for some reason Liz has no clear direction towards it. Ivan asks for leave since he has received news that his father is very ill. Scorpio, Ivan, and all the ship officers in full uniform exit the ship and are met by Ivan’s family, and his wife, Dunyasha. After the formal affair Liz informs Scorpio that she needs to report to Scout headquarters and takes off.
Ivan is brought back to see his father, Yermolai Novikov. Although the man puts on as good a show as ever, it worries Ivan significantly to see the strongest man he knows looking so frail. News of his father’s illness has reached political enemies, particularly the Aleksov household, who wish to destroy all the good the Novikov’s have tried to do for Archangel. They have reason to believe that Ivan’s marriage, to a Terran from a minor house, is not only unconsummated but invalid. The first is correct. Ivan had only met the women once before and after the marriage. Not only are they both a little uncomfortable with the arrangement, but Ivan is worried about his cybernetics (which instead of simply giving him the use of his body back have been showing signs of growing into his body) somehow affecting her. When he explains this to his father, the old Novan immediately orders tests to be done on his cybernetics, but suggest that in the meantime Ivan should be spending time with his wife. Dunyasha has filled out in more ways than one in ten years, and the two of them end up having a very pleasant time.
Meanwhile, Scorpio notices that Hope has completely disappeared. Unsure of what’s driving him, he goes searching for her. It takes him the better part of the day before he finds her in the slums of the capitol helping whoever she sees. Eager to help, he and Hope end up going to a “school” that is being started on the streets. Scorpio finds a man hanging out there who he is sure is from one of the ruling houses, but when he approaches him to ask if he can help him support this one chance these children have, the man reluctantly refuses because of the danger. Hope and Scorpio end up taking a bunch of the children to a house she has rented for the first hot meal and safe place to sleep these kids have had in a long time.
At the Scout base, Liz reports what she feels comfortable reporting about her post on the Antares to local Scout Commander Jericho Reece. She also receives a message from her brother, Justin Bones, saying he’s in town and would like her to meet a troubled friend of his. After briefly reviewing her records, Commander Reece brings up the fact that she was once friends with an A.I. genus by the name of Mark O’Shea (once friends meaning she last saw him shot right between glowing blue eyes). The scouts are now trying to decode his notes and the commander asks if there is anything she might know that could help. The box of Mark’s possessions he left her comes to mind, but she excuses herself to think on it and visit her brother. The person Justin introduces to her as Kayla, though greatly changed and without any memories, was her friend Rhae Torinth (was her friend meaning she last saw her being shot in the back of the head by a shardling Mark on a planet glassed shortly after). Completely overwhelmed, Liz returns to her shuttle where she pulls out the box from Mark that she never opened. It was full of parts, and data keys, but also contained a false bottom with an A-synth core beneath it and a personal letter to Liz with a picture of the three of them together. The letter reveals that Mark was working on something much bigger than what everyone thought. Needing answers she returns to the base to send a message to Scout headquarters demanding explanations, but realizes from the Reece’s reaction that she was not in control of herself. She excuses herself again to return to her brother’s house where she spends the night under his empathic care, talking with Kayla, and trying to glean as much information as she can while fighting down the pain.
Late that night, Scorpio notices that Hope is missing again and goes searching. He gets word of her being escorted away by some soldiers in Aleksov livery, and calls Ivan and Liz to help him get her back. Ivan immediately leaves his wife’s bed and Liz grudgingly finds them at the Aleksov’s underground fortress. Turned out that Hope was there of her own free will to visit with Anton, the youngest son of Head of House Sergei Aleksov. Scorpio recognizes him as the household member he talked with last afternoon. Ivan offers to take Hope back to the house and Scorpio takes off to tail them and watch the house for the rest of the night.
Dawn finds Liz wandering the local Bazaar where she’s suddenly directed straight to a closed scrap shop with the particle-wave amplifier inside it. Ignoring the urging in her head, she heads back to Scout base where one of her old teachers, Sean Phillips (who everyone knows simply as Scout), is waiting for her. Turned out the Reece had contacted headquarters about her outburst and Scout volunteered to come over and see what was wrong. Liz tells him everything and after stating his opinion of the world not being ready for what Mark discovered, they decide to go visit Kayla.
Scorpio rejoined Hope at the street school and ends up meeting Anton Aleksov, again. Not wanting his identity revealed, he agrees to takes Scorpio’s donation to the school and asks if there is any way Scorpio can get him in touch with Yermolai Novikov so he may ask for asylum from his insane father. Scorpio agrees and sends messages to Ivan about him. He also sends a message to Liz about a potential stalker Ivan had discovered while exploring the rooftops around the house Hope was staying in.
Ivan gets word that his tests are in. With his father present, the researcher reveals that Ivan’s cybernetics appear to be made of a conscious crystal that may likely take over his entire body within the next 50 years. The fact that he even survived the grafting was a miracle, seeing how the other two people the Aleksovs had tried these experimental cybernetics on had died. However, all of that has to be put on the side, because the trial before the Emperor on the issue of Ivan’s marriage takes place in a few hours. If they can’t prove legitimacy, Dunyasha Novikov will likely be stoned for trying to marry too high. He’s allowed 3 character witnesses and asks Scorpio, Hope, and Liz to attend. He and his father also pay a visit to the street school to meet with Anton and plans are made.
Scout confirms that Kayla was Rae, but has no explanation on how she survived. He also volunteers to find the stalker Scorpio was telling Liz about while she prepares for and attends the trial. While heading back to the ship, Liz picks up the particle-wave amplifier from the scrap shop. Scorpio and Hope also return to the ship to get ready and the three of them attend the trial.
At the trial, the many accusations against the Novikov family are made, but the charges are clearly that the marriage between Ivan and Dunyasha is unconsummated and invalid because of the sickness that surely must have been tampering with Yermolai’s mind when he arranged it. Ivan brings up Aleksovs attempt to shorten and or end his life with his cybernetics, but Sergei proclaims that has nothing to do with the charges at hand. Yermolai offers evidence that the marriage has been consummated and then proclaims that if Sergei doubts his sharpness, then he challenges him to a duel to the death. Sergei declines the challenge due to his responsibilities, but then everyone is shocked when Anton stands up providing evidence that his father has been poisoning Yermolai Novikov for years now. All hell breaks loss, the Emperor slits Yermolai’s throat on the spot and his eldest son, Leonid , pulls a plasma cannon. Liz throws a knife at the arm holding the weapon and Leonid disappears under a pile of Novan’s with Ivan at the bottom attempting to kill him with his bare hands. The Emperor himself pulls everyone off, sentences Leonid to death by exposure, and places Alton in charge of the household. Scorpio and Hope return to the Antares and take off. Ivan and Liz join them later in her shuttle after wrapping up their personal business. Scout Phillips reports to Scorpio and Liz that the stalker had given him the slip. This by itself terrifies Liz a little because when it comes to tracking and survival, Scout is the best there is. However Scorpio is a little more worried about the description the old man gave him of the stalker. It very closely matched the man he was force to run from back on Britannica.