WARNING: This page contains spoilers up through last month's release of Grave of the Waiting.
This page isn't meant as a replacement for the story itself; many details will be glossed over. Rather, it's just meant to jog your memory in case you've forgotten what happened since you last read. A lot can happen in a month, I know!
Ada Bryce, her mother, and her father have found themselves trapped in a hospital while enemy soldiers descend on the location. They’ve come here because the hospital has actual, working power—a rarity in these times—but unfortunately that makes the building a strategic military target. The battle rages outside. Her parents assure her that everything will be alright, but Ada has an eidetic memory and remembers the fear on their faces. While her parents and their friends discuss options, enemy reinforcements arrive and hack into a medibot, causing it to slaughter soldiers, doctors, nurses, and patients indiscriminately. Ada’s father is a medtech; he knows how to disable it, how to stop the killing. He and Ada’s mother abandon Ada, leaving her with their friend, Ezran. But Ada is brave; when she senses her opportunity, she chases after her parents into the dangerous unknown.
Chapter 1 - Traveler
Twenty years later, Ada still experiences traumatic flashbacks to that fateful day. Her perfect memory won’t let her escape them, so she distracts herself by engrossing herself in her mathematical research. She enters virtual reality using her implanted augments—and escapes from the desolate, dying planet Earth has become—to do some work, but receives a message from the world-famous engineer, Constance St. James.
Upon opening the message, she is pulled into an unfamiliar virtual environment hosted by the engineer’s “company,” the St. James Unity. There, an avatar of an SJU artificial intelligence briefs her on a rogue planet that arrived in the solar system three years ago. The Unity believes there was intelligent intent behind the events that led to the planet’s arrival—including the expenditure of a massive amount of energy—and are recruiting people to investigate. The event leaves such an impression on Ada, she would have agreed to help regardless. But to sweeten the deal, the Unity grants her an energy stipend and virtual freedom from energy austerity.
Chapter 2 - Harmful Behaviors
Ada uses her newfound freedom to make as much progress as she can on her research, hoping to secure her family's financial freedom before her energy stipend runs out. She hasn't heard from the Unity in the month since accepting their strange offer, so every moment counts. She visits the Ledger of Insight in the Chain to follow up on an interesting article but is frustrated to learn that the author of the paper is a charlatan whose work is a waste of her time. Unfortunately, like her memory, nothing is ever lost in the Chain, even the stuff she wishes could be expunged.
Seeking comfort, she revisits a childhood experience in her augments' memory vault. She and Uncle Ezran are moving into their new home and are greeted by new neighbors. However, Ada is plucked out of her memory due to an emergency call from her ex-wife, Lakaya. Their son, Jean, needs surgery and Lakaya wants Ada to be there in person to support him. Ada makes excuses, promising to send money instead, but Lakaya confronts Ada about a confusing vote in the Ledger of Edicts. A proposed manned mission to the new rogue planet received the support of billions, and Ada is the most highly voted-for crew member.
Chapter 3 - Eyes
Since learning she'll be traveling to the rogue planet, Ada has been spending time with Ezran in their mountainside community. She hasn't told him she's leaving yet, but figures she has plenty of time to make new memories with him and ensure he'll be okay when she's gone.
After helping deliver vegetables to the community market, Ada studies the Unity's proposal, learning everything she can about the mission she was selected for. One thing that she can't find: the launch date. Frustrated, she observes a debate in the Chain between conspiracy theorists who can't decide whether the rogue planet is real or if the Unity is hiding some nefarious purpose. Ada is unexpectedly thrust into the middle of the debate and takes out her frustrations on the crowd.
Just as she snaps at them and is booted from the Link, her uncle urges her to come out of her augments, claiming something amazing is outside. It's an auto, sent by the Unity to retrieve Ada. She has to explain to Ezran what's happening, worried she'll break his heart. Instead, he's proud that Ada will be traveling into space. Ada leaves in the auto and is surprised to find Constance St. James in the vehicle with her. Constance informs her that the launch is occurring tomorrow at midnight.
Chapter 4 - Launch Site
Ada reacts to being told they’ll be launching on their mission tomorrow at midnight. Constance St. James gives Ada the option to back out, despite that meaning the mission wouldn’t proceed. As it would result in Ada’s energy stipend being canceled, Ada agrees to move forward, for her son’s sake. Constance tells Ada she used her six billion delegated votes to ensure Ada was selected for the mission, then explains how Ada’s work has impacted her life and the Unity. Constance tells her how the war affected her and the creation of the Unity, and hints at her plans to end energy austerity.
After sleeping through the rest of the car ride, Ada and Constance arrive at the launch facility on the Île du Levant, where they meet Anders Larsson and Dr. Marlo Briggs. They then record a broadcast to be sent out to the public, letting everyone know the mission has commenced. Only, it becomes clear that Constance is lying about the date they’re launching and touching down on the rogue planet.
Chapter 5 - Optimists
The crew is suspicious of Constance as they prepare for Davix to perform physical evaluations. When Ada's turn comes, a medibot appears and reminds her of her parents' deaths. She's embarrassed by her reaction, but Davix assures her bot fear is perfectly normal, and she won't be seeing one for a long time.
Ada spends her final hours on Earth searching for training simulations in the Chain, pondering the dying planet, and sinking into despair. Not even a beautiful sunset can rescue her from her spiral. Davix comes to retrieve her, and tells her of his time as a soldier, encouraging her not to give up hope. They leave to board the rocket. It's time to leave.
Chapter 6 - Reference Frames
The crew boards their ship, the Dauntless Dive, hours before launch. All that dead time strapped to what amounts to little more than a fancy bomb gives Ada plenty of opportunity to regret joining the mission. When the launch countdown ends, they're propelled into orbit, where they get one last look at Earth.
But reaching orbit was the easy part. Next comes the transfer maneuver to send them toward the rogue planet. It's a high-G burn sustained over several minutes, a burn that could kill the crew members if they're unlucky. It becomes clear that Constance is willing to gamble their lives if it means completing the mission. What remains unclear are all the secrets the Unity founder is hiding, secrets that Ada vows to uncover before it's all over.
Chapter 7 - Demons
The crew survives the hard burn Constance put them through – Ada is the first to awaken, finding herself outbound toward the rogue planet and under the effect of barely noticeable gravity. Constance tells her they have a nuclear thermal engine onboard to provide thrust all the way to their destination, a clear violation of the Ledger of Edicts. It's clear to Ada this is far from the last secret Constance is keeping. When Constance leaves, Ada tells the rest of the crew about her distrust of their captain, then decides to confront Constance and get her to spill everything.
Constance is happy to explain...only, her answers give Ada little comfort. The Unity founder is in communication with the aliens they're going to meet, and believes they are going to provide the means to solve the Energy Crisis. Ada knows better: that this mission is doomed, these aliens are not angels but demons, and that nothing short of extinction is going to rid humanity of their problems.
Chapter 8 - Outward
Thirteen months later, Ada fights an alien in a training simulator and dies to it because she freezes up out of fear. Upon exiting, she’s embarrassed to find Davix had been watching her, saw her fail. Ada’s been keeping the truth about her trauma from the crew. If she tells them, she’s afraid they’ll see how broken she is. She wants them to be able to depend on her.
Leaving the gym, she cleans up and goes to work on her research, but is distracted by countless ChainMail messages, most of which she deletes, and an audio message from Ezran, which she cries listening to. Ezran thinks she’s dead, and she has no way to respond because Constance is forcing radio silence on the ship. But Ada sees Constance has been sending messages herself; she gets angry because she hasn’t been able to send word to her family for over a year. Constance pulls rank on Ada, says disabling radio silence would jeopardize the mission, but there’s only a month left until they arrive – they can send messages on the way home.
A month left, and tensions are high. Larsson and Marlo are always fighting. Ada doesn’t trust Constance at all. One of their engines is failing. It’s Ada’s turn to share memories over her augments for the crew’s weekly “vault night”, but she’s in an awful mood and can’t think of a memory to share that doesn’t reflect her trauma. She calls Davix in the gym to get this over with, but all the lights go out, and emergency alarms blare.
Chapter 9 - Fracture
Emergency alarms blare throughout the ship, and Ada freezes up, unable to act. The Dauntless needs to make an emergency maneuver to get clear of high velocity debris. When it impacts, Ada nearly dies trying to get into her EVA suit. She has to repair the damage to the ship with Marlo as she searches for Davix, who was trapped on the lower deck.
Ada finds him alive, but the sergeant suffered a broken arm and an injury to the head. She transports him to the medbay, but he needs thrust gravity in order for Larsson to set his wound. Constance tries to restart the Dauntless' engines, but there's a problem. They were damaged by the projectiles, and their performance is quickly degrading. With only a month until arrival, it's unclear whether the ship and her crew will make it in one piece.