The team decides the Ghost City is rapidly provide to raise more questions than answers, so the team heads back to shuttle’s landing spot and delivers a status report to the Hamilton O. Smith.
Back up on the ship, Captain Victor Borza discovers an unusually high spike in computer system access originating from (who’s academic rank entitles him to fairly wide ranging access to the ship’s computers).calculates that the ion storm is increasing in intensity at a planetwide scale, and more disturbingly the increases are building up in specific storm cells and not dispersed across the entire area of the storm as is typical. Elsewhere,
The next day, the away team heads back into the Ghost City to site three, hoping to finally get some hard evidence (literally, in the case of a core sample of metallized stone to give to Professor Chang). Academician Mark Blanchard surveys the area and is able to do a remarkable job of reconstructing what the site was like prior to some sort of small-scale orbital bombardment that is evidenced; he also finds signs that there was some alteration done to the site after bombardment, but it appears to have been abandoned some time ago.
Bringing all crew members back to the ship, further investigations reveal that Dr. Hiroko has sent a series of encrypted burst transmissions down to the planet. His first message to his girlfriend on the planet is relatively innocuous, but the other two are decidedly more ominous: one to Legate Washington detailing his findings regarding the possible applications of high-energy physics to the lanthanide deposits, and a detailed set of targeting coordinates sent to the minehead.
Lucid Conundrum forwards these findings to Stromness and begins investigating an anomalous set of subroutines running in the probe launcher array. Stromess meanwhile decides that these covert transmissions are damning enough to warrant a direct(ish) confrontation with Hiroko. Bringing Gamble, JB3, and Estray Cold Ocean as backup, he tries to force Hiroko to become conscious of the conditioning that lurks in his mind – eventually causing a slip on Hiroko’s part to reference “my programming”. Stromness makes the call and gives the order to have Dr. Hiroko incapacitated; Gamble responds by drawing his sidearm and firing at JB3.
Back on the bridge, Lucid discovers that the new subroutines have slaved the astrophysics probe array to the torpedo launch controls, allowing Hiroko to plot an orbital strike. Bringing this to the bridge’s attention, Sharon brings the ship out of a stable orbit in an attempt to render the existing targeting solution worthless. Meanwhile, JB3 calls a hard lockdown on the astrophysics lab in response to Gamble (seal the room and flood with paralytic gas) while Stromness orders everyone to take out the console that Hiroko has begun to reconfigure with inhuman speed. Shrugging off repeated blaster stuns, Hiroko starts to look more and more inhuman as the lanthanide circuitry beneath the surface of his skin glows hotter and hotter – he plunges his hands directly into the wreckage of the console and continues to subvert the ship’s systems. Lucid Conundrum works to lock out Hiroko while Estray grabs a blaster and unloads it at maximum power into the doctor; this combination does the trick and with a scream the doctor collapses.
While Estray gives the all-clear and Dr. Everett leads a trauma team into the astrophysics lab, the bridge receives a transmission from the minehead indicated that they are “ready to fire”. The ion storm on the planet is continuing to build in intensity – Lucid notes a series of planet-wide broadcasts implementing disaster protocols for the population. Captain Borza opts to disperse the storm while holding off on leveling the Theodosus Ridge; Lucid transmits back the word “proceed”.