With Content Not Found: sgt-mcmahon on his feet (with a sufficient amount of motor assist), the away team discusses how to best wrap up the issue of salvage rights to the Bellerophon. Rhone acts as a mediator between Sgt. McMahon and Commander Tubal to help them come to an understanding; McMahon agrees that while they are under risk of Denebian attack it behooves them to use whatever is at their disposal to protect themselves.
Cold Ocean and Johnny Five bring a team of guardsmen back to the crash site, and they find a large number of intact components as hoped. Giving the site a thorough walkthrough, Cold Ocean makes a number of observations. First is that there is one laser pod unaccounted for; second is that the Bellerophon was downed by a focused projection of ion energy.
Meanwhile, Johnny Five is assessing the security of the crash site and notices distant part of the wreckage that has more recent (six months) evidence of energetic bombardment. Upon closer examination, it appears to be the missing laser pod that Cold Ocean remarked upon. The pod impact site itself bears marks of multiple high-energy discharges from Orion weapons and the vegetation is notably abnormal from the rest of the area. Dakini confirms that she had deployed the laser pod as part of the security perimeter, but it was lost as part of an unknown perimeter breach five months ago. Elsewhere, Chief Engineer Schmidt is having marginal success extracting the plasma cannon from where it wedged into the planet at impact.
Back at base camp, Dr. Everett takes Rhone and Dr. Chang (along with a cohort of guardsmen) back into Beelzebub Pass to see if Chang can make any sense of the core survey site they had previously found. Chang proves worth the fuel to drop them to the planet; his first observation is that the geological upthrust they’re standing on is incredibly young and essentially impossible given the lack of volcanic activity in the area. Casting a wider eye to the canyon, it becomes apparent that the entire thing has to be artificial. Secondly, the entire region is incredibly rich in lanthanides, even by New Axom standards. Dr. Chang’s best hypothesis is that there is a complex microfusion reaction occuring with the lanthanides somewhere beneath the surface, and this process is altering the landscape at the surface.
Dr. Chang tries to pick up where the last team left off and start taking core samples – while he gets the first one without difficulty, drilling for the second core samples causes local electronics to go haywire while the storm layer above begins to become unstable. The group wisely moves away a half mile from the drill site while an automated drone finishes the sample – there is a sudden flash of green fire and all the telemetry from the drone stops.
Falling back to sampling methods that don’t use high energy lasers appears to work for a time, but eventually one of the survey teams is forced to abandon their work as the telltale signs of an ion burst develop again.
Eventually the salvage team manages to bring the plasma cannon into the base camp site, where Chief Engineer Schmidt is able to cobble together a functional control mechanism and mount for it. Rhone takes advantage of Tubal’s gratitude and is able to ingratiate himself to the point where Tubal is added to Rhone’s asset network.
Having secured the basecamp, the away team (minus Estray Cold Ocean) takes a cohort of guardsmen and finally makes for the Ghost City. The inhuman architecture shows the wear and tear of centuries – Dr. Chang can roughly place it as likely from the Cygnian B civilization or an offshoot, known to be active almost a million years ago. The city seems to be divided into three compounds – a palace, industrial park, and temple.
Johnny Five sets up a security perimeter and almost immediately spots a lifeform which the scanners designate as human. Drone photography shows someone with a tattered TCU jumpsuit – most likely a member of the Naredin expedition. The away team gives chase and follows his trail to a apparent dead-end; further investigation reveals a secret passage constructed out of incredibly advanced nanomaterials.
Within the ruins, the team manages to converge on the human’s position and corner him. Dr. Everett recongizes him from the mission files as Dr. Hiroko – after reassuring them that they weren’t Denebians, the team does what they can for him.
Out of Hiroko’s earshot, Dr. Everett discusses with the rest of the away team the results of his examination….