An Audience With The Queen
Leaving the robots behind, the rest of the away team is brought to an audience with Queen Aisha. The throne room, incidentally, exhibits a markedly higher level of technology (Earth-normal sunlight and gravity, advanced holographic halls, high-quality atmosphere filtering), all in service to making the throne room feel like a peaceful scene from the African plains.
From a throne of solid nanosynthesized diamond, Aisha’s regal bearing reduces most of the team to slack-jawed drones – Dr. Everett recognizes it for what it is, a multipronged memetic assault designed to install feelings of subservience and cooperation in any who come before her. She seems initially amenable to the prospect of a trade deal between New Axom and TCU, quickly pivoting to Chief Engineer Schmidt and requesting him to undertake a special project on commission for the government of New Axom. Still overawed by Aisha’s aura of majesty, he immediately agrees.
Aisha “offers” a complement of royal guardsmen to accompany the away team; however, her request for the command codes to the robotic members of the team are not quite so warmly received. Zaitsev takes over the negotiation from Dr. Everett at this point, and finds a compromise whereby the robots would remain autonomous but the commanding officer of the guardsmen, Commander Tubal, would be in a position of authority over the robots.
A few preparations are made in the days that ensue. Dr. Everett requisitions a high-powered burst transmitter that should be capable of sending a message to their shuttlecraft from the Theodosus Ridge; Rhone reaches out to Phillip and asks him to make inquiries about what Engineer Schmidt is going to be asked to build as his royal commission. Rhone also tries a surface-level scan of Commander Tubal’s mind but is rebuffed.
Into The Wild
The first few days are relatively uneventful; the local guardsmen appear to be “requisitioning” supplies for nearby homesteads on a regular basis. Johnny Five takes umbridge to this practice, feeling it reflects poorly on the discipline of the troops. Chief Engineer Schmidt asks him to draw up a plan to improve the logistics and cohesion of the locals as a alternative to making an example of one of the soldiers as the robot initially desired.
Commander Tobal recommends the convey stop and establish a base campe at an abandoned mining outpost located equidistant between the crash site of the Bellerophon and the last known location of the Naredin expedition. Tobal goes on to sketch out a plan to salvage weaponry from the starship and use it to fortify the base camp and use it as a permanent forward base of operations for the planetary government.
A difference of opinions ensues between Commander Tobal and Engineer Schmidt regarding whether the next stop should be the Naredin expedition or the crash site. Rhone mediates the dispute with only a very minor use of Telepathy and more-or-less rules out that Tobal is planning on backstabbing the away team as soon as he access to the Bellerophon’s weapons. That having been established, Tobal agrees to sending out a single expedition into Beelzebub Pass to look for the Naredin expedition while the bulk of the troops fortify the base camp.
Johnny Five, Dr. Everett, and Zaitsev take a group of royal troops into the pass as agreed-upon; each day into the trek the atmosphere becomes more highly charged as animal life becomes more and more sparse. Zaitsev spots a conspicuous concavity in the terrain, which upon closer inspection is where a core sample has been taken; evidence that the Naredin expedition was here at some point, although there is no way to tell how recently. Further up into the pass Johnny Five sees the telltale scoring in the rock of energy weapons – the remnants of a firefight including carbonized material burned into the rock which might be human remains. Johnny Five conducts a more thorough analysis of the scene, and remarks that this looks more likely than not to be the product of Orion weapons.
The team very carefully backs away and heads to the base camp with all due speed.