Near the Dolash-Pike Excavation Site, Eryn III
Gir took a deep breath, fully reveling in the fragrant smell of the pines just after last night's storm. He gently stepped onto the woodland path in front of him, immediately feeling the unusual give beneath his feet as crumpled leaves and detritus gave way to the dark soil beneath. Why do I live among the stars again? He turned his eyes to a nearby, towering pine that seemed to stretch to the placid blue sky above. His eyes drifted back to the surface, he caught the sight of a large, blackened patch of bark near its base. His countenance shifted from natural wonder and ecstasy to sober remembrance. Mere months ago, this very track of woods had the sight of grueling battle between the forces of the self-styled Supreme General Kossk and locals and their Directorate allies. He paused for a moment, causing one of his companions to clear his throat.
“Fossk is dead.”
Gir turned his eyes to face Dav Hannish. The unwilling time traveller's square jaw was set firmly in conviction, and Gir wondered how many times Hannish had told his father similar sentiments. Gir's eyes darted to the man's partially holstered blaster pistol, noting that the old freetrader had turned off the gun's safety. Fossk is dead but you're still worried too...
“Fossk is dead,” started Gir, “but that doesn't mean that all of his men are.”
Dav briefly cocked his head to the side as he scanned the treelines, “Maybe, but the rangers and locals have scattered any survivors far from here. I bet they'd rather run from our sight than fight.”
“And that's why your blaster is ready?”
“It's ready for whatever's in there,” said the brown-haired man, jauntily pointing a finger at a hill covered in trees.
Gir knew better. A detailed scan from orbit showed that not only was the hill almost entirely hollow, but a large network of caves and artificial passageways spread out from its base, almost like the roots of a tree. But the ground was too deep to reveal anything else. Not even the locals knew what was in it. Maybe there is some truth to the local rumors about the Rataka. But they should be long dead by now, should they not? But his actions belied those thoughts. Here he was wearing blast armor underneath his faded field jacket, accompanied by a personal shield generator and his finely tuned pistolhanging from his belt.
“Only one real good way to find out,” said Gir, starting to trudge up the path, “we just have to wait for the Mechanicum to arrive to figure out the lock at the gateway.”
With that, they continued forward on the path, disappearing into a glade of trees at the base of the hill.