Location: Huola, Planet Seven. Approximately one hundred kilometers from “Cerra Manor.”
Reginald bent down and picked up a handful of sand from the ground. As expected, it was coarse and barely capable of sustaining life save for the hardiest of plants. He could see clouds on the horizon, darkening and making their way inexorably towards the excavation site he had come to review. He held the grains in between his gloved fingers before pouring it back down onto the ground, contemplating how his life had changed in the last few months.
There was still no word from his holder, Lady Shalee Lianne, nor really from any of the denizens who had visited Cerra Manor’s Terrace. No word or visit from Templar Thal Vadam or his paladins, nor even from the robot menace Vlad Cetes. In some ways, he had been thankful for the solitude, as it had allowed him to cultivate a relationship with Literia Khammael–a steadfast source of support in trying times. Regardless, with his holder or not, the holding needed to be administered, and with news of an impending “Crimson Harvest,” administration had become almost hectic. But just like Shalee, he was a holder, and holders were God’s chosen to shepherd to His flock, even if that flock was made up of frightened baseliners who wanted anything but to undergo the tribulations of another Blood Raider incursion.
And that was why he was at an archaeological site in the middle of the desert. Well, that was certainly unfair. It was more a small canyon that had been under investigation by one of Cerra University’s anthropological teams, due to the discovery of a series of tombs that shed light on the burial practices of the indigenous humans of Huola. Of course, that had all been turned on its head recently when one tomb had been sealed with rather modern technology–a door emblazoned with the Blood Raider emblem.
Reginald’s skin tickled with sand picking up from the oncoming winds, so he stood up and fastened his goggles around his eyes. The desert was an unforgiving place; the dunes shifted, cuts and abrasions only became more irritated in the dry heat, and water was life itself. Anyone who had ever traveled to the desert knew those basic facts, knew that walking in sand sapped strength and energy, that the temperatures plummeted at night, that being caught in a sandstorm could kill and strand. He was anxious to get this over with so he could return to Kamela and help care for the twins. All in good time, he supposed.
“Lord-Adjutant Reginald,” A lieutenant saluted, “Captain Respedes sends her regards.”
“And?” Reginald asked impatiently.
“The cutting crews have positioned the mining lasers, but it appears the door is energized. They’ll be cutting well into the night.”
Reginald sighed, “Is it possible to just drill through the rock and get around the door?”
“The engineers have contemplated that approach, my lord,” The lieutenant nodded, “They’ve begun analyzing the local seismography.”
Reginald quirked a brow, “For earthquakes?”
The lieutenant shook her head, “In part, yes, but also the possibility for landslides. They wouldn’t want the security team or their own equipment to be crushed, my lord.”
Reginald immediately felt stupid for requiring the full explanation. He nodded his thanks to the lieutenant then turned back towards the horizon. He was slipping and he could feel it. But what was the cause? Being a father again? Having someone who relied on him? He thought back to the days he had been alone, before marriage, before his affair. He had been a different person: more efficient, more incisive.
He dusted off his gloves, then turned back towards the vehicles that were parked near the edge of the canyon. A small security detail remained with them, watching the pulleys that conveyed workmen and equipment to the canyon floor below. The command vehicle was elevated on tracks, its rear revealing crates of food and water. A large receiver was on the roof, serving as a means of maintaining a satellite uplink with a Coercer-class destroyer in low orbit above their location. There were smaller Light Attack Vehicles (LAVs) on patrol around the site, a pair deployed on a local dune closest to the impending storm, others further out making sure that no additional holding subjects wandered to the secure location. Observation drones hovered above the parked convoy, taking meteorological data and updating the computers housed in the command craft.
He had made the decision to not descend into the canyon unless Captain Respedes had actually discovered something of note. Part of him was hoping it was just a couple technologically-oriented university students trying to pull a prank on the archaeological team. They probably hadn’t counted on their field professor immediately notifying the Holding’s security bureau, if such were the case, and if it was, Reginald’s patience and sense of compassion was worn too thin for a merciful judgment. Still, there was no denying that he would have been relieved.
But if Captain Respedes found something in that tomb.
Well, that would be a different story entirely.