Chapter 42, Part 1

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Ben's cyes confirmed they were nearing the mines when he heard Til'trius' voice in his earpiece. "To the north you should notice two buildings, Commander. You need the one missing a roof. Our access point to the mines you'll find in its basement."

Simple enough. He pulled out his macrobinoculars and surveyed the land in the direction the lieutenant indicated. The device highlighted and outlined two splintered buildings clearly in disarray, but only one lacked a roof--several floors by the look of it. The structure might topple over any day.

What happened there? Vicious weather plagued Rodia, but seemed an unlikely culprit for this destruction. Perhaps an ugly turf war amongst local gangs? It didn't matter really, but his mind always looked for explanations.

"Over there, Sergeant Chalmers," Ben said, gesturing towards the building, as Chalmers was driving. "That's where we'll stop."

"Will do, sir."

"So Sergeant, I have to ask..."

Chalmers sighed, and with the force Ben noticed annoyance and weariness arise from the alien officer. "The name, sir? I recognize your guilty tone."

"That you can. 'Chalmers' -- is that really your name? Doesn't seem Weequay."

"No sir, that's a name common tongue flappers can pronounce. Weequay names are complex. Most of us have a short name and a longer name. My short is Ahmote-Nephses Iuforis Khabtab Ginuseret Maparaye."

"You recognize that's not very short, right?"

Chalmers snorted. "You should hear my longer name. Those are added upon throughout a Weequay's life as he or she accomplishes deeds."

"Like some life story, highlighting all the important things you've done? Oh, move the vehicle around to the opposite side if you would."

Chalmers moved the vehicle and grunted. "Yes, you have the idea. This will please you, sir -- recently I have earned the title sher-sut ghima. Maker of great snores."

"Snoring's so important as to make the list?"

"Then you must have not heard them, Commander. They are quite great and a sign of immense male virility. It is scientifically proven fact. You must let me teach you. It may not work on humans as well but we shall try."

"Not quite sure how one practices that, Sergeant."

Chalmers shook his head, mumbled something about humans, and powered down the vehicle. Ben hopped out, as other landspeeders carrying other crew members pulled alongside and parked. Once the soldiers piled out, Ben motioned to Fett to come near.

"Sergeant Fett," Ben said, "delegate unloading to Specialist Teel. He'll need to make it quick. We've drawn enough attention to ourselves already."

"Aye, aye, Commander."

"Let the fireteams know to change out of their civvies and gear up. Afterwards, grab some troopers to help me find the access point and clear out this building." If they found anyone in there. It wasn't a desirable home, but Ben had found people living in less. "I want us in those tunnels in three-zero mikes."

* * *

The back door didn't open, so Ben kicked it in. The toxic stench inside almost dropped him to his knees. The only thing he'd smelled remotely that bad was his sister Nel's refrigerator, which she never cleaned back in her university days.

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