Chapter 44, Part 2

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Fett peered up through his visor to a dark hole, which he bet once provided a pinprick of light for miners, reminding them of a surface world. Now built over, the chute was a channel to nowhere. "You sure this is the one, Lieutenant?" he asked.

"That's it. Some autori forces are stationed not far from here."

"Then I got this. Specialist Teel better not screw up digging that side tunnel."

"He'll be fine."

"Yeah. Sure."

Fett hoisted himself up onto the ladder and climbed up. The old ladder creaked with each step. He paused, making sure sensitive mutant ears weren't responding to his movements. Then continued until he made it to the top.

As he attached detonators, he thought of Falna -- of the soldiers that died there: Brem, Arkson, Ouj. He recalled that curious smell of death, that mixture of concrete, dust, and sulfur. A lump caught in his throat. Was he remembering them in his actions? Would he make them proud?

"Charges set, Commander. I'm coming down."

Fett glanced down the hundreds of meters to the floor below, and descended with firm footing. "Tell me if I need to pause."

He reached his foot down another step when metal screeched, bolts holding the ladder came free, shoving Fett abruptly into the wall. He grunted. Better things have happened.

"Pause! What was that?" asked Kenobi.

"Ladder's coming loose, sir. I'm wedged. Let me see if I can budge it." Fett pushed it forward to try to free himself, but the ladder loosened all the more, pebbles dropping below and sounds echoing. He stopped and listened. That nursery of mutants was too close to make him feel comfortable. He waited a few seconds.

"Sergeant -- you've got a da phelu scout coming your way."

"Great. Let me know when you've distracted it."

"Already tried that. It's not responding to my promptings. Too curious and determined. Hold on, and be quiet."

Hold on? What does that mean?

Fett's heart beat faster as he heard the skimpering of mutant feet below, and he slowly brought his hand to rest on his blaster, but hesitated. What good would that do? The cramped quarters made for an odd shot. It was too far down for an effective stun blast. And if he killed it with a blaster bolt, wouldn't he have to worry about other da phelu rushing to investigate, and him getting discovered or pinned up here forever?

Perhaps he could kill it quietly with a knife, but surely not before being noticed. Maybe sacrificing himself so the rest of the group could continue was the right choice -- that's what he'd done for Brem and the others at Falna.

He might not be a hero for what he did that day, but he wasn't a coward. He could give his life, just as he'd been willing to sacrifice others. Or do you just tell yourself that, Fett? Is that a lie you must confess to Yv?

He shook his head. Now was not the time for introspection. Besides, would the mutants believe only one person entered the tunnels if he sacrificed himself? Or after mangling his corpse, would they naturally assume other intruders roamed the mines?

He didn't know how smart the creatures were, but based on the ambush on alpha team, it was quite possible they would recall that humans tended to travel in packs.

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