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him. "Authorized by Mon Mothma herself."

"To blazes with your authority," Leia snapped. For a handful of heartbeats she had the almost overwhelming urge to snatch her lightsaber from her belt and send it slicing through that bland face:

With an effort, she choked the urge down. Violent hatred was the path of the dark side. "Mon Mothma didn't anticipate anything like this happening," she said, fighting to keep her voice as calm as she could. "Fey'lya, that's my husband and my brother out there. If we don't help them, they'll die.

"And if we do help them, they'll most likely still die," Fey'lya said coolly. "And your unborn children along with them."

An icy knife jabbed at Leia's heart. "That's not fair," she whispered.

"Reality is not required to be fair," Fey'lya said. "And the reality in this case is that I will not waste men and ships on a lost cause."

"It's not lost!" Leia insisted, her voice breaking with desperation as she threw a look out the bubble. No; it couldn't end like this. Not after all she and Han had survived together. She took another step toward Fey'lya-

"The Quenfis will withdraw," the Bothan said quietly; and suddenly, from some hiding place within the cream-colored fur, a blaster appeared in his hand. "And neither you nor anyone else is going to change that."

"Report from sensors, Captain," the officer at the Judicator's scan station called up to the command walkway. "All the other Dreadnaughts in the region read negative for life-forms."

"So they're concentrating on just the one," Captain Brandei nodded. "That's where we'll hit, then. The Rebels will be in far less of a hurry to open fire on a ship that has their own people aboard. Still just the one starfighter squadron moving to intercept?"

"Yes, sir. The Escort Frigate
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