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something there, beneath the surface. Some swirl of emotion she couldn't identify. "Han?" she asked quietly.

"No," he said, his eyes still on Fey'lya. "He's not working for the Imperials."

"So you say," Fey'lya sniffed. "You offer little proof of that."

"All right, then," Karrde put in. "Let's assume for the moment that all of this is in fact a giant soap bubble. What would the Grand Admiral stand to gain from it?"

Fey'lya's fur shifted in a gesture Leia decided was probably annoyance. Between her and Karrde they'd pretty well burst the Bothan's theory that Thrawn was not, in fact, an Imperial Grand Admiral; and Fey'lya wasn't taking even that minor defeat well. "I should think that was obvious," he told Karrde stiffly. "How many systems would we have to leave undefended, do you suppose, in order to reassign enough trained personnel to reactivate and transport two hundred Dreadnaughts? No, the Empire has a great deal to gain by hasty action on our part."

"They also have a great deal to gain by our total lack of action," Karrde said, his voice icy cold. "I worked with Hoffner for over two years; and I can tell you right now that it won't take the Imperials a great deal of time to obtain the fleet's location from him. If you don't move quickly, you stand to lose everything."

"If there's anything out there to lose," Fey'lya said.

Leia put a warning hand on Han's arm. "That should be easy enough to check," she jumped in before Karrde could respond. "We can send a ship and tech crew out to take a look. If the fleet is there and seems operational, we can start a full-scale salvage effort."

From the look on Karrde's' face she could tell that he thought even that was moving too slowly. But he nodded. "I suppose that's reasonable enough," he said.

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