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docking bay, and he was out in space again barely an hour after the destruction f the second Star Destroyer and the retreat of the first.

Locating a single inert ejection seat among all the debris of battle had been a nearly hopeless task for Karrde's people. For a Jedi, it was no trick at all.

Mara was unconscious when they found her, both from a dangerously depleted air supply and from what was probably a mild concussion. Aves got her aboard the Wild Karrde and set off at near-reckless speed toward the medical facilities of the Star Cruiser which had finally arrived. Luke saw them safely aboard, then headed back toward the Katana and the transport he and the rest of his team would be returning to Coruscant by.

Wondering why it had been so important for him to rescue Mara in the first place.

He didn't know. There were lots of rationalizations he could come up with, from simple gratitude for her assistance in the battle all the way up to the saving of lives being a natural part of a Jedi's duty. But none of them was more than simply a rationalization. All he knew for certain was that he had had to do it.

Maybe it was the guidance of the Force. Maybe it was just one last gasp of youthful idealism and na?vet?.

From the board in front of him, the comm pinged. "Luke?"

"Yes, Han, what is it?"

"Get back here to the Katana. Right away."

Luke looked out his canopy at the dark ship ahead, a shiver running through him. Han's voice had been that of someone walking through a graveyard:"What is it?"

"Trouble," the other said. "I know what the Empire's up to now. And it's not good."

Luke swallowed. "I'll be right there."

"So," Thrawn said, his glowing eyes blazing with cold fire as he looked up from the Judicator's report. "Thanks to your insistence
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