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said tiredly, shaking his head. "That's the whole point, Councilor. Leia and the others don't play by Bothan rules. They make decisions based on evidence, not prestige. If Ackbar is guilty, he gets punished; if he's innocent, he gets released. It's that simple."

Fey'lya smiled bitterly. "Take my advice, Captain Solo, and stick with smuggling and fighting and other things you understand. The private rules of politics are far beyond you."

"You're making a mistake, Councilor," Han said, trying one last time. "You can back out now without losing anything-you really can. But if you keep going, you risk bringing the whole New Republic down with you."

Fey'lya drew himself up to his full height. "I do not intend to fall, Captain Solo. My supporters among the New Republic military will see to that. Ackbar will fall, and I will rise in his place. Excuse me, now; I must speak with Admiral Drayson."

He turned and stalked off. Han watched him go, the sour taste of defeat in his mouth. Couldn't Fey'lya see what he was doing? That he was risking everything on a single long-shot bet?

Maybe he couldn't. Maybe it took an experienced gambler to see how the odds were stacked here.

Or a politician who wasn't so set in his own system that he couldn't change.

Fey'lya reached the end of the Grand Corridor and headed to the left toward the Admiralty center. Shaking his head, Han turned and headed back toward Karrde's guest quarters. First the Coral Vanda, and now this. He hoped it wasn't the start of a trend.

Mara stood at the window of her room, staring out at the Manarai Mountains in the distance, feeling the oppressive weight of black memories gathering around her mind. The Imperial Palace. After five years, she was back in the Imperial Palace. Scene of important governmental
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