Author's Note: Hello there! A quick note on the timeline. It's been eleven years since the events of The Phantom Menace, seven years since Padmé finished one term as Queen and became a Senator, and four years since the Republic fell, the Jedi were destroyed, and the Empire formed. Many of the blanks will be filled in as we go :)

Any dialogue or text from the Star Wars Saga included in this fic is not of my own invention.


Opening Crawl

It's been eleven years since the Battle of Naboo. The Trade Federation was defeated and young Anakin Skywalker vanished without a trace. In the time since, darkness has fallen over the galaxy. The Republic collapsed and the Empire rose, ruled by the cruel Emperor Palpatine and enforced by his mysterious apprentice Darth Vader. Assisted by Galen Erso, the Delegation of Two Thousand learned of evil plans that, if exposed, could crumble the fledgling Empire from the inside out. Pursued by Imperial forces, Senator Padmé Amidala and her guard attempt to deliver the information to their allies to defeat the Emperor and bring peace and justice back to the galaxy.

Chapter 1

Stardust

One percent. Two percent. Three percent. Four—

And stalling.

Padmé Amidala's heart thudded in her chest, her ears, and her throat as she watched the upload bar move slowly in preparation for transmission of the most sensitive information in the galaxy.

Information that could doom or save us all, she thought.

It had been no easy task getting the plans from Scarif, even with science officer Galen Erso's covert assistance. The Delegation's guise of a diplomatic mission to the Citadel had fallen through quickly, and they had lost many in the escape.

Senator Fang Zar had been within inches of his shuttle on the beach when he was hit with a blaster bolt and gone in an instant. Padmé had seen the life leave his eyes. She swallowed at the memory.

Her throat still hurt from screaming for him and the others who lay dead on the sand. They had left so many bodies behind.

She could still hear Captain Typho's shouts of, "Run, milady! Run!" as they fled, the Emperor's death troopers on their backs all the way. All for the information held on the disk that was slowly loading in the terminal. All for Project Stardust.

"Named for my infant daughter," Galen had explained. "Jyn."

An innocent name for such a terrible thing.

The fate of the galaxy depended on that data disk. Exposure of the Emperor's most insidious plan could mean everything to the Delegation, and the small Rebellion they'd helped to build.

Hands shaking, Padmé touched the japor snippet hanging from her throat for luck.

It will bring you good fortune, her long-lost friend has said so many years ago.

She needed good fortune.

The galaxy needs it, too.

And good fortune willing, the information Padmé was preparing to send to Senator Bail Organa and the other leaders of the Delegation of Two Thousand would be enough to bring about the end of the Empire. Surely once the Imperial Senate learned what the Emperor was planning to build…

The Senate gave Palpatine his emergency powers. It allowed for the Empire to form, Padmé reminded herself, but she had to hope they would rise up and reject it once they knew the truth.

"May the Force be with us," Bail was prone to saying.

The Force, good fortune, maybe it was all the same. Thus far, her fortune had proved far from favorable.

Imperial forces were in pursuit of her Star Skiff.

Padmé swallowed convulsively.

She had heard too many of her men screaming as they died before the Star Skiff had blasted into lightspeed out of the hangar of a Rebel ship.

"It's too late, milady," Captain Typho had said when he saw Padmé's face, white with shock. "There's nothing we can do for them now."

But their screams for help and mercy had echoed in her mind, haunting her even after they'd made their way to the Mid-Rim. Those who had survived were too shaken to say the name of their attacker.

But Padmé knew who it had been. It was a name whispered in the halls of the Senate, and mentioned fearfully in the reports on her desk. A name that was entrusted with the Emperor's most clandestine plots and brutal actions. A name without a face.

Darth Vader.

With a bang that sent the lights flickering and warning sirens blaring, the Star Skiff shook violently. It knocked Padmé off of her feet. She landed hard against the computer terminal, the metal edge of it digging into her side.

Wincing, she stood, her ribs and hip throbbing from the impact, and reached for her blaster. Her eyes darted to the upload, heart threatening to leap from her throat.

Please.

She exhaled as it gave a steady beep and made it to fifty percent. Still in progress.

The door opened and Captain Typho ran inside. From the hall, Padmé could hear panicked, frantic footsteps and shouts.

"Milady!" Captain Typho called, halting at her side and stopping just short of reaching for her. "Are you hurt?"

"I'm fine, I'm fine," Padmé said. "What happened? Are we hit?"

Captain Typho clenched his jaw.

Padmé's eyes grew wider. "Damaged?"

Typho shook his head and swallowed. "We are being boarded, milady. They've caught us. The ones who…"

Typho couldn't finish.

"There isn't much time," he said.

Fear seized her so suddenly that Padmé's breath hitched. She turned back to her upload, renewed determination gripping her chest.

"Milady? Are you sure you're—?"

"Ready the escape pods," Padmé said. "Get everyone ready to hold them off for as long as we can, but if we're overwhelmed they must use the time we have left to escape. I won't lose anyone else today, Captain."

Typho shook his head. "Milady, what about you? We must get you to a pod before the Empire—"

"No," Padmé said sharply and caught herself. "No. Captain, I have to finish the transmission and destroy the data link before they can trace it back to the Delegation."

"No, milady, we cannot leave you here to—"

"You can, and you will if it comes to it."

The ship shook again and the communications room fell dark but for the red glow of the upload screen. Typho looked to Padmé for orders.

"Hurry!" she said.

"Yes, milady," Typho said and sprinted from the room, shutting the door behind him.

Padmé tucked the japor snippet back beneath the high neck of her top.

It was children like Anakin she was fighting for, slaves like Anakin and Shmi. Those most subjugated under the Empire's rule had already been left behind by the Republic in its final years and were more oppressed than ever before. At least in the Republic, slavery had been illegal in law if not in practice. Now military camps were filled to bursting, their prisoners sent to occupied planets to mine kyber and metals for the Empire.

All for the terror he's attempting to build.

Alone, the darkness closed in on her. Padmé could hear only muffled shouts, her own shallow breathing, and the slow beep of the upload bar. Ninety percent.

Please…she thought. Please.

The Star Skiff's emergency sirens wailed even louder overhead.

Padmé's mind raced nearly as fast as her breathing. If the Imperial troops made it through before the upload, she would need to abort the transmission. If she did, she'd have to recover the data disk as quickly as possible, conceal it somehow, and then…then what?

I pray I don't have to find out.

Beep. Beep. Beep.

Padmé exhaled. The transmission was in its final stages. All that was left was to—

The door behind her burst open in a flurry of white armor and smoke.

"There she is! Set to stun!"

There was no time to think. Padmé's hand slammed down on the abort button, cutting the transmission short and leaving the Delegates on the receiving end safe and anonymous. The data disk popped free of the communications hub, and Padmé's fist closed around it just as three stunning blasts hit her back.


"Hey."

Padmé furrowed her brow and turned her head away from the offending noise.

"Hey!"

This time, the sound came with a sharp prod to her ribs. She blinked to find cold, white light filling her vision and shut her eyes against it with a groan.

"That's it," the same voice said, dull as if spoken from behind a mask. "Rise and shine."

Padmé forced her eyes to open and found herself unexpectedly upright. Strong, merciless hands gripped her upper arms. Stormtroopers on either side of her were holding her tight.

She froze and took in her surroundings. She was in the cavernous docking bay of an Imperial Venator-class Star Destroyer. Where were her men?

An older Imperial officer with a neat grey mustache marched her way, flanked by his own troopers.

"Admiral Ketti," a stormtrooper said. "We've apprehended a senator from the Delegation."

"Excellent," the officer answered. "Do you have the plans?"

"Here, sir." The stormtrooper to Padmé's left held out the small disk.

Before she could stop herself, Padmé stepped forward to grab it. The stormtroopers yanked her back before she could gain an inch.

Admiral Ketti smirked and pocketed the data disk. "Milady, surely you didn't believe it would be so easy to reclaim?"

Padmé narrowed her eyes at him and spoke as calmly as she could, "Not so easy, Admiral, but perhaps not so difficult either."

A vein pulsed in Ketti's forehead. "Your reputation precedes you, Senator Amidala, and now we finally meet. I've heard so very much about you."

"All good things, I hope."

"All exceedingly interesting, I'll grant you that," Admiral Ketti said, still giving her that cruel almost-smile. "Queen of Naboo at the age of fourteen and frequently found at the capitol arguing for Republic interference in the Hutt-controlled systems of the Outer Rim, with little success. Left your reign after a single term, against popular demand, for a seat in the Senate to continue your fruitless endeavor. Opposed the Military Creation act that began the Clone Wars. Member of the Delegation of Two Thousand. Opposed to the formation of the Galactic Empire. And, apparently, Rebel scum, a thief of Imperial property, and a traitor to the galaxy. Does that quite sum it up?"

"Judging by your assessment, Admiral, you and I possess different standards of what constitutes treachery to the galaxy."

Admiral Ketti only shook his head, as if amused, but Padmé saw the tic go in his forehead. "It is brave of you, milady, to speak this way with me. I will remind you that this is not a hearing, senator, it is not a debate. It is treason. Cheek will do you no good with Lord Vader."

Icy fear trickled down Padmé's spine and Admiral Ketti grinned.

He addressed the troopers. "Keep her in line. Follow me."

He turned on his heel and began to march away. The stormtroopers holding her started to follow, but Padmé stayed defiantly still.

"Move it along," one trooper said, his grip tightening on her arm. Padmé took a step. "That's it, keep moving."

She craned her neck over her shoulder as they went. There, behind a row of Imperial fighters, was her Star Skiff.

The chrome plating had taken a few blasts in the fight, and the damage was worse than she'd been expecting, but several escape pods were gone. Padmé's shoulders sagged in relief. There had been escapees. Others were not so lucky and stood in a crowd surrounded by more stormtroopers, their hands behind their heads. Typho was among them. His eye widened in horror when he saw her and he took a step, but was jerked back by a trooper.

Padmé held his gaze for as long as she could, until the stormtroopers shoved her into an elevator and the doors snapped shut.

"Don't get any ideas," a trooper said as they began moving, giving her a jab that was sure to leave a bruise. "You do, and you're dead."

They marched her after Admiral Ketti down another hallway, this one narrow and darkly lit. Their footsteps echoed hollowly from the grates they walked upon, like drums for a Gungan execution. Padmé was almost startled by the openness when the ship's bridge bloomed at the end of the hall before them.

Imperial officers sat in sunken pits on either side of the bridge's main walkway, chattering away into headsets and pressing buttons on the controls. Admiral Ketti hung back among them for a long moment, as if to inspect, but Padmé saw him swallow nervously before he began walking the last stretch of the bridge.

A tall figure stood waiting for them, staring out of massive windows at the empty vacuum of space, his hands clasped behind his back. He was hooded and gloved and there was no way to distinguish his features in the shadowy reflection on the glass. Faceless and terrifying, there was only one person it could be. The man who had slaughtered Padmé's men above Scarif, the man who conducted countless atrocities in the Outer Rim in the Empire's name, the man who was responsible for the destruction of the Jedi.

Vader.