Disclaimer: I don't own Star Wars. George Lucas does. This is his galaxy far, far away. I'm just playing around with my own little warped idea of what that galaxy could be like. I'm not making any money off of this. Please don't sue me. I have no money (but you can have my debt if you'd like).

Prologue: The Way of the Force

Six months Pre-ANH

The Imperial Class Star Destroyer Emperor's Fist orbited above Ryloth. It remained hidden from the rocky planet by one of its red moons because the captain did not wish to instill fear into the planet's citizens. That was not his goal.

Frustrated with the hiding and a lack of excitement, the young Lieutenant Commander of the Fist decided to take up his concerns with the Fist's Captain. "Captain, Sir, why are we wasting our time orbiting a backwater, alien filled Outer Rim planet hidden behind a moon? There is rebellion brewing near the core. Wouldn't we better serve the Empire seeking out the Rebels, or at least teaching these 'things' the meaning of fear?"

The Captain glared at his presumptuous underling. "My orders come directly from the Emperor. We are to maintain geosynchronous orbit over this planet until the shuttle Emerald Jewel is secure in our hangar. It is not our place to question him."

The young officer face turned pale at the thought of questioning a direct order from the Emperor. "I'm sorry sir. I had no idea. It won't happen again."

"Be sure that it doesn't." The captain waved a hand dismissively at the officer as he turned to the bridge's tracking station. "Ensign, what is the ETA for the Emerald Jewel?"

"She'll be docked in five minutes, Sir."

"Excellent. Once the Jewel is secure, clear the hangar of all personnel. Navigator, set a course for Tatooine. We jump as soon as the hangar is clear." The Fist's Captain turned to his Lieutenant Commander once again. "Emperor's orders."

Mara Jade exited the Emerald Jewel as soon as the hangar was clear. 'The life of a shadow assassin. I can't be seen by the crew of the ship. Not that they'd believe a sixteen year old, much less a sixteen year old female would be the Emperor's most qualified assassin: the Emperor's Hand.' Using the classified access codes and secret passageways provided for her by the Emperor, Mara quickly made her way to the secured stateroom of the Emperor's Fist. She immediately made her way to the fresher in order to wash away the dirt she was covered with thanks to her most recent mission. 'The traitorous Twi'lek never new what hit him. Such as sucker for a mercy case. He had no idea that the poor, dirty beggar girl he took in was really there for his head. When will they learn that everyone will benefit once they quit resisting Imperial rule?'

Mara emerged from the fresher and looked herself over in the mirror. To anyone who didn't know better she was an innocent looking girl. A young beauty with smooth, light skin, thick, wavy red-gold hair past her shoulders and stunning emerald eyes who was sure to mature into an even more stunning beauty. She knew better though. Mara was far from innocent and, in fact, was deadly to anyone she meant. What she couldn't understand was why this upset her on some level. She was doing the right thing, serving the Master who took her in when she was orphaned. Wasn't she? Her Master assured her that this was normal, that it would fade in time. She trusted him. There was no one else she could trust. Pushing aside her doubts, Mara went to the secure terminal in her room to look over the details of her next mission. "Tatooine. What could possibly be of interest on that dustbowl?"

Mara landed her shuttle at Anchorhead. She felt as if she was on a wild goose chase. This was the third settlement she had come to in her search for the "disturbance" her Master wanted her to find. 'How do you find a disturbance in the Force anyway?' Mara mused to herself. 'I've checked every cantina and spy on the dustball and not one single bit of information that could possibly lead me to my quarry.' The only remotely promising piece of information she got was the Rodian ranting about meeting a wizard in the Jundland wastes. She quickly wrote him off when she smelled the strong Corellian whiskey on his breath.

Now, Mara was in Anchorhead looking for Force knows what. She was about to step into a nearby alley when she picked up a flash of warning from the Force. Scanning her surroundings, Mara noticed she had drawn the attention of a local gang who wanted to have some 'fun.' 'I'll show them fun.' She stepped into the alley and turned around to face her assailants, four heavily tanned humans dressed in the typical leather vests of a swoop gang.

The gang's leader, the largest of the group, sporting a jagged scar across his left cheek, leered at her. "You really should be careful on strange planets girly. It's lucky for you me and my friends here are more than willing to help you out. Of course, we do expect you to return the favor."

Mara gave him a piercing glare. "I can take care of myself. Thanks for the offer, though."

The gang's leader laughed. "I don't think you understand. Declining isn't an option."

Mara was about to show the gang leader just how able she was to decline when the voice of a young man came from the end of the alley.

"Leave her alone." Mara looked to the end of the alley to find a sandy blond haired, blue eyed young man looking at her. She couldn't help but be drawn into his eyes and the concern for her she could see there. She knew instantly that he was not your average Tatooine farmboy. She was snapped out of her reverie, when the gang's leader began to move in the direction of the farmboy. 'He's going to get himself killed.'

Luke Skywalker stared down the quickly approaching gang members with all the courage he could summon. He didn't know why he was doing this, but something inside of him screamed that he had to help this girl. It was almost as if his entire future depended on this moment. He had only been able to draw his gaze away from her when the thugs began to move his way and his survival instincts kicked in.

The gang leader sneered at Luke. "Who's going to make us? You?"

"Yes." In spite of all his efforts, Luke was unable to keep his voice from shaking when he responded and ended up sounding more like a scared little boy than the confident man he was trying to project. His effort earned him a hearty laugh from the thugs.

"Take care of him while I go check out the goods." The gang leader turned around to be met with a foot in the face. He was knocked into two of his fellow gang members and through a window. Luke ducked a punch from the last man standing and was able to land a solid right hook to take down the last man. He stared in awe at his hand when he found himself being pulled by the elbow.

"Come on. Let's get out of here before they can regroup." Luke turned to find the girl he had 'rescued' moving out of the alley. He quickly moved to give chase all the while thinking to himself. 'She's beautiful.' The girl finally ducked into an abandoned building and pulled Luke in with her.

"What were you doing back there!"

Luke turned his gaze toward the floor, embarrassed. "I was only trying to help." He said softly.

"It looked to me like you were trying to get yourself killed." Mara snapped back at him. She then saw the hurt look in the farmboy's eyes and felt sorry for him. He had no way of knowing that she could easily handle those men are her own. "I'm sorry. I shouldn't have snapped."

"What were you doing in that alley in the first place?"

"I was hoping to teach those guys a lesson." Luke gave her a questioning look. Mara met his gaze. "I'm a lot more than I appear to be."

"I don't know why, but I believe you."

"Thank you. I appreciate you coming to help." Mara had no idea why she was acting like this. She should have disappeared at the first chance. Dragging a farmboy with a hero complex away from a fight ran counter to everything she was trained for, but something else told her to stick with him. "I'm Mara by the way."

Luke smiled at her. "Do you have a last name Mara?"

Mara wanted to glare at him, but couldn't help but smile back. "Just Mara…So, are you going to tell me your name or should I just call you Farmboy?"

"Luke." Mara raised her eyebrow at him. "Just Luke."

Mara shook her head at him. "Fair enough."

"Mara, why are you here? You're obviously not from around here with skin like that." Luke immediately turned red when he realized the implications of his statement while Mara couldn't help but blush herself.

"I'm looking for someone." Luke raised his eyebrow at her statement. "You wouldn't believe me if I told you."

"Try me." Mara rolled her eyes at him. "I'm serious."

Mara had no idea why, but she felt it necessary to tell him the truth. "Fine, I'm an agent of the Emperor sent here to investigate a disturbance in the Force."

"Alright, if you really don't want to tell me, don't."

"I told you so." Mara turned to leave. "Goodbye Luke."

Seeing Mara begin to walk away, Luke began to panic. "Mara, wait." She turned around and looked him in the eye. "I believe you."

"You what?" Mara began to wonder if telling him the truth was a good idea. 'If it was a bad idea, it wouldn't have felt so right.' Mara realized that nothing has ever felt so right to her in years. "Luke, I still have to leave. I've already put you in danger by telling you who I am."

As Mara began to turn around again, Luke blurted out, "Why do you do it?" Mara gave him a puzzled look. "Why do you serve the Emperor? You obviously aren't happy with it. You can't tell me you are comfortable with the things you have to do." Luke didn't know where the words came from, but he knew it was true. Mara hesitated. She'd been faced with all the doubts that had been assailing her for as long as she could remember in the form of a handsome farmboy who made her feel more comfortable than she ever had.

"Because…because…" Mara couldn't think of anything to say. All that came to her are lies and she couldn't look into his eyes and lie. It wasn't possible. "Because I don't know anything else."

"Then leave him." Mara gave him a shocked look. "If it doesn't feel like the right thing, you shouldn't do it."

Mara's eyes began to water and she turned her head away. "It's not that simple."

Luke took her chin in his hand and turned her gaze toward him, locking their eyes together. "Why not?"

"He'll come after me. It's not safe. If I don't come back, he'll send more agents to find me. It would put you in too much danger." Luke nodded and turned away blinking back tears. Mara picked up a slight tremor in the Force. Stretching out, she found a bright spot near her. She couldn't believe how different it was compared to the Emperor. Where he was cold and dark and impersonal, this was warm and bright and comforting. "No."

Look turned his bloodshot gaze to a now weeping Mara. "What is it?"

"It's you. You were the cause of the disturbance. He sent me to kill you." Luke looked away in shock. "Luke, please. Look at me." Luke slowly met her eyes once again. "I won't do it. I can't. I couldn't continue serving him after this."

"So what are we going to do now?"

"I can't just disappear. It'll draw too much attention here. He'll find you and kill you…or worse. I have to go back…I'll tell him that the disturbance moved on."

Luke looked at her with sad eyes. "Will I ever see you again?"

"When the time is right, I'll come back for you." Luke nodded.

"Promise you won't forget me?"

"I won't." Mara smiled at him. "A girl never forgets her first." Luke made a face of confusion. In response, Mara smiled seductively at him causing Luke's face to quickly turn from confusion to shock. "I want to make sure you don't forget me either, Farmboy." Mara pulled him into a kiss.

As night fell, two new lovers said their tearful goodbyes. In another realm, two kindred spirits smiled, thanking the Force for the chance to help those they could no longer be with find what they deserve. At the same time, a new light came to be in the Force, promising a new hope for an entire galaxy.