Chapter One

She was trapped in a labyrinth of corridors that twisted madly before her eyes, weirdly spinning in and out of focus. There was gray, untarnished metal all around her, and she could see nothing, feel nothing but a vast, searing emptiness. She heard faint, distant crying, and she knew it instantly, as if it was a part of her soul.

"Leia," she whispered softly, hearing her own voice faintly, as if from a distance. She tried to walk forward, but found that her feet would not obey her commands, sticking obstinately to the ground despite all her efforts.. The crying intensified, and became almost painful to Padmé's ears. She started to cry out in anger, her anxious pleas mingling with her daughter's, becoming one and the same. She took one halting step forward, breaking through whatever barrier had been there before.

She walked faster and faster until she was running with fear and desperation, her feet pounding against durasteel as she raced urgently to her daughter. Suddenly, the crying shifted to another direction, disorienting her for a moment. She turned, not hesitating for a second, and began to run in the direction she heard the cries of her infant daughter. The crying reached an escalation, forcing tears to run down Padmé's cheeks, and then it suddenly stopped, leaving nothing except the desolation she felt.

She spun wildly, seeing only more generic, soulless metal around her. There was nothing to mark her passage, nothing to show what direction she had come from, no marks of time or distance here.

"Leia!" She shrieked, her voice suddenly loud and piercing. She knew it was futile to call to call someone that could not respond, but she had to, had to try...


Then there was sudden, ominous breathing behind her; a mechanical noise, threatening. It filled her with sudden fear, and she did not know why. She turned around slowly with dread, not knowing what new nightmare had come.

The dark face of an inhuman demon stood before her, clad in dark armor and a flowing, ebony cloak that seemed to blend in with the shadows. It rose out of the mist in her mind, a thing from hell. She wanted to scream at this new menace, wanted to demand her daughter back, but she did not have the strength. It was something she had never seen before, but yet it was the face of her nightmares.

"Where is my daughter?" she demanded harshly.

"Our daughter," the figure corrected in a deep, threatening voice that did nothing to assuage her fears.

The thought that this abomination would dare to call itself Anakin Skywalker tore at her mind, raking across her subconscious. Agony tore at her in a way that no physical wounds could, in a way that she could not have imagined before. But then she remembered, remembered all of it, going to Mustafar, seeing dark hate in him, feeling hands around her throat...

"No," she hissed, backing away wildly. But there was nothing, nowhere for her to hide. There was only pain, deeper and darker pain that escalated from inside her...

The thing that dared to pretend it once had been her husband folded its arms across its chest.

"She is mine now. She will be by my side and will rule the galaxy with me... forever," it said impassively, no inflections of emotion present. Padmé stepped back, horrified that this was what her husband had come to, that this monster was him, no longer able to deny it...

She wanted to tell the atrocity of a man that it could take her, that she would exchange her life for that of her daughter's. But she could not speak as she suddenly felt invisible fingers clamping her throat shut, snuffing her life out as they once had tried to before...

Padmé woke suddenly, gasping the air which had been denied to her just seconds earlier. It took a moment for her to distinguish from her dream and reality, for everything was just as dark and despairing.

A table. She was lying on a metal table, one that felt cold on her back through the prisoner's uniform she was wearing. She tried to move and found that binders held her securely in a tight embrace. She decided not to struggle and save her strength, although she did not know what she was saving it for.

She closed her eyes and tried desperately to remember how she had got here. A sense of panic pervaded her consciousness, fogging her attempts to access her memory. The dream was already fading, and along with it, a sense of what had happened.

At last she remembered, piercing through the fog with sudden clarity that she began to wish she had not...

She was traveling to Mustafar, Obi-Wan's lies echoing clearly in her ears... She was running out of the ship into Anakin's arms, wanting to drown herself in his embrace, forget Obi-Wan's lies... He stood there, ripping her world in two as he spoke of his new empire... Obi-Wan stood at the top of the ramp, sealing her fate with his presence... There were once again fingers, clamping around her throat, and all she could see was Anakin's blue eyes blazing with hate and betrayal... She was in the medical bay, giving birth to twins, her vision fading slowly, darkness descending on her... There is still good in him...

And then there was only darkness, an overpowering sense of nothingness. She stirred, trying desperately to discern what else had happened, but there was nothing past that last memory. Anakin stood before her once more, and she closed her eyes as they flooded with tears.

A door opened, flooding her world with sudden light. She whimpered as it pierced her eyes, blinding her for a moment. But it was not half as bad as what came next, for she felt a despair that crept up her spine before settling in her mind, probing at her memories and emotions, invading her. No, she thought. Somewhere deep inside herself, she knew that she had to keep the memories of her children safe, away from the fingers that wanted the knowledge, grasping and groping for it. No, she told the forces that probed her mind. That is mine.

She saw a figure enshrouded in shadow come to stand by her, moving in an odd, shuffling rhythm. It took her a few, heart-stopping seconds to figure out what it was, but then she knew.

It was the figure of the man that subverted her to start the Vote of No Confidence, inadvertently giving all the power in the Senate to a man who would wield it to become a tyrant. It was the figure that manipulated her husband away from her, that took her Anakin, her love, and made him into something far darker. It was the figure that manipulated countless senators into cheering for their ultimate demise and the death of liberty.

"Palpaltine," she whispered, calling him by his name, not by his station. She would never call him 'Emperor' as long as she lived.

She felt him grin with perverse pleasure, and shuddered.

"Padmé," he hissed, leaning close to her ear as she squirmed away from him. "I was hoping you would wake. You have much to tell me."

"Where is Anakin?" she quested softly, not knowing why she asked, not knowing why she wanted him to come save her after he could not save himself...

"Lord Vader is quite far from here, far away so he cannot... interfere."

She groaned and turned her head away, noticing the immediate stiffness in her neck. Her worst nightmares had come true, and fear entered her again.

"But you... you will provide me with the location of the other Skywalker, the child." Padmé knew then what the purpose of all this was, why she had been brought here and what she had to resist, why. Somewhere, where she couldn't remember, there was the knowledge of where her son and daughter were. She did not speak her defiance, but she knew the darkness felt her resolve, felt it in the way her body tensed and then relaxed, coming to a new resolution.

"You will give in eventually," the shadow mused softly, leaning back from her. "You cannot stand against me, Padmé. You will obey me or die."

Padmé then called out to the one man she had once loved, reaching out to him in her despair with senses that stretched beyond herself. She knew he would save her if there was any trace of Anakin Skywalker left within him. She did not know if she could reach him, or if he would even come to her, if he had buried the man he loved the day he tried kill her. When there was no response, no love rising out of the depths, she knew then that she was alone, and that all she had were the meager defenses of her own mind
Far away, on a distant starship, Lord Vader was supervising the hunt for a Jedi. He and his master had felt a disturbance in the force that could only mean one thing. They hovered over Tatooine, waiting for the signal to proceed from his Master.

Suddenly, he was blown away immediately by a presence that he had not felt in the Force for almost ten years. He was, for a second, no longer the most hated and feared man in the galaxy, but a man who was once a husband and a brother, the man who was once Anakin Skywalker. The Force came ablaze, flooding him with light that he shrunk away from, not wanting to touch it. He rocked back on his heels, stunned by the mere thought that she could be alive. It took him a little bit before he could come back to reality, before he realized where he was. It took him even longer to grasp words, to think enough to block out the connection that was too powerful for him.
It is not possible, his mind whispered. The scene from long ago when his Master had told him the bitter truth flashed before his eyes, and he was submerged, drowning in pain once again. She is dead, his mind stated bluntly. Time had not dulled the ache, the overwhelming sense of acid shock and hatred.

He came back to reality, full force, to realize that his men were all staring at him, waiting for something. He wondered dazedly what it was.

"My Lord?" the captain asked. Vader forced his mind to come back, piece by agonizing piece, to the present, to his life.

He turned his helmeted head towards the man, knowing full well the effect he had on his underlings. He allowed his presence to come over the man, instilling a sense of dark fear in him. Vader did not feel merciful at that moment.

"I... should we send out an storm trooper group, My Lord?"

Vader knew that he would have to go with them, for the Jedi were clever and good at escaping. But right now, he could not deal with anything, could not bear the task of the hunt that went on when there was a Jedi to deal with.

"No. We will remain here longer and await my master's orders." With that, he swept off the bridge, his emotions swirling beneath the surface dangerously. His only thoughts were of the woman he loved and her death at his hands almost ten years ago; dangerous thoughts that threatened to unleash themselves upon him.

He knew he was not prepared.