Chapter Four

There was a planet that existed that had once been known as Coruscant. In its former days, it had been a place of extremes; from the corrupt rich to those in the lower levels wallowing in their own crapulence.

Now, it was different.

There was still corruption, but there was something in the minds of the people, the very atmosphere of the planet, that had not existed before. It seemed to ooze through the streets, seemed to trail off the planet in rivulets. It almost contained a presence, like a real, living person. It was just as powerful and influential.

It was fear. Complete, utter terror and the knowledge that resistance was futile. Coruscant had a new name; Imperial City.

The fear was concentrated, was most powerful towards the monument that loomed over the planet. It was a dark testament to the might of corruption, towards the strength of an Emperor and his Empire. Its sheer size was to be appreciated and frightened, but it was more than size that intimidated. Dark currents of terrible power seemed to breathe among it like a lover's caress, seemed to darken the air around it.

The tallest section of the black pyramid was the one that was most feared. It was the one that few dared to enter, that few dared to even speak of. There were quiet rumors among some of the more daring populace that there had been glimpses at night of terrible things. Blue lightning, some said, and screams. The hysteria was barely containable when one spoke of that terrible section of the Imperial Palace.

That was where the dark master of the Empire made his abode. That was where he retired to to entrench himself further in the shaded glories of his art.

Darth Sidious was sitting at the top of the Imperial Palace. Shadows wreathed the entire chamber, but he was at the center of them. All things proceeded from him. He was cast in terrifying glory, set upon a dark throne, the room seeming only to enhance his power. He sat, the most authoritative man in the galaxy, and contemplated.

The Emperor was not pleased.

Dark anger flowed in and out of him, around him, comforting him with its strength. Its presence was palpable, and he enjoyed the looks of terror those who were sent to his chambers wore. He bathed in their fear, fed off of it. It gave him focus and determination.

He had lost Darth Vader, had lost him to something that was so foreign as to be repulsive. His lip curled in contemptuous disdain as he thought of it. Love. He had underestimated Padmé Amidala, and his former apprentice's sad devotion to her. The thought of failure enraged him, but he had long since learned the benefit of keeping a tight leash upon his rage. It served him, and his anger was kept controlled, cooled.

The weaknesses remained in Vader, and his apprentice was still susceptible to fall. The flaws were perfectly illuminated for Sidious, like hairline fractures appearing along a priceless vase. Vader's strength was also his greatest weakness, and the thing that had restored him could be crucial in forcing him back to obedience.

Old habits die hard, thought the Emperor. Hate was intoxicating, as addictive as a drug. There was still a fulcrum in Anakin around which everything turned. If he could exploit that weakness once more...

That was one path. But there was another that lay before Sidious, one that could perhaps be just as appealing. Vader had not reached his full potential, due to the meddling of Obi-Wan Kenobi. But there were, perhaps, other ways, other powers that remained unused.

The children of the Chosen One were whole, unlike their pathetic father, and they could easily be manipulated. He had torn their names and presences from Amidala's mind, and now all that remained was to find them.

Luke. He now knew the boy's name. He had tasted the presence in the Force, had felt the similarities to Sidious's former apprentice. The same rashness, the same clinging attachment. The same weaknesses. Except where Vader was broken, in so many ways destroyed, his son was quite complete.

Human spirits were malleable, if only you knew which buttons to push. Understanding without empathy was the Emperor's strength. He comprehended fully the basic selfishness that was at the core of every soul, and he knew how to push at it. It was not as hard as all that, manipulation. And once he had planted the seeds of darkness, they were difficult to remove, like cutting off a limb. He had made rage to Lord Vader become just as crucial as the breathing equipment his apprentice wore.

He was more interested in the son than the daughter. Yes, he knew about her, could ponder upon her thoughtfully. Leia. She had Anakin's spirit, with her mother's diplomacy. But she was all too cultured, even yet. There was not the rash longing that her brother and father had, the rawness. She was also weaker, while the son would be stronger. Strong enough, perhaps, to kill his father.

He stroked his chair thoughtfully, possessively. It was a representation of dominance, and therefore his only lust. His vision was pure, untainted by anything because he only desired one thing: Power. It was not that he was addicted, merely that it was the only thing in his life to live for. He had lone since abandoned any other meaningless pursuits to capture this one element. He was fully a servant of the dark.

But now there was a hitch in his plans, an imperfection in the clarity that he had seen.

Padmé. She was a threat to him, tainting the blackness with her light. It was she that had torn Vader from his grasp, she that was now the servant of the light. He could feel her brightness, could feel her pure communion with the Force, and it disgusted him. There were weaknesses in Vader, but she had gone beyond them, had redeemed a man who had murdered children. She was dangerous, too dangerous to survive.

Perhaps when he captured her he would make Lord Vader watch her die.

Insidious rumination cast its threads over the Emperor's mind as he sank deeper into yet darker thoughts. He was only interrupted by a blinking signal light that flashed on his throne, demanding entrance. He nodded irately, opening the doors to the Throne Room with a wave of his hand.

A servant knelt briefly. Sidious could feel the purity within him, the raw desire for power. It made a side of his mouth turn upwards in a hideously depraved grin.

"Rise," he said, chuckling.

The man obeyed, still not bold enough to look the Emperor in the face. Excitement thrummed through the sycophant, which meant that his news would be pleasing.

"Your majesty, we have found the Skywalker child, the male. He is living on Tatooine with Beru and Owen Lars, Anakin Skywalker's only relatives. Luke."