Required Disclaimer: All characters, vehicles, and situations herein are the intellectual property of George Lucas and Co. Not mine. I'm borrowing without permission, and making no profit. Though I wouldn't mind taking that X-wing for a spin...pretty please?

Author's Note: This is a post-ANH/pre-ESB Alternate Universe written in response to an oldchallenge from the Luke/Vader Writers' group. I don't claim to be the absolute expert on Star Wars minutiae, but I do try to get everything right, so please forgive me for any little foibles. This fic is primarily movie-based, and will not attempt to draw on many EU details unless they become absolutely necessary for flow's sake. It contains references from all six complete films.

Please read and enjoy!

Chasing Dreams
by Becky Tailweaver

Prologue 1

The flagship of the Imperial Fleet was a magnificent sight to behold--powerful, deadly; sheer kilometers of armor and weaponry bound into a sharp, wedge-shaped design. That ship, the Executor, made even the largest of the conventional Star Destroyers seem as minnows before a mighty steel-gray shark.

To stand on the bridge of such a vessel, in command of the vast power of the Imperial war machine, gave one a dark, triumphant feeling like no other.

Darth Vader, Sith Lord and right hand of the Emperor himself, stood basking in that feeling, deep in contemplation as he gazed out the bridge viewports over the expanse of metal. He was pleased with the current situation; a true Sith was never happy, but at least for the moment, he was...content.

His ship was running well, all parts both mechanical and organic at peak performance. The Empire was on a winning streak against the Rebellion, having routed outpost after outpost, confiscating their weapons and arresting the terrorists. Despite the Rebels' recent lucky break against the Emperor's vaunted Death Star, they were far from victorious. Even with the loss of the new battle station, the Empire still had the might of countless ships, soldiers, and supply worlds to bring against them.

Vader himself was not particularly upset at the loss of that mechanical monstrosity. He still maintained that its planet-smashing power was insignificant and unnecessary--not to mention wasteful. Perhaps the Empire could afford to lose several dissident worlds--but not the hundreds outlined in both the Emperor and Tarkin's initial campaigns.

And besides, the damned thing was far too costly to fire up and run. Just maintaining the station could drain an entire system dry of resources within a month, to say nothing of the worlds turned to husks to construct the monstrosity.

No, to him the station was no great loss; a lesson for his master, perhaps, to help curb the useless extravagance. What really got under his skin was having been bested, however accidentally--both by a ragged smuggler, and some hotshot junior pilot of the Rebellion.

A dark frown shaped itself behind his mask; officers nearby were lucky he wore the faceplate, or they would likely have taken long steps backward and end up falling into the crew pits. Vader was most annoyed by the effrontery of it--some hunk of junk taking potshots at him, while a nobody from some backwater world with no piloting skills to speak of got off that one lucky torpedo that took down the Death Star. couldn't have been luck alone--regardless of the space freighter on his back in the trench; that smuggler was just lucky his attention had been so solidly on the X-wing pilot. The rebel pilot in question had glowed strong in the Force, young and raw, flaring like a star in those final moments.

Not just luck, in that case.

He wanted to find that pilot. Either to kill him, or interrogate him...or what else, Vader wasn't sure himself, and he didn't like uncertainty. It made him even more annoyed--perhaps just this side of angry. At least he had the Emperor's tacit approval in this; not only was the Sith Lord doing a stellar job of wiping out all Rebel installations in his path in the course of his search, but he would also bring to justice whatever snot-nosed kid the Rebellion had enlisted to blow up His Highness' new toy.

The thought also made Vader sigh--the fact that the Emperor wasn't interested in the Rebel pilot for justice, arrest, and information, but for outraged revenge. The price on the pilot's head was...rather impressive, to say the least. Half again what the Emperor offered for the capture, dead or alive, of Princess Leia Organa and several of the Rebellion's top leaders--and their spies had yet to provide them with even the pilot's name...

"Lord Vader?"

Brought out of his reverie by the timid lieutenant's approach, the Dark Lord turned aside from his contemplation of the stars to set an implacable gaze on the young officer. "What is it?" he growled.

The lieutenant swallowed, holding out a datapad. "The Garwulf's head communications officer intercepted a coded transmission from Naboo, sir, which he forwarded to you via direct tightbeam. Priority One, sir."

"And why is a coded transmission from Naboo my problem and not some peabrain's down in Intelligence?" Vader demanded with a scowl.

"Ah, the orders..." The lieutenant was paling fast, clearing his throat to speak. "Your orders, sir--anything pertaining to names listed in the old Jedi Temple rosters is flagged to be brought to your attention immediately, sir."

"Jedi?" Vader snatched the datapad immediately, finding it to be one of the high-security models which required his personal passcode to read. "I rid the Empire of the last of those vermin years ago..."

"Yes sir, Lord Vader," the lieutenant went on smartly. "But the name is flagged from the Jedi lists, sir. This message came in as digital text using a simple old-style Naboo encrypt, no audio or video. The report from the Garwulf states that the trasmission originated on the surface of Naboo itself and was beamed directly to an Old Republic transmitter beacon thought to be out of service. It was addressed to, quote, 'the heirs of the Jedi,' from a listed Jedi Knight named Anakin Skywalker."

Barely finished entering his passcode, Darth Vader nearly dropped the datapad.

To be continued...