Chapter 1

"Lord Vader, we have the corvette aboard."

The ebony clad giant simply nodded his understanding as he rose to his feet. "A squadron of stormtroopers," he said in his deep baritone. "Have them meet me in the docking bay immediately."

"Yes my lord."

Lord Darth Vader made his way from his Spartan quarters to the turbo-lift, preparing himself for the inevitable confrontation with the rebel scum aboard the ship. Several transmissions had been received by the Corellian Corvette, transmissions sent by members of the Rebel Alliance. Whoever it is, they will lead me to the Rebel Base. This is it…the break I have been waiting for. Perhaps this will appease my master…

Vader gave an involuntary shudder as he thought of his last audience with the galactic Emperor Palpatine. The emperor held Vader personally responsible for the spread of the Rebel Alliance, and did not make any pretense about it, punishing his apprentice both physically and psychologically for his failure to locate the Rebels' base. And now he has that ghoul Tarkin breathing down my neck, Vader thought angrily, humiliated that the devious officer had been promoted to the position of Grand Moff and given command of the Death Star. That command should have been mine, Vader reflected irritably. Instead I have been relegated to chasing the rebel scum all over the galaxy. This ignominy only made Vader hate the Rebel Alliance more. I almost pity the commander of this vessel, he thought darkly as he strode down the corridor towards the hangar bay.

A squadron of storm troopers were waiting for Vader outside the small ship. They parted to allow him to approach the vessel.

"Open it," he said simply when he reached the magnetically sealed hatch of the vessel. Vader stood back and allowed the clones to do their work, preparing himself to face what lie within. No doubt they will try to stop us, he mused as he watched the clones at their work. Within a few moments they had brought down the door, and were flooding into the ship in a sea of white armor.

Vader let the clones do their work, easily repelling the rebels' pathetic attempt to stop the Imperial invasion. He stepped around the dead bodies of the men who had died to defend whoever was on board this vessel, ignoring them utterly in his quest to find the commander.

"The Death Star plans are not in the main computer," the commander of the clone squadron informed Vader.

Vader turned his menacing, black helmed head to Captain Antilles, the commander of the hapless vessel. He reached out one enormous black gloved hand and grabbed Antilles roughly by the neck, lifting him easily off the floor.

"Where are those transmissions you intercepted?" Vader growled. "What have you done with those plans?"

Antilles, loyal to the end, maintained his ignorance. "We intercepted no transmissions!" he gasped. "This is a consular ship. We're on a diplomatic mission!" he wheezed. Vader was not convinced.

"If this is a consular ship," Vader pronounced with a hint of sarcasm in his voice. "Where is the Ambassador?"

Antilles still refused to speak, but eventually screamed in pain as Vader squeezed his enormous fist tighter. Soon the sound of snapping bones was heard, and Antilles went limp in Vader's sinister embrace. The Dark Lord tossed the dead body against a bulkhead in disgust and then turned to the commander of the squadron. "Commander, tear this ship apart until you've found those plans, and bring me the Ambassador. I want her alive!" he roared before he strode out of the room.

Now what, Vader thought irritably. If they are not on board, then where are the damnable plans? Plans: that was what this was all about. But not just any plans: plans of the Empire's greatest weapon, the Death Star, an enormous armored space station with enough fire power to destroy an entire planet. Vader himself was less than impressed with the massive, lethal orb. It had taken the Imperial engineers nearly twenty years to complete it. Probably because that idiot Tarkin was in charge of the operation, he reflected. Vader resented that he was the one who had to chase down the stolen plans, when all along it was Tarkin who was, more than likely, responsible for them falling into enemy hands in the first place. But Vader had learned not to speak his mind; more than once he had paid a heavy price for his candor, and had learned to keep his opinion to himself. Instead, he did his duty, did as his emperor and master bade him to do, no matter how demeaning it seemed.

"Lord Vader, we have captured a member of the Royal family of Alderaan," one of the minor officers informed him. "Princess Leia Organa. She is being brought to the detention cell right now."

"I'd like a word with the princess," Vader said, standing up. He had long suspected that the Organa household was sympathetic to the Rebel cause. If the young princess were involved with the theft of the plans, it would prove once and for all that Alderaan was not to be trusted.

Princess Leia Organa, the 19 year old adopted daughter of Bail Organa and his late wife, was led down a corridor by a squad of armored stormtroopers. Her hands were bound, and every so often she was brutally shoved when she was unable to keep up with the briskly

marching troops. A door opened and the princess stopped in her tracks, terrified and outraged as the notorious Darth Vader emerged from the shadows.

Although never having met face to face, Princess Leia was well acquainted with the Dark Lord; his actions throughout the galaxy were well known, his reputation well deserved.

As for Vader, he had thought of the young princess as a thorn in his side or close to a year now, ever since she had taken the post of senator representing her home world. Her outspokenness and open distain for the Empire smacked of treason to Vader, and he had looked forward to the day when he could prove the young woman's treachery once and for all. Perhaps today would be that day.

Vader stared at the young woman; all the words that he had planned to intimidate her with evaporating before they reached his mouth. As he stared at her, a strange feeling came over him, a feeling of familiarity, a feeling that, somehow, he knew her. But that can't be…she is a traitor, a member of the royal household of Alderaan…an enemy of the Empire.

For her part, Princess Leia was surprised by the Dark Lord's silence, and decided to speak up before she lost her nerve.

"Darth Vader," she spat, as though his name left a bad taste in her mouth. "Only you could be so bold! The Imperial Senate will not sit still for this! When they hear that you've attacked a diplomatic…."

Vader cut her off. "Don't act so surprised your Highness," he retorted sarcastically. "You weren't on any mercy mission this time.

Several transmissions were beamed to this ship by Rebel spies.

I want to know what happened to the plans they sent you."

Leia shook her head, her dark eyes full of indignation. "I don't know what you're talking about!" she retorted in exasperation. "I'm a member of the Imperial Senate on a diplomatic mission to Alderaan!"
Don't play with me, child….Vader thought angrily. "You are part of the Rebel Alliance...and a traitor! Take her away!"

Leia was marched away down the hallway, Vader watching her intently, not being able to shake the strange feeling their encounter had created within him.

"Lord Vader….Lord Vader!"

Vader turned to see one of his underlings standing there. "What is it?" he snapped.

"Holding her is dangerous," the officer stated. "If word of this gets out, it

could generate sympathy for the Rebellion in the senate."

"I have traced the Rebel spies to her," Vader replied. "Now she is my only link to find their secret base."

"She'll die before she tells you anything," the officer returned.

"Leave that to me," Vader replied coolly as his mind worked feverishly to find a reason to keep the young princess in his custody. "Send a distress signal and then inform the senate that all aboard were killed."

Another officer approached Vader with his report. "Lord Vader, the battle station plans are not aboard this ship, and no transmissions were made. An escape pod was jettisoned during the fighting, but no life forms were aboard."

Vader nodded his understanding. He turned to his second in command. "She must have hidden the plans in the escape pod," he reasoned. "Send a detachment down to retrieve them. See to it personally, Commander. There'll be no one to stop us this time."

"Yes, sir!"