George Lucas owns all the characters, the basis for the plot, and pretty much everything about the following fanfiction. In addition, verbatim dialog from the SW movies and excerpts from the published novels are included in this fic. The story is not being written for any profit or advancement, but merely for fun.

Summary: This is an AU focusing on Luke and his struggles with the dark side, reflected by those of his father. However, this is not what I would strictly call a Luke/Vader fic. It is a full blown OT AU with central roles for many characters, including Leia, Obi-Wan, Yoda, Han and others. The EU is also drawn from for more peripheral roles - no previous knowledge is required. Mara Jade is among the peripheral characters.

This story parallels the OT until AU events overcome it.

The Promised Future

Prelude: A Child Lost

Obi-Wan raced ahead with all his Force abilities focused on increasing his speed and finding the quickest path through the dark forest that lay before him. Trees and foliage went past in an indistinguishable blur as he darted around the immovable obstacles. The smaller bushes and various animals he gracefully hurdled without even the slightest break in his stride as he barreled recklessly onward. He was moving much faster than any normal man could ever hope to achieve on foot, but still Obi-Wan knew it would not be enough. The faint traces of acrid smoke seeping into the morning air warned that the attack had already begun.

Unable to spare the energy to contemplate failure, he redoubled his efforts and was rewarded with a slight increase in his already astonishing speed and agility. Expending this much Force energy in his race against time meant he may well be worthless when he got there, but if he was too late, being able to fight would hardly matter. Nothing would matter.

As he approached the small clearing that served as a modest home and secluded safe haven for his young charge, Obi-Wan began to sense the presence of a half dozen hostiles occupying the property. He adjusted his focus slightly and summoned his remaining strength to prepare for the impending confrontation. Finally reaching the edge of the forest, he burst into the clearing only to realize that the fight, such as it had been, was over.

Off to the left the main house was engulfed in intense flames, the work of two soldiers whose current efforts sought to turn the larger work shed into a similar conflagration. The four remaining soldiers were lugging the bodies of two of their fallen comrades toward a pair of speeder bikes and a small troop transport parked on the opposite side of the clearing. The trampled forest over there indicated that a larger force had invaded the area and withdrawn in the same direction. These few had apparently been left behind to clean up. The white armor they wore and the efficiency with which they went about their task clearly marked them as Imperial stormtroopers.

Obi-Wan had time to process little else before the two troopers on his left opened fire. He met the assault effortlessly, igniting his lightsaber on pure instinct and deflecting the laser blasts back into his assailants with deadly precision. The other four had immediately dropped their burdens upon his arrival and now brought their blasters to bear as well, but again Obi-Wan was not deterred. Wielding his lightsaber in defense from their shots, he pushed forward into the barrage, intent on reaching the foremost speeder bike beyond them.

'They can't be that far ahead. There is still a chance I can save the boy,' he thought with renewed resolve.

Driven now, he sliced efficiently through the remaining stormtroopers as they came into direct range of his lightsaber. But as the last one fell to his blade, Obi-Wan could hear the whine of repulsorlifts firing somewhere up ahead. He lifted his eyes toward the noise and watched in horror as an Imperial shuttle cleared the treetops and turned gracefully toward space, its ion engines roaring to life.

"Noooooooo!", he screamed after it in horror, as if somehow the word could reach out and halt the shuttle's progress. Utterly refusing to accept this outcome, he raised his lightsaber and released another scream of defiance to the reality of what he was seeing.

But the image of the shuttle quickly dwindled into a bright dot shooting across the sky, unmindful of the devastated Jedi left in its wake. And his scream faded unanswered into the morning mist, leaving Obi-Wan alone in the now littered clearing. With nothing left to confront, his physical efforts to prevent this tragedy quickly began taking their toll even as the failure of those efforts impacted him emotionally.

'How, how could this be! How did they find him?' his shocked mind demanded as his exhausted body collapsed him to his hands and knees. Realizing his desperate need to catch his breath and gather his wits, he concentrated briefly to run through a calming exercise. Slowly, with his heart rate and breathing returning to normal and some strength returning to his shaking limbs, his thoughts turned to a more rational assessment of the situation.

Out of the corner of his eye he could now see the charred remains of two human adults by the side entrance to the burning house. He didn't doubt they were Eyvind and Jarrel Schill, the boy's new guardians. They had probably made what little stand they could there, succeeding in killing at least two of the stormtroopers. Briefly he entertained the thought that they might also have succeeded somehow in hiding the boy, or perhaps the boy had perished with them. But no, he knew that was not the case. He knew the boy was now with his father on that shuttle.

He twisted slightly to sit on the damp ground and groaned as he buried his face in his hands. Luke, the last hope for the galaxy, the one for whom so much been had sacrificed to save, was now in the hands of the Empire. Obi-Wan was left to face the consequences of this, his latest failure. He shuddered involuntarily as he considered just how grave those consequences would be.

Chapter 1 – A Young Sith

14 years later

Darth Arkus watched impatiently as yet another surge of pain jolted the pathetic woman before him. He already knew from his Force mind probe of her that she knew nothing of value. There had been no intent to deceive there, no summoning of willpower to resist the drugs being pumped into her, only confusion and terror. She was truly just an aide for the local politician that lay dead in the ruined office beyond. Their best lead had died with that man. Still, the Imperial officer leading the interrogation continued torturing the woman's wrecked body, unwilling to accept Arkus' appraisal of the situation.

Arkus swore under his breath. Tarkin would not be pleased at all - not that Arkus really cared what Tarkin thought. After all, it was a security blunder at Tarkin's own facility that had allowed the Death Star plans to be stolen in the first place. Worse still, it had been weeks before the theft was discovered. Those weeks had allowed the traitor time to contact the Rebellion and setup an exchange on Darkknell. Imperial Intelligence hadn't arrived in time to stop the exchange or catch the Rebel operative who had taken the plans.

The traitor had not been so lucky. He had barely been recognizable as human by the time the Intelligence officers had finished taking out their frustrations on him. Perhaps his final demise might have been a bit more pleasant had he been able to give any solid leads on the Rebel operative. Unfortunately for all involved, only a sketchy description of the Rebel had been obtained.

The Emperor had been deeply disturbed by the level of incompetence demonstrated by both the Desparye security officials and his own Imperial Intelligence agency. Several of the offenders had already paid with their lives, including the Director of Imperial Intelligence, himself. Eager for a chance to redeem himself, Tarkin had asked for matters to be turned over to him with a promise to not only retrieve the stolen plans but to also track down the Rebel cell seeking them.

The Emperor had agreed, but was reluctant to let Tarkin run such a critical operation unsupervised. He wanted an agent of his own reporting back independently. Darth Vader had already been sent to Desparye to reassert security protocols there, so the Emperor had taken the opportunity to introduce Darth Arkus.

The introduction had surprised Arkus almost as much as Tarkin. Until then, Arkus had been the Emperor's little secret. Only Darth Vader and a small circle of priests had been privy to his existence as a Sith. Even on the short "training expeditions" Arkus was allowed with his father, he had been forced to remain in the shadows, seeing everything but affecting little. On the rare occasions he had dared to complain about this, the Emperor had called for patience, explaining that he was not yet ready.

Arkus would probably never know what had changed the Emperor's mind, but that one moment would surely live on as the greatest in his life for some time to come. He could still remember the startled look on Tarkin's face when he had stepped into the field of view of the holocamera to stand at his master's right. That he had been introduced as a "junior" apprentice had hardly marred the glorious pride he had felt.

Tarkin was, of course, far too controlled to be startled for long. His surprise had quickly faded to curiosity and then resentment. He'd had little choice other than to accept the Emperor's terms without complaint, but had later made his feelings perfectly clear to Arkus. Tarkin would allow him to observe his men and report whatever he wished, but he would not have some uncultivated Sith amateur interfering with operations.

Arkus had held his tongue, mindful of the high regard with which both the Emperor and Darth Vader held this man. He had taken much worse abuse from others that had since reconsidered their disrespect. Tarkin's time would come.

Nearly a standard month had passed since that little chat. During that time Arkus had kept his focus on picking up the cold trail of the Rebel operative. Despite what Tarkin thought, Arkus knew the Emperor had intended for him to take charge of the investigation. Only a Sith could turn such feeble leads into real intelligence, and he had done just that. However, acting on that intelligence had been left to Tarkin's men. It was the failure of those actions that had brought them to this impasse.

First, they had bungled the raid on the rendezvous between the Rebels. The original operative had managed to escape once again with the Death Star plans. Arkus' interrogation of the second man had given them the Balitarian Governor's name complete with meeting plans, code phrases, and commlink frequencies. The Force had been nudging him to follow this trail, so he had left the pursuit of the first Rebel to one group of Tarkin's men while he accompanied Major Horick with a second group here to Amstick, the capital of Balitar.

Then Tarkin's idiots had somehow managed to tip their hand right before their assault on the Governor's mansion. The Governor had destroyed all evidence in his office, literally melting computers and datacards with blaster fire, and then had had the poor grace to kill himself.

That had left only the Governor's secretary to face Horick's wrath. Her once pristine station in the office's small foyer had quickly been turned into her private hell. Horick had begun by shouting at her and smacking her face and had quickly proceeded to the interrogation droid. She was now crudely restrained in one of the two lounge chairs located along the wall across from her desk, frantically trying to satisfy Horick.

"I already told you," she sobbed with a voice long since hoarse from screaming. "The courier came here maybe every other week. The Governor used him as an informant to keep appraised of the militia groups' activities. He did this to control them, not help them."

"Then why was he receiving stolen Imperial data? Who is his Rebel contact!"

"I don't know anything about stolen data. Please believe me!" she cried desperately. "The Governor never told me about any Rebels!"

Unsatisfied with the answer, Horick sent another electrical shock through the woman. This one was strong enough to cause constricting muscles to snap yet another bone somewhere in her body. Arkus snorted audibly to convey his disgust. There was nothing to be gained here. This was simply wasting his time.

He turned to the datapad and neat stack of datacards on the woman's desk. She seemed the sort to keep a personal copy of her boss's schedule handy. Perhaps it was a bit much to expect that the next link to the Rebels would appear so boldly, but one never knew. Besides, reviewing the schedule would give him something to do.

He had just inserted the correct datacard when a ripple in the Force accompanied by a commotion in the hall distracted him. Arkus stepped behind the side of the desk just as the foyer doors were flung open. A young woman in white was shoved rather unceremoniously into the center of the room and was quickly followed by a pair of stormtroopers.

Horick spun around sharply to confront the stormtroopers. "What is the meaning of this interruption!" he demanded.

"Sir, this woman and her entourage were caught trying to use a hidden entrance to the mansion grounds. When she was questioned, she demanded to see the Governor."

The woman used the moment of the exchange to regain her composure and brought her best regal pose to bear on Horick. "This is ridiculous! I am a member of the Imperial Senate here on official business with Governor Termain. I object to being treated like some sort of criminal!"

Having temporarily stunned Horick with her bold initiative and haughty tone, she released him from her glare just long enough to quickly scan the room. When she locked eyes with him again her demeanor changed from offended royalty to commanding authority. "I demand to know what is going on here!"

Arkus remained quietly in his position off to her left. She hadn't really noticed him, he knew. This had been due to both the natural human tendency to focus on matters of immediate relevance and to a subtle Force suggestion he had given her that there was nothing of interest in his direction. He wanted time to evaluate this woman who had caused the Force ripple before revealing his presence.

He studied her intently now. She was quite young, certainly no older than he was, though her poise suggested wisdom and experience far surpassing her years. She possessed an understated beauty accentuated by deep brown eyes and a flawless complexion. Her long, dark hair was styled conservatively in circular braids about her ears. The loose fitting, formal gown she wore covered her completely from neck to toe and left the shape of her body to the imagination. She was hardly the most beautiful woman Arkus had ever seen, but he found he couldn't take his eyes off of her. Her presence in the Force sang to him like the sirens of myth, captivating his soul.

He carefully gauged her reaction to the state of affairs in the foyer. She hadn't even flinched at the imploring gaze of the obviously tortured woman. Instead, she had appeared to take her in with the same cold assessment given to the broken lamp and displaced furniture. Even her sense in the Force had barely registered the shocked horror she had truly felt, and Arkus was forced to strain to pick up on the barest hint of fear emerging in her mind. That she had that much control over her emotions was most impressive. Horick was no match for her.

"I will ask the questions here," Horick snapped back at her in an attempt to regain control. "Who are you, and what is your business with the Governor?"

She seemed to draw back a little, as though grievously insulted by Horick's tone and inability to recognize her. "I am Senator Princess Leia Organa of Alderaan, assistant chairperson of the Senate Oversight Committee for Planetary Aid. I am here at the request of Senator Furdosia to personally survey the deteriorating Balitarian social conditions. Governor Termain graciously invited me to dine with him here in his mansion during my visit. We were to discuss how he intended to utilize my committee's financial aid to revive Balitar's economy." She narrowed her eyes accusingly. "I take it the dinner has been postponed?"

Arkus quickly checked the Governor's schedule and was able to confirm that the Princess was indeed expected to arrive at this time for a private dinner with the Governor. The secretary had entered various notes concerning the dinner, including everything from a list of reports to be compiled for reference material down to the Princess's food and beverage preferences.

"Cancelled, actually," Horick replied meaningfully. "If you were here for legitimate business, why were you using a concealed entrance?"

"I was using the Governor's private entrance," she countered. "He provided my security detail with the access code when my schedule was finalized last week. Apparently there has been a lot of political unrest here since the Imperial military assumed control of Balitar's mining operations and ruined these people's lives." She paused to inspect Horick's uniform as if holding him personally responsible for the repercussions of the military's actions. "The Governor was concerned for my safety."

"Then why didn't you cooperate with the stormtroopers questioning you?"

"I assumed they were responding to some threat from the local militia groups. They had no cause to detain me," she scoffed.

Arkus couldn't help but smile to himself. The Princess was managing Horick quite handily, but the major was not one to admit defeat easily. He had better intervene before Horick did something rash.

"Please excuse the Major's behavior, Your Highness," he began smoothly as he set the datapad down and stepped away from the desk. "The Imperial military academies do such a poor job of instructing our officers on matters of etiquette."

Leia turned quickly toward the mechanically modulated voice addressing her from an unexpected direction, carefully forming her expression to communicate only mild surprise. She had the situation well under control and was not about to let this new adversary fluster her. But when her eyes fell upon the speaker, she was unable to completely contain her reaction. Slightly widening eyes and a quick intake of breath betrayed her startled dismay.

The sinister black metallic mask he wore instantly conjured up the image of Darth Vader in her mind. But no, she reasoned, this man was much shorter and lacked the assisted breathing apparatus that gave Vader his distinctive presence. Also, the mask he wore was less angular than Vader's around the cheeks and mouth, was formed closer to his skull, and lacked the helmet-like flair around the back. Even so, the similarity was enough to send chills down her spine.

Needing a moment to steady her resolve, Leia let her eyes drift over the rest of him. He was dressed primarily in black, textured nerf-hide thick enough to give him the appearance of a lightly armored warrior, complete with heavy gloves and calf length boots. The nerf-hide rose up on his neck to meet the metallic mask so that not an inch of his flesh was visible. Over the nerf-hide he wore a black satin, blouse-like garment that flowed into a floor length cape behind his back and disappeared into a thick belt around his waist. The shining cylinder hanging from the belt at his left hip was undeniably a lightsaber. She suppressed a shudder as the implications of that weapon's presence registered in her thoughts.

Arkus reveled in her attention to him. It pleased him deeply that she was unable to disguise both her initial shock at his appearance and her subsequent alarm when she realized he was a Sith. He knew her continued inspection of him was just a stall for time to regain her emotional footing, but he allowed her this time rather than take advantage of her momentary imbalance. He wanted her at her best before they continued. This was going to be fun.

Barely a few seconds had passed when she raised her eyes to those of his mask again, her emotions resettled, her nerves steeled. "And you are?" she questioned calmly.

"I am Darth Arkus, the Emperor's personal emissary." He gave a slight bow with the introduction.

"Then you can explain what is going on here and why I have been so rudely treated."

It was not a question she asked, he noted, but a command she expected to be obeyed. Arkus smiled to himself. He would play her game and beat her at it.

"Of course, Your Highness," he agreed. "Let me first apologize for the manner in which you were greeted and conducted here. The mansion has recently been placed under a security lockdown. We have not had time to review the Governor's schedule and did not anticipate your arrival," he explained apologetically. "As you pointed out, these are dangerous times on Balitar, and stormtroopers do have a reputation for being overly cautious."

The Princess gave no indication of accepting his apology, but bid him to continue with a slight shift in her attitude.

"Our business here concerns the assassination of Senator Bel Iblis, a close associate of your father's, I believe." He waited until he received a nod of acknowledgment from her.

"The investigation has shown that the terrorists responsible were from a Balitarian militia group. It's absurd, I know," he conceded to her upraised eyebrow. "They must have linked up with a Rebel cell and received direction and financing from them. We were hoping to enlist Governor Termain's assistance in locating the individuals involved for questioning, but…" he paused to gesture toward the main office. "Apparently the Governor had a guilty conscience. Additional details are classified, of course."

"There will be a full report to the Senate when your investigation is concluded," she demanded more than questioned again, though the retort lacked some of her previously acidic tone.

"Naturally, Your Highness. I will see that you receive a personal copy in advance if you like. In the mean time, I trust you will not reveal what you have discovered here. It might interfere with our continuing investigation."

There was little the Princess could object to now. Only the tortured secretary was left unexplained. Arkus would wait until she breached that subject. He knew she would. She had been far too affected by the secretary's condition to not attempt to give her some aid.

Leia realized she had played her hand as far as she could safely take it. She knew the story the Sith had spun concerning the assassination of Bel Iblis was a complete fabrication. Bel Iblis wasn't killed by Rebels but by the Empire because of his Rebel sympathies. By pointing out her father's association with him, Arkus had subtly implied she was suspected of harboring such sympathies as well. Any objection to his story would only confirm it.

Furthermore, he had accurately described the Balitarian leg in the planned journey of the stolen Death Star plans to her Rebel cell. Clearly he suspected her of being the next link, but lacked sufficient evidence to accuse her outright. He was being clever, hoping to rattle her enough to make a mistake. She should try to take her leave quickly, before he ended the game and turned that interrogation droid on her.

With that thought Leia's eyes flickered back toward the secretary. 'What was her name again? Valnarie?' Leia thought. She had only spoken to her once, briefly, concerning the details of the dinner. She was completely innocent in all of this - could tell them nothing of value, Leia was sure. The Sith probably knew this as well, or he would have been right there over her with the other two Imperials. Still, they had battered her face and subjected her to the terrors of that droid. Leia couldn't just leave this poor woman to these barbarians.

She tore her eyes from Valnarie and summoned the courage to confront the dark lord once more. "Is this the manner in which you plan to continue your investigation?"

"Ah, yes. Interrogations of Rebel terrorists do tend to get a bit grisly, especially when another attack on innocents is known to be imminent and they refuse to cooperate. I deeply regret that you have been forced to witness it. Perhaps you should return to your lodging?"

And with that Arkus had neatly disarmed her. His message to her was delivered and received, he knew. It was now time for her to go before something was said or done to require her permanent detention.

Leia couldn't believe her ears. Was Arkus really offering her a way out? What was the catch? How far would he let her go?

"I believe I have seen enough of Balitar's state of affairs. I will be leaving immediately," she stated with a conviction she couldn't quite bring herself to feel.

'Good,' Arkus thought. 'She knows when to cut her losses.'

"Of course," he said, "I understand. You would like to place this unpleasantness behind you." Arkus turned to address the junior Imperial officer present. "Lieutenant Taper, inform the Balitar Spaceport Authority to ready the Princess's shuttle at once, and arrange for her to be properly escorted to her ship."

The lieutenant did not jump to immediately execute the orders he had been given. Instead he looked to the major, seeking confirmation.

Arkus seethed at his hesitation. The Princess had seen it too and would try to take to advantage of it. Horick had had the good sense to remain quiet up to this point. If he tried to interfere now, Arkus swore he would rip out his throat and feed it to Tarkin for breakfast.

He restrained himself from simply torquing the Major's mind into submission. The Princess was watching and was certainly observant enough to pick up on any coercion. He would have to let this play out.

Horick was aware that all eyes were now on him. He had no idea what Darth Arkus was up to. His intrusion into the questioning of the Princess had been most unwelcome, and Horick certainly didn't like the idea of just letting her go. Governor Tarkin had warned him not to let Arkus interfere with operations. But though Horick was certain he had the authority to overrule Arkus, he dreaded the prospect of directly opposing a Sith. Junior apprentice or not, he had heard rumors of Lord Vader's wrath and had no desire to discover if this one had a similar temper.

Leia noted the curious hesitation of both the lieutenant and the major. This was not how she would expect Imperial officers to react to a Sith lord. She turned her attention back to Arkus, eager to take advantage of this breakdown in command. "A military escort will not be necessary."

"Oh, but I insist, Your Highness," Arkus replied quickly, "for your safety. The Balitarian terrorists seem to have an affinity for prominent government figures. Your presence here may present too tempting an opportunity for them. In fact, we should see you safely returned to Coruscant."

Arkus started to address the lieutenant again, but stopped and looked back toward her, as if realizing he had just made an assumption. "You are returning Coruscant?" he asked, then added helpfully " …to deliver your report to Senator Furdosia?"

Leia warily nodded her agreement. 'So this was it, then,' she thought. Coruscant was not in fact her intended destination, but the implications of Arkus' words were not lost on her. She was effectively being placed under house arrest on Coruscant until things could be sorted out here. Any attempt to go elsewhere would only cast additional suspicions on her and anyone she met. They would be watching her very closely.

"Very good." Arkus turned to Taper. "Lieutenant, you will also contact the Cruiser Agitator and instruct them to rendezvous with the Princess's ship in system. They are to provide escort until the Princess has safely reached her landing platform on Coruscant."

The lieutenant sought confirmation again, but this time Horick did not hesitate. The distinct pressure he had felt on his throat the moment the Princess's attention was returned to Arkus had made up his mind. "You have your orders, Lieutenant," he stated firmly.

Leia waited until the lieutenant left the room to see to his duties. She knew she was not going to get out of this, but she had to maintain appearances.

"This is completely unnecessary. My security team is quite capable of handling any threat," she protested to Arkus one final time.

"Then accept our escort as a courtesy. It really is the least we can do after the way you have been treated here," he graciously offered. "Our task group is just on the system's edge, so the cruiser should be in position for departure before you reach your ship. There should be no delay for you."

"I thank you for your consideration." She gave a curt nod. "I look forward to reading your report."

"Of course, Your Highness." Arkus returned her nod then gestured toward the foyer's entrance, indicating she was free to go.

Leia turned to depart and briefly confronted the two stormtroopers who had originally escorted her into the room still positioned by the doors. Without a word they parted to allow her to pass and then fell into step behind her as she left the room.

Arkus watched the Princess leave, still exhilarated by their almost subliminal communication between the words that had been spoken. She was a worthy opponent, one he would personally track. Her only weakness had been her feelings for the secretary. She had been deeply disturbed to abandon her here, knowing the interrogation would likely continue until her death.

Arkus turned his attention to the secretary now. She was cowering in the chair, fearful that the brief respite the Princess's arrival had afforded her was about to end. He mentally moaned at the thought of sitting through more of her screaming. He was anxious to report back to the Emperor, and did not wish to be delayed by such wearisome matters.

Reaching out with Force, Arkus located a large artery in her brain and neatly rent it open. The secretary's head twitched slightly in response, then lolled to the side as she drifted quickly into death. There, it was ended.

Horick, now the only other occupant of the room, noticed the result of Arkus' action. He had indeed been fortunate that the Princess had spoken up before he had countermanded Arkus' order to release her. He may face reprisals from Tarkin, but he would live.

Arkus took satisfaction in Horick's discomfort. He was certain now that Horick would not question him, but he would whine to Tarkin at the first opportunity. Well, let him whine. He did not need to explain his actions to Horick or Tarkin.

"Inform the rest of the task group to establish orbit and prepare my ship as soon as the Princess enters hyperspace. I will be returning to Coruscant. You are free to continue your investigation here as you see fit." Arkus turned to leave but looked back briefly to add, "And major. Never question my authority again." He did not wait for a reply.

Leia finally allowed herself to relax a bit once she was in her private quarters on her ship. She hadn't realized how smothered she had felt by Arkus' presence until she had left the mansion. It was as if a dark cloud had passed over her, warning of a coming storm. He would be watching her, she knew.

Well, Arkus couldn't object to her sending a message to her father to inform him of her change in schedule. She would word it carefully and send it out with her usual diplomatic encryption only. The Imperials would think it was only a friendly note, but her father would know she was under suspicion and the Death Star plans were missing in action. He would pick up the pieces from his end.