"Your Highness, they've locked their tractor beam. We're helpless."

Princess Leia Organa nodded her understanding, pushing her own fear deep inside as she stood up. "They won't get away with this, Captain," she informed the young man. "I promise you that."

The young captain wasn't so confident, but knew better than to say so. "Please, your highness," he urged. "You must hide. You know what will happen should Vader find you."

Leia frowned, knowing all too well what he would do. Darth Vader was notorious throughout the galaxy for his efficiency and ruthlessness when it came to prisoners. No doubt the fact that Leia was merely nineteen years old and female would make no difference to the Dark Lord. But she could not allow Vader to find the plans that she had stolen, plans that would enable the Alliance to strike back against the evil galactic Empire. Leia had risked a great deal to steal the plans; she simply could not let them fall into the hands of her greatest enemy.

"I need Artoo," she told her captain as he escorted her to the lower levels of the small ship. "We can't let the plans be taken by the Empire."

"How will he help?" the captain asked, not understanding what Leia meant to do.

"He will help by hiding the plans," Leia explained. "Vader won't suspect a simple astromech," she added with a smile.

The captain smiled too. "Very clever, your highness," he said. They stopped as they felt the ship being pulled closer to its Imperial pursuer. "Hurry, we haven't much time."

Chapter One

Chaos, sheer and utter chaos rocked the tiny blockade runner as it was drawn into the belly of the huge star destroyer. Soldiers, sworn to protect their princess at any cost, rushed to line the corridors, blasters ready. Every man who waited with sweaty palms and racing heart knew that they could only slow down the tide of white-armoured storm-troopers, not stop them. The clones were relentless and highly efficient at what they did. And right now they were preparing to storm the small craft and to stop at nothing until they found the princess.

Elsewhere on the ship, a pair of droids, companions of many years, fought their way through the chaos. They had seen their share of battles, both of them. Neither was unacquainted with the ways of the Empire.

"This is madness!" declared the tall protocol droid, C3PO, as klaxons blared all around them. "We're doomed," he added, shaking his golden head mournfully. "There will be no escape for the princess this time."

The astromech paid him no heed, and continued on his way. He had a mission to attend to, and he had to hurry. Princess Leia was counting on him, and he wasn't about to let her down. R2-D2 had been in the service of Leia's family for two decades, and he had never failed in his duty to any of them.

Princess Leia had managed to hide herself in the lower level of the ship, and it was there that she awaited her trusty astromech droid. She could hear the battle raging as the storm troopers rampaged through her ship. Leia tried not to think about all the men who were dying, who were laying their lives down to buy her the time she needed. Where is that little droid? she thought worriedly as she paced about in the sub-hallway. What if he was captured? What if he was blown to bits? What if….

The familiar beeps of Artoo allayed Leia's worries, and she sighed with relief as the little droid appeared.

"Finally!" Leia exclaimed. "Come here, Artoo," she said, ducking back into an alcove. "And listen very very carefully."

Darth Vader strode into the corridor of the small ship, stopping for a moment to survey the carnage around him. Bodies of rebels lay everywhere, but Vader simply stepped over them as he headed towards the command center. The ship had intercepted Imperial transmissions, transmissions that contained highly classified information. Vader must get the information back. He knew that his master, the galactic emperor Palpatine, would punish him most severely. Vader had grown accustomed to punishment over the past two decades. Palpatine, the man who had once befriended him and encouraged him as a child and later as a youth had become a sadistic tyrant. Vader had no delusions that he was anything more than a slave to the emperor. And as such, he dare not displease him.

"Lord Vader!"

Vader turned to see one of his junior officers approaching.

"My lord, the Death Star plans are not in the main computer," the officer reported.

Rage filled Vader, and he reached out and grabbed an injured Rebel officer who had the misfortune of being close by.

"Where are those transmissions you intercepted?" Vader growled, holding the man by the throat several centimeters above the deck. "What have you done with those plans?"

The man's eyes bulged as he struggled to breath. "We intercepted no transmissions!" he gasped. "This is a…consular ship! We're on a ….diplomatic mission!"

Vader didn't believe a word. "If this is a consular ship where is the ambassador?" he demanded, his voice dripping with sarcasm. He squeezed tighter, and the sound of the man's bones snapping was heard. Vader threw the dead body to the floor with disgust. "Commander, tear this ship apart until you've found those plans, and bring me the passengers, I want them alive!"

Leia pressed herself against the wall, doing her best to remain hidden. But the sounds of footsteps were getting closer, and it was only a matter of time before Vader's troops found her. She knew Vader well enough that he would not stop until she was found, and the thought of facing him sent chills through her. Leia gripped the blaster in her hand as she heard troopers drawing closer, no doubt sensors having revealed her hiding spot to them.

"There she is," one of the troopers said as the sensors lead them to the very alcove where Leia was hidden. "Set for stun."

Leia decided to take things into her own hands, and stepped out and blasted one of the troopers square in the chest. But before she could flee, she was hit with blaster fire and fell unconscious to the deck.

"She'll be all right," one of the clones declared as his comrades hauled Leia up from the floor. "Inform Lord Vader we have a prisoner."

"Hey, you're not permitted in there," Threepio informed his counterpart as Artoo works his way into the cramped escape pod. "It's restricted. You'll be deactivated for sure."

Artoo responded in a manner most uncomplimentary to the protocol droid and continued to board the pod.

"Don't call me a mindless philosopher, you overweight glob of grease!" Threepio snapped. "Now come out before somebody sees you."

Artoo responded, deciding that he had no choice but to tell his friend about the mission he'd been charged with.

"Secret mission? What plans? What are you talking about? I'm not getting in there!" Threepio declared.

Artoo wasn't thrilled with Threepio's stubbornness, and responded angrily. An explosion, very close by, sent dust and debris through the narrow sub hallway. Flames licked at Threepio and, after a flurry of electronic swearing from Artoo, Threepio decided to join his stubby counterpoint. "I'm going to regret this," he muttered as he folded his tall frame into the escape pod.

Leia awoke in a small room, her head aching from the blaster fire. She sat up slowly, and was met with the business end of an imperial blaster. She looked up to see a clone holding it, flanked by two others. She presumed that they were the three who had captured her.

"Get up," the clone said in a tone that brooked no dissention.

Leia frowned. She had never liked being told what to do, particularly from mindless clones. But she was unarmed now, and would be foolish to try and reason with her captor. She stood up, taking a moment to smooth down her hair and dress before the clones pulled her wrists together and bound them. She rolled her eyes and sighed loudly, but the clones ignored her.

"This way, your highness," one of them said his tone less than respectful. Leia held her head high as the door opened and she stepped into the corridor. She hadn't gone far, however, when Darth Vader stepped out into the corridor. The sight of him filled her with rage, and she put on her best senatorial face to properly chastise him.

"Darth Vader," she spat. "Only you could be so bold! The Imperial Senate will not sit still for this," she warned. "When they hear that you've attacked…"

Vader cut her off, tired of her self-righteous tirade. "Don't act so surprised, you highness," he countered. "You weren't on any mercy mission this time," he continued, his voice heavy with scorn. "Several transmissions were beamed to this ship by Rebel spies," he informed her. "I want to know what happened to the plans they sent you."

"I don't know what you're talking about," Leia retorted, playing her part perfectly. "I'm a member of the Imperial Senate on a diplomatic mission to Alderaaan!"

Vader pointed a finger at her accusingly. "You are part of the Rebel Alliance and a traitor," he snapped. "Take her away!" he added, waving his hand to dismiss her. Leia was shoved along the corridor as Vader continued in the opposite direction.

Vader could hear the man beside him talking to him, but he wasn't really listening. He had never met Princess Leia Organa in person until now, and he was strangely unsettled now that he had. And the part that annoyed him the most was that he didn't know why.

The daughter of Bail Organa had always been a thorn in Vader's side, ever since she had entered public office at a ridiculously young age. She was very outspoken in the Senate, and never missed an opportunity to criticize imperial policy. In some ways Leia reminded Vader of another senator he had once known- there was even a resemblance to her. But Vader wouldn't allow himself to think about Her, even if his dreams were haunted by her on the rare occasion that he allowed himself to sleep.

"Lord Vader?"

Vader turned to his subordinate, who had been informing him of the inherent danger of keeping Leia prisoner. She was, after all, a prominent member of the Imperial Senate. "I have traced the Rebel spies to her, now she is my only link to finding their hidden base," Vader informed the man.

"She'll die before she'll tell you anything," the young officer replied.

"Leave that to me," Vader told him. "Send a distress signal, and then inform the Senate that all aboard were killed." The young man nodded in understanding and ran off to do his commander's bidding.

"Lord Vader," an officer informed him, stepping into the corridor to intercept Vader. "The Death Star plans are not aboard, and no transmissions were made," he informed Vader. "An escape pod was jettisoned during the fighting, but no life forms were aboard."

Vader nodded. "She must have hidden the plans in the escape pod," he reasoned. "Send a detachment down to retrieve them, commander. There will be no one to stop us this time."

"Yes sir!"

Leia was brought under heavy guard to the detention block of the Death Star. She had done an impressive job of managing her fear, of making a fine show of righteous indignation; but inside she was truly afraid. She knew Imperial protocol enough to realize that it was only a matter of time before she was interrogated. If the Empire suspected that she was in collusion with the Rebel Alliance then they would stop at nothing to learn what she knew about them. And chances were that it would be Vader himself who would perform the interrogation. That more than anything terrified Leia to her very core. Vader was inhuman, a cyborg, an uncaring monster whose sole purpose seemed to be to spread terror throughout the galaxy.

I wonder how long I'll have to wait, Leia pondered as she sat down on the hard bench in her small cell. She felt cold, and tired for it had been days now since she'd slept. And yet, she knew that she needed her wits about her now; she would need to be alert and prepared for Vader when he came to interrogate her. Sleep was imperative, even if it was just a few hours on a hard bench in a cold cell. Being a pragmatic young woman, Leia decided to try to sleep, and lay on her side on the hard bench. She drew her knees up and tucked one arm under her head as a makeshift pillow. Trying not to think about her comfortable bed back home, or her father, Leia closed her eyes and forced herself to relax. After a few minutes, she fell asleep.