I think I'll start by admitting that this story is a bit of a departure for me and was written with the intent of attracting a wider circle of readers. My last story had only three faithful readers from beginning to end, well only three that responded that is. So let me start by expressing my great appreciation to padawan lunetta, Raissa Baiard, and Jane Jinn for sticking with my previous story. I began my ideas for this story by wondering what if things had happened differently at the Battle of Endor. This story begins roughly eight years after that battle, in a universe very different from the one we have come to know. Now on to the story. --------------------------------------------- Whoever said it was lonely at the top had obviously never been there. The new Emperor had been inundated with nonstop requests and proposals and other documents that demanded his personal attention since the day he had consolidated his power. For a moment he considered having his personal guards kill the next person who knocked at the door to his private office but decided against it. Not because he particularly cared for any of his aides, but they were experienced at dealing with the bureaucrats and would be difficult to replace. Once again expediency won out over personal satisfaction. Having recently assumed the throne, the new Emperor had foregone the usual routine of sweeping away all persons loyal to his predecessor. History was rife with examples of extraordinary men who had been wiped out for no reason other than for having previously sworn their allegiance to another. Besides, these aides had sworn to serve his father, and if this new power on the throne couldn?t persuade them to transfer their loyalties to him, he wouldn?t be much of an emperor now would he. It?s not as if there were any other candidates to choose from anymore. **** Creeping along at a relative standstill compared to the speed the ship was capable of, the small Omicron Class shuttle coasted toward Mantooine?s smaller moon. Following an initial frenetic burst to clear the atmosphere and escape the planet?s gravity well, the pilot had shut down all power to the engines and relied on the shuttle?s momentum to carry her to freedom. It was hard enough to escape from an Imperial garrison, but to escape undetected; now that was a challenge. Sitting alone in the dark of the shuttle?s command cabin, this pilot allowed herself a brief smile at her success to this point. Brushing her coppery red hair behind her ear, she sat back and watched as the moon grew steadily larger through the cabin windows. Another day of flight at this interminable pace and she would enter the moon?s shadow, or more importantly, the sensory blind spot of the orbital space station. Once hidden by the moon?s bulk she could engage the hyperdrive engines and complete her escape from exile. ?Unfortunately this won?t be a triumphant return to Coruscant,? she said bitterly. It was bad enough having to slink away from those conceited pigs back on Mantooine, but to have to sneak into the Imperial Palace, her former home as well as the place where she walked the corridors proudly and watched as others scrambled out of her way, was the ultimate insult. ?Someone?s going to pay for this before I?m done,? she spoke aloud to no one. It bothered her slightly that she had become accustomed to talking aloud to herself. Exiled for eight years with no contact outside of those sent to guard her, talking to herself had allowed her to retain her sanity; or was one of the signs she was losing that prized sanity.