R2-D2 beeped nervously. The astromech suspected that the Star Destroyer had used a tractor beam to draw the Tantive IV into the Destroyer’s main hangar, and the clanking sounds were produced by a magnetic paralyzing pincer lock as it secured the captured ship. Indeed, that was exactly what had happened: The Tantive IV was now nestled in the Star Destroyer’s underside hangar. Although the hangar remained exposed to space, the Tantive IV was trapped like a small fish in a sando aqua monster’s belly.
Inside the Tantive IV’s corridor, the droids braced themselves against the alcove wall as the Rebel troops kept their eyes on the sealed hatch. Suddenly, sparks blazed at the hatch’s frame as it was cut from the other side. Then the hatch exploded. Before the smoke cleared, a white-armored Imperial stormtrooper stepped through the shattered hatch and fired his blaster rifle at the Rebels. The stormtrooper was immediately cut down by a hail of return fire from the Rebels, but another stormtrooper appeared from behind him, firing as he stepped over his fallen predecessor. The second stormtrooper also fell to the Rebels, but there were more where he came from, and they kept on coming.
The stormtroopers were identical. Each wore a head-concealing white helmet that resembled a robotic face, with black polarized lenses for eyes and a grimacing vocoder for the mouth. Below the vocoder, jutting out from the helmet’s chin, a grilled breathing filter was set between two artificial air-supply nozzles.
More stormtroopers poured into the main corridor. From their alcove, the droids watched helplessly as several Rebel soldiers were shot down. The Rebels fought back, and the corridor was filled with deadly, crisscrossing projectiles. When a laserbolt slammed into the wall near the droids, R2-D2 responded with a loud electronic shriek, then rolled forward on his treads. Not wanting to be left behind, C-3PO stepped after his companion. Laserbolts whizzed past their forms as the droids crossed the narrow corridor to a hatch that faced the alcove. Incredibly, neither droid was hit during their quick but harrowing exit.
Overwhelmed by the stormtroopers, the surviving Rebels retreated hastily to other parts of the Tantive IV. A squad of stormtroopers secured the corridor, then instinctively moved away from the hatch as a tall, caped figure entered. He was clad entirely in black, giving him the appearance of a menacing shadow amidst the white-armored stormtroopers in the white-walled passageway. His head was concealed by a helmet with a fierce-looking faceplate, distinguished by two recessed black oval visual sensors positioned above a triangular respirator. A life-support system control panel was affixed to his chest plate, and he carried with him the sound of his mechanical, labored breathing. Everything in his outward appearance suggested that the black-armored suit only barely contained the evil lurking within.
He was Darth Vader, the Sith Lord.
Darth Vader ignored the two dead stormtroopers near the exploded hatch and