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  1. The life of Darth Vader's secret student took a strange and deadly turn the day his
  2. Master first spoke of General Rahm Kota.
  3. He'd had no warning that a moment of such significance was approaching. During his
  4. nightly meditations, kneeling on the metal floor of his chamber while construction
  5. droids built the Executor, unaware of his existence, he had seen no visions in the
  6. pure, angry red of the lightsaber that he held like a burning brand in front of his
  7. eyes. Although he had stared until the world vanished and the dark side flowed
  8. through him in a bloody tide, the future had remained closed.
  9. Nothing, therefore, prepared him for the sudden deviation from the day's punishing
  10. and unpredictable exercises. His Master was not a patient teacher; neither was he a
  11. talkative one. He preferred action to debate, just as he preferred recrimination to
  12. reward. Never once in all the days they had sparred together, with lightsaber,
  13. telekinesis, or suggestion, had the Dark Lord offered a single word of
  14. encouragement. And that was as it should be, he knew. A teacher's job was not to
  15. drag a student along a single, well worn path. Rather it was to let the student
  16. forge his or her own way through the forest, intervening only when the student was
  17. hopelessly lost and needed to be corrected.
  18. Even on the Wrong paths, he knew, lay some wisdom. What didn't kill him only made
  19. him more powerful in the dark side.
  20. And there had been many, many times he had thought he might die...
  21. Breathing heavily after a punishing round of blows, lightsaber lowered in
  22. submission, he knelt before his Master and prepared for the killing strike. He could
  23. feel the wrath radiating from the Dark Lord like heat-a visceral, angry heat that
  24. brought out his skin in gooseflesh. For a moment that seemed to stretch for years,
  25. all he could hear was the regular, implacable respiration that kept the man inside
  26. the mask alive.
  27. "You were weak when I found you." The voice seemed to come from the far end of a
  28. long, deep tunnel. "You should never have survived my training."
  29. He closed his eyes. He had heard these words before. They were the closest thing to
  30. a bedtime story he'd had as a child. The moral he had taken from them was burned.
  32. Chapter 1
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