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