The Rise of Darth Vader | Chapter 4 of 7 - Part: 1 of 15

Author: James Luceno | Submitted by: Maria Garcia | 7938 Views | Add a Review

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The Star Destroyer Exactor, second in a line of newly minted Imperator-class naval vessels, emerged from hyperspace and inserted into orbit, its spiked bow aimed at the former Separatist world of Murkhana. At sixteen hundred meters in length, the Exactor, unlike its Venator-class predecessors, was a product of Kuat Drive Yards, and featured gaping ventral launching bays rather than a dorsal flight deck.

Moved by gravity rather than by their ion drives, the carcasses of Banking Clan and Commerce Guild warships were grim reminders of the Republic invasion that had been launched in the concluding weeks of the war. Murkhana, however, had fared far better than some contested worlds, and the Corporate Alliance elite had decamped for remote systems in the galaxy's Tingel Arm, taking much of the planet's wealth with it.

In his quarters aboard the capital ship now under his personal command, Darth Vader, gloved and artificial right hand clamped on the hilt of his new lightsaber, knelt before a larger-than-life hologram of Emperor Palpatine. Only four standard weeks had elapsed since the war had ended and Palpatine had proclaimed himself Emperor of the former Republic, to the adulation of the leaders of countless worlds that had been drawn into the protracted conflict, and to the sustained acclaim of nearly the entire Senate. Palpatine wore a voluminous embroidered robe of rich weave, the cowl of which was raised, concealing in shadow the scars he had suffered at the hands of the four treasonous Jedi Masters who had attempted to arrest him in his chambers in the Senate Office Building, as well as other deformations resulting from his fierce battle with Master Yoda in the Rotunda of the Senate itself.

"This is an important time for you, Lord Vader," Palpatine was saying. "You are finally free to make full use of your powers. If not for us, the galaxy would never have been restored to order. Now you must embrace the sacrifices you made to bring this about, and revel in the fact that you have fulfilled your destiny. It can all be yours, my young apprentice, anything you wish. You need only have the determination to take it, at whatever cost to those who stand in your way." Palpatine's disfigurements were really nothing new; nor was his deliberate, vaguely contemptuous voice. The Emperor had used the same voice to procure his first apprentice; to ensnare Trade Federation Viceroy Nute Gunray in facilitating his dark designs; to persuade Count Dooku to unleash a war; and finally to seduce Vader—former Jedi Knight Anakin Skywalker—to the dark side, with the promise that he could keep Anakin's wife from dying.

Few among the galaxy's trillions were aware that Palpatine was also a Sith Lord, known by the title Darth Sidious, or that he had manipulated the war in order to bring down the Republic, crush the Jedi, and place the entire galaxy under his full control. Fewer still knew of the crucial role Sidious's current apprentice had played in those events, having helped Sidious defend himself against the Jedi who had sought his arrest; having led the assault on the Jedi Temple on Coruscant; having killed in cold blood the half dozen members of the Separatist Council in their hidden fortress on volcanic Mustafar. And who there had suffered even more gravely than Palpatine.

Down on one knee, his black-masked face raised to the hologram, tall, fearsome Vader was wearing the bodysuit and armor, helmet, boots, and cloak that both camouflaged the evidence of his transformation and sustained his life.

Without revealing his distress at being unable to maintain the kneeling posture, Vader said: "What are your orders, Master?"

And asked himself: Is this poorly designed suit the source of my distress, or is something else at work?

"Do you recall what I told you about the relationship between power and understanding, Lord Vader?"

"Yes, Master. Where the Jedi gained power through understanding, the Sith gain understanding through power."

Palpatine smiled faintly. "This will become clearer to you as you continue your training, Lord Vader. And to that end I will provide you with the means to increase your power, and broaden your understanding. In due time, power will fill the vacuum created by the decisions you made, the acts you carried out. Married to the order of the Sith, you will need no other companion than the dark side of the Force . . ."

The remark stirred something within Vader, but he was unable to make full sense of the feelings that washed through him: a commingling of anger and disappointment, of grief and regret .. . The events of Anakin Skywalker's life might have occurred a lifetime ago, or to someone else entirely, and yet some residue of Anakin continued to plague Vader, like pain from a phantom limb.

"Word has reached me," Palpatine was saying, "that a group of clone troopers on Murkhana may have deliberately refused to comply with Order Sixty-Six."

Vader tightened his hold on the lightsaber. "I had not heard, Master." He knew that Order Sixty-Six had not been hardwired into the clones by the Kaminoans who had grown them. Rather, the troopers—the commanders, especially—had been programmed to demonstrate unfailing loyalty to the Supreme Chancellor, in his role as Commander in Chief of the Grand Army of the Republic. And so when the Jedi had revealed their seditious plans, they had become a threat to Palpatine, and had been sentenced to death.

On myriad worlds Order 66 had been executed without misfortune—on Mygeeto, Saleucami, Felucia, and many others. Taken by surprise, thousands of Jedi had been assassinated by troopers who had for three years answered almost exclusively to them. A few Jedi were known to have escaped death by dint of superior skill or accident. But on Murkhana, apparently unique events had played out; events that were potentially more dangerous to the Empire than the few Jedi who had survived.

"What was the cause of the troopers' insubordination, Master?" Vader asked.

"Contagion." Palpatine sneered. "Contagion brought about by fighting alongside the Jedi for so many years. Clone or otherwise, there is only so much a being can be programmed to do. Sooner or later even a lowly trooper will become the sum of his experiences."

Light-years distant in his inner sanctum, Palpatine leaned toward the holotransceiver's cam.

"But you will demonstrate to them the peril of independent thinking, Lord Vader, the refusal to obey orders."

"To obey you, Master."

"To obey us, my apprentice. Remember that."

"Yes, my Master." Vader paused with purpose. "It's possible, then, that some Jedi may have survived?"

Palpatine adopted a look of consummate displeasure. "I am not worried about your pathetic former friends, Lord Vader. I want those clone troopers punished, as a reminder to all of them that for the rest of their abbreviated lives they would do well to understand whom they truly serve." Retracting his face into the hood of his robe, he said in a seething tone: "It is time that you were revealed as my authority. I leave it to you to drive the point home."


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Great book, nicely written and thank you BooksVooks for uploading

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