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champion distance runner.

During maneuvers for the about-to-graduate pilots, Darth


Vader had shown up. He didn't have any military rank
per se, but he was the Emperor's wrist-hawk and
everybody knew it. If it came from Vader's augmented
voxbox, it might as well have come from Palpatine's lips,
and you argued with it at your peril, no matter how high
your rank.

Vader had watched for a time, then asked for a TIE


fighter. He had climbed in, taken off, and joined the mock
battle. Within seconds, his electronic guns had painted
half a dozen ships, and it had come down to Vader versus
Barvel. Vil, whose ship had been hit in a three-on-one
early in the pretend fight, had been in a holding pattern
waiting for the engagement to finish, and he'd watched it
all.

Vader hadn't exactly flown circles around Barvel, but


every time The Shooter jigged or jinked, Vader was half a
second ahead of him. Barvel was doing things Vil didn't
think were possible in a TIE, and Vader not only matched
him, move for move, he just plain outflew him. It was-no
other word for it-astounding. Vil quickly realized that
Vader could have taken the flight school commander out
at any time-he was only playing with him.

That had been as spooky in its own way as Vil's


nightmare. He'd never seen a human pilot move like that.

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