Darth Maul, Promising Youngster
by Padawan Zol-Tan

Disclaimer: Maul, Obi, and Sidious belong to George Imareallyrichgenius Lucas. My Apprentice is the property of Siubhan. This almost happened, and a woman named Twinkle really does exist.

My Apprentice crouched low behind the TV, her eyes like yellow dinner plates. The fuzzy kitty toy sat oblivious only a few feet away. She wiggled her butt, laser-focused on the ragged little dust-bunny-onna-string, thinking smugly how much it looked like the hamster next door. Then she leapt, already tasting the fuzz in her mouth.

Suddenly the kitty toy’s string jerked. In slow motion My Apprentice saw the string stretch, fighting momentarily with the weight of the fluff ball, then she saw the ball itself snatched away, right out from under her paws. She landed with a thud and watched her prey disappear around a corner, clutched in the slimy paws of a giggling pizza box creature.

Her master paused his Nintendo game and looked up at the foiled hunter with a smirk of Sithly amusement across his tattooed face. I meant to do that, she informed him, washing her paw nonchalantly. Maul snorted and turned back to his game.

The cat snarled. Third kitty toy in a week, dammit. They would pay. And so would her master, the smug bastard. She stalked over towards the sofa, eyeing the Nintendo cord. She moseyed over towards Maul, rubbing against his legs affectionately and -- oh dear, accidentally unplugging the Nintendo controls with her tail. What a shame.

“AAAAAAAAARGH!!!!” screamed Maul. “I was on level fifteen! You screwed up my game on level fifteen! You will die slowly and in horrible agony!” He picked up the cat by the scruff of her neck, bringing her level with his face. “You are gonna... aw shit,” he said as My Apprentice instated the dread Cleaning Whammy.

“I think I’ll go... clean...up... the... house...” said Maul, trying without success to fight the whammy. He gently put the cat down, stroked her ruffled fur back into place, and began humbly sorting the geological strata.

I’m gonna kill her, thought Maul, sifting through piles of pizza boxes, ancient paper, and notebooks. One of these days, just BAM! Her and Sidious both, and... what the hell’s this? He picked up a dusty old spiral notebook. It was pink. Maybe some of Obi-Wan’s old stuff-- but how did that get in Maul’s apartment? He brushed off a layer of dust to reveal doodles across the cover in black pen depicting elaborate and poorly drawn carnage. Nope, definitely Maul’s. But why in the name of all things evil and unorthodox was it pink? He opened to the front page...

Day Zero (I guess):
I will kill him. Some day soon I’m gonna catch him sleeping, and then I will slice him into tiny little pieces and feed him to the pigeons. Not only do I have to go to his bloody “Senatorial Apprenticeship Program for Promising Youngsters,” but I have to keep a diary about it! A pink diary! Tomorrow I’m going to waste an entire day I could be devoting to raising money for my tattoos in “formal business attire” listening to a bunch of perky twits spout motivational crap at me. And not just tomorrow, oh no. Three days of motivational crap. Three entire days of my life spent with my brain oozing out my ears. I have to participate! And why? Because my “commitment to the Dark Side is slipping.” See also “my master is a dick and I’m bored of mutilating small fuzzy animals.” Okay. That’s a page. Choke on it, you wrinkly old queen.

Day One: Today was the worst day of my entire life. I woke up at eight and my master made me put on a business suit. With a polka dot tie. And I had to polish my horns. Then he “escorted” me to the meeting. I had to ride the Scootermobile. I hate him. When I got to the meeting I sat down in the back row. Then this lady got up at the podium at the front of the room. “Welcome to the Senatorial Apprenticeship Program for Promising Youngsters,” she said, grinning like her face was about to break. “I can see we really have promising youngsters this year! I’m Ms. Smarmy, and I’m going to lead you on a wonderful journey into the business world! But first, let’s all get to know each other. I like to keep students involved, so we’re all going to play a little game to find out what we have in common. Now, when I say go, I want you all to mingle around in the room. Don’t forget to say ‘mingle mingle mingle!’ Then I’m going to stop you and tell you to get into groups of whatever number I say, then in your groups I want you to find out what you all have in common! Okay, any questions? Go!”

The rest of the class stood up. I took hold of the arm rests on my chair. There was no way in hell I was going to mingle. I saw Ms. Smarmy coming over to me, and I could hear the other students mumbling “mingle mingle” and sounding really embarrassed. “You must be Maul,” she said, sitting on the corner of the table. I scowled at her. “Your guardian told me you were a little shy, but he says he wants you to participate in our fun activities.” My mouth fell open. I had to participate. Sidious would know if I didn’t. I pried my fingers off the arms of my chair and stood up very slowly, radiating loathing.

“I’d be glad to,” I snarled, and started stalking around the room, growling “mangle mangle mangle,” ready to tear anyone and everyone to shreds.

“Okay, kids,” said Ms. Smarmy from the front of the room, “let’s get into groups of five!” I didn’t move while all the others scampered like little rats to find a place in a group. Someone grabbed me by the arm and hauled me into their group of four. “Don’t touch me!” I snarled, slapping him on the wrist. “Ow!” he whined.

A Twi’lek chick in the group smiled at me perkily. “Okay, great, now we have five,” she bubbled. “So what do we all have in common?” The others looked at their feet. “Let’s see,” continued the Twi’lek, “do we all have blue eyes? Oh, nope, yours are red. Um... we all have five fingers, right?” She tittered, apparently thinking she was funny.

“I don’t,” mumbled a little fat kid with four fingers on each hand.

Suddenly I got an idea. I smirked evilly. “Let me be the spokesperson,” I said, glaring at the rest of my group. No one objected, but only because I had gracefully taken the Twi’lek chick by the throat and was watching her turn from blue to purple.

Ms. Smarmy walked by. “Now, Maul, we don’t hurt our co-workers here!” she said, sounding like a Kindergarten teacher.

“Oh,” I said innocently, “was I hurting you? I’m so sorry.” I released the Twi’lek, who crumpled to the ground, gasping.

“That’s better,” said Ms. Smarmy. “Now that we’re all friends again, what do you all have in common?”

I looked around the room, making sure I had everyone’s attention. “We all have phalanges,” I said ominously. “And now, you know what? Everyone else in this room has phalanges, too.” I smiled evilly at their stunned little faces.

I went back to my seat happy, soaking up their pitiful fear and unease. Then I felt a terrifying disturbance in the Force. It was as if millions of voices cried out in terror then were suddenly turned perky. The door banged open, and waves of chipperness wafted in. I thought I would choke.

“Good morning, everyone!” screeched an old woman’s voice. “I hope you’re all having a terrific day! I know I am!” A skinny old lady bounced up to the front of the room. I looked around. She held everyone’s attention, and all the other students had these brainless, vapid grins on their faces. Some of them were drooling. The guy beside me was bouncing up and down in his seat, although he might have just had to pee. Terrified, I looked back at the old lady.

“I’m Ms. Berry, but you can all call me Twinkle!” she said, grinning. “Today I’m going to teach you how to have a great day every day! The first step is to feel good about yourself. Now, I’m going to ask you how you are, and you’re going to say, ‘TERRIFIC!’ So, how do you feel?”

“TERRIFIC!” shouted the entire class (except me), sinking deeper into the perky torpor. I could feel it trying to get into my brain, and I fought it as hard as I could, convincing myself that I wouldn’t be caught dead being whammied by anyone named Twinkle. Little by little I could feel the perkiness subside around me, but I couldn’t let down my guard.

“Now, let me tell you a little story,” continued Twinkle. “I was on a long cruise one time, with pretty fancy tablecloths and a ballroom and everything. Well, at dinner I saw a little old man sitting in the corner looking so sad it almost broke my heart. When he looked up at me I just smiled as hard as I could. And what do you know, he smiled back at me! Later while my parents were in the bathroom he came up to me and said, ‘I was so lonely here, and I was missing my own granddaughter. When you smiled your beautiful little smile at me, I thought about her and it made me happy.’ And then he pressed something into my hand. And guess what it was--a crisp new Republic credit note! All through the rest of that tour I went around smiling at all the little old men I saw! So you see, a smile can go a long long ways and brighten the heart of someone sad!”

“EW!” I shouted, but no one heard me over the loud chorus of “Aw!”

Then, to my horror, Twinkle pulled out a bag of little round red things. “Now,” she said, still grinning--I wonder if her face really did get stuck like that-- “To remind you all to be happy, I bought everyone clown noses! I’ll pass them out, and I want to see you all put them on and say you feel terrific!”

She came down the isle and eventually plopped a red foam clown nose down in front of me. Then she leaned over. “You don’t look too happy, little boy. How ‘bout you put on your nose. I know nice Senator Palpatine--you’re so lucky to have him as a guardian--will be happy to know you’re getting over your shyness.”

I stared at Twinkle, horrified. She knew who I was. She knew who my master was. If I didn’t do what she wanted she could hunt me down and be perky at me. I looked down at the nose, then up at Twinkle, and I knew I didn’t have a choice. I picked up the nose and put it on slowly, feeling my Sithly dignity shrivel up like a salted Hutt. I scowled at Twinkle, who grinned back.

“Now tell me you feel TERRIFIC!” she urged. I swallowed. I couldn’t. Surely Sidious’ full wrath couldn’t be worse that this. But I bet Twinkle’s could. I swallowed again and bit my lip, trying to choke out the words just so she’d leave me alone.

“I... I feel... terr.... terr.... terrible, there, you happy?”

“Aw, Maul, that wasn’t terrific, you naughty little boy. Now let’s hear you say it for real.” I looked around. Everyone was staring at me with those horrible grins. I could feel them sucking the coolness out of me. I had to make them stop. I jabbed my pencil into my leg.

“Okay, I feel terrific!” I shouted. “Now bugger off!” The whole room applauded. Twinkle winked at me. I felt slimy.

Day Two: I’m not going back again. They can’t make me. If they want me to come back tomorrow, they’ll have to drag my festering bloated corpse in and duct tape it to the chair. My master was very persuasive in forcing me back today; he threatened to invite Twinkle Berry over. I had no choice.

When I came in this morning (way, way too early for this kind of shit), the perkiness seemed to have worn off the others a little. I slouched in my chair, hoping to stay out of the line of vision of whoever was scheduled for perky-torture today. The skinny nerd sitting next to me was apparantly trying to get rid of his perky hangover by chugging as many cokes as he could then burping loudly. Amateur. I snatched his next coke. I’d show him how the Sith burp, the pathetic little wanna-be.

I’d just started slugging down the coke with incredible style, not to mention stamina, when this pudgy grinning guy in a neon yellow business suit bounced in. His necktie was red with big green palm trees, and his toupee didn’t match the rest of his hair. I spewed my coke all over the back of the chick in front of me and spent about ten minutes getting the rest of it out of my lungs.

The yellow guy came over to me and slapped me on the back. “Don’t touch me!” I choked. He hovered around me until I caught my breath then grinned--that same brainwashed perky-whammy grin--and said “Gee, little fella, you’d better drink a little slower, dontcha think? No hurry, right?” I growled, then started coughing again.

When I straightened up at last, the chick I’d spewed coke all over was glaring at me. I snarled and turned on my own Glare. She sneered and turned back around, but I could tell she was intimidated. Coke notwithstanding, I am hot shit.

So anyway, banana man got up to the front of the room and grinned more, folding his face up into happy little wrinkles. It made him look like a basset hound. “Hey, everyone!” he said, beaming. I wanted to strangle him. “Anyone tired?” The class groaned. “Well, then, today is the perfect day for my little talk! How many of you youngsters have alarm clocks?” Most of the hands in the room went up. Mine didn’t. I just have a master who waits until I’m in the middle of a really good dream, then comes in and screams in my ear. And HE doesn’t have a snooze button.

“So how many of your alarm clocks make you angry?” Again, most hands went up. Wusses. “Well, the first thing you need to do in order to get up refreshed and ready to attack your day--” Or your master, I thought, “--is a nice soothing alarm clock, you know with music, or bird calls or something.”

Motion out of the corner of my eye caught my attention. The little nerdy guy beside me was squirming in his seat and sweating. Apparantly all those cokes caught up to him fast. I smirked, as an evil plot formed itself in my head. I leaned over to him. “You know, those alarm clocks that make babbling brook noises are very soothing. Drip, drip, tinkle, gurgle...” He made a high-pitched noise and crossed his legs.

“...And so you don’t have to start your day off angry, and you can be happy all day long!” continued Banana Man.

“...splash, gargle, drip...” I said, watching the nerdy kid turn red and start sweating, bouncing up and down in his seat frantically. He raised his hand.

“Now, we have a little video for you about productive ways for kids like you to direct your anger,” said Banana Man. He glanced over and saw the nerdy guy’s hand up. “Please hold your questions until the end of the video.”

“But.. but...” squeaked the kid, but the lights had already gone out and the movie projector was running. Something that might have passed for rock fifty years ago played over the speakers. A square-jawed cop with an El-Vis Prezzli hairdo strode across the screen, talking self-consciously into a com link and looking in the camera out of the corner of his eye.

“What’s that?” he said, annunciating perfectly. “A teenager’s been shot in the leg? We’ll be right there.” You could almost hear the little ding noise from his squeaky straight little teeth. I swear I’ll never brush again.

The scene changed to a really clean alleyway, in which a kid lay, wishing he looked like he might possibly be in pain. He just looked embarrassed. Another couple of teenage guys stood in the background, one of them holding a basketball for no reason whatsoever. “Dude,” said one. I groaned. “It’s such a bummer when hip guys gotta go hurtin’ each other like that.”

“Yeah,” replied the other. “It really bums me out. If only cats could find some other outlet for anger than violence,” he said, failing to twirl the basketball on one finger and looking like he wished someone would shoot him, or at least the writer. “I mean, some cats punch a pillow or write poetry or somethin’, and that don’t hurt no one, man.”

“Yeah, last week,” said the first guy, with a please-don’t-put-this-on-my-resume look, “Bobby stole Jimmy’s bike and returned it with the gas tank busted. And y’know, Bobby got real mad. But he just told himself to stay cool and remembered that there are four steps to dealing with bummin’ situations like that.”

“Really?” asked the second guy, looking pseudo-interested. “Whoa, dude, I could use that.”

“Yeah,” said the first guy. “First you tell yourself just to chill it, man, and to think over your problem. Then you find a good time to talk to the other dude, when he’s not busy or hangin’ with his homies or nothin’. Next you tell him how you feel, and that what he’s doin’s not cool, and that he’s hurtin’ your feelings. Then you both, you know, negotiate, so nobody’s jivin’ nobody, and you’re buddies again.” They both laughed sickly and slapped each other on the shoulder and walked off into the sunset to the Kessel Spice Girls’ Greatest Hits.

The lights came back on. I blinked. “Homies?” “Jivin??” Who did they think they were fooling? I realized that my momentary cultural torpor had made me drool all down the front of my shirt. I wiped my mouth quickly with the back of my hand, trying to pull myself together. Damn. These people were scary. I noticed the guy beside me was gone, probably to the bathroom. Why didn’t I think of that? Probably had to do with my not being able to think. “Jivin’”??? It was unbearable.

“Well,” said Banana Man, taking the podium again, “now that you all know the four steps to conflict resolution, I’ll turn the program over to Mrs. Pyu-Tridd for her wonderful lecture on work styles.” The room applauded mechanically as a Mon Calamari in a purple business dress with enormous shoulder pads took the podium. It was scary seeing someone without lips grinning.

“Today we’re going to find out if we’re Ewoks, Kaadus, Banthas, or Taun-Tauns! Doesn’t that sound like fun?”

“No,” I mumbled, “and I already know I’m a Taun-Taun, so go vacation in a Saarlac pit, you overgrown anchovy.”

“Is there something you’d like to share with the class?” asked Pyu-Tridd, staring at me with her head tilted in a very lobotomy-esque way.

“Yeah, the Black Plague,” I mumbled.

“What was that? You have to speak up, dearie.”

I took a deep breath. I’m a Sith. I could handle it. “Nothing,” I said, looking semi-innocent.

“Well, maybe you’d like to help me hand out these little surveys, then.”

“Oh, screw.” I got up out of my chair slowly and slunk to the front of the room, scowling. I snatched the handful of papers she held out to me and smacked one down in front of everyone. One of the desks cracked when I hit it. I could feel them starting to fear me.

I sat down in my desk again, smirking. I looked down at the survey. It was three bloody pages long. Three pages of “Which of these best describes you (pick only one): Bouncy; Bold; Behaved; Balanced.” I growled. Sidious would know if I didn’t fill out the sheet, or if I just circled words randomly. I went through the three pages, circling the words that came closest to applying to me. Nowhere did it mention “Violent,” “Sithly,” or “Hot Shit.”

According to the directions, I totaled up how many answers in each column I’d come up with. I couldn’t believe I was taking instructions from a fish in purple. A perky one. It was too much for Sithly dignity to bear. Homicide would have to happen. I stood suddenly and raised my hand up into the air, ready to hurl a ball of pure rage-powered Force at the slimy cringing filth, when said filth said, “Ooh, a volunteer to share his test results with us! Maul?”

All the heads in the room turned to stare at me, brainwashed crooked little grins slapped onto their faces. I could feel them draining the Sithly energy out of me. “Uh...” I said. They all looked so... evil. Not unwholesome, Sithly evil, either. Happy evil. The kind of evil that thinks it’s not evil. Perky evil. I mean, the kind of evil that, instead of just killing people, it turns them happy-evil, too--just random people, not even exclusively Jedi--and then they’re grateful for it. Ack.

I sat down again. I swallowed. I tried to talk, but I just kind of wheezed. I swallowed again. I had to get control of myself. I couldn’t let them throw me like that. Not me, not Darth Maul, scourge of puppies everywhere and surviving apprentice to the Drag Grinch Himself. I took a deep breath.

“Uh... I came out as a... um, a... a bantha?!” Oh, that was so wrong. I have a kilt knitted from my own mother’s wool! I’m a Taun-Taun! How dare they call me a bantha! I mean, if it had been “rancor” or something, that would have been fine, but bantha?

Pyu-Tridd nodded wisely (I think). “I thought you might be. You seem like a hard worker, but you need to work a little on your organization skills. Now, what’s your secondary animal? The one you got the second highest score for?”

Bantha. Bloody bantha. How dare they? I tuned in to what the fish was saying, jumped, and looked back down at my sheet. “Um... Ewok.” Oh no. That was going too far. Way too far. I am not fuzzy, and I do not say “Yub-yub.” Ever. I jabbed my pencil into my leg again.

“How sweet,” said Pyu-Tridd. “So Maul is a bantha and an Ewok.” She reached into her bag and brought out two little shaggy bean bag toy things, vaguely distinguishable as an Ewok and a bantha. She had made little clothes for the Ewok. My eyes crossed. Oh Force.

“Now, see, Maul’s two top scores are pretty far apart, like this,” she said, holding the two beanie-things as far apart as she could. She looked around at the papers nearest her. “Ah,” she said, and put the Ewok back in favor of a ratty little thing that looked vaguely like a taun-taun through a blizzard at night when you’re squinting. “Now this young lady’s top scores are tied, so her bantha and taun-taun are like this!” She slapped the bantha down on the taun-taun’s back. I nearly choked.

“Oh, that is just wrong!” I shouted before I could stop myself. Everyone turned and stared. I slammed my head against the desk, but it didn’t help.

Day Three: Well, I lied. They dragged me back in. Well, okay, they held my Nintendo over the trash compactor until I went in on my own, but hey, priorities. So, anyway. I came in and the desks were arranged in little bunches. Each bunch had a long white piece of paper in the center, with glue, yarn, safety scissors, Extra-Non-Toxic-Jumbo-Giant-Tropical-Fruit- Scented-Magic-Markers, little squares of brightly colored felt, and feathers in a box on top. Oh shit, I thought, artsy-fartsy group project crap.

Ms. Smarmy took the podium. “Well, today is the last day of our learning adventure, so I thought we’d start it off with a fun little activity. Now, I’m going to assign you all groups of four, and you’re going to use the paper and crafts materials on your desks to make a model SAPPY student. Remember to make them well-dressed, and make sure they have a watch! I’ll give you until... 9:30, so you have about an hour and a half. Okay?” I considered hanging myself with my necktie, but the thought of leaving little polka-dot prints in my neck stopped me. Besides, then what would happen to my Nintendo?

I turned out to be in a group with the Twi’lek chick I’d strangled, the nerdy kid with the wussy bladder capacity, and two other twits I didn’t know. Ms. Smarmy handed out a little sheet. It looked like this:

Group Name_____________________________________
Group Leader____________________________________ (That is so me, I thought)
Task Setter______________________________________
Group Spokesperson_______________________________ (How very politically correct)
Peacekeeper/Attitude Adjuster________________________ (Heh. Poor weenie who gets that one)
“Okay, twerps,” I said, rubbing my hands together. “Now, since I’m obviously the leader--”

“Now I’ll assign you your positions in the group, starting with Maul’s group.” See? I thought, Maul’s group. As in, Maul is the leader. No problem.

“Okay, for Group Leader... how about Ma... no, Bar’biy, I think you’d make a great leader,” she said smiling at the Twi’lek chick, who rubbed the fingerprints on her neck and smirked. My jaw dropped. Oh, no way was she giving someone else my spot. Especially not her. I opened my mouth to protest, but Smarmy interrupted me.

“Now then, I think we need someone very responsible for Task Setter.” I tried to look eager (in a very responsible way), but I had a very bad feeling I wasn’t going to get picked. The phrase “Peacekeeper” flashed ominously through my head. “How about you, Renn?” she asked, smiling at the weak-bladdered nerd. He pushed up the bridge of his thick glasses and looked nervous.

“And now for the Spokesperson. For this we need someone outgoing, someone with a nice voice.” Now that had to be me. I looked over at the other guy, who was a scrawny Wookie. I mean, come on, right? Not even the perky-monsters could be cruel enough to pick a Wookie over me. No-brainer, right?

Wrong. “Gr-Wargle, I think that would be a perfect office for you.”

“Mrrrgh,” said Gr-Wargle. I growled.

“...Which leaves you, Maul! You get to be...”

“I know. I know. Just... you don’t even have to say it. It’s... fine. Great.”

“Maul, are you not happy with being the Attitude Adjuster and Peacekeeper? Are you nervous about it? Don’t worry, all you have to do is make sure your group members are all in harmony.”

I winced. “Harmony,” I said through my teeth. “Right. Sure. No problem. Harmony. Right.” My pencil point broke against my leg. Ms. Smarmy smiled and walked away. I turned back to my “group.” I could feel myself starting to foam at the mouth.

“Now listen, you pathetic cringing bunch of empowered pantywaists, we’re going to do it my way, or body parts will fly,” I said in a deadly whisper.

“But you’re the Peacekeeper/Attitude Adjuster!” whined Renn meekly.

“Exactly. So if you don’t do what I say, I’ll adjust your attitudes and keep all the pieces.” They all shrunk under the Glare, and Gr-Wargle started whimpering. Damn, I’m good. “Now give me the fucking black marker.” I attacked the sheet of paper with Sithly grace and speed, leaving a wobbly, vaguely person-shaped outline. Well. Maybe it was a Hutt-hybrid. Or maybe I just didn’t want to go there. Eew.

I paused, the marker in my hand, contemplating the outline. It needed clothes. But should I go for Sith, punk, Goth, or scantily clad love-slave? Looking over the outline again, I ruled out the last possibility; I wasn’t even sure whether the-- well, the whatever it was-- was male or female. Yet another place I didn’t want to go.

--Damn, thought Maul, now lying on the floor, morbidly absorbed in the journal, why the hell not?--

I opted for Sith. I scribbled some really kick-ass robes onto my person, then gave it giant claws, fangs, and glowing red eyes. I grinned in Sithly delight. There’s your participation, you sadistic Senatorial sod! Which gave me an idea...

I yanked the blue marker out of the cardboard case and snatched the top off. After a flurry of doodling I’d made passable blue lightning. Come to think of it, it did look something like Sidious. Now the real fun began. At the top and bottom of the page I put rows of gigantic yellow teeth with little red eyes peeking over the top set. Then I drew in a little Sith (I had to make him little so he’d fit into the picture) with really cool red and black tattoos, although I hope mine will be more symmetrical when I get them, and a red double-bladed lightsaber. One end of the lightsaber was sticking through Sidious’s stomach, even though I had to make one of my arms and one side of my lightsaber really long and color over the black marker to achieve that, and the paper started getting slushy. The little me looked very satisfied with himself. I looked over my shoulder to make sure my group wasn’t watching. They weren’t, having given up and taken all the Rice Krispies Treats. I gave my two-dimentional self a wink and a pat on the back--or, well, technically the front, since he didn’t have a back. “You are hot shit,” I told it confidentially.

I snitched some tape from the next group over and carefully went over to the wall to hang my masterpiece up. I had to stand on a desk to get the top up where the bottom wouldn’t drag the floor, but I managed without too much loss of dignity. I stepped back and surveyed my work. I snickered. I love my life.

“Um, that’s very... creative, Maul,” said Ms. Smarmy, coming up behind me. I smirked. I could feel uncomfortableness radiating from her. “I’m sure Senator Palpatine will be interested to see that when he comes today.”

I jumped. “What? You’re kidding.”

She shrugged. “It was on the schedule I handed out the first day. Maybe you should read more carefully next time.” She went on to survey the work of the other groups.

I felt like I’d left my stomach at home. I could barely stand up straight. He’d kill me. He’d bloody kill me. He’d fry me and chop me up into little twitching pieces. This was the end; I might as well just go hang myself with my tie. Unless...

Unless there was still time to make a new poster. It hadn’t taken me long at all to do the first one, and the other groups were all still working on theirs. It was a slim chance, but it was better than no chance at all. I dragged a desk over to the wall and snatched the paper down. All I had to do was draw another one on the back, and everything would be fine.

I turned the long sheet of paper over. The markers had soaked right through the paper, so that the entire design was clearly visible. I made a weird strangling noise and dropped the poster on the floor. I sped over to Ms. Smarmy, jumping over desks and stiff-arming students out of my way. I reached her in under a second.

“Um, can I have another piece of paper? Like right now?”

She smiled indulgently. “I’m sorry, Maul, but we only had enough for everyone to have one piece. Remember, in the workplace, we can’t goof around. It’s important to use our resources wisely.”

“Yeah, yeah, okay. Um... I, uh... I need to go to the bathroom. Right now. And, um, I need to take my poster with me. Just because.”

Ms. Smarmy looked confused, but that was kind of normal. She opened her mouth to say something when the door banged open. I didn’t even look to see who it was. I did look over at my poster lying on the floor face-up about fifteen feet away. I could feel Sidious looking at it too. My skin crawled.

“Well, Maul,” he said icily, “I see you’ve been participating in the class. That’s an interesting piece of artwork there. Would you mind explaining it to me?”

I swallowed. Why couldn’t he just go ahead and kill me? “Well, it’s like this: The, uh... guy in the middle, he kinda represents, um...” The whole room was silent, staring at me. “It’s um... um... She’s the leader, ask her,” I said, pointing at the Twi’lek, who still had her mouth glued shut by Rice Krispies Treats.

“Mmp?” she said indignantly. “Gmm ym wmmm gumm!”

“Ar’grrrgh,” clarified Gr-Wargle.

I ventured to glance up at Sidious. He glanced back at me, making the Glare look like Bambi eyes. I shrugged innocently, wondering when I could start breathing again. Sidious turned to look at me. Well, I thought, goodbye to Nintendo, TV, kicking Ewoks, Count Chocula...

Just then there was a loud tortured engine noise from outside the building. A strange look crossed Sidious’s face and he ran to the window. I looked over his shoulder just in time to see his car speeding around the corner in a cloud of exhaust. A skinny punk with spiky hair and a rat-tail behind the wheel flicked a bird over his shoulder at us.

“Force bugger me sideways!” screamed Sidious, then realized that the roomful of potential supporters was staring speechlessly at him. He cleared his throat, and the Dark Master of the Sith blushed. I smothered a snort and attempted to etch the image on my brain. Now, no matter what he did to me, it would all be worth it. Heh heh.

He gathered his shattered dignity around him. “Maul,” he said between clenched teeth, “if you would be so kind as to retrieve my car and deal with that... young person, it will benefit you greatly.”

I was out the door before he had finished the sentence. Anything that would save my ass... Although, technically, I probably owed the punk my life in an indirect sort of way. But who cares? Sith don’t do debt. So I climbed on my stupid motorscooter, feeling like Mr. Rogers Goes a-Biking, and set off to find the stupid car, tracking the punk with the Force.

I caught up with him at a gas station in the lower districts of Coruscant. He was just emerging from the little convenience store with a bottle of Guinness and the contents of the cash register. I stepped in between him and the car, looking as impressive as I could in a polka-dot tie. He raised an eyebrow and very nearly succeeded in hitting me over the head with the Guinness bottle. Not like that would have worked anyway, but it was a good effort on his part. I caught his wrist inches from my head, realizing that this was the first person (other than Sidious) I’d seen in three days who hadn’t been perky. Maybe I wouldn’t kill him. But he did make me ride a weeniemobile in a tie. Revenge would be mine.

I looked into his eyes and easily bent his drug-fogged brain to my will. “You will go turn yourself in to the police.”

His snarl vanished, replaced by a vacant smile. Well, shit. “I think I should go turn myself in,” he repeated.

I snarled. It felt good to be ruining someone else’s dignity. “And you’ll ask for drug rehab. And you’ll give me that money,” I added for good measure.

Maul put down the journal. He didn’t want to read any more. He had a very, very bad feeling.

Maul sat on the floor, gazing at the wall that separated his apartment from Obi-Wan’s. He’d never even thought of it before, not even when he’d discovered the padawan’s criminal record. He’d probably supressed that memory along with all the rest of SAPPY. Perhaps this was another of those things he might conveniently forget to mention to Kenobi. He continued staring at the wall. Shit.

My Apprentice walked by. Maul’s eyes crossed as she glared at him. “Gosh,” he said in a slurred monotone, “this place is filthy. I’d better do something about it.” He absentmindedly tossed the pink journal into the trash can.