Rated R violence, adult situations

Summary: Pre-TPM.  Darth Maul is around seventeen in this story and is
given charge of one of Darth Sidious' prisoners who is a Jedi, but also a
girl his age.  At first, he just finds her intriguing but after a brutal
encounter with his master one morning, the Jedi shows him
compassion--something he has never experienced from anyone before, let alone
an enemy.  It suddenly changes the way he regards her and Jedi in general
until Sidious reveals a scheme that immediately puts a stop to it.


The Force stirred.  Lying naked on the cool stone floor of his room, Maul
woke slowly. Slick with perspiration and shivering slightly, he realized his
raging fever had broken sometime in the night, but his mind was still murky
and struggled to interpret just what the Force was trying to tell him.

Feeling mysteriously vulnerable and full of adolescent apprehension, he
defensively curled his aching body  into a tighter ball.  A familiar
darkness soon settled over him and seeped into his consciousness.  It was a
call for action: one Maul preferred to ignore.  However, there was no
denying the presence he sensed.  An entire season had passed, yet it
remained unmistakable.  With it, his period of solitude had come to an end.

Lord Darth Sidious had returned.

Cursing under his breath at his master's untimely arrival, Maul gathered the
Force to him, used it to push aside the sharp pain in his head and summon
the strength to rise and get dressed.  His trembling muscles were stiff with
disuse and protested even the slightest movement he made.  Maul knew it
didn't matter how ill he was, he needed to be there--at the landing
platform--when his master arrived.


Stalking through the dim, twisted corridors, Maul's overheated mind tried to
rationalize the undisciplined state he had indulged in the past few days.
He had not trained.  He had not studied.  Or meditated.  He had only slept
fitfully and dreamed of dying--a welcome release from the grip of his
wretched fever.  Fortunately it had not come to that.  He wasn't completely
convinced yet that he was ready to die that way having just immerged from
puberty.  There were still too many things he wanted to accomplish first.

Maul turned down the narrow hall which led directly to the old castle's
hangar.  He deliberately slowed his pace to give himself a few more moments,
but the young Sith still couldn't think of anything to say to his master to
stave off the inevitable punishment.  Maul knew his illness would not
matter.  Sidious would only see weakness and weakness was never tolerated.
The punishment was deserved, Maul concluded gloomily.

Darth Sidious was already descending the boarding ramp  when Maul arrived.
Cloaked in shadows and a heavy blue cowl, the Dark Lord raised his hand
slowly, hailing his apprentice.

The younger Sith hurried towards the ship and awkwardly crashed to his knees
at the foot of the ramp, submissively bowing his head and lowering his eyes.

"Welcome back, Master Sidious," Maul's voice rasped.  His usually deep,
silky rumble was currently raw-sounding from lack of use as much as the

Sidious paused momentarily and regarded his young apprentice distastefully.
His keen senses dutifully informed him of everything he needed to know and
more thoroughly than anything Maul could say.

"You've been ill," the Sith Lord stated flatly.

"Yes Master," Maul confirmed and cleared his throat.  He heard Sidious sigh.

"You will need to train even harder these next few weeks to make up for your
distinct lack of progress in my absence then," the Dark Lord said and
apathetically shuffled off.

Maul dared to look up.  "That was my intention, Master."

"Good," Sidious announced, effectively dismissing the matter.  "You may rise
and walk with me."  He waited for Maul to stand before continuing.  "I've
brought you back something.  It's in the ship," he added, almost as an
afterthought, and gestured limply behind him.

The young Sith was startled by this revelation.  It was not like his master
to bestow him with gifts.  He turned his head and glanced back at the ship

"Thank you, my master," he managed to reply.  "May I ask what it is?"

Sidious chuckled humorlessly.  "Ah, the impatience of youth."  He took
several steps before continuing.  "You'll see soon enough, boy."

Maul quickly swallowed down his next question and nodded sharply.  He
followed his master out of the hangar and into the south passage.

"So tell me, before you were stricken," Sidious began, mockingly emphasizing
'stricken', "how far did you get with the empath droid?"

Maul raised his chin.  "Level four, Master."

"And the passkeeper?"

"I destroyed that droid, Master."

The Dark Lord nodded thoughtfully.  "How long do you think it will take you
to recover that level of accuracy and speed?"

The Sith Apprentice frowned, flexing his back and rolling his shoulders to
test his current level of pain and muscle tone.  "An hour...perhaps two."
Maul licked his dry, cracked lips.  "I have not trained in a few days."

"Yes, I am aware."  Now Sidious frowned.  "Don't try to impress me by lying
to me, boy.  Failure at this point would prove most unpleasant for you."  He
lengthened his stride and continued on into the main drawing room.
"Deception would only compound it," he informed after lowering the hood of
his cloak and locking his eyes on Maul.

Ire rose in the young Sith.  "My lord, I am not deceiving you," he replied,
struggling to keep his tone respectful.  "I only need an hour, at most, to
regain my strength and speed.  Admittedly, my stamina may require more
attention, but you did not question that."  He faced Sidious challengingly,
feeling empowered by his sudden anger.

A slow smile crept across Darth Sidious' countenance.  Maul's arrogance
pleased him.  He knew his apprentice would not disappoint him.

"But you will also need stamina...for what awaits you in my ship, young
one," Sidious went on cryptically.  He took a seat with a heavy sigh and
continued to peer up at Maul expectantly.  "Go and see to them.  They are
quite valuable."

"Is it a new type of droid then, Master?  For training?"  Maul tried to
sound pleased but his enthusiasm went flat at the idea of more droids.  He
sighed and closed his eyes briefly.  He could only hope these would prove a
little more challenging than the ones he had been facing lately.

The Force surrounding Darth Sidious became charged with his irritation and
radiated towards Maul with a suffocating toxicity.  "No, not another droid,
my presumptuous apprentice," he proclaimed sourly, leaning forward slightly.
  He waited until he sensed the appropriate amount of humiliated submission
in Maul, then he smiled cruelly, and settled back in his chair.  "I have
brought you a Jedi."

Maul's heart jumped and his breath caught in his throat.  That was the last
thing he expected his master to say.  "A..a Jedi?"  A gift indeed.

Sidious' gaze was unwavering.  "Yessss," he hissed.  "A Jedi Knight and his
healer padawan, in fact.  They are in the ship's hold.  They'll wake soon.
You need to transfer them to the dungeons before they do."

Maul's mind was still struggling to grasp it all.  His heart pounded and a
carefully cultivated hatred now coursed through his veins with almost
unbearable intensity.  "I will be allowed to kill them, won't I?"

The Sith Lord snickered.  "In time.  In time.  For now, you will use the
knight to sharpen your skills in one on one combat.  A living, thinking
adversary will be beneficial at this point in your training.  It will also
give you a taste for the kill.  You'll find humanoids are quite different
from animals and machines.  And their deaths are far more satisfying."

Maul inhaled sharply as he pondered his master's words.  Death.  Feeling
someone die.  Sensing their life ebb away until they are more.
The death of a Jedi.  And by his hand!  He couldn't think of anything more
empowering.  What a sublime victory defeating a Jedi Knight would be.

"We will also use the padawan, only in a different way," Sidious continued.
"Keep the child with you for now.  I want the padawan subdued, but not
harmed just yet.  Once separated, their bond must remain open and strong if
this plan is to work."

"Master, I thank you again!" the Sith Apprentice rang out with a distorted
sense of joy.  "You have truly honored me with this consideration."

Sidious nodded and blinked his eyes slowly.  "I feel the bloodlust in you,
Maul.  It nearly consumes you.  But I must warn you not to surrender to it
until I allow you to."  The Dark Lord fixed his pale eyes on his young
apprentice.  "These Jedi were hard to come by.  I brought them here to
instruct you.  Not for you to just exterminate."

This was even more startling to Maul.  A rush of indignation washed over
him.  "What can they teach me?  My skills are well beyond any Jedi's,
Master.  I will fight them, but I cannot guarantee I will be able to keep
them alive for long."

"Don't try my patience, young one," Sidious growled menacingly.  "Are you
saying your skills with a lightsaber leave no room for improvement?"

Maul immediately shook his head.  "No, Master, I didn't--"

"Would you care to put these ultimate skills of yours to the test then?"
Darth Sidious continued, cutting Maul's denial off.  "Against an entire
legion of Jedi?  It can be arranged."

"Master Sidious, forgive my impertinence.  I only meant--"

"Enough!" the Sith snapped.  "Return to the ship.  See that the Jedi are
placed under heavy guard.  Tend to their needs...and then you may resume
your studies."  Sidious paused and rose ceremoniously.  "I am weary and wish
to retire.  You, on the other hand will continue training until I come to
fetch you is that understood?"

"Yes Master."  Maul nodded and lowered his eyes, a mixture of relief and
dejection washing over him simultaneously.  The punishment was lenient, but
it also meant he would not fight the Jedi today.  Perhaps Sidious could
sense the remnants of Maul's fever-induced lethargy.  Was it possible he was
concerned for him then?

"Go boy, what are you waiting for?" the Dark Lord grumbled.

Maul swallowed hard.  "Master...I am anxious to use the Jedi to train.  If I
promise to show restraint, may I have your permission?  It would offer me a
unique incentive to speed my recovery."

Sidious stared up at Maul for a long time before erupting in laughter.

"Patience, my apprentice!  Patience!" he chastised, but regarded Maul's
enthusiasm with cool approval.  "You will have your chance soon enough.  In
the meantime, we need to let our Jedi friends adjust to their new
surroundings.  It will encourage them to quickly come to terms with what I
will propose to them later."  He sneered wickedly and placed his hand on
Maul's arm.  "They will comply, I promise you.  Their compassion for each
other will insure it."

"Yes Master," Maul conceded and bowed deeply as Sidious left the room.


Maul returned to the docked ship as instructed, and ordered four battle
droids and four utility droids to the hangar to assist him with transporting
the two unconscious Jedi to the lower levels.

Climbing the boarding ramp to the ship's interior, Maul gathered the Force
to him to sharpen his senses.  He drew his lightsaber instinctively as the
presence of the two Jedi suddenly filled his awareness.  He heard the droids
clamoring up the ramp behind him and turned to motion them forward.

"There are two prisoners in the hold," he informed the droids quietly.  "I
will need your assistance in transporting them.  They will not be able to
walk on their own and will need to be carried.  Nevertheless, stay on alert.
  They may waken at any time."

"Yes Sir," the highest ranking battle droid acknowledged.  It turned to the
utility droids.  "Have two lift crafts standing by."

"Yes Sir."

Cautiously, Maul entered the hold first, lightsaber in hand, poised and
ready for a confrontation, but the two Jedi remained in their drug-induced
sleep, tethered together to a back wall of the ship's hold by means of
electronic restraining devices.

The Jedi Knight was facing the wall.  Long golden hair spilled down his back
and over massive shoulders, veiling his down-turned face.  He was a full
head taller than Maul, with long, powerful limbs and a lithe, athletic body
which he had angled in such a way as to protectively sheild his small
padawan who was tucked tightly against his right side.

Maul nodded in approval.  This Jedi Knight may prove to be a worthy
adversary after all.  His strength and size alone would undoubtedly put the
young Sith's skills to the test.

Out of curiosity, Maul stepped forward and grabbed a handful of the Jedi's
hair and jerked his head back to study him closer, but the Jedi's particular
species was unknown to the Sith.  His exotic face was fierce-looking, like a
carnivorous animal's.  Tan human-like skin was lightly covered in short
tawny fur and he had a feline's flat, broad nose, and small slanted eyes
rimmed in black.  The young Sith inquisitively pushed up the Jedi's cleft
upper lip which revealed a generous mouthful of pointed white teeth and long
lethal-looking fangs.

Suddenly a large clawed hand unexpectedly closed over  Maul's wrist.  The
Sith went rigid with alarm and had to consciously fight his first impulse to
lop the furry hand off with his lightsaber.

"Quickly!" Maul snapped to the droids.  "Get this prisoner below before he
wakes further!"  Cursing, the young Sith backed away from the Jedi and
forcibly pried the curved claws out of his punctured wrist.  He then
gestured impatiently at the utility droids standing by with a lift craft.

"You four, take the child up to my quarters," he instructed, recalling his
master's command to keep the padawan close to him.  The utility droids could
handle the padawan while he and the battle droids dealt with the imposing
Jedi Knight.

As the droids deactivated the connections holding the Jedi to the wall, he
slumped heavily to the floor, still enough under the influence of whatever
Sidious had drugged him with to be manageable.  The droids pulled him up to
load him on the lift craft, staggering under his considerable weight, and
for the first time, exposing the padawan he had been sheltering. The younger
Jedi stirred, emitting a small moan.

Immediately the Sith's attention turned to the padawan.  It was then he
discovered the so-called child was not a child at all, but an adolescent
human, maybe just slightly younger than he was.

Maul's narrowed yellow eyes followed the curve of a hip to a tiny cinched
waist and the delicate swell of womanly breasts.  He swallowed down the
thick dryness forming in his throat as he fixed his gaze on her, suddenly
entranced.  She was small, which might explain why Sidious had referred to
her as a child, but to the younger Sith, her feminine physique was

Maul leaned a little closer to her.  The girl was beautiful, he decided,
uncomfortably aware that he had never declared that about other females he
had encountered.  Her features were finely chiseled and her complexion was
smooth and transluscently white framed by dark plaited hair which just
touched her shoulders.  She looked warm and soft and Maul struggled with the
urge to bend down and brush the hair from her eyes to allow him an
unobstructed view of her face.  A muddle of peculiar feelings stirred deep
within him, suddenly snapping him out of the trance the unconcious girl had
put him in.

The young Sith cursed under his breath, reprimanding himself.  He didn't
like how strange this particular girl made him feel, knowing he had never
felt this way before and didn't understand why he was feeling this way now.
Maybe his fever had affected his mind.  Granted, in his somewhat cloistered
existence, his reaction to her was understandable, but Maul was sure he
wasn't reacting to her presence appropriately.  It occurred to him this
young girl may be just as dangerous to him as the fierce, carnivorous Jedi
Knight--but in a very different way.

"Sir, we are ready to proceed," one of the droids carrying the Jedi Knight

Maul tightened his grip on his lightsaber hilt and nodded.  "Yes, go now.
I'm right behind you," he breathed shakily.  He paused just long enough to
peer over his shoulder and glimpse the utility droids placing the girl onto
the second lift craft.  He exhaled forcibly and sharply turned away.


With the Jedi Knight securely restrained in the smallest, darkest, and most
isolated cell he knew, Maul closed his eyes and took a moment to massage his
throbbing temples.   As he drew on the Force's healing power to rid himself
once and for all of his illness, he heard one of the utility droids he had
sent away with the Jedi padawan quickly approach him.

"Excuse me, Sir," it began.  "There's been a complication regarding the
prisoner we were escorting to your quarters."

Maul's eyes popped open.  He faced the droid with a piercing glare.  "What
happened?" he demanded as all the tension he had managed to release
previously came rushing back.

"The prisoner woke and overpowered us," the droid informed dispassionately.
"We followed it, but lost it in the north tower."

Maul's hand shot out and sent the droid smashing into the farthest wall,
shattering it into a myriad of sizzling components.  He darted up the
stairwell, simultaneously drawing his lightsaber.

He should have known better than to underestimate the abilities of any Jedi,
even an unconscious one, and sent one of the battle droids with the utility
droids.  This was a mistake that needed immediate rectification.  Sidious
could not find out about this.  The last time Maul had inadvertantly let a
prisoner escape, it was his apprentice that Sidious had locked in one of the
dungeon cells and starved for a week.  Maul was a child at the time and the
fact that he had managed to recapture the prisoner didn't change the
severity of his sentence in the slightest.

Gathering the Force to him, Maul jogged to the castle's north tower, gaining
confidence in his ability to sense the Jedi's presence and overcome her
before she could react.  She would still be somewhat dazed and more
importantly, she was unarmed.

The air in the tower was thick with her Force signature, her anxiety, and
her suspicion.  She was also on the alert, but Maul sensed confusion from
her as well.  She did not know where she was at or where she was going and
was moving fast, but moving deeper into the interior of the castle.

Maul knew exactly where she was going and could head her off before she got
there.  He found himself in his element now and well at ease in pursuit of
her. The apprehension he had felt earlier disappeared with the commencement
of his hunt.  She was simply his prey now.

The Jedi sensed him in the same moment he spied her, and fled through the
nearest open doorway.  Maul sprinted after her, grinning, enjoying himself.
He wished he could toy with her for awhile and let her run, but duty pressed
in on him.  There would be time enough to torture the little Jedi later.

But this was disappointingly too easy, Maul thought to himself as he entered
the storage room the girl had run into.  She should have known she'd trap
herself in there.  The only way out was the door he had just stepped
through.  He stood watching her for a moment as she desperately paced the
length of the opposite wall, her shackled hands oddly skimming the stone's
surface.  To announce his presence, the young Sith raised his lightsaber and
twirled it in his hand, its staccato humming cutting sharply through the
ominous silence in the room.

The girl gasped and turned towards the sound.  She looked in Maul's
direction, then cocked her head, listening closely, and pressed herself
tighter against the wall.  The Sith noticed her large eyes were a metallic
green color flecked with silver and her gaze was utterly piercing in its

"I am Joss Sek Las, padawan to Master Verteigo Nassy of the Honorable Order
of Jedi Knights of the Galactic Republic," she suddenly blurted.  "Who are
you and why have you brought us to this place?"

Maul did not reply.  There was something unusual about her.  Besides her
mesmerizing beauty.  Something about the way she was looking at him, but he
couldn't quite put his finger on it.  He quietly crept forward until he was
standing in front of her, then lowered the tip of his lightsaber until it
practically touched the bridge of her nose.  She did not flinch or even
appear aware of the blade's deadly proximity.

The Sith stepped back and looked deeply into her unfocused eyes.  He was
right.  She was blind.

Without warning, the Jedi gestured sideways towards a nearby chair, using
the Force to fling it haphazardly in the young Sith's direction.  Startled,
Maul ducked the airborne piece of furniture and neatly severed it in two as
the Jedi darted around him with surprising speed and agility.  Peeved by the
fact she had managed to catch him off guard so easily, he sprang after her
and caught her by grabbing her hair, then threw her forcibly into the wall.

The girl crumbled to the floor at his feet and simply sat there, nursing her
lower lip which had split upon impact with the wall.  As Maul cautiously
approached, her small hand stretched towards him and brushed the toe of his
boot.  She let her hand rest there, her sightless eyes narrowing.

"Who are you?" she said again, her voice an expelled breath.  "I sense..."
She suddenly jerked her hand away from him as though it had been burned and
a look of horror crossed her face.

"So now you know," Maul murmured nonchalantly.  As he bent to drag the Jedi
up, she braced herself against her chains and powerfully kicked him, sending
them both tumbling towards the doorway.  The Sith landed first, hitting the
ground with a thud, his lightsaber drilling a hole in the flooring beside
him.  The girl rolled away from him and hopped to her feet, but Maul tripped
her, and sent her crashing down on top of him once more.  He flipped her
over and hauled her up with him as he rose to his feet.

He was going to have to render her unconcious again if she was to remain in
one piece as Sidious had ordered.  Maul tried to hit her, but she deftly
blocked his arm with a well aimed blow, turned around, elbowed him in the
jaw, and pushed him aside.  She was almost out the door when the Sith seized
her this time.

The Jedi refused to give up however, still sensing a remote chance for
freedom with the open doorway so close.  She backflipped in Maul's grasp,
twisting his arm so severely he had to release her, but immediately caught
her again.  Now Maul had a firm hold on her restraints and waved his
lightsaber threateningly in front of her so she could hear it.  Still, she
threw all her weight backwards, pulling against the Sith's grasp, dragging
her heels determinedly on the rough stone floor.

Maul was surprised and impressed by her tenacity.  This had been an
exhilarating warm-up for his upcoming training sessions, but enough was
enough.  Sidious probably already sensed something had gone wrong with the
transfer.  Maul should have had her securely locked up by now.
Methodically, the young Sith reached over and tapped the tip of his
lightsaber on the Jedi's upper arm, scorching her.  She cried out and
grabbed her arm in pain, her struggling abruptly coming to a halt.

Shaking his head, Maul quickly deactivated his saber and closed his hand
around the girl's neck.  He shoved her into the doorframe, crossed her arms
over her abdomen, and pinned her with the weight of his body against the
stones while he worked to attach her shackles to his utility belt.

With the thrill of the hunt subsiding, the young Sith became increasingly
aware of the girl's extremely close proximity to him and the way her small,
firm body was pressed enticingly against his.

He was also awed by the fact he could discern the pounding of her heart
against his chest and feel the heat of her flushed skin through her tunic.
Her slightly labored breath warmed and dampened the hollow at the base of
his throat and her tousled hair tickled the underside of his chin.  It was
all inadvertently very sexual, but it made him imagine what it would feel
like to be with her in that way.

Intrigued, the young Sith tried to sense if the girl was experiencing any of
the same  feelings he was, but she was shielding herself, and her emotions
remained unreadable.  Maybe, if he touched her just right, Maul pondered,
she might respond and he might be able to sense something.

"Be still," the Sith instructed sharply.  The girl only narrowed her eyes at
him in reply.

Licking his lips, Maul slowly loosened his grip on the Jedi's neck and let
his hand slide over her collar bone, and suggestively down the open neckline
of her tunic.  Her skin was softer and hotter than he imagined and the swell
of her breast beneath his hand was firm and round.  He searched her face for
any hint of emotion.

Touching her this way pleased him more than he thought possible, but the
girl spasmed with outrage and spit at him in protest, then struggled
vehemently to get away.

Startled by the intensity of her repulsion, Maul flushed with indignation.
Their intimate proximity obviously had not affected her amourously in the
least.  The Sith told himself he shouldn't have been surprised by her
unfavorable reaction, but it still embarrassed him deeply, showing him she
not only had stronger control of her feelings than he did, but far more
experience regarding personal physical contact than he did.  It made him
feel emasculated and inferior and he didn't like feeling inferior to anyone
concerning anything.

What made it worse was knowing the Jedi had sensed his disparaging feelings
and was surely convinced he was nothing more than an ignorant, undisciplined
juvenile delinquent.  He could not let her get away with that kind of
demoralization of him.  She was his prisoner.  His possession.  She was the
one who needed to feel inferior and humiliated.

As Maul focused his mind more on his anger and embarrassment, a cold
darkness shadowed  his heart and began swirling around him in a tempest of
malice.  He closed his eyes momentarily, absorbing the power it tempted him

Sensing the way the Force had moved and the sinister change overcoming her
captor, the young girl started trembling.  Her reactions now told the Sith
she didn't feel so much like an intrepid Jedi anymore, but merely a small,
vulnerable female in the depraved clutches of a much larger, stronger male,
and her fear was the catalyst the young Sith sought.

The girl's eyes flashed with panic which spurred Maul into action.  He
banged her head against the wall to stun her and roughly wedged his thigh
between her legs, lifting her slightly and forcing her to balance herself
against him as his hands slithered over her body, announcing his intentions.
  Her face contorted with dread and she bit savagely into her lower lip,
rupturing it again.

The young Sith's eyes were immediately drawn to the smear of crimson which
made her parted lips look inflamed with desire.  He moved to kiss her, then
decided against it.  Embracing her that way would surely make him lose his
initiative and his ill-gotten dominance, but he desperately wanted to touch
her mouth with his.  Lowering his face to hers, he tilted her head back and
passed his tongue slowly over her bleeding lower lip.  Not surprisingly, her
entire body shook with revulsion and in a frenzy, she tried to push him off
her.  A pathetic whimper escaped her throat when she could not.

Incited by her futile resistance, Maul pressed his hips against her harder,
making her squirm even more.  She screamed suddenly, quite gratifyingly to
the young Sith's ears in a declaration of powerlessness, her intense fear
clearly inhibiting her ability to call upon the Force.

Maul savored the helplessness he felt in her trembling body, his heart
stirred by her in more familiar ways now.

Paralyzed with fear, her hands tethered together and smashed between the
Sith's body and her own, and her legs barely touching the ground, the small
Jedi finally appeared to succumb to her fate and Maul backed slightly away
from her.  Seizing the moment, the girl suddenly turned her head and sank
her teeth into the Sith's wrist, then wrapped her legs around his and drove
her heels into the backs of his knees.  They both crashed to the floor
together in a tangled heap.

Infuriated, Maul pushed the Jedi off of him and rolled her over on the
floor.  Kicking and screaming for all she was worth, the girl continued to
pummel the young Sith until he dragged her to her feet and slammed her back
against the doorframe.

"Fight me," the Sith growled as his hand delved brazenly beneath her
clothes.  "You have every right to be afraid, Jedi.  I will hurt you as you
have never been hurt before."

Suddenly and much to Maul's surprise, the girl simply froze and all traces
of emotion fled her face.

"I am not afraid of you," she stated, although somewhat unconvincingly as
tears filled her unseeing eyes.  The tension in her body slowly eased
however and the Force began moving over her with increasing strength,
blanketing her in an aura of peace.

Her courage stayed the Sith's straying hand.  Awestruck by this new and
unexpected demonstration of her proficient command of the Force, Maul felt
the inclination he had to harm her evaporate and his anger dissipated along
with it.  He had temporarily subdued her, but he realized such cruelty had
ultimately gained him nothing.  She had only proven herself to be strong
again.  Perhaps not as strong as he, though her power was admirable,
enviable, but he no longer felt the desire to stifle it.  Her brave defiance
in the face of her unfathomable fear had inadvertently earned her his
respect.  Stepping back, Maul sighed, scowling down at her upturned face.

"Well, go on," the Jedi taunted and sniffed.  "What are you waiting for?"

Maul grabbed the front of her tunic and jerked her towards him, making her
gasp.  He leaned his head over her shoulder and whispered in her ear.

"So you were enjoying it after all," he murmured seductively.  "I can
continue if you prefer, Joss, but I want you to know you will not dictate to
me what becomes of you.  You're mine now, and I will do with you what I
please, when I please."  Having made that clear, the Sith turned on his
heel, hauling her after him, and headed back up the hall.

Darth Sidious entered the training room well before dawn.  Maul was too
absorbed in the task at hand to acknowledge him.  The death droid was just
off to his left and demanded his attention first.

It moved erratically, up and down, with an eerie silence.  There was no
detecting it except through use of the Force.

With a sudden lurch, the droid dived.  Maul spun and somersaulted over it,
whipping his lightsaber forward and neatly dispatching the lethal droid
within a single heartbeat.  He paused and took a deep breath before turning
in his master's direction.

"Well done, my young apprentice," Sidious congratulated, stepping forward.

"Thank you, Master," Maul replied, slightly winded.  He raised his hand and
summoned the next droid, but Sidious intercepted it and sent it away.

"You've done enough for the time being.  Tomorrow I want you by my side when
I rendezvous with our Jedi guest.  I will no doubt need your unique power of
persuasion to show him the hopelessness of his situation."

Maul lowered his eyes and nodded his consent.  "Then you are pleased with my

Sidious eeked forth a small smile.  "If all goes as planned, you will have
the Jedi tomorrow to spar with instead of these sacrificial droids.  Just
remember what I told you.  Study him and learn from him.  He'll teach you if
you let him."

Nodding more forcefully this time, Maul faced his master and bowed.  "If I
am finished with my training for the day, I will retire to my room to

"That would be wise of you, my apprentice," the Dark Lord droned.
"Distraction in the presence of an adversary would be say
the least."

Maul looked up sharply.  "You'll find my concentration is focused on what it
should be, Master."

"Focused on what it should be, how curious," Sidious echoed mockingly.
"From what I sensed your concentration focused on this morning, it is clear
to me you are an undisciplined, weak-minded boy who's all too easily
distracted by insignificant things.  You are not to harm that girl yet, do
you understand me?  You'll ruin everything.  Control yourself, Maul or you
will be dealt with accordingly."  He straightened slightly and sighed,
regarding his apprentice with distain.  "Perhaps I expect too much from

These words were like a blow to the young Sith.  He knelt at Sidious' feet
entreatingly.  "Master, have I not met all your expectations?"

Darth Sidious walked stiffly away and grumbled under his breath, "Only time
will tell."


Tearing off his cloak, Maul strode into his quarters and hotly paced the
length of the floor.  When this proved insufficient, he threw himself on his
bed and curled his legs underneath him in a meditative pose.  Still
infuriated by his master's insults, the young Sith drew power off his
intense emotions with practiced efficiency and channeled them deep down
inside him.  The Dark Side came to him readily and filled him with an
empowering calm, cooling the heat of the blazes his anger had ignited but
not extinquishing them.

After awhile, Maul opened his eyes in sudden awareness and stared into the
far corner where the shadows were broken by the huddled figure chained to a
metal fixture in the wall.  He emitted a low growl of disgust.  She was the
reason his master was displeased with him now.  She was the cause of the
unsettling sensations which led to all those unwieldy cravings.

And the Jedi had the audacity to not acknowledge his presence, though Maul
was certain she knew he was there.  She was curled in a tight ball, her
knees drawn up to her chest and encircled with her arms.  Her head rested
lightly on her wrists with her eyes open, staring back at him unseeingly.
She didn't look nearly as wiley and strong as Maul knew she was, sitting
there so unassumingly like that.

Unwittingly, Maul soon found himself contemplating her capture this morning,
  respecting the courage she'd shown him, her power, and her proficient
command of the Force.

He also recalled the crisp, clean scent of her skin and the feminine
athletic tone of her petite body which seemed to fit so perfect against his
own.  Maul sighed despondently.  He must not think of such things anymore.

He rose from the bed and crept towards her, crouching down in front of her.
Perhaps Sidious was right.  Maul did find the girl inexplicably intriguing,
but he was determined now not to give in to the urges she stirred up inside
him.  He was neither weak or undisciplined as Darth Sidious had declared.

"Evil, vile creature," the Jedi whispered in the dark, making Maul's heart
skip a beat.  "You exist only to destroy.  Your lifeforce is empty.  Your
mind is the color of shadows, death, and foul decay.  But I won't hate you.
And I won't fear you, whatever you choose to do to me.  I will only pity

The young Sith narrowed his yellow eyes.  "What would be the point of doing
anything to you then?"  A slow smile crossed his face at her confused
expression.  Obviously she had not expected him to say that.  Maul eased
himself to the floor, mirroring her position.  "I am not evil, Joss.  I live
to serve, just as you do, only mine is a different philosophy from yours.
Real evil lies within a faction of despots who have ruthlessly hunted my
kind to the brink of extinction for over a millennium.  The way they turn
their eyes from the truth, they may as well all be blind."

"You are evil.  You're despicable and corrupted," Joss replied with a sneer.
  She straightened her shoulders and raised her head.

"Perhaps," Maul agreed.  "But tell me you wouldn't kill me if given the
chance just as surely as I would kill you."  He shifted his weight and
leaned closer to her.  He noticed her hair was dusty from the floor, her
neck was bruised with his fingerprints, and she had a superficial scratch
just under her left eye.  She seemed more like a real person this way; not
quite as specteral and bewitching as before, and Maul was surprised at how
comfortable he felt talking with her now despite her insults.

"What is your name?" she unexpectedly asked.  "What are you called?"

The Sith gnawed his lower lip before replying.  "My master calls me Maul."

"Your master?  The other being here who is like you?" Joss continued,
lowering her voice.  "I can sense him--his darkness, his cruelty."

Maul licked his lips apprehensively.  "Yes.  That would be Lord Darth

Joss turned her face away and tightened her grip on her legs.  "A Sith...."
she breathed and swallowed hard.  "....The rumors were true."  She passed
her hand over her face and roughly pushed back her numerous braids.  "Where
am I?  And Verteigo.  My master.  Where is he?  Tell me, what is it you want
from us?"

The young Sith saw no reason not to tell her.  "You're in a hidden place.  A
secluded place, where my master keeps me and trains me.  He brought you both
here for me.  I am to duel with your master for training purposes," he
explained.  "You are simply here for us to manipulate him to cooperate with

The Jedi closed her eyes and shook her head slowly.

Maul rose stiffly and stepped back as a disturbing thought suddenly occurred
to him.  The girl was here for Sidious to use against the Jedi Knight.  Maul
knew how ruthless his master could be when it came to getting what he
wanted, and suddenly the idea of him in control of Joss didn't sit well with
the young Sith.  Sidious didn't know about and probably wouldn't appreciate
her strength and her steadfast courage or her unique beauty the way Maul
did.  If the Jedi Knight didn't agree to the Dark Lord's terms, he would
imperil the girl.  Maybe the Jedi Knight did not realize this.

"Your master is well...for the time being," Maul quickly added and turned on
his heel and stalked back to the bed. Grabbing his cloak, the Sith continued
out the door.


The air in the castle's dungeon was thick and musty.  The darkness was
impenetrable.  The dim glow rods attached to the upper walls did little to
light the way, but Maul knew the prison's layout and his superlative night
vision made any lightsource unnecessary.  The Jedi Knight's strong presence
served as a beacon as well and Maul went directly to his cell and peered

Verteigo was sitting on the floor, his back to the wall, curled up much the
same way his padawan had been.  He looked up as Maul approached, his bright
blue feline eyes obviously well accustomed to the darkness.  He rose
ominously, his restraints crackling in protest, and moved as close to the
door as he could get.

"Where is my padawan?  What have you done to her?" he demanded in a breathy,
gravelly voice, the whiteness of his impressive teeth flashing as his upper
lip curled back with a menacing snarl.

Maul ignored the Jedi's question and continued to stare at him, fascinated
by the intense concern and distress he sensed in him.  How different from
his own master who never showed the slightest degree of concern for his

The Jedi sighed and lowered his eyes briefly.  "Keep me, but let her go.
You'll gain nothing from holding her here."

"You're wrong," Maul rumbled.  "Her life is to be payment for your

"My unlikely," Vertego replied coolly.

Maul grinned.  "You lie unconvincingly, Jedi.  I feel your compassion for
her.  You will not let harm come to her if you can help it."

The Jedi Knight snarled again and turned away from the young Sith.  "You
have much to learn if you believe that about a Jedi, young rogue.  Joss is
an apprentice like you, but she is fully aware of the sacrifices a Jedi must
make to thwart the progress of evil.  She would not want me to comply with
your twisted schemes just to spare her life.  Kill her, kill me.  We shall
die honorably and you and your Dark Lord will have accomplished nothing."

Maul crossed his arms over his chest and frowned.  "Ridding the galaxy of
two more Jedi will be accomplishment enough."

Verteigo nonchalantly resumed his seat on the floor of his cell and folded
his legs under him and closed his eyes as if to meditate.  "Leave me.  You
have what you came for.  Go inform your master."

Maul turned to leave, then paused.  "Naturally, you'll want to seek her mind
now and reassure yourself all is well."  The young Sith leaned forward
slightly, lowering his voice as he glared at the Jedi in the cell.  "I will
go now, but not to my master.  I will go to her.  Perhaps her screams will
give your Jedi honor pause.  Perhaps her pain can even make you reconsider
your conviction."

The Jedi's eyes snapped open.  "Loathsome, degenerate--"

Maul laughed lightly.  "Are you so naive as to think I would grant her a
swift, merciful death?  You have much to learn if you believe that about a

"Very well, you wretched spawn!" Verteigo growled through his teeth.  "I
will...hear your proposal."

The young Sith smiled slyly.  "Then allow me to fetch my master."  He
straightened and turned away, then paused and faced the Jedi once more.  "I
want you to know if you agree to cooperate with us, I give you my solemn
word I will protect your padawan to the best of my ability."

Verteigo shook his head.  "Do you think such a vow holds any significance
for me?  Honor among the Sith?  I don't believe it for a moment."

Maul frowned deeply.  "I have given you my word.  She is my charge, Sir.  I
take that responsibility seriously whether you believe it or not."  He
turned then, moving quickly through the black halls and up the stone stairs.

The young Sith paused at the top and looked back.  The relief he felt went
beyond the Jedi's acquiescence.  To be truthful, a large part of it was
knowing he had saved the girl and now he would be allowed to keep her.


As Maul waited another hour outside Darth Sidious' chambers, his muscles
grew increasingly stiffer and his skin steadily radiated a deepening heat.
The virus he had contracted earlier had regained the upper hand, threatening
to further weaken the already tenuous conditioning he had achieved the day
before.  It made him wonder whether now would be a good time to approach
Sidious regarding the Jedi Knight.  He should just return to his room and
try to get some sleep until he felt stronger.

He was just about to turn back when a protocol droid by the name of C-827S
suddenly appeared within the vast, oppulent room and waved Maul inside his
master's chambers.

"My lord will see you now," it said in a tinny androdgynous voice.

Maul inhaled deeply and stepped around the despised droid to enter.

The Dark Lord was seated in a tall-backed silver chair that resembled a
royal throne.  He sipped passively at a sour-smelling tea in a cup, then
handed it to the droid and cleared his throat.

"What brings you here so early in the morning?" the Sith Lord asked.
"Didn't you meditate?  You look dreadful."

"Yes, I meditated," Maul answered quickly, dismissing the Dark Lord's
observation.  His body felt like a cauldron however as his internal
temperature continued to rise.  He slipped out of his cloak and roughly
pulled at the collar of his tunic.  "I came to tell you I spoke with the
Jedi Knight.  You were right about the compassion he feels for his padawan.
He resisted at first, but then I was able to persuade him to agree to hear
your proposal."  Maul noticed his hands were shaking slightly and quickly
clasped them behind his back.  "He wishes to speak with you, my lord," he

Sidious' expression hardened as he regarded his apprentice.  "Maul," he
growled, shaking his head.  "Will you ever learn patience?  Patience is the
one attribute we Sith need to possess in abundance and too often I find
yours lacking."

The young Sith opened his mouth to speak, then promptly closed it, feeling
the Force move ominously around him.

"I understand it's hard for you.  You are so young still," the Sith Lord
continued condescendingly, his mouth twisting into a distorted smile.  "You
thought I would be pleased and on one hand, I am very pleased.  You have
spared me considerable time and trouble.  You have succeeded beyond
expectations.  On the other hand," Sidious paused and abruptly frowned,
"this does not excuse the fact you could have jeopardized everything I had
so carefully planned.  Destroy months of preparation because of your
infernal adolescent impatience!"  He rose from his throne and stalked over
to where the younger Sith stood.  "On your knees," he commanded.

Maul clenched his teeth in frustration.  He knew what that command usually
proceeded though he had not been subjected to it since he was a boy.
"Impatience was not what motivated me to confront the Jedi on my own.  The
decision to do so was born from another reason."  Maul closed his eyes and
cursed himself.  He was only digging himself in deeper and he needed to keep
his mouth shut from now on.

Sidious moved behind the young Sith and motioned to C-827S, which knew what
the Dark Lord wanted and scurried off to get it.

"Perhaps if you share with me your secret motive, your behavior might be
justified and I may grant you clemency," the older Sith countered.

Maul bowed his head, respectfully declining his master's offer, and
obediently dropped to his knees, humiliation piercing him to the core.  He
tensed, feeling the Sith Lord's cold hands on the back of his neck pushing
him down farther.

"So be it," Sidious proclaimed, accepting the crude leather whip his droid
presented to him.  "You leave me no choice.  I will have your submission
before this is through.  You will learn your place, Maul."

The younger Sith closed his eyes, steeling himself for the punishment to
come.  "Have you no faith in my abilities?  Will you ever trust me enough to
allow me to follow my own initiative from time to time?"

"Not when your initiative is determined purely by impulse," the Dark Lord
replied and brought the whip down across Maul's back with a resounding

The young Sith knew better than to cry out or even flinch, but the intense
pain rocked him and he began to sway unsteadily.  He reached forward and
braced himself up with his hand.  The thin gauzey material of his tunic did
little to absorb the blows and his fevered skin was twice as sensitive to
the stinging.  He would have to use the Force to alleviate this kind of

"And you've let yourself become ill again, I sense," Sidious added and beat
his apprentice even harder, again and again with unabated sadistic zeal.

Darkness soon inhibited Maul's vision as another darkness consumed his
heart.  Hatred laced with resentment sped through his veins, feeding off of
every stroke of the whip his master bestowed on him and gradually the pain
became more distant and ineffectual as the power of the Force filled the
young Sith.

"Yesss, good.  Good!" the Dark Lord encouraged.  "Draw the power to you.
Feel it  Use it to become stronger."  He paused in his exercise and layed
the whip aside, pleased by what he sensed.  "I believe you have learned what
you needed to.  I know you will think twice before succumbing to your
impatience in the future.  Now, return to your room and wait for my call."

"Yes Master," Maul responded, warily opening his eyes.  At first, the room
was spinning wildly, then it slowed to an almost imperceptible rotation.
The young Sith slowly sank back on his haunches and groped the floor for his

"Help him up," Sidious ordered C-827S.  "And see him to his quarters."

The droid reached down and awkwardly pulled Maul to his feet.  "Come along,
Sir.  Let me assist you."

Maul pried the droid's fingers from his arm and shoved the machine away from

"I don't want your assistance," he grumbled, pulling his cloak gingerly over
his shoulders, then turned and staggered towards the door.

"By the way, Maul," Sidious interjected, resuming his seat on his
throne-like chair.  "I want you ready to train with the Jedi by tonight.  Do
what you have to to prepare yourself."

The Sith Apprentice felt a jolt of exhilaration shoot through him at this
bit of information.  "Then you'll go to him now?"

Sidious nodded slowly.  "Yes, I'll go speak with him now."

Maul faced his master and inclined his head in thanks.

"I shall be ready, Master.  I promise."


It was mid-morning when Maul finally shuffled into his room, but the shadows
within remained long and heavy.  He stood just inside the threshold, eyeing
the smooth patch of stone on the floor where he had last slept, and pushed
the cloak off his shoulders.  It fell to the floor with a muffled
whoosh--the only audible sound beside his short raspy breaths.

The Jedi must be sleeping, he thought, and carefully peeled the tunic from
his bruised and torn back.  The blood was scabbing already, fastening the
material stubbornly to his skin, making him wince once or twice.  He pulled
off his boots, kicked them aside, then unbuckled his belt and began to
unfasten the clasp on his trousers.

"I hope you aren't going to strip completely," came Joss' petulant voice
through the shadows.  "I don't care to know you are nude over there."

Maul rolled his eyes.  "You must have a keen imagination if merely knowing
I'm naked incites you," the Sith hissed in irritation, but left the
remainder of his clothes on.  He slowly lowered himself to the floor and
stretched out with a heavy sigh.

"Do you usually sleep on the floor?" the Jedi inquired after a short while.

Maul frowned but did not reply.

There was a moment of silence before the Jedi continued.  "What happened to
you?  I sense that you are suffering."

The Sith sighed.  "How very Jedi of you to feign concern for me.  I have a
minor fever, now shutup and leave me alone."  He sat up slightly and peered
at the girl across the room.

She was sitting with her legs folded under her, a blanket from his bed
wrapped around her shoulders.  One of the droids attending her may have
given it to her or she may have used the Force to call it to her hand if she
was cold in the night.  Maul felt a tinge of guilt.  He should have offered
her a blanket, but he wasn't used to being considerate of others' feelings.

"Your pain is severe, Maul.  It's hard not to notice," Joss answered with a

Maul was chagrinned by the fact he was not controlling said pain as well as
he should and she was able to sense it.  Maybe his fever had something to do
with it.

"Forgive me for allowing my discomfort to disturb you then," he muttered and
turned away from her.  He waited, but she did not reply this time.
Gratefully, Maul slowly closed his eyes.

The sound of the static restraints clinking told the Sith Joss had moved.
When she spoke this time, her voice was much closer.

"Let me help you.  I may be able to take the edge off the hurt to make it
more tolerable for you.  I'm quite knowledgeable in the Jedi art of

Maul inhaled deeply, peeved by her persistence, but admittedly moved by her
offer.  "I can tolerate it without your help," he muttered and opened his
eyes to face her.  "Pain is simply a message.  It is just as easy to ignore
as it is to accept.  The punishment I received had more to do with
humiliation than pain.  This pain is nothing.  Merely an irritation.  I just
need to rest for a few hours."

"Then discard it," the young Jedi suggested.  "It will help you rest easier.
  You'll feel stronger when you wake."

Maul noticed the girl's expression softened as he felt her use the Force to
palpate his thoughts.  "Stop it!" he seethed.

Her shimmering green eyes suddenly sparked in shock, then clouded with
sympathy.  "Your master did this to you?"

Embarrassed and exasperated, the Sith pushed himself up again and rose to
his feet.  He stalked over to where Joss was, seized her arm and shoved her

"Ow!  What are you doing?  I was only trying to help!" the girl protested

Maul worked to unfasten her chains from the fixture which tethered her to
the wall.  "Since you won't leave me alone, I'm taking you elsewhere," he
informed her.  He took hold of her right hand and held up her index finger.
"And if you try anything along the way, I will break this in two, do you
understand?"  He dropped her hand and gathered up the restraints.

Joss stared up at him wide-eyed and nodded silently.  Maul turned sharply to
lead the girl away.  Thrown off balance by the sudden movement, the Jedi
stretched out her arm to right herself and inadvertantly struck the Sith's
back.  He gasped sharply and cursed at her, spinning around as she jumped
back with a look of shock on her face.

"Do not touch me!" Maul seethed.

Joss shook her head.  "Oh!  I'm sorry....I didn't mean to...." her voice
trailed off.  Then: "You're bleeding."  Her hand remained frozen in the air
for a moment as the warm, sticky substance dried on her fingers.  Then she
tentatively lowered it until her palm rested gently on the Sith's chest over
his pounding heart.  "Let me help you," she breathed as an aura of
compassion enveloped her.  Her eyes narrowed as she concentrated, feeling
her way back around him, her hand tracing delicate exploratory paths over
his wounds.

Stunned by the boldness and intimacy of her touch, Maul found he could
barely breathe, let alone stop her or move away.  He had never been touched
like this before and found it intensely sensual.  Her tenderness was like a
soothing balm which penetrated his mind and eased the stress from his body.
The impressions of pain were subdued more by these breath-like caresses than
her use of the Force.  Each welt she traced burned with a different kind of
heat.  A pleasant, tingling heat.

The young Sith closed his eyes as Joss slipped in front of him, her small
hands moving up his sinewy arms, across the span of his chest, and over his
shoulders.  She paused at his throat as if suddenly uncertain he would let
her continue.  Maul lowered his head in consent and soon felt her soft
fingertips brush across his lips, the bridge of his nose and over his
eyelids.  Her breath caught slightly as her straying hands encountered the
short, jagged horns covering his scalp, but then she continued to explore
his features, running her fingers down the side of his face catching every
last detail--even the tiny silver stud piercing his left ear.

When she finally took her hands off him, Maul opened his eyes and looked
down at her with newfound esteem.  He was somewhat taken aback by the fact
his sworn enemy had shown him more empathy than the man who raised him and
claimed to value him.  He suddenly wanted to reciprocate her tenderness, but
was not entirely sure how and contented himself with merely drinking in her
exquisite beauty for the moment.

Then as the young Sith continued to stare deeply into her great green eyes,
he apprehensively reached up and trailed his fingers softly across the
bruises he'd inflicted upon her neck with remorse.  The fact that she did
not flinch from him this time was encouraging.

Joss blinked up at him vacantly, her brows knitted, and an unidentifiable
expression on her face.  Finally, she cleared her throat and gently pulled
away from him.

"I promise to be quiet now," she stated, subtlety implying her desire to
remain where she was.  Her voice was barely audible and Maul noticed a
slight blush coloring her pale cheeks.

"You can stay then," he replied with a grin, pleased she wanted to.  He
glanced back at the wall where she had been tethered and frowned.  It didn't
feel right to make her go back there now.  She deserved better.  He wrapped
the end of her chain around his wrist several times and tested it to make
sure it wouldn't slip.  "Come with me," he said, carefully pulling her to
him.  She hesitated at first, then went to him and let him guide her to the
bed.  "Now lie down."

Her expression suddenly hardened and she backed away from him.

"No," she stated firmly.

The young Sith sighed.  He hadn't meant that the way it must have sounded.
"Just...lie down."

The Jedi shook her head.  "I won't."

Maul leaned forward and grabbed her hand and hauled her back, and shoved her
onto the bed.

"Don't jump to conclusions," he grumbled.  "I'm tired and battered and dizzy
with fever.  I'm hardly fit to ravish you at this point in time."

"At this point in time," the girl echoed, unconvinced, and nervously edged
herself over to the far side of the bed.

Maul gestured at the blanket she had been using on the floor across the room
and used the Force to bring it to his hand.  He threw it at her in a token
of reassurance, noting the small smile she fought with as the familiar
material suddenly struck her.  Then the young Sith turned and eased himself
down to the smooth patch of stone on the floor.  He closed his eyes and took
a deep cleansing breath.


The summons from his master came far too soon.  Maul opened his eyes and
groaned, not yet ready to vacate his crude, cold bed of stone.  However, his
hand was severely numb from Joss' chain inhibiting his blood's circulation,
and the floor beneath him was once again slick with perspiration from the
fever he had shed.

Stiffly climbing to his feet, Maul unwrapped the chain cutting into his
wrist and secured it to the heavy frame of his real bed where the Jedi
Padawan slept on.  He paused momentarily, studying the anxiety and
exhaustion reflected in her contorted expression.

The young Sith reached down and with a feather-soft touch, stroked her
furrowed brow with his knuckle.  If only he could soothe her worries as
effectively as she had soothed him earlier.

But Maul knew she had a right to be worried.  Her master's fate was sealed,
but hers remained uncertain.  Maul knew he would not be able to keep the
girl from Darth Sidious for long.  The Dark Lord only saw Joss as a means to
an end.  When he was finished using her, he would more than likely order
Maul to kill her.  Then, even if Sidious decided to spare the padawan's
life, he would no doubt enslave her: torture the girl until her spirit broke
and her mind totally disintegrated.  The idea of doing such a thing to
someone so powerful and intelligent and genuinely kind, made Maul sick.

He frowned and licked his lips apprehensively, realizing his master would
view such concerns coming from him as nothing less than treasonous.  Sidious
would never understand the strange feelings the girl provoked in his
apprentice.  Maul wasn't even sure he understood them himself, but that
didn't stop him from wanting to gather them in and experience them to their
fullest extent.

Darth Sidious' call came more insistently this time and Maul immediately
cleared his mind to respond.  The moment he had been waiting for all his
life would soon be at hand.  His heart began to pound in his chest and he
cast one last look at the young Jedi on his bed.

"Forgive me," he whispered, and turned away.


Maul was meditating in the training room when Darth Sidious entered followed
by two droidekas, four battle droids, and the Jedi Knight, Verteigo Nassy,
in shock restraints.

"I understand you have already met my apprentice," the Dark Lord was saying
as he drew up in front of Maul.

The younger Sith opened his eyes and looked up.

"Yes.  I've had the...pleasure," Verteigo sneered in that peculiar raspy but
breathy voice of his, regarding Maul with disdain.  He then turned to
Sidious and shook his head.  "You're certain you want me to do this?  He's
just a boy.  He's not much older than my own padawan.  If you turn me loose
on him with a lightsaber in my hand, not only will you be minus one
apprentice, your sallow-skinned head will roll shortly afterwards."

Sidious emitted a low laugh.  "I wouldn't be too sure," he murmured.  "Maul
is quite skilled for one his age.  You may even find him a bit of a

Verteigo frowned.  "If he's so good, what could I possibly teach him?"

"Experience," the Sith Lord hissed.  "I have guided him in all the finer
Jedi Arts.  He's learned much from me, but the one thing I cannot give him
that you can is experience."

The Jedi Knight straightened to his full imposing height and snarled.  "Jedi
Arts?  From what I understand, he's trained to be nothing more than an

Maul had heard enough.  He rose to his feet and drew his lightsaber.
"Master, may we begin?"  He spun the saber hilt in his hand restlessly.

"Yes.  Unchain him," the older Sith ordered the droids.  "And let him choose
a weapon."  He turned to his apprentice and stood looking at him with a cold
calm expression.  "Remember what I told you, Maul.  Even if you feel
mortally threatened, do not act on it."  He paused and raised his voice just
enough for the Jedi to hear.  "He would not dare try to kill you.  And if he
so much as steps out of line, we have our little padawan insurance policy
tucked away all safe and sound for the moment.  If we need to fetch her here
to convince him to conduct himself accordingly, we shall."

Verteigo snarled again, menacingly exposing his fangs.  "We have an
agreement," he rumbled, snapping off his cloak as soon as his hands were
freed.  "You harm her in any way and the deal's off."  He dragged his clawed
hand through his shaggy blonde hair, pushing it back from his eyes.
"Besides, I wouldn't think of giving you two vermin the pleasure you'd
derive from killing an innocent child."  He picked out a lightsaber from a
case an astromech droid offered him and weighed its hilt in his hand.
Satisfied, he strode onto the mat and activated it.  "Shall I power it

Maul walked slowly towards the Jedi and shook his head.  "Full power.
Always."  He activated his lightsaber and assumed a classic combative

"Then how is a match to be determined?" Verteigo growled, locking his eyes
on the young Sith standing in front of him.

Sidious laughed lightly, taking a seat at the side of the room.  "How about
first dismemberment?"

The Jedi Knight glanced in the Dark Lord's direction with undisclosed

Maul's heart skipped a beat, but he kept his eyes on the Jedi.

"My Lord, if I dismember him, he'll need considerable time to recover before
he'll be able to face me again.  Wouldn't that be contradictory to our
intent?  You said yourself he is of value to us."  Maul held his breath,
half-expecting to be struck down where he stood for such insubordination.

But Sidious merely frowned.  "Yes.  I suppose you are right.  First strike
then.  Painful, but easily overcome with the Force."  He waved his hand
through the air, dismissing any further disputes.  "Enough.  Begin."

Maul gathered the Force to him and attacked immediately, catching the Jedi
momentarily off guard.  He drove him back across the length of the mat
before Verteigo managed to fend him off enough to stop retreating.  Maul
could sense the Jedi's surprise.  He truly hadn't expected the young Sith to
be much of an opponent, but after recovering from his initial
unpreparedness, Verteigo collected himself and soon fell into an easy rhythm
of attacks and parries.

The young Sith was forced to overreach many times to compensate for his lack
of size compared to the Jedi's, something he never had to do with droids.
Verteigo seemed to sense his doubled effort and purposefully dodged strikes
he could have easily thwarted just to make Maul work harder.  When Maul
realized this, he backed off, forcing the Jedi to chase him, utilizing his
speed and agility, and jumped, twisted, and flew over many of Verteigo's
near misses making the Jedi work just as hard to land a blow.  As soon as
the Jedi recognized that pattern, Verteigo swiftly changed strategies and
called upon his natural strengths, strengths he knew the young Sith did not
have, to gain the upper hand.

Now Maul could clearly see the Jedi's style was slower, but much more
powerful.  Verteigo used it to his advantage, locking his lightsaber with
Maul's with one hand, only to punch, slash, or backhand the Sith away with
the other.  Maul's face and upper body was soon bloodied and bruised.

Angered by the Jedi's repeated assaults, Maul bent his head the next time
Verteigo tried to hit him and leaned into the Jedi's fist, goring it with
one of his horns.  The Jedi's feline eyes flashed in pain and he leapt back,
shaking his hand furiously, and Force-pushed Maul away from him.  The Sith
back-flipped to keep from losing his balance and the Jedi sprang after him
and used his strength now to double the power he put behind his attack with
his lightsaber.

After attempting to absorb the incredible force behind one of Verteigo's
connected blows, Maul was thrown to the mat.  Verteigo immediately slashed
down again before the Sith Apprentice could parry, and Maul had to roll out
of the way to avoid the Jedi's next consecutive lightsaber strike.  The Sith
sprung to his feet, wondering if the Jedi had forgotten his vow not to kill

Irritated with himself as much as the Jedi, Maul tapped into the Force and
went after Verteigo with a series of gravity-defying maneuvers: leaping
towards him while spinning midair and kicking out as he descended and then
furiously striking at the Jedi on the left with his lightsaber to distract
him, only to somersault over him and attack his unprotected right.  Maul
dodged, flipped, and danced fluidly around the Jedi and forced Verteigo to
waste his energy and fight in a tight circle, limiting his ability to
manipulate his lightsaber.

After awhile, Maul noticed the Jedi Knight was beginning to sweat.  His long
hair clung to the sides of his face and his fur had developed a slick sheen
to it.  Perhaps he was merely warm.  The Sith didn't detect the slightest
anxiety in the Jedi.  In fact, Verteigo was the portrait of calm
concentration no matter what Maul did.  The Force flowed around the Jedi
with remarkable strength and he utilized it to its fullest extent.

"I'll give you this much, young Sith," Verteigo muttered, slightly winded.
"You are talented and you can take a lot of punishment."

The Sith didn't like the implication behind the Jedi's words and wondered if
Verteigo was resorting to taunts now.  Maul sneered at the Jedi and brought
his lightsaber down in a sweeping arc to the left, then flipped the hilt in
his hand and came back in the opposite direction, forcing Verteigo to jump
straight up to avoid being struck across the knees.

Verteigo leaned back, drawing the Sith closer to him, then stabbed at Maul
to get him to back up.  With more room to maneuver now, the Jedi slipped to
the Sith's left, purposefully turning him around, then tossed the lightsaber
from his left hand into his right hand, changing the direction of his
assault in the blink of an eye and managed to slice through the flowing
tails of Maul's robe before the Sith could entirely escape him.

"You see, I know a few tricks as well," the Jedi Knight snarled.  "I guess
this is where the learning begins."

Anger rose in the young Sith and allowed the Dark Side of the Force to flow
through him more freely until it throbbed in his veins.  He charged towards
the Jedi then retreated making Verteigo instinctively chase him.  Then,
copying the Jedi's complicated move to perfection, Maul actually made
connection with Verteigo's thigh.

The Jedi gasped in pain and surprise.  Maul quickly took advantage of the
Jedi's lowered defenses and gestured at the lightsaber in his hand, using
the Force to disarm him.  He held up both sabers for Verteigo's inspection,
then simultaneously deactivated them and stepped back.

"You taught me well today," Maul retorted snidely, as the droidekas quickly
surrounded Verteigo and the battle droids hurried forward to restrain him.

Darth Sidious rose and applauded limply.  "Well done, my apprentice.  Well
done."  He made his way over to Maul and relieved him of the second
lightsaber and passed it on to the waiting droid.  "However, I sense your
fever has made you sluggish.  I think you should carry on with the death
droids until there's a noticeable improvement in your timing.  Tomorrow's
duel will not be so elemental as this one was.  The Jedi knows what to
expect from you now.  Trust me when I say he will pull out all the stops the
second time around."

"Yes Master," Maul agreed and bowed his head as Sidious summoned an attack
droid to him.

"Good.  I shall check on you tomorrow," the Sith Lord stated and ambled
slowly away to escort the Jedi Knight back to his cell.

After the Dark Lord had gone, Maul obediently turned and faced the waiting
droid with a growl of contempt.  He raised his lightsaber and thumbed its
activation switch.


The droids soon proved to be no challenge.  After systematically destroying
three within record time, Maul resorted to using two simultaneously.  That
worked to stimulate him for awhile, but when only one droid remained and
there were no others left to pair with it, the young Sith stopped to
reprogram it, hoping to tap into a higher level of its performance that had
yet to be discovered.

Finally, frustrated, Maul sent the droid away and put in an order for
thirteen more to be ready in the morning.  He was confident his master would
be pleased with his progress  tonight: there was no need to continue.  Even
he noticed his timing had become sharper and more accurate.  He felt
invigorated by the exercise and in perfect tune with the Force having
manipulated it throughout the day's activities.  He finished off his
training with a well-deserved hour of meditation before indulging in a
scorchingly hot shower.

The idea of returning to his room and the company of Joss quickened his pace
through the castle's corridors.  But as he drew closer, the oppressing
sensation that all was not well weighed down the atmosphere around him.  The
battle droids mulling about the entrance to his chambers confirmed his

"Where's the Jedi Padawan?" Maul demanded of the first droid he encountered.

"She has escaped, Sir.  My troops are searching the interior for her now.
We'll find her," the droid duly informed the Sith.

Maul pushed the droid aside to gain access to his room.  The protocol droid
C-827S was puttering about the bed, looking as distraught as a droid could
look and visibly jumped at the sight of the young Sith.

"Please forgive me, Sir!  She tricked me!  I was only doing her a kindness!"
the droid exclaimed.

"You released her?" Maul snarled, gesturing at the empty restraints in the
droid's shaking hands.  "Does the master know about this?"

C-827S bowed its head.  "No Sir.  I could not bring myself to inform him of
my misconduct just yet."

Maul breathed an internal sigh of relief, but turned and snatched the rifle
from the nearest battle droid and fired, blasting the hapless protocol droid
to pieces.  He had always hated that droid anyway.  Handing the weapon back
to its owner, he made a sweeping gesture of the room.

"Clean these scraps away.  Have it done by the time I return."

"Yes Sir!" the battle droid acknowledged.

Closing his eyes, Maul stood concentrating for a brief moment, letting the
Force speak to him.  Joss was still within the walls of the castle and she
was heading down to the lower levels.  To the dungeons.  To Verteigo.  The
young Sith swiftly turned and sprinted out of the room.


Fortunately for the young Sith, Joss had managed to trigger one of the
numerous sensory-activated snares installed on the dungeon level.  Maul
found her tangled in the lacings of the trap just north of the first prison
access.  He smirked down at her and placed his hands on his hips.

"I would have thought a Jedi, even a padawan, would have been able to detect
these devices," Maul taunted.

Joss sighed heavily.  "I know my mistake.  I was moving too fast and I
didn't anticipate encountering a static snare.  Their use is
rather...archaic, if you don't mind me saying."  She shifted her weight
slightly and was immediately shocked with a small bolt of energy.  "Ouch!
Blast it!  Can you get me out of this thing before I get electrocuted?"

Maul knelt down in front of her but did not move to deactivate the snare's
charge.  "Archaic...maybe.  But nevertheless effective.  I should just leave
you here.  At least I know where you are and know you won't be escaping
again anytime soon."

"I'm not going anywhere without Verteigo.  I sense he's been injured so I
was only trying to find him.  I wanted to make sure he was all right."
Joss' eyes suddenly flashed with irritation.  "You make it sound as if I
should be grateful to you for chaining me to a bed and leaving me alone all
day.  I really did have to use the fresher when the droid finally showed

The Sith fought a smile.  "I suppose I would have been disappointed in you
if you had not taken advantage of that kind of opportunity."  He paused
momentarily and took a deep breath.  "Attempting escape is only an exercise
in futility, Joss.  I will always find you...though I may not always get to
you first.  There's an entire platoon of destroyers and battle droids who
patrol these corridors day and night.  If one of them had seen you, they
would have shot you.  And if my master had come across you, he'd make sure
you'd be experiencing more than a little discomfort for your efforts.  You
clearly don't comprehend the danger you place yourself in by such
ill-conceived forays through these halls."

The Jedi raised her brow.  "Do I detect a note of concern for me in your
tone, Maul?" Joss teased.  When the Sith did not reply, the Jedi sighed,
lowering her head, and blinked several times, her mood sobering.  "I do
comprehend the danger I'm in.  I know what holds me captive here."  She
paused, her sightless eyes darkening.  "Verteigo is in even greater danger,
isn't he?  When I felt his pain today, I knew you were the cause of it."

Maul rose and stepped back slightly.  "I spared him considerably more pain
today because of you."

At that, the young Jedi looked up.  "Because of me?  Why would I influence
you to do such a thing?"  She cast her eyes down again and frowned deeply.
"I wouldn't have thought a Sith knew how to show kindness to anyone for

Slightly peeved by her insulting accusations, the Sith replied, "Kindness
must be experienced first if it is ever to become known."

Joss merely shook her head.  "You obviously have no understanding of what
kindness is.  It comes from compassion.  Kindness isn't just a reaction,"
she retorted assertively.

She had misunderstood what he had said, but the young Sith didn't try to
correct her.  Feeling uncomfortable talking this way, Maul licked his lips
and quickly turned away from her, choosing to simply ignore her last
comment, preferring to focus his attention on his growing sense of urgency.

"Stay still while I turn off the charge," he instructed.  He walked a few
steps down the dark hall and opened a plated panel recessed within the wall.
  After a full turn of the connector, the snare's webbing abruptly
disappeared with a loud snapping sound.

Joss stiffly rose to her feet and brushed herself off.  "But what did you
mean by that?  Because of me?" she asked again, her curiosity too piqued to
let his statement go unexplained.  She turned around a few times as if
trying to get her bearings.

Half expecting her to run again, Maul practically pounced on her and seized
her upper arm.  She made no move to flee, but twisted her arm out of his
grasp in silent protest of his vice-like grip.  It was then the young Sith
realized he had neglected to retrieve the restraints from C-827S in his
haste to find her and rolled his eyes with irritation.

"Why don't you answer me?" Joss pressed.  She faced him fully and fixed her
eyes on him as if trying to gain insight into his complex psyche.  Giving
up, she looked beyond him and sighed.  "You're impossible.  I don't
understand you," she finally announced.

"Good.  Leave it at that," Maul snapped in reply, glancing around.  He took
hold of her elbow this time and started to pull her after him, but she
promptly lost her balance, tripped, and fell.  Sighing with exasperation,
the Sith hauled her to her feet again and bent down and brusquely threw her
over his shoulder.

Joss gasped in surprise and wriggled wildly.  "Just what do you think you're
doing?  Put me down!  You know, I can walk, even run, just fine on my own if
you let me!"  When the Sith ignored her, Joss stretched out her hands
searchingly and latched onto the first solid fixture she brushed against.

Maul suddenly felt himself jerked backwards and cursed again.  He yanked her
from the fixture and swatted her soundly on the butt.  Joss yelped and

"If you try something like that again, I swear I'll throw you back in that
webbing and leave you there to rot!" Maul seethed.  He was simply too tired
to put up with any childish behavior on her part tonight and before she
could protest further, he started jogging with his burden up the stone
stairway which wound around the castle's outer walls towards his quarters.

" are nothing but a barbaric, sadistic...chauvinistic miscreant!"
the Jedi spouted indignantly, recovering from her initial shock.  "Must you
always resort to violence when you don't get your way?  I understand you
completely now!  You don't want to know compassion because you prefer
cruelty.  It's easier for you, isn't it?"

Maul stopped in his tracks at the top of the stairs.  There was enough truth
in her accusations to give the young Sith pause.  She was right about some
things, but wrong about others and he realized he did not want her thinking
of him that way.

"I know what compassion is," Maul replied, his throat tightening
uncomfortably, his pulse racing in his ears.  He lowered Joss to the floor
and stood her before him.  "You offered me compassion.  I did not deserve it
considering how I first treated you and your willingness and capacity to
show me such compassion regardless meant something to me...which is why I
spared your master today.  I felt obligated to reciprocate your kindness."

The Jedi's mouth fell open and her expression reflected the awe she was
feeling, caught completely by surprise at the young Sith's words.  Tears
misted her eyes.  She stretched her hand towards him and placed it gently on
his cheek.

"I must thank you then," she finally exhaled all at once.  "I didn't
realize.  What I did for you I would have done for anyone.  You were so ill
and in so much pain.  It made me want to help you.  Nothing else mattered.
You are a living, thinking, feeling person to me, Maul.  Not just a Sith."

A Sith....who's pathetically infatuated....with a Jedi, Maul miserably
concluded.  He stood staring at her as a whirlwind of emotions swirled
inside him, opening him up to a vulnerability which didn't make him feel
inferior or weak, but enriched.  He had never felt that way with anyone
before and found it refreshingly liberating.

The sound of metallic feet tramping on stone echoed faintly through the
halls and Maul turned his head in the direction it was coming from.  Droids.
  And worse yet, the cold, sinister sensation of the presence of his master.
  Darth Sidious was with them.

Maul faced Joss and took her hand in his.  "Come with me," he urged and was
actually surprised when the girl readily complied this time.  Perhaps she
sensed his unease.

They moved quickly and silently through the dark corridors, easily evading
the detection of the searching droids.  The Dark Lord was a different story.
  Maul was certain his master had sensed them.  Now he would have to go to
him and explain what had happened and try to assure him everything was back
under control before he decided to do anything rash.

Maul hurried Joss into his room and over to the bed, gesturing at the
restraints on the floor by the wall where the former protocol droid had
dropped them.  The devices flew towards him and he adeptly picked them out
of the air.

"I must go, but I'll return within the hour," Maul told the Jedi as he
secured her once more to the bedframe.  "I'll have some food sent
the meantime, you'll be safe here."  He noticed the Jedi cocked an arched
eyebrow questioningly at him and the young Sith paused and lowered his eyes.
  "Don't look so surprised, Joss.  I may not be very adept at it, but I want
to show you consideration and I admit, I am somewhat concerned for you.
It's just that, the way I perceive you now...sometimes, between us, I think
I sense...." Maul let his voice trail off, deciding he wasn't ready to
continue that train of thought just yet.  "Perhaps we're not the enemies we
once were," he concluded in an attempt to sum up what he had stammered
through previously.

Without waiting for a reply, Maul turned from her and took a deep, steadying
breath, purposefully cleansing his mind of the bizarre tangle of thoughts
and emotions presently plaguing him.  He knew his master's keen sensitivity
would readily detect anything amiss and he wasn't prepared to try to explain
away feelings he himself did not yet understand.


Darth Sidious was seated, his hands folded calmly in his lap, his head
raised expectantly.  He fixed his eyes on his apprentice as the young Sith
approached and offered Maul a feeble smile.

"Why, Maul.  How good of you to finally report to me.  I've been expecting
you ever since the droids informed me of your prisoner's escape.  When you
didn't come to me, I searched for you, but it seemed you only evaded me,
then once again, you mysteriously failed to appear before me until now.
Would you care to explain any of this?"

The young Sith narrowed his eyes.  "Forgive me, Master.  I was occupied with
the task at hand.  I had every intention of reporting the situation to you
as my presence here now undeniably shows."

Sidious frowned, unconvinced, but let the matter pass.  "Where is the girl

Maul swallowed slowly.  "She is back in my custody and securely restrained.
I've ordered a sentry posted at my door as well.  She will not escape

The Dark Lord rose to his feet and slowly stepped over to where his pupil
stood.  "I suppose as securely restrained as before?  When she escaped?"

The Sith Apprentice faced his master with a stern expression, determined not
to allow him to intimidate him.  "It was your droid, Master, who freed her."

At that, Sidious backed down.  "So it was."  He turned from Maul and stalked
about the room petulantly.  "Foolish machine.  I can assume you dealt with
the droid accordingly?"

Maul fought a smile.  "Yes Master."

The older Sith took a deep breath.  "I'm pleased to hear you have everything
back under control, but what about the padawan?  She's your responsibility,
Maul.  You need to see she is effectively deterred from ever wanting to
escape again.  I want you to see she is suitably punished."

Maul's heart sank.  He opened his mouth to speak, but Sidious anticipated
his inquiry and dismissed it with a wave of his hand.

"I leave it to your discretion."

Maul told himself to breathe.  "What about your agreement with the Jedi
Knight?  If I harm his padawan, he will surely sense it."

Sidious shrugged slightly.  "At this point, I don't care what the Jedi
senses.  I mean business, Maul and it is time they realize this.  Let the
Jedi fret a bit.  If I choose to alter our deal he still must comply.  He
has little choice in the matter, either way."  The Dark Lord stopped pacing
and faced the young Sith.  "I'm sure whatever you decide to do to his
precious padawan will only give him more motive to fight you.  He'll want to
avenge her you see."  The Sith Lord paused and raised his brow, a wicked
smile distorting his features.  "You have my permission.  Now go, boy.  It's
getting late."

Feeling his face flush with heat, Maul bowed and reluctantly turned to
leave.  He would not, could not, do such a thing to her now.  He'd have to
think of an alternative and fast.


Joss started as Maul entered the room.  She sat up and turned her head in
his direction and seemed to breathe a sigh of relief when she sensed who it

"What kept you away so long?" she said in a low voice, then frowned when the
Sith did not answer.  She took a deep breath and bowed her head.  "I've been
thinking about what you said and strangely enough, I do sense I am safe with
you.  Even with that irascible temper of yours.  I no longer sense the
malice you first harbored towards me.  You've come to know me as a person
and not just an enemy.  It has changed you, hasn't it?"  Joss looked up and
offered Maul a weak smile, then narrowed her eyes in confusion, sensing the
young Sith's apprehension.  "What's wrong?  You seem upset?"

For a long time, the only sound in the room was the Sith's agitated
breathing and an odd mechanical humming.  Then he sat carefully on the bed
and unfastened Joss' chains.

The Jedi Padawan peered at him with a confused expression.  "What are you
doing?" she asked as she felt him pull her to her feet and place something
in her hands which crackled with energy.

"Take this," Maul whispered.

Joss frowned.  "What is it?"  Her hands began skimming the surface metal of
the U-shaped device, but the Sith quickly covered her hand with his to stop

"Do not touch the tips," he warned.  "They cause tremendous pain."

The Jedi tried to hand the device back to him.  "I don't want this!  Why are
you giving it to me?"

Backing away from her, Maul lowered his head and took a deep breath.  "I've
been commanded to punish you."

Joss' lower lip trembled slightly and her hands tightened on the instrument
of torture she held.  "...You're going to use this on me to hurt me?"

Sighing heavily, the young Sith straightened and removed his cloak.  "No.
You are going to use it on me."

"I WILL NOT!" the Jedi strongly objected, throwing the device aside and
fleeing to the far side of the room.  "It is against everything I subscribe
to as a healer and a Jedi."

Maul continued undressing.  "Listen to me, Joss.  It won't matter who's pain
it is.  My master need only feel it.  If he doesn't, he'll know
I've...disobeyed him."  He paused and tossed his tunic on the bed, then
called the device to his hand.  "I chose this particular piece because it
does not cause permanent injury.  Only pain."

Joss shook her head furiously, refusing to be placated by the Sith's blasé
tone of voice.  "I can't...and I won't.  Use it on me if it's so harmless."

Studying the device in his hand, Maul stepped towards the agitated girl.
"You would not be able to tolerate this level of pain, but I can.  It may
stop your heart," the Sith explained.

The young Jedi looked panicked.  "What if it stops your heart?"

Maul shrugged, unphased.  "Then I'll have to rely on you to start it again."
  He paused but could tell she remained unswayed by his poor attempt at
levity.  The Sith massaged his eyes with impatience.  "I've fully recovered
from my fever and am quite capable of withstanding this sort of punishment."

Joss raised her chin defiantly.  "And I am a Jedi, Maul, and not nearly as
feeble as you like to think.  So go on.  Do as you were told."

Maul suddenly reached out and snatched the Jedi's hand from her side and
firmly placed the device into it.  She shook her head again and started
trembling, but the young Sith lowered his voice soothingly.  "Just press the
ends into my skin.  Here and here.  Go slowly, left to right.  It will be
quick, and clean, and the injections themselves will be relatively
painless."  He lifted her free hand and traced it across his chest,
demonstrating the way to use the device.  "Keep it moving.  Like this."

Joss immediately calmed and fixed her sightless eyes searchingly on the
Sith's face.  "You don't have to do this for me, Maul," she whispered.  She
closed her eyes and shifted her weight towards him, leaning her body against
his.  Her small hand slowly skimmed the surface of his skin and up the hard,
corded muscles of his neck.  Tentatively laying her head on his chest, Joss
dragged her fingertips over the side of his face and stroked down his
jawline pacifyingly.  "Thank you," she murmured, her warm lips brushing
against his skin as she spoke.  She sighed raggedly, as if breathing
suddenly became difficult for her and a wisp of her heated breath caressed
the Sith's senses, lacing the air around him with a noticeable innuendo.

Could it be possible?  Maul felt as though he were suddenly melting from the
intimacy of her touch; his body and mind dissolving and pooling together in
a puddle on the floor at her feet.  All cognizant thought left him and there
was only the sensation of her soft, cool hand upon his face.  Despite his
determination to maintain his discipline where she was concerned, the urge
to touch her became overwhelming.  Cautiously he placed one hand on the
small of her back and pressed her tighter to him as his other hand cradled
the back of her head.  All the air left his lungs in a long, languid sigh.

"It'll be all right," he whispered encouragingly in her ear.  He thought he
felt her head nod beneath his hand and heard her take a deep breath.

Then the Sith heard the familiar loud snapping sound like the successive
cracking of several leather whips--and braced himself in anticipation of the
pain to come.  But it was the Jedi's pain he felt, not his own.  Too late he
realized what she had done.

Her scream tore through the euphoric atmosphere she had created around him.
Maul felt her petite form slump against him suddenly and tightened his arms
around her to keep her from falling.  The torture device clanged to the
floor as she dropped it and several telltale circles of blood appeared on
the right side of her tunic.

The Sith hissed a stream of profanity and swept her up in his arms.  He
carried her over to the bed and placed her on the rumpled blankets.

"Joss?  You wretched, deceitful girl.  You distracted me into near delirium
so I wouldn't realize what you were planning to do, didn't you?  And like a
fool, I succumbed to it.  Joss!  Wake up!"

The Jedi whimper slightly.

"Joss?" Maul repeated a little more tenderly this time.  Leaning over her,
he touched her brow and pushed the hair from her dampening forehead.  She
suddenly screamed again and fainted again causing the Sith's anger to turn
into alarm.  He placed his hand on her neck to feel her pulse and was
reassured by the strong steady throbbing he felt in her veins.

Then her eyes fluttered and she blinked several times before moaning
miserably.  Maul sat back relieved, exhaling the breath he was holding
through his teeth.

"Oh," the Jedi squeaked.  Sweat began running down her face.  "I
my internal...organs are...on fire."

The Sith used his discarded tunic to mop the perspiration from her brow.
"They've been injected with a chemical which simulates the sensation of
being stung," he explained.  "Your heart is pumping the venom throughout
your system now.  Gradually the pain will subside.  Try not to move around.
You'll only circulate it."  He reached down and took her hand in his.  "Use
the Force to control the pain.  Center your mind on the source and summon
the power of the Force there."

Joss obeyed, closing her eyes and pressing her lips tightly together.

Maul could feel the power of the Light Side of the Force moving around him,
intensifying the Jedi's strength as she called it to her.  The unfamiliar
sensation of the Light Side's characteristic virtues felt strangely inimical
to the Sith and made him recoil from it.  Joss embraced it as it embraced
her and soon her expression softened as the pain diminished.  She squeezed
the Sith's hand and slowly opened her eyes.

"It is getting better," she informed him quietly and tried to sit up.
Remnants of the pain rocketed through her and she gasped and promptly
collapsed back on the bed.  She placed her hand on her forehead and massaged
her brow.  "I can't believe you offered to subject yourself to this...for
me.  You are either the noblest person I have ever met or the most

Maul glanced down at his tattooed torso and smiled slightly.  "Neither.
I've been disciplined to endure extreme levels of pain before becoming
debilitated.  If you could see me, you would understand."

Joss frowned and shook her head.  "Why do it for me, though?  Think about
it.  You were being noble."

The Sith sighed and gazed at his hand and the intimate way his fingers were
laced through hers.  He pulled free from her grasp and leaned away from her.
  "Two days ago, I would not have hesitated to inflict pain on you, yet it
holds no appeal to me now.  I can't begin to explain it.  Then as you said,
the animosity between us has passed."

The Jedi Padawan struggled to sit up once more.  She reached forward and
brushed her fingertips over Maul's lips.  "That is profound, but I still
wonder why.  What happened to change it all?  I believe there's something
more to it than just that."  Her fair brow furrowed before realization
dawned in her eyes as she noted the way the Sith reacted to her touch.
"Affected you profoundly...."  She lowered her hand to his shoulder and
brushed her palm lightly over his skin.  His muscles quivered beneath her
hand.  "It's this, isn't it?  No one has ever touched you tenderly like this
before, have they?"  She trailed the back of her hand down his chest and
over his abdomen.  "No one has ever shown you kindness before.  Apathy and
brutality is all you've ever known.  All your life.  Until me."

Chagrinned, Maul abruptly slipped away from her and stood up.  He watched
Joss' open hand search the sudden emptiness in front of her for him.  Her
awed expression softened in sympathy.  It radiated from her in a cloud of
goodness and mercy, pelting the Sith with its purity and light.  He withdrew
from her further, repelled by the feelings he felt directed towards him
which reminded him she was indeed a Jedi first and foremost with a Jedi's
unconditional compassion.  But he didn't want her sympathy.  He wanted her

A simmering anger seeped into his senses.  "I don't need your pity, Jedi,"
he growled and stalked irritably about the room, welcoming the familiar
feeling of the Dark Side of the Force to push away the suffocating Light.
He breathed it in allowing it to fill him.

Joss stared back at him confused.  "Why are getting so defensive?  I was
only offering you the compassion you so obviously crave."

"Don't lie to me!  I sensed it!  You find me pathetic.  I will not tolerate
that from you or anyone!"

The Jedi looked away.  "Don't lie to yourself, Maul.  I've figured you out
and that doesn't sit well with you.  I know now you are frightened.
Offering and receiving compassion gives you a sense of humanity you can
scarcely afford."  She paused and licked her lips apprehensively.  "You must
understand.  Touch is everything to me.  I use it to heal, to connect with
my surroundings, and obviously, to see.  Of course I feel sorry for you.  I
cannot bring myself to imagine what it is like for you to have been so

Maul stopped pacing and turned to face Joss.  "Mistreatment has made me
strong," he stated, his voice cold and breathy.  "Unlike you pampered Jedi
Padawans, I loathe the coddling you thrive on."

Joss nodded decisively.  "Very well.  I won't touch you again."  With that,
she shifted her weight on the bed and angled herself away from the irate

Her declaration caught Maul off guard.  He growled in frustration and strode
over to her.

"That wasn't what I meant and you know it," he grumbled and tried to piece
together the right words to make himself better understood.
"The...intimacies we have participated in have allowed us rare insight of
each other as individuals.  There's merit in that even I can see."  He
waited but when she did not respond, he leaned over her and softened his
tone.  "Your touch...pleases me."

The Jedi only shrugged.  "But you don't want my compassion."

Maul snarled.  "It's not the same thing!"  To add to his vexation, the girl
smiled slyly.

"Oh, but you can't have one without the other," she stated and turned her
face farther away from him.  "Compassion is what motivated me to touch you
the first time."

The Sith's heart skipped a beat.  "What about the other times?  You touched
me because you wanted to, because it pleased you, didn't it?" Maul
questioned, holding his breath in anticipation of her response.  But she
said nothing and stubbornly refused to face him.  He cursed at her and sat
heavily on the opposite side of the bed to sulk.

His temper soon waned in the ensuing silence and a prevailing calm settled
over him.  He leaned down and picked up the restraints from the floor and
turned them over in his hands several times before finally tossing them
aside.  He felt defeated.  He could not even bring himself to chain her up

Joss must have heard the restraints fall and peered over her shoulder at the
Sith curiously.  "You're not going to restrain me?" she asked hopefully.

"No," Maul told her wearily.  "Not with these.  I know they hurt you.  Your
wrists are bruised and chafed.  I'll think of another, more agreeable way to
make you stay here.  Besides, you will not run away again because you know
you are safe here."

The young Jedi swallowed uneasily.  "So compassion isn't as foreign to you
as I first thought," she noted quietly.  She sighed heavily and eased
herself down on her left side, her right side obviously still smarting from
the injections.  With her back to the Sith, she curled herself up, crossing
her ankles and arms as if symbolically closing herself up.  Maul sensed her
emotional shields were back up as well.

The Sith studied her stressed and defensive posture with a trace of longing
sparking in his mind.  His skin still tingled warmly where she had touched
him and recalling the way he had held her to him before she fainted made his
gut twist.  He truly hoped he hadn't hardened her heart against him with his
indignation.  He wanted to let her know it was all right for her to feel
something beyond compassion for him.  That he felt something too and
wouldn't shun her.  But he also wanted her to know he wasn't afraid of
compassion.  He could offer it as well as receive it.  Then an idea occurred
to him.

Swallowing down the lump forming in his throat, Maul carefully lay back on
the bed and rolled over on his side to face the Jedi.  He slowly shifted
close to her, spooning his body around hers, and tentatively encircled her
tiny waist with his arm.  She tensed expectedly and her breathing
momentarily stopped, but the Sith did not move again until she began to
relax.  Then he pulled her against him, holding her securely, and layed his
cheek on her shoulder.

"This is how you intend to restrain me?" she asked softly.

The Sith nuzzled the back of her neck.  "Is this not more agreeable than

The Jedi did not answer.

Maul grinned.  "You will not run away again," he repeated.

"I will not run away again," Joss whispered and covered his hand with hers.

The young Sith felt the Jedi lean against him.  He closed his eyes in quiet
contentment, surrendering himself to his dreams.


Aware Joss was no longer with him, Maul drowsily passed his hand over the
still warm and wrinkled blankets where she had slept.  He slowly opened his
eyes and looked around.

The Jedi was seated across the room on the floor, her legs crossed and her
arms draped loosely at her sides.  Her eyes were open but she appeared to be
in a deep meditative trance.  Her expression waivered back and forth from a
mask-like vacancy to knotted anxiety.

The Sith rolled out of bed and stalked over to her, kneeling before her
quietly.  She immediately sensed him and lifted her hand to touch his face.

"What troubles you?" Maul asked her gently.

Joss swallowed hard and pressed her palm against the young Sith's cheek.

"It's Verteigo," she said sadly.  "He's distraught.  Beside himself over
something that has happened...but I can't tell what."

Maul was already on his feet and pulling on his tunic.  If the Jedi Knight
was agitated it involved Joss and most likely Sidious had something to do
with it.

"I'll go to him," he informed the padawan as she unfolded her legs and
shakily climbed to her feet.

"Take me with you.  I need to know he's all right."

The Sith automatically shook his head and moved to open the door with a wave
of his hand.  "No," he replied sharply.  "I can deal with this quicker and
easier without you along."  He didn't want to alarm her further by sharing
his suspicions.

The Jedi frowned deeply and lowered her head, but said nothing.

Maul struggled to say something to help ease her concern.  "I'll return as
soon as I'm able," he finally told her, giving up, and turned to leave.  He
waited until the door closed before addressing the sentry droid posted
there.  "Stay here and do not open that door for anyone until I get back, do
you understand?"

"As you wish, Sir."


Stopping only long enough to pick up his lightsaber from the training room,
Maul then sprinted across the castle's interior to the crumbling stone
stairway which led to the cell block where the Jedi Knight was currently

It was then, the young Sith sensed the approach of Darth Sidious.  Escorted
by three battle droids and looking more than a little vexed, the Dark Lord
was making his way up from the cell block just as Maul was making his way
down.  Sidious hailed Maul and met him at the bottom of the stairs.

"I'm please you're here," he began, sounding anything but pleased to his
apprentice's ears.  "I wanted to speak with you anyway."

Maul bowed respectfully before his master.  "What is it you wish, my lord?"
He tried unsuccessfully to peer around the older Sith down the hall.  "I
sense there's trouble with the Jedi."

"Your insight serves you well," Sidious grumbled, following the direction of
his apprentice's wayward gaze.  "The Jedi summoned me here earlier this
morning.  He wanted to inform me he no longer agrees to cooperate with us.
He claims we departed from our original agreement by harming his padawan
last night."  The Sith Lord sniffed indignantly and folded his arms across
his chest, slipping his hands into the voluminous sleeves of his cloak.
"You were right, Maul," he continued.  "Instead of making him vindictive,
we've only made him force our hand."

Maul faced his master fully.  "What do you mean by that?"

"I told him he had an hour to change his mind or we would bring the child
Jedi before him to watch her suffer and die."

The young Sith was careful not to show any outward signs of dismay at
Sidious' words.  Instead, he squared his shoulders and cleared his throat.

"Master, if I may," he began, sounding more confident than he felt.  "Allow
me a moment to speak with the Jedi Knight."

Sidious frowned.  "Why?  What good would that do?  If this doesn't convince
him nothing will."

Maul inhaled slowly.  "If we execute the girl, the Jedi Knight will lose all
incentive to comply with us.  We might as well just execute him too and that
would be a terrible waste of valuable resources.  I believe, with your
permission, I can incite his imagination to motivate him in new ways without

The Sith Lord stood regarding his apprentice warily before nodding his
consent.  "Very well.  But do not promise him anything else.  I grow tired
of trying to appease the monster and would just rather be finished with them
both than be inconvenienced further."  He glanced back in the direction of
the Jedi's cell then turned and brushed past Maul to continue up the stairs,
the three droids clanging behind him.


Maul approached Verteigo's cell door and motioned the droid guarding it to
release the lock.

"Deactivate the restraints holding the Jedi, then bring his personal
lightsaber to me here.  Go quickly," the Sith ordered the droid in a low

The droid nodded and hurried off as Maul sauntered through the open door of
the Jedi's cell.  He crossed his arms over his chest, then leaned serenely
against the stone entryway.

The Jedi Knight looked up at the young Sith and snarled at him ferociously,
but remained seated where he was in the far corner of the cell, shrouded in
shadows.  The dim light from the hall reflected his feline eyes eerily like
a predator's in the night.

"Your pious indignation has condemned your padawan to a slow, miserable
death," Maul stated bluntly.

The Jedi shook his head.  "Her blood is on your hands, boy, not mine."

"Fool," the Sith sneered contemptuously.  "How utterly hypocritical you Jedi
are.  Martyring yourself, and her, in retaliation for something so minor.
If you would put away your pompous righteousness for the moment, you would
sense the girl is fairing quite well this morning...for another hour at

Gracefully rising to his feet, Verteigo growled menacingly and started
walking towards the Sith.  "You promised me you would protect her.  You
lied.  But then, you are a Sith, aren't you?  Get out of my sight before I
rend you limb from limb."

Maul wasted no time drawing his lightsaber.  He angled the glowing hissing
point just below the advancing Jedi's blue slanted eyes, turning them an
unnatural purplish hue.

"If it is revenge you seek, I'm here to offer it," Maul told him calmly.  "I
sent a droid to fetch your lightsaber.  Take it up and challenge me.  Right
here, just the two of us.  No armed droids, no restrictions, nothing to hold
us back.  A perfect opportunity for you to strike me down."  He paused but
the Jedi did not respond.  "You obviously don't understand.  You have to
continue to fight with me if you want to save the girl."

As if on cue, the droid returned and presented Maul with the Jedi's
lightsaber.  The Sith shooed the droid away, then tossed the short, thick
hilt at the Jedi's feet.

"Pick it up," the Sith ordered.

Verteigo only snarled again and raised his taloned hand as if to slash at
the Sith, then much to Maul's dismay, composed himself and suddenly backed

"To what point?" he whispered in his deep, breathy voice.  He inhaled
slowly, looking suddenly pained, and shook his head so forcefully, his long
golden mane swished around his shoulders.  "Joss and I are already dead.
Nothing I agree to will save our lives in the end."

Frustrated, Maul narrowed his eyes at the Jedi Knight and deactivated his
lightsaber, returning it to his belt.  He was running out of time and
Verteigo's stubborness was wearing his patience thin.  He would obviously
need to do something a little more provocative if he was to see any results.

Taking a cautious step forward, Maul opened the neckline of his tunic
exposing his throat and raised his chin tauntingly.  "I've always heard Jedi
frequently rely on the charitable acts of others.  Therefore, as a Jedi, you
should welcome the charity I'm offering you now.  A clean, first strike at
my unprotected neck."

Verteigo only licked his lips and lowered his eyes.

Maul growled and dropped to his knees in front of him.  "Is this better?"

The Jedi turned his face away.  "As much as the idea of cleaving you in two
appeals to me, I will not take up my weapon against you."

Maul had to smile.  "Do you doubt your abilities that much?  I am unarmed,
kneeling like a slave on the floor before you, and you still think if you
attack me you won't be able to kill me?  Master Nassy, I'm quite flattered."

Verteigo shook his head and walked away from the Sith in disgust.  "I am a
Jedi.  I will not succumb to your daemonic temptations."

Maul climbed to his feet, his mind scrambling for a new strategy.  Then the
light of realization dawned in his bloodshot eyes and gave the Sith a spark
of hope.  He cleared his throat and as a precaution took a small step back.

"After what I did to your Jedi padawan last night, do you think she would
have refused such an offer?" the young Sith taunted, then shook his head.
"I've come to know the girl quite well and I can assure you she would not

Verteigo turned suddenly, curling his upper lip and exposing his long white
fangs.  "You do deserve to die after the heinous crime you subjected her to,
but it is not my place to avenge her humiliation and pain."  He took a step
forward.  "I do not kill for killing's sake.  You, on the other hand, are an
evil, conscienceless entity who preys on the essence of goodness and beauty
to destroy and devour its virtue."

Maul's brow furrowed in confusion.  He had obviously struck a nerve with the
Jedi, but he didn't understand what he was ranting about.  Surely if this
was just about Joss' brief pain last night after she injected herself with
the torture device, it wouldn't move the Jedi Knight to speak of heinous
crimes and humiliation.

"Come now," the young Sith argued.  "The girl didn't enjoy it, but she
endured it rather well."

The Jedi inhaled sharply and fixed his glassy, tear-filled eyes on Maul,
folding his hands over his chest.

"My heart breaks for her," he whispered.  "For what she...endured last
night."  He lowered his head briefly to collect himself before continuing.
"You can dismiss it from your mind, but that cruel carnal act will haunt her
always.  It plagued her dreams.  That's how I know what you did to her.  The
images of you, as she perceives you.....with her, were so strong, flashes of
them invaded my meditations."

Maul suddenly realized he was staring at the Jedi dumbly with his mouth open
and promptly shut it.  He had to resist the urge to correct Verteigo's
assumptions and explain that whatever Joss had dreamed of last night was
just that--a dream.  Nothing had happened between them beyond a restful
night's sleep in the security of each other's arms.

Then it occurred to the young Sith that maybe Joss was attracted to him
after all--especially if she was dreaming of the two of them having sexual
relations.  The idea made Maul's pulse race with renewed desires.  Desires
he promised he would no longer act on, but consequently could no longer
deny.  He needed to tell her how he felt.  Perhaps it would encourage her to
do the same.

However, considering how upset the Jedi Knight was regarding the flashes of
images he had received, Maul had to wonder if Joss' dreams were violent in
nature, stemming from the first time he had attacked her.  The Sith licked
his lips and took a deep breath.

"Tell me," he began.  "In the images you saw.  Was she...resisting me?"

The Jedi placed his hands on his hips and looked at Maul as if he were a
piece of rotten meat.  The Force was stirring, prickling the young Sith's
awareness with glints of foreboding.  The Jedi's resolve was crumbling and
despite his outer passivity, Maul sensed Verteigo was nearly bursting with
animosity towards him.  If he handled this correctly, he could incite the
Jedi to finally attack.

The Sith inhaled deeply and began stalking about the cell, knowing he could
react faster if he was already moving.  Slowly, imperceptibly, he moved his
hand to his lightsaber's hilt.

"It wasn't as bad as all that, Master Jedi," Maul began in a silky voice.
"Once I had overpowered her, I found her very agreeable and to my liking.
She put up just enough of a fight to keep things interesting without
detracting too much from my pleasure."  He noted the Jedi eyeing his
neglected lightsaber now.  Carefully, the Sith continued.  "Her skin was
heated through and slick with sweat that tasted delectable and smelled
exquisitely musky and womanly.  Not at all like the child you believe her to
be."  It wasn't difficult for him to fabricate such a lie.  He had indulged
in the odd fantasy from time to time.

Maul knew the Jedi was just about to break when Verteigo growled so low and
long the Sith could feel it in his gut.  A few more choice words should
provoke him.

"If you still refuse to vindicate her then I believe I will just go.  My
recollections have whet my appetite and since your padawan has less than an
hour to live, I think I shall hurry to partake of her one last time.
'Devour' her before I 'destroy' her."  Maul waited momentarily, then turned
slightly as if to leave.

The Jedi's lightsaber was in his hand and slashing through the air with such
power it whistled in the young Sith's ears.

Maul's lightsaber was activated a split second later and crashed against
Verteigo's with little effect.  The strength behind the Jedi's strike forced
the Sith to lean perilously to his left, exposing his right side to a
swiftly calculated counterstrike.  As Verteigo arced his saber over his head
and down, the Sith quickly activated the second blade at the bottom of his
lightsaber hilt and was able to catch the Jedi's saber just in time before
it sliced  right through him.

The sight of the double-bladed lightsaber startled the Jedi and made him
hesitate to carry out his next planned strike.  Maul moved immediately
forward, cutting upwards with the second blade and countering with a
downward stroke of the first.

Verteigo dodged backwards and parried the second strike high above his head
but was unable to put any power behind it this time.  Maul advanced again,
rotating the hilt in his hands, the two blades allowing him ample room to
maneuver away from the Jedi without having to fully retreat.

Battling the Sith's unconventional weapon was forcing the Jedi to work twice
as hard and twice as fast.  His exasperated expression told the young Sith
he had no offensive strategy as of yet against him and was doing all he
could just to defend himself.

What the Jedi didn't know was that Maul wasn't completely confident yet in
his ability to utilize the two blades at once.  Up until now, the Sith had
only sparingly used them against remotes to try to get a feeling for their
weight and design.  He had never dueled with them and he was struggling with
them now.  He had three times the reach he normally would with just a single
blade, but he had to be extremely aware of where each blade was at any given
time.  Parrying a strike might also sever off a leg if he wasn't careful.
Maul closed his eyes and concentrated.  He needed to call upon the Force and
surrender himself to it to help him execute the proper maneuvers

Maul sensed Verteigo was using the Force as well, striking faster and harder
than he had before.  It seemed the longer he fought the Sith, the more
relaxed and stronger he became.  He had discovered there were only certain
ways in which Maul could wield the long lightsaber and began to predict two
out of three strikes the Sith used against him.

For Maul, this was a no-win situation.  With dauntless persistence, the Jedi
drove the Sith back, out of the confines of the tiny cell and out into the
open hall.  Maul tried to block the Jedi, but Verteigo kicked him aside with
enough force to send him crashing into the opposite wall, then immediately
headed for the stairs at the end of the hall.

Hoping to at least keep the Jedi in the perimeter of the cell block, Maul
closely pursued him, whipping at Verteigo's heels with the tip of his blade.

When the Jedi reached the stairs, he turned sharply and grimaced at the
tenacious Sith, then leapt to the fourth step and front flipped to avoid an
overextended stab from Maul's blade, landing back on the floor behind the
young Sith.

Turning and simultaneously rotating the lightsaber around in his hands, Maul
was already bringing the first blade in from the left followed tightly by
the second blade as soon as the Jedi's feet hit the floor.  Verteigo
countered with a backhand swing and bent forward trying to put his weight
behind it.  Using the tangled blades as leverage, the Sith torqued a half
turn and somersaulted over the crouched Jedi.

Verteigo ducked down further to avoid Maul's aerial assault and lashed out
simultaneously with his blade in a right to left vertical strike as the Sith
descended.  The point of the Jedi's lightsaber grazed across Maul's upper
thighs, causing him to stagger in pain as he landed.  Hissing profanity, he
retreated, momentarily succumbing to the fire which shot through his entire

The Jedi swiftly advanced on the young Sith from above this time, having
risen to his feet and his full two-meter height.  Maul was pushed onto his
back and rolled sideways to escape the Jedi's killing blow.

Angered and frustrated with himself, the Sith hopped to his feet again,
knowing he needed a new form of attack and adjusted his grip on his
lightsaber, leveling it horizontally.  By spinning his body, the lightsaber
blades acted like a rotary propeller, forcing the Jedi to back away now.
Maul realized the way in which the blades were positioned gave Verteigo
little opportunity to hit them with much power.  Anytime he did, Maul angled
his counterstrike, making the Jedi have to twist awkwardly to deflect the
Sith's blade away from him.

With the Jedi steadily retreating, Maul found he had more room and freedom
to fully extend the reach of the two blades.  He raised the saber above his
head and twirled it several times to maintain flexibility in his aching
hands and keep his grip from locking up.  His confidence bolstered, Maul
soon found an efficient, fluid rhythm of slashing and parrying that using a
single blade did not allow.

This duel alone had given him a wealth of experience, Maul thought to
himself, far beyond anything droids or remotes could.  His master had shown
great wisdom in bringing the Jedi here for him and  Verteigo had been a
great asset to his training.  It was then Maul realized with a hint of
regret that this was without doubt, a duel to the death.  One of them would
die today and Maul wholly believed it would be the Jedi Knight.

But Verteigo had proven himself a worthy adversary.  He deserved to die in
the heat of battle, defending his principles and deep-rooted beliefs, with
honor and dignity, not in some torture chamber or gunned down by unthinking
droids.  Maul wanted to grant him this.  If all Jedi fought as well as
Verteigo, the young Sith decided from now on he would go out of his way to
engage them.

Fatigue was setting in, slowing the pace of the battle.  Their sabers locked
momentarily and the young Sith gazed respectfully at the Jedi through the
glare of the crossed blades, perspiration stinging his eyes and hazing his
vision.  Verteigo stared back with a quiet, serene expression, laced with
strain.  There seemed to be little animosity left between them at this point
and the Jedi took the rare opportunity to speak, his rich voice echoing off
the damp stone walls.

"You have demonstrated to me that my fellow Jedi have much to be concerned
about.  Despite your youth, you are indeed formidable."

Maul inclined his head graciously then stepped to the left and brought the
lower half of the lightsaber up in a full rotation.  Verteigo blocked both
strikes, then retreated to the Sith's right.

"Formidable, yes, but not invincible," Verteigo continued.  "I will kill
you, young Sith.  I must kill you.  It is my duty."  With newfound resolve,
the Jedi advanced with an onslaught of powerful strokes, pushing Maul back
and swiftly into a corner, catching the Sith completely by surprise.

Maul had let himself become distracted by his thoughts and hadn't realized
he was so close to the walls.  Darth Sidious' warning about distraction in
the presence of an adversary rang in his ears and Maul knew he was in
trouble.  He had ignored a primary rule of fencing: feel, do not think.  Act
upon instinct only.  Now cornered, Maul's  maneuverability was severely
inhibited.  The Jedi smiled at the panicked look in the young Sith's eyes.

"My only regret," Verteigo continued, drawing back his lightsaber for what
he was certain was the final blow, "Is that the Jedi Knights did not find
you as an infant before the Sith did."  He brought the blade down directly
over Maul's head.  There was no way for him to block it from that angle
without snagging his lightsaber's blades in the stone surrounding him.

Maul realized he could not even dodge this blow.  The Jedi had him perfectly
trapped and he knew it.  Furious at himself, the Sith called upon the Force,
tapping into his seething anger and concentrated.  If he could not move,
then the Jedi would have to.  With a snarl, the Sith swung the hilt of his
lightsaber like a club and aimed it at the Jedi's head.  It impacted with
enough force to split open his temple and sway him, throwing off the
trajectory of his descending blade.

As Verteigo folded to one side, Maul seized the opportunity given him and
slipped around the Jedi, free of his confinement.  He whipped his lightsaber
completely around his body and sliced the top blade through the Jedi's torso
just under his arms.

With a garbled gasp of surprise, Verteigo's body collapsed on itself, the
upper part landing heavily on the lower, splattering the Sith with blood.
The hot, pelting sensation abruptly announced the end of the duel and
transfixed Maul where he stood.

He had just made his first kill.

He had fought a Jedi Knight and won.  Barely, but he had won.  The thrill he
had always anticipated was surprisingly hollow.  Instead of exhilaration, he
felt a cool sense of accomplishment, as if he had merely done what was
expected of him, nothing more.

After what seemed like a long while, the young Sith deactivated his
lightsaber and turned away from the Jedi's divided corpse.  It was then he
noticed Darth Sidious emerging from the shadows concealing him.

"You did well, my young apprentice," he greeted.  "I'm most pleased."

Maul genuflected quickly and uncomfortably swallowed down the bile suddenly
rising in his throat.  He had not sensed his master's presence at all and
now a cloud of dread threatened to suffocate him.

"My lord, I beg your forgiveness," he hurriedly apologized, squeezing his
eyes tightly shut.

Sidious shook his head slowly.  "There's nothing to forgive.  The Jedi's
death was inevitable."

Maul took several deep breaths and dared to look up.  "Then you are not
angry with me for having to kill him?"  He dragged his wrist across his
burning eyes to wipe the sweat and blood away.

The Dark Lord placed a cold hand on his apprentice's shoulder and bid him
rise.  "I sense you learned a great deal.  That is what matters.  And even
more importantly, another Jedi has fallen at the hands of a Sith."  He
turned Maul towards the stairs.  "I want you to meditate now and reflect
upon the significance of this occasion.  Not just for you, young one, but
for the whole Sith Legacy."

Maul nodded.  "Yes, I shall, Master."  He started slowly up the stairs, but
the older Sith called out to him to stop.  Maul turned around expectantly to
face his master.

"Here, Maul, take this," Sidious whispered reverently.  He stalked over to
the dead Jedi and pried the lightsaber hilt from his hands.  Then the Dark
Lord walked back over to his stunned apprentice and handed it to him.  "It
is a relic.  Keep it.  You earned it."

The young Sith could barely breathe as he accepted the token from his master
with a bow of his head.


Maul paced outside the door to his room.  Occasionally, he glanced up at it
longingly, knowing he could not delay this confrontation much longer.  It
was not as though he had to actually break the news to Joss of her master's
death.  She surely would have felt the very moment he died.  And it wasn't
as if Verteigo's death should have surprised her.  Deep down inside, she
must have known that was to eventually be his fate.  The young Sith had also
given her the majority of the day alone to come to terms with everything
that had happened.  Despite all these reassurances, there was still the fact
that he was the one who had actually killed her master.

Finally, the Sith stopped pacing and stepped up to the door and opened it.
He gnawed his lower lip savagely as he scanned the darkened room for her.
He spied her facing the wall, standing beneath the room's only window, a
ventilation opening actually, cut into the wall just below the ceiling.  Her
head was tilted back as if gazing up at it, but her eyes were closed.
Sensing him in the room, she turned around slowly and took a long shaky

"Is it my turn now?" she whispered thickly.  "I sense the games you've
played with us are at an end."

Maul licked his dry lips.  "How could you think such a thing?  I have not
come to kill you."

Joss grimaced.  "But your objective is clear.  Kill or be killed, isn't that
how you justify it?"  She lowered her head and rubbed her swollen,
red-rimmed eyes.  She looked weary and her expression was drawn and dark.  A
general aura of hopelessness surrounded her now and her grief poured from
every fiber of her being.  "Have you no regard for the sanctity of life?
Its value, its uniqueness...and the sentiment a particular life holds in the
heart of another?"

Knowing her questions were rhetorical, the Sith did not reply.  Instead he
pulled off his cloak and draped it over the bed.

The Jedi Padawan stepped towards him, her face contorting with emotion.
"Surely you must see there is no victory in a game such as yours.  Death is
not a victory.  Death is destruction."

"My victory is my survival, Joss, not the death of your master," Maul told
her solemnly.  He longed to touch her, to take her in his arms and offer her
a sense of his regret, but steadfastly resisted the urge, knowing she would
only reject him.  Instead he cleared his throat.  "I had no intentions of
killing Verteigo today.  My real intention was to save you and I did manage

The young Jedi looked astonished.  She backed as far away from him as she
could before colliding with the wall.

"Save me?  Don't you mean prolong my death?" she seethed.  "You do me no
favors by keeping me captive in this damnation, Sith!"  She bowed her head
as tears spilled from her eyes.  "What can you possibly hope to accomplish
by saving my life?  Next time, just let me die.  Let me die."

Maul turned away from her and massaged his eyes.  He noticed his hand was
shaking and quickly dropped it to his side and took a deep steadying breath.

"I know...what I hoped to accomplish.  What I hoped to gain," he stammered
in reply.  "I care for you more than anyone I have ever known before."  He
dared to turn around to see her reaction.  Her head was still lowered and
her expression unreadable.  Maul sighed and walked over to her, then raised
her chin with his hand.  "Don't hide from me.  I know that you feel the

Joss' head jerked free of his grasp and she pointed her finger at the Sith
accusingly.  "You are deluded with self-serving fantasies!" she snapped,
cutting him off.  "And woefully pathetic if you ever believed I could feel
anything for you beyond the ingrained sense of compassion we Jedi feel for
all living things.  Even the lowest, most depraved, disgusting living

"Stop it!" Maul commanded, slamming his fist against the stone wall with
such force a piece of it broke loose and fell to the floor.  The Jedi
immediately froze at the intensity of his outburst, then began to tremble.
Seeing this, the young Sith closed his eyes and struggled to get his
emotions back under control.  He leaned forward and whispered in her ear.
"You lie.  I always believed I felt more in your touch than just compassion,
but I could not bring myself to actually acknowledge it until now.  I know
what I felt was your desire for me."  He paused and traced the line of her
jaw with his finger.  "All this time, you've been warring with yourself over
the same feelings that I have been--shamed by them and refusing to
acknowledge them because the possibility of their existence was utterly

Shaking her head in vehement denial, Joss pulled away from him  and suddenly
dissolved in tears.

Tentatively, the Sith approached her and placed his hands on her shoulders,
unsure what to do next or how to comfort her.  Then unexpectedly Joss threw
her arms around Maul's neck and buried her face against his chest.

Startled and bewildered, the young Sith took a deep breath and placated
himself with the knowledge that she had not totally rejected him.  He
stroked the girl's back soothingly, letting her cry herself out.


When Joss finally grew still, Maul pried her from him and tilted her head
back to look at her face.  He wiped the streaks of drying tears from her
cheeks with his thumb.

"I know I have caused you great pain today," the young Sith breathed.  "Tell
me what I can do to appease it.  I'll do anything.  Anything you ask."

The Jedi leaned away from him but placed her hand on Maul's face and traced
his furrowed brow with her fingertips.  "Let me go," she answered, her voice
barely audible.  "If you truly care for me, then set me free.  It is the
only sure way to save me."

Struck by her request, the Sith spun away from her.  "I cannot release you!"
he snarled.  "It is the one thing I cannot do for you and you know that!"
He began pacing the room, clenching his fists in frustration at his sides.

Joss narrowed her eyes.  "You said 'anything'."  When Maul failed to reply,
she bowed her head.  "Then I want you to kill me.  I can't live like this."

The Sith stopped pacing, fixing his eyes on the floor to organize his
rampant thoughts into decipherable words, then shook his head.  "What if...I
promise to protect you always?  You'll be mine and I'll keep you with me
wherever I go.  I will promise to always treat you with respect and dignity
and offer you what kindnesses I can.  I will pledge my body to you alone and
promise to fulfill your every desire unceasingly.  I will never leave you.
I will always want you."  He paused and licked his lips apprehensively.  "I
will do all this for you if you would only allow me to."

The Jedi sadly turned her face away and wrapped her arms around herself.
"That's just it.  I can't allow you to do such things for me.  Listen to me,
Maul," she began quietly.  "I believe you're sincere, but you must realize
those vows, however passionate, are not what I want, but what you want.  I
am not a possession.  I am a person.  I am a Jedi."

Time seemed to ripple just then and Maul suddenly felt like he was in the
center of a waking dream.  Reality faded away with his surroundings and
nothing truly existed beyond himself and the beautiful, but broken young
woman he had just unavailingly consecrated his life to.

"I understand, Joss," the Sith announced softly.  "I had only hoped...."
Maul sighed, letting these thoughts go unvoiced.  His mind made up, he
walked over to where the Jedi stood and took her hand.  "Come.  We must act


Maul felt Joss absently rub her thumb over his wrist as she waited with him
in a shadow-shrouded hallway just outside the hangar bay.  She took several
long deep breaths and pressed herself closer to the Sith's body in

Everything had gone smoothly up to this point and the means to the Jedi's
release stood just a few meters away.  An increasingly disturbing sense of
misgiving made the Sith pause, but he couldn't find anything amiss or out of
the ordinary and saw no reason for the alarm he was feeling.

Joss squeezed his hand encouragingly.  Deciding to finally proceed, Maul
squeezed it back and started forward, pulling her out of the hall where they
had been hiding and into the hangar and headed straight for one of the
smaller, computer-controlled crafts.  The young Sith didn't bother with
stealth here.  He was certain the few droids mulling about would pay him no
mind.  They were used to his presence on the dock.

To his surprise, not only did the droids note his approach, they drew their
weapons on him, and encircled the small ship as if given a silent command.
The Sith stopped abruptly, causing Joss to inadvertantly run into him.

"What's the matter?" she whispered.

Maul's eyes swept around the hangar bay and settled on a dark figure
emerging from behind a tank of fuel.  The young Sith swallowed

"My master," he informed the Jedi, his mouth going completely dry.  "Is

Joss froze and concentrated.  "I don't sense him."

"I don't either, but he's walking this way."  Maul repositioned himself
between the approaching Dark Lord and the Jedi.  "No one can sense him if he
doesn't want them to."

Darth Sidious drew closer until he was standing directly in front of his
apprentice.  He took a deep breath and folded his arms across his chest.

"I've been waiting for you, my young friend," he began with mock
congeniality.  "You don't need to look so surprised.  I have foreseen this
very moment time and time again."  His gaze drifted around Maul to the Jedi
Padawan he shielded.  "But I wouldn't have believed this if I hadn't seen it
for myself."  He paused and fixed his eyes directly on the young Sith's and
all humor vanished.  "Hand over the girl, and all will be forgotten."

Maul raised his chin defiantly.  "Is her life worth such clemency from you,
my master?"

Sidious shook his head.  "A Jedi's life means nothing to me.  But this one's
life apparently means a great deal to you, and that is where my challenge
lies.  Your decision will determine everything."

The younger Sith struggled to breathe slowly and deeply, ignoring the pulse
pounding in his ears.  He gathered the Force to him and fed off its
empowering presence for the courage to overtly defy his lord and master for
the first time in his life.  He reached behind him and sought Joss' hand,
enclosing it in his reassuringly.

"Come, Maul," the Sith Lord pressed.  "What do you wish to do?"

Maul wasn't in the habit of asking his master for favors, but considering
his normally unflagging service and obedience to him, Sidious may see fit to
grant him this one request.  He licked his lips and cleared his throat.  "I
wish to grant this Jedi mercy, My Lord."

"Did I hear you correctly?  Mercy?"  Darth Sidious' expression hardened
momentarily.  "I don't ever want to hear that word pass your lips again,
Maul."  Then the Dark Lord shook his head.  "There will be no mercy granted.
  Especially for a Jedi from a Sith."

The Sith Apprentice glanced over his shoulder at the small figure huddled
behind him.  "This Jedi is different, Master.  She showed unconditional
mercy to me."  Maul braced himself for his master's derision, but much to
the young Sith's surprise, Darth Sidious' expression only softened and he
frowned at his apprentice sadly.

"Maul, she's still a Jedi and no different from all the rest," the Sith Lord
murmured.  "Trust me, if she showed you any mercy, it was only to bring her
to this very point in time.  Aided in escaping, with an omnipotent bodyguard
at her side."

"No," Maul argued.  "She is compassionate.  Not unscrupulous."

"Compassion is something a Jedi dispenses as vacuously as a politician
dispenses promises.  And the motive is exactly the same."  The Dark Lord
straightened slightly and took a deep breath.  "Jedi are Jedi.  Trust me, if
given the chance to dispatch you, she would.  With little scruples and less
remorse."  He shook his head again and clucked his tongue sympathetically.
"It is her sworn duty to do so."

Verteigo's last words suddenly rang in the young Sith's ears.  He had told
Maul it was his duty to kill him.

Somewhat dazed, Maul shook his head.  "Even if given the chance, she would
not kill me, Master.  She cares for me.  Something I don't expect you to

The older Sith narrowed his eyes.  "Are you so certain about her?"  He
studied his apprentice then sighed.  "I sense you are not."

Joss suddenly slipped out from behind Maul to confront the Dark Lord.

"I know what you are trying to do and it won't work," she spat.  "Goading
him into surrendering me is useless.  He has promised to protect me from the
likes of you."

Sidious raised an eyebrow in inquiry.  "Oh?  And what did you promise him in
return?  More of your special compassion?"

Joss' eyes narrowed in disgust.  "I promised him nothing."

The Dark Lord's eyes shifted from the Jedi to his apprentice, then back
again.  "Yes, I do sense he harbors feelings for you which I cannot begin to
explain.  Feelings that compel him to honor his promise.  Yet you say you
feel nothing in return."  He looked up at the younger Sith.  "Do you hear
that, Maul?  She says it herself.  She feels nothing for you."

Taking several deep breaths, the Sith Apprentice closed his eyes briefly.
What his master was saying couldn't be true.  He was sure he had sensed
something.  It couldn't have just been his imagination.  When he opened his
eyes, he faced his master with newfound calm.  "I don't trust you, my

The Dark Lord's face flashed momentarily with anger, then smoothed to an
emotionless mask of passivity.  "I'm the only one you can trust, my
apprentice.  Never forget that."  He gestured dismissively at the Jedi
Padawan.  "I can see how thoroughly she has corrupted you.  Then, I knew she
would cause you to doubt me.  It was all part of my plan, you see, and she's
played her part in it as expected."  He paused and studied Maul's perplexed
expression.  "Why do you think I insisted you keep her with you instead of
locking her in the prison with her master?  I actually wanted her to get
under your skin and she quite obviously has."

Maul felt as if he were suddenly spinning out of control.  He glared at the
older Sith and gritted his teeth with rising irritation.  "You planned this?
  This is one of your infernal ploys?"

Sidious nodded unabashedly.  "Not so much a ploy as a lesson and a test,
young one.  Now you will discover for yourself what I have been telling you
all along."  He unfolded his arms and stepped forward.  "I brought these
Jedi here to teach you, and now, teach you she shall."  He reached over and
stroked Joss' cheek with his knuckle which made her jerk her face away.

"Keep your slimy hands off of me!" Joss growled.

The Sith Lord chuckled humorlessly.  "Haughty little piece, aren't you?"
Sidious sneered and turned his attention back to his apprentice.  "The Jedi
Knight taught you stealth, maneuvers, and strategy.  But this little one
will teach you the true nature of the Jedi."

Maul suddenly moved to stand between Darth Sidious and Joss.  "Master, I do
not understand the reason behind this scheme of yours."

Sidious raised his hand to stave off any further protests.  "Not my scheme,
but hers," he explained in a low voice.  "In this lesson, you will learn
that Jedi will manipulate lives as guiltlessly as they manipulate
defenseless minds.  She has done this very thing to you, boy, placating you
all this time with small tokens of her so-called compassion."  He paused and
made a general sound of distaste in his throat.  "Her beauty has rendered
you as blind as she is."

The Jedi suddenly pushed Maul aside to get to Darth Sidious.  "I've done no
such thing!" she argued hotly.  "These embellished fabrications liken me to
your kind!  I gave him my compassion freely.  I expected nothing in return."
  She turned around to face Maul.  "He's twisting my words to change their
meaning.  Don't believe him.  You sensed how I feel.  You forced me to
acknowledge it.  You were right.  I wanted to deny my feelings for you, but
I can't.  I can't."

The young Sith's heart twisted inside him.  He desperately wanted to
believed her but couldn't ignore the possibility of this declaration of
devotion being another attempt to manipulate him.  The seeds of doubt had
been planted and were beginning to take root.  Maul narrowed his eyes and
peered suspiciously down at the panicking Jedi.

"You are acting like a cornered animal," he told her quietly.  "I have to
wonder why you have chosen now to finally admit your feelings for me.  It
makes your sincerity seem like desperation."

Joss appeared to wither before him.  She blinked up at him in disbelief.
"Maul," she breathed.  "Don't do this.  Stay with me.  I need you."

Shoving the Jedi out of his way, the Dark Lord suddenly gestured and
snatched the shorter lightsaber from Maul's belt.  With Force-enhanced
reflexes, Maul instinctively drew his own weapon, had it activated and
leveled between the older Sith's eyes in the span of a single breath.

"Trust me, my apprentice," Sidious began calmly, backing away from the
younger Sith's blade.  "She doesn't care one whit about you.  Take a look at
yourself.  At who and what you are.  She can't love you.  You're a monster.
A ruthless, conscience-free killing machine.  A Sith and her hated enemy.
She is a Jedi, first and foremost."  He turned and roughly placed Verteigo's
lightsaber in Joss' hands.  "I'll show you," he declared, then leaned over
to whisper in her ear.  "Kill him and I give you my solemn word I shall set
you free to return to the Jedi Temple.  It's your only chance now."

Joss looked towards the Sith Lord with an incredulous expression.  "I cannot
kill him," she proclaimed nervously.  Her hands were shaking as she
tightened her grip around the thick cylindrical hilt.  Her breathing
deepened as her fingers explored the various knobs, recognition suddenly
dawning in her eyes.

Lowering his lightsaber, Maul turned his attention away from his master and
onto the Jedi.  Everything was wrong.  Nothing felt right or familiar
anymore.  His head was reeling and his heart slowly sinking into a murky
puddle of despair.  He didn't recognize Joss as the beautiful, powerful,
compassionate Jedi he knew.  That Joss was no where to be seen.  The girl
standing before him seemed feeble and small.  Easy prey, Maul thought.
Sickened, the young Sith turned his face away from her.  The Force began to
stir around him.

"You say you cannot kill me with fear, not devotion," the Sith Apprentice
pointed out.

The girl lowered her head and licked her lips.  "I say it with both fear and
devotion.  You just won't hear it."  Her hands continued to caress the
lightsaber she held, her eyes growing glossy with excess moisture.
"Suddenly my words and feelings are meaningless to you.  An hour ago you
would have pledged your life to me if I had wanted you to.  All I needed to
do was admit to you what I am admitting now.  I have accepted it, but you
are the one who still can't acknowledge the truth.  You're the one who won't
accept the possibility someone could feel something for you.  There's
nothing left for me to do.  So I sense I have already lost."

Maul looked down at her, startled and thrilled by what he sensed emanating
from the Jedi.  But then he realized her feelings were not meant for him and
his heart suddenly felt hollow.  He followed the path her fingers traced
over her master's lightsaber and noted the loving emotion behind each
delicate touch.  Sidious was right.  How easy it was for a Jedi to show
tenderness.  For a memory attributed to a cold, metal weapon of death.  The
idea curdled his blood.

"Don't waste your grief on him anymore, Joss," the young Sith said under his
breath.  "Turn your tears inward.  There's no hope for you now."

The Jedi looked up sharply and took an involuntary step backwards, colliding
with Darth Sidious.  She pushed herself away from him and stood staring out
vacantly.  Maul felt the Force moving around her, enveloping her in an aura
of renewed strength.  Her expression changed as her despondence soon evolved
into serene assertion.  She took up the lightsaber in her hands and adjusted
her grip, then thumbed the activation switch.  The rich green blade hissed
to life.

"There is always hope," she said softly.  "However miniscule, however
unlikely, there is always...hope."  She waved the lightsaber challengingly.
"I'm sorry, Maul.  You leave me no other choice."

The Jedi suddenly sprang forward and struck first using a straightforward
overhand blow.  Shocked that she would actually attack him, Maul snarled at
her and blocked the strike with little effort.  Joss ripped the blade of her
lightsaber off of his and struck again with more strength and precision than
the first time.  Furiously, the Sith swatted it away and moved closer

"You conniving little whore," he hissed through his teeth, thoroughly
saturated with anger. "Everything he said is true, isn't it?"  He assaulted
the Jedi with a flurry of rapid moves, but she managed to deflect them off
easily enough.

To Maul, this proved what his master had been trying to warn him about.
Joss was a Jedi and his enemy, but she would have done anything to keep
herself and her precious master safe.  Even befriend him.  She had
manipulated and used him, making him weak and vulnerable.  He despised
weakness.  He despised her.

Joss ducked away from the Sith, using her small stature to her advantage.
She blocked his next strike and dodged under his blade, coming back up to
swipe her lightsaber perilously close to Maul's neck.  The Sith was forced
to swerve back on his heels to avoid being beheaded.  The Jedi seized the
opportunity and somersaulted over him, and slashed at his back before he
could turn to face her, ripping his robe open and grazing his skin.

Spinning around, Maul Force-pushed the girl away from him and hauled his
lightsaber around his body to get it in front of him, but Joss flew back at
him, keeping their proximity so close, the Sith could not put any strength
behind his strikes and the lightsabers typically tangled at their bases.

The girl was proving to be more of a challenge than Maul ever thought
possible, but she was not a warrior, she was a healer, and the strain of
their duel quickly began to take its toll on her.  Maul scored more and more
hits upon her, staining her tunic with spots of blood, forcing her to
retreat from him more frequently.  She slipped once and tripped another, but
managed to recover both times before the Sith could take any advantage.

It gave Maul the idea to back her over things--equipment and small machines
scattered around the floor of the docking bay.  He hoped to catch her off
guard.  She was extremely athletic and nimble and managed to avoid falling
by using the Force, but she was tiring.  One distraction was all the Sith
would need and Maul knew it was only a matter of time.

Keeping up a steady barrage of strikes to keep her occupied, Maul scanned
the floor for new obstacles and spied a filter hose off to his right.  Using
the Force, he gestured at the hose and whipped it around the Jedi's ankles.
She slashed down at it with her lightsaber and freed herself, but not before
tripping over the curling ends.  Crashing heavily to the floor, she lost her
grip on her saber trying to break her fall.

Maul wasted no time and descended on her in a heartbeat.  He drove the point
of his lightsaber into her chest with such force he shoved the end of the
hilt down into her.  She looked up at him in that moment and actually
appeared to see him.  Her hand slowly reached out to touch his face, then
fell limply at her side.  She exhaled and died.

It wasn't until Maul withdrew his weapon and saw her body slump back against
the stone floor that he realized what he had just done.  The lightsaber
dropped from his hands and a scream of agony and outrage tore from his
throat.  He crashed to his knees beside the still, small figure and tightly
clutched her hand in his.

"No, no, no," he murmured against her warm palm, as wave after wave of pain
gripped his heart.  "How dare you?  After everything I did for you...felt
for you.  This is by far the cruelest thing anyone has ever done to me.  I
hate you, do you hear me?  I hate you."  Tears welled in his eyes and he
wiped them away angrily.  "I HATE YOU!"

The young Sith released the Jedi's hand and let it drop.  It hurt him to
think she may have been telling him the truth when she proclaimed having
feelings for him.  He hadn't sensed  the truth, but then, he didn't know
what truth was anymore.  Joss was dead and compassion would no longer have a
place in his life.  What he had sensed stirring in her heart whenever she
had touched him was only a faint memory now.  A figment of his imagination,
perhaps?  A self-serving fantasy?  Yes.  It was better to play it down and
just let it all go.

An unexpected hand upon his shoulder gave Maul a start.  He quickly looked
up to see his master standing over him, a tired and drawn expression on his

"Come away, Maul.  It's over," the Dark Lord said quietly.

The young Sith rose and faced his master.

Sidious' eyes were full of...compassion.

"I know," he continued gently.  "It's a hard lesson to have to learn, but a
valuable one."

Maul gnawed his lower lip to keep it from trembling.  "She used me...."

"Yes," Sidious readily agreed.  "It is right to hate her, Maul.  She used
and humiliated you.  Hate her and the pain you're feeling will subside.
It's always better to hate than to love.  Remember that."

"She would have killed me," Maul added numbly.

"Oh yes.  She did try.  She was a Jedi after all.  It was her duty to kill
you.  Kill us both."  The Dark Lord threw his arm amiably over his
apprentice's shoulders.  "We Sith are where the Jedi's compassion stops
short.  They see no room in their vision for our philosophies.  We are to be
exterminated like so many insects.  We don't even deserve the right to exist
in their minds."

Maul took a deep breath, absorbing his master's words and the balming,
long-ingrained hatred coursing through his veins.

"They are the ones who deserve to die," the Sith Apprentice whispered.

Sidious started walking with Maul across the hangar away from the carnage of
the duel.

"And they will die eventually.  Every last one of them, I promise you that.
If not by your hand, than another's.  The time is fast approaching.  From
the rivers of their blood, we Sith will rise victorious...and prosper

Fighting the urge to look back over his shoulder one last time, the young
Sith merely nodded and sighed as the pain in his heart did subside.  Just
like his master had said.