Sith Academy: Some Assembly Required
By Alisa King
Darth Maul was sprawled on his sofa watching television, his left boot absently kicking a week-old empty Pizza the Hut box. The empire controlled the cable system, but yesterday the pirate cable company representative had finally arrived. He'd initially been reluctant to enter the apartment of a Sith (and a slovenly one at that), but the promise of a handsome bonus had changed his mind. Paying the pirate for the installation (and a years' worth of cable including 4 premium channels) with that twit Obi-Wan's American Express card had provided a brief feeling of satisfaction, but that was yesterday and today was today. His thumb depressed the channel scan button on the remote, and the channels flew by at warp speed. By the third scan, Maul was not only dizzy but also frustrated--how could there be SO many channels and nothing worthy on television?
Suddenly his front door was sprung from its hinges and Sidious appeared in the entryway. "MAUL!" he bellowed, the veins protruding from his neck.
"Yes, my master?" Maul calmly replied, the channels still scanning on the screen. He hadn't even flinched when the door burst from its hinges. Ah, soon he would be ready to defeat his Master. That would leave the door wide open for Darth Mary Sue to become his apprentice. Maul silently laughed at his own joke and waited for Sidious to continue. "Very good, Maul. You have followed all of my instructions to the letter thus far."
Damn right I have, Maul thought to himself. All of these meaningless pedagogical exercises, menial jobs, degrading outfits...soon it will cease. Just a little more patience...
"But you still have much to learn. I have an exercise in mind for today that will test not only your dexterity but also the limits of your patience. It involves an item that requires, shall we say, some assembly."
"But everything that I have bought has already been assembled!" Maul wailed. "The IKEA salesman was more than happy to help, especially after he was threatened with being sliced in half!"
My apprentice chose that precise moment to jump onto the sofa, landing squarely on Maul's washboard stomach.
"OOOOFFFFFF! You dare to knock the wind out of me? Have you forgotten that I am your master and YOU are the lowly apprentice??? Plus now I have cat hair on my 'Sith Lords Kick Ass' T-shirt!"
My apprentice swished her tail hard once to the left, then back again. At that moment, Maul's thumb slid off the remote and the channel froze on QVC.
"A special QVC welcome to all of those who've been watching, and especially to those that are just joining us. I'm Kathie Lee Gifford, and I'll be your host for the next 4 hours. And you're just in time for today's special value. We only have a limited quantity of these; they were first presented last year and sold out in record time. Now they're back and quantities are EXTREMELY limited. You're looking at item number THX1138, the most advanced cat play system ever designed! This special item not only contains three separate play levels covered with beige carpet, but also an extra-sturdy base and a free bag of cat toys! Some assembly is required, but the instructions are crystal-clear and the only tools required are a hammer and a Phillips head screwdriver. Order quickly before this item is gone forever! Call the number listed on the screen, our friendly and courteous operators are standing by to take your call. Once again, that's item number..."
As Maul reached for the phone and dialed the 25-digit number, my apprentice spared a glance towards Sidious. He smiled and approached the striped cat, which was now lying down on Maul's stomach.
"Good work," Sidious told the cat.
He still has not figured out that he is actually MY apprentice, the cat purred back.
Maul could feel his blood pressure rising with every minute that he was on hold. He watched in horror as the "total quantity sold" continued to rise, then audibly gasped as it reached 250. He needed to reach an operator, and he needed to do it FAST. To make things worse, that incessantly cheerful voice telling him over and over and over that his call was very important (yet it would be answered in the order in which it was received) sounded vaguely familiar...
"Hi, thanks for calling QVC, my name is Obi-Wan, can I please have the number of the item that you're interested in ordering?" the sugary-sweet voice asked him.
Maul struggled to control his voice as he recited the item number. Just as he finished, he heard Kathie Lee say that item number THX1138 was sold out. A moment later, Obi-Wan told him the same thing.
Maul was at a loss. The mind whammy was something that (so far) he had only done in person. Would it even work over the phone?
"You have had a cancellation of an order. That item is now available and you will sell it to me," Maul forcefully said into the mouthpiece of the phone.
"Hold on, my screen is flashing. Let me exit real quickly and get back in...there we go, and what do you know? We have 1 more left. I just need your address and credit card information, Mr..?"
"Maul. Darth Maul. And I'll be using American Express to pay for that. You will also send this item to me via same day mail, yet charge me the fourth class rate. In addition, I wish to speak to Kathie Lee on the air," Maul commanded the perky voice on the other end of the line.
A moment later Maul heard Kathie Lee intone, "...and now we have Darth on the line. Darth, where are you calling from?"
"From the dark side of the force, somewhere I sense you have never been, but your husband has frequented. But that is unimportant right now. Your channel is evil personified and I think it would make a welcome addition to the dark side. You make items seem as though they are available, then limit quantities and sell out items before the masses can acquire them."
Kathie Lee just laughed and replied, "Thanks for the compliments, we try to please here at QVC. And as far as the dark side goes, we kicked ass and took names when we defeated the force's Home Shopping Club. So, Sith, we are closer to you than you realize. Thanks again for calling and enjoy your item!"
The line disconnected, leaving a beeping tone in Maul's ear. He placed the phone down and turned to Sidious.
"The item will arrive later today, my Master. Now all I need are the tools required to assemble it."
"Come, young Sith. We shall visit a warehouse that houses knowledgeable employees and contains massive rows of merchandise. Home Depot."
As they approached the store its double doors opened automatically. Maul immediately drew his lightsaber and assumed a fighting stance.
"Relax, Maul. These doors will be the least of your worries. Now we must locate your, ahem, tools."
Maul pocketed his lightsaber and walked into the store. And stopped. And turned in a full circle three times, straining his neck as he tried in vain to figure out where the tools were located. He looked back and Sidious was walking off, saying something about having to look for new knobs for his drawers.
Maul sighed mightily as the internal battle waged. "Yes, feel your rage," he could hear Sidious cackling. "Use it to defeat...oh, these knobs are just PERFECT!" Finally Maul came to a conclusion. Sith do not ask directions, yet there's nothing wrong with using the mind whammy to...
"Help you require? Looking for a certain area, you are?"
Maul turned around and saw no one, then looked down. Yoda was standing beside him, wearing a button that said "I'm not just an employee, I'm also a stockholder," patiently waiting for an answer.
Maul repeated (out loud this time), "Sith DO NOT ask directions."
"Of course YOU do not. Your master Sidious, afraid he was not to ask for help. Squealed with glee he did when drawer knobs were located. Asks for directions a TRUE Sith does not, correct?"
Maul couldn't argue with the logic of that one. "I need tools. A hammer and a Phillips head screwdriver. You will show me where they are."
"Offer help to you I will. Follow me you must."
Maul followed Yoda, who walked and walked and walked until Maul's boots were starting to chafe the backs of his ankles.
"How much further?" Maul bellowed to his diminutive guide.
"Only Sith's feet are sore you think? Walk this store I do every day, minimum wage I am paid, so complaining I will do not you. But later, here your aisle is now."
Maul turned left and walked down the aisle that Yoda had gestured toward. There were at least 20 different kinds of hammers, and Phillips head screwdrivers in more fractions that he had ever learned in school. He whimpered audibly, which did not escape the attention of Yoda.
"Item that you are to assemble, needs only 2 tools it does, this complicated it should not be. Curious I am, young Sith, to know description of item you have purchased."
Maul hesitantly explained that he had purchased the THX1138 for his apprentice.
Yoda did a double take and an air of caution was apparent on his wrinkled face. "Item you have purchased is strong with the dark side. Tried to assemble one together Mace Windu and I did, successful we were not, threw tools at each other we did accomplish. Recommend this item to you I cannot, but since purchased it already you have, then tools you shall need are these. " Yoda gestured to a hammer and Phillips head screwdriver, both with black rubber handles. Maul sneered his thanks and began the long haul to the front checkout registers.
Maul got into the checkout line and looked for his Master, who was nowhere to be found. The line advanced and he handed his items to the cashier; suddenly Sidious appeared beside him, placing 12 decorative knobs on the counter and telling the clerk, "Just put this all on HIS check." Maul rolled his eyes and dug into the pocket of his robe. He only had enough republic credits on him to buy his supplies, not Sidious's effeminate drawer knobs decorated with flowers. Then his gloved hand felt the smooth plastic of his neighbor's credit card in his pocket. Maul smiled and informed the clerk he'd be paying by credit card instead.
As Maul watched Sidious speed away, he couldn't help but be envious of his Master's mode of transportation. Some day that will be mine, he thought to himself. As he approached his front door he spotted a bright yellow slip of paper taped to the knob. Just as Maul removed it from his door, he heard movement coming from his twit neighbor's apartment. Suddenly the door swung open and Obi-Wan appeared in the doorway.
"HI neighbor! The mailperson tried to deliver this to your apartment, but you were not home. I've been watching for your arrival through this peephole for the last 4 hours. Do you want to come in and have a cup of tea while I locate your box?"
"No. You will locate the box immediately and deposit it inside my apartment. And stop watching me through that peephole!"
Obi-Wan quickly retrieved the box, brushing past Maul with a smile as he carried the box inside. Maul could not help but notice the way that Obi-Wan's muscles strained when he lifted it. Suddenly he recalled that those arms had held him tight on two different occasions...Maul blinked hard and shook his head to banish the images from his mind. He could have sworn that he heard Sidious laughing, but that was impossible. Obi-Wan kept stalling and looking for an excuse to stay, so Maul forcibly pushed him outside, closed the door, and slid the lock home with a flourish.
All of his attention was focused on the box. He ripped the tape off in one long ribbon and eagerly lifted the box high into the air. Three pieces of carpet-covered wood, a carpet-covered base, a bag of cat toys, and a bag with hardware slammed to the ground, narrowly missing Maul's boots. Maul scanned the ground from left to right, then back again feverishly as he realized that the instructions were nowhere to be seen. He shook the box harder and waited for them to flutter to the ground. Nothing happened. Maul placed the box above his head and looked inside. Nothing.
Maul dropped the box in anger and activated his lightsaber in one smooth motion. Then he realized that the instructions were printed on the bottom of the box. Maul sighed, relieved that he had located them...then felt the rage begin to build tenfold inside of him. Further inspection had revealed that the instructions were written in the language of the Naboo--the one subject that Sidious had insisted that he learn, and the one class that Maul had consistently cut while in the Academy. At least there was a diagram that he could attempt to duplicate.
Maul grabbed one of the boards and the carpet-covered base. He had to remove his glove in order to retrieve a nail from the hardware bag. His thumb and index finger held the nail in place while he brought the hammer back with his gloved left hand. Maul swung the hammer with a speed and agility that had been honed to perfection during his training...and immediately howled in pain as the hammerhead connected squarely with his newly exposed fingers.
Hopping up and down with his throbbing fingers in his mouth, Maul caught a glimpse of himself in the mirror on the wall. He was disgusted with what he saw--a Sith that was being defeated. Maul scrunched up his face and growled at the mirror, exposing his flat Coke and Count Chocula-stained teeth. Suddenly the face of the mirror began to fog up from the heat of his breath. As the mirror began to clear, Maul was amazed to see that the mirror provided him with a look inside his Master's apartment.
Sidious was humming a tune that abruptly ceased as he walked past the mirror. Maul inhaled sharply, unsure if his Master could see him through the other side. Apparently not, Maul concluded as he watched Sidious approach the mirror, flip his hair and say, "Mirror Mirror on the wall, who's the fairest Master of them all?" Maul gagged and walked toward the still-unassembled cat tower with a new resolve in his graceful step.
"You think that you have defeated me. You have much to learn about the will of a Sith," Maul sneered as he picked up the new Phillips head screwdriver. Retrieving a screw from the bag of hardware, Maul proceeded to attempt to secure one carpet-covered board to the base. Maul stuck out his tongue, the model of concentration as he tightened the screw with every turn of his wrist. Finally the head of the screw was flush against the bottom of the base. Maul smiled in satisfaction as he inverted the base and viewed his handiwork.
The assembly was steady when Maul first inverted it--then he discovered that when he moved his hand, the vertical carpet-covered board swayed in response. Maul practically beamed as he thought to himself, I am hot shit. Yoda wasn't kidding when he said this cat tower was strong with the dark side. It already obeys my every command. All I have to do is move my hand and... Maul's train of thought was derailed as the vertical carpet-covered board fell over and tumbled towards the ground without any guidance from him. And he realized that the screw he had selected had not been long enough to penetrate the carpet-covered base. Maul picked up the screwdriver and thanked Yoda for selecting the one with the rubber handle; he was able to propel it at his wall with such force that it penetrated his apartment and finally came to rest in the wall over Obi-Wan's kitchen sink.
Maul heard Obi-Wan say, "OH MY!" then all that was heard were the muted sounds of Obi-Wan struggling to pull the screwdriver out of the wall. Maul closed his eyes and counted to 10. He knew his neighbor would never be able to retrieve the impaled screwdriver, but he had a feeling that twit wouldn't just let it go either. Maul had reached 8 when he heard the knock on his door.
"You will go away and keep the screwdriver. I have no use for it anymore."
Obi-Wan opened Maul's unlocked door and found his neighbor glaring at the unassembled components. Obi-Wan gestured toward the floor, and Maul caught a glint of silver as the blade of the brand-new screwdriver glistened in his hand. Maul's eyes widened in wonder as Obi-Wan hastened to explain.
"HI neighbor. I'd forgotten just how strong your sinewy arms are. But that's O.K., I'll keep the screwdriver over my sink as a, shall we say, reminder of our times together."
Maul ignored the jab and stared at the screwdriver in Obi-Wan's hand. "Where did you get THAT screwdriver?" he ordered.
"Master Yoda sold it to me just yesterday. I used it when I assembled an item for him and Mace Windu. They're coming by to pick it up later tonight. It's the THX--hey, you have one too! Want me to put it together for you?"
Before Maul could comprehend what the twit had said, Obi-Wan had assembled the entire cat tower. It had taken him less than 2 minutes. Maul was still speechless when Obi-Wan said, "Gotta go. I have to run over to Qui-Gon's place so that Mr. Fluffy can say goodnight to him. See ya later, neighbor." He closed the door behind him. Maul fell to his knees and prepared for the worst.
Sidious didn't disappoint him. "You have allowed a Jedi to defeat you! Revenge must be swift!"
Maul sprung to his feet and decided that this lesson was OVER. He wielded his double-ended lightsaber like the true weapon that it was, destroying the carpeted boards as he furiously swung it back and forth like a pendulum. The smell of singed carpet activated the smoke alarm in his apartment, which Maul destroyed with a well-placed kick. As the smoke began to clear, Maul was surprised to see his apprentice walk into the room. She glanced perfunctorily at the damage, sniffed her nose in the air to express her disgust at her Master's latest damage, and eventually found what she needed. With her paws she pulled the bag labeled "cat toys" out from underneath the still-smoldering carpeted boards and ripped it open with her teeth. Maul watched in shock as she pulled out a stuffed catnip mouse and walked off towards the kitchen without even glancing back.
Sidious said, "Very good, young Sith. But the revenge is incomplete. You know what must be done."
Maul grinned evilly and replied, "Yes Master."
Later that night Yoda and Mace Windu knocked on Obi-Wan's door. "Come to pick up cat tower we have, completed it shall be, no?"
Obi-Wan walked into his dining room to retrieve the cat tower. And stopped. And turned in a full circle three times, looking in vain for the now-missing cat tower.
Maul was reclining on his sofa watching his apprentice play with her brand new cat tower when he heard a furtive cry of, "NooooooooOOOOOOOOOOOooooooooooo!!!!!!!!!!!!!" echoing through the wall. Maul smiled and settled down further into his sofa, content that all was right with his world again.
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