Sith Academy: The Campaign
By the Intrepid Housemate Melissa TM (email@example.com)
Senator Palpatine's Puff Piece by Siubhan (firstname.lastname@example.org)
[Read Melissa's author bio] [Read Siubhan's author bio]
Sidious looked around his apprentice's apartment. The computer was off, the PlayStation was paused, and the cat was snoozing on her cat tower. There was no sign of Maul. "Maul? Where are you?"
"In the bathroom," a muffled voice said from the back hall. "Even a Sith has to take a dump every now and then." A loud flushing sound ensued, and shortly thereafter Maul appeared in the living room, tugging his boxer shorts back into place. "What is your wish, my master?"
"Pack up your good robes, my apprentice. We're going on another trip."
Maul moaned. "Not again! What badly-managed hell-spawned strong-with-the-dark-side form of transport are we taking this time?"
"Fear not, my apprentice. This time, the journey is not the lesson. We shall be traveling in style." Sidious opened his robe, revealing his swishiest Palpatine garb underneath. "It's time for me to put in an appearance as Senator Palpatine back on Naboo, and he gets nothing less than the best. I want you to come with me and help me with my re-election campaign."
Maul, who had long ago learned never to express interest in what was under his master's robes, kept his eyes on his master's face. "How can I hone my rage and hatred without sabotaging your re-election bid?" he asked, reaching for his light saber.
Sidious grinned evilly. "I am sure I will find some way to achieve both goals."
Maul headed down the stairs with his suitcase, only to encounter his twit neighbor, Obi-Wan, coming up the stairs hauling an enormous cardboard box.
"Move it, Jedi," growled Maul, pressing himself into the corner to avoid being sideswiped.
"Oh, hey, neighbor!" chirped Obi-Wan. "Sorry to be in the way. I just bought the Habitrail Power Hamster EcoSphere 9000 -- well, actually, I bought two of them -- and I'm going to connect them together and build the ultimate hamster house."
"Hamster?" Maul advanced on Obi-Wan, his eyes boring little holes into the padawan's skull "What did you do with that kitten?" he hissed.
"It's so sweet of you to be concerned, seeing as you're sort of the grandfather," Obi-Wan said as he hefted his box up to the top of the stairs. "She didn't seem very happy living with me. Actually, it was Qui-Gon and she who didn't get along. They both hogged the covers." Obi-Wan put the box on the floor and began to push it along, creating a scraping sound that made Maul's horns rattle. "Eventually, I got a very strong feeling that she really wanted to join her brothers and sisters in the Senate building, so I dropped her off over there."
"And now you're going back to hamsters?"
"Yup! I guess I just like hamsters." Obi-Wan pointed to his box. "And now they'll be safe in this new hamster house. It's got force shielding, climate control, everything a hamster needs for comfort and safety." Suddenly, Obi-Wan noticed Maul's suitcase. "Say, are you going on a trip?"
"No, I am taking my suitcase for a walk. It needs the exercise," Maul sneered.
The Jedi laughed. "You're right, stupid question. So who is feeding your cat?"
"I leave the kibble bag out for her and she fends for herself. She must learn to be self-sufficient."
Obi-Wan looked horrified. "Oh, but you can't leave a domesticated animal like a cat alone for so long!"
"Trust me, she can take care of herself."
"Look, why don't you leave me a key to your apartment. I'll look in on her while you're gone, just to make sure all is well. It's the neighborly thing to do."
Maul thought about it. While he was sure that his apprentice could take care of herself so far as food was concerned, she usually indicated displeasure with his long absences by ripping up some piece of furniture or article of clothing while he was gone. Perhaps if she had the pesky padawan to keep her company, she wouldn't get bored. "OK, I'll do it."
"Great! But you have to bring me a souvenir from wherever you're going!"
Unlike previous excursions with his master, Maul's trip to Naboo was uneventful. Palpatine had hired a small but well-apportioned cruiser to bring him to his home world in style. Maul spent most of the trip making himself as invisible as possible in the corner, while Palpatine turned on his effervescent charm for reporters from the Naboo News Network who were accompanying him on his trip home.
"... which is why I think that a military consisting of droids is a bad idea," Palpatine was saying. "Wouldn't it be better to have an army of real, thinking people?"
Maul noticed his master's subtle hand gestures. He was Mind Whammying the reporters into asking flattering questions, allowing the occasional "hardball" query which he was prepared to answer. He wondered how it would play on TV, where the audience couldn't feel the Mind Whammy effect.
[NNN Logo flashes across the screen]
Voice of James Earl Jones: This is the Naboo News Network.
Stone Phillips: Hello, this is Stone Phillips covering Senator Palpatine's visit to Naboo. You all know our senator is a kindly man...
[Shot of smiling Palpatine giving out lollipops to the children at the Theed petting zoo as a goat nuzzles up to him affectionately.]
Phillips: ...but there's another, even kindlier side to Palpatine that most people don't know about. It all started twenty years ago. A group of archeologists stumbled across a young boy being raised by a herd of Tauntauns.
[Shot of small, filthy, naked child with a crown of horns on his head suckling a Tauntaun.]
Phillips: No one knew how he got there, but they knew that they had to bring him back to civilization. The two-year old boy was brought to an orphanage on Coruscant where he was deemed "unadoptable" by the staff.
[Shot of a two-year old Maul screaming wildly as he chases the other children around the orphanage, waving a two-by-four over his head.]
Phillips: Lucky for that boy, Senator Palpatine visited the orphanage shortly after he arrived, and he immediately took a shine to the young child.
[Shot of two-year old Maul clocking Palpatine with the two by four.]
Phillips: That lucky boy soon after became the ward of Senator Palpatine, who made sure the boy's life was as normal as the next kid's.
[A montage of photos is displayed: a pouting three-year old Maul sitting on Palpatine's lap in a Sears family portrait; a four-year old Maul assaulting the elves at Santa's Land while Yoda/Santa waves his cane at him and Palpatine chuckles indulgently; a six-year old Maul in his little league uniform, cap hanging off one horn and spikes sticking out of his bat; an eight-year old Maul sitting next to Palpatine as he grand marshal's the Theed Pride Day Parade (right behind the float of leathermen); a thirteen-year old Maul reading from the Torah at his Bar Mitzvah, yarmulke hanging precariously from one horn.]
Phillips: Back when he initially made the boy his ward, here's what he had to say:
Palpatine: [Holding a squirming, biting, kicking, and generally extremely unhappy two-year old Maul.] While this poor unfortunate child has indeed had a very difficult beginning to his short life, I am confident that with proper tutelage and guidance, he'll grow up to be a productive, fulfilled, and most importantly, happy member of society. And he has a lot going for him: he's very clever and agile, he has highly honed instincts, and he learns very quickly.
By Wild Lokichild [no valid email address]. Click to see larger image.
Palpatine: See, he's already learning to speak! I sense this young boy has great potential. [Maul snarls and rams one of his little horns into the side of Palpatine's head, who merely chuckles indulgently as blood gouts from the wound.] Boys will be boys!
Phillips: That Palpatine. What a nice guy! For NNN, this is Stone Phillips.
Finally, Maul and Sidious escaped the official reception thrown by Queen Amidala and made their way to the quarters assigned to them. Maul, who had spent most of the day resisting the urge to bash in the heads of the obsequious toads trying to curry favor with Palpatine, released some of his pent-up energy by destroying the large floral arrangement that Governor Bibble had sent to their room.
"Be sure to get plenty of rest tonight, Maul. I have a special job for you tomorrow."
"What is it, my master?"
Sidious settled himself on the couch and reached for the box of chocolates given to him by Ric Olié. "The Naboo are not the only intelligent species on this planet. There is another group called the Gungans. Although they don't generally get along with the Naboo, they are citizens of the planet and thus have the right to vote in the election. I want you to find the Gungans and convince them to get the vote out -- in my favor, of course."
"You're the diplomat. Why not go yourself?"
Sidious bit into a chocolate cordial. "Think of it as a class project in Deceiving The Enemy. You can't stab people in the back until they trust you enough to turn around."
Maul sighed. "As you wish, my master. Where are the Gungans to be found?"
A sly grin crossed his master's face. "Ah, yes, there is that little detail..." Sidious was handing him some metal object. A water breather? "You see? I told you I'd find a way for you to hone your rage!"
"Here, kitty kitty kitty!" Obi-Wan looked around his neighbor's apartment. "What a mess!" he exclaimed, his nose wrinkling.
A brief motion caught his eye. The cat was sitting by the door, almost as if she were waiting for him. "Hello, puddy tat! Let me check your food and water, and I'll be right back!"
Maul's apprentice waited patiently. She had been studying the padawan's behavior for the last few days. She knew his pattern. Her plan was ready. Her adversary awaited her.
"All set!" Obi-Wan reached down to scritch the cat between her ears. She accepted the gesture, not wanting to arouse his suspicions. "See you tomorrow!"
Obi-Wan turned to let himself out of the apartment. When the door opened, My Apprentice dashed out with a speed and accuracy well-honed by many mad chases around the veterinarian's office. She was careful not to let the Jedi see her. Obi-Wan locked the door to Maul's apartment behind him. So far, so good!
The padawan then returned to his own apartment. As the door opened, the cat slipped in, once again carefully avoiding notice. Obi-Wan closed the door, oblivious to his new houseguest. Success!
My Apprentice turned to look where she knew her adversary was waiting. She had felt his presence for the last few days, just on the other side of the wall separating the Sith and Jedi apartments. The Force was strong with this new being, she had sensed it. He had sensed her as well, and was biding his time, knowing that this moment would come.
Obi-Wan walked up to the Habitrail Power Hamster EcoSphere 9000, which had been placed on top of a short bookshelf against the wall, and pressed his face against the reinforced glass. "I'm back, my little Fluffi-Wan Kenobi!" he announced to the serene, tan-furred hamster inside. The hamster regarded him calmly from his nest of cedar shavings. Suddenly, Obi-Wan felt the urge to go the kitchen and prepare a bowl of hamster pellets.
As the padawan disappeared into the kitchen, cat and hamster settled into a stare-down, separated by the force fields and sturdy construction of the Hamster EcoSphere. My Apprentice, filled with Sithly energy, hopped up onto the bookshelf and paced the length of the cage, her tail swishing as she tested its defenses. Fluffi-Wan sat still and meditated, gathering his Jedi strength and trying to anticipate the cat's moves.
"Aha! Gotcha!" My Apprentice unexpectedly found herself dangling by the scruff of her neck. Damn! She'd focused so much on Fluffi-Wan that she hadn't noticed the human coming up behind her. Now he was holding her in her most vulnerable position, and there was little she could do about it. "You're a sneaky one," Obi-Wan chided as the limp cat seethed in his grasp. "Back to your apartment you go!"
Sith cat and Jedi hamster looked at each other one last time. Another time, they both agreed.
I will kill him, Maul thought as he struggled to pull his boots out of the sucking swamp mud once again. I will kill him, and then I will grind him up into tiny pieces, and then I will blast them into oblivion!
Maul stood at the edge of the water, staring balefully into its depths. Based on the information he had about the amphibious Gungans, this was the best place from which to try to reach their underwater city. No wonder Sidious didn't want to campaign here himself; his entire wardrobe was dry clean only.
Placing the water breather in his mouth, Maul waded in. Green algae from the shallows near the bank clung to his boots, which he was starting to discover weren't quite as waterproof as the clerk in the shoe store had claimed. Why hadn't he thought to bring a spare set of robes in a waterproof pouch? With a mental grumble, Maul slipped beneath the waves.
After a short time underwater, Maul noticed the glowing orbs below. The Gungan city! Maul swam toward the largest bubble, using the Force to propel himself swiftly. Now, where was the airlock? There had to be some sort of entrance! Maul landed on a small platform and reached out to knock on the wall. Instead, he found that his hand passed completely through. He let the rest of his body follow.
A thoroughly wet and miserable Darth Maul stepped into the Gungan city. His robes were soaked, his socks were squishy, and there was kelp down the back of his shirt. At least he hoped it was kelp...
There didn't seem to be anyone around. "Hello?" he called.
"Yeeek!" A startled scream emanated from behind an open equipment panel in the wall, followed by a cascade of tools scattering across the floor. A lanky, frog-faced figure backed out of the access hatch, flailed wildly trying to catch a laser wrench, hit his head on the frame, and fell smack on top of a particularly sharp screwdriver.
"Yeeouch!!" The creature jumped up, rubbing its sore backside and staring wide-eyed at Maul. "Whosa be yousa?"
I am an evil Sith Lord, here to take advantage of you and use you mercilessly for my own purposes, Maul thought to himself, smiling. Remembering that he was here to practice his diplomacy and deception skills, what he actually said was "My name is Darth Maul, and I am here on behalf of Senator Palpatine, who represents this planet to the Galactic Senate. The Senator wishes to encourage Gungan participation in the upcoming election."
"Huh?" The amphibian's eyestalks wavered in confusion. "Yousa no should be talkin to mesa, methinks. Mesa name Jar Jar Binks, mesa just apprentice mechanik. I fix bubblewalls, keep city nicen dry. Yousa wanna be talkin to Gungan bigun, Boss Nass. Mesa show you!" Jar Jar turned and limped up a broad ramp, Maul squishing along in his wake.
Shortly thereafter, Maul stood in the central chamber of Boss Nass, leader of the Gungans. The enormously fat creature ignored Maul for the moment. "Not again, Jar Jar Binks!" boomed Boss Nass. "Wesa keep sayin, no bringin in de outsiders. Yousa keep bringen dem! I remember dat Wookiee you found, with all dat wet fur -- phew!! What you gonna bring next, Jedi?" Nass looked at Maul. "So, whosa dis other un?"
Maul introduced himself again and launched into the speech prepared for him by Palpatine's speechwriters, extolling the virtues of the democratic electoral system, stressing the importance of Gungan participation in the vote, and plugging Palpatine's re-election platform.
The Gungans looked at him with incomprehension. "Nah, Gungans no care bout the Naboo," Boss Nass shook his head. "Wesa no need 'lections. Fattest Gungan is boss, that how Gungans do things."
These people are idiots, Maul thought to himself. Forget diplomacy. Maul raised both his hands and hit them with the Mind Whammy. "You will vote in the election!"
"Yah, we vote!" Nass and the other Gungans in the room agreed enthusiastically.
"You will vote for Palpatine!"
"Yah, Palpateen, him nice guy!" All the Gungans shook their heads.
This is much better than diplomacy. "You will watch every Naboo News Network special on Senator Palpatine!" Might as well pump the ratings as far as they would go.
"Oooh, yah, NNN, we get that!" said Boss Nass. He touched a control on his chair, and a vidscreen slid up from the floor. The picture was fuzzy, but NNN seemed to be showing yet another puff piece on Palpatine. Maul peered at the screen, trying to discern which of the senator's many good works they were focusing on.
Suddenly, Maul recognized the picture, and he felt his stomach trying to claw its way out of his throat. Palpatine had provided the reporters with that awful publicity photo from two elections ago, where Palpatine and a newly pubescent zit-faced Maul had marched in the "Save the Tauntauns" fund-raising parade. Not only did he have an embarrassing pizza face, but it was the most sickly-sweet picture of good old Senator Palpatine and his cute little ward that he knew of. He thought he'd destroyed that photo -- and the negatives! He tried to stifle the familiar rising tide of hatred that made the veins on his scalp pop out so prominently.
"Hey, Jar Jar, you mechanik, get da teevee cleaned up," Nass ordered.
"Okieday." Jar Jar ambled over to the vidscreen, opened up the back panel, and began tinkering. "Hmm, lessee, got tenna over here, tube over dere, gasser, green cable, blue cable..." The Gungan muttered to himself as he rummaged in the vidscreen works. "Hmm, pink cable not connected to anything. Meesa think it suposeta connect to gasser."
To hell with Palpatine, his campaign, and his puff pieces! Maul decided triumphantly. I'm supposed to hone my hatred in order to bring the rat bastard down someday, and that's what I'm going to do! He gestured violently toward the vidscreen, which suddenly exploded in a shower of sparks. The Gungan behind the vidscreen yelped most satisfyingly.
"Jar Jar Binks!" Boss Nass screamed. "What you doin back dere?"
"Uh-oh! Me boom the gasser, me think. My fix!"
Maul gestured again. Another arc of energy shot out of the vidscreen and connected with the bubble wall behind it. The wall shimmered, wobbled, and began to give way.
"Nooooooooo!" cried Jar Jar as the incoming rush of water swept him off his feet.
"Jar Jar, you dumb gooberfish!" Nass yelled as he tried to get out of the way of the flood. "You crashed the heyblibber!"
Yes! All was chaos. Gungans were running everywhere as water poured through the hole in the bubble. Time to go, Maul thought to himself. The room was rapidly filling with water, so Maul inserted his water breather and looked for an exit. The last thing he saw was Jar Jar and Boss Nass tangled up together in a very compromising position, hampering each other in their efforts to escape the flood.
Maul was pleased to find that the reporters would not be accompanying them on the shuttle back to Coruscant. It allowed him to spread his robes over the hyperdrive engine to dry out, while he wandered around the shuttle barefoot and in boxer shorts. He'd been picking kelp out of his boots, robes, underwear, and unmentionable bodily orifices ever since he'd dragged himself out of the swamp.
Palpatine was looking at the latest pre-election poll results coming from NNN. "Excellent!" he chortled. "I do believe I've got this election sewn up -- assuming nothing happens to screw things up. " He shot a dirty look in Maul's direction. "Even if the Gungans don't show up at the polls, the Naboo vote should be more than enough."
Maul settled into a chair and began to pick algae from underneath his toenails. "If you would warn me when you're about to humiliate me in front of the universe, I might be able to manage my well-honed rage a little better," he said, pointedly not looking in Palpatine's direction. The senator merely snorted. "Why in the world do you drag me along to these things, anyway?" Maul muttered, digging into a particularly stubborn patch of algae and wincing. "Why all this pretense about the kindly senator and his ward, when the real plan is for us to rule the galaxy, and ultimately for me to kill you and take over?"
Palpatine steepled his fingers and smiled to himself. "You will understand in good time, my apprentice. All in good time."
Maul wondered if now wouldn't be a good time to kill his master and get it over with, but settled for flicking kelp into the senator's pocket when he wasn't looking.
At last, a weary Maul trudged up the stairs toward his apartment on Coruscant, looking forward to nothing more than a good long sleep on his couch.
"Noooooooooo!" The familiar cry echoed from the stairwell above. What was wrong with Obi-Wan this time -- and could he get there in time to watch?
By Ash [no valid email address]. Click to see larger image.
Maul arrived at the top of the stairs and regarded the incredible scene playing itself out in the hallway between the two apartment doors. His cat was chasing what Maul assumed was Obi-Wan's new hamster. To his surprise, the hamster was giving his apprentice a run for her money. He was dodging and weaving like a rodent possessed, occasionally turning back on himself and giving the cat a good nip. For her part, the infuriated cat was doing her best to swat the hamster down, but couldn't seem to put a paw on him.
Obi-Wan had clearly been trying to break this struggle up with little success, as evidenced by the claw marks that decorated his skin. "Maul! You're back! Thank goodness! Can you please grab your cat?" he begged.
Maul had watched Obi-Wan blubbering over deceased hamsters before, and decided that he was just not in the mood right now to endure the sobbing and wailing once again. "Leave it alone, my apprentice," he commanded. "Now."
The cat growled with displeasure, then suddenly gave up the chase and rubbed against Maul's ankles as if nothing had been happening, giving every indication that she no longer cared in the least what that silly hamster was up to. She began to groom herself.
"Thanks, neighbor!" Obi-Wan scooped up Fluffi-Wan, who was looking tired but otherwise none the worse for wear. "He's quite an escape artist, this hamster. I don't know what gets into him -- it's almost as if he goes looking for your cat!"
It's just a hamster, Maul thought to his apprentice. How can it escape you? His apprentice shot him one of those withering stares that indicated that he couldn't possibly know what he was talking about, then resumed licking her bitten tail.
"Oh, here are your housekeys. Your cat got along just fine, as you predicted." Obi-Wan tossed the keys to Maul, who stuck them into his pocket without thinking. He felt something squishy in there. Maul grabbed whatever it was and pulled yet another long piece of kelp out of his clothes. How much more of this stuff was he going to find?
"What's that?" asked Obi-Wan.
Maul grinned evilly. "It's your souvenir," he purred, handing the seaweed to Obi-Wan. "A genuine cutting from some lovely plants along the Naboo shoreline. I thought you might want to start a water garden."
"Hydroponics! Cool! Thanks, neighbor!"
"Don't mention it. Ever. Again."
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