by J.A. Nessossin
Maul and Sid belong to George Lucas; no copyright infringement is intended. Any resemblance of other characters to actual human beings or politicians is of course purely coincidental. Siubhan owns the Sith Academy and a deep reservoir of good advice, both of which are much appreciated. Thanks also to Melissa, the Intrepid Condo Owner, for beta reading.
"At last!" Darth Sidious exulted. "All my campaigning is about to pay off, Maul. The speeches, the late nights, the kissing babies--yecch--I've had to suck up to the blasted voters for a year now. Well, it ends today. The stupid bastards will put me back in office and I'll use my position to crush the galaxy beneath the heel of my blue velour boot!"
Darth Maul rolled his eyes. "Yes, my Master." He had had a long day of stuffing ballot boxes, and would have liked to go home and collapse on his couch with a cold Pete's and a warm Padawan, but Sidious expected him to play the part of the grateful ward on camera. He had therefore gone to the Senator's office in the palace and collapsed on Sidious's couch instead.
"Maul," Palpatine said while refreshing his face powder, "put your robe on over that awful T-shirt and tighten your tie, the media will be here any time."
"I can't stand to wear this thing. It strangles me."
"Better it than me, n'est-ce pas, Apprentice?"
"Yes, my Master," Maul said sourly. "Hey, see that? You're winning that precinct by two hundred votes; I cast two hundred and thirty-five of those!"
As the evening progressed, they watched the votes mount up with concern. Palpatine was winning Theed, as expected, but losing almost everywhere else on the planet. What was worse, the 'casters simply could not keep themselves from babbling about the results of exit polls before the actual polls had even closed.
"Yes, and we've found that of people who wish to be ruled by an evil empire, 68% are voting for Palpatine. Likewise, 63% of those who believe that Bushle's brain is actually made of styrofoam."
"It's those other 37% I wonder about, Dan."
"But I understand some are now suggesting that this election is more than anything else a fashion referendum?"
"Yes, Dan. Among people who agree that Palpatine is 'an incredibly handsome man,' 84% are voting for him."
"It looks like Palpatine is going through the theatre district like a drag queen through a Corellian bathhouse."
"Um... yes, Dan. However, those who describe him as 'a tasteless old fruit' go 93% for the Governor."
Every glass in the Senator's suite shattered. Palpatine clenched his fist around a little involuntary spark of purple lightning.
"Er, Master, we could just turn off the tube and wait for someone to call us?" Maul suggested nervously.
"And," said the set, "we have now learned that the popular vote stands at 50.01% for the incumbent Senator, 49.99% for the Governor. Hard news for the Governor to hear, no doubt." Sidious laughed cruelly.
"And he's going to talk to the media right now. Perhaps it's a concession speech?"
The Governor appeared on the vidscreen. "Well, I am delighted to have won the election. This is a democracy! The people have spoken!"
Maul picked his jaw up. "Say what? Is he deluded? They say he snorts coke..."
"Excuse me, Governor, but you've lost the popular vote..."
"But the election hinges upon how many precincts are won, and our support was much more broadly distributed than that of my respected opponent, who won only in a few urban areas well known for vote fraud."
"Governor, are you accusing the Senator of trying to steal the election?"
"Well, everyone knows that the man is a major league asshole, Dan."
Palpatine's assortment of liquor bottles shattered, as did the vidscreen. Maul snatched up the broken bottom of a bottle of Tullamore Dew and tipped the whiskey down his throat.
"This isn't over!" Sidious snarled. "I'll make him pay for this--"
"Should I kill him?" Maul said hopefully.
"No! This requires subtlety. Shut up and let me think about it."
Maul shut up, and after a while drifted off to sleep on the couch. When he woke, he saw a baggy-eyed newsman, slurping a cup of coffee, interviewing an equally bleary Senator. Someone had obviously sent a sweeper droid to pick up the broken glass, but little glimmers remained in the carpet, giving it an unfortunate resemblance to Senator Palpatine's rumpled formal robe.
"We are demanding a recount of only one large district packed with my supporters," Palpatine said. "We think that thousands of these voters mistakenly voted for Bew-Kan Nunn when they intended to vote for me."
"Oh, come on, Senator. They'd have to be dumber than a bag of hammers being poured out of a boot!"
"I'm glad you said that, Dan. We're asking for a recount of all ballots cast in Gunga City. Gungans are well known to be unable to tell their right from their left, and asking them to "punch the hole 'next to' the arrow" is no more than a cruel joke on these fine citizens. Indeed the very presence of written instructions might constitute oppression..."
Maul sat up and switched on his battery-operated pocket vidscreen, which was showing live footage of the Governor, in a folksy outdoor scene, talking with one of his aides.
"Goddamnit! I told you to make sure the Gungans didn't vote, you little cocksucker! Haven't you ever heard of voter intimidation ...Uh, is that mike on?"
Maul rolled off the couch and lay on the sparkling rug, laughing maniacally.
"If you will observe my supporters spontaneously demonstrating outside..." With a wave of his hand, Sidious directed the cameraman's attention to the window, then delivered a vicious kick to his hapless apprentice's ribs.
"Stop that, you deadbeat! I have a job for you." Sidious grabbed Maul by an ear and dragged him to his feet. "We're going to Gunga City right now." He lowered his voice to a menacing whisper. "And you're going to find us some more votes."
They piled into Sidious's sleek black speeder and headed for the swamp. The road was lined with picketers holding up three fingers of one hand and waving signs with the other.
"What's this?" Maul growled. Thinking it was some sort of Gungan obscene gesture, he shook his gauntleted fist at them; they hooted back.
"That is their way of showing support for the Governor, my Apprentice," Sidious explained.
"I don't get it."
"The Governor's middle initial is W."
"Ah...What is your middle name, my Master?"
"Isaac," Sidious answered absently. Maul stuck his hand out the window, signaling his loyalty to his own candidate. Eggs began to splatter against the side of the speeder. "Maul! Stop that at once, damn you! There may be cameras!"
"But Master, I was just..."
"Save it! We're here. I've arranged a position for you on the counting board. That makes two of you who will be my supporters. You will simply count all questionable ballots for me."
"But, Master..." As they splashed through the swamp, Maul wondered dismally if Sidious could and would have arranged this whole mess only as a rage-honing exercise. As soon as they arrived, they were ushered, walking squashily in wet boots, into the Gungan equivalent of a dingy office. Several exhausted workers drooped on benches around a long table; his master pushed him down behind the table. A bailiff, a tall dark man wearing a tacky leather uniform, knelt and fumbled with his ankle. "Hey, what's he doing?"
"Nobody's going home until this is settled," the bailiff explained, "we're facing a constitutional crisis," and Maul realized with horror that he had been shackled to his chair by a long chain attached to an ankle cuff. Sidious was already striding out to pose for the press.
"Noooooo! Wait, Master, I will be good and obedient, I promise..." Maul gave up, cursing under his breath, and sat back to wait for the other two members of the counting board.
A slim young woman in a pastel hooded robe entered, followed by...Obi-Wan Kenobi?
"What are YOU doing here?" he hissed, as Obi-Wan was being chained to the chair to his left.
"Oh brother!" Obi-Wan clenched his fists. "Master Windu yanked me out of bed with a bunch of BS about how it was a Jedi's duty to serve the people and in my position he'd want to go the extra mile to please the Council. At first I thought he was just crabby from fasting during Ramadan. Then I noticed bits of electric blue velour fuzz all over his trousers." Maul tried to imagine where a Jedi-scum might come in contact with electric blue velour, then turned gray with horror.
"Right," Obi-Wan said grimly, "Da arranged for me to be chosen." Maul noticed the young woman cocking her head suspiciously and made an urgent throat-cutting gesture. Obviously he thinks I'll fake votes for him out of filial loyalty. Even the Jedi's mental voice sounded pissed. We'll see about that. Dragging me out here on my day off! Good thing Jedi are known for absolute probity, isn't it? Obi-Wan's lips curved into a smile that spoke strongly of the Dark Side. Maul snickered, but with a nervous undertone; his master might have been counting on two supporters on the board, but he knew all too well who would get one hundred percent of the blame if things went badly.
"Well, let's get started," the robed woman said. "Bailiff, bring out the ballots." The bailiff struggled in with a giant armload of paper cards and dropped them on the table, producing an ominous crack. The girl paled. "Well, now, that's not so huge a task..."
"I presumed you'd want to start with one percent, ma'am. You'll never get through the whole stack. There are too many of them!"
Maul poked out Palpatine's hole in an unvoted ballot with the tip of a claw, dropped it onto a teetering stack of Palpatine votes, and rewarded himself with a swig of cold coffee, peeking over to make sure Obi-Wan hadn't spotted him. The padawan was sprawled across the table, trying to lie on his arms while counting ballots at arm's length. Over his back, Maul noticed something odd about the Bushle partisan in the saffron robe.
"Hey, you. Are you doing your hair differently or something?"
She shot him a look of hostile misery. "Eirtaé's eyeballs fell out three hours ago. I'm Rabé. What the hell is wrong with this coffee?"
Maul shrugged. The lid of the coffee urn popped open; a sopping Ewok climbed out, chittered something, and scampered out.
"He says thank you very much, he's quite warm now," a nearby protocol droid said.
Rabé spit coffee over the pile of ballots in front of her. Maul lunged over the semiconscious Jedi's back to grab a handful of the Governor's votes. "Damaged ballots!" he cried triumphantly. "Identifying marks! Must be discarded!" He flung them toward the waste-disposal unit.
"I'm disputing that! How do you vote? Hey, wake up, you!" Rabé kicked Obi-Wan.
"Huh? Are we finished?" Obi-Wan jerked upright. "What's the count?"
The bailiff appeared, tapping a datapad. "Ninety thousand votes for Senator Palpatine, ninety thousand... and... one for Governor Bushle. This can mean only one thing--civil war," he muttered, staring into space.
Rabé whooped. Maul collapsed in his chair. "No! This can't happen. He can't lose! I'll get my ass fried... I mean, the will of the people will be contravened!" He cast frantic eyes around the room. Inspiration struck. He snatched up a Bushle ballot and stuffed it into his mouth.
"Bailiff!!" Rabé cried. "That horrible man is eating the ballots!"
One of Palpatine's most reliable political allies, Naddler the Hutt, appeared as if by magic with a pack of journalists. Maul wondered idly how they'd gotten him to the precinct, he certainly hadn't walked; perhaps on the back of a flatbed truck? "I am reliably informed that the vote here is tied. Yet thousands of ballots still remain uncounted, containing votes for Emp--ah, Senator Palpatine that nobody has been perceptive enough to observe. It is thus critically important that we recount those ballots."
"Congressman, if your party makes these people start another recount now, won't you be about as popular as a feather dancer in a Tovan conclave?"
"I think you're skating on the thin edge of fair use there, Dan," Naddler purred.
"Sorry, I meant to say 'as popular as an incontinent skunk in a rug shop.'"
"Well, I don't think so, Dan. These are good people here who only want to do the right thing for their galaxy by making sure Senator Palpatine gets elected. No matter how long it takes." Maul spit the chewed remains of the critical ballot at the back of the Hutt's head; the Congressman twitched and patted the side of his head, his stubby arms fortunately not long enough for him to find out what had happened.
"Definitely a Palpatine vote." Maul held a blank ballot in front of Obi-Wan's face.
The Jedi was holding his eyelids open with his fingers. "I don't see it."
Maul took it back long enough to tap the chad sharply. "Try again," he coaxed.
"Oh, yes. There it is."
The Handmaiden glared. "Here's a vote for Bushle, then."
"Sure," Obi-Wan agreed.
"Wait!" Maul spluttered. "I don't see the slightest hole in that ballot."
Rabé smirked. "The chad is pregnant."
"Oh yeah?" Maul snarled. "Well, two can play at that game, sister!" Unbuttoning his fly with one hand, he snatched up a pile of undervotes.
"Are you sure you aren't doing something different with your hair?"
The Handmaiden gave him a frosty stare. "Rabé collapsed from exhaustion. I'm Sabé. You won't find me so soft as the other two."
Maul leered. "I'll have to check that manually."
"You pig!" Obi-Wan cried and slammed a stack of undervotes onto the table. It barfed up a small sprinkling of chad as Obi-Wan buried his face in his hands with a wrenching sob of anguish.
Maul reached out quickly. "I want that pile recounted!"
"If that's the way you want to play it..." Sabé darted an arm around Obi-Wan to grab the sleeve of Maul's robe and shake it hard. A huge pile of chads poured out. "What's this? Bailiff!"
"One of the pregnant chads gave birth," Maul said. He spread his hands innocently "I'm just taking care of the litter until the mother returns. In honor of Senator Palpatine's well-known propensity for succoring homeless orphans who can do something for him."
Sabé picked up a handful of Palpatine votes, produced a knitting needle from somewhere under her robe, and skewered the stack neatly, producing a small fountain of chad. Pretty good moves for a maid, Maul thought, impressed.
"Well, lookee here. It seems a bunch of your voters did punch Bew-Kan Nunn's number after all."
"You won't get away with it! Obi-Wan, will you pay attention over there?"
The padawan peeped through his fingers, sniffling. "My gawd, Gungans really are pretty stupid, aren't they?"
"This you just noticed?"
"Overvotes go in the garbage," Sabé said smugly and tossed the ballots over her shoulder.
"But dimples are counted." Maul spread out a huge sheaf of uncounted ballots and started tapping his fingers frantically; finally those miserable piano lessons would pay off.
The Handmaiden turned purple. "Stop that right now!"
"Make me," Maul sneered without looking up.
She produced a small blaster. "Okay. Get your hands off those ballots."
"Oh, really. You think I'm worried about a pretty little girl like you?"
"What? You asked for it, buddy!" As she fired, Maul whipped out his lightsaber to deflect the bolt. Left, and it would hit the unsuspecting Obi-Wan; right, and it would crisp a pile of the critical Palpatine ballots. He hesitated for an interminable moment before bringing his saber up just in time, then dropped it, sickened by how close he'd come to making the wrong choice.
Obi-Wan, whirling, swung his own saber up and deflected the bolt mere centimeters from the tip of his nose. "You pig!" he yelled again. "Oh shit, the ballots are on fire! Somebody get a fire extinguisher! A bucket of water!" He tried to run for help, but was yanked back down by the ankle chain. "Bailiff!" he shouted from the floor. "Pour the coffee over it!"
"Yes, sir!" The bailiff charged in and upended the coffee urn, spilling gallons of the sludgy stuff over the fire. It ignited as it hit the flames, burning with an ugly green flame; in moments, the ballots were reduced to ash. "I could have told you that would happen," the bailiff said mournfully.
Darth Sidious paced around his kneeling apprentice. "The Supreme Court of the Republic has decided that since the critical ballots being contested were--ahem--destroyed by accident before they could be recounted, the election must be nullified. I will retain my office until such time as another election date can be arranged."
"Master," Maul said pleadingly, "I did my best, I swear it..."
Sidious waved his hand dismissively. "Think no more of it. I am quite sure it was a wholly understandable error. On the date of the next election, though, I shall have a special task for you." Sidious sipped his snifter of fine brandy, enjoying the sight of his apprentice shivering helplessly. "I shall send you to toil anonymously in the spice mines of Kessel until the count has been certified."
Maul sighed with relief. "Thank you, my Master. You are most generous. I do not find that I enjoy politics."
"That is a mark of your inexperience, my young apprentice. There is nothing Sithlier than politics. To assist you in comprehending this important truth, I have arranged for you to serve as a board member of one of my front organizations, the Soccer Mothers Against Rock Music for Youth."
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