Darth Maul was on full alert. It had been over a week since Sidious had barged into his apartment, and the trick was to maintain his marathon PlayStation fever while being ready for another one of his Master's dramatically annoying entrances.
Unpredictably, the doorbell rang.
Frantic at this new approach, Maul switched off the PlayStation without saving.
Damn it all to the Great Pit of Carkoon! Maul thought savagely. It's a trick.
He opened the door and plastered a phony smile on his face.
"Master, what a surprise to see you! It's been so long and I've been pining away for your heartwarming company."
"Yes, my apprentice," said Lord Sidious. "It simply tears my soul apart to know you may be suffering. Now let me get right to the point," he announced.
Maul retreated to that part of his brain that supposedly switches on when mind numbing fear kicks in, but Sidious found that secret passageway easily. Maul felt a rising panic, waiting for his Master's next diabolical lesson.
"You know how I've been wanting to have my office revamped," Sidious began. "Well, I ran into Qui-Gon outside my suite yesterday and was complaining to him how difficult it is to find a good contractor nowadays. He in turn told me how embarrassingly low donations have been at the Jedi Temple, so we made a friendly little wager. If I win, he'll send a dozen Padawans over to refurbish my office, and, as you know, those young Jedi are quite skilled with their hands. Your little friend Obi-Wan will perform forepla-, er, I mean he will act as foreman."
The tension that was holding Maul's face in a rictus eased and he managed to glower at his Master.
"And if the wager is lost, my Master?"
"I merely reallocate some of my campaign funds to the Jedi Temple. I'm confident I'll never be audited, so no personal loss to me. Of course, you'll be taking on the work load of a dozen Jedi should that happen," Sidious chuckled maliciously.
"I see, Master," said Maul, fuming at his Master's implacable justice. "What exactly is the wager, and how do I fit in?"
"Well, the good news for you is that while the work is being done on my office, I will be returning to Naboo on business. So, if the bet is won, you'll have one month of uninterrupted PlayStation gaming."
"Very enticing Master, but what is the bet?" Maul asked suspiciously.
"You and Obi-Wan shall be adversaries in a conflict."
"Master!" exclaimed Maul, agog with excitement. "Are we at last to reveal ourselves to the Jedi?"
"No, no, no, Sidious replied impatiently. "And will you stop harping on that? Besides, I already know you have revealed yourself to that one particular Jedi on numerous occasions."
Maul looked sheepish. "So I won't be able to smite Obi-Wan with my lightsaber?
"Then will we be racing down double black diamonds on Hoth?"
"Perhaps a pod race on Tatooine?"
"Mud wrestling at the Grey Side of the Force?"
"No, no and no, dear boy. Rather than a contest that might be physically exhausting, Qui-Gon and I feel the challenge should be something which requires a little more mental acuity."
Maul listened with a growing sense of trepidation, remembering the F's and D's he'd received in his Academy classes. Only a staggering number of Mind-Whammy's to the Registrar had kept him matriculated.
"Please Master, tell me we don't have to write essays or take multiple choice exams?" Maul pleaded.
"No, no, nothing as pedestrian as that. It will be kind of a game-off. You simply have to win two out of three games.
"A most excellent idea, Master Sidious," Maul piped up happily. "That puny Padawan has hardly progressed beyond Pong. I'll slaughter his Jedi butt in less than 5 minutes on the two player version of Jedi Roadkill. He won't even know wh-"
"Silence!" bellowed Sidious. "You are seriously slipping, my dear Maul, if you think your Master would hand your archenemy to you on a platter. Are you perhaps thinking of rising up and slaying me at this juncture in time?"
"Of course not, my Master," said Maul in a cowed voice.
I knew it! The bastard has something up his sleeve again. He's so damn smooth though. He sucked me in like a Toydarian to a game of Chance.
"So, on the subject of games," said Sidious, reading Maul's mind, "here's what I'm thinking. Something a little more nostalgic. Games I enjoyed in my youth, not mindless exercises like Jedi Roadkill and Sithonfilter. Playing that electronic garbage will only lead to a certain dissolution of character."
"But Master, isn't that a desirable Sith quality?"
"Yes, but you need a more uplifting dissolution.
"What???????" thought Maul.
"Anyway, what I mean are games your dear, old Sidious enjoyed playing as a youngster, and, I'm not proud to admit this, but I never cheated."
Never cheated? Downloading game cheats was a daily ritual at Maul's pad.
"In addition, since neither you nor Obi-Wan possess an intellect any loftier than one of Yoda's toenails, you will each be able to have your pet apprentice play with you."
My Apprentice looked up with satisfaction, and began grooming herself for the little outing. Sidious approached her cautiously after his last bloody encounter with the feline.
"And if you help Maul win," he cooed to the cat, "I'm going to take you with me to Naboo, you sweet little kitty. How does fishing for an opee sea killer in Lake Paonga sound to you.? You'll be away from nasty old Maul and I'll feed you Opee Thermidor for a month."
Better than tuna, yawned My Apprentice.
"And I'll have that vile rodent of Obi-Wan gnawing out the finials I need for the new balustrade on my balcony."
Yes, very worth it, purred My Apprentice.
Maul was excited about this pending respite from the two sadists that ruled his life.
"Master, please tell me, what are these games?"
"Why, Monopoly, Clue, and Chess," Sidious answered happily.
Oh help. The old bastard is taking another trip down memory lane. What next?
"Ah, the good old days," Sidious reminisced, starting to walk back and forth as if to recite a soliloquy. "The best games, cars, TV shows. Life was good."
Snap out of it you old fuck. Nope, he's not going to. Here it comes.
"Oh.... Killer?" crooned Sidious in a painfully offensive impression of Alice Kramden.
"Excuse me, Master?" asked Maul in his politest voice, hoping to deter Sidious from spending the next half hour entertaining his phantom audience with ancient ramblings.
"I... call... you... Killer...., because you slay me," Sidious guffawed, spraying spittle all over and doubling over at his own little joke.
Maul was not amused.
"Oh, and you know how fastidious Obi-Wan is," Sidious continued, wiping the tears from his eyes. "He refuses to play in this cesspool. So you'll play on neutral ground."
Sidious watched as Maul slipped his lightsaber under his clothes, preparing to leave on yet another sadistically tinged outing. He was quite disappointed that his apprentice's splendidly, tattooed flesh was covered by his loose, regulation Sith tunic. "And perhaps you'll want to change to something cooler," Sidious added. "The AC might be out in the location we'll be using. Your mesh tank top and running shorts, so a little more flesh is exposed, like mine?"
Gyagh! Maul had the misfortune to be looking in his Master's direction as Sidious parted his senatorial cloak. Curly gray hairs sprouted from beneath his silver tank top, and the elastic waist of his shorts was slipping beneath the bulk of his double waist. His scrofulous appearance was completed by a triple loop gold necklace, a Sharper Image tennis bracelet, and a diamond pinky ring.
"Master," Maul choked out, averting his eyes, "I was under the impression that a Sith is not concerned with personal comfort."
"That's only on alternate Tuesdays when it's raining," grumbled Sidious. "But yes, your discomfort will help hone your anger and hatred. Let's go."
The Coruscant grade school was out for the summer, so the game-off was being held in one of the empty classrooms. Maul and Obi-Wan were setting up Monopoly on the teacher's desk. Maul kicked a piece of miniature kiddie furniture away to give himself more legroom, sending it flying into a cubby. An abandoned lunch box popped out and landed directly in front of him. Staring at Maul was the steadfast tin soldier face of Obi-Wan, his little braid trailing down past his shoulder. The live version though, was somewhat more disheveled and mawkish looking after a night of bottom-feeding with his Jedi Knight pals. "Oooh, this is so exciting," exclaimed Obi-Wan. "I feel the Force is with me today. This is much more civilized that those brutish training activities we've been doing. Although I do love it when you're a brute Maul," hinted Obi-Wan.
Maul leered at Obi-Wan. He was the banker, and was busily counting out the Republic credits, occasionally slipping a 100 credit denomination up his sleeve as Obi-Wan played with the little characters tokens.
"My give up!" he made the little Gungan figure say while bouncing it around.
Maul chose a Tauntaun, because there was no other favorable likeness to represent him.
Qui-Gon and Sidious/Palpatine were acting as referees, and were intently watching Dartha Stewart Living, quietly debating the pros and cons of silk sheets in the summer.
"Senator Palpatine, where did you get these neat antique games?" Obi-Wan asked.
"Oh, I picked them up at a Toydarians R Us clearance sale", answered Sidious cheerfully.
My Apprentice was comfortably situated in her own chair, and Fluffi-Wan was ensconced in his Habitrail 9000 cage close to the table. Both animals had their hackles raised as they contemplated the upcoming battles.
The game commenced.
Round 1: Maul lands on Income Tax, Obi-Wan wins 200 credits from Community Chest.
Round 2: Maul lands on Chance and is elected Chairman of the Jedi Council, and he has to pay Obi-Wan 50 credits. The Padawan buys one property from Theed Acres.
Round 3: Maul goes to jail. Obi-Wan advances to Midichlorian Terrace, the most prestigious property in the game, and buys it.
Maul was fuming. He tried to Force-throw a double to get out of jail, but My Apprentice lifted a paw and thwarted him.
You're supposed to be helping me! telepathed Maul.
What do you expect, I'm a Sith, My Apprentice telepathed back.
At the same time, Fluffi-Wan squeaked with pleasure at Obi-Wan's successes.
After three failed attempts to overpower My Apprentice's blocks , Maul had to pay the 50 credits to get out of jail. His anger was beginning to percolate like three day old, badly brewed coffee.
Twice more around the board and Obi-Wan had amassed several sets of properties, including the Otoh Gunga set. He quickly built dwelling bubbles to hike up the rent. Maul managed to obtain the set of skid row properties in the lower levels of the Imperial City, and promptly built a Grey Side of the Force Nightclub on each one.
Unfortunately for Maul, Obi-Wan always happened to land on the spot in between Maul's nightclubs.
Maul had a feeling it was Fluffi-Wan force-throwing the favorable dice and not Obi-Wan, because the hamster was running in his exercise wheel at light speed. The virtuous Padawan wouldn't do such a thing, he suspected. Besides, he looked too witless as he counted his money every 90 seconds, sometimes tallying up on his fingers to get it right. My Apprentice either continued to hinder Maul's progress, or simply yawned in complete boredom.
Obi-Wan clapped his hands when he completed his Cloud City set during his next turn.
"I'm building a Jedi Temple on Midichlorian Terrace," he announced excitedly.
Maul growled. My Apprentice again counteracted the Force-throw Maul attempted in order to avoid landing on Midichlorian Terrace, and even with all the 100 Republic credits up his sleeve, he was bankrupted.
Obi-Wan got up and danced with glee.
"I won, I won."
"Good, good, my young Padawan," said Master Qui-Gon Jinn. This will be a valuable, pecuniary lesson for you. Perhaps you'll be more willing to spend a quiet evening at home instead of spending all your money dragging me to those perfidious clubs."
He...drags... you? Maul almost laughed out loud. He was now seething with rage at Obi-Wan and the faithless My Apprentice. Working on his Master's office crept unbidden into his mind. He wasn't looking forward to following the harsh, exacting methodology of Norm-Oidian Abram, Carpenter, a Dark Side compatriot if ever there was one.
My Apprentice was casually unraveling the loose thread of a potholder that said "I Love My Teacher." She looked up at him knowingly.
You tried to cheat.
Sidious telepathed a message to Maul.
Cheating leads to bankruptcy of the soul. Feel the hatred and channel it to win the next game.
Maul doled out the cards for the next game, Clue. He didn't bother slipping any up his sleeve because they were all needed during play. He examined the usual suspects- Limerick Nelson, a nightclub comedian; McGregor the Ewe, a Beatrix Potter farm animal; Gunray Parker, a.k.a. Spiderman; Bill Clitman, a humanoid president; and Jorge Lucazoid, film producer. The weapons perked his interest: a knife, a lightsaber, a cigar, a blaster, and a gaderffi. The rooms were the Jedi Council Chamber, the Throne Room, the Theed Power Station, the Oval Office and the Senate Chamber.
"Goodness, Fluffi-Wan, I wonder who did it? They all seem so nice," commented Obi-Wan, as he fanned out the cards in his hand. Fluffi-Wan twittered and ran around in circles.
Oh for the love of a Sarlacc! Do we even have to play this game? It's so obvious it's the humanoid with the cigar in the oval office, thought Maul.
The Dark Force told him this was indeed the case, and would be no matter how many times they played the game.
"Let's get on with it," Maul spat.
Obi-Wan diligently penciled in all his clues and eliminated suspects, weapons and locations with methodical thoroughness. Maul threw the dice by rote, already knowing the game's outcome. To pass the time while Obi-Wan pondered the clues, Maul used the Force to rearrange the magnetic letters of an alphabet board hanging on the wall into a recruitment message: SITHLORDS KICK ASS. COME JOIN THE DARK SIDE! The teacher would love that! Somebody would, thought Maul, as he looked over at the computer bank and saw that the mouse pads had pictures of the foul-mouthed South Park brats pursuing their never-ending quest to avenge Kenny's death.
My Apprentice wasn't even bothering to participate in this game, so she sashayed over to the kiddie reading corner, sat on one of the plump pillows, and turned her shedding volume to "high."
Fluffi-Wan was confused, his tiny brow furrowing in an attempt to add more convolutions to his little hamster brain. Obi-Wan drew out the game until each and every one of his clue boxes was filled in. Maul's sheet, on the other hand, was completely empty.
Obi-Wan shouted out his answer during his next turn. "It's McGregor the Ewe, with the Lightsaber, in the Jedi Council Chamber!"
"Wrong!" yelled Maul triumphantly. "It's Bill Clitman, with the cigar, in the Oval Office!"
Sidious and Qui-Gon came over and looked at the cards that had been hidden in a little envelope.
"Indeed, you are right, my young apprentice," said Sidious, as Obi-Wan collapsed in his Master's arms sobbing.
"Now stop crying, Obi-Wan," scolded Qui-Gon. You're one for one and have a good chance of winning the next game if you become one with the Force."
The pimply-faced pizza delivery boy arrived with the boys' lunch.
"Hey asshole, this pizza is cold," complained Maul.
The boy actually took off his headphones, paused his Insane Clown Posse CD and rudely responded to Maul.
"I can't help it. This place is a freakin' rabbit warren and I couldn't find the room."
One look at Maul's twisted, maniacal face told the teen no tip was forthcoming and he scurried out.
Maul inhaled 6 pieces of pizza and watched in rapt fascination as Palpatine and Qui-Gon set up a card table and covered it with a lime-green, linen tablecloth. Qui-Gon placed an antique vase with fresh sprigs of lavender in the middle, while Palpatine opened a straw picnic basket that contained their lunch. They each set their place with Qui-Gon's best china and silverware, sat down and placed napkins on their laps.
"What are they having?" Maul asked Obi-Wan.
"Oh, just a little something I threw together for them. Dill-Marinated Salmon, some Zucchini Slaw, fresh baked popovers, and Roasted Plums with Creme Fraiche for dessert," Obi-Wan said brightly. "All Dartha Stewart recipes of course."
"No thanks. I need my stomach to be roiling to concentrate on the next game," said Maul.
It was time for the last game. Qui-Gon reverently placed the chess set on the table. Even Maul had to admit the pieces were beautiful. The Dark Side was formidable indeed. For once, his Master Sidious had regal bearing as the Emperor. The finely wrought piece gave no indication that the old bastard was a regular at drag clubs and torture chambers. Queen Darth Mary Sue was magnificent in her black flowing robes and spiked crown. Maul wondered if a chess piece could have PMS. The black Sith Knights were miniature versions of Maul himself. Qui-Gon and his twit Padawan battled as Knights for the Light Side. Maul snorted as he looked at the figure of Master Yoda as the king, but nodded in Sithly approval as his gaze fell on Queen Amidala.
Qui-Gon then picked up the two kings and held them in his closed hands, placing them behind his back. He approached the antagonists. "If you pick white you go first. Obi-Wan, why don't you choose?"
Before Qui-Gon could bring his hands forward, Obi-Wan jumped up and grabbed his Master around the waist. He pushed his body very close and looking up adoringly at the bearded face towering above him.
"Oooh, Master, your hands are so strong," Obi-Wan said. He then took a moment to rest his head against Qui-Gon's chest, which had begun to heave rapidly as Obi-Wan's fingers groped around his Master's ass. He tapped Qui-Gon's left hand.
Qui-Gon reluctantly pushed Obi-Wan away and held out the hand with Emperor Palpatine.
Obi-Wan was crushed. "I wanna go first," he wailed.
Sidious joined the group. "Was it a fair draw, Maul? You could try it while I hold the pieces," he drawled suggestively.
"Everything is fine, my Master. Please don't trouble yourself. I'd be happy to let Obi-Wan go first." I'd sooner run my hands through the teacher's paper shredder than put them around you, you old frog.
"No, no," insisted Qui-Gon. "We go by the rules. It is the Jedi way."
Obi-Wan was in a serious pout, his lower lip jutting out in a very unattractive manner.
"Obi-Wan, listen to me," Qui-Gon said angrily. "Fluffi-Wan is confident you'll win, and remember how your victory will benefit the Temple. Mace Windu will be particularly grateful to me, so don't mess up, my little Padawan."
Obi-Wan scowled at his Master.
Maul detected a hint of jealousy from Obi-Wan, directed at Qui-Gon, and for a moment, worried the Padawan's playing would be tinged with the Dark Side. However, the sappy look returned to Obi-Wan's face and Maul chuckled with glee.
"I'll try my best, Master," bleated Obi-Wan. "Then will you take me shopping for my back to school wardrobe?"
"Of course, Obi-Wan. And you can model all your new outfits for me, over and over. I assure you you'll have my full attention."
My Apprentice watched the whole exchange with amusement, licking her paws and passing them over her head to smooth her fur. Fluffi-Wan was beginning to look agitated and began stuffing food into his cheek pouches. He was worried about his teeth being worn down to nubby stumps chewing on Endorian life-tree hardwood.
My Apprentice gave Maul a frigid stare.
Leave this one to me big guy. Don't even lift a finger. When I'm done with the Jedi after this game he'll be hamster trail mix.
So, telepathed Maul, you were merely toying with me the first game. I should have known it.
Can you be so sure? asked the cat, with feline cunning.
The game began. Maul drummed his fingers impatiently. He essentially would have to sit this one out while My Apprentice mind-forced the moves. She began by bringing out her first Sith Lord knight, confusing Obi-Wan. He then brought out his own Jedi Knight, prompting My Apprentice to bring out her second Sith Lord. Obi-Wan's brow creased in concentration. He was playing this one seriously. He brought out the Qui-Gon Jinn knight and the board was now in a classic Metger variation.
Fool! Now let the slaughter begin, My Apprentice hissed. She pressed forward with the Scotch gambit.
Maul's yellow eyes opened wide as he marveled at the cat's merciless attack. His pieces, levitated by My Apprentice, cut a swath through Obi-Wan's droid pawns leaving Master Yoda in jeopardy. Now it would take Obi-Wan forever to make a move. Except for when My Apprentice captured one of Obi-Wan's pieces, Maul was bored senseless.
During the interminable time it took Obi-Wan to move, Maul amused himself by drawing his lightsaber and cutting out teddy-bear shapes from sheaths of paper, to add to the ones hanging around the room. He liked his better though, because they had horns on their little heads.
Finally, Obi-Wan moved. My Apprentice's eyes became slits of anger as the Naboo Queen took her rook. Fluffi-Wan was casually grooming himself, a clear indication that he'd just Mind-Whammied that capture to Obi-Wan.
My Apprentice countered by placing Master Yoda in check by Queen Darth Mary Sue.
Queen Amidala attempted to defend Master Yoda, but became pinned by Maul's Sith Lord Knight. She was quickly annihilated.
Without the Queen, Obi-Wan was finished, and Master Yoda was in checkmate two moves later.
"Nooooooooooooooooo!" cried Obi-Wan.
Team Maul/My Apprentice pumped their fists/paws in the air.
"WE ARE HOT SHIT!" Maul rightfully exclaimed.
"It's not fair," sniffed Obi-Wan.
"Padawan, it's only a game," Qui-Gon said tiredly.
"Yes, but I just hate all that tool-time stuff," Obi-Wan sobbed. "And my manicure! If I have to be sanding two by fours, my Tigger decals will wear down! And what if my braid gets caught in a power saw and cut off?"
Maul snickered at the Padawan's whining. If I had one of those power tools right now, I'd pin that silly braid to Obi-Wan's head with a nail barrette.
"Padawan, you are obligated to honor the wager," Qui-Gon said somberly.
Maul was basking in his victory when an awful thought entered his mind. The padawan's hands would get rough and callused doing all that woodwork! Maul was used to those appendages being lotion-soft as they ran all over his body. He shuddered at the thought of his delicate horns being handled by rough fingers. He'd have to have one more bout of Force-driven sex before Obi-Wan's hands were ruined!
"Just a moment," said Maul, in his best "I feel sorry for my pal" voice. "You were a good sport Obi-Wan, so how about if I help you cut some two by fours with my lightsaber? It'll go twice as fast with my double edge."
Obi-Wan stopped blubbering and looked up at Maul, his eyes brimming with tears.
"Gee, Maul, thanks, you are just the nicest person."
Maul had a little trouble catching his breath before he spoke.
"The deal is we'll play one more game," he said. "I think you'll like it though. We'll go over to your place and play."
"Well sure, Maul, whatever you say!"
Qui-Gon was irritated by the outcome of events. He wanted to get Obi-Wan home and "punish" him for losing. "Go ahead then, Obi-Wan, but I expect you to be at the Senator's office first thing in the morning to start the work."
Sidious motioned Maul to his side, curious about this new challenge.
"I thought Obi-Wan didn't have any of those awful electronic games."
"He doesn't," Maul said with an evil smile. "This is a game I can't lose no matter what the outcome. In fact, I think you might actually like it, my lord."
"Really?" said Sidious, very interested. And what game is it, my young Sith?"
"Why, strip poker, of course. Do you approve, my Master?"
Sidious nodded his head sagely. "Indeed I do, my boy, indeed I do."
My Apprentice brushed against Sidious's legs in eager anticipation of Ogee Thermidor, while Fluffi-Wan ground his teeth in despair.
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