This takes place a few years after The Phantom Menace. Palpatine is Supreme Chancellor, but has not yet revealed himself to be the Sith master. As usual, the setting and the characters belong to George Lucas, but what was done to them belongs to me. Do not distribute or archive this story without my express permission.
Thanks to R'Hul for helping brainstorm the ideas, Jedimom for catching the plot holes, and Joan the English Chick for fixing the grammar.
Posted March 21, 2000
And I want you
And blessed are the broken
And I beg you
No loneliness, no misery is worth you
Oh tear his heart out cold as ice it's mine
- "Northern Light," Hole
"Happy birthday, Ani!"
Shmi burst into a huge grin and swept her son up into a hug.
"I missed you, Mom!" he smiled, then turned accusatory eyes towards me.
"I'll just leave the two of you alone to celebrate," I said diplomatically as I stepped away from the door of her slave quarters.
"Obi-Wan, no, please stay!" she said, a welcoming smile on her face.
"I'll be back later tonight. You two deserve some time alone. I'll see you later, Padawan."
With a heavy heart, I headed towards Mos Espa.
He'd asked me again, of course, on the trip here. "When will the Jedi free my mother?"
"I don't know. It's up to the Council."
"You keep saying that!"
"I'm not on the Council. All I can do is petition them to free her."
"So why won't they?"
"I don't know. They haven't told me, nor do they have to. It is not our place to question the will of the Council, Anakin."
At least they let him go home for birthdays and holidays. I never got to do that. I barely know my birth family. I suppose it's too late to try to get to know them at this point. I speak to my brother occasionally, but that's all.
Even if I wanted to reestablish a relationship with them, I wouldn't have the time. I've pretty much got my hands full with my eleven-year-old padawan.
I suppose Qui-Gon would be disappointed in me for not trying to scrape up the funds to free Shmi myself, Council be damned. But Anakin takes so much time and energy, and he's unruly enough as it is without having a master who disobeys the Jedi chain of command. The boy probably would have been better off with Qui-Gon. Instead he had to settle for me.
Listen to me. What a whiner. Self-pity really becomes me.
Without realizing it, I'd walked right to the door of one of the local cantinas. Something about the dark, cool space called to me. Strange.
I ducked in, and that's when I saw him nursing a drink in a corner booth. He was haggard and scruffy, but I would have recognized that patterned face anywhere. Except...it was impossible...
The bartender interrupted my reverie. "Ah, I see you've noticed our guest."
I nodded, unable to tear my gaze away, as anger started swelling in my belly.
"Not often we get Jedi in these parts. Never once since he showed up, actually. I guess I've been expecting you. Didn't think you'd let a Force-user like him run free. You'll be taking him away, then?"
"Almost certainly," I said, fighting to keep the anger out of my voice. "Is he here often?"
"From opening to closing. He just sits in the corner and drinks all day. He doesn't drink much, and if we leave him alone, he leaves us alone. It's a small price to pay, really. Keeps the other scum out. Garden variety scum find him too creepy to deal with, and really dangerous scum know better than to mess with him. He can do some nasty shit with just a wave of his hand."
"Where does he live?"
"Beats me, and I don't wanna know."
"Does he eat?"
"Sometimes when he's really looking beat, the barmaid brings him something. He never asks. He never pays. But like I said, he keeps the scum out, so it's cheaper than paying off the Hutts. If you don't need to take him, I'd really like to keep him here, if you don't mind."
"It's not up to me."
"No, of course not."
He looked up at me from across the room, sunburst eyes glowing with a dim light, and my ill-controlled temper finally exploded. Stalking across the room, I ignited my lightsaber, glared down at him, and snarled, "I thought I killed you!"
"I'm not that easy to kill," he retorted, then let loose a short, barking laugh. "Well, not back then. Perhaps now you'd have an easier time of it."
"Maybe I should try again."
"Be my guest. You'd be doing me a favor."
I glared at him, really noticing how gaunt he'd become, then flicked my eyes over to the cane leaning against the wall. I may not have killed him, but apparently, I'd broken him badly. He wasn't a threat, and I wasn't going to give him the satisfaction of treating him like one. Powering down and holstering my lightsaber, I rested my hands on the tabletop and taunted, "Well, in that case, why don't you just kill yourself?"
"My training forbids it."
"From the look of you, you're hardly a Sith warrior anymore."
"That's besides the point. I am a product of my training. I can't kill myself any more than you can buck the Council and buy that boy's mother out of slavery."
"How did you..?"
"I sit in a bar all day. I hear things."
I drummed my fingers on the tabletop and glared, and he met my gaze unflinchingly.
"You have questions," he noted.
"Damn right I have questions."
"Temper, temper, Jedi."
I pulled a chair away from a nearby table, turned it around, and straddled it. "So talk," I said.
"Not until you actually ask me something." He took another sip of ale from his mug, and I noticed that his hands were unsteady.
"How long since you last ate?"
"That's your question?"
"You don't look well."
"You did slice me in half."
I waved to the barmaid and asked her to bring over some food. "Then consider this my second question: how did you survive that?"
"Barely. Like I said, I'm hard to kill."
"How did you heal yourself?"
"With the power of the Dark Side."
"But you didn't heal completely."
"Never underestimate the power of modern medicine," he deadpanned, taking another sip of ale.
"You were the apprentice, or the master?"
"So why didn't your master take you back and heal you?"
"Because I'd failed."
"Failed to kill me?"
"But he didn't kill you. Why not?"
"His punishment to me was that I live in this condition."
"And you haven't sought out medical help?"
"Even if I had the money, I obey my master, even if I'm no longer his apprentice."
"Tell me who he is."
"Ah, now there's a question I can't answer."
"Can't, or won't?"
The barmaid arrived with the food and flashed the Sith a warm smile. He nodded politely in return, then calmly and methodically began eating. For a man who had to be starving, he had an amazing amount of restraint. Impressive.
"Right," I continued. "So he cast you out, you somehow made it to Tatooine, and now you sit in a bar all day getting drunk."
"Not drunk. I just dull the pain."
"You're in pain?"
"Yes," he said simply.
"You do realize that I'll be informing the Council that I've found the last Sith apprentice alive."
He nodded. "That's your duty."
"I'll bring you back to Coruscant. They'll interrogate you, and most likely try you for Qui-Gon's murder."
"I expect nothing less."
"They'll force you to reveal who your master is."
"They'll try, but they'll fail."
"You're hardly in any condition to resist the entire Jedi Council."
"You'd be surprised," he grinned, then neatly finished off his food and ale. The barmaid quickly took the empty cup and plate away and gave him a new mug of ale. He once again nodded his thanks.
This was exasperating. I couldn't listen to this thing talk any longer. Time to cut the visit short and bring this Sith back to Coruscant for questioning. My padawan would just have to understand that this took precedence over a family celebration. I reached out through our training bond and...
I don't think I'd felt such happiness from Anakin in a very long time.
Right, plan two. Let Anakin have a deliriously happy day with his mother and friends, and then have him and his mother meet me here in the morning. I'd just comm him to let him know that business had come up and that I wouldn't be spending the night with them. I could easily go one night without sleep.
"All right. I'm through talking. I'll be back for you in the morning," I said, rising to leave. I couldn't stay in this creature's airspace any longer. If I had to spend the entire night cooped up with him, I'd probably kill him before the sun rose, and I had a feeling he was more valuable to the Jedi alive than dead. I'd just watch from outside. If I didn't have to look at him, I'd be able to keep a cool head.
"I'll be here," he replied.
"I will be watching you."
"That won't be necessary. I'll be here."
As I headed for the door, he called out, "Perhaps you could convince them that as a reward for finding me, they should free Shmi Skywalker for you."
I froze in my tracks for a moment, guilt weighing heavily on me once more, then walked out the door as he began to chuckle.
Anakin and Shmi met me outside the tavern in the morning. "Do we have to leave now?" Anakin whined.
"You knew it was only for one day, Padawan."
"Can't you ask for permission to stay another day?"
"Now Ani," Shmi chided. "You know you need to obey Obi-Wan."
"We'll be back soon, Anakin. Boonta Eve is only a month away."
"Yes, Master," he sulked, giving his mother one last hug before turning to me for instruction.
"Head back to the ship, Anakin, and get it ready for departure. I'll join you shortly. We'll be transporting a prisoner back to Coruscant, and I need you to remember your Jedi discipline when you're around him. Emotions under check at all times, understood?"
"Good, now go."
He nodded and ran off. He got so much more energetic in the desert. Poor kid, being cooped up on Coruscant for most of the year. We really did take him from his family when he was too old. I sometimes wondered if he'd ever get used to the relative chill of the Temple.
I turned back to Shmi, clasped her hands, and whispered, "I swear, Shmi, I will find a way to free you."
"I know you're doing what you can," she sighed. "You're a Jedi. You have to follow the rules."
"Please, Obi-Wan, don't do anything rash. Anakin needs you."
"Anakin needs you, Shmi. I'll work harder. I'll convince the Council somehow."
She smiled in that haunting way of hers and said, "My place is here, Obi-Wan."
"No it's not."
"It is for now. Now go. I'll see you on Boonta Eve."
"Goodbye." Right, time to get my prisoner. He hadn't left the bar all night. In fact, as I walked in, I saw he hadn't left his table all night. There he was, sitting in the same spot, drinking yet another mug of ale. "You start early," I noted, standing just inside the doorway.
"I start when the bar opens," he replied.
"Why didn't you leave last night? I didn't think you lived here."
"The bartender was kind enough to let me stay the night, so as not to inconvenience you."
"How thoughtful of you."
"Now that we've dispensed with the pleasantries, I take it you're here to force me to go to Coruscant?"
"Are you going to fight me?"
"It wouldn't be worth the bother," he said. Gulping down the rest of his ale, he set the mug carefully on the table and reached for his walking stick. With an ill-concealed wince, he slowly rose, holding the wall for support, and clamping his eyes tightly shut. A small spark of sympathy twinged in the pit of my stomach. Dammit, I will not feel this way about Qui-Gon's murderer. He does not deserve my pity.
The barmaid from yesterday hovered nervously at my shoulder. "I hate watching him when he tries to get up."
"He just looks so broken."
"Will he need help to walk?"
"He won't accept it. Just wait for his dizzy spell to pass and he'll be okay."
Slowly, he opened his eyes again, and painstakingly limped his way across the room. "Let's get this over with, Jedi," he growled.
The barmaid smiled sadly and said, "Take care of yourself, Maul."
He reached out and squeezed her arm. "You were very kind to me, Marta. I will not forget that." Her smile widened, then he dropped his hand and limped toward the door.
He showed gratitude. How strange. I wasn't expecting that.
I followed him out, that damned spark of sympathy in my stomach growing slowly as I watched him struggle, then said, "So, your name is Maul."
"Well, that's one less question I have to ask."
"That must be a relief."
"It's not far to the ship."
"I know. I can feel your apprentice."
"How do you know that it's him?"
"I remember him from Tatooine, and I felt him again on Naboo. The boy beams like a searchlight. I've never felt anything stronger in the Force."
"Neither have I."
"They should never have let you train him. You can't handle him. You're not experienced enough."
"I'm doing well enough," I countered.
"The boy's half-way to the Dark Side. Then again, perhaps that was your goal."
"I'm not amused."
"I'm not trying to be funny. Can't you taste his anger? It's delicious."
"He'll grow out of it."
We reached the ramp of the ship, and I waited patiently as he inched his way up. When we finally got inside, I gestured to a chair, and he eased himself into it with obvious relief. Anakin walked in and said, "The engines are all warmed up, and we can leave whenever... What's he doing here?"
"We're taking him back to Coruscant, Padawan," I explained.
"But he killed Qui-Gon!"
"I know, I was there," I snapped, before fighting to regain my composure.
"We should kill him! We need to avenge Qui-Gon!" Anakin seethed.
"Good idea," Maul noted. Turning to me, he said, "You've trained the boy well."
I took a deep breath, then looked sternly at Anakin and said, "I'm sure the Council would rather he be brought back alive. Trust me, he will not go unpunished."
Anakin stepped up to Maul, his young face the very picture of rage, and in a low, menacing voice said, "I hope they let me watch."
Maul grinned, then replied, "I'll be sure to put in your request."
"That's enough," I said as calmly as I could manage, desperately hoping to be an example to my angry padawan. "Anakin, why don't you pilot the ship back to Coruscant. You're an excellent pilot. You certainly don't need me to help you. I'll stay here with the prisoner. And inform the Council that we're bringing in Qui-Gon's killer so they can make preparations."
Wordlessly, he stalked to the cockpit.
I strapped myself into the seat next to Maul's, then said, "I suggest you buckle up as well."
Maul calmly fastened the seat restraints, then closed his eyes.
"Napping?" I asked.
"If you're not up for another round of scintillating conversation," he countered, eyes still closed. "Unfortunately for me, I rather suspect you are."
"You look like you could use some rest. Are you in pain?"
"I'm always in pain."
"You're hungry too."
"You fed me yesterday."
"Once we've lifted off, I'm feeding you again."
"If it will make you feel better."
"The point is to make you feel better."
"Of course it is. Every Jedi strives to make his master's killer comfortable," Maul noted dryly.
Oh, he was observant. He knew exactly what buttons to push, damn him. "Are you always like this?"
"Being sliced in half tends to give you a rather macabre outlook on life. So I'm afraid your answer is yes."
The ship gently lifted off. I stared at Maul for a long moment, and eventually he sighed and opened his eyes. "Why do I care how you feel?" I asked.
"Because I look so pathetic, and you Jedi seem to have a weakness for that."
"Because you and Anakin come back here several times a year."
"You're spying on me?"
"No, just keeping tabs on unfinished business. I had vague notions once of trying to finish off the job, but I'm hardly in any condition."
"You could have watched us more efficiently on Coruscant."
"Coruscant is crawling with Jedi. And I like the heat on Tatooine."
"So why are you willingly coming back to Coruscant with me?"
"Like I said, I'm hardly in any condition to resist."
"You could have hidden from me."
He shrugged. "I suppose."
I felt the ship make the jump to lightspeed, and unbuckled myself. "I'll be back."
"I'm not going anywhere."
I walked back to the small galley, grabbed some field rations, some water, and a medical kit, and headed back. "Here, eat."
He took the rations and water and ate with the same methodical slowness as yesterday.
"I'm going to take a look at you while you eat," I said, sitting back down next to him and opening the medical kit.
He simply nodded his head and continued eating.
I reached over, unbuckled his seat restraints, and opened his ragged shirt. There, perfectly bisecting his stomach, was a thick, deep purple scar. "I'm impressed," I noted.
"Admiring your handiwork?"
"No, admiring yours. I can't believe you managed to heal yourself."
"It's not fully healed. It never will be."
I gently prodded the scar, and felt the flesh give way under my fingertip. Maul sucked in a hiss. "I take it that hurts," I said.
He nodded, eyes clamped shut in obvious pain.
"I've never seen any species with a physiology that behaves like that."
"It has nothing to do with physiology," he gasped. "Like I said, it will never fully heal."
"I'm willing myself to stay together."
"That's not possible."
"Maybe not for a Jedi," he countered.
"The Dark Side can't be that strong."
"You just keep believing that," Maul said as he steadied his breathing.
I stared at the scar in disbelief as the red spot I'd created slowly faded away, then shook my head. "There's nothing I can do for this. Not with what I've got on board."
"I didn't expect you to do anything."
"Maybe if we put you in a bacta tank."
"I seriously doubt the Jedi will waste bacta on me."
"They might, if you tell them the identity of the Sith master."
"Ah, back to that, are we?"
"Why are you protecting him? Look at what he's done to you."
"I failed in my mission. I earned this."
"I find that hard to believe."
"I got off lucky. He was in a good mood. He easily could have done worse."
"How did you get off Naboo?"
"Ah, back to the interrogation, I see. Once again, that is something I cannot discuss."
"And why not?"
"I'd give away too much."
"And might give us clues as to the identity of your master."
"Correct, Jedi. You catch on quick."
"I still don't see why you're protecting him."
"He is my master. He is the only other Sith, unless he's taken an apprentice since banishing me. I will not betray my order."
"It betrayed you."
"You could say the same for the Jedi and your padawan. How long have they refused to free his mother? And yet you still obey them, still defend them."
"That's not the same."
"It's exactly the same."
I looked back to the medical kit. "Let me get you a painkiller," I mumbled.
"That's not necessary."
He chuckled low in his throat and closed his eyes again. As the stream of medicine flowed into his arm, I watched his features soften. "Thank you," he muttered.
"Get some rest."
He slept all the way to Coruscant. I could feel my padawan seething from the cockpit the entire trip, and resolved myself to talk to him once we had a little time to ourselves. This was entirely unbecoming behavior for a Jedi padawan, and he knew it, but then again, I hadn't been setting a great example myself this trip. Maul wasn't the only one who thought that I didn't have what it took to train Anakin. I thought that nearly every day. I'd petition for another master for him, but he had enough separation anxiety to deal with as it was.
More self-pity. I've got to work on that. If nothing else, it can't be good for Anakin.
The landing was picture-perfect, as usual. ”Excellent piloting," I commented as Anakin rejoined me.
He shot another glare at Maul, then worked hard to squash his emotions and said, "Thank you, Master."
I put my hand on his shoulder and said, "I know how hard this is for you. It's not easy for me, either. But we must get through this calmly and rationally. It is our duty."
"Yes, Master," he said, hanging his head ever so slightly.
"You and I will be doing some meditations on anger tonight. I think I could use it as much as you."
He straightened a little at that. Okay, so maybe having an imperfect master wasn't so bad for him after all.
"Is anyone waiting for us?" I asked.
"The Temple said they'd have someone at the landing pad to take custody of the prisoner."
"Lower the ramp. I'll wake him."
I turned and saw Maul slowly levering himself out of his chair, and stood back to give him the time he needed to adjust.
But then a squad of Jedi Knights barged up the ramp.
"Hey! Be careful! He's injured!" I called out, but they didn't listen. Roughly grabbing Maul, they hustled him off of the ship and to a waiting air car. Sighing, I picked up his walking stick and headed down the ramp with my padawan.
Master Yoda was waiting at the bottom of the ramp for me. "Excellent work you have both done."
"Thank you, Master Yoda," I said with a bow. Beside me, my padawan also bowed reverentially. "He does need medical attention," I noted as I straightened up. "They should treat him more carefully."
"Care? With a Sith? Muddled your thoughts, he has."
"Respectfully, Master Yoda, I don't believe that."
"Hmph. Rest you and your padawan should. Meditate. Very trying it must be, sharing close quarters with a Sith."
"He's very weak."
"Then easier it will be to get information from him. Now rest."
There was no sense in arguing with him. Anakin and I bowed again and headed off for the other waiting transport.
The next morning, I reported to the Council chambers as ordered. They were empty, save for one figure. "You wanted to see me, Master Windu?"
"Yes, Obi-Wan. Walk with me." We strode out of the chamber and down a narrow corridor towards the lone holding cell in the Jedi Temple. "The Council wanted to congratulate you on finding Master Qui-Gon's killer and bringing him to justice."
"Thank you, Master Windu, but I honestly just stumbled across him."
"We are still indebted to you."
We entered the room at the end of the corridor, and the rest of the Jedi Council parted, giving me a clear view of a tiny bare cell with an active energy barrier cutting it off from the rest of the room. Maul, now wearing nothing but loose gray trousers, sat panting on the floor of the cell, the scar bisecting him vivid and angry. "He looks worse than when he first came in," I noted with concern.
Maul opened his eyes and shot a pained smile at me. "Your Jedi associates have been hard at work," he rasped, before tossing his head back against the wall and gasping in pain, hands gripping at his midsection as blood slowly started oozing from the scar.
"What are you doing to him?" I demanded.
"We've been trying to get him to reveal the identity of the Sith master."
"And he's managed to resist the entire Jedi Council?" I asked, looking at the intense concentration on all of their faces as they stared into the cell. The air was practically crackling with their efforts to break him.
"So far, but not for much longer, I suspect. He seems to take a perverse pleasure in enduring everything we dish out."
"What do you expect? He's a Sith." Turning back to the cell, I said, "You should do something for him."
Steepling his fingers, Master Windu replied, "He knows he doesn't get treatment until he tells us what we want to know."
"You're killing him, you know. He'll die before he tells you anything."
"We haven't touched him."
"He's held together by sheer force of will!" I argued. "He'll never talk--he'll just keep neglecting his body so he can strengthen his mind and then he'll die. You'll get nothing from him dead."
"Why are you trying to save his life? He killed your master, and he tried to kill you."
"I'm not. I'm just trying to tell you that you're not going to get anything from him this way."
"We need to know who the Sith master is."
"And he'll gladly die to keep you from finding out. He wants to die. You're just doing him a favor by killing him."
We stood silently, staring each other down for a long moment. I was right. Master Windu knew I was right. Finally, he nodded and said, "We'll give him a break and I'll call a healer. We'll have to think of another way to get the information from him." He waved his hand, and the rest of the Jedi Council took a step back, then filed out of the room. Maul's body sagged in obvious relief.
"Let me in there. He'll never last long enough for a healer," I said, tossing off my robe and heading for the cell.
Master Windu shook his head and opened the energy barrier. "I'm concerned about you, Obi-Wan. You appear to be manifesting sympathy for your master's killer."
"It's not about sympathy," I countered, kneeling down next to Maul's prone form. "I want the information as badly as you do, but this isn't the way."
Maul opened one pain-glazed eye and muttered, "You shouldn't be helping me."
"Well, if you'd just stop looking so damn pathetic, maybe I wouldn't feel compelled to."
He smiled weakly at that, then gasped in relief as I let my energy course through him. He'd last until the healers made it here, dammit. I'd make sure of it.
After the healer arrived, I headed back to spend time with Anakin. I found him training with a group of padawans in the gym, and wondered if it was worth disturbing him. He did well in groups. They seemed to calm him, give him focus, make him feel like he belonged. The group moved together through a kata, and he looked focused and tranquil, as if nothing else existed but this moment.
He never feels this way when we're alone. He deserves a better master than me. Okay, Obi-Wan. Cut it out. Damn, this is a hard habit to break.
The group finished the kata, and Anakin looked over at me with a questioning expression on his face. The instructor followed his gaze, then nodded at me. I crooked my finger at Anakin, and he obediently walked over. "Yes, Master?"
"Let's take a walk."
We walked in silence to the gardens, and I motioned for him to sit. Sitting next to him, I said, "I'm sorry to have taken you away from your exercises, but I thought we should talk. I do know how much you enjoy them."
"I was supposed to have a history class with Master Yoda this morning, but they had us do kata instead with Master Emlyn."
"Well, the Council members are busy right now."
"Tell me, Anakin. How do you feel?"
"You mean about the Sith we brought back?"
"I'm angry at him for killing Qui-Gon."
He sighed. "And I'm angry at you for not being angry at him."
"I am angry, Padawan, but I'm not expressing it because it's not a fruitful emotion."
"I know, I know. Master Yoda always says that. But I can't help it!"
"You need to transmute it into something else, Padawan. When I fought the Sith back on Naboo, I was angry at him for killing Master Qui-Gon, and because of that, he nearly beat me. But when I focused myself and forced my anger away, I was able to vanquish him. Had I not done that, he would surely have killed me."
"But you didn't kill him."
"No, but you've seen him. I did beat him."
"But why were you nice to him on the ship? You fed him and gave him medicine. I don't get it."
"As Jedi, we're bound by an oath to respect all life, even that of our enemies."
"The Jedi Council doesn't seem to think so," Anakin countered. "I hear they're torturing him."
"Interrogating, not torturing. They need information from him."
"He's in pain. I can feel it."
And here I'd thought it was my imagination, or my conscience, or maybe a residue of empathy left over from the healing I'd performed on him. "Remember, he was in pain when I found him on Tatooine. Just because you can feel he's in pain right now, that doesn't mean that he's being tortured."
"But if the Jedi Council doesn't think it's wrong to keep him in pain and do things to him to try and get information, then why is it so wrong for me just to think bad things about him?" Anakin asked cleverly. "I'm just thinking, but they're doing, and you always say that we should never question the Council."
"They're not doing it out of malice or revenge, Anakin," I countered.
"Are you sure?"
"They're sure acting angry."
"Anakin..." I sighed. "Yes, it does look that way, and even I thought that earlier today, but it can't be true. They are the Council. They are bound by the same rules of conduct as you or I."
"But I'd think that those rules would apply to them even more than to us."
"That's not always the case, Padawan."
"I don't get it."
"It's not an easy lesson. Eventually, you will understand. Would you like to go back to your class now?"
He beamed. "Yeah!"
I thought so. "Go ahead. I'll catch up with you at dinner."
Anakin walked off with a spring in his step. He could have run, for all I cared at that moment. What if the boy was right? What if the Council's motives weren't pure? Hmph. I was starting to sound like Qui-Gon. I got up and made my way back toward the holding cell. Outside the door, Adi Gallia stood with her arms crossed. "Obi-Wan, what can I do for you?"
"I wanted to apologize for earlier. I shouldn't have questioned your methods in front of the Sith."
"You did have a valid point, and for that, we're grateful. If nothing else, you got us to stop wasting time on a fruitless pursuit."
"Are you interrogating him again?"
"Yes. He's in there with the rest of the Council right now."
"Why are you out here?"
"We thought it best to keep one Council member uninvolved at all times. You never know with the Sith. He might have a trick up his sleeve, and we wanted to make sure he didn't get the opportunity to take out the entire Council at once."
"Master Adi, he's barely got the strength to walk. How would he be able to defeat the entire Jedi Council?"
"He's a Sith. We're not sure what they can do."
"He's just a person like you or me."
"A person who has single-handedly managed to keep the Jedi Council from reading his thoughts?" Adi countered. "A person who was sliced in two and is managing to hold himself together through sheer force of will? I'd say he sounds like a person to be wary of."
"Yes, Master Adi," I said deferentially.
"Since you brought him in, you can feel free to go in with them," she said, nodding her head towards the door.
I felt vaguely sick to my stomach at the thought, and wondered if those were my own feelings or if I was channeling Maul's. "What are they doing to him now?"
"They've got a bacta tank in there. They heal him up a little, then take him out and try to wear him down. When he starts coming apart, they put him back in the tank for a little while until he's ready for another go. We're hoping the extra stress on his system will help us crack his defenses."
"How many times have they done this so far?" I asked incredulously.
"I think he's about to come out of the tank for the third time."
I pressed my hand against the door, heard the sound of sloshing liquid and of someone gasping, then felt the mental barrage begin anew. By the Force, this was brutal. My earlier queasiness bloomed into full-fledged nausea, and I would have thrown up on the spot if Master Adi hadn't come over and put a cool, healing hand on the back of my neck. "Relax, Obi-Wan," she murmured.
"How can you stand doing this?" I gasped.
"It's our job."
"You're hurting him. Don't you feel it?"
"It's vitally important that we learn who the Sith master is. That's the only way we can stop him. Haven't you felt the Dark Side growing in power these last few years? Something evil's been planted, and we need to stop it before it blossoms."
"How can anyone with a connection to the Living Force stand to do this?"
"It's not easy, but it must be done."
More splashing, the sound of a lid being closed.
Master Adi turned to the door. "They've put him back in again. That was fast."
I raised my head, took a deep breath, and reached for the door. Stepping through, I saw the Council members staring in rapt concentration at the naked figure floating in the portable bacta tank. A breather was strapped tightly to Maul's face, bindings digging channels into his flesh, and his hands were pressed frantically against the sides of the tank. I suddenly realized that he couldn't breathe. My eyes darted to the readouts--the breather wasn't on.
"We know," Master Eeth Koth said.
Maul pounded his fists against the lid of the tank as I watched, aghast, as he struggled to free himself. But oxygen deprivation overcame him, and the pounding grew softer, then stopped altogether as he slipped into unconsciousness.
"Turn the breather back on," I hissed.
"Not just yet," Master Koth replied.
"You're killing him."
My heart pounded wildly as I watched the Council members staring at the tank, trying to sledgehammer their way into the unconscious Sith's thoughts. Long moments passed, and I felt his life force dwindle down to the barest ember. Finally, Master Yaddle shook her head and said, "Reactivate the breather."
Master Koth strode forward and activated the controls. Maul's chest began rising and falling rhythmically. "He's good," he noted.
"What was that all about?" I asked, voice cracking with all the pent-up anxiety I tried and failed to hide.
"We hoped that the suffocation would break down his mental control, and failing that, maybe being near death might do it."
Yaddle shook her head again. "Very well trained this Sith is. Even unconscious, his mind we cannot probe. Very convoluted his thoughts are. Very hard to follow."
"We'll find a way," Master Windu vowed.
I stood in shock, staring at the bacta tank.
Master Yoda walked over to me. "Stay here with him, you will? Confer, we must, on what to do next."
I nodded mutely.
"Strange it must seem to see us resort to these measures, Obi-Wan. Trust us, you must."
Trust them. Yes. I had to. What other choice was there? "What should I do when he wakes up?"
"Back in the cell he must go. Post guards outside, we will. Call them, if help you need."
"Yes, Master Yoda."
The Council left, and I sat back on my heels to begin my vigil on the bacta- and blood-stained floor.
I could feel that Maul was about to wake up. Pulling out my communicator, I called Anakin.
"Anakin, I'm in the holding cell with the Sith. I need you to bring down some towels, some warm clothes, a bedroll, some blankets, and a pillow."
"I'll see you shortly." I closed the connection and walked over to the tank just as Maul's eyes opened. Opening the lid to the tank, I reached in and pulled him into a sitting position. He stared at me with his inscrutable eyes as I struggled to remove the breathing mask that was so tightly strapped to his head. "I'm sorry if I'm being clumsy," I said. "I know this must hurt." I finally managed to undo the straps, and pulled the mask off.
Reaching up to rub his jaw, Maul nodded his head in seeming thanks.
"You're going to have welts," I sighed. "They really put the mask on too tight. Here, pinch your nose and dip your head back in the bacta for a few seconds. That should help."
He wordlessly complied, staying under so long that I started to worry that I might need to haul him back out. But he did reemerge, and when he did, he looked over at me and asked, "Why the compassion for your master's killer, Jedi?"
Rubbing my thumbs lightly over the channels on his face to help heal them, I said, "You just said it. I'm a Jedi. It's my duty."
"Have you tried telling that to your Council?"
"Their job is different from an everyday Jedi's," I replied.
"And yet you watched them do their 'job' without trying very hard to stop them."
"They're the Council. I have to obey them. That's also my duty."
"Quite a hypocritical set of duties you have there for someone who supposedly maintains peace."
I shrugged, trying to look nonchalant, but a small voice in my head noted that he might be right. I didn't want to follow this train of thought any further right now, so I asked, "So if you think that death would be a blessing, then why did you struggle in the tank?"
"Autonomic response," he replied.
"You're not trained to master those?"
"I was, but as you may have noticed, I'm under a lot of stress lately."
My mouth quirked into a wry grin. "No one told me the Sith had a sense of humor."
"That was supposed to be one of our well-kept secrets."
"Well, I got one secret out of you."
"It must be that 'Good Jedi/Bad Jedi' routine breaking me down."
"I'm sure that's not what they're doing."
"Obedience to your masters is considered to be a noble Jedi trait. Same for the Sith, really."
"Don't compare me to them," I snapped.
He snorted softly, then rubbed his hands over his face and let loose a small sigh. He practically looked relaxed. It was eerie.
"Why are you so calm about all this?" I asked. "You know they're just going to keep this up until they break you. And the Sith have abandoned you, so you have nothing to gain by defending your former master."
With a level gaze, Maul smiled and said, "Because this is the life I have earned, so I have to live it."
"Just talk. Just tell them what they want to know."
"You know I cannot do that."
"Why not? Do you want to suffer?"
"Of course not. But it's my duty, just as it's your duty to obey the Council. I would think you'd understand."
Anakin walked in with an armload of supplies and froze.
"Thank you, Padawan," I said. "Please put everything in the cell where it's clean."
"You're helping him."
"Yes I am. And you're going to help him too. Now lay out the bedroll and the pillow, put the blankets and clothes down, and then come back here with the towels."
"I don't get it," Anakin muttered as he obeyed my orders.
"I explained it to you earlier today."
"But I still don't get why the Council gets to act differently."
"Smart boy," Maul noted.
Anakin walked back over with the towels, and I lifted Maul out of the bacta tank. The scar around his middle was still vivid, but not much more so than when I first looked at it on the ship. "Help me dry him, Padawan."
Anakin glared at Maul. "You don't look so tough."
"I mean, you can't even stand on your own. You're pathetic."
"Anakin," I chided.
"You're right," Maul said. "I am pathetic. So pathetic that your precious Jedi Council can't break into my thoughts."
Anakin looked at him dubiously. "I don't believe you."
"If they had managed to find what they were looking for, they'd have killed me by now."
"There's no guarantee they'll issue the death penalty," I noted as I guided Maul to the cell and lowered him to the bedroll. "Here, put these on."
He painstakingly slid into the clothes that Anakin had brought down, and my padawan watched him intently. "Yes?" Maul finally asked.
"I felt what they did to you earlier."
"I thought you might have."
"I can't believe they didn't break you."
I put my hands on Anakin's shoulders. "They didn't. I was there. Believe him."
"They'll break you soon enough," Anakin said. "I'm sure of it."
"Do you still want to watch?" Maul asked. "Because if you do, I'll be sure to tell them to send for you and then do my best to hold off until you arrive."
"Okay, that's enough, Padawan. We should go." I reactivated the energy barrier to the cell and headed for the door with Anakin.
"Sleep tight," Maul called as we headed into the hallway.
Of course, my conscience let me do nothing of the sort.
After a restless night, I was summoned to the Council chambers the next morning, where once again, a lone figure awaited me. I bowed, then asked, "Yes, Master Bilaba?"
Depa Bilaba turned to face me and stared at me for a long moment, finally asking, "Why the bedroll and clothes?"
"I felt it was my duty to make sure his needs were tended to. I would have fed him too, had it occurred to me."
"We're trying to break him, not comfort him."
"Master Yoda asked me to stay with him, and I couldn't in good conscience just dump him naked in the cell and leave him there."
"So you embellished his orders."
"I carried them out as I thought I should."
Master Bilaba walked past me and stared out at the bustling Coruscant traffic. "Does he talk to you?" she asked.
"Do you think you could get the information out of him?"
"Then what do you talk about?"
"We just talk."
She turned back to face me and said, "Be careful, Obi-Wan, that he does not try to use you against us."
"Never forget that he killed your master."
"Believe me, I haven't."
"Then stop acting as if you have."
"A Jedi never forgets, Obi-Wan. We do not take attacks against our own lightly.”
"I am trying to live like I was taught a true Jedi should, Master Bilaba. Whatever happened to 'there is no emotion, there is peace' or 'there is no passion, there is serenity'?"
Her expression hardened. "Sometimes it's necessary to overlook that for the greater good. If you ever serve on the Council, you'll understand that."
I bit back my caustic reply and simply stood there, immobile, as my stomach clenched into knots. I think I'd been in denial for the past few days, but I wasn't anymore. This was wrong. Completely wrong. This is what my conscience had been trying to tell me all along, and I'd been doing my best to ignore it "for the greater good," whatever that meant. But what could one knight hope to accomplish against the entire Jedi Council?
She sighed, then said, "I know this must seem harsh, Obi-Wan. And I know you've worked very hard to cultivate a strong attunement to the Living Force in honor of Qui-Gon, so this must be very difficult for you to witness. However, you have to trust us. We are doing this for the right reason."
"Yes, Master Bilaba."
"And while your seeming kindness to the Sith mystifies us, we will allow you to continue to see him. Just be careful not to take it too far."
"Yes, Master Bilaba."
"You may go."
I walked out of the chambers with a heavy heart. I knew they were only letting me keep visiting him because they thought that alternating kindness and cruelty would be a more effective way of wearing him down. Simply put, they were taking advantage of me. Maul was right when he said we were playing "Good Jedi/Bad Jedi," but I had to do it. I had to offer him some small comfort while he was here. In a way, that was Qui-Gon's legacy to me. For all the time I'd spent mocking him about protecting "pathetic lifeforms," I sure seemed to have taken up that cause.
Now if only I could find some way to pass that legacy on to Anakin. Or gift it to the Council.
Or maybe I should work instead to adopt Qui-Gon's rebellious streak.
"I want to see him again tonight."
"No, Anakin. I'm going alone."
"They've been working on him all day."
"I know. I've felt it too."
"If he's about to break, then I want to be there to see it happen."
"He's not about to break, and you shouldn't be thinking that way. Remember what I told you about anger."
"But there's no way he can stand against the entire Council!"
That was it. Time to be honest with my padawan. It was my duty as his master, and it was time to stop hiding behind propriety and just do it. It's what Qui-Gon would have done. I took a deep breath, then said, "The Council is made up of flesh and blood creatures like you or me. They're not infallible."
Anakin stopped and stared up at me, mouth hanging open. "Wait, I thought you said the Council was always right."
"I know. What I should have said was that the Council always tries to do the right thing. There's a big difference between that and always being right. I misled you, and I'm sorry."
Anakin kept staring. He looked like his brain had gone into overdrive. "You think what they're doing to that Sith is wrong."
"Yes, I do. But they're doing it to try and destroy the Sith Order, which would be a good thing for the Republic and for the Jedi."
"So what they're doing is wrong, but they're doing it for the right reasons?"
"Yes, I believe so."
"So you're questioning the Council?"
"Yes, yes I am."
"If you don't think they're right about the Sith, then do you think they're wrong about my mom? Can you ask them about my mom again?"
"As soon as they're done with Maul, I will. I promise."
"Why not now?"
"Because they won't listen now. They're focused on getting information from Maul."
"And what if they say no again?"
"I don't know, but I'll deal with that if it happens. I promise."
He smiled up at me. I rarely saw that from him. "Thank you, Master Obi-Wan."
Good. I could finally feel the anger he'd been carrying these past days beginning to wane. "You're welcome. Now, I want you to stay here and meditate for the evening while I go visit him."
"Are you going to go be nice to him again?"
"Because you think what the Council is doing is wrong?"
"Yes, and I need to do whatever I can to try and make things right."
"I think I understand, but I still think you should be mad."
"Being mad won't change anything."
"But he killed Qui-Gon."
"Do you think Qui-Gon would be mad if he were in my place?"
He puzzled over that for a minute, then said, "Maybe not."
"Master Qui-Gon was an extraordinary person, and we should both do everything we can to emulate him. Why don't you meditate on that, then get some sleep?"
"Yes, Master Obi-Wan."
I headed to our small kitchen, heated up some broth, grabbed a hunk of bread and some water, and headed to the cell. Masters Koth and Windu were both standing guard this time. "I thought you'd be by eventually," Master Koth said.
Carefully schooling my features into a mask of calm obedience, I said, "Yes, Master Koth, Master Windu. May I enter?"
"You've brought food, I see."
They exchanged a meaningful look, then Master Windu nodded and said, "You may feed him, but don't do anything to heal him."
"May I ask why?"
They exchanged another look, then Master Windu said, "We spent some time working on him this afternoon, and want to see if leaving him unhealed overnight will loosen his mind or his tongue."
"We are monitoring him at all times," Master Koth added. "We won't let him die."
No, of course not. Letting his pain end would be ethical. "Understood. May I enter?"
Master Koth nodded his head and opened the door for me. I stepped through, waiting for it to close again behind me before letting myself look at Maul. It was worse than I'd expected. He was curled up on the mat, bare-chested, arms curled protectively around his oozing waist, scorch marks criss-crossing his torso. "What have they done to you this time?" I whispered.
He slowly opened his eyes. "Ah, the Good Jedi's here to wear me down."
I walked over to the cell, put the food down on the floor, and lowered the energy barrier. "Those are lightsaber marks, aren't they?"
"Low power setting. Painful, but not lethal."
"You didn't break."
"I'm not sure." I picked up the tattered remnants of his shirt from the floor and gently guided him to a sitting position.
"What are you doing?"
"Binding your waist. They said I couldn't heal you, but they never said I couldn't tend to your wounds."
"You do realize you're arguing semantics," Maul countered.
"Yes I do, and I don't care," I said as I wound a strip of cloth around his scar.
He hissed as I tightened the cloth, then as I lowered him back down to the mat, said, "Well, you're doing an excellent job at playing the Good Jedi role."
He raised his eyebrows at me questioningly.
"You're right," I said. "I'm playing the Good Jedi role. They're using me shamelessly."
"So, you've finally admitted it to yourself."
"Yes I have."
"And yet you're still doing it. How obedient of you."
"That was a compliment, Jedi." I looked over at him incredulously, and he continued, "You obey your masters, I obey mine. It's rare to see the same level of obedience in a Jedi as you see in a Sith."
"You shouldn't compliment me on this. You do realize that all this means is that the Council broke me, and with considerably less effort than they've been using on you."
"Is that how you see it?"
"It's the truth, isn't it?"
"I think it's admirable to serve your master, even if it causes you pain."
"You've made that fairly obvious these past few days," I noted, then asked, "Tell me, even though your master abandoned you, do you still believe in the Sith order?"
"Because I believe their philosophies."
"You believe in selfish power?"
"I believe in power through mastery of fear."
"Other people's, or your own?"
"Both, but especially your own."
"But there can only be two Sith at a time. What good is a philosophy if only two people are allowed to follow it?"
"Only two can be Sith, but that doesn't mean that others can't emulate them."
"Do you believe that everyone should emulate the Sith?"
"No, of course not. Not everyone is capable of handling power, nor should they be. The universe needs a small group of people to control it, and many, many more people to support it."
"And the Sith's place in all this?"
"They sit at the top of the pyramid of power."
Maul closed his eyes and let loose a small sigh. "I am no longer a Sith."
"Because you have reduced me to this."
I looked down at his burned and broken body and murmured, "This wasn't my intent."
"You intended to kill me."
"If I had succeeded, it would have been more merciful."
"Mercy is not what I deserve."
"Is that regret?"
"No, simply the truth." He opened his eyes and said, "When you serve the cause of power, the price for failure is as steep as the rewards of success."
I looked away, saying, "I brought soup. Are you hungry?"
"Let me help you." I eased him back into a sitting position, propping him up against my chest, and guided the container to his lips. I could tell he was too weak to hold it himself. He took a deep gulp, then closed his eyes and sighed contentedly. "Thank you."
"You're showing me gratitude?"
"Is that so hard to believe?"
"My life has been reduced to long stretches of pain, punctuated by brief intervals of comfort. I have learned to be grateful for those intervals, and see no reason to hide it."
"If you'd just talk, the pain would stop."
"No it wouldn't."
I sighed. "You're probably right. More soup?"
He took another couple of sips, then I offered him the bread. As he ate, I said, "There's something that's been nagging at me ever since our battle on Naboo."
"And what would that be?"
"What I still don't understand is how I managed to slice you in two. You were an amazing swordsman. You should have been able to block that shot."
"I was too busy gloating."
"It was my weakness."
"You looked more frustrated that you couldn't knock me loose."
"So, you've gotten over your gloating problem?"
"I've rather run out of things to gloat about."
"The Jedi haven't broken you yet. There's something."
"Hmm. You're right. Perhaps a victory dance is in order."
I laughed and said, "I'll go fetch my pennywhistle."
Maul's body suddenly grew tense against mine. "You should leave."
"Did I...I didn't mean to offend..."
"No, Jedi. There was no offense. You should go." He struggled to lie back down on the mat.
I helped him, then said, "I don't understand."
"If you want to remain a Jedi, then perhaps it's not in your best interests to be casually joking with an ex-Sith that your masters are trying to break."
"That's my decision to make."
"You're making the wrong decision."
"I don't get it. Wouldn't you want to corrupt me?"
He shook his head. "The only victory left for me is to withstand your Council. There is nothing for me to gain by scoring any more points for the Dark Side than that. For reasons I can't understand, you've been good to me. I'm repaying your kindness in kind."
"Go to your padawan before it's too late."
I stood up and stared down at him. He looked back at me with a burning resolution in his gaze. I nodded wordlessly and left.
The game of Good Jedi/Bad Jedi was over. Time to be the Bad Jedi. Waiting be damned.
The next morning, I confronted Master Yoda directly.
"How much longer until we free Shmi Skywalker?"
"Free her we will not. Bad for your padawan, it would be."
"Bad for Anakin? How exactly would that be bad for Anakin?"
"Too attached he is to his mother."
"You have to realize that by not freeing her, you only make that attachment stronger."
"Charity we are not."
"No, but am I the only one who remembers that we're supposed to be guardians of peace and justice? Where's the justice for my padawan?"
"Your answer you have."
"Is it the money? Because if it is, I'll find a way to raise it myself."
"Impossible it is to earn money as a Jedi. Against the code, it is."
"Then I'll leave the Jedi."
"Empty threat that is, Obi-Wan Kenobi."
"Don't be so sure."
"What would Qui-Gon think of such rash action, hmm? What of your promise to the boy?"
"And what of his promise to his mother?"
"No time have we for this argument again. Impossible it is for us to free Anakin's mother. Return you to your duties."
I bowed and left. This was not over.
"They said no again?" Anakin wailed.
"Don't worry. I'll find another way."
"You're going to disobey the Council?"
"It looks like I'm going to have to."
"What are you going to do?"
"Leave the Jedi. Get a job. Earn some money."
"What about me?"
"I'll make sure you get a good master to take my place."
"No, I want to leave with you. I could help raise money. You know I'm a good pilot!"
"And you're also technically too young to work according to Republic labor laws. No, you stay here. I'll leave."
"I'm going with you."
"I promised Qui-Gon that you would be trained, and I will not break that promise. You're staying here."
"You promised Qui-Gon that you'd train me! You could keep training me after we leave."
"And that training will mean nothing to the Jedi if it's done by a renegade knight and outside the temple's jurisdiction. Anakin, don't throw away your future. Stay here."
"I don't want to stay here. The Jedi are a bunch of liars. At least the Sith are honest!"
I dropped to my knees and grabbed Anakin by the forearms. "Don't ever say that, Anakin."
"But it's true."
"It's not true. The Sith are masters of deceit. That's how they've stayed hidden from us for so long."
"Then we're all liars."
"At least the Jedi try to be good. Most of us, at least."
"Not the Council."
We both suddenly shuddered.
"They're working on him again," Anakin said.
"I feel it too."
"I don't think he's gonna break."
"I don't either."
"But they're not going to stop, are they?"
"I don't think so."
"We need to make them stop."
"I have an idea."
"Thank you for taking the time to see me, Chancellor."
"I always do my best to make time for the Jedi," Chancellor Palpatine said with a gracious smile, "although I normally only deal with the Council. Tell me, what brings you here, Obi-Wan Kenobi?"
"Two matters. The first concerns my padawan."
"Young Skywalker? I remember him from the Battle of Naboo. My home planet is eternally grateful to him for his help that day."
"Thank you, Chancellor. Knowing that, I came to you asking for help for him."
"Help for your padawan? Surely the Jedi Council would be better suited for that."
"They have chosen not to act, as it is a problem outside their normal sphere of influence. I don't know if you know this, but he before he became my padawan, he was a slave on Tatooine."
"Yes, I recall hearing something along those lines. Terrible problem, slavery. I have been trying to get the Outer Rim under Republic control, but so far, I've been unable."
"Yes, Chancellor. The reason why I remind you of this is that his mother is still a slave on Tatooine. I myself lack the financial resources to free her, and as I said, this is outside the Jedi Council's sphere of influence."
"And you would have her freed?"
"Yes. Since the Republic has no legal control over Tatooine, I ask that you petition the government of Naboo to pay to free Shmi Skywalker, as a token of appreciation for what my padawan did for your planet."
"I'll do nothing of the sort."
"I'll pay for it myself." He broke into an effusive grin. "Consider it done."
"Chancellor, this...this is most generous," I stuttered.
"It is the least I can do. I'll have her brought to Coruscant as soon as possible and give her a job on my staff and procure her an apartment."
"Thank you, Chancellor. Thank you very much."
"You're very welcome. And the second matter?"
I hesitated, then said, "This will most likely get me expelled from the Jedi order."
His face grew grave. "This sounds serious."
"It is, Chancellor. It concerns an injustice being committed by the Jedi Council."
He paced across the room, hands folded behind his back. "Do continue."
"I fought a Sith named Maul on Naboo and killed him, or so I thought. I recently found him alive, but unwell, on Tatooine, and brought him back to Coruscant to face justice for the murder of my master."
"Maul. What an unusual name," the chancellor mused.
"The Council have been interrogating him to try and gain knowledge of the identity of the Sith master."
"And have they succeeded?"
"No. And I don't believe they will." I swallowed hard, then said, "I mention this because their interrogation methods seem like torture to me."
"Torture is expressly forbidden under the laws of the Republic."
The chancellor gestured to a chair, and I sat in it as he crossed to sit behind his desk. Pulling out a voice recorder, he said, "Why don't you document for me exactly what it is they've been doing to this Sith?"
Taking a deep breath, I began.
Chancellor Palpatine acted quickly. Three hours later, a phalanx of armed guards entered the Jedi Temple. The chancellor himself presented Master Yoda with the search warrant. "I want to inspect the prisoner personally, and my aides will be allowed to begin an exhaustive audit of your records."
"By what authority do you this?" Yoda challenged. "For centuries, our own authority we have held over matters of interrogation."
"By the authority of the original Jedi Order charter," Palpatine replied. "The Jedi Order is a branch of the Republic government, and must answer to the offices of the Supreme Chancellor. I've been hearing rumors of corruption and abuse of power in the Jedi for many years now, and I'm saddened to have been presented with proof."
Yoda looked angrily at me, and I said, "I take full responsibility for my actions, and I resign, effective immediately."
"No reason was there to go to outsiders with our business."
"I respectfully disagree, Master."
"Take me to the prisoner," Palpatine ordered, and I obediently led the way to the cell.
When we arrived, Ki-Adi Mundi and Adi Gallia angrily parted and let us enter. Maul, who was now missing several fingers and a couple of horns, looked up at the two of us from the floor and sighed, seemingly gratefully. "I have told them nothing," he said with a ghost of a smile.
I quickly lowered the energy barrier, knelt down next to him, and took his mangled hands in mine. "It's over, Maul."
"This man is dying," the chancellor noted.
I reached out with the Living Force and realized that he was right. "I thought your master wouldn't allow you to die?"
"I have endured enough. The torment is over. I may rest."
Turning to Chancellor Palpatine, I said, "We should call a medical team. There's still time to save him."
"It would be for the best to finally allow this creature to die," he replied. "He's suffered long enough. If we healed him, we'd be forced to incarcerate him once he was better, and to be frank, I'm not sure there's any humane way to securely lock away someone as Force-strong as he must surely be."
"This is what I want," Maul murmured, as the life force steadily ebbed from his broken body.
"Dammit," I whispered, then sat down next to him, put his head in my lap, and waited silently with the chancellor until Maul was a prisoner no more.
An army of aides had descended on the Temple by the time we exited the cell. "I must go check on their progress," Palpatine noted. "We are indebted to you once more, Obi-Wan Kenobi. I am sure it was no easy task to come to me and inform me of wrongdoings within the order."
"I did it in the hopes of eventually strengthening the order and bringing it back to its true code of ethics, Chancellor."
"I'm sure you did, and I thank you for it. Your padawan's mother should be on Coruscant by morning. I'll send someone for him as soon as she arrives. Will you still be here?"
"No, I don't think they'll let me stay. I'm off to pack my things now."
"I'll arrange a place for you to stay."
"Thank you. That's very kind."
"And what will you do now?"
"I'm still working that out."
"Well, there is a job for you with the government, if you like," he offered.
"Thank you. I'll consider it. If you don't mind?"
"Not at all. Give my regards to young Skywalker."
Anakin had tears running down his face as I packed. "Don't go."
"I can't stay, Anakin. You know that."
"Take me with you."
"What about your mother? She'll be here soon."
"Take us both with you."
"Your place is here, with the Jedi, Anakin. You're very strong in the Force."
"I don't care."
Setting down my duffel bag, I knelt down in front of him and said, "You might not care right now, but if you left with me, you'd eventually grow to hate me for it."
He sniffed and wiped his nose on his sleeve. "I guess so."
"Master Emlyn has agreed to take over your training. I think you'll work well with her."
"I do like her."
"I know. And she likes you. I think you'll be a good match."
"Where will you go?"
"I'm going to see if my brother will take me in, I think."
"Will you be okay?"
I smiled. "I'll be fine, Anakin. And so will you."
"Don't leave until my mom gets here, okay? Stay here tonight."
How could I say no to that? "I will." I put Maul's cane down on top of my duffel bag--I didn't want to forget it in the morning--and headed off to spend one last night with my padawan.
I'd finally done the right thing. Qui-Gon would have been proud.
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