As per usual, the lion's share of the thanks must go to Jedimom and Rose for brainstorming and betaing. Thanks also to Vyola for helpful suggestions and betas, Raonaid and Joan the English Chick for nitpicking, and Ishyko for being a cheerleader. Thanks also to Filter for "The Best Things," which somehow became the soundtrack for the first part of the story, and Vast, whose album covered the ending.
Disclaimer: Lucasfilms owns the boys, much to my dismay. What's been done to them is copyright 2000 by Siubhan. This can only be archived with my express permission.
He feels the final blow as keenly as if it has been dealt directly to him.
A scream tears from his throat as he falls to the floor, both hands wrapped around his waist. Blind agony courses through him as he feels the other's body split in two, the life force pouring from him like a purple river, his own life pouring out along with it. He is helpless, raw, empty. So empty.
He doesn't know how many days elapse before he finally moves again, the tiniest of life-sparks flaring within him. He stirs, fingers tracing his waist, looking for the wound he is sure has to be there. Nothing. He is whole, physically at least.
The apprentice slowly rises to his feet, still dizzy with loss, and knows what he has to do.
Obi-Wan sat in vigil by the ashes of his former master. Train the boy, he'd said. Hell, Obi-Wan could barely train his braid to behave, never mind a headstrong padawan! He'd petitioned the Council, but secretly hoped that they'd disagree and assign Anakin to someone else. He was pretty sure Yoda agreed with him. It was nice to have Yoda on his side for a change.
And where was Senator Palpatine? He wanted to get off of this damned planet, but the Jedi were supposed to stay until Palpatine arrived and Naboo could have their victory celebration. No one had seen the senator in days, and his likely nomination to chancellor had been postponed until he could be located. Even Yoda and Mace Windu felt that the celebration should go on without him, but Queen Amidala was holding firm.
He didn't need to extend his vigil this long, but what else was there to do? Spend time with the Queen and young Anakin? Obi-Wan wasn't yet in the mood to have fun. He still ached from the violent severing of his training bond with Qui-Gon. Every time he closed his eyes, he still saw the savage grimace of that hooded monster as he unleashed a torrent of purple thunderbolts at Qui-Gon's helpless form.
Obi-Wan idly fingered the mostly-healed scorch-mark on his forehead. He'd gotten lucky. There was no other way to explain how he'd been able to slice that monster in half. His fingers drifted to scratch at the base of his braid, and he stopped, startled once more to find it gone. He was a knight, raised from padawan status through a centuries-old loophole. "Kill a Sith, become a knight," Mace Windu had explained. "It's like a battlefield promotion. Even though we thought the Sith were extinct, we still kept that on the books, just in case. You don't need to go through the trials, but we can still have a knighting ceremony for you when we get home." Obi-Wan had rejected the idea. Why commemorate blind luck with ceremony, especially when his master couldn't be there to watch?
He scrubbed at his face and sighed. The rest of the Jedi thought he was handling this well, but he didn't feel well. Not even close.
And then he felt it.
Darkness, like a raw, gaping wound, heading his way. Undisguised, uninhibited evil.
Obi-Wan drew his lightsaber in anticipation, and felt the Jedi masters dashing in from the city to intercept, but they wouldn't arrive in time. He'd have to face the darkness alone.
Damn, had he killed the master or the apprentice? If he'd asked himself this just five minutes ago, he would have said the master, but this tidal wave of darkness was so strong... He silently willed the Jedi masters to get here faster.
And then he saw the face. That red and black streaked face, yellow eyes burning with fury. He'd never seen raw evil like this before, not even from the Sith that killed his master. At least there'd been intelligence behind those eyes. These were simply the eyes of a predator.
The black-cloaked creature glided to a stop just out of range of Obi-Wan's lightsaber and dropped to one knee. "I swear allegiance to you," it purred.
Obi-Wan blinked. This wasn't quite what he was expecting. "You what?"
"You killed my master. You are my master now."
"And how do you figure that?"
"You were stronger than my former master. You have earned his position, and deserve my allegiance."
Mace Windu and Depa Bilaba arrived at that moment, lightsabers drawn. Obi-Wan held out his hand to stop them, gaze still fixed on the figure kneeling before him, and asked, "I am your master now? You'll do what I say?"
"Yes, my master."
Obi-Wan exchanged a startled glance with Depa and Mace, then turned back and said, "Then you'll come back to Coruscant with me and answer all the Jedi's questions about the Sith."
"I will answer your questions, my master."
"Fine, then you'll come back to Coruscant with me and answer all my questions about the Sith."
"Yes, my master."
As Adi Gallia, Plo Koon, and Saesee Tin arrived and took up defensive positions behind the Sith, Obi-Wan finally felt secure enough to take charge of the situation. "Hand over your weapons. Slowly."
The dark-robed figure unclipped his lightsaber and handed it to Obi-Wan, who handed it back to Depa without a glance. He then reached into his boot and pulled out a vibro-shiv, then dug a garrote and a dagger out of his tunic and handed them all to Obi-Wan.
"Is that everything?" Obi-Wan asked.
"Of course, my master. I obey you in all things."
Depa shook her head. "I do not trust him in the least."
"I agree," Mace added as Yoda, Even Piell, and Ki-Adi Mundi pulled up in a hovercar and joined the crowd. "We'll do a more thorough search before we leave."
"Good," Depa replied. "Knight Kenobi, your vigil is over. We're leaving immediately for Coruscant. We can no longer wait for Senator Palpatine to arrive."
"Senator Palpatine will not be found," the kneeling figure replied.
"And why not?" Obi-Wan asked.
"You killed him, Master."
The assembled Jedi were stunned. "Palpatine?" Mace finally asked.
"He was the Sith master?" Obi-Wan added.
"Yes. He was Darth Sidious."
Obi-Wan shook his head. "I never sensed that from him when I was in his presence."
"He was the master. He was very good at deceit."
"I looked him right in the eye when I killed him," Obi-Wan muttered under his breath. "I can't believe I couldn't see that." He sighed, tucked away the self-recrimination, then looked down at the red-and-black face and asked, "Do you have a name?"
"Yes, Master. My name is Darth Maul."
"Maul will do. You're not a Sith anymore."
"Master?" The wave of confusion pouring off him was palpable.
As Depa and Plo stood off to the side making arrangements to leave, Yoda picked up Maul's lightsaber and examined it, making little grunts of appraisal. "Double bladed this is?"
"Answer him," Obi-Wan ordered, impatient with Maul's reticence.
"He's a Jedi, Master."
"So am I."
Maul swallowed hard, then said, "Yes. Double bladed."
Depa finished speaking into her comm unit and said, "We're going, now."
Maul stared up at Obi-Wan, still kneeling.
"You heard her," Obi-Wan said. "We're going. Get up and come with us."
Maul rose and fell in two paces behind Obi-Wan as the group started to move, but Obi-Wan grabbed him by the arm and pushed him in front of him. "I want you where I can see you," he snapped.
"I cannot disobey you..."
"Like hell you can't."
"Not a word."
Maul obediently fell silent.
Mace walked alongside Obi-Wan and said, "I want you to go along with this for now. He appears to feel bonded with you, one-sided as it may be, even though I suspect it's just a ruse."
"I don't sense that from him."
"Neither do I, but neither of us pegged Palpatine either. Clearly, we can't count on being able to read a Sith. This is not going to be an easy assignment, and it may preclude you training Anakin."
"I will do what the Council wishes."
"Try not to let your anger guide you in your dealings with him, as difficult as that may be."
"Anger is a path to the Dark Side. Yes, I know," Obi-Wan sighed. "It's not going to be easy."
"Try to let the Force be your guide."
"May the Force be with us all."
"Ask him to strip."
Ringed by Jedi in the main Theed hangar, Maul glared at Depa, then turned to Obi-Wan and said, "I will not perform for their pleasure."
"We need to search you for weapons," Obi-Wan replied. "Strip."
"I gave you my weapons, Master."
"I know. Strip."
"I wouldn't lie to you, Master."
"I can't read you. We have no training bond, and I hope we never do. So prove your loyalty and truthfulness and strip."
The assembled Jedi watched the Sith shed progressive layers of black fabric until he finally stood naked before them, proving that the tattoos did indeed go all the way down. Several of them winced.
"You've trained a lot, haven't you, Maul?" Mace asked as he studied his muscular physique. "We're going to have to keep an eye on you."
"Here, wear these," Ki-Adi Mundi said as he handed a pair of loose gray trousers and a gray tunic to Maul.
"Master, my clothes..."
"If Master Ki-Adi says you can't have them back, then you can't have them back. The fabric could be laced with explosives, or the fibers could be razor-sharp if unwoven," Obi-Wan noted. "You'll wear what we give you."
Maul nodded and stepped into the pants.
"You're going to have to learn to take orders from Jedi, Maul. The sooner you come to grips with that, the easier this will be for all of us."
Maul froze, arms halfway into the gray sleeves, a stricken look on his patterned face. "You trained me to fight the Jedi."
"Sidious taught you to fight the Jedi," Obi-Wan corrected. "I am a Jedi. Get that through your skull."
Maul opened his mouth to speak and quickly closed it, blinking dizzily as his obvious confusion grew stronger.
"I do not know what to do," he whispered helplessly.
"Finish putting your shirt on. Now walk up that ramp and onto that ship. You're coming back with us to Coruscant."
"And stop saying that."
Pain. Betrayal. Nausea crashes through him in waves. The severed bond still bleeds raw. The new master should have taken care of that by now. Rushing emptiness still echoes in his head as he tries to get a handhold on something, anything. There is no ground below him. The chasm yawns, his fingers scrabble. What has he done to deserve this punishment? His master will save him. His master will save him. He has to.
His fingers slip, and he is falling.
An hour into the trip, the captive started screaming.
Obi-Wan ran back to the cargo hold and saw four Jedi masters piled on top of Maul, trying to contain his thrashing. "Maul!" he barked. "Stop it, now!"
"Master!" he gasped, falling still. Adi, Plo, Ki-Adi, and Mace waited several long moments, then slowly backed away. Maul rose to his feet and strode shakily towards Obi-Wan.
"No," Obi-Wan said. "Stay there."
Maul stopped in his tracks.
He sat cross-legged on the ground.
"This is insane," Obi-Wan muttered as Yoda took him aside. "He's like a damned pet."
"More truth to that there is than you realize," Yoda replied. "Looked briefly into his mind, I did. Very damaged, he is. Totally dependent he was on his master. Unable to function without him, he is."
Obi-Wan looked over his shoulder at Maul and said, "I lost my training bond too. Get over it."
"And stop calling me that! My name is Obi-Wan."
"But you...he taught me..."
"If you can be taught, then you can be re-taught."
"Difficult that will be," Yoda noted.
"With all due respect, Master Yoda, I don't want to spend the rest of my life with him trotting along at my heels."
"Unfair to you that would be, but options right now there are few. Calmer he grows when you are near."
"I agree," Adi added. "The longer you were away, the more agitated he became. It would make things easier if you stayed back here with him for the remainder of the trip."
"I suppose I should get used to it." Obi-Wan replied, forcing back the sarcasm from his voice. Turning back to Yoda, he asked, "Do you think there's any chance we can eventually teach him to be self-sufficient?"
"Highly fixed his thought processes are. Much work that will take. Never has he thought for himself, I believe."
"But do you think it's possible?"
"Perhaps. Very twisted, his mind is. No sign of normal development, I could detect. Trained from a very young age, he would seem to have been. However, answer my questions about it, he would not."
"I believe that's my cue," Obi-Wan quipped bitterly as he walked over to where Maul was sitting. "So tell me, how long were you trained by Sidious?"
"Since I was an infant, Mas..." He stopped, a confused look crossing his brow as he massaged his throat nervously.
"What's wrong now?"
"You punish...he punished me when I failed to call him 'Master'."
"I'm not going to do that. Look, I understand this is going to be difficult for you since it sounds like you were trained with abuse, but things are different now. That's not going to happen anymore. How do you feel about that?"
"Feel? How should I feel?"
"You tell me."
"Ma..." His hand flew to his throat again.
"Never mind." Obi-Wan scrubbed his face with his hands, walked to the edge of the small cargo bay and sat down against the wall.
"Are you tired, Ma...Obi-Wan?" Maul asked.
"Very good." He could feel a faint flicker of pride from Maul at that. "And yes, I am."
"Do you require service from me?"
"No. And I don't think I even want to know what you're offering. Just stay where you are until we get to Coruscant. Don't cause trouble."
"As you order."
"I've never been in the basement of the temple," Obi-Wan noted.
"Most Jedi haven't," Adi replied. "It's not often we have prisoners."
Adi, Obi-Wan, Maul, and a phalanx of armed Jedi knights entered the cavernous leaden-gray holding area ringed with cells, where Eeth Koth, Yaddle, and a group of doctors and healers awaited. Heavy durasteel doors closed behind them with a resounding clang. "Where do you want him?" Obi-Wan asked.
Eeth gestured to the examination table at the center of the room. "We'd like to check him out while he's being questioned."
"On the table with you, then," Obi-Wan said, emphasizing the command with a pointed finger. Maul climbed onto the table and gazed levelly at Obi-Wan. "Now, I'm only going to say this once. I want you to cooperate fully with everyone in this room. You will answer all their questions, you will allow them to conduct their tests, and you will not block them from your mind. Do you understand this?"
"I don't want any obfuscation from you, or protests. If you truly believe I'm your master, then you will obey me without further prompting."
"All right then." Obi-Wan took several steps back, and the work began in earnest.
"Your name," Eeth Koth asked as one of the doctors took a blood sample.
"Maul." His burning yellow gaze remained focused on Obi-Wan.
"Is that all?"
"I was Darth Maul. My..." He stopped and rubbed at his neck, eyes momentarily stricken, but unwaveringly focused. "Obi-Wan told me I was no longer to use that title."
"This bothers you," one of the healers noted.
"I worked very hard to earn that title. I do not believe I have committed a grave enough failure to merit losing it."
"Very high midichlorian count," one of the doctors noted.
"Still working on it."
Eeth turned back to Maul. "Do you know what species you are?"
"I do not."
"What do you know about your origins? You were taken as an infant, but from where?"
"My master...my former master told me I was from Iridonia."
"I'm from Iridonia, and I've never seen anyone like you on my home planet. Are you lying?"
"I have been commanded to cooperate. I will not lie."
"Is it possible that Sidious lied to you?"
"Why would he do that?"
"It was his prerogative."
"No matches on species," the doctor said. "We'll check for possible hybrids, but that will take time." A second doctor stepped forward with a scanning device and started taking readings. Maul flinched, but kept looking steadily at Obi-Wan.
"You're doing well," Obi-Wan said reassuringly.
"Knight Kenobi's approval means a lot to you," another healer said.
"He is my master."
"Then why don't you address him as 'Master'?" Eeth asked.
"He commanded me not to."
"Earlier, when you misspoke, you rubbed your neck. Why?"
"I was anticipating correction."
"My former master often disciplined me by putting me in a Force choke-hold."
"Is that the worst thing he did to you?"
"He did what was necessary to train me."
"Let's talk about your former master. We're searching 'Palpatine's' apartment now, but where did you live?"
"The Old Coruscant Zoo in sublevel six."
"Interesting. That section of the planet was abandoned over a hundred years ago. Did Sidious stay there with you?"
"When he was not being Palpatine."
"Was that some kind of headquarters for the Sith?"
"Where were the headquarters?"
"Wherever my master was at the time."
"Where did he keep his records?"
"On his person."
Eeth turned back to Obi-Wan, who shook his head and said, "Sidious was completely destroyed by the melting pit. There were no physical remains to speak of. It all died with him."
Eeth looked over to the healers. One said, "As far as we can tell, he is telling the truth."
"Is he blocking you?"
"He doesn't appear to be, but we're having a hard time understanding his brain."
He cast a glance at Yaddle, who said, "Concur with them I do. Master Yoda's assessment I agree with. Warped he was at a young age. Abused. Twisted his mind is."
"But you seem calm now," Eeth noted as he turned back to the prisoner.
"I am with my master. He has given me orders, and I am carrying them out."
"And if your master commanded you to abandon the Dark Side and embrace the Light?"
"I am a Sith."
"It's that simple?"
"Yes." The plain conviction behind that word echoed throughout the hall.
Eeth turned back to the doctors. "Anything yet?"
"His physiology is fairly standard for a humanoid, but has enough subtle differences from most other species that we can't peg one. It's entirely possible that he was partially molded by the Dark Side. We don't know enough about how the Dark Side works to rule that out."
"Is that possible?" Eeth asked Maul.
"My master was very powerful."
"Hmm." Eeth pondered this last piece of information as he strode across Maul's line of vision to Obi-Wan. Maul leaned around Eeth, trying to reestablish line of sight. Noticing this, Eeth stepped back between them and watched Maul frantically twist himself on the table to try and catch Obi-Wan's gaze again.
"Interesting," Yaddle murmured.
Eeth stepped back out of the way, watching as Maul calmed visibly. "I think that's all for now. The Council will confer and discuss what you've told us so far. We'll be back later with more questions and quite possibly more tests."
Adi nodded at Eeth, and he and the healers left as the doctors began packing up their equipment. She turned to Obi-Wan and guided him off to the far side of the room by his elbow. "I'm afraid you'll have to stay here with him tonight," she murmured. "We can't afford a repeat of what happened on the ship right now. Food and bedding are being brought down as we speak. We'll lock the Sith up in a cell, and you'll always have a full complement of knights standing guard. The monitoring systems will be on at all times."
"So if he starts successfully converting us to the Dark Side, you'll have deprogrammers down here in a flash."
Adi grinned. "Something like that."
"Why are we whispering?"
"It appears that Sidious laid a series of booby traps to go off in the case of his untimely death. There's been a severe outbreak of food poisoning in the Senate, shipping lanes are encountering far more aggressive piracy than normal, and the planetary communications grid has been experiencing sporadic outages that no one can trace. The timing of all this is too uncanny to be coincidental, and we're afraid this is the tip of the iceberg. We're going to spend tonight discussing whether we think our captive is trustworthy enough to question about these things, and if we decide he is, we'll start interrogating him in the morning. Don't bring any of this up. If this is all just an act, then he could be helping set off these time bombs."
"Would you like company tonight? I can send for one of your friends, if you like."
"No, I think I'd just like to sleep, maybe read a book. I think there's a half-finished one by my bed."
"I'll make sure it's sent down. Are you sure you want to be alone with him?"
"I'll have a dozen knights keeping me company."
"They'll be on duty, so they won't be chatty."
"I'm not feeling chatty."
Adi nodded understandingly and put her hand on Obi-Wan's shoulder. "I'm sorry this is happening so soon after losing your master. Qui-Gon was a remarkable man, and while we all feel his loss, none of us can feel it as keenly as you."
"Thank you, Master Adi."
The food and bedding arrived just as the doctors finished packing up. "Where would you like this?"
"Maul, you go in this cell," Obi-Wan said, pointing to the one next to him. "So set the cot up against that wall, directly across from him."
Maul obediently entered the cell and looked at the bedroll, pillow, and blanket on the floor. "Is this where I am to sleep?"
"It's not much, I know."
Maul shook his head. "It is more than I require."
"A soft place to sleep is an unnecessary luxury."
"Must I sleep on it?"
"For the love of... No, you don't need to. If you want to, go for it. If you don't, then don't. It's up to you." Maul's dinner was set down in the cell. "Are you going to complain about this as well?" Obi-Wan asked.
"It is...more than I am accustomed to."
"What did you used to eat?"
"Military ration bars, and whatever vermin I could kill in the sublevels."
"Well, soup, bread, water, and a piece of fruit shouldn't kill you then."
"I have never eaten fruit."
"That would explain your teeth. Now step back. I'm locking you in." Obi-Wan nodded to the knight closest to the guard's station, who reached down and activated the controls for Maul's cell. Thick durasteel bars slammed down, and Obi-Wan exhaustedly crossed the room and slowly eased himself into a sitting position on his cot.
"Your book," Adi said as she strode back over to Obi-Wan.
"Are you sure you want to be alone?"
"Positive. I'll be fine."
She nodded. "We'll be back in the morning. Sleep well."
The heavy durasteel doors closed behind her, and Obi-Wan looked across the room at the reason he was stuck here. Maul, sitting cross-legged in front of his tray of food, felt the scrutiny and looked up. "I do not wish to be a burden to you," he said.
"If you would just accept the bond with me..."
"Not a chance."
"I only wish to serve you."
"I don't need serving."
"I...I do not understand."
"What's not to understand?" Obi-Wan snapped. "I'm a Jedi knight, you're a Sith apprentice. This is an oil and water situation, get it? We do not mix. I have dedicated my entire life to serving the Light Side, and the last thing I need is a Dark Side apprentice."
"But I am yours."
"What would you have me do with you?"
"Train me. And when you felt I was ready, send me on missions."
Maul blinked rapidly. "N...no."
"Then what kind of missions?"
"Whatever you deem necessary."
"That would be Jedi missions."
"This is going nowhere," Obi-Wan sighed.
Maul swallowed hard, then asked, "If you do not intend to bond with me and use me as you will, then why don't you kill me?"
"Because that's not what Jedi do."
"But you are my master, and that is your prerogative."
"And as a Jedi, I cannot exercise that prerogative." Maul opened his mouth to speak again, but Obi-Wan put up his hand and said, "No, I'm not having this conversation with you right now. You're going to eat your food, I'm going to eat mine. Then I'm going to read my book and get some sleep. I'd suggest you sleep too. Use the bedroll, sleep on the floor, or sleep while doing a headstand. I don't care. Just keep quiet and leave me alone."
Maul nodded, confusion still radiating from every pore, and obeyed.
Warm food. There are tastes here he has never experienced. The soup seems to explode on his tongue. It looks so deceptively simple, but the taste is anything but. He looks across at his master as he eats his meal. His master has a spoon. Maul does not. Now his master is dipping his bread in his soup and eating it. This merits a try. Eyes widen. This is even better than the soup alone. Fruit. He's never had fruit. Putting the empty soup bowl aside, he picks it up and takes a bite. The sensation nearly makes him cry--an emotion he hasn't felt in nearly two decades. He's never tasted anything so sweet. The closest has been when he licked his own wounds. This is amazing.
What has he done to deserve this?
The thought makes his food curdle in his stomach. This has to be some kind of a test. He isn't worthy of this kind of luxury. Violently pushing the tray away, he rockets to his feet, frantically backing up against the wall. The punishment will be coming soon. He casts a stricken gaze across the room to where his master is calmly finishing off his own piece of fruit, nose buried in a book.
He feels his thundering heart gradually slowing down. His current master is a Jedi. What had Lord Sidious said about them? Do-gooders, altruistic, never thinking of themselves. They reared their young to be soft and kind-hearted. Never raised a finger to them. What an unnatural way to forge a warrior.
And yet it had forged his current master, who had slain Lord Sidious.
Maul begins pacing the length of his cell as his mind races. His master looks at him over the rim of his book and asks, "Why are you doing that?"
"It helps me focus."
"Ah. Well, carry on." He goes back to his book.
Jedi. His master is a Jedi. There will be no future punishment. No matter what he does, his master will not raise a hand to him.
This is intolerable.
Think. Remember what Lord Sidious said. To understand the enemy, you must study them, learn to understand how they think, but never identify with them. You are a Sith. You are better than everyone else. Never forget that. You are a construct of fear and hate; the very things that most civilized people shun. They cast away power. Feed off their castaways.
His new master is strong. He defeated Lord Sidious in battle, and thus earned Maul's allegiance. But his master could be stronger. He needs to be stronger. Two Sith had survived for over a millennium against thousands of Jedi. There will be two again.
He will learn.
And then he will turn.
Obi-Wan woke up to the artificial morning light of the holding area. He yawned and stretched, feeling the creaking of his bones more acutely than normal. He'd certainly slept in far less comfortable places, but never in a situation quite as disconcerting as this.
His "apprentice" was curled up on the bare floor of the cell at the foot of his bedroll.
With a snort of derision, Obi-Wan rolled out of bed and padded over to the cell. "Hey, wake up."
Maul immediately sprang up into a defensive crouch.
"Cut it out, it's just me. Didn't you even use the blanket?"
"I did not require a blanket," Maul said, rising to a standing position.
"It's not exactly warm down here."
"I do not wish to get soft while I am not being trained."
"Brilliant," Obi-Wan sighed. "Look, I really need to freshen up; take half an hour for a shower and a shave and a change of clothes. You behave while I'm gone."
"Of course," Maul purred.
Obi-Wan started to walk out, then doubled back, shaking his head. "You've figured it out, haven't you?"
"Yes. You will not punish me."
"Excellent. But you'll obey me, because you swore allegiance to me, right?"
"You are my master."
"If I find you've been causing trouble..."
Obi-Wan reached through the bars and grabbed Maul by the chin. Maul flinched at the touch, fear leaking back into his eyes. "If I find you've been causing trouble, then I won't come back. That is a threat I can make good on without breaking my Jedi vows."
"I will obey," Maul whispered.
"Good. I'll be back soon." He released Maul's chin and headed for the exit, not looking back to see Maul sinking to his knees in the cell, trembling.
"From what we observed yesterday and from monitoring the cell after we left, we believe you exhibit all the signs of having been severely abused as a child," Adi Gallia noted as she circled Maul. "Would you concur with this assessment?"
"I was trained to be a Sith," Maul countered from his chair in the center of the holding area.
"And yet you are not able to function without a master," Eeth said. "How does that make you able to take over the Sith order?"
"My master had not completed my training. He did not foresee his death happening this soon."
"Are all Sith apprentices trained as you were?" Adi asked.
"I do not believe so. Lord Sidious said I was a special case."
"Sith are traditionally recruited when they are older and have proven themselves. Sidious selected me as an infant in order to train me my entire life. That way, I would not be saddled with compassion or empathy."
"Or free will," Eeth added.
"I was not yet ready for that."
"So let me recap," Adi said. "You were taken as an infant, and trained with punishments your entire life. You were never nurtured. You were never rewarded."
"I was rewarded."
"By lack of punishment."
"You are, by design, psychopathic. You will never fit into regular society."
"I am not meant to."
"You would never have been able to pull off the ruse of a public life like Sidious did as Palpatine."
"Once his plans were complete, that would not have been necessary."
"Speaking of his plans," Eeth said, "how much do you know about them?"
"I know what he deigned to tell me."
"Did he tell you about plans timed to go off upon his death?"
Maul hesitated and looked over at Obi-Wan. "Go on. Answer him," Obi-Wan said. "What, do you feel some sort of allegiance still to that old bastard even after what he did to you?"
"He made me what I am today."
"And you're happy with that?"
"I am what I am. I know no other way to be."
Obi-Wan closed in. "Think back to all the punishments he gave you. Don't you have even the tiniest desire to get back at him?"
"He was my master. I deserved any punishment he gave me."
"You said he used Force choke-holds," Obi-Wan said, squatting down next to Maul's chair. "When you were bad. Like this." His hand darted out and grabbed Maul square on the neck. Maul's eyes widened and his hands scrabbled ineffectually at his neck, not daring to pry off Obi-Wan's hand. "Ah, so this scares you. You don't like it."
"No," Maul gasped.
"And I'm not even squeezing. Imagine how you'd feel if I did. Remember how it felt last time he did this. Now don't you want just the tiniest bit of revenge? You're a Sith. Feed on your dark emotions. It makes you stronger."
"Yessssss," he hissed.
"Good, now tell us what you know about the traps."
"I don't know if he told us everything he knows," Obi-Wan said as the three of them stepped out into the hallway.
"I can't tell," Adi concurred, "but if what he said about the communications grid is true, we'll know shortly. And Obi-Wan, what you did in there; don't do that again."
"He's figured out that I'm not going to punish him physically, so I thought that extreme measures would be necessary to get him to talk. I just related to him in a way he could understand."
"It's still unacceptable. He's been abused all his life, and you just abused him some more to try and get information out of him. If he weren't a Sith, would you have done that?"
"You're right," Obi-Wan sighed. "I wasn't thinking."
"You've been under a lot of stress," Eeth said. "It's understandable, but don't let it happen again."
"I won't. I'll take some time to meditate and try to work things out."
"You may want to see a healer as well," Eeth noted. "You're carrying around a lot of anger, which, as I said, is understandable, but unacceptable. However, the Jedi Council has to shoulder part of the blame for this. We shouldn't have asked you to do something this difficult immediately after the loss of your master, especially at such a crucial time in your training."
"Well, it all happened so suddenly, there was no time to think."
"We're the Jedi Council. That's no excuse. Oh, before I forget, whatever you do, don't form any sort of training bond with him."
"I wasn't planning on it."
"Sometimes things happen that we don't plan for. I brought this up because the healers that saw him yesterday are currently seeing healers to recover from the experience. Maul's mind is a very treacherous place, and they were all deeply shaken by being in it. The last thing we need is to have a promising young knight with a constant pipeline to something that dangerous."
"When they're feeling better, and if they think they're up to the task, I want to let the healers at him again, but frankly, I don't think they'll have much success. From what we know of his upbringing, I don't think there's any way to heal his mind."
"Sidious didn't know what he was doing when he raised Maul," Adi sighed. "Even the most rudimentary psychology text will tell you that raising a mammalian without basic nurturing results in an extremely traumatized, damaged individual. There is no way he ever could have finished training him to have a mind of his own and take charge of the Sith order. It's almost sad, really."
"It is sad," Eeth said. "And if he were just abused, we could work with that. But he was abused and molded with the Dark Side. I'd say there's no hope for him."
"So what are you going to do?" Obi-Wan asked. "If there's no hope, are you just going to toss him in a cell for the rest of his life?"
"We're still at a loss," Adi said. "We'd like to keep him with you until we manage to disassemble all of Sidious's traps, but after that...well, it's up to you."
"The choices being either he stays with me, or he's locked up?"
"Or anything else we manage to think up by then."
"And how likely is there to be a third option?"
"Unknown, but it's our duty to come up with one."
Obi-Wan turned away and drummed his fingers against the wall. "What of Anakin?"
"Mace Windu has offered to take him as a padawan if you're unable to."
"That's probably for the best. The boy's powerful, and he needs an experienced master. I think Qui-Gon would understand." He felt a stinging in his chest and quickly blinked back tears. Turning back, he said, "I think I'm going to go try to meditate in the gardens now. I'll ask Maul to behave while I'm away, but if he doesn't, just call me back."
"Well, we may not know what species he is," Eeth said, "but we know enough about his physiology now that we could gas him."
"That's comforting," Obi-Wan noted wryly.
"Like I said, we're going to work hard to come up with more options. Anyhow, we need to go meet with the rest of the Council. If you require any assistance, just ask."
"I will. Thank you."
Obi-Wan squared his shoulders and headed back into the holding area. Walking over to Maul's cell, he said, "I want to apologize for earlier. I mistreated you, and that was wrong."
Maul blinked rapidly, fingers rubbing circles around the base of his temple horns, and finally choked out, "You...apologize...to me?"
"I'm sure that's something your previous master never did, but I'm a Jedi, and when I wrong someone, I apologize. What I did was inexcusable, and I won't do it again." He reached through the bars and gently moved Maul's hands away from his head. "Just relax. I know this is difficult for you to deal with, but just relax."
Maul nodded, forcing himself to take several long, slow, deep breaths. "I will try," he finally said, voice nearly calm.
"Look, I know you're going through a lot, but so am I. I lost my master too, and I still need to heal from that. I know you understand."
"Bond with me. We can heal together."
"I can't do that. I'm a Jedi knight now. The only bonding I'll be doing is with a padawan someday. As a knight, it is my duty to heal myself through meditation and discipline, and I'm going to do that now. I'm heading out to the gardens to meditate. I don't know how long I'll be gone. Probably several hours."
"You can make it without me. From what I've heard of your former master, you've been through a hell of a lot worse. Here, hang on." Obi-Wan crossed the room, picked up his book, and headed back. "You can read Galactic Standard, yes?"
He held the book out through the bars. "You might like this. It's a historical novel about the Old Republic. Light on romance, heavy on battle scenes, hardly any mention of the Jedi at all."
"Is this fiction?"
"Historical fiction. It's based on fact."
"Reading fiction is a waste of time."
"What would you rather do in here while I'm away?"
"I..." Maul fell silent.
"You don't need to read it if you don't want to. I could always have them bring down something else for you to read. Or you could meditate. Or listen to music. What would you like to do?"
"Choose for me."
Obi-Wan sighed. "We still need to work on that, don't we? Look, try this book. I think you'll like it. If you finish it before I get back, and you liked it, ask one of the guards to bring you another one. I really need to go meditate now. My temper's getting really thin again, and that's not good."
Maul nodded and sat on the floor with the book.
"Oh, Maul? Why don't you try sitting on the bedroll?"
Warily, he resettled on the soft surface. "I don't know if I like this."
"Stay there through the end of chapter one. Give it a chance. If it really bothers you, then move after that."
"As you wish."
"Maul, this is about finding out what you wish. Ideally, I shouldn't have to force you into things, but if that's what it takes at first, then that's what I'll do. Now, enjoy the book, I'll be back when I'm feeling calmer."
Several hours later, Obi-Wan strode back to the holding area. "Well, I'm feeling a little better. How about you?"
Maul was still sitting on the bedroll, engrossed in the text.
He looked up guiltily over the top of the book. "Master, I..."
"Don't apologize, and don't call me master. How's the book?"
"Haven't made it that far in, I see."
"No, I'm on my third reading."
"Third? Why didn't you ask for another book?"
"I want to get this one down."
"There's not going to be a test."
"I know. I just want to make sure I understand everything. I keep noticing new things every time I read it. I should be more attentive than that."
"It's not a matter of attentiveness. You just notice new things each time because you've read it all the way through already, and you know how things turn out, so you have a different perspective and can see how things were woven in throughout the book."
"I'm noticing less things the third time through."
"See? And it looks like you didn't mind the bedroll."
Maul looked vaguely startled. "I'd forgotten about it."
"So, what do you like about the book?"
"I am intrigued by the justifications the people make for their actions. Their motivations are fascinating."
"How about the battle scenes?"
Shaking his head, Maul said, "They're flawed. I could have outmaneuvered the entire Republican army on my speederbike."
"Yes, quite easily. I am hoping that was just a flaw in the writing. If not, then the Sith should have tried to take over centuries ago."
Obi-Wan grinned and leaned against the bars. "Lucky for us you weren't paying close enough attention back then."
"Okay, how about the romance?"
"That made no sense to me."
"I suppose not. Look, when you're done with that book, what would you like to read next?"
"Something about the Jedi."
"Brushing up on the enemy?"
"If I am to serve you, I need to understand you."
"I'll have to get that cleared by the Council."
The outer door swung open, and Adi Gallia and Depa Bilaba strode in. "I'd like to thank you for the information you provided earlier, Maul," Adi said. "We were able to get your former master's sabotage under control."
"Obi-Wan, we need to speak with you in private," Depa said. "Maul, if you'll excuse us?"
He nodded and turned back to his book.
Once the outer door had closed behind them, Depa asked, "What is he reading?"
"A historical novel. He's on his third read-through. I don't think he's ever read fiction before. I think it would do him a lot of good to read more. He asked for a book on the Jedi, but I'm not sure that I trust him enough for that."
"We can find him something inoffensive to read about us," Depa said. "There's that Jedi murder mystery series that Master Skillen wrote. It's accurate, and it's doing really well on the market, but doesn't give away anything about us that the public doesn't already know. Let's give him that. I agree, he should read."
"And you're right," Adi said. "I'm sure he hasn't read fiction. We just got the report back from the scouts who went to the Old Coruscant Zoo. Sidious may not have left behind records of his Sith exploits, but he did keep a journal of how he raised Maul, and it's more brutal than we imagined. There were beatings, starvation, staged wild animal attacks. When he was a toddler, Sidious started putting him in a sensory deprivation suit. He did everything he could to create the ultimate brutal warrior. According to his notes, Sidious seemed surprised that no one had thought of this before. I'm guessing that they had, but quickly learned that it didn't work."
"It is a testament to Maul's strength that he is able to function at all," Depa added. "We checked out his living area. Nothing but clothes, training equipment, food bars, and piles of animal bones. Vermin."
"He told me he ate them."
"Analysis of the food bars indicates that he had to. They weren't nutritionally sufficient for his metabolism. He would have starved if he hadn't killed his own food."
"So no nurture? No comfort? No entertainment?"
Depa and Adi exchanged a glance. "Actually, here's where it gets interesting." Depa held up a viewscreen. "The scouts poked around a little, and found this hidden away in a corner."
Obi-Wan leaned in for a better look. "Is that sculpture?"
"Two small sculptures made of animal bones," she replied. "He made them. There are references in the early parts of Sidious's journal to him beating Maul's 'frivolous artistic time-wasting' out of him, but it would seem that he wasn't successful. Maul must have just learned to hide it."
"After they found that, they decided to do trace analysis of the rest of the rooms on a hunch," Adi added. "They found traces of blood forming patterns on the walls."
"He painted on the walls with his own blood?" Obi-Wan asked in horror.
"Mostly with vermin blood, but also with a little of his own. It looked like he'd do it, then scrub it clean, then do it again. Once more, he was hiding it from Sidious. My guess is that he did it whenever Sidious left him alone."
"So...he's an artist."
"He's an artist," Adi concurred. "And this surprises us just as much as it surprises you."
"I'm thinking we should give him art books."
"Maybe some paint."
"No brushes or pens yet."
"No. Not yet."
Depa turned to Adi and asked, "Don't you have a few graphic novels that he might like?"
"You're right. I'll bring them down immediately."
"May I take this viewscreen in to show him?" Obi-Wan asked.
"Of course. We'll be back down shortly with the books."
Obi-Wan walked back in, staring over at Maul with a haunted look for a long moment before asking, "Maul?"
Maul looked up from the book. "Yes?"
Walking over to the cell, Obi-Wan said, "I just got the report on your living quarters in the old zoo. They found this." He held up the viewscreen.
The book fell from Maul's hands.
"I didn't know this about you."
"I forgot to destroy them," Maul whispered.
"You know you're not going to get into trouble with me for this. I actually think it's kind of touching. Maul? Maul, come on. Snap out of it. Remember, I will not punish you. I am not Sidious."
"He punished me very severely for creating things."
"No, not art. Just projects."
"It is art, Maul. It's actually quite good. They also found that you used to paint on the walls."
"He punished me for that as well."
"That must have been terrible for you."
"They were lessons. They taught me. I deserved them."
"No you didn't."
"He did let me do one thing. These markings." Maul gestured to his face. "I would paint myself with the blood from my food. He liked it, and allowed me to make it permanent."
"Would you like to do your projects again? We can bring you clay and paint."
"No, I can't..."
"Sure you can. We don't mind."
"I only work in blood and bone."
"You can transfer those skills to paint and clay."
"Clay does not shatter like bone does."
"You don't need to shatter it to hide it anymore."
"No, my projects have to be destroyed."
"What about your tattoo?"
"I have permission to keep that."
"Well, as your new master, I give you permission to keep your new projects."
"That won't...that's not how it works."
"You mean it's not what you're used to. Look, if it bothers you, you can squash the clay down when you're done. You know we can't let you have bones. You're still a prisoner, and you know as well as I do that bones could be used as weapons."
"I will do what you order."
"I'm not going to order you to do anything. I'm just giving you options. And more books."
"I still have to finish this one."
"If you've already read it through twice in the past couple hours, you'll get through it a third time soon enough."
Maul picked the book up from the floor, and slowly thumbed through it, looking for where he left off. "Red paint," he murmured.
"Red paint it is."
So many books. There's a five-book mystery series on the Jedi, two art books, a military history book, and three "graphic novels." He had intended to start with the books on the Jedi, but the graphic novels intrigue him. Words and pictures together. He didn't think that was possible. He is having a very hard time putting them down. That shouldn't be. He has worked his entire life on single-minded focus. He cannot let it fail him now.
He decides to read through the graphic novels once, then go on to the books on the Jedi.
This would be so much easier if only his master would tell him which books to read first.
The next morning, Saesee Tin, Eeth Koth, and Adi Gallia stormed into the holding area unannounced. "Maul, put that book down. There's been another incident," Eeth barked.
Obi-Wan set down his datapad and joined the group at the cell.
"What incident would this be?" Maul asked.
"There was an explosion in the main Senate chamber during a full session. That should be impossible. The Senate is routinely scanned for explosives."
"The explosive was placed in the Supreme Chancellor's platform," Saesee added. "Not Senator Palpatine's. His platform was removed and replaced several days ago."
"Did you know about this?" Adi asked.
Maul looked over at Obi-Wan with a steady, hooded gaze.
"Answer them," Obi-Wan commanded.
"I am protecting the Sith order."
"The Sith are dead, Maul. You failed to become the master when Sidious died. There's nothing left to protect."
"How many dead?" Maul asked.
"Ninety-eight, including Chancellor Valorum, with nearly double that wounded," Adi replied.
Eeth stepped closer to the bars. "If you ever want your freedom, you had better tell us what attacks are yet to come."
"You would give me my freedom?"
"If you earn it. Otherwise, you can spend the rest of your life in this cell. But I'm warning you, if there's one more death, your chances of ever being free will be slim to none."
"We've been accommodating so far," Adi said. "We've given you books, we're getting art supplies together for you, but if you deliberately withhold information, we'll take that all away."
Obi-Wan watched as Maul looked off at the far wall, mind clearly racing. The offer of freedom had to be overwhelming to someone who'd spent his entire life in brutally enforced servitude. Did he even realize what it meant? Could he?
Maul nodded imperceptibly, then stood up and walked to the bars of his cell. Looking Eeth dead in the eye, he said, "The planetary defense grid will start firing at all incoming ships."
"That I do not know. But soon."
"How do we disarm it? And more importantly, what happens after that?"
"If I disarm it alone, nothing will happen after that."
"You know we can't let you do that."
"If you don't, then the defense grid will turn and fire on the planet itself. Then the next incident will be a massive crop infection on all Agri-Corps worlds."
Adi's eyes narrowed. "I get it. All this is set up to distract the Jedi and give you time to get on your feet and seize control of everything that Sidious had been working on while our attention was focused elsewhere."
She turned to Obi-Wan and nodded. "All right then," he said. "If I order you to disarm this latest threat, you'll do so then return directly to us."
"I will obey."
Saesee shook his head, but said, "I don't like it, but it seems to be the only viable option. We'll have to chance it."
Maul fixed Obi-Wan with an intense gaze and said, "If you bond with me, you can ensure that I do as ordered."
"No," all four Jedi said as one.
"We're just going to have to do this one on trust," Obi-Wan added.
That was easier than he thought it would be. They are willing to give him freedom in exchange for his cooperation. Jedi do not make false promises. That's what the back cover of one of these books says, and since it was written by a Jedi, he has no reason to question the truth of that statement. Sidious was right; they are weak. He knows they pity him, and their compassion will be their downfall. They still do not trust him fully, but he will make them. He will disarm Sidious's traps and return to his cell. He will continue reading the books they give him. He will paint. He will behave. He will be a model prisoner, and when they let him out of his cage, he will be a model apprentice. They will believe all of this is a genuine transformation for him, because their pity dictates it.
And once he learns enough about them, he will make Obi-Wan into the glorious Sith Master that he knows he can be. There will be two again. The Sith will live on.
His path is finally clear.
Even on a planet as cosmopolitan and jaded as Coruscant, Maul stood out. The problem was, he didn't realize it.
"I fail to see why I need to paint my face and wear lenses. My outfit should be sufficient disguise."
"Maul, the average citizen of Coruscant believes that the Sith have been extinct for over a thousand years, but trust me, if they get one good look at your face, they'll realize they were wrong."
"But I'm dressed in one of their uniforms."
"Yes, but none of the orbital defense platform workers have blood-red facial tattoos and glowing yellow bloodshot eyes. The horns are going to be enough of a stretch."
"They will let me pass."
"The Council still wants you disguised, just to be safe."
"There are far stranger creatures than me on this planet."
"And the only ones with government jobs are senators. Folks in uniforms like yours are a pretty boring bunch. Trust me." Obi-Wan dipped his fingers in the jar of black makeup and reached out to apply it to Maul's face. Maul flinched back.
"I can do it myself."
"It's no trouble."
"I want to do it myself."
"You don't like being touched, do you?"
"Touching is for combat and punishment."
"So all your talk of 'servicing me' wasn't what I thought it was?"
"I don't understand."
"I thought you meant something sexual."
"How does that work if I don't touch you?"
"You are the master. I touch you. You don't touch me."
"Oh. Sorry I asked. Look, I'd like you to try and let me do this for you, all right?"
"If you so command."
"I don't command. I just want you to try if you can. If you can't, then just say so." Noting the doubt in Maul's eyes, he added, "Think of it as a test of bravery."
"I can do that." He closed his eyes in preparation.
"I thought so." Obi-Wan dipped his fingers into the makeup again and said, "Just try to relax."
As Obi-Wan gently reached out to brush the black makeup over Maul's jagged red markings, he kept a careful eye on the tightness of Maul's jaw, the rigidness of his frame. By the time he got to the red rings at the base of Maul's horns, the tendons of his neck were straining alarmingly. "Why don't you do those yourself?" Obi-Wan offered.
"No, you do it," Maul choked out.
"This isn't supposed to be agonizing. I was being gentle."
Maul's eyes snapped open. "I failed you," he whispered.
"You didn't fail me. You actually did really well."
"I was not able to complete the task."
"It wasn't about that. For someone who's never been touched with kindness, you did remarkably well. I mean it. Now finish up your horns, put in the lenses, and we'll be off."
The phalanx of Jedi stood in a circle around Obi-Wan and Maul in the passenger area of the transport. "If this is a trap, and any harm comes to Knight Kenobi, we will hunt you down," Mace Windu vowed.
"No harm will come to him. I will disarm the trap and return."
"You'd better not be lying about needing to do it alone."
"If there is more than one person with me, it will be clear that I am not there of my own free will. There are only two Sith at any time."
"But Obi-Wan's not a Sith."
"But I am loyal to him. If there are any Force-sensitive traps, they will sense that."
"I've never heard of any such thing. You'd better not be making it up." Mace glanced meaningfully at Obi-Wan, who looked over at Maul.
"No, I am not making that up," Maul replied.
"We're putting a lot of trust in you with very little to back it up," Mace said. "I hope you realize that. I still think you're engineering this so you can escape."
"I am not. I will not leave my master."
Mace sighed and shook his head. "Go. Get it over with."
Obi-Wan and Maul, both dressed in navy blue government maintenance worker uniforms, left the shuttle and walked across the dock towards the small transport the Jedi had procured for their mission. "So, how does it feel to be outside after being cooped up in a cell?" Obi-Wan asked.
"Feel? I don't understand."
"You don't like being outside in the evening air?"
Shaking his head, Maul said, "I still don't understand."
"How about this. Do you like being out of your cell?"
"I would like it more if I were training."
"Or out permanently?"
Maul shot Obi-Wan an incredulous look.
"What?" Obi-Wan asked as they climbed into their transport. "I'm flying."
"I can fly. I know where we're going."
"Give me the coordinates. I'm flying."
Maul reached over and punched them in, and Obi-Wan gently maneuvered the shuttle up towards the outer atmosphere. "So, why don't you believe me when I say you could be let out permanently? It is a possibility, you know. Master Eeth said so."
"I am your apprentice, even though you have not accepted me as such. I don't get let out permanently until I become the master."
"That's not how it works anymore. I was never locked up."
"How did your master keep tabs on you?"
"He didn't need to. I was there voluntarily."
"Even though Jedi are taken from their families as infants and raised at the Temple? I read that in the first Jedi novel you gave me. That is true, yes?"
"Yes, it's true."
"And you could have left the Temple at any time?"
"Well, no, I was a child. I was supervised." Obi-Wan sighed and said, "Okay, you're right, I couldn't have just walked out the door. Still, once I was older, if I'd really wanted to leave, I could have. And yes, before you say it, I was indoctrinated to want to stay, but it sounds like my indoctrination was a lot more pleasant than yours."
"Sith aren't supposed to be pleasant."
"Palpatine sure seemed nice enough. Had us all fooled."
"Even if I am released from my cell, I will not be allowed to leave the Temple."
"Not right away, no." Glancing at Maul out of the corner of his eye, Obi-Wan said, "You know, it's fairly remarkable how different you look right now."
Maul glanced down at the reflective surface of the toolbox. "I don't look that different."
"Your face looks softer without the tattoos, although I think it's the eyes that do it. They seem less intense now that they're brown. We're here. Is that the right platform?"
"Docking." Obi-Wan maneuvered the ship up to a docking port, waited for the airlock to connect and cycle, then popped the hatch. "Let's do it."
The two men climbed out of the ship and headed through the mostly-deserted station towards the main control center. When they arrived, a tech stopped them. "You're new, aren't you? Can I help you?" she asked.
Maul waved his hand in front of her face and purred, "Coil adjustment."
The woman's eyes glazed slightly, and she nodded and gestured to a ladder.
"Post-hypnotic suggestion from Sidious," Maul explained as they climbed down. "There are no coils anywhere on this orbital platform."
At the bottom of the ladder were three small access tunnels. Maul looked at each one in turn before picking one. "This should be it. Wait here."
"Wait here? No, I'm coming with you."
"If you do, there is a high chance of failure, and an even higher chance of setting off a boobytrap that would destroy the entire platform."
"Sidious would have you dead?"
"He might if he thought I'd fallen into enemy hands."
"Right. I'll wait." Obi-Wan sat back against the wall and watched as Maul crawled out of sight.
Maul takes a deep breath. He has to stay calm and focused. Disarming this trap is not a matter of cutting wires or flipping switches; it is a matter of being a confident, convincing, independent Sith, ready to take over the order and lead it to future glory.
And since he is none of the above, he will just have to fake it.
He abandons the toolbox at the first bend. He only brought it to keep up the ruse that this would be a straightforward mechanical task. Had his master asked him how the trap worked, he would have told him, but since he hadn't, that knowledge didn't need to be shared. It would hinder his mission, having to deal with his master's concern. That is difficult enough to deal with in his cell.
One more bend. He can see the purple glow of his former master's Force-signature shining from around it. One last deep breath. He draws on reserves of calmness he didn't realize he had. Perhaps the Jedi are rubbing off on him. He hopes the trap won't sense that.
No, he is calm for the right reasons. He has a master, and he has a plan for restoring the Sith to its former strength and power. It is an unorthodox plan, but Sidious had often told him that the Sith never took the obvious path.
In the end, he has to fake nothing.
He rounds the last bend.
After only a few minutes, he crawled back. "Done."
"Yes. There should be no further incidents."
"Good. Let's head back."