The Sphere of Alterations
by Jayne Hundt
Thanx for the beta, KatBear.
Maul sat on the edge of his ratty and somewhat smelly sofa. In his hands was a PlayStation joystick, his thumbs moving in rapid succession. Before him, images of a digital bloodbath flashed on the television screen.
Darth Lara Croft fired her blaster, blowing the head off a Jedi. With a flick of Maul's thumb, Lara shot yet another Jedi. The digital corpse fell as digital blood spewed. Maul's other thumb induced digital blaster fire, scorching temple walls, destroying digital Jedi artifacts and causing general digital mayhem--it all so beautiful. It was Sithly.
Darth Lara Croft's path free of meddling Jedi, Maul maneuvered his heroine further into the bowels of the Jedi Temple, towards the Temple treasure vault. Maul's horns tingled with equal parts excitement and glee. He was in new territory now. Never had he advanced past this level.
Past several more Jedi--Maul took perverse pleasure in blowing their digital heads off--Maul finally reached the treasure vault. The eleventh council member guarded it. He had to kill the guard, not an easy task. But he could do it. He was a Sith. Sith could do anything.
Firing, Maul caused a shower of digital blaster bolts to rain down upon his digital foe. The twit deflected them all with his digital lightsaber. Maul growled. It was time to break out heavier artillery: grenades.
The Jedi-twit sliced each and every digital grenade in half, and then slashed at Darth Lara Croft with his 'saber.
Maul switched from grenades to the rocket launcher. He pressed the fire button. "Ha! Take that, Jedi scum!"
The Jedi used the digital Force to turn the rockets back at Lara. Maul's thumbs erupted in a flurry of motion as he directed Lara to dodge, jump, and duck under the assault.
Maul switched from the rocket launcher to the plasma gun. "Deflect this!"
He pressed a button and watched in glee as the Jedi failed to deflect the digital plasma. The guard's flesh ignited, leaving behind a charred corpse.
"I'm hot shit," Maul announced. All he had to do was open the vault, and victory would be his. He pressed the button. Instead of victory, the television screen erupted into static. "NO!"
Maul looked up and saw his master smiling down upon him. A severed PlayStation cable hung from his hand.
"Die!" Maul waved his hand as he applied a mind whammy. Sidious brushed aside the suggestion. Maul tried again. "DIE!"
Sidious's eyes didn't even glaze. Hell, he didn't even blink.
"I'm disappointed in you, my young apprentice. Your anger seems to have lost its finely-honed edge."
Maul bowed his head in fraudulent shame.
Darth Sidious assumed rebuking pose number fifteen. "Anger is a tool, a sharp tool, to be wielded as an axe or as a scalpel as you see fit. Its sharp edge will become dull with neglect, or, as in your case, with video-games."
A bolt of lightning shot from Palpatine's fingertip scorching a layer of filth off Maul's shirt. A second purple bolt pierced the shirt's crud, causing Maul to yelp in an unSithly manner.
My Apprentice trotted over, always eager to witness her master's misery. The cat purred as waves of Maul's pain washed over her, sending her into euphoria. Maul glared at her.
"I believe I heard you refer to yourself as being 'hot shit.' Tell me Maul, are you developing a sense of self-esteem? It is my masterly duty to crush such feelings of self-worth." Sidious said, eyes gleaming in evil anticipation. "After all, I must keep you servile, mustn't I?"
Shit, Maul cursed silently to himself. The Old Bastard's eyes were gleaming. Sidious had devised a new rage-honing and demeaning lesson of hatred.
Maul glanced down to My Apprentice again. The cat looked up at him, still purring. Maul could have sworn that the damn cat was grinning at him. Just wait until he leaves, my young apprentice.
Ooh, I'm so scared, the cat replied sarcastically while licking her paw.
Perhaps it's time you had another flea-dip.
If My Apprentice could have rolled her eyes, she would have. She wasn't scared of petty threats.
Oblivious to the conversation, Palpatine pulled something from the folds of his robes. Maul recognized it as one of the Sith artifacts from his master's collection. Spherical, intricately carved and about the size of his fist, it was an inky-blue color and gave off an eerie violet light. "This, my young apprentice, is the Sphere of Alterations."
"Sphere of what?"
"Alterations," Sidious said. "The lesson I am about to inflict--err uh, I mean bestow upon you is a time-honored Sith tradition."
In other words, Maul thought, not daring to say it out loud, Sidious's master did it to him and now he wants to do it to me. The Old Bastard probably waited years for this. "This is to be a study in degradation, my apprentice." The globe's luminosity increased. "Feel how the degradation draws out your hatred. Feel it building in you, flowing through you." The glow increased. "Yes, I can feel the hatred in you now. Remember, the strength of your hatred isn't enough. It must be honed as well. Only when your hatred is focused may you use it to strike me down."
The sphere glowed even brighter.
"Find me a pathetic, un-evolved, lower life-form," Sidious commanded, suddenly changing the subject.
Maul's gaze skirted the room. It settled upon several pizza-box civilizations for a moment before moving on. His eyes then rested upon My Apprentice, who was currently licking her butt. "I have found one, my Master."
My Apprentice stopped in mid-lick to glare up at Maul.
"Good," Sidious hissed. The Sphere began to hum. Blue sparks jumped from its surface. "Your pet shall do nicely."
My Apprentice decided it was time to retreat. She dashed for Maul's bedroom but only made it half way before a Force-grip grabbed her by the tail and dragged her back.
The blue sparks grew into small bolts of lightning that arced down from the globe to the floor. Individual arcs moved about, as if probing or searching the floor. Sidious cackled as two of the arcs found his two victims. One rope of light wrapped around Maul, the other around the cat.
The globe let out a brilliant flash of light. Sidious's student and the animal dropped to the floor, unconscious. Finally, the globe went dark.
Slowly, Maul climbed towards consciousness. As he became more and more awake, he became aware of odd things. The first thing he noticed was the smell. Sure, his apartment had always had a unique aroma. But to his amazement, that stench was actually many odors combined. He could now pull apart and identify each smell: Moldy pizza crusts in various stages of decay and in some cases, evolution; stale beer; dirty and now fermenting underwear and socks; debris hidden within couch crevasses that had long since decomposed into soil.
And the smell was strong, too.
The next thing to penetrate his fogged brain was sound, specifically, the noise of the other inhabitants of his apartment. Vermin of both insect and rodent variants, in addition to foraging pizza box inhabitants and other feats of evolution. They all made some kind of sound--squeaks, chirps, peeps, warbles, scratches, and the pitter-patter of many tiny feet. It reminded him of a dark jungle.
Now a bit more conscious, he opened his eyes and looked about. What the hell?
For the most part, his apartment appeared normal--but bigger. Everything seemed to loom over him. The couch seemed to tower over him. The chair he painted red--wait a minute, RED? The chair looked gray, not red. Looking around, Maul discovered to his horror that everything was in shades of gray. Was he color blind?
Maul lifted his hand--a hand that should have been furless and covered in red and black tattoos--and looked at it. What he found instead was a white-furred paw. Maul scrambled to his feet--all four of them--and tried to howl in rage. He could only meow.
He wasn't in his body! He was in a cat's body! And not in just any cat's body, but My Apprentice's body! If he was in My Apprentice's body, that meant that My Apprentice must be in his.
Damn, damn and damn. My Apprentice was roaming Coruscant in his body doing gods knows what to it. Where was she?
Maul's hatred and rage started to grow.
Meanwhile, across town...
Darth Sidious could tell when his apprentice regained consciousness, for the delicious and dark emotions flowed to him through the training link he shared with the whelp. He licked his lips. His pupil's rage was growing. He could feel it growing, rising, and getting firmer.
Sidious pulled at his collar. Was it getting hot in here?
My Apprentice was hot shit. Not only was she tall, she now had opposable thumbs! Ha! She could open cupboard doors and get her own tuna. She could even open the refrigerator! Best of all, she no longer had a tail to be pulled, slammed into doors and stepped on.
She slinked down the halls of the apartment building, inspecting her territory. Every time she reached a corner, she rubbed her head against the wall, leaving gouge marks in the plaster. She had a territory to mark. With no scent glands, this would have to do. Besides, she liked to rub her head on things. It felt good. It was a cat thing.
A bit of movement caught My Apprentice's attention. She couldn't smell or hear it, but her new color vision told her that it was a mouse. Next to pizza-box creatures, it was her favorite thing to hunt. They were nice and crunchy, their fur adding just the right texture.
Maul discovered that his front door was shut. So was the patio door. The windows were shut as well. He was trapped inside his own apartment!
His anger and hatred soared to new heights.
Seething, Maul opened himself to the Force. Apparently, the dimensions of his Force-wielding abilities had shrunk along with his body. It took some effort, but he managed to open the patio door a cat-sized crack. After squeezing under the fence that divided his patio from his neighbor's, Maul found himself at Obi-Wan's back door.
Obi-Wan took a deep drag from the joint of silly-weed he stolen from his Master's 'secret' stash. Then he chased it down with a swig of ale. He was pleasantly buzzed.
Kenobi! Obi-Wan heard Maul shout in his mind.
What? Obi-Wan answered, less than half of his attention focused on his neighbor, the rest on the television in front of him and his ale induced buzz.
I'm outside. Let me in.
Obi-Wan sighed. It's unlocked. Let yourself in.
I can't. Open the damn door!
His television show broke for a commercial. Might as well open the door, Obi-Wan decided. Approaching the glass door, he saw that Maul was nowhere to be found. But through the Force, he felt that Maul was near. Where the hell are you?
Right here, Maul answered.
There was no one there except for Maul's mangy cat. The cat. Suddenly, he realized that the mind-voice was coming from the cat. Shite. He was hallucinating.
Obi-Wan threw the joint into the sink. He vowed to never smoke anything that came from Qui-Gon's stash again.
Dejected, Maul went back to his own apartment.
Maul's body was slow and clumsy, My Apprentice decided. It took a long time for her to catch that mouse. But in the end, victory was hers.
"Hi Maul!" A voice from behind said. "Long time no see!"
My Apprentice turned to see the human named Cynthia. She blinked at the woman in a cat-like manner.
"Well, aren't you going to say hi?" The chipper woman asked. "Say, what's that hanging out of your mouth?"
My Apprentice felt her prey shift in Maul's mouth. It was wiggling, trying to escape. It squeaked.
"A tail? Eww!" Cynthia shrieked as she ran away.
Humans, My Apprentice thought in exasperation.
Maul paced back and forth in front of the fridge, hungry. He eyed the dirty and smelly bowl of cat food. No. He wasn't going to eat it, he vowed. No way. He may have been a Sith trapped in a cat's body, but he wasn't eating that shit. But he was so hungry...
Damn my master to the seven Sith Hells! How dare he do this to me!
A sound at the door interrupted Maul's thoughts. The door swung open admitting Obi-Wan. "Maul? Are you here?"
What the hell do you want, Kenobi?
Obi-Wan looked down at him, eyebrows furrowed in confusion. He shook his head as if to clear it. "Er, uh, hi Maul."
Mumbling something about a bad trip and needing munchies, Obi-Wan walked past Maul to the refrigerator. Opening the freezer, he pulled out a tub of Ben 'n Jerry's.
Give me some ice-cream. Maul applied a mind whammy.
Eyes slightly glazed, Obi-Wan scooped out some confection and dropped it into the bowl of cat food. It landed on top of the kibble.
No! Not there, dip-shit!
"Ungrateful animal," Obi-Wan muttered in-between mouthfuls of ice cream as he walked towards the door.
I'm a man, not an animal! Maul wailed as Obi-Wan left.
Alone once again, Maul looked at the bowl of kibble 'n ice cream. It was Chubby Hubby. Damn, his favorite.
He started licking.
As My Apprentice approached her lair she saw Obi-Wan leave the apartment.
"Hi Maul. I just borrowed some ice cream. I hope you don't mind." Obi-Wan said as he opened his own door. He held out a spoonful of ice cream. "Want some?"
My apprentice took a lick and decided she didn't like it. It was too cold. "Meeoowwrrr."
Obi-Wan's brows furrowed in confusion. "Maul, did you just meow at me?"
"Meerrerr." My Apprentice rubbed Maul's cheek against Obi-Wan's shoulder and neck, hopping to get petted. She really liked it when Obi-Wan scratched behind her ears. "Meeowerr."
"Are you purring, Maul?"
"Is this some kind of kinky new game?" Obi-Wan asked eagerly, as a hot tongue licked his ear.
"We can still use the spatula, right?" Obi-Wan asked as he walked into his apartment. My Apprentice followed.
"Would you like a tuna sandwich first?" Obi-Wan asked, his eyes glazed.
Maul paused in his meal. With My Apprentice's acute hearing, he heard the conversation outside of his apartment door. Tuna sandwiches and ice cream? Kinky sex games? The spatula?
No, not the spatula. This couldn't be happening! His anger and hatred grew.
Miles away, in a much nicer neighborhood, Sidious's eyes slid half shut in euphoria. Wave after wave of enticing suffering crashed into his psyche, all of it emanating from his apprentice.
Ah, the misery. The pain. The seething hatred. It was delicious.
Maul had to take a shit. He squirmed uncomfortably in My Apprentice's body until he could stand it no longer. Finally he gave into the feline's bodily demands and trudged towards the litter-box.
Phew! When was the last time he had bothered to clean the thing? He approached yet closer and peered over the box's edge. He didn't like what he saw: turds, urine soaked litter, evolving litter-box creatures.
I don't think so, Maul thought to himself, eyeing the litter-box creatures cowering in a corner.
He stalked to the bathroom. Once there, he noticed that the toilet seemed impossibly large, and the seat hole menacing. But he could do this. He wasn't exactly hot shit any more, but he was a Sith. Sith could do anything. He would vanquish the toilet.
With nimble cat legs, he leaped up on to the toilet seat.
Unfortunately, Maul wasn't used to My Apprentice's body and overestimated the jump. Momentum working against him, Maul landed on the seat, and then slid headfirst in to the bowl. As he fell, Maul wondered, Did I remember to flush after I took my last piss?
Apparently, he hadn't.
Somewhere, across town, Darth Sidious smiled as the waves of hatred emanating from Maul increased to orgasmic proportions.
Clad in a pink silk robe, he sipped his wine and then popped a bon-bon into his mouth. Life was good. His bon-bons were sweet. He was gaining control of the senate. His apprentice was suffering.
Yes, life was good.
My Apprentice eyed the Habitrail Power Hamster EcoSphere 9000 and the hamsters within. She had opposable thumbs now. She could twist the lid off, reach into the cage and grab a rodent. Finally, the Hamsters would be hers. An easy victory.
She licked Maul's lips and went to work. In a few minutes she'd have a fur-coated snack!
Fluffi-Wan returned My Apprentice's menacing gaze, his beady little eyes reflecting the calm serenity of a Jedi. He let out a squeak of horror as the threat approached.
Cuddles, sensing the approaching menace, jumped on the exercise wheel. He ran as fast as he could, trying to escape doom.
Fluffi-Wan watched as a tattooed hand moved the cage's latch. With a wave of a paw, the hamster called upon the Force and kept the latch from twisting.
Plan foiled, My Apprentice glared down at the rodent and hissed menacingly.
Fluffi-Wan wasn't impressed.
The hamster watched the hands move to the tube-portal, where they twisted it off. A round hole was left in the Habitrail's wall. Victory is mine, My Apprentice informed Fluffi-Wan as she moved in for the kill.
She raised Maul's hand to the opening and tried to insert it into the hole. It wouldn't fit.
Damn! My Apprentice cursed. Maul's hand was too big to fit into the hole! Only four fingers would fit, the thumb blocking the way.
Fluffi-Wan sank his teeth into the probing fingers, and listened as his nemesis let out a howl of pain. He smirked in a very un-Jedi-like manner.
On the wheel, Cuddles kept running.
Next door, in his filthy apartment, Maul felt My Apprentice's pain. Normally, the suffering of others brought him delight. But he was too miserable himself to care.
He was cold and wet. My Apprentice's Fur stuck out at odd angles, adding to the discomfort. The only way to solve this problem was to groom. Maul shuddered. Grooming by tongue was unSithly. There was probably a rule against it in the handbook.
But the chaotic fur made him itch and he was cold.
He lifted a paw and licked it. Ugh, it tasted horrible. And he could feel a hair stick to his tongue. Grimly, he swallowed it and licked again.
"Maul, are you okay?" Obi-Wan asked. "Did Cuddles bite you?"
Obi-Wan smiled. "You're really into this game, aren't you? First the tuna, and now playing with the hamsters." Obi-Wan reached out and fondled his guest's ear. My Apprentice purred and leaned into the touch. Oh, how she loved to have her ears scratched.
"Should I get the spatula now?"
A demeaning lesson in hatred, indeed, Maul thought as he licked the furry body. Oh, yes. He could feel his anger sharpening to a fine edge.
A nauseating feeling made his stomach churn. The churning sensation grew, and a lump seemed to rise from his stomach and into his throat. A second later, he was hacking up a hairball.
Maul glared at the wet, slimy, offending ball of fur for a moment, then continued licking.
His hatred was growing. Soon it would be time to rise up and slay his master. When that time came, he would make sure that his death was slow and painful. He'd--
*Thump. Thump. Thump.*
What in the hell was that sound?
*Thump. Thump. Thump.*
It reminded him of the noise Obi-Wan's headboard made as it hit the wall when they were having Force driven sex...
*Thump. Thump. Thump.*
No. My Apprentice wouldn't. She wouldn't do that to her Master. Would she?
*Thump. Thump. Thump.*
The feline's sensitive ears picked up a second sound filtering in from the apartment next door: Obi-Wan's voice.
*Thump. Thump. Thump.*
"Faster, Maul! Faster!"
NO! Obi-Wan was having sex with his cat!
Maul's hatred was growing. Palpatine could feel it festering like a ripe pustule. Soon his hatred would be complete! His apprentice would then rise up and strike him down--
Wait a second. Strike him down? Leave the fate of the Sith in Maul's incompetent hands?
Palpatine put his bowl of bon-bons down and reached for the Sphere of Alterations.
Seething, Maul paced back and forth. My Apprentice would pay for her impertinence. But first, his own master would pay. Yes, the bastard would pay dearly. Vengeance would be his. Maul would focus his newly sharpened rage onto the bastard. He'd--
Maul couldn't finish the thought, for a flash of pain pierced him, sending him into unconsciousness.
"Maul?" Obi-Wan's voice asked as he regained consciousness. "Maul? Are you okay? Maul, Wake up."
Maul opened his eyes to find the padawan hovering above him, a worried expression on his face. Waving Obi-Wan aside, he sat up. He was about to ask what happened when he realized something was in his mouth. Maul spat it out to discover that it was a half-chewed moth. A moth?
"What happened?" He looked around and saw that he was in Obi-Wan's bedroom, on the floor, next to the bed.
"You were jumping on the bed, catching that moth with your mouth." Obi-Wan pointed to the light above the bed. "It was flying around the light."
"Why did I catch a moth?"
"Hell if I know." Obi-Wan shrugged. "Because of that game of yours, I guess. Meow."
Suddenly he remembered. Maul held up one of his hands and studied it. It looked blissfully humanoid.
He had been trapped in My Apprentice's body. Obi-Wan thought he was pretending to be a cat. Jumping on the bed. The thumping sound. He then looked at the fully clothed padawan. Obi-Wan didn't have sex with My Apprentice after all!
"Game?" Maul scuffed. Games weren't Sithly. "I don't play games."
"That's too bad. It was kinda cute."
"Cute?" Maul scowled as menacingly as possible. Was that nitwit back on Perkium? "I don't do 'cute.'"
"That's odd." The Jedi reach up and stroked Maul's ear. "I don't remember hearing you complain while I was doing this."
Beyond coherent speech, Maul purred.
My Apprentice woke up and climbed to her feet--all four of her feet. She took a delicate sniff of the air. Was that Maul's urine she smelled? She took another whiff. Was the smell coming from her fur? Her wet and ungroomed fur?
Damn. What did Maul do to her fur?
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