Darth Maul vs. eBay
Feet up, cold bottle of Pete's, lights dimmed, television on, music at full blast, Palpatine at an all-day Senate meeting--by all rights Maul should have been having a grand time, a smashing time. And he was. Sort of. The newest Darth Lara Croft game fizzed and glittered in the console, buttons clicked faster than the slots on Vega.
That was sort of the problem, though.
"I am fully capable of defeating--shit!" Maul's aching fingers rattled across the controller, and Darth Lara caught herself by one hand on the edge of a balcony before being sent plunging to certain doom.
It doesn't look like it, My Apprentice remarked, licking busily at her tail. That's the sixth time today.
"And not one of them has succeeded against me," Maul growled back at her, pulling Lara back up from the edge. That the infuriating feline was right made it that much worse. Again and again he'd come within a hair of doom. Those damned interfering Jedi. Games are about cheating!
And you can't defeat them without your pet hacks?
"You," he snapped at the unruffled cat, "shut up."
Just one more stairway--there was a place to save only one more floor up, through the torture chambers of the Jedi Gym. It'd taken him all morning to get this far. A little farther, just a little farther.
"I see that you are advancing in your studies, my apprentice."
Maul jerked, hit pause, and lunged up from the couch to face Sidious. Damn it, I shut that door. Not that he'd have heard anything over the music. Thanks, he added acidly toward My Apprentice, who had certainly been in a position to see the entrance. She didn't deign to reply. "Merely honing my reflexes and reminding myself that the day comes when we will rise up and slay the Jedi, my master." He paused. "Did you not have a meeting?"
"Yesss," Sidious said, smiling. He twitched his fingers and the television clicked off. Maul swallowed. "But we are on a recess to...freshen up." Any Sith knew showers were a tool of the Light Side--but the look in the old senator's eyes made him want to find the nearest scalding water and soak the tattoos right off his skin if that was what it took to get clean. "I have an assignment for you that will hone your patience more than your reflexes--and I think that you are in great need of that."
Boring, Maul translated, trying to look natural as he shifted to put more of himself between the Senator and the game console. "Yes, my master. What assignment is that?"
Palpatine indicated a heap of laundry off to one side, lip curling. Beneath one of the less-animated shirts, a light blinked on and the whirring of the bootup sequence began. "There is an item being auctioned on eBay. You will see to it that I am not outbid. Understood?"
Well, that didn't sound so bad. In fact, it sounded suspiciously simple. "Yes, my master." Time enough to discover the gruesome details after saving the game.
"I am leaving you access to my account, on my credit," Palpatine added smoothly. Maul's jaw dropped, and the senator's smile precipitated an ice age in the pizza box a few feet away. "I fear the bidding may go up higher than your finances will handle. If there are any charges for any other reason--"
"Of course, my master," Maul said, stopping just short of Force to infuse sincerity into the words. "I understand."
"Good." Palpatine paused to scratch beneath My Apprentice's chin, cooing, "Who's a pretty kitty--"
--and walked out. Maul's jaw unhinged again. He left. He swiveled on a heel and stared at the undamaged PlayStation console. Without doing anything. No smoke, no melted plastic, no purple sparks--
--which could only mean one thing. The old bastard's losing his touch. I shall rise up and slay him sooner than expected! Right after I slay a few more Jedi.
He clicked the television back on, and stared blankly at the [Game Over] highlighted mid-screen. The controller lay between his feet--and hadn't he stepped on something when he'd moved over to block the PlayStation? Evidently not the usual apartment debris. I stepped on the pause, he realized, slumping back onto the couch. I stepped on the goddamned pause.
Patience requires the absence of distractions, Sidious said in his mind, sounding as insufferably smug as ever. I fear your Master is growing forgetful. Allow me. A purple glow rose within the console compartment, then it slumped without particular fanfare into slag.
Maul eventually slouched to the computer, mourning for Darth Lara and Jedi left unkilled. He sulked into the chair, heaving piles of squirming laundry onto the floor. Well, how bad could bidding on a pathetic online auction be, really?
His eyes tried to turn themselves backwards in their sockets once he got his first look at the site that had popped up on his screen, and he revised "boring" to "lethal." I would never have guessed, he thought, frantically turning down the brightness on the monitor, that that much leather could cover so little. Lavender, with hot pink at the... salient bits. "Previously owned by Hoth Rudson!" the top declared in flashing letters that made his already singed eyes hurt. "Priceless memorabilia! Genuine tauntaun hide!"
Tauntaun hide. Probably murdered a whole tauntaun just for that... thing, he grumbled, scrolling the screen down until the violently offensive image was no longer visible. Though Obi-Wan in that, in black... whispered his traitorous mind. He squelched it until it shrieked tinnily. No. We're not going there. He checked the price: no bids so far, starting bid set at.. Force, they want a hundred credits for that? That's crazy! But Palpatine wanted it, and at least this time it was his money. Maul clicked "bid" and sat back. Three hours until end of auction. What the hell was he going to do to fill up three hours?
Tuna, My Apprentice inserted, smooth as silk, and Maul was halfway to the kitchen before he realized it.
An hour or so later he made his way back out of the kitchen, a cold Pete's in one fist, a plateful of fresh fudge in the other. Fresh packaged fudge, but fudge nonetheless. Must remember to get more butter. I wonder if anybody's got tauntaun butter up for auction. Nothing like the taste of home. "Get off of there," he growled at My Apprentice, who was merrily patting at the keyboard.
She flitted her tail dismissively, but hopped down. Just testing.
Maul snorted and dropped into his chair, eyeing the screen. It read "Feedback" across the top, with a couple of positive/negative buttons and a comment field--that quite coincidentally read, "Maul bottoms for Jedi." "I ought to spike your tuna with Perkium," he muttered, and clicked back to his master's assigned item, inadvertently re-searing his eyes and turning his stomach with the provided picture.
Bored, bored, bored.... He clicked the little Search button, wanting to be as far away as possible from the hideous thing on his screen. But what to search for? Tauntaun butter, sure, once the nausea went away. But what else? Let's see what sort of Sithly things this 'auction' has to offer.
A minute or so later he was browsing thoughtfully through lists of "Darth Lara" games, books, toys--profit being, of course, a Sithly pursuit--when he came across something called a Darth Small.
It wasn't the swig of Pete's with which he sprayed the screen that turned it red. Maul stared through a scarlet fog at the photograph advertising "Darth Small." "Seen the training video you have!" it blinked in big, obnoxious letters. "Own the Sith now you must!"
[ Disturbing Auctions --http://www.disturbingauctions.com/view.pl?item=54]
What the fuck is that? The little figurine appeared to be about three inches tall, most of that head and body mounted on a pair of windup spatulas for feet. Its cowl and red and black tattoos were all too familiar. In tiny letters below the picture read: "Funded by the Jedi Temple."
Oh, they're going to pay. They are going to pay.
There was a knock at the door. Maul put a hole through it with his lightsaber, then yanked it open in hopes of a corpse. "What?" he demanded, snapping his teeth closed on the word, two inches from taking off the nose of the cringing boy in delivery-service khaki. Haven't I seen him training with the Jedi? Shit, and he'd been half an inch to the right of giving him a new navel.
Shish-ka-cat, Maul snapped back. Saber-barbequed.
The crate the pigtailed kid held crashed to the floor, and he backed off a number of hasty steps until his shoulders hit the other wall. "D-d-delivery. Y-y-your eBay order. The address--"
"I didn't order anything!" His master's item wasn't due to close for a couple of hours yet at least, was it? He yanked the box inside as the unusually bright padawan fled down the hall, and squinted at the tag. "Galaxy's Best Catnip?"
My Apprentice leapt up on the table, finickily raising a foot to keep it out of the remains of a pizza slice, and said primly, That's mine.
"No shit." He stamped out onto the balcony and flung the box off, growling in some small satisfaction as it crashed through the windshield of one of the vehicles below, triggering a car alarm guaranteed to exasperate everyone in the building. "Shit! Sidious'sll kill me. He said not to charge anything else to his card!"
I didn't charge it to his card, I charged it to the hippy twit's! That was mine! The cat poked her head over and glared at the crate far below, ears laid back by the wailing alarm. I'll get you for that.
Maul snorted derision. My Apprentice stared at him, tail lashing once. He smirked back, but after a moment she tilted her whiskers and slitted her eyes in a silent feline smile.
Sith did not have attacks of nerves. Especially not when looked at by small felines. "Hone your rage, My Apprentice," Maul sneered. "I have things to attend to." He slammed the balcony doors, nearly catching her tail as she streaked back inside. Jedi Temple. Funded by the Jedi Temple. He snarled and headed for the phone.
"I'm sorry," the perky voice said again, as bright and cheerful as when Maul'd first dialed in, as if he hadn't already cracked the handset and punctured the dialing pad in three places. "The Jedi Temple purchased full rights to the training video and so to any subsidiary merchandise. Master Yoda is fully within his rights--"
Maul smashed the receiver into its cradle and stomped back to the other room, where My Apprentice lounged on top of the heat-radiating monitor. "Off. Now."
She yawned at him, but sauntered off to seat herself on the blackened, still-warm remains of the PlayStation. No luck?
He growled at her and stared at the screen, at the offending thing. It looks like I've got the world's worst case of scalp zits! But even that insult to his horns was peanuts to the whole heinous, humiliating thereness of the thing itself. Sidious won't like it at all, he grumbled, but I like it a whole lot less. Shit. Shit, shit, shit. Can't stop 'em, can't pretend they're not there--ugh. Got to get rid of them.
"There are dozens of them," he growled. "I can't watch dozens of auctions at once."
She shrugged with a flip of her tail. Buy-it-Now.
He scowled over at her. "It's an auction, mange-rat. I can't buy it now."
She squinted back, unconcerned. Look at the screen.
He grudgingly returned his attention to the screen. Starting bid at five credits. Didn't look like anybody'd bid on any of them yet. At least the Jedi craze didn't extend that far (even if his pride puffed up and grumbled at being ignored over Jedi dolls).
Then a little blinker caught his eye, almost invisible under the lines of huge type advertising the item. [Buy-It-Now, only twenty credits!] Maul drummed his fingers on the tabletop. Sidious had been right about his account--after buying the last PlayStation he'd run himself out of money on the newest Darth Lara game. Without money, no bids. Without bids, Force only knew who'd buy the Smalls. He shuddered, imagining it--little Darth Smalls, with HIS face, waddling all over the Jedi Temple. No way.
Maybe he could steal another of Qui-Gon's credit cards--
Oh-hoh. There was a thought. Maul turned a glower on My Apprentice, who'd turned to licking damp scallops into her fur, leaving shed fluff all over the melted remains of his game. Her ears went back, and after a moment she deigned to return his glance. What?
"Your account," he growled. "Qui-Gon's card."
She flicked her tail and turned her back, licking down her belly.
"Sith shall obey their masters."
My catnip, she sniffed.
Maul growled, counted to ten. One Jedi rolling head, two Jedi rolling heads.... He glanced at the screen. How long until someone actually bid on them? "I'll bring it back," he grudged.
The cat considered this, one paw delicately raised. Caviar.
She went back to licking. Maul took a deep breath. "Salmon."
Much later, Maul clicked "Buy it Now" on the last of over fifty Darth Smalls, his vision finally beginning to clear of red rage. And, best of all--he settled his fingers on the keyboard and cut-pasted in his "feedback" on the transaction, adding one more line of comfortingly sanguine type to the green pervert's feedback file. Dividing his head from his shoulders would have been more satisfying, he decided, leaning back in his chair and cracking laced fingers, but Sith must take their revenge wherever is most appropriate.
My salmon. And my catnip.
"Yeah, yeah," Maul grumbled, then his chair legs made sudden contact with the floor. "Shit, I forgot about that--thing." It took some poking through past sites before he came up with the link to the hideous item of "clothing" Sidious wanted.
"Auction closed," blinked at the top of the screen, and suddenly Maul forgot how to breathe.
Final bid: email@example.com
Oh, shit. Oh, shit. Sidious really is going to kill me.
Maul dimly registered Cynthia's chirpy voice, and just as dimly cursed himself for not closing the door after the catnip delivery. But he went on staring at the screen and the "Auction closed," thinking frantically. Where, where, where could he come up with another of those things before the Senate meeting adjourned? There had to be somewhere!
Undissuaded by silence, Cynthia edged into the apartment--but not very far. Carefully arranging the more aggressive pizza box civilizations near the door helped keep away the less desirable visitors. "I got your gift," she said brightly. "It's just adorable. It's just a perfect shape. I'm going to put it right where I can see it every night."
Gift? Sith do not give gifts. Maul poked at the keyboard, hunching his shoulders in an attempt to ignore her. What was he going to do? Maybe he could buy the... thing... off of.... And what would he want in return? Even assuming the green pervert would sell it for any price.
"Well, nice hearing from you, neighbor!"
"Shut the door!" Maul snarled after her, and flung it closed with a Force punch when he heard her go whistling down the hallway, oblivious.
An indicator blinked on at the lower corner of the screen. "Yousa have-a new mail!" the computer announced loudly.
"Yousa need me to rip you a new one!" he snarled, and reached for the mouse to click it open and shut up the Gungan voice. Whose bright idea had that been? And what in hell was he going to do?
And how is my apprentice progressing, hmm? Sidious's silky voice interrupted him, and a Bantha-sized cold lump froze in Maul's stomach. I sense... disturbance.
Master, he said, I can explain--
Explain what? Sidious's self-satisfied chuckle made his apprentice shudder. I was quite... impressed... to find no additional charges, and the final price on the item--excellent. Your auction skills are clearly at a keen edge.
Maul sat still, afraid moving would somehow jog the universe's memory. Something wasn't clicking. He kept butting the pieces up against each other, and something just wasn't going together the way it ought. The... item...?
Arrived in excellent condition, my apprentice.
Ah. Good. Pause. All right, then.
He felt Sidious's presence fade on another smooth chuckle. What the fuck just happened?
"Yousa still have-a new mail!"
"All right, shut up already."
[Congratulations!] read the mail that blinked up on the screen. [You were the second-highest bidder on item "Authentic Hoth Rudson Tauntaun Hide Outfit." Because of excessive negative feedback, the highest bidder has been dropped. Item has been shipped to the address provided. Please leave feedback and shop with us again!]
He stared some more. I am hot shit.
Lucky hot shit, My Apprentice corrected.
"Hey, Maul?" The door opened before Maul's elated brain could cough up a retort, and Obi stuck his head in. "Say, I got that thing you sent. It's just perfect, you're right. Perfect--shape, like you said." Brows waggled. "Meet you at my place, two hours?"
Maul slid his chair back and eyed the Jedi. Perkium flashback? "Thing?"
Obi shrugged. "You know, the training video thing. I didn't think you went in for hideously cute." He grinned. "It's those spatulas, isn't it?" The door thunked shut behind him.
More pieces didn't quite fit together, but the ones that did made a picture he wouldn't have hung on a wall. Training video thing? Spatulas? Perfect--shape? He can't mean what I think he means. He can't. I bought them all!
Most of them.
My Apprentice lifted one leg in graceful muttonchop so she could work on her tailbase in sincere feline insult. He tried to ignore it. When exactly had the entire day gone out of control? "What?"
Most of them, she repeated. How do you think I knew about Buy-It-Now? She looked up at him, that nerve-rattling feline smile arching her whiskers and giving her eyes a dangerous glint. Never, she said, mess with my catnip. I had a few of them delivered... around. While you were on the phone. She squinted, smugness in the set of her whiskers. You'd better hope I don't have a half-dozen tucked away for security purposes.
Maul gaped. "Who did you send them to?"
Hmm, your boyfriend...
Suddenly his chirpy neighbor's visit clicked. He considered taking his revenge by throwing up on his apprentice. Teeth gritted, he said, "Go on."
Maybe that was all.
Oh, and Maul.... Sidious's voice slid into his mind again like a daub of Wookieemint--an association Maul could have done without. There was one other item waiting with the one I requested....
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