By Z.P. Florian
Ed note: the writer of this story is not a native speaker of English. I did edit the story for clarity, but tried to leave her unique inflection in place.
Palpatine stood in his apprentice's room, shaking his head. Seeing the lack of filthy clothing all over the place, the Master concluded that his apprentice was probably at the laundromat. Good, good, he cackled. He'll come back with his rage finely honed. There was a knock on the door. The Master went to open it. He didn't expect the Jedi Padawan standing there. Neither did Kenobi expect him.
The disappointment on Kenobi's face spoke volumes.
"Uh, I just came to borrow a cup measure," he said and promptly disappeared.
Sure, Palpatine hissed. Something has to be done about those two. Kenobi's warm fuzzy presence does no good, for Maul. Next thing I know he'll be giving Valentine's cards to the Padawan, with hearts on them, or even worse, bunny rabbits. High time to get him away from here. A good couple of weeks without seeing this walking, talking pink fuzzy slipper, the Master seethed, will do him a word of good. Smiling nicely he made a phone call.
About ten minutes later, Maul arrived with his laundry.
"Very good, my young apprentice. Excellent. Your clothes are clean. You can start packing right away."
Puzzled yellow eyes blinked back at him. "I'm traveling?"
"Yes, you have volunteered to spend four weeks at the organic farm of Nadia Kazula. Remember, last time you tried gardening, you failed. Besides, you are far too much of an urban creature. You must learn to live off the land. If you crash land on some planet, you might have grow your own vegetables."
Maul protested. "Master, I'm not very good at eating vegetables. I don't think they agree with my system."
"Nonsense. I had it checked, you can digest vegetables. In fact you can digest anything. When I adopted you, you think I didn't check how to feed you? The best doctors assured me that I can feed you with anything except rusty nails, unless they have been finely chopped. Vegetables might even do you good. You look tired."
"It's the laundry, master. " He wondered if Palpatine would believe him. Actually he was tired. He had spent most of the night with Kenobi, as Qui-Gon was away and the Padawan badly needed some comfort, the kind that Maul was lately rather eager to deliver.
"Yes, the laundry." Palpatine smiled. "Now, if a mere laundromat defeats my apprentice, is it a wonder that I'm worried about you? Four weeks of hard work and organic vegetables will do you a lot of good."
Damn, Maul seethed, now what? I'm losing my edge with him. And he enjoys it, the sadistic bastard he is, but of course, he's a Sith Master. He has to be a sadistic bastard. Just wait when I'll have an apprentice, I will give him back the same treatment. Twice! He started to pack.
"By the way," Palpatine said. "Don't even think of packing your PlayStation. They have no electricity on the farm. That's a true natural environment for you." He handed Maul the directions to the farm.
"I volunteered for it. That means I'm not even getting paid?" Maul asked, knowing what the answer would be.
"No you are not getting paid, except room and board. Now move. I've never seen a Sith pack this slow."
Maul was growling. He used the Force to pile his clothes into his pack. He was done with the whole thing in less than thirty seconds. He was pretty satisfied with himself then. His only concern was that Kenobi won't have an idea where he had disappeared.
"I think I'll ask my neighbor to take care of the cat," he suggested.
"I'll ask him for you. You'd better go." Palpatine's eyes twinkled with happiness when he saw Maul leaving.
Then he went next door and knocked.
Kenobi opened the door with a gleam of hope in his eyes.
"I just came to tell you that Maul left for a country vacation. If you could take care of his cat, that'd be nice."
"He didn't say anything about going." Kenobi blurted out
"He said he had to get away from it all." Palpatine noted that the pain in the eyes of the Padawan was priceless. Smiling, he nodded and left, hoping that he managed to nudge those two further apart. Qui-Gon was due back in a few days. Kenobi probably run to him to seek consolation for what must seem to him as a betrayal from Maul's part. If all went well, by the time Maul returned, Kenobi wouldn't even talk to him.
Maul arrived to the farm before sunset. To the right, there was a sizable apple orchard. Behind the farmhouse, the fields, badly in need of plowing. To the left, the stables, a barn, and more fields. About five miles in the distance, he saw a small picturesque village perched on the hillside. He parked his vehicle near the house. Oriental windchimes hung from the eves, going tink, tink, plink, plink, tink. He felt his horns ache from the sound.
The door opened and a skinny woman about fifty or five hundred came out. "Hi, brother, you must be Maul. I'm glad you could make it so fast. We need all the help we can get. I'm Nadia. Tommy and Pete are not doing farmwork. You probably know that they are writing a book."
Maul decided to nod. It would probably make her shut up faster.
"Let me show you your place." Nadia smiled at him.
She led him to the barn, where in one of the corners a burlap mattress stuffed with corn husks offered all the comfort of a torture chamber. "Here, you'll rest easy. I suggest you meditate before going to sleep. I'll bring out your dinner. Make yourself comfortable. We wash at the trough."
Meditate, yesss. Maul decided he could meditate on how many ways he could turn this woman into a pile of smoldering ashes. About half an hour passed before she came out with a bowl of green leafy vegetables and the smallest piece of bread he had ever seen. She also gave him a wooden cup. "This is for your water. You can drink from the well. The water is excellent--not like the chlorinated water in those horrible cities. Tommy and Pete and me have been living here since the movement started."
He didn't dare to ask what movement she was referring to. He tried the bread. It was harder than his horns. The green leafy vegetables couldn't have been more horrible if they had risen up to slay him. But he was hungry and ate them anyway.
"You go to sleep now," she advised. "We wake at four in the morning. There's a lot of work to do. I'll show you your tasks tomorrow, or would you like a list now?"
"Yes." Well, Palpatine had reassured him that he could digest rusty nails, but the green vegetables were staging a revolution in his stomach. He went out to the well to get himself some water. The pail was down, and he didn't bother to crank it up, merely levitated it up with the Force. The pail rose very nicely. In the water, a brownish frog looked at Maul with genuine surprise. Two pairs of yellow eyes stared into each other. The frog decided to take the easy way out and jumped out of the pail and back into the well.
"That's better." Maul nodded, and tasted the water. He thought it had a distinctive flavor of frog piss, but he wasn't sure, after all he had not tasted that before.
The moon was up, nice and round, reminding him of Kenobi for some reason he couldn't quite figure out. By the time he got back to his pallet in the barn, a long list of his chores waited for him that he could read by the light of the moon quite well.
"Your lunch will be on the front steps. Plow the fields, repair the roof of the stable, chop wood. Dig a several ditches going through the vegetable fields for irrigation. Feed the goats. I'll milk the cow. Empty the privy and pour the contents into the fish pond. "
What? He couldn't believe that last part. Then he remembered hearing something about a certain fish, imported to Coruscant, from the planet Tilapia that could convert anything into pure white protein. And for that, I needed clean laundry? He decided to go to sleep, almost looking forward to riding a large tractor tomorrow.
He woke with the first light. He didn't want to deal with the privy yet. He found the pen of the goats, and found their feed. There were three goats. One of them, a nanny goat called Josephine, couldn't take her eyes off the glorious horned creature who came to feed her. She had never seen more beautiful horns before. She was in love. She smelled him, and his scent was heavenly. She sang a love song to him, and lovingly butted him in the ass.
Maul turned around, not quite sure what to do. He knew an invitation when it was this obvious. But a goat? Then again, who was he to be fussy? Didn't he screw a Jedi Padawan? Shouldn't a Sith consider a goat an upgrade? He was not desperate enough yet to return the affections of Josephine. She understood. She could wait. She knew the value of persistence. Once she spent nearly a whole year trying to steal a lovely hand knitted sweater from the clothesline, and she did. It was still hidden in her pen.
He went to the front steps to see what kind of lunch he got. It was exactly the same as his dinner. His stomach protested. He went to look for the tractor and found none. Frustrated he knocked on the door. A thin man came out, with long hair and several beaded necklaces.
"Hi, you must be Maul. I'm Tommy. Can I help you, brother?"
"How am I supposed to plow the fields if you have no tractor?"
"Steel blades are no good for Mother Earth. We plow with a wooden plow and ox. Peace be with you."
Maul swallowed hard. If it kept going like this, he'd rise up and slay his master sooner than Sidious ever expected it. But he found the ox and managed to harness it to the plow. I'm good, he thought. I can do anything. So far, nothing he'd ever tried was beyond his skills, except to cope with PMS. By noon, he'd plowed a good part of the field, and his stomach started to send raving messages to his brain about wanting to be fed. He ate his lunch and remained as hungry as he was before. This is not going to work, he growled. His stomach growled back at him. But he was satisfied with his progress. The ox got tired far sooner than he did. I'm hot shit! he grinned.
In the afternoon, he dug the ditches in the vegetable fields, feeling every muscle in his body. It wasn't exactly Jedi Roadkill, but it was a delight to see how many moles and other assorted creatures ran away from his spade that he wielded with lightning speed. And this was nothing compared to the pleasure he had gotten from chopping wood. Now that was a job worthy of a Sith apprentice. A job that needed all his hate and anger to complete.
Nadia was looking at him through the window. She had never seen anyone working this hard. Four weeks with his young man, and she'd have him finish all the projects that she couldn't get Tommy and Pete do in the past thirty years. This one would do the ditches and fix all the outbuildings. Maybe she could advertise hayrides or organic barbecues while this one was here. Maybe she could send this one to borrow the bull from the farm over the hill. He looked capable of dealing with that too.
Weeks passed and Maul had repaired the roof, built a storage shed, finished the irrigation ditches, done the plowing, and planted the corn. His rage over the slow progress of the plowing with the miserable wooden instrument erupted violently and raked the field with the Force. That way, the plowing was done almost instantly. Unfortunately, one couldn't chop wood with the Force, as he found out when his anger actually ignited the woodpile. Nobody blamed him for it, because it was obvious that he had no matches or lighter with him. All he had on his body was a pair of gym shorts and an axe in his hand. There was a lot of yelling in the house among the brothers of peace to determine who chucked a lit joint into the woodpile. Nadia and her two husbands, Tommy and Pete, and about twenty other hippies watched Maul work with avid interest. Maul figured that this was probably the first time they've seen someone actually working.
Several times Maul considered giving in to Josephine, who never ceased to chase him, nibbling gently on his backside, sometimes even rubbing against him in a way that nearly broke him down. She was not as lovely as the Tauntauns who raised him, but there was a distinct resemblance. If he had remained with the Tauntauns, what would he be now? Perhaps a happy person? No, Sith was better. Besides he wass not supposed to be happy, he was supposed to be filled with rage. That he was. Angry and hungry. Very hungry. If he had a mirror, he would have seen that his blazing yellow eyes were almost beige from starvation. The green leafy vegetables were not nourishing him. The moon in the sky didn't remind him of Kenobi anymore, it reminded him of a pizza. He felt he would sell his soul for the piece of week old pizza that Sidous made him throw out once. Since nobody really knew what species he was, maybe his species thrived on pizza and food coloring. He suspected for a long time that food coloring artificial flavors and preservatives were what he really gained sustenance from, and saturated fats too. If he hadn't been the one who regularly emptied the contents of the privy into the fish pond, he would have eaten the fish already.
Nadia sent him for the bull two days before his assignment ended. He was hoping to find something edible on the way. He nibbled on some wild berries. They tasted sweet, reminding him of pink cupcakes with four inches of cream on the top. He was given a bull, with a ring in his nose.
He looked at it. "I'm just as much a chained slave as you are. Here we go, I think we have something in common."
The bull gave him a look that said, and that is not the size of our equipment, brother.
They walked back to the farm peacefully. The bull made no trouble at all. Maybe he knows he's going to get laid, Maul thought, the lucky bastard. He was desperate by that point. Josephine looked better every day to him. If it wasn't for her milk that he occasionally drank, he would have starved to death already.. He was in need of food and sex like never before. When he crossed the gate, he almost fainted at the sight that greeted him.
Among the apple trees, Kenobi was levitating and picking apples in a basket. His Master Qui-Gon stood nearby eating a very substantial ham and cheese sandwich, dripping with Miracle Whip. Maul was beyond rage at this point. He wanted mayhem. He walked calmly with the bull, until he was right under Kenobi, and looked up. "Hi neighbor!" he cried. Kenobi lost his concentration and fall on the back of the bull. Maul instantly released the chain. This works, he grinned. The bull started to run like a racehorse, Kenobi tried to hold on, shrieking all the way. "Master! Master! Do something!"
Qui still holding his sandwich, waved his hand at the bull.. "Relax."
The bull promptly collapsed. "You overdid it, Master," Kenobi said as he rubbed his sore backside, wincing in pain.
Spotting Maul the first time the Padawan stared. "You're vacationing here? Beautiful place, isn't it? Organic food does wonders for your system."
Maul said nothing. Did he look like he was on vacation? He was dirty, dusty and probably twenty pounds underweight. "Actually, I work here."
"I bet the food is wonderful," Kenobi smiled. He looked hurt, and Maul wondered if it was his backside from the rodeo. He almost felt remorseful. He waited for the bull to come to, then led it to the cow. At least someone was getting laid here. Then he walked back with the bull, tired and hungry a very miserable Sith.
By the time he got back the sun was going down, and Nadia came out to him with his nightly portion of green vegetables and the small piece of bread that seemed to get smaller as the days went by.
"You are leaving the day after tomorrow. Tonight I want you to take those two gentlemen for a hayride. They only stay until the morning. Tomorrow we are having a barbecue with very important people. You can cook?"
"Yes," Maul said. Of course he could cook. He was a marvel in the kitchen. Didn't he work on trying to put his Master into an early grave with gourmet food? And maybe when he cooked for the guests, he could eat too. He ate his vegetables, though he knew they were not food to him. Now if someone would soak them in yellow number five, or sprinkle them with a heaping tablespoon of some kind of preservative that made laboratory rats keel over, now that'd help.
He then went to the stable, harnessed the ox to the cart, and piled up hay on it. The ox stared at him as if it were asking if he had lost his mind going for a ride when the moon was coming up and any decent creature worthy of having horns should be asleep. He agreed. He felt so tired that thought he'd collapse on the spot. Over his head, the windchimes that annoyed him every minute went tink, tink, tink, plink. "Shut up!" he hissed at the happy little bells, and they stopped chiming. He could swear they actually shivered. "Good. Not one more peep out of you." Somewhat placated by this success, he led the ox outside
Qui-Gon and Kenobi waited at the gate.
"Something happened to your eyes?" Kenobi asked. "They're not their usual color."
"What color are they?" Maul had no patience for stupid questions. What color could his eyes be? They certainly couldn't turn baby blue.
"You're kidding me."
Kenobi reached into his bag and handed Maul a small mirror. Trust the Padawan to have one.
He looked into it. His eyes were beige, a sicky miserable beige as beige as a Jedi's shirt. Maul concluded he must be seriously ill. Tomorrow he'll leave this place and stop at the first roadside eatery and probably assimilate all their food by osmosis, if he lived long enough to get there.
He gave the mirror back to Kenobi. He hated the Padawan now. Just thinking of all the pizza Kenobi probably had the past four weeks was enough to shape his hatred into a shark-toothed club to kill with. Qui-Gon climbed into the hay, and Kenobi lay beside him. Maul drove the cart and the ox walked leisurely on the dirt road. The moon shone in a perfect indigo sky, dotted with a thousand stars.
"Oh, Master." Kenobi sighed behind him.
"Shhh, hold still now. " Qui-Gon crooned.
Maul gritted his teeth until he thought they'd break. The path curved around the farm, getting closer to the main road that led to that hillside village that he had seen from the distance. It was then that he saw a pizza delivery car. No, he hadn't actually seen it. He smelled pizza--lots of pizza. The delivery car was about a mile away still, but he could smell the pizza: pepperoni, the melted greasy cheese. He could smell the preservatives in the pepperoni too. And he smelled the sixpack of Dr. Pepper through the aluminum cans.
He felt his entire body becoming a blaze of Dark Side energy. He felt the power of the Dark as he had never felt it before. He sent an all powerful mind whammy to the pizza delivery boy, who speeded up and turned sharply to the right, crashing his car into the cart. Hay flew in every direction. The two Jedi jumped off just in time. The ox made a disparaging noise that clearly meant, didn't I tell you to stay home? Maul threw himself at the car, tearing open the door with his bare hands. Inside, he saw three boxes of large pizza. The bill was addressed to Nadia.
Maul never knew that he could eat three large pizzas at once, but when the first one went down, his stomach started to digest it in overdrive. In two minutes, he was hungry again. He felt the energy filling up his body as the second pizza went down, and he could see in the mirror of the car that his eyes were gradually returning to their proper blazing yellow color. He was sure he was gaining weight as he ate. He ate all the pizza and drank the six pack of Dr. Pepper with it. This is life! he sighed happily. He felt like a human being again, if that's what he was. Maybe he wasn't but who cared. Just in case, he decided to keep the pizza boxes and the bill hidden among the trees. Purring with pleasure, now there was only one part of his body that demanded satisfaction, and didn't want to wait a second longer.
He had not bothered to see what had happened to the Jedi or to the pizza delivery boy. Now as he looked around, he saw, the delivery boy, a young and rather angelic looking curly creature, sobbing in Qui-Gon's arms about how he was going to lose his license. The Master gently stroked the boys backside a little lower than comforting someone demanded. "You will not lose your license," the Master said, and the boy promptly stopped crying, looking at the Jedi with adoration.
Kenobi was nowhere to be seen. Maul contemplated going back to the farm and make Josephine a very happy goat. But he was led by that part of his body that needed more than pizza to be happy in the other direction. He located Kenobi among the trees. The Padawan was slumped against an oak.
"Why?" he whimpered. "Nobody wants me, not Qui and not Maul."
Maul grabbed him with a vengeance. "I show you who doesn't want you!"
"But you wanted to get away from it all," he said.
"Who? Palpatine?" Yes, my master, you are going to be slain and soon, Maul seethed. "I never said that. He sent me here to die, I think. Now, off with your pants and fast."
About ten minutes later, Kenobi had no doubt that he was wanted, and that he was wanted memorably. He would remember this one for a while every time he sat down.
They walked back to the farm, Maul leading the ox. Qui said he was going to remain to wait for the police with the pizza boy, to help him persuade the law that he didn't do anything illegal.
Everything was fine with the Padawan and the Apprentice, and even the ox agreed that it was time to go back. Walking under the pale moon, they even talked.
"Your eyes are yellow again." Kenobi remarked.
"Yes, I know. I was a little out of sorts, I think." Maul didn't want to get into details. Tomorrow, he'd go home. "When are you leaving?"
"In the morning."
"I leave at night. I'll be home the day after tomorrow."
"By the way, your cat is fine. Do you have a cup measure?"
"Then I don't know what set him off. I said I wanted to borrow a cup measure, but he didn't believe me."
"Never mind. He'll try this again."
"Would you say we have a relationship?"
"Sith doesn't have relationships."
"Then what do we have?"
"Is that enough?" Kenobi asked.
" Enough for what?"
"Yes. We might have to slay each other at some later date." Maul shook his head. What was he saying?
"Can you talk about anything else but slaying?" Kenobi pouted. It was a nice pout.
First time in weeks, Maul wasn't tired late at night. So they stopped at the roadside to see if the second one could last a little longer. They did it the other way around, as Kenobi was still rather sore. The ox watched them, shaking his large head sadly, thinking that, if not for the cruelty of humans, he would be a bull. It's good to be a bull, he decided.
Morning came, and the sun rose on a generally happy farm. Except Nadia and her two husbands , who never got that pizza they were eager to eat while their volunteer farmhand was out with the two guests and the other inhabitants of the farm were eating their green leafy vegetables. The windchimes were also unhappy. They didn't dare to go tink tink plink again. Josephine was there, still waiting. Lacking Force sight, the poor girl didn't know that the horned love or her life was about to leave the farm.
Kenobi and Qui left first. Both looked tired but happy.
Their car barely disappeared on the horizon when the first guests arrived for the vegetarian barbecue. Maul saw Palpatine walking toward him, with several members of the Senate and the Jedi Council in tow.
"Glad to see you looking healthy." Palpatine smiled. "So, the green leafy vegetables did you a lot of good."
"Yes, Master." Maul said, thinking, yeah, green leafy vegetables. Without that pizza and the willing Padawan, I would be dead.
"So you'll come back here again I think. For another time, yes?"
"Yes, Master." Maul nodded solemnly. Yes, he would come back here to turn this farm and all of its inhabitants, perhaps with the exception of Josephine and the ox, to a smoldering ruin. He wouldn't need to hone his rage that day: it was as honed as it ever going to get. He'd do this barbecue then, then go home to his PlayStation and all the food coloring and artificial flavors he could lay his claws on.
First, he had a goodbye present for Nadia, Tommy and Pete. He got the pizza boxes from their hiding place, and placed them into the community garbage pail, bill facing up. The next brother who put out garbage would notice that the leaders of their community weren't exactly as saintly as they appeared. Maul was glad to think of that. He expected a lot of noise, preferably in front of the distinguished guests, within the hour. It happened. Maul wasn't sure he had ever heard outraged shrieking of this quality before. It was beautiful. Nadia, in exchange, suspected her followers of eating the pizza. After all, she never got it. Maul was sure that there would be no peace on the farm ever again. That was enough for him.
But before he left, he visited Josephine. It is an exercise, a Sithly exercise, just to see if I can do it, he told himself, not that I feel obliged to repay her for her milk she gave me so generously, Sith don't have relationships. Sith don't feel obliged. Sith doesn't do nice. He sat down beside the lovesick goat, and projected a long and elaborate whammy to make her happy. Thanks to Maul's Force projection, she'd remember forever that she'd received the greatest fuck any nanny goat ever had in the history of goatkind.
I knew, she thought, that this glorious horned creature, even though he only has two legs, is the best/ She'd brag about this one for the rest of her life, making all the goats for miles around green with envy. She was very happy.
So was Maul. Josephine's soft, satisfied whimpers told him that he was doing the whammy really well. I'm hot shit, he smiled. He packed his stuff and left. There was a filthy apartment waiting for him, with a PlayStation, and Pete's Wicked Ale in the fridge, his cat and the Padawan next door. Life was good, even better because the day was almost done and the shrieking of the brothers of peace, was still going. Yess, I'm hot shit, Maul told himself again. This is better than demolishing something with a burst of rage. This is long-range manipulation, the kind my Master is really good at. If I'm getting better at it, soon I can rise up and slay him.
(P.S. For those who want to know, the wind chimes on Nadia's farm never tinkled again. Maul would be even prouder knowing about it!)
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