Darth Maul Takes Up Gardening
by J.A. Nessossin
The usual disclaimer: Sidious and the boys belong to that incomparable genius, George Lucas; I just sneaked in to play with them when he wasn't looking, et cetera and so forth.
It was a warm spring day. Maul was lounging on his balcony, watching as his dimwitted neighbor repotted a succession of colorful flowers and considering whether they might be killed, or better yet, somehow mutated into huge, flesh-eating plants, without suspicion falling on him.
"What are you doing out there?" a voice suddenly demanded.
Maul jumped up. "Sorry, Master, I didn't hear you come in. I've just been watching the twit next door playing with his pathetic houseplants."
"Now, now," Sidious reproved. "Cultivating plants is a fine exercise. Didn't you have a few around here, by the way?"
"My apprentice ate them."
"Hmm. You ought to get a few tomatoes, apprentice, like that good-looking boy over there has." Sidious leered, licking his lips. "Growing your own vegetables teaches patience, you know, not to mention self-sufficiency. An essential trait for a Sith. You seem to think Pizza Palace delivers on every world in this galaxy."
"I want to see something green in here next time I stop by, apprentice. Besides the mildew, I mean."
Maul wandered among the booths at Coruscant Garden World, stopping at a large display of colorful seed packets and potted seedlings.
"Can I help you?" inquired the clerk.
"I need some vegetable plants."
"Any specific kind?"
"Tomatoes," Maul growled, "and anything that looks like my master wouldn't like the taste. Let 's see...poison hemlock...deadly nightshade...chili peppers...oh, what's that big purple thing in the picture?"
"Fine," Maul agreed. His apprentice bumped his ankle with her head. "Catnip," he added dizzily.
As he was leaving, he bumped into Obi-Wan, who was delightedly hefting a giant concrete gnome. "Hello, neighbor! Glad to see you getting some plants. Let me know if I can give you any advice." Maul snarled in reply.
Maul sat on the balcony with his apprentice. He was surprised; this promised to be an unusually easy task. One simply bought the plants and waited for them to do what came naturally. "Wait a minute. What's wrong with this eggplant?" She mewed dubiously.
The plant was covered with yellow blisters leaking cloudy fluid. Streaks of rot ran down its veins. "It's got some kind of disease. Damn!" He yanked up the offending plant and tossed it over the railing into Obi-Wan's buckets of tomatoes.
It was time to water the plants again; had been for a few days, in fact. Maul gathered up all the old half-empty beer bottles in the kitchen and decamped to the balcony.
Obi-Wan, a sorrowful look on his face, was pulling up yellow, soggy-looking tomatoes and dropping them into a trash can balanced precariously on the head of the concrete gnome.
Maul started pouring beer into the pots. The twit's balcony door slammed in the background. Had the tomato plants come with round holes in their leaves? He looked closer. Damn! Big green bugs were eating his plants!
He snapped his fingers imperiously to summon his apprentice. "You will go forth and slay our enemies! The small green ones will be no match for you." She paused in her licking long enough to give him a look of bored disdain, then waved her small paw. Perhaps he should open a can of tuna before returning to challenge the invaders.
What was the most efficient way of removing insects? He picked one bug off and stepped on it with a satisfying squish. Immediately the others began to hum and chitter, scurrying about in the pots. "Good! You see your doom approaching." He squashed another one.
The insects were scuttling out of the pots in a wave now. They poured onto the floor of the balcony, powerful mandibles clashing, lining up in...no, it couldn't be...a phalanx formation? Several huge specimens hung back amidst the tomatoes, buzzing a series of sharp orders. The column swarmed forward.
Several alarming minutes and a few bites later, Maul had the insect army imprisoned by the use of the Force in an empty potting soil bag. Ominous chewing sounds foretold the impermanence of that solution. Casting about for a means of dispatching them that wouldn't create too much of a mess, he happened to observe the bank of large red flowers on the far side of Obi-Wan's small balcony.
They were an easy target to hit with a heavy bag, even one that was squirming furiously.
"The man at the garden shop suggested spraying for weeds," Maul explained. His apprentice rubbed her nose with a dainty paw, backing out of the plants.
He smiled. "You are quick to learn. Do you know what a weed is? Any unwanted plant, actually...Hmm." He leaned over the railing, holding the can at arm's length, to douse Obi-Wan's entire balcony in a thick cloud of chemical fog.
Moments later, the padawan stepped outside, wearing a flowered sun hat and carrying a flyswatter. He stopped short for a moment, wrinkling his nose and sniffing suspiciously, then raised the swatter to deal with the clusters of huge insects he had recently noticed in his geraniums.
"Look here," Maul snarled. "The plants you sold me are pathetic! They aren't growing at all! Do you people think you can rip off a Sith Lord and get away with it?"
"How often have you been feeding them?"
"Feeding? I thought they only needed water and sunlight--"
"Oh, no. Plants need nutrients too, you know. We have an excellent brand of nitrogen-rich fertilizer, only eight credits for the..." Maul had already stalked away, almost running into that twit, Obi-Wan. Happily, the padawan was missing his usual insipid smile.
"Hi, neighbor! Do you have to buy new plants too? A lot of mine seem to have died for some reason."
On his way toward the exit, something grabbed Maul's cloak. He whirled furiously, whipping out his lightsaber, only to find that a PLANT had caught him. A tall, thorny plant. A most impressive plant, in fact.
He looked up. The sign over the booth read "Mister Bottleworth's Mystery Botanicals." Lined up on, under and over two benches were an amazing variety of bizarre objects, scarcely recognizable as plants. Yes! Surely this was what he needed. Disentangling his robe, he strode into the shop.
The proprietor was a small, eager pink creature almost wholly covered in short, soft brown fur. It scuttled forward at his entrance, squeaking its desire to help.
"I want one of these armed plants," Maul declared. "I need a plant with powerful defenses and endurance."
The proprietor held up a pot full of small, fuzzy spheres. "Ah, the spiny ones! My favorites. What about this little one? Look, it is so soft that you can stroke it."
"Fool! I do not want a soft houseplant! I require a strong houseplant! A SITH houseplant!" His eyes fell upon a huge green object with a strikingly attractive crown of ten heavy, hooked spines. More such spines ran down its sides. "That one! I must have it."
"Ah yes! Good choice, sir. It grows very rapidly, and it is tolerant of neglect."
Maul paid for his cactus and left, feeling complete satisfaction. When he saw the idiot padawan disconsolately poking through a table of leftover plants, it was with a sense of unspoiled pleasure that he gently levitated a small Alderaan violet off the bench and into the pocket of the padawan's robe.
Obi-Wan arrived home late that night, having convinced the authorities that the shoplifting charge was really just a silly misunderstanding. Walking out to the balcony to add his purchases to the tattered remains of his garden, he observed his neighbor pouring a disturbing orange slime from a blender over a flat of pepper seedlings.
"You'd better grow NOW," Maul grumbled. He had decided to be generous, feeding the little plants an entire slice of pizza.
His apprentice rolled her eyes, then arched her back and hissed at the new arrival. "Behave yourself, young one!" Maul commanded. "Do not fear it. It does not have the wherewithal to rise up and take your place."
A subtle disturbance in the Force warned Maul of Sidious's arrival in time for him to switch off the Play Station and kneel respectfully. "Master, about those plants..."
"Ah, yes. Let me take a look at them."
"They were unworthy, Master, and perished for it. All but one." Maul gestured with pride at the spiny plant, already almost as tall as he and brimming with health.
"You aren't going to eat THAT, are you?" Sidious gave his apprentice a look of revulsion.
"Certainly not! This noble plant--it is an object of beauty! A work of art, an inspiration..."
Sidious squinted. "Say, isn't that a Tarantula Cactus?"
"Why, I think so! You see, huge, furry spiders lay their eggs in the small plants. The babies grow inside, eating the flesh and making the plant swell as they grow, until finally..."
"What nonsense! Everyone knows that's an urban myth. You senile old..."
"They say you can hear the spiders crawling and munching inside as the time approaches," Sidious mused.
Maul glared, then stomped over and leaned his head against the side of the plant for a long moment. "WHAT?" His voice rose to a scream of rage. "I'm going to KILL that little bastard at Garden World!!!" His lightsaber leapt to his hands, decapitating his last withered cherry tomato on the backswing.
Sidious grabbed his arm with both hands. "Apprentice, I wouldn't slice open THAT PLANT if I were you!" Maul snarled furiously. "You must USE your rage and hatred. Let them motivate you and give you strength, but do not let them control you."
Maul switched off his lightsaber and bowed deeply. "Truly, your wisdom is infinitely greater than mine, my master. I shall learn from your wise counsel."
"Say, neighbor, this houseplant thing just isn't working out for me. I only have one left, in fact, but she's a beauty. How would you like an extra plant for your bedroom?"
Obi-Wan looked downcast. "Gee, it's kind of you to think of me. But I don't know if I'll do very well by it. I seem to have developed a black thumb all of a sudden--no offense," he added hastily.
"I'm sure you'll do ever so much better with it than I would," Maul purred sweetly, applying his Sith powers of endurance to completely hide the pain this caused him. "I WANT you to have it. Really."
"Why, I'll be glad to, then! Golly, thanks."
He had fallen asleep on the couch, his apprentice curled on top of him. When she awakened him by scratching his chest, he raised his head and listened in the darkness. For long minutes, there was only silence.
There was a dull, wet, explosive POP. There was another lengthy silence.
"Listen to that, my young apprentice!" Maul exulted, scratching her behind the ears as he sank back into the couch. "That is the sweet sound of triumph."
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