Rating : R
Disclaimer: This is written for fun, not for making money. Therefore the appearance of famous Star Wars characters and live forms on Coruscant should not cause uproar amongst George Lucas lawyers. If you wish to post my story elsewhere, I would be grateful for a notification.
Summary: The story belongs to the You Drive Me Crazy! series of the Darth Maul Estrogen Brigade 2. Lord Sidious has an appointment for his little apprentice - to learn driving is included. As well as some madness and poetry of Exar Kun
Feedback: Please send feedback to saphsaq
Initial posting: On dmeb2.
Acknowledgement: .Many thanks to Redone for scrupulous beta-reading - certainly Maul is happy too.
The Speeder Bike.
Like an applicant begging for entrance into a monastery I knelt at the end of the landing platform since nine standard minutes and a half. Five minutes ago a soft rain had started falling down from the night-dark sky. Thick drops made the city lights flicker. The usual evening rain. To wash off a day's dust and tidy up before the entertainment begins, they say.
From time to time the platform, a repulsor carrier of 400 square meters, shuddered under the presence of a cargo ship passing close. It was supposed to be the hour with the scarcest traffic, but I couldn't hear a difference. With a disgusting sound couriers swooped down to lover levels on their drop boards; some used the platform for a kick into the desired direction. Perhaps this traffic was because the place was situated in the middle-level of a service and small business oriented quarter. Probably in the offices on the top of the buildings or in the apartments on the ground of the street-canyons there was a break.
Cold water leaked into the collar of my overall. I recalled the breakfast at my master’s table in the soft light of sunrise. This morning I had asked how he had discovered me. Not that I didn't know the answer already - "I looked into a big, slowly moving river and I saw my apprentice. And as I scooped it out, it was you." - I just needed to hear it spoken by him. He did not criticise me for slacking my power and pleading for acknowledgement. "Two years at the cadet school. What a long time. Hush, I'll give you of my strength." His fingertips followed the meridians on my head, my chest, and rested finally over my heart until it throbbed like his. Steady and firm.
Someone approached me. I opened my eyes. Close in front of me an Iktotchi towered. He was deep in his third decade and for his high-grown species not oversized, but haggard, what let him appear longer. A pair of small, orange eyes gazed down on me with disinterest before he dropped the words: "Come into the office, Little Red. We've seen enough of your archaic virtues." The back he turned me then spoke of his annoyance.
After delivering me behind the door, my guide left me by myself. I took that opportunity for an informative look around. The bureau measured a quarter of the platform I had waited on. Door and window-walls were of a type of transparisteel what must have been quite expensive in its time. Pane one and two opened to the platform, the third displayed the nightly city and a forth allowed me a glance over a busy workshop. Our steps had muffled a rugged floor. It looked indifferent. Obviously it was newer, cheaper.
"Welcome." A tall humanoid came up to me and took my hand. Also in her third decade, she was slender and almost as tall as the Iktotchi. But perhaps I was misled by the uniform they both wore. Culottes of heavy black fabric and a tight short coat of equal quality. Even the tiny ball-like buttons running from the hem of the uniform-jacket up to the stiff stand-up collar were covered with the same material. It was a long line, starting at the height of half the thigh and ending at the neck. I hoped for the two that the dress needed not to be unbuttoned and buttoned again too often.
"Please come with me." She smiled. In contrast to the deep-dark clothes her light skin appeared delicate. Two very thick golden braids framed her face in the same way the Iktotchi's face was bracketed by his down-sweeping horns. However her braids didn't end at the chin. The fair hair sneaked down the length of her torso and traced off somewhere in the rich folds of her skirted trousers. "You don't have to wait." With these words she sent a angry glare to the Iktotchi who kept himself busy at a beverage-spender far down the room. There was no need to turn my head to notice that he answered with an equally angry glare.
Now, to be treated like a frightened child is what I dearly dislike. I withstood the tugging of the woman's hand and introduced myself: "I am Khameir Sarin. What is your name?"
Her features flushed with embarrassment. "Glad to meet you, Khameir Sarin. I am Dinah Cloudherder. Dinah for you. This is," her head made a curt motion in direction of the Iktotchi, "Ira Tiin." She tugged my hand again. "Really, you shouldn't think you're not welcome. Come, I'll introduce you to Areont Brann Onorem." We went to a desk in the dimly lit corner across the entrance where a man sat, studying some papers. The silent growl of the Iktotchi-man "H'Iraano, it is H'Iraano, Di." faded behind us.
I was amazed to hear the word "Areont", an old word for director or boss of a skylimo service. However, Onorem, Brann, was the name my master had told me during the preparation. And in the circle of light the desk lamp spent, I saw a pious profile, which suited such a title just fine. Age had smoothed its sharp features. Like the head of a prince on an old coin. Or rather like the bust of some ancient philosopher, of which the Jedi used to have surplus in the endless hallways of their Temple. When he rose and approached us, I recognised the pouches under his eyes.
"Good evening. You are the one our mutual friend asked to take care of for a time. Your name is..."
"Khameir Sarin," prompted Dinah and laid her arm around my shoulder.
"Oh, right, right... thanks, Dinah. Right. Mind if I call you just Khameir?"
I shook my head.
"Our mutual friend gave me some small pieces of information about your background - no, don't be afraid! No-one here will urge you to speak about your back-story . This is a place for refugees of any colour. We don't ask questions, we just help."
This dovetailed with the data I had got from my master: the limo-service had established within the years a transit camp for runaways from orders or armies, desiring reunion with their siblings. Such thing is a secret business, so I replied: "Neither will I ask questions."
Brann Onorem kept a dumbfounded silence for a moment, then said: "You're a mature young fellow. Our mutual friend was right, I do appreciate this highly."
"Thank you, Areont," I returned the compliment.
"Good, good." His smile was short but warm. "Then you'll understand, to keep you safe, you need a legal job here. Unfortunately this is a topic our mutual friend didn't drop a single word about. So tell me, Khameir, what do you think, what sort of work could you do?"
My answer "Everything!" compelled him to smile again while Dinah suppressed a laugh. "I know, I know," declined the Areont, "let's try the other way round: any objections against cleaning?"
Cleaning? That didn’t sound like a difficult task. "No, Areont!"
"Have you ever supervised mech-droids?"
I was not sure if hacking the semi-automatic concierge at my master’s home would cover that, so I said: "Not yet!"
While Brann Onorem proceeded with his polite inquiry, the Iktotchi stepped nearer. Mutely he listened with a gloomy expression on his face. The moment I answered the question about my driving abilities in the negative, his face lit up.
"Now, I think we get the right place for Khameir," pronounced Brann Onorem eventually. "He'll lend a helping hand to Benec the Mechanic. As the fast learner you are, you'll probably even learn to drive."
"Sure," muttered the Iktotchi.
Areont Onorem, nodding satisfied with his decision, handed me an ID derma-patch his desk had spit out - "This doesn't mean you're property of mine, but you can insist in becoming delivered here when involved into any official issue." - and addressed the last topic: "We'll await you tomorrow at 7000."
This was the moment I had feared. "Tomorrow?" I needed a place to sleep. "Can't I stay... ?" Since I left my master at late noon, I had been operating completely from my own base; which meant the few items in the pockets of my red overall - namely a holocron “Exar Kun - early lyrics”, a handful of probably burned out electronic circuits and a small assortment of “SoroSuub speeders” trading cards - were my sole fall-back level.
Dinah lay her arm closer around me and bit her lips. Brann Onorem lowered his gaze to the floor when he shook his head regretfully: "Unfortunately not. Not today."
"Do you have really no place to go?" The woman knelt down and looked at me softly.
"Oh, Di!" The Iktotchi pursed his mouth in aggravation. "The next Metro-hostel will take him anyway."
Not that the image of ten persons sharing a windowless room of hardly 20 square meters, with a climate control more loud than efficient, contained anything desirable for me, but I nodded: "Yes."
"Well," said the Iktotchi and went back to the beverage-spender. A seemingly relived Areont bade me the farewell: "I'll see you at seven o'clock." Dinah guided me to the door. She patted my back encouragingly, without speaking a word.
On the next day I felt tired, cold and curious. I had managed a nap on the top of a penthouse between two sweeps of the security - a cleaner entertainment than a night in a steamy, overcrowded room. And comfortable too, if the clouds didn't descend.
Benec the Mechanic was a choleric, middle aged Corellian who drove her droids like a poultry flock through the workshop hall - the busy place I had watched yesterday from the other side of the transparisteel pane. Her standard phrase was ‘If you want to learn, listen!’ Of course, I did. Not that a middle aged choleric Corellian woman could tell me things more efficiently than my master could if he would, but my role called for this exercise of devotion, he had informed me.
My master never missed an opportunity to combine the theory of a lesson with the practice of an exercise. So actually my task included learning to drive as well as investigating the secret trouble which seemed to press the Areont. Two strong reasons, I had learned, demanded Senator Palpatine to reach Brann Onorem the helping hand he never had asked for. First, the mechanism of guiding children into freedom spluttered very recently. Second, he was kind of fatherly friend to my master. The latter one of the two reasons limited my master’s possibilities for intervention. If he wished not to embarrass his friend, he had to stay in the background. So Lord Sidious decided to dispatch a trustworthy person. And that person was his apprentice. Me.
Well, all too soon my curiosity became satisfied with the first discovery: ‘cleaning’ meant an occupation I normally would have connected with lesser servants! Nothing to compare with the delicate polishing of focusing crystals of those kinds of diminutive hand-beamers I was the fastest in. My second discovery, too, was of a rather disappointing nature: as a hand of Benec, my scope of action was limited to the workshop and the workshop only - I snatched just glimpses of the target - Onorem. On the other hand the first night's prohibition to stay in the rooms of the service was not repeated. Instead I got advised a locker as well as a flimsy mattress to roll out wherever I wanted on the work shop’s duracrete. All I could do now was to keep my senses open and wait patiently for things to come that were of more interest than washing dirty cars and smelly overalls.
Eventually they came.
It was on the forth day. It was then, when I saw IT for the first time. Perhaps I should say in advance that in my eyes any artificial transport is an incredible enhancer for our pedestrian body. I may be biased, because at the cadet school we had, for the sake of training, mostly been glued to the ground, marching around on our own feet. And the days before that … well, I do remember being transited in the bellies of super-tanks, but these are not the nicest recollections I own… it was before my master took me under his wing … Anyway, what I saw, casually parked in the middle of our limos, was a crescent moon, fallen amongst pale stars.
"Benec? What is this!?"
The woman slid out from under a limo's rear end on her hover board and glanced in the direction my shaking finger pointed. "H'Iraano's bike. An out-of-service police speeder." She slid back; her voice was muffled as she continued: "Tell AN-225 to bring the new Hyrotii engine. Now!"
I obeyed. I obeyed the whole day, but the sickle shaped vehicle in the line of philistine tools of transport was always on my mind. It attracted me not just to turn my head more than once and to seize it with my eyes. No, every errant ordered by Benec brought me miraculously to the speeder. So I could touch it. The machine was simply perfect! Stripped of as much coverings as possible and tuned almost over the limit. To my ease the Corellian thought highly enough of Ira to be talkative when I pestered her about the technical details. He and Di were the most excelled drivers of the service as well as the most cautious ones when it came to the wellbeing of their limos. Guess which of the two virtues valued them higher in the mechanic's eyes.
After the late shift, when I sat naked on a bunk in the changing room and watched my clothes tumble in the washing machine, I called out for my master. I couldn't wait until I would lie on my mattress in the solitude between the bulky silhouettes of two limos.
"Yes, my apprentice?" a fresh Force-wave embraced me.
I rejoiced, my mind swirling in the cool flow: "I've seen a speeder bike! I must have it!"
Pearls of chuckle drummed like hail on my back as my master answered: "We'll see, my apprentice, we'll see. But it appears Coruscant’s air has inflicted distraction on you… "
I searched my brain for things to tell, things of importance, to prove me vigilant and not disappoint my master - but it ran out void. That I became a fellow of Benec’s rust-heads, sharing their entertainment, seemed not the proper sort of information. They throw wreckage or surplus material down from the work shop’s outlet into the air-streets, and then watch the traffic detour the suddenly appearing obstacles with angry hooting. In the beginning I was reluctant to take part, but when I felt the elating power of approval - oh, the hooray when I had pushed a whole wing out with my Force enhanced muscles - I discovered that I liked this game.
“Darth Maul, to give your time at Coruscant a meaningful frame, I wish you would contact me on a daily basis from now on.”
“Yes master! One…, ’bout one thing I have wondered… !”
“Speak up, apprentice.”
“I wasn’t allowed to stay in the limo-service rooms the night of my arrival. Yet I’m the only passenger in transit here.”
Darth Sidious hesitated before he uttered his opinion: “Stay when it occurs to you again. By no means leave.” With a last wash in the Force he dismissed me.
On the next day I had a question for the steel-backs: "Isn't it strange for you to destruct electronic items, even parts of droids, just so?"
The response I got was: "Don't you, a biological entity, eat biological material?"
I found this had a point.
Late in the evening of a day 72 standard hours full of screws, grease and detergents away from my first step into the business, the Areont had serious news for me. He leaned over the office desk, his fingertips firmly placed on its solid wooden surface. "Khameir, I fear, you can't stay here tonight." Before I could voice the irk I felt, he added: "It's for your own safety... Just for your safety... the regular check of the pest controllers, you know. All rooms will receive a sonic wash.”
I argued, begged, demanded, but his determined attitude remained. So I decided to deliver him just some rearguard action and wait for a better occasion to lay hands on the secrets of his enterprise. "Areont, how early in the morning am I allowed to come back from the Metro Hostel?"
"The Metro Hostel again?" Dinah appeared suddenly at my side. "Oh, Areont, couldn't one of us, of the staff, provide Khameir with a place for the night... "
Confused by that motherly intervention Brann Onorem spluttered: "Sure... Yes... Perhaps... I mean, you have to drive... and the men of the previous shift... "
"Ira is still in the changing room," Dinah urged the Areont to reach for the comlink on his desk. I calculated the likelihood of him being obliged to play my host. That would be a possibility to gather the information my master was waiting for, without much effort…
Until the Iktotchi-man strolled into the office, we three were busy with smiling mutely. I moderately hopeful, Dinah encouraging and Onorem unsure.
As expected, Ira was anything but happy about the made-up duty. "If you want to play the Gracious One, would you please keep it to YOURSELF," did he spit out in direction of the woman.
"Ira! ..." Dinah was about to give a matching answer, but stopped in her tracks as another person joined our circle.
It was a big fat woman of indeterminable age, dressed in a long, baggy garb of blood red colour. The extreme tint of her dress repeated itself in the colour of the turban she wore, as well as in the colour of her palms and her soles. Her skin was olive and her big eyes in the round face clear like ponds in harvest. Around the ankles and wrists of the woman lasted voluminous golden bracelets galore. With a remarkable deep and rich voice she said, "Problems?" and laid a heavy hand on Areont Onorem’s shoulder.
His frame lost all tension when the Areont turned to the owner of the hand. In his long winded way he explained the situation - but Lu, that was the name of this staff-member, so I recalled - seemed not to listen carefully. I felt a familiar cold creeping upward my spine. Benec had told me Lu was the person responsible for the communication with the customers. That no-one ever had managed to come through with a complaint when talking with her didn't amaze me any longer now. There are several people on the habitable worlds making clever use of their small-band Force access.
But why hadn't I noticed her earlier? How deep may she have looked into me yet? I struggled with my slipping away smile - Oh, master didn't you know? And if, why didn't you instruct me?!...
Through the haze of my desperation I heard Lu addressing Ira: "You ought to take care for the boy for a few little hours, don’t you think?"
Still unhappy, Ira hung his head and drawled: "Yeah, why not. My uncle will certainly be fond to hear I'm adopting his behaviour of care taking."
His uncle?! No! Stop!! Tiin, of course Tiin! He was the nephew of Saesee Tiin. And Saesee Tiin was a Jedi. I felt my smile rushing into the gutter. The last thing I desired was to be in the custody of a Jedi-breed. "Ah, it doesn't bother me to sleep in the Metro Hostel! No need to... "
Lu graced me with an approving nod, but turned to Dinah: "You could fetch the boy later then. Your shift will end earlier." Toward her superior she explained: “The Malastarian industrial has cancelled her booking.”
As the Areont accepted this arrangement with a floppy gesture, Dinah bent to me and whispered joyfully: "See." Then she nudged me in direction of the Iktotchi.
When following Ira into the workshop, my spirits rose gradually. At least I got a lift with his speeder before the inevitable would happen. In my master’s library there are many holocrones full of juicy details about the ways of interrogation the Temple prefers... The beat of my heart increased. I knew how to duck and cover before average people - my master and I once had spent a weekend of suspense and joy when hiding under the noses of the bodyguards in his Coruscantian office. I could yet persuade myself to feel confident about my abilities to deceive a single sniffing Force tentacle. But a flock of full-fledged Jedi? Now, my master had warned me of the dangers of a premature revelation of us, so there was really no choice: I am a Sith - death means nothing to me. I am a Sith - torture is an empty word for me. I am a Sith - slackness does not exist for me. I am a Sith how could I fail?...
"Hop! Take your seat behind me," Ira's annoyed voice threw me out of my mantra.
"Sorry, I... H'Iraano. Can't believe I'm allowed to ride your speeder bike. It is the most beautiful personal transport I've ever seen!"
Ira produced a strained chuckle, but his "Silly-Billy. I ride, you're baggage," sounded not exactly insulting.
A moment later we were in the sky. And it was gorgeous.
Sadly we went down to earth all too early. Earth meant a sidewalk surrounding an abandoned looking building in about 1000 metres, to be correct. The Iktotchi turned and stared at me. Becoming uneasy under his orange look, I fired a word in the oppressive silence: "Did you know it was me who cleaned your speeder bike every day?"
"Benec told me." Ira's mouth sketched a smile. He heaved a sigh and said: "You're okay, Little Red. It's nothing personal; it's just the wrong day to have you around me. But if you promise to behave, we could work this out, I hope."
"I will!" I touched his elbow to emphasise my word. Benec had obviously failed to tell how she one day had picked me off the speeder right before I had succeeded in starting it. That Benec couldn’t tell about the discretion I observed thereafter wasn’t exactly her mistake.
Ira looked at my hand and let hear another sigh. Then we took off in order to approach our true destination.
Soon we arrived at the boom-town quarter, and after a few left and right turns we stopped in the parking lot of a cantina with tacky advertisements flashing around its entrance. My eyes were faster accommodated to the scarce light inside than the eyes of the Iktotchi-man, but he was obviously very familiar with the layout of the establishment. Unerringly he headed for a sticky booth near the bar. On his way he exchanged casual salute with several people present.
"Okay, Little Red. We will stay here for three hours, and then I take you to my flat. You can move around, do what you like, but I recommend being by the bike in time. See the bartender? If you are hungry or thirsty or whatever and I am not here, ask him."
Leaving me alone after this order, Ira mounted a barstool a few steps aside from the booth. The barkeeper he had pointed out to me looked at him, at me, and nodded. Then he placed a glass and a bottle of water in front of Ira. The barkeeper was a Coruscantian like everyone else in the small crowd populating the cantina. There was a line of saddened birds along the bar, peering mutely in their glasses like Ira did. Others, of light-shunning kind, clustered in corners, their chitty-chatty running with the smoothness of sobriety. However, dark blotches on the floor, glaring gaps in the disco lightning and shabby patches in the furniture’s upholstering told me it was just pre-rush hour.
The first standard I didn't move around much. Only twice I left my seat - one time to beg Ira for some water, the second time to pee. During this hour the number of people in the cantina swilled, became more colourful and noisy. It was then that I noticed some of the humanoids paid the Iktotchi a short visit. Because Ira and his visitors showed me their back, I couldn't see what exactly happened. However, the negotiations seemed to follow the same pattern every time. A pattern that deciphered as a transaction, patient observation eventually told me. Now, this explained Ira's behaviour on our way to this place, so I could direct my curiosity to something more interesting. Like the large dance floor and the very engaged band the cantina owned. The sound the two musicians produced consisted mostly of hard beats and extended sequences of free improvisation. With a certain technical gear they looped some of the sequences or added sound footage, which resulted in very cool effects. I decided I liked that kind of music, and as I discovered that to dance to it required only being able to jump and barge, I joined the crowd of dancers.
Jump and barge, jump and barge, ju-ump and ba-arge ... Now free moving I felt completely saturated. I didn't fear to lose Ira in this humano-bar, I didn't fear for my heritage to be discovered by Lu, I didn't fear to disappoint my master by missing this night's secrets of Brann's office. I was free.
"Iiiii, what is this little horned creature?"
"Horny? Too small!"
Suddenly I realised the latest jostles had been rougher. I was encircled by a group of uniformed human males in their mid-twenties. All of them tall, muscular and with an ugly laughter rising in their throats whenever one commented on me. Soldiers, pilots most likely.
"Perhaps it is a Jawa?"
"Not smelly enough!"
A liquid splashed into my face. "If we wash the perfume off, the smell will come out."
Fists clenched I whirled to face my attacker - he was a giant and had obviously sampled a proper amount of pilot’s-breakfast. Unfortunately this cocktail of uppers makes you bold and fast. I would have shed my disguise if I'd let him pay seriously for what he had dared.
But the decision was taken from me by a suddenly appearing Dinah, laying her arm around my shoulder and shouting: "LEAVE THE BOY ALONE, MORO!"
"Uh, he belongs to Ira?" The giant called Moro scratched his shaved head and grinned apologetically, while his companions nudged each other, repeating in feigned amazement: "Hey, he belongs to Ira!"
When he had enough grinded on his scalp, the leader of the pack offered his hand: "C'm on, Di, love. No offence intended, just a joke."
"Piss off!" Dinah manoeuvred me out of the ring toward Ira's stool. The group of soldiers dispersed but not without sending a "Keep cool, darling," after Di.
When the two of us approached the Iktotchi, the bartender leaned over and said, "Your girl is right, Ira. I don't want to spot your mug here for the next weeks."
Ira listened with a deadpan face and then slid stiffly from his barstool. The next moment I felt myself turned and pushed toward the exit. For an intoxicated being he was pretty determined.
Dinah followed us, mute but fast, to the parking lot of the cantina. In the refreshingly cold air outside the building she burst out: "Fuck you Ira! What gave you the idea of pursuing business while Khameir is with you?!" That the addressed remained motionless caused her to choose a higher gear: "Is there yet any thought in this Iktotchi horn-head of yours?!! Or is this just the silence of emptiness I hear?!"
It was better to step in and offer what I had learned so far about driving a speeder: "Ira, let us fly home!" I grabbed his limp hand, but Di yanked me back: "Nonsense! You come with me."
Suddenly Ira resumed to life. He said, "Okay," climbed on his bike, cast a bored glance at Dinah and took off.
After a short break for composing herself, the woman padded encouragingly my shoulder. "Don't panic. We'll take an air-taxi, which will bring us to my apartment in an instant."
The label 'apartment' was too big for the place the taxi delivered us. It was a windowless affair somewhere in the upper lower level of a tenement-tower in a cheap district. We made a short stop at another flat in the faceless hallway where Dinah's home was situated - a neighbour had taken care of her four year old son during her shift.
Finally in her apartment Dinah developed the same manners like Benec: she drove the two of us friendly but energetically through a late snack, the bathroom and into the sleeping chamber of her child. "Khameir, would you please read Dyrk a few pages? For better sleeping."
Dutifully I took the holocron. Dyrk however had interest in other things than tales and pillows after the door was closed behind his mother. His green eyes blazed with mischief. "What is your name?"
"Where do you come from?"
"Is this far?"
"Mind if I pull your horns?"
"Then I'll pull your ears."
Frightened Dyrk covered the sides of his head with his palms. "That will hurt! Read."
I gratified the boy with a generous hunk of the holocrone’s content before I sent him to the bottom of a healthy sleep with the Force. Then I went back into the living room to gather my own gratification - an interview with Di.
I found her in the unwinding company of a glowstick on the couch. She wrapped herself tighter into her bathing robe when I entered the room. "Can't sleep, Khameir, hm?"
I planted myself in the embracing upholstering of an armchair. "May I ask you something?"
"Go ahead," she smiled.
“Moro is the father of Dyrk, isn’t he?”
Her smile didn’t vanish, but a tinge of metal rattled in her voice as she answered: “Did anybody ever tell you you’re a precocious child?”
Of course not! I’m a Sith. However, I took her answer for a yes. “I don’t like Moro.”
“Now, that’s a point we have in common.” Di rolled the glowstick between her palms.
“Ira is nice. I don’t think he wanted to bring me in danger.”
Dinah’s palms gave the small column another turn. “True.”
I sensed her colleague was a topic she would more likely open up to than anything else, so I emphasized: “I think he's got a problem which makes him angry.”
Enclosing the sparkling drug-container with both hands, Di said cautiously: “Listen Khamy… Would you be so kind and grant me a favour? Would you keep silence about the… the incident in the bar?”
“Ira’s uncle?” That was a bold presumption. But as I know from my master’s library, the Jedi don’t welcome artificial mind enhancers and their trading.
Di continued to roll the glowstick. “You know Saesee Tiin?”
I nodded - my master had prepared me! If necessary, I could reel off the full CV of all twelve council members in the Jedi Temple.
“He is not as hard as is said. He is just very… very dedicated to his profession. He can’t understand if one waives a vocation… but neither will he force one to enter the path! Even if it is clearly laid out before the person. Although from Iktotch Moon, he is a Jedi after all.” With a shrug Di put the now lightless glowstick aside. “In the end he offered Ira a deal: if his nephew would be able to support himself with a job - a legal job - he would stand back from demanding Ira to join one of the moisture farming coops affiliated to the Jedi.” With a crooked smile she closed: “I suppose Saesee will never take a padawan.”
How strange! I could value Ira’s self-reliance, but this was sheer folly. You don’t have to choose, you either are, or not. After I had lost my parents during the second raid of the Glorious Battle of the Eastern Delta, Dranga my aunt missed not a single moment to show me what little good she expected coming from me. My success in the Junior Artillery was the same nuisance for her as if I would have turned deaf and mute by accident or proved myself a deserter. But like Exar Kun said, in the bedrock of my desperation was ingrained the seed of triumph - the day she sold me unscrupulously to a travelling stranger, I found my master. I do remember that day very well, the dusty yard, Dranga’s shrieking voice “Kam go, get your belongings together!”, the dark-clad humanoid, silently waiting on the other side of the street until the military convoy had passed by. When he took me by the hand I cried. Not of fear. Not of loneliness. But because of being swept off my feet by a sudden cool and uplifting feeling of being accepted. Purely and thoroughly accepted. Master Sidious had recognised me, had selected me, and had placed me at his side.
“Understand,” I nodded. For that fanatic Iktotchi-knight it must be terrible if his nephew turned down the Jedi.
“Okay, Khamy, and before you ask how I fit in the picture: I was a silly little girl from Tatooine, flying to golden Coruscant. Landed in a rather brassy bar - the one you got acquainted with tonight, I met Moro - gave birth to Dyrk - found me a job and one day ran into a haggard pusher with horns framing his face. And not many connections to rely on. Well, that I did learn later, when others told me his story. I felt he deserved a chance to speak at eyelevel with his uncle. Now, the Areont has never turned a deaf ear to desperation, so I brought Tiin in. This was harder to manage than it sounds,” she shook her head smiling, “because… Well, I’m still not sure if our relationship yet qualifies as friendship even if many people suspect we have a thing going.”
“He never returned your support?”
“I don’t care for him knowing much about it. I didn’t want to occupy the place of his uncle.”
I made an affirmative noise because she seemed to expect one. I had not the slightest idea what Di meant with her explanations - it sounded to me like a tremendous foolishness to hide your intentions before a person you adore.
“However, Ira has not disappointed Brann Onorem. He is such a talented pilot… ”
The glowstick had obviously done its relaxing work. I sensed her mind got adrift as her voice trailed off. Curiously I closed my lids and concentrated on her vision until I watched with the woman’s eyes... She entered the changing room of the limo service. It was empty, but the sound of running water came from the showers in the next room. She moved on. At the end of the line of showers, in the corner, stood Ira. Watching his backside she devoured the view of his tensed frame with the lowered head and the rhythmically moving shoulders. When he eventually jacked off, he turned in a half circle toward her. The semen mixed with the water and dripped thickly from his hands still clasping the member. In his eyes she saw her mirror image...
Di's voice kicked me out of the stage play: "Okay, Khameir, bedtime. You had enough for today!"
Resting my neck on a pillow roll in the sleeping chamber of Dinah’s little son, I chewed on the remnants of her vision. I found it funny, but wasn't sure if my master would consider it worth of his interest. Therefore I decided to drop him a memogram about Lu. Her name would make another pearl in the string - my master was keeper of the list of Force users in the galaxy like all his sithly predecessors had been.
The last thought crossing my sleepy mind was the question if those Force-blind people might sometimes sense when being tapped.
The breakfast was completely different from my lonely ones during the past days. Di and Dyrk were early birds celebrating their morning get-together with joy and a healthy appetite. But even though I was kindly integrated into their routine, the similarity to another breakfast I’d missed since over a half standard week, itched in my heart. I fingered for the holocron in my overall’s pocket. Ah, the quick consolation to be found only in Lord Kun’s verses… I have to admit that to my dismay my master did not share this adoration. He said to me once, “Lord Bane never has written lyrics,” with a certain pronunciation of the word ‘lyrics’ that added an invisible ‘bad’ to it.
Di’s son was once again handed over to the neighbour - a young engineer by the name of Bevel Lemelisk. He blushed and beamed when bidding farewell to us: “You’re welcome Dinah, always welcome! No, it doesn’t give me any trouble. In fact I love it.” This eagerness to please the woman amazed me. I couldn’t figure out what kind of reward he hoped for when playing nursemaid for a little child with a penchant to pull other people's horns. Perhaps my master could enlighten me one day how such kind of mutual agreement runs.
As Di and I arrived at the limo service’s office, the Areont was in fumes. “Dinah!!! Did anyone mind the random blood samples? After the last time you told me… ”
The why and wherefore of Brann Onorem’s mood remained a mystery to me for the moment, because Di shooed me into the work shop without further ado. And as Benec spotted me with gaping mouth but otherwise unemployed, I was soon submerged in enough errands and tasks and duties to forget about everything else for a while.
The solution for the riddle presented itself one and a half standard hour later, when I ran into Ira’s speeder bike. A fast glance to the office showed me that the Iktotchi-man had exchanged places with Di at the Areont’s desk. Contrary to her, Ira seemed not to make much contribution to the dispute. Stooped like welcoming any anger dumped on him, he stood before his boss.
Now, that was enough information to do the math. But, as I was almost about to resume my work, the two men turned and glared at me through the transparisteel as if being called. I could barely stop myself from being on my way into the office before my eyes confirmed the inviting gesture by Brann Onorem.
“Khameir, do you feel able to drive a limo?” When he noticed the reluctance in my nodding, the Areont assured me: “Not completely at your own. Together with H’Iraano.”
The Iktotchi gave his undivided attention to the tips of his boots, but I could feel his relief the moment I said: “I’ll do my very best.”
“Then it is settled - for today,” stated the Areont with a tilted glance at Ira.
I heard the Iktotchi uttering something between “I’m sorry” and “Thank you,” while I rushed into the changing room.
Back with washed hands and face, I found Ira sitting on the co-pilot’s seat of his limo. “Okay, I’ll brief you about the handling of that argosy. Close the hatch - here. Start the security grav-field - there. Then look at the panel in front of you.” His large hands made swift gestures, pointing me the buttons to press and the monitors to pay attention to. When he felt he had instructed me sufficiently, Ira commanded: “Up and away.”
The endless standards spent digging in the guts of all those machines at the workshop paid off. Calling upon the Force, I invaded the limo’s steering. My mind ran free and easy on the well known circuits, embraced the engine welcomingly and tasted every droplet of grease in it. The first muffled roaring of ions in the jet was like an outcry of release building in my throat. I felt a nameless joy and lost footing. However, Ira’s commands didn’t leave me time to dwell on my impressions. “Enter that lane over there - yes, this almost empty one. We have clearing for the Sector of Embassies in a quarter of a standard. Until then we’ll fly training.”
Admittedly the preparation came quite handy, because the theory of driving a skylimo is nothing compared with the real thing, so I discovered. However, from lap to lap I felt more familiar with the little ship and when we went to pick up our passenger, I had mastered the machine to my full satisfaction. I was the limo - or like Exar Kun would say: “To find myself as the matter.”
Eventually we arrived in the vicinity of that quarter of Coruscant where the representations of the members of the galactic senate were situated. The Iktotchi gestured me to keep my mouth sealed as a contact signal chirped in the radio. He and the guy at the registration made some formalia-babble and then we were guided through the cordon by the emotionless voice of the beckon automate. Either the security was asleep, or someone had provided our limo with a level A+ clearance, because my presence was not even mentioned. Ira didn’t feel inclined to comment on this incident; instead he repeated the coordinates the machine had dropped: “Tower 7, platform 0606/D.” When I sent him a fast glance, he sighed and threw one more titbit of information at me: “It is the Nubian embassy.”
By the name of Lord Kun…! My fingers danced diligently over the buttons to hit the landing circle in a flawless manner.
Ira rolled his eyes: “What’s funny?!”
“The…” I giggled to shed a second for thinking. There was no need for my co-pilot to learn about Lord Sidious' relationship to Naboo. “The word!” Another giggle. “Nubian! It means… ”
“Ah, spare me Khameir! This language crap is always the same: indigestion or sexual intercourse. You better shut up - I see ‘em coming.”
The flock of Nubian security approached with our customer. It was a small person buried under a multitude of that sturdy fabric Nubian formal ornate is forged of, and wearing a mask-like make up. A girl. Perhaps of my age and most likely from the royal court.
Ira climbed out to meet the guards and the requirements of protocol. I eyed the girl curiously - she had moved with an amazing grace for the weighty clothes. After she accomplished the boarding with a very decent amount of awkwardness, she sat in the rear of the limo like an expensive little statue and commanded with clear voice: “Please take off.”
I did so, but had to look over my shoulder. I flew a while and felt again the urge to check what was behind my seat. And once again. I had never seen such beauty. Delicate is your appearance, but power speaks every feature… The carved diamond is blinding me - your face... Brows like dark lightings, cheeks like purple clouds, lips… Lord Kun once had written this poem about the “Terrible beauty of the Force”. Oh, master! Lyrics are not wrong! SHE was the Terrible Beauty incarnate. I wished I could drink from those lips, as recommended by Lord Kun…
“Easy, Khamy. Easy,” Ira’s voice reminded me of my duty. Correcting a small deviation in our course, I kept myself in check.
Do you like human girls?
I almost let slip the limo from the air lane as I stared at the Iktotchi.
“Sorry.” You’re a telepath, are you not? Ira watched innocently the facade of an exceptionally ugly skyscraper while he padded his uniform in search for something.
I am mastering telepathy, I sent warily.
Ira had found what he needed, a little box containing purple pills. “Thought so,” almost all of these runaway monks are.
Yes, I do like… human girls.
“I’m not,” said Ira and placed a pill under his tongue. Before I forget, the Areont said, your time at our pretty hideaway is over today.
Why do you tell me?
Because it means you can’t grab my non-humanoid-species driver-licence.
I gave the girl a smile. I don’t like Coruscant.
Ira nodded. Then he turned to the private pastures of a vision induced by the drug. Pryingly I tried to snatch the mental image… He looked at his bed. There is a tall blonde standing in front of it, wearing a black silken robe. She shows him her back, but when she looks over her shoulder to smile at him, it is Dinah. She lets the shimmering fabric down. Slowly. When it lies like a dark pool around her ankles, she bends forward to kneel on the bed. He steps closer and puts his large hands on the marmot half spheres of her bottom. As if he wants to open a book for reading…
“Sshhh, Khamy. I said easy.“
The Iktotchi hadn’t lied to me. Through the transparisteel I saw the familiar silhouette of a tall Nubian with a puff of red hair standing in the Areont’s office. My master! The first rush, a feeling of joy and relief was rapidly replaced by fear. One of our agreements had been that my master would only appear personally on stage if the situation became serious, really serious. He had explained that on the other hand this lot of freedom meant a lot of responsibility too. Right now I felt that responsibility very weighty on me, because neither my task was complete nor was there a clue in my brain why the situation could demand such severe measures. The heavy door swung open before me.
“Brann, I fear I keep you from your work.”
The addressed declined with one hand, while he fed his desk with my driving protocol. “Nevermind.”
“That’s not true.” My master frowned, but then he lit up: “May I issue a suggestion? A driver of yours shows me the latest improvements of the business while you finish your paperwork. After that we could have lunch together.” He smiled down on me and nodded in the direction of our work shop: “I’m quite sure you know every detail about the machines out there. Am I right, boy?”
“Oh, Khameir is not... Well, ah…” Now, my master is invincible - the Areont gave in: “Khameir, would you please guide Senator Palpatine?”
“Yes Sir!” I bowed here and there. “Senator, would you like to accept my service?”
We were right out of the office and into the work shop, when Lu appeared. “Follow me,” she demanded imperiously.
I watched my master for his reaction. To my utter surprise he did as she had ordered without a second of hesitation. So I had to trail behind.
Lu brought us to one of the bigger limos with closed cockpit. When the three of us were seated in the limo’s rear I felt the certain phenomenon that Force-blind people describe as “tension in the air” - an accumulation of the Force. I never had witnessed Lord Sidious contacting other Force users - well, except me, his apprentice. This here promised to become an interesting little diversion before my master would use the faked sightseeing tour to talk with me about real issues of concern.
“Finally you have discovered me.” Lu, still ignoring my presence completely, spoke only to my master.
He exclaimed breathlessly: “Lord Lubow!” My yaw dropped - the little diversion had become a grown out one.
“Was it necessary to utilise your apprentice?” The woman’s head tilted curtly into my direction, but I didn’t feel better after this proof of recognition.
“I…,” stumbled my master.
“The only flaw of yours, the inclination for remote solutions. Now, he’s cute, yet young. Very young. Young as a Jedi would prefer a pupil. A clod of fresh clay instead of a piece of well-seasoned ironwood.” - I found this insisting on my age definitely uncomfortable. - “On the other hand, you have a lot of time and he is quite promising.” Lu - or Lubow by now - granted me a gaze and an approving nod when she continued, “Especially his physiology. You have to promote such talents, don’t you?”
My master’s face displayed a longing expression - I had to avert my eyes. It was embarrassing.
“As it is appropriate for a good apprentice and most successful inventor after Darth Bane,” the female Lord stated with pride. Jovially she bent towards me: “You ought to know, I’m a Hutt of the family of Malic.” - I gulped. Her shape was unmistakably human. - “This name has fallen into oblivion as my master and my first apprentices did. Sidious was my last apprentice. A good one, the best one I ever had. The best one to find in the roll of the Sith since the days of Bane.”
When I looked again to my master, a delicate red hue covered his cheeks.
“But there are only two!” I had to get something straight here. When my master was my master, how could she call herself his master?
Lubow and Sidious exchanged glances before the woman agreed: “Of course there could be only two. I’m out of the game.”
“Then you have to be dead!” I still couldn’t get it. My master’s features clouded.
“Have I?” responded Lubow with a cheeky smile. Stone serious in the next moment, she answered her own question: “I say I’m dead for the order of the Sith. That shall do.” The word was like a glimpse on what this heavy Sith Lord must have been in her days. After a short pause in which her eyes seized my master with compassion, she explained: “There was the day when I saw I couldn’t teach Darth Sidious any lesson any more. Any day longer would only have consumed his power. A power he would need in the future much more urgently than in a stupid ritual of succession. So I, his master, removed the obstacle in my apprentice’s way. As it is the duty of any good master. However,” now she was in a merry mood again, “I was a Sith, so I pursued my own plans too. Plans which included plastic surgery and genetic reengineering.”
My poor master. He was a chimera - a Sith master who never ended his apprenticeship really. Perhaps that was the reason for not being at the zenith of power in his prime? A state the ancient Sith lords preferred, according to what I’ve read in the legends... Should I consider her as the head of the Sith now?
Sidious wetted his lips: “It wasn’t necessary to stay sentinel over this project here. It wasn’t necessary to stay sentinel over any project. You ought to have vanished.”
“Ah, no noble contest for courtesies.” Lubow interrupted, “I was free to do what I wanted, and curious too. So I’m here.”
My master seemed to unwind suddenly. “Curious? So you always have been…“ For the splinter of a second a strong emotion, the impression of a deep regret of things never came true, touched me. However, I could be wrong and just received the echo of the turmoil in my own heart, because the next moment my master asked businesslike: “Brann Onorem?”
“As if you didn’t know it exactly,” Lord Lubow laughed. “The age and the Techno-Union. His years count twice of yours and the responsibility does its damage too. The man is almost mad of fear. The Droids approached him - the two nights your apprentice was kept away from the rooms of the service, he negotiated with them. They considered his business an ideal launch pad for their full-automatic drivers. Backed up by the reputation of an average but brave Coruscantian limo service, that invention shouldn’t fail to succeed on the market.”
“I see”, mumbled my master eyes caste down, “for the sake of the Force I do have other installations.”
“Don’t bore me with details.” The golden chains around the woman’s neck chimed when she turned her mighty head. “Brann is ready. Go, get him.”
36 standard hours after my master had lunch with the Areont, 24 standard hours after I had breakfast at my master's table - once again I sat on the landing platform. Once again the rain was delivered in the soft but energetical way the artificial weather of Coruscant is famed for. I turned my face skyward with eyes closed to enjoy its cool palpitating fingers. They soothed the burning imprints my master’s touch had left.
What they not could solve, not did ease, was the invisible strap gathering tightly my breast. It must have been close to the experience Exar Kun endured after Freedon Nadd set him out for Korriban… During my way to the tower inhabiting the limo service I had tried to find the chapter telling how the Sith ghosts put Lord Kun’s resolve at a test. I remembered reading about him buried in a cave… tons of warm stones and a sticky atmosphere pressing at his heart and liver until his true colour was squeezed out: an exquisite black. As his mentor had expected it. However, I must have snatched the wrong holocron from my master’s library, because I couldn’t find the said chapter.
In the bureau Di and Ira seemed to have signed a kind of peace treaty. He had lifted her on the Areont’s orphaned desk, where they kissed violently. I considered for a moment to tell her what the horn-headed Iktotchi-man desired to do to her, but most likely she would answer she knew and desired it too. And Ira? Beaming, he would just flash me a smile. My master had foreseen and explained to me this annoyingly common twist in the Force-blind people’s lives before I departed. So, because there was left nothing to say and because a Sith’s profession excluded - alas - the tiniest waste of time, I slipped silently though the room with the couple.
There were only two things on my to-do list: depositing the thermal detonators which bulged the pockets of my overall, and confiscating the speeder-bike. The latter a mere act of recycling, not plain theft, should I add. The Iktotchi wouldn’t have further use for it, when things did look like an example for other limo-services made by the Techno-Union.
Lord Sidious had brooded over the layouts of that strike from breakfast to lunch. Even between soup and dessert he observed silence. Shoving the last plate aside he finally broke it: “Darth Maul, I’ll tell you how to accomplish your task: wipe the service out. Be back at dinner time.”
“Why, master… ? What will happen to Di and to Ira and … Benec… and…”As my gaze met his glowing eyes, I wished I had swallowed my weak comment.
“And? And?!” His arms snapped over the small desk; he caught my face in his hands and brought his head closer to mine: “Did you ask what would happen to your parents when you decided to leave them behind?”
“No…,” the rushes of fever his hot hands sent throughout my body parched my throat. “No! I’ve LOST ‘em!!!”
“Purposely left behind,” said my master. With a tender move of his left thumb he dried the thin string of spit running down my chin, “But, was that wrong?”
My gaze couldn’t wander out off the searchlights of his eyes, but I managed to whisper: “I didn't do that!”
“How do you think will it feel to lose me?”
Oh, I was in flames! “NO! Never will I do it!!”
Nasty flames, with many faces - flames with the appearance of my aunt, of the sergeant from the cadet school,… Lord Lubow…
“I can’t do it!”
How they pushed closer, burning the air I needed to breathe! But there was something beyond this: my muscles cramped with a pain that was nameless, yet I had to call it by a name. Reeling for a little eternity at the rim of the gorge of coma, I eventually received the word. Hate. A hate, equally shared between the faces in the flames, my own weakness and my master’s sorcerer ways. I had sizzled enough. “You! You have my loyalty! Master!!”
Removing his hands from my overheated head, he laughed out loud. “Of course I have. When you’re back from this task, I will clothe you in gold and jewels and send you to the mines of Kessel as the son of a prince who is eager to learn about mountain science - how would you like that?”
Catching the idea of approval behind it, I responded, trembling but grateful: “Will I have an entourage of three well trained fighters and a fast spaceship?”
“As well as two women to please you at night!”
Before my inner eye appeared the image of the girl from the royal Nubian court. “What is thy bidding, my master?"
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