The Passion of Maul
Twilight Chapter 5


Dark Passions: The Journey Begins | Dark Passions: Exodus | Dark Passions Revisted: The Amber | Bouquet of Deflowers: The Thistle | Seeds of Darkness: Chapters 1-5 | Seeds of Darkness: Chapters 6-10 | Twilight: Chapters 1-2 | Twilight Chapters 3-4 | Twilight Chapter 5

Chapter 5

The bacta shipment arrived in the middle of the night, and Eeth spent two hours helping distribute it among the injured. He had the last canister sent to the temporary orphanage and returned to his room. Bacta gave off an unpleasant odor, so he took a quick shower before going back to bed.

"Where did you go?" Larisa mumbled, blinking sleepily at him.

"The bacta finally came."

"That's good." She rolled over and straddled him. "You were gone a long time."

"And you should get more sleep, Risa."

"I will." She leaned down to lightly bite at his chest. "Did I ever mention how much I hate sleeping alone?"

"No, I don't believe you have," he replied, deciding to relax and enjoy the attention.

"It's true, and I've been doing it a lot lately."

"Hrm," was all Eeth said.

Larisa sat back, puzzled. Why was he just lying there? He wasn't too tired, that much she sensed.

She climbed off and lay on her side, her back to him.

"What are you doing?"


"Get back here," Eeth ordered, pulling her underneath him.

"Ahh... Now this is more like it," she sighed when he entered her. "But you know, you could have said something."

"Oh, be quiet," he growled, and pushed all the way in.

"Uhn!" By the Force, I'd almost forgotten how big he is. That thought led to others, and Larisa found herself recalling that conversation with Sojelle. She stuffed a corner of the blanket in her mouth in an attempt to stay silent.

Eeth looked at her suspiciously. "Are you laughing?"

"I was just thinking of those two students we met on Corsin, the ones from Alderaan. Sojelle wondered how I managed to sleep at night."

"Is it difficult?" Eeth asked, his brow furrowing. Perhaps she preferred the way humans mated.

"No, please! I don't think I could handle it!" Larisa quickly said, hearing that. "I'm just glad she didn't ask any more questions about us. I couldn't begin to describe how it feels."

I can. You feel very warm, and very tight.

"Mmmm... It's wonderful..." Her eyes closed and she gradually fell asleep.

It's time to get up now, Risa," she heard Eeth announce after what felt like only a few minutes had passed.

"No, it's not," she muttered, pulling the blanket over her head when he opened the window shade.

"Yes, it is." He walked over and pulled it back down. "Saesee will take you back to Coruscant."

"Can't I just stay here?"

"No. You're going back to the Temple where it's safe. I've asked Saesee to take one of the safer routes," he added as he picked her clothes up off the floor.

"I'm sorry about the way I behaved last night. I was..."

"Under a lot of strain. I want you to promise that you won't do that to yourself ever again."

"I promise," she said, rubbing at her eyes.

"Thank you. You need to get dressed now."

"Oh, all right." She kicked the blanket off and got up, then sat down again, sighing loudly.


"Nothing. I'm just tired of seeing you only once every few weeks."

"There's not much that can be done about that, under the circumstances."

"I know." Larisa took the clothes and her bag and went into the fresher room. There's wasn't much of a bathing area; just a small, enclosed shower space with small holes in the floor for drainage. Shoving yesterday's clothes into the bag, she turned on the water, which was barely warm, so she washed as fast as possible.

She dried off and dressed in a set clean of clothing, then went back to the common room. "Where was Master Tiin's ship? I don't remember."

"I'll show you." Eeth put an arm around her and led her out of the room and down the hallway.

"Could we get something to eat first?"

"Of course, and I suppose I could ask that you be allowed an off-planet assignment."

"You will?" she asked enthusiastically.

"Yes, but it won't be until after our new son has been moved to the creche."

"Mmm. That would be wonderful, as long as it's where you are," she said, leaning into him as they took a side corridor to the kitchen.

As soon as they'd left the system, Saesee set the ship on autopilot and walked back to the passenger room. Again setting the ship on auto-pilot, Saesee left the cockpit and walked back to the passenger room. "I thought you should know, I received a message from Ki-Adi yesterday."

Larisa almost dropped her bag. Damn! I completely forgot about that! "What did he say?"

"What do you think he said?"

"He's angry that I left Coruscant."

"He was annoyed at the very least."

She looked up at Master Tiin apprehensively. "What did you tell him?"

"Only that you had offered to help, and that you were perfectly safe where you were," he replied.

"That's all? But I...uhh...I did sort of..."

"You misled him. And that is not going to happen again, is it?"

"No," she said in a muted voice. Master Tiin was much too intimidating when he glared like that.

"It had better not. I'll tell Ki-Adi that you volunteered to help the injured."

"I don't understand," Larisa said, confused. "Why would you want to help me?"

"Because Eeth and I are friends, and I would like us to be friends as well." Saesee paused, then added, "I would also like to train your son."

"You what?" She stared at him, her hands moving to cover her stomach. "You... You mean Vareth?"

"Yes. You are carrying again?"

"Huh? Oh. Yes," Larisa said, her face reddening. Was I that transparent?

"Yes, you were," Tiin answered the unspoken question.

She rushed to change the subject. "You want to train Vareth? Now?"

"No, not right this moment. When he's a little older."

"Oh. Eeth knows?"

"Not yet, but I don't think he'll have any objections." Saesee frowned. She did not sound very receptive to the idea. "Do you?"

"Oh, no. I just wasn't expecting this. Do children usually get picked so soon?"

"A few have been, such as Depa."

"Huh." Larisa frowned as she thought it over. "You travel around the galaxy a lot, don't you?"

"That would be curtailed, of course. I won't be taking Vareth to a new world every other day. Not during the first few years of training."

"So when will you take him as your Padawan?"

"Zabrak Initiates are normally chosen by their fifth year."

"That's about how old Eeth was when he was found, wasn't it?" she asked?

"Eeth was four," Saesee corrected, "which was the main reason he wasn't taken as a Padawan until he was seven."

"He had some catching up to do."

"That, and keep pace with the current training. Eeth learned seven years of lessons in only three."

"Wow. That's... amazing," Larisa managed.

"Zabraks are a very disciplined race," he remarked. "Now, did you have any other questions?"

"Um, no."

"Good." Tiin nodded and went to his private room on the ship to check on the current state of the Republic Army and send some messages.

The rest of the trip passed very slowly. It seemed to take a lot longer returning to Coruscant. Probably because Mundi's going to have me locked in my room, Larisa thought, still worrying about it.

She wasn't surprised to see him waiting in the hangar when they finally arrived at the Jedi Temple.

"He doesn't look very happy," she fretted.

"I see that," Tiin replied. He had to take Larisa by the arm to get her to walk down the landing ramp. "Ki. You received my message?"

"Yes, I did, but that hardly excuses her deceitful behavior."

"You said I could go..." Larisa muttered.

"It was hardly a pleasure jaunt, Ki," Saesee intervened. "Eeth and the others have been trying to place hundreds of refugees, many of them injured." He paused and looked around the hanger. "Could we discuss this later?"

"No." Mundi glowered at her. "Haven't you anything to say for yourself?"

"Look, I'm really sorry, but I..."

"You what?"

"I... I had a reason for going there."

"And that was?" Ki-Adi prompted. So she had been hiding something.

"Well....I'll need another creche bed in my room in a few months."


"She's saying that she's pregnant," Master Tiin said helpfully.

"I...see." Ki-Adi focused back on the matter at hand. "That is welcome news, of course, but you are still restricted to the Temple for one month."

"A month?" Larisa looked at Master Tiin, who shook his head.

"One month," Mundi reiterated. "You'll be allowed to go out again afterwards, but only twice a week, and for a limited amount of time. Now return to your quarters."

"Yes, Master." She slunk off towards the elevators.

"That was a little harsh," commented Saesee.

"I can hardly let her go unpunished. What if it had been Mace she'd tricked? And why did you agree to take her there in the first place?"

"For one thing, I didn't know that she'd neglected to tell you where she was going. Secondly, I've decided to take Vareth as my Padawan once he's of age."

Ki-Adi looked troubled. "You have? Is it wise to plan so far ahead?"

"I will not allow what might happen affect my decisions now," Saesee stated. "None of us should."

"You're right," he wearily conceded. "Nothing must disrupt the Temple routines."

"I know how difficult it is, but our Order has survived such challenges before and we will survive this one."

"So long as another idiotic Senator doesn't take control of a Republic fleet."

"That's one thing we needn't worry about. The Supreme Chancellor was very specific about who the Army takes orders from."

"Shall we visit the kitchens? You have missed the noon meal."

"Hm. I did eat on the way back, but by all means."

"I had a feeling you were going to say that," Ki-Adi said, finally smiling.

"Then I'm glad I didn't disappoint you," Saesee answered, accompanying him into one of the elevators.

"I suppose you'll be visiting the creche, too."

"Of course."

Mundi's thoughts turned back to Larisa. It was obvious that she did not have enough to occupy herself with. I shall speak to the healers about having her training picked up.

"Depa, would you please talk to him?"

"Hm?" Depa stopped and turned around. "Talk to who, Larisa?"

"Councilor Mundi, of course."

"Let's talk in here." She opened the nearest conference room door and they went inside."

"Now, what's this about?"

"Mundi told me that I can't leave the Temple now for a whole month! And that I'll only be allowed to go outside twice a week. 'For a limited amount of time' he said. You've got to do something!"

"What? Why would he say that?" Depa asked, astounded.

"Oh, I'd asked to go somewhere yesterday and he said I could. I didn't tell him where I wanted to go, and he didn't ask."

"And where did you go?" she asked, though she already had an idea as to the answer.

"I went to see Eeth. And is that so terrible anyway?"

Depa sighed. "I'm afraid that Ki-Adi's had a tendency to over-react at times, ever since his Padawan died."

"I already apologized. What else am I supposed to do?"

"Hmm. I must say that this little subterfuge of yours wasn't very wise, but certainly not enough to warrant confinement. However, I don't think that limiting your trips outside the Temple to twice a week is so unreasonable, do you?"

"No, I guess not."

"Good. And don't worry about Ki-Adi. I'll talk to him later today, when he's calmed down."

"Thank you!" Larisa said, relieved.

Depa smiled. "You're welcome. Now, I need to go water my plants."

"Oh. I'd better go check on Rialth."

I'll speak to you tonight about scheduling your outings."

"Okay. Thanks." Larisa headed down to the garden and began her usual search for Rialth.

The day began like so many others, bringing more requests for meetings. Chancellor Palpatine ignored them, as he had so many previous ones.

"Inform the Senators, and anyone else that inquires, that I will be unavailable the next two days," he told Mas Amedda. "Tell no one that I am leaving Coruscant."

"Yes, Chancellor," the Chagrian replied, knowing that Palpatine had more than once expressed concerns about a possible assassination. "What if an emergency arises? Where can we find you?"

"I shall contact you every five hours, on a secure channel. I do not want to take a chance of my whereabouts being traced." Palpatine waved his hand in dismissal. "You may leave now."

"Chancellor." Amedda bowed his head stiffly and left to give the aides their orders.

Competent as the Vice Chairmen was, his species possessed an inordinate amount of pride. Palpatine turned his attention to more important matters.

The Republic Army had recovered from the Argente debacle sooner than he'd expected, due in large part to the efforts of the Jedi, despite their own losses. It was rumored to be in the hundreds, but they were keeping the exact number very quiet. Another advantage to come out of that was the surprisingly large size of Passel's fortune, which was now being used to increase his own army of clones.

What did present a problem, though, was when to step in. The Republic fleets continued to stand firm. The Mandalorians had either been severely limited in the production of ships and clones, or they were planning a new wave of attacks. Which was the case, he was not certain. He could only draw on so much of the Force here without the Jedi noticing, and the future had proved hard to see of late, which led to his decision to travel to Korriban to seek the answer.

Palpatine pulled the hood of his black robe up over his head and used one of the secret passageways to exit the Senate building.

He reached his ship and it lifted off, leaving Coruscant behind.

"I have no interest in how many brats have teeth growing in!" Maul snapped, temporarily halting the droid's prattle.

"My Lord, I am merely saying that some of the children are in need of pain-relievers, and that I have not been allowed access to them."

Maul glared, then reconsidered. If it put an end to those incessant wailings...

He searched through his belt pouch for the access card to the medical storage room and thrust it towards the droid. "Here. Use only what's necessary."

"Thank you, Lord Maul."

Not replying, Maul went outside, where it was quieter. It would be another year, at least, before they would be old enough to start training. Then there was the problem of choosing one as his Apprentice, but that was far into the future.

He looked up at the sky. Something nagged at him, like an itch at the back of his mind.

"You sense him coming."

Caught by surprise, Maul spun around, grabbing and igniting his lightsaber as he faced the source of that voice: A human woman, standing a few feet behind him. She was of average height, with bright yellow hair and dressed in dark grey.

"How did you get here?" he demanded. She couldn't possibly have stowed away on his ship. Not only was it virtually impossible to pass through the security system undetected, but he would have sensed if someone else had been on board.

The woman smiled at that question. "I have always been here."

"You're a Sith?" Maul looked her up and down. Unlike the others, she appeared as solid and real as a living, breathing person.


At last, a chance to get some answers, he thought as he put his lightsaber away. "Why?"

"Why what?"

"Why did they bargain with the Jedi? They were fools to surrender so easily."

"Many of them had grown old, and were weary of the endless battles," she answered, ignoring the insult. Someone as young as Maul was could not be expected to understand that reasoning. "Others, myself included, sought to protect their children, the next generation of Sith Lords."

"You had a child?" he asked, barely interested.

"A daughter, barely six years of age. Not that that stopped the Jedi. We were among the last few killed that day."

"Then you knew Lord Bane," Maul concluded. "Why does he want me to train an Apprentice instead of my Master?"

"Lord Sidious, as you well know from experience, is solely interested in how people may be of use to him."

He scowled at the unwelcome reminder, then recalled her first words. "That is what you meant. The Chancellor is on his way here."

"He is. Do you plan to let him have these children?" she asked, watching him.

Maul glanced skyward again, thinking of a way to avoid an encounter with his former Master, and coming up with none. This was yet another situation that he had absolutely no control over.

"What choice would I have?" he demanded, glaring at her resentfully. "He is far more powerful than I."

"We could conceal your presence from him, if you wish. It is your decision."

"Yes," Maul replied after a long moment of silence.  To deprive Palpatine of a number of future 'tools' was an opportunity at revenge he was not going let pass. "Keep him from sensing me, and the children."

"Done. Bane was certain that you would make the correct decision."

She sounded pleased, which confused him, and disappeared before he could question her. The correct decision? What would happen if I did decide to turn those brats over to Palpatine?

Uneasy about the possible implications, Maul looked around the surroundings before going back inside the main building. He had no desire to see his former Master ever again, even if it was from a safe distance.

"Why is she always with him?!" Anakin asked the small birdcage, which was hung in the lobby of the hotel they were using as headquarters in this planet, whatever its name was.

He'd just spotted Padme and his Master together, talking, something that was occurring more and more often these past three weeks, to his growing frustration.

I'm her Consort, not him! She shouldn't be spending so much time with someone she's not going to marry. Or is she?

Anakin remembered with trepidation that day when she met secretly with Master Rancisis and Obi-Wan. No! It can't be! My Master knows that Padme and I are meant to be together! Even if I didn't tell him about my vision of marrying her, he should know anyway! Why is it that some people just can't see the obvious?

Something has to be done. Governor Sio Bibble, he had overheard, was coming here to visit Padme today for some reason. They can hardly keep me from being there to greet him when he arrives.

Anakin went back to his room to try to come up with a plan for him to spend some time alone with Padme.

Hello, Governor. I hope you had a pleasant trip."

"We all do," Obi-Wan added, standing beside his Apprentice.

"It went quite smoothly, thank you," Bibble replied. "Now, if I might have a word with you and Amidala?"

"Of course," Obi-Wan quickly agreed. "Padawan?"

Anakin ruthlessly bit back a heated retort and bowed instead. "Yes, Master."

Let them think I'm oblivious to what's going on, he seethed, stopping on the other side of a staircase to watch which way they went. Anakin waited until they were out of sight, then cleared his mind of all thoughts, keeping it as blank as possible before following them.

That, along with the most minute use of the Force, kept Obi-Wan from sensing him when he was nearby. It was a little trick Anakin had discovered over a year ago, and was coming in handy more and more often these days.

They stopped at a small park-like setting, located behind two government buildings, and sat at one of the tables. There was no way he could get close enough to hear what they were saying without being seen.

Anakin looked around, his eyes drawn to the buildings. If I went up to one of those rooms, and opened a window... That would be perfect. He circled the rest area and went inside, making sure no one noticed him as he headed upstairs. By the time he reached the window, Obi-Wan was excusing himself from Padme and the Governor.

Quietly opening the window, he leaned out to listen.

"I believe Master Fey'Zon may have gone to the Regent's palace," Amidala told Obi-Wan as he stood.

"Thank you." He bowed to them and walked off.

"When will you make an official announcement?" asked Sio.

"I don't know. Before Anakin turns eighteen, I hope."

"You and Knight Kenobi would already by married by now if it weren't for that harlot."

She smiled faintly. "There are some things we simply don't have control over, Governor."

"Still, I would have thought the Jedi would at least have thrown that woman out of their Temple."

"Shut up!"

"Anakin!" Amidala started in surprise. "How long have you been standing there?"

"Long enough." He didn't bother mentioning that he'd jumped out a window. Thank the Force there was no one else in the vicinity. "You are not going to marry him!"

"Now, Ani," she began, wishing they could have had this talk in a different setting. Anakin was very upset, and Bibble's reaction was easily predicted as well. He always took offense when he felt her dignity was compromised.

"You were spying on us?" Sio demanded, his beard almost bristling with outrage.

"Let me handle this, Governor. Please." Amidala stared at him until he subsided. "Anakin, I know this is hard for you to accept"

"You're not marrying him!"

She patiently tried again. "You're not a child anymore. You know there are other reasons for this marriage."

"No. I can't let you do this. Not him."

"It isn't up to you, Skywalker," stated Bibble.

Anakin ignored him and concentrated on Padme. "You're not going to marry him."

Padme started to answer, then her eyes clouded. "I'm not going to marry him."

What the...

"What do you think you're doing?" the Governor demanded. "When Knight Kenobi hears about this..."

Recovering from his own shock, Anakin glared at him. "He won't, because no one's going to tell him. I'm not here. This never happened. Do you understand?"


"You're very tired from your trip."

"Yes... Very... tired..." Bibble slumped over the table, fast asleep.

"Ani..." Padme began, starting to come out of the fog she was in.

"I'm sorry, but I have to do this. He's not right for you. He's not right for anyone."

"Not right for me," she repeated.

Why am I doing this? But of course Anakin already knew the reason why, and wasn't going to wait for his Master to eventually treat her the way he had others. Like Larisa. "Padme, listen to me. You haven't seen me since Governor Bibble's ship landed. I was never here."

"You were never here."

Anakin looked around, half-expecting to see someone standing nearby, ready to accuse him, but there wasn't. Everyone must have been instructed to give her and the Governor some privacy, but still.... Better not to stay and take the chance.

When he turned back to her, she'd started blinking rapidly.

Anakin glanced back at her one more time as he hurried away.

"Master?" Anakin stopped in the doorway, surprised to find Obi-Wan there, shoving his clothes into a travel bag. "What's wrong?"

"The Council has ordered some Jedi back to the Temple."

"Us, too? But we haven't been away that long."

"I'll ask the Council to assign us elsewhere, then."

"But, Master..."

"Anakin, don't argue with me." Obi-Wan sounded tired, frustrated and confused. "We're leaving now and that's final. Now go pack."

Anakin kept his mouth shut and obeyed, throwing occasional glances at his Master. It was obvious that Padme had already spoken to him, and Obi-Wan was taking the rejection harder than he'd ever imagined.

It's for the best, Anakin told himself, ignoring a brief stab of guilt. She doesn't love him.

"Are you ready, Padawan?"

"Yes, Master."

Does Padme even know we're leaving? Anakin wondered, wishing he'd had a chance to leave a message behind in the room for her.

They took a landspeeder to the docking bay and boarded one of the ships there.

"Knight Kenobi, Padawan Skywalker," Ki-Adi-Mundi greeted them when they arrived at the Temple. "I understand you and Amidala had some sort of argument?"

Obi-Wan stared a moment in surprise. "How do you know that?"

"We've received three messages from her, the last one informing us that she is on her way here."

"She's coming here?"

Anakin listened with a sinking feeling in his stomach. It didn't work, and now everyone will know! Think, stupid! "Did she say why?"

"No, but she did seem rather upset."

Great! Just great!

"She was?" Obi-Wan asked, wondering if Amidala had reconsidered. She has been under an enormous amount of stress, and may have simply been reacting to it. If that's the case, I'll make more of an effort to support her. "When will she arrive?"

"In about half an hour; she left shortly after you did," Mundi informed them. "She'll be using this hanger, and I hope you'll be here to meet with her."

I will."

"Master, may I be excused?" Anakin suddenly asked.

"Yes, Padawan," Obi-Wan agreed, distractedly.

Anakin bowed to them and practically sprinted over to the elevators. There was only one person here that he could think of to talk to. He went to Eeth Koth's quarters, but no one answered the door. Next he tried the garden, but Larisa wasn't there either. That left either the crèche or the healers. He decided to check the healers floor first, and found her working in one of the rooms. "Hi, Larisa."

"Anakin! You're back!"

"Yeah, I am. Could we go somewhere and talk?"

"I don't know." Larisa turned and called out to one of the other healers. "Can I take a little break?"

"All right. Thirty minutes."

"Thank you. We can talk in the garden; I could use some air."

"It's really crowded in there," Anakin commented.

"I know. They've been taking the worst of the injured here, the ones with head injuries mostly." She glanced back at all the patients. "We need to make a little stop first."

"All right."

They left the healers and ducked into one of the storage rooms. Larisa dug out an injector and prepared a stim shot.

"Should you really do that?" Anakin asked, glancing at the doorway.

"Don't worry. I'm not letting it affect the baby."

"The... baby? You're having another baby?"


"When did this happen?"

"Oh, about six weeks ago." She smiled and laid a hand on her stomach. Another couple weeks and I'll have to start wearing gowns again.

"That's great! Congratulations."

"Thank you." They continued on down to the garden. "So, what did you want to talk about?"

"I'm in big trouble."

"Okay...What happened?"

"Well, it all started back on Alderaan..." Anakin began with Prince Bail Organa, and ended with what happened with Padme. "You've got to help me."

Larisa stared at him in dismay. "Anakin! How could you?"

"I did what I had to. Now we need to find a way for me to see Padme alone when she arrives."

"We? Anakin, what you did was wrong. You have to tell Obi-Wan and the Council."

"Just who's side are you on, anyway?" Anakin demanded, angry at being made to feel guilty again. "You're supposed to be my friend!"

"I am! Look, we'll both go talk to them about this."

He glared at her. "No! They can't ever know about this!"

Larisa gasped when something started squeezing her throat. This couldn't possibly be happening. "Ani..."

"Promise me you won't say anything."

"Stop!" She squeaked, white spots dancing before her eyes. She looked wildly around for help before passing out.

Anakin jumped to his feet when she fell off the bench. What the hell am I doing? He knelt down and used the Force to wake her. "I'm sorry! I didn't mean to do that! Are you all right?"


"Obi-Wan's always lecturing me about my lack on control," he said, in a weak attempt to make light of what happened.

"Does he?"

Anakin swallowed nervously. There's only one way out of the mess he just made. "Listen, you're not going to remember any of this," he began, putting a hand on her shoulder.

Knocking his hand away, she finally lifted her head. "Do not try that trick on me, boy."

"Huh?" He lost his balance and fell onto his rear. "Are you sure you're okay? What's wrong with your eyes?"

Bane rose and looked down at the Jedi Padawan. "You're the one who's going to forget this."

Anakin climbed to his feet. "What's the matter with you? I said I was sorry."

"Don't be. You should never apologize for getting what you want."

"I... I think I'd better call a healer."

"No. You're not calling anyone," Bane said, reaching out with the Force.

"Uhnn..." Anakin staggered back a step, suddenly feeling very dizzy.

"I'll help you with Amidala. Now, you are going back to your room."

"Huh?" He shook his head. "I'm sorry. What were we talking about?"

"You were telling me that you and Padme are to marry."

"Oh, right. I'd like you to come to the wedding."

"Of course."

"Great! I'll try to stop by before Obi-Wan and I leave again," Anakin said, and went back inside.

Bane turned and walked further into the garden. He found a remote spot and knelt down. This was rather risky, but he did not have any other choice at this time. Sinking into a deep meditative trance, he sent out a call through the Force. *Return to Coruscant now*

As faint as the reply was, he could still make out the surprise in Maul's voice. *Yes, Master*

Bane ended the contact and stood. There were some problems that needed to be taken care of, starting with those annoying restrictions the Jedi had placed on Larisa. He paused by the door and looked down at her body.

Little fool, Bane thought. You have inconvenienced me for the last time.


"Hm?" Ki-Adi turned around, his access card in his hand. "Hello, Larisa. How have you been?"

Bane reached out, seizing the Jedi's mind in a crushing grip. "You are going to let her leave the Temple tomorrow."

Mundi leaned heavily against the door, dropping the card.

"Let her leave the Temple tomorrow," Bane repeated, exerting more of the Force on the Cerean.

"Leave... tomorrow..."

"When is Amidala due to arrive here?"

"In twenty minutes. Hangar sixteen."

"Her shuttle will land in hangar fifteen. Understand?"

"Hangar fifteen." Mundi nodded.

"Good." Bane released the Jedi.

Ki-Adi shook his head. "What did you say."

"You dropped your key."

"Oh. Yes." He bent down and picked up his card. "Was there something you wanted?"

"I merely wished to inquire about how you are. It must have been very difficult for you, losing your Apprentice."

"Yes, it has been. Thank you for your concern, Larisa, but I will be fine."

"Of course." Bane bowed mockingly to the Jedi and left him to his business.

"I see you're right on time," Bane observed when Anakin showed up. "Your Padme should be here any minute, and I've made sure the other Jedi will arrive late."

"Good." He glanced nervously out over the city. "I think it'd be better if she didn't see you here,  Larisa."

"Very well." Bane moved to stand behind another nearby ship, out of sight. Amidala's Nubian cruiser arrived two minutes later.

Anakin fidgeted, waiting for the ship to set down and the landing ramp to lower. Padme came down first, followed more slowly by two handmaidens. "Umm... Hello, Padme."

"Hello, Anakin," she greeted, sounding friendly enough towards him. "Is Obi-Wan here?"

"Uh... No, not yet. Why?"

"Oh, Ani. I have to speak to him; we parted on the most horrible terms."

"And that's the only reason you came here?" Anakin asked.

"Yes, of course. I couldn't bear to lose him as a friend." She looked towards the elevators. "Perhaps we should go find him."

"Obi-Wan should be here any minute," Anakin told her, smiling in relief. Thank the Force his 'suggestion' still held, and Padme was saved from making a huge mistake. He turned when an elevator door opened and his Master stepped out, along with Councilor Ki-Adi-Mundi. "There he is."

"Could have sworn it was hanger sixteen," Mundi was grumbling.

"We all make mistakes now and then, Councillor." Obi-Wan stopped and bowed to them, not really surprised to see Anakin there. "Amidala. Padawan."

"It is a pleasure seeing you again, Amidala," Ki-Adi said. "You are welcome to stay the night at the Temple."

"Thank you, Councillor. I think I will." She turned to Obi-Wan. "Can we talk in private? Aboard my ship?"

"All right," he agreed, after a nod from Mundi.

"Let's go, Padawan," Mundi said when Anakin hung back, watching them head up the ramp. "You'll see her again later."

"Yes, Master," Anakin said absently, looking back over his shoulder as they walked towards the elevators.

"Would you like a drink?" Amidala asked, stopping if front of the bar in the main room.

"No, thank you. I'm fine."

"All right."

"What did you want to talk to me about?" Obi-Wan prompted when Amidala just stood there.

"I didn't come here to argue," she finally said. "I'm here because your friendship is very important to me, and I don't want to lose it."

"Is that all we'll ever be?" he asked, resignedly, sitting down on a cushioned bench. "Just friends?"

"I'm very sorry, Obi-Wan, but I simply don't feel that way towards you."

"You don't think there's the slightest chance of that changing?"

"No, I really don't." She came over and sat beside him. "You'll find someone, someday. I'm sure of it."

"If you say so," he said with a faded smile.

"I do." Amidala reached out and grasped his hand. "It will happen, Obi-Wan. I'm sure of it."

Obi-Wan looked away, out the window. "Councilor Mundi's decided on a smaller gathering tonight, rather then the usual banquet."

"My trip here was a little short-notice," she confessed. "But actually, I would prefer something simpler."

"Mundi will be pleased to know that."

"Will Anakin be there?" she asked. "I'm looking forward to seeing him again."

"Yes, he will. I doubt anyone could keep him away, even if they tried," Obi-Wan remarked.

Amidala smiled. "He is persistent."

"That he is. Your quarters should be ready by now."

"Wonderful. Will you walk with me?"

"Yes, of course."

Obi-Wan stood and escorted her back down the ramp and into an elevator, exchanging small talk along the way. He left her and her handmaidens at the door, then went back to his room to try to meditate over his life.

"Thank you again for inviting me," Amidala said between the main course and dessert.

"You are always welcome here," Depa replied, glancing out of the corner of her eye at Obi-Wan. He'd acted so distant during the meal, and she wondered what was troubling him.

"Yes, you are," seconded Anakin, sitting to Amidala's left. "I wish you could have come here more often, before...."

"Before the war began," she finished for him, a somber expression on her face. "I've heard that the Chancellor has ordered more systems to send part of their fleets to join the Republic Army. Is it true?"

Ki-Adi nodded. "Yes. The Army's resources have been severely depleted. Those ships are needed badly."

"At least the Mandalorians haven't made any further advancements," Depa said.

Anakin settled back in his chair when dessert was brought out - some kind of fruit plate. If there was one thing he didn't miss about Temple life, it was the fruit that was served on a daily basis.

"How is it?" he asked once Padme had taken a bite.

"Mmm... It's delicious," she enthused.

Good." He turned back to his own plate and forced himself to eat with more enthusiasm, pushing the plate away after the last bite. "Would you like to go for a walk in the garden?" Anakin asked after Padme was done with hers.

She smiled brightly at him. "That sounds lovely, Ani. I'd love to."

"If you'll excuse us, Master? Councilors?"

"Go ahead," Obi-Wan said, waving a hand in his Padawan's direction.

"Yes, of course you're excused," Depa added, giving Obi-Wan a questioning look.

"Thank you."

Anakin helped Padme out of her chair and took her arm as they left the private dining room.

"Obi-Wan, may I speak with you?"

"Hm?" He looked over at Depa, then nodded. "I suppose so."

Obi-Wan stood and followed her into a small side room.

"Are you all right? You seem... troubled tonight."

"I'm fine. I just..." He shook his head and slumped down onto a chair. "I've been thinking."

"About what?"

"Nothing; just about my life. And about how I don't want to spend the rest of it."

Depa sat down in the chair next to his. "And how is that?"


She blinked at that. "Why would you think you'd be alone?"

"Because right now it seems that I'll always lose the people that I care about."

"Obi-Wan, you know that that's not true!"

"Today I almost lost one of the few friends I have," he continued.

"But you didn't," she quickly pointed out.

Obi-Wan shrugged. "Not yet, but it will happen eventually."

"What makes you say that? Have you had some sort of premonition?"

"No, nothing like that. It's just how my life has gone so far. Why would it change now?"

Depa frowned and sat back. Obi-Wan was obviously in a deep depression. "What do you truly want, Obi-Wan?"

"It doesn't matter."

"Of course it does," she countered. "There's absolutely no reason for you to live the rest of your life alone, unless that's what you truly want. If that's not how you want to live, then don't. It's your decision to make, no one else's."

"You make it sound so simple..." Obi-Wan trailed off.

"The simplest things are rarely the easiest."

He nodded in acknowledgment. "Yes, Master. I know."

"Good." Depa nodded in return and rose. "Force, this has been a long day."

"Yes, it has been," Obi-Wan said, standing as well. "Are you all right, Master?"

"I'm fine. A little tired, that's all. Please consider what I've said, Obi-Wan."

"I will," he promised. "Good night, Master."

"Good night."

If only there was some way to help the troubled young Knight, Depa thought. And this dreadful war only made things worse, for everyone. She sighed in dismay and went back to her quarters to check on her Padawan.

"It's a beautiful night out," commented Padme, after yet another awkward silence stretched out between them.

"Yes, it is. But it's a little chilly. Are you warm enough?" Anakin asked, ready to offer her his robe.

She smiled at his concern. "I'm fine, Ani. Thank you."


He was trying to think of something else to talk to her about when one of her handmaidens called out to them from the Temple entrance.

"One moment," Padme answered, then turned back to Anakin. "It's late and we're going back to Naboo tomorrow morning."

"I wish you could stay longer."

"So do I." Ani's certainly grown into a charming young man, she thought. She looked up, expectantly, when he started to bend down towards her.

Anakin froze up for a second, then pressed his mouth against hers, pulling back almost immediately after. He flushed, as embarrassed by his obvious lack of experience as by the look of disappointment that crossed across her face. "Padme, I..."

"It's all right, Ani," she said in a soothing voice, which had the opposite affect on him. "Good night."

"Good night."

"Good night," Padme said again, then turned and went inside.

Now why did I have to go and ruin it like that? Anakin wondered, wanting to kick himself. All the other Padawan probably knew how to kiss properly. Why do I always have to be different? Well, by the Force, that's one thing that's going to change right now.

He tucked his hands inside his robe sleeves and marched back into the Temple, up to Larisa's room.

"Hi. Can I come in?" Anakin said the moment the door opened.

"Anakin, what are you doing here? It's late."

"I know, but I really need your help."

"All right," Larisa said, yawning as she let him in. "What's the problem?"

"I kissed Padme tonight."

"You did?" She smiled. "That's great!"

"No, it's not. She hated it!"

"She did? Why?"

Anakin slumped down onto the sofa. "Because I did it all wrong, that's why."

"Oh. So you're not very good at it."

"But how would I know? I've never kissed anyone before."

She blinked in surprise. "No one?"

He shook his head. "No. No one. That's what I need your help with. Could you..."

"Wait a minute. You're telling me you've never kissed anyone?"

"I know how ridiculous it sounds, but it's true." He sighed and looked down at his boots. "My Master always looks so disapproving if I say more than 'Hello' to someone."

"Obi-Wan's not the friendliest of people," Larisa admitted. "But I don't see how I can help you with this problem."

"Well, that's easy. You could show me how it's done."

Larisa's mouth dropped open. "What? Are you serious?"

"Of course!" Anakin said earnestly. "You've had a lot more practice at it than me."

"Not really. Not since... since Obi-Wan."

"Huh? What about Master Koth?"

"No. Zabraks don't kiss." She shook her head. "There must be someone else you can ask."

"Nope. I could ask Master Billapa, but..."

"I don't think she'd appreciate it." Larisa smiled. "There's her Padawan."

"Zyrid? Force, no! I'd rather kiss a Wookiee than her!"

"All right." She laughed. "Come sit down."

"Thanks." Anakin sat next to her on the sofa. "I really appreciate it."

"Maybe you could show me how you kissed her," Larisa suggested when he hesitated.

"Okay." He learned forward and brushed his lips against hers, barely touching them.

"That's it?"

"Not exactly," Anakin muttered, his face reddening. It's like kissing a sister, if he had one that is. Get it together, Skywalker, he told himself before trying again.


"I'm sorry! Are you okay?"

"I think so," she said, checking to make sure her lip wasn't split. This wasn't going well at all. "I think you'd better let me do it."

"Yeah. Okay."

Larisa leaned forward and kissed him, and Anakin stiffened a moment before gradually relaxing. He hesitantly moved his lips against hers, and she teased them open with her tongue.

"Mmm..." She broke it off half a minute later when she ended up on her back on the sofa. "Anakin..."


"Would you let me up, please?"

"Oh. Yeah. Sure." He sat up and moved back.

"That wasn't so hard, now, was it?"

Anakin grinned. "No."

Larisa smiled back. "All you need to do, really, is just follow your instincts."

"Yeah," he muttered, his expression clouding. "But I don't like what they tell me sometimes...."

"What do you mean?" she asked, curious.

"Nothing." He stood. "I'd better go; I'm supposed to be meditating right now."


Larisa got up and walked him to the door. "See you tomorrow."


Anakin whistled quietly to himself as he walked through the hallways, looking forward to seeing Padme again tomorrow before she left.

He dressed quickly the following morning and hurried over to Padme's room to catch her before she left. One of the handmaidens admitted him.

"Good morning, Anakin." Padme sent her handmaidens on ahead before walking over to him, a bright smile in her face. "I was hoping to see you again before we left."

"Well, here I am," he said, grinning. "So you're going home?"

"Yes. For a while, at least."

"You never did like fighting battles."

"No, I don't, but... Sometimes there's no way to avoid it."

"Yeah." Anakin quickly changed the subject. "Would you like an escort?"

"Yes, I'd like that very much, thank you."

"You're welcome."

He opened the door for her and they made their way to one of the elevators.

It's now or never, Anakin told himself as the elevator began its descent. He reached out and stopped it between levels.

"Ani?" Padme looked at him quizzically. "What are you doing?"

"Giving you a proper goodbye." He boldly pulled her into his arms, lifting her chin up and covering her mouth with his.

"Mph.." She gave a start of surprise, then leaned into the kiss, her arms encircling his waist.

They were interrupted when the elevator suddenly began moving again.


"They do that when they've been stopped for more then a minute," Anakin explained, disappointed. "Some kind of security measure."

"A wise precaution, in most cases," Padme remarked as she tried to make herself more presentable.

"Yeah." He grinned, using the Force to repair her elaborate hairstyle.

"Thank you, Ani." She smiled up at him as the door opened.

"No problem."

They both put on serious expressions as they entered the hanger, seeing Obi-Wan and Depa Billapa standing by the ship.

"Good morning, Obi-Wan. Councilor," Padme said when they reached the two Jedi.

"Amidala." Obi-Wan bowed, not surprised that his Apprentice had accompanied her. "I'm surprised to see you without your handmaidens."

"I decided it wasn't necessary, Obi-Wan. I feel very safe here."

"Of course."

"I hope that the next time you visit, it will be under better circumstances," added Depa.

"So do I."

"Maybe we could come visit Naboo again sometime," Anakin suggested in a bland voice. "You wouldn't mind, would you, Master?"

"Not at all, Padawan," he answered. "But I don't think it will happen anytime soon."

"Yeah," Anakin agreed, wishing there was a way to get rid of those Mandalorians once and for all. "Goodbye, Amidala."

"Goodbye, Ani. Obi-Wan, Councilor."

"Farewell, Amidala," Depa replied, glancing curiously between her and Padawan Skywalker. Something had happened, she could sense, between last night and this morning, but it would be far too rude to inquire.

They all went back inside once the ship was gone.

This is certainly taking a long time, Bane thought, waiting in a shadowed corner while one of the Creche Masters' assistants soothed a fussy child. He waited until the Apprentice was gone before making his own exit, striding quickly out the door and towards the elevators.

Fortunately, there were no further delays in leaving the Temple. Otherwise, he'd have had to seek an outlet for his annoyance, and that would have been risky.

"I have been waiting," Maul growled out when Bane arrived on the roof of the Cerean Senator's private residence.

"So I see. Here." Bane handed him the latest acquisition from the Temple creche. "Have there been any... problems?"

"None that cannot be dealt with," he responded, barely glancing at the child. "What has taken so long? It has been weeks."

"It was unavoidable."

"Was it?" Maul's eyes narrowed in concentration, then widened. "Another one? What possible purpose does that serve?"

"None. This was not part of my plan."

"So... You're not in complete control after all."

"I never claimed to be," Bane replied. "Her bond with the Zabrak has made things more difficult, but not for much longer."

"What are you going to do?"

She gave a faint smile. "I will destroy her, and the Jedi are going to help me do it."

"The Jedi?" He frowned slightly. "What do you mean?"

"There are seven more children that I have chosen, but they will have to wait four months."

"How am I supposed to pick one out of so many?" Maul asked, giving up on trying to get an answer to his question. Whatever Bane had planned would be revealed in time.

"Train as many as you wish, Lord Maul," she said in a disinterested voice.

"What? Only two at one time. You created that rule yourself," Maul reminded, confused and angry.

"Because it was necessary. Besides, your former Master would think nothing of breaking it himself, if it furthered his own goals."

"That is..." he broke off, unable to finish that denial.

"That is the last one for now," Bane continued, nodding towards the child. "The rest will be retrieved in about four months."

"Yes, Master," Maul muttered. Four months of boredom, with nothing to do but wait for a Sith spirit to deign to show itself? No. Bane said nothing of my having to restrict myself to Korriban.

"No, I did not," she said, interrupting his thoughts. "You may do whatever you please, as long as you are cautious. Those children must begin training as soon as they're old enough."

"I will be careful," he swore, anticipating some Jedi-hunting in the immediate future.

"Fine. Just be ready to return to Coruscant in four months."

"I will, Master."

This is quite different from being Lord Sidious' Apprentice, Maul mused when he'd returned to his ship. And I do believe I'm getting used to the freedom of coming and going as I wish.

He secured the child before taking off, his thoughts now on which Jedi to eliminate first. The obvious choice was him, the Padawan that defeated him on Naboo and was now a Knight. But Kenobi spends most of his time either at the Temple or with Republic generals, making it nearly impossible to get close to him.

I shall simply wait for an opportunity to present itself, and kill whatever Jedi I come across in the meantime.

"Padawan Skywalker, there's a transmission for your Master from the Supreme Chancellor."

"He's in a meeting right now. I'll take it.


"I said I'll take it," Anakin repeated, irritated. Does everyone think I'm only here to run errands?

"Yes, sir."

The officer bowed and hurried off, and Anakin went to the conference room to receive the transmission.

"Chancellor," he greeted.

"Skywalker," Palpatine replied. "I understand you were in an accident recently?"

"Oh, that. It wasn't serious. Just a damaged wing. I'll be back in a pilot's seat tomorrow."

"I'm certain the Jedi understand and approve of your modest ambitions, being content to remain a pilot while your Master works alongside General Rancisis."

"Uhh... Thank you, Chancellor," Anakin said at length.

"Did you have a message for my Master?"

"Yes, I did, as a matter of fact. Would you please let him know that more reinforcements are on their way?"

"I'll give them the message. Thank you, Chancellor."

'Modest ambitions'? Anakin thought, barely paying attention to the Chancellor's goodbye. Just what did that mean, anyway? That I'm not smart enough to learn battle strategies? Well, we'll just see about that!

He marched upstairs to where the meeting was being held, knocking once on the door before going inside.

"Yes, Padawan?"

"The Chancellor's sending more ships, Master."

"Good. We need as many as we can get." Obi-Wan gave Anakin a curious look when he remained where he was. "Is there anything else?"

"No, Master, but I am asking to be included in this meeting, and all others from now on," Anakin stated emphatically.

Obi-Wan hesitated, looking at him quizzically, before giving a brief nod. "All right."

Satisfied for now, he took a seat at the table as they continued debating which planet might be liberated next.

"These ones are ready to be moved to the Alderaanian Embassy." Master Ulizr directed five of his assistants to a room, where a number of recently healed patients were, before going into another one further down the hallway.

He walked down on of the aisles between rows of beds, looking on approvingly at the Knights at work. Everything was going very well here. Ulizr reached the far end of the room. "And how are you today, Larisa?"

"Huh?" She blinked up at him from her seat next to a sound-asleep patient. "Um.. Fine. She's going to be fine."

"All right. Now, how are you?"

"I'm all right," Larisa muttered, trying to hide a wince.

Ulizr caught it, however, and frowned. "Is it time?"

She sighed. "Yes, I think so."

"When did the pains begin?"

"A few minutes ago. I wanted to get done here first," she explained when his frown deepened. "I was going to go to the other room... Soon."

"Well, now is soon enough," he declared, helping her up from the chair.

"Okay." Larisa looked down the long aisle. "Is there a shorter way?"

"Yes, there is," Ulizr said, taking out his access card and unlocking the door behind them. They reached the birthing room and she was quickly settled into one of the cubicles.

"I wish Eeth could be here," she sighed, watching him administer the sedative.

"I know you do, but he cannot walk away from his responsibilities."

"Yeah..." Gritting her teeth as another contraction passed, Larisa closed her eyes and waited for the drug to take effect.

Ulizr sent a brief message, checked to make sure she was unconscious, then activated the medical droid and stepped back to oversee the procedure.

Depa Billapa entered the room a short time later. "Ulizr?"

"Over here."

"I can assume there weren't any problems this time, either?" she asked, going over to the cubicle his voice had come from.

"None at all," he replied, tending to the new arrival while the droid injected Larisa with a stimulant. "I can say right now that there's nothing wrong with his lungs."

"That's certainly true," Depa said, raising an eyebrow at the baby's hollering.

"Mmm...." Larisa stirred and opened her eyes. "Loud..."

"That he is." The volume rose a notch and Ulizr handed him to her.

Shh.... she mind-whispered to him, hoping it would work, and it did. He quieted down and stuck his thumb in his mouth.

"What is his name?" Depa asked.

"I haven't given him one yet. I'm going to wait 'til Eeth's back."

"All right," she said, smiling again. "I'm sure he'll be back soon."

"I hope so." Larisa dropped her head on the pillow and closed her eyes.

"Why don't you rest here a while," Ulizr suggested. "You can go back to your quarters when you're ready, and we can run the usual tests on your son."

She gave a small nod and handed him the baby. "All right."

He turned off the overhead lights and, stepping out of the way along with Depa, pressed a button, closing off the cubicle. "Where is Eeth, by the way."

"Somewhere in the Kabaira system." She smiled in exasperation. "He's been sending messages every three hours this past week."

"Indeed you should." Ulizr chuckled. "I'll give you the report on this little one as soon as it's completed."

"There's no need to rush, I think. He looks to be in excellent health." He also looks very much like his brother, she thought.

"Yes, Larisa's made sure of that."

"What do you mean?"

"It's not important. You'd better go give Eeth the news."

Depa looked at him a second, puzzled by his remark, before nodding. "He's probably left another message. Goodbye."

"Goodbye, Depa. Now, young Koth, let's get you checked out," Ulizr said, wrapping the baby in a small blanket and taking him to the next room. He made a protesting noise, then stuck his thumb back in his mouth and promptly fell asleep.

"Have you heard back from Eeth?" Larisa asked three days later.

"Yeah, I have, but unfortunately he's not able to return to the Temple at this time."

"Any idea when?"

"No." Depa hesitated, deciding just how much to tell her. "There's a chance Kabaira will be lost to the Mandalorians."

"Ohh..." Larisa bit her lip and held the baby closer. The war had been going very badly for the Republic Army the last couple of months. It hadn't helped that that quite a few Jedi had been killed recently, some of whom that been helping leave the Army fleets.

She'd even heard a rumor that a few of those deaths had been under suspicious circumstances, but found that very hard to believe. The Jedi were surely safe among the Republic forces. Why would any of them want to kill a Jedi?

"Thank you for getting in touch with Eeth," Larisa said, wishing for the tenth time that day that she could use their bond to reach out to him. But he had asked her to refrain, in light of Kabaira's vulnerable position, and she wasn't about to risk distracting him.

"It's the least I could do," Depa assured her. "I also sent those holo-pictures of the baby you'd taken. Eeth was very pleased."

"Mm... Good," she said, smiling brightly as she got up and put her son down in his bed. "I hope Eeth'll be back before he starts walking."

"I'm sure he will. And now, I must be going. Temple business awaits."

"Okay. Goodbye, Depa."

"Goodbye, Larisa."

"Here you go." Larisa set the rattle down next to her baby and went to lie down. At least our bond lets me know Eeth's still alive and well. She closed her eyes on concentrated, not trying to reach out, but just letting herself feel what he was feeling. He's asleep, she realized, smiling. A good idea right about now, since the baby's settled down again.

She cleared her mind of every worry and dozed off.

Time to finish my work, he thought, getting up from the bed. He paused, staring coldly at the creche bed in the corner, before walking out the door.

This was not an ideal time to be walking around the Temple. Bane worked his way through groups of Padawans and Knights, maintaining a calm demeanor when he was forced to stop now and then to exchange greetings. It was just past the noon meal hour, and the hallway was crowded.

He stepped around a pair of Padawans and headed for a side corridor, away from the noisy chatter. There were less Jedi in this hallway, but still too many for comfort. The trip to the creche was going to have to wait a little longer.

Bane walked quickly down another side corridor and went to the garden. Reaching out with his Force senses, he searched for and found an empty area, well away from the other visitors, who he was careful to avoid. He made another sweep of his surroundings before kneeling, entering into a light trance. Lord Ragnos.

A few minutes passed before Ragnos appeared. "Time is growing short for you, Bane."

"I know. That is why I must ask for your help. Yours and the others."

"What do you need from us?"

"Lord Maul is not yet ready to defy his former Master..."

"He may never be as strong as Sidious," Ragnos interjected.

"All the more reason he will need protection." Bane turned to face the Sith. "Sidious must not be allowed to interfere."

"We will see to it that he does not," it agreed at length, then abruptly vanished.

A female Jedi, dressed in the color of a healer, emerged from a stand of trees. "Hello, Larisa."

Bane took a moment, scouring Larisa's memories, before answering. "Knight Meylii Ciral."

"Yes, I was finally sent back," she said with a smile. "I've healed more back injuries than I'd ever expected to see in a lifetime."

"If you're not too busy, I was hoping to see the new baby?" Meylii continued when Larisa made no reply.

Bane looked up, scanning the sky before answering. "I am not."

"Wonderful." She followed when Larisa swiftly rose and started towards the Temple entrance. "What's his name?"

"He does not have one yet."

Meylii frowned. Larisa sounded as if she couldn't care less. "Is there something wrong?"

"No. You specialize in spinal injuries?" Bane questioned.

"Yes, I do, but... You already know that, don't you?" she asked as they entered an elevator.

"Do I?"

"I'm not sure anymore..." This was very confusing. Larisa wasn't acting at all like herself. Perhaps she's been ill. "How have you been?"

"Fine. How are you and... Giron, was it?"

"Oh, we're doing very well." Meylii smiled wistfully. I just wish he'd been sent back to the Temple as well. I miss him already."

They stepped out of the elevator and entered her quarters. Meylii wasted no time going over to the creche bed. "Well, hello there. May I?" She glanced at Larisa for permission, who shrugged, before picking him up. He immediately began fussing. "I think he's hungry."

"It will be fed later."

"What?" Meylii jerked her head around, her grip on the baby tightening in surprise. Larisa had a... contemptuous look on her face. "What is the matter with you?"

Bane hissed and approached the Jedi. "Put the whelp down."

"You..." Her eyes clouded and she nodded, placing the baby back in the bed.

"You did not find Larisa in the garden. Understand?"


"You're going to come back here in two hours."

"Two hours. Yes." Meylii turned and walked out the door.

Bane waited a full five minutes, ignoring the child's whimpers, before doing the same.

"Good morning, Larisa."

Larisa stopped a few feet from the elevator and turned around to greet Ki-Adi-Mundi. "Good morning. How have you been?"

"I'm fine," he replied. "I've also heard that Eeth will be returning to the Temple."

"Uh-huh. He'll be back in three days, and you'll be getting a name," Larisa added, tickling the baby she held in her arms.

"He's certainly grown this past week," Ki-Adi commented, smiling at the giggles.

"M-hm. I'm taking him to the healers for another check-up." She looked back up at Ki-Adi. "Is anyone else coming back?"

"We're expecting Masters Yoda and Plo tomorrow, along with about two hundred others who have been fighting in the war the longest."

"Oh. Well, I'd better be going or I'll be late. See you later, Ki."


Larisa took the elevator down to the healers floor. There had been a flood of new patients from the war in recent days, the less gravely injured being sent to a nearby building to be tended to, and the early morning was the only time of day they could spare for conducting routine examinations.

"Good morning, Meylii."

"Larisa. You're right on time," she replied, coming forward to take the baby from her. "And how's this young man?"

"He's fine - not throwing things as much."

"Good." Meylii chuckled as she began the usual tests. "Less toys found in the garden."

"I think he was trying to hit the ships that fly overhead," Larisa said, smiling down at him.

"Now that would have been an interesting sight."

"M-hm." She sat down in one of the chairs. "Can I ask you a favor?"


"I heard that there'll be a lot more patients arriving tomorrow, and I'd like to help with them. For a few hours, at least."

"Hmm. You'll have to leave your son in the crèche first. Children this young shouldn't be left unattended for that long a time."

Larisa nodded. "He usually takes a nap in the afternoon, so there shouldn't be any problems."

"All right," Meylii agreed. "I'll include you in the group of healers we're sending.

"Thank you," she said, then yawned.

"He's been keeping you up at night?"


"There are ways of dealing with that."

Larisa nodded. "I know, but I don't like to use the Force just to keep him quiet."

"Well, his sleep pattern should start changing in another week or two, as his brother's did."

"They are a lot alike, aren't they?"

"Yes, very much so." Meylii finished up and handed the baby back to her. "I think you should go get more sleep," she advised when Larisa rubbed at her eyes.

"I will, after our visit with Vareth."

"And how does he feel about having a little brother?"

"Oh, he's thrilled!" Larisa grinned. "Talks about it all the time, the creche Masters say."

"It won't be long before they'll be able to play together," she said, smiling back.

"Uh-huh. Well, I'd better go. Don't want to keep Vareth waiting."

"Indeed. Goodbye, Larisa."


I wonder how Vareth would like a few more siblings, Meylii thought, chuckling to herself as she went to check on some patients.

I will see it in ruins one day, Maul thought, looking at the Jedi Temple, only a mile away from where Bane instructed him to wait. And speaking of Bane...

Sensing the other Sith's approach, he turned around. "Two of them?"

"Yes. These are the last ones. Where is your ship?" Bane asked when he made no move to take them. That didn't come as a surprise. Maul was uncomfortable just handling one infant.

"This way."

"Return here after you've taken them to Coruscant. I have one more task for you.

He looked back over his shoulder. "What task?"

"Tomorrow you are going to kill a Jedi Master."

Another member of their High Council, perhaps? Maul reached the Infiltrator and pressed a button on his wristlink, lowering the landing ramp. "Which Jedi? Windu?" he asked once they were onboard, eager for a rematch with the Council leader.

"No, one of the other Councilors." Bane placed both infants in a small bed bolted to the floor; a temporary concession Maul had made. "Either the Cerean or the Kel Dor - I haven't decided yet. You'll find out tomorrow."

Kel Dor or Cerean... Maul speculated over who he would be battling as he left Coruscant. Plo Koon was a formidable opponent, more so than most of the Jedi Masters, but the Cerean would not be easy to defeat either.

Whichever one it will be, I shall take a few assassin droids with me on the way back to Coruscant, to practice with. When tomorrow comes, I will be ready.

"Mace was well when I spoke with him two days ago," Plo Koon assured Depa, who had been waiting in the hanger waiting for him. "The situation in the Sumitra Sector is deteriorating. The Chancellor has indicated what he's working on a plan to drive the Mandalorians back to their homeworld, but-"


Plo stopped in his tracks, trying to discern the source of the unfamiliar voice he heard inside his mind. Who are you?

If you wish to know the Sith Master's identity, come to the old Coruscant Opera building. Alone.

"Plo? What's the matter?"

"Someone just spoke to me, offering to reveal who the Sith is," Plo told her.

Depa gave a start of surprise. "What? Who?"

"I don't know, but he wants to meet with me at the abandoned Coruscant Opera House, and told me to come alone."

"Which you are not going to do, of course."

He nodded. "I'm going to take two Knights with me, and I'll let you know if I find out anything substantial."

"If I don't hear from you in ten minutes, I'm going to send more Knight over there," Depa decided.

"All right." Plo pulled out his comm link to summon the Knights.

Force be with you, Depa silently added as she went back inside.

"There are two others with him," Maul growled, sensing their presence through the Force.

"Yes, I was expecting that. Leave them to me. Your only concern is the Kel Dor. This is the last time we will speak, by the way," Bane added, then took three steps back and sat down on the floor just as the front doors opened.

Plo Koon took in the tableau in one glance. The Sith clone which they presumed had been disposed of, was standing over Larisa Doril, lightsaber lit and ready to strike. He immediately Force-threw the Sith away from her.

Colliding with one of the broken chairs that had been left behind, Maul recovered in an instant and whirled to face the Jedi Master, who now stood between him and Bane.

"Get her out of here," Plo ordered the Knights behind him, "and alert the other Councilor's that the clone still lives."

A clever ruse, Maul thought, half-watching the unsuspecting Knights help 'Doril' to her feet and escort her outside. He pulled his attention away from their imminent fate and engaged Koon.

Slower than the others he had faced, Koon relied mainly on his physical strength, which was considerable. Maul nearly lost hold of his lightsaber when the Jedi parried the blow.

Reassessing his strategy, Maul attacked again, opting this time for lightning-fast strikes. Plo deflected the first two, avoided the third, then used the Force to knock his feet out from under him.

"Surrender," Koon said emotionlessly, his blade hovering in front of the clone's face, "and the Council may let you live."

Maul responded with a Force-shove of his own and sprang to his feet, then sliced in half a table leg as it flew towards his head.

Koon took that moment to look around the hall, taking note of every potential weapon. Like the discarded vibrohammer that had just been flung at him. He used the Force to knock it aside before meeting the Sith's next assault, and the battle continued.

This was not going to end quickly, Maul realized, backing away from the Jedi. Either his blows were blocked by the Jedi's own blade, or turned aside, using the Force. It was going to take some time to wear down the Kel Dor. He circled his opponent again, searching for any kind of weakness, when something distracted the Jedi.

Plo was patiently waiting to see what the Sith clone tried next when a movement near the doors caught his attention. He cast a brief glance in that direction and was shocked to see Doril standing there. Where were the others? And what were they thinking, letting her come back in here?

"Get out now," Plo snapped at her, barely countering the next attack.


Foolish girl! Did Larisa think she could help somehow? She didn't even have her blaster!

This is taking far too long, Bane thought, watching the flashing lightsabers a minute longer before coming closer.

"What are you doing?" Plo demanded, pushing the Sith back and turned towards her.

Bane chose that moment to reach out with the Force and rip his facemask off. Caught completely by surprise, the Jedi Master staggered back.

Angered by the interference, Maul slashed through Koon's midsection and stormed over to her, grabbing her by the throat.

"Let go!"

He tightened his grip before shoving her away. "You had no right! He was mine to kill!"

"Then perhaps you'd like to explain why you ignored such an obvious weakness?" Bane continued when he made no reply. "There are many ways to kill, Maul. Not just with a lightsaber."

Maul glared back. "How I chose to fight is my decision."

"That may be, but there are more Jedi on their way here at this very moment. You have to leave now."

"Yes, Master," he growled, deactivating his lightsaber. Resentful that he was now forced to flee Jedi, Maul stalked towards one of the back exits.

Bane glanced down at the Jedi's body, and in the direction of the still-operational security camera, before leaving as well. Lord Maul would learn soon enough that honor had no place in war.

Stunned, Depa sat frozen in her seat, having just watched the fight that had been recorded by the camera the Jedi found. "I can't believe it."

"Believe it," Ki-Adi answered, leaning forward to turn off the holocron. "Those two are obviously working together. She also killed Knights Tyvel and Laih'r.

"She's been lying to us from the very beginning."

"Yes, and it's going to end right now," he stated harshly, rising. "Ulizr said he sent her to the Ithorian Embassy with some of his healers, and the tracking device confirmed her location. I'm going over there now."

"I'll inform the other Councilors, though I don't know what to tell them, let alone Eeth."

"Just say that there's an emergency. We can explain everything when they get here. They'll want to see the evidence for themselves, anyway."

"La... She'll have to be heavily sedated until then."

"I've already taken care of that," Ki-Adi assured her.

"Be very careful," Depa urged as he stood up.

"I will. Force willing, she won't suspect anything until it's too late," he said, then strode out of the Council Chamber.

The five Jedi Ki-Adi chose as backup - two Masters and three Knights - met him in the hanger and they boarded the small shuttle.

How many other deaths is she responsible for, he wondered, his anger growing the closer the ship got to the Embassy. It landed to one side of the building, and Ki-Adi turned to his fellow Jedi. "Wait here," he instructed. "I'll call you when I need you."

"Yes, Councilor Mundi."

There is only serenity, he recited in an attempt to calm himself before entering the Embassy.

"Master Jedi." One of the nurses, an older human female, immediately noticed him and came over. "May I help you?"

"Yes. You can tell me where to find Larisa Lady Koth."

"Oh, Larisa's on the ninth floor," the nurse said, showing him to the elevators. "I must say, she's the fastest healer I've ever seen."

She persisted in accompanying Ki-Adi up to the room, much to his annoyance, and announced him. "Lady Koth, there's another Jedi here to see you.

"All right." Larisa covered her patient with a blanket before standing and walking over to him. "Is something wrong?" she asked, looking puzzled by the expression on his face.

"Is something wrong?" he repeated, hands fisting at his sides as he struggled to control the sudden fury. He started to turn away, then struck Larisa across the face, sending her crashing into a large supply cart.

"What are you doing?" the nurse shrilled, starting towards her.

"Nothing! You did not see this," he commanded, using the Force to cloud the woman's mind. Blank-faced, she turned around and went back the way she'd come.

Ki-Adi reached down and yanked off Larisa's necklace, scattering small pearls everywhere, then pulled out an injector and administered the sedative. He fastened a dark metal collar around her neck and stood, calling the two Knights to come in and collect her.

"Mace and Eeth will be here in about three hours," Depa announced from the doorway of the healers' room. "Yoda and Saesee are on their way back as well, but the others cannot leave their posts at this time."

"Half the Council will be sufficient in deciding what must be done."

"Yes." She hesitated before joining him at the foot of the bed. "How is it that someone so evil can seem so innocent?"

"The Dark Side is deceptive."

"Did she resist?" Depa asked, noticing the bruise on the side of Larisa's face.

"No," he said, looking away as he answered.

"You hit her?" she exclaimed, alarmed. "Ki, we must not give in to our anger."

"It will not happen again," Ki-Adi insisted.

Depa look at him a moment before nodding reluctantly. "Did you want to go back to your quarters? I could take over here."

"Yes, I would, thank you. If she starts to wake, have Ulizr give her a larger dose," he added on his way out.

Depa pulled up a chair and sat down. Speaking of anger... She slipped into a light trance to banish her own negative emotions and meditate, staying alert for any sign of movement from Larisa all the while.


"Mace!" She jumped up, surprised at how quickly the time can go by when meditating. "How long have you been back?"

"Ten minutes, at least. Long enough for Ki to show us what that camera recorded."

"You and Eeth? How is he?"

"I don't know. He didn't say much, and left the room before I did."

"I think I know where Eeth might have gone," Depa said, looking back at the bed.

"Go ahead," Mace told her. "I'll have her restrained until Saesee and Yoda have returned. Tomorrow morning, this will all be over."

"Not soon enough," Depa muttered, hurrying out the room and taking an elevator down to the crèche. She first went to where his new son was kept and was told he'd already been there and gone. Next was Vareth's room. As expected, Eeth was standing beside the bed. "Eeth?"

"Depa," he responded, head turning a fraction.

"What are you doing?" she asked, cautiously walking over to him.

"Thinking." He looked back down at the sleeping boy. "I don't sense any Darkness in him."

"And you're not going to," Depa declared. "They're more your sons than hers, Eeth. Even she knew that, I think."

"Force willing, I hope that's true," he said quietly.

There will never be a good time for this, she thought before broaching the next subject. "Your bond-"

"Will have to be dissolved," Eeth finished. "I'll have one of the healers do that."

"Can you wait until Saesee's back? Our strongest mind healers are off-planet, and there's no reason to put you through more pain than is absolutely necessary."

"Yes, I can," he said at length. "But if you don't mind, I'd rather not attend the meeting."

"It would be better if you didn't," she agreed, sympathetically.

"Thank you."

Depa tried to think of something more to say to him when Vareth woke up. "Eeth!"

He threw off the blanket and fairly leaped into his father's arms. She couldn't help but smile when Eeth caught him and held him tightly. "It's been a long time, hasn't it, little one?"

"Long!" Vareth emphasized, peering over Eeth's shoulder at her. "Depie."

"Depie?" Eeth inquired.

"His nickname for me."

"Ah." He shifted his grip so Vareth faced him. "So, what have you been up to?"




"He's begun taking levitation lessons," Depa explained. "I'll let him tell you all about it. Good night, Eeth."

"Good night, Depa."

"'night, Depie!" Vareth chimed in.

"Good night, Vareth." She looked back at the two of them before closing the door behind her.

Back in her own quarters, Depa reviewed all the information they had on Larisa Doril. It was now impossible to discover just how much was a fabrication, thanks to that avalanche. That gave her pause. Was it just a coincidence, or had it been caused deliberately?

There was no way of knowing now, unless Larisa admitted to murdering all those innocent people, which she very much doubted would happen.

Sighing, Depa turned off the computer and checked the time on the chrono. Rather early, but I have to be rested and alert in the morning.

She got up and bid Zyrid good night, then made two cups of jeru tea to help herself relax before retiring.

Even then, sleep was a long time in coming.

Groaning, Larisa opened her eyes and stared up at the circular ceiling above her. It took a moment to realize she was in the Council Chamber. What happened? She rose to her knees, looking around in confusion at the Council members who stared coldly back. "What-?"

She winced and reached up to heal her bruised jaw, and almost fell over at the pain that shot through her skull. Fighting back a wave of nausea, she pressed a hand against her head, noticing a metal collar on her neck.

"I don't recommend you try that again," Mace Windu said.

"Those collars are very effective in preventing prisoners from touching the Force," Ki-Adi added. "In fact, that is the same one we used on Aurra Sing when she was executed."

"You... killed her?" Larisa stared at him in disbelief.

"That is the traditional punishment for those who kill a Jedi."

Enough of this, Mace thought, sitting forward. Time to get this unpleasant matter over with. "Larisa Doril, you have been judged guilty of murder, and..."

"What? What are you talking about??" she interrupted. Bewildered, Larisa looked for Eeth, but his chair was empty.

"Do not think you can turn him against us," Depa warned.

They're all crazy! Larisa reached out to Eeth through their bond, her eyes widening in horror when she was rebuffed.

"Help you he will not."

She turned and stared at Yoda.

"As for that bond..." Mace looked over at Saesee, who stood and approached Larisa.

"NO!" Realizing his intent, she turned and made a dash towards the door. Saesee grabbed Larisa by her braid and yanked her back. "Oww!"

"Stop resisting," he ordered, giving her a shake when she scratched at his wrists.

"Leave me alone!" Larisa reached out to the Force, trying to prevent what was about to happen and almost fainted from the pain. Then she felt her bond with Eeth snap. "Nooo..."

She slumped against Saesee, then fell to her knees when he pushed her away. Larisa struggled to stay conscious, but something was pulling her under.

Depa almost jumped out of her Council chair in surprise when Larisa collapsed. She could barely feel her presence now. "What happened? Is she breathing?"

Saesee knelt down to check. "Yes."

"Perhaps a healer should-" Depa broke off, astonished, when Larisa suddenly rose to her feet and slowly looked around at the Council members present. "Larisa?"

A pair of gleaming black eyes met hers.

"No. You'll deal with me now."

To be continued...

The Passion of Maul