Disclaimer: Not mine, they belong to Mr Lucas, I'm just borrowing them for the reader's amusement so don't sue, you won't get anything out of a penniless student like me.
Author's Note: This is not for the squeamish, nasty experiments ensue, so be warned, well okay just the one. To quote one of the nice people who gave Feedback; "MOREMOREMOREMOREMOREMOREMORE!" So here it is-
Rating: PG 13
The cold permeated everything. He could not shiver but he felt the edge of icy air right inside his bones. Stretched out on an operating table, numb limbs strapped securely to the metal surface, he was completely immobile. Even if he had the strength, his drug-addled brain could not pull together enough co-ordination to induce movement.
Maul hated the cold; the silence, the scientist and his experiments but what he really despised were the drugs. He detested his constant state of delirium. His inability to think straight was driving him slowly over the edge of sanity. He wanted so badly to be able to feel the pain of the instruments the scientist used, as a reassurance that he was still alive. He would give the world just to be able to feel something.
The scientist had been working on him for a solid week now. Poking, prodding, and examining every inch of the former Sith lord. Today he seemed to be working on the right arm. Maul strained to see what the scientist was doing - he suddenly wished he hadn't. Closing his eyes, he tried to forget the image of his flesh pulled open like a book, a multitude of metal pins securing his flesh to the table, the white of his bone starkly contrasting with his blood. He had never been able to see what the scientist was doing when he spent endless hours poring over various parts of Maul's body. He had however noticed a long pink scar running down his calf. He dreaded to think how it appeared when he'd spent an entire day sprawled on his back while the scientist had a biology lesson on Maul's spinal column.
Maul tried to concentrate on his breathing. The slow intake of breath, in, out, in, out. It worked for a few minutes but his foggy mind wandered like a lost soul. He couldn't keep his thoughts on one subject for more than a few minutes. Endurance was a talent he'd mastered a long time ago, thanks to the painful lessons his master pressed upon him, but he'd never had to experience a state like this. Concentration was everything to a force-user and without it he felt terribly off-balance and out of control. His master had left him to suffer this state as punishment for his failure. He could not have come up with a more hellish torture.
Qui-Gon stared out at the star field in front of them. The ship they had stolen had been left unguarded for a reason. No long-range communication, little means of defence, and the navigation systems had been severely damaged. It had taken a few days for them to get their bearings without a star chart, but they were finally on the right course and they would reach Coruscant within a day.
At the moment Qui-Gon's thoughts were on the Sith they had left behind. The Zabrak had helped them escape, and in their hour of crisis they had abandoned him. The Jedi master had spent many hours reflecting on their actions. He wondered if it was because they were no longer in touch with the Force, being bereft of such a calming influence that they had not felt as obliged to rescue the Sith. If this were true could it be that the only thing that kept a Jedi's morals in check was the Force. It weighed heavily on his mind that since they had so far been unable to remove the Force-inhibitors, he could not reconcile himself to their hasty decision. Qui-Gon shook his head with a smile, he was getting far too philosophical in his old age, and this train of deduction was counterproductive. That theory held no conviction; otherwise he would not be feeling the guilt that ate at him.
A hand on his shoulder startled him and he turned to see his Padawan looking very concerned. "Maa .." Obi-Wan croaked at him. The young man had obviously started to regain his voice. The days of silence would thankfully be over soon.
Qui-Gon smiled and urged his apprentice to try again.
"Maa . . . st." The end came out as more of a whisper. The strangled tones reminded Qui-Gon of the time Obi-Wan's voice had broken. He patted the boy's shoulder supportively.
"I. ." Obi-Wan smiled, then coughed. "I can . . ." Both of their throats felt raw and dry from disuse. "How. . are you?" Obi-Wan beamed triumphantly.
Qui-Gon shrugged, he didn't know how he was. He decided to ask about the force-inhibitors. He pointed to the back of his neck where the lump of the chip was located.
Qui-Gon nodded understanding. He knew it annoyed the boy to be without the Force and he had spent most of his time trying to find a way of disabling them without causing any damage. But Obi-Wan was no doctor; he lacked the medical skills to perform any kind of surgery. Though it didn't stop him from trying.
"We . . ." Qui-Gon choked on the word, never so relieved to hear the sound of his own voice, even if it was a little toad-like. "We. . need to go . . . back." He coughed against the tickling sensation in his throat.
"What?" Obi-Wan looked shocked.
"The. . Za-brak."
The young man's face dropped. They hadn't tried to communicate about the Sith since they'd left Darvin Four but Qui-Gon had obviously given it a lot of thought.
"We. . have to. . res. . cue."
"No, we have to get back to Coruscant." Obi-Wan spoke slow and hoarsely. His tone gave away his annoyance. Before his master had another chance to speak Obi-Wan stormed away.
Qui-Gon sighed. He was in no mood to argue with his Padawan, he didn't want to strain his rehabilitating vocal chords so soon. It also bothered him that they weren't even able to keep a hold on their tempers. Being without the Force was like being out of control of their emotions. He returned to wondered about the Sith.
"Well Zabrak, are we ready for another day? I think I'll start on you respiratory system today." The scientist smiled congenially at Maul, his fingers moving quickly to tap on the controls to Maul's cell. He did this every morning. He'd make some polite comment, announce what he'd be working on today, and then flood the cell with a sedative gas. He never used Maul's name, addressing him only as 'Zabrak' or 'Sith'. He only ever called him 'Sith' when Maul was in a particularly humiliating position, a mockery of his former status.
Maul lay back on the bunk enjoying the warmth of the specially conditioned cell; it would be hours before he was returned here, so he tried to make the most of it. The gas swirled around the cell like a thick fog. It went against Maul's nature to inhale but in truth the sooner he did, the easier it was. Too many times he'd fought against it, panicking, getting extremely worked up, but he realised it was inevitable, that the scientist would sedate him and continue the experiments. He resigned himself to the existence he would live out on this place. An endless string of tests and examinations, until the grand finale when the scientist had gathered all the information he could from Maul. He would be terminated, his corpse incinerated like old waste. Certainly not the glorious end he wished for, but an end all the same.
"Obi-Wan." Qui-Gon was calling him hoarsely from the front of the shuttle. The Padawan rubbed his eyes as he pulled himself off the cramped bunk. He rubbed his stiff shoulders, searching the cabin for his discarded robes. What he wouldn't give a change of clothes. They'd been wearing same smelly, filthy robes since they left Tatooine, all those eons ago. He wondered what the Queen was doing now, if she had reached Coruscant safely, if she had made her case to the Senate, if she had saved her planet.
Something more than admiration filled his heart at the thought of the young queen, who had won his respect with her strength of character and ferocious tenacity.
"Obi-Wan." His master called again. He pulled on his Jedi uniform and walked out to where the older Jedi was piloting the ship. He gasped with joy at the sight of the city planet closing in on them.
"I thought you'd want to know." Qui-Gon was smiling to himself.
"You changed your mind?" Obi-Wan rested a hand on his master's shoulder.
"Sort of. I still believe in rescuing the Zabrak, but there's no point doing so until we get rid of these blasted Force-inhibitors."
Obi-Wan rubbed the lump self-consciously. He wanted so badly to feel the Force again, it hurt.
Qui-Gon turned his attention to the navigation, as he began their ascent into the atmosphere.
"Qui-Gon Jinn!" Yoda called out to them as they exited the shuttle. "Good to see you again it is! Worried the council was!"
"Master Yoda, we are very glad to be back, and we'll be even happier once we have been reconnected to the Force."
Yoda nodded, leading them inside the Temple. A few of the Council members were waiting inside, including Mace Windu who greeted Qui-Gon with a warm embrace.
"Good to see you old friend!" The Jedi Master smiled as he patted Qui-Gon on the back. "However did you escape the slavers?"
"With a little help from a friend." Qui-Gon replied cryptically, as they walked towards the medical bay. "I promise I will relay the entire tale to you as soon as these inhibitors are removed."
"Of Course." Mace smiled and inclined his head towards the door where the healers were waiting.
As soon as consciousness came to him he felt the ebb and flow of the Force swirl around him. Like an old lover it wrapped itself around him, kissing the wounds of his body and his heart better. He wanted to cry with joy but the Force's soothings calmed his stormy heart.
Master He heard Obi-Wan's voice in his mind, the warmth of the young man's thoughts reaching out to him through their reforming bond.
Padawan He answered, opening his eyes as if for the first time. His apprentice was smiling down at him.
"I take it the operation was a success." Mace Windu stood in the doorway of the infirmary, where Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan were sitting.
Qui-Gon took a deep cleansing breath, a small tranquil smile edging across his lips.
"If you are feeling up to it, the council would like to see you both. We have much to discuss."
Maul was stretched out on his pallet, a woollen blanket wrapped around him. The cold had won out. He had developed pneumonia from being exposed too often and had been excused from further tests until his health improved.
His breathing was rasped and congested. The constant coughing had made his throat ache. Staring at the blank white ceiling, he wished his mind to stop throbbing. He was thankfully free of the drugs. Though a drip feed of antibiotics and nutrients kept him drowsy, at least his thoughts were not as clouded as usual.
To soothe himself to sleep he tried a meditation. He pictured his home world - two warm suns baking the arid landscape, a dry wind rustling the desert grass and the scent of prey hanging in the air. The thrill of the hunt had always calmed him as a tempestuous youth. Concentrating his mind on the prey, moving on instinct alone, was when he felt truly at peace. Memories of a life long buried in his past lulled him into a serene sleep.
"Are you sure about this Qui-Gon?" Mace Windu stood on the docking ramp, his arms folded in front of his chest. The stoic councillor stared at his friend waiting for an answer.
"I could not be more certain." Qui-Gon replied confidently. "By the Force, I know this is what I must do. I could not continue to be a Jedi in good faith if I left this man to such a fate." Qui-Gon had spent some time meditating on his decision since being reacquainted with the Force and had told the Council in no uncertain terms that he was going to rescue the Zabrak.
"The council appreciates your feelings on the matter, but he is still a Sith. What do think this will accomplish?"
"Of that I cannot be certain. All I know is that without his help we would not have escaped. We owe him his freedom."
The councillor nodded reluctantly. "Safe voyage to you, my friend."
Qui-Gon took Mace's hand, gripping it tightly. He turned and made his way onto the small ship.
Obi-Wan was waiting for him in the cockpit. "Are we ready to leave Master?"
"Yes." Qui-Gon took his seat next to Obi-Wan, watching the Temple's docking port glide slowly away from them. He sensed great contentment in his Padawan to be behind the controls of a ship with the Force again. The master sat back as Obi-Wan smoothly piloted the ship clear of the atmosphere, then up into the star field.
"Tell me Obi-Wan, do you agree with my decision to rescue the Zabrak?" He had wanted to hear the young man's feeling since the Force-inhibiters had been removed.
"I understand your wish to pay our debt to him, and I apologise for acting so harshly before when we were without the Force . . ."
"There is no need to apologise, it was difficult for both of us to function without the guidance of the Force." He laid a reassuring hand on the young man's shoulder.
"Master, if I may speak candidly, I fear you will be disappointed by this man. You seem to forget that his purpose on Tatooine was to kill the queen. He has been conditioned to hate us because we are Jedi and I do not doubt his only wish in life is to destroy the Order." Obi-Wan had turned to face his master as he spoke his mind, but now returned to the controls, a little embarrassed at the zeal of his convictions.
Qui-Gon took a deep breath and smiled. "Logical as ever, my Padawan. You are of course correct to think that." He noticed a trace of a sheepish smile cross Obi-Wan's lips. "I simply wish to offer this former-Sith the opportunity to change."
"And if he refuses?"
"We shall cross that bridge when we come to it."
"Master, we have arrived." Obi-Wan's voice stirred Qui-Gon from his sleep. He was awake and alert in minutes.
"Have you detected the laboratory?" He stood behind his apprentice looking at the read-outs from the planet below them.
"There is only one settlement to be found." Obi-Wan displayed the scans he'd made of Hoth's surface. "A large complex on the southern hemisphere, heavily guarded, but without satellite sensors they will be unable to detect us or our descent."
Qui-Gon nodded approval at the information. "How far from the complex are we going to land?"
Obi-Wan's fingers tapped the controls to display an image of the complex then zoomed out to show a mountainous terrain surrounding it. "I've found a cliff-face to the north of complex where we would be sheltered from their sensors. It will take us about a two hours to cross the terrain to the lab."
"Alright. I'll prepare our snow gear." Qui-Gon moved to the back of the ship where their equipment was stowed.
"Zabrak!" The angry voice of the scientist awoke Maul with a start. He lifted himself off his bunk and waited to find out what had the usually calm man so agitated.
"Do you know what our sensors picked up a few minutes ago!" The scientist demanded.
Maul wondered if he was supposed to know to the answer.
"No, I do not." Maul spoke quietly and calmly, contrasting the scientist's irritation.
"My security system has found two life signs moving slowly in this direction. Two humanoids. Do you know anything about this!"
"No." Maul sighed and lay back on his bunk.
"If you think for a second that I am fooled by your Sithly deception, you are very much mistaken." The scientist paced back and forth in front of the force field. Maul listened to the quickened pace of his feet. "I have not invested this much on the most competent security in the quadrant to allow a pair of your fellows to get within my walls. You can forget whatever rescue you have planned, there will be no escape for you, Sith!"
Maul frowned at the scientist's words. How in the galaxy could he have orchestrated an escape from the inside of a cell. No doubt these two humanoids were lost travellers or tourists, or simply prospective scientists inquiring about the Zabrak study. A faint smile appeared on Maul lips. Maybe he was being fought over, maybe they wanted to steal him away from Hoth to do their own studies. What kind of fools would come all the way to an icy hell like Hoth for him?
Obi-Wan waited for his Master to assess the structure before they made an entrance. The complex was a low building covered with a thick layer of snow but sheltered by the mountains that surrounded it. They had made the difficult trek through the ice and snow to the back of the structure.
"I believe we should enter through the back." Qui-Gon pointed to a large doorway, probably used as a way for ground vehicles to enter. A few guards milled around, but nothing a pair of trained Jedi couldn't handle.
Obi-Wan followed his master down the slope to the entrance, retrieving his Lightsabre from his belt.
When the guards saw their approach they opened fire. Qui-Gon deflected the volley but sped up his approach. They reached the entrance to find the guards were calling for reinforcements. With the stealth and speed of the Force to aid them they deflected all the shots fired and pushed the guards back into the hallway they had come from.
While Qui-Gon advanced on the guards, Obi-Wan went to a computer terminal. He found a map of the complex, indicating all the various rooms and their function. There in the middle was the main laboratory. He used the force to break into the surveillance system, calling up the display of the lab. There in black and white he was able to see the layout of the room, including a holding cell where a dark figure lay on his back. Zooming in, it was clear that this was the person they'd come for.
"I know where he is." Obi-Wan called to Qui-Gon.
Reproducing the map of the complex, Obi-Wan pointed out the shortest route to the lab.
"Lets go through the air duct." Qui-Gon indicated to a small shaft high up the wall. He used the Force to push a large container closer to the wall for them to stand on.
Obi-Wan went first, climbing into the tight air vent. He let the Force guide him through the unlit passage until he came to another vent cover. He used his Lightsabre to cut through the metal grating, then slipped through the hole. As he waited for his master he was alerted to another battalion of guards stomping through the corridor. Without hesitating Obi-Wan Force-pushed them backwards and into a large room. He thrust his Sabre through the door controls. They wouldn't take long to cut through the metal door, but it would at least hold them for a while.
Qui-Gon, exited the hole and glanced in Obi-Wan's direction. He recalled the map of the base and began to run in the direction of the lab. He was met with a group of about twenty guards waiting outside the laboratory.
"Halt, come no further or we will fire!" One of the guards shouted.
"You will not fire." Qui-Gon waved his hand as he spoke soothingly to the guard.
"We will not fire." The guard replied slowly.
"You will put you gun down." Qui-Gon didn't look away from the guards as Obi-Wan caught up with him.
As many as five of the guards in front put their guns down.
"He's using a Jedi mind trick!" Someone shouted form the back. "Fire!" Collectively the group began to fire.
Both Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan worked in perfect tandem, repelling the volleys until nearly all of the guards were shot. The remainder began retreating into the entrance of the lab.
The Jedi followed them in, stopping in the entrance to assess the situation. A further twenty heavily armed soldiers stood in wait.
Obi-Wan centred himself, with a deep breath, then began to work alongside his Master, twirling and thrusting his Lightsabre with liquid grace. The men went down with ferocious bravery, some running up to the Jedi trying to fire at point blank range, but were no match for the Force.
Once the majority had been dispensed with Qui-Gon, approached the remaining few. "I give you a chance to walk out of here alive. Leave now and do not return." He announced.
The final few hesitated momentarily but soon put down their weapons and ran for the exit.
"No! Cowards, all of you!" A lone voice cried out from behind a large canon. "You will not take my Zabrak alive, thieving Jedi!"
Qui-Gon immediately recognised the old scientist who had purchased Maul at the slave auction on Darvin Four.
"Master!" Obi-Wan shouted, pushing his master out of the way as a large blot of energy shot in his direction.
The two Jedi rushed to hide behind an upturned metal table as the scientist continued to fire at them.
"I will draw his fire away while you go and deactivate the canon." Qui-Gon whispered. In a flash he was up, running across the large laboratory. Obi-Wan crept along by the wall, towards the canon. He noticed the manic scientist was doing just as his master had predicted, directing all his firepower at the moving target.
Obi-Wan was briefly distracted as he crossed the force field that held the Sith. The dark skinned man sat on the bunk staring straight in front of him, a frown creasing his demonic visage.
Obi-Wan wanted to say something to the Zabrak, to tell him they were here to rescue him, but was alerted to the fact that the scientist had slowed his assault.
"I have you now Jedi!" The old man's shrill voiced teased the air. Obi-Wan realised that Qui-Gon had stopped his running. The scientist was aiming the canon at a large overturned storage cabinet.
Obi-Wan was close enough to see the scientist aim the weapon directly at the cabinet and increase the power to a force high enough to blow a crater in the ground around the target. Without a second thought Obi-Wan thrust his Sabre through the old man's chest.
The scientist slumped over controls. A cauterised hole burnt right through his heart.
"Master!" Obi-Wan called out, picking his way through the wrecked lab. He found his master slumped on the ground, leaning against the storage cabinet, a hand covering his bleeding hip.
"Help me up." The master asked calmly.
Obi-Wan pulled him up and supported him as they made their way over to the holding cell.
Maul sat rigidly on the edge of his bunk. He did not even look in their direction as the two Jedi came near.
"We have come for you, Maul." Obi-Wan said as he began to deactivate the shields.
"Who are you?" The Zabrak asked coldly.
"Maul, do you not recognise us?" Qui-Go asked as he limped into the cell.
"Your voice is familiar, who are you?" Maul's frown increased and both Jedi sensed his discomfort.
"Maul . ." Qui-Gon came closer to the man, but stopped suddenly as the Zabrak looked upwards. "What did he do to you!"
Obi-Wan nervously moved closer on hearing his master's words, but quickly drew a sharp breath when he saw the tattooed man's eyes. A pale film covered the once fiery pupils, rendering them a sickly shade of beige.
"He wanted to see how adaptive my eyes were to ocular diseases."
Obi-Wan noted the bitter acceptance in Maul's voice, and couldn't help feeling a twinge of guilt.
"Maul, I am Qui-Gon Jinn and this is my apprentice Obi-Wan, do you remember us." Qui-Gon's used a soft tone of voice.
"How could I forget." The former Sith Lord scoffed.
"Come with us, we have a ship waiting. Can you walk?" Qui-Gon asked, taking Maul's hand to help him up.
"Yes." Maul stood slowly with Qui-Gon's help. "Is one of you bleeding?" He asked sniffing the air.
"I was shot, but the damage is not too bad." Qui-Gon told him as he limped out of the cell.
Maul followed the Jedi out of his prison but hesitated at the threshold.
Obi-Wan turned to see him reach his hand out uncertainly to the wall. He walked back to the Zabrak and took his arm, guiding him to the exit, careful to manoeuvre him around the wreckage. He felt the Zabrak shiver under his grip, and noticed goose bumps forming on his bare arms. He wore nothing more than loose grey trousers. "We brought you some thermal wear, you should put them on now." Obi-Wan removed his backpack and pulled out the spare gear he'd brought. He helped Maul put them on over his thin garments. A thick scar running down Maul's spine caught Obi-Wan's attention, but he held his questions for another time. No doubt Maul had suffered a great deal of painful experiments, while they had flown to their freedom.
Maul held on tightly to Obi-Wan's arms and they made their way through the now abandoned complex. He felt terribly vulnerable relying on this young Jedi to help him. He wondered if this was all an extremely vivid dream he was having. Hope of rescue, least of all by the Jedi, had left his mind a long time ago.
"We're about to go outside." Obi-Wan had stopped and let go of Maul arm. The contact returned as Obi-Wan began to wrap a covering around Maul's neck. "Here put this on." Maul felt Obi-Wan pull his arms behind him and put a coat on his back. Maul allowed the Jedi to cover him up with the large ice jacket.
He was then led outside, where the shock of the cold hit his face. He pulled the coverings over his mouths, and trudged alongside Obi-Wan.
"How far is it to your ship?" He asked after a long silence.
"Another hour or more." Obi-Wan replied.
Maul stopped to catch his breath. Hours sitting in a cell had robbed him of his strength, and the harsh weather conditions were wearing him down.
"We can stop for a while if you like." Qui-Gon offered.
"There is no need," Maul panted. "I may lack your Force-enhanced strength and stamina but I can manage a little further." He stretched out a hand, reaching blindly for Obi-Wan's arm.
Obi-Wan took his hand and led him onwards.
They reached the ship just before nightfall. Obi-Wan took Maul into the back of the ship, settling him by a heating unit. Qui-Gon sealed the hatch and began removing his jacket. A hiss issued from the older man as he stretched the muscles over the hip.
"Master." Obi-Wan went over to aid the older Jedi. He helped him over to seat and found a med kit. Qui-Gon lifted his clothes up to allow Obi-Wan to bandage the wound.
"What will happen to me now?" Maul asked quietly.
Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan shared a worried glance.
"What do want to do?" Qui-Gon asked as Obi-Wan continued to tend to him.
Maul frowned, rubbing the warmth back into his limbs. "I do not know." He almost whispered.
"We are returning to Coruscant. We will bring you with us, but I must warn you, the Council will wish to interrogate you." Qui-Gon told him.
The former Sith lord remained quiet, his blind eyes dropping to the floor. "I think perhaps you should not have rescued me."
"What!" Obi-Wan's head lifted and he stared in disbelief at Maul.
Maul's gaze remained fixed on the same point as he spoke acceptingly. "It was my master's wish to punish my failure this way. I do not deserve the freedom you have given me."
Obi-Wan opened his mouth to speak, but was stopped by his Master. "Obi-Wan it's time we were leaving this place."
Obi-Wan nodded his head and shuffled silently into the cockpit.
Qui-Gon watched his apprentice's retreating form. He sensed the young man's confusion. They would have to speak at length about this once they returned. "Obi-Wan does not understand you. Though I cannot say I understand much better, I think I know why you do not wish to return with us."
"Oh? And why is that, O wise Jedi Master?" A small smirk appeared on the coloured face.
"After all he has put you through you still respect, or perhaps fear your master." Qui-Gon said, ignoring the other man's cynicism.
"Such is the nature of the Sith." Maul shrugged.
The ship ascended in the air. Once they had resumed a more horizontal trajectory Qui-Gon rose from his seat and paced the confined area, contemplating the man who sat before him. "Do you still think of yourself as a Sith?"
"No. I am nothing but a specimen for someone to study." Maul sounded frighteningly accepting of this fate.
"I don't believe that is true." Qui-Gon stated confidently. "I think you have far more value than you realise."
"Oh no, I realise my value to the Jedi." A snort of derision issued from the Zabrak. "No doubt you would pay dearly for knowledge of my Master, of our Order, or his plans. But I shall tell you nothing, I will not betray him."
"You think that's all you are worth? That you are nothing more than a fount of information for the council to exploit?" Qui-Gon looked at the once proud Sith, remembering his defiance against the slave-trader Kala, or the vigour with which he battled when they first met on Tatooine.
"As I said before I am nothing." Maul spoke quietly and decisively.
"I don't believe you." Qui-Gon told him.
"Believe what you like, Jedi." Maul spoke to him as though speaking to a child.
"Why did you help Obi-Wan and I escape on Darvin Four?" Qui-Gon asked. "You could easily have allowed us to be given to the merchant we were sold to."
Maul remained silent.
Qui-Gon smiled to himself, but pressed on. "Why was that? What made you do it?"
Maul bit his lower lip, as if trying to hold the difficult word in. "You were kind to me." He finally admitted. "You . . .you did not think ill of me because I was a Sith or a Zabrak."
The Jedi Master sat down opposite Maul. "You helped us because I was kind to you?"
"I felt an obligation . . . I owed it to you."
Qui-Gon could see how difficult it was for the former-Sith to make this confession. He decided to use sarcasm to lighten the mood. "Is that what they teach young Sith warriors, to honour their debts to those who are kind to them. Do unto those as they do to you?"
"Not exactly." Maul gave him a small smile.
"I didn't think so." Qui-Gon smiled in returned but realised it went unseen. He thought about the fears Maul had voiced earlier. "I know you don't want to be questioned by the council, to betray or defy your master, but I want to give you a choice. You can return to Coruscant a fallen Sith lord, a prisoner, in chains and steeped in your hate and anger towards the Jedi. Or you can walk off this ship a free man, a good man, who honoured his debts and thought no ill of those around him . . a man I would call a friend."
"A friend?" Maul frowned in confusion, as though the word had no meaning to him.
"My friend, my saviour."
"Saviour!" Maul scoffed. "A saviour is someone who delivers the oppressed or aids a life, I simply distracted some guards. No saviour in sight there.
"As you said I will believe what I like, and I believe there is a good man inside you Maul. I only wish you were willing to allow him a chance at life."
Maul closed his gaping mouth and rested his head against the wall of the ship. "I wish I could see your face, and know that you do not jest. I am so confused by life. One moment I am a powerful Sith Lord, strong and agile, serving a man who will one day rule the galaxy. The next I am nothing more than a slave, a pitiful creature, subjected to the whims of a scientist." He sighed wearily. "You tell me I am a good man and I am free, but free to do what? I am no longer a Sith and I am certainly no Jedi. What place is there for me in the galaxy?"
Qui-Gon felt a great sorrow for this passionate man sitting in front of him, who could have lived so differently if the fates had chosen a different path for him. "It does not have to be so black and white, Maul. Perhaps there is a place for you between the Jedi and the Sith."
"A grey area? You believe in such a thing?" Maul asked, as if talking of a fable or myth.
Qui-Gon considered it. He had always been more in tune with the Living Force that simply the Light side of the Force. "Yes, I believe in it."
"Will your Jedi remove the inhibitor?"
"I think so." He wished he sounded more certain.
"And if I draw the Dark side of the Force to me, what will you think then?"
Qui-Gon saw the challenge in those pale sickly eyes. "I do not think you will be so quick to turn to the dark side after all you have experienced. You are not the same man who wished destruction and death to all the Jedi. You do not wish death upon me, do you?"
"No, I don't." Maul shook his head.
"Would you call me friend?"
Qui-Gon reached out to take Maul black hand in his own. He let the physical contact reassure the Zabrak, in ways that words could not.
Maul stepped out of the ship. The sensation of natural light warming his face was something he had missed dearly.
Qui-Gon held his arm, pulling him gently away from the ship. Somewhere behind them Obi-Wan was following.
Though he could not see them, Maul knew a group of Jedi Master were there to greet the arrivals. His heart raced in his chest, but his thoughts were calm and serene, after his talk with Qui-Gon.
"Qui-Gon, it is good to see you returned so soon." A voice said.
"It is good to be returned." Qui-Gon replied. Maul could not help but smile at the Jedi Master's diplomatic reply.
"I would like to introduce someone." Maul knew this was his cue. "This is Maul. Our rescuer." Qui-Gon told them.
"Actually, my name is Khameir Sarin." He reached his hand out blindly, knowing no other way to convey his goodwill towards them. He smiled warmly when an anonymous hand took it.