Batman: Dark Side by C.W. Blaine

Batman: Dark Side

By: C.W. Blaine (darth_yoshi@yahoo.com)

Batman and all other related characters are copyright © 2001 by DC Comics Inc. and are used herein without permission for non-profit, fan-fiction entertainment purposes only. No copyright infringement is intended.

Darth Maul and related characters are copyright ©2001 by LucasFilm Ltd. And are used herein without permission for non-profit, fan-fiction entertainment purposes only. No copyright infringement is intended.

This original piece of fiction is copyright © 2001 by C.W. Blaine. All comments and questions should be directed to the e-mail address above.

JLA Watchtower, Earth, Present Day:

"We are going to get into major trouble, you know that?" Booster Gold asked Blue Beetle. It had been the seventh time he had asked the question in the past thirty minutes.

The Blue Beetle smiled, his eyes glistening from behind his mask's yellow goggles. Plastic Man had invited them to the Watchtower, for a game of poker that would include not only themselves, but also reserve members Guy Gardner and Captain Marvel. Both Booster Gold and Blue Beetle were hoping to cash in big on the naïve Captain Marvel.

While waiting for the others to arrive, the two heroes had excused themselves to wander about. As reserve members, they weren't given exclusive rights to come to the Watchtower, but they also were entitled to certain privileges once they got there. Ted Kord, the industrialist-sans-genius behind the mask of Blue Beetle had been waiting months to get into the JLA workshop once occupied by former member Steel. Steel was known throughout the super-hero community as a "mad-tinkerer", always working on something big and technical. Kord was hoping to find something useful.

"Mike!" Blue Beetle called to his partner. "Come here, take a look!"

Booster looked to the ceiling and sighed. Any minute now, an active member like Superman or Aquaman was going to come in, pick them up by the back of their necks and toss them into teleporters to send them home. Worse, they would be penniless.

Well, Booster would be; Ted was a millionaire who seemed to be able to make money just when he needed it.

"What is it?" Booster asked as he came around to view the device. It seemed to be a large-scale teleporter.

"I don't know!" Blue Beetle exclaimed, rubbing his hands together with glee. Booster knew that tone in his voice.

"Please, Ted, let's just leave. The cards await my friend."

Blue Beetle waved him off and approached a computer terminal attached to the console. "It's Russian!"

"I can't read Russian and neither can you. Let's go."

"I think this is a light speed velocity indicator; the kind S.T.A.R. Labs uses when they test the Flash's powers." Blue Beetle moved over to a control cabinet and pulled open a drawer. There were circuit boards mounted on the inside. He reached for one.

"Ted!" Booster exclaimed.

Blue Beetle pulled out the card and examined it. "Man! Look at this! Oh, lordy! This is top-of-the-line WayneTech stuff!"

From the hallway outside, they heard two people speaking. The baritone voice of Superman made them stop in their tracks. Booster mouthed a warning to Blue Beetle, who quickly jammed the board back in, not checking to see if he had actually installed it correctly and slammed the drawer shut.

Superman, followed by Green Lantern came walking in. "What are you two doing in here?" Superman asked, arms crossed over the large "S" on his chest.

Both heroes looked down at the floor. "Nothin'," they both said together.

"You losers get out of here," Green Lantern added, using his power ring to conjure up a blinking green exit sign next to the door.

"You're the loser, you Hal Jordan wanna-be," Booster quipped as he exited. Superman and Green Lantern stepped into the passageway after him, with Blue Beetle bringing up the rear.

"Get the lights, Ted," Superman said, as he began to escort Booster towards a waiting teleporter. Green Lantern stood at the ready to receive Blue Beetle.

Without looking, Blue Beetle smacked a wall switch and stepped out. Green Lantern smirked. "You guys don't belong here."

"Your team sucks," came the reply as they began the walk towards the teleporter.

"No, you team sucked! That's why it's not a team anymore, loser."

Blue Beetle stopped and turned to face the younger man. "Hey, Lantern, my fly is unzipped."

Reflexively, Green Lantern's eyes went down to where a zipper should have been on Blue Beetle's costume. Immediately, he knew he had been suckered.

"Hell, we took on Doomsday, sorry little whiny-butt," Blue Beetle commented as a red-faced Green Lantern began their trek again.

Unseen to the eyes of the departing heroes, the machine that had been the subject of study only minutes before, began to hum as electricity poured into it after an inattentive Blue Beetle had accidentally pressed its activation switch. As the internal computer began to run a self-diagnostic, a small spark erupted from the control board that had been placed back incorrectly.

Hidden apartment of Darth Sidious, Coruscant, a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away:

Darth Maul sat perfectly still, drawing the Force in and allowing it to penetrate his very soul. He had recently returned from a mission where he had utterly destroyed the leadership of the intergalactic criminal organization Black Sun. His master, Darth Sidious, was away, carefully inspecting every facet of his master plan to bring the Sith back to power.

Centuries before, the Sith had been a powerful force, a family, in a strange way, that nearly was able to conquer the galaxy. The Republic, though, with it's self-righteous Jedi Knights, had managed to beat the Sith back. For a millennia, the Sith had waited, the traditions of the ancient order being passed from master to apprentice. Darth Maul smiled at the word "apprentice". It meant one with the skill to become a master of the Dark Side. The Jedi used the term "padawan learner"; like a nagdog that has to be trained to relieve itself on the flimsyplast.

His hatred of the Jedi knew no bounds, for they were the ones that deprived his order its rightful place in the hierarchy of the galaxy. The Sith were meant to be the rulers, for they knew what it took to keep the masses under control. The Jedi preached patience and virtue, pacifistic ideals that generally allowed weaker beings to kill the Jedi. The Sith took their power from the hottest embers of emotion they could muster: lust, anger and jealousy. These are what powered a Sith Lord when he went into battle.

And like his brethren before him, Darth maul was indeed a Sith Lord.

Maul stood up and cast his cloak aside. His body, adorned with red and black tattoos, along with the horny projections on his skull, gave him the appearance of a devil of so many legends. He used the Force to call his double-bladed light saber to him. With a snap-hiss, a scarlet blade emanated from each end of the hilt, giving the impression of a battle-stave. The weapon was modeled after the personal lightsaber of the famed Sith Lord, Exar Kunn, and Maul took great satisfaction in knowing he was carrying out the traditions that Kunn had honored.

A mental command, and his trio of small, round spy druids came floating to him. It was impossible for Maul to go outside during the day, even though many of Coruscant's lower levels hadn't seen the sun in thousands of years. The planet was one large city; every single centimeter of land had been built upon and then built up upon. The only exception was the frozen poles, and maul was not about to live there. It was beneath his station as a Sith Lord.

His master called him impatient at times, but said that was merely a sign of youthful vigor. Maul desperately wanted to simply hop onto a shuttle and fly over to the Jedi Temple. He was more than confident that he could kill very single last Jedi. He swung his lightsaber in spinning arcs before him as he imagined Jedi padawans running from him, clearing the way for the "Jedi Masters". Oh, how he longed to lock blades with the likes of Mace Windu and Ki-Adi-Mundi!

Still, his master was intent on keeping them hidden for the time being as he slowly manipulated events. "Why take on a whole army when you can convince someone else's army to do it for you?" his master would tell him. The spinning lightsaber nearly clipped one of the three remote druids. The exercise was simple: try hitting the druids with the weapon, while using the Force to push them out of the way. Because the druids were mechanicals, they were blank spots in the Force, so Maul had to concentrate on the small microbes and mites that were around the druids in order to know their exact location. The druids would push the living creatures out of the way as they moved through the air, creating a path of sorts that Maul could "see" through the Force.

One of the druids got behind him and powered up its small laser to strike him. The energy would not nearly be enough to kill him, but it would dig into the skin and burn a small hole in his muscle and tissue. Maul sensed the death of several bacterium as they were burned by the powering laser and kicked a foot out behind him as he brought the lower part of his lightsaber up to slash at a probe at his ear. Concentrating, he used the Force to push both probes out of the way before either his weapon or his foot could connect. The third droid sensed he was open and moved in to strike, singling out his left eye. Maul moved just in time as the laser glanced off the side of his face.

The wound cauterized instantly and pain shot through the Sith Lord's body. His anger grew into a white-hot curtain and he summoned the Dark Side to him. He felt it feed his anger; just a fuel is fed to a hyperdrive. Suddenly, his perceptions changed and he saw the world truly through the Dark Side. Spinning the lightsaber in one hand, he slashed out at the droid that had attempted to shoot him in the back. The energy beam sliced immediately through the small metallic body. As it exploded, Maul spun the lightsaber down and into an arc. Gathering the Force to him, he back flipped over his own arc, landing and bringing the weapon up and through a second droid.

The last droid's preservation programming kicked in. It was a formidable set of instructions, written by Darth Maul himself. Inside the delicate circuitry of the floating droid, instructions were sent to small transformers that stepped up the power of the main laser.

Maul sneered, yellow, jagged teeth glistening in the dim light of the apartment. A flick of his thumb and the lightsaber extinguished as the droid moved in for the kill. The programming Maul had added to its functions allowed it to thermally scan an opponent and find the portions of the body where the greatest heat was generated. Normally, this would indicate vital organs, such as a heart. Had he been a hapless opponent, perhaps even an accursed Jedi Knight, he would be in great mortal danger, but the Dark Side was his ally and as the droid zipped in on its repulsors to shoot him, Maul brought a black gloved fist up and the droid stopped in midair, caught in the Force.

Maul opened his fingers and then suddenly closed them again and the droid exploded. Maul inhaled the smoke from the droid's demise, relishing in his victory. He would have to program new druids and clean up the mess before his master returned.

Drenched in sweat, he considered stepping into the refresher to take a shower, but the smoke from his prey clung to him and mixed with his own perspiration, and he decided that he enjoyed the smell. He briefly wondered, as he picked up tunic and put it on, if he would be able to smell the dead Jedi mixed with how own odor once he and his master revealed themselves. The thought of finding out made his pulse quicken.

Clad in the robes of his order, his lightsaber hung at his belt, Darth Maul began to step out towards the balcony. The artificial lighting outside was being dimmed, to simulate actual nightfall, and it would be safe for him to step out. He had nothing to fear except discovery. If his true nature were to be learned and passed on to the Jedi, it would compromise his master's plan. Then he would have to deal with Darth Sidious. Darth Maul knew he couldn't win that battle.

Yet.

One day, he knew, he would be the master and he would take an apprentice just as his master had. The problem was finding a worthy apprentice, someone that could be trained and possessed the stability of mind and body to handle all of the gifts the Dark Side had to offer. Many Jedi in the past had turned to the Dark Side, becoming so-called Dark Jedi, but in the end, they were consumed by the Force energies they could not comprehend. Only through Sith training could one learn to harness the real power of the Force. Only a real Sith Lord could command the Dark Side.

Maul knew that he would have to soon seek out an apprentice, for it could take years to train one from childhood to adult. If he could find an adult with the proper mindset…

The Jedi were fearful of training anyone over a certain age, afraid that the fears they had learned as children would compromise their training, leading them to Dark Side. Maul scoffed at the idea. The Jedi were fools, wasting time with curriculums and councils and debates. Age did not matter; potential and willingness did.

Darth Maul was considering going in to dictate his latest philosophy, it was a Sith tradition that every Dark Lord write about their beliefs for others to learn from, when he felt a disturbance in the Force. His hand went slowly down to his lightsaber. The disturbance wasn't something he had felt before, though it was similar to going into hyperspace. Force-sensitive individuals were able to feel a change in the Force as they moved past lightspeed. Maul turned to see a morphing glob of reality twisting before him, as if a stone was disrupting a sheet of water. Was it a new Jedi weapon? Were they here to kill his master?

Darth Maul smiled and reached out with the Force. He felt something coming from the rippling effect, but he couldn't place it. A Sith Lord did not know fear, they inspired it. Casting aside all caution, the Sith Lord stepped up to, then in the ripple, determined to find out what exactly it was.

The Batcave, beneath Wayne Manor, outskirts of Gotham City, United States of America, present day:

The bag was assailed by a flurry of blows from Kevlar lined gloves and boots. Each blow would send it skirting away, held from flying across the room by a single tether hooked somewhere up in the dark corners of the ceiling. Momentum would carry it back to its attacker, who increased the frequency of the punches and kicks. The Batman was only beginning to work up a sweat.

He was trying to adjust his workout routine, basing his new regiment on advice he had received from Connor Hawke, the son of the original Green Arrow, Oliver Queen. Hawke was probably one of maybe five people in the world that could possible defeat the Batman in non-super-powered hand-to-hand combat. The younger man had trained for years in the martial arts at a monastery that Queen had visited on occasion without knowing that one of its members was actually his son. Hawke's simple way of looking at life, the inner peace he had achieved through meditation and study had given him an edge in combat that few could muster.

Batman had to push down and control his anger whenever he was in combat; he had to simulate peace of mind. He had become very adept over the years at fooling himself. Deep inside of him, probably trapped in the double helix of his DNA, lurked a monster that was always trying to free itself from the disciplined control he had maintained for years over his emotions. Most of the time, it was easy; then sometimes it wasn't. It was hardest when he thought of that night so many years ago when a coward armed with a gun shot and killed his parents before his eight-year-old eyes. It was at times like that he could hear the howl of the beast in the back of his mind, the hot flashes of anger that clouded his vision on served to increase the effect.

At those times, the emotions he had felt that night threatened to overwhelm his judgment. He would feel the overwhelming desire to destroy, to rip apart the killer's body, to kick him until his soul bled.

Batman shook his head and saw that he had managed to thoroughly destroy the bag; it's stuffing laid about the floor. His knuckles hurt and he was sure that he had rubbed the skin off of them under the "protection" of his gloves. The breathable material of his costumes was soaked in sweat and he pushed back his cowl to allow the cool, damp air of the cave aid in restoring him to a more comfortable temperature. Connor had suggested that he do all of his workouts in complete costume, since that is what he chose to do his "work" in.

From the smell of his costume, he decided that it had been a bad idea. If he were going to do this, he would have to invest in twice as many costumes. It wasn't that he couldn't afford it, for the face of the Batman, the man beneath the mask, belonged to billionaire playboy Bruce Wayne. No, his problem was that it was a waste of money. The money spent on new costumes just for workouts could be better put towards more noble goals, such as Dr. Leslie Thompkins free clinic in Gotham City, or maybe go towards AIDS research. While he admitted he enjoyed being rich on some level, he did not like the idea of people less fortunate because of circumstance being denied those things others took for granted.

His accountant thought he did it just for the tax write-off. As he grabbed a bottle of water from the small refrigerator next to the main computer, he reminded himself that it was getting late in the year and that he hadn't seen the latest reports from WayneTech on its tax-deductible contributions. Normally, the company CEO Lucious Fox would handle it, but he had been very busy the past year and the Batman decided that Bruce Wayne might have to step in and make sure the right contributions were made on time. Some charities were so dependant upon his company's money that they would shut down without it. He couldn't allow that.

He also made a note to contact his former partner, Nightwing, also secretly Bruce Wayne's adoptive son Richard Grayson. Richard, though he held down a "normal" job as a police officer in the city of Bludhaven, was also independently wealthy from investments made with his deceased parent's life insurance policies. Richard had his own charities he liked to donate to. They were opposite in so many ways. Bruce would tithe to the local Methodist Church, Richard would give to the local Buddhist Temple, explaining that nobody seemed to give them anything and it wasn't right. Bruce would give to the local Right-To-Life group; Richard would hand over a check to a Pro-Choice organization. He was a Republican against the death penalty; Richard was a Democrat in favor of it.

Still, he was his "son", his apprentice for lack of a better word. They both agreed that the defenseless needed to be protected, that justice had to be served out judiciously in order to maintain order in society. They had slightly different methods, but they had the exact same goal. The respect between the two was unshakable.

The Batman was about to send an e-mail to Richard when the computer alarm for an incoming JLA message went off. Batman pulled his cowl back up, knowing that tonight was Plastic Man's planned poker game and not all of the reserve members knew who he was, and used his mouse to click the "receive" button.

The monitor instantly flashed up the image of a battered and bruised Superman. "Batman, is that you?"

Batman could see a small fire burning behind the Man of Steel. The flames were covering a broken piece of furniture. Considering who was going to be playing poker, that wouldn't be such a surprise. The bloody and split lip being sported by Superman was. "What happened?"

"We were attacked," Superman began. Batman thought he saw the familiar yellow boot of Captain Marvel laying just on the edge of the camera's view. "Marvel and Kyle are down, Goy and Plastic Man are working on putting out the fires…"

"Who did it?"

Superman shook his head. "I don't know. He just appeared in the doorway of the meeting room, caught us totally off guard. He didn't even set off the intruder alarms. At first, I thought it might be you in some ridiculous disguise…"

That took him by surprise. "Why me?"

"The way he fought. He was armed with some sort of energy staff that cut through just about everything. It couldn't penetrate my skin, so he attacked me with telekinetic powers. He did something to Kyle, almost seemed like he took over his mind. He's in a bad way. We've asked Mr. Terrific and Dr. Mid-Nite from the JSA to get up here."

"A telekinetic? Could it be a white Martian?" Batman asked. White Martians were able to assume various forms and had demonstrated telepathic abilities in the past. Current JLA member Martian Manhunter was a green Martian. No Martians, to the Batman's knowledge, had ever shown to be telekinetic. "Have you contacted J'onn?" Batman questioned, referring to the Martian Manhunter.

"No, you were the first person I contacted after getting medical help coming."

"Why me?"

Superman took in a deep breath and wiped the blood from his lip. "Because he left here in the teleporter that leads to Gotham City."

East Side of Gotham City, present day:

He found himself hungry, for the first time in a long time. Normally, he ate at regular times, since his routines were perfectly planned out to give him maximum efficiency. The battle he had fought earlier, however, had taxed him more than what he had thought. It hadn't been a fight he could enjoy, though.

The humans he encountered were strong in the Force, especially the two with the capes. Their clothing was strange, but no stranger than some of the outfits a Hutt would dress their slaves in. He had sensed that while the Force flowed through these beings, it manifested itself differently than what it did in himself. The one thing that was abundantly clear was that the Dark Side was barely present in any of them, and the two with the capes radiated so much of the Light Side it almost hurt. What surprised him most was when he was able to land a clear killing strike with his lightsaber on the human in the red and blue and the blade wouldn't pierce the skin.

It was amazing, but not without precedent. There were tales of the Sith that talked about creatures outside the known galaxy that could resist a lightsaber's blade, and some that were even immune to the Force. While this place did not have the same "taste", it still flowed with the Force. He looked up into the night sky at unfamiliar stars. Not one constellation was familiar and he assumed that he had stepped through a hyperspace conduit. Probably some rogue scientist's experiment gone awry.

Retreat was never the way of the Sith, but he had no idea where he was at and the language being spoken was beyond him. He managed to tap into the mind of the one who wielded the ring. That would have been a formidable weapon and Maul made a silent vow to retrieve the object to present to his master. However, the ring-wielder had a strong will and Maul had to end the contact with lethal force. Perhaps the human would live; it was possible if he had a strong mind.

The blue-and-red garbed one seemed to be the leader, and Maul guessed that the strange symbol on his chest was an indication of authority. He reasoned that if he were to obtain a similar symbol, perhaps he would be able to mingle better among the humans of this world.

But there was another problem. All he saw were humans, everywhere, with the exception of strange mammals that seemed to be interested in what was obviously rubbish. A simple gesture with the Force sent them scurrying. They reminded Maul of mynocks. There were also no spaceports, and the humans transported themselves in archaic internal-combustion engine vehicles. The air was polluted, almost as if they had no atmosphere filtering droids working. Didn't they realize that they would eventually deplete their planet of ozone? Were they trying to make it a world suitable only for Hutts?

He decided that the only way to find out was to absorb the memories of someone. It was an ancient Sith discipline that was not without its drawbacks. Those memories would forever be engraved into Maul's mind and the person whom he stole them from would lose them forever. What of all of the humans of this world were immune to his lightsaber? Would he have to resort to using on the Force and his bare hands?

Darth Maul smiled and thanked the spirits of his ancestors for providing him with the opportunity to test himself to his limits before he and his master embarked on their plans of conquest. Here was a world where his lightsaber was useless; here he would have to put his Sith magiks and training to use without the crutch of technology. Perhaps it was his master who had sent the portal in the first place, knowing that Maul would never back down from it. Yes, he thought to himself, this was a test!

Maul opened the side compartment of his lightsaber and withdrew the power cell. Gathering the Force to increase his strength, he crushed it. Now, no matter how tempted he was to employ his weapon, he would be forced to use only the Force and his own muscle. This was the true path of the Sith!

A human, obviously drunken, snorted from under some primitive form of flimsyplast. Maul could sense the Force coming from the man, but it was tainted with something, as if there was a great sadness on the heart of the man. Maul didn't care; it was obvious by his sleeping in the open he was a toss-off from society. He would serve Maul's purposes adequately.

Police Headquarters rooftop, Gotham City, present day:

Nightwing and Huntress eyed each other the way old lovers did when they would rather not be near each other. Batman knew that, despite the major differences in their personalities, the two were highly attracted to each other. Nightwing was here because Batman did not want to take his newest partner, teenager Timothy Drake, the newest Robin, into a battle with someone who tossed Superman around. The Huntress was here because she had heard, somehow, what had happened. Batman wanted to tell her to go home, but then he thought better of it. It would be better to know exactly where she was in this situation.

"I've gotten a complete report from Superman about our quarry. It's apparently a male humanoid, species unknown…"

"It's an alien?" Nightwing asked.

Batman nodded. "Superman couldn't identify the species; I've got oracle working on it, seeing if we can identify it. Whatever it is, it's highly trained in hand-to-hand combat. It had no problem dealing with Guy Gardner. It also appears to have telepathic and telekinetic abilities. It took out Green Lantern and Captain Marvel, so it's dangerous."

"I'll check the docks," Huntress said, turning to walk away. She cast a cold glance at Nightwing.

"No," came Batman's reply. "You can check out the new industrial area."

"Excuse me? I don't work for you…I'm here to help, not to take orders. I'm not in awe of you like your boy wonder here."

He didn't have time for this. If he didn't take care of this problem soon, it could get out of hand. Gotham normally did not cater too well to super-powered criminals. There wasn't enough money here, not like New York or Metropolis. While he knew that most super-heroes respected his "hands-off" rule about Gotham City, Superman was known to violate it once in awhile when he thought Batman couldn't handle it. It was one thing to tell Booster Gold or the Flash to stay out of Gotham City; it was another when Superman came by. He was the "leader" of the super-hero community and they would follow his lead. So long as he kept Superman out of his city, the others would stay away as well.

All so-called super-heroes in Gotham City were required to get the blessing of the Bat before being able to operate. If not, the Batman would simply use his deductive abilities to discover their identity and blackmail them into stopping. He didn't want someone getting carried away and killing someone. Batman had a problem with killing, for any reason.

The Huntress did not.

Whereas Batman kept his inner demons in check, the Huntress did not make such an effort. She had killed without remorse in the past, in the name of what she called "justice". All of the threats in the world could not get her to back off, and so Batman had once tried to "bribe" her by recommending her a place on the JLA. He had hoped that being surrounded by heroes such as Superman and Wonder Woman she would lose that desire to kill.

She hadn't.

On a mission, she had tried to kill the villain Prometheus, resulting in Batman expelling her from the team. Since that time, their relationship was getting more and more strained. He couldn't blackmail her, simply because she knew what Nightwing looked like under his mask, the result of a romantic interlude that still angered batman when he thought about it. It was hard to imagine anyone living in Gotham City not recognizing the ward of playboy Bruce Wayne, but, apparently, Helena Bertinelli, the beautiful woman under the Huntress's mask, had not.

One day she could.

"Today you'll be taking orders or else you can go home," batman said with authority.

She started to speak and she noticed that Nightwing shook his head slightly. She huffed angrily and then headed to the corner of the building facing the area Batman had directed her to. Throwing a line over to the next building, she was gone. Nightwing looked to his mentor. "Why did you send her there?"

"There's nothing there, so she'll be safe. This creature could have killed any one of the JLA members it encountered, including Superman. It might only be reacting to what it perceives as attacks upon its person. Without knowing the species, we're going in blind."

Nightwing rubbed the stubble forming on his chin. "How are we going to take this guy out?"

Batman shook his head. "I don't know, but I don't want it killed, so we keep the Huntress as far away from him as possible. If they get into a fight, she can always use the self-defense argument for killing it."

"Is it that good, as far as combat?"

Batman nodded, a slight smile on his face. "Yes."

Nightwing wasn't sure if the smile on the Batman's face was good thing.

East Side of Gotham City, present day:

Scratching his head, Darth Maul had to take a pause to consider the information he had absorbed from the transient man. It was his own fault, Maul reflected, for using a sub-standard specimen for the process. It was obvious that this man had destroyed most of his memories with intoxicants and only the most remote of intelligence lay within its primitive brain.

Maul had managed to learn a few things about this place he had been sent to be tested. The planet was called Earth and it belonged to no known intergalactic government. There was no Republic, which meant there were no Jedi Knights. However, this world was not alone. There were others worlds known to exist in other parts of the galaxy, and each one had a champion…someone strong in the Light Side of the Force. It was strange, the images and jumbled stories that now resided in Maul's brain. He discovered that the name of the human he had fought on the moon was Superman and that he was not from this world. That made sense to Maul. There were others of his ilk throughout this world; they were called "super-heroes" and "metahumans". All of them represented the Light Side and they were in constant conflict with beings called "super-villains" for control of this one world.

Maul snorted at the idea. Whole armies of Force-adept beings battling for control of one insignificant world?

There was one other thing that seemed to be burned into the memories of the man and that was the name of the protector of this city. He learned it was called Gotham City; not an entirely vile name, though Maul preferred the name of the next closest city: Bludhaven. This city was the domain of a Dark Knight, a human called the Batman.

This Batman, from what Maul could understand, was not like the other humans of this world, yet he was not a so-called "metahuman" and few labeled him as a "super-hero". He worked at night, coming from the shadows and had a veritable army of apprentices that answered only to him. Even the local security forces had to acknowledge his superiority.

The sound of human voices caused maul to step back into the shadows. Observation of the enemy was important when waging a war, and Maul knew that he was in a battle for his honor. He reasoned that this was the final test of his worthiness; perhaps it was an ancient Sith tradition that young Dark Lords be placed into an alien environment where they had to rely on their own skills to survive. Just as Darth Sidious had told him, "One does not rule by a lightsaber, one must rule by their own skill. The lightsaber is for discipline; the mind decides how much discipline is needed."

Maul understood that his test was to take this city from its Dark Knight, to earn the right to bear the chest emblem of the Batman. Emblems were the sign of power on this world, just as Jedi padawans wore a braid to signify their status. Once the Dark Knight was defeated, Maul would present the symbol, a "bat", to his master as tribute and a sign of obedience. Perhaps then his master would let him finally engage the hated Jedi!

The voices became clearer and Maul, from his hidden viewpoint, saw it was a group of five young human males. Maul smiled; no matter where in the galaxy you went, the men of the human race always seemed to congregate into groups, packs if you will, like wild hunter animals. He could sense their intentions, so strong were their emotions in the Force. They had come to cause mayhem, to assault the transient man known to sleep in this alley; a primitive way of establishing dominance in their territory. Pathetic, maul thought to himself; without knowing the Force and embracing the Dark Side, these humans were nothing but bacteria in the scheme of things.

One of the humans, obviously the leader and just slightly younger than Maul, kicked the drunken man, who made only grunting sounds. Maul's processes had removed the man's ability to speak; he was nothing more than a mobile bag of intoxicated flesh. Since these humans were in need of a challenge, Maul decided to give it to them.

He stepped from the shadows, his hood up to cover his features. He knew his appearance would strike fear in them and he wanted to save it for last. "Move away from the man," Maul said in a deep, baritone voice. His accent made the words sound not quite right.

"Who the hell are you?" the leader asked, smirking. He gave the man on the ground another kick while a member of his "pack" searched the man's pockets. "Look what we have here, boys; seems we have a traveling monk or something! Hey, this ain't the set of Kung Fu, buddy!"

Maul took a defensive, yet passive stance, spreading his legs out to shoulder width. For a moment, he desired to have his lightsaber in his hand and that stray thought went out through the Force and he felt the hilt tremble slightly on his belt. Maul took in a calming breath. "If you desire to hurt someone, why don't you try hurting me?"

All five began to laugh and the shortest of the group pointed at Maul. "He thinks he's the Bat!"

One of the other members of the group took a few steps toward the Sith Lord. "Hey, 'Batman', why don't you shove off before we have to put you down…permanently?" the teenager asked, drawing a weapon from his back.

Maul looked at the weapon; it was a primitive slug-thrower. A Sith Lord could deflect blaster bolts with his hands and the Force; slug-throwers were even less of a problem, if one was concentrating. He saw the other youths pull similar looking weapons out and Maul could feel their arrogance and confidence through the Force. As it was even where he had come from, youth brought about a feeling of immortality. His master had accused him of the same thing at various times.

There was a huge difference between Maul's arrogance and the arrogance of these young humans. Maul had the Force as an ally.

Maul brought a hand up and waved it in front of the group and the Force reached out and wrenched the weapons from the hands of his assailants. One fell to his knees screaming and clutching a bleeding hand; his trigger finger had been lost as well.

Before any of the group could respond, Maul reached up and pulled back his hood. His yellow eyes glowed in the streetlight. "Son of a bitch," the leader said backing up. "It's the freakin' devil himself!"

One of the other members of the gang, upon seeing Maul's visage, broke into a run screaming the name "Jesus Christ". Maul threw his arm out, maintaining eye contact with leader, and used the Force to home in on his fleeing prey. It felt good to the Sith Lord to be using the Dark Side so openly again; he had become too dependent upon his lightsaber over the past few years and he had forgotten the joy one could feel by allowing their anger to take physical form.

Just as the fleeing teenager made to the corner of the alley, the Force penetrated his soft flesh, and like a cold hand, wrapped around his spinal cord. With the merest of mental suggestions, Maul ripped the spine out of the escaping gang member and sent it flying over the heads of his comrades. The body simply fell forward from momentum and blood poured out into the street, coating it.

Calling the Force to him, Maul leapt 3 meters into the air, somersaulted and landed behind two of the other gang members. A single blow to the back of the neck to one of them ended life immediately, while the other swung a wild fist towards Maul's face. Maul caught it with one hand and held the arm there, while kicking off the ground, spinning his body and landing a kick into the face of the leader, who had pulled out a simple blade of metal to fight with.

As Maul landed, he pushed arm of his captive attacker up and kicked into the boy's armpit. The boy flew back and slammed into a brick wall. The remaining teenager had picked up a pipe and came screaming at Maul, determined to smash his skull in. Maul sent out a command in the Force, which burned its way into the charging boy's brain. The gang member stopped, took the pipe and began hitting himself repeatedly with it until there was a resounding "pop" as his skull fractured, releasing his primitive brain to the atmosphere.

Maul decided it was time to finish off the leader and he turned to approach him. As he started to move, he felt another presence from above and the Force screamed to him of something approaching fast. Maul whirled and caught a primitive projectile in mid-air. He threw it down and look up in the direction from where it came. He saw a female human, garbed in purple and black standing there. He sensed a deep-rooted anger inside her and he found it …arousing. She had no Force-potential, he could see that plainly in the way she did not stand out against the living Force of the microbes in the air around her, but the hate and hurt that seemed to explode from her very pores made her attractive to the Dark Lord.

Contrary to rumors, the Sith were not perverted rapists who had to satisfy their lusts on any female they came across. Indeed, if anything, the Sith were far more particular in their choosing of mates. A potential mate had to be of correct character and similar disposition in order that sired children would be raised correctly. His master, Darth Sidious, had moved away from that long-standing Sith tradition, much to Maul's disliking. In Sith culture, Darth Sidious was a Revisionist, a Dark Lord that believed the Sith must adapt to the ever changing galaxy; Maul was a Traditionalist, a Dark Lord that believed that a changing galaxy must be forced to conform to the beauty of the Sith way of life. It was only one of many areas where he and his master conflicted.

Still, he respected his master and would obey his commands, no matter what. That was the Sith way.

The female, he recognized from the memories he had absorbed, was called the Huntress. She was rumored to be the mate of the Dark Knight. Maul smiled and estimated the distance to the top of the building where she stood. Holding the mate hostage was a sure way of convincing the Dark Knight to meet him in combat. And, when he won, he thought to himself, he would take her for his own!

WayneTech Towers, Gotham City, present day:

"I'm sorry, Batman, I wish I could be of more help," Connor Hawke said from the video monitor in Bruce Wayne's private office in the WayneTech Towers. The Batman had stopped here, entering though a secret passage in the building, in order to get the current Green Arrow's opinion of his current quarry.

"So, you don't recognize the fighting style, either?" the Batman asked.

"I watched the Watchtower tapes about five time and I'm completely lost. Some moves are very similar to some forms of the martial arts I've studied, but it's more like the style that Nightwing uses. His style incorporates a lot of acrobatics and boxing, while your style is more traditional. The fact that this being is also telekinetic may explain many things. He may be using that ability to enhance his fighting style."

Batman paused for a moment. "What about his weapon usage?"

Connor shook his head. "Incredible is all I can say. I wish I had that sort of skill. In fact, I don't think I've ever seen anyone fight like that before. The fact that he took on Green Lantern, Superman and Captain Marvel with it indicates great confidence."

"Its possible that he wasn't aware of their abilities to begin with. Did you notice the look of astonishment when Superman wasn't penetrated by the weapon?"

"I saw that…you know that a battle staff like that is usually meant for keeping opponents away from you. It seems almost as if this creature, and I assume it's male, was drawing them in closer…as if he wanted to fight."

"I agree…he is very aggressive and also very skilled…"

"I still haven't come up with a species, yet, Batman," came Oracle's voice over an intercom. "I've checked with the my contacts from Thanagar, who accessed their galactic database and they haven't come even close except for some odd references to some organization that existed a long time ago. However, those records are so incomplete that nothing useful could be ascertained except a reference to swords made of light."

"This creature or person wasn't using a sword," Batman said quietly.

"I know…Connor, did you happen to notice his way of dressing?"

"The robes? Yes, and the tattoos suggest membership in a monastic order, but I don't know of any orders that wear black robes and tattoo so extensively. Not even some of the death cults I've encountered or studies would tattoo to that extent."

"Would you agree that the severity of the tattooing indicates a high level within whatever order he belongs to?"

Connor was about to answer when a voice came across Batman's cowl receiver. It was cold and almost soothing, much like what the serpent in the Garden of Eden must have sounded like. "Is this the Dark Knight? The one they call 'Batman'?"

Batman cut the connection to both Oracle and Connor and stood up. How had he gotten a communicator to get in touch with him? "This is Batman. Who is this?"

"I am Darth Maul, Dark Lord of the Sith," came the voice. The Batman hurriedly scribbled the name and title on a piece of paper. "I have your mate."

My mate? Then it hit Batman that the Huntress may have disobeyed him after all. "Where is my 'mate'?"

There was a cool chuckle. "She is quite beautiful, for a human, so full of anger…"

Batman could hear the Huntress cursing like a sailor in the background. "Let her go."

Maul ignored the order. "They say that this is your city, Dark Knight, that you are its protector. It is you that controls the other…metahumans…"

Batman punched up the homing program for the Huntress's JLA signal device. She didn't possess a standard communicator that Batman distributed to his closest allies. When she had been removed from the JLA, he had neglected to get the device and she wouldn't relinquish it when asked for it later. She had claimed that Superman had put her on reserve status, to which Batman had countered he didn't care. It was still an open issue between Batman and Superman.

There was a scream from the Huntress. "Are you paying attention, Dark Knight?"

"I'm listening," the Batman replied as the computer brought up the location of the Huntress's JLA signal device. She had disobeyed him. "What do you want?"

There was a pause. "I want your city. I want your bat-emblem to wear upon my chest, to acknowledge the superiority of the Dark Side."

"Darkseid?" Batman asked, an edge to his voice. Darkseid was the ruler of Apokolips, a planet far away that was accessible only through hyperspace travel. Darkseid had set his sights on conquering Earth several times in the past and only the efforts of the world's heroes had been enough to stop him. Suddenly, things were starting to fall into place.

"You will come for your mate, will you not? I will give you two standard Earth hours to find us or I will avail myself to her charms myself!" Batman heard another scream from the Huntress as the line was cut.

Batman punched up the JLA monitor room. Steel answered. "Batman, what's the status?"

"I've got the situation under control for the moment," he lied. "I've got some new information you may find useful."

Batman rattled off the details of his conversation with Darth Maul and waited for Steel's response. "It could be, but I don't know. I found out how the guy got in here. Seems Blue Beetle was fooling around with a prototype deep-space transporter I was working on at one time. A short in the electrical system boosted the output power and fried the directional computers. It's possible that this guy was picked up off of Apokolips; some of the technology was from New Genesis." Half of the planetoid Apokolips resided on was called New Genesis, the result of two separate planets being made into one. Several former members of the JLA were from New Genesis. "I couldn't be sure. I do know that I can send this guy back to where he came from if we can get him back in the teleporter."

Batman nodded and signed off. He then keyed in for access to Nightwing's communicator. "What's up?" came the reply.

Batman again explained the situation and then told his former partner to round up Robin and move to Oracle's location. "If he believes that the Huntress is my mate, there's no telling what he'll think you three are. If he is telepathic, he may garner some bits of information from her that could put us in danger. It's better if I face him alone."

"I don't agree, Batman. This isn't the Joker or Two-Face we're talking about; this is a guy who makes Deathstroke look like a girl scout," Nightwing replied, referring to the infamous mercenary that regularly fought the Titans, the super team that Nightwing led.

"It's not your decision to make. Gotham is my city; Bludhaven is yours. That's the agreement."

There was a long pause and Batman knew the younger man was uncomfortable with the decision. "Alright. Nightwing out."

Batman stood up and made his way to the secret wall safe that only he and Alfred, Bruce Wayne's butler, knew about. He opened it and put the notes he had jotted down inside and verified that his last will and testament was in it. Just a sensible precaution he told himself. Closing the safe, he moved to the secret entrance and was soon gone.

East Side of Gotham City, present day:

Darth Maul was accustomed to many of the horrors of the universe. He had learned about death at a very young age; in fact, he learned the value of death long before the value of life. He had, in the past few weeks, killed hundreds of beings in the service of his master. He had slipped into Hutt dens; witnessed debased acts of carnal desire that would make most sentients regurgitate their stomach contents. None of that, however, could compare to the litany of threats and curses that this woman known as the Huntress was throwing his way.

He did not even reach out with the Force; he didn't need to. It was obvious from the look in her eyes that any thoughts he might have had as taking her as a prize were ludicrous. As his mind, working with this new barbaric tongue, tried to exactly determine what she was saying to him, the bits and pieces that did get through did not make him feel very secure.

If she were able to carry out even one of her threats, which Maul considered absolutely physically impossible, the torment he would live through for the rest of his life would be unimaginable. Every time he would cast a glance her way, a new barrage of venom would assail him. This woman would make bounty hunter turn away in embarrassment, he thought to himself. Surely even the darkest parts of the Sith underworld, which was quite active centuries before, had no tortures to compare to this constant berating by the captive human.

He would have killed her if it weren't for the fact that he needed her mate. The Dark Knight would not arrive if his mate were dead. It was obvious that no man could love this woman and so it must have been her ample physical features that kept her from being slain. Maul pitied the Dark Knight for a moment. It didn't matter to him how beautiful she was, he could not stomach the idea of taking that mouth to his private quarters. Undoubtedly, he thought to himself, any fruit bore by that garden would indeed be spoiled!

As he contemplated crushing her vocal cords with the Force, he became aware of a new presence approaching. He could sense the raw determination, the total focus to the task at hand. He almost smiled until he realized that he couldn't detect the Force in great quantities coming from the approaching human.

Maul walked to the edge of the roof, waiting as a figure swung across on a thin line. The figure landed gracefully on the roof and turned to face him. He was clad in an outfit that so many others seemed to like, dark with a mask and cape, as if he had reason to hide his features. Maul realized then that maybe this Dark Knight had to hide his identity, much as his master did. Perhaps it was necessary for the ultimate plan. Perhaps he was not satisfied ruling only this Gotham City?

"Greetings, Dark Knight," maul said stepping closer. "I assumed that you would be a Sith."

The Batman stood tall, a least a couple of centimeters taller than Maul, and he was broader in the chest and shoulders. Maul could tell he was older, though not quite as old as his master. "I don't belong to any order," was the Batman's reply.

"What of this Jay-ell-a-ee? Is that not an order of some sort? Is that not where your Jedi congregate to decide this world's destiny?"

Batman observed the way Darth Maul moved; there was a springiness to his step that indicated a constant effort to contain his energy. It reminded him of himself only a decade before; always ready to charge into battle. Experience and time had taught him differently. "It's not an order and it doesn't decide the fate of humanity. It exists to aid the world."

Maul laughed, and Batman got a good look at his damaged, rotten teeth. "I can sense how the words sting you as you speak them. You hate being part of their order, part of their organization. You don't trust them…how alike we are, Dark Knight. I, too, do not trust those with power that gather it all unto themselves. Where I am from, they are called Jedi."

Batman began to match Maul's pace and the two began a circle on the rooftop. Maul was glad that the woman had finally learned to be quiet. "I've never heard of the Jedi, but I guarantee that you and I are nothing alike. I don't kill."

"What is killing to men such as you and I? Try and cover your feelings with pretty speeches, Dark Knight, but the Force tells the truth. Deep inside you want to kill, you want to destroy those who threaten you. You want order out of chaos."

"Killing does not bring about order. It brings about suffering and fear."

Maul began to pick up the pace a little. "Fear is my ally. Fear attracts the weak…the strong…the fearful. Fear brings me strength over my enemies!"

Batman countered. "Fear does not bring strength, only the impression of it."

"Is that why you stalk your prey from the shadows? Is it because you only give the impression of strength? Is it that you truly cannot protect your city, Dark Knight?"

Batman realized he was being goaded into fighting, but he was still wary of the battle stave Darth Maul had employed in the Watchtower. "Why are you doing this? It serves no purpose. Will Darkseid be served by killing me?"

"You misunderstand me, Dark Knight, the Dark Side does not call for your death, only your submission to it. Release your anger, let free the rage in your soul. It will destroy you if you keep it locked up tight, that is the Sith way, to let our emotions free."

Batman saw his opportunity and moved in to strike. Maul saw the attack coming and smiled. Batman immediately threw a kick out to the lightsaber hanging loosely at Maul's side. It went up, but remained secure to his belt. Maul punched down, catching the Batman's shin. Pain shot up through the Batman's leg as a nerve went dead momentarily and then suddenly came to life. "Intellect always overrides emotion," the Batman said.

Suddenly, fists and kicks began to fly from the two. Batman would punch for the face or chest, but the more limber Maul would block, while delivering small jabs with his foot to the Batman's thighs. This went on for a couple of minutes when Batman began to realize that he was starting to lose feeling in one of his thighs. Maul was attacking pressure points!

Batman feinted another face strike, but instead went for a heart punch which sent the Dark Lord stumbling back. A wave of his hand and Batman felt himself being lifted and tossed in the air. He back flipped and landed on his feet, assuming a new attack stance. Maul came running and suddenly leapt forward, springing off of his hands, calling the Force to him. Batman pulled a batarang out and tossed it, aiming for Maul's leg. The move made him suddenly remember his own throbbing thigh and he noted that he was leaning to one side.

The razor-sharp batarang buried itself into Maul's thigh and he came down a few feet in front of the Batman. Both combatants nursed their sore thighs; Maul pulled the batarang out and examined it. "Impressive. But, still, you are holding back."

"I don't kill."

"You don't seriously think you could kill me do you?" Maul asked, a wild look in his eyes.

Batman smiled this time. "It doesn't matter whether I could or not; I won't do it."

"You don't deserve this city! You don't deserve the title of Dark Knight!" Maul exclaimed as he reached out with the Force. He needed something to push the Dark Knight over the edge. Only by true blood combat could he return to his master with honor.

Batman felt the knife-edge of the telepathic link. He had felt it many times before when the Martian Manhunter had linked the entire JLA telepathically. "Get out of my mind!" He moved forward and delivered a kick to Maul's knee that should have permanently damaged it, ending the fight. The dark lord jumped up and out of the way, back flipping and landing a blow to the Batman's chin.

As the Batman fell back, Maul continued the telepathic assault. An image came to him, then a flurry of emotions. He probed further. "The rage in you is as great as in myself or my master."

Batman pushed himself back up and just managed to avoid his own batarang being flung back at him. When he looked back up, Maul was on him, with a kick to the sternum. The metal plate that was part of the costume prevented the Batman's chest from caving in with the blow. Batman stumbled back, but stopped short of falling. When another kick came at him, his reflexes took over and he grabbed Maul's leg. Spinning him around until he was off balance, he tossed Maul across the rooftop.

Maul rolled with throw and ended up in a crouch. "Perhaps it is only fitting that your parents died when they did," Maul said, using the information he had gathered from the Batman's mind. "They would only be disappointed in what they produced."

An animal snarl escaped from the Batman's throat and Maul was happy to see the warrior leap at him, hands extended like the claws of a bird of prey. As they came in contact, they began a dance of slaps, kicks, jabs and punches. Each attack was met with a counter-attack, which was met with still another attempt to penetrate the martial defenses. Each was pushing themselves to their limit.

Maul noted with distinct pleasure that he was not relying on the Force to guide his motions, instead, it was almost as if he were in a symbiotic relationship with the Dark Knight. Here was his physical equal. Perhaps this Dark Knight did not employ the Force; perhaps he existed on a pathetic planet in a backwater galaxy; perhaps he ruled over a single city full of degenerate inhabitant. It did not matter. Here was a being confident and sure in his place in the scheme of things, of his purpose. Had he the Force-potential, Maul considered as he blocked a blow to his groin, this Batman would make a fine apprentice.

Despite his anger, despite the build-up of heat and sweat in his costume, the Batman found himself smiling. When he had discussed Maul's abilities with Nightwing, he actually found himself enjoying the prospect of engaging the alien in hand-to-hand combat. Here he was, going blow for blow with a much younger being, caught up in a frenzy of physical action like he had never experienced. Too often, he had to hold back in everything he did, while here he did not. Here was an opponent that wanted to see everything he had; an opponent that wanted him to hit him so that he could learn something, so that he could test his own abilities. Batman neither knew nor cared why Darth Maul had not pulled out his staff; perhaps it was because there was a certain honor among beings like them. Years of training, dedication and self-motivation to achieve absolute perfection.

That perfection could only be tested against someone of equal ability.

It looked as if it were going to be a stalemate that the two combatants would continue until they both fell form exhaustion until Batman saw a flaw in Maul's defenses. The closer that Batman got to his face, the wilder the defense became. Though the tattooing hid any blemishes, the Batman guessed that he had a wound somewhere on the temple. The sweat from the physical demands Maul was putting on his body must have been aggravating the area. Batman's knuckles were already sore beyond belief, but he had his gloves to protect him.

Batman blocked a punch, spun Maul around and hit him full force in the temple. The dark lord fell to one knee as pain raced behind his eyes. At that moment, all the enjoyment he had previously felt left him as he drew the dark side to him to ease the pain. It was time to end this.

Darth Maul reached out with the Force and put a vise-like grip around the Batman's windpipe and began to slowly squeeze. The batman tried to break the invisible grip, but was unable to and he soon felt himself lifting off of the ground. Quickly, his hand went down to his utility belt, where he kept his flash-grenades. As he pulled one out, her suddenly fell to the ground, the grip having been released.

Maul sensed the presence; it was extremely strong in the Force. It felt like a Jedi's mind. So intent, though, he was on defeating the Dark Knight that he had let his defenses down. He instantly reached for his lightsaber and pulled it free, totally by reflex. His hatred of the Jedi overcoming his common sense.

Materializing out of the air, a large green-skinned humanoid appeared, taking Maul totally off guard. As he brought the lightsaber hilt up, he remembered that he had destroyed the power cell. Then the Martian Manhunter struck him squarely in the face, rendering him unconscious.

JLA Watchtower, Earth's Moon, present day:

Without ceremony, J'onn J'onzz dumped the still body of Darth Maul onto the transporter pad. "Are you sure about this, Batman?"

Batman, being supported by Superman, nodded. "I don't care what he's done…he's too dangerous to be kept here. He needs to go back to Apokolips or wherever he was from. I can't imagine a prison cell that would hold him for very long."

The Martian Manhunter nodded again and stepped back as Steel activated the device. A shimmering wave fell across the body and covered it. Within seconds, the body was gone. Steel walked over to the control drawer and opened it. He pulled out the circuit board that had been the culprit of the malfunction and smashed it.

Batman nodded and motioned for Superman to help him back to the infirmary. "Do you think we'll ever know exactly what he was?"

Before Superman could answer, the Martian Manhunter interjected. "I got a glimpse of his home system from his mind. He was a very, very powerful telepath. I've tried to match the star systems to any known galaxy maps. I couldn't do it."

"What does that mean?" Batman asked, rubbing a cracked rib.

"It means that he may not have even been from this reality. Its possible that he was pulled straight out of Hypertime…that he's part of some alternate reality."

Batman remained silent for a moment. "Well, I hope he stays in that alternate reality."

"Does this mean that you are not upset with my having broken your non-interference rule?" the Martian Manhunter asked.

"So long as word doesn't get out that I needed your help, J'onn," the Batman managed to smile.

Superman smiled this time. "It would make one hell of a story for the Daily Planet. Imagine the headline: Batman gets stomped."

"Just remember, Clark," Batman said as they entered the infirmary, "I've still got that Kryptonite bullet."

Hidden apartment of Darth Sidious, Coruscant, a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away:

"I have failed you, my master," Darth Maul said as he kneeled, head bowed, before his Sith master.

Darth Sidious raised an eyebrow from inside his cloak, wondering what his apprentice was talking about. "Rise, Lord Maul, and tell me what it is that you have not done."

Darth Maul stood up, but kept his head lowered. "I have failed in my test against the Dark Knight. His Jedi allies surprised me."

Darth Sidious considered the words for a moment and then reached into his apprentice's mind. There was no resistance by Darth Maul and his master soon discovered strange alien thoughts in his pupil's mind. "Where did you obtain these memories?" The Darth Sidious stepped back. "Perhaps you have meditated too long, Lord Maul. Sometimes, when we concentrate strongly enough on the Force, images of the past and present come into our minds. Your desire to battle the Jedi has obviously left you open to suggestion from these things. In that, I have failed you, my pupil."

His master moved towards a window. Artificial lights were coming on, simulating the rise of a sun. "I have completed the bargaining with the Trade Federation, the blockade of Naboo will go according to schedule. Undoubtedly, the council will send the Jedi in. Then, I will send you in, my pupil. Meditation is not enough, you must be able to put your skills to the test."

Darth Maul was about to speak up, to claim that he had experienced no vision, but thought better of it. If his master thought he was suffering from some sort of madness, then his chance to kill Jedi would be lost. Perhaps it all was a dream. He considered it for a moment. Men that could not be hurt by lightsabers? Women who curse to the point it embarrassed a Dark Lord? A normal man holding his own in battle with a Sith?

Perhaps he had been dreaming. He smiled a sinister smile. He had obviously been hurt when the spy droid had shot him and he had fallen into a Sith healing trance. That explained everything.

As his master continued to speak of the future, Darth Maul contemplated how many Jedi would fall before him.

Still, it didn't explain why he was sore.

Or why his lightsaber had no power cell.

Or why his leg hurt from a deep penetrating wound.

He decided that after this Trade Federation business, he would look into exactly what had happened to him. After all, he considered, this was going to be simple. At most, two or three Jedi sent to Naboo to investigate the Trade Federation blockade. He snorted. Probably only a Jedi Knight and a padawan learner. Surely, they would be no match for him.

He had the Dark Side as his ally.

The End