by Carmilla DeWinter
Disclaimer: Every familiar person in this story belongs to George Lucas. The Middle Countries game is property of Tad Williams. I'm not making any money with this, so please don't sue. I have barely enough money to support my book habit as it is.
This is the sequel to josafeena's 'Captivity'. I owe her greatly for letting me play in her sandbox, and for being an absolutely awesome, insightful and inspiring beta-reader. Thanks, girl. Needless to say, any mistakes are my own.
You probably won't be able to follow 'Regroup' if you don't read 'Captivity' first. You may find it via the search option or my bio.
For anyone willing to try without, or who's read Jo's story and has half forgotten it again, there's a summary in the next paragraph. Feel free to ignore it, as well as the rest of this author's note.
This is an Episode I AU and contains Darth Maul alias Khameir Sarin, Obi-Wan Kenobi and Qui-Gon Jinn. It assumes Anakin didn't win the pod-race. As a result, Qui-Gon, Obi-Wan and Maul were captured by a slaver named Kala Marron. Maul helped the Jedi escape, but landed at the mercy of a mad scientist. In the ending of Captivity, Qui and Obi have just rescued a rather battered Maul. The poor guy is quite depressed, because he assumes he will be a pawn in the never ending Jedi/Sith conflict, and also because he doesn't have anywhere to go anymore. He's no Sith, but he will never be a Jedi either. Qui-Gon gets him out of the funk by hypothesizing about a gray area.
Please note that the language presented here as 'Zabrakian' is not Arabian. I made it up, though I did steal words, but not meanings, from a variety of languages. The same goes for the society structure: It's not meant to depict anything that actually exists.
Feedback of any kind is always welcome.
ff. net is eating three-line breaks, as well as asterisks. So: Rulers indicate a change of POV and/or change of scene.
For Sabine and Thomas – the folks who infected me with the Star Wars virus
Roughly an hour after his arrival at the Jedi Temple, Khameir Sarin was munching on dried Qayesh meat in a room that sounded small and cluttered from the reverbs, somewhere in the Healers' wing. The Healer who was to be in charge of him had provided the food after he'd polished off what the kitchen had sent, to keep his hands busy, or so he assumed. Across the table he could hear Obi-Wan and Qui-Gon eat something far more soppy – stew of some kind. It was amazing how loud everything became when you couldn't see; Khameir remembered a time long ago when he had found the sound of others chewing nauseating, but right now he just couldn't find it in him to worry much about it.
A curious weakness had crept into his body, his knees felt like they would give if he tried to stand, but he knew they wouldn't. The same went for his hands – they were working perfectly, although he had no idea why, because they didn't feel like they should.
While his body had made it into reality, his mind was somehow lagging behind, oddly detached, not feeling, just watching.
He picked up another piece of jerky and started to nibble. It would be easiest if he could crawl into a corner and wait for this dizzy spell to pass. But the Healer had insisted that he eat first, and then they would have a look at him, whoever 'they' were.
Some of the Councilors, probably, since he'd already gotten a welcoming committee worthy of the Supreme Chancellor. All so they could see an actual Sith, or Ex-Sith, in his case.
Mace Windu had done most of the talking, and sounded rather polite, but he also had remarked that the removal of that Force inhibitor depended largely on what Khameir said in the 'interview' the Council wished to hold as soon as he was up to it; which was expected, but not welcome.
Maybe they had hoped he would spill all his secrets as soon as he was off the ship, but he hadn't done so, therefore they had reluctantly handed him over to the Healer, who did enough talking for both of them.
…"I am Yassina Ba'Khadije, of the Qeyalqim," she said. An Iridonian nomad by origin, one of his people, almost. This was either the best thing to happen to him all day, or the worst.
"Yourin al qoum, sha'theyija – peace with you, healer", he said, to tip the odds.
"Yourin al qoum, bené", she said, amusement evident. So she wasn't a Council member, but he'd won her over, if her dubbing him 'son' was any indication.
They had made their way to the Healers' wing – "You don't want to go to the mess hall, dinner's on in ten minutes." - while he had gotten a running commentary of their surroundings from her; where they were, what could be seen through the windows if there were any, who was passing them, and whatever else she deemed remotely interesting.
On the one hand, he appreciated that she actually considered his need to get some kind of information beyond echoes of footfalls in the hall, on the other hand, she made his blindness obvious to the Jedi around them. However, given the pain that still emanated from his eyes sometimes, their appearance probably made it clear enough.
"I have never seen you around before, Healer Ba'Khadije," Qui-Gon said. Now that the woman had stopped her endless chattering, it was a little too quiet, and besides, she had piqued his curiosity.
Her being a Zabrak was obvious; she had the trademark horns, although they were in a different pattern than Maul's… Khameir's. Her skin was nearly black and, in a disturbing contrast, her eyes were light blue.
"I have a bad case of wanderlust, Master Jinn. And please call me Healer Yassina. Ba'Khadije simply means that I'm Khadija's daughter. It's not really what you would call a surname."
"But he has a surname," Obi-Wan noted, and indicated Maul… Khameir.
The younger Zabrak flinched at that comment and looked down, while the Healer grimaced. It made the yellow snake she had tattooed on her left temple do some wriggling movements.
"Ay," she sighed. "Welcome to the wonderful issue of Zabrakian culture." She paused and looked at Qui-Gon thoughtfully. "Have you ever been to Iridonia?"
"We helped picking up some initiates once." He tried to focus on the conversation, it was rather difficult, because she was radiating discomfort. Khameir, however, was… empty. A void. There was nothing, not even the mildest irritation, as if his response to the topic had been automatic. Qui-Gon made a mental note to ask the Healer later; something like that couldn't be good.
She and Obi-Wan continued the conversation without him.
"Was there anything remarkable about these children?"
"They didn't have horns," Obi-Wan said.
"Hmm. Anything else?"
Qui-Gon shrugged. They had been like most other toddlers he had met. His Padawan was clearly at a loss, too.
"There's several different races of Zabraks," the Healer finally said. "On the northern continent, you get people like Councilor Koth. They have twelve horns, though most of those are hidden by their hair. On the southern continent, there's the people who live at the coast, with ten horns and a tan skin color, and the nomads, who look like me. Sha'Sarin here is one of the Coast People."
"Mmh. Now that you mention it…"
… Qui-Gon squinted at the small script of the screen, trying to decipher it in the dim light of the town hall. There was something distinctly odd about the list of origins he had been given by the local authorities.
"Aren't there any children from the southern continent?" he asked the clerk who had handed over the datacube. He had been briefed about Iridonia, and the southerners had a different language – all their cities started either with 'Choum' or 'Qal', and none of those could be found here.
The young woman snorted, the question obviously seemed stupid to her. "There seldom are, Master Jinn."
"Oh, the Mashraks, the nomads, sorry, simply refuse testing, as well as any form of formal identification. Our best estimate is that there's thirteen million of them. And the people who live on the coasts are rather sloppy with it. They don't like the idea of giving up their kids to strangers… they're a little traditional."…
"You never will use the term 'mashrak' again," the Healer said in a stern tone when he had finished relating the tale. "It's extremely offensive."
"I apologize." He could actually feel a flush creeping up his cheeks.
She waved her hand as if swatting away a fly.
"Really, Masters, I'd appreciate it if you could let me do my work in peace."
"We would like to know how he is."
"As is your right, Master Billaba. But I don't make you strip for the entire Council, hn? So, out."
Several persons started to shuffle and assembled outside the small room. Some muffled conversations could be heard; they were clearly not pleased with this insubordinate healer. Khameir was supposed to feel amused about this, so he grinned a little.
"You realize that neither Master Jinn nor Padawan Kenobi have left," Yassina said.
He recounted the sounds he had heard. "Yes."
"They don't have to be in here. You aren't a prisoner, and thus entitled to some privacy." The comment provoked some movement near the door.
She was right, he didn't have to receive whatever devastating news she had in front of any audience.
Yassina moved in a rustle of robes. "Shoo, you two. There'll be enough opportunity for you to be concerned and caring later."
They left without protest, although Qui-Gon did heave a small sigh.
"Will our guest be like this, too, once he regains his footing?" Depa Billaba asked, sounding vaguely amused, which Qui-Gon took as a good sign.
"With less humor, probably," he replied, not in the mood for banter. It was petty, really, to be annoyed about being kicked out, when he would not even be allowed to one of Obi-Wan's routine check-ups – not that he had any desire to attend one. He took a deep breath and let the feeling go. "Although he does strike me as more respectful."
"That probably got beaten into him," Obi-Wan remarked. "And he can be really annoying if he sets his mind to it."
"Not an easy life, young Sarin had," Yoda said.
"That is not an excuse for turning to the Dark Side." Mace Windu seemed a bit flustered.
Yoda gave one of his more enigmatic scowls. "An excuse, there never is. But the explanation, interesting to hear it would be."
"What is your original skin color, anyway, bené?"
"Dark," Khameir said.
"Your father was one of my people, hn?"
Yassina didn't say anything for a while and continued poking at the scar on his back.
"That doctor did a good job sewing you up, at least. He didn't hurt any muscles, so you should be able to reach your former level of agility. I'll put some bacta ointment on it, to reduce the scarring."
He could hear the spluttering of something being squeezed out of a tube. The sensation of the cool gel being worked into his skin was soothing a pain he had learned to ignore; he sighed and inclined his head for better access.
"The humans don't care much for things like that," she said, completely out of the blue. "And they're right about it. It's not like anyone could choose their parents, hn?"
"I know." For a moment he was five again and someone else tried to teach him the same lesson; he could still feel the oppressive heat of noon in Choum Mathaoui and could still hear the waves slosh lazily against the cliff. That time he had argued that the knowledge didn't keep other people from treating him like shit.
A pat on his back let the images of the violently pink hut and the old man under a tree fade, and once again he was back in darkness.
"Let me take a look at your eyes now."
Warm fingertips rested lightly against his temples; she was using the Force, and he couldn't feel it. He clenched his fists and forced himself to breathe.
After what felt like an eternity, Yassina removed her hands and sighed.
"I have bad news, bené."
"I thought so."
One after the other, the council members had gotten bored and left, leaving Obi-Wan and Qui-Gon with only Mace Windu, who brought them up to date with the goings on in politics.
"Palpatine? Now that is a surprise."
Obi-Wan silently agreed. He'd never met the man, but his Master had given the description 'smarmy' after he'd been forced to attend a meeting of the Senate somewhere before their last mission.
"We were expecting Bail Antilles, actually, since Naboo is a such a small planet", Master Windu said. "On the other hand, I am certain that Chancellor Palpatine advised Queen Amidala to call for a vote of no confidence, so he had to be sure it would be him."
"Hmm. Sympathy votes do not really explain that large a majority."
"I think they believe he can reinstall stability."
The two Masters continued to talk, while Obi-Wan hung back. He bit his lip and tried to make sense of a new thought.
Maul had attacked them on Tattooine… it wasn't very likely for any Sith to just start slaughtering random Jedi if the eventual objective was the destruction of the complete order.
That meant neither he nor Qui-Gon had been chance targets.
The whole blockade of Naboo had therefore been a part of the Sith master's plan. But it had been bound to fail as soon as Chancellor Valorum had called the Jedi in, and Obi-Wan couldn't see the greedy and calculating Trade Federation invade a planet without the approval of the Senate.
But who profited from the whole debacle?
The answer was out there somewhere, he just knew it. He only needed to let it stew some time.
Master Windu was just about to scold Qui-Gon again for not simply trading the Nubian for a smaller, intact vessel, when the door opened and Healer Yassina emerged.
Her usual smile had disappeared somewhere along the line.
"So, how is the Sith, Healer Ba'Khadije?" Mace Windu sounded calm, but there was an underlying hint of testiness.
She sighed. "Not well, Councilor. Physically, he's very weak, because he was confined to a small cell for about three weeks, and had to heal quite a number of surgical wounds as well as pneumonia. However, it's nothing regular meals and exercise won't take care of. He's also blind, and no, before you ask, a cornea transplant wouldn't help."
"Will you also do me the favor and look at him just with your Force-senses," the Healer continued.
Both Masters closed their eyes and their sudden concentration was almost palpable. Curious about what she'd meant, Obi-Wan started looking, too, but couldn't find anything. Well, Maul was breathing, and his heart rate was a bit elevated, but that was it. It was very, very disturbing.
"Fascinating," Master Windu said.
"One could see it like that, I suppose." Qui-Gon was clearly having the same bad feeling about this as Obi-Wan.
"And I see a breakdown waiting to happen, Masters. Maybe he will be able to work himself out of this funk, but I suspect not. I think it's best if he stayed with Master Jinn and Padawan Kenobi for the time being, because you two are the most familiar persons to him, like it or not. Don't let him out of your sight. If it doesn't get better, we'll have to try something more drastic."
Translation: they were babysitting a potentially suicidal Ex-Sith. Obi-Wan sighed. Things wouldbe a lot easier if they had freed Maul on Darvin Four.