CHAPTER 4

This is a rewrite of the previous chapter 4, for those of you who were wondering why you've gotten yet another update for a fourth chapter! I decided to delete the previous one and start anew--although I did save the reviews for the first draft. In the interim between the publication of the first draft and this one, I've really delved into and shaped Maul and Alan, and I now finally feel that they themselves are speaking to me, telling me how to write the story, rather than me putting words in their mouths. Maul, especially, has deepened as a character--and I've discovered that we have more in common than I care to admit. I hope that my characterization of him has improved, and that it will be readily evident in the coming chapters. I will get around to redoing the first, second, and third chapters, but those I will merely replace instead on deleting and reposting. I also rewrote the synopsis, changed the rating, and changed the categories.

This story has grown far beyond anything I at first imagined, and it is easily one of the most introspective pieces I've ever written--I can feel myself growing as a writer, which is quite an exciting experience! I really must thank my dedicated reviewers for their support and criticism; without you, ACOF would never have gotten off the ground, and certainly wouldn't be as good as it is now. It's rare that my stories make it to the paper as vivid as I imagine them, but I think I'm doing pretty well so far. :) May the Force be with you.

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It took Maul a while to swim out of the blackness, when he finally awoke.

At first, he wondered sleepily why he was in a cockpit, and why it was so oppressively stifling; then the past came flooding back. He would have sat bolt-upright were it not for the pained stiffness in his torso, and he remembered with a pang what that was from, too.

He closed his eyes. He had failed: failed his master, failed his cause. Not only had he been captured by a Jedi, he was injured, and the engines were severely damaged, if not outright destroyed. That had been necessary, of course--to prevent further degradation at the hands of his captors--but now they were adrift in space. He opened his eyes to glare out at the twinkling stars through the cockpit window, as though they were to blame for his predicament.

The control panel caught his gaze; it was a mess. The buttons and screens that weren't completely black or pulsing scarlet were smoking jauntily. One panel read "life support non-operational," and flashed with an authoritative steadiness.

The would explain the stagnant heat, then--they were running out of oxygen. He stared at the monitor, thinking.

The Jedi was either dead or in the process of fixing things. Maul at first wished for the former, but cruel fact came down hard: he couldn't possibly hope to repair life support, engines, and whatever else might need fixing in his state with a hole in his stomach. He would, he thought with a curious sense of detachment, need the Jedi alive if he himself were to live. The irony of the thing was nearly unbearable.

So, then. He'd have to make sure the Jedi was alive (now he knew what he felt--faint, nauseous disbelief), and then treat his own wound, which burned with an infected fury. Slowly, he eased himself out of the chair--and the door was locked.

He halted, laid a hand on it, and summarily crumpled it to a durasteel ball--it drained him, to be sure, but elegantly proved his point. Foolish Jedi, thinking to contain him.

"You're awake, I see," a voice floated from down the hallway. "You could have just undone the lock, you know."

Maul rounded a corner. The Jedi--he didn't remember his name, and didn't care to--sat cross-legged in the middle of the floor, both arms immersed to the elbows in a rectangular hole in the wall. He looked up when Maul appeared, then returned to his task.

"But I suppose that's not your style."

Maul grunted and sat, sitting cross-legged as best as he could, separated from his captor by the scattering of hardware between them. He glanced at the niche the Jedi was working out of.

"Life support," the Jedi said, conversationally. "The fire in the engine room spread to the wall opposite this. Everything's been melted." He pulled out a handful of fused wires. "As you can see. You really did a number on my ship."

Maul didn't answer. He wanted to leave, to tend to his wound and escape the foul presence of the Jedi...but something bid him to stay. Something radiating off the Jedi, that he was trying very hard to conceal. Fear? No, not as strong...apprehension. Still noteworthy; why would he be afraid of an injured, weaponless prisoner? This, and the burst of anger during the fight before...

This Jedi was not all that he seemed. Even the tone of his voice...rigid with control.

"How long before it's fixed?" Maul asked, also conversational.

The Jedi looked surprised that he had spoken. "I'm not sure. Hopefully before we run out of oxygen, but I can't guarantee that."

Maul observed he didn't look him directly in the face.

"Are you truly Jedi?"

The hallway plunged into silence; the clinking and grinding of metal halted as the Jedi froze. But the interruption lasted mere seconds, for the Jedi's hands resumed their work, although his face was now troubled beneath its calm veneer.

"I haven't a clue what you mean."

"Yes. You do."

Silence again. This time, the Jedi straightened and folded his hands carefully in his lap. He did not look at Maul.

"If there was something wrong with me, you'd hardly be the person I'd discuss it with."

"So you're admitting there is something wrong?"

"If, dear sir."

Maul cocked his head. The Jedi hadn't handled this well, and he knew it; but still he attempted to cover up whatever he really was. Maul wouldn't go so far as to venture that the dark side was present in his foe, but he could sense something there, a stirring. If he could exploit it...he had never been one for mind games; he considered them weak. But this time, they may prove useful.

The Jedi must have noticed something off in Maul's gaze, for he abruptly changed the subject. "If we're going to survive," he said, "I'll need help with this." He gestured to the hole in the wall, clearly meaning for him to come over and help.

With some trepidation, Maul did; first he wanted to avoid his gaze, then he invited him closer...it was very confusing, he had to admit. He lowered himself to the floor, keeping his body as far away from the Jedi's as possible, and picked up a soldering iron.

"Name's Alan, by the way," the Jedi (?) said lightly, as though nothing had just happened.

As they worked, the hallway grew steadily hotter.


I know this is rather short, but the fifth chapter will be here soon.