Author's Note: A few weeks ago the ever-creative and -sociable Derek Metaltron invited me to participate in a celebration of The Phantom Menace with him and a few other authors. All we had to do was write something--anything--involving TPM. My first reaction was "It's been ten years since then? Kriff I'm old." and my second was "Sweet! Now I can do that Darth Maul vs. Quinlan Vos fight I've been wanting to do." Because, of course, my favourite thing about TPM was Darth Maul's fighting style. It's somehow reassuring to know that, in a world of lightsabers and starships, a kick to the face is still kriffing effective.

It is canon that Quinlan was on Tatooine at this time--he can be seen in one of the Mos Espa street scenes. So here's a little extrapolation on that, something which could fit right into canon.

P.S. I'm taking suggestions for better titles.


Phantom In Hiding

The Jedi and the Jedi-to-be could have been two rocks perched on the low wall, ready to tumble, ready to hit the ground and shatter in tectonic shivers that the world Tatooine would barely feel, had not the Force burnt the message of lifelifelife out from their bodies. Darth Maul felt the cold winds sliding across the desert beyond Mos Espa's walls, dimly heard the family voices from within the thin-walled house upon whose roof he stood, saw the dark sky lowering to purple on the wide horizon, but those senses were second to the knowledge the Force exuded. He knew that he could stand here in the sight of the Jedi Master and not be discovered.

It was a quiet sort of headiness. The sense of power made the dim yellow lights in the scallop-shell-sculpted hovels the exposed and dangerous places, the open air the place of privacy and safety. The air smelled of sand the way the air near a shore smells of the ocean. The twilight seemed to him to be a symbol of the Jedi's demise, the remnant orange the embers of dying flame.

Darth Maul raised macrobinoculars to his eyes, focused on the Jedi Master. The one Darth Sidious' information called Qui-Gon Jinn. The bearded human face bent to tag the burning-in-the-Force boy's thin arm with an adhesive bandage. In the next moment, the drop of human blood hit the recording plate. The midi-chlorian count zapped from Jinn to their starship, and the Dark Eye droid hovering in the shadows next to Darth Maul plucked the information from the sky like a predatory bird falling upon its prey.

Maul sunk back into the lee of a rooftop, putting a wall between himself and the Jedi. The datapad extruded from a belt pouch lit up in a moment with readings identical to those which would be appearing on the Jedi's ship.

Darth Sidious had suspected that this boy might be the one, the endpoint of his machinations, but still the reading made Maul think, at first, that the instrument was inaccurate. The scale was hardly built for blood so laced with midi-chlorians. Power ran in these veins--

Sudden movement on the rooftops. Maul's eyes flicked up from the datapad. He knew then that he was being followed, although not whether it was visually or with the Force that he had first been alerted to it. He pocketed the datapad and murmured, "Back to the ship", to the Dark Eye, which scooted along over the rooftops in the direction of the Scimitar.

(In a way, he knew, this mission to find the boy and the Queen was a ship-to-ship battle, forces shooting scalding beams at one another from kilometers away; the Jedi in one craft, Maul and Sidious in another. They would never touch, and yet, like tied atoms on opposite edges of the universe, the effect of each was always felt on the other. But now, flitting at the lighted circle of his sight, something close, something immediate and hereherehere--)

A Jedi on the rooftop opposite the one temporarily his, now falling down into the alley, now scaling another wall. His power was dimmer than the boy's, less subtle than Jinn's. But he had focus and purpose, and—

Forget that. Forget attempts at statistics, comparisons, labels, judgments. The only label the newcomer needed is Jedi , and that label swept away any rationality. Maul's world became the invisible line he needed to follow to make the jump from his current perch to the alley, passing the newcomer on the way. Then, there were many options, all filled with momentum and fightlust and simplicity—

Maul moved. Breath was slipped from between his teeth by the abrupt movement, by the coldcoldcold open desert air. The Jedi saw him, knew the bright Force-fleck of danger, and stepped aside. Maul's boots hit the ground and his momentum fled, the beautiful vision of sending the Jedi to the ground winking out like changing channels. Maul lashed out with a bladed hand and the Jedi dodged again. He is not fleet, this one, but solidly built—

And he used that, punching in a one-two combination that flared against Maul's forearms like blasterbolts. At the same time the Force was examining him, serving as interrogation because the attack took the Jedi's breath as well—

Kiffar. Kiffar Jedi. Young and almost-gray and alone; if he knew of Qui-Gon Jinn's existence he did not call out to him. He identified the darkness around Maul like an antibiotic targeting disease. A lightsaber flared to life in his hand with a green snap. Maul circled, intent on finding an opening where the first blaze of his own weapon could cost the Jedi a limb.

Quinlan Vos had told his Padawan, Aayla Secura, that he could do this part of the mission alone. All it required was a walk to the local governor's office. Quinlan would set the bag of glitterstim down in the mailbox, with the dealers' headquarters' address adhered to it, and he would leave. Either the governor, if he were not corrupt, would have the location ransacked and the people there arrested, or, if he were corrupt, he'd do basically the same thing and take the spice for his own purposes. But he may think twice about that after finding the dealers, whom had not taken lightly to Quinlan showing up in their midst and had forced him to beat a few of them to unconsciousness.

Now Quinlan called out through the Force to his apprentice in their ship, knowing that she was too far away to help him.

He was not entirely helpless himself, although he suspected immediately that the man attacking him was a Sith. (Outside appearances were not reliable enough to use to judge, but he could sense how this being had been broken down and remade, into something with the evil—if such instinct and desire could even be called that—of a predatory animal within him.) No dark Jedi with this face had been carved in stone and set to watch over the library halls. While Sith were so old as to be almost mystical, there was mystery to this narrow alley, to the sand sweeping by on a gust of wind, to the suns setting beyond the rooftops and painting the occasional curve and corner with a golden brush. Quinlan was not afraid; the Force told him he would be all right.

He had heard that some beings felt that certainty just before they died.

The Sith stepped around the first swing of Quinlan's blade and for a moment settled into a Bantha Riding stance, a punch aimed at Quinlan's kidneys. The Jedi's instinct was to turn. But the lightsaber haft was there in the Sith's other hand, ready to come under Quinlan's arm and activate against his sternum. Quinlan glanced over his shoulder (the lightsaber-hum whipping past, ringing in his ears) and kicked backwards.

The Sith grabbed his foot and twisted. Quinlan used the momentum, brought the other foot around in a desperate kick to the head moments before he went to the ground. The kick missed, but Quinlan landed well—deactivating the lightsaber in his hand-- and caught the Sith's ankles between his feet. He heard the thump of the man hitting the ground. Quinlan, still on his back, extended a bladed hand to chop the attacker across the throat—

The Force took hold of him, threw him with a flapping of cloak-tails and whirl of sand. He landed on his feet, with a hand out to steady him on the wall. It left red welts from the rough flowstone across his palm. He watched his opponent arc to his feet and turn, the devilish Zabrak profile blurred against the cold colors of the sky.

How silent the fight must seem, Quinlan thought, if anyone were watching. No cries of 'what do you want?' 'Who are you?' The Force told them these answers without needing the questions.

The Sith rushed forward, launched into a head-high kick. Quinlan ducked it and threw up one arm to block. As soon as the Sith got both feet on the ground he threw himself into the air again, lashing out with another kick. Quinlan stepped to the side so that the treads of his opponent's boot just grazed his abdomen, and activated his lightsaber again as the Sith was recovering his stance.

Darth Maul met the green neon lightsaber with crimson. The blade clattered against the Jedi's. Maul could sense his fear as close as if it were behind his own eyes. Jedi pushed both lightsabers aside with a wide sweep.

Something fell from the Kiffar's belt pouch, sparkling blue. Maul did not recognize it at first, only that his lightsaber must have broken the pouch's clasp, and the object's wrapper. Jedi stepped forward, eclipsing the scraps with his boot and pushing them into the ground. Maul traded formulaic strikes, letting his disdain for the Jedi's simple lightsaber style show on the psychic plane. Such pride came from predicting an opponent's strategy, from knowing that Maul still had his second lightsaber blade or other weapons and skills to use—

He caught the smell of the stuff crushed beneath Jedi's boots and shied away. He moved to parry a feint, and the green lightsaber burnt the trailing end of his sleeve. But the Jedi was slowing too, losing confidence. He had caught the scent of the glitterstim.

Even the dim light of one setting sun was enough to activate the spice.

Some said that glitterstim, the most dangerous of common galactic drugs, could increase psychic power or awaken it in latent minds. Maul had never found proof of this in his studies of the Force, but now, with the high-grade spice threads sparking out their life on the sand and the Force-fueling emotional energy of the battle firing within him like the rocket-backlash of a starship, he could taste the spice's effect like a chemical scent in the back of his throat.

He summoned the Force to throw Jedi into the wall again (the wall might crack, this time, with the rush of power Maul felt, might rain down--), but the Kiffar had had the same idea. With both trying to Force push the other, they strained with thoughts and outstretched hands. Although the sand and the air were still, Maul could feel a plague of whirlwinds circling them in the Force.

Farther up the alley, a window cracked. Transparisteel planes fell to the ground, the broken wooden limbs of a sun-awning following them. A moment later a light in another room of the building above flickered on.

Maul imagined himself releasing the Force hold, letting the Jedi throw him backwards to a distance where he could fire the lanvarok at his wrist and guide the missile to the Jedi's eyes

But he knew then that the spice had, not necessarily through its chemical content, but through the boost it granted through the Force, obscured his thoughts. He needed to think of the mission—to capture the Queen of Naboo—first, and this immediate victory second, even as everything he was told him to kill the Jedi—!

Who was backing off too, lowering his hands, unwilling to be seen or cause more destruction.

Maul thought, I must remain hidden.

Darth Sidious will have ways to guarantee that this Jedi seeing me will not jeopardize the mission. But to kill him…!

Silent. Unnoticed.

Shutting off his lightsaber while looking the Jedi in the eyes was one of the most difficult things he could remember doing in his life. All he wanted was to attack. Now, when the standoff was nearly assured in the Jedi's mind, Maul could lash out—his hands bunched into fists, released, as tension juddered its way through the muscle to his shoulders. But Sidious would permit such displays of impatience—acting on them, he would not.

Tense as massifs fighting over a bone, the combatants backed off to the edges of the alley.

More lights in the building. Maul turned and Force-sped away from the scene, pulling a commlink from his belt as he went. He monitored the dwindling presence of the Jedi in case of another attack.

He could feel, in that bright distance, the Jedi's reason for backing off—a hollow fear of accepting the great power that the spice offered. Darth Maul smiled.

Quinlan swept into the ship the Republic had provided for him and Aayla, nearly running into the Twi'lek as she emerged in a rush from a side passage.

"Master, what happened? I sensed your distress, was going to fly the ship over…"

He looked down at her, breathing in loud, shallow breaths. "I ran into what I think was a Sith."

Her eyes widened.

"I'm fine. Just need to contact the Council."

He sat down at the pilot's seat with a feeling of tired relief, activated the long-range communications suite. He connected to the Republic switchboard, but was interrupted from choosing his signal's destination by a flare of static. He expected to have difficulties here on the Outer Rim. He had almost cancelled the signal to try again when a voice came over the line.

"Hello?"

"Hello, this is Quinlan Vos—"

"Master Vos, good to hear from you."

"Who is this?"

"It's Senator Palpatine. I'm in a meeting, can this wait—"

"I'm not sure how I got this comm code—I'm on Tatooine. But you need to relay this message to the Jedi Council as soon as possible, sir—I think I've found a Sith."

"Oh dear, can you say that again? I'm not sure I heard right…"

"Sith. Tell the Council—they'll understand."

"Of course I will. You sound flustered, Master Vos—do you need any aid?"

"No—I'll be back on Coruscant soon. Just pass on—"

"I certainly will."

"Thank you, Senator."