disclaimer type=standard

Anything you recognise is either JK's or George's. I dare say anything else belongs to them too.

/disclaimer

o_ooo000ooo_o

As disciplined as he was, Maul did not let the faint annoyance at the lack of reaction register on his features. The human would soon learn.

It seemed that the nude man did at least understand that violence was inevitable. He brought the stick up and gave it a complex wave. Maul was student enough of humanoid physiologies to identify that the movements were executed through muscle memory rather than conscious direction.

The Force suddenly shrieked in pain as the stick finished weaving through its complex path. Maul's smile vanished, and he shuddered at the unexpected sensation. So, the human consciously wounded the Force. Not that it would have saved him had it been inadvertent, but Maul's determination took on a new, sharper edge. With a snarl, he reached beneath his cloak and withdrew his lightsaber. He swung it through a tight arc, and ignited the scarlet blade. Still the human displayed no fear, not even concern. The eyebrows above the lenses rose in mild surprise, but he obviously recognised a lightsaber. Yet he felt no fear at one being raised against him?

Maul briefly wondered about that lack of fear. Was it due to the human's confidence in his own abilities, or simply born of ignorance?

The human twisted the stick in the air again, but this time Maul was ready for the Force's pained response. Through the howl against its nature, the Force still warned Maul of danger. The human's stick turned out to be a weapon, sending a painfully slow pulse of red power at him. The Sith easily, even trivially, caught the red jet of light on his blade, sending it into a wall.

That caused the human to register some surprise, even if it was just some raised eyebrows. To the Force's anguish, he once again passed the stick in a complex series of movements around his left hand, and then sank into a high crouch, ready to move in any direction. In an instant, Maul read the stance and understood his opponent. This human preferred to fight at a distance, attacking with these polluted Force energies.

Calling on the Force to speed his movements, Maul launched himself at the human, closing the distance between them and determined to end this being in one stroke. He moved so quickly that a human with no innate Force abilities could not physically react in time. He brought the blade down, faintly amused as his opponent's instinctive reaction of trying to catch the lightsaber in his hand.

The sensation of blade meeting unexpected resistance shocked Maul to his core. With eyes and mouth both wide open, he stared at the deadly glowing blade resting in the human's unprotected palm.

He… he'd caught a lightsaber blade! In his hand!

Instincts honed by a lifetime of Sith-Lord testing had Maul twisting out of the way of the Force-cursed stick, but a shocking blow scraped past his abdomen, breaking some ribs and sending the Sith warrior flying.

Maul ignored the pain.

He twisted in the air, disregarding his injuries; there would be time for healing later. His quarry was torturing the Force again, the unnatural manipulations causing him to momentarily lose his Force connection. He still landed perfectly, without even a whisper of noise and in perfect balance. A true Sith warrior did not need to touch the Force for something as simple as that.

Maul was ready for the next attack. Unused to close, physical combat, his opponent's tactics would be to keep his distance while attacking with projectile weapons.

Three bulky chairs rocketed towards him. Maul felt a small sense of satisfaction at his predictions being borne out. Still, even a pathetic Jedi Padawan had the skills to defeat such a clumsy attack. He raised one arm and gestured with a flick of his wrist, banishing all three chairs back at the dark-haired man.

Once more calling on the Force, the Sith sprinted around the room in an arc, flanking his quarry, attacking from his blind spot. The human waved that stick of his, reversing the momentum of two of the three chairs. He ducked the last, putting his neck in the perfect position for Maul to strike.

Once again, his lightsaber blade met unexpected resistance instead of slicing through the man's neck. Deep in the Force, there was a piercing shriek combined with two concurrent pulses of power, one in front and one behind the Sith. In the midst of the confusion, the young man vanished from under him. Now overbalanced, Maul's crimson blade sank deep into the floor. Maul fought to merely shudder at the feeling of the Force being torn apart. He almost missed the faint warning chime amid the inaudible howling in the Force, but ignited his lightsaber's second blade and just managed to deflect another pulse of polluted Force energy.

Maul cursed himself his overconfidence. He had been sure his skills were up to the task of dispatching this perversion of nature. But the human had abilities Maul had never heard of; had never imagined existed. Whenever his master had sent him on an assassination mission, the Sith apprentice had relied on his combat abilities exclusively; it had been a matter of pride. But with no measure of his opponent's full capabilities, he would have to swallow that pride and use all his own Force skills to ensure victory.

Without sparing the time to turn and look, he called to the Force and hurled the heavy stone table from the room's eating area at the human. The unexpected attack struck true, knocking him down. Maul turned and assumed a defensive stance, searching the Force for new dangers.

Two large animals bore down on him. They had not been here before, and Maul had not sensed their arrival. In the time it took to observe them with his yellow eyes, the Sith had determined that the creatures had no Force signature. They weren't alive.

They were an illusion then. A convincing illusion - Maul could hear the click of their claws upon the stone floor as well as their growls and panting - but an illusion nonetheless. He ignored the creatures and focused on the human, calculating the method of attack most likely to end his life quickly.

Pain flooded his leg as one of the creatures clamped its jaws down on his left thigh. As his eyes widened in shock, the other beast bit his right forearm.

Had the Force betrayed him? These creatures were real! Flesh and blood and bone, yet there was no spark of life within them. Even droids were visible to the Force, the dense electronic components dancing with energy, but these beasts were as empty of the Force as the furnishings of the room. They were the incarnation of perversion.

Even in shock, his body reacted. Years of training meant that he could move without thinking. Maul shifted his grip on his lightsaber hilt, using his left hand. A simple flick of a wrist sliced the creature biting his thigh in two. He raised his right arm, twisting his torso slightly to compensate for his injuries.

Once more, the Force cried out in pain, but with Maul's sudden doubt, it was subdued, muted, as though it was hardly worth the bother. The crimson blade scraped the remaining creature from his arm just as a pulse of foul power clipped his hip.

He fumbled his lightsaber.

He'd not done that since, well, ever. He'd never done that. He glanced down, ready to snatch the lightsaber hilt before it hit the ground when he saw something that shocked him to his core.

His fingers and thumbs were no longer attached to his hands.

He mentally screamed, all doubt gone. Anger flooded him, and he dove into the Force, telekinetically wrenching his fallen lightsaber from the floor and hurling it at the human as hard as he could manage.

The Force cried out again as the human raised his stick, somehow sucking all momentum from the lightsaber and dropping it to the floor. Then, before Maul could either call the weapon back to hand or thrust it forward once more, liquid ceramic tentacles erupted from the floor. The perverted things wrapped around and bound his weapon, denying it from his mental grasp.

This time, the Sith screamed his fury out loud. Flooded with the Force, he darted forward, covering the distance between them in the literal blink of an eye, wrenching the heavy table off the human in the process. One precise kick sent the Force-cursed stick flying from the human's grasp. Not satisfied with simply disarming his opponent, Maul reversed the kick, slamming his heel against the young man's cheek.

Such a blow would have knocked almost any human unconscious. That the boy retained the presence of mind to try and kick Maul's feet from under him showed a depth of mental discipline and determination that the Sith could respect.

Still, the weak kick swung out painfully slowly to Maul's enhanced senses. He leapt, determined to cause as much pain to this human as possible. He landed on the human's abdomen, his right knee driven deep into the unprotected soft tissue.

The human's abdominal muscles tightened involuntarily, causing him to sit up and putting his neck in easy reach. Maul reached out before realisation dawned that he could not physically grasp with no fingers. Instead, he drew his right arm back, palm upraised, and prepared to drive the human's nose into his brain.

In the brief moment it had taken to recover from that small mistake, his opponent reached out, grabbed a handful of his clothes, and drove his forehead into Maul's nose, breaking it.

But Maul had broken his nose while training with his Master so often that his eyes barely watered. He struck with his right hand, and only a desperate defensive move caused the blow to fly wide. Enveloping his left hand with the Force, Maul swung, driving the edge of his hand hard against the human's right side. He felt ribs collapse under the strike.

Maul realised that without his stick, the human was defenceless against him. Confidence returned with a rush, and he drew back his hand once more, preparing to cripple the young man.

The Force violently erupted around him.

Nothing he had ever experienced prepared him for the aberrant rush. He stiffened as hard as duracrete as he was crushed, pulled, stretched and tormented. The Force wept pitifully at the abuse. Only Maul's inhumanly strong discipline kept him from following suit.

After that instant of agonized eternity ended, Maul found himself floating; disoriented and confused.

Pain erupted in his groin, but it was a good pain. A pain he could use to reconfirm his attachment to reality. A pain he could use to focus his scrambled consciousness.

His body reacted, pushing the cause away. Reality flooded his senses.

He was falling. Wind whipped at his hood and clothes. Maul jerked his head from side to side, desperately searching for answers. A black speeder sounded its horn and swerved to avoid the tumbling Zabrak.

A speeder! He twisted to face down, scanning for a vehicle he could commandeer. Through eyes streaming in the rushing air, he spotted a small, yellow open-top speeder in the next vehicle level. It was small enough for him to move. He reached out one fingerless hand and called to the Force. The yellow vehicle shuddered, its driver desperately trying to recover control. It shunted out of alignment, rocketing under Maul's direction to beneath his feet. If he wrapped himself in the Force, he would survive this fall.

The now-familiar double flash and scream in the Force distracted him momentarily, but the Sith forced himself to keep his attention on the speeder. Something grabbed his hood and slapped the back of his head. Realisation hit the very instant pain struck.

This time, despite the shocking agony, Maul retained his awareness. He batted the arms away and swung around, kicking out hard at the blasted human. The kick sent the pair tumbling apart, but he wondered at the human's blatant disregard for safety. After just a few moments, the pair were falling at a few hundred kilometres an hour, yet his opponent continued to fight. Why?

Did the naked human have a method of surviving such a fall? Or did he have such a disregard for his own life that he would... no, the human had deliberately thrown them both off the building. He must have a way of surviving.

Maul dropped past the lowest vehicle stream, his eyes still on the human. Nothing could save him now. He would die this day. He had no fingers to manipulate his belt-tools or bracer, even had they been of use in stopping a fall of this magnitude. There was nothing to call to his aid through the Force. Not even a Sith Master could survive a fall from greater than a kilometre. But the human's actions, putting them both into this situation probably meant that he had some way of escape.

No. If the Sith was going to die, then so was his quarry. He would die, but he would die completing his mission for his master.

Maul reached out with both his hand and the Force, choking the human with all his considerable might.

Rather than the expected expression of terror, green eyes held nothing more than determination. Again, the human flashed out of existence to the torment of the Force, causing Maul's Force grip to slip away. The corresponding flash above told the Sith exactly where the human had appeared.

Now almost used to the disorienting pain caused by his opponent's teleportation, Maul anticipated a kick to his head and managed to clasp the human's leg between his Force-enhanced hands. A couple of seconds or so above a Coruscant plaza, Maul hurled the human straight down with every last shred of strength in his body, combined with as strong a Force push as he'd ever performed.

The human tumbled head over feet, aligning himself upright. In the instant before crashing into the duracrete, he once again flashed out of existence, tearing the Force apart as he did so.

As Maul thundered hard into the plaza floor, he caught a single glimpse of his quarry in a deep crouch, unharmed by the long fall.

There was no pain. He had wrapped himself as tightly in the Force as he had ever done in his life. He heard his bones break on impact; he knew that his internal organs had ruptured. But there was no pain.

With the final remnants of his will, Maul opened his eyes. Instantly, he knew that his skull had been fractured. Standing over him, blurred and double, was the human he had been sent to kill. The human he had first seen less than two minutes ago.

Had he the strength, Maul would have spat at him. Instead, he mentally hurled every shred of hatred and rage towards the being that had killed him.

The twin blobs grew larger and closer, and Maul heard a voice whisper an odd word. Instantly, there was an alien presence in his mind. It slipped through his consciousness, not reading thoughts, but examining memories.

Had he been uninjured, Maul may well have toyed with the presence. His master was as skilled as he was subtle at the mind arts, and had forged his apprentice's mind into a veritable fortress against Force intrusions. But with his life force ebbing away and blood seeping through a fracture in his skull, what remained of Maul's mental defences were pitiful. He threw every negative emotion he had ever felt at the intrusion, hoping that the emotive offensive was enough to force the intruder from his mind.

It worked. The alien pressure eased.

That faint satisfaction was the last thing Darth Maul ever experienced.


Senator Palpatine touched a manicured hand to his heart, a hitch in his breath. The movement went almost unnoticed by the bureaucrats and politicians around him. Organa of Alderaan glanced his way, eyebrows raised in a silent query. Palpatine gave the man a small smile and a tiny gesture, tapping his stomach as though he'd just had a slight moment of indigestion.

He settled into a breathing exercise once Organa's attention was diverted, shielding his thoughts and feelings. It would not do for his carefully crafted façade of the exquisitely mannered, genial senator from a cultured civilisation to be exposed as a sham. Not that it was at all likely; Palpatine had been hiding himself for so long it was a natural state of being.

For several moments there had been repetitive and shocking Force disturbances. Behind his blank, Senatorial mask Palpatine had savoured the anticipation of his apprentice's victory. But the final disturbing sensation laid that expectation to rest. His apprentice was dead. Maul had failed.

While not disastrous, it was a major setback. Maul was the physical manifestation of his will, able to traverse the galaxy to carry out Sidious' orders even while Senator Palpatine was Coruscant-bound by his many duties.

Palpatine ignored the droning tones of the mid-level bureaucrat addressing the small group. Besides the three nominee Senators, nearly fifty other politicians and civil servants were present to be briefed on the convoluted, almost labyrinthine procedures that surrounded the election of a new Supreme Chancellor partway through a Senate Seating. He already knew more about the legalities being discussed than anyone else in the room, having artfully engineered events to ensure the antiquated, almost forgotten procedures were enacted. The sudden power vacuum at the top of the Senate's structure outside of the usual election cycle ensured that the number of possible candidates was kept to a minimum, and that the election was held so quickly that there would not be time enough to mount an effective counter campaign to his candidacy.

He activated his datapad and brought up his commitments for the remainder of the day. There was nothing that was unimportant enough that he could meaningfully cancel; not this close to his goal of being elected as Chancellor. A few hours ago, he and Queen Amidala had addressed the Senate. The naïve child had accepted his arguments without complaint, and had called for the vote of no confidence in Valorum. That act had started a chain of events that should result in his elevation.

So long as he could get that treaty signed.


Qui-Gon bit back his frustration at the Council's recalcitrance. Anakin's future was in limbo, with no decision to be made regarding his training or its lack. The Council simply did not view the matter as important enough.

Before he could mount another argument on a different tack, the door to the council chambers hissed open. An aged Cosian wearing Jedi robes entered, walking slowly with the aid of a cane. Thick, pale hair framed the long, equine face. Despite the old Jedi's hunched posture and ambulatory pace, his large amber eyes were alert, and betrayed no hint of mental weakness.

Yoda tilted his head slightly at the newcomer. "Master Sinube? Summoned, you were not. Something of importance to report, you have, hmm?"

With a harrumph, Sinube cleared his throat. "Ahum, yes. I have some information regarding our wayward visitor. I would have waited to report, but I understand that Master Jinn here claimed to have recently encountered a Sith."

Qui-Gon nodded, curious at the apparent non-sequitur. "That is correct, Master Sinube."

Sinube reached into his robes and withdrew a holovid screen. "Is this the being you encountered, Master Jinn?" he asked, delicately sending the screen floating to Qui-Gon.

Qui-Gon plucked the holovid from the air. It only took him a second to recognise the Zabrak who had attacked him on Tatooine. The fact that the Sith was clearly dead stunned him. "It certainly appears so. The colouring is identical, and the pattern of tattoos is as I remember. How did he die?"

Sinube crossed his hands over the handle of his cane. "Masters?" he asked the Council.

Several members glanced at each other before the twelve each nodded their ascent. Mace Windu spoke to Qui-Gon and his Padawan. "Almost two days ago, a human male who did not speak Galactic Basic appeared in the Temple to the accompaniment of an unprecedented disturbance in the Force. He left the Temple before a protocol droid could learn his language."

Obi-Wan frowned, but raised his hand. At the bald Jedi's nod he asked, "Appeared? Did he break in somehow?"

"Break in, he did not. Appeared out of nothingness, he did."

"Appeared out of nothingness? But surely…"

"Reason to detain him, we had not," Yoda continued, shaking his head.

Ki-Adi-Mundi spoke up. "The human's arrival left almost all Knights and Masters within the Temple reeling. Even had we the intention to detain him, it would have been difficult to communicate it."

Master and Padawan shared a look. This human was responsible for the disturbance that had caused them to pass out en route to Coruscant?

"Unfortunate it is, but against appearing out of thin air, no laws we have."

To Obi-Wan's wide-eyed, horrified surprise, a couple of the younger Council members smiled at Yoda's quip. Smiled!

Qui-Gon shook his head. "This sounds fanciful. Appearing out of nothing? Are you certain?"

"Security footage, there is, Qui-Gon. Appear without warning, the human did."

Qui-Gon looked down at the images of the dead Sith. "What does this arrival have to do with the Sith warrior?"

It was Sinube who answered. "Yesterday, I heard of the apparent murder of a Trandoshan smuggler at a sabaac game. From the witness' descriptions, the young human who killed the Trandoshan was the same one who appeared in our Temple. I offered the local authorities my services for their investigation." He inclined his equine-shaped head modestly. "My expertise on the Coruscant criminal element, you see."

"Laws against killing, we do have," Yoda said quietly.

"Masters Galia and Mundi were sent to arrest the human," Windu added. "It was our intention to interrogate him on the events that surrounded his arrival."

Adi Gallia cleared her throat. "He can somehow employ the Force, but how he does so is… wrong. The Force is somehow… harmed each time."

Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan exchanged glances. "The awful disturbances over the past two days are the result of this human abusing the Force?"

"Yes," Adi continued. "Luminara and I followed a series of those Force disturbances to their source. A small alleyway in the terranean city levels in a distant sector. Even though the human was no longer there, the Force still wept from his abuse." She shook her head, almost as if disbelieving her testimony. "He appears to be able to manipulate spatial dimensions. It was… unnerving to witness."

Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan exchanged glances. Manipulate spatial dimensions? How was that possible?

Mundi cleared his throat. "Using security footage, my team and I tracked him to mid-level, exiting a junk shop with the severed head of a droid. Despite the damage, the droid was operational. The human spoke to the droid in a language made up of sibilant hissing before escaping us."

"Hissing?" Qui-Gon asked. "Have you identified this language? Its home world?"

Mundi withdrew a small datapad from his robes. "When responding to the human's question, his protocol droid used a few words in Basic, According to Jocasta, there are several million languages in current and former use that use sibilant sounds, though only a tiny fraction use them to a significant degree. Only three of those languages do not have native words for those spoken by the droid. None of those languages are considered modern, and none of them are spoken by humans." The Jedi Master looked up from the datapad. "Indeed, it is considered impossible for humans to learn any one of the three."

Qui-Gon absorbed this. This human was a multi-tiered enigma. "How did he escape?"

"He chose to leap from the walkway rather than be arrested," Mundi replied.

Qui-Gon blinked. "He jumped?"

"He had some sort of Force-powered, flight-capable device that allowed him to flee. Incongruously, it appeared to resemble a primitive cleaning tool. A long, straight wooden shaft with a collection of bristles attached to the end."

Qui-Gon wondered briefly is this was all some juvenile prank; or if the assembled Masters were suffering from some sort of mass-psychosis. "Force-powered?" he scoffed. "A Force-powered, flying broomstick?"

The Master nodded. "As abominable as it sounds, yes. We all sensed the power of the device as he flew on it, and could find no trace emissions from any engine or fuel cell. It flew a little faster than a standard speeder, but from the wake of tortured energies, we deduce that it was powered by the Force."

Obi-Wan took a surprised step back at the concept, suddenly relieved that it was not appropriate for him to speak. A Force-powered vehicle?

Qui-Gon rubbed at his bearded chin, musing aloud, "A mechanical device imbued with the Force would be simple enough to follow, though."

Mundi nodded. "It was, until it disappeared. The disturbance in the Force was tremendous, but the human seemed to vanish. He had teleported to a distant point in the sky. A few minutes later, we felt an identical disturbance, as he teleported again."

"Teleported!?" Obi-Wan exclaimed, before slamming his mouth shut. Had he been a little younger, he'd have covered his mouth with his hand in shame.

"To where?" Qui-Gon asked over his Padawan, suspecting that he knew the answer.

"To the alleyway. To Luminara and Adi."

Adi shook her head, the petals on her headdress waving gently. "It was… painful. Not so much as his initial appearance in the Temple, but his arrival still overwhelmed us. He used some sort of weapon to leave us unconscious."

"But he didn't harm you?"

"No. He merely stole our credits and our vehicle."

Yoda frowned, closing his large eyes. "If teleport he can, arrest him, we cannot. Futile, it would be. Asked Master Sinube to watch him instead, we did." The little green Jedi clasped his clawed hands together. "Much to ponder on this matter, we have."

"Indeed," Mace agreed. "We cannot afford to make a mistake. Given the ease in which the human can presumably escape any form of custody, we deemed it necessary to simply observe him for the moment."

Qui-Gon pondered this new information. "It is unlikely that this human's sudden appearance and the re-emergence of the Sith are coincidental. Could they be working together? Perhaps the human has had Sith training?"

"That scenario is not very likely," The Cosian Master disagreed with a voice filled with certainty. He placed one hand behind his back and stepped forward a few paces to the accompaniment of his cane tapping the floor.

Qui-Gon looked dubious. "Are you sure?"

"Oh my yes, quite sure. The human is either ignorant of or ambivalent about the myriad ways he can be tracked. I traced Master Galia's vehicle to a diplomatic hotel in a nearby sector. He had taken a luxury suite there, after defusing a potentially volatile situation in one of the lounges…" The Cosian paused and appeared to make a new conclusion. "Hmm. It would appear that despite his abuse of the Force, it still directs events around him. The situation involved the Nemoidian Senator Dod and one of the Nabooan cultural Ministers."

Qui-Gon drew a sharp breath. "He intervened in a dispute between Naboo and the Trade Federation, and then is attacked by the same Sith that tried to kidnap the Nabooan Queen?"

Master Sinube nodded amiably. "It stretches credulity to suggest coincidence, does it not? In any event, once in his room, he used some of his abilities to set up some sort of permeable barrier around the suite. He then set about his ablutions." He tapped the holo in Qui-Gon's hand. "This Sith of yours entered the room and attacked him."

Qui-Gon's eyes widened at that.

"The fight was over quickly. Neither combatant was familiar with the abilities of the other. It seemed for a moment that the young human would be killed, but he performed his teleportation trick and appeared outside the hotel window, taking the Sith with him. The pair fell one point eight four kilometres onto a duracrete walkway."

"But the human survived." It wasn't a question.

Sinube nodded. "Indeed. There are no reliable security vids unfortunately, but all the witnesses say that he landed on his feet."

That caused a stir amongst the assembled Jedi. "On his feet? From that height?"

Sinube seemed quite cheerful at the idea. "Oh yes. As he was completely naked, his appearance caused quite some stir, and he was noticed by hundreds of beings. He definitely landed safely. He checked on the Sith, apparently not bothered by the fact that the Zabrak had attacked him. Oddly, he closed the Sith's eyes once it eventually succumbed to the injuries sustained by the fall. An act that I suspect is a tradition or cultural demand on his home world. The human took some objects from the body and then he vanished. He had teleported again, travelling back to his hotel room."

Qui-Gon looked down at the holo of the Zabrak corpse. The sight seemed to release him from some imperceptible restraints. He had been sure that he would encounter the Zabrak again; the feeling in the Force had been so strong, almost adamant. Now, it was as though previously unattainable paths had appeared. He felt the Living Force open in front of him. As though he suddenly had… choices? Did he have a different future? "Where is this human now?"

"He is still at the hotel. Perfectly visible, but hidden within the Force; a fact that when combined with all other observations leads me to conclude that not only has he never encountered a Jedi before, he is not familiar with modern technology. Knight Baator is observing him from a building a respectable distance away."

Qui-Gon asked, "What do you mean, hidden within the Force? His abilities sound anything but concealable."

Master Sinube shrugged. "He has done something to the Force, some sort of shielding. We can no longer sense the disturbances when he uses his abilities behind that shield. But any Jedi Knight, even the majority of our Padawans, would be able to sense the empty space in the Force." Sinube turned to face Yoda. "I should mention, the human has the Sith's lightsaber. An intriguing weapon too, as it has two blades."

Qui-Gon looked up from the holo. "Two blades?"

Yoda frowned. "Fallen out of favour, that ancient design has. Dangerous, but difficult to master, such a weapon is."

"A man able to kill the warrior I faced in minutes having his own lightsaber? That is not a comforting thought," Qui-Gon said.

Master Sinube nodded cheerfully. "Comforting, no. But the fact that the Sith and he were not working together is somewhat of a relief."

Obi-Wan cleared his throat and raised a hand. At Master Windu's nod, he asked, "If this human is involved in the dispute between the Trade Federation and Naboo, then Master Qui-Gon and I may come across him. What should we do?"

Qui-Gon gave his Padawan a warm smile. "Indeed. What else do we know about this human?"

Master Mundi reached for his datapad again. "He struck his head after he first arrived. Tests done on the blood he left behind reveal some disturbing facts. He has no midi-chlorians at all, yet is unquestionably alive."

"Impossible," Obi-Wan breathed.

The Jedi Master continued, ignoring the Padawan. "His genetic markers show that he is unquestionably human. In every single genetic test used to determine proximity to human baseline, he falls within one standard deviation. Every single one."

"His eye colour is not found in natural human populations," a Master sitting behind Obi-Wan interjected.

"Eye colour is not a human proximity measurement," Mundi retorted.

Qui-Gon's eyes narrowed at the possibilities. "Could he be genetically engineered? Lab-grown to function without midi-chlorians?"

"Or descended from an extremely limited gene pool," Master Galia supplied. "A small or insular population on a single, isolated world could also explain the narrow genetic code."

"Only so long as the original stock was just as genetically limited," Mundi disagreed.

Galia shook her head. "A natural disaster reducing a population down to just a few thousand would suffice. Being illegally engineered does not explain why he does not understand Basic. Or why his native language is not recognised by our protocol droids."

"An inbred population does not explain his lack of midi-chlorians!"

Qui-Gon and his Padawan exchanged glances as the chamber erupted into furious, if civilized debate. Amid the rousing debate, the Jedi Master's mood was glum. Anakin's fate would not be decided until the mystery of this impossible human was solved.

o_ooo000ooo_o

AN: Thanks to my reviewers - tenchifew, Nate88, Raychaell Dionzeros, Zealot of Reading, Eros Amor Black, crobhdearg, Naginator, killroy225, RagnarBlackmane, Beloved Daughter, impatientuser, Orlok Tsubodai Bahadur, arturus, exaigon, metal.v2, Graypdrink, kitsune of darkfire, Jman12394, urfan, KashikoiNekoHu, imgonnadie, Vilkath, Darklooshkin and Guests.