Maul did not want to leave Glee Anselm entirely yet. He could still find more about Motoko, although now he knew everything he needed to know about her family. He flew through the night, looking for the bright light of cities, listening to the chatter. He had left the surfboard at the side of the ocean and walked back into the spaceport with his blaster in his boot, just another spacer coming from a night out on the town.
He found a large city. He found another spaceport where people could live, like in a hotel. He knew where he could find work now: fishing. The ocean was everywhere. And luckily, the next day, he found an occupation that would suit him despite his legs. He met Nautolans, rough wide-shouldered people who did not care who he was, who smoked death sticks and placed bets in warehouses filled with fish and the smell of fish.
He kept his talisman. He spent the credits that Athon-Emen's grandmother had given him, and he made more. Years passed.
For a while, he felt like he had found what he was looking for. For a long while, he did not think about Sidious and the Jedi.
He heard of them on the HoloNet sometimes, and each transmission was another surge of anger. He could get in fights here in the city without anyone remembering who he was the next morning. There was more species diversity here, and if there were corrupt councilmen, they did not stoop to meet him.
He heard about the Jedi.
And then, for a while, he didn't hear about them any more.
The night the Republic fell, Darth Maul woke up in clammy, sweaty sheets. He had dreamed of himself walking through the halls of the Jedi Temple, bodies fallen on the rich carpets and against the columns. He dreamed of smoke and fire, the smell of blaster shots, shouting in the streets and electric pulses of panic and horror in the Force.
He dreamed of this often. Usually it was pleasurable, almost relaxing. He could sink into the mission, the hard, dull work of slaughter, and know who he was.
Tonight, there was something else in the Temple with him.
When he rounded a high-ceilinged corner into a deep hall he saw it, a black pillar of a man with no face, just a dark oval and wisps of fog like waving hair.
It had killed the Jedi, and that was the first thing that rankled him - it had killed them first, not even leaving him scraps. It had no gender. It had even fewer characteristics than a droid, but somehow it moved forward, and looked at him without having eyes.
It never came for him. It never moved closer, after that. Around him, he knew, the slaughter was continuing: the thing in front of him didn't have to move or even be present to stretch out its arms and crush a classroom, a dormitory - Its presence started all this, and not even its physical appearance could affect it at all. What had been loosed would not return to its handler. This end was inevitable even before this thing came into being, in whatever way it arrived in the galaxy, out of the dirt or down from the sky, and because of that it was everywhere, and because of that, Maul's impact on his mission was null. If he had never been born, the Jedi would have fallen. If he had never met Sidious, the Jedi would have fallen.
In this dream, Darth Maul met the crux of the history of the galaxy, and hated it because it was not him.
There was something anathema about that.
He woke up with his sheets tangled around him, almost choking him.
He did not have the HoloNet in the ship, except for what was absolutely necessary for communication with spaceports, so he would not have found out until he went into work and found the fisherman staring, even the market almost deserted, and heard the fishermen tell one another that the capital of the Republic had been attacked, maybe by the Jedi, and anyway the Jedi Order was disbanded, and Chancellor Palpatine had reined everything in and declared himself Emperor, not for an emergency, but for what, although it was far too soon and far away to say, was being called a new era.
Of course, that was on Coruscant. It hardly mattered to the fishing economy of one city on Glee Anselm, except that a lot of people, fishers and customers, had gone home to be with their families. The galaxy had shivered. It was still waiting to find whether the quiet moment afterward was a death rattle or the start of a recovery.
Maul thought of his dream. It all felt like a dream, now, and that made the urge to go back to Coruscant easier to resist. Something else pushed in the opposite direction, an opposing force that would not let him even start planning to nose back in to Sidious' sphere of influence. A resistance he could not see or comprehend. Something magnetic.
As easy as falling asleep.
He knew that his reticence to return to Coruscant wasn't a natural state, though. Something was stopping him, and he couldn't identify what it was, but he couldn't fight it, either. It would be like fighting his reflection in the water.
(Maybe it would at least feel good, he thought sometimes.)
The idea of returning, of crunching Jedi Temple glass under his boot, stayed with him. The figure of the black shape, that person like a pillar, stayed too, though, driving him away. Unlike a nightmare, it did not dissipate or lose its power.
And so, Darth Maul continued on.
The water closed over Maul's head. Now, it didn't even phase him. In the sunny afternoon, the ocean depths were green and blue. Around him, other divers sank, harpoons slung over their shoulders. The metal clanked around him.
Each diver, encased in a heavy suit of green metal, landed on the sea floor with a soft puff of sand. Each diver moved away in his or her own direction, seeking the prey that may or may not come, the predators that may or may not find them.
This was Athon-Emen's tiny fishing operation commodified, made into a business that employed tens of itinerants and family members, all of them returning to the same warehouse at the end of the night. Mostly, they caught the large silver-blue fish that swam in sedate schools far out in the depths of the sea, just before the continental shelf.
Sometimes, though, there were bigger things.
A shadow cruised to Maul's right, and he sensed the slow, prehistoric malevolence of the shark. It reflected water color, but after it scissored closer he saw that its skin was in fact brown. All five fins were pointed and ragged. Its yellow eyes and yellow teeth gaped blindly, stupidly. It was only investigating him now, curious to see what had fallen into its waters in such great numbers but left no scent. The Nautolan fishing company hadn't plied these waters in a while. The rotated areas like farmers allowing fields to rest.
The shark cruised slowly, getting the lay of the land. It did not seem to expect fishermen to attack it, since it was probably one of the largest, but also least sustainable, creatures in the sea. It was probably far from its usual haunting grounds in deeper waters.
Maul pressed a button on his spear. The engine whined, clicking as gears turned inside the heavily sealed housing.
He let it loose before the shark knew it was coming. The automated spear pieced the animal just behind where Maul imagined it would have its ribs. A spurt of blood gouted into the sea, and Maul pressed another button on his gauntlet that would bring other fishermen flocking to the area in case of emergency. He might need other people to form a circle if the blood attracted more sharks.
The animal scissored back and forth gently a few times, as if nothing had happened, but it wasn't gaining ground any more. The beady black eyes held no expression. Maul approached, wishing that he knew more about beast-taming. There were Force users who dedicated themselves to that alone, so it must be a complicated art that he would not be able to learn quickly.
The shark allowed him to approach.
He reached out both hands, the line from the powered harpoon to Maul's shoulder trailing in the water, and almost touched its gills. They looked just like Nautolan gills, pink and red slashes in the brown skin instead of in green. The shark thrashed toward him then, unsettlingly fast, a blur of blue and brown. Its nose and its teeth hit his armored right arm, crunched the metal hard enough that Maul could feel it bind around his forearm and elbow, and retracted. In between, Maul closed its gills with the Force. The shark was weakening from blood loss, but it hadn't punctured his suit and Maul didn't want to give it the chance to do so again. He stepped backward. Its movements became slower, and Maul stared into its eyes. They registered no hopelessness, no malice. Just a mechanical urge to move forward, following a call that the shark gave no evidence of understanding.
Maul felt that way too. It reminded him of his nightmare, his repeated, always-lurking dream.
By this time more Nautolans were arriving, transmitting their happiness for such a large, rare kill through the Force as clearly as if the had radios, and Maul's connection to the beast was gone. He was known as a dour person and so no one took it as anything worth remarking about when he simply reeled the shark in on the harpoon, unclipped it to his back, and helped the other fisherman who pushed forward to tow the kill to the surface.
The ride back was uneventful. When they got to the docks, though, Maul saw immediately that something more exciting than their shark was drawing all the attention on the docks and in the large fish market beyond. Someone was standing on a pier, out on the water (where they couldn't get away if the crowd surged forward in anger, Maul immediately noticed.) The group was made up of mostly Nautolans, with the occasional Anselmi, an unusual sight even in the urban area, and the occasional human. The person on the dock was small and low-slung: a Dug, wearing an orange coat and a low-brimmed red hat.
"What's this?" Catra, one of the leaders of the fishing team, looked toward the Dug as soon as their boat hit the dock. Catra was big and ugly and fair. All of the members of the team except one had taken off their diving helmets as soon as the boat got under way. Maul held his by the breathing tubes on the back, dangling the heavy, round mask.
"They're holding a rally," a Nautolan woman said. "It's anti-human, or something."
Another Nautolan piped up. "There's a few humans over there."
And then Maul saw a picture of Sidious.
Of Palpatine, really - a hand-drawn picket sign, but it was recognizable as the chancellor-turned-emperor's face.
"I'll be back," Maul said, and pulled himself over the side of the boat. The fishers watched him go.
"With the Senate's hands tied in terms of the army, only one person decides the fate of billions of people!" The Dug was saying. It wasn't difficult for Maul to insinuate himself into the crowd, which had, out of respect or simply lack of necessity, not moved onto the pier. "That person clearly discriminates against species other than his own. It's arrogance! It's blindness! And attempts to make him see reason have met with responses shading from political sidestepping to blunt rudeness. We have a galaxy to take care of, Palpatine said. We have to make things better, he said. For who? I say. Not just for humans!"
The crowed roared. Maul found himself in a group of Devaronians, tall, red-skinned beings. A few Zabraks were among them as well.
"What's she talking about?" he asked his neighbor.
"Emperor Palpatine won't allow anyone except humans to serve in the Imperial army," she said. "That's the start of it. There are rumors of more, but we've only got one actual decree to go on right - yeeaaaah!" Her sentence was cut off by another roar from the crowd.
"Who is she?" he asked, indicating the Dug.
"Yujan. She leads this whole thing."
"Could I speak to her?"
"I'm not sure. She might be meeting people after the rally, but she's had to hide out a lot now. Unless you know who to talk to, it can be hard to find her. Because people get angry." She lowered her gravelly voice. "Humans get angry."
There were some humans in the crowd, who seemed just as incensed about Sidious-Palpatine's apparent speciesist stance as any of the Nautolans or Devaronians. Just as Maul was picking them out from the crowd, a hand tapped on his shoulder.
He turned around to see a Zabrak, a tan-skinned woman with thin, brown tattoos like tiger stripes. She had long brown hair that almost covered up her horns. In fact, he could only see two horns on the top of her head, like a Devaronian's but a paler color. However, he suspected that smaller horns were arrayed to either side, covered up by her flyaway hair. That was one strain of Zabrak different from his own. The Jedi Master Eeth Koth also had that horn pattern.
Maul did not know Iridonian Zabrak strains well, though. Their Dathomirian variants were different, mutt breeds, bred by the Nightsisters for strength and subservience, not following any natural pattern that Maul knew.
The woman looked to be about Maul's age. She wore a brown tunic crossed at the neck, brown pants, and a black jacket that covered her arms and hands up to her knuckles. She put one hand on her hip: thin wrist, but a hip lumpy with fat.
"Excuse me," she said. Her voice was low and multi-faceted: it was like it had a thin edge to it, but the core of it was rich. "You look familiar."
Not sure what to say, Maul simply shook his head.
"No, I swear I've seen you before. Do you have a brother who works in Killende?"
Maul must have glared, because she dialed down her chipper tone but did not stop talking. "Or maybe..." she scrunched up her face, as if this possibility was unlikely but she was going to say it anyway. "Are you one of the Surin kids?"
Yes, Maul thought, without quite knowing why. Yes I am.
What did that mean?
"Yeah. From...from Dathomir." She looked sad now. She seemed to have some prior knowledge of Dathomir, and that intrigued Maul. He had found Kilindi, or at least, as much of her history as he could, and found closure in the pile of bodies blackened by electric shock and in the wet slap as Kilindi's father hit the ground: what if he now needed to find some part of himself and Savage?
"I...have heard that my parents were from Dathomir," Maul said. "But I have never been there myself."
"Oh! Did you escape?"
"Something like that."
He looked out at the sea again. The Dug was still gesturing, waving her arms. The claws on her padded, leathery fingers were long and black, not grotesque, but neat and predatory. The Zabrak woman got the hint that Maul was a quiet one and did not say anything else. They stood there for a moment, him ignoring her, and then she started to ease away into the crowd, going back to where ever she had come from. He could see a group of Zabraks who were her likely destination. They all had a similar horn pattern and drab clothing.
He had been waiting for her to go. Then, when she did, he could decide whether he wanted her to.
"What do you know about Dathomir?" he said.
She turned around. Her words were more measured now. She had lost her schoolgirl attitude and now talked to him like a business partner. "It's part of why I got involved. I heard what happened to our kinsfolk on Dathomir, and you know what, I did that thing - said to myself, that couldn't happen here. It only happens out on some weird witch planet. But then we hear this." She gestured around. The Dug had finished talking, so the crowd was beginning to disperse, bunching up and dissipating outward at different points.
"And you knew the Surin family?"
"Only by proxy. My friend Talon knows them, or did. He tried to get some people out of Nightsister camps, years ago, but they didn't make it. It might not even have been the same clan of Nightsisters. But Arriette Surin made a note of saying that she wanted help for her three boys. She was...sortof a rallying cry. But she got lost in the shuffle. They're more of a cautionary tale now."
"Indeed," he said. "And Yujan is the rallying cry now."
The Zabrak nodded. "I can take you to meet her. She's going to be behind the fish market."
"I thought she was difficult to find."
The Zabrak shrugged. "Maybe. I know where she's going to be. Do you know where the back booth is? You look like you work in the market."
Only then did Maul think about the fact that he was still wearing his diving suit. The green metal, stained red around the rivets with rust, was easier to walk in for him than it would have been for the other fishermen, since they didn't have mechanical legs. Maul's legs were no secret any more and were in fact a selling point for him when he tried to find work as a fisherman. It would be impossible to fish from the docks in the crowded city, so, for Maul's employer, someone who wasn't afraid of anything, found the ideas of sleeping in and drinking late to be silly, and would naturally sink was a dream employee.
Thanks to those impressive selling points on his resume, he had, through a sort of osmosis more than actually consistently traveling through the market, learned where the back booth was.
More properly it was a row of the last booths before the town started, but it was known colloquially and collectively as the back booth. It was also known as a place thronged with tourists and locals alike, making navigation difficult and, unless you wanted the same fish you could get anywhere else plus the chance to say that you had done it, pointless.
He nodded at the woman.
"Okay," she said. "She's going to be there. You can come with me if you want, but it might take her some time to get out. I don't think she's done with this crowd."
On the dock, the person holding the sign with Sidious' face on it lowered the sign, hand over hand. Someone else reached in and tore a chunk of flimsiplast off the corner.
The Zabrak woman was long-winded but unobtrusive, and Maul quietly followed her through the market while she talked about the rally and stopped to ooh and aah over a dead fish that still had bright yellow eyes on it. As they got farther from the dock she talked more about the fish and less about the rally, and Maul knew that it was because she was less likely to find supporters out here. She was savvy, and he respected that at the same time as he was unpleasantly reminded of the human Kasen's inability to shut up.
It was only during the walk through the market that he thought about how many aliens Sidious had worked with as part of the Sith Order. Sidious had never shied away from working with Mas Amedda, Sly Moore, or the Separatists of varied species. Maul himself, of course, viewed Sidious sometimes like a father because of the kindnesses he had done in between abuses. Sidious' own Master had been a Muun.
Of course, Sidious had planned multiple ways to backstab any or all of these people, as he had so uncharacteristically brutishly demonstrated to Maul the last time they had seen each other. That was Sith nature, though, not racism.
The Chosen One, Anakin Skywalker, whom Maul had only learned about after his time on Lotho Minor, had been human. That thought sank into Maul's mind and rankled.
He found it difficult to identify enough with his own species to join their cause with any emotional fervor, though. He would see what he could do with this miniature army that had formed itself practically in his back yard. The fact that he shared with some of its members a culture that prided itself on the development of the zhaboka was irrelevant.
The two of them did have to wait a little while for the Dug named Yujan to stop being mobbed. The brown-haired Zabrak had just told Maul that her name was Draz Oofan when Yujan arrived looking harried, her batlike ears drooping. The skin inside them was almost transparent, nearly glowing tan under the light of the large market, but the rest of her skin was dark brown and warty. She had taken off her hat along the way and now held it in one hand, revealing a few tufts of hair surrounded by yellow bands that did not seem to serve a purpose. The mane would have stuck up either way.
She stood just outside the market. Maul suspected that she would be moved away by security Nautolans soon. There were only about five supporters there with her in addition to Maul and Draz. One of them was a brown-skinned male Zabrak with tattoos across his cheeks that looked like lightning caught mid-strike. This must have been the man she had mentioned called Talon. Maul wondered whether it was his real name: it almost sounded like a Sith appellation. The tattoos were not just a stylized, jagged lightning bolt either: the white lines were thin until they exploded into small points of light, then changed direction under his eyes and stabbed downward. One petered out near the corner of his lips, while the other meandered across his cheek before ending in a many-pointed explosion and a spear of light. Maul wondered how it had been done. The man's eyes were dark, almost the same color as his skin. He recognized Draz and walked over to her just as someone else, a Nautolan, was starting to speak to Yujan. The lightning-tattooed Zabrak pushed a curtain of white hair away from his eyes before reaching out the same hand, his right, to shake Draz's own proffered right hand.
"This is my friend Talon. Talon, this is..." Draz looked at Maul, then realized that she didn't know his name.
"Maul," he said. It was what he had been going by the whole time he worked for the fishermen. His given title had been devalued to the name it always was anyway. He did not have another one.
"Nice to meet you."
"Are you here to speak to Yujan?" Talon asked.
"We are," Draz replied. "Maul wants to join us. We're just waiting until Yujan is freed up."
"I think she is now," Talon said gently, and gestured to where the Dug had been holding court behind them.
When Maul turned, he saw that it was true. There was a gap in the people who had been questioning Yujan.
"Great. Thanks," Draz said to Talon.
Maul watched the back of Draz's head as she bobbed toward Yujan. She greeted the Dug politely.
"How are you?" Yujan said. At this distance, Maul could see that Yujan was elderly. Her skin was even more wrinkled than Dug skin was usually, and her yellow eyes were clouded with cataracts. She was standing on a wooden crate in order to be at eye level with the much taller species around her. Although Dugs had long reach, they were built like upside-down crabs, low to the ground.
"I would like to travel with you to Dathomir," Maul said.
"I'm sure Draz told you that this ain't no luxury cruise," Yujan said, not unkindly. "We're going there to see whether we can rally support against the kind of slavery they inflict upon their men. Maybe even to rally support against the Empire." She waited to see how he would respond to such a radical statement.
"I have family there," Maul said. It seemed to work by way of explanation, because Yujan shifted her cheeks around thoughtfully.
"You can go along with us," She said, and then looked at Draz. "We're not all going. Just so you know, Yayak and them are going somewhere else. Another group, the group I'll be with, is splitting off to visit Dathomir. We can't just be preaching to the rich. "
"And the other group?" Draz said.
"I think you know," Yujan said.
At first Draz's eyes widened in surprise, but then she nodded, lips set in a determined line.
"And you?" Yujan turned to look at Maul down the length of her long snout.
"I am not sure."
"If you want to, join us at our ship at 1300 hours tomorrow. It will be in bay 422. Do you think you can find it?"
He nodded. Maul's ship was in bay 354.
When he left the market, he saw his fishing team still on the docks, which were now empty of people. They had laid out the shark. Chunks of it had been cut off to make massive pink steaks. The blood ran back into the sea.
Catra looked up as soon as Maul approached. There was shark blood spattered up and down his bare arms. "What was happening out there?" the Nautolan asked.
"Against the Empire?" Catra shook his head.
"You know how they say bravery is a lot like stupidity?" Catra said, and some of the Nautolans behind him piped up with warnings. Don't mess with the Empire. It wasn't worth it.
"They say that the emperor is speciesist."
Catra shrugged. He gave the general impression that it didn't matter to him.
Maul walked along the ocean. There was no natural beach here since it was very industrialized, but the retaining wall was simple and aesthetically pleasing, with gray blocks of stone carefully fitted against one another, and a white railing capping it all. Below the wall he could see places where mud had formed small humps and dunes against the wall. Those were the places where the beaches would form first if the city was ruined by a storm and left to flatten out back to its natural state.
Maul's mind drifted to his dream, to that hazy, lazy feeling of terror.
And then he was dreaming again.
He could not tell whether he had fallen or was still standing, or even walking, and that panicked awareness of how unaware he was of his body added to the disorientation of the sudden flash. Maul had not had a Force-vision before but he had heard of them. This one was happening too fast for him to think much more about it, but it was certainly saturated and surrounded by the Force.
He saw Sidious, arms spread and his robes trailing like the wings of a bird. He was standing over Dathomir: standing with his feet sank invisibly into the galaxy among the stars and glittering nebulas. Maul saw, without any apparent sense of scale, faces looking up at him from the forested ground of Dathomir. They were Zabraks, with skin mostly in shades of red and yellow and orange. Maul thought he recognized his brother - both brothers, although he had never met or experienced either sadness or pity for the youngest brother, Feral. Maul saw blurry faces that in the dream he knew to be his parents, although they were blacked out in the same foggy way as the pillar man from his recurring dream. Occasionally the fog lifted and he saw a flash of horn or a curve of a cheek.
He had the strong urge to find them. Not to save them from Sidious, because Sidious could just as well have been embracing them than leaning down to crush them. But the vision solidified Maul's belief that something in the Force, something of cosmic importance, wanted him to find his family.
And Maul's belief that he himself was, quantitatively, of cosmic importance had never been sufficiently challenged.
He blinked. The faces in his dream shifted, looking at him with bright eyes that shone even through the fog. The Force seemed to stab him between the eyes.
When he came to, he found himself staring at the listless water throwing itself in white peaks against the gray retaining wall. For a moment he was so disoriented that his instinct was to pinwheel his arms, find out exactly how free he was falling. But as soon as he thought about it, he clenched his hands painfully against the hard, grainy surface of the stone railing and realized that he was simply gripping the wall, still standing, but leaning over as if he was looking at something in the sea. He let out one sharp, held breath so hard that it almost hurt his throat and his chest.
The vision felt like an order from Sidious. Perhaps it was from the Force, from the dark side. Either way, Maul liked orders.
And he had a way to go find his family all laid out in front of him. Now, he would just have to go to bay 422.