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Just This Once

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Maul felt the faint vibration of the ship before anything else fully registered. He couldn’t remember why he was on a ship, or nearly anything else, for that matter.

Drugs, he thought slowly, his brain working through the slog of whatever mixture they’d given him to keep him under. His tongue felt like cotton in his mouth and he instinctively reached for the Force, finding it, surprisingly, at the edge of his grasp.

The force inhibitor had been removed, then. He couldn’t remember them taking it off, but there were many things he couldn’t remember. How long had he been there? Years? Pain blurred days together—time had lost all meaning while shackled and tortured beyond his ability to comprehend.

Flexing his arms as feeling crept back into them, Maul found himself cuffed but otherwise unrestrained. No doubt the drugs were supposed to debilitate him, but Zabrak metabolism worked differently. They were bred to survive.

Sidious would have known, he thought. Undoubtedly someone else arranged the transportation while the Sith Lord himself was preoccupied elsewhere. Having a new Sith to train and an empire to run took time, enough to distract him from his favorite ex-apprentice.

The fog in Maul’s head didn’t clear so much as settle, leaving the world unfocused. Maul twisted his wrists in the cuffs, sending a small nudge of the Force to help spring them open. The effort nearly knocked him back unconscious; after not contacting the Force for so long, let alone using it, the feeling of it flowing through him was overwhelming.

His arms were free, though, and he stumbled upright, going straight to the floor as his legs collapsed under him. They weren’t the legs he had acquired after Lotho Minor, but some basic variety of cybernetics that wouldn’t allow him to do much more than walk.

He couldn’t remember why his captors had reattached a pair, after ripping the old ones off and leaving him no better than a torso writhing on the floor. They were showing him to someone—he thought. He couldn’t focus.

Pushing himself up again and waiting for his head to stop spinning, he took a careful step, reaching out as much as he could with the Force to get a better feel of his surroundings. It was a small passenger craft, with seemingly only one other life form aboard. The pilot, if Maul had to guess.

He slid the door to his compartment open, nearly keeling over as he did so and reminding himself that he didn’t quite have a grasp on things yet. Still, years of training had made him almost silent on his feet when he wanted to be, and creeping toward the cockpit came naturally even despite the tug of the drugs telling him to sit down and rest.

Not yet, he told his body. This could be the only chance he got to escape. Until now he’d been inhibited, shackled, and in more pain than he could cope with. He’d tried to get away before, he’d raged against Sidious and the others that paid him visits, all to no avail. Sidious found his efforts amusing.

Now was as good a time as ever.

The Duros pilot didn’t even have time to turn around; Maul snapped his neck in an instant, reeling at the exertion and collapsing into the co-pilot chair.

Focus, he told himself, feeling the inevitable drag of exhaustion and malnutrition pulling him down, blackness spotting in the corners of his vision and steadily closing in. His body ached, everything from horns to fingers, as well as something deep in his chest, between the thump of his hearts.

Knowing he only had minutes left, Maul tapped the screen and pulled up schematics of the area, not quite sure where he was.

The Force nudged him, whispering something he was too tired to focus on and too slow to understand. It felt like he was listening to it underwater, everything muffled and heavy, so very heavy.

He needed to reroute the ship, and fast. Figuring out how to disable the ship’s tracker was easy, but deciding where to go was less so. He had no friends, not anymore, no one who would help if he showed up in a stolen Imperial vessel. Many of the systems would turn him in immediately, assuming, that is, he had enough fuel to get anywhere.

The cockpit spun around him and Maul braced himself, feeling the Force give him another nudge. He tapped in the coordinates, not sure why it wanted him to go there. He could only hope there would be enough fuel.

His last coherent thought before he collapsed back into the seat was: Why Tatooine?

He did not have long to worry, though, as the exhaustion stole over him and the darkness closed in once more.