by ZP Florian


He looked at the shattered lyre, the broken chairs and torn drapes, the million shards of the smashed mirrors and listened to the sound of the air coming from his respirator.

Such idiotic outbreak of emotions.

He stared at the black leather of his fingers.

What have I become?

What have I become?

The question whispered inside him, wanting to be heard.


Have I sunk that low?

I wrecked my room.

Stars, I haven't done anything this childish since I was in diapers.


Another useless emotion. Damn. And why? Merely because I've lost my body.

A million voices attacked him at once.

- ah, but it was such a beautiful body, so skilled with arms and so popular with women.

- luminous beings are we, not just flesh.

- but the flesh could feel! it could enjoy, could suffer, had needs, had pleasures!

- you've survived, you're alive, your mind is intact . . . the Force is with you still.

Damn the Force!

The horror of it.

I'm not a man anymore.

- does it matter that much, that simple, animal act you used to perform with your pretty whores? should the loss of that bit of flesh diminish you, my lord?

Yes, damn you, yes! This has the power to break me! Master, you've taught me well, prepared me to withstand anything...prepared ME...but is this still "me"? this high-tech device that looks almost attractive in its giant dark form - but not a man, not a man!

It hurts!...that this cyborg body can't smell, can't taste...damn you, damn you that it can't even get hungry and eat, and damn you that it can't ever sleep! it can't get drunk.

This has the power to break me. Nothing else had power over me, never had, never will, nothing! not even you, Master - you never had any power over me and you knew it!

But this...this could...break me....

You could have let me die, had you an ounce of mercy.

What have I got? An excellent machine that can concentrate fully on the task of helping you conquer the universe. It needs no sleep, no food apart from some nutrient paste, maybe a good oiling once in a while - never feels tired....

And can't feel the edge of a blade of grass.

Can't ever get thirsty enough to make a glass of water taste of heaven!

Not a man.

Not a man!

Oh, you do know the names given to such creatures, don't you, Palpatine? In how many languages should I rattle off the expressions for such as me?

Laugh. Laugh now. Look at me with your hot yellow eyes and ask me how can I grieve so much for THAT.

Sweet mother sun, I don't even dare to name it.... Maybe you are right in laughing at me, Master...maybe I did value that bit of flesh over the power of the Force, over all knowledge in the galaxy...maybe I had really been a proud and vulgar animal delighting in the mindless pleasures of the flesh. Food, wine, women...the sweet darkness of a good night's sleep, the sweat on my skin...

And how had you hated it, always. How you've been teasing me with my pleasures. Was it envy? The envy of a man who needed so little, could feel so little, while I could ride to heaven with a scullery maid?

No. I know this is not true. You, my Master, truly don't need, never needed entertainment of this kind. The mind is your true realm.

And now, mine.

What have I become?

Will this break me?

-- it's done.

I hate this body!

I was beautiful. I was...I was alive, more alive than a thousand other men! An army could not achieve what I managed to gain with a smile.

My hair.

Was I that vain, that I now grieve for my hair even? What use of my hair would be to me now?

Sweet mother sun, I can't even piss.

Tell me that all I've lost was nothing. Remind me how the mind rules, how the flesh is a mere container. Make me believe that this damned black droid is me. Promise me I'll get used to it.

Talk to me!

Why couldn't you let me die?

Oh, I hear you clearly. That the loss of a piece of flesh, however remarkably sized, can't be the cause of such grief.

I know you are right, dammit! but you don't know that being right is nothing!

...what am I saying...

...would that be true, I'd be wrong...would the simple pleasures of living be so important, all I've established as sterling truth would be a mistake...if the mind had no supremacy, what am I basing my ambitions on?


Sweet mother sun, right now all my ambitions amount to tasting a grain of salt.

What have I lost? What have I become?

Don't leave me alone with this, Master. Come to me now. Help me.

Damn it all, give me something to do before I....

Palpatine came, and stood in the doorway, surveying the devastated room. He saw the black giant for the first time since he had designed the new body. He suppressed a smile. Fearsome sight his mighty servant became, not a trace of the disquieting male beauty remained.

"Good." he said. "Now you look like a Sith Lord. A legend. I am satisfied. Of course your attitude has a lot to be desired. I presume you'll rage and whine for at least ten days before grow tired of your own desperation. It's harder on me, you know. It was quite easy to keep you happy before, my friend. You were pleased with such simple toys: wenches and wine. Like

everybody else, like all the vulgar little spacers around the port. Now you are properly unique, my lord Vader." The Emperor laughed a little. "Anakin is dead. You see, I let HIM die. He was, as you said, a pretty cock, one of the dozen Skywalkers, all promise and no certainty. Your beloved body would have grown old and feeble one day, my friend, as this splendid machine will not. This will never betray you. Stop the hysterics, I beg of you. Have you such need of indulgement that even your grief must be all-consuming? I'll humor you. I'll grant you a tenday to rage. Feel free to claw at the mask. Wreck a few more rooms. Scream, howl, and whimper. I won't laugh at you, I promise. Shall I have more crystals delivered, so that you'll have enough to shatter?" The Emperor smiled. "Call me again when you're over with it. Don't call out to me for comfort. I can't comfort you any more than you can comfort me. See what power it gives me that I have no need for comfort? See how it degrades you that you have?"

Too late.

I've been trapped in this body, forever the target of your mocking. Kenobi left me there to die - Ben, why didn't you kill me? Must I admit that I had need for such mercy? That I would have been grateful for it?

Damn, I can still choose to die.

Can I? To give up what might be, for the certainity of nothingness? Can I stand not to know what happens tomorrow?

What happens to whom? To this emasculated cyborg that I have become?

Luminous beings we are, not this crude matter. Kenobi's beloved Yoda said that, I think. And Palpatine. And every Master of the Force. What is a Jedi then - some kind of embodied spiritual entity, that lives on after the flesh is gone?

Was Anakin nothing more than a pretty cock with vulgar desires?

Could I believe that, Master, I'd probably stop grieving.

"Allow me." Palpatine smiled. "You know I can make you believe it, if you'd only relax a little."

The black armor bends easily. He is on his knees now, head bowed before his Master. He is ready to submit -- what years of power play could not achieve, he is now willing to give.

Anything, to get rid of the pain of self-pity, the pain that threatens his sanity.

He hears the Master's soft voice.

"Anakin is dead. His name no longer means anything to you. You are now my servant, my Sith lord, my Lord Darth Vader, secure in your identity."

The manipulation is soothing. It penetrates deep in his soul, very deep, almost to the core of his dreams.


Almost should be good enough.

He preserves a touch of the pain, a memory of the grief. If he cannot taste sweet anymore, he wants the taste of this bitterness.

Thank you, Master. I don't think I'll wreck any more rooms.

Palpatine's calm yellow eyes watch the huge black apparition. Almost, the Emperor thinks. You almost give yourself to me fully and I almost trust you fully. This should make your life almost bearable, my friend...and mine almost happy.