Author's Note:

I know, I know - I should be working on the next chapter of Watermark. But in discussing these concepts with Gurz (thanks, girlfriend – you rock!), I was inspired to write a short based on my ideas. Don't worry, Watermark will come… eventually!

This actually takes place in the For Good timeline, about 40 years before the series. Expect at least one follow-up to this sometime in Introspection from the 31st Century – that, and this will be further fleshed-out in the future of For Good. (Sometime, I might do a follow-up on Liv's side of the story, but we'll see.)

==Whole yet Shattered==

The first thing he was aware of was the rising and falling of his chest. It took a drowsy minute to register that fact – he was still breathing. The surgery had been performed!

Tentatively, almost afraid to dare to hope, he let his brain transmit a command to his right hand. It flexed! It actually flexed! His breath quickened with excitement as he tested his other hand. It worked, too!

He lifted his hands into the air – his arms worked! He lowered them and slowly, carefully, pushed himself up to a sitting position. He was sitting up! With no outside help!

Trembling with joy now, he slid his legs off the operating table and swung them in the air. He had working legs again!

Now for the true test.

Almost afraid again, he slowly set his feet on the floor and slowly lifted himself off the table to stand. He was standing! He could walk again!

He let out a whoop of pure, childlike excitement. "I am ALIVE!!"

The operation had worked! It had really worked!

Some part of his brain registered the fact that if he overdid it now, he would be in pain later. But who cared about pain?? At least he would be feeling it! He hadn't felt anything in far too long!

He felt the mouth grill on his face stretch in what probably looked an idiotic grin. Oh well – so long as nobody was there to see it, who cared?

He was whole again, free of his old quadriplegic body. Oh, what would Liv say when she saw him…

Liv.

His paradise crashed back down to cold reality. Liv had been missing for a year now, despite the desperate, obsessive searches for her. And then there had been that one time he had felt he was so close, only to be paralyzed in a stupid accident.

He gave a soulful sigh. Ever since that one night, his life had just gone downhill

"Look, Liv – I'm sorry!"

"It's not that! It was my fault, too! I just… I can't do this anymore, Tor!"

"Liv…"

"It hurts too much. You won't change – you said so yourself."

"I have a promise to keep to Nana – you know that!"

"It was a stupid promise! Conquer the universe?? Tor, get a life!!"

"I refuse to give up what my parents died for."

Liv sighed, defeated. "I see," she said quietly. "Then there's not really much point to this anymore, is there." She turned and began to walk away.

"Liv, where are you going?"

She stopped, and turned back to him, her eyes filling with tears. She ran back and threw her arms around him, giving him a kiss. A goodbye kiss.

"I love you," she whispered, releasing him. "But I have to go." She turned and fled.

"Liv! Wait!Livy!"

He could only watch helplessly as her small, one-man ship took off into the crimson sky.

"LIV!!"

He sank back onto the operating table, and realized something. He was crying. Somehow, his lacrimal glands had been left intact.

His broad shoulders shook as sobs wracked his powerful new form. His body might be whole, but his heart was shattered.

After a while, the grief subsided, and he stood again, moving over to the mirror and studying his new face. He knew exactly what Liv would say.

Monster.

The word played over and over in his mind – in her voice – taunting him.

Monster… monster… monstermonstermonstermonstermonster…

"SHUT UP!!" he screamed, blasting the mirror with his glowing red eyes. The mirror vaporized instantly, and no longer reflected his fearsome visage.

Panting, he reached a claw-like hand up to his face and felt it. The design was the ancient imperial war-mask of his people… and now it served as his own living face. Somehow, it completed the royalty in him.

He was truly an Evil Emperor now, no matter what anyone said.

No matter what she said.

He suddenly felt claustrophobic in the small room and fled from it as if being chased.

The silence in the abandoned room was broken suddenly by the ringing of a purple-and-red cell phone on the floor. A message followed three rings.

Tor? Tor, are you there? *sigh* I shouldn't have left you like that, and I'm sorry. I'm not sorry for what I said, but I shouldn't have left like that, either. I still love you, Tor. I hope you know that. You could become the worst mass-murderer the galaxy has ever seen, and I would hate you for it, but some part of me would still love you. I can't come back just yet, Tor, but I want to. Someday, I will.

I guess that's all for now. I love you, Tor.

The phone was still lying on the floor when the janitor 'bot came, and swept up the trash.

==Not Quite the End==