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Absolute Pleasure

The man screams and writhes on the reflective floor, blood edging his mouth, smoke rising from his body, with the smell of singed flesh hot in the air. Then the suffering ends, like a dissipating cloud, and I cannot but come to the conclusion that I am horribly bored by the sight.

It was a sadly routine death, though I believed it would promise more when I decided on it. Failure, especially in government, is to be deplored. They drag him off as I turn away, hopelessly trapped in ennui.

Philosophically speaking, I ought to have achieved that status of paranoid tyrant, and therefore not lack for any diversion: too caught up in conspiracy theories for boredom. However, I believe I went through that particular phase when I was in my forties and do not care to repeat it. I know who wants to kill me, and why, and how they would go about it. I even know what they dream about in their hours of solitude. Frankly, it's all so mind-numbingly predictable that I really couldn't care less.

Sometimes I even catch myself wishing that I had never become the Galactic Emperor. How laughable, don't you think? But it was wonderfully thrilling playing the Supreme Chancellor. True, it mostly consisted of playing dejarik with myself, but the creatures I played with had lives of their own. Instead of two Savrips versus a K'lor slug I would play two Jedi against a Sith Apprentice. A charming game, and very well played, I think.

Many people at the time commiserated with me over the loss of my looks, such as they were. But I cannot say I minded their disappearance more than a trifle – it was amusingly metaphorical. But I miss my ability to achieve such a varied spectrum of deceit. I exude manipulation. You would think this would force me to work harder at it, but if anything it has become much easier with the years, although I may simply be improving, I do not know.

So many people lust after their vanished youth. I can hardly remember it. I feel almost as if I have been old forever. My bones ache, my limbs are gnarled, and my body has withered. But it has been a long time since I needed to use it. I have not duelled for twenty years and I am everywhere in my Empire whilst seated on my throne. I have been ruling this galaxy for half a century in one guise or another and I know that I have the means to rule it forever; not even my predecessor, the first Sith Emperor will have achieved as much.

Surely you can understand, therefore, how a man of my tastes and accomplishments might succumb to boredom? It gives me a mercurial bent that I once only used as a tool.

I adore the young. I love their certainty, their loyalty. And I love, at the back of their minds, the revulsion they must overcome. Ysanne is a perfect example. What a deliciously power-hungry, delusional little madam. I can see her now, sprawled out on my bed, her dark hair shimmering down her back, kissing my decayed features with such uncharacteristic tenderness. I cannot help but smile to think of it. Ah, how I wish that one was sensitive to the mysteries of the Force. Then there is Anakin, of course, whom I wound up and set on others like a youngling's toy; a pearl beyond price, Lord Vader. He was such a good-hearted child too, so desperate for praise, for love.

I must admit it makes my shudder with amusement to think of pawns such as these ruling my galaxy. Think of the chaos which would ensue! It would be like the battles of the Sith Warlords all over again, except with far less grace and much more bathos.

Stirring myself, I reach for the Force and gently rise from my chair, walking to the window to touch the transparisteel. The metal is cold and I press my hand against it. I think I will visit the theatre tonight. I hear a woman has written a splendid piece of satire on my reign. The play was banned after its premier performance, of course, and those responsible locked up. Isard wanted me to read the script, thinking I would be incensed and let her torture them immediately. I am hardly vain enough to miss the comical nature of my life, so I will view it, and then perhaps torture the playwright.

The play is called Fork – from the famous dejarik tactic which appeals to me immensely. I believe it has also made its way into Basic as an expletive. Thinking it over, I think I will demand a private viewing. Pestage will be pleased to organise the details.

Seated in my private theatre, then, in a deep throne, it's cushioning melting into my old back, surrounded by my Royal Guard. The playwright, an enchanting Twi'lek named Bal Quii, I have seated beside me as I wait to be amused or infuriated. I can feel the tension of the actors humming behind the curtain. I've made sure that they were informed that I had read the original script – even though I haven't – so that any changes will be obvious to me. They must preserve their drama in its present form. Miss Quii looks rather ill.

The stage is lit and I walk on. Oh, they really have captured the Senator of Naboo! The actor is very good, and not even shaking. He is wearing the quilted garments I wore in those days and on his face is a dignified, yet secretive, smile. My hands rest on the arms of my throne as I resist the desire to clap. He gives a lovely speech, in a fair impression of my style, about his devotion to his homeworld and how saddened he is by the Trade Federation's illegal takeover. The actor keeps his posture steady, his face fixed in the role, but his eyes keep darting nervously toward me.

Then follows some low comedy with Queen Amidala, who is characterised as about six years of age, and my election to the chancellorship, which has me going over my oath of office and asking an assistant for help explaining some of the concepts involved: freedom, justice, honour, democracy, et cetera. Democracy made me laugh. All the actors jumped. Then, naturally, came my constitutional reforms in the guise of excessively polite gift-giving –

ME: Oh, you shouldn't have!

SENATOR: But we wanted to,

ME: No, really it is too much. And it's not even my day of life…

SENATOR: I know, we all just wanted to say how much we appreciate your leadership.

ME: I really must decline, my friend, such power is too much for one man to bear. It's against the… the principle of… what was that word again, Pestage?

SATE: Democracy, Your Excellency?

ME: Yes, that's it! It's against the principle of democracy.

SENATOR: Well… if you're sure…?

ME: I'm afraid so.

SENATOR: I'm sorry for wasting your time, Your Excellency. I should have known a decent man such as yourself would have no part in such unconstitutional behaviour. Ah well. [The senator makes as if to leave.]

ME: Wait, you needn't give up so soon!

I'm sure you get the idea. Miss Quii is watching the audience rather than the stage and I think she keeps expecting me to jump up and order everyone's deaths. I content myself with smiling at her and turning back to the play.

The "Jedi plot" disappointed me, but then, dear Bal has no idea of the scale of planning that went into Order Sixty-Six. I think the material could have been handled better. Although I must say that this play is the most amusing thing I've seen since Mothma's Declaration of Rebellion. That had me in absolute paroxysms of laughter. Dear Mon, finally giving me an excuse to suspend the institution she so cared for – the Senate. The irony of it tickled my fancy, rather. And I still think my Declaration of a New Order was superior, oratorically speaking.

When the curtain finally went down I clapped enthusiastically. "That was excellent, my dear; charming. I feel quite nostalgic."

"You liked it?" Her mouth is open, poor girl.

"Of course – simply delightful; imagine what you could have done had you known that I myself directed the Separatist movement and caused the Clone Wars all in my quest for greater power… eminently comical. Unfortunately, I don't think others will appreciate your work nearly as much as I do. So I'm sure you understand why I can't allow you to have it performed?"

She nodded. But the satirist in her rebelled and her eyes gleamed. "And I suppose we'll just disappear down a spice mine, then?"

"Wherever did you get that idea? No, I want you to write a lampoon directed against the so-called Rebel Alliance. They could benefit as much as I from your comic insight into sentient beings. And we'll broadcast it on the HoloNet. What do you think?"

She weighed her integrity against the lives of her company. "Thank you, Your Majesty." She bowed low.

"My pleasure, dear girl, my absolute pleasure."