Prince Garma Zabi is dead, and we are all poorer for it.

What are we to do, one may ask, without Zeon's patron saint? How will any mall be opened, hospital wing be dedicated, or group of troubled youth be put in their place without the Royal Family's most nubile member? Not to ignore Princess Kishiria, of course, she's a fine woman who'll no doubt make some man, or woman for that matter, very happy. But she hasn't got the pure, exotic charisma that her little brother could have bottled and sold.

We've all seen the photos of Garma gazing at the camera from behind those long lashes, hair obscuring his face partially, twisting it in delicate nervousness. Potential royal heir as Miss America. Incredible. Who could have made it up?

I can report here and now that Garma was in reality a hard-drinking, heavy- smoking, dirty joke-telling son of a bitch who'd no doubt greet the saccharine retrospective biographies of him with a nine-iron through a television screen. Oh yes, he had his violent side. Make no mistake about it, and ask anyone who had the misfortune of getting in his bad graces in a Zum City dive bar. One poor sap I know, a man named Flanders, is still learning to speak again after having his teeth knocked down his throat in a back alley by two royal fists.

For if one believes the legend being spun anew on the tv screens of the nation, Garma's mother was a virgin and his father was God. Oddly, even the Sovereign himself seems to be playing into this routine. One must fear and loathe a propaganda machine that can have as savage and merciless a man as Degin Zabi practically abdicating all role in the creation of his own flesh and blood.

For the Garma of the media is dead, and the foulmouthed earthy Garma I and his friends knew doubly so. There is no part in the Zeon cordon sanitaire for a pack-a-day smoker with a taste for tequila and cocaine. Even worse, one with a moral conscience the size of all outdoors.

This was, after all, the true irony of Garma's existence. His moral sense was finely honed despite his fondness for using his body as a toxic-waste dump. Perhaps there was a connection, who knows? Witness his actions after Operation British. This was, he confessed to me soon after over some Wild Turkey on the rocks, not what he'd signed up for when he became an officer. The pursuit of Zeon independence, yes. Genocide, absolutely not. The next day, he went into the Assembly with an armful of his new lieutenant's uniforms and a can of propane, and set them all on fire. His enraged screed, if I recall correctly, was based on the last chapter of Lamentations:

The crown is fallen from our head: woe unto us, that we have sinned! For this our heart is faint, for these things our eyes are dim. Because of the mountain of Zion which is desolate, the foxes walk upon it!

Didn't hear about that little incident, did ya, sport? Of course not. He got carted out, of course, and no doubt locked in some padded cell at First Veterans until the LSD washed out of his system. But where anyone else would have been drowned in a sack, Garma got promoted and sent to Earth where they must have thought they were rid of him.

Ye gods! It worked. Not at first, not for a few months, but eventually something got under his skin badly enough that he saw fit to crash a Gau onto an abandoned sports arena. And why not? He'd received a massive promotion he didn't earn, which was given to him to get him out of the public eye. He had a clear shot at the brass ring of military high command, but is that such a great thing for someone who'd commit acts of arson in front of the Speaker's rostrum? He didn't have to fight for the American dream, it was handed to him on a silver platter. There was nothing left to do but run himself and an expensive piece of Zeon military equipment onto the ruins of Seattle, Washington.

He couldn't have chosen a more unsettling way of dying if he tried, short of being found dead of a drug overdose on the bathroom floor of an AM/PM. Which was always a possibility. Yet that would have left the comfort of a dead body and this way there isn't one, no solid proof that he's dead.

DO NOT COME BACK, GARMA! The principality needs you as a martyr. And we all know what comes of martyrs who insist on returning from the dead.

His bad habits will be forgotten, of course; Giren will make sure of that. We will never be able to unite ourselves as a people around an anarchist who should have been put to sleep, and he knows this. A test chimp for brain surgery can predict that the Zabis will take advantage of Garma's extreme good looks to divert our attention from the rest. Nothing will happen now but jihad, pure and simple, over the death of Zeon's own messiah. He was a drunk, a drug addict, and a vicious thug, but none of that will matter again, ever.

He will not be missed, except in Zum City where every light in the town went dim when we heard the Eaglet finally cashed his check.

Rolling Stone, October 5, 0079