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"Shen, I can't do this anymore."

The declaration came in the oddest place, but Nalieza could have cared less about finding a more sensible location to state her feelings. After days of thinking and rethinking, she finally reached a decision. Now it was being announced, right in the middle of an overly energetic square on a media world in the Corporate Sector.

"This business doesn't work the way it should. We're stuck doing tenth-rate garbage on Lacace, yet we can’t avoid the system. And now I know doing it here won't be any different."

"I did warn you about this trip. What possessed you to believe this place would have any integrity?"

A shoulder jabbed into Nalieza's back. This world apparently never slept. Standing out in the open with a crowd of beings moving around her and Shen wasn't the right place to continue this discussion. The feeling of multiple thoughts and images from the strangers jostling around her spilling into her consciousness certainly didn't help either.

"Can we find somewhere more calm?" She had to raise her voice just to ask the question.

"I remember spotting a tucked away corner during my walkabout while you were off launching the liner this afternoon." Shen turned to the left, clearly intending to go across the street.

Nalieza had to allow a line of Rodians and some Twi'leks to pass before she could follow her mentor away from the noisy confusion. They had to wait for three speeders to run the red traffic signal before they could step down into the crosswalk and move from one side of the street to the other. Shen led the way after that, going down a small and narrow alley, until he rounded a right corner, then stopped at a partially enclosed loading area attached to what was most likely a warehouse.

"An appropriate backdrop for the scene. It's odd for one to find an island of tranquility at night in the rear end of a shipping facility." Shen stretched out his left arm to point at a set of steps attached to the building. "Let's take a seat and finish our chat."

"It's not a chat." But Nalieza would only go so far in disagreeing with him. Shen was not only her mentor, but also her birth sponsor, and the man who had introduced her parents to each other long ago in a university drama class, and who had been the catalyst for her entrance into the acting profession.

She went over to the steps and took a seat on the third from the top.

Shen took in a breath, then ascended up the steps to sit next to her. "Ah, you've made an old man climb a small mountain. How utterly vicious of you."

"Sorry, I wasn't thinking."

"Neither did I. I should have sought out a more pleasant spot for our talk. Like a park." "I don't think there are any public parks on Zedra. And probably not on any of the Sector worlds for that matter."

"Which leaves more room for commerce. Such is the way of a place where money controls all."

"It's not any different in the Empire, except you toss out money and substitute power. Same stuff otherwise."

Shen nodded. "And the inability to create art without the interference of corrupting forces has troubled you. I've been bothered by this for years." "It's not just the corruption. They've used our stupid show as propaganda all these years. It's pathetic."

"So you accepted a rather dodgy invitation from the Millennium Corporation to take some meetings. It did seem tempting, I suppose, considering your contract with Diamante is about to expire."

Nalieza frowned. She had taken the first thing which seemed remotely better than being stuck for another eight years in a contract doing a role on a low-rent show. When Millennium contacted her agent about the possibility of doing some films in the Corporate Sector, it seemed like a small blessing at the time. It would be a new experience, and an opportunity to further her horizons and learning in the acting craft. It took two weeks to make the decision that ultimately put her on a shuttle to Zedra, one of the Sector planets where the entertainment industry went about its business. She followed her instinct, and stepped into the surreal first-class-all-the-way milieu of the Corporate Sector holofilm industry.

For the past month, she received the "Queen treatment": attending premieres almost every night, watching three smashball tournaments, popping around to the best restaurants for multi-course lunches and dinners, going shopping for hours at the finest stores, getting stuck at industry parties, opening the Nuat Cultural Festival...culminating with the launch of the Lady of Reltooine earlier that afternoon.

"I made a mistake."

"You had to find out what the nature of this place is. My time here could have worked as an object lesson if you were more inclined to listen to an old director ramble about the days of yore just after we switched to the romdram."

"We"...her mother and Shen, the independent holo actress and the writer/director who first discovered the young woman. When the Imperial era began, they chose to leave the holocinema business and retreated into the two-dimensional fiction of New World that contradicted her stated desire to never appear in propaganda pieces. But she did not want to give up profession just because of the new regime.

"I'm sorry. You had to come here after me because Padra asked you to...but in the end, I'm changing my mind."

"Are you certain? Acting is in your blood. Your mother passed that gift to you, and she found it hard to resist staying away from the business after she left to raise you." "But she found another role. She became a dreamworker. Helping people go through their dreams was very important to her."

"I realize how much that meant to her. She often spoke in glowing terms of the work she performed."

“But she was never happy.”

"Maiena was glad to have you and Paurilis, and analyzing dreams brought her great satisfaction. Yet there was still something she felt was missing from her life."

"What about if I just step away from the profession for a few years instead? Maybe go to university like my father wants. It'd be nice to have a change of pace."

"Is that a calling card from the Force?"

"The Force doesn't exist anymore. It was made illegal a couple of decades ago."

"Only the Jedi were forbidden, my dear. One cannot push the Force out of existence."

"I know, I know. But I could get in trouble if the Great Power is trying to summon me."

"If you are worried about being detected by the Emperor or his minions, I think it's proper to invoke an old saying from your birth world. 'The Force always takes care of its children'."

"If that's true, then when where was it during the Purge?"

"Perhaps it was an unforeseen circumstance which even that venerated field could not anticipate. And if those ancient rumors about the Emperor being a Sith Lord might happen to be true..."

Nalieza shivered. A Force sensitive in a hostile galaxy had to worry every so often they might be detected, and if they were found by a viper from the darker side of the universal power...then the Creatrix only knew what would become of their inner self, if they weren't physically destroyed first.

Yet fortune had been good so far...all fates had protected her from discovery by the bad guys. It was definitely a good thing her presence was minimal. She could feel thoughts and pick up stray images of thoughts from others. At the moment, this was the only manifestation of Force ability she had demonstrated. As of yet, she hadn't received a tshaud. Perhaps it would never come, and she would never have to worry about her sensitivity increasing.

"If the Force is going to take care of me, then it will let me pass the interview portion of the prelims for the Cultural University."

"Do you have a major in mind?"

Nalieza smiled. "Holocinema Studies. You know, to feed the instinct."

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