The princess could not forget the beauty she had once been. At every turning of the endless corridor, yet another moving life image screen reminded her. In some, she was a delicate child, with red-gold curls, playing with her dolls or pets, while an indulgent auntie stood watch. An auntie not unlike the newer model walking beside her now. Other screens showed her as a slender young girl, usually dressed in white and wearing an anxious face. In her screens as a young woman, the princess noted her unease had been replaced, sometimes by determination, sometimes resignation. Thanks to the Fourteen Stars, she thought, They haven’t interspersed them with mirrors. She turned her attention to her current attendant. This auntie had updated, more coordinated circuitry, but she was the same comfortable and wise matron the princess knew so well. From her eyes peered the soul of Little Auntie May, her oldest and dearest companion. “I’ll be almost glad,” said the princess, “when I’m too old to walk down this tunnel to the Audience Room.” “But walk it you must, my precious,” Little Auntie May replied. “Where else can the people see you but in your Audience Room? And the people want to see you. If you can’t walk, I’ll just have to wheel you in, in a floor-glider.” “Oh, I suppose the people must see me. Let them know I am still alive. But, my dearest Auntie May, I do believe you remind me of this every time we come here. Yet, you never ask if I wish to see the people.” “That’s because I already know the answer. Now come on. We are almost there.” They walked on in silence, but for the clack-clacking of their wooden clogs on the stone floor of the corridor. Now and then, the princess mumbled something, mostly concerning being too young yet to need a glider. “Look now” said Little Auntie May, “Here are the doors.” She moved ahead to open them. A pair of doors, tall, with smooth, silvery surfaces slid to either side when she placed her palm against the wall to their left. They opened to a monstrous room with cold metal walls and a ceiling that faded into darkness high above. Along its far left wall, a row of windows was cut into the icy metal, from floor to ceiling. They showed a sky only slightly lighter then the dim gray walls of the room, and nothing else. One rather ordinary chair stood in the approximate center of the room. There was no other furniture. The princess shivered as she always did upon entering the Audience Room. “If only there was more furniture or a few people,” she said. “We’ll see the people soon,” Little Auntie May replied. From a large pocket in the front of her gown, she removed a folded, velvety clothe that opened into a cloak. She spread it over the old woman’s shoulders. “I mean real people,” the princess complained. “I mean someone I can touch. Someone I can talk to.” “Real people aren’t safe,” said Little Auntie May. “You know that, my precious.” Her voice was gentle, as if she hadn’t explained this many times before. “And I’m safe here? Can you be really safe anywhere? Ah, I don’t know. The princess pulled the cloak closer. “Here,” she said, “I’m just a worn out old woman. All right, Little Auntie, open the screen” Little Auntie May busied herself behind the chair while the princess sank wearily into it. Two more doors, silent and, until then, invisible, slide open in the wall opposite the row of windows. They revealed another life image screen, larger than those lining the corridor. In this image, many people, hundreds of people, stood together, talking and waiting for something. The princess recognized those in the front of the crowd. She raised a weak hand and waved. They seemed to notice her then. At once they began calling her name and waving their arms in return. Their eyes were bright and their mouths wide with joy. The camera panned outward and the princess saw, as she knew she would, that there were not hundreds of people, but thousands. She rose with some difficulty, then stood with quiet dignity. She stood observing her people for the entire 20 minutes it took for the recorded life image to run its course.