On this day, the 25th Day of the 5th Month of the first year of the 11th Bearer’s Reign, we, the People of STATE, declare; that on STATE command and for the good of the State, we hereby do install the Constitutional Committee to formulate and submit amendments to the Constitution of STATE; and furthermore, the Validating Committee, which by STATE Command and exclusively with the Seal of STATE will validate the new Constitution of STATE. For this we do select and appoint, the following natural persons, citizens of STATE:
The 5th month of the Bearer’s Reign is over, August starts. In spite of Martin Rislers’ objections, STATE has succeeded in gathering all members for both Committees, who, even in his eyes and the opposition’s, are more or less representative of the nation. With the exception of Martin Rislers, Professor Mc Kinsey and Mr. de Brown, the statesman who had been the only one able to touch STATE at the Bearer’s Test and survived, both the Bearer and Irene have never met most members of the Committees. But STATE has all information, both personal, economical and political, activated and printed by Alexander, enabling Irene to steer the Committees.
For the members of the Committees it does take some getting used to, working with the Bearer of STATE. Some are of course intimidated by even being in the same room as the Bearer, but all soon notice that Her Grace’s presence is absent-minded at best. Her Grace’s focus tends to all of a sudden fall away. For the new Committees’ members, it seems as if the Bearer is having a mental breakdown, or at the least has severe concentration problems. Often, the Bearer sits through large parts of the discussions with eyes closed, and then, when they reach a deadlock in the negotiations, she opens her strange eyes and presents some data refuting or stimulating a specific decision. It can be frustrating, to have one’s carefully built up arguments be negated by one remark of the Bearer. Of course, some members subtly question Her Grace’s role.
When Irene notices the judgmental reactions of some Committee members, she invites Doctor Jan to give a short exposï¿½ on Bearer’s condition, its effects on the Bearer and its assets for leadership.
After this, the Committee members realize that even with eyes closed, the Bearer is following all proceedings, and can and will re-enter the discussions at any time. And she does: again and again, knowledge from STATE blocks decisions made on grounds of some emotion-building speech, and many debates are decided on grounds of STATE knowledge. However suspiciously Martin and others keep checking the data, there is never a single mistake. The Committee members learn to respect Her Grace’s words. So, contrary to Rislers’ expectations, having the Bearer of STATE chairing the proceedings of the Constitutional Committee speeds up negotiations considerably.
> up to something finally, is she
> yes sure is!
> Hail STATE! Hail the Bearer of STATE!
> hail the Secretary of STATE, more like
> ow c’mon guys, it’s hot out here, shall we talk something else?
> ey girl, this a politics OCC, if you don’t like that pick a ladies’ one, bye
> it’s the Secretary doing most o the job, really
> guided by STATE! though of course, Rislers had the biggest inflence to get Her Grace going
> but all this Committee stuff seems kinda indirect, don’t you think? time goes by and what did we gain by all of this? some rich people are in some highly paid committee jobs, thinking and talking, while we cannot afford a day off to enjoy the sun, if you know what i mean...
> well those high and mightey also don’t get a glimpse o sun I can tell you
> Hail STATE! Hail the most gifted! Hail the Bearer of STATE!
> can someone get that nutter off the OCC?
> Trust in STATE! Trust the Bearer of STATE! Hail
> I’m off
Regularly, Irene receives paper reports from STATE from Alexander, focusing on either details or on larger developments within the country. She is happy with what she can deduce from them. Though outsiders see hardly any influence of STATE on the state of affairs, there are some remarkable changes. For the first time in history, the middle classes are earning more in lesser time. They can afford better houses, feed and clothe their children better, can send them to higher education…
The people who had been enjoying almost unlimited powers and privileges under the President, either by personal connections or through some achievement pleasing him, now have a harder time, and they teach their children to mistrust the state. The sharpest-voiced criticisms of the Bearer’s reign often are generated by this generation.
The people devoid of anything still have the most difficult time, as there is little to start from, and they are amongst the first whose disappointment is heard.
With the Captain and Doctor Jan, Irene has long exchanges about whether to start a general welfare fund, or to test eager applicants and give out grants for studying… Though appealing to Irene, STATE papers show that welfare has the tendency to create dependency on the system and block people’s creativity, though grants certainly create possibilities, but only for those smart enough and active (or activated) enough to take advantage of the grants.
STATE installs open-call STATE Loan Requests: start-up companies can apply for a STATE Loan by sending an one-page paper with a short outline of name and goal of company, with the name and bank account of the beneficiary. Once the news becomes known, piles of Requests start to come in, boxes of them. Alexander spends night after night passing them through STATE, and ordering them in piles printed with a Seal and piles printed with DENIED.
The morning after, Irene always makes a point of leafing through both piles, trying to grasp the logic in the decisions of STATE. She finds she often agrees, even if on the surface, the successful applications look very different. ‘At least, all kinds of initiatives are rewarded this way... Maybe it is a matter of waiting for the economical growth to create jobs in all layers of society,’ Irene thinks. ‘What does needs to be done though, is to ameliorate the status and job securities for less highly educated people. But well, it will take some time to formulate and implement better working conditions...’
As they enter the 6th month of the Bearer’s Reign, STATE allows the Committees to work more and more independently. Her Grace’s absolute position makes any comment on her part very delicate, and silently Irene agrees it is better to not have the governing depend too much on STATE. As Secretary of STATE, though, Irene is always there, and in the process Irene’s position becomes more and more powerful. Now she is controlling the mechanisms of power, she turns out to be very capable.
Irene herself is maybe the most surprised of all. She had never considered herself to be intelligent, and least of all to have talents for ruling. She still is shy, and sometimes she really has to force herself to turn against someone as powerful and experienced as a Minister. But now she is doing it to help S., to help STATE, and not herself. And that makes it much more easy for her.
As the Bearer does not claim his protection, the Captain has time on his hands. The Secretary is as important as the Bearer, and much more vulnerable physically. Knowing that Her Grace does agree, he becomes the personal guard of the Secretary of STATE. They spend practically all day together, almost every day. And the more he is around her, the more he likes her.
As Captain he has known many ladies, but Irene is of a completely different kind. The rich and powerful women who could get close enough to get to know him had always played with his affections. Attracted by his powers and his hard physique, they complimented him with their cynical smiles, offered him a discrete look into their well-stocked brassieres, laughed indulgently at his remarks. Of course he had liked the flatteries and their indulgence of his desires immensely, and his self-esteem had been enhanced by his encounters with them. Though he had known some of them intimately, he had always only grasped their faï¿½ade, and tough he liked having his body touched in all the right ways, he always knew that they could and would stab him in the back if chance so decided. Never could he allow himself the luxury of trusting any of them in any way, and his profession was always the best excuse.
Irene never flatters him. She would listen to him quietly and with full concentration, and then, lashes almost touching her cheeks, would ask him a very pointed question, ripping his complacency and sometimes exposing less favorable aspects of his behavior. Though not afraid to confront him, she is never judgmental, and he soon asks for her advice in many small things. He knows he can trust her loyalty fully and totally. Irene had never even thought of misusing anybody in all her life, and least of all S. or the Captain.
And while their friendship grows solid, he wonders longingly if there might be something more. If there ever will be something more... But Irene never shows a like for him in any way, and for the first time in his life he doubts if this woman is attracted to him at all.
To her surprise, Irene is blocked by one of the Guards in front of the STATE Reception Room, when she tries to locate Her Grace for an urgent information request.
“Who do you think you are?” barks the Captain at her side, but though he bows back, the Guard keeps one hand protectively before the door handle. “P... Please forgive me, Captain, Sir, Your Excellency,” he whispers, “but Her Grace really cannot be disturbed right now. She... Her Holiness... His Holiness... They... they are in prayer and cannot be disturb”
“In prayer!?” Irene exclaims and pushes down the other handle before the Guard dares to physically intervene. In the huge Reception Room, only two people are present: on the carpet, a small man is bent down, right at the feet of Her Grace. Almost inaudible, he whispers an ongoing incantation, the recurring STATE-word hissing and stuttering.
“Who are you? And WHAT are you doing here, alone with Her Grace!?” the Captain calls in the large room. The Guard follows and whispers, “But, Captain Sir, His Holiness, the First Follower of the Church of STATE, can be trusted!”
“Trusted?” The Captain wheels and almost walks over the Guard. “You are fired! A Guard of STATE never trusts! Anyone! How can you be so stupid?”
Irene just keeps seeing the picture: the man praying to Her Grace, or, more accurately, to STATE. ‘S. does not react at all... Does she mind? Does she like it? This is not what she fought for... Or is it?’ Because she cannot negate the sense of quiet in the room, a feeling of belonging emanating from Her Grace. ‘Or does it come from STATE? That th’ – no... no thinking...’
With the press enthusiastically publishing the recent political developments, the popularity of the Bearer of STATE increases enormously. A pro-STATE party is launched, and young people start wearing STATE related T-shirts. The wildest stories about the Bearer’s exploits and her powers circulate, changing her into something between a folk hero and a saint. Yes, there is truth in Professor Mc Kinsey’s fears. ‘For sure, S. does not want this to happen, does not want to be venerated like an idol every time she is staged to be in contact with the people, but still, it happens...’ Irene sighs. ‘The Bearer’s life, my life, dictated by the superficial manifestations of power. The Etiquette regulating all our actions and all of those around is like a cage. These forms of contact are too pre-cooked, too hierarchical, too static and isolated. The Bearer can be something else. S. needs something else. And then, dangers aplenty, I’d say... Many Committee members may have personal agendas we have to look out for... Matil has not been found yet, and Rislers is growing into a real pain, though he is ever so nice when S. is there. And though the Bearer can finally sleep, STATE continues to work in on S., I can tell. What does it do? What is its ultimate aim? Uh... Hail STATE, of course... Someone must know more about STATE, someone who can help. Who?’ But with so many things to take care of, that Irene is happy to get around to sleeping herself as it is.