“Why are we halting?“ The Captain commands, as standing in a traffic jam does not heighten his mood at all.
“A truck, Captain, Sir, a worker’s truck, it simply suddenly stops in front of us. We can’t pass…”
“Well, get it to move then! We cannot let the Bearer of STATE stand here, waiting for some truck! Really!”
“But, Sir,” Then the Bearer moves for the door. ‘STATE will go and see.’ While the Captain rubs his temple, still trying to accept Her Grace’s voice within, the Guard opens the door and steps outside to allow the Bearer to pass.
“Code red, all, code red!” The Captain nervously speaks through the securiPhones, afraid to lose Her Grace again. Two Guards get off their motoBikes and park them, then follow the Bearer at a respectable distance. The two Guards up front slowly drive along with her, towards the truck. The Captain wants to exit as well, but Dr. Werther keeps him back. “You are too important for S., Captain,” he says, to the Captain’s surprise. He had not expected such a remark from the old, predisposed invalid.
“Hmpf. It’s not meant to be flattering, boy,” the old man grumbles. “But I can see, can’t I? She needs you, and as my research shows, the psychological factors surrounding the Bearer”
He is interrupted, because the Captain’s securiPhones are transmitting. “Code redSnake is approaching the truck driver, Sir. Should we intervene?”
“No, you fool. She knows very well what she is doing! Just keep close enough to be able to. Over.”
‘Sitting there, in this small stinking car. Why don’t everybody just move? Just MOVE! If we all move we would not be waiting. I want to get out’
Tile moves against tile with a soft crunching sound as STATE walks over them.
Bearer of STATE for 6 months, 1 week, 0 days, 22 hours, 41 minutes and
S. walks up to the rusty worker’s truck. The yellow enamel is stained with reddish mud and rusty patches. On the street side, sand is piled up. Thick crusty sewer pipes lie bared in their deep trenches. CastMetal pipes. Half buried under them, many other cables, connecting, distributing, disposing… Some first autumn leaves whirl and fall in the murky water standing in the trench.
- ‘You unflinching despot!’
The thought is alien and its implications stick out like needles. But STATE cannot use it now, so she disregards it.
The driver sits oddly stiff in his seat. He barely moves to look at her. Mechanically, he rubs his graying stubble, pushing the slack skin upwards and downwards, and upwards, and downwards.
In his rearview mirror, he has spotted her, descending out of the special limo, coming up to the truck. He has seen the Guards, hurrying after her. He has drawn his conclusions. His voice sounds very dejected, when he suddenly speaks. “So this is where the driver gets sent to jail, no? Or is you more like your general President and it will be here, the punishment? Or the killing, what’ll it be? Huh? Blocking the Bearer’s car, right, I knows what’s that mean, I’m no bloody stupid… Hmn? Right then, well, just gets it over with then. See… I don’t care, you knows, your highness, whatever… see… It does not matter anyway, ‘cuz I am of no use, anyway, see,”
The Professor glances at his wristWatch. Again, they are waiting in vain. Again, the Bearer who had taken the trouble to ask him in person to join this Committee is not showing for the meeting. ‘What is happening? Why is she not guiding them? Why do we keep on waiting?’ “Well, people,” he says, clearing his voice. Everybody looks at Mc Kinsey.
“Maybe we had better start working on this without Her Grace or Her Excellency... We need not come to conclusions instantly! But we can have a good critical look at some of these amendments. Maybe some of you have any suggestions?”
Squinting against the low fall sun, the Bearer looks up at the driver, who stays insolently above her, in the truck. The anger of the Guards behind her.
Her Excellency walks in, her face yellow with lack of sleep. Of course the members of the Committee rise and bow for her, and refrain from remarking. Martin Rislers tries to contain the bitterness biting his stomach, ‘and why is she so special?’
S. blinks. From above, the traffic jam: a long thick line in the white. This one truck blocks all traffic trying to enter the city, from here, back to almost the central ring. Incredible how a small cause creates so much frustration for all those humans behind. And why? The man wants to end it all and he thinks that the Bearer can be the tool. Or STATE?
Matil is bringing the Stock Exchange in imbalance and STATE has move on. Now.
STATE can just order the Guards and the clog is removed. What on earth does she have to do with this human’s problems? So he wants out, well, doesn’t anybody want that, once in a while? Let him experience the consequences! Death will be his, easy at a flick of her hand. But... there is one concern.
A simple human wants out and he points to the Bearer to do it. He expects severe punishment, maybe even capital punishment, for a crime, which is in fact so tiny… Just not moving the truck aside a bit for the Bearer of STATE. This is not what the Bearer should be! This is not what STATE should do.
Briefly, STATE zooms in on the driver. The usual: cramped house, living with a huge family and his mother, constant bickering and fighting, no money, nothing to be proud of. But there is some extra worry. Someone is ill, very ill.
“Guards! Come here.”
The truck driver blinks, puts his hands down on the wheel. ‘Now it will come. The end...’
Eager, the Guards step towards Her Grace: “You want us to move the truck, Your Grace… Force the driver? Punish”
“A piece of paper,” the Bearer orders.
“Huh?” The Guard swallows his surprise with some difficulty. He searches his uniform pockets for some paper. Carefully, he hands it to the Bearer. She stands very still and unblinking.
The digits in the Stock Exchange move, and their changes are subtle. Most brokers do not realize what is happening although one or two of the more experienced ones do have a sense of unrest.
The truck drivers hears: ‘Listen. You have to move. You are needed, to help…’
The Bearer frowns, then takes the sheet of paper and guides it through STATE. ‘Mrs. Bobby. Your wife. She is very ill’
“No, no, it’s my mother, you means! You must’ve been mistaken,” the driver says, his already big eyes very round at the unexpected turn of events, and the Bearer’s knowledge of his private life.
‘No. Your wife is very ill, and you need to get her to the hospital today, if you want her to last the year.’
“B… but, that’s impossible, see… I has no money for that kinda thing! You don’t know whatsit like”
And the Bearer hands the paper to the Guard, who opens the door to pass it to the driver. Sealed by STATE, the paper orders any hospital to take care of Mrs. Charlene Bobby, wife to Tom. The driver is too surprised to wonder about having a conversation through the closed truck door without having to shout.
“You’d better move now,” the Guard says, but he does not stop to hear it. He has already started the engine, and is pulling at the huge clutch. He is so agitated that he forgets to thank her. Bouncing over the uneven asphalt, the truck drives away.
Smoothly, the limo pulls up to the Bearer. The door is opened by the bowing Guards. Looking inside the limo, into the pale face of the Captain, S. notes his profound lack of sleep.
“Driver. Bring the Captain back to the Palace. Then come and wait at the Stock Exchange.”
“But… Your Grace, we cannot let you go alone,” the Captain objects, even though he knows it will be in vain. ‘Captain, you haven’t slept for days. You need to rest. STATE does not require all of you to follow me around. These two Guards will stay, and?’
The Bearer turns to Doctor Werther, who already pushes himself towards the door. “Of course I go with you, S.! Come on! I have to observe what you are going to do. Get the wheelchair out!” One Guard unfolds it and almost gracefully, the Doctor heaves himself into it.
Bearer of STATE for 6 months, 1 week, 0 days, 23 hours, 19 minutes and
Together, they move along the trench where the castMetal pipes lie, meandering. Around them, leaves dance around in the horizontal light. There is a cold wind. S. shivers.
“You cold?” Doctor Werther asks. ‘Hmn… that’s strange.’ “All the time?! Come on!” ‘STATE may have forgotten how to take care of the Bearer’s body. It has been a long time… You will have to remind it, S.,’
> WHAT is happening?
> this is not okay
> this is really not okay!
> Pray, you unfaithful, pray! That’s what you
> PRAY? it that bitch causing this, I wager!
> Shut your filthy mouth! hail STATE! Hail the Bearer of STATE! Pray that she will save
> No WAY reli freak! no F-ing
No reply from the Bearer. Dr. Werther mutters: “Hey come on, S.! Don’t tell me you are not communicating with STATE all the time! Just do it, now.”
The Bearer halts and closes her eyes.
The white is there, as always.
Today, there is a soft push and pull to it, like when you are submerged into the sea. The gurgling sound of liquid pumped around is comforting to find.
S. directs her attention to her belly, and thinks of warmth. She expands, opens up, lets go. Pffff.
The white also expands, and then becomes slightly warmer.
Whoosh. Spreading from her belly to all her extremities, S. warms up.
Also, the pressure in her strained ankle disappears.
“That works, I see!” Artur Werther snorts, as he has to push harder to keep with the Bearer now. “Could do with a drink, I could. Look, it’s past 10 a.m., for sure! Maybe if we stop by?”
“No.” ‘STATE will not have an alcoholic accompanying the Bearer. Get used to that, Artur!’
Artur grumbles and mutters some half-hearted excuses why drinking at this time is no sign of alcoholism, and grumbles some more. The Bearer does not react to him.
A bit behind them, the two Guards are trying to drive their motoBikes as slow as they can, looking this way and that to attract as little attention as possible to the Bearer walking alongside a man in a wheelchair.
Both Artur Werther and S. are silent for long periods, only some words are vocalized. STATE is probing the Doctor’s knowledge, and he allows it to flow freely to her. But other information is seeping through as well, from other locations, mingling in. The present encompasses the state.
The meeting is almost over, most Committee members have left the Palace of Parliament meeting room.
“Well, well, Your Excellency. It was good to have you back. And where might the Bearer be?” Rislers’ voice is smoothing over the aggression in the words.
Irene’s anger flares nevertheless. “None of your business, Rislers!”
But he adds: “Driving around all night and morning, while the Committee awaits Your Excellencies?”
Irene stares at him. ‘How does he know?’ Too tired to reply, she turns stiffly and leaves for the Palace of STATE. ‘The bastard!’
“So, S.,” Doctor Werther says, then lapses again in telepathic conversation. ‘Any other physical problems? It’s good you found this Bed to allow you to sleep… Most Bearers have a hard time to sleep, and it is essential to keep the balance. Food is not really that important, STATE has a lot of energy to keep your mind going, though it does need some physical energy for the body occasionally. Liquid is elemental, of course, also for the Bearer’s body, that is, er, your body, S.. But, you must know, the most important is the encounter with people. The Bearer of STATE needs people around. STATE has to be connected to the particles that form its body, with the people of STATE. That means that you have to be more publicly visible as you have been until now. Come on, it should not have been possible for me to miss such an important event as the arrival of a new Bearer! Even without reading newspapers, it should be around, on people’s minds, on people’s lips, everywhere.’ “But, hey, I can hardly keep up with you! Come on…”
Strand S. had slipped into her usual quick pace and now STATE slows her down a bit.
She walks with her eyes closed. STATE is guiding her. If she chooses, she can see an outline of the sidewalk through the white. If she does not choose to, the body shell is steered around obstacles.
Over his morning coffee, served by the sweet as ever Rosa, Blake Feyman is looking at the Stock Exchange data and cannot believe what he sees. Some obscure funds are gaining, while respectable ones are devaluating at a quick rate. ‘What is happening? This is no good...’
Doctor Werther says: “Come to think of it, S., what date we have now?”
“S., now really, come on!” ’Look in STATE! You can access all information, you know! STATE may take some time to retrieve it, but the date? Come on!’
“It is the 30th of September.”
“Whew! We still have time! That is good…” ‘You have to prepare yourself for the Day of Souls, S., on February 11th.’
Dirty and dusty grey.
Endless and suffocating. S. is engulfed by drab slush, clogging her movements and occupying her mind. The Day of Souls. STATE knows what is means, even if to strand S. it is abstract. Her attention is there, trying to get another angle on the Day of Souls, but she can’t seem to’
As the Doctor and the Bearer are engaged in communication, they pass through some parked cars and have to cross a road. On the other side of the road, the Guards have to wait before they can cross the junction. The Bearer is a bit quicker than the Doctor. She is out on the driveway before anyone can warn her.
A car comes skidding at her. It is braking as hard as it can, but had too much speed to halt at once.
The Bearer is on the lid and gets thrown into the air.
Suddenly free of the slush, S. is flying, oddly pleasant.
Meters down the road she lands.
The motoBikes screech to a halt. Within seconds, one Guard is on top of the driver, having pulled him out of the car by force. Shaken, the man tries to explain that the woman just jumped onto the driveway from between parked cars, “I could not help” The Guard draws his gun and pushes it in the man’s neck. “B… but… I did nothing, I could not see... That stupid w”
“Shut up if you want to live!” the Guard says. The man obeys promptly. The Guard looks over his shoulder to his colleague, who is kneeling next to Her Grace, taking his helmet off to see more clearly.
- ‘You allow STATE to return to the old days, to slip into the old patterns. You wallow in the powers bestowed on you, and your changes are nothing but a sham!’
Uh... I am nothing... I am no one’
The Doctor pushes himself over to the Bearer, but more at ease. “Should be OK,” he softly says to himself.
Bearer of STATE for 6 months, 1 week, 0 days, 23 hours, 46 minutes and
S. swallows. A metallic taste, more bitter than blood. Shifting her viewpoint to see the scene from above, she notes she is lucky to have missed the post. But is it luck? No. STATE had influenced her arc of falling, had dropped her here. Close by, the Guards’ thoughts are frantic: ‘Why did we let Her Grace so far out of sight, we should have… should have been… more careful… what would the Captain say? An attack... in broad daylight...’
S. opens her eyes to a very pale blue sky. ‘Quiet,’ she thinks, and the Guards hear Her Grace’s voice in their securiPhones. They shift their heads uneasily, the one near her rubs his ears. ‘How can I hear Her Grace’s voice, while her lips do not move?’
The Bearer blinks. The Guard is happy to see her alive, but presses: “Y… Your Grace…? Your Grace… can you hear me..?”
The Bearer tries to say something, to move, but she clearly cannot. Doctor Werther pushes close in an attempt to approach, but the Guard blocks his way. Doctor Werther hisses: “Step aside, Guard. Let me check her, I’m a doctor, remember!” Reluctantly, the Guard allows him nearer. Doctor Werther puts his hand on Her Grace’s head and looks into her eyes. Then he gently opens her mouth.
Blood! The Guard gasps.
Without much fuss, Artur Werther wipes the blood from the Bearer’s lips with his index finger and licks it off. “Hmn, just as I thought… the level of particles in your blood is almost at its max.” he mutters. “Ahemn, think you’ve just bitten on your tongue during the impact, S.. You’re OK, as I thought you’d be. Come on, the Bearer of STATE cannot be damaged so easily!”
The strange Doctor bows his head and starts to mumble something. The Guard only hears the word STATE softly recurring. Then, the Doctor carefully positions his right hand on the base of STATE, just above the pubic bone of Her Grace, and his left hand at the base of Her Grace’s scull, while he continues mumbling.
The Guard is too upset to act.
“Uh,” something within STATE tilts over and S. can sit upright. A bit dizzy, she softly shakes her head.
The Guard doubles over. “Your Grace… Forgive us… Are you? Shall we... We shall call an ambulance. The Hospital, now. P… Please.. just sit still, please… Forgive us, the ambulance… we will call” Again, the Bearer’s voice in his head: ‘No.’
After the freedom of the fall, the Guards’ courteousness is a corset pulled tight, comforting and limiting.
The cast slab of stone under her is slightly warm, its particles shifting under STATE weight.
Have to talk, otherwise this human will bring STATE away from the Exchange to that Hospital...
The Bearer swallows again and retrieves her voice: “No ambulance. STATE will be fine in a minute.”
“But… Please… Your Grace, it might be a concussion? We cannot risk… This is terrible… We will have to report to the Captain at once! There’s been an attack… We will call the Police to jail the perpetrator”
“Oh come on, the man did nothing! It was an accident!” Doctor Werther says, but the Guards ignore him completely. Irrationally, they feel this accident to be wholly the Doctor’s fault. The Bearer rubs her face, her head. Helpless and concerned, the Guard watches Her Grace.
When the dizziness subsides, S. gets up and walks towards the driver. Very afraid, the man tries to crawl away from her, his hands making evasive gestures. The Guards grab his arms and hold him tight as Her Grace approaches. She is about to touch the man, when the Police arrive.
Two motor Policemen get off their motoBikes. One immediately directs the traffic around the obstacle, the other approaches them bossily, shouting: “Hey! What are you guys up to!? No taking the law into your own hands, here on my streets: First Decree, remember!” He walks up to them when he sees the Guards more closely and stops suddenly. The Bearer turns around and faces him. “Yes. But this is no self-righting. This is STATE.”
As she speaks, a sudden bright light reflects off STATE, blinding the Policeman. He lifts his cupped hand and holds it before his eyes. He stands very still for a second, then bows, his leather pants creaking. He withdraws slightly.
S. turns back to the driver. “STATE will not hurt you, human.” Her fingertips touch the man’s scull. ‘64.5 km per hour… but, yes.’ “Unintentional. An accident. Forget about it.”
And the Bearer wipes his head. “OK. Guards, let him go. Policeman. Come here. Make sure this human gets home safely. He might suffer some slight loss of memory. His name is Stefan Parker, his address…” While she gives the Policeman directions, Doctor Werther is glancing at Her Grace very proudly.
But S. suddenly becomes rigid. It is near. The ball of accumulated Exchange energy is directed from somewhere near. By someone close by. Someone is disturbing the Stock Exchange in a weirdly undirected way, jeopardizing the balance. Someone is doing this on purpose: to get to STATE. Someone is observing her, but cannot be observed. Someone. Matil?
One of the cars, standing in line. A nice car of an average brand, a yellowish beige. No music playing, one occupant: the driver. She is observing the scene with more than a superficial irritation at the delay. STATE opens to receive thoughts, but there is... There is
“Check that car!” the Bearer orders one of the Guards. With hidden surprise, he walks over and looks inside. Obediently, he also looks onto the back seat, but he does not even open a door.
“Just an elderly lady, Your Grace,” he says, returning.
‘No Matil then’, S. thinks, forcing the tension in her stomach to disperse. ‘Just a lady... and maybe the lady is getting a bit senile?’
She blinks. In the white, the traffic slowly starts to flow again behind her.
Bearer of STATE for 6 months, 1 week, 0 days, 23 hours, 57 minutes and
Before them, a multitude of people. To get to the Stock Exchange, one huge block from here, they can either walk around clockwise, on quiet pavement surrounding a tower filled with offices, or counter-clockwise, straight through one of the most popular shopping centers. It is Friday afternoon, and it is starting to get really, really crowded.
Of course, the Guards urge Her Grace to take the quiet route. ‘Your Grace is already tired, she has just had an accident, it might be dangerous…’
But Doctor Werther advises the opposite. “S.,” he says and switches to mind-speak: ‘Listen. Going to the Stock Exchange is one of the most dangerous things a Bearer can do. The structures are so near the surface, that the act of entering alone can kill you, drive STATE out of control. I’ve seen it happen! Or, on the other hand, the presence of STATE can disrupt the Exchange in such a way, that the nation’s economy might take years to recover. I would prefer to watch you a bit longer before you venture in there. But if STATE orders you to go there, now, I guess you should obey...’ The Bearer does not react, her mind set. Werther continues: “In that case, it would be best if you are prepared, S., by allowing yourself to get in contact with the material particles of STATE. You have to become visible for the people. The people of STATE.”
STATE contacts Sarah Feyman, the National TV star reporter who had filmed the Bearer after the helicopter attack against the thief of STATE, who had captured the pale face with staring eyes against the charred remains of the limo. Both entering her mind directly and emailing her, STATE orders her here, to come and film.