Later that week, the repetitions for the White Symphonies begin. Smoothing his thinning hair backwards, Maestro Spalden tries hard to revert to his habitual dignity. ‘It is worse enough to have only weeks for repetitions of a piece I have never seen before, with an unfathomable almost-melodic structure and strange leaps in both tempi, tone pitch and volume; and then to have an inexperienced soloist who is also the composer, but to do that in a Concert Hall swarming with Guards! Really!’ He is used to have the Hall’s attention centered upon him, but now part of the musicians’ attention is diverted to that Bearer, who is sitting almost unmoving through tedious hours of repetition. ‘What’s more, the musicians complain of hearing Her voice, urging them or correcting them, confusing the signals of me, their conductor. This is insupportable!’
‘Alphonse.’ He swallows and bows his head. ‘Why do I keep forgetting she hears my thoughts as well! Owww!’
With her current awareness, S. knows the presence of the Bearer of STATE weighs on the repetitions. She knows STATE is pushing, but she has to make sure the White Symphonies are exactly as STATE has made them. Apart from their artistic qualities, they have another as yet undefined function, close to STATE core. A function she cannot think about, but which drives her notwithstanding. When Casper, the conductor and the musicians have been primed enough by STATE, S. withdraws to the Palace to bug someone else. The Captain.
The first meetings of the Committee against Crimes are planned the week after the premiere of the White Symphony. For his future, STATE knows he has no choice. He must testify.
The Captain has not forgotten Her Grace’s admonitions. His thoughts keep returning to her convinced order, his body tightening against it and forming a continual ‘No!’. As often as he can, he claims his presence is essential elsewhere, refusing to see either the Bearer or Her Excellency. But STATE is questioning him anyway. While he tries to disrupt her voice in his mind, he has constant headaches and becomes more irritable by the day, towards Irene as well. Though she does not voice it, she has only to look at him and he thinks she is pushing him to go. Finally, he cannot stand it and politely asks Her Grace for a week’s leave, to visit his ailing mother. Both he and STATE know the falsity, but she gives him permission.
Irene sees him leave the Palace and turns to go somewhere, anywhere, when Her Grace is entering her chambers.
“Oh, Your Grace...” Irene is close to tears, though she is good at hiding it. ‘Maybe I should have not reminded him... But I tried to... What should I’ve done..’
‘Nothing, Irene.’ Her Grace’s voice is close by, a comfort in a way.
As usual, the Bearer motions all servants and Guards out, except for Susan. She sits on the couch with Irene, and Susan serves them some coffee. She glances at the two of them before she withdraws. ‘It is a strange sight, them together: the unmoving Bearer and the soft face of Her Excellency, opening up to Her Grace while they are exchanging together... Uh... No thinking... Hail STATE...’
‘Irene. You must leave as well. You have worked hard and there is more work ahead. You need to unwind. STATE has reserved a suite for you and your family in the Grand Hotel in the skiing resort, you will be brought there without even the Captain knowing. STATE will also leave for some time.’
Irene looks ahead and nods slowly, while tears start to form in her eyes. ‘Oh... it’s just... maybe I should have... well, respected his decision... left it’
‘He surely would have preferred you to. But you did what you must do. You know things he does not want to see. He needs time to see them. Time alone.’ Irene understands and it is a relief to. Tears keep coming, patting down on her suit even though she has no clue why, really. ‘Everything is wrong, Your Grace... I cannot keep the people from... It will be terrible... I cannot go, you know that!’
‘Irene. Come here.’
As S. presses the blond head against STATE, she sees the people gathering for the Premiere, the people watching dataFlow for the hearings by the CCAP, people violently discussing, people’s mind changing, changing, changing...
‘Chaos means growth, Irene. And yes, sometimes it is needed to kill before growth can take place. It is not you who can decide this. It is not even for STATE to decide this. The future will be made by all people, Irene: all people in this state.’
The Captain leaves four Guards each to watch over the Bearer and Secretary of STATE instead of the usual two each. “Her Grace might be going out to the Concert Halls often this week,” he says to them. “Do keep her in close check. We would not want anything to happen to Her Grace in my absence! And Her Excellency will be busy as well, I suppose... If anything happens to her, anything at all!”
Knowing his feelings towards her go deep, they nod seriously.
Late that same night, STATE calls the two Guards away from Her Excellency’s bed, and then sounds a fire alarm in the heads of the other two. They awake Her Excellency in a flurry of fear and escort her outside. In the dark, seeing no one else react to an alarm, they go to find more information. When they return, the Secretary of STATE is gone.
Afraid of the anger of their senior, the young Guards watch the Bearer even more ardently. They stay close to her every moment of the day, even when she has a private talk with Master Casper Damian about some details of the Symphonies of White, even when she sleeps on the Bearer’s Bed. ‘Bow! Step back. Careful now. What is that servant up to? Oh... Alright. OK. Shift now. Position next to the door. Eyes! Still eyes!’ ‘Yes, Her Grace looks irritated... Oh! No, I shouldn’t be thinking this... Avert eyes! Who is approaching..? Hmn, OK. Step back! At ease. Do not look!’
Their thoughts are young and full of images: between glimpses of Bianca and Vera and Ella and Francine and Eileen, between appraising views on the efficacy of certain weapons above others, between thoughts of friendships and rivalry, many a professional fear: the uprising of the terrorists against their former comrade the present Bearer, the gathering of thugs who aim to dispatch STATE once and for all, the growth of crime in general and the need to control each and every person in this country to stop that, the political forces gathering under Martin Rislers calling for Her Grace to step down, the obscene instigators of anti-STATE press... Every person is a potential spy or traitor, every place is a potential ambush.
And yes, the growing unrest in the nation is filtering down into STATE. While Irene has left the Palace in the night, S. looks after her. Though STATE knows she is offering the right instruments for the future of this state, she is conscious that the humans are getting restless and impatient.
> So, now the music is being performed after all
> What do you mean? Her Grace always delivers! Hail STATE!
> Well I think the Bearer is a useless carrier of power. She cannot even make this reign safe.
> Useless? Working like crazy is what I’d say, I wonder what she will be up to next... After two Committees she had to start the third!
> But this one is DIFFERENT! This one is meaningful, people! And it will start in 3 days! THIS is something to look forwards to! See them grovel for a change...
> Well for my part, I can do without all this trial! There are too many changes... If things could be just the same
> as in when? come off it Henry, you just want good old P to rise from the dead and start killing again !?
> the President lives
> Doesn’t matter one way or the other. We are taken advantage of, we will pay the price even if the changes might be good for those to come.
> Good? GOOD? Powers are shifting and nothing good to come out for us, that’s what I say!
> I agree, but probably for opposite reasons, Henry... STATE is handing us over to some other fickle power-hungry individual, one we have elected ourselves. We will be the victims of our own choice!
> the President lives!
> They promise us a real democracy, but does this nation want to be ruled by elected human beings instead of a supernatural Bearer or President? Can we stand to be like that? No, why should we! We have someone better! Someone fit to do it! Jason Almerra for Bearer!
> As always, we are the cannon-meat of STATE
> THAT’s just SO UTRUE
> eh UNTRUE! The Bearer has installed the Committee investigating Crimes Against the people, and this Committee is there for US! To protect US, also in the future, against our more violent fellow citizens. We are the people of STATE! Hail STATE!
> oh what of it? blah blah that’s what I say! wanna watch it all the same, best dataFlow media idea in years haha
> the President lives
> someone, can we kick this creep out before he strarts to bring alives all the dead? Let the flthy p rot is what I say
> Really people, THINK!
> Well, I think Her Grace has delivered what we asked for and well what of it if she gives us something else, something special, something extra? I would want to be at that Premiere, I would!
> you ain’t the only one either, Rosie, the Hall is booked full and there will be dataFlow coverage...
> Can’t wait..!
> This is exciting, really, but
> Really, girls, get serious! This country’s on the brink of civil war and you think of MUSIC? come off it... You are more stupid than I thought. Come on! Focus! The CCAP
> Well I think that the CCAP will be painful but also, then finally everything will get clearer, and people can look each other in the eye, straight...
> Oh, get real! I wouldn’t testify if I had dirty hands, and everybody in that regime had dirty hands, you know that! It’ll be a sham
December 4th in the second year of the Bearer’s Reign
The Captain returns to the Palace of STATE. Reluctantly, his Guards inform him of Her Excellency’s disappearance, the alarm sounding though no fire had been detected, Her Excellency gone... As they feared, the Captain explodes in the most terrible anger they have seen him in. White with rage, he threatens to kill them, torture them, evict them, imprison them, but after a long burst of verbal violence, he does nothing of the sort and lets them go with a strong reprimand. Then, Her Grace’s Guards have to report Her Grace’s disappearance, fearing a strong rebuke, but the Captain calms them down. “Her Grace will return shortly, I am sure,” he says self-assuredly, thinking: ‘The big premiere of the work she has invested so much time and energy in is tomorrow night. She will show for that!’ Content with some peace of mind, for one day, at last, he gives the Guards other duties.
He does spend hours in his gym and his sack need repairs when he is finally through. Then, he has his man servant call in Rachel; and no one dares look at her when she finally exits the gym, though she does walk out on her own feet, a bonus...
All day, there are many things the Captain has to attend to: organizing and safe-guarding the Premiere claims almost all his attention. After the Reception of STATE at the Bell’Etoile, the Premiere of the White Symphonies is the greatest social event of the year. Many people hope to see or speak either Her Grace or Her Excellency, and the Premiere sold out in no time. Schneider’s is fully booked, supplying the rich and mighty with new outfits. ‘What will Irene wear? Oh, I shouldn’t think of her like that... She’ll become our first President-Elect, and then I can be lucky if I am allowed to stay as her Captain. Never more... Always near her but never touching... But... where is she now? STATE must be hiding her from me. And I know what for. They want me to testify. They keep nagging on about me having to testify. I WILL NOT! Ow, women!’ That afternoon, he combs his dataCorder for any trace of Her Excellency, but finds none: no taxi, no reservation, no payments, nothing. He orders Patrick to take a look at her parents’ house, but he reports no one at home, and even from there he can trace no taxis, no bookings... ‘STATE must’ve found a way to bypass all this... she is hiding her from me! Ah well, if that is the case it will be okay... I will see her again soon, I guess... No problem.’
As he eats a solitary dinner, he looks around and almost invites Susan to sit down, so empty does the room seem without Irene. ‘Where are you..?’
While he lays awake at night, wondering how he can find her without the help of STATE, he realizes to his frustration how dependable he is on STATE, how little he can achieve without her; and then he also acknowledges for the first time the big chance of other scenarios: of having to serve another Bearer, maybe in fact even that rude Jason whom he had had to save, of having that Martin Rislers as President-Elect, and, if he takes all eventualities into account, the biggest chances are that with his history, he will not be serving anyone in power again for a long, a very long time. ‘What then? What will I do then? Maybe I can be with Irene after all... That is... If she would want me to... Would she..? Never shows any sign... No heart-fluttering, ha.’ In the dark he grimaces and feels it, tries to relax his facial muscles which are sore from tension. ‘I must relax... must sleep... busy days... Premiere... Irene will be there, for sure.. She will be back by then... She will be back; and she will be safe... She’d better be safe!’
“There never was a bearer more unfit that the Filth carrying STATE now,”
The voice of Jason Almerra is sharp, etching its way into your brain. You cannot shrug this voice away, this voice carries Truth and he is the One: he is strong, he is ascetic, he is the most holy, and they are only here to serve him, to protect him; they are the chosen ones to accompany him to the moment of his Rising. December will pass, January will pass, and then February will bring them the Moment of Truth, when the Filth will be washed away by his hands and will lie destroyed and empty, a bag of bones to be trampled upon and defaced, while he will reign as the one and true Bearer: the Welder of STATE.
S. sleeps on the stone floor of the farm house just outside the capital. The farm wife had recognized her instantly, and it had taken a direct mind order to have her allow STATE to rest on the floor. The only place apart from the Bed that STATE can sleep. She drinks a glass of warm milk, covers STATE with a soft eiderdown, and sleeps. In the sleep of strand S., STATE continues tuning, watching how Jason is developing his double roles as a mirror of Matilde – in his case as martyr and leader, STATE is following how Blake is weaving his web for Martin, how Sarah is trying to find people sympathizing with Delaware while encountering De Brown’s snares to win people over to Irene, watching how Alphonse Spalden and Casper fight over the White Symphonies as the musicians look on, lost. Some slight tuning and they resolve their differences for the time being, everyone picks up their instruments with relief, and the white hums and twists on the faraway auditive strands of her being.
“I expect you to show this time, Martin,” Blake states and it is clear that he will not accept a refusal.
“Why, Blake? All these events only confirm her power! If we go there, we bend to her program, we”
“No, Martin. As much as I dislike these events, more than you seem to do, I always make sure that I am there. Of course we do not go for Her Grace, and it is easy to make that clear: to disregard her subtly negates her powers more than to sulk at home. What’s more, there are some people whom I haven’t had the possibility to contact, and they will be there, so see and be seen. I do not have to explain socializing to you, of all people, I hope.” Martin wants to turn away from Blake but he does see his point. ‘Politics are never straightforward, now are they?’ he sighs inwardly but nods his consent. They send in their RSVPs.
December 5th in the second year of the Bearer’s Reign
No sign of Her Excellency and though the Captain clearly tries to behave as if nothing is the matter, the servants know better. Always harder to please than either Her Excellency or even Her Grace, the Captain now finds fault in almost anything. Eggs are fried too soft or too hard, the bacon is never crisp enough, the bread smells of mould, the milk sour.
He is working out in the gym for hours on end and his Guards pray he will not require them to come in for some sparring, the ferocity with which he hits the new sack is scary to say the least. He eats a few bites and pushes his plate away, disgusted, then orders something else to eat, then ends with taking scotch.
Jan does not want to pry but he knows that his drinking can be dangerous. Though the Captain has a strong frame it is clear that with all this stress and drinking his body is hollowed out from the inside. ‘As the Palace Doctor, I have to say something...’ Carefully, he approaches the Captain’s rooms, but the Guard is afraid to announce his presence and refuses him curtly. ‘Ah, well,’ Jan thinks, ‘I’d better keep my eyes on the people of real importance around here... Martin is much more stable since Blake is in the Party communication team, and compared to the ravings going on in the Palace I cannot wait until Martin is elected well and good. Whatever takes them to organize these elections anyway? Hope STATE is not going to do another of those Days, ‘cause really, that might end in something nasty, I’d say,’
December 8th in the second year of the Bearer’s Reign
Two days before the premiere of the White Symphonies, and four days before the first hearings of the CCAP. Irene is still absent. So absent. The Captain makes sure he does not end up in bed early or sober, but when he sleeps he dreams of her, looking at him with a small reproach. ‘I will NOT testify, whatever I dream! All this is some STATE infiltration, some STATE trick, uh, no- whatever where is she anyway!’
December 9th in the second year of the Bearer’s Reign
A call from Irene’s ‘Phone wakes him as she contacts the Captain’s secure number. He is so eager to accept the call that his mobilePhone nearly slips from his sleepy hands; he catches it just in time. “Ah, Irene! Er, Your Excellency!” he says, then hesitates: “Are you OK?”
“Yes, Captain. I have had a small vacation... But maybe you can arrange transport back to the Palace?”
“Er, oh! Yes, of course! Of course. Where are you?”
“I’m in the Grand Hotel, Captain. Please pick me up with something not too flashy...”
“Of course, Your Excellency, er, Irene.” He almost adds how good he feels that she is back, but her voice was distant still. ‘I will have to wait until this wears off, I guess’ he thinks, though somewhere in the back of his mind he is aware that she does not give up on anything and he fears her resolve.