Chapter 28: rearrangements
8:09 a.m. on the 3rd day of the Bearer’s Reign
“OK, all, quiet! Before Her Grace and Her Excellency arrive, there are some things I want to make perfectly clear.”
Mr. Blas drops a short silence and all personnel present stop moving and talking. He had not expected nor would have condoned otherwise.
“The Bearer of STATE has honored us with making this Eastern Palace her main residence. We cannot presume Her Grace will reside here all the time, but I do expect all of you to do your utmost to please her whenever she will be here.
As you know, the Etiquette surrounding the former President was very strict, and contrary to some rumors on Her Grace’s leniency, I would advise all of you to adhere to the Bearer of STATE Etiquette with equal precision. As we have seen, STATE has considerable powers to kill, directly or indirectly! Ahem.”
Looking around with a stern face, Mr. Blas continues:
“In short: the Bearer of STATE is not to touch anything metal apart from gold. She is not to touch crystal, but drink from glass. Of course, Her Grace is not to take, or lift, or open anything. Doors are to be opened at her approach, chairs are to be offered for her whenever she would indicate a desire to sit, clothing will be held up for her reverently. Only the most senior of servants are allowed in a room with STATE, and I expect you to know your position in this without having to be told! Out is out, instantly and quietly, no staring or any such rudeness!
Any displeasure of Her Grace or the Secretary of STATE will mean the sack for the servant causing it, and any discomfort inflicted onto the Bearer or the Secretary of STATE will be punished severely, so I urge you to take the utmost care whenever you are anywhere near either Her Grace or Her Excellency.
Of course, at all times Her Grace will be accompanied by her Guards of STATE. And the Captain, as you know, takes only slightly less respect than Her Grace herself.
Ah. As regards to senior servants. For clothing, Mr. Bernston, I presume you will take the honor of being Dresser of STATE?”
Haughtily, Mr. Bernston accepts the high position, though his mind seethes with hatred for the upstart who had had the nerve to kill his master.
“And, let me see.... for”
The Head of House is interrupted by a Guard of STATE, who enters and looks around, frowning. Knowing what this means, Mr. Blas says loudly:
“To attention! A circle, all of you!” A rustle of many feet.
Surrounded by her Guard, the Bearer of STATE enters, accompanied by her Secretary. ‘Tiny tired terrorist’, Bernston thinks.
The Guard slows down, subtly communicating Her Grace to halt.
Mr. Blas bows. “Hmn... Your Grace... Your Excellency...
May I introduce the Palace staff?”
The Bearer of STATE hesitates, her head moves but her eyes do not seem to react to her surroundings. She remains silent.
The Secretary looks down, to the floor.
Nervously, Mr. Blas continues: “Of course, I will not bother Your Excellencies with all of them! But may I introduce to you, your Head of Table, Mr. Borges,”
A graying thin man steps forwards and bows even deeper.
---Bearer of STATE for 2 days, 22 hours, 2 minutes and---
S. blinks, senses the importance of his function, and steps forwards.
Instinctively, Mr. Borges almost withdraws, used to keep physical distance at all costs with the President. But seeing her intent to touch him, he holds himself still. Her Grace’s hand claws into his jaw and a strong discharge hits him.
‘She will electrocute me!’ he panics, then stops himself. Submitting to the current, he softens his aspect, until the current flows through and he is accepted.
Trying not to look too surprised, Mr. Blas continues:
“Ahemn... and your Dresser of STATE, Mr. Bernston,”
When the distinguished man approaches her respectfully, a cold surge enters S.. Now, it is she who almost withdraws, but she does not allow her body to move. When her hand touches him, she knows for certain.
Her Grace’s rejection is short and absolute.
Mr. Blas hides his disbelief and tries to think fast. ‘Who else? Who would be next in line? Who has the right seniority, the right experience, who?’
But the Bearer slowly turns and points to a slight nervous man, standing a bit to the side.
“Eh... yes, well, of course, Your Grace. Mr. Daveaux, if you please!” Mr. Blas orders. ‘Someone this jittery will never make a good servant!’ he thinks, but he cannot go against Her Grace’s expressed wish.
The Bearer looks at Mr. Daveaux, her hand reaching for his jaw.
Eyes closed, also he submits to Her Grace’s touch, tries to remember to breathe.
Then, a warm flow courses through him and he feels he is accepted.
Mr. Blas, still upset by the breaking of his hierarchy, tries to remember whom to introduce next, but without a further look, the Bearer jerks to movement and leaves the central Hall for her chambers, the Guards of STATE following.
“Where is she? Where is Susan?”
Mr. Blas smiles and bows. “I am very very sorry, Your Excellency, but she disappeared. I tried to find her, but, well, the silly girl is simply gone!”
“I want her back!”
“Ah, but Your Excellency... Susan was just the first I could find that day! I have done some more research and Rachel here simply fits the profile better...”
A beautiful girl with long dark hair smiles a white teethed and glossy lipped smile. She curtseys and all present cannot help but see her perfect breasts hanging in her decent blouse.
Mr. Blas notices as well and has to breathe slowly to hide his anticipation. “Your Excellency, Rachel Mainread has all diplomas for being secretary and personal assistant to the Secretary of STATE. As you realize, the job is a delicate one, and I doubt if Susan”
“I want her back!”
“But Your Excellency... Please be reasonable. I have tried all channels, but she simply could not be found... And you need someone as from now!”
His voice is warm and vibrant, and Irene’s skin hurts. “I want you to continue looking for her! But, Rachel, you are welcome...” She walks to the inner room, where she finds tea and sandwiches ready. With soft movements, Rachel serves her.
4th day of the Bearer’s Reign
“Any more information on Susan, Mr. Blas?”
Phillip Blas manages a concerned smile. “Dear Excellency... No news, unfortunately. We had someone visit her house, but it was empty, and even her parents have no clue... Maybe they are lying, of course, and we could have them questioned,”
“No. Remember the First Decree, Mr. Blas! We cannot go round questioning people about things like this.”
Philip Blas huffs discreetly. “I do hope Miss Mainread has fulfilled you expectations?”
She certainly fulfilled his. Grateful for this opportunity, she had given herself to him with a passion he was unaccustomed to. ‘Tight little ass, juicy tits...’ The other servants obliged, out of fear, but she had done her utmost to please him, and please him she had... ‘Hesitant at the right times, wet and hot when I pierced that little cunt, then gripping me and rocking’ Quickly, he thinks of something less exciting.
“Yes, she is very intelligent and helpful,” Miss Delwin says.
Rachel had brought her pile after pile of information, and Irene, anxious to be as well-informed as a Secretary of STATE should be, had been reading all night, and all day. But the pile remains ever high, so much information on all sorts of levels, on topics and pending decisions she had never realized occupied so much of a senior administrator’s time.
> nothing much happening, now is there?
> well, no news is good news
> something’ll be happening soon, I tell y’all
> you think? is she still alive, then? joke, joke
> sure is, though people say only barely, was in the H to start with, did you know?
> Matil is, Matil lives! The President lives!
> the H?
> Hospital, stupid, a niece of a friend of someone I know, bla bla anyway she said that Her Grace was seen there, y’know, and that she might be sick
> sick like in?
> sick from carrying tha thing, I’d think, no way I’d be caught with that splattered against me tummy!
> Some more respect would suit you all, really! Hail STATE! Hail the Bearer of
> owww mr nice guy is ehre again, let’s talk booooooring
> Matil’ll set it straight, I tell you, Matil
> owww really will do me dishes now
After a very nervous start, Mr. Daveaux is getting used to the high honor of being Dresser of STATE, and has moved to a new table position in the tight hierarchy of the Palace personnel, trying to avoid Mr. Bernston as much as he can.
Mr. Borges, always nimble, goes about the daily organizing of the meals. This is not easy, as Her Grace does not keep to any schedule and often skips meals, and tends to take her meal wherever she is, making the job a pain. Nevertheless Borges is happy to have a ruler who does not have the President’s extravagant demands and eating techniques.
Cook has to search for new recipes containing no meat and has to adjust the sizes of her servings.
Though Mr. Blas cannot help but miss the President’s lavish parties, the running of the Palace household is much easier; with this strange Bearer, the strict but predictable Captain and the undemanding Secretary, the absence of sudden casualties and Rachel’s rousing presence...
5th day of the Bearer’s Reign
Irene has been reading all day, and almost all night, until her eyes cannot focus anymore and she falls asleep on the papers.
The Bearer moves through the Palace like an ill-adjusted doll. Day after day, she sits on a chair, or, more often, is found somewhere, standing, her face white and rigid, her body in hypertension, unable to move or speak. She hardly eats, does not drink, and soon the servants whisper that also at night, she moves about.
The Bearer’s obvious suffering causes consternation amongst the servants, and many are clearly afraid of the Bearer, dreading to come near her. Some believe the rumors of the Bearer’s STATE powers, the flesh that kills, the gaze that will turn you to stone...
For the Captain and Doctor Jan, the nights are a problem.
Time and again one of them or both are being raised from their sleep by a Guard rushing in to inform them of Her Grace, being in pain, of Her Grace, pacing her chambers, of Her Grace, cowering in a corner of her chambers, afraid even of her Guards, or of Her Grace, frozen and a weird high scream coming from somewhere within her.
The moment the chambers become dark, the problems start; so they soon agree to always have at least one light on all night. This does seem to calm Her Grace, at least.
As the Captain has many obligations during the day, the Doctor takes on the nights, and has to forego his nice chambers in the other wing. Doctor Jan sleeps in the small chamber next to Her Grace’s, sure to have a turbulent night, and soon the rhythm of his life is attuned to the dark, isolating him from most inhabitants of the Palace.
Though timid, Irene more and more exchanges thoughts with the Captain, even offers opinions, another perspective. The Captain is glad to hear the Secretary’s caution and insight, and also that at times, Her Grace does seem to listen to her.
6th day of the Bearer’s Reign and Irene wakes early, stiff and feeling very bad. ‘Where is she... Where is she?’
She had asked Mr. Blas about Susan every day, and he had answered her concerned and sad, and then Rachel would come in and Irene could almost feel the heat coming off him, as his eyes lingered on her buttocks and her breasts.
Irene had always had a quick eye for office romances and this certainly was one, from his part. Clearly, Rachel played him all along, her natural charms an asset.
> r was guarding her for the whole afternoon, and know what? told me she did not move once! how can anyone be so boring so as not to move at all!? At ALL, I tell you guys, for hours and hours! Not even to pee hihi
> well they say there’s nothing she likes to do now, is there? never eats, never drinks, never plays, not with her body or with anybody else’s... what good are all these powers if you cannot enjoy them? ;-}
> Do you all really think you can just type these things? Hail STATE! Hail the Bearer of STATE! The most sacred
> shut up if you’ afraid : bail out, nobody here wants to hear your obsolete whimpering!
>what’s more, she does not even play the power game, did you hear?
> maybe she’s not human, you know, like some superhuman you read about?
> aw... just not used to playing these games, I think! Imagine, she never could even go to a restaurant, Marked as she was!
> never thought o that... she is a Marked one, thats right...
> you know the poison does things to your brain, I heard, maybe her brain’s damaged or something?
> Really, maybe you should be more careful, now, you know dataFlow is not exactly secure...
> afraid? Haha, you should read her first decree man, I had never heard of these rights until she came up with them, not so clever again, now is she? We were right afraid ‘cause of her nice mr. predecessor, and a clever ruler would’ve kept us like that, easy-peazy
> ow come on, like you have experience, who are you anyway?
> right, like I would tell you
> but she knows, people, I tell you STATE knows!
> don’t go into that trust-in-STATE stuff again Pety, you know it gives me the creeps! Heard it in my head, I did and I tell you, you don’t wanna have someone else’s voice fddling in your head!
> Well I heard it too, C, and though it was the most wonderful thing ever happened... so peaceful...
> but she’s listening, don’t you know? Don’t you all feel this?
> well if she is Effie, she does not seem to care, now, does she? We’ve been at it for hours now, long enough to have the SecuriPol?
come and take us in, if she really would care that way
> Her Grace does keep to the First Decree. Hail STATE! Hail the Bearer of STATE!
> jove guys, doesn’t anyone have more gossip about hat other one? The pretty one..?
> don’t start again M, I’m not going into HER! She normal she is, like you and me, nd it’s no fault of hers she was called, you know!
> called, you say? CALLED? Like by the Voices of Heaven? Dear people, let’s not debase ourselves to this extent, she’s not that high above us!
The ongoing banter about her, about her reign, about her looks, about her actions, about her non-actions, about her past... Every day there are more comments and judgments, more remarks and observations, more gossip and research, more questions as to her being, and S. does not have any answers.
Also in the minds of the people around her, these questions are being asked, and though she cannot hear them as such she can guess from their covert glances, their halting presences, the silences they drop.
Why are they all looking at her?
Why can they not look at themselves, think about themselves, judge themselves? Why are they all looking at her for change?
What makes them think she is so special, as she has no clue of how she came here, why she is here, what she should do here?
What makes them think they can know her, even judge her, if they have never ever been in this expanse of white, have never been physically invaded by it, cannot even guess its presence, cannot feel it or steer it as she can?
Who do they THINK they are?
The white swells at thoughts like these, and the swelling might become a wave, and the wave might break through the boundaries and destroy everything, kill everybody, like that time’
I am nothing... I am nobody... I am nothing’
As the white calms S. returns with a unvoiced sigh to the quiet within, where no one can follow her, where no one can observe her, where she can cease to be.