S./The Bearer of STATE - a book by Karin Arink

Chapter 42: University

5th month of the Bearer’s Reign
After the Palace of Pleasures collapse, Martin Rislers and the Bearer continue to work on forming the Constitutional and Validating Committees. The list of people to be contacted to take place in one of the two Committees grows, though Martin debates everyone mentioned by Her Grace fervently. As Secretary of STATE, Irene assists them, though her dislike for Rislers’ pushiness is so strong she almost cannot stand to be in the same room too long or too often with him. She completely distrusts Martin, but finds Her Grace deaf to her worries.

---Bearer of STATE for 4 months, 1 week, 2 days, 0 hours, 46 minutes---
Though STATE sees no grounds for Irene’s prejudice, S. does decide she needs more channels of information and connection. Time to connect to the next name STATE gave her: Mc Kinsey.

Early on this warm July day, the Bearer moves out of the Palace of Parliament. On her way out, she passes by Irene, who asks: “Your Grace, where are you going?”
“Some research regarding the Committees, come alone.”
Irene takes her mobiPhone and bag, and follows Her Grace outside.

The Captain goes after them as they leave the Palace. Some Guards also follow but a short order of Her Grace in his securiPhones and the Captain tells them off. Pushing the shoulders of his expensive suit straight, he walks after Her Grace and Her Excellency, to a bus stop some blocks down the road, where they stand.
“But… eh… Y”
“Sh! We have to go like this, or it will be useless. Either you come, or you stay here!” the Secretary hisses. The Captain inclines his head. ‘It is my task to protect the Bearer and the Secretary of STATE. I will go as they go...’
The timetable indicates that they will have to wait for about 12 minutes before a bus will come. After half a minute, the Captain cannot stand it. ‘Why don’t we call the limo? Or a taxi, at least? Why people bear to be transported in such an inefficient way?’ He huffs.
Her Excellency turns to him: “Are you warm?” she asks, softly.
“Ow! No!” he hisses back. “Really! This is so irritating! It is debasing, really. To be standing here, waiting…”
The Bearer does not react, concentrating on something inside with eyes halfway closed. The Secretary of STATE does look at him. Her dark blue suit fits her curves perfectly, and her blonde hair, kept back in a bun, gleams. “I am not waiting,” she says. And it is true. She is standing very tranquilly, like she stopped to enjoy the sun, accidentally near a bus stop. “but you can return if you like!”
The Captain tries to relax, to calm his indignation. To his surprise, a bus comes in what feels almost no time at all. Her Excellency pays for three tickets.
“To the campus,” the Bearer says.

Jason glares around. “And where is the rest? We were with a full house last time we met, where’d the rest of the bloody maggots crawl to?” The men around him are silent. Jason’s hand curves around his glass, tight and tighter, until his knuckles show white. The glass trembles and some of the men step back, though one of his most close followers takes off his coat and spreads it o the ground. Just in time. Jason Almerra topples over from his stool and falls flaying onto the coat. “Filth! Filth! She will die in filth! Die and we will be freed! Free of this filth!” His follower has his dataCorder already open and feeds the words onto the OC channel to distribute Jason’s words to his followers.

Together with Irene and the Captain, S. walks over the campus grounds. The grass is very green in the bright sunlight, and the students sitting or strolling over it are highlighted in bright contrasting colors. A memory flash of her brief period of studying here. As before, these memories have faded. Has she really been here? Yes, yes, she knows she has walked here, but then, everything was different. How can people believe so easily that they remain the same person over all these years?
Against the Lecture Hall, a row of dark-leaved shrubs. Everything shifts as her body remembers for her. Under the shrubs, the hard sand, strewn with little branches, dry leaves and a solitary candy paper. A beetle, making its way to the sugar, totally ignorant of her presence.
The cold hard ball inside.
She always stayed away from the bright green, sure to be cornered by some group somewhere, or yelled at, or, in the end, ignored continually.
Ignored to the point that she had become a ghost sitting in the benches. Ignored to the point that she had become invisible. Ignored to the point that she had become such a non-entity, that she had stopped existing. Stubbornly, she had kept coming to lectures, with the total and continual absence of contact deepening every day, every month. She had stopped talking, stopped caring for her appearance or her performance. Her body became a thing she was lugging about, some thing that she preferred to forget about.
She had stopped eating, almost stopped drinking. With mild awe, she had seen her body’s bones push themselves through papery skin. She had had no more buttocks, no more hips, no more breasts, and she had looked with admiration at the hardness of her frame. She thrived on the pain of hunger. She had almost finally finished, what her mother’
In the end, she had been forced to enter a Hospital.
The Hospital… It was there, that she had met Moss. Moss, smoking a clandestine C-glow in her hiding place near the Emergency exits. Moss, recovering from a leg wound, looking very handsome with the white plaster against his tanned skin. Moss, grinning a mean grin, refusing to let her be. Moss, telling stories of life on the run. Moss, calling her S., touching her for the first time, a shelter for her bones...
Moss’ knife biting into her throat, Moss’ cold blood sticking to her skin.
All another life. A life she has read about, a life she has heard about. A story told. Not her story, not her life.
There. The Lecture Hall, the castStone familiar and reddish brown in the sunlight. They arrive just in time, the doors are being closed and the last students enter, take their places and pull out their dataCorders from beaten bags.

The Bearer sits and Irene seats herself a row below her, the Captain quickly takes a seat beside her. Discretely, Irene opens her dataCorder and looks up the class. Prof. A. M. Th. Mc Kinsey: Political History. Some research soon yields more data: he used to stimulate careful but at the time revolutionary debates by wording outrageous statements on politics, even during the President’s reign. A showcase of the regime’s ‘open’ intellectual climate, everybody had been surprised how he could keep on doing what he did, without being tortured, imprisoned, killed. Some said he had known the President before he had become president, but nobody knew any details.

Professor Alastair Mc Kinsey enters some five minutes later. His red hair has faded to a shade like pink, but his eyes have not faded one bit.

Prof. Mc Kinsey looks up, and starts his lecture: “People. Today, we will discuss the nature and origin of democracy. From the 19th century, we use the word ‘democracy’ in the meaning of 'government of the people by the people for the people', as the famous ruler Abraham Lincoln put it. Of course, the ways in which this can be put into practice are as varied as the ways to Rome… as they used to say. Ahem. There are many forms of democracy; to name a few: representative, direct, and deliberative democracies, but in truth every country has its own system of democracy.” He looks up from his papers and resumes: “Before turning to contemporary situation here, I would like to venture some general remarks on the first Athenian democracies to contextualize our ideas about democracy. Of course, there are many differences between our systems of democracy, and the old Athenian ones. To start with another quote*: “The ancient Greek word demokratia was ambiguous. It meant literally 'people-power'. But who were the people to whom the power belonged? Was it all the people - all duly qualified citizens? Or only some of the people - the 'masses'? The Greek word demos could mean either.” In Athenian democracy, only certain people were eligible for participation. You had to be male, and have descended on both sides from free Athenian parents, so that excluded a fair number of people: women, slaves, and all immigrants. Anyway, the level of participation by those who were entitled was enormous, so the Athenians had to devise various ingenious systems and instruments to ensure the allotment of various political tasks totally by chance. A person had to be really lucky to be the one of the hundreds elected to judge a case, and his lucky number was checked and cross-checked with his identity so that no one else could take his place. Already the Athenians were conscious of the corruption by power! So... Let me see...
It is said that the rise of democracy in Athens could only come about because it was preceded by the wise rule of Solon. To put it very shortly, this poet-slash-tyrant did not encourage democracy as such, but worked to equalize the differences in status and possessions that due to a budding economic power had risen. Many men had had to sell their freedom of person to pay for their recent debts, and Solon used his power to free many of them while shielding the wealthy and powerful from disgrace. Though not revolutionary, this did make for a class of well-educated and free men alerted to the dangers of power and eager to partake in the councils and committees of democracy. But, let me remind you: it is always hard to distinguish between myth-making by later generations and any one person’s real influence on a situation!”

‘Hmn,’ Irene smiles, ‘S. and Solon… ’ Though the comparison is inept, Irene does know the state is in transition, and maybe, in retrospect, people will come to value Her Grace’s role in it, even if many do not as yet...

“Ahem. But it is going too far to follow the development of Athenian democracy in detail. In general, there are different procedures that have to be thought out before a democracy can function. You need a system of eligibility and allotment, a technology of identification to prevent a person from voting twice - or someone else voting for him, a structure of organizing the different powers of legislation, enforcement and government and their interaction. Within the framework of legislation, the law is enforced and the government decides practical matters and possible changes of legislation on political grounds. Depending on which combinations are considered undesirable, the organization is decided upon. Functioning as both people’s representatives and feed-back-system of the structure of state, politicians have to reach their opinions and decisions through a mode of deliberation. To a quote* that jumps back to the Athenian situation: “There was a variety of jobs to do in the Athenian political sector, but they all essentially came down to one task: generating information.
You argued. You heard arguments. You drew up legislation. You presented legislation. You reached your verdict. You cast your vote. You were the source, along with your fellow citizens, of a flood of words and rulings and decisions.
This flood needed managing, and mostly it was the institutions of the state that managed it, chiefly through their structure and conventions.”

‘Generating information, and managing its flows’, Irene thinks. That’s what STATE does. Maybe STATE could alter the structure of information to bring about change. Maybe that is also what we need to do to put Matil out of the game..?’

“If we look at today’s democracies, we see a large variety of formats. Every country devises a system that fits the needs of the specific situation. In some cases, the people eligible to vote select a representative, who takes seat in a parliamentary council. This council then can reject or approve of changes proposed by the government. The government in turn is often composed of the leading figures of a specific party. Elected on basis of the votes, a party has the right to appoint a certain amount of members of government…”

The Captain yawns. ‘We all know all this! What are we doing here?’ After another ten minutes of historical information that he more or less disregards, listening in to some exchange on his securiPhones, the atmosphere changes suddenly. The Captain opens his eyes. Excitement.

Professor Mc Kinsey is erect and alert. Clearly, he has been waiting for this part of the lecture, and the students have as well.
“OK. Now to the current situation. But before we start this discussion, and to remind you of the trickiness of rhetoric, just this. Every thing I say is an exercise of thought. I do not necessarily say things that I mean to be true. I express thoughts in order for you to react to them, to form your own opinions in the process. Therefore, in the event of an exam, I do not want nor expect nor grade opinions resembling mine in any way! I do not want you to copy me in any way. So think for yourselves!
That said, let’s continue. The advent of the Bearer resuming absolute power is one of the most unexpected political events of this century. Apart from the odds of someone being able to handle that thing, and the curious and unclear circumstances under which a wanted terrorist became Bearer, the bare fact that a contemporary nation follows a leader selected in this way is amazing. Some chance selects a person to carry STATE, and then this person becomes head of state by default. The Bearer has not proven any special ability, apart from, well, surviving!” Some scattered laughter, which the Professor silences with his hand. “Ahem… On the other hand, you could argue that STATE itself is the perfect carrier for power. It is said to allow complete access to all data stored in all systems in this country. If true, it is a superb manager and manipulator of information. That means that a true and optimal Bearer has use of one very powerful tool, which can well be used as a repressive instrument… and often has been used to that effect. Luckily, the last Bearer is long ago! The current reign of the Bearer has all characteristics of a classical monarchy or a dictatorship. Considering recent history, this is not surprising, although it is of course true that the rule of the President was tailored to the model of the Bearers before him. Apparently, we live in a nation that has a taste for conferring absolute power to one individual! It is always difficult to break a habit this strong, and seeing this has always been a trait of our national politics, it will be hard to change it, I suppose. But they say, the times they are a-changing...”

He winks as he almost sings the last line. Students laugh again, the Captain notes with anger, and his eyes lash around to see who is going along with this fool’s jokes and who does not. ‘Ha! Now it’s clear why we’re here! Finally we take some action against them...’

Professor Mc Kinsey continues: “Yes, the Bearer did proclaim freedom of speech, of which, as you see, I make as full use as possible!” Again, careful laughter, more than before. The Professor looks seriously, and the students stop laughing.
“She has asserted that her aim is to develop a democracy here, gradually. That is admirable, certainly. And maybe foolhardy… We do not know where more democratic liberties will bring this country. But the fact is, that the Bearer has been ruling for months now, and there is still no political development. Most of the old government is still in place. The Army and most Police officers are all still in place. You could say that either the Bearer is a puppet, justifying a longer reign for the former President’s Ministers; or the Ministers are puppets, played by the Bearer. Or maybe… Maybe we should look at it from another angle.”
Everybody is looking expectantly at the Professor, who is concentrating on what he is about to say now.

On her portable dataCorder, Irene is making occasional notes, one of the few people who is not looking at the Professor mesmerized. She looks up to see the Professor brush back his hair.

“What is bothering me most, is the true nature of a Bearer of STATE. I have been doing some research, and contrary to contemporary views, the Bearer in old times hardly ever was the actual ruler of state. He or she performed a ritual and ceremonial role. In fact, you can say that the Bearer is more like the head of a specific and national brand of pagan religion, rather than a ruler per se. And signs are, that the current Bearer is developing the same way. To start with, the ways in which she survived the attacks against her life were already mythical the day she performed them. Winning over Army Headquarters on her own! Falling from a hundred meters and standing! Pressing a bomb into the President’s belly and surviving! Sure, there is hardly a better way to attract believers if you are a new messiah going public. And then, she showed herself looking into nationalTV lenses, first after blowing up an Army helicopter and more recently after the attack on the market. Both times, she presented herself as suffering from a blow to the nation, as if she was the victim and not a possible perpetrator. And all this topped by her single-handed demolition of one of the President’s Palaces, followed by some crowd manipulation of the highest degree. People said they felt the love of STATE, for Heaven’s sake! It only just stopped short of breads and fishes.
And all this time, the long silence. No communiqués whatsoever. No interviews, no weekly or even monthly Presidential chats on dataNet or nationalTV, no information at all on her present plans, or on her past, for that matter! I have heard that she does not even attend the weekly Ministers’ meetings, leaving everything to her Secretary of STATE! Some say the Bearer is ill, it is said she has experienced various states of hallucination and suffers pain. Some say she reads minds. Some say she never eats. Some say she never sleeps, roams the streets at night. Some say her hands bleed light and her touch kills. What is she, a saint? A martyr? A God?”
Silence. A profound silence.
Professor Mc Kinsey resumes: “Just to remind you, I am only asking the questions. It is up for you to make up your mind, to form your own opinion! But I ask you, again: What is the Bearer doing? Why does she not impose any real changes? Why is she not helping democracy, as promised? Why does she not follow up on her First Decree? Either she really has no clue what to do, or she allows time help her to create more and more uncertainty. And you all know what uncertainty breeds. Religion!”

By now, the Captain is starting to fidget so ostensibly, that the Professor glances his way.
“Hey!” The Captain inclines his head to listen to Her Excellency’s angry whisper. “You are too conspicuous! Slump and pretend not to care…” The Captain obeys gradually and the Professor, glancing their way again, does not seem so sure whom he was looking at before.

“Anyway… obviously the Bearer has all kinds of premonitions and telepathic knowledge. She is said to control in person all information AND all power supplies of this state. What if she goes and stimulates the pagan cult based on herself? What if she is going to dismantle the division between the STATE church and the state proper that has grown the past decades? What if the democracy plan is just a scam, creating false hope? The aim might be to create havoc afterwards, out of which the Bearer and the Bearer alone will emerge, more powerful than even the President has ever been. Maybe then she will show her true face...”
Another silence as students mull over his words. The Professor concludes:
“OK. Let’s leave it at this. Enough of my ideas, I would say! I presume you have some ideas about all this yourselves, which you will want to share. Let us start with some basic one-liners.
a) The Bearer of STATE is an absolutist ruler and has to be overthrown.
b) The Bearer of STATE is an occult idol and has to step down from office.
c) The Bearer of STATE is the bringer of democracy in a country that has never wanted it before.
d) The Bearer of STATE is a savior”

Around STATE, an unspoken cacophony of opinions rages, clearly audible for S. only. The students are young and their views are very polarized, and it is quite something to be in the middle of the multitude of very extreme unspoken verbalizations; a crash-course in current politics, it is good STATE is here. S. is glad that the Captain cannot hear them.

The Captain is angry as it is. So angry that he decides to call in support, but when he checks his connection, his securiPhones are shut off. “No data on STATE command. No data on STATE command,” a metallic voice informs him. ‘Really! Who is she protecting this time?’ Clearly, he is ordered to sit through these demeaning anti-STATE remarks for the moment. To distract himself, the Captain thinks back to yesterday.
Thud. Thud. Thud. Thud. Even in the extra-protected limo, the soft thuds of ramps on the road between the Capital centre and Army Headquarters could be heard. The Captain sat silently, realigning his thoughts, while his men were still, aware of his anger. That morning, Alexander the paper boy had given the Captain a report indicating that a number of Army men were actively keeping land data from the STATE administration. Of course, he assumed this had something to do with Matil.
‘They’re shielding him, the traitors,’ he thinks again, unconsciously balling his fists.
The limo was waved through at the Headquarters’ gates, but when he walked into the realMarble entrance hall, he was stopped by some Army soldiers and ordered to disarm.
“What! You try and order the Captain of STATE?”
He had flashed out his iCard and the gates had allowed him and his men through, while Army soldiers were shouting in their sets to explain why they had allowed him to pass. Though his muscles were still heavy from the work-out two days before, he walked the stairs; the elevator too much of a trap. He was boiling with anger by the time he reached the Commander-in-Chief’s office. With his men close around him, he pushed aside the guarding soldiers and walked in. The Head of Assembled Forces was inside, yelling in his phone. He fell silent when he saw the Captain. “And what do you want, Captain?”
“We have information that the Army is keeping land data from us. We want that information now.”
“Hah! And who are you ordering me? Let me remind you, Captain, that as your superior”
“Do I have to explain ranks to you, Captain? You may be Special Forces and you may tap into the securiForces networks, but you lot are more like the Bearer’s servants and bodyguards, aren’t you?”
The Captain was about to hit the man in his face, but heavily armed Special Forces troupers had stepped in to protect their Head. Though uneasy with this battle of superiority, they were bound to defend the Army Head.
“You will see about that!” he had managed between clenched jaws, and then, as all men around reached for weapons - some of them probably Matil’s men - the flash of awareness that he had not thought to wear his antiBullet vest.
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