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

Chapter 47: STATE limo

She no longer needs to be human.
She can stay where she is, sing with the wires, influence their information streams and be.
She needs nobody. She needs no body.
No body. No one. Noth’
But... No.
What is thinking this? Strand S..
What is she?
She
is
S..
But what is that, S.?
What does it stand for? A person? An entity? A state of mind? A sense of self?
Strands of selves? What is she?
She is
a shell.
She is
the Bearer
of STATE.
She is
a
symbol.
A symbol?
Yes.
Who encompasses the whole of the state?
STATE.
Who carries the consciousness of STATE?
The Bearer of STATE.
Where do the people of STATE look for guidance?
At the Bearer of STATE.
What is the symbol of their identity?
STATE.
S. has to serve STATE. She has to
be in the world
to serve STATE. She has to
be visible
in order to serve STATE. She has to
go outside.
Now.

When they arrive at the top floor of Parliament, Linda Grezner hunches in anticipation of Her Excellency’s punishment. But when she looks up, she is handed a new iCard with top rank access, and she just stares at it.
“Before I introduce you, a word in private,” Her Excellency says and two Guards escort them to the grand office with realWood paneling and withdraw to get some tea for Her Excellency and herself. It is then than it that Miss Delwin, the Secretary of STATE, explains that she is making her, Linda Grezner born Belmore, Head of Office. ‘Head of Office! I cannot believe...’

---Bearer of STATE for 6 months, 1 week, 0 days, 7 hours, 17 minutes and---
S. limps away from the Palace garden. Houses look down on her, surly. Their doors are vacuous constructions of matter, guarding interiors STATE penetrates always already. The pavement tiles shift under STATE weight, while her body shell automatically avoids lantern posts and dustbins. Streams of all kinds of traffic, traversing the city at night. City lights, turned on street by street, their red bleaching to orange, signaling nightfall. Information wires and broadcasts, pulsing with data, their flows increasing and decreasing according to their users’ rhythms. Thoughts of the distant passers-by, flashes of information networks, advertisements. A multi-dimensional environment of flows, the resulting tempo slowing down, building up speed, simplifying, intensifying...
STATE directs her to a wide alley, not far from the Palace. It is lined with many doors: back entrances of the expensive shops facing to the big avenue running parallel. It must be end of the afternoon. Direct light has gone and everything is blue. Down the steadily darkening alley, the body shell is slowly moving.
The cars rest cold on the curb, their metal parts reacting on STATE. All objects are awake, conscious of someone. The streets are devoid of humans or other large beings, so she is the one. She limps on, then stops and blinks.

She looks down on Irene’s hands. They are in the Chamber of STATE, for a Ministerial meeting. It is early afternoon and the body of Irene feels uncomfortable. A subtle irritation, everywhere in the muscles, the verge of a headache, the eyes dry.
The knowledge connects. Again, the Ministers have not done much to change certain points. They claim not to have had time, there had been unforeseen events, eventualities they had not had the time to discuss with Her Excellency, and, by the way, how was the Bearer doing?
It has been days since the last papers of STATE had appeared, and rumors are thriving. The Ministers, aware of Her Excellency’s preoccupations, had followed their personal aims this week. STATE is aware of the multitude of their actions and diversions. They have been disobedient to STATE. The cacophony of their thoughts is aggravated by Irene’s fatigue and STATE channels her anger through the Secretary’s voice.
“This is enough! STATE will no longer condone this! You implement the changes decided upon now, this coming days.” Startled, the Ministers look at the Secretary. She is very white and her eyes stare, but she is very well aware of them. Her voice has an icy edge they do not know of her, though they have seen her angry before. But this is not a personal anger. This is an instrumental anger, and it is directed against them. And what is more, they have a strange pressing feeling inside their sculls.

Mr. Delaware, the youngest Minister, is the only one to recognize it. ‘It feels like when the Bearer was doing the test. My mind is being probed, though Her Grace is not present...’ Sitting very still, he tries to think of nothing.
Her Excellency continues, her voice cutting and her eyes staring: “Do not think for one moment STATE is unaware of your negligence. You will see your salary has been adapted to the degree of your collaboration with STATE. And if you persist, STATE will have you replaced in no time! You are dismissed.”

> She who usurped our Energy has disappeared and will be forgotten like her filthy predecessors. [As is the Word of Jason A. the One]

Only one of the shops opens to this street. STATE pulls her there. No sign. A wide, brightly lit car showroom, almost empty. A huge old-fashioned glass pane. A trapezium of light marks the pavement a lighter gray. The shop seems deserted, the single car near the window of expensive make.

The doorbell jingles and the two men in the back office look up, irritated at having a customer come in this late, and even more so, when they see a dirty woman limp over to them: face, hair and clothes smeared with earth. ‘No customer, for sure. A homeless woman maybe, looking for an excuse to stand and talk for 10, maybe 15 minutes in a warm dry place...’ The boss sends the junior salesman over to get rid of her as soon as possible.
“Yes?” he says sharply, “We are almost closing!”

S. turns to this human addressing her. She tries to speak, but finds it impossible. Her mouth is dry and her vocal chords are powerless to vibrate in any way. Frowning, she swallows, not knowing how to speak. Patiently, she waits for clues from the white.

The lightTube flickers ever so subtly, tak tak tak tak tak, inaudible for the humans but adding to the undulating sound around. Outside, rain starts to fall: pat pt pat pt pt pat pat...

Ah. She looks at the man, but he rubs his forehead, tries to block her voice within.
OK. She will have to speak with her voice, but her mouth is still full of sand. And there is no air.
Ah. She will have to reactivate the act of breathing, in order to speak. The information on how to breathe connects.
In... In... Out, out, out. In... In... Out, out, out. In... In... Out, out... In, in, in... Out, softly, and yes, she manages to produce a soft sound. Staring into the white, she concentrates.
In... In... Out, out, out. In... In... Out, out, out. In... In...

The woman gasps, breaths in with a dry rasp and out through her sand-stained mouth. ‘Is she gonna suffocate right here? Oh no,’ But then she seems to catch her breath. She blinks and finally produces some intelligible words. “Come... Come for the car. The… limo. It is here.”

Professor Mc Kinsey is waiting in the hallway just before Her Excellency’s Parliament Office. He tries to look calm, but he smoothens his pink and white hair too often. He straightens the pile of papers for the second time. ‘I have to tell her... It is my duty... But will she listen? Will she want to hear me out?’
A Parliament bode appears and allows him to enter Her Excellency’s Office.

Again, the woman loses her concentration for a minute and stares blankly in front of her, breathing awkwardly. Her movements are stiff, her words unintelligible. ‘Let me see the limo? What limo? It cannot be... What is she thinking? I know it is there, and I cannot show it to anybody... It is secret... Why am I thinking this?’

The human is staring at her. She will have to try again.
“The limo…” The sand gets in the way of speaking, and why does the human not listen to her thought-voice? He can hear, can’t he?

> The Filth was a Cancer usurping all our Energy, taking all and reducing us, the People, to weaklings without Control. [As is the Word of Jason A. the One]

“Yes?” Her Excellency’s blue eyes are dark and it is clear her temper is short. McKinsey? tries to relax but at times like these it is hard to forget the Guards just outside the door. ‘Just one word of her and they will – no. Focus.’ “Well, er, Your Excellency... There is just one thing, a matter I would maybe like to,” He halts when he sees Her Excellency is rubbing her temples with a frown. “But, er, maybe...”
“Say what you have to say, McKinsey?!” Her voice is sharp and he decides he has to take the plunge. “Well, er, there is the matter of the religious groups...”
“Yes, I have noticed. What about them?”
“Well, you may have noticed, they are clamoring for the Day of Souls,”
“Whatever that is! Yes?”
“Well, it was a barbaric ritual, Your Excellency, involving killing by, well, yes, by STATE... It was abolished by the last Bearer, even before the, well, yes, you know”
“And you want us to keep it that way? Good. I agree, McKinsey?. The least we need is more deification! Anything else?”
“No, no... Just thought I should mention... I am very grateful of your understanding, Your Excellency,” Mc Kinsey manages on the way out. ‘Phew... that went better than expected! Hope they keep to this decision...’

The junior looks at the woman and though convinced he is talking to an alcoholic, he cannot help but notice that she does not smell like one. ‘Who is she? If she would just talk normally! Is she mad? Psychotic?’ “Listen here madam, the shop is closing in five minutes. So please tell me your business, or go!”

Stupid human! S. tries again: ”Come… For… for… the limo. It… It is… Armor-plated, and…”

“Don’t you have ANYTHING to tell me!? Nothing at all? Why do I hire people like you: stupid and ignorant! Or are you keeping stuff to yourself, huh?” The Captain approaches the dark-haired man and though muscular, the man trembles before the Captain’s anger. Two Guards of STATE look on, ready to beat him, two more await outside. ‘It would be so easy, so rewarding, to just make him feel his failure!’ With effort, the Captain restrains himself. “Where is she, Vincent? Three days now, and we cannot have this. We need to find her today!”

Again, the woman blinks a fraction too long, then speaks again: “Trans... Transparant on the outside, showing the steel.”
The junior salesman’s eyes bore into the woman’s. ‘How does she know about the especially commissioned limo in the back? It cannot be..? Did someone talk? Or is she related to the Captain, in some way? Unlikely; though you never know...’ Seeing that she already knows about its existence, he decides he might as well admit it, just to be safe. “Well, yes... I’m not sure” ‘if I can show you’ he was going to add, but the dirty woman already limps away from him, to the back.

Half hidden behind the small office from where the boss is watching his inefficient junior with growing vexation, there is another rectangular showroom with one huge limo. The hardened steel shows under a high gloss layer of extra strong, totally transparent lacquer: an unusual effect, like an unfinished but polished work. Inside the steel, softness and light. It is a beautiful thing.
S. approaches, but knows she cannot touch it. “Open it.”
“But, really, I cannot do that! It was especially made for… Eh… Well, never mind. So, OK, you’ve seen it, time to go.”
“STATE,” S. reads in slanting silver capitals on the back. She smiles a rigid smile and says: “Fitting.”
“Yes, well… it was named in tribute to the new Bearer of STATE. So, you see”
But her voice cracks: “Open it!”

With unblinking eyes the woman looks at him, and without his boss’ irritation pricking in his neck he sees something in her, something he had not noticed before. ‘An innate power, it could be insanity, or something else… How does she know about the limo, anyway? What if she really is associated with the Captain? And, well, what does it matter? So what if she can glimpse inside?’ He opens the door.

The interior of the limo is completely upholstered in the finest white bioLeather. It is very white, the light sources hidden to create a diffused glow, making the interior look even larger than it actually is.
Between a thin and a hard layer of fabric, the mobiPhone’s rounded casing is warmed by the human’s flesh.

Suddenly, his mobiPhone rings. “What… wait a second,” he says, automatically searching his pockets. While he struggles to extract his mobiPhone from in the tight pocket of his trousers, the woman slips into the limo. The white leather is stained immediately by the brown iron-rich earth clinging onto her. The junior exclaims “No!” and causes the boss to leap from the office, cursing. Besides themselves, they shout at the woman to get the out, NOW, stupid bitch, crazy idiot, what does she think she is doing?
Without warning, she slumps forwards on the leather couch inside the limo, half on her belly. All the time, the mobiPhone’s fluid tune blares over them.
The boss yells: “Who the hell is she!? Why on earth did you let her in, you FOOL! She destroyed the leather! Did you forget this is the limo for STATE? Are you crazy? We can be hanged for this, you know! We will be killed for this! Why, WHY did you open it for this filthy bag lady!” But the junior does not know, stupidly he mutters some vague excuses. And all the time, his mobiPhone keeps on ringing. Angrily, the boss pulls it from the junior’s hand, opens it and yells: “YES?”
A woman’s voice speaks with an unmistakable power: “Check if you speak to the Captain in person. Tell him to come and get me here. Now.” The mobiPhone dials a number automatically, and the boss is so surprised he hangs on.

“Hello.” The Captain answers reticently, not being called often. The bugging devices click to life, to locate the caller.
“Hello, who is this?” the limo dealer asks.
“What! You dial my number, so what do you want? Where did you get this number to start with?”
The limo dealer is taken aback at the authority of his voice, and automatically shifts his tone down, just to be sure. “I... I am sorry, sir… I have to ask. Please tell me who you are, first.”
The Captain hesitates. Not having slept much the last days, he is at the end of his resources. He gives in, you never know: “This is the Captain. What is it you want!?”
“You are the captain?”
“YES! Now tell me what you want.”
“Eh… right. Well, the woman asks… or, well, her exact words were: “Tell him to come and get me here”, with your permission, er, captain sir…”
“Uh… The… The w… Oh… Do you have her there? Is she OK?” Motioning to his men to get ready, the Captain tries to sound calm, expecting a ransom demand any time now.
“Oh, sir, well, I wouldn’t know... I guess, she limped in, and now she is unconscious, but”
“WHAT!?? How… Where is she? What do you want!?”
“Well, she is here, that is, in the limo, sir, she is in the limo. She destroyed the leather, sir, of one of our most beautiful limos, and someone does have to pay for that, captain, sir, you understand… It will not do to have a limo”
Tick. The system has located the caller, and the Captain interrupts: “We will talk when I get there, IF I find her safe! Name and address? Stay where you are, or we will come after you!”
Quickly, the dealer gives his contact info. Surprised, the Captain sees that his information is correct. ‘Is this a prank? A trap? Or is he an idiot?’ “Listen. Are you alone? OK, just the two of you, then?” After the affirmation, he continues, “OK. Stay inside, BOTH of you. Close the shop, and close all shutters except for the door. I will be there in less than ten minutes. Do NOT move! And do not even think of touching her, you hear!”

The shop from above, seen through the ceiling: a white box with a glass fašade, the beaten grey shutters down, the small glass cube of the office, and to the back, a rectangular white box. Outside, the dark alley with the dirty sidewalk. All volumes and objects neatly arranged against each other, the space full of air.
From above, S. watches as the old red Presidential limo speeds into the narrow street, surrounded by 12 Guards on motorbikes. They halt with screeching tires, jump off, and 6 approach the shop, draw their weapons. In the distance, an unmarked ‘Copter is coming closer. The Guards stand to the side of the door with their guns poised alertly next to their cheeks. They glance inside. Nothing seems to threaten them. One of them enters, is gone for a brief moment, then signals ‘all clear’. Two Guards enter and keep the dealer and his assistant at gunpoint. Two Guards enter and bioScan the premises for further life forms, but find none.

‘None. Only the two men are registered as alive! Where is Her Grace?!’
Another Guard opens the door of the limo. The Captain, Doctor Jan and the Secretary descend and enter through the narrow glass door.

“Captain! What a surpr”, the limo dealer says automatically, then, with a sickening feeling, he realizes that the man on the phone just now was not ‘a’ captain, but the Captain. ‘The last person to see what’s happened to the limo. Now I’ll be hanged for sure...’
The Captain pushes past the dealer. “Where is she?”
The dealer points to the back, unable to speak. The Captain’s face is set, his jaw clenched, and without a word he signals to the Guards to take the dealer and his assistant to the office. They are roughly pushed inside.

Followed by the Secretary and Doctor Jan, the Captain rushes to the back. There, he spots the limo he had ordered as a surprise present for Her Grace, a dirty lump on the back seat.

“No!” Irene Delwin clasps her hand over her mouth when she sees Her Grace’s state.

Jan carefully gets into the limo and asks Her Excellency to help him turn over the earth-stained Bearer. The white bioLeather gets even more smeared with dirt.
“Is… Is she…?” No further life forms were detected, and all three can see the small frame is not breathing.
Jan checks the eyes. Earth everywhere, in Her Grace’s nostrils, her ears, her mouth, her hair. “The Bearer has been interred. She… seems to have been buried alive! How on earth is that possible, Captain?” he asks, aiming his outrage at someone.
Still, no breathing, but Jan does seem to detect a faint heartbeat. ‘What is all this?’ Then, he remembers reading about a stage in which the Bearer can do without breathing, absorbing the little oxygen needed from the air surrounding her, without having to use the lungs. ‘What next? I need to get more information, soon!’

Irene sits next to Her Grace, holds her hands. ‘S.! S.! Oh, what have they done to you, S.?’
‘Strand S. is currently not available.’ The voice of the Bearer is clearly audible in her head, so clear Irene would have thought Her Grace had spoken aloud, had she not seen the dry lips unmoving. ‘S.? Is that you..? Are you OK?’
‘Strand S. is currently not available. The Bearer will be back shortly.’ It is the voice of the Bearer, but it feels like her own voice earlier, when the anger had overtaken her and she had said things to the Ministers she could not really remember. ‘What is happening to me..? Am I... am I losing my mind?’
‘No, Irene. The Secretary was voicing the anger of STATE. Strand S. is currently unavailable, but will be soon.’
Irene rubs her head. Everything hurts. “Please, Jan, if you would massage Her Grace’s feet?”

Jan does so and discovers the sprained ankle. Almost happy to have something basic to do, he checks for broken bones, carefully fingering the swollen tissue, applying a bandage. The Secretary strokes Her Grace’s icy hands.

- ‘Are you there? Are you listening at last?’
In the openness, this new thought-voice. It has an edge, but strand S. has to listen to it, she is open to it. Human skin strokes her outer surface, and STATE is open to all.

Agitated, the Captain walks over to question the dealer and his assistant. When he enters, the dealer gets up. “Captain, Sir, in what way can we help you? I’m... I’m terribly sorry about the leather, Sir, but that, that woman, she just slipped in”
“Shut your mouth you filth! Tell me how you were able to get to her!”
Routinely, one of the Guards kicks against the back of his knees, to make him kneel. They do the same with the junior. The Captain is pale with rage. He questions them for quite some time, but he cannot get much out of them. Only that the woman walked in, asked for the steel limo, forced herself in and ordered them to contact the Captain, when somehow, the junior’s mobiPhone did. They swear they have not set eyes on her before 17:20 p.m. this day. They swear they know nothing. They swear they are innocent, it was just a matter of seconds, they looked away at the wrong moment... Looking up at him with big, uncomprehending eyes, they drive him mad. Thinking of the days he spent in anguish, of the affairs of state tottering and Irene worrying, of the Bearer suffocating on dirt, all this time, all this time, the Captain draws his gun, to press questioning like he did in the old times. “I’ve had enough of your “I don’t know…” stuff! I do not buy it!”
“Please... Captain, Sir... We understand, fully... We will have the limo upholstered anew, no charge, I swear... The leather... Please forgive us... That filthy woman... just let us get to her and punish”
“Upholstered? You are worried about the LEATHER? You’d better be worried over your own skins, you filth! You have the nerve to speak of Her Grace as filthy? You have the nerve to call her ‘a woman’? You even speak of PUNISHING Her Grace, the Bearer of STATE? What do you think you will be when I am finished with you? Because I will have you punished for what you have inflicted on Her Grace, down to every small discomfort you have caused her, every grain of sand that covers her, every insult she has had to suffer! Now you have one last chance to tell me the WHOLE story! What did you do to the Bearer of STATE? Where have you kept her all this time? Or maybe you prefer I will MAKE you tell what you know?” Pulling off the hold, he aims for the dealer’s knee.
‘No. Do not hurt them.’ Through his securiPhone comes the voice of the Bearer.
“Y… Your Grace…?”
‘You heard me. I am here.’

Chop. Chop. Chop. Chop. Chop. The ‘Copter stays high, out of sight, but the sound is here - together with all other sounds.

The dealer looks at the Captain, very afraid now he understands the woman in the limo is, in fact, the Bearer of STATE in person. ‘Why is she radioing the Captain? If only she does not inform him of the way we have treated her before... To shout at the Bearer in any such way...’ Inching closer, he tries to hear what Her Grace is saying to the Captain. But there is no sound.

Angrily, the Captain signals the Guard to pull the limo dealer backwards, which the Guard duly does with a jerk.
‘Captain!’ Again, the Bearer’s voice in his head.
“Is this a trick, or what?” The dealer starts to protest that no, really, it is not, a signal of the Captain and a gun in his neck brusquely silencing him.
‘No, Captain, this is STATE. STATE no longer needs airwaves to communicate to you. Do not hurt them. They know nothing.’
“Your Grace! Can you… do you… also, eh…” The Captain concentrates to turn his thoughts into words without speaking them. ‘Can you… also, eh, hear… my thoughts?’
‘Yes, Captain. The Bearer of STATE can hear anybody’s thoughts. Always.’
‘Oh… Ow. I…’ Caught, the Captain tries to remember what he had thought about in Her Grace’s presence, these past months... He reddens, coughs.

One of the Guards looks around to offer him a glass of water. The Captain stands frozen in the small office, staring unseeing at a stylish kitten poster.

‘Captain. STATE has no interest in your private thoughts. Listen. These men do not know. A trap, in the Palace garden, between the rhododendrons. Someone waited and covered me with earth. One of Matil’s men. A… a… one of the higher servants.’

Earth falling, damp and heavy. The weight, pressing her into the ground.
Black.
Black. The water trickling down, hurting until soft silicon oil pressed out of her pores to protect STATE.

“This… this is terrible! Uh,” Seeing the alarmed faces of the Guards, the Captain forces himself to think without speaking. ‘Again! Again an attack on Your Grace’s life! I should never have let this happen… Please, please forgive me… I will find and personally hang the traitor, believe me!’
‘Please, Captain. We need to drive around town to find someone.’
The Captain bows his head. ‘Your Grace… please… Please do not beg me… Your slightest wish is my command… We will make ready to leave, now.’ The Captain clears his throat.
“OK Guards, untie these guys, they know nothing. We have to go.” Surprised, the Guards do as told.

‘Forgive me, STATE... I am just a humble junior... I did not think... I never thought I would be serving STATE... Forgive me, STATE, for raising my voice against you... We all serve STATE... We all serve the Bearer of STATE... Hail STATE, hail the Light that STATE brings into the world. Hail the Bearer of STATE, she who bears our burden,’

The Captain turns to the limo dealer: “Is the limo ready?”
The dealer is still trembling and rubbing his wrists. “Y… Yes Sir, Captain, Sir… Only the leather… But, eh… I suppose… Maybe we can have it cleaned later? Or renewed, whatever you wish, Sir, eh, whatever STATE would wish... Hail STATE... Hail the Bearer of STATE... We who serve STATE... P… please forgive us, we did not know… we do not know how… we really do not know where… If someone had notified us, that H… Her Grace… b… well…” But the Captain interrupts him: “No one will know Her Grace was here. I came by to pick up the limo, that’s all. Any remark to anyone and I will have you punished! Understand?” And after they have nodded agreement, he walks away to organize their departure.
The Captain, the Secretary of STATE, Doctor Jan and two Guards get into the huge new limo with Her Grace, and carefully the driver maneuvers them out of the garage.

To Wertheim.
Now.

“To the Palace, Sir?” the driver asks, disregarding an irritating thought-voice informing him of something he doesn’t want to heed.
“Yes. Her Grace”
‘No. Tell him to turn on the radio,’ the Bearer’s voice informs the Captain.
The driver does as the Captain tells him. Through the radio, to his surprise, Her Grace’s voice instructs him how to drive.
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