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

Chapter 49: cleaning up

> she’s not gone, she is seen! driving through town in a new and shiny armor
> Ha, money enough to spend, they have
> don’t have to pay for anything, now does she, she is Her Grace and all
> It doesn’t work like that you know
> oww and how does it work, please enlghten us palace boy
> I have never confirmed nor negated my occupation. It is completely beside this OCC
> No it’s not, Beggar and you know it! We’re all speculating and every time you come with some piece of info and it always seems to be true, even of no official data confirms it. You know things, that’s what and we are here to discuss current state of affairs- and as it happens this state is run by that Bearer remember?
> Beggar?
> he’s off; you fool, why’d you chase him away?
> ow I’ve got other channels you know, and anyway it was plain to see, crossing the city all night they were, Guards in front and all, plain to see for everyone. The limo is beautiful: shiny steel
> Hail STATE! Hail the Bearer of STATE!
> we’re not here to venerate; we’re here to share info Pelgrim, if you have any: share, if not, off to your Church OCC ‘cause we’re not reli in any sense, got it?

As Werther turns to STATE, his head is pierced by her voice again. ‘Artur. The soldier is the physician of STATE. He will help you bring what you want. Come.’
Yes. He should come, now STATE has come for him so unexpectedly.
“Wait, please wait a moment, I have to take… I have to bring all we need, this is so exciting, I cannot believe! After all this time, STATE finally comes for me... You, soldier. Come here and help me carry,” Out of the dingy shelter, a pile of medical books and papers comes, an old data carrier, the manuscripts of his researches, the few published articles, some things he still had left.
“Ah! Forgive me… Let me introduce myself,” the old man says. “Werther. Doctor Artur Werther. Let’s forget about the Wertheim, shall we?” and again, he shakes hands with the Bearer of STATE and then, with a slight hesitation, with Jan.

The Captain is not too happy to have the dirty and smelly man in the limo with them, and the old Doctor of course distrusts the Captain from the first, this representative of the old regime. They have words instantly. Doctor Werther insists on sitting close to Her Grace and talks to her as if they are old friends. Tersely, the Captain comments on his behavior towards the Bearer. The old Doctor snorts loudly: “Come on! I know more about Bearer Etiquette than you do, you arse-licking boy! I was there, remember! I examined the last Bearer of STATE! Here! Read that!” And the Doctor throws a damp and torn 40 year old copy of “STATE Etiquette – or How to Behave around the Bearer of STATE” to the Captain. He rubs his dry hands, visibly enjoying the warmth of the limo, then adds: “To start with, nice limo. Visually very fitting indeed. But all wrong for the Bearer. STATE needs to have air around, so the limo needs at least a skylight. A convertible would be preferable.”
“Really?” the Captain’s voice is sharp with sarcasm. “I do not think the safety of Her Grace can be guaranteed that way, Doctor!”
“O yes, shuhure! Come on! Like you are doing well with guaranteeing Her Grace’s safety right now! Look at her! Doesn’t look the picture of health to me, now does she? Looks like she was in the earth like we was, and why would that be? Think I got here just in time!”
The Captain has to look away to hide his anger and frustration.

The tires’ tiny channels are filled with cool mud and their outer surface touches the broken asphalt. The weight of the limo plus one, two, three, four, five, six, seven humans, six of whom are of heavy built, plus STATE, presses the rubber compound down... down... down...

Doctor Werther turns to Her Grace and says: “First thing you need is a Bearer’s Bath, S.! There is one at the Eastern Palace... Driver: go.”
The limo driver glances in his mirror and sees the Captain’s set face. The limo does not move. Werther tries again: “Driver! Listen to me!”
The driver hesitates. Cuttingly, the Captain says: “It is the Palace of STATE, now, Werther! And yes, we discovered the Bath already, thank you. Don’t you, as a Doctor, think we should get Her Grace to the Hospital first? Now”
Impatient, Doctor Werther interrupts: “Ow, come on, Captain! She is fine, can’t you see? Just some earth here and there, needs some cleaning I’d say! Ha, and so do I, come to think of it...”
“You sure do, Werther, but you are not the main concern here! To the Hospital!”
“To the Palace!” Doctor Werther says with as much emphasis. The driver does not know whom to obey, and is happy when they hear the Bearer’s voice through his radio. ‘To the Palace, driver.’ And smoothly, the limo purrs to motion.

The tires rotate and become warm on the riverside mud, the air escaping rapidly when the weight of the limo presses the rubber compound around and around... Shhh... Shhh... Shhhhhh....

Satisfied, Doctor Werther looks briefly at the Bridge receding in the mirror, then resumes: “OK, before we go on, I need information. So, S., how long are you bearing it now?”
The Captain not can stand this breach of respect: “You will say ”Your Grace", at the least! Some manners please, Doctor!”
“I cannot have the same manners as others, Captain, seeing as I will be the one to examine the Bearer! So stay out of it!”

Irene gets really tired of the bickering and just a look of her quiets the Captain down. He settles in the far corner of the limo and starts to read the book. All margins are full of remarks and annotations by the doctor, sometimes explaining medical grounds for the Etiquette rules, sometimes objecting strongly against them. Still, it is interesting lecture, casting a very different light on the Bearer of STATE and the Etiquette that should be surrounding her.

---Bearer of STATE for 6 months, 1 week, 0 days, 19 hours, 54 minutes and---
While they are driving to the Palace, STATE fills Artur Werther in, using her mind-voice. And, accustomed to thinking to himself, Werther easily lapses to mind-talking to her. In short sentences, STATE informs him on how long she has been Bearer, what attacks she survived and how, what symptoms S. has had, etc. Artur Werther asks what visions of STATE she has experienced, and S. shares them with him in glimpses of images.

Irene catches parts of their non-vocal exchange, and closing her eyes, listens with interest. Her Grace reacts on Irene’s unspoken questions, but Doctor Werther does not hear or react her thoughts at all, only Her Grace’s.

Jan sees that though silent, some communication is taking place between the three. Feeling left out, he hides his jealousy and looks out of the limo window.

8:07 on the 8th day of the 7th month of the Bearer’s Reign
In the morning sun, the limo halts in front of the Palace of STATE. Quickly, the Captain, Doctor Jan and Her Excellency escort Doctor Werther and Her Grace inside. Servants back off as soon as they see who is entering, but cannot help staring at the strange group. ‘The Bearer, pale and covered in dirt, and a smelly homeless walking on his hands and stumps? Who is HE?’
Upstairs, a disgusted servant prepares some rooms and a bath for Doctor Werther. The Bearer is brought to her chambers, and Mr. Daveaux runs the Bearer’s Bath for her, careful with the hot oil.

S. blinks.
Martin Rislers is seething. ‘Something’s going on with the Bearer; the Secretary and the Captain have left, and even the fancy Doctor is into it, but did they inform me? No! Again I am left behind, like some stupid servant, waiting, and waiting, and waiting. All this stupid waiting! And what for? Nothing! We never get round to anything! We just wait, and wait, and wait!’ While he sits in the sumptuous Parliament meeting room with the other Committee members, unable to make any major decisions, and unable to inform them of Her Grace’s or Her Excellency’s whereabouts, his irritation grows. ‘This will have to stop!
This will stop, now! I will have to know everything from now on, even if”

When the Bath is ready, Mr. Daveaux leaves the room to Her Grace and, as usual, Her Excellency.

Irene helps Her Grace to get out of the clothes. The red earth, rich with clay, had hardened, so it is not easy. When she sees the body of Her Grace, she notes she has changed during her ordeal. For one thing, the flesh is harder, and is more like a new mixture of silicon than like living tissue. The sight of STATE protruding is as unsettling as ever, and now, the difference between skin and STATE is very small indeed. Then, Irene sees the surface of STATE move. ‘It is alive!’ Repulsed, she withdraws, then scolds herself for it.
The oil is fragrant and obviously really hot, but Her Grace steps into it fluidly, then curls to a ball and sinks to the bottom. Irene gasps. ‘She... She is still... not?’ Little bubbles escape the clay on the Bearer’s skin, but no air. She is clearly not breathing at all anymore. Then, tiny flakes of clay loosen and drift downwards. Little by little, the figure of the Bearer becomes cleaner.
Only in the hair small clods of earth still cling, and gently, Irene tries to enter the oil and disentangle them. To her surprise, the oil is not hot anymore, and when she accidentally touches the scalp of Her Grace, she knows why. The skin of the Bearer is cold as a stone. ‘Her whole body must be as cold! She must be freezing,’ Irene thinks. But the Bearer seems fine.

Clean clothes for the Bearer are brought in by Mr. Daveaux, Her Grace dresses and Irene passes by her chambers, where Susan has laid out some fresh clothes for her as well.
Together, the Captain, Her Excellency and Her Grace, take a simple breakfast in the small Dining Room. Doctor Jan and Doctor Werther have not finished yet and remain both in their own rooms. When all servants but Susan have left them, Irene informs Her Grace of the latest developments of the Constitutional Committee in her usual soft tone.

But why would S. listen. Human politics. Humans worrying over describing the rules designed for their security, rules they will detest, rules they will try to avoid, rules that only others should obey, but which they themselves do not plan to obey.
Anyway, the rules are not the problem of STATE. The problem is this other human.
The human STATE has still not found. Matil. B. Matil. S. Maatiwel. Bero Matiliwiz. Bernd M.. Mateu Wis. Boris Wislow.
Matil.
The silent push of his forces, subtly deployed to plan and facilitate and realize attacks against STATE. Some think that maybe this whole Matil person is a bogus, a projection of the paranoia of a former hunted terrorist, a projection of the horror the President had invoked, before. But no. Matil is here, though there is no trace of his finances, his transactions, his deeds in STATE. The sheer depth of his hatred reverbs a warming in STATE. He expected STATE to have vanished and as the knowledge of her return spreads so knws he. He is disappointed, probably angry. What will he do next? Still, no trace of him in STATE, even though he has the power to destroy everything. STATE must remain alert. STATE must look closer.

Artur Werther knocks and enters. He looks very different now he has been washed and shaven and dressed, though there is still definitely something of the alcoholic in the wink of his eyes and the redness of his cheeks. While he tucks into a hearty breakfast, Her Grace is sitting very still, eyes closed.

Something is wrong. Luckily STATE looks into it now, because little by little someone is pulling energy into a ball, and the sheer weight of this ball unbalances everything. Who?
When the entity behind this reminds vague, the data shifty, S. knows this is no coincidence. This is not something to be left alone, to rebalance by itself. This is caused knowingly, and by the only human who can phase the data in this way.
Matil.
What is he doing? What ball is he accumulating?
Ah.
Money, or, more precisely, the data equivalent of possession.
STATE has to go. Now.

Werther has not yet finished eating when the Bearer is up and ready to leave the room.
“Back to your chambers, Your Grace?” the Captain asks, hoping she will finally take some rest.
“No. To the Stock Exchange.”
Werther turns to her aghast. “But, S.! Are you thinking of entering there? Come on, take it easy! That is a BIG thing you are taking on, you know? You have NO idea”
“Oh man, shut up and follow Her Grace’s orders!” the Captain snarls. “STATE orders this, didn’t you hear? Do you want to go against STATE?” While Artur shakes his head, the Captain waves everybody into the limo. Escorted by some fresh Guards, they prepare to leave the Palace with a new driver, when the Bearer stops him: “Doctor Jan and Irene will stay here. A wheelchair for Werther,” she says mechanically.

Feeling left out, Jan leaves the limo. ‘Hmn, on the other hand, some sleep is welcome...’

Though Irene knows she does in fact, needs rest, she waits in the hallway for another limo to come and take her to the Ministers and Martin, over at the Palace of Parliament.
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