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

Chapter 52: Stock Exchange

A huge building looms before them. The Stock Exchange. Though constrained in its level of luxury, the quality of the building materials used does communicate its self-esteem. People walk in and out, dressed in suits that evoke the same combination of quality and durability.
S.’ movement is hampered by these materials. The metal and glass used in the entrance physically restrain her: some fortifying measure against STATE. STATE hurts where it is grafted onto her, and she fights a headache. But she will not allow herself to be stopped. She enters with eyes open, still partaking in the veneration that she has just imbued.

The Bearer is radiating some intangible kind of light, and people turn to look again at her, even if she seems just an average woman on second sight. The Guards of STATE flank her, Doctor Werther draws a bit behind.

- ‘You...’
Again, the alien mind-voice hisses. This time, the sentence fades unfinished, not quite strong enough to pierce her concentration, though it is uttered with a vileness that stains even the white temporarily. STATE cannot allow this and pulls all energy tighter. No slippage, now. She has to focus, to be able to do this right. Focus.

Walking in front, the Bearer approaches the heavily guarded entrance to the Stock Exchange floors.
“Pass? Where is your pass?” the Stock Exchange guard asks, barely looking. “No entrance without a pass! It can be obtained”
“Her Grace does not need a pass to enter, man!” one Guard of STATE cuts in.
The Exchange guard looks again, and recognizing the Guard of STATE uniform drops the pen with which he was doing a crosswords puzzle and gawks at the woman with the glowing belly, before he can pull himself together enough to snap out of it. “Oh! This is eh… unexpected… Your Grace… I see… Yes, well, I suppose it would be best if the Observer of Exchange would be called… But, eh... He is... eh, indisposed at present, but of course he would be the one to show Your Gr”

High up, on the 14th floor, the man is heaving his belly up enough to be able to penetrate his secretary, who is lying backwards over his desk, one of her breasts out of her blouse; ready for him, as always.

“That will not be necessary.” Unblinking, the Bearer passes the gates with quick paces, ignoring the metal detection gates that, as usual, go full blast at STATE.

---Bearer of STATE for 6 months, 1 week, 1 day, 0 hours, 50 minutes and---
STATE pushes her forwards, through the glass sliding doors, into a round, circular space. Behind innumerable computers, a multitude of humans in suits are glued to phones and keyboards. The resulting indexes rush in green fluid letters over a central board.
But S. does not see. She is completely blinded from the moment she has entered, like she has stepped into a snow blizzard. White howls around her, blocking all sight, blocking all sound. Flocks of data hit her, whirl around her, are blown upwards or down. So much information, and all tiny particles of information are composed of and influenced by so many factors, that S. loses all sense of direction. The particles hit her, unexpected and hard. Dizzy, she has to center her attention, to stay upright, to withstand being engulfed by the information and drown in it.
- ‘You worthless...’
The thought knocks her off-balance. Who?

The indexes speed up. While the stockbrokers look on, aghast, the data accelerates more and more. When Doctor Werther and the Guards step into the room, there is just a blur of greenish light visible on the central indicator.
“Stop! Stop the Exchange!” some men start to yell. “Stop speeding it up, assholes!” They have no clue who or what is causing this. ‘What is wrong today?’

“Silence! Quiet, you fools!” Artur Werther shouts.

They stare at the unknown man in a wheelChair, at his red face, white hair, blue piercing eyes. ‘Who the..? Is he causing this?’

“Doctor, please, do something!” one Guard of STATE pleads.
Doctor Werther glares at the people around them, his blue eyes dead serious.

“Everybody! Just be quiet and trust her! DO NOT PANIC! Do not touch the computers! Trust the Bearer of STATE! I repeat: DO NOTHING! Trust STATE! It will be OK in a few minutes,” “I hope,” he mumbles so soft that no one can hear. He turns to look at S..
It is scary to look at Her Grace. Like a badly transmitted hologram, her body is rough at the edges and built up of stripes with varying degrees of solidity, on the verge of becoming completely transparent. A thick white mist bleeds from the white of STATE.

S. is in the middle of the white. The snowstorm has not abated.
Worthless. Worthless. Worthless. Worthless. Worthless...
She is cold… so cold… She is a hole of nothing, she is no one. She is worthless, worthless... She is worthlessssssssss...
She knows the word too well. Its edge has been too close to her before, scraping close to her wrist bone. The word is a slithering enemy, and she has to end it before it ends her.
She has to force this word out of her system. She has learned to do that in some other life. She kills its vowels first. Wrthlss. Wrthlsss. Wrstles. Then, she plays with the sound. Wrthlsss. Wrthlssss. Wrothlsss. Ruthless. Wrethlss. Wrethless. Wrestles. Brethren. Wrathless. Wrathless... Wrathless... Wrathless. Writhless. Whistles. Whiskers. Whiskers. Wrinkles.
Slowly, STATE gets more accustomed to the stinging impact of the data, to the blinding whirring around her. This is the culmination of millions of people’s desires, wishes, future perspectives, visions. Here, humans deposit what they earn, and pull out when they see or feel the need to. The nature and patterns of development of this data is formed out of their hopes and suspicions, their expectations and their fears. And the humans feed off this mechanism, swinging it on and on, their drive for more fuelling growth, their fear of loss cutting it short. An enormous power is involved in this. This is the machine that powers all economic growth or decline. This is the machine that drives this society. This is one of the sources of STATE power.
What is STATE doing in the middle of this? What can STATE contribute, and why should she?
But... STATE is not the first cause of this turmoil. The ball is here. Yes, it is spun indirectly, through an intricate data web that is impossible to trace. But it is still spinning, and though the brokers here have stopped trading, it still attracts investments quite out of the ordinary. It pulls all value towards it, disturbing the equilibrium.
Imbalance, though, is a fundamental aspect of this Exchange. All value attracts more value. People flock to anything, once enough people say it is worthwhile. It could be shells, or beads, or salt, or gold, and now it is money. Richness attracts money. There they are, wealth clustered into bright balls, out of reach for most. And somewhere in this tangle, this huge ball. Out of reach. Too strong, just spinning and spinning. Pulling everything in and in...
But what can STATE do?
She is just so cold… If only she wouldn’t be so cold…
Then, she remembers Werther’s words. People. The people were there, just now. The people love STATE, they touched STATE, they need STATE. The people are still there, so close…
They are still here. They are feeding STATE.
STATE, warm and full. STATE, close against her. She opens up, allows the warmth in, whoooooosh. Whoooooooooooooooooosh. Whoooooooooooooooooooooooooooooosh. Warmth floods her, again. And S. can regard the whiteness with more distance.
There… if everything would just slow down a bit.

‘Come on… relax...’ Artur thinks.

The flocks of data continue to dance wildly before her eyes. But S. will not be dazzled, not again.

‘Come on… Easy… she is not here to destroy; she is here to give, not to take…
Just accept her gift, just easy… Yes, come on...’

And some light seeps out of STATE. Not much, because that, again, would imbalance the whole, but just a tiny bit. S. moves to disperse it and watches as small balls grow from tiny sparks. She sees that new balls start forming, and some balls become strong enough to allow for value to ebb away from the huge ball.

‘Here… come… Come… be quiet… There is nothing wrong… All is well…
Everything is OK… Hush…. Hush…Sssshhhhhhhhhhhh….’

Bit by bit, the whirring dies down. The huge ball unwinds and unwinds until it is just one of the bigger conglomerates of wealth. The soothed data turns from white to yellow, and then to yellowish green. It decelerates until it can reform into digits. Innumerable digits and codes, running over the central panel.

The stockbrokers peruse the digits for some time in a total and surprised silence.
Then, some turn to question their peers if what they see is what they see. As yet, they cannot do anything. All monitors have flashed a very serene white.

Artur Werther cannot make heads or toes out of it, but apparently something has changed. Not sure how the change is valued, he has no time to wonder. ‘Phew! That was one dangerous move. Never seen the likes of it from her predecessor, nervous twit as he was! But, seeing how her body had reacted, the rebound will come fast. Come on now, have to get close to S., as soon as possible...’

The Guards breathe out as the Bearer looks normal again: a thin, spiky-haired woman, standing between the computers on their small oval desks. Above her, on the central indication panel, the digits still are moving, but slower than before.

STATE has a slight glow, but it is hard to tell if it is a reflection of all the monitors, or if it is intrinsic, though Artur would guess the latter. He has just reached her, when without any warning, the Bearer falls over. Straight as a doll, she simply falls backwards into the lap of Artur Werther, who is careful to keep her body off the metal wheel handles. She is not heavy and his arms are strong. He lifts her easily, his face close to STATE.

Moving swiftly and without reacting on anybody, the Guards wheel the Bearer of STATE out of the Exchange floor. Some brokers stare at the stiff body in the cripple’s arms, surprised at the invalid’s satisfied glow. But most are too absorbed by the sudden changes in the digits and the changed opportunities they bring, to really care. Luckily, the STATE limo has already arrived, and Doctor Werther carries the Bearer inside. They lay Her Grace very carefully on the back seat. With blaring sirens, they speed back to the Palace. There, on her stony Bearer’s Bed, the Bearer sleeps and sleeps for hours. Still as a rock, no breathing ripples Her Grace’s body. She looks dead, but her body is not cold, and her eyelids often move rapidly.
Afraid of her body, only few servants dare to serve in the vicinity of Her Grace.


18:04 a.m. 30th September in the 1st year of the new Bearer’s Reign
When she wakes, Irene’s body is quiet and heavy and warm. ‘I’ve slept so long... Shouldn’t have...’ But Irene knows her body needed this, more than she had thought. She hadn’t taken any time off for half a year now, and never before in her life had she worked like this. Ongoing questions and cases and supplications and requests, forcing her to give an endless string of orders, remarks, rejections, remonstrations, comments and commands. ‘And then, the fear of having lost Her Grace... The long days of her absence, the nagging suspicion that this time, knowing something had happened...
And it had.
Matil had trapped the Bearer, had had her interred, for three days! Matil really is out there, and nothing the Captain has done had slowed him down...’
Irene feels her body tense. But she stays in bed, knowing that any movement will make the door open and Susan enter with a golden tray with tea. ‘And then, finding Her Grace, unmoving, not breathing, in the back of the limo... and then this strange doctor, Werther... a former homeless, now sleeping in the Palace of STATE, somewhere close... Well, we finally will get more information on STATE, I guess... Maybe there is a way for Her Grace to live longer, to survive all this...’
Her body has become hot and sweaty, and without deciding to, Irene moves. She was right. The door to her sleeping chamber opens to a creak, and the familiar silhouette of Susan looks in.

> We will take the Energy back from the Cancer and destroy she who tries to control us. [As is the Word of Jason A. the One]

“Eh... Your Excellency...?”
Irene sits up. “Yes, Susan, do come in.”
Next to the beautiful porcelain cup of tea, a pile of newspapers. Irene quickly pages through them. ‘Hmn... Quite some reports on Her Grace’s visit to the shopping centre, one or two on her entering the Stock Exchange, no mention of her absence luckily...’ The evening newspapers report considerable and unexpected shifts of wealth. Some observers attribute this to the Bearer’s visit, but some people cannot imagine how a single Bearer could ever influence the Stock Exchange and put it down to chance. ‘Good... better they don’t realize...’ Pulling the realSilk kimono over her shoulders, Irene walks towards a small table, where Susan serves Her Excellency a light breakfast. Even though it is late, Irene has her bring some simple suit, and after a shower and being dressed, she has a short and private business meeting with the Captain and Doctor Jan, to exchange views on Matil and on Wertheim/Werther. After some jokes about the man’s looks, they all agree that they are happy that STATE has located and retrieved him.
“Hmn, I do hope he shares his information with you, Jan,” the Captain grumbles, “as you may remember he was not listening to us at all that first encounter, and seems he’s very suspicious of both you and me, cannot imagine whatever for...”
Irene looks at the Captain, weighing whether he really has no idea that his past is working against him with Werther, but he is staring morosely into his whiskey and she cannot read him now.

Jan nods at takes a sip from his glass, then takes out his paper notebook that he keeps carrying around. He flips through a few pages, full with that mysterious shorthand of his that Irene cannot read: <<5 mns; 1st wk - somn=+=; cre: h=+/s=++/tmp=+=; ao-rcts: - ; wnd: 0; pwr= >> | <<5 mns; 2nd wk - somn=+-=; cre: h=++/s=++/tmp=+=; ao-rcts: 0 ; wnd: 0; pwr= >> | <<6 mns; 1st wk - somn= - ; cre: h=+=/s=+/tmp=+=; ao-rcts: 0 ; wnd: 0; pwr= >> and she watches while he adds: <<6 mns; 2nd wk - somn= - = ; cre: h=+/s=++/tmp= --; ao-rcts: - ; wnd: 0; pwr= ? ox: 0>>
He looks up, smoothes his long brown hair back and sighs. “What a night, that was, huh? And then we allowed that Werther to take Her Grace and bring her to the Stock”
“Ho, ho, Jan, please be fair, it was Her Grace’s express order to be brought there, though I myself” the Captain says, but Irene interrupts him, with a soft tone and a smile: “We all were exhausted, Jan, and furthermore, we had no clue what the Stock Exchange would do. Though if I am informed correctly, problems at the exchange started already before Her Grace was even there, did they not? maybe she had to go to put something straight?”

“Hmn, I think we are private enough no to speak freely? I think Her Grace was not clear enough to make any such a conscious decision,” Jan says, keeping his voice low. “After all, she had been interred for three whole days! The earth was wet and full of iron oxides, that must have hurt, you know how she flinches at a drop of water of a touch of any metal apart from gold! Okay, I did manage to discretely scrape some of that dirt off Her Grace and my first guess is, that it’s soil saturated with oil... Where that oil came from I have no idea... but maybe to protect Her Grace, I wouldn’t know...”

“Maybe that Werther knows?” The Captain asks, even though he suspects Jan will not like him pushing this point. ‘But truth is, his knowledge does expand way to slowly. “Come, come, Jan, we have to know more soon, you realize that!”

Jan takes another sip and is silent. Irene moves to say something, but then thinks better of it. An uneasy silence ensues, all three thinking. “But, maybe Werther is right in stimulating Her Grace to be more open to the people,” she says without actually meaning to voice her musings.
“Phah! Outright dangerous that was!” the Captain spits. “And did you hear she got hit by a car?”
“What!??” Irene almost chokes on her sip of whiskey and the alcohol burns in her throat. “Says who?”
“One of the Policemen did talk to Patrick, you know, one of my best Guards,” the Captain says. “He said that Her Grace was just walking towards the perpetrator, and she judges him innocent so the Policeman had to bring him home. She did wipe this driver’s memory, but who else saw what happened? To see Her Grace fall, lying on the asphalt...”
“But still, Captain, she survived! Hail STATE!” Irene says, realizing that she had seen Her Grace in bed just before entering the meeting, and apart from not breathing and her deep stone-like sleep, she did not seem wounded. “And anyway, though I think Werther’s veneration for STATE might become dangerous, he is right that STATE cannot allow Matil to come between her and the people of STATE! We are too protective of Her Grace, really... Yes, Matil still has way too much powers, attacking Her Grace this close by! And I really fear that any public occasion could be the next probable venue for an attack on the people following STATE... So, yes, it is tempting to keep Her Grace indoors, oblivious of all people around. But… no. I think STATE needs balance. Balance of being in touch with the governmental bodies, in contact with the people of STATE, and being from time to time submerged in STATE. Because you know, STATE does need time there: she can work on the powers directly, by focusing her attention. There, she is tuning the conditions and parameters of the state. She knows what she is doing in the white, though I would have no words to describe it...” She looks up and finds both men staring at her.

“What are you going on about, Irene?” the Captain says. “Does Werther venerate STATE? How do you know? And what do we care? Sounds like you are mindreading like Her Grace is, Irene, and I cannot say that I like that. It’s bad enough Her Grace is turning into something almost inhuman, if you don’t mind me saying so... Hmn... And yes, it’s bad, real bad that Matil is able to strike at us so close to the Palace. We shall have to be more careful than before! I would say, strict security measures, stronger filters on personnel, no public events of any kinds for the time being! I don’t get your balance thing Irene, sounds too feelgoody to me... I have no clue what we’re dealing with, actually, and this is no good. This is all no good, because you know what? Her Grace has only had time for that trip with Werther, with whom she gets way too familiar way too quick – I mean what do we know of him? Might be Matils’ man, planted there for all I know! And then first she gets hit by a car, then is touched by God knows how many people, and then walks into Stock Exchange! And I do not know what happened there but it sounds no good either, and then, as I have to believe it, she fell right into the arms of Werther and paf: she comes back unmoving and not breathing and not talking and now she lies in her bed. What is happening to her, Irene, Jan?” He glares at both of them and they remain silent. He concludes: “We need to know soon, because as you know we all depend on Her Grace. The whole country depends on her! And things are slipping...” Looking somber, he finishes his drink, indicating the meeting is over.
Jan starts piling his notes and ties them into a neat bundle, before reaching over to drink the last from his glass. He does not say anything. The Captain shrugs then and adds, on a more positive tone: “Well, the only good thing is that we did get some positive media today, at last. And tomorrow we start questioning that Werther guy, Jan, we will get his information out of him, I’m sure!”
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