Chapter 9: light
Alone, S. enters the famous local cuisine restaurant through the back door. The Captain is briefly discussing something through his dataCommunicator and the Guards are emptying the restaurant in front.
---Bearer of STATE for 8 hours, 22 minutes and 21, 22, 23---
She walks through a narrow dark corridor, past the stock rooms into the warm back-kitchen. The food smells good, the stock room is full of fresh herbs and vegetables.
“And what do you think you are doing here!? Huh!? Sniffing around like a RAT!?” A loud voice is calling out to her.
“No, well, actually...” S. starts, stiffening.
Is this really happening?
Reality has a sudden distance, like she is dreaming or following some script. Her mouth refuses to say that she is the Bearer of STATE. She is trapped, again in the wrong place, an insect pinned down. Her Mark starts hurting, with small distinct jabs. Is the Mark being traced..? Or is it STATE, reacting on the Mark?
This is not happening, this is not real.
“I want NOBODY in here, lady, and certainly not now!” The man’s portly silhouette approaches, but he is not the menace here. The space holds her, pins her.
What am I doing here?
“I... I am here to have dinner!” S. manages, a bit firmer now.
Why is she here? She does not need any food, and this place is a trap.
She has to get out, now, but again her body refuses to move.
“Well, I have bad news for you, because we are CLOSED little lady, and that’s the door there!”
“But…” They both hear the booted footsteps in the corridor. The restaurant owner turns towards the door, hands playing with the towel. Recognizing the Captain, he bows deeply. At that moment, his flabby behind touches STATE accidentally and the man jumps up with a cry of pain. He turns and shouts, shaking his fists. “What was that!? WHAT do you think you are doing, you little RAT?”
A Guard coming in from the restaurant dives on him and brings him down at gunpoint. The Captain approaches and S. sees him step on the man’s hands, crushing the bone. But when she looks again, the Captain is nowhere near the man, is bowing over her. “Your Grace… Are you all right?” the Captain asks.
“Oh... Pardon me..!” the owner whispers. The Captain turns on him: “Francesco! What on earth were you doing? You should be very, very grateful of Her Grace’s trust in coming here in these perilous times!” Cursing his flippant tongue, Francesco cringes before the Bearer, his ass still burning.
Is this happening?
Reality is disjointed, roles are played out, but they do not fit. All present vacuously perform the different roles of domination and subjugation, whether all is real or not. Reading the Guards’ expectations, S. knows she has the right to punish the man more, in any way. But why? This is all a trap. We are trapped!
She has to move, but still cannot.
chop chop chop chop chop chop chop
A distant helicopter sound, gradually growing louder and louder between her ears. The Mark is tearing at her nerves and a wild screaming, a screaming...
Finally, the possibility of movement, STATE pulling her, away from here.
chop chop chop chop chop chop chop chop chop chop
Is she really hearing this, now, or is STATE making her aware of some future attack?
chop chop chop chop chop chop CHOP CHOP CHOP CHOP CHOP CHOP CHOP
This is now. She has to go NOW!
“We have to go,” the Bearer says, her voice unnecessary loud in the quiet room.
“But… Your Grace, your dinner…”
CHOP CHOP CHOP CHOP CHOP CHOP CHOP CHOP CHOP CHOP CHOP CHOP
“We need to leave this place, NOW!”
“Your Grace.” The Captain bows, signals with his hand.
The Bearer is white and moves oddly stiff, like her muscles are cramped. ‘What is wrong with her?’
When they are about to leave the restaurant, they hear a helicopter above. No good sign at all, as the Captain had ordered all military to stay as quiet as possible tonight. Before they can leave the building, a missile hits the back fašade and rips a huge hole where the door had just been.
> kill her! kill that nobody NOW! she's been alive too long as it is, that little piece of shit. what's wrong with you? she's no one, she is nothing<
Suddenly free, S. runs out, towards the Presidential limo, drops into the foul gutter and rolls under it. The armor plates shelter her. Above the helicopter's din she hears a wild howling and the Captain’s voice, contacting Military Headquarters to send back-up right now, his voice as clear as their short answers.
The Guards’ arms are not up to this kind of weapons and they hide as best as they can, trying to distract or kill the gunmen in the helicopter by their tiny gun shots. But already, the limo starts to catch fire. With the tires flattened and burning, the limo is descending on top of S., the weight impeding movement. The heat and fumes cut her respiration and STATE is like a leaden cushion, pressing into her belly and against her ribs, pinning her down onto the dirty street.
S. welcomes the embrace.
Shielding his face against the heat, the Captain looks at the burning limo. ‘There is no way out, and even an armor-plated limo cannot withstand this kind of force... Dear God... We are lost...’ A huge second chopper arrives, bringing extreme bright lights. ‘The press! Those NationalTV?
traitors!’ Shamelessly, they catch the limo in a circle of light.
More missiles rain down, destroying the street, the restaurant, the building across… The limo’s roof and interior have gone, and two more missiles hit the carcass.
The press helicopter’s hi-res dataCams capture the armor-plated limo bottom, partly torn, a neutral voice informing the public that the thief of STATE is trapped under it, sure to die.
S. is compelled to grab what’s left of the limo just above her. The hot metal hurts her hands terribly, but seems to recharge STATE.
She holds the armor bottom of the limo like a huge shield, which she can even slightly raise. STATE reaches deep inside of her, like an unborn entity sucking energy out of its mother’s blood. It hurts vaguely but empowers her also, and with an unvoiced cry, S. lifts the limo bottom and directs it to the Elite Army helicopter.
S. does not know what STATE is doing and does not care.
With the huge shield, power flows through her and a pure desire to finish it all off. She is the acting agent, fulfilling a need she knows well from bombing, a depersonalized hate directing her actions, making her carry out the one true course of events.
STATE becomes hot, and even hotter, but S. knows how to disregard this. Welcoming the pain, she closes her eyes, while she forces herself through it.
The Guards, hidden behind what’s left of the restaurant, stare. The limo carcass becomes very bright, and brighter still, the metal burning. It catches the light from the TV chopper. The light concentrates, a glowing circle getting too bright to look at directly. Then, a ball of light detaches itself from the limo carcass and like a flash hurls into the Elite Army helicopter, killing all inside. Without a pilot, the helicopter wobbles and circles until it hits an office block across and explodes.
The gunmen have no time to even register death coming, but the people in the press chopper are aghast. Professional enough to know this is prime material, they focus their lenses, trying not to think of the President’s repercussions now he is seeing this broadcasted life on NationalTV?
. What should have been the terrorist’s public assassination has become something unthinkable.
S. manages to throw the melting metal from her and lays there, panting, curled on her side. Her abdomen contracts and her tissues pull together in a tearing pain.
As an Army helicopter arrives and descends, the Captain and Guards run from their hiding to comfort the Bearer as well as they can.
They cannot comprehend they find her basically unharmed: no burns, no broken bones, only some superficial wounds. It is clear Her Grace's belly hurts, in a terrible but uncurable way.
The military salute the Captain, and he orders them to get a stretcher and bring STATE to safety.
---Bearer of STATE for 8 hours, 57 minutes and 07, 08, 09---
The moment the press cameras zoom in onto the Bearer’s face, S. opens her eyes and looks directly in the faraway lens. Metallic black and blood smears frame pale grey eyes with a weirdly directed gaze. Unblinking, the thief and Bearer of STATE stares into the eyes of the people for a long time, her gaze broadcasted life on prime time NationalTV?
and dataFlow. All around the country, people feel weighed and many become afraid without knowing why. Never before the reporters have felt this way: trapped, uncannily visible behind their large cameras. They leave the scene as fast as they can; their NationalTV?
faces and names stored forever, somewhere in STATE memory.
Every bone and muscle aches and the weird influenza again rages through her body, making her skin itch while her mind is screaming with sounds.
S. closes her eyes and enters the white eagerly.