S. / The Bearer of STATE
Chapter 1: S.
It is 10:04 a.m. and a pale March sun shines onto the pedestrian area in the inner city
shopping centre. Between the newly renovated stores the pavement stretches out, its surface
glittering with a multitude of small particles. Many feet step on it, spreading tiny amounts of
dirt, but all day, every day, uniformed men are moving over it with their buzzing ambiCleaners.
Its exemplariness is a symbol of power.
S. stares at the cleanliness which has permeated the city, the oppression which has shaped her
mind, even though she will never be allowed to take part in its perfection. Above her head, light
clouds fills the space between the buildings.
I am a hole.
I am a void. I am nothing. I am
A wordless melody spins itself into being, spiraling in her scull. S. does not hum it: the shifts in
tone too extreme for her to voice, but in an absent way she admires its beauty, allows it to shape
her outlook on things. She does not stop to think about its origins. The song is there, like she is
The stores teem with people, elbowing each other to get their best buy ever. Spring sale is on
and even on this Tuesday, many people are moving about on the wide avenues.
People, too many people… What am I doing here?
Taking out her fake mobiPhone, S. nods, pretending to be listening to someone while she keeps
going, following an overwhelming default acting on her. As casually as she can, she slings her
jacket over her arm. The denim hides her Mark. Nobody reacts on her presence, but she recites
the usual just in case: I am nobody. I am no one. I am nothing. I am not…
Today, her movements are performed without conscious consent, completely out of character.
Normally, she would thoroughly weigh her chances before going out, but today, she just got up,
took her jacket and left. Normally, she would stay over-alert to any change of atmosphere, but
today, she is encased in a bubble of indifference, towards people, towards her fate.
‘This will be the day that I die…’
S. pays no attention to the thought, as thinking, fearing and anticipating, even desiring death
have all become accustomed modes of living for her. The weird melody, still floating in her head,
temporarily assumes notes from a popular song, the tonality fragmented to construct some strange
music, while S. glances at her surroundings.
This city, capital of the country where she was born, is her territory, the realm of her activities.
Scanning the panorama she keeps in mind, she views the capital sprawling out, the almost triangular
inner city highway curving around the high rise center, the silvery river making a U-turn before
moving under the Bridge and on towards the harbors and disappearing into the far away sea, the
smaller bridges dividing the city into Boroughs, the huge wired glass walls protecting the President’s
many Palaces, the vast Prisons and still, scattered over the city, the scars of her actions.
Zooming in, she automatically checks all escape routes from here, the shops with an unlocked back door,
the back-ways leading out of the maze behind the store fronts. Hmn. The small cash changer with
the convenient side exit is just out of reach, and it will take half a block more to be within running
distance of the next alleyway leading out. -
I am nobody. I am nothing. I am who you are. I am who you are. I am
Keeping up a soft inconsequential babble in the mobiPhone, S. glances around. The pattern of
people moving is as it should be, reassuring, even though human presence never fails to arouse
Yes, she is a wanted person.
The past couple of years she has been hard on this city, bombing some of its finest tourist
attractions in order to attract worldwide attention to the not-so-democratic governing going on here.
In vain, sadly.
A contemporary society on the surface, the country continues to be subjected to a dictatorship
of which the rules have steadily become more brutal. The President is in total control, even though
in name, the Parliament and Ministers advise him. His Guard and the Secret Police are above any
law, the press copies what the Presidential staff writes for them, and the various prisons with ample
torture facilities are full. In line with the old Bearer of STATE etiquette, the Head of State has
immediate power to kill or injure anyone crossing him, and the President is too fond of this
special power to relinquish its use.
S.' oppositional bombings have made her one of the most feared and wanted terrorists
in the country.
Too much honor, she knows. I am just an instrument…
For insiders, she is clearly not one of the key figures in the group: Hermon was more of a leader,
Moss more of a strategist, X. much more extreme… No, S.' most outstanding talent is the ability to
move anywhere without being noticed. Unremarkable all her life, she does not care for her life,
making her an ideal planter of bombs. And so, it was her appearance the securiCams had captured,
and she had paid for it, the Mark only one of the traces.
But she had escaped from Prison, somehow, in an incredible action undoubtedly thought out by
Moss just before he disappeared. Since then, she has been moving from safe-house to hideaway,
never staying anywhere long, never safe. As the Mark could be activated by anyone who has
the right mind-training techniques, the apprehension of someone doing so is always present. But
for S., this is what life should be.
She has been under cover for so long that she does not even remember what the S. stood for.
Tanned, spiky-haired and lithe, the simple S. suits her, so she never bothered.
She never looks back.
But, while walking in the pale sunlight, S. does force herself to look forwards. She has managed
to avoid that for weeks, living in cold storage buffered by reading cheap detectives. Again and again
she had devoured the same structures, the introductions laying out people and places, the events
unfolding: inevitable murders, the characters evolving, the lies surfacing, the tell-tale tiny mistakes,
the pattern of declarations interlacing, the logical deductions making the tiniest detail meaningful,
the final conclusion… Pure escapism, she knows, and that is exactly why she has been an addict for so long.
She has to face her prospects are grim. Not so long ago, her whole group had been arrested, caught
while preparing their last action. Clearly, someone had sung to the Police.
Lei and Yake and Sterre and X… Their faces suddenly were everywhere: on NationalTV, on dataFlow,
on the net, on the streets, their faces distorted into black low-res mug shots, frowning from the cheap
paper soon sagging in the rain. Trophies of the President, another proof of his superiority.
Where were their faces now?
S. had observed their energy with admiration: their anger defying all fear, their audacity challenging
the absoluteness of the power shaping their surroundings, their life.
Prison will be hard on them as it has been on me…
She shies the thought away.
As the only one still out of prison, she has to assume the other groups of freedom fighters are searching
for the traitor, which makes her the probable next victim of her former allies, people whose faces she
does not know. She has no clue as to how to contact them, let alone how to persuade them of her
innocence. Without the resources of her group, unsure of the extent of the betrayal, she is at a dead
end. There is nothing she can do, no person to turn to for help, no one she can trust.
I am an empty shell, left between life and death, forgotten. I am nothing. I am nobody. I am
She forces herself to stop. She cannot afford the luxury of feeling how deeply meaningless and
powerless she is. She knows what that leads to, and she cannot to end up there again. Never, ever
again. Never, ever again.
Never, ever again.
Turning it into a recurring refrain, weaving over the high eerie sound in her head, S. is almost humming
as she briskly walks on over the smooth pavement tiles.