Urgently, the Captain tries to persuade Her Grace to go directly to the Eastern Palace and take some rest. When she does not listen to arguments about her well-being, he explains the danger still lurking: the President’s second in command, who must be looking for chances to kill the new Bearer and maybe reveal himself as the new leader. “Your Grace, we have to be extra careful! Both you and Her Excellency have only just survived last night! I do not know how to”
S. waves his worries away. “I have been on the Wanted List for years, Captain. There is work to be done and STATE will do it.” STATE fortifies her resolve, and makes her body feel different, even more enduring than it had become by years of hard circumstances.
> She’s left Hospital! The Bearer lives!
> oh? and what will she do now? she’s
> Take care Will, she’ll find you and
> Hail STATE! Hail the Bearer of STATE!
> Oh sh
Bearer of STATE for 2 days, 4 hours, 5 minutes and 13, 14, 15
What should STATE attend to next? S. itches to fire and jail all representatives of the government which has persecuted her for so long. Those dictator’s collaborators, wallowing in luxury while he played his games. Those murderers, killing and torturing so many of her friends.
But she cannot formulate the words, nor issue the order to do so. In her, in STATE, the knowledge of the next step: the question of who will replace the Ministers and govern the state the coming months. There are no others capable of steering the various Offices of State through a period of change, as the President had excluded all independent people from training to lead others. No one in all of the state has the right experience…
Her sense of justice checked by the calculation of STATE, S. is forced to decide that though tainted, the remaining Ministers have to stay on, at least temporarily.
So, she orders the Captain to call in all Ministers to the Palace of Parliament for a Meeting at 15:00 hours.
Instead of a hard suture in state affairs, Irene and the Bearer prepare a short communiqué to proclaim a transition period of two years, after which elections will be held to allow for real change. The message is fed into the NationalTV system and is broadcasted instantly. And to ensure that changes will become possible, the Bearer of STATE issues her First Decree. It states the obligation for all citizens, including all STATE officials, to adhere from now on to the Universal Human Rights. All forms of torture, including implanting the Marks, are forbidden henceforth. Specifically, the Bearer accentuates the freedom of speech, an unknown phenomenon.
S. is still in the limo when communicating this. By using both the dataCommunication device and a growing feel for the powers of STATE, the message is spread very quickly to all Headquarters of the Army, the Police, the Elite troupes, the Secret Police…
On all local stations fitted with a dataCom, the Decree enters all systems instantly, to the surprise of the Officers in charge. They find it hard to read the Decree, to understand that their new ruler really orders them to adhere to this, that they would have to revoke their trusted methods of pressure and interrogation. Bewildered, they ask themselves how any measure of control can be maintained this way? ‘The state will become a mess in no time!’
STATE knows that two Ministers had fled the country immediately after the death of the President: the Minister of Internal Affairs, responsible for the Secret Service and co-initiator of the Mark, together with some of his close allies, and the Minister of Information, responsible for the manipulation of the press. This Ministry was no longer needed, so only the Minister of Internal Affairs needed to be replaced as soon as possible, preferably today.
On her way to the Palace of Parliament, the Bearer’s limo passes by a huge grey building looming over the passers-by: the Ministry of Internal Affairs. Abruptly, the Bearer orders the limo to stop and gets out. She forces the Captain and Guards to stay in the central lobby, while only Her Excellency accompanies Her Grace to the upper floors.
Bearer of STATE for 2 days, 4 hours, 31 minutes and 32, 33, 34
Every time S. blinks, there is the white, but it no longer overpowers her, it is just there, waiting for her, dripping information. Functional data layers the grainy reddish dark of the inside of her eyelids, disappears when she opens her eyes.
Time and again, she pauses and blinks very slowly to retrieve information on where to go. She navigates through the identical corridors, lined with grey doors, Irene Delwin at her side. Both carry some papers, which makes them look like secretaries. They pass unchallenged and reach the higher officials' offices.
S. knows she is depending on STATE to find someone to replace the former Minister. She forces herself to think. It is one of the most important posts in government, and yes, everybody in this department had collaborated with the President. Would STATE bear that in mind?
Would STATE care?
She turns left, and crosses a huge open office with Irene Delwin behind her. Some people look up, surprised at the new faces, but as both women seem to know where they are going, nobody questions or stops them.
Near the window-side of the building, there is a row of individual offices. One door stands open. On the nameplate: Mr. Delaware. “OK now, Kitty, if you finish these papers and give them to me, I will see that the Director General signs them before tomorrow. We are behind schedule as it is, so… well, you know what I mean! And please Nicky, make an appointment with Mr. Johnsen for tomorrow. O, and remind Gerald that we do need those documents before the meeting end of this week with the guys of Foreign Affairs!” Behind a littered desk, a slightly build forty-ish man orders people around. He is too bossy for S.' taste, but STATE keeps pointing her to him. S. vacillates before his open door. She tries to force STATE away, but then looses all direction, feels sick of being so dependent but cannot move away. Mr. Delaware notices the two ladies in front of his door. “Yes, yes, do come in. You must be bringing the forms from third floor?"
You are called to come with me,” S. says.
“What!?” and who is calling for me, then, if I might ask? No, no: I am too busy to leave my office right now. The Director General… And anyway, I am not following orders of just anybody who comes barging in here!"
“If you can only give orders and not follow them, we might have been mistaken,” S. says distinctly.
Mr. Delaware looks at the woman and looks again. An intangible power seems to be radiating off her. He has no clue why, and he scoffs himself inwardly for it, but he gets up and walks towards her. “OK, then. Where do you want me to go?"
Out of the largest of the private offices comes an authoritative voice: “Now listen Johan, when I am to attend the Ministers' meeting later this day, I expect you to reschedule the meeting with the departmental secretaries for tomorrow. There might be some documents waiting to be signed, but I trust you to decide which ones you leave for my decision… Johan?
Johan! Where are you?"
Mr. Delaware turns to the woman and asks if he can take his leave from his boss. She nods. “And, eh… What do I tell him?”
“Tell him you are called to work for STATE.”
Mr. Delaware walks into the grand office, while the two women wait just out of sight.
“Ah. Johan! Listen. I probably have to go and meet that one later today, and I want you”
“Eh… Director General… I… I am sorry, I have to inform you, Sir, that I have to leave now. I am called away, to work for STATE."
“WHAT?! Who says so? And how… and when?”
While Mr. Delaware remains at a loss for answers, the DG erupts. “You ungrateful traitor! What do you think you are doing?! Are you ruining all we have built these last years?! Thanks to whom do they even know where to find you? Well?
Who is calling on you anyway?"
Johan has no reply. ‘Why am I risking my career to follow a woman I have never seen before?’ Confused, he turns and beckons to her.
The small woman does not move, but the DG steps from his office, irritated. He looks at her, and looks again, astounded. “You!” He steps back. From the Wanted posters he distributed not so long ago he recognizes her, that terrorist, that thief of STATE, that… Bearer. His mind connects to the information, assesses the consequences, concludes that he is being passed over for his junior assistant, that he has nothing to loose.
He narrows his eyes.
S. knows that look, she had seen it last on the Colonel’s face, and though the Mark is gone, pain stabs, as if a knife again is wrenching the Mark free.
Is… Is the poison still there? The pain is so unexpected that she closes her eyes involuntarily.
The white is striped with reddish brown, slowly seeping down.
Blood. Poison. Blood.
It is the blood of the people S. has killed. Now, the blood keeps on flowing. Thump. Thump. Thump. Thump.
Dripping from the knives, it pours from her hands, it keeps coming out of the wounds in her hands.
Blood. Poison. Blood, poison, blood, poison, blood…
It flows profusely onto the white floor of STATE. It grows, a quickly widening delta of rusty red rivulets. Thump. Thump. Thump. The currents divide and thicken, and split and grow, until they form an intricate structure like the roots and branches of ivy. The white gets slit into little pieces and loses terrain.
Irene Delwin sees the Bearer from behind, senses that she falters. Quickly, she steps over to her and gently puts her hand in the small of Her Grace’s back. The Director General starts questioning Miss Delwin in a high voice, but she does not even register he is speaking to her.
Irene’s hand has the same effect as before. It pulls S. out of the picture and in doing so partly restores the white.
The Bearer opens her eyes, livid, tugs at her left sleeve and lifts it. The scar is swollen and ugly. Johan Delaware stares at it, shocked: ‘a Marked one’; the Director General angry to see his plans crossed.
“It is gone, you bastard!” the Bearer spits. “STATE has removed the Mark. And STATE will punish you for endangering the Bearer in such a way!"
Johan Delaware inhales too much air and coughs it out discretely. ‘The Bearer of STATE… I have been called by the Bearer herself. That woman is the Bearer of STATE!’
The Director General pulls a small pistol from his inside pocket. Coldly, he aims at the Bearer of STATE. He thinks he is in control of his mind. He simply cannot believe the stories of people killing themselves by their own guns, had explained that away as a symptom of mass hysteria. But within 30 seconds, his weapon is turned against him.
“Die then!” the Bearer says indifferently, and the office employees are all hurtled into a shock by the blast of unexpected gunfire. A nice round bullet hole remains in the windowpane behind him, the Director General’s brains splattered all over those present.
Alarmed, the Captain comes running to the sound with the Guard, and escorts the Bearer, Miss Delwin and, on Her Grace’s indication, Mr. Johan Delaware to the limo as soon as possible. While Johan Delaware is only just realizing the change in his career, they already halt before the gates of the Palace of Parliament. In the Palace, they move up to the government floors.
The Secretary of STATE is handed two bags of clothes by one of the Guards. As Irene does not want to make her entrée covered in blood and brain tissue, Mrs. Curlings had had them brought to the Palace of Parliament. So, Irene Delwin stops by the rest rooms to change.