17:19 pm. on the Second Day of the Bearer’s Reign
It rains, and the daylight has turned into a grey dusk.
Bearer of STATE for 2 days, 7 hours, 11 minutes and 03, 04, 05, 06, 07,
The raindrops tap on her hood, their loud rhythm both isolating her from and connecting her to her surroundings. S. can discern clearly both the collective hissing of the vast amount of rain and the individual droplets falling and hitting various surfaces. With tiny metallic pangs the drops hit onto the cars lining the busy street, they rustle on the roofs high above, and swish on the asphalt to her left, the car tires splashing through them. The raindrops patter on the umbrellas and hats and coats and plastic bags and hands and feet of the many people rushing past her, who, with their faces down, are trying to get some last shopping done before closing time.
S. is isolated between them but more safe than she ever was. Not being a criminal on the loose does make a difference, not having to look at a face and wonder if it will alert the Secret Police, or be the one to bend over you when pulling at your toe nails, trying to extract information.
Still, she has to prevent people from recognizing her as the Bearer. There is still a large chance of attacks on her life, Maatiwel or Matil or whatever he calls himself might be everywhere, and she should not underestimate him. But right now, she is just a woman, passing through the streets. Her even pace takes her sure-footed through the thickening crowd.
On the smooth red bioLeather of the limo, the Captains shifts uncomfortably. Through the raindrops coursing down the tinted glass, he tries to keep an eye on Her Grace, walking on the sidewalk somewhere in front of the limo. 'These incognito walks are terrible! What if one of the President’s men finds out, or even comes across Her Grace accidentally? What if this Matil knows where the Bearer is? What if a plain mugger hits her on the head and kills her?’ He looks again. ‘No! The Bearer of STATE has gone!’ “Stop!”
With a discrete creak, the limo halts. The Captain rushes from it, forgetting the rain. Trying to attract as little attention as possible, he walks swiftly, looking where the Bearer might have went to.
‘There she is!’ Luckily, the Chocolaterie has a glass faï¿½ade, and he sees Her Grace order some bonbons from a timid girl. The Captain enters the chocolate shop as well. A strong, sweet smell, the sudden warmth enveloping him.
Shirley spots the Captain the moment he enters. Turning to him, she swallows and bows.
“Yes, Sir, Captain, Sir? In what way can I help you?” she asks, keeping her eyes low and ignoring the rain-soaked woman instantly.
‘This is terrible,’ the Captain thinks, ‘to be served before the Bearer of STATE…’ Never before had he noted how people were being pushed aside as soon as he entered. As Guard of the President, his powers reflected those of the President himself and he had grown accustomed to the elite treatment the Guards received everywhere.
“No, please serve Her Gr…”
‘It almost slipped my tongue...’ To hide his embarrassment, the Captain turns away to study the displays, keeping a sideways check on the street and on Her Grace alternately. The Bearer orders a bigger box.
“But, Miss… you do realize, that this one costs” Shirley starts, but is interrupted by the small woman, who speaks in short tones:
“Yes, of course I do. Now: some of these, and a few of the dark ones, and yes, the chocolates with nuts on top.”
Shirley glances nervously at the Captain and fills the box hurriedly. “OK then, that will b”
“Give me the bill, Shirley.”
‘That woman is so incredibly impolite! And how’d she know my name?’ she thinks, and her voice becomes sharp: “But, Miss! This machine gives out a receipt. I can only give a receipt to you, once you have paid me!”
Looking very young, the shop-girl resists the drenched Bearer. The Captain shifts his weight from leg to leg irritably.
Reading his feeling, but misinterpreting his meaning, the shop-girl looks angrily at the woman. “Come on, Miss, you can pay now, don’t you?”
“This is ridiculous! Give it to Her!” The Captain speaks angrily. Terrified, the girl does as told. The Bearer returns the receipt with the Seal to the shop-girl.
The girl looks at the curved ‘S’ and clearly has no idea what she is looking at. “What is that? An ‘S’?! Are you pulling some prank at me, or what?!”
She snatches the box of chocolates off the counter and puts it out of Her Grace’s reach.
“Yes, well. Goodbye then! Eh… Captain Sir… Forgive me… Forget about her… Sir, what can I do for you?”
The Captain does not know where to leave his indignation, even though he understands the girl has no clue. He looks at Her Grace, lamely.
“That, Shirley, is a Seal of STATE,” the Bearer says quietly.
“A… what? I told you, woman, I am NOT buying your joke! Stop wasting my AND the Captain’s time and GO away!”
Obviously, the dataCom is this store was off, or possibly the girl was not allowed to touch it.
Shirley looks amazed as the woman commands the Captain, and more so, as he inclines his head meekly to listen to her.
“Pay the girl.”
The Captain’s head jerks up in indignation. “Your Grace!! Uh… I… I’m sorry… I shouldn’t have mentioned… But… But this… this is unbearable! Really, utterly insupportable! PAY her? The girl should realize who is the only person to make a Seal of STATE! This is not something to joke about! Really! Allow me to punish this dip-shit, this nitwit, this stupid...
With the President, she’d be dead already!” The Captain clenches his fists in frustration, but the Bearer looks at him coolly.
“I know, Captain.
But as you remember I am not he.”
A short silence and the Captain bows his head to acknowledge her command. A muscle moves in his jaw.
Shirley looks from the woman to the Captain, paling, her head shaking in a mute negation. ‘It cannot be, it can’t be, it cannot be, no, no, it is simply not possible that the Bearer would walk in, alone, in a raincoat, just like that, she wouldn’t’
But that conclusion becomes unavoidable. ‘A Captain would never bow to anyone else, and the President is dead, the Bearer’ She starts to sweat. ‘Ow... What will she do to me now... can do anything, she can... and I’ve.. I’ve refused’
Cowering, she offers the box with both hands to Her Grace. “B… b… Y… Yo… Your Grace… f… f… fforg… p… please, f… forgive… I d… did not… no…”
S. turns away.
Out of the white data, a sudden flash. The brightly lit chocolate shop with the glass faï¿½ade, their silhouettes, the shop-girl bowing… Matil’s powers are close to her, observing her every move, waiting for a weak moment to strike.
“Get down. NOW!”
All lights are extinguished by STATE at once, the shutters rattle down automatically. The girl, Shirley, panics, fearing the Bearer’s repercussions, ‘and now what? An attack?’
“To the back!” S. says and she and the Captain walk there, past the whimpering shop-girl.
Nothing happens, and for a moment the Captain thinks Her Grace is becoming paranoia. He shrugs, though: ‘Sometimes paranoia is a good survival tool.’
They step outside, the Captain carrying the chocolates and grabbing an umbrella that happens to be drying near the back door. It is drizzling, and the Captain unfolds the umbrella to keep the Bearer dry. Respectfully, he stays a step behind her.
S. smiles inwardly. His ingrained reactions are just as preprogrammed as hers, only from an opposite status. She halts to take his arm. The Captain stiffens, and even in the dusk S. knows he turns red to his hair roots. “Come on, we can only safely walk like this if we pretend to be a couple!” she speaks giggling in his ear, in a good imitation of a woman in love.
The Captain has to agree to that. Ill at ease, he very carefully holds Her Grace, the Bearer of STATE, and escorts her through the crowds. He whispers: “But, eh, Your Grace... Anything you would wish can be sent for! There’s no need”
“First time in a High Street shop, Captain,” the Bearer says softly, and now he feels a flash of a different shame. ‘A Marked One, she was. And now...’
> Seceond Day, Guv and what’s she brugt us? Nothing I’d
> Do at least have the courtesy to type without mistakes! It’s bad enough you’re defiling Her Grace! Shame on you!
>Wahaha pompeous man, what’d ya think she gonna do to me, huh? First Decree, remember? we’re free man! Free to say whatever we think!
>You are referring to Her Grace, the Bearer of STATE, as if she is a normal ruler. This, you will find, is a big mistake. STATE wields powers beyond your little mind’s scope, dear friend. She can punish without resorting to the crude methods of her predecessor, rest his scattered soul. Youï¿½d better be more careful. Hail STATE! Hail the Bearer of STATE!