Bearer of STATE for 1 month, 2 weeks, 0 days, 1 day; 2 days,
Day after day, S. searches the white for Matil, wills him to appear, the tell-tale traces of any person’s life to show through the multitude of data, his absence a numb patch in STATE. Hour after hour she attempts to enter the red, to understand its flows, but she is repelled by it, deeply repelled, and she cannot access it, though she does assess its strength is growing. Her fight cannot stop, is not over yet. She has to remain focused.
Night after night, sleep remains impossible and everything hurts. Slipping away from the physicality of pain, she pores over the white, shifts the parameters to extract data, and prints page after page with Alexander to inform Irene. When she cannot disregard her body shell, from time to time throbbing with a cold fever, she takes a hot Bearer’s bath; the only thing that seems to soothe STATE and allow the muscles to relax a little.
Through STATE, in STATE, perceptions are shifting, making her indifferent to some things, hyper-sensitive to others. Past and present are mixed, personal and state knowledge as well. The extent of the former President’s influence is visible for her, the danger of Matil’s attacks and their possible death toll as actual whether they have or have not come to pass. Matil’s presence is a red web, just out of sight. She cannot rest. She cannot be distracted again.
She cannot stop.
20:25 p.m. on the 3rd day of the 6th week of the Bearer’s Reign
A knock on the door of the Secretary’s chambers. After a while, Susan opens the door to a slit. “Her Excellency is not to be disturbed!” she hisses to the Guard posted outside.
“The Captain invites Her Excellency for a special event,” Mr. Blas’ pompous voice says from behind the Guard.
Versed in the ways of power from years of first hand experience, the Captain, seeing Ireneï¿½s talents, has started to subtly give her more and more information, warning her off over-friendly advisors, explaining sensitive histories and old sores. More and more naturally, Irene Delwin is moving in the circles of the high and mighty. Her appearance has changed subtly. Her clothes, though more or less in the same style, are of far better quality. Her posture, though always upright, starts to assume the attention that is bestowed upon her. Her smile is not given lightly, and neither is her criticism or her praise. She is still very self-conscious, but with a stronger self.
Aware of the Secretaryï¿½s quick rise of power, Blas fears Susan as her closest servant, and he wishes Rachel had not been discovered so rapidly. But he cannot think it, should not think, not think...ï¿½
Having observed her mistress’ soft spot for the Captain, Susan disappears to inform Her Excellency.
Dressed in a beautiful simple gown, Irene emerges and follows the Guard down the twisting corridors of the Eastern Palace. She wonders whether Her Grace will be there as well, but surmises that she, again, will be immobile on the bed.
Even during the days after the attack and the release of Almerra, the Bearer had not acted to enforce the changes she had intimated when she became Bearer. In her place, Irene tries to achieve what she thinks are Her Grace’s plans as much as possible, at times helped by the papers of STATE passed to her by Alexander.
Unconscious of her position, Irene only thinks of Her Grace. ‘If only S. would get better...’ But tonight, she has promised herself not to worry, and she tries to clear her head while walking down the stairs.
Sure enough, Mr. Blas had been resolutely turned away by the Guard posted outside Her Grace’s chambers: “Her Grace, the Bearer of STATE, is not fit to attend any event!” Again Mr. Blas is grieved by Her Grace’s lack of decorum. ‘How different the Palace used to be, with the President’s exquisite parties and special guests!’
Bearer of STATE for 1 month, 2 weeks, 3 days, 10 hours, 22 minutes and
Caught in a this cramped body shell, strand S. feels the time slipping, the people clamoring for change. She knows she failing, lacking the overview to change the state’s structures of power. Again, S. turns to STATE to see what needs to be done, and how. Depending on what parameters she activates, different scenarios unfold but in almost all, the changes do not turn things for the better. Either the economical success of a certain development deepens the gap between rich and poor, making for unstable social relations; or a growth in democratic processes engenders hate and mutual exclusion; or growth of political activities give rise to an educated elite keeping all key posts for themselves; or’
According to STATE, the most positive solution is one in which the Bearer assumes total power and rules like a benevolent but omnipotent ruler. S. attempts to steer STATE off the inbuilt preconceptions, to make it reason in different ways.
Every time she tries, her thoughts become vague, disjointed, illogical, dense; her body fibers tense and become painful. After a while, the white consumes all thoughts and makes her even more confused about what line of action to follow.
And then Matil... The same obtuseness, the same frustrating absence of information. Matil had attacked the state and still she could find no trace! There must be some trace. Something.
And again S. dives into the white to hunt down Matil.
A deft servant opens the door to the small Reception Room.
“Ah, Irene!” the Captain says warmly. “How good of you to come. Please be seated...” The room is lit very subtly, and four easy chairs are standing in a row. Doctor Jan is already seated and rises politely to welcome Her Excellency. The Captain escorts Irene to the most central one and sits on the chair to her left.
Though Irene tries to appreciate whatever the Captain has in store for her, she is slightly irked at the setting. ‘For weeks and weeks I’ve only seen Ministers and Guards! Oh, and bowing servants, servants everywhere! Luckily Susan is great, but for the rest... If I see this Blas once more snooping around my chambers I will tell him off. Oh, just to move between nameless people as a nameless being, invisible... and spend quiet nights with a book and Gigi on my lap, instead of imbibing more dataNet information, or reading these papers of STATE, or receiving more dignitaries! But no, I should not complain, I will not complain, I will do this as it needs to be done, the best I can; even if I am not the type. We all serve STATE...’
Entering after them, the servant Susan brings the tea she had just made and puts it on the small table between the chairs, then stands behind her mistress.
“Do sit down, Susan!” Her Excellency asks softly, and abruptly, a servant brings a chair for Her Excellency’s maid.
“Susan! You did not serve Her Excellency anything to eat!” Mr. Blas exclaims, but he is interrupted by Her Excellency herself: “On my express command, Mr. Blas!” Mr. Blas tries not to scoff his indignation, and withdraws. He returns with a small elderly man, whose long fingers hold a beautiful old cello.
Irene mouth parts slightly. Maestro Bottemani is the nation’s most famous musician, and she and Susan had been listening to his dataNet recordings often. ‘To see him this close, in real life..!’ He approaches her nervously, bows. It is then for the first time that she realizes her position. ‘He has come to perform in private for the leaders of the state. He has come to perform for Her Grace, and for me. For me... The Captain had ordered him, and he had come gladly, honored...’ Inclining her head, Irene accepts the Captain’s present, and takes her role.
Soon the room is quiet, apart from the cello booming and wheezing and tearing at her soul with simple sweet traditional songs.
Within her rigidity, S. hears the sound, the historical structures activating layers of STATE which S. had not seen before: the nation’s social history, the natural resources, the long lapses of poverty. The President’s reign, a very few people amassing boundless riches, the majority of people getting poorer and poorer. She sees some changes for the better, since STATE is ruling. The woman Dorothea Lambers, saved by STATE in the Hotel that second night as Bearer, has started a series of Borough educational projects, which are slowly starting to function. Women and children are learning to read and write, arithmetic, mathematics, biology, history. More and more children attend the schools again. Likewise, a healthcare system was being formed to provide for the sick. Many people put all their energy in various reforms, projects and enterprises, the sudden freedom fueling them. S. sees these activities are not new, but were simply suppressed during the President’s reign. There was another Bearer before... and before him, another... and before that, more...
STATE moves with the faraway music, hearing it clearly, patterns merging and breaking. The structures of these country songs are old, dating from before STATE, capturing an ancient, a human perspective.
Hearing is not enough. She has to be there.
She has to go.
The Bearer rises and stands. The Guard looks up, surprised, then, as Her Grace starts moving for the door, he grabs a realSilk mantle to cover her. Slipping the garment over her rigid shoulders, he follows Her Grace through the doors, down the stairs.
From the inner Reception Chamber, the cello’s strong sound pulses in a country dance. But Her Grace walks past the door, and continues to the ante-chamber down the corridor. The servants rush up to open the double doors for the Bearer, close the curtains, position the best chair, while the Bearer stands a few meters from the closed realWooden doors leading to the Reception chamber.
“Would Your Grace want me to open them?” the Guard whispers, earning an irritated shake of ‘no’. The servant positions the golden chair just behind Her Grace, but she refuses to seat herself. As she stands very still, listening with concentration to the stately chords of the next piece, the Guards and servants withdraw to the corners of the room.
‘There is someone in there!’ The Captain’s neck prickles as he becomes more and more sure something is going on in the ante-chamber. ‘What the hell! I told the servants to stay away! What are those Guards doing!?’ When Maestro Bottemani pauses to tune his A string, the Captain rises as subtly as he can and opens the partitioning with a jerk.
“Oh...” He stares into the face of Her Grace. Sensing her intention, he bows and quietly closes the doors.
Bottemani’s intelligent eyes have caught his movements, and also Irene has deduced who is in the ante-chamber. ‘Oh! Good!’
When the cello’s strings vibrate again, it is with a slight, very slight difference. ‘STATE is here... The Bearer has deigned to come and listen to my music, STATE herself!’ Bottemani’s hands make the instrument sing, while behind the realWooden doors, the Bearer listens.
Bearer of STATE for 1 month, 2 weeks, 3 days, 10 hours, 55 minutes and
As S. stands, she observes her constant consciousness of being observed by the servants and Guards. She notes for the first time her perception over all of her body shell, including her back, the way she sees herself from outside. For the first time, she is aware of the control over her shell, the control over STATE she had kept as tight as she was capable of, and with the music she allows the control soften slightly.
She is afraid, very afraid, because without this control, she would not have existed. Without this control, she would cease to be. She is afraid, but she cannot stay rigid like this. She has to open up, to allow the music in. She cannot leave the music...
STATE absorbs the sounds, the chords, the melodies’ unfolding into new notes and more and more, stringing into new melodies, the syncopations, the rhythms’ swaying, the glitches, the tiny, very brief quarters of notes missed, the sliding of the callous fingertips over the metal, the breathing of the hairs over the strings, the ways the thin slabs of realWood reverberate, the chamber resonates, the door vibrates, the bodies absorb the waves of sound enveloping them.
Something shifts inside STATE, inside S..
As the waves of sound envelop her, her belly starts to tingle, and her throat starts to ache like something is stuck there. She does not know her face distorts into a grimace between pleasure and pain, she is unaware that an oily liquid gathers in the corners of her eyes. She does not register that STATE starts to undulate, almost imperceptibly. She does not feel the wail rising in her throat and dying there, strangled.
She only wants the music to go on, and on, and on, and on. Histories unfold, only partially present, winging by as the music slurs and skips. STATE was part of this history, yes, but not always... There were times before STATE, when people managed themselves without STATE...
The music changes tune and she loses the thought, only catches some slips, but another tune offers again this insight, STATE was not here always, STATE had not been omnipresent always, and consequently she sees the white from a different perspective. And S. understands the white is a construct, a wedging apart of some violence, a clean slate.
It is an expanse she has been blinded by, an expanse she has been limited to, that she had limited herself to. More is here, more is happening, and not all is visible to STATE, somehow... The red is still active, the red was always there, the red of blood, of hate, of human violence. The red was not initiated by the President, he was just using it, just as Matil is using it now, for his own purposes, invisible for STATE. And Matil is planning to use it more, S. can sense the planning, and incensed finds she cannot locate more information as to where, and how. But she will find Matil, eventually. Or Matil will find her.
After almost two hours, STATE notes the musician’s hands slipping, the key missed and shifted, the rhythm slurring, and S. opens her eyes and signals the doors to open.
Everyone in the main Reception Chamber swivels around and rises to bow and salute Her Grace, the Bearer of STATE. Maestro Bottemani is bowing deeply.
“Thank you,” the Bearer says. After a brief silence, the Secretary of STATE applauds Maestro Bottemani heartily, joined by the rest, a scattered and meager applause without the multitude of a concert hall. But the Maestro is honored and content.
And Irene cannot believe the look from Her Grace’s eyes. ‘She is actually seeing her surroundings, she is really reacting to us!’
“Irene, Captain. Come with me to the Office.” The Bearer says, and they follow gladly. Inside, only Alexander is allowed to stay. The door is guarded, as usual no Guards or servants are allowed inside. As Her Grace seats herself in the special realWood/STATE material chair, the Captain and Irene sit down as well.
Jason is approaching a cafï¿½. When he enters, a sudden hush. People stare at him, a dead man returning. After some hesitation, a wide-shouldered man stands and walks up to him.
“Jason? I... We all thought... There was no sign from any of you...”
“They are all dead. Murdered to get at that bitch,” Jason says, while moving to a chair and dropping his coat. He lifts his T-shirt to expose a huge scar on his chest. His jaw set, he continues: “I was lucky the Director was in a hurry, I guess... So, what are you guys up to? Any plans to get rid of her?” The cafï¿½ is all ears when he sits down and takes a beer with the huge man.
S. blinks to focus on Irene and the Captain, who patiently await the return of her attention.
“Captain. STATE cannot sit inside the Palace any longer. The attack was work by Matil.”
“Matil? Are you sure?” The Captain frowns. He had bugged the Security Police daily, but they had claimed to have found nothing. ‘Hmn. They sure aren’t trustworthy yet...’ The Bearer continues: “Yes. B. Matil, or S. Maatiwel, or Bero Matiliwiz, or Bernd M., or Mateu Wis, or Boris Wislow or whatever other name he might be using. Matil did it, Captain. And still, STATE can find no information on him. Nothing at all. I have spent days and weeks now, trying to locate him, his resources, anything, but STATE has found nothing. And then, he blows up the market. Yes, of that STATE is sure. It is clear what his aim is.”
“To come out in the open and take power?” Irene’s voice is soft. The Captain says, thinking aloud: “He might want that, yes. But maybe the aim is to create enough fear so he can place someone he selects in command. He must be stopped. Matil has connections in the Services that we apparently do not have won over yet.” The Bearer adds: “Matil has powers that make him invisible, whereas the Bearer is sitting here, on a golden throne. STATE cannot sit inside a palace much longer. And obviously, STATE has to go out alone.”
The Captain looks very unhappy. “But... Your Grace...”
“What is the problem, Captain?”
“But if something should happen to you, Your Grace...” Irene says in his place. Impatient, the Bearer shrugs.
“Matil is too dangerous. If you cannot control him through the services and STATE cannot control him through the data, then we should find a direct mode. Either STATE will find Matil, or he will find STATE. STATE protects the Bearer, Irene, Captain. STATE will keep me safe. I will go out now, tonight, and every night, until STATE has some information on him, until STATE can control him, until I stop him.”
“Please, Your Grace...” Irene says. “We need you here.”
“No, Irene...” the Captain turns to her, soft and stern: “Her Grace must do whatever Her Grace must do. We cannot stop STATE. We too must trust STATE...” And Irene bites her lip and is silent.