The 1st week of the 2nd Year of the Bearer’s Reign
Irene wipes her mouth with a very fine napkin and smiles at a joke of the Captain, glancing at Her Grace and finding a lingering smile on her face as well. Irene is happy, so very happy to see at least part of S. again. The Bearer’s eyes move, and she reacts more to the people around her than ever before. Every night, Alexander passes paper after paper through STATE, piles them in numbered piles, and Irene makes sure they are sent in sealFoil envelopes to judges, to attorneys, to Police officers, to schools, to doctors, to scientists, to Ministers, to members of Parliament, to Mc Kinsey and the other Committee members, to the Captain…
Working all night, the Bearer in the morning requests the company of Irene and the Captain and they take breakfast together, even though STATE hardly needs to eat.
Occasionally, Her Grace even organizes dinner parties for small groups of people with very mixed backgrounds, often complete strangers for each other and for Her Grace. The guests are selected by STATE and their encounters result in fierce debates, lively discussions and, sometimes, unlikely friendships. She even makes time again to stamp the STATE Loan Requests with her seal, enabling small companies to start out with a 40% STATE interest.

S. smiles as she looks at Irene and picks up on her thinking.
Ah, yes.
One of the subjects recurring during the dinners was the unspoken hatred oppositional factions of the President’s reign still felt for each other. The President had done his utmost to make all people natural enemies, and the enmities were unabated even after a year of the Bearer’s Reign. STATE should do something about this… In a flicker, STATE decides to form the Committee on Crimes Against the People to investigate into the crimes perpetrated under the President.

To Irene’s delight, the Bearer has also regained her interest in the affairs of the existing Committees and resumes to visit them, though at irregular intervals. As she swallows the last bite of a very tasty bun, she frowns: ‘But Martin Rislers trespasses beyond respect… His behavior towards the Bearer is certainly not up to standards. He barely manages the self-control he used to have, allowing more and more glimpses of his irritation to show. She should keep him in check. Or I have to! But I do not know how…’ and Irene regrets she does not have a leaders' natural skill in this kind of keeping control.
Her thinking is interrupted by the Captain, addressing the Bearer: “Ahem… Your Grace…”
‘Hmn, his voice sounds pompous, meaning he has something he wants to propose,’ Irene smiles into her napkin.
“As you know, we have allowed the first anniversary of Your Grace’s Reign pass unnoticed…” ‘Ah yes,’ Irene had thought about it but with all the work she also had not been able to make work of it, really…
“So, ahem, I think it would be a most opportune moment to give a Reception of STATE. Personally, I think the Bell’Etoile would be perfect.”

The Bearer sits still and does not react for a moment. The Captain is worried, preparing for a resolute rejection, but then the Bearer looks up and even looks into his eyes. “What must be done for STATE must be done, Captain. Organize it the way it should be.”

While the Captain smiles contently, Irene tries not to think about this extra organizational task. ‘There are people enough to handle this… I need not worry’
After breakfast, the Bearer beckons her for a confidential chat. Politely, Irene waits for Her Grace to talk, and listens to her plan for the new Committee with a concentrated face. ‘Yet another Committee? Hmn… More work, but I should not complain… Of course, the members should have enough standing… and it is hard to find people with a clean slate… How can we..? But, quiet… Trust in STATE…’ Though Irene does fear that it will turn into a witches' hunt, she also knows from history that omitting such a committee deprives people of a sense of justice, while allowing some to enjoy the rewards of harming others. And as STATE has retrieved information about the right candidates almost instantly, she sets out to realize Her Grace’s plan.

> I was within reach I tell you all, I saw Her Grace from real close!
> Hail STATE! Hail the Bearer of STATE!
> and then them people came trying to burn us
> President’s men they are!
> what? really? he’s dead ain’t he?
> Matil’s men, more likely
> who’s Matil? never heard of
> No one, juts a fiction, a façade to make the nice Mr.President look less of a killer than he really was
> he is not what
> we have to praise every day that we are blessed wityh Her Grace, the Bearer of STATE
> I think we are blessed also with Her Excellency, the Secretary! It is incredible what she hs achieved this past time! Subtle
> the Blessed energy of STATE has infued us all, and we
> infused
> haha, defused, imbued, infected, whaddaya mean? ahaha

Within days, STATE announces the Committee on Crimes Against the People. As expected, the Committee causes an outcry from the Ministers. Afraid their own histories will be used against them, they block the Committee as much as they can. The Bearer herself has to attend a special Ministerial meeting to force them to agree to cooperate with the Committee and allow its researchers into Secret Police archives, etcetera. The slow process towards the legal realization of this last Committee is activated. Irene I surprised how smoothly things are organized when STATE focuses. ‘But what will Martin do with this news? How will he manage to turn this into his advantage as well? Because he will try, I know him, he will…’

S. is privy to all Irene’s fears. Though she does not share any feeling, strand S. can now be in touch with them. With the Day of Souls' abstract love for the people, some connection to the humans around her has returned. And this in turn reactivates the consciousness of the threats STATE had ignored the last months before the Day of Souls. Rislers is just one threat, in a way the Church of STATE, the followers of Jason, and even the current Ministers pose different threats. Most are keeping each other in check at present… And at least STATE has an understanding of what drives them and when. But Matil is still out of reach. All the time she had been unable to prevent certain attacks, and all of them must be connected to Matil, this mysterious ‘second in command’. Clearly, the guy is much more capable of counter-measuring STATE than the President was. Who is he?
The attack at the market halls proves that STATE should not underestimate him. The other opponents' organizations had been too static to react on STATE shifting location, but Matil had been flexible and equipped enough to organize the fire attack within hours.
In her object-phase, his threat was a mere eventuality, but now she pains for what he might have accomplished there. For what he might have done against her people, the people of STATE.
STATE signals that Matil is getting closer to her, but still STATE cannot yield more information. It is maddening. He will be able to inflict more harm easily, and he will hit the people of STATE unexpectedly. STATE must beware… But as yet there is no action to take.
As for Martin Rislers, he only poses a minor problem… still, one in which STATE can move to help Irene. She waits until the next moment.

Bearer of STATE for 1 year, 0 months, 1 week, 3 days, 57 minutes

This morning in March, the first fragrance of spring in the air, the Constitutional Committee is gathered to decide upon some final amendments. They are half an hour into the meeting, when a Guard announces the Bearer of STATE. Everybody rises as Her Grace enters, inclining their heads to her. It is instantly clear that she is angry. Very angry. STATE has a dangerous sheen that many have learned to fear. The Bearer holds a magazine in her left hand and slaps it onto the table.

  • ‘You…'
    She is not thinking this, and neither is anyone in the room. STATE wills the thought-voice to silence. Not now.

Martin Rislers has already recognized the magazine. Unmoving for a brief moment, he decides to brazen it out. He looks the Bearer straight in the eye.
The Bearer glares at him and for this occasion uses her voice to talk: “Who the hell do you think you are? The voice of the people?"
Martin looks at her coolly and swallows, his jaws and throat working visibly. Then, he does not cower nor hide his anger either: “Yes. I thought it high time for this to be said!”

The words hang in the sunny air above the mahogany oval table.
Everybody tries to look somewhere neutral. Of course, most have read the article that morning and know what tone Mr. Rislers had been using when referring to the Bearer. He had been belittling her achievements, exposing her awkward ways of governing, making fun of the Bearer and STATE in general…
The Bearer narrows her eyes: “For a voice of the people you know too much, way too much.
But for what you are claiming to know, you have seen too little. Come here."
Challenging her, Martin Rislers straightens his shoulders, lifts his chin to look down on her.
“Ha! Want to punish me, then? Not so different, after all, then, from the nice Mr. President?”

Irene gasps and presses her nails into the palm of her hand. ‘The bastard! The lying hypocrite! Oh, if only… if only’

The Bearer says solidly: “Come here. Does STATE have to make use of force?"
The Guards approach a step. But Martin Rislers has already decided. ‘Hah, to be punished in front of the Committee would only make my case!’ He pushes back his chair roughly and walks towards the Bearer.
“Kneel before Her Grace, the Bearer of STATE!” one Guard says with a clenched jaw.
Indifferently, Martin does so.

“More respect would suit you, Martin,” the Bearer says coldly. The whole Committee stares at the scene, afraid for witnessing some atrocious maiming, Her Grace’s First Decree notwithstanding. With both hands, the Bearer takes Martin’s head, almost gently: “Here."
She pushes his head against STATE.

Martin is not prepared for this.
Whooooosh. He lands in a white space, falls onto a white floor.
Fond of textures, his hand strokes it to find it of the most exquisite smoothness imaginable.
He looks up.
The space is huge, and the white is blinding.
He looks around him. White, only white. There is nothing there.
His head spins around wildly.
O no!
Not again!
He has had hallucinations before, and he has been treated for them.
This chemical imbalance is not supposed to happen anymore!
Not now! Not ever again!
Instinctively, he drops and holds his head near to the floor.
It is white, smooth white, so smooth…
He forces himself to calm down. He strokes the floor.
Wait… Wait.
This is not a psychosis.
This is not seeping into his consciousness, luring him in by its inner irrefutable logic.
This is not slowly dawning on him, a construct revealed…
This is here, and that… That is the past. That was a long time ago.
This is different.
This is not from inside.
This is external.
This is brought on by… This is brought on by STATE. How does that bitch know his weak spot? No way is she going to bring him into another state of disarray, not a chance! And certainly not here! Martin stands, wipes back his hair. So, this is where she is daydreaming her time away, then, is it?
He looks around him. The room is very wide and very white, and he has the uncanny feeling that it is staring back at him.
He takes a step, but instead of going forwards, he steps back.
His fists clenched, he tries it again, but again he steps backwards.
There is a faint echo. Almost like someone laughing hard very far away.
He looks around, but he sees no one.
But he is not alone. Somebody is here, somewhere. There are people here, looking at his efforts.
Again, he makes to step forwards, but moves back. No… Let me out! Now!
More laughter, from more sources this time.
They are there. They are many, so many, and more seem to enter the space as Martin starts to become aware of them.
Materializing out of the walls, they approach him. They stare at him with their metallic eyes. Their blind eyes do seem to see him, but are intent on him nevertheless. They are angry with him, jeering at him.
Martin steps back, but instead he moves forwards, towards them.
More derisive laughter, all around him; he is surrounded by them. They are close enough for a better view. They look human at first sight, but they are different. He can see their deformations, mocking with the human form though departing from it. Their skin has a metalloid sheen, and they all carry a shadow of STATE.
This is not supposed to be happening! He cannot be seeing this! This is not real, it cannot be! This is just his imagination, this is just his imagination, this is just… Martin closes his eyes, but they are there as well. Their laughter roars around him, inside him.
“So, you plan to succeed us, do you?"
“You think to do a better job then, do you?"
“And you think you will be the one to withstand the forces of power, huh?"
“You will be the righteous one, now won’t you? Won’t you? Won’t you!?"
“You think you know what is right, then?"
Again, the laughter roars around him, inside him. Martin clasps his hands to his head, cowers.
“Well, well, well… Look at him!"
“He is not really up to it, now, is he?"
“Maybe we should test him, then, shall we?"
“Yesss, let’s…"
“Let us show him, yes…"
“Yes!” “Yes!” “Let’s!” “Yesssss!!!” The sssss’ hiss around him, reverb in his head. From all sides, they draw nearer. Their suppressed indignation, their anger, their hatred, their eagerness, in coming closer. They want something from him.
They want to be
inside him.
They want his
They want
to be
They are very, very near

> Hahah did you read?
> clever one he thinks he is, this Rislers, but I think
> he damn genius that what I think! Really, don’t you
> No, he is debasing the Bearer’s deeds, he is belittling Her Grace’s achievements! He, who was given his position by Her Hands, he who should hail STATE as we all
> Hail State blablah there you go again! There IS a Church of STATE OC channel you know? go and find them thn, is a gooood
> You are ignorant and arrogant and have no idea of the pain Her Grace has suffered for us, the pain she still bears to save us! STATE was not made to comfort the Bearer, STATE tests the Bearer all the time, always, and Her Grace proves to be the true and righteous Bearer, the best Bearer we have ever had! Hail the Bearer of STATE!
> and pray tell me what makes you think she is so special?
> Well, the bare fact that in her omniscience, STATE allows Rislers to think, to say and even publish his bullshit ideas! She is an enlightened Bearer, the first of her kind! Hail STATE! Hail the B
> aw come come, if this is so special than why don’t she come up with the pro,ised elections, huh? hail my ass I’d say
> Rislers is maybe arrogant but he is the only one trying to make changes!

Martin still has his eyes closed.
The laughter has subsided into silence.
Are they…?
Have they…?
Carefully, he straightens himself. To fortify his resolve, he keeps his eyes closed.
Oh, yes, the breathing technique… Stupid he had not remembered before…
Wasn’t real, then, was it? It isn’t!
I should know!
I ain’t no fool!
Martin opens his eyes. His impulse is to reel backwards, but he cannot move.
There they are, within arm’s length.
They are very close, and they are pushing themselves through the others. Their images fade over into each other, like phantasms or ghosts, though the aggression amongst them is palpable. They push the others out of the way to get close to Martin. They fight to get to him, reach out to grab him.
But they are confined to their space now.
Their mouths are opened in wide grimaces. It takes Martin some moments to register that they are still laughing at him. They are visibly screeching with laughter, but he cannot hear them.
He is very happy to not be able to hear them.
Someone turned the sound off..?
Then, he sees an outline emerging around them. They object strongly, but they are forced into a tighter spot. While they still viciously struggle to remain on top, to remain visible, they start to melt into each other. To melt into one, losing all color as they do so.
The outline is still very white, but it is getting more solid as Martin watches.
He is just so very relieved.
Then, he recognizes the shape. S.. Standing very still, she looks at him. She carries STATE, a completely white shape cut out of her very pale silhouette. She looks at him sternly. “STATE does not mean to harm you, Martin. But you are intent on harming me. Patience, Martin…
There is a lot we have to do together. And STATE will have your respect in the meantime."
Martin is so glad to see her that he bows his head.
STATE flashes white, brighter still…
Martin closes his eyes and lifts his hand to his forehead.
A bright flash and though he is still kneeling with his hand lifted, he knows he is somewhere else. The soft warm air, someone coughing discretely…

Martin opens his eyes and drops his hand.
He is still bowing.
Though he does not want to seem beaten, he knows that putting up an arrogant show now will seem only childish. Still shaken by the vision, he acknowledges his defeat for the time being. He remains kneeling, waiting.
The Bearer lets go off the head, slowly. “You may speak."
Martin tries to look up, sways dizzily, but he is clearly not hurt. Again, he bows his head.
“Your Grace… I… I am sorry… I was just worried… But… ahem, well… it does seem… I did not realize…"
“Martin. As said at the Bearer’s Test, STATE will not rule you like the President did. But STATE will command your respect until the reign of the first elected government. Do I make myself clear?”

As she stands to leave the room, the though-voice enters her sharp and swift:
- ‘You worthless tyrant!'
STATE closes her body shell and calms strand S., who shivers.

The Ministers try not to stare as the Bearer freezes for a second or three before she resumes her movement. ‘What is going on in her?’ ‘What is she doing?’ ‘What IS she anyway? Uh, no thinking…’