> woooah what’s happening now?
> things are speeding up, good thing there is no dealing now
> good thing indeed AndyJ, only on dataFlowmarket, but that’s small fish compared
> like the money’s become fluid, I’d almost say… weird, mever saw something like it must say

S. forces herself to blink.
It is such a puny act, but she can break the rhythm only that way, by focusing her attention on the small almost automatic movement of her eyelids.
Very slowly, her heart does calm down a bit. Still, she is held by the red. She blinks again.
Sticky, like blood, the warm and wet is slowing down. Again, she forces her eyes to blink. The thumping stops, the warm red is stagnant, then cools down, solidifying slowly. The red darkens slightly, turns to brown.
Brown. Dark reddish brown.
Thick crusts form all over her. They encase her body shell, making every movement painful as the crust is made of her own blood. Thick smelly solid blood. She yearns for the thumping movement, the celebration of life.
Matilde. Matilde. Matilde. Matilde. Matilde. Matilde
Matilde. Matilde. Matilde. Matilde. Matilde. Matilde
Then, S. knows what to do.
She tears a rectangle from her dried blood and - Ploink! - inserts it into the red.
An infinitesimal moment, nothing happens.
A total surprise.
All at once, everything turns to a pinkish white. Then, the pink becomes clearer and lighter. The red dissolves into white. The blood is gone. STATE is free, for now…

Some color returns to the Bearer’s cheeks. Her hands slowly loosen, her shoulder muscles' tension lessens. But she keeps her eyes closed. The Captain does not know what to do, and is happy he sees Jan approaching.

Bearer of STATE for 1 year, 1 month, 0 weeks, 0 days, 10 hours and 36

S. rests in the white.
Bit by bit, her heart rate returns to its usual, almost imperceptible rhythm.
Before she opens her eyes, she must know what just happened. Did the Countess do that? Did thinking of the President trigger it?
The intimate connection between the Countess and the President is not a real surprise, but it being sex-oriented was. She still feels the thrill of his lust for her, and she has extrapolated how lust was normally consummated in slaughter with him. So how did the Countess survive?
Maybe the President was still only Charles, not powerful enough yet to kill at leisure? But his lust for her had lasted, and he was not the man to let the object of his desire go, especially with his powers… What had their relation been all these years?
STATE yields a flash of information: the Countess, flushed, showing him her bloodied just-born son with a strange business-like gesture, almost like opening a briefcase with banknotes at a ransom exchange… In the brief glimpse, STATE senses many emotions between them: longing and hate, lust and repulsion, awe.
Matilde, Matilde, Matilde, Matilde, Matilde…
She had borne the President’s son. The son STATE had killed on the first day in Parliament.
But Matilde had not just been the obliging womb. The son’s existence had been planned and delivered according to plan. He had been a pawn in their dealings, embodying a complicated truce. What exactly are her powers?
Who is she?
STATE searches all data for anything regarding the Countess, though it proves to be hard. The data is cursory and incomplete. Even retrieving her full name is difficult, which is strange as S. had assumed that as Countess she must have some aristocratic background, making tracing her family easy. But this apparently is a lie. It helps that S. knows her name, her real name, Matilde, spelled in an old-fashioned way, and STATE has a rough age-estimate. Only one piece of information in the relevant year-span makes sense, registering a found child under the name of Matilde Bertrand at an orphanage in one of the smaller cities near the capital.
After that, nothing. No school, no diplomas, no paychecks, no bank accounts, no dataFlow subscriptions, no mobiPhone accounts, nothing, nothing, nothing, until much, much later.
What was she like?
S. concentrates and sees a bony girl with large brown eyes, walking very calmly along the street. She is walking the streets every day, but what for? Is she stealing? Is she a courier of some kind? Is she forced into selling herself, already?
It is only natural for strand S. to connect to the lonely, underfed girl, walking tough through the streets, and she is sorry for her.
But… Stop. Who is generating this image..? Has the Countess access to her here? She may have a talent for planting images and stories inside people, luring her into falsities. Maybe also the whole story between her and the President was an illusion?
- But… no. That part is true, though its exact nature remains hazy.
STATE has to pull back a bit… She does not need to get submersed into the Countess' life story. Obviously, the girl had obtained some criminal connections, one way or the other. She must have lived off something, and if there is no money earned the official way, there must have been illegal ways.
So, she has remarkable survival skills. So, she is clever and pretty, and knows how to sell what to whom, she knows what to show to whom. So, she is very well-trained in using her mind.
The name turns around in S., in STATE. It rings a bell, vaguely… the sounds resonates… but what with?
Another flash. A semi-dark room, very opulent, the hangings closed as the presence of Guards can be sensed through the thick burgundy velvet.
He is heaving over her, her belly panting, whole and shiny in the soft light,
her belly blooming blood, ripped and
No! With all her might, she pulls back, hastily.
She is out just in time.
Trying another angle, STATE opens the President’s records. He has many, very detailed records, though bits of data are missing, the loose ends carefully hidden. Was there any financial evidence of his relation with the Countess? Did he support her, pay for a nice well-hidden palace with personnel for her, his mistress?
No. There is no trace of that.
Hmn… Something distracts her… she is being called… carefully touched…

S. opens her eyes and looks into Irene’s face, Irene who is bending over her in concern. Jan is taking her pulse, frowning. The Captain says: “Your Grace… Are you alright? Do you… Would you want to rest?"
A whole circle of important-looking people surrounds her, looking on very reverent and concerned in a cacophony of thoughts. Irritated, S. shakes her head once. “No. Some work cannot wait!”

> Party of yhe People, that’s what I say!
> yhe? haha
> Party of the People! Today, all of them are celebrating the first year of her reign. A year too long, is what I say
> haha you’re not saying anything Bud, just writing ;-)
> Come off it, Jay! Any way, all the top people of the STATE government are there, and we could just
> No Bud, no way I’m gonna let you even type that! We might be banned for all I know! She would know, wouldn’t she? Knows everything, she does! Hail STATE! Hail the Bearer

Looking at the Captain for permission, the Bell’Etoile manager softly says: “Eh, Your Grace…” Very carefully, Maurice approaches one step and bows deeper. “Ehmn… Forgive me… But dinner is ready to be served upstairs… If Your Grace would be ready, maybe it would be possible to give the sign?” The Bearer rises and people back off instantly. The Countess rises as well.
A sudden quiet as everybody stops speaking and follows the Bearer of STATE to the dining room, only the swishing of expensive textiles moving against themselves and over thighs.

Bearer of STATE for 1 year, 1 month, 0 weeks, 0 days, 10 hours and 57

In the back of her consciousness, a deep bass is throbbing. Thump. Thump. Thump. Thump. The red is there, moving round and round.
No. No.
Though distracted, S. performs her duty as host. She turns her attention to her exterior, to the skein these humans covertly observe. Looking straight in front of her, she calmly walks up the beautifully curving stairs to the first floor. There is no wavering in her movements as they are one with STATE, full of fluid power.

  • ‘You filthy nothing,'
    A brief taste of dried blood, S. swallows hastily and continues to walk.

Guards flank her and servants bow nervously as she passes. Upstairs, the landing is lined with high partitioned windows, gleaming black with white dots where the lights reflect in them. An automatic reticence makes strand S. hesitate before passing them.
‘Your Grace… Is something the matter?’ the Captain though-voice asks. ‘I have Guards outside, they have combed the grounds, Your Grace… We have helicopter assistance and extra dataFlow monitoring. You safely can walk there, Your Grace, unless, of course’ But S. has already continued walking. Nothing will happen tonight, and STATE suddenly and inexplicably clearly knows the cause. The Countess’ presence.

Curtseying servants indicate where the Bearer is expected to enter.
A huge, cream-colored dining hall opens before them, almost completely filled with a big U-shaped table. At the head, there is a small dais with a golden chair.
Just inside the hall, the Bearer halts abruptly. Behind her, guests bump into each other, halting for Her Grace to take her place. But she beckons them to enter. In small groups, almost shyly, they walk into the room, and to their surprise the Bearer personally assigns them a place, her face unmoving. STATE positions all eighty-nine guests in a seemingly haphazard table arrangement before the Bearer walks to her seat at the head of the U.
Everybody is seated as the Bearer is seated.
The Captain, at the Bearer’s left hand, whispers: “If it is alright with you, Your Grace, you can beckon for the dinner to begin…” And so, she does.
Servants stream in, carrying silver and golden plates with exquisite starters. Glasses are filled and people introduce themselves to their table-companions, whom more often than not, they have never met.

Bearer of STATE for 1 year, 1 month, 0 weeks, 0 days, 11 hours and 03

S. would prefer to have another role, but the Bearer has to keep up appearances. She clears her throat and the whole hall is silent. “Everybody. Welcome to the Reception of STATE.
Before we start, a short word. STATE has ruled you for one year. In the near future, you will rule yourselves. STATE has placed you in this specific order for a reason. You can learn from each other. Use your time well! Enjoy the meal."
The hall is filled with smells of food, and the refined sound of gilded cutlery clinking against the thin porcelain plates, crystal glasses tinkling against each other. After the first mouthfuls, the guests are starting exploratory conversations with their neighbors.

> it is underway
> what is, pauly?
> the first Reception of STATE
> what, you sounds like you wanna be there pal!
> Well, Heavy, yes, if such an honor would be bestowed
> cut it Paul! who are you nyways?
> does not matter who I am. What matters is that we are lucky to live and see the rule of STATE! We who can bask in the Light of STATE!
> Hmnpf, that’s what I say to that, Paul! what d’I care about state if I still have to work me ass off? hmn? whatever!
> Trust STATE, Heavy! Trust the Bearer of STATE… The Bringer of Life and Light
> WHATEVER pauly! and cut that church stuff

The Bearer sits very still, her anger at his negligence still visible in the tightness of her body, the absence in her gaze. Bowing very carefully, Bernard offers Her Grace the finest food on solid gold plates; the Bearer disregards him completely. Every refusal a rebuke, Bernard withdraws in fear. The blisters on his hands sting.

Seated on her right, Irene looks at Her Grace, her blue eyes concerned. ‘Your Grace…
S., please… Just take something… It must have been a long day, you’ But the Bearer closes her eyes and does not even answer through her mind. Irene forces herself to continue eating, trying to be as open and friendly as she can to the guests seated near her, to make up for Her Grace’s lack of interest.

While they are eating, guests steal glances at the Bearer of STATE. Their host is behaving strangely, by all accounts. Sitting there, still as a rock, with her eyes closed like she is in meditation, not eating or drinking anything. ‘How different from the President!’ He would eat a lot and drink even more, and then become inventive in his ways of eating and drinking. Softly biting raw oysters from the ladies' breasts, washing his hands in champagne, ordering the most outrageous dishes and expecting them to arrive within minutes, playing with his knives…

In the red dark behind her eyelids, S. longs for the white. She belongs there, not here. She wills the white to come and take her in. But it does not come, STATE makes sure she stays in the here and now. She has to remain alert, the Countess is close, very close. But the Countess' mind is empty, as before. Why? Who is she? S. turns her focus to her physical presence. In the flesh of her body shell, the soft thumping of her blood. Thump. Thump. Thump. Thump. Thump. Thump.
S. withdraws from the physicality, tries to observe without being drawn into it.
Outside her body shell, a clattering of thought–voices, clearly audible. S. is acutely aware of the guests' comparisons, their vague disappointment in their leader becoming louder and louder, precluding other thoughts. ‘just another woman.’ ‘does not even look the part, look, mousy’ ‘What was all that about?’ ‘… cannot punish even a servant! What good’s a leader like that! This country’s’ ‘Calm, she is, so calm..! What is going on’ ‘need a ruler, not this!’ ‘Near future? wonder when that will be, hmn?'
Inevitably, her irritation builds into anger.
‘In old times, things at least were clear… and now? Just chaos, nothing’ ‘Hail the Bearer of STATE!’ ‘Is she ill, or what?’ ‘Took away my brother, she did, at that insane Day of Souls… Who does she think’ ‘Martin is right to leave this parrot show’ ‘Wasn’t there again, last meeting. Why did she select me personally as Minister if she does not care what I do? Uh… no thinking…’ ‘Killer, that’s what you are, little killer hypocrite’
The anger swells in STATE, hot liquid air. It burns. It burns and expands even more. It fills her like her anger at Irene’s poisoned dress had filled her, completely, and the burning STATE makes her forget about the Countess, even about the friends of STATE. The thumping becomes louder again, louder. It throbs in her throat as a deep bass, louder and louder and louder. The whining whispers and disappears, only the very high and very low tones remain, tearing at her. As the burning throbs with the thumping, their combined heat flares. Stupid filthy little humans. Stinking throbbing skinbags of blood. Thump! Thump! Thump! Thump! Thump! Thump! Thump!
She is covered in blood now, covered in hot blood…
Thump! Thump! Thump! Thump! Thump! Thump! Thump!