While Hank retreats to the back and Rosa behind the door, the Bearer follows Blake Feyman inside. In the huge vestibule, Rosa holds up her hands to catch Her Grace’s short cloak. She is very careful not to touch the Bearer. Having avidly imbued a multitude of often contradictory dataNet stories about the Bearer’s deadly flesh and STATE powers, Rosa prays the Church of STATE incantations for forgiveness as she steps back to store Her Grace’s grey cloak in the cupboard. ‘Her Grace! In our house!’
Blake is very much less impressed. He has seen the Bearer before, but from afar, at the Reception of STATE. In his own house, he takes the opportunity to observe her without any hesitation. Barely civil, he stands there, taking a good look at the Bearer of STATE.
> The filthy Seed has finally shown her true Face: the Face of Murder. We will have to end it.
[As is the Word of Jason A. the One]
Bearer of STATE for 1 year, 3 months, 0 weeks, 0 days, 8 hours and
S. stands very still, she is in no hurry to go anywhere. In the distance, the cold thought-voice tries to get through to her, addressing her again with some disrespectful epithet, this time referring to the murder of the Countess; but she does not allow him passage.
The Bearer’s eyes are almost white and her skin is supple and metalloid with a silicon sheen.
‘She could be an armor’, Rosa thinks, while passing them on her way to the kitchens, ‘a husk with the potential to come to life’. Then, shocked at her impudence, she recites some other incantation. Her master, Blake, turns to her and she looks into his brown eyes before lowering hers.
“Is dinner almost ready, Rosa? Have it served in the dining room, in style for our almighty guest tonight.” He turns to the Bearer: “Your Grace, if you would follow me…”
While Rosa rushes away to make sure the dinner will be served with the right grandeur, the Bearer and Blake Feyman enter the dining room’s cozy antechamber. Without asking, the Bearer sits down in a huge realWooden chair near the fire. Without asking, Blake sits in the other chair, lights a cigarette and inhales. They remain like that.
The Bearer does not move at all, still like a carving. Five minutes pass.
Blake moves only to extinguish his cigarette, and then, after too brief a pause, to light a new one. He attempts to out-freeze her, but now a crease cuts in his leg and he shifts, then the fire heats his leg a tad too much and he moves again. Ten minutes. His hands do need the cigarette to remain occupied with dignity. Already, he hates Her Grace for luring him into losing, he hopes she will just tell her business and go. ‘But first I will prove to be a good host. I’ve been her guest, now she is mine. Maybe I will not pull a grenade at her, ha! Hmn. No thinking’
The silence is accentuated by the sudden sound of the door opening. Dressed in a simple but elegant black suit with a yellow frilled realSilk shirt just showing, Mrs. Sarah Feyman enters the room and walks gingerly through the intense quiet towards the fire. Informed by Rosa, she keeps her eyes down and her thoughts at bay and bows for Her Grace before seating herself.
She is happy that her irritation has flared with Rosa and is safely covered now. ‘The Bearer reads thoughts and punishes those against her without any human compassion… Oh… Hail STATE… Hail the Bearer of STATE…’ Sarah glances at her husband to measure his irritation and smiles to herself. ‘So, his composure is sagging already! Oh, Johan is so much stronger… Ah… No thinking’
Rosa enters and offers them some drinks. For the master and mistress the usual, for Her Grace a glass of water which Her Graces deigns to accept. Silence, as Blake and Sarah do not have much to say to each other usually, and certainly not now. Again, it takes some ten minutes before Rosa calls them into the dining room.
The long table has been set with the finest porcelain and the gilded cutlery. For the master, on one end of the table. To his right for his unfaithful wife, Sarah. Then down at the other end, facing the door, for Her Grace.
The mahogany is covered with very white damask, stretching 7,80 meter from end to end. The 5 modern silver chandeliers carry loads of old-fashioned realWax candles, their tiny flames flickering and making the white a jumble of lighter and darker patches.
S. looks down at her thin fingers before attending to something in STATE. All the material manifestations of this location color the texture of STATE. Sensitive to context, a military parade would affect STATE differently than this rich and influential man’s house. Different patterns are dominant, different aspects come to the fore… Life is transparent, if she cares for it to be so, a cascade of influences: all the movements of the considerable amount of servants in the house and of their social interrelations, the flow of power consumed to heat and lighten and safeguard this house, the electronic system scanning the grounds and closing the gates, the mobiPhones connecting to people outside this fortress, the various computers' dataNet and dataFlow connections continually checking for information and subtly pinging with each set of retrievals.
The mahogany of the table reflecting the lamp light when the table was being set earlier, the servants bustling about to prepare the table, the bursts of rain moving over the grounds, now wetting the roofs of the stables, now pock-marking the surface of the pool, now hitting onto the roof above them before a gust if wind relocates them again and again. The white stretch of damask evokes a fleeting vision of strong short fingers holding a napkin with a stain of blood.
BROAD DAYLIGHT KILLING! This afternoon, people in the shopping centre looked on shocked at a brutal hit and run murder, leaving one victim dead. Police say the victim is gang leader L.Z., known for his friends as Zacha. The Police are as yet unsure of the reasons…
COUNTESS MURDERED BY BEARER, CLAIMS GUARD. This morning, G.R. waiting on Her Grace, witnessed the brutal strangulation of the Countess by Her Grace’s very own hands, he claims. Insiders say tha Countess was a welcome though irregular guest at the Palace…
The Bearer does not react to the food being served to her and sits unmoving through the starters. Rosa, of course, has expected this and had instructed the servants to just offer food once and then back off as if nothing has happened. “Her Grace the bearer of Light does not need sustenance… Hail STATE'
Sarah refrains from thinking too much; her coverage of this morning’s killing of the Countess is being broadcasted as they eat. ‘STATE must know, so maybe she is here to punish? But she could have done so more efficiently, send some Police and basta… No, she is here for another reason. What..? Ah well, no thinking, no judging, we will see…’ But clearly, Blake has difficulty to stay open minded and relaxed. He drinks his wine too fast. He bites into his food as if he wants to hurt it. After the main course is served and all servants have left the room, he puts down his cutlery with a clonk. “So. Your Grace. What can we do for you?” Both Blake and Sarah look at the Bearer for response.
Silence. It takes some time before she seems to even look at them. ‘What is she here for?!'
“Blake, maybe…” Sarah Feyman begins, but the Bearer of STATE interrupts by lifting two fingers. She opens her strange eyes and looks at the couple sitting there; and even now she does not speak.
Of course, STATE is privy to the fact they both have other partners by now, and that the third party, keeping their married state together for some time already, is Rosa, who should be seated equal to them. Their only daughter is away to some expensive boarding school.
Sarah is the successful dataFlow and NationalTV producer, predominantly of news items. Everybody in the media business knows her name, as well as many people nationwide, as she started out as newsreader; and though less people know him, STATE knows that Blake Feyman is by far more influential.
Blake has a quick brain for creative marketing ideas. When still an art school advertising student, he had begun to set up his own companies to do his thing. His is a very visual way of thinking. Never very adept with the written word, he is exceedingly good at seeing structures, connections, systems – and he connects to all of this information while assessing his client. It did not take him long to realize that behind the small deals, bigger deals hid. Behind any advertising campaign, some conscious or implicit scheme of positioning a brand and routing it to success pulled decisions. The many different views on the nature of a product’s success, could, when not aligned properly within a company or team, obstructed creation and make failure imminent. With his good sense of the power structures behind the top-level business decisions, Blake has become a remarkable player on the top CEOs’ personal agendas. He can feel what people are after, what image of themselves they prefer to project and consequently how he can best address them. He now is the top advisor on marketing strategies for most leading companies in various fields and a specialist on branding and ‘image’. STATE is here for him.
What does he know about STATE? Without further ado she enters his mind. His hatred for her is the first she encounters. It is not an uncommon experience to be plunged into someone’s hatred for STATE, but Blake’s hatred is fed with more visual research than most.
Image after image of the Bearer of STATE enters her.
- Arching in the air while falling on the first day.
- Lying in the charred leftovers of the limo’s couch and staring in the lens.
- A blurry figure of the Bearer leaving Parliament after the Test with Irene and Guards.
- The small silhouette of the Bearer, seen from the back, watching the Palace of Pleasures lain in ruins by her hands.
- The Bearer, walking through a throng of people in the shopping centre, her arms lifted sideways, people touching her hands.
- An unsharp snapshot from obviously a hidden camera of the Bearer exiting the Grand Hotel in the snow, a Guard following her with skis.
- Sitting amidst the debris of the market halls after the Day of Souls, part of the roof floating above her, dusted with a layer of ashes.
- Standing in the Bell’Etoile, holding a grenade in one hand, the pin in the other, the uncanny white obliterating all thoughts afterwards.
- Stepping out of the limo, radiating light.
This is not STATE. S. nods, affirming her earlier decision. STATE will have to change. But first, he should know…
S. pulls back. Not this way. He is way too clever to be entered so frontally and Martin is not quite ready. STATE needs more time and there is no reason at all why she will not take it.
S. sits back, her white eyes blink. “I change the time in your house,” she says with deliberation, the line vaguely recalling a song she had once known, a long, long time ago.
Dismayed, Sarah looks at her husband, but he tries to shrug it off. She sees how his strong shoulders tense and a muscle shows on his cheek as he swallows. ‘An open book, he is, for me and for anyone. Why Rosa allows him to keep using her escapes me… But ah, her choices are hers to make!’
“Whatever suits Your Grace,” Blake says indifferently, anger building inside. ‘I will not let you get to me. I will not!’