Martin looks around and sees that again, Sarah is absent. ‘Having her Minister in, I suppose,’ he thinks, welcoming the anger which always gives him flow. “OK people. Let’s stop waiting for the fickle! Let’s start. Even though the government does not make haste with democracy, as we already suspected, we must make sure that we do. We cannot wait for some obsolete relic to decide on events! To all appearances, STATE has taken over the Bearer; whatever clement inclinations she has shown in the past have disappeared,”

‘Ah, his words are tedious even though he is right,’ Jan thinks while looking at Martin. ‘He is handsome though, handsome enough,’ and he keeps himself from grinning. Mrs. Grezner looks on, as usual with a disapproving crease along her mouth; it is never sure if she is there to spy on them all or out of personal sympathy with Martin’s cause; though Jan suspects she really does support Martin and that her crease is simply there to stay. Martin’s party, the Party of the People, is presenting themselves as the only true opposition of the STATE government. Many political parties are being formed to prepare for the elections, in the advent these might take place as promised more than a year ago by the Bearer. The Church of STATE had spawned a political brother, there are rumors that some of the President’s friends are meeting to put the country back to order again as soon as possible, through democratic means if necessary… So far, only Jason Almerra is refraining from going political, even though he is becoming more and more of a public figure with his eloquent rants. ‘Let’s hope people do not go for either of these,’ Jan thinks, ‘because then I prefer Martin anytime! Certainly with a Bearer who starts to go killer on us: that far away from her former self…’

Sarah sighs as her body releases after her pleasure. Johan is young and in the beginning he was a tad too eager, but he is definitely getting better and more inventive in bed. “Shouldn’t you be at Martin’s little meeting?” his voice teases and she smiles. “You know better, tiger,” she says, “then to fish for compliments so transparently…” He grins as he rolls on his back. “I don’t really like him, you know,” he adds. “He’s too direct, too blatant, no subtlety, and then, really, his manner, his dress! Party for the common People, if you ask me!” She notes the tiny tone of jealousy in his voice and is content, though she must admit he is right. ‘So happy I ditched that peacock,’ she thinks and turns over to rest her head on Johan’s chest. “Ah, Johan… No need to get worked up over him you know… Just let him fret at his little party, people will not follow that man anywhere, I assure you, not for any length of time anyway. So, who would you vote for, if elections would be held now?"
“You know the answer to that, my beauty,” he says as his warm hands stroke her buttocks under the realSilk coverlet. ‘Ah…’

Bearer of STATE for 1 year, 3 months, 0 weeks, 1 day,

The Criminal Clan’s activities are more and more transparent for STATE. The sudden demise of their leader caused a violent wave of gang related murders in the country for the first days. STATE diminishes the wealth of all members, heightening their rage. But today, a sudden quiet. The Clan members have seen that without some order the toll is too high, and they convene in the Bell’Etoile for negotiations. STATE finds that their new leader is none other than semi-religious Jason Almerra. Though not there, STATE sees how he had casually walked into the room, much like she had about a year ago. When he was threatened and frisked, he turned out to be completely unarmed. He was cold and indifferent to such an extent, that the Clan members refrained from directly killing him and had questioned him. Calmly, he told them that he would be the next Bearer of STATE, and that he had come to be their leader. As no one else came even close to his level of mind control, they had ended by unanimously accepting him.
Strand S. has a vague memory of Jason Almerra, lying still on a pillow, and his mind shows her only his desire to take STATE from her as soon as possible. Well, whatever. She has other priorities now.

The next day, Blake finds himself somehow on his own doorstep sooner than he wanted; and he starts to dread to enter his own house. ‘Sure enough, she is still there. She is always there, somewhere. It is hard to disregard her, even if she is never conspicuously present…’
To his irritation, he would often stumble on the Bearer somewhere in his study, an enormous room taking up almost a fifth of his large house. It has a vide, which could be reached by a steep flight of hardWood steps protruding directly from the whitewashed wall. Whether you stand on the top, looking down to the large desks littered with papers, or you sit in the comfortable chairs near the windows and look up, always the space’s volume soars around you. This room is Blake’s recluse, his space to think. To find it occupied by Her Grace at whatever time he would enter, bugs him more than he cares to concede. His mind is occupied, his territory invaded. He has difficulty to concentrate, to think out any strategy. Instead of his natural lateral unfolding of ideas, things jump into his consciousness, claim his attention, then seem unimportant afterwards. Suspiciously, he checks all ideas for signs of contamination. ‘I know what STATE is capable of…’ Though the Bearer does not move, does not make any sound at all, not even breathes, her presence taints his house, the space, his thinking.

For days and days, the Bearer of STATE resides in his house. Blake will not allow this to his friends or even his acquaintances and is forced to refrain from inviting customers here. A pain, because he had found that in the privacy of a house, clients would always open up more than they planned to… He succeeds in escaping the house quite often the first days, attending to his businesses, a friend’s birthday, even taking Rosa out for dinner.

Rosa cannot stop thinking of Her Grace either. She is careful with opening doors, with walking through spaces, always the chance that Her Grace is standing somewhere with eyes open yet unseeing. Also, the effect of Her Grace on Blake is unsettling.
The second night he had called her to his study, not unexpectedly because her love had sensed his strain and she knows he needs release at times like this, physical relief. She always enjoys his hard embrace, but this time was different. When she entered the study, where the lights were dimmed as she had foreseen, she had jumped because of the presence of the Bearer. She was standing next to one of the walls: unmoving, unblinking. Rosa froze but then Blake had called her name: “Come, Rosie.” ‘But surely he wouldn’t want me to, to have us do, in front of STATE?’ His voice had grown harsh, then: “Ah, don’t tell me you venerate her more than me! I said, come here.” ‘But I couldn’t. I just couldn’t…’ And then his body had ripped through the room and he had pushed her on the stairs and he had unzipped and penetrated her before she knew what was happening. She felt so ashamed, in front of STATE, to have him grunt on top of her, shoving up and up into her; it had not felt like it used to feel, it had not felt like it should feel, like it felt when her love was big inside and made her swell. It had grated and she had felt debased, well, yes, like a whore, and after he had finished she had left and lain in the bath for an hour, praying Church of STATE incantations to no avail. ‘Ah, but it is simply the strain she is putting on him, somehow STATE must be needing him badly? Hail STATE… And he is afraid, somehow, I cannot understand him always, I never could, I may never will understand him… Of course as I am simple, not like him, it is only natural…’ And she had dried her body and taken a hot milk and sleep had washed the worst away, though the shame still could come on her when she almost walked into Her Grace in the house somewhere.

Time moves incredibly tardily. An afternoon feels like a day, a minute like half an hour.
When the recurring pattern becomes too clear for him, Blake gives in. He starts to think of her. Only of her. ‘The more I’ve entered her mind, the sooner I’ll get to the point and offer her that what she came here for, that what she will not refuse. And then… then she will leave. She is just another powerful client.’ Blake is accustomed to be visited by the very powerful or the very rich, and though people in the street could never fathom what on earth there was left to want for these people, Blake well knows that there is always some wish unfulfilled. Whether personal or psychological or a fundamental uneasiness with life, or the fact that with all their power, with all their wealth, there still remained something to wish for often was a source of frustration in itself. ‘Something to be ashamed of, to hide…’ With those cases, Blake had to be extra careful and probe without seeming to, know without voicing his knowledge, and act as if his plan was just a continuation of the strategy of his client.
But, to his disappointment, with the Bearer everything is completely different. For one thing, there is an utter absence of shame, she shows no need to pull up any façade; and he knows she will see through any strategy easily. Being so out in the open unnerves him, mars his feeling of superiority, even if he is well aware that this, in turn, had always partly been the name of the game with the more powerful clients anyway.
For another thing, the more he tries to probe her, the more he has to deduce that she is a different person on any given moment. His image of the Bearer had been hopelessly simplistic; and though he still sees her as an usurper of power he soon has to conclude she is not just that. ‘Not by a long shot…’ It is completely uncertain what it is she wishes for, what her aims are, what ambitions she is trying to realize in her life. The images of her remain loose, at a loss, disjointed.
Disregarding his usual intuitive methods, he starts to browse through everything published about her, helped by Rosa. The more he reads, the more the picture gets complicated.
Not at first, the facts seem simple enough, the mythology irritatingly glorious, the King Arthur-like ascent to power, the single-handed victories, the superhuman survival skills. But when the stories sink in, the discrepancies start to gather importance. And there are no interviews, no talkative intimi, only veneration or hate, suggestive allusions and accusations. ‘I must ask her directly.’ Sitting is his study, opposite the unmoving Bearer, smoking a pipe to calm himself, he tries to frame the right questions, allowing himself to go sideways and to be as blunt as necessary: ‘Why would the most powerful person of the state allow these attacks against her and on her allies for so long? If you can read anybody’s thoughts, why could you not prevent them more efficiently?’
- ‘STATE could not fight those outside its structures.'
He recognizes the Bearer’s voice, entering his mind with a stab. ‘If only you would just speak! OK then! Next question: What was the incident about, when the capital’s energy supply crashed on one of the coldest days and the Bearer was brought home screaming like a siren?'
No answer. Blake thinks and asks: ‘Why would someone striving to be an idol go out incognito again and again, passing unnoticed between the people, absent for days?’ The answer is prompt:
- ‘STATE has to be in touch with the people.'
‘If you did intend to create a democracy, why would you allow for a Church of STATE? Why do you not control this sprawling institute?’
- ‘The people must believe what they see fit.'
Blake frowns but leaves this line of questioning. ‘Maybe later… OK: Why have you pulled the grenade at us in the Bell’Etoile and why have you in the end refrained from killing us all?’
- ‘STATE will not condone any breach of respect, but STATE will not rule by killing.'
‘Hmn. sounds easy when put like this… Nearly killed us all is what you did… Uh’
‘Why do you not persecute hate-publications spread through dataNet and other media? Why did you allow the murder of the Countess to become public, though you did fire the Guard who leaked this before the publication had become effected? Why do you not control her image more professionally?'
No answer.
Blake pulls back from Her Grace and leaves the house for a long walk on his grounds. It is a beautiful summer day and light and shadow play over the path. He walks and walks to think. Though he is aware that STATE may be reading his thoughts here also, he is as least less conscious of it here.
‘Was that what she wants from me? To strengthen and stabilize her image? Is that why she is answering some of my questions? Ah, but not all of them! I have noticed, Your Grace… If you want me to steer your image, I will need more answers! I will get more answers, watch and see…’
For some hours, he is certain that that is the reason why Her Grace is pestering him in this way. ‘She wants me to restore her image, starting by infiltrating my mind so as to make me perform better. Pah! I can form, knead and sell anybody’s image, I do not need to believe in it! I have never believed in anybody’s image, anyway!'
But the more he thinks about her image, the more difficulties he sees. ‘If only you would be a bit more normal! If only your deeds would reveal some human logic! If only you would have shown some emotions, any emotion at all, at any stage! And your growing object-like indifference does not help either. You are becoming downright repulsive, you are, unless, of course, someone does have a Church of STATE brainwash working on her!'
The Bearer does not consent or dissent with his further thought, and he casts about for any kind of reaction.

> Killer girl is gone again, prowling on the loose…
> STATE is free to move as is needed, and we , the People of ST
> ain;t nobody’s people, BigUn, at least I ain’t! you on the other hand seem to have been bought ad paid for my friend! little parcel
> you have NO IDEA what you are talking about, friend. go and sulk with that creepy Jason if you want, I am outta this OCC

Night passes and the Bearer is still in his house. Day passes and she is still in his house.
Day after day her presence seeps into his consciousness and though he fights it, his views on her are turning, tilting. ‘I even find myself thinking of the woman as Her Grace, more and more often! Why do you not communicate your request to me?’ OK, to be honest, he would have turned any assignment down outright. Apart from his personal dislike, he has friends who will be extremely offended when he suddenly swaps camp. ‘I would lose face completely, making for a very weak market position as my integrity would fray…’ Against his will, he realizes how fickle this integrity is, how tendentious, for sale.

S. smiles in the white. With no worry over Matil and the Criminal Clan taken care of, the white is wide and spacious, and after the initial rebalancing she now does not need to do much. She is listening. She is taking in the rhythms present in STATE now it is finally whole. The high whistle is modulating in subtle and enchanting ways, resonating with or tearing against the other sounds of the state: the patter of feet walking into superMarkets, the clicking of travelChips devaluing with each trip, the public transport moving like a multitude of flashing snakes through the capital and fanning out. The deep thud inside the mines, the people’s minds sleeping and waking, working and playing. She will find a way to capture the sounds of the white, soon, but she will have to wait. He is not ready, yet. Almost…