Something about the way his manservant enters with the morning papers makes the Captain look up. The man is the living example of self-effacing servitude but now emotion is visible in his face, though he keeps his eyes down and his mouth firmly closed as he lays the papers on the damask tablecloth. Irene must have noticed as well, because she frowns, but she too does not say a word, while the Bearer utters one short command: “Out.” All servants and Guards leave the room, leaving a silence highlighted by a ferocious slap of February rain against the window panes. It is then that the Captain looks down at the papers and sees enlarged pixels of a photo of the bruised face of Rachel all over the front pages. She holds her pocket ‘corder with her agenda marking the Palace appointment, in the lower right hand corner the date in December is clearly visible. Underlines state that the data sourceCode of the picture was checked and proved untampered with.
Irene gasps as she recognizes the face. “That… that is Rachel! The secretary you fired, Captain! Why did she visit the Palace, what, in December? Was that when I… when we were,” The Captain’s fist hits the face on the paper, slightly crumpling the vividly colored pixels. “That filthy slut! Should’ve kept her pretty little”
“Captain! This really IS your doing then!?” Irene only just keeps her voice from shouting out. ‘Idiot! Stupid idiot! Breaking the First Decree, and now, exactly now it becomes public knowledge. People are angry enough as it is, with the Bearer’ But she stops herself from thinking, it is treason to doubt STATE even though Irene wakes every morning wishing Her Grace would finally have set a date for the elections.
The Captain has difficulty to constrain his anger. ‘Should’ve killed that whore instantly, I should, filthy little traitor, filthy big mouth’ He cannot eat another bite, and rises. “I will see to the situation, Your Grace, Irene,” he says with short tones and starts moving when he is stopped by Irene’s voice, cutting: “You will do nothing of the sort, Captain. You will return to your seat and await judgement as the First Decree stipulates. We will not have” “I will not be judged by anyone, you hear!” he interrupts. “All this is a set-up, a hoax to put us in a fix,” he adds, “They want to set us up against each other. And they succeed instantly!” His voice is bitter. ‘Always, always she puts everything else before me.’
Irene sees his face but decides she has to be very clear about this: “Captain. Now that this is public, we have to go all the way. We will have to have a jury hear Rachel, or Raquel, as her name is spelled here, and we will have to have you testify. We cannot act” The Captain interrupts loudly: “We, we, WE! If I listen to you, it is I who will have to go through that Irene, and all that time I will be hampered, I will not be able to control the outbreaks of violence that are happening more and more often! I will not be there to suppress the violence rising when the elections are there! This is NOT a time to unhand the Head of the National Forces! Rachel again is working for the President’s camp and I would not be surprised if that someone is Matil, who’s just succeeded in lulling us to sleep with his so-called death as the Countess. Rachel is a puppet, Irene, and all this is no coincidence. I will have her brought in and I will have her questioned. She cannot just pull the First Decree against me, she can’t!"
“The Captain is right.” The voice of the Bearer is clear in the room and Irene stares at her. ‘Why does she speak out for him now? Why does she let him think Matil is still alive? Why does all of this have to happen, now… we are so close to elections,’
And STATE knows that this is just what was needed. The Captain will have the securiPolice arrest Raquel and two days later she will be found beaten to death in her cell. Though the Captain in fact has nothing to do with her murder, everyone will assume he ordered her death. Martin will rage with loss because he will make himself believe his lust was his great and only love; he will swear revenge. He will force Blake to actively start working again, he will use the knowledge of Mc Kinsey and Jan and the press machine of Jason to full effect, and bit by bit he will at last generate enough hatred to make it work. To’
> We are ready for those elections, and why, why are they not planned yet?
> Because she is a filthy dictator os what she is! She never planned to hold those elections! She’s just gonna have us hang in here for ever and ever, till we are ripe like black plums and splash to the ground. She will trample us there and then, I tell you, ‘cause she does not give a shit for us, for our lives, or for anything I tell you! she is an object!
> an abject object
> well, don’t care so much about her, i just wanna have that filthy captian ended now before he digs another lass and beats her to death, just tha same they all are, men of power, yuck
> And we are the people that let them be! We allow this to happen. No we won’t! Not anymore! Come to the market place
> because we are the people
> come to the market place, where she bombed our people to death!
> Meet at the market place, spread the word!
>TODAY’S HEADLINES: Crowds are gathering at the market place, shouting for the Bearer and her government to step down! More news later! Stay tuned.
Bearer of STATE for 2 years, 0 months, 0 weeks, 3 days, 3 hours and 20 minutes
S. slips down the servants’ stairs to the ground floor. For some time now, she descends to the kitchens to be in the calm presence of Cook, as Mrs. Belzwynski insisted she would call her. The Cook had come over her reverence quite quickly, though Lizzie still was jumpy as a mouse in the Bearer’s vicinity.
14:32 p.m. on a stormy March Tuesday
‘What a tense day…’ Since yesterday night, more and more people have joined the demonstrations on the market square, calling for the Bearer to step down. Served by Susan, Irene tries to drink some tea and relax, but she cannot. The Captain’s research showed who is feeding the people’s hatred, who is urging them on. Martin Rislers, and, the mind of many a media campaign, Blake Feyman. For some reason, Jason’s had his followers turn to Martin’s Party of the People, after what they called his mindFuck by STATE. They clearly have contacts within the Palace because detailed information is leaked, for instance about the Bearer sitting still like a doll in the kitchen.
And now Martin is calling the people to him, through dataFlow and dataNet, his actions life on NationalTV. He does not have the patience to wait for the elections. And the people agree.
And Irene is just so tired, she cannot fight the impotent rage filling her all these months anymore. The though just slips in: ‘The Bearer has to go. The Bearer has to go. The Bearer has to go’ Shocked, she tries to get a grip on herself. Instead, a lump chokes her throat and in the blue of her chambers she just sits and stares.
The Cook is busy, preparing dinner. Lizzie is cleaning a huge pile of princess beans, the Cook is frying meat for the servants.
“Shall I get the potatoes?” the Bearer asks. The Cook is used to having a Bearer of STATE mindreading the next household chore and nods gratefully. “If you would, Your Grace, yes, please…”
S. opens the narrow door leading to the potato cellar. Without turning on the light, she walks down the few well-used steps. This cellar is built especially for potatoes, and the walls are impregnated with clay, rubbed off hundreds of years of potatoes piled up for Palace use. It smells earthy and slightly dusty. It smells like being interred again.
She takes a huge jute bag of potatoes and lifts it easily. For one more moment, she stays inside, in the dark, in the quiet… But even a short stay will make the Cook come down and look for her, so she brings the potatoes up to the kitchen. On the table, she starts selecting them on size. Just holding a potato briefly with two hands makes STATE yield its exact volume, up to a hundred’s precise.
It is exactly the right kind of thing to do now. It calms her down and lets her sink in STATE without getting too immersed in her white turbulence. Things are changing rapidly, every minute the balance is tipping. The moment is approaching… it is almost here.
S. knows that Irene would have preferred to be given more time, to give the people more time. Are they ready for it? Would the democracy last without turning into a puppet show? STATE knows every democracy has a core of autocracy: not many humans are eager to take on the power to rule. And the ones who do, do not easily share their hard-won powers. It is only human. But there is a difference between absolute suppression and a concentration of power, a gradual one, and STATE wonders if it is possible to keep the people safe this time. Would the state survive the turbulence and not revert to a dictatorship again? Still, a little more time would never be enough. After so many years of dictatorship, people are simply too afraid to think for themselves. The longer the Bearer of STATE is in charge of changes, the more people will remain in their old habit of looking up at her for all decisions, instead of starting to formulate their own solutions. No. The Bearer must go. The Bearer of STATE should be destroyed, publicly and utterly. STATE shall have to disappear. The moment is near: STATE powers are slipping, dispersing in the turbulence. The coherence of STATE is fraying, displaying a strand she had almost forgotten: S.. There is only one thing for her to do… and she automatically measures and orders all potatoes waiting for exactly the right moment to face it.
Slowly, the table fills with rows of sometimes uneven looking potatoes, ordered according to their precise size. The Cook glances at her but lets her be, knowing that there must be grave things on the Bearer’s mind on a day like today.
> She the Filth will come to her end at the Hands of the People. Today. Be there.
[As is the Word of Jason A. the One]
The Head of House, Mr. Bas, looks into the kitchen to find Her Grace bent over rows of potatoes. Discretely, he coughs and returns upstairs to notify the Captain of Her Grace’s whereabouts.
The past hour, the Captain had been pacing his rooms in growing unrest, afraid the Bearer would venture out this afternoon. ‘You never know with her, eh, hail STATE…’ Now he finally knows where she is, the Captain decides to go down. In passing, he has Her Excellency notified and to his surprise, Her Excellency accompanies him downstairs. They find the Bearer, just having finished ordering all ten kilos of potatoes. Her hands are covered in mud, her nails blackened.
When they enter the kitchen, S. looks up, ready to say what she has to tell them. “Irene. Captain. Do sit down.” She looks at their familiar faces. “Captain. Irene. It is time. STATE will go out to the people.”
At once, everybody present exclaims: “But, S., please!” “Your Grace!” “No!” “Please… Why?"
The Captain says: “No, Your Grace! Do you have to give in to this masquerade, organized by these ungrateful traitors? The people there do not represent the people of STATE! They are just commotion-seekers, looking for some event to vent their own private frustrations, their”
“Exactly. There are many private frustrations. So many, that they have started to amass more weight then they are actually worth. And yes, Martin Rislers is very professionally fanning their displeasure into anger, and aiming that anger at STATE. I know.
Tomorrow, many of these people will awake, shocked at their own deeds, not comprehending why they have allowed themselves to be pushed so far. STATE knows.
But it is time for the Bearer of STATE to go.”
Irene has regained her voice: “No! S., we still need you… The elections are not scheduled yet! We cannot allow Martin to usurp the power just like that! Without you, we have to start all over! We will have to redo all the changes we have worked for so hard… Please, S., give us more time…”
S. looks at her imploring face. “Yes, Irene… STATE also looked for more time… But it is not there. This is not a personal decision, as you well know. STATE has decided. The Bearer must go.”
The Captain bows his head. “Your Grace… S., I will not go against you again. It is my duty to do as STATE orders. But I would rather”
“You are ordered to let me go, Captain, Irene. It is time for change. STATE cannot foresee what will happen, there. And we do not care.”
Irene presses her fingers against each other, hard. “But… S.! What if you do not come back? What shall we do when it goes wrong? We cannot leave STATE lying there for some person to pick it up! I cannot bear the idea of someone else taking your place, S.!”
The Bearer says: “You must see to it that the Bearer’s Bed is placed over STATE. Martin and his allies will agree to that. They are as afraid of a new Bearer as you are. The slab of stone will seal STATE off for at least some time… if there is anything left, that is.” Irene tries not to think what might happen to Her Grace. ‘We are not ready, there will be war, what can I do,’ but the though-voice of Her Grace interrupts her thinking: ‘Irene. The elections are organized, the people await them. Martin will hold the election and then we will have a President-Elect. You have done everything to prepare this. We cannot do more.’
> BREAKING NEWS: More and more people converge on the market place. Army hover near but as yet make no move. More news later!
Rising, the Captain straightens his uniform. Solemnly, he speaks: “Your Grace. It is my honor and my duty to accompany you to the end. Please allow me some last”
“No, Captain. It is your duty to fulfill my last command. You have to make sure that Irene and you get away safely, to this address. I have opened an account on your names, and you can both live off that for some time. Cook can help you with some inconspicuous clothes.”
Cook nods, sadly.
Looking at the Captain and Irene, S.' thought-voice continues: ‘After we have left instructions about the slab, you two must leave the Palace together, immediately, to this address.’ She gives them the address of Anna’s house. ‘Jan has left already.’ And S. catches a brief flash of the well-dressed man moving towards the market place. She resumes aloud: “You are just as much symbol of my reign as I am; and you will be taken to prison, tortured and maybe killed. STATE will not allow you to undergo torture because of me, Irene, Captain. STATE can only go if you two will be safe. And STATE has to go… it is vital. Let go,”
The Cook starts to cry. ‘What will happen to them, to the Palace, to the state??’ “Please, Your Grace… Why..? Why you? Why do you have to go…? Please… stay”
The Bearer rises and looks at Cook with a detached smile. “STATE has to go. STATE is prepared and ready. I will change for the occasion.” And composed, the Bearer wipes her muddy hands on a damp towel. She is not thorough, and the last detail Cook sees of Her Grace are the grayish white hands with brown-black rims under the nails. ‘The Bearer of STATE!’
The Captain has turned away, trying to console the crying Irene. While STATE sends out an alert to distract Mr. Blas and the servants to the other wing, he packs his most informal wear, his ‘Corder with personal files, and some objects of value. Few of his clothes he can take: all his full wardrobes hold formal suits and uniforms… ‘So this is what I leave behind, quality caging. Just hope I can leave the suspicions behind as well, all this hate…’ And from a hidden drawer he takes out a hand-made mustache of his own hair and very carefully sticks it on his upper lip, selects a cap to hide his head. Then he goes to find Irene.
Irene with some difficulty has found the clothes she wore on the day two years ago that Her Grace came to take her from the Palace office. The skirt looks shabby and pillaged, though it had seemed new to her at the tme. After brief reflection she puts a few of the more subdued new dresses in her bag. She looks from the window and stares. Dressed in the white gown she wore on the Days of Souls, barefoot, the Bearer walks away from the Palace. Irene cannot help but look after her as she disappears between the dark rhododendrons. Her Grace had refused the limo, saying that STATE cannot be brought to the people; saying she has to walk there, herself. Luckily the Cook would smuggle the Captain and Irene out with her small car. ‘She must be waiting, I’d better hurry!’ Irene sighs unhappily, then turns to pack the rest as she had ordered her. ‘I wanted to leave this place so many times, and now, now I want all to just stay the same…’