“NO! Noooooooooooo!” Screaming, the Bearer sits upright on her stone Bed. The curtains are drawn, the room semi-dark. Outside, there is some daylight, and as always, a bed-side light is on. But the Bearer does not look at the curtains. She has her eyes closed.
The dark silhouette of a man, approaching.
Her body taped onto a hard chair, cheapWood jutting into her side, her arms stretched too far backwards, her legs opened, feet taped onto the chair’s legs. The broad tape over her face, only leaving the eyes and nose open, the nostrils too small to inhale enough oxygen for the heaving body.
Struggling to move she can only tighten the muscles in fear.
The uncertainty of where he will touch her this time. Where will the pain hit? Her body crawls with the anticipation of being hurt, again.
The man laughs cruelly. “So, now! Now it is my turn, to see you fear me…”
Just before the pain hits, S. finds herself, again, on the stone bed.
The door opens, a slit of light entering and disappearing, the soft glow of a lamp revealing a uniformed man, standing there and facing her. Slowly, he approaches her. His figure is dark and the body glands activate the basal impulse to flee.
S. tries to scramble away from him, but the muscles do not react as they should do. Her hands push in the air, her voice is whining: “P… Please….no…. Not again… Please, don’t… don’t hurt me… please, I did not do anything!” Her breath comes in short sharp intakes. She ducks away, fleetingly surprised that she is able to, then again finds herself in the body, strapped to the chair in this other room. The man is very close now, a black lump occupying all space. She cannot close her nostrils against his breath, under the tongue spray his breath is smelly like a sick dog.
What is he holding?
In the semi-dark a metal object briefly catches some light. A sharp point, a spiral... A corkscrew.
“Now, what can I do with this? Let me think…” The man’s voice is smooth and mellow and familiar, somehow... Teasingly, the man draws lines over the skin of her legs. It does not really hurt, but the anticipation of what might come next makes his every move a menace.
Her body has already been hurt, her toes ache terribly.
What is he going to do now…?
S. fights to open her eyes.
Again, the uniformed man is there, closer now. He is bending over her.
The Guard hesitates, watching Her Grace with alarm. The Bearer is screaming and breathing way too fast. ‘Is she in pain? Poisoned? But’ Again, she tries to crawl away, but has to stop against the wall. ‘She pushes against it as if she hopes it will take her in... What is wrong? The light is on, so that can’t be it..’
“No… Please… don’t… Please do not harm me…” She starts to sob.
The Guard lowers himself, coughs politely: “Er… Your Grace…”
“No! I am not her!
I do not know! I don’t know where she is!
The Bearer’s body shakes uncontrollably. She makes herself as small as possible, clutching her own arms so tight that the flesh whitens around her fingers. “Don’t… please, stop… Don’t do this to me, pleaheeeease… Go away!”
The Guard withdraws obediently. ‘This is terrible... What to do… The Captain is asleep, recovering from his wound, I shouldn’t disturb him... But who? Oh, yes!’ And he rushes off.
“Doctor, Doctor, please come! Her Grace is having the most terrible nightmare… You know she has had this experience with… ahem… well, with torture, sir… And I think she is reliving it in her nightmare. She does not wake up, she is terrified and screams and screams like she is in terrible pain, sir… And she will not allow me near her. Please Doctor, sir… Come as you are…”
Jan slips into a realSilk velvet dressing gown and follows the Guard. Briefly, he considers calling Doctor Werther as well, but he is secretly happy with the chance to check on Her Grace himself and the old lunatic probably is not worth much anyway. ‘Though not drinking as much as he used to, he still is often inebriated, especially at this hour...’
The past month, Jan has been studying hard on all topics related to the Bearer’s Disease. He has reread Doctor Wertheim’s manuscripts, and Professor de Parry’s, had compared notes and drawn his own conclusions. He had even obtained a blood sample from Her Grace and had investigated its composition. ‘But the Bearer, the Captain and Her Excellency have been so busy that I’ve never had the opportunity to present my research and opinions to them. And Her Grace never cared about my research, that’s the truth!’ What stung him most, was that Her Grace clearly preferred Doctor Werther to him.
On entering the Bearer’s bedroom, he immediately guesses that Her Grace is not having a regular nightmare. He knows from both Werther and De Parry about the Bearer’s abilities to enter into the experience of another person, and saw what seemed to be this impersonation at the Day of Souls. According to Werther, this could mean STATE was showing something important or the Bearer having bonded to someone. According to De Parry, this simply showed that the Bearer of STATE had no delineated personality, and could at this stage be considered more like a mere node in state’s information networks. Jan guesses that both are true, though he personally dislikes the psychological focus of Doctor Werther. He likes to think he is more a facts and figures man.
Jan carefully approaches the Bearer’s Bed. He takes his paper notebook out of his pocket and opens a new coded document. ‘Let’s start...’
Words appear onto the surface of STATE. In the dim light, it is not easy to see, so very carefully, Jan turns the lamp to shine more onto STATE. Now, he can see clear enough:
Irene Irene Irene Irene Irene Irene
‘Not really surprising, after this morning’s events... But, is Her Grace having a nightmare, showing her fears for the Secretary, or is she indeed privy to Her Excellency’s current experience?’ Jan knows that the Bearer can hear his thoughts, and though he still hates this way of communicating, he does not want the Guard to overhear. As clearly as he can, he thinks: ‘Where are you?’
At first, nothing much happens. The Bearer’s eyelids flutter, but then she starts to shake her head, more and more violently. Nothing appears on STATE.
When he poses the question again, she suddenly shrieks: “I don’t KNOW! I told you,
Let me go, please!
I did nothing against you, never! I don’t even know who you are! Pleaheahease…”
But Jan keeps to his unspoken line of questioning: ‘Did you take a taxi, after the phone call?’
All of a sudden the Bearer sits very, very still.
Before she can answer verbally, STATE has done so for her: Central Taxi Services. Taxi nr 3057. Arrival 8:03 am at Palace, pick up Miss Delwin. Destiny unknown.
Jan enters all data into his notebook, when his quick shorthand all of a sudden is stopped by the Bearer, sitting upright with closed eyes, firing questions at him: “How do you know? Did you bribe the taxi driver? Was he into this as well?”
Jan does not bother to answer as he is getting more and more sure she is not seeing him, but someone else. ‘She is entering Irene’s perspective. The impersonation routine...’
Again, he addresses her: ‘Who do you see?’
“I see nothing! You just taped my eyes! It is dark here, I don’t know you!
The Bearer suddenly doubles over, as if being kicked in the stomach. She gags on something and then some blood comes out.
The Guard, watching the scene from the door, moves to approach, to help. Doctor Jan stops him: “No. This is no nightmare. Get Doctor Werther, and maybe… yes, maybe, if he can come, the Captain as well.” Quickly, the Guard departs.
Ruffling his curls, Jan is silently scolding himself. ‘Her Grace is clearly experiencing a vision of STATE, and STATE is not interested in the past. Only in the present...’ Too immersed in his research, he had not stopped to think about Her Excellency’s condition, might the impersonation hypothesis be true. ‘The Bearer’s physical distress proves the theories are right!’
He has to think. ‘What question can I ask to get an answer leading to the Secretary’s whereabouts? Apparently, the ‘who’ question was a dangerous one. So the torturer was probably someone she could have known, or who could know her. From where? Hm…’
Seeing today’s attack by Mr. Bernston, it very well could be someone of the Palace personnel. He had to be careful.
‘STATE. What hospital did the taxi take Miss Delwin to?’
The surface of STATE flattens, and after a brief interval a name immerses: King’s Side Hospital.
Jan enters it in his notebook as well, writing mechanically. He opens his pocket dataCorder and enters the name, and instantly dataNet connects him to the place, showing it on the monitor, information to the side. ‘Strange. This old hospital, once built for soldiers, now was mainly visited for discrete treatment of various venereal diseases… Oh! The President! Or his second-in-command, Matil…Of course, could’ve guessed this much!’ He had to retrieve information from some other side.
Doctor Werther wheels in. He opens his mouth to start to ask something, when the Bearer jerks upright as if pulled by her hair. “Oh… Ooooh..uuuh…” Her face swings from left to right, like slapped hard by some invisible hand.
“Ah. I see why you have called for me... The impersonation routine! A typical case I’m afraid, yes… Yes… yes, to be expected, I guess, after the kidnapping… Oh… dear! Someone is really hurting Irene somewhere! We have to do something soon, Jan, or S. will be just as dead as she..!”
“I am trying, Doctor! We have to find the right question to ask STATE, I guess…”
The Captain enters. Yellow with pain, he clutches his arm in the sling. He is not happy to have been roused and his face is numb from sleeping pills, but when he sees the Bearer’s state, he hastily steps over to her, concerned. He kneels on the bed and tries to hold her head still, which is impossible with only his left hand. “S.! S.! Come here, please! You are here!” He softly kneads her shoulder.
The Bearer starts to scream. He has never seen her so afraid. Her eyes roll inwards, and she recoils also from the Captain. “NO! Not anymore! Please..! PLEASE!!
I... I don’t… know… you…
A.. Aaaah… aaaaaaiiiiiii….
Uhh” Again, her whole body contracts in some excruciating pain. Though no cause can be detected, Her Grace again coughs up some blood. The Captain watches, shocked and uncertain what to do. Mechanically, he continues to stroke her and whisper to her: “S.. Hey!... It is me… Please don’t be afraid of me… I would not hurt you, never! Sssshhhhh, I beg you…”
“Captain!” Jan calls, and Doctor Werther says: “The Captain can maybe reach her, Jan… Let him try at least!”
The Captain looks on, his face bland with lack of understanding.
Jan specifies: “Maybe, eh… Captain… If you would call her ‘Irene’…”
“Huh?” The Captain goggles at the two doctors. “What!?! WHAT do you say?!”
“Well, Captain, we think that Her Grace might be going through what we call an ‘impersonation routine’, that is to say… that”
The Captain’s anger whips out: “WHAT are you trying to tell me!? Is… Is Irene…”
“Very probably, yes, Sir…”
“And you just SIT there! So Irene is being tortured! Why doesn’t anyone DO anything around here!? Why do I ALWAYS have to be the one to”
Jan stands up and tries to calm him: “Captain, listen. I think to have concluded that Irene is being held kidnapped by someone of the Palace staff. He probably had her picked her up at the King’s Side Hospital, where the taxi had left her this morning. If only we knew who…”
The Captain speaks mechanically: “Check who is having a day off today!”
Immediately, a Guard moves to leave the room, but Doctor Jan stops him: “That will not be necessary. Look!”
On STATE, eleven names appear. Doctor Jan starts to write them down, but the Captain knows what to do now. ‘It is easy, like handling a dataNet terminal without typing, a terminal with a metalloid sheet monitor. Quick! I have to know! We have to do something’
“Cross-check addresses connected in any way with these people in the vicinity of King’s Side Hospital.”
Three names are left.
Though the Captain knows it is a long shot, he does not have the patience to think things through. He speaks to STATE, directly: “Send the Police, now! Top priority, high security. Under-cover operation code-108. Check these three locations for signs. ”