S./The Bearer of STATE - a book by Karin Arink

Chapter 10: cell and 4th vision (question)

19:13 p.m.
After weighing all odds, the Captain decided that Parliament would be the safest place for the silent and unmoving Bearer to be brought. ‘Surely the President will not bomb this symbol of his powers tonight...’ But the Parliament’s Presidential suite is kept safe for the President by some of his men, so the Captain has to leave the unconscious Bearer temporarily in a small room in the cellars of the Palace of Parliament. The dingy room is a very unlikely place to hide for a Bearer of STATE. ‘She looks like she is having a fever, not fit to defend herself at all, she’d better be out of the way...’
Well aware of the President’s fondness for lethal traps, he takes a contingent of soldiers and Guards with him to fight their way into the Presidential suite, and leaves only one Guard to ensure Her Grace’s safety for the time being.

---
In the white, S. is grateful for the quiet.
It is so still...
Finally nobody around: no footsteps approaching her, no bodies moving to fight her or to obey her. No fussing, no bowing, no attacks. No words awaiting her words.
Not even objects, surrounding her; nor walls framing her. Even her body’s presence is oddly unobtrusive: no itches, no pain, no fever and no weight...
No sound, no smell, nothing to touch.
There is nothing here. Nothing.
Just
the light.
The white light.
Embedded in it, she lies and thinks of nothing
for a long,
long time.
But the light stays. And it continues to hang there.
It hangs there and waxes, glows and grows until it is so bright that it obliterates the space’s boundaries, making it diffuse endlessly.
What is this, a dream?
..?
What is
this?
What is she waiting for?
There should be some action now… Something,
at least a change…
Even a slight one would do, a subtle one, like
altering the whiteness’ shade, however gradually, into...
Into...
What should be happening, then?
What should make it happen? Or, to be more precise...
Who could make anything happen?
The absence of action inevitably becomes a question for her. Is there something she should do?
Should she spark off some initiative, generating a cascade of events?
Should she stand and attempt to annihilate this space, tear the whiteness to shreds?
Or should she stay quiet and let events unfold?
But however long she waits, nothing happens.
Nothing at all.
Of course. How could anything happen, when she is the only actor present?
Where would any initiative arise from, when she does not know where to start? When she does not know what is expected of her, or even
why she is here?
The white
waits.
It seems to beckon her, to entice her to move: this way, or that.
But there is no difference. Only
indifference.
An overwhelming indifference.
There must be a clue somewhere, a key to the question, but there is not even a riddle to be solved. The sphinx remains silent.
There is nothing.
Nothing at all.
The white expands, enveloping her.
S. acknowledges that she is the one who should know.
She has to know.
She has to find the answer, or at the least, she is to one to formulate the question. But there is nowhere she can start. No desire is waiting to be realized, no plan starting to be hatched. No urge is pulling her anywhere.
There is just the white.
The blinding, all-encompassing white.
After some eternity, the white becomes cold. It is almost imperceptibly retracting, away from her. The light is still there, but she can sense its disappointment. It pulls back, more and more. It leaves her.
Until she is left
in a hole
.
---

The Guard is well aware of his responsibility, but after two hours of watchfulness he has to go to the toilet so pressingly, that he decides to leave the unconscious Bearer of STATE for just a few minutes. Exactly at that moment, the old Palace of Parliament caretaker, who had spotted someone asleep in the storage on one of his securiCams, comes down the hallway to take this little scarecrow woman and put her in a cell, just in case. Always gentle with any trespassers, he carefully lifts her and takes her to the cells, just down the corridor. The woman does not gain consciousness.

In the President’s chambers, the Captain and his men put up a fight with the President’s loyal Personal Secretary, Colonel Helner and his men.
While other Parliament servants and finally most guards submit to the Bearer’s representatives, the Colonel resists violently. A former high-ranking Secret Police officer, he has nothing to lose and he aims to kill anyone trying to come near his master’s things. Though at the end he is alone, he is extremely well trained, very well armed, and well acquainted with the many booby-traps the President had had installed for just such an emergency. It takes hours and hours of fighting before the Captain and his Guards finally overpower him and bring him down, to the cells.

“Aaaaaaahwww,” the caretaker says reluctantly, when he sees who is being brought in. “Well now, Captain mister, Sir, I did not know it would be this busy in here tonight..! Don’t know if this here is the best place for the Colonel, see… There’s already someone here, y’know...”
”Let me see what we can do!” the Captain juts in impatiently. He steps past the caretaker into the narrow corridor, and then takes another step to look into the simple cell with three white pressWood benches, one on either side and one at the back, with chains to keep prisoners locked in place. One person is there, sure enough, a small slumped figure, a woman whose jeans jacket is charred and stained with blood.
The Captain stops abruptly, looks closer. ‘No. This cannot be! The Bearer of STATE is safe, just around the corner…
Or is she!?’
Eyes closed, the woman sighs and lifts her head to rest on the white tiles behind her. The Captain moans. ‘No! The Bearer, here... Locked in a cell! That Guard should be executed on the spot. But I, as that no-no’s superior……’
“Whatsamatter Captain, found a long lost love?” the caretaker says behind him. “You stare like you see the Madonna herself! Ha! More like a jailbird, I’d” but before he can finish his sentence, the Captain is on top of him. “You will be very sorry for that!” he hisses between clenched teeth, pulling his gun and pinning the old man down on the ground before the Bearer, loosening the hold.
The soft click awakens the Bearer, who looks around disoriented, finding herself in a neon-lit cell with the Captain and a caretaker on the floor before her.
“Captain?” she says and the Captain freezes, all color going from his face. He had been hoping he could get Her Grace out of this disgraceful situation, before she would notice.
“Your Grace... I cannot say… This is terrible, unforgivable…
Please…
Of course the punishment is up to Your Grace's judgment...”
Faltering, he crawls towards her, offering the gun to the Bearer of STATE, the barrel pointing to his head.
The caretaker presses his forehead on the floor, wishing he would be swallowed by it. ‘Why does no one inform me of anything around here..?’
“Put that thing away,” the Bearer says impatiently. “As I’ve said before: you will serve STATE alive! And anyway, Captain, you would have to untie me first.”
“Eh... Of course… How stupid of me… F… forgive me, Your Grace…”
The Captain scrambles to get up.
“The keys, you fool!” he demands of the caretaker, who is clumsily pulling out the right ones out already. Feeling extremely awkward, the Captain approaches the Bearer and as careful as he can reaches behind her to undo the locks. When they come undone, the Bearer falls from the bench, to her knees. She does not utter a sound. Behind her, the Captain reverently drops as low as he can. He fumbles to undo the rope, knotted tightly over Her Grace’s elbows and under arms.
Then, he sees it.
The black metal Mark, embedded deep in the Bearer’s arm, in the blue vein visible in the elbow’s hollow.
One of the President’s most cruel inventions, the plastMetal capsule contains a lethal dose of slow-working poison, to be released at any time by the President, his Elite Troops, the Secret Police, or anyone trained in the mental techniques to set them off. Implanted during long-term detention, the Mark is a convenient check on prison behavior. And being traceable within a certain radius, a Mark also ensures a fair measure of control on any terrorist ever caught once. Very expensive to make, only the worst criminals of State are Marked. Marks are not removable, as any attempt to do so will result in explosion, a small sensor checking the connection to the vein. A Mark meant lifelong persecution, and even the few who had altered their allegiances face social expulsion, as no one wanted to associate with an enemy of the President, let alone hire one. Most shops and restaurants refused to serve a Marked one, afraid to have anything to do with them, and often, they called the Police instantly.

S. hears the Captain draw in his breath and feels him pull away slightly.
The ropes cut in her flesh, just below the Mark.
“I notice you have found it,” she says coldly, and straightens even though the ropes still hurt. The Mark pokes in the soft flesh.
“Yes, I am a convicted terrorist and you know. But that does not make me any less the Bearer of STATE.”

The Captain bows his head. Yes, he had known all along about Her Grace’s identity, but he had never stopped to realize the implications. Taking care of her safety had quickly made him assume the established patterns of ruler and servant, had made him forget her background and his own. The Mark suddenly makes the differences very real.
He had never before asked himself what it would be like to have one, had always considered them a genius invention. Never had he questioned their use, or even the implications of his own reactions when he had met or questioned a Marked one. To them, he had always been more suppressive and violent, often resulting in heavy injury or death, and he had never thought twice about it.
‘But now I am serving a Marked one…’
He pauses and reflects.
After today’s events, he has no choice. He is a terrorist as much as she is, in the eyes of the President. And having witnessed what she had been capable of, the Captain does know S. to be the true Bearer of STATE.
He bows behind Her Grace, and as quickly and softly as he can unties her.

The caretaker is still on the floor. He feels stupid, bowing for a wanted person, but a wanted person who does carry the rights to govern the state. ‘What is she? A jailbird, dead tomorrow; or will she be my end?’ He knows full well that a similar mistake with any of the President’s friends would result in severe punishment. ‘But... She does not look the violent part, though her face has no kindness’
“Er... What does Your Grace want to do with the caretaker?” the Captain asks. “He has shown disrespect in the highest degree. He has failed to serve STATE. He should be punished”
The Bearer blinks and looks at the caretaker. “Come here.”
The caretaker crawls closer, careful to stay low.
“Closer!”
The voice is cold, and he is afraid. ‘Even if the woman will probably be tortured to death within a day, she now has the power to hurt me, and hurt me bad... The Captain will do whatever she orders him... Oww’ The touch of her cold and hard hand. A short pain flashes through him, and he gives in, accepting his fate. He blinks, and then finds he can open his eyes again, lowers them when he sees her, Her Grace, the Bearer of STATE. He cannot remember how she got here... How he ended up so near her... He just remembers the icy touch and the brief feeling of being scanned all over. ‘We all serve STATE... We all serve the Bearer of STATE...’
The Bearer turns away form him. “He touched the flesh of STATE and lived, Captain. Let’s go.”

---Bearer of STATE for 15 hours, 55 minutes and 28, 29, 30---
S. is leaving the cells behind the Captain, when she is suddenly face to face with the man who had inserted her Mark. Colonel Helner.
She stops dead and stares at the person she hates as much as the President, and in a more personal way. Involuntary, she flashes back to the scenes she wakes from in a sweat. Even with the intensity of the pain of his tortures forgotten, the psychological cruelty of his methods is still sure to evoke a physical state of stress. Many nights she had lain in mute panic because of this man, who stares back at her insolently. “I see you have been hiding where you belong, you vermin!” he sneers. The Guards pull him back from Her Grace, but before she knows what she is doing, her left hand juts out and grabs the Colonel by the throat, there where the nerves connect to the jawbone. The Colonel smiles complacently. “And I see you haven’t lost your venom either,“ he manages between his teeth.
They remain like that for minutes.
S.’ mind struggles with STATE. Hate throbs in her scull, makes her hurt him as much as she can. It is good to be able to, finally, but it is not enough. He has to die, and he has to die by her hand. But she knows she cannot touch a gun, STATE would not allow her. ‘OK, you kill him then!’ she thinks, dismayed she finds herself mind-talking to STATE like to an sentient entity. Frustrated, she digs her nails deeper in the Colonel’s jaw. They pierce his skin and blood shows, but a former Secret Police Colonel would never express pain.

He remains silent, watching her arrogantly. Concentrating, he narrows his eyes. “There! You will pay for that with your life, you little dirty jail rat!”

That finally triggers STATE to a fierce electric discharge. The Bearer jumps back, shaking; the Colonel slumps in the Guards’ arms, his tongue out of his mouth, barely breathing.
He is alive, but would never be sane again.

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