The Secretary of STATE has been gone for 7 hours, the under-cover Police have been under way for 10 minutes to rescue her. Both Doctors and the Captain stand and watch Her Grace, for the moment their only channel of information. The slapping has stopped, Irene apparently has some time to slightly recover. Unable to remain idle, the Captain gets up and walks towards the Guard: “Bring me a phone.”
The Guard brings a mobiPhone to the Captain and he walks away from the Bearer to avoid STATE interference. He dials the direct number and demands a report. “OK... Yes. It is a bit of a long shot, but it is all we can work from... Have you found all locations?
Just be careful! We do not want the hostage… You do realize you are dealing with the Secretary! Yes, all right. As soon as it is a confirmation, call me.”
Seeing his concern, Artur Werther says: “Come on, Captain. If you are able to, you should go to the area and take care of Irene when they find her. Jan and I can take care of S. here. I do hope our logic is right, we cannot afford to make mistakes now… If you have a question, contact us as soon as possible, maybe STATE can help…”
Immediately, the Captain takes his leave. Some minutes pass in silence.
ATTACK AT PALCE!
SEARCH FOR SECRETARY OF STATE
WE WILL CATCH PERPRETRATORS, SAY POLICE
STATE SECURITY LEAKING
THIS WOULD NEVER HAVE HAPPENED TO THE PRESIDENT, SAYS FORMER CHIEF
PRAY FOR STATE! PRAY FOR HER EXCELLENCY, THE SECRETARY OF STATE!
Suddenly the Bearer sits upright, as if to listen. She moves her head to one side, to locate a sound. Then, all of a sudden, her head is pulled backwards with force. She swallows, whitens. “No…. No, I do not…. Please, it is a coincidence… please, there” She sucks in her breath and stays very, very still.
Artur humps over to the bed: “S..” He stretches out is hand, hesitates, unsure if it is wise to touch STATE at this moment. But when S.’ head is jerked backwards with more force, he realizes he has to try, and he has to try now. He touches STATE. “S., come on, you are here… STATE is here! You are on the Bearer’s Bed, in the Palace… Come back to STATE, S.! Locate STATE… Allow STATE to guide you, back to your stone bed.”
Her Grace’s head is still pulled back, an indent of something sharp appearing on the bared throat. Jan gasps. ‘No! They will be too late...’
Artur Werther speaks again, stroking STATE softly, muttering. “Come on, S.! Come on, please...”
The Bearer blinks.
She blinks again.
At once, she stops breathing. Starting from within, her whole posture changes. From hunching with fear, she straightens herself. She becomes very rigid and very cold. And very, very angry, in an icy way. From somewhere inside, a high hissing sound develops, becomes louder and then flares from the lungs into the mouth and out: “YOU! You will not harm me, servant. You cannot. How do you dare to lift your weapon against the Bearer! STATE will punish you for what you have done.
Just in time, Artur has pulled his hand off STATE. A white ball of light flashes briefly in STATE, a reflection of a fiercer one elsewhere.
Jan and Artur look at each other. Though they do not see anything, they know that somehow, STATE has exacted her punishment on the kidnapper of Her Excellency.
The Bearer has a very slight tight smile.
She stays rigid for some more moments. Then, as if someone has pulled out all her energy, she slumps forwards. Carefully, Artur Werther and Jan pull Her Grace’s heavy limbs until she lies straight on the stone Bearer’s Bed. She slowly sinks into its surface.
“Incredible!” Jan says.
“Yes, don’t you think?” Doctor Werther says very complacently. “She is really one of the most talented and accomplished Bearers I have ever seen or heard about! Really! To use the impersonation routine and STATE power at the same time, and that in another location as STATE itself, it’s… Come on! It is really incredible! She is really in control of the networks now! Also the level of using telepathic communication is quite advanced… Maybe the Bed has something to do with it?”
Smoothing the velvet of his dressing gown, Jan nods enthusiastically: “Well, now you mention it, I did research the chemical components of the stone, and it is remarkable how its composition… Here, let me show you, I will outline some of the results…”
Both Doctors bend over some test results Jan shows in his paper Notebook.
About half an hour later, the message is delivered that Her Excellency is rescued and that both she and the Captain have been taken to the Bearer’s Chambers at the central Hospital to recover. Artur Werther makes sure they are guarded well by some of the Guards who have worked for the Captain for a long time. Still, he feels unsafe. ‘Someone aims to hurt the Bearer by striking the people closest to her, and has struck close... too close. All these confounded servants around... and no clue on whom to trust or distrust... Damn them all!’
He had never cared for any of them, and now in his mind all of them become the possibility of evil. ‘They have already succeeded in poisoning me once...’ He realizes that, because of his knowledge of STATE and S.’ unconditional trust in him, he continues to be a potential victim. Pulling at his white hairs, he tries to shrug it off. ‘It won’t help to get paranoid now... Come on, Artur! Come on...’
> attack on the Palace!
> wha? whaat?
> just on the net: attack on the Palace
> did they get her, then, finally?
> Who attacked whom?
> well that strange one, metallic la-dy
> Hey, you might want to talk with a little more respect about Her Grace the Bearer of STATE! I assumed this platform was not one of those rowdy anti-sites!
> wha’s wrong with being rowdy? better than being mr goodie boy all the time!
> Well I am worried at the one-sidedness of the representations of events. STATE has brought us a lot of good, and though there are nuances
> lotta good? like WHAT?
> Well, the welfare system is working reasonably well
> well well well ;-)
> Well, it is, and Mr P never achieved anything like this! And the educational development,s and the Committee
> cannot stand the way you’re blabbing away Rosie! blab blab, that’s all these Committees do as well: blablabla, and gettin’ paid nicely too!
> To mention the most recent and most important: the Committee of Crimes Against the People
> anybody still awake? this thread is about the attack on the Palace!!!!
> Are you serious? I though you meant a possible future attack...
> this morning the Captain of STATE had to be brought to the Hospital, this was confirmed by some ambulance personnel,
> This is terrible! Look MrX, this is the result of your constant poking, and sowing of hate!
> wht? is not me doing, I’m just posing some sane questions, I am!
> People like you are causing these things!
> no no Rosie you’re not gonna blame me now or I’ll let Admin know! don’t know nothing
> yes and nobody’s letting me spill what I know! I brought up this thread, remember!
> calm down Pete, tell us what happened, is the blonde involved as well?
> well, there are some questions about what happened exactly, but she was at the Kings’ Side Hospital for a moment, but the disappeared again before entering. She arrived back in the Palace only an hour ago, but no dataFlow or TVpeople were allowed anywhere near...
> And what had happened to the Captain of STATE?
> he soon after was transferred back to the Palace so I guess he’s okay...
> Praise STATE! Trust STATE! Hail the Bearer of STATE!
> oww stop it! stop it now!
Bearer of STATE for 1 year, 0 months, 2 weeks, 1 day and 23 hours
After one night at the Hospital, the Captain and Secretary of STATE are moved from the Hospital back to the Palace of STATE. Though neither has completely recovered, S. wants to have them close to her. Matil is everywhere, and STATE has nothing. Nothing to protect her friends. Nothing to keep the state from slipping. Nothing to stop Matil...
The attacks have a visible impact on Her Grace. STATE heightens all Security measures, and puts a prize on Matil’s head or on any trace leading to him. Instead of going on incognito bouts, STATE is continually scanning the Palace for any sign of treason. It is drawing energy away from other pressing matters, but she does not seem to care. Irene sees the hard frame getting thinner and thinner, and wonders why S. just cannot stop. ‘The Committees are progressing slower than desirable and CCAP is almost at a standstill, some touches of STATE are clearly needed... I cannot do it all by myself... What is her problem? Is it is the loss of control or the sense of danger that is bugging her most? What is it?’ Looking at Her Grace, Irene has to conclude that S. does not make time to consider.
A week later, Irene visits Her Grace in the Bearer’s rooms. It is after dinner, and the rooms are half dark, as STATE is just submerged in a scan of the servants’ activities downstairs.
Concerned, the Bearer looks up. ‘Irene! What is wrong?’
‘Nothing, S…. Well, that is to say…’ Even though her ordeal had been a relatively short one, Irene has nightmares every night. The experience had completely shattered one of the basic assumptions of her world. OK, she was not stupid, and she had always known that she was being naï¿½ve in her belief in the goodness of people. But she had never had any experience with the opposite until now. The realization that the same subservient person who had polished her cutlery in the Palace would push a knife under her toenails in his house caused her trust in people to become hollow, a sham. ‘How did you survive those tortures, S.?’
S. blinks and tries to remember, but the bleak oppression of her fear and hate for all people has thinned. She has to go back, and back, and imagine herself walking down the pedestrian area on that hour just before bearing STATE, and to recall how she had behaved towards the people around her, how people had acted towards her, to get an inkling of how she had viewed them. S. concentrates, and finally sees herself: a young woman, the denim jacket slung over her... ah yes, her Mark, and then elements fall back: the stabbing Mark, the fear of people spotting it and either throwing her out or capturing her for the Police, the fake mobiPhone... but the elements are disjointed. There was fear, yes, unbroken fear, and never the comfort of trust, always keeping distance even with most members of the group... every step outside a risk to be weighed, every action contemplated with a mind full of hatred mixed with fear, hatred and fear, hatred and fear... But the memories are not hers anymore. They could have been memories of someone else’s, something she might have heard about, or read about, though the memory of the Mark does cause the old scar to sting.
To calm Irene, she briefly does relate some things she does remember, in the easy wordless way of STATE. They sit with only some silent thoughts for a short while.
- ‘You filth! You worthless filth!’
The thought comes from nowhere, least of all from Irene. It is the same thought-voice, again and again breaching into STATE thoughts. Whose is it? Matil’s? Can Matil even reach inside her? It breaks the intimacy she had with Irene instantly, chills S. to the pit of her stomach with some disconnected and obsolete energy.
With a strange automatism, S. looks around her, knows she has been invaded, but not by whom.
Is it Matil?
Is it my past? Is it someone close, someone who knows?
Sensing unrest in Her Grace, Irene realizes she herself is getting very tired and she rises to return to her chambers. ‘S., please stop worrying so much over us… It is not your fault when people are so ruthless; and it is not the task of STATE to protect us all the time. Your real aims are left disregarded and that is exactly what your enemies want, S.!’ And softly, she gets up and leaves the room, not forcing Her Grace into giving an answer.
In her absence, S. nods, and then goes to lie on the Bearer’s Bed. To calm STATE she summons the knowledge:
Bearer of STATE for 1 year, 0 months, 3 weeks, 2 days, 13 hours and
The stone softens and frames her body shell, and finally, she sleeps.