When the Countess enters the reception of STATE, half an hour late, as usual, there is a slighter upsurge of attention than normally. Sure, there is some agitation in the air, but it is not clear what for, and it is certainly not for her. A subtle malcontent flickers through her. She is used to being noticed, she is accustomed to the unspoken reverence.
But she can do without it. She has to be very still tonight.
Though she hardly admits it, even to herself, the past year has been hard for her. She would have never guessed she would miss him in this way. Though they had been enemies to a large extent, she always had positioned him as the gauge for her actions. In a warped way, he had provided the coordinates to her existence… In his absence, new guidelines had risen, of course. A new gauge… ‘But stop. This line of thought has to stop.

STATE senses the Countess' arrival the instant she enters the entrée, and so do the guests. Many people turn and shift their small talks' topics around her. There is some admiration, an unconscious fear, attention. Without any clue as to why, S. withdraws into herself.
She has to be careful, now. S. pulls back into the white. She guesses she is no longer readable from there.

Sarah Feyman smiles to noone in particular as she sips her champagne, noting all the who’s whos around her. She knows what she wants but she takes her time, watching the patterns of polite hellos, short chats and the somewhat more urgent ways in which people press their presences in each others' faces. Framed by three women, her husband, Blake, is gesticulating to emphasize whatever he is talking about. Women admire him, she knows, remembering how he attracted her in exactly this same way, long, long ago. ‘Ah well, he is welcome to it, whatever dish he can take tonight,’ she thinks. She sips some more champagne, relieved that Martin decided to turn down the invitation, urging her to do likewise. ‘He’s getting too possessive, he is, and I’m fed up with his belly and talks,’ she thinks. ‘Let’s see who’s here…’

After some polite chats with a few selected people, the Countess turns towards the Captain. The Captain, who had refused many a dignitary to accost him, welcomes her: “Ah! Countess! How good of you to come!”

She of course has known the Captain for a long time, from before he had risen to this position. She deigns to smile at him, they hug and kiss the air, and then he escorts her to the dais. The Bearer sits there, unmoving like a wax replica, and that Doctor Jan hastens to rise and introduce himself to the Countess. Her eyes glide over his beautifully cut velvet suit, his curls, and she smiles her feline smile. The Doctor of STATE is, after all, part of Her Grace’s inner circle… She does not miss the Captain’s and the Doctor’s free behavior, and that in such close proximity of STATE… But, no more thought.
The Captain approaches Her Grace and starts to speak before she has even acknowledges him: “Your Grace, eh… Excuse me? I have to pleasure to introduce the Countess!” bowing slightly to the Bearer.

S. forces herself to open her eyes.
The Countess looks her in the eye before she lowers hers and speaks in a melodious voice: “Your Grace… It is an honor to meet you, f”
“Countess.” S. forces herself to say. Her body shell is rigid with tension, and she cannot really describe why. On the surface, the Countess seems likeable enough, and also in her thoughts there is nothing…
There is nothing.
STATE is so used to the continual murmuring of thoughts around her, in everybody’s heads, that the quiet inside the Countess is scary to say the least.
Why this silence?
Obviously the Countess knows about the Bearer reading minds. And she is very, very adept at controlling hers. How can STATE penetrate this silence?
But… why would she?
- ‘You worthless tyrant!'
Again. The ‘worthless’ resonates unpleasantly and S. quickly disarms the word.

The Countess is offered a chair on the other side of the golden table and from the golden serving plate she elegantly takes a crystal glass of champagne. While the Bearer sits silent and tight, the Countess looks around amused and relaxed, sipping her drink.

The Captain finds himself wishing the Bearer of STATE had the ability to make some small talk at this moment, she looks so lost. Why is she so tense?
Of course, the Captain ascribes Her Grace’s discomfort to fatigue of the lash to Bernard just now. He resumes: “Your Grace… I have known the Countess a long, a very long time. She hosted some of the best receptions in the country’s history, I must say”
The Captain falls silent when the knowledge for whom the receptions had been held consolidates. He casts about for some more neutral topic. “And… You of course do know, Your Grace, that the education project is financed generously by the Countess?”
Her Grace does not even answer.
Silence. The Captain drinks some champagne, casting about for a subject to relax Her Grace and incite some talk between the two women. “Ehmn, I understand, Countess, that you both grew up in the same region?”

“Hahaha…” The Countess’ soft and light laugh tinkles like crystal bells, commenting on the situation in a very sophisticated way. Looking straight at the Bearer, she addresses her in a discrete singsong whisper. “Your Grace, forgive me… But you seem a bit tired? And I could not help but notice Bernard’s hands just now… He did not have those burns this afternoon! Whatever happened?”

Inside STATE violent anger flares, taking strand S. by surprise. She would severely punish this stupid servant for ignoring STATE so long, so completely! He should pay for his insult! Why had STATE not killed him instantly?! S. blanches and clenches her hands. She almost speaks but bites her tongue to stop herself. To admit her leniency to the Countess is a stupid mistake. She cannot speak now!
But then, STATE is suddenly conscious of the fact that she is being probed. The Countess is testing her reactions, reading her. She is reading her mind.
‘Come on!’ Far off, Artur’s voice is in her mind. Yes. She can do better than this. Looking at the Countess as superficially friendly as she can, she enters the Countess' mind. ‘So, where did you meet Charles?'
The Countess swallows too large a sip, but that is all that she shows.
But -
No, that is not completely true. STATE has caught one glimpse. The Countess, in a much younger and tighter body, standing amidst a row of scantily clad girls in a room lit by a reddish light, looking at the President from under her false eyelashes. ‘Ah, fancied you, did he?’ The thought slips through and S. regrets it instantly.

The Countess narrows her eyes and grimases before masking it with a bright smile. A brief silence, her heavy rings tinkling against the crystal as she takes another sip. Then, the Countess’ voice softly sings again: “So, dear Bearer, what do you think of the Bell’Etoile? A beautiful ambiance, don’t you think? Only the service is not up to standards, now is it?” and her thoughts add: ‘Didn’t notice you, did he? Did not see your power…’ With a precise jab, she digs for her anger.

But this time S. simply turns her head and looks the Countess in the face.

The metallic grey pupils of the Bearer stare the Countess in the eye for quite some time, unblinking and sharp. It is such a direct look of aggression that the Captain almost jumps between them. But he keeps back. ‘I have to keep my priorities right… It is the Bearer’s prerogative to eye the Countess in whatever way Her Grace pleases… Ahem… Trust STATE… Trust the Bearer of STATE… Hail STATE… Hail the Bearer’
The Countess has to force her head away to break the eye contact.
Very slowly, the Bearer blinks.

S. is back in the checkered pattern.
She is surrounded by rectangles, as far as she can see, covering the space from bottom to top.
The game had not stopped while she looked the other way, and by now, almost all cards are red. Only some white rectangles remain, lost in a field of gleaming red. As she looks on, in very deliberate strokes, more white rectangles are turned to red. Far, far away she spots one last white rectangle.
It is turned to red in silent triumph. The red is everywhere. The red is all around her, the surface damp and pulsing. And what is worse, it moves inside her as well. Though silicon grey on the outside, she is red on the inside. She is completely
on the inside.
Her blood senses the victory of the red.
Thump… Thump… Thump… Thump… Thump…
S. was never so conscious of its regular deep bass rhythm as now.
Thump.. Thump.. Thump.. Thump.. Thump.. Thump.. Thump..
It accelerates, and the red courses through her veins, reaching her extremities.
Thump. Thump. Thump. Thump. Thump. Thump. Thump. Thump. Thump. Thump. Her heart is beating quite fast now, and it is exhilarating.
S. is warm. She is glowing, and she knows it. Her trunk slightly pulsates with the rhythm.
S. glances at the Countess and the rhythm misses a beat.
My Dyad!
Oh my Dyad..!
How beautiful
she is…
Glowing in the soft candlelight. Radiant like a goddess.
Mature, but receptive. A safe haven of flesh. Very… warm…
Oh… to be nearer, to touch that satin skin, that pink soft shiny flesh, stroke the golden curls in the nape of her neck, then reach downwards, for the proud nipples pushing through the thin red fabric, and then further
Oh… how she longs to be near her….
S.' blood becomes an antennae focused on receiving her signals. Oh…
Out of her longing a name comes to sound.
Matilde… Matilde… Matilde…
The rhythm of her heart thumping increases, dragging her along.
Thump. Thump. Thump! Thump!
S. wills it to speed up even more, to become a rush engulfing her, taking her, swallowing her. She closes her eyes and there is only a churning red.
S. wants to touch her, there.
Matilde… Matilde… Matilde… Matilde… Matilde… Matilde…
S. wants to take her, now, to break the gulf that is between, force the polite smile into a gasping breath, tear the fashionable dress open and lift the bulbous breasts out of their lacy nests, play with the nipples, feel them harden, lick their roundness and then upwards to the muscles of the neck…
and then one hand will feel its way down, down, down… over the belly button accentuating the softness of skin, over the loins throbbing with more blood, down, down, down to where the wet swollen tissue will receive her…
Ah… Matilde, Matilde, Matilde, Matilde, Matilde, Matilde, Matilde, Matilde!
And then, she will rupture the wetness and enter this gorgeous flesh, make it throb hot with pleasure, rubbing the ribbed sides, warm and pulsating and receiving and she will make her tremble with lust just as her body trembles now. Their blood will shake in a combined rhythm again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and then it will shudder and it will burn, burn, burn, burn,
burn… Oh, Matilde…
And then she will tear the soft skin for having dragged her along so violently, so ruthlessly, so fiercely, shred the flesh to finally expose the boiling blood, making it explode, tearing the skin bag, obliterating the self, finally…
S. swallows in anticipation.
But first… First she has to get rid of the stupid eyes around them. The Captain will understand. He will make sure nobody intervenes. No one can come between me and my desire. It is my right to fulfill my desire, to drink until the last drop of lust has exploded and my body heaves its release. No one would dare come between me and my passion. No one would dare even question my rights to any thing, to any body, to this body. Because I am the one to be obeyed fully, totally, unconditionally. Always.
I am the
Eeeeeeeeeeeeeeek! Like a needle sliding off the record it is reading, S.' mind slips.
No! She is not' She is'
She tries to withstand the lust that throbs in her body, hardening her nipples, swelling her crotch. Now, she recognizes it. The President’s lust is still in her blood, keeping her heart rate up. The churning is sickening and it continues to force her body shell along unwillingly.

The Bearer is very white. In her neck, a vein is throbbing. The Captain bends over Her Grace and asks if he should get her something, if maybe Her Grace would prefer to rest somewhere private for a bit? But she does not hear him or see him, though her eyes are open.
The Countess smiles forgivingly and shrugs ever so slightly.
When Bernard approaches to offer a drink, the Captain harshly tells him off, thinking Bernard guilty of bringing the Bearer into this state. As he summons for Doctor Jan to come, he itches to punish him more.

At the far end of the entrée, Irene briefly spots Her Grace’s white face from between many people, and wonders what is wrong. But many, so many people want to introduce themselves to the Secretary of STATE. Inventive in their flatteries, they find all kinds of subjects to attract her attention, to win her smile. She has barely broken free of the one when the other accosts her, venturing an interesting political viewpoint, complimenting her with affairs as they are going, or on her dress, proposing some chance encounter with someone excelling in something…
Irene is not accustomed to being the belle of the ball, and she does not have the brusqueness to break free.

Thump. Thump. Thump. Thump. Thump. Thump. Matilde…
Thump. Thump. Thump. Thump. Thump. Matilde. Matilde.
Thump. Thump. Thump. Thump. Matilde. Matilde. Matilde.
Red surrounds her, still pumping around triumphantly, and S. is still occupied by it, her body shell yearning to return to the warm thumping.
Matilde. Matilde. Matilde. Matilde.
Matilde. Matilde. Matilde…