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

Chapter 76: entering the store

From then on, the young Guard tails the Countess and reports directly to S.. He reports no noteworthy movements; and STATE knows her to slip away from him on many occasions. Nevertheless, STATE continues to monitor the Guard’s information, to distill any patterns arising. After a few weeks, one thing emerges, though it is not clear what it might mean. One way or another, the Countess does visit a certain neighborhood quite often: the diamond shopping area close to one of the bigger stations. Narrow streets with tiny shops, side to side, where the worlds’ finest diamonds are bought and sold. The market is obscure, and everybody knows the transactions are only partly legal. But there is a lot of money involved and rulers have always let them be.
The Countess is visiting one particular shop regularly. She is not buying or selling anything there, at least there is no money transfer visible. What is she doing there?

June 1th in the Second Year of the Bearer’s Reign
On this early summer evening, the Bearer leaves the Palace as usual. The Guards salute her, no longer uncomfortable with Her Grace’s nighttime walks. Over an elastic suit, she wears a dark grey cloak; though the air had been soft in the day, the wind now has a cold edge.

---Bearer of STATE for 1 year, 2 months, 2 weeks, 5 days and 12 hours---
S. walks in a direction she has never walked before. Soon, she approaches the diamond shopping area. The streets are quiet, the shops are closed this time of day. The light is bluish gray, objects have soft silhouettes with varying degrees of solidity.
S. walks quietly, STATE hidden in her cloak.
When she reaches the right diamond store, she assesses the situation in a brief glance. It is a small shop, looking kind of decrepit and on the verge of closing down. Like all stores here, the displays hold no valuables, but the window display of this one is so dusty that it is clear that there have not been any pieces on show for a long time. The store is closed, naturally. The locks seem crude and out-dated, but STATE detects that there is more to this than just the rickety exterior. Some very intricate wiring is active, an anti-theft system more up to date than anything in the shop.
Something must be there. Some thing.
STATE probes the small store, retrieves its lay-out: the back rooms, the vaults, adjacent buildings, the area. In the back there is an alley, providing the safest way to escape. The information has a fuzzy edge of uncertainty, pointing almost certainly to involvement of Matil/de.
Matilde. Matil. Matilde. Matil...
To prepare, S. sits down between some overflowing garbage cans, scaring some rats away from their dinner. The light is dimming to dark blue and the wind gets colder but STATE does not notice. The street remains deserted.
Ah, she knows what troubles STATE. The store is a facade, just as the Countess is a mask for Matil. The store is alive, breaths quietly, presenting a harmless front while hiding her arms. Is it asleep, or is also this a masquerade?
Thump... Thump... Thump... Thump... Thump... Thump...
The rousing scent of Matilde lingers in this place, marks the entrance as hers even in her absence. It is dangerous to attempt to enter, S. is well aware. The store is Matilde. The store is Matil.
STATE waits to ascertain whether she is aware of her, whether the shop knows she is coming, but slowly dares to believe that she does not notice her yet. Matilde must be distracted somewhere else.
OK.
S. rises and walks towards the door, casually, and halts while the locks open under STATE. Quickly, she steps inside and relocks the door behind her. Then, she waits to reassess the situation. The place is strung with multiple wiring systems, securing the premises. Like an electronic web, Matil/de’s eager eyes and sensors wait for her to touch onto them. One infrared closed circuit is active at just a few centimeters from where she is standing, and then, towards the vaults…
S. blinks to see the space in whitish tones, then starts to tackle the web’s lines one by one. Carefully, she steps over the knee-high infrared line and ducks under the electronic eye’s range crossing the small front room of the shop. STATE interference blocks the small microphones hidden away, while S. avoids the pressure sensitive plates hidden under the doormat on the threshold to the back room. The amount of protection is incredible. The shop is roused to her presence now and glows pink. But Matil/de’s defenses remain deactivated, as STATE confuses her sensory information.
So far, so good.
- ‘You...’
No, not here, not now. STATE blocks the thought-voice with some effort.
A dark, narrow corridor leads to a beaten staircase down to the cellar with the vaults, taunting her with their treasures, the dark warm and slightly dusty. But STATE does not go there. In the semi-dark, S. halts and turns towards the wall. The sides of the space seem to tremble slightly even though they are still. Everything depends on her next move. S. looks at the blank wall, from close by, knowing she should not touch it. The faded wallpaper shows just a hint of the patterns that used to glow there, an outline of pink and gold... It is here, somewhere. But she has to be cautious, now and very accurate. One false movement…
Where is it?
Ah. There.
The wall socket. Behind the wall socket.
STATE becomes very still, knowing she cannot bypass this. She has to break this secret of Matil/de. She has to enter into a place which is sacred to her, and Matil/de will never forgive STATE for doing so. If S. reaches inside, she violates Matilde on a physical level. S. tries to disregard the thumping which she feels, pulsing stronger ever since she entered the store. As if she has already entered Matilde’s presence, the blood is pumping louder than normal. S. must know what is kept here, but when she reaches inside, she will break the security and the alarms will go off. It will not stop at a signal blaring…
STATE confirms her exit route and focuses.
Then, with both hands, she takes hold of the socket. For a brief moment, STATE can fool the fingerprint-sensitive prints, and S. pulls the socket free and reaches inside.
At first, there is nothing, but then, in a recess, her fingers find a small reaLeather pouch. She pulls it out and the alarm sounds. In one movement, S. turns and sprints out of the shop, only just in time to roll under an ironSilicon pointed gate closing down over the back door.
While her body shell pants, STATE warns her not to run through the door in the back wall and into the alley like she had planned.
No.
S. turns right and throws herself over the fence into the garden behind the neighboring shop. There, next to another garbage can, she sits down to open the pouch and shake out what it is holding.
A stone. A beautiful, large, longitudinal stone. Even in the dim light the stone has a pale pink sparkle. STATE does not care about stones, but its weight and size combined with its clarity and cut means value. Against her skin, it tickles in a weird way.
The alarm next door blares on ruthlessly and STATE senses people approaching, their arms heavy in their hands.

‘Captain.’ She disturbs the Captain in some thoughts about Irene that she does not pay attention to.
‘Eh… Your Grace..?’
‘Captain. STATE needs help. Come with four. Here.’ Briefly, she ascertains that he has the coordinates of her position memorized correctly and pulls back to attend to her situation.
She puts the stone back in the pouch. So this is the Countess’ secret treasure, this is Matil’s source of power. It is very valuable, yes; but there must be more to it… But right now, there is no time to think. Thump. Thump. Thump. Thump. Thump. Thump. Thump.
S. suppresses the thumping of her heart.

“Stop. Right there, Rosie!” Rosa stops and knows the light of the lamp catches on her hips. She feels her skin curve as his eyes study her. ‘Will he..? Oh, no thinking,’ and she remains very still.
“Turn around now” his voice calls with measured indifference. She knows better and makes him wait. Time stretches as they play the game they have played before, but this evening he is suddenly close to her, his big hands grabbing her nipples from behind and pulling them. His breath is warm in her neck and smells of tobacco and expensive whiskey. “Ah, thought you could play me again, did you?” He shoves her forwards until she touches his big table, the one she had polished this afternoon, the expensive realWood still smelling of the oil she had rubbed into it. He presses his hard-on against her buttocks and for a moment she thinks he will enter her from behind, but then he turns her and pushes her backwards over the table. She is panting, her whole body throbbing already. He never is one for detours and, pushing her underwear aside, plunges right into her. She gasps, trying to calm the lust which makes her heart speed up and her blood rush as he takes her. He takes her decisively, and she knows that is why she loves him. “Oh, Blake,” she sighs when he pulls out of her still pulsating embrace. But he has already zipped up, and returning to his big chair near the window, takes another sip of his whiskey. Time to go, Rosa knows, and she goes up to her rooms to finish what he had not quite given her.

> She is his Seed, clawing her roots into us, the People, and we will clean ourselves of it.
[As is the Word of Jason A. the One]

On the other side of the fence, in the shop’s garden, two heavily armed men enter to ascertain that there has indeed been a break-in. They code-open the ironSilicon gate and while one covers the other, they enter. They come out instantly, their agitated voices speaking urgently through their earPhones: “Ma’m… It is gone! Yes, it is gone, yes, yes, please, we were here before the alarm was even off!” “Yes, we just arrived here, the alarm sounded, but it seems it has only done so when the thief was leaving the premises… He must be somewhere around! We will catch the bastard!” “Yes, the dogs… Hmn hmn. Over.”
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