The next morning, in the hotel ballroom. There is clear, crisp November light and someone is going around opening the large, very tall windows that sit in wall, letting in the chill breeze along with the light. Whoever is doing it obviously doesn’t want people hanging around in the hotel; it’s inhospitable as we sit, eating the scrambled eggs and small glasses of orange juice and cold toast.
There are a few other people seated at the tables, quietly eating their morose breakfast. Jonas Becker stands over near the front desk, going over his ledger, giving us something that’s either a smile or sneer. His wet gums shine behind his lips.
Finding ourselves a table, we sit down and stare as a young girl, no more than 16, walks over and pours coffee. We get about half a cup before she leaves. Lime sniffs the concoction suspiciously, expecting it to be terrible. It is. All the tables have been pushed towards the wall, close to the open windows. The cold breeze actually makes the scrambled eggs seem appetizing.
A chap approaches us in an American uniform (Sergeant), hat tucked into his epaulette. Broad-framed, square-jawed chap in his early thirties. Hands are as large as plates. We trade greetings. He’s been in Berlin since it fell, and they don’t seem to be in a hurry to let him go home. His name is Wakes, and he’s been injured in the distant past. Bullet wound to the leg. He carries the attitude of a man whose been shot and shot-at, but also done some shooting in return.
Tranceval figures Wakes is either good at his job, terrible at his job, or has seen something that means he can’t be allowed to go home. The way Wakes talks about being in Berlin, he’s obviously a veteran. He’s not an amazing physical specimen, but he looks like he’s dug a lot of home. Solid. Well-worn. He’s apparently in the hotel because something went wrong with his quarters – a fire. He wants to get back over there and see how much gear has been destroyed.
Berlin is apparently full of gangs. Some of the worst areas get gangs, the shortages mean the gangs organise and hit a part of town looking for supplies. Stuff gets taken – it happens all the time. But then there was this fire, which isn’t usual for the gang raids.
Tranceval suggests that it might have been an unexploded bomb.
Wakes works out at the Tempelhof Airport as a guard.
Lime thinks all sorts of details about the story fail to ring true – the gangs don’t usually go for property damage, the authorities would usually quarter people, even temporarily, in an area much closer to their duties.
We’re just finishing breakfast when Becker tells us Cummings is outside. We notice he has a new set of false teeth. Cummings meets us in the lobby – he’s been scanning the ledger.
“Good morning,” he booms. “Your ride is here. I trust you slept exceedingly well.”
We assure him the quarters are adequate and join him in the car. Chiswell is already in the front seat.
Doleman studies the city. Jean-Pierre flirts with Chiswell.
We drive through Berlin. He drops us at the BASC building.
Jean-Pierre leans in through the driver’s side window. “I don’t want you to say too much, but what happened back there with that fire?”
“No fire,” Cummings says, “never any fires.”
“Ah well,” Jean-Pierre says, “lovely morning for it.”
The guards demand our papers. They actually pay attention to them. Lime gives them some grief. They aren’t impressed.
Lime asks if there’s anything unusual about the quartet. There is confusion. “usual,” the guard says. “Like there’s anything usual in Berlin.”
We walk through a seemingly abandoned building. The front desk has been abandoned for a while. We hear someone in heels walking down the hall. It’s a youngish, well-dressed woman who tells us to follow her.
The entire floor is either abandoned, or devoid of staff for several years. It looks like there are multiple floors above, but nothing seems to go on. The only sound we can hear is our footsteps. We eventually reach an old, ornate elevator that’s been kept in good condition. She pulls aside the cage door. We pile in, and she presses the “B” button.
She introduces herself as Jones and explains that she’s escorting us to our contact. She keeps records, has folders with our dossiers within them.
The basement is well-lit, clean and tidy. We can hear the sounds of an occupied office space where things are going on. Jones asks us to bear with her for a second, deposits Mrs Chiswell in an office, and we part company with her.
We go into a dark room where Von Nacht is waiting. He flanked by a pair of Dobermans.
He explains to us the purpose of the RPA, and offers us things in order to join and stop the threats to Berlin.