- Publisher: Penguin Random House Audio Publishing Gr
- Date: Sept 2009
From the book
Early in the evening, a North Sea storm swept through the German countryside and drenched Berlin. Raindrops rattled on the glass panes of the greenhouse and the orangery in Babelsberg Park. The willow trees around the lake swayed back and forth like underwater plants while a flock of ducks huddled together on their little island. In the streets around Potsdamer Platz, the traffic was slow and halting, the cream-colored taxicabs honking at one another in the clogged intersections while delivery trucks grumbled like large shambling creatures.
Windshields were streaked with water and it was difficult to see the faces of the drivers. The sidewalks in the Mitte district were empty, and it seemed as if much of Berlin's population had disappeared. But the surveillance cameras remained like mute guardians of the city. They tracked a young woman holding a newspaper over her head as she darted from an office doorway to a waiting car. They followed a restaurant deliveryman as he pedaled a bicycle up the street, a life revealed in a series of grainy black-and-white images: a desperate face with wet hair plastered to the forehead, legs moving frantically while a cheap plastic poncho flapped in the wind.
On Friedrichstrasse, a license-plate scanner mounted on a building photographed a black Mercedes stopped at a traffic light. The plate number was recorded and automatically checked against a central database as Michael Corrigan and Mrs. Brewster sat in the backseat and waited for the light to turn green. Mrs. Brewster had taken a tube of lipstick out of her purse and was studying her face in a compact mirror. This was behavior quite out of character for the current head of the Brethren's executive board; unless there was a party or some other kind of special event, Mrs. Brewster paid minimal attention to her personal appearance. She was a tweed-and-practical-shoes sort of woman, whose only gesture to vanity was the artificial color of her chestnut-brown hair.
"God, I look tired," she announced. "It's going to take an effort to get through dinner with Hazelton and his friends."
"If you want, I'll do all the talking."
"That would be wonderful, Michael. But it's not necessary. There's been a change of plans."
With exaggerated decisiveness, Mrs. Brewster snapped the mirror shut and dropped it into her purse, then slipped on a pair of sunglasses. The dark glasses covered her eyes and upper cheekbones like a half mask.
"Terry Dawson just sent me an e-mail from the research center in New York," she said. "They've finished building the new version of the quantum computer, and Dawson has been testing the system. I want you to be there tomorrow afternoon when the computer becomes fully operational."
"Perhaps they could postpone everything for a few days so I could attend the executive board meeting."
"The Crossover Project is a good deal more important than any meeting. The original version of this computer put us in contact with an advanced civilization that began to supply us with technical data. Dr. Dawson wants you to be there if the civilization contacts us again."
The Mercedes turned another corner. Michael stared at Mrs. Brewster for a few seconds, but the sunglasses and the dim light made it difficult to know what she was thinking. Was she telling him the truth, or was this just a strategy to separate him from the rest of the Brethren? Her mouth and neck showed some tension, but there was nothing unusual about that.
"I think it would be easier if we interviewed Dawson with a video conference camera," Michael said.
"I want a full assessment of the project, and you can only do that if you're at the...
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