Finally the time has come, her dream became reality, but this reality was quite different from that, what they ever had expected. For their mission, they even were ready to risk their lives. They summed up their strength from the certainty to be the chosen ones.
Wolfgang kept looking at the radar screens. He was trying to connect to WV.R7 (Wandervögel Roboter 7). They had lost the migrating robot-bird and received no signal from it. R7 was unresponsive to their messages. It seemed to have entirely disappeared from the face of the earth — but that was impossible.
Wolfgang was tired. He hadn’t slept for several nights. All of his coworkers had left — except for José. Wolfgang glanced at the radars. It was useless. He looked over at José’s tired face. He knew José wouldn’t leave him alone. Just then, José walked toward him.
“We’d better get some rest,” he said. “It seems there’s nothing we can do about it. And our concentration is waning.”
Wolfgang nodded regretfully. “Why does this have to happen just when we thought everything was going smoothly?” He shot a glance at José. “You, Bahar and I made the robot-bird resistant to storms, floods as well as thunder and lightning. We even equipped it with sensitive radars against dangers and put the most accurate gadgets in it. Wherever it is, it must have left a trail. R7 is a smart robot that can react automatically when in danger.” He looked at the designs of WV.R7. “God, we have worked so hard for several years and the Institute has covered all those huge expenses, and now it’s all gone?” He went over to José, almost in hysterics. “No, it’s impossible!” he cried.
José tried to calm and comfort him. But he felt no better himself. It was not just a robot — it was a child they had brought up and perfected.
Wolfgang sat down at a workbench on which they had put some computers and radars. “Now, what should I tell the Institute and our boss?” he asked, hanging his head. “You know we can’t convince them easily, and they will hold us responsible. We have tried for so long to find some people to help us in this project. The Institute has given us the chance to live our dreams.” He became silent, deep in thought.
José remembered Bahar, from the time when they were university students. During those years Wolfgang had been the Professor’s assistant and had helped them whenever he could. Bahar and José were geniuses in their fields, namely computer, design, and programming. And, under their friend’s guidance, they had graduated with straight As. Also, Wolfgang had asked them to participate in various projects and they had won many prizes. Wolfgang was an engineer and designer of machines, and in his field he was a genius, too. Their cooperation resulted in the construction of a smart robot.
Just then, José walked toward Wolfgang and gazed at the picture Wolfgang always put on his bench wherever he worked. José picked up the picture frame. Wolfgang leaned over and they both looked at the picture. It was the first picture they had taken together when they had struck up a friendship.
“Did you think of Bahar, too?” Wolfgang asked.
José nodded: “Yes.”
Wolfgang pointed to the picture.
“You had just come here from Peru,” he said. “I remember it very well because you could hardly speak German.”
“Of course you remember!” José smiled. “The German sentences you taught me — it was only later that I learned German and understood why everyone laughed at me when I used them. But Bahar and her family helped me a lot. She was a good teacher. They often invited me to their house. I still remember the Iranian food her mother made.”
Wolfgang gave him a look. “Hey, you’re almost always at their house.”
“Well, yeah,” José mumbled, “but her father doesn’t teach at university any more, you know.”
“I think he’s retired.”
“Anyway, the Professor and Bahar’s mother are usually away on a trip. Bahar is alone most of the time, but she’s not in the mood for cooking. She just says it as a motto that cooking is the best medicine for a woman.”
Wolfgang sighed. He went to his workbench, took a letter out of its drawer and showed it to José. It was Bahar’s handwriting. It said that she couldn’t work with them anymore and asked Wolfgang to forgive her — she had to say goodbye in a letter. She knew their project was immensely important to Wolfgang, but she couldn’t continue her job there because they didn’t share the same views anymore. The letter finished like this:
I hope one day we’ll work together again on the same path. I’ll always remember you. Say goodbye to José for me.
José dropped his head, lost in thought.
“I’m sorry,” said Wolfgang, “but I don’t understand Bahar. Does she think she can convince me with a few lines? Am I a stranger to her? Why has she written such a formal letter to quit and say goodbye?” Then he glanced at José. “You’re more than just coworkers to me. You’re my family. Do you understand?”
José tried not to meet his eyes, as if he wanted to keep something hidden from him. Wolfgang took the letter from him angrily and put it in his pocket.
“What on earth is the matter with you?” he asked in confusion. “You’re not yourself. Are you keeping something from me? Tell me!”
José ambled to his workbench and, seemingly indifferent to what Wolfgang had said, started to pack up his stuff. “I’m hungry,” he said. “Let’s go to the restaurant we used to go to with Bahar.”
Wolfgang, now upset with both of them, wanted to be alone. So he said: “You go. I’m not hungry.”
José went over to him, put a hand on his shoulder and stared into his eyes. “Maybe if we go to the Blue Submarine, your appetite will come back.”
Wolfgang saw that he wanted to talk about something secret and serious. Once, when they had gone there to eat something, they had happened to notice that phone and wireless networks got disconnected in the restaurant and no one could enter their phone systems. After that, they had held their secret meetings there.
Wolfgang, who was not a good actor, lost his cool. He kept looking around. Suddenly he said aloud: “José, what a good idea! I’m so hungry now. We’d better hurry.” Then he took his jacket and looked at the cameras which were installed everywhere.
José whispered in his ear, “And now you think they won’t suspect us? Any fool would notice.”
Wolfgang was driving fast — he was impatient to get to the restaurant. José was surprised because his friend was usually a very careful driver.
“What on earth are you doing? Slow down or the police will catch us. If they stop us, our night will be ruined.”
But his words fell on deaf ears.
At last they reached the restaurant. José got out of the car and took a deep breath. The restaurant was designed to look just like a submarine. The doorman, wearing a naval officer’s uniform, ushered them through narrow corridors into the dining area and then returned to his post. It was crowded as usual. The waiter, who knew them, saw them and went towards them.
“Good evening,” he said cheerfully.
José glanced at his watch and laughed. “You’d better say good morning!”
“How come Ms. Muller isn’t with you this time?” the waiter asked in surprise.
“She’s away on a trip,” Wolfgang answered hastily.
“A cozy table will be available soon,” the waiter said. “I’ll reserve it for you.”
They occupied themselves watching the aquariums around the restaurant; it felt like being under the sea. Watching the colorful fish and water plants comforted them. Before long the waiter beckoned to them and, when they sat down, he put the menu on the table and walked away.
When the waiter was out of earshot, Wolfgang said to José: “I can’t take it anymore. Tell me why Bahar has left us and why you have changed so much.”
José gave him a signal. “Wait a minute. First I should check everything and then I’ll tell you.”
Calmly he took a small gadget out of his bag and checked the space under the table and around them to make sure there were no wiretaps there. Then he picked up his and Wolfgang’s cell phones and removed their batteries. And then he lounged on his chair.
“I’m really sorry for you!” Wolfgang shook his head. “It seems you’ve spent a lot of time with Bahar. You’re behaving exactly like her. It gets on my nerves that she’s always so superstitious and doubtful about everything. Now you’ve become a carbon copy of her.”
“Because I know Bahar is right,” José said. “You were always over-optimistic and you’ve not changed at all.”
Angrily, Wolfgang ran his fingers through his shaggy hair. He was confused. “You think I’m cautious and over-optimistic because I don’t behave like you? Because I’m not so rash and heedless and I’m not willing to take such risks?”
“Wake up, Wolfgang!” José said. “Do you know why this project is called R7?”
“I think you’re looking for some sci-fi again. Look, José, you and Bahar must wake up and live in the real world. You’re living on the Internet and in your fantasy world. And it’s dangerous.”
José got annoyed. “It’s not fair. Remember: When we first went to the Institute for an interview, they raved about the Institute and its activities and then said that they wanted us to make a robot which followed the migratory birds and recorded their behavior. They also wanted to find out why they got lost. Above all, the robot had to be sensitive enough to pick up the waves and signals from the earth and send them back directly to the Institute. It was supposed to provide them with every piece of information it managed to gather. That’s when Bahar said she wouldn’t agree to working with that Institute. She said: ‘We’re not the C.I.A. – we’re just a research group.’ But you said: ‘No, we’ll do it. Their offer is great and they’ll leave us completely free to make the robot R7 as we like.’ This time, after the bird got lost, we’re the seventh group whose research is abandoned in an unfinished state. The other six groups lost the robot-bird in the same spot — just like we did. Their robot-birds, like ours, altered course because of some unknown waves, and eventually were destroyed. We know the Institute is looking for these waves and that unknown place.”
“I see,” Wolfgang said sarcastically. “Bahar and you know why they’re looking for that place, don’t you?”
“At the moment, it’s not important what we know,” said José. “What’s important for you to know is this: All the teams that worked with the Institute before us have disappeared and left no trace.