"That's impossible. We were in Gauland and the next morning... today... here," Emma stammered meekly.
"According to Imperial Law 239, Section 2b, I must confiscate your passport cards and send them to the nearest WA office. Thereupon you will be sentenced according to the Basic Law of the Greater Sagauvelian Empire. “
He held out his hands solemnly. Claire froze into a pillar of stone. An invisible fist struck several times in the pit of her stomach. She would have preferred to slump to the floor and wake up from this nightmare.
Reluctantly, they handed him the identity documents.
"Oho!" he smiled with satisfaction. He watched the deathly pale Claire, "You are from Regenschloss, Miss Silberlilie?"
"Yes," she said softly.
"Yes," she spoke louder.
"I'm from Regenschloss too!" interjected Emma.
The head of the office looked at her documents.
"It says Free Duchy here," he replied coldly, "In fact, it belongs to the Greater Sagauvelian Empire. But your passport tells me that you are still a foreigner. You can see it clearly, here the imperial swan is missing."
He sat down on his chair and took off his flat cap. With care, he placed the papers on the desk. Emma wanted to jump on him but was held back by Claire before she landed on the desk.
"I am not a foreigner! I went to school in Regenschloss!"
"Miss Silberlilie, please tell your friend to be quiet."
Emma swallowed. Claire shook her back into her current position.
He pulled documents and a new-fangled typewriter out of the almost invisible filing cabinets. In a psychopathic manner, his gaze did not lose sight of the young women.
"Miss Silberlilie, tell me what you were up to in Eldingen," the head of the office asked her kindly.
"We travelled to Eldingen because we come from Sehlingen. We had travelled there from Regenschloss to... to... celebrate New Year. At Emma's grandfather's ... After that, we wanted to travel on to Eldingen... to get to Berlyne... we want to work... that's why..."
Claire almost fell in on herself. The building bricks crumbled and offered her little protection.
"Work in Berlyne? I see," the head of the office muttered to himself, "What kind of work? As you know, it doesn't take much to get work as a citizen of the Empire in the newly acquired territories. A form at the nearest Imperial Labour Office would certainly have helped you."
He rummaged for a map, which he opened high in front of him. Meanwhile, he asked Claire where this Sehlingen was. Only through Emma, who was repeatedly asked to remain silent, did he learn where it was.
"Let's see, Regenschloss, Speckern..., Pfalzburg, Lödingen... Exactly, in Lödingen you would have received a form.
What kind of work, Miss Silberlilie?"
"I see. You are at the age to choose a profession. But you forgot to apply for this form. Was it because of your friend? She can't get one of the papers just like that. Is that why you didn't want to have anything to do with the Imperial Labour Office?"
"No... I mean yes...?"
He stood up and left her alone in the room.
"Claire, what are we doing here?" Emma whispered.
"I don't know," she returned, "I just want to leave."
The door opened. Next to the head of the office came two men who brought chairs and water.
"Take a sip or you'll fall off your feet," he laughed, "Let's get on with it. Work in Berlyne. And you were on your way to Eldingen. During this journey you - obviously - arrived here, is that right?"
He knew already the answer to every question he asked.
Claire nodded slightly.
"We were in Gauland. We thought it was Eldingen, that's why... and this morning we woke up here."
The typewriter was working. The head of the office made a note of the statement.
"From there you were going to take the train to Berlyne, right?"
"Your little friend wants to work too?"
"It seems strange to me that the two of you are travelling alone, without any idea of what the future will look like. Where will you live in Berlyne? How will you build a life?"
"We're going to stay with my father," Claire said tersely.
"Name and address?"
"Benedikt Silberlilie, Lime Avenue 110 or 111 in Südthal I believe."
"Human Resources Manager. “
"We'll check it out," he spoke slowly, "Helmut! Take them into the next room."
Instantly, one of the two from before appeared and took them down the long corridor to the end where they had come from. There they were put in a room.
At first, Claire and Emma kept silent. Only when they saw the many men and machines out of the window did they break their vow of silence. Emma wanted to escape. Claire didn't. They talked about how they got here. How they fell into this situation. Everything that had happened in their lives.
Was this the WA?
It doesn't matter, it's a capture...
Two hours later, they took Emma away. She didn't want to at first but had to give in when the warden explained to her that they were the burglars. Another two hours passed. She came back. They had questioned her, Emma told Claire. It was no big deal, the head of the office questioned her and wanted to know more about her.
Another two hours later, the door opened for the last time.
"Miss Silberlilie and Miss Malven, please come with me."
The head of the office was sitting in front of the typewriter. The passports lay in front of it.
"You may keep them," he spoke carefully, "And take your seats, ladies."
He sounded satisfied.
With themselves or with us?
Claire forgot what had been discussed in the last few hours. Was there an escape plan? Or did they talk about nothing?
"We have checked their statements - both of them. Your father is a bigwig at Seelenherz Inc., why don't you want to start there? You could hold a good post," he suggested.
"I don't know. I've never been interested in my father's work," she murmured sheepishly.
"You should! A large part of this project is funded by the company," he continued, "You are in Edward-Lloyd-Newman City, a closed city of the Greater Sagauvelian Empire. It is funded by Seelenherz Inc., among others. We are building means of transport for the future, novel methods of getting water to higher places and making nature grow in a controlled way.
I am the namesake of the city. I am responsible for the eight thousand or so men and women who make the world a better place for Sagauvela. You have been to Gauland, an outpost of the ELN town that supplies us with fresh food and goods. Presumably, the people there - all citizens of the Empire- believed you were partisans. That's how they brought you here.
Since you, Miss Silberlilie, are yourself a citizen of the Empire and, like your friend, were passing through on your way to Berlyne, there must have been a misunderstanding.
However, I still have to report this incident to the WA of the local palatinate and get papers for entering the closed city. So, you will have to wait ten days until I have your papers so that you can continue your journey.
You will be given a room. But you are not guests, you are intruders, despite the nationality. You may not leave until I give permission."
During his explanation, he wandered around the room like a possessed man or a psychopath, waving his right hand as if he were holding a glass of wine or cognac. He paid no attention to them. Apparently, he was practising his lines for a performance by heart. His theatrical performance did not have the advantage of reassuring them. It seemed like a bad play to them.
"Have you been listening to me?"
Emma mumbled something unintelligible, Claire nodded.
"Well, now then, I have work to do, Helmut will take you to your room. Goodbye."
The room was square.
It had two windows, one facing west, one facing north. There were two makeshift mattresses, probably brought in when they were interrogated. They had a small table, a candle, two chairs, two glasses, water, some books, and a box of biscuits.
A little later they received dinner.
"We have to wait ten days."
What upset Emma more than this almost two-week incarceration was the disrespectful treatment as a foreigner. When they had brought them dinner, she got loudly upset about the people and forgot that Claire was sitting at the table with her.
Claire could not say anything in reply. She fled to the books they had been given. They were an atlas about the continent as well as a book about exotic animals in the hitherto contested and colonised new continent.
Claire needed this escape into the world. She shared a room with Emma - for quite some time now. During the train journey, Kapellengarten... there were few nights when she could be alone to fully regenerate her strength.
"Did you know that there are seventeen other states besides Sagauvela that are on our continent?" Claire distracted her friend.
"It doesn't matter."
"One of them is on two continents, did you know that?"
"No. There won't be eighteen states anyway," Emma expressed in frustration, "Once the great Sagauvela is finished, there won't even be Weißberg."
"That's exactly the goal," Claire said agitatedly, "To destroy Weißberg as the most powerful country in the world and put itself at the top. The dream of the Baron is to harbour the power of the Old Era and subjugate the world."
"There you see, that explains everything."
Claire was silent for a moment.
"Don't you want to discover the world? The unknown places that are still black on the map? Those spots that no one knows. The islands on the endless ocean? The mountains, the depths, the lakes of this world? This place is also a discovery! Think of the Demon Gorge! It is here in the Free Duchy, but it was only discovered a few years ago! Don't you want to explore the world? Discover something, be it just a gigantic pyramid-shaped rock in the middle of the sea or a plateau hidden behind massive snow-capped peaks?"
She couldn't convince Emma.
"Where are we going? We want to go to Léonard! But we are discovering a region that should have been discovered."
Emma lay down in her bed.
"It seems to me that we are years away between yesterday and today," she murmured as a night greeting.