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American Beijing Hotel
Wednesday, January 10th, 2018, 2:02 pm
The storm had delayed the plane a few hours, but the team was sleeping during that time so it did not really affect them. They were all surprised that nothing came of the air marshal. In the end, they guessed Oliver’s hypothesis nailed the reason: the marshal was too embarrassed to do anything about it. The Chinese were very conservative, especially when it came to sex. Oliver even guessed that the air marshal had picked up his web-surfing habits from frequent dealings with Europeans.
The team wore conservative clothing as often as possible. While US fashion had become accepted socially, they wanted to garner as little attention as possible. The Chinese did not wear white. They did, however, frequently wear red. This was fine with all the team members. Oliver and Jared typically wore dark colors, so they did not mind. Sarah and Aaron often wore white shirts for work but were fine with other colors.
When the team first arrived early that morning, they had to wait for half an hour to get a room. They had no reservations, and it was so early that the staff was not very responsive to them. They had chosen the American Beijing Hotel because it was owned by a US hotel chain. The Beijing had initially been opened in 2008 as a publicity stunt for the company. As the US economy continued to decline, many of the hotel locations in the US were closed. By 2015, the Beijing hotel had become their most profitable location. The chain hoped to expand in China, but without an infusion of capital it seemed unlikely.
The team got two rooms. Jared and Oliver stayed in one room while Sarah and Aaron took the other room. As soon as they had got to their rooms, they all went to bed. The rooms had been purposely modeled after their US counterparts. Eventually, the Chinese found this more novel and interesting than US occupants did.
Sarah and Aaron’s room had a king-sized bed. Jared and Oliver’s room had two double beds. Both rooms were the same in all other respects, even the placement of the televisions. Each television also acted as a web-browser. The television was in front of the beds. From the door, the room started as a hall with a door on the right, which held the bathroom. Beyond the door was a coat rack. When the small hall ended, it opened to the right. After the opening on the right, there was a small dresser that also served as a nightstand. On top of the dresser was a small lamp. Right against the dresser was the first twin bed or the king-sized bed in Aaron and Sarah’s room. The beds were covered with tan blankets, tan pillows and white sheets. The tan blankets had a black circle in the center with the letters AB inside the circle. After the beds was an identical dresser/nightstand with an identical lamp. This dresser also had the television’s remote control, phone and alarm clock/radio.
Before Sarah had gone to sleep that morning she said, mostly to herself, “I wonder if that’s supposed to be the power side! If it’s a couple, is the man supposed to sleep on that side?”
Aaron’s only reply was, “You take that side; I don’t want to be woken by the phone or the light.”
“Are you sure? That’s awfully generous. Remember, this is the power side.”
He was too tired to say anything polite so he just went to bed, with her in the ‘power side.’
Beyond the beds was a small round table with four chairs. On the table there were some stationary and pens all marked with the hotel logo. A large window was at the very end of the room. The window was covered by layers of curtains. Beneath the curtains were the heating and air conditioning system. To the left of the table was a locked mini-bar style refrigerator. To access the minibar-style occupants had to verify their age and pay up-front a percentage of the total cost for all the beverages, mostly alcoholic, contained inside the minibar.
They all woke up late that morning riddled with jet lag. Aaron and Sarah were accustomed to traveling from coast to coast in the US, but those flights only took a few hours and the time zone was only three hours different. From Switzerland to China took over 12 hours, and then Beijing was seven hours ahead.
It was almost 10 am in Beijing when they finally got to sleep. They had flirted with the idea of just staying up but decided it was not worth it. They were all tired and cranky and wanted to be able to get through the day.
Aaron and Sarah both woke around two. When Aaron woke, he just lay in bed trying to get as much rest as he could. When he realized Sarah was not in bed it seemed a futile effort, so he also got out of bed. He found Sarah brushing her teeth in the bathroom.
She greeted him, “Hi, Honey.”
He smiled, “Hi, sleep well?”
She shrugged, “I guess. Think we should wake the others?”
“Nah, let them sleep while we get dressed.”
Sarah quickly put on a long black dress. She did not usually wear dresses, but she decided it would help her blend in better with the Chinese. The weather in Beijing was warmer than Zurich. Beijing had patches of snow from plowing and shoveling, whereas the landscape in Zurich had been covered in snow. Even though heels would have looked better with the dress, she wore flat-soled shoes. She was tall for an American woman and easily towered over most Chinese.
Aaron wore black pants with a red button-up shirt. He also wore black shoes. Just as they were done dressing and grooming, their phone rang. Aaron was closest, so he answered saying, “Hello?”
After a pause, Oliver said over the phone, “Hey, how ‘bout we pester some more air marshals today?”
“I’d really rather not, thank you.”
“Oh, come on, it’ll be fun.”
“Yes . . . fun. Are you guys dressed yet?”
“I am; Jared’s still moping about, though. I don’t think he’s a morning person.”
In the background over the phone, Aaron heard Jared say, “It’s not morning!”
“Well, let’s meet on the second floor in that fancy restaurant,” replied Aaron.
“Yuck, I hope it’s not too fancy. Nothing like pompous Americans running a restaurant in China and then serving only French cuisine.” When Oliver said ‘French cuisine,’ he said it with a nasally mock French accent.
“Don’t worry: I’m sure at the very least they’ll have cheeseburgers.”
Again in the French accent Oliver said, “Oui, but of course. Except the French cheeseburger will be a gourmet French cheeseburger with a gourmet French cheese.”
“Just be there.”
“Oui, oui, oh la-la!”
Aaron hung up the phone. He said to his wife, who was fastening her shoes, “I hope Oliver wasn’t a bad choice.”
“Oh, Honey, it’s not like he almost blew our cover or anything.”
Aaron shook his head in an ‘I can’t believe this is happening’ expression.
“Well, let’s go, may as well meet them down there,” she said.
He jested, “You don’t think he’ll try hacking the menu? Do you?”
“Not unless you goad him on again,” she said.
They walked out and headed to the restaurant. The door locked itself behind them. The hotel used iris scans to allow re-entry.
Aaron had not noticed when they had arrived because he was so tired, but Oliver appeared to be correct about the restaurant. On a small plaque on the wall, beside the entrance, was the inscription ‘Le Restaurant.’
Oliver and Aaron had not arrived yet, so Aaron had the host seat them at a table for four and told the host they were waiting for two American colleagues. Exactly twenty minutes later Oliver and Aaron arrived. They had a short light lunch and adjourned to Aaron and Sarah’s room to meet privately.
They re-arranged the table so they could all sit comfortably around it. It seemed tiny with all four of them. The chairs were made of metal and had no arms. They were designed to look as much like art as chairs. To Aaron they seemed sterile and cold.
Aaron opened by saying, “Well, we’re here. Everything has gone OK so far! We have exactly one month between tomorrow and the first day of the vacation.”
Oliver said, “So now we spend our days spying on the generals, and the base.”
They went over the task division and discreet resource allocation again. The meeting went fairly well with only one or two minor arguments. When they finished it was time for dinner.
Copyright (C) 1998-2001 East Coast Games, Inc. and 2001 - 2006 Forest J. Handford