During the 1950s, Klaus works as a radio engineer for the Stasi in the DDR. He is sent to Poland to to set up a numbers station to communicate with Polish agents stationed in the West. There, he devises a recognizable introduction theme by recording a music box. This introduction is repeated for several minutes for the user to tune. Along with him, he brings a numbers reading machine which he tweaks to increase the German female's voice pitch. The device ends up being used as is for the following decades by the Polish secret services.
Playa del Rompidillo, Rota, Spain
The sun still shines brilliantly on this late October afternoon in Rota, Spain. Ulla, the tall blond German woman better known by locals as Ursula for her resemblance to the Swiss actress, watches her 3 years old baby, Jouni, as she digs a hole in the sand. On the portable radio which she brought along to the beach, the radio announcer introduces the next hit in Spanish: -Y ahora, Start Me Up de los Rolling Stones. After a few loud bars, Ulla, turns off the radio but mistakenly hits the band button and is intrigued by a familiar melody. She fine tunes the short waves band to get a better signal. Captivated by the sound of a music box on the radio, little Jouni stares at the USS John F. Kennedy approaching in the Bay of Cadiz. When the music box tune switches to an automated little girl's voice reciting numbers in German, Jouni turns to her mother.
-Mommy, why is the little girl repeating numbers. Is she learning to count?
Ulla is mesmerized by the broadcast and stares at her daughter, not answering.
Wilson's family housing unit, NAVSTA Rota
United States Navy Commander Steve Wilson gets home after dinner.
-Sorry honey... Got delayed . Guess you've seen it when you were at the beach. We're harboring the USS JFK for a few weeks. That's like 5000 new home boys in town.
-Well the senoritas are going to be thrilled, answers Ulla as she wipes off tomato sauce from Jouni's face who is sitting in a baby chair.
-Hello my little princess, says Steve as he grabs his daughter to get a kiss from his daughter before kissing his wife.
Still in her father's arms, Jouni tells her father that she now can count to seven in German.
-Eins, zwei, drei, fünf, sieben!
Wilson's family housing unit, Later
Steve comes down from Jouni's bedroom and sit next to Ulla at the kitchen table who's scrolling the short wave band. The West-German newscast reports on the day's massive anti-nuclear missiles demonstrations in Bonn.
-What time is it? I fell asleep reading Jouni's fairy tale... says Steve, yawning.
-Almost midnight! answers Ulla.
-Wow, you should have come and get me. What are you listening to?
-Nothing special, just roaming around the world... I heard this strange broadcast today and I'm trying to find it.
-What was it?
-It was this little girl repeating numbers, almost like a machine. Only numbers. Really eery.
-Numbers station. Was it in Russian?
-Oh, so that's how Jouni got to learn how to count to seven, replies Steve with a smile. Numbers station are believed to be used by intelligence agencies to communicate through codes with their filed agents.
Ulla tries to catch the station again and again, never catching it.
Supermarket parking lot, Rota
On a sunny Friday November morning, Ulla pushes her shopping cart across the parking lot of a supermarket. While little Jouni dangles her legs from her cart seat, busy unwrapping a Kinder Sorpresa egg, Ulla looks at a photo of Princess Diana, Embarazada!, declares the national ABC newspaper. As she approaches her new red Panda, a familiar voice utters in German from behind.
-Wavy hair... Princess Diana... A baby... You should have chosen a different color to complete your cover!
Tailing Ulla, a wiry woman wearing sunglasses and most likely a wig, lights up a cigarette.
-Florence! says Ulla surprised, as she looks around to make sure no one is looking at them. What are you doing here?
-You don't seems that happy to see me... Let's get in the car... I'll put the bags in.
Ulla nervously opens the trunk as Florence grabs the bags from the shopping cart not really paying attention to Jouni still busy with her newly unwrapped toy. After securing her daughter on the back seat, Ulla sits at the wheel next to Florence.
-Please... Not in the car... says Ulla as Florence exhales a puff.
-You really lost it sister! replies Florence as she puts off the cigarette in the ashtray.
Diving around Rota
Florence has removed her sunglasses and leans on the passenger door facing Ulla who's frantic.
-Are you crazy, I'm married to an American sailor. There are 5000 more Americans in town from the carrier. I can't have you at my home. You shouldn't even be in this town.
-Just for a few days Ulla. I have no choice. The place we were hiding in Biscay has been raided. There is no way I can cross back to France now. Plus there are loose death squads all over northern Spain.
-Death squads! What are you talking about? Anyways I can't help you... I'm done. It's over...
-What do you mean over?
Florence's expression switches from friendly to upset as she wears back her sunglasses and looks at Ulla with disdain.
-Drop me here.
Ulla continues driving not knowing how to react when Florence raises her voice.
The car stops at a downtown intersection. Florence exits as a group of US Navy sailors cross the street whistling her down.
From the back seat, Jouni asks her mother.
-Mommy, why did the lady screamed at you?
-Because she was upset my love.
-Why was she upset?
-Because sometimes even grownups don't get what they want...
As the light switches to green, Ulla drives up to Florence a few meters ahead. She leans to lower the passenger window.
-Florence... Florence... Sorry... Hop on...
Florence hesitates a moment then drops her cigarette and climbs back in the car.
-But just for a few days... Until you find a way...
Steve carries a plate full of burger paddies to the patio table where Ulla, Florence, Jouni and Greg, a Lieutenant aboard the USS JFK, are sitting.
-Right on Steve. Feels just like back home, says Greg as he grabs the plate.
-Don't you have burgers aboard? asks Steve.
-Yes, but no BBQs.
-Right... Makes sense.
-Why can't you have BBQs asks Ulla.
-Well. I guess out of safety reasons. It's a nuclear vessel after all, replies Greg as he passes the plate to Florence.
-No thank you, says Florence as she passes the plate to Ulla.
-Florence is a vegetarian, says Ulla.
-Vegetarian, wow, answer Greg, that's something. Do you eat fish?
-Yes fish, a little, sometimes, answers Florence with a thick French accent.
-Well that's comforting to hear for us sailors claims Greg as he bites on his burger.
-So what do you mean nuclear vessel? You have atomic bombs aboard the boat, asks Florence intrigued.
Ulla gets uncomfortable but avoid glimpsing towards Florence.
-Excuses me, answers Greg wiping his mouth, well... this is kind of classified, you know like a secret... but what we mean by nuclear is that the ship's propulsion system, the engine, you understand, is run by a nuclear reactor. Like a mini nuclear plant. You guys have a lot of those in France, so I'm not teaching you anything new.
-Yes, we do, answers Florence as Ulla tries to divert the attention towards little Jouni.
-Well, how about I fix you a grill cheese, mademoiselle, says Steve as he grabs a bun and a couple of slices of processed cheese.
-Ok. Thanks you. Maybe with tomato inside also, answers Florence with a smile.
-Right on give me a sec, says Steve as he walks away with the ingredients.
-Ladies, will you excuse me for a minute I gonna join Steve while I smoke a cigarette away from the baby, says Greg as he stands up.
Both Ulla and Florence give him an awkward smile.
-What do you all have with cigarettes and the baby? We're outside!
-Forget about it, it's an American thing, answers Ulla before switching the conversation. What's with the atomic bomb question.
-It's just a question? A normal question. What do you want me to talk about? My diet?
Around the BBQ, Greg stands next to Steve heating up a metal plaque on top of the grill.
-So, what do you think of the Frenchie girl? Not bad... asks Steve.
-Yeah, but what's with the wig? She got cancer? murmurs Greg with a grin.
-I don't know. Didn't even noticed she was wearing a wig.
Berlin's main square is busy with pedestrians, car and trams mingling in every directions. Klaus, a smartly dressed man in his mid-twenties, zigzags in the morning traffic on his way to work. Piles of bricks and stones still fill most lots on the street while other buildings stand stripped to their core. Reaching the Pankow borough, he parks his bicycle, pulls his right pant from its sock and walks into a brand new office building. After reaching the third floor, using the steps instead of the elevator, as per the procedure to save on electricity, he pushes a frosted glass door next to a plaque which reads Institut für wirtschaftswissenschaftliche Forschung (Institute for Economic Research). Inside, he silently greets the sturdy receptionist and pulls out a key to open a much thicker door. Inside are the covert offices of the newly formed Foreign Intelligence Service of the DDR. As a former Kriegsmarine radio and Enigma machine operator, Klaus is in charge of short wave communications with field agents. He gets to his section, which looks more like a workshop than a economist's office and swaps his tweed jacket for a lab coat.
After a few minutes, an older man in his forties walks into the room holding a report.
-Schidlowski, ok so the field agents reported that although reception has improved, it's still a problem to locate the emission on the band since other services are trying to confuse us with alternative broadcasts.
Klaus lounges back on his chair raising his hands over his head, mulling over the problem. He looks at a music box piled on top of a filing cabinet.
-What about an intro?