When Mason stepped through the door to her house she was met with the sounds of conversation from the living room.
Mason often heard Leo's voice talking to himself or the cats all the time, but this time there was a voice answering back to him, and it was a voice Mason recognised.
"I'm home!" She called, and even though her tone was merry, the expression on her face was wary. She set her helmet on the floor and leaned down to unzip her boots. The talking in the other room ceased.
"Welcome home!" came Leo's voice from above, and as Mason stood straight again, she met his gaze, "…How did it go?" he whispered.
"As well as I'd imagined," Mason replied with a shrug, then lowered her voice, "Is Cass here?"
Leo's expression turned slightly awkward and he gave a guilty nod.
"Well, she turned up to ask where you'd gotten to; I couldn't just send her away without explaining, so I gave her the gist of it over a cup of tea," he explained, "Didn't tell her who Atlas was, though, or his name, for that matter. Didn't think you'd like me getting involved."
Mason sighed but her face was understanding.
"I'll talk to her," she said, decidedly, and received an 'uh-huh' of agreement as Leo took her shoes and helmet and disappeared upstairs. He'd be up there a while – probably conversing with some of his feline children – so Mason had plenty of time to talk with Cass.
"Hey, pal!" she smiled, casually, walking into the living room and giving Dusty a good stroke before sitting down on the armchair under the window.
"Mason!" Cass grinned, excitedly. Maybe now her questions could be answered properly, "So, where is he?"
"Wh-? Oh; the fellow I went to collect?" Mason stuttered, suddenly realising this might be a bit harder than she first suspected, "He's at the hotel; checking in, I suspect. That's where I left him."
"Who is he? Leo only told me that he was a visitor who had some business over here, but I don't see how; it's not as if we have offices or anything, and all the businesses here are private," Cass pointed out.
"All will be explained," Mason retorted, folding her legs, "Be patient. His name is Atlas and he'll actually play a very important role in all of our lives for the next few weeks or even months to come. Heaping everything on you all at once might be information overload, so I'll start with the basics," and she cleared her throat, nervously, "You remember, don't you, last week when we were meant to go through your dad's photo album together?"
"Yes. I was busy and it never happened. How is that relevant?"
"The whole reason for me being there was to explain a few things to you. You might have noticed, if you've flicked through the album, that all the pictures in it are in date order."
"And that there's a photo of a baby right near the start, way before the ones of you."
"I just thought that it had been mis-placed or that it had fallen out of its section and gotten lost in the pages. I didn't think it of any real importance. Is it?"
"More than you could think."
Cass leaned forward in her seat, resting her elbows on her knees and looking immensely curious.
"Go on," she pushed, and heard Mason swallow.
"That's a photo of Atlas," the android told her.
"Well, why is it in my dad's album?"
Mason heaved a sigh,
"Atlas Geistreich is your brother."
The Ruhigdorf Hotel wasn't busy today. In fact, it was unusually quiet.
Atlas glanced slowly about the lobby with an air of arrogance and vanity as if looking down on this establishment for some reason or another. It almost looked as if he was planning out something, plotting out the dimensions of the room like a draughtsman. The floor was white marble and the walls were modern timber panels. It hadn't looked like this when he had lived here and he didn't look too keen on the new design.
To Atlas' right was the information centre half of the lobby, adorned with huge framed fact sheets hanging on the walls, complete with photos of the Geistreich family and what the house would have looked like before the fire when the family still called it home. There were sheets about the androids, the house, the family, the ship and pretty much anything else relating to Levi.
In the middle of the room was an ornate podium, and set on this podium was Schädel. Schädel was a simple robotic head who used to 'live' on a shelf in the basement of the SC Ginga, but Mason had fixed him up since then and he now enjoyed his job in the hotel, talking to tourists and visitors.
Seeing a disembodied robot head with only a rotary neck connecting it to the podium might have come as a bit of a shock to normal visitors to Ruhigdorf, but not for Atlas.
On the opposite end of the room, to the left, was a check-in desk, and a tall, grand staircase. Around the sides of that reception half of the room were sofas and coffee tables and little drinks machines. At the reception desk sat a bored-looking lady in her 40s, wearing a formal blouse and reading the news on her smart-tablet. She was clearly bored by the lack of visitors today.
Atlas Geistreich stopped huffing about the design features and instead made his way over to check in.
"I have a booking in the name of Atlas Garrett Geistreich," he said, flatly yet loudly, his voice echoing in the empty building.
The receptionist looked up, slowly, from her tablet. She didn't appear to be the sort of person who enjoyed their job at all. She didn't speak at all, but did a few things with the thin, wide-screen computer on the desk in front of her and cleared her throat.
"A'right, that's room twenty. The bell-boy will lead you up," she said, blankly, tapping the bell beside the computer and handing Atlas a keycard.
The bell rang out a shrill chime and was promptly followed by a set of hasty footsteps hurrying down the stairs into the lobby. These steps belonged to a short, stocky android with one eye and four arms.
"H-hello!" he stuttered, brushing down his grey suit, "I'm Felix a- and if you'd care to follow me, we'll be heading to your room."
Atlas reluctantly handed over his heavy bag, which Felix only just managed to carry with four hands as he led the hotel's guest up the steps and into the hall.
All walls in the hall were a rich plum purple, the floors were light mahogany and the doors were white and modern with shiny black numbers, and Felix marched straight to the one marked 20.
"Here we are, sir!" he smiled, politely. He let Atlas unlock it and ushered him inside, handing him his bag, "If you have any problems, don't hesitate to call!"
"I won't have any problems once I've redesigned this place myself," Atlas commented.
"W- when you what, sir?" Felix started, but Geistreich didn't reply, only closed the door and started to unpack.
Felix could only assume that this was the man that Mason had gone to collect earlier, and if he was perfectly honest, he could understand why neither Mason nor Leo seemed very enthused about him visiting. There was nothing he could do, though, as a caretaker and a bellboy, to stop and ask questions. That probably wouldn't stop him asking Mason more about this stuck-up stranger and his business here in such a calm, quiet town.
Through Felix's earpiece came a chime and the voice of the receptionist.
"Service for room seven," she ordered, still with that expressionless tone.
Gazing down the long, plum hallway, Felix gave a sigh. It was certainly quiet today, and there wasn't really a whole lot to do. He crossed all his arms behind his back and his Oxford shoes clicked on the floorboards as he made his way down to room 7.
"Come in," came the voice from through the door, hearing Felix knock.
"You called, Mr Ellis?" the android swallowed, poking his head round the doorframe to see a blonde man with a thick, jagged beard, seated in the chair at the window, staring outside with a peaceful look on his face.
Vangelis Ellis was making his twice-yearly visit to Ruhigdorf. He was the nephew of Hiroshi Hatsumei-sha, the elderly scientist who built Felix, was good friends with Levi and who now was in charge of the GASO. Vangelis liked to visit to see how his uncle was doing, and to spend some time in Ruhigdorf; he loved the town, its history and the people and androids who lived in it, and he gave a happy smile as he turned to Felix.
"Sorry to bother you, Felix," he said in his very Southern accent. His mother – Hiroshi's sister – had married a Englishman, which accounted for Vangelis' accent and his very British appearance.
"Oh, it's no problem," Felix assured him, "What's the problem?"
"The charging pad's not working. I was wondering whether you could get somebody to come and fix it? If that's no problem?" Vangelis asked, tapping the flat white disc built into the desk beside him.
"Of course it's not problem! I'll get on it right away."
And Felix disappeared back into the hall. He liked Vangelis Ellis – he was one of the only people who really appreciated him besides his friends. So he headed downstairs to call up Mason, who had the job of repairing any wiring or technology in the hotel when it went wrong (which wasn't very often).
Calling her was also a good excuse to ask her heaps of questions about Atlas.