Sunday, 4 June 2017

Playing with Real Toys: Teufelsberg, Berlin (Night's Black Agents, GUMSHOE)

In keeping with established tradition, here's another location for Night's Black Agents Directors to use as they see fit. As before, there is a brief description followed by thrilling elements, followed by a scene.

Teufelsberg is a man-made hill within the Grunewald, the largest wooded area in Berlin, and was built after the War in what was then the British Zone.. It's located on top of a Nazi military engineering college designed by Albert Speer, because burying the college under several thousand tons of rubble was easier than destroying Speer's remarkably well constructed college.

It was originally intended as a rubble disposal site, and was used as a dumping ground until 1972. However as time passed people began using this man-made hill for other things. A bold entrepreneur opened up a ski jump in 1955, and another ski jump - this one much longer - opened in 1962, but ski jumping ceased in 1969. The jumps remained, and were still on site as late as 1999, when they were finally demolished.

Teufelsberg began its life as an espionage asset as early as 1961, when the first listening posts began operations. The uneasy alliance between the Soviets and the West had broken down by this point, and the Americans wanted somewhere they could listen in on Soviet communications. Teufelsberg's 120 meter height seemed perfect, and over time the NSA developed a permanent installation, staffed round the clock by American troops who commuted daily to 'the Hill.'

This remained so until the fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of Communism, at which point the NSA withdrew, leaving the buildings behind. Over time street artists moved in, decorating the place with layers of colorful graffiti. Some investors tried to turn the buildings into apartment blocks, with spy museum attached, but the plan proved economically unviable.

Teufelsberg remains an abandoned artefact of the Cold War to this day. Tours are given every week, but otherwise the site is kept locked up - though given the amount of graffiti, the locks and fences aren't much deterrent.

Rumor has it the Americans dug down to the abandoned military college at one point, or that there is a secret tunnel from the military buildings to a submarine base. Like all rumors these are likely false.

Thrilling elements:
  • The Grunewald is home to wild boar, and a pair of them just wandered by. They're not friendly but they are curious - humans can be useful snack dispensers.
  • A band of chattering tourists wander through the abandoned military installation.
  • A grey-haired veteran and his more athletic daughter tour the site of the former's glory days.
  • Some of the colorful street art has clear Vampirology connections, and perhaps can be interpreted for a non-Core clue.
  • Dark, long-abandoned corridors that lead to long abandoned offices and observation stations.
  • The ground is uneven, covered with rubble and broken glass, making running very dangerous. Also walking, if the agents happen to be wearing flimsy shoes.
  • A torn and battered radome, now liberally decorated with rainbow graffiti.
  • Magnificent view across the whole of Berlin, with only a rickety wall of wooden pallets between you and a neck-breaking tumble.
  • Standing inside the remains of the dome at the top of the tower, with perfect acoustics catching the least hum.
  • A wide-eyed entrepreneur films a video for his investor pitch, with the decaying buildings as backdrop.
  • A small group of street artists add their next installation to the ever-growing collection of paintings.

After the War the Allies found remnants of whatever passes for the Nazi Vampire Project in the campaign. After months of bombing and repeated info snatches by all sides, including the Soviets, there wasn't much left, and in the immediate aftermath of the War it seemed more sensible to bury it in Germany than cart potentially dangerous material back to Britain, or the US. In order to completely dispose of the material, including its biological waste, the British and Americans established a 'safe room' in Speer's Nazi engineering school and used the dumping ground as a cover-up for their secret installation, codename Operation TOADSTOOL.

However neither the British nor the Americans could make sense of the remains of the Nazi project, so when the NSA said it wanted to use Teufelsberg as a listening post, those few still interested in TOADSTOOL decided the listening post was as useful an excuse as any to bury the site for good. The Allies sealed up the tunnel that led down to the Nazi school, and that was that.

Or so they thought.

One of the local Nodes of the Conspiracy has been interested in this site for years, but despite rigorous searching the Node hasn't been able to find the secret tunnel. However the Node has its eye on visiting academic and former military man Noah Scopell, who's in Berlin to give a talk on the Teufelsberg installation. The Node intends to capture Scopell and make him talk; if anyone knows where the secret tunnel is, it's the Teufelsberg expert who spent most of his military career working there.

The agents are brought on board either by a Network contact or an old Cold Warrior who guesses what the kidnappers are up to, and wants to make sure Scopell doesn't talk. TOADSTOOL's better off buried, as far as this warhorse is concerned.

Naturally the most action-packed capstone to the scene is an exploration of the Nazi school buried under the Devil's Hill. What feral creatures lurk down there? Or is the biological material hazardous in other ways? A Dust game might suppose the material's actually pathogenic, kept in leaky containers or o-so-fragile glass tubes. Maybe old notebooks or blackboards covered in cryptic formulae, half-blotted with mold and rot, can be recovered.

Of course, the Node will stop at nothing to get all of this. Whatever resources at the Node's disposal, it will expend them; this is the bold stroke that will put it on top. Or so its leadership thinks ...

That's it for now. Enjoy! 

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