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Chapter 2: "Abrecadavre"
August 5th, 1939
Der Riese - Laboratories
“Begin Matter Transference Device test...1-”
An impatient voice interrupted, “162!”
Doctor Maxis sighed, preparing the pull the switch on the large, bell-shaped device at the center of the lab. “Yes, 162. Doctor Richtofen, note the weight of the test subject at the center of the pad, and the approximate amount of element 115 being used.”
“Yes, Doctor. The test subject is a rat weighing approximately 0.2 grams, and the amount of 115 being used for test 162 will be one microgram. Please, insert your earplugs...again.”
Doctor Maxis and Doctor Richtofen each held pairs of red-orange earplugs, worn from a multitude of previous tests from the past month. Placing the plugs into his ears, Doctor Maxis pulled the switch on the rudimentary control panel, powering on the device. A sliding door brandishing Group 935's insignia closed around the large central pad inside. Restrained by a thick rope, the rat scurried around the edge of the circular pad, desperately attempting to find a route of escape inside the spacious device. After a few moments, the coils surrounding the head of the device began to spark and chain electricity, and the interior of the device created a light growing ever more and more blinding as seconds passed. Even with protective goggles, the two scientists were forced to look away from the utter whiteness shining through the MTD's view-port. The hanging light at the center of the room began to flicker as power was routed into the MTD.
After roughly a minute, the test came to an end and the device was opened once more, dispelling smoke throughout the laboratory from inside. Doctor Richtofen eagerly approached the pad, wafting the smoke from his vision. Doctor Maxis stayed behind, his mind being held hostage elsewhere. As the clouds dissipated, Richtofen crouched close to the pad. There sat the rat, still tied via the rope to a weight. It appeared dead, its eyes hollow and its body unmoving. But like the many other living subjects before it, this subject was merely in a catatonic state, one that it would never leave. Its body had changed composition as well, becoming bloated and appearing burned or scarred in several places.
Enraged, Doctor Richtofen flipped a wooden table holding several empty beakers and a wooden shipping crate, before returning to Doctor Maxis. Doctor Richtofen approached the recording device, leaning in closely and uttering a final statement.
“Test 162 is a failure.”
Richtofen sharply pressed the button to end the recording, before finding a towel to wipe the sweat from his forehead. Richtofen removed his goggles and turned his gaze towards Doctor Maxis, his eyes still blank and the earplugs still in his ears. On noticing Richtofen's demeanor, Doctor Maxis removed the plugs from his ears.
Edward began to pace around the room, dabbing his forehead with the towel. “Must the temperature be so high during our tests?”
“Edward, it is more cost effective to work under these conditions during the Summer heat. I apologize.”
“Ah yes, I almost forgot we were doing all of this for the fame und fortune.” Edward tossed the towel aside, leaning onto the lab table and thinking to himself for a moment. “I'm sorry, Doctor Maxis. I've lost my composure. Both of us have, really.”
“Will all due respect, Doctor Maxis, I've noticed you are not as attentive to your duties as you once were when you invited me to join Group 935.”
“My duties? Edward, you should know your place. You are a revered scientist, regardless of what organization you fall under. But I invited you into Group 935, and I have authority here.”
“Of course, of course, doctor. I'm just concerned... with our work that is.”
“Again, I apologize Edward. If you were in my position, you would understand the stress I have been forced to endure.”
“Is Hilda the reason you are so forlorn, Doctor?”
Doctor Maxis looked into Richtofen's cold, distant eyes, first vexed by Edward's question, before seeing its profound truth.
“Her loss... has added to my anxiety, yes.”
“She's almost five years old. I will have to tell her soon what really happened to her mother when she was born. I don't know... if I am strong enough.”
Doctor Maxis looked to Richtofen, whose attention had been turned towards his lunch: canned bratwurst. Edward pried the can open with his teeth before reaching in and taking a bite from one of the sausages. “So, is that all that has you depressed, Doctor?”
“For someone so concerned with my mental health, it seems you couldn't care less about my family.”
“Forgive my ignorance, Doctor, I lack the experience as a family man, myself. What did you bring for lunch?”
Unfazed, Doctor Maxis continued to stare down Doctor Richtofen as he shoveled the bratwurst into his body, barely exerting the effort to chew.
“I admire your perseverance, Edward. Even after all of our failures you are not pulled down by the weight of the world.”
“The 'world' has no bearing on me, Doctor. The only thing that drives my work is success, and the road to success is paved with failure, as they say, ja? Besides, I know that in the end, I will always succeed. Always. With that knowledge, I can endure anything.”
Though his work ethic seemed commendable, Edward Richtofen's tendency for temper-induced outbursts caused Doctor Maxis to question his reliability as a scientist. Despite Richtofen's lack of caring, airing woes felt almost therapeutic for Doctor Maxis.
“Family is not the only factor in my stress. I was foolish to once think Group 935 would lead the world of science unopposed. With Japan discovering element 115, I fear we will be competing in technological progress against their 'Division 9'. The Americans have found a deposit as well, and I have no earthly idea what they are capable of.”
“Doctor, isn't science meant to be collaborative, rather than competitive?”
“While that is true, Edward, the issue of funding arises in my administrative position, and for funding we must set ourselves apart from our rivals.”
“A pity. This world we live in, it is so driven by conquest und fear. There must hopefully be change in our future. Surely you've heard the stirrings of war approaching?”
“I have. But I am not concerned. Hitler only desires Poland. I don't see him sending us into another global war, no matter what he says otherwise.”
“I must disagree, there will be severe consequences for his actions. Everything that he says and that the National Socialists do is driven by fear.”
“I suppose we will see in the coming months.”
“Yes, we will.”
Edward finished his meal before tossing the empty can into the trash bin, and returned to the table with Maxis.
“Edward, shall we begin testing again?”
“Ja, Doctor Maxis, but I have a few changes I would like to suggest.”
“What kind of changes?”
“I believe we must begin testing on human-”
“That is out of the question, Richtofen, and you should know better.”
“Of course it is, Doctor, you didn't let me finish. We should begin human testing, starting with cadavers, obviously. If the MTD is meant to revolutionize human transportation, then we should be accounting for a human-sized occupant, ja?”
“I suppose you are correct, Edward.”
“Und since you are so frugal-minded, Doctor Maxis, we may still use approximately the same amount of the element und power in teleporting the subject.”
“Excellent, then fetch a cadaver from storage.”
Irritated, Richtofen exited the room out into the hallways of the laboratories building, passing several other laboratories on his journey to the storage area. In one such room was Doctor Schuster, along with Doctor Groph. They were mixing a fluorescent blue vial of liquefied element 115 with various other chemicals in the lab. Though Maxis had bestowed upon Edward the duty of a lowly errand-boy, the job gave Richtofen a chance to see Group 935's current projects: something his overseers in the Order would deem valuable.
Richtofen retrieved a male cadaver from the shelves, before placing it onto a cart and wheeling it through the halls towards the testing area. Upon entering the room, Doctor Richtofen noticed Doctor Maxis had not moved from his position at the table, his gaze drawn away towards the wall. The testing area had not been cleaned and the MTD had not been re-loaded with a fragment of element 115. Doctor Maxis had done nothing of worth while Richtofen was away.
Edward approached the MTD, placing the chemically distorted rodent into a bag with gloved hands before loading the device with a microgram of element 115 and placing the dead human subject onto the MTD's pad. He returned to the table, donning his goggles and waiting a moment before looking to Maxis, still staring at the wall with the recorder deactivated below him.
Frustrated, Doctor Richtofen reached across the table, activating the recording device and reverting Doctor Maxis' attention back to the test at hand.
“Begin Matter Transference Device test 163. The subject is a human of approximately 72.8 kilograms, and a microgram of element 115 has been placed into the device. Doctor Maxis, please insert your earplugs.”
“Yes... we will begin the test.”
Both men inserted their ear plugs, and Doctor Maxis pulled the lever to activate the MTD once again. The door of the device sealed and it lit up once again, filling the room with a blinding light and sending waves of tingling electricity into the air. Strangely, the light lasted longer than before, and the power surge was so strong the lights went completely out for a few moments before returning to normal. Through the deafening sound of the device, Maxis called out to Richtofen.
“You said there would not be an influx in power usage, Edward!”
“I believe I said, 'approximately', Doctor!”
Finally the noise and the light disappeared as quickly as they appeared, and the sliding door on the device re-opened, releasing smoke into the room.
Within the smoke was the silhouette of the cadaver just as Edward had left it. Defeated, Richtofen tossed his goggles aside and came closer to the body.
“Und so we've failed once again.”
But the body did something very peculiar for a corpse, it moved. Despite its preservation by the scientists, its skin was horribly burned and lacerated by the experiment, yet it lived. It pulled itself up onto two legs, wobbling as it did so. For a moment its blank, rotten eyes were black, but soon lit up with a bright, orange glow. As it seemed to come into being, the monster vomited a liter of blood onto the pad before looking to the doctors.
Richtofen stood still, frightened by the sight of the creature. “Mein gott.”
“Edward... it's... alive.”
The creature's vocal folds still functioned as it began to lightly groan. Then, it put its right leg forward, and next its left. It began a small walk towards Edward Richtofen, being barely able to stand on its stiff muscles.
As it came too close, Richtofen cried out, “Stop!”
And so the beast stopped. The mindless cadaver seemed almost obedient to Richtofen's command, as if it had heard such a command before.
Doctor Maxis walked forward to Richtofen's side. “Look at me.”
The dead man cocked its head towards Maxis, letting its mouth gape and drool ooze out from the corner of its dried lips.
“We've... brought a dead man back to life.”
Richtofen was still in shock from the ordeal. While a discovery of incredible proportions, what they had created was a monster.
Dr. Maxis attempted to give the walking husk another task.
The zombie paced towards Doctor Maxis slowly to start, but began to pick up its pace and drool onto the floor more excessively.
The beast continued to walk forward, its bright, other-worldly eyes locked with those of Maxis, picking its pace up even further and groaning louder. It extended its limp arms outwards towards Doctor Maxis, prepared to grab him.
Doctor Richtofen pulled Maxis aside, away from the zombie. “Maxis!”
“Why won't you stop?! Stop! Halt!”
The beast did not waver as it began to jog towards Maxis directly, clamping its jaws together repeatedly as it hungered for his flesh.
Doctor Richtofen acted swiftly, looking to the mounted emergency fire axe on the wall and taking it in his hands. The beast leaped through the air towards the distressed Doctor Maxis cowering in the corner of the room. Richtofen cut it down with an axe swing to the abdomen.
The creature fell to the ground, turning its attention towards Richtofen as it waved its arms at him and screamed in anger. Richtofen lifted the axe into the air again, bringing it down on the abdomen and severing the top half of its body. Blood and intestines spilled out onto the floor between the two halves, yet the upper half continued to hunger. It crawled with its weak arms towards Richtofen, howling and groaning like before.
Again, Richtofen brought the axe down, this time severing the head from its putrid neck. The body spurted blood at the neck and the arms trembled before finally laying to rest, while the head continued to gnaw at the air until the light drained from its eyes.
For a moment, there was only silence as Maxis recollected himself and Richtofen questioned his very sanity. The two met eyes as Richtofen dropped the bloody axe and headed for the door.
“I... will inform the cleaning crew.”
Fearful, Doctor Maxis approached the corpse carefully, afraid one of the three sections may return to life at any passing moment. Doctor Maxis questioned how a creature of such horrid design could have come into being. For a moment in the previous encounter, Maxis felt hope. The body responded to his requests... as if it were alive again. They were now God; they had the power to bring the dead back to life. The possibilities flowed through Maxis' mind; thoughts of those that could be saved from death: world leaders, soldiers, pets, loved ones. Hilda.