Courtyard, The Giant (“Der Riese” ), near Breslau
Dr. Edward Richtofen
March 13th, 1940
With a newfound eagerness to return to his post at Group 935, ideas flowed through Edward's head as he contemplated the future. Though Maxis would be an obstacle in his research, returning to Group 935 was simply the right thing to do. It would be wrong of Richtofen to rest on his laurels while the Moon base is under construction. There is still much to be done.
The previous week, Richtofen had made a telephone call to Doctor Maxis informing him of his return from his sabbatical and that he would like to establish a meeting to discuss the Wunderwaffe DG-2 , a device Richtofen had been perfecting in his free time. What Maxis did not know, however, was that Richtofen had also been spending his time away planning the construction of a lunar base, an operation that Maxis must know nothing about. It would be independent of any world government, but secretly funded by Maxis and his Nazi friends. Richtofen had also spent his time making lists of those in Group 935 he could trust and those he could not. He had already contacted several members of the excavation team at Der Riese to begin building a framework for the station, supplied with pressurized suits designed to allow for survival in the vacuum of space. Richtofen and Schuster had learned a great deal studying the mysterious pyramid device during this time, and were now able to directly teleport between Der Riese , the Moon, and the jungle known as “Shangri-La,” which would be the next location he would build a research station.
Times are good, truly.
With great effervescence, Richtofen entered the courtyard of Der Riese, surrounded by the hurly-burly shuffling of scientists and factory workers moving between Der Riese’s many campus buildings. Edward approached the center of the courtyard, looking out towards the direction of the laboratories. Behind the metal fence and on the catwalk above stood Doctor Maxis, leaning against the railing and speaking with Doctor Porter.
Richtofen clenched his right hand around the handle of the Wunderwaffe’s case he was carrying, feeling a twinge of frustration as the voices returned.
“Edward, my boy, keep the facade. Bear a smile and the old fool will bend to your will.”
“Ja , ja ... let me think for myself for a moment!”
The busy scientists around Edward paid him no mind, preoccupied with whatever projects they were assigned.
Doctor Maxis noticed Richtofen standing awkwardly among the crowd down below. Maxis seemed pleased at first, but uneasy, as after all, the last time he had seen Edward he had shot down his success with the MTD.
Richtofen put on his best smile, waving his left hand in the air to affirm Maxis’ attention. Maxis looked upward towards the giant clock looming over the courtyard, noting the time, then nodded to Doctor Porter before going the opposite direction of him. Their meeting was scheduled for 0815 hours, just forty-five minutes from now. With Maxis now on his way to his office, Richtofen headed in that direction as well.
Taking a shortcut through a nearby laboratory building, Richtofen passed many closed-off rooms, inside holding many scientists performing experiments using loud machinery. Richtofen had nearly reached the rear entrance leading towards the building where Maxis’ office would be when he was suddenly grabbed by the shoulder and twisted around by a familiar, animated scientist.
Doctor Groph panted as he spoke, apparently out of breath, “Doctor Richtofen! I received your telegram- with- with all the details! This is incredible! Vril-Ya technology! On the Moon no less-”
Richtofen leaned in, barking in a hushed tone, “Quiet! Have you lost your mind, Herr Groph?!”
“Forgive my elation, Doctor! I will ensure this remains a secret from Doctor Maxis.”
“Not just Maxis, Doctor Groph, but everyone in his inner circle. Until we know who we can trust, this is to remain between us.”
“I understand, Doctor Richtofen... But you must tell me, were you able to determine how the structure was able to provide oxygen? I have a theory myself.”
“All in due time. Go to the site where those unsightly pillars are being built. Ask for Herr Sauers, und he will put you through to Doctor Schuster, who will answer all of your questions... Well... most of your questions.”
Doctor Groph bounded away with excitement back towards the courtyard area, his arms raised to his head.
“Direct communication between here and... Mein Gott!”
Richtofen’s muscles relaxed and he finally felt the ability to breathe in peace, looking back towards the exit. He muttered to himself, “Groph is not quite right in the head… ”
“Indubitably.” Even the voices concur.
Richtofen pushed through the exit leading him to a street between rows of laboratory buildings. German military vehicles and transport trucks lined the sidewalks as scientists unloaded materials. It seems the alliance with Germany has brought an abundance of spoils for Group 935. Perhaps it was wrong of Edward to have doubted their usefulness.
Edward approached an office building at the end of the street, passing the desk attendant heading towards Maxis’ office.
“Doctor, wait! Do you have an appointment?”
Richtofen scoffed, looking back towards the female desk attendant, who had stood up from her desk in trying to get his attention.
“Do you know who I am ?”
“Yes, Doctor Richtofen, but Doctor Maxis asked that all visitors wait for him to call-”
“Ludvig will understand. We go back a long, long time!”
Richtofen continued down the hall, stopping at Doctor Maxis' office, the door marked with a plaque reading ‘ Ludvig Maxis M.D. ’ He straightened his jacket and twisted the knob on the door to reveal a young woman with blonde hair and a short dress sitting on Maxis’ desk, and Maxis himself in his chair, now gazing angrily towards Doctor Richtofen.
“Is this a bad time, Doctor?”
“Thirty-two minutes ahead of schedule is as good a time as any, I suppose... Check in with the receptionist next time, would you, Edward?”
“Of course! Danke schoen und guten Morgen to you Doctor Maxis! I assume this fine young Fräulein is your new assistant... My, my, Doctor, a little young, don’t you think?”
Visibly annoyed, Doctor Maxis motioned for the young woman to shake Doctor Richtofen’s hand.
“This is Sophia. She writes my memorandums, plans my day, and looks after Samantha while she is here.”
“Ah, how wunderbar , you certainly deserve the help for all that you’ve done for this organization. I'm sure Sophia here is quite helpful.”
Richtofen kissed the young assistant’s hand, before sending it aside and passing her to put his full attention towards the task at hand.
“Close the door on the way out, would you, Schnuckelchen ? Ja, thank you.”
Sophia left the office with an uncomfortable smile, shutting the door to leave Richtofen and Maxis alone. Richtofen lifted the case containing the Wunderwaffe onto Maxis’ desk, causing it to creak under the enormous weight. In the process, a framed photo of Doctor Maxis and his late wife fell face down.
“Slow down, Edward, we have a lot more to discuss than this pet project you’re dying to show me. You’ve been gone for quite some time and I need to get you back up to speed.”
Maxis readjusted the photo on his desk as Richtofen took a seat, leaning forward towards the desk.
“Apologies, Doctor. You must understand how hard it is to contain my excitement! This device before you is the culmination of all of my life’s work. I believe I have created the perfect weapon using Element 115.”
“Be that as it may, Edward, you’ve been on a two month sabbatical that I had not even realized you had taken… That is, until Doctor Schuster informed me weeks in and promptly resigned... If I didn’t trust your judgment, Edward, I’d have feared you too were leaving after my comments regarding your work on the MTD. It was my error for not being truthful about our involvement with the Nazi Party from the start.”
“How very humble of you, Doctor Maxis. I accept your apologies. All of them! I believe in my time away I have found a new appreciation for the decisions you’ve made. Times are difficult, und just outside I saw many men of science with the tools they needed. I must assume this is a result of your leadership. It is a shame that some do not agree...”
“Yes, we have lost some great minds. It is unfortunate about Doctor Schuster.”
“Doctor Schuster is a brilliant man with a faint heart... Such a pure soul for a man of science. I’m afraid he was unable to accept his work going towards a party with such a radical agenda.”
“In any case, I promise you, just as I have promised every other scientist in Group 935, that our work will not be hindered by this alliance.”
Doctor Maxis poured a cup of green tea and handed it to Doctor Richtofen before raising his own for a toast.
“To improving the human condition, ” they said in unison.
The two men sipped from their cups, Richtofen placing the sub-par tea back onto the desk.
Maxis placed his tea aside, looking over a written document with bullet point notes, “Now, Doctor Richtofen, with Schuster gone you will need another lab assistant for your tests on the Untoten .”
“Oh, Doctor Maxis, don’t worry about-”
“As you know, it is our policy that there should be at least two scientists in every laboratory, and many of our more experienced staff members are busy elsewhere. Your work on unlocking the secrets of the mind will require a precise, younger touch. I’m assigning a recent graduate by the name Hans Wagner to assist you. He is a protégé of mine whom I would trust with my life.”
“Oh, wunderbar ...”
“He is elated that he will finally be able to meet you, Edward. He will be in your lab within the hour.”
“We are truly lucky to be living in these times, Edward. Everything just seems to be falling into place for us! With the surplus funds the Reichstag has provided, I do believe Group 935 is due for an expansion. The only issue I find is a lack of Element 115 in our possession. Word has trickled down to me from our agents that the Americans have a supply of it in Nevada. Surely the Reichstag could find us another supply for our needs. There must be more out there!”
“I haven't the faintest idea where there might be more, Doctor. But expansion of our operations is a wunderbar idea. You must let me know of any new developments. It will be quite the burden of responsibility for you to manage so many facilities, no?”
“Yes, well, there is always more work to keep our good luck from running short. Always so much to do... Perhaps it would be best if I found new helping hands to lead as we expand. I won’t be around these halls forever, after all, and Samantha... She will soon start home-schooling.”
Edward shifted in his chair, grinning as he leaned in and said, “You've made many sacrifices in the name of science, Ludvig. I would be honored if, someday, you decided to give me some administrative responsibility.”
Doctor Maxis leaned back in his chair, silent for a moment with a sullen face, and looked at the portrait of himself and his wife.
“Believe me, Edward, when the work is too much for me, you will be the first one I call.”
Richtofen nodded, satisfied with the seeds he had planted.
“Now then, Doctor Richtofen, before you left, you were working with Doctor Schuster on the Untoten experiments, yes?”
“Oh, ja , I remember that. Completely.”
Maxis pulled a folder with documents pertaining to the experiments from his drawer.
“I took the liberty of sorting through the results from previous experiments, which were incredibly disorganized, but legible enough for Sophia and I, nonetheless. It seems positive results were minimal.”
“Oh, yes, I remember... The best thing I could teach the subjects to do was salivate on command.”
“Something Pavlov achieved with canines decades ago. I believe it is time for a more direct approach. They do not seem to respond to stimuli like other observable living creatures. This may be a biological issue, which I believe is one of your specialties?”
“I have not practiced outside of the realm of Physics in years, but I would never turn down the challenge.”
“Good. I believe working with the brain itself may be the key to unlocking the mind in the subjects. Perhaps decay in the frontal lobe is preventing them from responding to commands without violence. I’ve given a copy of these documents to Doctor Wagner and he should be up to date on the experiments by the time he arrives. You are to report the results to me as is standard. Controlling the living dead may be the ticket to our permanent place in the scientific world. I am entrusting this crucial experiment with you, Edward.”
“Then you must trust me when I say that the Wunderwaffe may also be one of those tickets!”
“Yes, yes, I did not forget, Edward. Go ahead.”
Richtofen stood up swiftly, unlatching the case sitting atop Maxis’ desk, and revealing the device. It sat cradled in a custom-shaped foam casing, and in the top half of the case was a folder containing test results. Richtofen handed Maxis the folder, before carefully lifting the Wunderwaffe DG-2 , caressing it in his arms before taking a grip on both handles. The device's center had three outlets for Tesla bulbs which it used as ammunition, as well as a switch to ready the weapon. It was a bulky and incredibly heavy piece of equipment, requiring two hands to hold. The under-barrel of the device was box-like, with exposed circuitry, and a wire connecting the box with a small power supply.
Maxis shifted his chair away from the desk, leaning towards the wall, away from the end of the weapon. “Is the device active?”
“Nein , do not worry, Doctor Maxis. Without the bulbs the firing mechanism should not activate. What you see before you is mein greatest work, the Wunderwaffe DG-2 prototype. Harnessing the inherent conductive properties within Element 115, much like the electro-shock defenses, a concentrated bolt is sent directly to the target through the barrel, electrocuting anything it comes into contact with and any other nearby organic beings. In its current stage, it is absolutely lethal und accurate. You will find in the results that the maximum number of targets with one bolt is currently four before the effect begins to decrease in effectiveness. My goal is upwards of twenty four targets before lethality drops off.”
“I thought we had discussed ending the Wunderwaffe project?”
“Yes, the first generation of the program was a bit… haphazard. But I have taken great care to overhaul the DG-1’s designs in creating the DG-2. It is far more practical und efficient in its power usage.”
“Is it safe to use for the operator?”
“If the target is a safe distance away. If too close, however, there is the potential that the operator will become a part of the chain of targets... But from a distance it is perfectly safe apart from a little heat in the face. Due to its size und weight, it would be best brought into battle with two operators to carry the device und its power supply. It could also be mounted on gunships or tanks. Further improvements will be made in miniaturizing the power supply to allow it to be wielded by a single operator.”
“You believe it would help the German war effort to invest further into the project?”
“To that I say indubitub... indutable... indubitably !”
Maxis pressed his back in his chair and peered down at the device inquisitively. “I see some potential in this weapon, Doctor... I will send a copy of these results to the Reichstag. If they have any right mind, they will want to see more from you. Excellent work, Edward.”
“Thank you, Doctor Maxis. I was afraid you would take issue with how I’ve spent so much of my time on the DG-2. Do you see it going into production here at Der Riese ?”
“I promise, Edward, with the results you’ve shown me today, the Wunderwaffe DG-2 should see our production lines within the year. For now, we should focus on what the Reichstag has instructed us to do, and that is to pursue creating this army of Untoten. I will send your results as soon as it is opportune, Doctor Richtofen.”
“Thank you, Doctor. This has been a lovely meeting of the minds. I bid you farewell!”
Richtofen placed the device back into its case, latching it shut before hoisting it from the desk and heading towards the door, leaving behind his now cold cup of tea.
“The Reichstag wants us to inform all Group 935 scientists that there will be mandatory background checks coming this month. You should have received a letter from them with the required documentation. I would suggest you look over it and clear out your box. I’m told your mail has been piling up since you’ve left.”
“Danke . Goodbye, Doctor Maxis.”
Doctor Richtofen shut the door behind him, marching towards the front entrance, smirking at the receptionist as he passed by. Opening the door to the street outside, he placed the case on the ground safely before pumping his fist into the air in exaltation. With Maxis firmly in the palm of his hands, Richtofen could begin his real work in unlocking the potential of the Moon Pyramid Device, now shortened to M.P.D.
Arriving at the mailroom, Richtofen peered into his mailbox. As Maxis had explained before, it was overflowing with letters. Edward took them in his hands, walking towards his laboratory where he would wait for this new little problem, Doctor Wagner.
The room had been cleaned heavily since his return from the Moon and Schuster's departure. Edward placed the letters on the central table, sorting through them to find any potentially urgent messages he may have missed. Most were letters from other scientists, which Edward presumed were most likely to praise and adore his work. But one in particular caught his eye. A letter from Hermann Becker, the chief Illuminati leader in Germany. Edward opened the letter to view its contents.
To our Faithful Servant, Doctor Edward Richtofen,
Since your resignation letter we received in January, the Order has reviewed your membership through due process. As you know, our code dictates that all members' resignation or acceptance into the Order must be reviewed with extreme scrutiny and carefully approved or denied by all leading members. Your letter and the accompanying cloth bag of unwashed robes came with such short notice. Many of us were stunned and frustrated with your decision. You have proven yourself a worthy member of the Order and a loyal part of our plan, and as such we have unanimously agreed to allow your safe departure from the Order. You will, however, lose access to all Illuminati opportunities. This includes your former laboratory at Alcatraz Island, the Hanford Site, our facilities in Vienna, and our central hall in Ingolstadt. Agents of the Order will be keeping a watchful eye over your actions to ensure the safety of our secrets, but we are sure you are to be trusted as you have endured the trials of membership and taken your oath to the New Enlightenment. Attached to this letter are farewell messages from members who chose to send them with their vote to allow your resignation. As you surely know, this document and all attached documents are to be burned or shredded after reading.
- Herr Becker, First Circle of the European Nations
Doctor Richtofen smirked for a moment, remembering he had sent his resignation to the Illuminati the day after he returned from the Moon, paying no mind to any potential repercussions. He knew the Order could do nothing to silence him with his level of notoriety. Amused, Doctor Richtofen looked into the attached letters from other members of the Order. One letter in particular, however, ruined his day.
It is with great sadness that this letter of resignation has arrived at my office today. Just this morning I thought of my father and his relationship with you. The two of you never saw eye-to-eye on much. He never much cared for the Illuminati taking over his prison, and thankfully I was able to convince him to allow us access. He was still unhappy with your presence in particular. I do, however, believe he found a new respect for you shortly before his suicide. I share the sentiment with him, for the most part.
It is unfortunate your laboratory will be turned over to another in the organization. I will miss your wacky antics and experiments that nearly exposed its location to the late night guardsmen under my employ. Perhaps I may sound bitter, but that I am not. It brings me great joy to see you moving on to other things that may enrich the world outside of the confines of the Order. Perhaps you and this Maxis have a better relationship than you and my father, and perhaps Group 935 will suit your needs just fine. I wish you all the best, Teddy.
- Joseph Crawford, Warden of Alcatraz Prison, Second Circle of the Americas
Edward frowned, crumpling up the incessant letter and setting it aside to burn. He viewed another.
I am indubitably disappointed by your actions, Edward. You had so much potential to change the world for the better and you’ve squandered it by distancing yourself from the Order in the past year. We rarely received news of your discoveries and movements in Group 935's leadership, and now you have decided to resign from your position to do what exactly? “It is simply the right thing to do,” is what you said, which is frankly puzzling to hear. I trust you will keep our secrets, however, I do not understand your decision. When you first joined the Illuminati, you were so eager to mould a new, perfect world. You told us all that you would prefer to work in the shadows to improve humanity’s overall happiness, without them even knowing your name. Now you spend your time in this Group 935, run by that pompous, self-absorbed man they call Ludvig Maxis. It seems now you only care for the glory and riches that comes with your genius. How could you abandon your obligation to the Order like this, Edward?
I do not expect an answer, as I’m sure you are continuing to distance yourself from the Order as I write this message. You would have proven such a valuable asset in taming this great war, and it is a shame to see you leave, old friend.
- Mr. P., Second Circle of the Americas
Edward scoffed at his old friend’s use of code names like a child pretending to be a secret agent. No amount of shaming would make Edward regret his decision to leave on a new path. Edward only wished he had seen the letter sooner.
There Edward stood for a moment, the letter in hand, as he began to feel an aching feeling in his temples. He began to hear whispers behind him, and as he turned, there was no one, but the whispers continued to guide him out of the lab and into the hallway outside. He looked left and right, but the voices guided him down a corridor to a laboratory two doors away, the letter still in hand. Edward knocked on the door and waited a moment as an older scientist approached, smiling before opening it.
“Doctor Richtofen! It's an honor to finally meet you.”
The older doctor outstretched his hand for a handshake, but the whispers guided Richtofen elsewhere, to the younger scientist in the corner, viewing something through a microscope. Richtofen approached this scientist, who raised his head to meet Doctor Richtofen's gaze. Getting closer, the scientist raised his whole body revealing a name tag, ‘Dr. Novák’.
The two scientists stared at each other for a moment as the scientist who had opened the door backed away, returning to his work. As Edward looked into his eyes, the voices in his head grew louder before slowly silencing.
Richtofen pushed the letter from Mr. P. into the scientist’s chest, who took it in his hands to look over. Richtofen leaned in, stating with his hands making air quotes, “‘Mr. P.’ asked how I could abandon my obligation to the Order. Tell him and the others, ‘Teddy was a liar.’ ”
The young scientist thought silently for a moment, placing the letter into his jacket pocket before asking, “How did you know I was-”
Edward cut him off as he walked out the door, saying, “Auf Wiedersehen, Doctor.”