Act II – Descent Into Madness
14 Months Later...
Approaching The Giant (“Der Riese” ), near Breslau
Dr. Edward Richtofen
January 11th, 1942
“Und then he said he got her… wait for it... a dog!” Richtofen held his chest, the riotous laughter bellowing out. With his other hand he slapped his own knee, leaning forward then left and right from a combination of glee and the shaking vehicle. The military truck they were in had nearly reached the front gates of Der Riese, marked by the signature uneven gravel road that stretched across Lower Silesia.
Across from Doctor Richtofen was Doctor Wagner, his expression one of emptiness and indifference. This did not stifle Richtofen's jovial mood, however, just as it had not in the five hour ride up to this point.
“But it gets better, if you can believe it! Then, Doctor Maxis said the dog he got for his daughter... was from the Animal Testing Lab!” Richtofen continued to guffaw, muttering as he did, “A lab mutt! "
Richtofen's face was now red with laughter, continuing well past the revelation’s worth. Wagner continued to appear unamused, gazing out of the truck bed towards the road barely lit by the sunrise.
Once the cackling subsided, Doctor Wagner spoke up with his rebuttal, “Doctor Richtofen, Samantha has been asking her father for a dog for years. It seems like a very thoughtful gift to me... “
Edward wiped a tear that had formed in his eye. “Oh, Hans, children do not know what they really want! When I was a boy, all I ever wanted was to see my parents again.”
Wagner’s eyes lit up.
“What a foolish pursuit that would have been! They were dead! Anyhow, I did not get what I wanted, und look at me now! Everything is perfect… “
Hans Wagner again returned his gaze outside, with no further rebuttals.
The truck began to slow as the convoy approached the gates before stopping completely for inspection. During the lull, Richtofen would take an opportunity to pen a diary entry.
“January 11th, 1942
Construction of the Moon Base, now known as Griffin Station, is nearing completion, as I was informed just last week. Our plans seem to be advancing on schedule, due in large part to the efforts of my old friend, Doctor Schuster. I should ask him how he is doing; He seems quite down in the dumps every time I hear from him. I admire his dedication to our cause, and I only trust him with this task knowing he wants to make the world a better place just as much as I do. I have considered making him the head of the station, but I’m afraid he is not qualified to lead such an operation. He simply does not have the courage to quell a rebellion or to make demands of his underlings. Perhaps he will be heartbroken when I make the announcement, but as a friend, I only hope that he will understand.”
Voices began to creep into Edward's mind, gnawing at him to look up from his journal towards Doctor Wagner. Wagner was holding test data from their time together in France, his wretched little hand marking through and scribbling on the sides to make it more “presentable” for Doctor Maxis. Richtofen said nothing, for that would only mean a stern lecture from Maxis and suspicions of Edward’s treachery.
“He’s Maxis’ puppet.” “Kill him.” “Just a slave to his master.” “End his worthless life, Edward.”
Edward rubbed his temples and returned his attention to the diary to stow his frustrations. Recently the voices had become far more aggressive, and one loud, violent one in particular had filled his thoughts. Even in sleep, the voices would interrupt Edward’s dreams, promising power. Edward was not sure if they could be trusted yet, but the potential that the MPD holds is very, very real, and he only hoped to learn more once the station is complete.
“Doctor Wagner continues to be a thorn in my side. All he ever wants to discuss is his love for Maxis, and I hate it. I hate it so very much. I cannot contact Griffin Station during daylight hours while Wagner skulks around. I have considered stealing his work boots to end the irritating sound that follows him everywhere he goes, but I would rather hear him coming at all times.
Anyhow, today we are joining Doctor Maxis for a very late birthday party for his incessant daughter. I suppose a consolation for my orphanhood is that I did not have Maxis for a father. I brought a gift, as Maxis requested. Whether Samantha should like it or not, he did not specify. More importantly, I am reaching the final stages of the Wunderwaffe DG-2 prototype. Before Maxis leaves for Japan, I hope to suggest its mass-production to him once again. This factory has seen nothing like the DG-2 before.”
The convoy had begun moving again towards the interior campus of Der Riese, coming to a halt on the street outside the laboratory buildings. German soldiers stationed at the facility unloaded the truck bed of supplies before assisting Wagner and Richtofen out of the vehicle.
Wagner came to his feet on the concrete below, straightening his lab coat, which Richtofen had forced him to leave on, as they had left the lab in a hurry.
“Finally, we are home.”
Richtofen rose to his feet, straightening his own lab coat which had a large, bloody blotch on the chest fresh from the night prior. Carefully, he unloaded a case that held components for his Wunderwaffe DG-2 prototype, which he would assemble here at Der Riese. Carelessly, he also grabbed a box wrapped in bright blue wrapping paper with a poorly-tied bow on top, as Wagner grabbed a similar, more festive box.
“Let's get this over with, Doctor Wagner, so we can return to work.”
“Of course, Doctor Richtofen... “
Richtofen led the way in search of Laboratory C5555, in the building across the street. He climbed a staircase, Wagner in tow, up towards the fifth floor. At the end of the hallway was room 5555 and mounted by a nail in the wall was a note stating, “Party inside, do not disturb.”
Richtofen straightened himself and dusted off his shoulders before turning the knob to open the door, a smile plastered on his face all the while.
What he revealed was the sterile laboratory space, its tables cleared and adorned with presents and one orange balloon attached to a table’s leg. Scattered around the room were about twenty people, many of them in work attire and a few with pointed party hats on their heads. The center table had a small white cake and candles. Leaning over the table facing the wall was Doctor Maxis.
Richtofen and Wagner entered the room, closing the door behind as Maxis, now facing away, called out behind himself bluntly, “You’re late!”
Maxis turned around, his expression inflamed and movements swift. He closed a manila folder of documents and set them aside as he looked into Edward’s eyes. “Doctor.”
Maxis marched forward as Richtofen cautiously moved further into the room, his expression somewhat confused. “... Doctor? Is there a problem?”
Now inches away, Maxis stopped, staring straight at Edward.
“The problem, Edward, lies in your timing. This party was already late when I planned it, but you’ve continued to set it back further and further.”
“Well, as you can see, Doctor Maxis, I have been hard at work... “ Richtofen motioned to the blood stains on his lab coat.
“All this time to prepare and you show up dressed like that... Put your uniform in the locker and your gift on the table. I will let Sophia know the party can finally begin now that the last guests have arrived.”
“Entschuldigung , Doctor- “
Maxis pushed Richtofen aside before approaching Wagner, outstretching his hand for a handshake.
“Doctor Wagner, how did the ride treat you?”
“It was quite uneventful, I’m afraid. But it is worth it to be here again. It is good to see you, Doctor.”
“The feeling is mutual. How was the research in France?”
“Results are promising, Doctor. I will give you the full, annotated report after the party.”
“Excellent. Would you care for a drink?”
As the two haughty men mingled, Richtofen fought the urge to lash out, gritting his teeth as he approached the table filled with gifts. He set his gift down before stepping towards the lockers against the back wall, where Doctor Porter was examining his own research, a lopsided party hat attached to a string on his head. Richtofen opened the locker, paying no mind to Porter, and removing his lab coat to replace with another.
Porter did, however, notice Richtofen, as he looked up from his work.
“Ah, Doctor Richtofen. You’re just the man whose opinion I need right now.”
“Really? Just me?”
“With your Wunderwaffe being such a success, I have been inspired to work on a 115-powered weapon along with Doctor Maxis. We seized designs for the weapon from Division 9, but it lacks a proper power conduit as well as many other requirements for a prototype to be developed. We have considered the use of cold fusion technology, but for a weapon of this size, that seems to be impossible at the moment.”
Edward looked over the designs from Japanese scientists sketched into a notebook Porter held. It appeared to be a very portable design, able to be held with only one hand like a handgun. It would fire bursts of plasma that would vaporize anything it came into contact with.
“I wish I could help, I really do. Plasma is not quite my specialty. That will require quite a bit of power, und from quite a small package.”
“What about your DG-2? It is meant to be held by one man, is it not?”
Cross, Richtofen shut the locker door and turned to Porter.
“The DG-2 is still a sizable piece of equipment. More like a rifle than a little handgun. It is far more practical, Doctor Porter.”
“I’m sure we will find a power solution. Thank you anyways, Doctor.”
Edward bowed slightly, rolling his eyes as he looked away and carried his bag of equipment to his seat at the left-hand side of the room. Others simply mingled or looked over their work as they ate veal cut and provided by the campus butcher. It was all they ever had to eat in this concrete hell.
A minute or so passed before there was a knock at the door and Maxis motioned for everyone to get into position near the central table as he turned out the lights. The party now ready, Maxis nodded his head towards Doctor Porter, who called out, “Come in!”
The handle turned and the door inched open, as a small silhouetted figure ambled slowly into the room. A larger figure behind reached out to turn on the light switch, the note that was on the door in their other hand. Young Samantha stood in shock as the gathering of old men in the room shouted, “Surprise!”
Now seven years old, she was initially startled, stumbling backwards towards the young woman behind her, Sophia. Realizing this was the party her father had made for her, however, Samantha’s expression turned to joy, her eyes widening and jaw dropping as she looked at the decorations, the cake, and the gifts in her honor. She skipped over to her father, who was now crouching as the two embraced. Richtofen checked his pocket watch: 9:02.
“Daddy, I almost thought I would not have a party this year!”
“I know, Samantha. Things have become very busy around here, but I would never, ever forget your special day.”
“When can I open my presents? Can we now?”
“Of course, but once you see what I got for you, you may want to wait to open the rest.”
The others in the crowd smiled, happy for the father and his daughter. Richtofen chuckled to himself, placing his face in his hands.
Sophia left the room for a minute, returning with an audio recorder and rolling a large box with holes in the side on a cart. Samantha began to jump up and down, eagerly anticipating the gift from her father.
Sophia placed the recorder on the table, and turned the box around to reveal the mesh cage door, and behind it, a resting German Shepard mix.
Samantha continued to bounce, restless and joyful. Richtofen started to wheeze, attempting to silence himself as he laughed into his hand. Maxis did not notice, but Wagner did, who scolded Richtofen.
Sophia opened the cage, placing a bone on the floor and whistling to the dog inside. The dog opened its eyes, slowly lifted itself up, and skulked towards the bone before sniffing it and laying back down to chew on it.
“Is it a boy or a girl, Daddy?”
“She is a girl.”
Maxis motioned to Sophia who began to fiddle with the recording device. Samantha crouched near the dog, petting her ears and running her palm across the fur of her back, and she did not seem to mind.
Maxis kneeled down near them. “Now, you must be very diligent with her, Samantha. Owning a dog is a great responsibility.”
“Yes, father. Oh, I love her.”
“You must feed her every day, and walk her, and be very careful when you play with her. You know she’s going to have puppies?”
Samantha's eyes lit up, as she looked back towards her father in disbelief.
“Really?! Can I keep the puppies too, father?”
“We’ll see, Samantha. One step at a time.”
Samantha began to rub the dog’s belly, who seemed to enjoy the love and attention as it rolled over and stuck its tongue outward.
“I will name her Fluffy.”
“Fluffy? That is a beautiful name, honey.”
At the nearby table Sophia was tinkering with the device, and finally deactivated it.
Maxis rose back to his feet. “Thank you, Sophia.”
“It was my pleasure, Doctor. She is so happy.”
Face red with laughter, Richtofen shook his head, attending to the plate of veal on the table.
Maxis knelt down to face Samantha, who was overjoyed with her new companion.
“Would you like to open the rest of your presents now, or would you like to spend some time with Fluffy first?”
“I want to pet Fluffy first. She is so happy when I scratch her like this!”
“That’s wonderful, honey. Let me know when you are ready. Daddy needs to attend to some business with Uncle Eddie.”
Maxis stood back up and turned around, his eyes now fixed on Richtofen, his expression far more stern.
“Edward. Doctor Wagner told me the two of you made great advancements in your research. Unlocking the secrets of the mind may be key to winning this war, you know.”
Richtofen replied as he chewed the meat on his plate, “Yes, you will find that non-living subjects are far more cooperative when being cut open than your undead. Through studying their minds, perhaps we will be able to better understand these zombies…”
“You know how I despise that word, Edward... I will review the results with you after the party. But, quickly, I did want to brief you on something all Group 935 scientists will need to know in the near future. Perhaps you can help the new recruits coming this week to become acquainted.”
Maxis led Richtofen towards the corner of the room, where a table along with something far larger was concealed by a green tarp. Maxis unveiled the larger object: It was a boxy computer with an elevated keypad and a round screen at the top that had green back-lighting.
Maxis leaned down to power on the computer, as the screen lit up and began relaying data. The simple screen displayed several lines of machine information followed by a blinking green line to denote where information could be input.
“This is the Datenbediensteter , or Data Servant. The project is nearing completion, and will see that a paperless network of data is established between all of our facilities. You will be able to log in to the Servant using your own set of credentials, input test information, and send messages to other scientists. It is truly remarkable.”
At the first screen, Maxis steadily typed out his ID in the system, ‘lmaxis’. On the next line, he quickly typed a set of characters that appeared on the screen as a series of asterisks. Richtofen took note of Maxis’ keystrokes, inputting into his memory the password: ‘hilda32’.
The lines of characters faded away as a new line appeared, reading, ‘Hallo Welt!’
Richtofen waited a moment, before sarcastically uttering between chewing, “Wunderbar.”
Maxis rolled his eyes, stating, “Much of the functionality is hidden from view for the moment. It is nearly complete and ready for the first file to be input. Doctor Porter and I have tested it minimally, but Doctor Novák is the programmer of the Data Servant. Any concerns or inquiries should go through him."
“Yes, I don't know if you’ve met. His office is two doors away from mine.”
Edward remembered Novák, the spook sent by the Illuminati to spy on him, “I may pay him a visit or two. This technology seems very... complicated. Surely it will not completely replace audio logs or the simple written word?”
“This technology is far more secure than either of those forms of recording. In times of war, our security is a matter of life and death. All Group 935 scientists will need to become acquainted with the Data Servant as soon as possible.”
“I suppose I will have to try to become accustomed, then. In the meantime, Doctor Maxis, I’ve nearly completed-”
“If this is about the DG-2-”
“Of course this is about the DG-2!”
“We can discuss this during work hours, through an appointment with Sophia. I don’t have all the time in the world.”
“Be that as it may, Doctor, this project is worth your time. My prototype is nearly complete, und it seeks to blow our other weapon projects out of the water! Sky high! You will not regret hearing me out.”
"Fine, Ludvig, in either case, I must return to my work immediately. I hope I served my time at your party long enough.”
“It was not long at all, actually. Samantha hasn’t even opened her presents yet.”
“Then let’s get the opening started! I'm sure she cannot be too busy with the lab mutt. All it does is lie there and drool on the ground!”
Maxis irately motioned to Samantha to approach them, after they had reached the table full of presents.
“Honey, Doctor Richtofen must return to his work. Could you open his present now, dear?”
Edward pulled the blue box from the table, handing it firmly to Samantha. She pulled the bow off of the box, ripping the paper, before revealing what was inside. She recoiled in horror before attempting to reach inside.
Maxis appeared stunned as Richtofen nodded, his face one of child-like glee and nostalgic memories.
In Samantha’s hands was a stuffed, brown monkey about the size of her teddy bear. By the feel of the fur, the skin was clearly that of a real monkey, its face frozen in horror, mouth agape and screaming. Its eyes had been removed and replaced with plastic ones that protruded out in shock. A striped piece of cloth had been cut and re-purposed into a makeshift shirt for the stuffed monkey.
“It's so ugly! I…”
Continuing to smile, Richtofen replied, “You hate it! That’s alright, I am sure he will start to grow on you once you give him some time. The little monkey can be your new best friend!”
Samantha could not bear to look the eternally screaming primate in the eyes, and she held it at arms length away from herself as she lowered it back into the box. Maxis was still gobsmacked, and looked to Richtofen as if he held any answers.
Samantha closed the top of the box. “Thank you, Eddie…”
“Bitte ! I really should be going... “
Maxis took the box, and placing his hand on Samantha's shoulder, he guided her away, not saying a word to Richtofen. Edward picked up his bag, and without drawing the attention of Doctor Wagner, he slipped out of the door into the hallway.
Free at last, he headed to the stairs, descending to the first floor and outside. He checked his watch again: 9:36. Now would be a good time to read any mail that had accumulated over the past year.
Edward approached another laboratory building, entering through the front and making his way to the mailroom. Reaching into his own box he pulled out a stack of letters. Strangely, however, there was a note on the top. Richtofen headed towards his lab on the second floor, shutting the door and locking it before placing the note down to read it.
“To faithful servant, the seed has been planted, observe and report, Maxis must not know.”
Richtofen knew immediately the origin of the note. It seemed the Illuminati believed that Richtofen would still serve them. They created the Data Servant to collect Group 935’s research, and Maxis willingly fell right into their trap.
Edward shredded the note, discarding the pieces in a bin. Edward made a vow that he would serve no one any longer. The Illuminati were fools if they believed Richtofen would have a change of heart.
He would not tell Maxis of the system’s true purpose. Not for the Order’s sake, but for his own personal gain. In his diary, Richtofen penned the password he had remembered from earlier: ‘hilda32’. Perhaps the Data Servant could serve Edward’s needs as well.
“He hides something from you Edward. Him and his stooges. Maxis. Wagner. Porter. None of them are to be trusted. They have been working against you for years!”
“You've told me this many times, yes.”
“You will not understand. Not until it is too late and they have slit your throat, Edward. They are better off dead men.”
“The station is nearing completion... I need more time.”
“Time you will not have!”
“Please! Stop yelling... I will do as you say, if you just... Soon we will open the gateway, and finally you will be free from your imprisonment.”
“And you will Ascend to Agartha!”
“Yes... yes, I know. The Aether’s power... the dimensions... I am honored that you have chosen me, my Lord.”