Laboratories, Der Riese, near Breslau
Dr. Edward Richtofen
December 14th, 1942
“I must admit, Doctor Richtofen, when you are right, you are indubitably right!” Doctor Wagner was marveling at what they had created.
Richtofen grinned, “He only needs a few minor finishing touches und you will need to record the lines I’ve written to give it a voice. Then... he will be perfect.”
On the table in front of Doctor Wagner and Doctor Richtofen was a stuffed monkey made from the body of a real primate, its eyes replaced with painted marbles and mouth made to be protruding from the head with over-sized fake teeth. It rested in a seated position, holding between its hands a set of small cymbals, and it wore a blue striped cloth shirt with tan pants. On its head was a plastic cup painted blue and marked with the Group 935 insignia by Doctor Wagner. There was a metal crank on its left side, that when twisted would cause the monkey to begin clanging its cymbals together and chattering its teeth.
Doctor Wagner responded, “I will as soon as I am able to. The eyes and the teeth are quite... disturbing. That is only appropriate, however, given its purpose.”
“I think he is quite an adorable little specimen... I don't know what Samantha could not see in you, little one... ”
Richtofen prodded the lifeless toy’s nose, leaning in close.
Wagner said, “The cymbals in combination with the music and the voice recordings may be able to hold the undead's attention indefinitely. I am thrilled to begin testing... How about you, Doctor?”
Richtofen adjusted the simian’s hat to be slightly tilted on its head, before rubbing his finger along the underside of its chin as if to scratch it.
“Ja , ja . But, come to think of it, I feel... it is missing something.”
Wagner pondered, “Hm, well the gramophone in the lab was playing at a much lower decibel level when it attracted the undead-”
“What if... we connected an explosive to the crank? Ja!”
“An... explosive? Would the device destroying itself not defeat the purpose of distracting the undead?”
“Not if the dynamite was set to explode right as the monkey completes its performance!”
“But that would kill the undead when they come close enough, surely?”
“Precisely, Doctor Wagner! What if the test subjects are let loose at the castle again, und there is no power for the Electro-Shock Defenses? This little monkey would make short work of them!”
Wagner raised his eyebrow, possibly taken aback by the proposal.
“It seems a little crude... but I like the idea of a method for dealing with another outbreak that does not require power. For now we should test its effects on subjects we don't intend on blowing up.”
Richtofen picked up the monkey, holding it in his hands as he viewed it from all angles.
“Ja, you are absolutely right, Doctor. Work now, fun later. ”
From across the room there was an attempted twisting of the locked door handle, followed by a groan and a pressing of keys on a keypad. The door came open swiftly revealing an irate Doctor Maxis. His eyes were bloodshot and grey beard unkempt. He walked in the room with great stride and purpose, arms at his side and gaze firmly set on the pair of scientists.
Richtofen twisted his body towards Maxis, before turning his smile to a frown as he looked into the eyes of a man he so despised.
Maxis gazed into the lifeless eyes of the monkey in Richtofen's hands, cocking his head and asking shortly, “What on Earth is that?”
Doctor Wagner replied, “It is a little device Doctor Richtofen and I have been working on. When we were performing the weapon tests you commissioned, I accidentally turned on the gramophone in the lab. The test subject grew restless and focused its entire attention on the music, paying no mind to us as we came closer. We think that certain frequencies may be the key-”
Maxis cut in, “The key to controlling them? Surely you understand that is nonsense, Doctor Wagner. Any creature able to sense vibrations would pay attention to a loud noise.”
Wagner retorted, “This was different, Doctor Maxis. It seemed completely entranced by it-”
Maxis ignored Wagner as he stared at Richtofen, waving his hand as if to dismiss the monkey’s existence.
“I presume this was your idea, Edward? It looks an awful lot like the disturbed ‘toy’ you gave to Samantha for her birthday last year.”
Richtofen replied, “That’s because it is, Doctor Maxis. She did not seem to like it very much, if I am remembering correctly, which I am. You always say to never waste our resources, do you not? Its clothing is even made from Samantha's old bed-sheets we... ahem, soiled several months ago.”
“Why do you continue to disobey my instructions time and time again? It seems no matter the partner, you find a way to derail our important work.”
Wagner interjected between them, “I promise, Doctor, this has not slowed our progress on perfecting the matter transference device for human teleportation nor our research into controlling the undead.”
Maxis spoke more calmly to Wagner, before redirecting the conversation to Richtofen’s failings, “I wish that were true, Doctor Wagner, but Doctor Richtofen has made no significant progress in months! He spoke so highly of teleportation three years ago.” Turning to Richtofen, Maxis asked, “What happened to your ambition, Edward?”
Richtofen dedicated every iota of his being towards maintaining his professional disposition, stating, “I am very rarely wrong, Doctor Maxis, but perhaps I was then. I was a younger, more foolish man, after all. We can’t all foresee the future. We will be returning to MTD testing very soon, once I have ein proper idea of how we should proceed.”
“You should be working towards perfecting teleportation now, Edward. Manufacturing weapons is only the first step in impressing the Reichstag. They demand more from men of our intellect. I expect more from my scientists.”
Edward felt slightly light headed from a combination of his own anger, and the anger of the voices in his head, chattering and screaming all at once, “How can he speak to us this way? Show him what you are capable of Edward! END HIS WRETCHED LIFE!”
He placed a hand on his head to soothe his nerves, putting the monkey down on the table as he did.
“Why don’t we all just calm down, und use our inside voices!”
Wagner and Maxis were taken aback and silent for a moment. Maxis cocked his head, stating, “No one here is yelling except for you, Edward!”
“Of course. I knew that.”
“You’ve become increasingly erratic since I’ve assigned you to the castle... If you feel it is too much responsibility-”
“Nein , nein , of course not! Believe me, the work at Griffin Castle is proceeding better than expected. Just ask Doctor Wagner.”
Wagner nodded to Maxis, “It was a rocky beginning, but Doctor Richtofen has proven an excellent administrator.”
“Nevertheless, it is important that your role is taken seriously, Edward. You cannot waste time on these... insufferable little projects that seem to be aiming to irritate me... Tell me, Doctor, who have you delegated power to at the castle while you are away?”
Richtofen shifted from one foot to another.
“Hm, well... let me see... Well, I told Doctor Groph to make sure everyone kept up with the agenda und to listen for any calls... but I prefer a more... ‘open’ structure when it comes to science.”
Maxis added, “And so your scientists work with no direction, no leadership.”
“I lead them, Doctor Maxis. Believe me, they know who is in charge. I am trying to create a more creative environment for discovery where mein scientists can feel trusted to complete the task at hand.”
“How wonderful. Do they eat their lunches before or after naptime?”
“Ah, the sarcastic tone: The very inspiration for mein own leadership style!”
“My point is, Edward, that may work if you are supervising children, but these are men. Men with agendas and egos. If you let them wander freely they are sure to see you as a weak leader and fall back on their work ethic. I have been leading Group 935 for over ten years now; I know poor leadership when I see it.”
Richtofen could not look him in the eye for fear of what he might do or what the voices may say. He said, “I understand, Doctor. I will work to improve... by your example.”
The simple, guided response seemed to be enough to calm Maxis, who seemed prepared to fire back at any of Richtofen’s retorts.
“Thank you, Edward. I know, in time, you will be a great leader... Speaking of children, I have an enormous favor to ask of you.”
“This arrogant being asks something of you, Edward? How will you make him regret this transgression? HOW WILL YOU TEAR DOWN HIS EGO, BEFORE SLITTING HIS PETULANT THROAT?”
Edward attempted to stow the voices, patting the side of his head, before nodding, “Ja , ja , what would you have me do?”
Maxis placed his hands behind his back. “The Reichstag wishes for me to report to a location... near Berlin. I will be staying there for an extended amount of time to attempt to take control of the undead and forge their army. General Lehmkuhl has recently informed me that I will not be able to bring my daughter with me.”
“You need ein ... babysitter?”
“Someone to keep watch over her for however long I am gone. It could be a few weeks to, in the worst case, a couple of years.”
“Could you not find anyone else?”
“Doctor Porter will be running the organization here at Der Riese and will be much too busy. Others that I would ask, well, they are coming with me. You and Doctor Wagner are the only people I can... trust with this task.”
Richtofen was beside himself, “What about family?”
“Edward... you know there are none left.”
“Oh of course... surely Sophia-”
“She is accompanying me on the trip.”
Richtofen began to grin, “Ah! So that’s what this is about! The honeymoon phase... “
Maxis seemed prepared to lash out, as Wagner extended his hand for a handshake with him to halt any further bickering. “You can trust us, Doctor. We will split responsibilities between ourselves and ensure Samantha is well cared for.”
Maxis sighed, stepping back as he came dangerously close to confronting Richtofen physically. He shook Wagner’s hand, before offering his own to Richtofen.
“Hans, do not allow Edward to relegate all responsibilities to you. Raising a child is a team effort, much like science, and perhaps Doctor Richtofen could learn a thing or two from her. She’s become quite clever these last few months.”
Richtofen accepted his hand, replying, “That is quite an endorsement coming from you, Ludvig. Just leave the instructions in my mailbox und we will handle it.”
Edward returned his view to the table, taking a piece of clear tape to ensure the cymbal on the monkey’s left hand was secure.
Maxis approached the table, pushing the monkey aside, “You two should return to your real projects. Work hours have begun.”
Edward stared into Maxis’ aged, blue eyes, noting the wrinkles all over his bald head and the crow’s feet at the sides. He continued to stare with a smoldering fury. Voices whispered at the volume of a blow torch to Richtofen’s ear, dulling any of his senses but his sight of the pompous, despicable Doctor.
Maxis raised his hand, placing it on Richtofen’s shoulder. Edward averted his gaze from the eyes towards the hand. The voices passed through his head truly awful, wicked thoughts.
Richtofen took his own hand, patting Maxis on his shoulder, as he began to grin and laugh. “Very well, Doctor Maxis. Doctor Wagner, let’s begin.”
Doctor Wagner stood two feet away, a clipboard in his hands which he held tightly as he viewed the events that had transpired. He weakly replied, “I will... set up the testing area.”
Wagner approached the MTD prototype covered in a blue tarp, uncovering it before ensuring it was being powered correctly. Richtofen continued to chuckle, the tension now gone; Maxis was less amused.
Doctor Maxis pointed towards the monkey on the table, speaking to Richtofen, “Do not let my daughter see that thing. And be sure it is not within Fluffy’s reach.”
“Oh scheiße , I forgot about the mutt...”
“I will have Sophia give you everything you need. Taking care of Fluffy will be crucial as well. We need her to produce more young for testing. Samantha does not need to know what happens to her puppies.”
Richtofen lifted the military cap from his head, brushing his hair back before replacing it.
“Before you leave Doctor, what has the Reichstag said about the Wunderwaffe?”
Maxis turned towards the door, brushing his words aside, “I have told you before, Edward, discussion on the matter is ongoing.”
“Surely you can give me ein update? I am ready to begin phase three, nein , phase four, within two weeks if they will begin mass production of the DG-2.”
“I will update you when there is something to update. If you put as much worry into the progress of the MTD as you did your Wunderwaffe , we would be on the Moon by now!” Maxis reached for the door, stepping halfway through as he left one last remark of frustration, “And lastly, Edward, take that foolish uniform off and put on a lab coat. It is incredibly unprofessional.”
The door slammed shut, knocking over an empty flask from the table onto the floor, shattering it.
Wagner shook his head, “My god, I’ve never seen Doctor Maxis be such a... a...”
Richtofen suggested, “Jerk?”
“Yes. It is very unlike him. I will clean the glass, Doctor.”
Wagner reached for a broom and dustpan, heading to the door before sweeping up shards of glass into a bin. He returned to Edward who was rubbing his temples to calm his nerves.
“For the record, Edward, I like the uniform. It is... uh, stoic. Much like you. And with the pockets, highly functional.”
Edward nodded and smiled at Wagner, “Thank you. Doctor Maxis has good intentions a majority of the time... but he tends to let his emotions drive his decisions.”
Wagner rubbed his hands together before picking up a pair of goggles from the shelf.
“I was always taught in my studies that emotion is best kept out of the lab. Science and feelings... they don't mix well.”
Richtofen chuckled, taking a pair of his own goggles, “An excellent guideline to work under, I find... who taught you this wisdom?”
Doctor Wagner and Richtofen were lifting a pig body into the test chamber, lowering it in the center.
“A professor at Heidelberg. You knew I went there, right?”
“Ja, ja, I remember you said that.”
“It was... ah, Professor Schussler!”
“Schussler? I remember a Schussler in my studies. Surely not the same one... “
“I believe Schussler’s father used to teach before he passed.”
“Ja , I remember him. He always wore these ridiculous bow-ties... “
“His son must have inherited his wardrobe, he does as well.”
“Really?” Richtofen chuckled, “What a strange man. I’ll have to tell Doctor Schuster... “
Wagner did not seem to notice the mention of Schuster, preparing his and Richtofen’s ear plugs.
Richtofen added for good measure, “If I can ever... contact him...”
The testing area was now prepared, and Wagner had placed the recording device on the table.
“Should I begin recording, Doctor?”
Richtofen input a series of false settings into the keypad of the MTD to ensure the test’s failure.
“Nein , nein . It is only the first test of the day. Why waste the tape?”
“Understood, Doctor. I am ready.”
“Commence test number... erm, what are we on now?”
“Ja ... 335. Go!”
Wagner flipped the switch, causing the teleporter’s door to shut and the chamber to fill with smoke. The lights flickered as power surged into the massive, bell-shaped device. After a few moments, the test chamber opened, dispelling smoke into the room. The two doctors approached.
The carcass appeared completely unchanged, not even singed by the radiation.
As Wagner turned around to head back to the testing area, Richtofen alerted him, “Wait! Doctor Wagner, I think I saw the schwein move!”
“What?” Wagner turned back around, carefully approaching the test chamber, as Richtofen quickly jabbed his pointer finger into Wagner’s ribs, frightening him and sending him reeling back. “Kidding!”
As Wagner understood it was in jest, he began to laugh with Richtofen. The two shared a moment chuckling, as Richtofen headed back for the control panel.
“Ready, Doctor.” Wagner placed his hands with all of his fingers on the table spread apart, which Richtofen noted. Edward fiddled with the control panel as he said, “I’ll simply adjust a knob or two... begin test 33...7.”
Wagner flipped the switch, initiating the same teleportation sequence. The chamber filled with smoke and a flash of light before opening once more. This time, however, the pig was nowhere to be found; Neither in the chamber nor the receiving pad off to the right.
The two scientists crouched near the chamber, looking for any sign of its remains: Nothing.
Richtofen put his finger to his lips, remarking, “I wonder where it went...” He, however, knew fully well the carcass had been transported to a random point in space.
Wagner sighed, “I suppose I will fetch another.”
“Thank you, Hans. You are an enormous help.”
The two rose up, Richtofen heading back to the table as Wagner left the lab.
With Wagner gone, Edward took the opportunity he had been waiting for. From his breast pocket he removed a small container filled with baking powder and a brush.
He leaned close to the table, dumping the contents of the container over the spot Wagner had placed his hands moments earlier. Edward brushed the powder over the fingerprints creating a white pattern copy of them. He took a piece of clear tape, placing it over the two index finger prints so that the white powder stuck to the tape. Folding the tape over, he placed it onto a page in his diary.
Richtofen repeated the same process with the two thumb prints, quickly placing them aside the others, and with his fountain pen writing above them, “Wagner – Index and Thumbs ”
Above his prints were both hands of Maxis, the right hand of Porter, and, regrettably, the right hand of Schuster. Richtofen’s own prints were also on the previous page for comparison.
He quickly shut the diary, placing it with his other belongings as Wagner pushed open the door and wheeled in another set of carcasses on a dolly.
As Wagner approached, Edward hastily wiped away the powder from the table, leaning over the spot he had worked.
“Doctor Wagner, I was thinking, why don’t we eat lunch now, und then we can work on a full stomach, ja?”
“Hm... I did skip breakfast and this would allow us to work without interruption. A good idea, Doctor. I believe they are serving veal today.”
As Wagner turned away towards the door, Richtofen placed the brush and opened powder container into his pocket before joining Wagner.
“They have veal every day... When are they bringing back the leberwurst ? I was just starting to like it.“
“Soon, hopefully. I’ve asked Maxis this numerous times to no avail.”
“Typical. Oh, Doctor Wagner, about mein idea to strap a bomb to our monkey… ”