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  • Great Tribulation

    Courtyard, The Giant (“Der Riese”), near Breslau

    Dr. Edward Richtofen

    October 1st, 1945


    The Giant sleeps. This facility was once alive with activity; Now, it is a graveyard. Soon, Group 935 will be no more, and it will be by Doctor Richtofen’s hand.


    Laboratories lie in ruins, offices are burned to cinders, all due to bombings by the Russians, which have since halted as Richtofen arrived at the facility. This is where it all began. This is where the master plan took shape. Is this where it all ends?


    The personnel at the facility were nearly outnumbered by the amount of Die Spinne soldiers assigned to Der Riese, with a majority of Group 935’s stations having been abandoned due to a rise in outbreaks. Richtofen’s plan would be the only way these scientists could survive the coming storm.


    Edward cast open the door, entering what was once the campus butcher shop, now converted into a makeshift laboratory and workspace. With no receptionist to greet him, he simply passed through, shoving aside a couple of hanging pig carcasses. Forgoing a knock, Edward pulled on the large door handle leading to the meat freezer.


    He was met with the shocked stares of many prestigious scientists among the leadership of Group 935 and Germany’s former Wunderwaffe Program. In the center of the depraved gathering was Doctor Maxis.


    The two locked eyes, their total contempt for the other seeping through their professional gaze. Not breaking eye-contact, Maxis spoke a short, calm order, “Gentlemen, this meeting is adjourned.”


    A majority of the scientists headed for the door, passing Richtofen an untrusting glance, but offering their self-righteous nods of acknowledgement. All except one man, Doctor Friedrich Steiner, who shouted, pointing a finger in Ludvig’s face, “Warte gefälligst eine Sekunde! We are not done!”


    Maxis seemed to be restraining himself, “Yes, Doctor Steiner, we are.”


    “I need more men. More protection! Y-You can’t possibly expect us to reach the ship-”


    Maxis pounded his fist into the metal table, “You will take the men that you are given! I have very little time for your incessant whining, Doctor. Leave, and I will hear nothing further on the matter.”


    The feeble, sweaty old man appeared to nearly say something in retort, instead wisely staying silent and walking towards the door in a huff.


    Richtofen smiled, offering a sarcastic hand to him, “Ah, I’ve always wanted to meet the famed Doctor Steiner! It’s really a pleasure… ”


    The sniveling coward simply stared at the floor, muttering as he left the room. Richtofen shrugged, twirling his offered hand before returning it to his side.


    Doctor Maxis gave little attention to Richtofen, shuffling a stack of documents and maps on the table, forming them into a neat pile in the corner.


    “Doctor… ” Richtofen offered a greeting since Maxis did not. Maxis responded with a silent glare, before returning to his task, incensing Richtofen. Still, he maintained his composure, “It’s been so long... too long! You’re looking… well… rested, eh heh.”


    Now turned away, Maxis froze, his voice wavering, “Rested… I see your time away has done little for your foolhardy attitude.”


    It pained Richtofen to say, “I… regret offending you, Ludvig. I did not wish to imply you have been sleeping on the job… Only that-”


    “Enough games, Richtofen! I assume you’re here to discuss the evaluation of your subjects.”


    Richtofen twitched, the anger brewing inside, the voices beginning to speak up, “Among… other things.”


    Doctor Maxis paced over towards the back of the freezer, where a large, blue tarp was covering something large against the wall. He pulled the tarp aside, revealing three cryo-pods, the life-support systems humming quietly as the three test subjects, Dempsey, Nikolai, and Takeo, lay frozen inside.


    “After a prolonged psychological evaluation, we have observed a unique effect that the injections have had compared to the control group. Their cognitive functions remain largely nominal, and their ability to speak is uninhibited, but it appears all of their specific memories have been lost.”


    Richtofen stepped forward, looking over the American subject along with Maxis, “Perfect for indoctrination, wouldn’t you say?”


    “Perhaps, Doctor, but their arousal levels are beyond our control. They are prone to violent outbursts, cursing, and in the Russian’s case, excessive drinking. They are hardly the super soldiers you were instructed to create. No true progress has been made in unlocking the human mind.”


    “I beg to differ-”


    “The American recognized my German accent, broke free of his restraints, and attempted to strangle me, calling me a ‘Dirty Nazi.’ They are simple-minded brutes. But, they are the closest we have come to what we promised the Chancellor. For that reason, the control group tests will be put on hold, and you will continue observations and experiments over the three test subjects… with a supervisor present.”


    Richtofen twitched. “I… assure you that will not be necessary, Doctor Maxis. That whole business in Siberia was nothing but a misunderstand-”


    “I have little time nor patience for your excuses, your blatant disregard for protocol, and your lies, Edward!”


    “Lies?! MY lies?! Were you not the one who promised you would mass-produce the DG-2?!”


    Maxis threw up his arms, shaking his head, “This tired issue… For years you have harassed me and my colleagues over such a crude, cumbersome, impractical device! A mockery of my work on Die Glocke! Don’t you see, Edward, it was never going to see the light of day!”


    “But… you… you said-” Richtofen stumbled through his words, his head spinning and heart racing.


    “What I said then means nothing now! In my time in Berlin, I have seen many truths, many possibilities for the future of Group 935. I know what I must do... where I must take us. Weapons are nothing in the face of what we are capable of!”


    Edward needed to hold onto something, choosing to take hold of his own head, “I told you years ago, before this sorry war, that our talents were better served improving the human condition, not empowering these, these-”


    “I made a choice to save Group 935 from bankruptcy! If not for that choice you would be peddling your childish projects to whomever would give you pity! The only choice that I regret, Herr Doktor , is inviting you into my organization!”


    Richtofen scoffed, “Your organization? I may not have been here for the founding of Group 935, but I’ve read your operations manual. I know it was founded by a coalition of the greatest minds from all over the world. Your colleagues, your friends. Where are they now, Ludvig? Where have your Nazi benefactors sent them?”


    Maxis wagged a finger in Richtofen’s face, “You lecture me on my career?! My achievements?! My ethics?! I could almost laugh at such a thing coming from ‘The Butcher.’”


    Richtofen stepped away, trying to contain the rush of pain igniting within his mind, “How… How dare you?!” His voice cracked, a twinge of sadness showing through.


    “If not for your success in matter transference… I’d have no use for you. Consider yourself fortunate.”


    The anguish, the fear, the wrath… Richtofen nearly felt himself slipping into unconsciousness as his vision blurred. He turned to look at Maxis, who was now facing away, tending to the documents laid out on the table. Nearby, resting openly on a shelf, was a butcher’s knife. The voices beckoned him towards it, and Richtofen felt the cold, plastic handle fit gracefully into his palm. He lifted the knife, peering into the dull, yet reflective steel to stare back at his own empty gaze. Edward’s vision cleared, and his mind was set.


    Richtofen slowly approached Maxis from behind, twisting the knife in his hand to swing in a downward motion. Each step felt like an eternity, but his mind had never been so clear, so ready for what is to come. Edward was in ecstasy. He shut his eyes, prepared for the moment of release.


    Father? Where are you?


    Edward stopped mid-step, his arms and legs nearly going limp as all of the energy fizzled out and he was brought into reality. As Samantha’s footsteps were heard entering the room and Maxis turned to face the door, Richtofen had hidden the knife behind his back, stepping aside as Samantha ran towards her father, arms open wide.


    For the first time in the years, Edward witnessed Ludvig’s smile as his daughter leapt into his arms to hug him. Damned girl… always in the way… always laughing and playing... She thinks her father is so perfect… if only she knew.


    “How was school, honey?”


    Samantha seemed to shrug, “It was good… It is always so cold in the bunker… ”


    Maxis offered her a pat on the head, “I know, honey… but it is for your safety. Daddy needs to finish his work.”


    “Daddy? Will we have to move to Russia? I’ve never had a Russian friend… ”


    “No, no, of course not, Samantha… Once our work is finished, they will leave us alone forever. We will be fine.”


    Sam looked towards the cryo-pods containing the subjects, “Will they help us, father?”


    Maxis stood up, passing a stern look to Richtofen, then to the subjects, “Yes, honey. Doctor Richtofen’s friends will protect us.”


    She wrapped her arms around her father’s legs, “Good… ”


    Richtofen turned away, his frustration continuing to grow, and he paced towards the door.


    Maxis said aloud, “Meet me in my office at 0700 tomorrow morning, Edward. We have work to do.”


    Richtofen looked over his shoulder, watching as Maxis held his daughter’s hand, taking her to the corner of the room to sit with her at a table. Before departing, Richtofen offered an extended middle finger on his left hand to the unaware Doctor.


    The anger lingered in his head, like an itch that could not be scratched, no matter how hard he tried. Maxis lied to him just as he lies to his daughter. Without the DG-2 in production, had Edward’s work been in vain? All the hours, all the research… all for a cancelled prototype.


    No, this is not the end. It is the beginning of a new dawn.


    The voices guided Richtofen towards the barracks, where a number of scientists were collaborating with Die Spinne officers to coordinate their defenses in the event of an attack. Amongst the group was Doctor Novák, the Illuminati’s plant within Group 935.


    Taking him by surprise, Richtofen pulled Novák aside, leaning in to whisper, “Get me in contact with the Order. There is an urgent matter to discuss… ”



    How did you come across this information?” The distorted voice said through the telephone receiver.


    “Doctor Maxis told me in confidence. I believe your handsome servant boy, Doctor Novák, was still rubbing elbows with Die Spinne commanders, trying to ascertain their bases around the world, ja?”


    The voice on the other end paused for a moment, maintaining the affectionless tone, “Perceptive as always, Doctor. Die Spinne represents an obstacle to our goals. You have done us a great service in bringing this information to us.”


    “Oh, don’t worry about it! I was simply trying to help out some of my oldest, best friends!”


    Had this been an altruistic act, we believe you would have come forward when you first came upon this information… There is something more you want, Doctor.


    Richtofen’s pitch raised, “Weeelllll … Since you are offering… I have an agreement, er, two agreements with major world powers to offer Group 935’s research und manpower in exchange for safety und… a set of mein own, personal demands.”


    Word has travelled, Doctor. We know of these agreements.


    “Then if you are also just as perceptive as I remembered you to be, ‘Mr. P,’ you know what I want… ”


    Our people inside the Soviet and American governments can ensure your arrangements are met… as long as your endgame aligns with our interests.


    Richtofen chuckled, “Of course! Of course! You will be first in line to harness the Aether’s energy… assuming our agreement is… agreeable?”


    Edward heard the voices of many speakers on the other end of the line discussing the matter amongst themselves. Mr. P returned, “It is agreed, on one further condition.


    “Name your price, old friend.”


    There is someone you know personally who is threatening Illuminati interests with his actions. When the time is right, you must kill Doctor Maxis.


    The voices assured Richtofen, his mind now returning to its elated state, and a grin now forming on his face.


    “With pleasure.”

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