Chapter 10: "Facade"
March 13th, 1940
With a new-found eagerness to return to his post at Group 935, ideas flowed through Edward's head as he contemplated the possibilities. Though Maxis would be an obstacle in his achievements, returning to Group 935 was simply the right thing to do. There is too much potential for Richtofen to stifle his genius while his new Moon base is under construction.
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, a device Richtofen had been perfecting in his free time. What Maxis did not know, however, was Richtofen had also been spending his time away planning the construction of Griffin Station, a Group 935 operation on the Moon that Maxis must know nothing about. It would be untouched by any world government, but unintentionally 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 custom suits designed to allow for survival in the open space outside of the cave housing the mysterious pyramid device. Richtofen and Schuster had learned a great deal studying the pyramid during this time, now able to directly teleport between Der Riese, the Moon, and the temple, which would be the next location he would build a research station.
Times are good, at least for Richtofen. With great effervescence, Richtofen entered the lively courtyard of Der Riese, surrounded by the hurly-burly shuffling of scientists and factory workers moving betwixt 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 speaking to 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. Smile and the old fool will bend to your will.”
"Ja, ja, it's just... let me think for myself for a moment!”
The busy scientists around Edward payed him no mind, preoccupied with whatever project Maxis had assigned them.
Doctor Maxis turned his attention to 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 and left Richtofen quite upset.
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. Bells were heard as the clock turned to 0730. With Maxis now on his way to his office, Richtofen strode in that direction as well. Taking a shortcut through a nearby laboratory building, Richtofen passed many closed doors, inside holding many scientists performing experiments with Element 115. 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.
"Doctor Richtofen! I got your telegram- with- with all the details! This is incredible! Vril-Ya technology! On the Moon no less-”
"Shhhh! Have you lost your mind, Herr Groph?!”
"Yes, yes, I know, this is to remain a secret from that... petulant Maxis!”
"Not only 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. You must tell me, were you able to determine how the pyramid could provide you with oxygen? I have a theory myself.”
"All in due time. Go to the site where that unsightly Fly Trap-thingy is being built. Ask for Herr Sauers, und he will put you through to Doctor Schuster, who will answer all 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 breath in peace, looking back towards the exit, muttering to himself.
"That man is not right in the head...”
Richtofen pushed open 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 had brought new 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.
"Sir, you must wait! Who is it you are meeting?”
Richtofen scoffed, looking back towards the female desk attendant, now frantically standing from her desk to get his attention.
"Do you know who I am?”
"Yes, Doctor Richtofen, but Doctor Maxis instructed that all visitors must wait in the proper procedure-”
"Doctor Maxis 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 a desk, and Doctor Maxis in his chair, now looking angrily towards Doctor Richtofen.
"Is this a bad time, Doctor Maxis?”
"Thirty-seven minutes before schedule is as good a time as any, I suppose. Check in with the receptionist next time, would you, Edward?”
"Of course! Danke schoen and good morning to you Doctor Maxis! If not your receptionist, this fine young Fräulein would be... ”
Visibly annoyed, Doctor Maxis motioned for the young woman to shake Doctor Richtofen's hand.
"This is Sophia, she is my personal assistant. She writes my memorandums, plans my day, and looks after my little Samantha while she is here.”
"Ah, how wunderbar, Doctor Maxis, you certainly deserve the help.”
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?”
Uncomfortable, Sophia left the office, 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 the Wunderwaffe. 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.
"My apologies, Doctor. You must understand my excitement. This device before you contains 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 surprise sabbatical that I had not even realized you had taken until Doctor Schuster informed me weeks in. If I didn't trust your judgment Edward, I'd have feared you were leaving permanently after my, frankly, harsh words regarding your work on the MTD. It is my fault 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 decision you have made. Times are hard, und just outside I saw many men of science with the tools they need. I would assume this is a result of your policies. It is a shame some do not agree.”
"Yes, we have lost some great minds. It is unfortunate Doctor Schuster decided to resign shortly after he told me of your time away.”
"Yes, Doctor Schuster is a great man with a faint heart. Such a pure soul, 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 and every other scientist in Group 935 that our work will not be hindered by this alliance but enhanced!”
Doctor Maxis poured a cup of green tea and handed it to Doctor Richtofen before raising his cup.
"To improving the human condition.”
"To improving the human condition!”
The two men sipped their tea, Richtofen placing the cup of subpar liquid back onto the desk.
"Now, Doctor Richtofen, with Schuster gone you will need another lab assistant for your tests on the undead.”
"Oh, Doctor Maxis, don't worry about-”
"It is policy that there are at least two scientists in every laboratory, as you know of course, and our older scientists are busy elsewhere. Your work on unlocking the mind will require a precise, younger touch. I'm assigning a recent graduate by the name Paul Wagner to assist you. He is a protégé of mine whom I would trust with my life.”
"He is ecstatic he will finally be able to meet you, Edward. He will be in your lab within the hour to begin.”
"We are truly lucky to be living in these times, Edward. Everything just seems to be falling into place for good men like us. With the excess funds 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 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! But where...”
"I haven't the faintest idea, Doctor. But expansion of our operations is a wunderbar idea. You must let me know of any new facilities. That will most likely be a burden of responsibility for you, no?”
"Yes, well, there is always more work to do to keep the good times from running short. Always so much to do... Maybe 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.”
"You've made many sacrifices in the name of science, Ludvig. I would be honored if, someday, you decided to give me some responsibility.”
Doctor Maxis leaned back in his chair, silent for a moment with a sullen face, and looking at his portrait of he and his wife.
"Believe me, Edward, when the work is too much for me, you will be the first 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 undead control experiments, yes?”
"Ja, I remember that.”
Maxis pulled a folder with documents pertaining to the experiments.
"I took the liberty of arranging 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 one of those monsters to do was salivate on command.”
"Something Pavlov did with dogs decades ago. I think it is time for a more direct approach. They do not seem to respond to stimuli like other 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 something in the frontal lobe is preventing them from responding to commands in a manner that is not only to attack. 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 usual. Controlling the undead may be the ticket to our permanent place in the scientific world. My trust is in 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, unlatching the case sat atop Maxis' desk, revealing the device before Maxis' eyes. 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 results, carefully lifting the Wunderwaffe, caressing it in his arms before taking a grip on both handles. The device's center had three outlets for Tesla bulbs which is used to fire, 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 center of the device was box-like, with exposed circuitry, and a wire connected to the box with a small power supply.
"Is the device active?”
"Nein, do not worry, Doctor Maxis. Without bulbs the firing mechanism should not activate. What you see before you is my masterpiece, the Wunderwaffe prototype. Using the power of electricity much like my electro-shock defenses, a concentrated bolt is sent directly at the target through the sights, electrocuting anything it comes into contact with and any 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 beings to decrease in effectiveness. My goal is upwards of twenty four targets.”
"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 be electrocuted. But from a distance it is perfectly safe apart from a little heat in the face. Due to its size and weight, it would be best brought into battle with two operators to carry the device and its power supply. It could also be mounted on gunships or tanks.”
"You believe it would help the German war effort to invest further into the project?”
"To that I say indubitub- indutable- indubitably!”
"I see much potential in this weapon, Edward. I will send a copy of these results to the Reichstag. If they have any right mind, they will want to see more. Excellent, Edward.”
"Thank you, Doctor Maxis. I was afraid you would take issue with how I've spent so much of my time on the Wunderwaffe. Do you see it going into production at our factory here at Der Riese?”
"I promise Edward, with the excellent results you've shown me today, the Wunderwaffe should see our production lines. For now, we should focus on what the Reichstag has instructed us to do, and that is pursue controlling the undead. I will send your results as soon as I can, Doctor Richtofen.”
"Thank you, Doctor Maxis. 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.
"Yes, Doctor Maxis?”
"The Reichstag wants us to inform all Group 935 scientists 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 complete it and clear out your mailbox. I'm told you mail has been piling up since you've left.”
"Danke. Goodbye, Doctor Maxis.”
Doctor Richtofen shut the door behind him, heading 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 palms of his hands, Richtofen could begin his real work in unlocking the potential of the Moon's pyramid device, which he would now shorten to M.P.D.
As Maxis had explained, Richtofen's mailbox was overflowing with letters from all over the world. 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 movement away from Group 935 towards the construction of Griffin Station. 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 scientists, 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 Brotherhood must be viewed with extreme scrutiny and carefully approved or denied by all members of the Order. 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 grand plan, and as such we have unanimously agreed to allow your safe departure from the Order. You will, however, lose access to all Illuminati amenities and 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 German 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 ruined his day.
It is with great sadness that this letter of resignation has arrived to my office today. Just this morning I thought of my father and his relationship with you as a member of the Order. The two of you never saw eye-to-eye on much. You were always very hard-headed in your ideals and very persuasive with the inner circle, and my father resented you for much of his life. 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 under my prison will be turned over to another in the organization. I will miss your wacky antics and marvelous 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 character have a better relationship than you and my father, and perhaps Group 935 will suit your needs just fine. I wish you all of 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 in future Wunderwaffe tests. He viewed another letter.
I am indubitably disappointed by your actions, Doctor. 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 have 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 make a change in this world for the better. 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 attention 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 left down a corridor to a laboratory two doors down, his letter still in hand. Edward knocked on the door and waited a moment as a younger scientist approached the door, smiling before opening it.
"Doctor Richtofen! I admire your work so much. I'm a physicist myself and it is such an honor to meet you.”
The young doctor outstretched his hand for a handshake, but the whispers guided Richtofen elsewhere, to the older 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 younger scientist backed away, returning to his work. Looking into his eyes, the voices in Richtofen's head grew louder before silencing.
Richtofen pushed the letter from Mr. P. into the scientist's chest, who took it in his hands to read it. 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 older scientist thought silently for a moment, placing the letter into his jacket pocket before asking, "How did you know-”
Edward cut him off, walking out the door to the lab, saying, "Auf Wiedersehen, my friend.”