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14 Months Later...
Chapter 12: "Faithful Servant"
Approaching Der Riese, near Breslau
Dr. Edward Richtofen
January 11th, 1942
"Und then he said he got her... a dog! Ha ha ha!"
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 the ride. The military truck had nearly reached the front gates of Der Riese, marked by the signature bumpy gravel road that stretched towards Breslau.
Across from Doctor Richtofen was Doctor Wagner, his expression one of emptiness and indifference. This did not phase Richtofen, however, just as it did not in the five hour ride up to this point.
"But it gets better, if you can believe it! Then, Doctor Maxis told me the dog he got for his daughter... was from the Animal Testing Lab at Der Riese! HA HA HA HA! A lab mutt! HA HA HA!"
Richtofen's face was now red in the face with laughter, and the laughing continued well past the joke's worth. Wagner continued to be unamused, gazing out of the truck bed towards the grey 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 meet my parents."
Wagner's eyes lit up as he looked to Richtofen, now aware the man before him may have a human connection to be made after all.
"What a foolish pursuit that would have been! I did not get what I wanted, und look at me now! Everything seems to be going just perfect for me now... "
Hans Wagner again returned his gaze outside, with no words for the man he shared the vehicle with.
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 Griffin Station has nearly reached completion, as Doctor Schuster has informed me. I should ask him how he is doing; He seems rather stressed every time I see him. I admire his dedication to the cause of real scientific discovery. I would make him the head of the station, but I'm afraid he is not qualified to lead. He will be heartbroken when I make the announcement, but as a friend, I hope he will understand."
Voices began to creep in to Edward's mind, gnawing at him to look up from his journal towards Doctor Wagner. Wagner was holding test data from their time together at the front 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 more suspicions of Edward's treachery. Oh how he hated Wagner, however.
"He's Maxis' puppet." "Kill him." "Just a slave to his will." "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.
"Doctor Wagner continues to be a thorn in my side. It's always this love for Maxis that comes up, and I hate it. I hate it so much. I cannot contact Griffin Station during daylight hours while Wagner skulks around. I stole his work boots and gave him boots with little spurs on them for his birthday last month, so I can hear him when he is around. It's becoming hard to hear anything outside of my own thoughts anymore.
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 pitch its mass-production to him. 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 hired to defend 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 left the bunker 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 spacious laboratory space, its tables cleared and adorned with small amounts of toys with one, single orange balloon attached to a table's leg. Scattered around the room was about 20 people, many of them in business attire and a few with pointed party hats on their heads. The center table had an assortment of colored boxes at one side, with a small cake and candles at the left side. Leaned at the center of the table facing towards the wall was Doctor Maxis.
Richtofen and Wagner entered the room, closing the door behind as Maxis called out behind himself in a blunt, infuriated voice, "You're late!"
Maxis turned around, his expression inflamed and movements swift. He harshly closed a manila folder of documents 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 as the two were at the same eye-level.
"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 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."
"My apologies, Doctor- "
Maxis moved Richtofen aside before approaching Wagner, raising his hand for a handshake.
"Doctor Wagner, how did the ride treat you?"
"It was quite uneventful, I'm afraid, and frankly tiring. But it is worth it to be here again. It is good to see you, Ludwig."
"The feeling it 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 the 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 bald head. Richtofen opened the locker, paying no mind to Porter, removing his lab coat to reveal a set of German military fatigues he had been allowed to keep.
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 design 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 the second version of your Wunderwaffe? The DG-2, isn't it? 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 sizeable piece of equipment. More like a rifle than a silly little handgun. It is simply far more practical, Doctor Porter."
"I'm sure we will find a power solution. Thank you, anyway, Doctor Richtofen."
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 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 set, Maxis nodded his head towards Doctor Porter, who called out, "Come in!"
The handle turned and the door inched open, as a small sillhouetted figure ambled slowly into the room. A larger figure behind reached out to turn on the light switch. Young Samantha stood in shock as the gathering of old men in the room shouted, "Surprise!"
Seven years old, she was startled, moving backwards towards the young woman behind her, Sophia. Realizing the party her father had made for her, however, Samantha's expression turned to joy, her eyes widening and jaw dropping as she looked to 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: 10:02.
"Daddy I almost thought I would not have a party!"
"I know Samantha. Thing 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 hand.
Sophia left the room for a minute, returning with audio recorder and a large box with holes in the side. Samantha began to jump up and down in joy, anticipating her 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 bouce, restless and joyful. Richtofen began to wheeze, attempting to silence himself as he laughed. 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 headed to 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 rolling her palm across the fur on 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 had finally deactivated it.
Maxis stood 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 large plate of veal on the table.
Maxis looked down at Samantha, 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."
Maxis turned back, his eyes now fixed on Richtofen, and his expression far more stern.
"Edward. Doctor Wagner told me the two of you made great strides in your research. Unlocking the mind may be key to winning this war, you know."
"Yes, you will find that living things are far more complex and cooperative when being cut open than your undead. Unlocking their minds will require unlocking the human mind first."
"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 become acquainted."
Maxis led Richtofen towards the corner of the room, where a table along with something far larger were concealed by green tarps. Maxis unveiled the larger object: It was a boxy computer with an elevated keypad and a round screen at the top with green back-lighting.
Maxis leaned down to plug the device into the wall, as the screen lit up and began displaying data. The simple screen displayed several lines of machine information followed by a blinking green line to denote where information could be typed.
"This is the Datenbediensteter, or Data Servant. The project is nearing completion, and will see 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 amazing."
At the first screen, Maxis steadily typed out his name 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, stating, "Welcome! Willkommen!"
Richtofen waiting a moment, before sarcastically uttering, "Wunderbar."
Maxis rolled his eyes, stating, "Much of the backend 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 with it minimally, but Doctor Novak is the programmer of the Data Servant. Any concerns or inquiries should go to him."
"Yes, I don't know if you've met. His office is two doors away from mine."
"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 to the Data Servant as soon as possible."
"I suppose I will have to try to become accustomed, then. In the mean time, Doctor Maxis, I've nearly completed-"
"If this is about the DG-2-"
"Of course it 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, this is a project worth hearing about. 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, Doctor."
"Fine, Ludwig, 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 presents yet."
"Then let's get the opening started! I'm sure she cannot be too busy with that lab mutt."
Maxis motioned irately 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 the 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. In its eye sockets, its real 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 dead monkey.
"It's so ugly! I..."
Continuing to smile, Richtofen replied, "You hate it! That's alright, I am sure it will start to grow on you once you give it some time. The little monkey can be your best friend!"
Samantha could not bear to look the 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 for answers.
Samantha closed the top on 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 back towards her dog, not speaking a word to Richtofen as he did so. Edward picked up his bag, and without drawing the attention of Doctor Wagner, he slipped out of the door to the hallway.
Free at last, he headed to the stairs, descending to the first floor and outside. He checked his watch again: 10:36. By now the mail should have arrived.
Edward approached another laboratory building, entering through the front and making his way to the mail room. 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. Doctor Novak 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. Not for the Order's sake, but for his own personal gain. In his diary entry, 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 work against our goals!"
"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."
"Perhaps... given time."
"Time you do not have!"
"Please! Stop yelling... I will do as you say. The base is nearly complete... and we will open the gateway, and finally you will be free."
"And you will have unlimited power at your disposal!"
"Yes... yes, I know. The power... the dimensions. The aether... completely at my will. What an honor, my lord."