Chapter 13: "Upon This Rock..."
Richtofen's Office, Griffin Castle, Austria
February 1st, 1942
The ticking of Richtofen's wrist-watch was deafening in the silence-filled office, where he stood lording over the telephone awaiting a call from Doctor Maxis to discuss the Wunderwaffe DG-2. Fifty-two minutes had passed since the time Maxis was scheduled to call. What a waste of time, Edward thought. He had delayed the grand unveiling of the MPD to his colleagues until an hour after the call with Maxis that seemed to not be coming.
Richtofen pondered for a moment: What could Maxis be doing at this time? No doubt, it had little to do with scientific discovery. Nay, it was likely an intimate conversation that spiraled out of control with his little girl-friend, Sophia. Possibly, he was entertaining the little brat he called a daughter. Even more fruitless, perhaps he was begging the Reichstag for more financial aid. Unlike Edward, Maxis knew little about getting those maniac bureaucrats to do what he wants. All they required was a sense of humor and a relatable personality to mingle with. Maxis is far too obtuse and abrasive to be the face of Group 935, and as such, all of its members have suffered. Soon, however, things will be changing.
While he awaited his phone call in the desolate, miniature office space assigned to him at the castle, which his team referred to as Eagle's Nest, Richtofen reviewed his notes regarding the MPD during his time at Griffin Station while it was under construction. Using Groph's research and personal literature, Edward was able to pin down the meanings of some of the symbols inscribed onto the stainless rim of the pyramid. While many of the phrases remain untranslatable, a common motif in the lettering was the Vril-Ya symbol for “Gateway”. As he suspected, the pyramid likely serves as a gateway to another dimension beyond human understanding: the Aether. This realm beyond is unexplored by humanity, and judging by what the voices have told Edward, it holds powers of unimaginable proportion waiting to be unlocked.
This unlocking would prove to be Edward's, nay, man's greatest undertaking. An immense amount of power must be required to open such a gateway, and for the powers present in the Aether to be unlocked, one must create a rift between dimensions. According to a series of journals from disgraced scientists who have pursued this dream, the Earth's core may be the key to opening such a rift to connect this dimension to the Aether.
On a page of his diary, Edward drew out sketches for antenna-like structures, which he dubbed Global Polarization Devices. Such devices, when activated in unison, would reveal the rift to whomever resides within the Aether. If all goes according to Richtofen's plan, it will be him awaiting the rift's opening. Humanity is counting on his success, and they do not even know it.
Step one of the plan, however, must be opening the MPD. Some clues have presented themselves to Edward in the construction on the Moon's surface. Embedded in the soil was an ancient Vril artifact that nearly destroyed the crew's drill. A black, intricately-designed orb, which Edward referred to as an egg, began to levitate into the air after its uncovering. Attempting to view it closer, however, caused it to move away. It always seemed to gravitate towards the circular panel at the front-facing side of the pyramid. If it contacted the concave center of the circle, it would spark and the pyramid would begin to hum.
Two other artifacts were also discovered further away from the pyramid: a stone, circular slab that seemed to serve little purpose, and a golden, ribbed rod made of some kind of metal material. It was marked with similar symbols to the pyramid, and Edward took it to Eagle's Nest to study it further. It seemed to match a common item in many Vril-Ya stories. Edward theorized that it was capable of holding incredible amounts of their power source, Vril, and would be used in activating the gateway. The panel on the pyramid held a concave slot perfect for this rod, but, without power, it was practically useless.
All of these plans and theories would have been years down the line if not for Groph's outside research during his time at Group 935. His appointment as the head of Griffin Station and the one to discover how to unlock the MPD was completely justified. If only Edward and the others had seen the truth sooner, perhaps the rift would be open already, and this war would have never started.
Richtofen looked to the phone once more, insuring that it was still running by placing the receiver to his ear and hearing the tone. Maxis had failed science once again. Richtofen placed the phone back, and raised himself out of his chair. He placed his diary back into the breast pocket of his lab coat, and placed the documents regarding Griffin Station and Vril inside his filing cabinet. Checking his watch once again, he decided he must arrive at Griffin Station soon for the ceremony to begin.
Walking through the door way, Richtofen entered the old stone section of the castle's undercroft, passing nearby laboratories that were empty. Every scientist Richtofen had assigned to work with him at Griffin Castle was now awaiting his arrival on the Moon. Since Maxis had decided to give him control of this facility, only his most loyal colleagues would be chosen to work within Eagle's Nest, as they would correspond with his Moon base. Still, there were provisions in place should Maxis or one of his men pay a visit to the castle. The singular MTD was hidden away in a room accessible through one stone entrance that could be closed inconspicuously via a lever. Also, all computer systems corresponding with Griffin Station could be reverted to their original Group 935 operating systems temporarily during any visitations.
One empty laboratory caught Richtofen's attention, however. One in which the Data Servant was still activated. Previously, Edward had avoided using Maxis' credentials to access the data servant, as Doctor Wagner had continued to follow him around since he was assigned by Doctor Maxis. With Wagner sent away to Berlin on an errand, this would prove an opportune time to access the system.
Edward entered the laboratory, typing in lmaxis, pressing the enter key, and then typing hilda32 for the password. The top of the screen read, “Welcome!” Two options presented themselves for selection: Personal Files and Server Mail. Richtofen began by perusing Maxis' personal files, starting from the first day the Data Servant's system was finalized. The very first test file consisted of only text written in German, reading:
I am Ludvig Maxis, today is 20 January 1942. My daughter has a dog, its name is Fluffy. This is File 1, for storage in the data servant. I trust in its success."
Unsurprisingly, his other personal files were just as innocuous. A majority simply cataloged tests using Element 115 and prototype devices Group 935 had been working on that Richtofen already knew about, from Maxis and Porter's Ray Gun development, tests on the undead, and developments in the weapon augmentation program. What was strange, however, was that a majority of the files were typed completely in German. While German is his first language, Maxis has been quite particular that Group 935 scientists learn English and use it exclusively in their reports. The Reichstag men Edward had spoken to seemed to show distaste for this policy. This all pointed to these files being written to be sent to the Reichstag by Maxis.
A revelation troubled Edward: None of these files even mentioned the Wunderwaffe in any form despite the repeated attempts to have Maxis forward the results to the Reichstag. Just what else has Maxis been lying about?
Richtofen backed out to the home screen, and accessed Maxis' personal mail server. The screen scrawled out a series of message titles and recipient names. He scrolled to the bottom of the list where the first message sent resided. The first few messages were to Doctor Novak regarding problems with the Data Servant to be fixed. Further up was a series of mail to members of the Reichstag, and attached were the files Edward had sifted through. Again, a majority of the mail was innocuous, but a single subject caught Edward's eye near the top of the list: “**REQUESTING FURTHER INFORMATION REGARDING [FAUST]**”
Edward opened the mail, reading the message:
Since our recent assignment to [FAUST], my men have assembled the hardware and structures as you've instructed. The projector and screen will function nicely as tools for the experiment, when you are ready. In the mean time, we have begun the tests you ordered regarding the weapon upgrading machine and VRIL. Success regarding the machine is minimal as we lack the manpower or experience with such technology, but we will continue tinkering. Tests with the experimental VRIL element are promising, however. Your former scientist, Doctor Groph, has left behind strange, but nonetheless interesting work. Exposing some of the undead you've sent in cryopods to the experimental element has provided unforeseen results. When you arrive in person, we will demonstrate for your viewing. We will continue to update you in the coming weeks.
The message had been sent a week prior from an unnamed user. Edward was unsure what [FAUST] might be or who D. T. was. Something was being hidden from the rest of Group 935. The mention of Vril confused Richtofen, as like himself, Maxis showed no interest in Groph's work prior. It appears they have stolen his valuable research and are exploiting it without his permission. There were rumors circulating of Vril research in Group 935, but there was never any evidence. Groph would be furious to hear this news. Knowing Doctor Maxis, however, Richtofen concluded the project would likely go nowhere.
As Richtofen pondered, he heard the beeping of his wireless transmitter. Pulling it from his belt under his coat, he pressed the button on the side and spoke into it.
“This is Eagle's Nest.”
“Eagle's Nest, this is Doctor Schuster. The arrangements are ready, Doctor Richtofen. The men await your arrival.”
“Ah! Danke, Doctor Schuster. I will be arriving soon.”
Richtofen placed the transmitter back into its pouch and logged out of the Data Servant. He pressed on towards a stone wall at the back of the undercroft of the castle. He located the lever, and the stone wall opened to reveal a small laboratory with the teleporter at the back of the room. The two-way teleporter now active, Richtofen insured the coordinates to Griffin Station's receiving bay were correct, and set the MTD on a timer before stepping onto the large platform within the bell-shaped device. After a few moments, the sliding door closed around Richtofen, and light filled the chamber as he began to feel the heat. Smoke clouded the chamber, blinding him for a moment before he came to within the receiving bay. Feeling off-balance for a moment, Edward reoriented himself and looked around the metal bay.
Before him was a small station with multiple white suits hanging from a rack, and a white, spherical helmet with a semitransparent visor. Surrounding Edward in the corners of the room were control panels for the station's machinery and crates of resources stolen from Group 935. Above them on the walls to his left and right were bulletproof windows giving a perfect view of the Moon's surface.
Edward approached one of the windows to his right. Below his view was a small man-made tunnel with an airlock door that led under the surface towards the location of the MPD. In the distance, a massive excavator drill used to cut through the rock to create the station's many underground tunnels. From this height, Edward could see for miles over the Moon's grey surface, lit only by the sun now currently above the station.
Richtofen approached the rack filled with suits, and began to enter the one-piece suit one leg at a time, zipping it up himself over his lab coat. As he did so, he could see a magnificent view of the Earth through the other side of the receiving bay windows. He caught himself staring at the beautiful, blue and brown colors that contrasted the empty blackness surrounding it. Beneath his view behind the receiving bay was a massive man-made canyon that seemed to reach a mile down. Here, he planned to built rockets similar to those researched at Griffin Castle. Though his ultimate goal was opening the rift between the Aether and Earth, Edward could not help but want to study the Moon and perhaps learn more of the universe's history.
From behind, Edward could hear the parting of sliding airlock doors as a lone figure walked into the room in the same suit as Edward, with a helmet locked firmly at the neck. The cosmonaut placed his hands behind the helmet, pressing two buttons as the seal came undone, allowing the helmet to be removed and reveal Doctor Schuster's face.
Schuster and Richtofen approached one another, wrapping their arms around one another in brotherly triumph.
“We've done it Edward. We've achieved the impossible.”
“A research station on the Moon. It was no small feat, Baron. But we did it. I am proud to call you a partner in science.”
“I am pleased to see you still call me a partner, with that Wagner fellow... “
“Oh, that old spoilsport is off fetching tools from my laboratory in Der Riese. I needed him away before we could unveil our plan.”
“How much longer will you be able to hide all of this from him at the castle. Surely he will find out sooner or later-”
“You let me worry about him, Doctor Schuster. He is mein problem to deal with. You have enough on your plate with working on this station.”
“I have enjoyed every moment of my time here. It is beautiful, isn't it?”
“Indeed. Shall we depart? We don't want to keep our benefactor's waiting any longer.”
“Yes, Doctor Richtofen. Take a helmet, and we will arrive via the rover. I believe a grand entrance is in order.”
Doctor Schuster replaced his helmet, before approaching a large, four-wheeled vehicle and entering the driver's seat. Edward donned his own helmet, standing hear the large doorway leading onto the surface. From within the helmet, he could hear the automated computer system of the station speaking through the suit.
“P.E.S. active. Welcome to Griffin Station. Artificial gravity and life support systems are online.”
Richtofen approached a nearby panel, opening the large doors to reveal the rocky surface of the Moon. Between the interior of the receiving bay and the vacuum outside was a field of energy that kept oxygen and artificial gravity active within the room, but allowed for larger objects such as the rover to pass through.
Edward entered the passenger seat, and gave a thumbs up to Schuster, who set the vehicle in motion. Immediately upon leaving the bay, all that Richtofen could hear was his own breathing and heart rate as all sound around the suit left. The traction and weight of the rover's tires kept it from flying off due to low gravity, and allowed it to traverse the bumpy ground below. Edward's organ jostled around in the cabin of the large rover as the rover trekked the natural surface. Soon, it arrived at a man-made metal platform. Schuster exited the vehicle and pressed a button the keypad to lower the elevator underground for several hundred meters. Once it came to a stop, he activated the artificial gravity and oxygen tanks as a metal door to the outer surface came closed. Richtofen could now hear the engine of the rover far clearer as he removed his helmet, placing it on a rack alongside Schuster's.
“This way, Doctor. They are waiting for you.”
The two men entered a vast hallway meant for transporting cargo, which led directly to the power and control station. As the large metal doors opened to reveal the room, so too did it reveal a group of around fifty scientists and engineers, who began to cheer and clap as Richtofen arrived. The group separated to clear a path towards the podium, with a banner at its base that read, “Welcome to Griffin Station.”
Edward, confident and bold, walked through the crowd towards the podium, waving and shaking hands as he passed the exuberant men. The podium sat in the center of the cave which he had first arrived on the Moon, and behind it was the MPD, now covered by a tarp as it was hidden away until this grand unveiling.
Richtofen climbed the stairs and approached the microphone at the podium. He paused for a moment as the crowd came together, now silent and awaiting instruction from the man towering over them.
“Gentlemen, we've been betrayed. So terribly betrayed. Betrayed by a man I am sure many of us once looked to for guidance. Doctor Ludvig Maxis was a brilliant man of science, and he had a vision of a world where men like us would improve the human condition. That vision was enough for us to join in his cause, und we devoted our minds, our talents, to this man und this vision. We built Group 935.”
The crowd was positively mesmerized by this speech, and not a word was spoken between them.
“Unfortunately, Ludvig and many loyal to him have betrayed our faith in Group 935. He sold his soul and ours as well to the foolish barbarians of the Reichstag. He turned our work towards a better world into a piece of machinery in the factory of war. He is foolish to believe such a betrayal is possible without a reaction of rebellion.”
Edward pulled the microphone from the stand, walking about the stage as he spoke further.
“Six hundred and one days ago exactly I formed my list of trusted colleagues to join me on this journey. I forged my plan to use what I have found in this cave on this rock floating in the cosmos... to do more than improve the human condition. With what stands before me, humanity will see the universe for what it truly is, and it will bask in its glorious power. War will end with this discovery, as war is fought over land and resources, a bounty which we will give to all people. This is the prize which humanity has worked its entire existence towards.”
Edward motioned towards Doctor Schuster to prepare to remove the tarp on the MPD.
“Gentlemen, for two long years we have toiled here and at Eagle's Nest to build up fortifications. For two long years we have taken equipment and built up our labs. For two long years we have worked under Group 935, believing that Doctor Maxis truly wants to help the world. For two long years we've led a double life. Today, that all ends.”
Nodding to Schuster, Richtofen placing his arm outwards to draw attention to the structure behind him. The tarp fell to the ground, revealing the pyramid, its base golden and intricately adorned with symbols and its surface black and spotless, like the open void of space. It stood taller than Richtofen even at the stage.
The once silent crowd began to murmur, shocked and confused by the device.
“I bring to you what this project is all about. What I have worked to keep from my enemy.”
From within the group, Doctor Groph shoved the other men aside, moving himself towards the forefront, closest to the MPD. He asked Richtofen, not averting his gaze from it.
“What is it Doctor Richtofen?! It looks alien.”
“It is an ancient Vril machine. And you, Doctor Groph, are now the lead scientist here at Griffin Station.”
Members of the crowd began to applaud, some patting Groph on the back, his eyes still locked on the perfectly flat face of the pyramid. To the side of the stage, Doctor Schuster seemed shocked, and somewhat hurt.
Richtofen pointed towards Groph, saying “You will be the one to discover how it works.”
Groph came close, nearly touching its surface as Schuster motioned him not to. Groph spoke up, “We first must discover what it does.”
“Nein, Doctor Groph. I know what it does. It is a direct connection to another dimension.”
Again the crowd murmured loudly, unsure what to make of this revelation. A scientist in the crowd yelled out, “Preposterous!”
Richtofen responded, microphone still in hand, “No more preposterous than teleporting you all to the Moon and building Griffin Station, is it?
Groph finally averted his gaze, now looking up to Richtofen.
“I suppose not. How do you know what it does?”
“I found many interesting Vril artifacts here. I have decoded some of their language. All signs point to this device being a stable gateway to the Aether.”
Through the loud quarreling of the men, Schuster spoke directly to Richtofen.
“Doctor Richtofen, I am aware of a project being run by Doctor Maxis at Der Riese concerning Vril.”
“As am I. I am going back to my port at Group 935 to continue the charade. I will be finding out just how much information Dr. Maxis has on vril. Once the machine is operational, I will enact my plan and return. Gentlemen, let the games begin.”
The scientists and engineers cheered and clapped, letting their love of the Doctor and his discovery be known. But even louder than this admiration, came the voices again. Midst the speaking was the sound of agonizing screaming.
“Remember your place Edward. You serve our bidding, and our bidding only. Do not let your own judgment cloud your true purpose. You are our vessel! OUR PUPPET, EDWARD!”
“SHHHH! The voices are so loud!”
The others, besides Schuster, did not seem to take notice of Richtofen's pain in their celebration.
Schuster helped Richtofen down the steps, placing his hands on his shoulders.
“What's wrong, Edward? Are you all right?”
Edward spoke softly, his voice shaky as well as his body.
“What have we... what have we done...”