Chapter 18: "Pressure"
Living Quarters, Griffin Station, Mare Crisium, Moon
Dr. Baron Schuster
July 18th, 1942
It has been quite some time since I arrived on the Moon, and in that time I have had little to no chance to practice in my primary field of expertise: Chemistry. Dr. Richtofen has requested that I oversee the study of the pyramid along with Dr. Groph, a task I do not take lightly. Still, since I heard the news that Dr. Maxis had taken control of my old Perk-a-Cola project, I have been eager to return to my favorite branch of science from my undergraduate studies. Edward informed me that Group 935 is beginning to formulate new ideas to be added to the project, but none have matched the utility of my original four concepts: Juggernog, Speed Cola, Quick Revive Soda, and Double Tap Root Beer. I fear what the Wehrmacht will be capable of with my creations. Hitler's armies have trampled across Europe and are now on Soviet soil. At times I am thankful to be on a celestial body far from the Earth, away from the violence.
Dr. Richtofen also informed me that much of Group 935's supply of chemical compounds including diatomite and prussic acid are being sold off to a pest control company in Germany. It seems the Reichstag is no longer interested in chemical weapons of war, and I am thankful to no longer take part in such barbaric research. I often feel alone at Griffin Station; Groph and his cohorts are all uniquely bizarre and I find that I cannot relate to any of them. Edward visits the station occasionally, but he has not been himself in quite some time. The cause may quite possibly be the stress of working under two scientific organizations, all the while hiding one away from the other. Another theory stems from a behavioral pattern I have noticed in many other scientists here, and even occasionally myself. All of us who have worked closely with the pyramid tend to have outbursts of anger and confusion, some more than others. Richtofen's behavior in particular has been completely irrational, unlike anyone I have seen before, and he was the first to discover the MPD. At times he can be the same jovial busy-body I once knew, and at others he is short and cross with anyone who crosses his path. I have chosen to withhold this theory from him, because I fear what extra stress this may cause. I know the weight of the world rests on his shoulders in his endeavor to make the world a better one. I believe he will overcome the burden and succeed in the end; He always has.
It was Edward who suggested I keep a diary of my daily routine and my thoughts, and I understand now why: It is an amazing relief of stress. The past two weeks suggest a positive outcome in our project. Two days ago our archaeological team discovered a new deposit of Element 115 south of Griffin Station and have begun mining operations. We have also completed the second phase of the BioDome project last night. We no longer need large shipments of oxygen to the station, as the plant life located in the BioDome along with the MPD now generates enough oxygen to support the station indefinitely. Our success proves that human life may be sustainable on any planet should overpopulation become an issue. This is exactly the type of work I expected when I first joined Group 935, and two years ago I could have never foreseen such progress.
Today Dr. Groph and I will be working with the MPD as we attempt to discover how to open the gateway. Last night, Dr. Groph showed me a set of ancient symbols seen on the face of the pyramid that he intends to input into the device. I can only hope Dr. Richtofen was correct in his assertion that Dr. Groph knows what he is doing regarding this 'Vril-Ya' technology.”
“Doctor Schuster! Time is being wasted. We should begin testing immediately.”
Doctor Schuster raised his body from his cot, tucked away near the laboratories of Griffin Station. Raising to his feet and rubbing his forehead to stow his headache, Schuster called out through the grey, metallic door to Doctor Groph, “I will be just a moment. Go ahead and prepare the testing area.”
“The testing area has been ready for an hour. Now, we only wait for you.”
“Alright, alright, one moment.”
Schuster approached his personal locker, the interior walls holding a framed picture of his father as well as his PhD, and he removed his labcoat, carefully folded and placed on the shelf the night before. Dressing himself, Schuster placed his diary and fountain pen into his breast pocket. He placed his thumb onto a keypad near the doorway, changing the light on the door from red to green, before it separated in the middle, revealing Doctor Groph. His hands were behind his back and his labcoat wrinkled as if it had been slept in. Groph seemed to be lacking in sleep, however, as his eyes were bloodshot and there was grey beneath them.
“Come now, Doctor Schuster. We cannot delay any longer. I believe I have the key to unlock the pyramid.”
Schuster stepped through the doorway, pushing through the small gap between Groph and the wall, and stepping out into a hallway of cots for Griffin Station's scientists.
“Yes... how did you know? Have I told you before?”
“Yes. One time or two, I believe. If I may ask, the front panel of the MPD seems to hold roughly fifty symbols, many of which appear to be identical. Surely we could use a brute force method to discover the pyramid's functions?”
“To a foolish eye, the symbols appear the same. I know your knowledge regarding the ancients is... elementary, but you surely must understand the potential consequences if we input the wrong sequence of symbols. They are very, very particular in their designs, and it has taken years for me to even achieve my own knowledge of their architecture and language. One wrong action and you may doom us all... “
“It was a simple suggestion. I understand the implications of such an ancient device being in our care, even if I know so little of its creators.”
“None of us know just what power is held here... it is truly incredible.”
Groph and Schuster walked through the middle section of the laboratories, passing several tired and slow-moving scientists preparing their stations. Reaching the stairs, they were halted as Groph let out a yelp and staggered backwards. Before them was a Beagle dressed from the neck down in an aluminum suit not unlike those used by scientists to explore the Moon's surface. The joints were lined orange and a green ball was attached to the side of the suit. It stopped as well at the sight of Groph and Schuster, wagging its tail which was also encased in the pressurized suit.
Groph scolded the dog's handler, another scientist on the station also dressed in a space-safe suit, a helmet under his arm.
“Why is this mutt in the testing area during working hours? It should be in the kennel!”
The middle-aged scientist spoke up, pulling the dog aside, “I was taking Sir Davy for his morning walk on the surface, I apologize, Doctor Groph.”
“Do not apologize, do as I ask.”
Groph passed the dog, being sure he was as far from it as possible. Doctor Schuster followed after patting Sir Davy on the head and scratching behind his ears to the enjoyment of both parties. Schuster nodded to the handler before catching up with Doctor Groph near the door.
Groph shared his frustration inside the airlock leading to the cave where the MPD is held. “They even created a suit for the dog... such a waste of our precious time and resources.”
“I believe Sir Davy provides an excellent relief of stress for them.”
“Why do you call it... no matter. Our team is performing the most important experiment in humanity's history. What is stress in the face of such achievement?”
Like the doors of Schuster's sleeping quarters, the airlock opened allowing entrance into the pyarmid testing area. The pair descended a metal staircase leading to a stone floor, to the right the glorious pyramid, and to the left a power module and rows of computers connected to the device with scientists lording over them. It was a sight seen so many times by Doctor Schuster in the past few weeks it felt almost mundane.
Groph called out to the technicians and scientists at the computers, “Are we ready?! Doctor Kaufmann?”
An short, older man with unkempt white hair stood at attention.
“Have you ensured that all data files are backed up and stowed way, and that all crucial systems are connected to the backup generator?”
“Yes, Doctor. We are ready to begin.”
“Good. Doctor Schuster, join me, and keep a recorder handy. I have a very good feeling.”
The pair stood together near the front face of the pyramid which held a circular dial covered in sets of engraved symbols outlined with engraved boxes. Schuster held a recording device in his left hand he retrieved from a scientist near the computers. Groph seemed eager to begin, approaching the front panel.
He guided his hovering hand over it, muttering to himself with what seemed like gibberish.
“Yani-Ya Koom-Zi Vril-Ya...”
Schuster approached closer, trying to make sense of the symbols Groph chose.
“An Sumer An... ”
Schuster interrupted, “Doctor Groph... you haven't... touched the pyramid have you?”
“What? No, no. Doctor Richtofen specifically instructed we do not make physical contact with the pyramid itself or face expulsion from the Group... now, quiet, I need concentration... “
Groph placed his index and middle finger on a set of symbols to the left of the center, causing the engraving to glow a bright blue. He then touched another set, and then another, lighting four and stepping away from the pyramid. The room was deathly silent as everyone looked to each other and to the pyramid awaiting any outcome. After a few moments, the lit up symbols faded to their original form.
“Scheiße!” Doctor Groph exclaimed, frustrated as he placed his hand on his head.
The room remained silent for a moment, before Groph exclaimed once again, “Ah!”
He input the same sequence of symbols again, changing the last to another symbol. Backing away he waited, and the symbols soon faded once again. Groph stepped away, humbled and lacking words. Schuster dared not to speak up.
Then Doctor Kaufmann called out from the computers, “Doctor Groph, we are experiencing some interference in the signal.”
Groph hurriedly approached one of the screens, Schuster close behind. There was a visible static and warping effect on the screen's representation of the station's power systems. Groph slapped his palm on the top of the system, shifting the warping effect and restoring the picture to normal. Now red in his face, Groph shoved Kaufmann aside and returned to the pyramid.
“I don't understand! I input the symbols just as they were written! This is impossible!”
Schuster spoke up, “Perhaps you are remembering them incorrectly. Where are they written?”
Groph barked back, “I remember them perfectly! Doctor Richtofen himself has told me I have impeccable memory on several occasion, I...”
He trailed off in his speech as he heard a loud clanging coming from the direction of the other scientists. Up the stairs leading to the subsurface tunnels there was yelling in German as the clanging grew louder. There was then a slam as a large, metal Group 935 storage container barreled down the stairs into the area, before flying through the air towards the MPD.
“Get down!” Schuster shoved Groph aside, who stood in its path mesmerized. It impacted the front panel of the pyramid with an echoing clang, sitting completely still on the surface. Every scientists in the labs had heard the commotion and was now piling into the cave. Men all the way from the receiving bay were now down the stairs, attempting to catch up to the rogue crate.
Groph rose to his feet, perplexed by the object that nearly crushed him. He attempted to push it away from the panel, with it giving no sign of movement. Even pulling with the strength of three men did nothing.
“What is in this container?”
The exasperated man from the receiving bay said, “Some type of artifact Doctor Richtofen wanted stored away... “
“Unlatch the box, and pull it away vertically! Now!”
As instructed, he input on the sideways keypad a passcode to unlock the container, and the heavier end on the hinge came away from the top, hitting the floor and shuffling the contents. The lid of the container was still firmly placed on the surface of the pyramid's panel, and in the center was the egg that seemed to always gravitate towards the pyramid when exposed to open air, its surface adorned with grooves and symbols just like that on the MPD's base.
Three men pulled the box downwards and away from the base, managing to move the box's lid down, the egg rolling along its surface, still gravitating towards the direct center of the pyramid's panel. They managed to pull the crate completely away, removing any barrier between the panel and the orb. The convex center of the circle had become concave, allowing for the orb to fit firmly in place. The entire panel began to light up as electricity sparked, heightening the temperature in the room.
After a moment of sparking, it stopped, and at the front left corner of the pyramid, a circle previously thought to be ornamental rose from the ground, revealing a seemingly glass tube about the height of an ordinary man. All of the scientists gazed at the tube, dazzled by it.
Doctor Schuster turned to Groph who was now smiling ear to ear. He approached the tube, gazing into it, before barking commands.
“Return the container to storage, and the rest of you return to your stations! Doctor Schuster, prepare the recording device. We have made history today.”
The crowd dispersed leaving behind only Groph, Schuster, and the technicians. Doctor Schuster fiddled with the device as Doctor Groph touched the glass. He turned to Schuster.
“Are you ready, Doctor Schuster?”
“I am- AGH!”
Schuster dropped the recorder and stepped away frightened as a rat scurried across the stone below. The rat ran under a metal grate on the floor meant to make the uneven ground flatter. Schuster stood shaking as Groph picked up the recording device from the floor and initiated his log entry.
"Log, 1075. Dr. Schuster and I have spent countless hours with the pyramid device in an attempt to understand how it functions. We have made little progress... until now. Today we uncovered what looks to be some kind of tank with a glass like front. The glass itself seems-"
The rat had now left its hiding spot, revealing itself to Doctor Schuster, who took the opportunity to try and kill it.
"I've got you now, rat!"
Rolling his eyes, Groph frustratedly called out, "Kill it, Schuster!"
Schuster managed to cut off the rat's escape route towards the labs, stomping on it with his boots, crushing it. Immediately upon death, a beam of light shot out from the rat's body towards the pyramid.
Stunned, Schuster asked Groph, “Did you see that?”
Doctor Groph approached the glass tube, which had begun to fill with a blue liquid-like substance.
“Look! The capacitor is illuminated, the tank is filling-"
Doctor Schuster interjected, "The machine, it seems to be activated! What did you do?"
"I think we just discovered what powers this machine." Groph turned off the recorder, pointing towards the computer team. “Call Doctor Richtofen. He needs to know what has happened.”
The two doctors ran towards the monitors, waiting as Doctor Richtofen received the transmission. A live feed from the teleporter room of Eagle's Nest appeared, with Doctor Richtofen in his labcoat nodding to another scientist before sending him away.
“Griffin Station, this is Eagle's Nest. Do you have an update?”
Groph shoved the technician aside, speaking directly to Richtofen.
“Yes, Doctor! Schuster and I were inputting the Vril symbols as you suggested and the orb you discovered flew across the station directly into the device. A glass tube then rose from the ground! That is not all; After Schuster killed a rat near the MPD, it seemed to emanate a beam of energy directly into the panel itself, partially filling the tube.”
He waited a moment, and Richtofen responded, confused, “So we have a rodent problem?”
“Doctor Richtofen! I believe this may be the key to powering up the device!”
“Ah! I see. Why do you believe this may be a power source?”
“It is merely a hypothesis, but from what I and Doctor Schuster saw, the rat seemed to emit the energy at the moment of death. Its life force, if you will.”
Doctor Schuster inquired towards Groph, “Its... soul?”
“Not quite. From your perspective, that may be an ample description, but it is something more. As we have studied the pyramid we have noticed its tendency to recognize living beings that approach it and flare up in power levels. The device itself seems to recognize some type of... aetherial life force within all living beings. The rat, the dog... us.”
“Intriguing... we will need more of this energy to completely power up the device, ja?”
“Correct. Where we can find more living creatures to harness this energy will prove a problem. The chance Doctor Schuster will find more pests on the station is minimal... although the dog-”
Schuster looked to Richtofen on the screen, “Edward, couldn't you supply us with undead subjects? Or the testing animals?”
“Nein, Mr. Schuster. Maxis has a close eye on our inventory of living, and non-living subjects. Any misstep and his cronies will be here investigating our interests. Besides, would zombies even still contain their Aetherial energy?”
Groph responded, “I believe they would, as no device was around to collect the energy. The sudden burst of adrenaline at the moment of death may be the spark the allows their energy to be collected. Otherwise, Schuster and I would be dead and our energy collected in the machine while we were still alive.”
“Regardless, this would be impossible. We cannot create our own undead subjects either, as any supplier of cadavers under the Reich is connected to Doctor Maxis und Group 935. There cannot be any chance that he discovers what we are doing here.”
The three men pondered for a moment, unsure just how they may power the device with their limited resources. Doctor Schuster felt prepared to give up on the project altogether.
Then, Groph had an idea, “Do we have access to any prisons?”
Schuster was appalled at Groph's implications, “Are you suggesting we use living humans to power this machine? Have you gone mad?”
“Mad? I can simply think of no other way. There is no wildlife to harness for energy on the Moon or the barren snow around the castle.”
“With time, I believe we can-”
Richtofen cut him off,“Kustover Posten.”
“I have contacts within Kustover Posten: the prison for spies und Anti-Fascists within Group 935 und Germany's other affiliated organizations. They will not be thrilled to hear from me... ”
“Doctor Richtofen! You can't be serious! You can't... “
“Unfortunately, as Doctor Groph said, there is no other way. I am sorry, old friend.”
“I can't be involved in this! What about the hippocratic oath, Doctor? How can we do this in good faith?”
“I know, believe me. You must understand this is the last thing I want to do... but history will shine brightly on us und these men for their sacrifice.”
“What if Doctor Groph is wrong? What if it is all for nothing but a bloody light show?!”
“We will not know unless we try, Doctor Schuster. You und I could spend all day exchanging the possibilities, but there is only one way to rule any of them out. You know this.”
Schuster backed away from the monitor, unable to see the humanity in Groph or Richtofen any longer. They seemed like complete strangers, no longer the men he once knew. He felt sick, walking out of the cave towards the pyramid.
Richtofen sighed, speaking to Groph now, “I will contact Kustover Posten. The first shipment will be on its way within a day, hopefully. I will have them send as many men as possible, so we can be done with this mess.”
Groph hesitated for a moment, seemingly conflicted himself.
“Understood, Doctor. Griffin Station out.”
The signal cut out into static and the screen dimmed, Groph returning to the pyramid alongside Schuster. The two gazed into the black abyss on the surface of the pyramid.
Groph cut through the silence, spouting, “It is the only way.”
Schuster adjusted his lab coat, placing his hand upon the stainless glass container at the corner of the pyramid.