Chapter 19: "Sacrifice"
Teleporter Testing Lab, Griffin Castle, Austria
July 20th, 1942
“Isn't it time to check on your progress towards opening the gateway? The sacrificial lambs should have arrived by now, surely?”
Richtofen searched within cabinets, through drawers, and behind equipment within the hidden teleporter room. He was looking for a screwdriver set he had set out to find in the castle half an hour before, and there had not been any luck in locating it before official work hours would begin. He had hoped to find the set in order to continue work on the Wunderwaffe DG-2 during the morning hours, while Doctor Wagner was still preparing for the day's work.
“And if they have? Doctor Groph will inform me when the work is complete. Unlike you I find no pleasure in this unfortunate solution.”
“You mistake our intent Edward. Their energy is required if you are to form a bridge between your dimension and the Aether. Only then will we meet and you prosper.”
“Ja, ja, you've told me again und again. I understand what we are doing... it doesn't make it any easier.”
“Call the station and see for yourself what you have been doing. With time, it will become clear their sacrifice is necessary.”
With the screwdriver set nowhere in the room, Richtofen looked to the set of monitors atop a wooden table. Their picture showed a grainy feed from Griffin Station's cameras, the screen refreshing every second and a half. Various rooms on the station were empty apart from the MPD chamber and the receiving bay, which were filled with armed mercenaries and a line of prisoners bound at the wrists shuffling towards the chamber.
Though there was no audio, detail was difficult to discern, and there was excessive jumping of frames, Richtofen could not help but feel a deep pain in his chest as he could not bear to watch. After a moment, he sent an outbound call to Doctor Groph. The larger, greenly-lit screen mounted on the wall lit up with the image of Doctor Groph and the pyramid behind him.
Richtofen stared into the pyramid through the feed for what felt like an eternity, switching his gaze to a distressed but stoic Groph, prepared to tell him to end the madness. Instead, Edward stated, “Griffin Station. This is Eagle’s Nest. Status update. Over.”
Groph seemed almost disappointed in Richtofen's request. Doctor Schuster was nowhere in sight.
“Hello, Doctor. We have the shipment, and are carrying out your orders... "
Through the feed, Edward could see a blindfolded, confused man stood before the massive, ominous structure. He jerked his head around, searching around the room without any sight, trying to grasp just where he was and why he was there. An armed mercenary stood behind him, a Luger in hand, guiding him forward towards the front panel. He then gripped the man's shoulder to hold him still, pointing the Luger to his back, swiftly putting a bullet into his heart. The lifeless body let out a last grunt and gasp as it tumbled to the floor, a red beam of energy shooting directly into the pyramid. Another mercenary dragged the body away as the shooter went off of the camera's view.
“It is grim work, Doctor... ”
Though he dreaded seeing such barbarism personally before, Richtofen was beginning to understand the voices in his head, for all their cryptic talk. On the grainy feed, the killing seemed to be a force completely out of Edward's control for no greater purpose; But, up close, he could see the importance, nay, the necessity of their sacrifice. With such perspective, it was almost satisfying to witness such progress for the greater good. Churchill, Roosevelt, Stalin... they send good men to die for nothing but petty squabbles. Hitler sends his enemies into camps and prisons to waste away as part of his deluded, grand fantasy. Little does he know his enemies are here... being used to save humanity. They die for a cause worth dying for: Eternal prosperity for all who deserve it.
As the gunman pushed another clueless pawn towards the pyramid, Edward responded to Groph's notion.
“All in the name of science, Doctor Groph. Continue until the tanks are full.”
“Yes... doctor... “
Another man in prison uniform, blindfolded and dazed by the sudden removal from captivity, stumbled forward before having his heart pierced by the round of a Luger. He let out a gnarly, pained groan as he tumbled to the ground, his life force being harvested by the machine. As the clear tank continued to fill, the voices in Edward's head grew restless, chattering and moaning in his mind. Before he ended the transmission, he could hear Groph say under his breath, “May God have mercy on us all... “
As the audio cut out and feed ended, the final frame of Groph's dejected and shaken eyes looking towards the pyramid stayed on screen for a moment before fading.
The primary voice in Edward's head responded, “Are you?”
Richtofen headed for the stone entrance, placing his ear against it to listen for any sign of Doctor Wagner outside.
He pressed the red button on a keypad near the wall, moving the stone door aside to let him through into the undercroft of the castle. After a few seconds, the stone wall reconvened, appearing indifferent to the rest of the castle's aged walls. Perhaps soon Richtofen may convince Wagner to leave his side and all of this convoluted secrecy may finally come to an end.
Richtofen ascended a small set of stairs, passing a short-range matter transference device created under Maxis' supervision.
The small pad could send objects between three points around the facility instantly, but unlike Edward's own MTD it required a direction connection and proved to be dangerous when used on living subjects. With the proper protection, however, it could be used to send tools and equipment between the interior of the castle and the rocket test site as well as the roof where Edward and Doctor Wagner would be working today. The quaint little device amused Richtofen, as years prior, Maxis had insisted matter transference would be a waste of resources. Yet now, he begged Edward continue to create a working teleporter. Edward created this device, a mere speck on the grand scope of what teleportation could be, and Maxis was perfectly satisfied. This was one of Maxis' many great faults: A lack of ambition.
Edward ascended another stairwell leading to the snowy ground-level of the castle, before taking to a spiral staircase into a small lab where he would meet with Doctor Wagner before the day's work.
Once inside, Edward spotted Wagner hunched over a table, pencil and compass in hand as he marked over a large piece of paper. He lifted the paper from the table, revealing underneath the blueprints of the Wunderwaffe DG-2. Edward picked up his pace, now questioning of Wagner.
“Was ist los?! What are you doing with my work?”
Wagner seemed happily surprised to see Edward, who responded while cutting away at a section of his large piece of paper.
“Doctor Richtofen! I was just taking a look at the DG-2. It is a remarkable device.”
Bemused, Edward replied, “Thank you... erm, so what is it that you are doing?”
Wagner had cut out a small portion of the white paper with some sort of mechanical part drawn onto it. He then placed it on top of the Wunderwaffe blueprint near the end of the barrel.
“I read about the experiments and the difficulty with excess heat being vented backwards towards the user. I do not know if you had something in mind to solve this issue, but I had this idea... and wanted to know what you thought of it. If the barrel were wrapped in a coil made of a strong, electricity-resistant material combined with a 115-resistant material that Maxis has been working with-”
“It's still in the experimental stage. I'm surprised Doctor Maxis has not informed you of it yet... I believe the pseudonym for it as of right now is Artificial Vril-
“Ah yes! Of course! I almost forgot Doctor Maxis had told me that; So much is going through my head at any one moment. Any-who, how would you integrate this into the DG-2?”
“With the coil being made of a combination of Vril and the same non-conductive metal you used near the capacitors, the bolts fired should not cause any significant damage to the user or the device itself as the beam comes out in a more narrow fashion.”
Richtofen felt almost offended this young brown-noser would attempt to suggest changes to his invention, yet the idea seemed viable and beneficial to the project still in its prototyping stages. Not to mention the prospect of Maxis' artificial Vril being recreated for projects at Griffin Station.
“A bold proposition, Doctor. I will give it some thought in the future. We cannot be too hasty with new iterations as I am still trying to convince Doctor Maxis to have it mass-produced.”
“I am certain he will convince the Reichstag to begin ordering their own soon enough. I am just as hopeful as you, and have sung my own praises of the design to him.”
Richtofen patted Wagner on his mildly-irritating shoulder, putting on his toothiest grin.
“I thank you for that. Shall we begin?”
“Yes, of course! Shall I... “
He motioned to the table where he had been viewing the blueprints, prepared to clean the station.
“Nein, I will handle it und meet you there. You should prepare the generator.”
As Wagner headed out of the doorway, Richtofen gathered the bits of waste paper and placed them into a bin. He then took the DG-2 blueprints and Wagner's drawn component, placing it within the folded schematic and into the bottom drawer of the filing cabinet before closing it. For good measure, he took a combination lock from a table drawer, locking the cabinet with a set of numbers.
He donned a heavy coat over his ordinary lab coat, then left the small room into the bitter cold walkway towards the front-facing bastion of Griffin Castle. He ascended a small set of stone stairs as the testing area came into view. In the center of the bastion as a large generator with a control pad and energy-monitoring dial. Near his own set of stairs and the opposite end of the bastion were two massive metal rods, and at the end of each were metallic ball-shaped structures with what looked like protruding spikes around them. These rods were directly connected to the generator where Doctor Wagner stood, checking the components and circuitry. He spoke to Richtofen, now overlooking him working, “It is a shame our work is used for death and destruction. This research could be put towards a far more peaceful use.”
For once, Edward found himself admiring the youth within his field. Smirking to himself silently and approaching the command module of the generator.
“Is the device ready?”
“Und the targets?
“Prepared for testing, Doctor.”
Aside from Wagner were several stacked cages, inside were doves, cooing and distressed by the intense cold of the mountain tops. He took one from the cage, holding it in his two hands to keep it from flying away.
Edward activated the device and listening to the humming and buzzing as it sent electricity through to the rods. At the ends, the spikes were transferring electricity between one another at a high, visible rate. Edward twisted a knob on the device to switch its setting from Protect to Destroy.
This contraption was known around the castle as the Death Ray, and was commissioned by Maxis in response to Tesla's research. The primary goal of the device is defense, and its Protection Mode has proven to be effective in defending the small area from aerial threats as large as planes to small bombs. Anything to cross within its dome of protection will be bombarded with high-voltage electricity effectively turning attackers to small debris. The Destroy Mode is, however, untested. It requires more precise targeting from the command module at the generator, but would allow for attacks at a longer distance, effectively turning any military facility into an impenetrable fortress.
Edward donned a set of protective eye-wear, nodding to Wagner to release the target. He whipsered to the bird, “Think happy thoughts, little one. It will be quick,” before letting it fly directly between the two large rods into the air.
On the command module, the dove appeared as a red blip, shrinking as it flew away. Edward locked onto its position, training the device on it before hitting a key to destroy the target.
The generator began to buzz and whir, before going silent as the bird shrunk in the distance. Confused, Edward pressed it again, before the target disappeared from the screen.
A voice taunted Edward's mind once again, “You continue to struggle work far below your qualifications. Why is that, Edward?”
“Oh, for the love of-”
He slammed his closed fist into the side of the device, causing the screen to fuzz and the machine to grow louder in volume. Looking to the rods, he noticed that a larger concentration of electricity was gathering and beginning to chain between the two rods at a quickening rate.
Wagner stared directly at one of these rods, muttering, “Doctor... “
Intensity growing, Richtofen panicked attempting to power down the device as the energy continued to grow. He called out to Wagner, “Get down!”
The two men dove to the ground their faces down but clearly able to see the growing light from the two coils. They braced after a quick and deafening clash of sound and a heat so strong it canceled out the cold temperatures around them. Edward experienced a feeling like he had never felt before: A force being shot through his entire body.
The event now over, he opened his eyes once more, his vision normal and now he was able to see Doctor Wagner, still braced on the ground. He heard, however, a loud, irritating screech like that of a train coming to a halt. It weakened its intensity, and soon his hearing was completely normal. Edward rose to his feet, without any physical problems. There seemed to be nothing wrong on the surface, but something had most definitely changed.
As he hypothesized the cause and the impact of the explosion, he realized what had changed. He could finally think straight, formulate clear and concise ideas, remember his childhood, his education, the meal he had the previous night. His mind was cleared... of them. The voices seemed to be gone; Their torment finished.
Edward clutched his head, looking to his surroundings: the castle, Doctor Wagner, the village at the base of the mountain. His connection to all of these things felt so distant, like he was being kept away from them for so long.
Wagner appeared positively frightened, looking to Richtofen for guidance. Richtofen offered a smile in return, beginning to laugh so hard there were tears in his eyes. He pumped his fist into the air, calling into the morning sky, “YOU NO LONGER CONTROL ME! DAMN YOU, ALL OF YOU! HA HA HA HA HA!”
“Doctor Richtofen... ?”
Their attention was drawn by the sound of a gunshot, echoing within the stony walls of the castle intermixed with a wail from one of Maxis' undead creations. Both men at the bastion were unsure of what to do, but a cry out in pain drove Wagner to rush for the door. Richtofen hesitated, looking out onto the clear, light blue sky above.
“Hurry, Doctor Richtofen!”
He followed behind, passing by the power generator and a set of knight statues, turning left onto a scaffolding overlooking the main laboratories. All of the monitors and machines appeared powered down due to the blast at the roof. Near the entrance leading to the courtyard was the source of the pain, a German soldier, arm bleeding onto the floor surrounded by three others as well as the corpses of three undead.
There were no other scientists in sight, and upon spotting Wagner and Richtofen, one of the soldiers stood up and called to them.
“He needs a medic!”
Wagner turned to Richtofen, “We have to help him.”
“We... I don't know if-”
“Please, Doctor. There is no need for all of this death. We may have inadvertently caused this outbreak.”
The soldiers were lifting their wounded comrade, awaiting Richtofen's instruction.
After a moment of fear, Edward regained his composure, directing the men behind him.
“Get him to the living quarters. I have supplies there. Schnell!”
He turned and jogged to the ornate, wooden hallway between a living area, an office space, and Samantha's personal bedroom. Edward headed into the office space, the tables covered in gadgets and tools. He gathered a bone saw, bandages, gauze, alcohol, and any other tools that could potentially be needed. Meanwhile, Wagner was assisting the soldiers through the hall.
Edward searched around the room, realizing the tables were not large enough to operate on the wound. As the soldiers grew closer, he beckoned them to follow him past a bookcase into Samantha's room. Scattered on the floor were toys, and on the walls a child's drawings. Edward grabbed the teddy bear sitting on the pillow, tossing it aside into a toy chest, and removing the sheets from the mattress of her bed.
Wagner now realizing his intentions, asked Richtofen directly, “Are you sure that's a good idea-”
The Germans had dropped the screaming, pained man onto the bed, splattering the mattress with blood as they lifted his legs up. The man cried out, “Mama!”
Richtofen hastily investigated the wound, replying to Wagner, “She hates this room anyway... und I'm sure Maxis will buy her a new mattress. Wagner, get his legs still!”
One of the soldiers comforting his ally asked Richtofen, “What do you intend to do?”
Richtofen ripped the pant leg away from the wounded leg and prepared the chemicals for the operation.
“If I say it, he won't like it!”
Edward looked into Wagner's eyes, now holding the man's squirming legs in place.
“Just like Paris, ja?”
Wagner nodded, motioning the soldiers to hold the man's whole body in place.
Edward removed the bone saw from the table, lining it up above the knee where a chunk of flesh had been torn out. One of the men placed their hand over the patient's eyes as Richtofen inhaled deeply, exhaling as he pushed the saw into the man's flesh, cutting through skin and muscle.
The leg jerked slightly as its owner wailed in intense agony. Every man at the table tried their best to keep him still and quiet as Richtofen concentrated on completing the operation.
Sweat was dripping from Edward's face as blood spurted from the wound and the saw reached bone. There was a disgusting crunch when it went through, and by then the man had gone silent. He had fainted from the intense pain.
As Edward pushed through the last inch of muscle Wagner had left the room and returned with a block of wood to be used as a splint.
All were silent as Edward efficiently dabbed the cut with peroxide and wrapped it in gauze. Wagner assisted him in putting a splint around it before Edward finally backed away, wiping his forehead.
“One of you get him some food und water for when he comes to. Keep an eye on him.”
The sickened young men look to each other, muttering in German, as one stayed at the bedside, while another left to the nearby office to find running water. The other approached Richtofen.
“Something deactivated the electronic locks und that is how they got out. We tried to use the Electro-shock defenses, but they too were powered down.”
“A power surge, it seems. Our hold on the test subjects must be greater in the future. I assume the rest have been dealt with?”
“They have been contained.”
“They are all dead. We tried activating the alarms but, of course, they were down. It was just the four of us against them.”
The young man shook his head, recalling images of the events that had just transpired. Edward placed his hand on his shoulder, trying to halfheartedly comfort him.
He then turned to Wagner, letting out a breath of relief as the adrenaline drained.
“Just like old times, hm?” Edward chuckled.
Wagner had his hands on a small chair which he was leaned onto. “I unfortunately have to agree.”
“We will have to find out what went wrong, back there. The effect it seems to have had on electronics may prove a positive-”
“The experiment almost killed someone.”
“Almost being key, Wagner. There was no way we could have predicted that outcome.”
Wagner shook his head, thinking to himself before placing his arms at his side and heading for the door.
“I will inform Doctor Maxis of what happened. He needs to know.”
He left the room, shutting a wooden door behind him and leaving Richtofen to stand over the unconscious man and his comrades. He felt a twinge of anger pulsing through his thoughts: Thinking of Maxis meddling with his work, halting his progress, stealing his achievement.
Behind him near the bookcase, a lamp that was previously turned off lit up, illuminating the area. Richtofen looked to it, jerking his head around as he heard a familiar whisper in his mind.
“We will not leave, Edward. We will be here forever...”