Chapter 24: "Pygmalion"
Deutsches Sol Kino, Berlin, Nazi Germany
Dr. Ludvig Maxis
February 12th, 1943
“... And I hope you are enjoying your stay at the castle with Doctor Richtofen and Doctor Wagner. I am unsure how much longer I will be continuing my work here, but I hope that I will be seeing you and Fluffy again very soon… I have attached a letter from your mother… she… she wanted you to read it when you were old enough, and you certainly have grown up rather fast... Signed… Your Father, Who Loves You Very Much.”
Sophia placed her hand on her heart as she finished typing up the letter. “That was beautiful, Ludvig.”
Maxis hastily grabbed a manila folder and a cup of tea from his desk, before pacing towards the door, saying back to her, “Thank you, Sophia. Hand the letter to Herr Schrute for inspection, and let him know to send it out today, then meet me in the testing area. We will be starting soon.”
Maxis stepped through the doorway of his office into a hallway, before descending a staircase towards the ground floor. He took a sip from his cup, before spitting it back out, realizing he had forgotten the tea bag and only prepared a cup of hot water. He dumped the cup out into a potted plant at the bottom of the staircase, before rounding the corner into the testing area, a repurposed backstage dressing room.
Inside, several scientists were scrambling to set up the area for today’s tests. Project Leader Doctor Thorsen could be seen directing them around the area from behind a wooden bar.
Maxis approached the bar, placing his empty cup and the folder down and speaking to Thorsen. “Good morning, Doctor. Are we on schedule?”
Thorsen took a moment to breathe, leaning against the bar, speaking with a rasp in his voice, “Just a few more arrangements to be made and awaiting your assistant’s arrival. The handler will arrive with the subject when he is called.” Thorsen then reached for the empty cup Maxis had placed, peering inside, before setting it back down and smiling. “I see you’ve forgotten how to make tea again, Ludvig.”
Ludvig grinned, shaking his head, “Just another on the list of things to do once we have our army.” He waited a moment, continuing flatly, “How has the subject handled captivity inside the pod?”
Thorsen ran his hands through his frazzled, white hair, replying, “Better than the rest. No outbursts to speak of. Subject Two-Six may be the one, Doctor Maxis.”
Maxis let out one long, drawn out sigh, “Perhaps we will be so lucky. Does your team share this same enthusiasm?”
“Not quite, no,“ said Thorsen, “Doctor Steiner in particular wishes to return to Project Nova. He feels this is all beneath him.”
“There is little surprising about that, he has informed me as such… If we are successful today, your team can expect a well-deserved resting period. Heaven knows we all are in need of it.”
Thorsen nodded to one of the Doctors seeking confirmation about the relocation of a mannequin in the center of the room, before turning back to Maxis, “Well, unfortunately, war has no need for rest, unlike us.”
Maxis began to sift through the records in his folder, stating, “I won’t be able to rest until I can return to Samantha. I am sure you are dying to see Emilia again, as well?”
“You would be correct, Doctor, of course. I must thank you again for speaking to the General about sending her letters. I was afraid this theater was going to drive me mad.”
“Let us hope it does not come to that. We all need to remember our humanity even in times of war.”
From the opposite entrance to the room came Sophia in her short dress and heels, a handbag around her arm. She smiled and ducked her head to Maxis and Thorsen, “Doctors… I sent the letters for inspection as requested, Doctor Maxis. Are we about to begin?”
Maxis turned his gaze to Thorsen for confirmation, and in response to his nodding, Maxis directed Sophia to a desk near the bar with a typewriter, “It seems we are. Be ready for the subject’s arrival.”
“Yes, Doctor.” She took a seat at the wooden chair near the desk, making sure there was paper ready within the typewriter.
Thorsen passed a suggestive glance to Maxis, whispering seductively, “Yes, Doctor… “
Maxis frowned, saying to Thorsen bluntly, “Doctor Thorsen, please inform the handler we are ready to begin.”
Thorsen smirked, replying, “Of course, Doctor.”
Doctor Thorsen approached the wall’s rotary phone, placing it to his ear and dialing a number. After a moment he said, “Mr. Grady, you may wheel in the subject.”
Thorsen then hung up the phone, and walked around the bar to the open test area, raising his hands, directing attention towards him. “Everyone, the subject will be arriving soon. Step behind the bar and await further instruction.”
The team of scientists assembled behind Maxis and Sophia at her desk, speaking softly to one another as they waited.
Maxis stared at the doorway leading outside, his thoughts drifting away from the work at hand for only a moment of peace. Ludvig pictured Samantha as she opened the letter he had sent, smiling and happy her father had her in his thoughts. The letter from her mother… she had written it only days before Samantha was born… days before her death. Hilda knew she was in poor condition, and made Ludvig promise to give Samantha the letter when she was old enough to read. She told Ludvig not to read it, to allow her words to be for Samantha, and for Samantha alone. Ludvig only hoped her mother’s words could bring her some relief.
He envisioned her smiling, drawing pictures ready to show her father once he returned. This vision then widened to depict an open doorway, where a man stood in shadow, Samantha’s teddy bear in his hand. The silhouette paced slowly further into the room, coming unbearably close, as Samantha let out a scream, “NO!”
Ludvig pushed this fear to the back of his mind: The fact that Samantha is currently being watched by some unknown entity making demands of Ludvig. Since the incident with the projection, there have been no other acts of sabotage on the experiment, implying the act was truly motivated by Ludvig’s association with the Reichstag. Several notes had been left in Maxis’ office with the same symbol marking the one present that day. All of them urge Ludvig to comply, and lessen communications with the Reichstag, with threats against Samantha as well as the families of fellow scientists. There had been no mention of the undead experiments, and for that reason only, they continue at the Kino facility. There was no way for Maxis to tell anyone about these threats without provoking these tormentors. Every night, Ludvig has awoken from a nightmare where these actions are taken, and he can now do nothing but await the next threat.
Maxis snapped from his trance at the sound of wheels rolling across wooden boards. The handler had arrived.
First, in came two armed German soldiers, behind them a cart being wheeled in by Mr. Grady. On the cart was a large, egg-like pod made of metal, held together at a vertical seam by bolts. There was a glass view-port on the front face of the pod, allowing its occupant’s bright, orange eyes to be seen peering back.
The two soldiers assisted Grady as he pushed the cart to the center and lifted the pod off of the cart onto the floor. They then fanned out around the room as Grady began to remove the bolts of the pod one by one.
As Maxis gazed into the eyes of the subject inside, he noted its motionlessness and undivided attention towards himself through the port.
All in the room stayed silent, daring not take a breath or move swiftly as the pod came open, and the crumpled, fetus-like test subject began to swivel its head.
Thorsen gave a nod of approval to Grady, who proceeded to command the subject, “Step out. Here.” He pointed to the ground just before the pod.
Subject Two-Six’s bones began to creak as it outstretched its arms and legs, evacuating the pod. The fleshy, worn feet met the wooden floor and it began to rise up to attention. Two-Six stood taller than the average man, even as it was hunched over in its gait. It had also been given an old German military uniform while sedated, minus the boots, to cover its disturbing nakedness during these tests. It focused its vision on Grady, pacing one wobbly step at a time towards the commanded location.
Maxis spoke softly, only loud enough for Sophia and the other onlookers to hear. “Subject Two-Six appears to have maintained its programming for approximately seventy-two hours. With the process now perfected, today we will be trying to give the subject new commands. Subject Two-Six has left the pod and accepted Herr Grady’s first command. Subject appears normal; No signs of frustration.”
Grady then began to raise both arms in a T shape. “Raise your arms.”
Subject Two-Six then followed suit, holding its arms stiffly in the air.
Grady continued, “Good. Now follow my movements.”
Grady began a series of movements, from raising both hands above his head, to crouching, and to flexing his fingers. The subject did exactly as Grady did.
From the crowd to Maxis’ rear, the voice of Doctor Steiner muttered, “Ridiculous… “
Doctor Thorsen scolded him, as Maxis continued dictating, “Herr Grady is beginning the daily exercises. The Subject is having no issue following along. Speed in following these commands appears to be increasing compared to earlier tests. As predicted, the subject appears to remember previous tests, making movements before Herr Grady can even make them himself.”
Grady then lifted an empty cardboard box, and placed it down in front of the Subject. He commanded, “Lift the box.”
Two-Six became distracted for a moment as a fly buzzed near its head. Its mouthed stayed agape, and its view turned towards the crowd of people observing it. Maxis could hear Sophia gasp, then cover her mouth immediately.
Grady snapped his fingers, raising his voice slightly, “Two-Six! Lift the box.”
As brown drool dripped from its maw staining its uniform, Two-Six swiveled his view to the box, reaching its limbs out slowly, attempting to grip the sides.
Maxis allowed himself to breath out, before continuing the dictation, “Two-Six is now onto the lifting portion of the test. It is now lifting the box as instructed, holding it at arm's length. It does not appear to be struggling with the empty box, and we shall be upping the weight in the future.”
Grady remarked, “Good,” before checking the agenda on a clipboard he had brought with him. Two-Six stood at attention, ready for the next command. Grady made some marks on the clipboard, before uttering another command, “March in step.”
Grady began to march as if he were a member of the Wehrmacht, circling the interior of the room. Subject Two-Six followed suit, its march sloppy and off-beat with Grady’s, but very provocative of the German goose step nonetheless.
Maxis continued, “Two-Six is responding well to the marching command, as expected. Just as with the other commands, the key-phrase to dictate the subject’s actions was implanted during the programming phase. Subject was shown a member of our staff performing the same action again and again, with the key-phrase both in German and in English preceding the action. The Subject does not learn via a reward and punishment system as has been observed in primates. Its mind is so simple and its eyesight so weak, that it relies heavily on its sense of hearing in learning. Any attempts to feed or reprimand the subject physically without an audio cue cause a great deal of aggression. It also responds poorly to loud, unexpected noises.”
As Grady and the Subject completed their march around the testing area five times, Grady commanded, “Halt!” before raising his hand with a palm outward towards the subject. It halted immediately in its tracks, ready for the next command.
Doctor Thorsen leaned over to Maxis, muttering quietly, “He is responding incredibly well, Doctor. The Reichstag will be pleased to see what progress we’ve made.”
Maxis shook his head, “Not yet, Doctor Thorsen. There is but one more command today.”
Grady nodded towards a soldier near the doorway, who slowly opened the door and walked out, returning with a cart holding a cage. All in the room could hear the squealing of a pig, and the rattling of the cage as it ran in circles inside trying to escape.
Immediately as it entered the room, the Subject’s eyes locked with the cage, and it began to salivate at both ends of its mouth.
Grady held a syringe in his hand, approaching the cage and opening the door. He gripped the pig as it tried to run out, and injected the syringe into its neck. After a few moments, the squirming swine became restful and its panic reduced. It simply stood still in-place in front of the cage, eyes glazed over.
Mr. Grady stepped back, motioning the soldiers to do the same. Subject Two-Six was becoming restless, stepping its feet in place and hunched over like a lion in the tall grass ready to pounce on its prey.
Grady held his hand like a fist in the air, commanding, “Fass!”
The entire crowd jolted backwards at the sudden burst in speed from Subject Two-Six, who leapt across the room directly onto the unsuspecting pig. It squealed for but a brief moment as the Subject sunk its teeth into its neck and tore out a chunk. With great strength, it reached into the wound and began to rip flesh and tore the carcass in two. It lifted the front end and continued to gnaw deep into the muscle of the face while the feet dangled.
Sophia rose out of her chair and covered her eyes, and the crowd behind her grew restless. Several even left the room despite their instructions. In frustration, Thorsen ordered the others to remain where they are, and he spoke to Maxis, “I will deal with them later, Doctor… Doctor?”
Maxis continued to stare as Two-Six cleaned the bones left behind from its kill, moving on to the second half with the same veracity. Behind him, Grady stood visibly shaken, looking back to Maxis for what to do next.
Maxis weakly muttered loud enough for Grady to hear, “Let it finish… and then we will end today’s tests.”
Grady nodded, returning his gaze to Two-Six. Maxis turned to Sophia, still in complete shock. He placed a hand on her shoulder, whispering to her, “Sophia… we should finish up here today. The test has been a success thus far. When we are finished… we can all have a quiet dinner in the city. What do you say, Sophia? Hm?”
She kept her eyes closed as she lowered her hands, breathing in and out, before returning to her seat. She put her hands back in place at the typewriter, gazing up at Maxis, tears in her eyes as the snarling and gnawing continued just several feet away.
“Subject Two-Six has responded… as expected to the attack command. The target was a sedated pig a couple of meters away. As we continue testing, we will begin using more mobile targets, and eventually the Subject will be trained to attack humans… in Red Army uniform. The current plan is to acquire prisoners from Kustover-”
A light near the ceiling began to flash a bright white, and an alarm blared a repetitive ringing.
Thorsen whipped his head around, “Was ist los?”
Maxis replied, his attention now on the Subject and Mr. Grady, “The fire alarm! Herr Grady?!”
In the testing area, several of the soldiers headed for the door, following fire alarm protocol to exit the building. The Subject began whipping its head around violently and snarling, in search of the source of the awful sounds. It focused on the flashing light above Grady’s head, tossing the bones in its arms aside, turning its body towards Grady. Grady began to panic, now cornered by the creature, and in the commotion it leapt towards him, biting into his arm as he screamed in agony. Grady had fainted from the panic and bite to his arm. Scientists began attempting to leave through a narrow back exit, and Sophia screamed as Subject Two-Six turned its attention to her.
Maxis turned to Sophia, who was back into the opposite corner of the room from him, her eyes meeting those of the Subject. Maxis called to her, “Sophia!”
She could not hear him to the alarm’s blaring or the screaming as scientists piled through to the hallway.
Two-Six hobbled over to the counter separating them from the testing area, a chunk of Grady’s neck still in its teeth. It jumped onto the counter and focused its attention onto Sophia, pushing her to the ground as she held her arms out to block it. Before Maxis could do anything, he was shoved aside by one of the German soldiers, who raised his MP40 towards Two-Six pumping a few rounds into its chest, sending blood all over Sophia. Two-Six began writhing on the ground next to her, as she ran for the door. The soldier pointed towards Two-Six’s head, and as he pulled the trigger, Maxis screamed and tried to pull the gun away, “NO!”
The soldier shoved Maxis into a wall, before pulling the trigger and pulverizing the Subject with 115-infused rounds at point-blank.
Maxis stood wide-eyed as he watched his months of progress being destroyed before his eyes. His vision blurred and his hearing made every sound indistinguishable from the ringing caused by the multiple gunshots.
He stumbled out into the hallway, leaning on a chair, before looking up on the wall near the doorway. Written in white chalk on the wall were three names: Samantha, Emilia, and Abigail. Maxis’ daughter, Thorsen’s daughter, and Porter’s daughter. Aside from them were the initials, “J.D.” and a heart.
Maxis’ blood pressure raised as he realized the message’s intent and the cause of the fire alarm’s activation. His tormentors, the Illuminati, have returned.
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Maxis slammed the door open to his office, before shoving it closed and running to his desk, searching its surface. He had been forcibly kept outside the facility for two hours as the soldiers ensured the facility was safe to re-enter on orders of the Reichstag. Their trust in Maxis’ judgement had waned significantly.
Surely enough, there was a note left behind, signed by the Illuminati.
“I believe our message has been clear, however, its contents should be put into writing. Tests on the flesh-eaters may continue, but the army must never be used by the Reichstag under any circumstances. Fail our wishes and you, nor your fellow scientists, will never see those three girls again. We have been continuing our surveillance of them as well as your men at other Group 935 facilities. You must ensure that weapons production is stunted, and no wonder weapons reach German hands. It is not their destiny to win this war.
Doctor Richtofen has continued work with the Wunderwaffe DG-2. He is preparing to ask you to begin mass-production, and as we have asked, you will deny him. No matter his progress nor his insistence, you will not listen, and you will not tell him, nor any other soul of our demands. Their lives are in your hands, Doctor Maxis.”
Attached via paperclip were three photos, one through a window of Thorsen’s daughter at his home in Norway, another of Porter’s daughter at her school in Hamburg, and the last was of Doctor Richtofen and Samantha in the laboratories of Der Eisendrache.
Maxis’ hands shook as he held the photos in the air, and he swiftly shoved them along with the note into a drawer of his desk before locking it. He sat in his chair, gazing around the room for any location a camera or listening device could be hidden. They could be anywhere at any time. They could be anyone. There is nothing that can be done.
Maxis shut his eyes, terrified of the Illuminati’s capabilities, but relieved nothing will happen to Samantha yet.
After a few moments of silence, he checked his planner. He must return to work soon.
Maxis pulled a recording device he had been using to document Subject Two-Six’s progress up to his face, initiating recording before sighing.
“... Another setback… Patient Two-Six was killed this morning in a field test. He lost control and attacked one of our handlers. His injuries were minor, but patient Two-Six was destroyed. The break in programming coincided with the flashing lights and loud noises of the fire alarm in the test facility.”
Before he could continue, there was a knock at the door. He paused, “One moment.”
The knocking returned again.
“What is it?”
The door creaked open slightly, Sophia’s face visible through the narrow space, “You wanted to see me, Ludvig? Sophia, yes, do come in. Sit down, my dear.”
Maxis set the recorder aside, standing up from his chair to approach her.
“Would you like some tea?”
“That’s alright, Ludvig.”
“Alright… I’m so sorry for-”
“Don’t worry, Ludvig. I’m alright.”
“It’s just… Doctor Steiner was sharing this rumor… a rumor about Herr Grady, and about you.”
“What? What is this rumor?”
“It’s… may I please see your arm, dear?”
“Why do you need to see my arm?”
Maxis muttered somberly, “Relax, Sophia, I would never hurt you. You know that right?”
“Of course, but… Ludvig!”
Maxis took hold of her left arm, pulling back the sleeve to find her flesh without a bite. The rumor was incorrect.
“Oh, thank God. Sophia!”
Sophia stood up from her chair, pushing Maxis away.
“You thought I was bitten!”
“No, Sophia… I… I just had to know you were alright.”
“I am done here, Ludvig. I am leaving Group 935.”
“What? How… why?”
Sophia backed away and Maxis came closer, “I can’t be witness to what you are doing here, Ludvig. How many more must suffer?”
“You don’t understand, honey-”
“Do not call me that, Ludvig! There is nothing between us, can you not see that?”
Ludvig approached her even closer, her back to the wall, “Please, Sophia don’t leave… “
“I’ve had enough. I am informing the General I wish to return to my position at the Reichstag.”
Maxis placed his arms at Sophia’s side, leaning in close, “Sophia, leave Group 935 with me. They can handle the work from now on. You and I and Samantha could live together… somewhere on the countryside. I know of a place where we can build our family. Please, Sophia, don’t-”
Sophia shoved him away, tears in her eyes, “Get away from me, Ludvig! I don’t want this! You do not want this!”
“I want you, Sophia! Please!”
“Goodbye, Doctor Maxis.”
Sophia slammed the door shut, leaving Maxis to himself.
He stood, legs shaking and his body weak. He leaned onto his desk, sliding to the floor. After a moment, the phone on his desk began to ring. Maxis reached back, pulling the phone to his ear. He muttered weakly, “Yes?”
The voice of Doctor Thorsen uttered through the receiver, “General Lehmkuhl wishes to speak with you about the future of our project.”