Chapter 9: "Novus Ordo Seclorum"
Der Riese - Laboratories
January 23rd, 1940
Doctor Schuster was all out of hope, and his disappointment in both himself for failing his friend and his work were immeasurable. In the 18 days since Edward Richtofen’s disappearance during the matter transference testing, Doctor Schuster had failed to discover any trace of his colleague anywhere at Der Riese. As the test had commenced, the receiving pad failed to activate, causing Edward’s body to disappear completely with only smoke in his place. Upon investigation, Schuster discovered not a failure in the design of the receiving pad, but a loose connection in the outlet connecting the receiving pad to the transference device. His initial reaction was to blame an unseen saboteur, after all, Schuster was positively sure he had assembled the device correctly as Edward had specified. However, Schuster came to feel he was shirking the responsibility of his actions, and he bared a painful guilt as he decided that he, alone, was the one who forgot to set up the MTD correctly, and as such, Schuster was wholly responsible for this failure.
In these passing days, Schuster had spent many agonizing, sleepless days and nights searching for Edward and researching into a method of reversing his fatal mistake. Alas, there would be no respite as Schuster made no breakthrough. Other scientists of Group 935 had begun to ask where Richtofen had been and being his closest associate, Schuster had received a majority of the questioning. Schuster stayed isolated in the lab that was host to his greatest failure, toiling away with the research he and Edward had conducted in their time on the project. With no receiving area for the MTD, it was not inherently clear where a test subject would be allocated in the event of activation. Schuster’s initial theory was that without a clear pathway for Edward to be transported through, he would be held, or ‘stored’, within the device itself at some smaller, cosmic level, and upon re-connection with an ample receiving pad, Edward would be sent completely through. Unfortunately, through a series of tests, this theory was deemed to be untrue as no trace of him seemed to appear through the device no matter Schuster’s method.
Before Edward’s disappearance, he had discussed the possibility of a ‘wireless’ connection between the MTD and receiving pad, as the next logical step following the ‘wired’ version. He proposed that with Element 115’s immense power, the MTD could be used in conjunction with a beacon-like signal connecting it to other MTDs around the world, forming a network of intercontinental transportation. Schuster had always admired Edward’s forward thinking and motivation to succeed, and he acted no different in modifying the MTD to test these capabilities later. While it was wired, the modifications Edward had made to the prototype were meant to be compatible with other MTDs once production of more had gone underway. For a time, the theory that Edward had been sent somewhere else ran through Schuster’s mind, however he felt foolish, as there were no other devices like the MTD in existence, and thus no connection could have been made in this instance.
It struck Schuster today, finally: Edward must be dead, worse yet, vaporized and dispelled into the air following the fateful test. In the pit of his empty stomach, Schuster’s guilt and pain swelled until Schuster was but a hollow mess of crushing defeat and sleeplessness. Not fit to leave Edward’s legacy behind, Schuster strode to Edward’s locker inside the lab, its door hinge still open just as he had left it weeks before. In life, Schuster would never have invaded Edward’s privacy in such a manner, but he felt a need for connection with the departed unlike any other time in his life.
He reached inside, pulling out Richtofen’s hand-written diary. For a moment, he hesitated, and in an uncharacteristic act of boldness he opened the pages, skimming through some of Richtofen’s first few weeks working for Group 935. The weathered little book held many minute quirks of Richtofen’s. There were little jottings of ideas, and sketches of said ideas with descriptions and details of their functions. Also, any instance of recording length or mass had small conversions between paragraphs converting between imperial and metric units, as Edward held a strange, obsessive preference towards imperial, writing stoichiometric equations on the margins of the page.
On the entry marked September 2nd, 1939, Schuster discovered the day Richtofen had epiphanized the idea for his next project, the Wunderwaffe, a project Edward had kept close in hand in life.
"In my time working with Maxis on the Die Glocke project, now being shortened to M.T.D. for ambiguous reasons, I have become increasingly disillusioned to the unsightly image of corpses rising from the dead. I do not want to discredit Doctor Maxis, but I fear his interest in these foul creatures is misguided; I suppose that is what a dead wife und a little Mädchen will do to your focus. He has enlisted me to create a defense system to be used throughout Der Riese in the event of some sort of outbreak. God help us if these abominations ever escape the laboratories. I created the electro-shock defense system to fry them with over 200,000 amps of electricity, more than the electric chair. An undignified and inhumane death for Maxis’ unholy resurrections; How fitting. In the event the alarm system is sounded, which I dubbed The Shield, these defenses can be activated in major entryways of Der Riese to block entry from the undead, others are blocked by electronic, steel gates.
Today in the news, we discovered that Hitler sent German forces into Poland just yesterday. I fear what this will mean for our international scientists in Group 935, however, Maxis appeared indifferent, and perhaps a little too eager. He said in times like these, creating weaponry may be a beneficial pursuit should this conflict escalate. I do not know what he meant by this; We are scientists, not warmongers. It did, however, lead me to a conceptual device utilizing my electroshock system and the Die Glocke project thus far. I call it the Wunderwaffe, which I believe will be the first of many defensive weapons that could use the power of 115. I fear what this idea could lead to in the wrong hands, however. I will keep this idea a secret from anyone, apart from my superiors in the Order.”
Schuster stopped reading there, thinking to himself, puzzled by Edward’s reference to an ‘Order’. He could not think of anyone Edward might be referencing and concluded there must be something being kept from him. He read on, continuing to find mentions of this ‘Order’ but little in the ways of context or explanation into the meaning. He searched through the most recent entries in attempt to find some hint of where Richtofen could have ended up, but there was no hope to be found.
Schuster placed the diary back into its place, leaving the locker ajar as it was. He looked around the trashed, disorganized laboratory once more, fearing the worst as he would have to face his own superior, Doctor Maxis, and present him with the fact that Edward was gone, forever, because of Schuster’s failure with the device Maxis had insisted they discontinue work with. Set in his path and ready to face the end of his career, Doctor Schuster decided to initiate one last diary entry to bookend the creation, testing, and failure of the MTD. He dusted off a recording device set upon the nearby table and activated the recorder.
"Log Entry 43. Date: January 23rd, 1940. I cannot be certain what happened to Doctor Richtofen. Once the test was commenced, he just disappeared from the machine into thin air. I have searched the area for days and have no evidence that he is anywhere. I am afraid I might have to scrap the-"
The receiving pad of the MTD began to flash and buzz like it had not in weeks prior. Out came the full-bodied, but evidently disheveled Doctor Richtofen, his white lab coat soaked with sweat, and in his hands the audio recorder once on his person during the test, jogging towards a dumbfounded and relieved Doctor Schuster.
"Don't scrap anything! We have done something, something wondrous.”
Edward cocked his head towards the wall as if a noise caught his attention.
"Shhh. Do you hear them?
Unperturbed by the strangeness but relieved all the same, Schuster approached Edward, his arms reaching to Edward’s shoulders. Surprised and jittery, Edward flinched as Schuster touched him and exclaimed.
"Doctor Richtofen, you're alive!"
"I'm more than alive, mister Schuster. Is the device still intact?"
Though he was satisfied in seeing Edward alive again, Schuster noticed the bemusing differences Richtofen possessed from himself on the test day. Richtofen seemed almost manic in his speech, stuttering as if being constantly interrupted, and his gait was much less professional, instead he slouched and paced as he walked, and seemed to be restless, unable to stand still as he spoke with Schuster.
"Yes, but, what happened to you?"
"Aaah, something wunderbar! That chamber was incredible, the wonders we could learn!"
"What are you talking about? Are you alright?"
"Get in the matter transference prototype, Doctor Schuster. We have work to do.”
Doctor Richtofen grabbed two pairs of earplugs and walked with Doctor Schuster towards the MTD, passing a pair of the plugs to him.
"You will need these. They don’t block out everything, but it helps. Sh, sh, sh…”
The MTD once again activated, and Doctor Schuster experienced a strange, unprecedented feeling as his vision clouded with smoke and then blinding light. The stimulation finally came to an end, and Schuster could finally see, though it was very little. Curiously, he felt light on his feet, apparently experiencing low gravity. For a moment he thought he had gone blind, as there was utter blackness, then, a light from Doctor Richtofen’s lighter flickered to life, and Schuster could see his surroundings. They had been sent to a dark, spacious, rocky cave, its grey, bumpy walls combined with an alien, metal device spanning throughout the whole cave and into a solid-black void in the shape of a pyramid at the center of the room.
"Why am I... floating? And what is that… that pyramid? Excuse my language, but where in the hell are we?”
"Doctor Schuster, if my theory is correct, I believe we are on the Moon, and this device is a gateway. A gateway... to another dimension.”
"Another dimension? Is Doctor Groph here too feeding you this lunacy?”
"Nein, but I'm beginning to think much of what he says is truer than we'd ever imagined. He was right about 935 partnering with the Nazi Party, was he not?”
"What are you suggesting are the origins of this pyramid-gateway… device?”
"Doctor Groph, in his study of the Vril-Ya, mentioned something about three pyramids, gateways to the Aether, a dimension beyond our understanding. The ancient race Vril-Ya built these devices to travel between dimensions at will. Though Doctor Groph believed in the possibility of the race Vril-Ya, and their space-traveling technology, he did not fully believe that there were different dimensions to be traveled. He saw this as creative liberties taken by those who publish books on them. But this pyramid fit the description perfectly from the stories told.”
"I'm not sure what to say... what could we do with such a discovery? Should we tell the others at Group 935?”
"Certainly not everyone, especially not Maxis, that… that fool! But I know of several members of Group 935 who have lately shown a distaste for Doctor Maxis' new policies. They could help us build a station here, and we can discover the power this device holds, und use it to change the world, just as we have always wanted.”
"Okay, my other concern is... how did you arrive back on... well... Earth?”
"In my tampering with the device when I initially arrived und after a painful, irritating, aggravating, grievous shock… ahem, the front panel of the pyramid began to light up, und it teleported me to some god-forsaken jungle where I was chased down by some native people. From my time there, I made some more new discoveries.”
"After a brief quarrel with the natives, I took advantage of their primitive nature, and have them convinced I am their god. You see, their people had met the Vril-Ya generations ago, and to keep the story simple, they showed me what has been causing trouble for them ever since. Something that caused terror for their ancestors and serves to still wipe them out today.”
"What? What is it?”
"A meteor made up of 115 imbedded into one of their ruined temples and still radiating its majestic power today. They showed me nearby where more of the rock had split apart before it landed and became imbedded into the ground, being buried over the years und killing the grass attempting to grow over it. They avoided any traces of the meteor due to its effects on their dead.”
"My God, that’s horrible.”
"What’s horrible is the power held within those rocks going unused for so long. I do not care how our test appeared to fail. This was truly a success, Doctor Schuster, and you are, in part, responsible. We must return to my kingdom in the jungle, where the natives will do the heavy lifting in recovering the element for our work on this base.
"How will we acquire the resources to mine it exactly?”
"I know for a fact many of the members from the excavation team would jump at the chance to undermine Maxis… Ha Ha Ha, no pun was intended there… Any-who, they will have the tools we need.”
"This plan is ingenious Edward! So much potential for what can be done here. Think of it! We are the first men on the Moon, and soon the first to enter into another dimension!”
"I'm glad we can see eye-to-eye, Doctor Schuster. Now, we must return and find others to join us. We should avoid bringing up what exactly this device can do until we are sure everyone on the team is on board with our plan and we are able to trust them. Doctor Maxis can never find out what we will do here.”
"Absolutely. Now, Edward, how were you able to return to the MTD receiving pad all the way from the jungle?”
"Well, Doctor Schuster, if my theory und Doctor Groph’s stories are correct, then there are three pyramids such as the one before you in existence, and another one is in the jungle. I have not discovered the third location, yet, but the MTD at its current calibration formed a connection with these pyramids, und in my time I was able to program them to send me between the them and the MTD. Mein gott, Doctor Schuster, there were many strange, cosmic happenings in their temples, and I am eager to discover just what their significance is. Destiny appears to have connected our MTD with these pyramid devices, und with this discovery in mind, I believe I can begin full construction of the ‘wireless’ matter transference devices we discussed to aid our travel to this base.”
"Very impressive, Doctor Richtofen. You have no idea how it feels to see you again after so long.”
"There is little time for sentimental dawdling, Doctor Schuster, we should begin our work once more. I will introduce you to the village.”
"Oh, yes. Perhaps I could get some sleep when we arrive, if that’s alright. I have not slept since, well, I cannot really-”
"That’s quite alright, Doctor Schuster, I need you at full attention for our plan to succeed.”
"Thank you, Edward. I… actually have a question for you. Well, a confession as well.”
Richtofen began to twitch and blink repeatedly, looking irritated as he spoke.
"Yes, what, SH, I am talking to my friend!”
"Oh, uh, who?”
"No, no, you! I am talking to you, Doctor Schuster, go on, please! Speak a little louder!”
"Well, after the test, I searched for you for days and days, and today I came to face the probability you were… dead. And so, I, regretfully… skimmed through your diary.”
"Simply as an attempt to reconnect with a dear friend who I thought had passed. I hope you can forgive me for my moment of weakness. But, I read through some of your entries and, I saw you mentioned many times some type of ‘Order’. I’ve never heard you mention these people you wrote about, and perhaps I am prying too much in asking, but I am ever so curious who these people are that you are reporting to with all of your discoveries before Group 935.”
"Hm… I can forgive you Schuster, I understand my absence must have been troubling, and I thank you for continuing to have faith in the MTD for so long. To answer your question, the Order is, well, an old group of, ahem, friends. They, as well as I do, want to make the world a better place. They live their lives in secret just as we in Group 935 do, but they have greater power and greater motivation, or at least, I thought they did.”
"What do you mean?”
"Doctor Schuster, I would not worry about them anymore. Lately, the Order has failed to assist me in my ventures and so I have kept things from them. I no longer need them or the power they possess. They have become too occupied with this brewing war. I will change the world myself. Without them.”
"I still do not quite understand… "
"Oh, naive, innocent Doctor Schuster, I kept this from you because I was afraid you might think less of me. Also, by their mandate, I would have probably had to silence you by killing you or getting you involved. But that is over now. I will wash my hands of them forever when we arrive back at Der Riese. From this point forward, it is you and I who will do the right thing in this- SH! Do you hear that too?!”
"Hear what, Edward?! Are you alright?”
"No, I won’t make him do that! Stop! Sh! Agh!”
Edward cupped his ears, bobbing his head back and forth with a face of intense agony as sweat dripped from his forehead.
Don’t worry, Doctor Schuster… I’m alright. Together we will endure! Ha ha!”
Edward adjusted the panel at the forefront of the Moon pyramid device, causing it to spark and begin to distort Schuster’s view. He felt the weightlessness of teleportation once again, as the light shone bright. Being sure Edward was still close nearby, Schuster shut his eyes and awaited the uncertain future waiting for him in the jungle. Schuster was concerned for Richtofen’s mind, as it appeared to be permanently frazzled from his isolation from civilization. Schuster could only hope that with Richtofen’s plan and the Element 115 in the jungle, he would do the right thing.