Act I – Return Through Aether
Courtyard, The Giant (“Der Riese”), near Breslau
Dr. Edward Richtofen
October 14th, 1945
“Warning, the Shield is now active. Find and destroy the designated materials and report to the barracks, this is not a drill.”
Der Riese had erupted with commotion once the facility entered its emergency status. The intercom repeated the warning message as it blared a siren throughout the grounds. Beneath the siren’s aching tones was the clomping of boots on gravel as Group 935’s scientists and Nazi Germany’s last remaining loyal soldiers scattered. Amidst the confusion stood the man directly responsible for the incident: Doctor Edward Richtofen. As the others clamored for safety, Richtofen stood tall, ready to initiate his contingency plan with ultimate confidence.
“Ah, guten Abend , Doctor Lehto! You look stressed.”
Before Richtofen stood a bewildered Doctor Lehto, the sweat glistening off his forehead as he had been running from the upper laboratories to the courtyard.
“Doctor Richtofen! The test subjects... they’ve escaped all across the facility! Die Spinne could do nothing about them... We- we have to destroy the research before the barracks are locked down... and the-”
In a jovial tone, Richtofen took Doctor Lehto’s shoulders, and in an attempt to calm him, stated, “Calm yourself, Doctor! You’re just making everyone else nervous. Forget your protocol, you must preserve your life!”
“But Doctor Maxis-”
“Do not worry your little head with his orders… It is imperative that you reach the barracks before the electro-shock defenses activate und the Russians breach the defenses.”
“Do you know where Ludvig is?”
“If I were Ludvig, und thankfully I am not, I would be in the bunker with mein daughter.”
“Good point. Thank you, Doctor Richtofen. Aren’t you coming?”
“Don’t worry about me, Doctor Lehto. I will be well taken care of. Let the others know to ignore protocol und head for the barracks! I care very deeply about your survival!”
“A believable lie, Edward.”
Richtofen gripped the sides of his own head. “Shhhhhh!”
Lehto seemed confused, “I did not say anything.”
“Ja, ja, neither did I. Just get going, Doctor! Schnell!”
The naive Doctor Lehto continued towards the barracks, informing other scientists on the same path of Richtofen’s orders. Richtofen continued in the opposite direction, towards the laboratories and storage facility.
“You’ve allowed the little girl to enter our domain and seize the power reserved for you alone. What is it you intend to do, Edward?”
“I… have a plan for just such a turn of events. I will awaken the test subjects und use them to return to Griffin Station.”
“Do you really believe you and your three brainwashed stooges can fight the hordes of fodder at her disposal? You are an even bigger fool than we realized.”
The suggestion angered Richtofen, “I am no fool! What I do, I do only to secure a better tomorrow.”
“Prove your resolve, Edward. Fulfill your promise and free us from our imprisonment!”
Just up ahead, Richtofen heard the sound of gunfire from handguns and the familiar shrieking and snarling of the Untoten . Turning a corner, he had arrived at a containment area for the subjects. Before him was a panicked Die Spinne security officer firing an MP-40 submachine gun down the hallway towards a crowd full of screams of both agony and hunger for flesh. Richtofen approached the officer, pointing to his weapon, “You there! I need your weapon!”
“Get to the barracks, Doctor! I am following protocol!”
Richtofen recognized the officer. It was the same one who had scolded him for his uniform on the day someone attempted to assassinate him. He was the one who took his knife he brought for protection away.
“As your superior, I am ordering you to hand over that weapon!”
“I’m afraid I can’t do that. I have been ordered to fight until my last breath!”
The Shadowman whispered in Richtofen’s ear, “A poor choice of words.”
“Fine.” Richtofen walked away, locating the corpse of a fallen security officer with a Walther pistol. Edward ensured the weapon was loaded with ammunition and returned to the soldier. He placed the end of the barrel in the unsuspecting man’s chest, saying merrily, “Danke schoen!”
He pulled the trigger, causing him to drop the MP-40 and clutch his bleeding chest as he fell to the ground. Richtofen casually placed the Walther into a holster at his hip, before picking up the submachine gun and pulling another magazine from the writhing man before him.
The soldier reached towards him, unable to speak as blood filled his lungs.
Richtofen took notice of the bloodstain left on his own uniform, shaking his head. He departed as several Untoten rounded the corner, making their way towards the helpless, dying officer.
The Doctor ignored the screams, making his way towards the storage facility containing his subjects. He clumsily gunned down several undead attempting to stop him, their eyes a blazing orange-yellow color. Towards him, they showed an especially rapacious, blind fury; No doubt, they were being led to him by Samantha from within the MPD.
He entered a garage connected to the storage facility, closing the doors as a horde came barreling towards him.
Richtofen climbed a set of stairs, cautious of what might be waiting for him, living or dead, but the inside of the building was completely quiet. He set aside the MP-40, all of its ammunition spent.
“These three? The drunkard? The swordsman? The patriot? Honestly, Edward, we thought more of you.”
“They have been conditioned to be loyal to me, und me alone. I have spent quite some time enhancing their abilities, testing their strength. They will be my protection.”
“They may shield you on your journey, but you must remember, Edward: A soul alone can follow the path.”
“Believe me, my Lord, I look forward to my Ascension. Though, I have grown quite fond of this body of mine… a pity.”
Richtofen arrived at the room where his subjects were being kept, pausing as the intercom blared, “Warning, the Shield’s electro-shock defenses will activate in twenty minutes. Find and destroy the designated materials and report to the barracks immediately. This is not a drill.”
Without time to waste, Richtofen entered the storage room and removed a key from his breast pocket. For him to survive and take back what he deserves from Samantha, he would need the aid of his strongest test subjects: Nikolai, Dempsey, and Takeo.
As he reached for the control panel to Nikolai’s pod, he hesitated for a moment. He was wearing General Amsel’s old military uniform, a gift for his work for the Nazi Party. The medals of a war criminal dangled from his chest, and his military cap was brandished with the eagle of the Wehrmacht. The test subjects were comatose and lacking any meaningful memories due to experimentation. He considered the possibility that they would not follow his commands due to the uniform, despite their conditioning; Though, perhaps this would be a perfect test of their willingness to obey his commands, no matter what. Also, time was not on his side. Edward cannot be here when the site is fully locked down and the Soviets begin ransacking the surviving scientists and their research.
Richtofen held the key to unlock Nikolai’s restraints in one hand, and with the other he pressed the red button on the keypad to unlock the cryo-pod. The air-tight seal loosened in the top portion of the tube, releasing a flurry of cold air into the room.
Nikolai Belinski: The Russian. A man of apparent low intelligence but fierce aggression and loyalty, like a troubled child. Laying in the pod, restrained, he was wearing the same Red Army uniform he was captured in during the Battle of Stalingrad. Breathing lightly and skin still cold, Richtofen snapped his fingers in Nikolai’s face in an attempt to wake him, knowing this likely would not work. After numerous 115 injections, Nikolai was rendered unable to function properly without enough alcohol in his blood; More than any man should be able to survive. Opening a nearby locker revealed a bag full of vodka bottles Edward had imported in bulk from Russia. He pulled a bottle from the bag and opened the top, tipping the glass over Nikolai’s open mouth, pouring some in the same manner he would a flask. After a moment, Nikolai’s eyes opened and his breathing rate increased. Nikolai raised his upper body in an attempt to leave the pod, but was held down by his wrists which were restrained.
“Какого черта? Где я?!”
“Unless you know German, I would recommend you speak English. I know the words are rattling around inside that little head.”
“Wha- what is happen? Who are you?!”
“Hello Nikolai, I am Doctor Edward Richtofen. You may remember me from befor-”
“I do not.”
“What do you remember? Und be speedy, we really do not have much time!”
“No time? Ehh... well, I was fighting... in war... fighting the Germans. Hey, like you!”
“Like me? Well, Nikolai, be that as it may, the good news is, that war is over.”
“Did Russians win war?”
“You could say that.”
“But a new war is brewing. One which requires your bravery!”
“Ah... what kind of war?”
“It’s more like un adventure with lots of monsters to fight along the way. It will be so much fun!”
“What is going on... “
“You have to trust me. I am going to release you from your restraints. Open that bag in the locker und you will find several bottles of vodka, und you can even finish this one in my hand.”
Nikolai’s eyes glowed with excitement as he looked at the bag. Not only did his body seem dependent on the alcohol, but he seemed to have a great deal of personal attachment to it: A side-effect of his conditioning.
“Und do not drink it all at once! There is a long road ahead, und there will not be much time to find more. But, when our mission is complete, you can return home and drink as much as you like!”
“Okay, okay, enough! Let me out of this thing!”
Richtofen used the small silver key to unlatch the cuffs around both of Nikolai’s now sweaty hands, causing him to leap to his wobbly feet and bound over to the bag of vodka, the first bottle in hand.
Edward then approached the second pod: The one he feared the most. Thomas Dempsey, a strong-willed, muscular American brute who preferred to be called by his nickname, “Tank.” Richtofen hesitated for a moment, knowing time was short before they would be trapped, before finally opening the pod. Like before, the cold air vented out into the room, and in the pod was the green-uniformed American Marine. Richtofen stood closely, key in hand, as Dempsey’s eyes opened to meet his.
“Hallo ...” Richtofen stifled the laughter as he said, “‘Tank.’ My name is Doctor-”
Dempsey’s eyes lit up with rage and Richtofen felt a sharp pain in his lower jaw. Dempsey’s right hand was already free and had impacted Richtofen’s face, sending him reeling back. Dempsey proceeded to take note of a bobby pin in his palm, which he used to undo the lock on his left hand.
“Thought you had me pinned, didn’t you, you fucking Nazi!”
Nikolai lifted his head out of the vodka bag, looking to Richtofen and then to Dempsey.
Dempsey lowered his head, sprinting towards the now-recovering Richtofen, tackling him to the ground, while trying to choke him with his forearm.
“Where am I, you fucking kraut?! What happened to… The mission… Oh God...”
On the ground, red-faced Richtofen turned his eyes to Nikolai, now standing over them.
Nikolai raised the vodka bottle in his hand, pouring the rest into his mouth before gripping the neck of the bottle with his other hand. He approached Dempsey with the bottle raised as Richtofen attempted to shake his head, “N-No! ”
Dempsey lifted his weight off of Richtofen, grabbing Nikolai by the arm to stop his swing before punching him twice in the gut. Nikolai dropped the bottle and fell to the ground in pain.
Dempsey stood up, breathing heavily and eyes shifting between Richtofen and Nikolai, and then finally to the pod holding Takeo. He looked inside, visibly confused as he looked upon the man’s frozen face inside.
“What... the fuck...”
Richtofen rose to his feet, gasping and trying to recapture his breath.
“Today... is October... 14th... 1945.”
He began to violently cough before lifting his head back up to face the American.
“As we speak, the world is being plunged into chaos. I need your help-”
“The... ja, actually.”
Nikolai's head perked up, “Zombie?”
Dempsey paced towards the window, looking out upon the street where corpses both lie and walk.
“The mission... Why were we there... All I remember is killing those freakbags. And lots of ‘em.”
“We have little time for soul-searching, American.” Richtofen had regained his composure.
“I assume we’re in Germany... I need to find a way back home. I need to contact my handler… What was his name...”
“Your new mission, Dempsey, is-”
“My mission, German, was to find someone. I don’t remember who they were, or why we had to find them… But, I need answers!”
“You have to trust me. I’m actually working with the Americans, believe it or not!”
“I don’t believe it… ”
“Well you should! The OSS will be happy to know one of their spies is safe und sound! Now we only need to escape this facility und continue our mission! When all this is over, I am sure they can explain everything you wish to know.”
Dempsey paced around the room, his loyalties being tested and his mind in disarray. He seemed to be grappling with the programming, and Edward was eager to find out whether his own orders would supersede those of his superiors.
“Alright… if you’ve surrendered… then I guess I’ll help you. Still, sure doesn’t feel right working with a Nazi.”
“Barring the uniform, I bear no semblance to a Nazi. I’m really wunderbar once you get to know me. Now, step aside.”
Dempsey reluctantly turned his back to Richtofen, kneeling down with Nikolai near the bag of vodka and talking with him.
Richtofen approached the third pod; Inside was the legendary Takeo Masaki: The one with the sharpest intelligence of Edward’s subjects, but a blind loyalty to his Emperor. His will is strong, but he will prove to be a useful asset if he is convinced of Richtofen’s noble goals.
He unlocked the pod, opening it as before to reveal the Japanese Samurai: The last of his kind. Edward snapped his fingers until Takeo’s eyes opened to gaze back at him. Richtofen held his head back, anticipating another blow to his jaw, but Takeo remained still.
“Greetings, Takeo. I am Doctor Richtofen. Und there’s not a lot of time to explain, but I need your help.”
Takeo stayed as silent as before, turning his head to view the Russian and American squabbling over the contents of a bag on the floor.
“Takeo, I hope you remember your English, because that would be quite the inconvenience if you did not.”
Takeo turned back to Richtofen, then to his restraints.
“Where are we, Doctor? I... was at the swamp. The... Rising Sun Facility?”
“Ja, ja, anyway. Good news: We are going back there. Or bad news, I’m not really sure of your opinion on the matter.”
“You are from… Group 935. I do not understand. What happened to my mission? The Emperor had requested that I-”
“Takeo, we do not have the time right now. Soon we will be surrounded by hordes of undead. You have to trust me.”
Richtofen used the key to release his restraints before striding towards the lockers where he pulled out a long sheath with a sword inside.
“I had a feeling you would need this, Takeo. Now, go get acquainted with the two others for this journey. It should be a short one, if I am lucky that is... ”
“But the Emperor-”
“The Emperor himself said that you must help me. It is imperative for the survival of all of humanity, including those back home in Japan, that you help me. There are monsters out there, Takeo, und only I know how to stop them! But I need your help! Yours and... those two over there.”
“The Emperor... spoke to you personally?”
“Well, not exactly, we’re just pen pals is all... Yes, Takeo!”
“Warning, the Shield’s electro-shock defenses will activate in five minutes. Find and destroy the designated materials and report to the barracks immediately. This is not a drill.”
“Do you hear that, Takeo? We must move swiftly if we are to escape alive. Now come!”
Richtofen motioned his hand for Takeo to join him with Dempsey and Nikolai, who was now holding the closed bag of vodka with Russian words stitched on the side, “Nikolai’s Vodka.” The four faced each-other in an awkward exchange of glances.
“The name was nice touch, German.” Nikolai patted the bag like a pet.
Dempsey scowled at Nikolai, then at Richtofen. “Yeah, real cute.”
Nikolai peered at Takeo’s katana, now strapped to the belt of his Japanese officer uniform.
“Hey… why does he get sword?”
Richtofen rolled his eyes before opening the door leading out of the room.
“Right now, we must worry about escaping this facility before it goes into complete lockdown. There is a truck downstairs. Nikolai: You are driving.”
Richtofen handed a key-ring he had acquired downstairs to the Russian, now drunk from his vodka mania.
“This will be big fun!”
Dempsey spoke up as Nikolai struggled to walk down the stairs, “I don’t think that’s such a good idea, Doc.”
The other three soon followed him down the stairs towards the garage.
“Oh, don’t worry, his motor function is surprisingly adequate in this state.”
“How long have you known us for exactly? And why don’t we remember anything?”
“No more questions until after the ride, Dempsey!”
They arrived at the ground floor, Nikolai now in the driver’s seat of the truck. Richtofen pulled open the garage door, revealing a horde of undead in the road ahead.
Takeo approached the doorway, placing his hand on the handle of his blade as he looked in awe.
“What... are they. I feel... I remember-”
Dempsey grabbed Takeo’s shoulder, who brushed him aside and unsheathed his blade towards him.
“Take it easy. Those freaks can probably smell us by now. They’re fast and they’re fucking nasty. We have to go, like the Doc said.”
Takeo placed his blade back into its sheath, showing a twinge of fear as he locked eyes with one of the demons. Two headlights flashed to life behind him as Nikolai called out of the window.
“Get inside or I run you over!” Nikolai let out a belly laugh as he revved up the engine.
Richtofen chastised the drunk for drawing further attention as Takeo and Dempsey entered the back end of the transport, its top covered by a tarp.
Now in the passenger seat, Richtofen leaned out the window, his Walther in hand.
“Here they come! Drive, Nikolai!”
Seven zombies began to sprint towards the vehicle, four of them being crushed beneath its weight as it came rolling out of the garage, while one leaped onto the hood, and two others hung onto the side of the truck, shifting its weight slightly. Richtofen made short work of the one on the hood using a bullet to the rotting brain. It crumpled and fell to the wayside as Nikolai veered the truck left towards the main entrance.
“We must reach the main entrance before the gates close!”
“Warning, the Shield's electro-shock defenses will activate in one minute. Report to the barracks immediately.”
Edward twisted his head to look at the two undead holding on to the side of the truck.
From inside the truck, Dempsey called out, “Doc! Doc! Give me that weapon, now!”
“Not now, Dempsey.”
Edward fired a shot, missing and hitting the dirt.
“You son of a bitch, one is getting in!”
With the shakiness of the truck, Richtofen could not quite line up his sights with the target. He felt a tugging at his uniform as Dempsey pulled him into the truck from the back window, yanking the weapon from his hand.
“Very rude, Dempsey.”
Dempsey pointed the pistol at the beast now peeking its head around the corner, attempting to lift itself up into the back of the truck. He fired two shots, one missing during a bump in the road, and the second piercing the back of its throat as it released its fingers from the side of the truck. The second zombie ripped a hole through the roof of the vehicle, peering its disgusting head inside, flapping its jaws and shrieking. Dempsey pulled the trigger once more to find the weapon had run out of ammunition. He instinctively threw the weapon, only for it to bounce off its head and land on the floor.
The demon reached its arms inside, now fully within the truck. The beast reached out to Dempsey, who backed away as Takeo stood up and slashed its chest with his katana , spraying blood against the walls. It let out a howl as he swung once more, piercing deeper into its abdomen, cutting it fully in half. Even still, it shook its evil head side to side grasping dearly to life as Takeo cleanly sliced its head off of its neck.
“Damn. That was... badass.”
The truck had nearly reached the front gates, which were now in the process of closing. Bullets began flying through the air from Soviet weapons firing on German soldiers at the gates.
Nikolai pressed as hard as he could onto the pedal, causing the tires to screech as he passed through the two separating gates. The ends began to scrape against the side of the truck as the intercom came on.
“Electro-shock defenses are now activated. Facility is now under full lockdown. Level four clearance from inside the barracks required to disengage lockdown.”
The gate had now fully closed behind them and the buzzing of electricity surging throughout every doorway of the facility could be heard over the sound of the truck’s tires. Russians speeding towards the gates of the facility halted, firing at the rogue vehicle. But, Nikolai was quick to evade their attacks as he followed the main road out of the Der Riese campus.
“Why are we running from Soviet soldiers? They could help us!”
“Nein . Believe me, Nikolai, we are the only ones able to complete the mission ahead of us.”
Dempsey peered his head in through the window, tossing the empty, bloody Walther into Richtofen’s lap.
“About that mission... What’s next?”
“Japan is our next destination, und I know just how to get there.”