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    My Way

    Rising Sun Facility (“Shi No Numa”), Former Empire of Japan

    Dr. Edward Richtofen

    October 21st, 1945


    This “Swamp of Death” was much less fun than Richtofen had expected. He was up to his knees in swamp water, constantly being antagonized by mosquitos, and burdened by the stench of carrion. Not to mention, the group was exhausted after the impromptu funeral of Peter McCain. Richtofen only agreed to help in the burial in order to gain a modicum of trust from the American, for whatever that’s worth.


    They were now approaching Richtofen’s quarters to find his diary. Most days, Richtofen was able to access his quarters via an elevator located in the central building, but after the beating this base had taken since he left, he did not trust its structural integrity. For that reason, they trudged slowly through the mud much to all of their discomfort.


    Nikolai groaned, “When are we leaving this shithole? I twisted ankle in mud earlier, I’ve got sweat in my eyes, and I’m hungry!”


    Dempsey, clearly fed up as well, asked, “Already? You just ate!”


    “Fucking raw fish! I am Russian bear! What bear eats fish? Hm?”


    Dempsey shook his head, “Uh, most of them, last I checked.”


    “Our battalion in battle in Moscow adopted bear, he only ate goulash, sausage, eh… sometimes cigarettes. Also people.”


    Takeo chimed in, offended by Nikolai’s lack of appreciation for his food preparation, “You have no taste, Russian. Sushi is fuel for a warrior!”


    Without hesitation, Nikolai scoffed and asked, “Takeo, has anyone ever told you you are walking fucking cliché?”


    “Cliché?!” Takeo seemed genuinely offended, “... Is this true?”


    Richtofen felt pity for him, “Of course not, Takeo, you are just bursting with originality. There's… well, eh-heh… Dempsey?”


    Dempsey lifted his Thompson, resting it on his shoulder, and put his other hand to his chin while he thought for a moment, “Well, uh… Hey, I don’t think I’ve ever heard of a Japanese warrior cutting through as many meatsacks as you have. I think they’ll write all new myths about you. About all of us, probably...” 


    Dempsey drifted off in his thoughts. Richtofen had noticed Dempsey had a preoccupation with his image among the group, and with fame after the completion of their journey. Americans… His chauvinistic tendencies may have been exaggerated by the 115 injections… A fascinating result. Takeo and Nikolai’s current demeanors may also be reflections of their most extreme inner traits.


    Nikolai quickly ended the discussion, “After we find diary, what happens?”


    Richtofen answered the best way he could, “The teleporter we used to get here will not work a second time. It was never meant for humans. We will have to find another. I believe I have some old frie- … acquaintances who could help us return to Der Riese.”


    Dempsey sped up his pace to meet up with Richtofen, “Whoa, whoa, whoa, back to that Nazi base we barely managed to escape?! Why the hell would we do that?”


    “Because, Dempsey, I said so.”


    “Yeah? Well I say I think you’re just using us to get what you need here, then you’re gonna betray us to your old Nazi pals when we get back.”


    “Betray? You? Nazi? Pals? Nonsense. If all went according to plan, they’re all dead or being hunted down. Much to my own behest, you three are all the pals I have left. You may have your reservations, Dempsey, but… you will do what I say, regardless. You have no. Other. Options. Sorry!”


    Dempsey stayed silent, his programming fighting with his natural urge to resist, before he retorted, “You’re a real ‘My Way or The Highway’ kinda guy, aren’t you?”


    “Finally, you get it!”


    Nikolai interrupted, “Hey, when did it get so foggy?”


    Richtofen’s quarters were previously visible from a distance, with the group being halfway to their destination. They were now enveloped in an unnatural, thick fog.


    Dempsey twisted around, pointing his weapon in every direction, “I can’t see a damn thing! Could be another ambush!”


    Dempsey’s fears were answered with a booming, demonic female voice uttering, “Fetch me their souls!


    Nikolai lifted his shotgun, waving it around, “Do you think witch is talking about us?”


    Richtofen’s heart was pounding; He was completely defenseless against whatever Samantha had prepared for them.


    Takeo instinctively placed himself in front of Richtofen, holding his Type-100 submachine gun he had acquired from that mysterious box.


    “There!” Takeo pointed towards a pair of hellish, red eyes in the fog which grew as they came closer.


    It looked like a dire wolf, but with much of its flesh and bones exposed and its fur matted with blood. Most troubling of all, it was engulfed in flames. It let out a ferocious snarl, hurling itself through the air towards Takeo, who barely had time to cut it down. As the bullets passed through the beast, it exploded in the air, spraying chunks everywhere and nearly scorching Takeo.


    More pairs of eyes began to pop up before being put down. A ball of lightning appeared near Dempsey, not unlike the anomaly Richtofen witnessed from Samantha’s dog after her transformation. 


    “Another!” Richtofen called out, pointing to the impending attacker. Dempsey was quick to destroy it before it came too close.


    “I’m out!” Dempsey tossed his Thompson aside, pulling a grenade from his belt.


    “Running low!” Takeo yelled out, as he loaded one last magazine into his gun.


    “Time to get a little creative!” As one approached Dempsey, he pulled the pin on a grenade. The hound knocked him to the floor attempting to snap at Dempsey’s throat, before he shoved the grenade into its jaws and kicked it into the air, spraying its flesh everywhere.


    Despite the theatrical kill, they were quickly becoming overwhelmed. As Nikolai cut down one last dog with a shotgun shell, a ball of green light emerged from its corpse. Inside the anomaly was a floating, gold-plated box of ammunition which seemed to spin in its center.


    In a more calm tone, the voice returned, uttering, “You win this time… But I. Will. RETURN!” Her giggling faded along with the fog, giving them a better view at the strange orb.


    Nikolai reached out and touched it, causing it to disappear in a flash.


    Nikolai let out a yelp out of fear, before patting down his pockets, “Clothes feel heavier… I hope I didn’t-”


    “MAX AMMO!” Sam’s voice bellowed out, rumbling the ground beneath them. As expected, Takeo, Dempsey, and Nikolai found ammunition specifically made for their weapons on their person.


    Dempsey reached into the muddy water, pulling out his empty Thompson and slapping it to remove any of the swamp water still inside. “Awesome… I mean shooting those dogs was kinda sad, but I’m more of a cat person.”


    Richtofen shot him an expectant glance, to which he replied, “What? I can have a softer side.”


    Takeo said, “If the demon’s master is the one supplying us with weapons and ammunition, is it still in our best interest to accept these gifts?”


    Dempsey jammed a magazine into his weapon, “I don’t think we have much of a choice. We almost didn’t make it back there without them. Maybe it’s out of her control, like there are rules saying she HAS to give it to us.”


    “Rules? You still believe this is some sort of game, Dempsey?”


    “Not literally, but… eh, well, maybe literally...”


    As Takeo scoffed, Richtofen looked over the remains of one of the hounds, muttering, “Of course… A game. A game for children…”


    “You got something you want to tell us, Richtofen?” Dempsey wiped a clump of mud from his green uniform.


    Richtofen paid him no mind, continuing to mutter, “It’s a game… us versus her… and the rulekeeper… yes, it all makes sense…”


    The Shadowman must be corrupting Samantha’s actions in some fashion. Her simple mind could not handle the raw power: The illuminating knowledge of the Aether. She must not even know if all of this is real. To her it must all be a game, and the Apothicons must be using her influence to assist them in reaching their goal.


    Edward whispered, “Is it true… my Lord?”


    He felt them taking hold of his mind, “There are larger forces at play than you could ever imagine. We know you’ve heard their voices as well as ours, calling from above... They are the ones who imprisoned us, the ones who corrupted your dear friend, Maxis. Accept these gifts, but… remember who you serve, Edward...


    They released him, leaving Richtofen even more curious as to why they are being helped in their journey. He had little time to think, however, as Dempsey was already leading the others away, towards his quarters.


    Richtofen caught up with them, following closely as they entered through the front door. At the center of the room was a table with broken medical equipment and shards of glass. Beyond this table, against the wall, stood a Perk-a-Cola machine, the Juggernog variant.


    Richtofen was flabbergasted, “What happened to mein self-portrait?!” He did not understand how this machine had been moved into his quarters, nor the reason why.


    “Finally!” Nikolai shoved Richtofen out of the way, approaching the machine. As he did, a jingle sprang forth from a speaker inside of it: 


    “When you need some help to get by


    Something to make you feel strong


    Reach for Juggernog tonight


    Sugar seduction delight!”


    It was a jump blues tune with a female singer. According to Maxis, the lyrics for these incessant songs were provided along with the chemical compositions of the elixirs. After recent revelations, Richtofen began to reconsider the possible origins of these Perk-a-Colas.


    Nikolai pushed the coin eject button a few times, unsure of its function, before pulling some kind of lever on the front. Surprisingly, it ejected a filled bottle full of the Juggernog beverage. Richtofen chose to remain silent, as to not intervene in the test subject’s response to the concoction.


    Nikolai took a sip before spitting it out, “Blegh… Terrible.” He then poured a shot of it into his half-drunk vodka bottle, twirling it around and gulping it down. The others watched on, concerned and interested.


    Nikolai looked at his hands, before walking over to a bookcase. With one arm, he toppled it with ease, sending all of the books to the floor, including Richtofen’s diary.


    Dummkopf! Back away!” Richtofen began to sort through the wreckage of the bookcase in search of his diary, while the others sampled the new drink.


    Dempsey called out,“Nikolai! Hit me!” Richtofen heard a punch, but no one fell to the ground. The two laughed heartily, hitting one another harder and harder until one of them flew into the machine, breaching the exterior and revealing its entire supply of bottles.


    While Takeo attempted to corral the two brutes, Richtofen sorted through the heap of books on the floor. He tossed aside many old ones completed during his stays here, Tunguska Unmasked, Grimm’s Fairy Tales, Lost Ghost Towns of the Old West, John Dee, Illuminated… Finally, he had found his diary.


    Upon opening it to the first page and gazing at his own writings, he felt a great pain in his head as the symbols appeared to rise from the page, symbols once thought to be Vril, now known to be Apothicon. As he reached a blank page, writing began to form on the page. The writing was twisted and broken, arranged in such a way that it seemed indecipherable. Richtofen’s hands began to tremble as the letters re-arranged. They formed an unusual pattern, one that was curved over and over around the spine of the book. As he followed their meaning from the middle to the outside, he understood their meaning. He understood his purpose: What he must do.


    He closed the book with great force, placing it in his uniform’s pocket.


    In the corner of the room, Dempsey and Nikolai were beating each other with legs from a table, laughing like schoolchildren as Takeo shook his head in embarrassment.


    Richtofen paid them no mind, taking a bottle from the stack and downing a helping of the elixir and tossing the rest to the floor. He walked past the others into his bedroom.


    Edward knelt down next to a loose floorboard, lifting it up to reveal a compartment beneath his quarters. From it, he lifted a long case. He unlatched it, revealing its contents: His pride, his strength, his power, the Wunderwaffe DG-2.


    Flipping a switch on the weapon’s portable 115 generator. The frame of the device illuminated, and as if it were unable to contain the raw energy within, a beam of lightning flowed along the barrel to the tip of the weapon, dissipating in the air. Richtofen ran his index finger along its clean, steel frame, feeling a shiver up his spine. In the case were also several extra bulbs which could be used as ammunition once its supply runs out.


    Richtofen stepped out into the work area, a genuine smile across his face as the others marvelled at his invention.


    Dempsey dropped the lead pipe in his hand, as his mouth was agape, “What. Is. That?”


    “Your salvation, gentlemen.”


    After a moment of revelry, Nikolai interjected, “‘Yoursalvation?’ Strange name.”


    Richtofen’s smile turned to a frown as he remembered the crowd he was dealing with.


    “Forget it. We should be leaving.”


    Outside the splashing of water could be heard, followed by moaning and the signature yipping of the undead hordes.


    Dempsey ran up to the doorway, looking out at over a dozen corpses rising from the muddy waters of the swamp. “Guess that won’t be anytime soon… MORE FREAKMEATS INBOUND!”


    Richtofen grinned ear-to-ear, stepping forward into the daylight.


    “What the hell are you thinkin’, Doc?!”


    Richtofen looked one of the undead husks in the eye, taking aim with the DG-2, and firing a bolt of electricity into its center mass. Instantly it travelled throughout its body, spewing out of its eyes. It clutched its head before it popped like a balloon, and the body toppled. The blast had travelled through its body and into the water, creating a similar effect in every zombie in the area. One by one, their heads popped and the water turned red with their blood.


    The Doctor could not contain himself any longer, cackling madly at the power he wielded in his hands and the death around him. It was all so amusing that he fell to his knees, laughing so hard he began to cry.


    The others watched on, silent and terrified, now well aware of the madness in Richtofen’s head. Madness, and lust for carnage. He was not a defenseless little boy, but an all-powerful god amongst men: A force of nature. The universe would soon be his plaything, and none of them had any chance of stopping him. Destiny awaits.

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