Monday, February 26, 2024

WoAF - Game Session 59 - Comic

Another experiment with AI... this time using DashToon to create a Comic from the Way of All Flesh Story.  While only a tiny fragment, I'm trying to get a feel for what can be done, and how much work it takes to do it.  This took me about 30 minutes during lunch.  It is not perfect.  It is difficult to get the prompts to show what I actually want and requires many generations to get something close enough to use.  In the end - I suspect we are close to something usable, but not quite 100% there yet.  As ever, prompting is the problem.  Still, though... I nevertheless like how this came out.  Pretty neat.

Thursday, February 15, 2024

WoAF - Game Session 59

Dr. Capek
Having defeated the four Nazi UFOs, our heroes had begun their journey back to Earth.  Not far behind them were the eighteen Nazi technicians manning the two UFOs that they had managed to repair before escaping the smoldering ruins of the super-secret Nazi Moon-Fortress, Eisenhelm.  Far below them, a thin cloud of gray smoke slowly wafted over the moon's surface from the burning wreckage of that once mighty Moon-Bastion of Nazi Totalitarianism, the first and last of its kind... and good riddance, thought our heroes as they sped away.   

It should be noted that the last UFO that Team Purple hurtled into Eisenhelm's Hanger C caused a massive explosion, killing many Nazi soldiers who had been preparing their next assault on another Nazi faction from that location.  Yet, the explosion failed to eliminate Hanna Schiller, who was a bit too far underground on Level C3, having taken refuge with a certain Doctor Karel Capek, the chief Roboticist of General Hertling's military command hierarchy.  But our story leaves her and Capek to their fate, and follows our heroes on their journey back to Earth.

Not far from the moon, Shadow Hawk and the two UFOs trailing behind her, encountered the derelict space armada known as the "The Phalanx", floating towards Earth.  The armada was composed of fifty Giant Nuclear Missile Robots, each of which had been programmed to fly to a major Earth capital and explode its 500 megaton cobalt bomb.  Due to the incredible power, and extremely lethal radioactive footprint of this type of bomb, this event would have certainly exterminated all life on the surface of the planet.  

Fortunately, at the last, Ling, Vallnam and Jacab had managed to disable The Phalanx during the Eisenhelm Civil War that they had so craftily caused.  And so, now they had arrived at The Phalanx, its fifty monstrous robot emissaries of doom completely inert.  Not a light blinked, nor gear moved among the great fifty.  The robots were immobile, free floating, and entirely harmless.  However, they also happened to be on a trajectory towards Earth and it didn't take the three more than a few moments to realize that left to their current course, the robots would continue on to Earth, and one at a time, fall through the atmosphere and hit whatever was before them.  There was a reasonable probability that the impact alone would cause little harm, however they also conjectured that such an impact could detonate the nuclear weapons inside.  Perhaps not all of them, but even a few of the fifty exploded, it would bring incredible destructive force to their already badly wounded world.  They still faced a potential extinction level event. They decided to act.  

The technicians they rescued from Eisenhelm were eager to help.  After all, they were on a one way trip to The Mother World, and they felt it incumbent upon them not to see it destroyed.  They proposed removing the bombs, detonating them in space, and then reprogramming the robots to convert them into useful powerhouses of machinery, capable of taking orders and performing fantastic feats of strength and construction.  An ideal gift for the bustling new civilization of Earth, indeed.  They hoped to bequeath them to the new Earth Government, so that their arrival would prove beneficial to Earth, and give them a chance to present themselves as something other than mere lunar refuges, and potential enemies.  This idea struck a chord with Ling and the others, and so they agreed.  Vallnam directed them to try one robot, and if that worked, they could proceed with the others, provided the first one didn't take so long that the total time needed exceeded the time it would take for the robots to begin falling into Earth's atmosphere.  That gave them seven days.  The technicians were optimistic they could do it.  They got to work on the first one, flying their UFO to it, depositing two of their best on the giant machine, with the remainder flying off to a safe distance of about eight hundred miles along side Shadow Hawk and the other UFO.   

The two technicians got busy.  After grueling, diligent effort they were able to delicately disengage the bomb, and floated it outside the robot into space.  However, as it turned out, removing the bomb was the easy part.  The greater challenge was in the reprogramming of the robot's computer core.  In fact, it was protected by an impenetrable cypher-encryption mechanism that if tampered with incorrectly would cause an enormous amount of trouble.  If they didn't get this right, once re-activated, the Robot was capable of taking actions that could revive the entire armada, and put them all back on their original mission plan.  That would be a terrible outcome, of course, so they were being very careful.  They tried delicately three times, and each time they had to back away.  The tinkering with the cypher-block was simply beyond their skill.  And so the two technicians gave up on this attempt and had their UFO come pick them up.  Once together with their team, they began serious deliberations on how to overcome the blocking encryption.  

"If only Nick had made it with us!  He could have disarmed it without a second thought!" they bemoaned.

Meanwhile, as the technicians brought all their mental powers to bear on the discussion, in the rear of their UFO one member, a certain Dietrich Keller, son of the late Captain Keller, was suffering with some unknown ailment.  They had been so busy, the technicians had all but forgotten about him.  But now, it became evident that his suffering was something they could no longer ignore, and so they alerted Team Purple as to the situation.  Inquiries were made.  

It seemed that he had been injured as the technicians had fled Eisenhelm.  As one of the technicians described to Vallnam, Keller had been the last one aboard.  It had been his responsibility to disconnect the power couplings from the UFOs before takeoff.  He had been operating the Power Coupling Station on the western wall of Hanger B when everyone clambered aboard the UFO.  At the last moment, as soon as the ship had as fully charged its power banks as time would allow, he de-coupled the power cable, and turned to make his run for the UFO.  As he disabled the power coupling and turned to run, however, he suddenly lurched, cried out, and staggered forward clutching his neck.  With no time to spare, several technicians ran out and grabbed him, hustling him into the ship. They took off right behind the first UFO just before an explosion rocked Hanger B, and brought the rocky ceiling down.

Keller was not doing well.  He was suffering from a nasty looking red welt on his neck, they said, and explained that they had laid him down on a bench with a blanket, and then went to work flying the UFO, which was difficult in those cramped conditions, given that none of them had any actual piloting experience.  The two UFOs wobbled their way behind Shadow Hawk, and soon everyone had more or less forgotten about technician Keller, being busy manning the ship, and helping to guide it into space.

Ling thought it best that they take a look at Keller.  She asked Vallnam and Jacob to suit up in their Shadow Hawk armors and go to the UFO to see what could be done for the poor fellow.  And so the two heroes found themselves once again flying on the magnetic waves towards the Nazi UFO.

The UFOs are very bizarre ships, by the way.  On the outside they look like what you would think of as a "normal" flying saucer, with a burnished silvery exterior, domed top, and three distinctive small domes on the lower belly of the vessel.  The three domes comprised its weapons array.  On the inside, however, they were quite strikingly different than any ships found on Earth.  They were filled with glowing vacuum tubes, shiny bronze controls, bronze-plated meter dials of various sizes and a slick metallic monitoring screen on the dome.  They had three (rather uncomfortable) chairs, each facing one of the small thickly-glassed port holes.  The air was filled with crackling and buzzing noises at all times.  At the center of the vessel was the engine, encased in a bell shaped device known as "Die Glocke," which contained the top secret Red-Mercury Vortex Engine, that was responsible for creating the anti-gravity field, and maintaining the Stasis-Field within the ship's confines.  The ship could move at a maximum of 30,000 miles per hour, and could, at lower speeds, within the Earth's atmosphere, make hairpin turns without significantly effecting the crew.  Each came with a battery of three weapons:  The Lightning Cannon, Plasma Beam, and the Liquid-Metal Cannon.  The armor of the ship was an alloy created by Science Center 5, known as Titanhaltbar-236, sufficient to repel most forms of kinetic attack.  Vallnam and Jacob sailed to the ship, and attained the airlock.

Once inside, they found the huddled technicians, trying to find a space to stand, or crouch, or lay down.  Three of them were in the Command-Chairs at their regular stations:  Pilot, Navigator and Weapons.  The rest had to make due as best they could.  The UFOs were really designed for a three man crew, so nine in each ship was a terrible squeeze. The air was stifling, while lack of space and protruding electronics hindered their movements, and the noise incessant. Nevertheless, they made do, and were earnestly pursuing their deliberations regarding the cypher-block.  Vallnam and Jacob went to the rear and examined Keller.

Jacob had some medical training, and so made a careful examination.  Keller lay on the bench wrapped in a woolen blanket, now stained with blood and thin streaks of grey puss.  He was staring, his eyes glaring as they tried to see through his chin to his neck.  He was breathing heavily, his face a mask of agony.  He could only manage to move his lips, but not speak.  Jacob drew closer and examined the wound.  What had been described to him as a red welt was no longer merely that.  It had apparently transformed into an open wound, from which protruded a small thorn like object, perhaps a quarter inch in length, dark red, and bristling with thin branches that appeared to extend into the flesh of his neck.  Jacob turned on the bio-scanner of his suit, and with careful tuning was able to trace the tendrils from the thorn using its FLIR-like imagery system.  The tendrils became microscopic, and penetrated all the way into Keller's nervous system.  And it appeared they were growing.  Jacob noted that the flesh around the tendrils was being affected as well, turning from normal tissue into a kind of puss-filled lumpy gray mass.  It was pretty disgusting, actually, but a true veteran, he managed to control his gag reflex.

Jacob urgently reported his findings back to Ling and Jacob via their telepathic link.  

"Whatever is afflicting Keller, it is not normal.  At all.  Very far from it," said Jacob.

They had to do something, and quickly.  The three heroes began to discuss their options, and sought for advice and capabilities that might be latent within Shadow Hawk, the Modroni spaceship that had already provided them with so many amazing surprises.  What their inquiries revealed on this occasion was that the ship had been equipped with a Short Range Teleporter, and more interestingly, a Shrink/Grow Ray.  These could be used in conjunction with each other to deposit large specimens, or equipment, at tiny sizes into a specially constructed "Container Jar", which sat in a hidden alcove somewhere further back in the ship.  But exactly what do do with it, if anything, under these circumstances was something to be debated.  And so they did. 

Meanwhile, a certain dark amorphous dog-like cloud hovered somewhere near UFO-T1, observing from a distance with keen anticipation...   

Thursday, February 01, 2024

WoAF - Game Session 58

Ling, Jacob, and Vallnam swiftly departed from the smoldering wreckage of Eisenhelm in their ultra-sleek spacecraft, Shadow Hawk, possibly the stealthiest ship in the galaxy. Trailing closely behind were two wobbling UFOs, crammed with the eighteen Nazi technicians they had valiantly rescued from the Moon-Nazi Civil War. On Shadow Hawk's advanced sensors, four crimson blips rapidly approached. Our heroes deduced that these must be the same four Nazi UFOs that had pursued them in their hijacked spacecraft back to Earth. Aware that such a formidable force could effortlessly overpower terrestrial defenses and potentially lead to a Moon-Nazi invasion, they made the crucial decision to swiftly return to the moon, fervently hoping that the four Nazi vessels would follow suit—and indeed, they did. As the four UFOs needed to reverse course by swinging around the far side of the earth, our heroes arrived on the moon several hours ahead of their pursuers.  Utilizing a clever array of Mentarian tactics to confound and provoke their Nazi adversaries, and assisted discreetly by the secret Modroni society, their efforts ignited a cataclysmic lunar Civil War within the confines of Eisenhelm.  The once-thriving super-fortress was reduced to a smoldering ruin. Now, the pressing question loomed: how should they confront the four UFOs?

"As much as I hate to say it," said Vallnam, "but given the fact that Shadow Hawk, and the intelligence that governs it, is all about remaining hidden from perception of other races in the galaxy, we may need to let the technicians take care of this situation themselves."

This was a sensible comment, and one that the intelligence that governed Shadow Hawk very much approved of. As it happened, Shadow Hawk was very sophisticated.  With this comment she hummed brightly deep down.   

As they explored the ship's systems and mental space, they discovered that it had three distinct intelligences, one for each armor, that unified into a wholistic intelligence of Shadow Hawk herself.  The ship also had two primary weapons, but they were designed to align with Shadow Hawk's mission of stealthy exploration.  The two weapons were a long distance Stun Ray, and a shorter distance EMP Ray.  The first could be used to knock out the crew of another ship.  The second could disable the ship's controls and electronic infrastructure.  Since the ship is nearly indetectable, and could fire these weapons at distances beyond the range of most sensors, the idea was that the weapons would be used primarily to evade opponents, and thereby avoid combat entirely.  

The three suits names were "Wisdom", who went to Jacob, "Mercy" who went to Vallnam, and "Virtue" who went to Ling. When the suits are activated they expand from below the seat and envelop the person in their suit of armor.  This armor would then be able to exit the ship.  Once in space the armors can fly using Helio-Drive propulsion, which allows for near light-speed travel as it surfs the magnetic fields of local stars and planets, but the Helio-Drive is only usable while inside a star system.  Outside a star system the ship would use her other form of propulsion, the Quantum-Singularity-Hyperdrive, which allows the ship to traverse the galaxy through exotic shortcuts in spacetime in days or hours, depending on the local conditions within the spacetime continuum.  

In addition, Shadow Hawk's intelligence contained Modroni Powers.  The Power that our heroes focused on immediately was known as Mental Assimilation, which enabled Shadow Hawk to project hyper-realistic simulations into the minds of others. Those subjected to it believe they are experiencing things that are in fact the mental projections of Shadow Hawk, and cause the person to believe they are somewhere else and participating in events that feel to them to be absolutely real. Jacob immediately realized that this is the same power the Talosians demonstrated in the old Star Trek episode, "The Menagerie".  He wondered where Gene Roddenberry had gotten that idea.  Now, he thought he knew.

Having discovered this Power, Vallnam now proposed the following plan:

"Well with Shadow Hawk's ability to do Mental Assimilation, what do you think about us going stealthy-stealth, let the UFOs catch up to us, and then we project into their minds, 'Hey everything is all wonderful on the moon, you don't need to go back to the moon.  Heck, why don't you go back to earth and enjoy yourselves in the Fifth Reich, or something?"

It should be noted that Shadow Hawk more or less approved this idea, although it was not well crafted quite yet.  Based on this suggestion she thought it was fitting that Vallnam had chosen the Mercy Suit, as his mind tended in a direction that would not result in a violent outcome. Beneath his chair, the Mind of Mercy quietly hummed.

Jacob responded with an alternate plan:

"I think we should project that the moon is a hundred miles or so farther away than it is," he said.

"At all times?" asked Vallnam, not quite getting the gist of Jacob's plan.

"Well, until they crash into it," replied the stalwart. 

"Ohhhh, I see," replied Vallnam. "Okay.  That sounds good, too," he decided without further deliberation. Vallnam hadn't the ego to force his way of thinking on anyone. He demured. 

Outside, beyond any of their awareness, a dark dog-shaped cloud followed behind Shadow Hawk. It was busy extending its mental influence over Vallnam, to whom it had taken a liking.  After all, where Vallnam went, it discovered to its hideous delight, death was sure to follow.  And Vallnam's mind was easy enough prey for it's subtle manipulations.  This sphinxlike creature was a demon of the Outer Darkness, known as a Wiedergänger in the German tongue, although no German had ever truly comprehended the creature's true nature.  Anyone who might do so would be driven instantly insane unless they had the mental durability of a Galactic Master.  Across the universe it had sped on a Ray of Un-Life from the eye of Death itself.  Not even the Modroni ship detected its horrific presence.  Yet, earlier Vallnam had actually seen it.  It was under the creature's influence that he had forgotten completely about it, and assumed it had simply wandered off.  Not so. 

"Yeah, keep it short and sweet," said Jacob.

"Well, it's not as flourishy, I admit," answered Vallnam as he stroked his chin. "But hey, it works."

And so, Vallnam approved Jacob's plan.  Just let the Nazis crash themselves into the moon. It seemed simple enough, and that would end the problem, and they would be done with it.  Eisenhelm was a smoldering ruin.  The only survivors that they knew of were Hanna and her minions.  Getting rid of their last armored units would be the correct military strategy.  And besides, they thought it a tragedy to leave the technicians to their enemy's tender mercies.  

And then, Vallnam proposed yet another alternate plan.  Make the Moon Nazis in the UFO think that it was Hanna who destroyed Eisenhelm, and let them go and fight it out with her.  

Shadow Hawk was not nearly as in favor of this plan as Vallnam's first suggestion, but at least it would leave the fate of the Moon Nazis in their own hands.  A kind of ironic justice of a sort.  While it could, and probably would, lead to violence, it was ultimately up to the Nazis to do what they would do once they landed on the moon.  Hmm... Shadow Hawk's humming dimmed uncertainly.  

"I guess," said Jacob, not quite sure this was a great idea.  "As we left Hanna, she was running from the new homicidal robot.  What was its name?  VOC-1?"

"Yes, that's right. VOC-1.  The human-killer."

"Well, I have no strong objection to this plan, but we can just throw them at the moon."

"Yes, well, that would do it," replied Vallnam scratching his chin.

At this point Ling made her comments.  She was not pleased with the idea of sending men to their deaths in this fashion.  An outright fight, mano-a-mano, was okay with her.  But she disliked this kind of trickery. Deceiving them so that they kill themselves seemed to her to be a step too far.  She was okay with combating them in space, if that were an option, but did not relish taking part in such an insidious action.  She understood the value of handling the Nazis as efficiently as possible, but it really just seemed too sinister a use of Shadow Hawk's awesome power.

Shadow Hawk, agreed with her, unbeknownst to any of them.  The Mind of Virtue hummed deeply.

While communing with his Modroni environmental suit, Vallnam also discovered that the three armored suits can control the ship from outside through a process of mental projection, like telepathy.  Another feature he discovered was that the beam weapons of the ship were capable of being used by each of the suits, but when the suits exit the main ship they take a portion of the ship's power with them.  Thus, when one suit is launched, one third of the ship's power goes with it.  If two suits, then two thirds.  If all three amors leave the ship then the ship has no power of its own, but will continue moving in accordance with the laws of physics on whatever trajectory it was on when the suits departed. Shadow Hawk, however, would not be able to maneuver, or use her weapons, until at least one of the suits returns, as the suits contain the energy system required for propulsion and maneuvering.  She could however be stationed in Absolute Invisibility Mode, until they returned.  An option he found intriguing.  

"As far as I understand from communication with my suit," said Ling, "when we use the power of Mental Assimilation, we must be within a close proximity of each ship we are influencing.  Given the speed at which we are all travelling through space, it would be easy for any of the ships to suddenly wind up beyond the Power's range."

"And there are four UFOs!" cut in Vallnam.  "Given that we have three armors, and four opponents, perhaps we should cause three of them to fight against one, in order to destroy the ship we can't control?" he suggested, thinking perhaps the Nazis ultimate fate should be left in their own hands after all.  

"Mind games," drawled Jacob slowly, his words echoing throughout the cabin.

"Well, yes, perhaps this is our better bet," said Vallnam.  "Now do you think we could have three of the ships attack one, getting that one out of the way, and then fly the remaining three into the moon?"

"Can we change what they visualize dynamically?" wondered Ling, "Do we set the Mental Assimilation to do a preset scene, Assimilate it into their minds, and then they go off on their way with the Assimilation taking over?  Or can we change the Mental Assimilation as events progress?"

They thought deeply about this, and from their suits they came to understand that the Mental Assimilation was not only dynamic, but required their ongoing and full attention.  They would not be able to do much other than focus on the Mental Assimilation to ensure that all of the people they were assimilating would remain within the vision, and therefore they would be guiding the vision based on events as they occurred the entire time.

"Ah, okay, we can show them whatever we want throughout the encounter," said Ling.

"So we will cause the infighting, and have the three UFOs that are under our control destroy the one that isn't, and then send the others to crash into the moon," concluded Vallnam.  "That would work."

"We have to follow along with them to the moon," said Ling.

"Why is that?" asked Jacob.

"Because, if they go out of range then the Mind Assimilation will cease for them," she explained.  "We have to remain very close to each of the ones we individually are assimilating.  Within a mile, I believe."

"So we have to go all the way back to the moon with them?" asked Vallnam.

"That's not the worst thing ever," answered Jacob, unphased by the prospect.

"What about Shadow Hawk?" asked Vallnam.

"What if we stay in Shadow Hawk?  We only need to stay within a mile of them," replied Jacob.

"Yes, but we take a risk," answered Ling. "If they should inadvertently fly off in an unexpected direction, then they could very quickly go out of range.  We're all moving at thousands of miles per hour.  It wouldn't take much for that to happen.  Remember, Mental Assimilation isn't Mind Control.  We have to use our projections to convince them to do what we want based on what they're experiencing."

"That's true," added Vallnam.  "From how I see it, Mental Assimilation doesn't confer mind control at all.  It's more like we're showing them a fictitious scene and they react to it however they decide to do so.  We just have to create scenes that are convincing enough to get them to react the way we wish."

"Right," replied Ling, "so if we want to be sure that we maintain the Mental Assimilation to the end, we need to be flying right alongside of them, in close proximity. If they stray for any reason, we could move with them.  And if they split up and go in different directions, we'd hug closely to them. But if we stay in Shadow Hawk, and any of them flits off in an unexpected direction for whatever reason they could get out of range.  Being in the suits would ensure we don't lose them."

"But can we really fly that far?" asked Vallnam.

"I feel the suits offer us practically unlimited range within the solar system.  It seems they can fly nearly the speed of light.  Of course that means it would take a very long time to get to Pluto in them, but still, in and around the earth and moon, we can get anywhere within a few moments. We wouldn't have to worry about making it to the moon and back," said Ling, growing increasingly impressed by the power that Shadow Hawk offered them.

"But to be safe, one person should stay on Shadow Hawk," said Ling, thinking it might not be a good idea to leave such an incredibly powerful artifact by itself. 

"But we can control Shadow Hawk with the suits from outside the ship, using mental projection," argued Vallnam, "We just set the ship on a course we want, and then each of us flies out and latches onto one UFO.  We get them to destroy the fourth ship, and crash the other three, and then we fly back to Shadow Hawk and head back to Earth nice, nice." 

They thought it over it very carefully.

"I don't feel it is right to send them flying into the moon this way," said Ling, finally.  "If we are cornered or there is no other choice, then we should fight, and fight to win, definitely.  But I don't think I can commit to using Mental Assimilation to cause them to kill themselves, though I won't stop you from doing so, if you feel it is the right thing to do.  But for me, it is too cruel a use of this power."

"Ok, that's fine, but if that's the case, what do you suggest we do with the fourth ship that we can't control?"

"No, no," said Ling, "I could control one ship and convince it that nothing is happening, while you two do whatever you're going to do.  I don't know," she said, exasperated by the moral dilemma. 

"So, you will keep one ship occupied and thinking everything is fine, while we take out the fourth ship with our two, and then after we crash ours into the moon, we take over yours and crash that one?"

"I don't know," said Ling, disturbed by the prospect of killing the Nazis in such a profoundly sinister fashion, regardless of how cruel they themselves had been. She had grave reservations about it. "I just won't partake in an action that will cause them to kill themselves or each other.  I won't prevent you, but I won't do it."   Deep within Shadow Hawk, the Virtue Mind hummed quietly.  

Having made this decision, Vallnam and Jacob decided to proceed with their plan.  Ling would guide one ship innocuously, while he and Jacob would take care of business.  "So it's a bit more hoop jumping, but at least it keeps your moral compass, somewhat clean."

She struggled with this.  It felt wrong.  But the problem was that they had two ships behind them filled to the brim with the Nazi Technicians they had rescued.  These were not bad people, she thought, they just had the misfortune to be born into a situation they had no chance of escaping. The four UFOs, on the other hand, were being flown by combat hardened Nazi Military Officers from Ludendorf's Command.  When the technicians encountered them, who could doubt they would be destroyed?  The technicians could barely fly their ships.  After all, what other reaction would the Nazi warriors have but to conclude that the Technicians hijacked the UFOs and were fleeing to Earth while Eisenhelm was engaged in a Civil War?  They'd be practically certain to attack. Even if they could use the Mental Assimilation to hide the presence of the two UFOs the Technicians were flying, they could only do so for three of the four combatant UFOs. She couldn't see a way around the need to deal with the combatants as Vallnam and Jacob suggested.  But she still couldn't bring herself to be so cruel, either.  She was flummoxed and sat in silence.

"Ultimately, we want to save the technicians," said Vallnam. "And besides, if we let the UFOs land safely on the moon, what do you think is going to happen then?  We will be adding to Hanna's military force, and in the end, they're going to come back and wreck havoc on Federation Command.  Remember, those UFOs have weaponry that is far more powerful than anything we have on Earth right now. They could use that power to dominate what remains of civilization.  The only reason they haven't done so already is because they've been hiding out on the moon so long that they lost their initiative.  And it's only been a few years since the Ultra-War, and they probably don't have a clear idea of how weakened civilization has become.  But now, with Eisenhelm destroyed, everything has changed.  We can't take the risk."

While this was certainly the pragmatic point of view, and one shared whole hearted by Jacob, it was nevertheless still just too ruthless for Ling.  

Shadow Hawk's Minds conferred on the matter, debating among the three the moral implications.  Mercy felt that there was no deterministic guarantee that the Nazis in the four UFOs would necessarily attack the Technicians, nor was it necessarily the case that they would definitely pose a future threat to Earth.  Virtue thought there was at least some possibility that the Moon Nazis might do neither of these things, although she admitted the probability was rather small.  But still, thought Mercy, terminating lives for uncertain rationales was not something that could be easily condoned, even if the chances were that Jacob and Vallnam were right.  The Modroni, after all, might be cold-blooded alien scientists from a distant world, but they imbued Shadow Hawk with a consciousness that was humane in the deepest sense of the word. She didn't like bloodshed, and didn't like being the cause of it. And besides, pointed out Wisdom, violent occurrences always carry with them forensic evidence of one sort or another.  It was practically a universal law.  And races of far superior intellect than the humans could potentially de-code such forensics and with sufficient mental effort unwind the evidence to the point where they would detect an inexplicable hole in the data.  What caused four UFOs to suddenly, and inexplicably attack one another, and then crash into the moon?  Proper analysis would undoubtedly reveal that the UFOs exhibited no technical malfunctions. And that left a hole in any truly rational examination of what happened.  One that a few races in the galaxy could, potentially, find sufficiently perplexing to pursue, should they ever happen to investigate these events.  And despite the unbelievably low probability of this ever occurring, the three Minds of Shadow Hawk nevertheless were in perfect agreement: it was a problem.

"What do you think Jacob?"

"I don't object strongly to any of this, at this point," he replied.  "We need to make sure the UFOs don't threaten the technicians, or Earth.  They need a pounding, and we can give it to them."

They decided to execute the plan. But first, they had to ensure the safety of the technicians. Ling opened a telepathic link into the two technician UFOs that were wobbling their way along behind them.  In fact, the two ships were flying far too close to each other, and at dangerous angles, but somehow they were managing to keep from crashing into one another, barely.  Certainly, the inexperienced technicians were getting the ultimate crash course in the of piloting Nazi UFOs.  It wasn't as impossible as it may seem. After all, they built them, and knew exactly to the detail how they worked.  Their problem was that they had never actually flown one, and had no actual piloting experience. But somehow they were managing.  

"This is a Commander from Jacob's Team," announced Ling telepathically to two members of each ship.  She also linked to Jacob and Vallnam.  "We are communicating with you via our Telepathic technology."  The four technicians were amazed.  They listened intently.

"Ja, amazing, amazing!" the technicians were saying to themselves, overawed.

"We are going to engage with the Saucers that are on their way to destroy us, so you need to go into Stealth mode before we come within range of their sensors."

"Vhat are you going to do?" asked one of the technicians.

"That is top secret at this time," said Vallnam.

"Did you say they are going to destroy us?" asked another technician.

"Yes," replied Vallnam.

"Vhy vould zhey do zis?" came the puzzled reply from one of the other technicans.

"They were ordered to attack hijacked ships leaving Eisenhelm," replied Ling.

"Exactly," said Vallnam. "We don't want to take any chances."

The technicians were puzzled by all of this. They hadn't heard those orders.  As far as they knew, the four UFOs had been sent to recapture the one UFO that had been hijacked earlier that day from Hanger A.  But this was before the Civil War had begun, and things could easily have changed, they reasoned, so it was possible.  Still, the situation was confusing. Nevertheless, they remained quiet.  Arguing with superiors was not in their nature, nor their training.  They were born and bred to obey, which they did as a matter of habit.

"All of this was caused by the rebellion. The UFO Captains were ordered to destroy all ships leaving Eisenhelm," said Ling in her most diplomatically persuasive tone.  She sounded so sincere the technicians lost all sense of puzzlement and became convinced that whatever Ling said was definitely the truth.  They had no doubt about it.

With the utmost stealth, Shadow Hawk sped in a wide arc behind the four UFOs.  Using the Helio-Drive at an accelerating speed, she skimmed along the magnetic currents flowing out from the Sun, and by careful shifting of their polarity at the right times, Jacob maneuvered the magnificent vessel so that it came up behind their prey undetected.  While the Nazi UFOs had amazing maneuverability due to their Red-Mercury Plasma Drives, and could execute hairpin turns at impossible speeds, Shadow Hawk's Helio-Drive could accelerate to nearly up to light-speed in a few moments. And this without ruffling of the continuum due to the Helio-Drive's spacetime warping cocoon, nor disturbing spacetime within the vessel itself.  It slid along the magnetic waves without the slightest hint of a ripple.  Thus, no sensors known to science could detect it.

As soon as they matched speed and trajectory, Vallnam and Jacob hovered their fingers over their respective control consoles.  A soft blue-green light emanated from symbols that they could not read, but somehow understood.  The chairs in which they sat hummed, and as smooth as melted chocolate spreads over the surface of a bowl, they were enveloped in their armored suits: "Wisdom" and "Mercy".  They felt perfectly warm, comfortable, could breathe easily, and found that they could see all around themselves in every direction without having to move their heads. 

In a moment, without realizing how, they found themselves outside Shadow Hawk floating in free space.  Silently they projected mentally where they wanted to go, and their suits initiated the Helios-Drive protocol.  They were instantly on their way at remarkable speed, carving a vast arc along the Sun's magnetic lines of force.  It was quite a bit like surfing.  When they needed to change direction the suits altered polarity.  They smoothly glided toward the UFOs that had been pursuing them fruitlessly for the past 15 hours.   

Jacob had taken to flying like he was born to it, twirling in spirals as he flew, and was truly enjoying himself.  Vallnam on the other hand was not quite as fluent in flight, struggling to will himself to the exact location he wished, and gliding in simple curves without flourishes.  Once they got near the UFOs, Jacob pointed to the closest, indicating for Vallnam to take charge of that one, while Jacob flew off to match speed and trajectory with the further one.  Ling remained inside Shadow Hawk, and flew to a position one thousand feet behind the last one in the set.  They left the leading UFO unattended. This was the one they had designated for doom.

Sliding effortlessly along Earth's magnetic field lines, Jacob located an interference wave, and with a gentle shifting of polarity, slipped over the top, slid down the other side, and within moments he was positioned directly next to UFO-3, flying alongside of them.  Within were three hardened Nazi Spacemen.  One stood at the helm piloting the craft, another at the navigation station, and the third manned the weapons platform.  All of them were tired from their long ordeal, and bewildered by the strange events that had recently thrown their normally orderly world into complete disarray.  Adding to their anxiety, all communications with Eisenhelm had ceased.

"Captain Keller," Lieutenant Kruger was saying, "I still am unable to raise Eisenhelm.  All zee frequencies are dead.  There is only static. It is as if zee Fortress is... no longer there." 

"This is impossible, Lieutenant.  Keep trying," ordered the Captain coolly.  "Still, zee first order of business is to locate zee hijacked UFO that has escaped us.  Vee vill soon know who zee traitors are.  They vill have to come out of Stealth Mode before landing.  Vee vill catch them then and annihilate them!"

Jawul, Captain!" replied the Lieutenant.  

Fortunately, Shadow Hawk, and the suits, for all practical purposes, were completely invisible in space.  She cannot be detected by any known sensors, radar, or other tools of science.  Her color is of a black so deep that it absorbs 99.9999% of light when in the depths of space. However, she could also change to her color scheme to whatever blends most perfectly with whatever background in space she finds herself in, whether it be a nebula, a star, a moon, or even the multichromatic colors of a planet.  Shadow Hawk was designed to be unobservable. 

Consequently, the only way the Nazi crews might have been able to detect her would have been by virtue of her occulting a star, which would, at those speeds, happen only for a moment and extremely rarely.  It would take uncanny observational powers for them to notice.  As the UFOs only had tiny round port windows made of thick glass, and tired and listless crews, the chances of them noticing Shadow Hawk or any of the suits was astronomically small.  And none of them did.  And so, the Nazis within the four combat UFOs had absolutely no clue that they would soon be engaged in a battle that none of them could possibly have anticipated or prepared for.

Ling cast the first Mental Assimilation.  She enveloped the crew in a mental vision of nothing unusual happening at all.  Nothing changed.  And no matter what might go on around them among the other UFOs, this crew would only see normal instrument readings, and their comrades flying alongside of them on the long boring trip back to the moon.  Their minds were completely encased in this vision, and to the end not a single one of them had the slightest suspicion that anything was amiss at all.

Vallnam cast the second Mental Assimilation.  

"Captain! Look!" shouted a Lieutenant.  Ahead of them where the lead UFO was located they saw a bright flash of orange light, and the crew members completely believed that the ship exploded into a thousand pieces. Through its wreckage roared a fabulously sleek bullet-shaped Spaceship, bristling with rocket launchers and beam ray cannons, emblazoned on the side was a large bright American flag.  The warship's chrome hull gleaming brightly at the head of its bright yellow plasma trail, while through the large round portholes the Nazis could see sneering American spacemen laughing with delight, and frothing with villainous ecstasy.  It was astonishing!   

At that moment a crackling sound erupted over their radio speakers, and the Nazis heard the following: "You will be crushed you Nazi Scum!  America is the most powerful nation in the universe, and we are now going to destroy you next!"

"Ach-TUNG!  RED ALERT! ATTACK! ATTACK!" stormed Captain Keller at the top of his lungs, thunderstruck by the sudden and completely inexplicable appearance of the Americans.  The crew snapped to stations and immediately began attacking the imaginary vessel.  But what their weapons trained on was instead the lead UFO of their battle group, the crew of which had simply no idea that anything untoward was about to happen to them.  Somewhere not terribly far off, a dog-shaped black cloud moved closer to UFO-1 with relish in its black heart.

Meanwhile, the four technicians who were still telepathically linked to Ling, Jacob and Vallnam's minds, were being blown away by the incredible prowess of their new leaders.  Who could ever imagine that war could be fought in such a fashion!?  It was astounding!

Realizing that the technicians were still mentally tethered to the conversation, Vallnam put the following out there to them.  "Ja!  So now you see, finally, what incredible technology zee Reich has secretly developed over all zee years in Eisenhelm.  You must keep it an absolute secret -- to zee grave!"  To this all four technicians agreed without the slightest hesitation, so overawed were they. 

Having landed lightly on the hull of the third ship moments before, Jacob had already cast his Mental Assimilation within.  The miserable Nazi crew suddenly saw a very similar scene ahead of them, with the lead UFO being sliced clean in half by a dazzling crimson beam of light.  Shocked, they clambered to the port window -- the attacker was the head of the Statue of Liberty herself, her eyes blazing with crackling red lightning, and bright red plasma beams emitting from each of her crown's spikes!  From her mouth emitted a forked tongue, while from the base of her neck a huge blue-white jet of fire propelled the monstrous space-weapon through the UFOs imaginary wreckage directly toward them!  What the hell?!!

Again there was an instant call to arms within, and this ship's crew fought just as fiercely as the other.  Now both Mind Assimilated UFOs were aiming their Liquid Metal Projectile weapons and firing upon the completely docile and unsuspecting leader UFO-1.  Within, one crew member was scratching the back of his neck, yawning over a cup of cold tea, and looking lazily out the port window at the infinitely boring starscape around them.  Another was trying to stay busy polishing the brass knobs on his control panel.  Captain Reiner stifled a yawn as he gazed listlessly at his shoes.

Suddenly there was a flash of light and the ship shook violently. The port window cracked and threatened to give way. Sparks sprayed out from a control panel and filled the air with streaks of orange embers.  The ship's hull made terrible creaking sounds as it began to tear apart.  The pilot was thrown to the ground, while the others buckled in and grabbed their controls.  They weren't going to go down without a fight!   But who was attacking them!?

"Captain!" shouted the ship's lieutenant from the weapons station, "zee traitors are among our own fleet!  Vee are being attacked by two traitor ships from behind!"

"Vhat?!" shouted Captain Reiner, shocked to the core by this outrageous treachery, his face twisting with spasms of hysterical hatred. 

"ATTACK!  ATTACK YOU FOOLS!!"  He had always known that Captain Keller was unspeakably jealous of his higher rank in the UFO Fleet, and viciously vindictive over the way he had commandeered his delectable lover, Eva von Strauss the previous year, but he never imagined such a brazen response from an insignificant lesser officer!  It was unheard of!  He must surely die!  

"Radio UFO-4!  Order zee counter attack! Destroy them immediately!  Raimund! Man zee Lightning Cannon!!"  shouted Captain Reiner at the top of his lungs.

All to no avail. While the radio message was sent to UFO-4, the crew within never heard a thing, and remained blissfully ignorant of the battle raging around them.  Ling was sailing along behind them at a discreet distance, ensuring that the only thing they heard and saw was the long dull path back to the moon etched in blinking blips across their sensor screen, and the blissfully boring silence of the starry night.

That first barrage had struck UFO-1 with a stream of super-heated metal projectiles, grazing the ship's side, carving open its weapons port, severely damaging the port side window, and sheering off its lateral antenna array.  In a moment the ship veered wildly to the starboard, just in time, as a liquid metal stream from UFO-3 slipped past it, missing barely, and vanishing in a long glowing line of metal pellets into the depths of space.  

The Nazis of UFO-1, arguably the best trained crew in the brigade, fought back with a vengeance.  Vallnam and Jacob cleverly sent their respective crews images of their opponents shooting back, but missing due to poor aim.  The Nazis crews cheered as the imaginary weapons missed their targets and sailed off harmlessly into the void.  

"ATTACK!!  ATTACK THE AMERICAN SWINE AGAIN!! DESTROY THEM!!" shouted Captain Keller, frothing at the mouth with excitement.

Jacob asked if there was a Shadow Hawk weapon they might use to get a shot in and end the melee, but Vallnam thought better of it.  "No, I don't think we should do that.  We should keep projecting bravado and menace until they destroy each other," he said, recalling the strong impression that they should try remain as stealthy at all times as possible.  Jacob assented to this recommendation, and so they continued their mental assault from a safe distance as the ships tore into each other.  

The battle didn't last long.  In two quick sorties it was all over.  UFO-1 was obliterated; Reiner and his crew torn to shreds by their hallucinating comrades-in-arms.  The once clean and efficient control cabin, now devoid of air and utterly silent, was strewn with flying bits of glass, smoke, burning debris, and floating bodies.  

Through one of the holes in the hull flitted a malignant shadow.  It paused to savor its prey, and then savagely devoured the souls of the Nazi soldiers who died therein, far, far, far from home.  Their horrific screams could not be heard in this world, as their tattered memories, dreams, petty jealousies, victories, and grand romances were all sucked into the infinitely black maw of the Wiedergänger.  It darted from one to the other, gleeful with hate to the last.  It was growing fat on the victories that Vallnam wrought along its way.  Because of this, it intended to stay loyally, if invisibly, by Vallnam's side... until some black night when the pitiful human would also fall prey to the way of all flesh.  Delicious he shall be, thought the Wiedergänger with a peculiar alien relish.

Vallnam caused the crew within UFO-2 to believe that they witnessed the imaginary American ship crack and glow white hot from within, while over the radio they heard screaming "You cannot defeat America!  We'll be back!!  AHHGGGHHH!" a moment before the imaginary Space Cruiser exploded into a billion glowing shards.  Jacob's crew saw a similar fate, the head of the Statue of Liberty being blasted into pieces by their Liquid Metal Cannon.  In Ling's ship, however, things remained dull to the point of bordom.  One of the men lit a cigarette, while another checked the radar for signs of the hijacked UFO that they had been chasing for so long.  No sign of it, yet, he reported without enthusiasm.  

"Ling," said Vallnam, "why don't you keep your crew steady as she goes.  We'll get ours to increase speed and fly with them to the moon."

Meanwhile, the technicians were aghast.  The insidiousness of the attack that the four technicians were privy to via their telepathic link was utterly shocking.  They explained what they were witnessing to the rest of their crews, and all of them were terrified of the powers that their commanders possessed.  It was truly horrifying.  They were awestruck and sat in silence.  One of them passed out, having been previously wounded during the escape from Hanger B, and unable to take any additional stress.  He collapsed on a bench, clutching the wound on his neck.  The technician next to him found a blanket in the slide-cubby and put it over him.

A half hour later, under Vallnam and Jacob's clandestine influence, UFO-2 and UFO-3 crashed unwittingly at high speed into the surface of the moon, thinking that they had more than ample time to slow down before Eisenhelm's Hanger C came within range of an orbital flight path adjustment.   

"Steady as she ---" Captain Keller was saying at the moment of his unexpected demise.  

Satisfied that there could be no survivors, Vallnam and Jacob flew back to Shadow Hawk.  

Behind them, one by one, the infernal screams of eight Nazi souls being consumed might be heard, if one had ears attuned to the realm of spirits, demons, and the phase dimension.

As they flew back to Shadow Hawk, Vallnam thought about Ling, his beloved treasure.  He understood where she was coming from in regards to not getting her hands dirty taking out the Nazis.  He wouldn't argue with her about this, and just shrugged to himself.  She had a moral compass that wouldn't let her cross that line, he thought, even though the deed had to be done.  He loved her, and was willing to look the other way at what he inwardly thought was really a kind of moral cowardice.  After all, what was the difference if she killed them, or merely allowed he and Jacob to do so.  Either way, the Nazis were, rightfully, dead.  The only difference really is that she declined to pull the trigger herself.  In his heart of hearts he thought about this, and in the end, his love for her prevailed and so he concluded that she had done the right thing, though he couldn't explain exactly why he thought so.  No matter.  Where love prevails, reason has no primacy.

Ling sat in Shadow Hawk, quietly guiding UFO-4 on their journey back to Eisenhelm. The crew surmised that wherever the renegade UFO they had been tracking had gone, it was now quite beyond their capability to find. They'd given up that hope, and assumed the ship had landed somewhere on Earth, or sped off in stealth mode out into space.  It could be anywhere by now.  In any case, they were looking forward to getting home, soaking their feet in a hot bath, and getting some much deserved R&R. 

Observing their languid behavior, Ling wondered just how incalcitrant the Nazis really were.  Was there any chance they could have been reformed toward a better, brighter future on Earth? Did they really have to be killed?  Could they have had a change of heart? After all, Hanna, for a moment, had almost succumbed to Jacob's charms.  She might have turned, had it not been for her completely unreasonable fit of jealousy when she saw Ling for the first time.  But still, perhaps the Nazis could be reformed.  She wondered if they were doing the right thing.  

But that wasn't really at the heart of what was bothering her, either. In Ling's mind, the reason they shouldn't have waged this kind of attack was because they were now so vastly overpowered compared to their opponents that the contest was completely unfair.  It was like shooting fish in a barrel.  What chance did the Nazis even have?  Zero.  None.  It reminded her of a passage she had read in a book on medieval history many years before the Ultra-War, regarding Emperor Charlemagne's Prohibition against the use of bows and arrows for his Paladins.  He made the edict on the grounds that the use of missile weapons to slay one's enemies at a distance was dishonorable and cowardly.  The Emperor desired that all Paladins cultivate virtue and honor above all else.  This was for the sake of their immortal souls, and to ensure God's favor upon his Empire.  When she thought of this, she shuddered at just how effective, and ruthless, the three heroes could become, having been granted the vast powers of Shadow Hawk.  And the following thought which came upon its heels was that in the wrong hands, such a ship could give any three people the ability to easily tyrannize an entire world. A cold tingling sensation prickled the hairs on the back of her neck as she considered the grave responsibility the three of them had been handed.

Outside her window and invisible dog-shaped shadow was observing her from the void.

Yet to Jacob and Vallnam, they had simply used an advanced form of technology in a military situation to spread misinformation that caused the enemy to remove themselves from the battlefield.  Nothing more, nothing less.  It was a perfunctory use of superior technology to solve a military problem. They felt they were not sadistic about it, the deaths of their enemies being nearly instantaneous and therefore more or less painless, and ultimately, they felt they had to save the technicians whom they considered innocents under their protection, as well as reduce the risk that the enemy would reconstitute itself under Hanna's capable command and threaten Earth with the incredibly well armed UFO Fleet in the future.  Moral equivocations aside, they felt they had done the right thing. 

Shadow Hawk herself pondered the question with great interest.  Humans, she was discovering, were more complex creatures than she had anticipated, and their moral perspectives would not be easily mapped to the Modroni alignment matrix.  She would have to contemplate this further.  Deep within Shadow Hawk the soft golden hum continued for some time.

Vallnam took over UFO-4 from Ling.  Soon, that ship, mysteriously as the other two, crashed into Hanger C, ignited the fuel tanks there, and exploded with a massive concussion that blew out the walls of the hanger exposing its cavernous interior to the lunar surface, and the cold hard vacuum of space.  All of the soldiers who had been holed up there preparing for their next assault on Level B-7 perished in that terrific explosion.  

Hanna, from deep within Doctor Capek's Robotics Laboratory, felt the shock of the crash and subsequent massive explosion, and were it not for her Duridium suit she might have been harmed by the falling rocks and debris that attended the incident.  Another of her Commandoes was not so lucky, and now she was down to two.  Fortunately, the Robots that Doctor Capek had at his disposal instantly protected him from harm, and he was safe.  So too was Hanna's mysterious prisoner. 

When doctor Capek locked eyes on the man in the yellow prison suit the two glared at one another with the ferocity of twin tigers, ready for battle.  Except one was a free man with tools, and weapons, and robots at his command.  The other was a prisoner, cuffed and defenseless - except for what was in that man's unfathomable mind.  Their eyes locked and bored into each other with a wordless ferocity so intense that it caused the metal table Capek was braced against to bend, and collapse.  He fell backwards to the ground.  The prisoner stood over him, his eyes shining.  But that's another story.

Our heroes turned away from the moon and flew swiftly on the magnetic force waves back to Shadow Hawk.  Ling sat brooding in silence.  But the men congratulated themselves on a job well done, and looked forward to their next step on the journey back home.  They summoned the technicians to bring forward their UFOs, and as a group they recalibrated their trajectory toward Earth.  Again Shadow Hawk remained at an unbearably slow velocity in order to stay with the UFOs.  

However, another matter faced them before they could complete the journey.  Ahead of them, sailing silently through space on a trajectory towards Earth, were the fifty inert and lifeless hunks of Giant Nuclear Missile Robot known as "The Phallanx".  In each one contained a five-hundred megaton Cobalt Bomb, designed to produce enhanced amounts of radioactive fallout, and was intended to contaminate an enormous area with radioactive material. Collectively they formed the Nazi's ultimate doomsday weapon, and were intended to cause such widespread and long-lasting devastation as to exterminate all life on planet Earth.  It was Hitler's final order to the Commanders of Eisenhelm:  If he should perish during the war, they were to unleash hell on Earth as a final revenge against all the living.  

Fortunately for Earth, Eisenhelm was cut off from communications with German Military Command at the end of the war, and the Commanders of Eisenhelm were never informed if Hitler had died, or if he were still alive, but in hiding, perhaps in Argentina, or in a secret base in Antarctica as rumors had it.  For Eisenhelm, Hitler's fate remained an unresolved mystery.  Since they didn't know, they chose to do nothing and wait for further orders.  And so, for ninety long years the great secret Moon-Fortress Eisenhelm lay hidden beneath Mare Frigoris, awaiting the final orders which never came, and festering with rivalries,  deceptions, and enormously pent up hatreds.  In the end, Eisenhelm was destroyed by the clever antics of two American Mentarians and a wily Warlock from Arizona who triggered the final solution to their problems.  Alas, the best laid plans of mice and men... 

At any rate, our heroes realized they had to deal with The Phallanx.  Even though the Giant Nuclear Missile Robots had been disabled by the Self-Destruct sequence that Ling had entered into Hertling's top secret Robot Control Computer, the nuclear weapons within them were nevertheless still a significant threat to Earth.  Should the robots fall into the atmosphere and strike mountain sides or cities, the results would be a nuclear devastation far worse than anything that had previously befallen humanity during the Ultra-War.  It would likely be the end for their home world.  They could not leave the robots floating towards Earth.  Something had to be done.

Vallnam inquired with his suit, but it turned out that Shadow Hawk did not have a tractor beam.  It did, however, have a teleporter.  In fact it was the teleporter that ejected them outside the ship when they had donned their Shadow Hawk armors.  The teleporter was, however, only sufficient to teleport a human-sized object, or smaller, somewhere within a hundred miles of Shadow Hawk, and had to be line-of-sight with the ship. Beyond that distance the beam would lose coherency. It didn't seem useful for the current situation. They sought other ideas.

"We could use the UFOs weapons to blow up the robots," suggested Vallnam. 

This however was met with immediate disapproval.  After all, the UFOs to effectively trigger the bombs with their weapons would have to be so close as to be completely vaporized by the first detonation. So that was out.

"Well, even if we can't blow them up, perhaps we can use the weaponry to change their trajectory so that they won't fall into Earth's gravity.  Maybe we could get them to fall into the sun instead," offered Vallnam as an alternative.

"Unfortunately," said Jacob, "given the mass of those robots, and the kinds of weapons the UFOs have, I don't think we're likely to be able to change their trajectory sufficiently for them to escape Earth's gravitational pull.  They are already set on a course to Earth, and each one must weigh at least fifty tons. The UFOs have liquid metal cannons, lightning cannons, and a plasma beam.  None of those would do the trick.  As for getting them to fall into the sun, it's actually much harder than you'd think."

"Perhaps we could get the technicians to nudge the robots off course?" asked Ling.  "Maybe they could land the UFOs on the Robots and use their thrusters to move them off course?"

"Ja," said one of the technicians through the telepathic link. "Vee could.  Some of us worked on zee robots.  If they are tampered with they are designed with booby traps to cause them to explode, but these are likely to be disabled by zee self-destruct code.  It has made their brains inert, along with their electronic mechanisms."

"If we can get one to explode," offered a technician, "they are close enough to each other to cause a chain reaction.  Perhaps they vill all explode."   

"Let's do that," said Vallnam.

"Maybe," said one of the technicians, "but zee robots are such a grand technical achievement.  It seems a shame to destroy them.  Ja, doesn't it?"

"But compared with the fantastic Reich war-technology you just witnessed, the robots are insignificant," replied Vallnam.

"Still, though," the technician persisted, "zee robots can be quite useful."

"For what?" asked Jacob.

"Building things, moving things. They can be amazing work horses, ja."

"But they are going to blow up the Earth," objected Vallnam.

"Not if we remove zee bombs," said the technician with a wry intonation.

"That presumes we can land on the robots, and do all that," argued Jacob.

"Vee can do that," said the technician. "Vee can fly zee UFOs to each robot, with our spacesuits vee can go out and work on them.  After all, vee built zee robots.  Vee know their design.  Vee can remove zee bombs, reprogram zee brains, and reactive zee robots to be great giant work horses for zee Earth peoples!  It would give us something to offer when vee arrive.  Otherwise, vee are just lowly refugees with no status at all.  Refugees in a strange land. But with zee robots, vee can bring a coming home gift of great value.  Fifty of them, even, ja."

They thought this over.  Vallnam proposed that they try with one.

"If you can get one done, and don't blow yourselves to smithereens, and it doesn't take too long, then it's okay with me."

"When we get to Earth," another technician asked, "vill you be able to negotiate a place for us?  After all that has happened, maybe they vill convict us after all?  Vee have been enemies for a long time, ja?"

"Your contributions will be accounted for, and held to your credit," said Jacob confidently.  "We should have no problem advocating for you among the Earth people, don't worry."

The technicians were puzzled at the idea that their High Nazi High Commanders, the three purple bubble-suit leaders who rescued them from certain death in the disintegrating Eisenhelm, would also have so much influence on Earth that they could persuade the Earth people to accept them.  They still had no inkling that Ling, Vallnam and Jacob were actually Americans posing as Moon-Nazis.  Nor did they fathom that it was their machinations that ignited the Nazi Civil War within Eisenhelm to begin with, and that these three were responsible for the grand base's ultimate destruction.   Or perhaps by then some of them had slowly begun to subconsciously guess, but none of them had thought so consciously up to that point.  It would come as a great shock to many of them, for sure.

"Vill you surrender to the Americans when vee get there?" asked the technician.  "What vill vee to do when vee arrive?"

"We will assimilate into their society.  It makes no sense to fight a war with the Americans now.  Eisenhelm is over.  We can live on Earth and forget the past."

"Ah, ja, that we could," said the technicians, thoughtfully.  While they were brought up under Nazi dominion for their entire lives, the technicians were the Nazi underclass, and their betters never let them forget it for a moment.  They had no great love for the Reich after so many years of abuse and degradation.  Secretly they had all wished they could return to the beautiful blue planet and live normal lives among trees and oceans with blowing air, and rain and blue skies.  If their High Commanders had in mind to surrender so that they could do this, the technicians were most definitely not going to object to that.  They felt a great relief, in fact, as they thought that they were being taken along in order to wage a final futile battle against the Earthlings with their two UFOs.  This came as a wonderful surprise to most of them.

Ling realized at that point that the technicians who had lived their entire lives on the moon would be facing some very significant challenges once they landed on Earth.  For one thing, their muscles were not nearly strong enough to carry their weight, so they would not be able to walk.  They also were likely to be vulnerable to Earth diseases, and especially to the many pathogens released during the Ultra-War.  They would also have a hard time, most likely, adjusting to the change in atmosphere and food.  Not to mention the culture shock they would inevitably encounter.  But, somehow, she knew they would work it out one way or another.  Medical science had advanced tremendously since the Nazis founded Eisenhelm in 1943.  Federation Command would find a way to acclimate them Earth.  And they had a skill set that would prove quite valuable to Earth civilization.  Federation Command was always eager to accept skilled technicians into their ranks.

"Let us try to fix zee Phallanx," said the new lead technician.  "But in case things go wrong, all of you should move a good distance away.  If one explodes, then the vill all explode, ja.  Zee burst you could see from Jupiter, I think, ja?  But vee are villing to try."

Because they were linked telepathically to four of the technicians, the Mentarians knew that their hearts were sincere, and they did not have a nefarious plan up their sleeves. So this idea was agreed to, and one of the UFOs with its nine technicians flew closer, and landed on the lead Giant Nuclear Powered Robot.  

Two of the technicians climbed out, and the entire group of ships rapidly retreated to a position eight hundred miles away, which they deemed would likely be far enough.  The technicians continued to converse with them via the telepathic link.  They opened the tools compartment on the side of the robot, tethered themselves to it via a steel cable, and began their work steadily and with great care.  After a half hour they notified the team that they were stuck on a fail-safe mechanism, and were having trouble bypassing it.  They asked for more time to try again.  This was granted, and they tried again.  

"Aha," said one of the technicians  "Vee have disconnected zee cobalt bomb, and are going to float it out of the robot hull.  Then vee vill attempt to reprogram zee robot.  The bomb disconnection was the easy part. Vee vill try."

After fifteen minutes, "No, it failed.  Vee vill try again."

After several tries, they couldn't find a way around the security system that blocked their ability to reprogram the robot. They were defeated and asked for their UFO to pick them up.  Once back aboard, they went into a rapid-fire white boarding session with their team, seeing if between all of them they could figure out a way to get passed the security mechanism.  It was a toughy.

"Oh it is a shame that Hans and Nick didn't make it!" they lamented.  "Zee robots are our ticket to acceptance into Earth society! Without them, vee vill be less than nobodies!  At best vee vill have zee status of refugees and former enemies with nothing to show for ourselves. Vee must find a way past zee security mechanism!  Verflixt!  Alas, Nick would have known how to do it instantly!"

The unconscious technician wrapped in a blanket toward at the rear of the ship stirred in fitful feverish dreams. His lips were working, but no words came out of his mouth. The wound on his neck was a small dark red gash, which had been slowly becoming infected.  He moaned, but the technicians were too absorbed in their work to take notice.

And that is where we left it that game.

Friday, January 05, 2024

WoAF - Game Session 57

Everyone paused, guns aimed at Robot N, its wedge-shaped head poised for a moment in what looked like contemplation.  A dozen or so antennas protruded from it, with scores of tiny blinking lights.  They could not tell if it was looking at them, or the entire smoldering ruin that had been General Hertling's Robot Command Center, or if it was not looking at anything.  It stopped in its tracks on top of the still smoking slag that had been the sealed door to the room, and there were several moments of silence as everyone stared at the bizarre metallic robot.  Hanna's impression was that it was reading the room.  The master-robot, Gortaurus, had commanded Robot-N to investigate and report on the status of the now-destroyed, Control Center.  She recalled, with some anxiety, that Gortaurus had asked Hanna if she had authorization to enter Sector C3-DZ-A1.  She had responded that she had no authorization to enter the inner corridor that Gortaurus was guarding, which side-stepped its question.  The monstrous robot seemed to have accepted her comment and continued its pursuit of additional information.  She was concerned that it would soon circle back around to that question.  She impatiently waited for the elevator door to open so she and her men could leap inside and beat a hasty retreat.  She suspected that Robot-N was primarily a sensory array and toolbox, and that Gortaurus was the brawn of whatever protocols required enforcement.  She calculated that they probably had just enough time to get into the elevator before Gortaurus could physically respond.  "Too bad for the three purple-bubble-suited operatives," she thought. Tactical considerations aside, this was probably as good a plan for her as could be expected.

Robot-N rolled further into the room.  Everyone tensed. Hanna held up a "Hold" gesture to her commandoes, and so they held their positions, while everyone kept their weapons trained on Robot-N.  She glanced back at the elevator nervously, desperate to know what was taking so long for it to come back up.  It had been thirty seconds since Doctor Hoffman took one of the three Doom Spheres, along with Otto Fischer, one of her Commandos down to the lower level to explore the White Tunnel. She glared for a moment at the glowing indigo-blue light that rimmed the elevator button, her frustration mounting, but then turned back to Robot-N, taking pains to keep her expression calm and neutral.  

On her headphone she heard a crackle, and then the voice of Otto.  "Frauline Major," he announced, "Vee are one hundred feet down zee tunnel.  Vee have not seen anything, yet."

"Is there any reason why zee elevator has not come back up?" she asked, trying to remain in control of her voice.

"Frauline Major," replied Otto, "I think you vill need to press zee button," he replied.

"Of course," she hissed, annoyed more at herself than at him.  She turned to bark a command at the Commando who stood near the elevator door.  "Press zee damn button, you fool!"

And so, the button was pressed and the circle of indigo-blue light that rimmed the elevator button turned white.  It should arrive in six seconds.

Robot-N rolled around the room, scanning everything with a variable diameter cone of blue light that emanated from a round nodule attached to a sinuous arm which had emerged from its back. It covered the burning computer banks, keyboards, floor, ceiling, broken Observation Screen, and the dead bodies that lay strewn around the room.  Robot-N rolled up to Hanna.

"ARE - YOU - AUTHORIZED - TO - BE - IN - SECTOR - C3-DZ-A1?" questioned Gortaurus through Robot-N's indiscernible head-speaker. 

There was a short pause as Hanna collected her thoughts.

"I have previous permission to be in this area," she stated authoritatively.

It repeated the question.  She repeated her answer, and added, "I was invited by General Hertling personally to this location."


As Gortaurus spoke through Robot-N, the elevator door slid open with a quiet whoosh.

"I vill be honest with you," said Hanna, trying to buy some time while she thought out what to say.

As she was working this out, behind her, our heroes were delighted to see the elevator door open.  Seeing that Hanna was occupied by her dealings with Robot-N, Jacob realized that they had a momentary chance to make their move.  The only thing Hanna had of any plausible value to their team was her incredible Duridium Armor (which in fact was a one-of-a-kind artifact of the now destroyed Science Center 7, and of incalculable value), but prying her out of it seemed like it would be far more trouble than it would be worth. And besides, he really didn't have anything against Hanna.  In fact, he rather liked her stalwart, ruthless passion.  He felt they had a kinship in that regard.  He'd even momentarily imagined that there might be a spark of romance between them during their flight from Science Center 7's monstrosities.  He even went so far as to think they might make a good pairing, for a few fleeting minutes.  It was not meant to be.

Vallnum, meanwhile, was thinking about the red emergency button on the computer panel he had spotted earlier, but had bypassed in all the confusion and mayhem.  He wondered if now might be the right moment to press it.  "Guys," he whispered into his mic on their private channel, "maybe if we press that red emergency button, it might turn off these robots and buy us some time?"

"Uh, that's a fifty-fifty chance, at best," commented Ling, who was also eyeing the elevator as its door slid open.

"Well, can things get any worse?" he asked.

"Do you really need to ask, that?" rasped Jacob, "Ok, don't waste time with the damn button. Get on the elevator, you two, and get out of here."

"Aren't you going to come with us?" asked Vallnam as he began to push Ling towards the elevator, shocked at this idea.

"No. I'm wounded, and one of us has to stay here to make sure Hanna doesn't do anything crazy," whispered Jacob.  They only had a few seconds at best to make it inside before Hanna or her men would counter their move. 

Jacob considered what they were up against.  Gortaurus and Robot-N were very different from one another. Gortaurus seemed only semi-intelligent, but with a very precise protocol based on jurisdictions and authorizations.  It was clearly a guardian robot.  Robot-N on the other hand appeared to be Gortaurus' adjunct sensory array for used for situational analysis.  Physically, he felt much better than before, now that he had been healed by Vallnam, Ling and is purple bubble suit.  He thought he could make a sprint to the elevator.  He leaned on the computer panel behind him, and then haltingly moved to a midway position between Hanna and Ling and Vallnam.  He planned to make his way to the red emergency button, and exaggerated his injuries in order to appear less capable than he was.  He motioned to one of the Commandoes, indicating that he might need some help, which he did to provide a momentary distraction for Ling and Vallnam.  The fact was, however, the Commandoes were not paying any attention to him or his crew whatsoever.  They were focused completely on Robot-N whom they thought was potentially a lethal threat to Hanna.  Their gun sights were locked on Robot-N's antenna array, and they weren't about to be distracted.

Ling, almost inside the elevator, kept her eyes on Vallnam to see what he would do. At that moment, Vallnam restrained Jacob by the arm. "I am able to hit that button with a special power of mine," he whispered, "just in case that's where you're heading."

That changed Jacob's plan, to some degree, but he was still determined to stay behind and handle Hanna while the two of them escaped.  Ling and Vallnam quietly sidled into the elevator.  Jacob hesitated. Should he stay, or should he leap into the elevator?  Something still drew him to Hanna, though he knew that reconciliation was no longer a real possibility.  But was it?  Could he charm her once again?

"Starting this morning at 7:32," Hanna was responding to Robot-N, "there has been a breakdown in command.  Vee are trying to restore command and secure all facilities,"  She was unaware that the purple-bubble-suited strangers had entered the elevator, her back being to them, and her helmet further restricting her field of vision.  She expected herself and her men to enter the elevator, and had incorrectly assumed that the three strangers would willingly comply with her wishes.  Yes, she really had this much contempt for their intelligence.

Once inside the elevator, Vallnam summoned a rare Warlock power known as Wizard Eye.  It manifested as a floating invisible eye that he could direct mentally anywhere within three hundred feet.  It was a physical thing, and in fact, actually his own third eye taken physical form, as a kind of Avatar of itself.  It could not go through walls, but could do things like bump a glass off a table.  Typically it had very little strength, though. Vallnam poured a large dose of excess mystic energy into the manifestation, because he intended to use it to break the glass casing of the emergency button, and then press the button with it.  This of course, carried with it a certain risk.  After all, if the glass shattered the wrong way, he could wound his Wizard Eye, and it would then require healing and rest, and in the meantime he would lack certain extra-sensory abilities.  On the other hand, he deemed it worth the risk, and so he planned to send his Wizard Eye forward through the elevator door before it slid shut.  Ling pressed the glowing indigo-rimmed down button. As the door began to slide closed, she felt a pang of regret seeing Jacob still standing behind Hanna.  Would it be worth it, Jacob, she wondered?

At the last possible moment Jacob spun around and leapt into the elevator.  He really didn't want to leave Hanna behind, because, he told himself, he wanted to keep an eye on her.  But really, we know it was because he still hoped to repair the breach between them, somehow.  That breach, of course, had been caused by Ling Brisbane, whose very presence drove Hanna into such a fit of jealousy that she cast away whatever hope in Jacob she may have had, and in her rage killed the one thing that might have saved her.  In other words, without either of them knowing how or why, he had utterly broken that poor woman's her heart. She was mad as hell, and now her destiny became fully realized: a ruthless, cunning, and power hungry Nazi Officer, ready and willing to do anything to achieve her objectives.  And her first and most immediate objective was to survive this unexpected and dangerous encounter with Gortaurus.

As the elevator door sealed shut, Jacob caught a last glimpse of Hanna as Gortaurus was speaking.  "AFFIRM," it had said.  And then he could see only the sleek white wall of the elevator door.  It began to descend with a smooth and even acceleration. 

Hanna knew that by Eisenhelm protocols, the command to "Affirm" meant that she had one final opportunity to amend her story, and if there was any mistake or deception about it, then the penalty would be extremely severe.  

"I repeat," said Hanna, "at 7:32, Eisenhelm came under attack.  We are trying to restore command and secure all facilities."


Hanna spun around to see the elevator door sealed shut.

"Verdammit," she growled to herself.  They had escaped before she could take any action to prevent it.  There went the Master Key, out of her reach!  And with it, Jacob.  She felt a pang of regret at his departure, but overrode it with a savage stab at his mental image, and moved on.  She had to deal with Gortaurus, whose next move would determine her fate.  And besides, she thought, they wouldn't get far, given that her men were in the White Tunnel below with a Doom Sphere.  She looked over at the two dormant Doom Spheres near the elevator and gave a brief smile. No, they wouldn't get far, indeed.

She paused to think about how to answer Gortaurus' question.  Originally, she had more or less swallowed Jacob's vague explanation that he was a member of some shadowy Special Ops group under a command hierarchy that she had been hitherto unaware of.  This would not be terribly strange in Eisenhelm, wherein secrets had secrets, and no one really knew anything with certainty.  Such was the way of life among the Nazi's of the secret moon fortress since 1943.  She had long learned to expect the unexpected.  Later, her encounter with Ling convinced her that she and Jacob must be part of some cabal of infiltrators, which would explain the oriental girl's presence.  But Ling had claimed to be Japanese, and as it happened the white tunnel system did have one door that had a Samurai symbol etched into its metal surface.  She had seen it with her own eyes.  Jacob had explained that Ling was a member of an elite secret Praetorian Guard composed of Ninjas from Japan whose role was to protect the uppermost secret echelon of Nazi Commanders, without political prejudice. While extremely difficult to believe, as it made no sense to her, under the circumstances of the emergencies they were facing, it became the only explanation that she could accept.  She shoved her suspicions aside and had gone with it.  Then later still, she discovered that Vallnam could not read German, and for a short time seemed unable to even speak it properly.  That was the straw that broke the camel's back.

However, given the impending destruction of the base, and her need to escape rather than provoke a confrontation with the infiltrators, as well as the fact that she had also taken note of the overwhelming lethality of their beam weapons, she had decided to explore the mystery with excruciating precision once things quieted down and she could mobilize a sizable enough force to safely apprehend and interrogate the purple-bubble-suited strangers. Unfortunately, the appearance of Gortaurus had thrown her plans into disarray, and now the three of them had escaped into the White Tunnel System.  It took all her will power to keep a cool external demeanor.  

"They identified themselves as Special Operations from a secret Eisenhelm Command Hierarchy, but during zee emergency I commandeered their services."

"THOSE - THREE - PERSONS - HAVE - NO - KNOWN - ADMINISTRATIVE - PROFILE," stated Gortaurus through Robot-N's speaker.  

This caused Hanna to once again question who the strangers were.  It didn't occur to her that they could possibly be Earthlings.  After all, she had every reason to believe that Eisenhelm was the best kept secret in the solar system, and there was no way for Earthlings to infiltrate the top secret fortress.  So it simply didn't occur to her that they could have come from anywhere other than some secret section of Eisenhelm.  Had she connected the dots, however, she would have realized that the disappearance of a UFO earlier that day had not been an act of subterfuge from within as her commander's thought, but the first sign of an infiltration from without. That shortly thereafter the Nazi Civil War broke out across the entire base, and the utterly inexplicable triggering of Plan Delta-Z should have sparked the realization.  All of the events combined told a tale of interplanetary intrigue and subversion.  She would have killed Jacob the instant she had first laid eyes on him, had she but realized this.  And had she done so, they would never have stopped the Obliterators and the Phallanx from completely destroying Eisenhelm and planet Earth.  Providence has its own strange and circuitous ways of ensuring the fruition of its designs, it would seem.

"Do you have my profile?" she asked.


"Ok, that is satisfactory," she confirmed.

"YOU - DO - NOT - HAVE - AUTHORIZATION - TO - ENTER - C3-DZ-A1 SECTOR," Gortaurus continued.  

"Intruders in zee base," she retorted as she walked toward the elevator to press the indigo button.

Meanwhile, as she had this conversation, Vallnam had been watching the room through his Wizard Eye, which he had sent invisibly out of the elevator a moment before the door slid shut.  He floated it above the purple-hued computer bank on the left, navigating it toward the Emergency Button.  The computers were still smoldering, and below the eye a shower of sparks suddenly erupted. For a moment the eye became slightly disoriented, floated toward the ceiling, and began to wander, but Vallnam held steady and regained control of himself. He brought it down and floated it to the Emergency Button. Hovering over it, he stared at the red button for a moment, before slamming the Wizard Eye down onto its glass encasement.  However, the casing was harder than he expected, and the glass did not break. Instead the eye bounced off and sailed upward toward the ceiling again.  Fortunately, it was not damaged, and since Vallnam had a sense of insane persistence, he was determined to bring it back under control, and try to break the glass it as many times as it took.

Jacob could still hear Hanna over the communications frequency they had established when they first met below Science Center 7.  But he said nothing.  After all, what was there to say?  He heard Gotaurus tell Hanna that she was not authorized.  He steeled himself for the worst, but remained silent.

The elevator was slowing to a stop. They knew that down the corridor would be Doctor Hoffman, Otto, and the Doom Sphere that Hoffman controlled with a handheld remote control. They were not quite sure how far down the corridor they would be at that point, but they guessed no more than three hundred feet.  Vallnam pressed the Stop button next to him.  The elevator stopped before hitting the landing plate.   They didn't want to engage with Hoffman and Otto until they were good and ready. Returning focus to his Wizard Eye, he tried to break the glass again.

Jacob, whose Mentarian abilities were quite advanced, sensed through the door that Hanna's men were approximately a hundred feet down the corridor and moving towards the elevator. He recalled his previous experience with the Doom Spheres.  Being a roboticist, he accurately assessed that they were completely unintelligent, controlled remotely, but that they could accept certain limited commands, such as "patrol",  or "kill", which they would do until the remote gave them a new instruction.  For all practical purposes they were indestructible, being covered with a Duridium shell, and so neither plasma beams nor bullets could penetrate it.  He looked around the elevator.  It was smooth and white with chrome trim around the button panel, and the chamber was lit with a soft indigo light along the floor and ceiling edges.  He noted a hatch on the ceiling, and with a bit of help from Ling, he opened the hatch and climbed up.  Looking around with his flashlight, he found the control box.  Being an electronics expert he always carried a small tool kit, which he pulled out from a side pocket and went to work.

Meanwhile, far above them, Hanna continued her conversation with Gortaurus.  She turned to face it, but before speaking to it again, she contacted Doctor Hoffman by radio.  

"Doctor Hoffman," she said, "I have just been informed that zee three strangers are not from Eisenhelm at all, as impossible as that may seem.  They must be Earthlings.  You vill detain them with extreme prejudice.  Use zee Doom Sphere to subdue them until I get down there."

"Jawohl!" replied the doctor with a crisp salute.  The implication of this sent a shudder through Hoffman's body.  He was a scientist, not a soldier, and the idea of being party to another combat was something he did not relish.  That said, he looked at the broad dull black sphere in front of him, and stroked his control box with his fingers.  The fact he had Otto "One-Shot" Fischer with him was a comfort.  Nevertheless, he also knew that their opponents had extremely powerful hand-held Beam Pistols, the likes of which he had never imagined.  Sure, the Giant Robots of Hertling's Command had enormous Plasma Cannons, but to think that such devices could be miniaturized and powered at such a size was something that he knew was far beyond the engineering skills of anyone in Eisenhelm's Technical Hierarchy.  So, the Earthlings were this advanced!  He shuddered at the thought of having to battle against them, given the sheer destructive force at their command.  The very idea caused him to break out in a cold sweat.  He explained the situation to Otto, who grunted, and prepared.  They took a position behind the Doom Sphere and waited for the elevator door to open.  Hoffman set the controls to Combat Mode, and prepared the the Doom Sphere's weapons array.

Jacob listened in on Hanna's conversation with Hoffman as he scanned the control panel. While the electronics were not completely familiar, he quickly assessed the circuitry and determined how to control the elevator.  Nazi electrical engineering had not evolved much since 1943, so it was quite easy for him to make the necessary adjustments.

Vallnam, meanwhile, had bumped the glass casing twice, and bounced off both times.  He was annoyed. The invisible eye was the size of a grapefruit. So far it had not been injured, but he wasn't sure how much more it could take.  Nevertheless, he had to break the glass.  Each minute, however, was using up mystic energy on the effort, so he decided to try one more time.  With a hard telepathic shove, this time the glass broke.  Fortunately, Wizard Eyes have a kind of leathery exterior, and so it remained unharmed.  He then pressed forward and shoved the eye down onto the button.

While this was happening, Hanna pressed the elevator's indigo button.  The elevator began to ascend.  Jacob, however, snipped a wire in the circuit box and the elevator stopped moving.  Hanna noticed that the indigo light turned off.  She pressed the button again.  Nothing happened.  She pressed it repeatedly. Nothing.  She cursed under he breath.

Her Commandos began to shift nervously.


"I need this damn door open!" demanded Hanna, realizing that all the tables had turned.  She was safe, and in command!  How fantastic!  Now she began to recalibrate her plans for conquest and revenge!

"I - WILL - SEND - REPAIR - ROBOT - R - STAND - BY," said Gortaurus.

Jacob, hearing, this, said, "Bee-boop-Repair-Robot-On-The-Way" into the radio on Gortaurus' frequency, thinking that he might confuse the semi-intelligent robot with this silly bit of subterfuge.  Naturally, it had no effect on Gortaurus whatsoever, except to alert the robot that Jacob was on his frequency. He shined a flashlight beam up.  It was about a hundred feet to the the second floor landing.  He thought about what to do next.  He had a Smart-Rope, and gave some consideration as to how he might use it. Smart-Ropes were super-strong nano-fiber ropes that could move on their own cognizance, and take a limited number of basic commands.  The walls of the elevator shaft were smooth as glass.  He looked at his flashlight.  It was an XL-2600; state-of-the-art. Its beam could blind people at a hundred feet when on its highest setting.  He thought. Hmmm...

Vallnam pushed his Wizard Eye into the red button.  Not a great move.  There was a shard of glass protruding above the button, and his eye painfully plunged into it.  His vision became obscured by a red streak.  He felt a distant pain, like a sudden sharp headache.  That was no fun.

Hanna watched a small trapezoidal shoe-box sized robot roll into the room from the barracks in which Gortaurus was located.  Robot-R crossed the room and went through an open door into the Power Station room.  Smoke was still pouring out of it, and she figured that the repair robot was not going to service the elevator nearly as quickly as she wanted.  She ordered the Commandoes to manually open the elevator door.  They tried, but its construction was such that they could not get a grip on it, and so were unable to open it.  She scowled at their incompetence.

Vallnam, insanely persistent as he was, pushed the red button with the Wizard Eye, despite the injury.  It was painful, but this time he maneuvered it just right, and so, the button depressed, and something activated.

Suddenly, a red light began flashing from fixtures along the ceiling of the command center.  A warning siren sound began to emit a loud "Whoop-Whoooooop-Whoop" sound.  Hanna was unfamiliar with this specific alert. She'd never heard it before.  Next to the elevator, on the right side, a hitherto undetected doorway slid open.  Inside it was jet black, but she could see a red glow from inside.  In a few moments she saw a very unusual looking robot emerge.  It was monstrous in size, but sleek, and high tech looking.  It did not seem to be anything like Gortaurus, who was built like a humanoid tank.  This robot's eyes opened slowly, and contained within a fierce scintillating orange-red light.  A series of yellow, orange and red diodes began flickering alive across its chest, arms, and head. 

"Gortaurus!" she demanded, "what is this?"


"What is its function?" demanded Hanna.


"Do you have command over it?" asked Hanna.

"I - DO - NOT

"Can you subdue it?" asked Hanna.

"I - CAN - NOT"

"Oh verdammit!" snarled Hanna.  This was not her lucky day after all.  "Grab zee prisoner!" she barked to her Commandoes.  They grabbed the prisoner in the yellow space suit, and hustled towards the door through which Gortaurus was stationed.  However, the floor in front of the doorway was covered with hot slag, still smoking.  While her Duridium suit would protect her, Hanna was worried about her men.  She ripped a large purple-hued panel from one of the computer banks, and threw it down over the smoldering slag.  They ran across it and through the large circular hole that had been melted out of the metal doors by Robot-N's heat ray.  Into the barracks they dashed, past the dead bodies, and over to where Gortaurus was stationed at the head of a dark corridor.

"Gortaurus, what is further down this corridor?" she snapped at the husky black robot as they ran up to it.

"NONE - SHALL - PASS", said Gortaurus.

"Oh mein Gott!" spat Hanna, "You have identified me as zee ranking officer in this verflixte sector, and now you're telling me I can't pass?!"


 "As the highest ranking officer in this sector, can I issue you new commands?"


"Ja, goot!  New command: I and these men are authorized to pass into this corridor."


"What is beyond this corridor?" demanded Hanna.


The name was dimly known by Hanna, mostly via rumors over the years.  Karel Copek was the chief scientist of the Robotics Division.  He was extremely secretive, and people hardly ever saw him, even ranking officers of Ludendorf's personal staff did not have access to the "Kundiger of the deep", as they called him.

"Is there access from here to zee surface of zee moon, and vehicles?"


"How do we get to Hanger A?" asked Hanna.


Behind Hanna sounds of strange machinery could be heard.  It was very peculiar.  First there came a loud humming, and then what sounded like high pitched crackling.  An orange light flashed through the door to the Control Center, and another.  There was a crisp frying sound, and with that Hanna wasted no time hustling herself and her men down the long dimly lit corridor westward.    

While this was happening, Jacob, Ling and Vallnam prepared for their battle with Hoffman, Otto and the Doom Sphere.  They reviewed their capabilities.  Ling was quite low on Mystic energy, but had just enough to cast a last and final Narcoleptic Beam.  She suggested using it to take out the Commando.  Jacob had enough juice to take out Hoffman with his own Narcoleptic Beam.  Vallnam released his Wizard Eye, and therefore was able to commit to another Narcoleptic Beam.  He contemplated the use of Scarlet Lightning, which could potentially frighten Hoffman into running off while it fried Otto to a cinder.  He also had a power known as Dark Lightning, but it was evil, and useless under the circumstances, being a power used to assassinate opponents without their knowledge, and over the course of several days.  Would not do.  They debated more, and finally decided on a plan.  Jacob mentioned that he sensed that Hoffman and Otto were now only fifty feet from the elevator at that moment, and crouching behind the Doom Sphere, undoubtedly.  

"Can you lower the elevator a short distance so that only six inches are below the upper lip of the the shaft?  That way when we open the door we can fire down from above, and they will only have a small window to shoot at us through," suggested Vallnam.  Jacob studied the circuit panel and concluded that this could be done.  

"We can also use the XL-2600 to blind them, which should prevent them from getting accurate shots at us," suggested Jacob.

There was another brief debate.  Jacob could lower the elevator to a specific position, rig the circuit so that he could press the elevator button so that the door would open even though it was not physically resting on the landing plate.  He could then jump down as the elevator got into position, and they'd all be ready to open fire through the small slit that would become available.  Vallnam decided to save his mystic energy and use his machine gun instead.  Ling and Jacob would stick with their plan of using Narcoleptic Beams. 

"I have a flame thrower," mentioned Vallnam.

"That's cool," commented Ling, dryly.  Another debate, and they decided against using it.

"I could use my Springfield, then," suggested Vallnam.  

More debate ensued as to the pros and cons of using bullets while Otto and Hoffman could protect themselves behind the impenetrable Doom Sphere.

"Maybe we should use our Beam Pistols?" asked Jacob, wondering if they should be conserving Mystic Energy.

"The thing is," said Ling, "they will be able to hide behind the Doom Sphere.  But Narcoleptic Beam targets a person, so as long as I can see any part of my target, I don't need to worry that I might miss, or that the beam will ricochet off.  And the Doom Sphere is likely to leave at least some part of their bodies exposed, I should think.  A foot, a shoulder, a hand.  Anything will do."

"Fair enough," replied Jacob with admiration.  She had a good tactical aptitude. "Though come to think of it, maybe I should use Hypnotic Trance on Hoffman.  After all, if we knock him out, then whatever instruction he gives the Doom Sphere will remain in effect, and we won't be able to turn it off.  Whereas, if I can catch him in a trance then we could coerce him to turn the Doom Sphere off."

"Oh that's an excellent point!" said Ling. "I have hypnotic skills I can use once he's in the trance, so we can tag team on that."

This made sense to them, and so they finally agreed on the plan.  Two Mentarians and a Warlock were definitely a force to be reckoned with.

Ling and Vallnam slid to the floor in front of the elevator door, and got their weapons ready.  Ling calmed her mind and prepared to cast the Narcoleptic Beam.  Jacob activated the circuit, and the elevator descended a short distance and stopped.  He hopped down through the hatch and upon landing, touched the elevator door button.  The door slid open, leaving a pillbox style slit, about six inches high, through which they could see downward into the White Tunnel.  He turned on the XL-2600 and beamed it down the corridor.  In the light of the powerful beam the dull black surface of the Doom Sphere could be seen fifty feet ahead of them, stationary and waiting.  Hoffman and Otto could be seen crouching behind it. 

Both sides spotted each other at the same time, but Otto "One-Shot" was one of the Nazi's most experienced marksmen. Vallnam gave him the bird, a gesture he had been aching to project at the Nazis ever since they landed in this God forsaken fortress. Otto, however, wasn't the kind to be distracted by a filthy hand gesture.  He gently exhaled and squeezed the trigger on his Karabiner 98k.  The bullet went right through Vallnam's raised finger, sheering it off completely, and plunged with full force into his left shoulder.  Fortunately, his heavy-duty body armor absorbed a good deal of the impact, but Vallnam nevertheless was seriously injured by the blow.  He grit his teeth against the pain, and steadied himself against the floor.

Hoffman, for his part, pressed a button on his control box, and the Doom Sphere emitted a massive Sonic Ray, which was intended to knock the three of them senseless.  He hadn't expected them to be so clever as to create a slit opening in the elevator shaft, so much of the ray bounced off the walls and had far less effect than he hoped.  And worse, their Modroni purple bubble suits were designed to absorb energy attacks, which included shockwaves, so while their teeth were rattled, and they were deafened by the vibration, they were not knocked unconscious.  They shook it off and with grim determination returned the favors.  

Ling pointed her finger at Otto, and an invisible beam of narcoleptic energy shot forth.  In an instant his eyes rolled to the back of his head, and he slumped to the ground in a deep and impenetrable slumber, just like Captain Helmund had done before him.

Jacob focused his mental energy and spoke the Power Word of Hypnotic Trance to ensnare Doctor Hoffman's psyche in a web of transcendental fog.  With this, Jacob overwhelmed Hoffman's mind, and put him instantly into a trance.  Ling took over, and commanded him to turn the Doom Sphere off.  Hoffman complied, and the Doom Sphere was put into hibernation mode.  And so, in only a single melee of combat, the battle was over.

Vallnam looked at his finger.  His purple bubble suit had managed to hold onto it with a sinuous web of tendrils, and so it was dangling hideously in the air, blood oozing out onto the white floor.  He stared at it.  It was not pretty, but he could see the purple bubble suit was already extending tiny purple veins onto the bloody stump and finger.  He grabbed the dangling digit and pushed it onto his hand where it belonged.  This was incredibly painful, but he knew that it was the best way to ensure that the bubble suit had the best chance to knit it back into place, if that were possible.  He swooned and nearly fainted from the agony.  Ling immediately tended to her friend's injury.  First aid would help a little, and so she performed the rudimentary tasks quickly and efficiently. 

Jacob leapt back up through the hatch, and lowered the elevator all the way down to the landing plate, and they exited into the corridor.  Ling commanded Doctor Hoffman to go into a deep sleep, and forget everything he had seen about the hero's escape.  Which, of course, being in a mystic trance, he did without demure.  And so, he and Otto lay on the ground snoring peacefully as babies.

With Vallnam nursing his hand they ran the twelve hundred feet down the long indigo-white corridor to the far end, where the came to another elevator.  Ling pressed the button and the door slid open. 

"We should try to get to the Shadow Hawk spaceship," suggested Vallnam.  

"Yes, but Hanna is the only one among us who knows how to fly it," commented Jacob.  "She said she'd been training on it for several months, and I'm going to guess the controls are not what we would consider to be normal."

"That's true," said Ling, "but we should take a look anyway."

"Jacob," said Vallnam, "you're a better pilot than I am, so you should try flying it."

They took the elevator up to the third level and from the control room opened the secret hanger bay doors.  Outside the hanger they could see the craters of the moon's surface illuminated starkly, and beyond the entrance a large pool of molten lava could be seen.  They then took the elevator down one flight to the secret hanger and with their intuitions heightened (by the Modroni who were still present and had been helping them in subtle ways throughout their assault on Eisenhelm) they quickly discovered the method to open Shadow Hawk's portal.  They stepped inside Shadow Hawk.  It was an incredible piece of engineering, the likes of which they only dimly remembered at a subconscious level. The air inside was cool and refreshing.  The machinery sublimated into the fabric of the walls and ceilings.  The curves inside were smooth, and all around them small inscriptions illuminated, pulsed, or quietly dimmed in accordance with the needs of the ship, and its perception of the intent of its passengers.

Vallnam got on his radio and ordered his technicians to board the two repaired UFOs, and take off.  He praised them for the great job they did, gave them a hearty pep talk, and wished them a safe flight.  The technicians thanked him profusely for his leadership, and with high spirits the sixteen crammed themselves into the two UFOs.  It was a tight squeeze, but they managed.  Since they were technicians, not pilots, they understood technically how to fly the ships, but none of them had actual experience doing so.  There were definite bumps, scrapes, and showers of sparks as they exited Hanger B into space, but they managed, and neither ship crashed.

"Auf Wiedersehen," said Jacob as they strapped themselves into Shadow Hawk's three control seats.  There was one for the pilot, one for the weapons officer, and one for the navigator.  After Jacob took the Pilot's seat, Vallnam took the weapons, and Ling slid into the navigator's chair.  As they looked at the panels of extremely complex lights, symbols and patterns, they began to intuit what each control was for, and within a few moments they each felt that they understood how to master each of their control systems, though they had no idea how they were able to do this so quickly.  Hanna would have been shocked to the core, as she had spent months trying to figure it out, and had only made a tiny bit of progress compared with these three. 

In fact, very deeply buried in their subconscious minds, they each realized that Shadow Hawk was in fact a Modroni ship. 

"I just realized," said Ling, "that Shadow Hawk is a Star Ship.  It is designed for interstellar travel."

"Yes, I see that now," answered Jacob.  "That's huge.  And daunting."    

As Vallnam scanned the weapons system he noticed a set of small pulsating green symbols that had the following inscriptions (in the Modroni language which he only understood via deep-intuition).  

"Wisdom", "Virtue", and "Mercy", he said aloud.  

His intuition also gave him insight as to how they worked.  Each button activated one of three internal Weapon Suits.  He envisioned the suits transformed the command seats into an individual armored suits that could exit Shadow Hawk through a passage directly through the hull, and allow the person in the suit to fly around and defend the ship with an array of powerful weapons and defensive systems.  Amazing!  He felt that the names of the three suits were significant, and so he contemplated them for a while before mentioning anything about it to the other two.  When he explained the details of the suits, they all grew reflective.   

"'Wisdom', 'Virtue', and 'Mercy'," said Jacob.  "Fascinating."

"Wait," said Ling as she looked down at the moon through the dark green window to their port side. Below them were the smoldering ruins of Eisenhelm receding as the UFOs haltingly emerged from Hanger B.  

"As the Moon Princess, I am responsible for what happens here, somehow.  After all, if it weren't for me, the base would still be as we found it a few hours ago.  Can I really leave Eisenhelm in the hands of ruthless and inimical Hanna?  What if she manages to survive her ordeal and unifies the Nazi fortress under her command?  Won't she make Eisenhelm an even greater threat than the fortress was before?"

"Well," said Jacob, "Hanna would have to survive VOC-1.  According to what Gotaurus said, its some sort of fail-safe emergency measure, programmed to kill all humans.  She will have her hands full dealing with VOC-1, and whatever other mayhem is hiding out in Eisenhelm's ruins.  Let's not forget the monsters from Science Center 7, as well."

Ling remained silent.

"But one thing is for certain," he added.  "You shall return and reclaim your rightful place here... When the time is right you shall return to cleanse the moon with fire and steel!"

Her eyes lit up at that.  "Okay!" she said.  "Let's go visit our families back on earth!"

They all agreed that this was the best plan and to Earth they pointed Shadow Hawk and sped away from the moon at fantastic speed.  In their tow the two UFOs manned by the Nazi Technicians followed at an ever increasing distance.  But they too were heading to the only place that made sense for them: Earth.

Jacob keyed into Hanna's radio frequency one last time.  She was huffing and puffing down some dark corridor.  He thought about what he could say.  He felt at a loss.  They took the Master Key.  They took the last of their technicians.  He left her to face her doom alone.  He said nothing.  

And so, in silence he sat looking out the window.  He felt vaguely sad about Hanna. They might have made it, had he only... what?  No.  There was nothing to say.  She was a ruthless, cunning Nazi hell-bent on dominating Eisenhelm and anything else she could get her hands on.  He stared out the window, looking absently at the stars.

Being slower, and less certain how to fly their UFOs, and having exited from Hanger B, instead of the secret Shadow Hawk Hanger, only the technicians saw that on the surface of the moon, next to the Hanger B entrance, in the shadows of a tall crater cliff, stood an enormous eighteen foot tall crucifix with a wooden image of Jesus Christ fastened to it.  Who could have put it there?  Only the man in the yellow prison suit knew the answer to that question.  And Hanna.