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.