A Shift in Priorities - Sequel

Only in men’s imagination does every truth find an effective and undeniable existence.
(Joseph Conrad)

Yeah, these Middle Africans… They had the knowledge and the equipment to produce nukes. But had they? – One didn’t know, said his staff. The potential was there, undeniably, yet there was no definitive proof. – Where would they test the stuff, provided they had it? In the Namib, in Southwest – nothing and no one was living there; they could test a thousand nukes – and nobody would ever know. – Did they have transport systems? Not really, no missiles, some antiquated bombers – and only few powerful multipurpose jet airplanes capable of carrying nukes.

So, perhaps they didn’t have nukes – not yet… Okay, staff, study the problem and brief me. – The southern hemisphere seemed to be free of nukes still. The stuff was concentrated in the north. As were the thermonuclear bombs. Russia, Germany and the Ottoman Empire had fusion weapons. The Germans had never admitted to the fact, but one knew they had. What about the US? One didn’t know… Briefing to be forwarded. – Would they keep it secret? Well, not normally, but the Germans had – why not the US?

On the other hand, fusion bombs were no weapons of war, they were political weapons. The Germans had concealed possession of them because of domestic reasons – one of the frequent riot sallies, no doubt, but had made damn sure the other powers knew they had them. Why should the US try to hide ownership? If other powers had them, the citizens would be reassured if their nation had them as well. So, perhaps they didn’t have the stuff… After all, nobody was threatening them, after Britain’s demise, and they were perfectly safe from invasion. Well, one was going to see…

How would the formation of the Ottoman missile brigades been seen from abroad? It was introducing a new quality of deterrence – and a considerable strike capability. One was about to draw level with Russia and Germany. That was going to be hard for the Russians, who always had to reckon with a simultaneous war against Germany and the Ottoman Empire. – Did one have indications of increased Russian spy activity? One could trust the Aryans were going to sell their knowledge, but that process took time. It should be worthwhile to have a look into this affair… What did the esteemed colleague Sudoplatov in Moscow know? Could one find that out? Mirliva Çokbilmiş grabbed the telephone.
The chief function of the body is to carry the brain around.
(Thomas Alva Edison)

Pavel Anatolyevich Sudoplatov, the supreme Okhrana commander, was uneasy. Prime Minister Shepilov was playing a dangerous game. One had already neutralised three groups that had been planning to assassinate him. His statement contra the Ukraine reappropriation had – all of a sudden – made him extremely unpopular. The populace was seething. The Holy Synod was indignant. The KP was in an uproar. – Shepilov was a traitor, that was the general verdict. One should – at least – tar and feather him and chase him out of office.

Even keeping his outfit working diligently had become difficult: many Okhrana operatives were entirely in accord with popular sentiment. Just barely had he been able to deploy loyal agents around Shepilov and his family. – Without any doubt, the man was right; Sudoplatov knew the hard facts. Any encroachment on the Ukraine would inevitably bring the Germans into the arena. Despite the fact that the threat by the western sea powers no longer existed – France was an innocuous dwarf, England had ceased to exist, the US was busy elsewhere – the Germans hadn’t changed their doctrine.

Control of the European heartland was essential to Germany’s prosperity and great power role. – Okay, the western approaches were wide open now, were in fact controlled by the German navy. But that didn’t change anything, at least not in the minds of those ruling in Berlin. The west was wasteland, depopulated for many generations. The more important control of the east had become. – No, there was no way in which Russia could regain the Ukraine, except by fighting an all-out war against the Germans.

That would mean mutual destruction. Russia had more soldiers, guns, tanks, and airplanes, no doubt, but there was no way to fend off the German nuclear warheads falling upon Russia from all directions. Even if a first strike destroyed all launch sites in Germany, the counterstrike executed by the nuclear submarines would still obliterate Russia. – So, Shepilov was right, and his enemies were utterly wrong. The Ukrainians would not flock below Russia’s banner of their own volition, not now and not ever. They might be disaffected by the kleptocracy ruling them, but they wouldn’t swap the Hetmanate for the Tsar’s knout, not for anything.

Well, inside the Kremlin, Shepilov and his kin were reasonably safe, hopefully… – Sudoplatov wouldn’t count on the Prime Minister’s proverbial luck. Such fabulous streaks of good luck had a tendency to end suddenly… But Shepilov wouldn’t phase down freely, he had been trying to act as if nothing had happened. Sudoplatov had been forced to give him a rigorous bollocking. That seemed to have helped – for the time being. Yet, how long was the respite going to last?
Thus, the photons which constitute a ray of light behave like intelligent human beings: out of all possible curves they always select the one which will take them most quickly to their goal.
(Max Planck)

Duty on Raumkolonie, that was all right, Jochen Zeislitz was quite happy. It wasn’t the Moon, but it was the real thing. Well, the next lunar mission was still on hold as the engineers and technicians were not yet done with ironing out the bugs that had almost killed Arni Hofreiter and Auwi Patschke. So, a tour on the space station was the best training available. One had carried up a huge thermal imaging camera, which was currently being installed by two of his fellow travellers, Andreas and Klaus-Ludwig, who were no real kosmonauts but engineers put into space suits.

The other true kosmonaut on the mission was Liesel Schmiedinger, a newbie, but a cute one. A pity that Raumkolonie was so crowded – the permanent crew of eight was of course attending to their businesses all the time – or he would have proposed to Liesel to teach her what he had practised together with Helga von Tschirschwitz some time ago. Alas! You can’t have everything… Andi and Klalu were scheduled to need three days to install the camera – and two more days to train the permanenters in its operation. Then one was going to return to the ground.

As it happened, NASA had announced they were about to launch Mars-2 tomorrow, which they labeled a genuine robot cruiser and said it was capable of transmitting advanced images of the Red Planet. Well, one wouldn’t be able to watch the beast fly by, but it was exciting nevertheless. Mars… – True, Venus had been a disappointment flat out, and a lot of people were thinking Mars was nothing but a cold and dry dustball. But you never knew… And there was this ultra secret project, Jochen had heard being whispered about. Perhaps one would scoot over to Mars faster than anticipated…
I think I understand what military fame is: to be killed on the field of battle and have your name misspelled in the newspapers.
(William T. Sherman)

Three submarines had arrived two days ago. The soldiers – no, the sailors – were all aflutter. The boats had come from Germany, operated by Blohm & Voss crews from Hamburg. These Germans were noticeably relieved to have to deal with Middle Africans, as there was no language barrier. Handover was in full flush. Together with the subs, a big freighter, full of spare parts, torpedoes, ammunition, and so on, had dropped anchor in the Schottegat, the natural harbour of Willemstad.

In this flurry of activities, Otto Falabeke and other leading staff members of the refinery had been offered a tour on – or rather inside – one of the subs. Okay, this was not Otto’s world – utterly cramped, chthonic, without vista. But one had learnt a lot. – These were craft specially designed for service in confined waters, like the Baltic or the Irish Sea. Their strength was stealth. Immersed, they were extremely silent. The Germans had boasted that subs of that type often had floated below Russian or English destroyers, without being noticed.

That was, most probably, sailor’s yarn. Nevertheless, the boats appeared to be ideally suited for operations in the Caribbean. – What was their purpose? Otto had kept his ears open for hints. Defence of the ABC Islands was the objective, it seemed. To that end, the Middle African Legion of the Venezuelan armed forces had been established, he was told. – Yeah, it made sense. Middle Africans were operating the refinery, and Middle Africans were going to be responsible for the defence of the realm.

It was a nice package the bosses at home had tied together. Otto was impressed. Big money was at work here. The refinery must be a bonanza. Well, Middle Africa didn’t have oil. One always had bought the stuff from EVEG, which was a reliable supplier but no cheap jack. Now, one was getting the oil for free. That, obviously, was justifying concentrated investment. – Meh, the Venezuelans were paying most of it, the bosses at home were only sending Otto and his colleagues – and identifying potential recruits for the Legion.

Yeah, getting their oil processed must be very important for those in power in Caracas. They were socialists, Otto knew, if not even howling communists, but now happily allied with the cream of the Middle African business world. And the big bosses at home evidently had no qualms to cooperate with the class enemy… Crazy world…
…but for a soldier his duty is plain. He is to obey the orders of all those placed over him and whip the enemy wherever he meets him.
(Ulysses S. Grant)

Field Marshal Dang Gangjun was on the way back to his HQ at Huizhou. The conference in the capital had been nothing but the habitual gibberish, but it was always good to refresh contacts and pick up news. And he had met the minister of war and the prime minister. Wu, the war minister, was a perfect pillock, but an excellently interconnected party hack. Pumping him for information was always most helpful. The chap knew everything that was brewing in Nánjīng. – The Little Man from Sichuan, Prime Minister Deng, was of quite another stature. Dang was viewing the premier’s political background with deep distrust, but he had to admit that Deng was a bright fellow, who definitely seemed to know what he was doing.

Dang was a stout proponent of Great Qing self-sufficiency. The empire never had needed aliens and their produce. – Deng thought isolation was what had brought down the nation. The unequal treaties had been the consequence of Chinese fustiness. One hadn’t been able of matching the western aliens, whose industrial revolution had rendered the Qing apparatus obsolete. This must not happen again. China had to open her markets. American equipment – and Chinese manpower – had saved the empire in the war with Russia. American supplies had saved it after Fēilóng. Even Dang had to acknowledge that.

But wasn’t it time to cast off this dependence? Wasn’t it time to send the overbearing Americans home? – Well, they were going home, weren’t they? Emergency at home was pulling them off. And China was producing for the US market – and earning well with this approach. In the past, one had profited from reverse engineering advanced German and Japanese technology; now, one had the opportunity to copy advanced US products. That was good for China. – True, the domestic market was huge, but the Chinese were poor. Supplying the US market was the best thing that could happen to the economy.

China had to advance on the path of modernisation, there was no turning back. – Well, the Little Man from Sichuan had almost convinced him. And US equipment wasn’t bad; this he was ready to admit. And actually, he might dislike their hybris, but he had no axe to grind with the Americans. No, his axe was reserved for the Russians. – So, yes, he was going to comply – and act the nice Chinese when communicating with the Americans. Their HQ in Hong Kong was the only place, where they still could be found in sizeable numbers. Their men-of-war were all gone, were cruising in the Caribbean now. Even their freighters, which once had brought salvation from hunger and sickness, had now been replaced by Chinese vessels.
Sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.
(Lewis Carroll)

Well, it was a surprise, not necessarily a pleasant one, yet one that hadn’t been really difficult to predict. Hauptmann Eduard K’wapelo was back. Hermann Kizwete’s discovery that the dead man of Chumbageni might be closely connected to General Okomosombe’s flight to Windhuk, had brought the military policeman back in a jiffy. Hermann’s boss, Karl O’Saghli, had not hesitated to blurt out the suspicion on all frequencies. – And before Hermann could say ‘be careful what you wish for’, K’wapelo had marched through the office door.

And damn yes, it seemed to be true. The dead man had worked as porter – at least on one occasion. He had helped the B’wamenis to muscle their luggage to the train station. So, he had known they were on vacation. This Hermann had found out, while K’wapelo had still been studying the evidence. He – the corpse – had called himself Ahmed, which was not a rare name hereabouts – and was true or rather not… That was all they had. But K’wapelo was buying Hermann’s theory: it had been a plot to assassinate the man who had directed the invasion of Somalia.

There was, by all evidence, a Somalian terror ring operating on Middle African territory – and targeting VIPs. This conjecture had sufficed to bring to the scene a score of spooks, compared to whom K’wapelo was a nice buddy. – Investigation had been pried away from Hermann and his team. Everything had been classified top secret. K’wapelo, though, was still involved, because he was the representative of the military. And, thankfully, the good lad was keeping Hermann in the loop.

They, the spooks, were groping in the dark. They hadn’t found anything new yet. – Hermann wasn’t surprised. Except the ‘Karo’ and ‘Senoussi’ fag butts one had nothing that might lead on. Finding a ‘Senoussi’ smoker would be something. But Hermann had tried that already – without any success. The brand wasn’t cheap; shanty town dwellers wouldn’t smoke it. The man one was looking for had to be a prolific criminal – or a business man or… Hermann had sicked his snitches; it had produced no result.

By all probability, the culprits were long gone. The Chumbageni plot hadn’t worked out. Why should they stay in Tanga? If one was looking for worthwhile targets, Tanga was a poor place. – Except if one was aiming at indiscriminate bombing – or a wild shoot-out. But for that purpose one didn’t need a conspiratorial flat. – No, one was on the right track. These rogues were out and about to kill a VIP. But where? And when?
Life is pretty simple: You do some stuff. Most fails. Some works. You do more of what works.
(Leonardo da Vinci)

Uh-huh! That was the place… Peter Vogel was craning his neck: construction cranes, bulldozers, trucks, a lot of bare earth, heaps of various construction materials, some nondescript structures. – They were herded into a wooden shack. Inprocessing: a portrait photograph was taken, fingerprints were recorded, one had to fill out three different forms. In the end, a small badge was handed out. One was now licenced to be here.

This was Hammerhorst, Poulavone beforehand, countryside once under cultivation southeast of Corcaigh. One was still in the nascent stage of construction. Donars Hammer was still far away in time. Harbours, railroads, accommodations, utilities and waste infrastructure were to be build first. Then offices and factory buildings were to follow. Only in the end, the cradle would be erected: twelve huge concrete towers scheduled to support the Hammer.

Only then construction of the spacecraft was envisaged to commence – in about twenty-two months – at best. One had a good idea now what it was going to look like. The impact slab would have a diameter of eighty metres; and the ship sitting on it was going to be one hundred and twenty metres long, half of which would be needed for the shock absorbers, Peter’s professional discipline.

If everything went well, the Hammer should be ready in four years – in the summer of 1963. That, at least, was the official version of things. Peter thought 1965 was a far more reasonable deadline. After all, this was an absolutely new concept. – Oh, there would be tests. The propulsion system required practical testing. These trials would be conducted north of Corcaigh, in the vicinity of Mala. One estimated that the westerly winds were going to carry away radiation without that Hammerhorst was contaminated.

Peter didn’t know much about these radiation issues, but he understood that shielding was crucial – and that the shock absorbers had to be a part of the system shielding the crew from the propulsion unit. Yeah, Donars Hammer might be capable of carrying men to Mars or Jupiter and back, but it wouldn’t last very much longer, as the materials were due to be contaminated. It would be a creeping process, yet irreversible. But scooting to Mars and the outer planets was certainly worth the effort…
No matter how much progress one makes, there is always the thrill of just beginning.
(Robert H. Goddard)

Yup, one had successfully developed the Ares intercontinental ballistic missile, which could hit targets in Asia, Europe and Africa. It was exactly what the military had wanted and the politicians had ordered. But now, procurement had been put on hold, after a first batch of thirty-four missiles had been delivered by Convair of San Diego. Well, it wasn’t Fedrock’s fault; the task assigned had been accomplished in time – and with outstanding result. Yet, the money was needed elsewhere: the Caribbean emergency was gobbling up more funds than could be rightfully extracted from the taxpayers. And incurring additional public debts, although of course possible, wouldn’t work for the current fiscal year. Hence, the Ares project had been stopped short – and the designated money spent for securing the Antillean Islands.

Ira Herbert Abbot didn’t mind; his Federal Agency for Rocketry, demotic Fedrock, had demonstrated uncluttered performance capacity. One was nip and tuck with the Russians and the Germans – in terms of heavy rocketry. His thrusts for initiating manned spaceflight, however, had all been repudiated. The influence of Vannevar Bush, the scientific authority advising the Patton administration, was still predominant in Washington. Bush had been averse to manned spaceflight, considering it a colossal waste. Now, the Venergost experience seemed to validate Bush’s assessment. And the search for water on the Moon, where only dust and rock had been found yet, could be considered another confirmation.

Nevertheless, Russians and Germans were operating manned space stations. And the US didn’t. – It was a sting to national pride – or rather it should be… Abbot knew the reality: US citizens didn’t care for space. There were the territories that once had formed Canada. There was the Caribbean. There were Mexico and Central America. It was far more than the nation could handle at once. Why worry about space? There truly was room enough down here. – And there was this nasty glacier up north, which was spoiling the weather east of the Rocky Mountains. – Yeah, the administration had no reason to go for space. Even the ICBM business could easily put on hold, as there was no actual threat to the US.

Perhaps the isolationists were right indeed: if the US didn’t meddle in transoceanic foreign affairs, she wasn’t susceptible for becoming involved in foreign squabbles. Obviously, neither Germans nor Russians were interested in interfering in the redistribution of North and Central America. – At the same time, US engagement in China had been phased down as all resources were needed at home. Well, one had been lucky not to have been drawn into some queer Asian brawl. But one had merchandise made in China on sale almost everywhere. It really had required a conscious effort to ban this cheap stuff from production of the Ares. Renowned domestic companies were outsourcing manufacture to China, it was incredible...
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Victory comes from finding opportunities in problems.
(Sun Tzu)

At long last the job was done. The armed forces of the Republic of Cascadia were operational. Jimbo Owens was prostrated with fatigue yet proud. It truly hadn’t been easy. The solution to the manpower shortage hadn’t been readily available. Only one third of the head count was made up from Cascadians proper, the other two thirds were naturalised folks. They were hailing from the US – and were coloureds. Well, just a few were whites, but the vast majority of them were people of colour.

That, of course, had been an issue. Cascadians were white, of English, French or Irish stock mainly. But the armed forces were to be formed from non-white aliens? From black US scapegraces? – Yes, this had formed another hitch. One had had to educate these gentlemen, who often had been lacking any sense for military discipline. Reject had been high; nine of ten applicants had been either unemployable – or had quit on their own initiative within probation period.

The bait had been the salary. Cascadia’s soldiers were earning as much as their colleagues in the US – and were enjoying some additional benefits. President MacInnis, encumbered with debts head over ears already, had nevertheless pawned more natural resources to the Koreans – and had enabled Jimbo to hire and train the folks he needed. – The army consisted of one division of infantry, made up from four rifle regiments and an artillery brigade of three battalions – plus engineers, signals, et cetera, fully motorised; nineteen thousand and five hundred men in all.

The air force had been designed to support the army. It was a small outfit, but highly specialised. There was a helicopter squadron, a transport wing, a fighter squadron, a fighter-bomber squadron, a signals battalion, and an anti-aircraft regiment, four thousand and seven hundred folks in all. The navy was a kind of coast guard with twenty-two small vessels – and two mighty destroyers; twelve hundred sailors in all. The ministry of war and its sub-departments consisted of another eight hundred soldiers and the same number of civilians. – All equipment and weaponry were imported from the US.

Jimbo had made sure that coloured people were equally represented in the upper ranks. The current divisional commander, the highest ranking soldier, was a Negro: Ellsworth R. Johnson. Like Jimbo, Johnson had fought in the Troubles, leading the black South Carolina militia. He wasn’t an easy person to work with, but an able military leader. – Yes, Jimbo had accomplished the task consigned to him by President MacInnis, but the president was failing in keeping his citizens together. Cascadia was still losing citizens at a rate of two hundred per month. That number might appear fractional, but from a populace of only two and a half millions it wasn’t a negligible shrinkage.

Well, without the afflux of foreign men engaging in the armed forces, the net loss would even be higher. Jimbo was in fact helping to keep the figures small. All foreign applicants were becoming Cascadians on signing their contracts. And Fat Angus was very grateful for that. Jimbo had not only built the armed forces, he was also contributing to reduce the overall loss. As a consequence, Jimbo was a rich man today, as MacInnis had poured out bonus after bonus on him. It was Korean money without doubt, but it had no smell. Jimbo wasn’t old yet, only forty-six; what should he do next?
The journey is its own reward.

He had been selected! He was going to lead the Raumkobold-33 mission to the Moon. Jochen Zeislitz felt elated. – The crater Meton had been chosen as landing site. It was situated close to the lunar north pole. – If the Russians thought they should rove around in the south, RRA would quarry up north. Meton had a diameter of approximately 120 kilometres. It consisted of several merged craters flooded with lava – and was considered sufficiently level for a landfall, although there were many smaller impacts dotting the surface. It wouldn’t be a walk in the park; one would have to be very careful when bringing down the Hüpfer.

Peter Hoppe was to ride together with him in the Hüpfer, while Eckhart Schmidt and Viktor Grabowski would remain in orbit. – All three were experienced hands, had been in space several times – even if only in earth’s orbit. Thank goodness for Raumkolonie; it was an ideal training ground. – One would carry along drilling equipment; nothing sophisticated, the Hüpfer had only room for a simple manually operated drilling rig. With luck – and labour, one should be able to bore down to one hundred metres, through the soft lunar rock.

Would one find water? Perhaps traces, thought the scientists. Traces that might indicate frozen water deeper down. That would be a big break indeed. – Jochen was imagining the sensation. Landing on the Moon was nothing special anymore, but finding water… That would be great. He and his crew would be heroes. – But the window of opportunity was small. NASA’s next lunar mission would also hoist up a drill – and the Kikimora could harbour more and larger stuff than the Hüpfer. Jochen’s mission was scheduled for the second week of May 1959, in two weeks. When was NASA going to launch the next bus to the Moon?
Revenge may be wicked, but it’s natural.
(William Makepeace)

He had been framed! It had been a trap! But who was behind the Nai Bialystok incident? Who were his enemies? Franz Josef Strauß was cudgelling his brains. – Rudi Hanauer, his successor as minister of war, was a milksop, a dipshit, whom the party had hastily lifted to the job for lack of any decent candidate. The man was clearly overtaxed – and was already in the process of messing up all the diligent arrangements Strauß had contrived to foster the Bavarian economy. No, Hanauer was a victim himself; he wasn’t the offender.

That, however, meant the party too had been utterly surprised by the disgraceful events. They, who had immediately dropped him like a leper, hadn’t concocted the scandal; they had only answered to it. – Who then was the miscreant? Chancellor Schmidt had been rather appreciative of his work. – And the GDNP was gaining nothing by having Rudi Hanauer replace him. It was quite a mystery...

The media had, of course, readily seized the unsavoury news. That was their job, he reluctantly had to admit. In addition to the picture showing him barelegged led away by the police, two photographs had materialised, depicting him in action with the sluts. Unfortunately, he was clearly recognisable. – He was the laughing stock – and the contempt – of the nation. Returning to the profession he had learnt – teacher – was impossible now. He was ruined. – What remained for him was finding the malefactors – and taking sweet revenge.

The two dirty photographs, however, might provide the clue he needed. Who had offered them to the newspaper Spree Express? He had to get into contact with the journalist who had acquired them. These guys were prone to protect their sources, therefore he had to act prudently. – Suppose it had been a Russian plot. To get rid of him, the keen reformer of the German military… Wouldn’t that change everything? Shouldn’t a scribe be zealous to unravel such a spy plot? – True, he had no proof of anything. But it ought to provide a nice incentive to cooperate with him…
Very few things happen at the right time, and the rest do not happen at all. The conscientious historian will correct these defects.

So much had been lost, was irretrievably gone. How can you write history when the sources are missing? Archives, files, libraries, collections, everything had been destroyed. People had been killed millionfold. Fēilóng had happened so fast and had been so tremendous that whole structures had vanished at a blow. Completing the final volume of his Chinese History had become sheer obsession for Máo Zédōng. – It was immensely difficult. How many people had really lived in the north – and had perished in Fēilóng’s aftermath? How many people had truly belonged to the Children of Zhúlóng? How many had been killed by them?

It was possible to find individuals who had survived the ordeal. But it was downright impossible to quantify what had happened. He had been a Child himself – and rather close to the inner circle. Therefore, he knew quite a lot of what had gone on, but he had no numbers. Nobody had the numbers… One could sweepingly say that approximately 200 million Chinese had been killed in the events triggered by Fēilóng. That was about all. – Concerning the construction of Fēilóng, one was lucky that Professor Wú Jiànxióng was still alive – and could provide a rough idea about what her then boss, Wáng Gànchāng, had been planning to do. But she had been far away, in charge of the reactor farm at Chóngqìng, when Fēilóng had been built and fired.

Yet, one would never know what had happened between Minister Tsai Xuě-bái, Professor Wáng Gànchāng and General Jian Yŏng – nor would one ever know the final configuration of Fēilóng. In fact, analyses by Russian and German scientists were authoritative today about what Fēilóng had been – and how it had worked. That was annoying. Máo had tried to coax Professor Wú to write a definitive account, but she wouldn’t do it. Or rather, she had already done it, but it was classified ultra top secret and not available to ordinary historians. – But Fēilóng wasn’t the only problem for the historians…

Almost all records pertaining to the Far East War had been destroyed, either in Běijīng – or in Nánjīng, when it had fallen to the Children. One was thus reliant on the works of those authors who still had had access to the original files. Unfortunately, that had only been some few – specialised – publications. The bulk of the works published immediately after the war had been personal recollections, written down without consultation of the archives. The files in the archives had only been preliminarily stored. One didn’t have lists or inventories. All this meant the Russians were free write the history of this conflict – without that China could contradict scientifically sound. That was very annoying.

One had to develop techniques how to circumnavigate this absence of sources. Mao had already initiated studies in that respect. Being the principal of Běijīng University did have its advantages. In fact, he had troops of students doing all the groundwork for him. – But that didn’t suddenly fill all those appalling gaps in the final volume of his grand opus… Too bad…
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When deeds speak, words are nothing.
(Pierre-Joseph Proudhon)

Good grief! A bomb had exploded at a SDPMA party executive meeting here in Daressalam! Chancellor Emil Muramba had been severely injured and evacuated to a hospital. Twelve people, including two ministers, were reported dead, thirty-odd wounded. – Max Sikuku was dumbstruck. Okay, there had been this warning, a fortnight ago, that a failed terrorist plot had been detected in Tanga District. Had the security services been soundly sleeping or what? He had been a minister himself; he knew how sharp these guys normally were.

Through the windows of the apartment, he could hear the wailing of sirens, many sirens. Adele was out, attending a session of her ladies’ charity club. That was taking place at Mbezi up north, hence she ought to be safe. Did he have a phone number? Apparently not… Well, if there should be difficulties, she certainly would call. – Max was listening to the radio. They were better than TV, which was far too slow and cumbersome. Muramba was undergoing surgery. That seemed to be certain. Everything else was hustle and bustle. Yeah, the minister of the interior and the finance guy were dead.

Vice Chancellor Idodi had taken over and just declared national emergency. Idodi belonged to the BMC, the Bund Mittelafrikanischer Christen, was an educator by profession, now the foreign minister… But he did have a whole bunch of advisors, sober professionals. So, that ought to be all right. – It was a grim joke that those folks who had initiated the retreat from Somalia had now been gutted, thought Max. Well, it should serve a strong lesson to these dreamers of universal peace, shouldn’t it? The decision to clear out that rat’s nest had been right on the mark…

The telephone was ringing. Adele? – No, Otti calling from Edea. Yes, everything okay, no panic. The bombing had happened; the peril was over. Now was the hour of the security forces. Everything would be controlled, guarded and shielded – to no avail. It was the customary hokum. One just had to keep an even keel. Little kiss and bye. – Uh-huh, curfew, said the radio speaker, as of now, for all of Daressalam… Max groaned. He had seen it coming. When would they passivate the telephone? The security folks running amok…

Muramba was still in the surgery. It was the university hospital, the best location hereabouts. Perhaps the medics could doctor him up… Telephone again. Adele this time. Yes, curfew. Better stay where you are; trigger happy policemen and soldiers on the prowl. A restaurant? No beds? Thirty women? – Keep calm, my love. It will be an uncomfortable night, sure, but they can’t keep up the curfew any longer than one night. I’ll come and fetch you tomorrow, as soon as the horseplay has ended. Kisses. And keep smiling…
One can’t always be magnificent, but simplicity is always a possible alternative.
(H. G. Wells)

Fudge! Dratted NASA had just launched another mission to the Moon! Lunobegún-12 was reported to be on its way to Luna and Crater Klaproth, carrying a sophisticated drilling rig in the Kikimora’s load bay. Jochen Zeislitz was fairly disenchanted. Raumkobold-33, his mount, due to start in four days, would – most probably – come too late. If the Russians should come upon water below Klaproth, they were going to reap all the fame. Even if he and Peter Hoppe should strike water – four days later – below Crater Meton as well, it would only be the second best accomplishment – hardly worth a reference in the history books…

Yeah, fame was a whore… But of course, to know there was water on the Moon would be great – even if the inane Russians should discover it. And having available water at both polar regions would be terrific. A lunar settlement – or rather settlements – would be within humanity’s grasp. – Okay, no hard feelings! The NASA guys were only doing their job, same as he and his comrades. He had to concentrate on the starting routine now. The medics were keen to turn him upside down. And Ops Room wanted him to recite all the procedures. – Indeed, Lunobegún-12 and Raumkobold-33 were going to be in lunar orbit at the same time. That should be awesome…
Has there ever been a drilling operations on the Moon in OTL? I can't remember.
No. Well, sort of, as the apollo missions had a small core drill thing. But they weren't looking for water with it.

Water on the moon is concentrated on the poles, and for various reasons NASA thought that Apollo missions to the poles would have been too dangerous. The first mission to land anything on the moon near enough to the poles that water ice might be present is the Chandrayaan-2, due to land 7th of September.
In sea affairs, nothing is impossible, and nothing is improbable.
(Horatio Nelson)

The Venezuelan navy was a sorry outfit. It had taken yonks to get S-13 ‘Bonito’ ready for action. Kaleu – no, Teniente de Navio – Alfred Nkotenga had learnt a lot. Yelling didn’t help. You had to appeal to the buggers’ honour – or to outdrink them – or both… He had never heard so many reasons why something wasn’t available and couldn’t be procured. One ought to write a book about it. – Thank goodness Blohm & Voss had delivered the boats in one piece – and a cargo vessel replete with spare parts and ammo. But getting asswipes, cleansers, vittles and other consumables had been an adventure in its own right, let alone obtaining uniforms, badges and paraphernalia…

Okay, it had been accomplished. ‘Bonito’ was at sea – or rather sub-surface. The boats were designed to be operated submerged – with snorkel; they were faster that way – and consuming less fuel. One had to get used to it though. Nkotenga was still missing the tower. Standing lookout had been the normal thing on shallow water subs of the Middle African navy. But that was perhaps a silly approach in the Baltic and the waters around Britain. – One was practising the procedures now. Relying on sonar, periscope and hydrophone wasn’t that bad. Oh, one had Fumeo as well, for the improbable case of a surface operation.

“Contact” reported sonar, “Fast running ship approaching from seven hours, distance five thousand.” A US ship, assumed Nkotenga. A good opportunity to test the boat’s – and the crew’s – capabilities. “Switch to electric drive. Retract snorkel. Go down to thirty-five metres.“ – While ‘Bonito’ was continuing her voyage without interruption, the other vessel was passing by over her. Had one been detected? Evidently not. Could one tell what kind of vessel it was? – No, one had no experience in that kind of assignation. Judging from speed and engine noise it ought to be a destroyer. But which type?

Nkotenga ordered periscope depth. But the stranger was already too far away. And running too fast to catch up. – Stupid! One had to learn the signatures of these vessels. – Next time, he should react faster. One had to return to periscope depth immediately behind the stranger – just to learn what it was. But one had just begun training. There ought to be many more opportunities to practise. – Apart from the Amis, no other ships were cruising in this area. So, one should quickly learn how to identify the different types of vessels.