A Shift in Priorities - Sequel

The farther one gets into the wilderness, the greater is the attraction of its lonely freedom.
(Theodore Roosevelt)

Tropical rain forest… Konrad Schabunde looked around uneasily. What kind of beast was at the origin of the actual disease? Monkey? Or bat? Or quite something else? The Lobai Fever was transmitted via body fluids – and it was highly contagious. About one quarter of the infected died within fourteen days – either from multiple organ failure or internal bleeding or both. Another quarter didn’t die, but didn’t get well either. And the rest seemed to recuperate quite normally.

A lethality of twenty-five percent was devastating. One hoped to reduce the quota by medical treatment, but hadn’t found the proper lever yet. Blood substitution didn’t work; it didn’t even delay decay. The illness – the virus – resided in the lymphatic system. One had identified the little rascal, but hadn’t yet found a way to fight it. Konrad was accompanying a team of hunters tasked to shoot as many different animals as possible. It was Konrad’s job to extract samples – blood, tissue, marrow.

One didn’t know how the fever had arrived in the villages. Three people had fallen ill at about the same time. One of them was still alive, but unresponsive. What had they done? Or eaten? Incubation time was six to ten days. Fortunately, the local authorities had immediately enacted a lockdown. There – as far as one could tell – was no spread beyond the cluster of small villages between rivers Lobai and Ubangi, where the disease had been detected first.

These trailblazer villages weren’t really connected to the high-speed lines of communication. Therefore, isolation had been effective. – It didn’t bear contemplating the disease had struck at Bangi, the node of the great railway lines east – west and north – south. Yeah, by chance, one had escaped a major disaster. An incubation time of one week allowed even travelling to Germany before the symptoms started…
 
One miracle is just as easy to believe as another.
(William Jennings Bryan)

A tour to Sapporo on Hokkaidō! Captain Haikā Nobutoshi was chuffed to visit the Home Islands again. – Well, to be exact: the sea port was located at Otaru, about five klicks from downtown Sapporo. It was winter up here. Cold winds were blowing from Siberia, the winterly north-west monsoon, quite irksome. Unloading was going to take two days, loading another two. Four days to relish the subtle luxuries of Nippon…

But first he had to answer the questions of the Kaigun-Dai-i who had just come on board the Kame Kiiro. His credentials said Naval Station Hokkaidō, but his air susurrated: secret service. Okay, that was the normal procedure, no worries. Yes, one had seen a Russian man-of-war, yes, a Spokoiny Class destroyer, – at a distance, no name or number recognised. They had disregarded the Kame Kiiro.

The naval lieutenant was inquisitive. The voyages of the Kame Kiiro… No problem, all data were available. The officer took photographs of the journal and the manifests. No, no, Hokkaidō was an exception. Normally, one travelled from Guangzhou or Shenzhen to Dàlián or Yingkou or Donggang. Yes, always produce of Zhăngjìn JSC – and diverse crude materials on the back tour, sometimes even foodstuffs.

Yes, Zhăngjìn security was on board, but only one guy, who wasn’t even armed – and was doubling as purser. That had been very different when the Kame Kiiro had still cruised the Banda Sea for Zhăngjìn. – Yes, before working for the Chinese company, he had transported contraband, initially for Aguinaldo’s enemies, later for Aguinaldo’s people, stuff coming from Korea and Nippon at first, later from China.

No, he certainly wouldn’t forsake the Zhăngjìn job. And he wouldn’t accept secret Japanese gadgets on board of his vessel. Sorry, that was not possible. He certainly was ready to cooperate. But he wouldn’t double-deal. He had to load iron ore and bring it to Guangzhou, that was all. – The naval lieutenant remained courteous and didn’t insist. But should he ever change his mind… there was good money to be earned. Enjoy your stay, Captain.
 
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I knew that this job would be too much for me.
(Warren G. Harding)

Hot and sticky like a sauna, Christian Archibald Herter had never liked the Deygbo climate. He should be glad to leave this sweat bath behind. But he wasn’t glad; he was livid, downright furious. Washington had relieved him. Obviously, the State Department had decided he was jeopardising the good business dealings the US economy entertained with the WAU. It was true, several recent tenders had been concluded without that US companies had even been invited. And instead of demonstrating rigour, as he had been advising, the office sitters in the Pennsylvania Avenue had caved in.

The new man was Jerry Wadsworth; at least not a Nigger – like that insolent G’Norebbe sirrah had demanded, but a seasoned politician and diplomat. The bloke had lately been ambassador to Tokyo, so, at least, he should be accustomed to deal with weird people. Jerry had arrived yesterday; he was still busy with the inprocessing schedule. Handover talks were due to begin tomorrow morning – with a common breakfast. Herter was determined to prime his successor with his views.

G’Norebbe was a terrorist, and his buddy Law, the minister of war, a criminal – yore wanted in the US. Giving way to their rumpuses was no recipe for getting along with those blokes. One had to display ironness and intransigence. – Well, the WAU was a peculiar construct of a nation. It had been pieced together by General von Bauer, who – regrettably – wasn’t approachable any longer. Whether G’Norebbe and his comrades were at all able to hold the ensemble together remained to be seen. The state had been cobbled together from many different pieces. Without von Bauer’s authority it simply might disintegrate.

Herter had studied the situation. The old indigene elites of what once had been the Republic of Liberia thought they weren’t properly represented. Middle Africans and US expatriates had taken over, placing them, the Americo-Liberians, at a disadvantage. And the indigene tribes thought they had first been wronged by the Americo-Liberians – and then by Middle Africans and US expatriates. The people of former Sierra Leone thought their country had been embezzled by traitors and annexed by the Middle Africans. The former Middle Africans and the folks from Gold Coast were fairly disaffected with the official language – English.

Yeah, there was some potential for domestic strife. And G’Norebbe was certainly too old and too inflexible to adjust to a volatile situation. Jerry might witness some very interesting developments – while he, Chris Herter, would have to adjust to the conventions of Teheran…
 
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It is not the biggest, the brightest or the best that will survive, but those who adapt the quickest.
(Charles Darwin)

Little Ice Age… Well, most probably these European scientists were correct. The infamous Baffin-Barren-Grounds-Glacier was there, no doubt. But was it really getting colder? Rupert Gordon McCormick couldn’t tell. His measured data were difficult to read. Yes, it seemed to be – marginally – colder in winter. Yet, in summertime, it was as warm as ever – only much soggier, and the length of the hot period had perhaps decreased by two or three days. However, one needed to monitor these results over a longer period. Some few years weren’t significant. Weather was constantly changing. In thirty years, one might be able to tell. Right now, it was only guesswork.

Though, trees were growing. That was a major change. The Great Plains had been grassland for a long time – since the end of the last glaciation, kept in shape by millions of buffaloes. Then, the white men had killed the big beasts – and had started ploughing the fields. – Now, without buffaloes and other grazers – and without farmers – trees had started growing. Proceeding from the river valleys, a loose afforestation was spreading out. And these weren’t any coniferous trees, cold-resistant and perennial, but ordinary deciduous fellows – quaking aspen, white oak, red maple, sweetgum, yellow poplar, flowering dogwood, river birch, and the like.

How did this fit in with the little ice age assumption? McCormick wasn’t sure. He had been counting trees since months – and gauging temperatures and precipitation. Well, obviously, it wasn’t really getting colder. There was a slight shift to colder Decembers, Januaries and Februaries, but on average the annual mean temperature hadn’t lowered at all. It was getting wetter, but this was summer rain – and not snow… Sure, there were nasty blizzards in winter. But that was fairly normal, wasn’t it? – Under the current circumstances, no ice sheet could grow. It had to get colder in summer, so that the winter ice didn’t entirely melt away. Right now, the swamps were becoming bigger – and trees were growing everywhere in the Midwest. That wasn’t exactly what people understood as ice age.

He had published his findings in the American Journal of Science. The reverberation had been stunning. It seemed that a lot of people were keen to sweep aside the ice age assumption. – However, he had only collected data in the US Midwest – and neither in former Canada nor in New England. But this, evidently, didn’t bother folks. Here was an American scientist who could prove – with hard data – that the ice age story, heralded by those fishy Europeans, was bullshit. That was excellent news. The world was all right again.
 
All perception is coloured by emotion.
(Immanuel Kant)

After the early death of her only daughter Ksenia, Raisa Rozhdestvenskaya had yet grown harder. She never had been known for emollience, but now her steeliness had become outright disconcerting. It didn’t scare her staff anymore; they were used to being bullied incessantly. But high level politicians and bureaucrats, accustomed to being treated preferentially, often were embarrassed when Raisa tackled them ruthlessly.

The Rozhdestvensky Company was far too big and too important as that the opinion of its owner could be ignored. The armed forces were dependent on receiving their hardware, be it tanks, guns, airplanes, or ordnance. And hadn’t Rozhdestvensky created – almost single-handedly – Russia’s initial nuclear armament and the rockets to deliver it? But the mistress of the corporation surely did voice weird views…

China was a significant enemy, no doubt. But Rozhdestvenskaya was raving against the Germans, because they had begun outsourcing production to China. This was imminently dangerous and had to be stopped. – The delivery of surplus machinery after the end of the Great War had triggered China’s rise to modern great power. It was the Germans who had done that. But then, with the formation of what today was the COMECON, they had stopped this folly. Quite like Russia, the masters of the COMECON had not shared technical knowhow with foreign countries outside their sphere of influence.

But now, because of their losses to the pest, the Germans had once again started to transfer technical knowhow to the Chinese – in order to outsource production. The Russian authorities had to do everything to stop this. Unfortunately, one could do little to disrupt proliferation of knowhow from the US to China. Yet, the Americans were not at the top of scientific research. The Germans certainly were. Moscow had to intervene – and exert all influence one had in Berlin. – It was a mortal peril for Russia. The Chinese must not collect actual German science.
 
Truth never triumphs – its opponents just die out.
(Max Planck)

The old general had inspected the widget – and had walked away, shaking his head. Jochen Zeislitz couldn’t just be off, he had to familiarise with the thing. It looked vaguely like a tin can on stilts. His place was inside the tin can. The engineers hadn’t even bothered to make it look like a space capsule, neither from the outside nor from the inside. It was… – like a chamber of horrors… An empty room with an armchair in the middle.

He would be tightly strapped onto the armchair. There was nothing he could do – except riding it out. In later stages, should he survive the initial ordeal, it was envisaged to have him steer the Hammer. But not now. He was nothing but a human guinea pig. His job was to survive. That should be enough and to spare indeed…

The stilts were the shock absorbers. The engineers said they had been tested to the utmost. There was no doubt they were going to perform as intended. They would save him from being squashed. He just had to sit and let it happen. All was going to go well, no need to worry…

The day after tomorrow was to be the day. It would be a short leap only: half a kilometre up – and about four hundred meters lengthwise. No big deal for the Hammer; the pusher plate had already withstood a series of such tests. But without a human passager. – Well, shouldn’t he end up as hash, he was going to be a hero...
 
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With luck on your side, you can do without brains.
(Giordano Bruno)

Deygbo was a shithole. Doors had suddenly gone shut; no new orders would come in. And, even worse, his diamond shares had turned worthless all of a sudden. A landslide had destroyed the mining site, he had been told; many people had died. Yeah, that had been in the newspapers, some days later. A major disaster – and the frigging banks had seized the ground to compensate their losses. – He was running out of money. Henry Palmer was desolate.

No bucks, no fun. This was the way things were working hereabouts. Okay, he might still try to sue the banks and make a stab at the money he had invested. However, that process could take years – without assured chances of success. And he had to find a lawyer who was ready to work for a contingency fee. – Realistically, he was broke – and his business was dead.

His boss in the States had only shrugged his shoulders – figuratively speaking. No orders, no bucks. – It all was the fault of this old soldier, Musa the Ape G’Norebbe. Since he was at the helm, relations with the US had definitely deteriorated. Henry, as representative of a US group of affiliated enterprises, had to carry the can for this blunder. It was utterly unfair. He never had sold trash – and all his WAU customers always had been satisfied.

But they didn’t buy anymore. Someone must have told them to go for stuff from Middle Africa, the UnSA and the COMECON. Fudge! – What could he do? Return to the States? Rather not… No, he would apply for WAU citizenship and try to find another job. Good sales agents always were in demand. The WAU was speaking English, so, everything ought to be fine. – If they did grant him naturalisation. After all, the US suddenly seemed to have mutated into the fiend…
 
Any object, intensely regarded, may be a gate of access to the incorruptible eons of the gods.
(James Joyce)

There was an intrusion! The readiness pairs were taking off in a hurry. Ongon radar station was guiding them towards the target. It had been tagged Sakhvat-tri. It was a single aircraft, flying fast, just below supersonic speed. According to computation, it should come into sight – in twenty-five seconds.

But nothing came into sight. Where was Sakhvat-tri? – It had just dived below radar height. But there had been no change of direction. It ought to be immediately in front of the hunting aircraft. – No, wasn’t. Airborne radar said: nil return. Sakhvat-tri had vanished.

The army found it the next day – scattered over an area of five square kilometres. It had been a supersonic fighter-interceptor, a Lockheed F-73, of which model the Chinese were known to possess at least two hundred specimens. The pilot was mincemeat. Obviously, the ejection seat hadn’t been activated – or hadn’t worked.

Everything was thoroughly documented and the bits and pieces were collected diligently and sent to Irkutsk for examination. From the Chinese side, no statement occurred; they were keeping unyielding silence. What exactly had happened was impossible to find out. The degree of destruction was excessive.

However, one could calmly study a contemporary US fighter design. After intensive examination, the model turned out to be equivalent to Russian interceptors of the last generation. But one would never sell the latest stuff to any aliens. Did this mean that the Americans already possessed more advanced aircraft? Or would they really give state-of-the-art hardware to the Chinese? Were they crazy?
 
We’re in a blessed drainpipe, and we’ve got to crawl along it till we die.
(H. G. Wells)

Yeah, it had to do with human trafficking; by furtively observing the Amboni Creek environment, Hermann Kizwete had eventually figured it out. There was a pipeline that smuggled girls and boys across the country – for sexual purposes. The farmers and drivers – or rather some of them – were involved. They were shuttling the merchandise from the Usambaras to the Amboni Creek hub, where – just beyond the sales area – it was picked up and conveyed further on.

Had Rose Kimeli been involved? Or had she just found out and had tried to blackmail the perpetrators? Hermann thought the former was the case. After all, she obviously had earned money for several weeks. A blackmail attempt would only have led to sudden death – without any money. This was a very sensitive trade. Hermann knew he had to be extremely careful.

Child abuse was found quite often. But most of it happened in the family – or in the neighbourhood. This here, evidently, was different. This was about high ranking persons who could afford to spend a lot of money for their obsession – and who didn’t appreciate at all to have it exposed. They weren’t the ones who had killed Rose, but they were the ones who had paid the hitmen. – Well, perhaps not even that…

Rose might have made a fatal mistake – and the organisation had quashed her as a matter of routine, without that orders from high above had been issued. Nevertheless, investigating this case would be extremely dangerous. Even involving his colleagues had to be avoided. You never knew who was a clandestine child rapist…
 
It is to be regretted that the rich and powerful too often bend the acts of government to their own selfish purposes.
(Andrew Jackson)

Max Sikuku had come to Willemstad to witness his money making more money. It was immensely satisfying. Even if a considerable share of this wealth had to be used for propping up ailing SIRAB… Max held seventeen percent of the MAVÖG stocks. The MAVÖG – Mittelafrikanisch-Venezolanische Ölvertriebsgesellschaft (Middle African – Venezuelan Oil Marketing Company) – was the holding company created to enable Mabenzag to manage the Venezuelan business. Mabenzag was a – in fact, the – privately owned Middle African oil company, of whose stocks Max possessed six-point-five percent.

Even better, the petroleum products were shipped home by UMS – Ulugewe & Mwabi & Sikuku – shipping company. And UMS was also supplying the Middle Africans sojourning on the ABC Islands. Max owned twenty-two percent of UMS. – The Willemstad refinery, however, required maintenance and modernisation, the engineers had convinced Max. That might eat up the profits for the next two years, if the banks should act out intransigence. But the bankers could read figures too. MAVÖG was pure cornucopia. They should be happy to be allowed in.

Well, you never knew with these imbecile moneybags. As a precaution, Max had taken with him a journalist, a scribbler of his newspaper, the Ukongo Kurier. Reading ‘hard facts’ in the gazettes usually reassured those shaky characters. – One had travelled by ship. That was quite enjoyable, but time consuming. Max had discussed the issue with the representatives of the refinery staff. Establishing an air route should facilitate recruiting workers and engineers. The link to the Middle African home would reach a new quality. Folks could visit their kin more often – and the kin might even make trips to Curaçao.

It had to be calculated. The refinery staff was 3,700 persons strong. The ancillary personnel amounted to 2,200 heads. The armed forces counted 5,600 slots. Was it really worthwhile to establish an air link for 11,500 people only? His experts would have to check that. If it should pay, he would invest…
 
Air travel seems to be neglected compared to OTL. How is the development of passenger aircraft going ? Europe, the Ottoman empire and Africa are doing everything by train, but a country like Russia, far richer and more populous than OTL, should have a huge internal airline network.
 
Air travel seems to be neglected compared to OTL. How is the development of passenger aircraft going ? Europe, the Ottoman empire and Africa are doing everything by train, but a country like Russia, far richer and more populous than OTL, should have a huge internal airline network.
From a past post that explains the situation:

Prince Shimazu Tadatsugu, the outgoing Japanese ambassador to Berlin, was scrutinising the calendar: seven days still. A pity that flying wasn’t an option. The ship voyage from Tokyo to Hamburg took forty-five days, after all. But somehow, intercontinental air traffic had shrunk to nothing. It wasn’t a question of technology; it was rather a question of demand. Initially, the Germans had been leading in this field. DELAG, with dirigibles and later with aircraft, had undertaken to establish intercontinental air tracks, but had finally relinquished the approach, because of lack of customers. Inter-COMECON flights were profitable. Russian domestic air traffic was flourishing. Domestic carriers in the US were doing well. Even air transport across the Sea of Japan was a sound business…

It was a consequence of regionalisation. Everybody was keeping to his turf, more or less. Japanese business men might fly to Korea, China, Vietnam, Siam, India, the Banda States, even to Persia, but not to the Americas (at least not anymore; the sting of insult was sitting deep still) – and rather not to Europe, Africa, and Russia. Australia had been a business destination before Fēilóng, but had been abandoned after the collapse. The railways that connected Africa with the Middle East and Europe had significantly contributed to the downswing of air traffic. Hence, his successor was arriving by ship. – And he was bound to return home by ship as well. It was a very comfortable way of travelling. The vessel was a Japanese mail steamer. In this way, he could slowly and gradually acclimatise to living on the home islands again.
 
The time will come when man will know even what is going on in the other planets and perhaps be able to visit them.
(Henry Ford)

Mars-3 was a stunning success. Not only that it had swung into orbit around Mars on March 2nd, 1961, – and was transmitting colour photographs of very good quality! It had also dropped a landing module, Rasvyeditel-Alfa. The module was a simple probe of very limited lifetime. Yet, it had landed safely and had reported temperature and data about the atmosphere, before quitting after twenty-two hours.

One knew now that it indeed was cold on Mars. At RA’s landing site, the high had been –11 degrees Celsius, and the low –76 degrees. Atmospheric surface pressure was low, at only 0.006 bar. And the – thin – atmosphere seemed to be composed almost exclusively of carbon dioxide, with a trifle of nitrogen and hardly any oxygen. Argon appeared to be as common as nitrogen, but this might be an inaccuracy of measurement.

NASA was justifiably proud of this accomplishment. However, the findings were not really encouraging. Mars was as uninhabitable as Venus. That was evident now. Conditions on the Red Planet were a little bit more acceptable than those on the Moon, but the margin was small – and more than neutralised by the distance to be covered for shuttling life support elements thither.

Was there water on Mars? One still didn’t know. It had been found on the moon. Hence, one could anticipate finding it on Mars as well. But that was perhaps a fact to be verified by the crew of Indrik Zver – in three or four years’ time…
 
Intelligent men are cruel. Stupid men are monstrously cruel.
(Jack London)

It was true, Matthew Keller was drinking. Abe and Wally had seen him helping himself from a flask, clandestinely, while at work on the fields, a good many times. The rest of the family seemed to be ignorant of it. They wouldn’t approve. Drinking was not a permissible Keller habit. Well, the lad was kind of the family underdog. His elder brother Tom was going to inherit the estate. And Matthew would… Oh, he had been promised a farm of his own. Until then, nobody seemed to know when said farm was due to materialise, he was grafting for board and lodging.

An unfortunate affair, yet no business that concerned Moses, Abe and Wally. The Kellers were rich, truly rich. Tom Senior was buying land like mad. Tom Junior was sulking most of the time, because the prosperity didn’t lead to the sumptuous life he was dreaming of. And Matthew was resorting to alcohol. – The women of the family were rather on the unsophisticated side, but good toilers. Neither Gloria nor Jimena seemed to have any secret dreams; apparently they were happy where they were and with what they were doing. And Victoria, that exceptional daughter, who was working for President Cárdenas, the three black men had never met.

The Kellers had transformed Los Alamitos into their estate. That had been fairly easy, because the indigenes had all moved away by their own choice, looking for a better life in the depopulated areas. – There was a power plant that generated electricity. One had fans, fridges, deep-freezes, phonographs, everything that ran with power. There was heavy farming machinery galore. Moses, Abe and Wally had each been given a modest flat of their own. It was pure luxury. Back home in Louisiana, the three had been farm hands too, poor sods living from hand to mouth.

Tom Senior had married away his daughters Claire and Edith strategically clever. The large landowners north and south, at Parral and Rodeo, had thus been turned into kin. One couldn’t say the three families were running the State of Durango, but they certainly were a factor to be reckoned with in political life. Large scale wheat production – with minimal staff – was essential for Mexico. And Tom Senior was delivering. The man was essentially a slave driver – and a workaholic – and an empire builder.

Yet, the farm empire he was building wasn’t what the heir presumptive wanted. Tom Junior was dreaming of sexy girls, never-ending leisure and wallowing in luxury. But that was not what he was getting. Okay, father and son were visiting the whore house in Torreón, each time they were delivering grain to the elevators at the railway. Moses, Abe and Wally knew about these outings. However, the visits were only amplifying Tom Junior’s displeasure, it seemed. Jimena was a good mother – and a fat matron. Tom Junior obviously was graving for sexy girls in lingerie stroking his dick all day long.

Yeah, one guy addicted to work, the second to sex – and the third to alcohol. Not a recipe for happiness… But complacent men weren’t known for creating large empires, were they? It required crooked minds to accomplish this. Moses, Abe and Wally knew they were only pawns in this game. As long as Tom Senior was up and running, the Keller Empire was going to grow. And the guy was showing no signs of weakness or old age yet…
 
A mule will labor ten years willingly and patiently for you, for the privilege of kicking you once.
(William Faulkner)

A fortnight to go still. Leutnant Wilhelm G’Norebbe thought his team was as fit as could be. He had proposed one week of leave. Hauptmann Senanga had granted four days. He wanted everybody to be in during the final week. One had to prepare deployment to Naladi. Of course, one was going to fly. Paratroopers needed to dislocate by airplane. Anything else would be incongruous. But it meant that packing had to be executed downright meticulously. The space available inside the two Rumplers had to be utilised to the utmost – and to the absolute limit of weight restriction.

Each plane was going to carry two teams – and about half of the ancillary equipment, tents, cots, cookers, supplies, beer barrels, and so on. Yeah, packing would be quite an exercise of its own. And the flight could be anticipated to be… – well, thrilling. The Rumplers lacked the autonomy to advance directly to Naladi. Hence, one was going to make stopovers at Misahöhe in Groß Togoland, Duala, Boma, and Windhuk, before finally reaching Naladi in the UnSA, formerly known as Vryburg to the Boers.

What would happen if one of the planes should break down? Wouldn’t happen, the Rumplers were legendary for their reliability. And, of course, two reserve planes were kept in readiness. – Okay then, four days of leave. That meant he had sufficient time for visiting the family in Deygbo. Last time he had seen them had been at Christmas – and for two days only. Well, he might also meet Ella, a girl he knew from school. The frigging preparation for the PATE, the Panafrican Airborne Troops Exercise, was leaving him no time for a full private life. Most often, he was just happy to catch some sleep. Four days without duty, that was great…
 
If we would serve science, we must extend her limits, not only as far as our own knowledge is concerned, but in the estimation of others.
(Rudolf Virchow)

He was flying, no floating down a hallway, which was slowly pulsing and rotating. The steering wheel was bucking in his hands, but he was forcing it to do what he wanted. He tried to decelerate. That didn’t work. Suddenly, rotation was increasing. He shifted up and went for the exit. Looking down on the moskstraumen, he wanted to take a break. However, the exit only led to another cataract. The water was devouring him, yet he could breathe. The pathway went up, beyond the atmosphere. He could see the moon…

Jochen Zeislitz opened his eyes. And the moon became the face of the old general.
“Ah, waking up. Good. Welcome. – About time…”
“What the heck?”
“You made it. You’ve ridden the Hammer.”
“Oh…”
Memory came back. Jochen shrieked.

"Relax. You’re all right. The medics say there will be no permanent damage. You should completely recover. – Want some tea?”
 
If we would serve science, we must extend her limits, not only as far as our own knowledge is concerned, but in the estimation of others.
(Rudolf Virchow)

He was flying, no floating down a hallway, which was slowly pulsing and rotating. The steering wheel was bucking in his hands, but he was forcing it to do what he wanted. He tried to decelerate. That didn’t work. Suddenly, rotation was increasing. He shifted up and went for the exit. Looking down on the moskstraumen, he wanted to take a break. However, the exit only led to another cataract. The water was devouring him, yet he could breathe. The pathway went up, beyond the atmosphere. He could see the moon…

Jochen Zeislitz opened his eyes. And the moon became the face of the old general.
“Ah, waking up. Good. Welcome. – About time…”
“What the heck?”
“You made it. You’ve ridden the Hammer.”
“Oh…”
Memory came back. Jochen shrieked.

"Relax. You’re all right. The medics say there will be no permanent damage. You should completely recover. – Want some tea?”
That sounds like a wild, WILD ride.
 
People who eat potatoes will never be able to perform their abilities in whatever job they choose to have.
(Richard Cobden)

Okay, the test pilot had survived the first manned mission. That was good news. But the lad had fallen unconscious immediately after the start. Well, he had been optimally trained for the job. Any other folks might have been killed outright. – One would have to reduce thrust. That was best done by adding mass. The initial test series would be discontinued. The pusher plate had proven its strength anyway.

One would proceed by completing the Hammer; that meant building the entire rocket. The pusher plate and the shock absorbers were already providing three quarters of the total mass. Hence, the boffins had assumed the abridged test installation would do. But Captain Zeislitz – no, he was a major now, promoted for living through the trial – had demonstrated that it wouldn’t. Now, the full mass should ensure the crew’s ability to act – and therefore their survival.

Completing the Hammer was estimated to take four months – for the shell only. That should, however, be good enough for staging another test with Major Zeislitz at the controls. By then, the man ought to be completely recovered – and keen to earn his next promotion. – Yeah, that was the way ahead. Director Kammler had already given his assent. Doktor Manfred Rüchel was whistling silently while attaching his signature to the pertaining orders.
 
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