A Shift in Priorities - Sequel

Dreams are the royal road to the unconscious.
(Sigmund Freud)

Inconclusively, Konrad Schabunde was gazing at his notations. Had he captured all details of the dream? Probably not, it had been too much. But the main impressions he should have put on paper, some in words, most in sketches. And what the blazes did it mean? What had the pyre wanted to tell him?

It was not a story; there was no storyline. It was a picture made of pictures, a kind of wimmelpicture. Did it make any sense? Oneiromancy was not a science – and any witch doctor of old was possibly better in it than he. But this exceptional dream had to have significance.

However, inspiration wouldn’t come. Asking someone else wouldn’t help. They wouldn’t even understand his sketches. Flames and fumes… Patterns… Phew! – Not now, later perhaps… He should try to catch some more sleep. Well rested, he might eventually catch the idea. – Norbert was still snoring. He had missed the pyre and the flames altogether…
A free curiosity is more effective in learning than a rigid discipline.
(Saint Augustine)

Blankly, Professor Sigbert Ramsauer was eyeing Konrad Schabunde’s graffito. The lad seemed to think the ghosts – or whatsoever – had told him something important in regard to the disease. Could it be true? Well, he recalled Eberhart had operated in a similar way. His course of action had been determined rather by intuition than by sound empiric investigation. Okay, standard research hadn’t produced much results yet. So, why not try it the African way?

“What does the sketch tell you, Konrad?” – “I’m not quite sure, Sir. It’s not an instruction to act, rather a description of the forces that fight in this struggle.” – “Can you really read this?” – “Yes, Sir, after all, I put it down. I know what the sketches mean. It wasn’t easy to remember the details after awakening, but I think I eventually managed. Nevertheless, it’s difficult to translate into purposeful research.”

“Can you do it?” – “I’ll chance it, Sir. But I cannot promise success. It may prove utterly useless.” – “Yes, I know. What do you need?” – “My team will suffice. And the lab we have been using anyway.” – “Okay, good luck.” – Miraculous healing instead of applied science, Sigbert Ramsauer was at odds with himself. But when science produced no results, why not engage the witch doctor?

The other Negroes appeared to be as mystified as he was. But Konrad indeed seemed to have an idea what to do with his scribblings. One was going to see… – Returning to his office, Ramsauer saw the Norwegian liaison officer waiting for him – with a moping face. Good grief! Had another outbreak occurred? And where was it?
The safety of the state is the highest law.
(Justinian I)

This pest thing had the potential to destroy Europe, thought Cemal Gürsel Paşa. Could it also threaten the Ottoman Empire? – Obviously, the capital, located on the seam between Europe and Asia, would be in great peril. Defending the European part of the empire would not be possible. Thank goodness it wasn’t very large. Evacuation had already started a week ago. One would convert the area into a killing zone. That should make it possible to hold the Asian shore.

The area south of the Caucasus was also of concern. Unfortunately, one had no influence on Evegstan. Hence, refugees from Russia might overrun the clime. The terrain was extremely difficult; stopping intruders would not work. Therefore, one had to push forward. The Caucasus ridge offered the best opportunity to control access. Germany would no longer be functional, when this option had to be activated. Operational planning and deployment of forces was well advanced.

Remained the maritime border, the Mediterranean and the Black Sea. Sinking everything coming from north and west was the method of choice, like West Europeans and Americans had done with all vessels coming from the British Isles nine years ago. The Americans had been very successful, because the distance to cross had been vast. The Europeans living along the Channel had been much less lucky. And one had to fear that this latter adversity would repeat itself in the Mediterranean, and in the Aegean in particular...

This was the part that really was worrying Gürsel. Once the plague was in Anatolia, one would be done. And sealing off the Aegean was simply impossible…
Without training, they lacked knowledge. Without knowledge, they lacked confidence. Without confidence, they lacked victory.
(Julius Caesar)

He had seen it come. One certainly could accuse his party of many things, but not of harbouring assassins. As a matter of fact, all forms of physical violence were alien to most party members. They were proud to be civilised and peaceable. – So, no surprise, they had botched it. Strauß was alive. And you certainly could accuse the chancellor’s party comrades of many things, but you had to concede that they were able thugs.

What had happened was that the DVP ruffians had cracked down on the Zentrum – with the help of the police and the security services. Strauß, only superficially but spectacularly injured, had declared the state of emergency – which didn’t even exist in the constitution. He was now ruling as dictator.

Hans Kroll, on official visit in Rome, had asked his hosts for asylum. Returning home, he would be arrested right away – and surely flung into a dungeon run by those dreadful DVP goons. The Italian government, well aware that the attempt on Strauß’s life really had happened – and that Strauß seemed to be in control of the situation, had procrastinated. Hence, he had fled to the Holy See, where asylum readily had been granted.

The good thing – or was it a bad one? – was that news from Germany were still arriving unrestrictedly. A lot of it was DVP hogwash, sure, but other sources were also available. Evidently, achieving total control wasn’t possible in today’s Germany. The councils weren’t obedient to whoever was ruling in Berlin. At least not yet…
Is it mad to pray for better hallucinations?
(Alice Liddell)

There had been a putsch at home. No, not a putsch, rather an attempt on the chancellor’s life, but with the purpose of staging a coup. Because, had Strauß been killed, Amelunxen, the vice chancellor, would have taken over. But now, Amelunxen was imprisoned, as were many of his Zentrum party comrades. And Strauß and his DVP was ruling supreme.

Jochen Zeislitz, like almost everybody in Hammerhorst, was supportive of Strauß, because the man was promising the stars. Okay, he was a bloody Bavarian – and most people here were proud Prussians – but nevertheless… The old system parties stood for stagnation. Strauß was offering a bright future – at least for kosmonauts and suppliers of space gear.

Yes, indeed: a new order had just been received. The chancellor wanted the Feuerdrache to fly to Mars and to land on the Red Planet. That was good news. Preparations had already begun. – Was it a red herring? Yes, most probably. But hadn’t all space missions hitherto been diversionary manoeuvres from some political dodges? What counted was the fact.

All right, training had to be shifted to the simulator. The Feuerdrache was now off limits for the pilot trainees – and the four sisters were not yet far enough advanced for allowing tuition. – And the pest? Fuck it athwart! Mars was waiting! – Jochen had been there. It was a nondescript life-hostile pile of pebbles. But it was another world. It was space…
Vision is the art of seeing things invisible.
(Jonathan Swift)

The Snowpushers had some upheaval at home, an attempt on their chancellor’s life or so. They were quite excited and discussing the events – well, the news about the events – in shifting groups. Konrad would have nothing of this; one had important work to do. Let the Snowpushers prattle; the team must find a cure for SK. Eckhart Zombe – called Ekki by everyone – wasn’t quite sure what to think of Konrad’s tableau. But the chap seemed to know how to translate his weird sketches into scientific action.

One was doing remarkable things with Clara’s body fluids. Konrad claimed he had a plan. But until now one hadn’t made any headway. Ekki had started his scientific career as assistant of Professor Misuku – but had eventually gravitated into Konrad’s team. What was happening here very much reminded him of the professor’s early work. It had been a bold mixture of intuition and scientific probing. Misuku usually had achieved his goals. Would Konrad be able to duplicate these successes?

One had to find out what in Clara’s fluids incapacitated SK from multiplying. That sounded far easier than it really was. The fluids had to be decomposed – and the single components tested. However, most probably it was a combination of – how many? – components that did the trick. Konrad said his dream had told him how to solve the conundrum. Okay, let’s grope for the black cat in the dark room – and let’s hope the beast is good-tempered…
In some ways, you know, people that don’t exist, are much nicer than people that do.
(Lewis Carroll)

Franz Josef, with his head ornamentally bandaged and left arm in a cast, looked like a pitiful victim. But in fact he had attained a new pinnacle of power. He could rule as an autocrat now. The Zentrum was outlawed; their leading men were in prison or on the run. The AFV dudes had averred their loyalty. The state of emergency had been proclaimed. The Reichstag had been sent home. – But did Franz Josef really rule?

Hanne Zülch couldn’t see any decisive action. Franz Josef seemed to prefer ruling by doing nothing. That had worked well – surprisingly well – in regard to the economy. People were doing fine, but the nation was without a leader. However, people were not just doing fine; they were increasingly doing what they wanted. Even worse, some things weren’t done at all.

It was incredible that no precautions were taken against the pest. One was extremely lucky that it hadn’t spread beyond Norway yet. – Hanne knew Franz Josef’s stance in that matter: either a cure was found – or all was lost anyway. NED had only been stopped because of the Misuku antidote. – That was fine and dandy in principle, but nevertheless utterly irresponsible for a national leader. Yet, he was romping through with it.

Now that the Zentrum plot had failed miserably, there was nobody left who might try to eliminate Franz Josef. Could one – at least – incite him to show more enterprise? After all, he had authorised a mission to Mars, true to his plight to offer the stars to the German people. Shouldn’t the blockade of the British Isles be resumed? But then again, once a cure was found, there would be no need for it. Hanne knew that he was staring at Stavanger like a rabbit caught in the headlights. He was briefed twice a day, but there seemed to be no progress.
The sleepy like to make excuses.
(Benedict of Nursia)

Camp Bwana Obersti on Curaçao was a piece of Middle Africa in the middle of the Caribbean. One could pay with marks and buy goodies from home. But now, with traffic interrupted, the stocks were shrinking alarmingly. Beer had already been rationed, yet it was foreseeable that depletion would occur within the next week. Okay, there still was the Venezuelan stuff, but that was considered monkey piddle.

Being cut off from home – and being deprived of native delicacies – might create discontent among the men. Headquarters was worried. Not even mail was arriving. How long could the men be trusted to stay obedient and affable under such conditions? Not that one had to fear an outright mutiny, but small strikes might happen – like sit-ins and go-slows. That, however, would already be a serious break of discipline.

Teniente de Navio Julius Nyerere could see the signs too. There was a sullen basic mood. One was trapped hereabouts – all in vain. Horrible things might happen at home. What good could come from cruising the Caribbean while Middle Africa was at peril? – Yes, indeed, the men were right. True, everybody here was a volunteer, hence could be expected to stick to the rules. But who might have anticipated such a situation?

On the other hand, what could one do if one returned home? Everything in Middle Africa was in good order and all services were operational. One wasn’t needed to save the nation. – Not even the state of emergency had yet been proclaimed at home. It was business as usual over there. Only that the Americans – all of them – had closed their borders – and thus had trapped the Middle African contingent. One just had to sit the situation out. No other option was available.

And – as the closed borders were strangling trade and commerce, the American nations couldn’t sustain this status for long. Well, the Amis in the US perhaps, but not the rest who all were dependent on selling their resources and goods. Therefore, things were going to change – rather sooner than later...
The world is itself but a larger prison, out of which some are daily selected for execution.
(Walter Raleigh)

Drat! There had been a good opportunity to supply workers to the Netherlands, but almost in the nick of time the deal had foundered. Wukr el-Shabbazz was deeply disappointed. It had been the one chance to earn real good money. Okay, there was this pest thing going on in Europe; it had even made it to the news here in Bamako. But nobody seemed to care. Allah would take the matter in hand, undoubtedly. The true believers had been spared before; it surely would happen again.

Okay, Wukr was a mullah according to local perception, but he wouldn’t subscribe to this way of thinking. In fact, the Sahara desert was protecting Ala Ka Kuma – like the rest of Africa – from dangers coming from the north. But Middle Africa was intensely trading with Germany! A good number of trains were crossing the desert barrier each day in both directions. Had anyone yet considered this dangerous breach?

And the Middle Africans were doing… – nothing, said the papers. Was it ineptitude – or did they know something? Yeah, he knew: never attribute conditions to villainy that simply result from stupidity. But the Middle Africans were notorious as swaggering racists, not as jackasses. They were trying hard to keep pace with the Germans in science and technology – and it had been Middle Africans who hitherto had found the antidotes against the pest.

So, was there something going on behind the scenes? It almost looked like so… Wukr was quite experienced – or rather his former selves had been – in such affairs. And if there should be something brewing, could the Al’iikhwa Miskin, the Brotherhood of the Poor, draw a profit from it?
As long as nothing happens anything is possible.
(Graham Greene)

Was it proficiency – or just the fact that she was the daughter of the great man? Paula G’Norebbe-Wilmington wasn’t quite sure – her dad always seemed to be lurking somewhere in the background. Six months ago, she had been promoted to department chief in the Central Bureau of Investment Control, the WAU’s domestic secret service. She was now responsible for active defence – counter-espionage, counter-sabotage, counter-subversion, counter-infiltration.

The big chunk was, of course, counter-espionage, the rest were just odds and sods. Everybody was spying in the WAU, and many nations with more than one service. Counter-espionage primarily was not about seizing the spooks, but rather about making their job as difficult and barren as possible. It meant a lot of bone dry paperwork. Effectiveness, however, was difficult to gauge – because a successful spy hardly would advertise his presence.

The system as a whole, ironically, lived from the lessons learnt from spies caught. Their experience ‘reports’ were paramount for improving the procedures. Paula was just poring over one such report – and the comments added by her specialists. Yes, there were three proposals promising substantial improvements. – The telephone rang. An ad-hoc meeting had been convened at eleven o’clock – in twenty minutes. Topic: impending declaration of the state of emergency in Middle Africa.

Paula was surprised. This was new news. Normally, such a step would only occur after endless discussion in parliament. What had happened? – The pest had reached Christiania, the Norwegian capital, which – to cap it all – was located rather close to the Swedish border – just 60 klicks. Obviously, this had triggered a number of reactions in Europe – and in Daressalam. Chancellor Muramba had reported sick – and the minister of the interior, Mobutu, had taken over.

Okay, she could see the implications. The WAU had fought the initial pest, called BAM, and had been saved - at the eleventh hour – by an antidote developed by Professor Misuku from Duala University. Middle Africa had been in a state of emergency back then too. Obviously, they were now fearing serious developments. Misuku, who also had found the antidote for the first European pest variant, was not in Norway; he was recovering from intense surgery in Duala. Without antidote… Bugger!
God gives the nuts, but he does not crack them.
(Franz Kafka)

The Negroes had found the components, which – in Clara’s body – were stopping SK, Burkholderia anglica mallei stavangerensis, from multiplying. The concoction was working in the culture dish as well. That was excellent. More than half of the quest had been solved. Unfortunately, when you were dosing other patients with the stuff, the result was nil. So, something seemed to be missing in the equation still. Well, Doktor Schabunde was zealotically researching the issue. Professor Sigbert Ramsauer was sure he wouldn’t slacken until he had solved the riddle.

Yeah, it was about time. One had the pest in Christiania now. Again, it wasn’t a mass outbreak – but the potential of further spread was great. Norwegian discipline was holding though, no flight movement had set in. The citizens were staying put indeed. That was admirable. – The Norwegian ineptitude in restricting the spread of the disease was, however, abominable. A wave of panic had been flushing through Europe upon the news of the Christiania cases.

At least the chancellor was keeping cool. He had sent the new NPP ship, the Feuerdrache, to Mars. That was a positive step. – Business as usual, what else remained to do? Until Doktor Schabunde had solved this little problem with the administration. It couldn’t be that difficult – one hoped…
Trying is the first step toward failure.

The Nyemtsi had sent their Feuerdrache to Mars. And Indrik Zver was sitting here at Shishmarevo… One had finally swapped the Moon for Siberia. That should be nice for the crew members – but it didn’t change the basic situation. Ládno, the ship was being refitted – and the men could recuperate. However, no precautions were taken for any emergency action.

Polkovnik Ivan Ivanovich Drubchev had asked General-mayor Sergey Antonovich Chichinov, Achinsk’s ops chief, why no provisions for the worst case had been made. The Kremlin had claimed authority over all emergency planning; one was not authorised to develop independent plans. Unfortunately, no orders had been received. One was just ploughing ahead with the old schemes.

And now? Chichinov had only shrugged his shoulders. Waiting for orders, what else? But they wouldn’t come. The news about the Christiania cases had given them the willies once again. They were busy building fortification lines opposite Finland and the Baltic countries. NASA? Space flight? Not important…

At least the construction of Stribog, Khors and Svarog was advancing well. Dorodnitsyn was working wonders. Apparently, he had stashed supplies – and ensconced a good part of his workforce. Therefore, construction was not hampered by Moscow’s decisions to redirect resources away from Achinsk and Shishmarevo. – And Indrik Zver? Was condemned to sit in its berth and gather rust… Yoli-páli!
Every hour of lost time is a chance of future misfortune.
(Napoleon Bonaparte)

It hurt! Professor Eberhart von Misuku winced. Taking a dump was a torture. The surgeons and internists said it would become better – with time. Yeah, maybe… if he survived the ordeal long enough. Nobody could call him a wimp, but these pains were excruciating. – Anyway! There was no way around. Grit your teeth and carry on.

Dripping with sweat and weak in the knees, he slinked back to his hospital room. A nurse offered to help him, but thank you, he had to learn doing it alone. – A cable had arrived from Konrad Schabunde. The lad was fighting with the pest, which had mutated to a new variant, called SK. There was an opening, but no breakthrough yet.

Misuku had requested a long-distance call to Stavanger. One was still working on it. He thought he might make a difference up there. Hell, surgery was done – and the bloody pain wouldn’t go away, no matter where he was. If Sigbert agreed, he could travel to Norway – and put his skills in the balance.

He had already phoned Daressalam. Acting chancellor Mobutu had endorsed the proposal – and put a long-range aircraft at his disposal. The plane was ready for action and on standby at the Duala military airfield. – A technician was beckoning him to hurry. The call had come through.

It was Sigbert at the other end of the line. Misuku marvelled at the good articulation. Oh yes, he was welcome, very welcome. There were problems. One was treading water. Half of the riddle had been solved – but the other half was proving an even tougher nut. – Okay then, let’s go to Norway!
Through endless night the earth whirls toward a creation unknown.
(Henry Miller)

The Feuerdrache was heading towards Mars. One was still getting good images from onboard. That was nice – but only of limited use. People were not very much interested in this kind of pictures. EVA would rivet them, or landing manoeuvres, but photographs of normal dudes in board suits sitting around and smiling weren’t really thrilling. Helga von Tschirschwitz had given a few to the press nevertheless. One had to feed them continually. That kept them affable.

It was – at least – an expedient distraction from the perpetual pest crap. The journos were overexaggerating on this issue. There wasn’t much to report on events in Norway, hence they were rehashing scary stories from 1956. Awful – and superabundant… What use was raking up tales of this disaster? – Well, as long as it sold, they surely wouldn’t stop. Why then were the customers buying that rubbish? Self-torture?

RRA was getting updates from SMH Elsa Brändström twice a day. One knew what was going on up there. Compared to the chaotic situation nine years ago, this looked almost like a staff outing. They had fourteen active cases, four immunes, eight recovered persons – and twenty-seven corpses. The recovered folks weren’t truly hail. They had survived the pest, okay, but that was about all one could positively say about their state.

Helga could see that things might still veer out of control. You never knew. But one really couldn’t liken the situation in Norway with the mayhem of 1956. – The closure of borders, however, and the lockdowns were already now doing immeasurable damage. Yeah, worst case: the restrictions were repealed, because the national economies were cracking, and then the pest spun out of control. Anything that can possibly go wrong, does. Helga cringed.
Remedies are more tardy in their operation than diseases.

Professor von Misuku had arrived by plane, more dead though than alive. One had been forced to put him in an artificial coma. It couldn’t be helped. One had to carry on without him. – Unfortunately, the dream picture didn’t tell Konrad Schabunde how to administer the remedy. It had guided him well in the process of identifying the components. But now he was on his own.

Okay, if external dosing didn’t work, the default method was to have the body produce the remedy. That was what Clara’s body was doing. But all other infected bodies – and uninfected ones too – didn’t… How could it be achieved? Konrad was at a loss. Professor Ramsauer had no idea as well. However, he had asked the German medical community for proposals. The first replies had already arrived. Ramsauer’s staff were sifting them.

In the meanwhile, Ramsauer’s strategy of draining the pest seemed to – gradually – bear fruit. This here was not an epidemic raging beyond control, but just a very limited infectious disease. Even though the local authorities had proven – were still proving to be? – unable to forestall all spread, they had at least succeeded in preventing folks from helter-skelter bolting in all directions. This seemed to be a well-ordered country indeed.

But you never knew. SK was mean and deadly. And people were just people. Fear might still overrule reason. Konrad remembered the scenes in Duala, when the military had been forced to kill curfew breakers en masse. And that had only been the Aruwimi Fever…
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Where the dead walked and the living were made of cardboard.
(Ezra Pound)

Keeping the station alive was neither difficult nor time-consuming. This once had been a nurses’ hostel and a small general hospital. Professor Ramsauer and his staff – and a bunch of military engineers – had turned it into a research laboratory. The military – the guards – were still there, but Ramsauer and his staff had moved to Norway. Friedhelm Wiegand had been left behind to take care of the samples and the other sensitive objects.

It was amazing what bits and pieces Professor Ramsauer had hoarded. Friedhelm had only known the samples and the cultures, but not all the other stuff. Yeah, there had been that English bioweapon facility at Porton Down near Salisbury. It seemed Ramsauer had – by the crate – managed to get the office remains of that site to the Isle of Sheppey. What a creepy collection of smelly rubbish!

Friedhelm knew the theories: the English had developed the disease, had tested a prototype in Africa with abysmal results – and had eventually designed NED, a very mean and lethal bug. But somehow, the bug had escaped from Porton Down – and had killed hundred millions of Europeans. And the ruddy bug kept mutating, had turned into RV and now SK, variants immune to antidotes.

What a mess. Did the professor really think he might find new clues in those piles of junk? Okay, he had quite some spare hours without fixed obligations every day. Why not spend a part of them sifting through the garbage? Perhaps he might unearth some vital information?
Trust only movement. Life happens at the level of events, not of words. Trust movement.
(Alfred Adler)

It had happened! Sweden was reporting three pest cases. The village of Töcksfors, just across the border from Norway, on the road from Christiania to Stockholm, was the place. Most probably, travellers from Norway had imported the disease, said the official Swedish bulletin. But those afflicted were Swedes, two young men and a middle-aged woman. – What now? Would the Swedes fall into a panic? Well, they had been agitating in panic mode all the time. One had to fear the worst.

Professor Sigbert Ramsauer was uneasy. His strategy of letting the pest run dry had just received a terrible blow. He had learnt how to properly deal with the Norwegians at long last. They were inept, but pretty much reliable. – And now the Swedes had come into the game. Damn, he didn’t know them – and had no clue what was required to get their cooperation. And perhaps he would never get in close contact with them. The border was closed. The Swedes were on curfew.

He had already tried to obtain a dedicated line to the crisis management team in Stockholm – or wherever they were located. To no avail. One would have to follow the conventional – diplomatic – channels. It could take days. That was silly. But – surprise! – even the Norwegians had no direct link. They were the infected ones, in the Swedish mind, the ones to be kept in isolation, it seemed. This was unfortunate, very unfortunate.
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Life is the mode of action of proteins.
(Friedrich Engels)

Acting chancellor Seppel Mobutu really was doing the thing properly. Max Sikuku was delighted with the measures taken. Of course, it would be foolish to cut any lines of communication prematurely. As long as matters up north were unthreatening, doings and dealings should continue. Strangling the economy was not the desired outcome of crisis management. But everything had to be in place to be executed just in time.

Right now, there was no reason to stop the trains. But they were – for sure – the single most dangerous means of transport for the bugs, should affairs go awry in Northern Europe. Seppel had done the right thing: a delegation had been sent to Berlin to monitor events. They were to waive the red flag should public order collapse – by reporting via the independent telephone line of the railway service.

Until then, Sikuku Enterprises could – and would – continue at full speed. But one – too – had to prepare for the worst. Close down would first hit the facilities in Ala Ka Kuma, the WAU and Groß Togoland. These were low value sites, but their legwork nevertheless was essential for the rest. That was the disadvantage of spreading out: utter dependence on free exchange of commodities.

However, Max had decided against firing workers. Instead, they would go on short-time work for – substantially – reduced wages. It should come damn expensive for Max, but good workers were a rare resource. Keeping them tied to Sikuku Enterprises was important. Losing them would be even more costly.

Lockdown in core Middle Africa would be avoided as long as possible. But one had no control over the former English colonies – Nigeria, Uganda and Kenya. Hence, border closures would be activated early on. Max had checked it out: even the forces required had been earmarked already – and plans for their deployment had been put into force.

Yeah, Seppel was doing a fine job. Max liked it. His distrust opposite Mobutu had gone phut. – Heine was in contact with Doktor Schabunde. The situation up north wasn’t unperilous; it still could go horribly wrong. And Professor Misuku, the antidote wizard, was in coma. – That made Seppel the right man in the right place.
Have lots of experiments, but make sure they’re strategically focused.
(Adam Smith)

Was there a danger that the Opaque Woodlands might be overrun by this new pest? The area had had nothing to do with Britain and its rulers, but nevertheless had been depopulated in the first pandemic. British big shots, fleeing by air to Jamaica and the other isles ruled from London, had imported the disease to the Caribbean. Could something like this happen again?

Fritz Ma’alongwe had been asked by President Dreaming Fox to examine the matter. Compared to other nations, the Opaque Woodlands was almost completely unprotected. One did not even come close to controlling the borders – and the airspace was open to everyone. One had no navy and no air force. The army alone couldn’t do much. It was a hopeless case.

That did not bode well for the future. The only strategy open was withdrawal into the woods and mountains. One had to leave the littoral and the resettled urban areas. He had already sent a message to Ellen, his wife. Barra Patuca would have to be abandoned. She should lead the settlers upriver into the woodlands. The Peruvians ought to be capable of coping with the situation. Establishing a hidden settlement for seventy people was no rocket science.

In fact, of all nations, the Opaque Woodlands was the only one that truly could execute such a move without disintegrating. The Indians were ideally suited for the task. – Ellen had radioed back that Chaska, the forewoman of the Peruvians, had vowed to build a new Machu Picchu hidden in the mountains. That sounded more positively than anything Ellen had ever told him about Chaska and her clan.

Of course, the troops didn’t pose a problem. They would just decamp and move into the mountains. – The question rather was how long this state was going to last. Even a basic agrarian society like the OW could not be turned into a hunter-gatherer outfit for ever. Fritz was well aware that the Indian perception of such affairs was quite different. Nevertheless, one shouldn’t become too primitive…