A Shift in Priorities - Sequel

Never tell the truth to people who are not worthy of it.
(Mark Twain)

The Storonnomiri, the Russian peaceniks, had their roots in the Far-East War and its dreary aftermath. Founded by traumatised and maimed soldiers, the party today, however, was dominated by young urban middle class folks who never had seen the armed force from the inside. Typically, women were outnumbering men by factor three. Nuclear disarmament was a central objective, and also civilian use of nuclear energy was viewed very negatively.

Amazingly, the party had garnered a solid votership. This was due to massive print media support – and widespread fear of a nuclear armageddon. It had not escaped the attention of the Russian public that the Rodinyadniki’s advent to power had seen the Nyemtsi preparing for a nuclear strike. Followers of the jingoists would shrug off this occurrence, of course, but many urban voters had been scared stiff.

The party was insignificant in the countryside, but the urban conglomerations along the Volga, in the Ural Mountains and along the Trans-Siberian railways were true hotbeds for them. Because these areas formed the heartland of Russia’s industrial and scientific strength, the followers of the Storonnomiri typically were well educated and well-heeled.

In the past, there had been various attempts to merge the Peaceniks with the Environmentalists and the Animal Welfarists in order to form a mighty preservative movement. This had never worked. The Russian environmentalists were a rural movement, predominantly fighting mining and the environmental havoc it created. They were supporting nuclear energy because it went easy on the environment. That made them incompatible to prevailing Stroronnomiri ideas.

The Animals Welfarists were a small party mainly vitalised by middle-aged and old ladies. Their programme might match with many ideas of the peaceniks, but their lifestyle didn’t. Therefore, the opportunity to form a potent counter balance against the jingoists never had come off.
Lawyers have to make a living, and can only do so by inducing people to believe that a straight line is crooked.
(Alfred Nobel)

Berlin was nothing that Oskar Kabinga ever had been prepared for. There was only one megapolis in all of Africa: Cairo; and you really couldn’t compare Cairo to Berlin. Oskar had visited Cairo several times. The city was old, definitively older than Berlin, but apart from some modern features introduced by the English – and now in decay – it was decidedly overpopulated, outdated and squalid.

Berlin, by contrast, was a vibrant industrial centre. They had ridden high on the tide of the second industrial revolution, forming the global hub of electrical engineering. And the very companies successful then were still in business in the third industrial revolution – nuclear energy, space flight and data handling. That made Berlin unique – however not very attractive. And the inhabitants were boors…

But modern technology was reigning throughout. Oskar was particularly impressed with the mass transit systems. Okay, private transport wasn’t high in priority, he had learned from a sassing taxi driver. But mass transit was marvellously arranged, you really didn’t need a private vehicle – once you managed to understand the special Berlin tongue. Evidently, Middle African German must have mutated away from the original…

Anyway, he was only in transit to Prerow. RRA had contracted Sikos in general, but the details still required more arrangements. That was fine for Oskar; you never could have enough contractual settlements…
Now, India is a place beyond all others where one must not take things too seriously – the midday sun always excepted.
(Rudyard Kipling)

The Indian NPP was back. It was orbiting Earth since yesterday. Three SUS gliders had ascended and moored. What was going on there? Did they have a disease on board? The dreaded Mars bugs? Had the gliders brought up medics? – The Indians said everything was fine; there was no reason to worry. Prerow Control said they couldn’t decode SUS communications. But there was a hell of a lot of comms. Helga von Tschirschwitz was worried.

Why didn’t they land at Panchu? Normal quarantine was happening on the ground. But if they indeed had a disease raging, touchdown might have been denied. It could be possible… Or why else didn’t they land? Definitely, there had to be a kind of mishap. And the only one that made sense to Helga was a disease. After all, the ship had come in quite regularly; there had been no signs of mechanical troubles.

Finding life on Mars in the form of wicked bugs, that would be the ultimate irony… Damn, you never knew. These Indians had only been down on Mars for a couple of hours. RRA had been there twice – and had found nothing. But that was no proof, of course. Well, and the Russians had just been on the Red Planet as well, were now on the journey home.

What a mess! But okay, as long as Sheshanaga remained in orbit, there was no danger for the world. One had to wait and see…
Coffee makes us severe, and grave and philosophical.
(Jonathan Swift)

Mariechen and the kids had been bugging. Seppel Mobutu had fled to Henny, one of his mistresses. She was a singer and actress – and formidably skilled in making him relax. It wasn’t about sex, at least not today, but about getting his mind cleared. Ruling this country was taxing, truly taxing. There were strong groups resisting his policy. Evidently, these obstinate holdouts didn’t want to live in a social welfare state.

Damn, the country had been created by the German socialists; the welfare state was as if born to the manner. So, why were so many people still fighting it? Okay, the capitalists, represented by the abominable MALU, were the natural enemies of social welfare. But – even if they operated devoted shoddy media today – they never could hope to win a majority in this country.

No, civil servants, workers and farmers were forming the majority – and should embrace social security. This certainly was true for the workers, the mainstay of the SDPMA. This was the group Seppel, a former railway worker, knew best. The civil servants, however, and the armed forces, were difficult to fathom – because extremely diverse. They all were paid by the state, but many – obviously – were resisting his benevolent efforts.

Yeah, the soldiers and sailors had even staged a coup against the SDPMA government, but Otto Mwaya, the first chancellor, had dealt them a blowing defeat. Nevertheless, they were enemies… And the upper bureaucracy as well, that conceited pack, originally trained by German right-wing bureaucrats. Well, no use trying to ensnare them. – But the teachers, they were important; they were educating the children. He had to co-opt the teachers.

The farmers were labourers, but they often were behaving as if they were capitalists. The farm workers, though, the non-owners, were steadfast supporters of the good cause. Yet, there was hope to domesticate the obstinate peasants. They were keen on pocketing state subsidies. That should make them pliable. – Indeed, capturing the teachers and the farmers would be a big step forward…
The Alps are a simple folk, living on a diet of old shoes. And the Lord alps those who alp themselves.
(Groucho Marx)

Radiation was on the rise. As long as there only had been one NPP, the few radioactive particles produced had been blown away with the wind. But now there were five of them, taking off and landing again ceaselessly. Yes, it were air bursts, except for the ones occurring in the pits. The amounts generated in each event were minimal, but there was a constant accumulation now, particularly at the landing spots.

Okay, the pits had been designed to accept a good deal of radiation. The idea had been to fill them with sand eventually – and then to use now ones. Well, obviously nobody had thought of permanent bustle when working out the conception. – They were building a lot of new landing spots now. At least, there was enough terrain available here at Hammerhorst.

Jochen Zeislitz had asked some scientists. How dangerous was the radiation? Alas, entering the pits could be lethal even after a short sojourn, but the radiation didn’t reach far. Keeping away three or four metres would already suffice. The problem though was dust. Ingesting or inhaling dust contaminated with radiating particles was deleterious. Therefore, one was keeping the pits wet.

The air bursts were not dangerous, at least not for Hammerhorst. Only few radiating particles were produced in a single explosion, but they were blown away by the wind – and distributed and diluted over a wide area. No, once the new pits were in operation, the problem should be solved. One was going to keep them in use only for a short while – and then proceed to new ones, before radiation became too high.

So, the matter was being tackled by competent men. Jochen was relieved.
All colours will agree in the dark.
(Francis Bacon)

Gotcha! The Reichstag had convened on May 25th, 1966 – and had elected Gudrun chancellor. Half of the DVP deputies – the ancient xenophobes, those who covertly hated Strauß, the forestalled party putschists – had co-operated. It had cost Gudrun half a fortune to bribe them into it. But it had worked. – Okay, she was chancellor now – and Strauß was a thing of the past.

The interview with the Kaiser had been cute. Wilhelm had chinked glasses with her – and had welcomed her as first lady chancellor of the realm. Yeah, it was true, although that aspect never had played any role in the struggle for power. There had been no attacks vilifying her because she was a woman.

Even Strauß – of all people – had refrained from denigrating her womanhood. With hindsight, this was strange. The bloke was known to know no limits. But also the media had kept silent in that matter. Obviously, nobody had thought it unusual to have a woman for chief politician.

Well, they had that female President in the US, who was said to be doing quite a good job. And there had been this woman in the first RRA crew on the Moon. Was this really enough to convince the broad public? – Yeah, and she was an incredibly successful businesswoman. Perhaps that had helped even more than anything else…
It is bad enough to know the past; it would be intolerable to know the future.
(William Somerset Maugham)

The City Palace needed refurbishment; perhaps one could even install a small swimming pool. Remodelling wouldn’t come cheap – and was due to last three years, at least… Grandpa hadn’t done anything in this respect, except amassing tawdry souvenirs collected during his unending travels. And Dad hadn’t lived long enough to effect any changes. So, he would have to grasp the nettle.

Okay, there were palaces galore in downtown Berlin. He intended to relocate to the Crown Prince’s Palace, located only a stone’s throw from the City Palace, for official purposes. And, of course, the empire was going to bear the brunt of the expense; the Hohenzollern budget would hardly be burdened. The Oberhofmarschall, the lord steward of the household, would be in charge of the project; there was no need for him to get involved.

Kaiser Wilhelm IV was preparing to meet King Otto II of Hungary. The lad was going to arrive tomorrow, thankfully without his wife, the nag, but with a huge economic delegation in tow. The Hungarians were attempting to stop workers’ migration to Germany by producing stuff for the German market in country. That was an interesting approach, said the domestic economical advisors, because Hungarian taxes and tariffs were considerably lower.

It was going to be the first occasion to witness the new lady chancellor in official action. Wilhelm had met her for the first time some days ago. She was quite a remarkable woman: a very confident self-made billionaire and industrial tycoon, daughter of a famous artist, and quite a beauty – in an outlandish way. The dossier about her had been good reading. That zusie business was considered to be the dawn of a new industrial revolution.

Wilhelm wasn’t sure he understood what it was all about. But he knew that RRA was about to substitute their army of human computers for an array of zusies. These ladies and gentlemen had valiantly calculated the trajectories of rockets and celestial bodies. Now, they were losing their job – to be replaced by a bunch of machines. His advisors said that was going to happen everywhere. It was a revolution indeed.

Okay, these ladies and gentlemen were not threatened by unemployment. They were highly qualified scientific assistants; the industry was going to take them with delight. Perhaps it was even beneficial that skilled workers were laid off; after all, the labour bottleneck was ubiquitous…
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I don’t know where I am going, but I am on my way.

The black-haired bitch had beaten him. It was bitter. Much to his consternation, though, Franz Josef Strauß had to realise that he had failed to contrive a contingency plan in due time. What should he do now? He still was the chairman of the DVP – and therefore the natural leader of the parliamentary opposition. But because about half of his fraction colleagues had voted for the bitch, he could easily figure out that his tenure might be going to end – if he didn’t hurry to save what could be saved.

So, yes, this had to be his first priority: recoup full control over the party – and punish the traitors. It ought to be doable with some cunning; Hanne Zülch and Albert Leise had remained loyal, their support should be paramount. Once he was the uncontested master of the party again, he would start attacking the bitch. Her majority was only marginal; one certainly should be able to contest it…

Yeah, that was the way ahead. Stay in Berlin, entrench yourself in the Reichstag – and fight back with all guns blazing. If the bitch thought she had won, he soon would put her right…
Reality is merely an illusion, albeit a very persistent one.
(Albert von Einstein)

Helga von Tschirschwitz was at a loss: the Indian NPP had touched down. After six days of orbiting Earth, the ship had just turned tail and landed at Panchu. According to a most recent SUS communiqué, vessel and crew had now been put in precautionary quarantine. Okay, that was the default routine. However, what in heaven had they been doing during the time in orbit?

There had been five visits by gliders. But these had only discharged something – what it had been the Indians had not disclosed – and returned to Puri, without being subjected to quarantine. That was also according to the rules. Whatever had been discharged was now aboard Sheshanaga – and in quarantine.

Prerow Control and the Abwehr rep said they had no clue. The Indian media – and hence the public – didn’t know more than SUS had announced. They were also puzzling over the issue. The codebreakers at Neumünster had been asked to decrypt the Indian communication, but that should take time – and perhaps even prove impossible.

Well, next week the NASA fleet was due to arrive near Earth. Might they also carry out strange manoeuvres? Or would they land immediately, because of the Russian elections? One was going to see… In fact, they should be in a great hurry, provided Kántsler Semichastny really had ordered them to come back in time for influencing the ballot. Meh, the Hammer – way back – had also been abused for such horseplay…

Yeah, elections… One had a lady chancellor now; women to the fore! But one couldn’t tell yet in which direction she would be heading. Director Kammler was due to see her in a fortnight. Helga imagined the meeting was going to decide whether the man remained in office. If the chemistry was right, Kammler certainly would plough ahead. He was keen to coax Arx and the Phönix to operational status.

Indeed, it was impossible to figure Kammler lazing in retirement. The bloke was a copybook workaholic – and an empire builder without equal. Only Tirpitz had been of the same calibre – perhaps... Yep, and maybe General von Bauer, who, however, had not been active in the construction business – but rather in nation building…
I wonder how many of the Indians survived. Even the ones that made it back to Earth orbit may not have survived reentry. Six days is not much time to recover from being weakened by six weeks of starvation rations followed by two weeks of nothing.
How did they run out of food in space?
The original plan called for a short orbital flight, then back down. When the plan was suddenly changed to "Mars and back", there was no opportunity to resupply. Thus the whole mess.
Chess is a foolish expedient for making idle people believe they are doing something very clever, when they are only wasting their time.
(George Bernard Shaw)

Azoy, Himmelsschmiede looked complete – at least from the outside and as far as the habitation module was concerned. The factory part – and the power plant – still had to be finished. However, the workers had moved house to the hab module already, and the Feuerdrache thus had been freed for other tasks. The dinghies, though, had been attached to the hab module, before the ship had darted off.

Anyway, artificial gravity – voyl, centrifugal force – was cool. It was far better than the acceleration effect working in the NPPs, because it was much steadier. It really felt like walking on terrestrial ground. But once you left the outer ring, it rapidly became weaker. – There wasn’t much to do; the work crews were self-dependent for the most part, fetching parts from the clouds with their scooters. Only now and then one got lost – and one had to retrieve him.

Ershter Lutenant Yankel Kerschbaumer was unhappy; this was lost time. One was learning nothing by lolling about in orbit. One dinghy would be more than enough for the job; four were overkill. Where had the Feuerdrache gone? One didn’t know. The bet was on, though, that they were tailing the approaching Ivans. You didn’t need dinghies in this speed range – except if they shot at you and you had to take to the lifeboats…

But that surely wouldn’t happen, would it? – Were the Ivans armed at all? The three new ships were carrying rocket launchers, said the handbook; and all their dinghies were believed to be armed with missiles. How would one fight them? Were their missiles guided? The handbook wouldn’t tell. That was goofy… Sitting idle and knowing nothing, what a waste…
Know thyself and thou wilt know the universe.

No, the Fuchs formulas were bogus. You could shake them in every direction; they didn’t make sense. Was there nevertheless anything useful one could draw from them? Georgy Flyorov was doubtful. They were a trap, a sleight designed by Klaus Fuchs. Somehow the Nyemtsi must have perceived the Ochrana’s attempts to steal the field formulas. Hence, they had fed the spooks with special rubbish.

The agents wouldn’t know and faithfully carry home the garbage. But you couldn’t lie in maths; therefore one had very soon discovered the inconsistencies. – Khorosho, what now? Andrei Sakharov was out of his depth; he certainly was capable of designing a little sun, but magnetic fields clearly were not his line of work.

Georgy Flyorov, after having studied Weizsäcker’s universal field theory in detail, thought one might give it a try. He had gathered a group of postgraduates; these young folks – there were two girls among them – might come up with something useful eventually. Not today, not tomorrow, but perhaps in a couple of months. If Klaus Fuchs had been capable of developing his magnetic fields on the basis of this theory, the youngsters should be able to do the same – sooner or later.

Aga, it wasn’t the shortcut one had sought by stealing from the Nyemtsi, yet it should – in the end – provide something one could safely work with. There were no plans for using such fields yet, hence there was no pressure to achieve something. One was going to have a new government in a couple of weeks. And one would have to wait for their decisions and directions, before any new projects could be started…
A good portion of speaking will consist in knowing how to lie.
(Desiderius Erasmus)

Tactics lessons were commemorable: you were learning by reliving the operations of Bwana Obersti’s force in the Great War. Okay, they were also presenting examples from the Liberian Expedition, the Retrieval of Südwest and the Somalian Intervention, but Bwana Obersti’s campaign clearly was beating everything else. All the same, the lessons were cleverly rehashed, you really could learn something. Indeed, tactical principles could also be studied by discussing the Battles of Tanga or Ngomano.

Hauptmann Wilhelm G’Norebbe appreciated it; in the WAU they had, in principle, applied the same teaching method: Liberian Intervention, Trans-Atlantic War and Liberation of West Africa. It did make sense. African wars were different; principles developed in Europe or Asia wouldn’t work. And he had to admit it; the Askari spirit was excellent. It was a can-do attitude beyond compare.

It was not so that technical progress was dismissed. On the contrary, in the current Tanga exercise, for example, you fought with modern ground units and air and naval support. But the setting was African throughout. And the English invaders were organised and fought like Indians… Okay, Indian troops had played a major role in that encounter, so, that was kind of living history, or so…

The disconcerting thing about the staff academy was that he had been contacted – by people who said they were dedicated to save the nation. The socialists were turning the country into an asylum for recipients of social benefits. One had to do something. – Was that the beginning of another putsch? And did they want to recruit him because he was a G’Norebbe? Well, he was free to meet and dine with whomever he wanted. He should have a look at them and hear what they had to say…
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A man never knows exactly how the child of his brain will strike other people.
(William Howard Taft)

Okay, the engineering authorities had delivered their verdict: Arx could be turned into a spaceship. By attaching six NPP tail units, the whopper could be made mobile. Immobilising six NPP ships was considered acceptable. However, the tailless vessels would be stored inside the colony – and made mobile again, once Arx had reached its position in the Jupiter system.

Peter Vogel felt confirmed. In fact, Doctor Rüchel had not suppressed his name when forwarding the proposal. That meant he was getting much of the credit now – and later all the blame, if the operation should misfire… Damn, it was just commonplace engineering. Having detachable tail units was a boon; why not use it to the fullest extent?

Generalleutnant Stelzner had started the revision by proposing construction near Earth. And he had now introduced the proper propulsion for the completed hunk. – There was another advantage: the colonists could board Arx in orbit. There would be no need to ship them out with an NPP noria; after all, 40,000 people required 80 sorties to get them to Jupiter.

One was getting ahead, it seemed. Plans were becoming practicable.
We are like the herb which flourisheth most when trampled upon.
(Walter Scott)

One was approaching Earth’s orbit; the breaking process was almost accomplished. Aga, one was going to arrive in time. Generál-mayor Drubchev was in constant parley with Achinsk Control. It was a blessing that the time gap had shrunk to almost zero. Da, one would land at Shishmarevo on June 12th, Russian calendar, the day before the election. So that all Russians in all time zones of the country would know that the expedition to Mars had come home successfully.

Ládno, success was fugitive… It looked as if one hadn’t found life. The final analysis would, of course, have to occur on Earth, but the indications were negative. Nothing was pointing to life. Even the promising samples drilled in Bremer Chasma had proven indifferent. Liquid water, yes, but no living organisms… It was a pity – in regard to the desired effect on the public. Finding life would have been a sensation that might have swayed the voters.

But this wasn’t Drubchev’s main concern right now. He would appreciate a victory of the Rodinyadniki, it was true. However, getting his fleet safely to the ground had priority. It should be no big affair; the crews had done it before. Touching down on Earth was more difficult than landing on Moon or Mars, yet experience should count. Again, Indrik Zver was going to go down last.

Khoroshó, voting was possible also under quarantine. Not that the crews’ votes were going to make much difference, but it was proper to assure this basic right. Aga, and it was good to come home again…
There are three stages of scientific discovery: first people deny it is true; then they deny it is important; finally they credit the wrong.
(Alexander von Humboldt)

Radioactive waste! Good grief! Someone had found a last-minute scandal to arouse the voters. The Storonnomiri, of course, together with a bunch of unhesitating hacks, had raised the issue. Yes, it was true, there had been considerable pollution in the early days, when many physical and chemical facts had still been unknown. But the Malotoksichni, the Environmentalists, were praising these areas – duly closed to the public back then – as havens of biodiversity.

And the nuclear reactors were not producing waste, but valuable reusable materials. One did have a working recycling management. Aga, the military, with their fast breeders, were producing more stuff than could be regularly processed. But these materials were properly stored in interim facilities – without any danger to the environment. – Da, the NPPs were spreading a minimal amount of radiation over Siberia, but all measurements were showing that no safety limits were exceeded.

So, there truly was no reason to worry, but – as usual – the Storonnomiri were proving immune to facts. And the scribes were blaring out the customary bad news: cancer, miscarriage, lingering illness, painful death… All rubbish, but lies repeated long and loud enough were often turning into truth. Had the Peaceniks found a last-minute lever to upturn the ballot?
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You can be sincere and still be stupid.
(Fyodor Dostoevsky)

The Russians had cast the ballot. 575 Duma seats were to be allocated. The ruling Rodinyadniki, the Ultra-Russians, had shrunk from 112 to 73. That was a substantial digression, but not as severe as predicted by the pollsters; obviously, the Mars stunt had prevented the worst. Hence, the Jingoists remained a force to be reckoned with.

The Neokadéty, the Neo-Liberals, had grown from 93 to 125. This made them the strongest party – and thus entitled them for leading the impending government and providing the next kántsler. Semyon Filipovich Prosinyuk, their chairman, would preside over the negotiations to form a coalition.

The Malotoksichni, the Environmentalists, a movement predominantly active in non-urban areas, had fallen from 87 to 82. The Storonnomiri, the Peaceniks, had risen from 84 to 92. It seemed their last-minute nuclear waste fuss had nicely paid off.

The Yedinovértsi, the True Believers, hitherto coalition partner of the Jingoists, had fallen from 68 to 49. That was a bitter disappointment for them. The other coalition partner, the Zhivótniki, the Animal Welfarists, had fallen from 21 to 15. The analysts thought that both parties had been punished for teaming up with the Rodinyadniki.

The Marxists had risen from 18 to 20; the Consumerists from 15 to 17. The Krestyánina Pártiya, the Farmers’ Party, the long-time ruling party of the past, had risen from 24 to 54, a surprising comeback. Independent candidates had won 48 seats.

288 votes were required to elect the kántsler. Prosinyuk would have got his hands full with forming his government…