A Shift in Priorities - Sequel

Conservative, n.: a statesman who is enarmored of existing evils, as distinguished from the Liberal who wishes to replace them with others.
(Ambrose Bierce)

Gittel, his secretary, today was wearing one of these skirts that ended a hand’s width above the knees. They had become fashionable lately, sweeping over from Russia. Nyebolshiye they were called, the short ones, invented by a thrusting lady in Yekaterinburg, the centre of Russian fashion creativity. – But on Gittel the thing looked kind of tarty. Genem, the woman was… thirty-something, well preserved, yes, yet no nimble girl anymore. However, he would be damned to tell her.

And then the colour… and the shoes… But it was futile to argue against fashion. One had to live with it. – Okay, so the Russians had voted. The new government would be led by the Neo-Liberals. It promised a certain calming of the international situation. Not that the Neo-Liberals inevitably were peaceniks; the old Kadéty of Pavel Milyukov’s time had been avid imperialists and annexationists. However, after the Rodinyadniki had failed miserably with their Greater Russia policy, Prosinyuk certainly was bound to try something else – like growth and prosperity.

That might coincide with a new course in Germany. Although… this Miss Hitler held a super-slight majority only; she might be overthrown at any time. Strauß had not quit; he was lying in ambush ready to leap and regain power. Well, it didn’t really matter, both were economic-liberals – and not at all prone to unbridled foreign adventures. In fact, the Germans had won the realm they wanted; there was no incentive to go for more. It were the Russian politicians who were periodically pressing for revision, dreaming of regaining the old empire of before the Great War.

It looked as if a period of peace might lie ahead. Well, that wasn’t a bad thing, was it?
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The truth is one, the wise call it by many names.
(Rig Veda)

Theek hai, one had been lucky, in a way. There were only four deceased. But the rest of crew was in very bad shape. The fasting binge had been devastating. Vikram Ambalai Sarabhai, the scientific director of Staar Udaan Sangh, was doing his best to mollify the politicians. Yes, sure, Captain Singh Sandhu had over-egged the pudding when declaring that Sheshanaga had enough sustenance to go to Mars. And yes, sure, Puri Control had known that he must be exaggerating.

But one had done it. Unquestionably, the journey to Mars was an important achievement for SUS and Bharat. One had beaten the Russians – and was now ranging second behind the Germans. That should be worth a few casualties. Theek hai, the crew of Sheshanaga was out of action – and, most probably, wouldn’t become operational again. But one had two extra crews waiting to come into action. The survivors of the Mars trip, once hale, would go to the training organisation, the universities and the economy.

It was alright; one shouldn’t make fuss about it. The families of the victims would be generously indemnified. Spacefaring was a dangerous affair; casualties could happen any time.
It does not matter how slowly you go as long as you do not stop.

Progress was… Well, there wasn’t any. Anadolu Çelik had fouled up the first pusher plate – and also the second… After these flops, the leadership of the steel plant had been replaced – and the production process had been scrutinised by external experts. As a result, the plant had to be reconfigured, a complex procedure that had lasted until last week.

One was now in train of preparing the next founding and forging process. – The Grand Vizier was said to be fuming with impatience. By implication, Miralay Türkeş was extremely edgy. And Doctor Yünbaş had become outright jumpy. ĺyi, thorough preparation and tight planning was essential now, flurry wasn’t going to help. And the wrath of the Grand Vizier wouldn’t produce the pusher plate.

The Anadolu Çelik folks were confident to do it properly this time. One had optimised the production process; the staff was highly motivated. Everything should work like clockwork.
The more you approach infinity, the deeper you penetrate terror.
(Gustave Flaubert)

Back at Himmelsschmiede… The puppy had grown, it looked complete – and was, by and large. The reactor was working; that made life fairly comfortable. Artificial gravity – okay, centrifugal force – was super; although in the current construction area you hadn’t any. The factory part sat on the extension of the central axle. Well, Helmut Teichmann thought this was going to be his last working sojourn on the space station.

The part clouds had shrunk to almost nil. That was a fair indication of impending completion. As a matter of fact, the factory section was designed to look empty. Obviously, the designers hadn’t known yet for what to equip it. That was a reasonable approach, the NPPs could hoist up whatever stuff was needed for manufacture – as long as the required connections and ports were available. That was what one was doing at present: install the fittings.

It was an indoor job, yet Teichmann had volunteered to operate the scooter. Fetching parts was fun. After all, he was a kosmonaut, not a gearhead. Working through the list of wanted parts, he had to head for all four quadrants. Earth below was dark; he could see the lights of… Japan? And China? They were as bright and numerous as those seen from above Europe, but he couldn’t pin down the individual cities.

Oops! The bloody scooter was refusing to obey orders. Okay, call to OpsCentre, asking for a dinghy to collect him and the widget. Yeah, they had him on fumeo and were sending “Petz”. That was the madcap Yid – and his tight-lipped Scandinavian chums, excellent. They would quickly chase him down. He was heading towards… nothing. Yeah, there was only darkness. Bleak outlook… And he couldn’t cross his fingers…
We stopped looking for monsters under our bed when we realised that they were inside us.
(Charles Darwin)

It was quite different from what she had imagined it would be. Her Makambo experience had led her to wrong assumptions, she now knew. The foreign workers were a blessing. They were Al Zayerees, Moroccans and Tunisians, elder folks; hiring young ones had come too expensive. Anne Robbins, wary from how she had suffered in England, had scrutinised them closely.

It was a pity her French had rusted away after college, but it was still good enough to converse with these guys. Their French was even more awful. One was getting along as long as the themes were simple – and could be discussed with the help of hands and feet. They were here because they could earn regular wages; at home they had only been casual hands, poor and destitute. None of them, however, considered staying here forever.

They had been agricultural workers all their life; that made them valuable for Nieuw Hoogeveen. Okay, they hadn’t been prepared for greenhouses. And the language barrier was still active, although they were quickly picking up simple Dutch terms. Nevertheless, productivity and revenue had already risen palpably. The community was thriving.

Should one now pay bonuses to the guys? That was the question the Nieuw Hoogeveen city council was presently debating. Ton Snels was in favour of it. One was earning more because of them, why not ceding some of the profit to those who had produced it? Bertje Jagtenberg was against the proposal. One had signed contracts; they were working according to these contracts. Why pay more than the contracts said?

Bertje had a point there. They were doing their job, nothing else. They were doing it well, granted, but they were also paid well. They were getting what Dutch workers would get – if there were any… And it was many times over what they’d get at home. So, one should better be careful not to offer too much. The guys were happy under the current conditions; one should let the sleeping dogs lie…
It is absurd to divide people into good and bad. People are either charming or tedious.
(Oscar Wilde)

It had been a working visit, not an ostentatious state visit. Nu, of course, he had needed to meet the new lady chancellor of Nimechchyna. Now that his mate Franz Josef had fallen from power, he had to make sure that good and close relations between the two countries remained intact. – A pity you couldn’t have a booze with the girl – like he and Franz Josef always had done. Harazd, he had tried it, but had got the polite brush-off.

The dame was twenty years his junior – and quite a luscious chop. However, he hadn’t proposed a fling, although the ladies at home still used to be dotty about him. Somehow he had had the impression that the rebuff in this case wouldn’t have been as gracious as in the quaffing case. No, he had behaved like a true gentleman in the antiquated western sense. And Gudrun – one had soon resolved to be on first name terms – obviously had appreciated this behaviour.

Nu, in matters political nothing much had changed. Nuclear armament, Stepan Bandera’s pet project, was still out of question. Harazd, already Franz Josef hadn’t agreed to this proposal; it didn’t match with Nimetsky doctrine. And to be honest, it wouldn’t increase the Ukraine’s safety. It wasn’t enough just to have a couple of nukes; you had to have a massive strike and second strike force. And that was out of reach for the Ukraine.

However, Gudrun was not altogether adverse to Stepan’s erstwhile idea, the common defence alliance. So, he could now chase the bloke along this alley. That should keep him busy for some time. – As the situation in regard to Russia seemed to relax after the Rodinyadniki had fallen from power, there was no high priority for this project. And one had to be careful not to piss off the new rulers in the Kremlin. But let Stepan slog…

In all, Kantsler Leonid Ilyich Brezhnev was quite satisfied with this visit. Gudrun was no gimp; she had appeared rather steely – and bright. Tak, she would not attempt to curb the Nimetsky economy, but rather reduce taxation. That meant that attracting production to Ukraine would most probably not work. – And one would continue to supply workers, engineers and scientists to Nimechchyna. Dobre, no change…
One day every major city in America will have a telephone.
(Alexander Graham Bell)

The economy had reacted quite positively to the advent of the lady chancellor. Doris Zülch had truly been surprised. The woman was a billionaire and the daughter of a world-famous artist – but nevertheless a woman. If you looked around on the executive floors, women were serving coffee and doing the clerical work. Granted, she, Doris, was a department chief at Telefunken, yet she did not belong to the all-male circle of policy-makers; she was just the pretty face that conciliated the customers.

Why then was this lady so successful – and widely uncontested? It was true, Rechenknecht was a total winner, but did that alone explain it? Doris had listened in on the informal discussions on the Telefunken executive floor. Yeah, one had been tired of the sequence of old and procrastinative men in the Wilhelmstraße – and had welcomed the arrival of Strauß. But Strauß – although a wizard in boosting the economy – had proven a loose cannon. Being predictable – and reliable – was an important feature a politician ought to have – in the mindset of these top managers.

Well, Miss Hitler obviously was matching the expectations of the economical elite. But what did the ordinary workers think of her? Doris habitually had her ears open also in these quarters. The chancelloress was the daughter of the man who – almost – had led the commies to total victory in 1945. That qualified her more – in the mindset of those staunch proletarians – than being a successful capitalist and industrial tycoon. Strange world… However, it had worked for the lady, hadn’t it?

Interestingly enough, many women had favoured Strauß – although the bloke was known to cuckold his wife with an elderly mistress. Strange world indeed… But it was true, Strauß and the DVP had won more seats than the Freiheitsbanner. And that was apparently due to the female ballot. Wasn’t it hysterically funny?
What an ugly beast is the ape, and how like us.
(Marcus Tullius Cicero)

SMS Dora had been detached from Himmelsschmiede assembly and had touched down at Hammerhorst. But, of course, loading couldn’t begin yet. The ship had to be checked – and maintained – first. That was going to take four weeks – if no major malfunction was discovered, in which case it might take many months. Professor Klaus Fuchs could see the imponderables of spaceflight. Well, Konteradmiral Hülsmeyer had promised to allocate SMS Carla in case the latter mishap should occur.

But Kapitän Collmann, Dora’s captain, said there should be no problems. The vessel was in good shape. Nevertheless, there was no need to move to Ireland already. Fuchs had booked a fortnight of recreation at the Bad Ems spa. He would move to Ireland when the loading of SMS Dora started. – Okay, they didn’t need him for that work, but he wanted to see how they did it. Loading was assessed to take two weeks.

The special dinghy, named Adam, had been transported from Dessau to Hamburg already. It would be shipped to Hammerhorst next week. Fuchs had checked all parameters: it should be safe to board it during the experiments. As long as the fields were kept under tight control, the test rig couldn’t break away. And if there was someone who really knew how to control them, it was him.

Constructing the rig would be no big affair, said the engineers. Starting the reactor was the most complex task. If all went well, the experiments might commence in early October. – Obviously, the new government did not intend to cut the space programmes. All projects were to continue as scheduled, said Director Kammler, who had just stated that he was going to keep on chairing RRA.
It’s the intellectual who transforms the concept of the world into the problem of meaning.
(Max Weber)

“Oxum” was skimming towards the Moon; the circumnavigation was about to happen at last. The nabob had growled over the glitch, but had duly coughed out the funds necessary to make the operation possible. Yes, one had needed a proper control centre and a solid workshop – apart from the equipment that had gone into “Oxum”. Rudolf Ntussu was confident that the mission was going to be an outright success.

Well, the election was over; the contracts with RRA were in the bag. SIKOS was in business. It was quite broad-minded of the nabob to allow the lunar circumnavigation to happen nevertheless. Anyway, proving one’s capabilities should be no mistake. The Snowpushers were constantly changing their plans. Right now, they had resolved upon building the big Jovian station in Earth orbit.

It meant the requirement to train construction crews at Raumkolonie would substantially decrease, the activity for which SIKOS’ support had been contracted. But at the same time, more missions linked to construction might be needed. RRA, at least, had yet made no move to abrogate the contracts. Okay, two gliders and two Bhaees weren’t the world; in fact, for the folks in charge at Prerow they probably didn’t mean more than flyspeck.

They – their envoys – had also checked the MARFAK equipment. Beyond hope, had been their verdict concerning the Brüderchen – mice in the cable system… But the gliders were okay. However, the MARFAK blokes had vented funny asking prices. Hence, the nabob had agreed to order four additional Mota Choohas in Kolhapur. The Indians were asking far less for four new ones than MARFAK for their three old Schwesterchen. Funny world…
Politicians are like bad horsemen who are so preoccupied with staying in the saddle that they can’t bother about where they’re going.
(Joseph Schumpeter)

Khorosho, this was not going to be a walk in the park. He had 125 votes, those of the Neokadéty, his party. He needed 288 votes to be elected kántsler. Semyon Filipovich Prosinyuk was a pragmatist; he would parley with all parties. Konechno, you couldn’t have everything, the programme of the Neokadéty could only serve as an indication. If you negotiated with the True Believers – or the Environmentalists – economic liberalism would hardly occupy the centre stage.

Cardinally, the Krestyánina Pártiya, the farmers, and the Environmentalists could – roughly – be considered matching with neo-liberal ideas. That would subjoin 54 and 82 votes, adding up to 261. Not quite bad, but still 27 votes short of the desired result. Getting the Animal Welfarists and the Consumerists on board, adding 15 and 17 votes, would solve the problem.

However, would they all agree? Or would he rather end up with Rodinyadniki and Peaceniks – and 290 votes in total? In this case, say goodbye to neo-liberalism… Aga, one was going to see. Right now, Kántsler Semichastny was acting still – and was going to continue to do so until he, Prosinyuk, was eventually elected. Hence, the jingoists felt no hurry – and with them the True Believers and the Animal Welfarists – to proceed to a new government.

Ládno, this was going to take time. He needed at least two other parties, but most probably three or four – or three and a bunch of independent deputies. But it was his special talent to merge different opinions to a common platform, wasn’t it? So, let’s roll up the sleeves and get to work…
Worms have played a more important part in the history of the world than humans would at first suppose.
(Charles Darwin)

The Feuerdrache had returned to Himmelsschmiede. Indeed, they had been putting a tail on the Ivans. Nothing special had happened; the Ivans hadn’t revealed whether they had noticed the spy. They had just stolidly pulled through their manoeuvres. – Well, it was nice to have the parent ship back, even if it didn’t offer artificial gravity. Ershter Lutenant Yankel Kerschbaumer had booked a technical checkup for “Petz”. The chief engineering officer and his folks were putting the dinghy to the test.

Of course you had to be present during the procedure. It was an excellent opportunity to pick up the latest gossip. The Feuerdrache was in constant touch with Prerow Control. So, they were now planning to construct Arx in Earth orbit. No journeys to the Jupiter system would become necessary. That was a pity, because Yankel would have loved to visit the largest planet of the system – and its countless moons. And it was good, because during the six months to and the six months fro the dinghies would just be baggage without a job.

And at Hammerhorst Dora was being loaded for Professor Fuchs’ tests. Now, that was really interesting because Yankel was earmarked as dinghy pilot for the Phönix. The tests were going to decide whether the interstellar ship would be built at all. Well, one was going to have seats in the first row once the tests began. Yankel could only hope that the good professor wouldn’t provoke the fate of the Little Phönix… Yeah, travelling to the stars was a tedious enterprise; you wouldn’t think that obstacles were so numerous in space…
Once you can accept the universe as matter expanding into nothing that is something, wearing stripes with plaid comes easy.
(Albert von Einstein)

Was there a way to travel faster than light? Werner Heisenberg had been asked to compose an advisory opinion. Okay, his time as leading scientist was long past; like von Einstein and many others, he had formulated his groundbreaking theses in his youth. But this request only asked for a synopsis of existing theories, and, of course, he was well aware of what was going on in scientific discussion.

Concerning speed, light was unbeatable. But space might be corruptible. Schwarzschild objects were liable to deform space. One hadn’t encountered one yet, but the formulas were unambiguous. So, if one really should travel through the universe and happen to find a Schwarzschild object – one might indeed be able to cheat. It was a hypothetical solution of course, because you were limited to the speed of light in your search.

And in case you really came upon such an object, where would it lead – or toss – you? That was the big question to which nobody had found an answer yet. So, yes, there might be a remote option, but it wasn’t practicable at all. No, one would have to travel with the speed of light at maximum. And that already should be spooky enough…

Well, in fact the drive Klaus Fuchs had developed – or rather calculated – was only proposing a velocity of one tenth of light speed. Yeah, the pedestrians to the front… It was due to remain a lentous affair.
Between the idea and the reality, between the motion and the act, falls the shadow.
(T. S. Eliot)

Industrialisation through the backdoor… Well, it seemed to work. The Koreans were already operating several trains on the Pacific side. And the Peruvians had indeed formed a railway syndicate that had started reconstructing the line from Puerto Cortés to San Pedro Sula. Sikuku Enterprises had already unloaded two old shunting locomotives, diesel driven of course, which formerly had served in the port of Duala. Watching the Peruvians train with these ancient widgets was quite encouraging.

Yeah, they were lousy soldiers, but good farmers and engineers. But their way of teaching and learning was inefficient. The Snowpushers had begun emancipating Middle Africa by building schools all over the place and sending teachers. That had done the trick. The Peruvians were training their people on the job. That produced able specialists with a very narrow field of knowledge, but not a group generally educated. Well, Fritz Ma’alongwe was not responsible for education in the Opaque Woodlands, he could only advise.

Anyway, the military was profiting greatly from the deal with Sikuku Enterprises. Finally one had soldiers that truly looked like soldiers – and not like a bunch of savage warriors. In fact, with all the Middle African gear, they had begun looking almost like Askaris. Fritz was not sure whether this was good – because they were no Askaris, and most probably never would become as excellent. But then… This was Central America, far away from Middle Africa. There many more urgent issues to worry about.

He finally had made it to Musuq Picchu, the Ma’alongwe residence in the mountains above the upper Rio Patuca. Ellen had done a magnificent job by coaxing the Peruvians into erecting all these structures. Okay, Chaska, their forewoman, had become the official steward of the place – and her people were running all facilities. But they were recognising the Ma’alongwes as their overlords. – Nevertheless, having a safe haven in the mountains was one thing; doing business down in the valley was quite another matter.

He had recruited a new group of Peruvians – well, they actually were Bolivians – for getting Barra Patuca running again. Ellen was pondering some good ideas for generating income. And Fritz had struck a deal with the submariners from Curaçao who were visiting Puerto Cortés of late. They would also touch at Barra – and shuttle him to and fro. In this way, he could spend more time with Ellen – and help her by directing people and resources towards establishing the Ma’alongwe estate.
There is nothing stable in the world; uproar’s your only music.
(John Keats)

It wouldn’t be easy. The muppets of the AFV, although his erstwhile coalition partners, were now talking with the black-haired bitch. Prützmann, their chair, had only shrugged his shoulders. The coalition was a thing of the past – and the overtures of the chancelloress were nothing to sneeze at. After all, the AFV was the party that first had promised the stars to the German people. Therefore, one had made a pact with the DVP four years ago – and for the same reason one felt free now to discuss matters with the Freiheitsbanner.

Yeah, what a nitty bugger… But if the AFV deserted him, his plan to overthrow the bitch was obsolete. It wouldn’t suffice to buy a single deputy – or two. Fudge! What now? – Franz Josef Strauß was stumped. He had spent a fortune and a half to bribe two LDP dudes. The money was gone. It would take several months – at least – to collect new funds, provided the donors didn’t jump ship as well. It was goofy. The bitch was captivating too many people.

Okay, what else remained? Acting the opposition leader was dull. And just waiting wouldn’t help. He needed a fresh idea…
Nothing is permanent in this wicked world, not even our troubles.
(Charlie Chaplin)

Mars bug quarantine had ended. That meant engineers and mechanics were now free to access the NPPs and conduct checks and maintenance. This process required the crews to cooperate; hence no leave was allowed. Khorosho, the venerable NASA custom of allowing the families to join quarantine had already defused the situation. However, with four ships involved the procedure clearly had reached its limit. Shishmarevo was not dimensioned to accommodate so many dependants. One had managed, but it hadn’t been comfortable.

Generál-mayor Ivan Drubchev had already handed over captain’s to duties to Polkovnik Genya Berzan during quarantine. He was now fully established as fleet commander. His staff, though, had not yet been summoned – and his command centre still had to be installed on Indrik Zver. Incidentally, the unarmed vessel offered sufficient space to add such a facility. Providentially, there was no need to hurry. No new government, no new directives…

In point of fact, would there be a fleet action at all? Would one be sent out to Jupiter – or Saturn? – Rather not, because marshalling Dragotsénnost was due to become due in twelve months. However, for that mission no fleet action was required; one NPP should be enough to slow down the asteroid and coax it towards NSÓ. Sending the other three ships to Saturn might be an option. – He made a mental note to promote that idea in the upcoming meetings.

But, of course, the new government had to be formed first. One didn’t know how long that process was going to take. Nor could one tell what the stance of the new men was going to be concerning missions in space. A coalition of three or four parties might produce peculiar positions indeed…
A well-used minimum suffices for everything.
(Jules Verne)

Training the first lot of future space workers had begun. As scheduled, 500 dudes, all of them volunteers, had gathered at Barth, the mainland neighbour town of Prerow, where a residential school had been built for them. Generalmajor Bredigkeit had welcomed them and had explained the curriculum. In fact, the students were going to practise by reconstructing Raumkolonie.

As Arx was to be established in Earth orbit, both Raumkolonie and Himmelsschmiede were to be used as base camps for the workers – once they had been declared space efficient. The initial phase – medical examination, physical training, tuition on the equipment, etc. – was due to take three months. Then, sojourn in space and working in zero gravity would be exercised – and practised.

In fact, the training requirement had gone down significantly with the decision to construct Arx in Earth orbit. Much to Bruno Bredigkeit’s relief, the whole training matter could now be finished in less than three years. There would only be three batches of 500 students. Because the NPPs – once again – were required for hoisting up the material, the workers were going to be moved by gliders – Raumbusse and Große Schwestern.

Yeah, these Middle African contractors were using Große Schwestern – or rather the Indian copies of the type, while DELAG was fielding modern Raumbusse. Bredigkeit had read the evaluation report concerning SIKOS; they seemed to be quite capable. Okay, they had been told to move their stuff up to Friedrichshafen until the end of September. Then and there, one was going to see what they really were worth…
It might be possible that the world itself is without meaning.
(Virginia Woolf)

The Indian mystery was still unresolved. Helga von Tschirschwitz had studied all media releases. There had been losses; they were admitting four dead. But had it been a disease? Or an accident? You wouldn’t get a clear answer. Four national heroes had been interred, but why – or how – had they died? – Anyway, SUS appeared to be pretty much bent on activity. Their NPP was still resting a Panchu. That was normal after such an exploit; checks, maintenance and repairs were taking a lot of time.

But they had new carrier aircraft and gliders – and were using them with intensity. That didn’t suggest major issues with the Mars voyage. However, with these folks you never could tell… – The Russians had also entered a period of rest and refit. But they were not deploring casualties. One thought they were happy to be back and were now patiently waiting for political guidance. Had they found life? Not yet, obviously, or they would be blaring it out on all frequencies.

Would they find anything? The domestic scientists didn’t think so. There might have been life on Mars – long time ago. But nowadays, the Red Planet didn’t have a protective magnetic field anymore; it was frigging cold – and water was extremely rare. The missing magnetic field was perhaps the major determining factor; whatever there once may have been – cosmic rays and solar wind had long killed it. If there ever had been something at all… Yeah, Venus was a failure – and Mars as well.

Perhaps there was life in the oceans of the Jovian ice moons. Jupiter’s magnetic field was powerful – and effectively protecting the large inner moons. Well, one was going to know in a few years’ time.
The wickedness of the world is so great, you have to keep running so your legs won’t be stolen from under you.
(Bertolt Brecht)

Uneasiness was spreading in Nay Bialystok. Economic-liberals were about to seize power in Russia – and had already done so in Germany. That was menacing, thought the ruling Links-Bundists. The Heymshtot was the only country across Northern and Central Europe ruled by socialists, well, radical socialists. In Southern Europe – in Italy, Spain and Portugal – the left-wing parties might continue to play a significant role. But up north, they had been marginalised – well, by the voters.

In Germany, the communists of the KPD had shrunk to zero, and the socialists of the SPD had become a desperate splinter party, now acting the stirrup holders for the class enemy. In Russia, the Marxists hadn’t come off any better than the SPD. If this trend persisted what would be the fate of the Links-Bundists in the next election, which was due next year after all? And would the esteemed voters turn to the desolate Holy Joes again?

These were important questions. Normally, public life in the Heymshtot was a balanced struggle between the progressives – the Links-Bundists, of course – and the forces of fustiness, the ultra-Orthodox bigots. All Jews knew how important the economy was; this point had never been controversial. No, it would be the progressives or the bigots. And that the Holy Joes were capable of ruining the country, they had already proven in the past, hadn’t they?
The best thing about the future is that it comes one day at a time.
(Abraham Lincoln)

The decision to build Arx in Earth orbit had been hailed in the Schagalla family. There would be no tedious mass transit with an NPP, six months out in a sardine tin. One just had to board the huge station in orbit – and travel out with it. That was marvellous news indeed. – Once aboard Arx, one could work as normal – and the kids could attend school. There even would be gravity as the station would be rotating.

Okay, constructing the huge widget was going to take a long time. Would one be able to see it from below? The newspapers said yes, it would be visible. – As a matter of fact, however, one was going to be delayed. The original plan had called for piecemeal settlement. Now, the structure would be completed – and only then populated. That left… – eleven years, or twelve? – for life down here.

Indeed, Herbert would already be fourteen, and Ulrike twelve; no naïve infants anymore. Would they still agree to everything? – And Egon was going to be an old fart… Well, he might have advanced to be senior mayor of Dortmund at that time. Would he still want to go to Jupiter under these circumstances? For acting the police chief of the colony? These were important questions…

It was one thing to volunteer for something while you were young and full of vigour; but waiting a whole decade for fulfilment was quite another matter. Egon was at a loss. Reality was catching up. That was awkward.
You cannot swim for new horizons until you have courage to lose sight of the shore.
(William Faulkner)

Loading of SMS Dora had begun. Everything required for the test rig – except the power plant – would fit into the load bays. Two extra sorties would be required to hoist up the power plant. Professor Klaus Fuchs had been surprised to learn that the reactor was too large to fit in one piece. That was awkward. Assembling the gizmo in space was a complex task tying up precious specialists. Okay, two or three of them would also be needed to awaken the reactor. Nevertheless, here was room for improvement. He made a mental note. The issue had to be discussed with the colleagues working to develop the third generation of nuclear reactors.

“Adam”, the special control dinghy, was an ingenious construction. Fuchs had immediately identified his work station. Yeah, this was fine. Controlling the fields should be a cinch. And the navigators would sit at his side. Indeed, he did need someone to tell him where the rig was going, he was no kosmonaut after all. In the Phönix, the pilot was going to control the fields. But here, he had to do it – at least initially, until the controls had been gauged. And once that had been accomplished, the trials would be all but finished.

Generalleutnant Zeislitz was one of the contenders for piloting the Phönix. He already had approached Fuchs. But no, it didn’t make sense to place the general at the controls. The rig was not an NPP. Once the controls had been gauged – which included modifying the fields, if necessary – a pilot would be able to steer the rig. But only then… Yes, he was not a kosmonaut – and might get sick in zero gravity, but he was the only one who could modify the fields.

True, the procedure would have to be repeated with the Phönix; Zeislitz had made a point there. So, yes, it should be helpful if the general looked over his shoulder when he gauged the controls. The man was an aero-space engineer; he should be able to understand what Fuchs was doing. It surely would do no damage to have him around. “Adam” offered space enough for an additional crew member…