A Shift in Priorities - Sequel

Observatory, n. A place where astronomers conjecture away the guesses of their predecessors.
(Ambrose Bierce)

Stationary duty near Himmelsschmiede; nothing much to do for an NPP jockey. Major Sigmund Jähn, the Feuerdrache’s chief pilot, had taken to the observatory. Not for looking at the stars, that wasn’t possible. The astronomers were blocking the telescopes 24/7. But for talking with the guys. You could learn a lot from them.

The navigators also were the astronomers – when there was no need for navigation. And in space, with no atmosphere smudging, they could achieve marvellous views. The Feuerdrache’s telescopes were the best Zeiss of Jena could produce in this size group. Of course, the folks were dreaming of a telescope as big as a whole spacecraft, but for the time being, they were quite happy with what they had in hand.

One was gaining stupendous insights into the nature of the universe – and the solar system, in particular the Kuiper Belt and the Oort Cloud. These objects had theoretically been formulated by those two Dutch astronomers, now dead of course, in the 1950ies. Today, one could prove they existed. Wasn’t that great?

Okay, Jähn would be more interested in Saturn and Alpha Centauri. But there wasn’t much one could say about these. One had shot some nice pictures, but had not focussed on them. Most probably, Saturn had almost as many moons as Jupiter, not just the ten visible from Earth. Well, one could see the small Jovian moons when they were passing in front of the planet, at least some of them.

Focussing on Saturn one certainly might achieve comparable results. But one would go there anyway – sooner or later. There was so much to see elsewhere…
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Close beside my knowledge lies my black ignorance.
(Friedrich Nietzsche)

The US had become a nation of smug city dwellers. There hardly were any pioneers going for the new frontiers. The nation was lacking daring men. Betty Plowman had seen it come. – Well, the nation was lacking men – and women – in general. Settling the Caribbean hadn’t worked – and settling the new states didn’t work either. Okay, companies quarrying natural resources were sending out folks, of course; and the federal government had moved in the armed forces.

Yeah, they had divested the Caribbean. One was pretty much alone on Hispaniola today. That wasn’t bad at all, considering the mission of the farm. In fact, one was free to do one’s bidding without any danger of being inspected. – Sure, it also didn’t help in achieving one’s goals. But the investors obviously had realised how important the mission was. One was receiving lavish funding.

The additional money had even made it possible to buy primates. Not chimpanzees or gorillas, they were still under the thumb of the Middle Africans, but orang-utans from the Banda States. It was a black market deal, of course, but a rather smooth one. The animals had arrived a fortnight ago, fourteen of them – and in pretty good shape. One currently was still in process of testing and assessing them.

Indeed, all attempts to create an artificial uterus had failed hitherto. One was back at natural wombs. Although, Betty had looked it up: orang-utans were slow breeders as well. She couldn’t see how the animals should help solving the basic problem, that of mass and velocity. It was a predicament, mass could only be achieved with machines, but machines wouldn’t work. And velocity was locked at nine months – be it women or ape…

Perhaps it would be best to hire double-wide bimbos, inseminate them – and then raise the children in hostels run by the organisation. You even would be able to design true age groups… Once the orang-utan attempt had failed, she would propose it again.
There are two cardinal sins from which all others spring: impatience and laziness.
(Franz Kafka)

End of mission; time to say goodbye to Himmelsschmiede. Well, he might be back soon. Helmut Teichmann had just been informed that he was earmarked for Arx construction. He was going to be a team leader; that meant promotion. However, the team would consist of civilians, some of those folks that were presently trained at Barth. Good grief, herding cats…

But okay, sojourn in space always was good for a kosmonaut – and building Arx was a great task. Indeed, he would be among those who kicked off the construction of the huge station. Laying the foundation, so to speak, by building the central axle – or at least a part of it. The procedure would be alike to the one practised for building Himmelsschmiede, only that the workers could live on Raumkolonie and Himmelsschmiede.

Yeah, Himmelsschmiede had centrifugal force – and Raumkolonie hadn’t. That was making quite a difference – for the quality of life off shift. But Raumkolonie would mainly be used for training the workers – at least in the initial phase, so the prospects were good to end up at Himmelsschmiede. That looked as if a fine job was lying ahead – after leave…

All right, three weeks of leave were coming first, spent sailing in the Mediterranean together with two buddies. That was well earned. One would be based on Naples, excellent food was warranted hence. Tomorrow, the Feuerdrache would take the crew down. Three days were needed for processing out at Prerow. Then he would take the train to Italy. The buddies should already be waiting for him, having the boat ready.
Perhaps it would be best to hire double-wide bimbos, inseminate them – and then raise the children in hostels run by the organisation. You even would be able to design true age groups… Once the orang-utan attempt had failed, she would propose it again.
Oof. Their days of being horrible human beings have certainly come to a middle...
To be or not to be is not a question of compromise. Either you be or you don’t be.
(Golda Meyerson)

Deystvitelno, the KP, the farmers, were ready to join – for a formidable price though, but that had had to be anticipated. The Malotoksichni, the Environmentalists, however, were primming. They didn’t want to cooperate with the farmers. The KP had ruled the country for aeons – and had done nothing to save the environment. Aga, it meant that the desired coalition wouldn’t come about.

The Peaceniks, the Stroronnomiri, holding 92 seats after all, were his current target. But they were very difficult to tackle. Semyon F. Prosinyuk was bracing himself for long negotiating sessions. 271 votes wouldn’t still suffice; seventeen more were required. The Potrebitelskiy, the Consumerists, held 17 seats. But they were even more difficult than the Peaceniks.

One was, of course, parleying with all other parties. Yet, there was little hope of success. Tying together the differing points of view and programmes was much more difficult than he had presumed. They wanted a piece of the power, sure, but at their conditions… And they weren’t compatible to each other. When you got one of them to agree to your proposals, the rest of them would shrink away, saying they couldn’t agree.

It was tiresome. But he had to keep trying…
True progress quietly and persistently moves along without notice.
(Saint Francis of Assisi)

Steel plant construction had begun; Kwon Chan-hee was entirely satisfied. Eight months from first survey to start of construction was an excellent process flow. In fact, the Sentetsu, Joseon Government Rail, had efficiently prepared the way by upgrading the rail facilities – while the gaugers still had been busy surveying the place. That, in turn, had facilitated the set-up of the construction site. It was a modern site with many machines – and few manual workers.

Nevertheless, plant completion was set for end of 1968 – in twenty-six months. You couldn’t do it any faster. Samsung Engineering & Construction had already mobilised all resources the country was able to deploy. Planning of Amikiri, the NPP ship, was still in its infancy; one didn’t yet know which pusher plate diameter would have to be produced. But that was a minor problem. The plant was going to be ultramodern; one would be able to adapt.

The Pohang port facilities were now coming into full fruition as delivery of bulk construction material was setting in. Ground work was progressing fast, thanks to excavators, bulldozers, graders, rollers – and huge dump trucks. – In parallel, the Hanjeon Power Corporation had commenced building the factory that was going to assemble the ship’s reactor. Doing it in place offered many advantages – not least through the availability of high quality steel parts.

The steel plant would be capable of manufacturing the reactor parts as a sideline, as it – of course – would also produce all the steel components needed for the NPP. – What was missing still was a design for the future space port. But to do this, the design of the NPP had to be known. The ilbon-eo overlords, the Mitsubishi Company, had announced to present them next month, but with the overlords you never knew…
The public have an insatiable curiosity to know everything, except what is worth knowing.
(Oscar Wilde)

Being the brother – twin brother in fact – of the chancelloress was advantageous indeed. Not that his own company, ZAZ – the centre for temporary employment, wasn’t already market leader; no, he suddenly also had become a consultant eagerly sought-after. Now really, he wasn’t lying to people – his sister did not share her actual thoughts with him and didn’t divulge her plans to him. But that evidently didn’t bother folks. Siegfried was the brother of the mighty lady; this was reason enough to hire him.

Of course, Gudrun and he were of the same mindset, had always been, basically. He could tell people how he saw things – and what he would do in a given case. There was a high probability that Gudrun would react alike. That was all he could do to earn his consultant fee. – Well, he hadn’t anticipated her decision to create Rechenknecht Inc. – nor her impetus to turn to politics. So, his advice might not be relevant, yet that wasn’t his problem. People knew what they were buying; it was their decision to spend money on it.

Gudrun said it was okay. If folks were keen to buy his opinion, he should sell – as long as he made it clear that he had no actual knowledge of her plans and intentions. They also might hire a clairvoyant or a palmist; it was entirely their decision. And Mom thought it was very funny. Dad had always done the unexpected, and Gudrun was very much like him. Siegfried the Soothsayer was going to be an utter failure, but why not make money with other people’s superstition?
The secret of all those who make discoveries is that they regard nothing as impossible.
(Justus von Liebig)

SMS Dora was in space; unloading the ship was complete and assembly of the test rig had begun. In fact, the ship was preparing to return to Hammerhorst; the reactor had to be hoisted up still. Professor Klaus Fuchs had already relocated to “Adam”, the special control dinghy. The other dinghies had also unmoored; two were serving as accommodations for the work crews, one was held in readiness for emergencies.

Fuchs was surprised how fast assembly was progressing. Yes, it was a modular construction system, but this was space... and only one third of the workers were kosmonauts. The rest were engineers from Siemens, Telefunken, Krupp and AEG. These spacesuits were anything but comfortable to work in. Fuchs had tried it out. He had fainted and almost asphyxiated.

Truly, weightlessness was already bad enough. Sitting strapped down at the work station was okay, but moving was tedious – not to mention eating and drinking – or the opposite. Sleeping was a nightmare. Thank goodness, nausea had ebbed away fairly quickly – and without puking… No, space was no place for him. The navigators, trained kosmonauts, said he would get used to it. But he didn’t think so.

Anyway, he had abstained from asking to reboard Dora – and riding down with it again. It was essential that he supervised the installation of the field generators. After all, they were the real things – or were going to be once the tests had validated them. They were his brainchild, but even he was in awe regarding their potential. Keeping a little sun in place was no mean feat.

The protective field would be inert; it required no sophisticated controls. The feeding field generator was producing a very large complex structure, but was not difficult to regulate. The holding field, however, was a bitch, because it had to keep the little sun in place – and at the same time had to serve as steering device for the ship. Fuchs had devised a control system that required both hands and both feet of the pilot for the task. It certainly was going to work as planned. But could he – could the pilot – sustain this posture for a longer period?
It is the very error of the moon. She comes nearer earth than she was wont. And makes men mad.
(William Shakespeare)

One was in train of preparing “Heinz” and “Paul” for the big leap to Lake Constance. Rudolf Ntussu – and the nabob and everybody else – had believed that RRA would be keen to take advantage of Bukoba’s position on the equator. But no, they wanted SIKOS up north. Well, one wouldn’t debate the Snowpushers’ wisdom. They who paid the pipers, called the tune.

Obviously, they were loath to shift major portions of their ground organisation to Bukoba. It was much easier to have the two SIKOS Bhaees move to Friedrichshafen than to drag a big part of DELAG to Lake Victoria. Yeah, one was only a small cog in a big machine. – Okay, it also was a splendid exercise. The whole staff was involved, not only the flying folks and the mechanics.

And the bill for all this was going to RRA; that made the nabob agree to all infamies. Well, “Oxum’s” lunar circumnavigation had already amply demonstrated SIKOS’ professionalism. Hence, the big boss seemed to assume that carrying out RRA’s instructions was a cinch for SIKOS. But that wasn’t the case; it meant reinventing the company. One was going to depart from Bukoba with all equipment one had.

Those elements not fitting into the Bhaees would have to travel by train. One would leave behind just a small duty station operating the telephone and guarding the site. It was an adventure, sure, but the land of the Snowpushers was not a wilderness. One had booked two hotels – and DELAG was going to provide workshops and hangars. In addition, Hindustan Industries had been told to deliver the four extra Mota Choohas to Friedrichshafen. That should create some agitation at DELAG’s…
Even a stone has its uses, and man who is the most intelligent of all creatures must be of some use, mustn’t he?
(Nikolai Gogol)

Mars hadn’t done damage to his career. Commodore Manjit Singh Sandhu had advanced to incoming chief of kosmonautic training at SUS headquarters in Lahore. The incumbent chief was due to retire in two months. Induction was an easygoing affair; Sandhu knew most phases of the training by own experience. Haan, he knew more about kosmonaut training than the old fart he was going to replace.

Training wasn’t bad, the lads were learning the right things, but it was badly organised. There was ample room for improvement – and for economies. But there was no need for precipitance. One had two crews for Sheshanaga – but currently no idea what to do with the ship, and neither plans to use the Bhaees. Another reserve crew for the NPP had to be nurtured now that the first crew – the Martians – had been withdrawn from space duty, but it wasn’t urgent.

Lahore was a great place, very imperial and very modern – at least as far as the government facilities were concerned. There were newly built housing areas for government officials, obviously designed in reference to bygone British times, very nice with lavish gardens. As commodore he was entitled to occupy a stand-alone mansion. The family was already preparing the move, grumbling though; the house at Puri was also very fine – and the coastal environment was superb. Moving to Panchu had never been a consideration.

SUS was debating the way ahead. Sending Sheshanaga out to the large gas giants was not an option. But it could well be used to establish a lunar station – or an orbital station – or both. Until now, however, one not had wasted much thought about such options. Hence, the whole discussion was starting from scratch. – And once the SUS brass had made up their mind, one still had to convince the politicians. It might take some time until Sheshanaga took to space again…
But wrath, not love or grief, is the dominant divine emotion.

Zissa, his other secretary, now also had begun wearing nyebolshiye. Okay, she was younger and nimbler than Gittel, yet it looked tarty nevertheless. It was funny, older men were supposed to find joy in such spectacles, but Josef Dembitzer rather felt scared. He had never had it off with any of his secretaries; it wasn’t his style. So, why were they exposing him to this meat market?

General moral decline, was that the answer? Was the rule of the Links-Bundists in fact leading to popular depravity, just as the religious parties had never stopped claiming? – Well, it was also happening in Russia and Germany. Perhaps it was a symptom of capitalism on the rampage instead. – Yeah, that indeed was what was happening in the real world. The Links-Bundists should prepare themselves for the worst.

The lady chancellor of Germany was veritably getting weaving. Taxes and tariffs had been lowered, welfare spending had been cut. If Strauß had been the chaotic laissez-faire type, this dame appeared to be ticking off a whole checklist of reliefs for the economy. And the Germans seemed to like it. They had been earning well before; and now, even more net was remaining in their pockets.

Dembitzer had looked it up: 80 percent of them were workers and employees, just 20 percent were owners and entrepreneurs, farmers included. The chancelloress clearly was aiming to make business easier for the owners and entrepreneurs, but she was not forgetting the workers and employees. Would it work? In the long run? Who could tell? Economy was not a matter of exact science, but very much dependent on moods and emotions.

And in Russia, the same was about to happen. If they really should stop investing massively in unproductive armaments, the Russian economy might soar ahead like never before. It certainly had the potential to do so. But the Russians were notoriously suspicious of everybody living beyond their borders. So, their economic miracle might turn out poorly in the end. Well, one was going to see…
All that is real in human history becomes irrational in the process of time.
(Friedrich Engels)

Khoroshó, he had the Farmers and – at long last – the Environmentalists, plus the True Believers, adding up to 310 votes. That was a comfortable majority for being elected kántsler. Semyon F. Prosinyuk had requested to convene the Duma on next Thursday for just that purpose. It was a coalition, though, that hardly would allow economic liberalism to reign supreme.

The Farmers were determined to protect their voters, the Russian peasants, from foreign competition. No imports of cheap grain from the Ukraine or the Kazakh Republic would be allowed. And all tax privileges and subsidies introduced during thirty-five years of KP rule had to be affirmed – or reintroduced where the Rodinyadniki had abolished them. That effectively barred the way to a free market for agricultural products.

The Environmentalists had put their thumb on all activities that might impair the environment – i.e. mining or oil and gas production – and also had enforced protection of the vast northern forests. At least they were not opposed to factory farming, which had nicely recovered from the bedlam caused by the Chinese doomsday bomb. Hence, provision of economical meat products for the populace would remain unimpaired, something after all.

The True Believers were bent on preserving the traditional Russian way of life and piety. That meant severe restrictions for the modern media – and censorship in art and literature. It also implicated bans on abortion, divorce and the sex business. All the same, they were not opposed to the contraceptive pill and zusies – and had proven surprisingly flexible when it came to education and welfare.

Anyway, nobody wanted limitations on nuclear energy, spaceflight and defence. That was a foundation to start from. Liberalisation wouldn’t happen most probably, but economic growth should be achievable
Man minus the Machine is a slave; Man plus the Machine is a freeman.
(Henry Ford)

It was surprising to witness how quick these Koreans were picking up German. Okay. Peter Vogel had often noticed that foreign workers were rapidly learning key words of the construction business, but those folks were not just acquiring words, they already were capable of forming simple sentences. It was going to make training easier, once it started.

The representatives of the companies had been at Hammerhorst. The nanjaeng-i nodongja had aroused their pity. The guy from the construction machine bureau had proposed a remote controlled tracked manipulator, while the engineer tank dude had suggested to go for a shielded vehicle. Unfortunately, the tank would be four times more expensive than the manipulator.

Of course, the management had gone for the cheaper option. One was going to get a manipulator prototype in eight months. The Koreans had been invited to Kirchdorf, a little town in Württemberg, to share their knowledge with the designers. That had been a short trip, however; their ideas concerning remote control were not compatible to what the designers had in mind.

Yeah, one was due to receive a hightech gadget. Vogel was wary. Would it work correctly in a radioactive environment? The Koreans had gone for a simple solution – and had been very successful. The company rep had been told under which conditions the widget would have to perform. Would the designers be able to solve the problem?
When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.
(Max Planck)

The Feuerdrache was back at Hammerhorst; technicians were crawling about, measuring radiation. The reactor was due to receive a bunch of new fuel rods; hence, the sojourn was scheduled for two months. Once the checkout was done, the crew would be sent on leave – safe the chief engineering officer and his ‘stokers’, of course. Major Sigmund Jähn and his family had decided for the Thuringian Forest. Hiking was okay for all – and the food was simply delicious. Thank goodness, the schools here at Hammerhorst were extremely flexible when it came to holidays for kids of kosmonauts.

One would board the routine shuttle to Prerow – and then proceed by rail. Erika, his wife, had booked a guesthouse at Masserberg which lay astride the main hiking route, the Rennsteig. Jähn looked forward to physical activity in the outdoors. After months of physical training in the Feuerdrache’s gym – and sparse activity as pilot – he was keen to see the natural world, villages, trees, birds, bees, all that. Yeah, being a space jockey was extremely dangerous – and extremely dull.

Did he regret to have volunteered for service with RRA? Not at all. Life as fighter pilot in the Luftwaffe hadn’t been any more thrilling. Flying was okay. But for one hour of flying you had to spend several days, sometimes even weeks, with other – often preposterous – activities. As kosmonaut, he had been to Mars and Eisenhans, and certainly was going to see Jupiter one day. It was good as it was. He was twenty-nine – and surely had ten more years as pilot lying ahead. Then, he should be due for a career like General Zeislitz.

Although… The general had volunteered to pilot the Phönix. That was something Jähn definitely was not going to do. Steering a ship to Alpha Centauri must be the dullest job available in the universe. Years, decades even, of inaction… No, thank you. Six months to Jupiter was acceptable, even twelve months to Saturn should be bearable, but forty-two years? There was a fair chance that the general wouldn’t live to see Alpha Centauri. That was not an option for Jähn, not at all. He intended to retire in due time – and enjoy nature for the rest of his life.
We are in September of 1966. Technology hasn't advanced that much; the only really new items are the magnetic fields developed by Professor Fuchs.
A scientific man ought to have no wishes, no affections, – a mere heart of stone.
(Charles Darwin)

The test rig looked quite complete, but the reactor was still missing. That made it a numb nut, in principle. If Dora was available, it could lend power, but the NPP was being employed to hoist up the reactor. Hence, Professor Klaus Fuchs was limited to letting his brain do the work. That wasn’t altogether unproductive, even if zero gravity was fairly distracting. Perhaps he could indeed improve the controls of the holding field. There should be a way to make it easier to handle.

Like in an automobile, the feet were best used for simple tasks. Push or no push, that was a straightforward way to use them. Hands could either operate levers or wheels, which in a car basically was the same function, but could be subdivided into independent actions. In fact, in a car the hands could operate a wheel and a lever, the gearstick, in parallel. Yeah, the general design of the controls should be alright, it fitted to what human body and mind were capable of doing.

Strapped to the pilot’s seat he could act out the possibilities. Yes, it should work. There would be acceleration, pressing you into the cushions, but one still ought to be able to control the controls. Acceleration and speed were adjusted by the pilot by moving the field – towards the little sun or away from it. Gauging that movement was going to be a central issue of the tests. One had to start very gradually – to not lose control.

Could one introduce something like a gear change? Six levels or so, from very slow to full speed? Yes, perhaps, but only after the thing had been gauged… That was the catch. – General Zeislitz would come up with the second reactor haul. Maybe he could offer a striking idea how to solve the conundrum