A Shift in Priorities - Sequel

Russia has been on a easy winning streak for so long they seem to have forgotten what is actually planning things properly, or having contingencies when your best plans fail anyway.
Just a reminder that this TL is a gigantic Russia-wank so i'm not surprised if somehow they managed to create something that single-handedly overturn the situation
Do not underestimate the power of an enemy, no matter how great or small, to rise against you another day.
(Attila the Hun)

Frigging fever was on the loose again. Must be a bleeding mutation that had jumped incubation time. Hence, one was back to square one. The lockdown had been clamped tight again. Professor Ramsauer and his team, already posed to return home, had hurriedly unpacked again. New cases were reported by the hour. The boss thought the mutation might also be more contagious. That was the normal thing to happen with these mutations.

The upside was that Duala still had been completely sealed off. Therefore one could be sure that the countryside – and the rest of the nation – was still safe. Well, sure was perhaps too strong a word. But one could hope for it – at least. Konrad Schabunde was working at a stretch to identify and analyse the new bug. There were lots of the little critters in the samples, of course. But he couldn’t tell them apart yet – at least not without fail.
I have looked farther into space than ever a human being did before me.
(William Herschel)

Okay, routine had been stepped up. The onboard suits – minus the helmets and the gloves, which had to be held close by – had to be worn throughout. These were no hard and bulky EVA suits, but it was cumbersome nevertheless. Yes, there was a damn lot of debris flying around, the astronomers had stated. In addition to the – seventy-eight, this morning’s count – moons, an incredible amount of smaller grunge was circling Jupiter.

The Hammer might be hit again any time. And the impacts might be much more dangerous than those that had perforated the missile launcher section. – Nevertheless, the Admiral had decided to plough on. One would go in. It was expected that the zone of the four large moons was much cleaner than the messy rim. Hence, turnover was about to happen… in twenty seconds.

Jochen Zeislitz calmly was watching the clock tick down. And ignition! It was an outright weird feeling as the Hammer was swinging around. But everything had been calculated precisely – and the manoeuvre worked out perfectly. All right, two minor corrections had to be made – and the ship was correctly on course again, but with its stern now pointing towards the banded marble.

Braking was only due to start tomorrow. Therefore, manoeuvre stations could be abandoned, the Admiral was just announcing, when – Phut! Phut! – there was another impact. And the horn started hooting. Jochen sighed. This was not funny…
It is the business of a general to be serene and inscrutable, impartial and self-controlled.
(Sun Tzu)

It was too good to be true: a delegation had arrived, Mongols from Dzungaria, the northern part of Xīnjiāng. They were beseeching the Great Qing to pocket their country. Field Marshal Dang Gangjun had sent them on, in a special aircraft, with dedicated escorts, to the capital, with kind regards for the attention of the Little Man. – It was past all belief that human beings should have survived in that area, but the blokes had claimed their community numbered more than ten thousand heads. Yeah, those tales about radioactivity were exorbitant. One had seen this already in Manchuria. Fēilóng had remodelled the landscape and changed weather patterns, but it hadn’t destroyed life.

Well, Xīnjiāng was nominally part of the Great Qing Empire, even the nefarious Treaty of Colombo had recognised that. And if the inhabitants asked to be ruled from Nánjīng, why shouldn’t one comply? – At least these people from Dzungaria were living right in the middle of the country – and were not clinging to the utter rim, like the miserable Uyghurs. And the capital, Díhuà – Ürümçi for the Uyghurs, was located in Dzungaria! – Okay, one mustn’t delve on the Dzungar War, when under the Qianlong Emperor the Dzungars had been massacred. That was long forgotten and done with, one should think.

The Pan-Turans hadn’t accomplished anything in what they called Uyghurstan after Fēilóng; they had all but abandoned the clime. Hence it was only just that the modern Dzungars should turn to the Great Qing. The railway meant civilisation. One had a lot to offer. – Dang sincerely hoped the Little Man was going to endorse the Dzungars’ plea. His troops were ready. One could secure the area in a jiffy. And there was no need to advance to the western rim, where the frigging Uyghurs were persevering. One could simply ignore them.
You have no idea how much poetry there is in the calculation of a table of logarithms!
(Carl Friedrich Gauss)

Braking was in full swing. The Hammer was chuting towards the zone of the large four Jovian moons. Until now there had been five impacts. Captain Patock’s repair teams had been able to fix the damage in each case. And for the last twelve hours, no new hit had occurred. The prediction that debris should lessen in the vicinity of the big moons seemed to come true.

Fritz Meyer was at the helm right in the moment. Jochen Zeislitz had retired to his cot and was trying to catch some sleep. Crew quarters were rather austere, but at least individual – for the officers. Well, a cubicle of hardly four square metres wasn’t appealing for anything else but napping. It wasn’t a hot bed though. After all, he was the chief pilot. However, Fritz and Werner were sharing one cot.

Lying on one’s back, dressed in onboard suit and with earphones on, finding sleep wasn’t easy, even for Jochen who was used to snooze almost everywhere. But it worked because it had to. He was diving towards Jupiter. The banded marble was becoming larger and larger. He was too fast. Flailing about he attempted to slow down. But he plunged into the Jovian atmosphere which was like icy water. Yeah, a huge ocean of cold stuff, and no ocean floor.

Waking up again was a release. Jochen checked his watch. Three hours still… Turning wasn’t possible. It was awkward. Perhaps emptying the bladder might help. Where was the bed bottle? And the frigging suit had no fly. Cursing, he wriggled out of the suit, peed into the bottle – and dressed again. But this time, sleep wouldn’t come. Fudge! In zero gravity it had been much easier…
To suffering there is a limit; to fearing, none.
(Francis Bacon)

This country was at risk. They were procreating far more children than could be fed from the modest agricultural resources. It had taken some time for Wukr el-Shabazz to understand what was going on in Ala Ka Kuma. There never had been any attempts to limit progeny. That was fairly normal for the Muslim countries in Africa; it always had been like this. But in the past, high infant mortality had ensured that population growth hadn’t outrun resources. This, evidently, had changed after the Great War, when remedies created by European medical progress had become available.

Yeah, the frigging Middle Africans, sitting on rich resources, had been quick to introduce birth control. And the WAU, equally rich in natural resources, had much less population than the country could actually feed. But in Ala Ka Kuma, Morocco, Al Zayer, Tunisia and Egypt – countries with very limited farmland – the population was growing and growing. That wasn’t good. Okay, Egypt had the Nile and its delta, and they had oil and the Suez Canal. So, this country could – most probably – feed the additional mouths – and also find jobs for them. But Ala Ka Kuma couldn’t…

Ala Ka Kuma was poor. And it was producing poor – and illiterate – offspring, for which it couldn’t provide jobs. That was creating a dangerous situation. A young population – five young men for each old geezer; the women didn’t count here – without prospect was a recipe for war, civil war or war with other countries. Neither the WAU nor Middle Africa was accepting any significant number of immigrants from Ala Ka Kuma. They weren’t interested in uneducated Muslims. And Morocco, Al Zayer and Tunisia had no jobs to offer, only more unemployed young men. Egypt, finally, had taken in immigrants in the past, but as they began experiencing difficulties in finding jobs for their own folks, they had stopped this practise.

Even France, desperately short of population, didn’t accept Ala Ka Kumans. They had no intention of conducting an exchange of populations. France was the land of the French, not an African colony. Middle African capitalists, mind you, were outsourcing unsophisticated production to Ala Ka Kuma, exploiting the situation. But that – by far – didn’t suffice. – Wukr himself was suffering from developments. It was possible for him to find a job. He was a full grown man with many skills. But wages were ridiculous. You couldn’t live from the small dough you were earning.

So, what should he do? Move on – to Egypt? Or try to saddle the situation? He was an experienced revolutionary socialist, after all. He could create a political movement… Chairman al-Shabazz of Ala Ka Kuma… Why not? This country needed someone who led it out of its misery…
Politicians are not born; they are excreted.
(Marcus Tullius Cicero)

Harty, his beloved wife, had departed for the US yesterday. She intended to spend midsummer on the family estate in the Genesee Valley south of Rochester, New York, which was certainly preferable to the sudatory named Deygbo. Well, sweat was indicated indeed, now that Jerry Wadsworth, the US ambassador to the WAU, felt free to act out his sexual preferences.

Yeah, the girlies were truly rupturing. How he loved these young sylphs… Okay, he knew that at least one of them had to be working for the WAU’s secret service, but that didn’t matter. As long as Harty didn’t know, everything was all right. The spooks would even take care that the girls were healthy and trim. He didn’t dread blackmail; that wasn’t their modus operandi.

His FSO agents, or rather the blokes operating at the embassy, knew about his nookies as well, of course. It would be naïve not to reckon so. All the same, they could be trusted to keep a professional secret. – And sure, Musa G’Norebbe and Felix Houphouët, his foreign minister, would be briefed about his sex adventures. So what? It would only show Musa that he was a functional male.

The problem, rather, was that Musa was getting too old by now. Wadsworth had observed it: the guy was becoming decrepit. Oh, not senile; his brain was still a fine instrument. But he had led a tough life – and today, his body was failing him. He was beyond seventy – and it didn’t look as if he was going to see his eightieth birthday. Who would follow him as ruler?

That was the question Washington had cabled – once again. One was worried. Musa had been the set successor of General von Bauer for a very long time. Hence, there had been continuity. But now, Musa, the new leader, hadn’t yet named his successor. That didn’t bode well. One was glad to have a reliable friend in Africa – and would hate to see the country descend into civil war and chaos.

He would have to touch on this issue in the next meeting with Musa. – But right now, he had other things to do…
None make a greater show of sorrow than those who are most delighted.

A mutation! Plague alert was on again. Worried faces everywhere. Could it be contained in Duala? Or had it spread already? Max Sikuku had bothered to thoroughly read the reports signed by General Abeku: most probably the spread had occurred already. Four soldiers had fallen ill. That meant the disease had reached those who were supposed to contain it. With whom had these soldiers been in contact? Where had they been billetted?

He had pressed through a phone call to Karl, who was based on board a destroyer in Duala naval port. The lad was shuttling around the big brass with his heli and therefore had an excellent view of the situation. Yes indeed, if soldiers were infected the isolation had been broken. – Max then had phoned Adele at Edea – and urgently had suggested stringent precautionary measures.

Next, he had issued a similar set of rules for Sikuku Enterprises. He had put that Kizwete bloke in charge of execution. It was a kind of security, after all. – Okay, now he could only pray that von Misuku and his folks were capable of conjuring up a treatment for the pest.
The stars are the land-marks of the universe.
(John Herschel)

Arrived! The Hammer was circling around Ganymede. Experience was telling, it seemed; this time, the manoeuvre had worked out really well. Already the first attempt had been crowned by complete success. It had been a smooth transition. Jochen Zeislitz was feeling good about himself. One was back to zero gravity, of course. But even those not happy with weightlessness wouldn’t complain. Everybody was busy preparing the landing operations.

Ganymede looked like… a huge billiard ball. Its surface was rather smooth, although there were numerous impact craters. It was ice, water ice, said the scientists. There were mottled areas of ancient ice – and bright spots of what was thought to be new ice. Something had to be working down there, perhaps tectonics like at home. One had dropped three probes. There was an atmosphere, an extremely thin affair, really not worth the while, but consisting of oxygen, mind you.

Yeah, radiation was thought to decompose some water ice on the surface. The hydrogen was immediately escaping into space; but Ganymede’s frail gravity – slightly less than the much smaller Moon’s – was catching the oxygen, at least for a short while. Indeed, the large Jovian moon must have a density that was much lower than Luna’s. The latter had a density of 3.3 grams per cubic centimetre. Ganymede’s was estimated to be only at 1.9 g/cm³.

The boffins thought there had to be liquid water below the ice crust, an ocean containing perhaps more water than found on good old Earth. Below that ocean, a – relatively diminutive – hard core of stone and iron ore was assumed. – Anyway, there was water, the prerequisite of life. Colonisation of the Jupiter system was possible – in principle. Man could sojourn here.

Was there, by any chance, extraterrestrial life in that capped ocean? Well, one was going to find out rather soon…
For my part I know nothing with any certainty, but the sight of the stars makes me dream.
(Vincent van Gogh)

His Majesty’s Spaceship Donars Hammer had safely arrived in the Jovian system and was currently orbiting Ganymede, the largest moon of the solar system. That was news for the headlines. And the Hammer folks had fortunately enough sent a useable picture of Ganymede’s surface, which could go with the story. Helga von Tschirschwitz was almost happy. Well, it was the best she could hope for. One could beef up the tale with some paintings, that always came nice.

It was Thursday, May 30th, 1963, and the mission to Jupiter had accomplished its first landmark event. That was a sensation beyond comparison. And indeed, the various circles of experts were wild with excitement. But the public at large had only a very short span of attention. They could neither see the Hammer nor its valiant crew – that was the major drawback. Out of sight, out of mind…

One would need far better transmissions from the Hammer, a kind of live coverage. But that wasn’t possible. One could be glad that communications were working at all. It was almost a miracle that picture transmission was performing as it did – over that vast distance. She knew that RRA scientists were labouring hard to come up with something better. They were talking of digitising the information flow – using zusies…

Helga had no clue what that meant. But she knew they had only just begun experimenting. It might take them years to achieve results. Until then, one would have to rely on radio waves.
To forget one’s purpose is the commonest form of stupidity.
(Friedrich Nietzsche)

Okay, the Hammer had reached Jupiter. There had been a diagram in the newspaper. It was a place far away from Earth, much farther out than Mars. The Red Planet was visible – at night – to the naked eye. To see Jupiter, one needed a telescope. Egon Schagalla had only a vague idea of the distances involved. But the DVP folks had become excited. Germans were out there, at the largest planet and the largest moon of the solar system! It was a triumph for the German people!

Yeah, great, but… Gerdi was pregnant. One would have to marry. That was what mattered. Oh, it didn’t mean the end of the world. He was earning enough money to feed a family; steelworkers were paid quite well. But one would need a larger flat and more furniture, and… and… In a word: one would become bourgeois, normal, trivial… Well, having a kid would be all right. Gerdi would have to quit her job, of course. But one could manage…

Gerdi reckoned the whole space business was meant to be the new opium of the people. One would never have a chance to participate; only some chosen few were ever going into space. Their child – or children – would not be among those chosen, never. One was bound to live down here on earth. Hence, one should make ends meet. What did he think of building a home for the family? By chance, the DVP was offering advantageous loans for members.

Oh man, that was even more white-bread… But why not? He wasn’t getting any younger. And a nice little house in the country would be cracking. He had grown up in a poor working class neighbourhood. A house of one’s own, with a garden… Damn, yes, Gerdi was right. Let the space geeks fly through the void; it didn’t matter. Life was taking place down here.
The pure culture is the foundation for all research on infectious disease.
(Robert Koch)

These black Piefkes could work miracles indeed. Hardly had they realised that the Duala Mutation had broken through the isolation barrier, when complete lockdown for all of Unterkamerun – and the national rail lines – had been proclaimed – and enforced thrustfully. Professor Sigbert Ramsauer was impressed. Once again, spread of Aruwimi had been stopped. It was brutal, no doubt, to toss a whole district into curfew – at a moment’s notice. And to interdict all rail traffic nationwide. But nobody would argue with the Askaris. They were a truly imposing lot.

Okay, one had won precious time. Most probably, a vaccine wouldn’t come forth. The virus was mutating too fast. But a cure seemed possible. In the beginning one had worked with complete blood exchange. In a mass disorder, this couldn’t be sustained over any longer period of time. However, one was achieving appreciable results with infusing two to three litres of blood. The blood needn’t even come from recuperated persons. The mechanism at work hadn’t yet been established, but it had reduced lethality to one in twelve in the most recent cases.

Aruwimi was interesting for Ramsauer just because it couldn’t be caught. The ability to mutate permanently made it an ideal agent for biological warfare. The original lethality – one out of five – was quite sufficient to cripple any society. But if the cure should be really that simple, the bug was falling flat. Perhaps he could breed something useful from the samples his team had collected. It must be possible to design a disease. If the darned English had been capable of designing something as lethal and destructive as NED, he ought to be able to do likewise.

The Middle Africans, Misuku and his folks, didn’t do research in biological warfare. They were focusing on fighting the disease. Well, they had no powerful enemies here on this continent. Although… He remembered having been briefed on their nuclear capability, which officially didn’t exist. Perhaps it was the same story with bio weapons…
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Success covers a multitude of blunders.
(George Bernard Shaw)

“Fidelio” was approaching landfall. One had disengaged from the Hammer twenty-three minutes ago and was orbiting Ganymede at an altitude of 9,600 km. Automated braking down was in progress. Hauptmann Theo Osterhage was watching the display: another thirty-four turns until stillstand. His co-pilot, Oberleutnant Helmut Konitzki, seated to his right, was talking to Hammer control. To his left, Oberleutnant zur See Winfrid Bremer, the flight engineer, was doing nothing, which always was a good sign. The scientists, Pasetti and Bohlen, were seated in the second row. They were silent, thank goodness.

Ganymede down below was looking like a winter scenery. Osterhage remembered flights across the frozen Baltic; that had looked similar. Although back then, flight altitude had been less than one kilometre – and not 9,600 klicks. Well, the ice hadn’t been level, but rather lumpy. He knew down there it would even be worse. Okay, one would go down pretty slowly – and would be able to select the landing site, to some extent. Or one did aboard descent and returned to orbit. He had seen the pictures transmitted by the probes: shambles, not a piece of even ground in sight.

“Fidelio” had six landing legs, designed to counterbalance height differences. But that had its limits, of course; more than 3.5 metres couldn’t be compensated. On Ganymede, that might be next to nothing. – But why worry? Gravity was low, one seventh of Earth’s; that meant one could hover down quite at leisure – and select a suitable spot. If none was in sight, one could ascent again and try somewhere else. Fuel was good for four attempts. – If one was able to identify hidden perils in time…
Nothing happens unless something moves.
(Albert von Einstein)

“Fidelio” was down. They had landed at the third attempt. Theo Osterhage somehow had managed it. Pasetti and Bohlen, the scientists on board the lander, were preparing a first sally. Nobody would let them loose alone on Ganymede, so, Osterhage and Konitzki were preparing for EVA as well. Bremer was busy checking the vehicle. Once the rest of the crew was ready for exit, he would man the bridge.

Jochen Zeislitz had seen the pictures sent up from the landing site. This wasn’t like anything he knew, neither the Moon nor Mars were preparing you for that here. We should have brought along some polar explorers, he had mused. They might feel at home in this glacial wilderness. A wilderness without atmosphere in addition; the minimal amount of oxygen reportedly on hand wasn’t even noticeable.

The scientists, however, seemed to be enthusiastic. They were babbling about placing explosive charges and measuring the thickness of the upper ice crust – and the distance between surface and hard core. And the Admiral had endorsed that scheme… Okay, why not? This was a research expedition. One had come here to find out things. He was only the driver after all…

One had put out “Elsa” and “Brünhild”, two more landers, so that radio contact with “Fidelio” was working without interruption while the Hammer was circling Ganymede. And one was mapping the surface in the process. The astronomers – the navigators recte – were doing that with their arsenal. In fact, they had automated the mapping procedure – and were instead observing Jupiter and its other moons.

Yeah, the big banded marble was dominating the screens. Ganymede was large, but it was dwarfed in comparison with Jupiter. It was a magnificent sight – those brown, blue, grey and white clouds that were rotating in various streaks, a constantly moving scenery. Movement, it seemed, without life. Or was there?
Nature brings us back to absolute truth whenever we wander.
(Louis Agassiz)

Kurt Pasetti hesitated when it was his turn to step outside. It wasn’t so that he was afraid of Ganymede, but the light was irritating him. He couldn’t see where he was supposed to step upon. The vision panel was deceiving; there were reflections where none ought to be. Theo Osterhage was beckoning him to come out. Behind him he anticipated Ludger Bohlen and Helmut Konitzki to wait impatiently for him to move. It was an awkward situation.

“Just a moment,” he muttered “I need to adjust my eyesight…”
“No sweat” answered Osterhage. “take your time. Safety first.“
Pasetti blinked but the reflections wouldn’t go away. Bother! You couldn’t wipe that screen. He had practised many times with this kind of spacesuit, but never under these bloody light conditions.

Semidarkness, that described it best. There was no sun, most of the time. And when it was visible it was but a remote tiny spot. Instead, there was Jupiter, always, at least on this side of Ganymede. But Jupiter wasn’t glowing. – With unease, he took a first step – and the reflections were gone.
“Okay!” he exclaimed with relief. “It‘s better now. I’m coming.“

And there was Jupiter. What a monster! It was filling half the sky. Carefully, he shuffled down the ramp. Bohlen followed suit. Konitzki came last. “Fidelio“ was standing like a lean needle between huge boulders of ice. Dirty ice, grey stuff. Some of these boulders looked like solid cubes, others like piles of loose material. They said gravity was slightly lower than on the Moon. Pasetti had never been on the Moon.

At least one had a clear sense of top and bottom.
“All right, gentlemen, that’s it.“ said Osterhage. “Where do you want to take your samples?”
Clumsily, Pasetti pointed towards the boulders.
“I shall examine these beauties. Ludger will drill into the ground below us.”
Stability can only be attained by inactive matter.
(Marie Curie)

Konteradmiral Carl Emmermann loved watching Jupiter. The clouds were always busy, whirling wandering bands running from left to right in the northern hemisphere, and the other way round in the southern one. The Great Red Spot, larger than Earth – and much larger than Ganymede, was a magnificent object. It was rotating counterclockwise, an everlasting cyclone in an atmosphere of storms. The cloud colours were like ancient marble, elegant and noble.

The big thing, however, was the magnetosphere, which one couldn’t see at all. But the instruments had detected it. It was enormous. And all four Galilean Moons were inside it and hence were protected by it – like Earth was protected by its magnetic field. Under this protection from the charged particles of the solar wind, life had developed on Earth. Had it developed here as well? There was liquid water – most probably – on Europa, Ganymede and Callisto, the other ingredient of life.

Well, if there should be life, one would hardly be able to track it down on this mission. The ice crusts were massive – and the Hammer was carrying no drilling equipment able to cope with several kilometres of rock-hard ice. One could bore down to a depth of eight hundred metres, that was all. So, any potential life in the ocean below the crust couldn’t be approached. Examining the liquid water – if there was any – wouldn’t be possible on this mission.

The enigma of life in the Jovian system wouldn’t be solved this time. That was a pity – and a piece of luck – at the same time. For the Hammer and its crew it meant rough luck. Well, one would nevertheless have a lot to tell and show off. Yet, it would sting not to have discovered extraterrestrial life. – But, on the other hand, it would be a very strong incentive to send another mission – or missions – to Jupiter. The Feuerdrache ought to be operational at the time when the Hammer reached home. – But there was also this Russian NPP ship…

Would the Russians send it to Jupiter? What should stop them from doing so? – It would be infuriating. Or it would be a big hoax, if there was no life. Yeah, an enigma…
What's the command structure like on the Hammer? The ranks look naval (zur See) but I wonder if they'll keep it that way or is lessons learned from the Hammer will have them try something different on Feuerdrache
What's the command structure like on the Hammer? The ranks look naval (zur See) but I wonder if they'll keep it that way or is lessons learned from the Hammer will have them try something different on Feuerdrache
They modelled it on the example of the nuclear submarines. And because it's working there's no incentive yet to change it. Ranks, however, are those of the detaching organisations, hence Jochen Zeislitz is an Oberst (colonel) of the Luftwaffe, not a Kapitän zur See (naval captain).