A Shift in Priorities - Sequel

Be bold, and everywhere be bold.
(Edmund Spenser)

Yep, there was the old blue-white globe, rolling into sight like a thunderhead. Just in time, as the main jets’ fuel gauge had just arrived at indicating nought. Well, the manoeuvring jets still had some juice. Jochen Zeislitz successfully fought the temptation to correct course. It wouldn’t work. Either Earth did indeed cross the dinghy’s preset path – or one was lost.

How fast? No idea. Raumkolonie ought to be able to detect the dinghies on their fumeo screen, and Prerow certainly was able to convert these readings into velocity information – after some minutes, when they had become utterly useless already. Actually, only Jochen’s intuition and experience would count.

And the blue-white mammoth was there, just as it should. Jochen fired the manoeuvring jets to achieve the best impact angle. Frigging “Pamina” had only a poor thermal sheet. The landers had been designed with Jupiter’s moons in focus, hence only thin gas envelopes had been considered.

Could one zigzag in the lower thermosphere, just above the mesopause? Up? And down again? It seemed to work. Yeah, he could manoeuvre, follow Earth’s bend instead of just pervading the atmosphere. Would the thermal sheet hold? No idea. Was it getting hotter in the boat? Obviously…

Okay, the spacesuits could stand not only cold. He had to risk it. Werner was reading the thermometer. The steel of the hull was good for 1.400° Celsius, or almost. Did braking work? No goddam idea… And up again. Fuel? As good as gone. Out!

Would Earth’s gravity catch “Pamina”? Or was the boat still too fast? Jochen – and everybody else – could only wait; all fuel was spent. Raumkolonie came on the air again as the boat shot out of the mesosphere. Wait, wait, wait… Yes, the trajectory wasn’t straight, it was slightly bent. It seemed one had made it… Let the Große Schwester come!
Last edited:
For rarely man escapes his destiny.
(Ludovico Ariosto)

“Elsa” and “Pamina” had weathered atmospheric braking. “Fidelio” and “Brünhild” were gone. They had dived too deep, had deflagrated in the mesosphere. Four Große Schwestern had been sent out to rendezvous with “Elsa” and “Pamina”. That was the situation. Should one rejoice or mourn? The Hammer and half of its crew were lost. But the other half had survived.

Well, one had to mourn the dead heroes, of course. And one must celebrate the survivors, needless to say. Helga von Tschirschwitz was masterfully managing the balancing act. The Jovian Journey was an unparalleled exploit, a scientific triumph. Space had always taken its toll – and was due to continue with it. It was a tragedy, no doubt – but also a staggering achievement.

Germans had been out there, at the largest planet of the solar system – and had returned. Valuable data and priceless samples had been retrieved – or were about to be retrieved. It was an incredible success. – And the media were complying with Helga’s tale. The sacrifice was honoured – and the accomplishments were hyped. Germany had done it again; wasn’t it great?

But indeed, the Russians were right. They were known to be building a small fleet of NPP ships. Sending out the Hammer alone had been an act of… Daredevilry? Hybris? Stupidity? Self-conceit? A holiday trip to Mars was one thing, but an expedition to Jupiter was quite another matter. And even little Mars had taken its toll.

Yeah, the Feuerdrache wouldn’t be sent out alone beyond Earth and Moon. Director Kammler was determined to get approval to construct four more of the beasts. Future missions to the outer planets had to be undertaken with at least two – better three – vessels. The submarine approach would be replaced by the fleet approach.

And Jochen Zeislitz, the old swashbuckler and ladykiller was alive. Good that the Große Schwestern had been prepositioned. They didn’t have much oxygen left on board “Elsa” and “Pamina”. While still speaking to a band of reporters, she saw the flight controllers cheer. Okay, the dinghies had been rendezvoused; rescue was in progress.
One sees more devils than vast hell can hold.
(William Shakespeare)

The drama of the Hammer’s return had been theme number one in the Middle African media, pushing Aruwimi to the ranks. Well, the fever had been contained, but one still couldn’t cure it. Konrad Schabunde was working with the viruses, was trying to solve the riddle of their rapid mutations. The little buggers were eminently dangerous. Only the fact that their victims quickly became immobile once symptoms set in made them controllable to a certain degree. Should a mutation surface which did not immediately bowl over the patients, one was going to be in dire straits in the next outbreak.

Infected folks were contagious from day three or four on, but only rather mildly so. With onset of the symptoms, however, the virus load became sprawling. If the symptoms should turn into a resemblance of a flu or something like that – initially, containment would become almost impossible. Even the rude methods of the military wouldn’t warrant success any longer. The boss had already warned the politicians: Aruwimi wasn’t gone. It was still around – taking a break.

And Siggi the Snowpusher, Professor Raumsauer, had taken Aruwimi to Europe, to that little island near London. One could only hope he didn’t do anything stupid. The boss was fiddling about with a treatment. Vaccinating wouldn’t work, not least because of the high mutation rate. But treating the fever might be feasible. Blood donations had shown appreciable results – in slowing down deterioration and thus giving the infected body a chance to cope with the viruses.

Life in Duala was back to normal. A field team was still rummaging the area between Kole and Bobende. The original host animal had been found: a fruitbat. But now there were several host animals; Aruwimi, it appeared, had spread along the fauna. That was very alarming.
They defend their errors as if they were defending their inheritance.
(Edmund Burke)

One had averted Russian aggression against the Kazakh Republic, quite elegantly moreover. Grand Vizier Cemal Gürsel Paşa would have been entirely satisfied – if not for the blasted Çinliler who had snatched the major part of Uyghurstan in the meantime. One had to admit, the bastards also had shown great adroitness. Rolling out the Dzungars had been quite clever. They manifestly were no Uyghurs – and no Uyghurs were living in the territory now declared to be Dzungaria.

One had – of course – bludgeoned the Uyghurs, but they had lost all punch. Living in makeshift shelters and munching relief supplies evidently made something with you. Or rather: those who couldn’t stand those conditions had moved on long since, and those still there were the mushy crowd that would not budge if not egged on by brute force. Finding enterprising Uyghurs might still be possible, yet not in the short time that had been available opposite the bold Çinli landgrab.

It was a blameful drubbing for the Pan-Turan Commonwealth, no doubt. But there was no possible immediate answer – thanks to those spineless Uyghurs. Well, if a monster bomb had churned up your front yard you might also have lost interest in fighting for it… And there was this nice old story of Çinli atrocities against the Dzungars. Indeed, the opera wasn’t over yet, the fat lady might still sing…
What we are doing here is only the image of what we would like to do.
(Marquis de Sade)

Jupiter bug quarantine, of course, little(?) green tadpoles might be thriving in the oceans below the ice crusts – and anything else you couldn’t name yet. One had to be very careful. But it was okay. Gravity was back. And there was a sky – and a real ocean. The island of Riems was a prohibited zone anyway – and there was no sea state. Everybody could relax – and relish the embracive services.

The Admiral was dead; Kapitän Kastenmüller was alive. You couldn’t have it all. Jochen Zeislitz was dawdling along. His career as an active cosmonaut was finished. The Kaiser was going to award him the Eichenlaub (oak leaves) to the Pour-le-Mérite, after quarantine’s end. Yeah, and thereafter he would move to Ireland, to Hammerhorst – and train the pilots of the Feuerdrache – and of all other future NPP ships.

And yes, he was a general now, Generalmajor Dipl. Ing. Jochen Zeislitz. The Luftwaffe was quick in promoting their people; that was nice. He was a public hero, but thanks to the quarantine, harassment kept within reasonable limits. There were countless offers, but he neither was inclined to write a book, nor would he excel in delivering speeches. That wasn’t his style. Training the newbies was all right.

Well, not only newbies… Werner and Fritz were applying for slots on the Feuerdrache. Who could beat their experience? But the four new constructions, endorsed by the Reichstag yesterday, surely would be manned by newbies. Yes, there was serious work lying ahead. That was cute…
In the universe, there are things that are known, and things that are unknown, and in between, there are doors.
(William Blake)

At Achinsk and Shishmarevo, one had tracked the Hammer’s fate with the utmost meticulousness. It was a priceless lesson. The Nyemtsi had displayed great daring in escaping from doom – and had unhesitatingly sacrificed their big NPP ship. The incident showed that the decision to build three more ships in addition to Indrik Zver was spot-on.

Indrik Zver looked good, but was far from ready. The completion date was still April 1964 – and couldn’t be moved forward, despite all attempts. Planning for the new ships was far advanced though. They were going to be clones of Indrik Zver. Building them, however, could only commence once Indrik had been launched. That wasn’t a great problem, as enlarging the Shishmarevo facilities took time as well.

Anatoly Alekseyevich Dorodnitsyn’s office was congested with sequence plans and time schedules. He was busy round-the-clock. Yet, he was in control of events. He had even pushed through not to be forced to attend meetings in Moscow. He would visit Achinsk, yes, but that was the farthest he would move away from Shishmarevo.

Siberian winter held no threat for Russian engineers. One had learnt to cope with ice and frost. Come spring, Indrik Zver would be launched – and construction of the three clones, Stribog, Khors and Svarog, would begin. One couldn’t beat the second Nyemets NPP ship, the Ognevói Drakón, but one could beat their clones. Russia might field the first deep space fleet.
Whenever a thing is done for the first time, it releases a little demon.
(Emily Dickinson)

Four more ships! Good grief! Hammerhorst would have to grow considerably. Doktor Manfred Rüchel was studying the site maps. They were based on aerial photographs and thus showing the real thing. The Krupp steel plant was set; you wouldn’t want to touch it. Any non-productive time there meant downtime for everyone and everything else. Unfortunately, the pusher plates couldn’t be moved freely. Therefore, the dockyards for Alpha, Beta, Gamma and Delta, as the four new constructions were called for the present, had to be located close to the steel plant.

It could be done. But the Feuerdrache would have to be launched first. Thereafter, the new dockyards could be created. They would be rather close to each other – arranged in a half circle around the output site of the steel plant. That was tricky, because it meant that you either had to launch all four ships simultaneously – or had to erect strong separating walls between them… Was that possible at all? He would have to have it checked. Well, the individual nukes weren’t that powerful. Shielding might work.

The Feuerdrache’s pusher plate was in place; the reactor had arrived and was in line for being installed in the coming weeks. Construction was on schedule; completion and launch date had been fixed – tentatively – for April 30th, 1964. Hammerhorst was large enough to accept all additional infrastructure required. The engineers and architects were already busy planning the enhancements. Rüchel saw no reason why things should go awry. Ireland had a mild climate. There were no severe winters; construction could proceed without any interruptions.

The Hammer’s lot didn’t have incisive consequences for the Feuerdrache and its issue. You couldn’t install a second reactor; and the cooling system could only be improved marginally. The Hammer’s reactor had worked as it should – until the meteorite had hit. A second impact at exactly the same spot was highly improbable, said the statisticians. Hence, focussing too strongly on this incident wouldn’t help. No, sending out two or more ships on one mission was the correct approach.

Radioactivity was an issue. But here the Feuerdrache did indeed offer a new approach. You could – later – separate the pusher plate and the shock absorber section from the spherical main body – and install a new set. It meant the contaminated parts were going to end up here at Hammerhorst. That wasn’t nice, but feasible. There was room enough in this empty country.
So is Ireland basically a German colony at this point?
Ireland, and the British Isles in general, are basically completely devoid of human life now. The Brit's own bioweapons got loose and wiped out a solid chunk of everything from the Outer Hebrides to the Rhine.
Last edited:
Masses are always breeding grounds of psychic epidemics.
(Carl Jung)

The tale of the Hammer had something of a heroic legend – daring, sacrifice, death, everything was there. Was the ending good or bad? Who could tell? Egon and Gerdi Schagalla were enthralled. This space adventure was awesome. Even the dire lack of moving pictures didn’t matter. One had photographs of everyone and everything, that was sufficient to visualise events. Well, imagination certainly played a role, but wasn’t that the case in all news?

The DVP folks were feeling the same; they were outright zealous. German people had done it! Germany was in the lead! But also other dudes were celebrating the event. Yes, there had been casualties, grievous losses, but the achievements were worth it. And the NPP ships were huge; they could transport many passengers, colonists for Jupiter, where water was abundant. Normal people could go there… Now! Or at least in few years…

Indeed, that was making a big difference. The conventional chemical rockets had only poor payloads, but the nuclear craft could lift enormous charges. Gerdi and Egon were most probably too old, but their child – or children – might live in the Jupiter system one day. Forget the Moon, Mars and Venus. The Jovian ice moons were the future, undoubtedly. With energy supplied by nuclear reactors and water, colonisation could commence tomorrow.

Yeah, the idea had gone ballistic already. Even Egon, not normally inclined to fantasise, had been seized by the fever. And the DVP was marching in front of the movement. This time, they were not the hidebound reactionaries, but the vanguard of space colonisation.
Sometimes people don’t want to hear the truth because they don’t want their illusions destroyed.
(Friedrich Nietzsche)

Things were getting increasingly out of hand; Helga von Tschirschwitz was alarmed. Making space flight popular and keeping RRA in the headlines was one thing, but this rapidly developing colonise-the-Jupiter-moons movement was crazy. There were sketchy initial deliberations to establish a research station in the Jupiter system, but nobody was planning anything else – and by no means an indwelt colony populated by all and sundry.

What should these folks do on Europa – or Ganymede? Nobody here at Prerow could tell her that. One could imagine a chosen handful of scientists exploring the Jovian system. But a huge crowd of laymen? Farmers? Craftsmen? Rather not… But this was just what the movement was demanding. Helga remembered the past riots very well. They all had begun for similar silly reasons.

Strauß of the DVP was performing the champion of the movement. His old campaign pledge “to hand the stars to the German people” had been briskly reinvigorated. Okay, he was a politician and hence always looking for ways to increase his influence and eventually seize power in Berlin. The Hammer had successfully been claimed by the Krosigk folks. Strauß was now attempting to take the lead.

Helga anticipated violence – or a rash and inevitably wrong political decision. There was no doubt that a broad majority of the populace was supporting the movement. Strauß had a way there – and possibly the upper hand. But it was rubbish, of course… Or was it? – Could it be done? With a fleet of five Feuerdrachen? They could carry an unimaginable amount of cargo. Enough to establish a colony…

And the Feuerdrache, once operational, was scheduled to hoist a lot of equipment to Mondstadt, including a reactor and mining machinery. That was grist for Strauß’s mill, quite for sure. Oh dear! Political decisions… Would a Reichskanzler Strauß stick to his promises? Would he be good for RRA?
There is nothing stable in the world; uproar’s your only music.
(John Keats)

Franz Josef was playing it big. The seasoned tribune of the plebs inside him had immediately grasped the importance of the colonise-the-Jupiter-moons movement – and had forged ahead and taken the lead. Hanne Zülch could sense the basic theme of that movement: the yearning for something new. How often had the German youth rioted? Because they were loath to be ruled by old men from the last century… – And what had they got? Another bunch of old men to rule them…

And, of course, Franz Josef also had a second motif: he could brush aside the old farts in the DVP, the diehard reactionaries, those wet blankets who always had clogged Franz Josef’s new course. The movement was one of the young; the old crocks were immaterial here. Hanne had the figures: the old farts were outnumbered one to three. Yet, they were controlling the local party organisations. Or rather: had been controlling, if Franz Josef got his way.

It was pure stress for party headquarters. However, Hanne’s reforms seemed to be holding. One was able to cope – with some extra night shifts. Public support was overwhelming. The media, normally prone to finding fault in all matters DVP, had come round. Run-of-the-mill experts and self-styled authorities were declaring the colony idea feasible. – Hanne didn’t care. It didn’t matter. Franz Josef’s target was Wilhelmstraße Number 77, the imperial chancellery. He didn’t give one jota about any Jovian moons.
When we remember we are all mad, the mysteries disappear and life stands explained.
(Mark Twain)

His brigade had officially been declared operational, at long last. Fritz Ma’alongwe was a general now, a Generalmajor in Askari understanding, a brigadier for the Amerinds and a general de brigada for the rest. The Peruvians would talk of him as pishqa waranqa kamayuq, commander of five thousand. The promotion had effected no change in his lifestyle. But he was accumulating real estate on a grand scale.

Well, he had married half a year ago. That had brought a lot of change to his lifestyle. Ellen Millaray Twinkling Star was a Pawnee, a seasoned woman almost his age, worldly-wise and attentive. It meant Fritz had decided to stay here in the Opaque Woodlands. His children were going to be zambos. They would inherit his estates, which were a huge swath of land, but rather unpopulated still.

Ellen had taken that in hand. The land had to be worked. The Peruvians were good at that. It had to be organised; she was doing that. The Peruvians were easily led at the moment. Their Intip Churin had turned out a flop; his amauta, the alleged learnt men, had proven themselves muppets. Fritz was a successful commander; Ellen was his wife. That charisma ought to suffice to attract some worker communities.

Fritz’s ability to speak Quechua had become quite good; Ellen was still learning. She was fluent in Spanish, however, and that should do the trick with the Peruvians. These folks were making lousy soldiers, in Fritz’s appreciation, but reliable engineers and workers – and excellent farmers. The Ma’alongwe country estate was located along the Rio Patuca valley.

Okay, Ma’alongwe was perhaps not a word the Opaque Woodlanders could easily pronounce. Ellen and he were pondering the question. But it was not an urgent matter to decide. – His family at home, the parents, two brothers and one sister, were not amused, but also not completely opposed. He was a soldier, after all, one of those dodgy fellows. And a general in America was far better than a humble captain in Middle Africa. But family visits would become tedious.
Never travel by sea when you can go by land.
(Cato the Younger)

Half time, said the calendar. Still thirty days until S-17 had to be back at the Bahia de Neiba again. Teniente de Navio Julius Nyerere wondered how the Askaris on Hispaniola might be faring. His boat was on a routine patrol between Curaçao, Jamaica and Puerto Rico – and right now off the south shore of Hispaniola. Should he order a quick side-trip to the bay? Well, why not? Most probably, there would be nobody. But if the Askaris were in trouble, they might be glad to see the submarine.

Two hours later, S-17 was still far away from the Bahia de Neiba, the fumeo operator announced contact. A ship was approaching fast from fourteen hundred. Okay, an Ami, for sure. They would already know about S-17. Nyerere was curious. Meeting an Ami man-of-war near Hispaniola would be a change. There was no reason to dive, but he ordered general quarters. You never knew…

USS Phelps was an older design. The class it belonged to had been ordered immediately after the Trans-Atlantic War. They had been powerful ships back then, designed to escort aircraft carriers and troop transports, but today were routinely relegated to second-tier patrol duty. Nyerere scrutinised the destroyer with his binoculars, while his second watch officer took pictures. Well, on the bridge of Phelps, one was doing the same evidently.

The vessel looked worn, but all weapon systems seemed to be fully operative. The Amis were only giving a cursory salute and continued their course without slowing down. Not interested in talking with the black man, concluded Nyerere. The destroyer was a good deal faster than S-17 and was quickly sheering off. Nyerere didn’t think they were on an urgent mission. This was show, in his mind. We know you’re here – and we don’t care a damn.

Okay, these were international waters. Let’s see whether they will turn up again when we reach the Bahia de Neiba.
I kind of forget after all this time, but how was the state of civil rights in this TL's America?
Suppose you refer to the US. After the Troubles, because of increased internal migration, the civil rights situation relaxed, especially in the South. Racial segregation has ended everywhere. But, as always and everywhere, some minds take longer to adjust - or refuse to do so at all. - This does, however, not mean US relations with Middle Africa became any better.
He was a bold man that first ate an oyster.
(Jonathan Swift)

One more week – and Jupiter bug quarantine was history. But it wasn’t so that you were going to be discaged – and could run away. Only a limited number of medics, the most important ones, had been admitted to the island of Riems; all the rest was waiting for you outside. Already now it was evident that the voyage had done something to your body. And the eggheads were keen to learn all about it.

Exposition to radiation and zero gravity, that undoubtedly were the main causes of the changes. One had known it would happen, hence it was no surprise. But that didn’t stop the medics and scientists from wanting to scrutinise the tiniest particulars. Jochen Zeislitz was one of the fittest. He was a seasoned kosmonaut – and had meticulously observed his training routine. Others had not, it seemed. Nevertheless, he had absorbed quite an impressive dose of radiation.

It wasn’t an acute radiation syndrome. Exposure had been to very minor amounts of ionising radiation over a very long period. Obviously, there was no radiation sickness with vomiting, nausea and diarrhoea, but nevertheless something had happened to his body. Could the body adapt to radiation? The books said no, but the issue had seen very little research. Only those exposed to high doses over a short time, the victims of Shanghai and Harbin, had received much attention.

Well, one was going to see. He didn’t feel sick, only kind of faint, which perhaps was just a repercussion of the narrow escape from doom. Okay, a horde of world-class scientists was only waiting to put him through the mill. Damn, he had survived the Hammer, he would also survive scientific inquisition.
The most beautiful stories always start with wreckage.
(Jack London)

In the Bahia de Neiba everything was calm. The former city of Santa Cruz de Barahona and its port lay silent. The town was already overgrown with trees and shrubs, but the port looked useable still. The bay was flanked by hills on both sides. Teniente de Navio Julius Nyerere supposed if the Askaris were in the vicinity, they would camp on one of these hills.

Okay, one could afford to sojourn half a day. The crew certainly would enjoy some hours outside the tube – and the opportunity to wash and bath. It was warm and sunny. Nyerere decided to have a look at the port. The boat’s rubber raft ferried him over. – Yeah, the port was basically all right. It had been a simple fishing harbour, devoid of all sophisticated technology. There wasn’t much that could have gone to rack.

The town was all shambles. Nyerere was just about to return to S-17, when the handheld transceiver became active. Ship approaching fast, reported the first watch officer. Uh-huh, the Amis, USS Phelps, just as Nyerere had anticipated. No, just continue with leisure activities, no alert. This island belonged to nobody. S-17 was entitled to be here. But he should see to return to the boat…

Yes, indeed, it was USS Phelps. Perhaps the Amis were now disposed to talk to him. Nyerere’s crew was busy swimming and dabbling, naked of course. That ought to be showcasing peaceful intentions. Well, the Amis had manned their guns. Nyerere felt a twinge of doubt. Would they attack? Was his line of thinking fallacious?

Flag signals! What did they want? English! Who could understand that gibberish? As S-17 was flying the Venezuelan flag, Nyerere answered in Spanish, asking the Amis to switch to that language. More English… Blockheads! But they weren’t shooting. And USS Phelps was slowing down.

Surprise! The captain of Phelps was a Negro. Who would have supposed? But it was an unfriendly fellow. He was yelling at Nyerere. A pity one couldn’t understand him. Nyerere waved at him and smiled. The bloke was beckoning him to come over. Okay, why not? Perhaps they could produce a Spanish speaker, even if they weren’t able to signal in that language…