A Shift in Priorities - Sequel

The world is full of obvious things which nobody by any chance ever observes.
(Arthur Conan Doyle)

The meeting of the Nieuw Hoogeveen city council had just been closed. The attendees – Mayor Anne Robbins, Councillors Ton Snels and Bertje Jagtenberg – had changed over to socialising. Jonge genever and zwarte koffie were enjoyed to sweet bread buns and sugared wafers. Indeed, Nieuw Hoogeveen was doing fine. Except for the lack of people, one should be growing and expanding. One had, however, swapped the small wooden shacks for larger prefab houses. Yeah, and infrastructure in general had improved.

It was a pity one couldn’t do more, but a day had only twenty-four hours and folks only two hands. Slaves would be nice – or intelligent machines, but both weren’t available. Although… There was this country in Africa – Ala Ka Kuma. They were offering cheap labour, not exactly slaves, but almost. Should one really order farm hands? They were Muslims, those people; might that pose a problem? Well, in the former Dutch colonies, there also had been lots of Muslims, on Java and on Sumatra in particular. Religion never had played an important role over there, had it?

Anne Robbins, with her American background, wasn’t convinced. The black slaves in the US had only caused an endless chain of issues, not least the Civil War. And even after two hundred years, their descendants weren’t fully integrated. It was one thing to have Poles or Ukrainians work in the greenhouses – and quite something else to employ Negroes or Asians. And hadn’t Churchill’s experiment with the Nigerian workers gloriously failed? – Ton and Bertje could see Anne’s points. Yes, she certainly was right.

But there were no Poles or Ukrainians available. The Moffen were sucking them all up. It would have to be Ala Ka Kumans – or stagnation. One wasn’t talking about mass migration. Fifty or sixty folks should do for Nieuw Hoogeveen, perhaps even forty might suffice. The offer was good – and transportation cost affordable. One would, that was true, have to instruct them. But servicing greenhouses was not a rocket science. – And the language problem? These people were speaking Ala Ka Kuman, which was a kind of pidgin Arabic. And from ordinary farm hands one hardly could expect knowledge of foreign languages.

Oops, Anne was right again. That really was a stumbling block. – But there were Middle African enterprises producing in Ala Ka Kuma. And the Middle Africans were speaking German – and nothing else. Perhaps one could hire personnel that had already worked for the Middle Africans – and hence had acquired some basic command of German? Granted, they might come a little bit more expensive, but hopefully would be quite worth the expense. – Yes, that sounded reasonable. Well, one could give it a try…
The searcher’s eye not seldom finds more than he wished to find.
(Gotthold Ephraim Lessing)

Precipitation patterns were changing. That had had to be expected. But it was happening at a surprising pace. – Well, one didn’t have much – indeed none – experience in such matters. The cold spell after GQDD – some were calling it a nuclear winter – had been entirely atypical. Right now, one was dealing with the opening phase of a new cold stage. Hermann Wölken thought it would be another little ice age, similar to the one that had lasted from the early 16th to the early 19th century, but he knew he might be mistaking.

This lack of experience was irritating. Even the knowledge about the past Little Ice Age was sorely fragmentary; hard data did hardly exist. General empurpled descriptions and paintings might well give an impression, but were scientifically unusable. – Okay, this time it would be different. But that didn’t help interpreting the current events. Everything was new – and unprecedented. It was like poking around in the dark.

Increased precipitation in the north should make the glaciers grow – and produce drought further south. But one had to study the changing patterns thoroughly; the global weather system was a chaotic affair. Rash predictions were bound to lead astray. One didn’t know the causes and driving factors of climate change, hence it was – at present – impossible to get to the bottom of it. Well, it was going to be a fascinating learning process. Wölken was looking forward to it.
It is not true that good can only follow from good and evil only from evil, but that often the opposite is true.
(Max Weber)

Manchuria had fully recovered from Fēilóng. The medics claimed the risk of catching cancer was higher than in the rest of the Middle Kingdom, but the figures they were presenting didn’t convince Field Marshal Dang Gangjun. They were just parroting what they had read in foreign books where radioactivity was still blamed for causing vicious mutations. That was blatant bullshit. Dang had checked the information. Yes, there was an increase of fifteen percent for thyroid cancer and of five percent for cancer of the lung. Normally, nobody would die from thyroid cancer; one removed the infested gland – and that was it.

And only 0.05 percent of the population down south were catching pulmonary cancer; an increase of five percent did move that figure to staggering 0.0505. So, instead of one case among 2,000 people, there might now be one among 1,999. – So what? – And there were no mutations, neither among humans nor among the fauna. It was all rubbish, contrived by the authors of riotous future stories and foreign fake scientists. In fact, Manchuria was splendidly fecund, the granary of the empire. A pity that so much of the clime had been lost to the cursed Èluósī rén.

Yeah, they were sitting in their concrete pillboxes beyond the border, behind barbed wire and anti-tank obstacles. Craven caboodle! But of course, the derisory Russian forces in front of him – and their trashy fortifications – didn’t deter him for a second. It was the nuclear threat. – Tactical nukes would rain down on his troops, annihilating entire units and destroying logistical installations and lines of communication. It wasn’t possible to wage war under these circumstances. He had wargamed it – several times. It was hopeless. Even a bold thrust wouldn’t succeed – because the Russians had no qualms to drop nukes on their own territory.

Well, he would do the same in case of a Russian attack. But these cowards wouldn’t come. They were still brassed off from the last war – when only the obliteration of Shanghai and Hā'ěrbīn had saved their pallid asses. – Could one harden the forces against nuclear strikes? That was the approach he was pursuing at present. New equipment would be needed – and one would have to bury the logistical stuff. It would be damn expensive – and take an awful lot of time. Not possible, said the folks in Nánjīng, the money wasn’t there – and there were no plans to start a war with Russia.

Frustrating, that was what it was. Sometimes, he wished back the grimy chaos after Fēilóng.
It is not pleasant to come upon Death in a lonely place at midnight.
(Robert E. Howard)

Manors, country estates, castles, those were the objects to look for. Unfortunately, one had to venture inland to find most of them. That was fraught with problems. Rubbish-strewn towns and villages were best avoided, but the roads all were leading through them. Hence, motor vehicles were not suitable for the task. One was back to horses. But not everybody was apt to handle a horse. Indeed, planning a foray to the British Isles had proven to be quite onerous.

One needed a ship that allowed transporting horses. And one had to enlist folks who could work with the animals. And one had to identify an area where several promising objects were located. – The latter point was, however, tricky. SUP rule had caused a lot of old money to flee country, long before the pest. And during SUP rule, information about such events had been suppressed. Had perhaps already the communists looted the deserted objects? One didn’t know.

Thoralf Bryndisarson had nevertheless succeeded in assembling a mission to England. Preston was the destination. The core area of the industrial revolution would be within reach, once one had established a base camp on the banks of River Ribble near Preston. Of course, one had to avoid Preston, Manchester and Liverpool. But Bryndisarson had compiled a list of twenty-three promising objects. The Germans were definitively gone – except those in southern Ireland.

One would have to avoid any contact – and have to constantly guard the horses. After all, the pest had been derived from a horse disease. It was a gamble, but one Bryndisarson thought he could win. Art treasures were worthless for survivors. For sure, the objects had already been rummaged – several times most probably, but the looters would have looked for food, alcohol, weapons and tools, not for paintings, sculptures, jewellery and gold. There was a fair chance to make a fortune. It had to be tried.
To be honest, one must be inconsistent.
(H. G. Wells)

The beast looked almost complete; the ugliest spaceship Johann von Reventlow had yet seen. But it wasn’t ready; the fusion booster kit was still missing. However, it was already alive. The reactor was working – and the field generators were on standby. There were no facilities for a crew, but he had detached “Oskar” to serve as shelter for the construction crews. “Pelle”, “Petz” and “Pingo” were flying extensive training manoeuvres – most of the time. Training the pilots was important; Sigmund Jähn and his co-jockeys were handling that competently.

Yeah, the booster kit – a real fusion craft would have to carry several of them. The little sun was either on or off, there was no standby. But for the Phönix, one kit would do. Ideally, the ship was to describe a full circle. However, one wasn’t sure whether it would work. Haber had explained it to Reventlow. Of course, the tack would be pre-set. Yet, the magnetic fields were not in the least substantial – like fixed rudders. One had no clue what really was going to happen. Even Professor Fuchs down at Prerow couldn’t tell.

It was clear that the Phönix would soar off once the little sun was ignited. The magnetic fields had already been tested. They were stable – in the sense that they were there – and hopefully would remain in place. But how stable the impact field would be for steering the Phönix one had to see. One could only find out by testing it. In the worst case, the Phönix would be gone. That wouldn’t be a catastrophe, but nevertheless irksome because of the data loss. And it would make steering the first manned fusion craft quite a suicide mission.
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I spend money on war because it is necessary, but to spend it on science, that is pleasant to me. These objects cost no tears; it is an honour to humanity.
(King George III of Great Britain)

Training with the dinghies was going well. Okay, their range was pretty much limited, but they were extremely manoeuvrable. And they could fight – not with missiles, but with guns. Big automatic shotguns, not very precise – and not with a large near-term range of fire, but sending dense waves of projectiles towards the enemy. And as the Hammer’s fate had shown, even very minor hits could be fatal.

Sigmund Jähn enjoyed the exercises. The Feuerdrache was stationary – and “Oskar” had been detached to serve the construction teams of the Phönix; yet “Pelle”, “Petz” and “Pingo”, the three heavy-duty boats, were sufficient for the job. Attacks on Mondstadt and on Raumkolonie – without sharp shot – and dog fights were executed and duly analysed, leading to improved attacks in the next round. Well, and for sharp shooting, one had chosen Mare Hindenburgiensis on the rear side of the Moon.

One was also practising emergency routines, thanks to the experience gained on the Hammer’s journey. Supply of fuel and ammunition was delivered by a fleet of DELAG drones, which also served as targets – after delivery. It was a nice teamwork, involving Prerow and Friedrichshafen controls. – Did the Russians copy what was going on? Most probably, NSÓ wasn’t that far away – as was Lunoseló, where the Russian jumbo was parked right now. The shotgun ammunition wasn’t detectable for them – well, shouldn’t be – so, they might miss some essentials.

As the Phönix was nearing completion, however, one had to phase down the exercises. Jähn was extremely keen to see the bird fly. The engineers said they had solved the rotation problem. Having executed it several times with the Feuerdrache, Jähn didn’t think they really knew what they were talking about. Having the ship rotate so that braking could start was the most complicated manoeuvre. The pilots were trained to do it; would the zusies on the Phönix be able to do it as well?
What I have been taught, I have forgotten; what I know, I have guessed.
(Charles Maurice de Talleyrand)

It was amazing what one could learn by asking authors of future stories. Konteradmiral Herbert Kastenmüller felt well informed now about the options how the colony in the Jupiter system might be set up. Of course, not all proposals were eligible; some were far off the mark indeed. But the bulk had proven quite useful.

They were, in fact, more useful than most stuff received from the various universities. The latter proposals normally were technically matchless, in their specific field, but missing the holistic approach. The story writers often had their figures garbled, but they were used to see the whole thing – and the fact that human beings had to live and thrive out there.

Yeah, the big wheel idea had come out as the most favoured solution. Just what the Ottomans were about to construct in Earth orbit, only much bigger. It had the capital advantage of simplicity – and could be built from a straightforward range of standardised elements.

Nevertheless, the cost would be staggering. But he had been told cost was immaterial. So be it… And it could be done. The RRA engineers had calculated it. With a fleet of five NPP ships, the colony could be set up within two years. One ship would have to be stationed out there permanently – for hauling water.

He also had received a host of paintings how the future colony might look like. Helga von Tschirschwitz thought they were good promotion. She was going to sponsor displays in Berlin, Hamburg, Cologne, Munich and Vienna. Well, and Koloniekommando should think about having created an animated cartoon featuring life in the colony.
It seldom happens, however, that a great proprietor is a great improver.
(Adam Smith)

SIRAB was indeed supplying solid-fuel rockets to RRA. It hadn’t been easy; the snowpushers were so petty-minded and pusillanimous. Herbert K’nilowe had been forced to travel to Germany three times, until the contract had finally been signed. Quality control – and verification – was a nightmare. But nevertheless, one was contributing now to humanity’s supreme effort in space.

Max Sikuku liked it. Investing in hightech wasn’t really profitable, but it turned out to be an enormous multiplier. In fact, once the news had been released that SIRAB was delivering to the Germans, new orders had started to pop up like crazy. Even the Indians, his new business partners, were standing in queue.

Yeah, the Indians… They were building his new super-aircraft and space gliders. Everything seemed to be going well over there, said his legal eagles. Okay, one was going to see. The stuff delivered by DELAG had never worked right for MARFAK, although it been praised as absolute high-tech at that time. Perhaps the clobber from Kolhapur truly was going to be better…

Sikuku Enterprises in space! Heia Safari! Well, the Indians were also training his crews… Would it really work? The dudes had staged some spectacular stunts in orbit, but had not achieved any lasting presence out there. Could one rely on them? Or should he try to send them to Prerow for an upgrade, once their training in Puri was complete?
Success depends on intuition, on seeing what afterwards proves true but cannot be established at the moment.
(Joseph A, Schumpeter)

Ucan Halı enhancement was under way. The initial batch of load drones – two – had arrived in orbit yesterday. The uzaylılar were now busy taking them apart. The station was bound to grow from inside out. That meant the old station was to become the hub of the new one. After it had been augmented, the spokes would be built, followed last by the outer ring.

It was a straightforward process. One had, however, exempted everybody involved from observing the 1965 Ramadan, which was going to last from January 4th to February 2nd. Thank goodness it wasn’t a problem at all to do this; the Turks were acting rather pragmatically in that respect. Well, also when it came to savouring alcoholic beverages…

Wernher von Braun was confident that the project should go well. One had already begun training the future population of the station. There would be scientists, of course, but also hydroponic farmers, plumbers, custodial staff, medics – and their families. That meant one would also have to have nurses and teachers. Well, why not?

It wouldn’t be a habitation colony though. The total staff would never exceed two hundred. – His proposal for establishing a habitation colony in near-Earth space hadn’t exactly been turned down, but also had received no priority yet. The Sublime Porte, the Grand Vizier above all, wanted the enlarged Ucan Halı – and thereafter Ateş Kuşu, the Ottoman NPP ship. Once these two demands had been met, Gürsel Paşa might become accessible for other ideas.

The good news was that a small reactor with thermoelectric converter was going to be available for Ucan Halı. One would, however, have to lift it up with Ateş Kuşu. That meant it would be installed later – after the NPP ship had become operational – hence in about four years.
If a dog will not come to you after having looked you in the face, you should go home and examine your conscience.
(Woodrow Wilson)

Outbreak in Stavanger! He had seen it come. Of course, it had to happen right before Christmas. And the Norwegians, it seemed, had botched it. Lockdown had been imposed too late. Several infected persons were reported to have left for undisclosed locations. – Okay, Norway was not densely populated – and travelling took time. One might still be able to get on top of the situation. Professor Sigbert Ramsauer wasn’t unduly alarmed.

The Navy was sending a floatplane to pick him and his local staff up – and deliver them to SMH Elsa Brändström, a hospital ship coming from Hamburg with a medical crew from the Nocht Institute. As a precaution, he had sent a cable to Duala, warning his friend Eberhart that something was cooking. You never knew… In the end, one might need Misuku’s genius to save one’s bacon.
What will the axemen do, when they have cut their way from sea to sea?

The fusion booster kit had been placed at long last. All checks had been done. The kosmonauts had evacuated the construction site. “Oskar” had returned to its hangar. The Phönix was ready. Klaus Fuchs was agitated. Connection to the Feuerdrache was up. On the screens, one could see the fusion ship – a long grey blimp. One was waiting for Director Kammler, who was reported to have a telephone conference with the chancellor.

Okay, it would be downright appropriate to have F. J. Strauß give the decisive command. Fuchs was well aware that Kammler had high-handedly ordered the construction of the fusion craft – without consulting anyone in Berlin. Nudging the chancellor into the boat now should be a smart move. Or was one even looking to have the Kaiser say the important words?

Everybody was waiting – more or less patiently. Yeah, there was no window of opportunity. – Would they postpone it to Christmas – or even to New Year’s Eve? What a bitch!
Discoveries are made by gluttons and addicts. The man who forgets to eat and sleep has an appetite for fact, for interrelations among causes.
(Ezra Pound)

A message from Duala had arrived. His friend Eberhart had fallen seriously ill, some nasty bowel cancer affair… They were sending Doktor Schabunde and a small team of experienced postgraduates. Okay, Schabunde was a clever and seasoned fellow, but he didn’t have Eberhart Misuku’s genius when it came to designing antidotes. That was unfortunate indeed. In Norway, the standard antidote didn’t work, which meant that they had acquired RV – or some other variant immune to the potion.

Right now, one had three exclusions zones: Stavanger proper, Tau and Jørpeland on the eastern side of the fjord, and Haugesund to the north. But they were still missing two persons. – SMH Elsa Brändström was due to arrive off Stavanger in four hours – at sunrise. Professor Sigbert Ramsauer had assured himself that the medical crew from the Nocht Institute were competent. Almost all of them had gathered ample experience in the NED emergency.

The plan was to take on board four sick persons – in different phases of the disease, and to screen them thoroughly. Ramsauer was confident to quickly identify and isolate the pathogen – be it RV or some new variant. But that, of course, would only be the prelude. Testing which concoction could kill the tiny buggers – or at least destroy their shells, was going to be the main business. In that respect, the absence of Eberhart might amount to a tragedy.

If one was unable to find an antidote, only cordoning off could stop the spread of the disease. And events so far did not speak well of the Norwegians’ expertise in accomplishing that. Sweden and Finland had already closed their borders to Norway. Unfortunately, total close down of ship traffic had only been ordered for Rogaland, the county around Stavanger. The Norwegians were claiming it couldn’t be done nationwide. Obviously, they hadn’t studied the NED progress in France and the Low Countries very diligently.

The Middle Africans were anticipated to arrive in four days time. Until then, one should already have several cultures of the pathogen on hand.
Experiment is the only means of knowledge at our disposal. Everything else is poetry, imagination.
(Max Planck)

Well, all right, the chancellor was the one to say the magic words. That was okay. Regular countdown was done by Prerow Control; then, Strauß chimed in: “Ignition!” – or at least a voice that sounded like him. And the screens went bright…

The Phönix had been ready. All gauges had been green. Both magnetic fields had been working as they should. – And the fusion trigger obviously had worked as well. – When the screens went tolerably dim again, one was staring at empty space. The bird was gone.

But fumeo had it. Yes, it was moving along – and still gaining speed. Would it follow the set path? – Klaus Fuchs was watching intently, as the technicians were drawing the graph. Indeed, it was curving. Not quite as steep as should be, but it ought to form a circle nevertheless, bringing the bird back to the starting point.

Or was the curve flattening out? Impossible to tell yet…
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What we observe as material bodies and forces are nothing but shapes and variations in the structure of space.
(Erwin Schrödinger)

Fudge! The Phönix was lost. Everything had looked fine – until turnover… Okay, the curve had been wider than foreseen, but should have formed a circle nevertheless, if not… Actually, it had been a half circle. But at turnover, the ship had lost the little sun – and was now powerlessly soaring off at a tangential course. The little sun, no longer fed by the captivating field had quickly faded.

Indeed, the vessel had been fast enough to now escape from the solar system. It was galling. – But the principle had been proven; fusion drive did work. One had collected tons of data. That should suffice for an exhaustive analysis. Klaus Fuchs wasn’t disappointed, only slightly miffed. Of course, a full circle would have been optimal, but what one had at hand was good enough.

Yeah, it had been the turnover manoeuvre. The ship had not simply to flip over, but had to rotate semicircle around the little sun. The engineers had thought it wasn’t a problem; in fact, it should have been easier to accomplish than a reversal of the ship along the tilting axis. But it hadn’t worked. The manoeuvre rockets had malfunctioned, Prerow Control was claiming.

Cheap crap from Middle Africa; the rumour had started immediately. Fuchs couldn’t tell; these pedestrian details escaped him. The engineers would have to find out what had gone wrong. – It didn’t really matter. He had proven his point: fusion drive was possible. One could travel to the stars.
Man errs, till he has ceased to strive.
(Johann Wolfgang von Goethe)

From the original ship crew that had imported the disease, two men had already died, eight were lethally sick, two were missing – and two were obviously immune. Of course, the immunes were carrying the bugs – and hence were extremely dangerous, but at least they were responsive. The Norwegians had interrogated them. Ramsauer had read the protocols – or rather the translations of them.

It had been a looting foray to the Liverpool – Manchester area. After several unsuccessful searches, they had met a woman who had offered to help them finding what they were looking for – in exchange for matches, a new rifle and ammunition, and some other minor items. They were swearing everybody had kept – always – a distance of at least three metres to the woman.

Well, that was evidently bullshit, had to be. The description of that woman, however, acutely reminded Ramsauer of the Birmingham Bitch. Was it possible? Could it really be? And did it matter at all? – The Birmingham Bitch had carried RV, back then. The Norwegians were infected with a new variant, which one had named SK – Stavanger Krankheit.

But that didn’t mean anything. The bugs were mutating. SK was markedly different from RV, yet as deadly – and also immune to the antidote. One had already begun culturing SK. And, of course, one was screening the body fluids of the two immunes. Perhaps one could identify the cause why SK didn’t attack them. It hadn’t worked with any immunes hitherto, but one never should abandon hope.
If you don’t read the newspaper, you’re uninformed. If you read the newspaper, you’re mis-informed.
(Mark Twain)

It was absolutely unbelievable! The Snowpushers had botched the debut of their fusion craft – and now they were blaming SIRAB for it! Max Sikuku was boiling with indignation. SIRAB’s products were faultless! Quality control was costing him a mint. Okay, it was only applied to the stuff delivered up north, but that was the lot in question, wasn’t it? It was wholly inconceivable that SIRAB’s solid fuel rockets had caused the debacle.

Nevertheless, the German media were full of such accusations – and the Middle African pen pushers had begun copying that bullshit. – It was true, RRA, the Snowpushers’ space agency, hadn’t yet expressed any official criticism, but somebody up there must be leaking misleading information to the journos. Yeah, find a scapegoat, that was the name of the game. Max, as a seasoned politician, knew it all too well…

Herbert K’nilowe was swearing blind that the rockets delivered for the Snowpusher ship had been immaculate. They couldn’t have failed. The defect must have resided elsewhere. – Max had already ordered his media group to start a counter-campaign. The Snowpushers were trying to pin the blame for their inglorious failure on innocent Middle Africans. That couldn’t be tolerated!
It is not the germs we need worry about. It is our inner terrain.
(Louis Pasteur)

The English Pest was in Norway, as close to Russia as never before. Should it jump across to Finland – or the Baltic countries, the motherland would be in mortal peril. – Only the knowledge that the pest had not been caused by the Nyemtsi kept Yuri Andropov from going altogether mad. Yeah, he knew the dossier by hart. The English communists had designed it – or rather their biological warfare specialists at Porton Down.

It was a fiendish disease. The Nyemtsi had stopped it at the very last minute because they – or rather their Middle African underlings – had found an antidote. But the current variant was immune against this antidote. And the Nyemtsi, although researching with intensity in England and at home, had not found an effective counteragent in years. That bode ill for the present situation.

Andropov understood that the problem was not killing the germs. That was easy. It was all about not killing the host. Even the Nyemetsky antidote could – every so often – kill the host – and should only been ingested once. The other efficacious method the Nyemtsi had applied was area gassing. Gassing whole districts was extremely difficult to accomplish; the Russian armed forces were not capable of a comparable performance.

Nevertheless, the Nyemtsi had lost ten million people, most of them shot or gassed. And, in the end, only the arrival of the antidote had averted total annihilation. – So, what could one do? Close the borders, evacuate the population living close to the borders, mobilise the forces, deploy them… Perhaps one should already start destroying roads and bridges in the border regions.

There was no time to be lost. Refugees were known to spread the disease in no time. The events of 1956 had amply demonstrated how fast the pest could move. Well, according to the scientists, far more people had been killed by those trying to prevent the plague from spreading than had perished by the germs proper. But that couldn’t be avoided. Without antidote, every stranger might carry the disease. Hence, all strangers would have to be killed…
Beware of spitting against the wind!
(Friedrich Nietzsche)

The Feuerdrache was back at Hammerhorst. Tail end radioactivity was well within the predicted range, hence one could continue unrestrictedly with training. – Well, as long as things were still proceeding as normal. The darned pest was back – in Norway…

Jochen Zeislitz had a strong inkling that normality was about to end soon. Hell, Norway was even closer to Germany than England. And Stavanger was just around the corner from Denmark.

Okay, the Swedes, the Finnish and the Danes were scared stiff. That was self-explanatory. The Low Countries and France had at least been separated from England by a big moat. It hadn’t stopped the plague, but Sweden and Finland didn’t even have such a moat. And Denmark wasn’t in any better position than Belgium had been eight years ago.

And Germany – was ruled by a prankster… Where was the Kaiserliche Marine? They had sent a hospital ship! Was that all? Von Reventlow had only shrugged his shoulders. No orders yet. Business as usual. There still was a fair chance to contain the disease at Stavanger. If not… Very difficult to blockade Scandinavia… Wouldn’t work.

Great prospects indeed. And in the meanwhile, the bloody Ivans were mobilising… What did the Army do? Remer was only shrugging his shoulders. No orders. But for a change, this Russian mobilisation didn’t mean war. That was fairly obvious. They were preparing to fight the pest. – And Germany? Oh dear…
Things without all remedy should be without regard: what’s done is done.
(William Shakespeare)

Uh-huh, Norway… Quite fascinating, definitely not resembling anything Konrad Schabunde knew from home. The team had arrived yesterday, after a long-lasting railway journey – and short trip with a floatplane. Konrad Schabunde was accompanied by Felix and Ekki from the old gang – and Elsa, Norbert and Franz as newbies. The old boss, Professor Eberhart von Misuku, was ill, very ill. One had to fear for his life.

Professor Ramsauer had – true to form – excellently prepared the hospital ship to serve as floating laboratory. Okay, SK this time, a new variant. But even good old RV had mutated and was no longer responsive to the antidote one had developed on the Isle of Sheppey back then. True, it had only been a weak antidote, just keeping the bugs inactive without harming them.

Well, it didn’t matter. SK was the new foe; all infected persons had it. Two of them also had NED, but RV was missing. That indicated that RV had mutated further – and had turned into SK. Could one learn something from the two immunes? That was Konrad’s speciality. He was quite surprised to see that Norwegians were no athletic brick shithouses, no mighty norsemen, but rather dinky fellows.

The good news was that the two missing guys had been found. They were dead. The bad news was that one didn’t know whom they might have infected prior to exitus. One had a fourth restricted zone now: Odda, at the southern end of Hardangerfjord. That didn’t look good to Konrad. The spread was too large to hope to contain the disease. The Norwegian authorities, however, were still sanguine. The country was thinly populated; there would be no mass infections.

Yeah, might be… The pest, though, didn’t need masses for spreading. One person to carry it on did suffice.