A Shift in Priorities - Sequel

False hope is nicer than no hope at all.
(Edgar Allan Poe)

The media had taken up the pest theme. The mega disaster of 1956 was still on everybody’s mind. Hence, the tone was aggressive from the start, if not outright hysterical. That didn’t bode well for a peaceful Christmastide. Hanne Zülch had already instructed her staff how to deal with press requests. Not that Franz Josef would grant any interviews – let alone him participating in press conferences or other outreach events.

Oh, he knew what was going on. He was briefed every morning and every evening. But he didn’t do anything. In Denmark, Sweden and Finland national emergency had been declared. The borders to Norway had been closed. The Russians were mobilising. – And Germany was doing nothing… That at least was what the media were propagating.

But it wasn’t true. Professor Ramsauer and the Middle Africans from Duala University had been sent to Stavanger. They were the ones who had developed the antidote that had stopped the cataclysm of 1956. – Insofar, the best had been put to work. If they couldn’t crack the problem…

Yes indeed, that seemed to be Franz Josef’s way of thinking. There was no use in mobilising the country – if no counteragent could be found one was done anyway.
Ignorance is the father of all fear.
(Herman Melville)

You couldn’t ignore the pest, even if you wanted. It was theme number one everywhere. Egon Schagalla had forgone trying to evade it. But discussing the malaise didn’t help. Hell, there was nothing one could do here in Dortmund. You couldn’t fight the plague; you only could run away from it.

But just that was what had killed so many people. When you were fleeing from an infected area you weren’t welcome anywhere. Folks couldn’t know whether you were carrying the bugs or not. So, instead of taking any risk, they’d rather kill you.

Okay, the space colony wasn’t an option yet – and perhaps never was going to be one. What else remained? Islands were no safe refuge – ask the Irishmen – or the folks of the West Indies. In fact, without a counteragent, there would be no safe place on earth.

It was a freaking quandary. But of course, you would run away – when the pest was approaching. What else could you do?
All who drink of this remedy recover in a short time except those whom it doesn’t help, who all die.

Two more restricted zones had been established; six were operant in total now. However, the Norwegian authorities were confident to account for all infected persons. One had achieved control at long last, they were claiming. Konrad Schabunde wasn’t quite as confident, but he wasn’t out there on the ground. On the map, the Norwegian landscape looked terribly complicated. But the indigenes should know their turf; he wouldn’t debate their assurances.

SK was a recalcitrant little beast. One hadn’t made any progress yet. Screening the two immunes hadn’t yielded tangible conclusions. But their tales had reminded Konrad of the Birmingham Bitch. Her body fluids had been instrumental in designing the antidote for RV. And now, it seemed, she had infected the Norwegians with SK. – He had already proposed to send a task force to Preston for grabbing that woman once again. But Professor Ramsauer wouldn’t have it.

Okay, one had samples and cultures aplenty. That wasn’t the problem. The problem was that SK wouldn’t yield to any concoction that didn’t also kill the host. The impression was that finding an antidote wasn’t going to happen. – One had to come up with another method to deal with the tiny terrorists. Konrad was thinking of viruses, his scientific field – not incidentally. Viruses were attacking bacteria. One only had to find a species that knocked down SK.

Only that SK was huge – and one could see it under the microscope. While viruses were invisible, at least here on board SMH Elsa Brändström. One had to treat them statistically. It wouldn’t be easy – and would, most probably, take a lot of time. – But when the Norwegians really were in control of the situation, that time ought to be available…
Life is a whim of several billion cells to be you for a while.
(Groucho Marx)

They – once again – had the pest up north. Max Sikuku had asked Heine to give him an update. After all, the lad was heading for a doctorate in biology. And okay, he also knew the guys – and the girl – who had travelled to Norway. Nasty business the Snowpushers had on their plate there. – And the renowned antidote wizard, Professor Misuku, was seriously ill. He was currently being prepared for urgent surgery in Duala.

Was there a danger for Middle Africa? Yes, obviously. Once the Snowpushers had botched it, stopping the plague would be difficult like fury. – But not altogether hopeless. One had the Sahara. Controlling access to sub-Saharan Africa was possible. It required, however, a concerted action of all nations… And there the problems started.

You couldn’t trust the pinkos to achieve such a thing – and if so, certainly not in time… That was awkward. If Middle Africa didn’t take the lead, nothing was going to happen. Emil Muramba hadn’t got what it took to push it through. Seppel Mobutu, though… Max was taken aback. Should he really wish Mobutu to seize power? Well, yes… The bloke had a knack for such matters. Muramba was a wimp.

But unfortunately, the pinkos wouldn’t listen to an arch-capitalist like him. Well, he wasn’t even sure whether his MALU colleagues would agree to such a proposal. Rather not… – National emergency? Yes, they might agree to proposing that. It wasn’t much, but would offer an opening at least.
The human body is vapour materialised by sunshine mixed with the life of the stars.

Christmas in Stavanger, what an enchanting event! At least they were liberally serving mulled wine on board of SMH Elsa Brändström. Professor Sigbert Ramsauer had imbibed more than his fair share, but no relaxation had set in. No, black ire had seized him instead. The Norwegians were muppets! This was not a picnic! It was a bloody serious affair.

There were new outbreaks! One near Bergen, up north; the second at Håra, on the road towards Christiania; the third at Bryne, south of Stavanger. It was unbelievable! What were these people doing all day long? How could you ever hope to contain the pest under these conditions?

There was zero progress in neutralising the disease. Hence, cordoning off had to be the most important means of choice. But the Norwegians were not bringing it to pass. And one could do nothing to make them perform. Disaster was lurking indeed.
The result of the voyage does not depend on the speed of the ship, but on whether or not it keeps a true course.
(Albert Schweitzer)

Indrik Zver was still sitting alongside Lunoseló in Crater Klaproth. Missile training was long over; the small missile supply had been depleted rather rapidly. And a week later, fuel for dinghy exercises had been exhausted. Since then, one was waiting for the engineers to finish their job in the colony. It was boring. Polkovnik Ivan Drubchev had run out of ideas how to keep the kosmonauts busy.

And down on Earth, the pest was loose again. It was in Norway – not far from home. While one was sitting here – absolutely pointlessly… There were no women up here. Should something dreadful happen yonder, one would be doomed – a bunch of solitary men waiting for their death. It was foolish, altogether foolish. Indrik Zver might safeguard the future of mankind – if half the crew was female… or one just took aboard fifty-five women… or more…

But no, nothing of that kind was happening. No new orders were arriving. One was simply waiting for the engineers to finish plumbing – to then fly home and land amidst chaos, if things should go awry. Drubchev remembered very well how he and his comrades had devoured the news about the pest raging in the Low Countries, France and Germany. It had been a terribly close call.

And the Nemetsky jumbo was sitting in Ireland. Was that island safe? The pest had raged there; it was empty country. The Nyemtsi were known to have their families at base. Might they have a plan?
Medical statistics will be our standard of measurement; we will weigh life for life and see where the dead lie thicker, among the workers or among the privileged.
(Rudolf Virchow)

Outbreak in Europe! The Amis had immediately closed their borders, as had done all other nations of the Americas one after another. Okay, the experience of the Caribbean disaster certainly was enough to justify such an extreme measure. But it implied closure all around. Also trans-pacific traffic would be turned away. Did the Amis really know what they were doing?

For the Middle Africans on Curaçao it meant they were cut off from home – at least temporarily. All replacement movements had been stopped. Teniente de Navio Julius Nyerere had found his end of tour suddenly rescinded. The staff officer course would have to proceed without him. He would continue to command S-17 for the time being. The ship carrying his replacement had been compelled to turn around in mid-Atlantic.

Of course, all borders had been closed. And the Amis truly could be trusted to mean business. They would destroy any intruder. Hence, one would meticulously observe borders, the commanding officer had ordered. Well, thank goodness for the open sea. And the Hispaniolan adventure was over anyway. One was in the same boat with the Amis now. Guarding the realm against intruders from Europe was the paramount purpose now. – And what the hell was going to happen at home?
Faith is believing things you know ain’t true.
(Mark Twain)

The pest was loose again in Europe. Field Marshal Dang Gangjun had had the situation analysed. The danger wasn’t imminent, but nevertheless substantial. If no counteragent should be found – and cordoning off didn’t work – the Middle Kingdom might be threatened in due course – by bloody Èluósī rén fleeing their country!

Okay, that was a splendid opportunity to kill them off in droves. Dang had instantly given order to start planning for Case Amok. The problem was resolvable indeed. There weren’t that many Èluósī rén, just about 124 millions – and most of them wouldn’t even make it to the border.

And annihilating some five or six million refugees was possible by all means. The terrain was supporting the Middle Kingdom. Only in Manchuria it might become a trifle more difficult. But the clime was located at the far end of Russia. Most of the buggers wouldn’t come that far.

What a feast! Saving mankind by killing Èluósī rén… Dang was delighted.
You have to run as fast as you can just to stay where you are. If you want to get anywhere, you’ll have to run much faster.
(Lewis Carroll)

There were the little rascals: purplish rod cells, pretty much inert under the microscope. Burkholderia anglica mallei stavangerensis – BAMS, or just SK according to the German military code. Konrad Schabunde had come to hate the tiny critters. They were quite a recalcitrant lot. Progress in combating them was zero.

At least the Norwegians seemed to have been correct in their appraisal that no mass outbreak would occur. The country was so sparsely populated that proliferation did not mean multiplication. Well, as long as no other major population centres were affected, thought Konrad. In Stavanger, though, with its 53,000 inhabitants, the situation ostensibly appeared to be under control.

Developing a cure based on viruses wouldn’t work. It was a good idea; even Sigbert the Snowpusher had agreed to it. But it would take much too much time. No, Ramsauer was right, cordoning off had to be the method of choice. One had to desiccate the disease.

Unfortunately, the Kaiserliche Marine hadn’t re-established the blockade of the British Isles. So, when was the next incident going to happen? And where? Iceland? The Faeroe Islands? Norway again? This was no good. – But it was up to the Snowpushers to do something. All right, end of work for today; one had to prepare the New Year’s Eve party…
There are misfortunes in life that no one will accept; people would rather believe in the supernatural and the impossible.
(Alexandre Dumas)

How could one get rid of that clown residing in Wilhelmstraße No. 77? It was a vexing question, and one not easy to answer. The son of a bitch had been rightfully elected chancellor. There was no procedure in place to vote him out of office. It was an unfortunate holdover from ancient times, when the Kaiser had appointed the chancellor – and the Reichstag had had no say in the matter.

What was Strauß doing? Obviously nothing… He had plunged the country into chaos – and was now idly watching as things unfolded. That alone was bad enough. – However, the fresh outbreak of the pest was far worse. And again Strauß was doing nothing. Everybody and his dog were taking precaution measures – except Germany…

What could one do? What should one do? Stand back and let the nation perish? Or act decisively? – “Yes, gentlemen, it’s our duty to act.” Rudolf Amelunxen, the vice chancellor and chairman of the Zentrum, was affirming. “And we must act quickly, before it’s all too late. – I hate to say it, but we must eliminate Strauß. The man has to die…”
Necessity makes even the timid brave.

As everybody was precipitantly closing their borders, doings and dealings in Europe were quickly dying down. Well, with the significant exemption of Germany, which still was keeping her borders open – and was sucking in tremendous amounts of merchandise. Was it sheer dawdling? Or was it cunning deliberation? Josef Dembitzer wasn’t sure.

The Heymshtot had closed down like an oyster – but was still selling to Germany. It was a tedious process, the goods had to be transhipped at the border, but it seemed to work. Most stuff was travelling by rail; hence one needed to swap locomotives only – by and large. Other Central European nations were acting alike.

Was it Teutonic deviousness – or plain stupidity? Even the Seichl’s specialists were unable to fathom the current German chaos. – The pest was in Norway, that was beyond dispute. And the Germans were doing nothing. Oh, they had sent a medical team to Stavanger, fine. But no blockade, no closure of borders had been declared.

Dembitzer had studied the files. In 1956, the Germans had also taken their time to react. And their luminary, their bioweapon guru, a bloke named Ramsauer, had even recommended to do so – because he had wanted to study the disease live. This was the very dude that now had been sent to Stavanger. It boded nothing good…

Yeah, and that African witch doctor, who had engineered the saving antidotes against BAM and NED, wasn’t even there. – Suppose the pest spilled over to Sweden. How long would it take for the southern shores of the Baltic to be overrun by refugees? And there were only 230 km from Königsberg to Bialystok, as the crow flew… Farshiltn!
To save all we must risk all.
(Friedrich Schiller)

This woman had survived SK. She looked horrible. But she was able to walk and talk. Could one learn something useful from her body? – It hadn’t worked with the immunes. But recovered persons were different. One had to try. The number of convalesced patients was surprisingly high. Yet, most of them were too weak and desolate to survive torture by serious probing. This woman – Clara – was different. And her intellect seemed to be unimpaired.

Okay, one didn’t intend to make much conversation with her, she had been a worker in a fish cannery. Konrad Schabunde wondered how much the disease really had devastated her looks. Might she have been as ugly as a mud fence already before? – Whatever! She responded to questions and – generally – did what she was asked to do. That should suffice. By the way, she had been infected by a member of the original looting crew.

Norbert and Elsa were busy extracting Clara’s body fluids, while Felix and Konrad were preparing the test beds. Sigbert and his Snowpushers were working with the infected folks. One had to try every avenue. – And yes, bleeding hell, this was 1965 now. Happy New Year!
I did not think; I experimented.
(Wilhelm Röntgen)

The Negroes had found something. They were clubbing together and discussing agitatedly. Sigbert Ramsauer had an issue with understanding their German. The language must have mutated in the tropics, it seemed. Well, he, a born Carinthian, experienced also problems understanding Rhinelanders and – even worse – true Prussians like Berliners and Brandenburgians.

But he could ask. When addressing him directly, they would slow down – and their gibberish ought to become comprehensible. – Okay, that sottish native woman, the convalesced one, had something in her body fluid that kept SK from multiplying. It didn’t neutralise SK, please note, but if the buggers couldn’t cleave they didn’t pose a great threat anymore.

Indeed, one would have a serum – if the agent could be identified. That, however, seemed to be the real hitch. Yes, he would immediately turn his staff in that direction. Progress at last! Not a big break yet, but a good step forward. – It wouldn’t be easy. Finding something could be extremely tough – when you didn’t know what you were looking for. Ramsauer knew this from distressed experience.

Nevertheless, get to work! One was going to need extra lab capacity. Could the Norwegians help? Or should he request an airlift to Hamburg?
Last edited:
Invisible things are the only realities.
(Edgar Allan Poe)

When a new restricted area was established at Kongsberg, not far from Christiania, the Swedes pulled the emergency stop – and declared a nationwide lockdown. With not quite twenty-four hours delay, Denmark and Finland were following suit. Now, all activities in Scandinavia grinded down to total standstill. Only police, armed forces and emergency services were still allowed to move.

This stance could not be sustained for long; a fortnight was thought to be the maximum. Would it suffice? Was it possible to ride out the disease at all? As long as the Norwegians weren’t running away in droves, it might work indeed. And although the Norwegian authorities obviously weren’t overly adroit in pinning down infected persons, the Norwegian populace was showing great composure.

One was used to living solitary for long periods. Stockpiling was a normal habit hereabouts. And it was winter anyway. – It couldn’t go on for ever, but right now there was no reason for panic. There were no mass infections, only single cases. – While Doctor Schabunde and his team were delving deeply into the secrets of Clara’s body, it seemed that Professor Ramsauer’s approach of letting the pest run dry might still work.
Nothing in the world causes so much misery as uncertainty.
(Martin Luther)

Director Kammler wouldn’t approve a new mission for the Feuerdrache. One was forced to idle away one’s time. Kapitän zur See Johann von Reventlow had proposed a sally to Mars. After all, the Hammer had never landed on the Red Planet. The Feuerdrache could achieve an exceptional first. But no! Standby, had been Kammler’s laconic response.

Okay, standby for what? No answer. That was frustrating. – The blasted disease was in Norway, might leap south any time. And one was twiddling one’s thumbs at Hammerhorst. Hardly any crew member had a family here. Being young and unmarried had been selection criteria. – Well, the New Year’s Eve party had been outstanding. There were many single women working – or serving – on base, secretaries, nurses, operators, and so on.

Yeah, without a mission, some of the guys soon might start a family. That couldn’t be what Kammler wanted. However, Reventlow had to admit, being on a mission in space – and hearing that the pest had jumped across the Baltic – wouldn’t be uplifting either. But sitting around and doing nothing was goofy.
The secret to success: find out where people are going and get there first.
(Mark Twain)

Anne Robbins had no personal pest experience. In 1956, she still had been living in the US, in the west, in California, where the New English Disease had only been a distant calamity. True, she later had come to England, the cradle of the pest, but it had been after the plague. One had had many problems at that time, yet not with any bugs. However, the Dutch here at Nieuw Hoogeveen had lived through the disaster. Hence, they were trembling with awe and panic.

And this condition seemed to be prevailing the country all over. Anne, in her function as mayor, had just returned from Groningen, the provisional capital. Fear had been palpable everywhere. But there was nothing one could do. One was condemned to wait. – Therefore, no decision on calling workers from Ala Ka Kuma had been obtainable. One would have to wait. And the New Hoogeveeners she found agreeing with this approach. One didn’t need extra problems right now. Leave the Africans in Africa!

Okay, that settled the issue. One would have to huddle through somehow. – But what if the Dutch decided to run away? Once the pest was in Denmark or Germany, that might happen very quickly. Everything one had built would be lost. Damn, she had survived Makambo and his chums, not to mention Big Chief Amagasfano and Vera, the White Queen. The Dutch had offered her a new home and a new existence. And suddenly everything was at stake. How could she care for Pat, her daughter, when the country went to pieces?

Patricia was only four years old, not even a schoolgirl yet. She was clever, hale and harty, but nevertheless just a little girl. It was a quandary.
Where are our men of abilities? Why do they not come forth to save their country?
(George Washington)

Nobody hereabouts seemed to be panic-stricken – and this was Stralsund, uncomfortably close to Malmö and Copenhagen. Doris Zülch wondered why. Asking folks wouldn’t reveal much. They were apprehensive, sure, and hardly disposed to jest, but fairly sedulous and down-to-earth. You could do nothing, you just had to wait. And work had to be done. Running away was not an option – at least not now.

Oh, one was well aware what had happened nine years ago. And it might happen again. But it wasn’t happening yet. Hence, one preferred to carry on. Waiting for doom was something for old hags and callow kids. Business, though, was a real thing, and it was happening right now. Stralsund had weathered Gustavus Adolphus and Wallenstein, and almost 200 years of Swedish rule. One would manage…

Yeah, this – new? – self-awareness of the citizenry, Doris had also observed it elsewhere. It was perhaps the most unexpected outcome of Strauß’ weird policy. Trade and commerce had defied his capers; the industry had just kept rolling. Politicians weren’t essential – the burghers could well take care of their affairs without them. One had straddled the chaos caused by the chancellor. One could walk without political crutches.

But would it help against the pest? Doris doubted it. She had witnessed the panic and the turmoil first-hand, had only survived by a hair’s breadth. Once people started running, panic would rule supreme. Stralsund would be hit like Antwerp and Rotterdam had been hit, this time by Swedes fleeing across the Baltic. Doris had heard that every Swedish family owned a boat. Hence, they would come – all of them…
A living thing is distinguished from a dead thing by the multiplicity of the changes at any moment taking place in it.
(Herbert Spencer)

Okay, Professor von Misuku had survived four hours of surgery. It was believed his life was safe now. That was the good news. – Konrad Schabunde was tired. Perhaps he should take time out. Clara’s secrets couldn’t be unveiled in a hurry. And fatigue was not a good condition for intense research. Ekki could take over. He was well rested – almost, at least. Konrad needed sleep.

It was dark outside. Days were short in Stavanger in January. Should he try to get something to eat before hitting the sack? When had he last eaten? – The mess was almost empty. But they were always offering a hot soup, bread and tea. Today it was pease porridge, that famous German food for heroes, with hot dogs. And the tea was coffee. It was past midnight, hence coffee was served for breakfast.

Konrad was sharing a cramped cabin with Ekki, Felix and Norbert. Norbert was snoring in his bunk; the other two were absent. Sleep wouldn’t come. But then he found himself sitting in a helicopter hovering over the jungle. Below the trees was a village, where the disease was raging. One had to land. But the trees were standing tightly packed. The pilot was shaking his head.

When the heli landed far away, Konrad snatched his bag and ran. It was an exhausting run, always uphill. Finally reaching the village, he found it empty. Had they all died? There were no corpses. It was strange. Then he saw the pyre. It was burning, incinerating the carcasses. The flames and the smoke were painting pictures, were telling a silent story…

Konrad awoke. The story was still on his mind. It was important. He must not forget it. A pen! He needed a pen!
Last edited:
You'd think that after what happened in Red England that killed 99% of the British population, the German government would be taking whatever steps necessary to prevent a repeat now that a new variant has jumped to Scandinavia, but apparently Straub has a case of the stupid virus. A coup looks to be in the works.
Dreams are the royal road to the unconscious.
(Sigmund Freud)

Inconclusively, Konrad Schabunde was gazing at his notations. Had he captured all details of the dream? Probably not, it had been too much. But the main impressions he should have put on paper, some in words, most in sketches. And what the blazes did it mean? What had the pyre wanted to tell him?

It was not a story; there was no storyline. It was a picture made of pictures, a kind of wimmelpicture. Did it make any sense? Oneiromancy was not a science – and any witch doctor of old was possibly better in it than he. But this exceptional dream had to have significance.

However, inspiration wouldn’t come. Asking someone else wouldn’t help. They wouldn’t even understand his sketches. Flames and fumes… Patterns… Phew! – Not now, later perhaps… He should try to catch some more sleep. Well rested, he might eventually catch the idea. – Norbert was still snoring. He had missed the pyre and the flames altogether…