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Walking the hallway to his office, seemingly alone in his concern for the fate of his beloved Germany, Ernst Frieslaven paused.
The door to the room was open. No one was around. There in plain sight was the telegraph and wireless transmitter used by the war ministry to communicate by relay via a state-of-the-art station in Nauen, some forty miles from Berlin; the Zauen-DC 40 transmitter receiver an odd-looking contraption in a brown wooden box with silver coils connected by wires to three lever-shaped tuning knobs, a telegraphy key, and a receiver headset.
His mind raced. What if he could send a message? Secretly inform someone in the hope word would spread and cause his employers to alter or cancel their disastrous plans. Warn the Belgians that their country could become a springboard for an attack against France if France entered the war. Alert the Russians…or even the Serbs.
Yes, he thought, but without knowing how to operate the equipment? Bribe the operator? They’d be shot as spies if caught.
He argued with himself, at the core of his distress the realization that even if he could operate the transmitter, he wouldn’t attempt it. He would be afraid to. As pathetic as it seemed, concern for his job, not just his life, would prevent him from doing what he knew he should to save the lives of thousands of people, maybe more -- the only defense he had, the only way to live with himself, was to convince himself that the actions of one small man would matter little, given the enormity of events.
But if he did nothing and his country was destroyed? How would he feel then? And for the rest of his life? Like a coward who’d thought only of himself and his important job.
Damn this job for what it’s doing to me. Damn all the jobs that people carry out against their better judgment.
Ernst moved on, past the telegraph room and its disturbing equipment.