The words echoed in his head over and over, day after day, from the moment he left the admiral's office. Twenty years ago he was just a lowly Matrosen and now he had a boat of his own.
Herzwelt, Reich System
Walküre Naval Anchorage
It was a calm spring day, except for the gray skies and passing rains. The Walküre Parade Grounds were almost empty, only a few lingered around. One of which seemed almost like a statue. Albert Paschwitz stood uncomfortably in the dress blacks of a Kapitänleutnant, hat cocked at an angle and a ceramic pipe slowly puffing smoke as he stood in front of the nearly empty parade square. Most of the ship's older crew had met him already when he moved his belongings onboard, but he had ordered the newly assigned sailors to meet him here before they boarded. Something that was done to him nearly twenty years earlier when he had his first assignment to the Kaiser's Interstellar Navy albeit to a torpedo patrol boat instead of a stealth ship.
Yes, it may not have the roving glamour of one of the dreadnoughts of the surface fleet but it was a privilege to be apart of the Unterraumsboote Korps. A sailor of the Korps was the Kaiser's eyes and ears and at the same time his lance ahead of even his most experienced admirals and sea fighters. They struck at the neck in the night without nary a light to be seen.
The new crew would have received their order sheets as well as the letter written by Albert to muster on the parade grounds at the Naval Anchorage parade grounds, to which he was going to give his speech. He wanted his crew to be behind him as they went into the dark expanse. He wanted his crew to be as inspired as he was twenty years ago.
As people began to muster in Albert stood ramrod still, he was observing every sailor that came into formation. The only move he made was to occasionally check his watch for the time. It was fifteen minutes until the call time.
Then it was ten.
Two minutes until the call, he looked among the entire formation ahead of him and then to a man who stood ahead of the formation. He was not an officer, he was an older man in the dress blacks of an Oberbootsmann, a Chief Petty Officer. The Kapitan's voice was loud when he spoke. Not just for the attention, but because the occasional winds attempted to carry his voice the wrong way.
"Herr Hershe! Bring the crew into order! Mach Schnell!" Albert took the pipe from his mouth and held it in his right hand. It was time to begin.
Walküre Naval Anchorage
Among the gathered crew stood a tall man in his best uniform, lieutenants stripes on his sleeves. He had dark hair a thick bearded face and striking blue eyes. Stanislaus Rafael Theismann, or Rafe, as he went by with his good friends, was the Executive Officer of the boat. He was in his early thirties and had been in the navy his entire adult life and one could tell by the almost casual, yet at attention air about him as the crew was called to order.
He had intended to report in with hie new Captain before this, but the late arrival of his old post, the U-74 back to port due to an FTL drive issue had delayed him. Now he would meet the Captain with the rest of the crew. Of course he had read up on Paschwitz, he had requested the basic file on the officer and so knew a bit about his new boss and had at least a little of an idea what to expect.
The dark colored mass of sailors snapped to attention, heels clicking almost in unison. The attention of the Kaiser's military was considered to be built upon discipline above all else. The position of attention wasn't just standing quiet and tall, it was locked knees, arms cocked back, and a puffed up chest to make them appear much stronger than they might be. It was a statement, a statement that the men and women of the Kaiserreich would stand against the sector if required.
To some of the younger Matrosen, they may think that their new CO was a stickler for extreme details. They had fears of constant drills and inspections. No tolerance for lax thinking. It was a fear that one might experience in the surface fleet if they were stationed on one of the Marine's massive capital ships where Admirals were as present as rats and the Kaiser or a member of his retinue may appear at random. This was far from the case for the Unterraumsboote Korps.
The Kapitan walked to behind the Chief of the Boat, the man that he had called Hersche, as he spun back around. Behind a thick handlebar mustache he grinned and spoke just quiet enough to only be heard by Albert.
"Did it work?"
Albert gave a salute and pulled him aside to take his place. The Chief regained his iron composure and belted out again.
At once, everyone slouched somewhat at rest. The statement was over.
Albert looked to his left and then his right at the men and women in front of him. He took another long draw from his pipe before holding it in his left hand and beginning his speech.
"Good Morning. I trust that you all had safe travels here. Today, on this rainy day to do to you the same that was done to me years ago when I arrived at my first station. To the offworlders and greenhorns among us, welcome to Herzwelt. To you veterans, welcome back. The rain it was said, was a blessing and curse to the sailors of old. It blessed the crew with a relief from heat, but was the siren song of strong storms that would single handedly bring fleets to their knees. As sailors, from the Matrosen to the highest of Admirals, we have to have respect for the storm. When we leave the embrace of Herzwelt's atmosphere into the dark silence of the high astral seas, the storms may come and weather us. Together, not even the squall will bend the ship. We do not yield. At sailors of the U-Boote Korps, we are sharks in the water. We see, we hear, and we strike without being seen or heard. We are the Kaiser's hunting dogs."
He rested himself for a moment before he added on.
"The Unterraumsboote Kommand have given us orders of the highest regard that envy even those on the anchorages on high. I will give a full briefing when we are underway, after I have a chance to brief my officers. Until then, gather your belongings and move to the pens within the hour. Within an hour after that I expect to begin to make way."
He gave a hand wave to Hersche, who turn back and spoke quickly.
"As he says, be quick."
One Hour Later
Walküre Naval Anchorage
In the nearby harbor, where the massive capital fleets laid in water while on surface tours and drydock, alongside was a simple bunker with ten armored slips. Of these bunkers, there were ten and at the far back corner was a pen marked "1-99." In this pen was the 76th U-5 Class Unterraumboote, dark colored hull glistening in its wet state. It wasn't big at 14 meters wide at its widest point, it was only about 8 meters wide above the water. The ship was eight decks tall yet half of them visible above the water including the two decks of the conning tower. The boats were somewhat bloated, but were still comparatively small to some vessels in the fleet.
The pen itself was bustling with work. Torpedoes were being loaded via the forward elevators, engines were being tested, hull plates were being repaired, and two men stood on ladders at the head of the conning tower painting... something... on the side of the tower. The Kapitan and the same Chief from before were standing next to an Leutnant who was running through names on a clipboard and giving them berthing numbers. Both of them seemed to be waiting on someone. As people boarded by the starboard gangways, the port gangways were flooded with the workmen.
It was loud, but to the sailors of the Unterraumsboote Korps, it was the symphony of home.
Matrose 1.Klasse Erik Schulz stood near the starboard gangways, eyes closed as he waited for his turn to board the boat. He listened to the sounds of work, of water lapping against the boat. He listened to the clanging of the gangways and rapid pattering of the rain, which in its intensity became almost a hiss. These sounds would soon be absent from life aboard the boat, and in his mind needed to be appreciated while they could.
Schulz heard the line moving ahead of him, opened his eyes, and began making his way to the threshold of the boat, noting the change in the sounds as he did so, the rain's noise becoming more metallic as it reverberated through the hull. "Ah, this will be a most interesting experience indeed." He said to himself.