Royal Scandinavian Navy Base, Riga, 5 August 1971
The reinforced concrete walls of the huge submersible haven were raw and
unfinished. More attention had been paid to function than form and the
aesthetic values of the building were generally consistent with this;
despite the attempts to render the scene festive with the Scandinavian
flag and the national flags of *all* the component states and statelets, the
brutal mass of thousands of tonnes of concrete overhead and the stark
pools of profound shadow where the painfully bright electrics failed to
illuminate combined to create an atmosphere of sterile menace.
In the centre of the long dock loomed a dark grey leviathan - S.M.U.
Narhvalen - the fourth in class of large naval submersibles being deployed
into the North Atlantic. The deck was lined with sailors, petty officers,
officiants and officers of the Royal Scandinavian Navy, immaculate in
their blue uniforms, trimmed at the shoulder seam with flashes in the
colours of their national contingents and brightened by medal ribbons and
gold-, silver- and red-braided rank badges.
The sailors had just relaxed from the position of attention and were
dispersing under the control of the petty officers. Narhvalen had
completed the commissioning ceremony and was about to proceed to its
operational base location - Elduvik in the Faroe Islands. *All* three of its
classmates in the Delfinen class had, it was thought, successfully
transited to Elduvik without detection, exploiting the ability shared by
the whole class of fuelless sailing and long-term submersion.
Before Narhvalen lay a long submerged transit of the Baltic, safely away
from prying German eyes, before a night-time dash across the North Sea, a
safe entry into the huge camouflaged naval fortress at Elduvik and a
year's tour, patrolling the sea lanes from Brittany to the Caribbean.
Kaptajn Baron Einar Larsson von Linnkoeping, commander of the Baltic Fleet
Logistics Squadron and de facto Chief Engineer of the RSN Baltic Command,
was leaning on the roughly-finished wall at the back of the haven,
watching the scene of furious activity. A tall, Latin-looking civilian
wearing a RSN windbreaker was similarly occupied next to him. Both men
looked tired, but content.
Larsson wore the uniform of the RSN and the wide ribbon of a Knight of
the Dannebrogsorden, gained, unusually, in the ground fighting on St
Thomas during the brief (and utterly unpublicised) incursion by "pirates"
fraudulently wearing the uniform of the USM Marine Corps at the end of the
Global War. Larsson's rallying of the survivors of the Falsterske
Fodregiment's 5th Battalion and the Norrlands Dragonregiment's land 'clads
had repulsed the invaders, at the cost of massive casualties on both
sides, significant destruction to property and Larsson's left leg and
manhood. Larsson was consequently not an enthusiast for the USM or its
citizens and he took a particular grim pleasure in his work - the training
and commissioning of an entirely new type of vessel, dedicated to scouring
the seas clean of the merchant marine and navy of any Power willing to
take on Scandinavia.
Massive restitution payments by the USM (while in no way admitting any
liability for what was privately described as an excess of enthusiasm by a
USM Marine Colonel) had done little to repair relations between the
states past a chilly and distant froideur and nothing to stop Larsson
blaming the entire USM for the loss of his dignity and, as he saw it,
value as a man.