Dolores breathed in, and out. The unique smell of the Thomas Cochrane’s recycled air filling her nostrils, one last time. She would miss this ship, for all the trials and tribulations she had suffered aboard it, it had been her home for more than five years. She would miss the crew, brave men and women all, and her bridge crew especially. Vikoyan was one of the smartest men she had ever met, even if he could be a prickly bastard at times, and Hyou was the finest pilot she had ever seen. Boyle and Eriksen, rank rookies when she had met them, were now sharp as tacks, and unflappable in the face of danger. Samir Al-Mubarak and Alita Heyer had proven so indispensable that she was bringing them with her to the Yi, and the Weapons Officer and the Engineer lined up beside her at the entrance to the Cochrane’s shuttle bay, turning to face the ship’s new captain. Aaron Mendelssohn. Her executive officer, her best friend, the man who had shared a bottle of merlot with her the night after Natalia divorced her, the man who had held the ship together after Io. Dolores brimmed with pride when she saw the captain’s pin on his breast. “Admiral Muwangwa,” even in Mendelssohn’s typical brusque Australian accent, no small amount of pride was evident on his part, too. “Captain Mendelssohn,” Dolores replied, cloaking her emotion, as she had so many times before, behind a veil of formality. “I hereby relinquish command of this ship to you.” Her hand returned to her side before she extended it in a firm handshake, enjoying for the last time in a while the dull ache that lingered in the wake of Mendelssohn’s grip. “Thank you, ma’am,” Mendelssohn too, kept his face solemn and stern, though there was a deep, sincere gratitude in his dark brown eyes as he added “For everything.” “I did my duty as a captain, as you did yours as an executive officer,” Dolores responded stoically, before a small, but genuine smile broke across her face. “Thank you, Aaron.” She breathed again, savouring those idiosyncratic undertones that would not be the same on any other ship. “I will miss this ship.” “I’ll miss my Weapons Officer and my Chief Engineer,” Mendelssohn retorted. For a man so well-suited to propriety, he did always seem a little more comfortable outside of it. “Oh don’t worry,” Dolores chuckled a little, “I have made sure their replacements will live up to expectations. Suarez and Temenzhukov come highly recommended.” “By Admiral Darmawan,” Mendelssohn’s eyebrow raised sceptically. “Admiral Darmawan reccomended you, Captain Mendelssohn.” “Exactly,” The pair chuckled for a moment, before Mendelssohn moved on to say his farewells to Al-Mubarak and Heyer. Dolores looked on proudly for a moment, but as they moved beyond the formalities, she decided to leave them to it. She had already said her own farewells, and that had been hard enough. She entered the shuttle and got herself strapped in. A few minutes later, and a simple fusion torch carried Dolores Muwangwa away from what had been her home these last five years. A glance around the cabin revealed similar emotions on the part of Al-Mubarak and Heyer, her Weapons Officer lost for the moment in prayer, while the Engineer went over design schematics in the way she always did when she didn’t want to think about other things. Dolores knew better than to disturb them. “We’re one minute out from the Yi, Ma’am,” the shuttle pilot’s voice came slightly uneven through the tannoy. They’ll certainly be glad for the new shuttles after the refit, Dolores smirked, as she ran a finger over the slightly degraded polymer of her crash couch, and tapped an affirmation of the pilot’s message into her terminal. As they began their deceleration burn, Dolores looked over an image of her new command. For as exceptional as the Cochrane had been, the Yi was another beast entirely. Vast, sleek and modern, she was immediately imposing, even when viewing an image of her on a terminal. She was beautiful, as much as any weapon of war could be, yet terrifying at the same time. Each of those torpedo tubes could level a city. Those railguns could carve a ship, or a station apart. These ships were embodiments of the UN’s tremendous potential for both good and ill. It was a terrible responsibility to bear, to put it to the right use. The shuttle rattled and shuddered before a clank and a hydraulic hiss announced that they had docked with the Battleship. Dolores unbuckled her safety straps, and stepped out onto the deck of her new command. There was a small welcoming party awaiting her, at the head of whom stood a tall, broad-shouldered Korean man, with short-cropped black hair, and arms like tree trunks, the right of which shot up in a sharp salute. This would be her new Executive Officer. “Commander Holmberg, it is good to meet you at last.” Dolores spoke sternly, returning the salute. She had read this man’s file several times over, and it was very impressive stuff. Hard-working, diligent, and with a spotless disciplinary record, it had been his combat record which stood out to her. Not only had he remained calm under some of the most terrifying conditions, but he had kept his crew calm, too. “Admiral Muwangwa, the ship is yours.” They shook hands, and good lord, but his grip made Mendehlson’s feel like bubble wrap. “May I introduce you to the rest of the bridge crew?” He turned towards the assembled officers behind him, who stood with backs ramrod-straight. “Oh there is no need, Mr Holmberg, but thank you. I have done my research.” She stepped past him, and began to walk along the line, as her staff waited expectantly. “Lieutenant-Commander Castaña, Lieutenant Downing-Shaw,” She shook the hands of her Second and Third Officers, with a polite smile, after each one greeted her with a salute. “I hope your jobs will not be too interesting,” she chuckled, moving on to the Helmsman and the Chief Navigator. “Lieutenant Takahashi,” She shook the hand of her Nigerian countryman first, before moving on to his direct superior, “Lieutenant-Commander O’Hare, I must admit, I was very impressed by your work on the Slow Zone. It’s very good to finally meet you.” The Venezuelan smiled, and nodded her head. “Thank you, Admiral,” she replied, firmly shaking Dolores’ hand. “I look forward to serving under you.” Finally, her Sensors Officer and Comms Officer, “Lieutenant Chan, Lieutenant Krejci,” She shook the Mexican’s hand, then the Pole’s. They were both older than Boyle and Eriksen had been, and seemed more battle-hardened, but Dolores supposed that was the difference between a battleship and a cruiser. An exhaustive tour of the Yi ensued, from the engine maintenance deck to the torpedo tubes, from the galley to the gymnasium. It was a remarkably well-appointed ship, brightly lit, with a modern, almost sterile internal architecture. As they walked through its pristine halls, she saw all around her the enlisted crew, checking storage lockers, polishing light fittings, running diagnostics. We’ll see how long it lasts once we’re on duty, and they don’t have a new Admiral to impress, but it’s nice to see it. She chuckled, as the doors slid open to reveal her new bridge. The terminals had a mirror sheen to them, there was that same electric hum, but it just wasn’t the same as the Cochrane. She took a deep breath, familiarising herself with the new scent, the new feel of the CIC. Her mind filled with all the potential, all the possibilities that lay before her, and this ship. This is something different.