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USS Valhalla
Shuttle-bay Two

The large executive shuttle passed through the permeable forcefield and touched down gently.

A call to attention by the ship’s chief petty officer brought the assembled crew to rigid formation, as a host of flags were raised. One was the blue field of the Federation, while another was emblazoned with the Starfleet arrowhead, and a third was the ship’s own pendant. This bore the sigil of Valhalla, the first of the new Mark II Galaxy-class heavy defense cruisers.

Commander Cybel stepped forward as the shuttle’s port hatch opened to reveal the diminutive form of their new commanding officer, an aged human male of Asian ancestry. Accompanying him was a comparatively youthful Tiburonian man wearing a physician’s coat over his duty uniform.

Commodore Takeo Izawa eased himself down the exit stairs with the Tiburonian’s help, pausing a moment to straighten his dress uniform before proceeding. He directed a brief nod to the chief, who set the crew at ease.

Cybel stepped forward, initiating the age-old fleet ritual.

Izawa bowed formally to Cybel as she approached, a mirthful twinkle in his eyes as he remarked, “York, my old friend. I hope you won’t take offense, but you’ve lost a great deal of weight since last we parted ways.”

Cybel bowed politely at the waist and then came upright to offer a congratulatory handshake to the commodore while sharing his conspiratorial grin. “It’s wonderful to see you again, sir.” A slight blush crept up her cheeks which both delighted and fascinated Izawa. “I’ll take that as a compliment, sir. I’ve lost about three-point-seven million tons, give or take. It’s all the clean living.”

More formally, Izawa queried in a voice loud enough to be heard by all in the bay, “Permission to come aboard?”

“Permission granted, sir,” Cybel replied.

The Tiburonian handed Izawa his cane, a decorative off-white walking stick with a stylized handle bearing the Starfleet arrowhead and Valhalla’s registry. It was the perfect complement to his dress uniform.

“Thank you, Doctor.” Izawa turned to introduce the man to Cybel. “This is Doctor Zelbin, our Chief Medical Officer. Doctor, this is Commander Cybel, our Executive Officer.”

Zelbin smiled politely at the taller woman. “A pleasure, Commander.”

Cybel and Zelbin then moved aside to join the other assembled senior officers while Izawa mounted the steps of the raised dais to the podium.

“Attention to orders!” barked the chief. The crew snapped back to attention.

Activating a padd, Izawa began, "To Commander Cybel, acting Commanding Officer USS Valhalla, on stardate 60243.6. You are hereby requested and required to relinquish command of your vessel to Commodore Takeo Izawa, Commanding Officer USS Yorktown-B, as of this date. Signed, Admiral Kathryn Janeway."

He continued, "Computer, transfer all command codes to Izawa, Takeo, Commodore. Voice authorization: Epsilon-Theta-Hachi-Roku-San.”

The ship’s computer replied, ‘Transfer complete. USS Valhalla now under command of Commodore Takeo Izawa.’

From the front row of the crew formation, Lieutenant Raffaele raised an eyebrow as he recognized the ship computer’s voice as that of Cybel.

Takeo turned to address Cybel. “Commander, I relieve you.”

Cybel replied, “I stand relieved.”

Lieutenant Raffaele turned to the officer next to him, expressing sotto voce, “We’re already making history.”

“What? How so?”

Raffaele grinned widely, but then spied Izawa giving him an unmistakable frown from atop the dais. He leaned back away from his cohort and replied out the side of his mouth, “Tell you later.”

Looking out upon his new command, Izawa stated, “In sixteen hours, we shall transit into the Large Magellanic Cloud. Our mission is relatively straightforward. We shall seek to discover the whereabouts and condition of the starship Europa and her crew. We will attempt to locate the Amon and Skorrah species, and determine their status and the potential threat they pose to the Federation. And finally, we shall make contact with whatever spacefaring species we encounter in our travels.

“After nearly a decade of war and strife, the Alpha and Beta Quadrants are finally at peace. Much was lost in that upheaval, but through it all, through the wars and the ensuing instability, our mutual trust and strength held firm. The core values of our great Federation girded us in our darkest moments, and have led us back into the light. Twenty-seven newly contacted species, many of them formerly refugees fleeing the Delta Quadrant, have been accepted into the Federation family, and with this infusion of new blood, we are now stronger than we have ever been. Representatives of some of these species stand among us now, proudly wearing the uniform of Starfleet, willing and able to undertake the risks of this great mission to reap the rewards of knowledge and discovery.

“To be a member of this crew is to be an explorer, always. Certainly, we stand ready to defend ourselves, the Federation, and our home galaxy, but our first duty is to exploration and the forging of new scientific frontiers for the benefit of all sentient life. While it is true that this ship was designed as a battleship, we will not go forth as warriors or conquerors. Such was the mindset of those who preceded us into the LMC. They broke faith with our values, and the results were as disastrous as they were tragic. We shall hold ourselves to a higher standard.

“I welcome you all to Valhalla, our home for the foreseeable future as we boldly go where so few have gone before.”

A round of applause followed, and the chief dismissed the crew to mingle and enjoy one final celebration before their mission began.

Raffaele navigated the throng and wandered over to where Cybel stood with the commodore. Plate in hand, the lieutenant busied himself shoveling dessert into his face. “Told you there’d be cake, Commander,” he managed between mouthfuls.

Cybel stopped herself from rolling her eyes, but only just. She gestured to the younger man. “Commodore, please meet Lieutenant Adalgiso Raffaele, our Chief Operations Officer.

Raffaele paused to wipe the frosting from his hand onto his pant-leg before offering that hand to Izawa. The commodore hesitated only a fraction of a second before grasping the proffered hand, but it was impossible for Cybel to miss.

What did I tell you about protocol, idiot! she thought sourly.

Izawa released Raffaele’s hand as he cast a suspicious eye towards his first officer. “This is the young man you spoke so highly of, York?”

She bobbed her head, “Yes, sir. First impressions to the contrary, he’s a gifted officer.”

“I would hope so,” was Izawa’s curt reply. He bowed fractionally, “If you’ll excuse me, I need to mingle and meet my crew.”

Cybel sighed as Izawa moved off into the crowd, his cane tip clacking on the deck.

Raffaele popped the last bit of cake into his mouth, apparently impervious to Cybel’s distress. “You were not kidding. That is one stiff old man.”

“If I could have migraines, I’d have a whopper of one coming on right this minute,” Cybel groused. “You, my friend, are utterly immune to reason.”

He nodded distractedly as he looked around for a place to put his dessert plate. “I’ve been inoculated.” He glanced back towards Cybel as he dropped the plate onto a passing engineering robot that was moving to service the shuttle. “Why’s he call you York?”

“It’s short for Yorktown,” she answered. “He may be stiff, but he’s eighty-seven years old, and more than a bit of a traditionalist. The commodore came up through the ranks with officers like Walker Keel, Samson Glover, and Jonathan Owens.”

He shrugged in response. “So he’s old-school, I get it. Not to worry, Commander. I’m sure my work performance will overcome any doubts he has.” Raffaele leaned out past Cybel to wink at a female officer, then mimed shooting the woman with rakish finger guns. “By the way, you really need to reset the ship’s computer to its original voice profile. Having the ship sound like you is creepy.”

She threw up her hands in a gesture of exasperation, “I am the ship, Rafe!” She waved a hand directly in front of his face. “Hi, have we met? I’m the XO, the ship’s avatar, your friendly sentient computer.”

“Still creepy,” he assessed. “Hey, did you know the Chief Engineer is a hologram? How weird is that?”

Cybel repeated, “I’m… the… ship,” slowly pronouncing each syllable. “Of course I know that!”

He gifted her with a raised eyebrow. “And?”

“And… I’m done here,” Cybel announced, turning on one heel and stalking away from him.

A friendly face intercepted her about five meters and several trillions of unflattering calculations later. “You know he just does that to get under your skin.” The man was just as tall as she, with thinning hair greying at the temples and a salt and pepper mustache. He had unfastened the collar of his dress uniform jacket, which bore the three rank pips of a full commander.

Cybel made a face. “I’m smarter than his whole species combined. I could kill him with my brain.”

“Uh… I’m the same species as he is, Commander,” the man observed. “Do you hold us all in such high esteem?”

“You’re different,” Cybel shot back. “You’re a brilliant scientist, the foremost cyberneticist in the Federation.”

Bruce Maddox smiled. “All true, but to be fair, he’s got about fifteen IQ points on me.” He took a sip from a flute of champagne. “Don’t think that doesn’t keep me up at night.”

“You’re just trying to make me feel better,” Cybel pouted. “It’s your job. The post of Chief Science Officer is just secondary to your keeping tabs on me so that I don’t go M-5 on everyone.”

This caused Maddox to choke on a mouth full of champagne. “Very subtle, Cybel.” He smirked, “Hey, that rhymes.”

This time she did roll her eyes. “I’m going to the bridge. You carbon-based meat sacks can continue with your little party.”

“That’s highly prejudicial,” Maddox frowned. “I’m not sure if I should be more insulted as a carbon-based meat sack, or as your husband.”

“Pick one,” Cybel called back to him as she made her way towards the nearest exit.

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