In These Hollow Stars - Chapter 1 - downstar (2024)

Chapter Text

Captain’s Personal Log
Stardate 55553.6

The Concorde is surveying the Goralis System in former Cardassian space. About a year after the end of the war, Starfleet discovered an abandoned Dominion experimental weapons facility that had been the centre of a catastrophic accident. That accident wreaked havoc with sensors and contaminated surrounding space. Our mission is to take readings of contaminants to prepare a report on a timeline for cleaning up the site and rehabilitating the system.

This is the fifth survey mission we’ve been tasked with in the past six months. When I accepted the pardon for my defection to the Maquis, I did so believing what the Federation says about rehabilitation and second chances. Never mind that I don’t believe my choice to leave Starfleet to defend my home colony from the Cardassians are actions that need forgiveness.

When Starfleet offered me a new command after the crew of the Revenge and I did our part to reopen supply lines along the badlands and root out the last few Breen beachheads in Federation space, I almost didn’t accept. It felt like an Act of Grace, the kind my ancestor, Blackbeard might have been compelled to sign when faced with the forces of colonialism.

But I did it. I accepted the wrist slap and the black marks on my records. I attended mandatory counseling and re-training and gave a thorough accounting of my so-called crimes as a member of the Maquis. I never expected to be given command of a starship again, let alone the opportunity to bring along many of my old crew who had also accepted pardons.

It seemed too good to be true. Jury’s still out on whether it is.

Concorde is an old ship, Nebula-class. The reason for giving me this command was the backhanded compliment that I had shown… ingenuity and an ability to achieve impressive feats with outdated and scrounged technology.

Outdated is a kind word to describe the ship’s systems. She’s no more than two or three years away from being mothballed, if Chief Feeney’s estimations are correct. The nacelles had to be completely rebuilt after the Invasion of Chin'toka and several of her systems have been rebuilt with experimental components that don’t always play well with the rest of the ship. I’m entirely convinced that if I hadn’t accepted this command, Concorde would be sitting in a scrapyard and cannibalized for parts.

At first, it made perfect sense to be stuck on boring survey missions in former combat areas or areas too dodgy for the pure science ships. I knew I had to regain Starfleet’s trust. But it’s been nearly three years of grunt work, patrolling quiet borders or surveying celestial bodies for stellar hazards. The moment anything even remotely interesting comes up, either of the scientific or martial kind, Starfleet pulls us out and sends in someone else.

I’m starting to take it personally.

But I stick it out, mostly for my crew. It was a condition of their pardons that they serve, and I know they wouldn’t make it under any other captain and they’d be sent back to prison.

If future historians who decrypt these logs in a hundred years’ time wonder if Captain Edward Teach, once considered the brightest tactical mind of his generation, is bitter about his change in circ*mstances? The answer is yes.

Captain Teach tapped the console to end the recording. The formal log covered much of the same ground, but dispassionately delivered instead of the dripping bitterness of his personal log.

He stood up from behind his desk and exited the Ready Room onto Concorde’s bridge.

“Report.”

“We’ve finished surveying the rogue planet on the edge of the system, Captain,” rasped Isryah “Izzy” Hands, his half-Bajoran first officer. He’d been by Ed’s side as a member of the Maquis, and he followed him into Starfleet. He was one of those officers who would still be in a Federation penal colony if Ed hadn’t accepted command of the Concorde. Or maybe he would have been repatriated to Bajor even though he’d been born and raised in a Federation refugee camp.

Ed had never met anyone with more intense survivor’s guilt. Izzy channeled the guilt of never experiencing the Occupation first-hand nor fighting in the resistance by hitting back at the Cardassians every chance he got. That’s what led him to the Maquis, and now, uncomfortably, to Starfleet.

“Let me guess. Nothing interesting about the rogue planet? What’s its designation again?” asked Ed as he moved across Concorde’s small bridge. Unlike other Federation ships, the bridge was cast in dark, shiny metal with much sharper and bolder shapes than most. It was the only part of the ship that was new. It was also one of the ship’s experimental retrofits.

The black alloy that gave the bridge its distinctive look had been devised from technology and samples Voyager had gathered on its epic trip from the Delta Quadrant. It had been named Torresium in honour of the ship’s chief engineer. The alloy was supposed to diffuse energy far more efficiently, which would, in theory, drastically reduce console explosions caused by EPS overloads. It made the bridge of Concorde look more imposing and less Starfleet, which suited Ed just fine.

“The rogue planet is very em, round. And rocky,” said helmsman Ensign French, aka Frenchie.

“Round and rocky,” drawled Ed. “Groundbreaking. Anything else?” He glanced up and to the left to Commander Boodhari,chief science officer. He was one of the few senior members of the crew who was Starfleet through and through and had no criminal record to speak of.

“The planet is Class R, which is em, well, not exactly surprising because…”

“...that’s the designation for a rogue planet. I know,” said Ed. He sighed. “Go on.”

“Despite its designation, the planet has an atmosphere breathable by humans. The Cardassians started to terraform it a generation ago. But it looks like they abandoned it soon after they began. It’s possible that they didn’t know it was a rogue planet when they started their work. Sometimes orbital decay is not immediately evident, after all.”

“Or maybe other forces in this sector pushed it out of a stable orbit,” mused Ed.

“Possible,” said Oluwande. “Orbital mechanics are a lot less stable and predictable than you’d imagine. Three-body problem, and all that.”

“How many planets in this system?” asked Ed.

“Twelve,” said Izzy. “Goralis Five was the site of the research facility. Astrometrics is in the process of analyzing the orbital mechanics of the system to predict where we’d expect to see the greatest level of contamination.”

“Is it possible the explosion at the facility turned Goralis 12 here,” Ed nodded to the screen, “...into a rogue?”

“Entirely,” said Oluwande. “In fact, I’d say probable.”

Izzy gritted his teeth and stared at the display. It currently showed a map of the Goralis System, with the planets marked out and long-range scans showing the areas of highest contamination. “f*cking Cardies,” he growled.”Destroying everything they touch.”

“While I’d generally agree, Mister Hands,” said Ed, “Our intelligence says that this facility was established after the Dominion turned Cardassia into a puppet state. I doubt Central Command had any say in what the Founders ordered here.”

Izzy just grunted.

“Right. Well, it looks like it’s going to be another what…? Six hours before we know how far into the system we can get without risking contamination?”

“Yes, sir,” said Frenchie.

“Well, in that case. If anyone needs me, I’ll be on the holodeck.”

When Ed resigned his commission to join the Maquis, he didn’t miss Starfleet bureaucracy, the boring diplomatic duties, or the uniform. He did, however, miss the holodeck. His Maquis Raider, the Revenge, was built for precision strikes and speed. There were very few creature comforts that even the oldest and smallest Federation ships (save the Defiant class) had.

Ed exited the turbolift and headed down the hallway. He nodded at Mister Buttons, second officer and chief of operations. The Gullian nodded his white feathered avian head and clicked his beak. Buttons wasn’t his real name, but it was the closest word that a human tongue could fold around. His actual name involved a lot of squawking that he could, if pressed, replicate - but Buttons seemed fine with the shift in name.

“Commander,” said Ed politely.

Buttons croaked a syllable of greeting and continued on toward engineering.

“Captain.”

Ed turned and waited for Ensign Jim to catch up to him. The Trill security officer had a glint in their eye.

“You look like you’re excited about something,” said Ed.

“Olu said something about a rogue planet with an atmosphere? Any chance of an away mission?” asked Jim.

Ed grinned. “Getting a little restless, Ensign?”

Jim canted their head. “Just a little bit, sir. I mean, we haven’t been off the ship in weeks. And that was a f*cking starbase.”

Jim hadn’t been a member of the Maquis, but they had been a problematic officer Starfleet Command offloaded on Ed. They were incredibly skilled tactically and had three lifetimes of knowledge as a joined Trill. But their love of the fight rivaled a Klingon, and they had a tendency to go off-book. Just before Jim’s transfer to the Concorde, they’d been demoted from Lieutenant for insubordination.

“Even if we get down there, I doubt there’s going to be anything for you to stab, Ensign,” drawled Ed with a twinkle of amusem*nt in his eyes. “But if we determine there were any facilities down there connected to the experimental weapons facility, and if scans show that it’s safe enough, you might just get your wish.”

Jim’s eyes lit up.

“If you want the best chance of being assigned to this mission, I’d suggest paying a visit to Dr. Ro’ach to make sure your anti-radiation shots are up-to-date.”

Jim made a face.

Ed knew that would make Jim unhappy. Radiation shots made the Trill nauseous. Their symbiote had a particular sensitivity to it and it was unpleasant enough that Jim tended to prefer to deal with radiation exposure rather than take preventative measures. Which was reckless. Normally, Ed liked a little recklessness in his officers but not in this case.

When Jim just stood there, Ed lifted his brows. “Well, do you want off the ship or not?”

Jim rolled their eyes and huffed. “Yes, sir,” and then they turned to head back toward the turbolift.

Ed grinned, then continued on the way to the holodeck. There was only one on the ship, and he’d used captain’s prerogative to move a junior officer’s booking back so he could take advantage of a bit of downtime.

“Computer, resume program Teach 169.”

The computer chimed.

“Program complete. Enter when ready.”

Ed stepped forward and the doors slid open to reveal a bustling colonial street in the Carribean, circa 1717. He stood in the arch for a moment and tapped the console a few times. Older models of holodeck required that people change their actual clothes before entering the simulation. But Concorde also had a new holodeck in addition to a new bridge, reinforced with Torresium and updated with the latest in holotechnology.

So when Ed stepped within range of the holoemitters, the computer rearranged the molecules of his uniform to something better suited to the pirate town of Tortuga. He was now wearing a heavy frock coat embroidered with a silver snake pattern, trousers, high boots, a sword at his hip and a blunderbuss strapped to his chest.

Just as he was about to step into the simulation, the ship rocked and the yellow alert klaxon briefly sounded before it was silenced. Since the holodeck had integrated his commbadge into his costume, Ed hit a button on the arch instead.

"Teach to bridge. Everything all right up there?”

“Yes sir,” came Izzy’s reply. “Nothing to worry about. We just passed through an area of unexpected turbulence. We just got bounced around a bit, but engineering reports no damage and systems are reading normal.”

Ed considered abandoning his holodeck adventure and returning to the bridge. But it had been ages since he’d had time to just relax, and he was getting to a point in his pirate adventure that he’d been looking forward to for some time. “Contact me if there’s any change in status. Teach out.”

The arch with its exit into the real world and controls to access the program, should have disappeared the moment Ed stepped away from it. But it lingered several moments longer than it should. A curl of blue energy sparked along the Torresium of the new-model holodeck, then disappeared into the console itself.

In These Hollow Stars - Chapter 1 - downstar (2024)
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