Captain Gorel Karn of the U.S.S. Yorktown (story)
Hello, here's the first few parts of a story I was inspired to write about my Cardassian captain and his assault cruiser. I'll likely update it in the future with some more bits about his selection of his senior officers, and more distantly maybe a mission or two. I hope you enjoy!
Captain Gorel Karn, currently of no starship, stepped out onto the patio of his parents' house in the suburbs of Lakarian City. The night was cool and clear, although he was sure that many of the other officers he'd served with would disagree. The humans would have found it warm and humid, the Andorians excessively hot, and the Vulcans a bit on the cool side. As for the Tellarites, he wasn't sure, although he did know they would have argued with whatever stance he took.
It was strange, but good, to be home again after so many years away. He'd been one of the first Cardassians to be accepted to Starfleet Academy when the Federation Council created their dual-citizenship program; he could afford no signs of weakness or divided loyalty. He had to be as perfect an officer as possible, to ensure that those who followed wouldn?t have to prove themselves in the same way. As a result, he'd allowed himself no visits home, nor even to Cardassian space; similarly, he'd only allowed himself a letter to his parents every few months. It was only now, after he'd been transferred away from his first command, that he had made the trip back while he waited for his next posting.
The party his parents had thrown was small, and only family had been invited, but he felt torn between relaxation at being with them and a sense of being out of place. It had been years, after all, and in Starfleet, if Cardassians were not exactly pariahs, they were not entirely welcome, either. His classmates had been raised on stories of the Dominion War as much as he had, and the Federation and the Union had not been friends even before that. He'd been met with anxiety, with arrogance, with pity, from many corners; the safest and best response had been to simply close himself off. It was most efficient, after all, to not be a Cardassian officer, but simply an officer.
"Ah, here you are."
Gorel turned, half-empty glass of kanar in hand, as his great-uncle stepped out to join him. The man wore his comfortable suit like a uniform, as well he might; Legate Eren Eskot had been one of the more senior Guls to make it through the chaos of the Dominion War with life and commission intact. That was likely due to his service in rear-echelon positions at the Bureau of Ships, as well as the revelation that he had been one of the low-level sources that supplied intelligence for the Cardassian resistance. In the years since, he had continued his patient rise through the Bureau, until today he was one of the more experienced legates in charge of designing and building Cardassia's fleet, reduced as it was.
"I'm sorry, Uncle, I just stepped out for a moment."
"That's quite alright, my boy, quite alright."
The elder man joined him at the railing, looking out. This particular district was on one of the hills near the city, and if the view it afforded was not great, it was good enough to see the distant towers and domes of the capital of the Cardassian Union.
"It does my heart good to see this view. There was a time when I was afraid Cardassia would never recover."
Gorel nodded. "It's even changed in just the few years I?ve been gone."
"Has it? I hadn't noticed. That's good, most of the Federation assistance organizations have been gone for that time, so that means we've been doing it on our own."
He gave a little moue, and his great-uncle chuckled.
"I bear the Federation no ill will, Gorel. They did what they had to do, and then they did what they didn't have to. They've done well by you - you may not be a Gul, but you're a Captain, and we?re all proud of you." He clapped the younger man's shoulder. "But still, it's better to see that we've recovered enough to do things without their help. It shows a real improvement."
The kanar Gorel sipped was good. He?d tried the replicated version, but it never quite tasted right, even if the molecules were supposed to be the same. Real kanar was uncommon and expensive in the Federation, still tainted as it was with bad memories, so instead he'd switched to Saurian brandy on those rare occasions he'd felt a desire for alcohol.
"So now that you've gotten some experience with Starfleet engineering, maybe you'd like to come by my officer at the Bureau? I'd love to show you what we?re working on and get your opinions."
"I appreciate the offer, Uncle, but I'm not sure how much I can really add. I'm no shipwright."
"Nonsense, practical experience is what we need. I don't need someone to lay out a keel or calculate the strength of structural spars, I need someone who's been out there, who knows what works and what doesn't. Plus, I think you might be underestimating yourself; from what I've heard you and your crew did a serious field refit on your last command."
Something about that tickled at Gorel's instincts. He began to wonder - was this his Great-Uncle Eskot inviting him for a little tour of the office, or was the Legate Eskot of the Cardassian Self-Defense Force's Bureau of Ships asking Starfleet Captain (Engineering) Karn to consult on a new design? He nodded slowly.
"Alright, Uncle, I'd be happy to come by."
"Wonderful, my boy! I'll check with my aide and have them contact you. I think you?ll be very interested in what I have to show you."
"Captain Karn. The Legate is expecting you, please go in."
That mode of address certainly made Gorel feel a bit more clear on where he stood. His back prickled slightly in the absence of his uniform, but he brushed the sensation off as he nodded to the aide and proceeded into the office. It was not cold, exactly, but it was efficient; the mementos and pictures of family were placed on discreet tables and alcoves out of the way, while the majority of the roomy space was dominated by a substantial desk, a few chairs, and several mobile display panels, currently displaying schematics from the aging Galor-class ships.
The Legate rose from behind his desk, smiling and extending a hand in greeting. Gorel shook the offered hand before finding himself engulfed in a warm hug.
"Gorel, my boy, glad you could make it. Can I get you anything? Raktajino, kanar?" He shook his head in response as his uncle reopened the space between them.
"No, thank you. This is a nice office; is that a spiral-wave disruptor EPS interface?" His uncle smiled, but there was a sharpness in his eye.
"Yes it is, Gorel. That's a keen eye you have; if Starfleet didn't already have access to this information, I might be worried."
The two men chuckled, and Gorel felt the vague but familiar sensation of intrigue beginning to swallow him up. Although the Detapa Council had built up a fair amount of respect since its acceptance as the government of the Union, remnants of the unsettled scheming from the aftermath of the Dominion War had virtually become structural elements of society. You could never be entirely certain who would accuse you or who you would betray in order to maintain your grip on whatever security you had found; even family was suspect.
"Well, since you've noticed the screens already, let me show you what I brought you here to see." There was a hint of command authority in his voice, and Gorel nodded and waited. A few presses of keys on the side of a display brought up a new series of schematics, and Gorel's eyes narrowed slightly.
"Are you familiar with this design?" When Gorel shook his head, the legate continued. "This is Starfleet's Imperial-class assault cruiser. Most interesting, wouldn't you say?"
Interesting it was. There were few of Starfleet's typically smooth and organic lines, its expansive and rounded nacelles and hull sections. The Imperial was angular and compact, its nacelles drawn in close to its hull and armored panels covering several key sections.
"Starfleet as a whole may have given up on the construction of dedicated warships, but there are a few holdover designs remaining. The Imperial-class is one of them." He pressed a few more keys, and Gorel studied the EPS and structural layouts, while a few additional displays popped up demonstrating field emitter strengths.
"With the more compact silhouette, deflector shield and warp field geometry can be much smaller, but you'll notice that power generation and distribution systems are more robust than the Sovereign-class, allowing for greater redundancy and local field strength. Similarly, while it has the same number of beam emitters as the Sovereign, they can individually fire stronger beams, while more effectively covering the 360 degrees of fire around the ship."
"You also saw the ablative armor carapace on the dorsal and ventral surfaces, I'm sure, which is a very unusual feature. Starfleet designs generally trust to the innate hull strength and their shields, rather than incorporating purpose-built armor additions. They do so love their viewports."
The two men grinned, and the legate shook his head.
"The Federation is so odd, sometimes. I can think of very few peoples who are more reassured by having no warships than by having plenty of them. Most cultures would call this a battleship, not an assault cruiser. But they were strong enough to defeat the Dominion, so clearly they're doing something right."
Gorel nodded. The Federation itself was a sum of contrasts, with its member states acting in concert on certain issues and opposition on others. There were individual colony worlds with representatives on the Council, and multi-world polities with just as much voice. The Andorians preferred to meet threats head-on, while Risians hid behind a welcoming neutrality. But certain unifying threads ran through the entire Federation, and the strength of those threads could be awe-inspiring to behold.
"In any case, do you have any particular thoughts on this design?"
Gorel took a few moments to step forward, studying the displayed schematics and figures.
"It's definitely atypical of standard Starfleet design principles in a number of key ways. I notice the cargo capacity is low, and the amount of reserve power capacity is very high. It looks like the ship could very easily increase its offensive and defensive outputs by 40 to 60 percent over short engagements. Overall, it has a lot of potential as a frontline combatant, although the reduced lab space and loss of warp cruising efficiency with the tighter warp field make it less useful for exploration missions."
"You don't think that modularity can cover those flaws to some degree?"
Gorel shook his head slowly.
"Perhaps to some degree, but I've noticed that the ship is only about 30 percent modular. There's nothing that can be done about the warp field geometry other than pumping more power into it, which is going to generate its own problems with reducing sensor range and increasing the range of detection. Some lab and sensor spaces can be added, but the external armor is going to hinder the operation of some of the more sensitive sensor suites, and there's not a lot of potential to add mission-specific personnel capacity. It can be used for exploration or hauling, but it will be inferior to a lot of other ships; to reach its potential, it has to fight."
The legate smiled a little smile.
"You may be pleased to note that our review board reached very similar conclusions. I think you have a better head for the realities of starship design than you give yourself credit for." Gorel gave a small bow, and his uncle's smile widened slightly as he pressed a few more keys on the display board.
"Now, what about this one?"
While the schematic still represented an Imperial-class ship, Gorel immediately noted that this one was presented using Cardassian formatting standards. Furthermore, it showed more detail, where certain aspects of the previous schematic had been left blank or vague. Gorel leaned in more closely, skimming some of the new details: hull composition, deflector shield frequency ranges, emitter load capacities, and so forth. After a few moments, he stepped back, and noticed his uncle watching him closely.
"Overall, the performance envelope has stayed almost the same, but there's definitely some different influences. I see that the EPS frequencies have range-shifted to something closer to Dominion standard than Starfleet. The equipment in the torpedo bays is also no longer Starfleet-standard, I see a lot more streamlining of the projectile-handling systems. These nodal overcharge capacitors in the shield emitter array are interesting as well, again that?s something more like what I recall from attack ships."
"Well spotted and exactly correct. This is the result of Starfleet asking us to create a modification of the Imperial-class design, with a particular eye to using our knowledge of Dominion shipbuilding techniques and sensibilities. Since Breen, Cardassian, and Dominion ships all tend to be more dedicated to warfare, we've de-emphasized some of the Starfleet elements and refocused the ship towards combat."
The legate continued speaking, portions of the display brightening in response to his words.
"As you can see, we've altered the hull composition, increasing the number of layers by 40% and adding additional neutronium and monotanium. The end result is denser and more time-consuming to construct, but as you can see the defensive profiles have all increased dramatically."
"The primary beam array armament of the ship has been changed from phasers to Dominion-design polaron-tetryon heterodyning emitters, and we've modified the array feeds to optimize the output efficiency. Similarly, we replaced the Starfleet multimission probe/torpedo bays with a dedicated rapid-reload torpedo assembly incorporating a Breen-style transphasic envelope booster. The ship still carries probes, but the larger models will have to be cold-launched from a cargo bay or loaded into a mission pack on a shuttle."
"The entire power grid has been modified to have increased redundancy, rather than the more standard branching trunk design. There's some efficiency loss, but the system as a whole is more resistant to damage and there's a greater capacity to reroute reserve power to every system and site on the ship."
Gorel listened and took in the information. Overall, the modifications eliminated some vestiges of Starfleet's general-purpose design ideals, optimizing the ship more for combat. Similarly, it pared down some of the excess power generation and storage capacity, trading long-term endurance for short-term survival. The more complex design would take additional time and resources to construct, although the abandonment of Starfleet-standard systems would help with integration of the Dominion-based modifications.
"It sounds like this should be a much more capable warship. I'd be curious to see if Starfleet would be interested in actually executing a design that makes so many departures from their norms."
"We had our doubts, as well, and the negotiations have been rather extensive. In some ways, the design arguments have been some of the easier ones. But in the end, we got them to agree."
His uncle's phrasing was curious, but Gorel nodded, frowning slightly.
"I do appreciate being invited to go over the specifications with you, uncle, but if the design has already been finalized, then why did you ask me to come today?"
"Oh, the design hasn't just been finalized, my boy. We laid down the keel in the Tekas yards almost six years ago. We had some unanticipated slowdowns in construction, as you'd expect, but we hit our projected completion date, and a Starfleet engineering team finished the systems that they wouldn't let us implement for them. The ship's been undergoing final trials for about the last eight months."
The legate pressed a command, and the schematics vanished, replaced by the sight of the ship coolly cutting through the void. Its lines were familiar to Gorel as a Starfleet officer, although harsher and more angular in places. The unusual alloys of its construction gave its hull a darker cast than the gray-blue tinted white of most Starfleet ships, and the Dominion-styled modifications also changed the emissions spectra of its nacelles and primary deflector dish from the usual red and blue to shades of pale and dark purple. Most Starfleet ships made Gorel think of bright birds in flight; this one was more like some kind of sea predator moving through the shallows.
"A beautiful ship. What's she called?"
"Ah, Starfleet wouldn't budge on that. We may have made the modifications and done the majority of the construction here, but it's still ultimately a Starfleet ship, so they went with one of their names. She's the U.S.S. Yorktown. And yes, she is beautiful. How would you like her?"
Gorel felt his heart and his suspicion leap.
His uncle grinned. "Please excuse this old man his little amusements. I didn't ask you here to get your perspective on the Yorktown as a designer, although I've appreciated what you've said. I asked you here to show her to you and offer you her command."
"But Starfleet Command should be the ones to make that decision, and I'm sure that such a unique ship would never be given to a dual-citizen with only one prior command." Gorel struggled with his great-uncle's proposal, throwing out the first objections that came to mind.
"Starfleet Command has made the decision, but I've taken it upon myself to make the offer on their behalf. And as for your selection, that is a complicated issue."
The older man's voice lost some of its vibrance and warmth, shifting from that of an uncle to a disappointed and tired senior officer.
"You are familiar with the True Way, yes?"
"Gul Madred's hardliners?"
"Right. Of course Starfleet has some concern with them, but they're much more of a problem here in the Union."
The legate gestured at one of the chairs as he moved to another, and Gorel sat.
"The Federation has been tremendously helpful with the recovery efforts, and they've treated us far better than I think we would have treated them if our places were reversed. Between the Andak project, the successes in eradicating diseases, the Oralian awakening, and the Detapa Council, the Union has made many great scientific and cultural strides with Federation sponsorship and assistance. In many ways, the Union has never been more friendly towards scientists, artists, and philosophers."
"But while we were never known as a warrior people, the Cardassian love of order has led to us have strong participation in the Cardassian Guard and the Obsidian Order. The Order is long gone, and the Guard has been remade into the Cardassian Self-Defense Force. Our defeat in the Dominion War, combined with the awakening of our spiritual side, has caused many Cardassians to shy away from the military, and feel shame about our history. A shame that is not undeserved."
"And then we have the True Way, which disdains our new culture and pushes for a return to traditional Cardassia. This dwelling in the past is wrong on many levels, and most of the Union despises them. But at the same time, they are a reminder of when Cardassia was strong and independent, of when we were free to travel the stars and establish order wherever we could."
"So we have a cultural divide that many of us dislike, but is difficult to get around. The majority of the Union dedicates themselves to peace and science under the leadership of the Federation. It's not a bad way to live, but that way lies the loss of much that being Cardassian truly means, and eventual incorporation into the Federation. For those unable or unwilling to accept the peaceful ways, the only alternative is the True Way, which is even worse. That way lies a second war, with an outcome even worse than the last one."
For a moment the older man grimaced and ground one fist into the other hand's palm.
"Damn Gul Madred and his idiots! We lost that fight already! If we truly want an independent and strong Cardassia, we need to find a new way, not continue to cling to the old!"
He took a deep breath and looked to Gorel earnestly.
"A new way is exactly what I and many of my fellows are trying to create. We need a way to inspire the Union, to show that we can be strong without being brutes, that we can be capable of great things without needing the Federation to hold our hands. This, my boy, is where you and the Yorktown come in."
"You're one of the first Cardassians to reach command rank in Starfleet under the dual-citizenship program, fully Cardassian but trained by the Federation. You can lead, you can fight, you can explore. You can show us that we can do the things we have to do to be strong and independent, and do them right and for the right reasons."
"The Yorktown takes the best of Starfleet ship design and adds to it the best of what we've learned: our own Cardassian techniques, and even what we learned from the Dominion and the Breen. We couldn't build something like it for the CDF, not now, so it had to be a Starfleet ship. Maybe it would have been better for the Yorktown to be a bit less combat-focused, but this was the first good arrangement we could reach with Starfleet to work on a project of this magnitude."
Gorel had listened and thought as his uncle spoke. For the most part, he agreed. He couldn't really blame the Federation for winning the Dominion War, nor could he look upon the Union's arrogant and imperial past without some sense of shame. But while he really had nothing against the cultural melange that was the Federation, he had no desire to see the Union subsumed into it, see a few small elements of it preempted and the remainder confined to Cardassia Prime and perhaps one or two other planets. The Union could be strong and independent, unreliant upon the Federation for survival, able to contribute its own unique culture and achievements to galactic civilization.
"Why would Starfleet agree to this project, if its goal is to keep Cardassia independent?"
"Well, we didn't phrase it like that, first of all, although their analysts are as sharp as ours, so I'm sure they had some idea. But they do want to see what all of our modifications can achieve, and they needed us in order to do it. And, in the short term, they agree with our goal. If we can give the Cardassian people an outlet for their wishes to serve the Union through exploration and taking the fight to its enemies, then they can reduce the True Way's appeal amongst the population, and so hopefully dry up their recruitment and support. They see this project as a first step towards more fully integrating the Union and Federation, while we hope it will help to inspire the galaxy to trust us and our people to trust themselves. I'm not sure who will be correct, ultimately, although I have my hopes, and it's certainly a better chance than doing nothing or supporting the True Way."
Both men sat back in their chairs: Gorel to think, and his uncle to watch him. On the surface, there was no reason to refuse, which to Gorel's mind was all the more reason to think through the question carefully. His previous command had been the U.S.S. Paris, an outdated Ambassador-class ship kept in service by the current crisis. He'd spent nearly his entire command ferrying supplies and personnel around the Federation, while simultaneously doing piecemeal upgrades on the Paris' systems. It was better for such a dated ship to be used for such responsibilities, true, instead of being thrown onto the front lines against the Borg, and Gorel was unafraid of his duty, no matter how dull it was. At the same time, he couldn't help but wish he had some sort of opportunity to demonstrate his capabilities more fully. His rise hadn't precisely been glacial, but more than a few of his Academy classmates were already at fairly prestigious posts.
Since Starfleet Command had taken even the Paris away, he wondered how long it would be before he got another posting, and what sort of command it would be; there were plenty of captain candidates from civilizations with less checkered pasts than the Cardassians, and even with the increasing pace of construction, building starships took time. Even were he to get another command, there was a good chance he would continue to be relegated to the rear echelons, performing the duties that had to be done to keep the Federation intact while at the same time doing very little to preserve it.
The Yorktown would be very new and virtually unique, likely riddled with engineering problems that would only surface under stress. He wasn't a brilliant engineer, but he'd inherited his mother's talent for a very Cardassian sort of engineering skill, practical and efficient. He was confident that he could overcome the ship's teething problems.
Its design and capabilities would all but guarantee the ship a place on the front lines of any conflict zone, but Gorel found that he was unafraid of such duties. He had not enlisted to become a soldier, true, but he had gone through his Youth Order training, and performed among the top of his Engineering specialty cohorts at both ground and space combat (and within the upper ranges of the Tactical specialty students, even). Victory, even survival, required a willingness to stand strong and spill blood, and many Starfleet officers, raised within the shelter of the Federation, lacked that instinct to push back instead of fleeing or talking. They were not cowards, not truly, but their confidence in diplomacy and intellectual efforts made them view fighting as a means of last resort, rather than sometimes being the fastest and least dangerous route to solving certain problems.
"You mentioned that working out the design was one of the easier things to work through with Starfleet," Gorel said slowly. "What were the more difficult ones?"
The legate smiled faintly as he responded.
"Personnel and mission oversight. We were able to get you as the captain, although most of your senior staff will need to be 'Federation natives'. You will have some leeway in that for personnel requests, by the way, although they did reserve the First Officer position for someone of Starfleet Command's preference. Thirty percent of the crew will be composed of Cardassians, including an element from the Jem'hadar enclave on Zeno. And as far as missions, there will be a review committee to examine them beforehand. We didn't want the Yorktown relegated to target practice and convoy escort, but they didn't want it undertaking every key mission. You won't need to worry about that, the committee has been orchestrated already and you won't be allowed to know who's on it or what the various options are."
"It sounds like if I refuse, you'll have to go back to square one." His uncle shook his head.
"Contingencies were put into place. But Gorel, I did fight for you to be our first choice. I believe in you, and I think you're the right choice for this command. I hope you'll accept."
Gorel looked over at the standing display. The Yorktown cruised the void, the seal of the United Federation of Planets emblazoned on the flanks of its crew chevron.
"I'll do it. When can I begin reviewing exact ship specifications and making crew requests?"
His uncle smiled warmly.
"I had them prepare a small office for you at the Federation embassy. You can start whenever you like."
The two men stood and clasped hands. Gorel chuckled.
"I suppose it'll have to wait until at least after lunch, then. I should go put on my uniform."
That's it for now. As I said, more should be coming before too long. Until then, happy reading!
That was thoroughly enjoyable, thank you for sharing :) I hoep you'll be participating in the Literary Challenges, and posting more about the Yorktown and Captain Karn :) I was discussing the state of the Union only the other day with GulBerat, as I have a Cardassian chief engineer who was raised entirely from infancy, in a Welsh village, with no interraction whatsoever with Cardassian culture, and I wonder if she might also come under the dual-citizenship program... Following a recent mission into Earth's past, she had to be surgically altered to appear Human, but has since refused to reverse the procedure, so I was thinking about how other Cardassians might react to her if she was ever to be assigned to take part in an officer-exchange program...
Thanks for reading!
Hmm, a Cardassian raised completely human and surgically altered to appear human? It sounds to me like she'd be a Federation citizen, and would have to apply to become a Cardassian one. Some Cardassians would probably take umbrage to her being completely raised as a human, and without a Cardassian family to sponsor and accept her, would suggest that perhaps she'd be better off remaining as what she so clearly prefers. Others may support her if she wanted to learn more about her Cardassian heritage, in the hopes she might eventually discover her family and be reunited with them. The Cardassian emphasis on family can cut either way, in that case.
As far as an officer-exchange program, I imagine that'd be a bit strange. Again, since everyone's different, it could go multiple ways. Some people might be put off by her total immersion in human/Federation culture, and say that perhaps she should just stick with what she knows, while others may want to "rescue" her and reintegrate her into Cardassian society, and all number of other reactions. But, as long as she did her job, she'd probably meet at least a modicum of acceptance. And as a female engineer, she'd be part of the Cardassian cultural norm on that front, so on its own that wouldn't meet any resistance.
Of course, everything I just said (and everything I wrote) is based just on my own take on the culture, so interpret it as you will.
Certainly happy to share thoughts. :)
How exactly did she wind up on Earth? Was she a war orphan? A regular orphan? Did her parents flee the Union before, during, or after the war? Did her parents send her away, either to be with friends or family? I don't necessarily need to know the answers, but they're just things to consider.
Also, don't forget the echoes of the Dominion War. As a Cardassian brought up among humans, there may be implications that the Federation stole her (or rescued her) in the aftermath of the war. Maybe her parents were traitors or refugees? I definitely imagine a few worlds absorbing Cardassians fleeing from the Union in those times of strife. And then a Cardassian who was raised and looks human could be the ultimate symbol of the fear of Federation absorption of the Union and 'vae victis'. Even those who support the Federation's influences are likely to look askance at someone surgically modified to appear human.
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