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"Benjamin Layfette Sisko described the Jem'Hadar as 'the most brutal and efficient soldiers I've ever encountered. They don't care about the conventions of war or protecting civilians. They will not limit themselves to military targets. They will wage the kind of war that Earth hasn't seen since the founding of the Federation.'"
From his position at the head of the class, the instructor paused to take measure of his students' uncomfortable shifting. "Though I have not met Captain Sisko, I can vouch that he does not exaggerate. Imagine a creature that does not eat, does not sleep, does not become distracted. It does not have gender, because it is an artificial being. It is born with strength and reflexes to rival any Klingon's. It spends any free time training for its next mission, which, make no mistake, will undoubtedly involve killing you." He pointed at a woman in the front row, then limped around his podium and pointed at another cadet. "Or perhaps you. Of course, if it's at all possible, they will simply find a way to kill all of you." The cadets' faces were hard; each of them had heard this speech before, but none of them understood just how seriously they should take it. Undoubtedly none would take it seriously enough until they first went into combat.
"The Dominion is like no opponent that the Federation has ever faced before," the instructor continued. "In the Romulans we found a battle of wits and guile. In the Klingons, a lust for blood and honorable combat. The Dominion has no scruples; they will fight using every tactic possible. As Captain Sisko so accurately noted, they do not follow the conventions of war or care to preserve civilians. They will intentionally wound one enemy with the intention of slowing the others down. They have no qualms about using orbital bombardment or biogenic weapons. They are the antithesis of Starfleet, who even in war will take great pains to protect non-combatants. They are, quite simply, the perfect enemy."
In the third row, a young man raised his hand. "Professor?"
"Yes, Cadet? Rise and speak."
The cadet stood up, looking lanky and uncomfortable in his gray and red academy uniform. "Sir, the Dominion War ended almost a year ago. We won. Why...why are we studying the Dominion now as thoroughly as before, if not more so?"
The instructor leaned back on the podium, hoping the motion appeared casual. It wouldn't do for the students to see him in pain. "You are correct. The Dominion War is over, but that is not to say that our involvement with the Dominion is over. Bear in mind that the Jem'Hadar armada that battled the combined might of three empires to a standstill was not the Dominion's main fleet or even a secondary one; the ships used in the Dominion War were produced almost exclusively here in the Alpha Quadrant. What's more, to this day, the Starfleet Corps of Engineers is still attempting to reverse-engineer captured Dominion technology to provide a defense against it. The Dominion was not weakened by the conflict as we were and the wormhole is still open. The Dominion will forever be a part of Federation foreign policy because there is not a single captain in Starfleet who trusts that they will abide by the rules of the peace treaty. That, Cadet, is why this is a required course for all students."
The instructor glanced up at the chrono on the wall and waved his hands at the students. "I've kept you too long. Class dismissed. Remember to read your sections on the religious programming of the Jem'Hadar. Good day."
As the students drained out of the back of the room, the instructor closed his eyes against the pain in his leg. When it was quiet, he decided, he'd limp back to his cane.
"Your leg still hurting you, Dad?"
The voice surprised him into opening his eyes prematurely and the instructor stumbled. Before the other man could catch him, he regained his balance and stood straighter.
"Kyle," he said. "I didn't know you were coming to Earth."
Kyle Jovi looked out of place in his black officers' uniform among all the gray-clad cadets. He turned to pick up the cane hidden behind the podium and offered it to his father. "Everybody in Starfleet has been cycling through vacation time since the end of the war; just didn't get to my turn until now."
Grudgingly, the older Jovi accepted the cane. "You're doing your duty. It's very good of you." He looked at his son and motioned toward the door. "I don't know what time you're running on, but here it's lunch time. Join me?"
"I'd be delighted," Kyle said. They walked into the hallway, into the stream of cadets.
"How is your latest ship? A Saber-class, correct?" Professor Jovi nodded to students along the way and directed Kyle to a café that opened to the outdoors. The once-beautiful view of the San Francisco Bay was marred by the destruction wrought by the Breen attack of a year previous.
"The Armstrong, yes. It's a small ship--"
"A very small ship," the elder Jovi interrupted.
"--but her crew is first-class. The ship itself saw a lot of action in the Dominion War." A waiter came to offer them menus, but the professor ordered the special for them both and shooed him away. Kyle continued, "In fact, the new first officer was a member of the ground forces. In the 483rd."
"That Ganger woman?" Kyle's father asked.
"No, Gangies was promoted to captain a few months ago. A new woman replaced her as first officer: Nani. Nani Ti'Fiano."
"She must be a very interesting women, Kyle. And to have fought in the ground forces. The stories she could tell." He leaned in close. "You'd do well to listen to them."
Kyle shrugged uncomfortably and stared at the passing cadets. "She's an interesting woman." He blinked fiercely and shook his head. "Anyway, we're doing good work on the Armstrong. Running relief supplies out to the Cardassian worlds."
The food came and Professor Jovi paused to say a short prayer. Kyle stared respectfully at the table and waited for him to finish. "Kyle," his father said finally, "you've not been home since before the War began. Things have changed here."
"What do you mean?" Kyle asked.
His father speared a slice of tomato and eyed his son. "For one thing, the mission that you're on now isn't the most popular. There are an awful lot of people in the Federation who say that the Cardassians deserve what they got, that we need to heal our own wounds before we tend to our enemies."
"Dad, I've been on these worlds. You know what the Jem'Hadar do when they're told to just start killing and not stop--"
The older Jovi cut him off with a sharp motion with the fork. "There's also a motion before the Federation Council to begin an intensive program to rearm Starfleet."
Kyle sat back. "Well...it only makes sense. Starfleet lost almost six thousand ships in the War, more than half the fleet. We need to get ships back in space--"
"No, no. I'm not talking about rebuilding Starfleet. I'm talking about rearming it." Kyle's father picked through his food suspiciously. "Yes, there is an effort to create science ships, research vessels, and explorer craft, but the main thrust of the rearming is centered around creating a fleet of warships."
"That can't be right," Kyle sputtered. "Starfleet doesn't make warships, at least, not past a few of the Defiant-class. Our ships can fight, sure, but we're explorers first, not soldiers--"
"Which is why you very nearly lost the war," his father said. "Starfleet ships, even the explorer and research ships, have historically been technologically advanced enough that they can stand against most any opponent. But not the Jem'Hadar." Instructor Jovi fidgeted restlessly with his silverware. "They've already begun production on a run of Defiant and Sovereign-class starships; it's only a matter of time before they start mass producing the Prometheus-class as well."
"No," Kyle said, "the military has always been secondary position for Starfleet. I mean, the war is won! Over!" Kyle leaned forward angrily. "Are you telling me that the utopia that all of us fought for is lost even though we won?"
"You forget yourself, Kyle." The Jovis locked stares before Kyle, flushed, backed down. His father straightened the silverware and spoke softly. "Many people are still scared of the Dominion. A good portion of them are admirals. Kyle, we came so close to destruction."
"I remember," Kyle said dryly.
"Most of them say that we wouldn't have taken the losses we did if Starfleet had been better prepared to fight. If not for the ship and fleet upgrades that were made in anticipation of the Borg invasion, there is no way that we could have survived the War, even with the help of the Klingons, the Romulans, or anyone else."
Kyle shook his head and stood up.
"Where are you going?" his father asked indignatly.
"Somewhere else, Dad. I don't like what I'm hearing and I need to think about it." He walked off. "Thanks for lunch," he muttered under his breath.
|Last modified: 10 Apr 2012