Cardassian Union/History/Age of Imperialism

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The Central Command pursued an aggressive expansion policy for almost three hundred years. As the Union expanded, so did its requirements for resources. The vast Cardassian military required an equally vast supply of metals, dilithium and food in order to continue its conquests. World after world was conquered, strip-mined and discarded. In all that time Cardassia encountered no major threat and its expansion went unchecked.

War with the Klingons

All that changed in 2286, when Cardassia encountered its first interstellar power. And with typical Cardassian arrogance, they attacked.

While scouting the Betreka Nebula, the Cardassian ship Lin'agga detected a Klingon vessel that had been damaged by the nebula's emissions. The Cardassian captain believed that the alien ship could be easily captured. The Klingons fought back with their customary vigor and crippled the Lin'agga. Both ships returned to their respective empires and reported the battle. The Klingon Empire declared war on the Cardassian Union.

The Klingons waged war with a savagery that the Cardassians were unprepared for. They had neither the resources nor the shipyards to maintain their fleets at full capacity during a protracted conflict. Fortunately for the Cardassians the Klingons had both the Romulans and Federation on their border and could not afford to bring the full might of the empire to bear.

After eighteen years of battles, raids and skirmishes, the Cardassian military was battered and bloody. The Central Command agreed a cease-fire and pressured the Detapa Council to negotiate with the Klingons. The Klingon Empire was in crisis, following the destruction of Qo'nos' moon Praxis, so they readily agreed to end the conflict. Both the Klingons and the Cardassians declared themselves victors in a war over a nebula that left the status quo unchanged.

The Occupation of Bajor

The war with the Klingons had left Cardassia with a fleet to rebuild and a significant munitions shortage. The exploration role of the Central Command had been neglected as ships were re-deployed to fight the war. Cardassia needed resources desperately. It turned its eye to its closest neighbor - Bajor.

Since the first days of Cardassian warp travel, Bajor had been considered off limits. The Obsidian Order had always followed the directions of its founder and ensured that Cardassian exploration and expansion had headed away from Bajor. The Cardassians now knew that the Bajorans were an advanced and peaceful species, so the Central Command hatched a cautious plan for the gradual occupation of Bajor.

The Bajorans accepted the Cardassians' offer of civilian advisors to assist in the construction of aqueducts and other engineering projects. Military engineers later replaced these civilian advisors. These engineers established three bases on Bajor, ostensibly to minimize the disruption to the Bajoran populace. In fact they allowed a build up of Cardassian troops away form the watchful eyes of the Bajoran authorities.

In 2328 the Cardassian forces on Bajor seized control. They surrounded the bases of the Bajoran military, seized local news stations and captured senior members of the government. Occupation troops landed without resistance. Cardassia had succeeded in a bloodless invasion.

The duration of the occupation proved to be anything but bloodless, however. Many Bajorans fled from their homeworld. Those who remained were pressed into work as the occupiers began the systematic strip-mining of the planet. Any who refused were sent to forced-labor camps and worked to death. The Bajoran resistance began at once following the occupation, beginning with small acts of terrorism and eventually to guerrilla war. For every act of resistance the Cardassian Prefect ordered executions in reprisal.

In 2351 the Cardassians constructed Terok Nor, an ore processing station, in orbit over Bajor. The station became the seat of power for the Prefect of Bajor. It was from Terok Nor that Gul Dukat, the last Prefect, oversaw the withdrawal of Cardassian forces from Bajor in 2369.

Never in Cardassian history had the Union willingly surrendered a conquered planet. Escalation of the Bajoran resistance attacks to include off-world targets coupled with falling ore output due to dwindling resources, and strong pressure from the Detapa Council forced the Central Command to make the momentous decision to withdraw.

The withdrawal proved to be a huge loss of face for the Central Command, particularly when a unique stable wormhole leading to the Gamma Quadrant was discovered in the Bajoran system. Starfleet, who had undertaken administration of Terok Nor, successfully prevented ships from the Fourth Order laying claim to the wormhole.

Fighting the Federation

The Cardassian Union made first contact with the United Federation of Planets in 2289 during its conflict with the Klingons. While shadowing a Klingon flotilla, a Cardassian scout ship encountered a Starfleet exploration vessel. The Cardassian vessel opened fire on the Starfleet ship, but the Starfleet captain refused to return fire. Once the Federation vessel had proved its peaceful intentions, the Cardassians agreed to talk.

The Federation and the Cardassians enjoyed cordial relations for some years. The Federation applied diplomatic pressure to persuade the Cardassians to end their war with the Klingons and to withdraw from Bajor. The Central Command ignored all of the Federation entreaties. When the Federation failed to take further action, Cardassia’s commanders believed the Federation to be a toothless opponent.

In 2347 the Obsidian order supplied intelligence to Jagul Sharoc of the Second Order concerning a military build up on the Federation world Setlik III. Without consulting the Central Command, Sharoc ordered an immediate pre-emptive attack. Cardassian troops landed on the planet believing they were fighting Starfleet forces. In fact they massacred Federation colonists. The attack ended the following morning when the USS Rutledge responded to the colony's distress calls and its security officers drove the attackers from the planet.

When the Federation failed to respond aggressively to the Setlik III massacre, the Cardassian's belief that the Federation was weak was proved beyond doubt. Within a year Cardassia claimed several worlds close to the Federation border, despite several of them having Federation science teams and nascent colonies on them. When the Federation simply withdrew its people from those worlds, Cardassia pressed its attack.

The Central Command had learned a lot from the Klingon conflict. It was prepared for an extended war with a large interstellar power. When it launched attacks on six further Federation colonies close to the border it expected to easily overcome any resistance.

The speed of Starfleet's response caught the Cardassian forces by surprise. The Federation’s superior technology, longer weapon range and abundance of photon torpedoes gave them a significant advantage over their Cardassian opponents. When a small number of Starfleet ships succeeded in destroying almost double their number at Minos Corva, the Central Command began to re-evaluate its position.

The Central Command had two choices: to end the invasion or to commit further forces. It chose to commit a massive force in an attempt to overwhelm the Federation's defensive forces. One million men and 750 ships were from the Second and Third Orders were ordered into Federation space.

The massive second wave of the invasion was too large to catch Starfleet by surprise but it was unprepared for an offensive of this scale. Starfleet Command ordered its ships away from the border to prevent their destruction. Federation forces on the ground were outnumbered and were quickly overwhelmed by the Cardassian military. Twenty-three worlds fell to the Cardassians.

The Admirals at Starfleet Command knew that they must oust the Cardassians quickly, before they brought in reinforcements to hold the captured worlds while its front line units renewed the invasion. But Starfleet's ships were scattered across Federation space and beyond. It took weeks to gather a force large enough to wage a counter-offensive.

The Cardassians struck first. Fifty ships from the Third Order attacked Starbase 211 and the twelve starships stationed there. The Starfleet vessels fought a valiant holding action for twelve hours, allowing time for reinforcements to arrive. Of the defending vessels, only the USS Victory survived the battle.

Admiral T'Kora commanded the Starfleet forces charged with ousting the Cardassians. She was a Vulcan and a grand master of three-dimensional chess. Her approach to the conflict was methodical and cautious. She studied intelligence on Jagul Sharoc, hoping to anticipate his actions and outwit him.

T'kora first established a strong defensive perimeter. She waited and watched. Time and again the Cardassians attempted to break out, but T'kora always had reinforcements in place to meet Sharoc's offensives.

The second stage of T'kora's operation was to disrupt Cardassian supply lines. Flotillas of Starfleet escorts and light cruisers were dispatched into Cardassian space to destroy cargo and transport vessels. Several larger forces were used to destroy Cardassian bases and stations close to the border.

It was six months before T'kora began the final stage of the operation. She began to liberate one world at a time with force of seventy ships and five hundred thousand soldiers. It was the largest force ever raised by the Federation. Collectively, Sharoc's forces outnumbered T'kora's ten-to-one but they were spread across twenty-three worlds, giving T'kora the advantage.

Admiral T'kora was too successful in countering Jagul Sharoc's moves. She thwarted his every gambit except his last.

With defeat staring him in the face, Sharoc requested that the Obsidian Order assassinate T'kora. One evening, at her headquarters on Starbase 310, Admiral T'kora had plomeek soup for supper. It was poisoned. She died in her sleep.

T'kora's assassination did not help Sharoc. Starfleet still drove the Cardassians out of Federation territory. The war had lasted seven years, but the Cardassians would not admit defeat. The Central Command still laid claim to the worlds that it had conquered. Cardassia continued to engage in raids and attacks across the border until 2367 when the Central Command agreed to a truce with the Federation.

An Uneasy Peace

The peace was broken only months later by the Federation ship USS Phoenix under the command of Benjamin Maxwell, who single handedly attacked Cardassian stations and ships that were being used to re-supply forces close to the border. Only co-operation between Federation Captain Picard and Cardassian Gul Macet prevented the incident causing renewed conflict between the two sides.

A peace treaty was negotiated with the Federation and a demilitarized zone was established between the two powers, but both Federation and Cardassian colonists in the zone were unhappy with the treaty that allowed their homelands to be ceded to the enemy. Some Federation colonists formed a secret defensive organization, the Maquis, in response to incidents of violence by Cardassian colonists against them and their families and friends. The Maquis gained unofficial support amongst Starfleet's ranks while a sympathetic faction of the Central Command, in unwitting conjunction with some of the criminal Scravvan families, covertly supplied the Cardassians with weapons. The situation in the zone deteriorated into open conflict and terrorism. The Central Command appeared to be unable to contain the problem.

The Central Command suffered a further blow to its prestige in 2371, when it agreed to a peace treaty with the Bajorans. In less than a century the Klingons, the Federation and Bajor had beaten Cardassia.

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