The Savior of the Klingon people is a member of Starfleet. And she’s not the only one. Cryptic said they want to let people play their “Worf fantasy” by rolling a Klingon Starfleet officer. In a game in which Starfleet is fighting against the Klingon Empire, it shows how decent Starfleet is to welcome Klingons into their ranks, giving them command of starships and the Special Taskforce. But what does this really mean for Starfleet? What does it mean for the Klingon Empire and for the individual Klingons themselves? And what stories can we Foundry authors tell about this?
First of all, Klingons choosing to fight other Klingons isn’t an unusual situation. Of all the mysteries wrapped up in Starfleet Klingons, that’s the easiest to solve. But, of course, there are permutations. Klingons could reject the ways of the Empire. They could feel that the Federation more truly embodies the ideals of honor than the Empire does. Or they could reject Klingon values in part while embracing the rest. On the other hand, they could feel obliged to join or remain in Starfleet despite considering the Empire to be in the right in this war and despite preferring Klingon ways to those of the Federation. Perhaps there are Klingons who joined Starfleet solely because the kuvah’magh did, holding her decision holy and therefore the right thing to do. And do any of those have doubts about their choice? Have any met her and either been disillusioned or profoundly moved by her? Are there Klingons who want to switch sides, and are they willing to do so? Are there Klingons who want to take Federation culture back to the Empire? Are there any who want to make the Federation a little more like Qo’nos?
How do these Starfleet Klingons react to being taken prisoner? How do they react to non-Klingon Starfleet officers who were taken prisoner? Or whose grandparents were traitors to the Federation? Are they struggling with those conflicting values?
Are there Klingons who seek to join the Special Taskforce so that they aren’t fighting Klingons anymore? (Alternatively, are there Klingons who want to join the taskforce to get a good shot at an enemy Klingon, despite Starfleet’s rules? Indeed, how often to Starfleet Klingons chafe against the rules imposed on them by the Federation? Do they bend them or break them to behave in the more Klingon way?)
And if there are Klingons in Starfleet, are there Klingons in the Federation who aren’t in uniform? Individuals? Colonists?
And if one looks at the number of not just Klingons but Gorn, Onions, Nausicaans, and Letheans who are Federation Doffs, one sees that every major species in the KDF is also in Starfleet. There are even Federation founding species who can join the Empire. For a war between two separate cultures, this bears remarkable resemblance to a civil war. And many more questions that can be asked about Klingons in Starfleet can be asked about these species.
But just as important as how the Klingons are reacting to Starfleet, how is the rest of Starfleet reacting to the Klingons? Someone has to be accepting of them, promoting them and letting them serve as crew members and captains. But Lt. Stiles got very suspicious of Spock when Romulans were discovered to be descended from Vulcans. In time of stress and the Ten Front War, are there no members of Starfleet who look askance at a permanently crinkled forehead? Imagine a story in which a Starfleet officer has succumbed to racism and doubts the loyalty of a Klingon fellow officer. Imagine a story in where there is some evidence that suggest this biased officer might be correct. What about Starfleet’s cohesion? What about the values of the Federation in the fog of war? What about if, the player is in the literal fog of a planet, and one sees a Klingon (uniform uncertain) attacking someone else? Both Starfleet (with Klingons) and the KDF are on the planet. There is a moment to save a life? Fire or not fire? And what happens if your Captain is wrong?
The room for stories in which the values of the Federation are placed against the stresses and uncertainty of war is immense. And Foundry authors should feel as free to make the choices difficult, as “In-the-Pale-Moonlight”-ish as they can.
And then there are ordinary Federation citizens. How are they going to react to Klingons in Starfleet uniforms? How will people from the safety of San Francisco or New Berlin react? And how about those people who make the mistake of settling in the Eta Eridani Sector Block. How do they feel when a Starfleet Captain and five bridge officers beam down, only to see at least one of them is Klingon? How strong are the values of IDIC in them? Might there be some justification for their suspicion? Imagine stories in which colonists take a Klingon officer prisoner, claiming he’s an enemy spy. Even if players believe confidently they’re wrong, the opportunity for tense, challenging storytelling is immense.
But for all the challenges faced by having Klingons serving in Starfleet, that’s nothing compared the service welcoming Borg into that ranks.
It can be easy to forget that if Jean-Luc Picard were a character in this game, he would count as a “Liberated Borg.” For that matter, so would Janeway, Tuvok, and Torres, though one can be forgiven in thinking that for them it didn’t appear to be a big deal. But now, Starfleet is awash with them. And unlike Picard and company, so many of them still wear those cyberpunk monocles and have horrendous skin conditions. Also, after spending time back on the farm, Picard didn’t change his Starfleet record to call himself Locutus. How many [number] of [number] do we have on starships now?
In this game we have people in Starfleet (and the KDF) who look like Borg and name themselves like Borg, even if they were assimilated as adults and spent most of their lives free. And they are allowed to serve on starships, captain starships, and serve in high levels in major commands, many of them dedicated to fighting the Borg.
What is going on?
Is Starfleet really that trusting? Assuming they have tests that can verify that a Borg truly is liberated, are they really so advanced as to free themselves from prejudice against someone that looks like a cybernetic space zombie? Same with the KDF?
Is there disagreement? Are there people in Starfleet or Federation society as a whole who aren’t so trusting? Is the fact that these Liberated Borg are allowed to stay in Starfleet a sign of tolerance or of desperation, the need for more Starfleet officers in this chaotic time? Are there Liberated Borg whose liberation isn’t certain or could easily be undone? Are there Liberated Borg who want it to be undone. I can think of at least one Foundry mission like that, though I hesitate to give its name.
But think of the fear of the Borg. Think of the pain the Borg caused Sisko. Think of the pain they caused Picard. Think of that scene in DS9’s pilot in which the two of them conflicted each other. And that was with one Liberated Borg in Starfleet who participated in one attack. Imagine what must be hundreds of Liberate Borg in Starfleet and thousands of people who lost family or friends. What does it do to them to see someone who not only was Borg but looks like it sitting at the con or recalibrating an EPS conduit. What Foundry missions could arise from that? Missions focused around discipline problems, the reaction of colonists, or the reaction of family members. Perhaps a story in which a Liberated Borg intermittently reconnects with the collective. And what happens then?
One of the best stories dealing with a Liberated Borg as an individual is “Inner, Outer, Another and Away” by DevorahQuinn a truly personal story about one Liberated Borg’s psyche. One of the best examples I’ve seen of dealing with the aftermath of being Liberated Borg in Starfleet on a group level is in Nagorak’s epic “Dereliction Duty” trilogy. I won’t go into details, but it includes a ship comprised predominantly of Liberated Borg — assimilated from the same ship during the game’s tutorial and quickly freed. It shows them affected psychologically after being freed and provides and interesting side affect they suffer from.
I’d love to see more stories about that and also stories that address how other people see the Liberated. Or, perhaps, stories about how studying the technology and knowledge they return to the Federation with and how that is being studied, for good or ill.
And, of course, there are Liberated Borg Klingons. Many of the questions that can be asked about Liberated Borg Humans works for the Klingon Empire as well.